tips & tricks

Universal Orlando Hidden Gems: Three Broomsticks Outdoor Seating

Brad shares a quiet location to take a break and enjoy the beautiful Florida sunshine outside of the craziness that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

TIP: Grab a Butterbeer at the Hogshead Pub inside the building, and head out the back doors to access the outdoor seating area. Another way is to go down the alleyway right beside the bathrooms past the ATM machine.

What to do at WDW when you don't want to go to a Park?

BLASPHEMY!! Yes, I said that terrible line that no one in their right mind would ever shutter and I should be ashamed of myself. OR SHOULD I? When you have been visiting Disney World for as long as I have, PLUS you are spending the day with a cast member, sometimes, you really don’t want to have lineups and crowds and scooters ramming into you.

So, we decided to do a few things we have not done in a very long time, seems to be a theme for this visit I suspect. Nonetheless, a late afternoon of playtime was exactly what was in store. First though, we had to pick up our shirts for Goofy’s Mystery Tour, more on that next week. 😉  We were bound for Downtown Disney and I was starting to get rumblies in my tumblies…….for two people with Gluten Allergies and we were on Disney property, the choices were endless. We had just visited the Boardwalk last week trying Kouzzina’s for the very first time so we jumped at the opportunity to return to the Boardwalk and head just past Kouzzina’s and grab a bite at the ESPN Club.

Chef Michael came out, we chatted briefly about the afternoon possibilities, my brother Bob & I both going for the Philly Cheese steak sandwich. I have never had one, was briefly IN Philadelphia when I was flying here actually but no cheese steak was consumed. Today was the day, AND it was gluten-free so I was delighted. Not to mention, with the plethora of TV’s inside, we were surrounded by options. Being the great Canadian gal that I am, NHL playoff’s were on, Nashville and Phoenix were having an afternoon game, WHICH Nashville lost may I add…..BOOOO!!! Another time though. Bob was getting into a British “football” game, along with half of the restaurant because there was some pretty spirited guests.
But with lunch over and it was pretty late in the afternoon, I made the recommendation to head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for some critter time. Now, Bob works at Boma, which is conveniently located inside the Lodge, and when your off work, you want to stay as far away as possible, but he agreed that we would be exploring OUTSIDE and not in.
Kidani- the newest section of the Resort, nestled among the extended Savannah that Disney has created for our incredible creatures. I was extremely excited to see what the extension looked like. I had stayed at the Resort years back, had a Savannah view, but I was about to experience something new. We walked from the Jambo House, the main part of the Lodge to see what was happening. Lush greenery and tropical flowers were with us every step of the way. As we arrived, we ran into a very special friend of mine with whom I never expected to see. One of my leaders from my time working at Le Cellier at the Canadian Pavilion was luckily just transferred over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and as we entered Kidani, Carolyn was square in our sites. I briefly had mentioned to Bob we should have called ahead to see if she was here, but he reassured me that it was late and she was probably gone for the day. To my luck though, she was not, actually JUST heading out the door and my Pixie Dust was working because it was meant to be for sure. Carolyn spotted us before I spotted her as my eyes were adjusting from the light coming side the building. Plus, I was taking a look at my surroundings. What an incredible site it was. Another giant space filled with African inspired artifacts, masks, costumes, animals and some friendly faces indeed.

After my lovely visit and plans for another get together, Bob & I ventured outside to the viewing area to take a closer look. With the guidance of one fascinating cast member from South Africa, we were lead on an amazing journey with some pretty cool guests. Giraffes walking the Savannah in search of snacks was the first thing that caught my eye. Our lovely guide explained the finer points of what they eat and growth. These two little guys were fairly new to the reserve and were growing very nicely. Zebra’s were my next spotting. Did you know that in the wild, when they run, they are grouped together and all you see is flashes of white and black, sometimes brown which confuses predators? Some ostrich’s roamed around as well adding to my delight. It was early evening at this point and the heat of the day starting to retreat and provided us the opportunity to have some great viewings. We traveled up into the library of Kidani which also provided a bird eye view of the Resort. With rooms spanning around the Savannah, no wonder Disney guests and Disney’s Vacation Club Members chose this as their favorite. It was certainly an experience I will not soon forget.

Bob decided as we headed off, said our good byes to our South African cast member who provided us a very special look at Kidani and the Savannah, Jumbo House was our next stop. Now, I have been here many, many times and it brings me such joy to enter. A sprawling Lodge with towering beams with light streaming in every nook and cranny, makes for one impressive entrance. There is one thing to say about the folks from South Africa, they are friendly. I mean they are genuine and continuously smiling and extremely helpful. They are one extremely proud bunch. What a fantastic way for Disney to showcase the culture than to bring in men and women? Seaters, Greeters, Escorts, you name it, they are everywhere and always there with a smile and some interesting information for you.
We took sometime to tour around Jumbo House, which if your still wondering what Jumbo means, in Swahili it means literally Hello or Welcome. Jumbo House, or Welcome House is the front lobby area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The art is overwhelmingly beautiful, masks and costumes everywhere on display, there are wood carvings and tributes everywhere and trust me, if you get the chance to, skip off to the Lodge and take a peak, you won’t regret my advice.
We needed something to quench our thirst after our trip through the Savannah so we headed over to the Victoria Falls Bar. When you have reservations for either Boma or Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you will have the opportunity to walk right past the bar. Everything is downstairs but you have a fantastic chance to meander down towards the restaurants. Beautiful surroundings, waterfalls and rock formations and beautiful wood are everywhere. When we got to the bar, I found that one of my favorite bartenders was working and oh what a surprise was for him.
Dustin is a familiar face behind the bar, he has actually been at the Lodge for some time, although he looks like he isn’t even old enough to be out of school yet. Warm smile and a talent for pulling together something fabulous, he made some pretty inspiring recommendations for us. A spotted lemur was recommended as I have a love for sweet beverages, and my brother had a tasty martini. Dustin and I caught up, the bar was slightly starting to fill up so Bob & I happily sat at the bar chatting and watching the people around us. As we did, we saw one of Bob’s leaders coming upstairs with some pretty exciting news for Dustin.
 You see, at Disney, they want to showcase and recognize their talent, each Month, guests and our peers alike have the opportunity to create magic for the cast. By taking a moment to recognize incredible service, a helping hand or a fantastic experience you have had, Disney offers a Guest Fanatic Award, This is for service excellence and anyone can fill one out. When you do, they go directly to that cast members leader and are then documented in our files and then distributed back to the cast member. Imagine how you would feel receiving this whilst at work? Not only do they do that, but they collect them monthly and award someone extra special. Much like an employee of the month, Disney offers extra special perks for being a Guest Fanatic Monthly Award winner. A prime parking spot, $75 Disney Dollar to be spent anywhere on property and a certificate from the President of Disney and your Area Leaders. You are also thrown into the pot for the yearly draw. I can proudly say, that for the Month of July 2007 I was the Epcot Guest Fanatic Award recipient. Dustin certainly deserved this and I was proud to be there when he was presented his award. Way to go Dustin!!
When we finished our delicious beverages, we said our goodbyes and continued downstairs for another extra special surprise. Another one of my former leaders, Vicki Thompson was also lucky enough to be offered a transfer to the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge but as an Area Leader in Jiko. We decided it had been far to long since I saw Vicki so we inquired with our friend Rumbi, a greeter at Jiko if she was available. I wanted to surprise her of course so Rumbi was a great sport and offered a diversion to get Miss Vicki to the front of the restaurant. What a great surprise it was. Vicki was delighted to see me, we spent some time chatting and catching up and the offer to share another catch up prior to my departure from Florida was made and we were soon our our way again. Vicki had a fantastic outlook, we shared some amazing laughs and a promise I would see her soon.
All in all, my visit to the Animal Kingdom Lodge was a success. Surprise visits from some truly inspiring women, some awesome animals and to witness someone being recognized for his hard work and determination at work…priceless as they say.There is truly a plethora of things to do outside the actual Parks at Walt Disney World so my question is, where are YOU going to explore today? Your only limits are your imagination. There are so many fun and interesting things to do here, go be inspired yourself.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have an African bottle of wine that needs my attention and photos to go through to remind me of the wicked day I just had. So, until next time, TTFN!!

 

Tracey

Tom Sawyer Island Adventures

Well, here’s a first……..I went to Tom Sawyer Island for the very first time!! Yup, you heard me. Now, I pride myself on being a Disney expert of sorts but when you’re admitting you haven’t DONE something in the Park I feel as though I must explain myself. Continue reading

Off to a Disney Cruise? Wanna know a secret….

OK, you have probably already been informed that Disney has in fact released ANOTHER new ship. This past weekend on March 31st, will hold a special date in the hearts of many who have been waiting for her release. Disney Cruise Lines set sail on the Inaugural cruise for The Disney Fantasy. Now, much like my previous post about Disney Cruise Lines and their fleet……The Fantasy holds some pretty special magic of her own. Continue reading

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