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June 26, 2016

Be a Wilderness Lodge Flag Family

Gary Cruise banner

In December 2004 Carol and I had our picture taken with a backdrop that many people will never see.

The view from the roof

To the left of us you can see Cinderella Castle; to the right is Space Mountain and just peeking out between our heads is the Astro-Orbiter. Even though the morning sun shone directly in our eyes and made us squint a bit, I think it’s a great shot!

That morning we were the “Flag Family” at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.

At 8:15 a.m. we met a Cast Member in the lobby and he led us to the Concierge Level on the very top floor of the hotel.

We thought that the lobby looked great all decorated for Christmas, but it paled in comparison to what we were about to see!

The lobby

In a nearby corner the Cast Member unlocked a door and led us up an exterior stairwell to the roof.

Wow! What a view! Have you ever seen Bay Lake and Discovery Island from this perspective?

Bay Lake and Discovery Island

Or the Contemporary Resort from this angle?

Contemporary Resort

Here’s the Walt Disney World Train Station on the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon.

The Train Station

There’s the Astro-Orbiter in Tomorrowland.

Astro-Orbiter

The sun was shining brightly on the Grand Floridian . . .

The Grand Floridian

. . . and Cinderella Castle looked stunning in the early morning light!

Cinderella Castle

We raised five flags that morning, naturally the Stars and Stripes was first, followed by the State of Florida flag.

Raising Old Glory

Next was the Disney flag . . .

Disney Flag

. . . then two Wilderness Lodge flags.

Wilderness Lodge
Wilderness Lodge

The Cast Member pointed out a number of items as we stayed for a few minutes snapping pictures. Off in the distance we saw downtown Orlando, EPCOT, MGM Studios and a number of resort hotels.

From the rooftop vantage point you can see almost all of Walt Disney World. It was a fantastic morning. We have tried several times since to repeat the experience, but with no luck! It books up very quickly!

So . . . how do you get to be a Flag Family?

Unfortunately, at the present time you don’t. The program has been "suspended" for a while. The Wilderness Lodge Resort is being refurbished and because of the construction public access of the roof is no longer deemed safe.

Construction is scheduled for completion in 2017 and hopefully the Flag Family program will be reinstated at that time.

If the program returns the old criteria will probably still apply:
1. You must be a registered guest at Wilderness Lodge Resort or Wilderness Lodge Villas to be eligible as a Flag Family.
2. You must book in person, at the front desk, during your stay. You cannot book before your arrival at the hotel.
3. Small groups only. Space is very tight on the roof and would no accommodate more than five or six people.
4. You must be fit enough to climb a relatively steep flight of stairs.

On the Concierge Level

The Cast Member was a wonderful host and we thoroughly enjoyed our short time on the roof at Wilderness Lodge; I hope that management restores the Flag Family program once renovations are completed.

It would truly be a shame if others, including you, could not enjoy that view!

Enjoy some Flag Family photos from over 10 years ago that our readers sent in. Are any of you still vacationing in Disney?

Deb and Friends as Flag Family July 2007.

If you are going to be a guest at Wilderness Lodge, or the Villas, after 2017 be sure to ask at the front desk if you can be the “Flag Family” during your stay!

May 21, 2014

Jim's Attic: Humphrey the Bear at Wilderness Lodge

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Humphrey the Bear at Wilderness Lodge
By Jim Korkis

Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort is the only Disney resort hotel to have an official mascot, the brown bear. Images and allusions can be found throughout the resort including bear tracks imbeded in the walkways.

To make that potentially fearsome mascot more friendly for younger guests, some of the brown bear images are of the Disney animated character Humphrey the Bear, a lovable, overweight brown bear who lives in the fictional Brownstone National Park.

Humphrey is most prominent on a totem pole on the outside of the Mercantile Store in the lobby of the resort. A smiling Humphrey is at the bottom of the pole supporting frontier garbed Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck on top of him.

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Over the years, the store has sold exclusive merchandise featuring the image of Humphrey.

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In addition, Humphrey pops on signage throughout the resort that many guests fail to notice. On the road leading to the Wilderness Lodge, just to right before the archway, is a round metal sign with silhouettes of Mickey Mouse being followed by Humphrey.

At the entrance to the Villas at Wilderness Lodge is another metal sign with the silhouettes of Mickey walking along and Humphrey riding on top of an old fashioned penny farthing bicycle to mark the bike crossing path.

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Only seven Disney cartoon characters have starred in their own theatrical cartoon series. Humphrey the Bear was the last one to do so before the Disney company decided to stop making theatrical cartoon shorts.

Humphrey starred prominently in four Donald Duck cartoons, Rugged Bear (1953), Grin and Bear It (1954), Bearly Asleep (1955), and Beezy Bear (1955).

humphrey-grinandbearit.jpg

He was so popular that Disney gave him his own series but only two cartoons were completed, Hooked Bear (1956) and In the Bag (1956).

hookedbear.jpg

In addition, Humphrey appeared in the opening credits for the original Mickey Mouse Club television series in 1955 holding the trampoline on which various characters bounce Mickey Mouse high into the air.

Humphrey the Bear does not speak but communicates through expressive grunts supplied by voice man Jimmy MacDonald who also did the voice of Mickey Mouse. Sometimes, director Jack Hannah would step in to supply some of the grunts.

Hannah directed all the Humphrey the Bear animated appearances in the Golden Age of Disney animation and since he lived in the same city where I grew up, I got a chance to interview him many times. He was actually the very first Disney animator I ever interviewed.

"For the sake of something new, we tried the Duck with a bear and it seemed like an immediate success for them to play against each other," Hannah revealed to me in an interview. "Later, when we started thinking of another picture for the bear, it seemed natural to be in a National Forest and that's how the Little Ranger came into being. The Little Ranger always treated his bears like his own pets and I always found that funny as did the audience."

Humphrey has also appeared in cartoons made for television including House of Mouse and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He even has a short cameo at the end of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

While Humphrey never appeared in any cartoon featuring him in the circus, he was recently revived to be included in the New Fantasyland expansion. He is prominent on the sign for Big Top Treats "Circus Snacks Galore" with him happily munching away on a caramel apple. In addition, that same image is used on a Storybook Circus poster.

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However, while he may sneak over to the Magic Kingdom to grab a tasty treat, his official Walt Disney World home is Wilderness Lodge.

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

RELATED INFORMATION AND LINKS
Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.

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Check out Jim's other "From the Attic" Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: http://allears.net/ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Who's Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":


July 22, 2013

Disney’s Oldest Parade - Electrical Water Pageant

Gary Cruise banner

Walt Disney World has plenty of parades. The Magic Kingdom currently has the "Celebrate A Dream Come True" parade every afternoon at 3:00 and the "Main Street Electrical Parade" at 9:00 and 11:00. Disney's Animal Kingdom features the "Jammin' Jungle Parade" at 3:45

Over the years there have been many themed parades at each of the Disney parks but the undisputed grand-daddy of all parades is the Electrical Water Pageant which sails the waters of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. It has been running every night (weather permitting) since October 26, 1971. There have been a few subtle changes over the past 42 years, but it is still as captivating as it was the first time I watched it in 1977.

One of our favourite ways to end our day at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is to head to the beach and watch the nightly performance of the Electrical Water Pageant.

We try to arrive a bit early, find a comfy seat on the patio beside the marina and wait until those tell-tale green lights begin to appear. The 14 barges which provide the show run very quietly. They are nearly invisible, with only their running lights to reveal their approach. Then once they are in position the show begins with a fanfare of techno music and all those wonderful lights reflecting off Bay Lake.

The first four barges all light up their 40 foot long and 25 foot high displays at once and portray the image of a sea serpent accompanied by "Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You Too)" from Pete's Dragon.

Sea_Serpent

Soon the next float comes alive with the image of a spouting whale as you listen to "Whale of a Tale" from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Whale_and_Turtle

Floats six and seven feature a turtle bobbing its head under water and an octopus, also accompanied by lively music generated by the 800 watt sound system.

Soon the first three floats in the second string light up to reveal three jumping dolphins, followed in turn by a Brachiosaurus, a crocodile, four seahorses and finally King Triton. By the time all 14 floats are illuminated there are over 50,000 lights involved in the animated panorama. WOW!

Dolphins

King_Triton

Then, just when you think it's all over, the grand finale begins. It's an inspirational salute to America, with Flags and Stars set to a patriotic musical medley of God Bless America, Yankee Doodle, and You're a Grand Old Flag.

Stars_and_Flags

You don't even have to spend money on park admission to enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant.

It sails past the beach at every Disney resort on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. The normal schedule is:
• 9:00 p.m. - Polynesian Resort
• 9:15 p.m. - Grand Floridian
• 9:35 p.m. - Wilderness Lodge
• 9:45 p.m. - Fort Wilderness
• 10:05 p.m. - Contemporary Resort
• 10:20 p.m. - Magic Kingdom (only when MK is open past 10:00 p.m.)

The Electrical Water Pageant is an often overlooked feature at Walt Disney World and it truly is a hidden gem. Plan to watch it from the beach at one of the resorts soon. With a little planning you might even see the Wishes fireworks spectacular reflecting off the water before or after the pageant. Check with Guest Services at your resort to confirm exact show times.

If you watch it from the Polynesian Resort I recommend a stop at Captain Cook's on the way. Pick up a cool Dole Whip to enjoy as you sit on the beach enjoying the show. If you watch from Fort Wilderness, take a look around, you may just see Carol and I on the patio beside the marina!

August 5, 2012

Think Outside The Parks – Part 1

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There are plenty of things to do at Walt Disney World without going to a theme park!

A couple of years ago, while we were heading home from Florida's Gulf Coast in our motor home, we stopped for a four-day stay at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Our Annual Passes had expired; we each had a One-Day Base Pass. We decided that we would not renew our AP's; we would use the One-Day Base tickets to spend a day at EPCOT and enjoy the Flower & Garden Festival. The rest of the time was "park-free" and we kept very busy. In fact we were so busy with non-park activities that we added two extra days to our vacation!

It is truly amazing the wide variety of things you can do at Walt Disney World outside the parks. Carol and I are just like most Disney guests, we often get so focussed on the theme parks that we miss out on many other exciting opportunities for fun. Some of them are even free!

Let's take a few minutes to look at what you can do when you "Think outside the parks"

Let's start with Downtown Disney. This is where Carol likes to shop, shop, shop. But of course there's plenty to do without shopping. Take a free boat ride along the Sassagoula River to the Port Orleans resorts, Old Key West or Saratoga Springs. You pass some breathtaking scenery along the way. Check out all the giant Lego figures outside the Lego Store.

Lego Figures

Watch a movie at the AMC Theatre; there are 24 screens! How about bowling? Splitsville will be opening at Downtown Disney in the fall of 2012. There are always children's entertainers, shows, choirs and bands performing at the Waterside Stage near the World of Disney Store. Sit for a while at the open air amphitheatre and enjoy the show while you relax and wait for those die-hard shoppers!

Downtown Disney Waterside Stage

Disney Quest offers five floors of video games and virtual reality fun. Don't forget Cirque du Soleil . . . Carol and I have seen close to a dozen different Cirque shows and La Nouba is at the top of our list of favourites!

After you've had your fun at Downtown Disney you might want to play a round or two of mini-golf. There are two great courses, Fantasia Gardens located near the Swan Resort's Convention Centre on EPCOT Resorts Boulevard and Winter Summerland near the entrance to Blizzard Beach. Fantasia Gardens features pirouetting gators, tutu-clad hippos and dancing water fountains. Putt your way through five musical sequences from Fantasia.

Fantasia Hole

Fantasia Hole

Winter Summerland is themed as Santa's permanent off-season retreat. The elf-sized course is divided into two 18-hole experiences. One course carries the snow-clad Florida look reminiscent of Blizzard Beach, and the other has a more tropical holiday theme, with Christmas ornaments hanging from palm trees.

WinterSummerland Entrance

WinterSummerland Hole

Whichever course you choose you are sure to have a good time!

If you're a real golfer and you'd prefer a full-sized golf experience you are in luck! Walt Disney World is home to four beautiful 18-hole golf courses; the Palm, Magnolia, Osprey Ridge and Lake Buena Vista courses as well as a 9-hole course, Oak Trail. Didn't bring your clubs? Not to worry, they have plenty of rentals!

Magnolia course

Osprey Ridge course

If your interests lean more toward water sports you won't be disappointed. There are two great water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Blizzard Beach is themed as a ski resort which has had a "meltdown". Slalom courses, bobsled and toboggan runs are now downhill waterslides. The creek of melted snow that formed at the base of the mountain is a relaxing "lazy river" tube ride. The chairlift now carries swimmers instead of skiers and the former ski jump is the tallest and fastest water slide in the world.

Blizzard Beach

Blizzard Beach Lazy River

Blizzard Beach Pool

Blizzard Beach Toboggan Racers

The second water park, Typhoon Lagoon, is a lush tropical paradise. There are water slides galore, a lazy river and the wave pool is truly awesome. You can take a surfing lesson in the wave pool! Looking for more adventure? Try swimming with the sharks or take a plunge down Crushin' Gusher - a wild and crazy water roller coaster!

Typhoon Lagoon Wave Pool

Typhoon Lagoon Wave Pool

Typhoon Lagoon Surfing

Would you like to take a boat ride on your own? Many Disney resorts have marinas where you can rent a Sea Raycer personal watercraft or rent a pontoon boat for a family outing. The Disney property has plenty of lakes and rivers to explore! And fishing is allowed, catch and release only!

Sea Raycer

Pontoon Boat

If you like to live on the edge, how about Para-sailing? Head to the Contemporary Resort. At the marina you'll find Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre where you can book your aerial adventure!

Parasailing

Attention NASCAR Fans: Next to the Ticket & Transportation Centre is Walt Disney World Speedway, home of The Richard Petty Driving Experience. Here's your chance to drive or ride in cars that were used in past Indianapolis 500 events. Or you can hop behind the wheel of a supercar by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, or Porsche and take a few laps. What are you thrill-seekers waiting for?

Richard Petty Track Ferrari

Take advantage of Disney's terrific transportation system to do a bit of resort hopping. All the resorts feature amazing themeing and some wonderful pools, most with afternoon activities for children. Enjoy a movie on the beach at the Polynesian Resort some evening, then watch Wishes from the beach. So romantic!

At Port Orleans Riverside visit the River Roost Lounge where Yee Haw Bob performs Wednesday through Saturday from 8:30 p.m. to midnight. This free show is a foot-stompin' sing-along. You and your children will love it.

Port Orleans Riverside Yee Haw Bob

Just down the road, at Port Orleans French Quarter, Elliot Dyson performs Wednesday to Saturday, 8:30 p.m. to midnight at Scat Cat's Club. Elliot plays a mean saxophone, a bluesy guitar and sometimes adds some steel drums to the mix. You'll be singing along at Scat Cat's too!

Port Orleans French Quarter Elliot Dyson

While you're at Port Orleans take a horse-drawn carriage ride along the beautiful Sassagoula River. It's a very romantic way to wrap up a day at Disney with the special person in your life!

See the Electric Water Pageant as it passes by the Magic Kingdom area resorts. This amazing (and free) show has been running every night since October 26, 1971. It will pass by the resorts the same time every evening. Polynesian Resort - 9 p.m., Grand Floridian - 9:15 p.m., Wilderness Lodge - 9:35 p.m., Fort Wilderness - 9:45 p.m., Contemporary Resort - 10:05 p.m., Magic Kingdom - 10:20 p.m. (only when the park is open past 10:00 p.m.)

Electric Water Pageant

If you are at the Polynesian Resort at 6:00 p.m. watch the Torch Lighting Ceremony just outside the main lobby door. The short show features an authentic Polynesian dancer who does a traditional fire-knife dance, and lights the torches leading into the Great Ceremonial House. Another Polynesian entertainer completes the scene with chants and authentic drumming. The ceremony is presented each evening, Tuesday through Saturday, at 6 p.m.

Polynesian Torch Lighting

The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Resort is a real treat. The cast of Polynesian singers and dancers will capture your attention as they tell the story of their culture with humour, song and dance. The grand finale, the fire dance, will leave you speechless.

Spirit of Aloha

Enjoy a walking tour of Wilderness Lodge with a Ranger. The "Wonders of the Lodge" tour is offered at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The tour focuses on the resort's architecture and how the Lodge was built. The ranger takes you outside, talks about landscaping, and then goes back inside and talks about the artwork, the metal work, the Totem Poles and the paintings.

Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Check out Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby

After you have admired the amazing African artefacts in the lobby walk out the doors opposite the main entrance and you will find the Arusha Rock Savannah. There are over 100 animals grazing on three different savannahs. You can see Ankole Cattle, Bongo, Blesbok, Eland, Grant's Zebra, Greater Kudu, Impala, Reticulated Giraffe, Thomson's Gazelle, Waterbuck, Red River Hogs, White-Bearded Wildebeest, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Blue Crane, East African Crowned Crane, Greater Flamingo, Marabou Stork, Ostrich, Pink-Backed Pelican, and Ruppel's Griffon Vulture.

Arusha Rock

If you visit the Arusha Rock Savannah after dark you might enjoy a special treat. The African guides on duty often have night-vision glasses which you can use to spot the animals in the dark.

Arusha Savannah

Just before you return to the lobby you will see a huge fire-pit surrounded by wooden chairs. Guides light up the fire and tell African folk tales here every night at Arusha Firepit.

Arusha Firepit

You can feed flamingos at the Flamingo Pond, play wildlife games in the Sunset Lounge, decorate cookies at Boma . . . there are almost limitless things to do at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Ask at the front desk for a list of activities and times.

At the EPCOT Resort Area you can tour around Disney's Boardwalk and check out the many restaurants and shops. Stop into Beaches and Cream - even if you don't have the appetite for a Kitchen Sink Sundae you can still enjoy watching someone else eat one!

Kitchen Sink Sundae

Rent a surrey bike and tour the area.

Boardwalk surrey bikes

Watch street performers who appear throughout the day. Tour the adjacent Yacht Club, Beach Club and Swan & Dolphin Resorts. Check out the Stormalong Bay Swimming Pool shared by the Yacht & Beach Clubs. Wow!

Are you convinced yet? Walt Disney World offers just so many things to do without going to a theme park. The things I have mentioned so far just scratch the surface. There are so many more activities . . .

I have visited Walt Disney World more than thirty times and there are plenty of things I haven't gotten to yet! It's a challenge and I'm working at it!

I know, I know, you're probably thinking . . . "But Gary, you haven't mentioned Fort Wilderness!" Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is a hidden gem. If you have not visited the campground you don't know what you're missing. As a matter of fact there is so much to do at the campground that it will be a chapter of its own.

I will cover "The Fort" in Part 2 of this blog. Stay tuned!



P.S. - I'm always looking for new subjects to blog about. Is there anything you would like to see me cover in a future blog?

April 26, 2011

Whispering Canyon Cafe: A Fun Meal For The Entire Family

Andrew Rossi

Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi returns with a review of Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

One thing that Disney restaurants excel at is creating memorable dining experiences, but they are able to do so in so many different ways. For some, it is their highly detailed, themed, and immersive atmosphere, such as 50's Prime Time Café or Sci-Fi Dine-In. With others it is all about their breathtaking location, like the California Grill or Narcoossee's. Other restaurants offer whimsical character interactions, including Chef Mickey's or Crystal Palace. And with others it is their ability to transport you to exotic locations through their cuisine and atmosphere, as seen with restaurants like Sanaa or Restaurant Marrakesh.

Just as with all of these other restaurants, Whispering Canyon Café at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a truly unforgettable dining experience, but in a way that is completely different. It is not necessarily the restaurant's atmosphere, or its location, or even its cuisine that makes it memorable. Rather, it is the service provided by an extremely dedicated and passionate group of Cast Members and the overall family-friendly nature of the restaurant that make Whispering Canyon Café truly unique among Disney restaurants.

Whispering Canyon Cafe Sign

Overview:
Overlooking the grandiose lobby of the Wilderness Lodge, Whispering Canyon Café has a very unassuming appearance from the outside. In fact, if you weren't specifically looking for the restaurant, you might even miss it as you walk through the lobby. However, don't be fooled by appearances because Whispering Canyon Café is actually one of the more fun, care-free, rowdy dining experiences that you will find in all of Disney World.

Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Whispering Canyon Cafe is a restaurant that is great for the entire family and both little kids and adults alike will all have a good time. This type of restaurant is really what Disney is all about, a dining experience that goes beyond just the food. Just as with all Disney restaurant, you know that everything is going to be of the highest quality. Where Whispering Canyon Café is most successful, however, is with a wait staff that truly goes above and beyond to create a unique and unforgettable experience for guests of all ages.

Atmosphere:
The rustic feel that is evident as soon as you enter Wilderness Lodge, and carried throughout the rest of the resort, is continued inside Whispering Canyon Café. However, in contrast to the grandeur and majesty of the resort's lobby, the restaurant has a more casual and laid-back feel. The theming here is a little more subtle and subdued, but that does not mean there is a lack of detail.

The restaurant features a frontier/wilderness décor comprised of both Native American and old western, cowboy influences. The restaurant's log cabin feel is similar to that of the main lobby, if only on a smaller scale, featuring everything from wooden floor boards to log columns and support beams.

Wooden Ceiling

Adding to the rustic feel, there is one entire wall of huge windows looking out into the dense forest that really helps bring the outdoors inside and lends a sense of authenticity to the restaurant. You really feel as though you are dining in a secluded log cabin out in the wilderness. The restaurant, and the resort as a whole, gives you the sense that you are in the middle of nowhere rather than at Disney World just minutes from the Magic Kingdom.

Large Windows

The artwork adorning the walls is absolutely beautiful with various hand-painted scenes of Native American villages, natural western landscapes, and lively rodeos.

Native American Painting

Rodeo%20Painting

My favorite part of the décor was the light fixtures. First, there were smaller lights in the shape of teepees with buffalos scampering around the outside. These were so finely detailed that they had the appearance of being made out of animal hide that had been stitched together and had the look of being hand painted with different Native American symbols.

Teepee Light Fixture

On the ceiling were large iron chandeliers with faux candles. These had more of an old western, frontier influence and featured small cowboy figures riding or lassoing buffalo.

Cowboy Chandelier

Overall, the restaurant has a very open, spacious feel with high ceilings, large windows, and one side of the restaurant open to overlook the lobby. It is a restaurant that has a very welcoming and comfortable feel that makes it a good place to take the entire family.

Dining Room

The Menu:
Breakfast at Whispering Canyon Café features a menu of classic favorites with a little western flair. Among the choices are Raisin Bread French Toast ($9.99), Belgian Waffles ($10.99) with a strawberry topping, Pancakes ($9.99) accompanied by bacon or sausage, a Western Omelet with ham, cheddar, bell peppers, and onion ($11.49), and Barbeque Eggs Benedict ($10.99) featuring poaches eggs on an English muffin with beef brisket and barbeque hollandaise sauce.

The lunch menu may not be as extensive as at other restaurants, but it features some interesting choices. For appetizers there are Barbeque Pork Spring Rolls ($9.99), Smoked Trout Lettuce Raps ($9.99), Chicken and White Bean Soup ($6.99), Venison Chili ($7.99), and a Mixed Greens Salad ($6.99) topped with an apple vinaigrette.

Entrée selections are predominantly sandwiches, including a Turkey Sandwich ($13.49) with dried cranberry-arugula mayonnaise on blue cheese griddled multigrain bread, a Chicken Sandwich ($12.99) which features a fried chicken breast topped with pineapple slaw, and a Slow-Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12.49). There is also an Angus Chuck Bacon Cheeseburger ($13.99) as well as a Whiskey Maple-Glazed Trout ($17.99) served on a bed of arugula-frisee salad.

For dinner the appetizer selections remain the same but the entrees feature heartier dishes in place of sandwiches. Included on the dinner menu is a Chicken Vegetable Penne Pasta($18.99) tossed in olive oil, garlic, and parmesan, Pot Roast ($19.99), Meatloaf ($18.99) accompanied by mashed potatoes and topped with mushroom gravy, Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin ($22.99) with chorizo-tillamook grits, and a Grilled New York Strip ($31.99) accompanied by oven-roasted sweet potato fries.

The dessert offerings for both lunch and dinner are the same and include a Kahlua-flavored Chocolate Cake ($7.99) with chocolate mousse filling and fudge icing, Smores Cheesecake ($6.99) with a graham cracker crust topped with chocolate ganash and marshmallows, Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding ($6.99) with a fig and cherry sauce, and an Apple Caramel Pie ($7.99).

What Whispering Canyon Café is best known for, however, is its all-you-care-to-enjoy Canyon Skillets which they feature at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Breakfast Skillet ($15.99 per person) features scrambled eggs, red bliss potatoes, bacon, sausage, waffles, buttermilk biscuits, and sausage gravy. The Lunch Skillet ($18.99 per person) includes smoked pork ribs, oven-roasted chicken, pork sausage, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and freshly made cornbread. The Dinner Skillet ($28.49 per person) likewise has the smoked pork ribs, oven-roasted chicken, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and cornbread, but also includes pulled pork, beef brisket, and a mixed greens salad with apple vinaigrette.

I went to Whispering Canyon Café for lunch and there was no hesitation with what I wanted to get. I did not even have to look at the menu and immediately ordered the Canyon Skillet. The amount of food that you get is absolutely staggering. It would be worth the $18.99 even if it was not all-you-care-to-enjoy.

Canyon Skillet

I want to start with the ribs because I first thought that I was going to be immensely disappointed with them but they turned out to be my favorite part of the meal. The ribs that arrived with the skillet were very tough, dry, and had hardly any meat on the bones. When I brought this to my server's attention he apologized and brought me out a new helping. These new ribs were amazing, very tender and moist with very little fat. I actually did not find the ribs to have too smoky of a flavor, but just enough to enhance the overall taste of the meat. The barbeque sauce that topped the ribs was also very tasty and, unlike other ribs that I have had at other restaurants, I found the barbeque sauce to be more of a compliment to the flavor of the ribs rather than the predominant flavor.

The chicken was also extremely flavorful. If you are not a fan of black pepper, however, then this chicken might not be for you because it was certainly heavily seasoned. The chicken was also perfectly tender and moist. I enjoyed the peppery taste of the chicken so much that I did not even bother to add any barbeque sauce onto it and just ate it as is.

The pork sausage really wasn't anything special, especially when compared with the ribs and the chicken, although it was a nice addition to the lunch. I actually found the sausage to have more of a smoky flavor than the ribs.

These meats came accompanied by corn on the cob (which was a little overcooked for my taste), as well as cowboy beans, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. The beans were fairly standard, but they paired perfectly with the chicken and ribs. I really enjoyed the mashed potatoes, which were very light and fluffy, and the coleslaw also provided a nice, light and refreshing contrast to the other aspects of the skillet.

The skillet also came with a generous portion of cornbread, which was served warm and was absolutely delicious. The slight sweetness of the cornbread was the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the meal, its flavor a definite contrast but one that complimented the other elements of the dish. With so much food, there was no way that I was going to have room for dessert. Instead, it was the cornbread that served that purpose.

Cornbread

Service:
While Whispering Canyon Café's atmosphere provides a rustic charm and the food certainly does not disappoint, it is the restaurant's service that really sets it apart. When you dine at Whispering Canyon Café you need to go with a similar mindset to that of when you dine at 50's Prime Time Café. This means that the waiters and waitresses are going to say and do things that you would not typically expect when dining at a nice restaurant, but they do so all in good fun.

The severs here may tease or poke fun at you, play little tricks at your expense, and be overly sarcastic, but that is really what makes the restaurant so much fun. For example, you might want to watch out if you ask for ketchup, and the same holds true when asking for napkins or straws. As with the 50's Prime Time Café, the severs won't shy away from making comments if you finish all of your meal or leave a lot of food behind on your plate. However, as is also the case at 50's Prime Time, some severs are far more over the top than others.

Not only do the severs have tremendous interaction with their guests, but they also play off one another. While I was there, I witnessed two severs going at each other throughout the course of my meal complaining how the other was always putting trays of food in their way or how one was able to clear tables of dishes so much faster than the other. It was really quite funny and entertaining.

The severs' role here goes far beyond that of just bringing out food and drinks; they are really the entertainment for the meal and they greatly encourage participation from their guests, especially children. The waiters and waitresses lead the dining room in songs, having all members of the family clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and twirling their napkins. Kids are invited to get up and do the hokey pokey and even participate in a hobby-horse race around the perimeter of the restaurant.

All in all, this tremendous service provided by a dedicated group of Cast Members creates a very rowdy, boisterous, and loud atmosphere. If you are looking for a quiet, romantic meal this is not necessarily the place for you (although I did notice lunch to be a little more calm and peaceful because the restaurant was far less crowded). But, if you are looking to have a good time with the entire family, the servers at Whispering Canyon Café ensure that all members of the family are involved in the fun.

Dining on a Budget:
When it comes to dining on a budget, Whispering Canyon Café's all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner Canyon Skillets are a tremendous value. The breakfast skillet is $15.99 and features a wide selection of traditional breakfast favorites. It is like being at a buffet with the food being brought right to you rather than you having to go get it for yourself. While this skillet does not offer as vast an array as a breakfast buffet, it is definitely comparable and far cheaper. Breakfast at the Crystal Palace will cost you $23, the buffet at Boma is $24, and Chef Mickey's is $26. I am not saying that the breakfast skillet at Whispering Canyon Café is at the same level as these breakfast buffets, but if an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal is what you are looking for then it is a viable alternative at a far cheaper price.

The lunch skillet for $18.99 and dinner skillet for $28.49 are likewise also very good values for your menu when you consider all the food that you get. Of the two, however, I would say that lunch is the better option. At lunch you still get the ribs and chicken that you get at dinner in addition to the cowboy beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and cornbread. The only difference is that dinner also includes pulled pork (as opposed the lunch's pork sausage), beef brisket, and a mixed greens salad. Unless the pulled pork and beef brisket is something you don't want to miss and would be the make-or-break point of the meal, I would suggest going for lunch because the $10 difference between lunch and dinner is pretty significant and really adds up if you have a lot of people in your party.

Even if you decide not to get the Canyon Skillet, the lunch menu offers many affordable options with a good variety of sandwiches ranging from $12 to $13. Another great value on the menu is the bottomless milkshake for $6.39. The shakes come in your choice of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry and are constantly refilled throughout the course of your meal.

The Overall Experience:
Whispering Canyon Café is one of those restaurants that is really what Disney is all about. It is a dining location that is fun and entertaining for the entire family, kids and adults alike. Dining here is about so much more than just the food (although the food will certainly not disappoint). Singing, dancing, clapping, racing, and napkin twirling are all part of the experience at this restaurant, all driven by a group of extremely dedicated and passionate Cast Members, and that is what makes it so unique. Dining at Whispering Canyon Café is an experience you will not soon forget. This is the type of restaurant that you go to not only to just have a good meal, but to have a good time, laugh, and enjoy the time spent with family and friends.

Check out Reader Reviews of Whispering Canyon Cafe and post your own too!

August 25, 2010

Wilderness Lodge Birthday Trip Photo Blog

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I recently spent a long weekend at one of my favorite Walt Disney World resorts, the Wilderness Lodge. I was there to celebrate my birthday and what better way to do that than with a trip to the World?

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Lodge is the sense of tranquility and seclusion that it offers, as well as theme of the Great Northwest which is carried out to perfection here. These factors immediately come into place as soon as you pass under the giant archway serving as an entrance to the resort.

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Watch for bears crossing the road as you approach the Lodge.

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In addition to the Canadian goose topiary at the entryway of the resort, another magnificent creation is on display as you approach the Lodge from the parking lot or drop-off areas - a pair of buffalo. These are mainstays of the resort and are true works of art.


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I always feel like I am close to the magic as soon as I enter the spectacular lobby of the hotel.

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This stay at the Lodge was a bit different for me in that my room was on the Concierge level. I have been fortunate enough to have stayed at several of Disney's resorts, but never experienced their Concierge service.

"So how does staying on the Concierge level differ from the lobby Concierge?" you may be asking yourself. If you are booked on the Concierge level at one of the deluxe resorts, you will receive a phone call within a few days of your departure. The Cast Member will inquire as to whether your group will need assistance in making any special dining reservations or planning to celebrate any special occasions. Staying Concierge can also provide exclusive access to special tours, such as the Wildlife Discovery Excursion at Disney's Animal Kingdom park.

Concierge service at the Wilderness Lodge is located on the 7th floor and can be accessed by way of key-card in the elevators. The Concierge desk is located just to the right just as you are exiting the elevators.

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A Cast Member is there to assist guests beginning at 7:00 a.m. each morning. They can answer any questions you might have and assist with the booking of tickets to the Cirque du Soleil, Hoop Dee Do Revue, and Spirit of Aloha Luau shows too.

The folks that I encountered behind the Concierge desk were very friendly and more than willing to help out in any way they could. I was in need of a Pharmacy while I was there. Rather than giving me driving directions to a local drug store, the cast member recommended a local service that delivers medicines for a nominal fee. I thought this was great service, especially since it would save me the time of having to drive to the drug store during my precious few days in Disney.

Directly across the hall from the Concierge desk is the main entrance to the Old Faithful Club lounge, which is where snacks and beverages are served throughout the day.


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Just around the corner is another entrance by the seating area.

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Tables and Chairs are in abundance if you decide to kick back and relax by the lounge area. They surround the entire balcony area of the 7th floor, and I found it peaceful and relaxing to look out over the cavernous lobby each morning while having breakfast. Kiddy-sized tables are on hand for children and a huge flat screen TV is on display if you decide to kick-back in the common area.

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Different offerings are presented at different times of the day, generally in 2-hour intervals. From 7:00 - 9:00, a light "Continental" breakfast is served. This includes large bottles of chilled Spring Water, Juice, Coffee, Cappuccino, Espresso, Cereal, Bagels, Croissants, Muffins, Pastry, and Fresh Fruit (Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Grapes, and Melon). Monin flavored syrups are also available for your coffee or hot tea.

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Light snacks such as Pretzels, Goldfish, Gummy Bears, Cookies, and Trail Mix are offered in the Lounge at lunchtime and throughout the afternoon. There also is a refrigerator where canned beverages and Yoplait Yogurt are kept on hand. Coca-Cola, Sprite, Diet Coke, and Minute Maid Apple-juice boxes were stocked in the fridge. I found this to be most convenient when heading out to one of the parks or coming in from a long, hot day. It's so much easier to swing by the lounge and grab a drink rather than having to head all the way up the room, grab the refillable mug, and venture down to the food court.

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From 5:00 - 7:00, finger foods are served. This was definitely the busiest time of the day in the lounge, and there was actually a line of folks waiting to fill their plates. Different hors d'oeuvres are presented depending on the night, but a sampling of the offerings included: Chicken Satay, Cheese & Veggies, Skewered Meats, Chicken Salad, Venison Meatballs, and Crackers/Pita Chips. Different dips were on hand for the crackers such as a Red Pepper hummus and Goat Cheese with Garlic spread, which I found to be very tasty.

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From 8:00 - 10:00, dessert is presented. This included warm Berry Cobbler, "Magic" Bars (granola with chocolate chips), Cookies, Brownies with icing, and various cordials such as Kahlua and Courvoisier. Bottled Beer (Heineken among them) and Wine (Merlot, Chardonnay) are also made available. Perhaps you don't wish to venture down to the Territory Lounge for an evening cocktail. This is a convenient alternative for those wishing to have a nightcap before bed.

No stay at the Lodge would be complete for me without a meal at Artist Point, the resort's fine dining restaurant. I had reservations to dine there during my stay and was careful not to overindulge in the snacks on the evening of my visit. I didn't want to spoil the meal. Artist Point is one of my favorite WDW restaurants, and has never disappointed! I decided to deviate from my usual order (of the Pacific King Salmon) and try a vegetarian dish this time - the House-made Gnocchi.

Artist Point is a participant in the Disney dining plan, with a 2-credit requirement.

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I stayed in room #7114, and it was very conveniently located just around the corner from the Concierge lounge. I couldn't notice any difference in the layout of my room vs. Standard rooms I have stayed in at the Lodge. I was on the top floor and this was a dormer room, meaning the ceiling is vaulted and on an incline at one end of the room.

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I also had a Woods view, which was scenic and overlooked the DVC Villas.

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If you should decide to stay Concierge at Wilderness Lodge, there are a few additional room amenities: Bath Robes in the closet (for borrowing only) and nightly turndown service, which is provided automatically.

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Housekeeping will also run a spot check on your room each evening to ensure that additional toiletries and towels are not needed.

I enjoyed trying something new and experiencing Disney's Concierge service. If money were no object, I'm sure I would make use of this service often. I think that families traveling with children will get more value from this service than Couples since there are more people per room making use of the food and beverages offered. While I found the breakfast offerings to be sufficient and satisfying, the other meals are intended to serve as a snack and not substitutions for regular meals. That said the money saved on breakfast each morning could certainly be used towards the additional cost of the room. The benefit of having someone to assist in Dining Reservations, Show and Park tickets could also be a substantial perk for travel booked at the last minute.

Would I spend the extra money to stay on the Concierge level again? Absolutely - the extra assistance with Advance Dining Reservations and personalized service made me feel truly pampered. I also enjoyed having access to light snacks at those times when I wasn't craving a full meal or dessert. The Concierge Cast Members really went out of their way to make sure that any special request was met to the best of their ability. Those little touches made this a birthday to remember.

November 17, 2008

Flag Family at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Sue, Mick and Sam Farrell, May 30th 2008.

On Friday 30th May 2008 we were invited to be the Flag Family!

After breakfast we were escorted to the roof of Disney's Wilderness Lodge by Ranger Stan.

He gave us a guided tour of all the sights from the roof and then we took it in turns to raise the five flags for that day. The view is amazing and offered us some fantastic photo opportunites.

Sam started with the American Flag, then Sue raised the white Wilderness Lodge flag, next it was Mick's turn to raise the State of Florida flag, then back to Sam for the Disney Flag.

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Lastly Mick with the green Wilderness Lodge flag.

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We did a short version of this in August 2004 (see our earlier photos below), but this time we were lucky to enjoy the full ceremony.

I would suggest anyone else staying at Wilderness Lodge to try and do this. It's a secret attraction that will remain a favourite of ours.

Thank you Ranger Stan and everyone at Wilderness Lodge.

Our 2004 Flag Family Photos:

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October 16, 2008

Wilderness Lodge Flag Family Report

Cathy, Darryl, Bradley and Samantha Kittle September 2008
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I had spent months planning for our 10 day trip to WDW and when I saw that Wilderness Lodge had a special opportunity to be the flag family for the day I was so hoping we could be picked. When we checked in I asked if there were any slots left and the only one was on the morning we were leaving. Since we had a 9:30 Magic Express shuttle we were told we could still be selected. On our designated morning, we met the most wonderful Wilderness Lodge Ranger, Stan, at the front desk. I had read so much about him from this website, I was extra excited meeting this "celebrity." He seemed as excited as we were as he told us all about how he had worked on constructing the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier when he was a young man.

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We rode the elevator up to the 7th floor and then took a set of stairs up to the roof. The view was breathtaking and the weather perfect.

There were four of us and we each got to raise one of the flags. After my son raised the American flag, Stan asked if we would salute the flag and say the Pledge of Alliegence. I had tears in my eyes as we said it outloud with our hands over our hearts.

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Stan took pictures of each of us and as we were thanking him for such a beautiful experience, he huddled us together and told us to always remember to care for each other. I still have goosebumps thinking about it. Stan treated us to breakfast on the concierge level snack room which just was the perfect ending to a perfect memory!

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-Cathy

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About Wilderness Lodge

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Wilderness Lodge category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Saratoga Springs is the previous category.

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