Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Winging it: The Biggest Disney Mistake

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing some common Disney mistakes and how you can avoid them.

There's a lot of mistakes you can make while visiting Walt Disney World Resort. You can forget to try a Dole Whip, or to miss out on meeting Mickey at Town Square Theater. (He is the most magical there) You can decide to get a Fastpass for the Tower of Terror instead of Toy Story Mania, when the standby lines for each are incomparable.

The biggest mistake, hands down, that you can make is winging it. Like it or not, Disney can be hard work; however, if you plan in advance, you can have a fun, carefree vacation in Orlando.

180 Days in Advance

Six months prior to my Disney vacation, I have pretty much my entire itinerary planned. Why? Because of dining reservations.

At Walt Disney World Resort, the booking window for dining reservations is 180 days before the first day of your vacation. What does that mean? That the most popular dining spots are often booked solid six months in advance. 

Popular character meals like Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom book up immediately. Other popular restaurants, like Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Le Cellier at Epcot's Canada Pavilion, and Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom are just as in demand. 

Therefore, dining comes first, and if you want a memorable meal at a restaurant I mentioned, you cannot wait until the last minute. I often hear from Disney guests that they'll just show up and try to walk in without a reservation. I am here to tell you that if that happens, it's an anomaly.

Once your dining is confirmed, you can work the rest of your itinerary around it. Be sure to plan for special events, parades and other seasonal celebrations.

In addition to your dining reservations, plans for recreation, spa treatments, the Bippity Boppity Boutique and other special events like fireworks cruises and dessert parties can be made at this time. 

Breakfast at Chef Mickey's can be hard to secure

60 Days in Advance

Immediately prior to this mark, you should make sure you have your tickets set and linked to your account. Why? Because at this point you can start to make your Fastpass+ reservations. 

Gone are the carefree days where you could show up at the park and head to an attraction you want to experience, insert your ticket and get a Fastpass for later in the day. At 60 days, anyone staying on Walt Disney World Resort property can make three Fastpass+ reservations per day. Like dining, the more popular attractions fill up first. Attractions like Toy Story Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Soarin' at Epcot and Peter Pan's Flight at Magic Kingdom Park tend to book up quickly. The new Frozen attraction at Epcot can certainly be added to this list.

At this 60 day mark, I also prepare for the next two weeks, where I order my Magic Bands and plan out a more detailed itinerary in My Disney Experience. 

A Week Before

Believe it or not, you can check in to your resort online now. You can also fax a room request directly to your resort, as it is around this time room assignments are made. 

One Final Tip

Are you able to plan a last minute trip to Walt Disney World Resort? Sure. However, you must remember that the most sought-after reservations are made well in advance.

Is this a lot of work? Quite frankly, yes! That's why I highly recommend using an Earmarked Disney Travel Advisor who does this for a living, and can point you in the right direction and make recommendations. At my agency, Glass Slipper Concierge, we handle all of the above for our clients. If you want to brave the process on your own, I recommend doing your research well in advance of these important milestones so you get the reservations you want and have a stress-free Disney vacation!

For more ways to avoid mistakes at Disney, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Disney Mistakes & How to Avoid Them Loop:

Monday, July 18, 2016

In the Wings Beauty and the Beast Delights Children of All Ages

Flashback to 1991. I am in the backseat of my mom's car singing (ok, ok...screeching) to the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. I knew every single word, and would "perform" it for my friends and fellow passengers. I loved Belle. Belle was like me: brown hair, a bit odd, and an intellectual who liked books.

Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite Disney movie, and will likely always be my favorite, which is why I was thrilled when In the Wings Productions, a Staten Island, New York-based theater company, announced that it would be their summer production.

On Friday evening, I had the pleasure of attending opening night at Snug Harbor Music Hall. I was delighted to see that the orchestra had not one empty seat; the packed house was deserved given the quality production we enjoyed.

Maria Elena Rumayor takes the stage as Belle. (Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

The Cast

While the entire cast was fabulous, Maria Elena Rumayor was absolutely glowing as Belle. She commanded the stage, flowing from scene to scene without missing a beat. Belle isn't an easy role to play - she goes from sweet, to stubborn to fierce, and Rumayor handled each personality splendidly. 

Perhaps my favorite moment of Beauty and the Beast is when Belle turns down Gaston's proposal and declares her wishes for adventure, and to escape the small town cycle. In that moment Rumayor gave me goosebumps, and I'm so glad the theater company filmed it for Instagram.

Craig Kwasnicki as Gaston, with the "silly girls."
(Photo credit Nicholas Bucholz) 
The two male leads, Gaston (played by Craig Kwasnicki) and the Beast (played by Anthony Massa) were strong and confident. They had me chuckling throughout the production, with Gaston fawning over a clearly uninterested Belle, and the Beast trying oh so hard to learn manners.

It is rare, with a cast this large, to have memorable performances from supporting cast, but this production had many unique and memorable roles. Lumiere, Mrs. Pots and Cogsworth (James McKeon, Jenny Kelly and John Patrick) transported the audience to the Beast's Castle and tugged at the heart strings during the song Human Again, a number unfortunately cut from the animated feature but shines on stage. And little VJ Scarpaci was adorable all nestled in the his serving cart as Chip.

In a surprisingly hilarious performance, Madame de la Grande Bouche (a.k.a. "The Wardrobe) Emily Bodkin hit the high notes in her stories about her past performances.

Lefou, played by Ryan Taylor, lead the charge in one of the best numbers of the night, "Gaston." The number included a terrific dance number where the cast knocked their beer mugs. (I can only assume they were drinking Lefou's Brew!)

Fabulous staging by Director Joseph Lento and choreography by Tanya Glassman. (Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

Show Stopping Numbers

In addition to "Gaston," there were several numbers that brought the audience to their feet. 

I personally was thrilled to hear one of my favorite songs, "No Matter What," a gorgeous father/daughter anthem in the first act. 

James McKeon as Lumiere led "Be Our Guest," which featured so many cast members I'm not quite sure how they all fit on the Snug Harbor stage. The gorgeous costumes and set truly shine in this number, the terrific direction by Joseph Lento was particularly apparent in this scene. 

 The cast of Beauty and the Beast sings "Be Our Guest" (Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

I was particularly emotional during the title song, "Beauty and the Beast," sung sweetly by Jenny Kelly, was perfectly touching. During the second act, during the battle scenes, the music direction by Michael Pinto was strong and impactful.

Go See Beauty and the Beast

I'm so happy to share this review with you today because you still have plenty of time to go get tickets for the remaining four performances next weekend. 

If you haven't been to Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens, you should certainly plan a visit to see the campus prior to the show. It is the perfect Staten Island day.  Tickets range from $20-$30, so you won't break the bank and you'll get a high quality performance. 

Here are the upcoming performances: 
Friday, July 22 at 8pm
Saturday, July 23 at 12pm and 7pm
Sunday, July 24 at 2pm

To purchase tickets:

Meet Belle:
You can have breakfast with Belle prior to Saturday's performance. 
(Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

*Note: I was given two tickets in exchange for my honest review of the production. All thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

50s Prime Time Cafe Peanut Butter & Jelly Shake

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are sharing some of the best drinks you can find at the Disney Parks & where you can find them.

Photo via WDW News
I don't think anybody would deny that peanut butter and jelly is delicious. Who doesn't like PB&J sandwiches? In fact, I lived off of PB&J sandwiches during my pregnancy!

But a peanut butter and jelly SHAKE? That's right, I departed from your typical alcoholic drinks to give you this amazing treat.

Only Disney can make this dream a reality! At the 50's Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios, you can try this delicious shake along with comfort foods like fried chicken and meatloaf. If you're not in the mood for a full meal and just want to try the shake, you're in luck! Just stop into the lounge adjacent to the restaurant and they'll pack you a shake to go.

Photo via WDW News
I wasn't a believer. But I can tell you it is absolutely delicious and we regretted splitting the shakes rather than getting our own!

If you want to make your own at home, you can! I've included recipes from Delicious Disney in many articles - but you don't even need a full recipe in this case. It's simple. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream, a splash of milk, a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter, a couple of spoonfuls of jelly and you blend it together to make this refreshing treat.

On your next visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios, be sure to grab a Peanut Butter and Jelly Shake. You won't be disappointed!

For more of the best drinks at Disney, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Green | Best Disney Drinks & Where to Find Them Loop:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Part 1: A Three Day (Not Hour) Tour on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas

I really thought I was headed to Gilligan's island or an adventure a la Poseidon.

A few months ago, after considering various ways to spend our five year wedding anniversary, we picked a three night "cruise to nowhere" on Royal Caribbean International's Anthem of the Seas. Then things began to fall apart...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's New at Epcot

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are all of the new magic you can experience at Walt Disney World in 2016.

It seems like every time I have the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World Resort, there's something new to look forward to. Recently I've been dying to check out the new Disney Springs area, which looks spectacular. However, I'm also very excited to check out additions and changes to one of my favorite parks, Epcot.

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: