Pandora: World of Avatar

It’s finally here! After what feels like decades, Pandora: World of Avatar has finally been opened to the public! The new land based off of the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar had high expectations and in my opinion, far exceeded them.

To take it all in was exciting. It was like stepping into the movie. Details upon details made the experience borderline overwhelming. I loved every bit of it. I loved how the imagineers were able to make it seem like you were walking through an almost foggy, dense, overgrown area without feeling trapped. 

The area is pretty crowded right now given the anticipation and excitement over the expansion so be prepared to wait in longer lines for the two rides featured in Pandora. The two rides are Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage. Na’vi River Journey is a boat ride through the land of Pandora. I have not been on this ride yet so I don’t have many details. I have been on Avatar Flight of Passage. The ride was very built up as a “Soarin x10” type of experience so I went in there with high expectations. 

They matched my expectations plus some. It is a ride similar to Soarin but takes it beyond with the feeling that you are alone riding this banshee through Pandora. If you don’t look around while riding you will completely forget that you are sharing this ride with 48 people(I think). I would consider this ride a ‘must fastpass’ type of ride. The wait has been starting at around 3 hours but if this is the type of ride you really enjoy I don’t believe you would be upset or underwhelmed if you waited in line. 

I found this entire experience to be very immersive and captures everything that made the movie the hit that it is. I have already spent 2 full days in a row in Animal Kingdom since the expansion opened which is something I can honestly say I have never done. This was exactly was Animal Kingdom needed to bring it from the “half-day maybe” park to the “first stop or more” destination it is now.  




I Hate That I Love You!

There are certain things that we say we will never do. That’s not different at Disney World either. “Oh I’d never wear flip flops at the parks”. I now have permanent tan lines on the tops of my feet. “I’ll spend the money on bottled water because I hate the taste of Florida water”. I now stop at all quick service restaurants for my free Florida H2O.

However there are things that I am so not proud of, things that I swore I would avoid like the plague. I was wrong. Here’s my list of things that I hate that I love:

      1. Baseball hats – just not my thing, I’m a girly girl and not a jock at all! However, the sun is strong down here. I prefer my hats light colored and made of thin fabric.



      1. Yoga pants – they are everywhere you look. Know why? Because they are very comfortable and wick away the sweat. Yes, I make sure that I buy non- see through pants and wear long tops.



    1. Matching family shirts – at one time, I would have cringed. Now I look at families in their  WDW themed bring orange tops with envy. What I wouldn’t give to have my adult children in shirts with a catchy phrase and personalized Mickey heads. The closest I’ve been so far is coordinated outfits with the hubby.

Bonus: it’s a small world – LOVE it even more now with the new goodbyes!

I may have relented on some things that I always said I’d avoid. There are still some things that I’ll vehemently deny ever considering. You will not be seeing me with a fanny pack ever! Sometimes you have to put your foot down!



Morimoto Asia

Morinoto Asia has been some of the best Asian inspired food I have had since moving to Florida. No part of my experience here was less than spectacular.

My family and I were lucky to be the first ones seated on our visit and was told that we could explore the building. The building and its decor is ultra modern with what looked like reclaimed wood everywhere and white/red features. There is a range from tall tables, regular tables, very modern short tables, and circular booths. The restaurant was separated into different sections. There was an upstairs and downstairs bar for people casually coming in for drinks and appatizers. A sushi bar for people to explore their taste buds and a large dining room with more of a family setting. Each floor also had an outdoor patios with lounge chairs.

The food here was unbelievably good. The serving sizes were perfect. We definitely did not leave hungry. The two dishes featured above are the Lo Mein Noodle and Pad Thai both with chicken. They were both very flavorful and filling. Another dish that we ordered was the Orange Chicken which was equally as delicious as the other dishes. Our only suggestion when you order a meat dish is order a side rice($2) since the plates come with a steamed leafy vegtable side that picky veggie eaters will definitely not enjoy, although it was very good for veggie lovers.

The pricing here I thought was reasonable for the amount of food that I received and the great service. I would definitely suggest this restaurant for anyone who finds themselves needing a new place for a date night or for families as their last meal heading to the airport. It was definitely a place I will be visiting again!

For the Hidden Mickey lovers you can find many Mickeys and other beloved characters throughout the decor and paintings on both the inside and outside of the building. This is one of the 5 I was able to spot.

Hope you enjoy!


Quick Service Part 7 – Pepper Market and the Backlot Express

The Pepper Market at Coronado Springs

 Pictures as of Sept 13 2015 3645.jpg

The Pepper Market is a very well equipped food court. Their menu and choices are a little different from some other resorts at WDW. It’s beautifully decorated and has plenty of indoor seating. There is also a seating area outside of the PM.

For breakfast, they have the quick grab and go items – yogurts, pastries etc. They also have some really great omelets and of course the famous Mickey Waffles. Two items stick out as mouthwatering – the Egg, Chorizo & Cheese Sandwich and the Mexican Eggs Benedict Burrito. The kid’s menu is smaller but can be more than enough food for an adult.

Lunch and Dinner is where PM really excels. The Tacos, Enchiladas and Cheese Empanadas are fresh and made to order. The Market Nachos are the BEST! The baked pasta and chicken are good but the BBQ Ribs are amazing but can be messy.

Pictures as of Sept 13 2015 4020.jpg

The Pepper Market is a destination for our family as the food is wonderful and the scenery is pretty special. It’s nice that after you stuff yourself, you can go for a walk around the resort to take in the views and burn some calories.

Backlot Express at Hollywood Studios


I need to write this fast before it changes! This wonderful indoor/outdoor quick service spot is located on the side of Space Tours and behind the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I’m sure it will be completely Star Wars themed as it has been during Stars Wars weekends for several years.

Lunch and Dinner are served and are the basic in-Park fare with a twist of the Force.


The children’s menu is limited to The Power Pack, Uncrustables and Dark Side Chicken and Waffles. There are a few deserts and the cupcakes are updated on a regular basis.

From some spots, you can watch Jedi Training on the stage beside Star Tours. I am excited to see this restaurant reimagined!



The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

 Pictoral and video links

Now that we finally got Halloween out of the way it is time for the most wonderful time of the year! As the parks begin to make their transition from pumpkins to snowflakes Hollywood Studios is ready to dazzle you with the 20th, and final Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. During the holidays the Streets of America goes from a concrete and brick jungle to a Christmas light spectacle as you enjoy lights dancing to your favorite holiday music. The beauty of the event is hard to put into words so here’s some pictures to try to show you. 

Hint: there are 90 hidden Mickey’s in this years spectacle. Also, you may be able to see some beloved characters from Disney classics. 














20th Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
20th Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (Tree)
20th Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (Windows)

As you can see there is a ton of detail and imagination that goes into the show. Make sure you leave some time to walk around and take pictures. This is a “must-do” during the holiday season at Walt Disney World!



Dinner at Garden Grill is the Perfect Thanksgiving Spot!


picture from
Located inside the Land at EPCOT, Garden Grill is the only rotating restaurant in Disney! Yes, the restaurant rotates! The scenery changes all around you, as you enjoy a delicious meal. One minute you could be looking at murals on the wall(hint: hidden Mickey) and next thing you know is you are experiencing parts of the Living with the Land attraction. It was definitely an awesome new experience to try. 


Nice display as you walk up to your table
This is how the main dish looks, except the serving size is mich bigger. Pic: My Disney Experience
The food was delicious. The meal is served family style but it is not your typical servings of chicken, potatoes and salad. At the Garden Grill you start off with a fresh salad, like really fresh because they grow the salad ingredients like right downstairs. You also get some bread and honey butter before the main course. Once you have had you fill of appetizers the main course begins its way out. They bring out two large plates. One plate has a bowl of macaroni and cheese, which is super cheesy and good, and sweet potatoe fries. The largest of the plates has many different meal options for you to mix and match. First there is a delicious serving of turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce. Next there is a fish of the day (talapia the day I was there) with a jasmine rice and tangy dressing. Lastly there was a large serving of mashed potatoes and beef, which tasted amazing! It was a nice change from your typical family style food. Also, if you run out of something (we needed a couple servings of macaroni and cheese) they bring you as much as you like!

great character meal

Forgot to mention that this is also a character meal where you can meet Farmer Mickey and his pals Pluto, Chip and Dale. They were super interactive and came to our table more than once.

So, if you are planning a trip for Thanksgiving down to Disney give Garden Grill a shot. I think your families would enjoy it!!



Why All the Hate for Value Resorts?

Being a fan of Disney World, I like to immerse myself into Disney as much as possible. To do so I not only go to Disney but I write blogs and take part in Facebook pages, Twitter, and Tumblr. In my Disney social media adventures I have found out two things: 1) Disney will never make everyone happy and 2) people are afraid of value resorts. The last thing really irks me. In this post I will try to highlight all the great things Value Resorts have to offer.

Disney offers five big value resorts:

  1. All-Star Sports- sports themed
  2. All-Star Music- music themed
  3. All-Star Movies- movies themed
  4. Art of Animation- Disney animated classics
  5. Pop Century- travel through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s

The Value Resorts are just, that a value. Most times you can get a room for around $100(except for peak seasons). They offer most of the same things that a moderate/deluxe resort offers just with less grandeur. Each resort has okay sized rooms, large food courts and multiple pools.

Living just 45 minutes away from Disney World it’s hard to justify spending money on resorts but with the great deals the value resorts offer, I do indulge myself from time to time. Just this past weekend I stayed two nights at the All-Star Sports. To me, it was perfect. The hotel’s exterior was so vibrant and the theming was spot on. The food court offered, what I think every resort food court offers from burgers to salads to pasta dishes. The rooms are not huge but they are clean and serve perfectly as a place to sleep.

Let me address some of the misrepresentations that I hear about value resorts that I would really like to correct:

  1. Too small- Yep, the rooms are not huge but my experience in my 34 trips to Disney World is that the room is just a place to sleep or relax after a long day.
  2. Bugs- um, what? As I mentioned, I have been on quite a few Disney vacations and I have never once stayed in anything other than a value resort. I have also never encountered a bug in my room. I understand that there’s has probably been a bug in a room before but I am fairly certain that bugs are not mutually exclusive to value resorts.
  3. Noisy- When  you get a room close to the pool or close to the play areas it can be noisy after dinner time. Disney does try to stop this with signs that will read “please observe quiet time from 10pm-10am”. They do help but inconsiderate people will be inconsiderate no matter what hotel they are at.
  4. Transportation- This one doesn’t apply to Art of Animation or Pop Century and more for the All-Stars. When I started coming to Disney the busing situation was not the greatest. The three All-Stars are lined up one after another and it used to be that the busses would go to one resort at a time and one bus serviced all three resorts. Meaning that if the bus was full after the first resort the other two resorts had to wait for that bus to come back. More recently, Disney added more buses so each resort gets their own except if the bus is not full, they will go to the next resort and fill it up. If this is not convenient for your party, Art of Animation or Pop Century might be better for you. But if you like the idea of the All-Stars, I suggest the Sports one since it is the first hotel the busses go to.

Value Resorts provide a great place to stay for people who do not want their sleeping arrangements to break the bank but want the feel of staying on Disney Property. The All-Stars have a special place in my family’s hearts because we have made many unforgettable memories there and always loved the feeling walking into the lobby on our first day. They are definitely our home. 


Positively Disney

A Few of My Favorite Things:Courtney 

  1. Festival of Fantasy Parade- From the catchy theme song to a fire breathing dragon this parade keeps me smiling from beginning to end. My favorite spot to watch it from is on the train station’s second level balcony.
  2. Mickey Ice Cream Bar- There is nothing better than this chocolate treat. No really! I don’t know how anyone can walk up to the snack counter and order anything besides this. It is the perfect snack!
  3. Pluto- I am quite obsessed with dogs so it’s no shock that Pluto is my favorite of the Mickey and the gang. He’s so awesome and any interaction I get to have with him is always unforgettable.
  4. Expedition Everest- Animal Kingdom was never one of my favorite parks but when they put Expedition Everest in, it became a must on every trip. It’s just the perfect roller coaster! Their single riders line also helps me to be able to go on many times!
  5. Voices of Liberty- Before the great show at the American Pavillion in Epcot’s World Showcase the Voices of Liberty come out to sing in the rotunda. They sing American folk songs and Disney classics. I usually watch them 2-3 times. They also do an outdoor show where they sing even more Disney favorites!

This is just the first in the Favorite Things Series.

Magical Moments with Cast Members

Cast Members

          Walt Disney World has around 73,000 employees. Most of them are not getting rich working there and a lot of them work in the awesome heat of Florida, day in and day out. They clean our hotel rooms, cook and serve our food and transport us safely around the World. How many times have you heard people complain that they have to wait in line to have their bags checked? The jobs can be thankless especially when hot and tired people take their frustrations out on anyone with a name tag.

         The above picture is of Paul, a cast member in Epcot. He was holding Alice’s place in the UK where you can get a picture and autograph of her. Alice was away but would be returning shortly. He was super polite and cheerful even with the sass he was getting from some people who wanted Alice and not Paul. We decided that Paul would do just fine. Anyone could get their picture taken with Alice but how many people had a picture with Paul! He obliged us with a selfie that made us all laugh! Great attitude gave us a magical moment.


          This ice cream looks like your average great tasting sundae but the story behind it is what makes cast members magical. Walking around Magic Kingdom with three young kids can be painful but add 100° and large crowds and it becomes downright miserable. This was all until while walking by Seven Dwarfs Mine Train a lovely cast member, whose name I can’t remember came up to is and handed the kids these ice cream sundaes, free of cost. What looked like what was about to be breakdown central in the middle of Magic Kingdom turned into a great time as the kids were refreshed and so happy. What’s even more wonderful is this generous act has happened to my family more than once. In the same location, we ordered our ice cream with the full intention of paying but upon giving my debit card the cashier just handed over the ice cream and said “This is a gift from Mickey.” Disney has made many magical moments like this for my family and it definitely leaves a lasting impression on us.

          Sometimes just noticing that someone is from a New England State (or wherever you’re from) and striking up a conversation can bring a smile to your face. Knowing that any cast member will take a moment to say Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary can add to your special day. It’s nice when they whole family can get into the picture because a cast member will take that picture for you (no you don’t have to purchase the package).

           This next magical moment is not for the faint at heart. My son was a young teenager and was made to go to WDW yet again. Being young, he enjoyed his breakfast of fudge and brownies. After the 5th or 6th time on the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, his breakfast decided to reappear. Code V was called and he says what happened next was right out of Men in Black. Cast Members just appeared, cleaned up the area and gave him a jawbreaker pop. He still talks about this as the best day ever in Disney. Just goes to show you that one man’s vomit is another man’s magical moment! (I didn’t think a photo was needed/wanted)

           So while not every cast member is going to make your day, there will be one who will make someone’s day magical. Like the saying goes, if you see someone without a smile, share one of yours!

Have you had a magical moment? Let us know!


Walt Disney World – A Tale of Four Parks

WALT DISNEY WORLD is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney and to the talents, the dedication and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place…a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together.

Plaque dedicated October 25, 1971, by Roy O. Disney, rededicated Oct. 1, 1996, by Roy E. Disney

Walt Disney World had gone through many changes since 1971 – new attractions, parades and even new parks. WDW is over 43 square miles of pure entertainment. They have worked the magic into four theme parks, two water parks, four golf courses and 27 resort hotels. To truly see everything is almost impossible as it is always changing. Let’s do an overview of main features.

The Magic Kingdom is where most people think of when they hear Walt Disney World. This is where you’ll find such icons as Cinderella’s Castle standing at 189 feet at the end of Main Street USA. Space Mountain- the oldest operating roller coaster in Florida- sits in Tomorrow Land.   And Big Thunder Mountain Railroad located is located in Frontierland but set in the American southwest.

Disney history buffs love that the Carousel of Progress is still showing every day and that the small world boats are still filled with people singing (somewhat reluctantly) “It’s a small world after all”. Though the queue for Peter Pan’s Flight has been updated, the ride remains unchanged. The Pirates of the Caribbean has be updated to include Captain Jack Sparrow from the hit movie series. Splash Mountain, also in Frontier Land, remains a crowd favorite along with Adventure Land’s Jungle Cruise, a  pun-filled boat ride.

Proponents for change have enjoyed the additions of Starbucks and the New Fantasy Land. This includes a new roller coaster; the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opened in 2014 and is based on the vintage movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Also, there are now two Dumbo rides to enjoy with a play center between them and water accents outside. In this new Land, guests will also find The Big Top which is home to all the goodies you can imagine from cupcakes to cotton candy, and chocolate covered marshmallows to caramel apples.

When in the Magic Kingdom there is not shortage of tasty and cool treats to try.  Eat a Mickey shaped chocolate covered ice cream bar while enjoying the Festival of Fantasy parade or, over in Adventure Land, Aloha Isles is home to the pineapple Dole Whip and Dole Whip Float. Sunshine Tree Terrace with their beloved mascot Orange Bird is home to the Citrus Swirl ice cream. But, no trip to the Magic Kingdom is complete without a hug from a character!

There several meet and greets spread throughout the park but Mickey, everyone’s favorite mouse, is at Town Square Theater near the entrance to the park. If you only have one day at Walt Disney World, spend it at Magic Kingdom and stay for the fireworks!

To all who come to this place of joy, hope of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere in the world.

E. Cardon Walker, October 24, 1982

Epcot, the second park opened at Walt Disney World, comes from one of Walt Disney’s ideas. Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and it is often referred to as a permanent World’s Fair.  The park is separated into two separate areas: Future World and the World Showcase.

Upon entry you see the geodesic dome that stands 18 stories high. Housed inside is the ride Spaceship Earth. Narrated by Judi Dench, you are taken through time to learn how communication changes the world.  At the end of the journey, riders enter Project Tomorrow and can explore games and simulations of the future.

With only a handful of rides, there usually are long lines for Soaring – a virtual reality flight above CA- and Test Track which is a simulation of a test drive in the concept cars of the future.  In the Seas with Nemo & Friends, you will get to walk among the fish. The ride is geared toward young kids but the aquarium is second largest in the country and can be enjoyed by guests of all ages. Next to the Seas is The Land where you can enjoy Living with the Land, a slow boat ride teaching you about agriculture around the world.  After leaving the Land guests will come across Journey into Imagination with Figment; this attraction has regained some popularity among the younger crowd recently. An adventure in education can be had, too, at Ellen’s Energy Adventure; this is a nicely air conditioned moving theater ride. 

The World Showcase is situated around the World Showcase Lagoon. This manmade body of water is home to the nighttime fireworks show, Illuminations.  There are 11 permanent countries represented.  Each showcases the culture of their homeland.  This includes it’s music, food, entertainment, traditional dress, and adult beverage. Drinking around the world is a popular pastime of guests over 21.

There is plenty of entertainment to be had in the World Showcase.  The Chinese acrobat shows are beautifully performed. Don’t miss the Stave Church in Norway for a taste of Frozen. The  country’s Maelstrom ride is gone now, but will be replaced with a ride featuring Elsa and Anna. No visit would be complete without a trip to the American Adventure, a history of American narrated by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. The pre-show is an acapella  group, the Voices of Liberty. They sing traditional folk songs and will sprinkle in some Disney classics occasionally. France’s movie “Impressions de France” is a great place to sit and cool down and learn a little bit too.  If you are looking for a sweet treat in France, stop and get some of their ice cream.   Or, you can try the Werther’s Original popcorn in Germany which should not be missed.  For a meal, the food at Via Napoli in Italy is almost as stunning as the buildings facades.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park that brings together old Hollywood with new Hollywood. Old Hollywood can be found through the park with attractions such as Tower of Terror and diners like 50’s Prime Time Cafe. The new Hollywood has taken over Hollywood Studios with the thriller ride, Rocking Roller Coaster with Aerosmith and the Frozen Sing-along. The Studios symbol was recently changed when Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat was taken down to reveal the Chinese Theater for the new backdrop to Hollywood Studios.

The draw for many to Hollywood Studios is its two thrill rides, Tower of Terror and Rocking Roller Coaster. Both rides get your heart racing, one with speed and one with fear. Not a fan of thrill rides? Get in line early for Toy Story Mania. The virtual 3D carnival game ride is fun for the whole family. Hollywood Studios also has some fun for the Star Wars fanatic. Star Tours is another 3D virtual ride that has many different scenarios; you can go on this ride many times and it may be different each time.

To pay homage to the place of it’s namesake, Hollywood Studios has stage shows that commemorate some of the most successful movies from Hollywood. The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is a stunt show that gives you a behind the scenes look at how action movies, like Indiana Jones are made. In this show viewers chosen as extras so have your  camera face ready.  Light, Motors, Action is another stunt show but this one features cars. The drivers in the cars do amazing stunts and there are appearances from some favorite big screen cars such as Herbie Lovebug and Lightening McQueen. Hollywood Studios also has a show for the Frozen lovers. Frozen Sing-Along has everyone singing the movies most famous songs while getting “snowed” on. There is also an appearance by Elsa and Anna. Lastly, the other musical show is Beauty and the Beast. Your favorite characters from the 1991 Disney animated classic come to life on stage to sing songs from the movie like “Belle,” “Be Our Guest,” and “Beauty and the Beast”.

Some of the best places to eat on Disney property are in Hollywood Studios. Hollywood & Vine is a buffet with great traditional American food. Equally good food can be found at 50’s Prime Time Cafe but eat everything on your plate or “mama” will be upset. The Sci-Fi Drive-In is good food with a movie. You definitely will not leave hungry.

Animal Kingdom is a theme park and zoo all in one.  There are roller coasters, thrill rides, a safari, and a petting zoo sure to satisfy guests of all ages. Disney’s newest park opened in 1998 and offered a different experience than any other Disney park. Uneven walkways and foliage all around give Animal Kingdom give the feeling that you have traveled the world even though you have not left central Florida.

No trip to this park would be complete without making your way through the Kilamanjaro Safari. A specially designed safari truck brings travelers through African lands such as the Serengeti savanna and the Safi River Valley wetlands. All the animals on the journey are real and include giraffes, crocodiles, antelope, lions, and a crowd favorite, elephants. Guests are able to get quite close to the animals so have your camera ready. Once off of the safari you can learn even more about the animals from the safari many more on the one mile long exploration trails. To get even more immersed into the wonders of the featured wildlife, there is a short train ride over to separate part of Animal Kingdom. Rafiki’s Planet Watch tells you how the animals are fed and cared for. This is where you will find the petting zoo; here you can pet farm animals like goats and llamas.

 There are a few rides that  thrill seekers will enjoy.  The most thrilling being Expedition Everest. This ride is a fast roller coaster that goes forwards and backwards with steep up hills and dramatic downhills centered around exploring Mount Everest. Another thrilling ride takes you back to the age of the dinosaurs. This ride, Dinosaur takes you in a time rover through a jarring tour of  the end of the dinosaurs. To get some more dinosaurs, Dino Land USA is perfect. Designed to look like a traveling carnival, this section of the park has dinosaur themed rides like Primeval Whirl and Triceratops Spin. There is also an excavating site where youngsters can dig up dinosaur bones. With all of this adventure, you will have  worked up quite the appetite.

You can get quite the variety of food in Animal Kingdom. The new Harambe Market has ribs and sausages while Asian inspired food is served at the Yak and Yeti at both their indoor and outdoor service. Traditional American food can be found at Restaurantosaurus, Pizzafari and Flame Tree Barbeque.

In it’s 43 years, millions of people have traveled from all around the globe to visit Disney World.  But, what keeps guests coming back is Walt Disney World is not just a theme park but an ever-changing series of worlds to be discovered and experienced by guests young and old.

I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the park. I want to feel they’re in another world.
–Walt Disney