Favorite Walt Disney World Resort Activities

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

When it comes to Walt Disney World, or, for that matter, Disneyland Resort, not all of your activities need to be done at the actual theme parks.  There are plenty of great things to do just at the resorts and surrounding areas, and you know what the best thing about them is?  Most of them are free or low cost activities that your whole family can enjoy!  Here is my list of my favorite Walt Disney World Resort activities, let me know what you think and thanks for stopping by!

Activity #1: Enjoying the Pool!

The Pool at Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort

The Pool at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

When the weather is hot and the Florida summer is draining the energy out of you, taking a dip in the pool is a great alternative and a fun activity that you can do at your resort!  In the case of the Bay Lake Tower pool, the pool itself doesn’t do a whole lot for me, it’s nice, but not spectacular.  However, the water slide is a lot of fun, and is something I like to do over and over again!  Other great pools I’ve enjoyed at Walt Disney World are the pool at Coronado Springs Resort and the pool at Port Orleans French Quarter.  If you are staying there, go check them out!

Activity #2: Take a Water Taxi Ride to Downtown Disney

The Sassagoula River flows from Port Orleans Resort (both Riverside and French Quarter) to Downtown Disney!

The Sassagoula River flows from Port Orleans Resort (both Riverside and French Quarter) to Downtown Disney!

Speaking of Port Orleans French Quarter, one of the distinct advantages you have is the ability to take the water taxi ride from your resort to Downtown Disney.  This relaxing 10-15 minute boat ride down the Sassagoula River is a great way to see some of the Disney that you don’t really think about, and a good way to get off your feet too!  Of course, Downtown Disney has great shopping, food, and other activities, so this becomes a win-win decision!

Activity #3: Check out the sites from Characters in Flight

Saratoga Springs Resort as seen from Characters in Flight

Saratoga Springs Resort as seen from Characters in Flight

One of my favorite pictures is this one that my wife took when she, my daughter, and my niece went up in Characters in Flight, the helium balloon ride at Downtown Disney.  I haven’t been up in it yet, but I do have plans to do so, it’s a question of when rather than if.  This shot of Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa really shares the unique architecture and groundskeeping that a lot of the resorts have, and I really like to look at this photo.  Characters in Flight is only $18 per person for adults, and $12 per person for children ages 3-9.

Activity #4: Check out the Boardwalk!

The street shows at Disney's Boardwalk are fun to watch for all ages!

The street shows at Disney’s Boardwalk are fun to watch for all ages!

Over at Disney’s Boardwalk area, you can see street performers, take a romantic walk with your special someone, enjoy some great music and food, or do some shopping.  There’s something here for almost everyone!

Activity #5: Meet some of your favorite Characters!

What better thing to do than enjoy good food and see your favorite characters at the same time!

What better thing to do than enjoy good food and see your favorite characters at the same time!

Lastly, one other great thing to do is to get your picture with some of your favorite Disney characters.  While this picture was taken over at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and is certainly something that you would pay for, there are other options available also.  Take a look around, you never know who you’ll see!

Thank you all for taking the time to stop by and see all of the great things you can do away from the parks.  What are some of your favorite things to do outside of the parks?  Let me know in the comments below, and thanks!  Also, our Disney Gift Card giveaway just started today, so click the picture below to head over to the post and enter.  Good luck everyone!

1000 Disney Gift Card Giveaway-Red

 

Magical Blogorail Red – A Few of our favorite Disney Things!

Blogorail Red Banner

Welcome to those of you joining me from Growing Up Disney and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

Hello everyone, and thank you for joining us today on the Magical Blogorail!  Today we are talking about some of our favorite Disney things — read along and decide if our favorites match up with your favorites!  The list is long, so let’s get right on into it!

When it comes to the magic and beauty of the Walt Disney World resort, it is extremely easy to come up of a list of hundreds of things that are your favorite Disney things!  So, to keep you all from getting bored by my list, I’ve decided to come up with a list of my top five all time favorite Disney things.  Here we go!

  1. When it comes to Disney Planning, one of my favorite things to do is to order Customized Maps from the Disney World website.  These incredible keepsakes are printed out on very special paper that is durable and long lasting, and can make a great treasure for you for a long time.  You can order them every six months, even if you aren’t planning a trip, so why not enjoy them and get a little Disney Fix?!  In fact, I’ll be right back — I’m going to order some right now!  OK, I’m back now!  FYI, the customized maps section has been changed around with the new Disney World website redesign.
  2. Another of my favorite Disney things is the anticipation of the trip!  It is so exciting counting down the days towards your next trip!  I especially like to incorporate a countdown clock here on the website.  One site that I like for that is Mickeypath.com! Go check them out if you need a countdown clock!
  3. Of course, one of the best things about a trip to Disney World is experiencing all of that incredible Disney Magic!  I have so many incredible memories from Walt Disney World, that is one of the biggest reasons why we like to come back to the parks year after year!  Some of my favorite memories can be found in this special blog post I wrote almost two years ago titled “My favorite Disney Memories.
  4. Another of my favorite Disney things is the Disney Food!  Yum, Disney sure does their restaurants right (most of them, that is!)  Some of my great memories happened at places where we were eating, such as the time last summer when we were eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table and Wishes started up outside — that was incredible!
  5. I think, though, that one of the things that I like about Disney the most is the incredible way that the different areas of the resort are themed.  You’ve got the French Quarter at Port Orleans, the theming of the Pirates of the Caribbean; all of the incredible theming to be found in each of the lands of the Magic Kingdom; and even the great theming of places like the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  What truly makes Walt Disney World the best place to visit of any vacation destination is the theming, and the Imagineers have learned over the years the best ways to bring us, the Guest, into the attraction as if we’ve stepped into the place itself.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Disney Donna Kay!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to re-board:

1st Stop ~ A World View
2nd Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
3rd Stop ~ My Dreams Of Disney
4th Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
Final Stop ~ Colorado Mountain Mom

Special Edition Magical Blogorail: Port Orleans French Quarter

 
Welcome to those of you joining me from Your First Visit and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.
 
In this special edition loop, the Magical Blogorail is sharing with you our impressions of the Moderate resorts at Walt Disney World.  I am sharing my thoughts and stories from Port Orleans French Quarter, one of my favorite resorts at Disney.
 
We first stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter in 2009, and liked it so much we stayed there in 2010 also.  There are a lot of positives when it comes to POFQ, so let’s take a look at some of them.
 
French Quarter is the smallest of the moderate resorts, with just 1,008 rooms for the resort.  By comparison, Port Orleans Riverside is more then double the size, with 2,048 rooms.  Port Orleans French Quarter is located on the Sassagoula River, which is a Disney made river that provides water taxi access to each of the resorts and also to Downtown Disney.
 
When you enter the resort, it’s as if you have walked straight into the French Quarter section of New Orleans, complete with the street signs and courtyards.
 
The French Quarter has a really nice main pool with a neat water slide, plus, as you can see, there are characters located in the resort that make for a nice photo opportunity!
 
 
Port Orleans French Quarter doesn’t have a table-service restaurant, but it does have a food court, the Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory, which has various stations to order different types of food.  Located in the main building, the dining location has a lot of great items hanging from the ceiling.
 
 
Some of my favorite customer service experiences happened when we were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter, either in 2009 or 2010.  I remember in 2009 we had the same greeters when we would enter the lobby every day of our trip practically.  They were incredible people, with the Disney customer service ingrained in them.  But more then that, they were genuinely nice people, the kind of people that you see day in and day out, and by the time your vacation is over, they are more then just Cast Members — they are also friends.  It is to my regret that I didn’t think to get their names or email addresses, because I would have liked to kept in touch with them.
 
Every day we saw them, they would give beads to Sophie, or coins, and they always had a smile on their face, and a welcoming “Where are we going today?” question on their lips.  When we told them, they immediately pulled out park maps for that park, and told us the best way to get where we were going to make our reservation.
 
As you can see by my photos, the rooms contain two queen beds, double pedastal sinks, and a standard bathroom.  Also, there are different views available — in 2010 we paid for the water view, and the picture of the Sassagoula river was the view from our room.
 
 
 
Thank you for joining me today. Your next
stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Heidi’s Head.
 

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should
you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st
Stop ~ Fort Wilderness Cabins at The Magical Mouse Pad

4th Stop ~ Port Orleans Riverside at Heidi’s Head

Final Stop ~ Coronado Springs at DIStherapy

 
 
 

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Taking Stephanie To Disney World, June 2010

This past June, Cindy, Sophie and I planned to celebrate Sophie’s birthday at Walt Disney World.  There were so many plans, and Sophie knew about all of them — where we wanted to eat, what we wanted to do, and where we planned to stay — but the one thing that Sophie had no idea about was that we had invited a secret fourth person to accompany us!

On Sunday evening, June 13th, at about 7:30 PM or so, our front doorbell rang.  Since I knew who was coming, I told Sophie to get the door.  As she did, she said, surprised, “Stephanie?”  When she saw that it was, indeed, her cousin Stephanie, she opened the door the rest of the way and gave her a big hug!

As we were all hugging Stephanie, Sophie whispered to me “Daddy, why is she here?”.  When she asked, I told her to ask Stephanie herself.  Steph answered, “Well, I heard you were going on vacation, and I thought I would come along!”

As soon as Sophie heard that, she gave a squeal of delight and wrapped Stephanie up in a great big bear hug!

We had a wonderful vacation planned!  It would all start with leaving on Monday, June 14th, and spending the night in Savannah, GA.  Additionally, we were to spend Tuesday night at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista before checking in at Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter on Wednesday, June 16th.

But first we had reservations for dinner on the 15th at the Captain’s Grille, a seafood restaurant at the Yacht Club over by the Disney Boardwalk.  We decided to make reservations there because I was really in the mood for some crab legs, and also because my friend Beth used to be the hostess there!  Our food was so good, I would eat there again in a heartbeat!  After we ate, we walked around the Boardwalk.  We had always wanted to do that, but had just never taken the time to do so.  We enjoyed the Boardwalk immensely!  We looked in some shops, we bought some trinkets, we watched a man doing a magic show that was quite humorous, and we enjoyed the walk around the lake.

Disney’s Boardwalk as seen from across the pond!

Wednesday the 16th was quite an interesting day, to say the least!  We woke up normally, ate a quick breakfast at the Fairfield, and then packed the car and headed off to POFQ!  We had decided early on that we would check-in early, entrust our luggage with the luggage people at the resort, and head over to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy the day until our room was ready.  We had two things that we wanted to do that day.  The first was to take advantage of our preferred seating location for the afternoon parade, and the second was to make our dining reservations at The Crystal Palace.

However, after we dropped off our luggage, we decided to go inside to use the rest rooms before heading over to the park.  When we came out of the rest rooms, though, we started talking with a very nice lady about the one thing we had never ever looked into: the Disney Vacation Club.  She was talking with us, and in the course of our conversation, we found out that we could get four days worth of fast pass tickets for all of us just by taking a tour of the facilities over at the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.

We all talked it over, and decided that other than our dining reservations, we really could take some time to do the tour, so we decided to take her up on her offer.  A vehicle took us over for the tour, and we met a lady named Johanna, who took us around and showed us the resort.  She told us we were welcome to take a few pictures, so I did!  I didn’t take many, but here are a few that I like.

The fountain at Saratoga Springs

 

One of the train displays at the DVC location at Saratoga Springs.

 

A mural at the DVC location at Saratoga Springs.
After the tour, we sat down with Johanna to talk about the pricing for the Vacation Club.  After much talking, we realized that the money we had spent on our three previous trips would have paid for about half of what a Vacation Club membership would have cost, and to make matters worse, we paid two dollars more per night for our hotel at POFQ than we could have paid for a Savannah view at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge!  When we heard that, and then heard about the really special deals that they were offering, and learned what the monthly payments worked out to be, we decided to take the plunge and own a piece of Disney, all for ourselves!
 In the end, we were there for probably two hours, perhaps longer.  Because of that, we did miss the preferred seating for the parade, but we still made our dinner reservations.  Also, I split off with the girls and met the porter at our hotel room to take delivery of our luggage.
I was able to get that done and arrive at The Crystal Palace just in time for us to get seated!  This would be the first of our table service dining reservations, and also the first time for Stephanie to get the Disney character experience!  The Crystal Palace includes meet and greet sessions with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore, and each time they come by, you can take a picture and get an autograph in your autograph book.  Take a look at some of the pictures we took that day!
Sophie, Piglet, and Stephanie
Sophie and Pooh

 

Silly faces!
I like to enjoy a breakfast at least once a trip while we are visiting at Disney World.  Usually we save all of our table service meals for late afternoon/early dinner, but on the 17th, we had reservations at the Cape May Cafe, which we had never eaten at before.
The Cape May Cafe is located at the Yacht Club resort, over again by the Disney Boardwalk.  This was the same resort where we had been for our Captain’s Grille dinner two nights before.  The characters at this buffet breakfast included Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy!  The food is one big buffet with Mickey Mouse waffles, all sorts of sweet pastries, all sorts of bacon and sausages, and of course, eggs (yuck!)  However, there was plenty to eat, so none of us went hungry that morning!  Take a look at some of the great pictures we took!
Steph and Minnie

 

Sophie and Minnie

 

Steph and Donald

 

The girls with Goofy!

 

Sophie’s Birthday Surprise — notice the card right by the desert?
After we finished breakfast, we took the water taxi over to Epcot.  One of the hidden treasures of Epcot is the ability to enter the park from the back entrance, over by the France pavilion in World Showcase.  The line is much smaller, and while I have seen it many times, I had never entered that way until this trip.
We spent the day first at Epcot, and then later on we hopped over to the Magic Kingdom.  One of the things we did was take the ferry boat ride across the Seven Seas Lagoon.  In doing so, we discovered that we had taken the following Disney modes of transportation:
  • Disney Resort Bus
  • Monorail
  • Water Taxi
  • Ferry Boat
  • Helium Balloon (Characters in Flight at Downtown Disney)
  • Vacation Club Van

Actually, the girls didn’t do the Characters in Flight until Sophie’s birthday on the 19th, but you get the idea.

You know, as I write about our Disney experiences with Stephanie this past June, it occurs to me that there is so much that we did on our vacation that there is no way that I can get all of the Magic down in a blog post without making the post about a three day job to get it down.  So, at the risk of disappointing my following of 10 on Networked Blogs, I’m going to show you the remaining parts of our trip via the pictures that we took.  I hope you enjoy!

The ghosts from The Tower of Terror!

 

Pluto with Steph and Sophie at The Garden Grill

 

Mickey and Sophie at The Garden Grill

 

He’s such a big player the girls had to have their pictures separately!

 

“And the winner is…Kermit the Frog!”

 

On Characters in Flight at Downtown Disney

 

Our lovely niece at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ!

 

Sophie is wearing her special “Minnie and Me” T-Shirt she created at Downtown Disney!

 

Sophie’s picture with Mickey and Minnie

 

We thought we were as wet as we could get — until it started pouring rain on top of it!

 

My only picture from “Finding Nemo — the musical” that turned out okay.

 

Our picture with Belle at Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall

 

Sleeping Beauty and the girls

 

Cinderella with the girls

 

Snow White with the girls

 

Ariel with the girls

 

Clownin’ around at the bus stop

 

Tink leading off the parade!

 

This parade is SO COOL — see it if you can!

 

Cinderella — and yes, she was looking right at me! (not!)

 

Pete’s Dragon — my favorite shot of the whole parade!

 

Mickey and Minnie riding with some lucky fans late night!  It was 12:06 AM on an “Extra Magic Hours” night!

 

As cool a shot of the Castle as I can get at night.  I’m quite pleased with it!

 

And in the day, still a nice shot I think.

 

Pirate Princess Sophie and her prisoners!

 

The Carousel of Progress — to this day one of my favorite attractions!

 

“Which way did they go, George?”

 

Even Georgette enjoyed the vacation, although all she did was stay in our room and read!

I always have a great time when we visit Disney World, and this year, with Stephanie being able to enjoy it with us, it was just that much more special!  We made so many memories, Stephanie is already “inviting herself” to come with us next time!  I say, the more the merrier!  Thanks for reading!

Port Orleans French Quarter


One of our favorite Disney Resorts is Port Orleans French Quarter.  This resort, which is a sister resort of Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, is the smallest of the Disney resorts.  This, when coupled with it’s French Quarter theming, really made it a very enjoyable resort to stay at.

We first stayed at POFQ in August of 2009.  This trip was originally planned for June, but we canceled once because of the economy, then later on in the summer decided it was more advantageous to go because of the free Disney Dining Plan, so we booked our trip for August.  However, we left Sophie out of the loop, and proceeded to plan, pack, and leave all one Saturday with her having no idea of where we were going.  When she found out, it prompted this video:

When we got to the resort, the first people we met were the two gentlemen who serve as doormen for the entrance to the lobby of the hotel.  They were some of the nicest Cast Members we have ever met, and it is just a shame that I don’t remember their names.  In addition to being doormen, they also were extremely knowledgeable about which was the best way to get somewhere to meet a reservation.  Whenever we saw them they always said — “Where are we going today?”, and when we told them, they promptly pulled out the park information we needed, pointed out the location of whatever it was we wanted to see, and also told us about some other things to do when we were there.  Lastly, they would tell us when the last bus was here that went to that particular destination.  Sadly, they were not there in June when we went back to POFQ.


In addition to the great doormen, we also had a great staff in other areas.  Check out this picture of the towels that the housekeeper left in our room:

Hidden Mickey, perhaps?

The thing that really sets Disney apart from any other theme park, in my opinion, is the incredible detail that is put into every part of a Disney resort.  Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, is based on the real French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana (obviously).  The street signs are the same, landscaping is the same, every detail is brought into the equation of what makes a Disney resort.  For a whole lot more about Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, you can check out the unofficial Port Orleans tribute site.

Because Port Orleans Resort comprises both the French Quarter and Riverside sections, you can actually partake of the services at both locations when you stay at one of the resorts.  This means that you can choose from two pools to enjoy, a fishing hole to enjoy some actual fishing, and the nice thing is that the two resorts are about a 5 – 10 minute walk up the lovely Sassagoula River.  Of the two resorts, Riverside is the larger of the two, and French Quarter feels much more intimate.  However, that intimacy does come at a price — there is only a quick service food court type restaurant at the resort.  If you wish to have a sit down dining experience, you need to head up to Riverside for that.

If you don’t feel like walking, and you don’t want to get in your car and drive, you have other choices available to you.  First off, you can take the water taxi.  The Sassagoula is a man-made river, and you can ride the water taxi up to Riverside, or you can wait for the one coming back and ride it down to Downtown Disney!  We have done that twice, and it is a nice change of pace from sitting in a bus to get where you want to go.

But talk is cheap, take a look at some of the pictures we’ve taken of the resort!

Building 6

 

One of the open areas

 

One of the fountains

 

Flower Garden

 

Georgette reading her book in our room

 

The Sassagoula as seen from our room

 

A set of flower pots

Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter is the smallest of the resorts, but it definitely has it’s set of amenities.  Take a look at the official Disney World page for more information, and better pictures!