by Kimberly LaPaglia | Jan 22, 2018 | Caribbean, Europe, National Parks, Travel, U.S. Travel
Surreal Places Series: Travel Locations You Must See
As you start narrowing down your next adventure, consider these surreal places and spaces. These are the first suggestions in our new series focusing on travel locations you must see!
Conjuring up visions of locations that you can barely imagine? Well, the ancient site of Pompeii, would fit that dream. As you take in the ruins, it’s difficult to juxtapose the tragic disaster that occurred in A.D. 79 with the peaceful, majestic Mount Vesuvius of today. While trying to grasp the magnitude of the volcanic eruption, you’ll also be exploring an archaeological site (with homes and streets!) that is so much larger than pictures portray.
Pompeii is a hauntingly surreal place.
This is one place that really messed with my mind. And I feel compelled to visit again — to try to take in the magnitude of this hauntingly, beautiful excavation.
I love traveling by train in Europe; it’s a convenient transportation option especially while traveling through a foreign country. The train stop nearest the excavation is Pompei Scavi-Villa Misteri. It’s a very short walk to the entrance, however you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking for the better part of your day, plus the surface is uneven so watch your footing.
United States Virgin Islands
A popular land and cruise based vacation spot, St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands boasts a stunning harbor near Charlotte Amalie. My favorite way to enjoy this view is on from the balcony of a cruise ship.
Blue turquoise water soothes the soul at St. Thomas, USVI.
On St. Croix, an excursion to Little La Grange will entice your senses. A 19th century plantation turned cattle ranch, the house is now the Lawaetz Family Museum showcasing family antiques. Spend time touring the impeccable grounds with tropical flowers and trees.
The gorgeous Little La Grange Plantation House and grounds on St. Croix.
The grounds at Little La Grange.
Headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands? Do not miss St. John for tranquility. In fact, swimming at Trunk Bay Beach is one of my all-time favorite memories. Add it to your vacation itinerary for playing in warm waters amidst an unspoiled setting. We took a boat from St. Thomas to St. John, however, I’m dreaming about an actual stay on St. John! How about you?!
Zion National Park, Utah
Experience the beauty of the steep, red cliffs of Zion National Park. Nestled in this surreal place are forest trails cut alongside the babbling Virgin River.
Zion National Park is a contrast of red steep cliffs and green forested trails.
Of all the parks that we have visited, this is my teen son’s favorite. From horseback riding to hiking, Zion offers a multitude of family activities.
Even teens appreciate the surreal beauty of Zion!
Plan to hike and/or horseback ride in the morning or evening. Avoid the hottest afternoon hours; the heat was brutal during our vacation in late May – early June.
Recommended Lodging: Desert Pearl Inn in Springdale, Utah.
Desert Pearl Inn, Springdale, Utah.
Stay tuned for our second part in the Surreal Places Series, plus watch for in-depth reviews of our recommended surreal places to inspire your vacation plans.
Have you been to any of these surreal places?
Where should we (and our readers) go next?
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Nov 11, 2017 | Disney, Walt Disney World
Families headed to Walt Disney World for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday will find the parks and resorts already decorated in their holiday best.
Disney’s Grand Floridian during the holiday season.
WDW will be immersed in a wonderland of candy canes, ornaments, and catchy seasonal tunes. Remember, you won’t see much décor with pilgrims, the Christmas trimmings will add to the festivities. Yes, you’ll need to embrace the holiday season along with your Thanksgiving meal.
Gratefully, your family won’t go hungry as there will be a bounty of menu options. From quick, casual meals with traditional entrees to table service meals with specialty fixings, your loved ones can easily find a familiar holiday meal on Thanksgiving day.
The “Yacht Club” Club Sandwich at The Boathouse.
In fact, you’ll find 28 dining locations offering a full buffet or special plated meal of traditional turkey day cuisine. Some of the places that your family can feast are:
• Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – Lunch and dinner
• Biergarten Restaurant – Lunch and dinner
• Chef Mickey’s – Dinner only
• Coral Reef Restaurant – Lunch and dinner
• Jiko – The Cooking Place – Dinner only
• Le Cellier Steakhouse – Lunch and dinner
• Olivia’s Cafe – Lunch and dinner
• The Wave… of American Flavors – Lunch and dinner
• Whispering Canyon Cafe – Lunch and dinner
Carving Board Dinner at Port Orleans Riverside.
More festive flavors will be offered at:
- Magic Kingdom’s Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Café – turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and gravy.
- Plus, Pinocchio’s Village Haus has Thanksgiving-inspired flatbread that is offered all month. The menu boasts cheese, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce drizzled in gravy.
- Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons – turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce for lunch and dinner.
- Animal Kingdom’s Satu’li Canteen will feature the Na’vi’s version of a holiday meal. On Pandora, wood-grilled roasted turkey breast with gravy, apple and sage stuffing, green beans, orange marmalade glazed sweet potatoes with candied pecans, mashed potatoes and cranberry boba pearls will be served; available in both adult and kids’ portions. You’ll find a delicious pumpkin cheesecake mousse for dessert.
- Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs is offering a Thanksgiving roast turkey special.
Or… you might want to make the holiday even more memorable by noshing on a turkey leg or a decidedly non-traditional meal like Via Napoli’s Italian offerings in Epcot’s Italy pavilion.
Pizza at Via Napoli.
Suggested Thanksgiving Itineraries
- Reserve a carriage ride. Dine at your hotel food court. Take a walk around your resort. Visit Disney Springs for dessert. End your evening with miniature golf.
- At Epcot, take in some of the shows around World Showcase that you’ve skipped on other trips. Collect photographs with characters. Stop by the Liberty Inn for dinner; get cobbler for dessert.
- Go horseback riding at Fort Wilderness and then have a take-out meal/picnic from P&Js Southern Takeout. Take the boat to Disney’s Contemporary Resort to check out the holiday decorations. Board the monorail and visit the Polynesian Village and Grand Floridian resorts; pose for family photos in front of the holiday trees for your Christmas cards.
- Find a football game on in one of the resort lounges before going to dinner at your resort hotel. Take a walk around the BoardWalk, then get ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery.
Take a walk around the boardwalk from Beach Club to BoardWalk.
Go shopping at Disney Springs, graze at the quick service spots, then go see a movie. I love the idea of having an appetizer at one place, entree at the next, and finishing up with dessert at another location.
See a movie.
Thanksgiving Day Planning
If you’re just planning a last minute trip to Walt Disney World, don’t despair. While most restaurants are booked to capacity, you won’t go hungry. Some restaurants still have availability and many quick service venues offer delicious meals. Next year, plan 180 days in advance to secure your first-choice Advance Dining Reservations.
The most popular restaurants, including Liberty Tree Tavern, offer traditional meals in a memorable atmosphere.
No reservation? Think of an alternate plan; for example, try Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square. Get your meal, then dine upstairs on the second floor.
Find quaint seating on the second floor of the Columbia Harbour House.
Thanksgiving Touring Plans
Your Thanksgiving touring plans should accommodate the crowds. Utilize FastPass+; checking for last minute availability as some families will decide they are too tired to tour after their holiday feasts. Plan to use single rider lines.
Eat a holiday meal at your reserved restaurant. Hit up a park and ride the overlooked attractions that have little wait. How long has it been since you’ve seen Carousel of Progress or rode the train around the Magic Kingdom? Finish the night with a caramel apple on Main Street U.S.A.
Finish your holiday with an old-fashioned treat.
Look for information on the Thanksgiving Parade of Bands. This mass marching band performance includes award-winning bands from around the country, along with the Boston Brass. They have performed traditionally at 2PM in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Finally, don’t forget about Black Friday at Disney Springs! Arrive around opening time at Disney Springs for an uncrowded experience and some fun deals. Crowds pick up around 11AM.
Plan some time at Disney Springs.
Walt Disney World Holidays are always fun. With our tips you’ll find navigating Thanksgiving at WDW to be memorable. Turkey dinner has a variety of options; look for quick service meals featuring a traditional menu or full service restaurants offering special plated entrees.
From carriage rides, movies, and fishing to shows, rides, and shopping, Walt Disney World serves up a bounty of Thanksgiving fun!
We’ll be in Walt Disney World for the Thanksgiving week. We hope you’ll follow our holiday explorations; we plan to dine at Tusker House for our holiday dinner!
Share your Thanksgiving holiday experiences at WDW with us.
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Nov 5, 2017 | Disney, WDW Resorts
Romance at Walt Disney World: Favorite Hotels for Couples
Romance at Walt Disney World?! If you’re reading this article, you are either looking for romantic ideas for your Walt Disney World vacation or you are wondering how couples are finding lovely moments to share at a theme park.
I’m writing this so that you don’t doubt for a moment that couples can find romance at Walt Disney World. I’ve got date suggestions coming soon too. For now, let’s delve into the hotels at Walt Disney World. This photographic tour will point out our favorite hotels for couples at WDW.
Join us on this romantic journey; better yet, grab your sweetheart, a fabulous beverage, and start planning your trip together.
In the spirit of fairytales, these resorts inspire us to dream in settings similar to the Disney classics. Reserve a room at any of these hotels and let their charm woo you and your beloved.
Disney’s Grand Floridian
Some guests love the old world charm, others find it a little too reminiscent of their grandmother’s parlor. Either way, look a little closer at Disney’s Grand Floridian.
Let time go by at the GF Lobby.
Yes, I have a bias here. Michael and I honeymooned at the GF; we also have spent many anniversaries holding hands and staring up at the gabled roofs.
Victorian elegance at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
What makes it so grand? It’s a quiet evening listening to the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.
Request your favorite tune!
A waterside table at Narcoossee’s will have fireworks flying between the two of you. Don’t forget to find the perfect spot to watch fireworks from the resort. We recommend a table or the patio at Narcoossee’s, a Magic Kingdom fireworks cruise from the marina, a balcony from your lagoon view room, or a cozy spot on the dock.
Narcoossee’s waterfront restaurant
With a spa, a lobby filled with fresh cut flowers, an assortment of restaurants, beautiful rooms (request a dormer or “attic” room), maids on parade (do they still do this?!), two featured pools, and a view of Cinderella’s Castle, the Grand Floridian should definitely be a top choice for your romantic weekend or week-long stay.
Disney’s GF is GRAND.
Our most romantic moment ever in Walt Disney World? Renewing our vows for our tenth wedding anniversary!
Our 10th anniversary vow renewal.
We rode in Cinderella’s Coach, exchanged vows at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, had a small reception at the Grand Floridian, and ended the evening with an Epcot IllumiNations dessert party for our family and friends.
Disney’s BoardWalk Resort
At first glance, the BoardWalk Resort seems to be too busy for romance. However, the goings-on at the BoardWalk add to the mystique.
Evening at the BoardWalk.
For rooms, we recommend a Concierge garden view or a two-story garden villa with a charming and private entrance. Rooms facing the boardwalk will be noisier so do request a quieter location.
Club Level Garden Rooms have private gardens!
Quiet morning or evening strolls around the BoardWalk or a walk to Epcot’s World Showcase for a memorable meal are just some of the reasons the BoardWalk is sure to steal your heart.
We recommend escaping to the Belle Vue Lounge to toast your own love story before lounging in your room.
Concierge room at BoardWalk Inn.
Then, head down to Ample Hills Creamery to indulge in an ice cream flight.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Set under a thatched room in an exotic setting, the Animal Kingdom Lodge will delight your senses. Wood crackling fires, intoxicating smells, a sprawling pool with shaded lounge chairs, moonlight illuminating a giraffe on the savanna — these are all reasons to cozy up to your loved one at this unique resort.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby
We love exploring the nooks and crannies of AKL. There’s always some where to sit back and take in the wonders of the lodge. Or sneak kisses at an outdoor overlook. At night, sip grown up beverages in the Victoria Falls Lounge or stop by the campfire at Arusha Overlook.
Firepit with cozy rocking chairs.
You’ll find both Jambo House and Kidani Village to offer romantic surroundings.
Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter
What moderately priced hotel at Walt Disney World exudes charm? For us, it’s Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter.
Sit by the fountain.
The wrought iron railings, lantern lighting, paved walkways, and gorgeous fountains beckon lovers on romantic walks.
Take an early evening stroll.
Along the way, you’ll run into the Sassagoula River with water gently lapping against the riverbank. Around the bend, is our next choice for romance and it’s another moderate resort…
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside
For a romantic stay, we recommend requesting a room in one of the three-story mansion buildings. Grand staircases, bubbling fountains, and white stately columns welcome guests at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort.
Gorgeous fountain at Riverside.
A stroll through the mansion section of this resort soothes weary souls.
You’ll find your hearts melting as you admire the horse-drawn carriage slowly meandering through the lush landscaping with picturesque azaleas and magnolias lining the way. Reserve your extra-fee ride in advance by calling (407) WDW-PLAY.
Horse-drawn Carriage Ride.
In the late evening, take a walk to French Quarter and share beignets with your sweetie.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Exotic flowers and dark woods are featured throughout the lobby of the Polynesian Village. Romance is in the air in the colorful but soothing Great Ceremonial House.
Cute Tiki Statue welcomes guests to the south seas atmosphere at Polynesian Village.
Watch for hula lessons; extra points if you both join in! Afterwards, find a warm and cozy place in the tropical themed lobby.
At night, the tiki torches will light your way as you stroll to a beachside hammock with a Dole Whip to share from Pineapple Lanai.
Tiki Torches light your way.
Lovebirds will find lots to do: sip a Lapu Lapu out of a coconut, find a serene spot to sit at the quiet pool, listen to the sounds of the ferry boat in the distance, enjoy a beverage at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.
Visit Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.
Purchase some wine and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts to enjoy in your room or at your private Oasis patio right by the pool.
Wine and Chocolate Macadamia Nuts!
The above are all solid options for a romantic getaway at Walt Disney World. With the right planning, most hotels at Disney World can be romantic. Just add a picnic meal, a beverage in the moonlight, or hold hands while watching an outdoor movie. For rates and availability, visit my Disney Vacation Planning page.
Finally, make sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay tuned for in-depth hotel reviews.
What’s your favorite romantic Disney hotel? Contact Us or Follow Us on Facebook (or any of our social media channels) and share your photos!