Oh, it’s a tough question. I’m not sure that I could ever choose my favourite Walt Disney World resort. I’ve often said that it’s gorgeous Animal Kingdom Lodge as I love the African styling, and the fact that you can see giraffes wandering outside your window. But then there’s the glorious Grand Floridian, and the quite incredible Contemporary Resort, and oh, I can’t have just one. I have to have at least five! Read more
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
Universal Studios have just announced a huge new project, bringing London, and more specifically, Diagon Alley to the resort in 2014. Work has already started on the new experience, which will stretch across both Universal Orlando theme parks and offer lots of new experiences including, it’s rumoured, a trip on the Hogwart’s Express to Hogsmeade (from one park to the other) and a ride through Gringott’s Bank.
Also at Universal Studios, The Simpsons’ home town, Springfield is coming to Orlando this summer. There’s a whole new Simpsons area, with a The Simpson’s Ride, and food too – you might even bump into Krusty the Clown while you’re scoffing your Krusty Burger, or need to dodge Sideshow Bob at Moe’s Tavern.
Seaworld’s new Empire of the Penguin
Open from May 24th, Seaworld’s newest project mixes a brand new family ride through Antarctica with incredible new animal encounters. This HUGE new attraction, covering an area over 4 square acres, features icebergs, hundreds of penguins in a brand new area (the largest artificial penguin habitat even built) and an incredible new 8 seater trackless ride that slides through the penguin habitat, plus a new café and gift shop.
Disney’s Brave new Princess
Disney have crowned their newest Princess, Merida from Brave, at a sparkling ceremony held at Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort, Florida. Merida’s meet and greet spot is situated just by Cinderella Castle inside Fairytale Garden, where guests will have a chance to meet Merida and her three ‘baby bear’ brothers and even get an archery lesson! The area is decorated with beautiful new, original tapestries and artwork inspired by the movie.
If you’re planning a trip to Florida, check out Florida Tix – a really handy site where you can pre-book park tickets before your holiday.
If you follow me on Facebook (if not, why not? We’re a lovely gang and have all sorts of waffly conversations), you’ll know that a while back, my chums at Disney offered me the most FABULOUS prize for you, my lovely readers: a 7 night holiday in a Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, complete with park tickets. I, of course, bit their arms off (not literally – you don’t bite Mickey, it’s just not done), but then, disappointingly, we couldn’t persuade anyone to offer flights (it’s the end of the financial year, times are tough, blah blah) so I faltered. I wondered if people would be disgruntled with a competition that wasn’t a WHOLE holiday as it didn’t include the flights. But people commented, in their droves, to say that it didn’t matter, that they’d definitely enter a competition. And hey, it’s a fabulous holiday, worth a ton of money. So here it is, in all its glory.
The prize (squee!)
Disney will provide one winner with a vacation package for four people for seven nights and eight days at Disney’s wonderful Art of Animation resort consisting of accommodation (one standard room for four people for seven nights), PLUS four 8-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper® option (EXCLUDING flights).
How do I enter? I hear you cry!
My favourite attraction at Walt Disney World is Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ve always loved it. So just leave a comment and tell me: what’s the attraction you’ll be heading to first if you win this amazing prize?
(New commenters please note yours won’t show up until it’s been approved.)
For an extra chance to win, just comment and let me know that you’ve tweeted the phrase:
I’ve entered @EnglishMum’s Walt Disney World Florida holiday giveaway #visitMickeywithEnglishMum
The small print
There’s quite a lot of small print, I’ll admit, but hey, giving away a holiday is quite complicated, so I’d be really grateful if you have a read through and make sure you agree before entering. Ta muchly
- Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This competition is open to the residents of UK and Ireland. You must be over 18 years of age. The prizes offered are not transferable (and may not be sold, traded, transferred or refunded) or exchangeable for cash. The winner will be chosen at random.
- Items that are not included as part of the winning vacation package are: meals, hotel room service, laundry service, alcoholic beverages, merchandise/souvenirs etc, local and long distance telephone calls, tips, gratuities, service charges or taxes, all other charges and items not offered as the main prize, and the big one: FLIGHTS. Entrants must arrange their own air travel.
- The winners are responsible for arranging visas, travel insurance, transfers, etc.
- The competition ends at midnight on Saturday 6th April 2013. No entries received after this time will be considered.
- Winners will be asked to provide 3 dates when they can travel, but departure date and accommodations are subject to availability; certain restrictions and block-out dates may apply. Prize to be taken within a year, subject to availability.
- Disney, its parent, related, affiliated and subsidiary companies and their respective officers, directors, agents, employees and assigns shall be released and discharged from any and all legal claims, losses, injuries, demands, damages, actions, and/or causes of actions that arise out of and/or in any way related to the prize, the receipt, use and/or enjoyment of the prize and/or the promotion.
- Oh and lastly – don’t cheat! One entry plus one bonus Twitter entry per person The system picks up on duplicate entries 😉
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER, CHOSEN BY AN ONLINE RANDOMISER, IS CAROLINE CAVANAGH – CONGRATULATIONS! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES – MORE COMPETITIONS VERY SOON XX
A surprising amount of people planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, and the surrounding areas often miss out by thinking that they can’t afford to stay in in a ‘proper’ Disney hotel. The luxury resort hotels are phenomenal – the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa springs instantly to mind, as does the eye-popping Animal Kingdom Lodge – but there’s a whole host of other Disney properties at all price ranges and to properly immerse yourself in the Disney experience, you can’t beat staying at a Disney resort hotel.
Disney have several ‘value’ options when it comes to accommodation, the newest of which is the Art of Animation Resort where I stayed at Christmas. The resort is HUGE, with giant characters dotted everywhere. It’s split into four main wings: there are three family suite wings: a Finding Nemo themed wing, a Cars-themed wing where we stayed, and a Lion King wing, plus there is also a wing with standard rooms, with a Little Mermaid theme.
The styling and attention to detail in all of these areas is frankly enough to take your breath away. We were drawn to the ENORMOUS Crush (whom I love, with a passion – don’t miss ‘Turtle Talk with Crush when you’re visiting Epcot – you can have a full-on chat with the cool surfer dude. It’s totally AWESOME, duuuuude!) and the Cars themed wing where we stayed had huge, lifesize Cars characters and a complete recreation of Radiator Springs. Mindblowing!
The staff are, as you’d expect from Disney, absolutely wonderful and go above and beyond the call of duty, especially with the little guests. We were late to meet up with the others on the trip one day as we were transfixed by one of the gardeners who was showing a group of children how to draw Disney characters with a brush and water on one of the baking hot sidewalks.
Inside the family suites, the incredible theming continues – there are two proper bathrooms, a kitchen area, a dining area that magically transforms into a pull-down double bed at night time, and another leather sofa, themed like the rear seat of a car, that also folds out into a double bed. It’s all such good quality, you’d never believe they call this a ‘value’ resort.
The reception area is absolutely fabulous, with different lights as you go down the row of desks, and iconic framed artist sketches of the characters on the walls, and the pool area is frankly magical, where you can actually hear the Disney tunes being played UNDER THE WATER!
My only negative, if you can call this a negative, is that personally, I wasn’t massively keen on the dining area, which is huge and a bit complicated to negotiate. Still, if you’re staying in the suites it’s far easier – and cheaper- to self cater and just pop in occasionally to treat yourself to breakfast (with nice coffee) before you head off to the parks.
There’s a fact box below with an example of pricing, but as always, if you’re planning a trip and need any help or advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch via my contact form. I’ll be able to help (or if I can’t, I’ll know someone who can!).
Seven nights in Orlando from £935pp
Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick direct to Orlando, accommodation at the 3V Disney’s Art of Animation Resort on a room only basis with car hire included. Price is based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures in March 2013.
Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick Airport… Adults £20, Kids £12
Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected
To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 100 stores located in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco and Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.
I recently made a promise to myself that I would stop taking pictures of food in restaurants. My husband hates it (especially when I slap his hand away from his plate) and I’ve lost count of the times my friends have sighed as I snap away at their plates, trying to get the best angle by practically sitting in their laps. Annoying, much?
But it’s SO hard. I did, for example, break my rule for this AMAZING starter at one of my favourite Disney fine dining restaurants, the Flying Fish on Disney’s Boardwalk
So, as Roz would say in Frasier, I must attempt to ‘use my words’. So here goes – my all-time top ten Disney dining experiences (so far):
Disney do breakfast REALLY well. If you’re heading to Florida, make sure you book at least one character breakfast where you get to meet some of Disney’s stars up close and personal. My favourite character breakfast is at Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom resort. The setting is amazing – you can just imagine you’ve stopped for a quick break from your African safari – and the food is just fabulous. As well as all the usual breakfast choices – Mickey waffles (my personal favourite), bacon, eggs, etc, there are some traditional African choices to try (Bobotie for breakfast? Why not?) and don’t forget a yummy glass of Jungle Juice to wash it all down.
Another favourite of mine, both in terms of the resort itself and in particular The Wave restaurant, is Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The setting is great – a brief monorail ride straight into the parks – and, as the name suggests, the resort is modern and very classy. I’ve had both dinner and breakfast in the stunning Wave restaurant and can’t decide which I like best, but the delicious cheese and bacon grits and sweet potato pancakes both take some beating in the morning. They also serve a range of addictive smoothies too.
Onto lunch then, and this is often a case of grabbing something at one of the many quick service dining options. If you get the chance, though, do try and stop off at the iconic Hollywood Brown Derby based at the Hollywood Studios park. I know I’ve talked about the Brown Derby before, but its Cobb salad (it’s enormous – order one between the two of you) – a chopped salad made from avocado, blue cheese, turkey, tomatoes, bacon… you name it, is an absolute must, and the setting, based on the original Vine Street Brown Derby in Hollywood is proper old school glam. The waiting staff are amazing and although you can wander in dressed in your cut off shorts and t-shirt, half way round Hollywood Studios, you’re always made to feel really special.
If you’re grabbing lunch on the run at the Magic Kingdom, pop in to Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café in Frontierland and stuff your face with one of their scrummy barbecue pulled pork rolls. You add your own salad at the little salad bars, which I really like too.
Disney excel at fine dining. I’m finding it really hard to pick my favourites here, but Citricos at the utterly beautiful Grand Floridian resort has to be experienced to be believed. The service is absolutely faultless (the waiting staff know EVERYTHING about every dish and even change your white napkin for a black one if you’re wearing dark colours and don’t want to risk getting any white lint on your outfit), the cocktails are exquisite and the wine list is incredible. The panadas, a starter of delicately spiced beef in a filo pastry shell with a sweet/sour tamarind dip were crisp on the outside and rich and meaty in the middle. The braised short ribs entrée is one I’ve had a couple of times and is always meltingly tender. Their steaks are always amazing and cooked perfectly, and don’t you dare eat so much that you miss out on one of their intricately decorated decadent chocolate desserts.
My final choice (touch and go between this one and the equally fabulous Kouzzina (you can read a previous review here) also on the Boardwalk is The Flying Fish Café. I adore the Boardwalk – there’s nothing nicer than wandering along by the water, watching the sideshows, then after your delicious dinner, wandering back to your hotel under the stars, pausing to watch the fireworks at neighbouring Epcot. Every evening I’ve had here has been magical, and everything I’ve ever eaten has been incredible: crispy sesame calamari, crunchy coated Jonah crab cakes… sea bass, salmon… it’s all perfectly prepared and wonderfully presented. If you’re not massively into fish, don’t despair. They also do a ridiculously tender New York strip steak. Oh and before you waddle out? Force down a slice of the Florida Tequila key lime Margarita Pie. You’ll thank me.
If you’re about to travel to Walt Disney World Resort Florida, or need any help planning your journey, or need more recommendations for dining or park options I’m always happy to help. Drop me a line!
One of the things I love about Disney is that they never stop. There’s always something new and exciting in the pipeline (more of this later in the week) – their teams of designers (or ‘Imagineers’), work tirelessly to keep Disney fresh, new and exciting. At Christmas I was really lucky to be invited to the opening of New Fantasyland – a project that doubles the size of Fantasyland, an area of the Magic Kingdom beyond Cinderella Castle. There’s no party like a Disney party, and stars like Ginnifer Goodwin and Jordin Sparks were on hand to make it go with a bang.
The party was AMAZING – the food was incredible (check out the cupcakes!) and there was an actual, flying DRAGON. If you don’t believe me, check out the video here!
I adore the Magic Kingdom. I sometimes think the perception is that it’s more for the younger guests, but there are some real classics there that every visitor should do: The Haunted Mansion is just fabulous, and Pirates of the Caribbean is probably my favourite ride of all time, it’s just so atmospheric. And I don’t know anyone that doesn’t get off Big Thunder Mountain and want to go straight back on!
We also had the chance to check out the new attractions. As you’ll see from yesterday’s video, I absolutely loved Enchanted Tales with Belle. If you’re a fan of Beauty and the Beast, you’ll love it too. It’s a really lovely experience where guests get to act out a story with Belle, the Wardrobe and Lumiere (an absolute triumph of animatronic technology). The little girl that we saw was so entranced with Belle, her face was a picture. Wonderful. And yes, I cried again.
There’s also a lovely ride called Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid where guests get to ride in a clamshell and see lots of the characters from the Little Mermaid (including scary Ursula), and you can meet Ariel herself in Ariel’s Grotto too.
One of my very favourite rides, Dumbo, The Flying Elephant, has had a makeover and now there are DOUBLE DUMBOS: two rides, one going clockwise and one going anticlockwise, halving the waiting time! There’s also a fabulous big top where you can hang out and get involved in lots of circus activities while you wait your turn.
The Great Goofini is a lovely family coaster ride, and you can pose for photos with the Disney gang at Pete’s Silly Sideshow too – get up close and personal with Minnie Magnifique, The Great Goofini, Madame Daisy Fortuna (Daisy Duck) and The Astounding Donaldo too!
It’s not all about the rides, though, as one of the biggest parts of New Fantasyland is the fabulous Be Our Guest restaurant. We were completely overwhelmed by this beautiful restaurant, themed to look like the ballroom of Beast’s Castle (and it really does – right down to the chandeliers!) – you can even see the enchanted rose, floating magically in its glass case. During the day, this restaurant serves Disney’s trademark fast lunch service menu, but by night, it transforms into a full-service, reservations-required restaurant serving a French-themed menu and, unusually, as the Magic Kingdom is a ‘dry’ park, alcohol at dinner, bringing a much more grown-up feel to this beautiful setting. You can look out of the windows and watch the ‘snow’ as well, which is really quite magical.
Gaston’s Tavern is a more casual experience, but nonetheless beautifully themed and finished, with a roaring fire and an amazing antler chandelier. The food has been specially created for the tavern (it’s mostly snacky, but different – try the roasted pork shank – gnawed straight off the bone!) and there’s yummy LeFou’s brew to drink too. I think it’s a nice place to pop into after you’ve spent the afternoon tramping the park, to sit down with a pastry and a lovely hot chocolate.
The magic doesn’t stop here, though – the Princess Fairytale Hall will be opening this year – a lovely place where you can meet all your favourite Disney Princesses – and then next year, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will finally open – an amazingly clever musical coaster ride through the mine where the Imagineers are attempting to recreate the swinging motion of the individual buckets – and there are rumours of interacting with the dwarfs (Disney don’t say ‘dwarves’) too! I’ll just have to go back for another visit to find out, I guess!
Florida is famous for beaches, sunshine and, of course, the theme parks. Children and adults alike will love the chance to be able to explore the world-renowned resorts of Disney, Universal, Epcot, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the others. All the theme parks are great at catering for families, especially those with young children who may be too small to ride on a lot of the rollercoasters.
Each of the Disney parks has several great attractions for young children. Head over to Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom to ride on Dumbo, the Flying Elephant. This gentle ride is a lovely experience and kids will love being able to control how high their Dumbo can fly. Also in the Magic Kingdom is The Barnstormer. This junior rollercoaster is a great ride for any little daredevils in your family as it has a few twists and turns!
If your child loved being able to fly on an elephant, you could try Cinderella’s Golden Carousel, a charming old fashioned merry-go-round where the children can sit on horses, and there is an option of a bench carriage if they prefer. Fans of Nemo can go and visit Epcot and search the seas to find him in a ‘clamobile’ . From there you can visit the seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion, home to one of the largest man-made ocean environments in the world.
Kids love seeing their favourite characters come to life, so why not head over to Hollywood Studios to see Playhouse Disney, an interactive live performance that combines awesome effects and puppetry and gives your children the chance to sing and dance along with Mickey!
If you want a slightly more relaxing break, there are plenty of beaches in Florida for kids to run around on, making sandcastles and splashing in the waves. Clearwater, Florida is home to some beautiful white beaches and is very family-friendly. Children of all ages will love the chance to be able to jump aboard a pirate ship on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise. Or visit Destin on the Emerald Coast for a quieter and more relaxing family-orientated beach.
I am home. Jetlagged, knackered and with very attractive puffy ankles. Luckily, English Dad has coped magnificently while I was away (a bit too far magnificently if you ask me) and I came back to an immaculate house complete with fresh flowers and an empty washing basket. I think I’ll leave him more often.
And what an amazing time. I’ve got so much to show and tell. But while I gather my thoughts and get rid of my old lady ankles I’ll leave you with this… our view as we sailed in to Nassau in the Bahamas:
and here’s me by the ship at Disney’s own island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay:
Okay before I start writing, I want everyone to step away from anything sharp or heavy. If you’re going to throw things, make it soft, mkay?
I’m off on an amazing journey – a real dream trip – on Saturday I’ll be heading to Gatwick with my lovely friend and fellow blogger Liz.
This is quite timely as I’ve just received some really good news – I’ve been appointed one of a new panel of ‘independent experts’ *cough* by Gatwick Airport and I’m mega excited!
The new Gatwick Passenger Panel has been created to help London Gatwick really look at the passenger travel experience, from lots of different perspectives. For example, a business traveller will have different needs and expectations from that of a family travelling together. We’ll be discussing our different views and experiences to give a really honest and unbiased picture of airport life. Hopefully, learning about how different people travel – from getting there, through the airport itself and finally off on their journey, will enable Gatwick – and other UK airports – to tackle any problems and devise suitable solutions to make travelling a better experience for everyone. I’m in some really rather fabulous company too – one of my fellow panel members is the legendary John Carter from Wish You Were Here – I can’t wait to meet him.
I’m so excited to be involved and will obviously keep you up to date with developments.
So onward from Gatwick, then, we’re heading to Orlando and (after a quick stop at Walt Disney World – and those fabulous Illuminations), we’re straight on to Port Canaveral where we’ll be boarding Disney’s newest cruise ship, the Disney Dream for a cruise to the Bahamas, with a stop at Disney’s own island, Castaway Cay. Apparently the food on board is To Die For. Squee!
Obviously I’ll be working, so I won’t be enjoying myself at all… and I’ll see you in a week’s time with, of course, lots of photos.
Until then, be good xx
- My hush autumn 2018 wishlist August 14, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: new season trends are landing! August 11, 2018
- Houses and scare zones at Halloween Horror Nights 2018 August 10, 2018
- Our tips for making the leap to university August 9, 2018
- Cruising with friends: our P&O Cruises Oceana adventure August 7, 2018