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!