Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pop Century Resort - a review

One of my favorite things about being on Disney property are all the signs - and the cast members who say "welcome home!" as you arrive - and as you come and go during your stay.  Most every resort we have stayed at as been our "castle" away from home (and yes, there is one that I would not stay at again - we'll talk about that one some other day!).

Today, let's talk about a value resort - Pop Century.  I stayed here last August as part of my mom's only trip (and if you haven't done an adults only trip - make plans to do it - someday, somehow - it's so worth it!).  We had a standard room (vs a preferred room which is close to the main pool, food court and bus stop) in the 80's section.

Pop Century's theme is the larger than life icons and sayings of pop culture in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

The preferred sections are in the 60s and are centered around the Hippie Dippy pool (which you can't quite tell from my photo is in the shape of a large flower).

There is also a pool in the 50s section that is shaped like a bowling pin.  And the pool right outside our resort room door was the 80s computer pool.

The food court at POP was fabulous - and they even have their own signature item - the tie-dyed cheesecake.

 (Photo source: Disney food blog - if you click on the link, there is a review of the cheesecake!)

Bus service from the resort was always prompt.  The resort does not share buses - and there is just one main bus stop location.

So...how is a value resort different from a moderate or a deluxe?  Here are the big ones:
1.  The values tend to be more about themeing - are much more "jaw-dropping" - and very much larger than life. 
2.  There are no ceiling fans in the rooms at a value
3.  At the values, there are double beds rather than queen beds (you can request a king bed, but they are not guaranteed)
4.  The bus stop does not have roof - so you are exposed to the rain or the sun.
5.  Speaking of buses - when you leave the parks to return to your resort, the value bus stops tend to be the farthest away.
6.  I think that the values have much better food courts than other resorts.
7.  Values cost a lot less money!

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Pop Century - and would absolutely recommend it to my clients - and would stay there again.

If you want to see other pictures of Disney castles, be sure to check out Focused on the Magic!

Did you enter my giveaway last week?  Be sure to check and see if it was you - the winner has not yet come forward!

So...what about you.  Have you stayed at Pop Century?  Which decade would you most like to stay in?


Monday, May 21, 2012

And the winner is...

We had over fifty entries for my first giveaway - and I can't wait to so a second!  Now...without further ado...our winner is:  Debra Ann - if you will email me at disneykatrina@gmail.com - then I can get your information to mail out your pins and lanyard!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Behind the Seeds Tour

First order of business - have you put your name in the hat for my first giveaway? I will be drawing a name tonight for a Disney lanyard and eleven pins for trading - be sure to get your entries in!

Have you ever been on a Disney tour?  There are lots of options and price ranges - options for teens, adults, and families.  Over spring break, my girls and I went on the Behind the Seeds Tour.  This tour is backstage of the Living with the Land ride at Epcot.  It's also one of the least expensive tours at Disney - $14 for children and $18 for adults.  We also got a discount through our annual passes.

To sign up for the tour, there is a desk right next to the entrance to Soarin' - and you can pick your tour time.  We decided to do the 10 am tour and begin our day with some breakfast over at Sunshine Seasons while we waited (yum!!).

Just before 10, we arrived at the desk, made our own name tags, and joined one other family on our tour.  We began by walking behind the Soarin' fastpass machines and went through a set of double doors to get an overview of our tour - and then our first stop was a lab where they breed parasitic wasps to help control their pests.  They showed us the kind of damage some of the bugs can do to the plants and then we watched a very short video of how the wasps lay their eggs and kill the bugs. 

Our next stop was the greenhouse - and it was fun to see people on the Living with the Land ride as we learned about hydroponics.  We got to see pepper plants as they rotate and then, as they go through this channel, the roots are sprayed with water.

We walked a bit down a path to the cucumber trees (I think I'd very much like to have a cucumber tree!).  They have molds for the cucumbers so that they will grow into Mickey shapes - and then we got to try some.  Delish!

Next stop: raised beds.  Part of the tour is explaining many different types of growing options.  If my house wasn't surrounded by trees, thus no sun, I'd so love to have a garden.  And I know my knees would appreciate some raised beds.  As we moved on to the next section, my daughter Madalyn and I hung back a bit so I could get a close up picture of the strawberries.  And Madalyn and I both looked at each other and confessed our desire to swipe a strawberry!  However, we behaved and just took pictures.

Next we got to see Tomato trees, Eggplant trees (both white and purple - apparently they taste the same), and lettuce that spells Epcot :-)

Having been on the Living with the Land boat ride, I really had not realized how many different green houses sections there are - I guess it shows that it all just flows so well.  Either that or I just haven't paid enough attention!  So...that being said, we went to a different greenhouse where we got to take a break and sit on some benches and have some water.  While we were resting, out guide told us that Disney uses the foods that are grown here in the greenhouses in their restaurants - and that the greenhouses are continually changing with the growing seasons.  And even though it's April, it's apparently time to grow some pumpkins.

Next we went into the area where they farm fish - talapia, I believe - and we got to feed the fish.  It was kind of a feeding frenzy!

(Would someone like to come and wind my garden hose like this?)

The last part of the tour focused on spices.  We got to play a game - we were each given jars with spices in them and we had to smell them and figure out what they were.  My girls really enjoyed this part!

(black pepper tree)

The Behind the Seeds tour lasts just over an hour (though I could see that it could easily vary depending on the guide - or how chatty your group is) - and we had a lot of fun.  It's the perfect length for kids (though I will admit that my 10 year old was looking a little antsy in parts - even though she's the one that requested we do the tour) - especially if they have an interest in plants.  We were given sales information from companies that make stackable gardens; we got instructions on how to make other alternative gardens at home.  The tour is also a great value - and a very educational way to spend the morning!

So...what about you?  Have you ever taken a tour at Disney?  Which one would you most like to do?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Picture of the Week: Disney is not just for kids!


Today is the last day to book a trip to Disney with Mickey picking up the tab for meals!  If you travel between August 24 and September 29 you can get free dining during your stay.  It's a great time to go because with school back in session, the parks are not too crowded.

Also - don't forget to enter my first giveaway - and win a Disney parks lanyard + eleven pins to start your pin trading adventure.

Now - for our picture of the week:

Last year, I took a mom's trip with two great friends - we had free dining and great amounts of fun - all leaving our kids at home for TEN days!  I highly recommend an adult trip - whether it's a long one or just a long weekend.  It's such a different dynamic - and one that I can't wait to repeat again this fall.

Please email me at disneykatrina@gmail.com and we can talk details about your next trip to the World!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

1900 Park Fare - A Dining Review

I have two daughters - 11 and 14.  They are not girly girls.  They are not into princesses.  And not into characters too much either.  However.  And this is a big however.  They LOVE villains.  They were thrilled when they got to meet the Evil Queen during characterpalooza at Hollywood studios.  In heaven meeting Cruella at the Halloween party.  And they were beside themselves in anticipation of meeting Lady Tremain and the step-sisters at 1900 Park Fare.

We arrived quite a bit early for our dinner reservation as I wanted some time to walk around the Grand Floridian resort.  I love the Victorian style - and the grandeur that you feel when walking around the grounds.

The girls had finally had enough of my exploring and we went to check in.  We had a very short wait in the lobby before we were buzzed to go back to our table.

If you'd like, you have the opportunity for a photographer to take a family picture in front of a mural - but we chose not to partake.  1900 Park Fare is divided into three sections - and we were in the middle section, right by the buffet.

We had a bit of time before the characters would make their way to our table, so we went to get our dinner.  I have heard lots of mixed reviews of the dinner here.  This is our second time for dinner (and we've done breakfast as well - completely different set of characters for breakfast!) - and we've always found it delicious.

Here are Katie's plate and my plate - no telling what Madalyn had on her plate :-)

(Katie's plate - clockwise from the top: pasta alfredo, sourdough bread, mashed red potatoes, strawberries, watermelon, sushi, caesar salad, and green beans)

(My plate - clockwise from the top: roll, mashed red potatoes, prime rib, pasta alfredo, and I wish I could remember what this was - I think chicken marsala - and it was INCREDIBLE!  I wish I had some right now! -- caesar salad - and in the middle seafood paella - also incredibly delicious!)

Shortly after starting on our dinner, we were visited by both Cinderella and Prince Charming.  They were both very sweet.  But I am not sure I understand why Charming needs a horrid wig.

 (photography tip: if the people you are photographing are standing up - you need to stand up, too.  No one looks good when the camera looks up from a seated position.  Note to self: follow photography tips from now on!)

Finally, the characters we were waiting for arrived!  First up was Lady Tremain.  She very much enjoyed hearing that we were having a girls night out and that we left my husband at home.

Next up was Anastasia.  She was most curious about Katie's t-shirt.  (It's from a web comic called Homestuck)  Katie told her it was a "hero of mind" shirt (not that I even know what that means!) - and so Anastasia asked if that meant she was a scholar.  Katie decided to wing it and just say "yes!"  Then Anastasia proceeded to tell Katie all about Drizella's problems with math and that she could really use a tutor.  Katie just ate it up!

About the time this was going on, Drizella was making her way around the dining room.  And she discovered a little girl that had brought a stuffed animal with her - a kitty.  Drizella put it on her head and LOUDLY yelled to Lady Tremain (who was in a completely different section of the restaurant!) that she wanted a kitty and would she please get her a kitty and that she really needed a kitty.  I think that my girls began to hyperventilate from laughter.

During the evening, there is an announcement that comes on stating that it is time for Charming and Cinderella to do a waltz.  They dance for a bit.  And then go and find a young prince/princess to dance with them.  Drizella and Anastasia dance too.  But it is definitely not waltzing.  More like hopping.  But they were hilarious - and their partners seemed to enjoy the fun.  We also watched a young pirate turn down Cindy and seek out Anastasia!

Finally we got to meet Drizella.  Katie told her that she heard she might need some help with math - so Drizella LOUDLY yells to Anastasia "DID YOU TELL HER THAT I NEED HELP WITH MATH.  THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SECRET!"  (Imagine this in the most screechiest voice possible)  Again, my girls were THRILLED with their encounters.

Anastasia managed to come by again - and Katie told her that we love villains.  Anastasia stayed true to character and wanted to know what we could be talking about.  So, Katie went another route explaining that they don't like princesses.  Anastasia agreed - saying that Cinderella must not be smart because she can only dance in a box and she talks to mice.

Overall, we loved our dinner here.  The food was wonderful.  The characters were top-notch.  Even if you have a princess lover, I think they will be thrilled by the interactions.

If you want to see more Disney pictures - be sure to go to Focused on the Magic!

So...what about you?  Do you love princesses or villains?  Have you entered for my very first giveaway yet?!


Pin Trading at the Disney parks and a GIVEAWAY!

The first time we took the kids to Disney, I had heard about pin trading, but I wasn't quite clear on all the specifics.  I thought that if I didn't mention it, my kids wouldn't know about it.  And then we could just pretend that it didn't exist.  Not that there is anything wrong with pin trading - but it seemed like it was something else to do and we already had so much on our agenda.

However.  Instantly.  My kids were mesmerized.  They looked at the colorful pins in the stores.  They went up to talk to cast members - asking to look at their pins.  They talked to people in line and asked to see their pins.  They talked to our neighbors while we were eating meals - asking to see their pins.  As you can see - it was on our agenda no matter what.

So.  We began pin trading.  And since it's her "thing" - I thought I'd let my 14 year old daughter, Katie - tell you what it's all about:

If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you’ve probably seen cast members and park guests with lanyards on their necks full of pins. That’s because they’re pin trading, which is a simple yet really fun way to spend time at the Disney parks.

But how do you start pin trading? That is super-duper easy. You can buy a starter pack, which usually contains 5 to 8 pins in them, depending on which starter pack you buy. You’ll also need something to put your pins on. Most people opt for a lanyard, which come in a few different lengths. Getting all of these things is also pretty easy. All of the parks have somewhere that sells pins and lanyards, and there is even a whole store dedicated to it in Downtown Disney.

Once you have your pins, then what do you do? You trade them, of course. Many cast members have pins, and when they do it’s pretty obvious. Some will have the neck lanyards and some will have smaller square hip lanyards. Usually the lanyards will be black, but if they are green that means they only trade with younger kids. Sometimes they will keep pins hidden, displaying the pin back instead of the front. This is a mystery pin, and you won’t know what it is until you get it. I’ve even found a cast member with a lanyard only having mystery pins with colorful backs shaped like Disney characters. 

You don’t have to exclusively trade with cast members. Cast members give you the benefit of giving you whatever pin you want and not caring what you get in return, but there are also other people around the park who may be willing to trade. There is no clear way to know if someone else is willing to give up their pins, but it never hurts to ask.
Sometimes in stores they will have a pin board out. They often vary in sizes, but are usually not very big. Most of the time they have a two pin trades per board policy, and often have at least one really good pin.

Many pins will have a silver Mickey Mouse head somewhere on it. These are called “Hidden Mickey Pins” and you can’t buy them in stores. They only come through cast members. They always come in different sets with different themes. There is one with Disney villain faces on bowling pins. There is another with a Disney character for each Zodiac sign. There are two different sets with a character for each letter of the alphabet, one from Disney World and one from Disney Land. The pins originating from Disney World are all circular, while those from Disney Land are shaped like the letter. 

One of my favorite collections is the topiary collection. These are pretty hard to find, and they were the first hidden mickey pins released. It consists of Mickey, Minnie, Tinker Bell, Dumbo, and Ariel.
 If you’re like me and REALLY like pin trading, you may want to get a pin book. Trust me, there is only so much space on a lanyard that you can use. It’s really useful especially if you’re collecting because it keeps things organized much better than a lanyard.
Pin trading is one of my favorite things to do while in Disney World. Not only do I get to further my collections, but sometimes I’ll get into a really fun or interesting conversation with the cast members. They’re really friendly and fun to talk to. And they may even have the perfect pin to complete your collection. 

And now I am excited to announce my very first giveaway!  I have an official Disney parks lanyard and ELEVEN pins that you can use as your starter pack to trade with in the parks!

Please use the rafflecopter widget to get all your entries in (comment on this blog, follow this blog, and like my facebook page  - and you must do all three to be entered into the drawing - and there are bonus entries for following on twitter and tweeting about the contest!).  Entries must be received by Monday, (May 21, 2012) night and must have a US address for me to send your prize.  The winner will be announced on Tuesday.  Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So...what about you?  Do you pin trade?  What kinds of pins do you (or want to!) collect?