Ever once in a while, us “Disney” people make it over to Universal Studios to see what other adventures are within the Orlando area. For my husband’s and my 12th anniversary we decided to take an adult weekend to enjoy the Hard Rock Hotel and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
My husband and I loved the resort. Compared to Disney you will notice the lack of small children. To be honest I wouldn’t take my small children there either. It is on the deluxe end of the resorts and not small kid friendly. Hard Rock likes this more adult atmosphere and families with small kids are not their demographic.
The main lobby is decorated in over the top themed rock’n’roll art and prints of rock n’ roll icons like Steven Tyler, Mic Jagger and Jimi Hendrix. There are small exhibits around every corner with memorabilia, instruments and fun trivia. We spent about an hour just exploring the resort and viewing the treasures.
We stayed in a King bed garden view. It was quite large and could accommodate four people with an optional fold-out couch. The mirror reflected the heights of different musicians so you could see how you measured up. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m the height of Lady Gaga. The art on the wall was modern, all with an instrument twist. For our anniversary they gifted us with a treasure hunt that ended with a campaign toast. To be honest, we did not participate—we were too busy.
The pool is a party scene, with servers taking drink and appetizer orders accompanied by loud music. Hard Rock Hotel boasts an underwater sound system, playing classic rock and dance music. You will find the pool laced with old rockers, edgy young punks and your fill of tattoos and body piercings. The DJ while we were at the pool was hysterical and kept saying off-color comments and would follow the comments with, “This ain’t no Portofino.” [These are Universal Studios more classy and refined deluxe resorts.]hardrock
The main reason we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel was because of the onsite complimentary theme park benefits:
Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter [The biggest reason]
Skip the regular lines with Universal Express Unlimited ride access [Starts at $69/person/day]
Complimentary water taxis
Priority seating at select restaurants
My husband and I had a great couples weekend at the resort. We found it to be cool and edgy, while staying clean and modern. The staff was friendly and attentive, and some of them may stalk the grounds late at night looking for an off-site host, but were very kind and nurturing to their guests. Not to mention the Hard Rock Hotel has the shortest walking distance to Universal Studios. This is a great place to have a weekend adventure!
Star Wars Weekends is an intergalactic gathering that occurs at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios every year mid-May to mid-June. In Darth’s Mall, there is a LARGE arrangement of Star Wars gifts, goods and food that can only be purchased at SWW. It is a mega-fan’s wonderland.
The top gift on my list is Disney’s DTech. The name itself is not explanatory at all. It is an amazing technology that allows you to be three-dimensionally portrayed as your favorite Star Wars action figure. Simply said, Disney takes your head and places it on the body of a Star Wars character: Jedi Knight, X-Wing Fighter, Storm Trooper, TIE-Fighter pilot or an Alderaan Princess. The options vary from year to year.
You may choose between two different sizes 7” and 15”. The larger action figure cost significantly more than the smaller. The 7” figure cost $120+taxes and shipping, and the 15” cost $1,000+taxes and shipping. With your purchase you get a coveted button to wear at the event and a keepsake.dtech
For Father’s Day 2015, my family chipped in and purchased this for my husband. We visited Darth’s Mall during the last day of Star Wars Weekends and he walked right into the experience with no wait. It is approximately a 10-minute experience, using a painless 3-D scanner. They do make participants push their hair back with a hand band, so that they have a clear shot of your face and head. Disney gives you login infomation to track your order and to view your 2-D photo. You can track your creation to see when it is processing, being created or being shipped to your home.
joeAbout 7 weeks later the figure was delivered to our home and it was a wonderful surprise for us all! It was a great match to the photo taken at SWW. My husband proudly displays this in our living room. It has been the main topic of many a conversation. If you are looking for an unforgettable gift, that can only be purchased at Disney, look no further than DTech.

Part 3 – D23 Highlights!

The weekend of August 14-16, 2015, was filled with amazing news/changes/additions to the Disney universe…and we could not be more excited for them!  It’s going to be a revolutionary few years for the Walt Disney Company, its theme parks, and other divisions of its brands!  Let your Me and The Mouse travel specialist assist you in experiencing all the new that Disney has to offer!

While some have tentative dates of ‘release’, others do not. We suggest following our Me and The Mouse Facebook page for all the latest details!  Now, “On With The Show”!

 

  • Theme Park Expansions!

  • Bring Autopia Back to Marceline {Midget Autopia image here}

    • Marceline, MO – boyhood home to Walt Disney, and the only town in the world to be given a genuine Disneyland attraction (Midget Autopia) has started a fundraising effort to bring that attraction back to life!

    • http://www.bringbackautopia.com/ Join the effort!

  • Kingdom Hearts III

    • Although a release date is tentative for late 2016 (pushed back almost 2 years now), there is great news regarding the addition of new levels!

  • Disney and Pixar animation News

    • Zootopia

    • Moana

    • The Good Dinosaur

    • Beauty and the Beast – a musical! (2017)

    • The sequels line-up for Pixar!

      • Finding Dory and Toy Story 4 highlighted

    • New Pirates of the Caribbean

    • Pete’s Dragon and The Jungle Book (Summer 2016)

    • Marvel excitement!d23

There was so much MAGIC and AWESOME from the D23 Expo. I hope my 3 part series has inspired you to become a D23 member, as well as gotten you excited to join the next Expo in 2017!

In case you were wondering – YES, bring your children! There are child and family areas in which your little one can play, color, watch movies, have a snack, and relax. The D23 Expo is fun for all ages!

In the midst of all this exciting news – and so much more that I quite possibly may have missed – there was still time for Hollywood and Disney Legends to bless us with their amazing talent.  I leave you with an amazing video of Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman (musician, composer, all around amazing half of the Sherman Brothers) singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” in honor of Mary Poppins’ 50th Anniversary Celebration!  

(Images courtesy of D23 and Walt Disney Hometown Museum Facebook Pages)

 

Amy Sowinski

Travel Specialist

Disney did a great job bringing the island feel to central Florida with this resort. The resort is built around Barefoot Bay boosting palm trees, white sandy beaches, and colonial architecture. Caribbean Beach is made up of six islands. Take time to island- hop!

The rooms are furnished with 2 queen size beds or 2 queen size beds and 1 bunk size pull down bed. And for the pirate fan in your family, Caribbean Beach Resort offers a pirate room which includes 2 double size beds that look like pirate ships. Arrrggg you brave enough to give it a try? Since there are six islands, you may want to book a preferred room to be closer to the main building.

Caribbean Beach offers a variety of dining options. Casual dining is offered at Shutters at Old Port Royale. It’s American food with a Caribbean flare. Shutters is only open for dinner and dining reservations are recommended. There are two quick service options that are sure to please everyone in the family. Old Port Royale Food Court and Banana Cabana Pool Bar. And the best for those nights you just want to lounge in your room, pizza delivery!

And there is no shortage of recreational activities at this resort. From the pirate themed pool to six leisure pools at each island, you are sure to enjoy some time cooling off! Caribbean Beach resort also offers campfire activities, fishing, bike rentals, volleyball, jogging trails, playground, and arcade. There is surely something for all age groups at this resort.

I don’t think you will be disappointed when staying at Caribbean Beach Resort!

cbeachLori Steinnerd

Travel Specialist

Top 10 Reasons to Run in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon 

With the sign up for the 2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend coming up soon in August, runners from all around the world are getting ready for their 2016 race season. Whether you are running in your first race, your 50th race, no matter the distance, this might be the best race for your introduction to an addicting event called runDisney. Here are my top 10 reasons why you should sign up for this race:

10) Disneyland everywhere around you. To run through the parks and backstage is a fantasy come true for those that love Disney. Imagine running towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle, past Mickey’s Fun Wheel and through Radiator Springs. You feel like you are part of the magic that Disney creates every day.

9) Runners of all abilities will surround you. Disney races are friendly to all levels of runners and walkers. Tinker Bell weekend is filled with those around you that will keep on encouraging you to persevere through each and every mile. Disney even provides a great training plan by the wonderful Jeff Galloway to help you each week with your at home training. Not ready to run a half marathon? 5K and 10K races are also available for registrations.

8) Costumes. From simple to complex, costumed runners are everywhere. On Tinker Bell weekend, there is an abundance of wings, tutus, and skirts as well as other well-known Disney characters. Be amazed at the time and effort some people have put into the details of their costumes. This is a chance to not only be a runner but a character that you love.michelle

7) Post race attractions. After you have finished your race, the euphoria that follows will last for hours. Be sure to purchase park tickets for your weekend and scream as loud as you can on your favorite rides. All the walking around the parks will stretch your legs and you will not feel sore muscles the next day.

6) Crowd support. The number of friends, families, and strangers along the course cheering for you can make a runner cry. You will be blown away when the Red Hat Society lines the course for half a mile, early in the morning, full of smiles and encouragement. Enjoy the bands and cheerleaders giving their best while you give your all.  Don’t forget all those cast members that woke up early just to wave their Mickey hands while you pass them by!

5) The Expo. Tinker Bell weekend has vendors from all around the US coming to display their goods at the expo. Many vendors have special Disney product lines that give you the best accessories for the day. For souvenirs, you can find Disney themed new Balance running shoes, Disney themed shirts and jackets, and don’t forget your Disney themed medal holder.

4) Perfect running weather. California weather is great. Of course Disney doesn’t guarantee what the day will hold, but whether you come from the north or the south, you will find great running weather in California, not too hot, and not too cold.

3) Challenges. 2014 brought the first Pixie Dust Challenge. For those runners seeking to make the most of their weekend, you can sign up for both the Tinker Bell 10K and Tinker Bell half marathon and receive a special medal for the completion of both. If you race a half marathon or more in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same calendar year, you can receive a Coast to Coast medal, or if you complete the Tinker Bell half marathon and the new Disney Paris half marathon in the same calendar year, you can complete the Castle to Chateau challenge.

2) Magnificent medals. Disney medals are full of bling and beauty. They are ones that you will wish to put on display when you get home (on that new Disney medal holder!). The 2015 Tinker Bell half marathon will be the 5th anniversary year of the race and runDisney fans are hoping for a special commemorative medal to celebrate. And don’t feel embarrassed to show off for the rest of the day – you will see runners proudly wearing their medals all over the parks. Be sure to grab a photo of you and your medal in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

1) Characters. The fairies from Pixie Hollow are everywhere for photo opportunities. You can also find classic Disney characters such as Goofy and Mickey, Pixar characters such as Lightening McQueen and Buzz Lightyear, and Storm Troopers for the sci-fi fans. Character lines photo ops are extremely efficient and you don’t have to take too much time out of your run time for a picture that will speak a thousand words.

Overall, Tinker Bell race weekend is an enjoyable and amazing experience that I recommend everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. I hope it becomes a passion that you share with others, transforming your life to one that is filled with health, happiness and little bit of pixie dust!

 

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

                         A Review of Star Wars Weekends’ “Rebel Hangar”

Well if you haven’t figured it out yet, my family travels to Disney in May or June for Star Wars Weekends (SWW). We are SWW junkies and proud of it. We dress up, wait in line for character signatures AND try out all the new events.

This year Disney added an additional dining experience during SWW called the “Rebel Hangar.” It ended up being the most underrated, most loved event of our SWW experience.

The Rebel Hangar was located in part of the “Backlot Express”. It was crudely decorated with Star Wars items and memorabilia, but that was kinda the point. Rebels are constantly on the move hiding from the Empire. Nothing is to be organized or well put together. Some of the posters and art were quite funny and clever.rebel

The menu was served in the style of small plates, with a variety of drinks and refreshing sides. As a table we ordered: sliders, chicken and waffles, cheese plate, zesty french fries, and Star Wars themed cupcakes. The total came to about $84. The best part were the characters that roamed about the facility. They were interacting with each other and the guests. We saw Greedo, Jawas, Imperial Officers, and Star Wars Rebel Stars: Ezra and Sabine. I wasn’t expecting the characters, so it was EXTRA fun!

This was a much more affordable option than the other Star Wars Weekend dining experiences like the Star Wars Jedi Mickey Character Dining Meal and the Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast, where we have paid more than double. The other two dining experience are also 2 dining credits on the Disney dining plan.

In 2015 this dining experience was NOT on the dining plan and it required reservations. We checked in about 20 minutes prior to our reservations and we waited about 35 minutes for a table.

I am really hoping this returns for 2016! I am expecting it to cost more and be included on the dining plan.

Deciding What Tickets to Buy at Disney World

You would think this would be the easiest part of planning your Disney vacation, but it’s not! You really need to put some thought into what you want out of your Disney vacation. First off, explore what ticket options are available to you. Second, get out the calculator and price out the difference. Finally decide which is the best fit for your family and/ or financial situation.

Base tickets: Allows you to visit only one park per day. This may be a good option if you are a Disney newbie or if you are staying more than 4 days. If you plan on dining in the parks, you will need to plan your itinerary accordingly.

Park Hopper: Allows you to visit more than one park per day. This option is good for experienced Disney goers that are familiar with the transit system or if you are staying less than 4 days. This option also allows more dining choices since you are not limited to one park. The additional cost is $64/ per ticket (plus tax).ticket

Water park fun & more option: Allows you to visit the two water parks, ESPN Sports Complex, Oak Trail Golf Course, Disney Quest, and two miniature golf courses. You may do more than one thing per day but each admission counts as a “visit” taken off your total. If you plan on golfing, visiting the water parks, or Disney Quest more than twice during your visit this may be worth the cost. The additional cost is $64/ per ticket (plus tax).

Park Hopper and Water park fun & more option: Allows you to visit more than one park per day plus visit the two water parks, ESPN Sports Complex, Oak Trail Golf Course, Disney Quest, and two miniature golf courses. The additional cost is $90/ per ticket (plus tax).

As you can see this can be complex! Think about what is best for your family.

 

Lori Steinnerd

Travel Specialist

Disneyland Paris? Oui oui!

If you love Disney and you’ve always dreamed of a family vacation to Europe, it couldn’t be easier to combine the two and visit Disneyland Paris! It’s just a short train ride from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris (or easily accessible by train from many major cities in Europe).

Disneyland Paris is made up of two main parks – the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Disney Village is a shopping and entertainment district complete with Character meals and a Wild West show.pariscastle

There are many walk-through areas in the parks as well as exciting attractions and shows to keep guests of all ages entertained. While many of the attractions in Paris are similar to attractions in the U.S., there are some very definite differences as well as many attractions found only here:

  • After exploring the galleries of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, you can venture down into the dungeon to take a peek at the castle’s prisoner – a fire-breathing dragon!
  • Big Thunder Mountain is magnificently displayed on its own island!
  • Phantom Manor is a haunted, old Victorian mansion atop a hill with its own exciting backstory that will leave you breathless!
  • Fall into the White Rabbit’s hole and make your way through Alice’s Labyrinth and find yourself with a gorgeous view of Fantasyland.

A minimum 2 night/3 day stay is recommended to be able to experience the best of Disneyland Paris, and there are several Disney resort hotels to choose from to make the most of your visit. Most of them have American theming, like the Hotel New York, Hotel Cheyenne, and the Sequoia Lodge. The most popular of them all is the Disneyland Hotel which is a very beautiful, Victorian-styled resort sitting right above the entrance to the Disneyland Park.

Disneyland Paris is an excellent host at the holidays:

  • Halloween is a spooky time of year at the Disneyland Paris parks complete with decorations and characters in their favorite costumes. The season culminates on Halloween night with one big party!
  • Christmastime is filled with traditional decorations and events. Spend your Christmas Eve with your family at a very special Christmas meal with Santa and your favorite Disney characters. Book far enough in advance and order a Christmas tree for your room!

You can also extend your Disney trip with a Disney bus tour into Paris. Choose from tours that include a cruise on the Seine, exploring the Louvre, a ride up the Eiffel Tower, and more! If that’s not enough, Adventures by Disney can take your family on guided tours throughout Europe, exploring exciting lands with Disney’s VIP service and story-telling to immerse you in the Magic of Disney.

For more information and to plan your European adventure, contact Nancy at Me and the Mouse Travel!

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

Missing Fast Pass Attractions Due to Ride Closures

Did you ever wonder what happens to your pre-selected FastPasses (FPs) in the event the ride is down or not running during your scheduled return time? There is no need to worry….Disney is on top of it. 

If you are scheduled for a FastPass through My Disney Experience (one of your 3 pre-selected FastPasses) and you arrive during your scheduled hour window, but the ride is down during that time, Disney will send an email notifying you.  They will also put an “invisible” FastPass in your My Disney Experience.  It is considered an “invisible” fastpass because it will not prevent you from getting another FP at the FP+ Kiosk once your original FP’s are used or their times are expired.

For Example, assume this is your FP day:

11:00 AM  – 12:00 PM Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

3:05 PM -4:05 PM Peter Pans Flight

  • You go to Seven Dwarfs at 1:30 and the ride is temporarily shut down.
  • You will receive an email and a notification in My Disney Experience about the issue.
  • You will be assigned a new FastPass that will be good from that time up until the scheduled park closing time for that day.
  • That FastPass is not just for the original ride, but will also give you a list of other rides you can use that new FastPass for.
  • All you have to do is go to the ride on the list you want to go on at anytime until the end of the scheduled park closure, scan your bands, and ride.10_MagicBand

There is nothing else you need to do…

You may want to wait and see if the original attraction you wanted to ride opens up while you are still at the park, but in the event the ride is closed for the remainder of the day, you have other ride options to take advantage of. 

The above options were only provided to a guest that was visiting the Magic Kingdom that day.  Rides will change based on the park you are visiting and the rides that are listed may or may not be the same ones given to you at Magic Kingdom…you will need to check your MDE to see what options they are offering you.

This invisible FP option gives you a lot of flexibility and may even give you the chance to ride a ride that you were unable to secure a fastpass for…so even though it may be disappointing to see the ride you were scheduled for is closed, Disney has made up for it by giving you select options to make up for the inconvenience.

 

 

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist