Is there really something for everyone at Walt Disney World® Resort?

Is there really something for everyone at Walt Disney World® Resort (“WDW”)?

Could this possibly be true? I had this idea to put it to the test.

I decided to use some of my family and friends and their widely varying interests to see if I could match them with what I think will interest them at WDW. Some of these people (in particular my immediate family) have been to WDW before and I have therefore used a few of their favorite activities.

First the obviously easily matched.

Wayne, the thrill seeker (and my husband) –   Tried parasailing with Sammy Duvall’s Watersport Centre located behind Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Even I who am terrified of heights tried this and it was AMAZING. There are also a number of rides geared towards thrill seekers such as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® staring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios® where you get to take a ride in a stretch limo through 3 inversions and reach speeds of 60 mph.

Parasailing

Justice, the pre-teen gamer (and my son) –   At DisneyQuest® Indoor Interactive Theme Park (at Downtown Disney® Area) he found a 5 story gamer paradise. He also loves Toy Story Midway Mania! (at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®) which puts him in the middle of a midway-style game. I should also mention the resorts on WDW property have arcades in them as well.

Rayne, the little princess –  Princess Fairytale Hall (at Magic Kingdom® Park) is a magical place where she can meet various princesses and have her picture taken with them.  Dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (at Epcot®, World Showcase) is also a wonderful place to meet some princesses as they mingle with diners.

Mairi, the animal lover –  Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park is a whole park dedicated to animals, need I say more!

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Hailey, the artist –   Up until recently I would have suggested Animation Station and Animation Gallery, however, with them scheduled to close soon I’d suggest checking out the amazing artwork at The Art of Disney in Downtown Disney® Area.

Dwayne, the foodie –  SOOOOO many restaurants to satisfy his food cravings but here are a couple of my suggestions:  Boma – Flavors of Africa (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) where you can sample selections from over 50 different African countries or Narcoosee’s (at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa) for a mouth watering seafood treat.  I also like to walk around Epcot®, World Showcase and sample all the different cuisines at each country as I go past.  Doing this during Epcot® Food & Wine Festival is an extra special treat.

Photo courtesy of Mary Morales and Disney Food Fans Facebook Page

Desserts from Boma –  Photo courtesy of Mary Morales and Disney Food Fans Facebook Page

 

Ed, the car guy – Test Track® presented by Chevrolet® (at Epcot®) allows him to design his own virtual concept vehicle.  You then get to ride a SIM car around a windy circuit with 50 degree banked curves and reaching up to 65 mph.

Candice, the Star Wars™ geek –  Visit the world of Star Wars™ on a motion-simulated space flight with Star Tours® – The Adventures Continue Attraction or build her own light saber at Tatooine Traders both in Disney’s Hollywood Studios®.

Now for the slightly less obvious.

Victoria, the clothes hound (and my daughter) –  Marketplace Co-op and Tren-D are her favorite places to shop for those unique articles of clothing and are both located at Downtown Disney® Area.

Sharon, the creative crafter –  Disney Design-a-Tee (at Downtown Disney® Area) would be a great place for her to put her creativity to use and design her own custom t-shirt.

Ted, the quiet country lover – Tom Sawyer’s Island (at Magic Kingdom® Park) is a quiet little island you get to by barge and where you can wander across suspension bridges, check out a giant waterwheel at Harper’s Mill or sit an relax in a rocking chair and just people watch.

Harper's Mill

Josh & Kristy, the newlyweds –  Book a reservation at Victoria & Albert’s for a high end romantic dining experience or visit Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for a relaxing massage for two.

Michelle, the nightlife lover –  Visit Atlantic Dance Hall for an evening of non-stop dancing or House of Blues® for amazing live entertainment, but don’t forget in Florida you need to be 21 to legally drink alcohol.

Rob, the sports fanatic –  ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill is a great place to catch a game on one of the many HDTV’s while munching on wings and drinking and beer.

Valerie, the semi-antisocial sun worshiper (and my mother) – She isn’t as enthusiastic as she used to be about the various parks but is more than happy to situate herself in a lounge chair beside the pool at whichever WDW property we are staying at and enjoy the sun, while reading a book and sipping on an adult beverage.

Well, it seems I’ve succeeded in matching everyone with experiences they should enjoy and confirmed something that I’ve always known.  There really is something for everyone at Walt Disney World® Resort.

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My Visit To Vancouver

I recently had the opportunity to visit Vancouver, British Columbia for work and I was looking forward to it since I haven’t been there since I was about 14 years old.  I must say, although I didn’t get to sight see a great deal, Vancouver exceeded my expectations.

Vancouver is a thriving multi-cultural community situated between a breathtaking mountain range and the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The city appears to have invested a lot of money and effort into developing its harbour and shoreline trails.  As a former roller derby player I was envious of the miles of smooth pathways and wished I had brought along my roller skates to get some exercise and take full advantage of these wonderful trails.  Without my skates I had to settle for a leisurely 10 km jog around the scenic Stanley Park. I say leisurely because there were many photo stops along the way to photograph the natural beauty of the area as well as cherry and apply blossoms which were in bloom while I was there.

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Not far from my hotel, the Hyatt, was the 2010 Olympic Cauldron which was considerably less magnificent than I had remembered from watching all the television footage of the event.  In its defence however, I did not get to see it lit up and there was a barrier around it to the mar the visual effect.

One item that was as good as the hype from the Olympics was the Japadog food truck.  A juicy hotdog with traditionally Japanese toppings like seaweed and wasabi sauce may sound odd together but came together in a surprisingly tasty meal.  I completely understand why they were in such demand during the Olympics.

As with most conferences I attend I seem to eat my way through them and the conference in Vancouver was no exception.  I can’t even remember how many mouth-watering salmon dishes I gorged myself on, especially sushi.

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One of my favorite meals was at the Cactus Club across the street from the Hyatt. I had the butternut squash ravioli with truffle butter sauce and jumbo prawns for an appetizer and the raincoast greens salad as my main.  Everything was so fresh and tasty and the Bellini and their Signature Sangria weren’t too bad either.

They Hyatt itself is a newer tastefully decorated hotel with the most attentive and helpful concierge staff I have had the pleasure to deal with in recent years.  Not only did they provide maps, directions, suggestions and arrange multiple tours and transportation for our diverse group. They also (without us asking them to) called around to confirm attractions we wanted to see would be open and thankfully too, since the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden was not open on the day we wanted to visit.

My one minor complaint with the Hyatt was the new elevator system that could not keep up with the extremely large volume of guests that wanted to use the elevators all at the same time when the sessions let out.  I took more than one elevator trip with a repair technician as he tested the system but I was comforted by the fact that they were actively trying to correct the problems.

One of the tours that the concierge suggested was a free tour and I love free. Tour guys operate in a number of larger centers and their guides work strictly on tips.  Emma (I believe her name was) was our guide for the morning, leading us around the downtown core telling us about some of the more interesting buildings, like the Marine Building and Christ Church Cathedral.  She also pointed out some of the many art pieces, like “The Pendulum” and “The Drop”.

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I found it commendable that in the current climate of cutbacks for the arts Vancouver has implemented a policy whereby for every square foot of new private sector re-zoned space built in the downtown core the builder is required to contribute $1.81/per sq. ft. to a public arts process.  These art projects have certainly lent themselves to the beautification of the area and created more interesting items for tourists (like me) to admire.

All in all I had a great conference in Vancouver.  Oh, and I learned some stuff for work too.  LOL

As I said at the start of this post Vancouver exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.

 

My adventure to Roatan, Honduras

I’ve spent MANY hours lately researching where to go for our next trip and in doing so it made me reminisce about past holidays so I thought I’d tell you about one of my favorites.

In 2012 my husband and I decided we wanted to go someplace different and after much debate settled on Media Luna in Roatan, Honduras.

For those of you that may not be familiar with Roatan it is a small island (approximately 48 miles long by 5 miles at its widest) off the mainland of Honduras.  It lies just off the edge of the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world and a large part of its economy comes from tourism due to its beauty and proximity to the reef for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Landing in Roatan was an interesting experience. The landing strip is rather short and immediately after a quick decent over the hills beside the airfield.  It was equally as unique when we left; so much so that the pilot advised the takeoff would be different than most people are used to.  The plane taxied to the farthest end of the runway, the brakes were engaged and then the engine revved to the point the plane was vibrating before the pilot released the brakes and the plane took off like a shot up the short runway.  All though it was a smooth takeoff it felt like we just barely had enough runway and then height to clear the hills.

Media Luna

Media Luna is a beautiful remote resort on a small beach surrounded by lush vegetation.  Although the beach is small it is sufficient for the size of the resort and was never busy.  The resort offered the use of sea kayaks which we took advantage of a number of times to check out the coral that was visible from the surface of the water not that far down the beach. You could also walk down the shoreline and see some interesting fish hiding in the rocky crevices. I would strongly recommend water shoes for anyone wanting to walk down the beach past the sandy area.  I tried to step from sandy area to sandy area and managed to fall rather inelegantly into the water fully dressed before dinner one evening.

Coral visible from sea kayak just barely off shore.

The main building of the resort houses a small gift shop, front desk and restaurant/entertainment area.  The restaurant is set up in a way that I had never seen before but really enjoyed.  The room is set up almost like a theatre with graduated levels of seating leading from a large open area at the bottom for entertainment purposes to the buffet that is on the large, main, upper level.  Each level is wide enough to hold the dining tables and is where you eat all your meals.

Terraced restaurant

The evening entertainment was one of the few areas that I found lacking but in all honesty they were doing their best to accommodate a large group of very demanding Italians that were also staying at the resort while we were there, so about half the shows were in Italian. There was only one evening scheduled for a dance party and it wound down by 11pm.  I’ve heard that recently they have more than one evening of dancing which I would appreciate.

I’m an adventurous eater who will try just about anything and not particularly picky so I had no problems with the food, but neither did my husband who is a very basic eater.  I had the most incredible calamari I have ever tasted while there.  Instead of being sliced into rings it was left as a tube and stuffed almost like cannelloni.  There was always an assortment of meats but you did have to be careful when eating the fish because there were often bones in it even though it appeared to be fillets. Surprisingly there was not a lot of fruit provided and never any bananas. If you are looking for 5 star Michelin dining this is not the place for you but it was always edible with numerous choices.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

The drinks were always ice cold and not lacking for alcohol so I understood quickly why they didn’t provide large glasses for the drinks.  I had to ask the bartenders to put half the rum in my drinks so I didn’t end up tipsy.  We were told to try the lemon daiquiris and were not impressed at first but once the alcohol was reduced they quickly became my drink of choice. I also heard the expresso bar was first rate but never tried it myself.

One of my favourite things about this resort was the sprawling layout and rooms.  I absolutely loved that each room was its own private cabin.  We had an oceanfront cabin and I would highly recommend paying the extra for these cabins as the views were worth every penny.   The cabins themselves were a decent size with a large bathroom.  The shower was against an exterior wall with a frosted glass window looking out over the ocean.  There was a small unfrosted area high enough to look out at the water but not expose you if someone happened to go past the cabin at that time. We did find out rather unintentionally that although you can’t see particulars through the frosted glass you can tell when someone is in the shower.  Our room had a king size four poster bed with semi-sheer curtains that could be pulled closed around it.

Our roomBeside our cabin

The cabin also had a sizeable porch/balcony with 2 lounge chairs and a two person hammock for relaxing in.  We weren’t however the only ones who enjoyed our porch.  For the first few mornings we would wake up to find a mess on the decking but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  On night number three we discovered our friends.  There were 2 large (at least large to me) bats that made the ceiling of the porch their home and they were the ones leaving us fruit bits and droppings for presents every morning.

Our bat friends

My husband, Wayne, and I are the type of people who like to experience and enjoy the true culture of where we are visiting. We have been known to hop on local buses just to see where they take us when we travel.  In Roatan the resort we chose was on the far end of the island away from any towns so before we arrived we arranged to rent a dirt bike to get around.  What I didn’t account for was just how hilly and windy the roads would be. The road into the resort had such a steep incline that I decided there was no way I would feel comfortable on the back of the bike about not falling off so Wayne got a lot of alone time to check out the island without me.

One of the many windy roads

We did rent a van for a few days with two other couples we met at the resort and managed to tour the island a little.  On one of Wayne’s solo excursions he found this local man who offered to take us for a tour of the mangroves for a fraction of the price of the tours offered at the resort so we went for it.  When we arrived for the tour and saw the boat we nearly backed out.  The boat (for 7 of us) was only slightly better than a canoe and the canopy on the boat was a plastic sand box lid that was strapped to four shower curtain rods to hold it up.  The boat may not have been pretty (nor was the tour guide) but it was the most amazing afternoon.  The guide was born and raised in the area and told us all kinds of neat tidbits of information interspersed with a liberal amount of humour.

Mangrove tour boat 2

On the second to last day there we drove into town and went on a dune buggy tour.  The guide handed us bandanas to tie around our faces and told us to take a lap around the warehouse to get a feel for the buggy before we headed out into the wilderness.  We hadn’t even completed that lap before Wayne found a mud puddle to splash through.  The guide just laughed and said we were definitely going to have a fun day.  He took us down all kinds of dirt paths (although he called them roads) to an open mud field and let us loose.  About 100 feet into the field I realized why he gave us the bandanas.  I hadn’t pulled mine over my mouth and Wayne hit the first bog and swamped me with muddy water in my face and mouth.  I think I swallowed a half a cup of mud.  We played in the mud for about an hour and laughed so hard my sides hurt but I was still ecstatic to see our next stop of the tour was a private beach to swim (and clean off) and have a snack.

Dune buggy fun

Lessons learned when on a dune buggy – put your bandana over your face and keep your mouth shut when mud bogging.  If you don’t do this you may end up sick like I did.  The day after I got home I was violently ill and my doctor initially thought I may have typhoid.  Since I was working for a pharmaceutical research company at that time I could not go to work for fear of contamination but it was quickly determined I did not have typhoid but had swallowed some nasty bacteria when I swallowed all the muddy water.  A week of antibiotics and I was good as new.

I may have gotten sick from this trip (through no fault but my own) but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if there weren’t so many other places I still need to see.

On to the next adventure.

 

 

I Want It All Or Rather to See It All

During March I was very busy travelling for work and spent half of the month away from home.  While I enjoy travelling, 14 days away from my family in one month is more than I could take.

A quick visit to Stanley Park while in Vancouver, BC for the joint NAR/AE Conference.

A quick visit to Stanley Park while in Vancouver, BC for the joint NAR/AE Conference.

Apparently it was more than my family could take too, but not for the reason you would think.  They actually managed quite well without me (aside from a rather large laundry pile).  What they did (and still do) have a problem with is listening to me as I continually talk about where I want to travel to next.

You see, while I was away and stuck in a hotel room by myself I spent a lot of time online researching where I wanted to travel to for my next trip, with my family. The more research I did the more locations I realized I want to visit.

I’m realistic enough to know I’m not going to get to visit them all but that isn’t going to keep me from trying to figure out how to visit as many of as I can.

In that quest I’m currently planning my 20th wedding anniversary trip and still trying to figure out how to afford another trip to Walt Disney World for my daughters 16th birthday.

My anniversary trip planning has had some challenges.  I booked a Disney Cruise but my husband, Wayne, has now said he doesn’t really want to go on a cruise.  I still haven’t cancelled it on the hopes he changes his mind. I planned the cruise so I could run the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and then relax on the cruise a few days later.

Since this trip is for him as well, I suggested a visit to Las Vegas so he could attend the tattoo convention and then we could tack on a few days to Disneyland for its 60th anniversary but the timing just doesn’t seem to be working out for that.

Next I found a wonderful jungle lodge in Costa Rica that seemed perfect but it’s very remote and Wayne doesn’t want to spend 2 days travelling just to get to and from our destination.  He has also said he’d prefer an all-inclusive resort but I just can’t find any I like in Costa Rica that seem true to the magnificent natural surroundings.  I’ve always said I want to experience the culture of where I travel to. I don’t want to stay in just another fancy hotel so now I’m back at square one again. I’m looking for something unique whether that be from the excursions available, location or atmosphere.

Where to go?

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

A few of my dream trips would be to Cambodia and Vietnam, Bali, Figi or Madagascar but since Wayne currently won’t go anywhere with a flight longer than 6 hours they are out of the running as well for this next trip.  We does however want to see the Great Wall of China so I have hopes that someday we’ll be able to travel farther together.

Mexico can be nice but we have been there so many times now that I’d like to visit some place different. Roatan, Honduras was beautiful but again I want to see someplace new.

Maybe Brazil, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos or Grenada. At this point who knows where we will end up but I’m having fun researching and driving my family crazy with the discussions on all the options.