Thursday, May 26, 2016

Disney Fun Outside of the Parks

One of the most expensive parts of a Walt Disney World vacation is the park tickets which will easily cost a family of four over $1000 for a week - and that's without added options like park hoppers and doesn't include room and food.  But tickets for a brief weekend to Disney can also break the bank for families as even a 3 or 4 day ticket will cost several hundred dollars per person.  This got me thinking recently about ways that you can "do Disney" without being in the parks.  Here are 5 great things to do around Walt Disney World that won't require theme park admission, but will still add a magical touch to your vacation.

Consider a character breakfast at a resort - You can meet some of your favorite characters without needing to visit one of the parks.  Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, 'Ohana, Chef Mickey's or Cape May Cafe offer a variety of characters and settings.  The cost of the buffet will run you between $20 - 30 per adult (less for kids 3-9 and free for little ones under 3).  Character breakfasts are extremely popular and book up quick so make sure to get your reservations when they open 180 days out.

Dine, Shop, and Play in Disney Springs - Here you will find world class dining, lots of Disney and non-Disney shopping, and fun activities like a movie theatre and bowling alley.  The Boathouse even features really awesome amphicars that you and your family can take out for a spin.  Here you can easily spend an entire day enjoying all that there is to see and do!

Strolling the Boardwalk - Disney's Boardwalk is located between Epcot and Hollywood Studios outside of The Boardwalk Resort and the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.  On the Boardwalk, you'll find a some restaurants and quick grab and go boardwalk favorites.  If you're looking for an adult evening out, check out Jellyrolls, a lively dueling piano bar.

Take a walk on the wild side at Animal Kingdom Lodge - Visit Animal Kingdom Lodge and get a chance to get up close and personal with animals that frequent their safari.  Here you can find viewing spots for all kinds of wildlife.  While you're there, you can also dine at Sanaa which looks out on the Sunset Safari at Kidani Village for a chance to see zebras and giraffes while you have a delicious meal!

Catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks - I know what you're thinking, how can I do this without a park ticket?  There are lots of options! Restaurants like 'Ohana, California Grill, and Narcoossee's offer views of the fireworks from the monorail resorts while piping in the music as though you are standing on Main Street, U.S.A.  Another unique way to see the fireworks is from a cruise on the Seven Seas Lagoon.  Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise offers a dessert party onboard a cruise while the Pirates and Pals Fireworks experience gives you a chance to meet Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and Peter Pan in addition to seeing the fireworks.

If you happen to be passing through Orlando and want a quick Disney fix without spending a small fortune on park tickets, check out some of these ideas to get a little Disney magic into your life.  Not all of them are free, but most will be a significant savings over a park ticket.

Monday, May 23, 2016

And now we invite you to relax. . .

Let us pull up a chair as Walt Disney Studios proudly presents - your teaser trailer!



Next March, Disney will bring to life the magic of Beauty and the Beast in a new live-action movie.  Given the big success of Cinderella in 2015, I think Disney is destined to have another big hit on it's hands.  There is still a lot left to our imagination at this point, but the beauty of the scenery in this teaser trailer offers just a glimpse of the grandeur that awaits.  As a child of the 90s, Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite movies and I can't wait to see this "tale as old as time" retold in live action.

In the meantime, you can follow all of the latest news from Beauty and the Beast on social media by following #BeOurGuest and the links below.  Au Revoir!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Life in the Slow Lane


When you're not fast, you run for other reasons than always being worried about time - fitness, quiet time, and the pure enjoyment of the run.  Training for a half-marathon was not always fun, pounding the pavement mile after mile, but logging 13.1 miles on race day for the Frederick Half was pure fun throughout most of the race.  Being in the slower pack of the race, I get to enjoy things that some faster runners might just breeze right by without even realizing they're missing anything.

Neighborhood Support - Somewhere around mile 7 we were in a perfectly quaint little neighborhood that came out to cheer on runners, even those of us in the back of the pack.  I think my favorite "cheerleaders" were the little kids who set up along the road to hand out high fives to everyone who passed.  I think they reminded me of my little boys who I wish could have been there cheering mommy on!

Camaraderie with Runners - There are lots of interesting people you can meet while running if you have the time to slow down and say "hi."  I was excited to meet Sid Busch during Frederick.  If you don't know Sid, he's a bit of a running celebrity who had a spread in Runner's World a few months ago.  Sid runs races from 5Ks to marathons in honor of fallen service men and women while carrying an American flag.  He's participated in runDisney races and several of the local Maryland races that I've done, but this was the first time I had the chance to meet him.  I also was passed (yes, I'm admitting it) by a man who jumped rope the entire half marathon.  How awesome is that?  And I did pass him back around mile 11.  I also saw about 25 runners wearing runDisney shirts that day which automatically caused me to talk with them as we were running together about their favorite races.  Nothing brings people together quite like Disney - even when you're almost 1,000 miles from the park!

More time for donuts (or other pit stops) - That's right.  I said donuts.  I was surprised, and excited, to see Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins at one of the fuel stops along the run.  When your time is not the most important part of the day you have time to stop and smell the donuts - and eat them too!  Other races may feature fun stops too - like the character greetings during a runDisney race.  When you're enjoying life in the slow lane, there is always time to stop for a smile.

Let's end with a little pick-me-up for some runners who might feel like they are "too slow" for a certain race or to call themselves a runner.  By embarking on the training journey and participating in the race, you're already accomplishing an amazing feat that many others don't even dare to attempt.  Whether you are running 8 minute miles or 15 minute miles, stand tall, stand proud, and enjoy the run!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Relaxing Resorts

I've stayed at many Disney resorts over the years, but my favorite for relaxation is Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.  We stayed here by renting Disney Vacation Club points from David's Vacation Club Rentals.  Whether it's a midday park break or coming back to relax after a busy day, Saratoga Springs features good food, serene grounds, and relaxing pools!


Want to see more ways to relax while on your Walt Disney World vacation? Check out the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop hosted by Focused on the Magic!

Focused on the Magic

Monday, May 16, 2016

Quick Service Favorites in Walt Disney World

I love the shirts that say "I runDisney to eat Disney" because it is such a true statement!  Eating my way around Walt Disney World is one of my favorite things to do - and with so many great choices it's easy to see why!  Typically, it's easier to review table service restaurants in the various parks and hotels, but tonight we're going to take a look at some of my favorite quick service locations.  There really are a lot of great choices, but a few stand out when I think of my Disney vacations.


Whether it's a Mickey Bar or a Dole Whip, there's a lot of great treats to be found in Walt Disney World!

Aloha Isle - Magic Kingdom - The Dole Whip is one of the most iconic Disney treats and you can find it in Adventureland near The Enchanted Tiki Room.  If you haven't tried a Dole Whip yet, you absolutely must!  It's a frozen pineapple treat that will definitely cool you off on a hot Florida day!

Columbia Harbor House - Magic Kingdom - In my opinion, this is one of the best and most unique quick service locations on property.  Located in Liberty Square, you'll find New England favorites here such as a Lobster Roll and Clam Chowder.  It's a nice change of pace from some of the other quick service restaurants that serve more traditional burgers and chicken nuggets.  No need to fear though if you have picky children, as the kids menu features all of the favorites for your young ones.

Gaston's Tavern - Magic Kingdom - This is a relatively new spot that was added with the Fantasyland additions a few years ago.  While there is a relatively limited menu, you have to check out the warm cinnamon roll as a dessert item or a midday pick-me-up.  And the ultimate item on the menu, is LeFou's Brew.  This frosted apple juice concoction is heaven in a mug!  The theming of this stop is also with checking out as it looks exactly like the tavern from Beauty and the Beast.

Pizzafari - Animal Kingdom - As you might imagine, pizza is the name of the game in this restaurant.  Selections here go beyond cheese and pepperoni to include Mediterranean pizza and even a shrimp flatbread.  But you can find much more than pizza on the menu here, with other Italian favorites like baked pasta, there is definitely something for everyone.

Sunshine Seasons - Epcot - Located inside The Land pavilion, this location is set apart by it's focus on using ingredients produced in the sustainable environments of this pavilion.  You can count on fresh flavors here and a lot of Asian twists to the menu.  Even the menu items for kids are unique featuring salmon and salads.  

These are just a few of my favorites around Walt Disney World and there are so many others to choose from!  Which are your favorite quick service places to check out when in the parks? 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Free Finding Dory Printable Activities

Next month, Disney / Pixar's newest animated film, Finding Dory, will swim into theaters.  Ever since Brody saw his first trailer for this movie, he has been counting down the days until its release.  The movie will follow Dory's adventures as she tries to find her way back to her own family.  While you and your family await Dory and friends once again cruising the EAC, here is another peek at the trailer and a few free printables from Disney to help pass the time!



Finding Dory Coloring Sheets
Finding Dory Connect the Dots
Finding Dory Maze
Finding Dory Memory Game

Just keep swimming!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

2016 Frederick Nut Job Challenge Recap

This past weekend, I crossed a big item off my bucket list - I completed my first half-marathon.  And not only did I run the 13.1 miles on Sunday afternoon, but I turned out to be a complete Nut Job by adding the 5K race on Saturday evening.  While the pain is still fresh in my legs and joints, I've already started reflecting on the lessons learned from this race experience.  I can tell you that there will me more posts to follow on the emotional highs of this past weekend, but for now I'm just going to stick to the basics of a race recap.

Frederick Twilight 5K - The Frederick Running Festival kicks off on Saturday evening with a 5K race.  The race begins on the track at the Frederick Fairgrounds.  It's a well attended event and features a variety of elite runners as well as plenty of first timers.  The course is a fairly flat out and back course that runs along some back open roads.  There is not much shade and not much to look at, but the course goes by pretty quickly.  There is a water stop in the middle of the road around 1.25 miles and then you pass it again coming back not far before the 2 mile mark.  I ran this race beck in 2014 and not much has changed.  Participants are treated to a fun after-party featuring music and beverages (of the adult variety).  While there is no race "bling" for the 5K, it is the first step in earning your status as a Nut Job.  I didn't particularly care about time for the 5K as I wanted to keep my legs fresh for Sunday morning.  I a pair of women who were having a great time jogging along and enjoyed listening to their funny stories and banter.  The three of us also cheered on a 5 year old who was struggling to get through the last mile.  He was adorable, dressed as Superman and running with his dad.  I had a group of friends with me who were running this as well and after some time on the infield of the fairgrounds celebrating, we returned to one of their houses in Frederick for a delicious Italian dinner and to crash before the half in the morning.

Frederick Half-Marathon - Luckily with staying close by in downtown Frederick, we didn't have to get up too early on Sunday morning.  My friend Ali is an awesome host and had a spread of bagels, peanut butter, coffee, and bananas ready for any quick fuel-ups that the runners staying at her house wanted.  We left the house at 6:15 and made it to the start by 6:30AM.  I had my game plan going into the race and knew that I wanted to stick with it - I didn't want anyone else to dictate my race to me.  I have been training my long runs using run/walk intervals as I've increased run distances.  I jogged the first 5 minutes to get through the bottleneck at the start and then settled into my 60/60 intervals.  Compared to many other courses in Maryland, the half is relatively flat with the exception of a long, steady uphill between miles 11 and 12.  The course is very scenic as it weaves through historic downtown Frederick.  Miles 8 - 10 were run through a quaint neighborhood where many supporters came out playing music, blowing bubbles, and high-fiving runners.  The course was well supported with water, gatorade, and bathrooms around every 2-3 miles.  Throughout the race, my splits were amazingly even - settling in right around 13 min/mile from mile 1 to mile 13.  I crossed the finish line in 2:53 and felt elated. . .followed immediately by exhaustion!  My body was spent and I was not sad when a carload of my friends wanted to head back to shower rather quickly rather than hanging around.  But there was time to pose with my bling before leaving!

Will I be back for more half-marathons?  Absolutely!  I think it's a great distance to challenge you mentally and physically while not overwhelming you.  Will I complete more challenges again?  Probably. . .I'm a slave to the bling!!  The Frederick Half was the first part of the King Crab Challenge and the Maryland Double with the Baltimore 10-miler in June and the Baltimore Half in October completing those challenges.  Can't wait for more race excitement this year!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why We Won't Be Going to MNSSHP

A few disclaimers before I begin tonight's post.  I love Disney - always have and probably always will.  I recognize that Disney is a business and, while they excel in providing magical vacation memories, they are ultimately trying to make a lot of money as a successful company.  I don't begrudge this at all - but even I have to admit that some things are getting a little crazy.

When my husband told me about the Walt Disney World trip that we could plan for the fall, I was even more excited than normal.  I had never been to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and couldn't wait to experience it - on Halloween night none-the-less!  I did my research about the event and knew that I was going to pay a premium for tickets on Halloween night.  In 2015, the tickets cost $87 for adults and $82 for kids 3-9.  While these are steep ticket prices, I felt that between the 4pm admission to Magic Kingdom, the parade, the fireworks, the candy, and the entertainment I could justify it.  Then, the prices for 2016 were released.  Seriously?!?  At $105 for adults and $100 for kids, I about fainted.  Do you know how much I could do in Disney for that money vs. one evening in the Magic Kingdom???

My favorite pirates!
So in an act that probably astonished my husband, I said "no" to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  I could come up with an experience that would still be new and just as memorable for the kids for a lot less money - I was sure of it.  I went back to the drawing board and remembered something that I had been interested in taking the kids to before, but we never had the extra funds.  I got on the phone with Disney Recreation and booked the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage for Halloween night.  If you're not familiar with this, it begins in the Contemporary with snacks and sweets.  There is a special meet and greet with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee before you take off on your voyage.  You get a prime view of the nighttime fireworks show with the music piped into your boat.  The evening ends with a special goodnight send off back on land from Peter Pan.  I think my 4 year old will be more than thrilled to say "Yo Ho, Let's Go!" to this adventure.

And as for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, I'm missing out on treats, a special parade, unique characters, and HalloWishes to enjoy salty and sweet snacks, an up close view of the Electrical Water Pageant, meet rare Peter Pan characters, and watch HalloWishes - for a lot less money.  The cost of the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage is $69 for adults and $41 for kids.  I'm excited to "sea" what this new-to-me experience has to offer and I'll save some of my gold doubloons in the process.  Ahoy mateys!

Monday, May 2, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time. . .

. . .of Disney vacation planning!  Today marks 180 days until our next Walt Disney World trip, which means - drumroll, please - it's dining reservation day!  While I'll be spending the next week securing reservations for our upcoming trip, here are just a few of my top new choices on my list.

I run Disney so I can eat Disney! Portobello Bisque at Artist Point.

Minnie's Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine (Hollywood Studios) - This will be a new dining experience for me.  Since we're going at Halloween, Minnie and her friends will be dressed in their most bewitching costumes.  Our plan is to head here on the first night of vacation so we can get our Halloween trip started off the right way!  This meal is also offered as part of the Fantasmic Dinner Package so we won't only be getting a great character meal, but also prime seating for Fantasmic.

Tiffins (Animal Kingdom) - The newest restaurant to hit Animal Kingdom doesn't even open until Memorial Day, but I already can't wait to try it out.  In a park that is seriously lacking table service options, I think Tiffin's will be a welcome addition.  It promises to offer a variety of flavors inspired by exotic travel destinations.

Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) - Dan and I have been trying to make it to this restaurant for a "date night" for many trips now and we finally have the chance since my parents are traveling with us.  I think the thing that my husband is looking most forward to at this restaurant is the wine list.  The large collection of South African wine will be the perfect compliment to a relaxing meal and a night off from "parent duty."

Dining in Walt Disney World offers so many choices and these are some of the ones I'm most excited to try out this trip.  Our itinerary is coming together nicely and I hope we're able to see everything come together to make this the best trip yet!  For more tips on getting your dining reservations booked, check out my thoughts in a previous post.

You May Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...