Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Landscape of Flavors Menus and More Food Pics

While we briefly gave an overview of the meals we sampled the other day for breakfast and dinner, I thought we should take a closer look at what I’m sure will become one of my favorite counter service locations on property: Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. There are so many amazing things to share about this great food court. It is like no other value resort in its attention to detail and theming that are prevalent throughout the resort common areas and suites.

One of my favorite details I wanted to share was all of the incredible artwork in the different dining areas themed after the resorts areas of The Lion King, Cars, Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid. I wish I could take some of this artwork home to decorate my house! It feels like you are immersed in a very cool art gallery while enjoying some truly incredible food. I was trying to describe the menu to a friend the other day and think Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Kidani Village is the closest as far as the world flavors influence, but with some Riverside Mill from Port Orleans Riverside thrown in with the create your own pasta and salad options. Having said that, this food court really doesn’t feel like any other. The ambiance is very relaxed and welcoming. I cannot wait to go back and try some of the incredible offerings that this restaurant has!

Also check out our post from the other day with pictures of what we ordered for dinner and breakfast here.

 

Landcape of Flavors general pictures and artwork

 

Breakfast pictures and menus

 

Snacks and drinks

 

Dinner pictures and menus

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Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Preview – Sketch Wall in Lobby

One of my favorite elements of the lobby at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the sketch wall in the lobby that runs opposite the front desk in Animation Hall. The sketches are from the four featured themes of the resort: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. From right to left with your back to the front desk, the sketches progress from very rough black and white sketches to more finished drafts, and then eventually on to full color sketches of the characters we know and love from these great Disney and Disney-Pixar films. Some of the drawings depict the characters as we are familiar with them from the movies while others are concept sketches of earlier incarnations. Enjoy this slide show showing the progression of the beautiful artistry from the animators and imagineers.

 

httpv://youtu.be/1eQwHryk0i8

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Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Preview – Cars Family Suites

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Walt Disney World’s newest value resort, will be opening in just a few short days on May 31, 2012. Here are some pictures of the Cars Family Suites, of which there will be 480, that open on June 18th. I am so excited to be able to experience these highly themed suites in person this summer!

These family suites are approximately the size of two standard rooms at the other value resorts at a little over 500 square feet. The suites are comprised of a queen size bed in the bedroom, a pull out double sofa in the living room and a double murphy bed that comes down over the dining table. There is a full bath off of the living room and it is important to note that the master bathroom does not have a bathtub. Also in the living room is the kitchenette area that includes a compact refrigerator, small microwave, coffeemaker and a bar sink.

The detail of the rooms is nothing short of amazing, but I think I was even more impressed by the exteriors of the buildings. Imagineers have taken an incredible amount of effort in recreating the feel of Radiator Springs. This section of the resort is created to the scale as if the guests were the size of the Cars we all know and love from the Disney-Pixar films. One of my favorite things was on Fillmore, the classic VW van, who is a hippie in the Cars movie. He can be seen just outside the Wheel Well and at first glance only has a few bumper stickers on his side window. However, if you walk all the way around Fillmore, you are able to see the entire back of the van is covered. There are some great inside jokes that the Imagineers threw in there.

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I fell in love with the Cars area of the resort in just the short time I was there. The rooms and colors in the Finding Nemo section are more my personal style, but I think I was even more blown away by how amazing Radiator Springs looks! There is so much to see and explore, I can’t wait to see the finished product so I can discover even more.

 

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCXupke6p4Q&feature=g-upl

 

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Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Preview – Pool And Play Areas

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is full of sooo many pool and play areas!!! The amount of recreation options at this resort is truly amazing!!!

The Big Blue Pool

The Big Blue Pool is located just outside of the Animation Hall, and is the single largest pool on property which has a really neat twist! While the pool is beautiful above the water with spraying jellyfish and coral, the true gem is when you are swimming under water you get to hear music…which sometimes features characters from Finding Nemo chiming in. My personal favorite was when Mr. Ray started to sing along and commentate with Jimmy Buffett’s “Fins”!!! Another fun touch is the landscaping around the pool, because you will find that all of the palm trees aren’t straight, and look like they are swaying with the current of the Big Blue Sea.

If you have someone in your traveling party with disabilities, it is important to note that there is a special lift chair available to help them into the pool. Also life vests are available for swimmers who could use a little help.

Schoolyard Sprayground is located just past The Big Blue Pool, and is a fun water play area for younger members of the family which is full of fun water sprays and fountains. Nemo and Marlin are in the middle of the Sprayground with the sea anemones, with Nemo’s friends all around them. If you have diaper-age children, swim diapers and rubber pants are required when they are using the pool or water play areas.

Kids can play, slide, and hide in small tunnels at the Righteous Reef Playground. Squirt swims along the coral creating a fun place for everyone to explore! The playground is located next to the Schoolyard Sprayground.

If you want to make sure that you are ready for the next RunDisney event or if you are feeling guilty about all the gelato you ate at the Landscapes of Flavor food court, there’s a 1.38 mile jogging trail that goes around the resort. It is a great way to explore the Art of Animation Resort, and at night the trail is extremely well lit and the view of Pop Century from the trail is beautiful!!!

The Pixel Play Arcade

Pixel Play Arcade is 4500 square feet of fun for the whole family! The arcade features ticket games, the latest in video games (I loved playing the supersized Fruit Ninja game), and classic games like air hockey. Instead of using cash in the arcade, you purchase a card with credits to spend there during your stay.

If you think that the activities stop there, you are really mistaken. Recreation Cast Members work overtime to make sure that there are plenty of great things going on in the afternoon and early evenings at The Big Blue Pool. There is The Big Blue Beach Party, the Righteous Dance Party Extravaganza, Arts & Crafts, Games, and Movies Under the Stars just to name a few. All of these activities are free, and are subject to change. In the event of inclement weather, activities may be moved to the kid’s playroom next to the Front Desk.

While the resort is a great value as far as space is concerned, when you add in the extra value of all of the water and play areas, amenities, and Recreation offerings you really can’t go wrong with a stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.

Make sure you check out our Facebook Page to find more pictures of the Finding Nemo Pool and Play areas at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort!

 

 

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Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Preview – Nemo Family Suites

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Walt Disney World’s newest value resort, will be opening in just a few short days on May 31, 2012. Here are some pictures of the Nemo Family Suites, which will open in the first phase with 320 rooms.

These family suites are approximately the size of two standard rooms at the other value resorts at a little over 500 square feet. The suites are comprised of a queen size bed in the bedroom, a pull out double sofa in the living room and a double murphy bed that comes down over the dining table. There is a full bath off of the living room and it is important to note that the master bathroom does not have a bathtub. Also in the living room is the kitchenette area that includes a compact refrigerator, small microwave, coffeemaker and a bar sink.

The Nemo Family Suites are the two buildings, four and five on the resort map, that flank The Big Blue Pool as you exit the Animation Hall. As you exit the Hall, you find yourself shrunk down to Nemo’s size to experience his world with his friends. Mr. Ray greets you at the door of building four, which is on your right as you face the pool, and you see the shadows of Bruce and friends who remind you that “Fish are friends, not food” as fish adorn the walls and landscape around the entrance. Across the pool, Crush and his friends are coasting along in the EAC. The plants around the building reflect those that you would find in the Big Blue, and there are fish friends mixed in among them.

As soon as you walk into the hallways, which is one of my favorite parts of this resort, there is no doubt that you are in the world of Finding Nemo! The carpets have seaweed and bubbles, watch out for a Hidden Mickey, the walls are painted a soothing blue, and huge paintings of the characters adorn the walls.

Each room is dripping with detail! The carpets are decorated with colorful seaweed, schools of fish have created pictures, and in the bathroom you find that your vanity is made from reclaimed boat parts. But my absolute favorite detail, is that when you pull down the Murphey Bed there is a picture of Nemo and Marlin waiting for you. Plus, every cabinet and dresser drawer front is beautifully decorated with images from Finding Nemo.

I am absolutely in LOVE with these rooms, and I cannot wait to bring my family here to stay!!!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0I2fNUfXFk&feature=relmfu

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Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Preview – Resort Merchandise

Located inside the Animation Hall at the Art of Animation Resort you can find the Ink and Paint Shop where you can find both resort specific and merchandise that ties into the characters featured at the Art of Animation Resort.

The shop is decorated with large paint bottles, and is really vibrant.

Also this is where package pick-up is located for guests who chose to have their purchases shipped to the resort.

 

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Photo Tour of the Cinderella Castle Suite

A couple years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a D23 event at Walt Disney World that included a tour of the Cinderella Castle Suite in the Magic Kingdom. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some pictures from that tour. I’ve also included a brief video of the suite so you can get an idea of the size.

 

 

 

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These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Image Copyright ABC Family

So the other night on twitter I asked what people’s favorite song was from the Sound of Music when mine came up randomly in iTunes (Something Good, btw). One of my friends answered My Favorite Things. While struggling to come up with a topic for a blog post, I was reminded of this when I saw Do-Re-Mi-Fa trending on twitter and saw it as a sign. Inspiration has to come from somewhere, so why not twitter? I’ll take this opportunity to highlight some of my favorite things at Walt Disney World. Some are obvious choices as E Ticket attractions and others may not be as well known.

At the Magic Kingdom, and probably in all of Walt Disney World, my favorite ride is Pirates of the Caribbean. I guess I’ve been enamored with the idea of pirates in general since we did Peter Pan as our second grade play. Despite the fact that I always tend to get soaked from either the cannon fire or even the drop, this remains my fave. I love the smell of the queue, have a whole soundtrack of the theme song with various remixes (yes, this exists), and the addition of Captain Jack Sparrow certainly didn’t hurt or compromise the integrity or feel of the ride, in my opinion. Two other classic attractions round out my top three in MK: Haunted Mansion and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. I have been fortunate enough to take a walking tour of the Haunted Mansion and it was beyond incredible. The storytelling on this is probably the most complete of any attraction in the Magic Kingdom. TTAP is just a great ride that gives you an overview of Tomorrowland with narration. You can read more about my love of the Peoplemover here.

Pirates!
Haunted Mansion
TTAP

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not my favorite of the four parks by a long stretch, however there are some things that I completely love about this park. The theming of Harambe and Anandapur are spectacular. I especially love the artwork and details in the Asia section of the park along the Maharajah Jungle Trek. It may also be because the tigers are my favorite animals to visit. As far as rides are concerned, I love the Kilimanjaro Safaris, especially towards the end of the day. I used to think that I’d see more animals first thing in the morning, but the last few times I have ridden in late afternoon I saw way more. My favorite show, possibly in all of WDW, is the Festival of the Lion King. It has great interactivity for the kids, lots of entertainment with singing, dancing, aerial acrobatics, and my absolute favorite part: TUMBLE MONKEYS!!! The quality of this production is always great and is fun for everyone.

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Lion
Tumble Monkeys

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is magnificent at night, possibly stealing the show from the other parks with the luster of old Hollywood and the luminescence of neon. While I’m not a huge fan of all of the rides, I do love to experience some of the lesser appreciated attractions. Probably my favorite activity at the Studios is the Animation Academy. I have done this dozens of times, and typically go twice each day I visit that park. You can see some of my attempts at drawing here. Another attraction that I enjoy and try to catch each time is Mulch, Sweat & Shears. If you haven’t seen these guys (and sometimes girls) perform, you are missing out on one of the best live acts in WDW. They cover great rock songs from the 60s through today. Usually found on New York Street, but sometimes by the Sorcerer’s Hat, Mulch is a great way to spend some time rocking out and dancing to some music you don’t often hear in the parks. Last, but certainly not least, is my favorite ride in DHS: the Great Movie Ride. It harkens back to the classic days of Hollywood with nods to some of the greatest films in cinematic history. For more in depth details on some more of my favorite things at the Studios, take a look at my blog post from a few weeks ago here.

Chip
Mulch, Sweat & Shears
Great Movie Ride

Finally, this brings me to my favorite park (actually I go back and forth between MK and Epcot, but most of the time Epcot wins). I am completely fascinated with World Showcase at Epcot, partially because I love to travel, but haven’t outside of the US. This is like a magical journey that transports me to lands both near and far when I set foot in WS. My favorite film in Epcot is definitely Impressions de France. As several of my friends know, I love (j’adore) this attraction to the point where I have practically memorized the script and can recite it almost verbatim, including the parts in French. The scenery all around France is magnificent, the score is beautiful, using classical works from composers like Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saens and Claude Debussy just to name a few. I have even made a cd of the tracks used in the film. You can ask for a copy of track listing from the Cast Members as you exit through the gift shop. Since Test Track is out of commission, my favorite ride is Spaceship Earth. I know some fanboys take issue with Dame Judi Dench’s narration, but being a James Bond fan, I don’t mind. Plus, I don’t have recollection of the Cronkite or Irons versions. Taking the time to “thank the Phoenicians” has become a ritual part of every trip. My third favorite attraction in Epcot goes to the entire American Adventure pavilion. This includes the Fife & Drum Corps, shows like Candlelight Processional, Flower Power Concert Series, Eat to the Beat Concert Series, the Voices of Liberty and the American Adventure attraction itself. Americana is something that is near and dear to me and all of these elements combine to celebrate some of the best things about this great nation of ours.

Impressions de France
The Phoenicians
Davy Jones

What are some of your favorite attractions? Hope you enjoyed learning about some of mine.

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Touring Walt Disney World with newbies

Dad, Debbie and me at MK

In the last few months I have had somewhat new experiences to me: touring the parks with guests who had never been to Walt Disney World before. It was also a bit unique in that last month was with my mom and my 86 year old grandma and the following week was with a friend from school, her husband and their eight and a half month old son. Previously I had met up with friends with young kids and others with parents and grandparents, but had never really spent the entire day with people this far on either end of the age spectrum. With these ages there are certainly considerations that must be taken into account when planning.

Back in December I had what I consider to be a major coup: I was finally able to get my dad to go to WDW after 30+ years of resistance. I think the fact that I told him he wouldn’t need to pay to get in the parks and that I could get a discount on the rooms helped. This was the man who had never set foot on Disney property until January of 2011 when he came to visit while I was around for marathon weekend running the 5K. On that brief visit, he did not want to purchase a ticket, so he asked the front desk clerk at the Wilderness Lodge, where we were staying, if he could go in for a few hours and try it out for free. I left the front desk dragging him away and shaking my head in disbelief. He did take a trip around both monorail loops and claimed he technically went to Epcot since he was in their air space (okay, sure dad), but we mostly visited resorts.

So we planned a trip for my dad and his wife, Debbie, to come down and make a side trip to Disney World since they were coming to Florida for my brother’s college graduation anyways. Debbie had been to WDW, but it had been well over twenty years since her last visit, so it was all pretty much new to her. Trying to plan a trip for someone has never been before presents the challenge of how much do you want to and can you get done in one and a half days of park time. You don’t want to overwhelm them with every single bit of minutia, but you do want to give them a good taste of the parks and the magic they hold.

With my dad, he wanted to have nothing to do with planning other than he expressed a mild interest in visiting Epcot. Since we were traveling in December, we were able to experience the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on our first evening. Both my dad and Debbie were visibly impressed with the presentation as we were fortunate enough to be there as the switch was flipped to turn the lights on for the evening. The only attractions we rode were Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, Toy Story Midway Mania and the Great Movie Ride. I think this gave them a nice overview of the park since we didn’t get there until around 5pm and the park was closing at eight that night. My dad appreciated the theming and neon luster of the Studios at night.

Dad's first ride on Dumbo!

The next day was our most challenging as they hoped to fit in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot both. We first stopped for breakfast at Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian and then made our way to MK shortly after park opening at nine. We hit mostly classics between Dumbo, It’s a Small World, the Haunted Mansion, the Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise. A lot was accomplished in a short period of time before we made the jaunt to Epcot. The afternoon was spent mostly exploring World Showcase and a bit of Future World with Soarin’, Test Track, Living with the Land and Spaceship Earth. The fact that they are both morning people and were up a bit earlier than I was, factored in to us not experiencing any fireworks or nighttime parades while they were here.

Overall, a good time was had by each individual. My dad was continually amazed by the sheer size of the WDW property and the inner workings and mechanics of how things were operated and went so smoothly. There is a ton that we didn’t do, but for the short period of time I had to work with, I think we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to introduce my dad to Disney World and to have a good time. My mission was a success insomuch as he admitted he really enjoyed himself and wants to come back. Score!

Dad trying to hide his grin, but it isn't working

Fast forward a few months to March of this year and my trip with my mom and grandma. This was a bit different from the previous trip in that my grandma wanted to know what there was to do in each park, wanted to see maps and plan out for the most part what she wanted to see and do in each one. She had been to the Magic Kingdom many times over the past forty years, but it had been quite a while for her and she had only been to Epcot once or twice in the past twenty years or so. My mom is an annual passholder and typically makes it to the parks every three to four months. The impetus for this particular trip was the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.

My mom, grandma and me at Epcot

The first day of our trip the first order of business was Epcot. If we had any additional time we determined we would try to made it to the Studios as well, but there wasn’t much there of interest to my grandma, so Epcot was definitely the priority. Unlike the relatively slow time I had visited with my dad and Debbie in the beginning of December, the middle of March was smack dab in the middle of peak season and spring break. This was very evident when we arrived at Epcot and it literally took 30 minutes from the time we arrived at the line for security to the time we entered the park. The time was pretty much evenly split in waiting between the security and entrance lines.

While my grandma is generally in good health, she does have some mobility issues having had hip replacement surgery a little over a year ago. So, we thought it in everyone’s best interest for her to have a wheelchair for her park touring at least. When we arrived at Pop Century to pre-register for their room (I arrived the night before), we inquired at the front desk about a wheelchair to use while on property. They directed us to bell services who kindly provided us with one to use free of charge for the duration of our stay. We were even advised we were able to take it to the parks. This was great as it saved us $10.+ per day for wheelchair rentals. The only caveat to this is it can be kind of a pain hauling the chair around and having to lift it in and out of your car everywhere you go if you are driving yourself. I became quite a pro at it after two full days.

Now being the klutz that I am, I have experienced several of the parks in wheelchairs, with ECVs and on crutches, but have never accompanied anyone for days in the theme parks who was using any of them. Let me tell you, it is a totally different experience. You have to take into consideration not only energy to push someone up hills (okay inclines) and ramps, but also to be able to hold them back to keep them from careening down them and running over unsuspecting guests. Very quickly you learn the turning radius of wheelchairs and that you do need extra clearance from the guests in front of you as they do tend to stop abruptly to study that park map you may have memorized. I honestly think the wheelchair is more work for those traveling with the guest in the chair than for the mobility challenged guest themselves, but I didn’t really realize this until we were well into the day.

Later that night at DHS

I have to say that Norma, my grandma, was a trooper. We were in Epcot around 9:30am, didn’t leave to go to the Studios just see give her the old Hollywood feel and ambiance until around 7pm. After an hour of wheeling her around DHS, we went to get dinner at Downtown Disney at Wolfgang Puck Express. We didn’t get back to the room to eat dinner until after 11pm and they had been up since before 6am to drive up from Bradenton.

The next day we were back up and at it and heading to the Magic Kingdom before 8am, arriving there by way of sightseeing at the Polynesian shortly after 9. Again, there are things that I really didn’t think of ahead of time. Very simple things like the path I usually take from the parking lot to the lobby of the Polynesian has a large pole in the middle of it, making it inaccessible for wheelchairs (lesson learned). I also tend to favor taking the boat over the monorail, but it is much easier to travel the highway in the sky with a wheelchair and ramp as opposed to stepping several feet down (and subsequently back up) to get in and out of the boat, also having to fold and carry the wheelchair.

We had a great time once we got to the MK and stayed until late afternoon before making a last minute decision to make a side trip to the Animal Kingdom before returning to MK for Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. The only two things we were trying to do were Kilimanjaro Safaris and then the Festival of the Lion King. Based on the lateness of the day, we knew there was a chance that we wouldn’t be able to do both as there was only one more Lion King show by the time we arrived and you never know with the animals. We went straight back to the safari and were in for a treat. We had the best safari experience ever! The animals were all out, even both the male and female lions. As soon as we disembarked the vehicle, my mom started off for the Lion King, leaving me to push my grandma, making a mad dash for Camp Minnie – Mickey from the outskirts of Harambe. I thought I was going to die, but you can actually push someone in a wheelchair from the safari exit to the entrance of the Lion King in seven minutes!

I got to do some things that I hadn’t before over the two days with my mom and grandma. I learned there are boats for

Norma getting loaded on to a Jungle Cruise boat

Gran Fiesta Tour and It’s a Small World where you can just drive the wheelchair on and you basically have a private boat for your party as long as you are willing to wait. There is some great seating for guests with wheelchairs in many of the shows like American Adventure, the Hall of Presidents, Impressions de France, Mickey’s Philharmagic, the Carousel of Progress, etc. Some attractions are more challenging with constant loading via conveyor belts and speedramps that can’t be stopped like the Peoplemover. All throughout though, I have to say the Cast Members were great. They were very understanding and patient and helped us in loading Norma in and out of ride vehicles as necessary.

After that trip, I needed a break and wasn’t planning on visiting the parks for a couple weeks at least. That was until I got a message from a friend from elementary school, Laura, whom I hadn’t seen in 20+ years. She was going to be in Celebration visiting her mom and was down for a few days with her husband and son. We decided we would get together last minute on a Thursday since I had the day off and I offered to get them into the parks. Laura had not been planning to visit any of the parks since her son Riley was so young, she said she couldn’t justify the expenditure of tickets for the day for her and her husband Matt of almost $200. I totally understood, but told her I would take care of that if they wanted to go.

We met at the Polynesian mid morning since Laura and Matt decided they wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom. Matt had never been to WDW before, other than to run the half marathon earlier this year. So he had never experienced any attractions in any of the parks, nor had their eight and a half month old son Riley. The length and schedule of the day was going to be dictated by the boys since we had no idea how long Riley was going to last and what Matt was going to want to do. Laura had been a CM years ago and I’m in the parks practically weekly, so we had no problem ceding control to them.

Matt’s first ride ever was Space Mountain, and it is probably good we got that out of the way first since everything else was tame in comparison. Laura waited with Riley while I took Matt on what is admittedly my least favorite of the mountains. I tried to help assuage Matt’s fear of the unknown by pointing out the numerous kids in line and even striking up a conversation with the eight year old girl in line in front of us. I think she convinced him to ride more so than I did as his anxiety level was increasing as we neared the ride vehicles and could hear screams.

Matt's first ride in a Disney park ever!!!

After Space, Matt decided the tamer Dumbo was something he could definitely handle. It was very cool seeing the park through his eyes for the first time. He appreciated the theming and attention to detail on rides like Winnie the Pooh. The only rides Laura and Riley got to experience with us, partly due to timing and choice, were Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise. He did really well on Pirates until the drop when he got a little wet. We had discussed the drop and they were comfortable with his security on it, but we failed to consider how he would react to getting wet. After just a momentary break in composure, he returned to his wonderful smiling self and was fine. He did great on the Jungle Cruise as well. Boat rides tend to be soothing for young children, so I think JC was a good choice to end the day with.

Riley was a champ throughout the day. Aside from the getting wet on Pirates thing, he did not let out a single cry in the almost eight hours we were in the park. He did well waiting with his mom and people watching and even got to ride a couple rides. Later in the day, thanks to Riley, I was introduced to the Baby Care Center at the Magic Kingdom. It is tucked away in the corner by First Aid between Casey’s and Crystal Palace. There are small private rooms for parents to take their children to for changing or just for a quiet place to get away from the noise and sometimes crowds of the parks. My friends found this to be a great refuge even though it was only needed as a place to change Riley’s diaper.

At the end of the day Riley was still smiling

 

These three different groups of newbies of different sorts taught me many things. One thing is I don’t tour the parks like I do when I’ve got others with me who haven’t been before. By this I mean, I tend to go through the parks at a relatively leisurely pace when by myself or with my friends who are annual passholders. Since we go often, we are rarely compelled to have to do anything. If we don’t get to do something, it will be there next week or the week after. With guests from out of town who have never been, you want them to be able to soak in as much of the magic as possible. I certainly don’t force people to go at breakneck speed, but if they want to keep going, I’m not going to be the one to quit either (see the stupidity of me staying up for the entire 24+ hours of Leap Day in the Magic Kingdom). You live and learn. Next time with each group, things will be different. Everyone will be a little older, a little wiser, and have some more experience under their belts. We can go back and hit favorites or focus on the things they missed last time. I don’t know anyone who has done it all. Things are constantly changing in the parks, and I wholeheartedly believe that the experiences are made just as much, if not more so, by those you are with as opposed to just the parks themselves.

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Easter Happenings At Walt Disney World

This week at Walt Disney World guests will find an array of events for the Easter Holiday. From special dining offerings at select restaurants, to activities at the resorts and in the theme parks, Disney has you covered, even down to religious services. With options available across property, Walt Disney World has taken strides to make guests feel at home in celebrating the holiday while on vacation.

As they do for Christmas, Walt Disney World is providing the Fantasia ballroom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort to hold Easter services this Sunday morning. Catholic Mass will be held at 8:00am and 10:15am, while Protestant services will be at 9:00am. If you are looking for other religious services, contact the concierge at your resort and they can assist you in finding the nearest location for your denomination or religious preference.

Restaurants are also joining in the celebration by offering special menus. Participating restaurants include: Captain’s Grille (brunch) at Disney’s Yacht Club, Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, The Wave (brunch) at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Cape May Cafe (dinner) at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and Garden Grove (dinner) at the Walt Disney World Swan.

In the theme parks you will find a variety of entertainment options:

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom the Yak & Yeti DJ Dance Party will take place 4:00-8:00pm April 4 & 5 and 3:00-7:00pm April 6-14 in Asia. Africa will play host to Bourdicka April 4-14 at 3:10, 4:35, 5:30 and 6:30pm.

Epcot will have Easter Egg Hunts and Relays inside the UK pavilion of World Showcase for children ages 3-9 and 8-12 respectively. There will also be a smaller section for children under 3 to participate in their own hunt. The Easter Egg Hunts will be every 10 minutes from 11:00am – 3:30pm and the Relays will be every 40 minutes between 11:40am and 3:40pm. Also on hand will be Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny to greet guests from 11:30am – 4:00pm. Space is limited for sign ups for the hunts and relays with registration starting approximately half an hour before each hunt. Future World East will be having Easter Egg Hunts as well for children 3-9 in addition to some Easter themed games. The hunts will take place on the quarter hour starting at 10:00am and ending at 4:00pm.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a special dessert just for the Easter holiday from April 6-17. The pineapple coconut Easter cupcake will be sold at ABC Commissary, Backlot Express, Pizza Planet, Starring Rolls and Studio Catering Company. Additional outdoor beverage stands will also be added around Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, The Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano, and 50’s Prime Time Cafe. Sweet Spells will have several other holiday related treats, including some Kosher offerings.

The Magic Kingdom will have a meet and greet with Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny until Sunday in the garden to the left of City Hall in the Tour Guide Garden.

On Easter Sunday, all Disney Resorts will have special activities of their own including Easter Egg Hunts, special arts and crafts activities, pool games themed around Easter, dance parties, and you can even meet some of your favorite Disney characters in their Easter costumes. There are even in room celebrations that you can order from Disney Florist. See this recent post on the Disney Parks Blog regarding Easter baskets you can have delivered for your family.

No matter how you choose to celebrate with your family and friends, it seems like Disney has something for everyone. Hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend and enjoy!

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Meeting Samantha Brown

As are many people, I am a HUGE fan of Samantha Brown (@samanthabrown) from the Travel Channel. I remember the first time I ever saw her on tv. I was at my friend Suzanne’s house and she just happened to have the tv on the Travel Channel as background noise while I was visiting with her and her triplets. An episode of Great Hotels came on, the one about the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago (yes, I even remember which episode it was from a over a decade ago), and I was instantly captivated. There was just something about Sam (as she often refers to herself, making her immediately more accessible) that sucked you in. It is a certain je ne sais quoi, but I will try to articulate. She reminds me slightly of my best friend in that she is very approachable and friendly. Sam has an affable quality and isn’t afraid to laugh at herself or others when the situation warrants. She doesn’t mind making a fool of herself and likes to have a good time. On tv, she appears to be about one of the most down to earth people that you just want to be friends with, and she is in person too. I know because I had the pleasure of meeting her in the fall of 2010. And it all happened through the magic of twitter.

So Sam was one of the first celebrities I followed on twitter. I love following her globetrotting adventures as I have watching her numerous series from Great Hotels to Girl Meets Hawaii, Great Vacation Homes, Passport to Europe, Latin America and China, as well as all of her specials on the Travel Channel. I still think the Great Hotels series is my favorite since she visited WDW on more than one occasion to cover episodes on the Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. On top of this Sam has had more than a handful of Disney specials and continues to work with Disney on a regular basis cover the launches of the new cruise ships, Aulani and co-hosting the Disney Parks Christmas Parade in 2011. She is very endearing and can talk to just about anyone.

Anyways, I would tweet her every once in a while and never got a response until I realized that my account was set to private and she couldn’t see my tweets since she doesn’t follow me. Then, one day, after my friend Mary Jo Collins (@mojodisney) got a response from her, I decided to tweet Sam. Amazingly I got a reply! I couldn’t believe it. I was actually interacting with my favorite tv personality. I was in seventh heaven. Of course, I didn’t just let it go at a simple one time chance tweet, so I continued to tweet with Sam every so often and then, it happened. She confirmed she was coming to Disney World to film for a special. Here is how the conversation went:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that is how it all came about. Through the wonders of social media I was able to meet one of the coolest and nicest people. For her to take time to say hi to me from her busy shooting schedule for the filming of the special Best Places I’ve Ever Been: Disney Memories, was completely amazing. Sam was very gracious and did keep me posted, just like she said she would. As she was escorted in by Cast Members and producers, a line quickly formed in the UK to meet her. I had been hanging out with one of my twitter friends, Susan (@marypoppins68), whom I had just met merely minutes before, when I got the message and we headed to the UK. If it weren’t for Susan, I wouldn’t have the awesome picture of me and Sam because I couldn’t get my silly blackberry to stop tweeting to be able to take a picture. I was next in line and then the CMs tried to whisk Sam away, but I protested (politely) telling Sam that I was @floridamingo with whom she had been tweeting. Immediately, Sam said to the CMs that she had a few minutes and insisted on getting a picture with me and we spoke for a few minutes. I couldn’t believe she did that just for me! After we met, she did have to get back to work and I snapped a few pictures of the filming. When she and her friend were on a break I approached Sam again and mentioned a few drinks she might like since it was during the International Food & Wine Festival and we all know she occasionally enjoys an adult beverage. She seemed to appreciate the tip and I went on my merry way with my mission accomplished.

I set out to meet Samantha Brown and I did just that. Despite the fact that I had two other trips planned for later that month, I booked a trip just for this opportunity. No, I’m not a stalker, I swear, but I really appreciate producing quality entertainment that is also somewhat educational and lets the rest of us live vicariously through it. It was an awesome experience and I actually spoke with Sam on another occasion as a call in guest during a fundraiser by the Be Our Guest Podcast crew. To be able to speak with her again was very cool and she even seemed to remember me (or at least pretended for my sake). For someone to put forth that effort for there fans is rare and I respect how gracious and friendly Sam was during both our in person and phone conversations. I can’t wait to see the next series or special that she has coming up as well as her continued association with Disney.

Here is a link to the special Sam filmed that day. She is up first so don’t be scared by the length:

Best Places I’ve Ever Been: Disney Memories

Pictures from that day of the filming:

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Holiday Resort Hopping – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort And Spa

This year I thought it would be fun to go Holiday Resort Hopping, since it was something that we had always wanted to do during our holiday visits but could never find the time.

I thought I would start with Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, because we ran through it last year and I wanted to take a better look at the decorations throughout the Main Building.

Nothing says Christmas at the Grand Floridian like the smell of gingerbread that hits you as soon as the doors to the lobby open! I found so many little details on the super-sized gingerbread Victorian House that I missed last year!!!

I am in LOVE with the all little period details and opulence of the trees and wreaths spread throughout the hallways and walls of the building.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite pictures of the decorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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