Thursday, January 25, 2018


     A big part of the Disney Parks experience is the food.  That's for sure.  If you are tripping on a budget, one easy way to save a few bucks is by splitting meals.

   Most meals at the Disney eateries are served in very generous portions.  And, one of the nice things is that most (if not all) of the table service restaurants will not charge for "splitting" meals.

The Turf Club

Ask for the larger cut of Prime Rib (like this one at Disney's Turf Club) for splitting. You won't go hungry!

   Since retirement, I don't have the (seemingly) "unlimited funds" that I did when I was working.  Our last trip, was a bit of an experiment in saving on meals.  I've learned that while I may not have as much expendable money since retiring, I also don't eat as much as I did when I was younger (and working).

   The Turf Club at Disney's Saratoga Springs resort was a perfect place to share a delicious meal in a cozy (and kinda' romantic) setting.  Our server Houda was more than happy to help us out with our split meal.  She had a great suggestion. When I asked about the Prime Rib, and said we wanted to split it, she asked if we would like to order the larger cut (18 oz. I think?) for just $8 more.  It worked out great.  We still got the dinner rolls, and she brought us both steak knives, and served the meal with an extra plate for sharing. I'm a self-proclaimed connoisseur of Prime Rib, and this was one of the best I've ever had.  We were both satisfied (actually quite full), and the price was right for such a great dining experience.

The next night for "Split Meal Dining": Boatwright's Dining Hall

   It worked out good, and the next evening, we headed to another old favorite of ours - Boatwright's Dining Hall at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside resort.  Like the Turf Club at Saratoga Springs, Boatwright's is open at 5:00pm for dinner only.

   We took the boat from Disney Springs over to Port Orleans Riverside, and on the boat ride, we met a gentleman named Mark who was from Pompano Beach, Florida. We got to talking, and he said how much he liked the Etouffee at Boatwright's.  We decided to try it, I don't remember ever having Crawfish in a dish before, so we decided to order it and asked the waitress about splitting.  She was more than happy to split a meal for us, and the kitchen served the dish in two separate bowls to make it easy for us! 

Yes, that is a HALF portion of Etouffee in that bowl!

   We ordered a Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer along with the meal, and with that delicious corn bread served with the meal (all you want), it was terrific!

....and this is the OTHER HALF!

   Boatwright's is another overlooked gem of Walt Disney World dining.  If you like cajun cookin' in a relaxed atmosphere, this is your place.

A lesson learned: Casey's is great for "Splitting a meal"!

   Table service meals are not the only place where splitting can work out.  The "foot long" hot dogs at Casey's Corner in the Magic Kingdom are HUMONGOUS! It was our first time at Casey's and I didn't realize what they offered, if I had only known...we would have just split the foot long.  You can easily split one of the large hot dogs (comes with fries) and be full!  There is a fixin's bar with Relish and Sauerkraut
The foot long Chile-Cheese dog with added Sauerkraut from the fixin's bar

The foot long makes the regular dog look like an appetizer! Great for splitting.

So good we had to return: The Turf Club

      The Turf Club was so good, we had to hit it one more time before the end of the trip (especially since we were staying right there at Saratoga Springs).  Our server Nestor was awesome and suggested that the Lamb Osso Buco might be great for splitting. 
Another great dish from Disney's Turf Club
He was right!  A huge "shank" of braised lamb (bone-in) with Red Pepper-Cheddar Polenta and Gremolata was perfect for 2 to split. We added the Wedge Salad and it was a complete and very filling meal.

How about this for dessert? Brown Butter-Chocolate Mousse, Peanut Butter Cream.
Splitting is a great way to enjoy the great dining experiences at the Disney parks & resorts. Try it, you'll like it! And with the few bucks you saved, why not split a dessert too!

Our server - Nestor.  One of the BEST on Disney property!

Have you split meals at Disney? Please, leave a comment below!

Get Dan's book - DISNEY TALE OF THE TAPE - Theme Park Boxing!

Fun match-ups of great Disney parks experiences.... head-to-head, and in-the ring!

Click here to order your copy: DISNEY TALE OF THE TAPE


Friday, July 7, 2017

Back to Disney's Vero Beach Resort!

   Seems the sun never sets on the Disney Empire. Parks on both U.S. coasts. Japan, China, France, am I forgetting something? And those resort hotels are a big part of it all.  Aulani in Hawaii, Hilton Head in South Carolina, and the one we just spent 3 nights at - Disney's Vero Beach resort in Florida.
   We spent a fun filled week at Walt Disney World (Old Key West), and then tacked on 3 "bonus nights" at the Vero Beach resort.

   If you are not familiar with it, the resort is a fantastic place with Disney touches throughout. Right on the beach, beautiful views, and plenty to see and do. Nearby places to explore. No rides, no fireworks, no parades, but if you are looking for a more laid back way to do Disney, this is one that I heartily recommend.
Welcome Home!

   Our Party consisted of Grandma/Grandpa, Mom/Dad, 2 kids. We had 2 "Inn Rooms", so Grandma/Grandpa had their own room, and Mom/Dad/Kids had theirs. Not connecting, but right next to each other in the main building. Very nice.
The Sea shell hunting was good today!

   It is a really nice setup. A ramp that leads right down to the beach. Personally, I like to stand up on the deck and look out at the beach. The rest of the gang? They love to stroll along the beach, getting their feet wet, while our Granddaughters collect sea shells.

   Hammocks, A bean bag pit, snack bar, poolside bar, great pool, tennis courts, basketball court, nature trails to explore, even a 9 hole miniature golf course!

   The rooms have been renovated since our first visit back in 2015 with our "DDF's" (Dear Disney Friends) from Idaho, and they've done a wonderful job of sprucing up the rooms.

Lunch time at Dixie Crossroads!
   If you like to explore, there is plenty to see and do around the area. One of our favorites is to drive about 90 minutes up to Titusville for lunch or dinner at "Dixie Crossroads". The house specialty is Rock Shrimp. These tasty little guys are like tiny little lobsters, with a split shell that you peel the meat off of. What a treat! There is a little bit of a back story to the restaurant. Here is a little info about it, check it out:

   Museums, Restaurants, and of course, the Beach! Plenty to see and do around the Vero Beach area if you have wheels. But there really is plenty to do right on the resort grounds.

   The resort's restaurant has been changed from "Shutters" to "Wind and Waves", and the makeover turned out very nice.

Ready for the "catch of the day"!
The new decor is a hit!
   Seafood is the specialty of the house, but there are also steaks, chops, and other choices. We had a wonderful meal there.

   There is also a place upstairs in the main building called "The Green Cabin Room". It is a lounge that overlooks the ocean in an open air setting. Just beautiful. You can enjoy drinks, and they serve food too!

That ol' pirate ship can be a highlight of the day for the kiddos.
   Of course, the pool is always a big part of the resort experience, and Disney's Vero Beach resort has a great pool complex. A big water slide, a pirate ship splash & play area for the younger ones, plenty of tables and chairs, with the miniature golf course, and quick service restaurant just steps from the pool.
Somehow, they got Grandpa Dan to come down to the beach!

      It is a complete resort experience. If you catch it right, there are Sea Turtle nesting areas, and early each morning there are Disney Cast Members ready to give you a little educational mini-tour of the nesting sites. Vero is a great add-on to a WDW trip. It's not too hard to shift gears from theme park mode, to resort mode, especially with the sound of the waves filling the air.

Monday, March 20, 2017


It was so much fun to meet John Saccheri aka- "Big Fat Panda" in Jan. 2017.  He came and picked us up for a taping of the Feb. show.  We were treated like family, and made a great new friend.  Here is his Feb. 2017 show (#44).  It started with some exciting and fun news about things at Walt Disney World.  Then the interview.  We had a blast talking about my first book - Disney Tale of the Tape - Theme Park Boxing.  John is one of the judges in the book for two of the matchups!

Here's the show.....enjoy!

                                              Click Here: BIG FAT PANDA - SHOW #44

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Tammy, and Dan finally meet John "Panda" Saccheri in person!

   Any true Walt Disney World fan knows about but in case you are not that deep into the WDW scene, John Saccheri is the producer and host of the Big Fat Panda Show on YouTube.

Check it out!

   His videos are like medicine for the souls of us who can't be at our favorite park(s) and bring comfort to us when we just have to be there, even if it is not physically possible at the time.  His show introduces us to people that bring even more great content to the Disney fan community.  Podcasters, Bloggers, Voice Actors, Authors, Artists, and so many others.  John was also one of the featured subjects in the documentary The Dreamfinders ( along with Lou Mongello, JeniLynn Knopp, Ricky Brigante, Corinne Andersson, and the original "Dreamfinder" Ron Schneider.  All names that hard core Disney parks fans will recognize instantly!

   John is one of the 10 judges in my new book: Disney Tale of the Tape - Theme Park Boxing, and we were very excited to meet the one and only "Big Fat Panda"!
Panda is one of the 10 "Celebrity Judges" in the book

   He came in towards the end of the book project, but he is one of the 3 judges for two bouts.  He knows his stuff, and added SO MUCH to the book!  He was assigned to Impressions de France vs Reflections of China, and the final bout of the book Prince Charming Regal Carrousel vs Stitch's Great Escape.

   When John heard that we would be spending 4 nights at WDW's Animal Kingdom Lodge, he invited me to be a guest on an upcoming episode of The Big Fat Panda Show.  I was honored, and excited to do it!

   He came to the Jambo House and picked us up.  We had a great time meeting him and talking all kinds of "Disney talk" as he drove us to "The Panda Cave" - his beautiful home not too far from Walt Disney World.

   We sat and drank coffee as we chatted, and were introduced to a few of John's 5 cats.  It was a great time getting to know such a warm hearted and friendly man. He's a New York native, and could easily lay some NY Attitude on you if he wanted to, but I think the years in Florida have softened him up a bit, I could hardly make out any accent in his voice.
There's no turning back NOW!

   His home is like a mini-Disney Museum.  I guess you might call it "One Panda's Dream".

   Every time we turned around, there was something that made us say "OH WOW, LOOK AT THIS!"  Just amazing!  We were having so much fun, but I was there to be a guest on his show, so we eventually had to put down the coffee and head up to the studio for the taping.

   The studio room was small, but a little bit intimidating.  As I sat down, I was thinking "Wow, Tony Caselnova (author of Disney by the Numbers), Jim Hill, Bob Jackson (Yee-Haw Bob), Jim Korkis, Ron Schneider, Mark Silverman (the voice of Tower of Terror) and so many other stars of the Disney fan community have sat in that very chair!"  But, with the green screen behinds us, and Panda's soothing voice, we were able to sit down and have a nice visit for an upcoming episode. 
John "Big Fat Panda" Saccheri introduces Dan and the book

It's probably going to take a little of Panda's "magic" (editing) to make it fun, but I've been watching the show for years, and it is always enjoyable.  He is an amazing man with a great charisma.

   When the taping session was over, we toured around his home a little more, and just had such a fun time with him.  He told us stories of things that happened to him during his visits to the WDW parks, and all of the amazing people he has had the fortune to meet along the way.  His love for Disney is unstoppable, he is really one of the Champions in that arena!

"Kung Fu John"! (an artist friend made it for John)

   It was finally time to head back to our room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  John gave us a special tour of the "other side" of the Magic Kingdom, driving us through the side streets around the park.  Monorail parking structure, Cast member parking, warehouses, and other areas we had not previously seen.  We felt so honored that John Saccheri would take so much time to treat us so special.

    The book has been an amazing journey, but what is even more amazing, is the new friends that I've made along the way.  Great people, who love the Disney parks every bit as much as I do!  John Saccheri is at the top of that list.

Remember, he is not "A Big Fat Panda" , he is "THE Big Fat Panda"!

   We were a bit sad to say "goodbye" to John as he gave us a hug and dropped us off at the hotel lobby, but we now have a very special friend in the Orlando area, and look forward to seeing our new friend on a future WDW trip.  Our Granddaughters can't believe that we "know" Big Fat Panda!

Click here to see: BigFatPanda on YouTube!

Click here to order a copy of: DISNEY TALE OF THE TAPE - Theme Park Boxing

                                             Watch "The Dreamfinders" Documentary:

Contact me at: Disney Fountain of Youth


Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Book IS HERE! Disney Tale of the Tape is now available!

   I was sitting at my PC, when an e-mail came in from the publisher of Theme Park Press.  He asked me what I thought about writing a book based on my old column for the Disney Dispatch website.  I was a little surprised, and scared.  "Hmmm", I thought,  "the column was fun but book worthy?"  The uncertainty turned to curiosity, so we talked it over a bit.  That was July 8th 2016.

The book cover - DISNEY TALE OF THE TAPE - Theme Park Boxing

   Well, a little over 5 months later.... HERE IT IS!  Disney Tale of the Tape is my first attempt at writing a book, and I hope it won't be my last.  It has been an amazing journey in getting this project to press.  Here are a few of the twists and turns along the way:

  The Evolution of a Format  
   The Disney Dispatch Column's format featured only 1 judge.  I would write up the categories (rounds), and then score the bouts along with two fictitious judges scoring the bouts.  The bouts were decided by me, because it was fast, and it was the only way I could even have a shot at  meeting the bi-weekly deadline (that I sometimes missed) for the column.  Mr. McLain was very gracious, and really did not push the deadline.  I would do a little research, then make up the "Tale of the Tape" which would give some facts about the contestants.  I would think up some categories to use for rounds, and then score the bouts.  This was a few years before retirement, so time was not on my side, as I would come home from work exhausted, but it was so much fun, I would dig in, write up a battle, and send it in.

This was the logo for the original column at Disney Dispatch

   The book started out with the same idea in mind, just write up the battles, and score each "round" to come up with a winner.  Then I thought "Hey, who cares what I think?  Why not have some REAL Disney experts as judges!"  So I started reaching out to some of my favorites from the Disney Fan community to see if they would like to be part of this project.  Each bout features myself plus two "Disney Celebrity" Judges doing the scoring.

  Putting Together a Team    
   The first person I turned to was my friend Len Testa.  Len is the co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and he was one of the co-hosts of the WDW Today podcast, he is still an occasional guest/co-host of the show in it's current format, and I love that show!  I had corresponded with Len in the past, and found that he's quite the boxing fan, so I pitched him about writing the foreword for the book.  He responded very enthusiastically, I just felt so honored, and a bit more confident having the Len Testa on my side!  At the time, I had not changed the format, so all I was asking for was a foreword for the book.  That changed later, and Len was totally on board with being one of my "Disney Tale of the Tape Boxing Judges"!

Next, the book needed some color, so I reached out to some friends from the world of pro boxing.

Ring Announcers:  Bob Alexander, Lupe Contreras, Henry Tafoya, and Dom Zarrella all said "Yes!" to using their names in the book.

Dan co-hosting "Rising Stars Boxing" with Henry Tafoya in 1999

You need Referees for any boxing match, so it was time to contact some of boxing's very best:  Rocky Burke, Laurence Cole, Russell Mora, Woody Kislowski, and Zac Young (Zac is also a judge for one of the matches, turns out he's a huge Disneyland fan!) all answered the call, and if you are not a boxing crazed nut, just check out the records of each of these guys in they are all World Class Referees!

And there is one "special" Referee - Retired Pro Wrestler Frank Goodman (The Masked Maniac) who works some of the bouts.  His Disney World Junkies facebook page has over 140,000 subscribers, and he has arms bigger than Gaston!  I wasn't about to say "no" to him refereeing some of the bouts!
Dan with his friend - Pro Boxing Referee Rocky Burke in 2012

You can't score a pro boxing match without the judges (I should know, I used to be one!), so again, I reached out to some of my personal favorites.  Some gave me a polite "No Thank You", but most gave me an enthusiastic "You Bet!" and the list includes some names that you will no doubt recognize if you are a true Disney Parks fan and what a line-up it is!

The Judges:

*JERRY CORNELL - Theme Parkology (, and co-host of Living the Dream Podcast

*RANDY CRANE - Author of Faith and the Magic Kingdom, host of Stories of the Magic Podcast

 *JIMMY  HORNE - Owner of Once Upon a Time Travel, and co-host of The Disney Nerds Podcast

  *KRISTA JOY -, and co-host of Living the Dream Podcast

*DAVE KENNEDY - Host of the Dave's Disney View Podcast, and a former Disney World cast member

*GARY MERRITT - Get this, he is a retired world class Pro Boxing judge who worked over 1, 600 bouts over 37 years, all over the world!  And... he has been to Walt Disney World over 50 times!

*NATHAN PALMER - he's an Indiana Pro Boxing judge, who has been in the sport since 2003.  He's worked over 750 bouts, and going strong!  He is my fellow editor at and when I found out that he's a huge fan of Walt Disney World, he was an instant fit!

*JOHN SACCHERI - The host of, and one of the subjects featured in the Documentary The Disney Dream Finders

*MONICA SEGURA - This lady is a total Disney parks fan.  She has a degree in Physical Education and has attended quite a few boxing events.  She is totally qualified to judge these bouts.  Oh, and did I mention, She's my Daughter!

 *LEN TESTA - Host of the Unofficial Guide Disney Dish with Jim Hill Podcast, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World

We had no idea that this little Boxing Fan would grow up to become a judge for the Disney Tale of the Tape Boxing Commission!

There are also two dear friends of mine from the world of boxing that make an appearance:

*JOHN KLEMIATO - "Big John" is a boxing judge with the Nebraska Boxing Commission, and his role will be as Deputy Inspector of the Disney Tale of the Tape Boxing Commission

*DAN CUSHNER - Dan is a former Pro and Amateur Boxing Trainer, as well as one of Pro Boxing's top "Cut-men".  He will appear as the "Cut-man" for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

What an all-star lineup of officials to score the bouts.  It is Their remarks in the book that make it a fun read.
Dan with his Wife Tammy at Disneyland in 2011 (at the time, Dan had no idea that  one day in the future, that big mountain behind him would be taking on Big Thunder Mountain in a clash of titans!)

  The Match-ups!  
There are 14 Matches in the book.  It's a night of boxing (Disney Parks style) that you will never forget!  Take a look at the card, and if you have experienced them, go ahead and set the odds on who YOU think will win each of them:

Bout 1)  THE GRAND FIESTA TOUR Starring the Three Caballeros (Epcot - World Showcase)
JOURNEY INTO IMAGINATION with Figment (Epcot - Future World)
(Our opening bout)
Bout 2) LEFOU'S BREW (Magic Kingdom) vs DISNEYLAND MINT JULEP (Disneyland)
(Can this much sweetness be contained in one ring?!)
Bout 3) CALIFORNIA SCREAMIN' (Disney California Adventure)
ROCK 'n' ROLLER COASTER (Disney Hollywood Studios)
(For the Coaster Division Championship!)
Bout 4) AMERICAN MUSIC MACHINE (Epcot - America Gardens)
(May the best group win!)
Bout 5) HAUNTED MANSION (Disneyland) vs HAUNTED MANSION (Magic Kingdom)
(It's Brother vs Brother in this match that Disney fans thought would NEVER Materialize!)
Bout 6) The PIRATE ROOM (Caribbean Beach Resort)
The ROYAL ROOM (Port Orleans Riverside)
(For the Moderate Themed Resort room title belt)
Bout 7) MONSTERS INC. - Mike & Sulley to the Rescue (Disney California Adventure)
MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE (Disneyland)
(Dark Ride division title belt is at stake!)
Bout 8) IMPRESSIONS DE FRANCE (Epcot - France Pavilion)
REFLECTIONS OF CHINA (Epcot - China Pavilion)
(a bout with national pride on the line!)
Bout 9) THE JUNGLE CRUISE (Magic Kingdom)
KILIMANJARO SAFARIS (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
(Who will become "King of the Jungle"?)
Bout 10) CARTHAY CIRCLE (Disney California Adventure)
HOLLYWOOD BROWN DERBY (Disney Hollywood Studios)
(A battle of classy theme park eateries... in Black & White of course!)
Bout 11) DINOSAUR (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
(Pooh puts his undefeated record on the line against a very HUNGRY contender!)
(Snack Division Championship!)
(King of the Mountains Title Bout)
Bout 14) PRINCE CHARMING REGAL CARROUSEL (Magic Kingdom - Fantasyland)
STITCH'S GREAT ESCAPE (Magic Kingdom - Tomorrowland)
(A special GRUDGE match like no other!)
The Author with his "Research Staff" (His "Disney Sweeties") - (L to R) Monica, Sadie, Tammy, and (front) Ava at Disney Springs in May, 2016

Dan with boxing promoter - Don King.  Mr. King NEVER put together an event like this!

  Other Content   
There is also a foreword by Len Testa, and appendix's which feature My Disney Side, and My Boxing Side, a listing of all the officials who contributed to the book, and even a crash course on How to score a professional boxing match. 
Dan with legendary "Hands of Stone" (like Matterhorn Mountain) - Roberto Duran

   The Hardest Part  
The hardest part of the whole project was the final days.  The waiting to see the final proof copy, then the cover art, then waiting for the book to actually become available.  It was tortuous.  I felt a bit like an expectant father waiting for his new child to be born!  I'm too old for this!  But its finally here, and I really do hope you will have some fun with it.  But watch out - you just might get hooked on Disney parks, or the sport of Boxing!  One can only hope.

The back cover pretty much tells "The Tale of the Tape" for the book!

It took nearly half a year to put together, but here it is.  I hope you will pick up a copy, and most of all, I hope that you will get some enjoyment out of it!  Reviews are always welcome, no matter how you score the book!

Dan with one of the judges from the book (Monica) blasting off on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

To purchase the book directly from Amazon:
Click HERE to order direct from Amazon


For signed Copies ($14.95 + 3.00/shipping) contact me at:



Friday, September 30, 2016


   I know, I know.  Most of you think that we have done EVERYTHING there is to do at Walt Disney World since we go so often.  Well, my answer is "NO WAY", "NOT EVEN CLOSE"!

   With 43 square miles of territory to cover, it's not likely that we could achieve that goal in a lifetime (and we started late!).  Here are a two of the "firsts" we experienced on this last trip, but you can call it a "2-for-1 Special":

Only a 90 min. Standby time - Thank You Fast Pass!
Our first ride (or should I say 4/5 ride) on the new FROZEN Ever After
   We finally got to experience Epcot's newest attraction, and I have to give it an "A".  The Animatronics are pretty impressive, it's colorful, and fun.  I think our Granddaughters' eyes are going to be popping out of their heads when they see Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Sven and the gang on this cool boat ride.

   When we arrived at the loading area, the stand-by wait time showed 90 minutes, but we had our Fast Pass + ready to go on our Magic Bands, and we were on board in under 15 minutes!
It's pretty dark in that queue area!

   We did not see what the Stand-by Queue has to offer, but we both liked what we saw in the Fast Pass line.  The village setting is nice.  It's dark in there, but I like that mysterious night time setting.  I personally could not help but remember that spinning light from the eye as we were climbing the lift area in our viking boat.  I was having flash backs of Maelstrom.  But as soon as we saw that first scene with Olaf singing and moving around, we knew this was going to be a great addition to Epcot.
   It was going smooth, everything was fantastic on the ride, until Elsa waved her hands, and we went backwards down a little drop.... and we were frozen.... LITERALLY.

Our first ever "RIDE 101" - Evacuation

   It was strange to be sitting there, with the song "Let It Go" echoing through the cavern as we just sat there in the boat.  We could see Elsa off in the distance from where we had just rafted backwards.  Surreal.  While the others behind us on the boat were saying "Oh no, I hope they don't shut down the ride", I was telling my Wife "Oh Boy, I think we might get evacuated!"

Two "Disney Geeks" hoping to get Evacuated
   The canned voice kept coming on telling us to remain in the boat, and the ride would begin shortly.  But it never did.  YES!  Our first Ride Evac!  A Cast Member came over and told us that they were going to have to shut down the ride.  First, they had to drain the water level.  We sat in the boat and watched the water level drop down.  The ride audio stopped, and it got quiet.  A little eerie but fascinating to see the procedure take place.

   We watched as the people from the boat behind us came walking along the walkway on the side and head out the door near our boat.  Led by Cast Members, they went through a door in the rocky facade and away they went.  We were next.
Our vantage point while being frozen on Frozen Ever After

   The Cast Members came over and told us what to do.  We exited the boats, and headed out that door through the side exit, outside, down some stairs and back in to the building where we were given "Anytime Fast Pass" tickets to come back and ride when things were up and running.

What's behind "Door #1"?  Our evacuation exit.

   As I suspected, there was nothing especially remarkable to see "back stage" of the ride.  It's just a novelty that is appreciated only by Disney Geeks (like us).  A parking lot outside, some storage lockers for the employees, nothing exciting.  There was no Pluto character with his head off, taking a cigarette break, nothing like that.
The Captain was not allowed to "go down with the ship".

   Just what looked like break rooms, and locker rooms, just another day at work for the Disney Cast Members.  The ride area does look very different when the sound is off, and the lights come on.  That is something I can really appreciate.  I would hate to have been at the top of Expedition Everest when something like this happened! 

   When we worked our way through the halls and finally merged with the regular exit, we found ourselves outside saying "What just happened?"  We left with our anytime fast pass tickets in hand with a smile on our faces.  
Happily being kicked off of the ride!

Were those little snowmen taunting us?

   We had gone through most of the ride before the breakdown, so we felt like we were getting two rides for the price of one. 

   From what I've heard, they have been having a lot of problems with the new ride.  When we returned the next day to use our fast pass tickets, the CM that took them said "Oh no, yesterday too?"  So this seems to be a regular occurrence with the new Frozen Ever After.

   It was all tied up in a neat little package.  Our first ride on Frozen Ever After and our first Ride Evacuation at Walt Disney World.

Move along, nothing to see here.

Going back in to the building

I think the CM's were getting a kick out of seeing a 56 year old man getting so tickled over being "86'd" from the ride.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

BABY "X-FACTOR"... "2.0"

   It was over 5 years ago, that I wrote about the "X-Factor" trip - our first WDW trip with a toddler.  It was the trip with our only (at the time) Grandchild, and I just was not sure how it would turn out.  With some good planning, and good fortune, it turned out to be a great trip, and our little 15 month old "Grandy #1" did really well.  She would fall asleep in the stroller, and wake up in a great mood.  It all went pretty smooth.
Grandy #1 - Jan. 2011 - Mission accomplished!

   It was now time for the "rematch" with Grandy #2.  She was 8 months older than her big Sister was for her first WDW trip.  She had been to Disneyland 8 months before this trip, and we were veterans of multiple WDW visits.  We had plenty of confidence, but still, you just never know!  Daddy had to work, and would not be with us on this visit, so it was just "Grandpa Dan & his 4 Sweeties"!

The group for the May 2016 trip
   We got a non-stop flight and went for it!  I would say that non-stop is the only way to fly when you have a younger child.  We didn't have to go through the boarding process twice, and a taste of freedom could have been hard on her.  She did great, a little bit of crying was hardly noticed, since we were on a plane full of kids heading to Orlando.  She pretty much just blended in, and really didn't fuss very much!  Step 1: GETTING THERE.  No problem!

    Her little body clock adapted pretty well, and she was up and running for our few rope drop days.  Since our first 2 nights were at The Polynesian Village resort, we took advantage of being so close to The Magic Kingdom and started the trip with an arrival evening, and a Sunday "Rope Drop" spent at MK.

The "First Ride Look" never gets old, and Big Sister STILL has it!
   Our first Grandy had her first ever WDW ride on The Gran Fiesta Tour at Epcot, and we never forgot that.  For Grandy #2, her first ever WDW ride was The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, we will always remember that now!

   The "Rider Switch" (aka "Baby Swap") worked to our older Granddaughter's advantage, giving her back-to-back rides on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for her first time on the new coaster! Grandma got a 2nd ride too!  It was a great evening which included a little dancing with Frozone & The Incredibles in Tomorrowland at the Dance Party.
We told our older Grandy to "thank" her little Sister for that 2nd ride!

   The next morning's Rope Drop went smooth.  And after hitting 5 straight "walk on" rides, it was time for lunch at Be Our Guest, and then we stuck to our game plan, and went back to the Polynesian.  Grandy #2 (& Mommy) had a nice little nap, while Grandy #1 got some pool time with Grandpa & Grandma.  Then a refreshed Mommy was able to take Grandy #1 back to the MK, while Grandpa/Grandma rested with Grandy #2.  We then met up for a wonderful dinner at The Grand Floridian Cafe, and then a nice early evening after dinner stroll from The Grand Flo back to The Poly.
Beach time at The Polynesian is fun  ...even if you can't go into the water!

Minnie was so glad we came to see her again!
    After our 2nd and last night at The Polynesian Village, we took our luggage to Bell Services for transport to The Boardwalk, and headed out to Chef Mickey's.  This was one of those "Should we or Shouldn't we" parts of the trip planning.  We just didn't know how Grandy #2 would react to those gigantic characters, but we decided to go for it.  So glad we did!

Yes, she wasn't too thrilled about having the characters come up close to her, but as long as there was a little distance between them, she was fine, waving and clapping along with everyone else in the place.  Of course Grandy #1 loved reuniting with the "Fab Five".  It turned out to be a highlight of the trip!

   After Breakfast, we bused it over to Disney Hollywood Studios.  Another attraction we weren't too sure about was The Frozen Sing-A-Long.  We just weren't sure how well the little one would do waiting in the Queue area and then sitting through a show.  Hey, it's FROZEN! C'mon now, she did great!  Both girls were fascinated with the show, and a little air conditioning goes a long way in making your touring day pleasant!
Do you think "Grandy #2" was awestruck by the Frozen Sing-A-Long?
   We enjoyed using our fast passes, Star Tours was down, so they gave us a fastpass for other attractions, and we headed for The Great Movie Ride.  "Baby X-Factor 2.0" loved it!  We thought the Alien section might scare her, but... no problem!
Not only was she not "scared"... she LOVED The Great Movie Ride!

   After a nice time at The Studios, we took the walk over to The Boardwalk to check in to our room, and get some dinner.  The Boardwalk (like The Polynesian) was a first for all of us, and we were greeted with a little surprise.
Pool View was a nice surprise!

We booked a standard 1 BR villa, but were given a Pool/Water view room on the top floor, and it was wonderful!  They brought us our luggage, and groceries from Garden Grocer, and we were all settled in.  Dinner at Big River Grille, and a nice dip in the pool.  A great day.

   It was Epcot Flower & Garden Festival time,  we weren't sure how our stroller girl would do spending hours roaming around Epcot's World Showcase.  She passed another test.  She didn't care much for the offerings from the food booths, but as long as she had her snacks to nibble on, she was a happy camper.  She was rewarded with rides on Journey into Imagination with Figment, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.  Her big Sister was rewarded with back-to-back rides on Test Track thanks to the "Rider Switch", and Grandpa got in on that!  A Fast Pass for Spaceship Earth and we were ready to head back to The Boardwalk.
Plenty of water is always important at WDW!
   We didn't have an ADR for Via Napoli, but we figured on the way out we'd give it a try, and we were able to snag a table for that amazing Pizza and Pasta!

   Wed. was our "non-park" day, so we headed over to Disney Springs.  Lunch at Morimoto Asia was wonderful.  Grandy #2 handled it pretty well, Lap Napkins and Chopsticks can be pretty fun!  The food was great, and we spent most of the day wandering around this newly renovated Shopping/Dining/Entertainment district.  They have done a great job and there is still more additions going on.
Chopsticks are FUN!

   We made it back in time to get a table at Trattoria Al Forno on The Boardwalk for dinner.  We went up to our room and enjoyed sitting out on the balcony talking and enjoying the view.

   Thursday was our Animal Kingdom day.  We got there early enough to do a "Rope Drop" and were able to do two rides on Expedition Everest before our first fast pass time arrived.  I made sure to pick FP+'s that our little Grandy #2 could enjoy.  Kilimanjaro Safari, It's Tough to be a Bug, and a FP for The Festival of the Lion King were all good picks that the whole group could enjoy.  Lunch at Flame Tree BBQ, a ride on Triceratop Spin, and we were ready to head over to The Boneyard.
The kids really "dig" this place!
   This is a must for anyone with little ones.  Slides, bridges, a big sandpit with plastic shovels and buckets.  Both Grandys loved every minute of exploration here.  Another must for little ones is Rafiki's Planet Watch.
You ride a train over to it, and it has animal exhibits that little ones just can't get enough of.
Little ones can't get enough time at the petting zoo

We even got to meet Rafiki his self! 
The petting zoo is a must for kids of all ages, and if you are really into wildlife, there are cast members who can answer all of your questions about the whole park.

   We had a 4:20pm ADR for Beaches & Cream at The Beach Club, so we headed over to The Beach Club Resort for our dinner.  This place is colorful, and fun for the whole family.  Good diner food, and awesome ice cream treats are their specialty.  Famous for it's "Kitchen Sink Sundae" which is made with 8 scoops of ice cream, every topping in the house, and a whole can of whipped cream! 
The "No Way Jose"
Along with some brownies, nuts, and other goodies, all served in an actual... "Kitchen Sink"!  We didn't have enough stomachs for the Kitchen Sink, but we did share a "No Way Jose Sundae" (Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Fudge & Peanut Butter).
Grandpa made a great hammock on the bus!

   We strolled around and enjoyed the charm of The Boardwalk/Beach Club/Yacht Club area before heading back to the room.

   Friday was our last full day of the trip.  We wanted to go back to Epcot for some more Flower & Garden Festivities.  Lunch consisted of treats from the different food booths around The World Showcase. We were amazed at how uncrowded the lines were for the food booths compared to the annual Food & Wine Festival.  Even though there aren't nearly as many booths, the lines are practically non-existent and that's really a plus.

Grandpa invited Grandy #2 to watch boxing with him

...but she preferred to watch cartoons with Grandma!

   Grandpa & Grandma were a little worn out, but not too tired to trek back to Epcot and see The Spinners in Concert at the American Gardens Theater.  Mama entertained the kiddos while the oldsters were enjoying some classic pop sounds!

Grandma & Grandpa ready for The Spinners!
What a great way to end a fantastic WDW trip!

    Saturday was our departure day, but we were not finished with the fun.  Our flight didn't leave until 4:55pm, so we had until almost 2pm before we had to be at the Magical Express Bus Stop.  We had something to eat at The Boardwalk Bakery, and walked over to Disney Hollywood Studios.
Heading over to The Studios for one last "blast"!
    Finished up with Tower of Terror, and Rock n' Rollercoaster for the big kids, then headed over to the ABC Commissary for lunch.
Somebody was dreaming about Walt Disney World on the way home

   The flight back turned out to be pretty good.  Again, another non-stop flight, but this time, Surprise! - "Baby X-Factor" fell asleep about half way home!

   If anyone reading this is debating about taking a toddler to WDW, I would suggest that you stop wondering, and start planning.  These two trips did take a little extra strength, and planning, but it was SO WORTH IT!  We have memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives.  Do the kiddos remember the trip?  Probably bits and pieces, but WE remember these trips, and someday we can share stories with our little Grandys about their first times at Walt Disney World.  They will look at the photos and say WOW!
Pool Time!

   Now if you will excuse us, Grandma and I have to start planning our next Disney trip... before the Grandys get too old!