Friday, April 30, 2010

Delicious Disney Duplication

After writing Wednesday’s blog, my sweet tooth was clamoring to be sated. Reviewing my list, I thought of how much my husband would enjoy the Carrot Cake Cookies from the Writer’s Stop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As I searched the web however, I was unable to locate the recipe. Of course, I’m not going to let that stop me, so I created my own. I decided to share, so that you can have a bit of a Disney fix to tide you over until your next trip. Is this anything close to the actual recipe? Absolutely not. It is however, very easy, made with common ingredients, and they disappeared very quickly in our house!

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches

(Makes one dozen sandwiches)


½ cup raisins

3 Tbs. rum*

1 plain yellow cake mix

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 ½ cups grated carrot (from about 3 medium carrots)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs


8 Tbs. (one stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened (regular or reduced fat, not fat free)

1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted

2 Tbs. crushed pineapple, drained


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place raisins and rum in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for about 35-40 seconds. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, cinnamon, raisin mixture, carrots, oil and eggs; mix well. Place by rounded tablespoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet; 2 dozen cookies, total. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool completely.

Cream the butter and cream cheese together until no lumps remain. Add the powdered sugar in batches, and mix until well-combined. Beat an additional minute, until light in fluffy. Add pineapple and mix well. If the frosting is not firm enough, refrigerate for a few minutes. If it is too thick, add a little more pineapple.

Ice the bottom (flat side, that was on the cookie sheet) of one of the cookies with a generous amount of the frosting. Place another cookie (flat side down) on top to form a sandwich. You may have some frosting left over, as my husband said my filling-to-cookie ratio was too high. I said that such a thing is not possible; you can never have too much cream cheese frosting. Adjust it to your personal tastes.

* If you don’t want to use rum, you can use nearly any flavorful liquid. This particular time, I used Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. You could use plain rum, Grand Marnier, bourbon, or even orange juice or pineapple juice. I just think it’s really important to plump the raisins. I hate dry, hard raisins in baked goods. Of course, if you don’t like raisins, just leave them out entirely!

Did you like today’s post? Are there any WDW recipes you have been unable to locate and would like for me to attempt to recreate? Please let me know at!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So Worth It

For those of you who don't know me personally, it's TMI time. In real life I can be a calorie commando. After being heavy my entire life, I went on a serious diet four years ago, and dropped a significant amount of weight. I've worked hard ever since to keep it off. Except when I'm at Walt Disney World.

Some people claim that calories don't count at WDW. Others claim that you walk enough to burn off any extra calories you may consume. Both are wishful thinking. The average person burns about 100 calories per mile walked. That means in an typical day at WDW, you probably won't walk enough to even burn off one of those gargantuan turkey legs that are so prevalent in the Disney parks.

That said, when I'm on vacation, I like to splurge. If I have to pay for it later, so be it. And some treats at WDW are so worth it. Here, in no particular order, are some of those for which I will throw away all caloric concerns:

Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding (Raglan Road, Downtown Disney) – I’ve probably never met a bread pudding I didn’t like. But the butterscotch sauce that comes with this one really puts it over the top!

Carrot Cake Cookies (Writers Stop, DHS) – Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting made in a convenient cookie form. Sheer genius.

Tonga Toast (Kona Cafe, Polynesian Resort) – French toast stuffed with banana and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Is it any wonder that this is a Disney classic?

Grapefruit Cake (Brown Derby, DHS) -- Don’t be put off by the name; there’s nothing healthy about this cake. And the slight citrus tang marries beautifully with the richness of the cream cheese frosting. But then, put cream cheese frosting on nearly anything and I’ll love it!

No way Jose (Beaches and Cream, Beach Club Resort) -- Beaches and Cream is best know for its monstrously huge Kitchen Sink, but that one is not worth the calories to me. Eight flavors of ice cream buried beneath every topping imaginable (how can mint chip ice cream and pineapple topping taste good together?), brownies, angel food cake, and an entire can of whipped cream is just not something that appeals to me. The No Way Jose is another story, however. A peanut butter and hot fudge delight featuring chocolate and vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate morsels, whipped cream and a cherry; yes, please!

Dole Whip (Aloha Isle, Magic Kingdom) – This may be your best calorie option on this list. Luscious and creamy, this pineapple soft-served ice cream is fat free and extremely yummy!

Zebra Domes (Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge) Small bites of yellow sponge cake, topped with a Kahlua chocolate mousse and covered in white and dark chocolate; what’s not to love?

White Chocolate Cheesecake (Narcoossee’s, Grand Floridian) – This one is sadly no longer on their menu, but I still make it at home because it was so fabulous! It’s a crustless white chocolate cheesecake in a Grand Marnier glaze and is rich enough to satisfy even my sweet tooth.

Key Lime Tart with Mango and Raspberry Sauce (Olivia’s, Old Key West) In much the same way that I can’t resist cream cheese frosting, if you slap the words “key lime” onto just about any recipe, I’ll probably eat it. And where better than at Old Key West?

The Earl’s Brownie Crème (Earl of Sandwich, Downtown Disney) – As if I didn’t love this restaurant enough already, now they have this scrumptious concoction. It’s a circular brownie loaded with rich chocolate chunks, sliced in half and filled with a heavenly vanilla cream frosting. Who could ask for anything more?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches (Main Street Bakery, Magic Kingdom) – This is an honorable mention on behalf of my husband. He just loves ‘em.

Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup (Le Cellier, Epcot) -- Who says all treats have to be sweet? Rich and creamy, loaded with cheese, beer and bacon, this rich calorie bomb ranks very highly on my “worth it” meter.

Grand Marnier Slush and Fiesta Margarita (Epcot) – Any diet plan in the world will tell you that alcoholic beverages are “empty calories”. I say they’d change their tune if they gave these a try.

Now that you know my guilty pleasures, please share yours over at I may want to give them a try!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Just Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale

Folks, I have a tale for you. This is a story about CIA agents, backroom deals, and the old “I’ve got some swampland in Florida to sell you” gimmick. There are savvy lawyers, greedy politicians, and nosy reporters. This, my friends, is the story of Walt Disney World.

Several sites had been proposed for “Disneyland East”; St Louis, New York, Washington D.C., and Palm Beach to name a few. Walt Disney and his scouting crew flew over these sites in his newly acquired private plane, but they each had their drawbacks: not enough available land, inhospitable climate, too much financial risk. On November 22, 1963, Walt and his team flew over Orlando. Seeing the well-developed network of roads, including the planned Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike, Walt was intrigued. Optimism was high until they stopped to refuel the plane on the way back to California. There they heard of President Kennedy’s assassination.

I don’t know what was going through Walt’s mind on that ride home. Maybe he pondered man’s mortality and decided there was no time to waste. Maybe he decided that now, more than ever, America needed the hope and optimism of Walt’s City of Tomorrow. What I do know is that by the time they landed, Walt’s mind was made up. Central Florida would be Mickey’s new home.

As I’m sure you all know, one of Walt’s biggest regrets was the tourist corridor visitors were forced to endure as they entered Disneyland. Since he didn’t own the surrounding land, he couldn’t stop the string of tacky shops and motels that clustered around his pristine park. That was not going to happen in Florida. To create the buffer zone he needed, or better yet, to have the area become the model city of his dreams, Walt was going to need a lot of land.

If you know that Disney has an interest in your land, odds are you’re going to try to get top dollar for it. We saw this just recently when rumors spread of a new theme park in China. The people in the target area started doing crazy improvements to their homes (planting trees, adding lean-to shanties) to try to raise their property values and drive up prices. Therefore, Disney had to operate in complete secrecy. For help, they turned to former CIA agent Paul Helliwell.

Paul L.E. Helliwell was born in 1915. He was a lawyer before he joined the United States Army during the Second World War. Later he was transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) where he served under William Donovan (who was later Walt’s lawyer; it is a small world, after all). In 1943 Colonel Paul Helliwell became head of the Secret Intelligence Branch of the OSS in Europe. In 1947 Helliwell joined the Central Intelligence Agency. In the 1960’s Mr. Helliwell was amongst other things, a Miami lawyer. This man had connections, and knew how to keep a secret.

Disney’s target area contained three large tracts of land connected by scores of smaller ones. A key piece, some 12,400 acres, was held by a motivated seller. The reason for their motivation soon became clear. Although the owners, Jack and Bill Demetree, owned the surface rights to the land, the mineral rights belonged to Tufts College in Boston, who refused to sell. Apparently, they thought all of that Florida swampland had the makings of some great Primordial soup, and might be the next big oil hot spot. After a marathon of heated and fruitless negotiations, all hope seemed lost. Then our former CIA agent Helliwell had a closed door meeting with Tuft’s trustees. At the end of this meeting, they agreed to sell the mineral rights for about $6 an acre.

Even the smaller properties presented some challenges. Have you ever heard the expression: “If you believe that, I have some swampland in Florida I want to sell you”? Um, apparently, that’s exactly what happened. In 1912, The Munger Land Company began selling tracts of useless swampland to gullible northerners via mail order catalogs. All of these property owners had to be tracked down and convinced to sell.

By means of his dummy companies (Ayefour Corporation (a pun on Interstate 4), Tomahawk Properties, Reedy Creek Ranch, and Bay Lake Properties), Disney continued to purchase land behind the veil of secrecy. By mid-October of 1965, however, the gig was up. Orlando Sentinel reporter Emily Bavar asked Walt if he was buying land in central Florida. Walt listed all of the reasons he wouldn’t be interested: there was no other tourist industry or high population areas near-by, the average rainfall was significantly higher than in Southern California, etc. Bavar walked away thinking that for all of Walt’s alleged lack of interest in the area, he sure knew a lot about it. She convinced her editors, and on October 24, 1965 their headline ran “We say: ‘Mystery’ Industry is Disney”.

Florida governor Haydon Burns was ecstatic. He was ramping up his re-election campaign and insisted on being present for the big announcement. On November 15, under a big banner that read “Florida Welcomes Walt Disney”, Walt confirmed that Disney would be building another theme park, similar to, but much larger than, Disneyland. Now all Disney had to do was transform alligator, snake, and insect infested swampland into the vacation capital of the world.

Did you enjoy today’s history lesson? Please let me know over at!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Disney's Third Rail

I’m a little hesitant to write this post. After all, I actively fight racism. If someone uses a racial slur or tells a racist joke in my presence, I call them out on it -- loudly. I nearly got beat up by a football team at a party once because I took umbrage with their racist remarks. (I thought I deserved credit for not commenting on how sad it was that years after graduation the team still traveled as a unit, but that’s life in small-town Ohio.) Why do I feel the need to state this so emphatically? Because I’m going to grab a hold of the third rail of Disney history; Song of the South.

You know there’s a controversy. You know that if Disney won’t release something people are asking for, it’s not because Disney doesn’t want to make money. But a goodly portion of the population has actually never seen the film, so they have no idea what the fuss is about. Here’s a brief description of the film, along with my thoughts.

Song of the South was released on November 12, 1946 and based on the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris. The live actors provide the frame story, in which Uncle Remus relates the adventures of Br’er Rabbit and his friends. These anthropomorphic animal characters appear in animation. The hit song from the film was "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", which won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Song and is a beloved Disney classic. The film inspired the Disney theme park ride Splash Mountain.

The movie is set in Georgia, shortly after the American Civil War. Seven-year-old Johnny is excited about what he believes to be a vacation at his grandmother's Georgia plantation with his parents. When they arrive at the plantation however, he discovers he is to live in the country with his mother and grandmother while his father returns to Atlanta to continue his controversial editorship in the city's newspaper. Johnny, distraught because his father has never left him or his mother before, leaves that night under cover of darkness and sets off for Atlanta with only a bindle. As Johnny sneaks away from the plantation, he is attracted by the voice of Uncle Remus, telling tales of a character named Br'er Rabbit. Uncle Remus befriends the young boy and uses his tales of Br’er Rabbit to convince Johnny not to run away.

Johnny also makes friends with Toby, a little black boy who lives on the plantation, and Ginny, a poor white neighbor. However, Ginny's two older brothers, Joe and Jake (who are meant to resemble Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear) are not friendly at all. They constantly bully Ginny and Johnny. Johnny uses more lessons from Br’er Rabbit to deal with these two thugs.

Johnny’s mother (Sally) eventually feels that Uncle Remus’ stories are having too much of an effect on Johnny, and insists that Uncle Remus quit telling them. Uncle Remus, saddened by the misunderstanding of his good intentions, packs his bags and leaves for Atlanta. Seeing Uncle Remus leaving from a distance, Johnny rushes to intercept him, taking a shortcut through the pasture, where he is attacked and seriously injured by the resident bull. While Johnny hovers between life and death, his father returns and reconciles with Sally. But Johnny calls for Uncle Remus, who had returned in all the commotion. Uncle Remus begins telling a tale of Br'er Rabbit and the Laughing Place, and the boy miraculously survives.

So why all the controversy? First, some people feel that the film gives the impression of “an idyllic master-slave relationship”. They criticize the film for “making slavery appear pleasant” and “pretending slavery didn’t exist”. I must point out that the film takes place after the Civil War, when slavery was abolished. If it idealizes anything, it would be the plantation economy during Reconstruction (apparently Sherman’s March to the Sea bypassed this portion of Georgia entirely). Besides, it’s a work of fiction. There are singing birds, talking rabbits and a scheming fox, but the part that the critics find unrealistic is that people were actually capable of being nice to each other? I don’t get it.

There is also some criticism aimed at how some of the characters are treated. For example, critics claim that Johnny gets too much attention, and that Toby is virtually ignored. My response is: “Gee, the main character is the focus of the attention? I can hardly believe it.” (Does the sarcasm come through clearly there?) Further, they say that Uncle Remus’s pain at having to leave Johnny is a sign of “the blacks sublimating their own lives in order to be better servants to the white family”. What a load of crap. This moment in the film is immediately followed by the scene where Johnny risks his life to get to Uncle Remus, and is horribly injured. It is a testament to how much these to characters care about each other; no more, no less. I think it’s a beautiful story of a relationship that did not let race differences get in the way.

So, do the benefits of releasing the film outweigh the merits of the controversy? Obviously I think so. After all, Disney can’t pretend the film doesn’t exist. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” is practically a Disney anthem, and the characters are all over the theme parks. I think the best way for Disney to put this controversy to rest would be to release the movie on DVD with an introduction by someone like Leonard Maltin. Just be very candid and say that this movie was made in 1946. Hopefully, we’ve learned a lot about race sensitivity in the last 60+ years, and can look at the film through that filter. I also think it’s worth mentioning that James Baskett (Uncle Remus) was the first male black actor to ever win an academy award, and he received it for his role in this film.

You know what I think, but where do you stand? Speak out at!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stray Cats

I love all of Florida, not just Walt Disney World. No, really. My husband laughs when I say this, because as soon as we hit the Florida state line, I make a beeline for Disney property. Do you remember the scene in Hercules when Herc carried his dad’s cart into town on his back? Those are the lengths I’d go to in order to cross the Disney property line. Then when it’s time to leave, my husband has to pry my hands free from our hotel room balcony and drag me kicking and screaming into the car. No two-year-old on the planet can hold a candle to me when it comes to tantrum throwing.

And yet, I really regret missing out on some of the other experiences Florida has to offer. Just, you know, not enough to actually leave Disney to participate in them. So my thought is: Wouldn’t it be great if I could have some of these quintessential Florida experiences on Disney property?

When I think of the non-Disney portions of Florida, my mind conjures up a deck bar overlooking the water. A band is playing appropriate music – be it steel drum or Jimmy Buffet. Some people are relaxing on the deck drinking tasty concoctions with little umbrellas in them, while a few romantic couples dance in the sand. As the sun dips below the horizon and the moon comes up over the water, the laughter and chatter of the guests mingles with the music as everyone lets their cares and worries melt away. That is Florida to me.

Unfortunately, places like this are hard to come by in Walt Disney World. And now that Pleasure Island has closed, adult entertainment (I mean that in a good way) has become hit-or-miss, aside from Jellyrolls. And while I love Jellyrolls and the other entertainment at the Boardwalk, I really wish there was something that was, well, just more Floridian.

Luckily, Disney has the perfect spot for what I described. When you think Florida and party hot-spot, what do you think? Key West, of course!

Disney’s Old Key West Resort is a DVC property, located along the Sassagoula River, near Downtown Disney. In this immersive tropical ambiance Disney has created a retreat highlighting the romance and adventure of Key West. My concept would fit in beautifully here.

Of course, it would need a back-story. After all, this is Disney. Everything has a back-story, even the now-defunct clubs on Pleasure Island. It would have to tie into Key West history, but translate into a fun Disneyfied theme. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

In the late 1940’s, free thinker and old maid Mallory Duval was something of an embarrassment to her wealthy family. They decided to send her to live on the family’s property on Key West, far from the critical eye of society. Alone and bereft of acquaintances, Mallory started making friends with many of the local stray cat population. Each evening as she relaxed to her favorite songs coming from the radio, she’d set out milk and food for some of the neighborhood cats. In seemingly no time, as soon as Mallory turned on the music, cats would start showing up at her back door. Soon local pet owners learned of the special treats and games Mallory provided for the stray cats, and started stopping by with their own pets to enjoy Mallory’s hospitality. In this welcome environment, friends and felines would gather for good company and great music under a warm Florida moon. This tradition continues today at “Stray Cats”, the new entertainment venue at Disney’s Old Key West Resort. Lounge on the deck or dance on the sand while listening to an eclectic mix of Calypso songs, classic hits, and beloved Disney favorites. Try some of our house specialties, like the Thomas O’Malley Orange Martini, Cheshire Cat Colada, or Oliver’s Citrus Twist.

What do you think? Is this somewhere you’d like to visit? Could Disney ever be convinced that something along these lines would be a good idea? Let me know at!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moderately Fabulous

Disney’s Moderate Resorts remind me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Disney’s Value Resorts are too cheap (in the bad sense of the word), the Deluxe Resorts (much as I love ‘em) are too expensive, but the moderates are just right.

That being said, which of them should you choose? Having stayed in all four of the moderates (some more than once), I feel informed enough to share my impressions with you.

4. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – This was Disney’s first moderate resort, opening October 1, 1988. The Caribbean Beach Resort is designed with a Caribbean theme (bet you could’ve guessed that one, huh?). Guests stay in one of the small buildings that encircle Barefoot Bay, a 45-acre lake. Buildings are grouped into one of six villages, each named after an island in the Caribbean: Martinique, Barbados, Jamaica, Aruba, Trinidad North, and Trinidad South. In 2008, Disney began work redesigning several hundred of the rooms to a Finding Nemo theme, then refurbished 384 rooms in the Trinidad South village to have a pirate theme. Old Port Royale (OPR) is the main activities area with Market Street (food court), Shutters (sit-down restaurant), Calypso Trading Post and Straw Market (shops), Goombay Games (arcade), and a large pool with a Spanish fort theme. I really do love the theme of this resort, and it’s carried out well.

The walk between OPR and your room is pleasant, but can be long: the most distant guest rooms are at least a 15 minute walk away. I love to walk, but the trek from our room in Trinidad South was, in short, a pain. The only thing worse would have been to wait for the Disney buses to take me. And speaking of buses, they make stops at seven locations within the resort. So just because you’ve finally boarded a Magic Kingdom bus, don’t think you’re actually heading there anytime soon.

3. Coronado Springs Resort is another of Disney's moderately priced resorts, and opened on August 1, 1997. The complex has 1,917 rooms and suites situated in three villages around a 15-acre lake called Lago Dorado – the Casitas, the Ranchos and the Cabanas. Coronado Springs has an American Southwest/northern Mexico theme and is a showcase of native architecture and landscaping. There is a stepped Mayan pyramid towering over an elaborate pool area with a water slide and a playground that doubles as an archeological dig site for kids. While a very beautiful resort, this is another extremely spread-out complex, with some rooms nearly half a mile from the main building. There is no one section close to everything. If you want to be near the pool, you’re not going to be close to the shopping and restaurants, for example. And the buildings themselves – well, I swear that I must always get the room the farthest from the staircase, and once I reach my building (am I in 6A or 6B? They look exactly the same), I still have quite a hike to my room.

This is Disney's first moderately priced convention hotel. There is a 95,000-square-foot convention center that includes a 60,214 square-foot ballroom, as well as a full-service business center. This can affect your stay in a couple of ways. First, there may be a gaggle of conventioneers at the resort during your stay, and for some reason, they seem to love making fun of Disney in very loud voices. Oh, the fist fights my husband has averted by dragging me off by my hair. Also, the dining options seemed more geared to the convention crowd. Maya Grill (the sit-down restaurant) is beautiful, but prices run upwards of $29 per entrée for some pretty ho-hum food (I’m guessing Disney is assuming that conventioneers have robust expense accounts). The drink list at Rix Lounge is extensive but expensive. Appetizers are available, but I find $16 a little steep for some bar munchies. The one shining star in CSR dining is the Pepper Market. Pepper Market is a food court that seats over 400 in an open-air market atmosphere. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, it features both standard fare (pizza, pasta, burgers) and Mexican cuisine. There is also a grill with omelets made to order, and joy of joys, a margarita kiosk.

Transportation to the theme parks is about what you’d expect: buses, making four stops within the resort before heading on their merry way to theme parks.

2. Port Orleans Riverside – was designed to reflect the Antebellum South along the Mississippi River. The resort opened February 2, 1992 as Disney's Dixie Landings Resort, initially with rooms located in its Alligator Bayou section, and shortly afterward the remaining Magnolia Bend section was opened. Alligator Bayou consists of 1,024 guest rooms over 16 buildings styled as rustic, weathered lodges with 64 rooms per lodge. Magnolia Bend consists of 1,024 guest rooms over four buildings styled as southern plantation grand manor homes with 256 rooms per mansion. This is the only moderate resort that can accommodate five guests in some of its rooms. Riverside has two primary dining spots: a sit-down restaurant, Boatwright's, and a food court, Riverside Mill. Ol’ Man Island is the themed pool area, and Riverside also has a marina where guests can rent personal water craft, bicycles or surrey bikes. Horse-drawn carriage rides are available in the evening.

This may have made the top spot on my list if not for two factors: 1. the size of the resort places some of the rooms quite a distance from the main area, and 2. the theme isn’t quite to my personal liking. Do you remember in the late 1980’s when everyone seemed to be decorating their homes in country kitsch? That’s what my room in Alligator Bayou reminded me of. I didn’t like it in the 80’s, and I don’t like it now. But that’s just me.

1. Port Orleans French Quarter – my favorite of the moderates. Designed to reflect the style and architecture of New Orleans' French Quarter, the resort opened May 17, 1991 and boasts 1,008 rooms in seven 3-story guest buildings containing 144 rooms each. The intimate size of this resort is its biggest selling point in my opinion; no long treks to Doubloon Lagoon (pool) or Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory (food court). Unfortunately, there is no longer a sit-down restaurant at this resort ( and I loved Bonfamille’s), but you can walk over to Boatwright’s at Riverside or better yet, boat to Downtown Disney and choose from its plethora of dining options!

The Port Orleans resorts share a bussing system. The buses make one stop at FQ before heading to Riverside for an additional four stops. This means that if you are staying at FQ then: a) you’re pretty much guaranteed a seat on the bus, and b) after a long day at the parks, you get dropped off first.

All of the moderates are fabulous, and everyone has their personal favorites. Please fan me over at to discuss your favorite resort, and to receive notifications of my new posts!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Roll-Over Effect

I was listening to a discussion recently regarding a film studio’s surprise at the performance of a recent movie of theirs at the box office. Dreamworks was astonished that “How to Train Your Dragon”, which got brilliant reviews from the critics, was performing less well than their previous release, “Monsters vs. Aliens”, whose reviews were lukewarm, at best. As this issue seems to puzzle Disney quite often as well, I thought I’d discuss it. In my opinion, it’s a result of what I refer to as “The Roll-Over Effect”.

My premise is this: audience turnout for a movie from a company like Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks isn’t based as much on what they think of the current film as what their experience was with the previous film. I know that sounds strange, but let me explain. After years of sub-par films, the first big Disney film of its Renaissance was The Little Mermaid. This has become a beloved Disney classic, but only grossed $6 million its opening weekend. Why? Because movie-goers had been trained to expect the likes of The Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective. They weren’t anticipating anything truly wonderful.

This works in the other direction, as well. After a hugely successful run, including films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, Disney was able to get some pretty good numbers out of Pocahontas which, while a good movie, certainly wasn’t in the same league as the others. The following film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, got rave reviews from the critics, but people remembered being less enchanted with Pocahontas than its predecessors, so the turnout wasn’t as good for Hunchback as it may have been if it had immediately followed The Lion King. This downward trend continued until, with the likes of The Emperor’s New Groove and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, theater-goers were about to throw up their hands in frustration. Lilo and Stitch breathed a bit of new life into things, but it wasn’t enough to counter, the disastrous less than stellar Treasure Planet and Home on the Range. Disney then closed the hand-drawn animation studios, to focus on computer generated pictures.

Okay, it’s time for me to rant a little here. I heard an interview with a Disney Studio head claiming that the quality of the films didn’t drop in the mid-nineties; audiences were just tired of the Broadway-style hand-drawn animated films, and wanted them all to be computer-generated. When I heard that, I nearly blew a gasket. I’m sorry, but I think that is complete garbage. Are you trying to tell me that Treasure Planet didn’t do well because it was produced predominately in 2-D animation? News flash; it didn’t do well because it wasn’t a very good movie. If it had been as good as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, people would have gone to see it.

Although they won’t admit it, Disney is a little disappointed that The Princess and the Frog didn’t get a better reception. But let’s face it, the last hand-drawn film before it was Home on the Range. Disney hadn’t exactly trained its audience to have high hopes. Now, if Tangled is as good as The Princess and the Frog, my guess is that it will do very well. If, that is, Disney hasn’t totally confused audiences with this weird, “we’re too cool to admit we’re doing a princess fairy tale story (because those never work for you, do they Disney?), so we’re going to give it an ambiguous name to peak your interest” marketing plan they have going on.

The roll-over effect has worked very well for Pixar. For any other company, people may have been hesitant to shell out their hard-earned cash to see an animated film about an old guy and some balloons or a robot that doesn’t talk much and has a peculiar Hello Dolly fetish, but we’ve learned to trust Pixar, so we gave them a shot and were rewarded with some fabulous viewing experiences. My hope is that Disney will learn from this. It’s going to take a few back-to-back home runs from Disney before we’re truly going to believe they have a solid animation offense again.

I hope you’ll forgive me if you think I’ve been too harsh, but I’ve gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em. Hopefully, Disney will learn this lesson, and start worrying more about the story they are telling, instead of the medium they are using. What do you think? Please join me at and let me know!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Counter-Service Countdown

You didn’t make any advance dining reservations, and none of the sit-down restaurants have anything available. Or you thought you’d be able to feed your group for less than $25 per person, per day, and then took a look at the Walt Disney World menus. Are you consigned to a week of burgers and chicken nuggets? Never fear; I am, as always, here to help! I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite counter-service restaurants in WDW, with options in nearly ever corner of the World. Here we go:

(Honorable Mention) Studio Catering Company, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (I tried to limit myself to 10, but this deserved a “most improved” award) – What an improvement! Chili Cheese Dogs have been removed to make room for Pressed Tuscan Deli and Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches. Hallelujah!

10. Starring Rolls Café, Disney’s Hollywood Studios – It’s not a huge menu, but if I can get a Black Forest Ham Sandwich and a Caramel Apple with nuts, I’m not complaining; and now there’s sushi, too!

9. Pepper Market, Coronado Springs Resort – This one may be cheating a little, sort of a halfway house between counter service and table service. It’s got some great options though – everything from fajitas to egg rolls!

8. Yorkshire Fish Shop, UK Pavilion (Epcot)Arthur Treacher, eat your heart out; this is how fish and chips should be done.

7. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café, Magic KingdomTaco Salad or an Angus Cheeseburger with all the fixin’s, maybe even a side of Cheese Fries. Okay, I didn’t say these would necessarily be healthy options…

6. Sunshine Seasons Food Fair, Land Pavilion (Epcot) – A pork chop, mashed potatoes, and salad for $9.99; need I say more?

5. Beach Club Marketplace, Beach Club – What a find this place was! Tucked in the back of the Beach Club’s gift shop, this was a last resort for dinner one night. After trying their Roast Beef and Brie on Ciabatta Roll, I liked it so much I went back another night for the Smoked Ham and Black Diamond Cheddar on a Multigrain Bun. Yum!

4. Flame Tree BBQ, Animal Kingdom – I love me some barbecue. And when the options range from a pulled pork sandwich to 1/2 Slab of St. Louis Ribs, then Honey, I’m home!

3. Wolfgang Puck Express, Downtown Disney – While you may not find the sushi or tiramisu that I love so much, you can usually get a Meatball and Parmesan Pizza or a Chinois Chicken Salad – not too shabby!

2. Tangerine Café, Morocco Pavilion (Epcot) – Don’t be scared off by the thought of Moroccan cuisine. If you like gyros, then give one of their Shawarma Platters a try. Chicken and/or lamb served with hummus, tabbouleh, Tangerine Couscous Salad and fresh Moroccan bread, these are large enough to share. We come here every trip, and it’s been my daughter’s favorite counter-service location for as long as she can remember.

1. Earl of Sandwich, Downtown Disney – I don’t just like it for its name and history, I swear! That said, you’ve got to hear the history:

In 1762, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, had his hands full, literally. He was the First Sea Lord of the mighty British Navy, a noted explorer, a patron of the arts and also a dedicated gambler with a love of daylong card games.

This led to little time for food, so he came up with the ingenious idea of putting meat between two slices of bread. From then on it did not matter if you were inspecting the Fleet or laying down a Royal Flush you could eat great food without too much fuss.

Thus the sandwich was named after its inventor the 4th Earl of Sandwich in 1762. Now over 240 years on, the family, now headed by John Montagu, the 11th Earl of Sandwich has reclaimed and reinvented the greatest of all quick foods.

The Earl of Sandwich is dedicated to bringing the sandwich we've all been waiting for. Our signature hot Roast Beef Sandwich, served on hearth baked bread will amaze you. We also serve classic cold sandwiches and wraps, unique salads, fresh fruit smoothies and our very own ice cream sandwiches.

We feel honored that so many have copied our lead but we are here to reclaim the sandwich.”

And reclaim it they have! From The All American - roast turkey, cranberries, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and buttermilk ranch to The Full Montagu - roast beef and turkey with cheddar and Swiss cheese, romaine lettuce, tomato and Earl's mustard, I’ve never had anything here that I didn’t completely love.

So there you have it; my favorite foods in Walt Disney World that don’t require a reservation. What are your favorites? Come share at Happy Eating, everyone!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Disney Tears

I must have “sucker” tattooed to my forehead. Rare is the marketing ploy or movie plot that doesn’t manage to tug at my heartstrings. I’ve been known to cry at toilet paper commercials, and I well up during nearly ever sports film ever made (“The Indians win it; the Indians win it. Oh my God, the Indians win it!”). And let’s not even mention the likes of Old Yeller or Bambi. But nothing gets me blubbering like a baby quite like Walt Disney World.

It begins before we even arrive. Heck, it starts when I’m not even consciously planning a trip. The minute I see one of those commercials, I perk up like a dog near a grilling steak. The “It’s Time to Remember the Magic” campaign was particularly poignant, and I absolutely adored “You never talk to me in that special way”, “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet you”, and “I’m too excited to sleep”.

There are a few “magical moments” when planning the trip, like when you actually book your trip or when your confirmation materials arrive in the mail. I’ve been known to jump up and down in excitement (hopefully no neighbors were looking out their windows at that point).

The closer we are to Walt Disney World, the more the hysteria grows. I don’t think I’ve ever passed under the welcome signs without tears streaming down my face (albeit for very different reasons, depending on if I’m coming or going). My first sighting of a topiary or a monorail prompts a similar “bouncing up and down in my seat” attack.

The first theme park I visit on a trip is always the Magic Kingdom. I’m not truly home until I’m passing under the train station. Speaking of which, the attraction posters that greet me at this spot might just induce another intense emotional reaction. Once I see those, I know that all’s right with the world.

The next thing you know, I’m skipping, singing, and half-crying “Right Down the Middle of Main Street USA”. After all, the place was made with a magical plan, and just around the corner is a Fantasyland. “For the time of your life you ought to find yourself here. You’re welcome anytime you have the mind to appear.” Okay, I’ll stop singing. For now.

Part of the Disney magic comes from remembering previous visits. One of my favorite Disney memories happened at the Country Bear Jamboree. My grandparents joined us for that trip. My grandmother had been confined to a wheelchair for as long as I could remember (she passed away when I was nine), and the cast members at CBJ made a point to make sure she was well taken care of. You know it must have been pretty spectacular service to impress a small child! Therefore, this attraction is one of my all-time favorites. I sing along with every song, (yes, I sing a lot at WDW. Too bad I’m not any good at it) and I well up as “Come Again” kicks in.

While most of my misty-eyed moments tend to occur at the Magic Kingdom, I’m not exactly immune at the other parks. Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a guaranteed tear-jerker for nearly any Disney fan, and I always get a tad weepy at Epcot as we soar over Disneyland in Soarin’.

I’m getting a little verklempt now, so I’m going to pass this topic onto you. What Disney moments tug at your heartstrings? Please fan me at!/pages/The-Disney-Gene/340155003315 and tell me your emotional Disney hotspots!

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Guide to the Guides

The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.” ~ Douglas Adams

Living 1061 miles from Walt Disney World, I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to keep the magic alive. One of my favorites is to read (and re-read) Disney guides. My husband laughs at me every time I buy a new one. (“Do you really think you’re going to learn anything new?” “Hey,” I reply. “It could happen.” Derisive snort and eye-rolling from Dear Hubby.)

That said, not all Walt Disney World travel books are created equal. There are some for which I anxiously await the arrival of each new addition, and others that I wouldn’t read again for love or money. In case you are contemplating a trip to the bookstore soon, I thought I’d give you my impressions on a few of them.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa) – This is the bible of WDW guides, and my hands-down favorite. It is encyclopedic in its coverage, constantly updated, and peppered with quirky humor and behind-the-scenes tidbits from experts like Jim Hill. It covers everything from blister control to estimated travel times. This book is invaluable for first-timers and veterans alike. It’s also heavy enough to be a useful weapon if you encounter any giant spiders or small reptiles.

From the best to the worst – Zagat Walt Disney World Insider's Guide was the worst guidebook I’ve ever read. It prompted me to seriously consider breaking into their offices to steal the quotation marks keys from each of their keyboards. I honestly don’t think there was a single sentence in that guide that did not include quotation marks, and seldom did they say anything that was worth quoting.

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World – I call this one “the rose-colored glasses guide to WDW”. It’s the official guidebook and is published by Disney. It’s got some great information and often gets the first scoop on new attractions, but isn’t exactly what I would term “unbiased”. It’s wonderful for first-time visitors or someone who hasn’t visited in awhile.

Companies like Foder’s and Frommer’s are experts in travel, but not necessarily experts on Walt Disney World. I consider them competent but not exceptional, and seldom spend my time or money on them.

PassPorter's Walt Disney World by Jennifer and Dave Marx is another gem. Obviously written by people who truly love WDW, it gives you advice from bona fide Disney veterans. It has special features that will assist you in planning and organizing your trip, as well as a journal for you to make notes for your next vacation!

The Healthy Guide to Walt Disney World (Dan Green) – I was very excited to get this book. I was hoping it might have some information on calorie counts, as these are very hard to come by in WDW. Instead, it offered tips like “Eat fruit instead of ice cream” or “Order your salad dressing on the side”. Gee, thanks; I couldn’t have figured that out on my own.

The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort (Cara Goldsbury) -- Dear Husband, if you are looking for ways to surprise me on a Disney trip, please consult this guide. Sincerely, Teri

Walt Disney World With Kids (Kim Wright Wiley) – This one is okay, but she kind of blew her credibility with me when she made a big deal about this “hidden” restroom near Pirates of the Caribbean that she didn’t discover until her seventeenth fact-finding trip to WDW. I have, quite literally, been using this same restroom since I was potty-trained. It is not exactly a secret.

PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line (Deb Wills and Debra Martin Koma) is a great resource for anyone facing extra challenges – from mobility issues to autism to allergies, this book will have you covered!

There are a few books that deserve a special mention. The Complete Walt Disney World (Julie and Mike Neal) and Mousejunkies! (Bill Burke) aren’t traditional guide books in the “ride this, eat there” sense, but both are fabulous reads. The Complete Walt Disney World did have several interesting WDW tidbits of which I had not previously been aware (you see, Ray?), and Mousejunkies! is often downright hilarious.

Lou Mongello’s Walt Disney World Trivia Book and Walt Disney World Trivia Book Volume 2, along with Steven Barrett’s Hidden Mickeys make for terrific companion books, if you will, as do The Imagineering Field Guides, by The Imagineers.

There are a lot more WDW guidebooks out there, and I hope to read many of them soon. Why are they important? I think Scar said it best: “Be Prepared”!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shameful Secrets

Come on; you know we all have them. In addition to being Disney Dorks, I mean. There are things about Walt Disney World that we are ashamed to admit we like, even to other Disney fans. There are also things we don’t particularly care for but are reluctant to criticize, for fear we will be painted with the Disney heresy brush. I, however, can’t take the confines of my Disney closet any longer and am coming out. Deep breath; here we go:

I love the Country Bear Jamboree. I love nearly everything about it; the holding area where you wait for the show (the claw marks in the floor completely convinced me as a child that these were real bears), the theater, the songs, and the critters themselves. I sing along with every song (and not quietly, either). I cry when I leave. I was furious when they did the Vacation Hoedown makeover, and cheered upon the return of the original show. I don’t even like it when the Christmas overlay contaminates my beloved bears. I remember when there used to be a lot of CBJ merchandise (I will not start ranting about the homogenization of Disney merchandise here, however badly I want to) and I would give just about anything for a great big stuffed Country Bear of my own (Henry with Sammy wrapped around his hat would be awesome). Go ahead and laugh; you know you want to.

On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of the WDW parades. Well, the daytime ones, anyway. Spectromagic (or the Main Street Electrical Parade, or whatever its current incarnation) is pretty cool, but never seems to be running when I visit. I consider the parades a great time to go ride attractions because the lines will be shorter, but the hassle of navigating around them to get through the park goes a long way to canceling this benefit out, in my mind. I did like Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade the time I was in it however. That was sweet.

I never had a Dole Whip until I was in my 30’s. Now I just adore them.

I could take or leave Mission: Space and Test Track. They were interesting enough the first couple of times I rode them, but they just don’t have the repeatability factor that I want out of an E-Ticket attraction. To quote evil Willow (for all of you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans): “Bored now”.

I want to like the films in the countries around World Showcase; I really do. I feel as though if I were truly worldly and cosmopolitan, these would appeal to me. Truth be told though, they remind me of the films we’d watch in high school Geography class. While those are great for getting out of class, they aren’t want I want to see on vacation. World Showcase needs some decent attractions!

I can’t walk down Main Street USA without skipping. And crying. And singing. Loudly, I might add.

I love Fantasmic, but I can’t stand the wait to see it, and the crowds when leaving. Now that Disney has reduced the number of performances, these issues have escalated to the point that I generally just don’t bother with the hassle anymore. This makes me angry with Disney. (I can’t believe I just said that.)

Other than Dinosaur, I don’t like Dinoland USA at all. I get that they were going for a theme, and I’ve heard the quote from the Imagineers; “Do you know how much it cost to make it look so cheap and tacky?” My response is: “Yes, but why would you want to?”

It drives me nuts to hear people make Disney mistakes. It’s Cinderella Castle, not Cinderella’s Castle. The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are all part of WDW; Universal and Islands of Adventure are not. You cannot monorail from the All Star Resorts to the Magic Kingdom. My husband sometimes has to physically restrain me from berating – er, I mean correcting guests who say these things.

My final secret: there are things at WDW that I’ve never done. And not just new stuff, either. I’ve never been to Tom Sawyer Island. I’ve never seen Cirque du Soleil. I’ve never eaten at a lot of the better Disney restaurants. I guess this just gives me a reason to go back!

Okay, I’ve fessed up. Now it’s your turn. What are your shameful Disney secrets?

This post is part of the Disney
Blog Carnival
. Go there to read more great Disney posts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Disney Bubble

The rash of bus accidents at Walt Disney World over the past week or so has raised concern amongst some people regarding safety at WDW. I thought about writing on this topic after the little boy died at Fort Wilderness on Thursday, but decided to hold off. After another three vehicle accident on Saturday involving a Disney bus, however, I decided it was time to address these concerns.

When at WDW, guests often walk around in what is commonly referred to as “The Disney Bubble”. This is a state of mind that seems to envelop people once on Disney property that makes them feel as though no harm can come to them. It’s a lovely feeling, but one must remember that even though at Walt Disney World, you are still on Planet Earth. The laws of physics and of averages still apply. And sadly, crime still occurs. So today I’m going to briefly address some ways to try to stay safe at WDW.

Transportation: Yes, there have been three accidents involving Disney buses over the past two weeks. The reason these are remarkable however, is because they happen so seldom. There has been a lot of criticism aimed at Disney due to these accidents, and people wonder about their safety when onboard. I’d just like to point out that in none of these accidents did any of the guests on the buses sustain any serious injuries. I’ve often thought that Disney’s habit of crowding the buses so that every last inch of the bus is occupied seemed unsafe. It may be, but I can tell you that if I’ve been waiting for a bus for half an hour and one finally comes, I know there’s no way I’m going turn up my nose at any spot on that bus, even if it’s standing room only. So I guess if I’m part of the problem, I really can’t complain.

There was also an incident on a Disney monorail last year that tragically resulted in a cast member losing his life. Again, I feel compelled to mention that this gained attention due to how singular this accident was.

There are occasionally accidents involving guest-driven vehicles at WDW, sometimes fatal. These emphasize that the rules of traffic apply, and that you still need defensive driving habits, even at WDW.

Theft: Would you leave your purse (or other belongings) lying around unattended at a local swimming pool or water park? No? Then don’t do it at WDW. Finding ways to keep track of your belongings may be a hassle, but not as much of one as trying to board the airplane home without an ID because your wallet was stolen.

Personal Safety: If you wouldn’t go to an ATM alone at 2:00 A.M. at home, then don’t do it at WDW, either. (Come to think of it, if you would do it at home, then stop. It’s stupid.)

Children: It’s been a long day. You’re hot and tired, but your kids are still full of energy. Should you let them go to the parks alone? Or go swimming unattended? It only takes one quick minute for your whole world to turn upside down. Swimming alone is just plain idiotic anywhere, including Walt Disney World. And children alone in the parks – well, they’re your kids. But if I’m not letting my purse out of my sight, you can be sure I’m certainly not letting my daughter get too far away.

I know this post has been a bit of a downer, and I apologize. But I really feel that these issues need to be addressed if I’m going to help you have the best Disney vacation possible. Have fun, and stay safe!

Friday, April 2, 2010


Apparently, there are some non-Disney people out there. Even more shocking, some of them are married to Disney fans. I know, I know; I can’t fathom what these alleged Mouse enthusiasts were thinking, either. Apparently, I need to create a questionnaire for you people to use when interviewing potential mates. But I digress.

Here’s the situation; it’s too late now, you’re already married to this non-believer. You want to go to Walt Disney World, but your significant other wants nothing to do with the House of Mouse. Here are a few activities that may help get your heretic hubby (or wife) interested in a WDW trip:

Golf: Walt Disney World features four 18-hole golf courses, some of which have hosted PGA Tour events. In addition, there is a 9-hole, par 36, walking course.

The courses and some basic stats about them are:
Palm - Designed by Joe Lee, par for this course is 72. It has been rated a 4-star course by Golf Digest magazine. Its number one "villain" is WATER.
Magnolia - Also designed by Joe Lee, this is also par 72 and has been rated a 4-star course by Golf Digest. Its number one "villain" is SAND, with 14 bunkers on Hole 4 alone.
Lake Buena Vista - Also designed by Joe Lee, this is also par 72 and has been rated a 4-star course by Golf Digest. Its number one "villain" is NARROW FAIRWAYS.
Osprey Ridge - Designed by Tom Fazio, this par 72 course is rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest. Its number one "villain" is LARGE ROLLING GREENS.
Oak Trail - Designed by Ron Garl, par 36, villain-free for juniors and beginners.

Of course, there are also a couple of miniature golf places available, which are more my speed. Pricing and additional information are available at

Fishing: A two-hour private catch-and-release fishing excursion in the lakes of the Walt Disney World Resort for up to five people that includes:
--a guide
--rod and reel
--artificial/live bait
--digital souvenir photo
--one-year membership in BASS, the world's largest fishing organization

Excursions are available at several locations around WDW, and prices start at $225 for up to five guests. For reservations, call 407-939-BASS (2277).

Driving Experiences: At the Walt Disney World Speedway, there are some high-octane thrills for those looking for something a little more advanced than what they may find at the Tomorrowland Speedway.

The Indy Racing Experience offers the chance to drive or ride in cars that were used in past Indianapolis 500 events at the Walt Disney World. Patrons get to ride in a customized 2-seat IndyCar Series car. Drivers and riders must be 18 years of age or older. Prices are around $399 for 8 driving laps and $109 for the 3-lap ride-along experience. You can reserve online at: or call 888-357-5002.

The Richard Petty Driving Experience -- the high speed driving experience now offers 4 types of programs:
Ride-along Program - Experience real life racing thrills by riding shotgun in a 2-seat stock car driven by one of our professional instructors for a simulated 3-lap NASCAR qualifying run at speeds exceeding 150 MPH. You must be at least 16 years old to ride.
Rookie Experience - Your hands are on the wheel, your foot is on the gas, and you're in the driver's seat for 8 laps around the speedway in a V-8 NASCAR style racecar that roars with 600 horsepower. Prior to driving, students will go through 2 elements of safety and instruction training, in-car and on-track instruction. After driving, students will receive a graduation packet that includes a time sheet with a breakdown of each lap driven. Program runs approximately three hours. You must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver's license to drive.
The King Experience: Get ready to advance to a higher level of confidence in your driving ability and take on increased speeds. This program consists of 2 power packed sessions, 8 laps of rip roaring power and 10 laps of increased speed and excitement. Between your driving sessions, drivers will receive one-on-one feedback from the Pit Road Instructor, as well as additional instruction from the on-track driving instructors.
Experience of a Lifetime - Think you can handle 30 laps of white-knuckled, heart pounding speed? Taming the speedway in 3 driving segments allows you to improve your driving line, increase your speed and encourages the idea that you may change careers in this, the ultimate half-day driving experience. Between your 3 driving sessions (10 laps each), drivers will receive one-on-one feedback from the Pit Road Instructor, as well as additional instruction from the on-track driving instructors.
Costs run from about $120 for the Ride-along Program to around $1400 for The Experience of a Lifetime. For reservations and information please call 1-800-BE-PETTY.

Parasailing: Now we’re talking stuff that I actually want to do. For starters, the uniquely designed boat enables take-off and landing from the back of the boat, not from the water. You get some great views and a thrilling experience. Prices run from $95 for a solo ride to $195 for a tandem premium flight.

Water Skiing and Wakeboarding - you have the option to combo water ski, slalom ski, wakeboard, kneeboard and tube ride throughout hour-long trips with private instructors/drivers. The price per boat for up to 6 guests is $165 per hour.

Personal Water Craft (PWC) - a great way to enjoy the natural Florida landscape, cruising at 35 mph. Operate the watercraft in a buoyed off area on Bay Lake under the supervision of guides. Cost is $135 per watercraft per hour, and reservations for all of these experiences can be made by contacting Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre at 407-939-0754.

These are just a few of the non-theme park experiences available at Walt Disney World. Hopefully you can find something to convince your non-Disney lover that Mickey wants him to have a good time, too!