Thursday, February 28, 2013

Doing Disney with Grownups

I always enjoy having fun with the younger generation – especially when it involves anything Disney. When a trip came up to go to Disney World and explore their Epcot Food & Wine Festival, I didn’t have to think twice.

I had never been to any of the Disney properties without kids, at least not since I was a kid. It turned out that I got to see a whole new world (pardon the pun).

The trip was put together by the Disney’s Golden Oak public relations team and we were checking out the many benefits owners of that property get, including VIP tours. I was flown to Orlando We were given rooms at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was my first time staying on any Disney property.

It seemed like a place with too many kids for a grownup Disney vacation, but once I saw the animals roaming outside my window, I was hooked on the experience.

The property was just beautiful, with ponds and flowers among the African motif. There was a large pool just outside the lobby area. I thought it was a bit cool to go swimming, but there were some diehards who insisted on enjoying sunny Florida. 

I hadn’t eaten since an early breakfast so I went to The Mara, a cafeteria-like restaurant with a large selection of items to eat in or take out. I ordered a falafel sandwich and butternut squash soup and both were certainly better than any cafeteria fare I had eaten.

I walked around for awhile and then went back to the room before taking the shuttle bus over to the  Kidani Village. It was another lodge in the Animal Kingdom which I was told had even better viewing of the animals.  It also had another spectacular lobby, though slightly different in design.

I walked through to the back and asked around until I found the best place to watch the animals. The animals were basking in the sun and enjoyed their room to spread out and wander. I was also fascinated by the many species of birds on display. I stayed for a bit, but had to get back to the room and change for the evening plans.

We met in the lobby to take a bus to Epcot. It was quite an experience (reserved for VIPs) to be able to park the bus right behind the rides and just walk in through a back entrance. We were then told we had two hours to “sample” our way around Epcot before meeting for our own private lakeside viewing of the fireworks.

A lot of the international food outlets are available at Epcot all year round, but there are even more during the International Food and Wine Festival (the 2013 dates are September 27-November 10). Disney made it easy for me to try what I’d like by giving me a card I could use to pay at each booth.

Some good finds were the Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey from Greece, a Beef Empanada from Argentina, Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pocket from South Africa, and Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries from the Scandinavian kiosk, my favorite dish. Portions were large enough to taste a few without feeling stuffed.

I couldn’t try everything and look forward to heading back to sample Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Morocco, and New Zealand. There was also a Cheese booth which offered fondues and cheese samplings.

As soon as we saw the Champagne & Desserts booth we knew we had to stop. I sampled the Moet & Chandon Ice for the first time. It was wonderful “Ice cold,” as it’s meant to be served. I had also washed down some of my food with a great German Riesling, a Sigalas Assytiko from Santorini and Fairview Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa.

During the fireworks, we continued to get VIP treatment with an ice cream sundae bar. I made myself a small portion (with hot fudge, of course) and enjoyed the light show. I had almost forgotten just how uniquely Disney managed to do their displays.

I returned to my room and was not surprised to find that Disney does even chocolates on the pillow in their own special way.  I couldn’t wait until another day of VIP surprises in “the happiest place on earth.”


  1. Hi Marcia! Sounds like a fantastic trip! TR

  2. Hey, it seems you had a great time there. Thanks for sharing your views with us. In florida the Hotel near Disney World provides the best hospitality services and pleasant ambiance to their guests.