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September 3, 2012

BoardWalk Inn & Villas - Part 1 of 3

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Advance To Boardwalk


The concept for a boardwalk was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1870. This resort town had already established itself as a vacation mecca. Beautiful hotels, elegant restaurants, and the Atlantic Ocean beckoned the well-to-do and the middle class to spend a few days or a few weeks in luxury during the summer months. However, the close proximity to the beach caused a problem for businesses. Sand. People tracked it everywhere. It could be found in hotel and restaurant lobbies, in railroads, in guest rooms, shops -- everywhere. A solution was needed. The answer came from train conductor Alexander Boardman and hotel owner Jacob Keim. They proposed building a pedestrian walkway out of wood with openings between the slats large enough to allow the sand to fall between. So great was the problem that the city managers agreed to spend half of the town's yearly tax revenue ($5,000) to build an eight-foot wide wooden walkway that would stretch one mile and be elevated one foot above the sand. The Boardwalk officially opened on June 26, 1870.


Atlantic City Boardwalk


The Boardwalk was a success and in the years to come, was widened and extended several times. In the early years, the Boardwalk was disassembled after the summer season and stored to protect it from the elements. Today, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is 60 feet wide and runs 6 miles. The planks of wood are arranged in a herringbone pattern and are laid on a substructure of concrete and steel. "Boardwalk" is the official street name for this thoroughfare and thus is always capitalized when referring to the street in Atlantic City.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk was the inspiration for Disney's BoardWalk Inn & Villas, a deluxe property. Designed by architect Robert A.M Stern, this resort would be located on the south shore of Crescent Lake and complement the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, also designed by Stern.

The BoardWalk Inn & Villas would also mark the second Disney Vacation Club Property (DVC) after Old Key West. The resort would be divided in half with standard rooms being located in the "Inn" portion of the resort and DVC units in the "Villas" section. The resort officially opened on July 1, 1996.

Just like Atlantic City in days of old, Disney's version of this getaway-by-the-sea would feature a hotel, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and games. The only thing missing is the sandy beach.

This week I will discuss the hotel portion of the resort and the amenities offered. Next week I will cover the BoardWalk Promenade. Note, when discussing the resort, Disney will either split the word in two "Board Walk" or write it as one word while capitalizing the W in "BoardWalk."

The BoardWalk is located on Epcot Resorts Blvd. As with all Disney resorts, you must check in with a guard before entering the property. Self-parking is a fair distance from the lobby so you might want to consider driving up to the porte-cochère and letting Bell Services handle your luggage when you first arrive. Valet parking is currently $12 per day plus tip.


BoardWalk Entrance

Guard Shack

BoardWalk Hotel Entrance

Porte-cochère


From the porte-cochère you pass through doorways adorned with signs welcoming you to the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. When entering the lobby anteroom, you will come face-to-face with a miniature carrousel.


BoardWalk Hotel Doors

Illions Carrousel

Illions Carrousel

Illions Carrousel


This hand-crafted carrousel was built by M.C. Illions sometime in the 1920's. Illions was a designer and manufacturer of full-sized merry-go-rounds and built this scale model as a sales tool to demonstrate his workmanship to prospective buyers. It was never his intent to have it publicly displayed. The carrousel features 44 individually carved and painted 4-inch-tall horses. No two are identical. When activated, these horses move up and down, just like their full-scaled brothers.

The carrousel was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 1995 to be displayed at the BoardWalk. Over a period of one year, Imagineers restored decayed wood, worn mechanisms, and other items in disrepair. Another team researched the original color schemes and decorations used in Illions' full-scale merry-go-rounds and applied them to this model. Along the way, a few hidden Mickeys were added. Finishing touches included replating brass, applying gold leaf, crafting miniature leather stirrup straps, and replacing the tiny pearl-headed pins that serve as make-believe light bulbs. The Imagineers even scaled the speed of the carousel to match that of the King Arthur Carousel located at Disneyland in California.

After admiring Illions' carrousel, glance upwards. Here you'll discover the Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier. This magnificent work of art features animals that might be found on one of Illions' creations. In classical mythology, a hippocampus is a sea horse with two forefeet, and a body ending in the tail of a dolphin or fish. In-between the hippocampus are cherubs holding light fixtures. An "electrolier" is a chandelier designed for electric lamps rather than gas or candle.

The Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier weighs 3,000 pounds and is finished entirely in 22-karat gold leaf, hand-cut Austrian crystal, and custom-blown glass.


Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier

Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier

Hippocampus Electrolier Chandelier


The main lobby is bright and spacious. Overstuffed furniture and potted plants sit next to large windows and create a comfortable sitting area. Along the opposite wall are the check-in desks.


BoardWalk Lobby

BoardWalk Lobby


Above the check-in desks is an interesting detail. Within three elaborate gold frames we find depictions of pastoral settings. We also discover the castles of Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland.


Disney Castles

Disney Castles

Disney Castles

Disney Castles


The lobby houses other interesting details. Take for instance this reproduction of Lucy the Elephant that is located south of Atlantic City perched high above the fireplace.


Lucy Elephant

Lucy Elephant


Lucy is six stories high, built out of wood and tin sheeting, and was an example of novelty architecture. Built in 1881 by James Lafferty, this structure was a sales gimmick to promote real estate and attract tourism.


Colossal Elephant Picture


It is interesting to note, Disney has a plaque near their reproduction claiming this is the Colossus Elephant of Coney Island. However, their information is incorrect.

Sitting below the Lucy Elephant and to each side of the fireplace are perhaps the scariest two chairs you'll ever see. (They scare me, anyway.)


Nanny Chairs

Nanny Chairs


These "nanny chairs" were originally found on 19th century European carrousels. They were intended for adults to rest upon while their children rode the moving animals. These reproductions were cast from circa 1889 originals, hand painted and highlighted with gold leaf.

In this same area is another miniature reproduction, the Flip-Flap Railway which was located in Luna Park. Designed by Lina Beecher and built in 1898, this early coaster featured a 25-foot loop and was the world's first "upside down loop-the-loop roller coaster." The circular design of the loop (rather than teardrop used today) created a tremendous amount of g-force and caused its riders discomfort and neck problems. The coaster closed soon after opening.


Flip-Flap Railway

Flip-Flap Railway Picture


The founder of Coney Island Boardwalk's Steeplechase Park once said: "Paradox: a successful ride must look extremely dangerous yet convincing that the ride is completely safe." This axiom still holds true today.

Outside of the lobby we find a wonderful covered porch. Furnished with wicker chairs, this is the perfect spot to take a load off and relax in the afternoon and evening. It is here that you discover the lobby is actually on the second floor and this porch/balcony overlooks a beautifully manicured lawn below.


BoardWalk Balcony

BoardWalk Balcony

BoardWalk Balcony


I especially like the "kissing bench." This chair design makes face-to-face conversation easy and facilitates a quick smooch every now and then.


Kissing Bench


Adjacent to the lobby is Dundy's Sundries. This shop sells BoardWalk logo merchandise, souvenirs, sundries, books, and other gift-type items. For those staying in a DVC room and looking for food items, check out Screen Door General Store located on the BoardWalk Promenade. Dundy's Sundries is open daily from 7am to 11pm.

By the way, if you want to know who Dundy is, you'll have to read Part Three of this article. Trust me. It's an interesting story.


Dundy's Sundries

Dundy's Sundries


Leaving the lobby and walking toward the "Inn" section of the resort, we come to a long narrow hallway with windows on both sides. Located in this hallway is a Clamshell Mutascope. This early motion picture device was patented by Herman Casler on November 21, 1894 and soon became a staple in penny arcades around the country. The machine contained a wheel of still photographs that the patron would rotate with a hand crank, giving the illusion of movement.


Mutoscope


At one time, there were several mutascopes lining this hallway, but alas, there is now just one.


Mutoscopes


Further on we find another machine of this bygone era. Here, patrons could benefit from the "healthy" effects of electricity. By grasping the handles and twisting them inward, a person would receive a charge. The further the handles were rotated, the more electricity was transferred to the body. The claim was that this would give a person a "nerve and muscle" massage.

Machines like these and many others used to be located at the now long-gone Penny Arcade on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. This once novel facility is missed by many old-timers of Disney World.


Electric Wonder


Across from the Clamshell Mutascope are two striking paintings and credenzas. If you study the credenzas carefully, you will notice additional paintings depicting early amusement park rides.


Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides

Credenza and Amusement Park Rides


Also in this area are a number of lithographs and illustrations. These next two pastels depict how turn-of-the-century attractions allowed a repressed society to loosen their inhibitions and enjoy a few moments of gaiety.


Lithographs

Lithographs


Another common theme seen throughout the resort is framed picture postcards from the turn of the previous century. After the American Civil War, a number of expositions were held in the U.S. to help promote commerce and trade. In 1873, the Interstate Industrial Exposition was held in Chicago. To help market the event, a "picture" postcard was created so attendees could send quick notes back home - and advertise the exposition. However, these early cards garnered very little attention. It wasn't until an image of the Eiffel Tower was printed on a souvenir card for the Paris Exposition of 1889 that the world took notice and postcards grew to be a phenomenon.


Framed Postcards


Up until the information age, a multitude of postcards were sold at the Disney Parks. Each and every attraction had at least one of these beautifully photographed picture cards - sometimes two or three. Many guests bought them simply as collector pieces. But alas, the ability to send email, instant messages, and electronic photographs greatly cut into the sales of these picturesque pieces of cardboard and demand for them dropped dramatically. Today, only a handful of postcards are sold in the parks and most of these feature Disney characters rather than a specific location.

That's it for Part One of the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



September 4, 2012

BoardWalk Inn & Villas - Part 2 of 3

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Welcome back. Yesterday I discussed the lobby of the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. Today I'll continue my description of this deluxe resort.

One of the most charming spots at the BoardWalk Inn & Villas is the Belle Vue Lounge. Tucked away in a corner of the resort, this "1930's parlor" is the perfect spot to escape into a bygone era. Overstuffed chairs, wicker sofas, and a collection of small tables and chairs provide wonderful possibilities for relaxation and conversation. The walls are lined with books and shelves contain a number of board games for guest use, including Monopoly. Potted plants and fresh flower bouquets complete the experience.


Belle Vue Lounge

Belle Vue Lounge

Belle Vue Lounge

Belle Vue Lounge

Belle Vue Lounge


The Belle Vue Lounge also has some interesting oddities from years ago. One of these is a Magic Lantern. This early projection device originated in Europe in the 17th century and was often used by magicians and charlatans to amaze and scare a naïve public. The Magic Lantern came to America sometime in the late 19th century where it continued to be used by magicians. But it also took on a more legitimate use as this was the humble beginnings of the film industry. Enterprising entrepreneurs would charge admission to present a "slide" show to an astonished audience.


Magic Lantern


In the morning, a continental breakfast is offered at the Belle Vue Lounge from 6:30am to 11am. Selections include pastries, fruit, cereals, and beverages. From 5pm to 12 midnight, a bartender is on hand to serve you your favorite libation.

You will also notice a number of old-time radios positioned around the room. If you listen closely, you might just hear a broadcast of long ago.


Old Time Radio


Monopoly is actually a very fitting pastime to be enjoyed while having a beverage at the Belle Vue Lounge. During the Great Depression, Charles Darrow created a new board game. It dealt with the buying, selling, and development of property. As Darrow had vacationed in Atlantic City prior to the stock market crash, he felt that the city's glamor and larger-than-life reputation would add a touch of sophistication to his game. Thus, all of the properties were named after actual streets in this well-known city. Of course the most sought after and expensive title would be that of Boardwalk.


Deed to Boardwalk


Darrow presented his creation to Parker Brothers, one of the largest manufacturers of games in the country. Parker Brothers turned the game down due to its complex rules and perceived design flaws. Undaunted, Darrow and a friend hand-produced 5,000 sets of Monopoly for the 1934 Christmas season and sold them at a Philadelphia department store. The game was an instant success and Darrow could not keep up with demand. He revisited Parker Brothers and this time the company took notice and bought the game. One year later in 1935, Parker Brothers was producing 20,000 games per week.

It's interesting to note, early Monopoly sets were not the square boards we're familiar with today, but rather painted oilcloth cut into a circle with the familiar properties lining the edge.


Original Monopoly Game


Although not available to play, there are several other vintage board games lining the shelves of the Belle Vue Lounge. Two of these are, "Go to the Head of the Class" and "Eddie Cantor's Tell it to the Judge." Next time you're in this room, take a look at these diversions of another era. It's interesting to see how children and their parents were entertained before the electronic age.


Eddie Cantor's Tell it to the Judge

Go to the Head of the Class


Just past the Belle Vue Lounge are the elevators that take you to the 371 rooms of the "Inn" portion of the resort. The following description will be of a standard room.

Just inside the door is a small niche. Within this niche is a chest that contains three drawers and a small refrigerator just big enough to hold a few bottles of water and a collection of snacks.

On top of the chest is a coffee maker, a limited supply of coffee and tea, and cups.


Chest in Niche

Coffee Machine


Next to the niche is a large closet. In it you'll find hangers, an iron and ironing board, a collapsible crib, and a safe just large enough for items such as watches, keys, and wallets. Robes are offered in club level rooms and suites.


Closet

Closet

Closet


Directly opposite the closet is the vanity area. Here you'll find a spacious counter, two sinks, two oval mirrors, a secondary shelf, and a makeup mirror. The hair dryer can be found on a shelf beneath the sinks. H2O+ shampoo, conditioner, and body wash is also available. This area is brightly lit so you'll have plenty of light for those morning beauty activities that might require extra attention.


Bathroom Vanity

Bathroom Vanity


In a separate room are the toilet and the tub/shower. Being a deluxe resort, you will find the towels thick and fluffy.


Toilet Tub/Shower


The main room has two queen-sized beds. In keeping with the current deluxe hotel trend, there are no bedspreads, but rather a third sheet on the top of the bed with a decorative throw. A small "BoardWalk" pillow completes the design.


Queen-Sized Beds

Queen-Sized Beds

BoardWalk Pillow


In-between the two beds is a nightstand. Here you'll find a telephone and an alarm clock/radio with an iPod docking station.


Nightstand


On the opposite wall is a daybed.


Daybed


Disney has completed their conversion from tube-style TV to flat-screen at all of their resorts. The chest that houses the BoardWalk TVs is quite attractive and has plenty of storage space. Besides six decent sized drawers, there is shelving on both sides of the piece and cubby holes in the front. Audio/visual connections are also conveniently located so you can plug your video camera into the TV and watch the "dailies."


Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers


Next to the chest is a desk with a nesting table for laptop use. Free WiFi is now available so there is no longer a need for cable connection. On the desk sits a cute Minnie Mouse lamp. A mirror hangs above.


Nesting Desk

Minnie Mouse Lamp


All of the rooms at the BoardWalk Inn have either a balcony or patio. These will vary in shape and design depending on your room location. None of these are very large and can only accommodate two chairs and a small table.


Balconies

Balconies

Balconies

Balconies

Balconies


To see an overview of a BoardWalk Inn standard room, check out the video below.



Some of the standard rooms overlook the BoardWalk Promenade and courtyard. Others, the resort entrance. But many rooms have views of a beautifully manicured Rose Courtyard. This garden area is peaceful and serene and one of the most tranquil spots in all of Walt Disney World. A grand staircase leads from the lobby area to the lush lawns and walkways.


Rose Courtyard

Rose Courtyard

Rose Courtyard

Rose Courtyard

Rose Courtyard


This respite from the World is also where you'll find the "quiet" pool. Although children are certainly welcome, the intent is that this pool area is for leisurely swims, sunning, reading, and unobtrusive conversations. Note, there is no lifeguard on duty at this pool.


Boardwalk In Quiet Pool

Boardwalk In Quiet Pool


Also found in this area of the resort is a feature unique to all of Walt Disney World. Called the Garden Suites, these 14 rooms do not open onto a central hallway, but instead are accessed via the Rose Courtyard. Although perfect for honeymooners, these rooms can sleep four.


Garden Suites

Garden Suites


Every suite has its own, uniquely landscaped yard surrounded by a white picket fence. Guests enter their private garden through an arbor, each with its own distinctive gate. A small mailbox sits to the side.


Garden Suites

Garden Suites

Garden Suites

Garden Suites


Entering the suite we find a small living room with a sectional sofa. The sofa can be opened out into a double bed. To the side of the room is a console and TV. In a corner is a desk and nesting table.

I felt the placement of the TV did not facilitate easy viewing for most persons on the couch.


Garden Suite Sofa & TV

Garden Suite Sofa & TV

Garden Suite Nesting Desk


Off of the living room are a kitchenette and a closet. The kitchenette contains a mini-refrigerator, microwave oven, coffee maker, and sink. The closet is a reasonable size, but it only has one door. This makes accessing the back portion of this storage space somewhat difficult. A powder room (toilet and sink) can be found off of the kitchenette. There is no shower or tub on the first floor so if four people are using this room, they must bathe upstairs.


Garden Suite Kitchenette

Garden Suite Downstairs Closet

Garden Suite Powder Room


The bedroom is located upstairs in the loft. Since this is an "open" layout, there is no real privacy between the upstairs and downstairs.


Garden Suite Stairway

Garden Suite Balcony


On the second floor you'll find another closet, queen-sized bed, nightstand, small chair, and a chest of drawers and TV. Once again, I noticed that the placement of the TV makes viewing from the bed somewhat difficult. The loft looks out toward small windows.


Garden Suite Upstairs Closet

Garden Suite Queen Bed

Garden Suite Chest of Drawers and TV

Garden Suite Upstairs Window


Off of the bedroom is a second bathroom. Here you'll find a marble-topped counter with two sinks and two oval mirrors. Next to the vanity is a large, whirlpool tub surrounded by large mirrors. If you don't like looking at your own naked body, don't bathe here. LOL. But if this isn't a problem, then you're in for a nice relaxing soak.


Garden Suite Upstairs Bathroom

Garden Suite Upstairs Vanity

Garden Suite Bathtub


In a separate room you'll find a toilet and a shower big enough for two.


Garden Suite Upstairs Toilet and Shower


The Garden Suites are charming and perfect for couples in love - and as I said earlier, unique to the BoardWalk Inn. To see an overview of one of these rooms, check out the video below.



As with all Disney deluxe resorts, the BoardWalk Inn offers Club Level rooms and amenities for those willing to spend a little extra. Located on the fourth floor, guests with these privileges have a dedicated concierge staff that will help them make their vacation whatever they want it to be. From restaurant reservations, personal tours, and suggestions you have never even imagined, these well-informed hosts and hostesses are there to make you happy.


Innkeepers Club Concierge


Also available is a special lounge called the Innkeeper's Club. This is a wonderful spot to escape and be pampered. Elegant furniture, fresh flowers, and an attentive staff are on hand to spoil you. The Innkeeper's Club offers a large TV and a collection of Disney classics on DVD.


Innkeeper's Club Lounge

Innkeeper's Club Lounge

Innkeeper's Club Lounge

Innkeeper's Club Lounge

Innkeeper's Club Lounge


The doors to the lounge open at 6:30am each morning.

Coffee, Tea, Water & Juices - 6:30am to 10:30am

Continental Breakfast - 7:00am to 10:30am

Four Cold Cereals, Hot Oatmeal, Fresh Pastries, Fresh Fruit, Yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs. Skim Milk, 2% Milk, Chocolate Milk, Orange Juice, Water and V-8.

Refreshments - 11:30am to 4:00pm
Fresh made potato chips, fresh baked cookies, various snacks & candies, lemonade, iced tea, water & soda.

Wine & Cheese - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Two hot appetizers, 3 cheeses, 2 cold salads, vegetable platter, pita bread, crackers, four bottled beers and three wines. Water and soda also available.

Cordials & Desserts - 8:00pm to 10:00pm

Various fresh pastries from the BoardWalk Bakery, four cordial alcohols.

IllumiNations can be viewed from the Lounge balcony although only the fireworks portion can be seen above the trees.

Important Note: the doors remain open all day long from 6:30am to 10:00pm, but services end promptly so the staff can clean up and turn over for the next service offering.


Innkeeper's Club Lounge Refreshments

Innkeeper's Club Lounge Refreshments

Innkeeper's Club Lounge Refreshments

Innkeeper's Club Lounge Refreshments

Innkeeper's Club Lounge Refreshments

Innkeeper's Club Lounge Refreshments


To see an overview of the Innkeeper's Club, check out the video below.



That's it for Part Two of the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. Check back tomorrow for Part Three.



September 5, 2012

BoardWalk Inn & Villas - Part 3 of 3

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Welcome back. In Part One of this article I discussed the lobby of the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. In Part Two I talked about the Belle Vue Lounge, the Innkeepers Lounge, a Standard Guest Room and a Garden Suite. Today I will finish my description of this deluxe resort.

Now it's time to move over to the Villas section of the resort. I used to have problems remembering which side of the resort was the "Inn" and which side was the "Villas." Then it occurred to me, architect Robert A.M Stern cleverly "color coded" the sections to make it easier to distinguish between the two. The exterior of the Inn is painted in shades of white with blue accents. The Villas are covered in shades of yellow and coral.


BoardWalk Villas Exterior

BoardWalk Villas Exterior

BoardWalk Villas Exterior


Before I discuss the 383 DVC rooms found in this section of the resort, I want to talk about the amenities located here. Note, all facilities at the BoardWalk Inn & Villas are open to all guests, regardless of which side of the resort they are staying at. The exception being, you must be lodging in a Club Level room in order to experience the Innkeeper's Club.

As with so many Disney resorts, the main swimming pool is often the center of daytime activity, and the BoardWalk is no exception. At Luna Park, guests will find an enormous (190,000 gallons) free-form pool. The name "Luna Park" comes from an early amusement park found on Coney Island (1903 to 1944). More on this later.

Luna Park is designed to resemble a carnival/circus. This theme is highlighted by signs advertising the shows and spectacles to be enjoyed here.


Luna Park Signs

Luna Park Signs

Luna Park Signs

Luna Park Signs


The "trained" elephants can be seen at several spots around the pool. One even provides a shower for those swimming in her proximity.


Luna Park Elephants

Luna Park Elephants


Leaping Horse Libations resembles a carousel and serves hard and soft drinks plus a limited selection of snacks. After a few trips here, you might actually begin to see the pygmy horses the billboard advertises.


Leaping Horse Libations

Leaping Horse Libations


The highlight of Luna Park is Keister Coaster. This 200-foot water slide resembles an old-time wooden roller coaster. Anyone with coulrophobia might want to skip this attraction. The splashdown takes riders through a giant clown head.

For those of you who don't know, "keister" is slang for a person's rear end. So Keister Coaster is a fitting name for this slide as you ride it on your keister.


Keister Coaster

Keister Coaster


Here are few more pictures of the pool area, the kiddie pool, and Crazy Horse Playground.


Luna Park

Luna Park

Luna Park

Crazy Horse Playground


There were many early amusement park names that the Imagineers could have used to identify their elaborate swimming pool, but Luna Park was selected for a reason. In 1901, Frederic Thompson and Elmer "Skip" Dundy created a ride called "A Trip to the Moon." This attraction premiered at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. The attraction was so successful, the pair later updated it and moved it to their new Coney Island location to be called Luna Park. Luna is the Latin word for moon.

For 50¢ ($14.00 in 2012 dollars), guests could take a make-believe trip to the moon. Their vehicle would not be a rocket, but rather a gondola-like craft with wings. Guests boarded Luna from a train station-like platform. At takeoff, the wings began to flap and the craft began to undulate and rise slightly. Once "airborne," the vehicle "flew" over representations of Coney Island and Manhattan, offering panoramic views of both areas before ascending into the clouds. All of this was done with the use of a cyclorama, a theater-like building where the viewer is positioned in the center of a large room and a panoramic landscape circles the audience. Once reaching the moon, guests disembarked and walked around a papier-mâché lunar surface. Along the way, they interacted with costumed moon characters called Selenites.


A Trip to the Moon


Their walking journey continued through stalactite caverns and across a chasm via a spidery bridge. Reaching an underground city they encountered illuminated plants, trees, and otherworldly growth. Eventually guests would meet the "Man in the Moon," a giant seated upon a magnificent throne. In this same room was a fabulous "electric" fountain that displayed all the colors of the rainbow as it cascaded and pulsated.

As guests prepared to leave the attraction, moon maidens passed out pieces of cheese from their lunar homeland. Many people at the time believed that the moon was made out of green cheese. Guests exited the ride via a Mooncalf's mouth.

This attraction was a quantum leap over any other amusement park ride of its day. It would be comparable to the revolutionary effect "Pirates of the Caribbean" had on Disneyland.

Another attraction at Luna Park was "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea." Here, guests boarded a "submarine" and peered through portholes. While on their voyage, they saw a number of bizarre sea creatures, coral reefs, sunken ships, and mermaids. Eventually they reached the North Pole. Again, all of this was achieved with the use of a cyclorama.


20,000 Leagues Under The Sea


After reaching the arctic, guests disembarked the sub and entered a frozen environment of ocean and icebergs. Actually, it was a large, refrigerated warehouse with an enormous pool of water and floating ice. There were even real polar bears and seals to add to the authenticity. In addition, a tribe of Inuit inhabited this space, complete with igloos and dogsleds.

Walt Disney was a genius; there is certainly no doubt about this. But perhaps some of his inspiration came from attractions long before his time.

In 1955, Walt opened his own version of "A Trip to the Moon" and called it "Rocket to the Moon." However, Walt's version relied more on science and less on fantasy. After blast off, guests would view Anaheim and Southern California retreating in the distance on the cabin's lower view screen. Soon, the ship passed through the clouds and into outer space on its way to the moon. However, Walt's version only flew around the lunar surface and never actually landed.


Rocket to the Moon

Rocket to the Moon


Walt also opened the "Submarine Voyage" at Disneyland in 1959. Although more convincingly executed, this ride employed many of the same ideas as its 1903 predecessor, including a trip to the North Pole.


Submarine Voyage


Both Frederic Thompson and Elmer Dundy are honored at the BoardWalk. Mr. Thompson is the proprietor of Thimbles & Threads found on the BoardWalk Promenade and the shop off of the resort's main lobby is called Dundy's Sundries.


Thimbles & Threads

Dundy's Sundries


The BoardWalk also offers a video arcade and gym. Both are located near Luna Park.

Side Show Games Arcade offers a nice selection of stand-up and sit-down games including old favorites and some state-of-the-art skill-testers.


Side Show Games Arcade

Side Show Games Arcade


Muscles & Bustles Health Club offers the latest in cardiovascular and weight-training equipment. Also available here is a steam room and sauna. Massage therapy can be arranged for an additional fee.


Muscles & Bustles Health Club

Muscles & Bustles Health Club

Muscles & Bustles Health Club


The BoardWalk has two lighted tennis courts which are open from 7am to 10pm. These courts are located at the far end of the resort just off of the pathway that leads to Disney's Hollywood Studios. The courts are intended for BoardWalk guests only. Reservations can be made at Community Hall and rental equipment is available.


Tennis Courts


The Ferris W. Eahlers Community Hall is located near the Villas' quiet pool. This facility is a great spot for tweens and teenagers - and adults too. Ping pong, air hockey, and foosball are just waiting to challenge the generations. DVDs, electronic games, and an abundance of toys will keep the younger set entertained for hours. Community Hall is also the spot to rent bikes and movies and secure tennis equipment.


Ferris W. Eahlers Community Hall

Ferris W. Eahlers Community Hall

Ferris W. Eahlers Community Hall

Ferris W. Eahlers Community Hall

Ferris W. Eahlers Community Hall


Community Hall sits next to the BoardWalk Villas "quiet" swimming pool. Like its counterpart at the BoardWalk Inn, this pool area is intended for leisurely swims, sunning, reading, and unobtrusive conversations. However, due to its proximity to Community Hall, children will be more prevalent here than at the BoardWalk Inn pool. Note, this pool does not have a lifeguard.


Villa's Quiet Pool

Villa's Quiet Pool

Villa's Quiet Pool

Villa's Quiet Pool


If you're in the mood for a little barbeque flavor, a charcoal grill and picnic table is located adjacent to the pool. You must bring your own charcoal as the resort does not stock this item.


Villas BBQ


As I mentioned earlier, the BoardWalk Villas house DVC units and members use "points" to secure lodging here. However, non-members can also rent these rooms for cash depending on availability and other factors. Rooms here come in four configurations, studio, one, two, and three bedroom units. Room sizes break down as follows:

Studio - 359 square feet
One Bedroom Unit - 712 square feet
Two Bedroom Unit - 1,071 square feet.
Three Bedroom Unit (Grand Villa) - 2,142 square feet

Today I'll be touring a Studio Unit.

A small entry greets guests as they enter a Studio Unit. On the wall is a mirror and shelf just large enough to hold a wallet, admission tickets, and room keys.


Studio Unit Entry


Unlike the one, two, and three bedroom units which have full kitchens capable of cooking complete meals, the Studio Unit features a kitchenette. The kitchenette is not meant for cooking a banquet, but rather warming precooked foods in the microwave and toasting bread and bagels in the toaster. A coffee maker is also provided and there is a small refrigerator with a tiny freezer. About the only thing this freezer is capable of holding is a couple of ice cube trays. Although the goblets and mugs are made out of glass and stoneware, the plates are paper. In DVC units with full kitchens, the dishes are stoneware.


Studio Unit Kitchenette

Studio Unit Kitchenette

Studio Unit Kitchenette

Studio Unit Kitchenette


Opposite the kitchenette is the vanity area of the bathroom. A large, well lit mirror hangs above a single sink. Ample storage is provided below the sink with drawers and cupboards. This is also where you'll find the hair dryer.


Studio Unit Vanity

Studio Unit Vanity


Like all Disney resort properties, the Villas provide H2O+ toiletries. Standard aminities include shampoo, conditioner, body scrub, and bars of soap. Thankfully, the soap is now packaged in an easy-to-open plastic bag. The old package was impossible to open without the aid of a knife or your teeth.


H2O+ Products


Off of the vanity is the toilet and tub/shower. The shower head is adjustable, but in an effort to conserve water, the spray is adequate only - which is probably the correct move on Disney's part. The towels are fluffy and thick.


Studio Unit Toilet Shower/Tub


On the other side of the vanity is a closet. Here you'll find additional bedding, a vacuum, a collapsible crib, a luggage rack, and a small safe.


Studio Unit Closet

Studio Unit Closet


The main room is painted in pastel pink and yellow and features a queen sized bed. The mattress is quite comfortable, but I feel that the three pillows are a little small. And why only three? Who gets two and who only gets one? The bedspread features a rose design with no hidden Disney characters.


Studio Unit Queen Bed


On the wall next to the bed is an oddly placed mirror. Its inconvenient location and poor lighting does not lend itself to practical use. And the double light over the bed is placed so high that it does not facilitate reading in bed by only one individual without disturbing the other. In addition, the light switch is placed too high to be easily reached while lying in bed.


Mirror and Lights


Next to the bed is a nightstand. Here you'll find a telephone, a clock/radio with an iPod docking station, and the TV remote control.


Studio Unit Night Stand


On the other side of the nightstand is a convertible sofa upholstered in a mint green material. Instructions on how to open the bed are left on the couch in plain sight. This is the next generation of convertible sofa and does not open in the conventional manner. If you're not familiar with this type of bed, the instructions are invaluable.

A strap can be found behind the back cushion. Without removing any cushions, all one must do is pull this strap and the bed opens right up. For the most part, anyone with average strength can operate this bed.


Studio Unit Convertable Sofa

Studio Unit Convertable Sofa

Studio Unit Convertable Sofa


Opposite the queen bed is another sofa, of sorts. Although it looks like it could be used as a child's bed, that is not Disney's intent. Studio Units sleep a maximum of four plus a child under three in a crib.


Studio Unit Couch


Next to this sofa is a chest with three large drawers. If you look closely, you'll find Mickey on each drawer. A DVD player can be found on the shelf and a flat screen TV sits atop the chest. There are no audio/visual hookups enabling you to watch your day's videos.


Studio Unit Chest of Drawers

Studio Unit Chest of Drawers


On the other side of the chest of drawers are a table and two chairs. When I pulled out my laptop, I discovered there was no electrical outlet near the table. It was on the other side of the chest. So I had to run my wires up and over. On the plus side, free WiFi is now standard at the BoardWalk Resort.


Studio Unit Table and Chairs


The next two pictures show an overall placement of the furniture.


Studio Unit

Studio Unit


All DVC units have a patio or balcony. The size can vary depending on the exterior of the building. Each unit will have two chairs and a small table.


Studio Unit Balcony


To see an overview of a Studio Unit, check out the video below.



I like the Studio Units if only two people are using the room. It seemed large and felt like a mini-suite. But personally, if I were part of a party of three or four and didn't care about the kitchenette, I would opt for a standard room in the BoardWalk Inn portion of the resort. I'm not a big fan of opening and closing a convertible sofa each night and I like the décor at the Inn better. The rooms at the Inn have a richer, more luxurious atmosphere.

The walk from your room to the elevators can be significant on either side of the resort. If this is an issue to you, be sure to request a room close to the elevators when making your reservation and again when checking in.

The bus stop for the BoardWalk Inn & Villas is located near the front of the resort. Once again, this can be a long walk depending on where your room is located. The buses transport guests to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, water parks, and Downtown Disney. For transportation to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, you can either walk or take one of the Friendship Boats docking on the BoardWalk Promenade. Note, the walk to Hollywood Studios is somewhat long and on hot days, you might want to think twice before making this journey.


Bus Stop

Boat Dock


To see an overview of the BoardWalk Inn & Villas Resort, check out the video below. It runs just shy of nine minutes.



That's it for the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. Check back next week when I'll discuss the BoardWalk Promenade.



September 10, 2012

BoardWalk Promenade - Part 1 of 2

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BoardWalk Postcard


Last week I discussed the BoardWalk Inn & Villas. Today I'm going to describe all of the wonderful and exciting shops and restaurants along the BoardWalk Promenade. As I mentioned in my previous article, the concept for a "boardwalk" was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1870 as a way to keep sand out of the establishments that lined the beach.


Directions to the BoardWalk


The buildings along the BoardWalk Promenade (from here on, simply to be known as the BoardWalk) resemble those found at the great amusement centers of Atlantic City and Coney Island. It was the intent of architect Robert A.M Stern to create a seaside resort that appeared to grow over time during the decades of the 1920s and 1930s. As each new establishment was added, the popularity of the overall venue grew. At the real Atlantic City and Coney Island, the offerings could be rowdy to lavish and everything in between. But at the Disney version, we only find a wholesome collection of restaurants, shops, and games.


The BoardWalk from Across Crescent Lake

The BoardWalk from Across Crescent Lake


The Disney BoardWalk is 35 feet wide and 1,300 feet long. It is laid out in a herringbone pattern and used 300,000 screws to secure the boards in place. The wood is treated to be resistant to decay and acids and features good weathering characteristics. The retail and entertainment area of the BoardWalk contains more than 9,000 square feet of space.


BoardWalk Planks


For continuity, I will begin my tour of the BoardWalk on the east side of the Promenade - the side closest to Epcot -- and work my way to the west. I'll begin with a structure that technically isn't a part of the BoardWalk, Sea Breeze Point Pavilion.


Sea Breeze Point Pavilion

Sea Breeze Point Pavilion

Sea Breeze Point Pavilion

Sea Breeze Point Pavilion

Sea Breeze Point Pavilion


Sea Breeze Point Pavilion is a gazebo/arbor that sits on the shores of Crescent Lake. It can be rented by any group for any function, but more often than not, it is reserved for weddings and wedding-associated events. Much of this has to do with its fantastic and romantic location. The views of the resorts lining Crescent Lake create a magical backdrop and the Friendship boats sailing by add a touch of international flair. When an event is not taking place at the Pavilion, this spot provides a nice, shady respite on your walk back from Epcot in the afternoon.

"Perfect Experiences" at Sea Breeze Point can be arranged through Disney's Event Planning. For more information as to what Disney experts can orchestrate, click here.

The first building actually on the BoardWalk is ESPN Club.


ESPN Club

ESPN Club


I like this restaurant, even though I know absolutely nothing about sports. The reason? The menu. This spot offers good ol' American favorites like hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, and wings. In addition, the menu is large. Compared to the Turf Club lunch menu at Saratoga Springs which only offers 8 entrees and Kona Café at the Polynesian which offers 12 lunch options, the ESPN Club presents 18 meals. And many of their appetizers are large enough to be considered an entree. I appreciate the larger selection.

When arriving, a host or hostess will greet you and give you a "team" name. For instance, when I ate here last month with friends, we were Team Spence. Once at our table, our server introduced himself as Coach Anthony.

The ESPN Club has two sections. You enter into "Sidelines." This area features the main bar and has a number of tables and booths located nearby.


ESPN Club Sidelines


The second section of the restaurant is called "ESPN Central" and is themed to resemble a sports arena with tables on several levels. This area is also "broadcast ready" and will occasionally feature live feeds for television and radio.


ESPN Club Central


Being a sports bar, the ESPN Club broadcasts sporting events. In fact, there are 108 TV monitors linked to 25 satellite feeds. There are even monitors in the restrooms so you'll never miss a moment of the World Series or Super Bowl.

Since I'm not interested in sports, I especially like the tables that line the windows. This allows me fantastic opportunities to people watch along the Promenade.


ESPN Club Window Tables

ESPN Club is open for lunch and dinner. Reservations are not accepted. This is rarely a problem at lunch unless there is a big game being played. To see the complete menu, click here.


Next to the ESPN Club is "The Yard at ESPN Club." This combination shop and arcade sells sports related Disney and ESPN merchandise. There are also a number of sports related video games to test your hand-eye coordination.


The Yard at ESPN Club

The Yard at ESPN Club

The Yard at ESPN Club


Across from the ESPN Club is Novelty Photos. This free-standing booth allows individuals or couples the opportunity to take four silly or romantic photos in quick succession. The pictures are instantly developed and two strips of four photos are provided.


Novelty Photos

Novelty Photos

Novelty Photos


The first known working photographic machine was exhibited at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris. The first "modern" concept of a photo booth appeared on New York's Broadway in 1925. For 25¢, patrons would receive 8 photos. Despite the fact that the pictures took ten minutes to develop, the machine was an instant success and within six months over 280,000 people had used this new marvel.

Next to ESPN Yard is BoardWalk Bakery. This is as close to a counter-service restaurant as you'll find at the BoardWalk. Although extremely small, this establishment is quite popular so be prepared for a line at peak times. In the morning, breakfast sandwiches, pastries, cereals, and fruit are available. At lunch and dinner, a nice selection of meat and vegetable sandwiches are offered. And being a bakery, dessert type items are served all day long. Behind the counter you can see the large kitchen where many of the items are baked fresh each day.

To see the complete menu, click here.


BoardWalk Bakery

BoardWalk Bakery

BoardWalk Bakery

BoardWalk Bakery


The proprietor of BoardWalk Bakery is Hue G. Krozont. Mr. Krozont is known for his invention of the Pie Stretcher in 1923. He ran a small café known as Krozont's Kitchen in Philadelphia and was famous for his homemade apple pies. Always looking for a way to increase his profits, he came up with a device that would "stretch" a fully baked pie to 1/3 again its original size, thus enabling him to serve two additional slices at no additional cost. Krozont patented his machine the following year and later sold all rights to his invention to Medville College. With his windfall, Krozont unloaded his café and move to Miami. Unfortunately, he fell victim to the Florida Land Boom and lost all of his money. He died penniless.


Hue G. Krozont


Now I hope you all realize, the above paragraph is a complete work of fiction. Hue G. Krazont is a play on words. When read as the Imagineers intended, it would be "Huge Croissant."

However, I tell the story of a pie stretcher for a reason"

When I started working at the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland at age 18, my title was Miscellaneous Kitchen Helper. My sole job was to transfer food, pans, and other kitchen utensils from the Main Kitchen located in the basement of New Orleans Square to the Blue Bayou Restaurant found on the first floor. All day long, the cooks at the Blue Bayou would instruct me to go downstairs to the Main Kitchen and pick up some needed item.

On my second day on the job, I was instructed to go to the Main Kitchen and retrieve a pie stretcher. Of course, there is no such thing. But not knowing this, I dutifully went downstairs and asked one of the chefs. He told me he didn't have it, but check with Joe. Of course Joe didn't have it either and suggested I check with Al. After about ten minutes and ten chefs, it finally dawned on me that a practical joke was being played on me and everyone was in on the gag. This prank was an initiation right of the Blue Bayou and in the years that followed I myself sent many a new, young, naive cast member on a hunt for a pie stretcher (and a few items not suitable for print here).

Our next stop on the BoardWalk is the Pizza Window. Here you can order cheese, pepperoni, and veggie pizza by the slice or by the pie. Extra toppings like mushrooms, sausage, onions, and black olives are also available for an additional charge. Soft drinks and sangria help wash it all down. A single slice of pizza is decent sized and is adequate for a light meal.

This is strictly a "walk-up" establishment. No table service is available, but there are a number of tables nearby for al fresco dining.


Pizza Window

Pizza Window


Across from BoardWalk Bakery on the water side of the promenade is BoardWalk Joe's. From 7:30am to 11am this kiosk offers Danishes, muffins, and egg croissant sandwiches. In the late afternoon and evening this spot sells six varieties of margaritas, draft beer, wine, Coke products, chips & nacho cheese, soft pretzels, and a few other goodies. BoardWalk Joe's is closed during mid-day. To see the complete menu, click here.


BoardWalk Joe's


In the early years of the BoardWalk, a restaurant known as Spoodles was one of the promenade's favorite eateries. Opening on July 1, 1996, this restaurant offered a Mediterranean menu that was dubbed "Cuisine of the Sun." Selections included regional specialties from Spain, Greece, Italy, and Northern Africa.


Spoodles


On August 15, 2009, Kouzzina replaced Spoodles. Owned and operated by Disney, this Cat Cora restaurant features Mediterranean cuisine that highlights her Greek roots and Mississippi upbringing. Chef Cora's philosophy is to create simple yet sensational meals. "Kouzzina" is Greek for "kitchen"

Kouzzina was remodeled slightly from the days of Spoodles, but much of the original atmosphere still remains. An open kitchen with its wood-burning grill and oak-fired ovens still entertains and enchants guests. Dark wood flooring and furniture combine with light tan walls to create a cozy and inviting environment.

I have eaten here a number of times and have always been pleased. I even like Cat's Brussels sprouts, a vegetable I normally avoid at all costs. Kouzzina is open for breakfast and dinner. Reservations are suggested.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the grand opening press event in 2009. Although the menu has changed somewhat since then, my review still speaks to the tastes and charms Cat brings to this establishment. To see my article, click here. To see the complete breakfast menu, click here. To see the complete dinner menu, click here.


Kouzzina

Kouzzina

Kouzzina

Kouzzina

Kouzzina


After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and Biology at the University of Southern Mississippi, Cat Cora followed the advice of her famous mentor Julia Child and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After graduation, she continued her education in Europe apprenticing with two of France's three-star Michelin chefs, George Blanc of Vonnas and Roger Verge. (Roger Vergé is one of the founding chefs of the Les Chefs de France restaurant at Epcot.) Cat accomplishments and awards continued to mount, but perhaps her most famous achievement was being the first and only female Iron Chef on the Food Network's hit show "Iron Chef America." Cat began working with Disney in 2008 by creating a Disney Video-on-Demand series to showcase ways to help families develop more healthy eating habits.

Next to Kouzzina is Seashore Sweets'. This combination ice cream fountain and candy store is the perfect spot to satisfy your sweet tooth. The stores motto: "Confections served with Affection."


Seashore Sweets'

Seashore Sweets'

Seashore Sweets'


One of the store's signature products is salt water taffy, an Atlantic City institution for years. But this wasn't always the case. Although plain ol' taffy had been a staple along the Boardwalk for many years, "salt" was not a part of the tradition. This came about quite by accident. In August of 1883, a large storm hit the Atlantic Seaboard and flooded the Boardwalk candy store of David Bradley. As a result, his entire stock of taffy was soaked with salty ocean water. As the story goes, a young girl entered the store the following day and requested taffy. As a joke Bradley said, "Sure. We have some salt water taffy." Not understanding the sarcasm, the girl bought a bag full and left the store happy and did not return with any complaints. The rest is history.


Salt Water Taffy


Besides salt water taffy, Seashore Sweets' also honors another Atlantic City institution, the Miss America Pageant.

Traditionally, the "summer season" ended on the Boardwalk with Labor Day weekend at which time vacationers went home. In an effort to entice people to stay a little longer, Mayor Edward L. Bader and local leaders suggested holding a two-day publicity extravaganza to extend the season for a few more days. So on September 6, 1921 a beauty contest to be called the "Atlantic City Pageant" was held. That first year there were only eight participants. The girls were judged in a number of events, including the Rolling Chair Parade and the Bathers' Revue (a swimsuit competition). After two days of good natured rivalry, the judges selected sixteen year old Margaret Gorman from Washington D.C. to be the first winner of the pageant.


Margaret Gorman


When the event was over, the city leaders and local businessmen could see that the event was a success. Tourists had stayed in Atlantic City past Labor Day and continued to spend money. It was then decided to make this an annual event.

The following year, the pageant name was changed to "Miss America" and fifty-eight contestants participated. In addition, brass bands and orchestras were added to the festivities. Among the distinguished panel of judges in 1922 was famed artist Norman Rockwell. The pageant continued to grow and flourish over the years and became an American tradition.

Next time you're in Seashore Sweets', look around. Lining the ceiling are pictures of all the Miss America winners. In addition, an actual robe, crown, scepter, and trophy used in a ceremony are on display.


Miss America Winners

Miss America Robe and Crown


That's it for Part One of the BoardWalk Promenade. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.


September 11, 2012

BoardWalk Promenade - Part 2 of 2

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Yesterday I discussed Sea Breeze Point to Seashore Sweets along the BoardWalk. Today I will continue my journey along this promenade of yesterday and today.

I am often asked to name my favorite Walt Disney World restaurant. I usually respond with, "What category of restaurant? Counter service?" Of course I know full well people are asking me about "signature" restaurants. My answer is this: Not counting Victoria & Albert's (which is in a class all by itself), it's a tie between Citricos at the Grand Floridian and Flying Fish Cafe at the BoardWalk.


Flying Fish Cafe


The Flying Fish Café is located on the "corner" of the BoardWalk with Seashore Treats on one side and Belle Vue Lounge on the other (sort of). Coney Island was the inspiration for this eatery and its décor is a fusion of nostalgia and contemporary. Here, stylized roller coasters dominate the walls complete with blue light bulbs that line the railing. Even the half-wall partitions curve up and down as to suggest the hills and falls of the famous roller coasters of the era. On the back wall is a large floor-to-ceiling back-lit Ferris Wheel. Large overhead murals depict the Steeplechase and other assorted carnival rides. Even the chandeliers are worth your attention. Pairs of fish are perched under parachutes as to suggest yet another Coney Island attraction. Pay close attention to the beautifully cloud-painted ceiling. If you look carefully, the stars change colors every several minutes.


Flying Fish Cafe Ferris Wheel

Flying Fish Cafe Steeplechase

Flying Fish Cafe Fish Lamps


One side of the restaurant has large windows that overlook a charming courtyard. The other side features a show kitchen with ample seating along a beautifully tiled bar.


Flying Fish Cafe Window

Flying Fish Cafe Bar


The tables are spaced nicely, allowing for plenty of room between parties. In the back of the restaurant is a small alcove. The tables located here afford a more intimate atmosphere. However, I prefer the ambiance of the main dining room to the alcove as I enjoy the "sky" with its ever-changing "stars" and the Ferris Wheel.


Flying Fish Cafe Main Dining Room

Flying Fish Cafe Alcove


The Flying Fish Café does not have a lounge. If you would enjoy a cocktail before or after dinner, think about the Belle Vue Lounge located nearby.

As you might expect by the name of the restaurant, the Flying Fish Café specializes in seafood. The freshest selections are bought each morning so the menu is in a constant state of flux. But don't let this put you off if you're not a connoisseur of scaly and shelled creatures. The best New York Strip Steak I've ever eaten is served here. Yachtsman Steakhouse can't hold a candle to the flavor, and tenderness of the Flying Fish Café's preparation of this fine piece of meat.

Of course, the service is always excellent.

The Flying Fish Café gets its name from one of the cars found on a Coney Island roller coaster of yesteryear.


Flying Fish Cafe Mural


Being a signature restaurant, there is a dress code.

Men: Khakis, slacks, jeans, dress shorts, collared shirts. Sport coats are optional.

Ladies: Capris, skirts, dresses, jeans, dress shorts.

The Flying Fish Café is open for dinner only - 5:30pm to 10pm. Reservations are an absolute must. To see the complete menu, click here.

Back out on the water side of the promenade we find another free-standing food facility, BoardWalk To Go. This stand offers a nice selection of "on-the-go" foods. Corn dogs, onion rings, nachos, meatball sandwiches, and fried ravioli are just a few of the offerings. If you're in the mood for "cholesterol laden junk food that should only be eaten once a year while on vacation," this is the spot! To see the complete menu, click here.


BoardWalk To Go


Nearby are two street-party favorites, BoardWalk Caricatures and BoardWalk Hairwraps. At these two locations you can add a little pizazz to your tresses then be immortalized for posterity. Prices are posted on nearby signs.


BoardWalk Caricatures

BoardWalk Hairwraps


When the Boardwalk in Atlantic City officially became a street in 1886, all vehicles were banned from this thoroughfare. Sensing and opportunity, a local hardware merchant began to rent wheelchairs to those who preferred to sightsee while seated. The idea was a success and soon the chairs were redesigned to hold two and look a little less institutional. However, the herringbone design of the Boardwalk created quite a bumpy ride for the ladies. To alleviate this, sections of the herringbone planking were laid lengthwise to provide a smoother ride.


Wheeled Chairs

Redesigned Harringbone Boardwalk


Now Disney's BoardWalk never had rolling chairs, but they do have the next best thing, surreys. Many of the Disney resorts now offer surreys for rent, but it all started here at the BoardWalk. These single and double-seat vehicles are a family favorite and never fail to bring a smile to both riders and pedestrians.


Surrey

Surrey

Surrey


Rented by the half hour, a trip in one of these cute little contraptions takes riders on a one mile trip around Crescent Lake. Most of the route is level, but there are a couple of hills to contend with along the way. Remember, the power for these surreys is provided by YOU pedaling. There are no motors involved.

A quadracycle is a four-wheeled human-powered land vehicle. It first came onto the scene in 1853 at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations World's Fair held in New York City. Its intention was to offer a stable alternative to the bicycle. However, as improvements to the bicycle were made, the popularity of the quadracycle diminished.


Quadracycle


In the late 20th century, quadracycles were redesigned with bench seats, canopy tops, and rack-and-pinion steering. They were renamed "surreys" due to their likeness to horse-drawn wagons sporting the same name.

Across from the Surrey Bike Rentals is Promenade Pier. This is where you catch a Friendship Boat to Epcot or Disney's Hollywood Studios. Other stops include the Yacht & Beach Club and the Swan & Dolphin. It takes approximately 30 minutes to travel all the way from Epcot to the Studio.


Promenade Pier

Promenade Pier


As I mentioned in an earlier article, there are pedestrian walkways to all of these locations. The walk from the BoardWalk to Epcot is reasonable and most people should be able to manage it just fine. However, the walk to Disney's Hollywood Studios is somewhat long and you should think twice before embarking on this "hike" on very hot days or when rain is threatening.

Along the fence of the BoardWalk Promenade are several coin-operated binoculars. These offer a few moments of fun as you "spy" on others around Crescent Lake.


Binoculars


Although not officially on the BoardWalk, Wyland Galleries offers a wonderful chance to browse and purchase some really fine pieces of art.


Wyland Galleries


While the environmentally inspired works of Robert Wyland are showcased here, the gallery also features pieces by other renowned artists. The collection is varied and includes original paintings, giclees, sculptures, and jewelry. In addition, a large selection of art featuring Disney characters is also available.


Wyland Galleries

Wyland Galleries


The prices in this gallery are not for the faint of heart. To give you an example, this hand-painted bronze Sorcerer Mickey by Bill Toma runs $10,000.


Mickey by Bill Toma


I encourage you to stop by Wyland Galleries even if this shop is out of your price range. Think of it as a museum where you can be inspired by magnificent works of art.

The main shopping opportunity on the BoardWalk is contained in three, connected shops. These are Screen Door General Store, Character Carnival, and Thimbles & Threads.


BoardWalk Shops

At first glance you might think the merchandise in these three shops is randomly displayed. However, the names of these emporiums provide an accurate description of what is offered inside.

Screen Door General Store is the spot for those staying in the Villas section of the resort and wishing to purchase food and drink to take back to their kitchens. A decent selection of wine is offered for those wishing a relaxing evening in their room. This store also sells Disney branded kitchen items, mugs, and glassware.


Screen Door General Store

Screen Door General Store

Screen Door General Store


Character Carnival is the spot for kids. Toys, plushes, Vinylmation, and character costumes are just a few of the items to be found in this section of the shop.


Character Carnival

Character Carnival


As the name implies, Thimbles & Threads is the spot for adult clothing, hats, and watches.


Thimbles & Threads

Thimbles & Threads


Another free-standing food location can be found across from the shops. Funnel Cake Cart offers funnel cakes (duh), fried ice cream, pretzels, and cotton candy.


Funnel Cake Cart


Near the Funnel Cake Cart is Midway Games and More. This mini-midway offers "skilled" players an opportunity to win a non-Disney plush.


Midway Games and More


Watergun Fun is the only game of the four offered where a prize will be awarded every time a match ensues. This is because you compete against others and a winner is announced with every play. In this game, contestants point their water pistols at small openings causing their jalopy to race towards the finish line.


Watergun Fun


Hoop Toss allows the shooter three or seven shots to make a basket. I will warn you, the hoop is smaller than regulation size. However, the hoop is round, not oval, as are used in some less than reputable fairs.


Hoop Toss


At Kewpie Doll Knock Down, athletes test their throwing arm by tossing a softball at cute little kewpie dolls who never did anyone any harm.


Kewpie Doll Knock Down


And finally, we have Lob-A-Lobster. This challenge has guests place a rubber lobster on a catapult. Then using a mallet, they hurl the crustacean into one of six rotating pots.


Lob-A-Lobster


Midway games like these were a common sight at Coney Island in the heyday of amusement parks. How many were reputable and how many were subject to closer examination is subject to debate. At Disney's Midway Games and More, all of the diversions are winnable. All it takes is a combination of luck and skill. Midway Games and More opens in the late afternoon.

Big River Grille & Brewing Works offers up-scale pub-style fare. Sandwiches, pasta, salads, appetizers and desserts are all just waiting to tempt you. But the real draw of this restaurant is the micro-brewery located on the premises. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide a glimpse into the beer-making process. And the servers will be more than happy to discuss the various brews and make suggestions.


Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Big River Grille & Brewing Works


The Big River Grille & Brewing Works has a "sit down" bar and two small interior dining rooms. This is more than adequate for the lunch trade. At night, this restaurant really comes alive and crowds spill over into the many tables found along the BoardWalk. This spot does not take reservations so plan accordingly.


Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Big River Grille & Brewing Works


Disney has placed DVC kiosks in all of their parks and resorts. They want to make it as easy as possible to learn about this product and entice you to buy a "piece of the magic." Unfortunately, if you want to see a model unit, you must make arrangements to be transported to Saratoga Springs.

The BoardWalk Villas have been sold out for some time. However, Disney has kept a one bedroom unit open here for guests to examine with no inconvenient trips to another location. So if you're curious to see a "typical" DVC unit, stop by. The salesperson will not pressure you and will be more than happy to answer all of your questions.


BoardWalk DVC Sales Office

BoardWalk DVC Sales Office


Jellyrolls opens each evening at 7pm. This nightclub features "dueling pianos." Beginning at 8pm, two very talented musicians take the stage and entertain the audience with a wide array of styles and selections. You'll be amazed at the number of songs these maestros know. They take requests and the crowd will often try to stump these extremely well-versed pianists. At 9pm, a second crew takes the stage and continues to entertain for the next hour. They switch back and forth each hour until 2pm so there is never a dull moment.

Jellyrolls does have a cover charge of $12 and patrons must be 21 to enter. ID's will be required if you don't look your age. For the most part, this place really doesn't start to jump until after the Epcot fireworks and the crowds begin to meander over this way.

Jellyrolls strictly prohibits any photography, videotaping, or sound recordings - even when closed. I was given special permission to take the following indoor pictures.


Jellyrolls

Jellyrolls

Jellyrolls

Jellyrolls


Jellyrolls was named after Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, also known as Jelly Roll Morton. Jelly Roll was a pianist, bandleader, and composer. He is also credited with the invention of jazz music in 1902.


Jelly Roll Morton


Our last stop along the BoardWalk is Atlantic Dance. This spot was designed to resemble the great art deco dance palaces of the 1930's. However, you won't find many guests doing the foxtrot, jitterbug, or the waltz at this spot. Atlantic Dance features state-of-the-art sound and lighting and has a DJ playing the hits of today.


Atlantic Dance

Atlantic Dance


The interior of Atlantic Dance is impressive. A large dance floor is surrounded by multiple tables and three bars. A grand staircase leads to a balcony and more seating. A giant monitor displays music videos. There is also a full stage available for special events. The ceiling is studded with "stars" that shine down on the dancers below and roving colored spot lights sweep the walls and floor.


Atlantic Dance

Atlantic Dance

Atlantic Dance

Atlantic Dance

Atlantic Dance


Atlantic Dance opens each night at 9pm, but unlike Jellyrolls, it does not have a cover charge or a minimum drink purchase. However, you must be at least 21 to enter. If all you want to do is listen to music and dance, it can be enjoyed here for free.

Atlantic Dance crowds are also subject to the Epcot closing times. Guests don't begin to arrive in mass until after the fireworks.

Each evening, the BoardWalk also plays host to an array of entertainers who perform impromptu shows all along the promenade. Jugglers, magicians, and musicians are all on hand and crowds surround them in anticipation of an enjoyable moment.


BoardWalk Entertainers

BoardWalk Entertainers


Although the Epcot fireworks can be seen from the BoardWalk, the view is someone obstructed. I think the best spot for viewing this nightly spectacular is over at the Yacht Club Marina.


Epcot Fireworks


The Epcot Resorts produce a guide map highlighting all of the activities found at the BoardWalk, Yacht & Beach Club, and the Swan and Dolphin. If you are not given one of these information guides when checking in to one of these hotels, be sure to ask. It contains a fantastic amount of information condensed into a trifold brochure.


Epcot Resorts Brochure

Epcot Resorts Brochure


This completes my five-part tour of the BoardWalk Inn & Villas and the BoardWalk Promenade. I hope you've enjoyed this journey to a resort that is steeped in history if you take the time to soak in the details. To see a movie of the BoardWalk Promenade, check out my video below.



On past resort reviews, I'm occasionally reminded by readers that I forgot to mention "this" or "that." I can assure you, I have left out many facts and facilities offered at this wonderful resort. Many of the venues I discussed would require an entire blog to do them justice. What I've tried to do here is point out the highlights of the BoardWalk and give you some insight as to what the Imagineers and architect Robert A.M Stern were trying to impart on those visiting here.

Those of you who have read my column for any length of time know that the Contemporary is my favorite Walt Disney World resort. And although I also like the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian with their convenient monorail access, I would have to choose the BoardWalk as my second favorite hotel. No other spot on property offers so many diversions, dining possibilities, drinking options, and entertainment opportunities as can be found here. Couple this with the easy access to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios and it becomes difficult to think about staying anyplace else. The BoardWalk even makes me second guess the Contemporary's first place standing - almost.


September 12, 2012

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party – 2012

Jack Spence Masthead


This will be the fourth year I have covered Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). However, I skipped last year because I needed a break from all the spooky festivities. LOL. If you've read my previous blogs on the subject, you'll notice that the event doesn't change much from year to year. But that doesn't stop MNSSHP from being a favorite of many people. This seasonal event is a "must do" for many families. They wouldn't dream of missing it.

For those of you who aren't aware of this event and are wondering what it's all about, let me give you a little history.

For many years, Universal Studios Orlando featured Halloween Horror Nights. This was a separate, ticketed event and the park was transformed each evening from its regular theming into a frightening park of terrifying sights and sounds. It was marketed toward teenagers and young adults and the idea was to truly scare their guests with monsters, vampires, werewolves, and other terrifying surprises.


Universal Studios


In response, Disney started their own Halloween party. But since Disney caters to a more diverse age group, they realized that their gathering would need to be more lighthearted than Universal's. Thus was born, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. All you have to do is look at Universal's advertisement (above) and compare it to Disney's (below) to realize these two very popular events are marketed toward different audiences.


MNSSHP Logo


MNSSHP is held at the Magic Kingdom on selected nights between September and November. During these evenings, the park offers special theming and shows intended to entertain the entire family. But before I start with a detailed description of MNSSHP, let's take care of some logistics and answer the inevitable questions.

MNSSHP is a "hard ticketed" event. This means you must purchase a separate admission ticket to attend. Your super-duper, all inclusive, park-hopper, Magic Your Way Ticket is NOT good for MNSSHP. You MUST buy separate admission. Tickets can be purchased online, at any guest relations window, or at the TTC ticket booths.

Here are this year's dates and prices:



Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Friday, September 21, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012

Advance Purchase age 10 and up: $55.95 + tax
Advance Purchase age 3 to 9: $50.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 10 and up: $62.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 3 to 9: $57.95 + tax



Sunday, September 30, 2012
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Monday, October 8, 2012
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Friday, November 2, 2012

Advance Purchase age 10 and up: $58.95 + tax
Advance Purchase age 3 to 9: $53.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 10 and up: $64.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 3 to 9: $59.95 + tax



Friday, October 5, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012

Advance Purchase age 10 and up: $64.95 + tax
Advance Purchase age 3 to 9: $59.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 10 and up: $64.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 3 to 9: $59.95 + tax



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Advance Purchase age 10 and up: $69.95 + tax
Advance Purchase age 3 to 9: $64.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 10 and up: $69.95 + tax
Purchased on Event Day 3 to 9: $64.95 + tax



Disney limits attendance at these parties so the park is never packed. However, the closer you get to Halloween, the busier the party will be. Although I've never attended on Halloween, I have heard complaints from others that this evening is too busy. The above prices should give you a clue. The more expensive the ticket, the busier the park will be. The parties are identical every night so it really doesn't matter what day you attend. You might want to keep this in mind when scheduling.

This next piece of information is very important.

MNSSHP and all of the special events, shows, and parades run from 7pm till midnight. However, you may enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm with your MNSSHP ticket. If you call Disney and try to verify this, they will be evasive. All they will tell you is the "official" hours are 7pm till midnight. But trust me; you can enter as early as 4pm. I've entered at 4pm every year and I did it again this year on opening night.

Disney allows early entrance for a reason. Since the party is only five hours in length, they know that if they didn't stagger the opening, they would be inundated with everyone arriving at the same time. They could not handle this onslaught of people in an efficient manner. By allowing guest admission starting at 4pm, it balances out the arriving crowd.

When you pass through the turnstiles, you will be given a wristband. This will distinguish you from the "daytime" guests. The Magic Kingdom will cease its normal operating hours at 7pm. At that time, the cast members will restrict access to the various lands. Only those with wristbands will be allowed on rides, in shops, and in restaurants. Those without wristbands will be asked to leave the park.


Wristband


In past years, I have received a number of letters from readers complaining that Disney does not remove all of the "day" guests from the park -- and I'm at a loss on how to respond to your comments. All I can tell you is that Disney does the best they can. As far as I'm concerned, the cast members get a great big "A" in my grade book. If people want to cheat the system, they're going to cheat the system.

Is it fair that the couple waiting next to you for the Boo-To-You Parade didn't pay to see it? Of course not. But you have a choice. You can either let these cheaters irritate you and allow them to ruin your night, or you can forget about it and have a good time. However, if you're not able to release on this, then complain at City Hall. I cannot help you with this situation. Please note, if you send me a comment that contains references to this situation, I will either delete the reference or not publish your comment at all.

Some people want to spend the entire day at the Magic Kingdom, including MNSSHP in the evening - and that's fantastic. Of course, you will need two tickets to do this - your general admission ticket and your MNSSHP ticket. Sometime after 4pm, you will need to get a wristband. To do this, you can either return to the main entrance or visit the FastPass area at Stitch's Great Escape in Tomorrowland. The cast members here will process your party ticket and give you a wristband and trick-or-treat bag.


Wristband Distribution

Trick-Or-Treat Bags


If you find you're in the park on a party night and don't have a MNSSHP ticket, but want to honestly partake in the events, you can buy a ticket at City Hall if the party is not sold out.


City Hall


Most, but not all of the rides and restaurants will be up and running during MNSSHP. Here is a list of what will be available:

Adventureland

Pirates of the Caribbean
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Aloha Isle

Fantasyland

"it's a small world"
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mad Tea Party
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Peter Pan's Flight
Prince Charming Royal Carousel
The Barnstormer
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Storybook Treats Ice Cream

Frontierland

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Splash Mountain

Golden Oak Outpost
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café
Westward Ho
Frontierland Turkey Leg Cart
Frontierland Churro Wagon

Liberty Square

Haunted Mansion

Sleepy Hollow

Tomorrowland

Astro Orbiter
Buzz Lightyear's Ranger Spin
Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor
Space Mountain
Stitch's Great Escape
Tomorrowland Speedway
Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café
The Lunching Pad

Okay. Now that we have the logistics out of the way, let's have some fun.

The merriment begins at the TTC where signs welcome us to the event.


TTC


Upon arriving at the Magic Kingdom, more signs and decorations greet us as we approach Bag Check. On the other side of the ticket booths, Mickey's Forecourt is decked out with festive bunting, pumpkins, and autumn garland. Don't forget to pick up your wristband and trick-or-treat bag.


Magic Kingdom Entrance

Train Station

Pumpkins

Halloween Garland


Disney has come up with a special cast member costume just for this party. Here we have two spooky crew members sporting the latest in Halloween fashion.


Cast Member Costume


But Disney cast members aren't the only ones who get into the spirit with special attire. Party attendees are also encouraged to wear their favorite Halloween outfits. However, there are a few guidelines to be observed.

Costumes should be child-friendly and not obtrusive or offensive.

Adult guests may wear masks, but the masks must not obstruct vision (you need to be able to see where you're going).

Guest who dress like Disney characters are NOT to pose for pictures or sign autographs for other guests.

Do not bring large or dangerous props with you.

Generally, costumes are not allowed for anyone over the age of nine during normal operating hours. However, Disney relaxes this rule on party days for guests spending the entire day at the Magic Kingdom.

Here are a few pictures of some costumed partygoers.


Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes

Guest Costumes


Since dressing in costume is a big part of the event, you might want to consider making reservations at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League for a child makeover. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique accepts their last reservation at 7:30pm and The Pirates League is open until 8pm. However, I would suggest making an earlier reservation so your child can thoroughly enjoy the party in their princess or pirate garb.


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Pirates League


Main Street and Liberty Square are the only lands that are decorated for MNSSHP. We'll begin on Main Street with the pumpkin citizens found around Town Square. The first two fellows are part of the Walt Disney World Band.


Pumpkin People

Pumpkin People

Pumpkin People


Here we have the Mayor and his lovely wife.


Pumpkin People

Pumpkin People

Pumpkin People


As we circle Town Square we find an Emporium shopper and a baseball player who has wandered over from Casey's Corner.


Pumpkin People

Pumpkin People


And finally we come to the two pumpkin-people cast members from the Main Street Confectionery.


Pumpkin People

Pumpkin People


Disney has also set up a photo op on Town Square. The statue of Roy and Minnie has been removed and replaced by stacks of pumpkins that perfectly frame the castle in the background.


Main Street Photo Op


Pumpkins, pumpkin, and more pumpkins line the upper stories and windows of Main Street. Many of these are themed appropriated for their location. Above the Fire Station we see these. I especially like the pumpkin pointing the way to the restrooms.


Fire Station Pumpkins

Fire Station Pumpkins

Restroom Pumpkins


Above the Main Street Cinema we see a pumpkin filmstrip of Mickey.


Main Street Cinema Pumpkin


Casey's Corner also gets into the act with a few sports and food related carvings.


Casey's Corner Pumpkins

Casey's Corner Pumpkins

Casey's Corner Pumpkins

Casey's Corner Pumpkins


Across the street at Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, a few more specialty gourds can be seen. I think the fellow in the last photo is suffering from an ice cream headache.


Plaza Ice Cream Parlor Pumpkins

Plaza Ice Cream Parlor Pumpkins

Plaza Ice Cream Parlor Pumpkins


Don't forget to check out the Mickey adorned light posts.


Micky Lamppost

Micky Lamppost


On the Hub, holiday statues of some of our favorite characters can be found.


Hub Character Statues

Hub Character Statues

Hub Character Statues

Hub Character Statues


In Liberty Square, some pumpkins, garland, and other autumn decorations have been added to give this "land of freedom" a Halloween touch.


Liberty Square Decorations

Liberty Square Decorations

Liberty Square Decorations


The cast members working the Haunted Mansion also get a makeover. Besides their regular, somber costume, their faces are made up to look ghoulish. Also, a "spirit from beyond" takes center stage on the lawn of the mansion and entertains guests with wonderful stories of her life, both living and dead. Many let others pass them in line so they can stand longer and listen to her tales. To add to the creepiness, the gravestones are given a spooky look with the addition of low lying fog.


Haunted Mansion Cast Member

Haunted Mansion Cast Member

Mansion Ghost


Be on the lookout for impromptu Halloween games like this Spider Web Toss.


Impromtu Games


For those of you who play the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, a special collector's card is available at the party. Note, Disney will punch your MNSSHP ticket to insure that you only get ONE, and only ONE card.


Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Card


Now let's get to the real purpose of Halloween, CANDY. Throughout the park are a number of trick-or-treat candy stations. These are clearly marked on the handout you receive when entering the park. However, Disney has also made it easy for you. At each trick-or-treat spot a cast member will be stationed nearby holding a Mickey Pumpkin sign. Also, an illuminated Mickey Pumpkin clearly marks the spot for goodies.


Candy Station Markers

Candy Station Markers


To see the handout for the party, click here.


At the beginning of the party, lines for candy are long as the kids want to get the good stuff immediately. But later in the evening, lines disappear for the most part. The candy offered is the small, bite sized pieces, but good brands are provided. Also, the cast members are generous with their handouts.


Generous Candy


Each of the candy stations is mildly themed to the area. Here are a few of the location banners.


Candy Stations

Candy Stations

Candy Stations

Candy Stations


Halloween merchandise is also a big seller and Disney is ready.


Halloween Merchandise

Halloween Merchandise

Halloween Merchandise

Halloween Merchandise


A particularly popular item is this Ghost Mickey popcorn tub that can double as a trick-or-treat bucket once you get home. These are only available at the popcorn wagons. They sell for $12 - including popcorn.


Ghost Mickey Popcorn Bucket


There are two Character Dance Parties. Rock-It Out"Stitch's Club 626 can be found at the Tomorrowland stage. Here, a very energetic DJ gets the entire group goovin' with Stitch, Goofy, and Pluto.


Rock-It Out

Rock-It Out

Rock-It Out

Rock-It Out

Rock-It Out


Over at the Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland we have Woody's Happy Harvest Roundup. Another DJ is on hand to liven things up with Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye.


Woody's Happy Harvest Roundup

Woody's Happy Harvest Roundup


These Dance Parties are a fantastic opportunity for your kids to interact with the characters. It's a lot more fun than standing in a long line waiting for a photo and autograph.

Presented on the Castle Stage is the Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle show. Here, some of Disney's greatest bad-guys and gals dance and rant and try to impress you with their evilness. This show is presented at 7:45, 8:50, 10:05, and 11:15. This show is far more entertaining than scary and kids should have no problem with it.


Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle

Villain's Dance Mix and Mingle


After the show, the villains come down from the stage and pose for pictures with guests. However, they will only be available for about 15 minutes and they are mobbed by enthusiastic fans.

I think most people would agree that Mickey's "Boo-to-You" Halloween Parade is the highlight of the evening. Shown twice each night (8:15 & 10:30), this spectacle is a hoot. Be sure to find your viewing spot by the announced beginning time as the Headless Horseman makes a mad dash along the parade route to the cheers of the crowd. If you're not there in time, you miss him. Also note, the second parade is significantly less crowded. If you're planning on staying late, skip the first parade and enjoy the park.

The beginning of the parade starts off tame enough with some of the not-so-scary characters, but then the villains take over for a haunting good time. Toward the end of the parade, several Goofy's Candy Company carts stroll by and a number of his minions pass out treats to the crowd. I filmed the entire parade and it can be seen here.



At 9:30, a special fireworks show called Happy HalloWishes is presented. A Ghost Host introduces villain after villain and the castle is illuminated appropriately while color coordinated fireworks burst overhead. Once again, I filmed the entire show for your enjoyment.



That's it for my review of MNSSHP. This event is a favorite of thousands and a "must do" every season. If you think this event is for you, then by all means, get yourself a costume and go. You'll have a ghoulishly good time.



September 17, 2012

Art of Animation – Little Mermaid Section

Jack Spence Masthead

Once again I visited the Art of Animation Resort, this time for the grand opening of the final phase of this Disney property, The Little Mermaid section. I toured the grounds and stayed in a standard room during my visit. Let's start with the room.

To begin with, the Little Mermaid section of the Art of Animation Resort contains rooms of the same type and configuration as the other value resorts like the Pop Century and the All Stars. These are NOT suites as found in the Finding Nemo, Cars, and Lion King sections of the resort. To read a brief history of how these three wings of the resort came into being, check out an earlier article of mine by clicking here.

The Little Mermaid rooms open up onto an outside balcony. This balcony is decorated with a number of colorful fish found in the movie.


Little Mermaid Balcony

Balcony Fish

Balcony Fish

Balcony Fish

Balcony Fish

Little Mermaid Balcony


The three buildings that make up the Little Mermaid section of the resort are each four stories high. Ice and drink vending machines can be found on each floor near the elevators.

The guest rooms feature two double beds covered in turquoise bedspreads with several sea flowers as accents. The edge of the bedspread displays a design of coral. Each bed has two reasonably sized pillows.


Double Beds

Double Beds

Bedspreads


The headboards look like giant clamshells and feature small bubbles floating upwards. The light above each bed is a giant bubble and is surrounded by curious seahorses. Convenient light switches are located above the nightstand.


Headboard

Bubble Light


Between the headboards we find Sebastian and Flounder giving a fin-claw-high-five.


Sebastian and Flounder


On the nightstand are a telephone and a clock-radio. A single drawer contains a phone book and a Gideon Bible.


Nightstand


On the sidewall we find a portrait of Eric captaining his ship with his trusty companion Max.


Prince Eric Portrait


The carpet continues the "under the sea" theme with a sandy look and various seashells, starfish, and sand dollars.


Sea Floor Carpet


The window has both sheers and blackout curtains. The curtains feature a seascape minus any Little Mermaid characters.


Window Covering

Window Covering


Each room has its own air conditioner which is nicely concealed behind a wall. The electronic thermostat is motion sensitive to help reduce energy use.


Air Conditioning

Thermostat


The room has a small table and two plastic "clam" chairs. An electrical outlet is conveniently located on the wall behind the table for laptop use. Embedded into the table's surface is the sheet music for "Under the Sea."


Table and Chairs

Table and Chairs

Sheet Music


Above the table is a brightly colored "fish" lamp/mirror. The switch for this fixture can be found next to the door.


Lamp - Mirror


The chest contains three drawers and a refrigerator. A "hidden" compartment houses electronic hookups for audio-visual connections to the flat-screen TV. There is NO coffee maker in the room.


Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers


On the wall next to the chest is an octopus coatrack.


Coatrack


The bedroom is separated from the vanity area by a somewhat light-resistant curtain. It displays a scene right out of the "Under the Sea" section of the movie.


Vanity Curtain


The vanity only has one sink. The countertop is made out of a material that looks like the sandy sea floor. It's a wonderful accent that really adds to the personality of this room. In addition, Disney has added a handy cubbyhole beneath the sink for the storage of odds and ends. The mirror is framed in a sea coral design. A hairdryer hangs on the side wall.


Vanity Sink

Vanity Sink

Mirror

Hair Dryer


Next to the sink is the open closet. Besides hanging space and a shelf you'll find a luggage rack, iron and board, and an electronic safe.


Open Closet

Safe


The water closet is small, but efficient. A motion sensor detects movement and activates the exhaust fan whenever someone enters. The Little Mermaid shower curtain is especially appealing. If you must have one for your own home, it is for sale at the Ink & Paint Shop located in Animation Hall. The bath is stocked with four, adequate towels. If you're looking for fluffy, you'll have to book a deluxe property.


Toilet

Shower Curtain


For me, one of the highlights of the Little Mermaid room is the tile work behind the tub/shower. Here, you bathe in Ariel's grotto which is chalked full of bric-à-brac. It's stunning and my picture does not do it justice.


Shower Tile


Obviously, this room can't compare to the value suites found in the Finding Nemo, Cars, and Lion King Sections of the resort. But how does it stack up against the rooms at the Pop Century and All Stars? Quite well. The theming in the Little Mermaid rooms is far more pronounced than at its sister resorts. Enough so that I would definitely lean toward this resort if I was searching for a standard, value room. Don't get me wrong, I like all of the value resorts. But these new rooms get the edge in my book.

That's it for the Little Mermaid room. To see a three minute movie of this newest addition to Disney's lineup of sleeping quarters, check out my video below.

Now let's take a look at the exterior of this newest addition to the Art of Animation.

First, let me say, the Little Mermaid section of the resort is the furthest away from Animation Hall which houses the shop, restaurant, check-in area, and bus stop. If you have a mobility issue, you might want to think twice before booking a room here. Most people will be okay with the walk, but not everyone.

The end staircases of the various wings are hidden behind multiple layers of giant, colorful coral. The effect works quite nicely.


Coral Stair Coverings


You enter the Little Mermaid section along a winding path that is lined and illuminated by ships lanterns. At the moment, the foliage is a little thin, but give it time. In six months it will feel like the ocean floor.


Pathway into the Little Mermaid Section

Lamp


To give you an idea of how detail oriented Disney can be, some of the flower beds use crushed seashells as ground cover.


Seashell Ground Covering


Along this pathway we find a number of Ariel's treasures including a fork (dinglehopper), pipe (snarfblat), treasure chest, and stein.


Fork

Pipe

Treasure Chest

Stein


At the end of the pathway we discover the statue of Prince Eric that fell overboard during the storm at sea.


Prince Eric Statue

Prince Eric Statue


I will take this moment to chide Disney just a little. Flanking every one of Ariel's treasures are at least two signs warning us not to climb on the structures. Really? Has Disney forgotten their audience? They have placed pieces of art that are absolutely irresistible to children along a pathway and expect the kids not to climb on them.

I really don't know what the answer is. Should they put a fence around these pieces like they did the Casey Jr. engine in Storybook Circus? Or are these signs just Disney's way of getting out of any legal entanglements should someone's child hurt themselves while climbing into the treasure chest to see what can be discovered.

Bottom line, I understand the reasoning for the signs. But for me, it takes away a little of the magic.


No Climbing Sign


Okay, back to the resort"

Each of the three buildings of the Little Mermaid section is anchored by a giant character from the movie. We have King Triton, Ursula, and Ariel & Flounder.

On the building to the left as we enter this area we discover King Triton and his trumpeting entourage.


King Trident

King Trident

Trumpeting Entourage


Facing Triton across the courtyard is his sister and nemesis, Ursula with her companions in evil, Flotsam and Jetsam.


Ursula

Ursula

Flotsam

Jetsam


On the furthest building we find everyone is swimming to greet their friend Ariel and her best buddy Flounder.


Swimming to Ariel

Ariel

Ariel

Ariel

Flounder


In the center of the three buildings we encounter Sebastian in all his glory.


Sebastian

Sebastian

Sebastian


The Flippin' Fins Pool is large and offers a number of lounge chairs and tables for enjoying the outdoors. However, this pool lacks the imaginative theming of the Big Blue Pool located at the Finding Nemo section and the Cozy Cone Pool found in the Cars section. Don't get me wrong. The Flippin' Fins Pool offers everything you need for a good time. But in my opinion, it isn't anything that will knock your socks off. Disney has raised the bar to a new level and now they must compete with themselves. The Flippin' Fins pool is great, but kids will have more fun at the Big Blue Pool and adults will enjoy the cabanas found at the Cozy Cone Pool.


Flippin' Fins Pool

Flippin' Fins Pool

Flippin' Fins Pool

Flippin' Fins Pool


In the pool area are restrooms and a laundromat.


Laundromat

Laundromat


To see a three minute movie of the Little Mermaid exterior grounds, check out my video below.



That's it for my four-part review of the new Art of Animation resort. Overall, I really think Disney has done an outstanding job. People come to Walt Disney World to be immersed in the magic and this spot does it in spades. Even if the Grand Floridian is more to your liking, you should definitely stop by the Art of Animation on your next trip for a look around. You'll be glad you did.



September 24, 2012

Tomorrowland Speedway - Magic Kingdom

Jack Spence Header


Tomorrowland Speedway Sign


Today's blog will discuss a favorite attraction of many a future driver, the Tomorrowland Speedway. What could be more exciting for a child living in a society that is dominated by automobiles than a chance to get behind the wheel and take control of a powerful machine? A car represents freedom to an adult. It represents "being an adult" to a child. Once a teenager gets his or her own driver's license, the Tomorrowland Speedway loses a lot of its allure. But until this time, the Tomorrowland Speedway offers kids a chance to be a grown-up for a few minutes.

To fully understand the Tomorrowland Speedway, you need to understand history. And not just Disney history, you need to be aware of what was happening in the world during the Magic Kingdom's planning stage. But in order to do that, we must first go back to Disneyland's humble beginnings.

In 1955, the Interstate System of the United States was in its infancy. In the previous year, the Federal-Aid Highway Act had set aside $175 million for the construction of an Interstate Highway System. President Eisenhower realized this amount was dreadfully inadequate for the task so in 1956 he signed the expanded Federal-Aid Highway Act that authorized an additional $25 billion to link America by a network of high speed, limited access roads.

Los Angeles was a pioneer in building such roadways. In 1940, the first freeway in the United States opened between Los Angeles and Pasadena. From that point on, more and more freeways were added to the area. Soon, Southern California and automobiles became synonymous.

The Santa Ana Freeway, the main route from Los Angeles to Anaheim and Orange County, was not completed until 1956. This meant that Walt was forced to take many surface streets to reach Disneyland from Burbank during the park's construction. Walt was a firm believer that technology could solve the problems of the world and the Interstate System was a step in the right direction. In addition, this new system of roads would improve his own commute and that of the future tourist who would visit Disneyland. It's interesting to note, many of the trees and shrubs of Disneyland's Jungle Cruise came from the land being cleared for the Santa Ana Freeway.

Walt wanted his Tomorrowland to showcase a bright and beautiful tomorrow. And the burgeoning Interstate System was a shining beacon to that end. Kiddie-cars and bumper cars had been a staple of carnivals and fairs for years, but Walt wanted to do something more inspiring. Thus, the Autopia was born. Autopia is the combination of the words Automobile and Utopia.

The Autopia was to be a miniature version of the Interstate System. It would highlight just how efficient this new transportation system would be. It would have overpasses and underpasses, straightaways and gradual curves. Its appearance would mirror that of the Los Angeles system. It would even have a cloverleaf design.


Autopia Attraction Poster


The Autopia was also intended to be a training ground for young drivers. With high speed travel now available to everyone, Walt wanted to provide a safe environment for kids to learn how to navigate this new roadway responsibly.

During the Autopia testing period, 36 miniature cars were turned over to the children of Studio personnel. Within 10 days, the fleet was reduced to 6. The kids had no desire to learn how to drive responsibly. They wanted to crash into one another. To remedy the problem, a whole vehicle, spring-loaded bumper was installed around the entire car.

In the early years, there were no guide rails down the middle of the Autopia highway. Kids actually steered the cars and could easily hit the curbs on either side of the road. There were even wide spots in the road where the young motorists could drive side-by-side and even pass one another. Of course this did not add to the longevity of the cars (or the curbs) and in 1965 the infamous guide rail was added. Kids could still steer their vehicle, but their maneuverability was greatly reduced.


Early Autopia Driver


The Autopia was an extremely popular attraction in the early years. To meet the demand, other versions of this ride were added to the park including the Junior Autopia, Midget Autopia, and the Fantasyland Autopia. Only the Tomorrowland Autopia survives today.

By the time planning had begun for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the Interstate System was old hat and less than exciting. Yet the Imagineers knew they wanted to offer young drivers a place to feel the freedom of the road. Thus, the Grand Prix Raceway was born. Rather than have a two-lane highway, this "international" course would feature race-cars that "competed" side-by-side along a multi-lane speedway. Although this race-car theme really didn't fit with the grand scope of Tomorrowland, it was logically the only place this attraction would fit in the park.

Beginning in 1967, Goodyear sponsored the PeopleMover at Disneyland. When asked if they would be willing to sponsor an attraction at the Magic Kingdom, they were interested. But since the Florida version of the PeopleMover would not be opening until 1975 and the ride would be using linear induction motors to power the cars (not rubber tires), this attraction was not a good match. However, the Grand Prix Raceway would be the perfect vehicle to showcase Goodyear tires.


Tomorrowland-Speedway-05a.jpg


I have an extensive Disney photo collection, but I don't have everything from the early days. The above picture was loaned to me for use in this blog by my good friend Jeff Lange. Jeff also has a wonderful Disney website worth note.

In this early publicity photo, you can see "Goodyear" emblazoned on the side of the race car.


Goofy in a Goodyear Car


Below is the opening day attraction poster. Notice is says Gran (not Grand) Prix Raceway. Also notice the poster is almost identical to the Disneyland Autopia poster of 1956 (see above). We even see the same father and son passengers racing along the highway. Only the vehicle has changed. The Magic Kingdom poster displays a souped-up sports car.


GranPrix Raceway Poster


In 1978 a new poster was unveiled. Inspired by the 1966 movie poster "Grand Prix" (a film partially sponsored by Goodyear), the new artwork had a more hip and updated look. Later, when Goodyear dropped its sponsorship of the Grand Prix Raceway, the poster was changed ever so slightly. Only the name "Goodyear" was omitted and the Tomorrowland lettering changed colors.


Grand Prix Raceway Poster

Grand Prix Movie Poster


Goodyear also provided young drivers with affiliation to the "Grand Prix Racing Team." The membership card which was presented to guests after finishing the course was signed by Russell de Young, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.


Grand Prix Racing Team Card


When riding the Tomorrowland Speedway, you may have noticed an enclosed viewing area perched above the loading area. This was the Goodyear lounge where company executives could entertain clients and show off their attraction.


Sponsor Lounge


These next two pictures were taken in January, 1972. Notice how barren the attraction looks.


1972 Grand Prix Raceway

1972 Grand Prix Raceway


In 1973, the ride was expanded slightly. Then in 1987, the roadway was shortened to make room for Mickey's Birthdayland which would open the following year. This area would later be remodeled and renamed Mickey's Starland. More refurbishments brought about Mickey's ToonTown Fair. And now Storybook Circus.

Below is an approximation of how much track was eliminated to accommodate Mickey's Birthdayland.


Grand Prix Raceway Reduction


In 1994, Tomorrowland began a major makeover. The sterile concrete look of the future was giving way to a retro design. The Grand Prix Raceway also received some enhancements and on September 27, 1996 was renamed "Tomorrowland Speedway."

Three years later, Disney and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway joined forces to change the theme of the track. Enhancements such as the Yard of Bricks, the Scoring Pylon, Gasoline Alley, and the Wheel & Wing logo were added. To my knowledge, only the Scoring Pylon remains today. The attraction also received another name change to incorporate the new sponsor and on December 19, 1999 became known as the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.


Scoring Pylon

Tomorrowland Indy Speedway Entrance


In 2008, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped its affiliation and the name changed back to Tomorrowland Speedway.


Tomorrowland Speedway Entrance


Today the track is 2,260 feet long. The original design of the Mark VII cars is still used (minus the spoiler). However, the cars have undergone several different paint jobs over the years. Here's the current style.


Speedway Car

Speedway Car

Speedway Car


The car's nine-horsepower engines are fueled by gasoline and can attain speeds of an astounding 7.5 miles per hour. The vehicles hold two adults, but I wouldn't advise this if both parties are plus sized. There are approximately 140 cars in the fleet.

The Tomorrowland Speedway is a popular ride. Many guests race to this attraction when the Magic Kingdom first opens, making it the first ride of the day. Long lines develop quickly and last throughout the day. The Tomorrowland Speedway does not offer FastPass.

Guests enter the attraction through a structure that has changed little since opening day. Near the entrance is the ever present measuring stick to check the height of perspective drivers. However, this evaluator doesn't use standard increments, but rather oil cans. Kids must be at least 8 oil cans tall (54 inches) to ride alone. They must be 32 inches to ride as a passenger.


Measuring Stick


The first section of the queue is covered, but as you approach the loading and unloading area, there is very little protection from the sun and rain. There are a number of umbrellas, but they offer minimal shade. Plan accordingly.


Speedway Queue

Speedway Queue


An interesting detail can be found in the queue that most guests never notice. There are two framed images. One displays a detailed diagram of the Tomorrowland Speedway. The other exhibits the roadway attractions located at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. If you notice, the Tokyo Disneyland roadway (third picture, upper right) is almost identical to the Florida version.


Queue Map

Queue Map

Queue Map


For those of you not wishing to ride, a grandstand viewing/waiting area is provided. This spot is shaded from around noon until dusk and bench seating is available. The grandstand offers wonderful photo opportunities of your party loading and unloading their vehicles. A set of stairs leading to the grandstand is located to the right of the attraction entrance.


Grandstand Stairs

Grandstand


When you reach the loading area, you will be assigned a number by a cast member. Simply stand at your designated spot until a car screeches to a stop in front of you. Once the other party exits, climb in.


Speedway Queue

Boarding the Car

Seated in the Car


The car only has one pedal. When you press it, the vehicle moves forward. When you release it, the car comes to a stop. Things couldn't be simpler. However, the pedal is too far away for many youngsters to reach and an adult will be necessary for this task. Also, the pedal has a lot of resistance and by the end of your 5 minute journey around the track, your leg will begin to get tired.


Gas Pedal


Before leaving the loading area, a cast member will ensure that your seat belt is fastened and instruct you NOT to bump the car in front of you. Of course, no child driving alone pays any attention to this warning or those posted on the car or along the route. Fortunately, the spring-loaded bumpers absorb the vast majority of force generated by a collision and whiplash isn't likely to ensue.


Cast Member Giving Instructions

Warning Signs

Warning Signs


Steering is another tricky element of the drive. The wheels seem to overcompensate the slightest turn, causing your car to bounce against the center guide rail again and again. For kids, this is great fun. For adults driving alone, use this as a challenge and see if you can maneuver the entire course without hitting the guide rail.

To add to the realism of a high speed race, speakers are positioned all along the course and authentic raceway sounds can be heard as you drive the speedway. Even Tom Carnegie, the longtime public address announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, can be heard broadcasting the current standings.

Here are a few pictures of the speedway taken from the driver's seat.


Pictures from the Car

Pictures from the Car

Pictures from the Car

Pictures from the Car

Pictures from the Car

Pictures from the Car

Pictures from the Car


Another great thing about the Tomorrowland Speedway is that it offers many great photo opportunities. There numerous places around the track where you can snap pictures of friends and family as they pass by.


Jack in a Speedway Car

Jack in a Speedway Car


After completing the race, drivers are given an Official Speedway License. If you don't get one, ask.


Speedway License

Speedway License


Near the finish line is Victory Circle. This spot symbolizes all of the winners of the Tomorrowland Speedway.


Victory Circle


Near the Tomorrowland Speedway is the ever-present shop. Well, actually not a shop, but a cart - Racing Specialties. All of the merchandise sold here is automobile related. Items like antenna toppers, Disney family decals, and toys from the Disney/Pixar movie "Cars" are available.


Tomorrowland-Speedway-44.jpg

Tomorrowland-Speedway-45.jpg


As always, I have created a short video of this attraction. To view it, click on the picture below.



For an adult, the Tomorrowland Speedway is far from being the most exciting attraction at the Magic Kingdom. But for a kid, it can be the highlight of their visit. I vividly remember a cold winter night in 1961. I was nine years old and visiting Disneyland with my parents and two of my friends. We'd already ridden the recently built Matterhorn, Monorail, and Submarine Voyage. So we headed next to the Autopia. After completing the circuit, we asked my parents if we could ride again - and again - and again. As wonderful as the new attractions were, driving our own car was the ultimate adventure.



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About September 2012

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in September 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2012 is the previous archive.

October 2012 is the next archive.

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