Resort Review For The Rest of Us: Disney’s Boardwalk Inn & Villas

Copyright Disney

I have always loved the Boardwalk.  The theme of this Deluxe Resort being the New Jersey Boardwalk during the early 20th Century.  Ever since I was a Cast Member and hung out on it’s planks and danced in the Atlantic City Dance Hall on my nights off I have wanted to stay here.  So we made sure this time that we booked a room at this resort.

Arriving at the resort we valet parked our rental car, and stepped into the Main Hall.  The resort is divided up into the Inn on the right hand side and the DVC Villa resort on the left.  The Concierge and Check In services both sides to the resort, but we moved through very quickly.  I then took our tickets we purchased outside of our room and had the wonderful people at the Concierge Desk merge them with our Room Keys. This way it kept down on the amount of items we were juggling within the parks, and while it took 5-10 minutes to do so, was well worth the wait!

We booked a 1 Bedroom Villa and it was a nice spacious room for the four of us complete with:

  • Master Bedroom with a King Size Bed
  • Master Bathroom with Whirpool Bath
  • Second Bathroom with Shower
  • Fully Equipped Kitchen and Dining Area
  • Living Area with Sleeper Sofa (more on that in a minute)
  • And a Private Balcony that stretched from the Living room to the Master Bedroom

Here was our view:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our luggage came up from Bell Services within 20-30 minutes.  So very quickly since we arrived in the middle of the day.

The beds were very comfortable which is important with how much you do push yourself to go go go! on a Disney Vacation.  Our boys slept on this really cool sleeper sofa that literally folded in on itself every day.  The pillows were stored within and it was easy to simply pull on the strap and their bed was ready to go.  Our Mousekeepers were all excellent and even arranged the boys’ growing collection of stuffed animals as though they were eating, watching t.v., & looking out the window waiting for our return.  The Whirlpool bath was a great feeling at the end of a long day in the parks and kept us from feeling too beat up!  It was also nice to have several bathrooms to get ready in the morning to make those rope drops when we had to.

Pool & Recreation

The Boardwalk Resort has several pools.  The Luna Park Pool main pool (seen above) is of course the most popular, with the Kuester Coaster water slide, as well the Pool Bar, and to top it all off Poolside games hosted every afternoon by Cast Members.  We availed ourselves of this pool several times during our stay and it was a delightful reprieve from the heat of the Florida sun and the rush of the crowds.  You can use your room key at Leaping Horse so long as you have a credit card attached to it for charging to minimize the amount of items you are carrying back and forth.  The Leaping Horse also serves more than merely adult beverages, so if you need a bottle of water or light snack while your kiddos are splashing around you can find that here as well.  The Luna Park Pool is open from 6:30 a.m. to Midnight with a lifeguard from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. most evenings.  There is a children’s pool area, but most of the larger pool was shallow enough for our two primary school aged boys to enjoy playing around.

There are two other quiet pools located at the Boardwalk, one on the Inn side and another closer to Disney’s Hollywood Studios past Community Hall.

The Boardwalk also hosts movies poolside every evening and we were lucky enough to catch a couple while we were there, Toy Story and The Muppets.  It is a free event to resort guests and quite relaxing at the end of a long day.  They also host a marshmallow roast immediately before the movie, but unfortunately we didn’t get down to the pool in time to enjoy this portion.

The Boardwalk also hosts an arcade within the main building, and Muscles and Bustles Athletic Facility.  I found Muscles and Bustles great for a quick work out, but the real fun is the running/walking path you can find that leads you towards Epcot.  Nothing like a quick jog on the Boardwalk in the morning to start the day off right.

Community Hall as well offers an assortment of activities every day for families and children.  This is a resort that even if you didn’t go to the parks you could find plenty to do throughout the day and be quite content at the resort!

Dining

The Boardwalk area comes alive in the evening, and we were fortunate to be able to simply walk up to many of the restaurants and be granted a seat.  At the Brew Works company you can grab not only good food, but if you time it right an excellent view of Illuminations across the Lake!  Some of the other notable restaurants include: Couzzina by Kat Kora, The Flying Fish Cafe, Jellyrolls & ESPN Cafe.

There are plenty of other stop in places for ice cream, confections, and baked goods and sundries that dot the Boardwalk.

Entertainment & Shopping

One of our absolute favorite portions of staying at the Boardwalk was experiencing the live entertainers each evening.  Specializing in stunt acts, juggling, magic, card tricks and much more the entertainers of the Boardwalk made just walking it’s planks an adventure and delighted our boys with experiencing new things!  One of our favorites was BoardUp! a laugh out loud funny feat of skill and balance.

There are also sury bikes to rent, Boardwalk Carnival games to win, and much more.  If you are someone who enjoys the resort as much as the park, this is the place for you.  There are also quite a few specialty shops located both within the resort and on the Boardwalk.  So if you miss an item in the parks, the resort may in fact have it.

Trust me, I’m a believer.

Transportation

To get to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios you will have to take the Friendships which come by the resort every 15 minutes.  We found this a wonderful way to get around and often sat out on the back “porch” of the boat to take in the sights and feel the breeze.  To get to Animal Kingdom or the Magic Kingdom you will need to take the bus system.  This is located down a small path to a depot.  We took our car mainly and Valet services did an excellent job with keeping us going and never let us linger long in the parking area.

You also have the added bonus of being able to walk to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It’s not a very long walk and in the evening especially it can be a very nice transition from the parks back to the resort.

As well if you need to go off property to Wal-Mart, Winn Dixie, Publix, Walgreen’s and so on the wonderful people at Bell Services have a handy dandy map they can provide with implicit instruction on how to arrive at your desire destination.

Conclusion

I believe our family has found our favorite resort on property.  The Cast Members were all very friendly and each seemed of the utmost concern as to how our visit to not only Walt Disney World but their resort was going.  Little things mean a lot, and whether it’s turning on the carousel in the front lobby to surprise my boys, or helping my oldest son spot Hidden Mickeys in the carpet the Cast Members at the Boardwalk always went out of their way to make us feel at home every step of the way.  I cannot recommend this resort enough.

Yak & Yeti, Odd Name for a Restaurant…But Great Food!

Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World has some serious explaining to do.  It being the largest of the 4 parks, it has the least amount of table service locations.  Only a couple of which are entirely Disney owned and themed.  And it has done Yak & Yeti so well, that I wonder why they haven’t repeated this offering?  It’s not like they don’t have the space.  Yak & Yeti is tucked back in the portion of the park noted as Asia. So you are dining in the shadow of Expedition Everest.  The market outside has that feeling of the hustle and bustle of an exotic market and we walked by Yak N Yeti initially by just looking at everything around.  But, a friendly cast member turned us around and pointed out the simple painted building to the left.

Arriving at the podium for our lunch reservation we were sat quickly on the bottom floor, but you come to realize this is a LARGE restaurant and the outside is deceiving.  Tables are tucked everywhere in keeping with the story of a hotelier family in the shadow of Mt. Everest who turned the bottom floors of their home into a restaurant in order to bring in travelers.  We were met quickly by our server who took our drink orders and away we went!

The story of the Yak n Yeti is printed on the backside of the menu and this is how it goes:

“Your path to discovering Yak & Yeti begins at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, a major crossroads of cultures.  The majestic sight of Mount Everest is just above the horizon.  Traders, pilgrims and armies have passed through this small, rural kampong, or village, on a well-travelled road to India snaking through China and Southeast Asia.  Here in the town of Anandapur lives a rich merchant, Arjun, who has fallen on hard times and has turned his large home into the Yak & Yeti Hotel.  The hotel is the kind of boutique hotel that wealthier adventure travelers might seek out in India.  While travelers rest at the hotel, the owner and other families reside there.  The decor, as well as the furniture, at Yak & Yeti is amalgamation of mismatched artifacts Arjun has collected through his years of travel in Southeast Asia.  In the center of the hotel is the full-service Yak & Yeti Restaurant, which features local Pan-Asian cuisine.

The sights, sounds, aromas and energy in the courtyard are a beacon for villagers eager to meet, eat, and socialize as they move through their day, and for travelers moving to and from their adventures.  Local families have built up warrants, or food stands, around the hotel.  These quick-service restaurants, or Local Food Cafes, feature Asian cuisine that guests can enjoy in the exterior courtyard.  An ex-pat couple from Australia runs the Quality Beverages stand.  Here guests can select refreshing Asian beers and other drinks while they prepare for the day’s adventures.  Other locals, including an ex-pat German Himilayan hiker and Everest guide, sell articles along the outside edge of the courtyard, at the Bhaktapur Market.  Featuring riches from far-off lands, the market offers travelers the change to purchase treasures, artifacts and other exotic items from the Far East on their way to Everest Parvata, the top of the world.

All told, the musical town of Anandapur is alive and vibrant, full of color and sound.  The bustling Yak & Yeti Restaurant, Local Food Cafes, and Bhaktapur Market are bursting with people, goods, and interesting aromas.  It is a place both familiar and unusual, a place for family and friends, tourists and adventurers.  Above all, it is a place to immerse yourself in a culture that is mysterious, exotic and exciting.”

I am impressed with the amount of story put into this area by Joe Rohde and the Imagineers at Disney.  This gives you such a base to jump off of with your own imaginations, and it does fully encompass that feeling of being immersed in an exotic locale.

What to drink?

My first suggestion is if it’s hot, and what day in Animal Kingdom doesn’t feel hotter than normal, get the GLACIER WATER!  This Sprite like drink also has an infusion of Coconut to aid in refreshment and it’s blue.  I drank two of these things before I felt satiated, and they are not only tasty but cool you down considerably.  Both my oldest son and I got these and the consensus was YUMMY!  Of course Yak N Yeti houses a full bar of specialty drinks and brews that are themed appropriate to being in the Himalayas in addition to your normal fair you can find elsewhere at the table services around property.  Per the story above you can also get European beers and drinks from all over the world due to Germans and Australians living in the village as well.  Sake is available in a variety flavors and sizes, served chilled.  This location also has a wonderful assortment of Hot Teas available.

For Starters?

In the effort of being your intrepid reporter, ahem, my husband and I tried several things.  You know, to get a flavor of the offerings at the restaurant.  But, we ordered the following:

  • Pork Pot StickersPan seared or steamed with soy lime dipping sauce.  We ordered these pan seared to give them that crispy outer shell.  These disappeared quickly and were wonderfully flavored.  Not too spicy but not bland either.  Perfect if you have a love of pot stickers and they ranked up there with the pot stickers our friend’s authentic Szechuan restaurant serves in our home town.
  • Pork Egg Rolls-Served with chili plum dipping sauce.  These were good, but filling!  The sauce is on the spicier side but compliments the pork very well.
  • Lettuce Cups-Minced chicken breast, chopped veggies, maple tamarind sauce, and crisp lettuce cups.  Quite possibly my favorite dish to order anywhere, this didn’t fail either.  The meat was wonderfully seasoned in keeping with not being to spicy but just enough kick to keep you coming back.  If you have never tried a lettuce cup, when done right it is a light Asian meal that can be satiating on it’s own.  Thankfully I was sharing in this case or my entree would have been an afterthought.

Main Course

My husband ordered the Maple Tamarind Chicken, which is a seared chicken breast, Indonesian tamarind glaze, coconut-ginger rice, baby bok choy, and shiitake mushroom stir-fry.  His rating, it was AWESOME!  My husband is a phenomenally picky eater, and when we even start talking about our dining experiences at WDW, this comes up as his absolute favorite meal.

I had the Crispy Honey Chicken-Tempura chicken, broccoli, carrots and honey sauce, which was also very good!  The fair here is basically what you would get in an upscale Pan-Asian restaurant in your hometown.  But, now that we live out west, in a lower populated area, sometimes the quality of such food is lacking.  I didn’t realize how much I missed good Asian food until we sat down!  Back home there are several really good family run establishments that we would frequent weekly, so this was a wonderful treat!

For The Kids

Neither of our boys are really adventurous.  They will eat Sweet N Sour Chicken bites, no sauce.  But, on the menu for kids here you will fine some American cuisine to help moms and dads out when they have kids like ours.  Our oldest son got the Chicken Tenders and our youngest got the Mini Cheeseburger.  Add to that some ketchup, and they were happy.  Also, at the end we treated them both to an Ice Cream Sundae while we relaxed.

The Service

Table Services at Disney you can really get to know some awesome Cast Members, because hey how often throughout your day at Disney do you have to interact with the same CM over and over like you do in a restaurant?  I am so happy to report that this was the case at Yak & Yeti.  Our server went above and beyond several times to make sure we were informed to our menu choices, our kids were comfortable with theirs, our drinks never saw empty, and that our food was paced just right.  He also policed the area with the dedication of a tried and true Cast Member and asked a Guest who was using profanity at the table near us to please calm down with the language, he was in a family run establishment after all.  I didn’t even need to ask, he just did.

The Conclusion

If you want a great meal in Animal Kingdom I HIGHLY recommend Yak & Yeti.  Everything about our experience here ranked simply top notch and the atmosphere and effort put into constructing this mystical town shown through.  I love the details that Disney adds to these areas of it’s parks and restaurants.  And while it could seem minutia, it all adds up to a wonderful experience in the Asian portion of Animal Kingdom.  Be sure to get your reservations early as with being one of the few table services available in Animal Kingdom, spots will fill fast.

Star Wars Weekends, chock full of AWESOME!

I’ve made no secret of my sincere love and adoration of all things Star Wars.  When you combine Star Wars and Disney something happens on a chemical level in my brain to where I simply get uber-geeked (same thing happens with the Muppets).  My husband would say that my “geek is showing”.  It is with this said, that I report on Star Wars Weekends.  We went last year, and the feeling of being amongst people who not only get it, embrace it was so well AWESOME!

Schedule for 2012 

Celebrity Line Ups

Weekend I (May 18 – 20)

Weekend II (May 25 – 27)

  • Andy Secombe (Watto — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Ray Park (Darth Maul — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Tom Kane (voice of Yoda — Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Weekend III (June 1 – 3)

  • Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Silas Carson (Nute Gunray/Ki-Adi-Mundi — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • (Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice talent — currently TBD)

Weekend IV (June 8- 10)

  • Michonne Bourriague (Aurra Sing — Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)
  • Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett — Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi)
  • Daniel Logan (Boba Fett — Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones)
  • Nika Futterman (voice of Asajj Ventress — Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Yes, you can get photos, autographs, and attend Q & A sessions with these celebrities.  There are usually Fast Passes available to get in the autograph line and I would caution to you that I would grab the one celeb you really want.  Also every person who wants to get an autograph not only needs a Fastpass but will have to be physically present to receive one.  I was fortunate to work at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends in 2001 and there was something so cool about walking into work and seeing Kenny Baker and Warwick Davis meeting Guests.  Something surreal, but so cool!

The Guest Experience

As you arrive in the morning there will be sprinklings of the Star Wars Universe all around you.  From Storm Troopers monitoring the crowds pouring into the park, to Star Wars Music coming from the ambient music, to yes sighting Star Wars characters being walked to and from their meet and greet positions.  You get the feeling that “there’s something special goin’ on!”  And oh my is there ever.  All of the Disney blogs, radio hosts and social media gurus are on hand, both Disney and Disney Fan driven.  In true Disney style though you will feel immersed completely.

Star Tours, The Adventure Continues

One of the highlights of being at last year’s event was being not only at Star Wars Weekends on the opening weekend, but also riding the new and revamped Star Tours attraction.  It is a video/motion type of attraction, so if you get motion sick you may need to avoid it or request to sit in the back.  This attraction has 50+ different outcomes and it will be different each time you ride.  My oldest has to ride this at least 2 or 3 times each trip just to see if he can get all of the different experiences.

For the Kids

Check out our video on Jedi Training Academy here: http://youtu.be/dWt9YHWQCLA

Kids under 12 can hone their lightsaber skills and prepare to do battle with Darth Vader himself at the Jedi Training Academy. And in the Padawan Mind Challenge, they can test their wits before the Jedi Council.  We were not able to get any of the spots for last year’s JTA, and we arrived at Rope Drop 8:30-9:00.  So if you really want your kiddo to be in either of these I would recommend getting there VERY early.  Also, they have updated JTA to take in more Younglings, making it 30 versus 15.  With an added adversary (Darth Maul) and a Padawan instructor to help the additional recruits.  This will help with the push to get your child involved in some of the shows available during the weekend.  As always every child who wants to participate MUST BE PRESENT with you in order to sign up.

When The Stars Come Out

The “Hyperspace Hoopla” begins! This high-energy, one-of-a-kind show is a chance to see some of the famed Star Wars characters performing like never before. It will take place on a stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat on Hollywood Blvd., and is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. each event evening.  We were there to see it last year and it was a great show!  A true must see for Star Wars fans and Disney fans alike!

Summary

If you are even a teensy bit interested in Star Wars, it is worth checking out Disney Hollywood Studios during the month of May if you will be there.  We purchased event specific merchandise, rode Star Tours, The Adventure Continues, and yes were amongst other fans all weekend who love Star Wars as we do.  If you go, note the crowds will be increased, particularly near Star Tours/Ewok Village.  But it is SO MUCH FUN!  Check it out.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom… You just rocked my World!

We are your typical Disney fan family.  We have made numerous trips to Walt Disney World since the kids were little, and I have been going since I was a child myself.  So, I may be the acme of foolishness, but sometimes the Magic Kingdom can feel a bit well blase.  There I said it.  While it will always be my happy place and I would forever be content to simply sit on a park bench eating ice cream and people watching, I have kids (and a husband) who like changes and new things (not Princesses or Girlie).  So imagine my delight and surprise to learn of Disney’s new attraction Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, which not only enlists the help of Guests to battle villains it is a fully interactive guest park experience that has so many levels it will be hard for me to accurately describe it fully below!

Sorcerers Needed!  No Experience Necessary!

Your journey begins at the Main Street Fire Station (or in Liberty Square), where you will be recruited to help Merlin defeat Hades (who is making deals that would make Ari’s (Entourage reference) head spin) Hades desire is to make the Magic Kingdom a summer home as the Underworld isn’t so shiny.  He enlists his two minions (Pain and Panic) to relieve Merlin of the Crystal of the Magic Kingdom, a bit of Disney Magic that keeps the Villains in check within the confines of the park.  Foiled (of course) in there initial purloin of the crystal, Merlin makes a hasty escape and you are sent on to training and then off to meet your first challenge.

Within the recruitment station you will receive an overview of how the system works.  When you find your Sorcerer’s Crest seen here:

there will be a lock box

which will require your key card which will open a Magic Portal so you can interact with the characters.  You stand back on the crest and get ready to cast your spell using the provided Spell Cards (more on those below) or listen to instructions.

You will be given a map to show you where to go in the Magic Kingdom to start.  So far this attraction is present in every land aside from Tomorrowland.  For the purposes of this review, we started in Adventureland so that is what I will start with here.  We were sent off to Tortuga Tavern to find out what the next steps of our adventure would be.

Villains and Maps and Spells, Oh My!

As I said we started in Adventureland, but we didn’t know which villain we would start out battling until we arrived.  The villains are broken down as follows:

Main Street U.S.A.

Cruella DeVil

Adventureland

Yzma

Jafar

Scar

Fantasyland

Ursula

Maleficent

Liberty Square/ Frontierland

Governor Ratcliffe

Dr. Facilier (The Shadow Man from The Princess and the Frog)

Depending on where you are sent and what combination you get, you will land on one of the villains above and face them trying to get the crystal for themselves because Hades has promised them some type of power or possession.  Using your spell cards you will cast spells to basically battle the villain at each of the portals until you get to the point where they are defeated.  You can then stop or proceed on to another adventure or quest.

On our first quest we defeated Scar and stopped a stampede of Elephants, aided by Rafiki along the way.  We then faced Dr. Facilier in Liberty Square with the help of Mama Odie and Louis the Alligator to stop him from poisoning the patrons of Tiana’s Restaurant and freeing the new princess from her captives.  You will usually be given a hero or helper in some form who not only fits the story but will help you with instructions.

Spell Cards

This will be the most difficult portion of the review for me to report.  But, as of now there are 70 spell cards in circulation.  When you begin, just start out, the Cast Member who is recruiting you will hand you 4 Spell Cards to begin your journey.  Each member of your party can get 4 cards and your journey is linked directly to your park ticket, therefore the key card you are given, your journey will be charted.  There are many ways to get more cards:

  • Go to the Magic Kingdom and check back in to receive more cards.
  • Trade Online in various online fan groups
  • Purchase Card Packs on sites like eBay

Each of the cards in circulation are divided into different classifications:

  • Toy
  • Machine
  • Animal
  • Fairy
  • Hero
  • Princess
  • Warrior
  • Monster
  • Mystic

The small symbols in the bottom left hand side of the corner also show the rarity of the card within it’s classification: a planet means the card is common, a cresent moon means uncommon, a star is rare, a double star is double rare, and a lightning bolt means almost never seen.  There are also two different versions of Woody’s Lasso, one with Slinky and one without.

The spell cards are varied in their use and some will work better in situations than others.  You can also use two spell cards at once if you want to do some serious damage to the villain and get a move on with the quest.

The Result

Our family had an absolute blast playing this interactive and quite immersive attraction.  My oldest son was so into it that he wanted to complete all villains, all lands, in one evening.  Which was almost impossible for us to do, but we tried anyhow.  This also gets kids very used to the Magic Kingdom park as a whole and teaches them various areas in the park and gets them interacting with little out of the way places.  Let me put it this way, when your child complains they have to stop playing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom in order to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, you know you’ve got a winner!  It was fun for all members of our party, not just the recruit.  And in our house the number one topic that comes up when we talk about going back to Walt Disney World is completing the quest.  This is definitely going on my recommendation list for Disney for Boys and I thank Disney for coming up with something that harkens back to the inventive and immersive experiences I remember from my childhood.  Disney Imagineers you once again have rocked my World!