Apr 26

Have a Magical Day

222367_1052704369068_94_nWalt Disney World is known as the most “magical” place in the world.  “Have a Magical Day” is one of the lines most commonly heard out of each cast members’ mouth. But do you know just how magical?  Disney World is so full of hidden gems, inside jokes and little details that guests see everyday but don’t realize the significance. Guests visiting the Magic Kingdom get their first taste of Walter E. Disney’s amazingly creative mind as soon as the rope drops.

The Magic Kingdom was designed as if its guests are walking into a movie theater.  You must pass through the tunnels of the railroad station in order to get into the park.  The WDW Railroad station serves as the “curtain” rising upon the upcoming movie.  As you pass through the tunnel, pay attention to the large posters of the rides found throughout the park – these posters are placed there to show guests the “upcoming attractions”.

Once you have passed through the train station tunnels, you will notice the strong smell of freshly popped popcorn.  Look to your left where you will find an old fashioned popcorn cart.  Do you know why?  That wonderfully enticing smell of fresh popcorn creates the illusion that you have just stepped into the lobby of a theater.

As you walk down Main Street, USA towards Cinderella’s Castle, there are shops offering merchandise and food which is what most people pay attention to.   There’s more than meets the eye.  The 2nd and 3rd story windows of the shops along Main Street represent the “opening credits” to the movie.  These windows not only bear the names of fictional businesses but also offer a tribute to those people who were significant to the Disney Company, to the development of the Walt Disney World Resort and their families.   For example, Walt’s brother Roy’s name can be found above the Confectionary shop (for those long time visitors, it’s where the old camera shop used to be) as well as his wife’s name and 7 of their children.  The last credit is given to Walt Disney himself and can be found above the Ice Cream Parlor.  If you are standing facing the castle at the end of Main Street, turn around and look above the Ice Cream Parlor.  There is it – the “star” of the show – Walter E. Disney.

And last but not least, the “main attraction” of the your movie experience – Cinderella’s Castle.  This is where your “Magical Day” begins. Enjoy the show!

Apr 25

Tower of Terror


SSA1-42_139-571x800Looking for a mysterious thrill ride?  Drop in on The Hollywood Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The Hollywood Tower Hotel in its heyday was a place were movies stars and the rich and famous of Tinseltown came to relax and unwind.  A place where one would go to see and be seen.   Legend has it that on a stormy Halloween night in 1939, 5 people were in the elevator when a violent storm struck and the patrons in the elevator were never to be heard from again.  The hotel closed that night and the whereabouts of those guests still remains a mystery.

Fast forward to current day, a time when you can tour the infamous abandoned hotel exactly as it was left in 1939.  As you enter under the wrought iron gates, you will wind through abandoned gardens overrun with weeds, decaying potted plants and an empty rusted pool as the faint sound of jazz music plays and screams linger in the background.

061906_1013-527x800Enter the dusty cobweb-ridden lobby and you will be directed into the dark library where a crack of lightning brightens the room and a TV comes on to welcome you to your Twilight Zone journey.  Guests touring the hotel are then brought down a secret passage way, through a boiler room and to the service elevator where the journey into a new dimension begins.

Board the rickety lift and strap yourself in as the service elevator launches upward into the darkness and the lights spookily flicker on and off.  As the lift reaches its first stop, the door opens to a long hallway where the spirits of the guests from the past will materialize and beckon you to join them, only to disappear again.   Your next stop forces your lift to move forward and your climb continues up to the 13th floor (of 175238_E230-640x800course) where the elevator begins it’s crazy ride as if it was taken over by an unseen spirit.

This ride features a high speed climb and sudden free-fall drops as the elevator with a mind of its own gives riders a great thrill.   With different ride patterns in place, guests can board this thrill ride several times in a day and never get the same experience.

There are several Hidden Mickeys to be found on this ride.  Hint:  Look at the balcony railing just before you enter….the toy the young girl is holding in the video….there is a great one in the boiler room just think water stain!

Snow White’s Ranking:  


Interest:  Kids, tweens, teens, and adults.

Height Requirements: 40 in. or taller

Accessibility:  Guests must transfer from Wheelchair/ECV

Thrill Level:  Big drops, dark and scary thrill ride

FASTPASS+ is offered.

Location:  Sunset Boulevard

 

Apr 24

Kilimanjaro Safari

UnknownLions and tigers and bears….oh my!  If you are spending the day at the Animal Kingdom, one thing you do not want to miss is the Kilimanjaro Safari.  Ok, so you will not see tigers or bears on this excursion, but there is a really good chance that you will will see lions sitting atop pride rock.

277Climb aboard an open-air safari vehicle as your African safari journey ventures out into the 110-acre Savannah of east Africa.  During this 20 minute expedition into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, your Disney tour guide will direct your attention to over 34 different species who are roaming free in a replica of their natural habitat.  As you travel over rugged terrain, you feel as though you are right in the center of their habitats.  Not to worry though, Disney has done a wonderful job of creating almost invisible barriers between man and beast in the creation of this animal sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of these amazing animals.

293While your guide will point out some of the animals you see on your excursion, the dash of every row on your open-air vehicle also offers a guide to its guests.  Some of the animals you may encounter on your African safari include black rhinos, giraffes, elephants, gazelles, lions, hippos, crocodiles, cheetahs, warthogs, wildebeasts, ostrich, flamingos, and white rhinos.   Have your cameras ready because you never know what you are going to see right in front of you.   Each and every safari offers guests a different experience and don’t be surprised if some of the animals come right up to the vehicle to get a glimpse of the humans that are on display.

259The best time to do you Safari excursion is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon as the animals seem to be a little more active during these times and guests are likely to see more action.  This ride is very popular so it is best to include it in your Fastpass+ to avoid long waits.

Snow White’s Ranking:  


Interest:  Kids, tweens, teens, and adults

Height Requirements: No height restrictions

Accessibility:  Guests must transfer from Wheelchair/ECV

Thrill Level:  Slow ride – a little bumpy

FASTPASS+ is offered.

Location:  Africa

 

Apr 23

Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

72smallLooking for a great place to stay on the WDW property?  Look no further than the Port Orleans French Quarter.  I have stayed at all of the moderate resorts on the property and this one is my favorite by far.  With it’s large carnival masks, wrought iron appointments and cobblestone streets you’ll feel like you just stepped into the Big Easy.  This property is small in comparison to some of Disney’s other resorts but I like that it adds to the quaintness.  Don’t let the size fool you, this property is chock full of all the pageantry and amenities that only Disney can do.

imagesConsisting of over 1,000 recently renovated rooms, the property offers 7 three-story buildings that are reminiscent of New Orlean’s Vieux Carre with their pink and blue hues, wrought iron balconies and gas lampposts.  While there are no suites at the French Quarter, guests find the 315 sq. ft rooms to be quite comfortable and the resort offers 4 types of rooms:  Standard view, Garden view, River view and Pool view.  In all honesty, buildings 1 and 7 tend to be more quiet than buildings 2-6 because of their location on the ends of the property.  Also, building 7 is the closest one to the sister property, Port Orleans Riverside which makes access simple.

Looking to get away from the crowds for some downtime?  The pools at the French Quarter are a great place to go.  imagesEscape the crowds and cool off at Doubloon Lagoon where every day is Mardi Gras.  Meet Scales, the 51-foot sea serpent waterslide who puts you in the lagoon as King Neptune supervises from high atop of his head.  The alligator jazz band offers a bit of authentic New Orleans tunes while you sip frozen libations from Mardi Grogs, the poolside bar.

Hungry?  Port Orleans French Quarter has the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, a counter service restaurant offering traditional New Orleans cajun and creole cuisine such as gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp po’ boys.  I highly recommend the beignets which are great ANY time of the day.   Although the French Quarter only offers the counter service, if you are looking a full-service restaurant, venture over to the French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside to dine at Boatwright’s.
pools-port-orleans-resort-french-quarter-00

This resort offers many other recreational things to do as well.  Busy day at the parks?  Relax in the evening by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride along the scenic banks of the Sassagoula river or through the woodlands of cypress pines to the Fort Wilderness Resort& Campground.  Each carriage ride is around $45 and lasts for 25 minutes.  During the holiday season, this carriage ride becomes a sleigh ride – a wonderful holiday treat.

Another evening activity is the Cajun Campfire.  Enjoy singing songs, roasting marshmallows, and stories while sitting around a campfire along the bank of the Sassagoula.  Bring something to sit on – either a blanket or a chair to cozy up to the warmth and the cracking fire.  Kids really enjoy this treat!

This resort is located in the Downtown Disney area and offers boat rides to and from Downtown Disney.

TIP:  All of the amenities at the Port Orleans Resorts – French Quarter and Riverside are shared, so feel free to hop between resorts to enjoy everything they have to offer.  

 

Apr 21

Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

Tony's

With so much to offer at the WDW resort, it is hard to know where to start.  I could jump around from park to park and tell you all of my favorite rides, restaurants, shops, etc. but I am not going to.  I am going to start with the Magic Kingdom – the heart and soul of the WDW resort.  You know, the one with that iconic castle whose spires reach so high into the magnificent blue skies that Florida is so well known for.  And what better way to start off a blog than with food – I am a huge foodie.  You hungry?  Good!  Because Tony’s Town Square Restaurant is where we are going first.  My family LOVES this place!

Located on Main Street, USA, this charming, casual dining restaurant offers Italian/American fare and is themed after the beloved Disney classic film, Lady and the Tramp.   Adorned with a fountain of the famed characters and animated art from the movie on the walls, it is a sure crowd pleaser.  This is no ordinary italian restaurant, it is a replica of the one where Lady and the Tramp had their first kiss over a plate of spaghetti and meats-a-ball .  Are you singing Bella Notte in your head right now?

DSC09611

Offering indoor and outdoor dining, this restaurant serves lunch and dinner and counts as 1 meal on your Disney Dining plan (except the quick-service plan).   I recommend the calamari, eggplant catasta, the flatbreads, shrimp scampi and of course, the spaghetti and meatballs on the lunch menu.  On the dinner menu, I recommend the braised short ribs, chicken parmagiana and the mushroom ravioli.  And, if you still have any room after their huge portions of food, the pistachio creme brûlée and the tiramisu are absolutely delish!

TIP – This restaurant is on the parade route.  Make your outdoor reservations to coincide with the parade times and you will have the best seat in the whole park for the parade.