by Derek Burgan
on December 8, 2014
The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.
Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!
DAY EIGHT: Old Fashioned at Belle Vue Lounge (Disney’s BoardWalk Inn)
An Old Fashioned at the Belle Vue Lounge in Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Sometimes you just find the perfect drink in the perfect setting, and today we have that with an Old Fashioned at the Belle Vue Lounge. The overall theme of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn is a trip back through time, with guests being completely immersed within the aesthetic of an Atlantic seaside resort from the 1930s. Nowhere is that more evident than within the Belle Vue Lounge, which is like no other bar on WDW property and is a true hidden gem. Belle Vue will transport you back to a different era, when people took a break and sat down to enjoy conversation with friends, instead of just searching for an outlet to charge their smart phones. What we enjoy about having an Old Fashioned at the Belle Vue is that the drink is served very strong, a possible nod to the prohibition era the lounge’s theme takes place in.
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by Savannah Sanders
on December 4, 2014
While Disney World offers a vast variety of different resorts to choose from for guests staying on property, the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas offer even more options and experiences, particularly when it comes to room sizes! During my last few trips to Disney World, I had the opportunity to enjoy stays at several different DVC Villas; but today, I’m zeroing in on Disney’s Beach Club Villas in this review of a Disney’s Beach Club One Bedroom DVC Villa.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
First of all, the Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s own timeshare program where members purchase and use points for their vacation experiences. It can be difficult to understand, but Disney Vacation Club (DVC) 101: What is DVC? can help fill in the gaps. If you are not a Disney Vacation Club Member, the good news is that you can still stay at a DVC Resort! You can do so by booking through Disney, just as you would any other resort; however, other guests like to rent points or even buy points from other members, but you definitely want to make sure that the seller is legitimate and reliable.
Earlier this year, my family and I booked a stay at one bedroom DVC Villa at Disney’s Beach Club. This resort is very popular and has one of the best locations at Disney World in that it’s next door to its sister resort, the Yacht Club, as well as the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Across the water, there is the Boardwalk Inn Resort and the Boardwalk itself with it’s dining, shopping, and live entertainment to take advantage of. But wait! It’s get even better! The Beach Club is also a short walk from Epcot, and a somewhat longer walk, or boat ride, to Hollywood Studios. In fact, during my stay, I could see the fireworks from Epcot’s Illuminations from the Beach Club grounds.
The Beach Club features a light and airy, beach theme with a vintage flair. Pastels and little seaside details can be found all throughout the resort, from the carpets to the light fixtures; but one of the things the Beach Club is most known for is it’s pool, Stormalong Bay. Many say it is the best pool on Disney World property and I would agree!
The smallest villa offered at the Beach Club Villas is a Deluxe Villa, which sleeps up to four adults. It’s similar to a standard resort room, just with more amenities. The next size villa is a one bedroom, which is what I’m focusing on today. This villa can also sleep up to four adults, but it offers more space than a Deluxe Villa. Finally, the largest villa offered at the Beach Club is a two bedroom villa, which can sleep up to eight adults.
My family and I had stayed at the Beach Club before, but never in a villa so we were excited to enjoy a whole new experience at this gorgeous resort.
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by T.J. Van Fechtmann
on October 31, 2014
Happy Halloween, everyone! Did you know that the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a week from today. And that it’s sold out? Enjoy your 6 days of downtime between the 2 month holiday of the Food & Hallowine Festival and the next 2 month holiday of Christmas and New Year’s.
Christmas will be here before you know it, and you might be asking yourself, “Hey, self, should I make my holiday season even more magical by going to Disney World?” I’m glad you asked. Disney World during the holidays is one of my favorite times of year to visit. It’s a time when there are several unique elements from decorations to food present that transform the parks into something special. That’s not to say that it’s the perfect time of year to go. Like any season, there are positives and negatives. While I believe that every Disney enthusiast should aim to visit at least once during the holidays, here are some of my personal pros and cons that should help you decide if it’s worth it.
PRO: The Decorations
Walking down a fully decorated Main Street, U.S.A., is almost worth the trip alone for me. I already enjoy spending time just wandering around the Magic Kingdom staple but when the decorations are up, the ambiance gets even better. The decorations don’t stop there. Obviously the rest of the areas in the parks have decorations, but the hotels do, as well. I enjoy hotel hopping just to see how each one is decorated. The level of detail will vary, but some of the hotels go all out: for example, there’s a huge gingerbread house at the BoardWalk!
CON: The Crowds
Like any popular time of year at Disney, you’re going to feel cramped at some points. If all you want out of a Disney trip is short wait times and you don’t care about Christmas, maybe plan a trip for some other time. I could be perfectly happy just walking around the parks and taking everything in, but I understand how some people might not enjoy this and need plenty of attractions. If this is you, whatever you do, do not go during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the busiest time of year by far. Check out our crowd calendar for more information, but generally it’s less crowded the earlier you go in the season (besides the week of Thanksgiving, of course).
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by Scott Morgan
on July 28, 2014
The Walk Disney series will provide a description and review of activities that can be done while walking the grounds at Walt Disney World resorts.
Do you know why the ESPN Club on Disney’s BoardWalk is shaped like an octagon? Do you know where the hidden Tinkerbell is near the elevators of Disney’s BoardWalk Villas? By taking the free BoardWalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour, you will learn these and many more interesting details about Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas resort area.
Before describing the experience that my wife and I had on the tour, here are the tour basics:
What does the tour entail? The tour covers many of the design choices that the Imagineers made when constructing Disney’s BoardWalk Resort area. The walking, informational tour begins at the Bellevue Lounge, continues through the main floor of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and eventually ends up on the boardwalk outside of the Boardwalk Bakery.
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by Erin Foster
on May 22, 2013
We’ve given you the basics about Disney resort pools in general and the specifics about the pools at the value and moderate level hotels. The series concludes with an in-depth look at the pools at the Walt Disney World deluxe and villa resorts: Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas, Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower Villas, Grand Floridian, Old Key West, Polynesian, Saratoga Springs and Tree House Villas, Wilderness Lodge and Villas, and the Yacht & Beach Club and Beach Club Villas.
So strap on your swim fins; we’re going in …
ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE AND KIDANI VILLAGE
- How many pools are there? There are two large pools at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Uzima pool at the main Jambo House, and the Samwati Spring pool in the Kidani Village villas area. There is no “quiet pool” area at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
- What is the pool themeing? The African wilderness.
- What’s the kiddie pool situation? There are traditional kiddie pools in both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas. Additionally, Kidani has a large interactive water play area intended for children under 48″ tall.
- Are there water slides? Yes, both pool areas have water slides. At Kidani, there is a small slide, appropriate for preschoolers, as well as a larger slide for older children. At Jambo, there is one large water slide.
- Is there a nearby playground? Yes. There are playgrounds near both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas.
- What’s the nearest food option? The Maji bar next to the Kidani pool offers drinks and very limited number of cold sandwich options. The Uzima Springs bar next to the Jambo pool offers drinks and a small selection of packaged snacks. The Mara quick service restaurant, with complete food offerings, is steps away from the Jambo pool.
- Are there showers at the pool? Yes, there are restrooms with lockers and shower adjacent to both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas.
- Are there hot tubs? Yes, there are hot tubs at both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas.
- Are there towels available at the pool? Yes, towels are available at both pools.
- How deep is the pool? The Jambo pool is four feet, ten inches at its deepest point. The Kidani pool is four feet, eleven inches at its deepest point.
- Are there zero entry pools available? Yes. The main pools at both Jambo and Kidani have zero entry access.
- Are poolside cabanas available? No.
- Are there poolside activities? Yes. There are activities at both the Jambo and Kidani pools. Schedules may vary seasonally, but recently there were planned events from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. every afternoon, plus a movie under the stars in the evening. Events may include: Bingo, Wild Trivia, Frisbee Toss, Giant Jenga, Chalk Art, Musical Rings, and others. Weather permitting, there is a free campfire with s’mores.
- Anything else? The two sections of the Animal Kingdom Lodge are a substantial walking distance apart. Guests with preschool and elementary age children may prefer the pools at Kidani Village due to the appealing children’s water play area. Different evening movies are shown at the Jambo and Kidani areas. Feel free to view whichever film is more appealing to your family. The schedules for both will be available at the front desk.
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by Brian McNichols
on February 7, 2012
So far I’ve explored the wonderful resorts of Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans, and Pop Century. You may notice that none of those are in the deluxe category. The reason is that some of the deluxe resorts just don’t lend themselves to exploring. Sure, they are beautiful, luxurious, and wonderful to spend time at, but they don’t always have the meandering pathways or hidden spots that the more spread out resorts have.
I debated with myself for a while on how to overcome this problem (and yes, I often argue with myself…and win). I had a breakthrough when I thought about walking through a favorite resort of mine; Beach Club. You see, when I spend time at that particular resort, I don’t just walk around the Beach Club but instead I wander through all of the bordering Epcot area resorts.
So that’s how I’m treating this, as a walk through the Epcot resorts; Beach Club, Yacht Club, Dolphin, Swan, and the Boardwalk Inn. Please remember that combining them is an artistic choice and not laziness (an important, if indiscernible, designation).
Beach and Yacht Clubs
I am further combining these two because they share so much in common (still not laziness). Both are designed with a seaside feel, although the Yacht Club has a more stately and formal feel to it. These are both beautiful resorts with many decorative nautical items, but with very little in the way of “hidden” areas.
I am in no way saying that there aren’t lovely spots to sit, stand, or walk (I’ll take sit if you please), but most of these areas are along the well-trafficked pathway that abuts Crescent Lake. Yes it is beautiful, photogenic, and peaceful, but it is also very often full of people, which makes it feel less “private” and more “ugh…people are loud.”
C'mon, who doesn't love this view?
If you are an early riser like I am you can still stake out your spot, and there are a few very lovely spots. The pool is a free-flowing, meandering behemoth with rockwork, waterfalls, and plenty of trees. There is also a fantastic pier that juts out into the lake complete with a wonderful lighthouse. The primo spot however, is a seat on the beach (a beach? At the Beach Club? Ludicrous!).
From your vantage point on the sand you look out across the lake with vistas of the lighthouse and the exceptionally cool wreckage of a pirate ship (says the 13 year old boy that I mentally am). I suggest, rather than exploring per se, parking your rump on the beach and enjoying the relative peace of the spot.
Dolphin and Swan
As you meander further away from Epcot (This is a special case. Normally I don’t recommend walking away from World Showcase) the next resorts you come to are the Dolphin and Swan. I have combined these two again due to the shared amenities (okay, maybe now I’m getting lazy). Comparing what I described above, I’m not sure you can find resorts that are more different than the Swan/Dolphin and Beach/Yacht. The Swan and Dolphin are…uh…well, just different.
Rather than quaint and relaxing, the Swan and Dolphin are modern and angular. They are still beautiful, at least in spots, but I would consider neither of them relaxing. Luckily, the exterior areas are just as well done as you would expect at Disney deluxe resorts.
This picture breaks my personal record of "most non-living swans in one shot."
Walking the circuitous route between the two hotel buildings brings you upon the pool, beach, and several small, tree-lined spots that definitely qualify as relaxing (and many qualify as smoking areas…thanks for that Disney). Enjoying the views looking out onto the water of the beach and palm trees is always time well spent, even if there are strangely shaped modernist hotels in the way.
The final resort that you come upon on the path is the Boardwalk Inn. Aesthetically speaking, the hotel itself is not my favorite. It is a very pleasant resort in a great location and has that mix of seaside charm and high-class elegance that we all associate with the New Jersey shore (cough…moving on). Mostly what I don’t like is that super creepy clown face slide that makes it look like a spaced-out clown is spitting children into the pool.
Wow, what a nice pool and...AHH, what in Walt's name is that thing!
The main exterior area of the Boardwalk Inn is the boardwalk itself which is a great place for a stroll at any time. When it’s empty it is serene and peaceful and has a lot of benches for looking out over Crescent Lake.
When it’s busy there is so much hustle there (and even a bit of bustle) that it’s one of the best spots to people watch. With face painters, entertainers, and surrey bikes galore I could spend all day just wandering the boardwalk and making fun of people (Oops I mean…uh…yeah, making fun of. I can’t sugarcoat it).
That completes my wandering around the Epcot resorts, now I’m going to jump aboard the Friendship Boat and head to World Showcase for a beverage. How do you like the Epcot resorts and do you ever take time to wander around during your stay? I’d love to hear about all the nooks and crannies that I missed.
Thanks for reading!