Thursday, March 31, 2011

Disney Websites - Where To Go For What

Try Googling "Disney World."  Just try it.  See what pops up.  Chances are you're going to find a handful of websites that are a waste to you and a handful that could be insanely helpful and informative but you don't know where to go for what.  It's hard to know which websites are updated frequently.  No one wants stale information but it exists.

After talking with a friend last night who happens to be a huge Disney fan but lacks direction as to where to find information on the parks, I sent him an e-mail this morning that ended up being a little guide to the magic.  As I was writing it I realized that there have to be other people, even some of my followers, that also feel overwhelmed with all the gobs of information that the internet can provide them on Disney parks. 

Not all Disney websites are created equal.

...and I love that!

I find myself going to certain websites for a certain WDW fix or specific types of information.  Here are some of my favorite websites that I frequent. - Need to find a discount and help figuring out what booking strategy might be best for you?  Go here.  Everything from flights, to park tickets, to accomodations.  This website has it all if it's saving you money. - It's easy to go to Deb's website for almost anything but the real star of the show for me is the Dining section. It has the most frequently updated Menu section of any WDW website that I've ever seen.  I also really love the Rate & Review portion of the website.  Deb is famous for a reason... - Food porn... 'nuff said. - I need a Disney fix... a lot... and Mike Newell's brain child curbs my craving.  Who doesn't love Disney parks audio going 24/7? - You love the Studios, right?  I know you do... go here for everything DHS related. - My very first introduction into the WDW community was WDW Today.  I have no idea how I came upon it and why I started listening to the podcast back when it first started and I had just graduated from high school.  These guys are amazing human beings and have more talent in their pinky than
I have in my whole body.  Never would I have thought that I'd have these guys... my "idols"... as followers of my work some day.  Blows me away every time I think about it. - My newest obsession is Disney photography and no one does it better than the folks here.  Make sure to check out their Flickr page.  Some of the most talented people that I've never met.  Ha! - The online equivelant to The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.  And that's because it's by the same folks.  :)  Their crowd calendar has changed my touring schedule forever! 

There are a slew of other websites that I could go on and on listing.  But here are just a few more
Unofficial Polynesian Resort Pages

If I left you out... please don't hate me!  I didn't mean to!  :)  Thank you all again for your support of my blog.  It means the world to me to belong to such a great group of human beings that share the same passion.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snacktime Review - BabyCakes NYC

I've got a new love.  This love is a deep and understanding love.  I've started a relationship with a place called BabyCakes NYC.  Located in the new counter service location at Downtown Disney, BabyCakes is a vegan bakery.  On top of being vegan, it also boasts providing alternatives to wheat and gluten.  You can assume that if you're allergic to something found in baked goods, BabyCakes is the place for you to enjoy some sweets.

I really do dislike BabyCakes location inside of Pollo Campero/Fresh A Peel's building.  It gets no signage or acknowledgment that it even exists unless you go inside.  Despite this set back, BabyCakes seems to be thriving and is gaining quite the following.  If you're interested in seeing what's new every day at BabyCakes makes sure to follow them on Twitter @DTDBabyCakesNYC.

On my first of three visits I chose a Vanilla Crunch Donut and a Blondie Cupcake.  We were told the Chocolate Crunch is one of the best sellers but I happen to really like vanilla so I went with that.  On my second visit I did try the Chocolate and liked it even better than the insanely delicious Vanilla Crunch.  If someone put a standard, sugar filled donut in front of me and a BabyCakes vegan donut... I'd easily choose BabyCakes.  The Blondie Cupcake was AMAZING!  I could have eaten five in one sitting. 

On a later visit I found my absolute favorite BabyCakes snack... Toastie Slice. I believe it's cranberry and apple in a bread/muffin type creation. Oh my gosh! It has a hint of cinnamon that I adore. I can't get over how amazing it is. I'm thinking of finding a way to have a Toastie Slice birthday cake delivered to my house!

Make sure to check out BabyCakes NYC at Downtown Disney on your next WDW vacation!  Also give their adorable website a look...

WDW In Pictures - Day One

I flew into Orlando Sanford which I was very impressed with.  I loved how small it is and how easy it is to get around.  Great experience all around.

I checked into All Star Sports after Ashley picked me up.  I found a cute little letter my husband (Matt) hid in my suitcase.  I was really impressed with the rooms at All Stars.  I liked it better than the pre-refurbed rooms at Pop Century actually.  We got our things settled, ran to her townhouse just north of Magic Kingdom, and then headed into the park.  She showed me where they shoot off the fireworks behind the park.  I also saw Disney University and the Disney Holiday building.  It was awesome!

We got into the park later than planned so we decided to skip the parade and just hit attractions.  Everything had a pretty long wait.  The crowds were just nuts.  At one point while trying to get from Frontierland to Liberty Square we got caught in a crowd.  It was a stand still in a walking path.  Folks were trying to watch the parade and CMs weren't doing their jobs right by getting guests to move through the walkways.  So, Ashley and I jumped the fence in back of the people and walked in the landscaping.  I did this all in a dress.  I should get brownie points for the flashing of my rear that I'm sure took place. 

Right before Wishes Ashley and I hit up Dumbo.  Though, you can't tell we were on Dumbo at all.  I only took my point and shoot camera with me this night because I knew I couldn't get any decent shots with my DSLR with the crowds.  I also took my very first spin on the teacups!  I LOVED IT! 

We watched Wishes from a very cool place that night... in between Dumbo and the back of the castle.  It's neat to see the fireworks split on both sides of you.  Just a totally different experience.  Unfortunetly, Space Mountain was experiencing technical difficulties.  A sensor on one side crapped out and apparently they have them specially made so they had to wait until later the next day to get it.  They were only operating on one side and the wait was ACTUALLY 120 minutes long.  Just... nuts.

We ended up missing our planned Boma reservation and wouldn't have made it to the restaurant in time to still get seated so we walked from the Grand Floridian (where we parked) to the Poly and got a walk up at Kona Cafe.  We shared a Spicy Tuna Roll and Pan Asian Noodles with Shrimp.  The food was delicious but the service was very slow.  Very very slow. 

Ashley and I headed back to our resort where we met up with her friend Jarret who was down working a few shifts and brought his college buddies along with him.  The guys asked me to take some photos of them around the resort goofing off so me being the awesome girl I am began to shoot away.  We didn't go to bed until about 2 a.m. so it's pretty clear that I was exhausted from the very long day. 

Just a note on these shots outside at All Star Sports.  I didn't have a tripod so I had to do some trickery in order to set up my shots.  It was difficult and I could have gotten better shots with more photography knowledge and a tripod but... I did what I could.  :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quick Update

Just a quick blurb to tell you that my photos are now edited and I'll be getting them up on here and on Facebook very soon!  I can't wait to share some of my favorite shots with you guys.  :)

Oh!  I miss WDW so much that I've decided to look into a 5 day trip in September.  What is wrong with me?!

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Over!

The shortest WDW trip in the world is over.  It was bittersweet leaving Florida.  Being back in Michigan blows... let me tell you.

On the plane ride home I decided that the trip report for this vacation will not be a normal trip report.  It was not a normal vacation.  I think I'm just going to point out the hightlights and show lots of pictures.  Well... what pictures I got.  Which sadly isn't many. 

I'm already thinking ahead of my next trip.  I have to get back and do all the things I didn't get to do.  Take all the pictures I didn't get to take.  Ride all the rides I didn't get to ride. 

I still have to edit my pictures this weekend and then I'll do a recap of the trip for all of you to enjoy. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane...

Tomorrow is the day!!  I finally get to leave this cold and crappy state of Michigan for a sunny time in Florida.  I love sunshine.  Have I said that lately?  Right now I'm looking at rain falling on top of snow piles.  It's not a pretty picture.  Tomorrow I will be seeing palm trees and abundant sun all around me.

My thinking is that I'll wake up around 7 to shower, get ready, and pack my final things.  Last night I got my clothes taken care of so that's out of the way.  I think I did pretty good packing all of my clothes in ONE small carry-on bag.  Unfortuntely since I'm taking my big camera bag I won't be able to take a tote or purse with me to stuff more junk in.  Oh well, I gotta make it work. 

By 9 I'd like to be out the door and on the road.  South Bend is only about an hour and ten minutes away from my house.  That puts me there very early before my flight at like 12:30.  I might grab some food to eat by my gate before my flight.  Eating gives me something to do while I have to sit by myself.  South Bend's airport is TINY so I'm sure I'll get through security and to my gate in about ten minutes. 

My flight is supposed to land around 3:00 p.m. in Orlando Sanford.  Ashley will pick me up and then we're heading straight to Magic Kingdom most likely.  I fully intend on heading to Aloha Isle for a creamy dole whip first thing since I'm sure I'll be starving.  We'll try and fit in as many attractions as we can and then we'll find a spot for the parade and Wishes at night.  We have a reservation for Boma at 9:25 so we'll leave MK right after Wishes is over and head to Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I'm SO excited to eat at Boma again and see the gorgeous AKL.  MK is open later now on Saturday... I believe until midnight so who knows... maybe we'll head back there.  I think Ashley wanted to take me to some bars around the area so we could end up doing that as well.

Sunday is Epcot day.  Storms are expected so that really really sucks.  But, in a way... I like the way Epcot looks under cloudy skies.  It makes it interesting.  And it makes Soarin' wait times shorter.  ;)  We'll be seeing Genevieve Gorder at around 3 after our Teppan Edo reservation.  Woot!

On Monday we are going to the beach.  I'm pretty sure we'll still go even if it's not super hot because I just want to see the ocean again.  I really miss New Smyrna Beach and I'm hoping that we end up going there.  I'm DYING to take pictures there.  DYING!  We'll drive back to Orlando and then have dinner at Seito Sushi.  This will be my first experience at a sushi restaurant.

Our final park day will be spent starting at Animal Kingdom doing a few attractions and then heading to Epcot for lunch at Les Chefs de France.  I'm totally excited about this ADR since it's going to be a first for me.  Despite mixed reviews I've always wanted to try it.  I took French in high school but I don't know that I could bust a ton of it out.  I know how to say "I'll have" and "I would like" and I could possibly pluck some other nouns out of the sky but probably none that I'd actually use.  Ha!  After lunch we'll head to the Studios to have a blast before Fantasmic.  In my opinion it's the best way to end a trip.  I love when Mickey goes from being in one place to magically appearing in another.  I scream my head off. 

I think I recapped you all enough on everything.  It's time for me to bid you farewell.  Make sure to pray for me and my safety flying alone for the first time!  Eeeks!  I can't wait to share my adventures with you when I get back on Wednesday!

"I hope we never lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."  - Walt Disney

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our Dream Disney Vacation - Departure Day & Final Thoughts

There was no pressure at all to be up super duper early and into the parks so that is a plus of departure day.  Most of the packing was done the previous night except for my husband of course because he stalls when doing pretty much anything.  Ha!  Once we were packed we headed to Kona Cafe located in the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Resort.  I feel like I can't go to WDW without visiting Kona Cafe for breakfast.  It's just a crime. 

After a short five minute wait we were seated and ordered drinks.  The moms got coffee, Matt got chocolate milk, and I got either water or pineapple juice.  I can't remember.  I'm going to shock you and let you know that I didn't get my usual Tonga Toast to eat.  I had a huge craving for blueberry pancakes once I saw the menu.  The potatoes are out of this world at Kona so I had a side of those as well since I knew Matt would not be willing to share his.  He got his usual ... the Big Kahuna!  It's sort of a mix of yummy breakfast foods thrown onto a plate and ready for Matt to drench in syrup.  Both of our moms got the ham and cheese omelet.  I believe the ordering went something like this...

My Mom:  "Diane, what are you getting?"

Diane:  "The ham and cheese omelet sounds good."

My Mom:  *looks at menu"  "Oh!  Yeah, that DOES sound good!"

Us:  "Copy cat."

Once we were done with our delicious breakfast we went to the gift shop downstairs so I could buy a watch that I had been eyeing all week.  There were actually two watches that I loved but one was about $50 more.  I'm sort of a tight wad so I went with the cheaper one.  I absolutely love it and I wear it almost every single day. 

There was a group of performers in the lobby.  One of which was an adorable little girl that was on the shy side.  I got a kick out of her.  These little details are why I really treasure the Polynesian Resort. 

We all headed back up to the room to get our last minute things put in our bags and make sure we didn't leave anything behind.  It was incredibly sad to walk out of the room with luggage in tow... turning back and having such a beautiful sight to see.  

The walk to the Great Ceremonial House was terribly sad as well.  Saying goodbye to everything that is so lush and beautiful.  Walking by folks on their way to the parks.  I went to the front desk and checked us out and then we gave our bags to the Magical Express folks outside the GCH.  We were gravely concerned that they were going to tag our bags wrong because the woman doing it seemed sort of scatter brained.  When we were sure all was well, we headed back into the GCH to catch the resort monorail.  We all felt it was necessary for Diane to see the inside of the Grand Floridan Resort. 

Everytime I walk through the doors in that resort I feel like I'm transported back in time.  It's such a beautiful resort.  I'll admit that it is a little stuffy and you might feel silly walking around in park clothes and a Goofy hat.  It's totally worth it though to see where Aunt Becky stood while Uncle Jesse played the piano and sang to her.  :)  Full house fans?!

My mom went into one of the gift shops on the second floor and got a necklace then we looked around at shops on the lower level.  The people that work in these are terribly snooty.  We had fun goofing around though just to tick the CMs off.  :)  Gotta be juvenille sometimes!  While window shopping was enjoyable, we wanted to get back outside in the fresh air. 

I've never walked around the grounds outside at the GF before.  Everything was absolutely beautiful.  It's so open and airy outside and it's enjoyable to just walk around.  I couldn't help but run down the beach to a hammock and relax for a few minutes.  I remember as a kid looking at pictures of the Grand Floridian and seeing the hammocks on their beach and thinking how amazing it would be to lay in one. 

It was a really cool view of the Polynesian Resort from the Grand Floridian's beach.  I can openly admit that from afar the Poly doesn't look like anything special.  That was always my thinking about it when I was a kid.  Once you're inside though it's a totally different story.

A few more shots before we went back into the lobby of the Grand Floridian to catch the resort monorail back to the Polynesian Resort.

The monorail took us around full circle back to the Polynesian Resort.  We were thinking we might be cutting it close for when our Magical Express bus was supposed to come and pick us up.  To make matters worse they had to stop our monorail just before we entered the Contemporary Resort so I started tapping my foot hoping it would move a little quicker.  Though, I don't think missing that bus would have been the WORST thing that could ever happen to us.  Another day at WDW?  Sure!  :)

We did make it there in time and boarded the bus that would take us to Orlando International Airport.  It was a particularly sad goodbye.  I didn't want to leave the Polynesian Resort for anything.  A dream had come and gone.  I guess the crazy Floridian Christians didn't want me to forget one thing though so they painted it across the sky... Jesus Loves U