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.

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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.

My Disney Dream

A few years ago I remember seeing the posts of the new Disney Parks Moms Panelists during training as they had their pictures taken early one misty morning before Magic Kingdom Park opened to the public and it gave me chills.

Now I dream of what I imagine would be an almost surreal experience of walking down Main Street, U.S.A. towards Cinderella Castle without anyone else around and being able to gaze in wonder and appreciation at one man’s dream and the creativity and talent of so many more who brought it to life.

I dream of having the time and space to absorb all the nuances and layers of imaginering that often go unseen and unnoticed as crowds rush to their favorite attractions during park hours.

I imagine in the peace and tranquility of a misty morning I could almost hear Walt as if a whisper on the breeze saying “If you can dream, you can do it” as I walk under the archway and into Cinderella Caste.

This is my dream and even 30 minutes of it would be the beginning of an absolutely, perfectly, magical day.

Cinderella Castle

 

An Unexpected Benefit of Running

When I started running I did so knowing I needed to be more active and get healthy.  A sedentary office job was starting to take its toll on my body. I had a lot of aches and pains and had a standing appointment with my massage therapist, Angie, to work out the kinks.  In particular the muscles under and between my shoulder blades were always badly knotted from sitting in one position at a desk typing on my computer all day. I think those muscles are called the Trapezius and Rhomboids but whatever they are called they caused me a great deal of pain on a regular basis.

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During the first few weeks of running Angie had to deal with tight muscles in my legs and hips when I showed up for my appointments and didn’t get to spend as much time working on my shoulders as she usually would. Once my body got used to running Angie no longer had to work on my legs and returned to my shoulders but to both our surprises my shoulders were not in nearly as bad a shape as we expected, especially since they had basically been neglected for a few months.

It seems that for me at least, there is an added benefit to running. The motion of pumping my arms as I run also seems to loosen up the stiff muscles in my upper back and shoulders and I couldn’t be happier about this unexpected side effect.

Now if only I could figure out how to pay for my next trip to Walt Disney World for the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon to really stretch out those muscles, life would be almost perfect.

I AM going to run a half marathon this year!

So after a year off from running and roller derby due to a knee injury and life getting in the way I’ve set myself a new goal.  I AM going to run a half marathon this year!  There I’ve said it and put in it writing.  I can’t turn back now.

I haven’t always been the best at keeping fitness goals I set for myself so my thought is that by putting it out there for everyone to see I am forcing myself to stick with it this time.  I know I need to make myself accountable but if the prospect of public embarrassment is what it takes I’ll do it.

I’m lucky enough to be married to my best friend for 20 years this summer and have tentatively booked a Disney cruise to celebrate but I hope to run the Wine and Dine Half Marathon while we are in Florida just before our cruise.

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Well, now that I have a goal and a date it’s time to get started with the training plan and deal with my 2 biggest excuses.

Firstly, running for me (and many others) is a mental game as much or more than it is a physical game.  In this game I have realized that it doesn’t take much to distract me from my runs so my husband came to my rescue and bought me a treadmill for Christmas.  Why does this help? Because I get bored when I run and then the mind games start.  On the treadmill I can put a movie in the DVD player and lose myself in the story while running.  This means I don’t get bored and want to quit.

Secondly the treadmill is inside.  I know this sounds silly, but to state the obvious, inside means warm.  I truly dislike winter and since I live in Canada winter is long and cold.  With the treadmill I don’t have the excuse that I can’t run because it’s too cold, dark and slippery to run outside.

Well now that I have those excuses defeated I have no reason not to train for a half marathon.

Wish me luck.

I will do it.

Eating Quick-Service at Walt Disney World Resort

Over the years I have purchased most of the different Dining Plans available at Walt Disney World Resort (“WDW”).  I prefer to purchase the Dining Plans because I like to have my costs figured out ahead of time and I don’t want to think about how much I’m spending on each meal.  The great thing about the Dining Plans are all the choices available depending on what style of restaurant you prefer and how many meals a day you want to eat.

With all the different Disney Dining Plans available at WDW the one that I seem to keep returning to is the Quick-Service Dining Plan.  This plan consists of two Quick-Service meals and one snack each day.

Now some people have told me I’m crazy to want to eat “fast food”  for an entire week but these are the people who don’t understand the vast array of options available for Quick-Service at WDW.  I’ve spent entire weeks at WDW and never eaten a single hamburger, which truly amazes some people.

Quick-Service at WDW basically means you eat cafeteria style instead of being waited on.  It has nothing to do with the quality of the food or options offered.

The following is a sample of the Quick-Service meals offered and some of my personal favorites:

Salmon with Couscous and Broccoli from Columbia Harbour House;

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Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

Beef Udon or Tokyo Sushi Combo from Katsura Grill;

Ginger Chicken Salad from Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes;

Barbeque Pork Sandwich from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café;

Half Rotisserie Chicken from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café;

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Sunshine Seasons.

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Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

All this choice and no need to figure out and book reservations months ahead of time is why I keep returning to the Quick-Service Dining Plan.

Don’t get me wrong the Table-Service restaurants are fabulous too but after having purchased the Deluxe Dining Plan  a few years ago and booking reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day for a week, it felt like all my family did was run from reservation to reservation.  There was no spontaneity and it was far too scheduled.

With the Quick-Service restaurants you just stop to eat when you are hungry and see something on the menu that looks appealing to you at that moment.  No planning needed.

I still book the occasional Table-Service restaurant for special occasions but am more than happy with the less expensive Quick-Service options and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone who asks.

I Love Disney’s FastPass+

I’ll admit I was skeptical when Disney rolled out its FastPass+ program.  It just seemed like this was one more thing I would have to plan long before we actually arrived at WDW and as much as I like planning for our vacations, my family doesn’t like to have every element of our holidays “scheduled” in advance.

For instance, after purchasing the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan one visit and booking dining reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, it felt like all we did was run from one reservation to the next and it took some of the fun out of the visit for us. Now I only book one or two Table-Service meals per week to avoid the dreaded “schedule”.

If you are staying at a WDW Resort you can book your FastPass+ experiences 60 days in advance of your check-in date and if you have purchased advance tickets (without a WDW Resort stay) you can book FastPass+ experiences 30 days in advance of your use date.

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From either your computer or your smart phone you can access the My Disney Experience web page or App to set up your FastPass+ experiences. You select 3 choices from the available attractions and the system will provide you with a number of time slot options for you to select from. It’s so easy.

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I liked the fact that for most experiences you get a one hour time slot and not just a specific time.  This one hour time slot provides a lot more flexibility to arrive at the attraction at a time that works for you within the hour window.

The hardest part about the whole process was deciding which 3 attractions/experiences are your favorites that you want to guarantee a time slot for.   We have a few must do’s every vacation that do not normally have very long lines so we decided to forgo using FastPass+ on those rides and used them for the rides that traditionally have longer lines (such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Midway Mania)  so we didn’t have to wait as long.

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When all was said and done I loved the FastPass+ system and being able to book 3 attractions ahead of time.  I hadn’t realized before this trip just how much my family likes to sleep in.  We aren’t early risers.  We would much rather sleep in and then stay at the Parks until they close.  Under the old system, by not getting to the Parks early we were often too late to get a FastPass for our favorite attractions and would just have to wait in line.  The new system shortened our overall wait time immensely.  I loved it and can’t wait to use it again.

WDW Radio Dinner Inside the Great Movie Ride

Our first trip to WDW without the kids since they were born was for the 2013 Tower of Terror Race weekend. As luck would have it WDW Radio was hosting a dinner inside The Great Movie Ride on the Friday night and as soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to attend. How often do you get a chance to wander around inside the ride and get an up close and personal look at all the displays?

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All the attendees met up in Animation Courtyard to await our host, Lou Mongello. It was interesting talking to all the other people in line to see where they were from. Of those I spoke with I think we were amongst those who had travelled the farthest to get there.

If didn’t take long to be ushered to the front door of the Chinese Theatre where we met our “Producer” guide for the evening. He was truly a character and very entertaining.

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We entered the theatre and watched the short film before the doors opened up and we started the walk along the ride route. It was wonderful to be able to stop and take pictures when you wanted to instead of rushing to snap them before the ride passed out of range. The lighting was still dim and a few pictures where hard to get due to the screens they had in front of some of the scenes but it was still so much better than the ride for picture taking.

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As we entered the gangster scene we were greeted by two actors who played their parts perfectly and an old time piano player. This is also where dinner was served, for some; for others they continued along and took seats at the tables in the western scene where there was another actress and some musicians playing banjos.

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Dinner was buffet style with a decent array of items to choose from including salads, veggies and a choice of meats. Everything I tried was tasty but the whipped potatoes in particular were wonderful as was the lemonade.  Although I’m a bit of a foodie I still appreciate the classics, when done correctly.

We were given plenty of time to eat, mingle with the other guests and check things out before off we were whisked away to another genre. Next came the tribute to scary movies section where Wayne snapped a picture of me and it looks like Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) has her gun to my head.

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We progressed along to our last stop in the land of OZ, where desert was served; a wonderful array of tasty tiny treats. While we were sampling the goodies Glinda arrived to add to the atmosphere and entertainment. Unfortunately I did not manage to get a photo with her as she was very popular and had quite a crowd to contend with.

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treats

If you ever get a chance to attend an event inside the Great Movie Ride I would highly recommend it and I thank the WDW Radio team for arranging the event for us. It was a wonderful way to kick off our weekend.