by Kimberly LaPaglia | Jul 20, 2017 | Disney, Florida, Grand Floridian, Victorian, WDW Deluxe Resorts, WDW Resorts
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Wander into Disney’s Grand Floridian (GF) and time starts to slip away — back to the Victorian era. Whether you’re stopping by for a respite or staying at the Grand, the breathtaking lobby will beckon you to sit a spell. While marveling at the ornate decor underneath stained glass domes, find a cozy chair, then listen to the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra (GFSO).
Let time go by at the GF Lobby.
THIS is one of my favorite places to relax while in Walt Disney World.
Grand Floridian’s second floor seating.
From their prime real estate on a second floor balcony, the Grand Floridian Orchestra perches high above the immense lobby. When the live music starts, it seems to float throughout the multi-storied room, where guests listen from elegant seats on the first and second floors.
Grand Floridian Lobby.
Others listen from Mizner’s Lounge nestled just behind the band.
Evenings at the Grand Floridan are even more enchanting once the band starts to play their ragtime, Dixie, and jazz music with some Disney tunes mixed into the playlist.
These refined musicians have been led by drummer Patrick Doyle. For 44 years, Patrick was a full time musician at Walt Disney World until he semi-retired in July 2016; he now plays two nights per week.
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
GF Trivia: The Tennessee Waltz was played every day for the “Teddy Bear Lady” as it was one of Lynn’s favorite songs. Lynn would visit the GF often with her husband, Bruce, and then daily after her beloved husband passed away. Last I had heard (and correct me if I’m wrong), she was in hospice care. Her visits are greatly missed by the Cast Members as well as many patrons of the Grand Floridian. If you have an update on this lovely lady, please share in the comments. I recall seeing her as she listened to the music on many of our GF stays and visits.
And don’t forget to request one of your favorite songs.
When You Wish Upon A Star.
Request your favorite tune!
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra Schedule
The current daily schedule has performances listed at 4PM, 5:20PM, 6:25PM, 7:35PM, and 9PM.
Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Get ready to mark your Disney vacation calendars! On Sundays and Mondays, the following Grand Floridian Society Orchestra Band Members entertain guests:
- Bobby Pickwood – Bandleader/Trumpet, Cornet, and Flugelhorn
- Jeff Phillips – Piano
- Doug Mathews – String Bass
- Paul Parker – Drums
- Dick Fote – Trombone
- Gene Hunn – Flute, Clarinet, Bass, Tenor, and Soprano Saxophone
If you visit Tuesday through Saturday, the GFSO band members are:
- Patrick Doyle – Bandleader/Drums
- John Katalenic – Piano
- Charlie Silva – String Bass and Electric Bass
- Davy Jones – Trumpet, Cornet, and Flugelhorn
- Harold Johnson – Trombone/Vocal
- Rex Wertz – Flute, Clarinet, Bass, Tenor, and Soprano Saxophone
Dates, times, musicians are subject to change.
It’s difficult to find time to see and do everything at Walt Disney World; I get it. It’s also challenging to find time to rest on a vacation that mostly centers around theme parks. Spending time at the WDW resorts is a fun arrival day activity before your Disney days become crazy busy.
So, when you need to escape the throngs of crowds standing in loud queues, make your way to Disney’s Grand Floridian and let the sweet sounds of the Grand Floridian Society soothe your ears, your heart, and your soul.
Contact Us, Follow Us on Twitter, or comment below to share your Grand Floridian Orchestra experiences.
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Mar 31, 2017 | Disney, Disney Food, Disney Restaurants, Disney Springs, Florida, Walt Disney World
Disney Springs Tips for Parents: Taking the Kids
Whether you’re visiting Walt Disney World for a week-long stay or passing through Orlando on a jaunt to the Space Coast, Disney Springs deserves a spot in your itinerary! Yes, even with little kids in tow. Let’s look at some Disney Springs tips for parents…
For starters, you’ll want to visit at a less busy time and since those little ones are known to be early risers, I would suggest getting to Disney Springs by the 10am opening time. Visit some of our suggested stops, then choose a place to dine for lunch.
What’s the attraction? Well, there are LEGOS to build, boats to transport tired feet, a carousel to ride, splash fountains for cooling off, and Mr. Potato Head figures to create! And you’ve barely opened your wallet for those activities.
Ride the Marketplace Carousel
Tip: If you know your child won’t be satisfied playing with the LEGOS without buying a new set that isn’t in your budget this time, then skip it and continue to a less stressful activity. You know your little one best!
I always want to write amphibicar for this attraction. But no, it’s an amphicar. Everyone loves to stop and watch these totally adorable vehicles make their way from dry land to splashdown in Lake Buena Vista.
Actual rides are pricey but it’s free fun to watch. Boat tours run 10am to 10pm, weather permitting. For $150, you’ll get a 20-minute voyage. Sorry, a captain drives the boat; you’re just along for the ride. Ask about the $25 off special for those lunching between 11am and 3pm. Lunch and launch!
Don’t you want an amphicar? I do!
Grab a nearby Gelato at Vivoli il Gelato and enjoy the view!
Why choose only one flavor of gelato?
Disney’s Pin Traders
If you have a freshly-minted pin collector, a die-hard trader, or a little one that likes browsing shiny things, Disney’s Pin Traders is a stop the whole family can enjoy.
Mecca of shiny pins
Pin collecting can be fun for the whole family.
Find your favorite pins
Build Your Own Lightsaber
Star Wars Galactic Outpost and Once Upon A Toy offer a fun diversion for padawans.
Stop by and build your own lightsaber
Both locations boast create your own lightsabers at kid-friendly stations.
Play time for padawans
Most of the time, I see kids playing here for a bit and then leaving. I’m not sure real little ones even know they are available for purchase. This could be a budget-friendly stop if the “this is just a play station approach” works for your family.
Characters in Flight
I’m not fond of heights but if you are a-okay at 400 feet up in the air, this ride on a tethered helium balloon affords tremendous views of the area (or so I’ve been told).
Ascend 400 feet
Current prices are $20 for adults and $15 for kids. Kids under age 9 must be accompanied by an adult 18 or over.
You can ride the elevator if you have small kids in strollers, otherwise I recommend taking the ramp walkway to the top. Tire out those kids; that’s what I’m thinking. Up top, you’ll have a fantastic view of Disney Springs.
View from the rooftop at Coca-Cola store
It’s free. And it’ll save you some steps from one end of Disney Springs to the other. Three docks are available: Marketplace, The Landing, and West Side. Plus, a soothing boat ride could result in a pleasantly sleepy child. 😉
Sassagoula River Boats
Tip: For a longer voyage, take the Sassagoula River Cruise over to Port Orleans French Quarter. We recommend stopping by the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory for a shareable treat of beignets.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Make an appointment 180 days in advance for the very popular Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for your royal offspring ages 3-12. Girls love the glittery princess makeovers and boys enjoy showing off their knight or pirate transformations.
Magical transformations take place inside
When I see a little princess shimmering, I can’t help but tell her how beautiful she looks. Say “Hi Princess” and enjoy the smile you’ll get in return.
Save a bundle by packing a princess-like dress or other costume from home. Packages begin at $59.95 for princesses and rise to $199.95 if you purchase one of their gowns. Knights run $19.95.
Music Concerts and Dance Parties
Look to the Fountain Stage for musical entertainment.
Musical groups perform at Disney Springs
Grab a nearby snack and take in some music by school-age performers. I’ve seen many little ones dancing at the Marketplace and Fountain stages; it’s a great place to burn off some wiggles before heading back to your resort for a mid-day rest.
Get up and dance
For YEARS, this store was a must stop for our family.
Playing at LEGO table
From life-size LEGO figures to build your own creations, this store is pure eye candy for LEGO lovers.
Indoor and outdoor fun at the Lego Store
Stop by for great photo ops.
World of Disney Store
Toys, stuffed animals, character crayons, and more pull the weariest of shoppers into the World of Disney store. And that’s just the merchandise. The décor is also amazing in this world’s largest Disney character shop! Go early; it gets insanely crowded.
Fun with birthday funds
Once Upon A Toy Store
Yes, this toy store is fun to explore.
It’s fun exploring Once Upon A Toy
Plus, you’ll find hands-on activities (build your own lightsabers, droids, and Mr. Potato Heads); purchasing these creations is optional.
Build your own Mr. Potato Head
Don’t forget to pose with Buzz Lightyear in front of the store.
Buzz is so cool
Food is Fun
You’ll want to have a pretty good idea before you arrive Disney Springs as to what you want to spend for snacks and dining.
Mickey Dome Cake at Amorette’s Patisserie
Once there, you’ll be inundated with tasty temptations.
Food trucks are fun
One of our favorite hang-outs is Goofy’s Candy Co.
Look for fun and tasty treats at Goofy’s Candy Co.
Here, the bakery case is filled with delightful treats. Wander in a bit further and you’ll find some make your own creations available.
If it’s a rainy day, we recommend catching a movie at AMC Disney Springs 24. For extra points with the kids, choose one of the Dine-In Theatres.
See a movie on a rainy day
Whether you venture inside to rent a lane or find an outdoor seat to sip beverages out of a souvenir bowling pin, Splitsville is an entertaining venue.
Splitsville offers indoor and outdoor entertainment
Plus… there’s so much more at Disney Springs! Keep an eye out for the T-Rex Cafe, Rainforest Cafe, Sprinkles Cupcakes, a small train ride, splash fountains, a Marvel Super Hero Headquarters store, gorgeous lake vistas, and the list goes on.
Note: All prices are subject to change. Tax is usually additional.
What does your family enjoy at Disney Springs? Share in the comments below.
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Mar 27, 2017 | Florida, Travel, Universal Studios
Universal Orlando Announces Budget Hotel
Watch for more Universal Orlando hotel rooms at a new budget resort
Nearly three months ago, Universal Orlando began demolition on the old Wet ‘n Wild property. We can now confirm that Universal Orlando plans to add a 4,000 room hotel to that site! Upon completion, this new hotel will boast a thousand more rooms than Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter/Riverside resort.
While Universal’s Florida resort already offers guests five different hotel options, this new hotel will fill the need for budget rooms priced $100-$120 per night. The price will likely be appropriate considering that guests will need to travel from the opposite side of I-4 in order to access Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks and Universal CityWalk. Transportation options have not been announced yet.
Will you stay at Universal with this new budget option? We can’t wait to follow further developments. Stay tuned to The Castle Concierge.
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Jan 3, 2017 | Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Florida
Cape Canaveral, Florida is one of our favorite locations in the United States because it’s home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a cruise ship port, and the beautiful Atlantic ocean. Most recently, we visited for a rocket launch!
View a Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral
We’ve toured the Kennedy Space Center and taken several cruises from Port Canaveral. One of our most memorable trips — a cruise and rocket launch — on the same day!
Prior to boarding the Disney Wonder on January 19, 2006.
While NASA has launched rockets from the Cape for over sixty years, we’ve only witnessed two of them in person. We’ve tried several times to see more launches, however, timing (work and school), weather (Florida thunderstorms!), and technical issues have interfered.
New Horizons Rocket Launch
On January 19, 2006, Michael, Nic, and I embarked on the Disney Cruise Line’s ship, Disney Wonder. We were excited to board the beautiful ship and head out to sea. After boarding, we learned we were in for a special send-off. NASA was launching New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe, with a planned Pluto Fly-by for July 14, 2015!
Instead of heading to our stateroom to settle in, we found a great location up on deck to view the launch. We couldn’t believe our good fortune.
At 2pm, New Horizons lifted off!
New Horizons lifts off
New Horizons rocket launch from Disney Wonder
Launch of New Horizons
New Horizons blasts off from Cape Canaveral
The fun continued for years. We kept track of New Horizons throughout Nic’s childhood. Finally, when Nic was 15, New Horizons made its historical flight past Pluto.
Atlas V Rocket Launch
After several missed launches the past couple of years, we found ourselves at the right place and time for an Atlas V rocket launch. On the morning and afternoon of November 19, 2016, we had a scheduled tour for Nic at Florida Institute of Technology. In the evening, we took the easy drive from Melbourne to Cape Canaveral; still amazed by our good fortune.
Nic and Michael waiting for rocket launch
We found a great parking spot along Nasa Parkway East (a strip of road in the middle of the Banana River) and facing Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41.
Nasa Parkway East Rocket Launch Viewing Area
Looking towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center
Typical of rocketry, we were in for a tense wait. During the hour-long launch window, the timing was pushed back numerous times. When there was one last chance to launch by 6:42pm, the Atlas V finally lit up the sky!
Atlas V Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral
Thankfully, it was a successful blast-off of United Alliance’s Atlas V rocket carrying a next-generation weather satellite. And we were there to see it!
Cape Canaveral History
Cape Canaveral wasn’t America’s first launch site though. In the 1940s, many of the first U.S. rockets launched from White Sands Missile Range situated in the New Mexico desert. While this desert location is plenty remote, larger rockets required a site that would be less dangerous to the general public. So, on July 24, 1950, Cape Canaveral launched its first rocket over a safer spot — the Atlantic Ocean.
White Sands Missile Range
Cape Canaveral Future
Rocket launches can be viewed from many public areas as well as with reserved tickets at Kennedy Space Center.
We hope to watch future launches of the new Space Launch System. And with SpaceX and Blue Origin continuing to bring their rocket launches to the area, the Cape is sure to be an uplifting place to visit!
Have you seen a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral? Share with us in the comments!
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Dec 14, 2016 | Castles, Florida, Travel, U.S. Travel, Universal Studios
Why Stay at Universal Studios Florida®?
It’s not as overwhelming as a trip to Walt Disney World. In fact, you can actually have a fun-filled time with only a two night stay at Universal Studios Florida.
Here’s How to Create a Two-Night Stay:
- Plan your getaway. You’ll need to be within easy driving distance the morning that you plan to check in to your hotel. As we had toured Florida Institute of Technology, the night before our stay, we were only about 45 minutes away. Don’t forget to pre-order your tickets and make a reservation at an onsite hotel.
- On your first touring day, arrive early to your resort. We had reservations at Loews Royal Pacific resort. Park, leave your luggage in your vehicle, bring your pre-paid ticket voucher, and Check In. Your room will likely not be ready but that’s okay. Your goal is to get your tickets and head to the parks! Check In is a breeze here. With your admission tickets in hand, your next stop is the Universal Express kiosk in the hotel lobby. Here, you’ll get your picture taken and once your card is in hand, head to a park for early admission.
- Review the early park admission calendar to personalize your plans. This is the best time to get pictures of the intricate details of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!
Immerse yourself in Diagon Alley
- After Harry Potter, visit other popular attractions like Skull Island: Reign of Kong™ before the crowds begin to pour in. Then start to visit the less visited attractions.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong is an incredible adventure!
- Plan an early lunch to avoid long lines.
- Plan a time for an afternoon break, once you receive a text that your room is ready. When you arrive back at the hotel, bring in your luggage and rest a few minutes. The ease of walking from the parks to Royal Pacific avoids any transportation struggles.
- Plan to dine on your return to the hotel or your way back into one of the parks. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen™ is a great choice! We’ll be back with a review soon!
The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
- Tour the less visited attractions when crowds are still thick in the early evening. This is a good time to head to Seuss Landing™ as parents are beginning to take their kids to dinner and head out of the park.
Visit Seuss Landing in late afternoon or evening
- About two hours before closing, you can start to watch wait times for the more popular attractions. This is also a great time to visit any of the Harry Potter attractions, especially the Interactive Wand exhibits. We absolutely love hanging out at the Hog’s Head tavern in Hogsmeade and toasting to our vacation with butterbeer!
Even on a crowded day, Hog’s Head is dead at the end of the night.
My favorite beverage at the tavern is Frozen Butterbeer!
- After park closing, visit CityWalk for a snack or return directly to your hotel.
- For your second day, take advantage of early park admission, and repeat the day one tips. You’ll want to get to any attractions that you missed the first day as well as return to your favorites.
Explore the nooks and crannies of Diagon Alley
- Finally, don’t try to see and do everything. Take your time and really savor the attractions, shows, and restaurants that you do visit.
On-Site Theme Park Hotels
The advantage of staying at a hotel onsite is that you’ll get a few benefits that are extremely important towards a stress-free vacation.
All official hotels at Universal Studios Florida offer a one-hour early admission benefit. This is a great way to get ahead of the lines. When you complement that advantage with the Universal Express Pass, you have a strategy that will allow stress-free touring.
Select a “deluxe” hotel –Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, or Loews Royal Pacific — and you’ll get the Universal Express Pass free. This saves $89 per person per day so figure that savings into your hotel budget. It worked out cheaper for us to stay at Loews Royal Pacific. A stay at Cabana Bay with the added cost of Universal Express passes was definitely more expensive. Skipping the REGULAR LINES with Universal Express SM Unlimited ride access* in both theme parks is imperative to a relaxing visit, especially if you tour during a crowded time period.
Tip: Crowds will be present any time kids are out of school. And since our son is now in high school, we have to travel when school is closed. Don’t judge – we used to take him out of school from Kindergarten through 8th grade so that we could travel during the off-seasons. If school is in session, then your travel location (especially to Florida) will be cheaper and less crowded!
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
As mentioned above, we once again chose the Loews Royal Pacific Resort for our Universal Studios stay. We were there for a quick visit so familiarity with the resort aided in our plan to have fun at a relaxing pace despite the pre-Thanksgiving crowds.
South Seas Decor
Some of the resort’s highlights:
Beautiful walk from Loews Royal Pacific Resort to the parks and CityWalk
- The Beautiful Walkway to and from the parks
- Convenient Hotel Parking (at a price though)
- Easily Accessible to CityWalk and both parks
- Beautiful South Seas Atmosphere
- Easy Check In and Ticket Redemption
- Friendly Staff
- Nicely appointed rooms
- Proximity to restaurants
- Lagoon Style Pool
- Nice amenities such as free lemon water
I highly recommend a stay at Universal Studios in Florida. And I can’t wait to return. I’ve got our interactive wands at the ready!
What hotel do you stay at when visiting Universal Studios in Florida? Should we try a different hotel on our next stay? It’s your turn to share!