Sunday, September 25, 2011

Magical Moments - Romantic Disney

Just imagine it, Mickey and Minnie holding hands while they watch the fireworks over Cinderella Castle. That's about as romantic as a cartoon mouse can be; right?

Actually, Walt Disney World offers a number of ways to experience the resort as the center of a romantic getaway that rival those found on the Disney Cruise Line. And, because they are Disney related, these experiences offer uniqueness that is, well, magical.

Now, you may be asking "What might those ways be exactly?". So, for those of you who seek to take a romantic journey through Disney, here we go.

Taking into account all that Disney has to offer in Orlando, I decided it would be best to write this post in a form similar to an itinerary. Consider it my gift to those husbands who are tired of being called unromantic, but don't know anything to do about it beyond ordering flowers.

For the sake of planning, let's say this is a three-day weekend. If you are flying in, remember to take the Disney Magical Express from the airport. Sure, you could get a limo, but for a 33 mile trip, that money will be better spent later.

You will then arrive at your Disney Resort. I recommend Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. "What?", you might exclaim aloud, knowing my aversion for zoos and the like; but yes, I recommend this resort. First, the Grand Floridian was the obvious choice, but we aren't going for obvious; we are going for romantic and unique. Second, this is the most secluded resort on property. Third, it has great subdued colors and decorations. The darker, earthy tones set a mood. And, you will be setup for a nice moment later.

Since you have called ahead and spoken with the Disney Dream Makers (407-WDW-GIFT), your wife will find her very own glass slipper as she opens the door to the room. There are actually many things she could find, however, inside every woman desires to be treated like a princess. So, this weekend, your Cinderella will have her own 5" glass slipper sitting on a pillow of carnations and pearls. The best part is that you have become her Prince Charming.

You may spend the day in the Magic Kingdom, so your Cinderella can admire her castle, but don't overdo it. From here, you might leave the park and hop the monorail for the Grand Floridian Spa & Health Club where your Cinderella will be treated to a deep tissue massage. Unfortunately, the spa will be closed until 2013 for refurbishments. So, you'll take the bus (though slightly less romantic than the monorail) to Saratoga Springs Resort, where she will partake in a personalized firm pressure massage as well as a spa manicure and pedicure.

From there, your evening will end atop the Contemporary Resort, where a meal for two at the California Grill will be an almost perfect end to the day. Once your meal of Seared Rare Tuna or Grilled Pork Tenderloin is finished, you will walk out to the balcony where you will catch a special view of the Wishes fireworks spectacular over her castle.

The next morning, you will attend the Around the World at Epcot Segway Tour. You will be a part of a small group, but this is a very unique way to explore the world showcase before it is open to the general public. It makes for nice photos and it is a fun, memorable activity that will last 2 hours. The remainder of the day can be spent enjoying Epcot. Plan to depart the park in time to catch dinner at the Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios. A nice meal would be the Cobb Salad (originating from the Brown Derby) or the Duck Two Ways. Sharing the Double Vanilla Bean Creme Brule would be a nice way to finish the meal.

When you make your reservation, be sure to get the Fantasmic Dining Package. This allows you to take advantage of special seating for this wildly popular fireworks show without requiring you to arrive 3 hours early. After Fantasmic finishes, you will return to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and sit together on the Arusha Viewing Area, rocking and talking into the night.

On your last morning, you will wake and attend the Sunrise Safari Breakfast Adventure at 7 am. Apparently, animals are extra cute or mysteriously exotic shortly after dawn. Either way, it is a memorable way to spend the morning. Spend the remainder of the day enjoying the park and the shows - I highly recommend Nemo - before you depart for home.

Have suggestions on other romantic ways to enjoy the parks, let us hear them. Add suggestions in the comments area below, or send a complete post of your own to

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Disney Dining - Victoria and Alberts

The best dining experience that I have ever had in my life was at WDW, I am talking about Victoria and Albert's located at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. If you are looking for a place to celebrate a very special occasion this would be my recommendation. V&A's featured the best food, atmosphere, and service of any restaurant that I have been to, in fact V&A's is the only AAA Five Diamond Award winning restaurant in Central Florida.

The restaurant consists of three dining areas: the Main Dining room, the Queen Victoria Room (a private dining room with space for 8) and the Chef's Table. Entering the foyer you are immediately greeted by the fragrance of fresh cut roses that fill the entrance to the restaurant. We ate in the Main Dining room which consists of 18 tables and seats 60. The room is elegantly decorated with walnut walls and silk drapery that sets the stage for your enchanted evening. Depending on the night entertainment will be provided by a classically trained harpist or vilolin player.

The menu is prepared by Chef Scott Hunnel and changes daily depending on what is fresh in the market place. Featured is seafood, poultry, red meat, veal and lamb. There are also choices of soups, salads and desserts. Our meal consisted of Golden Osetra Caviar, Elk Tenderloin, Grilled Prime Filet, assorted cheeses, and Poached Pear. Dessert was a delicious Kona Chocolate Souffle with a vanilla bean center. All was accompanied by a wine pairing especially selected for the evening. There are over 700 wines on the menu and another 4000 in the wine cellar.

Service is, of course, perfect with a very high ration of cast to guest. All cast memebers at V&A's are incredibly knowledgeable about tastes and ingredients and ask many questions to determine what would be the perfect choice for each guest. At the end of your dining experience you will be presented with a personalized menu with your dinner selection, Ladies will also be presented with a long stem red rose.

A few tips: V&A's does have a dress code, jacets for men and evening attire for women. I would not recommend V&A's for small children, but children under 10 are allowed at the Chef's Table. There are two seatings per evening, 5:45-6:30 and 9:00-9:45, plan on spending at least 2 hours savoring the tastes of this special evening. Victoria and Albert's is consistently rated one of the top restaurants in the country and is perfect for any special celebration you may be planning.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Attractions - Main Street USA

So, you might be thinking "Main Street USA, an attraction? You don't ride it. You don't stand in line for it. Disney doesn't refer to it in 'ticket terms' like 'E-Ticket Attraction'. Why are you counting Main Street USA as an attraction?" The answer, for us, is a simple formula; Attention to Detail + Immersive Experience = Attraction.

Main Street USA is the opening scene in Walt's vision for a park. It is the destination for a nostalgic journey into the idyllic days of yesteryear. A place where memories of what was and what one might imagine was, are blurred just enough to create magic. Though, technically, it is a themed land, it is also every bit of an attraction.

Stepping onto Main Street USA is a magical experience in a very real sense. Looking around to see buildings representative of early 20th-century America, seeing a horse drawn trolley and hearing the music piped in all around you completely immerses you in another time and place. I can't help but feel like Terrence Mann stepping onto the Field of Dreams, surrounded by players like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver, waving my hand in front of my face as I hear the crunch of the warning track below my feet; reminding Ray Kinsella that the memories will be so thick, people will have to brush them away from their faces.Much like Terrence Mann's speech in Field of Dreams, guests come in droves and they return to a childlike innocence, longing for the past, and dipping themselves in the magic waters offered in a way that only Disney can provide.

As your feet carry you from the past and toward timeless fantasy, don't allow them to move you too quickly. Take a moment to take in the sights, sounds and smells that blanket you on Main Street USA. Allow the sounds of "Goodbye My Coney Island Baby" and the smell of popcorn take you back to eternal childhood. And as you walk, take in the detail of the buildings around you.

The buildings lining either side of the street not only represent those of the early 20th-century, but they model the design magic of Disney Imagineers. Using a technique called forced perspective makes the buildings look taller than they are. This illusion not only gives the impression that the buildings on Main Street are much taller than they are, but as a result makes Cinderella Castle ever the taller. Forced perspective works by making each story shorter than the one below it.

The buildings also hold, quite literally, windows into Disney history. Take time to note the names on the fictitious businesses. These give nods to those cast members and Imagineers whose contributions have made Disney what it is. From those who designed costumes, and attractions, to songwriters, and even Walt himself; each window tells a part of the Disney story and serves as credits to the Walt Disney World movie line.

Not only are the buildings along Main Street USA a wonder to observe, but they house a myriad of shops, bakeries, restaurants, and even a barber shop - where you may truly take part in a magical moment.

Main Street USA holds a different feel throughout various times of the day. Arriving in the morning, as you are among the first to enter, gives the impression of the dawning of a dream. A mid-afternoon parade is like a perpetual 4th of July or Christmas Day celebration. And lastly, standing on the train station platform and looking out over the street at night, as it is all aglow with 60,000 lights, captures a romantic feel that lies in the heart of all timeless memories.

What is your favorite part of Main Street USA? When is your favorite time to visit this area of the Magic Kingdom? What part brings back the most memories; sights, sounds or smells? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.