California Grill Dessert

October in Walt Disney World – Trip Review

Magic Kingdom Entrance in OctoberIt was the best of times – two adults, seven days, the World was our oyster.  We’d planned some special events for this trip to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary and we enjoyed each and every one of them, though admittedly some more than others.

We purchased Memory Maker (see first review here) to make sure we ended up with some non-selfies to commemorate the occasion (full 2nd Memory Maker review to follow) and booked dining reservations at some places we had not tried before.  After all was said and done, I’d summarize our adventures into three categories:  The VERY Best, the Just Okay, and the Could Have Been Better.  These were our experiences only – your own may be completely different and isn’t that so much a part of what we love about Walt Disney World?  Something for everyone!  Note:  Over the next couple of weeks, I will write detailed reviews of each experience.

The VERY Best:

Citricos (Grand Floridian Resort and Spa), the California Grill (The Contemporary Resort) and IMG_5997Sanaa (Animal Kingdom’s Kidani Village) – We enjoyed our meals at these three restaurants and thought the food, service and atmosphere were all perfect.

Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival – The food/beverage booths were wonderful and the entire experience was a lot of fun.  We might not have gotten to each item on our wish list, but every morsel we tried was delectable!  We will be doing this again!

Bay Lake Tower – Our studio on the 3rd floor was exactly right for us.  It was roomy with an excellent view of Bay Lake.  Sunrise was incredible!  At first, I was a little disappointed at not being higher up, but once I realized that the Electrical Water Pageant would be happily making  along Bay Lake’s shore each night where I could see (and hear) it well, I was more than happy with our location.  The distance between Bay Lake Tower’s front door and the bag check area in Magic Kingdom is exactly a half a mile.  Loved the walk!

IMG_5906Senses Spa Massage for Two (Grand Floridian) – Worth every penny.  The spa is gorgeous and we felt very special and pampered.  The massage was incredibly relaxing and we could not have asked for a more luxurious setting.

The Weather – We had one rainy afternoon and a bit of rain the next morning.  Compared to the Florida weather in the weeks leading up to our visit, this was as perfect as we could have wished for.  Having never been to Florida in October, I was captivated by the sky – breathtaking sunrises and sunsets with the most amazingly perfect blue skies and fluffy white clouds during the day.  The warm days and cool-ish evenings were wonderful.

Getting SOAKED on Splash Mountain, Drying off on the PeopleMover – What can I say?  We were in the very first log of the day on Splash – got over-the-head-in-our-faces sopping wet and PeopleMoverthen had the PeopleMover nearly to ourselves to cruise around and air dry.  Can you think of a more fun way to start the day?

The Just Okay

Be Our Guest – Yes, it’s beautiful inside!  It’s also very pricey and the food, while okay, was the poorest aspect of dining there.  We ate there for both lunch and dinner and, for the money, we could have eaten much better meals.  The West Wing (dinner) was unbelievably dark….like pitch black.  We couldn’t believe the servers weren’t running into each other, guests, tables, etc.  At lunch, the food was not as good as at dinner, but the seating location was better (we got to sit where we wanted).  Again, a full review will follow, but if you’re going just to see the inside, try to get a lunch reservation and order whatever is the least expensive menu option.  NOTE:  The Cast Members we encountered here were outstanding.

The Italian Food & Wine Pairing – This was in Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion and the seating took place in a large, open, extremely noisy space.  We had wonderful tablemates and would have loved talking to them more, but we couldn’t hear each other AT ALL!  The fare was just okay.  Having never been to an event of this type before, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I did think it would be more enjoyable.  The French Regional Lunch we tried at Monsieur Paul (France Pavilion) was much better.

MNSSHP CastleMickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – All I could think about was how much more I would have loved it if our children (even though they’re grown) had been with us.  We liked dressing up and enjoyed the short waits for the attractions.  The fireworks and parade were very well done, but not being big on sweets, we didn’t pick up a single treat.  I do know that attending on the 6th night of our stay meant we were pretty wiped out to begin with.  Maybe we’d have liked it more if we’d been more perky.  I’d try the party again, but with more than just the two of us.

Could Have Been Better

My Disney Experience / Disney’s Computer System – Still very glitchy.  My app actually showed MDE App Glitch“closed” for every single Magic Kingdom attraction for much of a day – many rides were down at one time  (Pirates, PhilharMagic, Small World, Pooh), but certainly not all of them.  On that same day, we were told before leaving Bay Lake Tower that Walt Disney World’s entire computer system was having issues.  I don’t know if that was related to why so many attractions were closed, but the wait times at the remaining attractions were pushed way up as a result.  We left Magic Kingdom, hopped on the Monorail and did some Resortloop shopping – hoping things would clear up while we were gone.  Sadly, we saw and heard a lot of unhappiness in Magic Kingdom that day.  Similar to what happened in May, Raymond’s Magic Band didn’t work at park entrances for the first three parks we visited, but at least the problem was resolved after that.  The funniest glitch was that I didn’t have charging privileges on my Magic Band after we checked in even though I was the one who gave the credit card to link at check-in.  Considering how convenient I find that touch-to-pay feature, I probably shouldn’t have had that issue fixed!

Animal-Kingdom-Construction-WallsAnimal Kingdom – I’m not criticizing, honestly, and I totally understand that short-term sacrifice will lead to long-term gains (and more FUN!).  It was heartbreaking, though, to see the amount of construction equipment, construction walls, abbreviated attractions, etc. in our beloved Animal Kingdom.  We spent Saturday (10/11/14) afternoon there and had planned to return on a weekday for a longer visit, but after seeing how much the construction detracted from the overall experience, we didn’t go back.  I did get to ride my favorite attractions and see the two new baby gorillas which was great.

Epcot’s New Lumberjack Show (Canada Pavilion) – I’ve got nothing nice to say – so I’m not saying anything at all.

Have you ever visited Walt Disney World in October?  What were your favorite and least Canadian Lumberjack Show in Epcotfavorite experiences?  What should we try next time?

 

 

 

Por Favor Podcast

The Por Favor Podcast Anti-Weasel Guide to Walt Disney World

Por Favor Hosts Mike and GaryThe Por Favor Podcast Anti-Weasel Guide to Walt Disney World

Hi folks! We’re Gary and Mike, the co-hosts of the Por Favor Podcast. If you’ve heard us you know that we don’t take things too seriously (except beer, and food, and Disney, and sports, and well…never mind).

Anyway, Lisa has asked us to write an article for her blog while she jet-sets across the globe. She said it’d be a great way to cross-promote our podcast, but I have a feeling she’s just trying to get some free labor out of the deal.

One of the things that we frequently talk about on our podcast, is our love/hate relationship (ok, mostly hate) with the Walt Disney World Weasels. In case you don’t know what a Walt Disney World Weasel is, we can define it for you:

  1. Any person under the age of 16 who runs roughshod throughout a Disney Park
  2. The parent/guardian of any such person listed in definition #1No Weasels
  3. Someone who tries to game the Disney system (i.e. line cutting)
  4. Someone who stops, without notice, in the middle of a crowded walkway
  5. Someone who uses their darned iPad to take photos/video of the parades and fireworks!

Let’s be clear here, we understand these things happen on a trip to Walt Disney World, and someone can be a Walt Disney World Weasel and still be a good person, but if you frequently fall into one of these categories, then you probably want to stop reading this post! Here is the Official Por Favor Podcast Guide to Avoiding Walt Disney World Weasels©.

Step 1:

If you want to avoid the Walt Disney World Weasels, one of the easiest ways to do so is by avoiding the parks entirely. This piece of advice is not great. We love the parks. So let’s amend this step and say, go late and stay late. If you show up to the park at 11am and stay until 6pm, you are in weasel central. After the little ones are all tuckered out, it’s your chance to have your Por Favor Gary and Gastonrun of the place. Plan on staying until (after) closing and take advantage of the weaning weasel hours.

Step 2:

Avoid character meals like the plague. If you are looking for Walt Disney World Weasel central, look no further than a character meal. This is the time where the group in definition 1 and 2 are most prominent. Little weasels running around a crowded restaurant like they just free-based pixie sticks and their weasel parents sitting back with a cocktail updating their Facebook status so their friends back home can be jealous. Let’s be clear, if you want a picture with Chef Mickey, there will be weasel blood on your hands to do so. Fair warning!

Step 3:

Stay at Coronado Springs Resort. This resort has been certified by the Por Favor Podcast as the least likely resort on property to encounter a weasel. It has everything going for it to repel weaseldom. It is sprawling, it is not overly Disney-fied and it is relatively far from all of the parks. Plus, if you are looking for a resort with some very comfy beds and beautiful scenery and landscaping, this resort is for you!

Step 4:

Hang out in World Showcase as much as possible. We know EPCOT Center is not the most kid-friendly park (so they say) so in general, the weasel ratio is much lower here as is. Plus, it’s huge, lots of open spaces to avoid the weasel parents texting while operating a stroller. But, World Showcase is the place to be. Not only do you have the advantage of the best food options in any park, but you have the ever-famous drinking-around-the-world to partake in (note: you run the risk of becoming a weasel if you aren’t careful in your drink consumption). We say get to World Showcase at 11am when it opens and take your time looking in all the countries. Grab a snack, meal or drink in each country and really spend some time in the least weasel-friendly locations like; Morocco, Canada, Germany and China. Editors note: Step 4 will become null and void once Frozen takes over Norway (yuck).

Step 5:

Resort hop. This is a great way to see parts of the Walt Disney World property that you probably haven’t experienced before. Instead of rushing right into the Magic Kingdom, take a resort launch to the Wilderness Lodge and check out their amazing lobby. Hop on the monorail and walk around the impeccable grounds of the Grand Floridian. Before heading into World Showcase, use the back exit and walk along the Boardwalk, an homage to a seaside resort town. Take the bus to Animal Kingdom lodge and soak in the atmosphere at one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see! Don’t be afraid to explore each resort and see what they have to offer. The benefits are two-fold, while you are expanding your resort horizons, all the weasels are in line to meet Ana and Elsa, so they’ll be out of your hair and you might even find a new resort to call home!

So there you have it folks. Five easy steps to avoid the dreaded Walt Disney World Weasels. If you follow these simple steps you should easily lower your weasel encounter-counter for your next trip to Walt Disney World! Thanks!

Gary Arruda & Mike Hurley

www.porfavorpodcast.com

@PorFavorPodcast on Twitter.com

facebook.com/PorFavorPodcast

Walt Disney World Mid-Vacation Check-in

Cinderella Castle at NightWith just a couple of days left to enjoy this week at Walt Disney World, I thought I’d post a quick update about how it’s been going…

What a GREAT time we’re having!  Everyday has been packed with fun – even though, by our usual vacation standards, we’ve been really taking it easy and going with the flow.  We’re trying a lot of things for the first time and revisiting some old favorites.  Mostly, we’ve been staying in the moment, stopping to smell the roses, so to speak.  This is what has certainly made our first trip as a couple in 25 years extremely special!

Here are 5 things that we’ve learned so far:

1. Animal Kingdom is experiencing some major growing pains and construction walls are Dawa Bareverywhere.  Even so, we had a wonderful afternoon there on Saturday – saw some amazing things even – like BOTH of the new baby gorillas and a cast member feeding the Meerkats by hand.  We enjoyed Kilimanjaro Safari in the late afternoon nearly as much as we usually do first thing in the morning.  We also spent a delightful and relaxing few minutes enjoying a cocktail at the Dawa Bar.

2. The road from Jambo House to Kidani Village is paved with….lizards.  We counted 31 along and on the walkway on our way to Sanaa.  Every great thing we’ve heard about Sanaa was true!  We had a great dinner and the bread service?  Just amazing!!!

Path from Jambo House to Kidani Village3. Excitement is in the air at the Studios.  You can feel changes coming and while it’ll be a little sad to see original attractions make way for new ones, the park needs some TLC and we will welcome the changes with open arms.  We saw the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular just in case it’s next on the chopping block and you know what?  I loved it as much as I did the first time I ever saw it.

4. Citrico’s (table service, Grand Floridian) has got to be one of the most underrated dining experiences on Disney property.  Everything from the atmosphere to the service to the fantastic food was perfect.  We can’t wait to go back.

5. The Food and Wine Festival at Epcot is a big bunch of fun.  We made friends everywhere we stopped.  We haven’t disliked a single thing we’ve tried so far and I can’t wait to rank everything when we’re finished.  Brazil’s Crispy Pork Belly – To. Die. For.  We started off sharing everything we tried, but by the time we reached the Brazil kiosk, we knew better than to try to share that porcine delicacy!  You don’t stayed married for 25 years without perfecting certain strategies.  We strongly recommend at least one serving per person to keep the peace.

Well…I hate to cut this short, but our ADR at California Grill is in about 40 minutes and that’s barely enough time for me to get gussied up a bit.  I’ll be back home in a few days with reviews, tips and tricks, loads of pictures, and much more about our trip.  I’ll leave you with this picture of me…well, technically not me, but certainly how I felt I must have looked after our first afternoon in World Showcase sampling all the tasty offerings at the Food & Wine Festival.  If most of the pictures in this post appear sideways to you, my sincerest apologies – taken with my new iPhone 6, I’m having a super hard time getting them to appear correctly.  I’ll be working on that!

Country Bear Portrait

 

 

A DVC Membership Story

DVC Owners at Walt Disney WorldHello everyone my name is Sean Duffy and Lisa was nice enough to allow me to guest blog for you. A little bit about me, I am a father of 2 and husband to a wonderful wife. I am lifelong Disney fan and Co-host of Enchanted Tiki Talk Podcast (enchantedtikitalk.com). I am also a DVC Member and that’s what I wanted to write about here.

In June of 2008 we started the process of purchasing DVC via resale. That was the only way we knew we could afford to join DVC. So we initially purchased a 50 point contract at the Wilderness Lodge Villas, which at the time we would get about 4 nights in September (We have since purchased 75 more). On about August 13rd our closing had finished and we were added to the DVC system which meant we had the ability to book our first trip. We immediately booked our first trip for Sept 10th and were planning on only spending 4 nights. But Pixie Dust had been sprinkled and we had a bonus of 50 points that had been banked from the previous year. We decided to do 6 nights and spend time there over the weekend which ate up most of our points.

There wasn’t much of a difference for us going from cash paying to DVC rooms. Granted you Walt Disney World DVChad to make your own bed and you didn’t get fresh towels everyday but who cares we literally owned a piece of the magic. But the real difference in having DVC was the extra space in our room. We loved having a couch to now relax on after coming back to the room after a long day in the parks. Disney was literally starting to feel more like a vacation home than a hotel room.

That trip Disney started to feel different for us. We were now part of a cult. We had a secret handshake with other DVC Members, oh ok well at least I think there should be one. The things we noticed about being DVC Members was that other guests that were members seemed to be more outgoing and would go out of their way to say hi if you were wearing anything that said DVC. It was starting to feel more like a community than just a place to go on vacation. You immediately have something to relate to with other members. They are more likely to talk about why they became members or where they lived. DVC Walkway / Walt Disney WorldEveryone had stories to share and they all understood the family memories that had been created in Walt Disney World.

See that’s it, that why I wanted to become a DVC Member. It’s not just about racing to Soarin or getting that highly sought after reservation at Ohana’s. It really is all about the memories that you get to create with your family. I know that my son’s first ride was Peter Pan and my daughter’s was the Little Mermaid or that the first banana that my son ever ate was in Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World is just the start of our family memories that have yet to happen. But it is DVC that has brought us that ability to have someplace to look forward to year after year and create new magical family memories.

Sean can be found on Twitter @1MinDisneyDream, Facebook here and on YouTube here.