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.

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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??

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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!

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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.

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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

The Magic Kingdom “Can’t Miss” List

Sometimes, when we are in the car, Hubs and I play a game where we propose hypothetical scenarios and we ask the other to respond. Usually it goes something like this:

Husband: “We’ve just arrived at Disney World! Where are we going first?”
Me: “Hmmmm… I’m feeling Epcot today.”
Husband: “Excellent selection. What is the first thing we are going to do?”
Me: “Straight up classic – Spaceship Earth.”

The answers vary depending on our mood. Often the answers involve Epcot or Magic Kingdom. Probably 95% of the time often.

Epcot DayIn my last post I discussed finding a perfect WDW vacation balance. For me, that involves my favorites mixed with unfamiliar delights and some relaxation. It’s hard to fit in all of the attractions, in every park during one vacation. So how do you choose? What you decided to do will depend on your time, interests, if you’re traveling with kids, weather, FastPasses, etc.

I started my “can’t miss” Walt Disney World attraction list. It’s kinda long… What can I say? I have a lot of favorites. So I’ve broken it down by park starting with Magic Kingdom. The list includes attractions, snacks and quick service food. (Table Service dining is excluded because they can act as whole blog posts.) I’ve given a brief note about why each has made the list. Attractions with an asterisks are super favorites. Since I totally made that up, I’ll qualify it with a definition:

Super favorite, noun, a Walt Disney World attraction/food that can not be missed on a park visit and will mostly likely be visited multiple times during a trip.

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

Magic Kingdom

(By land) Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, New Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Main Street USA

  • Pirates of the Caribbean * – Set sail with the pirates? Yes, please. This is usually our first Magic Kingdom stop. And that brings us too….
  • Aloha Isle – Dole whip? Yes, yes, and yes again. I like my pineapple, in a cup, no juice please. Whip is perfect on its own.
  • Jungle Cruise – It’s corny and classic. There is nothing fast or feverish about this attraction, but it makes us chuckle. 
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – The audio-animatroics for the Disneyland version of this attraction were among the first that Disney designed. There is a simulated thunderstorm in the middle of this attraction and when I was a little girl I was never quite sure if it was real or not. Once we exited the theater and I saw the hot, dry pavement I knew it wasn’t real.
  • Tortuga Tavern Code of ConductTortuga Tavern – Tasty Mexican food such as taco salads and burritos with a pirate theme. There is even a code of conduct written in pirate speak. Arr!
  • Splash Mountain * – Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear, and Br’er Fox make this log ride full of charm. This ride is over 10 minutes long, making it one of the longest in Magic Kingdom.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad * – The wildest ride in the wilderness is a family favorite. We like to ride it during the day and then again at night where it takes on a new feel.
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe – Awesome taco salads and burgers,
  • Haunted Mansion * Delightfully creepy any time of the year. Hubs and I always find this a fun one to day late on Extra Magic Hour nights at MK.
  • it’s a small world – I won’t lie, this one does not make my husband’s “can’t miss” list. In fact, it’s more on his “I really don’t like it, but I’ll go once to make my wife happy.” But I like it. I love the costumes and I do not find the song irritating in the least.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – A brand new interactive queue was just introduced to this attraction. The standby time is often long for this ride so it’s a good one to FastPass. Peter Pan is one of my favorite Disney movies and this is like flying through the film.
  • Mickey’s Philarmagic * – I love everything about Mickey’s Philarmagic. It blends Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy seamlessly with scenes from Disney films like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Alladin, and Beauty and the Beast.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – I think this ride is adorable. Everything from the queue of Whinnie the Pooh book pages to the little hunny pot you ride in to the part where your hunny pot bounces like Tigger. This is a must for little ones.
  • Mad Tea Party * – I love to spin, so this is a winner for me. Bring on the twirling! My mom does NOT feel that way. She won’t go anywhere near this ride. Ever. I’m sure she’s not alone. If spinning of whirling motion is not your thing, watch and wave while other go ’round.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – I have only been on this new attraction once. On our last trip this ride had just opened and they were clearly still working out issues. On two different days during our trip the ride was closed for hours. We were pretty annoyed. Our first impressions of the ride itself were positive, though the ride seemed as though it was over in a flash. I hope we get a chance to experience it a couple of times this summer so we can really get a sense of it.
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – The queue for this ride is gorgeous. Actually, the castle and everything from the exterior is stunning as well. We only had the chance to ride this once on our last trip, and that was our first time. Overall, I found this ride disappointing. I think it was the style of the audio-animatronics. I do remember being distinctly impressed by the Ursala portion of the ride. I told my husband that it would’ve spooked the pants off of me as a little girl. But I love the queue, and I love the little mermaid. So this gets a second chance this June.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – The re-imagining of this attraction was brilliant. I love the entire set up and all of the themeing and detailing that Disney does so well. And the splash zone they set up? Love at first sight.
  • Space Mountain * – This was one of my first roller coaster experiences. I loved it then and I love it now. This coaster rattles and it’s a little rough compared to so many coasters now, but I think that’s fun. Add space sound effects and subtract the light to imitate space and you’ve got a great ride.
  • Carousel of Progress This was one of Walt Disney’s original attractions. It’s vintage but a classic for me. 
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover * – Just kick back and relax for a few on this one. There is nothing crazy about this ride. But, it’s just a opportunity to unwind and take in some great Magic Kingdom views from an elevated perspective.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – Buzz Lightyear has enlisted your help! Climb aboard and aid him in defeating the evil Emperor Zurg with your marksman skills.
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor  – If you like a good chuckle don’t miss this one with the Monsters, Inc. gang. This attraction is audience interactive, which gives it a new twist every time you visit. If you have a favorite joke you can even text it in and it may appear in the show.
  • Walt Disney World Railroad  This is great for traveling from Frontierland to Main Street or to get to Fantasyland from either of those two. We like to just get on and ride the full loop. It’s fun and a good way to relax.
  • Casey’s Corner – So this is a little funny. In my day to day life I don’t eat much meat. Irregardless, I LOVE hot dogs. Piping hot with ketchup only please. (And maybe a small sprinkling of raw onions.) Casey’s Corner brings you some awesome hot dogs with a baseball theme. Yum. Oh, and often there is a ragtime piano player on the porch. Need I say more?

Cinderella Castle Close up

Finding the Perfect Disney World Vacation Balance

IMG_3152I am a creature of habit. I like a routine and if I find something that works I tend to stick to it. This is also true of my Walt Disney World vacations. I have resort hotels I really love, and attractions I can’t miss, and treats I must eat. (Ahem, Dole whip!!) And when in WDW I will go to any length to fit it all in. (My husband was entirely unprepared for this on our first trip together.)

As I mentioned yesterday in my Pack Like A Pro post, my cousin just honeymooned in WDW and I made this list of my “must see” attractions for her. It occurred me as we were talking about attractions and dining, that in my two recent trips I have focused on the things that I love to do and sort of dismissed things that didn’t fall into that category. Several times I said, “Well, I haven’t done that in a few trips, but I remember enjoying it.”

I am certain I can’t be the only person in this boat. Disney World is so massive, and offers so much to to do. You only have so much time when you’re there, and you feel this pressure to do the things you know you love because once you leave it’ll likely be a while before you go back. Sound familiar to anyone?

This repetition pattern is especially true for dining. Typically we only have one table service meal per day. We have spots that we really love to dine and so we repeat locations. Do we enjoy our meals? Absolutely. But trying a new restaurant is fun – and at Disney World it will probably be delicious.

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Peter Pan’s Flight was a 1st time experience for Hubs last June.

On our last trip, we did a better job of having a more balanced vacation. We enjoyed a little relaxation and did lots of swimming. We fit in attractions that we missed the trip before and all of our favorites. In our upcoming trip in June, Hubs and I have a new motto: balance what we love with “new” experiences. Let’s qualify “new.” New will be something neither of us has experienced, something one of us hasn’t experienced, or something we didn’t do in our last two trips.

IMG_3775For us, barring favored Les Chefs de France, all of our table service restaurants will be “new.” We are staying at Bay Lake Tower, which will be a brand new experience for both of us. We have a short list of attractions that we have not done together that we are going to try to hit. Additionally, to my husbands fervent delight, we have scheduled a day where we will not be going into a park. If you can manage it, a day away from the parks to rest and relax by the pool or whatnot is a great choice. You’ll be better refreshed and able to enjoy your vacation.

In the next few days I will be sharing my list of “can’t miss” favorite attractions, and I can assure you we will try to squeeze all of those in. (Our favorites list is plentiful.) But I think we are on our way to a more balanced Walt Disney World vacation that will leave both us feeling very joyful.

Ultimately everyone will have their own idea of a perfectly balanced Walt Disney World vacation. But for us, the perfect balance looks like this: our “must see” favorites mingled with new experiences and a little relaxation.

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Packing Like A Pro For Walt Disney World

IMG_5470Today my friends, is a gift. I mean, all days we have on this earth are gifts, but today is a snow day! As a teacher, a day where school is cancelled and you get a few precious hours at home to catch up on life, is wonderful. So here I am with my little diet coke and my happy place Mickey straw.

I always find myself looking at a huge gap in my posts wondering how it got to be so long since my last check in. The school year certainly proves to be the biggest time thief, but recently I have had another task at hand. My brother is getting married in April and I’ve been working on making invitations for their wedding. Those got sent out over the weekend and so now I have a rare extra bit of free time. Speaking of weddings, my gorgeous cousin got married over the weekend too. Yay! Her new husband booked their honeymoon at Disney World as a surprise, and that’s where they currently are. Eek! And I’m so happy for them! I know that right now as I’m typing up this post with frozen sidewalks outside my window, I know that they are having a blast in the pleasant 65 degree WDW weather. (I might also be a teensy bit jealous.)

IMG_2932Knowing we are Disney World fiends, my cousin called for some tips on her upcoming honeymoon. She only found out about the trip a couple weeks before their big day and she wanted to plan to get the most of her time. She raised some great questions, mostly about dining. But I ended up writing her an email about a few things she might want to pack and what attractions are on our “can’t miss” list. Dining and attractions are big topics, so let’s tuck them away for another day. But, what to pack? That’s doable.

Packing smartly for Walt Disney World can make a significant difference in the quality of your trip. If you’ve never been before, or like my cousin you haven’t been since you were little and mom did your packing, you may not realize everything you may need.

  • Clothes – OK, obviously you need clothes. Check the weather before you go to determine what kind of temps you’ll be facing. Pack enough clothes to be able to change once a day. This is especially true if you’re going in the summer. It’s hot and you will sweat. There is nothing better than going back to your hotel to shower and get fresh clothes on after a particularly hot day in the parks before dinner. Or in the afternoon after a swim at your hotel pool. Or whatever it may be. If you’re not going in the summer, pack clothes you can layer. The temperatures can fluctuate day by day, and mornings can be cool while afternoons heat up. Don’t forget your favorite Disney gear while you’re choosing your clothes!
  • Shoes – Now, you may be tempted to save suitcase room and minimize your shoe count, especially if you’re flying. Luggage rates don’t seem to be dropping. BUT MAKE ROOM because shoes are key. Walt Disney World is huge, and you will walk miles, most likely daily, when there. And you will stand, and stand some more. I like to pack a pair or two of nice flip flops that have support (like Rainbows, Merrills, or Oluai Ohanas), and a of pair of sneakers. Three pairs of shoes may sound excessive, but I’ve found that switching shoes every day or two will save your feet from aching as much.
  • Swimsuit – Disney has awesome pools and water parks. Hubs and I tend to swim almost every day so I bring two suits for both of us so we can alternate.
  • Sunglasses/Hat – Protect your eyes and face from the sun. I don’t tend to wear a hat, but both Hubs and my Dad do.
  • Ziplock Bags – Bring a few sandwich, quart, and gallon ziplock bags. They just come in handy. They’re great for your toiletries, or to make an ice pack, or to keep a wet swimsuit isolated. (Many a time on our last day I’ve just had to squeeze in one more dip in the pool. Then I’m faced with a wet swimsuit to put in my suitcase. Gallon bag to the rescue!) Our family also tends to pack a garbage bag or two for dirty clothes. A pop-up hamper like the ones for college dorms are also great for that task.
  • First Aid Kit – Make your own or grab a pre-made version. I suggest including band-aids, neosporin, benadryl, Ib preufin (or other favorite headache medicine), your choice remedy for upset stomach, and rubbing alcohol.
  • Gold Bond Powder – As we’ve established, Disney World includes lots of walking and sweating. This helps keep chafing down. I’ve also heard Body Glide is great.
  • Sunscreen – This may seem like a no brainer, Florida sun = need for sunscreen. But it’s easy to get distracted at Disney World as you go in and out of attractions and forget about it. Trust us, it’s needed. In fact, I got lightly burnt in Magic Kingdom a couple of days before my wedding. Thanks be for aloe. That’s not a bad item to toss into your bag either.
  • Ponchos – Rain is a very likely happening on your trip to WDW. January – April tends to have 2-3 inches per month. May – just shy of 4 inches. June is typically the rainiest month with over 7 inches on average. July – September average about 6 inches per month. During October – December the average drops back down to 2-3 inches a month. Rain, especially in the summer is brief. It clouds up, pours, then steams away. Having a poncho to whip out will keep you dry and let you move on with your day mostly uninterrupted. I hate getting wet and then drying out slowly as I walk around the park. You will find very cute Mickey ponchos in many, many shops in Walt Disney World. We have ones that we bought years ago and that go with us on our trips. If you don’t own any, you can pick them up before your trip at Target, or somewhere similar for a better price.
  • H2O – Water can be life saving at WDW, especially in summertime. Are there water fountains all over Disney World? Yup. But I’m not going to lie, the water is gross. It does not taste good – at all. A bottle of water in the parks can cost $3-4. Buying a case of bottled water before you go will allow you to save substantially. We usually take two large bottles into the park with us every time we go to a park. I have not tried these, but I have read that the Brita Sport Water Filter Bottles are great. Many people have used them in the parks and claim they nip the nasty taste of the WDW water. I think we may try these on our June trip.
  • Snacks – As with water, bringing your own snacks into the parks can save you lots of cash. Disney allows you to bring food and drink into the park. They do not allow glass, alcoholic beverages, or coolers however. Remember is hot so you don’t want to bring something that can spoil or melt.
  • Adult Beverages –  A cold beer in the afternoon before a dip in the pool is mighty refreshing. Bringing your own alcohol can be another money-saver.
  • Cameras and Tech Gadgets – I am usually manning my video camera in the parks while Hubs usually has a camera for pics. We both also tend to use our cell phones for photos. Make sure you’ve got all of the corresponding cords and chargers!
  • Magic Bands – Once customized on My Disney Experience these are usually shipped to you about a month before your trip. Don’t forget ’em!
  • Park Bag – Make sure to bring along a small backpack or your other favorite bag to take into the parks. In our park bag we always have our camera gear for the day, water, sunscreen, a snack or two, ponchos, and a mini first aid kit.
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Hubs is ready with Shades and a Camera.

 

OK, now I’m really ready to go! Obviously I didn’t include things for kids in here as we don’t have any of those yet. However, I have heard that Tide Pens/wipes, sippy cups, change for the penny press machines, and glow bracelets/necklaces are great additions for little dudes.

Caribbean Beach Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll stick to it. Deciding which Walt Disney World Resort Hotel to call home on your vacation is half the fun of planning. But with over 25 options covering three financial tiers (Deluxe, Moderate, and Value) each with its own theme, choosing can also be overwhelming. Fortunately any choice on property is a great choice.

When we booked our last trip to WDW it was late in the game and so we had few hotel options available to us. As it worked out Caribbean Beach was our luck. Already being a family favorite, no one was disappointed and our return visit only solidified the special place it has in our hearts.

IMG_2936You know the Jerry Maguire quote, “You had me at hello?” That’s Caribbean Beach for us. After exiting the Magical Express and approaching the Custom House where guest check-in is located, we were peppered with warm salutations and friendly smiles. The Custom House is enchanting with tile floors, high ceilings, fans swishing, and shuttered windows. Check-in was a breeze. We arrived early in the day and our room was not yet ready. Caribbean Beach graciously held our luggage and we made our way over to the Boardwalk for lunch. But that’s another story. Upon our return our room was ready, our luggage was delivered, and we took a stroll to survey the scene. IMG_2998What awaited us were bananas perfectly, inconspicuously hanging in the landscape. *Sigh* If only I could be looking at those beautiful bananas right now. And I hate bananas – I will not eat them. I think they’re revolting. My husband disagrees.

Vibrant colors are everywhere. The landscape is lush and tropical and the entire property hugs a lake named Barefoot Bay. Tell me that’s not inviting. Guest rooms are located in the six “villages” – Martinique, Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica, Trinidad North and Trinidad South that all sit around the lake. Caribbean Beach Lake ViewCaribbean BeachThere are seven white sand beaches with palm trees and hammocks and each village has its own pool.

Old Port Royale FountainAt the heart of everything is Old Port Royale Centertown. Here you can grab a bite to eat at the food court or at the restaurant Shutters. Or perhaps take a dip in the Fuentes del Morro pool, complete with cannons dripping water and two waterslides. One slide is 102 feet long, and I promise you’ll go back for seconds and thirds. Next to the pool is a magnificent splash area for little ones in the form of a wrecked pirate ship. Mini-slides and a giant barrel atop the mast that periodically dumps its water contents will delight toddlers. We paid a couple of visits to the Banana Cabana Pool Bar where you’ll find beer, wine, and plenty of tropical cocktails. At night they show a movie next to the bar on a giant screen. One of the best memories my husband and I had from our last trip was watching Wall-E with a cocktail after dinner at Shutters and a dip in the pool. (Our swim may or may not have included several trips down the large waterslide.) Fuentes del MorroRooms are comfortable with soft, fluffy beds and extra touches you expect from Disney. There is a Finding Nemo motif to each room, and it meshes perfectly with the Caribbean themeing. IMG_3001Bed Detail

Shower Curtain

Shower Curtain Detail

View from our room.

View from our room.

The temperatures have dropped into the 40s and 30s this last week and right now the rain is gushing down. As it is true that a picture is worth more than words I will cease my rambling and display some of the images from our stay at Caribbean Beach. I hope they bring you the smile and thoughts of warm days that they bring me.

Caribbean Beach MapGrab N Go Windows Gran N Go Cups Menu ShuttersCaribbean Beach Sidewalk Detail  Fuente Del Morrow Morning Aruba HibiscusAruba SidewalkAruba Pool 2 Aruba PoolPlayground Aruba Sunrise

June 2014 Video Montage

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, my family took vacations to Walt Disney World. We always drove and the trip would take 18 hours of drive time on average. Good ol’ dad always documented these trips. (Mum usually did/does most of the driving.) The old school version of good ol’ dad’s documentations included a very large, black video camera that rested on one shoulder while filming and video casette tapes. Yikes! Talk about the Carousel of Progress…

While filming, part of good ol’ dad’s routine was acting as if he was reporting in for a news station – “WDW T.R.I.P.” This little routine has stuck around in my family for a lot of years. When my husband and I got married in Disney World in 2012, my parents gave us a video camera and passed the baton to me. As a point of interest, this camera fits in the palm of my hand. So when you hear me checking in with WDW T.R.I.P. know that it’s a time honored tradition.

And so without further ado, I present the Walt Disney World Blog June 2014 Video Montage! I hope you enjoy.