Posted at 10:21 am by taryngirl, on April 30, 2021
One of my main goals was to spend some time in Diagon Alley. This whole area is like a page out of the book! There are so many details, that with each trip I notice something new.
To enter this area, it’s not really marked. You have to just walk in doorways and find it! It’s located next to King’s Cross Station.
This is King’s Cross Station, where you can board Hogwart’s Express to travel to Islands of Adventure and the village of Hogsmeade.
Once you walk through the doorway, you are immediately transported to a magical place!
Keep walking straight ahead and there are a variety of shops, and one of the coolest parts…
The dragon that sits atop Gringotts Bank is a true fire breathing dragon. It goes off every so many minutes. You will know it’s gearing up to breathe fire when you hear the rumbling starting.
I love walking through the different shops. There is one called Eyelop’s Owl Emporium/Magical Menagerie. Here you can purchase owls, and all of the other magical pets, as well as items to take care of them.
If you walk outside of this store, in the window you can see a snake who will speak Parseltounge to you.
Also located in this area is Knockturn Alley. This is a very dark, walk through area. The theming is amazing! You can see these singing heads:
Borgin and Burkes shop is located here.
Everything was decorated for Christmas!
If you are a super Harry Potter fan, there is no shortage of merchandise depicting your “house.”
Be sure to visit Gringotts Money Exchange! Behind the counter you will see a goblin. You can ask him a question and see what he has to say. You can trade US currency for Gringotts bank notes. These bank notes may be used for purchases within Diagon Alley at select locations.
There is no shortage of Butterbeer! There are a few locations that serve it.
This is also a fun shop! Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes has apparel, toys and other souvenirs.
You can find all kinds of goodies at Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop!
Possibly my favorite snack in all of Universal is ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor! They have soft serve, hard pack, and a special feature of Butterbeer ice cream!
I’m sorry this is partially eaten, but it was hot and melting and I had to start eating it immediately! I can never decide on just one flavor, so I get two…Chocolate Chili and Strawberry and Peanut Butter. SO GOOD! (So good that I went back and got it the next day too…)
Just outside of Diagon Alley you can find the Knight Bus! There is usually a bus conductor there that you can have conversation with, as well as a shrunken head.
Overall, we had a great time in Diagon Alley! It was not crowded at all, and the weather was perfect. This is for sure a don’t miss for me!
If you recall, we had just left Disney and arrived at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. After we were all checked in and dropped our luggage off in the room, we went straight to the bus stop. The buses drop you right on the outside of City Walk.
You can see all of the precautions they are taking to make sure guests feel safe while visiting. The seats on the buses were numbered and the bus driver assigned us seats.
There were physical distance markers all over the place.
General rules were also posted and hand sanitizer was readily available.
Temperature checks are required before entering City Walk and the parks. If you are staying on resort property, they have people there to check. They then give you a wristband so you don’t have to stand in the line at City Walk/the parks.
Here you can see the barriers up since the lines can get long! As you can see, we had no line and zipped right through!
There’s lots to do at City Walk…shopping, eating, eating, and more eating, miniature golfing, and there’s even a movie theater!
Getting closer to the park entrance!
This is the street that you see when you enter the entrance gates.
I had read about Universal’s Holiday Experience and the Macy’s Balloon exhibit, so we decided to check that out first. This walk through experience showcased huge Macy’s balloons and colorful Christmas floats featuring characters we all know and love from Shrek, Despicable Me, and Madagascar!
It was really neat! And a great way to see several characters, and SANTA! You were able to take pictures with them behind you if you wanted.
We found Marilyn Monroe when we exited!
You can see how pretty empty it was:
We did see some characters out and about. There weren’t the typical meet and greets, but characters socially distanced with photo opportunities.
On the way out, we saw these tall, festive characters!
Overall, it was a great day at Universal.
Up next…Margaritaville, City Walk, and Cabana Bay at night!
Posted at 11:30 am by taryngirl, on February 15, 2021
The time had finally come! We were making the move to Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This resort is so much fun! It’s inspired by 1950s and 1960s Florida beach resorts, with retro decor and theming all throughout. It features two pools, a lazy river, a bowling alley, and more!
We woke up leisurely at Boulder Ridge Villas, packed up, and headed to the lobby. The plan was to Mobile Order our breakfast, eat in the lobby, and then Lyft to Cabana Bay. One side note about Mobile Order at Wilderness Lodge…it took FOREVER! We waited and waited and there weren’t even that many people there. Anyway, I took at quick screenshot so I could remember how long it took to get from the Disney area to the Universal area because I hear the question asked a lot! The answer on this particular day…about 23 minutes. I also want to note, Lyft and Uber both service this area. You can compare pricing by pulling up each app. Lyft always seems to be cheaper!
We felt super safe, and the app makes it super easy. You can see everything right on the app, you pay, and can add your tip. Our total with tip was $25.32. I had a $6 credit Lyft gave me though, so we paid $19.32. Way cheaper than paying for shuttle transportation, which is generally $20-35 per person one way. Our driver was super Covid conscious. He wore a mask, and had this plastic divider up between the front and back seats. He also had hand sanitizer available.
We arrived around 10:30 a.m. and went into the lobby to check in and get our park tickets. We knew we were early, but they will hold your luggage so you can go to the park. We were lucky and our room was ready! We were given our keys and directed to another counter to get our park tickets. Universal is alittle bit different than Disney as far as tickets go.With Disney, your tickets are either mailed to you if you get ticket only, picked up at will-call (but you can still connect to your account with the confirmation number), or you use a MagicBand that you already have, and the tickets can still be connected to your account.If you have a package, the tickets are already included when you link your resort reservation to your My Disney Experience.
At the ticket desk, we presented our email confirmations. They then printed out hard copy tickets for us to use to get into the parks. I highly suggest lanyards when traveling to Universal! You will need your room key and your park tickets, and they are easily accessible if you have a lanyard.
Our room was in Building 6–The Americana. If I’m being honest, it was a hike with our luggage to get to our room! The resort is pretty big. We were booked in a standard level room.
The room was SUPER CUTE! And very clean. I loved all of the little retro touches…the colors, the toiletries!!, the clock! I thought the theming was great.
Posted at 2:01 pm by taryngirl, on February 8, 2021
If you haven’t been to Disney since they were closed due to Covid, I’m here to let you know that dining has changed! Besides quick service locations having mobile ordering only, menus are given using a QR code, and many close early! If you are in the parks, be sure to check hours so you aren’t stumbling around hangry!
We had spent the evening at Magic Kingdom. The quick service dining locations were either closed or were getting ready to close. We decided to check out Geyser Point Bar & Grill, located at Wilderness Lodge (which is where we were staying.). We were exiting the park and on the boat at 7:55 p.m. Just as we were getting to the Wilderness Lodge, the heavens opened up and it was a complete monsoon! Luckily we were under cover at Geyser Point. We were told there was a 40 minute wait. We ended up only waiting 15 minutes. Every table was full! Besides normal tables, this location also has some more casual seating and bar seating.
Geyser Point is an outdoor, poolside eatery, featuring amazing view of Bay Lake.
As I mentioned before, there are no paper menus anymore. There is a QR code to scan at each table.
There is also a lounge menu available:
Of course we started with some amazing drinks!
I had the Classic Bacon Cheeseburger with fries:
This was reallllllly good. And the price point was very good for a “sit down” style restaurant at Disney!
My cousin had the Smoked Turkey Sandwich:
Overall we really enjoyed our meal here. I think the pricing and variety is great, and you can’t beat the atmosphere (unless it’s the hot and humid summer!). I would absolutely eat here again!
Up next…our move to Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort!
Posted at 1:12 pm by taryngirl, on February 1, 2021
After checking out from Bay Lake Tower, we checked into a Deluxe Studio at Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. I had never stayed there with our Disney Vacation Club, and wanted to experience some new things on this trip. I love the atmosphere whenever we are at Wilderness Lodge eating, so this resort was on my list!
After our lunch at Magic Kingdom, we headed to Wilderness Lodge by way of the boat. We hadn’t gotten a text that our room was ready yet, but we wanted to check out the shops and the lobby some.
When we got off on the boat dock, this was our view:
We went inside to check out the lobby since it was decorated for Christmas.
I just love this lobby! I love how open and massive it is and the smell is amazing!
While we were checking out the lobby, we also checked with Bell Services to see if our luggage had arrived yet through the transfer. One note about transferring luggage from one Disney Resort to another is is’t not guaranteed to arrive and be ready for you until after 4 p.m. It wasn’t there yet.
Around 3:00 p.m. we got our text that the room was ready! The Wilderness Lodge has three different “sections” if you will. The regular Lodge part, Copper Creek Villas (Disney Vacation Club), and Boulder Ridge Villas (Disney Vacation Club). Although two parts are Vacation Club, anyone may book there as a cash room as well.
Some views along the way to the Boulder Ridge Villas section:
The Deluxe Studio has 1 queen bed, 1 double sized sleeper sofa, and 1 single pull down bed.
The Deluxe Villas have a small kitchenette area with a toaster, microwave, coffee maker, sink, mini fridge, and some paper utensils and plates, etc.
I love having the kitchenette available! I usually order a case of water, and can refrigerate that and any leftovers or snacks we get to bring back to the room. The toaster is nice for quick breakfasts!
I liked that the vanity/sink was outside of the shower/toilet area, so multiple people can be getting ready at the same time.
This was my least favorite part of the room! The bathroom seemed really old and outdated. Our drain did.not.work. It didn’t drain! I had to resort to shutting the shower off after each step of my shower so the water could drain down some! (I did report it to the resort.)
Here are some shots from outside around the resort:
In my opinion, this is a hidden gem! Geyser Point Bar & Grill! Watch for another blog post on a review of dinner here.
At this point, we were ready to head back to Magic Kingdom. This is the walkway to the boat launch:
Although this line looks line, it wasn’t that bad. Everyone is social distancing which makes the line seem longer! We did make it on the next boat that got here.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay here! When given the option though, I would pick several other resorts over this one. One thing I wanted to mention was the customer service we received here. If you remember, I had inquired at Bell Services if our luggage was there yet, and it wasn’t. Well the Cast Member remembered me and when the luggage arrived, HE called ME in the room! He said he remembered me asking about the luggage and that it had arrived. It was sent directly up to us. I really liked that!
Location. I loved being able to take the boat to/from Magic Kingdom.
Atmosphere and theming
I felt the rooms were a bit dated and I was not a fan of the bathroom!
Posted at 4:21 pm by taryngirl, on January 26, 2021
Liberty Tree Tavern is my favorite table service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. The setting is a colonial style inn, featuring traditional New England inspired cuisine. Lunch used to be ala carte ordering off of a menu, (pre-Covid times), but currently they are offering the same style dining as they do for dinner. It’s brought out family style for everyone to share. You can see the current menu HERE.
Our reservation was for 12:05 p.m. We checked in through the My Disney Experience app at 11:45 a.m., and were called 5 minutes later. Inside there used to be places to sit and even places for kids to color while you waited. Now there are spaces on the floor for you to stand socially distanced.
We started with some salad and warm rolls.
This salad is always very refreshing! The dressing is super light, but full of flavor. It’s one of my faves!
These rolls are always served warm, and are so soft! Also one of my faves!
The Patriot’s Platter includes Roasted Turkey Breast, Pot Roast (my favorite of the meats!), Oven Roasted Pork, Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, Herb Stuffing, and House-Made Macaroni and Cheese.
One thing I want to note is the change in the macaroni and cheese since the last time I ate here! I think it used to be a Stouffer’s type, but now it’s listed as homemade. It definitely looked and tasted different. I much preferred this version!
Our lunch was amazing! It’s so much food! My personal favorites are the pot roast, mashed potatoes, and salad. You can order individual refills on any of the dishes you would like. We got a little bit more pot roast and mashed potatoes since we didn’t eat much of the pork.
Our waitress was very attentive. She brought refills for our drinks before we were even finished with the first one. It was kind of ridiculous the amount of glasses we had on our table at one time!
This restaurant has my favorite dessert out of any restaurant in all of Disney. OOEY GOOEY TOFFEE CAKE!
We were finished eating and out the door by 12:45 p.m. I for sure would eat here again and definitely recommend it if you haven’t tried it yet!
Posted at 12:33 pm by taryngirl, on January 7, 2021
Our plan for this day was to check out of Bay Lake Tower, giving our luggage to Bell Services to transfer over to Boulder Ridge Villas, and then head to Magic Kingdom. We woke up at 6 a.m., dropped luggage at 6:45 a.m., and went to Contempo Cafe to Mobile Order our breakfast. All orders had to be mobile ordered. There was no walk up. They had a cast member sitting at the entrance who checked for your name on the list and then directed you to pick up your order based on a numbered spot.
Anyway, we had planned to walk to Magic Kingdom, but decided to take the monorail instead since we were right there. We arrived at Magic Kingdom at 7:45 a.m. The gates were open already.
Since there were no Fastpasses, we had to prioritize what we really wanted to ride since we had no idea how crowds and lines would be. We went directly to 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. We were in line by 7:55 a.m. with a 40 minute wait time posted. We got on the ride at 8:28 a.m., so it went slightly faster than what was posted. I have only ever stood in the standby line for this ride one other time! We ALWAYS have a Fastpass. So imagine my surprise when the end of the line was all the way back near Dumbo!
Because the markers on the ground are every 6 feet, this greatly stretched out the line. We basically kept moving the entire time without stopping.
Next up was Peter Pan! We were in line by 8:32 a.m. with a 15 minute wait posted. (Which is crazy low!). We got on the ride at 8:44 a.m., so below the time posted. Look how empty Fantasyland was!
From there we went to Haunted Mansion. It was a walk-on with a 5 minute wait posted. We had the walk to ourselves on the way over!
I wanted to note…there was currently no stretching room for Haunted Mansion. You walked through it to get on the ride, but no stopping and gathering for the pre-show.
We went back to It’s a Small World which had a 10 minute wait posted. We were on in 8 minutes.
They were only seating every other row on the boat due to social distancing.
After every ride, we checked the app for wait times. We decided to go to Pooh next since that line tends to get long quickly. We got in line with a 10 minute wait posted, and actual wait time was 8 minutes. There were constant announcements about no eating and drinking in line! Next was Little Mermaid which was a walk on.
From there, we went to Dumbo, which is a ride I rarely go on! We were on in 5 minutes.
Up next was Buzz with a 20 minute wait posted which was accurate.
Of course we had to see the Carousel of Progress, and we had a 5 minute wait there. You can see by my picture that seats were blocked off due to social distancing. Some entire rows were also roped off.
Up next, an afternoon/evening at Magic Kingdom, along with lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern!
Posted at 1:02 pm by taryngirl, on December 17, 2020
We are DVC owners at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. When we were first deciding whether or not we wanted to buy in, this is where we toured. We love the location the most, which offers a quick walk to Magic Kingdom, and the monorail to Epcot. The views of Magic Kingdom and the lake are great!
Since there were only two of us, I booked a Deluxe Studio, Standard View. The Deluxe Studio offers spacious accommodations including a kitchenette with small fridge, microwave, toaster, sink and a balcony. It features one queen bed and a double size sleeper sofa.
For two people this Villa is perfect. It would also be fine for a family of 3 or 4. There are some other Villas that offer a split bath or 2 bathrooms which is better for a family of 4. Our room was clean, and everything was fine! I’d definitely stay here again.
We also checked out some of the shops on the Contemporary side. Everything was decorated for Christmas!
We absolutely love it here and would definitely stay again!
Posted at 12:36 pm by taryngirl, on December 8, 2020
Continuing on with our day at Epcot, we finished up our Germany snacks and headed toward Mouse Gears to do some shopping. The entire center where the fountain used to be, is all blocked off and under construction at the moment. They are redoing things in there. That means that Mouse Gears is now moved to a different location. It’s still in Future World East, just a different building. The selection is still really good!
From there we headed to Spaceship Earth. Wait time posted was 20 minutes. We waited 25 minutes. Once exiting there are no games anymore. It’s completely silent! I’m assuming this is because of Covid, and the fact that they don’t want people touching the games and crowding. We went over to Journey Into Imagination with Figment, which had a 20 minute wait time posted. We waited 5 minutes. Also, at the end of this attraction there are no games or anything interactive!
Of course at the end of this, we went and enjoyed the DVC Lounge which is upstairs in this building. We sat for about an hour and enjoyed some drinks and snacks while recharging our phones and resting our feet.
While there are no character meet and greets available at the moment, there are characters out and about. We were able to see Joy and Pooh right outside of the Figment attraction.
We headed into The Land and went directly to Living With the Land. Wait time posted was 10 minutes, but we walked right on.
After this, Alex went to ride Soarin’. The wait time posted was 35 minutes. She was on and off in 35 minutes.
Here’s a picture of Garden Grill. The characters are there, but walking in the row of tables behind the patrons.
From there, we went to The Seas with Nemo and Friends, where there was no wait. We also stayed to explore the SeaBase since we had some time to kill before our dinner reservation at Coral Reef.
It was finally time for our dining reservation at Coral Reef! I hadn’t eaten here since my husband and I went for our anniversary many, many years ago…pre kids I think.
The entrance may be hard to find. If you are standing facing the entrance to the Nemo ride, go right around to the side of the building.
There are (for the most part) no paper menus anymore. You have to scan the QR code at the table or outside of the restaurant to see the menu. The menus have all been paired down for sure! Offering less selections than normal.
Note…I don’t eat any seafood! At all!
Our reservation was for 7:15 p.m. We were in and out and at the bus stop to the resort by 8:25 p.m.
I would definitely eat here again, and would recommend anyone who needs a break from the countries to give it a whirl! When I travel with our big family, we always eat in the countries. This was a nice break from that since we had all of the food booths in the afternoon. The staff here was very friendly and accommodating.
Posted at 9:46 am by taryngirl, on December 1, 2020
Recapping a little bit from my previous post, Disney After Covid (which focused mostly on safety and Covid procedures)…
I was presented an amazing opportunity to visit both Disney World and Universal Orlando. I am a Disney Vacation Club member and had several points available to use thanks to a canceled trip back in May, I’m an Annual Passholder, and had a free flight thanks to Southwest Airlines points. That covered the Disney portion of my trip. Universal Orlando invited me to stay on property and experience the parks for a few days, so I could see how they are keeping guests safe while still having loads of fun!
My travel day started off with a 2:50 a.m. alarm to wake up. (I am NOT a morning person unless I’m traveling!). My cousin Alex was my travel partner. We left around 3:40 a.m., and drove to the Philadelphia Airport, arriving around 5:10 a.m. at our parking lot. We went with Smart Park on this trip. I really just look around to see who is cheapest! Upon arriving at the parking lot, we were picked up in a shuttle with two other travel parties. We felt very safe. Everyone was wearing masks and the driver was wearing gloves.
Once at the airport, security was a breeze. Everything is still normal…shoes and coats off, everything on the belt and through the scanner. Everyone in the seating area was social distancing. Our flight was scheduled for 7:05 a.m. and we landed and had our luggage by 9:45 a.m. A note about Disney’s Magical Express…it is not the same! They no longer send you yellow tags in the mail or get your luggage and deliver it to the resort. YOU must get your own luggage from Baggage Claim and take it to the Magical Express with you. We flew Southwest, so our terminal was the A Terminal. We had to get our luggage from there and head over to the B Terminal to get on the Magical Express.
A fun thing I overheard at the Magical Express desk while we were heading to check in…they were expecting 6,458 passengers on the Magical Express on this particular day. The supervisor I guess?? was filling in the workers behind the desk so they knew what to expect. We got in line at 9:57 a.m. Be aware that they are using assigned seating from back to front, and using only every other row. The person checking us in told us where to sit. We were on the bus by 10:08 a.m. and departed at 10:20 a.m.
We arrived at Bay Lake Tower at 10:48 a.m. and were the first stop. We may have actually been the only stop as it seems everyone got off here… We headed into the lobby. We wanted to check our luggage with Bell Services and head to Epcot. We also wanted to change into our shorts because it was hot!
This is one thing I did comment on the survey they gave me. Because there is no luggage delivery anymore, Bell Services is CRAZY! Be prepared for longer than usual waits to actually check the luggage with them.
We finished changing and got organized, checked our luggage, and then were at the bus stop at 11:35 a.m. There is no monorail to Epcot at the moment. The bus arrived at 11:45 a.m., and we made it to Epcot at 11:55 a.m. We were hungry for lunch and decided to start with some food booths! We decided to go counter-clockwise starting in Canada because we knew we wanted to eat something from there!
One of my favorite restaurants is Le Cellier (in Canada), but it’s on the pricey side. The items at this food booth are some of my favorites!
These did not disappoint and were tasty as usual. I absolutely LOVE the soup with the pretzel bread dipper! We continued on and our next stop was the World Showplace Events Pavilion, located between Canada and the UK. I have never seen this open for this particular event, but they do have other events there. I was interested to check it out, and it housed several food booths!
The Liquid Nitro Cake Pops came highly recommended to me from friends who had already been there, so of course I had to try one! I went with the Twix version.
This was really good and different! By this point I was already full, but I still had some items on my list that I wanted to try. Here are some pics from along our way.
Our next stop was in Germany at the little caramel store, Karamell-Kuche. This is a must do for me every trip! It has some of the best snacks. There were some new offerings this trip, possibly just seasonal? I had to have the Gingerbread Salted Caramel Buttercream Cookie Sandwich!
IT WAS AMAZING! My favorite snack from anywhere in the world. And possibly the single best thing I have ever tasted! The cookie was soft, but had a crispyish layer outside. It was perfect. The buttercream and caramel was so good together! I wished I would have bought more to bring home. We found a table next to Mexico in the area where the band usually performs so we could stand and eat our snacks.
What you can see in this picture is the line just to get inside the Mexico pavilion. The man holding the sign actually had to cut off the line because it was too long. The wait from here was about a half hour. I think they cut it off because they didn’t want too big of a crowd blocking the sidewalk.
While we were standing there, some cast members came rushing by telling everyone to get to the side, and that a horse and carriage were coming. We had no idea what was going on! All of a sudden, this went by:
It was brief, but exciting to see! We decided that they do not announce times for these little cavalcades because they don’t want people gathering and lining up. We were just out of Mexico when this one came by:
Short and sweet! It was nice to see the characters out and about since there are no real meet and greet experiences at the moment.
Next up will be the rest of our day at Epcot with dinner at Coral Reef!