Sunday, June 26, 2011

Magical Moments - PhotoPass

Kids - Check; Backpack - Check; Tickets - Check; Mickey Ears - Check; OK, I think I have everything I need to enjoy a day in the parks. Oh no, the camera! How am I going to capture all those memories? Well, our good friend Greg Harrison suggested, via our Facebook page, that you take advantage of the Disney PhotoPass and let the experts snap the shots for you.

I can hear it now, you are standing on Main Street USA and the barbershop quartet is singing "Smile, hug, look at the camera, hold your breath and say cheese. Little did we realize back then, we were making memories..." Cinderella Castle is over your shoulder and your family or friends huddle together for this picturesque moment. A guy dressed in a white driving hat (also called an ivy hat) and knickers stands in front of you with a camera and snaps the shutter. The best part is that no one was left out of the picture due to being chosen to take the shot. The photographer then hands you a card. That card is the secret to which Greg was referring.

(Photo Courtesy of Greg Harrison)

The Disney PhotoPass is the only system of its kind. It allows Disney photographers to capture memories digitally and gives you the ability to claim them anytime, including on-line for up to 30 days. Each time you stand in line to meet a Disney character, like Lightning McQueen and Mater in Hollywood Studios, present your card to the photographer. They will scan the card, snap the shot and your pictures will be stored in your on-line account so you can view and purchase them later. If you are like us, we usually end up with multiple cards, which is OK as Disney allows multiple cards. You may also want to write down the 16-digit number, or take a snapshot of it with your own camera in case you lose your card.

(PhotoPass Photographer @ EPCOT Entrance)

Capturing the moment is great, but ask the photographer about special photos. You may be asked to pose in a specific way, only to find that a character has been digitally added later to interact with your pose.

The new "The Magic, The Memories and You" show for 2011 projects photos onto the castle for a spectacular show. The projected photos come from the PhotoPass photographers each day. Check out the link here to see the show.

The Disney Water Parks give you special wrist cards, and special events such as Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party give unique cards tied to the event; which may also be good for a discount on photos.

Want a private, 30-minute, one-on-one session? These can also be scheduled with a PhotoPass photographer. Call (407) 934-4004.

Want to upload your own photos to the system in order to take advantage of the features? Go ahead! You can even upload from your Facebook account. Edit photos, add borders, add characters and effects, it's all a part of this fantastic system. Once you are satisfied with the result, you can order prints, photobooks, t-shirts, mugs and more.

To view or purchase PhotoPass photos once you return home, go to:

Do you use the PhotoPass system? What was your favorite photo? Did you interact with characters that were digitally added? Have any tips for using the PhotoPass system? Let us hear about it in the comments section below.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dining - The Kitchen Sink

How cool is it to be introduced to possibly the best cool treat ever created, by your pastor? Well, that is actually what happened to me a few years back as Scott Reynolds, Pastor at North River Church in Tuscaloosa, AL took my family, along with his, to Beaches and Cream.
Beaches and Cream is located in the Yacht & Beach Club resort. Overlooking the pool, this soda shop is absolutely amazing. To be honest, I had a difficult time deciding whether or not this location should be posted as Dining or a Magical Moment. The truth is - it is both! Beaches and Cream is definitely a dining delight. However, the concoctions are nothing less than Magical Moments. No other sweet treat encapsulates this as much as the masterpiece called "The Famous Kitchen Sink". With a total of 10 people gathered around 2 booths, we ordered two Famous Kitchen Sinks. With a cost of $24 each, I can tell you now it not only was worth the cost, but we repeat the tradition on every subsequent trip.

As we sat, waiting impatiently, we noticed that lights and sirens began to swirl. A waiter then announced to the entire dining area "Pardon me ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, you have seen it on the menu; it's the World Famous Kitchen Sink. It has 8 scoops of ice cream, all the toppings in the house and a whole can of whipped cream." At that moment, the only thing larger than the bowl (shaped like a kitchen sink) were my eyes, and my kids' eyes. It was love at first bite!Since that day, our family has loved introducing others to the Famous Kitchen Sink. We delight at watching their eyes as this massive treat makes its grand entrance; though we also delight in helping to finish one. If you are visiting Disney with family or friends, I highly recommend that you stop by Beaches and Cream and share this delicious memory. I also challenge you to finish it - we never have. Just remember to take plenty of photos, this will be a memory you want to hold on to.

Beaches and Cream is open from 11am-11pm and does accept the Disney Dining Plan as well as Tables in Wonderland. But, if you cannot wait to try the Famous Kitchen Sink, then feel free to attempt it at home. Take a look here!


Hot Fudge Sauce

Butterscotch Sauce

Peanut Butter Sauce (unless you have allergies)

2 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream

2 scoops Chocolate Ice Cream

2 scoops Strawberry Ice Cream

2 scoops Ice Cream of Choice

Pineapple Topping

Strawberry Topping

1 Whole, Sliced Banana

Chunks of Bundt Cake

1 Whole Can Whipped Cream

1 Brownie, cut in triangles

Angel Food Cake

1 sliced Candy Bar

4 Oreo Cookies

Special Topping Mix (with Nuts & Sprinkles)

Maraschino Cherries

Real Chocolate Syrup

Marshmallow Topping

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Attractions - The Art of "Plussing"

The movie is never as good as the book, the sequel is never as good as the original, I think you get where I am going here. But, is it always true? For some Disney fans, the answer is a resounding "Yes!".

Disney has a rich tradition of what they term "plussing". Plussing is the act of taking an idea and making it better. Coupled with their extreme level of detail, plussing is a major part of the formula that makes Disney magic. It is what pushes Disney to take everything they do to the next level. However, does that mean they always get it right? We have taken a look back at several Walt Disney World attractions that were "plussed" over time to determine if "plussing" is always a positive; and will introduce them in a series of posts.
The Enchanted Tiki Room: "Welcome to our tropical hideaway, you lucky people you..." Yes, this fan favorite ranks among the most controversial due to the "plussing" that has occurred. When it opened at Disneyland in 1963, it was the first attraction to feature audio-animatronics. It was Walt's original intention to create a dinner show featuring the singing birds.

The attraction opened with Walt Disney World in 1971. In 1997, the attraction reopened as the Enchanted Tiki Room, "Under New Management". The addition of Iago (Aladdin) and Zazu (Lion King) had many hard core Disney fans screaming fowl (OK, bad pun). Nevertheless, for many, the new management took away some of the Tiki Room's enchantment. Even the pre-show, featuring the voice of the late Phil Hartman wasn't as popular. Most would say this "plussing" of an attraction was more of a "subtracting".

Alas, there is hope for those die-hard fans! In January 2011 a small fire broke out in the attic of the attraction, severely damaging Iago (that's what he gets for messing with the Tiki gods). Disney has taken the opportunity to refurbish the show and return it to the original attraction. This is scheduled to re-open in August 2011.

To watch a video of the Enchanted Tiki Room, Under New Management, click the following link:

Let us know what you think. Are the attraction changes always positive? Add your comments below!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Magical Moments - Mouse-Money & Disney Transportation

It never fails! At some point during a conversation about Disney vacations, I always hear how expensive everything is. Though spending a week at Disney, purchasing accommodations, meals, and park admission may add up rather quickly, Disney vacations can be affordable; if you simply know what is available and how to take advantage of it all. Over time, we will address many of these inexpensive "goodies" available to us all. However, today I want to discuss an often overlooked feature that, if used correctly, can save time, hassle and money.

There are numerous benefits to staying on Disney property, but one in particular provides a great savings - the Disney Transportation System. The Disney Transportation System includes the Disney Monorail, ferry boats, steam boats and buses. Though each of these are available to resort guests, Annual Pass holders, and Park Hopper ticket holders, I want to focus on the not-so old-fashioned buses.

Depending on how you arrive in Orlando, the savings from using the buses begins almost immediately. Though Orlando is a "reasonable" driving distance for many along the east coast and in the deep south, other guests may be forced to fly into Orlando. In that case, many then proceed to rent a car to help them "get around". For the sake of discussion, let's say that you plan to stay for 5 days. Using the current average rate for a mid-size rental, this would cost around $230. Even a taxi ride would average $65 for the 33 mile trip from the airport to Walt Disney World. That would total $130 for a round trip. If you are staying at a Disney Resort, this is a wasted expense!

Disney's Magical Express is a complimentary transportation service from the airport to your resort. This service allows you to check your bags prior to boarding the plane and have them taken directly from the Orlando airport to your resort. And, since you are a Disney Resort guest, your bags will not only find their way to the resort, but once there, will find their way to your room after check-in. This allows you to start enjoying the parks immediately.

This service also allows you to check your bags at your resort for the return flight (for most major airlines). When flying, we often check our bags early in the morning, and return to the parks for one last day of worry-free fun. That is, until we are forced to return to the resort and hop the Magical Express back to the airport.

Traveling from the resort to the parks is when you may encounter the other buses in the Disney Transportation System. These buses will pick you up from one of many designated locations throughout each Disney Resort, and drop you off at the entrance of any Disney Park or Downtown Disney.
It is quite possible to visit the Disney Parks, get around the entire property, including all parks, resorts and Downtown Disney, without spending a single dollar. Due to Disney logistical magic, wait times are minimal, even during the most crowded times. When ready to leave the park and return to your resort, arrive in time for dinner reservations at other resort locations, or visit a different Disney park entirely, simply scan the easy to read board at the bus terminal area to find which line to stand in (it is Disney after all), hop on-board, and off you go.

But wait, there's more! If you would have chosen to rent a car, or even if you were to drive your own car, parking at the Disney Parks will run $14 for cars, $15 for campers, and $18 for buses or tractor trailers. For a 5 day stay, that would be a minimum of $70 for parking alone. I don't know about you, but I usually don't pay $70 for something I can get for free.

So, for this Disney fan, the savings of time, hassle and money translate into one thing - value! This convenience is truly a Magical Moment that maximizes the Disney experience.

Now, let me think about how to spend that hypothetical $300 mentioned above...Disney Dining maybe?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dining - San Angel Inn

I love Mexican Food! In fact, I could eat it two or three times a week, and often do. So, it simply would not do for me to go without a Mexican fix while in the Disney parks. That is why I love San Angel Inn in the EPCOT World Showcase Mexico Pavilion.

Nestled at the base of Mayan ruins, alongside the Rio Del Tiempo, San Angel Inn offers wonderful Mexican cuisine in the romantic, late evening setting of a 17th-century hacienda. Normally, if you have reservations, you will have just enough time after checking in to ride the Rio Del Tiempo attraction before being called to your seat. There is nothing quite like Donald and the Three Caballeros touring Mexico's treasures to get you in the mood to taste some unique Mexican treasures of your own.

The restaurant opens at noon daily and remains open until the end of normal park hours. Entrees range from $12 - $18, while appetizers are in the $10 range. Using the Disney Dining Plan is an option and will cost 1 Table Service Credit. Depending on the plan you have purchased, you will get a Desert and possibly an Appetizer as well. Tables in Wonderland is another payment option for Florida residents and annual pass holders.

Curious about what to order? My personal favorite is Pollo a las Rajas. This grilled chicken dish is served over red peppers, onions, chile poblano, chorizo, and melted cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The dish costs around $17 and is worth every penny. If you are like me, the occasional tour around the World Showcase simply doesn't offer enough opportunity to enjoy such a dish. In that case, you may try your hand in recreating it at home; though sadly, the experience is never the same for me.


4 chicken breast halves

1 cup of chorizo, casing removed and diced

1 large red bell pepper

1 large Spanish onion

1 large poblano chile

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup sour cream

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup half-and-half cream


1. Season the chicken breast halves with garlic, salt, and black pepper. Place the chicken breast halves in a roasting pan (uncovered) and cook in the oven at 350 F for 20 minutes or until cooked.

2. In a sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil, and lightly saute poblano pepper until skin starts separating. Peel skin from poblano pepper. Make a slit and remove all the seeds. Slice onion, bell pepper, and poblano pepper into strips.

3. In a heavy skillet heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, and add chorizo, garlic, onion, and peppers. Cook over medium-high heat stirring occasionally until onions and peppers are soft.

4. Add sour cream, half-and-half, black pepper and salt and simmer for three minutes.

5. On ovenproof serving dishes, place 3/4 cup of vegetable mixture. Top with roasted chicken breast. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese on each serving plate. Broil until cheese melts and turns golden. Serve.

Yields: 4 Servings

Now, if only I had a side of Fried Plantains or Capirotada de Chocolate Blanco to finish it off!

To learn more, visit the San Angel Inn website: