Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quick Little Update

Oh my goodness! I have no excuse for my silence other than the stress that comes with the new school year and the beginning of the nerve wracking process that is applying to work at Disney World. On the plus side, I've settled nicely back into a new school year and, after waiting for two acceptance e-mails and fumbling through a phone interview, I've managed to snag an in-person interview in November for the Cultural Representatives Program. Hopefully things will calm down now and I can get back to writing.

New workplace?

My goal is to have at least two new posts for you by Thanksgiving (for all you non-Canadians, that's October 10). Until then, I will leave you with good thoughts and pixie dust!

♥ Rhys

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hidden Mickey #3 and #4

Wow, two posts. Guess I have to make up for being so behind on my blogging here. Because I've missed a few weeks of my own hidden mickeys, we're doubling up today!

Click for larger version

Can you spot it?

Un-Hiding Mickey

Honestly, I'm a hidden mickey junkie. Ever since I heard about the whole thing, I've been completely obsessed with finding them. So, in honor of my obsession and the title of this blog, we go ahead with a Hidden Mickey article about hidden mickeys.

A hidden mickey is the simplest thing in the world: just three circles put together to form the outline of Mickey Mouse's head. There are other variations including his profile, full body, or hand print but the most classic remains the three circle outline. These little things have been hidden all around Walt Disney World by Imagineers in places you'd never imagine. Check out this Mickey head in a tuba at Mickey's Philharmagic:

Now, you may ask, what's the best way to find them? Well then... on we go!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Making More of the Mouse

A trip to the World is always tons of fun. Racking up a bill that will take you months to pay off? Not so much fun. It’s surprisingly easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. There are six tricks I use to save some money on my trips to the World, and they’ve saved me a bundle. Before we left for Disney last time, I added up two bills – what we would actually be spending, and what it could have been if we hadn’t kept a careful watch on our wallets. The difference ended up hitting the $2000 mark for a two person trip.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Birthday Fun

This is really just a little something to bridge the gap until tomorrow when I post something (hopefully) more useful to anyone planning a Disney trip. So in the spirit of keeping it short and sweet, I thought I'd share a Disney memory of mine.

 When V and I took the trip in February 2010, both of our birthdays ended up passing while we were in Orlando. Like any mature adult, I spent my 20th birthday in the Magic Kingdom with a Snow White bow on my head, a big birthday pin on my chest, and ate dinner surrounded by Winnie the Pooh characters at the Crystal Palace. Now, I had heard birthdays could be fun at Disney World, but I really wasn't prepared for what ended up happening. (Tip: if you're celebrating something, make sure to get a pin from guest services and wear it proudly)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hidden Mickey #2

Alrighty. After a few weeks off, here we go with my second at-work Hidden Mickey!

Can you spot it?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Day in the Life

So two posts in one day is a bit excessive, I know, but I wanted to share this before it became old news.

DisneyPixar just added a new video to its youtube page that any Disney fan should check out. Click here for a 25 minute presentation on a day in the life of John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar, principle creative advisor for Disney Imagineering, and my homeboy ever since I saw Toy Story forever and a half ago, but especially since Day & Night came out. Definitely check it out and subscribe to DisneyPixar's channel (some fabulous stuff happening over there.)

♥ Rhys

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

If you only have time to check out one evening show during your Disney World trip, I would highly recommend IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. I'm a huge fireworks fan and I can safely say that this has been my favourite fireworks display ever since I first saw it years ago. Using fireworks, water jets, lasers, a giant LED-lit globe, a variety of fire displays, and the single most fabulous musical score I have ever heard used in such a show, IllumiNations officially opened at EPCOT in 1999 to celebrate the new millennium and was kept around because of its popularity.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Top Tens for Thrill Seekers

I guess there's an idea floating around out there that Disney World is for kids and anyone looking for some thrilling rides and attractions should head over to Universal Studios. I think I'd like to take a crack at that one with this week's top tens!

Source: doggyvolunteer (flickr)
10. Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach is an imposing water slide at 120 feet high. It's a no-turns, straight drop down a 360 foot long flume. Standing at the top and waiting to slide down is definitely heart-pounding.

9. A classic, Space Mountain has recently been refurbished and is once again open to scare the pants off those of us who would brave a coaster in the dark. Adding to the thrill? The "stars" you go zooming past can look a little too close to the top of your car for comfort.

8. EPCOT's Test Track has been whipping guests around at 65 mph for twelve years. Climb into a model crash-test car and ride through a series of tests before shooting out of the building and around a banked track at top speed.

Source: katieharbath (flickr)
7. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios may give you a fear of elevators, but it will definitely getting your heart pounding and your adrenaline going. The Disney secret? When the elevator goes into free fall, it doesn't actually "fall". Instead, a series of mechanically things that I'll never understand pull the car towards the ground, making you feel as if you're falling even faster and that the car has gone out of control.

6. If you don't want to trek into the park, try the marina at the Contemporary Resort. There, you can go parasailing, tubing, wakeboarding, and waterskiing. It's a great way to cool off in the Florida heat and still get some thrills into your day.

5. Mission: Space is a relatively new addition to EPCOT. Choose the Orange Team when you line up and then climb into a motion simulator for your flight to Mars where you'll experience some serious g-forces and a harrowing space flight. (Warning: If you're claustrophobic, this really isn't the ride for you)

4. As the first coaster on this list, Rock n' Roller Coaster definitely delivers the thrills. A fully indoor ride, it will take you through loops and corkscrews after blasting you out of the station at 60 mph in 3 seconds all while blasting Aerosmith music in through the back of your seat.

Source: intamin10 (flickr)
3. Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom isn't an inverted coaster, but it's just as fun. After you climb up the side of a mountain in your train car, you'll ride through a series of drops both forwards and backwards, all while trying to evade the Yeti (probably the best animatronic I've ever seen. I swear that thing was real).

2. Sum of All Thrills can be tricky to find and the wait can be a bit long, but it's so very worth it. Before you climb into the ride, you get to design your own track. Pick between bobsled, roller coaster, and jet then add inversions, turns, and twists. Save it then hop into a robotic arm which will ride you through your custom track, upside down and all! To track this one down, head into Innoventions East and look for the tall black arms with white carts on the end swinging around wildly.

Source: chadscott (flickr)
1. Dinosaur!, tucked away in Animal Kingdom's Dinoland USA looks tame from the outside but it's certainly not for little kids. On this dark ride, you climb into a time travelling car to bring an inguanodon back to the future. The glitch? You get sent in just before a giant meteor is set to hit Earth and a giant dinosaur has tracked you down and is intent on eating you. This ride is fast paced, jarring, and full of things to jump out and scare the pants off you.

You can also check me out here (writing as rhyspuff) along with some other great blog contributors writing about Disney planning.

♥ Rhys

Monday, July 4, 2011

Munching on a Meal Plan

There's been some big buzz over the last few years about the Disney dining plans. They've been around for a long time but it's really only been recently that I've heard such a huge emphasis being put on them. Seeing as V and I used the plan when we went, I thought I'd take the time and do the math on it to see if the hype really does match the product.

Let's go with the standard Disney Dining Plan ($46 per day for adults as of 2011). That means one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack per person per day. With each service meal, you'll get a non-alcoholic drink, an entree, and a dessert. In the majority of cases, no menu item is out of bounds for your entree (some places, like Teppan Edo, will have sections of their menu that are a la carte so you can't use your plan but I've found these cases are rare) and many restaurants will let you substitute an appetizer for your entree if you ask (I had the calamari basket at Raglan Road instead of an entree).

A Model Day of Food and WDW:
Breakfast - $6.70
The foodcourt in your resort will offer a variety of breakfast foods that are pretty much standard across the Disney property.
Let's say you go with the traditional favourite and order a Mickey Waffle with bacon.

Lunch - $6.60 + $2.40
You start your day at Magic Kingdom and tackle the famous Casey's Corner for lunch. You grab a hot dog meal (with the toppings of your choice) and french fries. For dessert you pick a brownie.

Snack - $3.50
We're going to go for another classic with this one and get a premium Mickey ice cream bar for a mid-afternoon snack.

Dinner - $28 + $8.00
You've headed over to EPCOT for dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh and it looks like you have your eye on the roast lamb meshoui and a bastilla for dessert. Yum!

Just taking in your three basic meals and a little something sweet to get you through the afternoon, you're looking at spending around $55 per person per day. This is not including drinks (the average bottle of water in the parks will cost you $2.50). You'll just about break even if we substitute drinks throughout the day and at meals for the second quick service meal) by saving $10.

(Tip: While $10 doesn't seem like all that much difference, keep in mind this is for your whole vacation. Assuming you stay for a week, that's at least $70 you'll be saving.)

So, do I think the dining plan is worth it? Heck yes. When V and I used it, our receipts for food added up to much more than this (lived a little high on the hog for the week) and there's no way we could have afforded it if we hadn't had the meal plan. Not having to look at prices or saying byebye dessert because I wanted the more expensive entree was absolute bliss. With a plan, you can get the $15 meal or the $40 meal without having to pay out-of-pocket. It makes meal time far less stressful when you're trying to stay within a budget.

Of course, if you don't think you'll eat three meals per day, or even a huge breakfast/lunch and then a full dinner, it may not be for you. But if you plan to eat and eat well, I'd really suggest looking into it.

To find a meal plan that's right for you and for a full list of restaurants participating in the Dining Plan, check out the Disney website pdf.

If there's anything else you'd like to know about the Disney Dining Plan, feel free to ask in the comments. I'd love to answer any questions!

♥ Rhys

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nerves and Memories

Just fired off my application to the Disney Cultural Representatives Program for the 2012 year. I swear my heart is in my throat.I'm pretty sure I've never been this nervous about something before... but I guess when something you've been dreaming of for ten years can come down to one email, things can get a little tense. So wish me luck! Hopefully the news will be good.

Rather than get all serious and plan-y tonight, I thought I'd just share a memory. Last February when V and I ventured down to Orlando, we stayed one night for the Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom. Basically walked onto the Haunted Mansion. When we got into the stretching room I think there were only two or three other groups of people in there so the cast member guiding us through could really examine each of us. Being me, I started mouthing along with the script because, let's face it, I've probably been on Haunted Mansion more times than is healthy.

Then the lights went out. Standard HM hijinks. What I wasn't expecting was our cast member standing two centimeters away from me when they came back on with a stone cold expression on his face. I let out a shriek that sounded like a six year old who had swallowed a chipmunk and jumped back about two feet. He barely reacted. Just grinned and whispered "You're welcome" before turning around and escorting us out to our Doom Buggies. Let's just say, he made the Haunted Mansion spooky again. I really got to see that ride like I did when I was 8. I knew nothing would hurt me, but something still got to me... made me a little uncomfortable in a good way.

I guess that's my favourite thing about Disney World. You can go as many times as possible but there's always something new to find or an experience that will really stay in your head. So thank you to that cast member (I really wish I had gotten your name!) and definitely check out the Haunted Mansion when the park is fairly empty. Lots of fun to be had.

Source: Angela Rutherford (flickr)

♥ Rhys

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fun Make-Your-Own Souvenirs

When V and I took the trip to WDW last winter, we ran into a bit of a snag when it came to buying souvenirs for people back home. I was really only worried about finding little things for my family (who are already Disney pros and sent me with specific instructions to get them a Restaurant Marrakesh recipe book). V, however, was in the market for something small for everyone in his lab. If you don't want to grab pencils for everyone, that can get pricey!

So we came up with a fairly elegant and surprisingly cheap solution: the LEGO Imagination Center in Downtown Disney. Just grab a bucket, fill it up with lego pieces, and create some fun Disney characters for your friends. Depending on how many people you need to supply, there's an $8 and a $15 option.

We went with Donald Duck (because Mickey has WAY too many round edges apparently). Just design one then bulk buy the parts and reassemble when you get back home. Here's what we came up with:

Our little LEGO Donald!
In case you were curious, here's a step-by-step.

♥ Rhys

Top Tens for Foodies

So after a very busy week of work, essays, exams, and a visit from V, we're back with more top tens!

Here's my top list of tasty snacks and meals for people who love to eat (without resorting to signature dining spots because that's just too easy) :

10. This is probably the most obvious stop for foodies if you're at Disney World between September and November. The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is the place to go for samples of food and drink from around the world. There are nearly 25 different countries offering up appetizer-sized portions all around the lagoon. Definitely wear your stretchy pants. (Tip: If you're booking a trip from Sept 30 - Nov 13 this year, check out the festival's official webpage and make sure to book tickets for some of the bands playing or a cooking seminar before they fill up!)

Source: wyscan (flickr)
9. I don't usually plug trekking all the way out to a resort for a snack, but the beignets at Sassagoula Float Works (found in Port Orleans French Quarter) are really worth the trip. When V and I stayed there, I think we ate at least two a day each. It's a fairly quick bus ride from EPCOT or a lovely ferry ride from Downtown Disney to grab some deep fried little dough puffs smothered in powdered sugar. Yum.

8. Raglan Road is a fun little stop on Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney if you're looking for an obscenely delicious dessert. Their entrees are okay, the atmosphere is super fun, but their bread and butter pudding will probably send you into a fit of amazement.

7. Pretty much everything else on here is for food-food, so I thought I should include something sweet. Goofy's Candy Company in the Marketplace of Downtown Disney is definitely number one on the list of ways to give yourself diabetes, but oh is it worth it! Among other things, they sell HUGE red velvet cupcakes with insanely creamy frosting and boast a make-your-own-treat stand where you can customize your own candy apple, pretzel, marshmallow, crispy rice treat, or cookie.

Source: disneyandy (flickr)
6. Teppan Edo in the Japanese Pavilion in EPCOT is a bit of a gem in the Disney parks. It's a Benihana-style restaurant with both grill and sushi options. The chefs they have there are hilarious and wildly talented. Not only will your food be served up perfectly, but the show is tons of fun too.

5. Have an hour left to wait on your fastpass for Soarin'? Head over to the Land pavilion early and grab lunch at the Sunshine Seasons. Although it's set up like your typical high school cafeteria, the food is anything but. You can choose from Asian-styled entrees, soups and salads, handmade sandwiches, oak-grilled meats, and tasty quick services desserts. It's quick and easy, very well priced, and oh so tasty.

4. If you're in EPCOT, grab a mint tea and some baklava in the Moroccan pavilion at Tangierine Cafe. As a bit of a tea hound and a great lover of baklava, I can safely say this is, by far, the best I've had of either. The cafe is right on your way into the Moroccan pavilion so you can't miss it.

3. So my only problem with Animal Kingdom is finding a place to eat. Nothing has ever really stuck out. But last time I was there, we just happened to sit down at the Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe (the quick service, not the restaurant), cuddled up right across the street from Kali River Rapids, and I really was pleasantly surprised. Their honey chicken rice bucket is fantastic and it will really fill you up, especially considering this is more of a lunch-y place.

2. If you're a fan of chicken that falls of the bone or lamb done to perfection you should probably check out Restaurant Marrakesh in the Moroccan Pavilion in EPCOT. This is one of my favourite places to go when I'm at WDW and it never disappoints.

Source: disneyworldsecets (flickr)
1. Now I know I promised no signature dining, but just standing outside of Jiko, hiding in Jambo House - Animal Kingdom Lodge, had me salivating. Officially, it's billed as an African-Indian-Mediterranean fusion but really, it's just a fusion of awesome. Not for those afraid of spices and spicy, but totally up your alley if you're looking for something different and full of flavour.

... I realize there's A LOT of EPCOT dining on this list and I swear there's other really tasty places to explore and eat while you're at WDW. My favourites just tend to be in EPCOT. This is why I'd never survive without adding Park Hopper to my park tickets.

♥ Rhys

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hidden Mickey #1

I've been working in a kitchen store for the last ten months and I've recently started doing a couple displays every week. To liven things up a bit and to give me something less fact-y and more fun to post on here, I thought I might just bring some Disney magic to work. So here we go! Starting with a fairly easy one... on to my first ever Hidden Mickey.

Can you spot it?

♥ Rhys

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sorting Out Resorts

One of the most daunting tasks you'll have to undertake when you're planning your trip to Disney World is by far choosing a hotel. Assuming you've decided to stay on property (free transportation around the parks!), you'll have 29 different resorts and villas to choose from in every price bracket. Do you go with the value hotel and save some money or do you aim for something extravagant and shell out for a deluxe resort? It really depends on how you want to vacation and what you can afford.

There are three categories your resort can fall into: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. The names are fairly explanatory and most Disney planning sites give you the basic rundown of what to expect from each (values offer basic facilities while still being remarkably well-kept and not at all sub-par in terms of room quality while deluxes offer more sprawling, luxurious properties with fine dining restaurants and extra amenities). I've found, though, that it's the little things most sites don't tell you about that will really set one level apart from another.

My last trip to Disney World was my boyfriend V's first time to the rat trap. That was MY first time doing the planning and I never thought it would be so involved. I had to decide what we could afford and what I thought we would need in a hotel. That experience made me hash out a rough ticky-box list of resort traits to make the whole process easier. Once you figure out what resort category you should probably be looking at, you just have to pick which style of theme you like the best and what area of the property it should be in. (Tip: finding one closest to the park you're more interested in is always a good idea) Here's hoping I can pass on the useful!

For each quality, rate your view from 1 to 5 (1 being 'not at all' and 5 being 'absolutely')

My resort should:
Not have to be subject to a tight budget
Give me a space to relax and hang out in because it's not just a place for me to sleep
Offer exceptionally themed rooms
Be well-themed with a fancy lobby and resort grounds (including transport loading areas)
Have a sit-down restaurant on the property (not just a quick service station)
Have a decorative, relaxing swimming pool atmosphere
Have access to a spa or gym facility
Be catered towards more adult guests rather than young families and children

If you answered mostly 1s and 2s, you'll want to look at value resorts.
If you answered mostly 2s to 4s, you'll want to look at moderate resorts.
If you answered mostly 4s and 5s, you'll want to look at deluxe resorts.
Of course... this is all meaningless if you answered 1 to the first quality in which case you're best to examine what you can afford rather than worry about extras. Having done Disney on a tight budget, I can promise that resorts in lower categories are also tons of fun.

Now, I don't want to ramble on too long so I guess I'll call it here for today. The ticky-box list will give you the most basic traits of the resorts but if anyone is interested in the more finicky stuff let me know and I'll try to write up a bit about specific resorts or categories or something!

♥ Rhys

Monday, June 13, 2011

Top Tens for 20s

Ever wonder what there is to do at Disney World when you're in your twenties? Here's a quick list of my favourites:

10. If your parents took you to Disney World as a kid and tried to make it a somewhat educational vacation they took you on Spaceship Earth. Judi Dench's English narration can only be so fun for so long, so try it out in another language and make up your own stories for the scenes.

Source: ello_there (flickr)
9. Your appetite will never be bigger than it is now. May as well try to get through the Kitchen Sink at the Beach Club's Beaches and Cream diner. That's eight scoops of ice cream, three sauces, fruit pieces, bundt cake, angel food cake, brownies, a candy bar, oreos, sprinkles, nuts, marshmallow topping, and a whole can of whipped cream. Sure it's not healthy but when else are you going to get to attempt that?

8. Grab some headgear. There are so many options and they're all so much fun. Where else can you dork out and wear a princess crown, Minnie ears, or a pirate hat without someone thinking you're crazy? Take advantage while you're here.

7. Misbehave at the 50s Prime Time Cafe. When you sit down, they'll tell you the rules and you'll feel like you're six years old again being reminded not to put your elbows on the table. Don't eat your vegetables, though, and you'll have to face some good old fashioned punishment. Standing with your nose against the wall or singing "I'm a Little Tea Pot" are some favourites. It might be a bit embarrassing but oh so much fun.

6. Take a ride on Characters in Flight at Downtown Disney. At 400ft above the ground, this balloon ride gives you the best view of the Disney property, including an awesome aerial view of EPCOT during the day and a gorgeous display of lights at night.

Source: obfusciatrist (flickr)
5. Track down Miyuki when she's performing at the Japanese pavilion. Not only is she one of the most genuinely adorable cast members I've ever seen, she is a rare, amazingly talented artisan. For twenty minutes a set, she transforms balls of taffy-like dough into multicoloured animals using just her hands and a pair of plier-like scissors.

4.  Dinner at the Biergarten in EPCOT. What's better than eating massive amounts of German food while listening to live oom-pa music? Oh right... the litre steins of beer they serve.

3. Go mickey ear hunting. Most gift shops around the Disney property even sell guide books which list all the known hidden mickey ears in all the parks and resorts. Pick out a few before you leave your hotel for the day and try to track them down. I'll warn you from personal experience though... some will drive you nuts trying to find (once spent a half hour staring at a rock in the Animal Kingdom Lodge trying to find one).

Source: nickelmedia (flickr)
2. Extra Magic Hours (pm) at the Magic Kingdom . When the crowds are gone, cast members can really get into their roles and rides you may have had to wait a long time for during the day are practically deserted. Definitely the time to check out the Haunted Mansion.

1. IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. If you stick with me long enough, you'll hear me rant about this fireworks show. To keep it short, this is the must-see show at Disney World when you're a bit older. Less whimsical than the Magic Kingdom shows, it uses lights, fire, water jets, fireworks, a 350 000lb LED-lit globe, and the single most brilliant musical score I've heard for a fireworks show to take you through the history of human development. (Tip: set up camp outside the Italian pavilion on the bridge overlooking the lagoon for the best seat in the house)

♥ Rhys

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My First Hidden Mickey

The first Hidden Mickey I found on my own. It's still my favourite

As a life-long Disney fan, I guess it's only right that this is where we end up. My parents took me to Disney World a bunch of times when I was a kid and, now that I'm older, I'm still actively trying to plan trips to Florida. Even when I know I can't go (whether it's money, work, or school getting in the way) I'm almost always looking into hotel rates, flight times... I've even gone so far as to compulsively check for new additions to the menus at my favourite restaurants and what rides will be under referb so I don't get the crash of knowing I can't ride Splash Mountain when I'm already knee-deep in the Magic Kingdom.

Maybe there's a twelve step program for people like me...

But this is what I wanted to share. It seems like if you're not taking a five year old or you are that five year old, alot of people think there's not much to do at Disney World. I really couldn't disagree with this more and I'm not just preaching the spas or golf courses or the other services just for adults. So that's the goal. Hoping to offer up some fun Disney vacation ideas and get some Disney memories in return.

Until we get posting,