One of my favorite parts of this trip was our monorail loop resort hoping. We had a lazy morning and then headed over to the Polynesian Resort and rode the monorail to The Grand Floridian. In all my years of going to Disney, I don’t think I’ve ever been inside The Grand Floridian, so I was excited to explore the resort!

They have lovely gift shops with a variety of Disney (and other) souvenirs:

Many Minnie and Mickey themed mugs:

And J, our always decisive souvenir chooser, picked out an emoji slap bracelet:

They also have several grassy outdoor expanses to just play games and lounge:

And of course, views of the castle:

After exploring for a bit we settled on Gasparilla Island Grill for a quick lunch.

This quick service stop features booth and table dining, with a variety of sandwiches and desserts. It also has some pretty fancy lighting:

But enough about the chandeliers, on to lunch! The boys got their standards which was a hot dog and macaroni and cheese:

 

 

And B got his standard turkey sandwich:

I constantly give Disney props that they get his food correct, with no sauces or things he cannot eat.

I got the roast beef and cheddar sandwich on a pretzel roll:

Friends. This sandwich is enormous. You could easily, I mean easily, share it. It also was really good. It had sautéed red onions, a rich yellow cheese sauce, and finely sliced roast beef. And the bread was fluffy soft.

The boys would also want me to tell you that they have the coke machines with “a million flavors”. After finishing our lunch we explored dessert. This mocha chocolate chip cupcake was a front runner:

But we couldn’t resist the whimsy of the carousel horse cupcake:

This is very instagram worthy, but was kind of tricky to eat. The horse is hard white chocolate, and the inside cupcake is a moist confetti cake. The buttercream was okay, but I kind of wished we’d gotten the mocha chocolate because I favor a chocolate cupcake more.

Overall, we really enjoyed our morning at The Grand Floridian! I would definitely suggest visiting here on your next trip. We also have Citricos and Grand Floridian Cafe on our list of restaurants to try!

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Kona Cafe

Also known by my kids as “not Ohana”, Kona Cafe open air table service restaurant on the second floor of The Polynesian serves up Asian style eats with a Polynesian twist. Despite the fact that this is not Ohana, our meal was very good, and I would recommend it if you are staying at The Polynesian, one of the other nearby resorts, or you want to take a break from The Magic Kingdom and head over here for dinner.

First up, we got an appetizer of potstickers, because that seemed to be the theme of this trip:

They were pan fried (my favorite), and I can honestly say I’ve never been served potstickers like this. They were pull apart and were definitely a filling way to start the meal! A loves potstickers:

In addition to our order of pot stickers, we were also snacking on the Hawaiian bread with macadamia nut butter that comes with the meal:

 

You all. Come for the rolls. They are delish! Anyway, while we were eating those we checked out the menu:

As you can see the menu contains a wide-range from sushi to burgers. You also can watch them making the sushi if you are sitting close enough, which we were:

B ordered the sashimi sampler:

We found the prices for both the sushi and sashimi to be very reasonable. The sashimi was light, and B probably would’ve ordered a side…if he hadn’t had an extra helping of rolls.

I ordered the Mahi Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato:

It was weird. The Mahi was also a little dry. And there were big pieces of barely toasted bread underneath….it was just a little odd. I would probably order something different if we went again.

And the boys ordered pasta and a burger:

Both were good. Oh and a heads up from our resident kid foodie:

If your kiddos also get dessert, just a heads up. The yogurt parfait is just a scoop of yogurt on a plate. Get the ice cream instead.

Afterwards, we headed outside to watch the fireworks:

At The Polynesian they dim the lights and play the music from the fireworks show at The Magic Kingdom, so its fun to view it from the beach!

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Shades of Green Review

For our recent trip to Disney we tested out The Shades of Green resort, and I’ve got that review for you today! First up, a few important pieces of information about the resort. It was originally a deluxe resort that was later purchased by the government. This means that you (or someone in your group) have to meet the qualifications on their website.

It is a hotel on Disney property, but not a Disney hotel specifically, so they use different buses, etc (more on that later). I’d always been reluctant to try it because I was worried it wouldn’t be Disney enough, when we are quite used to the Disney resorts. However, for this stay we decided to test it out and see what we thought!

The resort is lovely. It has spacious rooms many of which sleep up to five. It’s a quiet property, and we had a nice view of the golf course.

We stayed in The Palm Wing on the second floor, and I liked it so much, I would specifically request that area the next time we go.

There are two outdoor pools, one that has a zero entry area, and the other has a water slide that J LOVED:

The food is very reasonably priced (there are several restaurants and a Starbucks). Picking up Starbucks and reading my book in the morning was one of my favorite things to do during our stay!

The self-parking is only 9 dollars a day (cheaper than the Disney value resorts). It’s also an easy drive over to Disney Springs. Quick tip…we always parked at the Lime Garage because it is close to some of our favorite shops and restaurants. If you’re driving, check which garage is closest to your favorites to cut down on walking!

For transportation, they have buses that go to the ticket and transportation center, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. You can also walk to the Polynesian Resort (it’s about a fifteen minute walk to the monorail), and take any of their buses or the monorail. In addition they have a tram at times that will drive you down to the end of the property and cuts about seven minutes off the walk.

We loved getting a chance to take the monorail more than we usually do, and did quite a bit of resort hopping more than other past trips.

Overall, of all the Disney resorts we’ve stayed at their bus transportation was by far my least favorite. And it’s not that they aren’t efficient about it, the buses run when they say they will. However, instead of running every twenty minutes, like the Disney resort buses they come essentially twice an hour….which means that you need to carefully plan park entrance and exit to minimize wait times. Also, their bus stop is not with the other Disney bus stops…it’s usually a secondary area with a very small overhang….no big deal if it’s not raining, except in Florida, where huge rain storms can (and did) pop up at any time. You can take The Polynesian bus and walk, but we found that the buses for The Polynesian and Grand Floridian (they share a bus), were usually also packed.

 I would recommend considering taking advantage of the Minnie Van service (especially if you are going to or leaving Animal Kingdom), because you are saving money with the lower cost of the room and parking. If you have people in your group that either have trouble standing for long periods, or small kiddos, this would be a life saver. If we stayed at Shades of Green again we would definitely budget for that in order to save some time…and tantrums on the behalf of seven year olds who you made hike a park all day in 95 degrees and then have to hike home.

Overall, the resort is a great option for qualifying government and military families. You can find out more about the resort here! Happy trip planning!

 

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The Beach Club Review

When I was a kid going to Disney my family always stayed at an Epcot area hotel. My parents liked the convience of being able to walk into a park, or take a boat instead of dealing with the buses. Since it was A’s 10th birthday celebration we decided to stay at The Beach Club for our trip, because A’s favorite park is Epcot. I was interested to try The Beach Club since it had been probably about twenty years since I have stayed there. Here is a breakdown of our experience!

We stayed in a garden view room, which I liked because it was quiet and not too far from the entrance to walk to Epcot. I was not pleased with our first floor room, so I requested to change it and they moved us to the second floor, which was much better.

Our room overall was very nice, but I will say it was a bit dated and they didn’t put a dust cover on the box spring, which was odd. The boys loved that they didn’t have to share a bed, and I liked the larger balcony to sit out on in the mornings before we got started with our day.

The Beach Club is the closest resort to walk into Epcot and I have to say, you can’t really beat that convenience. We walked out the first night to watch the fireworks and just stood on the bridge.

It’s also a short walk to The Boardwalk resort, where we got Ample Hills ice cream, and wandered into some of the shops.

The pool at The Beach Club is also one of the best pools of all the Disney resorts. It has two water slides, a lazy river, and a sand bottom. It also can only be used by guests of The Beach Club and The Yacht Club. They also have a good arcade that kept the boys occupied until our room was ready.

The Beach Club has an east coast feel, so it doesn’t have much overt Disney decor. However, we really enjoyed the welcoming and family friendly atmosphere. The resort has a character meal, two restaurants, a lounge, and a quick service area with muffins, Mickey waffles, and other pastries. Several mornings we grabbed items from the quick service area for breakfast.

Every cast members we encountered was great, and we loved being able to walk into a park. If you are considering one of the deluxe Epcot resorts this would be my choice!

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Trying something new at Disney

For our past two Disney trips, we’ve always started with Disney Springs. ALWAYS. Part of it was because we were staying at the French Quarter and it was a quick boat ride away. Part of it was because I wanted to do some shopping before the boys got Disneyed out at the end of the week. And both times, we found that the boys wanted to buy all the souvenirs before we had even hit a park. And then at the parks they’d see more souvenirs that they’d want to buy, leading to whining, pouting, and complaining. Also, occasionally tears. Some may have been mine. Ha!

As we were planning our Disney trip this year, I told B, you know, I don’t know if I want to go to Disney Springs. At all. I’ll pause while you get over your shock. Now, if you’ve never been to Disney World or if it’s been awhile, I highly recommend Disney Springs. They have awesome restaurants, fabulous shopping, etc. However, for us I felt like we needed a change. So our plan to deal with the souvenir issue has been two-fold. First, I’m getting the boys each a Disney Gift Card for their souvenirs. It’s something tangible that once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Second, instead of heading straight to Disney Springs when we get there, we are going to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. B and I stayed there on our honeymoon about thirteen years ago and every time we go to Disney we talk about going back to Animal Kingdom Lodge to visit. And if you’re thinking, what can you do at a hotel all day…check out Disney Food Blog’s post on Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are great restaurants, play areas, plenty of kid activities, and lots of animal viewing spots. It’s something that the kids will be excited about without having the urge to buy, buy, buy right away. It’ll also be cooler, as Disney Springs has large areas with no shade if you aren’t in a store.

We’re looking forward to trying this out! I’ll be sure to share our experience when we return!

 

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Port Orleans: French Quarter

As I was going through past Disney posts, I realized I’ve never done a review of our favorite moderate resort at Disneyworld. Two years ago, we were planning to take the boys to Disney for the first time, so I turned to a friend of mine who knows a thing or two about Disney stays (she’s the original creator of the Disney Diva site). When I was a kid we always stayed at deluxe resorts, but I wanted to try out a moderate (for cost purposes). She immediately said “Port Orleans: French Quarter, you’ll love it”. We booked it, and have stayed there another time since. It is indeed our favorite moderate resort and one of our overall favorite resorts at Disneyworld, so let me tell you why!

First, ambience. This resort never seems crowded (we’ve stayed in both June and October, which are high crowd times at Disney), it is quaint, with beautiful gardens and views. We always pick a garden view room, and both times have been located close to both the quick service dining area and the transportation area. It is tree covered, so there are cool places to sit and you can get almost all the way to the quick service area under cover (helpful for when it’s raining).

Second, rooms. Unlike every other moderate (at this time, as far as I know) on property, they have queen beds. Now moving from a double to a queen bed may not seem like a big deal, but my husband is 6 foot tall, and my boys argue when they are in close proximity to each other in a bed. This saves us a lot of headaches. In addition the rooms have always been clean, and they’ve been quiet.

Third, transportation. You can take a boat to Disney Springs, and while every where else you’ll have to take a bus, there is bus specific for French Quarter. You can’t even get that at some of the deluxe resorts. We have only had one issue waiting for a bus, and it was at park close at Epcot. The cast members at transportation ended up calling us a separate bus after we waited for almost an hour. However, I’ve had that happen while staying at both Animal Kingdom Lodge And The Boardwalk, so it can happen anywhere.

Fourth, cast members. This is true of many Disney resorts, but we’ve always had great experiences with the cast members here. The door greeter is always humorous, they took us to our car with our luggage when we left on our first trip, and gave us lots of advice for places to go on our trip that everyone got sick.

Fifth, the pool and the playground. The pool is awesome. Water slide, splash pad area, on going kid activities. There is also a shaded playground. I know this sounds basic, so often you think, I didn’t take my kids to Disney to play on a playground! Believe me, I thought that too. However, I realized that when you over plan you end up creating so much structure, and my kids need to run. And you cannot always just run around in Disney World, but you can at the playground.

On the flip side, there is no table service dining at French Quarter. It’s only quick service. The quick service does have lots of options, like shrimp and grits, and our favorite…beignets.

A few other downsides are you can’t walk into any of the parks, and sometimes the boat for Disney Springs can take awhile. Also, the French Quarter doesn’t typically participate in special offers from Disney World (Port Orleans: Riverside does), so the standard rate is typically what you’re going to get. However, I really think it’s one of the best resorts on property. The rate, to me, is reasonable and it’s going to be a closer bus ride to the parks than the value resorts. This year we’re staying at The Beach Club for A’s tenth birthday, so we’re taking a break from The French Quarter. I haven’t stayed at The Beach Club in probably twenty years, so I’m interested to compare it to our experience at French Quarter. I’ll be sure to share when we return!

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