Thursday, March 10, 2016

Magical Grand Adventure!

Disney paid for my family's trip to 
Walt Disney World® Resort. As always, all opinions are my own.

I've been home for a few days, but I'm still whirling about in a cloud of excitement over the five day, four night multi-generational trip to Walt Disney World® Resort provided to my family of eight by Better Homes and Gardens and Walt Disney World® Resort as part of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine "Making Memories Magical Contest" promotion. And I can't help but think of how much I'd love to have you - yes! YOU! - win a trip similar to mine after entering a "Grand Adventure" moment on social media using #MagicalMemoriesContest or on Here's where you'll find complete details and a link to everything you need to know!

Our own adventure began at Orlando's airport with a meeting of "the happiest people on earth!" Grandpa and I greeted our six fellow adventurers with wall-to-wall smiles and a little touch of goofiness!

Here's my beautiful daughter, Mary Jo, with one of her three year old twins, Angeline. We'll meet Ava in a sec!

Grandma's most stringent discipline to kids bouncing off the walls with exuberant anticipation? "Hey, guys! Let's not be goofy! That's Goofy's job!"

(Compliance rate? Well below average! :) )

Equally happy to be here is son-in-law, Tom, surrounded by seven year old twin brothers, Nick and Sae.

"So, anybody want to be back home in school today instead of on their way to Walt Disney World® Resort?......Hello? Anybody?"

(Nobody! :) )

First stop! Checking in at our villa, just steps from Epcot®, at Disney's Beach Club Villas....
This lovely lady is gorgeous, both inside......

and out!.......

View from our balcony....
Casual, elegant New England atmosphere!
Tempting on-site restaurants!
Spacious suites with kitchenettes and in-room laundry facilities!
Plus....a sandy-bottomed, heated swimming pool (not shown) with a mammoth "gotta-see-it-to-believe-it" pirate ship slide!

See the Spaceship Earth® attraction in the distance? You can walk to Epcot® and then hop the monorail to the Magic Kingdom® Park!
Convenient buses also take you from the front door to all four Walt Disney World® parks and the airport.

This is the place, grandparents, that makes sense for a multi-generational visit! The common living area between bedrooms/baths in the villa includes not only a comfortable pull-out sofa bed, but a third television set for early morning Mickey Mouse cartoon watching. Plenty of space to sit down together and eat. A large entry area easily accommodates strollers and luggage. We're a lively bunch of eight and we enjoyed an easy fit! And the staff? Three words: helpful, friendly, welcoming! Highly recommended!

Here's a Resort option guaranteed to embrace your grandchildren in open-armed, perky-eared style! Make arrangements ahead to delight them with a solid vanilla chocolate Mickey Mouse and a delectable tray of dipped strawberries! Mmmmm!

Our Ava came here to eat strawberries and meet princesses!
Neither task was left undone!

We stashed our bags in the whisk of a mouse's tail and set out to explore. A picturesque five minute walk from our front door brought us to Disney's BoardWalk entertainment district. Music! Food! Shopping! A Dance Hall! Here, again, I noted the convenience of this location. One could easily spend an entire enchanted evening along the glistening waterfront, leisurely strolling to and from the resort without need for transportation.

See the round "Trattoria al Forno" sign? We stopped in for an Italian family atmosphere dinner that pleased us all. Grandchildren enjoyed cheese pizza from the kid menu and daddy and grandpa had no trouble putting away ginormous t-bone steaks! Amazing appetizer platters, too! We'll return here with more detail in a later post focusing on food, but for now, just know that delicious dining, both casual and fancy, abound here at Disney's BoardWalk entertainment district!

My dinner of sea bass and roasted vegetables was so filling that I felt like this guy afterwards! But our adventure was only beginning. The next morning we gathered at Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park for a family photo shoot followed by a character breakfast at Tusker House Restaurant and a tour of the park.

This happy hippo is a source of endless fascination to those black birds. They perch on him for a better view and bask in his warmth or cool off in his shade!

I truly respect the global conservation efforts made on behalf of animals and the environment by Walt Disney World® Resort. The enormously popular Kilimanjaro Safaris® Expedition allows you to see that dedication for yourself. Open air vehicles bump along through the natural habitat of dozens of animals while an animated driver describes what you're viewing - sometimes at very close range!

This beautiful, well cared for creature intently watched us as we passed; other family members didn't think we were worth the glancing-up trouble!

By day's end, we had ventured on a rockin' and rollin' ride into prehistoric times in pursuit of dinosaurs, strolled through streets designed as Tibet and Africa, witnessed two brave family members conquer the fearsome Yeti on the Expedition Everest® attraction, taken a break to view the fabulous Festival of the Lion King Show and met Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Daisy Duck at breakfast. Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park has something for everybody! An interesting fact is that the temperature inside is eight degrees warmer than outside due to extensive foliage cover. I'm going to speculate, too, that the happy smiles of grandparents and kids contribute to that level of coziness!

"Over-the-top" animal lover, Angeline, on safari! Giraffes are her fave - and she was rewarded with a nearly face-to-face encounter!

This is what it feels like to meander the streets of Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park at Walt Disney World® Resort.

Yowzers! The towering Expedition Everest® attraction houses a roller coaster that I was more than adequately "thrilled" to watch on video! It's not for me! ("skeerd!") But my daughter and son-in-law faced the fury of a roving Yeti, a monster of a mischief maker who tore up tracks ahead of them as they plunged backwards and forward at breathtaking speed! See those hanging fabric squares? Tibetans display them as a placating gesture to their own Yeti - a force to be reckoned with both here and at home!

Next stop: Epcot®. The adventure continues!

Here's the place where brave souls can whisk along a thrilling Test Track attraction after designing a car to personal specifications. Here's the place to be glad you added Memory Maker* to your Walt Disney World® Resort experience, giving you high speed action shots otherwise unavailable. And finally, here's where grandma was delighted to stay behind with little sisters who didn't meet the height requirement!

*"Memory Maker" details in a later post. There's no way I could have taken such a great shot of grandpa, mommy and daddy, and the boys enjoying this experience without the Disney PhotoPass®  service!

I don't want to give the impression that I was afraid of everything the Walt Disney World® Resort has to offer! I certainly didn't mind traveling the history of communication from prehistoric times to the modern era. The Epcot® "giant golf ball" is Spaceship Earth® attraction, and it's home to a gently moving ride through a visual feast of human achievement. Tired of walking? Sit back and enjoy the star studded sky while drifting along through a dark, cool, and soothing educational experience! But don't think for one second this ride is just a stodgy old boring excuse to escape the sun! My seven year old grandson, Nick - who the next day would personally defeat the insidious Darth Vader in laser-to-laser combat - declared it was his favorite ride to that point!

Epcot® is known as a world showcase. My family often exclaimed how Disney does everything so authentically. We strolled the streets of many countries, magically transported there to enjoy sights, sounds, and food. Our choice for dinner that evening was Germany's Biergarten Restaurant; for several hours, we were in Germany, savoring authentic choices from a bountiful buffet! The atmosphere was both relaxed and lively, with spirited entertainment. Again, further details in a later post on places to eat!

Anyone ready to meet our Disney VIP guide, Frank, early the next morning for yet another day of adventure? These two little Mousketeers are!

Away we zoomed! To Magic Kingdom® Park! And this time, good old grandma wasn't "skeerd" of Tomorrowland's Speedway® attraction! Here's where you'll wait to jump in, as driver or passenger. I rode once with each grandson - pressing the speed pedal was my job - steering belonged to the boys. But don't worry, grandma, you'll handle the top limit easily, enjoying the breeze in your hair and the sun on your face as you go round and round and round the oval track. Oh sure, your seat-side buddy will try to impress you with wild maneuvers, but there's zero chance for a pile up here - Disney looks out for us grandmas with safety precautions galore!

The Dumbo The Flying Elephant attraction has been here forever. This beloved classic is so popular that Disney has refurbished and installed two rides to shorten wait time. I took this shot of mommy and the girls as I waited with Sae, a few Dumbos ahead, for those giant ears to launch our flight!

We watched the daily 3 PM Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade and witnessed sights both ferocious......

Yes! That's a fire breathing dragon!!!!!

........and friendly!

We met Mickey Mouse, too!

Each park has characters to meet. I've got an overview waiting for you in a future post!

We rode, we ate, we rested. There's time and a place for everything in this magical space. When you travel in a multi-generational group, there's always someone at hand to supervise the littles while adults and older siblings succumb to the Haunted Mansion®  attraction, cruise Pirates of the Caribbean®  attraction or rattle along on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad®  attraction and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train® attraction. When it's time to take a break, there's the easy-going and visually stunning It's a Small World® attraction for everyone to pile in and enjoy together.

Planning a Disney Parks trip is just as exciting a time as the weeks before Christmas! The grandkids and I had chattered away about what we'd be riding side-by-side, and "Pirates" was at the top of our list. I'd promised the boys each a play sword and was happy to deliver. Theme Park shopping is convenient, the merchandise is appealing, and there's even a package delivery service available to guests staying at select Walt Disney World®  Resort hotels!

Our Magic Kingdom® Park day concluded with fireworks.We nestled together to watch them, warmed by cups of hot cocoa delivered by our thoughtful guide, Frank. What a day. What a night. Exhausted, happy,
and still not finished with this magical place!

Looming ominously over Disney's Hollywood Studios®  is a structure that literally screams from inside its own body. Those who dare venture onto abandoned freight elevators in this Disney thrill masterpiece plunge not once, not twice, but seven times from the precipice inside The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction! I was one of them. And I'd go back again and again and again, if I could! Once again, thank goodness for Disney's PhotoPass® service! Now I've got proof I'm not the world class scaredy cat my family considers me to be! (But I doubt you'd want to see that photo! - mouth wide open, hair flying...naw! I'll spare you!)

Another park favorite - for all ages - is the colorful and fun Toy Story Mania!® attraction. Riders spin along on a crazy path blasting numbered targets as they go. Cars keep track of scores, allowing grandkids nearly one tenth your age to beat you soundly and brag about it forever! :) Happened to me. Will probably happen to you, too, grandma! Embrace it! - and them, too! This one's a family "must-do!"

"Whoa!" Let's pause a sec to address what you might be asking now. "How did they manage to do all that stuff? Where did they find out what's available and how did they coordinate everything so well?" Three word answer: My Disney Experience - an app to download right here. After that, you'll use your phone to view every opportunity at every park. You'll see ride wait times, find shows and characters, view menus, and book (or revise) reservations. From this convenient planner, you'll manage Disney FastPass+ and Disney PhotoPass® service accounts, plus more! If you link to family and friends, you'll share it all to keep in touch, dreaming and planning together well in advance of your trip! Simply stated, My Disney Experience will allow you to make the most out of every second of your visit!

Meanwhile, planted firmly on their places in line...

Nick and Sae are super-fans of Star Wars, but none of their excitement has ever come close to the on-stage experience, Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. The boys became part of a dramatic theatrical production climaxed by the appearance of Darth Vader himself. Each trained warrior took a turn to battle him individually. To enjoy the right to brag that your own grandchild (age 4-12) defeated Darth, be at Disney's Hollywood Studios® at opening to grab a spot in one of the frequent day long show times!

We also enjoyed a 3-D, Motion-simulated space flight and met both the huggable, endearing Chewbacca and the intimidating Kylo Ren. And these great attractions are only the beginning of the commitment to indulge galactic-sized appetites for Star Wars entertainment! Much more to come in the eons that lie ahead!

Saturday. Booooo! Our last day. One final foray into the Magic Kingdom® Park for souvenirs and revisits to our favorite rides before heading to the airport. Good bye palm trees, good bye Mickey Mouse, good bye sunny skies and endless smiles and zipping around tracks and lumbering along paths, good bye pretty princesses and demure dwarfs and pouting pirates and gleaming laser light swords. Good bye vacation of a lifetime!

Grandparents! Stay tuned for additional posts! I've got lots more to tell in every category to help you plan a multi-generational trip. And be sure to enter the "Making Memories Magical" contest sponsored by Better Homes and Gardens Magazine for a chance to win a vacation for eight of your own! Again, here's where you'll find the links you need to get started on your own "Grand Adventure!"

My sincere, most heartfelt gratitude to Mara VanGeldern, Associate Marketing Manager at Better Homes and Gardens, and to the Cast Members of Walt Disney World® Resort. Together, you made our multi-generational vacation to Walt Disney World® Resort one beyond magical! Someday, somehow, someone may invent a word that adequately describes our gratitude for what you did for us - but I think it will have to arrive from a "galaxy far, far away!" Because, for today, I've run out of earthly words of my own to say "thank you!"

Continue reading for more! "Magical Grand Adventure - Characters!" is right here!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Better Homes and Gardens and Walt Disney World® Resort. 


  1. Hello J, your disney trip sounds awesome. Congrats on winning this fbulous trip! I am sure your grandchildren and all the adults had a fun time. It is sad leaving the happiest place on earth. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  2. I checked just about every day to see when this post would go up. WOW there's so much all look so cute but those girls in their mouse hats takes the cake! :) Then again the boys having Jedi training? HA I can only imagine how much fun that was. All in all it looks to have been a wonderful trip and memory-maker! :)

  3. And they're old enough to have lifelong memories of that wonderful time! You're talking about two sets of twins in one family, right? Whoa! It does look like everyone had the opportunity for lots of fun. Loved what you said about the compliance rate. LOL

  4. I think you could write a book about this out of this world heavenly adventure. The smiles tell the story even without all of the wonderful shots of the buildings and activities. Lucky woman to have spent such a wonder trip with those you love. And, a very wise choice on their part to pick the craftiest grandma around. :-)

  5. Wow, how incredible to get a free trip to the most magical place on Earth for your entire family. It sure looks like everyone had a great time. I've always known you were one of the coolest grandma's out there. Now it's official!

  6. Stupendous wrap up of a magical time!! I'm so happy you and yours were given such an amazing trip of a lifetime. Multigenerational travel is THE way to go!! You've made me crave another Magic Kingdom adventure... time to check out that contest!

    I look forward to the posts to come, highlighting your family fun! Love, love, LOVE the photos! ♥

  7. I am so glad that you and your family got this opportunity! I love your adventures - can't believe the boys ever slept after their Jedi training! Can't wait to read more and I think certain people need to see that picture of you in the Tower of Terror!

  8. Beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing your story on the #HomeMattersParty

  9. What a wonderful adventure your family got to have on this trip. Magical sums it up. Congratulations on winning deserve it so much.

  10. What a fun trip. We enjoy one multi- generational trip a year! Your grandchildren are beautiful!

  11. What a fun trip to win and experience with your family.

    Thanks for sharing at SYC.

  12. How wonderful that you won this for your family. It truly is a magical memory for all of you! We took our entire family 10 years ago and it was such a fabulous time! We are due to do it again. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  13. Looks like you had a grand time! I love the picture of Ava eating the strawberry and the girls with their Mickey Mouse hat! Thanks so much for sharing this on my Party in Your PJs link party!

  14. Looks fantastic! Your grand-children are adorable :)

  15. You have some really nice, candid picture of the family. I love the one where Ava is eating a strawberry. I can imagine that her number one goal of Disney was to meet 'real live princesses'! So cute!