Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hoop - Dee - Doo Musical Revue

The Hoop - Dee - Doo Musical Revue is a show you must see! It's an old - fashioned, western style, all-you-can-eat (and drink) dinner show. It's in the Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness.

We've been several times over the years and we look forward to the show (and food) every trip. It's a must see for a first visit to WDW. 

No matter where you sit, the Pioneer Hall Players make you feel you have the best seat in the house. While they play, Cast Members serve your dinner in pails family style. It includes fried chicken, BBQ pork ribs, corn on the cob, salad, baked beans, and corn bread. Beverages including beer, wine & sangria are also included!

My son loves this meal because he gets to use his hands. They'll keep bringing more food out until you say you've had enough. Make sure you save room for the strawberry shortcake.
During the show every table gets a washboard to play. So many kids today have never even seen one. It's a good photo op!

This is a great show to see with several generations. There's something for everyone. My mother always gets a kick out of seeing the kids joining in the tribute to Davy Crockett and spinning our dinner napkins in the air.

They offer three dinner shows a night during the peak season. Make your dinner reservations up to 180 days prior to your visit. The early shows fill up fast. Buses run from the Ticket and Transportation center (TTC) to Fort Wilderness, then take an internal bus to Settlement Depot. Boat transportation is available from the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, and Wilderness Lodge to Fort Wilderness. Then it's just a short walk to Pioneer Hall. I allow 90 minutes from the time we leave our resort to get there. That allows us enough time for our group to have their photos taken outside the Hall.

I hope you enjoy this dinner show as much as we have over the years!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Yachtsman Steakhouse: The Best Steaks in Walt Disney World

If you are looking for a true fine dining experience, The Yachtsman Steakhouse simply must be on your next Disney itinerary. This restaurant boasts seafood as well as steaks, chicken, and lamb entrees. Being both a mother of four and a self-proclaimed “foodie,” I was also pleased to find that the children’s menu offered the kids to have a steak, cooked to perfection just like Mom and Dad’s.

The atmosphere is very warm and inviting, located inside Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The décor resembles a cabin in a fine yacht, with lots of wood tones, brass, and shipman’s knots. This is classic New England at its best. The restaurant’s layout boasts an open kitchen, where you can see your meal being prepared, while you kick back in your leather club chair.

This restaurant is on the Disney Dining Plan, and it requires two Table Service credits per person for this exquisite meal. The prices on the menu range from $36 to $59.99. In addition to an excellent wine list, The Yachtsman offers an excellent Artisan Cheese list. Some of the Appetizer offerings include Escargot, Braised Beef Ravioli, and Lobster Bisque. If that doesn’t have your mouth watering like mine is, take a look at this list of entrees: The Yachtsman Filet Mignon, Roasted Free-Range Chicken Breast, Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb. The temptation isn’t over yet! Samples of the side dishes are: Truffle Mac and Cheese, Rainbow Carrots, and Porcini Mushroom Risotto with aged Gouda. YUM!

Okay, readers….brace yourselves. I’m about to give you a list of just a few of the desserts. Giving you anymore than a few would just be too dangerous! All of those New Year’s resolutions everyone has made to lose weight will suffer! So, please take the necessary precautions before reading forward. Now, back to business. Here’s the good stuff…the desserts! Look at these offerings: Meyer Lemon Meringue, Crème Brulee with Chocolate Rolls and fresh berries, Mango Cheesecake with Raspberry foam and artisan ganache.

Now that all of the serious business is done, we can pay a little attention to the Children’s Menu! This restaurant makes sure that the kids aren’t forgotten with the excellent cuisine that is offered. The kid’s standard chicken fingers can be found here, and is sure to satisfy even the pickiest little eaters. In addition, the kids can sample a sirloin steak, grilled just like yours, or baked fish. There’s even a pasta dish for the kids. The children’s dessert is as fun as it is tasty. In addition to some ice cream or a brownie, children can enjoy a chocolate puzzle, complete with edible sugar paint, and a cupcake.

This fine restaurant is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Disney World. Whether you take the kids with you, or make it an adults-only night, The Yachtsman Steakhouse will not disappoint. Oh, and by the way, I apologize in advance for wrecking your New Year’s resolutions!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Nancy Bressler

Jambo everyone!

A few months ago, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated its 10th Anniversary as a theme park. It seems astonishing that Animal Kingdom has reached such a milestone already, since I can still remember a time when it didn’t exist. In recognition, I thought I’d take a few moments to examine the past, present, and my hopes for the future of Animal Kingdom.

I still remember my first trip to Animal Kingdom; unfortunately, that wasn’t a particularly good experience. My first visit to the park was with my whole family, who preferred sleeping in late. By the time we arrived, we only saw the front half of the park that day and about 3 attractions. Yet, I will always remember my first glimpse of the Tree of Life. Like the other theme parks, Animal Kingdom needed an iconic attraction. Choosing just one animal seemed unfair, so Disney Imagineers carved over 300 animals into the trunk of the tree. The enormous tree stands impressively over the park and is surrounded by the Discovery Island Trails. Walking through this peaceful area of live animals toward the massive tree and admiring each of the intricately engraved animals is one experience you will never forget!

The second aspect that I will always remember is the Festival of Lion King show. This “not-to-be-missed” show rivals Broadway shows in the pure energy and ceremonious spirit of its performers. While the show lasts about 30 minutes, this show is so captivating that Disney fans of all ages will thoroughly treasure it. Both this show and the Tree of Life were here on opening day and will hopefully remain for many years to come!

Most recently, Animal Kingdom added two new attractions to the theme park. Expedition Everest is also one of the most authentic creations I have ever seen. Disney Imagineers went to Asia and studied the culture and natural wonder of the area and genuinely re-created it in Florida. Getting a FP for Expedition Everest as early as possible is a must, since it remains a popular attraction. Also, if you would like a return visit to Everest’s guardian of the mountain – the Yeti – in the afternoon, ask a cast member if the Single Rider Line is open. This means that your group will be split up, but you will also wait in a much shorter line.

Expedition Everest view from end of the tracks

Mt. Everest (in Florida)

In addition, Finding Nemo: the Musical stage show replaced the old stage show Tarzan Rocks a few years ago. This Broadway-style shows features original songs created just for the re-telling of Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo. One of the unique aspects of this show is that the life-like puppets appear alongside their human actors; these actors not only bring the puppets to life, but sing, dance, and perform acrobatics during the show. This show is SO popular, that arriving 45 minutes or more before a performance is a MUST! So grab that FP for Expedition Everest, and then head to see Finding Nemo: the Musical!

Animal Kingdom continues to evolve as a unique “species” of theme park. Yet, as we look toward its future, there is one main improvement that I would love to see. Animal Kingdom could really use a form of transportation around the theme park. This is Disney’s largest park – in fact, the entire Magic Kingdom theme park can fit inside Kilimanjaro Safaris alone! As a result, it could really use a transportation system that allows people to navigate it easier. This is a park where planning is essential! During my first visit here, we had planned nothing in advance and had a terrible experience. This park will continue to expand and having a good touring plan – preferably one from a Disney travel planner like a WDW Travels agent – is especially necessary with Animal Kingdom!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Disney's Promotion: Buy a Minimum 5-Night Stay, Get a Free Gift Card!

by Kathy at WDWTravels

This Disney promotion has proven to be just the bonus that many Disney vacation seekers have wanted to find. These gift cards will allow travelers to maybe get a special spa treatment, or purchase that special princess outfit, complete with all of the accessories. It will allow Disney Fans to try a new restaurant or buy a new Disney collectible. These Disney travelers knew when they booked their trip that they would have a great Disney vacation. What they didn’t realize was that they would have some extra spending money to boot!

I was speaking to a group of high school seniors and their moms, and they were planning a senior trip for the six girls. Most of the girls have never been to Walt Disney World, so they were excited to just be able to go! We pored over several quotes from all resort categories that Disney has to offer. When we booked their trip, we decided on Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. The queen-size beds were a priority, so this Moderate Resort was exactly what they wanted. We booked two rooms for them, and they began planning their days and nights.

Not even a month after the girls and their moms booked their trip, Disney released this new promotion. When I emailed them and told them about the gift cards, these girls were ecstatic! They now have two $500 gift cards that they will split between them, and they are even busier, planning spa treatments and such. This is an excellent example of a group of people who knew they wanted to travel at a certain time of year. They were going to Disney, and they just had to make the numbers work for all of the girls to be able to afford their portion of the trip. Now, they have extra spending money that they weren’t counting on, and it has relaxed them and their mothers about the financial portion of their Senior Trip.

So, if you or someone you know is planning a trip between now and June, tell them about this promotion! If you book a minimum of a 5-Night stay in a Value Resort, you’ll receive a $300 Gift Card upon check-in. The same number of nights in a Moderate Resort will earn you a $500 Gift Card, and a 5-Night or more stay in a Deluxe Resort will bank a $750 Gift Card per room. It’s important to note that this offer is good for stays most nights between January 3 and June 3. Hurry, though! You can only book this promotion through March 27, 2010. There are only a certain number of rooms at each resort allotted for this promotion, so the earlier you book, the better your chances of securing your FREE gift card

Friday, January 15, 2010

Disney with Special Needs

If you are anything like me, the first thing you think of when you think of a family vacation, is vacationing at Disney World. But when you are traveling with a special needs child, these thoughts are not as easy to make a reality. Your thoughts turn to: Do they have special accommodations for him? What if he is having a bad day? How do we combat those 90 minute wait lines? How will he handle everything from the rides to the character greetings? Well, with the proper planning everything can go even more smoothly than you could imagine.

First things first, take advantage of Disney's Guest Assistance Pass. These are available at the guest relations stations in the front of the parks and at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom. A cast member is always ready to assist you and all you need is a note from your child's doctor outlining your child's condition. Once you arrive at the guest relations location, hand the cast member the note from your child's doctor and they will give you your GAP. There are several good points with this pass. The cast member will ask you how many days you will be visiting the perks because the pass transfers to each park. So, there is no need to get a new pass at the beginning of each day. The card is about the size of an index card and will need to be viewed by a cast member at each attraction. The pass IS NOT a skip the line ticket. This pass just makes the wait easier for your child, whether it is by means of entry to the attraction by a separate entrance, or waiting in a special holding area. The pass works for your child and up to four other people in your party.

Now it's time to have fun! Once you arrive at the entrance of your first attraction, its time to try out your pass. First, show the cast member your pass. They will, depending on the length of the general admission line, point you in the direction you need to go. The pass works VERY well on most shows and attractions. The character experiences are a bit different. These are at the sole discretion of the character handlers. They ultimately make the decision on whether or not to accept the pass. In most instances they do, however be prepared in case they don't. When it comes to the parks, the guest assistance pass has the best results at the Magic Kingdom. It is by far the most accommodating of the four parks.

This is going to be the first step in having a successful trip with your special needs child. This will also be one of the biggest stress relievers that you will have! Once you know that this is handled the next biggest tip is planning, planning, planning. Be prepared with your child. Know both your expectations and your limitations. Know your parks, know your hours and special events, and make any possible dining reservations. Bottom line, special needs or not, Disney World is the best vacation destination. You have all of this valuable information, so go..... have fun and make some amazing memories!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Disney World Park Hopper Perks

by Jeri Hall
Toll Free: 1-800-423-0796
Cell Phone: 419-236-2564

One of the ticket options that Disney offers is turning your Base Day ticket into a Park Hopper. A lot of people are confused by the ticket options. What is the difference between the two? A Base Day ticket allows you entry into one theme park (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, or Hollywood Studios) per day. Adding the "Hopper" option lets you go in and out of two or more parks in the same day.

What are the perks to this Hopper Pass? Why would you want it? How much will it cost you? All very good questions. The perk to the Hopper Pass is that you can "hop" from one park to another on the same day. You might be interested in the Extra Magic Morning Hours at Magic Kingdom, but you would like to dine in Epcot that same evening. The Park Hopper option allows you to do just that. Without it, you would have to spend the whole day in Magic Kingdom if that is the park you were in that morning.

Why would you want this Park Hopper option? Flexibility is it's greatest feature. You may need only half a day to complete a park you have already started; Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios might only be showing at 7:30 pm on the day you have decided to be in Animal Kingdom; or you may simply want to do only a few attractions at a couple of parks one morning. This pass lets you do all of that. During busier seasons it's also a great option allowing you to visit multiple parks in one day and avoiding some of the crowds on certain days or certain times. sounds like a really great feature but you are wondering what it's going to cost you. Believe it or not, it is a really affordable option. It costs just $52.00 to upgrade ANY ticket from a Base Day ticket to a Park Hopper. It doesn't matter if it's a 1 day ticket or a 10 day ticket. Obviously the more days you have on your ticket, the better the deal. Is it a necessary feature? Absolutely not. For those who are on a tighter budget, the Base Day ticket will work just fine with the right amount of planning. Not sure how to plan your days? That is where an agent who specializes in Disney can be of great help. And the best part? Our services are free. Even if you have already booked a vacation, feel free to contact us. If you did not book through another travel agent, we can transfer your reservation. You reap the advantages of a travel agent who will help you plan every aspect of your Disney vacation at no cost to you.

So you are still wondering, "Park Hopper, no Park Hopper? What do I do?". Contact me; I would love to help you decide what works best for you.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Free Nights at Disneyland!

by Amy Triphan
toll free: 1-800-786-8252

If you are a Disneyland fan like me, you might have been understandably upset last year when Disney rolled out promotion after promotion for Walt Disney World. Where are the Disneyland promotions? We want some free nights too. Well, Disney has answered our prayers with a new Disneyland promotion for 2 FREE nights; take that Disney World.

The 2 free nights are available to guests who book a 3 night, 5 day vacation package at the Disneyland Resort. By booking a 3 night stay at any of the 3 Disneyland Resort Hotels and purchasing a 5 day Park Hopper Ticket, you will receive 2 Extra Nights for Free. This package is available from now until April 29, 2010 with travel being completed by May 4, 2010. This package must be booked by April 20, 2010 and there are the following block-out dates: January 15-17, February 12-14, and March 28- April 10.

In addition to the 2 Free Nights, you will also get all the benefits from booking a Disneyland Vacation Package. Benefits such as a Magic Morning allowing you to enter Disneyland an hour before park opening on select mornings, preferred seating at select shows in California Adventure, Mickey’s Toontown Morning Madness, a Collectible Pin and Lanyard, and a Downtown Disney Fun card just to name a few.

And with 2 extra nights you can really enjoy all that the Disneyland Resorts have to offer. Enjoy some pool time at the Neverland Pool at the Disneyland Resort Hotel or walk around the fountains scattered throughout the Disneyland Resort. Take a ride on the waterslide California Streamin’ atop the Paradise Pier Hotel. Explore the magnificent lobby and fireplace at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. All of these hotels have many hidden treasures to explore and unique tours and experiences offered to guests, many for free. Often you’ll spot some familiar Disney Characters hanging out in the lobby. Staying on property allows you to be immersed in Disney magic from the start of your vacation until you leave to go home. And with 2 nights free, it’s more affordable than ever.

Neverland Pool at Disneyland Resort Hotel

California Streamin' at Paradise Pier Hotel

So why not take advantage of these free nights and book a trip to Disneyland Resort. The timing is perfect with historically lower crowd levels in the parks and the typically wonderful California weather. Besides, who knows the next time Disney will remember it’s original park and throw us loyal followers more free nights.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Give a Day Get a Disney Day

By Angel Lanier

I am very excited to share with you a new promotion from Disney!
Give a day. Get a Disney day.

Beginning January 1, 2010, you can volunteer at one of several official participating organizations and receive a certificate for a one-day FREE admission to a Walt Disney World or Disneyland Park! Children as young as 6 years old can participate. However, children ages 6-17 must be accompanied by an adult when volunteering. Volunteer opportunities are available in The United States, including Puerto Rico, and Canada. You must reside in either of these as well in order to sign up. You can receive 1 ticket per person for the year regardless of how many days you volunteer. But hurry, the tickets are limited, and could possibly run out before the deadline of December 15, 2010.

You can sign up online and select from a list of eligible volunteer opportunities with participating organizations. After you complete your volunteer activity, your service will be verified and you will receive email instructions to print vouchers that can be redeemed for your free ticket to a Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme park.

As with promotions in the past, if you already have a multi-day pass or annual pass, you can either receive Disney's Special FASTPASS cards for certain attractions for you and up to 5 additional members of your party, receive a collectible Ear Hat figurine with exclusive trading pins, or you can choose to donate your free ticket to a non-profit organization designated by Disney Parks. You can also upgrade your free ticket to another ticket type of greater value, like a multi-day pass or annual pass.

Most participants will receive their redeemable certificates within 2 weeks of completion of service. However, it is always a good idea to apply in advance. There are a few block-out dates as shown below:
• Walt Disney World Resort: March 29 - April 8 and July 4, 2010
• The Disneyland Resort: February 13-14, March 21, June 21-22, July 4, November 21, December 11-12, 2010.

There are many opportunities for you to serve your community. If you don’t find what you are looking for, expand your search to your closest big city. Donating blood is even an option for those over 16! Opportunities are limited for children, so hurry and volunteer today!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Castaway Cay - Disney Cruise Line's Private Island

by Jennifer Claybourne

Have you ever seen a postcard from the Bahamas? You know the ones; palm trees, white sandy beaches, and water so blue that it can’t be real. This place really exists and it is called Castaway Cay. Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island where every Disney Cruise makes port for a day (and yes, the water really is that blue).

The palm trees, beaches, and beautiful blue water are not the only things that make Castaway Cay special. The island has something for everyone. Most cruisers will spend their time at the family beach. This white sandy beach has chairs for sunbathing or umbrellas for shade. There are also hammocks for swaying in the ocean breeze and relaxing, Disney style.

Just down from the family beach is the sports beach where you can play tetherball, volleyball, or a number of other activities.
The teen beach is next and is off limits to those of us over 18.The teen beach is the perfect place for the young adults to hang out and get away from those of us who may be cramping their image.

On the other side of the island is Serenity Bay. This beach is reserved for adults only and is a wonderful place to enjoy some peace and quiet. This section even has its own lunch served so you never have to leave (well, at least until 5pm).

For those who like to shop, there are several interesting stores where you can buy items unique to Castaway Cay. Those who enjoy the occasional adult beverage (I love Conch Coolers) Castaway Cay has several walk up bars to choose from, or you can order from one of the many drink servers walking around. All of the activities are bound to work up an appetite, and Disney has this covered too with a buffet style barbecue lunch.

There are plenty of excursions to try on the island, too. Everything from parasailing to bike riding is available on the island. My personal favorite, though, is snorkeling. Castaway Cay has a protected cove set aside for snorkeling where most of the dangerous creatures of the sea can not enter. There are many lifeguards overseeing the snorkelers for added safety. This is the perfect place to see tropical fish in as safe an environment as possible. Give it a try and see if you can find the Mickey statue!

Castaway Cay is typical of Disney; a magical place that is fun for the whole family. This island is just another reason why Disney Cruises stand head and shoulders above everyone else for family vacations.