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TOP 10 TABLE SERVICE RESTAURANTS by Sheila Nowell

I know there are top 10 lists for Disney food all over the internet… So I’m following the crowd. 🙂 I thought I’d post my TOP 10 Table Service Restaurants.  Some people don’t see why dining is necessary at Disney, but I am now a firm believer that Dining is a must-do experience if you are able! Sadly, we haven’t had the opportunity to eat at more than 5 at a time, so we’ve only had 15 meals to speak of. 😦  So…I’ve included a Top 10 “Can’t Wait” list, too. 🙂

TOP 10 TABLE SERVICE RESTAURANTS/EXPERIENCES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

10. CHEF MICKEY’S at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

This place is so popular with my clients. We had it for breakfast and it was alot of fun!  Very colorful and energetic.

9. 1900 PARK FARE at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

We went here for the Wonderland Breakfast. We had alot of fun meeting Mad Hatter, Alice, and Mary Poppins, even!

8. CINDERELLA’S ROYAL TABLE at Magic Kingdom

I have eaten here twice – once in 2000 on my honeymoon, and once in 2002 with my 6 month old, husband, parents, and sister.  Both times, we walked up to be seated with no reservation. That is rare nowadays!  I know we ate for lunch or dinner each time, but I don’t remember much more about it other than it’s a great experience to eat in a castle!  We plan on trying for a coveted breakfast reservation for this year to take our girls for their first time!

7. AKERSHUS ROYAL BANQUET at EPCOT

This is a WONDERFUL alternative to Cinderella’s Royal Table.  There are princesses EVERYWHERE!  We went for breakfast and had a great time walking to our reservation before rope drop!

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6. WOLFGANG EXPRESS DINING ROOM at Downtown Disney

It’s been a LONG time since we have enjoyed this (2003, I believe), but the atmosphere and food were wonderful!

5. SPIRIT OF ALOHA DINNER SHOW at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

If you read my Top 10 Attractions list the other day, you know that I love culture. This show has SO much culture in it!  I loved the fire shows, the dancing, everything!  And Polynesian food is full of sweetness…of the two dinner shows we have done, this is by far our favorite!

4. 50S PRIME TIME CAFE at Hollywood Studios

I love home-cooked comfort food, so this was a great option for us. I also love the simple-ness of the “past” so the 50s kitchen atmosphere is perfect here.  I look forward to dining here again someday, after I’ve tried the 3 other restaurants I haven’t had yet!

3. CORAL REEF at EPCOT

Mmmm.  We ate here way back in 2008 and it was unforgettable. I love aquariums and sea life. The aquarium wall had me in a trance most of the time, and I loved it when the diver came up to the window with a message for one of the guests!  The food was excellent, as was the service.  It was an “unforgettable” kind of meal.

2. LE CELLIER STEAKHOUSE in Canada at EPCOT

It’s REALLY hard to enjoy a steak. I like them well done. No pink at all. BUT…I also like it juicy and “chewable.”  Most places just don’t get it right for me.  This place, though, we perfect. Yum!  I also loved the cheese soup, the pretzel bread, and the Glow-Tini. 😉  My family is begging me to go back here this fall. I am having a hard time saying no…

Glowtini at LeCellier

Glowtini at LeCellier

Bread Plate at Le Cellier (Pretzel bread is DELISH!)

Bread Plate at Le Cellier (Pretzel bread is DELISH!)

Cheese Soup at LeCellier WOW

Cheese Soup at LeCellier WOW

1. LIBERTY TREE TAVERN at Magic Kingdom

We ate here for dinner – family style – and enjoyed every. single. bite.  Everything from the salads to the dessert was wonderful.  In fact, it was our “last meal” before leaving the next day, and I am so thankful because it left us with a great taste!  LOL I want to try it for lunch, too, but it will be hard to not go back for dinner!  🙂

The salad at Liberty Tree Tavern dinner

The salad at Liberty Tree Tavern dinner

The mugs at Liberty Tree Tavern

The mugs at Liberty Tree Tavern

TOP 10 “I CAN’T WAIT TO TRY IT” RESTAURANTS

I read alot of reviews for dining, and am choosing between these for our next trip!

10. MICKEY’S BACKYARD BBQ at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Disney has 3 Dinner Shows.  We have been to the other 2 (Spirit of Aloha and Hoop-Dee-Do Musical Revue), so I’d like to “even out” the score. 😉  This one is outside, picnic-style, but I don’t want to go in the fall…we had our share of mosquitoes at Hoop-Dee-Do in September…lol

9. WHISPERING CANYON CAFE AT Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

I love to laugh. I love joking around with people. So I’d like to eat here and see how the waitstaff are when our neighboring table asks for ketchup. 😉

8. CALIFORNIA GRILL at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

I do have a taste for fine dining, and the recent updates to this restaurant have my interests peaked.  I don’t think I want to take the kids, though…

7. WORLD SHOWCASE at EPCOT

I have WAY too many places I want to try at EPCOT.  The top picks, for now, are Via Napoli, Biergarten, Teppan Edo, La Hacienda, and Rose & Crown.  Once I get those out of the way, I want to do all the others, too!

6. BE OUR GUEST at Magic Kingdom

It’s all about the experience. 🙂

5. OHANA at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

I love Bread Pudding. I hear Ohana’s is the place to go…

4. KONA CAFE at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

The waiter at Crystal Palace told us that Kona Cafe is the #1 Breakfast spot in all of Disney World.  I really really really want to try the Tonga Toast.  🙂

3. HOUSE OF BLUES GOSPEL BRUNCH at Downtown Disney

I love me some Black Gospel choir music.  I was saved to this type of music. 🙂  My kids are well versed in it, too. LOL  So, I REALLY want to go to the Kirk Franklin’s Gospel Brunch here on a Sunday someday.  Like, BAD.

2. RAGLAN ROAD at Downtown Disney

I love Bennigan’s, but they pulled out of my city a decade ago.  I also love Irish dancing.  Put the two together, and I picture some very entertaining meals at Raglan Road!

1. YACHTSMAN STEAKHOUSE at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Yes, I want to see if this one is as good as Le Cellier.  I have heard wonderful things, and hope I can talk the family into this one instead of Le Cellier this fall (although I think I’m losing the battle…)

 

So, what is your favorite table service restaurant at Disney?  Any recommendations?

The Pirates League or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique?

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We love all the “extra” experiences Disney offers…even if it is at a price!  For my daughter’s 8th birthday, we gave her the option of participating in The Pirates League or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she chose to be a Pirate Empress!  My son (who was 10 at the time) was all about Pirates of the Caribbean, and she wanted to be just like her brother in as many ways as is possible for a “girl.”

It was so much fun!  We had a 9:00 am appointment, and you know what that means!  We got early entry into the park!!!  If you have never done that, you MUST. It’s an amazing magical feeling to walk down Main Street USA with NO one around you.  We arrived at the entrance to Adventureland and were stopped by a rope…but the cast members there were “pirates” who kept us very entertained with some very bad jokes!

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Once we were allowed to go to The Pirates League, we checked in and the kids had a great time choosing their pirate names.  Once in the chairs, the cast members REALLY played the part well, gearing the kids up to be the best pirates ever.  My kids (and my husband and I, too!) laughed and laughed.  After their transformation was complete, they were made to say the pirate oath and were taken into a secret treasure room for their awesome souvenirs!  There is alot more to this experience, but I would DEFINITELY do it again and again.  It’s so amazing!

Spinning the wheel to determine her pirate name!

Spinning the wheel to determine her pirate name!

Our next trip to WDW was for my youngest daughter’s 6th birthday, so we decided to give Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique a try.  We arrived at the Magic Kingdom location for our appointment and the girls were treated like royalty. We went with the middle package that includes hair, makeup, and nails, but not dresses. (There is also a package for boys, but my 11 year old was not even remotely interested.)

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The girls had a great time here, too!  But, surprisingly, I think we ALL enjoyed The Pirates League better!

Someday, I’d like to get us in for a $5 glitter ponytail or mohawk at Harmony Barber Shop.  Until then, we have some great memories!!!  Have you done either of the three?  What is your favorite?

As always, if you’d like more information on this attraction or any other, contact us!  We’d love to help. 🙂

 

Submitted by Sheila Nowell

Taking Time To Invest in YOURSELF

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So, we all know that going on a vacation is a “benefit.”  Not everyone has the time, money, or even the desire to go on a trip!  Growing up, the furthest my family ever went was about 30 miles from home to visit my grandparents. We NEVER EVER went on a family vacation. I think that may be part of the reason why I am so “hooked” on travel today.  I can remember the very first time I traveled past that 30 mile mark…I went with my church youth group to Six Flags in St. Louis.  I was so overcome with emotion when we crossed from Illinois into Missouri that I cried…and I was only 12 years old at the time!  This adventure turned into MANY adventures.  I went on every youth group or church trip I could. And every. single. trip. was equally as exciting as I crossed over each new state border and experienced the different landscapes, cultures, sites, and sounds.

As a travel agent, my #1 goal is to help my clients have those same feelings while they are on their trip.  For some, going on vacation is driving an hour away to a local water park…and this may be the ONLY trip they take in a year.  To others, it’s a flight across country to visit family, or maybe it’s *gasp* the trip to a Disney Theme Park or a Disney Cruise.  No matter how much the cost of the trip or the length of the trip, each getaway should be treated the same – it should be well planned out, researched, and executed.  When you invest money into a trip, you are investing that money into YOU.  You will make memories for yourself and/or your family that will, undoubtedly, last a lifetime.

I remember almost every single trip I have ever taken.  I can remember what people said on the trip, what sites I saw, which rides or slides I did…and remembering these things absolutely puts my mind in that “happy place.”  Part of the reason for this is because “most” trips went flawlessly.  I researched the hotels to make sure they had good reviews. I price-shopped to make sure I was getting the best prices for my/our needs. I spent many hours (sometimes DAYS) researching rides and slides, height requirements, crowd levels, maps, and more to make sure I was armed with as much information as possible to make my/our trips perfect.

Yes, there were times when bad things happened. Some things CAN’T be perfect.  Weather is definitely a factor.  I learned to “go with the flow” and figure out something else to do when weather ruined plans.  Sometimes a ride I really wanted to ride was shut down.  Yes, this is absolutely disappointing!  Other times, there was so much road construction, we arrived very late and had to miss some plans.  Or we get to a hotel that is rated great only to be disappointed in the rooms or service.

However…I have learned to look at life optimistically!  Yes, bad things happen. We have to counteract those bad things by thinking of what we can do to change that! And other times, we just have to realize it was a bad deal and move on.

Funny story…my husband and I were supposed to leave on our honeymoon flight to Florida around 10:00 am. We were on our way to the airport and realized that we were very much out of gas.  I actually forgot, at the age of 22, to fill the car with gas amidst all the wedding festivities in the days prior.  It happens.  We arrived at the airport about 30 minutes early only to discover that they had sold our seats on the plane, and that the next flight wouldn’t leave until about 4 pm that afternoon.  Yes, we were disappointed…but we decided to go shopping!  We opened all of our cards from the wedding and just enjoyed being a married couple walking around the mall.  We boarded our flight that afternoon and arrived at the next airport where our “short” layover turned into a very very LONG layover.  We didn’t arrive in Orlando until around midnight.  Oddly enough, we were still pretty happy…until we got through the rental car process.  We were given a car that, upon driving it off the lot, was squealing and sounded like it was going to fall apart.  I snapped. I drove right back to the check out counter and, in all my exhaustion, demanded a different car.  I think I must have scared the poor check out clerk…which is hard to believe because I am a very calm and even keeled person…because he promptly gave me the keys to a BRAND NEW Buick Park Avenue with only 2 miles on it.  I LOVED the car, and we drove the 20 miles from the airport to the vacation home we had reserved.  Our first full day of our honeymoon was not at all what we had planned. We spent much of the day in airports and rental car places, and didn’t get to the house until 2:00 a.m.  And you know what?  I REMEMBER that.

Memories can be good and bad. I prefer to have more good than bad.  🙂

Make good memories for yourself.  You only live once…enjoy all that God has to offer us…the sights, the sounds, the beauty!  Take time to invest money into YOU…not your house, not your car, not your hobbies…put some money and time aside to make memories on a trip!  You’ll thank me for it. 🙂

Submitted By:

Sheila Nowell, Travel Consultant
Sheila@MyTravelLobby.com
(309) 261-0494

TOP 15 DISNEY ANIMATED MOVIES by Sheila Nowell

I did a post recently with my favorite Pixar movies.  That was really easy! I’ve been a fan of Pixar since day 1.  Coming up with my favorite Disney animated films is a little harder, and I just couldn’t leave some off the list…hence 15 instead of 10.  My list below is a good reflection of “me” – a girl born in the late 70s who had a great 80s and 90s childhood.  Enjoy!

15. PETER PAN

So, the movies below (#1-14) were easily on my list. I wanted to have 15, so I scoured my “list” and this is the only one that stuck out for a 15th (although Fantasia 2000 was close).  Peter Pan is a classic.  Which is why I just ordered it from Disney Movie Club.  😉  Plus, I’m a sucker for British accents…

14. POCAHONTAS

I love history.  I love Indians and hate how they were treated when Americans took over the land. 😦  I’m glad Pocahontas is a Disney princess. Oh, and I love willow trees, so that just adds to the love here!

13. LILO & STITCH

Stitch is just plain cute. And I love Hawaii.  🙂 And Experiment 626 has a nice ring to it…

12. MULAN

Although it was released in 1998, I JUST saw this for the first time in 2013!  I was blown away by how much I LOVED the movie, too!  I’ve watched it twice since then already. 🙂

11. LADY & THE TRAMP

Such awesome memories watching this in the 80s, and I’m so excited that it’s going to be re-released again this year so I can own it!  Lady is the name I gave my cat…because I wanted a cocker spaniel but am terribly allergic to them. 😦

10.  THE LION KING

Another great movie…it goes along with my love of culture…the African safari, the animals in their natural habitat…and the SONGS…love Elton John songs. 😉

9. ALADDIN

A Whole New World was one of the songs in our wedding. 🙂  A great movie about the poor and the rich.  I could do without Jafar becoming an all-powerful sorcerer in the end, though – too devilish for me.

8. FOX & THE HOUND

My mom tells me all the time how she took me to see this movie and I cried and cried.  So, I just looked, and it was released in 1981…I would have been 3.  I showed it to my girls for the first time in 2013, and my then-5 year old cried like a baby.  It touched my heart…  That song, “When Your The Best of Friends” is a wonderful song.

7. THE LITTLE MERMAID

I know for  a fact that I was in 6th grade when this movie came out, because our teacher (Mr. Tessendorf) sat on his chair on wheels and went around the classroom singing the soundtrack to us all day long.  Thinking back, I suppose him singing “Kiss The Girl” to a bunch of 6th graders is kind of creepy, but at the time, it was pretty awesome!  LOL I am so happy to own it on Blu Ray now!

6. TANGLED

Such a cute movie. I love the colors and songs and everything about this movie!  And I guess I can blame her for having a hidden desire to whack someone over the head with a frying pan…  And those lanterns…amazing!

5. BEAUTY & THE BEAST

Another iconic movie with beautiful songs in it!  Belle and I have so much in common…book worms, family importance, and doing what is right…yup, I’m Belle in a commoner’s body.  I took a “Which Disney Princess Are You?” Quiz lately, and it confirmed it.

4. TINKERBELL (ALL OF THEM)

These all came out when my youngest was 18 months and we were at Disney World for her first time.  We bought the movie AT Disney!  I love all of the subsequent ones that have come out, too.  The Fairies of Pixie Hollow are beautiful little creatures full of life and color!

3. PRINCESS & THE FROG

I LOVED this movie, and I believe Tiana is my favorite princess right now (although Anna from Frozen is pretty close!).  I’ve been to the bayou of Louisiana for the wedding of my husband’s cousin, and her Cajun LA roots are now here in town with us.  In fact, they lived with us for a few months, so we really got immersed in the accent and the food!  In addition, our family of 5 has stayed at Port Orleans Riverside at Disney twice now, and we have really taken a liking to the view.  🙂  I love how that hard-working girl achieves her dreams!

2. WRECK IT RALPH

I’m bad. And that’s good. And I’ll never be good. And that’s not bad.  LOL  This movie is full of memories of old video games, and full of BEAUTIFUL colors and that sweet little girl, Venelope Von Schweetz.

1. FROZEN

What can I say?  It was a wonderful movie, and I just can’t let it go.  I think they may have modeled Anna off of me without me knowing it.  Right down to the freckles…she’s amazing!

 

My goal for my upcoming Disney trip is to get the autographs of as many of the characters above as possible…an impossible feat, I’m sure. 🙂   I realize Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Alice in Wonderland didn’t make the list.  I actually kind of thought about putting Cinderella in #15…. What’s your favorite Disney movie?

TOP 10 DISNEY PIXAR MOVIES by Sheila Nowell

So, there are 14 Disney Pixar movies out so far. I love every single one of them.  I really do!  Here’s my personal Top 10 Pixar movies list. Enjoy!

TOP 10 DISNEY  PIXAR MOVIES

10.  TOY STORY – ALL 3 OF THEM!

I have a bad habit of lumping things together in the Top 10 lists, don’t I?  Well, I love Toy Story movies.  Toy Story 1 was the FIRST Pixar release, and it is what had me “hooked.”  Plus, Toy Story 2 and Toy  Story 3 don’t mean anything without Toy Story 1, right?  I love Toy Story 2 because I LOVE cowboys and anything country. So, even though Jessie is a “girl,” she represents something I would love to be. And Toy Story 3…really?  Who DIDN’T cry at the end of that movie?  Ugh…like, the UGLY cry.

9. CARS

Cars was released in 2006 when my son was 4 1/2…the PERFECT time for a little boy to fall in love with the movie. His love of the movie became my love, too.  We even decorated his room in Cars…and he loved it until he was 7.  Then, he became “too old” for it (in his words) and switched to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean.  Oh well…  Cars 2 wasn’t nearly as good…or as memorable…except for Mater and the Wasabi…

8. BRAVE

Honestly, I had NO clue that Brave was a Pixar movie. LOL!  But I enjoyed the Irish accents throughout, and watch it just to listen to it. LOL

7. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

This was such a cute movie!  The hype leading up to it was occurring right as I became a Disney Travel Agent, so I became immersed and “sucked in” with everyone else.  Still, as most “part 2” movies are, it wasn’t as good as the first!

6. MONSTERS, INC.

Love love love.  Boo was the cutest little thing ever!  And the idea of monsters being scared to death of a 2 year old little girl is quite ingenious.

5. UP

I admit…the first time I watched this movie, I was so disappointed.  It was so…well…sad, and depressing.  But, 2 years later, we made ourselves watch it again…and LOVED it.  I love the love story, I love Kevin (the bird) and Dug (the dog). I love Carl Frederickson, too, because he stood for his love. He fought to keep what was his.  He is my Pixar hero. 🙂

4. WALL-E

I can’t say that without saying it like a robot ….waaaaaallll- e.  🙂  I like the nostalgia on Earth, and the love story between Wall-E and Eve (again, Eeeee eeee vaaaaaahhhh). I also like the eye opening reality of where the world could be headed if it stays the way it is…no face to face contact, no physical activity, no “green” space… it’s sad to think of it.

3. THE INCREDIBLES

The best super hero movie ever made.  Who cares if it’s a cartoon  Every girl wants to be Elasti-Girl or Violet, and every boy wants to be Mr. Incredible or Dash.  Seriously!  I hope they make a part 2 (did I just say that?) to show off Jack Jack…

2. RATATOUILLE

Ah…this one is hard to explain.  I love to cook. I love new recipes. I love fine dining. I love that cooking is an “art.”  And I love the french accent (my hubby took 6 years of French…enough said).  This movie feels classy all around, and made me love…dare I say it…rats!?!

1. FINDING NEMO

Yes…it’s at the top of the list.  The colors and the sound of the ocean make me feel a strange peace every time I watch it.  I can recite this movie almost word for word.  And P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney…it really exists!?!

 

So, the only movie NOT on this list in some way is A Bug’s Life…and honestly, I have seen it, but only once.  I need to rent it and watch it again soon.  I’m sure it wasn’t a “bad” movie…because the “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” attraction at Disney World is awesome. LOL

What’s your favorite Pixar movie?

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.

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!

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!