You’ll be a very happy chappy

Today we’re continuing with hotels at Walt Disney World.

In 1999, my family decided to move from the Old South to even farther south and the Southwest. Once again, we tried one of the moderate resorts, namely Coronado Springs.

Coronado Springs opened in 1997 and is located in the Animal Kingdom vicinity. If you’re looking for a place with a nice Mexican/American-Southwest atmosphere, and you want to hear upbeat Mariachi music everywhere you go, then this is a great place for you.

I am very partial to Coronado Springs. It’s a beautiful resort, and the Mexican-themed colors and designs can’t help but draw you in. The pool has a Mayan pyramid, and just looking at it can convince you that you’ve been transported to Mexico. It’s fun to go down the water slide as a large, ferocious-looking cat oversees each swimmer sliding down through the surrounding trees. I would have to say that, of all the pools I’ve been to at the resorts at Disney, this was by far my favorite.

But what really sets apart this resort from all others, in my opinion, is the dining. The Pepper Market is a food court area where guests can go to several different stations and pick out a variety of food types. Mexican, American, Italian, deserts, you name it, they got it. My family would go every morning for breakfast/lunch (we tend to get up pretty late when on vacation at Disney) and sometimes for dinner as well. It has become my family’s favorite place to eat. We went back in 2006 to visit and eat at the Pepper Market, and it was just as good as we had remembered. This past summer, when we hotel-hopped again to Coronado Springs, I got chicken quesadillas at the Mexican food station of the Pepper Market. They were FANTASTIC. I definitely suggest them to anyone who makes a trip to Coronado Springs and the Pepper Market. Even so, go to the Pepper Market. You’ll be glad that you did.

Make sure to take a look at the surroundings of the Pepper Market.  The huge statues really add something to the atmosphere, and it’ll really seem like you’re at different areas of a Mexican market.

The biggest complaint I would have to give about the beautiful Coronado Springs is the distance of walking. Sure, there is an internal shuttle that takes guests around the perimeter, but it isn’t particularly helpful to get to your room overall. I remember coming back to the resort late at night, half asleep from the bus ride and a long day of walking at the parks, and having to walk about 5-10 minutes to our room from the bus stop. Not something to look forward to. And it isn’t too pretty when the Florida sun is beating down on you in the daytime. You’re going to get hot and sweaty at the parks; you don’t really want to get that way before you even reach your destination.

It can be a calm, nice walk, especially when you hear the little froggies chirping at night, greeting guests and sending them to sleep in their rooms, but it can be cumbersome to some. But the frogs are tiny and adorable if you can find them (We found them hiding at the vending machines when we went).

Overall, I would definitely suggest staying at Coronado Springs if you’re ever debating about it. It has such nice ambience, the food, service, and room accommodations are great, and you’ll think you crossed over the border when you get there. İAye Caramba!

Once again, thanks to AllEars.Net for the pictures! Make sure to check out the site!

Next post, bring a boat and a swimsuit: We’re off to Caribbean Beach Resort!

Oh, I wish I was at Dixie…

Recently, Walt Disney World had a post on their Facebook page, asking where the first place you go when you arrive to Disney is.  Well, every single time I go to Disney, I always start at the same place…

The resort.

I’ve never stayed at the same place twice, but, except when I went to Disney for a high school band competition, I have always stayed on the Disney property at one of the Disney resorts.  Three times out of four, my family stayed in the moderate class resorts.  However, this past summer, we decided to try out the high life a bit and went to one of the deluxe resorts.  Here’s the list:

Summer 1994: Dixie Landings (now known as Port Orleans Riverside)

Summer 1999: Coronado Springs

Summer 2006: Caribbean Beach

Spring 2007: Springhill Suites (off the property, but still a lovely place with a great breakfast buffet and make-your-own waffles)

Summer 2011: Animal Kingdom Lodge

We also have the tendency to visit other resorts than the one we are staying at, which I’m discovering is common among Disney travelers.  It’s a great way to extend the Disney experience of seeing the magic at the resorts and get a different view of what the resorts can offer to those staying at them.  It also gives you an idea of where you might want to stay next time.

Every resort has its own unique, wonderful qualities and charm.  Each has a special theme that is enhanced with the magic that Disney is known for, using every detail they can to make it seem like you are entering a completely different world than you are used to.  And specific Disney elements keep you in the Disney spirit.

Let’s start with the Old South.

When I was five, my parents took my brother and me to Walt Disney World in Florida for the first time.  It was very exciting.  We decided to stay at one of the moderate resorts, namely the Dixie Landings.

The Dixie Landings, which is now known as Port Orleans Riverside, opened in 1992 (happy 20th birthday, by the way), bringing guests to the Louisiana Bayou with a beautiful river, gorgeous old-fashioned rooms and mansions, and a slowed-down lifestyle to help you relax and bring you down south.

It is currently on the property for Downtown Disney, so you’re just a hop, skip, and a jump from some good shopping and good eats.

To be honest, I can’t say that I remember an awful lot about that trip.  I was very young, and that was now 18 years ago.  But there are certain things that I will never forget.

The first thing you do at any resort is check in.  Each Disney resort has its special queue for that essential stop.

The Dixie Landings has a special lobby, and, when I first went there, I was in absolute awe.  Though they are no longer running, when you looked up, HUGE pendulum-like fans overhead slowly swung back-and-forth to gently cool visitors of the Old South (or Florida, for that matter).

Food is also a major part of any resort.  If the food isn’t good, or the eating area isn’t unique to that hotel, then it presents a void in your trip.

Dixie Landings has Colonel’s Cotton Mill (now known as Riverside Mill) with its very own watermill included.  It had THE BEST MICKEY WAFFLES.  I don’t know if that’s still the case, but I remember getting the little ones (which are so much better than the large ones for some strange reason) practically every morning for breakfast.  These little Mickey waffles are my breakfast weakness.  But Colonel’s Cotton Mill still sticks in my mind as a really cute place to eat with an Old South feel.  You actually feel like you’re in the South as you look out the large windows onto the dock of the Sassagoula River as boats float with passengers, and you watch the watermill turn.

These are the main things I actually remember from the first time I visited Disney World.  However, this past summer, I went back just to tour the resort and see what I remembered and what had changed.

Visiting the lobby, I was disappointed to see that the fans had been removed.  However, Colonel’s Cotton Mill, though with a different name (now Riverside Mill – just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?), was just as charming as I remembered, though seemed smaller.  I assume this was at the very least due to the fact that I am much older and things appear bigger when you’re little, but no big deal.

One great thing that I tried and was a great adventure was taking a boat ride down the Sassagoula River from Port Orleans Riverside to Port Orleans French Quarter. I had never been to French Quarter but had always wanted to see it, so we took a boat down to the connected resort.  It was so relaxing just to sit on a nice, breezy boat as you float downstream and see the mansions that line the river on Magnolia Bend. It’s a nice way to travel quickly and easily to the other Port Orleans resort while taking in the sights.

Also, though I didn’t get the opportunity to try it, they have horse-drawn carriages waiting to take passengers through the Disney-created Old South.  The horses are large and beautiful, as well as incredibly docile, especially considering the Florida heat.

In my heart, Port Orleans Riverside will always be the Dixie Landings.  I’ve never stopped calling it that, and I doubt I ever will.  I would love to stay there again sometime, and I definitely would suggest it to others, especially if you’re looking for some relaxation amidst the chaos and excitement that is Walt Disney World.  It’s a nice place to catch a breath and wind down.

All pictures used in this post are courtesy of AllEars.Net.  Check them out!

Stay tuned as I continue my hotel reviews in my next post…

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome.”

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”

-James M. Barrie

Like Peter Pan, I refuse to grow up.

Now, that could mean that I refuse to mature and become an adult.  But that’s not what I mean.

I am refusing to let go of the beauty of childhood memories and innocence, which I find to be perpetuated through the Disney company for all ages, young and old.

I consider myself to be a writer.  In the last year or so, I decided that fiction writing is what I was always meant to do.  I think I always knew that, but I needed college and some writing classes to affirm it.  I am currently applying to graduate schools for a Creative Writing Master’s of Fine Arts to broaden my horizons as a writer, as well as to eventually teach as a professor of creative writing at a college.  I have a B.A. in English from Lehigh University, and writing is my passion.

Through college, I took a few fairy tales courses.  There is something about these stories that fascinates me.  Though many are sexist and fail to really show the complexities of real life through black-and-white good-versus-evil narratives, there is something beautiful about them.  And I grew up with many of these tales through Disney.

I had a love/hate relationship with Disney earlier in my college career.  I used to love the beautifully designed tales on the big screen when I was younger, bringing the classic fairy tales to life with gorgeous drawings and songs that made you believe the characters and stories were real.  And then I heard that Disney had altered these stories so they would not be as harsh on young viewers as they had been when the original Grimm’s tales (and others) had been back when they were first told and written.

For shame, Disney.

However, I took another fairy tales class that changed my opinion and strengthened any positive ideas of Disney to the point where I had to learn more.  As I learned, fairy tales have many variations throughout history!  There is not one specific version that is right or wrong, but, as they have been passed down from generation to generation, they are always altered.  Therefore, the Grimm’s tales are NOT the originals.  Nor were the tales the brothers first heard.  And so on.

No harm, no foul, Disney.

And so my passion for Disney grew, both with the parks that have given visitors another world to explore unlike the realities of life, and the stories that Disney himself and the Imagineers, artists, storywriters, etc., have written and continue to display for the public and its imagination.

I have been to Walt Disney World five times in my short 23 years of life, and I have been following the movies and advances of Disney since I was young.  I try to see almost all the movies that they create, and the history of Disney, both the man and the company, are amazing to track.  I have no intention of letting go of my love affair with Disney, and I hope, through this love of all things Disney, that I can continue to keep my innocence and childhood joys intact as I grow older, while also spreading its happiness and wonder to others.

So where does the title “Childhood WEDing” come from?

In Disney’s history, there was one man who started it all: Walt Elias Disney.  The Disney company has never forgotten their namesake, and the initials of his name pop up periodically for different attractions and throughout the theme parks in hidden messages, such as the previously-known-as WEDway People Mover in Tomorrowland, currently known as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (I don’t think I’ll ever get used to calling it the latter).

“Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. They’re people who don’t give a hang what the Joneses do. You see them at Disneyland every time you go there. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought – sometimes it isn’t much, either.”

– Walt Disney

Disney’s statement is exactly what I want you, my readers, to get from my blog.  I want to share my experiences and knowledge of Disney so that we all can “be delighted with simple pleasures.”  This is what Disney lived and worked for, and I think we can all benefit by just enjoying the simply things in life and reliving the days of our youth, while also learning a little bit of something through it.  Somehow, I always feel like I can learn something from Disney, whether it is a moral or some history.  Even just having a change of perspective, something that I just never thought about before.

In this age of technology, instant connection, and so many other things, we could all use a reminder of childhood and simplicity, no matter how old we are.  Imagination and creativity is still out there; we just need to find it, utilize it, and treasure it.

Throughout the course of my blog, I plan to address the parks (mostly in Florida), how I’ve seen them, how they’ve changed throughout my lifetime, as well as incorporating the movies and shows that I’ve seen.  I want both my and your imaginations to run wild with creativity and awe.

Disney has become a passion of mine.  I am hoping to share that passion with you, and I want you to share your thoughts and comments as well.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

-Walt Disney