Monday, November 12, 2018

Adventures By Disney- Arizona

If you love nature, hiking, the great outdoors, then you need to take the Arizona/Utah ABD trip!  While folks may think "I can do that on my own, why do I need ABD?", there is something so magical about the ease of travel with ABD.  You get to ride along and enjoy the scenery instead of worrying about driving and directions.  You get to hike with knowledgeable locals who tell you all sorts of facts and stories about plants, animals, history, geology, food, culture, etc.  You get to make a whole new group of friends and create special memories together, creating a bond like no other.  You don't have to worry about carrying water and snacks... the guides have that covered for you!  You simply show up with your family and let ABD take care of everything while you just enjoy the trip.   Here's some of our favorite highlights: 

·         Sedona We had never visited Sedona so I was glad ABD made this our starting point for the trip.  Definitely a unique vibe to the town, shops, hotels, even the spas.  The desert is absolutely beautiful and it's so much more than dusty cactus nothingness that I had imagined!

·         Grand Canyon National Park I loved our lodging at Thunderbird Lodge.  I had VERY low expectations since I knew it was a National Park hotel, but we were pleasantly surprised with the room.  I would equate it to a Value Disney resort... nothing fancy but it was clean and comfortable, and we were literally steps from the South Rim which was the true value there.  We took a  private tour on the South Rim of this awe-inspiring Grand Canyon and learned so much!
·         Colorado River Rafting A rafting trip was perfect for this hot weather!  We donned life jackets and helmets and rafted our way down the river... loads of fun for all ages!

·         Monument Valley I felt honored to have a Navajo guide lead us to Discover the natural beauty of the buttes, mesas and secret niches.  It was a dusty ride for sure and since ABD thinks of everything, they gave us all bandanas to keep the dust off our mouths and noses.  

·         Diamondback Gulch Off-Road Tour Talk about FUN in Sedona!  We took a Pink Jeep Tour offroad for a bumpy ride through Diamondback Gulch.  Our driver was funny and taught us a lot about the local area as well as topography. I appreciated this tour being included because it's not something we would have normally done but it was lots of fun.
·         Bearizona Wildlife Park This wildlife safari park was one of my favorite educational stops on the trip.  Animal lovers will enjoy seeing and learning all about the variety of animals they house here.  The setting is beautiful with lots of trees and it feels like you're in the middle of the forest.. because you are! We had a filling buffet lunch here as well which we all enjoyed.
·         Mather Point Our first view of the Grand Canyon South Rim from Mather Point is something I will remember forever.  Words can't fully describe how awe inspiring the Grand Canyon is.

·         Arches National Park  Having a private local guide for our hike in Arches National Park meant we not only learned about the rocks we were seeing, but we learned about so much more... plants, people, animals, etc.  ABD does a really good job of making sure trips are not only fun, but educational as well.

·         Red Cliffs Lodge I wish we had more nights at Red Cliffs because it truly is a special gem!  Beautiful scenery, loved the rooms, surrounded by cliffs and the river, horses right outside your doorstep.  The staff was super friendly and the food was really tasty.  What more could we ask for?!

·         Williams, Arizona Get your kicks on this small Route 66 railroad town that is steeped in the history of the Old West.  Of course, a stop at Williams, Arizona was HIGH on my list of photo ops!  The guides were awesome & helpful in making sure we got all the Williams sign photos around town that we wanted...I think they were just as excited as I was to be in the town with our last name.  I love when the guides share in our excitement like that!

·         Cowboy Cookout and Entertainment Is there anything better than a riverside campfire with S'mores and a singing cowboy?!  With endless stars and good friends, it was a perfect ending to the evening!
·         Native American Dancing  One of the most interesting cultural experiences we've had was during a visit from some Navajo dancers after dinner.  Seeing them wear traditional outfits and perform traditional dances was such an honor.  The skill needed for some of these dances is unreal, and it really hit me when they said it's a quickly dying tradition and there are only a few left who know how to do things like the Hoop Dance.  

By: Heather Williams

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Adventure By Disney-Norway

Norway now ranks as one of the most beautiful ABD locations we've ever traveled to!  The fjords, waterfalls, landscape... everything was right out of a picture book.  Some of our favorite highlights were:

·         Bergen Exploration  We started our ABD a few days early on our own in Bergen.  This adorable sea side town is full of interesting things to see, do, and eat and it's a great place to settle in before your trip!
·         Voss River Rafting That water was COLD but luckily, ABD outfitted us with wet suits that kept us dry and warm!  Lots of fun making our way down the rapids together.  Scenery was amazing and it always feels good to get down and work a little for that adventure!
·         Fjord Safari  We suited up in dry suits, hats, gloves, and goggles (all courtesy of ABD) and headed out on RIB boats to explore the fjords.  Absolutely STUNNING and fun the entire way! Our boat driver stopped periodically to teach us about the topography as well as some Norwegian legends (watch for trolls!).  Midway through our fjord exploration, we stopped in the most quaint little town of Undredal for a town tour by one of the locals.  The Undredal Stave Church (smallest stave church in the world!) was a unique stop, and the lunch in Undredal was so good.  I chose reindeer meatballs and that was an excellent choice!  Luckily the weather held out most of the time, but even when we had some showers, our dry suits and goggles kept us plenty dry and warm for the last half of the fjord tour!
·         Kjenndalsbreen Glacier Bike Ride  Now, we don't ride bikes. Ever.  So any time there is a biking activity planned, ABD always has an alternate activity!  Our "home base" for the day was a lovely lodge called Kjenndalstova.  A restaurant at the end of a turquoise lake was the perfect setting for a day of options.  While the bikers headed out to visit a nearby glacier, the rest of us had fun options at the lodge like fishing, canoeing, kayaking, eating (!), endless hot chocolate, coffee, and tea, card games, and we even got to have fun on the motorboats.  The weather in Norway is always unpredictable and they have the saying "There's no bad weather, just bad clothing."  So we were prepared with rain jackets and warm clothes and with those, we were great the entire day! We thoroughly loved our stop at Kjenndalstova and can't recommend this beautiful place enough!
·         Borgund Stave Church We visited  this iconic stave church in Lærdal that provided inspiration to the filmmakers of Disney’s Frozen.  It was stunning and our local guide filled us in on some fascinating church history.  I always love visiting old churches especially... I imagine all of the people who have attended the church over time.
·         Westerås Farm We spent the morning on this family farm and learned all about traditional farming methods.  We even got to try our hand at cutting grass with the traditional sythe while hearing stories about the farmer's childhood doing the same thing.  We took a lovely hike to the cliff's edge which is fun, but it's even MORE fun when accompanied by the farmer's herd of goats!  Who else gets to say they've hiked with a farmer and his goats in Norway?!  Our lunch at the farm was delicious and local, and the rommegrot (Norwegian pudding) is something we still talk about to this day.  Imagine a warm, creamy custard, on top of which you get to sprinkle melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  You eat that top "layer" of sweet goodness, then repeat the butter/cinnamon/sugar layer again and again.  I still dream about that dish... and would go back to Norway just to eat that!

·       Norwegian Folk Dancing  I love how ABD always tries to incorporate cultural groups to dance, play music, etc.  These precious dancers entertained us with their talent and stories and I'm so glad we get a little snippet of historical Norwegian culture!


By: Heather Williams

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Adventures By Disney- China Review

Our adventure to China took us to places unlike anything we've ever experienced, and I'm so thankful to have ABD guide us through the challenge of a trip to China!  I'm not sure how we could have ever seen so much, in so short a time, unless ABD had made it all happen.  Some of our favorite highlights include:

·         Explore Hong Kong We fell in love with Hong Kong and its  vibrant harbor with an iconic skyline, world-class shops and exciting street scene.  Since English is one of the two official languages in Hong Kong, navigating was easy and there was so much to see there!
·         Hong Kong Disneyland & Shanghai Disneyland This was really the reason we picked China in the first place.  Book-ending our trip with Disney park visits.  They are both unique and such a treat to experience!  They have rides unique to each park (the Pirates of Caribbean ride in Shanghai is unlike anything I've ever seen in my life... we had to ride it 4 times just to take it all in!), food unique to China (hello, squid cart!), and we found the Cast Members and guests alike to be friendly and helpful.  
·        Great Wall of China Cable Car Ride Of course, ABD knows what they're doing and instead of visiting the Great Wall right near Beijing, we took a coach ride a little farther out which means... less people!    We  traveled  to Mutianyu for an amazing walk atop this iconic structure.  The photo ops did not disappoint... we had nearly an empty Wall to ourselves for miles and miles.  There is something pretty powerful to know you're standing on the Great Wall of China that you've read about and seen pictures of your entire life. 
·         Victoria Peak We loved the  views of Hong Kong’s stunning skyline and harbor from the top of the mountain.  We had a beautiful, sunny day and loved the mountain-top view of Hong Kong & Kowloon Bay below.
·         Beijing's Temple of Heaven We toured this massive temple built for emperors to worship the god of heaven.  If you love visiting EPCOT in Orlando, you'll recognize this temple since it's recreated in the China Pavilion.  Definitely worth a photo so you can put them side by side!
·         Panda Visit It was an honor to get a rare peek at China’s cutest residents on a tour of Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.  We were led by a local tour guide who taught us all sorts of panda-related facts and stories.  This was another one of those "something we've learned about our whole lives" moments, because other than a few pandas at zoos around the US, there's not many chances to see pandas.  Not to mention see SO MANY pandas!  Super cute gift shop here too, of course!
·         Sichuan Opera I literally had NO idea what this was, or what to expect, and it was one of my favorite things of the entire trip!  It's advertised as "Enjoy music, acrobatics and the classic face changing act that has delighted audiences for centuries."  But it's SO much more than just what it reads on paper and was such a fun cultural experience!  They offered some chair services like a chair massage or ear picking (traditional Chinese health habit of using small tools to pick ear wax out of your ears!), which I'm pretty sure were targeted at tourists although they ARE traditional Chinese activities (they just get them done at their homes).  My boys chose the massage and I went with ear picking because... it's different and I like new things!  It was definitely an experience and probably not one I would "pick" again (hah!) but I'm glad I can say I did it.  For the record, my ears were nearly spotless.   The show itself was absolutely fascinating and even though none of it was in English, it was easy to understand.  They did have a narrator come out between acts to explain (in various languages including English) what was coming next.  Just all around a fabulous evening and I am SO glad this is on the itinerary!
·         Shanghai Acrobat Show Another awesome live performance show!  These men and women were so very talented and we loved the show.  ABD secured us perfect seats up close, and we had a private meet & greet with the acrobats after the show (not sure if this is able to be done at every show with ABD so don't hold them to that!)  
·         Lijiang River Guilin Boat Tour We Cruised the Li River on a comfortable multi-level river boat and took in the stunning landscapes.  Known for it's "gumdrop mountains" that have inspired artists and poets for centuries, the slow, relaxing boat ride included a box lunch from ABD (familiar food is nice to have in China!) and also some local specialties as a treat to try.  
·         Terracotta Warriors & Horses in Xi'an  This visit was only possible on this busy itinerary because ABD found a way to make it work!  Our Xi'an day was a BUSY one for sure... 3 cities, 2 flights! But it was completely worth all the work it took to get there to see this marvel in person.  Yet another "we've seen it in school books" moment... isn't this trip full of them?  We had a private tour guide teach us so many things about the discovery, excavation, and restoration of the Warriors.  I felt like I learned SO much that day.
·         Tiananmen Square Walking Tour I wanted to include this highlight because it's normally part of the trip.  I had Reese watch some videos about the events at  Tiananmen Square in history, however our visit there was cancelled because of government closures that day.  One of the important things to learn with any travel is you just have to roll with things sometimes, so the fact that we didn't get to walk in the Square wasn't a big deal.  It was a bummer for sure, but what can you do?  Lots of other good things to see and experience!
·          Yu Garden Tour in Old Shanghai   This is another thing we skipped but the other adventureres said it was BEAUTIFUL!  This was the morning activity in Shanghai, which was followed by lunch and the rest of the day at Shangahi Disney.  Since we weren't spending any other time at Shanghai Disney, we chose to take a cab directly there in the morning on our own (ABD had a Cast Member meet us at the entrance with our tickets and fast passes and took us straight to Club 33 so it was just the same as if we had arrived with the group).   That allowed us a full day and evening to explore the park.  

 A few travel notes about China that I think are important to know:

1)  They are VERY serious about flying while sick.  They will stop you from boarding a flight so IF you come down with a fever...find a way to reduce it before boarding :)

2)  In Hong Kong, English is one of the official languages and we didn't have any communication issues.  On mainland China, we found communication in most places to be a huge challenge and appreciated the help of our Chinese ABD guide to write down things for us to take with us!

3)  This flight is BUSY.  There are 5 internal flights and you're on the go a lot.  Be ready for a fun adventure and be ready to roll with things as they come along!  Consider the flights and frequent hotel changes when considering this trip with kids.  If you've got kids that are flexible and good with change, it should be easy.  If your kids need a little slower pace in travel, you may wait a bit.

4)  Apply for your China visa early.  They are very particular about requirements and will deny your application if anything is wrong or missing.  This gives you time to resubmit if needed.  Since there are only 5 Chinese Embassies in the US where you can get your Visa, and they MUST be picked up in person, ABD suggests going through a service like CIBT, however we used CVSC with perfect success (it was cheaper than CIBT).

By: Heather Williams

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: The Coca-Cola Rooftop Beverage Bar in Disney Springs- International Flight Tray

The Coca-Cola store at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World’s shopping district opened in July of 2016. It is modeled after a 1920’s Coca-Cola bottling plant and features exclusive branded merchandise, meet and greets with the Coca-Cola Polar bear, and unique tasting opportunities for the young and the young at heart.
Coca-Cola Store Disney Springs

Chandelier made from re-purposed Coca-Cola Bottles

 Inside the store is a beautiful show stopper, the 30 foot chandelier. It fills the entry and is entirely comprised of green globes that were recycled from old Coke bottles. It truly gives you the fizzy feel of the bubbles inside your Coca-Cola. 

The store itself is comprised of three floors. The first two floors are jam packed with Coca-Cola merchandise for the avid fans who want to show off their love for anything Coke. The third floor offers beautiful panoramic views of Disney Springs from the roof top patio and includes a bar serving up Coke inspired cocktails, mock-tails, floats, as well as flights of international Coca-Cola products.
Floor on the way to Coca-Cola Polar Bear

The roof top area has a very contemporary, minimalist feel, offset by pops of that Coca-Cola red we all know and love.
Roof top Bar

View from the roof top
Look who we found upstars!

And now, let’s belly up to the bar and check out the menu…

The bar menu offers a huge assortment of bottled and fountain beverages as well as the Freestyle machine; where guests get chip-enabled Freestyle Cups (similar to the refillable resort mugs) allowing up to 5 refills within an hour of purchase to try out selections of the 100+ flavor options.
Today we are trying the International Tray which is comprised of sixteen different drinks from around the world. Be sure you have free hands because you will receive two full trays, eight cups on each, along with an envelope providing you with the origins of each sample.

International Tray

International Tray One

It features the Stoney Tangawizi from Tanzania which is a ginger beer with a strong ginger bite.

Stoney Tangawizi

The Fanta Exotic Fruit Punch from Uganda, a fruit punch with a very “punchy” flavor.
Fanta Exotic Fruit Punch

The Bon Bon Anglais from Madagascar which is very akin to carbonated lemonade.

Bon Bon Anglais

The Sunfill Mint from Djibouti has a prevalent mint flavor but to me was far too close to mouth wash.
Sunfill Mint

The Minute Maid Joy Apple from Korea has a very soft apple flavor.
Minute Maid Joy Apple

The Fanta Apple Kiwi from Thailand is very sweet and the kiwi is strong with this one, young Padawan. It is also the most beautiful shade of green, just like my engagement ring!
Fanta Apple Kiwi bares a striking resemblance to Peridot

The Smart Watermelon from China has a light watermelon flavor; this one is very nice and refreshing and has been showcased at Club Cool in Epcot. One of my personal favorites.

Smart Watermelon

Last one on tray one is Thums Up from India. It is very similar to that of the original Coca-Cola yet also contains an interesting spice flavor.
Thums Up

Onto the next tray…

International Tray Two

First up, the Beverly from Italy. If you’ve visited Epcot’s Club Cool or read anything about it, then you’ve likely heard all about (and probably tried) this bitter beverage. This infamous beverage has a very love/hate relationship with the individuals who have tried it. Me personally, I do not like it but I am a glutton for punishment, so I tried it again! And yes, YUCK again!


For us just like at Club Cool, watching the faces we make after trying it is the best pay out. Bleck!

Post Beverly

Now that that is over, the Aquarius Libre from Spain has a citrusy grapefruit flavor which I enjoyed.
Aquarius Libre

The Fuse Tea with Berries from Georgia is a standard tea with a hint of berries, but it’s mostly tea flavor.

Fuse Tea with Berries

The Bonaqua Fruits Apple Pear from Germany has a very tart sour apple flavor but there was just not enough pear to balance it out. 
Bonaqua Fruits Apple Pear

The Lift Manzana (which means apple) from Chile is just like drinking a very sweet apple cider. Pretty tasty.
Lift Manzana

The Fanta Kolita from Costa Rica has a nice sweet, bright red, cherry soda taste to it.

Fanta Kolita

My absolute favorite on this tray, which is also featured at Club Cool, is the Inca Kola from Peru, with its smooth, sweet citrus flavor.
Inca Kola

And finally, the Delaware Punch from Honduras. This is another fruit punch concoction containing a tarter undertone than the other fruit punch on the menu.
Delaware Punch

Despite the Beverly being on tray #2, I can say we enjoyed that tray better. Hardly any of those cups were left full.
Tray 2 almost empty

For Disney guests like us, who do not partake of alcohol but truly love trying unique beverages and are looking for more variety, I highly recommend the International Tray. It was a great way to spend a Halloween afternoon enjoying the views and shops at Disney Springs.

By: Kris Floyd

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!