Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Random Mom Thought...

You know it's one of those days when it takes three glasses of ice to be able to pour yourself a Diet Coke, the first two attempts at ice having been abandoned to handle some crisis or another.

Photo Flashback! Two Chiefs & Little Miss Sunshine

Amy and DisneyDad posing with the Cigar Store Indian on Main Street in 1979.  We should recreate this with Tink in a couple of years. 

The Indian is still available for photo ops outside Crystal Arts.  This is a pretty popular place to stop for a photo.  Do you have any here?

Thanks to @hifiandy for today's title and @DisneyShawn for answering some questions regarding the Cigar Store Indian.

Monday, June 28, 2010

iPhone for Toddlers Part 1

With the release of the iPhone4 this past week, I thought I'd share some of the apps and such that we like for Tink.  I have an iPod Touch, my brother has the new iPhone, and my parents have an iPad.  No, I didn't leave my husband out.  He's content with his company Blackberry. 

My iPod is a great "I've tried everything" trick for calming and entertaining the kiddo.  It doesn't take up much room in my bag and is something I'd carry anyway.  They're surprisingly tough.  I have a cover on mine and the iPod has done just fine on more than a few falls to the tile floor.

I had downloaded a toddler app or two when I got the Touch for Christmas.  However, I realized its potential value while planning for our April trip to Walt Disney World.  This device would allow me to have games, videos, music, and photos to entertain the little one on our flights.  Once books, snacks, small toys, and tearing up the SkyMall catalog lost their appeal, I still had an ace in the hole.  Check out the full airline post here.

I'll review a few items at a time.  More will appear in future Mommy Monday posts.

TV Shows:  Episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse are available through iTunes for $1.99 each.  I've only purchased one.  Tink still doesn't have much of an attention span and kids like watching the same things over and over and over anyway.  (Chris--Peter No Tail.  Ugh.)  We have Mickey's Color Adventure which is a cute story that teaches basic colors.  I love that They Might Be Giants does the theme music for this show. 

Podcasts:  Sesame Street has a free weekly video podcast.  Just subscribe through iTunes.  Each episode is 6-8 minutes long and can really buy you a little time.  The current series is focusing on one letter each week.  Older epidsodes are also available for download and those featured the word of the day.  Sesame Street is trying to be far hipper than I remember, so that's now called "The Word on the Street." 

Apps:  One of the best dollars I have spent on an app was for Toddler Phone.  It's a pretty simple app but Tink loves it.  It has 10 buttons like those on a phone and each makes a different noise.  There are 4 screens to reinforce different topics: numbers, animals, colors, and sounds.  The one called sounds includes things like a car horn, doorbell, baby laughing, and a train whistle.  This app can entertain for a long time, just keep the volume low. 

Photos:  Tink likes looking at the photos of the baby on my iPod.  I think she likes photo time with Granny and her iPad even more.  She's even learned how to swipe the screen to advance the pictures.  The photo viewer is simple and no extra charge.    

Do you allow your toddler to play with your iPod or smartphone?  What apps do you like?  Any funny stories?

Team Favorites--Moderate Resorts

To help first-timers plan their trips, we're starting a series of some of our favorite things at Walt Disney World.  For the kick-off to the series, Amy, Ridge, and DisneyDad will each be answering the very popular question, "What is your favorite moderate resort and why?"

Disney's moderate resorts are just that.  A moderate option in price and amenities.  Nicer and more expensive than the value resorts, but not quite up to deluxe or DVC standards (or price.)  The moderates are:
  • The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside 
Ridge:  When asked about what is my favorite moderate resort, my first response is almost always Port Orleans Riverside. Why? Well the rooms are a nice size.  They are spacious for a room with two queen beds and can sleep 4 adults very comfortably. Some if not all of the rooms have a mini-fridge. Where I think the resort stands out is the themeing. At Riverside you have the charm of rustic bayou on the Alligator Bayou section. There is another side that is made a little more like a real old south plantation style where the rooms are more polished. It isn't a long walk around from the rooms to the main house where there are activities for the whole family. There is a fishing pond and you can rent a fishing pole and have at it. The pool areas are really nice and great for the kids. There is a very nice restaurant near the main check in called Boatwright's Dining Hall. The hall is designed to look like a ship is under construction but shut down and was left unfinished. The landscaping is as always impressive yet unobtrusive. There are both bus and river access to Downtown Disney.

DisneyDad:  My favorite Moderate resort is Port Orleans French Quarter. Having gone to school in New Orleans, I love the buildings reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The atmosphere at the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory Food Court is a Mardi Gras all unto itself. The theme of the pool with Poseidon riding the sea serpent makes for a fun play area for the kids.

Amy:  My recommendation and personal favorite moderate resort is Port Orleans Riverside.  The rooms are quite comfortable and I love the detail on the themeing.  In the Aligator Bayou area, the beds look like they are made of rough hewn timber.  As for creature comforts, we had a fridge and a coffee pot and the sink (double!) area had a curtain to separate it from the main room. 
The landscaping of the property is nice.  It's a pleasant stroll to the main buildings.  Be careful though, it can get a little confusing.  We've stayed in the Port Orleans resorts (both are great) several times.  I love the jogging path along the river.  The main building at Riverside has both quick service and table service dining.  Nothing really to write home about, but both were good and very convenient. 
I am kicking myself for somehow missing him, but Yehaa Bob Jackson plays several nights a week in the lobby lounge.  From the videos I've seen, his show looks like great fun.  For the kiddos, this resort has an impressive main pool, a playground, and a catch and release pond. 
Port Orleans overall is built for strolling.  If you stay here, you must meander down the river at dusk.  It's so pretty in that soft light.  Wander down through Riverside and over to French Quarter.  I love the punny names for the streets there.  Be sure to have some beignets in the FQ food court before heading back.  The Mardi Gras decor there is really fun.  For something special, take a horsedrawn carriage ride in the evening.  Port Orleans Riverside is a great resort and I think you get the best bang for your buck here in terms of Disney magic.

OK, readers.  It's your turn.  Where do you recommend your friends stay at Walt Disney World when they are looking at the moderate category?  Those coming here for first-timer advice would love to hear your thoughts.  Thanks!

This post is a part of the 6th Dismarks Disney blog carnival.  Head over there to see more great posts like this.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--Welcome Aboard Our Highway in the Sky

Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas! One of the most unique ways to get around Disney is the Monorail system. The Monorail in Walt Disney World has about 15 miles of track which run from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and to the Monorail Resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon. The Monorail commenced operation on October 1, 1971, beginning with two lines that had service from the Magic Kingdom to the Monorail resorts (Resort line) and the TTC (Express line).  The Resort line included service to the Polynesian, Contemporary and the TTC. Now I know, some people are saying I am forgetting a resort, but I haven’t. The Grand Floridian Resort didn’t open until 1988 and was added to the line at that time.  The EPCOT line opened with that park on October 1, 1982, establishing the third and final line.

On our trips to the “World” riding the monorail is a must.  At those times when you need a break from the park but aren’t ready to hang up your spurs for the day, step out of the main gate at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT and take a spin on the Monorail.  It holds iconic status with park-goers and makes children and adults smile (and the air-conditioning is refreshing on a hot day.)  For those of you who are like my family, when you climb on board you move all the way across the car to make room for others and if you end up standing be sure to "hold on to the handrails while the vehicle is in motion."

One of the most quoted phrases is the above, “Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas” or “Please stand clear of the doors.”  There are even t-shirts for this piece of Disneyana.  (Amy has one.)  Our newest member of the clan really enjoyed her rides on the monorail.  There was enough to look at to keep Tink busy while at the same time giving her mommy a break in some air conditioning.
Before my sister and her “Prince Charming” (her words, not mine) were married, he came with us when she was running the Disney Marathon.  PC and I used the Disney transportation to make it to every "not in a park stop" listed for us to cheer on Amy and her running partner. The monorail was an invaluable part of the adventure for me and PC.  We hopped on at the start in EPCOT and then transferred at the TTC over to the Resort line stopping where necessary to get the photo ops. Then back on the monorail to head back to EPCOT to await her arrival at the finish.  The monorail even made a stop at her wedding a few months later.

The current trains were installed back in 1989 are the Mark VI trains (sounds all futuristic.)  They were built by Bombardier of Canada.  In case you have never heard that name, Bombardier makes just about anything with wheels from ATVs to Trains. There were a dozen trains in service until last year’s first fatal monorail accident at the Walt Disney World Resort in the monorail's 38 year history (I’m not going to go into details, I am sure everyone knows about it.) Each train is a different color so they are easily identifiable.  Monorail Teal has been added, created from the two trains that collided as per the story I read in the Orlando Sentinel.

Just a random bit of trivia, the Express line runs counter-clockwise while the Resort line and EPCOT lines run clockwise. Some of the technical features of the monorails are each train is 203 feet long and carries about 350 people at a time. The Contemporary can park 2 trains over night when the temperature is below freezing. The maintenance bay can house the remaining vehicles, all of which are inspected every night. The trains used to allow passengers to ride in the cab with pilot, however this practice has been stopped, and it is unclear if this will be a permanent policy change.

Be you quote the spiel along with the announcer when you ride the monorail? 
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

DVC - "a Better Way to Vacation"

Disclaimer: I do not work for Disney, Disney Vacation Club, nor am I involved any real estate sales. I am simply a long time Disney Vacation Club member.

I put the disclaimer at the beginning of this post as when I talk about the Disney Vacation Club I often sound like a sales person. My children have repeatedly told me I should go to work for them. I have, while talking to the cast members manning the DVC booths scattered throughout Walt Disney World, talked to guests and encouraged them to visit and check out DVC. More than once they have visited and become members.

The Disney Vacation Club is a “vacation ownership” plan started in 1991 with the opening of the first DVC property at Walt Disney World, now called Disney’s Old Key West Resort (OKW). For a one time purchase price and annual membership fees, you can experience the “magic” that is Disney throughout the years. The real estate interest you purchase is represented by a number of “vacation points.” You use the vacation points to book your reservations when and where you want depending on your need on a particular vacation. We did an initial purchase of 190 points (the minimum in 1993) and have purchased two add-ons for a total of 300 points all at OKW. This gives us 300 points per year to make reservations. The point value for a stay varies with the accommodations (deluxe studio, one, two, or three bedroom villas) and with the resort. Points used for a stay can vary from 9 points per night at OKW during low season for a Deluxe Studio up to 71 points per night for a Grand Villa (Sunday- Thursday with Friday and Saturday slightly higher.) You may make reservations at your “Home Resort” (the resort where you purchased your DVC membership points) beginning 11 months out or at other DVC resorts 7 months out from your vacation. This gives you a four month priority to make reservations at your Home resort. If you are like us, I rarely make vacation plans 11 months out. We are usually flexible in our vacation dates and at which DVC property we will stay so we have always been able to get reservations without any difficulty.

Originally DVC only had one resort at Walt Disney World. Then came Vero Beach… more resorts at WDW…. Hilton Head Island… Disneyland California and next year on Oahu, Hawaii. Vacations are not limited to these DVC properties. You can vacation on the Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, or exchanges to almost unlimited places around the world.

How we use DVC. Flexible is the key word. While our vacations are usually at WDW, we have used points for 3 cruises on DCL and have stayed at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. Our daughter was married at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion at WDW. For her wedding we booked rooms for the bride’s family and the groom’s family as well as giving the couple a cruise on DCL as a wedding present. (I’m sure she will devote a post to her wedding at some point.) It has become a family tradition to go to the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival each year. Our children even vacationed together prior to our granddaughter coming along. DVC has given us the flexibility to do all of this.

The Disney Vacation Club web site ( ) explains all about membership and has examples of how you can use your membership with a minimum of 160 points. You can also order a DVD about the Vacation Club. -- I told you I sound like a salesman!!

If you have any questions or comments about DVC, take time to leave us a comment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Surprise! (Or how Winnie the Pooh became a growth chart)

When I found out I was expecting Tink, my first child and the first grandchild for my parents, I wanted to announce the big news in grand fashion.  An opportunity to meet my parents at Walt Disney World arose and I decided this was my chance and booked a flight.  I arrived at Old Key West around lunchtime and spent the rest of the day looking for a clever way to spill the beans.  Finally it was almost time for IllumiNations to start and I still hadn’t told them.  I called my husband so he’d “be there” too and said I had big news.  Of course they were thrilled and I know we all still think of that night when we pass that bench near the World Showcase Lagoon.

Granddaddy-to-be couldn’t wait to buy the baby his or her first Winnie the Pooh (he’s my favorite.)  I had flown with only a big backpack that trip so my mom told my dad he had to wait until we were all back at the World the following month.  On that next trip, he then bought a Pooh bear so large that it would be a very long time before the baby was big enough to play with him.  This Winnie the Pooh became a growth chart of sorts.  At one week and then each month, I took a picture of Tink sitting next to Pooh.  I’d also take Pooh with us if we got professional pictures.  When you put all of the photos together, it’s fun to see Tink get larger and more animated in relation to her friend.  I used these pictures to begin a photobook I made for my mom of our birthday trip.  I will also use them to fill a frame I received from my aunt that has an opening for each month.  I’ll continue to take pictures with Pooh as long as Tink lets me.  I think we’ll go to quarterly for now.

Do you have a “we’re expecting!” story you’d like to share?  Have you incorporated your favorite Disney characters into your children’s photos?  I’d love to hear from you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Great Baby Travel Gear--Booster Seat

Tink has traveled a good bit for someone so small.  I'm starting a new recurring piece to share some gear that makes travel easier. 

FYI:  I received everything that I will be reviewing as gifts from family or friends.  (Nope, no products thrown my way, but I'd be glad to post an honest and FTC compliant review of anything you'd like to send me.) 

Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat - Blue/Green/GrayFirst up is the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat - Blue/Green/Gray.  I have this in a red/cream color scheme.  It is a highchair or booster seat that attaches to a regular chair with two straps.  The chair can be used once baby can sit with some assistance.  We carry this with us just about everywhere--Grandma's house, restaurants, family reunions, etc.  It doesn't go to Walt Disney World with us since we fly.  It's simple to attach and gets easier with some practice.  I can do it while holding my daughter.  My mother-in-law was so impressed with it that she bought her own.  My mom says this chair will be her new go-to baby gift.  So why do we like it so much?  My daughter sits in this chair far better than the standard wooden restaurant highchairs which gives us more time to enjoy meals out.  She's well-restrained yet comfortable and that cuts down on the wiggles that happen in the standard chairs.  The height is adjustable so we can raise her up to be involved in the dinner conversation.  I'm not a germaphobe but I do love that I can wash the tray so I know her dining surface is clean.  The edges on the tray also mean Tink doesn't knock much into the floor.  There is a cover for the tray so it all stays clean while being transported or stored.  The seat itself doesn't have corners to catch crumbs and easily wipes clean.  We do have one of the cloth covers for a grocery cart or a restaurant high chair but I only find it works well at the grocery store.  This chair doesn't take up a lot of room in the van and one of the straps makes a nice handle or shoulder strap for carrying.  We've used it on several road trips and turned hotel room desk chairs into high chairs for breakfast.  Used without the tray, this is a booster seat, so we'll be able to use it for years to come.

Check back for future posts on other items that make travel with baby a little easier and more fun.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cinderella is all mixed up

Either that or I am doing something wrong...

I found Prince Charming.  Then got my fabulous princess dress.  Then there was a big ball, complete with Major Domo and glass slipper.  And now I am cleaning.  That's not how I remember the movie!  And no cute little mice help me with chores either.  Hmmm.

On the plus side, my shower is now sparkling like a glass slipper.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge—The Great Movie Ride

Lights, camera, action... At the end of Hollywood Boulevard stands The Great Movie Ride, a staple of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or as a lot of us still slip up and say, MGM. The Studios opened in 1989 and the concept was to be a working studio, filming TV shows and creating animated feature films. My mom claims to have made Colin Ray famous because we were in the audience for his taping at the Neon Armadillo back in 1992 or thereabouts. Also the short-lived TV show Thunder in Paradise was filmed there with Hulk Hogan and Chris Lemon. In the years after the park opened work was done on several animated features such as Lilo and Stitch and Mulan. The animators were behind glass for you to watch them create the films. Other live shows filmed there include The Mickey Mouse Club and Teen Win, Lose or Draw. (Amy’s note: I personally loved the NKOTB special back in 1900 and something filmed mostly in the Studios. They had dream sequences and Donnie was Indiana Jones and Joey danced on the front steps of the hotel fa├žade on New York Street.) All of that is gone now and The Great Movie Ride is one of only a few constants the park has had these last 20 years.

The Great Movie Ride takes place inside of a replica of the Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Outside in the cement are hand and foot prints of various celebrities and if you look carefully you’ll find the boss, Mickey Mouse, out there alongside C3PO and R2-D2… Sorry, I nerd’d up there for a second. The grounds are worth some exploring and as with everything at Disney, be sure to look for the elusive hidden Mickey. On days when the queue isn’t long you get to enter through the main doors at the front of the building. When you do, and if the line allows, take a moment and examine the detailing, and as a matter of fact try and do this everywhere. Disney Imagineers work tirelessly to add details that no one may ever see.  A perfect example is at Muppet Vision 4-D, around the back of the building where guests normally don’t go, I just happened to wander back that way and found that the air vents were painted with faces.

Once inside the building the queue winds around movie props like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, a carousel horse from Mary Poppins and, last time I was there, Arwen’s dress from Lord of the Rings. The pre-show area in which you wait just before boarding the ride vehicles is a movie theatre. Shown here are trailers for movies such as Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, Fantasia, Aliens and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. As you meander through this room you can notice that the entire theatre has been painstakingly recreated in 1930s style. Keep the movies that you have been watching in mind because you will be visiting these again.

When it’s your turn to enter the boarding area, it quickly turns from the magic of the movie theatre to the sound stage of a big Hollywood picture. There are lights and cameras, wires and time markers placed around the loading zone. At my best guess the ride vehicle holds about 150 to 200 people at a time and the cast member is your personal guide to the movies. The ride beings when you hear “lights, camera, action!” and we move into the early days of cinema with Busby Berkeley’s Footlight Parade, Walt Disney’s Fantasia and Gene Kelly in Singing In the Rain. As you move through the ride your host gives details about the movie scenes. There is a surprise within the attraction with either a gangster or a western theme. I won’t give any specifics but it is much more fun if you just remember you’ll never see the other people around you again so just have fun and play along. There are lots of bad jokes and puns, how bad they are is entirely dependent on your attitude and the host's delivery. When you get a host that is really into the show, it is truly a great time.

After the last scene in the ride but before you exit; a montage of classic movies plays to show filmmaking over the last almost 100 years. From black and white silent movies with Buster Keaton, to Gone with the Wind, Street Car Named Desire, Good Morning Vietnam, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid all the way to Star Wars. Film has certainly progressed and The Great Movie Ride is a reminder of that. In my opinion it is time for a rehab of some of the scenes in The Great Movie Ride, but until it goes down I will continue to ride it as a loyal fan.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Disney Vacation Club at Walt Disney World Resort

If you look on Walt Disney World’s website, you won’t find this resort listed. The name and logo have long been changed. Disney Vacation Club at Walt Disney World Resort was the original name for Disney’s Old Key West Resort until the second Vacation Club resort was built at Vero Beach and The Disney Vacation Club became a family of resorts. (The original 3-mountain logo is seen here. See Growing Up with the Disney Vacation Club for the current logo. )

Opened in 1991, Disney’s Old Key West Resort (OKW) was the first Disney Vacation Club property at Walt Disney World. It is quiet and laid back much like the town in the Florida Keys for which it is named. It has the ambiance of the turn-of-the-century buildings of Key West. We fell in love with it the first time we saw it in 1992. Although Old Key West has grown since we first visited, as construction on all the units was not completed until later, it has still managed to maintain its Key West charm. The resort is built around the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course that goes around and through Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and OKW.

When we first visited OKW, we went to the Commodore House. This was the sales office and housed the showcase rooms for OKW. The Commodore House had miniature models of what the resort would look like when completed. There was a small movie theater to show a short video on the DVC and how you could use your membership. This is where we met our Vacation Guide who showed us the OKW property and when our trip was completed took us to the Ice Cream Shop where we had sundaes and had a souvenir picture made. The Commodore House has since been demolished and replaced with the last units at OKW.

Check-in is at the Hospitality House. Here you will also find a sitting room called Papa’s Den. (Hey, this is Key West after all so Hemmingway must be somewhere.) From there you can wander to the main pool area (there are 3 other pools) complete with a kid’s pool, hot tub, sauna, and a big sandcastle slide. The exercise room - R.E.S.T. Beach Recreation Department - is near the pool as is the Electric Eel Gameroom. At Hank's Rent 'N Return, you can rent bikes, surreys, and watercraft. The Community Hall is also where activities are held daily.

OK, now for the technical stuff. There are 50 buildings housing 761 villas. OKW has the largest rooms of all the DVC resorts. These accommodations are Deluxe Studio, One, Two and Three Bedroom villas. The Studio is 390 sq ft with 2 queen beds and a small kitchenette with microwave, toaster, coffeemaker, under-counter refrigerator and a wet bar sink and sleeps 4. The One Bedroom Villa is 942 sq ft with a king bed, bath with a large Jacuzzi tub, full kitchen, laundry room, and a queen sleeper sofa in the living room and sleeps 4. The Two Bedroom Villa is 1395 sq ft and sleeps 8. The Two Bedroom Villas are either a lock-off comprised of a One Bedroom Villa plus a Studio or a dedicated Two Bedroom Villa. The two-story, three bedroom, four bath Grand Villa is 2375 sq ft and sleeps 12. The master bedroom has a king bed and bath with Jacuzzi tub, the second bedroom has 2 queen beds and private bath, the third bedroom has 2 full beds and private bath, and the living room has a queen sleeper sofa with the fourth bath off the hall. It has a large full kitchen and a dining room with a table for eight.

Whew… now that we’re through with that… If you want to cook, all but the Studios have a full kitchen (but who wants to cook on vacation?) and the Conch Flats General Store at the Hospitality House has some basic groceries. You can order in advance and have many more grocery items delivered to your villa if you can’t or don’t want to shop at a local grocer. Olivia’s is the resort’s table service restaurant or there is Good’s Food to Go for fast food and the Gurgling Suitcase for your adult beverages. Seasonally, there is also a snack bar and arcade at the Turtle Pond pool.

Olivia’s originally had two mannequins gracing the dining room. Miss Vicki, in period dress, stood near the check in counter and sitting in the corner booth was Captain Wahoo in his blue & white striped sailor’s shirt and his captain’s hat. The walls were covered with vacation pictures framed by DVC members. Several years ago, both Miss Vicki and Captain Wahoo were removed. Almost all the pictures were sent to hang on the wall in the Community Hall. The best dessert at Olivia’s – Key Lime White Chocolate Mousse - also went away as the menu has changed over the years, but Olivia’s remains one of my favorite places to eat at WDW.

We have now stayed in all of the different accommodations. If it is just my wife and I, we normally stay in a one bedroom. When we have our family with us, we reserve a two bedroom villa. We had never stayed in the three bedroom Grand Villa until this past April when we celebrated my granddaughter’s first birthday. It is a very spacious open floor plan that was great for celebrating a birthday. When we first walked in I turned and asked my wife “can we keep it?” We’ve kept the DVC for 17 years now and intend on having it quite a while longer.

If you’d like to know more, drop me a line at and I’ll answer your questions or share my Vacation Advisor with you. Check out for more info about OKW.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Photo Flashback! - Remember when...

Remember when Nemo was a Captain and not just a fish? Remember when Submarines were found in the Magic Kingdom? You could actually ride in the Nautilus and looking through the portholes you could see another world of fish, divers, and of course there was that squid! 20000 Leagues Under the Sea Ride 12/24/1973.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TNT (Tips 'N Tricks)--Jogging at WDW

While it can be hard to squeeze in your morning run before all those miles of walking around the parks, Walt Disney World is a great place to keep up your training, work off a few treats, and get in a little quiet time.  The link above will take you to where they highlight the designated jogging paths at the resorts.  Ask when you check-in and the cast member should be able to provide you with a map or at least some additional information on their specific property.

I've run at most of the resorts we've stayed in over the years.  I have three favorites.  The first is Port Orleans.  The path is by the water, wide, and well-shaded.  I love Port Orleans anyway and a jog is a great way to take in the atmosphere.  The photos in this post are from Port Orleans Riverside.  The second is Old Key West.  I'm also a little biased here since this is our home resort for DVC, but I love the Key West vibe.  I enjoy examining the details of the buildings and landscaping while on foot.  It's not on the official website, but I have run from OKW to Downtown Disney and back by way of the path to Saratoga Springs.  My third favorite is the Boardwalk/Beach Club area, mostly because this is nearing the end of most Disney races.

Be especially careful to listen to your body when on a run at WDW.  I know that sounds hokey, but you're most likely in a warmer climate than you usually train in, on your feet more than usual during the day, and not eating and drinking like you would at home.  Drink more water and consider these as easy miles.

Where do you like to run at Walt Disney World?  Any funny stories from your jogs while on vacation?

Friday, June 11, 2010

On Raglan Road…

Raglan Road is a fantastic Irish pub and restaurant with live music and dancing. It’s located at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island, which used to be an awesome place to hang out at night. (We miss you Adventurers’ Club. Kungaloosh!) The name Raglan Road comes from a poem by Patrick Kavanagh that was later put to music by singer-songwriter Luke Kelly. A statue of Kavanagh sits outside the restaurant and is a replica of one that sits near the Grand Canal in Dublin, Ireland, a place he frequented to gain inspiration for his work. If you don’t call ahead, do expect to wait for a few minutes for a table inside or out. They have a very large outside seating area, however, outside doesn’t get the band or the dancer. Inside has the feel of an old-world pub (only larger) filled with dark wood tables, chairs and floors. One of the side rooms appears to resemble a study with a fireplace and large painting on the wall of Patrick Kavanagh and Luke Kelly and “Raglan Road”

The food is exceptional and I usually make a trip over to Raglan Road once per vacation. Personally, for appetizers I have tried the Dalkey Duo, battered and fried sausages with a mustard sauce, and the Scallop Forrest, lightly battered and fried scallops (some of the most tender I have ever eaten) with dipping sauce. For main dishes, the Fish and Chips, the cod is almost as big as the plate and is battered and fried crispy with fries...salt and vinegar to taste with tartar sauce on the side. Keen Eye for Shepherd’s Pie--now I will try a shepherd’s pie anywhere that has one, and this was one of the best, made with beef and lamb with flavor I don’t have the words to describe. Paddy’s Pork, a delicious pork loin with sausage with a honey glaze and cabbage and mashed potatoes, and similarly Kevin’s Heavenly Ham, a very large piece of ham, sliced and a sweet Irish Mist glaze also cabbage and mashed potatoes. On my last trip I had Traditional Guinness and Onion Banger. My brother-in-law had gotten a banger and mash the day before at the Rose and Crown; he tasted mine and said the previous day’s dish didn’t even compare to Raglan Road’s. I would recommend any of these and would gladly have any one of them again.

Raglan Road is a pub after all and has a bar to prove it. The bar area itself was built in Ireland and shipped over to Orlando. For beer, they have most all of the major domestics and the imports are pretty nice, with New Castle, Strong Bow Cider, Harp, Smithwick’s and of course Guinness. If you are up for an adventure try a carbomb, because the IRA called and they don't like you. I have developed a taste for Scotch and they have a nice variety. One of the more expensive brands being offered is Macallan, which is a single malt scotch. I usually go for the 12 year that has a very smooth mouth feel and a well rounded finish, with hints of honey and sherry to the nose. But I do believe I saw the 18 and 25 years on their shelves. They also have my “go to” in times of indecision; Johnny Walker Black, as well as a wide range of other spirits from Ireland and Scotland.

Right now the house band is Tusker Rock. They are a light-hearted trio playing traditional Irish music that has been “rocked” up just a bit. They keep the crowd happy and singing along (in most cases, however my brother-in-law looks at me funny when I sing along.) Just when you thought it wasn’t going to get any better, their “darlin’ dancer” comes out and performs. She is really a sight to behold, hailing from Dublin, Danielle Fitzpatrick is an award winning Irish dancer who has performed all over the world and with some very large and famous companies. Raglan Road welcomes everyone in and doesn’t mind if you pop in for a moment to see the happenings inside, just please don’t block the servers or the view of the stage.

The poem/song that started it all.

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.

--Patrick Kavanagh

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Snack Time with Ridge--Aloha Isle

Aloha Isle is a staple at Magic Kingdom providing year-round delicious treats of vanilla, chocolate, orange and, most importantly, pineapple soft serve ice cream. This confection has its own loyal following and its fans can’t wait to dig in to the pineapply goodness.

Aloha Isle is located just over the bridge from the main hub into Adventureland. In addition to the star attraction, you can have coke and root beer floats, coffee, hot tea, hot cocoa, bottled water, as well as the usual fountain drinks. The prices are reasonable for everything on the menu with the most expensive thing there being what I like (go figure) the Pineapple Float at 3.99 plus tax.

When I am lucky enough to visit Aloha Isle, I am a pineapple float with pineapple juice kind of a guy. The Dole Whip soft serve itself is pretty sweet however the pineapple juice is not too sweet and to me almost a little bitter, together making a balanced flavor of LOTS of pineapple. My sister likes to get the Citrus Swirl, a nice blend of orange and vanilla soft serve that tastes similar to a Creamsicle. We like to get one of these tasty diversions after we have been walking a while and usually either right before or just after we ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

There is a covered seating area just to either side of the stand. These areas can be crowded, especially during one of the sudden Florida afternoon rain showers. There is also an alcove to the left on the way to the restroom and there are usually tables there. Because it is pushed back from the main path, usually no one is sitting over there…making it possible to think and plan the next attack.

Do you have to visit Aloha Isle on each trip too? Share your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Recognizing Mickey Mouse

Of course, I hope my daughter shares my interest in all things Disney.  However, this indoctrination may be working too well.  Tink has started to recognize Mickey and get excited when she sees him.  This is cute when she sees the photo of Mickey and Minnie helping my husband and I cut our wedding cake.  It's also cute when she twists around while being held on my hip to check out Mickey on my t-shirt.  However, it backfires when she wants to play with my new Photopass mug.  Granted, the little one is in the picture on the mug, but hot coffee is not child-friendly and I have to hide my cup and sneak sips.  I guess I'll get to use my new mug in peace once the new wears off.

I'll do a full story on Photopass soon!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Trip Advisor Ridge—Planning a First Trip to Walt Disney World

I have been to Walt Disney World roughly 40 times in the last 20 years; I was 9 on my first trip. Now I am helping my cousin Jeff and his wife Windy plan their first trip to the “World.” They have two adorable little girls ages 9 and 11. Jeff and Windy took appropriate measures and found themselves an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner locally. They also wanted to run the Planner’s information through me to compare it to what my family has been doing.

Here is some of the important information. Their trip is planned for November 1st though November 5th, 4 nights and 5 days, they will have their car, and they’ll be staying at Pop Century. They have the standard dining plan so they’ll have 4 credits per person for each of the following: snacks, quick service meals, and table service meals.

My mission recently was to take some of the mystery out of planning. I wanted to make sure they had access to all of the same websites I like to read in order to stay informed. We also did some restaurant planning.
They are not buying the park hopper feature so we need to plan only one park per day. This is where a little planning know how comes in. I took them to (*DING*) and showed them how the crowd calendar works and also how to generate the touring plan for each park.

Once we had a good general plan regarding which park they are visiting on each day, it was time to think about where to book advance dining reservations (ADRs) for the table service meals. I gave my suggestions for each park then showed them the dining choices with menus from . I suggested that they pick two or more restaurants from each park just in case they couldn’t get an ADR at the first choice. We looked through my suggestions, checked the menus and made decisions for each park. For Magic Kingdom, Crystal Palace; for EPCOT, Le Cellier (unlikely) or Coral Reef; for Hollywood Studios, Brown Derby or Sci-Fi Drive-in, and for Animal Kingdom, Tusker House. They’d also like to have breakfast at Chef Mickey’s. Jeff and Windy will end up paying for one of these meals out of pocket. I explained the Food and Wine Festival and they are getting geared up for that as well.

As we plan more and get closer to their trip, I’ll post updates on what they are hoping to do and share some of the suggestions I have on making the trip even more magical for the girls.

If anyone has any tips or suggestions, we would love to hear them. It would be great if we could help Jeff and Windy make this as special as possible. Add a comment below or email us at

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Growing Up.... with The Disney Vacation Club

Long, long ago and far, far away, I had heard Disney was beginning a “vacation ownership” plan (they hate the words “time share”) at Walt Disney World. I asked Disney for some information but alas, they could not send any as they were not licensed in our state.

Fast forward to 1992… My wife and I planned an anniversary cruise on Premier Cruise Line’s Big Red Boat in December. While we were in central Florida, we made plans to spend a day or two at WDW. We were able to tour “The Disney Vacation Club” resort (in the beginning there was only one resort and it was called THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB.) The Vacation Club had only been open for a little more than one year at that time. The property was absolutely beautiful and there were “hidden” Mickeys everywhere including the banister railings. We fell in love with The Vacation Club. My wife fell in love with the large Jacuzzi tub and I loved the Key West atmosphere. But one problem… it was a lot of money for us.

We went home without buying into The Vacation Club. But this was not the end. I spent the next three months trying to figure out how to pay for it and would it be a good “value” for my family. After all, I could probably stay at a cheap hotel for less. I talked to our Disney Vacation Advisor several times. We discussed how much it cost vs. staying in other hotels, how much it would cost over time, and would we really get our “money’s worth” by purchasing.

You could have heard a pin drop when I called our Vacation Advisor and told him to get the contracts ready and send them to us to sign. I know after all our discussions he had decided those were words he would never hear from me. We became the 3rd or 4th family from our state to join the Vacation Club.
And my opinion after 17 years…..

WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE DVC! It has been a good investment for my family. We have had family vacations, graduation trips, vacation get-a-ways, one wedding, and 3 cruises on the Disney Cruise line with DVC. The best part, after all these years our, now adult, children (and our son-in-law) like to vacation with us at WDW. Our newest family member, my granddaughter, just celebrated her First Birthday at WDW with Mickey. We are looking forward to many years of sharing the “Magic” and “Wonder” of Disney with her (and maybe a cruise on the Disney Magic or Disney Wonder too!).

Over the years we have watched both WDW and DVC continue to grow. WDW has grown to 4 parks. The Disney Vacation Club Resort is now Disney’s Old Key West Resort. DVC has grown to 7 resorts at WDW and one at Disneyland, plus Vero Beach, Hilton Head and opening in 2011 Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawai'i.

With all that is available through DVC I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. I may sound much like a sales brochure, but we are “sold” on the Disney Vacation Club.

Are you a DVC member? What was your experience with purchasing DVC? Let us know your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Photo Flashback!—Going Nutz

So if you’re a small a furry critter, there has to be no better place to live than on Walt Disney World property. Even the normally skittish squirrel has gotten so accustomed to the presence of humans and, more importantly, being fed by humans that they will venture as close as possible for a nibble of something to eat. These shots were taken on a trip in 2007 in World Showcase at Epcot.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TNT (Tips N’ Tricks)—The Great Escape

OK, so here is a simultaneous tip and story about what could have been quite possibly the best 12 dollars I have ever spent at Walt Disney World. As everyone knows or will find out, leaving EPCOT after Illuminations can be an adventure. Depending on your time of year, the bus stops can become purgatory, endlessly waiting on Charon to ferry you across the river Styx back to your hotel only to awaken the next day to do it again (think Prometheus but without the chained to a rock eating your liver thing). So one night after park closing on one of the many mini trips my sister and I used to take before she got married and I got a real job (I think I was still in college at the time,) we came out of EPCOT after a hot and particularly exhausting day only to see the bus stop looking like a cow pen, lots of mooing but nobody leaving. Then I spotted our means of escape, the taxi… The taxis at EPCOT are found in the center parking areas at the bus stops, just FYI. So we made a break for it, hopping into the back seat and laughing as we were delirious from a lack of sleep. I am pretty sure I had only had 4 hours because my plane was delayed the night before and I didn’t get in until 3am. The ride from EPCOT took only about 15 minutes and we were staying at Port Orleans Riverside. The fare was only about 10 bucks and I tipped a couple and we were home at last. Laughing all the while, knowing if we hadn’t used such a wonderful adventure in transportation that we would have still been standing at the bus stop and then packed in like sardines to get back, neither one sounding like a great idea to us. So I highly recommend at the end of a long day, when the busses are packed to capacity and your patience has worn thin…take a taxi, it is worth it.
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