Loews Portofino Bay Resort is my resort of choice while visiting Universal Studios in Orlando. The beautiful re-creation of the famed seaside resort village of Portofino, Italy truly gives you the feeling of a piece of Italy in Orlando. I have stayed here on several occasions and continue to come back because it is exquisite in every way. The rooms are spacious and luxurious designed with superior quality and make you feel like a V.I.P. while you are a guest. You will feel the grandeur as you enter the lobby.

The service here is impeccable. This upscale resort is worth every penny because it includes complementary Universal Express passes for each guest in your party. The Universal Express pass allows you to skip the lines on many of the popular rides at the Universal Parks, including all of the Harry Potter attractions. You will also receive one hour early entry into the parks allowing you to beat the crowds. Water taxi service is available from this resort which provides easy access to the parks.

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If you are looking for a fun hotel catering to children, try a Despicable Me-themed Kid Suite with a Garden or Bay View. Parents can have privacy in a beautiful master bedroom with a king bed and the kids will have a connecting room with 2 twin beds shaped like Minion missiles.

The grounds and pools are always beautiful and well kept. Portofino Bay offers 3 swimming pools. The Beach pool is a lively pool ideal for families. It has a waterslide and a sandy beach. The Villa pool has a more serene atmosphere. Lastly, the Hillside pool offers more privacy. It is great to be able to return to your resort for some poolside relaxation after spending an active day at the parks. The Mandara Spa promises blissful renewal of both mind and body and offers a variety of spa services and treatments, a complimentary fitness center, and exclusive steam and sauna facilities.

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Each evening at sunset, the Harbor Piazza hosts nightly Italian musical performances, including Opera Singers, which really adds to the ambiance of this magnificent resort. It is a delightful way to end the day.

There are many restaurants onsite at Portofino Bay serving a variety of menus, including Mama Della’s Ristorante, Trattoria del Porto, Sal’s Market Deli and the superb Bice Ristorante. Dining and ambiance at this onsite resort is part of the wonderful experience at staying at a Universal resort.

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This resort holds a special place in my heart because of the incredible memories my family has made there. Loew’s Portofino Bay Resort offers onsite guests the opportunity to enjoy time away to rest, relax and enjoy a little piece of Italy.

Contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist to book your next vacation to Universal Studios Orlando!

Traci Perjak
Travel Specialist

IMG_1201The official opening of Star Wars Land is still a few years away. However, you can still find an abundance of Star Wars themed experiences awaiting you at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can hurdle through space on a galactic adventure with Star Tours, watch in awe as your youngling participates in Jedi Training, and end your night with a bang by marveling at Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular – and that’s just the beginning of the Star Wars fun! There are so many awesome adventures to choose! It’s hard to pick a single favorite.  However, one of the best parts of Star Wars is the characters and getting to interact with them is every fan’s dream come true.

 

Disney is all about creating magical character meet and greets for guests and Star Wars fans will not be disappointed. While on your vacation, make sure you head over to Star Wars Launch Bay to see for yourself. As you make the journey from the front of the park, make sure to be on the lookout for a Stormtrooper or two. They may want to check to see if you’re a rebel spy while you snap a quick selfie. Once inside Launch Bay, you’ll be able to meet more of your favorites. Have your Magic Bands or PhotoPass cards on hand because there will be a photographer at each of the meet and greet locations ready to capture your memories. However, I suggest passing your cell phone off to one of the character attendants at each experience so they can capture the exchange on video as well, since these are some of the most memorable meet and greets on property.

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Chewbacca will welcome you with open arms {and the best hugs in the galaxy} when you join him in his control room. Kylo Ren will pace menacingly in the corner and question your loyalty to the First Order as you join him for a picture. It’s always fun to convince him that you’re part of the Rebel Alliance and see his reaction! The newest addition to Launch Bay’s offerings is BB-8 who wins the prize for cutest interaction of all time. His attendants and photographers are trained in droid language and will gladly translate for you as he whirs and beeps in friendly conversation. Last, but definitely not least, stop by and say hello to the Jawas as they roam. They enjoy trading with travelers, so make sure you bring something interesting to offer them. If they accept your trade, you will receive a mystery item in return!

The lines for Chewie, Kylo, and BB-8 are all separate, so you can pick and choose or see all three! Meanwhile the Stormtroopers and Jawas roam and have no set times or lines! They make for fun experiences if you’re short on time or with young ones who aren’t a fan of lines. No matter the path you choose, may the force be with you!

Are you ready to experience an out-of-this-world meet and greet? Contact us today! We’d love to help you plan your next Disney or Universal vacation!

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

Today, I am sharing with you 5 incredible places to meet Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World.  What is a “Meet and Greet” you ask?  It is a designated spot to find Disney Characters.  Your family is able to meet with them, take pictures and get their autographs. Meeting a character is one of the best things you can do on your Disney Vacation! It is so much fun to get your picture, but you also get to experience their personality in real life {the characters do some pretty entertaining things!}. Take a look at my favorite spots to meet the Mouse himself!

 

5 Favorite Spots to Meet Mickey Mouse:

 

  1. Magic Kingdom – located on Main Street USA in the Town Square Theater5 Favorite Places to Meet Mickey at Walt Disney World

Meet Talking Mickey dressed as a magician at this location.  It is so fun interacting with your “favorite” mouse. If you’re lucky, he might even show you one of his magic tricks. 

 

  1. Epcot – located in Future World at the Epcot Character Spot

At this location, you will find lovable Mickey Mouse in his regular dapper attire. If you’re someone that is looking for a classic Mickey Mouse picture, this is where you should go! 

 

  1. Hollywood Studios – located on Commissary Lane – Red Carpet Dreams near the New Star Tours

Meet Mickey all dressed up as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. 5 Favorite Places to Meet Mickey at Walt Disney World

 

  1. Animal Kingdom – located in Discovery Island – Adventurers Outpost

Meet Mickey the Explorer dressed as a safari guide to find a new adventure! This outfit might be my personal favorite {in addition to the classic}, and Minnie looks pretty cute as well! 

 

  1. Character Dining Location – “Chef Mickey” – located at the Contemporary Resort

Looking for a two for one opportunity? You can join Mickey {and Friends} while dining and celebrating! If you have a busy trip and want to make the most of your time, this might be right up your alley. You can enjoy delicious Disney dining and meet Mickey at the same time! Plus – Mickey is adorable dressed as a Chef. What more could you want? 

 

Ready to plan your trip to meet the mouse? Contact a Me and The Mouse agent, today!

 

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

Experience this Deliciousness at Universal’s CityWalk

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumLooking for a unique experience while visiting Orlando?  So was I – on Valentine’s Day while visiting my daughter. What comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day?  Perhaps flowers and candy?  Perhaps chocolate?  Yes, indeed.

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen at Universal’s CityWalk is perfect for a Valentine’s Day celebration.  Let’s be honest – this place is perfect to visit any day of the year!  If I lived closer – I would be sure to visit frequently so I could try practically everything on the menu.

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumThe Chocolate Emporium is a full service restaurant, bar and confectionary with a steam punk theme.  It is two stories with seating on both levels.  The menu offering is tremendous making it hard to choose just one item.  Their brunch menu is served all day featuring unique crepes, waffles, French toast and quiches.  Also served are soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers, flatbreads, pasta, and entrees such as steaks, pork chops and delicious chicken options as well. Unique milkshakes, sundaes and specialty desserts are offered to fulfill your sweet tooth. (Gluten Free options are available as well.)

Here are just a few of their unique offerings:  Black and Tan Onion Rings (Onion Rings with cocoa ranch dipping sauce.) – Pork Belly Sliders (Caramelized onions, mustard aioli, arugula, chocolate dipped bacon, pretzel bun)

What was on the menu for us you ask?

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumFor starters, we began with their signature temptation of Warm Chocolate Almond Bread with Salted Carmel butter.  We continued our culinary journey with a ½ pound house-made hamburger patty, Colby andouile queso, cheddar cheese, grain mustard on a pretzel bun, and we upgraded our kettle chips to truffle fries.  Finally, we pondered how we wanted to finish our heavenly visit, and we decided to add a milkshake for dessert.   What did we choose?  The Salted Dulce De Leche {Salted Carmel ice cream, dulce de leche, salted pretzels, fresh whipped cream, and chocolate cigars.}

After all these choices, if you are still craving chocolate, visit the confectionary located on the lower level to enjoy later.  I give this Emporium two thumbs up.

 

See more pictures in the gallery below!

 

Trying to figure out your next Orlando vacation? Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today! We’re specialized in Disney, Universal, and much more! We’d love to help take the stress away from your vacation planning.

 

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

Inaugural 2017

This new Epcot festival debuted in January 2017.  The Festival of the Arts ran for 6 weeks from January 13-February 20, 2017 each weekend Friday-Monday.  There is so much to see, taste, and experience.  Everybody can get involved and become immersed in the art.  Disney makes it easy to get excited about art!

Disney Festival of the ArtsParticipating in the paint-by-numbers mural at the Expression Section sponsored by Glidden is interactive fun for the whole family.  Grab a sponge brush, small container of numbered paint, and step up to the mural to paint within the coordinating numbered squares.  This activity is so simple and so much fun! By making a small artistic contribution, you will be a part of something so much bigger. The end result is an amazingly huge mural!  Find your inner artist!

Disney Festival of the ArtsThe festival provides the opportunity to strike poses in larger-than-life walk-in paintings that Disney created for guests, inspired by famous artists.  Be a part of crossing the Delaware with George Washington.  Thanks to the Disney PhotoPass team, you will able to take home some unique, fun, unforgettable photos.

Disney Festival of the ArtsMany artists are on hand at booths to show off their work and talk to guest while having the opportunity to sell their art, including many Disney-inspired pieces.  When I attended, I was most impressed when I caught a glimpse of an amazing artist painting to music.  Starting with a blank white canvas, he created a masterpiece painting of Olaf from Disney’s Frozen by literally throwing paint at the canvas with his hands then using his hands to blend the paint.  It was so much fun trying to figure out what the end result would be as he continued to throw and blend the paint.
Disney Festival of the ArtsA festival at Epcot would not be complete without providing guests a culinary experience.  The Festival of the Arts allows guests to travel around Epcot’s World Showcase to sample cultural culinary delights similar to other Epcot festivals, but with more of an artistic flair.  The food at Epcot is always a highlight.

For entertainment, check out the Disney Broadway Concert Series featuring original performers from Disney Broadway musicals.

Contact a Me and The Mouse agent if you want help planning your trip to the Festival of the Arts in 2018. You won’t want to miss this new and unique festival!

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

The Perfect Disney Creative Event

Want to get away?  Is your bank account drained because you just returned from a Walt Disney vacation and your head is spinning because you want to go back so badly – right now?  Give your bank account a break and host a Disney Scrapbook weekend for a fraction of the cost of your Disney vacation.  I mean, “Who doesn’t like to save money” but still create a little Disney magic and excitement!  It’s time to pack your Pixie Dust and get started! Disney Scrapbook Night

Check with your friends – Does anybody have any Disney photos they would like to get organized?

If the answer is “Yes”, then let’s get started.  Let’s be honest, some of your friends may not be Disney enthusiasts.  I know that is so hard to image, but just in case, let them know they can bring any type of photos to get organized.

Hosting a Disney-themed scrapbook event with your friends is fun and productive.  You can make memories with your friends, while organizing your Disney memories.  I had a huge scrapbook event in January with 65 of my closest friends… and it was awesome!  Don’t have 65 friends to invite?  No problem!  The great thing about hosting an event is you’re the boss, you make the rules!!!

You can host a party at your home for the night or the weekend or find a venue to accommodate your needs.  Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing… Disney Scrapbook Night

  • Make traditional scrapbooks or digital
  • Make Disney-themed food/drinks
  • Decorate with Disney in mind
  • Have T-shirts made for your weekend (this is so fun)
  • Set up a Photo Op to take pictures with your friends – it is a must to have more Disney-themed photos
  • Share ideas to make your photos look spectacular
  • Have a Costume Contest
  • Offer prizes/attendance prizes – For ideas visit our Pinterest Page!
  • Play a Disney Game
  • Get Creative – The sky is the limit!

Share and Tag your photos with Me and the Mouse on social media! We’d love to see what you’ve created!

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

“I Love the Interaction of this Ride”

Toy Story ManiaA trip to Disney World is never complete without visiting the interactive Toy Story Mania ride at Hollywood Studios. The second you grab your spot in line, you are thrown into a whole other world most could only dream up.

You will feel shrunk down to the size of the toys from the movies everyone has known to love. Wander through crayons as big as you, a giant Candyland board, and a Lincoln Log house that is big enough to live in. Waiting in line does not feel so bad! There are lots things to take in and observe up until the point of climbing onto the ride. Here you will experience what you always wondered it would be like to be a toy from your childhood. Toy Story Mania

Make sure to really take this all in and grab some great photo ops. Get ready to put your 3D glasses on for an unforgettable time for you and your family. My family has made it a point to come here every vacation we take.

Once you climb into the car and put your glasses on, get ready to immerse yourself into the world of Toy Story. You will play through five 20th century inspired carnival games. You can try to compete to beat the hourly score {my son always makes it a mission to do}. If the hourly score is out of your reach, battle the family for the vehicle high score. With that being said, don’t forget to aim for those high value points! 
Toy Story Mania

Meet a bunch of familiar faces such as Buzz, Woody, and the little Green Army Man from the story, while you make your way through these interactive 4D carnival games. Every ride will be a little different, keeping you wanting to go back for more. It isn’t hard to find yourself hopping back into line again and again, all day long. There is too much quick-moving action to take everything in with one go around.

Fast passes can be hard to come by, so make sure to grab them as soon as possible to make sure to not miss out on the magic. Toy Story Mania

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

Can you really get FREE things at Disney?
You absolutely can, if you know where to look.

 

I’m Celebrating Buttons I'm Celebrating Button

Are you and your family celebrating something while visiting Walt Disney World?  A Birthday? Anniversary? Family Reunion? Graduation?  If you are, get your “I’m Celebrating Button” as soon as possible.  Ask a Cast Member where to get yours.  While wearing your button, you might find other “Magical Moments” may come your way.

 

Driver’s License

If you have a ticket for Magic Kingdom, visit the Tomorrowland Speedway and get an Official Tomorrowland Speedway Driver’s License signed by Mickey Mouse for kids or adults, just ask a Cast Member working at the Speedway.  It makes a great souvenir for your scrapbook. Speedway License

 

Monorail and Boat Rides

You don’t need a ticket to ride the Monorail or take a ride on one of the many boats on Disney World property.  Kids love riding both. It is a fun, unique way to travel across Disney property.

 

Disney Springs

Visiting Disney without a park ticket for a day, be sure to visit Disney Springs for FREE!  You will find a variety of restaurants, shops, and outdoor entertainment.  This entertainment includes live musical performances daily. While you are there, visit Ghirardelli’s for a free chocolate sample too!

 

View Animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge Animal Kingdom Resort

You do not need to be a guest at Animal Kingdom Lodge to visit and view the animals for FREE! The lodge offers a great view of many of the animals, especially the giraffes. The restaurants also provide great viewing opportunities from your dining table.

 

Electrical Water Pageant

Electrical Water Pageant is a floating parade that can be seen nightly in the resort areas of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. Ask a Cast Member for detail and times.

 

Club Cool

If you have a ticket for Epcot, be sure to visit Club Cool located in Future World.  It is sponsored by Coca-Cola.  Here you will find samples of 8 drinks sold in other countries around the world. It’s the perfect place to cool down on a hot day in Florida.

 

These are just a few FREE opportunities to explore.  Ask your Me and the Mouse Travel Agent for additional tips to make your vacation memorable.

 

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

Boma is located inside the Jambo House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This restaurant has a wonderful décor and African drummers provide a lively authentic atmosphere at the entrance.  Dinner is served buffet style with a wide variety of food choices and included is a soft-drink selection with refills.  Drink orders are taken by a waitress.  You may want to enjoy premium drink options with an African flair for an additional cost.  Disney characters do not make appearances here, but the restaurant provides character and charm.

Boma is paradise for food lovers.  You will need a big table to provide plenty of room to try all of the unique dishes along with the classics.  The food has an African flair and provides a unique dining experience.  A variety of favorite American classics are offered as well.  The food has amazing flavor without being overwhelming.  It is one of my top five favorite restaurants on the Disney property. Dinner at Boma Animal Kingdom Lodge

Do you have picky eaters in your family?  We did!  We avoided Boma for years because we had small children.  Once they became teenagers, we became adventurous and tried Boma for “the experience” and it did not disappoint!  It is on our “must visit” list every time we go to Disney.

Even if you do have picky eaters in your family, don’t despair!  Boma has so many choices; there is truly something for everyone.  Foods are grouped into sections:  salads, soups, hummus, meats, fresh fruit, desserts plus much more.  Two of my personal favorite sections are soups and desserts.  The best advice I can give to everyone whether you consider yourself a picky or adventurous eater is to PACE YOURSELF!

It is best to take a small portion of a variety of foods on your first trip.  You can always go back and fill up on your favorites.  There are less adventurous items to keep everyone happy.  My husband and son love the meat carving station for their hearty appetites.  There are safe options for kids to enjoy such as baked chicken legs, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.  Mealie Bread is a Boma specialty along with Coconut Curry Chicken Soup.  Are you a pasta lover?  You will find Penne pasta with Meatballs and Marinara sauce.

Did you save room for dessert?  Probably not, but you NEED to have some anyway!  A variety of pastries are offered.   Warm apple cobbler, banana and butterscotch bread pudding with the options of vanilla and rum sauce should not be missed.  Be sure to try the coffee tarts and the zebra domes for something different.  In addition, chocolate brownies and cookies are on the menu too!

Boma provides family fun and you do not need to purchase a park ticket to enjoy this adventure.  Advance reservations are recommended so contact your Me and The Mouse travel specialist to make this a part of your Disney dining experience.

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

With all the wonderful kid-friendly dining options at Disney World, why should your family choose to eat at Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Resort?   The answer is:  for the unique cultural dining experience, of course.   You won’t find Disney character dining here, but you will have a dining experience with “character.” Sanaa at Animal Kingdom

From the moment you arrive at the Kidani Village lobby at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort, you will understand what I mean.  As you enter, take a moment to take in all Animal Kingdom Lodge has to offer, you will be in awe of the grand lobby with an African safari-theme.  It has an inviting, comfortable, casual, warm and cozy feel the moment you enter.  It tends to be a little quieter than some of the resorts and is the perfect place to unwind.

Sanaa serves lunch and dinner offering unique themed dining.  African cuisine with an Indian flavor is served.  Don’t let this scare you! There are a variety of dining options.  Be sure to check out the menu before you decide to visit, but I am going to give you a few recommendations to keep in mind as you browse the menu for Sanaa.  Reservations are recommended and accepted 180 days prior to arrival.  Be sure to contact your Me and the Mouse Travel agent and ask them to book an advance reservation for your party. Sanaa at Animal Kingdom

As you check-in with the host or hostess, request to be seated at a table by a window.  My family was fortunate to snag one of window tables on our last visit.  My son has always had a love of animals and was thrilled to be seated at a table where the windows extend from floor to ceiling and he could watch giraffes, zebras and birds as we dined.  He was surprised when animals came up to the huge windows right next to us, pressed their noses against the windows, and watched our family as we dined.  I am not sure who enjoyed the experience more: my family or the animals as we all watched each other.  So keep your camera handy and ready to shoot some amazing photos.

 

What are some of my recommendations on the menu?

Sanaa at Animal KingdomMy family’s favorite item at Sanaa is an appetizer – the Indian-Style Bread Service.  We were not convinced this appetizer would suit our family the first time we enjoyed the Sanaa experience.  Our waitress highly recommended it and explained it was a specialty and a favorite of guests who visited.  We almost declined, but then the guests at the table next to ours overheard our conversation and informed us what we would be missing so we couldn’t resist at that point.  It only took one time, and now it is a tradition each time we go.   The appetizer includes 5 types of Naan breads featuring traditional, garlic-ginger and spiced just to mention a few.  You can choose a small serving with 3 accompanying sauces or larger serving with 9 sauces included.  I recommend all 9 for the best experience.  This is a treat the whole family can enjoy.

My entrée recommendations included Tandoori Chicken and the South African Sample Plate where you can experience a trio of meat dishes offered.  If you prefer a more traditional meal, a Grilled New York Strip is offered.  Kid’s choices include cheese pizza and cheeseburgers, and a more adventurous choice of Kids Butter Chicken.  Don’t forget to save room for dessert!

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist