Magical Blogorail: How We Know We’ve Arrived at Disney – Check In

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing How We Know We’ve Arrived at Disney.


Nothing says “You have arrived!” like seeing a giant sign with the name of a Disney resort on it. This is where you will be staying and from where all the Disney magic you experience will start from. From parking the car to checking in to finding your room, don’t rush the process!

I’m going to show you how you can make the check-in at your resort a truly magical way to start your Disney vacation. If you follow my suggestions, you will truly know that you have arrived at Disney! I will be using Disney’s Art of Animation Resort as our model, with one picture from Pop Century thrown in for good measure.

FIRST: Approach the Check-in Desk.

Here you will meet your first friendly Cast Member. Enjoy the smiles and get ready to see more of them! These wonderful people are there to make your stay a memorable one.

SECOND: Get Your Bearings.

These maps are handy to find your building but also to familiarize yourself with the entire property. You’ll want to find the pools, restaurants and food service locations, the bus stop, and the resort retail store.

THIRD: Find Your Home-Away-From-Home.



Squaring away your things before you set out to explore is always a good idea. You can also use the time to relax and freshen up after your long journey to Disney. Once you have put everything away, it’s time to…

FOUR: Explore Your Resort.


This is a great way to get your first taste of Disney magic and to take those vacation photos that everyone back home will be waiting to see. So take lots of shots and pose with everything in sight!

FIVE: Visit the Resort Store.

You will visit many retail locations during your visit. Some of these you will visit voluntarily while others will be thrust upon you. For example, after most big attractions you will exit into retail spaces and be jostled by some rabid shoppers and many others who just want to get out of there and hit the next ride! Visiting your resorts retail location will give you a chance to browse the merchandise at an unhurried pace.

In conclusion, the basic idea here is that checking into your on-site resort will whet your appetite for everything to come. Usually most of us arrive at the resort later in the day and after an exhausting drive or harried plane flight. Try to resist the urge to rush right off to a park. Instead, relax and enjoy your check-in  experience, for it truly is how you will know that you have arrived at Disney!

For more ways we know we’ve “arrived” at Disney, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Magical Blogorail: WDW Value Resort Reviews – All Star Sports

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing our reviews of the value resorts at Walt Disney World.


I’ll admit right off the bat (pun intended) that this isn’t everyone’s favorite value resort. Unless you’re heavily into sports most find the decor pretty un-Disney. However, because of this, you will usually be able to find a room here when all other value resorts are full!

Other than that, the amenities are very comparable with other All-Star resorts.

Location: You will be closest to Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Bus Route: Remember that the three All-Star resorts are on the same line, so expect long travel times. From the attractions, you get to Sports first, then Music, and lastly Movies. So coming ‘home’ you are the first to be let off. But leaving for the attractions can be time-consuming as buses may be full coming from other All-Star resorts.

Rooms: So if you want to be close to the main pool and the Stadium Hall (where your food and buses are) than request buildings 1 or 4. If you like it quiet request buildings 2, 3 or 5. Keep in mind that building 2 has its own little pool for convenience.

Theming: Again many people aren’t wowed by the theming of All-Star Sports. But it follows the same pattern of oversized props as the other All-Star resorts do.

I’ve stayed at Pop Century, All-Star Movies and Music, but never All-Star Sports. I intend to one day just to say that I’ve done them all! But I’ll likely try out the Art of Animation first. Maybe that sums up this resort only too well? Unless you’re really into sports!

For more value resort reviews, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Disneyland 50th Press Kit and Fact Sheets

While on vacation in Florida in 2014, we stopped by Theme Park Connection. This is a great place to find retired Park merchandise and props along with all sorts of Disney ephemera.

I ended up buying about a dozen pieces (yes, of essentially what amounts to just paper) for my collection. Among the finds was this great Disneyland 50th Anniversary Press Kit:


This kit contains single sheet and two or three page fold-outs covering each division of the Disney company, as they were defined in 2005. There are twelve in all.

Each page gives detail about the division being covered, the special things that division will be doing for the 50th celebration, along with some cool statistics about the history of the division. Let’s look at them one by one:

Happiest Celebration on Earth

This page starts with an overview mentioning that the 18-month-long celebration was to begin on May 5th, 2005 and would run until 2006. Then it lists the new and exciting shows and attractions to be added for the Happiest Celebration on Earth, in Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Fun Fact

Diane Disney Miller, Bob Iger, Michael Eisner, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Art Linkletter were on hand to rededicate Disneyland on July 17th, 2005.

Disney Cruise Line

At the time of printing for this page, there were only two Disney cruise ships. The Disney Magic and Disney Wonder traditionally sailed out of Port Canaveral in Florida, but for the Happiest Celebration on Earth, sailings were added from the port of Los Angeles.

Fun Fact

Castaway Cay, Disney’s private Bahamian Island, is the only private island in the cruise industry where the ship docks alongside so Guests do not have to tender to land.

Walt Disney Imagineering

This page reminds us of the tremendous contributions that this division of the Disney company makes! It promises enhancements to existing rides and attractions during the Happiest Celebration on Earth. One special feature was the debut of Lucky the Dinosaur in WDW, after which he moved to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005.

Fun Fact

Behind the Magic, an exhibit developed by The Henry Ford Museum and Walt Disney Imagineering, showcases the legacy of Disneyland and WDI’s commitment to innovation. The exhibit traveled to museums throughout the U.S. until 2007.

Disney Vacation Club

Although the DVC didn’t do anything special for the Happiest Celebration on Earth, this page highlights all of the properties available as of 2005. Started in 1991, this division of the Disney company had grown to employ over 1,300 Cast Members by 2005!

Fun Fact

In 2005, a special room at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge housed a collection of train memorabilia and artwork, including an exhibit featuring two of Walt Disney’s personal scale-model railroad cars.

Disney Regional Entertainment – ESPN Zone

At the time of the printing of this page, ESPN Zone had eight locations. There is a full-page chart listing the locations/contact information for each along with the square footage and opening dates. The location in California has 36,000 square feet and opened in January of 2001.

Fun Fact

All ESPN Zones feature television monitors in the restrooms so you will never miss a moment of the action!

The World of Disney Store, NYC

 This store opened on October 5th, 2004, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street in the heart of New York City. In 2005, this store had 23,600 square feet of merchandise on three floors. I’ve been there, and it was quite the place to visit! With such a size, no wonder it takes over 230 workers to run it, including guards at the doors. Hey, its New York!

Fun Fact

The World of Disney Store is operated by the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts merchandise team, who also operates World of Disney Stores at the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

The first of the triple fold-outs, it starts with an overview of the history of the Disney theme park. It touches on the global celebration that is the Happiest Celebration on Earth, and hints at some of the new shows and attractions to come. This page concludes with a full-page fact sheet from 2005 giving the opening dates, sizes, number of hotel rooms, and approximate Cast sizes for all of the resorts operating at the time of printing.

Fun Fact

Do you know which resort has the most hotel rooms after Walt Disney World? If you guessed Disneyland in California, you’d be wrong! It’s actually Disneyland Resort Paris with 5,760 (over twice that of Disneyland).

Disneyland Resort

This page starts with a history of the park, and then moves on to list the new features available during the exclusive Happiest Homecoming on Earth, Disneyland Resort being the only resort in the chain to use that tagline.

Fun Fact

Each year, Disneyland Resort Guests consume 1.6 million servings of popcorn, 3.2 millions servings of ice cream, and 2.8 million churros.

Walt Disney World Resort

After the obligatory overview, the page launches into a detailed listing of every feature to be found in WDW. As of 2005, the page lists the workforce count at 57,000!

Fun Fact

There are enough of the famous “Mouse Ear” hats sold each year to cover the head of every man, woman and child in Portland, Oregon. There are enough Disney Character T-shirts for every Chicagoan.

Tokyo Disney Resort

Opened in 1983, the Resort just marked its 20th anniversary in 2003. So it’s from one party directly into the next! The Tokyo Disney Resort would mark the 50th anniversary of Disneyland with a fabulous salute to the 1950’s called Disney’s Rock Around the Mouse.

Fun Fact

Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney park built outside the United States.

Disneyland Resort Paris

This Resort honored her sister park in California with the addition of Wishes, a dramatic combination of glittering fireworks and Disney music. This ran from July 16th until August 28th, 2005. This Resort is perhaps the most multicultural with Cast Members coming from more than 95 different nations and speaking 19 different languages!

Fun Fact

Disneyland Resort Paris is the number-one tourist destination in Europe.

Hong Kong Disneyland

At the time of this printing, Hong Kong Disneyland had not yet opened. It was slated to open on September 12th, 2005. So ‘Happy Anniversary!’ Disneyland, we’re giving you a whole new Park!

This page gave a great preview of what was to come by featuring each Land and its signature attractions. Guests could look forward to traveling to Hong Kong Disneyland in style, aboard the Disneyland Resort Line Train, complete with vibrant interior and exterior colors and Mickey-shaped windows.

Fun Fact

Hong Kong Disneyland has signage in three languages to accommodate the many cultures that will visit: Mandarin, Cantonese, and English.

I hope you enjoyed this exhaustive look at the Disneyland 50th Anniversary Press Kit. These great pieces of ephemera are an education to read, helping to preserve the history of the Parks and Resorts!

Magical Blogorail: First Time Must-Do’s at Disney

Welcome to this month’s Magical Blogorail Blue loop. Today we are sharing the must-do’s for your first Disney vacation.

Frontierland Station, as seen from the Splash Mountain queue

Get your bearings. That’s my advice to anyone who is visiting a Disney park for the first time. There is so much to do and so many things to see, it is easy to get overwhelmed! And you could fall into the trap of running from one attraction to the other trying to beat long lineups or focusing on obtaining that coveted Fast-Pass. If you do this, you will be missing out on much of the charm that can only be found by slowing down and enjoying the details!

How can you find these details? Ride one of the trains (pictured above, at WDW) for a leisurely trip around the Magic Kingdom. From the train, you will be able to see all of the key offerings of the park, like this one:

A view of Big Thunder Mountain you can’t get while riding the attraction!

And the beautiful stations and cars are just too much to be missed:


Another form of transportation that will take you around the property for an overview is the Monorail. This is my favorite way to take in all of the magic to be found in the parks and resorts.

Monorail Yellow leaving the Magic Kingdom station, WDW

The monorail is also a great way to get your bearings at EPCOT, as one of the lines takes you into the park, around Future World, past World Showcase, and then back to the entrance. Now you can disembark and know where you want to visit first!

Monorail Purple heading to the entrance via Future World

The train or monorail can give you the same introduction at the Disneyland park in California, or any of the other Disney parks that have these forms of transportation.

I mention this thought of getting your bearings first before racing to an attraction because I believe it is something that Walt intended. A bold statement, I know, but here is my reasoning: Walt wanted a popcorn dispenser just inside the entrance to Disneyland. He thought that the smell of the hot butter would be inviting and get people in the mood for what they were going to discover beyond Main Street. He hoped to get people to slow down and to give them the time they needed to put the real world behind them.

I don’t know about you, but I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when I arrive at a Disney park, and am only too ready to slow down and enjoy the experience! Try it yourself, whether you are going to visit for the first time, or the umpteenth time. I guarantee it will enhance your visit!

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Magical Blogorail: WDW Value Resorts Review

Value Resorts Offer Way More Eye Candy

Welcome to the next stop on Magical Blogorail Orange. Today we are reviewing the value resorts at Walt Disney World.

It is common to think of the value resorts only in terms of money. How much can I save by staying at one? But we might also think of them in terms of fun for families. How kid-friendly are they? Or we might choose one based on location. How close is it to my favorite theme park? All of these reasons for staying at a value resort are valid!

But you just know they aren’t the reasons I’m going to promote! No, I love the value resorts because I honestly feel they have a higher level of theming than both the moderate and deluxe resorts. Visit the Coronado Springs  or Polynesian resorts and you’ll come away with a few dozen photographs. Visit a value resort, like the Art of Animation (pictured above) and you can potentially come away with literally hundreds of amazing shots!

Pop Century Resort

Each value resort has a theme worthy of a photo essay! So let’s break them down:

All-Star Music – Music styles include: Calypso; Rock; Country; Broadway; and Jazz

All-Star Sports – Duh! But seriously, the sports represented are: Surfing; Baseball; Basketball; Tennis; and American Football

All-Star Movies – Expect to see giant representations of: 101 Dalmatians; Toy Story; Fantasia; The Mighty Ducks; and Herbie, The Love Bug

Pop Century Resort – Featuring pop cultural icons such as the: Yo-Yo, Mickey Phone (pictured above), Big Wheels, and too many more to list here!

Art of Animation – Four mega-themes: Cars; Little Mermaid; Finding Nemo; and Lion King

Of these five resorts, I’d say the best for theming are the Pop Century and Art of Animation. This is not to say the other resorts don’t yield magnificent photo opportunities, especially if music, sports, or movies are your thing. But Disney seems to have added so much more to the last two value resorts.

All-Star Music Resort

Karen and I stay almost exclusively at value resorts, even though we don’t have children, and could save up to stay at more expensive lodgings. But just walking through the themed walkways of each section of a value resort almost makes our vacations!

So when you’re looking to book your next on-site resort, don’t forget to consider the most themed resorts of all: Disney’s All-Star and Value Resorts!

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