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,