by Kimberly LaPaglia | Feb 1, 2018 | Celebrations, Disney, Disney Food, Disney Holidays, Disney Restaurants, Walt Disney World
Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World: Romance and Family Fun
Yes, that sometimes-chaotic theme park in central Florida can be a romantic and fun option for the upcoming holiday. Let’s take a look at how you can enjoy Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World!
Opt for family fun, romance, or a combination of both vacation styles for your Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World. As you plan your special day, you’ll find temptations all around the resorts and parks. From red and white festive baked goods to holding hands in the Haunted Mansion, your theme park day is sure to be a memorable celebration.
Of course, you can splurge on special events, magical add-on experiences, or candlelit meals. Or you can keep it simple with a cupcake, balloon, and moonlit walk.
Get your sweetheart a balloon.
Whether you tour with your loved one or the whole family, be sure to get PhotoPass pictures taken to commemorate your Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World on February 14th!
In your planning process, make sure to take the photographic tour of our favorite hotels for couples at WDW.
2018 Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World Details
As with all holidays and celebrations at WDW, the bakeries will showcase specialty treats. Mickey Mouse shaped cookies, Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy Treats, and an assortment of cupcakes will boast colorful sprinkles and frosting. And that’s just for starters. Take a look at these special treats found on a past Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World:
An example of the Valentine’s Day Treats that you may find in Walt Disney World.
If you plan to visit the Magic Kingdom, a visit to the Main Street Confectionery is a must for you and your sweetie(s).
You’ll find shopping, dining, and entertainment at Disney Springs. At Sprinkles, you’ll find new seasonal cupcakes — Raspberry Chocolate Chip or Red Hot Velvet. Or indulge in a scoops of Cherry Vanilla ice cream now through February 28!
Romantic Restaurants at Walt Disney World
If you’re looking to impress, make an Advance Dining Reservation at the five-diamond Victoria & Albert’s restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
Other fine dinner choices include the award-winning California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Narcoossee’s with its waterfront real estate at Disney’s Grand Floridan, the unique ambiance of Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, or the Pacific Northwest décor at Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
For in-park dining, consider Monsieur Paul and Chefs de France in Epcot, Tiffins in Animal Kingdom, Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
We loved our meal at The Boathouse at Disney Springs on a previous Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Most restaurants will require booking 180 days in advance, especially for holiday dining. However, last minute cancellations do occur, so keep checking!
WDW Add-On Experiences
Valentine’s Day Spa Package
Created exclusively for Valentine’s Day in Walt Disney World, Senses – A Disney Spa has announced the “Part of Your World” package.
From February 10 – 18, 2018, the package includes a couple’s massage with apricot-infused body oil, a chocolate hand-hydration treatment, sparkling wine served in a chocolate champagne glass and a take-home, custom-blended bath salt.
$340 (plus tax) for 50 minutes and $450 (plus tax) for 80 minutes. A 20 percent gratuity is added automatically. Disney Vacation Club Members (DVC) will receive a 15 percent discount by calling Member Services.
To schedule, call (407) WDW-SPAS or (407) 939-7727.
Dressed up for Valentine’s Day.
Walt Disney World Date Ideas
- Dine at Narcoossee’s, watch fireworks, then stop by Disney’s Grand Floridan Lobby to listen to the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.
- Stroll around the Boardwalk at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, sip on a cocktail at Belle Vue Lounge, and share an ice cream flight at Ample Hills Creamery.
- Keep your eye out for seasonal flavors at the specialty shops at Disney Springs.
Valentine’s Day Seasonal Flavors at Vivoli il Gelato in Disney Springs.
- Take a moonlit walk outside and look for giraffes. Sit by a wood-burning fire and share roasted marshmallows. Wherever you roam at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll find family fun and romance due to the exotic ambiance.
Beautiful Valentine’s Day cookie treat!
- From Port Orleans Riverside, take a horse-drawn carriage excursion. Reserve your extra-fee ride in advance by calling (407) WDW-PLAY. Afterwards, take the Sassagoula River boat to Disney Springs for more shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Don’t forget to get a treat at Goofy’s Candy Company!
- Dine at a Disney Springs restaurant, then shop for sweets to share back at your resort.
- Play mini-golf before heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Take the plunge together on Tower of Terror.
- Go horseback riding at Disney’s Fort Wilderness, followed by a dinner and show at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
- Look for Hidden Mickeys — every time you find one share a kiss.
Family Fun on Valentine’s Day
Most of the date ideas above can be customized for family fun. In addition, you may want to try these family-friendly options:
- Guests ages 7 and up can learn archery at Fort Wilderness. Pick up supplies at the Meadow or Settlement Trading Post and have a picnic.
- Visit a water park, then return to your hotel and sip hot chocolate.
- Have each family member choose part of the day’s itinerary. One person can choose where to breakfast, another can pick the afternoon activity, and so on. Finish the day with an outdoor movie at your resort.
- Speaking of movies, why not head to the AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theatres?!
- Take the monorail or boat from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village, and Contemporary resorts. At each stop, choose a favorite or new-to-you snack. You’ll find Dole Whip at the Polynesian Village. Yum!
Valentine’s Day Trivia at Fantasia Market in Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The options are endless. These are some ideas to inspire you to find your own special magic during Valentine’s Day at Walt Disney World.
What’s your ideal date at Walt Disney World?
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Jun 20, 2017 | Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Destinations, Disney Holidays, Disney Parks, Disney Restaurants, Walt Disney World, WDW Resorts
Disney Trips with Grandparents
Since our son was born, we have traveled to many locations where we took his grandparents with us or met up with them at our destination. With some advance planning, multi-generational travel can be fun for the whole family.
If your parents and/or in-laws enjoy traveling, then consider a Disney trip with grandparents. Yes, it’s a little extra work to make sure everyone’s idea of vacation is implemented, however the memories made will be priceless.
Once everyone is on board to make a multi-generational trip a reality, the first step is coordinating calendars. First, gather dates that are available for each member of your traveling party, see what dates are mutually convenient, and then price out your vacation.
Nic and Nana with Mickey. Plan the best time of year to visit WDW for your family!
You may want to travel when prices are lower or your first priority might be to share a holiday or enjoy a certain type of weather. Once you get this first stage of planning coordinated, everything else will begin to fall into place.
Visit WDW during the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot.
Discuss the type of accommodations that are suitable for each traveling party as well as the price point that everyone is comfortable spending.
For a Disney cruise, you’ll want to decide on the type of stateroom desired and whether or not you want adjoining or connecting cabins.
Decide which staterooms are best for everyone in your traveling party.
At Disney’s Hilton Head Island, we recommend reserving a two bedroom villa for a mixture of privacy and family togetherness.
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort
Headed to Walt Disney World? You will have a large assortment of hotels to choose from. Will you camp? Stay in a cabin? Reserve rooms at a value, moderate, or deluxe resort? Or perhaps, you’d like to rent a condo off-site. There are also villas available from studios to multi-bedroom options at the Walt Disney World resorts.
Port Orleans French Quarter is a charming hotel – a great choice when visiting WDW with grandparents.
Now you need a plan to get the family to your Disney destination. Each travel party should choose the type of travel (car, train, plane) that best suits their budget and travel preference.
Nic and Nana waiting to board airplane.
If you live in different cities, will you meet up and then continue on to your destination or meet up at your Disney locale? Either way, specify clear departure and arrival times and keep everyone posted if travel delays are encountered.
Before you leave home, you’ll want to have some idea of the preferred vacation desires of each traveler. Does Grandma want to shop when the ship docks in the first port of call? Is Grandpa wanting to fish or play golf? Perhaps the kids want to ride Dumbo with their grandparents followed by lunch at Be Our Guest. While compromises will have to be made, it’s important to try to accommodate varying vacation styles, likes, and dislikes.
Take a Fishing Excursion at Walt Disney World.
And no one is immune to getting cranky when they are exhausted. You’ll enjoy more quality moments together if everyone is well rested. So, do allow down time for relaxing pursuits such as afternoon naps, hanging out at your resort, and poolside fun. It’s a vacation, not a marathon!
Relaxing at the Wilderness Lodge.
Be flexible. If Grandpa and/or the parents need a rest, let them sit down in the shade while Nana takes the kids on a Disney ride. Parents want to do some shopping? Grandparents can watch the kids at the playground. The best part of a multi-generational trip is being able to spend time together and sometimes that means the kids alone with grandparents or the moms hanging out by the pool while the dads play horseshoes. There are countless special bonding opportunities!
Grandpa, Dad, and Nic playing horseshoes at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
Also, allow for everyone to have some alone time. This can be during an early morning, afternoon down time, or evening. Allow those travelers needing extra rest to sleep in and then meet up for lunch.
Parents escape to shop while Nic is being entertained by grandparents during rest time at the Polynesian Resort.
Just like at home, dining encourages families to slow down and talk. It’s a time to bond with each other.
Nic escorts Grandma to dinner on the Disney Dream.
On a cruise ship, dinner can provide the opportunity for the family to meet and discuss the different activities that each family member enjoyed that day. Or maybe Grandma wants to hear about your latest school projects.
Animator’s Palate on the Disney Dream.
When traveling with differing ages, you’ll also want to keep in mind a few things when planning reservations. Do you have picky eaters? Does anyone need to eat at a certain time? Any allergies or other dining considerations to be aware of? Ask — before you make reservations.
French Onion Soup at Les Chefs de France.
By taking into consideration these dining preferences, you’ll set up meals that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Capture the memories. Now is the time to let the grandparents pose and smile with their grandkids or get group pictures. However, grandparents can also help take pictures of your family — since the photographer is usually missing from a lot of photos, let a grandparent take photographs of you, your spouse, and the children.
Pose for fun photographs!
Do not forget to get pictures of you with your parents!
There will come a time when you think you are all together, and then… you’re not. Perhaps Grandpa and Dad stopped to look at old-fashioned fudge in the Main Street Confectionery and lost sight of the group. Or Mom stopped to take another picture and she’s been left behind. Whatever the reason, you’ve lost your group and having a plan will get you back on track.
Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom.
Your plan should go beyond “text if we get separated” because sometimes a phone is left in a room or a battery dies. If you are in the Magic Kingdom, for example, you may want your contingency plan to be a meeting point such as in front of Crystal Palace Restaurant.
Crystal Palace Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.
A separation plan is for the whole family – kids, parents, and grandparents!
Try Something New
Experiencing a new restaurant, attraction, or activity together creates an instant bond and provides fun conversation for later in the vacation.
Karaoke on the Disney Dream
Age is Relative
The kids are never too young or too old to enjoy time with grandparents. It’s a win-win for everyone.
While the parents take a break, Grandpa plays with Nic at WDW. Hope his back didn’t hurt too much later that day!
Parents get a little break from parenting around the clock, grandparents get to spoil and create lasting bonds, and kids get to soak up the unconditional love from everyone. Plus, your offspring learn to respect their older counterparts and that age is relative; grandparents are fun too.
Challenge Grandma to a spin on Buzz Lightyear.
Then those little ones become young adults before you know it. Sure, teens may go off on their own and meet up only for meals and a few designated activities, yet the conversations when everyone is together are sure to be interesting. And even the teens will remember the laughs they’ve had with their grandparents.
Whispering Canyon Cafe is fun for all ages.
Don’t forget that traveling with your own parents is a great way to reconnect, especially if you live in different cities/states.
Kim and her Mom at Fort Wilderness.
If you are absolutely against your child staying in the parks without an afternoon nap break, set a limit. However, allow plenty of opportunities for the grandparents to spoil your kid(s) or to help out.
Nana spoils Nic with a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. Priceless moment!
On one day in the Magic Kingdom, our son was exhausted. Grandma gave him some sips of a soda and he perked right up. Now, did that lead any of us to start putting soft drinks in his sippy cup? Of course not. But it did solve an immediate issue without any dire consequences. And we still laugh about that memory that took place 15 years ago!
Time to refuel!
Would you ordinarily allow your kid to race down a hotel hallway? Probably not. But watching Grandpa push a stroller crazy fast down the empty (middle of the afternoon) hallway at the Polynesian Village was harmless fun that filled Grandpa and child with in-the-moment laughter. And still gives us giggles when we remember the fun that they had.
Nana or Grandma wants to buy your kid a stuffed animal or a cookie? Well, as long as your little loved one isn’t begging and taking advantage of the generous grandparent (and doesn’t have an allergy or dietary restriction), then let the grandparent have at it. A bag of spun sugar, a sweet confection, or another furry friend (that doesn’t poop) is not going to cause lasting harm.
Mickey Gingerbread Cookies are delicious!
Discuss non-negotiables and then let vacation happen! It’s the spontaneous moments that are usually the most prized.
While traveling with extended family, celebrate milestones. A graduation, birthday, retirement, and other special occasions become even more memorable when acknowledging them during a vacation.
Wishes Fireworks Birthday Cruise
Don’t forget to pack items that will make your travels easier. Good walking shoes, some moleskin, rain ponchos, and a bag for the stuff you want to haul to the parks are essential. Grandparents will appreciate your preparedness.
Planning your next Disney getaway? Don’t forget to invite the grandparents!
What are your tips for traveling with grandparents? Contact Us, Follow Us on Twitter, or comment below to share your travel tips.
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Dec 17, 2016 | Disney, Disney Destinations, Travel, Walt Disney World
Reverse Bucket List: Holiday Gratitude
Before you “kick the bucket”, you probably have a few things that you still want to accomplish and thus, you’ve placed them on your bucket list. If you’re not terrified of heights (like me), you may want to bungee jump or jump out of a plane. Or perhaps you want to light your house up like the Griswold’s or have an old fashioned Christmas in a cabin. Maybe you want to fall in love, get married, and have a family of your own. The way I see it, if we’re not still wishing and hoping, then we aren’t still living. And those wishes don’t have to be monumental. Isn’t it nice to wish for a quiet evening playing board games with your family?!
50 Things That I’ve Accomplished
Many people are looking ahead to New Year’s Eve resolutions and I’ll do that soon too. For now, I want to take a step back and list 50 things that I’ve already accomplished. During this season of reflection, I’m truly grateful that these items have been crossed off my bucket list.
1. Visited Stonehenge.
2. Married my Prince Charming and best friend.
Our 1992 Wedding
3. Graduated from college.
4. Found a job where I get to read and write every day.
5. Had a baby.
Holding Nic “kangaroo style” in the NICU. As a preemie, he couldn’t regulate his own body temperature. Stay warm, baby!
6. Visited Carthage and Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia.
7. Swam with dolphins.
8. Explored Pompeii.
Pompeii was amazing.
9. Toured the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa.
10. Sailed into the port at Valletta, Malta.
Sailing into the Grand Harbor, Malta.
11. Traveled by train to Pisa and saw the Leaning Tower.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
12. Kissed my husband under the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
13. Visited the British Museum.
14. Saw the Queen of England.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh leave Buckingham Palace for the State Opening of Parliament
15. Saw the Pantheon in Rome, Italy.
16. Renewed our wedding vows at The Wedding Pavilion in Walt Disney World.
17. Helped countless people plan trips to Walt Disney World on my own and through my past work with the Disney Parks Moms Panel.
18. Spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Walt Disney World.
19. Visited Devil’s Tower.
20. Saw a Broadway play in NYC.
21. Was a stay-at-home Mom.
22. Rode a trolley in San Francisco.
23. Toured Cinderella’s Castle Suite in Walt Disney World.
24. Went horse back riding in Wyoming.
Horseback riding at Bill Cody Ranch in Wyoming
25. Snorkeled in the Bahamas.
26. Had a pet rabbit (s).
27. Traveled solo on a Caribbean cruise.
28. Drank hot chocolate in Barcelona, Spain.
29. Visited the D-Day beaches, Normandy.
30. Visited the Tower of London.
31. Saw the Milky Way from Bryce Canyon.
32. Ran a 5K race.
33. Saw wildlife in Yellowstone.
34. Pet a stingray.
35. Lived in multiple states.
36. Rode in Cinderella’s Coach.
Cinderella’s Coach arrives The Wedding Pavilion for our 10th Anniversary Vow Renewal
37. Saw a rocket launch (twice).
New Horizons Rocket Launch, January 2006.
38. Watched Nic’s grandparents nurture (and spoil) him. Priceless.
39. Visited the Library of Congress.
40. Planned magical Christmas mornings for my family.
41. Saw cherry blossoms in full bloom at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.
42. Learned to ice skate.
43. Took our son for his first ocean trip.
First trip to the ocean
44. Took a romantic walk on a moonlit deck aboard a cruise ship.
45. Went whale watching from Provincetown, MA.
46. Visited a castle.
47. Toured the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
48. Had a dog for his whole life (and he’s now 13).
49. Watched my son meet Mickey Mouse (age 2).
50. Saw the Roman Colosseum.
Now I can’t wait to hear what’s on your reverse bucket list. Tell me one unique item on your list!
by Michael LaPaglia | Dec 15, 2016 | Disney, Walt Disney World
The Disney Bubble
Frequently, people talk about the Disney Bubble that occurs when you are on property at the Walt Disney World Resort. It’s a phenomenon that means different things for different people.
A Barrier between WDW and the Real World
My conceptualization and perceptions of the Disney Bubble has transformed over the past 20 years. Before multiple trips per year were the norm for me and my family, the Disney Bubble represented a tenuous and delicate barrier between the magic and the real world.
The Grand Floridian transports guests to the Victorian era
The Looming Dread of Departure Day
Being in the Bubble was often fraught with some sort of nagging anxiety — almost from the moment I entered property at the beginning of the visit — and lasted until the day of departure. It was an overwhelming sense knowing that once departure day arrived, I would not be able to predict how long it would be until a return visit.
Escape from reality
Given that anxiety, there was often the feeling that every single second spent on property required conscious effort and superhuman physical stamina to experience everything. Unfortunately, as we all know, packing too much in causes exhaustion and that causes a decrease in the ability to absorb, experience, and appreciate the magic.
Nic during his first visit to WDW.
WDW Means “Home”
By having the privilege of being able to visit Walt Disney World multiple times per year under all different types of circumstances and lengths of stay, the phenomenon of the Disney Bubble has significantly lessened in its anxious overtones.
Port Orleans French Quarter is quaint and calming
Now, the Disney Bubble represents home. I‘ve adapted to spending time away from the resort without all that previous anxiety. And yet, I experience an extraordinary sense of peace and contentment as soon as I physically enter the resort. I actually breathe a sigh of contentment every time I arrive on property.
Feels like home!
There is no longer the overwhelming sense of foreboding related to the eventuality of departure. Instead, I embrace a much more relaxed approach and appreciation for all the details and experiences. Is there anything better than the first several hours upon arrival for a stay of any duration?!
Michael stops to take in his resort view from an Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani villa.
Given this transformation of the Disney Bubble for me, I have been able to slow down and savor each and every moment to its fullest. Still I am keenly aware of my past feelings.
Helping Others with a Dream WDW Visit
This gives me pause when I consider the millions of others who are visiting the resort, potentially for their first and only time. How do people manage their emotions and expectations when this is the case?
Cinderella’s Castle is a welcoming sight!
This makes me want to assist anyone planning a visit. I want to help others emotionally maximize their dream trip, regardless of economic, physical, or developmental limitations.
Yes, it’s a lofty objective. And there are hundreds of other incredibly passionate and talented folks out there working every day to make this happen. I am just a small drop in a very large bucket, but hopefully, my wife and I will be able to contribute to this goal, even if it’s in a small way through The Castle Concierge.
What does the Disney bubble mean to you? Should WDW visits be measured by how much you see and do?
Let’s start a dialogue!
by Michael LaPaglia | Nov 2, 2016 | Disney, Walt Disney, Walt Disney World
Are You Wondering “Why Disney”?
The question of Why Disney might seem superfluous given that this post is being written in concert with a website dedicated in part to exploring and discussing Disney related topics.
There will be no new ground broken in any discussion related to a person’s interest, love, and passion for Disney. This, however, does not deter me from posting an explanation in my own words. There will, of course, be inclusion of several clichéd adjectives and other descriptors that I will state here shortly, so please accept my heartfelt apology for their use.
Disney is a person that starts and ends with Walt
The truth, the myths, the misperceptions, the idolatry, the history, his legend, his critics, his family, his genius, his creativity, his faults, his creations, and all the interpretations of such related to this one man is truly the reason for everything else that follows.
Walt Disney won 22 Academy Awards!
Regardless of how anyone or anything else interprets the importance of Walt, it is his legacy, well over a century old at this time, that is the foundation by which my passion for Disney exists.
Disney is a destination and physical place
My family and I have experienced all that encompasses Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and the Disney Cruise Line. Relative to each and every one of these destinations, the following clichéd words and phrases are all accurate and true for me: family, memories, fantasy, wonder, familiar, peace, magic, escape, stress break, home, music, multi-sensory, food, exhausting, visually aesthetic and pleasing, overwhelming, awe-inspiring, inspirational, fun, crowded, expensive, addictive, and a variety of others that millions more like me are able to list and describe.
Stop and look at the turn-of-the-century details
Disney is art
And all that is related to human creativity and imagination. Animation, architecture, storytelling, sound and music, technology, landscaping, transportation, education, entertainment, dance, filmmaking, and finally the creation of characters (both drawn and living), whose personalities have transcended place and time in history.
Seven Dwarfs at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
For all that I’ve listed above, and much more, lies the motivation to share in this medium. That is why.
Why is Disney important to you? What aspects of Disney do you love most? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!