Resorts

5 Must-Do Activities During the Holidays at Walt Disney World

by on November 5, 2015

The holiday season is upon us here in Orlando! Walt Disney World is always the first of the major theme parks to kick off their festivities. The green light to start getting into the holiday spirit is shining bright, so let’s talk about the holiday festivities at Walt Disney World that need to be on your must-do list this year.

5. Monorail Resorts Tour

Photo by Brian McNichols

Photo by Brian McNichols

Three of Disney’s deluxe resorts await along the monorail loop, as part of the Magic Kingdom’s dominion. These resorts are highly sought after, commanding some of the highest room rates in the area. There are many desirable features here and during the holidays each resort offers their own unique way to celebrate the season.

Each year Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers a large gingerbread display in the Grand Canyon Concourse. This resort has the most kinetic energy and I find it to lack a bit of peace and instead at certain points feel as hectic as the shopping malls are this time of year. Still, the hustle and bustle is a traditional feeling of the season for many.

Hopping on the monorail (assuming it is actually operational) you’ll make a quick pit stop at the TTC before proceeding to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Get ready to say Male Kalikimaka, which is Hawaii’s holiday greeting. The holiday festivities and décor are not as extravagant as you will find in our next stop, the Grand Floridian, but the tropical charm and exotic feel is something you’ll rarely find anywhere else.

The grand finale is the Grand Floridian. This resort sparkles and shines during the holidays. The elegance and grace of the season are reflected in the Victorian Christmas decorations, evoking holiday traditions of a more refined era. Accents of gold, scarlet, and pale peach shine against the deep emerald green garlands. Nearly every Deluxe resort has a multi-story Christmas tree for all to admire. Here the tree is 40 feet high with golden lights and ornaments of doves, harps, bird cages, and other graceful elements.  ­­

The main attraction here is the life-size gingerbread house. The detail on this childhood dream come true never fails to impress each year. I’m getting giddy just typing about it. You can view the house from all angles, peer in the windows, and even shell out some dough (pun intended) at the sweet shop inside the house. The treats are pretty pricey, I would recommend picking out one treat to share.

Bonus round: secure a spot at any of the three resorts to catch a performance of Holiday Wishes, my absolute favorite fireworks ever to grace the Magic Kingdom.

4. Epcot Area Resorts Tour

Typically the monorail resorts get all kinds of love and recognition during this time of year, but I think there is a collection of resorts that offer a better experience during the holidays. The Epcot Area / Crescent Lake Area Resorts are much easier to access and tour through. You can walk to each resort or for a seafaring twist hop aboard the Friendships (though not the most effective use of your time).

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SATURDAY SIX: Six MORE Extreme Eats at Walt Disney World

by on October 31, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six MORE Extreme Eats at Walt Disney World. For some people, the thing they like most about their theme park vacations is the great attractions like Haunted Mansion. Others love the world class shows like Festival of the Lion King. Here at the SATURDAY SIX we say Nay Nay, because what we love are the EXTRME EATS. Candy apples the size of a newborn’s head? An ice cream sundae using, among other things, 8 scoops of ice cream and a whole can of whipped cream? A cupcake topped with peanut butter icing, candied bacon, and chocolate drizzle? YES PLEASE, we’ll take one of each. In fact, make that two. Today we are back for more of the most outrageous, the most insane, and definitely the most Extreme Eats on Disney property. So sit back, have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol handy, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Pop-Tart Sandwich (Pop Century Resort)

No, you are not seeing things. What you are looking at actually exists. Over at the Everything Pop food court at Disney’s Pop Century Resort is what was once thought of as an urban legend. The Pop-Tart Breakfast Sandwich features egg, bacon, and cheese on a strawberry Pop-Tart. The egg is more of a hockey puck in (possibly) edible form. The cheese and bacon melt together in a scene straight out of the classic horror film The Fly. We’d like to tell you how this tastes, but we did not dare eat it as the Pop-Tart sandwich probably should be thrown directly into the fiery pits of Mordor.

PopTartSandwich_1

The Pop-Tart Sandwich at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

PopTartSandwich_3

NSFW.

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Maximizing the value of Disney Vacation Club

by on October 20, 2015

Previously, I wrote about various uses of Disney Vacation Club points in order to demonstrate the great variety of location and length of stays available at similar point levels. Along those lines, we’re going to take a look at the best way to maximize the value of a Disney Vacation Club membership. Whether you’re already a member, or just thinking about becoming a member, here are ways to leverage Disney Vacation Club for maximum touring enjoyment.dvc-logo

  • Lower your initial point investment: No matter how many points you own, the perks are the same. So don’t be afraid to scrimp on that initial purchase of Disney Vacation Club points. Currently, the minimum buy-in from Disney is 100 points. You can also start with even fewer points by looking to the resale market, where points go for much less. One caveat to buying a DVC contract from a resale broker: The points cannot be used destinations in The Concierge Collection, The Adventurer Collection and The Disney Collection. But in general, these uses –which include cruises, Adventures By Disney and non-DVC Disney resorts — are not the most economical use of points. If your primary concern is value, you’re going to be using your points for DVC resorts only. A lower number of points also means a lower amount of maintenance fees you’re paying out each year. Of course, as many DVC members can tell you, “add-on-itus” is a real thing. It may not be long before you’re in the market for additional DVC points. On the other side of the coin, if you decide that DVC doesn’t work for you, a smaller contract is easier to sell on the resale market than a larger contract.

Now, more tips:

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Would You Rather: Disney Vacation Club edition

by on October 9, 2015

Len Testa does an occasional segment for the WDW Today podcast that he calls “Would You Rather.” In it, he and his cohosts compare Walt Disney World vacations of similar pricing.

dvc-logoIt’s a revealing exercise that forces you to prioritize what you really value in your traveling. Perhaps staying off property doesn’t matter if it means you can use the savings for food and souvenirs. Or maybe you refuse to stay anywhere but a Disney deluxe resort, even if it means scrimping elsewhere.

This concept also works well with Disney Vacation Club, thanks to the vacation point system. Whether you own or rent points, everyone is using the same point charts to determine the cost of their stay, so it’s easy to compare apples to apples.

In this exercise, we will compare five different Disney Vacation Club itineraries at Walt Disney World using around 160 points — a fairly standard annual allotment. We’ll compare units with room to sleep at least eight guests visiting WDW in the summer (Magic Season). Join me below to get a sense of varying options DVC presents. 

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Why Port Orleans Riverside is the Only Moderate Resort For Me

by on October 7, 2015

Riverside5

Welcome to Port Orleans Riverside!

When planning a Disney World Vacation there are a number of decisions to make ranging from which FastPass+ reservations to make, what ticket option to choose, how to get there, and more. But one of the most important, if you’re staying on property, is which Disney World Resort to choose.

Now as you may have guessed, the size of your budget will narrow down your options. Disney has conveniently grouped the Disney Resorts into three different categories based on price with Deluxe Resorts being the most expensive and Value Resorts being the least. Moderate Resorts fall somewhere in the middle in regards to price and consist of several popular destinations: Disney’s Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, the Fort Wilderness Resort Cabins, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Port Orleans Riverside.

When I have a Moderate Resort level budget, my resort of choice is one that offers variety, a comfortable atmosphere, delicious dining, a great pool selection, and a convenient location; for me, Port Orleans Riverside offers all of the above and more. Read along as I explain why Port Orleans Riverside is the Only Moderate Resort for Me!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort Cabins

by on October 3, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins, and today we even have a special guest author in Steve Bloom. Now Steve is a statistician by trade so he brings the one thing we’ve never had in the two years of writing this fine blog, a brain. In fact, because of Steve’s experience in numbers we are going to officially dub this the first ever edition of the STAT SIX. So without further ado, take it away Steve!

Fort Wilderness is the largest resort at Walt Disney World. The rustic themed resort opened with the park itself in 1971 and covers 750-acres. The original Wilderness Homes were added in the ’80s. The current cabins started to replace the Wilderness Homes in the late ’90s. The resort currently has 800 campsites and 409 cabins. Disney classifies the cabins as moderates, but they are really in their own category. 96% of the Unofficial Guide readers would stay at the cabins again, so let’s look at six reasons many of them feel this way, starting with…

Ft Wilderness Sign

# 6 – “There’s so much room for activities!”

Fort Wilderness has more activities than any resort at Walt Disney World. There are two dinner shows: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. The Trails End Restaurant is a SATURDAY SIX favorite. In addition to the evening movies, there is the charming Campfire Sing-Along with Chip ‘n’ Dale.

At the bike barn, you can rent canoes, kayaks, bikes, and tennis rackets. At the marina, you can rent water crafts to explore Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. Tri-Circle-D Ranch offers pony rides, trail rides, and horse-drawn wagon rides. From the beach, you can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. There are miles of trails, including a 2.3 mile exercise trail to Wilderness Lodge. There are two pools, a quiet pool, and the larger Meadows Pool with a slide, hot tub, and kid’s splash zone. Scattered across the resort are sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, and playgrounds. There are even Segway tours!

Tri Circle D Ranch

Tri Circle D Ranch.

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Magic Kingdom Resorts: A Guide for Day Guests, Part 2

by on October 2, 2015

Exploring Magic Kingdom’s resorts as a “day guest” is a great way to experience the Disney magic outside the parks. This article wraps up a tour of Magic Kingdom resorts for day guests, whether you’re staying off-property or at another Disney World resort. Part 1 focused on touring the Polynesian and Grand Floridian and offered some general day guest tips and strategies. In Part 2, let’s take a look at touring the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness Resort, including their overall ambience, dining options that make them worth a day trip, and other fun things to do on a visit to these resorts.

Contemporary Resort

Atmosphere. Monorail transportation is a fun and convenient feature of all three of Disney’s monorail resorts (the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary). But the Contemporary is where the monorail is an integral part of the resort’s ambience by passing directly through its atrium. Although the monorail and multi-floor lobby make the Contemporary seem more like a center of activity than a place to relax, its wide open spaces keep foot traffic well dispersed and provide a visual break from crowds in Magic Kingdom. Take your time browsing in the several shops or find a good vantage point for watching the next-arriving monorail.

Tip: The Contemporary is a 10-minute walk from Magic Kingdom; it and the adjacent Disney Vacation Club resort Bay Lake Tower are the only resorts within walking distance to the park.

© Sarah Graffam

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How the Polynesian’s Bungalows have changed Magic Kingdom room views

by on September 25, 2015

One of our site’s more ambitious features is Hotel Room Views, where we try to show the view you’ll get at every Disney World hotel room. We’ve collected more than 31,000 photos over the past couple of years, from our own staff photographers and fabulous Lines community.

With major construction done for the Polynesian’s bungalows, and the landscaping having a chance to take root, we sent over our staff photographers to re-do the room views from the Hawaii and Moorea buildings, since those are affected by the new bungalows. Here’s the before and after photos from those, all taken from first floor rooms:

Here’s Hawaii Room 1504 Before the bungalows. It’s a lot of natural beach, with a (very) distant view of Space Mountain:

poly1504before

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Magic Kingdom Area Resorts: A Guide for Day Guests, Part 1

by on September 25, 2015

Checking out Disney World’s Magic Kingdom resorts has long been a popular activity for Disney World visitors eager to soak in more of the Disney magic, and an increasing number of people are realizing that these highly themed resorts are attractions unto themselves. These “day guests”—including both those staying off property and those staying at other Disney World resorts—have discovered that touring the Magic Kingdom resorts is an excellent way to enhance a Disney World trip.

Making Time for Resort Touring

A day (or evening) trip to a Disney World resort can be a great way to stay inside the Disney “bubble” while taking a break from park touring. But when should you fit a resort visit into your vacation? I recommend visiting the Magic Kingdom resorts on a day when you’re already going to Magic Kingdom. That way, you will spend the minimum amount of time traveling from the resort to Magic Kingdom and vice versa. In fact, a relaxing monorail or boat ride will only enhance a leisurely pace.

© Sarah Graffam

Piano entertainment is a highlight in the Grand Floridian lobby © Sarah Graffam

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Best Places to Spend All of Eternity At Walt Disney World

by on September 18, 2015

Epcot Map

Your challenge: pick a spot, and live there forever

Have I got a crazy proposition for you: You have been banished to spend the rest of eternity within a 100 yard radius of a single spot. On the bright side, that site is at Walt Disney World, and you get to pick the spot. What would be the best spot in each park, and the best non-park location, to select? First, the rules:

  • You still need to account for your basic human needs, so make sure you have access to food, potable water, and, unless you’re a complete degenerate, a restroom.
  • Anything that can accessed from within this radius can be experienced. Put another way, as long as the entrance to an attraction, show or restaurant is within the radius, it doesn’t matter if the entire show building or attraction fits within the space.
  • Anything outside of this radius is completely off-limits to you, forever. You cannot set up shop in Tommorowland but have a friend bring you a churro from Frontierland. If it’s not within your circle, you can’t have it, ever.

Other than these rules, let your imagination be your guide. Where did I choose and why? Find out after the jump!

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