A World Full of Prettiness

Friday, 17 November 2017

Review: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World.

Last year I was lucky enough to experience many people's dreams - Walt Disney World at Christmas time.

After experiencing a few days in NYC, we took an internal flight to Orlando, and spent 2.5 weeks of December in this magical place. Because we knew we'd been spending a huge amount of time in the parks, we went all out and spent extra on tickets for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

We saw the Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, Cinderella's castle adorned in icicles, and collected complimentary festive treats from various stands throughout the park (being the foodie I am, this was my favourite part of the night! Being able to finally sample Egg Nog and eat Christmas cookies is right up my street!)

Egg Nog & Cookie!
The atmosphere was brilliant. The air was filled with festivities, Christmas lights everywhere, Disney characters dressed up in their festive attire, and 'snow' falling from the night sky down Main Street as Mariah Carey's 'All I want for Christmas' softly played in the background (this was truly magical, and definitely a proposal opportunity if there ever was one!).

'snowing' down Main Street
One favourite memory of mine was taking a ride on the carousel at night with Mike, with all the lights glistening, and seeing Cinderella's castle poking through the buildings, glowing in all its glory. This ride gave me time to reflect and people watch, and made me realise just how lucky I was to be there, not just in Magic Kingdom, but to be there at Christmas time.


Unfortunately we never managed to do any meet and greets, but I know this is a huge favourite for many people, because the majority of the Disney Characters wear their Christmas suits, which is something that can only be seen at this particular event.

Image result for mickey mouse christmas magic kingdom
source - google
The parade, although festive with both the characters costumes and floats, wasn't much different from the standard parades. It definitely got you in the spirit though (if you weren't already feeling it!).



There were smaller shows on throughout the night but we decided to make the most of the short queue times (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train I'm looking at you!).

Do I think its worth the ticket price? Probably not. Although you get to see shows unique to that event, and free snacks and drinks are provided throughout the night, there is only so much you can eat! Admittedly the atmosphere is truly magical, but visiting Magic Kingdom in November/December on a non-Christmas party night will still squeeze that festive spirit out of you! The lights will still be on, you can buy your own festive treats to snack on, as well as see the standard firework display.

I'm glad I can say I've done it, and although it was a magical experience, I wouldn't rush back to do it again.


 
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Sunday, 5 November 2017

My Top 5 Disney Restaurants

Last Christmas I was lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World and experience the (regular) Disney Dining Plan. Being the foodie I am, for months in advance I meticulously planned which restaurants to dine in, not just because of the food it had to offer, but because of the interior or the experience. Worry not, for those not familiar with Disney restaurants, they're not all fairytale-esque filled with screaming kids and dress-up characters! I dined at a few rather suave candle-lit restaurants with dress codes, exquisite food and dreamy views (and not a child in sight!).

It was hard to whittle it down to just 5, but here are my favourite restaurants on Disney property.
 
California Grill bar, pre meal

California Grill - Steak
 
1. California Grill (based at Disney's Contemporary Resort)
For those Disney nerds out there, you'll know its tough to get a booking at this restaurant because it's so well liked, for many reasons. I remember making this my first priority when I was booking my dining, and I luckily managed to bag myself a booking.
California Grill is based on the 15th floor of The Contemporary Hotel. It has floor to ceiling windows and gives THE perfect view of The Seven Seas Lagoon & Cinderella's Castle in the distance. If you time it right, you can munch your way through your food with the most impressive view of the fireworks from Magic Kingdom. You can even wander out onto the viewing platform outside - and what's even more impressive - the hotel is in sync with the soundtrack in Magic Kingdom, so whatever they can hear in the park alongside the fireworks, you can hear from the restaurant, even though you're a distance away! Unfortunately for us, because it was mid December, it was a little blustery up top, so I could only manage a few minutes in the night air before I had to dash back inside - Next time Cali, next time!
The food is absolutely divine - we ordered steak and it really was the best  (but definitely most expensive!) steak I've ever eaten. It's Michelin star quality for sure. The service was impeccable and I was so glad I booked this on our last night in Orlando, it really was the perfect ending.
 

Do you wanna build a snowman?
 

All the meat!
2. Teppan Edo (Epcot)
This restaurant ticked all boxes for me. The food quality was perfect, it offered a unique dining experience with no Disney cheese (albeit the odd subtle hint!). This is based in Japan around the world showcase. You are in groups of approximately 8, and you do end up sitting with these people, but the way the table is positioned its definitely not awkward (trust me, I wouldn't have done it if so!). You're positioned in a live cooking station if you like, and each group has their own chef, who prepares and cooks the food right in front of you. There's interaction too, if you like - you can ask the chef questions, but I was happy to just sit there (in awe) and watch as she prepared food, made a smokin' Olaf from onions (and sung 'Do you wanna be a snowman?') and prepared our food, right before our eyes. The food was so flavoursome and the experience so personal and unique, this had to make the top 5.

Ohana's lei's (and no, my hair just accidentally fell into Mickey style ears, much to the delight of my boyfriend!)


The view from outside Ohana's (The Polynesian Resort)

 
3. Ohana (The Polynesian Resort)
Ohana's is based in Disney's Polynesian Resort (oh so pretty!) and is Hawaiian themed. You are given a flower lei by a bubbly Hawaiian lady as she sings and dances around the restaurant (sounds tacky but it really isn't that bad). This is a restaurant that is fairly deluxe, but caters for children as well (i.e. they have coconut races etc). The food is almost buffet style, but you don't leave your seat, the waiters come to you. People were arriving every 10 minutes with skewers of steak, fried prawns, lots of different meats etc, and you basically keep eating till you say stop! I wasn't blown away by the desserts but the mains were gorgeous. Although this was definitely more of a livelier restaurant compared to the previous 2, it still didn't have what I usually call that 'children's dining room' feel to it. I know in the mornings for breakfast, Ohana's is a character meet and greet and children can meet Lilo & Stitch, but evening meals are a little less 'Disney-fied'.

There was more food to come (Garden Grill)

Mickey Waffles at Garden Grill!



Hate this photo but you get the idea! (Garden Grill)
4. Garden Grill (Epcot)
Our first morning was spent having breakfast here. This restaurant is SO underrated! Again, it ticked all boxes for me. It was buffet style breakfast food again, but without leaving your seat. We were presented with endless amounts of sausage, potatoes, warm cinnamon pastries (these were SO good!), fresh fruit.. the list was endless. Whilst you were eating, you got to meet certain Disney characters - Mickey Mouse, Pluto, The Chipmunks etc - great for the kids. You were in your own booths and because of how this restaurant was designed, it was extremely private - the restaurant tables are positioned in a circle - which rotates.. very very slowly! So you're getting to see different things as the restaurant slowly goes round. By the time its done a full lap you've pretty much completed your meals.

Famous naan bread

Mains at Sanaa

Dessert at Sanaa

5. Sanaa (Animal Kingdom)
Yet another underrated restaurant that doesn't get half the attention it deserves. This is based in the deluxe resort of Animal Kingdom. As you can imagine from the theming of the hotel, this restaurant was African/tribal themed, with gorgeous Moroccan lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The attention to detail in any Disney hotel is on point but Animal Kingdom for me is just fascinating. I'd heard so many things about the naan break here, so we had to try it for ourselves, and these reviews weren't wrong, it was bloody brilliant! Warm soft flavoured naans with an array of dips to choose from. The main course was just as good, the lamb just melted in your mouth and ohh.. I'm reliving those flavours right now. The service was perfect, as always, but, I haven't even got to the best bit yet - Sanaa overlooks a savannah.. yes, a real life savannah! So if you want to see giraffes, and zebras, and god knows what other animals that stroll around there, then get yourself here! Unfortunately because it was winter, for us it was too dark (and late). But fear not! we strolled outside, and there are rangers that provide you with night vision goggles which enables you to see in the dark and look out into the savannah to help spot those animals! I spotted a zebra in the wilderness, it was so surreal! There was a small fire pit near here too, with cute wooden rocking chairs to sit on.. Honestly, we visited here on our first night of arriving and experiencing the Disney Dining Plan and just seeing what this place had to offer got me so excited for the few weeks ahead. This will definitely hold a special place in my heart.


Moroccan Lights at Sanaa
Fire pit overlooking the Savannah at Sanaa
Have you visited any of these restaurants before?
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Monday, 16 October 2017

The Ride, NYC

After visiting NYC in Christmas 2016 and standing in Times Square at night waiting to cross one of their manic crossings, something caught my eye. It was a bus, but not just any bus, it had floor to ceiling windows and the people in that bus were sat in tiered rows like that of a cinema, facing outwards. There was music and flashing lights, and you could hear what was being said inside this magical bus. But what really caught my eye was how everyone on that bus looked like they were having the times of their lives. It was then that I knew I needed to be on that bus. I remembered the huge logo on the side of the bus as it whizzed by, jotted it down on my phone and that was that.

source - google images
 
Fast forward a few months and we were back in England booking yet another trip to NYC. I 100% knew that 'The Ride NYC' was going to be on my itinerary. As the trip drew closer I ordered an attraction pass that enabled us to choose 5 'activities' from the list. Low and behold, the magical bus was included in that list. Win.

I deliberately left this 'activity' till our last night in NY (save the best till last 'n all that...). We were advised to get to the meeting point 15 minutes before the scheduled departure, which we did, however when we arrived, we were already at the back of the queue. There was only one other couple that joined after us. I immediately thought this was going to scupper our chances of getting a 'good seat', however I was glad that it actually worked in our favour, and we were sat on the top row.


As we were passing through Times Square

The ballerina Duet
There are 2 entertainers on the bus, one at either side. They interact with the audience via microphones and are telling jokes throughout the 90 minutes of your journey. As the bus rides through Times Square and famous NY streets, it stops at random points and gives the illusion that random passer-bys outside are extremely talented and we 'just by chance' found them. Obviously these are actors positioned in certain points throughout the streets that work in conjunction with 'The Ride' - you get to witness live music performances, break dancing, etc. Everyone outside can hear what is being said in the microphone inside the bus, so occasionally the entertainers would try and wind strangers up as they were minding their own business, probably trying to get home for the night! Some would be cooperative and interact back, and do what the entertainers were asking, whereas others looked mortified and continued walking. This added a lot of humour to the tour!

Yes, we celebrated New Year in the middle of September.. When in New York...

As the bus approached The Pulitzer fountain (situated near the famous Plaza Hotel from Home Alone), a ballet dancer appears with her tutu all lit up. She performs a duet with a suave looking guy and this looks truly magical with the fountains as a back-drop.


The 90 minutes flew by and I was actually sad that it was over so quickly. I was glad we left it till the last night because that combined with a late night trip to the Empire State (which we did after departing the bus!) really helped us to end NYC on a high.


I think this song will now always bring back memories of our time in NYC... such a goose bump moment!

 
This is definitely an experience that I would completely recommend to others!
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Monday, 2 October 2017

Hotel Review - Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Orlando, Florida.

For those that follow me on social media will know I've been away for 2 weeks in both New York and Florida (Yes, again!).

After staying in a range of accommodation in Orlando we thought we'd give one of the Universal Studio's hotels a try, so to stay within budget, we settled on Cabana Bay Beach Resort.


Cabana Bay is vibrant and definitely 'there' with its vintage retro theme, taking you back to the 50's. With it's vintage cars that are permanently parked near the lobby, to its 50's style diner and bowling alley, and it's complimentary 50's style bathroom products, they definitley deserve top marks for theming. As you strolled round the resort you'd catch a snippet of a 50's song. Elvis eat your heart out!





After doing some research, I politely asked to be placed in the 'New Tower' which had only been built a few months prior, however the disadvantage to staying in this tower was that we were the furthest from the lobby, however it was nothing a good 5 minute walk wouldn't fix!


The rooms in the new tower were extremely spacious, with lots of floor space. With huge floor to ceiling windows, these rooms were lovely and bright. We were situated on the 11th floor (the very top of the tower) and had a partial view of Volcano Bay, Universal's new water park. This gave great opportunity to people watch from the comfort of your own bed - amazing! Both double beds were super comfy. I usually suffer from lower back pain upon waking, however during our stay at Cabana Bay, this pain was non-existent.







Storage wise there was ample for 2 people, with 2 spacious drawers and a wardrobe. The vanity area of the bathroom provided further space for your lotions and potions and although the floor space in the bathroom was a little on the small side, the shower itself looked like it could fit 2 people in.

Unfortunately we didn't use that many of the hotels' amenities, however we did have a wander round when we had a spare 10 minutes one day. The pools looked great, especially for kids, and the lazy river was something I really wanted to go in but just never got round to it - we were too busy having fun elsewhere! There were a few sandpits were you could play volleyball or table tennis too.


The food options seemed endless, and there was even an onsite Starbucks, which we managed to make use of (of course!). Everywhere was spotlessly clean and although this looked a very family orientated resort, it did have some luxurious touches to it.

For those wanting to go to the Universal parks, this hotel provided a free shuttle bus which run very frequently. In fact that frequently that we never once had to wait for a bus to arrive! Its great for those that don't want to drive, or want to have a drink in the parks. Additionally, Cabana Bay offers early park admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, 1hr before park opening - perfect for those HP fans! This is the same for Volcano Bay (Universal's newest water park) which is a great way to pack in a few extra rides before the crowds start to arrive! Another way to travel to the parks for free is by boat. Just hop over to Sapphire Falls hotel which is across the road - This is one of Universal's more luxurious hotels that provides this service from the hotel to City Walk (the section in between both Universal parks). I used to love getting the boat, especially on a night, just to mix it up a little from travelling by shuttle bus!

The resort is in the heart of Orlando, and only a stones throw away from the Disney Parks as well (should I really mention Disney and Universal in the same post?!). International Drive is a very short drive away which gives you access to further shops and restaurants so this is definitely the place to be if you want to be in the centre of the action.

Cabana Bay is the cheapest of all Universal hotels, but still doesn't come cheap at approximately £100 per night. However I definitely wouldn't hesitate in staying here again should our holiday focus around the Universal Parks.

Have you stayed at Cabana Bay before?


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Thursday, 10 August 2017

My NYC Bucket List

For those that read my blog regularly will know I went to NYC back in December last year. Shortly after we returned, we booked a very similar trip (NYC and Florida) however this time for 2 weeks, as opposed to 3! (If only!)
On our last trip to NYC, for one reason or another, we didn't manage to tick everything off my our bucket list, so in true Kate fashion, used this as an excuse to revisit. Why the hell not? Not only will I get to explore the unvisited, but I will get to see NY in a different season, which will open up different activities that cannot be done in the winter. Without further ado, here's my bucket list that I hope to complete in this upcoming trip.

1. Hire a boat in Central Park. Ok, so the last time Mike and I canoed/kayaked, we had a 'heated discussion' on the water because I wasn't helping him row. That's what men are for, right?! I'll try put more effort in this time! But on a serious note, this wasn't even an option when we were there last time, purely because it was winter, so its a definite 'to do' on our next trip!

source - google images
2. Visit the Empire State Building. I saw this from afar last time, but like many tourists, you either do one or the other, Empire State or Rockefeller, and after doing research, we settled on Rockefeller in the day. This time we'll do Empire State, at night. I can't wait!

View from Empire State - source - google images
3. Have a cocktail on a rooftop bar. Omg, there are SO many beautiful rooftop bars to choose from, all with ridiculously eye popping prices, so I'm going to choose wisely!

Source - google images
4. Visit 9/11 memorial. We had this on our itinerary last time, however the heavens decided to open (like you wouldn't believe) so we made a swift detour in a Starbucks, and didn't come out for hours. We're there over 9/11 this time, so I think it'll be even more special (and probably more emotional!)

source - google images
5. Try some Dim Sum in China Town. I know you can do this pretty much anywhere in the world that has decent Chinese Food, but not only have I heard so much about dim sum that the intrigued barometer inside me is in the red, but we only had a fleeting visit to China Town last time whilst we were looking for somewhere else, so we need to revisit!

source - google images
6. Experience 'The Ride: NYC' - this entertainment bus looks SO much fun. We saw one last time and everyone looked so happy, and its got great reviews, so this is a definite must!

source - google images
7. Take a walk on Brooklyn Bridge - Again, something that we never managed to do on our last trip. I can't wait to leave Manhattan and see the skyline from Brooklyn. Hoping to do this near sunset one night...

source - google images
8. Hire bikes and cycle round Central Park. Again, because of how vast Central Park is, I think a bike would be really useful. You'd need a few full days to properly explore this park, which unfortunately we don't have, so a bike is the next best option! This will enable us to visit points in the park which we never had time to see last year.

source - google images

If you've got any more recommendations then please do let me know!

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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Disney: Top 5 things to do outside of the theme parks

For those that have been to Florida before will know that spending a full 2 weeks in the parks can be extremely exhausting to the point where you make yourself ill. I couldn't recommend enough pencilling in a few days to chill out. I know what you're all thinking 'I didn't pay X amount of money to do nothing!' Chill out days don't have to necessarily be doing 'just nothing' (although I think by the end of the holiday you'd be begging for that!), but more of a 'lets take it easy' day, to give those poor old feet a rest!

I've been to Florida enough times now to know how to make the most out of your chill out days away from the theme parks.

1. Visit a beach! Florida has SO many gorgeous beaches, and because of the theme parks, they're so overlooked by tourists because they get sucked in by Disney that they forget that there really is more to Orlando than just the parks! I've visited several over the years and they're all perfect in their own little way, and you can find a beach to suit your needs. You're still chilling out, but seeing Florida at the same time!

St Petes Beach, FL
2. Designer Outlets/Malls. Orlando is home to some fantastic shopping, and some jaw-dropping discounts. The malls have lots of restaurants to eat at too (The Cheesecake Factory, I'm looking at you!) so you can easily make a nice slow afternoon from shopping, picking up souveniers, as well as some treats for yourself. Retail therapy is the way forward on holiday - you don't have to worry about seeing people in the same item of clothing when you return home, always a bonus!

ice skating rink in Clearwater Mall
3. Disney's Mini Golf - If you have Disney tickets, then you can access this for free, and the theming of both courses are brilliant! I feel like these are also overlooked, but can provide an hour or 2's entertainment, and its great fun for all the family. I've been to both courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Wonderland, and the design on both is great, although I did prefer Winter Wonderland more. If you like Christmas, you'll love this!

Winter Wonderland Golf Course
4. Boggy Creek Boat Rides  - I personally haven't done this one yet but it often crops up on my itinerary to do, we just never get round to it! These rides are fairly close to Orlando and aren't too expensive. They're great for nature lovers and will enable you to see Orlando from a slightly different perspective, as well as giving you an adrenalin rush from the speed!

source: google images
5. Hire a boat on the Severn Seas Lagoon - For those that have travelled to Magic Kingdom by Ferryboat from the car park would have travelled across the Severn Seas Lagoon. You can hire boats out (that are self-driven), fetch your own music, food etc and just have a few hours out on the lagoon all by yourself! We're definitely going to look into it this year!

 
 
 
 
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