My Disney World Guide Blog

A blog relating to a Florida Disney World pass holder's experiences at the parks and hotels.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival - May 2008

We just came back from the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. What a great experience! There are so many wonderful things to mention. The kids loved seeing the topiaries depicting favorite Disney characters and scenes, especially at the front entrance where Goofy is catching a wave on his surfboard! Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden was a huge hit as well. There is a magnificent, huge butterfly topiary as you enter. Then you are surrounded by many different species of wildflowers and live butterflies -- my girls were beside themselves. Another great experience was the ladybug release at the garden near the Germany Pavilion. Each child got a box of ladybugs to release into the garden, which is a natural way to eliminate garden pests. Also amazing were the collection of Bonsai trees in the Japan Pavilion, they were so beautiful. One of my favorites was the English Tea Garden at the United Kingdom Pavilion. It was not only fun, but educational too -- we will definitely be going back again next year!!! Also part of our May trip was a visit to the newly-renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios. We caught the new Playhouse Disney Live on Stage show with all-new characters from the new TV shows: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins, Handy Manny, and My Friends Tigger and Pooh. It was great, and a huge improvement over the old version. My 5 year old was also thrilled to see the High School Musical show, though she was a bit disappointed that the show didn't include the "real" characters!

Presidents' Week, 2008 - Epcot Illuminations and Dolphin Resort

This year we decided to be bold, and made a short 3-day trip over Presidents' Day weekend, expecting huge crowds. Surprisingly, the parks were not too crowded at all, and we had a wonderful time. The best part of the trip was seeing the Epcot IllumiNations fireworks with our kids for the first time. Because our children are so young, this was the first year they were able to stay up late enough to see the show, which usually starts around 9pm. We weren't sure how they would react to it, but, they LOVED it! The show's inspirational message even touched a 2 year old and a 5 year old. Luckily, we stayed at the Disney World Dolphin Hotel, so after the show ended, it was a quick boat ride back to the hotel and into bed. I cannot say enough about the Dolphin and Swan resorts. We've overlooked them for so many years, in favor of the "true" Disney resorts. But they are great! They have the same great Disney perks and service (like fast and free transportation to the parks, extra magic hours, etc.) -- with the exception of resort parking, for which you have to pay a daily charge if you have a car. Best of all, these hotels are owned by the Starwood chain, so if you are part of their frequent guest program, you can stay for free using your points!

Halloween at the Magic Kingdom - October 2007

This year we went to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the first time. I hate to say this, being a huge Disney fan, but -- this was absolutely not worth the time and money. First, of all, since it was Halloween eve, the crowds were absolutely overwhelming. You could barely move going down Main Street. Secondly, Disney promised plenty of characters in costume. We could find very few, and when we could, the lines were so long, there was no chance of the kids being able to meet any of them. Thirdly, the "candy stations" resembled a cattle herd, with lines of costumed kids being hurried through lines to be greeted by a Disney employee unloading handfuls of candy from a barrel, then herded out again. My advice: save yourself the extra $50 per person (which you have to pay IN ADDITION to your regular Magic Kingdom admission ticket), and do your trick-or treating at home!!! Now, putting the griping behind me, there were some great highlights from our Halloween trip. First, the Princess Breakfast at Cinderella's castle was terrific. Our kids got to meet all of the princesses, who spent plenty of time at each table. The food was very good (though pricey) and the service was wonderful. Expensive, but well worth it. The second highlight was our stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort. The kids loved the pool with the volcano water slide, and we really enjoyed the two restaurants on-site. Although we were a bit disappointed in the rooms and the general resort decor, which seemed a bit dated compared to some of the newer resorts. The third highlight was the new Finding Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom Park. It was excellent! The kids were riveted to the entire performance! I was so sorry to see the old Tarzan show leave, which I thought was awesome -- but glad to see it has been replaced with a show of the same high quality and entertainment value. Bravo!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Imagination Movers at Disney MGM Studios

We just came back from a short 2-night trip to Disney MGM Studios, where we took advantage of the Playhouse Disney Concert Series (part of Disney's "Magical Beginnings" promotion for kids 5 and under). My 2 and 5 year old daughters wanted to see the Imagination Movers, so we took them to the 10 am show on September 22. These guys are awesome - better than the Wiggles! I have to say, the concert was really well run. Disney allowed all of the little ones to sit on the floor right near the stage. For parents who were afraid to leave the kids there alone, the cast members allowed us to sit on the floor right behind the children's area. This was ideal! The Imagination Movers were so friendly and sweet, and jumped down to greet the kids on many occasions. My 2 year old, who is very shy, even gave Scott a high-five! I hear that Disney is giving the Imagination Movers their own TV show on Playhouse Disney - and well deserved. Not only are these guys talented musically, but they just have a wonderful way with children. One more unexpected highlight of our trip - we stayed at the Disney Swan Hotel for the first time. What a great hotel! My 5 year old loved the pools and waterslide. The boat to MGM was as convenient as it gets. And we absolutely loved Kimono's Japanese restaurant. All in all, a great mini-trip. Now, we're gearing up for our next trip, to the Polynesian Resort in late October for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Stay Tuned!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Star Wars Weekend at MGM - June 07

We decided to take our 12-year old nephew from Italy, who is a Star Wars fanatic, to the Star Wars Weekend festivities at Disney MGM Studios this year. Though he seemed to enjoy it, I honestly couldn't understand what all the fuss was about! Take this with a grain of salt, though - I've definitely enjoyed all six Star Wars films, but I am by no means a fanatic. So, from my perspective, yes, the Parade and motorcade with characters from the film was fun, and we attended a lightsaber demonstration that was pretty cool - but the crowd was so overwhelming, that my nephew couldn't get to meet many of his favorite characters, much less the "special guests" - the actors who played Boba Fett and Darth Maul from the movies. He did manage to meet Chewbacca and one of the Ewoks. But the line to see Darth Vader was so long, we would've spent hours on line, wasting a huge part of the day. Talking to some of the other "fanatics", a few mentioned that this year was more crowded, less organized and not quite as fun as in years past. Two more disappointments plagued our MGM visit: the Aerosmith ride broke down while we were standing in line, and the Fantasmic show was stopped halfway through due to technical difficulties - we and the thousands of other guests were asked to leave the stadium, with no explanation (much less a refund or rain check) forthcoming! Fortunately, our trip to Animal Kingdom the next day was much more successful, and definitely less crowded. I can always count on The Lion King performance to cheer me up! This is one of the best shows I've ever seen - hopefully they will never take it out of the park. Don't miss it on your next trip to Animal Kingdom!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Easter Week at Magic Kingdom

For the first time ever, we were crazy enough the brave the crowds during Easter week at Magic Kingdom. Actually, we were kind of forced into it - my sister was performing with her high school band on April 10. It was a thrill to see her marching down Main Street - despite the torrential rain! We've had a severe drought going on in Florida this spring, and the one day we go to the Magic Kingdom, the skies open up - go figure! The crowds were pretty heavy - exactly as we had been warned by many friends. For example, I waited on line for 20 minutes just to use the ladies' room! Definitely one of those times to envy the gentlemen. Despite the crowd, we did manage to do a couple of fun things. One thing that was surprisingly disappointing was the new "Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor." I guess I expected it to be as entertaining as "Turtle Talk with Crush" in Epcot - but it wasn't even close. It was just not engaging, despite the "audience participation" element that works so well with the "Crush" show. The jokes were not terribly funny, and there just wasn't anything different or creative about it. Even my 5 year old and 2 year old girls, who love the Monsters, Inc. movie, hardly cracked a smile through the entire performance. The Disney imagineers missed the boat with this attraction. To sum up, I think we'll skip Easter week next year!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

President's Week at Epcot

We had a short but wonderful visit to Epcot from February 24 to 26. I was concerned with possibly encountering large crowds due to President's Week, but was pleasantly surprised! Epcot was not at all crowded, and we were able to experience every attraction we wanted to with little wait, even Test Track and The Seas with Nemo and Friends (which are usually very crowded!). Because we had family visiting from out of town, we decided to try the 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite at the Sheraton Vistana Resort, Lake Buena Vista. We were very pleased with our choice - it was spacious, clean, had updated furnishings, and a lovely view of a lake with a fountain. The screened balcony was another nice plus. In fact, we are returning to the Vistana in June for another trip with family! Another highlight of our recent visit was our dinner at Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, one of our favorite restaurants. Our waiter surprised my 4-year-old daughter with a special "phone call" from Goofy - the look on her face was priceless!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Holiday Fireworks! - Contemporary Resort

What a great trip we had in early December, when we stayed in a Magic Kingdom view room at the Contemporary Resort! This is the first time we'd stayed at the Contemporary since the renovations. The renovated rooms are spectacular! The rooms are huge, and include a daybed and state of the art plasma flat-screen tv. The bathroom design is unique, with a sliding door to enter, and sink basins that are completely flat. Of course, the best part of the room is the balcony, which gave us a prime view of the Magic Kingdom "Wishes" fireworks show. We were absolutely floored by this beautiful display. Our two young girls (ages 1 and 4) have never been able to see the fireworks before, because they are always too tired to stay at the Park into the evening hours. Being at the Contemporary was ideal, because the fireworks were not too loud from that distance, and didn't scare the kids. Although you could not hear the "story" that goes along with the show, you could hear the music. The girls were thrilled, and even my skeptical husband was really impressed. This will definitely be a trip to remember. We loved the minimal crowds at this time of year, and were really able to enjoy all of the holiday decorations. Not to mention, there was little to no wait to get on the rides, and meet the characters! Despite the low crowds, we were surprised how difficult it was to get reservations at the Contemporary Resort's restaurants. We ended up eating at the food court on the first floor - which actually had very good quality food - but not quite what we expected! Another drawback at the Contemporary we were surprised to find was that the concierge staff was not at all knowledgable - they were unable to answer simple questions we had about the dining options, and the schedules at the Parks - for example, they didn't even know what time the fireworks were going to be shown that evening! It seemed very odd to us, and we wondered if the Resort was experiencing high staff turnover. Which reminds me to give some advice about the fireworks - they are shown at various times, even during the same week. While they might begin at 6pm on weekdays, they might switch to 8pm on a Saturday night. Also, on certain days, there might not be a show at all. Be sure to check your times guide, to make sure you don't miss them - you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Shopping for Disney Stuff

If you're longing to visit Disney World but can't get there very often, shopping for Disney stuff can be a good way to cure the blues! (My husband will be horrified that I'm saying this!) I just want to recommend DisneyShopping.com. I just received my fifth order or so from the site, and all of the toys and clothes I've bought are top quality. They often carry items that you can't find at the Disney Store, Parks, or the Resort gift shops. I just can't believe how low the prices are. If you get on their mailing list, they send you special promotions almost daily - such as coupons for $20 off your order or more (depending on how much you spend) and often free shipping. The personalized items are really adorable. I just bought a personalized Power Rangers robe with my nephew's name on it. It is so cute, I can't wait to give it to him for his 4th birthday. My daughters are fans of the PJpals - they love to wear matching princesses - and I can't believe how high quality the pj's are for such a low price (from about $4-6 for the short sleeve/shorts sets and $7-10 for the long sleeve/pants sets). I also got my girls the princess tea set and cart - adorable! I got my husband two pairs of Mickey sweatshorts for $4.99 each - unbelievable! And my very favorite purchase is my Snow White nightgown - a little more expensive since it came from the Disney Couture line (about $20). It's not the same as actually being at Disney World, but at least it will hold you over until your next trip! (By the way, I want to repeat that I am not affiliated with Disney in any way - just a fan of good shopping!)

My online reservation experience for Disney's Contemporary Resort

I'm very excited about our next trip to Disney World at the end of November! Last night, I logged onto the Florida Passholder website at disneyworld.com to make my online reservation for the Contemporary Resort. First off, I was amazed at how smoothly the online reservation system is running now. In the past, the online reservations system has been really slow and difficult to use, to say the least - freezing up for no apparent reason, not even allowing me to log on at peak traffic times, and the like. The entire online reservations system has recently undergone an overhaul, and I'm pleased to report that the improvement seems tremendous! This is my second time using the online system since the overhaul - I used it a few weeks ago to book at the Coronado Springs Resort - and both experiences were excellent.
I noticed something else during last night's reservation experience - prices and availability for resorts can vary from day to day. For example, I had my heart set on getting a Tower Magic Kingdom view room at the Contemporary, so that we could see the fireworks from our balcony. Two days ago, the reservations system did not have any Magic Kingdom views available. Then suddenly, last night, as if by "magic", one showed up as available! Similarly, when I booked the Coronado a few weeks ago, I got a great rate - and when I checked back the next day, the rate had increased by $30! So, I guess the lesson is, if at first you don't find the price or type of room you want, check back later. Another good idea that I've used in the past is to call the reservations line. Sometimes they have availability that is not posted on the web (and vice versa).

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Disney World Guide

Welcome to my blog about Disney World related news. I will post regularly on my recent visits and experiences.

Thank you!