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Breckenridge’s All-Season Resort Town Perfect for Families

Town of Breckenridge

A Traveling Suitcase Blog by Noreen Kompanik

I’d been to Breckenridge, Colorado, a renowned ski resort town years ago. But, it wasn’t until returning on a recent trip this summer that I rediscovered this hidden paradise in the Rocky Mountains. I also came to realize what an incredible destination this is for families. And not just in winter. This magical town oozes fun and frolic year-round. And for those into the outdoors, Breckenridge is a nature-lovers nirvana.

Breckenridge is perched at an impressive 9,600-foot elevation just 80 miles southwest of Denver. Getting around is a piece of cake due to the free downtown trolley.  And for those coming outside ski season, gondolas still run practically year-round taking visitors up the mountain for spectacular panoramic views.

The scenery here is breathtaking. Numerous alpine streams converge on the town. Stately conifers line the steep mountain slopes, and bluebird skies provide a stunning contrast to the year-round snow-capped peaks.

Breckenridge

Only one small word of caution about the elevation. It’s important to keep hydrated and families may experience a little shortness of breath for a day or two until the body acclimates to the altitude. After all, it’s nearly twice as high as the Mile High City.

Where to Stay in Breckenridge

Accommodations range from hotels to vacation club villas or vacation-home rentals. Villas or vacation homes are perfect for families giving that home-away-from home feel and convenience.  And grocery stores are nearby.

Bogart House

Our lodging was The Bogart House, a magnificent 5-bedroom, 5 ½ bath that could accommodate up to 16 guests. The home was spacious and luxurious with spectacular mountains views, gas fireplaces, and an outdoor hot tub. Staying just steps from the heart of Breckenridge, walking to restaurants and activities couldn’t have been more convenient.

We had the opportunity to tour Grand Colorado on Peak 8, a luxury slope-side ski-in-ski-out vacation club resort. Accommodations here range from fully-furnished studios to 4-bedroom villas. The resort and grounds are stunning with killer views. And I’m not sure we’ve ever seen so many hot tubs on one property. It was impressive.

Marriott Mountain Valley Lodge

Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge is another great four-season family choice. Sporting an alpine-like setting, the vacation club sits on a pristine lake in the heart of picturesque Breckenridge. From studios to two-bedroom villas, the location can’t be beat for families. And the slopes are just a gondola ride away.

Where to Play in Breckenridge

Aside from winter skiing and snowboarding, there’s the thrill of whitewater rafting in nearby Clear Creek, one of Colorado’s most popular rafting destinations. With only Class 1 and 2 rapids, it’s the ideal way to introduce big and little kids to this exciting outdoor adventure. The scenery is spectacular and everyone comes off the trip with big smiles.

Biking in Breckenridge- Breck Tourism

Wellness is a way of life in Colorado. And families into hiking and biking will love that Breckenridge has over 50 miles of interconnected trails for year-round adventure. Treks range from easy to difficult. It’s highly recommended to start early as mountain thunderstorms sometimes roll in after lunch.

In summer 2017, Breckenridge Ski Resort launched Epic Discovery, with its mountain of adventures for the entire family. Outdoor activities include zip-lining, alpine slides, challenge courses, rock-climbing walls, interpretive trails, mineshaft maze, tubing, an alpine coaster, and much more. And all this fun at 11,000 feet above sea level!

Epic Discovery-Breck Tourism

Where to Dine in Breckenridge

Breckenridge has its share of pizza and burgers that kids love. But with 23 new culinary spots opening in just the past year alone, whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.

Canteen Taphouse

The Canteen Taphouse and Tavern in the heart of town is a fun choice for families. Inside and outdoor dining is available. The menu features modern comfort food with a perfect rustic ambience with, you guessed it, canteens lining the walls. And it’s located in one of Breckenridge’s oldest main street buildings. Food here is really good with plenty of great choices for adults along with a Lil’ Shredders kids menu.

Giampietro is another great stomping ground for food. The Italian pasta and pizza house menu is extensive. Pizzas here are downright amazing, with choices of New York Style or Sicilian Deep Dish.

One of our favorite restaurants in Breckenridge is the casual and elegantly modern Blue River Bistro. This top-notch eating establishment not only serves up tantalizing entrees, but prices were much less than we expected for an award-winning restaurant of this caliber.

Blue River Bistro-Breck Tourism

Open for lunch and dinner, adults will love the classy chef-inspired entrees and great selection of wines, craft beer, and cocktails. The children’s menu is classic kiddie food but we loved the “mocktails” offering much more than the usual “Shirley Temple” twist.

There’s no doubt that Breckenridge’s nickname as the “Playground of Colorado” is well-deserved. With the wide range of outdoor activities, four distinct seasons, approachable accommodations, majestic scenery, and friendly townsfolk, it’s a perfect family destination any time of the year.

Adventures by Disney Costa Rica –  Our Amazing Introduction to Family Adventuring

One of our biggest family goals is to share the love of travel with our children and turn them into global citizens.  Past trips to the US and British Virgin Islands as well as Quebec City and Montreal were wonderful first forays.  But, we were ready to immerse our kids in a culture where English wouldn’t be the first language. We wanted their experiences to be truly foreign. Our main challenge was to find a way to do that without the infamous “I’m so bored, I don’t want to go to another museum” eye roll or the “yuck what is this food, I want McDonalds” arguments.

After researching options, we chose an Adventures by Disney vacation as the best way to accomplish this. Adventures by Disney provides family-centric group-guided vacations worldwide.  Each experience is carefully crafted to ensure both children and adults experience the amazing cultural aspects of the trip in ways that appeal to the whole family. We took advantage of Disney’s early booking rate and secured our travel dates about a year in advance and then anxiously awaited this vacation.

The trip was well worth the wait!  Our 7-day, 6-night adventure took us through 4 different regions of Costa Rica.  We traveled by plane, boat, and bus experiencing many of the unique locales and micro-climates the country is renowned for. Here is a brief summary of our adventures in each region.

 

Shopping in the San Jose Markets

San Jose

We chose to fly in a day early to experience San Jose on our own since it wasn’t part of the scheduled itinerary. But was the embarkation point for the Disney adventure.  Since we weren’t required to check in until evening, we spent the morning touring on our own. Our exploration of San Jose included the National Theater, National and Gold Museums, as well as many fascinating markets and shops. It was an excellent introduction to Costa Rica.

 

Landed Safe and Sound

Tortaguerro

We were filled with excitement traveling to the remote region of Tortaguerro via yes, a puddle jumper! Our hotel for this leg was Laguna Lodge, a rustic eco-lodge poised on a sliver of rainforest nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the National Park, accessible only by water.  From this embarkation point, we toured the Sea Turtle Conservancy and embarked on a several-hour open air boat ride adventure. The wildlife was absolutely amazing. We saw multitudes of tropical birds, lizards, caiman crocodiles, a small family of sloths, 2 species of monkeys, and even a large boa constrictor!  The humid tropical night at the lodge was filled with the sounds of whirring fans and rain drumming against the tin roofs – one very unique experience!  Our next morning’s departure by covered boat felt like a real-life jungle cruise as we ventured upstream to our awaiting bus ready for our next destination.

Monkeys, and Sloths, and Lizards – Oh my!

Arenal

We spent 2 incredible nights in the Arenal region and could have extended it to a full week.  Here is where our two Little Adventurers became true dare devils braving White Water Rafting and zip lining excursions. The rapids were only Class 1-2 so the kids felt safe during the experience.  For a Go Pro of the experience click here:   PuraVida

 

Zip lining was another story – whipping 40 miles per hour through tree tops and clouds while the wind whistled in our ears and monkeys laughed in the trees below! And to top it all off, we returned to our amazing bungalows at Arenal Hot Springs to take in the amazing view of the Arenal volcano and enjoy a relaxing soak at the Tabacon Hot Springs.

Whhhheeeeeee made it!!!

Click here to see us on the Arenal_zipline!

Guanacaste

By the time we arrived in Guanacaste, our kids were rarely seen outside the pack of other Junior Adventurers, only coming to us when they needed something.  We loved watching them develop friendships that have continued on past the trip with the help of texting! Guanacaste was a fabulous way to end the trip as we spent our last day together sailing by catamaran to a private bay. Here the entire group relaxed on the beach, paddle boarded, snorkeled, or cannonballed from the 2ndtier of the pontoon into the waters below.

Swimming, Snorkeling, and Cannonballs!

There are so many more aspects of this spectacular trip I could talk about. Things such as how Disney hosts Junior Adventure night with Disney guides giving adults their own time to enjoy a private dinner and make mojitos. Or how our kids learned to spot different species of snakes (safely), or birds.  And even how our kids have started to learn Spanish in anticipation of future travel!

Adventures by Disney has been an amazing vehicle to transform our kids into more adventurous travelers. They have now become fanatics for Disney vacationing outside the parks. Since this experience, our family has signed up for 2 more Adventures trips and booked a Disney cruise to the British Isles.  I can’t wait to tell you all about those experiences as well!

Since our trip, Adventures by Disney Costa Rica has made an itinerary change. They still visit San Jose and Guanacaste, but the Tortaguero leg has been eliminated.  Instead, activity offerings in Arenal have been expanded, adding a journey to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge and a rainforest gondola ride. Zip lining and white-water rafting in Arenal are still included.

Rates and Dates can be found by clicking hereLast Chance Offers are available on 2018 trips if you book immediately.  Disney provides an Early Booking Offer on 2019 trips of up to $500 discount per person on select dates when you book now through July 8. Airfare is not included in Adventures by Disney pricing, but  can easily be added independently or through Adventures by Disney’s air department.

Come Adventure with us soon!

The Polite Pig

On our most recent visit to WDW this summer my husband and I decided to try all new (to us) restaurants!  Tops on our list was Art Smith’s Homecoming and The Polite Pig.  The Polite Pig, located in Disney Springs, is one of the newest restaurants to arrive at Walt Disney World.   A member of Be Polite, LLC this is their first venture into the Disney family.  They are conveniently located at the bottom of the Lime Garage in the new Town Center area.

 

We arrived around 11:30 and parked in the Lime Garage.  As you exit the garage, the escalator puts you out right at their entrance.   We walked in and grabbed a menu to browse before jumping in line to order.  Like most Southern BBQ joints, there are several “comfort foods” on the menu.  Along with a beverage/cocktail menu that includes Florida Craft Beers, Wine, House-made Cocktails and 40 bourbons!

 

 Check out some of their drinks on tap!!

 

Once we made our selections, we hopped in line to order.  We skipped starters so that we could jump right into the good stuff without filling up first.  I ordered the Southern Pig, a sandwich with Fennel-apple Slaw, Tangy Mustard BBQ, Duke’s Mayo, and Smoked Pork.  Joe ordered the Brisket sandwich with Pimento Cheese, Lil’ John’s BBQ, Picked Jalapeños and Crispy Onions.  We then added 3 sides for $15.00, BBQ Cauliflower, Grilled Corn and Mac and Cheese.

After ordering you are given a pager to place on your table and you select your own seat.  We saddled up to a tall table with a view of the kitchen.   You will also find booths, low tables, outside seating and a bar.  If you need a quick charge on your phone, you will find outlets underneath the bar! Our server showed up quickly and was quite friendly and helpful.  Drinks are self -serve and includes all-natural Blue Sky beverages.  The Root Beer and Black Cherry were our favorites.   You will also find a sauce bar with 7 selections sure to please. Not long after getting our drinks, our meals showed up.

 

 

We consider ourselves to be BBQ connoisseurs and tend to be quite picky when it comes to brisket and pulled pork.  I will admit, we were impressed, claiming the brisket to be in high contention with one of our favorite joints!   Sandwiches are served on a buttery toasted bun and piled high with meat and toppings.  A pickle spear accompanies them on the side.  The brisket was fall apart tender with a perfect bark and smoke ring, perfectly cooked with a good mix of lean and moist.  The pulled pork offered a smokey flavor and was piled high and topped with an interesting slaw that even has oranges in it!  Talk about a winning combo!!

 

Onto the sides – or as I call it “my favorite part of the meal”.  YES, after the delicious sandwiches, the sides stole to show!   The winner out of our choices was the BBQ Cauliflower.  The cauliflower is slightly charred then served with a paprika sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.  If the meat wasn’t so good, I would have this as a meal.  The slight crisp is enhanced by the pumpkin seeds and the added flavor of the paprika sour cream adds a perfect touch.  The corn is grilled which brings out the flavor of the kernels and then topped with lime butter and bread crumbs.  Last but not least, the Mac and Cheese, the creaminess is enhanced by smoked cheddar, cottage cheese and parmesean then topped with breadcrumbs also.  The fat shells fill with cheese making each bite fantastic!

 

When we finished our waitress came by to offer us dessert.  Not ones to normally pass, this day we did. We just could not stop eating our lunch to save room and unfortunately our dessert side was filled to the brim!  They only have 2 desserts here Orange Blossom Honey Cake or Double Layer Chocolate Cake.  I will save room for the Orange Blossom cake next trip.  It looks heavenly!

 

Overall, we give The Polite Pig thumbs up all the way around!  It is a must do for all BBQ lovers and anyone who likes a little originality in their meals!  As mentioned above, The polite Pig is located in Disney Springs.  Their hours are 11am-11pm.  They do not accept reservations.

 

D23 Announcements

D23 is happening this weekend in California and boy are the announcements exciting.  There was so much information coming out it was hard to keep up!  Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, Disney World, Disney Paris, DVC and more!

Disney Cruise Line – In a surprise move, DCL will be introducing 3 new ships instead of 2 with the first one setting sail in 2021. The other 2 ships will follow in 2023.  This will make a total of SEVEN ships in their fleet!  For those of you sailing on the Dream, starting November 6, 2017 a new Beauty and the Beast Show will begin!  A Broadway type show that takes place in one of Maurice’s music boxes will grace the stage with singing, dancing and beautiful sets!


Disneyland – Pixar Pier will be replacing Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure in 2018.  The opening will coincide with Pixar Fest, a resort wide experience featuring all your favorite Pixar characters.  This celebration will include a brand-new firework show as well as the return of the Pixar Parade.  This will also pave the way for a return of Paint the Night!   Guardians of the Galaxy will be joined by Spider Man and the Avengers in an immersive Super Hero Universe. Starting this fall, a Halloween overlay for Cars Land will be applied and you will be able to celebrate the spooky season with all your favorite Cars!  And is all that wasn’t enough, Fantasmic will be returning.  Slated to return July 17, guests to the convention last night were presented with VIP passes to catch the show starting ASAP!


Walt Disney World – As if an entire new land dedicated to Star Wars wasn’t enough, a new Star Wars themed hotel will completely immerse you into the story.  A trip to this resort will take you to the galaxy for your entire stay.  From the moment you check in until check-out YOU are part of the continuous story!  Think of this resort as a cruise on land.  You will book specific dates here so that you will be immersed in the same story the entire time.  I can’t wait to get more information about this resort!!

                     

 

 

 

 

The Disney Skyliner is being built to connect Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resort to Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway of Epcot.  You will ride high above the parks and resorts with spectacular views in this new form of transportation.  Speaking of transportation, an Uber-type service called “Minnie Van” will be coming to the resorts soon as another option to get where you need to be in a timely manner!


Epcot – New Green Mission for Mission Space that will remind you of Soarin will be added soon.  Imagine orbiting the earth as you will be flying around the world from outer space! A New Table Service restaurant will be added near Mission Space promising views will be “out of this world!” And if that wasn’t enough for Future World, Ellen’s Energy Adventure will soon be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction!  We didn’t get much information on this particular attraction other than it will be an exciting adventure in space travel.  It was confirmed that the France Pavilion will get a Ratatouille ride!! This 4-D ride will shrink the guests down the size of a rat and take an adventure thru Gusteau’s kitchen!  The China Pavilion will be revamping their film using the same seamless technology to create Soarin.  The beloved Circle-Vision will stay in place for the new film.  Filming is happening around China now for this addition.


Magic Kingdom – Tron Roller Coaster is slated to open in 2021 in time for the WDW 50th Anniversary!  This coaster is a fan favorite coming to us from Shanghai Disneyland.  Tron will be in a new area near Space Mountain and will offer riders an exciting ride on lightcycles thru TRON’s high-tech universe.  Main Street will be getting a new theater inspired by Kansas City’s Willis Wood Theater for world-class entertainment.  No word on the type of show that will be staged here.


Hollywood Studios – We do have to announce the Great Movie Ride will be closing August 13 to make way for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.  The ride will transport you thru the screen and you will be immersed in story lines you may see on the Disney Channel’s Mickey Shorts.  Believe it or not, this will be the first Mickey-Themed ride!    We were also told that Toy Story Land will be opening Summer 2018.  Lastly, we now know the official name of the upcoming Star Wars Land!  Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set to open in Hollywood Studios in 2919.  Disneyland’s version will open before Disney World’s but there is no exact date as of now.

  

 


DVC – A brand new DVC resort will be opening named Riviera Resort, they didn’t give too many details on this one but from the maps, it looks as if it will be next to Caribbean Beach Resort and sit near Epcot.  We do know that it will boast a new rooftop restaurant that will have views of both Magic Kingdom and Epcot fireworks!


Disneyland Paris – Disney’s Hotel New York will receive a full revamp to showcase our favorite Super Heroes!  The Art of Marvel Hotel will include Spider Man, Iron Man and other Avengers.


 

Whew, I think I got it all.  We were teased with the closing line, “there is more to come”.  Hopefully we will get a little more information today before the Expo ends!  Keep up with announcements right here!

 

Cruising to Castaway Cay

A Traveling Suitcase Blog by Noreen Kompanik

Returning from a Disney cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate our grandson’s birthday, I told my family and friends “I would have taken this cruise just to get to Castaway Cay.” Why, you may wonder? Well, I’m more than happy to share.

First of all, anyone who’s sailed on a Disney Cruise will tell you that the entire trip is one fantastic experience. Our ship, the Disney Dream sailed from Ft. Lauderdale on a 3-night Bahamian adventure. Food, service, staterooms were all top notch as always. And for us, having that balcony is important- to feel the warm sun on our faces and the salty breezes blowing through our hair. Because our staterooms were on the same floor as our family, though opposite sides of the boat, we had the pleasure of experiencing both sunrise and sunsets over the Atlantic.

Our first stop was Nassau, a fun port we’ve visited in the past teeming with Bahamian and British flavor and miles of spectacular beaches and stretches of vivid coral reefs perfect for snorkeling.

Excitement however started to build as our ship pulled into Disney’s private island paradise, Castaway Cay (pronounced key). Reserved only for Disney Cruise line guests on Bahamian and Caribbean Cruises, the tropical Cay is located near Great Abaco Island in the northern Bahamas 180 miles east of south Florida. Castaway Cay may not be very big, but, it’s packed with those magical Disney touches, and a heck of a lot to do.

Ships dock right on the island allowing Disney cruisers to disembark directly onto the pier. A short 15-minute walk leads to unbelievable amenities including our first stop, powdery white sandy Castaway Family Beach. Trams are also available for those who need them (or need to get to the beach faster)! Beach towels are provided by cruise line members at the pier so no need to pack those in your suitcase or beach bag.

 

After securing our chairs and umbrellas, the kids scurried to the bay’s turquoise crystalline waters. Snorkeling is available to those wanting to explore the Caribbean’s undersea world in the lagoon just off Castaway Family Beach. Two submerged submarines from Magic Kingdom’s retired 20,000 Leagues under the

Sea attraction add an element of adventure for intrepid snorkelers. And who can resist Pelican Plunge, the 2,400 square-foot floating platform with two bending twisting water slides dropping squealing riders directly into the lagoon itself. A giant “bucket dump” of water brings more anticipation and laughter, and water cannons can be used to shoot unsuspecting targets.

 

Game pavilions near the Family Beach offer a variety of sand and shaded games like volleyball, tetherball, foosball, ping-pong, pool, shuffleboard, basketball, and golf whiffle ball.  Inner tubes, snorkel masks and fins can be rented from Flippers & Floats on the beach to enjoy. Kayaks, paddle boats, paddle boards and Aqua Trikes can also be rented for use in this water wonderland.

For those wishing to get an up-close-and-personal encounter with stingrays, Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure gives you the chance to feed, touch and snorkel with the friendly rays in a private lagoon for an additional fee. Onsite marine specialists provide interesting facts and answer questions about these fascinating sea creatures.

Hammocks are located beachfront and while my husband was clowning around in one with our grandson, that wily, notorious pirate Captain Jack Sparrow snuck up on them, grabbed our camera and starting snapping family photos.

By now our starving gang was more than ready for lunch and what an amazing surprise it was. When we were told Cookie’s on the island would be providing a Beach BBQ lunch, we thought “Cool-hot dogs, baked beans, paper plates, plastic utensils”- a beach picnic. There are actually three BBQ areas on the island, though this and its sister eatery, Cookies Too are more popular.

Yes, diners are seated at picnic tables, but the buffet lunch was a culinary feast. Hot dogs and hamburgers, yes, but a myriad of other delectable food choices like chicken, ribs, seafood, salads, all the fixins’ imaginable are also there. Dessert choices feature a variety of fruits and of course “cookies” and a self-serve ice cream machine with a variety of flavors the kids and big kids all loved. We came hungry, left more than satisfied.

Beach cruisers are available for an additional rental fee but well worth it, so after lunch we took off to explore the rest of the island. Once again, we were delighted by the island’s immense natural beauty. Though Castaway Cay sits on 1,000 acres, only 55 of those are developed. The remainder of the island can be explored along 1.5 miles of bike trails leading to secluded beaches, including an adults-only beach at Serenity Bay and an area of  beach cabanas that can be reserved in advance of the cruise.

A 40-foot observation tower surrounded by the dense flora and fauna of the island provides breathtaking views of the cay and Disney ship docked in the distance. This is one time we were very glad to have brought our cameras with us on the bike trek.

At the end of the day, tired but happy, we stopped for family photos on the way back to the Dream. Because Castaway Cay merchandise isn’t sold on the cruise ship, grandkids chose their souvenir T-shirts and trinkets between two island gift shops with beachy creative names like “By the Seashore” and “She Sells Sea Shells…and everything else.”

As our cruise ship departed the tropical island it occurred to me why the island felt so magical. With the perfect blend of water, sunshine, relaxation, natural surroundings, fun and adventure, it allows families to live for that moment you just can’t put into words.

 

When Dinner Becomes Something So Much More……

“I never called my work an ‘art.’  It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment” – Walt Disney

Have you ever been out to dinner with your kids and heard “I’m bored.”  “When is the food going to come out?”  “I don’t want to sit here anymore?”  Let’s be honest, we have all heard this at one point or another.  After a long day in the parks, or maybe a nice relaxing afternoon by the pool, sometimes all you want as an adult is to sit back and enjoy your dinner but feel like you can’t because you need to keep your kids entertained while they wait for their food.

Well parents, have I got a trick for you!  Two words…..dinner show!!  That’s right, entertainment for the kids (and you) while you eat.  So long “I’m starving!” and “Can we leave now?” complaining from your kids because they will be engrossed in the spectacle before them!  Side note: I am totally aware that dinner shows are not the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand that will turn your child into a perfect little angel  for two hours, but Disney magic has been known to perform some miracles!  Here are three shows that the kids and adults in our family have thoroughly enjoyed.

First up is a favorite to everyone who stops by Germany in Epcot: Biergarten!  When you walk in you feel as though you stepped into a town square in Germany and you know something fun is about to take place.  This restaurant hosts a buffet of wonderful German dishes from wurst salad to pork schnitzel to apple strudel and everything in between.  Of course you can also order a half liter or liter of a tasty adult beverage to raise high during the “Ein Prosit” toast as you yell “Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Oi Oi OI!” The entertainment is not constant during your meal so you can get up to grab food and eat while not missing a moment.  The show is a little different each time but there has always been lots of dancing (kids love this part) and even some friendly competitions (anyone up for some yodeleing?).  Our girls ask to go back every trip because it is so much fun and the adults never hesitate with that request!

The second dinner show that we attended was Disney’s Spirit of Aloha at the Polynesian.  It was so much fun walking towards dinner and being stopped to receive leis and a family picture!  Once we were escorted to our seats, we ordered drinks and then sat back to relax as this was a family style dinner.   The luau began and my daughter’s were in awe of the dancing and singing.  This was great to keep the kids occupied before dinner came out.  Generous portions of pulled pork, roasted chicken, and veggies were devoured by everyone in our group when the luau took a break for us to eat dinner.  Once dinner was over the show began and they had the kids up doing the hula, adults dancing to a love song, and some very impressive fire tricks.  By the time everyone finished dessert and the show ended, the kids were asking when it started again!  One tip is that I would suggest sitting on the main floor during this dinner so that you are closer to the action.  This is about a two hour extravaganza, so plan accordingly!

One last recommendation, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ!  Now I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but I am so glad that we booked this dinner.  It is located at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness and I found out when we got there the campsite area is so large that we had to wait for a bus to take us from the parking lot to the pavilion!  With that said, make sure you allot extra travel time for this outing.  This dinner was exactly what the name said: you are in an open pavilion, sitting at picnic tables, eating your BBQ favorites.  The BBQ is buffet style with hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese, and corn on the cob. As I told you, BBQ favorites!  There was a show country-western band that started playing and had the kids up dancing and watching an impressive cowboy rope display but the best part was that Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale were all out on the dance floor with the kids!  When the band stopped then all five characters headed over to a designated area for pictures.  The interaction was so much fun and the kids almost fell over when they were told that dessert was Mickey ice cream bars and a variety of other ice cream sandwiches that you could just go and grab out of the ice cream carts!

One last reminder, most dinner shows last two hours or more when you factor in the travel time so be sure to plan accordingly!  There is no way that you can be at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ for the 5:30 PM show and back at the Magic Kingdom by 8:00 PM.  These do take a chunk of time out of your day and unless you are already in a park or at a resort close to a park it will take some time to travel so plan your evening wisely!!!  Hopefully a dinner show will bring the same magical experience to your family as it did ours!

Best wishes!

runDisney

“I am on my way
I can go the distance
I don’t care how far
Somehow I’ll be strong
I know every mile
Will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere to find where I belong”

Lyrics from “Go the Distance” from the Disney movie Hercules, just one of many Disney songs on my runDisney playlist.

 

I’ve never been a big runner, I’ve done it on and off for years.  I’ve even done a couple of races here and there but they were always “fun with friends” never anything competitive.  A couple of years ago, I decided to pick it back up again.  AND I decided I was going to sign up for the runDisney Princess 5k!  Since I was in no way shape or form yet to be competitive, I decided this was going to be just for fun and a Disney experience I haven’t had yet.

I was online and ready to go the day registration opened.  I had already booked my room at POP Century Resort and I had my Annual Pass.  As soon as I hit submit, I was over the moon excited.  Well, the excitement waned.  It ebbed and flowed and I never really “trained”.  “It’s going to be ok” I kept telling myself.  And you know what?  It was!

runDisney races are comprised of many elements.  They are spaced out over a long weekend in many of their parks.  The 5K starts on Friday with the 10K and Marathons taking place on Saturday and Sunday.  There are also kid’s races on Friday and Saturday.  The Expo starts on Thursday as runners have to pick up packets in person.   The Expo is held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex located on Disney property.  When you arrive at the Complex you will see signs directing you to packet pick up and to the exhibit hall.  If there is anything you forgot at home to make your race a success, you will find it here!

I headed down on a Thursday morning for my first Princess Weekend.  We checked into our room and headed for the  Expo.  You have to go to 2 different buildings, The Fieldhouse to pick up your number and the J Center for your t-shirt.  This is also where the Expo is.  Packed with everything from running shoes, shirts, running skirts, headbands, powerbars and more you are sure to find the perfect souvenir to take home. With my packet in hand on Thursday afternoon, we decided to head to Disney Springs for a stroll and back to the resort for a light dinner.  I was concerned about breakfast the following morning as I had to be up so early for the bus.  While having dinner at Everything Pop, I found a Marathon Power pack that contained a bagel, peanut butter, blueberries, raisins, banana and a Special K snack bar.  Perfect!  I was set.  We were back in the room pretty early.  I was terribly concerned I would oversleep and miss the bus plus I wanted to be well rested

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My alarm was set for 4:00am.  For this 5K it was recommended you be on your bus by 5:00am to make it to your corral on time.  I made my way to the bus stop around 4:45.   There were quite a few people there but we all got on the next bus that arrived.  We were being whisked away to Epcot!  I should inject here that I have a bit of a crowd phobia.  Normally I am fine at Disney, but this was different.  I was alone and didn’t know what to expect.  Running with thousands of my new friends all alone?  Whew, it was a big step for me.

We arrived at Epcot right around 5:30 and I made my way to the party!!  Music, strobe lights, characters and more.  The was so much to see and do!  Again since I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t hop in line to meet the characters.  I know now, that I would have had plenty of time for this and will do it in November for the Wine and Dine 5k!  I danced a little, sang a little, spoke to other runners and admired everyone’s costumes!  Before I knew it, the time to corral up was upon me.  I stayed towards the back, for some space and my sanity, stretching and setting up my run app on my phone. I was getting more and more excited and not to mention brave as I moved up in the corral a little.  Soon it was time for my corral to go off.  I had seen the countdown and fireworks for the others but to be standing there ready to go was so exhilarating.  WE WERE OFF!

 

I was terribly afraid I was going to hold people up, be stuck in a big mob or just freeze.  But it was wonderful.  Everyone was cheering each other on.  Men and women of all ages, and even some kids. There was a lady who survived breast cancer running her first race.  A young lady with her grandmother who was running her 25th race.  A gentleman who had lost 200 pounds running his 2nd race. A group of girlfriends running for their friend who lost her battle and could not be there this time. So many wonderful stories out there, it brought me to tears.  Don’t be afraid to speak to other runners, you just might find some extra inspiration out there!

I had a good pace starting off.  I will say, there are a few tight spots as you make your way backstage at Epcot and it is hard to bob and weave around other runners/walkers.  There were also a few spots I had to walk because of the crowds.  I think if you are at the front of your corral this will not be an issue.  I didn’t stop for character pictures but I did slow down for a few backstage pictures, selfies along the way and got some AMAZING shots of the sun rising over World Showcase.  That’s not something you see everyday!  As you make your way to the finish line, you begin to hear upbeat music pumping thru the parking lot and the cheers from the spectators.  As you round the bend to the finish line you are welcomed by cast members clapping, grandstands along the finishing stretch cheering and congratulating you.  After crossing the finish line, there are many volunteers and cast members passing out medals, drinks and power boxes containing post-race snacks.  There were also tables of fruit and sports drinks to pick up.  The lot is well marked for you to find your bus back to your resort following the race.

 

 

I can admit without a doubt that I am HOOKED!  Disney does a fantastic job providing a fun and safe environment even for solo runners.  From beginning to end, it was an experience I will never forget and one of my favorite things I have ever done on property!  I have since completed a Wine & Dine 5k, the Castaway Cay 5K, a Summer Series and I am currently booked for the 2018 Princess 10k!!!   Dates, registration and any other race information you may need can be found at http://www.rundisney.com/ and don’t forget to contact us at Wishes Travel to book your resort for the race!  See ya at the finish line!

4 Parks 1 Day

4 Parks in One Day?

I’m not going to lie, Disney is BIG!  The parking lots, the parks, the resorts, you name it, Disney makes sure it is big!  Visiting one park can take up and entire day, but with proper planning, is it possible to visit all four parks in one day?  Let’s see! First of all, make sure you grab yourself and anyone else willing to take on this challenge with you a Park Hopper Ticket.  These little beauties will allow you to move from one park to another in the same day.  A long time ago I was anti-park-hopping, now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Second, start with a rough plan.  If you have an entire day, this can be easily done.  But let’s say you have a 8:00 PM ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) like I did.  Still possible?  Keep reading.  You will also need to decide what to do in each park.  My goal was to meet one character, trade pins and ride one ride.  When I thought I had time, I added more. Third, you are going to want to take advantage of EMH (Extra Magic Hours), these are listed daily and change from park to park.  Each day, Disney selects one park to have Morning EMH and one to have Evening EMH, your resort will have a schedule in your room or you can check it out on your My Disney Experience page or app. *

My hubby was playing golf off property this day so I was tackling most of the day solo and was relying on Disney transport. I was taking my “4 Parks in One Day” selfie on the balcony of Animal Kingdom Lodge at 7:20am.   I left early enough to make it to Animal Kingdom before they opened the gates for Morning Extra Magic Hours.  I walked right into A Bug’s Life. I then made my way back to Expedition Everest which I rode twice by waiting in the Single Rider line!  This is my favorite ride in WDW and I could have taken a few more turns but I had so much more to do!  Next up was a meeting with Tarzan, he loved my pin collection.  He thought they were beautiful rocks like the one he had given Jane! I traded 4 pins while in Animal Kingdom and happily made my way to the bus stop to head for Magic Kingdom!

Upon arrival at Magic Kingdom, I noticed Tinker Bell was meeting in Town Hall with only a 10-minute wait, SCORE! I hopped in line and marked my meet and greet off of the list!  I had never been on the Carousel of Progress so I made my way over to Tomorrowland.  I took a spin and had “There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” seared into my memory as we got stuck in the Christmas scene for about 20 minutes with it playing over and over.  I had a wonderful conversation about the fall decorations with a group of Cast Members who I also traded pins with.  I stumbled upon the Dapper Dans as I was heading out of the park, I just had to stop and listen!

I decided to take the Monorail over to Epcot, unfortunately we stopped midway as it was having technical difficulties and we sat on the track for about 20 minutes.  The rest of the journey was at about half speed so it cut a little time out of my day.  Not much but enough to make me start to worry. While we were waiting to move, a little girl was admiring my pins and of course I had to give her one.  She was very excited to have her very own pin to start a collection with!  Soon we were on our way and I was HUNGRY by this time.  I would have loved to ride Soarin but that line!  Luckily Test track has a Single Rider Line so I headed over.   After Test Track I grabbed Popcorn and a Coke and chose a spot to people watch.  It is one of my favorite Disney activities!  I got a call from Joe who was on the way back and was going to meet me at Epcot for lunch.  Once he arrived we headed to Sunshine Seasons for a light lunch.  There was a very sweet Cast Member named Amy who was cleaning tables around us who we started chatting with, we traded pins before parting ways. We stopped to meet Mickey, Minnie and Goofy at the Character Spot before leaving.

It was time to head to Hollywood Studios!  Since Joe was with me, we took the car.  This added extra parking lot walking time leaving Epcot and arriving at Hollywood Studios.  As much as I prefer to take our vehicle when at Disney, I found Disney Transport is a better bet for the 4 parks in one-day challenge.   Hollywood Studios was the one park that I messed up in.  I got in 2 rides, Star Tours and Rock N Roller Coaster.  We watched Muppets 3D for the first time. I traded 3 pins and met….  I met….  No One!  As we were walking to the car I realized I didn’t met a character!  It was already after 5, I was tired, Joe was tired.  We both wanted showers and a nap before dinner and needless to say, I kept walking to the car.

So you see, it can be done!  With a little planning, Disney transport and pixie dust I got it all done!  By the end of the day I had almost 20,000 steps on my fitbit!  I have a ton of new pins!  I met so many people including Cast Members and guests I was in line with.  And to top it all off, I got to do something I never tried while on one of our trips.  As I said in the beginning, I use to be anti-park-hopping.  Now that I know just how fun it can be I will never go back!!

*My 4 parks 1 day challenge took place before the Express Transportation option was added.  Combined with your Park Hopper Ticket, this add on will enhance your day by picking you up and dropping you off inside the parks!!

Disney World Cocktails

Not all Disney trips are geared towards the kiddos!  The Epcot festivals are a favorite time to visit Walt Disney World for my husband and I.  From previous blog entries I am sure you know that we like to go without our daughter on occasion.  I don’t mind having a cocktail or two when she is with us while staying at Disney because we don’t have to drive but I still like to remain the responsible mom!  On the other hand, I still do not get out of control when we go alone but I do have my favorite cocktails on property.

Magic Kingdom is the exception to the rule.  Although select restaurants are now offering a limited beer and wine menu, there are no cocktails.   IF we happen to have an Advanced Dining Reservation in the future at one of the locations offering beer and wine, I may have one.

Obviously, my favorite park to grab an “Adult Beverage” would be Epcot.  With 11 countries lining World Showcase and several festivals offering food and beverage kiosks throughout the year it is a no-brainer.  Epcot has 2 main festivals, Flower & Garden during the Spring and Food & Wine during the Fall.  A recent addition, The International Festival of the Arts, will be returning in the winter of 2018.  You can find most everything in Epcot.  Beer, wine, liquor, champagne, cordials and more.  Each country has something that is geared towards the main drink for each country.  Germany, one thinks beer.  Italy, wine.  Japan, sake.

Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Disney Springs also offer some great locations to grab a cocktail.  Dawa Bar, Drinkwallah, Brown Derby, Peevy’s Polar Pipeline, Jock Lindsey’s and more.

And don’t forget the resorts!  With pool bars, lounges and restaurants you are sure to find a perfect spot to unwind after a day in the parks.

Now, on to a few of my personal favorites:

Epcot – France Pavilion – Kiosk Les Vins des chefs de France– Grand Marnier Slush – This one is a must have it every single trip and I get the large with an extra shot.  The orange flavored slush is combined with Grand Marnier Liqueur (also orange flavored) to create the combination of cool and refreshing for a hot day.

Epcot – Japan Pavilion – Sake Tasting Bar – Tucked away in the back of Mitusukoshi Department Store is a Sake Tasting Bar.  The cast members are knowledgeable in helping you pick a new sake to try.  I never knew there were so many types!  Sparkling, sweet, dry, extra dry, and cloudy sakes fill the menu.  They also offer a monthly special.

Animal Kingdom – Drinkwallah – Frozen Rum and Coke – The unassuming stand dishes out a frozen Captain Morgan and Coke that will make the hottest days seem bearable!  I’ve always been a fan of Captain and Coke but this takes it to a new level!!

Polynesian Resort – Tambu Lounge – Lapu Lapu – This fruity concoction is served in a fresh hollowed out pineapple.  Talk about feeling like you are on the islands!  This one is great to share with friends or have it all for yourself if you are brave enough.  A mix of Myers Dark rum, fruit juices and a topper of Bacardi 151 make up this one.

 

Polynesian Resort – Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto – The lines may be long to get in at times but the experience alone is worth it.  Go ahead and go for a specialty drink and purchase the souvenir glass to take home with you!  The Nautilus is one of our favorites and big enough for two.  We often pick our poison just for the souvenir cup.  Keep your eyes peeled, each drink ordered is interactive with the lounge and/or Cast Members!!

 

Resort Pool Bars – Pina CoLAVA – This frozen fruity concoction is just what the vacation doctor ordered for sitting by the pool relaxing.  This drink takes a normal Pina Colada and kicks it up a notch with Bacardi Razz and a raspberry puree swirl.  Perfect for pool side refreshment.

The resorts, restaurants and parks are full of restaurants and lounges with beverages to fit anyone’s needs. Alcohol-free options are also available.  Just remember to drink responsibly, it is Disney and there are lots of kiddos around.  Keep hydrated in the Florida sun and remember Disney transport is there for you or you can always call Uber!

 

 

 

Disney Golf Sunrise 9

Are you an avid golfer? Do you only play a couple times a year?   Ever thought about giving it a swing?    Then Disney is the place for you!  Did you know that there are more than just theme parks and water parks on property?  There are 4 golf courses to choose from.  The Magnolia, Palm, Lake Buena Vista and Oak Trail (a par 36 walking only course).

If you are an early riser, Disney Golf offers a package called the Sunrise 9.  Between 7:00 – 8:30 a.m. daily you can tee off at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course or choose from the back nine at either Disney’s Lake Buena Vista or Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course.   $35.00 plus tax gets you 9 holes, a breakfast sandwich and a drink before and after your round.  Don’t worry if you don’t have clubs, they also offer rentals.

My husband and daughter selected Oak Trail for the Sunrise 9.  We arrived around 7:00 for our tee time.  We were welcomed at the Club House by the friendly Pro Shop Cast Members, checked in, received our selection of breakfast sandwiches and drinks and headed for the first tee.  We were the first group out for the morning.  The course is short but challenging and it is set up for younger players unlike the others.  150 yard Junior Tees are set up on each hole.  *Oak Trail is the only course on property with this option.

 

While I didn’t play, I was keeping busy keeping score not only of the shots but of the wildlife.  On the back of the scorecard is a list of local inhabitants of the course.   I checked off deer, squirrel, rabbit, heron, hawk and turkey.  It’s a great morning walk with family even if you are not a player.  You are even close enough to the Magic Kingdom to hear the new morning show, Let the Magic Begin.

 

Whether it be a family trip or a guys or even girls trip, Disney has several golf options for everyone!  You can find them online at www.golfwdw.com or call for a tee time 407-WDW-GOLF (939-4659). Your Wishes Travel agent would be happy to help you with these bookings also.

* Disney Golf has recently added the Sunset 9 for those who have a little free time in the evenings.  Sunset 9 is $29.00 plus tax and includes a hot dog and a drink.   Times range from 3:00pm-5:30pm

#disney #waltdisneyworld #golfwdw #disneygolf #wishestravel

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