DVC Member Lounge

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The DVC Member Lounge at Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion is a great place to rest and recharge. Featuring complimentary coffee, tea, Coke products (via Coca-Cola Freestyle machines), and munchies (packets of chips, cookies, and candy), we found this to be a fabulous spot to wait out a sudden summer downpour.

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Watching the clouds roll in

The lounge is for DVC members and up to five guests. You check in at the Imagination Pavilion’s gift shop, and must present your DVC card and photo ID. They are open from 10am to 6pm daily. If you aren’t a DVC member and would like to experience this exclusive area, go ahead and make friends with one! *waves hand*

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Disney Must-Do: Frozen After Ever

This photo has nothing to do with the ride. I didn't take any pictures of the ride, or its queue area, and needed something to fill this space. You're welcome.

This photo has nothing to do with the ride. I didn’t take any pictures of the ride, or its queue area, and needed something to fill this space. You’re welcome.

I loved Maelstrom in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. I really, really enjoyed that ride. When it was closed to make way for a Frozen-based ride, I was skeptical, to say the least. But I did have faith in Disney’s Imagineers. And boy, did they ever come through! If you haven’t yet experienced Frozen Ever After, and don’t want any spoilers, I promise not to give anything away. I’ll simply say that I loved this ride every bit as much as Maelstrom (maybe even – gasp! – a bit more). If, like me, you enjoy watching ride videos before experiencing the ride first-hand, let me refer you to Kenny the Pirate. His excellent site has the best Frozen Ever After ride-through video that I’ve seen. Enjoy!

That time we took Olaf on Maelstrom.

That time we took Olaf on Maelstrom.

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

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For years, I’ve been trying to take my family to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom. Though I kept making plans to go to this special, ticketed event, I was thwarted each time. Finally, it worked out. We went to MNSSHP!!!

Ursula, King Triton, Prince/Prince Eric mash-up, "coral," and Sebastian!

Ursula, King Triton, Prince/Prince Eric mash-up, “coral,” and Sebastian!

We loved wearing costumes into the park, sampling the special food and entertainment, going on rides with no wait whatsoever, trick-or-treating in the Magic Kingdom, and picking up a few collectibles. Though we could have entered as early as 4pm using our party tickets, we spent the bulk of the day at Epcot, went back to our room to change into costume, and arrived at the Magic Kingdom just before the party’s official start time of 7pm. We stayed past the official end time of midnight!

Here are a few highlights from our evening at MNSSHP:

This was a PhotoPass "magic shot" at the park entrance. It has an accompanying video. So cool!

This was a PhotoPass “magic shot” at the park entrance. It has an accompanying video. So cool!

It was fun to see the Magic Kingdom decked out for Halloween!

It was fun to see the Magic Kingdom decked out for Halloween!

Candy corn ice cream

Candy corn ice cream

Visiting Ariel in her grotto

Visiting Ariel in her grotto!

Under the Sea!

Under the Sea!

HalloWishes!

HalloWishes!

The parade!

The parade!

Haunted Mansion!

Haunted Mansion!

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular!

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular!

Our special MNSSHP pins!

Our special MNSSHP pins!

A treat bag and a party map

A treat bag and a party map

We loved this event! Have you been to MNSSHP? Did you wear a costume? What was it? Would you go again? Any advice for those who haven’t yet been to this party?

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Beaches & Cream

As many of you already know, my son has celiac disease and cannot eat gluten. Walt Disney World is top-notch at accommodating special dietary needs such as his. I’d heard that Beaches & Cream Soda Shop was just as wonderful with special diets as the rest of WDW, so when my son requested this as his birthday dinner spot of choice, I didn’t hesitate to book it.

This was taken on Cale's actual 16th birthday!

This was Cale’s actual 16th birthday!

Now, Cale chose Beaches & Cream for his special day specifically because he wanted to try The Kitchen Sink. I had read that it could be modified to be gluten-free, and made sure to ask our server about this before we ordered anything. She assured me that any gluten-filled toppings would be left on the side, and that only gluten-free toppings would actually be in the “sink.” Well, when it arrived, it had all kinds of gluten toppings all over it!

The gluten-laden Kitchen Sink

The gluten-laden Kitchen Sink

A different cast member came over and told us that it cannot be modified to be gluten-free. I asked her to get some safe ice cream and toppings for my celiac son, and she seemed a bit put out by this, but eventually complied. So, he didn’t get to eat his Kitchen Sink on his birthday, but he did have a nice, big bowl of ice cream.

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Once home, I contacted Disney World’s Special Diets department to let them know about our experience. They very promptly replied, assuring me that my concerns have been taken seriously and that they are reviewing their special diets process at Beaches & Cream.

Have you been to Beaches & Cream? How was your experience?

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AbracadaBar!

This cool, cozy new bar at Disney’s BoardWalk is a super fun place to hang out and have a refreshing beverage. The backstory is awesome, and the decor will knock your socks off:

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The menu features a fun little trick, but no food. Drinks only – but they’re very good drinks!

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Magic Hattan and Pepper's Ghost

Magic Hattan and Pepper’s Ghost

The boys sampled the non-alcoholic specialty drinks – the Seashore Sweet and the Magic Mirror. Our server even performed a little magic trick as she presented each of their drinks!

Have you checked out the AbracadaBar? Do you have a favorite specialty drink?

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FuelRod chargers

On our latest trip to Disney World, we decided to try out the FuelRod charging system. We purchased a FuelRod for $30, would take turns using it to charge our phones, and would turn in the “used up” FuelRod for a re-charged one at a FuelRod kiosk.

FuelRod kiosk in Tomorrowland

FuelRod kiosk in Tomorrowland

When we were there, we found kiosks in the Magic Kingdom (at Curtain Call Collectibles, Tomorrowland Light & Power Co., Big Top Souvenirs, and Pecos Bill’s), in Epcot at Disney Traders, in Animal Kingdom at Island Mercantile, and in Hollywood Studios at the Celebrity 5 & 10. I’ve heard they also have FuelRod kiosks at Disney Springs, and some at the Wide World of Sports Complex. I recently read that the number of FuelRod kiosks in the Magic Kingdom has doubled, and that more kiosks are being added to the other theme parks and Disney Springs.

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This system worked pretty well for us, though the charger drained faster than we expected (less than two hours). If you’d like to learn more about FuelRods, here’s a link to their site. I’ve read that you can purchase a FuelRod before going to Disney World, and still use the kiosks there to exchange them.

Have you tried this charging system? How did it work for you?

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We love Bay Lake Tower!

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Having joined the Disney Vacation Club last year, Bay Lake Tower (adjacent to the Contemporary Resort) is now our “home resort.” This was our first stay at “BLT,” and we loved it! I highly recommend this resort for big families. The 1-bedroom villa was absolutely perfect for our family of five. And with walking access to the Magic Kingdom and monorail service to Epcot, the location can’t be beat! Here’s a quick photo tour of our villa:

We could see the monorail from our balcony!

We could see the monorail from our balcony!

Our room (7220) is considered "standard view," but we could see the Magic Kingdom!

Our room (7220) is considered “standard view,” but we could see the Magic Kingdom!

The living room of our 1-bedroom villa.

The living room of our 1-bedroom villa.

The kitchen area. Weston is checking out the oven!

The kitchen area. Weston is checking out the oven!

The boys had their own bathroom!

The boys had their own bathroom!

The master bedroom, complete with happy husband!

The master bedroom, complete with happy husband!

More of the master bedroom.

More of the master bedroom.

Master bath: vanity area.

Master bath: vanity area.

Master bath: nice tub.

Master bath: nice tub.

Master bath: luxurious shower.

Master bath: luxurious shower.

The living room had a pull-out couch and a pull-out chair. Since the boys are too wild in their sleep to share beds, we brought along an air mattress. The living room was so spacious, there was plenty of floor space, even with an air mattress in the room. It was also nice to have the booth/table area. The boys had a meal or two there. It was spacious and comfortable. Which, come to think of it, applies to the whole villa!

Now, if we thought the daytime view was great, the nighttime view of the fireworks was even better! One night, we sat on our balcony and sipped champagne while watching the Wishes fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. It was truly magical.

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Have you stayed at Bay Lake Tower? Though it’s a Disney Vacation Club property, if you’re not a DVC member, you can still book it either directly through Disney, or you can “rent” DVC points from a member. If you have any questions about BLT, just let me know!

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Tiffins and the Nomad Lounge

We’re just back from our latest trip to Walt Disney World, and I have so many things to share with you! Let’s start with one of my new favorites: Tiffins!

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This new restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom was at the top of my must-do list for our recent vacation, and it did not disappoint! We were a bit early for our reservation, so we relaxed in the Nomad Lounge while waiting for our table. We all had delicious pre-dinner drinks. Even the boys had special non-alcoholic mock-tails!

One of the boys' mock-tails (back), a Night Monkey, and Hightower Rocks (front).

One of the mock-tails (back), a Night Monkey, and Hightower Rocks (front).

Once our table was ready, we were led into one of the gorgeous dining rooms. All three of the dining rooms are loaded with beautiful, unique works of art. Here’s one example:

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And here’s my favorite detail from our dining room:

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Even the look of the menu was unique:

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As for the food… we all agreed that this just may have been our favorite meal on Disney World property. Ever. I didn’t get a chance to take many food pictures, as it disappeared quickly, but here’s my entree:

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Pan-seared duck breast.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be visiting Tiffins again! Have you been to Tiffins or the Nomad Lounge? What did you think?

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Happy summer!

Rapunzel sun

I’ll be busy with my boys for the next few months, so I won’t be around here much. Wishing you a beautiful, magical summer with your loved ones!

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Rooms for Five (2016 update)

*This is an update to my May 2014 post.*

For the past few years, it seems that Disney World has been coming up with more options for families of five. Let’s check out the current selection.

The Values:

  •  All-Star Music family suites: Before we became DVC members, this was my favorite WDW hotel, specifically because it worked so well for our family. If you have three kids, and they don’t like to share beds, this option is perfect. However, if you can get them to share, the suite does sleep up to six. You have a master bedroom, a living room (with a pull-out couch, pull-out chair, and pull-out ottoman), a small kitchen, and two bathrooms. See my review here.
The living room in an All-Star Music family suite.

The living room in an All-Star Music family suite.

  • Art of Animation family suites: I’ve yet to stay here, but have done a walk-about of this beautiful property. These suites sleep up to six, with a master bedroom, living room with a pull-out couch, dining area with a convertible bed/table (kind of like a Murphy bed), small kitchenette, and two bathrooms.
Lion King dining room - the table converts to a bed!

Lion King dining room – the table converts to a bed! (photo courtesy of Paul D. Smith)

The Moderates:

  • Port Orleans Riverside, Alligator Bayou section: These rooms sleep up to five people (if one of them is small) in two queen beds and a bench that turns into a Murphy-type bed. The Murphy bed is rather small, about 65″ long, but my son slept on it comfortably up to age 12. You can find my review of Riverside here.
The Murphy bed in a Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou room.

The Murphy bed in a Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou room.

  • Caribbean Beach: Similar to Riverside, here you can find rooms that have two queen beds and a small Murphy bed (about 64″ long).
  • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness: The cabins sleep up to six, with a double Murphy bed in the living room, plus a double bed and a set of bunk beds in the bedroom. There is only one bathroom, as compared to two bathrooms in the family suites at the Value level, but you get a full (though small) kitchen area. I haven’t stayed in the cabins since the 1980s, and they’ve changed quite a bit. My brother and his family stayed there in 2013. You can find his review here.

The Deluxes:

  • Deluxe Resorts: Rooms featuring two queen beds plus a day bed (and thus sleeping up to five) can be found in: the Contemporary, the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian, the Boardwalk Inn, the Beach Club, and Yacht Club. Of these hotels, I have stayed at the Beach Club, the Contemporary, and the Polynesian. They’re all, as expected, quite lovely. At Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge, the rooms only sleep up to four, but the Club Level suites have space for bigger groups.
A standard room at the Beach Club.

A standard room at the Beach Club.

  • Deluxe Villas: These are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) properties, but can be rented like any hotel room. They come in studios, one-bedroom villas, two-bedroom villas, and three-bedroom grand villas. At one point, the studios only slept four, though this is changing. The DVC studios at the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and Boardwalk sleep up to five people. However, the fifth person is in a small-ish Murphy bed (around 72″ long). The Beach Club Villas are currently undergoing a refurbishment that adds a Murphy bed to these DVC studios. Beyond studio-sized accommodations, the DVC properties that sleep up to five people in a one-bedroom villa are at the Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House and Kidani Village), Bay Lake Tower (located at the Contemporary), and Old Key West. The DVC properties that only sleep four people in a one-bedroom villa are Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Wilderness Lodge, and Saratoga Springs. I have stayed at Saratoga Springs with a group of seven, and we were quite comfortable in a two-bedroom villa.

Keep in mind that, for more space, you can always book two rooms that sleep up to four, and request that they are connecting. However, I understand that while Disney World does their best to accommodate these “connecting room” requests, they can’t guarantee them.

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