Top 5 Disney Smells

Smell is a one of the senses you will use a lot at Disney.  It can help bring back some great memories as well!

5. Resorts, some have a very unique and memorable scent, I’m looking at you Polynesian!

4. Pirates of the Caribbean, yeah you’ve probably smelled it before, chlorine and musk. It never fails to remind me of my previous vacations.Pirates

3. Toiletries, yes those little lotions and soaps they have in the resorts. They vary by resort type but they all smell so good.

2. Main Street Bakery, baked goods are always a win in our book.

1. Soarin’, aside from being a favorite attraction it smells so good you want to bottle it up and take it home.

Photo Tour of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post

If you’re headed to Hollywood Studios any time in the near future you must make a pit stop at Wandering Oaken’s Trading post. This shop is stuffed full of adorable Frozen merchandise for Frozen fans of all sizes!

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Have you been to Wandering Oaken’s? What did you think?

Touring Disney Resorts at Christmastime

Not only is Christmas in full swing in the theme parks at Walt Disney World– it’s also important to not forget about the resorts. Each Disney World resort hotel decorates for the holidays in unique ways that match their themes.

To get the most for your time here are some tours you could do during a break from the parks.

15792_10200192422122049_498719298_nMonorail Resorts
Hop on the monorail and check out the gingerbread displays at the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian is home to a life-size gingerbread house that contains a store where you can buy gingerbread items shaped like roof shingles. There is a majestic Christmas tree in the Grand Floridian’s lobby that is the perfect background for a holiday photo. There are chairs for taking pictures and a Photopass photographer is there throughout the day to take family photos.

Bay Lake Tour
Take a boat from the Magic Kingdom to either Fort Wilderness Campground or Wilderness Lodge for some rustic Christmastime decorations. Wilderness Lodge is host to a floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree, which adds to the resort’s already wintery theme. Fort Wilderness Campground is a special place to visit during Christmas. Many of the guests camping decorate their campsites for the holidays and it’s fun to walk around and take in the creative displays.

1238229_566078386813330_787701002_nEpcot Resorts
Exit Epcot via the International Gateway and check out the resorts on Crescent Lake. Each resort has a unique holiday tradition. The Beach Club is host to a candy carousel. The Yacht Club’s lobby is home to an intricate train display—if you have a train lover, this will be a winner. The Boardwalk Inn’s lobby always has a creative and entertaining display.

1507552_565325770221925_238204350_nResort Touring
All of the Disney resorts have beautiful decorations that match the theme of the resort. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a beautiful tree and you cannot beat the backdrop of the savanna to your Christmas tree. If you have some free time, hop on a bus from a park to a different resort than where you are staying and check out their holiday decor and how it represents that resort’s theme. The nostalgic Christmas decorations at Pop Century are one of my favorites to go and see.

Podcast Episode 31: Disney For Teens and Tweens

This week we talk about all things Disney for teenagers, including the tweens!  We go park by park and lay out the attractions that we think would appeal to that age demographic, including some restaurants we think teens might want to try!  If you’ve got a kid who’s into video games or “Disneybounding”, you’ll want to give this a listen!

Happy listening

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Art of Animation: Little Mermaid Standard Room Review

Ever since Disney’s Art of Animation resort opened in 2012 I’ve been trying to find a way to stay in a Little Mermaid themed room! As you may or may not know, the Art of Animation has 4 different themed sections: Cars, Lion King, Finding Nemo and Little Mermaid. The first three are suites, but the Little Mermaid rooms are all standard hotel rooms. All standard rooms here have 2 double beds, a table with two chairs and a bathroom with bathtub/shower and toilet. The vanity with sink and mirror is located separate from the bathroom. Each room also has a flat screen TV, refrigerator and wall safe for valuables.

The GIANT Ariel outside our building:

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Two double beds:

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Table and 2 chairs, cabinet (the refrigerator is under here) and television.   IMG_6946 IMG_6947

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There is a curtain separating the sink/vanity area from the sleeping area:  IMG_6952

Sink and vanity, with iron, ironing board and safe to the left:IMG_6953

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Bathroom:

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Now on to the pros and cons of staying in one of these rooms!

Pros:

-The theming in these rooms really can’t be beat. For total immersion in Disney themes, especially the Little Mermaid, these rooms are for you! Comparable rooms at All Star resorts are more generically themed.

-Little Mermaid rooms have their own pool, which is very convenient. The main pool near the Finding Nemo suites is large and tons of fun, but sometimes it’s nice to have a smaller quieter pool nearby for relaxing!

-The price. As a value resort the Little Mermaid rooms can be had for  $109-199 per night depending on season. This is in line with the other value resorts, sometimes more expensive by a few dollars per night (but in my opinion totally worth it).

-Benefits of the Art of Animation resort include the awesome Landscape of Flavors food court (my favorite on property!), dedicated bus service, overall newer buildings and that great theming I talked about before carries throughout the resort.

Cons:

-The Little Mermaid rooms are located far from the main building at Art of Animation, so sometimes walking back to the room (and we were in the back of the very farthest building on property, number 8) after a long day in the parks was a little hard on the feet.

- … Nope, that’s it! Just the one con for me! We really enjoyed our time at Art of Animation, and would stay in those rooms again in a heartbeat!

Disney Books

Disney is a very real addiction and unless you live pretty close you probably only get to the parks every year or two. In the mean time you scour forums, read blog posts, listen to podcast and park music and maybe read some books. I do all these things too so if you are looking for some good Disney related reading here are some suggestions!

Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom by Aaron Wallace- This is a great book for fans and reluctant fans alike. It tells the back story of attractions and fun facts divided by lands. I am sure hoping this author writes more and it is easy to read, informative and very interesting.

Thinking Fan's Guide to Walt Disney World

It’s Kind of a Cute Story by Rolly Crump- If you are interested in Disney art and parks history you will want to pick this book up. It is like listening to Rolly Crump an Imagineer who is also a Disney legend tell you stories about Walt while you are sitting in his living room. It was a fascinating look at working for the company in its heyday. You will finish wanting to pick up more books by Disney Imagineers.

Vault of Walt Volumes 1 & 2 by Jim Korkis- You can sometimes hear Jim Korkis on the WDW Radio Podcast. He tells great-little known stories about Disney History. Hearing him talk about Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel at Walt Disney World made me want to pick up his books. The books are easy to read and you can take bits and pieces with you to the parks and impress your family.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Len Testa and Bob Sehlinger- This book is a true guide book but it is fully of funny quips and boatloads of good information. If you want to get a non-Disney perspective this is the go to book. The only negative thing I might say is this is a huge book and you most likely will not be reading it cover to cover.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney by Neal Gabler- Here is a book for those people interested in the man, Walt Disney. I learned so much from this book; like the fact that Walt Disney failed so many times, was bankrupt, close to losing it all and still never gave up. You learn about his upbringing, his family, his movies, and his parks. It is a long read but very much worth it if you are interested in reading more about the man behind the parks.

Imagineering Field Guides- Disney puts out these books for each of the Florida parks and also for Disneyland. Reading these books is like walking through the parks with an Imagineer who has worked on the attractions or park layouts. These books are probably more for the super fans who love to see how Disney works.

Imagineering Field Guide

Disney Trivia from the Vault by Dave Smith- Yes, this is a trivia book but it is a very interesting trivia book. I found it to be accurate and easily readable. It might be a good starter book for a reluctant or beginning Disney fan.

I would love to know what your favorite Disney book so I can add it to my list!

Be Our Guest Review: Dinner

With just the right amount of pixie dust (and a 6am phone call on 180 days out!) I was able to snag a Be Our Guest dinner reservation for my recent trip to Walt Disney World. This was actually my second visit for dinner, the first being last year. Sadly, I did not enjoy my dinner that first visit. After some thorough research I had decided that I simply made the wrong choice of entrée, meticulously picking my new choice for dinner this time. I’m happy to report it was so much better!

But before we jump the gun! Let’s start at the beginning. My husband and I had a reservation at 5:30pm. We checked in at the desk and headed to the front door of Beast’s Castle for a short wait. Our name was called and we were led to our seats in the main seating area, the ballroom.

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I love the atmosphere in the ballroom. The windows are dark and you can see that it’s “snowing” outside! A cool little tidbit: The angels painted on the ceiling are actually based off of baby photos of some of the Imagineers who helped create Be Our Guest! Pretty cool.

Ok, now on to the food. Be Our Guest is the only place in the Magic Kingdom where alcohol is served so my husband took advantage of that and ordered a Saison Dupont (beer). I was intrigued by the All-Natural Fruit Punch (sweetened with Organic Cane Juice and Wildberry Extract topped with Lemon-Lime Foam) so I ordered that and it was really good!

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Fresh bread was delivered to the table with sea salted butter. These rolls were delicious!

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In addition to the bread we decided to order a few appetizers (hey, we’re at Disney… why not!) My husband got the French Onion Soup, topped with a Croutons and Gruyère Cheese.

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We also got the Assorted Cured Meats and Sausages served with cornichons, pickled onions, and a toasted baguette. I wish I knew what some of the meats were but nothing was explained to us, the one minor disappointment of this meal. The cornichons (pickles) were my favorite, and I really loved some of the meats.

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For entrees! After all the research I had done I’d found that two meals were always mentioned as standouts. So that’s what we ordered! My husband got the Grilled Strip Steak with Garlic-Herb Butter and Pomme Frites. He raved about this steak for days!

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I went with the Braised Pork (Coq au Vin Style): Eight Hour Slow-cooked Pork with Mushrooms, Onions, Carrots and Bacon served with Puréed Cauliflower and Seasonal Vegetables. It was SO good! I wasn’t sold on the pureed cauliflower as I’m a starch addict and was sure I’d have preferred mashed potatoes but these were so good, and just different enough as to be really interesting. The braised pork was delicious, and I probably could have drunk the gravy off a spoon!

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Despite being completely stuffed we did not decline when a dessert menu was brought to the table. It was not at all hard for me to choose what I was going to have for dessert, but it was still nice to see the cart of different treats rolled over to look at.

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I, of course, went with the “Grey Stuff”: a Chocolate Shell, Cookie Crème topped with Lumiere’s special “Grey Stuff” (a cookies and cream type mousse). It was perfect, and just light enough to not send me over the edge after such a large dinner.

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My husband went with a special seasonal dessert, the blood orange cream puff.

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A few times during dinner Beast made his way through the dining rooms to his library where he’d meet guests when they were finished with dinner. This was as close as we’d get to him that night though!

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Delicious dinner complete we paid our bill and headed back out the doors of Beast’s castle and into the Magic Kingdom. I’d highly recommend trying dinner at Be Our Guest if you’re able to snag a reservation (or have your travel agent snag one for you!)

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Podcast Episode 30: Advantages To Staying On Disney Property

In this week’s episode we discuss staying on Disney property versus staying off property. We talk all about value, resort guest perks, and other valuable info you may not know about that makes an on-property stay a better use of your time and money.  Your wallet doesn’t want you to miss this!

Happy listening!

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Epcot Illuminations Sparkling Dessert Party Extravaganza

Recently I had the good fortune of being a guest at the Illuminations Dessert party in Epcot and had the most amazing experience that I have been so excited to share the good, the bad and the food photos (what could be better than Disney dessert food photos? well being there in person  – but these should convince you it is a must do!)

There is always a lot of chatter about the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes dessert party in the Tomorrowland Terrace area and rightly so. I have been and it was a terrific experience! This was a great idea by Disney and I enjoyed every moment of it. It made sense then when presented with the idea of trying Epcot’s version I jumped on it.

IMG_0090So first we had a bit of a challenge finding it. Knowing Disney so well we thought oh we can figure out the logistics on our own and did not do what normal people do and get all the info before hand…do not do what I do people. We asked three different CM’s and got three different answers…so we went to the first place and it was not right in front of Canada. Then the next place it was not was the International Gateway area. The third place and CM we asked went well and we hit the jackpot! What did we win? Yummy desserts and a great view of Illuminations all for the small (in Disney Dollars) fee of $49.00 (adults) and $29 (children). So where is this hidden area? Well it is at the Port of Entry adjacent to Mexico so right in FRONT! Please CM’s if you are reading this do not haze the dessert party newbies by sending us on a wild goose chase!

We finally arrive and get right to it because you do not want to waste a moment of fun. I notice right off that it is a lovely set up! There are smaller tables for people that have a hard time accessing the high bar tables. Then higher bar tables with tablecloths (cloth ones!) and pretty candles on each table for a little mood lighting. Tables were not assigned so first come, first served but there seemed to be a table for everyone. Do you notice how I keep saying table and not seating? Well, my number one main complaint and confusion is this…there are no seats. I will set the stage for you…long day of walking at Epcot, sun goes down, it is time to indulge in some sparkly drinks and sugar. Oh, yes for your $49 we could not get you a fold-out chair so you get to stand (or do what the majority did and that was to sprawl out uncomfortably on the concrete). I did ask a CM about this – as in “I assume this will get fixed soon”. His answer was not the best…basically saying they only allotted 30 minutes to set up for the dessert party and could not get the chairs out in time that way. I did not love the answer but what are you going to do? Okay enough Boo’s and Hisses and on to the best part – the delicacies and the sparkly!

IMG_0092There were a few buffet type tables set up and one of the most interesting things is each dessert is a specialty from a different country. There were predictable countries and dessert pairings like Tiramisu from Italy and chocolate ganache tarts from France (now I am not saying the tarts were the typical French part but the chocolate!) But even the predictable were well done and amazing!The best and most amazing bites were some of the unpredictable such as the crisped rice puffs from Asia. These little morsels were on the top of my list. But do you know what ended up being not only my favorite but most everyone’s there? Seasonal berry cobbler from the good ol’ US of A. Who knew? I thought going in the blue cupcakes would win my heart but the berry cobbler was the best cobbler I have ever had and so well done. Truly a delicious treat but all the desserts were so well done and fun to see and eat. There was a lot of options and something for everyone and to see a full menu you need to go and see it and taste it all for yourself or check out more info by clicking HERE.IMG_0091

When you book the Sparking Dessert party you are not sure what the sparkling stands for, but you hope and you are right! Champagne…the bubbly stuff! So, if being under the stars shipping champagne (or using your straw – no one judges) and filling your plate a few times until you hit the sugar coma is something you think will be a memory that you will always treasure then I am with you! It was a great time and I would do it again. After about an hour or so of snacking and social hour you then got to watch Illuminations from a wonderful viewpoint and you did not have to push or shove anyone to get that luxury (not that I do that normally but this time I felt less bruised up afterwards!)

If you are deciding between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot for your next dessert party it is fairly easy to break down. If you are going for the best desserts and atmosphere then Epcot wins hands down in my opinion. If you want better organization and a seat then head on over to the Magic Kingdom – it was just better organized and I liked having an assigned table and a chair plus there desserts were grand as well (they just need to borrow some cobbler and they will be all set!) Though for a date night at Disney the Epcot is so beautiful and romantic and you can rub each other’s feet later…okay do both! It is a tie!

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Have you done either (or both) of the dessert parties at Disney? What did you think?