Posts Tagged With: disney world resort

The New Fantasyland

Prince Eric's Castle


I know that this is old news. So many people have already posted about the opening of the new Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. But I wanted to wait a while before heading over to check it out, wait for the crowds to die down a bit.

The Magic Kingdom has been open for 41 years (Wow!) and this is the largest expansion it has ever undergone. Fantasyland will now be twice its original size, now 21 acres. It was built on the site of the original 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction.

The new Fantasyland is opening in stages. This first stage includes the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus.

In the Enchanted Forest, you’ll be immersed in the worlds of the Disney films Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. The centerpiece of the Enchanted Forest is the Beast’s Castle, high atop the mountain. Gaston’s Tavern, Bonjour Village Gifts and the Be Our Guest Restaurant are also in the Beauty and the Beast area.

Beast's Castle          Be Our Guest Restaurant

The Be Our Guest Restaurant has three unique dining rooms, all featuring themes from Beauty and the Beast. This restaurant serves French-inspired cuisine, like salad Nicoise, croque monsieur and French onion soup. It is also the first restaurant in the Magic Kingdom to serve alcohol.

Attractions within the Enchanted Forest are Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, where you board giant clamshells and ride through Ariel’s world; Ariel’s Grotto, where you can meet all the characters from The Little Mermaid; and Enchanted Tales with Belle, a doorway into the story of Belle and the Beast.

Ariel's Grotto          Gaston's Tavern

Storybook Circus is now where you can find The Barnstormer roller coaster and the new and improved Dumbo ride. There are actually two Dumbo rides now, one that goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise.

Mine train artwork

The next stage of the new Fantasyland, opening in 2013, will include Princess Fairytale Hall where you’ll be able to meet all the Disney princesses. And then, in 2014, you can experience the thrills of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a roller coaster that swings side-to-side while the train is in motion.

Dates of Visit:  December 2012

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:

Categories: Disney, Eat, Florida, Play | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Blooming Magical at EPCOT


Spring has sprung early and it’s already time for the 2012 EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival. It starts today, March 7th!

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been to the festival, but since this is the 19th one, I must have gone 18 times! And I know that I will definitely keep going for years to come. There’s always something new to see. The displays are beautiful and you can’t help but take a million pictures. (Alas, not all million are posted here!)

Every year the entrance to the park and the entrance to World Showcase are redesigned with topiaries that showcase Disney characters or movies. This year will feature Fantasia at the park’s entrance.

In the past, they’ve featured Toy Story characters, Cars characters and our favorite Disney standards. The Disney landscapers and horticulturists always do a fantastic job designing over 100 different topiaries that are featured throughout the park. I’ve just included a few here, but will highlight more in a special story about the festival’s topiaries later this month.

I always take the Rose Walk, which goes between World Showcase and Future World.  If you time it right, there are hundreds of roses in bloom of all different varieties and colors. It may be a cliché, but I do always stop and smell these marvelous roses.

Make sure you take a stroll through the butterfly house which has grown in size over the years. Hundreds of butterflies all flying freely around you. It’s lovely.

HGTV will have their cavalcade of stars at the Designer’s Stage in the Festival Center including Jason Cameron from Desperate Landscapes, Monica Pedersen from Designed to Sell and Carter Oosterhouse from Million Dollar Rooms.

The Flower Power Concert series will feature performances by music legends from the 1960s and 1970s: Jose Feliciano, The Guess Who, The Turtles, The Spinners, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and more.

This year we will surely miss the beloved and extremely entertaining Davy Jones of The Monkees, who passed away last month. He usually opened or closed the Flower Power Concert series. He was scheduled to appear May 18 through 20. We love you and miss you Davy!

The festival runs every day at EPCOT from March 7 until May 20, 2012. Flower Power Concerts take place at the America Gardens Theatre at 5:15pm, 6:30pm and 7:45pm each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the festival.

Dates of Visit:  Yearly

Categories: Disney, Play | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Port Orleans Resort


With Walt Disney World being so close to Orlando where I live, it’s easy to drive down to the theme parks just for the day. But sometimes, it’s nice to get away for a short Disney vacation and stay over for a night…or two.

One of the nicest, of the modestly priced resorts at Walt Disney World, is Port Orleans, nestled along the banks of the Sassagoula River. The resort is made up of two distinct sections or parishes: Riverside and The French Quarter. For both of our visits, we stayed in the Riverside section. Riverside consists of the Southern plantation style mansions of Magnolia Bend (where we stayed in 2010) and the rustic cottages of Alligator Bayou (where we stayed in 2011). The architecture of the French Quarter is, of course, inspired by the famous area in New Orleans.

This picturesque waterfront resort is a wonderfully quiet change from some of the other busier Disney resort hotels. It really feels like you’ve stepped back in time or at least away from the hectic life you left behind.

There are a couple of restaurants and shops on property and plenty of things to do if you want to take a break from the theme parks. The Riverside Mill Food Court serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Depending on what building your room is in, it can be a bit of a walk to Riverside Mill Food Court, but it is a nice quiet walk through the property. We had breakfast there every morning where I enjoyed a Mickey Mouse waffle! For a sit down dinner, there’s Boatwright’s which serves steaks, prime rib and seafood. Fulton’s General Store carries Disney merchandise, snacks, beverages and sundries.

For recreation you can swim in one of the many pools around the property, rent bicycles or boats, take a guided fishing excursion or board a horse-drawn carriage for a romantic ride through the resort.

Port Orleans is on Disney property, but not directly connected by boat or monorail to any of the theme parks. However, bus service is easily available to take you to all theme parks and water parks.

There is also a riverboat that can take you to the Downtown Disney Marketplace and West End. This tranquil, scenic ride is quite lovely and relaxing and stops at both Riverside and The French Quarter. If you get a chance to take the boat back at night, you might see rows of herons lined up on the banks of the river. They wait for the riverboats to churn up the water and bring fish to the surface. It’s a pretty interesting sight to see all these white birds waiting to catch their dinner!

There’s no question that the next time we plan a Disney World getaway, we’ll book a stay at Port Orleans. For the money, it’s the best deal going.


Dates of Visit:  June 2010 & March 2011

Categories: Disney, Sleep | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

EPCOT-A Journey Around the World and Beyond

Spaceship Earth at Disney's EPCOT


Sometimes I think that EPCOT is probably not the most popular of Walt Disney World’s theme parks.  Even though, based on attendance numbers, it is the fifth most popular theme park in the world.  I think kids prefer the Magic Kingdom.  Other adults may like Disney’s Hollywood Studios because of the rides or the Animal Kingdom for the, well, animals.  But I like EPCOT the best.  Maybe it’s because I love to travel and while at EPCOT I get to travel to 11 different countries, under the sea, into space and back in time in just a few hours.  And maybe it’s because it’s never too crowded.

EPCOT is an acronym for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.”  Although it’s not called that anymore, it describes Walt Disney’s original vision for the site that is now the entire Walt Disney World Resort.  He envisioned a community of the future, even before the Magic Kingdom was built.  But after his death, the company decided to take another direction and give EPCOT a feeling more like a World’s Fair.

Journey to Imagination at EPCOTAs you probably already know, EPCOT is divided into two distinct sections, Future World and World Showcase.

In World Showcase, the architecture of each pavilion is inspired by real buildings from each country.  They really are quite beautiful. I usually spend most of my time in World Showcase experiencing the sights and sounds and meeting people from around the world.  Most of the cast members in World Showcase are from outside the US.  I do enjoy meeting and talking to them.  They usually have great stories to tell about their countries.

Then there’s the music.  Pretty much any day of the week you can hear music from Morocco, Norway, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Canada.  One of my favorite bands is Off Kilter.  They’re a Celtic Rock band that play in the Canada pavilion. You may not think that a bagpipe can rock out, but it can.  These guys put on a great show.  I have all their CDs.  The British Invasion, in the United Kingdom pavilion, was another favorite.  But sadly, after 15 years, they stopped performing in 2011.  Plans are in the works to get another band to replace them.

Mexico pavilion at EPCOT

And then during the annual Flower and Garden Festival (Spring) and Food and Wine Festival (Autumn) the American Gardens Theater hosts all different kinds of musical groups.  The Flower Festival’s “Flower Power” concert series includes music from the ‘60s and ‘70s like Davy Jones from The Monkees, The Grass Roots, Chubby Checker, and Jose Feliciano.  The Food and Wine Festival’s “Eat to the Beat” concert series includes performers like Taylor Dane, Starship, Jon Secada and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  All concerts are free with park admission.

And don’t forget the food from around the world. I especially enjoy Les Chef De France which has delicious French onion soup and desserts only the French can make.  I just recently discovered a fabulous alcoholic beverage in Japan called Tokyo Sunset, a blend of coconut rum, peach schnapps, banana liqueur and pineapple juice.  Super yummy.

But when it comes to the food at EPCOT, the best is experienced at the Food and Wine Festival.  You can partake of delectable delicacies from more than 20 countries.  I never miss the Cheddar Cheese Soup and the Maple Fudge in Canada, Belgium’s Belgian waffles, and Sweden’s Swedish meatballs.  All are served tapas style so you can sample up to 75 different dishes during your trip around the world.

Italy at EPCOTOn October 1, 2012, EPCOT will celebrate its 30th anniversary.  Now, some of the attractions are a bit outdated, but they are refurbishing and reimagining new attractions all the time.

On the Future World side, Spaceship Earth has been updated with a new interactive ending.  The old World of Motion attraction was revamped into Test Track.  Horizons became Mission: Space.  The Land pavilion was overhauled to include Soarin’, an attraction that became very popular at Disney’s California Adventure.  The Living Seas became a showcase for the movie “Finding Nemo.”  The Universe of Energy was retooled by adding an amusing introduction, “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” with Ellen DeGeneres.

Around World Showcase, Canada’s Circlevision 360 film “Oh, Canada” has also been revamped and now stars actor Martin Short.  New restaurants have been added to Italy and Mexico.

There are a few things I do miss from the original list of attractions.  The first 3-D movie at EPOCT, called “Magic Journeys,” was amazing.  Maybe it’s because that was the first 3-D movie I had seen that really blew me away.  Kitchen Kabaret in The Land, although pretty silly, was fun.  And the entire Wonders of Life pavilion is no more.  Although I wasn’t a big fan of “Body Wars,” I did like some of the other parts of the Wonders of Life.Norway at EPCOT

Before EPCOT even opened, the park gave out a full color artist’s rendering book with artwork depicting each pavilion and attraction.  I still have that book.  It’s very cool to look at it and see how the park turned out. It’s pretty much as the Imagineers envisioned.  Although, some attractions never made it past the “coming soon” stage like World Showcase pavilions for Israel, Africa and Spain.  Africa is represented by a refreshment station, but is of course a huge part of Animal Kingdom now.

I would have to say that my favorite parts of EPCOT, besides the music and munchies, are Spaceship Earth, the Dinosaur portion of the Universe of Energy, Soarin’ and Mission: Space, but not right after a meal!

Dates of Visit:  Various from 1982 until present

Categories: Disney, Play | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Create a free website or blog at