Top 10 Must Dos at Walt Disney World, by Sheila Nowell

I was reading another blog today (The WDW Blog!)  and it made me antsy to do my own Top 10 lists. 🙂  Coming up with this list is MUCH harder than you think.  I’ve been 6 times now, but have “planned” DOZENS of unique trips for my clients based on THEIR preferences.  So, I also have a Top 10 list of attractions that I can’t wait to try when we travel this October.  I would LOVE for my readers to share their favorites with me, too!

Top 10 MUST DOS for ME at Walt Disney World:

10.  TURTLE TALK WITH CRUSH at EPCOT

Finding Nemo is possibly my favorite Pixar movie, or at least in the Top 3!  The colors are so vivid and the sound of the ocean is so calming and peaceful…ahhh….so I LOVE going to the Seas Pavilion at EPCOT to see the aquariums, eat at Coral Reef, etc.  I really love this particular attraction, though.  Crush is on a screen and actually talks to an interacts with the kids/audience the entire time.  He makes awesome facial expressions. I’ll never forget when he brought out a bikini top and asked the audience what it was…a little boy yelled out “BRA!” and Crush raised his eyes really big and shook his head.  It was so funny.  Ok, and I also have a special place for turtles…which you will see soon when our new logo is done!

9. WORLD SHOWCASE at EPCOT

Hmm…is choosing an entire “land” at Disney allowed?  Well, since it’s my post, I make the rules. LOL!  Seriously, I love culture and people, so each and every country totally has my attention from the detail of the buildings, the tastes of the food, and the shows and attractions…it’s seriously a wonderful day for me to spend it in World Showcase.  I think that may be one of the reasons I’m a travel agent…hmmm…

8. STUDIO BACKLOT TOUR at Hollywood Studios

I admit…I’m a sucker for “memories.”  I’m one of THOSE moms who has a hard time throwing away anything my kids have made or anything with a memory attached.  I think that’s why this particular attraction rates so high for me!  I was as giddy as a school girl when I saw the actual costumes from Mary Poppins, the spaceship from “Flight of the Navigator”, artifacts from the Chronicles of Narnia, even things from the best film ever, the Sound of Music!  I could have spent hours in there staring at all they had to offer.

7. LIGHTS! MOTORS! ACTION! EXTREME STUNT SHOW at Hollywood Studios

This is truly a memorable show to me.  I had no idea what to expect, but was on the edge of my seat the entire time!  I had no idea that stunt cars were “backwards” for backward driving scenes.  Thinking back, I really felt like I was watching a high action movie – like I was immersed in the movie itself! 

6. EXPEDITION EVEREST at Animal Kingdom

I’m a roller coaster junkie.  I will ride ANY roller coaster that I can.  So, it’s pretty obvious that the next two are in the top 10 list.  Not really much explanation needed!  Oh, except Space Mountain is missing because I still haven’t had the opportunity to ride it!

5. ROCK N ROLLER COASTER at Hollywood Studios

Indoors, upside down, and Aerosmith?  Yup.  Love. 

4. TOWER OF TERROR at Hollywood Studios

It’s not a roller coaster…but it’s better than a roller coaster!  I love the detail walking up to the “hotel”, I love the vintage story of the Twilight Zone, I love the detail in the lobby and the elevators and the basement…and the cast members REALLY play it out WELL!  Ok, so I really love falling in an elevator up and down, too.  🙂 

3. MONSTERS INC LAUGH FLOOR at Magic Kingdom

I love sitting outside the doors for this attraction thinking of jokes to “text” and hoping they will use them in the show.  And THEN I love when they pick on people in the audience, especially “That Guy.”  Oh my word, I always get a good laugh at this…and laughter is SO good for the soul.  That’s why it is #3 on my list.  It’s an amazing feeling sitting by your family and laughing together with Mike Wazowski and Roz (http://youtu.be/RBs21CFBALI).

2. FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING at Animal Kingdom

I loved this show.  I had no idea what to expect when we went to see it in 2012 for the first time. We were seated in the front and from the minute the show began until the end, I was moved to tears from the sheer awesomeness of it all.  The cast members made eye contact and smiled throughout the entire thing.  From the acrobats to the singing, it was simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

1. CELEBRATE THE MAGIC / WISHES at Magic Kingdom

Yes, technically these are two separate events.  Celebrate the Magic is an incredible use of lights to display pictures on the castle as a backdrop along with music and Jiminy Cricket.  It is a jaw-dropping and immense amount of wonder and awe.  Yes, I cry like a baby every. single. time. It always starts 15 minutes before Wishes, and the two really go together hand in hand, which is why I justified having both as my top favorite attraction at Disney World!  It is the best finale to the definition of “magic” for your Walt Disney World experience.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:  These made it into my top “19” list: Dapper Dans!  Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin! Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Big Thunder Mountain Railroad! Splash Mountain! Mission Space! Living with the Land! Star Tours! Carousel of Progress!

TOP 10 “I CAN’T WAIT TO DO THIS!” ATTRACTIONS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

I’ve planned so many trips for people and am a firm believer that it’s impossible to do EVERYTHING on a trip…I’ve been 6 times and still haven’t done these!

10. FLIGHTS OF WONDER at Animal Kingdom

This is a “bird” show that I’d love to see next time I’m in “Asia.”

9. DINO-LAND at Animal Kingdom

Somehow we always miss this land…not sure how?  We did ride DINOSAUR in 2008 but nothing else…

8. THE “OLD” FANTASYLAND

How I have seen all of the New Fantasyland but have never even laid eyes on the Barnstormer or Dumbo?  I think that may be a crime…

7. VOYAGE OF THE LITTLE MERMAID at Hollywood Studios

Not sure why we have passed this up every time, either?  I can distinctly recall walking by it more than once every single trip.  This year is THE YEAR we will see it. I promise.  Weird, too since I can sing every word to every single song in the movie.  LOL

6. TOM SAWYER ISLAND at Magic Kingdom

I think it’s the fact that it’s an ISLAND…but we WILL be exploring it this year.

5. FINDING NEMO: THE MUSICAL at Animal Kingdom

Again, how have I not seen this, considering Finding Nemo is one of my favorite Pixar movies?

4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST LIVE ON STAGE at Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is my favorite Disney Park after Magic Kingdom.  I love the “era” feel in the main areas, and the actors/actresses around every corner.  Most of Hollywood Studios is full of shows that are on a “time” schedule, so it’s also difficult to get to all of them.  I honestly can’t wait to see this show in October, and we WILL be getting a Fast Pass+ for it!

3. ANIMATOR’S ACADEMY at Hollywood Studios

This place is a diamond in the rough.  One of my clients once asked me about this and I had never heard of it, sadly. However, it’s not uncommon to get asked about a destination I know nothing about, so I start researching…and I research my heart out until I am confident about the information filed away in my head…and I found that this is something I HAVE to do…it’s in The Magic of Disney Animation building and features an actual class to learn to draw Disney characters. It’s also a great souvenir, as you get to take it home for FREE!

2. BLIZZARD BEACH & TYPHOON LAGOON & DISNEY QUEST

Oh, here I go again, combining attractions into one.  LOL  Seriously, though, we already bought our Water Parks Fun and More tickets for this October and can’t wait to go to both of these water parks and “gamers paradise” at Downtown Disney!

1. THE SEVEN DWARFS MINE TRAIN at Magic Kingdom

I think this is on EVERY Disney fanatic’s Top 10 list. It’s expected to open in April, and is a “roller coaster” – so of course I want to try it out!  This one will be awesome, because it will “rock” while going on the track.  Very exciting!

 

That wraps up today’s Top 10 List!  Be watching for lists from Beverly and Shane coming soon!  And be sure to comment and share.  Thanks!

Meet Beverly Braunsdorf!

My Travel Lobby is growing!  Shortly after starting My Travel Lobby in 2013, Sheila found herself busier than she ever imagined…and busier than she could handle with her other “hats” of life.  In January 2013, she decided to expand her business and hired two wonderful team members to work along side her.

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Beverly Braunsdorf with Mickey Mouse!

Sheila met Beverly in September 2013 and almost immediately felt a connection.  Beverly had the same passion for Disney and alot of other similar values and traits.  After communicating almost daily with Beverly, Sheila knew she’d be a wonderful team mate!  Here’s Beverly’s introduction:

My name is Beverly Braunsdorf. My first trip to Walt Disney World was at age 26!  I  am so excited to be working my dream career along side Sheila Nowell!  I specialize in Disney Destinations, which includes Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Lines, Adventures by Disney, and Au Lani.  I have tons of Disney favorites.  My favorite ride is Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom.  My favorite restaurant (so far) is Akershus in Norway at Epcot.  My favorite show is Beauty and the Beast in Hollywood Studios.  And my favorite meet and greet is meeting Ariel in her grotto in Magic Kingdom because it’s the only place to meet her while she is still a mermaid!

 I am from a tiny town in Georgia famous for Sweet Vidalia Onions.  If you have not guessed it yet, that town in Vidalia, GA!   I was born and raised here in Vidalia, and I love it. Saved by grace as a young child, I am a passionate follower of Jesus! I met my loving husband, Jeremy, at age 17 and married him at 18.  We were baptized on the same day with our families there for us!  I have been blessed with 2 beautiful little girls Chloe (8) and Cadence (7). Every time I look at these beautiful little girls I see the face of God!  I am a simple country girl.  We love our pets from horses to hamsters – we have a heart full! Our family made a choice early on that we would homeschool our children, and we absolutely love it. I spend my weekends crafting. I love to scrapbook, paint and recently while at Animation Academy at Hollywood Studios, I learned that I love to draw, too!  

Beverly is an amazing woman with a sweet and friendly personality and spirit. You can reach her at Beverly@MagicalMomentsVacations.com or by phone at (912) 253-0179. You can also follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/FreeVacationPlanner.

When is the right time to go to Disney World?

I get asked this question alot, I really do.

There are advantages and disadvantages at EVERY age.  But I tell EVERYONE…you are NEVER EVER the WRONG age to go on a Disney trip.  Never.

No kids?  We’ve done that!  My very first trip to Walt Disney World was in 2001 on my honeymoon.  I was 22 years old, and I was HOOKED.  I had never been to such a magical place!  We had a blast going on rides and watching shows.  Now, 13 years later, I sometimes wish I could sneak away with the husband again without our kids to do what we want to do without worrying about the littles around us.  🙂

Worried about having an infant at Disney?  Again, we’ve done that!  Our son’s first trip was at 6 1/2 months old.  He traveled like a pro during the day and evening, and as long as we had him in a bed by 9, he was good to go.  He went again at 15 months, and my daughter went at 18 months.  My son didn’t seem to remember much from the trip at that age, but my daughter did!  Over the next few years, we weren’t able to take a trip to  Disney, but she could recall very detailed things about the trip, which amazed us!  Clearly, she was impacted at such a tender age.  And for all of these ages (6 months to 18 months), they kids slept in their umbrella stroller that we took along whenever they were tired.  If you have an infant who won’t sleep in a stroller, there are things you can do to get them into a bed!  One of my clients always stay at a monorail resort so they can easily go back to their resort for an hour or two at nap time, or for a little “break.”

Afraid of Toddler melt downs?  It happens.  There are THOUSANDS of people all around you, and trust me – they know that toddlers get over tired. 😉  At this age, you can enjoy the parks as much as anyone else if you plan your trip around what the toddlers will love!  Take easy non-meltable or non-crushable (are those even words?) snacks and juice boxes for your backpack, and new inexpensive dollar store toys or bubbles to keep them occupied in long lines.  Focus on attractions that will hold their attention and skip the others.   Be sure to bring a stroller or double stroller so they can magically fall asleep on a long walk around the park.  (Don’t worry, mom and dad…you’ll enjoy people watching and street shows while they sleep!)  We’ve done Disney World with a 4 year old and 5 year old.  The most awesome part of taking them at this age is that they still BELIEVE in the magic.  I’ll NEVER forget when my daughter was watching a stage show at Magic Kingdom with princesses, and she looked over at me and said with pure astonishment, “MOM…princesses are REAL!!!” It made my whole trip worth it.

Have bigger kids?  We’ve done that, too!  This is a fun age, too!  They know by now (age 7, 8, 9) that the stuff isn’t real, but they love to participate!  My boy rocked the Jedi Training Academy and the Pirate Tutorial!  My daughters both loved Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and both the girls AND the boy got into The Pirate League!  My husband’s most memorable moment was when my son leaned over at age 7 and told him, “DAD, the music at Disney makes you feel like you are apart of it…it just gets into your heart!”

At the Big Kid age, and the TWEEN age, they love everything…the shows, the thrill rides, the kiddie rides, the characters, EVERYTHING.  They want to do it all, and they can go go go from early morning until late at night.  You don’t have to cart around the strollers and diaper bags any more.  You can hit up everything you want!

At the Tween Age, they want thrills…and lots of them!  There is so much more, too, though.  My son loves history…so we get to do things like the Carousel of Progress, and Hall of Presidents.  My daughter loves gymnastics, so watching the Acrobats in China is amazing to them!

My oldest is only 12, but we are going back in October, and this time, we are doing Water Parks and Disney Quest!  I’ve been waiting until all of my kids were excellent swimmers, and my youngest is now 6 and a great swimmer. She’ll be 7 when we go, so I feel a little better about it.  I’m excited to see which attractions they like this time!

And that’s the best part.  Walt Disney World is so huge, so massive, so gigantic…that you can NEVER do it all in one trip.  We’ve been 4, 5, 6, and 8 times amongst the 5 of us, and our list of things to see and do is still so big…sadly, we won’t be able to accomplish even half of them on our trip this fall!  But, it just makes us all the more excited to go again and again.

When is your favorite time to visit the World?  Would you like to know how much a trip would be for your family?  Click on the “Request a Quote” tab on my blog or on my Facebook page for a no-obligation quote. I’m seriously a down to earth, easy going, but professional person and can’t wait to plan your magical vacation!

Why Plan? Well, it’s a MEMORABLE experience, right?

180 days.

That seems like F.O.R.E.V.E.R.  I know.  (I really know…right now, the countdown on my phone says 397 days until our next Disney vacation…I’d be thrilled if it said 180 days, but still frustrated…because I want to be there NOW.)

Disney is notorious for having all sorts of timelines for everything.  45 days when the final payment is due on your reservation. 2 days prior to make changes without full loss of payment. 60 days to do your on-line check in.  180 days…this one is a pretty important one.

Lots of people say they don’t go to Disney for the food…they go for the fun and the experiences!  But take it from me…a seasoned traveler to the Dis…Dining IS an experience to be had at Disney. I promise.

Our first 3 trips as a family, we didn’t plan dining at all.  We just went on a whim…we “winged” it.  Not a big deal. But I can’t remember much about those times. We just ate and moved on, without a plan.

The last 3 times…well…we have started to challenge ourselves!  We have read so much about the restaurants and seen so many specials on tv about them.  So, we decided to become Disney “foodies” ourselves.

Disney is full of various experiences!  Character dining – the kids LOVE getting a hug from Mickey and his friends, or a princess!  And best yet…you don’t have to stand in line in the heat (or rain) to wait to see them…they come to your table while you are eating!!! 

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Meeting Belle at Storybook Princess Breakfast at Akershus at Epcot.

Or how about the Dinner Shows?  There are 3 “official” ones – we have made it to 2 of them.  Unofficially, though, there is entertainment and MANY of the restaurants…from an awesome piano entertainer, belly dancers, Oktoberfest, and comical waitstaff.  There are also some great “secrets” – such as great restaurants to eat at for a great view of the fireworks at various parks. 

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The pretzel bread at Le Cellier Restaurant! Image

This is the Wisconsin Cheese Soup at Le Cellier Restaurant…mmmmm

The dining options at Disney are becoming more and more widely known…so that’s why it’s so important to PLAN!  Book your trip at least 181 days prior to going – all you need is $200 down (or a percentage if it’s a cruise or adventure).  Then, we can plan and book your dining reservations!  (I get up at 5 am to get this accomplished for you while you sleep snug as a bug in a rug…)

There are obviously MANY more reasons to PLAN…if you are going to spend this much money on a trip, you need to do everything possible to make it a memorable one!  Let me help you!

Want more info at your fingertips?

Hey, blog friends!!!  Just a quick post on this Labor Day weekend to let you know that I have added a new “tab” at the top of the page here called “Learn More About Disney Options.”  If you click on that tab, it will take you to a page with 5 different “buttons.”  Click on whichever button you want more information on and it will take you to my own personal Disney site!!!  If you can’t find what you are looking for on there, please don’t ever hesitate to contact me at Sheila@MagicalMomentsVacations, or just fill out the “Request a Vacation Quote” tab at the top of this page.  I am TOTALLY not a pushy person and do NOT spam people. I don’t like to be spammed, myself, so I certainly won’t do it to other people!  I just LOVE talking about Disney and helping make other people’s Disney dreams come true.

Have fun surfing my new site!

~Sheila

Disney Dining Plans explained!!

Have you heard of the Disney Dining Plans? 

Disney introduced these plans in 2005.  The concept is pretty simple…if you stay at a Disney resort and purchase a package including park tickets, you can participate in the Dining Plan!  At first, there was one simple plan offered. However, Disney understands that everyone has different needs, different budgets, and different expectations.  So…the plans have “morphed” into many choices!  I’ll do my best to explain below.

The Disney Dining Plan…my personal favorite!

If you participate in the regular dining plan, each guest is given 1 Table Service credit, 1 Quick Service credit, and 1 Snack credit per night of stay.  You don’t have to use them each day or in a certain order, though.  For instance, if you want to participate in a dinner show or Signature restaurant, you will need 2 Table Service credits for that one meal.  Or, if you aren’t interested in any of the Table Service restaurants at Animal Kingdom, but want to try 2 different ones out the next day at Hollywood Studios, then you can use 2 quick-service the first day and 2 table-service the next.  Disney doesn’t care how you use your credits.  They simply give you a “bank” of credits to use during your stay.

One word of caution…if you are flying to Disney and staying 5 nights, but plan on being in the parks for 6 days…you only get 5 nights of credits…so plan wisely on how you will pay for the additional food you will need.

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A sampling of foods from the African buffet “Boma~Flavors of Africa” at Animal Kingdom Lodge

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One of our FAVORITE restaurants, Liberty Tree Tavern…YUM!

The Quick-Service Dining Plan

This plan is for those who don’t want to eat fancy while at Disney…who don’t care about trying new foods or taking a break during the day to sit down.  People who want to hit the parks hard without stopping love this plan. It’s a bit cheaper since your using your 2 quick-sevice credits per day on Disney’s version of “fast food.”  Like the regular dining plan, you also get 1 snack credit per day, as well.

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Totally recommend this place at Animal Kingdom…delicious, and the views are incredible.

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Here’s a quick-service hot dog.  Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom and Fairfax Fare at Hollywood Studios both have these and were highly recommended to us.  We didn’t like it at all, though. 😦

Disney’s Deluxe Dining Plan

This one is for those of you who worry about having enough food for all 3 meals per day. You want flexibility to eat at any table service restaurant that you’d like as often as you’d like.  Maybe it’s your goal to try each and every restaurant Disney has to offer over the years.  This may or may not be my goal.  🙂  I haven’t participated in this plan yet.  It basically gives you 3 meal credits plus 2 snack credits per night of stay per person.  You can use the meal credits at table service restaurants, quick service dining, etc.  This one costs a considerable more amount of money, and I personally wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t going to be visiting Disney multiple times over the years.  Obviously, to get the most value for your money on this plan, you feel like you have to eat at a table-service restaurant for each and every meal.  From experience, I can tell you that a table service meal is usually 1.5-2 hours each. So, if you are okay with spending 4.5-6 hours of your day sitting down to eat, then GO FOR IT!  Or…if you want to spend your trip doing all Signature Dining restaurants (requiring 2 credits per person per meal), this may be a good option, also. I hope to someday…but for now, we just try new restaurants at each trip.  I have some tips below for how to get that “3rd” meal you may be worried about…

 

The Premium and Preferred Dining Plan package options

This is the creme de le creme. I probably spelled that wrong…  You get the perks of the Deluxe Dining plan PLUS preferred fireworks seating, unlimited use of select recreation such as golf and boating, seating at Cirque de Soleil, unlimited use of Kids Care centers at Deluxe resorts, and unlimited access to backstage tours.  It also makes ALL dining experiences except for Victoria and Alberts only cost 1 dining credit, no matter if they are a Signature dining experience or not.

And for a little more money (or alot more…), you also get your own personal itinerary planner, tickets to the Richard Petty Driving Experience, Fireworks Cruises, reserved seating at Fantasmic, private in-room babysitting, and Spa Treatments.

If I ever win the lottery…I just might have to enjoy this little lap of luxury.  🙂

 

Some tips about the Dining Plan:

If you are concerned that the Regular Dining Plan and the Quick Service Dining Plan only offer 2 “meals” per day, there are some easy ways to combat this!

  • Use a snack credit to buy a yummy cinnamon roll or breakfast item at one of the parks’ many bakeries and eateries.
  • Use one of your Table service credits to eat at one of the many awesome breakfast buffets. Plan on a later breakfast so that you fill up and can easily skip lunch and just use your snack credit to help you get by until dinner.  Then, plan an early dinner to skip the long lines/crowds.
  • Ask me about using a local grocery delivery service to order some breakfast items/snacks to keep in you hotel mini-fridge.  For under $50, you can stock up on bagels, cream cheese, coffee creamer, pop tarts, cereal, microwavable bacon, oatmeal, and more to last you an entire week.  The grocer will deliver the day of your check in to the resort concierge who will then deliver to your room when you arrive.
  • Budget some extra money for eating extra meals.  Simple as that. I recommend breakfasts, though, as they are definitely the least expensive meals.

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Cinnamon Roll from Gaston’s Tavern at Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom

Another thing to make note of are the rules of children.  If you are staying at a resort with a child under 3, they are free. However, they will not be able to dine on the dining plan, so you’ll need to plan on sharing meals with your tot, or buying them separately if you think they’ll need more food than that.  Also, children ages 3-9 can ONLY order off of the children’s menus.  However, children over 9 are charged as adults. So…your picky 10 year old who only likes chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can order off of the kid’s menu if they want to, but you are paying premium for it!

 

Overall, I LOVE the dining plan.  We like to pinch pennies and have tried to see if it would be easier for us to just pay cash for food when we got there, but ultimately, we LOVE the flexibility of ordering STEAKS and LOBSTER whenever we want without having to stay within a budget while on vacation. 

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I did pay a little extra for this Glow-Tini…and it was worth it. 🙂

If you have any questions about the dining plan or any other aspect of your dream vacation, let me know!  I LOVE to talk!

Animal Kingdom Lodge

We were pretty excited on our last trip to WDW to visit Animal Kingdom Lodge to dine for dinner at Boma~Flavors of Africa.  We arrived early so we could explore the resort a bit, first.  It was AMAZING!

When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by the valet service with the words, “Welcome Home!”  This, in itself, is purely magical.

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While we waited for my husband to park the car, we visited with a lady who taught the kids how to play this instrument:

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We went inside and were completely in awe of the gorgeous browns and oranges – a perfect Safari feeling.  I was in the midst of pure bliss!

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There are decorations EVERYWHERE.

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This is the view from the balcony outside….well, I should say one of the MANY views…

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Of course, what kid (or BIG kid like me…) can resist a bridge?

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My baby had the idea of posing this way…

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And here’s one of all of us.  We all had matching shirts!  Well, except me.  LOL

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I didn’t get any pictures of the area outside that we walked around, but it was alot of fun…a nice fire, some animal exhibits, etc.

After exploring, we went to Boma to eat.  This is a buffet full of TONS of different dishes commonly served in Africa.  They have a few American-type dishes, too, for the picky eaters. LOL!

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This is called “Jungle Juice” and is very popular at the lodge, as well as in the Animal Kingdom theme park. It’s basically pineapple juice, orange juice, mango juice, etc. all mixed together. It’s pretty tasty! And just a fun tidbit…because of the animals nearby, they don’t serve plastic straws here or at the Animal Kingdom theme park…only paper straws!  My kids found this odd.  I was sure to explain to them why it was better, though!

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And just for fun, some pics of (most of) my family…

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We’d love to stay here someday.  I’m not sure if we want to stay here or the Polynesian first, but I am SO glad we took time out to see one of the resorts we have loved from “pictures” for several years!  If you like what you see, I encourage you to explore, too!!!!

Have a magical day!

Decisions, Decisions! Which Resort to Stay At?

There are 33 hotels on Walt Disney World property in Florida.  Of these, 24 of them are operated by Disney. The other 9 are the Dolphin, Swan, Shades of Green, and several “Downtown Disney” hotels.

With so many options, where in the “World” is the best place to stay???  It really depends on your tastes and your budget.

My family has stayed in nearby vacation homes AND on property. They both have their advantages, but we definitely prefer staying on property now!

Our first stay on Disney property was at a value resort in November 2008 at the Pop Century Resort. Pop has 5 themed areas: the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.  In each area, you’ll find larger than life sized icons of the time period they are from.  We were in the 80s area and, specifically, in the building with the huge Lady and the Tramp dogs at the entrance.  Our youngest was 18 months at the time and she couldn’t get enough of them!

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Our other 2 stays on Disney property were at the moderate resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Since we have a family of 5, we are limited in which resorts we can stay in at an affordable price. Most rooms are only rated for 4 guests (a 5th guest under 3 can stay in these rooms, as well).  So, we could either reserve 2 rooms, a suite, or stay at Port Orleans, which was the least expensive option for us.  These rooms are located in the “Alligator Bayou” section of the resort and have a Murphy pull-down bed in the wall for the 5th guest.

Here’s what the Alligator Bayou buildings look like – and one of the many “quiet” pools on property that we enjoyed at 8 am:

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And the gorgeous view we had each morning when we left our room (we paid for a Standard room, but something tells me we were upgraded to garden view):

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Here’s a pic of the bed in the wall (and my lovely daughter modeling…lol)

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It worked out great for us!  The theme is similar to Princess and the Frog.  We also used Garden Grocer for the first time this year to save us some money. I ordered some breakfast and snack type items online and they delivered it directly to our resort who then delivered it directly to our room. This is a pic of the dry items…and there was more in the fridge!

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Here’s a pic taken on the bridge going over the Sassalooga River looking at the main lobby/cafeteria area:

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The other section of the resort is called Magnolia Bend and reminds you of plantations of the south. If you take the riverboat to Downtown Disney, you get a wonderful view of it. Here’s a pic of it:

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You also ride by Port Orleans French Quarter.  It’s themed very similar to New Orleans!

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(You also ride by the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs. Our family is planning on staying at these for our next trip in November 2014):

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We have traveled to other resorts for various reasons, as well.  In September 2012, we visited Saratoga Springs to view the DVC presentation. It’s themed like a Florida golf resort/club.

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In November 2008, we ate at Chef Mickey’s, which took us to the Contemporary Resort. This one is neat because the monorail goes right through the middle of the lobby!

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We also went to the Grand Floridian on this trip to have breakfast with Mary Poppins. It was decorated for Christmas and very classy!

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We made it to the Polynesian for the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (AWESOME dinner show, if you can make it…).  This resort may be tied for my favorite (next to Animal Kingdom Lodge):

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In September 2012, we went to the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue dinner show at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.  This is like a huge campground!

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On our honeymoon in June 2000, the hubby and I ventured from Epcot’s World Showcase into the International Gateway and walked around Disney’s Boardwalk. This is a pretty amazing place…you feel like you just might be in Atlantic City, NJ!

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On our most recent trip in May 2013, we stopped by the Wilderness Lodge to check it out. It’s got a BREATHTAKING lobby, and you REALLY feel like you are deep in the forests of Washington State or Oregon.  It’s gorgeous.

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We were also able to eat at Boma ~ Flavors of Africa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We were so excited to finally be able to go here. It’s been a resort we have drooled over for quite awhile.  It’s definitely an amazing place. Here’s a few pics from our visit:

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So…which resorts have you been to?  Which resorts would you love to stay at?  I can give you great recommendations based on your family’s budget and tastes.  🙂

Flash Drive & Mickey giveaway!

Be sure and visit my facebook page by Friday, July 19, to enter to win a 4 GB Minnie Mouse USB Flash Drive and stuffed Mickey Mouse doll! 

 

Disney Dining Plan!

I’ve been to Disney 6 times in 12 years. The first 3 times, we stayed in a rented vacation home. This was GREAT because we had a private pool and ate breakfast at the house.  However, we rarely ate lunch or dinner there because we are the type of people that want to get our money’s worth at the theme parks by staying until close.

We heard about the Disney Dining Plan about 8 years ago, and decided to give it a try.  However, in order to take advantage of it, we had to stay at the resort.  When the FREE DINING promotion was announced for November 2008, we jumped on it!

And now we have stayed at the Disney resorts and participated in the dining plan ever since.

On our last trip in May, we had some AWESOME meals lined up.  (I tend to stalk the DIS boards for reviews fairly often, so I was confident we would!) We finally got to try the popular steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion at EPCOT’s World Showcase – Le Cellier Steakhouse. We had the famous pretzel bread, Cheese soup, Glow-tini, and Filet Mignon. Every last one of them lived up to their reputation!

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Most definitely the BEST steaks any of us have ever had, hands down.

We had breakfast with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy at the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. Great buffet!

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We enjoyed Flame Tree BBQ, a quick service restaurant at Animal Kingdom with a KILLER view of Expedition Everest.

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We at at BOMA – Flavors of Africa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner. It’s a neat buffet with lots of African food mixed in with some American cuisine, too.  They are famous for “Jungle Juice.” You have to try it!

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On my daughter’s birthday, we had breakfast at the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. The waiter was a “singing” waiter and got down on his knees and sang an old 70s love song to her. She was REALLY embarrassed, but it was awesome! (and check out that plate of food on the guy behind her head!)

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There were alot of other places we tried, but the best dinner, hands down, was Liberty Tree Tavern in the Liberty Square area of Magic Kingdom. It was absolutely DELICIOUS. We WILL be back…oh yes, we will!

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The Disney Dining Plan is SO worth it.  For our family of 5, we prefer to order freely off the menu’s and not worry about price. And it’s a good thing, too. That meal at Le Cellier was almost $300.  I am NOT kidding.

There are a few options for the dining plan.

If you are the theme park enthusiast who doesn’t care about dining and just wants the food to refuel and then run again, you’ll want the Quick Service dining plan. No fancy restaurants, just “fast” food (Disney-style).  I’d love to tell you where the best ones are in each park!

If you like to enjoy as much as the theme parks as you can, but want to enjoy your vacation, too, with some great cuisine and a welcomed 1.5-2 hour break, go with the regular dining plan…you get one counter service meal and one table service meal per night of stay.

If you really like to eat, and you really like your breaks, go with the Deluxe dining plan. You get 3 meals of any type you would like per day, plus 2 snacks. I recommend this for people who don’t care to race for the fast passes and hit every show and ride. You’ll be doing ALOT of eating on this plan…but hey, you are on vacation, right?

There are a few other plans, as well, with all you can “drink” (adult beverages), and more.  I’d love to tell you about them.

What’s been your favorite Disney restaurant?  Are there any you have been wanting to try that I could tell you about?  We have a “bucket list” for our next trip, and can’t wait to try more new things!