Saturday, December 29, 2018

Adventures by Disney - San Francisco

I love the Short Escapes offered by ABD!  They offer the perfect taste of an ABD without having to get away for a week or more at a time.  This little whirlwind of San Francisco was the perfect weekend.  Some of our favorite highlights:


San Francisco Bay Bike Tour You could pedal along the edge of the Bay and into the Golden Gate National Park Recreation Area for a beautiful tour of the area.  We are not bikers though, but we never worry because we know ABD always plans a good alternate activity.  For this trip, it meant a guided motor-coach tour of the city!  We loved sitting back and relaxing with our family and a few friends and seeing the beautiful city from that vantage point.  
 Golden Gate Bridge Visit The guides made sure we had LOTS of opportunities to get those iconic photos everyone wants when they visit San Francisco!  I love visiting cities with guides who are "in the know" about perfect photo spots because I'm not sure if I would have been able to find them all.  And, there's something to be said for having someone there to take all your photos so you can be IN the pictures too!

 Muir Woods National Monument The giant redwoods towering hundreds of feet above us was breathtaking.  Muir Woods is set up beautifully for an easy hike through the forest and I loved having family free time here to just explore a bit.
    Walt Disney Family Museum One of the best curations of Disney knowledge and artifacts I've seen.  This one stop makes the whole trip worthwhile!  You start with a private guided tour which is always valuable in that you learn so much insider information.  After our tour ended, we had free time to either visit the shop, check out more items in the lobby, or revisit.   With tons of information, actual mementos and artifacts from Walt's life as well as Disney in general, and a farewell room that brought tears to my eyes, we actually went through the museum a second time on our own just to take it all in.

   Silverado Vineyards What fun we had at this Disney family vineyard in Napa!  The afternoon was full of yummy lunch, beautiful scenery, a great tour of the winery with delicious wine tasting (or alternate drinks if you don't like wine), and we finished up with a SUPER fun grape stomp competition.  We split into teams and rolled up our pants to see who could produce the greatest output and perfect our method.  Those that didn't want to stomp were able to hang back and cheer us on!  Lots of laughs and I'm not sure how productive we actually were, but it was fun working with trip mates to perfect our strategy!
 Yoda Fountain Photo Op at Lucasfilm Of course we loved the stop at this iconic fountain, and we loved our little private tour of the Lucasfilm offices.  Loads of memorabilia to snap pics with... Darth Vader or Ninja Turtles anyone?!

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, November 28, 2018

Review- ICE at Gaylord Palms, Orlando, Florida

ICE at Gaylord Palms
Below freezing temperatures in Florida? Not a chance right? While you would think no, the answer is actually YES! Well, if you visit ICE at Gaylord Palms, that is. Below is my review of the ICE spectacular as it took place in 2018.

The theme is A Christmas Story. The iconic tale of a young boy who wants a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas.. But you know what they say.. You’ll shoot your eye out! 
A Christmas Story sign

My family and I went to Gaylord Palms on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. While Disney and Universal were packed to the brim, ICE was empty. This was the PERFECT weekend to go! We decided to stay on site for one night. The hotel was amazing from its decorations to its staff and we are so glad we got the opportunity to take it all in!

I requested an early check in for 8:30 am with an Atrium view room. To my surprise I was notified that my room was ready before we even got to the hotel. What a nice surprise to be able to bring my bags upstairs and not have to worry about dealing with obtaining them in-between activities.

Our schedule looked something like this:

10:00 am Story time and cookies with Mrs. Claus
11:00 am meet the big man on campus, Santa Claus
12:00 pm was a break for lunch
1:00 pm snow tubing
2:00 pm view the ice sculptures
3:00 pm Build a Bear holiday treats
4:00 pm gingerbread cookie decorating with the gingerbread man
5:00 pm Santa’s Snow Throw
5:30 pm Reindeer Post Office to write our letters to Santa and confirm what we asked for earlier
6:00 pm Dinner
7:30 pm Christmas Tress Stroll, Scavenger Hunt and cirque De Soleil Dream of Christmas Light Show
8:30 pm Sugary Sweet Story Time with the Sugar Plum Fairy

Phew, are you tired yet? Believe me, I am exhausted just typing out this schedule and we thought for sure the kids would be dead by the end of dinner on this kind of schedule.

Of a special note, much like Disney, you can buy an ICE photopass. It is $99 for unlimited photos. It is good from the day you buy it until the last day of ICE so use it! We bought it and in 1 day they took 60 pictures on it.

I am pleased to report that we waiting in next to NO lines and by 11 am we had completed Story time, Santa, tubing and lunch. In fact, we had allotted 1 hour for tubing during the day. The kids went back all day long to go down those slopes. For Florida babies this is as close as they were getting to real runs and they had the best time!
Meeting Mrs Clause and Snowflake

Mrs. Claus read the children ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas with her elf helper, Snowflake. If any of you have seen Frozen Sing A Long at Hollywood Studios, Snowflakes’ act was much like the Royal Historians. It was such fun! Adults and Children were given chocolate chip cookies and milk to enjoy during the story.
A special talk with Santa
Santa was one of a kind. He spent individual time with each child and made sure we got lots of pictures to take home. He also took multiple family photos and nobody felt rushed despite their being other people in line behind us. He even gave each child a good luck token with his picture on it to take home.
Family pic with Santa

The actual Christmas Story ice sculptures were amazing! The detail that goes into this exhibit is like no other. See photos below for just how awesome it really is!

Christmas Story Ice Sculptures

      Build a Bear has a pop-up shop set up right outside of Santa so be sure to be prepared for that! They do not honor coupons but do honor Build a Bear gift cards. This trip each of the kids was allowed to get 1 holiday theme friend to bring home.

Ugly sweater cookie
The sweet shop offers multiple different options for gingerbread decorating from houses to men to ugly sweaters. We chose the sweaters as 6 came to a box and that meant one for each of us.

We ended the night with the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince reenacting the Nutcracker story. This was very entertaining and a fun interactive way to get the kids involved with some songs. All adults and children were provided with Sugar Plum flavored hot chocolate in a fun take home glass mug.

All in all, the ICE spectacular was just that, spectacular. We are already looking forward to next year and we can’t find to find out what the theme will be!
"I double dog dare you!"

By: Rachel Hollingsworth

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!

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!