Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Official! Grand Floridian DVC!

For months now rumors have been circulating about a new Disney Vacation Club Resort at Disney's Grand Floridian. Cryptic permits have been filed, ground stakes have been seen, weddings rescheduled from the Wedding Pavilion, even rumors of overhearing Disney Imagineers in the next room at Saratoga Springs discussing the layout of new rooms....

But now, an official announcement! Clair Bilby, DVC's new Senior VP announced yesterday at the annual Condominium Association Meeting, that "Disney's Grand Floridian Villas" will be opening in late 2013.  Or will it be "The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian"? Check out the official artist's rendering.
If you look carefully, you can see the Monorail coming around the corner in the upper right!

With Bay Lake Tower almost sold out, and plenty of new tourists coming to Disney and wanting new DVC resorts to purchase, it makes perfect sense that Disney would be looking for something new and exciting to offer.  I can only speculate that like the Villas at the Grand Californian and Bay Lake Tower, the price per point will be quite high, at least $140/pp, and I would also venture to guess the number of points needed to book the rooms will be high as well.

Here's another image released yesterday, an artist's rendering of the possible interior view of the lobby. It appears to be at least 5 stories tall, and has the beauty of the Grand Floridian we already know and love, but with a more intimate "Welcome Home" DVC feel.  The announcement states that there will be a total of 147 villas available.  This is on the smaller side for DVC. In comparison, Bay Lake Tower has 295 2-bedroom equivalent villas, while Saratoga Springs has over 1,200!  The Villas at Wilderness Lodge is will be the next smallest on property, with just over 180 villas.

If you're trying to get a better idea of where this building will be located, check out this image below.  I personally was able to see this area while riding the Monorail this past September, and indeed there were stakes in the ground and things appeared to be marked off.

This looks to be a great addition to the Disney Vacation Club.  Bay Lake Tower's location on the Monorail line has been very popular, and I would think the Monorail will be a big selling point at the Grand Floridian as well.  Although the building will be separate, there should be lovely walkway to connect the DVC building to the main Grand Floridian.  Ms. Bilby also mentioned a children's water play area, and I would assume a pool.  My children love the water play area at Kidani Village, and I would love to see something like that here.

So, what do you think?  Will you be saving your pennies to buy Grand Floridian points?

Now if we could just convince them to built DVC at the Poly.....

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite Uses for Disney Snack Credits

For our annual week long trip to Walt Disney World, we usually purchase the Disney Dining Plan (DDP).  Since we have 3 children under the ages of 9, this is usually a good deal for us.  One of the things I love about the DDP is the convenience and, let's be honest, snacks and desserts.  When not on vacation, we generally do not eat as many sweets and desserts, and so while at Disney I really do enjoy these special treats.

If you are a DDP newbie, its important to know that there are literally thousands of items available to you as a snack credit.  Although the official Disney brochure mentions things such as a soda pop, a bottle of water, a box of popcorn or an ice cream bar, the actual options available are much more varied.  For more great info, you can check out one of my most popular blog entries, "Ins and Outs of the Disney Dining Plan". Over on the DisBoards, they have a yearly list that tells you items that have been confirmed as a snack on the plan, so check that out here. Anything that is available to purchase with the DDP is also available to those paying cash, so don't despair if you must try some of these yummy items and you are not on the dining plan!

But lets get to the important stuff, the food!

10. Rice Cream from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway (Epcot)
      Not to be confused with rice pudding, rice cream is exactly as it sounds, a sweet concoction of soft rice mixed with sweet whipped cream.  To add to the light deliciousness of this traditional dessert is a strawberry topping.  I first tried this dessert at Akershus Princess Storybook Dinner where it arrives family style with chocolate mousse and a marscapone mousse puff pastry.  But there is no need to book the $40 buffet to try rice cream as a simple walk across the street to the bakery will find it available to go as a snack credit!  If you choose to use a quick service credit to eat lunch or dinner there, you can choose the rice cream as your dessert option.

9. Anything from Boulangerie Patisserie in France (Epcot)
    I first discovered this hidden little gem when I was a teen.  In order to find it, you need to walk into the back of the France Pavilion, and simply look for the line of people.  While hidden, it is not unknown nor unpopular.  The wonderful thing about the patisserie is the sheer number of delicious choices.  They have everything from fruit tarts, cookies, eclairs, chocolate mousse, and various croissants.  If you've had a huge breakfast at Chef Mickey's, and are hungry for just a light lunch, try a ham and cheese croissant.  Its a great way to stretch your dining plan credits and make a mini-meal out of a snack.   They will package your goodies to-go, and I've been known to walk out of Epcot with a pastry box full of goodies to enjoy later.

8. S'mores Brownie at Sunshine Seasons (Epcot)
    I was turned on to this by my dear Disney friend @RNawaymama on our last trip this past September.  (You can check out her blog at Tiny Bits of Magic.) I'm already a huge fan of the Sunshine Seasons food court, and I think it is one of the best uses of a quick service meal at WDW.  Traditionally, I get the Soarin' Brulee (see #6).  Once she showed me that brownie, though, I had to use a snack credit and take one home for later!  The brownie has a graham cracker crust, then the chewy brownie on top (chewy brownies are my fav), followed by mini-marshmallows, and then drizzled with caramel and chocolate. Uh, YUM! 

7. Cinnamon Bun at Main Street Bakery (Magic Kingdom)
    This was another first of mine on our most recent trip.  While the boys were riding Space Mountain, we decided a mid-morning snack was in order.  While they call this a cinnamon bun, it's more like a cinnamon loaf.  It is positively huge, and a great way to split a snack. You can also get this as a breakfast quick service option with a beverage and fruit.  Probably not the most economical use of a quick service credit, but if you had extras as we did, well worth it!  When I first got it, I figured there would be plenty for all, but once I started eating, it was hard to control myself and leave some for my boys!  Unlike some other cinnamon buns I have had, this one was super soft and light throughout. It was just about as close to perfection as Mary Poppins herself.

6. Soarin' Brulee at Sunshine Seasons (Epcot)
    I have to admit, that I just plain old LOVE creme brulee.  This is not something that I can easily recreate at home, nor is it common to find it at restaurants in our area.  There are several places at Disney that serve creme brulee, and the maple creme brulee at Le Cellier is awesome, but a lot more difficult to get. At Sunshine Seasons I can have it as a light and delicious end to my meal, or get it to-go as a snack credit.  As far as creme brulees go, it's probably not the best ever, but as I said, I just LOVE creme brulee! It has a nice creamy and light center, with that all important caramelized crust that I love.

5. Zebra Domes at The Mara (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
   To be fair, unless you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, these are a little bit difficult to come by.  They are part of the dessert buffet at Boma, and if you haven't tried Boma, it is well worth a visit. It is one of my favorite buffets at Walt Disney World.  But if you have a hankering for some yummy zebra domes, their signature dessert, look no further than The Mara.  The Mara is the Lodge's quick service dining option, located near the pool.  And, like many of my other favorites it seems, you can either use a snack credit to get your hands on this yumminess, or you can get it as the dessert part of your quick service meal.  Zebra domes are basically a small sponge cake base, with a dollop of light chocolate liquor tasting mousse, then covered in a white chocolate frosting with dark chocolate stripes which gives it the "zebra" name.  Now, I must admit I love these, and it seems many others do as well, but some are just not impressed.  It's a love it or hate it kinda thing I guess. But again, I can't get them anywhere else, nor can I recreate them easily at home. I'm already planning how I'm going to get my hands on some when we stay at Kidani Village in February!

4. Funnel Cake at Sleepy Hollow (Magic Kingdom)
    Who doesn't love funnel cake? While I don't enjoy ending up covered in powdered sugar which seems inevitable when I eat one of these, there is something about that lovely fried sweetness that's too good to pass up. Usually this is my firework/parade watching snack in the Magic Kingdom.  Similar to an Elephant Ear, or Fried Dough, a funnel cake is basically the same type of batter that's been poured into hot oil and fried, then lightly dusted with powdered sugar.  This is also a great snack to share as it pulls apart easily into smaller pieces for all to enjoy. It's just not "Wishes" fireworks to me at Magic Kingdom, if I'm not munching on some funnel cake.  It's important to know, that although you can use a snack credit to get funnel cake with powdered sugar in the Magic Kingdom, the funnel cake stand in Epcot will not accept a snack credit. Strange, but true.

3. Wheezy's Breezy Freezy near Pixar Place (Hollywood Studios)
    My middle child seems to get hot rather easily, and he just loves frozen beverages at Disney to cool him down.  A few years ago after a fun ride on Toy Story Mania, we discovered this little cart just across the way.  They serve both frozen coke and frozen raspberry lemonade, known there as a "Wheezy's Breezy Freezy".  Wheezy if you don't remember was the squeaky penguin from Toy Story II. Now we always get at a least one of these, and the frozen raspberry is my favorite of any frozen beverage at Disney. I do think the regular frozen lemonades and other frozen beverage carts are a good use of your credits if you like "Icee" type drinks, and they do wonders to keep you cool on a hot Florida day.

2. Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar, available everywhere!
   Up till a few years ago, I couldn't figure out what the big deal is about a chocolate covered ice cream bar.  They sell those at my local Target, right?  Well, a Mickey Premium is so much better! Besides the awesome Mickey shape, the ice cream is very rich and creamy, and the chocolate is both of an excellent quality and surprisingly generous thickness.  Its simply like the ones in Target only 10x better! Be forewarned though, they can melt quickly and I've found that the melted mess can be a bit much for kids, so sometimes its better to share, or find a shady place to sit and eat with lots of napkins.

1. Dole Whip or Dole Whip Float from Adventureland's Aloha Isle (Magic Kingdom)
    I've been enjoying these refreshing treats since I was a kid, and I think my family discovered them by accident while looking for ice cream.  But since then, a trip to Disney is not complete without a Dole Whip.  Dole Whips are a frozen dessert that reminds me of a cross between a sorbet and ice cream, while not really being a sherbet. It comes in a fabulous pineapple flavor which you can have solo, or mixed with vanilla.  You can also have it as a float, as is my preference, with Dole pineapple juice. It is great for a hot day, and is available in only very limited locations in the continental United States. 

It is also available at Captain Cook's quick service located inside the Polynesian resort.  You can also get a great quick service meal there (try the grown up grilled cheese) and get the Dole Whip (not available as a float) as, you guessed it, your dessert!

Do you have a favorite WDW snack?  Any suggestions of what to try on my next trip if I can tear myself away from my old favorites? Let me know in the comments below!