Packing Tips

August 5, 2012 Cheryl 2

We are leaving for our Walt Disney World vacation this Thursday, so I am beginning to get our stuff together for the trip.  We drive, so it makes it much easier to bring along all of the things that we need.  Over time I have compiled a list of items to take along, some of which are no longer necessary for my family, but might be for yours, so I thought I would share.  Do you have any packing tips you would like to share?

Address labels and stamps – if you think you are going to be sending postcards, fill out the address labels at home, so you just have to stick them on a postcard and add the stamp you brought from home too.

After sun Gel – you will get a lot of sun, so using this at night will get you ready for the next day.

Antibacterial Soap – was way get some of the germs off your hands and you don’t have to search for a bathroom!

Autograph book – if you plan on getting character autographs. You can get them much cheaper at home, or sometimes has them on sale.

Backpack – its good idea for each person in your group to have their own backpack to carry around their stuff. If one person carries everything it gets very heavy!  If you have a Camelbak hydration pack, even better, especially on a hot August day!

Band-Aids – you never know what small injury you will need to treat.  I actually pre-band-aid my toes to prevent blisters!

Bathing suit – bring a few. Even if you don’t think you will be going into the pool, you may change your mind.

Batteries/film/SD cards – much cheaper at home than in the Parks.

Body Glide – get this at a running store, Dicks or Sports Authority.  Great for preventing chafing!

Books/magazines/Kindle/iPad/Nook – Long plane or car rides can seem a lot shorter with a good book or magazine. Don’t forget the chargers!

Clothes – Kind of obvious, but just in case…Disney is not a fashion show – you will see lots of adults wearing Disney Crocs and t-shirts they wouldn’t wear anywhere else, so think comfort.  Shorts and T’s, bring a light jacket or sweatshirt for the winter, a rain poncho, baseball hat and sneakers.  Check the weather before you leave home…who knows, it might actually be cool.

Confirmation Numbers – Bring a list of all confirmation numbers – flight, hotel, reservations, the rental car, etc.  I keep them all on my phone so I know I will have them with me.

Contact lenses/Glasses/Sunglasses – bring an extra set, and all your cleaning supplies!

First Aid Kit – you never know what you will need.  My son did a face-plant last summer and our kit really came in handy!

Guidebooks – Don’t forget your guidebooks and any notes that you have taken!

Gum – Disney does not sell gum – neither does the Orlando airport!

DS/iPod touch/phones – great for the kids while waiting in lines, waiting for parades, and that long plane trip. Don’t forget the chargers!

Frogg Toggs – these are really neat cooling chilly pad towels that you get at Lowes.  Wet them, wring them out, and then put it around your neck, and it will keep you cool!  We refrigerate ours overnight too!

Hats – You will need hats – keep your head cool and keeps the sun (and rain) out of your eyes

Kleenex – small individual packets of kleenex are great to have in your backpack

Laundry Detergent – pack individual Ziploc baggies with premeasured detergent inside – and also bring dryer sheets. Really saves you some money if you are planning on doing laundry!

Lip Balm with sun screen – out in the air all day is hard on tender lips

Medications – any you would normally take.  Bring copies of your prescriptions and your doctors phone number in case you lose them.

Mister – those small water bottles with battery operated fans on top. During the summer these will be lifesavers!!

Nail Clippers – just in case

Night Lights – We just buy some cheapo night-lights for in the hotel room. It is better than keeping the bathroom light on all night long. We just left them there when we check out.

Notebook – to write notes in, or to let the kids draw in.  Bring some dollar store stickers too (or stop by a Disney Vacation Club stand) to keep kids busy in line.

Proof of Auto Insurance – that way you wont have to get that extra insurance if you rent a car.

Rain Poncho – buy the $1 ponchos at Target / Wal-Mart.  Get ones that match, so that you can find each other in a sea of Disney ponchos.

Sandals/flip flops/water shoes – The ground gets very hot by the pools in the summer.

Sensible shoes — Comfy, well-broken in shoes are essential. Bring two pairs if you have the room – because if it rains (and it will) your shoes will get wet first!!

Socks (lots of socks) – We found that changing our socks many times during the day made us feel fresher! Plus, if it rains (and it will) dry feet make a big difference! Extra underwear is a good idea too!!

Sharpies or pens – for Character signatures.

Swim goggles – pictures don’t look good with red eyes from the chlorine!

Suitcase – If you are driving, fill an extra suitcase with snacks or water,  then you can use the suitcase to bring home souvenirs.

Sunscreen – We like the spray kind – easy to apply.

Tickets – If you didn’t do will-call, make sure you bring any tickets you pre-purchased!

Tums/Pepto – overeating can cause some pretty bad tummy aches.

Vinylmation Mickey – We have the characters sign a large Vinylmation Mickey Mouse, that way we can display it at home and not just have the signatures in a drawer somewhere.

Water Wings for young swimmers – You will be able to use the ones that go on the kids’s arms, but not the inner-tube kinds.

Wipes – even if you don’t have a baby, these wipes come in handy. Use them to clean sticky hands, to clean off dirty benches before you sit down, etc.  They also do a great job cleaning up spills on clothes…not sure what is in these things, but they are magic!

Ziploc Bags – I can not stress enough how important these are.  There are so many uses for these bags, I am not even sure where to start!  I use them to hold my phone and credit cards, my tickets, tissues, wipes…the list goes on and on.

Rajasthan Backpacking Tour

August 1, 2012 Cheryl 0

A friend of mine runs a boutique travel company specializing in intimate tours and trip planning to India.  She is running an adult backpacking tour through India this winter.  Here are the details…sounds like a great trip!  If you are interested, please contact Lisa Perrine Brown at her website:  Just do me a favor, and let her know this is where you heard about the tour!

Color & Spice Tour:  28 December 2012  – 18 January 2013

Rajasthan, India

The Indian state of Rajasthan provides you with a wonderful introduction to India or a fabulous place to return. This discounted premier trip through Rajasthan will be ‘the adventure trip to test out this route’ and see if the pace is relaxing, too fast, or just right. We will be staying 1 or 2 days in each location. The travel time will be 30 minutes to 3 hours between each location, except for Jaisalmer. Also, I will be asking my fellow adventurists to give me feedback on the places we go to and the things we do. You will also be asked to fill out candid reviews for future travelers.

This is an adult backpacking trip for the wildly adventurous and adaptable, not the high-end luxury tour which follows next year. Are you someone who wants to get immersed in a new culture? Then this trip is for you! You’ll get totally absorbed in the north Indian culture. You’ll get to speak with people and families from all walks of life. This is the beauty of traveling on local transportation!

Travel destinations follow the same route as our luxury tour but the accommodations will be smaller and more intimate. Lodgings will be at modest Haveli’s (court-yarded mansions), luxury tents, mid-level boutique hotels, and historic palaces, just not the high-end ones. This is a budget trip! It is a voyage to explore and see India as it is. It is not a sanitized five star hotel tour that, let’s face it, could be had anywhere in the world. We will visit some luxury hotels just to measure them up and to check out their fabulous bars and views!

Travel will be by rickshaws, taxis, local trains, city buses, and possibly elephants or camels! Did you see the bus the tourists took from Delhi to Jaipur in ‘The Best Marigold Hotel’? That is the way we will travel with the Indian people! I have traveled on almost every mode of transportation through India and all are fabulous. They make the trip more memorable!

You will be responsible for your travel to and from Delhi. I will be meeting you when you arrive in Delhi at the airport. Please allow two days for travel both ways.

Here’s a list of items to bring: patience, an open mind, a willingness to have all your senses assaulted, adaptability, a sense of humor, an iron stomach, and no fear of claustrophobic spaces like crowded buses (yes, personal space is non-existent in a country of over a billion people). If this will be your first taste of India it will be unforgettable and something you will cherish forever. And some of you will never ever want to go back. People either love it or hate it. Either way, it will change your life in an unforgettable and indescribable way. My wish for you and all my efforts will be to have India be imbedded in your heart and soul forever.

So if you’re in…I will be taking you to Rajasthan’s remote villages, ancient ruins, palaces, markets, food joints and much, much more! You’ll need to find a light backpack that’s expandable for all your treasures. Pack it with a few modest cotton clothes, some travel-sized toiletries, a journal/sketch book, and a small camera. LET’S GO (chelo!!!)

Tour Cost: $4,100.00, single occupancy, not including airfare. $3,100.00, double occupancy, not including airfare. This includes food, beverages (mostly non-alcoholic), travel, lodging, guide (Lisa), transportation and all taxes.

* Tours are no more than ten people. Five must register by October 31, 2012 for the trip to proceed. Deposit is 10% non-refundable (unless we don’t get 5 people), 50% by October 31, 2012 and full payment by December 1, 2012.

2012 Epcot® Food and Wine Festival Menus Revealed

July 31, 2012 Cheryl 0

Eating and drinking your way around the World Showcase just took on new meaning!  The 2012 Epcot® Food and Wine Festival will take place September 28-November 12, 2012!    With a Taste Your Way Around the World theme and almost 30 kiosks serving guests tasty appetizer-size specialties and regional drinks, this is a not-to-be-missed event!

This annual Epcot® event showcases great food and wine from around the globe, offers special events featuring celebrity chefs and even includes free DIY seminars with your favorite HGTV stars.  This year there are some new booths as well.  The Florida Marketplace will feature some regional favorites with a fresh Florida twist, and The Terra Marketplace will be the first location in Food & Wine history to offer all-vegan options.

Check out these yummy options!!  Which is your favorite?

International Marketplaces:


Regional Cuisine:

  • Beef Empanada
  • Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée

Beverage Pairings:

  • Terrazas Reserva Chardonnay
  • Terrazas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Terrazas Reserva Torrontes
  • Terrazas Reserva Malbec


Regional Cuisine:

  • Shrimp on the Barbie with Pepper Berry Citrus Glaze
  • Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies
  • Lamington

Beverage Pairings:

  • Rosemount Estate Traminer Riesling
  • Rosemount Estate Chardonnay Semillon
  • Rosemount Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Shiraz
  • Rosemount Estate Shiraz Cabernet


Regional Cuisine:

  • Steamed Mussels in Hoegaarden Beer Broth and Baguette
  • Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream
  • Guylian Belgian Chocolate Seashell Truffles

Beverage Pairings:

  • Hoegaarden
  • Stella Artois
  • Leffe Blonde
  • Leffe Brune
  • Godiva Chocolate Liqueur Iced Coffee


Regional Cuisine:

  • Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • Chicken Chipotle Sausage with Sweet Corn Polenta and “Minus 8″ Onion Jam
  • “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce

Beverage Pairings:

  • Neige Première Apple Ice Wine
  • Neige Bubble
  • Mission Hill Family Estate Syrah
  • Moosehead Beer


Regional Cuisine:

  • Ropa Vieja with Cilantro Rice
  • Jerk Spiced Chicken Drumstick with Mango Chutney

Beverage Pairings:

  • Bacardi® Frozen Dragon Berry Colada
  • Bacardi® Torched Cherry Frozen Cherry Limeade


Regional Cuisine:

  • Mongolian Beef with Chinese Steamed Bun
  • Pork Pot Stickers
  • Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Pickled Vegetables
  • Mango Tapioca Pudding

Beverage Pairings:

  • Tsing Tao Beer
  • Francis Ford Coppola Su Yuen Riesling
  • Francis Ford Coppola Su Yuen Syrah
  • Happy Lychee with Vodka
  • Sunny Guava with Coconut Rum


Regional Cuisine:

  • White Corn Arepa with Mangalitsa Pork Rilette and Zellwood Sweet Corn Salad
  • Florida Shrimp Ceviche with Fire Roasted Vegetables, Fried Plantains and Cilantro

Beverage Pairings:

  • Florida Beer Company Florida Lager
  • Florida Beer Company Key West Southernmost Wheat
  • Florida Orange Grove Key Limen
  • Florida Orange Grove Hurricane Class 5, Florida White Sangria


Regional Cuisine:

  • Escargots Persillade en Brioche
  • Coq au Vin sur Gratin de Macaroni
  • Créme Brûlée au Chocolat au Lait

Beverage Pairings:

  • Chardonnay, Bouchard Aîné & Fils
  • Merlot, Château de Mercade Bordeaux
  • Sparkling Pomegranate Kir
  • Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slush


Regional Cuisine:

  • Schinken Nudel (Pasta Gratin with Ham and Cheese)
  • Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll
  • Apple Strudel with Karamel-Vanilla Sauce

Beverage Pairings:

  • Selbach-Oster Estate Spätlese
  • JH Selbach Riesling Classic
  • JH Selbach Riesling QbA Red Label
  • Niersteiner Spiegelberg Dornfelder
  • Radeberger Pilsner
  • Altenmünster Dunke


Regional Cuisine:

  • Greek Salad with Pita Bread
  • Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey
  • Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki
  • Spanakopita
  • Dannon® Oikos® Greek Yogurt Cups

Beverage Pairings:

  • Domaine Skouras Moscofilero
  • Domaine Skouras St. George
  • Sigalas Assytiko
  • Alpha Axia Syrah


Regional Cuisine:

  • Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise
  • Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chips

Beverage Pairings:

  • Seven Tiki® Mai Tai
  • Heitz Cellar Chardonnay
  • Kona Brewing Company Big Wave Golden Ale
  • Kona Brewing Company Pipeline Porter


Regional Cuisine:

  • Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie
  • Kerrygold® Cheese Selection: Aged-Irish Cheddar, Dubliner and Cashel Blue with Apple Chutney and Brown Bread
  • Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey’s Ganache

Beverage Pairings:

  • Guinness
  • Bunratty Mead Honey Wine
  • Bunratty Potcheene Chilled Irish Coffee


Regional Cuisine:

  • Ravioli di Formaggio All’emiliana (Baked Cheese Ravioli, Creamy Beef Bolognese, Parmesan, Mozzarella)
  • Salsiccia e “Papacelli” Napoletani (Sweet Sausage, Red Pepper, Ciaibatta Bread)
  • Cannoli al Cioccolato (Chocolate-Covered Cannoli filled with Ricotta, Chocolate, Candied Fruit)

Beverage Pairings:

  • Moretti Beer
  • Prosecco Zardetto
  • Pinot Grigio Mezzacorona
  • Chianti Castello di Quercetto
  • Italian Margherita


Regional Cuisine:

  • Spicy Hand Roll (Tuna & Salmon with Chili Pepper, Soy Sauce & Sesame Oil Topped with Kazan Volcano Sauce)
  • Karaage Hand Roll (Crispy Chicken Breast with Sushi Rice and Spicy Mayonnaise)
  • California Roll (Avocado, Cucumber, Crab, Mayonnaise, Smelt Roe Rolled in Sushi Rice and Seaweed)
  • Sukiyaki Beef Pan (Marinated Thinly Sliced Rib Eye with Sauteed Onions and Teriyaki Sauce Served in a Bun)

Beverage Pairings:

  • Kirin Ichiban Draft Beer
  • Sake-Kikusui Super Dry, Junmai
  • Sake-Bishounen Junmai Ginjo
  • Sake Strawberry Mist


Regional Cuisine:

  • Crispy Shrimp Taco with Chipotle Lime Mayo and Cabbage Served on a Flour Tortilla
  • Taco de Filete with Cascabel Pepper Sauce and Scallions Served on a Flour Tortilla
  • Natilla de Cajeta (Caramel Custard Served with Sauce)

Beverage Pairings:

  • Dos Equis Beer
  • L.A. Cetto Chardonnay
  • L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah
  • Lime Strawberry Margarita On the Rocks
  • Tequila Flight: Tequila Blanco, Reposado and Anejo


Regional Cuisine:

  • Kefta Pocket (Ground Seasoned Beef in a Pita Pocket)
  • Merguez Sausage (Beef and Lamb Sausage with Grilled Peppers and Onions)
  • Baklava

Beverage Pairings:

  • Casa Beer
  • Amazigh Red
  • Sangria
  • Mimosa Royale


Regional Cuisine:

  • Seared Sea Scallop with Kumara Red Curry Puree and Apple Radish Salad
  • Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney

Beverage Pairings:

  • Kim Crawford Pinot Grigio
  • Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
  • Kim Crawford Un-Oaked Chardonnay
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Noir


Regional Cuisine:

  • Kielbasa & Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream
  • Zapiekanki-Toasted Mushroom, Caramelized Onion and Cheese Bread with House Made Ketchup

Beverage Pairings:

  • Chandon Carneros Chardonnay
  • Tyskie
  • Belvedere® Frozen Lemon Apple “Tea”


Regional Cuisine:

  • Taste of Scandinavia: Cured Salmon, Herring and Shrimp Salad
  • Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries
  • Rice Pudding with Driscoll’s® Only The Finest Berries™

Beverage Pairings:

  • Iron Horse Fairytale Cuvee
  • Xanté
  • Xanté Sunshine


Regional Cuisine:

  • Beef Rendang with Jasmine Rice
  • Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice and “Singa” Sauce

Beverage Pairings:

  • Tiger Beer
  • Marqués de Cáceres Satinela
  • Singapore Sling


Regional Cuisine:

  • Seared Filet of Beef with Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Braai Sauce
  • Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pocket

Beverage Pairings:

  • Fairview Sauvignon Blanc
  • Fairview Pinotage


Regional Cuisine:

  • Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw
  • Mung Bean Pancake with Shrimp and Kimchi Sauce

Beverage Pairings:

  • Bohae Black Raspberry Wine-Bokbunjajoo
  • Chung Ha Soju Fruit Slushy
  • Chung Ha Soju

Specialty Marketplaces:


Beverage Selection:

  • Radeberger Pilsner
  • Altenmünster Oktoberfest
  • Altenmünster Dunkel
  • Hövels
  • Schöfferhofer Weizen
  • Schöfferhofer Grapefruit
  • Berliner Kindl Dark
  • Sion Kölsch



  • Cheese Fondue with Sourdough Bread
  • Trio of Artisan Cheeses: Beecher’s Flagship Reserve Cheddar, La Bonne Vie Goat Brie and Rogue River Creamery Echo Mountain Blue Cheese

Beverage Pairings:

  • Sterling Vintner’s Collection Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sterling Vintner’s Collection Riesling
  • Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Noir
  • Sterling Vintner’s Collection Meritage


Beverage Selection:

  • Widmer Rotator IPA: Spiced IPA, Portland, OR
  • Red Hook Pilsner, Portsmouth, NH
  • Blue Moon Seasonal, Golden, CO
  • Leinenkugel Berry Weiss, Chippewa Falls, WI
  • Florida Beer Company’s Devil’s Triangle, Florida
  • Abita Purple Haze, Lousianna
  • Full Sail IPA, Oregon
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Nevada



  • Yogurt Panna Cotta with Orange Cake, Raspberries and Pomegranate
  • Lemon Custard Verrine with Blueberry Compote
  • Dark Chocolate Mousse with Chili and Salted Caramel

Beverage Pairings:

  • Nesquick Frozen Chocolate Foam
  • Nesquick Frozen Strawberry Foam
  • Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial
  • Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial
  • Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial


Beverage Selection:

  • Red Stag Lemonade by Jim Beam®
  • Red Stag Honey Tea Lemonade by Jim Beam®



  • Linda Bean’s® Lobster Claw Cuddler® Chilled with Herb Mayonnaise
  • Linda Bean’s® Perfect Maine Lobster Roll®
  • Linda Bean’s® Maine Home Style Clam Chowder
  • Pumpkin Mousse with Craisins and Orange Sauce

Beverage Pairings:

  • Samuel Adams Boston Lager®
  • Samuel Adams® Seasonal
  • Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat®
  • 17th Anniversary Festival Beer– Samuel Adams® Chocolate Bock
  • Samuel Adams Light®
  • Samuel Adams® Cream Stout
  • Samuel Adams® Latitude 48 IPA
  • Angry Orchard Cider

TERRA (All Vegan) – NEW!


  • Trick’n Chick’n Curry with Basmati Rice featuring Gardein Chick’n Breast
  • Chili Colorado with House Made Chips & Cashew Cheese, featuring Gardein Beefless Tips
  • Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Coconut Foam

Beverage Pairings:

  • Paul Dolan Sauvignon Blanc
  • Paul Dolan Pinot Nior
  • Silk® Berry Smoothie

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights dates announced

July 25, 2012 Cheryl 1
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The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a dazzling seasonal display featuring millions of glittering lights synchronized to holiday music.  This is the mother of all holiday light displays!  Entire buildings are blanketed in multi-colored lights, and thousands more lights drape between the buildings – Santa and his reindeer are even there lighting up the night sky.  About every 10 minutes the lights dim and then pop back to life!  There is even the occasional snow flurry to add to the holiday magic.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights started in Arkansas as a single home’s annual display. Every year, Jennings Osborne and his family set up an elaborate collection of holiday lights and over the years, the collection of lights grew, and grew… and grew! In 1995, the Osborne family decided to share their magic with the world, and Walt Disney World Resort happily offered to become the new permanent home for this exceptional exhibition of holiday cheer.

This year all of the lights will be lit up for the first time starting on November 9, 2012 and run through January 4, 2013.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is included with standard admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.


Dining Review: Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party

July 24, 2012 Cheryl 1
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As the sun begins to set, and the lights come on along Main Street, my thoughts turn to the fireworks that will soon be lighting up the night sky.  Usually at twilight I am getting comfy on the sidewalk somewhere around the Main Street Bakery, but on our last visit to the Magic Kingdom we decided to try something special…the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party.

The event starts about an hour before the fireworks, and takes place along the lower tier of the Noodle Station.  Even though it is a limited seating event, the line to get in starts to form early.  As you wait, Cast Members will check off your reservation and place a special wristband around each member of your party.  Once you enter the party, you are lead to your pre-assigned table, which has your family name on it.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to get a table up front.  If not, you are allowed to move down to the railing for the show, or even set up a tri-pod as my husband did.  You are not, however, allowed to bring chairs down to watch the display.

If you are a dessert lover, trust me, Disney does not disappoint…definitely come hungry!!  There are three different stations with all kinds of very decadent and very yummy desserts. Some of the goodies you will find are pistachio crème brulee, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecakes, brownies, chocolate mousse, key lime tarts, Italian cannoli, rice crispy treats, fresh pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, and grapes, and my family’s favorite…chocolate covered strawberries.  There is also a coffee and tea beverage station, as well as a station with cool beverages such as lemonade, milk, ice tea, and water.  All of these items are constantly being replenished by Cast Members; so don’t feel like you need to fill your plate the first time…there is plenty available for seconds and thirds!

Once you have your fill of desserts, get ready for the show!  Now, I usually watch Wishes from Main Street, so I was interested in seeing what the show would look like from a different angle.  I personally didn’t think it was as spectacular as seeing the show straight on.  The castle is to the left of you, but instead of going off behind the castle, a lot of the fireworks look like they are to the right of the castle.  Plus, if you are seated in the back of the area, the overhang is too low that you can’t really see if you sit in your seat, so standing at the railing is the best option.  But, not having to fight the crowds or look over anyone else’s shoulder definitely has its advantages…and you gotta love Tinker Bell flying right over your head!!  Where is your favorite fireworks viewing spot?

Planning Tip:

This party is a perennial Disney fan favorite, and although they do take walk-ups on a first-come, first-serve basis,  I highly recommend making advance reservations, which can be made up to 90 days in advance.  Park admission to Magic Kingdom Park is required, and the Disney Dining Plan is not accepted.

Breakfast at Disney World

July 23, 2012 Cheryl 0
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There is no shortage of breakfast options at Walt Disney World…from a quick bite to eat at your hotel to elaborate character breakfast buffet’s at the theme parks.  And while you can’t really go wrong, there are some menu items that are simply out of this world!

~The Hotels~

By far my favorite is the Tonga Toast, served at the Kona Café at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.  On the menu since 1971, Tonga Toast is a thick slice of sourdough bread that is stuffed with bananas and then deep-fried and coated with cinnamon sugar.  It is served with pineapple, your choice of breakfast meat, and delicious strawberry compote, all for $12.99.  This no-so-healthy-but-oh-so-delicious concoction has almost as much of a following as the famous Dole Whip…people crave and talk about it when they are away from Disney World and can’t wait until they return to be able to taste it again…and is worth every calorie-laden bite!  Other delicious options at the Kona Café include Macadamia-Pineapple Pancakes, Fresh Seasonal Fruit served in a fresh Pineapple with Banana-Nut Bread, and Mickey-shaped Pancakes for the kids.  Located on the second floor of the hotel, it is just a few short steps from the monorail station.  For my family, it is not a trip to Disney World without Tonga Toast!!

1900 Park Fare, located off of the lobby at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, is home to Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, Tigger, Pooh…and the most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious chilled strawberry soup you have ever tasted!   This character breakfast (Adult price range: $22.36-$26.62; Child (ages 3-9) price range: $12.77-$14.90) offers an impressive array of buffet items ranging from Mickey waffles to lobster Eggs Benedict to made-to-order omelets, but the crowning jewel is the chilled strawberry soup.  Is it an appetizer…is it a dessert?  Either way, you can’t go wrong!

Chef Mickey’s, located in the lobby at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, is a wonderful way to get up close and personal with Mickey and his pals…and have a substantial breakfast before your day in the park as well. Breakfast (Adult price: $30.88; Child (ages 3-9) price: $17.03) includes a premium fruit bar, cereal selections, pancakes with lots of fun toppings, Mickey Mouse waffles, eggs, omelets and pastries, breakfast pizza…and our family favorite…Pluto’s cheese blintzes!  These tender delectable little pockets of cheese, found off of the beaten path near the cereals, come with their own topping bar – yum!!

~The Parks~

Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Bakery boasts a wide variety of goodies, including Egg, Ham, and Cheese Croissants ($5.99), Muffins ($2.59), and Apple Turnovers ($2.69)…but the ultimate breakfast treat is the Warm Cinnamon Roll ($3.99). You can find this monstrous pastry (seriously, it’s huge – consider sharing!!) at the end of the bakery line, where they’ll scoop it onto a plate and then – and this is the best part – add another scoop of gooey frosting on top!!! This is probably the biggest and most delicious cinnamon roll I’ve ever tasted – the cinnamon ribbon and sweetness of the roll goes all the way through – no dry pastry here!   Add a specialty coffee and a piece of fruit for a delicious breakfast on the go!

Mickey waffles are a staple of most breakfast menus…but combine one with Nutella and fresh fruit and you really have something special (Nutella and fresh fruit waffle sandwich $5.59).  Sleepy Hollow, located in Liberty Square near the Hall of Presidents in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, is a great place for a quick and delicious breakfast on the go.   Grab a seat either in the shaded location off to the side, or at one of the tables overlooking the moat of Cinderella’s Castle and enjoy. The best thing about the food at Sleepy Hollow? It is prepared as you order it, so your Mickey Waffles or funnel cakes are not sitting under a heat lamp, getting soggy!!

Last, but certainly not least, is the Harambe Fruit Market, located right next to the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.  It is just a simple fruit stand, but there is just something mouth-wateringly delicious about seeing that fruit on a hot Florida morning!

~Bottom Line~

Disney World is known for its food selections just as much as it is known for characters and rides.  Offering everything from over-the-top experiences to cereal and milk, breakfast at Disney World is a great way to start your magical day – enjoy!! What is your “can’t miss” favorite?


Free Disney Dining offer this fall

July 22, 2012 Cheryl 2

Planning on heading to Walt Disney World this fall?  Maybe after reading this you might!  Disney is offering a free Dining Plan if you stay on property most nights Sept. 30 – Oct. 4, Oct. 19 – Nov. 1, Nov. 9-15, Nov. 23-29 and Dec. 10-13, 2012!  Book by Sept. 29, 2012, and stay at a one of the All- Star Resorts and get a free Quick Service Dining Plan.  Stay at any of the other properties, and you will get the Disney Dining Plan free!!  Call or email me for details!!


Plaza Restaurant

July 21, 2012 Cheryl 0
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Located just off Main Street, USA this Victorian-inspired full-service restaurant has plenty of turn of the century charm.  The restaurant itself is not very large, and the menu is limited to soup, sandwiches, burgers, and salads, but it is well known as the least expensive table-service restaurant in the park, and is one of our favorite spots to grab a meal while at the Magic Kingdom because you can’t beat the desserts!

The last time we visited the Magic Kingdom, I made sure we had a reservation for the Plaza Restaurant, as it is often very crowded and the wait times without a reservation can be very long (if you can get in at all).  We were dining at 5 pm, but there is no difference between the lunch and dinner menus.

After being seated, the three of us (my husband, son, and I) looked over the menus.  My husband and I have some food allergies, so when I made the reservation I noted them on the reservation form.  The chef came out of the kitchen personally to go over the menu and discuss which items would be ok, and which to avoid.  While he was standing there, my son dropped his crayon on the floor and hit is head on the table while standing up.  After making sure he was all right, the chef immediately called over the head waitress and ordered my son an appetizer-sized cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream to calm him down. Now, I am not a big proponent of soothing kids with food, but I have never seen tears turn to a smile that quickly…talk about some Disney Magic!

We placed our orders, and waited for our dinner to arrive. Several times a day, the Mayor and other character inhabitants of Main Street will come in to the restaurant and interact with the guests, so we were treated to a show while we waited for food to arrive.  The service was fairly quick, and soon we had our meals.

My husband ordered the Angus Chuck Cheeseburger ($13.99), which is a nice sized burger served on a Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, and onion. You then can choose from the following toppings: Cheddar, American cheese, bacon, grilled mushrooms, or grilled onions, and comes with your choice of broccoli slaw, homemade chips, or French fries.  Veggie burgers are also available upon request.  He pretty much loaded up his burger, and had it with a side of fries.  He rated the burger as average, but liked all of the topping options.

I ordered the Plaza Club ($11.49), which is a pretty standard club sandwich with ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise layered on sourdough bread. I added cheese and paired it with the French fries.  The sandwich was very tasty, and large – I probably left about half of it so I would have room for dessert!

My son ordered off of the Children’s Menu, and got a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, grapes, and white milk ($8.59 including dessert). Pretty standard fare, and he woofed it down with no complaints – his “head injury” long forgotten!

Now, no trip to the Plaza Restaurant is complete without ordering something sweet from the dessert menu!  Ice Cream is “imported” from The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, and is the perfect ending to your meal.  Menu items include cheesecake and a wide variety of ice cream concoctions ranging from simple bowls of ice cream to floats and shakes to banana splits and brownie sundaes.   Our family’s favorite though is The Plaza Restaurant Sundae ($4.99).  This classic sundae includes the ice cream of your choice (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mint chocolate chip, no sugar added raspberry sherbet, no sugar added butter pecan, or nonfat chocolate-vanilla swirl) topped with choice of hot fudge, strawberry sauce, crushed pineapple, chopped nuts, whipped cream, and a cherry.  Yummy, and perfect for sharing! And if it happens to be your birthday…they will serenade you and present you with a special birthday cupcake, complete with candle!!

One more added bonus of eating at the Plaza Restaurant is that if you time it right, you can walk right outside and have a prime viewing spot for the parades or fireworks!

So, if you are looking for a place to cool off, grab a simple meal, and some delicious ice cream, consider making a stop at the Plaza Restaurant during your next visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Planning Tip:

Although they do take walk-ups on a first-come, first-serve basis, I recommend making advance reservations for this restaurant.   Park admission to Magic Kingdom Park is required, and the Disney Dining Plan is accepted (1 Table-Service Meal).


“Celebrate America” Disney style!

July 20, 2012 Cheryl 0
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I am a fireworks junkie…let me just put that out there to begin with.  At home, I have been known to drive around looking for fireworks, and then stop on the side of the road to watch the show. I plan all of my Disney dining reservations based on the pyrotechnics display I want to see that night…and camp out an hour before the show on Main Street with my ice cream cone in hand waiting like a little kid, giddy with excitement.  I also love the 4th of July…I get my yearly flag t-shirts in May, and plan out our picnic schedule so that we have enough time to get to the fireworks show.  So last year, when we were planning our yearly trek to see the Mouse, I was so excited to finally celebrate Independence Day at Disney World!

We had the whole thing planned out…Magic Kingdom on the 3rd and Hollywood Studios on the 4th!  Magic Kingdom, which boasts amazing fireworks every night of the year, goes all out on the Fourth, by presenting “Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky”.  And they always do a “preview” night on the 3rd, so I figured that we would do that that night before, and then head over to Hollywood Studios for their special show, since they only do fireworks twice a year – on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve.

As you can imagine, I am not the only one who thought celebrating Independence Day in Disney World would be a good idea!  The crowds were overwhelming (although not quite as bad as on New Year’s Eve) and we spent a good part of the day waiting in line.  Luckily we had a dinner reservation at the Plaza Restaurant, so we were able to get out of the heat…and because our waiter gave us the best tip ever – “Instead of watching the fireworks from Main Street with the tens of thousands of other people, head over to the Polynesian Beach and watch them from there.”  This man was brilliant!!

We left the Magic Kingdom and went down to the beach at the Polynesian.  It was crowded, but nothing like Main Street.  We were vacationing with friends, so while my husband set up the tripod for the pictures, my son built sand castles with his buddy.  Everyone relaxed on the beach until the show started.   And when I tell you this was the best firework show I have ever seen, I am not exaggerating.  The music was piped in just as if you were at the Castle, they shot off the fireworks from multiple locations in the park, and it ended with the Patriotic Electric Water Pageant.  Twice the show, a quarter of the crowds, and it honestly felt like the whole display was done just for us.   Plus, we were already one monorail stop ahead of everyone else – so we just made our way over to the transportation center., got on the tram to our car, and we beat the traffic out to our hotel!  Double bonus!

We went ahead with our original plan to go to Hollywood Studios on the 4th.  We spent a very hot and humid day standing in more lines, and by about 7 pm we were all pretty much done.  Being the fireworks junkie that I am, I really wanted to stick it out to see the show, but even I had to concede that waiting around with the crowds for another 3 hours wasn’t worth it.  So we decided to push our luck and make our way over to Disney’s Polynesian Resort again to see if we could make the show there.  The Disney Fairies must have sprinkled a lot of pixie dust on us, because we were able to make it from the Hollywood Studios to the Disney Transportation Center, find a place to park, get a tram, and then walk to the Polynesian in time for the show!  It was a little more crowded this time, but we still got a good spot on the beach, and had time to relax before the show.  And once again…it was breathtaking.   The Water Pageant, the music, the castle, the fireworks, and the way that we actually were able to relax and enjoy the moment when just a few hours earlier we were on the verge of major meltdown…that was probably the most amazing part of all.  I am sorry that I missed the show over the Sorcerer’s Hat, but as great as that might have been, I don’t think it could top Magic Kingdom’s concert in the sky.

Planning Tip:

4th of July week at The Walt Disney Resort is one of the most popular times of the year to go, so expect lots of crowds, lots of time standing in line, and (being that it is Florida in July) lots of sweating.  Usually I would recommend taking a break in the middle of the day, but when the parks are that full there is a chance that they might close to new visitors and you will not be allowed back in.  Remember to build in some time where you and the kids can relax in a shady spot or run through a sprinkler, visit the Baby Care Center, or even strategically schedule a lunch or dinner at an air-conditioned restaurant so the whole family can cool off.

Look at me…I’m a blogger!!

July 18, 2012 Cheryl 0
[caption id="attachment_251" align="alignleft" width="425"] Fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle – my happy place![/caption]

Hi!  Welcome to my Blog!  My name is Cheryl Koren, and I am a Magic Maker with Off to Neverland Travel, LLC. What is a Magic Maker you ask?  Let me tell you…it is part travel consultant, part concierge, part Disney aficionado, part globe-trotter, and part Disney fan – all wrapped up with a little bit of Pixie Dust!  Travel is my passion, and I love planning trips both for my family and for my client’s families.  My goal is for everyone to have an exceptional and unforgettable Disney vacation filled with magical memories that last a lifetime.

I chose to specialize in Disney travel because I believe Disney provides a level of service and entertainment that no other destination can provide. And while Disney is my specialty,  Off to Neverland Travel, LLC is a full-service travel agency, so whether your personal Neverland is a beach in the Caribbean, a city in Europe, a cruise to Hawaii, or a ski-lodge is South America, I can help you with any of your vacation dreams.

As I said, travel is my passion.  I have traveled extensively in the United States, South America, Europe, and the Caribbean, spent an unforgettable week in Dubai, UAE,  lived in Brazil for a year, and this summer will mark my 13th visit to the Walt Disney World® Resort!  Along the way I have seen and done a lot of things, met some incredible people, and picked up some tips I would like to share with you!

So, what is this blog all about you ask?  I will be chatting about the restaurants, shows, attractions, and characters that make Disney World my happy place; sharing any travel news I hear about, so that you are up to date on the latest travel deals, trends, and itinerary options;  and, who knows what else…I guess we can find out together!  I will do my best to give you my honest impressions as well as provide some useful planning information.  I welcome your feedback and would love to hear your stories, tips, and recommendations!