NC State Parks

Celebrating 100 Years of NC State Parks!

NC State Parks

Image Courtesy North Carolina State Parks.

{Editor’s Note: We are starting a new series of posts called “On the Road with Mickey“. This post is our first in this series, which will feature posts about things you can do in the North Carolina region and beyond. Come check it out!}

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the NC State Parks system, and the state plans to celebrate all year long!  On January 1st, the state started things off with “First Day Hikes” at nearly all of the state parks.  I say nearly all because some of the events had to be cancelled due to weather conditions at some of the parks.

In addition to the First Day Hikes, the NC State Parks division plans events throughout the year.  Some of these events include:

  • 100 S’more Years events at William B. Umstead State Park (multiple dates and times)
  • Art Trail Hike at Elk Knob State Park (January 24th at 3:00PM)
  • March Forth on March Fourth on the Eno — a series of hikes from March 4th – 6th, covering all of the trails of the Eno River State Park.
  • Old Homesites Tour at Lake James State Park — this state park pays tribute to some of the families that lived there before it was a state park with information on the old homesites that still exist on the grounds.
  • Party for the Pine at Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve — come on March 19th to celebrate the 468th birthday of the oldest known living longleaf pine in the world!

These are just some of the activities planned for this year!  Check out the Centennial Events page for all the events throughout the year!

What was the first NC State Park?

The very first state park in North Carolina was on the site of Mount Mitchell.  This mountain, which at elevation 6,684 feet is the highest point east of the Mississippi River in the United States, was being devastated by logging, mining, railroad activities, and so forth in the early 1900s.  In 1915, concerned citizens wrote to Governor Locke Craig, who visited Mount Mitchell, convinced the loggers to cease operations, and then went back to the General Assembly to being the campaign to save Mount Mitchell.

There are now 66 properties across the state that comprise the NC State Parks.  38 of these are state parks and recreation areas, and 28 are state rivers, lakes, trails, and other natural areas. In all, the NC State Parks comprised 211,964 acres of land.

The culmination of all of this will take place on October 8, 2016, at Elk Knob State Park, near Boone, NC. Starting at 10AM in the Picnic Area of the park, there will be a free lunch with hot dogs, hamburgers, and such, games to play, talks, hikes, and more.  Elk Knob State Park is located at 5564 Meat Camp Road, Todd, NC 28684.  You can email them at or call them at 828-297-7261 for more details.

Throughout the year, On the Road with Mickey will be visiting some of our state parks to give you in depth reviews of them, so stay tuned for more details!  We’ll see you at the parks!

3 Days til Disneyland – Haunted Mansion!

Image ©Disney Parks

Image ©Disney Parks

The Haunted Mansion — subject of so many incredible posts over the years — this iconic building at Disneyland is our choice for day 3 in our countdown to Disneyland series!  There are so many things I really like about this great attraction, I “scare”sly know where to start!

The differences between the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland (which is located in New Orleans Square) and the one at the Magic Kingdom (which is located in Liberty Square) are many.  For starters, the building are quite different.  Compare the picture at the top of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion with this picture taken from the Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion:

The Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion

The Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion

In addition to the structure, the way the stretching room operates is different.  I’m not going to go into details here, but it is different.

Also, at Disneyland there are four Hidden Mickeys throughout the attraction, and one Hidden Donald Duck!  Can you find them all?  At the Magic Kingdom version of the attraction, there are seven Hidden Mickeys, two Hidden Donald Ducks, and even one Hidden Mr. Toad!

I absolutely love this attraction, and I can’t wait to experience it later this week!  Come back tomorrow and Wednesday for our final two countdown to Disneyland attractions, and as for this attraction, let me know what you think in the comments!  Thanks!


The Magic of Disney – It’s in the Details

Here is a great example of a hidden Mickey found on a hotel carpet

Hello again readers, I promised you information on hidden Mickeys and here it is. I am including some of my other favorite Disney details that add to the magic.

If you are not familiar with the Mickey silhouette, it is a large circle (Mickey’s head) with 2 smaller circles (which are his ears). Disney Imagineers have had fun over  the years placing hidden Mickeys throughout the many attractions in the “World” as well as hotels and numerous other places at Disney World. Hidden Mickey “hunting” has become so popular that there are books and websites dedicated to hidden Mickeys.

{Editor’s Note: Another site that has a great collection of Hidden Mickey’s is my friend Jonathan’s site Mouse and Memos.  Go check it out!  You can create an account, use the site for trip planning, record Hidden Mickey’s that you find, and more!}

Some hidden Mickeys are seasonal such as this one created with holiday wreaths.

I think my favorite hidden Mickey in the theme parks can be found in “The Haunted Mansion” over in the Magic Kingdom. While on the ride, you will come to a dining room seen with ghosts dancing next to a table laid out for dinner. There is a dish with two saucers that create the Mickey silhouette.

But Disney details don’t begin and end with hidden Mickeys, Walt Disney World is full of subtle details that you may not notice but they contribute to that Disney Magic.

One of my favorite Disney hotels is the Port Orleans French Quarter. Now, a hotel based on New Orleans French Quarter certainly lends itself to details. Behind the arrival/departure desks there is a mural painted on the walls which has musical notes on it. If you actually played the notes, you would have the opening strains of “When the Saints Go Marching In”! As you meander through the resort, the cobblestone paths recreate the streets in New Orleans and the street lights have very little speakers in them that play jazz music – not so loudly that it intrudes into your thoughts, just loud enough to register if you are paying attention. Even the budget hotels get in on the detail bonanza. At Pop! Century, they offer hustle lessons and the lobby has displays for each decade repressed at the resort.

This headdress is in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge where it fits with the overall theme of the hotel

One final example of the Disney details is that when you look up at this pirate on Pirates of the Caribbean, it looks like he has actual hair on his leg! It wouldn’t break the illusion if the “hair” wasn’t added but it seems to enhance this pirates life-like appearance.

I have been to Disney many times but have learned that if you keep your eyes open, you will always find something new and different to excite you! Do you have a favorite Hidden Mickey or special detail you look forward to seeing when you are at Walt Disney World? Happy hunting for hidden Mickeys and interesting details everyone.

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:

Stop ~ Fort Wilderness Cabins at The Magical Mouse Pad

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

Final Stop ~ Coronado Springs at DIStherapy registered & protected

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:

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 take advantage 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 only about a 5 – 10 minute walk up the 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 Disney Springs! 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!

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

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!

Lastly, if you are looking for someone to help you plan your family vacation to Walt Disney World, reach out to me and I can assist! I am a full service travel consultant with Pixie Vacations, and have been helping families like yours for over six years now. I am certain I can help you plan and have the trip of a lifetime! Email me at or submit a quote request form today!