Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Signature Dining

Welcome to those of you joining me from YourFirstVisit.Net and to those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail. 

Today, we are discussing our Disney Parks guilty pleasures. I have been so blessed with the opportunity to be a bicoastal Disney Parks traveler and Disney Cruise Line Cruiser, that I have to admit, just being on property is a guilty pleasure. However, while vacationing, there is one aspect of every trip I really look forward to. Signature Dining Experiences! 

Planning our Disney Dining experiences is one of my favorite parts of a Disney vacation, only second to registering for a runDisney event. With so many options in and out of the parks, you're bound to find your must-do favorites for every trip, along with always being able to try something new! 

Here are my top five Disney Parks guilty pleasures (Signature Dining Experiences)!

#5 Jiko @ Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Braised Beef Short Ribs, oh my! This is my go-to Jiko dish! Though I do also enjoy the Fillet, the short ribs are my favorite!  Coupled with a swirl through the truffled potato puree and you've got a culinary South African delight. In addition, the pumpkin soup is a seasonal offering you can't miss. One of the most unique features of this signature dining experience is the selection of wines offered here. Jiko has the largest selection of South African wines outside of the country itself! My suggestion, if you enjoy blends, is the Spice Route Chakalaka. 

Look who showed up in my soup ;-) 

Enjoying dinner at Jiko with my oldest daughter.

#4 California Grill @ Disney's Contemporary Resort. There is no denying California Grill boasts some of the best views in the "World". There is nothing better then watching the sunset over the Grand Floridian as colors of a red and purple sky shine down brilliantly on the Kingdom, accentuating the blue tones of Cinderella's Castle. Yet this visual display of pixie dust pales in comparison to the magic of a late night dinner caped off by a stunning display of Wishes, Magic Kingdom's nighttime spectacular, complete with dimmed lights and musical soundtrack. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the food! If a good steak is your thing, this is your place. While I prefer a well-done, no-pink steak, I'm still able to cut it with a fork. So smooth, so soft, it truly is like butter. My appetizer preference is the Cheese Board, offered at many of Disney's Signature Restaurants. And at $20, is an excellent value if you are on the Deluxe Dining Plan. Ambiance, view, and excellent food make the California Grill not only a top choice for WDW vacationers, but for locals as well. 

Luckily, she made it through Wishes! 

13th Anniversary- California Grill style. Complete with Mickeyfetti!

#3 Victoria & Albert's - Queen Victoria Room @ Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. Wow! Where to begin with this one? How about.... I feel with a high amount of certainty this will be a one-time dining experience! Incredible, nonetheless. There were aspect of this experience, yes experience, as it was far beyond just a meal, that were magical! The attention to detail and level of service was beyond perfection, the intimate atmosphere (two 6 top tables), and the presentation of each course and its accompanying wine paring were top notch! Over four hours later, we were full, happy, and feeling good! However, when your bill is presented in a velveteen box..... look once, and never again! 

The bill in the box!

#2 Remy -on Disney Cruise Lines, Disney Dream (Remy can also be found on the Fantasy). Remy has a special place in my heart! We had the opportunity to dine here on our 12th wedding anniversary while on our first family cruise, just months after the debut of Disney's biggest and brightest ship, the Disney Dream! We had the option of selecting the American menu, the French menu, or a fusion of both culinary offerings. We chose the later. We topped off each course by including the wine pairing option. With servers mostly hailing from France, don't be surprised if you're able to recall a bit of your own French studies, especially after a few wine pairings! By the end of the evening, I was beginning to translate to my husband. You know what they say, if you don't use it, you lose it. It was so much fun to use it again! Even if it was tres un peu! As a side note, the sweetbread was the one thing I didn't have any desire to try!

With sweeping views of the ocean, this dining experience is a must-do!

"Happy Anniversary"

#1 Napa Rose Chef's Counter @ Disney's Grand Californian Resort. This is my favorite signature dining experience! While dining at the Chef's Counter one has the option of ordering from the menu, ordering from the fixed 4-course menu, or let the Executive Chef create each course for you based on your preferences. We again completed each course by adding the wine pairings. While the food was fantastic and every course divine, I'm a bit nostalgic over this experience for sentimental reasons. My love for Disney Parks began right here, at the Disneyland Resort®. I grew up visiting Disneyland! And while I consider Walt Disney World Resort® my true love, Disneyland was my first love. The opportunity to share with my family my memories of running wild through Disneyland as a child, brings it all back! So any opportunity I have to visit my west coast love is very special to me. Couple that with Dining Experiences like the Chef's Counter at Napa Rose, and I fall in love all over again, every time!

Executive Chef, Andrew Sutton, explaining the course

The Show Kitchen! 

Thank you for joining me today.Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail loop is the Many Adventures of a Disney Lovin' Spectrum Mom. 

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

3rd Stop ~  The DisneyFAITHful
Final Stop ~  Return to Disney

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lets do the math!

Welcome to those of you joining me from YourFirstVisit.Net and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail. 

It's time for a little Disney controversy! Specifically, Disney Vacation Club Members being a bit annoyed about not being able to take advantage of the free Disney Dining Plan offers. First, I say if you are in the blessed position of being a DVC Member, you really don't have much to complain about. Your options already abound in selecting some of Disney's finest accommodations, as well as being able to travel more frequently, or stay for longer periods of time. In addition, your DVC Perks offer discounts not available to non-members, such as discounted dining! Not to mention, you're offered the opportunity to add a Dining Plan to your reservation without having to purchase park admission. You always have the option of booking a cash room to be eligible for the dining promotion, but which option is to your checkbooks advantage? Let's do the math and look at this from the point-of-view of your bottom line. 

Scenario #1: Family of four vacationing in October under the Magic Your Way Package PLUS Free Dining (once a year Disney Parks vacationers)
Offer: Studio accommodations at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort with a 6 day Magic Your Way Base Ticket (required for dining plan).
Total Cost:  $3,203.74

Scenario #2: Same family vacationing under the same parameters, but as DVC Members with a 72 pt contract in SSR.
Offer: Studio accommodations at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort with the purchase of discounted 6 day MYW Base Ticket through UndercoverTourist.com for 2 adults, 2 children
Accommodations: 72 pts broken down into cash via a 50 year contract purchased through D.V.D at $100 a point + yearly dues of 4.68 per pt. = $481.50 in accommodations for their once a year Disney vacation.
Tickets: $1083.20 (just for an apples to apples comparison, most DVC Members do not need to purchase a new set of tickets each vacation). 
Added Basic Dining Plan: $798.72
Total Cost: $2,363.42

So, there you have it DVC Members, no more getting hot under the collar over not being offered a free Dining Plan :) You've already secured magical Disney vacations for years to come! 

* Disclaimer... This is a hypothetical situation and may not necessarily be reflective of your personal DVC Membership situation. Many variables play into the outcome, such as; your dues, your contract purchase price, and park ticket purchases. For information on calculating your personal value on Disney's special offer rates, feel free to contact me. 

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is The Many Adventures of a Disney Lovin' Spectrum Mom. 

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to make a stop and want to reboard. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Caption This!

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Teal. Enjoy the ride as we ask you to caption some of our favorite Disney photos! Have fun, be creative, and please, use family friendly language and content :) I'll announce my favorite caption on the blog, Monday, July 30th! 

Caption This!

Thank you for joining me today! Your next stop of the Magical Blogorail loop is the Many Adventures of a Disney Lovin' Spectrum Mom.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ The Disney FAITHful
Final Stop ~ YourFirstVisit.net

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's in the Disney details!

Welcome to those of you joining me from Yourfirstvist.net and to those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

Today, we are discussing the "Disney Touch", or what we feel makes something Disney-ish. In my mind, the Disney touch can't be identified as one specific special thing, but rather, a culmination of details that create not just moments, but magical memories! By providing an "experience" for their guests, Disney's impression is lasting and the brand loyalty is forever!

So how does Disney do it? It's in the (Disney) details! By not leaving a single detail neglected, Disney is able to imprint into our minds memories, feelings, and a sense of childhood like joy by utilizing the basic  methods of perception, in short, your senses! Of course, they use the "Disney Senses"; Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch, & Service! 

Sight: Disney Parks are no doubt a visual fest! Whether it's Cinderella Castle, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Spaceship Earth, or the Tree of Life, these park icons are probably some of the first images that come to mind. With incredible park theming and extraordinary attraction queues, there are magical things to see at every turn. 

Sound: Take it from the "EARS", nothing evokes a feeling of nostalgia more than listening to Disney theme park music. Just the growth in Internet radio stations providing the service of playing 
in-park music has been astounding. You can at any time be transported back to your favorite attraction,  theme park, or even resort. And nothing can put that lump in your throat like the soundtrack to Wishes! Of course the sight of the fireworks spectacular, coupled with the soundtrack, will down right move you to tears! 

Smell: Oh, Main Street Bakery, how the smell of your confectionery delights beckon me to indulge! And  have you ever noticed that even some of the resorts have their own unique smell? Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian, and Beach Club are a few that stick out in my mind as having an inviting aroma unique to the theme of that property. Makes me what to return to these resorts! Job done! Add the beautiful surroundings and themed music! You get where I'm going!

Taste: With a 139 restaurants to chose from, Disney Dining has become one of my favorite Disney vacation activities! In addition, several dining establishments hold prestigious awards and offer first class dining experiences! Add the Disney Dining Plan to your reservation and you've created an almost all-inclusive vacation!

Touch: Disney goes interactive! You no longer have to just wait while in line for your favorite attraction, you can experience it in a whole new way! With interactive attraction queues, you have the ability to touch and play while you wait. Want to take your interactive Disney Parks experience to the next level? With on-line dining reservations in place and the development of the Next-Gen project, you'll be able to get your "hands" on your vacation plans well before you leave for the happiest place on earth. 

Service: I know this isn't a traditional method of perception but, perception IS everything and it drives the Disney difference and brings all the aforementioned details together into one beautiful business model. Without the "sense" of feeling like you're receiving the up most in customer service, what you've seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and touched, will be all for not! After all, who doesn't want to feel like royalty? 

It's all in the Disney Details! 

Thank you for joining me today! The next stop on the Magical Blogorail loop is The Many Adventures of a Disney Lovin' Spectrum Mom.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hop A Pool!

Welcome to those of you joining me from YourFirstVisit.net and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail. 

When it comes to planning your Disney Parks vacation, undoubtabtly, your first instint will be to go "Park Commando" and schedule non-stop in-park activities that'll leave your family's Pixie in the Dust. I can't stress the importance of scheduling time to (Disney) unwind. One of my family's favorite out-of-park Disney activities is to "Pool Hop". 

Pool Hopping is a perk available to Disney Vacation Club Members that offers members the opportunity to experience other resort pool offerings. Now, I know there is gray area here, and I'm sure many non-dvc members have enjoyed resort pools of which they're not official guests. However, the official rule is; unless you're a DVC Member, pool hopping is frowned upon. 

DVC Members have some restrictions as well. For example, pool hopping is never allowed in Stormalong Bay at the Yacht/Beach Club, Bay Cove Pool at Bay Lake Tower, or Samawati Springs Pool at Kindani Village. In addition, peak travel times also enforce a no pool hopping policy, in an effort to keep the pool capacity avaliable for it's guests. 

Here is the DisneyFAITHful pool resume:
Uzima Pool -Animal Kingdom Lodge 
Pros: Zero-entry, African theme, pool bar, two hot tubs; counter service eatery, The Mara, in close proximity to pool.
Cons: Slide is mediocre. No other water features. 
Best for: Families that want to relax.

Bay Cove Pool- Bay Lake Tower
Pros: Decent slide, also a small kiddie size slide, zero-entry, size of pool makes it easy to keep an eye on little ones,  pool bar, hot tub near pool, kiddie splash pad, other recriational activities within site of pool.
Cons: Uninteresting theme for children, but the slide lit up at night is attractive.
Best for: Adults, families with smaller children.

Stormalong Bay- Beach Club/Yacht Club
Pros: Great ship-wreak themed slide with kiddie pool and small slides on boat section of slide, fun activities, two hot tubs tucked away within rock landscaping but still near pool, lazy river, sand bottom, pool/beach combo on Yacht Club side, most elaborately themed pool complex
Cons: large swimming complex makes it hard to keep an eye on the littlest ones. Guests must exit pool area and walk across main boardwalk to get to slide entrance (awkward for us ladies!), the seams of the slide can hurt as travel down, pool bar difficult to access (must climb over bridges & stairs).
Best for: Families with older children comfortable in water.

Luna Park Pool- Boardwalk

Pros: Great slide, kiddie pool, kiddie splash pad, kiddie playground, pool water features, hot tub near pool, pool bar near pool.
Cons: Dining options limited, Distance from Boardwalk Inn section of resort. 

Contemporary Resort
Pros: Two pools, near Bay Lake & Marina, Bay Lake Tower guests may access, kiddie splash pad, dining near pools.
Cons: Uninteresting theme for children, No shade.
Best for: Adults, families with smaller children.

Nanea Volcano Pool- Polynesian 

Pros: Great slide, zero-entry, kiddie water sprayers near-by, easy beach access, pool bar, Captain Cook's counter service near-by, near marina, pool size condusive to watching children.
Cons: Sections of slide are in the dark; may be frieghtning for smaller children.
Best for: All families.

Hidden Springs Pool- Wilderness Lodge
Pros: Beautiful surroundings, kid friendly slide, pool bar, kiddie size slide
Cons: large pool divided into two sections makes it harder to watch children, hot tub a bit seperated from main pool, no other water features.
Best for: All families. 

Old Key West
Pros: Great slide, fun theme, kiddie pool, playground, sand play area, hot tub near pool, sauna near pool, near marina, near community hall.
Cons: No zero-entry, large lay-out, food/beverage located outside pool area.
Best for: All families, great for older children.

Grand Californian
Pros: three pools, slide has separate pool, two hot tubs, fun themed slide area, peaceful surroundings.
Cons: Keeping an eye on little ones going back and forth between pools, seems a bit non small child friendly (slide area exception), no other water features for little ones.
Best for: Adults, older children.

I hope you've enjoyed reading a bit about my family's favorite way to experience Disney Magic outside the parks! And remember........

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on our Magical Blogorail Loop is The Many Adventures of a Disney Lovin' Spectrum Mom.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to
make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

Monday, April 16, 2012


Welcome to those of you joining me from Adventures of a Disney Princess and to those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our special edition runDisney Magical Blogorail loop. 

So, you don't just want to run around the "World", you want to run around "the Land" too!
But your wondering, "is it really 13.1 miles of magic?"
Oh, it's so much more! 

To all who come to this Happy Place, Welcome!
Arriving: Like Walt Disney World Resort®, the Disneyland Resort® offers its guests transportation aboard the Disneyland Resort Express! Unlike it's Magical Express Sister, the DLRE offers transportation from two local airports, Los Angeles International (LAX) about 45 mins away, or Orange County's, John Wayne (SNA) about 20 mins away. Unlike the ME however, the DLRE is not a complementary service. A non-discounted trip will set you back about $25-$30 per person, depending on airport. Of course, if you're participating in a runDisney event and book through the travel partner, Get Travel, the price is about half its original cost.
Once you've boarded the DLRE the next stop is your Disney property hotel. The Express drops at all three resort hotels before looping back to the airport. The express does not make stops at DL's Good Neighbor Hotels. 

If the shoe fits!
Expo: Undoubtedly, once you're settled, your next stop will be the Disneyland Half Marathon Health & Fitness Expo. Here, you'll pick up your racing packets and explore exhibits from some of the biggest names in running gear. In addition, you'll find things you never even knew existed! While you're there, don't forget to stop by the runDisney booth to register for your next race and receive an on-site registration discount! 

Running: What to expect: People! Meet your new 15,000 BFF's! They'll be there to cheer you on every step of the way, really! It's a bond with strangers that is, well, Magical! As far as DL race tips, the 1st is that I cannot stress enough how convenient it is to stay on property! You are literally steps away from the staging area in the parking lot of the Disneyland Hotel, as well as steps away from the Corrals, no matter which of the three DL hotels you choose (they're all pretty much across the street from each other). This makes at 2:45 am wake-up call for a WDW race, 4:00am for a DL race! 

The Course
Course: Not only does the DL 1/2 Marathon offer an unprecedented run through both Disneyland and California Adventure, but with the property itself being smaller, 13.1 miles of nothing but Disney is near impossible. So, a trip through the city of Anaheim is a bonus :) While my favorite portions of the course included any mile on Disney property, my Husband's favorite was the opportunity to run in and around Angel Stadium. As you run up the players entrance you are immediately taken back by a giant jumbo-tron with you on it! Next, you run the third base line as runners are announced over the stadium PA! Another bonus, a relatively flat course designed to help you earn that PR (personal record). 
Next, head back toward the parks and cross the finish line where the Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney walkway meet! Lastly, enjoy your bling... you've earned it!

But don't forget.... it can't be all work and no play!

Take in a show!

Make a splash!

Wine & Dine!

We'll leave the light on for ya!

Don't just run..... runDisney!
Where every mile IS magic!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail loop is A Disney Mom's Thoughts!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard!

5th Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
6th Stop ~ DIStherapy
Final Stop ~ Tips from the Disney Diva

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Castle Controversy?

Welcome to those of you joining me from Yourfirstvisit.net and to those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

When considering the topic of controversies, I surmise the Disney brand probably isn't on the top of the controversial list. Oh sure, they've had their share of internal controversy, and even a few public issues with "Animators Gone Wild". But overall, they've retained their family orientated image.

However, what happens when the Disney Fanatic community gets upset over a proposed new Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular? Disney controversy!

In January of 2011, Disney announced it's newest nighttime experience for Magic Kingdom; The Magic, The Memories, and You! An all new laser light show projected onto Cinderella Castle and featuring PhotoPass images and video of that days park guests. I was excited about the prospect of this new experience, and began delving deeper into researching all I could about it....until I could see it for myself :) 

I began to find reviews of the first showing, conducted during a press event for Walt Disney World Resorts® latest marketing campaign; Let the Memories begin, which happened to coincided with the christening of the Disney Dream! One comment I specifically remember was the concern they would be defacing Cinderella Castle, and it was all a cheesy marketing ploy. Those comments really resonated with me and set me on an eager course of witnessing this show for myself! 

Finally, the day had come for me to see what had initially turned some fans Mickey Ears sideways. My opinion; it was nothing short of the most spectacular thing I had ever seen!!! Disney Magic at its finest! Frankly, any negative review that had been cast in the direction of Disney's Imagineers over this show, I thought was obviously a perpetrator from a competitor in the amusement industry sent purposely as a mole to cast a grey shadow on absolute perfection! Just sayin'. 

All joking aside, I believe Cinderella Castle is more enchanting then ever since the advent of this show! Not only have I seen its daily show several times, but I had the opportunity to witness the amazing holiday edition, breathtaking! 

So, for the naysayers of THTMAY, I have to wonder, are you really one of life's "Disney Dreamers"?

    Daily Show

Holiday Edition 

Thank you for joining me today! Your next stop on our loop is The Many Adventures of a Disney Lovin' Spectrum Mom.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to
make a stop along the way and want to reboard: