Showing posts with label Disney World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disney World. Show all posts

Friday, March 8, 2013

Living the Disney World VIP Life

It's hard to wake up anything but happy when you are at Disney World and the first view out your windows are the giraffes walking around Animal Kingdom. I was on a trip with a group of journalists to check out Disney's Golden Oak mansions, as well as what was new at the Magic Kingdom.

Breakfast was at Jiko and it was a buffet like I had never seen. There was an omelet station that included treats like lobster and prepared dishes with delicacies such as ostrich eggs. The desserts were also delectable and we had a surprise guest – the big mouse himself came to greet us.

After breakfast we headed to Disney’s Golden Oak community. This is the first opportunity for people to live right on the Disney property, something your family could certainly treasure. The mansions come in a variety of models. They are all truly luxurious and are priced at $1.6 to $8 million. 

While the properties aren’t large (who wants to spend their time worrying about their lawns when living at Disney?), the houses are custom-made with amenities such as in-ground pools, courtyards, backyard kitchens and magnificent bathrooms. I was especially impressed with the master bath that had two toilets!

You will also find the presence of Mickey Mouse in places you wouldn’t expect (maybe in a wall tile or light switch).  Everyone who buys a home at Golden Oak also receives a plaque in front of their house that shows that they are a homeowner of Walt Disney World.

A clubhouse with a pool, gym and restaurant is available to Golden Oak residents. As the community fills up, they plan to increase the calendar of activities and clubhouse amenities.

The perks of being a Golden Oak homeowner does not end on the property. Homeowners will receive four passes that can be used at any of the Disney World parks – as much as they want, for whomever they want. They also have access to VIP service, something we had the chance to check out.

VIP guides at Disney can take you behind the scenes. You don’t have to worry about lines, parking worries or transportation to the park – you pull up right to the park of your choosing. The guides also take you wherever you want to go and can even get you into some areas that aren’t open to general guests.

Our guides took us right to a small parking lot behind Disney Studios and walked us right inside. We had lunch at The Brown Derby. (Be sure to leave yourself a ton of time if you decide to eat here as service was extremely slow and cut into our VIP park experience.)

Our first stop in the new Fantasyland was at the interactive “Enchanted Tales with Belle.” Players in Belle’s story came from the visitors (mostly kids) and all of the Beauty and the Beast characters were around to make sure it was done correctly.

Prince Eric now has a castle and just below it is Little Mermaid Ariel in the new “Under the Sea” ride. I thought it was a lot of fun and had plenty of moving, musical and bright characters to keep kids of all ages involved.

In the new Fantasyland there is also a new castle for Gaston and it contains the only restaurant in Fantasyland that serves alcohol. It is also booked for dinner months in advance so be sure you get your reservations in if you want to eat here.

I remember taking my then four year old to Disney World alone. She wanted to go straight onto the Dumbo ride, one of the most popular in the park. We waited an hour and a half and that was about it for both of us for the day! Disney has evidently heard this from more parents because Dumbo now has his own pavilion, with a second ride and a circus tent (in a whole Storybook Circus section) to hang out in while waiting for the time to head on the ride. Brilliant play, Disney.

After the Fantasyland exploration we got to spend some time in one of my favorite shopping places, Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. It was fun picking up a few surprises for my (now grown) daughter from the “happiest place on earth.”

We spent the evening at the Disney's Contemporary Resort where we enjoyed more of the Disney VIP experiences. We started with a Chef’s Table Dinner that was just amazing. Everything, including the soup and salad, was creative and paired with wine. Even the Surf and Turf included a large lobster tail for each person.

After dinner, we headed outside, where there was a scrumptious dessert buffet waiting for us to enjoy while we watched the fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle. It was a bit chilly, so I settled in with some pumpkin coffee with amaretto and did some sampling of Pumpkin Pecan Pie with Jack Daniels Panna Cotta, S’mores Macaroons, Carmel Corn Truffles and Deep Fried Brownie Pops.

It had been a trip unlike my others, but it was certainly a lot of fun. My only disappointment was that I never made it to the African Safari and a few other “grown-up” experiences I was hoping to catch. Then again, that gives me another reason to head back to Disney World soon.

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.”