Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tom Sawyer Island

When I think of going to Disney as a kid, Tom Sawyer Island always sticks out in my mind. It is one of the most overlooked places in Magic Kingdom.

 Imagine going back to the days of Tom and Huck.Where days were fun and free. As a kid you would spend your free time exploring. I can see it in my head, my dad with his coon skin cap and wooden pistol. The days before technology when kids had imaginations of gun fights, and cowboys and indians. Hide and seek was a great one for me.



 Opening in 1973 you take a relaxing raft ride  over to the island. There is only one way off and one way on. You are brought over to an island, and trust me, if you're looking to get away from the crowds, take this time and go relax. This is the perfect place to let the kids, ages 5-12 is best but others can enjoy it too, run around and have good old fashioned fun, while you can relax, sit on one of the many rocking chairs and just rock the day away. Or pull up a barrel and play some checkers.

 There are many twists and turns, hills and caves to explore. Kids will love to explore and run around seeing some neat of views of the Liberty Boat and Big Thunder Mountain.

 On Tom Sawyer's Island you can be a kid again going across the barrel bridges, swearing you're gonna fall in the water. Kids will burn off some energy playing hide and go seek and checking out the buildings; and adults will love hiding in the caves to spook their kids. It's good old time fun, and I hope it never goes away.

 The island usually opens an hour after the park opens, and closes at dusk. You can find Tom Sawyers island in the Rivers of America in Frontierland. Not recommended for wheelchairs as the areas are not too accessible for wheelchairs.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Our Kingdom of Dust review by April Phillips


**Disclaimer: This book is not appropriate for younger audiences**

    I have to say that my two favorite things, other than family, friends, fitness and faith, are all things Disney and all things horror, or a little twisted! I could not wait to dive into the book “Our Kingdom of Dust” by the amazing writer Leonard Kinsey. The book is a good and easy read; it really grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.  It starts with a scene that is both very vivid and tragic and from that point on there is no putting this book down!  Mr. Kinsey does a very good job of introducing the characters and making sure we understand each one and they’re not just throw away characters.  I am a Disney addict and when I go I can’t leave without a new sweatshirt, a new cup, a new phone case, the list goes on and on!  Our main character is really trying to get back to the “World” he knew and try to recapture it all.  As a Disney addict I find myself constantly thinking about my next trip, my next Disney purchase, looking at photos, etc.  It is a fine line between enjoyment and obsession, and this book really captures that.  I am always saying that no place has the “magic” like Disney has for me. How people are always searching for that “magic”...  The story in the book and the characters in it really capture this and you really care about them and their journey trying to capture this!  The book is under 200 pages and as I said a very good and easy read!  So do yourself a favor and go and purchase this book!

   **I received free products to review. The opinions expressed here are my own.**

Friday, August 22, 2014

Foodie Friday:

Hey everyone!  So when my family goes to Disney we love to eat like everyone else, but we don’t go crazy for restaurants, we go crazy for the snacks!  Yes we love to eat at Blue Bayou in Disneyland and went crazy for Be our Guest in WDW at the Magic Kingdom, but the little snack stands are where we will be found!  My son is a turkey leg fanatic, I am going to be honest that watching him eat it makes me a little ill and I have to turn away.  

He also loves himself a good beef shank from the Magic Kingdom. I can’t wait to get a Mickey Pretzel and have to fight off my children to get more than one ear, oh and trust me, I do throw down with them for that ear!!  And the popcorn, I mean is there any better popcorn than at Disney??  No, the answer is no!  It is perfectly salted and buttered, like it was popped in heaven and then sent down to Disney on a cloud!

  On our last visit to Disneyland we discovered these new pretzel twist things and I about died because I forced so many down my throat; but it was worth it, I mean death by amazing pretzel twist, who could be mad at that!  

My favorite thing at Disneyland to eat is clam chowder in a bread bowl. Now I have had my share of bread bowls, from Monterey, San Francisco, I mean... I am basically a Clam Chowder bread bowl aficionado, it's ok to be jealous!!  But my favorite is near Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, they also offer gumbo in a bread bowl but I couldn't not get clam chowder and try anything else.  I am pretty sure this clam chowder is made by Disney angels with all the love  and maybe some Mickey tears thrown in, I mean I can’t understand any other reason why this clam chowder is so good, but I will take it, and I do, at least three times a visit!  

Also my favorite drink is hot chocolate, no not from Starbucks, from the little carts, in a travel mug.  Yes I know it is just powder hot chocolate, but you know what, it’s the best!! 

So now that I have told you why I come home weighing about 100 pounds more than when I first get to Disney, you tell me, what’s your favorite snack to make a meal??? 

Mickey hugs and kisses!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Disney Touch - Theming

In our last post about the Disney touch, we went into the Disney area music found around the parks.  That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the finite details Disney is known for.  I'm sure by now we've all seen the many (MANY) BuzzFeed articles about Disney and one that mentions the ground in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom.  Disney has thought about every little detail, some that people probably still haven't even found out about.  Let's think about walking into the Magic Kingdom itself.  You start off with the sight of the train pulling into the station.  Welcome to Main Street USA!  You find yourself entering the tunnels under the train station, walls lined with attraction posters from throughout the park, and entering a world of dreams.  You're greeted by the smell of popcorn as you are about to make your way into the most magical place on earth.  Next you find yourself surrounded by all the business in rural Main Street USA.  The buildings all have great forced perspective leading you to the cast.

 Did you know that Main Street USA is actually built on in incline walking towards the castle?  This gives the impression that the castle is further away and higher than it actually is.  At the same time, when you're leaving the park, you're walking downhill which makes it look like the train station is closer.  When you're tired, you don't want to feel like you've got to walk forever to leave the park.  This is all just the start of the details.  Look for the next article to come in the future where we delve into some more details that you may not have ever known about.

Monday, August 18, 2014

                DISNEYLAND'S HAUNTED MANSION         

Forty-five years ago Disneyland opened a new attraction to it's Magic Kingdom.... The Haunted Mansion.  A majestic old plantation of a home surrounded by wrought iron fencing with its own graveyard in the back occupied with 999 Grinning Ghosts just waiting for guests who were "dying" to drop in and take a ride in a "doom buggy" built for two.  

Upon entering the foyer a somber maid or butler greets each guest and leads them to a "room without windows or doors" which mysteriously stretches down to an area where your "doom buggy" awaits.  Your tour of goblins, ghouls and ghosts begins here - winding you through hallways and rooms full of hauntings every where you go. 

During the Halloween Season the home of the 999 grinning ghosts gets all "decked out" in its holiday finest.  Combing Halloween & Christmas all in one!  In the background the most haunting holiday music can be heard luring guests to its haunted halls.  If you are lucky enough you may even encounter a quick visit with The Pumpkin King himself - Jack Skellington.  If the ghosts and ghouls are smiling on you Sally may appear along with Jack!

One word of advice - be careful of hitch-hiking ghosts..... One May Follow You Home!!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Disney Dream 4 Night Cruise: A Review

    When my husband said "Let's go on a Disney Cruise" I got very excited.  I hadn't even been to Disney World or Disneyland or anywhere Disney.  We decided to plan a trip to Disney World and take a cruise while we were there.  We figured, "Why not?  We have already paid to fly this far we might as well live it up!"

   So being a total Disney virgin (with the exception of hitting Downtown Disney once we landed in Orlando) we hopped on the Disney Dream for a 4 night cruise.  We had 3 stops.  Our first stop was Castaway Cay (Disney's private island), then on to Nassau and back to Castaway Cay. I have terrible motion sickness so I was afraid to do anything more than 4 nights, even though I had been reassured by many people I wouldn't feel the boat rock.  I made sure to get the patch that goes behind my ear from my doctor to prevent motion sickness.  There was no way I was going to spend this cruise in the room feeling ill!

    Immediately upon boarding the ship we headed to the buffet and got some fantastic food.  Yes, it's a buffet, but it is a Disney buffet.  The buffet was full of fabulous food and we ate until we could eat no more.  After filling our bellies up to the point of possible explosion, we decided to walk it off and check out the ship.  We immediately ran into Snow White just roaming the hallway.  She grabbed my daughter's hand and said "Let's go for a walk" (in her ever so Snow White voice) and they walked and talked and it was magical.

Then on the next floor we ran into Cinderella.

    At this point we were just in shock because we had never met characters before.  We had no idea it would be as simple as just walking around in the hallways.  We had always heard of all the "character meet and greets" at Disney World and how long the lines and wait times were.  We thought maybe we were dreaming.  Could it really be this simple to meet characters? We then began to wonder who we might meet if we just kept roaming the halls.

Well lookie here!  It's Mickey Mouse!

Children are free to roam the adult areas when first boarding the ship.  So we made sure and checked out everything.  This is one of the adult lounges named "Pink".

We then headed to the sail away party, but we didn't have the best of views because we didn't get there early enough.  We were too busy checking out the ship and playing the "Detective Agency" game where the pictures on the walls come to life.  It is really neat and I highly recommend it.  You can pick up your Detective Agency sheet mid ship.

We had the most amazing server, named Benjamin, who cut up my daughter's steak every single night.  Mommy was REALLY on vacation. 

The food is absolutely fabulous!

    We had the 8:15pm dinner seating which I highly recommend.  If you plan excursions you barely have time to make it back to the ship and get cleaned up and get to dinner on time if you have the early dinner seating which I think is around 5:15.

    What I totally love is at 9pm a couple of Youth Activities leaders will walk through the restaurant and pick up your child and take them to the Oceaneer's Lab/Club.  That way the adults can finish their meal in peace and the children are off having a fabulous time.

    Upon waking the next morning we were already docked at Castaway Cay.  We had breakfast at the buffet because we wanted to get off the boat quickly and get on the island.  We got great seats right by the water slides on Castaway Cay.  There are two slides.  One is open air and the other one is a closed in tube.  These slides are FAST and loads of fun!

    We had lunch at Cookies on the beach.  Not the quality of food on the boat, but it is included in the price and convenient.  They serve mainly fresh fruit, chips, hot dogs, hamburgers, bbq ribs and some other sides that I don't remember.  They also have ice cream on the island.  Ice cream on the ship and ice cream on the island makes Mommy very happy!  Also, sometimes they offer flavors on the island that they do not serve on the ship.

    There is a kids club actually on the island too.  We decided to check our daughter into the club and go check out the adults only side of the island.  We realized there is hardly anyone on the adults side and had it almost completely to ourselves.  It was amazing!  I have heard there is a restaurant on the adults side too, but we have not tried it yet.  Rumor has it that it is better than Cookies!

     When we got back on the ship we hit the showers and then sent our daughter to the Oceaneer's Lab (which we would have to tear her out of every time we wanted her to join us for something) and my husband and I took a nap.  If we had the early dinner seating we would have had to go straight to dinner.  Thank goodness we had the 8:15pm seating.  Otherwise we would have been so dog tired at dinner.

    The next morning we woke up in Nassau.  We had purchased an excursion to Atlantis.  I am going to be straight forward here.  I learned a lesson this day.  Actually more than one lesson.  I now know I do not like purchasing excursions.  You have to meet (usually in the Walt Disney Theater) and then you get a sticker of a Disney character.  A person will then come to the theater carrying that sign.  You then follow that sign like a herd of cattle.  Then you pile on to buses and begin your journey.  To me there is so much wasted time.  There is a benefit to booking the excursions through Disney though.  If the excursion gets back late the ship WILL NOT leave without you.  You book something outside of Disney and you get back will be waving to the ship as it sales away.

   I won't even bother showing you pictures of Atlantis or Nassau because we will never get off the ship in Nassau again.  The excursion was the most expensive excursion we have ever paid for.  The driver of the bus did almost a time share type of spew and then when we got to Atlantis it was almost like we were in another time share type of environment before they finally let us go.  Soooo many people were there and by then finding a seat for 3 people together was not easy.  Atlantis was very pretty, but Nassau was not.  It was a very scary place.  Bars were on all of the windows and I would never walk around Nassau.  If we ever take another cruise that stops in Nassau then we won't get off the ship.

    That evening my husband and I had reservations for Remy.  It is an additional cost of $75 per person, but it is out of this world amazing!  It will take about 3 hours to complete all of the courses.  I highly recommend it.  At least try it once.

    The third day was a day at sea.  I love days at sea.  If you are the kind of person that wants something to do every minute Disney gives you that.  There are so many different activities going on around the ship.  I am the kind of person who just likes to lay back and relax.  So we dropped our daughter off at the Oceaneer's Lab when it opened (9am) and we took pictures around the ship and relaxed.  It was also "Pirate Night" and had I known how seriously Disney people take "Pirate Night" I would have brought my costume.  Adults and kids dress up.  It is a BIG DEAL!  Pirate Night is when they shoot fireworks off out over the ocean.  Disney is the only cruise line that does this.  It is magical.

The chandelier in the atrium is gorgeous!

    Our last day was another stop at Castaway Cay.  Why yes please!  It is such a magical island.  We did some snorkeling and had fun on the beach.  It was also a very sad day because it was our last day on the ship.  We did finish it off with a dinner at Palo.  Palo is the other restaurant that has an additional charge.  It is $25 per person.  It is really good too, but nothing can top Remy.

    We loved cruising on the Disney Dream.  It is an absolutely beautiful ship.  The Cast Members are amazing.  The customer service is like nothing else I had ever experienced.  The food was superb.  A 4 day cruise is too short.  From then on we have made sure and cruised a 7 night or more cruise.  It seems like you just get on the ship and unwind and it is time to pack and get off.  If all you have to spare are 4 nights, then by all means give yourself the gift of cruising with Disney.

 (Editor's Note: Addicted to Mickey is a full service travel agency specializing in Disney Travel. We would be honored to help you make reservations for a Magical Disney Cruise Line (or any other Disney Vacation) experience as part of our no-cost concierge services! For a limited time we are offering a special gift for those booking cruises through the end of 2014. Please contact us for a  FREE no-obligation quote!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Passing of a Disney Icon

Photo taken from Disney website

This is my first contribution to this blog and my heart aches as I would much rather be talking about Dole Whips or Fast Passes or anything else besides this.  But, my heart is heavy and my mind is full and such is the way of life.  Robin Williams passed away yesterday after a long struggle with both mental illness and addiction.  My initial shock at this announcement quickly gave way to a profound sense of grief that I don't really understand as I was never privileged to share the company of Mr. Williams.

My first introduction (that I remember, anyway) to Robin Williams occurred from the movie, Popeye.  I was a small child and Popeye looked a little like my Dad (similar facial features and short blonde hair).  Olive Oyl looked a tiny bit like my mother (only in the most cursory of ways, but I was little and that's how we relate to the world when we're little).  Therefore, Sweet Pea must have been me as I was also an only child in a small family of three.  Popeye was brave, he stood up to the bad guys, and he loved Sweet Pea and Olive Oyl with all of his heart (and a squinky eye).  

I grew up and learned about this profession called acting and came to accept that this funny man was not actually Popeye.  I learned that he was an actual human with flaws but also with a superhuman ability to process information and craft his observations into comedic genius.  Like so many others, I enjoyed his movies, reveled in his comedic abilities, and was astounded to see him play dramatic roles with grace and composure.  Robin Williams was an incredible performer (do yourself a favor and search YouTube for anything of his from Inside the Actor's Studio).  He was also that rare celebrity in this day and age who genuinely seemed like a nice guy; like someone who would be nice to you if you happened to meet randomly.  

Before I became a travel agent with a love of Disney unmatched by my peers (trust me, it's annoying to everyone but me), I was involved in a very different profession.  I have been a licensed clinical social worker for what feels like a lifetime (social work years are not unlike dog years, you see).  The longest stint of employment in my social work career was at a community mental health clinic specializing in treatment of adults with severe and persistent mental illness.  I am well versed in depression and suicide and have seen far too much devastation from this horrible disease to last two lifetimes.  I have visited ER rooms and jail cells to assess a person's need for hospitalization due to reported symptoms.  I have waited on the phone with someone in efforts to engage them long enough for the ambulance to arrive.  I posted the following to my personal Facebook feed last night:

As I scroll through my news feed tonight and read everyone's grief laid bare, I see the familiar expressions of heart break, confusion, and anger. I see curses at the departed, I see accusations of selfishness, and judgement regarding actions we struggle to understand. I am no longer practicing in the field of mental health but that experience never leaves me. I have known clients who have threatened suicide repeatedly but never seriously attempted it and I have known clients who gave no indication of the intention to end their life before doing so. What I want to express lest this message get lost in the grief, is that depression is a disease. A true chemical change in the brain; a change that causes feelings of despair greater than most of us can ever imagine. It causes feelings of guilt so profound (even for things that we would rationally never feel guilty about). This disease at its worst promotes the belief that the world, our families, everyone would be better off if we were gone. For those who believe in the selfishness of suicide, please take a minute to consider the idea that those who commit this act may truly believe that they are not only ending their own unbearable pain but also relieving their loved ones from the burden that loving someone with depression can cause. Depression makes the irrational seem rational. We the rational know that this is not the solution but depression is a great deceiver. Before I get flooded with hateful messages or arguments (neither of which I feel inclined to entertain), I want to express that I do not agree with anyone's decision to end their own life. But I believe we must at least try to understand this disease, raise awareness of its symptoms, and express empathy and support for those that continue to suffer from its wrath in addition to the friends and family who must stand by and suffer as well.

Everyone on this earth has experienced symptoms of depression at one time or another but only a small percentage have ever experienced true, clinical depression.  In the coming days I hope we will be hearing much more about this disease as we as a society need more open discussion about this illness, it's symptoms, and how to address them.  My hope for Mr. Williams is that his legacy will not only include his decades long contribution to the world of entertainment but also a decrease in the stigma that persists in the mental health community.  I hope that we will educate ourselves more deeply on this disease and work together to assist in it's treatment.  

In the coming days, I will cry over the loss of a piece of my childhood and I will celebrate the work of a man who provided me a lifetime of laughs.  When I visit the Magic Kingdom with my family in September, I will wait in line as long as needed in order to give my favorite Genie a hug.  Good night, Sir, and thank you.

If you are currently experiencing thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone in your life now.  If you have no one that you can think of to talk to , please consider contacting the The National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.

Upcycled Disney Wallet from Lizzie's Right Brain: Review

 This is my review on this card holder wallet from Lizzie's Right Brain, an upcycled Disney item I was asked to review. All opinions are my own.

 I received the wallet in the mail, super fast shipping, and I fell in love with it. I asked for Dory because she is my favorite character, the seller has many characters and will even take requests which is just awesome!

 This item is so fun and easy to carry around either in your Disney bag, or in your pocket. I love it, it holds my ID, and my AP savings card.

 It's super light, and good enough for a few cards such as your id, credit card, or whatever. Mine looks to be taken from a finding Nemo book and I love the upcycled idea.

 These would be great for fish extender gifts on a cruise or as a stocking stuffer.

 The wallet measures 2.75 x 3.8 inches. Very durable, it includes a plastic cover which makes it great for times in the park when you're sweating, we get a Florida shower or you go on a water ride.

 I can not think of any cons about this little wallet, it's all good and a great way to help save the earth, one book... or clamshell at a time.

 This is my review on this card holder wallet from Lizzie's Right Brain, an upcycled Disney item I was asked to review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 11, 2014

All-Star Sports Resort

 I have been reading a lot of blogs all over the internet, and it seems that value resorts get a bad rap. But trust me, I have stayed at all the value resorts and some of the others, and I love the values.

 All Star Sports is my second favorite resort. You will be immersed in a world of super size sports equipment. If you are a sports fan, you will love it even more.

 Basketball, baseball, football, surfing and tennis are all represented here. All Star Sports was the first value resort built on Disney property in 1994.

 Each room consists of either 2 double beds, or 1 king bed, basic sink, mirror, table, 2 chairs, dresser, phone ,tv, mini fridge, free wifi etc.

There are 2 pools. The largest one by the front is surrounded by large surf motif. In this area you will also find a kiddie pool. The other pool is shaped like a baseball diamond. Make sure you grab towels before you leave your room.

 All around the themed areas you will see some of your favorite Disney characters playing various sports. These make for great photo ops.

 To eat you will enter the End Zone food court. They serve the average fun foods like burgers, fries, chicken, pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Since the remodel food is even better here. My favorite is the chicken alfredo. You can also have pizza delivered to your room. Just pick up your phone and order it and it will be delivered to you. (From 5-pm-12am.)

 The store here is called Sport Goofy. In here you will find a lot of sport themed items and all your basic souvenir needs. There is also a small food store where you may get your milk for your room, its cheaper here. The store is open around 8am.

 For those of you who like to enjoy a little cocktail or unwind after a day at the parks, you will enjoy Grandstands Spirits pool bar. Be sure to get the Citrus Blast.

 One of my favorite things to do is movies under the stars. There is nothing nicer than getting out of the pool, all cooled off, and sitting under the stars watching a Disney movie with some snacks.

 Bus transportation- For those who use the buses they are located out in front and are for the most time on time. The best kept secret, the reason I love this resort is when the bus is packed, you get on first and are dropped off first. During the day you will usually share the bus with movies music unless the bus is full.

 This resort has a fun little arcade with up to the minute games for the gamers.

 For the fit people, there is a jogging trail where you can get your exercise in, but I see many people early in the morning jogging around the complex.

 For the smaller kiddies there is a nice little playground near the touchdown area.

By the pool you will find also a laundry area, its so much easier to pack less and do a load of wash. Washers and dryers as well as soap products are available for your washing needs.

 So what do you think, does this sound like a place you'd like to stay? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook at  Addicted to Mickey