Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our Disney Parks "Summer to Remember"

In April, I wrote about the upcoming Disney Parks "Summer to Remember" for WDW Fan Zone. August signals shopping for back to school supplies and sharpening those pencils, but not before we take stock and appreciate our family time together...

Memorial Day-

4th of July-

Thanks for the memories...

Focused on the Magic

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Disney's Contemporary Resort

Welcome to the first stop aboard our Special Edition Magical Blogorail Loop.  Enjoy the ride as we take you on a tour of Walt Disney World's Deluxe Resorts.

Exactly forty years ago, when I landed on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, this was my view:

The postcard that we bought in 1972.

Two solitary Walt Disney World hotels opened for business on October 1, 1972; the Resort we called home, the Polynesian Village, and our vista, the Contemporary Resort Hotel.  The wholly distinctive image of the A-frame tower, with the famous monorail entering and exiting it, was as impressive to us as Cinderella Castle.  Despite this icon status, it took my family another 40 years to actually stay at the now named Disney's Contemporary Resort, and in many ways it was worth the wait!

This "retro-futuristic" behemoth had an innovative look in the early 70's, and its newly refurbished rooms are now sleeker than ever.  It is one of the Disney creme de la creme, and the first of the 8 Disney Deluxe Resorts.

This Resort, which has the distinction of being the closest to the Magic Kingdom, offers a total of 655 rooms in the Tower and adjacent Garden Wing.  (The South Garden Wing was demolished in 2007 to make way for Bay Lake Tower- the newest Disney Deluxe Villa.)

It's standard rooms are large by Disney norms- 436 square feet in size  (394 square feet in the Garden Wing).  Only those in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (440 square feet) and Disney's Polynesian Resort (Rapa Nui, Tahiti and Tokelau Longhouses- 476 square feet)) are more spacious.  These standard rooms can accommodate 5, and are equipped with a sofa that converts to a day bed and either 2 Queen beds or 1 King bed.  There is also sufficient space for a crib if needed.  The views at this hotel simply can't be beat, and along with the ease of transportation are what set it apart from all other Disney Deluxe Resorts.  If you have a Theme Park view, you can watch Wishes Nighttime Spectacular and the activity on Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom from your room.   With a Bay Lake view, you feel as though you are getting a private viewing of perennial  The Electric Water Pageant from your balcony.

Yes, balconies are standard fare in Tower rooms, which can make your living space seem even larger.  The bathrooms are modern and polished in style, but be warned; if you've become accustomed to having a separate sink and shower space (and once you have teenagers, this is essentially a requirement for the morning routine), you may be disappointed with the layout.

Though the toilet is set apart, the shower and dual sinks share one space.

Of course, if you require still more elbow room, Concierge (Atrium Club) and Suite accommodations are available for a substantial upcharge.  The standard room rate at Disney's Contemporary Resort starts at $315 (Garden View, Value season) and ranges to $665 (Tower- Theme Park View, Peak Season).  Accessible Guest rooms are available.

As with most Disney Deluxe Resorts, you will find room amenities that you would expect at a superior hotel:  alarm clock/MP3 player; flat screen cable TV; free Wi-Fi; coffee maker; mini fridge; hair dryer (and not the standard attached-to-the-wall variety); iron and board; make-up mirror; full length mirror; in-room safe; robes.  Additionally on site is the Olympiad Fitness Center (complete with treadmills for you runners who do not wish to brave the elements), which also offers a spa and salon, concierge assistance for all Guests, convention center facilities, a business center, a laundry plus dry cleaning/laundry service, and valet and self-parking.

-   Room Service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

-   Chef Mickey, perhaps the most beloved of all Character Dining Experiences, offers a breakfast and dinner buffet with a side of singing, marching and napkin-waving.  These meals with the "Fab Five", (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald) are a "hot item", so be sure to book your Advance Dining Reservations early!
-   Equally as legendary is the Signature Dining found atop Disney's Contemporary Resort.  The award winning California Grill serves American food with a California focus, and complete with a legendary wine list, is decidedly fine dining.  Floor to ceiling windows provide a stellar view of the Magic Kingdom and Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, and the "onstage kitchen" supplies the rest of the magic.  Open for dinner exclusively.
*The California Grill will close on January 6. 2013 for a period of 6 months for an extensive renovation. 

-   The Wave... of American Flavors is a casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on the 1st floor.
-   Contempo Cafe  Quick Service restaurant located next to Chef Mickey's on the fourth floor.

Did I mention that the Magic Kingdom is in walking distance??  I believe I did, but it is certainly worth repeating!  If your dogs can't bear the thought of additional pounding, the handy monorail will whisk you to the park or the Transportation and Ticket Center for a transfer to the Epcot monorail.  

The monorail is located in the Grand Canyon Concourse (as in it's the size of the Grand Canyon), and is flanked by Disney legend Mary Blair's 90 foot high mural made of hand-painted tile.  (How else would they disguise the elevator shaft?)  Buses will take you everywhere else in the World that you want to go.  Motor launches ( a treat in themselves) run between the Contemporary, Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, and are the perfect vehicle to get you to and from your Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue Dinner Show.

This resort features 2 pools.  The larger of the two sits on the shores of Bay lake, and is complete with a 17 foot high curving slide and splash area.  Cabanas are available and reservations are suggested.

The second pool "sits" near the Seven Seas Lagoon, and is quieter and a bit more removed from the action.  A requisite arcade is open 24 hours a day (shudder) and has been moved to the fourth floor.  The beach surrounding Bay Lake is beautiful, but swimming is not permitted.  Also available at the resort is the "not to be missed" entertainment treat- Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage.  You set sail from the Contemporary dock and cruise the Seven Seas Lagoon with a crew of Never Land pirates!  You may even encounter a Disney Character or two.

Perhaps Disney's Contemporary Resort has a more sophisticated edge, and maybe that's why my young men enjoyed it so much.  It is rich with Disney history, and has Walt's fingerprints on its conception.  And we started our Walt Disney World journey together 40 years ago...  Tradition!

Thank you for joining me today.  Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is CanaDisney.  Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop~   Disney's Contemporary Resort   (You are here.)
2nd Stop~  Disney's Polynesian Resort
3rd Stop~   Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
4th Stop~    Disney's Yacht & Beach Club
5th Stop~    Disney's Wilderness Lodge
6th Stop~    Disney's Boardwalk Inn
Final Stop~ Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Disney Diva Wardrobe- An eShakti Review

Like any self-respecting Disney fan, though I have just unpacked from our Disneyland celebration, I am fully engrossed (code for obsessed) in planning my next Disney getaway.  The "Disney Divas" are converging upon Walt Disney World for the 30th Anniversary of Epcot on October 1. 2012, and I'm thrilled to be joining the pack. 

Since my suitcases are still out, I'm turning my sites on filling them again- with a wardrobe befitting a diva!  For me, that means something light (Orlando is still hot in the fall), colorful (fun times), not too much skin exposed (those Irish roots) and not too revealing (I'm not a youngster). Unfortunately, that criteria usually makes shopping an absolute chore.  As if by magic, I was recently approached to do a product review for a highly unique, on-line women's apparel store that specializes in customizing the shopping experience.  eShakti (Shakti means power in Sanskrit) offers dresses, skirts, tops, jackets and scarves in a wide array of fabrics and colors. Best yet, you can order using standard US sizing (0 to 26W) OR by entering your specific body measurements and height.  I was so intrigued that I visited the website, and honestly felt, for the first time in a long time, that I had found my shopping home.  Honestly.  I found a cute cotton coral-colored dress, and it took less than 5 minutes to enter my specs.  Within 9 days, the dress was delivered to my door, and I couldn't wait to step out on the town to test it out. 

Luckily, my mother had bought us tickets to see the Broadway production of Newsies on July 17th, and I could think of nothing better to wear to a New York City show on a 97 degree day!

From dinner, through the 2 and a 1/2 hour show, to cocktails afterward, I stayed cool and felt "perdy".  I now know my eShakti dress can stand up to a day in the parks!  In fact, I'm so happy that I'm considering ordering another with the 10% discount that I can share with YOU.  But hurry, the special promo code (DZN8RZE) expires on July 31st, 2012.  (In fact, this code also applies to their "40% off Sale".)  I love the interactive element of this on-line store, and particularly suggest their "Uniquely Classic" product line.

Diva ho!!

In full disclosure, I received one garment from eShakti.  But with full integrity, my review is completely truthful and not influenced by the company in any way!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cozy Cones

Get your snacks, on Route 66!!

"C" is for Sally's Cozy Cone Motel in Disney California Adventure's Radiator Springs.  This eatery is based on the Disney Pixar Cars films and inspired by the iconic Wigwam Motel. (Seven such motels were built in the 1930's and 1940's, with three still in existence today; two of these sit along on Route 66.)  In Cars Land, this spot literally cannot be missed!  Which explains why I spent so much time idling here... I've included my favorite fuel from each cone:

Sweet and Spicy!  (Just have a beverage handy.)

Pretzel Bites- see below.

As anticipated, the Chili Cone Queso is the way to go.

"Route" Beer Float rules.

Like those Pretzel Bites, these Churro Bites just taste better because they are nuggets- and finger food rocks.

Boy, did I have a full tank!!  (Luckily, I kicked up my RPM's the next morning with a run through Downtown Disney District.)  On my next trip, I'm driving for Red's Apple Freeze, (I've read that it's Disneyland's answer to Butterbeer), and the Bacon and Cheddar Popcorn.  Be sure to put the orange Cozy Cones on your map!

Focused on the Magic

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ornament Valley- Disney's Newest Weenie

Drawing Guests deep into Disney California Adventure Park, Ornament Valley is home to Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land.  Taking inspiration from America's Southwestern vistas (think Monument Valley, Arches National Park and Sedona, Arizona), Disney borrows elements from each.  The series of caverns, buttes and canyons creates a ride and queue that is as breathtaking as the real thing.

The famous Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas and the Black Mountains of Arizona lent inspiration to the fins seen here.

The "radiator cap" is similar to the land structure Tucumcari Mountain in New Mexico.  The residents of Tucumcari (which Route 66 once ran through) are said to repaint the town's initial on the side of the mountain each year.  (Can you spot the RS here?)

Ornament Valley beckons you from afar...  Quite effective Disney Weenie, wouldn't you agree??

Focused on the Magic

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Disneyland in Blue

I spent my weekend downloading images; camera, Blackberry, iPad and Disney's PhotoPass. We've been away from home for almost 2 weeks, and now's the time to take stock.  Coming back from a Disney vacation always makes me a bit blue, but browsing through one's photo inventory always eases the ache.  Fittingly, I'm sharing my Disneyland in Blue with you today.

Checking in at the Disneyland Hotel- the boys are still drawn to the cartoons.
Entering the colorful wonderland that is the Mad T Party.
My newly minted 21 year-old and his blue Mad Hat-ito; glowing ice cube and all.
Matterhorn mountaineers against the crystal blue Southern California sky.
Blue Disneyland Hotel and Pool
Slip sliding away.
Blue Bayou Restaurant
The reconfigured Disney California Adventure Front Gate.
Buena Vista Street in red, white and blue bunting.
Fueling up at Flo's V8 Cafe.
Glow with the Show ears- occasionally blue...

I hope you enjoy my blue updates from the Disneyland Park- I feel perkier already!