Resorts for Grown Ups

Everyone thinks of Disney as a travel destination for parents with small children but this is not the case. There are tons of adults that love Walt Disney World and may want to enjoy the parks without the kids (or grandkids). Here are my recommendations for resort hotels that are more suitable for adults. These are based on location, amenities, restaurants/bars on site and the general grown up feeling of the resort. Yes, you will find families there but it’s Disney World and you can’t avoid that! Most of the resorts I recommend for adults are in the Deluxe category because you will find more and more families when you go to moderate and value resorts. Continue reading

Star Wars Weekends 2013

stm736501SMALLI love Star Wars and I love Star Wars Weekends. The artwork has been released for this year’s Star Wars weekend and I love it. Return of the Jedi is my favorite of the original trilogy and I have a soft spot for the Ewoks. This year is particularly special because it is the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Episode IV: Return of the Jedi. I don’t know about you but I remember seeing this one in the theatre when it was released, so now I feel old… It is also going to be interesting this year because it is the first Star Wars Weekend in which Disney now owns the Star Wars empire.

But know that this is not for the first time Disney traveler. Star Wars Weekends are hot, crowded and confusing if you don’t know your way around Hollywood Studios. If you are a seasoned veteran of WDW and you (or your children/spouse) are a fan, this is the weekend for you to visit!

The full schedule is not released but here is what is available now. Star Wars Weekends will take place May 17-June 9, every Friday, Saturday, & Sunday.

Celebrity Guests: You can get a fastpass to meet and get autographs from the celebrities.

  • James Arnold Taylor: The Official Celebrity Host for all 4 weekends. The voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars series. He performs a one man show about voice talent.
  • Ashley Eckstein: Also a Celebrity Host for all the weekends. She is the voice of Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars. She hosts a talk show about the cartoon series. We had the privilege to meet Ashley a few years ago at SWW and she made a wonderful impression on my daughters and made them feel like it is ok for girls to like Star Wars. (I keep telling them that the boys will think it is the coolest thing someday!)
  • Ray Park: Darth Maul from Episode I: The Phantom Menace for Weekends 1 & 2. He is also a martial arts expert and in X-Men & GI Joe. He does a martial arts show during the weekend.
  • Warwick Davis: Wicket W. Warrick (my favorite Ewok) for Weekends 2 & 3

The schedule should stay the same for the most part. Character greetings and autographs from the bunches of characters from all the movies and cartoon, specialty merchandise, Jedi Training, Padawan Mind Challenge, Hyperspace Hoopla, Star Wars Stars Motorcade Parade with stormtroopers and various characters.

I will update more as soon as the information comes available, so stay tuned!

Can you find the hidden characters?

We watched Wreck It Ralph yesterday during our snow day and when you pause the movie they show you the scenes that contain characters from well known video games. I thought that was so fun and then I came across this post this morning! Big fun for any Disney fan. Thanks Kenny the Pirate!

Here is a scene from Hunchback of Notre Dame: There is a character from Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and Lion King in this street scene!

hiddencharacter

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival – Update

It’s that time of year again to start looking towards springtime with longing. Well Walt Disney World does it up right with the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival starting March 6 and ending May 19. There is everything here to get you ready for spring, beautiful gardens, DIY and HGTV personalities presenting home improvement seminars, spring inspired food and drinks and outdoor concerts.

I can’t wait to go (though I am in it for the food and drinks more than the DIY)! Here is the schedule of events for the Festival.

UPDATE:  Here is a review of the festival food and drinks from The Disney Food Blog! Also this year, they are giving passports when you enter the festival as well. In these you can check off what you have tried on the menu and notes on your food and drink. You can also collect stamps at each booth you visit.I think it is a fun addition to make it more interactive!

UPDATE: If you traveling on the Disney Dining Plan, I have also noted which of the food items are available as a snack credit!

The HGTV and DIY Network Personalities:

NEW! Chris Lambton of HGTV’s Going Yard March 8 – 10                                          NEW! Chris Grundy of DIY Network’s Cool Tools March 15 – 17                              NEW! Egypt Sherrod of HGTV’s Property Virgins March 22 – 24                         Brandon Johnson of HGTV’s My Yard Goes Disney March 29 – 31                            Meg Caswell of HGTV’s Meg’s Great Rooms April 5 – 7                                            Jason Cameron of DIY Network’s Desperate Landscapes and Man Caves                April 12 – 14                                                                                                                NEW! Sara Peterson of Editor-in-Chief, HGTV Magazine April 19 – 21                    Carter Oosterhouse of HGTV’s Million Dollar Rooms April 26 – 28                           NEW! Casey Noble of HGTV’s Design on a Dime May 3 – 5                                        Dan Faires of HGTV’s Design Star and HGTV.com’s DanMade May 10 – 12            NEW! David Bromstad of HGTV Design Star, Color Splash, Design Star All-Stars      May 17 – 19

Flower Power Concert Series at the America Gardens Theatre,                               Friday – Sunday: 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM, 8:00 PM

Micky Dolenz of The Monkeez March 8 – March 10                                           Chubby Checker & The Wildcats March 15 – March 17                                             The Guess Who March 22 – March 24                                                                  Nelson March 29 – March 31                                                                                       The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie April 5 – April 7                                                    Paul Revere & The Raiders April 12 – April 14                                                           The Village People April 19 – April 21                                                                          The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO and ELO II April 26 – April 28 Tommy Roe May 3 – May 5                                                                                    Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone May 10 – May 12                              Starship Starring Mickey Thomas May 17 – May 19

The Garden Marketplaces will be serving up delicious food and drinks while you enjoy the Festival. Some items will be a snack credit as well, if you are traveling on the dining plan. There are also items that are part of the new “TRY IT” menu as part of Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living initiative, to encourage children (and adults) to try come common foods in a new way.

UPDATE: If you traveling on the Disney Dining Plan, I have now noted which of the food items are available as a snack credit with a asterisks **

FRUITS BY THE GLASS – World Showcase Plaza

Watermelon Passion Fruit Cocktail Wild Berry Slush – Non Alcoholic**                         Sea Dog Blue Paw Wild Blueberry                                                                                New Planet™ 3R Raspberry Ale (Gluten Free)                                                         Florida Orange Groves, Mango Mama, Mango Wine , Blueberry Blue, Blueberry Wine DeLoach Vineyards Heritage Reserve Chardonnay & Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir

FLORIDA FRESH – World Showcase Promenade, near Mexico watermelonefgf

Watermelon Salad with pickled Red Onions, Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese**                                                               Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Zellwood Corn, Tomatoes, & Cilantro**                           Angel Food Cake with macerated Florida Berries        Florida Orange Groves, Hot Sun, Tomato Wine & 40 Karat, Carrot Wine Orange Blossom Pilsner Strawberry Slush** – Non Alcoholic

JARDIN DE FIESTAS – Mexico

Pork Tacos topped with Tamarindo salsa, served on a flour tortilla with Chicharrón **   Crab tostada served with Chipotle Mayo and Valentina Salsa**                                       Guava Flan**                                                                                                                Conga Fruit Punch – Non Alcoholic**                                                                          Corona Light Draft Beer                                                                                             Rosita Margarita Organic Tequila Flight

LOTUS HOUSE – China

Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries**                                                                         Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apple**                                                 Pan-Fried Vegetable Bun**                                                                                           Peach-Oolong Bubble Tea**                                                                                          Kung Fu Punch (Vodka and Triple Sec with Mango and Orange Juice)                     South Sea Storm (Guava with Light and Dark Rum)                                                    Plum Wine                                                                                                                     Tsing – Tao Beer                                                                                                      Lychee Aerated Water Peach Aerated Water**

BAUERNMARKT: Farmer’s Market – Adjacent to Germany

Savory Bread Pudding with Spring Peas and Wild Mushroom Ragout**                   German Meatloaf Sandwich with Sweet Mustard and Fried Shallots**                        Potato Pancakes with house made Apple Sauce**                                                      Florida Avenue American Wheat Ale                                                                Krombacher Hefeweizen                                                                                           Goose Island Brewing Company’s Honker Ale                                                                  Blue Point’s Toasted Lager Beer Flight                                                                       Hugo – Charles De Fere “Organic” Brut with Elderflower and Mint                  Krombacher Hefeweizen

PRIMAVERA KITCHEN – Italy

Asparagi con Aragosta all’Ortolana** (Green asparagus, lobster, garden cocktail sauce) Lasagna Primavera** (Spinach Lasagna, green peas, zucchini, mushrooms, broccolini, béchamel and fresh tomatoes, with garlic and basil leaves)                                      Panna Cotta al Limoncello** (Limoncello flavored Panna Cotta, wild berries)           Fontana Candida                                                                                                         Pinot Grigio Castello di Querceto                                                                                 Chianti Bosco del Merlo                                                                                              Prosecco                                                                                                                    White Peach Bellini                                                                                             Strawberry Rossini                                                                                                     Italian Primavera                                                                                                       Birrificio Del Ducato – Nuova Mattina (Spring Saison Ale)                                            Birrificio Le Baladin – Nora (Specialty Ale)                                                                  Birra Del Borgo – Rubus Lamponi (Specialty Wild Fruit Ale)                                        Beer Flight

THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews – The American Adventure Courtyard

Pulled Pig Slider with Cole Slaw**                                                                           Smoked Beef Brisket with Collard Greens and Jalapeño Corn Bread **                     Rocky Road Brownie Mousse**                                                                                    Mama’s Little Yella Pils (Czech style Pilsner)                                                             Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing Company                                                                   Red Ale from Orlando Brewing                                                                           Blackwater Porter                                                                                                          The Original Rib Shack                                                                                                 Red Wine & Beer Flight

HANAMI – Japan fushiefgf

Frushi** (Fresh strawberries, pineapple and cantaloupe rolled with coconut rice, atop a raspberry sauce sprinkled with toasted coconut and whipped cream)                    Chirashi Hanazushi** (Grilled Salmon, cooked shrimp and crab stick served over a bed of fragrant ginger rice with Volcano and Dynamite sauce)                                                                                                                  YakiSoba Pan** (Fresh grilled carrots, onions and cabbage with Japanese noodles and teriyaki sauce served on a bun with mayonnaise and Beni Shoga)                          Green Tea Flan** (Silky custard with macha green tea and caramel glaze)                  Yuzu Rita                                                                                                                       Fruit Sake                                                                                                                    Hana Awaka                                                                                                              Frozen Kirin Ichiban

TASTE OF MARRAKESH – Morocco

Spiced Lamb Kebab with Vegetable Couscous Salad**                                                 Harissa and Lamb Confit Chicken Drumettes with Chermoula and Cucumber Salad** Baghrir** (Moroccan pancake with honey, almonds and Argan Oil)                             Desert Rose White Sangria                                                                                          Guerrouane Red Casa Beer                                                                                          Mint Iced Tea

L’ORANGERIE – France

Tarte a la ratatouille**                                                                                                 Country style pâté served with baguette and cherry compote**                                  Caramelized peaches and rosemary and light vanilla cream**                                      Grey Goose Vodka Orange, St. Germain liquor with White and Red Cranberry Juice Muscat Pétillant, Sparkling Muscat Charles de Fère Chardonnay, White Burgundy, Macon Village Georges Duboeuf Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux Beau-Rivage Kronenbourg Blanc 1664, (Fruity White Beer with Citrus Notes)

THE COTTAGE: Savories, Trifles and Tea – United Kingdom

Potato, Chive and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare and Sour Cream**                                                                                                                         Baked Goat’s Brie with Kumquat Chutney**                                                            Waterkist Farms Heirloom Tomatoes with house-made Mozzarella, Minus 8 Vinegar and Basil**                                                                                                                Chocolate Trifle**                                                                                                           Berry Trifle**                                                                                                                Ginger and Tea Trifle**                                                                                                     Trio of Trifles**                                                                                                                   Hot Teas** (Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Lemon Green Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, Spiced Apple Chai, Pumpkin Chai, Mixed Berry Black Tea, Pomegranate and Raspberry, Camomile Honey & Vanilla, Honeybush, Mandarin and Orange, Pure Peppermint, Lemon & Ginger)                                                                                   Peach Cold Brewed Iced Tea Mixed Berries Cold Brewed Iced Tea**                               Poema Cava Brut Rosé                                                                                            Chilled Rose Blush Lemonade

PINEAPPLE PROMENADE – World Showcase Promenade – near Canada

Dole® Whip Dole® Whip with Siesta Key Spiced Rum                                                     Pineapple Upside Down Cake featuring Dole® Pineapple Dole®**                          Dole® Whip Dole® Whip**                                                                                      Pineapple Fruit Cup**                                                                                                   Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade                                                                              Samuel Adams® Cream Stout

INTERMISSIONS CAFE — Festival Center                                                                Beet Lollipop                                                                                                            Grapes                                                                                                                          Fruit & Cheese Plate                                                                                                         Vegan Trio                                                                                                            Southwest Chicken Wrap                                                                                              Tuna Salad with Pita                                                                                                     Italian Salad                                                                                                                Asian Tuna Salad with Noodles                                                                                    New Planet™ 3R Raspberry Ale                                                                                  Blue Point’s Spring Fling                                                                                              Florida Orange Groves: Mango Mama, Mango Wine, Blueberry Blue, Blueberry Wine DeLoach Vineyards Heritage Reserve Chardonnay, Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir Poema Cava Brut Rosé

Cincinnati Travel Sport and Boat Show

It has finally arrived. I have a booth at the Cincinnati Travel Sports and Boat Show! Finished setting up this morning and I will put the finishing touches on tomorrow before it opens. I am so excited and nervous at the same time. I will blog from there to let everyone know how it is going. Hopefully, I will not have time to post much:)

It has begun and I am getting a whole lot of “what is a mouse ear momma?” How do I explain what I do? Disney consultant? Help you plan a great trip? Any suggestions to explain myself?

3 days down and 5 more to go! It has been a great time and thank you to everyone who came by to see me.

D-Tech Me Princess Experience – A first hand look

dtechprincessThis past trip to WDW, we were able to have a first hand look with the D-Tech Me Experience. Last year they unveiled this technology with “Carbon Freeze Me” during Star Wars Weekend. Basically, they took a 3D image of your face and molded it into a carbonite figurine ala Han Solo. Here is a video of the “Carbon Freeze Me” experience. This was so wildly successful with the Star Wars weekend attendees that they expanded the concept this summer.detechprincess2

We were able to do the D-Tech Me Princess experience during the first week of operation. It was located at The World of Disney Store in Downtown Disney, near the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I assumed this would be just as popular as the Star Wars so we arrived early. There was no one there and they didn’t even seem to be booked. I am pretty sure we could have walked in and had it done. IMG_1153The check in desk and photobooth were in a tiny corner of the store and out in the open for anyone to watch. First they gave each of the kids a choice of princess and hair color. One choose Belle and brown hair, the other chose Ariel with red hair.

IMG_1155They gave us headbands to hold the girl’s hair back and then they sat in a fancy salon chair which adjusted to the correct height for the camera. They were told to watch a screen and smile. The picture was taken by 10 different cameras simultaneously to make the 3D image. They take the girl’s picture several times to give you options to choose from.

It is very disconcerting to see a 3 dimensional version of your daughters face and theydtech (2)can show it to you both inside and out. The experience is very quick and efficient and the kids thought it was fun. The figurine arrived 6 weeks later encased in foam with a beautiful pink box. The girls love their figures, though it is a little creepy to see their faces on the body of a princess. They also were given a little charm bracelet to take home that day because they have to wait for the princess figurine.

A few things to know. This is only available to girls ages 3-12 years old. You must cancel 48 hours in advance or you are charged $25. Make sure your child has her eyes opened pretty wide and smiles with teeth. It looks more like them with an exaggerated expression.

Happy New Year 2013!

Happy New Years blog readers! I hope you had an enjoyable one. Now that it is 2013, I have the itch to get into the planning mode again. But when to go to the most magical place on Earth? Spring seems like a good idea, but can I really get the money saved and myself together to go that soon?  Summer…the benefit is that the kids are off but so are everyone else’s kids. Plus, it can be ridiculously hot. Fall seems like a great time, but it seems so far away! I love to go at Christmas, but we just finished Christmas and I know I can not hold out that long.

I am dying to see the new Fantasyland. I wish I could have been there for the opening on December 6. I feel like a vacation planning slacker that it has been open for almost a month and I haven’t experienced it yet!

Well, off to plan. Happy New Year and visit me at The Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show beginning January 18!

How to Have a Happy Holiday at Walt Disney World. Part 2: Your own traditions

One of the most important parts of the Holiday season is keeping your own family traditions, even if you are not a home to enjoy them. This was my biggest worry when we decided to spend Christmas at Walt Disney World. So, I brought Christmas to Disney with us.

I shipped boxes down full of supplies to make our hotel room feel like Christmas, actually I shipped 4 or 5 boxes full of stuff. I sent down a small Christmas tree that I had picked up at Target for $7 along with lights and unbreakable princess ornaments. I threw in some garlands that I had laying around from my former life as a teacher. Dollar store window clings were in the box to decorate the windows. I also found some stockings with the kids initials and shipped those with command strips to hang on the hotel wall.

At Boardwalk, we had a balcony, so I did garland along my railing for everyone to see. I wish I had thought to bring more or outdoor lights because there were many people who did that. The Christmas tree was in the window and each of the girls bought an ornament to hang on it as a keepsake. I left the tree behind when we checked out, but brought home the ornaments and lights. The kids were able to decorate our room and grandma’s room with the window clings.

In addition to decorations, I shipped down gift bags, wrapping paper, scissors and tape. We did a gift exchange among the kids on Christmas morning and they were able to shop at WDW for each other and wrap the gift. I also bought a few things on Christmas eve from Santa (in addition to what I shipped and hid) while the kiddies were in Grandma’s room watching a movie in their PJs.

For my mom’s room (a 1 bedroom villa so we could all fit in there together), we ordered a beautiful tree from Disney Floral and Gifts. They came and set it up the 2nd day of our trip and it was a wonderful surprise to come home from the parks and see it there, as if by magic. The best part was after she checked out, they came and boxed everything up (including the tree, lights, ornaments, etc.) and sent it to her house. We set it up last week and it brings back such wonderful memories.

IMG_2581Another tradition for my family is wearing matching Christmas pajamas. Prior to our trip, we purchased matching Mickey PJs for all the kids and ladies (the guys won’t wear them). Christmas morning, 13 of us come traipsing through the lobby in our jammies. You should have seen the looks we got (mostly smiles but a lot of “are you crazy”)!

IMG_0703We started a new tradition as well. On Christmas Day, the only place I could get Teppan Edoreservations for 14 people was for lunch at Teppan Edo in Japan. No one was happy with this choice (except me) but there were no other sit down options. Everyone loved it and had a wonderful time. Now, we go to the hibachi grill at home to celebrate birthdays all together. Not a traditional holiday meal, but very interactive and fun!

Even if you are not at home, make sure your own traditions come shining through while you are on vacation. I was surprised how much everyone enjoyed our Christmas at Disney and not a single kid was homesick or worried about Santa!

How to have Happy Holidays at Walt Disney World. Part 1: Decorations

This is the first in a series of posts about spending your holiday season at Walt Disney World. I have been during November/December Holiday season 5 times in the last 7 years and it is obviously my favorite time of the year to visit. Last year was the first time I had ever been there during Christmas and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Today’s focus is on holiday decor both in the parks and at the hotels.You can spend days just wandering around Walt Disney World looking at all the wonderful decorations. It is amazing to see the scale of the decorations and how much effort is put into each detail. I previously posted a video of the Magic Kingdom decor change from Halloween to Christmas. It is amazing what they do overnight while the guests are snug in their beds. If you decide to travel any time from November 1-January 1, you will be in full Disney Christmas World. It is a wonderful time to visit and it makes a completely different experience compared to traveling in the summer months.

The Resorts:

Disney does an amazing job decorating the resorts. My favorite decorating feat I have ever witnessed was at The Boardwalk a few years ago. We were taking family pictures out and around The Boardwalk and they started to put in the poinsettia plants. One guy used this power drill auger to dig the perfect hole while another was right behind him plopping in the plants. A third man followed behind and backfilled the dirt. They did this with hundreds of poinsettia in just an hour or two. It was amazing, my dad was particularly enthralled with the process.

Every resort is decorated for the season with the theme of the hotel. Boardwalk is old school Atlantic City and the entire structure is trimmed with lights. Yacht and Beach Clubs are nautical with ornament of little sail boats and anchors. Polynesian is a pacific theme with hibiscus flowers adorning the garlands, while Grand Floridian is over the to with gold and rich textures. All the Deluxe resorts have a gingerbread structure in the lobby. Usually, they sell cookies, hot chocolate or small gingerbread houses for your hotel room. These gingerbread structures are worth a trip to see even if you are not staying in them. They are usually built sometime right before Thanksgiving.

The Parks:

  • Magic Kingdom is by far my favorite when it comes to Holiday decorations. I love the garlands and wreaths hanging over Main St. USA. It makes the perfect backdrop for pictures with the castle glimmering in the background. The Cinderella Castle itself is a wonder with millions of lights to make it look like it is covered in icicles. Every night around 6 they have a castle lighting with Fairy Godmother and Cinderella. There are details everywhere you look, including The Emporium windows with scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
  • Epcot has Holidays around the world with decor to match the spirit of every nation in The World Showcase. Along with storytelling about the country’s holiday traditions, you also can learn how people in each of the represented countries.There are large, lit decorated trees and other muted decor throughout Future World.
  • Hollywood Studios has a massive Christmas tree at the entrance of Hollywood and my favorite is when it is decorated with giant popcorn and retro plastic Santa faces. The best part about Hollywood is the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (not Ozzy but a family from Arkansas) on The Streets of New York.
  • Animal Kingdom: Animal Kingdom is also themed with the area (Africa, Asia, etc.). Compared to Epcot, the holiday theme isn’t as in your face. The Jingle Jungle parade has the characters in holiday gear, but it is not as Christmasy as the Magic Kingdom parade.

So, are you ready to go to WDW during the Holidays? It is not for the faint of heart and it is not for First Timers. But…it was more wonderful and magical than I could have ever dreamed it to be!