Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Disney's Art of Animation Review

I realise I haven't actually blogged about Disney World for some time. I am actually coming up to my annual visit so I thought to get myself all excited I would return to Disney World posts! This time I am staying at the Caribbean Beach resort (slowly but surely making my way through them all!) but I have a feeling Art of Animation has stolen my heart! 

Me and my best friend stayed in Art of Animation last summer. I'll admit, I was pretty darn excited to stay here. Previously I had been a deluxe stayer, having stayed in deluxe rooms at Saratoga and Old Key West, the prospect of booking a value resort didn't put me off in the slightest, in fact I was MORE excited about the prospect of AoA.

Art of Animation is Disney's newest resort, having opened in 2012. The resort is heavily themed, inspired by some of Disney's best films - Finding Nemo, Cars, Little Mermaid and The Lion King. And this is what prompted us to book AoA - its built for big kids with larger than life characters at every turn and music from some of your favourites blaring out at every corner. We booked into the Little Mermaid themed rooms (because they were the cheapest but... come on THE LITTLE MERMAID) but AoA also offers suites for bigger families also.

First Impressions
I'm not even going to lie to you, when I stepped foot into the lobby (which in my opinion is one of the most exciting parts of the trip) I shed a tear. It was beautiful. Original artwork and sketches line the walls, "in the jungle" was subtly playing in the background and it was that very moment I knew I had found my "home" resort. People talked on Disney websites and forums about their home resorts (and I always thought mine would be the animal kingdom lodges) but I just knew this would never be topped. The atmosphere is alive and electric, everyone is happy and excited and every wall is lined with something fabulous to look at. The staff (as with every Disney resort) are amazingly helpful and made checking in (and out which was a huge huge problem as our transfer was 2 hours late picking us up on the way home!!) a breeze.

To get to our room, we had to walk through the other "areas" - Finding Nemo and Lion King. Its the best walk, I'm sure others will agree, with so much to look at. The Nemo pool area is incredible and by far the best pool at WDW. The Lion King area not only blares out songs from the movie (which I'm sure we can all agree on has the best songs) but has larger than life characters to take photos with and even an elephant graveyard to walk through. We loved it as mid 20 year old adults, so kids would go crazy I imagine. The Little Mermaid area is broken up into 4 parts, with a GIANT character on display to signify which area you are staying in. We were in King Tritons (sadly not Ursulas) on the ground floor, which suited us fine. It only took 10 minutes to walk to the buses so we were pretty made up!

The room
Our room while basic, was beautiful. We each had a double bed, which may I add was the comfiest damn bed I have stayed in on resort. The room was adorned with amazing theming, by far the best I have seen. Everything from our mirrors, to the bed spreads to the carpet to the darn shower curtain was perfectly themed, with added artwork of Prince Eric on the wall. It was love. We had everything we needed, a little fridge which fitted all our bottles of water, a little area to hang our clothes, we were pretty happy. I honestly had no complaints.

I was over the moon with the dining options at the resorts quick service restuarant Landscape of Flavours and am sad I didn't take any pictures. Everyday we had an amazing array of options, from salads and burgers to pizzas and curry! We had a crazy amount of choice and the eating area itself was a sight to behold. You could sit in any of the 4 areas, all themed like the resort itself (we always found ourselves in the Nemo area) It was a beautiful work of art, with so much to look at on the walls, ceilings and even the lights. Disney did a grand job (and can I say, the pizza was to DIE for).

Bus Service
I feel like the one thing that let AoA down was the bus service. Out of all of the resorts I had stayed at, AoA bus service always left us hanging. It felt like there just wasn't enough buses running both to and from the parks to accommodate the amount of people and when you did eventually get on one, you were packed like sardines. It was pretty annoying, so much so that one day me and Rose got a bus back to Pop Century (a walk away from AoA) so that we could just sit down! I think it needs some work, but upon coming back I did discover AoA is always at full capacity, so even in low season in September, its gonna be packed. I guess its something to keep in mind!

The two main pools are the Little Mermaid one and of course the legendary Finding Nemo one (I heard reports of guests from other resorts sneaking into AoA to use the Finding Nemo pool, THATS how good it is!). Rose and myself found ourselves just too busy to actually enjoy some pool time, but on the rare occasions we took a dip, we did find it overwhelmingly busy and full of children. I would say having stayed at other resorts like Saratoga and Old Key West, generally the pools were very quiet and full of lazy adults taking a casual dip. AoA was crazy, with children occupying every square inch, it definitely wasn't for the relaxing adult! Having said that, we were aware the resort was mainly aimed at children so it didn't bother us, but something to bare in mind for example if you are looking for some lazy pool action. I know my step-dad, who loves a bit of holiday pool time would have hated the AoA pools. However they ARE fun, with giant jelly-fish fountains and even an underwater sound system so you can hear Disney songs whilst swimming underwater!! Amazing!

Overall: Art of Animation stole my heart. I think its "newness" definitely helps, as everything is so shiny, bright and advanced. The beds are comfier, the pools are more technologically ahead, the design, the layout, everything is so much more advanced than other resorts seem. It makes me excited to see what Disney do next because they did such an amazing job with AoA. If you have children its a must and if you are two adults who are kids at heart, you'll fall in love with the finer details just as I did!

Are there any other Disney posts you would like to see as we head up to holiday season??

Thursday, 16 July 2015

My Top 10 Disney World Quick Service Restaurants

The countdown is on for my little Disney World getaway and what better way to count down the next 50 days than with a return to my Disney posts. I still get emails and tweets on the regular, especially regarding restaurants as I am a regular Dining plan partaker, so I thought I would do a post a week for the next 7 weeks, counting down my most asked questions!
This week is about Quick Service restaurants. I already have a snack post here and at the end of the post I will include all the Disney posts I have done in the past! But for now, here is my top 10 Quick Service restaurants. 

#10 - Harbour House
A more recent find for me at Magic Kingdom is the Columbian Harbour House nestled in Liberty Square. I quickly grow tired of the same old burgers and nuggets which frequent quick service menus, so was over the moon when I found this little hideaway. And a hideaway it is indeed, as I have never found the Harbour House to be busy, even at peak times. Its quietly nestled away, with a cute ship-like decor that goes well with the seafood-esque menu. With eats like shrimp and fish platters, they also have lobster rolls and salmon with cous-cous, all interesting quick service items which aren't easily found. And for those who do favour the odd chicken nugget, Harbour House does have a couple of options for non-fish goers. 

#9 - Epcot Fish and Chips
Some may think, what a waste of a quick service, but I have always enjoyed sitting in the English pavilion in Epcot and eating some good old fish and chips. Sure they aren't as good as the variety back home, and they come with this cookie that tastes nothing like anything I've had in the UK, but its a tiny part of the UK that I miss. Plus the outdoor seating area overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon is so pretty. You get a nice breeze and watch as the world of Disney passes you by. 

#8 - Boardwalk Bakery
Another new-ish find was the Boardwalk Bakery. I love the atmosphere at the Boardwalk and unfortunately last year, didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked. The Boardwalk Bakery is this delightful little bakery that sells all sorts of amazing pastries and sweet goods, along with a selection of sandwiches. Not that I had any interest in the sandwiches, for me its all about those delicious cupcakes! But they are pretty amazing, and not to mention, completely huge. You can sit and have lunch overlooking the Boardwalk and soaking in the relaxed atmosphere. I can't recommend it enough. 

#7 - Caseys Corner
Caseys Corner is the iconic hot dog quick service right in the middle of the action at Magic Kingdom. I'm not much of a hot dog person but Casey's hot dogs are tha bomb, if you're looking for a good dog, you NEED to come here! Ideally located to watch Main Street go by, with perfect seating both in and outdoors, you can't go wrong. I especially love sitting next to the piano and getting treated to the occasional song. I enjoyed the chilli and mustard dog and you can also grab the biggest cotton candy here as your dessert, you truly feel like you're at a baseball game!

#6 - Starring Rolls Cafe
Starring rolls is always a favourite of mine for breakfasts in Hollywood Studios. Very similar menu wise to Boardwalk bakery, here you can pick up pasties and sandwiches of a very similar variety to the Boardwalk. I love the location, bang in the middle of Hollywood Studios. While it can get very busy and seating is limited, in the mornings and late afternoons you can always grab a pastry and refreshment. My personal favourite are the cakepops (red velvet yum!)

#5 - Art of Animation food hall
A bit of a different one for me is the Art of Animation food court. Having stayed previously at deluxe resorts, AoA has my favourite of eats. With stations serving up pizza, salads, waffles, indian cuisine and sandwiches, you literally can't go wrong. Even the fussiest of eaters (my boyfriend for example!) will have ease finding something for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you have ever stayed at Saratoga Springs, the dining options are surprisingly similar. While I found the ambience can be a bit hectic, with the resort primarily being aimed at families with young children, I never had problems being seated. I also loved grabbing food to go... the sandwiches are great to take to the parks and the pizza is always good to grab on your way back to the room after a busy day at the parks.

#4 - Yak and Yeti
The Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom always steals my heart. Serving asian cuisine in little cardboard style boxes, I always have a delicious time. I love the teriyaki beef and rice and also the honey chicken. There is amble seating, although this place does get overwhelmingly busy, its always a good idea to grab a table first and get a party member to hold it while one goes up to order. I do have to say I'm not a fan of the seating arrangements, which can get a little squished and not to mention hot! But the food here is just so good, I am willing to give it 4th place!

#3 - Sunshine Corner
A newer find of mine again is the Sunshine Corner in Epcot. I love the amount of variety here, with different stations offering different things to eat, again a fussy eaters paradise. I love the fish and asian selections, but again those more limited in palette can grab sandwiches and chicken options. Perhaps my favourite part is the dessert stand, with lots of different options that are harder to come by, like my personal favourite, the whoopie pie (cookies are also good) (and cupcakes) Seating here is in the plenty, with air con, so great for those seeking a bit of shade. Again it can get overly busy and noisy, but I have never had an issue getting a seat. 

#2 - Pizza Planet
I love pizza, I would marry pizza if I could. So of course, Pizza Planet in Hollywood Studios had to be second on the list. I love the fact Disney bought it to the life and the pizza here isn't half bad (second only to Art of Animations). Its just pure greasy unadulterated love. Again this place can get very busy, but do you blame it? Its one of the best themed quick services in all the world, with arcade games to play resembling the real life Pizza Planet and larger than life aliens to decorate the place. Its great and a must see for first timers.

#1 - Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe
Of course Cosmic Rays would be the top of my list. Cosmic Rays was one of the only restaurants I ate in Disney the very first time I went (girlfriend was budgeting OK!) and I've returned to it ever since. The theming is awesome, with a spacey type feel perfectly fitting for Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom. A giant anamatronic sings to you and a variety of options to eat from not limited to: pulled pork burgers, ribs and half a chicken (which is delicious by the way) you just can't go wrong with anything from here. Seating can get a bit iffy, with outdoor and indoor seating (although I will admit I have struggled in the past to find seating anywhere). The ordering process can be a bit strange, with party members perhaps having to split up to order at different "stations" but the food makes up for it. I've never had a bad meal, and will happily go to Cosmic Rays multiple times a trip. I like eating here late evening, its always deserted and you can grab great seats for Sonny Eclipse ;)

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