Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Exploring Main Street, U.S.A.

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are taking a tour of the lands at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park.

When does your Walt Disney World Resort vacation truly start?

For some, it is the moment you step onto the plane or get into your car. For others, it's the moment you pass under the Walt Disney World sign and enter the property.

For me, however, it's the moment I step onto Main Street, U.S.A.

All About Main Street

Main Street, U.S.A. is themed after Walt Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri during the 20th Century. Walt loved the simplistic, Mom and Pop feel to his hometown, and wanted to pay homage to this special time in his life. 

You'll find all the workings of a Main Street: a barbershop, a Town Hall, an ice cream shop and a confectionary. 

The Show Begins

Walt Disney wanted you to escape when you came to his theme parks. One of the gripes he had about Disneyland is that you can see the freeway and other outside businesses from inside the park. At Walt Disney World, Walt had what he liked to call "the blessing of size." Everything was meticulously planned so you could be fully immersed in the story.

What was the story?

Well, it's simple really. Think of a show. If a show is about to begin, there's a curtain blocking your view. The curtain in the Magic Kingdom story is the Main Street Train Station. It blocks your view. Once you enter from below the train station, the curtain rises and you see the main event. The main event? Cinderella Castle, standing tall and shining in the sun.

On the windows of Main Street, U.S.A. is where you'll find the opening credits. On each window are names of people who worked to get the park built, or played a critical role in the The Walt Disney Company.

The Construction of Main Street

People are often surprised that Cinderella Castle stands at a mere 189 feet. 

189 feet? That doesn't sound so tall. It looks so much bigger. I've heard this argument so many times, and it isn't your imagination. It was designed this way. 

How? It's simple, and it's genius. The buildings on Main Street U.S.A. are built with a forced perspective. Therefore the buildings at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom are taller than the buildings at the end, so the castle looks bigger than it really is. 

Also of note: the actual street is on a slight incline heading toward the castle. Therefore, it seems longer in the morning and shorter at the end when your feet are screaming.

Forced perspective is also used for the second level of Main Street. While the first level is built full sized so you can enjoy the shops, the second level is much shorter. 

What is there to do on Main Street, U.S.A.?

Eat and shop mostly! Main Street is home to: 

  • Casey's Corner (quick service hot dogs)
  • Crystal Palace (buffet with Winnie the Pooh Characters)
  • Main Street Bakery (Starbucks)
  • Plaza Ice Cream Parlor 
  • Plaza Restaurant (sit down American fare)
  • Tony's Town Square Restaurant (Italian food, themed after Lady and the Tramp)

Main Street is also home to the Emporium, which I like to describe as the Target of Disney retail stores. You can find pretty much any souvenir you want there.

To all who come to this happy place, welcome. 

On your next trip, don't run down Main Street. Take some time and enjoy the sites and sounds! 

For more tours of the lands of the Magic Kingdom, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Green | Lands of the Magic Kingdom Loop:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Personalized Disney Gifts from Shutterfly

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing gift ideas for Mother's Day.

*Note: this post contains affiliate links.

I've been a loyal Shutterfly user since my Kodak Gallery closed up shop and my account was merged with Shutterfly. It's no surprise because I love photos, and especially beautiful photo gifts. I've always been the photographer of my squad, and always the one people are hunting down for photos after an event.

 As a new mom, my love for photos has increased 1,000 fold. I don't want to say that I always have my phone out taking photos, but I would say that 75 percent of my day spent with my son is spent documenting his every move. Therefore, my love of photo related gifts has proportionally increased as well.

While all of this seems like common sense, about a year ago, Shutterfly began offering Disney themed products. This is a GAME CHANGER. If that special mom in your life is anything like me, they'll go crazy for these products and will make the perfect, personal Mother's Day gift.

Without further ado, here are my top 3 Shutterfly Disney products for Mom this Mother's Day.

Top 3 Shutterfly Disney Products for Mom this Mother's Day

1. Disney Themed Photo Book 

By far, my favorite Shutterfly album are their easy-to-make, easy-to-love photo books. Not only are the Shutterfly photo books reasonable, they also are an easy way to display hundreds of vacation memories in a thin, easily storable book. 

While I do love Photopass and the Memory Maker package, I find it much easier to download all my Photopass photos and include them with my own in a Shutterfly album. I suggest gathering photos from your last trip, or do a combination of trips your family has taken throughout the years, and pull together a simple and fun book. 

The Disney Adventures themed book is my favorite (above) but if you are a Frozen fan, I highly recommend looking into the Disney Frozen photo book. New mom? A good idea would be to pull together a baby book for her using the Disney Winnie the Pooh themed layout.

Disney Adventures, 8x11 Photo Book Capture your travel memories with our Disney travel-themed photo book. Mickey Mouse and... [More] 
Price: $44.99
Sale: $44.99

2. Disney Photo Mug

There are never enough photo mugs. I repeat. There are never enough photo mugs. While there are a few versions to choose from, by far my favorite is the Disney Vintage Mickey Mug.

The mug comes in 11 or 15 ounces, and can be customized with nine different colors. You can add up to three photos and...wait for it...Ghirardelli chocolate gifts such as squares or hot cocoa.

 Disney Mickey And Friends Mug, Red
Microwave and Dishwasher safeMade for hot beveragesColor will show on the inside and ha...[More]
Price: $24.99
Sale: $14.49

3. Disney Pillow

We recently got a Shutterfly pillow of my son at Walt Disney World for his great grandparents for Christmas, and let me tell you, that gift was the hit of the holiday! My grandmother tells me that my son is "with her all the time" as she sits on her couch with his pillow next to her.

With a story like that, how could I not recommend Shutterfly's photo pillow for Mother's Day! 

I personally love the Minnie Mouse sham, although there are plenty of other options, such as Frozen, Cars, and of course the big cheese, Mickey.
Available in Standard Front features elegant embroidered border detailEnvelope-style bac... [More]
Price: $44.99
Sale: $39.99

I truly believe that whatever your Disney style or personality is, Disney Shutterfly gifts are perfect, simple and cost conscious gifts for any Mom on Mother's Day!

Best Sale of the Season! Save 50% on Cards, Select Photo Book, and Calendars! use code BEST4MOMS

For more gift ideas, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Black | Mother's Day Gift Guides Loop:

Monday, March 14, 2016

Space Travelers: Welcome Aboard Your Space Mountain Rocket Train

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing some the best attraction ride vehicles at Disney.

photo credit: Star Tunnel via photopin (license)

"Rocket trains in motion, track B!"

I remember making that announcement pretty much every shift during my College Program at Space Moutain. What did it mean? It essentially meant guests were about to enjoy one of the best, most exhilarating classic Disney attractions.

Your rocket train is your vehicle into the abyss of outer space and the unknown.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Epcot's America Pavilion

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are taking you on a virtual tour of Epcot's World Showcase.

Photo by Thomas Mottola

Phew, walking around the Epcot's World Showcase can be exhausting, but you made it to the back of the park, directly across from the park's entrance. Wait, where are you going? Don't you dare skip past America! 

Sure, if you're American, I can imagine that a tour of your home country may not be as exciting as sipping champagne in France, watching acrobats in China or sampling tacos in Mexico. However, the American pavilion, the American Adventure, has a lot to offer so before you head to have a cannoli in Italy or sushi in Japan (everything has to do with eating, naturally) slow down and take in the sights and sounds.

The American Adventure

The Spirit of Knowledge (via Neelix)
Hosted by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin, the American Adventure is an audio-animatronic show about the history of America, American life and offers a glimpse into the different time periods that have played a role in creating the America of today. 

Starting from the Pilgrims harrowing journey to America for religious freedom, and expanding through the pains of Civil War and the Industrial Revolution, the show is a great reminder of how far we have come as a country and the lessons we've learned throughout our history. 

The beautiful theater truly fits the presentation, and is a great place to kick back and relax during a busy day. Around the theater are 12 statues representing the spirits and ideals of America. 

The half hour show culminates with a video highlighting famous people and noteworthy moments in American history, including first responders on September 11th. The video features one of my favorite Disney tracks, Golden Dream, which you can listen to below.

Voices of Liberty

If you haven't seen the a capella group, Voices of Liberty, I demand you stop what you are doing and get to Epcot as soon as possible. The Voices of Liberty are eight very talented singers who appear throughout the day at the American Adventure. 

Their voices perfectly capture the American spirit, and they always put on a fabulous show. There's nothing I can say to perfectly capture how amazing they are, so I will let you watch them instead. Check your times guide or My Disney Experience mobile app for show times.

American Food

Ok, so we aren't exactly known for our food, so the American Adventure doesn't have a sit down restaurant. If you're interested in a little light, quick American fare, stop into the Liberty Inn for a burger, fries, chicken fingers, etc. Better yet, enjoy one of the outside stand where you can get one of my favorites, funnel cakes or turkey legs. 

Photo by Thomas Mottola


There isn't a ton of shopping at the America pavilion, but you will find one of my family's favorite shops to the right of the entrance of the American Adventure theater, Heritage Manor Gifts. Here you will find some patriotic Disney merchandise and we always seem to find something to take home from this small, secluded shop. 

Photo by Thomas Mottola

Special Events at The America Pavilion

The American Adventure is home to some of the most well-attended Epcot events due to its large, open air America Gardens Theatre. The Theatre plays host to events such as:
  • The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival's Garden Rocks Concert Series
  • The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival's Eat to the Beat Concert Series
  • The Candlelight Processional

What's the Point? 

On your next trip to Epcot, be sure to spend some time in your home country! What's your favorite part of the American Adventure? Tell me in the comments below. And thanks for taking this virtual tour of Epcot's World Showcase with the Blogorail! 

For more info on Epcot's World Showcase, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Green | Tour of Epcot's World Showcase Loop:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Vintage Disney: The Mickey Mouse Club

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing vintage Disney attractions and entertainment and a little Disney history.

Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? If you sing along to the Mickey Mouse March, then you have had at least a small taste of the Mickey Mouse Club in your life.

The Mickey Mouse Club has had several iterations throughout the years. Interestingly enough, each generations seems to have their own beloved cast of Mouseketeers. Today, let's explore the three versions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Delicious Eats and Superb Sights at Columbia Harbour House

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are telling you all about some of the best quick service restaurants at Walt Disney World.

Photo courtesy of Rolling with the Magic

When you think about the hustle and bustle of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, it's comforting to imagine a quiet place where you can go to escape for a few moments. Even the full service restaurants at Walt Disney World Resort can be hectic, which is why Columbia Harbour House is a true gem.

It's easy to get pulled into one of the two big quick service locations at two ends of the the Magic Kingdom - Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe or Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. While they have plenty of seating and options, the lines and craziness from the park translate directly into these locations. It's hard to get a break while dining here.

I instead tend to head to the center of the park and dine at Disney's understated quick service location, Columbia Harbour House. This nautical-themed quick service restaurant has a rustic, laid back feel. It feels like New England as soon as you step through the door (and not just because of the clam chowder on the menu.) It's nestled directly between Fantasyland, Frontierland and Liberty Square, giving it a very convenient location.

The Menu

When you think about theme park food, you probably imagine burgers, hot dogs, fries and pizza. At Columbia Harbour house, though, you'll get hummus, broccoli peppercorn salad and fried shrimp.3

One of the most talked about items of the menu, the Anchors Aweigh Sandwich, hits the spot for those who dislike fast food only options. The sandwich contains white tuna, lettuce and tomato on a hearty toasted multigrain bread. It's served with potato chips, which is the perfect accompaniment. 

Photo courtesy of Rolling with the Magic

While those with pickier palates can still find standard fare, such as fried chicken breast nuggets and a garden salad, it is the unique items that make Columbia Harbour House memorable. If you're watching your waistline (who isn't in January!) the grilled salmon with broccoli and couscous hits the spot. If you're not, though, be sure to try seafood macaroni and cheese, featuring lobster and shrimp. And, of course, there's New England Clam Chowder, though I wouldn't recommend that in August!

If you're anti-fish (as I sadly am) you can feast on vegetarian chili or chicken pot pie. 

The Atmosphere

Photo courtesy of Rolling with the Magic

Arguably the best part of Columbia Harbour House is its quiet seating and relaxing atmosphere. Now, if you walk in during peak dining hours you'd probably think I was insane. However, there is a second level of seating that very few people venture to right upstairs from where you order your food.

Upstairs at Columbia Harbour House is my favorite people-watching location in the Magic Kingdom. Pick up something to eat and enjoy the air conditioning, sights and sounds. There's even a small bathroom up there for restaurant-goers. 

It's so quiet upstairs that the Keys to the Kingdom Tour ropes off a section for its participants. 

So what's the point? 

Next time you're in the Magic Kingdom and you're looking something did different to eat or a relaxing place to rest during a long day, consider Columbia Harbour House. Let me know about your experiences in the comments section below!

For more great quick service restaurants at Walt Disney World, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Green | Best Quick Service Restaurants at WDW Loop: