Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Osborne Family Dancing Lights. Experience: Sight and Sound.

Good day,

    It has been a while already since my last input mainly because of my vacation. I have taken a couple of days off to break the routine and now am ready to add more content on this page.

    Today, I would like to share a special event that is going on during a limited time in the year, the holiday season. This special event is called the Osborne Family Spectacle Of Dancing Lights, and offers both Sight and Sound experiences.

    The origin of this colorful event came from a simple request from a little girl from Arkansas to his parents in 1986. The little Allison Brianne Osborne (also nicknamed "Little Breezy"), asked her parents to decorate their house with lights for Christmas. Her father, Jennings Osborne (1943-2011) installed 1 000 lights on the house that year. Each and every year since, the amount of lights increased until it reached it's pinnacle. In 1993, Jennings Osborne had owned two adjacent lots and over three millions lights were installed on the property. The concept and the display was then purchased by Disney in 1995 and has been presented from mid-November to January, every year at Disney's Hollywood Studios, now located in the ''Streets of America''.

Streets of America filled with LED.
    As the sun goes down, the Guests at Hollywood Studios start to gather in the Streets of America where refreshments and live music is presented. The holiday atmosphere is appreciated as we can feel the excitement in the air. The whole buildings on both sides of the street are filled with LED and are an amazing spectacle when they are turned on. The buildings are litterally dancing to the music, to the enjoyment of the crowd.

    I could not hold a loud ''Ohhhhhhh'' myself...

    I had the priviledge to witness the 2011 edition, a year where a major upgrade was completed. All the lights on the site were replaced by LED and were coupled with state of the art technology that enhances the Sight experience even more. Some of the lights are now dancing fluently with the music, an impressive piece of work.

Peace on earth.
    The musical show lasts a couple of minutes and captivates the Guests' attention. Once the show is completed, the lights stays on for the remainder of the evening as Guests scatter to leave some space for those who could not enter this highly crowded area. I have really enjoyed the event as it really brought me into the spirit of the season that year. I remember leaving the Street of America after the show with only one idea in mind: To buy a Christmas present to my niece and my nephew!

    In conclusion, I think that The Osborne Family Spectacle Of Dancing Lights is a fabulous event that's worth the price of the admission by itself. I had a wonderful time and would repeat the experience again without any hesitation. If you plan on going to Walt Disney World resort during the holiday season, then this event is a must-see.

    Your comments/opinions about this event are welcome!

    Have a magical day,

             Frank.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Downtown Disney's Portobello. Experience: Taste.

Good day,

    Today, I would like to share the first of the many Taste experiences that are on the menu at Downtown Disney. I have visited the Portobello in early March of 2013 during one of my shopping day.

Downtown Disney's Portobello.
    I did notice that nice Italian restaurant a couple of years before, but the variety of high quality restaurants in the district pushed back my first visit at the Portobello a little. I must say before I get into more details, that this restaurant offers an exceptionnal price vs. quality rate. The Guests' invoice can remain in a reasonnable range compared to other tables just around the corner.

    The sober and elegant ambiance is well balanced with the help of the wood, the modern frames and the brick decor. A full bar, a windowed section, banquettes and a spacious dining room can accomodate small groups, families as well as couples.

Windowed section inside the  Portobello.
    On the menu, the appetizers are a lot more interesting than salads. While only two salads are served, there are at least ten appetizers available. From the Calamari to the Antipasti platters, the Meatball sliders and Sicilian eggplant fries, there are so many delicious choices for under 9$.

    For the main course, many classic Italian dishes like the Gnocchi dish, the classic Spaghetti with meatballs and the Penne bolognese are in there as well as interesting creations like the Ravioli gigante and the Black linguine with Florida shrimp main course. Wood oven pizza is also on the menu along with a couple of more elaborate (and pricy) dishes like the Filet mignon during the evening.

    For dessert, more delicious Italian classics like the Tiramisu, some Gelato or a Panna cotta will complete Guests' meals for under 8$.

    After a single visit, I am confident enough to tell that everything on the menu at Portobello should be delicious. The general cleanliness, the quality of the ingredients in my appetizer, meal and dessert were great and makes me believe that it is also the case all over the menu. The cooking and plate temperatures were nice and the service went very quickly.

    Overall, without being absolutely exceptionnal, the Portobello offers a great meal for a reasonnable price. In my opinion, the restaurant ranks itself just outside the top tier and could be considered as a reasonnable measuring stick for other restaurants in order to be considered as a part of the top tier Taste experience at Walt Disney World Resort.

    Your opinions/comments about this location are welcome!

    Have a magical day,

           Frank.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Outside The Parks: Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion. Experience: Sight.

Hello there,

    Finally, this is the beginning of most interesting portion of this project as I am now adding more content, sharing in more details about specific locations and sharing about the experiences that can be tied with them.
Franck's Studio.

    Today, I chose to share about a lovely point of interest to visit, located outside Walt Disney World Resort's theme parks. This is a quick twenty-minute visit and it offers great picture spots.

    But before I continue about this specific point of interest, I must say that each and every time I have made plans to go to the land of dreams, I have carefully planned my schedule months ahead. It is very important to manage your vacation, and pick days that will be spent outside the theme parks, to relax a bit. With six theme parks available, multiple days in a row becomes very tiring for the Guests, especially if they bring childrens. It is also why I rarely go for a one week trip. (Six theme parks, seven days in a week, you do the math!)



Franck's Studio collection.
    With that being said, should you choose to spend time outside the theme parks, Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion just outside Disney's Grand Floridian Resort is a great spot to take pictures. And even better, it is absolutely free, is quiet and almost never crowded!

    This location can be easily missed by unaware Guests as they travel on the resort Monorail between Disney's Polynesian Resort and the Grand Floridian Resort. There are two main buildings, Franck's Studio beauty salon and the Wedding Pavilion itself.

    If Guests are lucky enough, those two buildings will be open and available for them to visit. Timing is essential as Guests will not be able to visit inside if a wedding is underway. I was lucky enough to get inside the chapel a couple of times already and I liked every minute of it. I have personally taken at least 20 high quality pictures from this location.

    Inside Franck's Studio, a collection of wedding dresses, wedding cakes and romantic fine art is delicately presented. Waiting rooms are also available for Guests and family members attenting to a ceremony. The balance between the smooth colors, the whites and the translucent pieces of decor pushes the Guests a bit more into the dream.

Wedding Pavilion.
    Then just across the white bridge, the Wedding Pavilion itself only a couple of steps away from the edge of the Seven Seas lagoon. The quiet and romantic yard includes a small boat dock at it's side and a pathway towards a picture spot giving a wonderful picture opportunity with Magic Kingdom's Cinderella castle in the background. A memorable picture for the Bride and the Groom.

    Just in front of the chapel entrance, the Bride's Vestibule, where the bride is waiting just minutes before her entrance in the chapel before the ceremony, is composed of the rose room and the orchid room.

    Inside the Victorian style wedding pavilion, the color of the wooden benches, the flowers, the candlesticks and the altar combined with the light coming from the outside offers the Guests another great picture opportunity. There are also a couple of chic Victorian waiting rooms inside that are worth a look.
Final preparations before a ceremony.

    I wish to conclude with my general appreciation of Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion. I think that this location is ideal for second-time Guests who wishes to see something different away from the crowds or for well prepared Guests who will want to maximize their vacation time with this great time filler. This is in no way a main attraction, but an interesting addition to any picture lover or a lovely way to spend an hour before lunch.

    Your comments and/or experiences about this location are welcome!

    Have a magical day,

            Frank.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Holding Hands With Mickey. Experience: Touch.

Good morning,

    Today, I am opening the fifth section of experiences that will be shared on this page, the Touch experience. This sense can be a complement to the other senses as well as a primary source of excitement. Skin is the largest organ of the human body and a multitude of experiences can be felt through it.

Mother holding hands with Mickey.
    This unique sense can be sollicitated in many ways, on different occasions. Of course there is that wonderful feeling of the wind on Guests' faces while riding in a roller coaster or the refreshing sensation of water when Guests enters the pool. But the Touch experience at Walt Disney World Resort doesn't limitate itself to wind in Guests' faces and water splashes. There are also special attentions, surprises, furry hugs during ''Meet & Greets'' or simply holding hands with a special someone...

    Touch can be a powerful sense in the creation, the storage, and in the processing of memories. For example, just by touching a souvenir bought during a trip or simply by wearing a shirt, Guests can re-experience or can be taken back to precise moments.

    How can I go on and forget about the shopping portion of Guests' experiences at Walt Disney World Resort? I have selected shopping to be also part of this section of experiences for a simple good reason: How many times have you shopped without touching anything?

    For some reason, when something catches my eye in a boutique, I have an uncontrollable urge to touch it, examine it, even wear it if possible. I am sure that a very large portion of the population does the same while shopping. For some reason, it seems like I can really see better with the item in my hands than laying on the shelves.

    So, as you can guess, there will be plenty of opportunities for me to share in this section. From roller coaster rides, to splashes, hugs, shopping and more. I cannot wait to finally devellop about Touch. In fact, all of the five main sections should be filling up quite quickly.

    This post concludes the first round about experiences, a lot more is coming up as I will bring more detailed experiences descriptions, special events and locations in the future.

    Have a magical day,
        
             Frank.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

From Tasty Treats To Gourmet Cuisine. Experience: Taste.

Good day,

    This time I would like to open the fourth main section of this blog, the Taste experience. At the land of dreams, there are litterally hundreds of locations outside and inside the parks where Guests can purchase drinks, treats, snacks, necessities or get a full meal.

Disney's Boardwalk bakery.
    Those facilities, will offer various options to the Guests but most importantly, will deliver the Taste. If we include the extra time allowed to Guests staying at Disney's resorts (also called the Magic Hours), Walt Disney World Resort parks can operate from 8:00AM to 11:00PM. This schedule does not include the facilities that are located in the resorts and at Downtown Disney, while some of them might be sollicitated 24 hours a day.

    So unless Guests decide to stay outside the resort at night, bring their own lunches, drinks and snacks and avoid buying anything, they will have plenty to choose from. The whole Taste experience will differ from a Guests to another based on individual preferences. But the experience will also differ from a location to another and Guests should be aware of this very important point: There is some fast food and unhealthy food offered even if this is Walt Disney World Resort. Perfection is not yet achieved in this world.

    With that being said, the point made above doesn't prevent Guests from experiencing interesting tasty moments, International cuisine, delicious drinks and new tastes. From a personal point of view, my general Taste experience is fairly extensive and ranges from ''good'', ''new to me and very good'' to ''exceptionnal'' with a couple of ''less than expected'' here and there.

    The locations, events and experiences that will be shared to you in this series will be in large part based on my personal experiences as a Guest but could also contain other Guests' experiences. For example, I very rarely consume seafood myself because I dislike them in general. My personal preferences prevents me from being able to explore and tell about some portions of the Taste experience. It would be absolutely impossible for me to tell you where we can find the best seafood restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort.

    Finally, I would like to add that as I will share more experiences, some locations will hold a special place. Their unique features will qualify them as multiple experiences and will appear in more than one section at the same time. A couple of them will offer a five sense experience and qualify to all five of them.

    I am looking forward to get this section of this page rolling.

    Have a magical day,
            Frank.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Follow Your Nose! Experience: Smell.

Hello there,

    Today's focus will revolve around the Smell experience at Walt Disney World Resort. This particular sense is a delicate one to master for any kind of business, even more for an amusement park. With smell, a pleasant experience can turn into an unpleasant one in a matter of seconds. If you ever went to your local fair or into any amusement park, I am pretty sure that you spotted that nasty greasy spot in a corner of the site, or the disgusting (and smelly) pond of barf just besides the exit of an intense ride. No matter how beautiful the view, if it stinks somewhere, Guests won't stay much longer.
I can't resist the smell of fresh baked products.

    I could describe smell as a double-edged sword. And it becomes an art that is very difficult to even attempt outside on a windy day for example. Should you manage to master this tricky sense, and please your Guests with an exquisite olfactive ambiance, you can create extraordinary memories that can last. And to the opposite, you can ruin it all.

    There is no secret that general cleanliness is an absolute essential first step before trying to attempt to satisfy your Guests with olfactive experiences. And for it to become possible, every cast member must participate to the task, all the time, no excuses.

    This is not just another empty promise, and I can tell about it as I experienced it first hand at least a hundred times. The last significant one was during the ''Keys To The Kingdom Tour'' at Magic Kingdom. Jonnie, the cast member who was in charge of our group, picked up at least a half dozen of pieces of paper laying on the ground, threw them away in trashcans without interrutping his speech. Done as naturally as if this was his own living room.
Myself with cast-member Jonnie.

    So to be able to enhance your environment with olfactive experiences, cleanliness must become a standard for everyone. Once this is achieved, the Imagineers' imagination is the only limit to attempt to enhance an experience using fragrant ambiances.

    The smell, even for experts, is a challenging art to master because of it's complexity. Even the nicer of smell, used to profusion could create an unwanted effect for Guests; the over-stimulation of this sense. Everyone has an aunt who wears too much perfume... A good dosage must be taken in consideration to keep everything in balance. Easier said than done!

    How does Walt Disney World Resort manages to work and enhance some of their attractions with the help of smell? I will devellop a little more on this question on another occasion.

    Have a magical day,

           Frank.
  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Joyful Tunes And Background Music. Experience: Sound.

Good day,

Joyful tunes at Magic Kingdom.
    Yesterday, I started my first official full lenght post of a series about the Sight experience. It is in fact our most sollicitated sense as around 70% of the data we collect during the course of our lives goes through our eyes. I will have plenty of opportunities to share more about it later on.

    But today, I want to open a second series: the Sound experience.

    Sounds and music takes a very important part in our lives. Even, if compared to sight, it's amount of data is less important, this particular sense has it's own way to help us validate and enhance what we see. Sitting on a wood bench in the middle of a park, hearing the whistling of birds will always feel nicer than a similar bench without any birds around.

    Sometimes, this sense can affect your mood (or experience) subtly enough that you can't even notice it. But more often than other, we are fully aware and appreciate the enhancement that music provides. Again, once the Guest have crossed the entrance sign of Walt Disney World Resort, he is more often than other immerged in various musical ambiances.

Magic Kingdom's train station.
    For those of you who have already visited Magic Kingdom at least once, I would bet my bottom Dollar that you can clearly remember what it sounds like to hear Walt Disney World Railroad's steam train whistle and the distinct ring of the bell as it arrives at the station. Those sounds are associated with experiences that we live and are very powerful. I bet that if I could listen to a playback of that wonderful steam train, close my eyes and think about it hard enough, I could feel like I am standing at the station.

Rockin' in Hollywood Studios.
    The sound as a ''setting'' is also used as a way to create a separation between two distinct areas inside the parks. As Guests progress inside any of Disney's theme parks, they go through different themed sections that are associated with various sound settings. When leaving an area and entering another, a different sound ambiance or distinct music gives a hint to the Guests that they enter into a new world, that a new experience is ahead of them.

    The result is pretty impressive. Disney's engineers (or Imagineers as they call themselves) understood the power of sound and made sure that the proper sound setting immerges the Guests. This is applied virtually everywhere, even where it is not expected by the Guests. I remember walking around the huge pond at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, taking pictures, when I suddenly entered in a wonderful area filled with a soothing south american style music background. With just a few tiny speakers hidden here and there in bushes and trees, the whole area suddenly became a lot more memorable.

    Sounds and music are very powerful when used properly. Disney's Imagineers managed to use music and technology to it's potential on a very large scale. For example, during the parades, the Imagineers placed mobile devices on the parade trolleys so that the computer can track the vehicle and play the proper music or sound effect in the speakers, following the progression of the vehicle in the streets. As a Guest, you can't even notice it as your attention is drawn towards the parade itself. 

    This concludes this first overview about the Sound experience at Walt Disney World Resort. I will add more content and more details on this subject in a couple of days.

    Have a magical day,

               Frank.


   
  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Walt Disney World Resort First General Overview. Experience: Sight.

Good day everyone!

    With the same level of enthousiasm as yesterday, I am opening the first complete post of this blog. Before I go further, I wish to elaborate just a little about the format of this blog. I wish to focus the main subjects of the posts into five main categories.

    One reason of the huge success of Walt Disney World parks resides in the near immaculate understanding, focus and dedication about Guests' experiences. Once a Guest have crossed the entrance sign, all of his senses are categorized as ''settings'' and are exploited to enhance the whole experience of the Guests.

    Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch and Taste. Those five senses will also constitute the five main categories discussed and presented in this blog.

    This will be the first post about the ''Sight'' experience. So let's get started.

    First of all, what is Walt Disney World Resort? I am pretty sure that many first-time Guests in the past would like to go back in time and take a closer look before their first visit. This is no ordinary amusement park. The size of the whole domain can easily disorient anyone who isn't aware of the impressive amount of land acquired by Disney's company in Florida.

.

    After successfully opening Disneyland in California in 1955, Walt Disney faced a problem. He needed a lot more space to keep up with his ever flourishing imagination. ''The Florida Project'' was born and was kept a secret as Disney's companies acquired massive amounts of land in the Orlando area.

Disney's Port Orleans resort river.
To this date, Walt Disney World Resort covers a total of 30 080 acres! (47 square miles) The resort operates 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 24 hotels, Downtown Disney, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Boardwalk, Golf courses and even a race track.

    Even after Walt Disney's death in 1966, the project kept on going as Walt's brother, Roy Disney, delivered Walt Disney World's first amusement park, the Magic Kingdom in 1971.

    But I do not wish to focus on official dates and numbers for the moment. With an asset of over 30 000 acres of land, the millions of Guests visiting year after year can basically travel all around the world without leaving the property.

Downtown Disney.
    Inside the parks or at any of the 24 themed resorts, the Guests' sight experience is exploited in many ways to the delight of amateur photographs like myself. Speaking of my personal experience, I can easily take more than 100 pictures in any given day, anywhere inside Walt Disney World Resort.

    But it doesn't end there. What the Guests see and what they don't is carefully taken care of, virtually everywhere a Guest can see. No matter if it's inside a small boutique, inside the restrooms, at a hotel lobby or during a parade. Every possible aspect, color or floral arrangement that can enhance any location or even change the landscape will be put together and presented for the Guests' sight enjoyment.

    I have been asked many times if I have seen everything there is to see at Walt Disney World Resort. My quick answer to them is no. When asked about approximately how much I have seen, I usually answer around 80% of the whole domain.  I honestly don't think that someone can claim having seen everything there is to see in the ''land of dreams'' as some attractions are replaced and some new arrangements or monuments are added from time to time.
Disney's Jambo House.

    Finally, I wish to conclude this first glance about the Sight Experience with a few quick tips to anyone who plans on visiting Walt Disney World Resort in the near future. Make sure that you make a plan of what you wish to see, do not try to do too much in a single week, wear comfy shoes, make early reservations (sometimes months before your visit) and of course, don't forget your camera!

    Have a magical day!

             Frank.