Splash Mountain x3

December 14, 2012 Cheryl 1
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Splash Mountain is a log-flume style ride that Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort, and even Tokyo Disneyland have versions of.  It is based on the 1946 Disney movie “Song of the South”, and features the characters, stories, and songs from the film.  The rides at the three parks are different, but each includes gentle floating sections, dark portions, a huge 5-story drop into the briar patch, and run the risk of soaking the passengers!

The Disneyland version is located in Critter Country, and Guests ride aboard six/seven-seater logs with six single-file seats. (The last seat in each log is larger and allows room for larger guests or an adult and a small child).  The log departs the loading area and ascends two conveyor-type lifts before floating gently past the homes of the three main characters.   Before the logs enter the indoor portion, snoring is heard emanating from B’rer Bear’s cave. After a short drop down “Slippin’ Falls”, riders enter the indoor portion of the attraction, where various Audio-Animatronic critters sing the attraction’s first musical number, “How Do You Do?”   Guests float along as the story unfolds, the songs “Everybody’s Got a Laughin’ Place” and “Burrow’s Lament” are heard, and right before the drop B’rer Rabbit is seen alongside the hill, about to be eaten by B’rer Fox.   But B’rer Rabbit outsmarts his chasers by tricking them into throwing him into the briar patch (where he was born and raised) and passengers are sent down the final large drop into the briar patch, mimicking his fall.   At the bottom, the collective weight of the passengers determines how wet everyone will get when the log dives into the full pond at the bottoms – so take a look around you to see who else is riding with you, and then duck!!  As you are drying off, the logs head back inside where the full-cast sings “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and you can see a preview of the pictures that were taken during your descent.   Fastpass is available for this ride.

The Disney World version of the ride is located in in the Magic Kingdom in Frontierland, across the way from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and near the Disney Railroad station.  Guests board double seated eight-passenger logs, and leave the loading area while Br’er Frog narrates an introduction to the story.  After a quick incline and drop into a small pond, they go up again to where they float gently through scenery designed to make you feel like you are floating on a river in Southern Georgia.  While listening to an instrumental version of “How Do You Do”, riders float by the homes of the three main characters, farm equipment, and stagecoach wagons before heading down a short drop over “Slippin’ Falls”, and enter the indoor portion of the ride.    Here, Audio-Animatronic animals sing the attraction’s first musical number, “How Do You Do?” and the story of how Br’er Rabbit leaves his home in search of adventure while being and being pursued by Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear is told.  There are several gentle twists and turns and a few small drops, which all lead to the climactic climb up a very large hill and a 5-story drop down into the Briar Patch!!  Remember to smile (or make your funny faces like my family does) on your descent, since this is where the on-ride photo is taken.  After another outdoor segment, the log returns to the inside, where all of the critters are singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” in celebration of Br’er Rabbit’s return!   This ride is actually one of the longer rides at the Magic Kingdom, which makes the wait seem more worthwhile, although Fastpass is available for this ride.

Splash Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland is very similar to the Florida version of the ride, with just a few exceptions. The ride’s layout is actually a mirror image of Florida’s – the story being that it is told from the other side of the river!  Other differences – the show scenes are done in a different order, the dialog is done in Japanese, all of the secondary characters are different, and the final drop the only outdoor one on the ride.

Guests must be at least 40 inches to ride Splash Mountain, and there are dark portions of this ride that may scare younger children, plus you definitely feel the fall!!  However, on a hot summer day, it is a great way to cool off!!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Official – the New Fantasyland is open!!

December 6, 2012 Cheryl 1
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It’s official!!  Today, the Magic Kingdom marked the grand opening of its new Fantasyland with opening of new and reimagined attractions inspired by “The Little Mermaid”, Dumbo, and “Beauty and the Beast.”  Although parts of the new area have been open for months (Storybook Circus), and several attractions have been on a trial run period for weeks, Walt Disney World threw a big party to celebrate!  Today’s grand opening included hosts Ginnifer Goodwin, star of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, and American Idol alum Jordin Sparks…plus a bunch of Disney executives, your favorite characters, some fireworks, and a whole section of media outlets from around the world!

This project was largest expansion in the park’s 41-year history, doubling the size of the original Fantasyland, and tripling the number of castles!!  Located beneath the Beast’s Castle is the Be Our Guest Restaurant featuring French-cuisine and beer and wine at night. Outside of the Castle is Enchanted Tales with Belle, a character interaction experience, and inside Belle’s Village is Gaston’s Tavern, where you can buy  LeFou’s Brew –  apple juice with just a hint of toasted marshmallow and passion fruit-mango foam.  I have heard it compares to Butter Beer over at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ (which is really yummy by the way – especially the frozen kind) but I haven’t had a chance to taste it yet.  Head east and you’ll reach another new castle — Prince Eric’s Castle. This is part of the new attraction “Under The Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid”, and is located in the lagoon where “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” used to be.

And there is more to come – opening in 2013, the Princess Fairytale Hall is where the Disney Princesses will be available for meet and greets.  Then, opening sometime in 2014, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will allow families to partake in exhilarating journey inspired by the classic Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I am really looking forward to this ride – apparently it features a first-of-its-kind ride system, and I am interested to see what that means!!

All in all a very exciting day to be at the Magic Kingdom – I wish I was there to celebrate!!

For more pictures of all of the festivities, please click here!

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Are you getting ready to head down to The Walt Disney World Resort to see all the new and exciting attractions?  Let me help you plan your trip!  Contact me today, and let’s get planning!!

Cheryl Tennant Koren • Magic Maker
Off to Neverland Travel® – An Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

New Fantasyland Preview!

November 26, 2012 Cheryl 3
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My friend Jessica S. recently took a family vacation to the Most Magical Place on Earth, and was lucky enough to get behind the wall and preview the New Fantasyland!  Read all about her experience here and check out all of her great pictures!!

The New Fantasyland is the largest expansion to the Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom since it’s opening.  It is now in Preview, and will be having its Grand Opening on December 6, 2012.  The New Fantasyland includes two new sections – Storybook Circus (which is now fully open) and Enchanted Forest.  The Storybook Circus section includes the new and improved Dumbo the Flying Elephant Ride, the Barnstormer, Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station: and the new Walt Disney World Railroad Fantasyland Station!  The Enchanted Forest attractions and experiences include Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Ariel’s Grotto, which will all open officially on December 6th.  Later in 2103 The Princess Fairytale Hall will open, and in 2014 the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will open.  In addition to the rides and attractions, the architecture is beautiful, and there are lots of characters and new food items to try as well.  Based on everything I have heard and seen, this new section is beautiful and a must see for the whole family!  Have you seen the New Fantasyland?  What did you think?

2013 Walt Disney World® Marathon Discount Rooms

November 21, 2012 Cheryl 2
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The 2013 Walt Disney World® Marathon, taking place on Sun, January 13, 2013, will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Marathon.  And what a weekend it will be – the events include a marathon, half-marathon, Goofy’s Challenge (both the full and half marathons!), the family 5K, kids races, as well as an expo and pasta party!  Not running?  There are tons of opportunities to cheer on those that are!!

With a course that travels through all four Walt Disney World® theme parks, the Walt Disney World® Marathon route offers plenty of scenery for runners and will be the most magical 26.2 miles you will ever run on Earth! The course starts at Epcot®, continues on to the Magic Kingdom® Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios® before an awesome finish back at Epcot®. Along the way, you will find many photo opportunities along the way with Disney characters and parade floats.  In celebration of the 20th Anniversary, runDisney® has made a couple changes to the route. Between miles 8 & 9, the course will take a lap around the Walt Disney World® Speedway! Also, a run through Champion® Stadium, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves will be part of the course! A “Mile 20 Spectacular” is also being planned inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, but full entertainment details have yet to be released! Also, an additional post-race party will be held in the Downtown Disney® Area on Sunday.  The half-marathon (held on Saturday) will wind through the Magic Kingdom® and Epcot®!

Now for the REALLY good news –  as an extra bonus, Off to Neverland Travel is offering discounted room rates at select Walt Disney World® Resort Hotels for Disney’s Marathon Weekend. Availability of these discounts are limited, so contact me today to reserve your spot.

Booking Window:

Today through December 5, 2012 (or while availability lasts)

Offer Details:

Save up to 40% on your stay for  Disney’s Marathon Weekend at select Walt Disney World® Resort Hotels. Available Resorts include:

  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Stays may be extended to arrive before or depart after Disney’s Marathon Weekend, but are based on Resort availability.  Discount tickets and dining plans are available as well.  Call me today!!

 

Celebrating the Holidays in Central Florida 2012

November 7, 2012 Cheryl 15
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I heard my first Christmas song last week – I know, the first week of November and it started already!!  I still remember being a little kid and driving home from Thanksgiving dinner and seeing all of the Christmas lights coming on for the first time.  Now every store you look in has decorations out, the toy catalog’s have been delivered, and radio stations are devoting 24 hours a day to Christmas songs!!  So, I guess it is time to start thinking about the winter holidays, and what better a place to celebrate than in Central Florida!!

All of the Florida Theme Parks (and some hotels too) really go all out during the holiday season.  Here are just some of the great events!

The Walt Disney World Resort®

From Main Street USA to the hotels, the Walt Disney World Resort really goes all out for the winter holidays!  The Animal Kingdom has a special parade called Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade, where the spirit of the savanna blends with the energy of the holidays.  All of the resorts get a holiday makeover, but none is as dramatic as Disney’s Grand Floridian and Spa.  They have a 45-foot tree, and a life-size edible Gingerbread House where you can actually purchase gingerbread and other holiday treats!  Amazing!!  Here are some other holiday goings-ons around the World:

Magic Kingdom

Beginning on November 9th and running on certain evenings through December 21st is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  This separate ticketed event includes park admission, free cocoa and cookies, holiday themed shows and fireworks, characters dressed in their holiday finest, and an amazing view of Cinderella’s Castle decked out in twinkle lights!  In December the holiday parades, castle display and special fireworks are also available during regular park days as well.  Santa arrives on his sleigh, the whole park is decorated in its Christmas finest, and there are tons of festive goodies to eat.  Look out, you might even see some magical snow!

Hollywood Studios

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.  Plus, the Walt Disney World® Resort has announced that this year, Santa Goofy will join the fun inside his very own Winter Wonderland. This area will serve as a meet and greet area during The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

Epcot

Visit the American Garden Theatre on select nights November 23 – December 30 to hear a celebrity narrator retell the story of Christmas, accompanied by a very talented choir and a 50-piece orchestra, in Holidays Around the World – candlelight Processional.  This beautiful holiday spectacular is free with your park ticket and can also be combined with a lunch or dinner, fireworks, and guaranteed seating selection with the Candlelight Dinner Package.  And be sure to check out all of the Christmas Markets in the World Showcase!

Celebration

Although not technically part of Walt Disney World, it is the town that Disney built.  From November 24th – December 31st, the town will be hosting the Now Snowing! Winter Wonderland Spectacular.  Four times per night the air will be filled with snow flakes, without that pesky cold that usually comes with them!  Santa will be on hand to take pictures, there will be strolling holiday carolers, and you can even take a spin around Celebration’s ice rink.

Universal Orlando Resort®

Not to be outdone by by it’s neighbor across town, Universal Orlando Resort® is filled with it’s own style of holiday cheer! During select dates in December, Universal Island of Adventure patrons get the chance to frolic about Seuss Landing with the Who’s of Whoville and witness Christmas coming to life Grinch style!  Need more Grinch?  He will be available for photo’s and you can even have breakfast with him at The Grinch™ & Friends Character Breakfast.

On the other side of the Universal Orlando, in Universal Studios Florida®, direct from New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade are floats and balloons brought to life again in Florida’s version of the classic tradition – Macy’s Holiday Parade!  Your little ones will love A Barney® Holiday, and adults will love The Blues Broth Brothers® Holiday Show, where you can see Jake and Elwood perform festive favorites like “Santa Claus is Coming To Town,” “Blue Christmas,” and more with snow on Delancey Street at the end of each show.  Plus on select Saturday and Sunday nights, Mannheim Steamroller, the biggest selling Christmas artist of all time, will perform!  The show starts at 6 pm on December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, and 23.

SeaWorld Orlando®

Waves of holiday spirit abound at SeaWorld during the holiday season!  This theme park goes all out for the holidays, with updates holiday shows such as A Sesame Street Christmas, Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas, Winter Wonderland on Ice, and Shamu Christmas- Miracles.  Guests can take  a walk through a wintery, watery wonderland and immerse themselves in a sea of holiday trees, take in O Wondrous Night – a show that tells the greatest story never told, with more than 30 carols, based upon the Christmas Story and told through the eyes of a variety of live animals. and end their day with a spectacular evening show with soaring fountains, dazzling lights, and festive fireworks, choreographed to joyous holiday musical favorites.  And no holiday trip to SeaWorld is complete without a a wondrous journey to the North Pole aboard THE POLAR EXPRESS!

Gaylord Palms

Featuring more than 2 million twinkling lights, visits with Santa, holiday music and a 54-foot-tall Christmas tree, Gaylord Palms brings ICE! featuring DreamWorks’ Merry Madagascar and Christmassy DreamWorks Experience to Orlando November 10, 2012 – January 1, 2013.  Merry Madagascar will be brought to life in an interactive world of colorful ice sculptures and two-story tall ice slides carved entirely from TWO MILLION pounds of ice!!  You can also decorate gingerbread cookies with Gingy, become an honorary Ogre and meet the rest of the gang from Shrek! at a fairytale feast fit for a king at ShrekFeast or get your picture taken with Po from KungFu Panda!   And if that isn’t enough, you can join in on a scavenger hunt hosted by Jack Frost and the rest of the guardians at Rise of the Guardians Adventure Scavenger Hunt.

Busch Gardens Tampa

This winter, Busch Gardens will transform into a nighttime holiday wonderland of wintery surprises and all things Christmas. Explore more than 20 all-new Christmas attractions, shows, rides, dining and shopping options and themed areas throughout Christmas Town.  You will have so many options to celebrate the yuletide season –   visit Santa’s House and get a peek inside The Claus Family home at the North Pole, take a ride on the Christmas Town Express train and sing along to traditional holiday songs, join your favorite Sesame Street characters at Sesame Street Season of Fun, check out the penguins, see a living angel statue, or visit the nativity scene.  Visit Candy Lane, Ice Wonder Way, and Jungle Jubilee to see how beautifully the park has been transformed into a winter wonderland.  And finally, you will find  the perfect holiday gift and delicious seasonal treats as you explore Christmas Town Village, with real, frozen snow, quaint cabin shops and an exclusive performance each night by Jars of Clay.
Seems like there are a ton of options to celebrate the season in the Orlando area…wish I was going this year!!

 

Traveling with little ones…

October 28, 2012 Guest Blogger 1
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Today we have a special treat!  My friend Jessica S. (who loves Disney World as much as I do) has shared some of her tips on traveling with little ones:

We are the proud parents of four, yes four, little ladies. Our girls are ages 7, 6, 5 and 1 ½ so any vacation we take must be kid friendly and a Disney vacation is just that! We have learned a few tricks over the years that help make things a little bit easier though!

1. If you are flying, have each child bring their own backpack. Each of our girls brings a backpack with a change of clothes, their blanket and a favorite stuffed animal (you never know who might get upset or scared on the plane and want their security item with them!). I also make sure to pack them each some snacks in their bag, things like lollipops, fruit snacks, and gum for takeoff and landing as well as crackers, pretzels, etc. We also pack any schoolwork in their backpacks and we work on that during the flight. That way, they can get it done early in the vacation and not have to worry about it again!

2. We decided that we would always stay on Disney property, this way we don’t have to worry about transporting and installing car seats on the plane or rental car. The Disney transportation is super easy to use and so convenient! The only thing I would suggest is to make sure you leave yourself enough time to get to your destination – sometimes using the busses can take up to an hour or so to get from place to place.

3. The unit we stay in has a kitchen so we use a grocery delivery service to order groceries before our vacation and they are delivered to our resort the day we check in! We have always used the Disney Dining Plan but it is so nice to have some food back at our room for those mornings when we don’t have a breakfast reservation and can take some time to have a relaxing meal at “home”. We also make sure to buy some kid snacks and bottles of water to take to the parks with us. I always take a cooler of water bottles (that way you don’t waste your snack credits on water and can get something yummy like popcorn, a Mickey ice cream bar or a famous Dole Whip!) and snacks for the kids like goldfish, grapes, pretzels, etc.

4. Bring or rent a stroller! Even if you think your little one won’t need it, you would be surprised how tired they will be! The Disney strollers are awesome! They are lightweight and easy to push. I highly recommend them! You can rent a stroller for the entire length of your stay and pay for it all at once. Then you just keep your receipt and show it to the cast member at the stroller rental place at whatever park you are going to and they stamp you for that day; easy and convenient. The only thing I would say about the Disney strollers is that there is not much storage so if you bring bags with you, you may want to bring a backpack or bring your own stroller that has more storage underneath.

5. I learned after our first trip to Disney to let the kids set the pace. If they are tired and need a rest, take a rest! You can find areas in each of the parks to just let the kids play for a while or you could head back to your resort and take advantage of the pool! I learned that if you push your kids to do everything you want them to do; no one is going to have a very fun vacation.

6. Let each child pick out a few things that they want to do/see/ride. Each of our girls has a few specific things that they like to do each year and so we always make sure that they get to do them, even if no one else wants to! Everyone takes turns and eventually, everyone is happy!

7. Before you leave your house, know and understand that you and your children will be exhausted from this trip! Disney is super fun but it is also super exhausting – so take naps, go to be dearly one night and sleep in a day or two – or just know that when you go home you may need a day or two to recuperate before entering back in to reality (I refer to this as my Disney detox period!)

8. Most importantly, remember to relax and have fun with your kids! It can be as magical for you as it is for them if you enjoy it and watch the magic and wonder in their eyes!

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A little bit about me…my name is Jessica S., and I am a 30-something 🙂:) wife to an amazing man and mother of 4 beautiful little ladies. We live in a small town in Pennsylvania and we love it here. Before we had our girls, I was an elementary school teacher for 7 years and loved my job. But now, I am extremely lucky to be able to stay home with my girlies, and for that I am very thankful. They have made our lives much more fun (and busier!) than we ever imagined – but it is exactly what we want!  I took my first trip to Disney World when I was 9 years old but it wasn’t until I went with my husband and girls that I became hooked! Now, we all look forward to our Disney vacation each year!  You can read more about me at my blog A Real Perspective.

Where is the best spot to watch Wishes®?

October 23, 2012 Cheryl 2
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Those of you who know me, or follow this blog, you know that I love fireworks!  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.  So this summer during our vacation at Walt Disney World®, I decided to conduct a little experiment to see where the best spot would be to watch Wishes®!  Here were the contenders: Main Street U.S.A. by the flagpole, the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the viewing deck at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and near the marina the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  I am sure that there are tons of other viewing areas, but unfortunately there were not enough vacation nights to see them all.  Thankfully there is always next time!!  Here are the results of my not-so-scientific-but-oh-so-fun experiment!

Main Street U.S.A.

It is no secret that I love pretty much everything about Main Street – from the architecture, to the popcorn smell, to the shops, the food, the parades, and of course the fireworks.  This to me is the quintessential firework viewing spot…but there is a downside – the crowds.  You have to fight for your spot, and then possibly even have to fight to hold onto your spot.  Parents lift their kids up onto their shoulders and block your view.  People lean over to get a picture and block you view.  People show up at the last minute and stand right in front of you and block your view.  You get the idea -there are a lot of people!  You will also have to deal with all of those same people after the show – on your way back to your hotel.  However, crowds’ aside, watching the colors explode directly over the castle has got to be the best view that there is.  Plus you get to see any castle pre-shows there happen to be, and you don’t miss out on the evening parades.  It is a classic viewing spot, and, with the exception of everyone else enjoying the show with you, you really can’t go wrong if you are on Main Street U.S.A.

Beach at the Polynesian

The beach at the Polynesian Resort is incredibly relaxing, relatively empty (except on holidays), gives the kids something to do while waiting, the Wishes® music is piped in, and there are even spots to grab an adult beverage to enjoy with the show.   Downsides – mosquitoes, sandy shoes and clothes, the distance and angle of the fireworks show, and transportation.  As the Polynesian Resort is located across the lake from the Magic Kingdom, and furthest away from the park, the fireworks do not seem as huge as they do from Main Street.  And, they are not situated directly over the castle – they seem to be going off slightly to the left of it.  That being said, the view of the fireworks being reflected on the water is breathtaking.  Transportation can also be an issue, depending where you are staying.  If you parked at the Transportation and Ticket Center, then all you need to do is walk over and grab a tram and you are ahead of the crowds – so that is a good thing!  If, however, you are staying on property and need to grab a bus back to your hotel, you will need to take either the boat or the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom, and grab transportation there.  You will probably get stuck in the mass exodus, and have to wait for a while to get to your room.

 

Viewing deck at the Contemporary


There are actually two viewing decks at the Contemporary Resort, but one of them is located off of the California Grill, and you need to have a reservation to get onto the elevator to see the show from there.  The deck I am talking about is off of the main floor.  The entrance is located behind the gift shops the opposite side of the floor from Chef Mickey’s.   From there you can go up the stairs if you want to get a higher view (J went up there to get the pictures), or sit at one of the benches and wait for the show to start.  Upsides to watching the show here – they pipe in the Wishes® music, it isn’t crowded, you are almost over the castle so it offers a very unique view (the fireworks are to the right of the castle this time), and they offer seating.  Downsides – the monorails do not stop just because there are fireworks going on so they can be distracting, the hotel is very close to the parking lot and if any car alarms are set off by the fireworks (as they were that night) it can be very distracting, again the fireworks are not directly over the castle, and transportation can be an issue.  The Contemporary is within walking distance of the bus depot at the Magic Kingdom; however, if you need to get to the Ticket and Transportation Center you will have to ride the Monorail with the rest of the exiting crowd.

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

There are plenty of viewing spots at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, but we chose to stake out ours near the marina at the end of the wing closest to the Magic Kingdom.  It was just us, and one other family watching the show, which made it pretty special – like the show was just for us.  That being said, there was no music playing (maybe there is on the boat launch?) so the show didn’t seem as emotional as it is with the music.  The angle of the fireworks seemed off as well – very far to the left of the castle.  Again, not a big deal to most, but to me, I like to see the fireworks directly over the castle.  The same transportation issues exist as well, which are compounded if you take the monorail, as you will be competing with everyone leaving the Magic Kingdom that were at the first stop.

Final Conclusion

Anywhere you see Wishes® is fantastic, but if it were up to me, I would either pick Main Street if I were already in the park (unless it was a holiday, then even for me the crowds are too much!) or the beach at the Polynesian.  There is just something so relaxing about it and just the thought of watching the fireworks while sitting on the beach that makes me happy.  So now its time for you to weigh in – where is your favorite spot to watch Wishes®?

Tips for traveling to Walt Disney World with babies or toddlers

October 18, 2012 Cheryl 4

Thanks to fantastic Baby Care Centers, and attractions geared for little tikes, the Walt Disney World Resort® makes it easier than ever to visit with a baby or toddler.  Plus, anyone under the age of 3 does not need an admission ticket, so that make a Disney trip even more affordable.  Listed below are some travel tips and suggestions for making baby’s first visit a magical and memorable one!

 

Quick Travel Tips 

  • When flying with an infant or child under the age of 2, consider Southwest Airlines. If a seat is open, they will allow you to take the extra seat for your child absolutely free. Not to mention that bags fly free!
  • If flying with a toddler or young child, consider using the CARES restraint system. It keeps your child safely and legally secured in their seat onboard the aircraft without having to lug around a big car seat.
  • If flying, purchase Gate Check bags to help protect your stroller and car seat. They fold easily into their own zipper pockets for easy storage and help protect your items from grease and dirt when gate checked.
  • If you are driving, try to leave at bedtime or nap time.  Plan on making stops every few hours, and add an additional nights stay on the way down and the way back.
  • For babies eating solid foods, consider purchasing a Boon brand spoon. It allows you to scoop baby food into the spoon and simply squeeze to dispense for baby. It makes feeding baby on the plane or in the car that much easier.
  • The change in cabin pressure on flights can hurt little ears. Make sure baby has a pacifier or bottle at take-off and landing. Or if they are on solids, feed baby or toddler puffs or cereal, water, or any snack of your choice during take-off and landing.
  • For babies, grab small toys that can be tied together with one piece of ribbon or string. That way when baby drops the toys, they are all tethered together and are easy to retrieve.
  • For toddlers, pack a craft box to keep them happy on the flight or car ride to Disney. Crayons, paper, stickers, etc… can make all the difference.  A Disney movie on your iPad is also a good way to pass the time.  Educational phone apps are also good.
  • If taking your own stroller, I do not recommend umbrella strollers. In my experience, they do not provide enough sun protection or back support for a full day at the Disney parks. Bring your large or jogging stroller for plenty of shade, comfort, and storage space. Or rent from Disney.

While in the Parks

The great stroller debate – do I use mine or rent one from Disney?

Either option is great. Disney’s strollers are roomy, provide shade, turn on a dime, and have some storage. However, they will add to the cost of your vacation at $15 per single or $31 per double each day, and they are not as comfortable as others. For guests of the WDW Resort hotels, Length-of-Stay stroller rentals are available for a few dollars less. But this daily rental fee can significantly add up. By renting at Disney and not bringing your own, you free up your car if driving, and you do not have to worry about your stroller becoming possibly damaged on the airplane if flying.  There are also stroller rental companies in the Orlando area that will drop off and pick up the stroller right from your hotel.

Personally, we like to bring our own stroller from home. It is familiar, it has plenty of shade and storage, and the drink cups come in very handy for mom and dad. Having our own stroller at the airport makes getting through security and from gate to gate much easier as well. And the most important feature: it saves us a lot of money. Our stroller is also much easier to pick out in sea of Disney strollers when we are coming out of an attraction and looking for ours. My son is now 6 and we still bring the stroller – mostly to push our stuff (drinks, snacks, camera gear) around – just in case he gets tired.

Regardless of which stroller you decide to use, be sure to pack a rain cover or extra rain poncho to cover your stroller before each ride or show. Florida rain showers come unexpectedly and come down hard like a monsoon. And you don’t want to return to a soaking wet stroller. Netting covers are also very helpful to ward off Florida bugs. Also note, if you are staying on property and utilizing Disney transportation, all strollers need to be folded on buses and trams.

Need a double?

There are lots of fabulous double strollers out there. However, we have seen a constant trend at Disney parks with parents of multiple children. The 2012 City Mini Double Stroller is a huge favorite. It fits through doorways, is more compact, folds in a snap with one hand, has two separate sunshades, supportive and comfy seats and is a breeze to push through the parks.

Take advantage of Disney’s Baby Care Centers, located inside each park

Each of the four Walt Disney World Parks has a Baby Care Center. Check your park map for the location. They are typically located right next to first aid. These Centers are amazing! They allow you to nurse your baby privately in comfortable nursing rooms, change baby, feed baby with every kitchen gizmo or tool you might need (including microwaves and bottle warmers), a store to purchase baby basics, a play room for toddlers and older children, complete with Disney cartoons playing, and more. And most importantly, on hot days, this is a cool, comfortable, and quiet refuge for you and your family. The Studios’ Baby Care Center is the smallest of the four, but still has everything you need.

Unfortunately, there are no Baby Care Centers located at Downtown Disney. If you need a quiet, private spot to nurse, bottle feed or soothe a tired little one, I, along with Cast Members, recommend one of the fitting rooms inside the World of Disney store. I personally recommend the fitting room inside the men’s wear area. It is used less often than the women’s or kids section so you won’t have a line forming outside. The fitting rooms there are large enough to wheel your stroller in and you have a large bench to sit on as well. So it works out perfectly.

Attraction Recommendations for children under 36 months old

This, of course, like any of my other recommendations, is subject to your good judgment. No one knows your child better than you. These rides are gentle and allow parents to hold their baby on their lap during the ride. Entertainment recommendations are also listed.

Magic Kingdom

It’s a Small World

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

The Little Mermaid Ride

Magic Carpet Rides

Country Bear Jamboree

Jungle Cruise

Walt Disney World Railroad

Winnie the Pooh

Carousel of Progress

Tomorrowland Speedway

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade (find shade)

Dream Along with Mickey (no shade available)

Move it! Shake it! Celebrate it! Street Party (find shade)

Character Meet and Greets

* Note: loud fireworks frighten most babies. However, some older babies love them! So use your discretion for the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular Show – if they are awake that long.  If you are staying (or dining) at one of the resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon, the nightly fireworks are also visible, and they pipe in the music as well.  I like watching them from the beach at the Polynesian the best. Relaxing and it gives toddlers something to play in!

EPCOT

Journey into Imagination with Figment

Spaceship Earth (this is dark, but not scary)

Living with the Land

Gran Fiesta Tour

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Sergio the Italian Clown Juggler (Italy Pavilion)

Turtle Talk with Crush

Voices of Liberty (just sit towards the back, as they sing loudly)

Character Meet and Greets

* Note: loud fireworks frighten most babies. However, some older babies love them! So use your discretion for the Illuminations – if they are awake that long.

Hollywood Studios

Disney Jr.  Live on Stage

Toy Story Mania  – for toddlers and older children

Honey I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set – for toddlers

The American Idol Experience

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

Disney Channel Rocks / Parades (find shade near the Sorcerer’s hat)

Character Meet and Greets

Animal Kingdom

Affection Section

Discovery Island Trails

Kilimanjaro Safari (nap time and they won’t go down? This should do the trick!)

The Boneyard – for toddlers and older children

Camp Minnie-Mickey Greeting Trails and other Character Meet and Greets

TriceraTop Spin

Festival of the Lion King

Finding Nemo – The Musical

Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade (Avoid Africa area – no shade and too crowded)

Child Swap Pass: Don’t forget about the Child Swap Passes, offered at select Disney attractions. These swap passes allow parents to take turns riding their favorite non-baby rides with little to not wait for the 2nd rider. Ask a Cast Member outside each attraction for details.

Dining with Baby:

Helpful things to bring with you into the parks:

  • Travel placemat
  • Plastic bib with pocket (for smaller babies: bottle, formula, etc…)
  • Snack cup/munchies to keep baby happy until their meal is ready
  • Small toy that will keep them happy while waiting
  • Lots of wipes and your camera to capture all of those great messy eater photos!
  • Most Disney buffets will allow children under 3 to just eat from mom and dad’s plate, so that is a great money saver.

How many diapers should I bring each day?

Be prepared! Disney sells diapers in their gift shops and in some Baby Care Centers, but typically only newborn and size 1s or 2s. You can sometimes find pull-ups for older children. We always packed our diaper bag with 4-5 diapers for the day and stash 1-2 more into the stroller. You don’t want to have to interrupt your day to go purchase more off property, especially if you are staying on Disney property and have no outside transportation. You never know when baby will decide to go all day long, or if the tabs on the pair you have break. So just be prepared with as many as you can comfortably travel with. Luckily, they are compact and lightweight!

Must Haves for Baby or Toddler:

Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses (it’s really bright in Florida), rain shield, snacks, Sippy cup always filled with water or juice to stay hydrated, an extra set of clothes, and diapers with wipes. Also, it is a good idea to bring a few basic medications with you (Tylenol, Orajel, etc…) just in case. I also loved our “No Throw” strap that loops onto our stroller. It keeps baby from tossing out the Sippy cup or favorite new Disney plush! Halo Brand Technical Comfort onesies are a lifesaver in the summer. They keep baby cool and comfortable all day long. A battery-operated fan that you can attach to your stroller is a good idea too.

“Limited Time Magic” at the Disney Theme Parks in 2013!

October 17, 2012 Cheryl 0
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Disney Parks have 52 weeks of magical surprises planned for you in 2013!  As announced this morning, “Limited Time Magic” features some extra magical experiences, with some Pixie Dust sprinkled in for good measure!   These special events will be occurring about both the Disneyland® Resort and the Walt Disney World® Resort, where they will suddenly appear, and then disappear almost as quickly.   The magic ranges from Park-wide events, to special culinary treats, to limited edition merchandise, to special moments of surprise and delight, and it all begins in January of 2013!

So, what can you expect with to see with “Limited Time Magic” at Disney Parks? Here’s an idea:

  • True Love: Celebrate romance and enchantment throughout Valentine’s Week with special moments and entertainment geared to lovebirds. Disney Princes join their Princesses to meet Park Guests in special settings, prix fixe menus turn up at select restaurants and Valentine’s collectibles will be offered for the week.
  • Independence Week: It’s red, white and blue as Disney Parks salutes America with a 4th of July Fireworks Party — for an entire week, with patriotic lighting bathing the Disney castles on both coasts. Mickey Mouse appears in his patriotic finest and Guests will find special USA shirts, Ear Hats and other limited-edition souvenirs.
  • Long Lost Friends Week: Lesser-known Disney characters will move from the shadows to the spotlight meet-and-greets on both coasts. Photo opportunities with characters that could include Flik, Clarabelle Cow, Remy, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum will surprise and delight your Clients. And Disney Guests even have the chance to vote online for which characters they want to see.
  • Pirate Week: Why talk like a pirate one day when you could celebrate these scalawags all week long? The adventures of Jack Sparrow come to life like never before during a bicoastal buccaneer bash in which the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts become pirate-palooza: pirate bands, pirate meet-and-greets and more.
  • Dapper Dans Sing Boy Bands: The Dapper Dans, the iconic quartet from Main Street, U.S.A., will add a special finale to their show, claiming the title of the “Original Boy Band” and delivering a medley of hits from One Direction, *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys.
  • Unleash the Villains: Friday the 13th in September 2013 is a special day, soDisneyland Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park are staying open until the 13th hour (1 a.m.). Maleficent, Captain Hook, Jafar, and other Disney Villains host a dance party, complete with limited-edition collectibles and other nighttime mischief.
  • Golden Horseshoe Revue: The fabled Frontierland show returns to Disneyland Park for one month only, bringing back the corny jokes and enduring songs that were often enjoyed by Walt Disney himself.

I can’t decide which event I am more excited about – Pirate Week, Long Lost Friends Week, or Unleash the Villains.  And I LOVE spending the 4th of July at Walt Disney World®, so a whole week of patriotic event is going to be awesome!!  I may just have to move to Walt Disney World® to take advantage of all of these amazing events!!  Which one are you looking forward to the most?

Walt Disney World Specials for Winter 2013!!

October 10, 2012 Cheryl 0

Great things are happening at the Walt Disney World® Resort!   This December, the Magic Kingdom® Park will hold a Grand Opening of the largest part of their New Fantasyland® Area, Enchanted Forest. Here guests will enjoy new attractions and experiences including Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Ariel’s Grotto, and the new Be Our Guest Restaurant. In addition, Epcot’s® popular attraction, Test Track®, will open on December 6th, after a nearly eight-month refurbishment with an all new reimagined and interactive experience!   If these reasons aren’t enough to make you want to head down to the sunshine state, here are a few more.  I already told you about the great specials that Walt Disney World is having for the holiday season, and the great deal Off to Neverland has going for Princess Half-Marathon Weekend, well now they have added some more great deals!   You can save up to 35%* at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels this winter!!

 

Offer Details:

Disney Value and Moderate Resorts

For stays most nights Jan. 2-17 and Jan. 21 – March 7, 2013:

  • Save up to 30% at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins
  • Save up to 25% at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Save up to 15% at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Family Suites

Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts

For stays most nights Jan. 2-17 and Jan. 21 – March 7, 2013:

  • Save up to 35% at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney’s Beach Club Resort Villas, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn & Villas, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard view rooms), Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani/Jambo rooms), Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort (including Bay Lake Towers)
  • Save up to 25% at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort (including Villas)

Just add Theme Park tickets and your Clients can take advantage of all the winter fun.  Or ask about other great rates Jan 18-20, 2013.

You must book between Oct. 10 – Dec. 31, 2012 to take advantage of this deal, and the number of rooms is limited, so please contact me today to take advantage of this great offer!

* The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Length of stay requirements may apply. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room. Additional per adult charges apply if more than two adults per room. Excludes 3-bedroom villas and is not valid at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid rooms. Advance reservations required. No group rates or other discounts apply.