Monday, January 30, 2012

Resorts - Disney's Boardwalk Resort

A part of the magic that resides at Walt Disney World lies in part to the fact that the parks are not amusement parks, but are theme parks. Now, you may be wondering why I concern myself with the minutia of semantics. Well, it is quite simple really. In short, an amusement park is a collection of thrill rides, various attractions and the occasional sprinkling of shows. The rides or attractions generally have no relation to each other. In a theme park, everything is related in some way in an effort to tell an overall story.

Not only are the Disney parks themed, so are the resorts. Each location designed in a way that tells its own individual story. And, as with the attractions and parks as a whole, the level of detail serves to make those stories deeply immerse.

Such is the case with Disney's Boardwalk Resort. This may be this author's favorite resort, and happens to be my family's home resort for the Disney Vacation Club. A cross between Atlantic City and Coney Island, this resort transports you to a time just prior to the mid-twentieth century.With a full understanding that there is a multitude of blogs or sites available with in-depth information about resort costs, layout, etc., DLuminations would like to forego the in-depth review you may find on those other sites and offer a brief overview of things of interest surrounding the resort that may help you make the decision as to whether or not you would like to stay there.

The Boardwalk: Can't you hear the Drifters singing those famous lyrics now? "Under the boardwalk..." Oh well, in case you don't, the resort itself offers plenty of nostalgia of its own. Arcades, fishing, watercraft and bike rentals all along the wooden planks of the boardwalk just to name a few. But, this perhaps isn't the neatest part of the boardwalk area. Instead, take a moment to stroll around the area during the evening hours, or simply look out over your balcony if you are located on the boardwalk side of the resort. You are likely to encounter magicians, musicians or comedians who will surely bring something magical to your trip.Resort Location: Nestled between EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios, this resort allows for easy access to two parks. Sure, you can take a bus to either of the parks - as you could from any resort - but you can also take a ferry boat or even walk to the resorts in minimal time. The walkway from the Boardwalk Resort brings you to the front entrance of Hollywood Studios, just past the bus terminals. The entrance to EPCOT, however, is found between England and France in the World Showcase.

Not only does the placement of the resort allow for ways access to two parks, if you find yourself back at the resort prior to Illuminations in EPCOT, you can still see much of the fireworks from the Crescent Lake side of the resort. You can also catch a glimpse of the fireworks from Fantasmic!

Lastly, although this resort offers more than its fair share of wonderful dining experiences, if you are in the mood for something extra special, you may walk across the bridge or take a ferry to the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, where you can dive-in to a World Famous Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream.

Restaurants: The Boardwalk Resort may be home to some of the best meals in all of Walt Disney World. From Iron Chef Cat Cora's Kouzina, to the Flying Fish Cafe, or Big River Grill & Brewing Works, you are sure to have an amazing dining experience. For the more laid back guest, try the ESPN Club or the Boardwalk Bakery.Nightlife: As already noted, there are a number of neat experiences waiting for you to enjoy during the evening hours. However, for those who desire something more, try the Atlantic City Dance Hall or JellyRolls. The Atlantic City Dance Hall is located at one end of the boardwalk (closest to Hollywood Studios) and provides a great atmosphere for dancing the night away while overlooking Crescent Lake. JellyRolls is an all request, dueling piano bar that is too fun to pass up.Pools: Though there are two pools at this location, the Luna Park Pool ranked #3 in an earlier post listing the Top 10 Disney Resort Pools. The pool features a 200-foot waterslide called the Keister Coaster. The opportunity to shoot out of the clown's mouth at the end of this roller coaster inspired slide definitely makes the slide worth getting your "keister" wet for! The circus atmosphere is completed by elephants on the pool deck that shower you with their trunks.Have you stayed at Disney's Boardwalk Resort? What were your impressions or opinions? Was there something you liked about the resort or wanted to add to help people better enjoy their stay? If so, just add your comments below; we would love to hear from you!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Magic Moments - Capture the World

I noted in an earlier post that I am often tasked with ways to enjoy the parks in a less expense, or fresh, new way. Though my initial post really revealed my heart for eating, there are other ways to enjoy the parks in a less expensive way.

Once again, I will focus on the World Showcase in EPCOT. As previously noted, this is probably the most boring for kids, and as a result, the least likely to be fully enjoyed by parents. In my earlier post, I referenced the scientific fact that kids are starving to death every fifteen feet or fifteen minutes - whichever comes first. In fact, this is only one of two key, yet proven, facts about kids that can break you down, or break your bank account. The other fact is that kids feel the need to ask for every souvenir they see, and the World Showcase is full of them. From Smurfs in Germany to shirts in Canada, you have more than ample opportunity to spend money for "memories".

So, how "In the World" do you capture memories in the World Showcase without losing your pASSport? Here are two simple and fun ways.

First, take advantage of what Disney already provides. Each pavilion in the World Showcase has a station where kids can stop and color. They can pick up a free masquerade ball mask (made from cardboard), color a design and receive a stamp or hangtag on the mask itself. Encourage your kids to color just a little piece of the mask, so they can add to it as the move around the pavilions. Another suggestion is to add something to the mask that reflects the country you are in. For example, when you are in Canada, draw a red maple leaf on the mask, then move on to England where you might add a Union Jack.

The other way to capture memories is through photos. WOW, that was kind of like seeing Geraldo open Capone's safe wasn't it? Really, capture photos at every pavilion around the World Showcase. There are a number of beautiful locations that lend themselves perfectly to photos. And though this seems too simple of a suggestion to note, the key to this is understanding what to capture.

Instead of the normal group photo, actually immerse yourself into the pavilion. For example, Canada has totem poles and similar objects you can interact with. Put on a fez at Morocco. Try on a kimono in Japan. The possibilities are endless. And, if you start having fun, it will show.

The reality is, if you purchase a fez, an Eiffel Tower replica or something similar, you will probably never look at it again. Even more concerning, it will hold little if any sentimental value. This is YOUR vacation! In some cases, this is your dream vacation, or the only family vacation you have ever taken; so take advantage of that fact and capture it all in this fun way.

If you really want to create memories that you can enjoy over and over again, upload your photos on once you return home. Create a Disney photo book with your favorite images, add captions, and you have a souvenir worth purchasing. Best of all, these photo books cost anywhere from $11 - $40, so they are not only more special, but are cheaper than anything else you would purchase in the parks.

We not only create photo books on Shutterfly, we also create calendars using our favorite photos from that year's trip to Disney. These usually cost less than $11 and are great quality items. IN fact, my parents and in-laws look forward to the Disney calendar more than any other present at Christmas. They love seeing the grandkids having fun in the parks. In a way, they are able to share in the memories as well.

We would love to see some of your favorite photos from around the World Showcase. Feel free to send them to our DLuminations Facebook page so everyone can get ideas on fun photos. OR, send them to OK, now go capture those memories!

In the meantime, here are some ideas to get you started:

The Totems in Canada

Check out the local constabulary in England.

The king and his subjects.

When your name is Alice, doesn't this picture just make sense?

The local artists of Paris are so inspiring.

I can never see a fez without thinking of Mr. Cunningham on Happy Days.

American Patriots!

Almost done, I think I hear a fat lady singing.

You take pictures, I'm eating eggrolls.

Churros and Donald, Mexico is GREAT!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Attractions - The Art of Plussing (Pirates of the Caribbean)

As mentioned in previous posts, Disney has a rich tradition of what they term "plussing"; or the act improving on ideas or attractions.

Originally opening in Disneyland, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was added to Walt Disney World in 1973; though there are differences in the two. In the 1990s some audio tracks were re-recorded, though only the most die-hard Disney enthusiasts would notice. In 2004, a few additional changes were made, including having the ladies chase the pirates instead of the pirates chasing the ladies.

The most significant changes took place in 2006 when Jack Sparrow was added to the attraction, as was Barbosa. As a result, the storyline changed also. In addition, a projected image of Davy Jones was added to the falls at the beginning of the ride.

Jones was temporarily replaced by Blackbeard in May 2011 to coincide with the release of the current installment of the Pirate movie franchise; Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides. Though only temporary, this was a fresh addition that further entwined the ride with the movie in order to create or at least continue the illusion that the Pirate world exists in a time all its own.

One might think that such significant changes would dramatically alter the attraction; however, it is the opinion of this author that these changes did not contribute to altering the ride beyond its original spirit.

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