Category: Walt Disney World

Fireworks at Walt Disney World!

Well it’s a rainy 4th of July up here in the Northeast which means no fireworks tonight…booooo!  So instead, I thought I’d take a look at some of my favorite fireworks shows at Walt Disney World!

I have to admit that I’ve been spoiled by the fireworks in WDW.  I always used to be so impressed with fireworks shows around the 4th of July, but then I started realizing most of them aren’t perfectly themed to music…what?!?  How could this be??  Yes, I know…you can’t compare the two but choreographed fireworks are really cool!  Here are 2 of my favorites:


The torches are lit around World Showcase Lagoon…

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The wonderful pre-show music is playing and one of the best nighttime spectaculars is about to begin. Where else can you see a lake on fire???

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Or a giant LED globe that spins and shoots fireworks??

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This show is so moving and emotional…it just invokes pure happiness!

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See for yourself…

Apologies for my horrible “singing” in the background, but I just get so into it! Oh and the finale…awe inspiring!!


SO. MUCH. FUN!  Anything that incorporates all of the Disney villains and some killer perimeter fireworks around the Magic Kingdom is #1 in my book.  And when Oogie Boogie makes an appearance…the best!


While the show is great to enjoy during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, my favorite place to watch it is high above the Magic Kingdom at California Grill.  A little wine, a little cheese and the best fireworks show around!  Plus, the perimeter fireworks look like they’re right outside the windows!

Well that certainly helped my 4th of July fireworks fix!  Hope you and your family are enjoying the holiday weekend!!

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Bay Lake Tower Grand Villa Tour


The Contemporary Resort is a classic fixture at Walt Disney World.  Even after 40+ years, it’s 70’s era charm still seems, well contemporary, in a nostalgic sort of way.  And who doesn’t love gliding through the lobby on the monorail or looking down on the Magic Kingdom from California Grill?  The perks of this resort just go on and on.  So in 2008 when the announcement that a new Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property was being built as part of the resort, Disney fans were thrilled!  This was the perfect addition to the Contemporary and the DVC resort group!

The Grand Villas at Bay Lake Tower are all two stories and located on the top 2 floors of the building.  These are perfect for a big family getaway or a runDisney race weekend with friends, which is when I stayed there.  Let’s go inside!!

Living Room & Kitchen

The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the villa are the GIANT windows!  The windows are two stories and look out over Bay Lake or the Magic Kingdom.  While the furniture isn’t the most comfortable (most contemporary designs really aren’t in my opinion), the views make you forget about that.  Well that and the large flat screen TV 🙂



I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the kitchens at Bay Lake Tower.  Look at this thing!  Stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, tons of cabinets…how do I bring this home??


The Views

Our villa had a Lake View, so we were able to watch the Contemporary Resort marina and see Epcot and even all they way out to Downtown Disney!



Master Bedroom

The Master Bedroom is located on the first floor with a king-sized bed and a bathroom the size of my first apartment in NYC.



Look at this shower…I was dying to check out the rain feature!  Sadly it wasn’t my room…


Second Floor Lounge

Heading upstairs there is another seating area to relax in.  This was B’s favorite area 🙂


You can kind of see why…the couch is a little more welcoming than the one downstairs.



Also looking downstairs is pretty cool from up there!



 Upstairs Bedrooms

The two bedrooms upstairs are virtually identical.  They each have 2 queen beds, an over-sized closet, spa like bathrooms and their own balconies.






Added Bonuses!

There are a lot of added bonuses to staying at one of these Grand Villas.  First (and one of my favs!) is the laundry room.  It’s not just a stackable washer and dryer in a closet like other resorts, but a full on laundry room.  This is so perfect to wash all your nasty running clothes after a race before heading home!


Next is the additional bathroom on the first floor.  When staying with multiple people it’s nice to have a bathroom off of the living room to quickly use if your bedroom is upstairs.  Oh and by the way, that make 4 full bathrooms.  That’s 3 more than I have in my home!!!


If you have a lake view villa (which I actually prefer!), you get your own “private” show of the Electrical Water Pageant.  You just can’t been that music 🙂


And last but certainly not least, because the 2nd floor of the villa is on the 16th  floor there is easy access to my favorite lounge on property…Top of the World!  It really is the best place to end a magical day at Walt Disney World 🙂



I can’t say enough good things about the Grand Villa at Bay Lake Tower.  Basically, I’d just like to move into one.  Or at the very least stay there for every runDisney race weekend.  Now how to win that DVC lottery???

Which DVC Grand Villa would you most like to stay in?

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Kill, Refurb, Marry: Animal Kingdom Drinks

Kill-Marry-RefurbIt’s time for another Kill, Refurb, Marry!  This months topic is a bit strange (sorry Estelle!) because it’s very specific.  It’s also something I’ve never thought much about…Animal Kingdom Drinks.  Now maybe a Grey Goose Slushe from France or even a Sidecar from the Carthay Circle Lounge from time to time, but never anything specific at Animal Kingdom.

So I decided to get a little creative here and not only look at drinks at Animal Kingdom, but also the locations that those drinks can be found…let the safari begin!

Kill Create – Dockside Drinks?

There isn’t a drink that I can think of that should be removed completely, but there is definitely something that is needed.  The area between Africa and Asia is a no man’s land.  There is nothing to see or do, so why not have somewhere to stop an rest your weary legs??  How about transforming the old boat launch that is now used as a character meet and greet area into an awesome waterfront bar!?!?!


Right?!?  This is the perfect spot! And really…look at the view!



This is a big WIN all around and I think we should start a petition to have construction begin immediately.

Refurb – Yak & Yeti

I LOVE the theming and details in Yak & Yeti, but the bar leaves something to be desired.  Well and so do the drinks…especially the shaved ice martinis.  I love the concept of this, but the flavors are horribly sugary and really, who wants a watered down martini???



So I’m proposing some comfy bar stools and a revamped drink menu…maybe something with an Asian twist!

Marry – Dawa Bar

I really do love Dawa Bar!  Well I love it when the temperature is moderate…not sure I would hang out here in July.  But it’s still a great place to relax and have a nice cold beverage.  It also allows for some great people watching in Harambe and if you’re lucky you will be able to catch one of the live performances right outside in the square.



My favorite drink to get there is the Classic Mojito.  They put tons of mint in it and event a giant sugar cane!  So so so refreshing!!


So those are my choices…what about you?  What Animal Kingdom Drinks would you Kill, Refurb & Marry??

What do you think of my waterfront bar concept?? 

Make sure to visit This Happy Place BlogMouse on the Mind and all of the other great blogs participating in Kill, Refurb, Marry today!

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Polynesian Club Level Experience During the 2014 WDW Marathon

Ever since Chris told me about his idea for this post, I couldn’t wait to read it!  I’ve heard Club Level at the Polynesian Resort is one of the best on property and to get an inside look at all the goodies is so exciting. Be prepared to see some awesomeness in this post.  Looks like a GREAT way to celebrate a race weekend!


Aloha! There are many different ways to stay in and around Disney World for a runDisney event. One of the most indulgent though is to stay Concierge (or Club Level) at a Disney Deluxe Resort. In 2012 when I ran the inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler, the Mrs. and I stayed Club Level at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (our only other time at Club level) and found it to be an amazing experience. It may seem like a lot of additional expense, but once you factor in the “costs” of all the additional Club Level amenities, the price difference isn’t so great especially if you’re willing to “downgrade” your room view and “upgrade” your experience. However, nothing beats this view!

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Disney hotels know how to “plus” vacations, but the extra attention that goes on at the Deluxe resorts (and Club Level in particular) is quite special. When I booked our stay for my first marathon, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by booking Concierge at Disney’s Polynesian Resort: reward myself for accomplishing the race and say “thanks” to the Mrs. for putting up with months of my training by booking a stay at her absolute favorite result.

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The experience began soon after initially making the reservation. I received an email from the WDW Itinerary Planning Office offering to assist me with any aspect of our upcoming trip. This feature of Club level is wonderful for helping with booking dining, tours, recreation and other aspects of a Disney vacation. I had already booked an ‘Ohana reservation for the evening after the marathon (family style noodles and fire-roasted meat after running 26.2 miles? Yes please!), but the only time that was available was after 9:00. I replied to the Planning Office’s email asking for assistance in moving our reservation. They wrote back that they would put us on a waiting list. Lo and behold, two weeks before our trip, I received an email with a new reservation for an earlier time like I had asked for. Talk about assistance! I didn’t have to stalk the Dining website hoping for a cancellation.

Upon arrival, we were escorted through the Great Ceremonial House Lobby, past the check-in desk, and directly to the Hawaii Longhouse, home to the Club Level rooms and known as The King Kamehameha Club. Now may be a good time to point out that the Mrs. had *no* idea that I had booked Club Level. So when we walked past the normal check-in area, she was first confused, then surprised, then ecstatic (and maybe just a little emotional too).

Upon entering the Hawaii Longhouse, we sat down at a private check-in desk and were offered refreshments. Looking to pre-hydrate for the race, I took advantage and had some Natura water while the Mrs. had a Sprite. After a speedy check-in, we were escorted upstairs to the Concierge lounge, which has beautiful views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle. There are plenty places to sit and reflect, TVs to catch up on the real world, and also complimentary USA Today and Wall Street Journal papers to peruse.

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This is also the location of the Club Level food and beverage offerings throughout the day. This (as a runDisney race participant) was the biggest benefit for me. All day long I had access to water, fruit and snacks.

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There were four distinct services that we took advantage of for Marathon Weekend:

  • Kakahiaka (morning service) 7:00 – 10:00 a.m. (continental breakfast with oatmeal & fixings)
  • Auinala (afternoon service) 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. (snack service with goldfish crackers, cookies, nuts, etc…)
  • Ahiahi (evening service) 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. (varied by the night but always included fruits, cheese, crackers, hummus w/ pita bread, and pineapple with caramel)
  • Aumoe (late service) 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. (wine, cheese, desserts and cordials)

Kakahiaka was wonderful every morning of the weekend. The bagels with peanut butter were delicious, as were the croissants with butter and honey and the cinnamon rolls. Four kinds of cold cereal were out every morning, and the fresh oatmeal had granola, brown sugar and dried fruit for topping. And the array of fresh fruit was perfectly ripe. I was able to carb-load every day before the big race and I even took a banana every morning for a snack later in the parks!

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Auinala was nice when we came back to the resort mid-day, like we often do. We would pick up a soda or juice and some snacks before resting a bit.

Ahiahi was where the chefs at The King Kamehameha Club really were able to shine. Every night was a different treat. From sweet meatballs and Rangoon, to BBQ chicken skewers and spring rolls, to sushi and Tuna Poke’, every night was something different. Often there would also be pasta, salad or even a smoothie with a Polynesian theme. And every night there was a selection of beer and wine from which to choose. Additionally, hummus and pita were always available, and there was a different special item for kids each evening. This will be important later!

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Aumoe was a wonderful treat every night on the way back to our room. The dessert offerings were always varied and delicious, including mini-cakes and cookies. Cordials were on display every night for drinking or making delicious coffee concoctions.

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The night of our arrival, we returned to our room to find that in addition to the usual turndown and mint chocolates, there was a personalized welcome chocolate from the staff.

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As we got closer to race day, there were additional special items to note. Anyone familiar with staying at a Disney resort for a runDisney event knows that the quick service location will have race weekend specials (often involving copious amounts of pasta). Captain Cook’s was no different. They had a race weekend special of a baked pasta bowl with beef and tomato sauce served with a roll. Also, they had a grab-and-go option of a bagel, granola bar, banana and water bottle for $7. Not bad.

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Not to be outdone, every morning of race weekend before you’d have to get on the monorail to EPCOT for the race starts (another perk of staying at the Polynesian), the King Kamehameha Club Staff would put out an assortment of their own quick-grab items: bagels with spreads, apples, oranges and bananas. You could take as many as you wanted. Also, they had the water, juice and coffee service out too!

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I’m all about finding great race fuel in the most unlikely of places. Well, I think I found just about the best pre-race fuel in the kid’s item during Ahiahi Friday night. The chefs had made their own peanut butter and jelly uncrustables! I felt no shame in scooping up a few to put in our fridge for later. These mini PBJ sandwiches were perfect to have as a small meal before bed the night before the race.

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The King Kamehameha Club Staff were also incredibly accommodating. They would retrieve a beer for us during off-hours if we asked. They obtained sparkling water for the Mrs. (the usual machine was out for service) when she requested it. And they procured for me possibly the most perfect recovery drink imaginable (as most non-lactose intolerant runners know):  chocolate milk!

There were other (usual) benefits to the King Kamehameha Club: package delivery to your room (not the resort gift shop), beautiful towel animals, plenty of extra soaps, evening turndown w/ additional towel service which is especially good if you need to take multiple showers from pre- or post-race workouts or after going to the pool. You can never have too many towels.

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This beverage was provided by the excellent staff as a Victory beer for completing my first marathon!

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As I mentioned above, we had reservations at ‘Ohana for dinner after the marathon. Let me tell you, this was a great post-race meal! The family-style service provided plenty of carbs and protein via the delicious noodles and meat skewers. I was sure to wear my medal, and our server never let my plate be empty of grilled steak, shrimp, pork or chicken. And the pineapple bread pudding with bananas Foster sauce was the icing on the cake for a wonderful meal.

We talked at length with the Concierge staff all weekend long about runDisney races, about ones they had run in the past and ones they were thinking about. But my best conversation came with Rodrigo, a manager. I had heard someone in passing congratulate him on completing the marathon. So I offered mine as well. We talked and he said that the staff had come out during the marathon and cheered him on and gave him water and applesauce. How awesome to have your coworkers do that so early in the morning! I noticed he appeared to be limping, and I asked what had happened. Turns out, shortly after passing his coworkers, he got injured in the speedway portion of the race between miles 8 and 9. He persevered and managed to finish the race in less than 8 hours. I don’t know if I would’ve had the dedication to hobble 17+ miles, but he did. And his running partners stayed with him the whole way.

And that is a great note with which to end this recap. Our experience was magical staying in The King Kamehameha Club, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to be truly pampered for their runDisney event. Mahalo!

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Chris at Lost Horizons began running in 2009 and has run four runDisney races in the past 2 years: the WDW Half Marathon and Inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler in 2012, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in 2013 and the WDW Marathon (his first) in January 2014. He may run more. He tweets (@horizons1983) about Disney, running and science. Sometimes simultaneously.

Why I Will Never Go To Walt Disney World for New Year’s…

I guess this could be summed up in one word…CROWDS.  Everything about crowds makes me feel uneasy.  The long lines, waiting around, the claustrophobic feeling of being too close to strangers, the potential for stampedes…you know, all of those highly rational issues.  😉

But truly, nothing about crowds is fun to me, even if I’m at Walt Disney World.  Basically I avoid it like the plague this time of year.  I like my vacations to be relaxing, fun and include the least amount of waiting around possible.  When I start seeing things like this pop up on the internet, I start getting anxiety just thinking about being there!

Photo Source: Doctor Disney

Photo Source: Doctor Disney

Photo Source: Charles Aguillon

Photo Source: Charles Aguillon

Photo Source: The Main Street Mouse

Photo Source: The Main Street Mouse

Photo Source: WDW New Today

Photo Source: WDW News Today

If you are brave enough to tackle one of the Disney Parks today, GOOD LUCK!  Remember to enjoy the magic even if it’s a little harder to find.  Remember to be nice to the cast members who are spending their holiday making your family happy.  Remember to smile.  Remember that this is probably one of the best people watching experiences out there!

So get on that long line at Aloha Isle, grab a Dole Whip and park it on a bench for a few hours.  You are sure to make some great memories with your family and friends.  I’ll be cheering you on and crossing my fingers for no stampedes from the quiet of my living room.


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