Monday, February 28, 2011

High and Mighty (Small): Highchairs & Booster Seats

Q. Do all Walt Disney World restaurants provide high chairs and booster seats?

A. Walt Disney World restaurants are fully prepared for small children so getting a high chair or a booster seat is not a problem. At table service restaurants, simply request one when you check in for your reservation. The Cast Members will take care of getting a seat for the little one(s) to the table. Counter service restaurants will have a stash somewhere but they can be harder to find, particularly in the sprawling locations like Pecos Bill’s, so simply ask a Cast Member for help. Carts or stands will not have anything available but I have a few tricks I’ll share below.

Q. What type of high chairs does Disney use?

A. Most of the Walt Disney World restaurants I have visited with my daughter use the standard wooden restaurant high chairs. At home, I avoid these like the plague. For one, they just might still have germs from the plague. Second, Tink doesn’t sit well in them at all. It’s not long before she’s totally squirmy in the standard chair. Around town or when traveling by car, we use a high chair/booster seat that attaches to a standard adult chair. It takes me a minute or two to install, but increased odds of a pleasant meal are certainly worth it. At WDW, there is no way you’d tote around an extra booster seat but a pack of antibacterial wipes will help. Yes, Disney does try to keep everything clean but I have been a Cast Member at a Magic Kingdom restaurant and I suggest you do a quick wipe-down. I also found the thin disposable table covers to be very helpful. Regarding the squirmy part, you’ll have to be prepared with snacks, stickers, and an iPhone loaded with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, although table service restaurants generally have crayons and coloring sheets.

Some of the WDW counter service restaurants have the newer style plastic high chairs. I think these have a slightly smaller seat, but I find them to be better for Tink. She sits comfortably for a longer period of time. Again, they get the quick cleaning from me. (Yes, I’ve earned the Neurotic part of NDM #242 in more than one way.)

Q. Any highchair or booster seat tips for carts and stands?

A. 1. Sit the kids on the nearest flat surface and let them have at it. Replacement clothes are never far away.

2. You have a stroller. Use it.

3. Duck into the nearest counter service location and take a seat. In October 2010, my daughter and I were at Magic Kingdom with my brother. I decided it was Mickey ice cream bar time. Since it was the middle of the afternoon, Pecos Bill’s was not very crowded, so I found us a table in the back as not to take any more convenient spots from those carrying trays of food. Tink had a high chair and Chris and I had a table for our bags and such. Tink loved the ice cream and it made for a much more pleasant break for all of us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Guest Post: Warning! This post will inspire Mom Bag Envy!

Looking for total a reason to be the envy of all your mom friends with a swank new handbag? How about loving a diaper bag to the point that doubles as a funky, swanky and crazy useful purse. Enter the Haiku bag, the Cadillac of Diaper bags/mom organization system.

During our October Walt Disney World trip, my bag was my saving grace. It packed beautifully and kept us from having to carry any additional backpacks or bags. It easily attached to my Maclaren Stroller and simply put is my best mom purchase to date.

The bag retails for around $100 dollars. I also purchased a matching wallet for an additional $40.00. Both have been used both exclusively as my purse and diaper bag for the last year.

In this bag I carry the following:

• Preschool size reusable thermos

• Adult refillable water bottle

• Empty Sippy cup

• Squeezable applesauce

• 3 diapers

• Changing pad

• Wipes

• Bib

• Formula dispenser

• Snack Trap of Cheerios

• Preschool snack

• Small bag of crayons

• 1 Matchbox car

• Carabineer of keys

• Carabineer of loyalty cards for shopping

• Phone

• Sunglasses

• Wallet

YES… all in this one bag. It’s not even a BIG, monstrous likely to become a bottomless pit of goldfish and used Kleenex. Oh yeah, I have those too!

The secret is all the compartments. Two outside pockets for my sunglasses and phone, two side pockets for the bottles, back compartment for diapering supplies.

The fabric is a wipe clean, non-staining miracle of manmade fabric. It looks and feels like suede, but can withstand anything my two under 5 crowd can dish out.

I purchased mine through Zappos, but it is also available through multiple retailers and also online.

Part of making travel work with a 6 month old at WDW included a  Graco Car Seat Stroller Frame with carseat to double as a stroller and a large muslin blanket (aden + anais Muslin Wraps 4-Pack - Zoo Animals) to use a a sunshade.  We used it all summer. It can double as an impromptu blanket.

We also took our extremely lightweight and durable Maclaren stroller. Both took up little room in our car for the drive down from Raleigh and were lifesavers for travel with baby.

Check out this versatile bag, you will indeed be the envy of moms everywhere for the utility and organization (and funky design) of a great mom bag.

Contributed by Heather V. of Raleigh, NC.  Wife to Bill, proud mom to Ben and Ian, and creator of Freeze Ahead Frenzy.  She's also one of our Minnie Moms.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#300 - Time to Celebrate!!!

Some milestones go quietly unnoticed.

While posting the Photo Flashback for today (2/23/2011) I noticed that yesterday post - Random Mouse Sightings - is the 300th post for That in itself is quite an accomplishment.

I have noticed a lot of well intentioned bloggers start a blog and soon fall by the wayside. While GUD has gone from 5 to 3 days a week for posts the energy is still there. Amy has managed quite a lot taking care of a husband, Tink, getting ready for a new baby, and moving half-way across the country -- plus she has 2 other blogs where she keeps family & friends updated on Tink and another where she is chronicling their cross-country move.

Chris has been blogging about his Solo Trip and will be doing some "live" blogging while at WDW. He has been getting ready for this trip, bought more camera equipment and a new camera bag so he can take lots of new photos to share with GUD readers. He always gives a unique perspective on WDW.

Amy also has a group of Minnie Moms and other friends who do some outstanding guests posts.

As father to these two wonderful journalists I am allowed to contribute a few posts. Today, I want to congratulate Amy & Ridge on the work they have done making this milestone. There is lots more to come as we take part in this project started by Amy to share Growing Up Disney.

Thanks to all who take time in your day or week to share our stories, pictures and daily musings.
Congratulations on #300!!!
from DisneyDad --- you continue to amaze me.

Photo Flashback - Remember Topiaries?

Disney Horticulturalist are very talented people. They use to take time to grow shrubbery they carefully trained, trimmed and shaped into different animals and Characters. Today topiaries are mostly grown on shaped moss forms. While they can be beautiful, they don't compare to some of the work they use to do. If I remember correctly there is still one sculpted topiary of an elephant doing a headstand across from the bus stop under the Monorail tracks at the Magic Kingdom.

This picture was taken in November 1994 on a backstage tour. Even pigs are impressive as sculpted topiaries. In the background are two giraffes that I "cut" their heads off when I took this picture.
Do you remember seeing "real" topiaries in the parks?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Random Mouse Sightings

Just a couple of quick observations...

Over the weekend, I was reading a baby magazine.  In the classifieds, a couple was advertising that they were seeking to adopt a baby.  They included the fact that they made frequent trips to Walt Disney World as a selling point to the birth mother.

I was just looking up something on the website of my local newspaper.  The image for the vacation hold section was Mickey Mouse.  I guess he's the universal symbol for vacation. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Minnie Moms: Must-Buys at WDW Part 2

Thanks for joining us for part 2 as the Minnie Moms discuss items we just can't walk away from at Walt Disney World.

*I always buy a mug at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa if there is a new one out. I have several now and always look forward to getting a new one.
*Something Star Wars for my sons, they are 11 and 6 and LOVE Star Wars especially the bad guys.
*Wonka bars, mickey gummies, rice krispy treats, and other assorted snacks that the kids love, yes I love them to but they really are for the kids.
*A photo album for my family pictures to go in.
*I buy my husband a Disney polo shirt that he can wear to work in the spring and summer.
*I buy my Mom some the Grapefruit products they sell at the Spa at the Grand Floridian. They smell great and she really likes them.
*I like to get my Dad a treat from the shops in Epcot, there is some really great stuff in Italy, Japan, and China. I love those little black shoes in China with the red roses on them they are so cute (not for Dad.)
*I always buy autograph books, stickers, and little treats to give clients as gifts for booking there vacations with Travel with the Magic. I try to get over to the Disney outlet but that does not always happen.

Janine: We have pretty decent Disney Stores over here in the UK. And as in the US, there are plenty of other shops (I'm thinking of places likes Asda, Walmart, Toys R Us etc.) that sell Disney merchandise. And of course there is eBay. But there is nowhere quite like WDW to actually do your Disney shopping.

Maybe because we live so far away, and we treat every trip as if we won't be coming back for some time (and of course the fact that when the pound is strong against the dollar, we can afford to go a little crazy) but when we shop at WDW, well, we do it in style!

Those deals you see, where if you spend $50, you can get a watch, or a tote, or a throw for $10? Never a problem for us, we can spend that in just ONE store easily.

So what are our MUST buys?

For gifts, I believe you can never go wrong with a nice mug. They're packaged so well too and you know they won't break. We also always stock up on tea, coffee and candy for our family. Keychains are cute and inexpensive and if I'm running out of room I always get a few magic towels. There's always at least someone in the family who gets a plush toy too. One year DHs secretary wanted a Heffalump. That took a while to locate but we finally found one in Pooh Corner in Downtown Disney. I also think coasters make a great lightweight and inexpensive gift. We've got several sets at home, all less than $10. And for a really special gift, you can't go wrong with an ornament from one of the Christmas shops, I love seeing the figures on my in-laws tree and knowing we bought them as a thank you gift.

So what is a MUST have for us?

Well, DH collects baseballs. Most of the ride themed stores carry a baseball and he usually gets around 10 per trip. The best one he ever got (and I've never seen since) was from the Tower of Terror in 2001. It glows in the dark!

I collect pins so I have to get lots of these, I like the individual ones but I also really like the surprise packs.

We always buy clothes from WDW too. Although they can be quite expensive, around $40 to $50 for some of our hoodies, they are unique and we always smile at home when we wear them. I have the complete collection of Tink loungewear from 2008/9 and we got some lovely tees in Animal Kingdom. Our best ever Disney apparel purchase though actually came from a Disney outlet shop. It was a typical Floridian day. That is it was boiling when we left the villa but pouring with rain by the time we got to the shops. Of course we headed straight to the Disney store and amazingly they had 2 windbreakers for only $20 each, originally $50!!! We were so pleased, they're super comfy, lightweight and waterproof, they've come on every holiday we've had since.

We also always get holiday ornaments for ourselves too. I have most of the Canadian collection, you know the ones, where Mickey and Minnie are wearing checked shirts? Just love it, so cute!

But I think our favourite MUST haves are the photopass photos, especially the ones with a little surprise added, and our Disney artwork. We have 4 beautiful prints by Larry Dotson and 3 of them he has written on a personal message to us. Little things like that just add so much to the memories, and it's wonderful to glance at them when we're at home, so many miles away from The Mouse, and able to get a sense of the magic.

Thanks to our Minnie Moms for sharing such helpful tips! If you have a question for us or a topic you'd like us to cover, please leave a comment or email Amy. 

Please check the Minnie Moms page for our past articles and more information about these fabulous ladies.  

Minnie Moms: Must-Buys at WDW Part 1

Today the Minnie Moms discuss the items we just can't resist at Walt Disney World, whether they are for ourselves or gifts for others.  Check back later today for part 2.

Amy: The first must-buy item that comes to mind is Dole Whip. I adore this refreshing frozen pineapple treat. A new addition to that list is carrot cake cookies from Writer’s Stop at the Studios. And each trip, I seem to have learned about a new treat I just have to try, usually from Lou Mongello or

I really need to start buying ornaments again. I started getting those each year when I was on college program but stopped somewhere along the way and I don’t really know why.

I don’t like too many things to dust or store, so I tend to buy practical souvenirs. I love the kitchen items and really wanted a Food and Wine Festival oven mitt last trip, but Disney didn’t make me one.

My Disney wedding was over five years ago, but I still always check out the latest Disney wedding merchandise. The frames, mugs, and other goodies always catch my eye, but rarely my wallet. The one exception to this was the Precious Moments wedding couple wearing ear hats. That was a must have splurge several years ago. Now I really want more of the Disney Precious Moments figures but so far, I’ve been able to hold out.

No girl can have too many bags and it’s not uncommon for me to come home from WDW with a new tote or purse. I’m really considering finally breaking down and getting a Disney Dooney now that the 40th anniversary print is out. Now to convince Ridge to make the purchase… I’ll send money!!

While I love the convenience of buying lots of items at World of Disney, I miss the days when park merchandise was more diverse. Now, if you see a t-shirt or hat, you can probably find it in 10 other stores before the end of your vacation. I’ve enjoyed getting items over the years from specific attractions. I have a cool Space Mountain hat and wore out a Tower of Terror t-shirt during my gym rat days.

The best gift purchase I made at WDW recently was Audrey’s Mickey and Minnie plush. She loves them and sleeps with them every night and naptime. It’s the cutest thing ever when she gives Mickey (or Minnie) a big hug.

Beth:  While we are in WDW, I can honestly say I could spend all our vacation money on the great souvenirs around the parks and resorts. But to contain ourselves, we have a set group of things we purchase. For the kids, they each get one ornament, one pin and then one item of their choice. The ornament and the pin have to represent something they experienced for the first time or just something they particularly loved on that trip. For example, on my son’s first trip to WDW, we ate at Cape May Café’s character breakfast. Chip and Dale spent a lot of time playing with Joey, who was just 14 months old at the time. It is one of my favorite memories from that trip. We purchased a Chip and Dale ornament that year. Now every time we put up our Christmas tree and take out that ornament, Joey asks us to tell us the story about when he met Chip and Dale. Our Disney tree is filled with ornaments representing many special moments over the years. It is such fun reminiscing as we decorate the tree.

For my husband and I, we purchase a Disney picture frame every trip, and when we get our pictures developed, our favorite trip picture goes in the frame. These frames are decorations all over our house and such a great way to keep our Disney memories alive between trips. I also always purchase the Disney scrapbook with that particular year’s logo on it. Now with my kids getting a little older, our scrapbooks are becoming more of a family project than just mine, which makes them even more special. By keeping our souvenirs meaningful, I find that they are less likely to be thrown into a tote or found at the bottom of a toy box. Besides, I would rather spend our money on character meals and dinner shows to create some wonderful memories that last us a lifetime, instead of a few little trinkets that are forgotten within a week or two of being back home.

Corby:  For me, my “must buys” pretty much all involve food/beverages! Yes, as always, it’s all about the food with me. My family has a tradition of going to the Japan pavilion at Epcot and purchasing Ramune drinks each visit. My son gets a kick out of hitting the marble in the top of the bottle. We also stock up on candy at this pavilion. Clearly, we have no idea what the candy’s name is because it’s in Japanese but I can tell you it’s yummy! Our favorite is a sweet tart looking candy that comes in a long perforated roll. They taste like sweet tarts, only they are less tart and dissolve in your mouth. I guarantee if you try them, you won’t be able to eat one! Other favorites I find myself continuously purchasing are cookies from Minnie’s Bake Shop (think huge cookie). Any of them will do as I’ve tried them all but I think my favorite would have to be the peanut butter. I also love the Mickey Mouse Shortbread Cookies. I get so excited when we have extra snack credits from the meal plan so I can grab a few of these yummy goodies at the resort to take home. Typically, they don’t make it past the Florida state line. I just started purchasing the refillable coffee mug and will be doing that from now on in the future so I don’t use up a snack credit for a coffee and I get a take home souvenir. Other treats I’ve had that I won’t be able to resist on future trips: Mickey Ice Cream Bar, Dole Whip, Key Lime Pie from Sunshine Seasons in Epcot, and Butterfinger Cupcake at Starring Rolls in Hollywood Studios. My mouth is watering just thinking of these things!

One tradition that I plan on starting which I’ve been kicking myself for not getting during our last trip is purchasing a Christmas ornament. I think this will make a great must buy to add to my list. I’m going to have our family pick out one that represents our trip the best each visit. I think it will be fun way to look back and reflect on our Disney vacations.

Visit us later today for more fun ideas from the rest of the Minnie Moms.  If you have a question we could answer or a topic you'd like us to discuss, please add it to the comments or email Amy at    

Please check the Minnie Moms page for our past articles and more information about these fabulous ladies.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Roundup!

Good Morning Everyone, thanks for stopping by and giving up a few minutes of your time. If you missed any of this week's stories, here's what happened.

On Monday DisneyDad filled us in on the Newest DVC resort, Aulani, being built in KOlina, Hawai'i. Come see what makes Aulani distinctly Disney.

Wednesday brought us a Photo Flashback with Ridge and Mickeys ToonTown Fair saying good-bye to the Land with a photo comparison from his first trip in 1991 to last trip in 2010.

Friday gave us Ridge's trip update for March, a mix of plans and no plans on his first solo trip with a touch of nostalgia for a tour he took as a kid, underground, over water and around a now defunct island.

Friday afternoon Amy and Tink were out and about in their local town and found Dole Whip! Well, a knock-off, but it got the job done.

Hope to see you again real soon!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dole Whip in your local strip mall!!!

Dole Whip is one of those foods with a cult following. Ask any Disney fan about their favorite treat at Walt Disney World and the answer you will hear most often is Dole Whip. I also bet they'll have that far off look in their eyes as they remember times at their favorite vacation destination.

Today is a gorgeous, sunny, almost warm day in my suburb smack in the middle of the country. After playgroup and running a couple of errands, I decided Tink and I should go investigate a rumor at Orange Leaf frozen yogurt. A huge thanks to Corby at Travel with the Magic for this tip!

Frozen yogurt (or froyo) is back in fashion. My 'burb has two of the current incarnation of self-serve yogurt shops from different chains. These stores have 10-12 machines lining one wall and you simply grab a cup and help yourself. Then it's off to the topping bar followed by a stop at the cashier where you pay based on the weight of the finished product.

We were there to try the pineapple frozen yogurt tastes JUST LIKE DOLE WHIP!!!! Sorry for the half eaten photo below, but I couldn't resist diving in. We also tried orange (weird sweettart-ish taste) and wedding cake (yummy).

For some reason, both of our shops have the same low to the ground chairs. They are a little awkward for an adult but great for kids. Tink didn't care for my choices but they let me get her a sample cup of vanilla for free. She loved it.

I'm totally kicking myself for taking so long to get over there and we are moving out of town soon. The nearest Orange Leaf to our new town is 4.5 hours away. (Anyone want to invest in a frozen yogurt shop in North Carolina?)

With the upcoming move and Baby Girl due in May, my next WDW vacation is not anytime soon. Thanks again, Corby, for a little Disney fix today. Now if they would just play the Adventureland music...


A Walk Around The World With Ridge--t minus 15 days 23 hours till take off

So as you can tell its not long till I take my trip to our happy place. I have equal amounts of plan and no plan that I think I should be able to have a direction to go in yet not have any clear destination. I take that little bit of information from my trusty Unofficial guide *ding*. For this trip will be a little different than all the others that I have taken in the fact it is my first solo trip. With this being solo I have been concerned with what will I do. Normally I have someone to pal around with. On the other side of that coin I have no one to ask what do you want to do? I get to do as I please. The amount of freedom this comes with is a tad overwhelming. But do I go without a plan? I say no. But Chris, you have been so many times do you need a plan...oh yes, Moderate plans are in order.

I am only heading down for four days (really only 3 full days of park or any other activity time) staying at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. Photography and a mini vacation are my main goals. In preparation for the trip I have been compiling information from the usual places,,, Disney parks blog,, the list goes on and on. There are the endless podcasts too. Wow all that information and I still have things to research. Part of my plan is to take the Keys to the Kingdom Tour. I am super excited about this since the last tour I took was back in the day when Discovery Island was still a thing. I remember getting to walk into the utilidoors and coming out from a stairwell on the backside of the castle. then getting to go up in the castle to where Tinker Bell gets ready to take flight. Then a short boat ride over to Discovery Island where I saw Galapagos turtles and lots of birds. The Keys to the Kingdom tour promises to be an adventure lasting 4.5-5 hours and covering some (hopefully) unique Disney information. At 74.00 plus tax not at all a bad deal. With a DVC member discount of 15% it was only 66.99. I hope to have nothing but good things to say afterwards.

My other plans include only one ADR for this trip, Via Napoli. I am planning on just eating where ever I happen to be the rest of the time. I may even see if walk ups are welcome at Le Cellier. I don't hold high hopes but it would be awesome if there were, since it would be just a whim that I would stop by. I do want to find at least one of these new gourmet burgers I have read about. I haven't had a Casey's hotdog in years and a walk up for Tonga Toast my be in the cards. And let us never forget the mighty Dole Whip combined with people watching to make the time slip away.

So with 15 days to go, I have my touring plans crowd calendar, my lines app ready, the historical weather from handy, an open excel sheet and plans to make but only just enough to keep me out of any trouble. With this one all but in the bag, I am slowly turning my attention to May and Star Wars weekends. I want to do this one off the DVC dime so my parents and I can still have time left for the International Food & Wine Festival that goes on right after my birthday. Things I am taking away from this planning session are, a little planning will go along way. Announcing when I will be at MK or any of the parks will be key to seeing some Disney friends... And to make sure and take a minute and just relax. I mean you're away from the office. Unwind.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Photo Flashback!!! Remembering Mickey's Toontown Fair

As I worked diligently last Friday, in between my assigned tasks I thought about my fast approaching solo trip and the closing of Mickey's Toontown Fair. The fair was closing and I thought back to the first time I went to Disney World and how far everything has come even in my relatively short lifetime.

When what is now known as the Toontown Fair was opened it was called Mickey's Birthdayland. Opened in 1988 it was only supposed to be a temporary attraction and it was only lasting two years when Mickey's Starland was opened. This is where I start remembering, my first trip was in 1991, Starland was a year old and going to Mickey's house was tops on my list. I pulled out my photo album from this trip and scanned a few pictures. This is what I found.

Mickey's driveway and small garage. 1991

Mickeys Room in 1991

Mickey's room 2010

Mickey's foyer table 1991.

Mickey's foyer table with mail (he has more going on these days) 2010

Mickey's study, look I see bronzed baby booties.

Mickey's living room 1991 lots of hidden Mickeys but it was all so dark.

Mickey's living room 1991, it's hard to tell but I think the Mickey Mouse Club is on TV.

Mickey's living room 2010

Pluto's bed 2010

Old Kitchen in 1991 before the perpetual construction project.

Mickey's Kitchen 2010 under construction forever

The house saw several incarnations over the years and its last one stood, I think, the longest. Minnie's house was next door for as long as I can remember. I never took pictures of Minnie's house till my last trip in Oct 2010. The Imagineers put so much time and detail into the homes of our honored hosts that it is somewhat a shame that they are finally leaving us. Mickey's house has a nice garden and a walk through garage. If you look at my flickr pictures, you can see all the mouse related details found in the garage. I saw so many people just walking through without a second thought. Details people... While it really didn't hold much for me any more, seeing my niece and my cousin's children light up inside made me glad they got to see it (BTW those are the little girls in the pictures. I did not follow two kids around...Stranger Danger!) But to all thing must come an end and with the wonderful record keeping of the Disney community, it will still be available somewhere.

To see all my pictures from Mickey's Toontown fair click here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Aulani - Getting Closer

Have you got your reservations for Aulani yet? No? Phase one opens August 29th, 2011 so you better hurry if you’re going to be there for the Grand Opening.


You are like me and it will be a while before you can save up enough to visit Aulani let me update you on what is going on. Like you I have to get my information from the web as I don’t have an “in” with anyone on site. The closest I have to having a friend on site is reading Werner Weiss, Curator of He visited the construction site in January and has posted some wonderful pictures of the construction and of the on-site model rooms. has done a wonderful series on Aulani and has some great pictures of the progress. Check out latest pictorial on Aulani here.

For a Disney Vacation Club member there is a familiarity in the layout as it appears similar to other DVC properties. The themeing is totally Hawaiian with a touch of “mouse”. The artwork and décor is representative of Hawaiian culture. Imaginers have added their touches with Hidden Mickeys and some unique furniture. One such piece the stand for the TV in the DVC Villa living rooms, as the bottom hides a bed for a child.

The other site with lots of information, but not a lot of construction pictures, is Disney’s official Aulani resort site - If you haven’t seen Aulani’s web site recently, take another look. In the photo gallery there are new videos of Aulani including one of the creation on the beach of a sandsculpture of Mickey on a surfboard with construction in the background. See the video here.

There are some great 360 deg pictures of the DVC villas under the Accommodations section. Take a few minutes to examine the rooms. Disney says the resort has all you would expect in a luxury resort with what they describe as “Magical Room Details”: (Visit the DVC Villas here.)

"Aulani offers all of the standard room amenities you would expect from a world-class hotel. The real magic of the Disney Vacation Club villas is in the details:

Kapa cloth artwork appears subtly in the tone-on-tone, ivory jacquard weave of the duvet covers.
Atop the task table, a carved table lamp depicts Mickey Mouse on vacation in Hawai`i. Flanked by a surfboard and a ukelele, Mickey wears brightly colored shoes and a traditional lei.
Distinctive kapa patterns form the carved wooden frame of bathroom mirrors and bedroom side tables.
The large, wooden carved armoire features an intricate fish pattern depicting many of the indigenous fish of Hawai`i.
Dining area lighting fixtures are inspired by Hawaiian calabash bowls.
Master bathrooms feature wall sconces that resemble the claw-shaped pandanus sails, which powered Hawaiian outrigger canoes.
Other bathroom wall sconces resemble traditional Hawaiian fish traps. "

This is much what Walt Disney would have described as “plusing" it. That is the something extra that makes something ordinary magical. I think the extra Disney “touches” will make this a resort guests will want to return to again and again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Magical Blogorail: Fantasyland Expansion

Welcome to those of you joining us from Meet the Magic. This is the 3rd stop on the Magical Blogorail.

The Growing Up Disney family discusses the Fantasyland expansion
and what we are looking forward to most.

Amy: When I first learned that Walt Disney World was going to expand Fantasyland, I thought, “Wow. That’s perfect for my daughter. She’ll be just the right age when it’s complete. So glad they were going to all that trouble just for my Disney baby.” Well, of course, the expansion isn’t just for my kiddo, although I still like to think it is. Once the work is complete, we’ll gladly welcome all to enjoy our newly updated land.

Seriously, I am excited to see how the Fantasyland expansion turns out. The plans have changed since the original announcement, and even though I love the Princesses, I agree with backing off on the super girlie concept. Here’s an article from the Orlando Sentinel outlining the latest plans.

One thing I love is the expanded Dumbo attraction. Hooray! Tink has visited WDW twice now and has yet to ride Dumbo. Please don’t throw things at your computer screen. We just couldn’t get there early enough to get ahead of the lines and that queue area just looked too difficult with a toddler. The new plans for Dumbo call for two towers of twirling pachyderms and a queue full of games to entertain young guests. I can’t wait to take Tink’s picture on her first ride, pigtails swinging with the breeze and a big grin. Her little sister should be able to share that first ride too. Double hooray! Glad Uncle Chris and I both have good cameras.

While I am sad to hear a classic like Snow White’s Scary Adventures is closing, I like that the parks are continually changing and look forward to the new attraction replacing it. Princess Fairytale Hall is sure to be popular with my girls. Tink already knows the names of several princesses but has yet to see any of their movies. Here’s hoping that Disney comes up with an improved queue concept here as well. Standing in line for characters with small kids is not much fun. Hence, I mostly have pictures of Tink with characters she met at breakfasts.

Two “thrill” rides will be a part of the new Fantasyland. As a roller coaster fan myself, I look forward to taking the girls on these entry-level kicks. First, the existing Goofy’s Barnstormer is being re-themed and for a kid’s ride, that thing is fun. Second, a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction has been recently announced. This indoor coaster will include cars swinging from a looping overhead track. Sounds like a good time to me!

Actually, all of the plans in the new Fantasyland sound like fun but what I am most looking forward to is having a whole new world to explore with my kids. And we’ll invite the rest of the Growing Up Disney family along for the adventure too.

DisneyDad: I must admit Fantasyland is usually where you go through to get to Liberty Square. The Mickey Mouse Revue left years ago and while the current Mickey’s Philharmagic is quite good, it’s more Donald than Mickey. Mr. Toad is gone and Snow White’s Adventure has closed and Peter Pan’s Flight is always covered over with guests waiting in line. I loved walking through Cinderella Castle, the murals there are wonderful, but that is blocked off and instead of shopping for medieval gear or artwork it is covered with little girls waiting to get into the Bibbity-Bobbity-Boutique. I still enjoy watching what is now called “Prince Charming Regal Carrousel” as it’s a good part of history built in 1917 with handcrafted horses even though I haven’t ridden it in years. It’s a Small World is still one of my favorite Fantasyland rides if you don’t mind humming or singing to yourself the rest of the day…♬It’s a Small World after all… ♬It’s a Small World after all…♬ It’s a Small World after all… ♬it’s a Small Small World!♬ (Sorry about that. You’ll be singing it all day now without getting to go through the ride. )

I haven’t been to Mickey’s Toon Town Fair in a while either, but on our last trip I got to show Tink where Mickey Mouse’s house is found. We got to see Mickey’s house! This will be the only time Tink will get to see this as the new expansion will replace most of Toon Town Fair. So where will Mickey and Minnie live?

Fantasyland is being expanded. Originally it what I heard sounded like it was going to be a big place for Disney’s many Fairies and Princesses to hang out. Boys would stay away in droves. I think the Imagineers realized that too and made some changes to their published plans. The two attractions I will look forward to seeing the most will be Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be less “Scary Adventures” and more “Heigh Ho” dwarfs. It should be enough to get many boys past all the Princess “stuff”. Described as “moderately intense” it will feature an indoor ride system that will swing back and forth along a twisting track while set to music from Snow White so expect a lot of “Heigh Ho” while you ride this one.

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid is rumored to have a $100 million budget so it should be a fantastic experience. Of course I love the Little Mermaid movie even though it had a very sad ending. (Hey remember I’m the Dad. King Triton lost his daughter in the end!) The ride will feature the Omnimover ride system like The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride at EPCOT. It will feature animatronics and what I expect will be some fantastic effects all themed to The Little Mermaid. I expect here you’ll hear a lot of Sebastian singing my favorite “Under the Sea “as you ride in your clamshell.

One other attraction that should draw a lot of attention is the Be Our Guest Restaurant. It will be a 550 seat restaurant that will change from counter service during the day to a table service restaurant at night with a different menu. It should draw a lot of hungry “Dwarfs” and “Princesses” into the Beast’s Castle. This could turn out to be my favorite new attraction as good food is always appreciated.

Ridge:  With the changes happening at WDW to expand Fantasyland and having seen several incarnations of Toon Town, I can say I am excited to see what is on the horizon. I miss the days of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, maybe just because it was so long ago and I was young; the nostalgia of it all makes me wish for days gone by. Since that area has been closed and took up such a large amount of space I am glad to see it used and Toon Town getting a facelift.

One thing I have heard about is the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, a dark coaster ride. It’s been a while since a new dark coaster ride has been introduced and since I am a fan of coasters this should be fun. I understand that the mine cars are supposed to be able to move independently from the track. The ride is to be set to music for a little added bit of awesomeness. It's supposed to be a new one of a kind ride system. I am thinking ride vehicles that ride on track but have a hydraulic system to move the cars around independent of the direction of travel. I am thinking the Dinosaur ride vehicle. Or Indiana Jones if you are in Disneyland.

Also the multiple themed areas for the princesses sounds like quite an undertaking. I can't wait to see my niece's reaction when she gets older and she can walk into the Castle of the Beast or go Under the Sea with Ariel. She will get to ride Dueling Dumbos! I am not so interested in these lands for myself other than seeing the detail and care in bringing these areas to life.

Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Pursuing the Magic.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

2nd Stop ~Meet the Magic
5th Stop ~ Days in the Park
Final Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo Flashback! My Own Wedding Cake Wednesday

I am a big fan of Disney FairyTale Weddings' Wedding Cake Wednesday on their blog and decided to share my own beautiful Disney wedding cake today.  This confection was made by the wonderful team at Disney's Grand Floridian.  In addition to being gorgeous, it was delicious.  The bottom layer was white cake with raspberry filling and fresh berries.  The second layer was in place of a separate groom's cake and Andy chose chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.  The top layer was the same as the first, minus the fresh berries since they would not store well for the first anniversary.  The cake topper was white chocolate.  In the world of Disney Weddings, this cake isn't very creative since it's one of their most popular choices but I loved the elegant nod to our very special location.  Both of the bottom layers were cut and our guests could have their choice.  Since their smallest cake served more people than we needed, I brought boxes with our names and the date embossed on them.  The extra slices were packaged and given to our guests to take home for later. 

This was purchased at the Disney Store when I was about 16.  We put it away for my cake.
It wouldn't have worked well as an actual topper, so it sat beside the cake.

DisneyDad surprised us all with some very special guests.

Love Disney weddings?  Please also see The Magic of My Disney Fairy Tale Wedding

Monday, February 7, 2011

Team Post: Haven't You Seen It All Yet?

You have been to Walt Disney World multiple times, what keeps bringing you back? How do you answer when asked: "haven't you seen it all"?

DisneyDad: Actually I have more people asking me what to see and do at WDW than why I keep going back, but to those that do ask “haven’t you seen it all?” I answer NO! Disney is always updating, adding and changing things that there have been attractions that have opened and closed and I never saw them. One example is Discovery Island. Discovery Island was an animal preserve in the middle of Bay Lake that closed when Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened. We did send Chris there on his first trip. There are so many Behind the Scene tours available that have been available over the years and I have only been on a very few. There are lots of seasonal attractions. EPCOT has the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival as well as the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival that changes from year to year. Both of these have concert series associated with the Festival that have entertainers performing weekly. EPCOT also hosts the Candlelight Processional at Christmas with guest narrators (this year’s narrators includes Isabella Rossellini, John O’Hurley, Steven Curtis Chapman, Trace Adkins, and Brad Garrett) reading the Christmas Story. Plus where else can you go and see Mickey Mouse?

Ridge: No, not even close. While Disney has its classic appeal and charm, it is also an ever expanding and evolving park. There are tours to take, people to talk with and an entire community to share our experiences with. I get to help others find that Disney magic and plan their own trip to see what it is that people like us are talking about.

Amy: It’s almost impossible to see and do it all. We don’t generally tour the parks too hard, preferring to take our time, so there are plenty of attractions that I only see every couple of trips and this helps keep them fresh. Since I’ve visited while pregnant in the last few years, I’ve not been able to ride Disney’s wonderful thrill rides. Even things I make sure to see every visit (Pirates, Soarin’, Haunted Mansion) are always fun no matter how many times I’ve taken the journey. With Disney always changing and growing, it feels like there is always a new attraction, restaurant, resort, or shop to explore…and most often there is lots that is new! I still haven’t stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge or checked out all the spas. And then there is the new tour at Animal Kingdom to experience as well as all the others I haven’t gotten around to yet. Any time you take new people along, it’s all new as you see everything with them. This is especially true with children. Taking my own child has been a whole new World and on our last trip, we also were able to spend some time with my cousin and his family. It was so much fun watching Main Street Electrical Parade with his girls as they took in their very first Disney parade.

But it’s also that familiarity, the history, that keeps me coming back. All the memories of trips past. Good times shared with family and friends. The comfort of knowing my way around. The place that never fails to spark my curiosity.

What keeps you going back to Walt Disney World?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Walk Around The World With Ridge...Workin' For the Memories

So I definitely have the problems of someone from the first world. I am planning a working trip to Disney for March (6th-9th) and the hardest part of it all is trying to decide which DVC resort I want to stay at. Now everything hinges on what is available but before I call member services I need to put my resort priorities in order.

I want to go down and use my new camera to photograph Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival happening from March 2 - May 15 2011. I have been only once before that I can think of while this even has been going on, but it was before I knew there was going to be blog about our Disney lives and I would be a contributor to it. Now I want to see it, experience it and show others what I have found.

So for the accommodations out of the 11 DVC properties 7 of them are in Walt Disney World. Our family's home resort is the original DVC, Old Key West. While I really love all that Old Key West has to offer, because after all this time it is like a 2nd home, I want to stay somewhere new to me.

Now I honestly believe that no matter where I get the privilege of staying I will have a great time and excellent stay. Since I am going primarily to spread my photography wings and play for a couple of days and since part of the main focus is the Flower & Garden Festival the Beach Club resort certainly tops the list. With a short walk to the International gateway at Epcot (my favorite park as an adult) and the board walk that is attached to the Boardwalk Resort. I stayed once years ago in the Boardwalk and the long hallways to seemingly nowhere didn't appeal to me. I don't feel eager to stay there this time.

On the far side of the parks is Animal Kingdom Villas. I like the idea of staying here because of the room options. The choice of a standard room or rooms with a view of the savanna are very appealing. Then having the ability to upgrade that to the Kilimanjaro Club Concierge level with added perks. The resort itself is beautiful and has one of the best restaurants in my opinion, Boma. Tell me, who doesn't like comfort foods steaks, hearty soups, vegetables, and super awesome deserts like Zebra domes?

Another interesting place which is new and modern, Bay Lake Towers (BLT). Now I feel like the likely hood of me getting a room here is less than spectacular just over a month out from when I am thinking I would like to arrive, but it makes my list and I wouldn't turn it down. BLT is the newest property in central Florida and offers views of the Magic Kingdom.

Another wonderful resort is Saratoga Springs right next door to Old Key West and Downtown Disney. Saratoga has wonderful rooms and themed with a horse racing motif. I have stayed here several times in the last couple of years. They have plenty of bus stops and boat service to Downtown Disney. Saratoga also has the Tree House Villas. Now the Tree House Villas are not even on my radar because they are three bedroom Villas and I am only getting a studio this time to save on the points. There is still a Food and Wine Festival later this year.

The last DVC property I could have the possibility of staying at is the Wilderness Lodge. I have never stayed at the Wilderness Lodge but I have eaten at Whispering Canyons Cafe, which was excellent. I sure there is a picture somewhere of my "large" Dr. Pepper. I'll find that and post it later. Wilderness Lodge is anything but lost in the wilderness. Full of all the amenities even though it looks rustic. Disney does theming like no one else.

So I will be calling next week to check on room availability. I think my first choice will be the Beach Club Villas, second choice, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Third BLT, 4th OKW. Of course I will take whatever is available if any of these aren't possible but let's keep hope alive. I will keep you all posted when make my final reservations. Research Trip Here I Come!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Photo Flashback!

With the Fantasyland expansion well underway and the demise of Toon Town where will Minnie's citizenship move to?