Resorts

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

by on September 24, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. With 26 on-site resorts at Walt Disney World, there is a wide variety of choices for families coming down. We’ve covered many here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts (Art of Animation and Pop Century), Moderates (Port Orleans French Quarter and Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge). We also can’t forget the Disney Vacation Club resorts such as Old Key West. Today we are going to take a look at one of WDW’s most underrated resorts, Disney’s Coronado Springs.

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Disney’s Coronado Springs, a member of the Moderate Resorts.

There are several reasons Coronado Springs doesn’t get the love and attention the other Disney resorts do. The biggest factor is that caters heavily towards the business convention crowd as opposed to primarily vacationing families. Ironically, this feature actually provides some of the biggest benefits for families, but we’ll get to that later. Because Coronado Springs is relatively off the beaten path at WDW (it sits close to Blizzard Beach, Winter Summerland mini-golf, but little else,) it’s not a place you generally run into while enjoying something else at The World. We’re here to let you know that you should go out of your way to check out Coronado Springs, and we have our six best reasons at the ready. So sit back, remember to practice your piñata swings, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – The Dig Site: Home of The Lost City of Cibola

For many families, including ours, a resort’s pool area plays a major factor when it comes to deciding where to stay. When thinking of Disney’s best pools, places like Yacht & Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay and Caribbean Beach’s Fuentes del Morro pool come immediately to mind. The Dig Site at Coronado Springs is right up there with the best pool areas on property as it is jam packed with great things to do for every family member, big or small.

The headliner is The Lost City of Cibola pool. With a jaw dropping 50 foot tall pyramid and 123 foot long Jaguar waterslide, this is a main pool that has both the “wow factor” and is incredibly fun. Surrounding the main pool is the largest hot tub at WDW, an incredible children’s play area themed to Mayan ruins, the awesome Siestas pool bar, and the best themed volleyball court we’ve ever seen. Siestas has a To-Go food window that is actually open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while the actual bar features several signature cocktails including the Coronado Crush. This is the absolute perfect pool area for those who want to take a midday break away from the parks, or just spend an “off day” totally on-site at the resort. As a bonus, because the resort is often filled with conventioneers and couples without kids, those with children have much less congestion while enjoying the amenities.

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The Dig Site.

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The Lost City of Cibola pool. The Jaguar Slide is on the right, while the elaborate children’s play area is on the left.

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Now that’s a pool!

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The #story of the waterslide is that it features a “spitting Jaguar spirit animal.”

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Five things you might not know about Animal Kingdom Lodge

by on September 19, 2016

If you’ve never walked through Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, either as a guest or just a visitor, you’re missing some of the Imagineers’ best work on Walt Disney World property.

Yes, the location is a bit further off the beaten path than other Deluxe Resorts, but that could be considered intentional. It’s set apart because it’s unlike any other resort on property, both aesthetically and culturally.  When you enter the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you entering a place where the Disney characters have been pushed to the background and the African continent is front and center.

So in that spirit, here are five things you might not know about the Animal Kingdom Lodge that help make it well worth a stay or visit.

Authentic African art

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to the largest collection of African art outside of the African continent. Many of the most impressive pieces, like the 16-foot-tall Igbo Ijele mask, are in the lobby. You can find even more pieces of art just walking the corridors of the resort. Between Jambo House and Kidani Village, more than 800 artifacts are on display, making the entire resort a museum of sorts. Take the time to browse the displays, many of which have descriptions and countries of origins listed.

Igbo Ijele mask in the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby, featuring chandeliers designed to look like Maasai shields.

Igbo Ijele mask in the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby, featuring chandeliers designed to look like Maasai shields.

An African garment adorns a corner in one of the hallways of African Kingdom Lodge.

An African garment adorns a corner in one of the hallways of African Kingdom Lodge.

It’s not just the sights of all the artwork. The sounds of the African background music played throughout the resort transports visitors as well. After returning from a stay at the Lodge, you might just find yourself scouring the Internet for the music you heard. Here’s a listing compiled by the AKL Resort site with links to purchase many of the songs on the resort background loop.

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, September 8, 2016: Farewell Summer, Howdy Fall!

by on September 8, 2016

Even though school started a couple weeks ago here, I still think of Labor Day weekend as the end of summer. As it is also the wedding anniversary for me and my husband, we tend to make some sort of celebration happen over Labor Day weekend. This year, with some DVC points left to burn, we looked for availability and found a couple nights at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge. This would be our first time staying there, but the location was ideal, as we already had tickets for the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party of 2016. The night before these amazing events, we had a brush with Hurricane Hermine, however. In fact, it was a little close for comfort.

 

When they're talking about where a tornado may be, it is not a good feeling to say "I can see my house from here."

When they’re talking about where a tornado may be, it is not a good feeling to say “I can see my house from here.”

We camped out in our closet wearing our hard hats for about 20 minutes while the area of disturbance (and one tornado) passed by. Our neighborhood was fine, and the property damage to the communities to our east and west was minimal, all things considered. The next day dawned with gray skies and rain blowing through, but with a clear forecast for the evening. After work, we headed over to Wilderness Lodge to check in.

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Walt Disney World Resort Refrigerators

by on September 5, 2016

It is a fairly well established fact that Walt Disney World on-site resort hotels are a step above your average Days Inn or La Quinta in both theming and service. But as far as in-room amenities go, they are fairly standard. All standard resort hotel rooms include televisions with input panels, dressers/nightstands, a table and chairs, a furnished bathroom with separate sink/vanity, a safe, and a small dorm sized refrigerator. Yes, all resort hotel rooms include a small fridge. It is not, as in days past, something that needs to be specially requested. These fridges are not especially large but they are sufficient for storing medical necessities, baby formula, and a few other everyday essentials like coffee creamer, juice, or last night’s leftovers. But exactly how big are they? Let’s investigate, shall we…

Room Fridge 4

As you can see by the side-laying water gallon, larger items are a tight squeeze but the shelves do move around to allow you to fit as much of a variety of items as possible. As you can also see from the location of the water bottle, one thing that these fridges do lack is a freezer component. So your frozen fruit, Hot Pockets, and Mickey Premium Bars are all unwelcome in your hotel room. More seriously, this could be of concern for anyone who might rely on the freezer for medical items. Ice is, of course, available free of charge from resort ice machines.

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

by on August 23, 2016

photo - Touringplans.comWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

If you’re a fan of both Disney and the outdoors, I have just the place for you…

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort!

Located at Walt Disney World, you’ll find both cabins and campsites to best fit your needs.

Enjoy!

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, August 18, 2016: Kidani Staycation

by on August 18, 2016

When we lived in Maryland, my husband and I bought ownership in DVC as a wedding present to ourselves. Now that we live right around the corner from Walt Disney World, people have asked if we are thinking of selling. Originally, we went with enough points for us to do a two-bedroom unit for one week out of the year (more or less). We’ve added on since then, but our needs have changed. Gone are week-long stays at Walt Disney World. Instead, we do DVC stays for a single night here and there, allowing us to use resort amenities on our check in and check out day. It provides a nice change of pace, especially with company in town. With my mother-in-law in town for the week, we booked a one-night stay at Animal Kingdom Villas: Kidani Village, just as a way to take it easy somewhere other than home.

My husband had checked us in on his way to work, and had an option of taking a room right away that was at the far end of Kidani or wait for a room that was right off the lobby. As the rest of us hadn’t planned on arriving until mid-afternoon, we decided to wait. At 2:00 PM, we arrived, and since our room wasn’t ready, we headed for Kidani’s Community Hall.

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Even if you’re not a DVC member, you can still make use of some of the facilities in the Community Hall. At Kidani, there is a pool table, board games, video games, and more. There’s also a selection of arts and crafts that you can do for a small fee.

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Selecting an Epcot Resort

by on August 8, 2016

View of the Epcot Resort Area

View of the Epcot Resort Area

With the recent release of the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival menus, I can’t help but think about my upcoming trip. The 60 day FastPass+ window is approaching quickly, and as an avid proponent of planning ahead, I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t fully decided on a hotel!

It’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face when planning any trip to Walt Disney World. It’s especially hard for me during the fall when visiting Epcot’s World Showcase is top priority thanks to the mouthwatering samplings at Food and Wine Festival. I’ve narrowed it down to the Epcot resort area to make walking to Epcot a breeze, but that still leaves me with five wonderful choices – Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Dolphin, Swan, and Yacht Club.

Not one to take the resort decision lightly, I’ve carefully mapped out a comparison to help me (and hopefully some of you) pick the right Epcot resort for any Walt Disney World vacation.

Theming

All five resorts fall into the deluxe category at Disney, and with that designation comes elaborate theming. However, because Swan and Dolphin are the only two that are not owned by Disney, some may find them to be lacking that special Disney touch.

  • Beach Club – It’s a New England-style resort hotel that is painted blue with white trim and adorned with typical beach décor. Think seashells and sand dollars.
  • Boardwalk Inn – Modeled after a turn-of-the-century Atlantic coast boardwalk, the rooms actually sit behind a façade of neon lighted shops and restaurants along a wooden boardwalk.
  • Dolphin – Words escape me when it comes to the theming of both the Swan and Dolphin, and if you’ve ever seen it for yourself, you can probably understand. Disney describes it as “deluxe accommodations inspired by Florida itself, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel juxtaposes modern architectural silhouettes alongside Renaissance flourishes—most notably, the twin stylized dolphin statues gracing its rooftop.” Now, I’m not sure what they think a dolphin is, but based on their designs, I would say that a dolphin is some combination between a goldfish and carp.
  • Swan – Though very similar the Dolphin in theme and design, the Swan is outfitted with two Swans atop the building instead. At least these two actually resemble swans.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on August 6, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has five on-site hotels. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (The Poly). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Premier (Portofino Bay Hotel), and Prime Value, which is where Cabana Bay Beach Resort resides.

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Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Cabana Bay is Universal’s first attempt at a lower priced “value” resort, and  is also the first time they have gone after the increasingly popular Family Suite market (led by Disney’s incredible Art of Animation Resort). Unlike Disney’s lower tier hotels (such as the All Stars) Cabana Bay is loaded with amenities. In fact there are so many “extras” at Cabana Bay that many Universal fans consider it their favorite on-site hotel despite it not offering Unlimited Express Pass. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite features of this fantastic resort. So sit back, put on the soundtrack to Mad Men as background music, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – Lazy River

Now, Cabana Bay has two huge pools, a giant slide, several jacuzzis, and a water play area, but what separates it from the pack is everyone’s favorite water feature: a lazy river. The E-Ticket of pools, a relaxing float along the lazy river – with its waterfalls and lush theming – can be just what the doctor ordered. Unlike many lazy rivers, Cabana Bay does not supply tubes to guests (they have no cleaning facility to disinfect them) but they do offer a wide assortment of tubes for pretty much the same price you would pay at WalMart or a pool store. Several of the tubes they offer are Cabana Bay branded and are relatively inexpensive souvenirs. One of the more popular tubes for kids is one that is themed to a car’s tire. There are also several water cannons around the river which kids love to play with.

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Lazy river at Cabana Bay.

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Lazy River at Cabana Bay.

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Water cannons at the Lazy River. There is actually very little water pressure in these, so guests who don’t want to get wet can easily avoid them.

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A Night Out On The BoardWalk at Flying Fish and AbracadaBar

by on August 5, 2016

The marquee at Flying Fish remains as colorful as everDisney dining fans have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of one of the most popular signature table service restaurants in Walt Disney World, and it’s finally here. After several months under refurbishment, Flying Fish (formerly Flying Fish Café) reopened this week with a new look, new menu, and a new chef leading the way (though Chef Tim Majoras is a familiar face to the restaurant, as he’s been with Flying Fish for the past five years). As a longtime favorite of mine, I was just as excited as all of you to try the new menu (and probably just as sad to see favorites like the potato-encrusted snapper fly away off the menu). But first, I had to make a quick stop into another new addition to the BoardWalk, right next door, at AbracadaBar.

The front of AbracadaBar's menu offers a peek into the bar's backstory.Located in the space formerly occupied by Seashore Sweets, AbracadaBar is the newest addition to the Disney bar scene, though it may surprise a few guests with how different it is from other recent additions. AbracadaBar, open at 4:00 PM daily, is a bar, through and through, and decidedly not a lounge in the traditional Disney lounge sense. The menu (featuring a little magic trick of its own) is fairly short, featuring eight signature cocktails with high-end spirits, a selection of beers, wines, and two non-alcoholic drinks (that can also be tailored to your tastes if you prefer them on the alcoholic side).

If you frequent Disney lounges, you’ll notice something – I didn’t mention any food on the menu; that’s because there isn’t any, though your server will likely offer you some truffle popcorn to snack on with your drink. This is probably for a specific reason – there are a TON of food options on the BoardWalk (AbracadaBar itself is sandwiched between Trattoria al Forno and Flying Fish). It seems like it’s meant more as a stop-off for those on their way to their final dinner destination. This could be a great idea for the area, typically packed with adults looking for a fun place or two to spend a night out without kids.

AbracadaBar's interior is both cozy and welcoming.The space inside AbracadaBar isn’t huge in size, and the beautiful dark finishes and ornate red and gold wallpaper inside make it pretty cozy but welcoming. The tables aren’t on top of each other, which is always a plus in a bar or lounge. I loved coming in to this atmosphere out of the harsh Florida summer sun – a quick twenty minute break inside to enjoy a drink was really all I needed. Speaking of a drink – what to sample? I’m a big fan of many of the style of cocktails on this menu, so my choice was difficult, but I settled on one of the rare-at-Disney drinks, the Elixir 13.

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Pop Flashback Friday

by on July 29, 2016

Pop Flashback Friday Photo Booth Props

Pop Flashback Friday Photo Booth Props

Visiting Pop Century Resort is always a trip back in time, as the resort is a tribute to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. But there is now a new event on Fridays that celebrates looking back, Pop Flashback Friday.

My favorite part of the event is the Pop Flashback Friday photo booth, which is available throughout the day. Instead of an actual booth, this is a backdrop, found off the lobby and next to the entrance of the Everything Pop Shopping and Dining. The backdrop has the main logo for the resort, as well as each decade’s logo. It’s a fun picture even if you didn’t want to use any of the extras. Next to the backdrop, there is a table set up with props you can hold in your picture. The props include each of the decade logos, as well as several themed elements, such as a cassette tape and a mirrored disco ball. There is even a prop with the event hashtag, #PopFlashbackFriday, on it. Along with the props, there is a fun frame that matches the backdrop, with the resort’s hashtag. I think this photo spot fits perfectly with the theme of the resort, and would be a great permanent addition.

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