How to Navigate Walt Disney World in the Summertime ~ A local’s perspective

Walt Disney in the summertime. What can I say? It’s hot! Disney World’s peak time used to be summertime but as people realize just how hot it can be in Central Florida, many fans have opted to visit during the winter months where the weather in Florida can be glorious. But for locals, it’s hard to get Lightening Lanes for popular rides and even just a hotel room on property for that matter. It’s tempting to see lower waits and hotel discounts in summer and pass it up. So, we brave the heat and go when crowds are less. But we need the make the time there valuable and magical. Below are some of my ideas for making the most of your summer stay at Walt Disney World.

Ride the indoor rides like Little Mermaid

I recently went to the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday in June and in the middle of the day. I will be quite honest, I struggled with the heat and I live in Florida! There are some parks that have more tree coverage (Animal Kingdom) and some where the sun can just beat you down (Hello Hollywood Studios and MK – Frontierland/Tomorrowland). During this trip, we decided to stay on property for a night at Pop Century Resort so we left early and headed to the hotel pool. The heat was taking it out of me, several rides were down, and frankly, I was getting a little cranky in the heat.

Our plan was to skip the main parks the next day and head to Typhoon Lagoon and so did everyone else! It was packed. I’ve never had to park so far from the entrance which seemed like we were parking in Disney Springs.

Try going to a water park like Typhoon Lagoon

The trip felt rushed and as I stated above, hot. I feel like we didn’t make the most of our time and even forfeited our coveted Tron Lightcycle virtual group time (b/c we weren’t in the hot park). But, we live here and can visit whenever we want, right?

Having said this, next time we will have a better plan for the summer heat. While the above 1 night stay may be good if you are not going to a water park and the temps are cooler, I don’t recommend it for summer. The next trip will include a 2 night stay so that we have time to relax, escape the heat, and enjoy more of what Disney World has to offer.

Check out some of the shaded trails at the resorts

The best option, in my opinion, is to arrive on a Friday night around 5:00 to the resort hotel. This time should ensure that your room is ready and you can go straight there without checking your bags. Using online checkin via the My Disney App is super simple and I would recommend it. Prior to arrival, check Disney Genie + and reserve any lightening lanes or ride reservations at this time for later in the evening.

After you’ve settled in your room, plan to take a few minutes to explore the hotel and grab some dinner at the restaurant or food court. At this point, Annual Passholders can go to any park of their choice, so plan to head to the park of your choice around 6:30-7:00. Another thing to keep in mind with Florida summers is that is can usually rain in the late afternoons and you won’t want to get soaked. If you are in the park though, stay. The rain is a good thing in that it cools everything down and you can be at the front of the line for the outdoor rides once it opens back up. By the evening, things have cooled off, the sun is going down, and there may be nice breeze. The parks can be very pleasant at this time. Plan to spend some time at the parks until closing and head back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

Go to the parks at night

Don’t rush to leave during a rain storm. Let it pass. It’s cools everything off and you can get in line quickly after rides reopen

The next day would consist of a park in the morning, until the heat gets too intense, and then back to the hotel for a swim or a rest. This time could also include a massage at one of the Disney spas or a nice lunch at Disney Springs. I also like checking out different resorts so maybe a quick trip to one of the deluxe resorts for a drink and stroll around the grounds. If you do decide to go to lunch at a hotel or in Disney Springs, I recommend making reservations in advance. This is a good time to relax, cool off, and plan your evening. I have personally fallen victim to too much over planning and have felt at times, that I am running through the parks to make lightening lane times or dinner reservations on time. The point of the relaxed afternoon, is to relax. Don’t rush. Give yourself time to enjoy the resorts, Disney Springs, the pool, the spa, the gardens. At some resorts, you can take a carriage ride or a boat ride. That might be a nice option as well. There are many options outside of the parks to choose from.

Ahhhh…. the hotel pool

Hang out and relax at the Disney Beach

That evening, your choices are open to visit another park, maybe check out the Drawn to Life Cirque Du Soleil show at Disney Springs or Hoop De Doo Revue. This will require some planning and reservations but there is more to do at Disney than just the theme parks. Besides, when you are local and can visit the theme parks anytime, it might be a nice change to do some other activities at the resort. Most hotels have a marshmallow roast and poolside movies. There is also mini-golf at Fantasia Gardens and Fairways and fun activities at Disney’s Boardwalk. This past trip, my son and I decided to just relax and ride the Disney Skyliner from Pop Century to Epcot. We didn’t even go into Epcot and just turned right around and rode it back. It was breezy and relaxing and that was all we wanted to do.

Roast marshmallows at your resort in the evening

Ride the Skyliner in the evening, over and over again

On your final morning, you may want to check out another park and sneak in some lightening lane passes in the morning. Check out for hotels is usually 11:00 so you can always just pack your bags and leave them in your car or with baggage services or try to make it back to the hotel prior to check out time. It’s up to you but you will want to take advantage of Sunday mornings in the park and prioritize those rides, parades, or character meets given that you can snag some reserved times once Disney Genie opens for hotel guests at 7:00AM.

Snag early Lightening Lanes on Sunday morning

Regardless of how much heat you can handle at Disney World, there are a few thing you should always remember to do such as :

  • Wear sunscreen
  • Eat cool treats. Indulge in those Mickey bars and icy drinks
  • Wear lightweight clothing that dries quickly
  • Plan to ride those rides with an indoor queue and AC
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Invest in the neck fan
  • Leave before you get too overwhelmed and cranky from the heat

    There are many options to try at the Walt Disney World resort that can help you beat the heat. Again, some of this requires some planning. So, yes, you can have a fun, relaxing time at Disney World in the summer without rushing around in the heat. The good part about this is that if you didn’t see something or ride something that you wanted, remember…. you’re a local. You can come back next weekend and ride it then!

Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Kona Cafe is a long time favorite of many Disney fans. Located on the second level of the Polynesian Resort, this cafe infuses Asian flare into traditional American dishes. It’s an open-air restaurant that exposes restaurant patrons to the beautiful atrium of the Great Ceremonial House. So if you like people watching, this is your place. This restaurant is considered a table service meal if you use the dining plan. It’s a hidden gem that should not be missed and I believe it’s a good value for the money (and cheaper than Ohana).

Welcome to the Polynesian Village Resort Hotel

Kona Cafe

Inside Kona Cafe

Tonga Toast

Kona Cafe has an excellent breakfast menu and yes, you can order the famous Tonga Toast here. This resturant is known for their breakfast but offers a separate lunch and dinner menu as well. I went for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed my meal. The options are fewer but no less delicious. I ordered the Keiki Lemonade (a non alcoholic drink), the Kona Stir Fry with chicken, and Key Lime dessert. A bread service is provided for both the lunch and dinner meals.

Keiki Lemonade

Bread Service

Kona Stir Fry

I actually took my dessert to go and enjoyed it later that day as the stir fry meal and bread left little room for dessert at that time. However, if you do decide on dessert at the restaurant, I recommend the pineapple coconut bread pudding. It is the same one you would order at Ohana so if you can’t get a reservation at that restaurant, fear not. You can still eat this wonderful dessert at Kona Cafe.

I would highly recommend Kona Cafe as a table service option on your next visit to the Disney parks. It’s easy to get to via the monorail and once you are at the Polynesian Hotel, you can take advantage of the beautiful walkways next to Seven Seas Lagoon after your meal.

Sedona, AZ and the Grand Canyon

I’ve never spent much time in Arizona except for the occasional work trip to Phoenix which never allowed for any exploration outside of the immediate area. If I saw a cactus, I felt like my trip was complete. How wrong my misconceptions were of this beautiful area, specifically Sedona and the awe inspiring Grand Canyon. I was amazed at how the climate and landscape changed just 2-4 hours north of the Phoenix metropolis. From the desert, to forests, to snow capped peaks, and the gigantic hole in the Earth. What a lovely area of the country to explore.

Sedona Arizona

Sedona, AZ was my location of choice. Situated in the Coconino National Forest, this beautiful spot consists of incredible rock formations, hiking/biking trails through Pinyon pine and Juniper forests, and incredible sunsets which illuminate the surrounding red rocks in this area. It is also known as a spiritual place due to the vortex energy associated with the area. A vortex is described as the natural intersections of electromagnetic earth energy. Some say that the forces can be felt physically and spiritually. These energy centers are located in known sites around Sedona such as Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock. It is a wellness destination for many due to its healing energy and most hotels offer some type of yoga and meditation classes.

Sedona also has a lively arts scene with more than 80 art galleries and international film and wine festivals. There are also many shops/spas that offer workshops and tools for wellness and enlightenment.

Day 1

Our first day consisted of a hike to Cathedral Rock and a stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. While I love to hike and usually do not mind heights, I was a little unsure about hiking to the top of Cathedral Rock. The path plateaus with a panoramic view of the area and that is a good place to stop, relax, and take in the beautiful views of the area. Word of warning if you plan to go to the top: you will be climbing up a sharp incline with no path and nothing to hold onto. I tried it but was too scared that I would slip and fall so I ended up coming back down very carefully… on my butt!

After our hike we stopped by the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church carved into the red rocks. A service was beginning so we were not allowed in at that time but what a beautiful place to worship and see God’s creation!

Afterwards, we headed to our hotel, The Sky Rock Inn, and got settled in before heading to dinner for the evening. The hotel has the most amazing views of Sedona. The hotel offers outdoor yoga and meditation classes each morning and live music every evening by the bar. There is a also a healthy continental breakfast served each morning to fuel you up for your hikes and excursions and don’t forget about the pool to cool you off afterwards. Sky Rock also offers a variety of alternative healing and complementary therapies such as Vortex healing, Chakra readings, and even star gazing. This hotel is is also within walking distance of several hiking trails in the area. The rooms are a bit dark but there are plans to update and renovate the guest rooms within the next year. There is also a free shuttle that runs every 30 minutes to take guests from the hotel to the uptown shopping district. I highly recommend this hotel as it adds to the overall Sedona experience and the views are spectacular.

Day 2

Our next hike was Boyton Canyon. This hike was originally supposed to be 10 miles but we cut it short to 6.5. The views are wonderful but the intense sun was beginning to wear on us so it was back to the hotel for a quick lunch and dip in the pool. Time to relax before dinner at Soundbites (dinner with a view).

Note* Always bring water, a snack, and sunscreen. While the weather may be in the 70’s, the sun is intense and you are in it all day when hiking these trails. Be prepared.

Day 3

Today consisted of an excursion to the Grand Canyon. I have never been there before and I must say that there are no pictures that can do it justice. This is a place than should be experienced in person because it is so vast and awe inspiring. We stopped at several lookout points along the south rim of the canyon to take the obligatory photos but again, the view was incredible and one that is hard to describe. I will say that there are some very “brave” (ignorant in my opinion) people who feel like they must take selfies at the edge of the cliff or the experience must not be real. Please, don’t be one of those people! Accidents happen and it’s the second leading cause of death in the Canyon.

We stopped for lunch at the El Tovar Hotel, located in the Grand Canyon. Set in a lovely dining room overlooking the Canyon, our lunch was relaxing and leisurely. This would be an excellent place to stay if you plan to spend a day or two exploring the Grand Canyon.

Day 4

Our final day included a short hike along the Adobe Jack trail (within walking distance from the hotel), some pool time, shopping time, and the Pink Jeep tour. Let me just say that I had no idea what to expect from the jeep tour and I was not prepared for that excursion whatsoever. The jeep tour is off road (expected) but along a route where you will ride over extremely large rocks as you bounce your way to the top of the overlook (not expected). This ride wasn’t just bouncy, it was extremely rough! I did not expect us to ride over the amount of rocks along this trail and all I can say is thank goodness I did not have any nausea, back problems, neck problems, or a pregnancy to contend with. I would advise anyone who does have those issues to not go on this tour. It states as much in the waiver that you sign before getting in the jeep. Mind you, the views at the top are exquisite but they are views that you can get on some of your more relaxing hikes were you don’t need a back brace after the excursion ends. In retrospect, I would have skipped this tour as this is not my cup of tea. But, if it is your thing, go for it. It’s quite the wild ride.

Our trip wrapped up with a lovely dinner at The Cowboy Club and then it was back to the hotel for a cocktail around the fire pit while overlooking this view one more time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sedona and would happily return for another visit, maybe with a few more spa treatments included (especially after that jeep ride : )

Jaleo Restaurant – Disney Springs

I am a huge fan of Spanish Tapas since discovering this cuisine in my 20’s in Chicago. Therefore, I couldn’t possibly pass up trying Jaleo at Disney Springs. My reservation was for lunch during the middle of the week so the crowds were a bit less.

For those of you not familiar with Tapas, the plates are designed to be shared with others at the table. Savory paellas, superb sangria, Spanish cheeses, wines and sherries are just a few of the delicious Spanish dishes and drinks you will enjoy with Tapas.

Per Jaleo’s website: Jaleo at Disney Springs®, is located in a one-of-a-kind retail, dining and entertainment district located in the heart of Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This Jaleo is the biggest and most spectacular location yet, housed in a dynamic, multi-level space. The menu features an extensive variety of tapas reflecting the rich regional diversity of traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine in addition to a variety of authentic paellas cooked over a wood fire in the restaurant.

Jaleo was created by Jose Andres, an internationally recognized chef and holder of two Michelin stars. So, I pretty much assumed this was going to be a delish meal and I was not disappointed.

This was my first time visiting Jaleo so I stuck with the dishes that I knew and loved. Here’s what I tried:


Is it possible to eat tapas and not get Sangria? I didn’t think so. The hardest decision here is deciding between the white sangria or red sangria. I opted for the red sangria.

Pan con Tomate

Toasted slices of crispy bread brushed with fresh tomato. My first dish was the Pan con Tomate topped with manchego. This bread is brushed with tomato and extra virgin olive oil and topped with a slice of manchego. I could have eaten this by itself and been perfectly content. Simple. Flavorful. Wonderful.

Patatas Bravas

A plate of fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli. These cripy on the outside, soft in the middle potatoes sit atop a spicy tomato sauce dotted with a garlic flavored aioli. Again, it can be a bit spicy but this is a must try at Jaleo. (If you do not like too much spice, you can always ask for the sauce on the side.)

Gambas al ajillo

The very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic. Such a simple dish packed with intense flavor. Shrimp are cooked and served in a rich, garlic flavored olive oil sprinkled with a pinch of red pepper flakes and parsley. The best part of this dish is dunking a piece of crusty bread into the sauce. Order this one and enjoy.


A classic Spanish custard with ‘espuma’ of Catalan cream and oranges. An elegant Spanish dessert that is not to be missed, if you have any room left.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Jaleo. There are so many different menu items that I want to try and I am certain that I will go back soon to enjoy more.

Cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line

With a plethora of vacation options to choose from, which weighed heavily on our decision, my husband and I decided relaxation was in order and a seven night Caribbean cruise would do the trick. Based on timing, cost, and the destinations that we ‘wanted’ to see, we booked our cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line – Getaway (NCL)for a relaxing mid summer trip. The cruise itinerary included stops in the Bahamas (at their private island), Virgin Islands (St Thomas), Dominican Republic (Punta Cana), and Puerto Rico (San Juan). We paid in full and began planning our excursions. And then…..

We received a message from NCL about 3 weeks prior to our departure date that our itinerary had changed. We would not be going to St Thomas at all and our day at Punta Cana had been canceled and moved to Amber Cove DR. We would have to spend an extra day at sea. There was no explanation given and no money refunded. Our excursions were canceled (that money was refunded), and we would have to wait until new excursions were posted to re-book. Because the cruise line reserves the right to alter itineraries as needed, we could not cancel without losing money that we had already spent. I was not happy and this had already put a bad taste in my mouth for the trip.

I had cruised twice before, both times with Disney, and my husband had cruised with Royal Caribbean, so these were the expectations that we had going into our trip. Both had provided excellent service and it’s what we expected from NCL but that is not what we experienced and we hadn’t even begun packing for the trip.

Check in Process

Upon arrival at the port, I proceeded to drop off our bags while my husband parked the car. I hadn’t “checked in” via the app in time so I did not have my room number. They looked it up, tagged the bags, and we got in line. And then we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. The check in process, once we made it past the COVID check, took over 1 hour. The reason: “computer issues”. Once we finally received our room key, we made our way onto the ship and to get settled in. We noticed that one of our bags had already been delivered but the other two were missing. We were told by the staff that they would eventually be delivered. So again, we waited, and waited, and waited and at 5:00 pm (before the ship left the dock) we decided to go and look for our missing bags. Sure enough, there they were in the baggage room, un-tagged and on the floor. I still have no idea how the tags were not on our bags but I guess the positive is that at least they made it onto the ship.

Once we unpacked and got a snack, we decided to download the cruise app and start booking some activities. This is a standard feature with most cruises and it allows you to see your excursions, dining options, shows, and activities on the ship. Great idea except that the app was offline and all activities would need to be booked by calling or waiting in another long line at the front desk. We decided to at least get our dining reservations booked by calling and reserving our choice of restaurants for three of the seven nights of our cruise. Everything else would have to wait.

Ship Activities

After dinner our first night, we decided to take a stroll on the upper deck, grab a drink and a deck lounge chair, and possibly listen to some music by the pool. Sounds nice, right? Except, on this ship, they begin picking up and stacking the chairs as soon as the sun starts to go down. There was nowhere to sit and no one in the pool. Why? The reason, it seemed to me, is to drive people to the casino or to the shows on the lower decks. So far, my idea of relaxing cruise with a tropical drink had resulted in almost lost luggage, a mediocre buffet, and a smoky casino. Might as well have been in Vegas.

Speaking of pools, there were four on the ship. One was in the spa (you had to pay to access), one was in the VIP section (yep, only for VIPs), one was a kiddie pool (only available to kids), and one on the main deck for everyone else. I cannot tell you how packed that one available pool was. There was no place to sit and almost no way to access it during the day due to the large number of people in there. I decided to pay the money and go to the spa. At least there was a pool there I could use.

Once our in cruise app began to work, we were able to access the ships activities. Some could be booked directly via the app and some required sign up in person. I decided to take a painting class on our extra day at sea and attempted to sign up earlier that morning to ensure my spot. After one hour of asking multiple cruise attendants and going to three different spots, I was able to find the sign up desk for art class. No one seemed to know where to go or how to sign up or that it even existed. This was apparently the the case with several activities that required in person reservations.

We decided to try the two shows offered aboard the Getaway and overall the quality was not bad. One show, Million Dollar Quartet, was spectacular. It’s a jukebox musical that dramatizes the 1956 impromptu recording session at Sun Records featuring Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. (The actor that played Jerry Lee was exceptional!) The other show during our cruise was Burn the Floor which features a variety of Latin dancing including the samba, rumba, etc. Definitely a show to see if you like lots of Latin Ballroom dancing.


NCL is unique in that guests can book dinner at a variety of restaurants at the time that works for them. Guests are not given a dining rotation with a specific time to eat. There were a variety of restaurants to choose from and most were very good. Some do require reservations and some are first come, first serve.

The buffet, while robust, was not memorable. It provided standard cruise fare and was a nice option for a snack.

I do want to mention the Mojito Bar. This bar specialized in, you guessed it… Mojito’s and they were yummy. My husband was a frequent visitor and tried each one : )


Unfortunately, during this trip, I got food poisoning and I do not know when/where this took place. And while I will not point fingers at the cruise line (it could have happened during an excursion), I was very disappointed by the lack of medical care. At 2:00AM I decided to hobble down to the nurses station only to be told they would not see me unless I paid $200 upfront and they would not take insurance. They didn’t even open the door! This was the piece de resistance for me. To not help someone in need unless you pay upfront (given that we’ve paid quite a bit to be on this ship in the first place) was unacceptable. I basically stayed in the room for the next day and half and didn’t recover until after I got home.

Excursions/Great Stirrup Cay

There were a decent number of excursions to choose from based on our three ports of call and I will write a separate post on this as these can apply to a variety of cruise lines. We did stop at NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, which was a lovely island but with too many zip lines. They do have many activities to choose from such as snorkeling, beach games, paddle board rentals, and cabanas for rent.

Be advised that NCL requires a tender boat to get from the ship to the island whereas some other cruises dock directly next to the island allowing guests easy access to the ship. The line to get onto the tender at the end of the day is long so plan accordingly. Also, there are no bike rentals on the island.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was not impressed by this cruise line. I thought the overall communication with guests, both before and during the cruise, the issues with technology, the change in itinerary, and lack of pools/outdoor “space” were poor. I’m sure NCL has other ships that may be better equipped to offer a 7 day Caribbean cruise but this is not it.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort

Wilderness Lodge is an escape to the Pacific Northwest and draws inspiration from some of America’s national parks. This resort is considered a deluxe resort and like everything Disney created, the attention to detail here is incredible and immense. The lobby is massive with its totem poles, stately fireplace, plush sofas, and old fashioned rocking chairs.

Totem Pole – Wilderness Lodge lobby
Flower arrangement details
Lobby fireplace
Mercantile gift shop

Room with a View

The rooms at this resort have recently been updated with hardwood floors, bright colors, contemporary bathrooms, and modern amenities. I was happy that our room had a balcony with a castle view and a coffee machine.

Room with a view

Park Access

Wilderness Lodge is located closet to the Magic Kingdom, which can be accessed via bus or boat. This resort is very convenient in that regard. A walk to the back of the resort, along an elevated boardwalk and through the trees, lands you at the dock where you board a ferry for a quick 15 minute ride to MK.

Beautiful walk to the ferry
Boardwalk to catch the ferry to MK

The lagoon


There are multiple restaurants at Wilderness Lodge including Whispering Canyon Cafe, Geyser Point Bar and Grill, Artist Point/ Storybook Dining with Snow White, and Roaring Fork. We chose to eat dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe and what a delicious meal it was.

For anyone familiar with Whispering Canyons Cafe, you will remember that it was a lively restaurant with lots of ketchup bottle throwing shenanigans. We didn’t see much of that going on during out visit but it was still very loud and very kid friendly. I especially liked the kids parade through the dining room while riding their pony sticks. The highlight was when half of the kids decided to go left rather than right and the servers had to get them and redirect them back into the dining room… a bit like herding cats : )

My salmon and farro was excellent and we especially enjoyed the brownie and ice cream dessert.

This place is not quaint and quiet so if that is what you are seeking, I’d look elsewhere. The food was very good and the menu focused on Western themed food with lots of skillets.

Whispering Canyon Cafe
Salmon with farro and arugula

Recreation and Grounds

There are numerous recreational activities here including 2 pools, fishing excursions, a shooting geyser (just like Yellowstone), ping pong tables, corn hole, movies under the stars, and a campfire for smore’s roasting.

Fire Rock Geyser is located just behind Copper Creek Pool and erupts every hour starting at 7:00am – 10:00pm.

One of my favorite things to do was to walk the grounds of this lovely resort and talk in the views. I especially liked the river and water views. This is an excellent place to grab a drink and relax a little at one of the outdoor tables next to the water.

Copper Creek Springs Pool

Wanna go fishing?
Fire Rock Geyser
Fire Rock Geyser

Fireworks and Electric Water Pageant

An additional bonus to staying at this resort includes viewing the Electric Water Pageant right from the resort. You can also view Magic Kingdom fireworks from your balcony if you have one facing the castle. I found the absolute best firework viewing location was from the ferry taking us back to the resort as we were leaving MK. It was a beautiful night and from the boat, we could see the entire show.

Balcony view


This was my first time staying at this resort and I highly recommend it. Yes, you will pay a little more for it than other resorts on property but I found that the rustic theming, proximity to MK, and variety of restaurants and amenities to be well worth the cost. It was a magical stay.

Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside – Resort Review

Sassagoula River

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, we had a chance to stay at Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside resort. I’ve stayed at this resort before but its been years since the last time. Being from Louisiana originally, this resort reminds me of home so I was happy to book a room here. This was also the first time that I’ve used the Disney App/Online check in for any Disney resort which was a bit of a lesson as well.

First of all, the grounds, landscaping, bridges, and lush wooded areas make for a lovely, peaceful walk to your room as you stroll along the Sassagoula River. The buildings are designed to resemble stately mansions and backwoods cottages from Louisiana. This resort has a natural appeal and a calming ambiance. Keep in mind that this resort is BIG so you may want to ask directions before dragging your luggage across this resort (you can always have your bags delivered to your room as well).

Walking path to the rooms

The main lobby area includes check in, Fulton’s General Store (gift shop), Boatwright’s Dining Hall (table service restaurant), Riverside Mill (food court), River Roost (lounge), and the Medicine Show Arcade.

Main Lobby
Food Court Water Wheel

Fulton’s General Store

As you cross over the river, you land on ‘Ol Man Island, which includes the main swimming pool at Riverside, Muddy Rivers poolside bar, Fishing Hole, playground, and Campfire on de Bayou. This island is surrounded by the river, and like Magic Kingdom, provides the hub/spoke design to the hotel villages, Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou, and the Lobby.

Which way do we go?
Fishing anyone?

Our room was a standard room (2 queen beds) in the Magnolia Bend section. The room was clean and provided all that we needed for our stay. It was also towards the back of the resort, which allowed for a quiet night, and not far from the bus stop which was very convenient for us. The beds were comfortable but the pillows were heavenly ( I love a good pillow).

By the way, have you ever wanted to bring your dog to Disney? Well you can at this resort which offers pet friendly rooms. Disney also has Best Friends Pet Care very nearby that can help with doggie daycare needs while you are at the park. For more information, please call Disney reservations.

Our Room

Our Room con’t
Second pool. Magnolia Bend

There are five pools at this resort and we tried two of them. The main pool is kiddie central with a water slide and fountains, etc. There is also a hot tub and it is located next to Muddy Rivers poolside bar. This pool offers a daily pool party, evening campfire nearby, and movie screening on select nights. The five other pools are located throughout the resort with 3 in Alligator Bayou and 2 in Magnolia Bend. All provide complimentary towels which is always a plus and one less thing to pack!

Pool on ‘Ol Man Island
Muddy Rivers Poolside Bar

There are a variety of recreational activities at this resort from Horse Drawn carriage rides to fishing and bike riding. Carriage rides can be made in advance by calling the Disney reservations line. I highly recommend this activity. This is a wonderful, romantic option especially for you and your loved one.

One disappointing feature at this resort was the check in and food. I used the online check in once we left the park at 3:00 ( which I thought was check in time) only to find out that our room was not ready. I was told that housekeeping has between 3:00 and 5:00 to get the room ready for us. It ended up being 4;30 before we were able to finally access our room.

During that time, we decided to get a late lunch at the food court. Considering this is a Louisiana themed resort, I thought there would be more options for Louisiana cuisine but there were few to be found. The food court offered standard pizza, burgers, pasta, desserts, with 2 options for Cajun food. Those included the Jambalaya and Pimento BLT, which I ordered. This sandwich was not good and I do not recommend it. There was little pimento cheese and the bacon was cold and looked like it had just been pulled from the refrigerator after 3 days. Not something I would recommend. I then tried to fill up my water bottle only to find that all 4 water fountains did not work. I brought this to the attention of one of the cast members but we left before it got fixed.

Breakfast was not much better and we learned that was the last day that Port Orleans was offering Mickey Waffles! Even the cast member was not excited about this change and its one I do NOT understand. Why would they get rid of this fan favorite? I hope they reconsider this decision. We did not dine at Boatwright’s during our stay but I would imagine this would be the wiser choice if you are looking for authentic Louisiana cuisine.

Overall, I recommend this resort as a comfortable location with beautiful surroundings and fun recreational activities. Hopefully the food court will up its game with better offerings very soon.

See ya real soon Port Orleans and maybe next time, with my dog!

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom through July 4th! I went a few weeks ago to sip, savor, and see the tasty food and beautiful flower arrangements.

This is one of my favorite festivals at Walt Disney World, probably because I enjoy gardening in my own yard so much.

Come with me as I show you some of the beautiful garden and flower displays and wonderfully, tasty food they have to offer here.

Orange Bird Merch
The Lion King


Loved the topiaries of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Tinkerbell. And of course you have to smile when you see these three classic characters Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore.

Peter Pan and Captain Hook

Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet


I couldn’t skip a topiary in honor of my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. Lovely!

Belle and the Beast


Buon Giorno, Lady and the Tramp. I think Tramp is looking at me and smiling for the picture.

Tramp is looking at me


Such a serene spot. I couldn’t help but stand on this bridge and just listen to and enjoy the flowing water. Of course afterwards, I couldn’t leave without trying the Frushi and pineapple sake.

Frushi and Pineapple Sake
Bridge in Japan Pavillion


Germany brought Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as Kermit and Miss Piggy. I also stopped by Bauernmarkt for a cheese strudel with mixed berries. Yum!

Snow White and Dopey
Seven Dwarfs
Miss Piggy
Hi Snow White

Cheese Strudel with mixed berries


Did someone spot a troll?

Norwegian Troll


Loved seeing these amigos, The Three Caballeros.

Three Cabelleros

Honey Bee-Stro

So glad I stopped here. I tried the Lavendar honey mustard chicken flatbread with veggies, whipped ricotta, and goat cheese. This was very tasty. But the best item on any menu was the Local Wildflower Honey Mascarpone Cheesecake. This was excellent and I would absolutely try this one again.

The Cheesecake- This one was delicious!!

In addition to food and flowers, there is live entertainment. It was an absolutely incredible spring day and I can’t wait to visit the festival again soon!

Explore Key West

My family and I recently took a quick trip to Key West. I had not been there since I was in college (a loooong time ago) so I was happy to go back and explore the island again.

For any of you not familiar with Key West, it is the southernmost island in the Florida keys. Key West is about a 2.5 hour drive from Miami and about 90 miles from Cuba.

Something that you will see almost immediately upon arriving to Key West is the fact there there are lots of free roaming chickens and roosters on the island. There is a unique history about how and why they are so plentiful here but I enjoyed seeing them strut their stuff around town.

Key West Chickens

This tiny island has a vast history and is definitely worth a visit. Check out some of our stops below.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory:

I LOVED this place! An absolute must see in my opinion. The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory allows guests to walk through a live butterfly solarium filled with a variety of flowers, trees, water features, turtle, flamingos, and of course BUTTERFLIES! They are everywhere and it feels like paradise in there; like another world. To see these colorful creatures flying around, literally everywhere, and even landing on your shoulder is amazing. I could have stayed in there all day.

Butterfly at the Conservatory

Beautiful birds at the Conservatory
Flamingos at the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Ernest Hemingway House:

Another must see when in Key West is the Hemingway House. Ernest shared this lovely house with his wife Pauline during the 10 years he called Key West home. It is located at 907 Whitehead St, Key West. The property was purchased in 1931 and it has been said that Ernest produced some of his best work while living in Key West. Two interesting facts about this house are:

1. It is the only pool in Key West and a rather large one for that matter. Pauline insisted that she have a pool and had it installed while Ernest was out of town. It was very expensive and he was not happy about the cost of it once he returned from his trip. However, he soon got over it and enjoyed swims from time to time.

2. The grounds have upwards of 50 poly-dactyl cats roaming the property, all offspring from Ernest’s cat, Snow White.

When visiting the house, you can opt to walk through at your own pace or take the guided tour. I recommend the tour. You will learn a lot about the house and the man who lived in it. Note: This is a cash only location; no debit or credit cards taken here.

In front of Hemingway House
Ernest Hemingway memorabilia
One of the many cats at Hemingway House
Ernest’s bedroom. Yep… cats there too
View of the studio where Ernest wrote some of his greatest works
View from Ernest’s balcony


Can you go to Key West and not take a boat ride? I think not. There are a variety of scuba diving, snorkeling, sunset cruises, etc. to choose from. We chose the Rise and Reef snorkeling package which included a snorkeling trip to Lighthouse Key along with a light breakfast and beer/mimosa’s afterwards. There are two to choose from during the day: morning and afternoon. Check out Key West Water Activities for more information about the many water sports/boat ride options available.

Key West Marina
Lighthouse Key. Snorkeled around the coral reef in this area

Key West Lighthouse:

Want some exercise? Try climbing to the top of the Key West lighthouse. Located at 938 Whitehead St (across the street from Ernest’s house), you can climb the 88 iron steps to the top of the tower for a scenic overlook of the island and its surrounding waters. You can also tour the Keeper’s Quarters which have been restored to their original charm and view the displays of nautical artifacts, antique furnishings, maps and vintage photos. Definitely worth a stop along your tour.

View from a window in the Lighthouse
View from the Lighthouse

Conch Train:

If you want to get a good overview of what the island has to offer and its unique history, then take a ride on the Conch Train. This train makes multiple stops and runs throughout the day taking visitors past some of the most iconic, and not so iconic, sites on the island. The 75 minute train ride begins at the Front Street Depot and ends right behind it in Mallory Square.

Conch Train

Duval Street and Beaches:

After all of the touring, it’s time to relax. Take some time to relax at one of the beautiful beaches on the island (we chose Higgs Beach) and then enjoy the nightlife along Duval Street. Duval street is the place to be for shopping, dining, and live music. I recommend historic Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a historic hangout frequented by Ernest himself.

The famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Duval Street
Chicken Sculptures…did I mention chicken are everywhere in Key West!
At the Beach
Higgs Beach

Southernmost Point:

This marks the, as it states, Southernmost Point in the continental US. It’s actually just a monument marking the spot and is jammed between a private beach and some houses/hotels. There is a long line next to the monument just for pictures, which we did not stand in. To be honest, this is a quick 10 minute stop to basically take a picture and say you’ve been there.

Southernmost Point

We had a wonderful few days in Key West. This tiny island at the base of the keys is a packed with so many things to do. Several other sites of interest include the Mel Fisher Museum, The Audubon House and Tropical Gardens, Key West Art and Historical Society, and the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum. I would recommend staying at least 3-4 days to do and see everything on your list. Enjoy your trip!


It’s all Greek to Me: Our Trip to Athens and Santorini

In July, my husband and I took a trip to Athens and Santorini. This was a bucket list trip for me and also a last minute one, as we traveled to Greece right after Covid restrictions had been lifted for tourists.

In this article, I will highlight our trip experience and provide some helpful tips for planning your next vacation to Athens and Santorini. (Please check the Covid restrictions prior to visiting as they have likely changed from our trip in July.)

We flew into Athens and had reservations to stay at the Athens Gate Hotel, very near the Plaka. Our hotel was within walking distance to the Acropolis with spectacular rooftop views of the Parthenon. For those of you not familiar with the Plaka, it a vibrant, neighborhood at the base of the Acropolis with many restaurants, shops, and coffee bars. This is the place to be at night! Everyone was out, grabbing a drink or having dinner at one of the many tavernas in the area. We thoroughly enjoyed staying so close to the area. It was easy to grab a coffee, lunch, do some shopping, and just hang out and relax at night. It was also the central meeting location for our tour of the Acropolis and the museum.

Acropolis – View from the top of the Athens Gate Hotel

We booked a tour with an experienced guide who provided highlights of Greek history and mythology for our tour of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the museum. Note: Bring lots of water and good walking shoes! It was very hot in July and standing on top of that rock, in the sun and heat, was not easy.

In front of the Parthenon

Greek theater seating

Following our tour of the Acropolis, we explored the museum located a short walk away. This museum houses artifacts recovered from the plethora of history in the surrounding area. This should definitely be a stop on your Athens journey.

After lunch, we decided to explore the area further. Other stops during our trek included the Mitropoleos Church, Areopagus Hill, and Hadrian’s Gate. These sites are all within walking distance of the Acropolis.

Acropolis Museum

From the top of Aeropagus looking at the Acropolis

Greek church

Dinner in the Plaka

Athenian cat

Our evening ended with dinner in the Plaka at a restaurant, complete with outdoor seating, white lights in trees, and excellent food and drink. It is nice to sit and watch the activity on the street and pet the random street cat who quietly appears at your feet.

Tips for exploring Athens:

  • Brush up on your Greek history before your trip. You will want to have some working knowledge of what you are looking at and why it’s important.
  • Stay in a hotel near the Plaka. There is so much to do and see in this area that it’s worth the extra money. Try to get a hotel with a rooftop restaurant/bar for the beautiful, panoramic views.
  • If you are in Athens in the summer, schedule your tour of the Acropolis during the morning or early afternoon to beat the heat.
  • Try the Greek coffee and the Ouzo.
  • Athenians eat outside. It does not matter that it’s hot. You will end up eating outside. Period.
  • There are lots of alley cats, even walking around the outdoor seating areas of the restaurants. (I loved it. They seemed very happy and content.)

Exploring outside of Athens is a must do as there is just as much to see outside of the city center as in it. There are numerous 1/2 day or full day tours available that you can book through your hotel. Our choice: Delphi and the Temple of Apollo. This was a full day trip and 3 hour ride from Athens. Our guide, who had been an archeologist at Delphi, was a wealth of information and his knowledge of Greek history, and Delphi in particular, was impressive. Delphi is actually located in a very mountainous area of Greece (did you know Greece was the 3rd most mountainous country in Europe?). The tour included access to the Temple of Apollo and ancient sites as well as the museum. Our tour concluded with a lovely lunch at a local resort in the mountains, complete with ocean view.


Delphi – Temple of Apollo

Bronze Helmet: Delphi Museum


Lunch at this beautiful resort

Greek Village on the way to Delphi

Tips for exploring Delphi:

  • If you do go on a tour that includes lunch, please note that a lot of Greeks eat later in the day. I was starving by the time we actually ate lunch so pack a snack and some water if you eat at noon or before.
  • Pick a tour away from the city. The Greek countryside is beautiful and I enjoyed the ride to our destination.

Our next stop in Greece was the picturesque island of Santorini.

A big decision is how to get from the Greek mainland (Port of Piraeus) to Santorini, or any Greek island for that matter. You can fly, take the ferry, or take the hydrofoil. What is a hydrofoil? The best way that I can describe it is that is resembles a VERY large catamaran with many seats inside and it goes fast. It is meant to be the fastest water transport to the Greek islands. The ferry could take around 6-8 hours whereas the hyrdrofoil takes about 4. Keep in mind that the ferry/hydrofoil option is cheaper than flying but it does take up 1/2 a day of your trip. We chose to take the hydrofoil and it was very comfortable but in hind site, I think we would have opted to fly to save time. We did hit some waves along the way so if you get seasick, you will feel it on the hydrofoil.

You may or may not realize when you are in Santorini that you are perched on top of a volcano. The island of Santorini, and those surrounding it, are part of the Cyclades islands chain. Santorini was formed during a 1650 BC volcanic eruption which devastated the islands and but left the crescent moon shaped Santorini in its wake. This eruption resulted in a submerged caldera which is the only one in the world. The island itself is made up of black volcanic rock with stunning sunsets and beautiful, black sand beaches.


Greek Church – Fira

All ferries arrive in the tiny port at Santorini and there are plenty of buses taking visitors up the very steep side of the island to the towns scattered throughout the island. The two main cities are Oia and Thira (aka Fira). We stayed in Fira at the Aressana Hotel and Suites on the south end of Fira. This is a beautiful hotel located close to shops, restaurants, and of course, scenic overlooks. The staff are very helpful, and the food, delicious. Every detail here was perfected, (they even packed us a brown bag breakfast for our ride to the airport) and I highly recommend this hotel for your stay in Santorini.


Aressana Hotel

The hotel pool

Beautiful street in Fira

We spent our arrival day walking through the town of Fira, enjoying the shops, admiring the stunning views, relaxing by the pool, and enjoying dinner with a front row seat to the “sunset show”. Watching the sunset is a must when you are here. Grab a drink or dinner at one of the many restaurants to enjoy the sun slowly setting beyond the horizon.


Getting dinner while waiting for the Sunset show

  • Watching the sunset is the show. It’s beautiful here and not to be missed.
  • This island is very popular for honeymooners so be prepared.
  • Splurge on the hotel and get the upgrade. You want to be near the main towns for easy access to shops and restaurants at night. Parking is almost non-existent if you are driving over from another spot on the island.

The next day we booked a half day sail which included a hike to the top of Nea Kameni, a swim in the hot springs, and lunch on the island of Therasia. This was a busy day and a packed boat. Our trip started with the hike to the top of Nea Kameni which was a bit unnerving as it is still an active volcano. There was a hiking trail to the top and the hike itself was not overly strenuous. I was glad that I brought hiking shoes that could stand up to the hike itself and not rely on flip flops, as some others had.

From the top of the volcano: Nea Kameni

Heading for a swim in the hot springs

Hot Springs (you can see the reddish color in the water)

After that hike, we boarded the boat and headed to a tiny, uninhabited islet known for its hot springs. The water itself is warm and made up of sulfur giving it a reddish tint. Many believe that these springs have healing benefits. To jump into the silky, blue Aegean water one minute and swim 50 yards only to be enveloped by the hot springs was refreshing, yet unique. I wanted to stay longer but the boat was leaving soon for our next stop.

Our view from Therasia while eating lunch

Windmill on Therasia

Therasia is another island, like Santorini, formed by the volcano caldera. The town sits at the top of the rather steep climb and was just too much for most folks who had already hiked Nea Kameni. We opted to stay by the tiny seaside port and have lunch on the water. What a picturesque spot! This is exactly what you think of when you imagine a Greek fishing village with the colorful, wooden boats and turquoise water. After lunch, we sat by the water, enjoyed our ice cream, and took in the scenery.

The ride back to port took us past the towns of Oia and Fira and offered views of these quintessential Greek towns from a different perspective… looking up from the water. Such a beautiful site to see the whitewashed buildings and blue domed churches.

View of Oia from the boat


  • When booking a volcano boat tour, be aware that some of the finer details may be left out. We were only told that we would visit the volcano, optional swim to the hot spring, then to Therasia. My advice is to pack a bag with hiking shoes/sandals and a set of dry clothes to change into after your swim. There were some hiking to the top of the volcano in flip flops (not ideal). Keep in mind, you will have to wait your turn to change out of your swimsuit on the boat as it was crowded.
  • Pack water and a snack. Drinks were sold on the boat but it was a bit pricey.
  • Sunscreen! You may be sitting in the sun on the top deck of the boat and you will get lots of sun exposure.
  • Wear a hat
  • Try the local specialty for lunch

The mode of transport in Santorini is not a rental car. Don’t even bother. Like everyone else, rent the vespa or four-wheeler. The island is small enough to be able to enjoy the sites that you want to see, while still having fun on a scooter. Our next day plans consisted of a ride to Oia to enjoy the sites and shops there, then a wine tasting at Santo Wines, a stop at the beach, and a relaxing dinner at our hotel that evening. Oia was very crowded and parking, even for a four wheeler, was scarce.

After Oia, we headed to a wine tasting at Santo Wines which is located just south of Fira. We sat outside, overlooking the beautiful water and enjoyed sampling six, local wines along with a cheese plate and dessert. I could have stayed all day but Perissa beach was calling my name.



Blue domed church in Oia

Storefront in Oia

Wine Tasting: Santo Wines


Dinner at Aressana Hotel


  • Santo Wines: Book the tasting in advance and get the cheese plate. Sit outside and overlook that gorgeous view. You can buy bottles here and have them shipped home.
  • Make sure that your scooter or four wheeler is gassed up. There were no places to get gas in Oia on our route and we thought we were about to run out.
  • Oia is crowded and the streets, narrow. Plan accordingly.
  • The “peanuts” are actually roasted chickpeas. Pick up a bag and try a few different flavors. Delish!

The beaches at Santorini usually consist of black “sand” given the island’s volcanic history. There is a red sand beach as well which we did not visit. While I do like to relax at the beach, I am one to get in the water and enjoy a swim and the Aegean water felt like silk to me. I stayed in it for an hour. It was surprising, given how hot Santorini is, that the water was so cool and refreshing. I didn’t want to leave.


  • Black sand beaches are HOT on the feet. You can either do a dance all the way across the sand to the water or wear a pair of flip flops to keep on the sand to wear when you get out. Protect your feet.
  • Enjoy some time by the pool in the morning. Poolsides are more crowded in the middle of the day.
  • If you are interested in more Archeological sites while in Santorini, check out Akrotiri on the southside of the island. This buried city (Greece’s Pompei) was buried during the volcanic eruption.

That evening, our last, was capped off with a massage and a romantic dinner at our hotel.

View from the Aressana hotel restaurant

Our trip to Greece was all that I had imagined it to be. I am happy that we chose the tour and itinerary that we did and hope to go back one day to enjoy more of this beautiful country.