June 2015: Day 3 Magic Kingdon & Epcot

Featured

For me and hubs, Magic Kingdom and Epcot are like peanut butter and jelly. Both awesome on their own, but put ’em together and BOOM! – a perfect pairing.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, Epcot is my husbands favorite park. I love Magic Kingdom and Epcot pretty equally, but for separate reasons. Magic Kingdom is nostalgic, full of wonderful aromas and attractions. Epcot offers adventure and excellent and abundant dining. Conveniently linked by the monorail, getting from one park to the other is easy and enjoyable. Going to both parks in one day also saves us the “argument” of which park to visit first on our trip.

So on our third day, the alarm buzzed at 6:30, we each grabbed a quick shower, enjoyed apple with almond butter and granola on the balcony, and were on our way to Contemporary Grounds for depth chargers by 7:00ish. We walked over to MK and passed through security and the turnstiles just as the opening show was wrapping up.

We walked straight back to Fantasyland and walked on to the virtually empty “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.” Our luck continued when we were able to walk onto “its a small world.” Next we went across to Peter Pan’s Flight. The standby queue was 35 minutes, which for Peter Pan, isn’t bad. Disney recently redid the standby queue to feel like you walk through the Darlings’ house. I CAN NOT rave about this enough! It is so awesome! If you spot Peter Pan’s Flight with a 30ish minute standby – go! You’ll enjoy your time in the queue as much – if not more – than the attraction itself. Post Peter Pan our streak continued with no wait into Mickey’s PhilarMagic and finding a 15 minute wait at The Haunted Mansion. (This kind of morning is why I think waking up early and taking advantage of early hours is the way to go.)

Leaving Haunted Mansion we stopped off at Sleepy Hollow and split a waffle filled with Nutella and fruit. So good. With our bellies full we headed back to Adventureland and walked right into the Enchanted Tiki Room.

At this point, though we were clearly on a roll, we decided to walk back to Bay Lake Tower for a break. We didn’t have any Fastpass+ reservations until later and our dinner reservations were fairly late at Epcot, so we thought breaking earlier in the day made sense. After returning to Bay Lake Tower, we both worked out (the Contemporary has a small, but awesome gym), we showered and went to the Contemporary’s Contempo Cafe for lunch. We got on the Monorail and were on our way back to MK to use our FastPass+ reservations for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. Next we spun ourselves silly in a teacup at Mad Tea Party and then cooled off with this delicious raspberry lemonade slush from the neighboring Cheshire Cafe. We did a little people watching at the Casey Jr. Splash n’ Soak Station outside of Dumbo while we waited for our final FastPass+ reservation at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We’ve only experienced this attraction a couple of times, but it really is fun and adorable. I will say this about it: I spotted a lot of hats and a couple cell phones lost from the ride. Stash ’em away people. Think of how silly (furious) you’re going to feel to be out your iphone because you wanted a selfie.

At this point we felt like we’d had a really great first day at MK and so we hopped the Monorail over to Epcot to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening.

After passing through the gates, we had planned to head directly to the World Showcase to spend the evening, but Spaceship Earth had very small standby time that we couldn’t resist. After a glimpse at our future we ambled to the World Showcase to roam and kicked off with a beer in Germany. Prost!

DSC00810

We had dinner reservations at Via Napoli in Italy. This was our first visit to Via Napoli and we loved it! Everything was delicious and the ambience is light and airy. It was simultaneously a cozy spot for a romantic dinner and a relaxed family environment. We would definitely dine there again, and I don’t hesitate in recommending it.

Post dinner we felt full and content, and decided to head home to Bay Lake Tower for a little swim and balcony relaxing. We caught a beautiful sunset on the way back that was the beautiful cap on a beautiful day.

 

 

June 2015 Trip Report Day 2, Animal Kingdom

On our June 2015 trip our first park day was Animal Kingdom. We have no traditions about beginning with one park over the other. Generally, we follow the Extra Magic Hours calendar when planning our days. It happened that Animal Kingdom opened early that day, so that’s where we went.

DSC00278.jpg

I can tell you our alarm went off at 6:20, aka early o’clock. By 7:00 we were on our way to Contemporary Grounds for Depth Chargers. Armed with caffeine we headed to the bus stop, where we didn’t wait long. We got to Animal Kingdom and through security before 8:00 am. I say this practically every time I blog, getting up early may be a pain, but the payoff is worth it when you’re through the ticket line and onto your favorite attraction right at the start of the day.

DSC00232.jpg

At 8:00 we were in queue for Expedition Everest. We waited a few short minutes before we climbed aboard. I love to start a day with a roller coaster. Hubby does not feel this way, but he’s a trooper who mostly indulges my fancies.

DSC00226

After Expedition Everest we made our way to Kilimanjaro Safaris. The park was cool and uncrowded in the morning – really pleasant. We took our time walking, stopping to snap pictures. I think Animal Kingdom has an incredible amount of atmosphere and I love to just take in all of the scenery detail. We didn’t have much of a wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris, and we had a good ride. We spotted lots of animals, but my favorite of that trek was a baby rhino. The exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris spits you out right at the entrance for the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This is a great place to scope gorillas. The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail also features a really awesome bat display that was closed for refurbishment when we were there. Upon leaving the Pangani Trail we headed to the new Harambe Market to check it out. We also poked our head into the new Zuri’s Sweets Shop. Zuri’s had nut mixes and plenty to satisfy sugar cravings, including adorable animal sugar cookies and fun animal themed candy apples.

 

After that fairly leisurely morning we decided to hunt down the Dawa Bar. This is a really sweet spot to grab a drink, cool off, and take in the atmosphere. If you’re into bloody marys, Dawa Bar has you covered with a killer bloody mary menu. Though they looked awesome, neither hubby or I are big bloody mary people, so he had a St. George beer and I had a class of Fair Valley Chenin Blanc. The bar was uncrowded, our bartender was awesome, and we could see and hear the African Drummers street performance from our perch. Though we wanted to linger here we had Fastpasses for Expedition Everest at 11:35, so we headed back to Asia for our second pass at the Yeti, and scored front car seats. Did I mention I love roller coasters? We followed up by walking the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Tigers are one of the main attractions on the Trek, but we didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of them. Though we didn’t see tigers, we did see an incredible array of exotic birds in the aviary. One bird in particular must have been very fond of hubby because he deposited a load of poo on hubby’s brand-new fedora. Fortunately I had some wipes in our backpack and we had a good laugh about it as we cleaned up the, um, gift. Everyone loves souvenirs, right??

At this point we were both in the mood for some chow. Normally Flame Tree BBQ is our go-to Animal Kingdom lunch spot. It’s so tasty. However, it was being refurbished, so we decided to go back to Harambe Market. It was kind of a zoo, no pun intended. Lines were long and slow moving. Table seating was at a super premium. Hubby and I split up the task. I ordered food and he scouted for a table. We both ordered a chicken skewer that came with a broccoli, tomato, red onion salad. We both had a milk tart for dessert. The chicken was delicious, especially the bbq sauce that was on the side. We both enjoyed having a healthy lunch that day. It was worth the wait.

After lunch we made our way to DinoLand U.S.A. to use our 1:05 Fastpasses for Primeval Whirl, followed by 2:15 Fastpasses for Dinosaur. We left DinoLand in pursuit of the 3:00 Finding Nemo the Musical show. I love this show. It runs about 40 minutes and outside of its great music and beautiful costumes, it’s an excellent way to cool off and get out of the sun.

After Finding Nemo the Musical we decided to forgo It’s Tough to Be a Bug, which was the only attraction we had left on our list. We elected instead to head back to the Dawa Bar to wait out the interval before our Tusker House reservation with a refreshment. (Tusker House is located right behind Dawa Bar.) The bar had really picked up traffic since our late morning visit. We met some really cool people while perched on a bar stool. I find that Disney World is an awesome place to converse with people, whether at the bar, or just in a queue.

When our time came for Tusker House, we got right in and ushered to a table. Tusker House is a buffet character dining experience. Neither of us had dined there before and we enjoyed having a new experience. The buffet was varied, including familiar and more exotic flavors that had Indian and Asian influence. We managed to see Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy who were all dressed for safari.

 

Both hubby and I agreed on an early night for our first day in the park. So with our bellies full of grub we left Animal Kingdom to head back to Bay Lake Tower. We managed to get in a  good swim with a few water slide runs before returning to our balcony for another evening of fireworks. All in all, a pretty perfect 1st park day.

DSC00407

WDW Coffee Talk

All Hail the Depth Charger…

(and just coffee in general)

Once upon a time coffee was not something easily acquired at Walt Disney World. Primarily what you could find, unless you went on a specified hunt, was Nescafe instant coffee. Nescafe instant coffee? –  I don’t consider that coffee. Coffee must be from roasted beans, ground, and freshly brewed into wonderful, hot, dark liquid nectar of the gods.

DSC00475.jpg

Kermit has coffee with dessert at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom

Fortunately, those dark and dreary days of the Nescafe Instant Coffee monarchy are over and long gone. For better or worse, each park and Disney Springs now hosts a Starbucks. Say what you will about it, there is now coffee in every park. Starbucks is not the only game in town either. In fact, they are just the minor leagues. Most WDW coffee is from Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Co. (based in Tampa). They provide 100% Specialty Arabica Bean Coffee to Disney Parks and Disney Hotels. I am happy to say that this is the coffee you find in your hotel room, in WDW restuarants, and many stand locations throughout the parks. Actually, most restaurants have a Joffrey’s blend custom-made especially for them. (On Joffrey’s website you can view and purchase some for the comfort of your home!) Some hotels, such as the Contemporary, also have a Joffrey’s Coffee bar.

DSC01141.jpg

Hubby and I are both coffee addicts enthusiasts. We never start a day without it. And despite heat, we do not forgo the coffee ritual in WDW or hubby (and occasionally myself) are less pleasant and tolerable. On our June 2015 trip, every morning, before boarding the bus/monorail, we walked next door to the Contemporary’s lobby to hit Contemporary Grounds, a Joffrey’s Coffee bar. There we met and fell in love with the Depth Charger. What is a Depth Charger? A a cup of holy goodness going by the recipe of one shot of espresso drowning in a cup of coffee. I believe Starbucks calls these “red eyes.” I am sure there are many other names for it.

DSC01145.jpg

Contemporary Grounds offers freshly brewed coffee, cappuccino and espresso drinks, and a few pastries. Pastry selections include giant donuts that boast bright pink or chocolate frosting topped with sprinkles. We never purchased any baked goods to go with our coffee, but they looked delicious. Depth Chargers were not on the coffee menu, but the very charming barista kindly obliged my husband when he asked our first day if she could make it. After that, each morning we simply said “2 Depth Chargers please,” and they were delivered with a smile.

Because coffee is now so widely available in the parks you don’t have to feel pressed to grab it at the hotel before you leave. If Starbucks is your jam, head to Main Street Bakery at Magic Kingdom, Fountain View at Epcot, Trolley Car Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Creature Comforst at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Joffrey’s coffee stands are sprinkled throughout the parks, which is particularly nice in Epcot and Animal Kingdom that cover so much area.

Here are a few of the places you can locate Joffrey’s Coffee in the parks:

  • Walt Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center
  • Epcot World Showcase between UK and Canada
  • Epcot Monorail Station
  • Epcot Outside of Test Track
  • Epcot World Showcase America
  • Epcot World Showcase Entrance near Disney Traders
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios Pixar Place Entrance
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror Exit
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Entrace
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Asia, near Kali River Rapids
  • Blizzard Beach, near Polar Park
  • Blizzard beach, near Lottawatta Lodge
  • Typhoon Lagoon, near Let’s Go Slurpin’
  • Typhoon Lagoon Donut Cart
  • Disney Springs, Marketplace across from World of Disney
  • Disney Springs, 40 Thirst Street

Cheers!

 

June 2015 Trip Report, Day 1, Part 2

Schedule “Unplanned” Time!

I believe in planning for your WDW vacation. I believe in making dining reservations 180 days out and I believe in making your FastPass+ reservations 60 days out. I believe in changing your mind and changing your plans as your trip gets closer and during your trip if necessary. I like to make the most of my time, and personally I think you need to plan a little to make that happen. Walt Disney World is too large, and often, too crowded to leave everything to whim.  BUT, I don’t believe in micromanaging EVERY HOUR of your trip! You can’t plan everything – things pop up. This is especially true when traveling with kids. While I think certain planning makes for the best WDW vacation, I believe in the joy of just enjoying the moments that present themselves. It may sound funny, but I always allow for some time to just go with whatever is happening. If you can, allow for a day or an evening without a plan. Or, perhaps leave a couple hours every day to just embrace the moment. You won’t regret it.

DSC00096

Hubby and I both agreed that for our first day (arrival day) we would have no firm plans. No dining reservations, nothing. You know from my last post, we arrived, checked in, wandered Disney Springs and left when we felt like it.  After returning to BLT, we got in a good swim. For dinner we decided to order a room service pepperoni pizza we could eat al fresco on the balcony. We’ve had Disney pizza room service a couple of times in different spots and it’s always been delicious. We paired ours with a bottle of wine we brought from home. If you bring wine/beer from home – which I suggest – don’t forget your corkscrew (like we kinda-sorta did). If you do, worry not, your resort hotel’s gift shop will most likely have one.

We had no idea what an excellent choice our in-room pizza dinner would end up being. Early on we had toyed with the idea of taking the Monorail to the Polynesian to have sushi at the Kona Island Sushi Bar. We really love sushi and we haven’t yet tried Kona Island. But, after traveling half the day, venturing to Disney springs, and swimming, we just didn’t feel like getting dressed and making the trek over there. So we didn’t. Next time perhaps, cause I really want to have a crack at their sushi.

But as I was saying, staying put and hanging out on our balcony ended up being one of our best memories from the trip. We observed an array of amazing things we would’ve otherwise missed. As we munched on our pizza we discovered we could see all of Epcot’s Illumination’s fireworks from our balcony. It was awesome! Below us, the poolside movie, Finding Nemo was playing. (Most WDW resort hotels do a poolside movie every night. Each night is a different flick. It rocks.) We could only see little bits from our balcony but we could hear most of it, and it was really pleasant to have that just hanging out in the background. This is all in addition to the fun of watching the Monorail and boats come and go.

DSC00205

As Illumination’s fireworks were winding down the Electrical Water Pageant started up in front of Magic Kingdom. This is a short, simple parade of lights that runs on the water. It’s really charming! (Especially when viewed from the comforts of “home.”)

DSC01449.jpg

Night view including MK and the Electrical Light Pageant

Just when hubby and I thought the balcony spectacles couldn’t improve, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee burst out of the back of the Contemporary. They were marching a bunch of buckaroos (aka, kiddos) from the back entrance down to the Contemporary’s dock. The mini pirates followed both Captain Hook and Mr. Smee onto a boat and set sail on some great adventure. We had no clue what the pirate parade was, but it was magical and insanely cute to witness.

As it turns out, what we witnessed was the Pirates and Pal’s Fireworks Voyage. This is a special, ticketed event. Popcorn and ice cream are served at the Contemporary before a boat adventure to view Magic Kingdom’s Wishes fireworks and the Electric Water Pageant. Pirates then return to the Contemporary for a bit more adventure.

After the pirates set sail our BLT adventures continued when Magic Kingdom’s Wishes begin. The music for Wishes is piped in, so we could hear, but we had no view of MK and the fireworks from our balcony. That didn’t stop us! We grabbed our glasses of wine, left our room and headed to the elevator. The over-sized windows gave us the perfect view of Magic Kingdom and the fireworks.

DSC00204.jpg

Night view of the Contemporary from our balcony (minus Capt. Hook and the pirates).

Once Wishes was over we headed back to our balcony paradise to wind down the night. As it turned out we saw the Electrical Light Pageant a total of 4 times. Twice, on the Magic Kingdom side before it crossed over and performed twice more on the backside of BLT and the Contemporary.

We had no idea we would see and hear so much in one evening from our little balcony. We would have missed all of it if we had planned out our evening! So leave time to kick back, watch, and go with whatever your mood tells you.

DSC00202.jpg

June 2015 Trip Report Day 1, Part 1

DSC00091There is nothing like the first day of your WDW vacation. You arrive, out of your mind excited delighted, and the entire trip stretches out in front of you. Everything is fresh, everything is there waiting for you to experience it.

DSC00094We drove into Walt Disney World from Savannah and landed on Walt Disney World property around 1 p.m. We had not yet gotten the text from WDW letting us know that our room was ready. Unfazed, we drove straight through the Magic Kingdom gate toward Bay Lake Tower. We figured even if our room wasn’t ready until 4 (normal check-in time) we could park the car and make our way to Disney Springs for some lunch and shopping. However, as if by magic, as we turned into the Bay Lake Tower (BLT) entrance, my phone buzzed and the text our room was ready flashed on my screen.

We parked the car and headed straight to our room. When you check in online you can bypass the desk and go straight to your room and your magic bands will grant you access. This is where we hit one of the only hangups of our trip. After taking the elevators up to our room, toting luggage behind us, we found our Magic Bands would not grant us room access. I left hubby with the bags outside the room and went back down to the front desk with both of our Magic Bands. A few minutes of computer coaxing from a cast member, I went back upstairs and we waltzed right into our room. You know from my last post how much we adored our room and Bay Lake Tower!

We brought all of our luggage up, ogled the room and our balcony view, briefly freshened up, and headed to the bus stop to catch the Downtown Disney bus. Our luck continued and the bus arrived after only a minute on the bench.

Upon arrival at Disney Springs we were starving, and food received top priority. We went straight to Earl of Sandwich. It completely hit the spot. Both of us had our eye on the Chipotle Chicken Avacado and Hawaiian BBQ chicken, so we ordered each and so we could go halfsies. We got a pager to let us know when our sandwiches were ready and sought out seating on the shaded patio. We had a great view of the splash zone outside of the World of Disney store. Our sandwiches were every bit as delicious as we’d hoped. With bellies no longer grumbling of hunger we went exploring.

As Downtown Disney was rapidly transitioning into Disney Springs, we found new signs, sidewalks, walkways, stores, and restaurants everywhere. There are plenty of old time favorites such as House of Blues, Bongos, Basin, Lego store, and World of Disney. But new delights were everywhere. Our favorite retail spot was Cherry Tree Lane, which housed many little shops with Disney merchandise for everyone. (Including Disney Dooney & Bourke for me! Though I didn’t buy any this trip…) I also love me some Basin, a store full of soapy delights. And you’d better believe I took my time sniffing and smelling all kinds of soaps, shampoos, scrubs, body butters, bath bombs … Ahhhhh.

After all of that shopping we were thirsty! I mean, it’s hot ya know? And nothing says “cool off” like a margarita. We spotted the new Dockside Margarita and headed that direction. This little spot has take out windows, a bar, and a side patio with some sweet lounge furniture. While we were there a musician with a guitar also kept us entertained. A very nice touch, especially paired with the stunning lake views.

After our margarita adventures we did a bit more shop meandering and soon decided we were ready to head back to Bay Lake Tower. Our prior luck with the bus had definitely run out at this point. The queue for our bus was a mess. And the bus took plenty of time to find its way to us. The longer we waited, the more people began to crowd. People start to get this look in their eye as they shifted their weight around nervously. Silent “we were here first, and we are getting on that bus and making our way to a seat” looks begin to go out. No words were exchanged or fights broke out, but it wasn’t a pretty, happy, or magical experience with all of that irritated energy. This is the kind of time where you chose to either be a grump or just go with the flow. It all worked out, everyone got on the bus.

After arriving back to Bay Lake Tower we continued to explore the hotel and of course, test out the pool. One of the cool things about Bay Lake Tower is its proximity to the Contemporary. After a swim at BLT’s pool and a run (or two, or five) down its waterslide we decided to test it against the Contemporary waterslide. So we grabbed our towels and took the short merry stroll over to the Contemporary and took a run or two down its waterslide. Both, as a matter of point, are excellent. The waterslide at the Contemporary seemed like it had a bit more speed, but the slide at BLT has a bit more curve action.

After our swim we were both pretty tired ready for a shower and dinner. We made a great choice to spend our arrival day just being mellow and enjoying the hotel. Traveling in had already zapped our energy levels and so hanging out was the way to go. We also were planning to hit the parks hard the following day, so resting up beforehand was wise. If you have the luxury of time, this is the way I recommend beginning your vacation.

Besides, our evening hanging out at BLT ended up being one of the best of our trip. But more on that next post… TTFN!

Bay Lake Tower Review

IMG_6708On our 2015 June trip we called Bay Lake Tower, or BLT, home. When first reading about Bay Lake Tower and seeing its acronym of BLT I put off. A BLT is my favorite summer sandwich of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. However, after a bit of soul searching I found there is room in my heart for BLT to stand for Bay Lake Tower AND bacon, lettuce and tomato. After all, both are wonderful.

BLT is a DVC resort, so it is a bit different from other WDW hotels. (More on that momentarily.) One of Bay Lake Tower’s major appeals is its proximity to the Magic Kingdom. MK is just a short, pleasant stroll away. Because of this BLT often has guests that are not DVC members. The price is high, and you have to be willing to pay, and some do shell out to be close to Magic Kingdom. In fact, Many of BLT’s rooms offer stunning views of Magic Kingdom. This is particularly charming at night as it offers you a view of Wishes, Magic Kingdom’s fireworks spectacular, right from your room. Fireworks in pajamas with no crowds? Not bad, eh?

Being a DVC resort, rooms at BLT are either Deluxe Studios (sleeps 4 adults), One Bedroom Villas (sleeps 5 adults), or Two Bedroom Villas (sleeps 9 adults). Studios include a kitchenette and single bathroom. One Bedroom Villas offer a full kitchen, one bedroom and one bathroom. Two Bedroom Villas offer a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Studios, One, and Two Bedroom Villas all come with a choice of theme park view, lake view, or standard view. Standard views are anything level 4 and below. Lake views offer bits of Bay Lake (which may also include the pool), and theme park views offer a view of Magic Kingdom.

We stayed in a Lake View Deluxe Studio. We were situated in a room that faced the Contemporary, where we could view its pool, and watch the Monorails come and go. We could watch the boats sweep across the lake in front of the Grand Floridian. And in the distance, we could see Epcot’s Spaceship Earth and Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror. We could see the hot air balloon rise up from Downtown Disney. At night we were able to watch the fireworks of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios from our balcony, as well as the Electric Light Parade. We could even see bits of Magic Kingdom if we leaned forward and peered to the right. (A move for adults only, obviously.) We loved our view. It was varied and wonderful. We spent as much time as possible just enjoying the scenery from our balcony. If we were to go back, we’d be more than happy to have the same room and view all over again.

One thing that is important to understand about staying at Bay Lake Tower is that it essentially functions as a branch of Disney’s Contemporary Resort Hotel. In fact, BLT is  connected to The Contemporary via a Sky Bridge on the 5th floor. Because Bay Lake Tower is a DVC resort it does not have the usual plethora of amenities Disney Hotels usually boast. Not to worry! The Sky Bridge connection to The Contemporary his allows you ready access to its restaurants, bars, shops, room service, and Monorail access.  BLT and the Contemporary also share a bus stop, which is located between the two hotels.

While you need to walk to the Contemporary for use of a gym, restaurants, or bars, Bay Lake Tower does have wonderful outdoor recreation. There is a pool with a winding water slide, a kid splash area, and a whirlpool. The pool bar, named Cove Bar, offers up beer, wine, tropical cocktails, and an assortment of snacks. In an outdoor area in front of the pool entrance there are games set up such as corn hole, shuffleboard, and ping pong tables.

If for some reason you are unsatisfied with BLT’s outdoor offerings, you also can take the very short stroll to use The Contemporary’s pool. (We did for a water slide showdown! And in case you’re wondering – both are great. BLT’s is more twisting, whereas the Contemporary’s is more dipping with speed.)

This was our first time to stay at Bay Lake Tower, though we have spent just one night at The Contemporary. Bay Lake Tower is less themed than most other WDW hotels. For us, that was fine. We liked the minimal, contemporary feel. I think it would be less exciting for kids, but then again, you’re right next to the Magic Kingdom and that has its appeal. In fact, one day when walking on the Sky Bridge I saw a dad carrying a little dude about 2. He spotted Cinderella Castle in the distance and started saying “Dad! Dad!! I see Disney World! I see Disney World!!” Little man was pumped. It was awfully cute.

So, do we recommend it? Should you stay here? This I can only answer with, “well, it depends.” As I may have mentioned before, my parents are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members. Since my parents are also awesome, they shared their points with us for this last trip. Otherwise, because of the cost, Bay Lake Tower would not be anywhere within our reach. If you are a DVC member, I absolutely 100% recommend it. We would be thrilled to stay there again. If you’re not a DVC member, then my recommendation comes less readily. If being close to Magic Kingdom is worth the cost to you – BLT is a wonderful experience. If, however, the idea of shelling out that kind of cash for a hotel makes you squirm – stay somewhere else. (On Walt Disney World’s property, of course!) While Bay Lake Tower was an amazing experience, other deluxe or moderate resorts make for better ways to spend your hard earned cash in equal comfort.

DSC00908

Our June 2015 Disney World Trip Preview… Or, Kermit’s Many Adventures

IMG_6550Hi-ho, Kermit the Frog here! And there, and everywhere in Walt Disney World on our June 2015 vacation. We had a truly wonderful trip and I’ve been very anxious to tell you all about it!  After we got home I was feeling pretty good… for about a day. Then a serious case of the Post WDW Vacation Blues set in. You know, where ordinary life seems kinda dull and flavorless compared to life in “the happiest place on earth.” After a few days I was feeling more or less back to my regular self and turned my attention to blogging about our trip. I started by uploading all 40 GB worth of photos and the 13ish GB worth of video. A simultaneously daunting and diverting job. I’m still in process of sifting through and editing photos. And of course I will compile a video montage once I go through the video footage. (I’m very eager to make said montage!)

IMG_6458Because I have such a large amount of information and media to share with you I will break our trip down into days and cover one day at a time. Today is simply all about Kermit, who unknowingly became our trip mascot.

A couple weeks before our departure date I went to Walgreens for some birthday cards. While trolling the card aisle I noticed Kermit hanging on a small clearance display for a whopping $1.67. Naturally, I snatched him up. How could I resist??

IMG_6383 IMG_6385

One night my husband gave him an impromptu setting. The idea just kinda took with us and every few days one of us would randomly create a little Kermit scene. (Some certainly had our dog’s interest piqued.)

I had no real plans for bringing Kermie along on our trip. But somehow it didn’t seem right to leave him behind and I grabbed him as we headed out the door. My very clever mum, who had been privy to our Kermit antics, suggested we tote him around the parks and create WDW-Kermit photo scenes.

Lo and behold, our trip became full of Kermit. Actually, it’s one of the more entertaining things we’ve done on a WDW trip. Adults and kids alike would exclaim “Oo! Kermit!” and many enjoyable conversations often followed such a comment.

As I report on each day of our trip I’ll share the many adventures of Kermit the Frog. He even made his own photo passport of sorts in the Epcot World Showcase.

But, let’s go back to the beginning. We traveled to Walt Disney World via car trip, and Kermit was a goofy passenger…

IMG_6474 DSC00076 DSC00096We all wore bracelets that I made during the car ride…IMG_6483He made himself at home at Bay Lake Tower…IMG_6492 IMG_6493 IMG_6551And traveled to the parks in style…

DSC00627 IMG_6499 DSC00216There was even a dance party on the Monorail…DSC00898 DSC00895 After all, it isn’t easy being green!

More is soon to come! See ya next time!

IMG_6875

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Can’t Miss List

DSC_0528Glitz and glamor. Action and adventure. Disney’s Hollywood Studios gives you old school Hollywood paired with thrills.There is much to love about this park – starting with its charm. Right when you walk into Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stroll down Hollywood Boulevard you’re transported to the golden era of Hollywood.

No matter your age or what you like to do, you’ll find something of interest here. There are thrill rides, live stage and stunt shows, insights to Walt Disney and animation, spectacular eats, and one awesome nighttime stage show. While I love the scenery and atmosphere of this park, I am split on the attractions. There are attractions I love to visit here and ones I’m OK with skipping. For me, this park doesn’t require more than a day.

Need a stroller? You'll find it here at Oscar's.

Need a stroller, wheelchair, or electric vehicle? You’ll find it here at Oscar’s Super Service.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not a large park, compared to Epcot and Animal Kingdom. But it does pack a punch in theming. As you are walking around, take time to look – this park has wonderful scenic details.

So, without further ado…

The Walt Disney World Blog’s 2015 Disney’s Hollywood Studios Can’t Miss List:

(by area) Hollywood Boulevard and Echo Lake, Sunset Boulevard, Streets of America and Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Mickey Avenue, and Animation Courtyard.

* “Super Favorites” – Things we always do at least twice.

  • The Great Movie Ride – Head inside the Chinese Theatre for this gem that takes a look at classic films. This tram ride is about 20 minutes long – which is a nice way to cool off and relax while you take in some film history. At the end there’s a movie montage on a huge screen, which is my favorite part. This ride fascinated me as a kid. Personally, now I think its due for an overhaul. But even with that being said, it makes my list.
  • DSC_0842Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – Looking for some insight on how Hollywood does special effects? Scenes from Indiana Jones are reenacted to show you stunts that include plenty of pyrotechnics. Want to be part of the fun? This show also includes a few audience volunteers. They don’t take many so you should arrive early for a chance to be part of the action.
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue * – Star Wars fans will adore this 3D flight simulation attraction that includes all of your favorite characters. Even the queue for this ride is entertaining. A few years ago Disney overhauled this attraction and gave it some mega upgrades – including the 3D technology. The other big change came by Disney gaving the ride over 50 story combinations. This means you can visit this attraction many times and enjoy a different experience each time.
  • DSC_0419Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster * – As I’m sure you know, I LOVE roller coasters and this is one of my all time favorites. After visiting Aerosmith’s studio you snag a “limo” to catch their concert. This limo takes you from 0 to 60 in no time, loops you upside down and in a corkscrew, all in a dimmed, neon atmosphere. And the best part? You’ll be rocking out to Aerosmith’s music the entire time.
  • DSC_0415The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror * – Check into this hotel that is frozen in 1939 for a wild elevator ride. The lobby is dusty, full of cobwebs and dead plants. Creeping bellhops will escort you to the basement so you can take the service elevator. After boarding the elevator you’ll enter the 5th dimension and the fun really begins. The elevator has a 13 story drop that is on a randomized sequence. You never know if you’re going up or down first. But I assure you – you will drop down. And you’ll love every heart pulsing, palm sweating second.
  • Fantasmic! – This stage based nighttime spectacular is formed around Mickey’s dreams. Hosted in a large amphitheater, the show includes fireworks, lasers, and water special effects. The show is 30 minutes long and every second is entertaining. If you do not have FastPass+ or a Fantasmic! Dining Package, plan to get in line early to ensure you get a seat.
  • Muppet Vision 3D * – This was the second 3D show to join the WDW ranks, following Epcot’s Captain EO. By our standards today, the 3D technology is very dated. But the story, wrapped around all of the Muppet greats, is quite loveable. While you’re waiting to enter the theater there is a pre-show (not 3D) that I’ve always loved. I may even have been known to quote from it. We never miss this one on a trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Pizza Planet Arcade – If you enjoy pizza and you are a Toy Story fan – this is your dining spot! This Quick Service spot resembles the Pizza Planet arcade in Toy Story from the logo to the decor. If you want to beat the heat, there is ample seating inside. Seating outside offers tables with cheery, red umbrellas and views of The Muppets fountain. The menu, offering a variety of single serve pizzas paired with cesar salads is simple, but delicious. Meatball subs are also available. This is one of our favorite lunch spots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – This is an attraction especially geared for young ones. Stepping inside makes you feel as though you were bug sized and hanging out in a back yard. Mingle among giant blades of grass, climb a spider web, or slide down an over-sized branch. Music and sound effects help bring the set to life.
  • Toy Story ManiaToy Story Mania * – This is one of my favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World. It’s an exciting combination of ride, games, 3D technology, and beloved Toy Story characters. After stepping into a car and donning 3D glasses, you whiz through a series of carnival style games such as balloon pop and ring toss hosted by Toy Story characters. This attraction has proved immensely popular with guests. So much so, in fact, that they are building another track for the ride. (Frequent WDW visitors all rejoice!) This is definitely an attraction you will want to visit, at least once. If you can, make sure to make a FastPass+ reservation for it. Try going early in the day or during parade or Fantasmic! times for a lower stand-by wait.
  • Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream – This attraction isn’t one of thrills and chills, but it is informative and full of neat models and information. Walk yourself through a gallery of Walt Disney history that includes models, sketches, and memorabilia that includes a peak inside Walt’s office. You can also view a 15 minute film in a small theater, hosted by Julie Andrews offering a glimpse of Walt Disney’s life. One of the great things about this attraction is you can move around at your own pace, making it last as long as you wish.

DSC_0514

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Can’t Miss List

Animal Kingdom signMany years ago when Disney’s Animal Kingdom (or DAK for efficiency’s sake) first opened, I didn’t love it. I adore animals and you’d think my outlook would’ve better. But it wasn’t. However, as often with first impressions – my opinion has altered since my first look. I found my liking of DAK increased with each visit. It’s such a beautiful park; the landscaping is exotic. When I was working on the Disney College Program, I used to roam around the park on my days off to check out the plants and animals.

I  certainly no longer find the park dull, as evidenced by my hearty “Can’t Miss” list. There are shows, attractions, stunning animals, and tasty treats everywhere. What’s not to like about that?

Below is the Walt Disney World Blog 2015 Disney’s Animal Kingdom Can’t Miss List. As always, there will be an asterisk next to “super favorites,” or things we often do more than once.

Tree of Life(by area) Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, Asia, Dinoland USA

  • The Oasis Exhibits *These are just pathways around the front of the park, but they have some really beautiful plants, awesome birds and animals. Take time to enjoy these instead of power-walking past as you hurry to squeeze in one more attraction. (I might be speaking from experience…)
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug * – This 3D show will have you feeling bug sized. The queue usually isn’t too long either so it makes a great midday attraction.
  • Discovery Island Trails  – Like the Oasis Exhibits.
  • Flame Tree BBQ *  – Many kinds of BBQ are available here. YUM, YUM, YUM. The food is delicious and there’s a great seating area off to the side making this is one of our favorite lunch (or dinner!) Quick Service options. Bonus – try the Safari Amber beer, specially brewed for Disney World.
  • Festival of the Lion King This charming 30 minute show brings The Lion King story to life with singing, dancing, and exciting acrobatics. Kiddos will love the interactive elements. The monkeys are our favorite park!IMG_3670
  • Kilimajaro Safaris ** This unique attraction takes you onto Disney Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Wildlife Preserve. As you bump along in an open-air vehicle you’ll see a variety of African wildlife. The animals are free roaming so what you see varies with each safari. There are over 34 species roaming the savannah such as lions, hippos, elephants, zebra, rhino, giraffe, okapi, ostrich, etc. **SPECIAL TIP** Visit the safari early in the morning or late in the evening for cooler temps and potentially more animal sightings.
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail A beautiful walking trail where you’ll encounter flora and fauna. You can get an amazing, close up view of gorillas here.
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek * This trail exposes guests to Asian wildlife. Get a close up view of a variety of animals that includes many species of birds, tigers, and fruit bats!
  • Kali River RapidsTo be honest I haven’t ridden this ride in several years. This raft ride is full of twists, turns, dips, and of course – water. I remember it being a lot of fun. So why haven’t I been in a while? You can get very wet. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll get soaked. I don’t liked to be soaked and left to dry out with my clothes sticking to me as I roam the park. Perhaps this makes me a party pooper. I do think husband and I are going to give it a go on our next trip. Soaking wet or not – I bet we’ll have fun.
  • Expedition Everest ** Oh dear readers, how do I express in words how I love this coaster? I adore every detail from the museum style queue, to the trainlike coaster, to the Yeti himself. This ride is a thrill and I tackle it as many times as I can.
  • Finding NemoThis Broadway style show tells the Finding Nemo story. It’s fun and gorgeous. The sets and costumes are really striking. The show lasts 40 minutes and it’s a nice opportunity to cool off, rest, and be entertained while you do so!IMG_3702
  • Primeval Whirl * This colorful ride is a mild roller coaster with round cars that spin. It will leave you giggling – I guarantee it.
  • DINOSAUR  – Hop into a time rover and travel back in time to hang out with dinosaurs during an impending meteor strike. Yikes! This ride is dark with some really cool animatronic dinosaurs. Could be scarey for young kiddos. IMG_3712

The Epcot “Can’t Miss” List

DSC_0311This blog post is brought to you by… yet another snow day. March has settled in and I think everyone is longing for spring. Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival started up yesterday. If I close my eyes and wish really hard, do you think I could transport myself there among the topiaries, special outdoor kitchens, and illuminated nighttime gardens?

Nope, I don’t think so either.

At least I have some beautiful pictures to brighten the gray sky.

Epcot Flower & Garden BedEpcot is Hubby’s favorite park. He likes the mix of culture from the World Showcase with the action of Future World. Epcot also has wide open spaces that he finds appealing. For us, Epcot means a blended day of attractions and culinary samplings.

The Epcot list includes attractions, snacks and quick service food. Table Service restaurants are so numerous at Epcot that I won’t address them on the list. Items with an asterisk are “super favorites,” or things we tend to do multiple times.

The Walt Disney World Blog 2015 “Can’t Miss” List:

Epcot

(By area) Future World East, Future World West, World Showcase

  • Spaceship Earth * – This attraction mixes history with the technological future. Interactive touch screens in the vehicles give you a personalized experience on the ride. You can have a different touchscreen experience every time, which is one of the reasons this is a super favorite.
  • Ellen’s Energy Adventure – What do Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye the science guy, and Alex Trebek all have in common? They are all stars of this attraction, along with some dino animatronics. This ride lasts about 45 minutes and you will most likely exit knowing a sciency thing or two you didn’t know before.
  • Test Track * – True confession: When this attraction first premiered, it didn’t really thrill me all that much. I liked it, but it certainly wasn’t going on my “can’t miss” list. However, in 2012 it was remodeled with a few fresh ideas that not only bumped it onto the “can’t miss” list, but also into super favorite status. Sponsored by Chevrolet, you will travel through an interactive queue, build a custom vehicle on touch screens, and then have those specifications applied to your ride to see how your design performs. It’s really fun.
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends * – This ride is adorable and clever. Climb into a clam shell and travel through the Finding Nemo story. As you exit the ride you will have a chance to roam the aquarium and view a variety of salt water dwellers. An added bonus: the queue is rarely very long and it moves swiftly.
  • Turtle Talk with Crush – If you have little ones, this is a must. Using technology developed by Steven Spielberg, Crush appears and chats with the humans who have dropped in to visit him.
  • Living with the Land * – This boat ride is all about growing and raising food. That may not sound all that exciting, but it’s really neat to glimpse the direction agriculture is taking. You’ll see plants growing in unusual configurations and in super sizes. Fun Fact: The Land produces substantial amounts of produce and much of it is used in kitchens at Epcot.
  • Soarin’ * – Oh how I love this attraction. Love it. This hang-gliding simulation transports you to California. You’ll experience stunning views, scents, and music. I recommend getting a FastPass+ for this ride  The stand-by queue time quickly climbs and stays lengthy.
  • Sunshine Seasons – This quick service spot is located in The Land. It offers a variety of fresh, tasty delights that will suit anyone’s palette. This is one of our favorite Epcot lunch spots.
  • Gran Fiesta Tour – Head inside the Mexico pavilion to hang out with Donald and his amigos on this charming boat ride.
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment – It’s hard not to love Figment. This whimsical ride celebrates your senses and imagination.
  • Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar – We love wine. If you do too you should head to the Italy Pavilion in the World Showcase. This cozy little corner offers a substantial selection of Italian wines. We’ve had some great wine flights here. If wine isn’t your speed there is also beer. If you feel peckish, check our their small plate menu.

Wine Cellar Wine Flights 962_PH307460812-0962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • La Cava del Tequila – Located inside the Mexico pavilion of the World Showcase this bar offers a wide variety of tequilas, tequila based cocktails, and my personal favorite – margaritas!
  • Yorkshire County Fish Shop – If you like fish n’ chips, this is your place. We love to grab a cold beer here on a hot afternoon. Cheers!

Welcome to Epcot Epcot Day