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.  


Enjoy!

Courtney(@pdcourt)

Universal Studios & Island of Adventure 

As a child, taking vacations to Florida really just meant Disney World. Only once in my 30 previous vacations to Florida did I go to Universal Studios or Island of Adventure. Fast forward to moving to Florida, the day I moved here was the day I got my Disney Annual Pass but it took me 2 years 9 months to finally go to Universal.  Being a #DisneySnob, I was not overly excited but really wanted to see what it was like.


I was not disappointed at all. The parks were beautiful. Walking around Unversal Studios made me miss my Streets of America in Hollywood Studios even more. It was really like walking down busy streets in a bustling city. Something new for me was the rides and shows are literally right next to each other, you can go from ride to show to another ride to another show without really adding many steps to your trackers. This made everything flow pretty nicely. 


Though everything is really close together there are still plenty of places to relax and get refreshed. Pictured below is a stage area where you can sit on the turf. They will sometimes play trailers to their upcoming movies but overall it’s pretty quiet(except for the roller coaster) . It was just a nice spot to relax at. There is also a street in the park that is a quiet street, you can’t be rowdy on it. It is meant as a quiet walk through to settle down some restless kids and cool off. 


Though I mostly only have pictures of Universal Studios(forgot my phone day one), my favorite of the two parks was Island of Adventure. The Jurassic Park area was really cool and immersive. The River Adventure ride is so fun and I REALLY wish I had a child with me so I could have gone on the gliders. And, even though I am older, I rode every ride in Seuss Landing. I just couldn’t stop myself. Plus, I got to see my beloved Marvel Superheroes! Now, I would love to talk about the crown jewel of Universal, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

 

This area was really like entering a different world. I really felt like I was in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The attention to detail that was put into everything just blew my mind and don’t even get me started on the Butterbeer! 


Taking the train was really something. I thought it was going to be a basic train ride just connecting the two lands but not at all. I actually saw my train leaving the station and transitioning into arriving at Hogsmeade. It was absolutely incredible. 


Going back to the detail, it felt as though I could stay just in the WWHP for days. It was truly incredible. To submerge myself more into the area, I purchased an interactive wand. The wand allowed me to cast spells at marked windows and feel like an actual wizard(!!).


The rides in this area are awesome. They also have a ride for Harry Potter fans of all ages, or rides for different intensity levels. 

To wrap up my two days at Universal I would like to say that even though through my time there I definitely did a lot of comparing to Disney World, they are really not the same at all. Most of the rides featured in both parks are definitely geared towards an older crowd. So if you have young children I really don’t recommend anything more than a day at the parks. Also, if you are prone to motion sickness or have back and neck problems a lot of the rides, and even some shows, may be a little difficult for you. 

When you purchase a pass, if you would like the whole Harry Potter experience, get the 2-parks 1-day option on your ticket(essentially their park hopper option) or else you cannot ride the train in between the two lands. I also did not think their express pass was needed. The longest we waited in line was 35-40 minutes and this was considered a “moderate” day in the parks. Universal also has an app like Disney. It helps with wait times and getting virtual passes(essentially a fast pass but you actually NEED one to ride the Jimmy Fallon ride). I will say, the wait times are highly inaccurate on the app but it gave me an idea of where everything was(it had rides shut down that were up and 1 hour long waits for rides that had a 20 minute wait) I do think Universal is a must for families who have thrill seekers or Harry Potter fans. Even if you don’t have either of those, it still may be worth a day trip to experience something different than Disney. 

Courtney (@pdcourt)

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort


With great ocean views and endless activities available, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is the perfect destination for a family or couple to have a nice beach vacation. The rooms are updated and spacious with balconies overlooking either the ocean or a garden. If you have a larger family, there are two level cottages that fit 10-12 people. You get to enjoy the crystal clear ocean on the resort’s private beach. For the adventurous types, there are hiking and kayaking trips you can sign up for at the resort and for the people looking to relax, there is a spa right in the main building. Your kids will have plenty to do with a big pool and slide and mini golf. Here are some pictures that capture some of the beauty of this ocean front resort. 

Feeling Charged Up About the Fuelrod System Currently Being Offered at Disney Parks

I am currently sitting in Hollywood Studios, barely any charge in my phone and my day is just starting but I’m not worried. In the past year, Disney has installed a system that eases the stress of a dead phone on vacation.

Each park has a station(or two) that provides portable chargers AND the cord attachments for the most popular smartphones(Samsung, and Apple gen 1-4 and Apple gen 5-7). But this is not the best part! When your charger dies, you just go back to the station and they give you a new charger. You just insert the rod, but keep the cords, and a fully charged fuel rod comes your way!

 

The initial cost of a fuelrod is $30 but if you order it on the Disney parks app before your trip, the price is $25 and the first time you pay is the ONLY time you pay! In my opinion, this option is the best for me. I have bought many portable chargers, for less money of course, but guess what, I forget all of them, or they’re dead or it doesn’t last long. I love the fact that when it dies, I don’t have to worry about charging it, I just give it back to the machine and it gives me another! I think this is a great thing for Florida residents who visit Disney a lot. Or the Disney/Theme Park bloggers who are always looking charge. 

Disney Springs: Sprinkles


It’s here!!! The new addition to Disney Springs that everybody was excited about has finally opened. Sprinkles offers cupcakes, shakes, and ice cream. Even with an always long line they actually provide friendly and fast service. 

I went there to redeem my free cupcake and was pleasantly surprised by how nice the entire staff was. Everyone had a smile on their face and greeted me like I was super special! 

Now, I only ordered a cupcake, though I was quite tempted to try out the ice cream. My cupcake was delicious. I ordered the classic vanilla cupcake with a cream cheese chocolate frosting and of course…sprinkles(jimmies to our New England readers). The frosting was super creamy and the cupcake was perfect. 

I really enjoyed my experience here and was by myself and still had fun. I imagine that coming with a group and getting a smorgasbord of items to try is a fun, tasty experience!


Enjoy PD

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.
image

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.

image

 

      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.

image

 

    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.

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

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!
image

 

 

Beane Family Vacation: April 2016


Just this past week my family traveled down from Massachusetts to enjoy their annual(this year will be bi-annual) family vacation. Our trip included 2 pool days, 1 day at Gatorland, and 5 days in Disney World. This was a fun trip and I hope some of what I share with you can help you plan a long family vacation. 

Planning:

Something that gets forgotten when you live down here is that your family doesn’t get to just drive back down to Disney if they didn’t get on a certain ride. I have, many times, walked out of a park saying “oh I didn’t ride space mountain this time, I’ll just go on next week.” Well visitors don’t get that option! So when planning our days, I really planned out fastpasses. 

One thing I really focused on with fastpasses is trying to not make them on top of each other. Having fastpass after fastpass is tiring especially if they are across the park. So in order to have a relaxing vacation I set them up 2-3 hours apart. This way we could actually have time to do other rides, in the same land then make our way over to the next fastpass. It worked very well and it kept the vacation somewhat relaxing.

The other aspect I had to keep in mind was where I parked. Going to Disney a lot I tend to find new places to park such as near the Boardwalk Hotel or even parking at a resort and bussing in. These are great when you have an hour to spare but with 6 guests just wanting to get into the park it’s just better to park at the park itself. My crazy parking ideas can be picked back up again when they are at home.

Gatorland:


Now, I am a Disney Snob so I was not optimistic for our day trip here but Gatorland was a great experience for our family. The park is not big but has a lot to do. The best part of our stay was most of our party zip lining across an alligator filled pond! I suggest this for a low cost vacation day if you have extra days in central Florida. 



Animal Kingdom:

Animal Kingdom was super fun. The kids enjoyed all of the rides. This was Patriots Day so the park was fuller than usual but we made the most of it. We decided to spend some extra time at Rafiki’s Planet Watch since it was not only busy but also very hot, especially to people who just left 35° weather 2 days prior. All of us got to get on all of the rides and took in some shows around the whole park. The key to today was taking our time and enjoying some Mickey Ears! 

Magic Kingdom:


Time for what everyone’s been looking forward to; Magic Kingdom!! We did 2 days here and on one of those days we met some more family for the day. Anyways the park was actually not all that busy and we were able to get on most of the rides. One tip for people who keep track of wait times just remember that when the app says that Mine Train is a 40 minute wait everyone in the park is going to run to the ride so that 40 minute wait is going to turn into a 80 minute wait in moments. 


They were great days and a lot of memories were made. One of the best moments for us was very simple. Being super warm we brought the kids over to the splash zone in Fantasy Land and they were able to play around and cool off.


Of course our days ended with fireworks and proof that the days were a fun filled success my little Macy fell asleep before even getting on the monorail out of the park both times. 


Epcot:

Epcot is a difficult park right now since there is no Soarin which is everyone’s favorite ride and the World Showcase is “the worst thing ever” to Zachary but we made the most of it. It was one of those people watching days while enjoying some of EPCOT’s best snacks. We even got to meet up with Aunt Gina!


Hollywood Studios:

We went to Hollywood Studios and since we were wicked tired we decided to get a late start. We were able to ride all of the rides. For Zachary we did Star Tours two times since he is a huge Star Wars fan. 

We didn’t stay for fireworks because the kids were just getting wiped out and we wanted the rest of our vacation to be enjoyable so we called it an early night(not all that early, we didn’t get home until 10:00 but compared to our other days, it was early).

Extra Days:


We had 3 extra days this year. We used one on Gatorland which was great. Another day we did swimming and a night at Disney Springs and then just a full pool day with dinner at Golden Corral(kids absolute favorite).

So how do you guys vacation as a big group? And how do you do non-Disney days?

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!

PD

Rainforest Cafe Breakfast


My family has been to Rainforest Cafe every vacation we have been on to Disney and and handful of times since we have moved down here so it was weird to me that we had never done the breakfast option there. Finally, with a little bit of time in before our fastpasses began at Animal Kingdom we decided to try it out.

I’ll start out by saying that the service was top notch. Our waitress was a New England native like we were so she was easy to talk and reminisce with. Also, management came over to our table multiple times to make sure everything was going well. Our drinks were filled and any request made met right away.

The atmosphere was just incredible. The animals and plants seemed real. About once every half hour to an hour, storm takes over the restaurant making you feel like you are in the middle of the rainforest.

Now, on to the food. The food was edible, not great but not gross either. I had the breakfast sliders and I just wasn’t a huge fan. It was eggs  and cheese on an English muffin with a side of breakfast potatoes. The sliders were just lacking flavor but the potatoes were actually very good. Luckily I enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant to make up for a not stellar meal. Next time I go I will know to order something different.

Saying goodbye to Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

  
We went to Hollywood Studios to view Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights before they are taken down for a final time after 20 years. It’s kind of a bitter sweet moment. As a family, we truly have enjoyed the many times we were lucky enough to view this amazing light show during our December trips. Being a Florida resident these past two Christmases has aloud us to soak them in from the first night to the last.

image

Of course, with all things Disney, there are many rumors dancing around about where, when or if ever we will see this show again. That’s not what matters now. To me it’s more about appreciation for what was and the many memories of family and friends standing and looking up in amazement at moments  that will always leave a smile on all of our faces. 

image

image

So even though I will welcome the new things to come to my favorite Disney park, I’m glad I have these memories to look back at and remember,  with a smile,  what was truly a wonderful expression Disney magic.

PD