Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Little Break.

Hi, everyone.  I'm going to be taking a break here until early August so I can focus on some other obligations which would otherwise keep me from giving this blog the attention it deserves.  I'll still be writing over at Chip and Co, however, so please follow me over there if you like what you see here.  I'll be writing several Q&As a week (feel free to send one in--we answer every quesion), plus articles and a weekly "Disney off the Beaten Path" where I look at off-beat and unique Disney pursuits. 

Thanks to all of you who read here and follow this blog here as well as on Twitter (chrisw889).  It really means a lot.

See you in August!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reader Email: Where Can I Use My Disney Gift Card?

We are going to WDW in May and purchased the package that includes the Disney Gift Card. Now I understand the Gift Card is redeemable in various locations for food, attraction etc., but what I would like to know is if anyone has a list of the restaurants where the card is accepted or where it is not accepted (probably the shorter list)? Any help you can supply would be greatly appreciated.


Shelly: Thanks for reading my blog and for your question. The short answer is that you can use it just about anywhere on Disney property. You’re limited both to places that accept your Keys to the Kingdom Card (room key with charging priviledges) as payment and to stores and restaurants affiliated with Disney. This isn’t a problem in the parks, but you won’t be able to use it at Downtown Disney restaurants such as Ragland Road,Wolfgang Puck’s, McDonalds, or House of Blues. You can apparently use the gift card at T-Rex, which is also a Downtown Disney restaurant not owned by Disney. I’m not sure why this is; my advice is that if you want to eat at a non-Disney restaurant, don’t be afraid to try the card. The card is accepted at stores in Downtown Disney like World of Disney and to buy tickets for Cirque de Soliel and can be used for special park tours, like the Segway Tour. You can also use it at Disney stores back home and at to purchase merchandise. You can even use it on Disney Cruise Lines.

Since you don’t get the ticket until you go and because your package will need to be paid off before you arrive, you can’t use the card to pay off the balance of your trip, however you can use it to upgrade your tickets. So say you just have a basic Magic Your Way ticket and you want to add a park hopper, you can use the gift card for this.

An interesting way to get around places that won’t take your gift card is to use your Keys to the Kingdom Card at these places and then pay off your room charges at the end of your stay with the gift card. Since the resort will already have a credit card on file, make sure you do this early in the day the day before you check out, otherwise your room charges will automatically be charged to your credit card.

Finally, you can’t use the gift card to buy more gift cards or Disney dollars.

I hope this helps. If you or anyone reading this finds something that contradicts this, let me know. It ‘s somewhat difficult to find an exact answer for this question, even from Disney. I appreciate the input and I’ll update here with any experiences using this card.

Have a safe and happy vacation.

A little admin note:  If you like reading these questions, I also do a Q&A over at Chip and Co if you'd like to follow me over there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fast Disney Facts: Eating Lunch at a Monorail Resort.

Photo Peggy MacDonald.
On busy days, midday lines at counter service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom can stretch out the door. Next time, don't fight the crowds. Instead, head over to one of the monorail resorts; you don’t need to be a guest to visit, shop or eat. Located just minutes away by monorail from the Magic Kingdom, counter service locations at the Contemporary, The Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian resorts are less crowded during the day because guests are in the park, so they’re an excellent place to cool off, relax, and have a quick lunch. Here’s a sampling:

Contempo CafĂ©: Located in the Contemporary Resort, it’s the first stop on the resort monorail after you leave the park. If you want, you can even walk over there. Salads, flatbreads, and sandwiches that are a step up from what you’ll find in the park. Try the smoked turkey with brie and apple butter.

Captain Cook’s: Located in the Polynesian Resort, the third stop on the resort monorail as you leave the Magic Kingdom (right after the Transportation and Ticket Center). Sandwiches, pasta dishes, and stir fries. Quality food that gets consistently good marks.

Gasparilla Grill. The last stop on the resort monorail from the Magic Kingdom, Gasparilla’s is located in the Grand Floridian across from the marina. Serving sandwiches and other quick meals similar to what you’ll find in the parks, you can take your meal outside to one of the tables near the marina and eat there if you like.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Monday Morning Distraction.

Quick little round-up of the latest Disney news:

Goodings, one of the closest grocery stores to Walt Disney World, is likely going to close.  In the last few years the market was run-down, yet prices remained sky high.  Nonetheless, some park goers consider a trip to  Goodings to be part of the Disney experience.  I hope their employees, whom I always found to be helpful and friendly, find new jobs soon.

Lisa from Chip and Co on training your baby for his trip to Disney World.   No, this doesn't involve giving your baby Mickey bars.  Okay, maybe just a little.

Zannaland has a reivew of Chad Denver Emerson's new book about Disney World, Project Future.  Leave a comment and you may win the book. 

Kathy from the DisUnplugged podcast has some great photos and commentary on Typhoon Lagoon. I always enjoy Kathy's enthusiasm on the podcast and her blog posts are fun reads.

Matt from WDWCentral looks at bi-lingual ride safety spiels at Disney World.

Kristen  Ford from the Daily Disney, part of the Orlando Sentinel, writes about Walt Disney's inspiration for Big Thunder Mountain.

This isn't a news item, but there's a lot of interesting speculation going on about free dining over on the Disboards discounts codes and rates subforum. Check it out this thread if you're waiting to book a vacation in the fall when free dining comes out.

Theme Park Insider asks "What's on your funnel cake?"  Who me?  Powdered sugar only. All that other stuff on a funnel cake gives me the heebie jeebies.

Have you ever walked around the park hoping you wouldn't run into someone you know because your hair looks terrible?  Well I have. In fact, my hair looks so bad that pictures from our trips that include me (and my "finger in the light socket" hair) are pretty much hidden under lock and key.  Apparently I'm not the only one with this problem. WDW:  It's Not Just for Kids has some thoughts on this hairy problem.

Now that I've discussed my beauty issues with you, I should probably quit while I'm ahead.  I'd hate to leave you without something fun though, so here's a little snippet from  Unwrapped:  Disney World.  Mmmm.  Turkey legs.

If you're inclined to do so, you can watch the entire video on YouTube.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ariel's Grotto, Scuttle's Landing and Pooh's Playful Spot Set to Close April 12th.

Photo Copyright Walt Disney Company.

If you want to meet Ariel in her Fantasyland Grotto, better do it quickly. The attraction is set to close Aprtil 12th to make way for the Fantasyland expansion which will be completed sometime in 2012-13.  In addition to the attraction, the small water playground in front of Ariel's Grotto is great for kids on a hot day and will be missed. 

I was hoping that they would keep this attraction open until the Little Mermaid ride was complete, but it looks like this is permanent, not just a refurbishment.   You can meet  Ariel and Prince Eric in Adventureland starting on May 9th.  You can also see Ariel at Hollywood Studios in Voyage of the Little Mermaid. The show, one of the best on property, has a few fun surprises that won't disappoint. 

In addition to Ariel's Grotto, Scuttle's Landing snack bar and Pooh's Playful Spot will also close.

By the way, the big rumor going around right now from some pretty good sources is that construction won't start until early 2011 in Toontown, so if you're planning on a trip this year, if this rumor is true, you can still visit. Take it with a grain of salt.  I'm wrong . . . often.   

Source:  Orlando Sentinel.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Three Reasons Why Staying at a Value Resort is a Smart Move.

I love Disney deluxe resorts. The theming is beautiful, the rooms are large, and you can’t beat the top notch restaurants. And when I travel with my husband and three kids, I’m probably staying at a Disney Vacation Club resort because I need the space and like having access to a kitchen. But you know what? I also love the value resorts. Sometimes on Disney message boards, I see posters making disparaging remarks about the values and I can't argue with some of the points.  It's true the rooms are smaller, the pools don't have slides, and they are, simply, less posh.  But I would also argue that staying at a value makes you one smart cookie. Here’s why:

1. Stay at a deluxe resort and you’ll have access to Extra Magic Hours (extra time in the parks for Disney guests), the Disney Dining Plan, transportation on Disney’s Magical Express to and from the airport, and package delivery from the parks. You get the same thing when you stay at a value resort, you just paid a lot less for it. How smart is that?

2. You kids will love the theming.

3. A week at the Contemporary Resort in early June runs around $3983 (without any discounts). For that kind of money, you could stay at a value resort that same week and then come back again in early December for another week. And you could do those two weeks because you’ll have purchased two annual passes with the money you have left over.

I hope every Disney fan gets to experience the deluxe resorts. They’re great. But if you’re worried that the value resorts won’t live up to your expectations of Disney quality or you’re putting off a trip because you feel that you need to spend a lot of money to have the peak Disney experience, please reconsider. I’ve stayed at every level of Disney resort and they all have their charms, but the values hold a special place in my heart because it means I can go to Disney more often. If you’ve hesitated, give it a try. You might be surprised.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Disney Online Announces the Winner of Its First "Design a Fairy House Art Contest."

Photo courtesy Walt Disney Company.

I've been hearing great things about the Pixie Hollow Garden at this year's International Flower and Garden Festival, so I was exited to read this:

"Disney Online announced today the winner of its “Design a Fairy House Art Contest,” which ran in February on the popular online world for girls, Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow. The fairy house, inspired by 15-year-old winning designer, Zoe P., from Frazier Park, Calif., was revealed during a special ceremony on April 3 in the Pixie Hollow Garden at the 17th Annual Epcot® International Flower and Garden Festival. Zoe and her family were in attendance to celebrate the momentous occasion, as the fairy house will be on display for the duration of the festival." 

What a fun opportunity for kids to use their imagination.   Best of luck to Zoe and all her creative endeavors in the future.

If you'd like to learn more about Disney Fairies, check out

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Busy, Busy.

Hello everyone.  First, thank you all for reading.  It's been a busy week (sick kids) and I've also been blogging over at Chip and Co where we're doing some fun stuff, so things have been a bit slow here. Things will pick up next week. 

Please take a moment to pray or think kind thoughts for the family and friends of the little boy who was killed at Ft. Wilderness today.  My heart goes out to them as well as the employees and guests on the scene of the accident. 

 Back on Monday.   Have a wonderful, peaceful weekend.