5 Reasons to Stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid media trip with Walt Disney World. All opinions are my own.

When you stay on Disney property, you have so many choices on where to rest your head at night. That’s one thing I love about Disney—there is something for everyone. There is also something for every price range, which makes my heart happy because as if having a child wasn’t expensive enough, now I have to take her to Disney? HA! I’m getting off track. I had the privilege of touring Disney’s Art of Animation resort a few weeks ago on a press trip, and I kept saying to myself over and over “Emma Kate (my two year old) would LOVE this!” That being said, I wanted to give you five reasons to stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort with your family on your next vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.) Price: Art of Animation is considered a value resort by Disney categories, but it is what is called a “value plus” resort as it seems a bit of a step up from the other values in several ways (some which are bullet points in this post!) The grounds are spacious and beautiful with great Disney detail I have come to know and love, there are interior hallways, a great gift shop, food court, and more.

You can stay in a “family suite” (I know, the word suite makes me think of thousands of dollars a night!) for a decent price for a larger family. You still get all the perks of staying onsite like access to the Disney bus system, free magic bands, and access to daily extra magic hours, but for a fraction of the cost of some of the deluxe resorts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Space options: Family suites were designed with larger families in mind that can’t fit in a regular value resort room (which sleeps 4). These babies sleep six, and there are three themes: Cars, Finding Nemo, and the Lion King. I’m fairly certain my two year old would flip out over any of these themes! There is a bedroom/bath combo with a queen bed, as well as a living room with fold out sofa bed, a table that turns into a bed, a kitchenette, and a second bathroom (HUGE plus!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.) Great food court: If I’m being honest, the food courts at the other value resorts don’t thrill me. However the food court at Art of Animation (called Landscape of Flavors), has taken things up a notch with delicious options like gelato, create your own pasta bowl, and many others. Not to mention it’s really beautiful inside!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.) Great pools: At value resorts, pools are pretty basic, but not here! Not only are there multiple ones to choose from, but the Finding Nemo pool has a splash pad area, and you can even hear music underwater! Be sure to stop by the bar, adorably named the drop off, for your favorite adult beverage to sip poolside, or grab a first come first serve cabana at the Cozy Cone Cars themed pool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.) Life Size characters: Every little kid (ok and big kid, too) loves life sized Disney characters. Thankfully, there is no shortage of them at Art of Animation! Each themed area is scattered with your favorites like Mufasa, Tow Mater, and Prince Eric. (PS: there are standard sized resort rooms in the Little Mermaid section if you don’t want to stay in a family suite).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No matter your reason for staying, there is a lot to do and see at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Be sure to take a look at the options there on your next Disney vacation!

QOTD: Have you stayed at Art of Animation? What is your favorite Disney resort?

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas

Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid trip to Walt Disney World for a media event. However, all opinions are my own.

If you read my recent post about all of the amazing and fun things to do on Disney’s Boardwalk, then you may be thinking “gosh, it would be really nice to stay here and be right in the middle of the action!” Well, you would be absolutely right…it IS really nice! Being able to experience all the Boardwalk has to offer, and then simply walk back to your room at night. No buses, no driving—Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas is perfect if you ask me.

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I wanted to tell you a little bit about this resort because sometimes people get confused when it comes to places with “regular” rooms and villas.

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1.) You do NOT have to be a Disney vacation club owner to stay in a villa.

2.) The “Inn” is the portion on the right side when you walk in the lobby, and the villas are on the left side. Check in for both is at the same place.

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3.) A deluxe studio is very similar to a regular hotel room, except instead of two queen beds, there is one queen bed and a sofa sleeper. There is also the addition of a kitchenette. While both rooms have a refrigerator, only the villa side has a microwave. Photo below is of a deluxe studio.

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4.) If you are staying at the Inn or in the villas, you still have access to all the pools at the Boardwalk. The feature pool/Luna park is on the villa side, but Inn guests simply walk over and can join in the water fun.

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For our stay, we had the opportunity to try out the one bedroom villas, which I had never stayed in before. The master had a king sized bed which felt like sleeping on a cloud.

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The TV’s in the villas were huge (55”), and there was a lot of natural light in the master, as well as plenty of space for storage in the closet in the bathroom.

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We were on the first floor, and had a beautiful view of the water and lush landscaping that Disney does so well. Our balcony had doors in the living room, and off the master suite.

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Speaking of the master, the bathroom was huge! The vanity had plenty of space to spread out, as well as cabinets and drawers for your things.

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I loved how you could open the room up above the large jetted tub.

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The bathroom was kind of “two in one” if you will. There was another door leading to a second sink, as well as the shower and toilet. This way, guests sleeping on the sofa sleeper could use the bathroom at night without having to go into the master bedroom. Genius! (I explain this more in the video at the end if you don’t quite know what I mean).

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The kitchen was small but cute. I loved the wood floors and the bask splash. It still felt vintage but with a modern twist. Our kitchen was fully stocked with dishes, gadgets, a stove, oven, refrigerator, and dishwasher. It was so nice knowing we didn’t have to bring any of these things with us!

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The kitchen was open into the living room where there was a table, and also a dainty little bar with two chairs. See the white door to the left in the below picture? The stacked washer and dryer were tucked away in this space.DSC_0077

One thing I would have changed is that I felt it was kind of dark over in the far corner by the TV. Maybe the addition of a standing lamp behind the chair in the corner would have made it easier to see at night.

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The mirrors behind the table made the room look huge!

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Check out the adorable print above the sofa. I loved the Disney touches throughout this space.

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There was plenty of seating for a larger family wanting to spread out, but also be together for family time in one location.

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I was in love with this light!

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I really enjoyed the updated villas, and hope to bring my family back to stay in them sometime. The proximity to the “action” was amazing. You can walk to and from Hollywood Studios AND Epcot, or take a boat. Not only do you have access to the amenities at the resort, but you can walk across to the Beach and Yacht club to dine at any of their restaurants. So much to choose from!

On top of these amazing reasons for staying at the Boardwalk Inn and Villas, you can experience extra magic hours. That’s right, guests of any WDW resort get to enter a park one hour early or stay up to three hours later than everyone else each day (check disneyworld.com for park hours info). This added time while the park is less crowded really helps to get in those extra attractions during the day. Also, don’t forget that if you are staying on property, you have access to free Disney transportation during your stay, free parking, and a free airport shuttle called Disney’s Magical Express.

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I love all the extra perks for staying on Disney property, it’s so much more fun to actually stay inside the magic for your whole trip, not just while you are at the parks during the day. The cast members go above and beyond to make you feel special, and you will forever be spoiled! I hope you will consider staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas for your next stay, so you never have to leave the magic, or step foot off Disney property.

Please enjoy this vide tour I took of our one bedroom villa:

 

QOTD: Have you stayed at the Boardwalk? Favorite thing about it?

Pandora: World of Avatar Overview

Disclosure: I attend an all expenses paid media trip to Walt Disney World and part of that trip was a sneak peek tour of Pandora. All opinions are my own.

When I first saw the itinerary for the media event I was going to be attending with Walt Disney World, I may have squealed a little when I saw we were to be spending time in Pandora before it was open to the public. A new space? With hardly any people in it? Heck yes!

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Something to keep in mind as your tour this area, is that it is supposed to take place many years after the movie, and now humans are allowed to come to Pandora. Look carefully for nods to the movie, it’s fun to pick things out!

Our tour was on a Monday morning, and we were running a little late so we were ushered straight to the Flights of Passage Ride.

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But not before getting a couple of quick photos as we crossed the bridge and went into the World of Pandora. This guy behind me was really fun. If you touched him in the spot right above my head, he started to steam and make noise. So interactive and fun!

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I didn’t have a ton of time to stop and explore the que since the ride was only going to be available for a few more minutes, but all I can say is details, details, details! There is just SO much to see!

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Flights of passage is awesome in a word. I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect, and it far exceeded my expectations. We went into a series of rooms where we were given instructions and backstory via cast members and video screen, and one part was interactive and fun!

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You are given a number to stand on, and it lines up with the banshee you will be riding in the last room. There is a space to store purses, backpacks, etc. and then you get on the ride. A back restraint and leg restraints come up, and then the four and a half minute journey begins. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is breathtaking, vivid, and intense all at the same time. Please note if you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to be careful with this one. I had to shut my eyes a couple of times for a brief moment as to not get sick, but then I was ok. Totally worth it by the way.

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After Flights of Passage we rode the Na’vi River Journey, which is fun for the whole family. It’s a leisurely boat ride down the “river”, and there are beautiful things to look at on all sides. I will say after going right off of Flights of Passage this ride was way less thrilling, but I’m glad Disney decided to put in something mild that little kids and those that don’t like intense rides can enjoy.

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The Shaman at the end was very impressive, but the rest of the ride didn’t wow me.

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Before getting off the boat at the end of the River Journey.

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After you ride this ride, you are let out into the gift shop called Windtraders. Something I noticed right away was that there are no signs of Mickey Mouse anywhere. This shop is totally Pandora themed, with no sign of autograph books or Donald Duck hats anywhere, which I loved. You could bead a necklace, buy some Avatar ears, or even adopt a Banshee which is a super cute process you go through at the store.

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I showed lots of restraint and didn’t buy anything at the store, but I loved this floating mountains mug. anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for Disney mugs.

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Outside of the store, I did more looking/staring in awe at the gorgeous landscaping and floating mountains. I just couldn’t get enough!

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I wandered over to the counter service location which has a nice covered outdoor seating area. The menu looks really good and I’m dying to get back and try it.

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Right outside of the gift shop and next to the counter service location you will find a cute little stand called Pongu Pongu where you can order drinks or a snack. It was a little too early for alcohol, but the Night Blossom (non alcoholic) looked pretty and I just had to try it.

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The drink comes with passion fruit bobas on top, but I asked for half and half with strawberry so I could try them out as well.

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Verdict on the drink: it was very refreshing, but also really sweet and tart. I couldn’t finish mine, but can definitely see the advantage of having one on a hot Florida day. Plus, who am I kidding, bobas are fun to eat.

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There is an overlook area that is higher than the rest of Pandora, and you can get some great panoramic shots. (Be sure to look for the photopass photographers in this area) Also, watch out for “things” that may spit water on you in this area!

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I did my best to just try and soak everything in, because I knew I would never see Pandora this empty again. I was there for over an hour and a half, and I know I still didn’t see everything there is to see!

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Oh, another cool thing, be sure to talk with some cast members. They stay in character and will tell you about how they came to Pandora form earth. Be sure to check out their name tags, too. Seriously, Disney thought of everything.

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I really enjoyed my brief time in this new land, and can’t wait to go back with my family when it’s open to the public. Even if the movie wasn’t your thing and you don’t like rides, it’s totally worth it to take a walk through this area and see the amazing things Disney created for it’s guests. No detail was spared, and they really have upped their game as far as creating a truly immersive experience as a part of your vacation. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

QOTD: Thoughts on Pandora? Do you plan to visit?

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?

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.