Resorts Archives

November 14, 2016

Temporary Parking Change at Kidani Village Animal Kingdom Lodge

Deb's Digest Blog

This past weekend I was at a guest at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was quite surprised that the "short term parking" area at Kidani Village was closed and blocked off. This parking area has always been convenient for check-in parking or getting something from Johari Treasures which has groceries and sundries.


Cast members told me this is "temporary" but gave no dates for how long this will be in place. I was informed that if you are checking in, tell the Valet and they will hold your car for 30 minutes for "free". After 30 minutes your car will be automatically valeted and you will incur a charge. The reason I was given for this change is that people were abusing the "short term parking" area.

The self-parking alternative is the underground parking garage. While there is a huge sign indicating Elevators to Lobby, unfortunately there are only 2 parking spaces in that immediate area. The other spaces are reserved for WDW Official Vehicles. The next closest parking area would be the Timon area.


September 27, 2016

Brunch at the Top - California Grill

Deb's Digest Blog

Late last year, the Disney Parks Blog announced that a new "Brunch at the Top" dining experience would be starting at California Grill in February 2016.

I read the description with great interest, because I love a great brunch. But, I will admit, the $80 price tag had me stop and wonder. It seemed really expensive just for brunch.

Fast-forward to a couple months ago when friends we hadn't seen in a long time invited us to join them at, you guessed it, Brunch at the Top. We thought, "Sure, why not?"

So what exactly is Brunch at the Top? Let me say at the outset that this is a VIP experience. From the moment we arrived at the Contemporary we were treated like extra-special guests, which took us somewhat by surprise. At the security gate, the guard smiled and told us that with this brunch we received complimentary valet parking, and we were to proceed up and to the right. He then instructed us to go to the second-floor check-in for California Grill. Valet parking? Complimentary? At the California Grill? Our eyes lit up and we started to get excited -- not just about seeing our friends, but about what was starting to feel like a very special experience.


We arrived before our friends, texted them, and headed to the second floor to check-in. The cast member smiled and greeted us warmly. We explained we were early... she quickly said, "No problem, you can wait upstairs for your friends." Sounded good to us.


Once the elevator doors opened, we were greeted by wonderfully soothing sounds of a pair of musicians, one playing the bass and the other, the keyboard.


We both looked at each other, smiled and nodded, knowing that we had been right. This was going to be an out-of-the-ordinary experience.

A hostess came right over to assist us. When we explained we were waiting for our party, she said, "No problem, allow me to show you to an area to wait for them." (It was located in between the musicians and the two dining areas.) Along the way, she stopped at the bar and offered us a mimosa. I asked if I could have the beverage without the orange juice, and we were soon handed two glasses of pure bubbly.


We sat back to enjoy the ambiance and talked about how wonderful it was to be at the California Grill for a more refined, adult experience. In fact, I could feel tension leaving my body and I smiled. The fact that it was a picture-perfect day outside with a wonderful view of the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian Village Resort added to our enjoyment.


Soon our friends arrived and we were escorted to our table. There we met Tommy, our server for the brunch. He gave us menus and explained how things would work. I let Tommy know about my shellfish allergy, and he said there were no "hidden" shellfish items, but would have the chef come over to speak with me. It was great to see Chef Jonathon again!

Linda had her eyes on the Bloody Mary bar until Tommy explained that our welcome beverages would be refilled throughout the meal, at no additional charge. It almost seemed too good to be true: complimentary valet parking, bubbly refills during brunch... Yes, this was really going to be fun.


By now you're probably thinking, "OK, Deb, get to the food!" All right, I will.

The meal is a combination of self-serve selections, entrees and dessert. The self-serve selections, appetizers in a sense, ranged from assorted sushi and smoked salmon to a charcuterie area and salads. We all thought we could have made a meal of those items alone.




A board of pastries was sitting on the table when we returned from the buffet area. It included a nice selection of Tillamook Cheddar biscuits, caramel-apple monkey bread and gluten-free scones.


We each made at least two visits to the self-serve selections, all the while chatting over our bottomless drinks. Tommy asked a couple times if we wanted to order and we put him off for a few more minutes. At no time did we feel rushed or pressured to place our entree selection.


Finally, it was time to decide on our entrees. Among the four of us we ordered:

Lobster Eggs Benedict:


Shrimp and Grits


and two of us selected the Grilled Hanger Steak and Eggs.


You can find the full menu HERE, along with additional food photos.

Our friend Mark savored his steak, but unfortunately I had to send mine back as I had ordered it medium and it was too rare. Tommy took the steak back to the kitchen without issue, and I enjoyed my eggs along with another helping from the self-serve selections. Soon my steak returned and I was satisfied that it was prepared properly.

There was no clear winning entree -- it actually was a tie between the Lobster Eggs Benedict and the Grilled Hanger Steak. Linda also enjoyed her Shrimp and Grits, a dish that seems to be popping up all over Disney World these days. (I'm trying to get her to decide on the top three places for Shrimp and Grits so that we can share that with you.)

We had such fun while noshing with our friends that time quickly got away from us and soon our dessert plate arrived.


All of us agreed the experience was awesome and we had a marvelous time. Each of us left relaxed and smiling, with our bellies full of excellent food.



COST: Adults $80, children $48, plus tip and tax.

You get complimentary valet parking (which is worth $25, plus tip).
Tables in Wonderland is accepted, which gives a discount of 20 percent.
You receive refills of your welcome beverage.
You have great foods to savor while enjoying the spectacular views.
Return in the evening with your receipt and enjoy fireworks from the outdoor areas.

If you are looking for a wonderful "adult" experience at Walt Disney World this is it.

We found the entire experience lovely and plan to return in a few months.


February 14, 2013

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Deb's Digest Blog

Happy Mardi Gras!

The annual Mardi Gras Parade at the Port Orleans Resort features floats designed by the Cast Members. Each team, housekeeping, front desk, etc, decorates a float for the parade. It's held annual on Fat Tuesday!

This year's theme was 75 Years of Disney Animated Films

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

January 21, 2013

Magic Kingdom and Grand Floridian Walk Around

On Friday, 1/18/2013, I headed to the Magic Kingdom to check out the Giggle Gang in Storybook Circus and see what else was happening.

I went by way of the Grand Floridian so I could see the new Alice Splash Zone.

Alice's Splash Zone Grand Floridian

Alice's Splash Zone Grand Floridian

Alice's Splash Zone Grand Floridian

Check out more photos of Alice's Splash Zone!

I knew Gasparilla Grill and Games had reopened went to check it out - it has a new name Gasparilla Island Grill and the arcade games are gone.

Gasparilla Island Grill Grand Floridian

Gasparilla Island Grill Grand Floridian

Gasperilla Island Grill New Breakfast Menu

A quick monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom. The center area of the turnstyles are being refurbed to accommodate the new MyMagic+. Cast members were on both sides of the walled off area directing resort guests to the right and everyone else to the left.

Magic Kingdom Entrance

Magic Kingdom Entrance

Walking down Main Street the Bakery is now closed for rehab and folks are directed to the Tomorrowland Terrace for "bakery type items".

Main Street Bakery Magic Kingdom

Main Street Bakery Magic Kingdom

Tomorrowland Terrace Breakfast Menu!~

The Hall of Champions apparel store is now covered in scrims for refresh.

Hall of Champions Magic Kingdom

As I headed over to check out the Tomorrowland Terrace menu, I couldn't help but notice how peaceful this area by the Plaza Restaurant looks.

 Magic Kingdom

Now that the New Fantasyland has officially opened, focus is shifted to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction. Kind of hard to miss it since it's right in the midst of the new and "old" Fantasyland!

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

There are even areas where guests can look inside the walls at the construction going on!

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

The Beast's Castle was looking great against the bright blue sky!

 Beast's Castle Magic Kingdom

Keep in mind that the Fast Pass Distribution for Little Mermaid is next to Mickey's Philharmagic!

 Little Mermaid FastPass Magic Kingdom

And the Fast Passes for Dumbo and the Barnstormer are in the Yellow Tent next to Pete's Silly Sideshow in the back of Storybook Circus!

Storybook Circus FastPass Magic Kingdom

Casey's Splash Zone wasn't getting much action despite the beautiful warm day!

Casey's Splash Zone Magic Kingdom

Casey's Splash Zone Magic Kingdom

I think this is a cute kid's t-shirt.

Casey's Splash Zone Magic Kingdom

According to the Times Guide, the Giggle Gang was to perform at 10:30am, so I began waiting in the show area. However, I soon learned that their morning performances are more like walk-arounds in the Storybook Circus area and the afternoon shows are more traditional "shows".

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Lots more photos and video of the Giggle Gang !

I exited the Fantasyland near Pinocchio Village Haus. A cast member was out front with a marionette of Pinocchio. I went inside and noticed that you can't walk straight in but are being directed to the side of the restaurant to get to the seating and ordering areas.

Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom

Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom

Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom

And my last stop was at site of the Princess Fairytale Hall, opening sometime this year!

Princess Fairytale Hall Magic Kingdom

More photos of Princess Fairytale Hall!

That'll do it for this walk-around! Hope you enjoyed the photos!

November 6, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge - An Afternoon Outside the Parks

I recently had out of town house guests who didn't have park passes but wanted to visit WDW. We decided on lunch at Sanaa in Kidani Village followed by a tour of the savannahs.

Kidani Village

Animal Kingdom Lodge is made up of 2 complexes, Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo House opened first and initially was totally a "regular" resort. Then the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) took over some of the rooms and transformed them into villas and construction on a total DVC resort, Kidani, was underway.

Kidani Village

Kidani Village has 2 animal savannahs, Sunset Savannah (which is shared with Jambo House) and the Pembe Savanah.

You don't have to look far at Kidani for animals especially if you dine at Sanna. We saw several giraffes wander by the windows during lunch.


After dining, we went out to the overlook and enjoyed seeing lots of animals and birds wandering around.


Kidani Village


Kidani Village


Kidani Village


Kidani Village


Kidani Village


Kidani Village

Next we headed over to the Pembe Savannah. To reach this one, you must go back out the lobby and turn right. Pass the swimming and recreation areas and finally you will reach a small viewing area. I had hoped to see the Okapi, but they were not visible.


Kidani Village

Kidani Village


Kidani Village


Kidani Village


Kidani Village

We went back to the car and headed to Jambo House. (There is a shuttle that runs between the two resorts). Three savannahs at Jambo, from left to right, Sunset, Arusha and Uzima.

Not much happening at the Sunset Savannah so we went to Arusha Rock.

Jambo House

Jambo House

Jambo House

Jambo House

Jambo House

And our last stop, the Uzima Savannah, near the pool and recreation area. There are several viewing areas so be sure to visit them all.

Jambo House

SABLE ANTELOPE - notice the horns. The male have the curved horns, the female's horns are straighter.

Jambo House

Jambo House

Jambo House

There you go, a wonderful afternoon at the Animal Kingdom Lodge enjoying the wildlife!

September 22, 2012

Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge Lunch Review

Deb Wills


A few days ago, Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge introduced new menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I stopped by on Thursday to get the new menus and also to have lunch!

Special thanks to our server, Cajun Chad, and Chef Junior for their great service during our lunch!

Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge

Several important notes about the menu changes before I get to the actual review...

Breakfast is basically the same as it has been.

The biggest lunch change is that the All You Care To Eat Skillet is gone! The breakfast and dinner "All You Care To Enjoy" skillets are now called "Platters".

At dinner, there are no more entrees to select from, everything is a Build Your Own All You Care To Enjoy Family Platter at $32.99/per person. The platter includes choice of 3 items (ribs, chicken, beef strip loin, fish or sausage) along with sides of fresh vegetables, Yukon gold potatoes, baked beans and corn on the cob. A dessert sampler is also included in the price!

One of the new menus items is the Fried Fish and Country Chips. With my shellfish allergy, I had to ask about the fryer oil. Unfortunately, everything fried (spring rolls, french fries and fish) is now done in the same fryer oil. I was assured there was no shell-fish in that oil, but there was fish. If this presents an issue for you, upon request, the chef can heat up a separate pot of oil for your food. However, it was explained this would take extra time.

For the kids, not much changes. There is a new item "Multigrain Grill Cheese Dippers" which turns out to be what was described to me as a grilled cheese sandwich on multigrain bread and a small serving of tomato-like soup.

Vegetarians and those with special dietary requests should make notation when you make your reservation and speak to a chef upon being seated. A few options may be available including the off menu entree Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes. Also, at the time of this writing, the restaurant was still working on its vegetarian options.

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - with Edamame Salsa $16.99

Now, on to our review :

We wanted to try several different items in each category, so in addition to those, we also requested take home containers (which nicely provided us dinner).

New starters on the menu include the Yukon Potato Leek Soup and Flash Fried Navajo Bread. Now gone is the Cheddar Cheese Soup, Citrus Brine Oak-smoked Trout, and Venison Chili.

Yukon Potato Leek Soup - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Yukon Potato Leek Soup - topped with candied smoked-bacon $7.49

The Soup was yummy! It was creamy, almost thick, with a slight smokey flavor. Both of us really enjoyed it. Sometimes soups are over-salted for our tastes but this one wasn't. It was "bowl-lickin" good.

Slow-Smoked Pork Spring Rolls  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Slow-Smoked Pork Spring Rolls Sweet Chili dipping sauce $11.49

We found the pork spring rolls to be a disappointment. While they certainly looked like there was pork inside, we never tasted any. Dipping it in the accompanying sweet chili sauce did nothing to enhance the pork flavor. This starter was more like crispy spring roll (minus the filling) dipped in the sauce. If there had been more pork, there hopefully would have been more flavor.

The new sandwich on the menu is the Chuck Wagon Angus "Bacon and Egg" Burger. New entrees include the Western Salad, Fried Fish and Country Chips, Tuna Melt, Smoked Salmon Quesadilla and the Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Ribs.

Gone are the Grilled Barbeque Chicken and Field Greens Salad , Griddled Meatloaf Sandwich and Whiskey Maple-Glazed Trout

Our Selections:

Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich - Cowboy Beans, Cucumber Salad $12.49

We both really enjoyed the pulled pork. It was slightly sweet, but not too much. Very lean (little fat) which is a huge plus for us. The one thing the menu didn't say was that the pork came topped with cole slaw with a kick! So, if you don't like spicy heat, ask for the slaw on the side or not at all. The pork sandwich also came with Cowboy beans - nothing of note to report here expect there were not overly sugared (yea). The cucumber salad was a pleasant surprise, sweet, tangy and flavorful. Almost like being bread and butter pickles.

House-smoked Turkey Sandwich  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
House-smoked Turkey Sandwich - toasted Multigrain bread with arugula, Tomato and cranberry mayo $12.49

When the sandwich arrived I wondered, where is all the turkey You'll understand why when you see the next photo. It's the Turkey and Swiss sandwich from the Magic Kingdom's Main Street Bakery that I enjoyed last week!

Main Street Bakery Turkey sandwich" />
Turkey and Swiss Sandwich - Main Street Bakery - Magic Kingdom $6.99

Needless to say, before I even took a bite, I was quite disappointed. I found the smoked turkey was not at all tender and for me, the smokey flavor was overpowering. I eat smoked turkey sandwiches at lots of places, but this one just didn't do it. That said, the sweet potato fries were great!!!

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla   - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla - with arugula, frisee, tomato, goat cheese, mozzarella and a side of pepper jam $16.99
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla   - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge

The salmon quesadilla was very rich with lots goat cheese -- it was very filling and went a long way. The pepper jam jelly was not spicy and nicely complimented the quesadilla It would actually make an excellent breakfast or brunch dish.

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - with Edamame Salsa $16.99

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - The winner on this dish is really the edamane salsa - it is full of flavor! Just the right mixture of edamane, corn, red pepper, cucumber, and onion. The sauce was a little spicy with a bit of heat and that enhanced the flavor of the quinoa cakes. I had this item when it was first introduced some time ago. I give kudos to the chefs for creating an entree that is not the normal vegies and pasta or vegies and tofu. Even as a non-vegetarian, I really enjoy it! I was glad to learn while not on the menu, it is usually available upon request.

And now dessert.............

Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake - with candied jalapeno $6.99

When it appeared in a short mason glass and not the traditional wedge on a plate we were surprised. Creamy, thick with real pieces of jalapeno inside. Tangy but not hot. The brownie on the bottom was hard to get to but complimented the cheese cake nicely.

No Sugar Added Seasonal Mousse - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
No Sugar Added Seasonal Mousse - $6.99

The no sugar added berry mouse is by far one of the best I have tasted. Actually, both of us really enjoyed it! Full of flavor, not overly sweet, and the berries were fresh and tasty!

All You Care To Drink Milkshakes are still available!

Overall we really had a fun time at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. There was lots of ketchup shuffling going on between tables and folks seemed to be having a good time.

Remember our taste buds are not yours and experiences vary. I would recommend giving lunch a try!

December 29, 2011

Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites


It is time for another Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites. Hopefully, now that we live in Florida, I'll be able to do these more often.

Last week Linda and I stayed two nights at the Contemporary Garden Wing (AP Rate which we got just 10 days prior) and spent both days in the Magic Kingdom and MK resort area.

This segment contains a quick service, theme park full service and signature dining.


Chicken Chop Salad $7.69
Deb: I have not been a fan of the Contempo Cafe, my previous 2 dining experiences were not so great. However I must say the Chicken Chop Salad was very fresh and perfect for lunch. It had the right balance of veggies, protein and carbs! I always ask for dressing on the side and was glad I did. The mayo based dressing really had little flavor and the vegis more than made up for it! I would have this again and would also recommend it to you!

Contempo Cafe

Chicken Spinach and Artichoke Flatbread $8.79
Linda: This was disappointing as the description of the flatbread did not jive with what I received. The spinach and artichoke appeared to be a creamy dip spread on the flatbread - not a chicken, spinach and artichoke flatbread that was advertised. There were VERY little actual spinach or artichokes. Plus the sauce was VERY thick and not at all appetizing. I was expecting fresh spinach and chopped artichoke therefore would not order again nor recommend it.

Contempo Cafe

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Heirloom Apple Salad - winter greens, aged Gouda, dried cranberries, pumpkin-apple dressing $14
Deb: I love when greens means something other than Romaine or Iceburg lettuce and I would expect nothing less from a signature restaurant. The selection of greens were crunchy and did remind me of "winter". I loved the aged Gouda sprinkled on the top. If there was a slight disappointment with the salad it was the dressing. I felt the pumpkin-apple dressing was on the bland side and did not have the flavors I expected. That said, it was still a great salad and I would order it again!

California Grill

Creamy Parsnip and Sunchoke Soup - apple gastrique, truffled goat cheese gougere $11
Yum Yum! Sunchoke was described as a cross of the edible parts of a sunflower and an artichoke. Seasoned perfectly, not over salted, and had a savory and sweet flavor (sweet coming from the small bits of apple). The goat cheese was in a puff pastry you can see on the side of the soup in the photo. I highly recommend and I'd order again!

California Grill

Triple Cheese Flatbread - pecorino, asiago, and provolone, sun-dried tomato and arugula pesto $12
Deb: I didn't want a full, heavy dinner and so opted for the salad above and this flatbread. I'm not much of an adventurous eater so this fit the bill for me perfectly. I'm a big fan of flatbreads from the signature restaurants with Jiko and California Grill making some of my most favorites!

California Grill

Dragon Roll - spicy and tataki tuna, shrimp tempura, bell pepper, avocado, chili soy glaze $28
Linda: Another Yoshi (Sushi Chef Extraordinare) Winner! A superb and very filling entree. If shared would make a great appetizer for 2. The only thing I didn't care from was the red bell pepper. Highly recommend and I'd order again.

California Grill

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Colony Salad - Washington apples, sweet pecans and applewood smoked cheddar, dried cranberries Craisins, and grilled chicken tossed with field greens in honey shallot vinaigrette $14.49
Deb: I love lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern. The Colony salad is a wonderful blend of flavors accented with the apples. I forgot to order the dressing on the side so it was a bit "soupy" for me, but that was my error. I've had this salad before and I'll have it again - try it next time!

Liberty Tree Tavern

Pilgrims' Feast - traditional roast turkey with herb bread dressing, mashed potatoes and a garden vegetable $14.99
Linda: This hit the spot. I debated between this and the Tri-Corner sandwich and the server recommended the turkey - Spot on! Some of the most moist and tender turkey breast I've had in a long time. Green beans cooked just right, dressing was yummy - I joined the Clean Plate club for this one! Highly recommend!

Liberty Tree Tavern

Post Your Reviews and Read what Others Say about:

Contempo Cafe
California Grill
Liberty Tree Tavern Lunch

That's it for this edition of WDW Dining Bits and Bites!

December 4, 2011

Beach Club and Yacht Club Holiday Decorations at Walt Disney World


On our way to the RADP 16th annual meet and greet (more on RADP at the end) we stopped by the Yacht and Beach Club to see the holiday displays.

The lamposts were wound with garland, balls and lights - I'll have to swing by one evening to see how pretty the entrance way looks.

Disney's Beach Club Resort

In the lobby there is garland all around and the centerpieces are the holiday tree and gingerbread display.

Disney's Beach Club Resort

I love looking closely at the various tree ornaments. See how many you can find like the Seahorse, and starfish.....

Disney's Beach Club Resort

The Gingerbread Carousel has returned.

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Disney's Beach Club Resort

And if you look closely you'll see the QR codes around to learn more about the display. The QR codes require a reader app that you can get for your cell phone. (Make a note to get one of those :)

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Ariel has a special horse too!

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Snow White has a revolving castle

Disney's Beach Club Resort

And the Gingerbread Shop is open evenings, Monday-Thursday 6-8pm and Friday and Saturday 4-8pm. The shop didn't need to be open to enjoy the smell of gingerbread. If you want a Gingerbread House to purchase, head over to the Beach Club Marketplace.

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Next stop, Disney's Yacht Club. The lampposts here have the same garland and lights adornments.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

And as you walk closer there is a beautiful floral display of red and white poinsettias and impatience.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

The holiday tree has a nautical theme with boats and lighthouses.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

A wonderful Dickens aka Dept 56 display complete with a train, highlight the shops and restaurants of the Yacht and Beach club resorts.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

See if you can spot the Hidden Mickey in this photo!

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Soon it was time for the RADP meet at the International Gateway. RADP (rec.arts.disney.parks) is where I got my start online and was the only type of message board that existed back in the early days.

The strangers who met those first few years in December have become dear friends and family. Each year they continue to gather at WDW to celebrate the holidays and their friendships.


May 14, 2009

Online Check-in for Disney Vacation Club Resorts Part 2

Previously I blogged about the DVC online check-in process.

When I got to Kidani Village, I was greeted by a Cast Member. I explained I did the online check-in and she told me anyone at the front desk would help me. They were very well staffed so there was no wait. At this point Kidani doesn't have a separate designated area for those with On-Line check-in.

Jill checked us in quickly and efficiently and soon we were on our way.

Kidani Checkin

As we visited other resorts, some had signs and special areas and some didn't. Clearly this is still being rolled out.

Here is a sign in the Beach Club Lobby:

Beach Club Online Checkin

And the On-line Check-in Counter:

Beach Club Online Checkin

Feel free to share your experience with Disney's Online Check-in by leaving a comment at this blog.

October 30, 2008

Artist of the Day Followup

Earlier this month I told you about a fun activity for kids at the Contemporary called Artist of the Day. Several of you wrote and told me of your experiences and I want to share them.

It also turns out there are some other resorts with an Artist of the Day activity including Saratoga Springs and the Grand Floridian. So, be sure to ask at check-in if your resort offers this fun program!

Joe and Beth Thrash

We just got back from staying at the Contemporary. Our children (ages 2, 5, and 7) saw the Artist of the Day and all picked up pictures to color. We dropped them off that evening. The next morning the first thing they wanted to do was to go and check out who had won. To their surprise, all three were selected as Artist of the Day and had their pictures displayed. They were very excited and one of the cast members from the Grab and Go came over to congratulate them. They were all given special certificates and Mickey Rice Krispy treats as a prize for winning. We took photos of each one with their picture and we were also able to pick up the coloring page the next day. It was something very special for them.

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Leslie McElroy

We stayed at the Contemporary this summer and our kids colored an "Artist of the Day" picture one day during our trip. They dropped them off on our way to dinner and raced down the next morning, to find they'd both been selected as the Artist of the Day. They were thrilled to have their work hanging on the wall. I thought it was a really great and inexpensive way to bring a little magic to kids.

McElroy Kids

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Julianna Farleigh

Our daughter (now age 9) enters each day of our vacation until her coloring is chosen. Last year, when the Food 'N Fun Center chose her coloring, they displayed it in a table-top frame and placed it next to the coloring supplies. She received a certificate with her first name, date and location typed on it. This year, the Tempo Grab and Go displayed her coloring on the wall you have pictured, and she also received a Mickey Rice Krispy Treat and the Disney's Artist of the Day certificate. She has also entered at the Grand FL. Cafe where the coloring sheets are at the reception desk. At Disney's Contemporary, the chosen artwork is displayed for one day, and is then given back to the artist when they pick-up their certificate. We have never been notified that our daughter's artwork was chosen, we have always had to return to where they display the artwork to see if hers has been displayed and then ask a cashier for her "award."

Artist of the Day

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The 'Artist of the Day' at the Contemporary Resort has been a part of the Food and Fun Center (former Quick Service Eatery) for quite a while and we were happy to see they're continuing with it at the new Tempo Grab and Go. My daughter has colored many pictures but alas has never been chosen as 'Artist of the Day'. It is fun for the kids to check every morning to see if they were picked and fun to see the kids who are picked as they are so excited!

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We stayed at the Contemporary in April of 07; and the Artist of the Day Was there. I was 15 at the time and did it with my brother and sister who were 9. We never did win; but everyday they allow pictures until after around lunch time and then they switch it the next morning.

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Lori Posey

We stayed at the Contemporary Resort back in February 2007. They had the Artist of the Day then also. It was located on the 1st floor where the Quick Serve counter was. My daughter Allie was very lucky and got selected as Artist of the Day. She loved having her pictured framed for all to see! They keep it up for the day. The next day we picked it up at the cashier and they also gave her a Year of a Million Dreams certificate stating she was the Artist of the Day! It was such a little thing but to a child it was like receiving gold!

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Beth DiSalvo

Just wanted to leave you a comment regarding the "Artist of the Day" at the Contemporary. As far as I know, this has been going on for quite some time. My son did this when it was at the "original" quick service location (now the Wave). He recieved a "Magical Moment" certificate - and I think they gave him a cookie.

I also know that Artist Palette in Saratoga Springs has the Artist of the Day as well.

October 12, 2008

Artist of the Day - Contemporary Resort

While exploring the Contemporary recently, I found a little area entitled Artist of the Day. It is located on the 4th floor near the entrance to Tempo Grab and Go.

Artist of the Day

The sign reads: "Artist of the Day" If you would like to participate, please choose a coloring page located below, and be sure to get a package of crayons.

When you have finished, please write your name and room number on the back of your page and place art work in the space provided below.

If your page is selected it will be framed and placed on display. Thank you for participating. If you have any questions, please ask a Cast Member."

The photos below show 2 framed pieces of art.

Artist of the Day

Also, you can see the areas to obtain the drawing, crayons and place to deposit your completed work.

Artist of the Day

If anyone has their child try this, please let me know how it worked!

I couldn't find anyone that seemed to know how long this would be here. Perhaps until the construction walls are removed?

The sign doesn't say you must be staying at the Contemporary to participate. However, the request of your room number on the coloring sheet pretty much narrows it to resort guests.

October 1, 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction Update

I had the opportunity to wander around the Contemporary Resort a few days ago (September 26, 2008). Here are some construction updates for the Disney Vacation Club Bay Lake Tower.

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

For more information visit:

Bay Lake Tower Information Sheet and Photographs

Photographs of the Studio Model for Bay Lake Tower

Photographs of One Bedroom Model for the Bay Lake Tower

October 26, 2007

Magic Kingdom Friday Part 1

I awoke bright and early this morning, ready to head over to the Magic Kingdom! I was very excited about seeing the newly rehabbed Haunted Mansion.

The early morning is always pretty, even if it is very cloudy! This is the pool in the Arcadian Section of Port Orleans Riverside.

Port Orleans Riverside Pool

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And as I made my way to the food court, I had to stop and take this photo....

Riverside Mill

After a ham and cheese omelet at the Riverside Mill I made my way to the Magic Kingdom via the Dolphin.

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You'll find the entrance to the Dolphin (street side) under construction and walled off. You must head left past the regular entrance to get to the temporary entrance in the convention center. The actual doors are being totally removed and new sliding doors installed in their place. One Cast member told me it would be finished in December, the other said it would be 3-4 months.

Dolphin Entrance

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As I walked into the Magic Kingdom, I saw Chicken Little and Pinocchio in front of City Hall posing for photographs. Walking down Main Street, several Cast Members were welcoming guests with Mickey Gloves.

Cast member on Main Street

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I barely walked a few steps and there was the Mayor of Main Street greeting guests as they began their day. He was kind enough to stop and catch a photo with me.

Mayor of Main Street

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The Magic Kingdom really was decked out in fall / Halloween decorations.

Castle and Halloween Decorations

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The lands weren't yet opened and instead of standing at the rope drop, I hung back on Main Street to enjoy the atmosphere. I was quite surprised when I found an empty Frontierland about 9:15 this morning


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First stop was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which reopened yesterday after a month long rehab. While there are no "new" effects or scenes (according to the Cast Members) there were some general enhancements to the scenery as well as upgraded audio! It was as Wild a Ride as always!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Train

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Soon it was time to meet my friends Tod and Sue from Michigan. I've known them over 9 years and have spent many a great vacation with them. We rode the Haunted Mansion together, not once but twice. We were all excited about the changes to the Mansion. Kudos to the Imagineers and all who were involved in this upgrade! The changes are numerous, so you may want to ride a couple times, as we did. Definitely back on the must see each trip list!

Tod and Sue at the Haunted Mansion

To be continued...Friday Part 2

July 30, 2007

Upcoming 2007 Special Resort Discounts

As is usually the case come this time of year, Walt Disney World announces Annual Passholder and Florida Resident room discounts for the remainder of the calendar year. These should be announced in early to mid August.

What is different this year is that there will be a special 4 week period where the resorts really need to fill rooms. During this period, AllEars hears there will be a special dining gift card available. So, your 2 night minimum stay (with an AP or Florida Resident room discount) during this special 4 week period, will also get you a Dining Gift Card! For Values it is $20, for Moderates $50, Deluxe Resorts $75 and Disney Vacation Club (for cash, not points) resorts for $100! One card per room, again a 2 night minimum.

Again, this is UNofficial information. Look for Walt Disney World to officially announce the Annual Passholder and Florida Resident discounts in August.

July 3, 2007

Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas Construction Update

We have received lots of email the last 2 weeks about the ongoing construction at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Some readers reported they were contacted by Disney and moved to another resort (Saratoga Springs being the primary one). Others have written stating they have not been contacted and asking for advice.

All Ears Team Member Linda Mac is at the Lodge now, the first DVC guest to stay in the new Villas. She has been blogging daily.

I just received official word from Diane Hancock, at the Disney Vacation Club, who writes:

"Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas opened to Disney Vacation Club Members yesterday. We are pleased that our Members are happy with the new accommodations. There is construction occurring at the resort to complete the conversion of the fifth and sixth floors to Vacation Homes.

In an effort to accelerate the construction timeline and potentially complete this effort earlier than planned, portions of the resort will be temporarily closing. As a result of the accelerated timeline, we are working with Guests who have existing Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge reservations to assist them in selecting alternate accommodations for their upcoming visit. This does not affect all Guests staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The care and safety of the animals at the resort is at the forefront of planning the construction. No animals have been adversely affected by the construction and we are proactively managing their care."

June 28, 2007

Resort Reflections - Animal Kingdom Lodge Part 2

In Part 1 of Animal Kingdom Lodge I spoke of the pre-opening and the opening of the Lodge.

In this blog, I'll talk about the Savannahs.

The most unique aspect of Animal Kingdom Lodge are the animals and their savannahs. There are 3 savannahs encompassing a total of 11 acres, each with it's own look and feel. As you look out from the lodge they are from left to right: Sunset, Arusha, and Uzima! More than 200 birds and animals populate the savannahs -- a different group of birds and animals are on each of the savannahs. Only the reticulated giraffes can be found on all three.

There are several public viewing areas, both inside and outside where you can see the animals. If you have a savannah view room, you can watch the birds and animals from your balcony! The hallways inside the resort along the "trails" (aka wings) have areas of windows where you can view animals also! You will also find a few outside "balcony" viewing locations. Don't forget there are several exterior stairwells that also provide animal viewing opportunities. For the Arusha and Uzima Savannahs, there are ground level viewing spots too.

Thompson's Gazelle
Thompson's Gazelle - Larger Version Here.

Very important -- Keep in mind the savannahs are the home for these birds and animals. Disney can not guarantee any animal sightings. I suggest that you inquire at check-in to see what time morning feeding time is because the animals know what that jeep is doing out there and they gather! (If the front desk doesn't know, ask one of the animal guides in the outdoor viewing areas). In addition to morning feedings times, the animals tend to be out around dusk.

For folks who are up and out to the parks early and back late in the evening, you may not get to see many animals at all. While you may be in park commando mode, the animals have their own time schedule :)

Each day, each savannah closes for a couple hours. The animals are brought to the barns for training and health inspections. It also gives the keepers time for any special maintenance in the savannah itself. There is always at least one savannah open with animals.

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The Sunset Savannah has an upper level viewing area that consists of a lounge and a balcony. From here you can see Ostrich, Red River Hogs, Waterbuck, Marabou Stork, Ruppell's Griffon Vulture and others. The Sunset Savannah Lounge is actually a very nice place to relax. Sometimes I'll bring morning coffee in there or perhaps a before dinner beverage. The theming in this room is amazing. If a tour is offered during your stay, be sure to take it to learn more about the artifacts in the lounge!

Sunset Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge
Larger Version Here.

Red River Hogs
Red River Hogs - Larger Version Here.

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The Arusha Savannah is probably the largest, or at least, appears that way and is the central area of the resort. There is a large rock formation that juts into the savannah, allowing for a variety of viewing spots. This Savannah becomes a huge horseshoe with the widest wings of the resort rooms bordering it. If you look at the resort map, you'll see what I mean.

Animals found here include Zebra, Eland, White-Bearded Wildebeest, Ankole-Watusi Cattle, Pink-Backed Pelican, and others. Night vision animal viewing is available on this savannah. A guide will be out after dark and can show you how to use the night vision goggles to spot animals (many of which are nocturnal). Again, be sure to check at the Front Desk for times.

Arusha Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge
Larger Version Here.

White-Bearded Wildebeest
White-Bearded Wildebeest - Larger Version Here.

Zebra - Larger Version Here.

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The Uzima Savannah is the furthest on the right if you look out from the Lodge. Its home to the Greater Kudu, Thompson's Gazelle, Blesbok, flamingos, Stanley Crane, and more. The Uzima Savannah is behind the Uzima Pool. You can always take a look at the animals while you enjoy the pool. There is a flamingo area directly behind the pool as well.

Uzima Savannah
Larger Version Here.

Greater Kudu
Greater Kudu - Larger Version Here.

Flamingos - Larger Version Here.

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The first 2 animals on the Lodge savannahs just happened to be the first 2 animals brought to the Animal Kingdom theme park - 2 reticulated giraffes!

Giraffe on the Sunset Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge
Larger Version Here.

Not all the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge were there for opening and some of the original Lodge animals have left. There were Gemsbok were on the Arusha Savannah in 2001, but they were found to be incompatible with the other animals and moved elsewhere. Also, in the last few years, the Red River Hogs were added to the Sunset Savannah.

As mentioned above, an important fact to remember when visiting or staying at the Lodge is that it is the home for these animals and birds -- their safety and well-being is the priority! You may not attempt to feed, throw things or get into the animal areas. If caught doing so, you may be expelled from the lodge. Security cameras view room balconies as well as the public viewing areas to keep an eye on guests and make sure the rules are adhered to!

Lastly, what are those fenced areas on the savannahs? Ever seen those wooden "pens" in the Savannahs that are very close to the resort? These are actually contingency locations for guests to use in case the lodge must be evacuated.

Larger Version Here.

More Photos can be found at:
Animal Kingdom Lodge Photo Gallery
Sunset Safari Excursion

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Animal Kingdom Lodge - Resort Reflections

June 21, 2007

Resort Reflections - Animal Kingdom Lodge Part 1

I'm often asked "What is your favorite resort?", which is actually a difficult question to answer -- much like "What is your favorite restaurant?" is a difficult to answer. My experience with just about anything Disney is that it's not just the resort or meal itself, but also the ambience, the cast members, the themeing, that intangible feeling.... With Disney, I've come to expect a complete package.

So I thought I'd begin a series on the Walt Disney World Resorts. These blogs will be a snapshot of my current personal thoughts and feelings. I can tell you my "favs" have changed over time, as I'm sure they will continue to...... Also, these come from an adult only perspective. I have no children and generally travel to WDW either alone or with another adult.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Preview Welcome

As I pondered where to start, my first thought went to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was able to visit the lodge before it opened. There was a preview where we got to tour certain portions of the resort and see a couple of the rooms. I am quite surprised now, reading my thoughts from 6 years ago. Here's a few excerpts from that report:

-- " I walked through DAKL four times, and each time the place grew on me a little more. I was expecting a jaw-dropping, "WOW" feeling, similar to when I saw Animal Kingdom for the first time, but I didn't get that."

-- "The Savannah areas look awesome and the viewing areas put you much closer to the animals than I expected. I discovered, though, that not all savannahs will have animals all the time -- at least one area at a time will be closed for cleaning, maintenance, etc."

-- "If I had to name one major disappointment I had with DAKL, it is with the rooms. While intricately appointed in dark carved woods, ethnic decor, and kente-inspired fabrics, the rooms are very small. I had the same feeling I did when first entering the Wilderness Lodge Villas bedroom: These are Queen Beds? There is little room to move around in and anyone in a wheelchair in a regular room is going to have a tough time."

-- "There also seems to be a lack of recreational activities at the lodge. Other than swimming and animal viewing there is not much to occupy one."

Here's my original report from the preview in 2001.

I guess when I said the resort "grew on me" each visit, I wasn't kidding. It's now one of my favorite resorts. In fact, I give it my award for "Best Resort to Get Away from it All".

Entrance to Animal Kingdom Lodge

Anyone remember the exact date Animal Kingdom Lodge officially opened?

April 16, 2001, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge did officially open and I planned to be there. Prior to the trip, I had done the typical planning, sketched out theme park days, made dinner reservations and so on.

The entire resort buzzed with excitement and opportunities for discoveries. I recall waking up the first night about 2am and looking out the window. Oh My Gosh! There's a ZEBRA out here! WAKE UP!

The opening crew was amazing. There were cultural representatives from Africa who were around the inside and outside of the resort, just aching to share stories of their homelands. In fact, I still keep in touch with Thabo, a gentleman who was the cultural representative on the opening team. By the way, you can find Thabo over at the Swan and Dolphin concierge desks.

My Opening Week Report.

Roy Disney and Deb Wills
Much to all our surprise, each day we spent at the Lodge we fell more and more in love with it and began to cancel plans we had made at other restaurants. Indeed, we ended up dining multiple times at Boma and Jiko and spending a great deal of time at the lodge.

One of my best memories from that week was meeting Roy Disney! He too, was at the Lodge and I saw him walking along one of the hallways. He was as nice as he could be, even suggested the best place for us to stand for a photo. It was a real thrill for me!

I was hooked..... and still am. In fact, since 2001 I have stayed at the lodge numerous times in most of the room categories from Parking Lot view to Concierge Savannah View -- each has it's own uniqueness.

The Lodge currently has 3 savannahs - Sunset, Uzima and Arusha!

Arusha Savannah

I say currently because there are big Disney Vacation Club plans for Animal Kingdom which will include a new savannah. Right now a new animal barn is being built to care for the additional animals. Once that is complete, work will begin on the new savannah and Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas building!

Remember when I said AKL is one of my favorite resorts? Well, as a Disney Vacation Club member, I was thrilled to learn of the new facilities planned for the Lodge and have already purchased DVC points! Yes, I think I'll be staying there for a long time to come.

More on Animal Kingdom Lodge to come....

April 25, 2007

4/25/2007 WDW Almost Live

Evening 4/21/2007

Tonight we dined at Jiko to celebrate our dear friends Tod and Sue's anniversary. Our dinner was simply amazing and highlighted by manager Jeremy who paired each of our courses with a special South African Wine. We actually never did have a "main course" per se... but did manage to have several courses of items from the Cooking Place and the appetizer list. Oh, and dessert.

In this photo, Jeremy is pouring the Chocolate Box red wine for Sue -- it was YUMMMY!!


Sunday, April 22, 2007
I hadn't spent much time in the World Showcase portion of Epcot so Linda and I headed there on Sunday. What a beautiful weather day... mostly blue skies, mild temps and a small breeze. We strolled from pavilion to pavilion enjoying all the beautiful flowers and topiaries.


Along the way, we had lunch at the Yakatori House in Japan. It was ok, nothing special, but decent. By mid afternoon we strolled back to the front of Epcot to try and get better photos of the entrance topiaries.

Back to Wilderness Lodge where we spent some time talking with the concierge staff. Lisa, Gerrianne, Jack and everyone was just super!

Sunday evening we dined at Il Mulino in the Swan, the new Italian place. Being such a huge fan of Palio (the former Italian restaurant), I had such high hopes. Alas, I found the place disappointing and way overpriced. Our dining companions, Steve Barrett (Mr. Hidden Mickey) and his lovely wife Vickie, made the evening very special.

Monday morning we were off to the airport at 6:30am for a flight home. A great trip with great memories!

Deb --
Life IT too short!

April 21, 2007

4/20/07 - WDW "Live" Update Part 2

Friday really was an incredibly magical day. I already shared with you the baby Spoonbills I watched at Animal Kingdom....just amazing.

The day actually began earlier at the Wilderness Lodge, where we had the privilege of attending a flag ceremony on the roof of the Lodge. The cool breeze stood the flags out in a colorful array. I had not been on the roof in about 10 years and the views were as incredible as I remembered. Cast Member Jack was just wonderful and made it a very special experience!


Ok, back to Animal Kingdom... The park was pretty crowded when I arrived 10:30ish. I was in the Dinosaur section. Do you ever feel like you must have a sign on your car that says "Put me in the farthest parking space possible.. oh and please give the folks in front of me close parking spaces" LOL So I was wayyyyyy down the end of Dinosaur. I realized just how crowded it was when there was a back up to get on the tram. As one filled, there were just as many folks waiting in the lot for the next one.

The baby Spoonbill I showed you yesterday....well, they are in the very front viewing area as you enter Animal Kingdom. There were actually 2 Spoonbills nesting with babies. The mom on the left had 2 little ones; you saw a photo of one. The spoonbill on the right had 1 baby that had been born in within the last 12 hours and also had another one coming out of the egg.

Animal Kingdom was celebrating Earth Day and had exhibits set up in each land, geared towards teaching kids more about the environment.

As I headed to Pizzafari for some lunch, I saw dear friends of mine, MJ, Bonny and Andrew! A great surprise. While at lunch I met a woman who thanked me for co-writing Passporter's WDW for Your Special Needs. She said she never imagined they'd be able to do a trip to Walt Disney World and the book gave her the courage to do so! They were having a really good time!!!"

Off to the Kilimajaro Safari... MJ stays in her wheelchair and so we went to that part of the queue line. There was a very long wait, but that was ok, it gave us a more opportunity to talk!

On the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, we saw real eggs belonging to the Flamingos. The 6 month old giraffe is now gliding more confidently along the savannah and everywhere I looked, it seemed as though there were young ones... very exciting!!!

I headed off to do some resort research and then returned to the room to get ready for dinner. Another wonderful meal at California Grill. I'll be writing more about that for a feature article in AllEars.


Life, IT too short!

April 19, 2007

Wilderness Lodge


We've arrived! I got goosebumps checking in when Al, the security guard, welcomed the Princeses Home!!! I just love the Wilderness Lodge. It was actually the first deluxe resort I ever stayed at in the 90s and still remember Ranger Stan taking care of our bags. We got a super group rate and are splurging with a stay in concierge!

When Al checked our name at the gate, there was a note on our parking pass to let the valet stand know we were staying at the Old Faithful Club. When we arrived at the Valet Stand they called upstairs and Cast Member Rob came down to greet us. He got a bellman for us and wouldn't you know, it was Arnie, the same gentleman that helped me on my last stay. He is just wonderfully magical and it started the stay out on a very high note. The Lodge appears to be pretty full to capacity..there are folks everywhere!

It was 6:30 when we arrived. We were famished, so went into the Lounge and got some dinner. Really awesome vegetable soup (and I"m not a big soup person) was the hit. We also munched on some celery and cheese....and of course a glass of wine for me, and Linda had a bottle of Bass Ale.

We've unpacked and are now trying to decide what to do. MK is open very late so I'm thinking of taking the boat over since it's such a beautiful evening. Not even sure I'll go in the park.

On the other hand, the weather here is awesome (compared to home) and the balcony door is open...there's a gentle breeze.

Tommorrow morning I'll take off running with several pages of Book Questions to research.
Linda will be playing golf at Eagle Pines.

Til tomorrow....

Life IT too short!!!

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About Resorts

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Deb's Digest in the Resorts category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Planning is the previous category.

Step Back in Time is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.