DoubleTree

Hotel Review: DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando

DoubleTree

The entrance to the DoubleTree Suites at Disney Springs

Over Thanksgiving, my family was invited to stay with our friends Sheila, Randy, and Jagan at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando — Disney Springs Area hotel.  We had an incredible time, and I wanted to let you all know about the hotel and what my thoughts were for staying there.

From a location standpoint, the DoubleTree is considered “off-property” — but it appears that some on-property perks will be extended to off-property hotels, such as allowing FastPass+ selections at 60 days instead of 30 days. However, despite it’s off-property location, it is literally minutes from Disney Springs — and on a good day when I wasn’t dealing with a pinched nerve in my leg, we would have walked there for our dinner reservation.

Our room was on the 7th floor, room number 703, and featured two queen beds, a queen bed pullout sofabed, a kitchenette, and a single bathroom off of the main bedroom.  For the six of us, we had plenty of space, although I think having a split bathroom would be a better way to herd the six of us through the process of getting ready for the parks each day. Here’s a few pictures of the room.

DoubleTree

The sofabed opened up for the kids to sleep in.

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This picture is of the sink in the bathroom.

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The kitchenette features a sink, microwave, and mini-refrigerator.

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Two queen beds occupy the bedroom.

Not pictured is a space with a table for applying makeup or working on your computer. The beds were incredibly comfortable, and we all slept very well each night.  I’ve been told that this room actually could accommodate up to eight people and that two rollaway beds would be used in a case like that. Personally, I think eight in the room would be a bit much, but that’s just me.

For amenities, Hilton Honors customers can connect to the wireless for free, and for those visiting the parks, they have shuttles that run every 30 minutes to the different parks. We drove to the parks each day because our friends had parking privileges with their annual passes, but keep that in mind if you wish to drive to the parks because it will cost you $20 a day to park otherwise.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, and will not be averse to staying there again in the future. My first preference is to stay on property, but if something prevents you from doing so, give this hotel a try. You will not be disappointed!

Walt Disney in Technicolor

Disney-influences-Television

I love all-things fanciful, and so my tastes often wander from Disney to other great movie and animation franchises. Robin Hood is one of my favorite literary characters (who has been brought to life by Disney in both live-action and animation) and so with a little time to kill I started watching the extras on my two disc special edition DVD copy of The Adventures of Robin Hood. This version stars Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland and is undoubtedly one of the finest adaptations!

But as always, I caught a Disney moment:

Young Walt

Actually… Walt Disney himself! One of the documentaries on the DVD was entitled Glorious Technicolor narrated by none other than Angela Lansbury (Ms. Price/Mrs. Potts, so that was another Disney ‘sighting’). It contained a chapter entitled Independent Spirits and the title card featured Walt, as seen above.

The chapter highlighted how Walt saw the value of Technicolor early on and used it in his animated cartoons. Most notably in the Academy Award-winning Short Flowers and Trees. But I also found this iconic item featured in the archival footage used to show the Disney Studio:

WDS Water Tower

Although I’ve seen this tower in pictures like the one above before, it was cool to see it on film with the trees waving in the breeze! Yes, I’m that much of a geek.

But I know this series of articles is supposed to feature Disney as found in non-Disney places, so to keep with that theme, I give you:

Technicolor Newspaper Article

This issue of The Hollywood Reporter was pictured to show that the Technicolor process was going to move forward in technology and scope, but I noticed our Disney friend adult Simba in the upper left corner. I believe the words of the article read: “When ‘The Lion King’ roars he will do so in 26 languages. As… Internationally this summer, Walt Disney Pictures intends to dub its theatrical animated blockbuster into languages ranging from Icelandic to Zulu. That… domestically in limited release today. As staggering as the number of foreign languages… is… believed… that… in theaters…” Sorry, but that’s the best I can do!

But anyway, it just goes to show that you just can’t tell when a Disney star will appear!

Saving Mr. Banks at AMC Fork and Screen

The AMC Theater at Downtown Disney!

The AMC Theater at Downtown Disney!

I’ve always wanted to see a movie in the AMC Theater at Downtown Disney (also known as the Fork and Screen because you can eat while you watch the movie!), but there was never anything playing that I wanted to see when I was there. But Saving Mr. Banks is only playing in limited release in Canada right now, so when I learned that AMC was screening it during my current visit to Florida, attending was a no-brainer!

And what better movie to pair with a review of the Fork and Screen seating arrangement? So you get two reviews in one here, folks! First, I’ll discuss the dining experience (gluten-free options included) and then a brief look at the film itself.

First off, the theatre was excellent. Small enough to be intimate but with a screen big enough to do the movie justice. However, if you were watching a mega blockbuster action movie, one might wish for something bigger. But for a film like Saving Mr. Banks, it felt just right.

Saving Mr Banks

We went on Monday, December 30th, at 12:00 noon for the Fork and Screen presentation. You can see the little symbol just above the time I attended in the picture above. And here is a screen capture of the auditorium from the official AMC site, as taking pictures in the actual theatre is forbidden, and Disney even mentions that rule with the word ‘prosecution’ not-so subtly included:

Theatre Seating

The seating was very comfortable for the movie, but for eating, you had to sit on the edge of your seat so as not to spill on yourself. The picture above shows trays at each seat, but we had a counter at bar height. The trays would have been a bit better, but this is a minor point.

The food was fantastic! My in-laws had the Mushroom Swiss Burger ($10.49 – Sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese top an all-American beef burger with lettuce and tomato on a toasted brioche-style Kaiser roll served with fries). I had the Double-Decker Club ($10.99 – Shaved ham, turkey, and crisp Applewood-smoked bacon piled high on Texas toast with fresh lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and Parmesan peppercorn aioli with fries, instead of the chips). The portions were generous and well-priced for what you got. The full menu can be seen, with prices, on the DTD AMC website.

On the downside were the drinks: $4.50 for a diet coke! My complaint about this, beyond the obvious, is that the price was not marked on the menu. So it was quite a surprise when I got the cheque! I only had one glass with no refills so as to not need to make a pit stop during the movie. But if I had have known what I was paying, I would have drunk refills until I wet myself!

DD Club   Shrimp Tacos

Now on to the gluten-free options. My wife had about five things to choose from, which anyone with Celiac Disease will tell you, is copious for Disney at one location. She had the Thai Bang Shrimp Tacos ($10.99 – White corn tortillas layered together with southwest sauce and Cheddar Jack cheese, then topped with sweet and sour slaw and crunchy breaded shrimp drizzled with Thai bang sauce. Served with fresh tortilla chips and house-made salsa). For the gluten-free option, the shrimp were grilled instead of breaded. My wife said the helping of shrimp was very generous and the whole meal was tasty indeed. And she didn’t have any reaction afterwards, so a good job was done with the food preparation to avoid cross-contamination, which is always a concern. So kudos to the kitchen staff and also to our servers, who were all top-rate!

And now to conclude with a very brief review of the film. We all thought it was wonderful. Only die-hard Disney fans will worry about the inaccuracies of the events being depicted. Tom Hanks did a credible Walt, but yes, he didn’t look like him. But mere minutes into the film, you completely forget about that and buy into Tom’s interpretation. This I will attribute to the genius of Tom Hanks, one of my favorite actors! We laughed, we cried, and everyone agreed it was, again, a wonderful movie.

A tip to those who have been jaded by people claiming the film misrepresents ‘known’ facts about the events depicted: Give your amateur Disney Historian the night off and just enjoy the film for what it is. Seriously. Take this tip to heart!

I will give the dining experience and the theatre itself a combined score of 4.75 stars out of 5, simply because of the exorbitant price of the drinks! The movie gets a 5 out of 5 stars. But if I had to pick on something, I’d have to say I’d have liked it to be longer. Not bad if that’s all one can complain about!

Final say: Go see this movie wherever you can! And when you do, have your say in the comments below, please.

P. S. – Don’t forget to save your tickets and enter them into your Disney Movie Rewards account for points!

The Merriest Place on Earth – Disney at Christmastime

This tree was in the lobby of the Grand Floridian

 

I don’t know about you but I love Christmas! In fact the only thing that makes me happier than Christmas is a Disney Christmas! But beware; you need to carefully consider your plans when planning a yuletide visit to Walt Disney World or what begins as magic will turn into a nightmare!

 

Disney begins getting ready for the holiday beginning in early November. Personally I find that a little too early to enjoy Christmas decorations. However, I have found that hitting up the “World” the week after Thanksgiving is a perfect time. The weather is comfortable and the crowds are much smaller than Christmas week (my biggest advice is that if you actually head to Walt Disney World the week of Christmas/New Year’s Eve expect VERY crowded parks with long lines and waits). In fact, going the week after Thanksgiving, the longest wait I had for a ride was at Splash Mountain and I waited 15 minutes!

One of my favorite activities during this time is to visit the Disney hotels. Each hotel’s decorations are themed to the hotel. Don’t miss the gingerbread house selling gingerbread houses in the Grand Floridian lobby (the entire lobby smells like gingerbread!); there are also unique displays at the Boardwalk and the Yacht and Beach Club. Don’t forget to look for the hidden Mickey’s (what, you don’t know about hidden Mickey’s? I promise to fill you in real soon!)

This is the gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grand Floridian. There are people and a counter there where you can actually purchase gingerbread houses!

 

This gazebo was in the Board Walk Hotel’s lobby in 2011.

Downtown Disney gets in on the act. In previous visits I have seen a skating rink (yes, people were ice skating in shorts) and a Disney trip is never complete without a visit to the “12 Days of Christmas”. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a Christmas shop that’s certainly Disney inspired!

This snow family was found at Downtown Disney

Last year, my daughter and I visited the Magic Kingdom the second Friday after Thanksgiving (so not “black” Friday but the Friday immediately after that) and were pleasantly surprised to find that they were recording the musical performances for the Christmas parade that aired Christmas morning on ABC. We saw Scotty McCreery and Jennifer Hudson record their songs.

Jennifer Hudson looked like she was ready to attend a “princess” ball in her dress for the Christmas parade special that aired on ABC Christmas morning.

Of course each park gets in on the Christmas magic and each park has its own special touches. The Magic Kingdom has Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot offers the Candlelight Processional and Disney’s Hollywood Studios has the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights! I haven’t experienced any of them yet but all of these are on my to-do list. You can find plenty of information on the Walt Disney World site if you would like further details.

Merry Christmas! I hope I have given you something to think about or to look forward to if you are planning a Disney World trip for the Christmas holidays!

Focused on the Magic

Characters In Flight to Reopen!

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Exciting news for those of you that, like me, wish that Characters in Flight was open at Downtown Disney!  Word is out that they are working on the attraction, have installed a new balloon, and are currently in testing!  No word on when it will open, but I am excited to know that it will be reopening again in the future!  I was going to ride it when we were down in June, but it was closed that day, and then it was closed because of the accident in Hong Kong, so there was no way of knowing if it would open up again.

I heard about this from my friend Denny, who saw it over at WDWMagic.  You can check out their article there.  While you are waiting for the attraction to open again, take a look at some of the pictures my wife took when she rode the balloon in 2010!  Enjoy!