Be Entertained at Disney’s Boardwalk

Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid media trip with Walt Disney World at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas. However, all opinions are my own.

You don’t have to look far to find things to do at Walt Disney World. However, what about those days where you don’t have a park ticket? Or what about those people that want to have fun without leaving their resort? The answer you are looking for is a visit and/or stay at Disney’s Boardwalk. In the past couple of years, a lot of changes have come to this little corner of the “world”, and as someone who loves to just chill at the resort, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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The entire Boardwalk is filled with activities for the family, foodie, couple, or girls night. Let’s start on one end and head down to the other, but first I think it’s important to understand the “history” of the Boardwalk. This fun area is reminiscent of the grand hotels of the early 1900’s along the Jersey shore. Around the lobby and in the restaurants you will find artifacts from this time period, transporting you through time to a slower pace of life where carnival games could be heard at night, and you could even watch horse jumping (into the water!) by day.

If you have ever heard of Sonora Webster Carver and her diving horses (Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken anyone?) then you will love this fun fact I learned: The structure that sits atop the ESPN Club at the far end of the Boardwalk is the same size as the water tank that Sonora and her horses dove into back in the early 1930’s. I had no idea! I just thought it was part of the décor of the ESPN club. But like many hidden things at Walt Disney World, it stands for something greater, and I love it. At the ESPN Club you will find 100 screens and a 10 x 10 projection screen in which to watch your favorite sports team, along with a menu to match. I may or may not have spent many a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon here making new friends (and taunting new rivals, of course) all in good Disney fun.

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Moving on down the Boardwalk you will come across Ample Hills Creamery. Be sure to stop in for a sample…which will then turn into a scoop (or two!) of this delicious dessert. There are sixteen signature ice cream flavors, one is even made just for the Boardwalk. Speaking of sweet treats, the aroma of the decedent pastries at the Boardwalk Bakery will have you dropping in to see what’s baking even if it wasn’t part of your plan. This is where guests of the Inn and Villas can refill their resort refillable mugs, grab breakfast, coffee, and light snacks during the day. Keep in mind there is no indoor seating, however there are plenty of tables and chairs right outside.

Trattoria al Forno boasts a lot of real estate on the Boardwalk, and it is well deserved. This relaxing eatery inspired by the farms in the Italian countryside, serves wood fired pizzas, house made pastas, and a 100% Italian wine list. During breakfast hours, the restaurant is transformed into a fun family gathering place. You can meet Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Ariel, and Prince Eric while you dine. Note that this is the ONLY place on Disney property where you can meet these two princes! This experience fills up fast, so be sure to make dining reservations early.

Inspired by farms in the Italian countryside, Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort features an open kitchen and family-friendly dining rooms. The restaurant highlights authentic flavors of Italy’s diverse regions including wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastas, hand-crafted mozzarella, imported charcuterie and cheese and a 100 percent Italian wine list. The restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

Recently opened next to Trattoria al Forno is somewhere I finally got to check out, the Abracadabar (say that ten times fast!) This quirky bar has drinks that do magic tricks, and wall posters that disappear in the blink of an eye. Legend has it that this spot was once the local hangout of famous touring magicians and boardwalk illusionists. Apparently at night after their shows, they would meet at the lounge and swap tips and tricks with each other. One day, they all vanished while at the bar, but their magic remains, so pay attention to the details!

AbracadaBar, a "curious cocktail lounge," combines the Golden Age of Magic with the magic of Disney storytelling to bring a whimsical experience to Walt Disney World Resort guests. Located at Disney's BoardWalk, AbracadaBar serves up signature specialty drinks amongst enchanted show posters, mystifying mirrors and vintage props and tricks. It is open daily from 4 p.m. to midnight. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

The drinks also happen to be very good. Keep in mind this isn’t a large bar, so get there early!

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Capping off this side of the Boardwalk is an old favorite with a fresh new look: The Flying Fish Café. I was very impressed with the remodel, as it has more of a sophisticated flair with the blues, greys, and ocean vibe. The menu is also top notch, with items you won’t see at many places on property. The service was great too, and it’s fun to take a peek at the open kitchen while you are relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. There is even enough space for 12 guests at the “chef’s counter” directly in front of the kitchen. Flying Fish is a signature dining experience, which counts as two credits on the Disney Dining Plan.

With hues that conjure up the deep blue sea, the re-imagined Flying Fish restaurant beckons guests to Disney's BoardWalk with a contemporary, sophisticated interior that pays homage to the golden era of seaside boardwalk dining. Flying Fish is a signature restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort and is open for dinner daily. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Moving across the lush lawn and past the surrey bike rentals <—one day I will do this, you will find more than 9000 square feet of shopping opportunities that range from exquisite pieces of art to Mickey ears to groceries. This is also where package pickup is for resort guests, and where you can get a bottle of wine for your room!

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Big River Grill and Brewing Works is next door and features handcrafted specialty beers. It has some nice outdoor seating so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Boardwalk, too.

At night, the Boardwalk comes alive with plenty of entertainment opportunities. Not only are there carnival games and magicians up and down the Boardwalk, but there are two great places to hang out: Jellyrolls and the Atlantic Dance Hall.

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Jellyrolls is a dueling piano bar where the audience picks the music, and lots of singing along with ensue. (I may or may not know from experience.) Pick from the specialty drink menu or order your favorite beer, while snacking on baskets of popcorn instead of peanuts. The pianists are quick witted and are sure to keep you laughing all night at this 21 and up location after 7:00 (Please note the $12 cover charge.) The Atlantic Dance hall is steps away next door, and is just what it sounds like. A great place to dance the night away (if you are 21+) and have a drink with friends.

In addition to all of these amazing places, there are other hidden relaxing spots, fun drink stands, and boat transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. No longer should you wonder what there is to do outside of the theme parks, but it’s a matter of “what will you choose to do with so many options!” While I highly recommending staying at this resort (for many reasons, but that’s for another post!) the great thing is you can enjoy the Boardwalk without being a guest of the hotel, and without having a park ticket.

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An attraction all in itself, the beautiful Boardwalk sits tucked away on the shores of Crescent Lake waiting for you to come and experience it. Go for a visit, you won’t be disappointed. When you do, be sure to take a deep breathe as you step back in time. Welcome to your vacation.

QOTD: What is your favorite thing to Do on the Boardwalk?

Walt Disney World’s Bay Lake Tower 2 Bedroom Villa

My parents became DVC members last year via buying resale. Their home resort is Saratoga Springs, which is where we stayed in October of last year. They had some extra points on their contract due to some that were banked by the previous owner, so Me, Bobby, and Emma Kate were invited to stay with them in a two bedroom villa for five nights in April. We were blown away by this resort, and I wanted to share our two bedroom villa with you.

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Before I begin, I feel it’s important to note that the modern style is REALLY not my thing. I never had a desire to stay at the Contemporary, and the only time I have was for a conference a few years ago. Bay Lake wasn’t on my radar, until I realized how easy it would be with my two year old to be able to walk to and from the Magic Kingdom and be on the monorail. I was able to snag us a villa right as our date window opened, and while I was excited about our trip, I was just “eh” when it came to the thought of the resort portion. That is until we walked into the lobby, down the hall, and up to our two bedroom villa on the sixth floor facing the gorgeous Lake. WOW.

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I’m going to try to paint you a picture here of the layout, because there really is a ton of space here. When you walk in, to the right is the second bedroom, straight ahead is a closet and a wall, slightly left is the walkway into the other bedroom and living/kitchen area, and directly left was a 3rd FULL bathroom. Keep in mind this villa sleeps nine people, so it’s nice that your guests on the sofa sleeper and chair have access to a full bath as seen below.

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Let’s start by going left and passing up the living room for a second to go into the Master. But first there is a door for the washer and dryer, and this room was WAY bigger than anticipated. We used it to store things and keep them out of the way like our coolers we had brought.

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On into the master suite is a gorgeous bathroom with a huge tub and shower.

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My only qualm with this bathroom is that it only had one vanity as opposed to the master at Saratoga which had two. The bathroom was really big so maybe space could have been found? Maybe just to add another sink?

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The master boasts a king sized bed and it’s own balcony, which you can also access from the living room. Check out the cute painting above the bed.

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There was also a desk and a flat screen TV as well as plenty of drawer space.

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Back out into the hallway, you can see into the living room and kitchen. I loved how bright and open it was, and we never closed the curtains the whole trip.

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From the wall of windows facing into the kitchen, you can also see the open door where the laundry room was. There was a stove, over, microwave, refrigerator/freezer combo and a cute table to the right. The TV was on the wall parallel to the table not shown in this picture.

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The sofa was weird in that the cushions would NOT stay put. We must have had to push them back 100 times. I’m not sure if it’s because it is a sofa sleeper or just old, but it was odd. There were sheets and blankets in the ottoman.

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Here you can see the huge TV as well as the door going to the same balcony that is attached to the master, and you also get a shot of the sleeper chair.

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I thought this Space Mountain picture above the table was a nice touch.

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As was this Bay lake/monorail/Contemporary photo above the sofa.

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If you go back to the hallway and go straight, you reach the second bedroom which ahs two big closets and it’s own bathroom. We had two queen sized beds and our own balcony, too! In the below picture, to the left is one closet, the other is straight behind me, and to the right is the sink area and then the separate bathroom.

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We used a bed rail so Emma Kate could have her own bed. Y’all, these beds were SO comfortable. Like a cloud I tell ya.

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We also had a table and two chairs as well as a set of drawers and TV, which we never turned on one time.

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The very best thing about the room was the view. It never got old. Sitting on the sofa, or the balcony, or just milling around the kitchen I loved the huge windows looking out over the pool and Bay lake.

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Going to be honest here for a moment. You can pay extra/use more DVC points to have a theme park view…but in my personal opinion the lake view is better at this particular resort. I don’t like seeing all the cars and concrete out the theme park view here, and it’s I think 10 extra points PER NIGHT and that is a lot. Also, the afternoon sun beat right down on the theme park view side, and many people kept their curtains closed to avoid the heat and sun, so then they couldn’t even see their view!

When we walked out to the elevator, we had a view of the “theme park side” so I am posting a photo here for you to see what I mean. It just doesn’t wow me.

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I watched the sunrise most mornings from our balcony and it was just spectacular. We also enjoyed seeing the boats all coming and going, and we watched the electrical water pageant most nights.

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We were all surprised at how much we all loved this resort, and would stay there again in a heartbeat. We walked to Magic Kingdom several times, and used the monorail for EPCOT. Keep in mind if you aren’t using points and are just booking this resort outright, that it rarely if ever qualifies for discounts because it’s already so popular. I do however highly recommend staying here if you get the chance!

QOTD: What is your favorite Disney resort? Why?

May 2017 Goals

Happy new month! I know for most of the country it’s just starting to warm up and people are thinking about getting outside and doing outdoor activities. However, here in Florida, it’s getting into the mid 90’s and it’s time to hibernate inside for the next 6 months! Before we get into my May goals, let’s take a look at April. I have some interesting stuff going on this month so read all the way down!

1.) Be able to run the Star Wars Half pain free: C Well, my knee did hurt for the majority of the race, but it was manageable and I was still able to run/walk. The good news is every day it got better and better after, so it isn’t like it stayed hurting the same amount for days and days after. It’s been over a week and I have been walking pain free for 3 days. Back to foam rolling, stretching, and walking. (Please realize I knew that running 13.1 pain free was a stretch. Anyone who doesn’t run for 8 weeks then tries to run a half is going to have some aches and pains, but I am just glad my quad gave me zero pain, which is where the injury began back in February!)

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2.) Organize extra room: B+ With Bobby’s help, we moved some of the storage items out and the room looks a lot better. I still have a couple of boxes and a handful of random items I need to find a home for, but it looks so much better than it did last month!

3.) Walk 4x’s a week: B I am giving myself a B because there was one week I only walked 3 times. It made me feel good to be able to do “something” even though I wasn’t running. We had some nice weather last month so I’m glad I got to take advantage of that before the heat set in. I was walking up to 3 miles at a time pain free!

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May goals:

1.) Eat Salad 3x’s a week: If you know me at all, you know salad is not my thing. However, I have been trying really hard at making myself eat it, and I know it’s good for me, too. I have been adding fruit and other things I like to make it easier, and so far it hasn’t been so bad (I started my experiment over the weekend). I know it will help my overall health!

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2.) Organize my guest room: Now that one room is almost completely cleaned out, it’s time to move on to the guest room. Same as last month, this room just needs some purging and organizing to make me not want to keep the door shut all the time!

3.) Lose 4 pounds: Ok guys. Here is the big one. It’s something I have been trying to ignore since March, but I can’t any longer. I was doing so well maintaining my weight when we first moved to Florida, but then I got injured. I thought I would only be out of commission for a week or two, so I didn’t bother trying to do other workouts because I thought my body could use a break. Then two weeks turned into a month then six weeks and two months. Yes I started walking after 6/7 weeks, but with the way I was eating I was still gaining weight. After our most recent trip and feeling gross after eating fried and fatty foods for a week, I decided my body needed a cleanse/reset.

I have sold Advocare for years, but I generally don’t talk about it unless someone asks me, and then I took the past 6 months off because of the move etc. However, I think the best thing for me right now is to do the 24 day challenge. I have done it a few times in the past and it’s a really good jump start for me to get back on track. Please hear me when I say it’s ENTIRELY possible to lose weight without this program. I have done it before. However, sometimes I need a little more motivation and a strict schedule to follow, an I think right now this is what I need.

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However, I would love some accountability, so I thought it would be a great idea to open this up to my readers and see if any of you wanted to participate in the challenge with me. If you purchase the products from my link and if I get enough interest, I would open up a Facebook challenge group where we can hold each other accountable, share recipes, workouts, etc. to make it through the 24 days. If you are interested in joining in, you can email me at [email protected] or just purchase the challenge bundle here and I will be notified. If you have any questions please let me know! (PS: if you want 20% off your order, you can become a distributor. There are NO auto ships and NO minimum orders, simply purchase what you want when you want, you just have to pay the $59 distributor fee and it’s good for a year. You can choose to sell to others or just keep the discount for personal use. However, if you sell enough, you can get your discount up to 40%!)

I would be happy to discuss the options with you, or go through any add on products you may want to try for the challenge. I would love for you to join in with me and lose a little weight and get healthy before swimsuit season! (I am looking to start the challenge within the next two weeks, so if you would like to participate you would need to order this week to have time for shipping!)

QOTD: What are your goals for May? Is it hot where you live?

*Don’t forget that if your goals are in front of your face all the time you are more likely to stick with them! Click here to get my set of FREE goal and fitness tracking printables.

My Disney Experience and Magic Bands FREE E-Course

In the past few years, Walt Disney World has grown leaps and bounds as far as technology goes. What once was a card used to swipe into your room, turned into what we now know as “Magic Bands.” Some called it big brother-ish, some called it amazing, but what we do know about these bands and it’s other component called My Disney Experience, is that they are here to stay.

 

As someone who dislikes change, I understand not wanting to try something different or take the time to learn the new technology, but trust me when I say it will be WORTH IT when it comes to time (and sanity) saved on your Disney vacation if you know how to efficiently use My Disney experience and understand how the Magic bands work!T1CjCNKhhvIS8VNw0MpiMB6ClWHNTiRO07xTUBRFIJYpX92IB

This is exactly why I created a FREE E-course for you. I want you to have a stress free vacation. There is no need to be overwhelmed by the technology and the process if you just have someone to explain it to you, piece by piece…and that is precisely what I do in my free course.

 

In this course, you will learn all about Magic Bands, making Fastpass+ reservations, dining reservations, and how to use Memory maker. I also show you how to set up an account, manage your family and friends list, and research different resort and dining options. This is in a video format, so you don’t have to sit and read for endless hours to get it done. The course is broken down into sections, so you can go through as much or as little as you want to at a time. All in all it should take you no more than two hours to get through this free course. I’m so excited for you to feel confident about your knowledge in this area, and have a great vacation because of it!

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So what are you waiting for? Stop wondering what Magic Bands and My Disney Experience are all about, and get to dreaming up the perfect vacation for you and your family. (PS: When you click the link to go to the course page, it mentions a coming soon course not yet available, but if you click the button, you will be taken to sign up for my FREE e-course, so don’t let it confuse you!)

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QOTD: Thoughts on Disney’s new technologies? Love it or loathe it?

Trattoria al Forno Bon Voyage Character Breakfast

Last weekend, we had the opportunity to snag a reservation for the new Bon Voyage character breakfast at Trattoria al Forno. The reservation was early, 7:30, but I was not going to pass up the chance to check out a new dining experience that just opened a few days prior!

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This breakfast location is on the Boardwalk. I have eaten dinner at Trattoria al Forno before (which is NOT a character meal), but it has been awhile since  have been there. I was very happy to see another character meal that had some male characters. The characters you have the opportunity to meet are: Rapunzel, Ariel, Flynn Rider, and Prince Eric. There is also a song that plays and kids are encouraged to wave their napkins and dance/follow along with Ariel, which is super cute. My toddler is REALLY into the Tangled characters right now, so I couldn’t wait to see how she responded in particular to Rapunzel and Flynn.

We arrived late to our reservation because there was a mix up at our hotel with our bill, but there was not a problem and we were able to check in easily. We were told to park our stroller outside, and we waited to be seated. Music from Tangled was playing, and there was a cart selling Rapunzel and Ariel dresses and merchandise.

Very quickly, our name was called and we were led to our table. There was an autograph card, cute brochure, and our silverware and napkins as well as some small plates in the center of the table.

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Our server greeted us promptly, orange juice in hand, but we were told we could have something different to drink. Bobby opted for the OJ and I got a coke since I was in serious need of caffeine but dislike Disney coffee. Emma Kate got some milk, and then we were given pastries for the table to share.

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I love that the pastries told a “story”. Of course we have the sun from Tangled, the “braided” bread for Rapunzel’s hair, the clam shell cherry pastry from the Little mermaid, and then vanilla and blueberry muffins. They were of course, all served in a frying pan. My take on the pastries: They were VERY sweet. A little too sweet for 7:30 in the morning. I was going to get the pancakes, but changed my mind after eating all that bread and sugar.

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Emma Kate and I got the yogurt parfait, and Bobby got the fruit salad. They are pretty small portions, but I had to remind myself more food was coming. Bobby then decided to get the “Shipwreck al Forno”, which was a calzone with scrambled eggs, soppressata, bacon, sausage, and a blend of cheeses and Sunday gravy. I opted for the  “Tangled Eggs” which was tomato & basil scrambled eggs, fresh mozzarella, Sunday gravy and roasted Potatoes. Emma Kate loves eggs, so my thought was she would eat most of that, I would eat the bacon and potatoes and her waffles.

We ordered the “Mickey Waffle” with fruit and bacon for Emma Kate. The timing was great, because once we ordered and were snacking on our pastries, the characters started to come around, and we also got to dance to the song with Ariel.

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Flynn Rider was up first, and Emma Kate LOVED him. He spent a ton of time with us, talking about Maximus and apples, and even offered to do “the smolder” for us for a photo. Emma Kate just stared at him and he gave her a big hug and looked right at her when he spoke to her.

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Next up was Rapunzel. She spent the least time with us out of all the characters, but it was still a good interaction. I even asked where Pascal was.

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Soon after our appetizers arrived, as did Prince Eric. He was so good with Emma Kate, and she was in heaven. We asked him where Max was, and he said out for a walk.

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Ariel was last, and she got down on the floor with Emma Kate and they talked about hair bows and the fact that Ariel was on Emma Kate’s shirt. It was super sweet and EK was just fascinated.

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Here are some shots of our appetizers. Previous review posts showed glitter on the crab and crown, but that was not the case with our meal. The fruit was good, the yogurt was just ok, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the granola.

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After all four characters came by, our food came out. Poor Emma Kate wanted to see them again and had no interest in eating. She did eat her strawberries, but I had her waffles. I was a little confused because the menu says “mickey waffle” but these definitely were not Mickey. Don’t get me wrong they were super cute, but the menu was just misleading.

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Bobby’s Calzone came with King Tritons spear (which he apparently cut out of the photo). They take the triton away after they set your food down though.

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The calzone was really filling and basically tasted just like pizza.  I had the tangled eggs, which I KNOW I took a photo of, but it seems to have gotten deleted. This was just ok, and the potatoes were a little peppery. I will say the bacon was very good. If you have eaten at Disney restaurants before, you typically get this really thin as we like to call it “Disney bacon” that isn’t very good, however mine and EK’s meals both came with “real” bacon and it was thick and juicy!

Here are my pros and cons for the meal:

PROS:

Great character interactions with hard to see characters (in some instances). They spent a lot of time with us and posed for several photos. It was nice to do something different and also not have to have a park ticket. Having a plated meal was something different as opposed to the typical character buffet, but I’m not a huge breakfast person so I was underwhelmed with the options. Bobby’s calzone was good and filling. I loved the fun touches like Tangled music playing and the frying pan of themed pastries, even though they were a bit too sugary. The service was great, it felt very relaxed, and everyone was very friendly. The restaurant was only about 3/4 full despite me having a hard time getting a reservation. I’m guessing it was since it was the first week of operation and they wanted to ease everyone in. I imagine it will be a bit more of a madhouse when they fill all those tables.

CONS:

This restaurant is very dark and has dark wood furnishings. I felt like I needed a flashlight! (I brightened up my photos/edited them so they look way brighter than they originally came out.) This of course made it really hard to get good photos, too. Brightening up the place for the meal wouldn’t be the worst thing. Also, the tables are really close together. When the characters came by, there wasn’t really anywhere to “go” to get photos/have an interaction, so for most I ended up standing Emma Kate up in her booster seat, because there were servers constantly going behind our tables and there was no other option of a place to stand. My food was just “eh” as were the appetizers. One of the reasons we like the buffets is because Bobby can eat a ton with a  lot of variety and we feel like we got our money’s worth. With a plated meal, it made us feel the price was even more steep. We have a tables in wonderland car d(which is a 20% discount but also ads in 18% gratuity) and our bill was just under $71, which is hard to stomach for two people.  It was definitely an “experience” and I am glad we did it,  but not something we will be doing again for the price (especially after EK turns 3 and we have to pay for it!)

Final verdict: If your child loves these characters, definitely DO IT one time for the character experience. If you are going “just for the food”, I would skip out on this one due to the price.The price for this meal is $34 for adults and $20 for kids. They also accept Tables in Wonderland and the Disney Dining plan.

*RELATED: Confused by My Disney Experience, fastpass+ and Magic Bands?  Sign up for my FREE My Disney Experience and Magic Bands E-Course!

QOTD: Thoughts on the Bon Voyage character breakfast? Would you go? Do you love these characters?

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

Last week, Amanda and I visited Walt Disney World to wander around at EPCOT’S International Flower and Garden Festival. This yearly festival runs from March 1st until May 29th, and has food, fun, and of course…flowers!

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A few years ago, the festival introduced “outdoor kitchens” taking advantage of the popularity of vacationers loving to try snack sized portions of food, which is a genius idea. There are 15 kitchens spread around the world showcase, two of them being newcomers this spring for the 24th year of the festival. You can use snack credits for many items as part of the Disney dining plan, and you can even pre purchase an adorable gift card that can be used as you eat around the world.

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Don’t forget about the Garden Rocks concert series. These mini concerts will get you movin’ and shakin’ along with the music at the America Gardens Theatre. You can check out the full concert lineup here, as well as information on dining packages.

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There are also tons of adorable topiaries, exhibits, and gardens to see during your visit to EPCOT. With 13 topiaries sprinkled around the park, you are bound to get a few great photos with some of your favorite Disney characters in plant and flower form.

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A favorite of mine were the kid play areas. I know my daughter is going to flip when she sees these when we go back in April.

Be sure you don’t miss the bonsai and butterfly exhibits either, they are great for learning and teaching your kids, as well as just plain cool.

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The festival center also has special weekend events for you to check out, and you can also sign up for special tours and events going on during this time, like the like the Royal tea garden tour. It looks super fun! Of course there is also tons of fun merchandise to purchase as well to commemorate this special occasion. You can find several booths selling everything from t-shirts to  mugs to garden essentials.

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Spring time is a great time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, so be sure when you do, that you block off plenty of time to spend in beautiful EPCOT at the International Flower and Garden Festival.

QOTD: Have you ever visited Walt Disney World during this time? What is your favorite thing about the festival?

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Race Recap 2017

A couple of weeks ago I have the privilege of running in my 6th runDisney Princess half marathon. I ran the Glass Slipper Challenge last year and in 2014, but this year my friend Jen and I decided to save some money (and some sleep!) and just run the half marathon. (Pssst. There is a video at the end of the post so hang tight to watch a recap from my Instagram Stories!)

Every year we dress up, and this year was a bit crazy for both of us and we didn’t have time to create elaborate matching costumes like we have done in the past. However, we still dressed up and per usual kept our costumes a secret until the night before the race. We went to bed early, and my 2:45 am alarm came way too soon.

We got dressed, put on our traditional fake eyelashes like we do every year (you would THINK we would be better at this by now!) and headed to the bus.

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(Coming soon: A tutorial on how I created my costume, the easy/I’m terrible at sewing kind of tutorial!)

We got to the bus stop in front of the Yacht Club, and were the last people loaded before we left. What was interesting was we were on a park bus, not a regular greyhound which was a first for me with runDisney. There was a lot of traffic, but we made it to EPCOT by about 4:15 and walked to the family reunion area where we met up with a friend before checking Jen’s bag. It was chillier than I expected, and I was thankful for my throw away sweatshirt I remembered to bring.

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We had never gotten to the corrals this early before, and they were pretty empty! runDisney got smart and put a row of port-o-potties close to the front corrals so we were able to go to the bathroom with no line and then jump in D corral. Karen was also in our corral, so she hung out with us and started the race with us, too. Our plan was to just have fun and take walk breaks. I was super undertrained and this was just a “for fun” race.

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The race started a few minutes late because the traffic was so bad, but finally we made it up to the start line with the rest of our corral.

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After a quick hi to Rudy and Carissa, we were off on our 13.1 mile journey!

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The first couple of miles are always so uneventful. It’s dark, there is nothing to look at, and you start thinking about all the miles ahead! Thankfully we just all chatted together until around mile 2 when Karen decided to stop for a character photo that we decided to skip (lines were already so long! I can’t imagine how bad they were for the corrals behind us.) We made it to the Magic Kingdom gates and I was excited we were getting closer to the more exciting parts of the course.

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After a quick stop at the med tent for body glide, we were on our way towards the TTC. I have to admit, I was a little bummed at the low crows at this spot. Traditionally this is my second favorite spot in the race because of all the energy from wall to wall people screaming and cheering, but this year there was hardly anyone and it made me sad. Did anyone else notice this? It wasn’t very cold outside so I’m not sure what the deal was. We passed my favorite drummers and kept going towards the big hill.

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When we made the turn to get to the Magic Kingdom, we thought it was odd that the 5 mile marker wasn’t in it’s usual place. (The things you notice when you have run this course over a dozen times!) We would later find out the course through the Magic Kingdom was slightly altered which is why the markers were in a different place.

We made the turn onto Main Street, my favorite part, and again it just didn’t have the same crowd and energy I am used to seeing, but it’s still my favorite part.

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We stopped and found a girl by herself trying to take a photo and we took turns getting pics for each other. I love runners!

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Next stop was the bathroom in Tomorrowland. We used to stop at the ones at the TTC, but a couple years ago they started locking those for us for some reason, which means even more princesses waiting in line in Tomorrowland. We had a several minute delay, and then were on our way again.

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We made it out of the Magic Kingdom (sad times) and made another bathroom stop at the next water station (too much coffee!) We arrived at the long stretch of single lane road, and Jen and I can’t figure out why its always so COLD on this part of the course! Any ideas? Before long we were at mile seven by the Grand Floridian. I took a picture with Snow White, since the line for her in the Magic Kingdom was dozens of people long. This is as close as I was going to get.

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The next few miles were uneventful again, just running out on the road. We saw the race going the other way towards the Magic Kingdom around mile 2.5 I guess, and I saw the balloon ladies! I yelled for the princesses to run faster! We grabbed a CLIF shot at the free station around mile nine, and took a walk break to eat those (I am not coordinated enough to run and eat at the same time). Next we were making the turn on the loop of death at mile 10 (it KILLS my IT bands) and had a 5k to go. At this point we had gotten to the length of my longest and one and only really long run from this training cycle of 10 miles, and I was getting tight even though we weren’t running fast at all. My right thigh/quad up near my hip flexor started to hurt, but we only had a couple miles to go so I just pushed through.

Soon we hit mile 11, and looped around and up the overpass and down into EPCOT and mile 12. A photographer caught me doing an Insta story on my phone. Oops. But seriously, if this doesn’t sum up my life I don’t know what does.

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We looped around the small part of the course that goes through the park, and then I could hear the gospel choir singing! Miles 13 came and went, and we were in the home stretch of the finish line.

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Can I just say that I love getting race pictures free as an annual passholder?!?

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We made it! After crossing the finish line in 2:32, we had to get pixie dusted of course.

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We got our medals, and headed over to the Media/VIP tent for some much deserved food and of course, mimosas.

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Now I was able to do my favorite thing, cheer other runners on as they came through the finish. I LOVE seeing runners tearing up, holding hands with loved ones, and just getting to experience the looks on their faces as they are mere steps from the finish line. There is just nothing like it, and it makes me so happy.

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Mimosas make me happy, too.

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So does this guy. Always takes time to talk to runners and makes us all feel so special. Jeff Galloway is the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carissa came into the tent for some food and we were able to say hello for a minute and grab a picture.

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We hung out and ate some more, met with a couple of people, and then headed back to the resort. I am so thankful to have a friend like Jen who gifted me with the opportunity to run in another Princess half marathon. I also love our little tradition of running the Princess half!

If you want to see a video I took during the race as a recap, and also see what Jen and I did for the rest of the day after the race, be sure to check out the video below. Please note this video is my Instagram story from the day, and apparently it doesn’t like when you have still shots mixed in with your videos, so there are about 5 times during the video where you will see it “Freeze up” for a couple of seconds. These are the places where I had still shots that won’t come up, so just ignore it, it will keep playing!

 

For more race recaps and general runDisney information, photos, and posts, check out my runDisney page!

Tampa Tuesdays: SeaWorld with a Toddler

*As I mentioned before, my Tampa Tuesday blog posts won’t include just Tampa, but others places nearby/in Florida, so please don’t be confused and think SeaWorld is now in Tampa, it’s definitely still in Orlando.

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1.) Bring your own stroller: While SeaWorld Orlando does have stroller rentals, they are of the plastic variety. While this works just find for a little bit older kids, if you have a toddler that will nap in a stroller, plan to bring your own for more comfort. We tied a bright ribbon around the handle of our stroller so it was easy to find when exiting shows.

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2.) Save the Shamu Happy Harbor playground for the afternoon: There is a huge, fun play area just for kids at the back of the park called Shamu Happy Harbour. I knew I wanted Emma Kate to experience this, but I also knew if we did it first thing, I would NEVER get her out of there! This is a large area that was never very crowded when we were there, so I suggest doing some things first that may have long lines early in the day, then head over to the kids area right before or right after nap (we went after). Keep in mind they DO have a splash pad area which is great for hot summer days, but bring extra clothes if you want your child to be able to play in the water.

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3.) There are “sleeping baby” areas at the shows, use them!: I LOVED this idea and we ended up using it ourselves! When you walk to the top of the stadium up the path at most of the shows, you then get to a walkway that goes across the whole top row that overlooks all the seating. If you have a sleeping baby/toddler you don’t want to take out of your stroller, you can wheel them right up to the stadium and park them behind the back row and stand to watch the show while your child sleeps. Emma Kate fell asleep in her stroller at one point and we didn’t want to miss the last sea lion show of the day, so we used the sleeping baby area and it worked beautifully. It also made it easy for us to be the first ones out after the show was over and avoid the crowds of people exiting the theater.

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4.) Make a plan around show times, but space them out: Each show only happens a certain number of times a day, so pick the ones you want to see, and rank them in order of most important to least important. Keeping in mind as the day goes on your toddler will get more cranky and restless, you may end of having to skip one of two shows, and you don’t want it to be your favorite one! Also, try not to go straight from one show to another without giving your toddler a chance to run around and get out the wiggles. We tried to avoid the stroller when we knew she needed to get some energy out and it worked well for us.

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5.) Split up if necessary: Remember that sometimes it’s ok for the whole family to not stick together. Some space can even be good on a hot day. Bobby wanted to ride one of the roller coasters, so Emma Kate and I went for a walk to find some food while Bobby went on the ride. He later went on it again when Emma Kate was napping and I took the opportunity to sit down, check my phone, and do some people watching. Be sure to pick a spot to meet up afterwards though so no one gets lost!

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Disclosure: I was given two free one day tickets to visit SeaWorld, however all opinions are mine.

Unpacking in Tampa

Hello from Tampa! We finally have internet and my laptop is up and running. I may be surrounded by boxes, but I have a Christmas candle burning, music playing, and my tree is up. However, it has been quite the experience to get to this point. Let me backtrack.

Me, Bobby and Emma Kate left my parent’s house in Louisiana on Sunday and drove to Tallahassee. Then Monday we drove to Tampa and it was warm enough to swim at the hotel pool!

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We battled several issues back and forth with our lender and the title company all day Monday, and weren’t sure we were going to be able to close on Tuesday. Tuesday morning came and after more back and forth, we FINALLY got the final numbers literally fifteen minutes before closing. We were able to do the walk through and get to closing, but we had to hurry because the movers were set to come at 1:00 (closing was 11:30).hO8QiqcuZBC3zm3EWY5562phR9lOZRrSEcbQ2hOpEr0pX92IBO6s2USUwoHpCAxxuZIAzaQBtnhdUkEcHBkrSoXvbrkUpX92IB

We get to the closing and the lenders had sent over the wrong packet for signing!!! So they had to send over the right one and reprint everything. If you have ever bought a home you know how much paperwork this is. Finally after 12:30 we started signing. As we are signing, the electricity goes out. Yall, I can’t make this stuff up! We finally got into the house and the poor movers were here until after 7:00.

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I have never seen so much packing paper in all my life. They pack stuff up super tight and well, but I felt it was a bit excessive and did feel guilty/wasteful.P_3IkSM_TnE4rMP1RDMeup3ptk2pLy2GQ62WowzoJWEpX92IB

Things are slowly coming together, but there are still boxes everywhere. We haven’t even touched the stacks in the garage and I have been wearing the same three outfits and and over for days. TWWIEejvrU4y-v1T2U_joQUqrEiFR2-PfPW09X6zN1opX92IB4pJ80TMBUvsZ-jG1w5L-gps5id0npgBY91p6D76k4CMpX92IB

However, Emma Kate LOVES the packing paper. I’m thinking I should just save some to give to her for Christmas instead of spending money on toys!IHb7dKfaWDG2vYYpew1j5Aclz-H0AsILu89f2njxzuMpX92IB

This girl is already loving her new daycare, too! She goes three days a week and did awesome on her first day.VHj93u5FE3m2UO80SFPYP25_fgKKHWVjWGy8V3s_sWgpX92IB

I was sure to get our patio set up first thing, and we love our view!xP3NS9by3RTQ7rMmXs_wH9wU61-9_wNse5NBxxldjckpX92IB

More to come, I still have to do a gift guide and recap the rest of our Disney trip. It’s all coming up I promise!

QOTD: When you have moved, did you pack yourself or have movers pack you? What was your best strategy for unpacking?

Refresh Summit

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some pictures from this past weekend when I went to Refresh Summit South in Tennessee. Last year I had the privilege of being a speaker, and this year I was a last minute attendee!

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Refresh Summit is a Christ centered fitness retreat. A great time of learning, sharing, and sweating with other ladies! After the crazy summer I have had and with preparing to move, it was great to get away and be still as I get ready for a huge life change. We filled the weekend with worship,

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food,

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conversation,

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workouts,

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group fitness,

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country glow zumba,

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and a bonfire with s’mores

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It went by super fast, but was just what my soul needed in this season. I took a long hike by myself on Saturday afternoon, and it was great to just drown out the noise, no social media, no texts, etc. and just walk, pray, and listen. Sometimes I think we are so busy doing all the talking and praying that we forget to just BE STILL and listen. (At least I do!)

I am so glad I got to go back to Refresh and see old friends, and also make new ones!

QOTD: Have you ever been to a retreat or conference? What is your favorite part?