orlando

Obama visits Walt Disney World to promote U.S. tourism

Today, President Obama was in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World to help promote U.S. Tourism. He wants to make sure the U.S. is the top tourist destination in the world, and is going to make it much quicker to process Visa’s from China, India, Brazil, and other booming economies. Check out a video of the speech and full transcript below. Continue reading

Universal Orlando Citywalk Calendar January 2012


For more information, guests may call CityWalk Guest Services at (407) 224-2691
Venues subject to $7 coverage charge or CityWalk Party Pass
21 and up are welcome
**SPECIAL EVENTS**
St. Practice Day
The 17th of Every Month
– Starting at 4:00 p.m.; $7 cover; Free admission before 9:00 p.m.
– Join the party every month at Pat O’Brien’s as we get ready for the big day, one month at a time!
– Traditional Irish food and drink available for purchase
– Live entertainment
– Drink Specials
**Restaurants and Clubs**
Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom
Legendary Thursdays ~ 4pm – close
– 1/2 off select appetizers
– Heineken and Appleton Run and Pinnacle Vodka drink specials
Ladies Night ~ Sundays, 9pm – close
– No cover for ladies until midnight
– 2 for 1 drink specials until midnight: Hypnotiq, Bacardi, Grey Goose and Red Stripe
Entertainment
Mystik NRG ~ Monday – Friday
Chain Reaction ~ Saturday & Sunday
CityWalk’s Rising Star
Entertainment
Karaoke with Live Band & Backup Singers ~ Tuesday – Saturday
Karaoke with Backup Singers ~ Sunday & Monday
Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando
Happy Hour ~ Daily: 5pm – 8pm
Free dessert with purchase of a lunch entrée ~ now through January 31, 2012
– Simply present your Universal Orlando theme park ticket to your server
– Limit one per table
the groove
80s Night – Every Thursday from 9pm to close
– Free admission until 10pm
– $7 cover after 10pm; 21 and up for admission
– Russian Standard & Pinnacle Vodka drink specials
Entertainment
DJs ~ nightly
Hard Rock Live
Purchase tickets at the Hard Rock Live Box Office or by calling 407-351-LIVE
January 1st ~ Hard Rock Live presents B.B. King with Kaleigh Baker
January 21st ~ Hard Rock Live and Foundation presents Rebelution Peace of Mind Tour with special guest The Grouch & Pep Love
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
Happy Hour at the Lone Palm ~ Monday – Friday 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Entertainment
Blue Stone Circle ~ Tuesday – Saturday
Hypersona ~ Sunday & Monday
Guitar Hero at Lone Palm ~ Daily
Live Guitar Soloist on the Porch of Indecision ~ Daily
Interactive DJ on the Porch of Indecision ~ Friday & Saturday
Latin Quarter
Happy Hour ~ Sunday – Friday 5pm – 7pm
Ladies Night Every Thursday ~ 10pm – 2am
Complimentary admission and drink specials all night long
Entertainment
Alejandro Kartal ~ Nightly on the patio
DJ Leony ~ Thursday – Saturday
NASCAR Sports Grille
– Daily beer and drink specials
– Showing all NFL, all bowl games and UFC fights
– $1.95 Coors Light pilsner refills during all bowl games
– 5 for $15 buckets of Miller Light and Coors Light during all NFL games
– Retail shop with the latest in NASCAR, NFL and College Football merchandise
NBA City
All sports, all the time!
Happy Hour daily ~ 4pm – 7pm
Pat O’Brien’s Orlando
2 for Tuesdays ~ 4pm – 10pm
2 for 1 Hurricanes; 2 for 1 domestic drafts and specialty drinks
Entertainment
World Famous Dueling Piano Players ~ Nightly
Red Coconut Club
Nightly Happy Hour
Sunday – Thursday: 8pm – 10pm; Friday and Saturday: 6pm – 9pm
Ladies Night every Thursday ~ 8pm – close
Ladies receive complimentary admission and drink specials all evening
Hospitality Tuesdays ~ Tuesdays 10pm – close
Free admission for members of the hospitality industry all evening with your ID, business card or hospitality pay stub
Free parking after 10pm
$2 domestic beers, $3 premium cocktails
Entertainment
Herb Williams Band ~ Thursday – Saturday
DJs ~ Nightly
AMC Universal Cineplex 20 with IMAX
January 13th ~ Contraband
**Dates and times subject to change

24 full hours of magic at Disney Parks

One more day of magic....yes please!

Disney Parks guests can get the most out of February 29 when Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California celebrate Leap Year by keeping a theme park on each coast open for 24 hours of nonstop memory-making fun.

For the first time ever, both the Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland Park will stay open for 24 hours straight as part of a bi-coastal salute called “One More Disney Day.” From 6 a.m., February 29 to 6 a.m., March 1, 2012, local time, guests can fill the extra day of leap year with a marathon of Disney magic and fun.*
And for 60 days straight – from Jan. 1, 2012 to Feb. 29, 2012 – a daily winner will be chosen in the “Disney Parks One More Disney Day Sweepstakes” to receive a Disney Parks vacation.  One entrant each day will win a vacation for four to make memories at either Disneyland Resort in California or Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.**
For the past year, Disney Parks has invited guests to “let the memories begin,” noted Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
“We’re honored that so many guests have shared their Disney memories with us as part of ‘Let the Memories Begin’, and I’m pleased to announce that the campaign will continue throughout 2012,” Staggs said. “To celebrate, for the first time ever, the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Parks will remain open for 24 hours on Leap Day, so that our guests can take advantage of every minute of their extra day to make memories with friends and family.”
In addition to the extra time, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California will feature a special offer:

  • Guests get one more day and night of memory making, free when they buy a 3-night/3-day non-discounted Walt Disney Travel Co. room and ticket package at select Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort hotels.  The package offer is good for arrivals most nights Feb. 26 – March 10, 2012 and must be booked by Jan. 31, 2012. ***

In 2011, Disney Parks has encouraged families to “Let the Memories Begin,” with guests celebrating their only-at-Disney memories by sharing their vacation stories, photos and videos online at DisneyParks.com/memories.
Guests can find out more information about other Disneyland Resort offers and tickets at www.disneyland.com and other Walt Disney World Resort hotel and ticket offers at www.disneyworld.com. Guests can find out more information about “One More Disney Day” and get official rules for the “Disney Parks One More Disney Day Sweepstakes” atwww.OneMoreDisneyDay.com.

The Making of IOA: Secrets of the Signage

For more than 25 years, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory —    with its many visual wonders and thematic units — has exercised the imaginations of young and young-at-heart viewers alike. Such magic-wielding worlds as Willy Wonka’s are typically confined to movie land. But movie viewing isn’t the only way to experience paradise. If you’re seeking an off-screen Eden for all ages, you might consider visiting Orlando, FL’s Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park.

Located adjacent to Universal Studios Florida ®, the billion-dollar Islands of Adventure was conceived in 1994. “We were looking for thematic content for a second park; we were looking to build large ‘islands’ that would house attractions,    restaurants and merchandise shops,” explains Steve Leff, Universal Studio Inc.’s (Los Angeles) graphics manager.
To create the park’s six islands, Universal went to great pains to find themes that appeal to both children and adults. The science-fiction/fantasy film Jurassic Park ®provided the details needed to create one island. Another island was born after Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., La Jolla, CA, granted Universal permission to use Seuss characters. At the same time, Universal contracted with Marvel Comics, New York, to use Marvel    Super Heroes, as well as King Features, a division of the Hearst Corp., New York, to incorporate “Sunday Funnies” characters. The park’s “Port of Entry™” and “The Lost Continent™” islands are themed to reflect adventure, exploration, trading, myths and legends. From these contract agreements, Universal acquired enough content to build a new park. Steve recalls, “We wanted to go into the fantasy realm and create worlds based on the thematic properties we collected from outside sources.” To ensure the detail of each island, it took Universal approximately five years to oversee and complete the project. The park celebrated its grand opening May 28, 1999.

Jurassic Park River Adventure entrance sign

Designing the park 
Under Steve’s guidance, Universal’s seven-person graphics team created design concepts for Islands of Adventure’s more than 2,100 signs and graphics. The designers’ first task was to name the park’s attractions, restaurants and shops. Steve explains, “Many facilities had not yet been named. And since we had to design signs for these facilities, we needed to first create names to put on the signs.” Once the nomenclature was established and legally approved, the designers began creating concepts for the park’s main-identification and large-scale signs. To establish the signs’ placement on various buildings, as well as to ensure the appropriate structural and electrical components, Universal designers worked closely with outside architectural and engineering firms.
The team’s primary goal was to ensure the graphics complimented the overall theme-park environment. Steve says, “Park graphics should blend in with the facility’s overall theme. However, they should not blend in so well they go unnoticed by the visitors.” Another design goal was to differentiate the appearance of the islands while maintaining a uniform wayfinding system for the entire park.
Early planning, hard work, skill and outside help from a number of graphics-design and architectural and engineering firms allowed the Universal team to accomplish its goals and create what it considers “coffee-table-book graphics.”
Upon completing the project’s design concepts, Universal mailed letters to approximately 50 qualified sign fabricators requesting information about their shops’ size, capabilities and product  offerings. The fabricators were also asked to send photos and shop drawings of prior, heavily themed project work. From this feedback, Universal narrowed its search to 25 companies. Steve then traveled to each location and interviewed the candidates. He says, “I wanted to get a feel for the companies and select the island(s) for which they could produce the best graphics.” For example, to produce the signage for “Toon Lagoon™” and “Marvel Super Hero Island™,” Steve sought electric-sign shops. Many of the signs for these two islands incorporate fabricated aluminum, Plexiglas ®and internal neon illumination. Likewise, he sought shops with experience fabricating foam and fiberglass sculptures to complete the signage for “Seuss Landing™” and “The Lost Continent.”
The signshops were then asked to bid on the project, as well as submit technical proposals outlining how they would plan and complete the job. Once Universal received the proposals, it matched qualified fabricators with the appropriate project work. The number of sign fabricators and vendors assigned to each island was determined by the amount and type of work required.
One of the many Dueling Dragons signs

Managing sign production 
Fifteen-year-old Design Communications Ltd. (DCL), Boston and Orlando, FL, fabricated all signs for “Port of Entry” and “The    Lost Continent.” According to Steve, DCL’s proposal stood out because the company’s found-parts coordinator could visit ship yards and salvage companies to seek ship and airplane relics for “Port of Entry,” which features an adventure-and-exploration theme. Also, DCL’s foam- and fiberglass-sculpting experience made it the perfect sign fabricator for “The Lost Continent.” DCL was the only company chosen to fabricate signs for two islands.
The signshop began fabricating signs for “Port of Entry” in February 1998 and “The Lost Continent” in June 1998. Approximately 480 signs were produced for both islands. DCL President Mark Andreasson says his shop’s biggest fabrication challenge was creating so many one-of-a-kind, large-scale signs. “We’re    accustomed to producing large-scale signage — for shopping malls, stadiums and airports — which is repetitive in nature. For the Islands of Adventure project, however, we had to create many completely unique signs that were complicated to engineer and fabricate,” Mark explains.
Project management, Mark says, is the key to overcoming such fabrication challenges. To manage the Islands of Adventure job, his shop broke the project down into small parts and assembled in-house teams. Approximately half of DCL’s 110 employees worked on the project during its peak time. Any work not assigned to an in-house team was subcontracted. DCL hired approximately nine subcontractors to share the workload and more than 100 vendors to supply materials and miscellaneous items.
Good project control helps overcome any production and communication challenges that might arise when a signshop has to monitor the progress of both in-house and outside production. Mark advises that communication between shops remain open at all times. When working on a job of this size and nature, sign-makers should keep the project’s scope in mind throughout fabrication to limit rework. “It’s important for sign fabricators to encourage conceptual designers to spell out what they want. By doing so, fabricators can keep a job’s parameters from changing,” Mark says. To ensure profitability, sign manufacturers should also track a project’s every detail and cost, as well as maintain good documentation and update shop drawings.
Hogsmeade Sign....one of the newest signs at the park

Fabricating and installing the signs 
There was no cookie-cutter approach to the fabrication and installation of the 480 signs DCL produced for Islands of  Adventure. Aluminum, fiberglass, Sign•Foam high-density urethane (HDU) and natural wood were among the variety of    materials the shop used to create the theme park’s signage. Fabrication techniques included hand-carving, hand-painting, sandblasting and sculpting. In addition to being one-of-a-kind, each sign was engineered, manufactured and installed to withstand abuse from the park’s many visitors, as well as Central Florida’s humid climate and severe wind load. Mark and his crew completed fabrication and installation of all signs for “Port of Entry” and “The Lost Continent” in 12 months.
Here’s an overview of the materials, techniques and installation methods DCL used to create five of the signs for “The Lost Continent”:
Alchemy Bar: Measuring 6 feet tall, the sign incorporates an aluminum frame structure distressed to resemble aged pewter and wrought iron; cast-resin embellishments, a carved urethane sign band and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) lettersA hammered, stainless-steel mixing bowl cups a 27-liter    Pyrex™ borosilicate-glass flask, which is plastic-coated for    safety and to simulate a hand-blown appearance. A magnetic stirring device — housed within the steel mixing bowl — spins a plastic-coated steel bar inside the flask and stirs 150 pounds of    fluid. To illuminate the fluid, a neon ring is placed inside the    sign’s base enclosure. A faux-finished mounting plate and square, aluminum tube are used to support the structure.
Dragon’s Keep: The 4-foot-tall sign employs aluminum and medium-density overlay (MDO) with carved Sign•Foam. Acrylic, foam and cast resin make up the sign’s 2-foot-tall medallion. Internal neon illumination accentuates the sign’s acrylic push-through letters, which are filled with crushed amethyst. The sign’s acrylic jewel features bevel-cut edges and internal, fiber-optic illumination. The 9-foot-tall tree — in which the sign is embedded — contains a steel structure with a sculpted-foam shape. Painted, fiberglass, epoxy-coat detailing make up the construction’s outer shell.
Frozen Desert: DCL used aluminum and Sign•Foam to prepare the 7-foot-tall masterpiece. The sign’s aluminum patterns are router-cut from successive layers and filled in with cut-glass tiles. Epoxy resin holds the tiles in place. The sign hangs from steel chains attached to a 10-foot-tall aluminum support arm with a foam and fiberglass surface shaped, carved and painted to resemble aged wood. In addition, this support houses six MR-16 electrical lamps.
Oasis Coolers: An aluminum core structure and a sculpted, rigid Sign•Foam lower panel make up the 8-foot-tall sign. Its 1-inch-thick, double-sided acrylic centerpiece features a translucent cloisonné (an enamel decoration) finish. A    custom, sculpted-foam, glass- and resin-coated tapered flagpole supports the sign.
Shop of Wonders: To produce the 9-foot, 6-inch-tall sign, DCL combined aluminum and carved Sign•Foam. The lower arc’s internal, neon-illuminated, foam-carved letters are paint-filled and covered with glass beads. A translucent paint    finish on polycarbonate makes up the sign’s molded sun and moon faces. The sign’s upper arc comprises internal, neon-illuminated, colored-enamel, routed letters. A gear motor and cam device — housed in the sign’s upper arc — allow the center faces to rotate 90 degrees. The sign is affixed to a building with a square-tube steel support.
Steve admits Universal pushed the envelope in specifying the park’s signage. However, he thinks the project’s designers and fabricators overcame the challenges and produced what he considers outstanding theme-park signage. He says, “I think we’ve created the best theme park in the world. Its signage, as well as its architecture, thematic elements, lighting and rides are state of the art. And the public’s reaction has been tremendously positive.”
According to Mark, the park is a sign professional’s paradise because the signs incorporate every imaginable substrate and fabrication technique. Although DCL has worked on a number of large-scale sign projects worldwide, it considers Islands of Adventure to be its most creative and detailed work to date. Mark says, “The theme park’s environment is superior to anything else I’ve ever seen. And it’s rewarding for DCL to have been an integral part of such a tremendous project.” The only way to grasp the magnitude of this undertaking, however, is to visit Central Florida’s newest unique destination. “It’s a smorgasbord of signage,” Mark laughs.
Islands of Adventure main entrance sign

Island Designers and Fabricators 
Port of Entry: The signage for this land of adventure, exploration and trading juxtaposes crude and elaborate elements,    incorporating ship and airplane relics, as well as other salvaged    materials. Senior graphic designer: Wayne Clark, Universal Studios    Inc., Los Angeles; fabricated signs: Design Communications Ltd.    (DCL), Boston and Orlando, FL; DCL’s project manager: Karen    Gorczyca; painted graphics: Jim Neal Signs, Orlando, FL.
Seuss Landing: A wacky, irregular land inspired by the stories of Dr. Seuss, its animated signage is sculpted from foam    and fiberglass and brightly painted. Senior graphic designer:    Cathy Lloyd, Universal; main-identification signs: Jon Richards    Co., Mira Loma, CA; secondary sculpted pieces: Scenic Productions, Gainseville, FL; plaques: Graphic Systems, Orlando, FL; flags and    banners: Olympus Flag & Banner, Milwaukee.
The Lost Continent: The subtly lit signs in this land of myths and legends are sculpted, carved and textured to mimic trees, shields and stone. Senior graphic designer: Stephen Oliver, Universal; fabricated signs: DCL; DCL’s project manager: Angela    Goddard; painted graphics: Jim Neal Signs; flags and banners: Olympus Flag & Banner.
Jurassic Park: Based on the science-fiction/fantasy film, this island incorporates signage made from wood, granite and patented metals. Senior graphic designer: Wayne Clark; all sign work: Architectural Graphics Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.
Toon Lagoon: Inhabiting this island are    larger-than-life, digitally printed graphics of “Sunday Funnies”    characters, including Betty Boop, Blondie, Beetle Bailey and    Popeye. The island also features internally illuminated voice    bubbles and painted, newspaper-shaped walls. Senior graphic    designer: David Woody, Universal; fabricated signs: Heath &    Co., Oldsmar, FL, and Sightline Studios, Starke, FL; painted walls    and graphics: Adirondack Scenic, Glens Falls, NY.
Marvel Super Hero Island: Spider-Man is one of many    Marvel Super Heroes who calls this island home. The island  contains a number of aluminum-backed 3M Scotchprint graphics, which feature various lighting and neon effects. Senior graphic designer: Stephen Oliver; signs and graphics: Architectural Image Manufacturers, Atlanta; Scotchprint graphics: Visual Impessions,    Charlotte, NC.

The making of Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando

Rummaging through the archives here at Theme Park Canuck, we came across a series of articles about the making of Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. These date back to 1998 and 1999 before the park opened. We always wished that Universal created a book about the making of the park, but that never happened. We’ve got features on each of the islands (Marvel, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Suess Lagoon), plus one about all the unique signage found in the park. If you’re a theme park buff like we are here at Theme Park Canuck, you’ll find these articles fascinating. Enjoy! Continue reading

Walt Disney World Resort Sends 2011 out with a Bang

new years at walt disney world

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest fireworks evenings of the year at Walt Disney World Resort, a place where fireworks are both spectacular and an every-night occurrence. Fireworks and nighttime shows will light up the skies and create a mood of celebration at three theme parks on Dec. 31, 2011, while revelry of other sorts takes place elsewhere throughout the Vacation Kingdom.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s in store:

  • Magic Kingdom presents a double helping of pyrotechnics: “Wishes” nighttime spectacular with a holiday overlay at 8:30 p.m. and “Fantasy in the Sky” at 11:51 p.m.
  • Epcot‘s “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” delights revelers with a salute to the new year at 7 p.m. and 11:42 p.m.
  • At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the 25-minute spectacular “Fantasmic!” that combines water, fire, lights, lasers, fireworks and music will be presented at 6:30 and 8 p.m., with the popular “Lights! Camera! Happy New Year!” fireworks display at midnight.
  • At Cirque du Soleil, all guests attending the Dec. 31 performances will receive a limited-edition Walt Disney World/Cirque trading pin. Shows are at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. For pricing contact 407/WDW/SEAT.
  • Registered guests at select Disney resort hotels will be treated to music and entertainment. At Narcoosee’s restaurant (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa), for instance, there will be a four-course dining experience for $149, plus DJ, balloon artist and special fireworks viewing at 8:30 and 11:51.
  • Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort offers a special-ticket New Year’s Eve party from 8 p.m.-2 a.m. with video DJ Tony Zapulla.

For specific information about other holiday dining offerings at Disney resort hotels on Dec. 31, call 407/WDW/DINE.

5 reasons to stay on property at Disney

Your on a budget, I get it. Hey, breaking the bank ain’t tops on my priority list when I think of my vacation either, but let me assure you staying on property is seriously worth all the money your about to fork out. Sure, now your saying to yourself, Tracey your always going to tell us to stay on property because, hey, it’s Disney and you LOVE Disney. Allow me to explain why I recommend staying on property rather than outside the Parks. Here are my 5 reasons you should stay on-site at Walt Disney World:

1. Free transportation

Yes, you certainly can get a budget friendly resort outside and rent a car to get around.  Yes, I agree, you got an AMAZING bargain at the Maingate Magic Castle Motel, a mere 20 minutes outside the Disney property. Here’s a dirty little secret about these off property places: while they claim that they are at the “main gate” of Walt Disney World, they fail to disclose is that they mean the pretty little entrance gates you drive through as you get onto Disney property. Walt Disney World itself does not have a gate, because that’s the name of the whole resort. The 4 parks and 2 water parks have gates.  Meaning while you may be across the highway from the “main gate” to Disney property, it can still take you 15 minutes to drive to the real main gate of the park. Now you have to keep in mind that you can take a cab from the airport to your said AMAZING bargain resort, which from Orlando International could cost you a small child’s college tuition.  Add to that the $14 a DAY for parking at each Park that your going to visit for the next 7 days. Or, you can hop onto Disney’s Magical Express bus service and be whisked away to your hotel. Then, a quick bus or monorail trip and you’re in the parks. You actually check your bags at the airport with the Magical Express, and they put them into your hotel room for you while your out enjoying your vacation. This service is FREE with a Disney Resort stay!
2. Free Dining
Depending upon the time of year you vacation, you could stay at a Disney Resort and be eating on Disney’s dime with the Disney Dining Plan. Simply choose a package that best suits you, we will review this later, and your meals will be included. However I cannot stress enough, just because your saving money by getting free meals, you still have to tip your servers at your restaurants. And while it’s free upfront, it’s really built into the cost of your vacation. But as food is a big expense when on vacation, it’s one less thing to worry about while you’re there.
3. Resort Options for every budget & taste
You probably you already know that Disney has so many choices when it comes to accommodations. The truth is, everybody has different tastes.  From the value conscious to luxury seekers. No matter where you stay, each resort is themed just as well as any of the parks. The details are everywhere, meaning the magic doesn’t end when you leave the parks at the end of the night.

Here’s a quick breakdown of your options for Disney Resorts:

All Star Movies

Pop Century Resort

Value Resorts
These are the ones that the majority of the children stay at. Think about it, if you have more than 1 child now a days, your added dollar signs in front of everything you do. So, the Value Resorts offer you the best value for your money. Please don’t expect to have tons of amenities. Obviously you will have a bed and a bathroom as you would expect, you also have a swimming pool or two, but don’t expect a Spa or fine dining.
Pop Century, All Star Movies, All Star Sports, All Star Music & the soon to open Disney’s Art of Animation Resort fall under these categories. These accommodations offer value, quick service dining and great service as all the Resorts offer just no frills. And yes, yes I have stayed at these locations.  I see no reason to not have just a bed when all I really want to do is head to the Parks. if that sounds appealing, then this is totally your option.
Port Orleans Riverside

Coronado Springs

Moderate Resorts
These just happen to be my favorite types of resorts. They have more amenities than the Value Resorts as previously mentioned and most locations have sit down restaurants or pubs to grab a snack and a beverage after a sweaty day of fun.
Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter are both what some of us like to call our home resorts, meaning it’s were we go to stay on property whenever we come down (which is quite often!) The two just happen to be separated by the Sassaguola River. One offering a Mardi Gras feel (French Quarter) and one offering a Mark Twain Bayou type Resort. Plantation style and French Quarter styled buildings overflow with charm and laid back paces. You could literally just stay here and never go the parks and call it a vacation. Be sure to stop at Boatwrights in Riverside for breakfast.  I can assure you it will fuel you up for a hard day of walking the Parks. There are several other Moderate Resorts to chose from, including Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs and the Cabins at Wilderness Lodge Resort. My favorite Resort pool from any type of Resort has got to be the Coronado Springs.  It is a feast for the senses.
disneys polynesian resort
Polynesian Resort

disney's animal kingdom lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge

wdw-resorts-grandfloridian
Grand Floridian

Deluxe Resorts
Now, if you are going to spoil yourself rotten and have the means, then I recommend any of the Deluxe Resorts. They can certainly cater to your every whim. From award winning 5 star dining at Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort, to the grass skirts and gentle palm trees swaying at the Polynesian Resort, Walt Disney does luxury like no other.
The Deluxe category also applies to Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club Resort, Boardwalk Resort, The Contemporary Resort, The Yacht Club and Wilderness Lodge Resorts. All have so many incredible things to chose from and you will find your piece of heaven wherever you chose to stay.  Concierge Levels offer unique services and each of these Resorts has the incomparable Disney service that they have famous for.
I am not in any way saying that the Deluxe Resorts offer the only top notch service either, but I am going to say that if your paying to stay at a Deluxe Resort, your expectations are different.
Fort Wilderness Campground
Wait a second, you think I’m done don’t you? I am certainly not, I have one more little surprise. Fort Wilderness is one of the original accommodation choices back in 1971 when Walt Disney World first opened and deserves it’s own category.It is hard to believe that it has stayed as popular as it has. You can pop a tent if that is what vacations mean to you, or you have an RV that you have decided to drive to see the countryside float by, then this is your spot.

4. Free activities & events around every corner

chip & dales campfire singalong dsney
Chip & Dale's Campfire Sing Along

Think nothing is free at Disney? Well, you’re wrong! Many of the resorts offer fun & free activities for kids, families & kids at heart. There are too many here to describe, but my favourite is Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing Along. This gathering is held nightly and starts at 7:30. It’s a great way to get some quality time with characters, sing some great songs and enjoy a relaxed evening. The best part is they also offer a movie by the campfire as well. You can even purchase the ingredients to create smores and who wouldn’t want to have those sitting by a roaring fire?

5. Stress free vacation

Here are a few thing’s you won’t have to worry about if you stay on site, after all what’s a vacation if you’re stressed out?
Package Delivery: No more lugging around all the great souvenirs and presents you purchase, Disney will deliver these to your resort for free.
No Driving: Imagine not having to drive for a whole week! No parking fees, finding a spot, walking to the park, remembering where you parked. Parents, you can even both have a few beverages at EPCOT without having to worry about who will drive. Now that’s a vacation1
Magical Wake-Up Calls: How thrilled will your kids be when Mickey wakes them up in the morning with a friendly phone call? Try that at Super 8!
Extra Magic Hours: You actually get to spend more time in the parks than anyone else!
Plus many, many other options! All part of your Disney Resort stay! Trust me, it’s totally worth it to stay on property
All in all, I have given you a very brief overview, giraffe’s munching leaves from you room, armadillo’s sneaking around your tent, or breakfast on the Sassagoula River, all examples of different ways to enjoy Disney Resorts. There is something for every budget, taste and interest.  All you have to do is decide where and Disney will take care of the rest to have a truly magical vacation!

You will have to excuse me now, I am off to the Grand Floridian Spa for a quick facial and maybe Cinderella will be there so I will catch up with you again soon.

Until next time,
TTFN

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: First Visit Expectations


Your friends have all been, your co-workers go all the time, and it seems like your neighbours are there every week. Take it for someone who knows, your first time at Walt Disney World needs to be an enjoyable one. A trip that will be so amazing, so spectacular, that you’ll want to visit again and again. Both your kids and The Walt Disney Company are looking forward to that! A lot of different things influence how your vacation plays out: budget, who you’re with, weather, ect. Some of these you have control over, and others you don’t. I could literally write a book about Disney Vacation Planning, but here are a few of my favourite tips to start you off on the right foot:

You won’t do it all

Look, first things first, you will not and I repeat, not……see everything on your first visit. Get that idea right out of your head. Say it with me “I will not see everything at Walt Disney World on my trip.” This phrase will come in very handy the day you sleep in, or when Dumbo breaks down. Learn it, love it, Live it. We all know a Becky. Becky went for her first visit with her family and they did EVERYTHING. I’m really happy for Becky, but I can tell you they missed out on more than a few things to do. And that’s ok!

How long should you visit?

The first step is to figure out how long you’re going to want to go. There are many, many options awaiting you on a visit to Walt Disney World. Not only do you have 4 full Parks to enjoy, but you also have 2 Water Parks, the shops at Downtown Disney, and a slew of Resorts to meander through. Not to mention the other, non-Disney attractions that surround you. SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens, Gatorland, the brand-spanking-new Legoland, Outlet Shopping, and dare I even mention it, The Holy Land Experience. WHEW!!  Again, never going to see EVERYTHING in one visit.

What should I see?

I really recommend that if you going to do Disney, then keep it strictly Disney. Forget trying to pack it all together in 1 day of Parks and then perhaps renting a car to drive to the beach, you need to focus. I suggest that you take at LEAST 7 days.  Sounds OUTRAGEOUS but if you’re gonna do it, do it right. You have 4 Parks, they are not all the same in size and there will be lots, and I mean lots of walking involved. The Water Parks are so much fun as well, not to mention the 2 mini golf locations on property and Downtown Disney with shops and restaurants and Cirque Du Soleil- La Nouba. You see now what I am talking about. Plan to do 1 Park per day. Yes, it’s great to park hop (the art of visiting more than 1 park in a day), but you may spend more time travelling than you do in the parks. I would perhaps throw in a Water Park or Downtown Disney in-between park days so that you’re not overwhelmed with children (it will happen!) and people and characters and, well……Disney.

Have your parks, and sleep too!

Whichever Park you decide to start with, you have so much to do and only a finite amount of time to do it. You will want to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. If you plan on sleeping in on this vacation, don’t worry, most of the Parks are at least open until 9 or 10 pm. There are also the wonderful days when Disney Resorts offer Extra Magic Hours (or tragic hours for those that work there!). These special hours offer you either an early entry into the Parks prior to the general public, or later hours that extend your fun well into the wee hours. You can grab a guide at your resort when you check-in that details what they are for the week. The best part of Extra Magic Hours is the incredible opportunity to go at your own pace and stretch your time in the parks.

Park Tip

You want a hint, start at the back of the Parks. I know there are those of you that disagree with this comment but if hundreds of guests are crowding the Park at the very same time you decided to go, where is everyone going to start? People with strollers can only move so quickly! So, make yourself look like a seasoned expert and grab a Park map when you get inside the gates and head to the back.
For the love of H2O
Please do yourself and the Disney Paramedics a favour: Keep drinking water to stay hydrated. Florida is generally a hot and humid place. Your going to be moving and sweating, using up your fluids. It’s very easy to get dehydrated when it’s 35 degrees Celsius (that’s 95 for the Americans). Take a water bottle and skip the $3.00 Dasani. There are fountains at every bathroom, and there are tons of bathrooms.
Take these tips and set the right expectations for your vacation before you set off to the airport. You will be skipping your way through each day of your vacation.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have tickets for La Nouba at Downtown Disney and I hear it is REALLY GOOD!!

Until next time,
TTFN

Legoland Florida announces Water Park details

Just six weeks after its official grand opening, LEGOLAND® Florida today released details of its first expansion – LEGOLAND Water Park.

Scheduled to open in time for summer 2012, the water park will feature a wave pool, Build-A-Raft lazy river, tube slides, body slides and an interactive water-play structure -DUPLO Safari. “We’re very excited to share plans for this amazing new attraction,” said LEGOLAND Florida General Manager Adrian Jones. “True to our mission, the water park attraction has been designed for families with children ages 2 to 12 and will add hours of water play to an already full day and move LEGOLAND Florida into a multi-day experience for vacationers. The additional also adds another great value proposition for our Annual Pass members.” Admission to the water park attraction is included with an all-new LEGOLAND Premium Pass, which offers 12 months admission to LEGOLAND Florida and seasonal access to the LEGOLAND Water Park. Single-day LEGOLAND Florida guests may upgrade to a water park attraction ticket for an additional $12 per person (children under 3 are $3). The Premium Pass is now available for purchase at www.LEGOLAND.com or AAA Auto Club South branches.

Key areas of LEGOLAND Water Park attraction include:

LEGO Wave Pool – Families can catch a gentle wave or simply cool off in this perfectly sized wave pool where the waves are just big enough for all ages to enjoy
Twin Chasers – Friends ride tubes 375 feet down an intertwining pair of enclosed water slides before plunging into a refreshing pool below
Splash Out – The thrill seekers of the family can ascend to the tallest point of the water park attraction and choose from one of three unique slides, then speed down a 60-foot drop and “splash out” into the water below
Joker Soaker – A fun, interactive playground with various lengths, heights and types of slides that offer something different for every member of the family. Guests can wade in the surrounding pool and be surprised with a torrential spill from a 300-gallon bucket
Build-A-Raft River – Families can imagine, design and build a unique LEGO vessel and set afloat on a maiden voyage around the 1000-foot-long lazy river, set amongst playful LEGO Friends, flowering vegetation and palm trees
DUPLO® Splash Safari – Toddlers will rule at this water play area with shorter slides and interactive, larger-than-life DUPLO creatures
“This newest attraction is just one of many ways we will continue to evolve LEGOLAND Florida over the next several years,” said Jones. “Creating a multi-visit proposition for families adds another dimension to the LEGOLAND Florida offering. Adding the water park attraction will fulfill this criteria as well as offering a unique attraction in Central Florida. ”