Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Moderate Resorts

Mayan Pool at Coronado Springs

Mayan Pool at Coronado Springs

This week I’ll continue with my Disney World Resort Series and venture into the world of moderate resorts. Moderate resorts are like the best of both worlds, you get more sophisticated theming and decorating but have many great amenities that value resorts possess. There are four moderate resorts on property, Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter (I’ve decided not to include the Fort Wilderness since they are kind of in their own category). I have now stayed at all 4 of these resorts and have enjoyed myself immensely at all of them. Here are some reasons why moderate resorts are the best. Some of my pros might be cons for other families in different situations so take these with a grain of salt. These resorts are very similar in what they provide and in the end, it might come down to theming preference for your family.

A similarity that I put into the pro category are the quick service food courts. Like I had mentioned in my Value Resort post, I like having the option of a food court. I don’t always want a sit down restaurant when I’m on the go or trying to save a buck. The moderate food courts have more themed specific options so you feel even more immersed, such as the French pastry beignets at Port Orleans French Quarter, jerk chicken at Caribbean Beach, or nachos at Coronado Springs.

Port Orleans Riverside: Plently of places to walk

Port Orleans Riverside: Plently of places to walk

While these moderate resorts are pretty large, they all have very beautiful grounds and walking paths for their guests. If you enjoy leisurely walks or like to run on your vacation, the moderates are an excellent choice for you. These hotels are so big that they allow for great walking paths. At the Port Orleans resorts, you can walk over bridges, cut through beautifully manicured lawns, and stroll down the rivers path. At Caribbean beach and Coronado springs, you can enjoy paths that take you around a giant lake, great for a morning of quiet reflection before the bustle of a Disney park. All of the moderates also have boat rental options for some added fun.

Now to get a little more in depth about each resort.

Caribbean Beach

Caribbean Beach

Caribbean Beach:
Caribbean Beach has that island flair with a tropical, laid back feeling. Buildings are named after the Caribbean Islands: Aruba, Jamaica, North Trinidad, South Trinidad, Barbados, and Martinique. This resort is perfect for families that enjoy the feel of a beach vacation or pirate theme. Speaking of pirates, you have the option to stay in a pirate themed room and sleep inside a pirate ship bed. Keep in mind, these rooms are an added upgrade and they are the furthest away from the food court. The main pool is also pirate themed. This is my favorite pool of all the moderates partially because I’m a pirate fan but also because there were a lot of neat nooks and crannies to explore. Caribbean beach also has it’s own restaurant, Shutters, which can be used as a table service option if you are on the dining plan.

Posing on the Island

Posing on the Island

For most guests staying in Barbados, Aruba, or Jamaica, you will need to cross 2 bridges separated by a tiny island named Caribbean Cay to get to the food court and pool. This island is a great spot for kids to explore, but it can also make a long walk to the food court and pool. Keep in mind at most of the moderate resorts, if walking is difficult or you are trying to reserve as much energy as you possibly can for the parks, you should think about possibly reserving a preferred room. If you’re unsure which room to reserve or you find the walk to be long, there is an internal shuttle at the Caribbean beach.

Pirate rooms at Caribbean Beach

Pirate rooms at Caribbean Beach

The shuttle moves in a circle around the resort stopping at all the “islands,” food court, and check in building. If the treck to the main pool is too long, all the islands also have their own quiet pools. They are not themed, but they are less crowded and will still feel great on a hot day. The buses for the parks also stop at all of islands. This at times can make travel time longer so plan accordingly. For me, one of the negatives of this resort is the room. I did not find it to be decorated as nicely as the other moderate resorts, however the rooms are currently undergoing a room renovation, and the updated rooms are quite lovely.

Coronado Springs

Coronado Springs

 

Coronado Springs:
Coronado Springs has a Southwest/Mexican Theme. The themed buildings at this resort include Casitas, Ranchos, and Cabanas. This is also the only moderate resort that houses a convention center and they have expanded their room options to include business levels and suites. This is a great option for someone looking for more amenities but not quite ready to pay deluxe level pricing. Coronado Springs also boasts an internal shuttle that runs throughout the resort. There are three quite pools in addition to the Mayan Temple themed main pool.

Rooms at Coronado Springs

Rooms at Coronado Springs

You will definitely be able to grab some Mexican food at the Pepper Market food court, or grab a bite by the pool. The grounds are very beautiful here. Again, this is great hotel to walk around the lake, a little under half a mile to go all the way around. I have to say that even though out of all the moderate resorts, this theme least appealed to me, I thought the room was beautifully decorated. It seemed so modern and less “Disnified.” Same as Caribbean Beach, buses to the park will make a bunch of stops before they head out. Try to give yourself plenty of time.

Port Orleans French Quarter

Port Orleans French Quarter

Port Orleans French Quarter:
Port Orleans French Quarter offers quaint New Orleans style building and a Mardi Gras themed atmosphere. You will see a lot of rod iron and filigree all over the place. This is by far the smallest of the moderate resorts, but a perfect option if you want the moderate price without the moderate size. There is no internal shuttle here, there is only one bus stop, and only one pool. This hotel has a lot of charm and its smaller size makes it a great choice for families of any size, age, or ability.

The possibly creepy to some food court.

The possibly creepy to some food court.

French Quarter has a nice food quart, although many people have mentioned they are creeped out by the larger than life Mardi Gras props hanging from the ceiling. I’m usually too hungry to notice such a thing. I’ll admit I was a bit more freaked out by the giant serpent trying to swallow me whole at the pool. One of my favorite things about French Quarter is that along with its sister resort, Riverside, both resorts are along a river. This adds some excellent walking paths (you can stroll back and forth between resorts giving you some more dining options) and the boat to Downtown Disney.

French Quarter Rooms

French Quarter Rooms

This is a huge perk. It’s like its own little ride down the river, past the Disney Treehouses, offering amazing views of Downtown Disney. Just an FYI, even though this resort is smaller, the theme park buses will make stops at Riverside so again, this will tack on some time. Plan accordingly.

Princess Rooms at Magnolia Bend, Riverside

Princess Rooms at Magnolia Bend, Riverside

Port Orleans Riverside:
Port Orleans Riverside is the sister resort to Port Orleans French Quarter. River side is divided into the Magnolia Bend Plantation style building and the more rustic Alligator Bayou. Some of the Magnolia Bend buildings have been renovated into new Royal rooms. If you use your imagination, you can pretend you are in a secret guest room of Cinderellas castle. Riverside has 5 quiet pools along with their main pool themed kind of like a fishing hole. The pool is on its own island and is just a short walk to the food court and table service restaurant, Boatwright’s. One of the cool things about the Alligator Bayou rooms is they all have a drop down murphy bed that could sleep a kid or very small adult. This is the only moderate resort that can sleep 5 people and that could be a huge money saving option that will allow you to enjoy more turkey legs in the park. Just like its sister resort, Riverside has beautiful grounds, paths, bridges, gardens and more. You will also be able to grab a boat down to Downtown Disney.

Beautiful grounds and a boat to Downtown DIsney.

Beautiful grounds and a boat to Downtown DIsney.

Overall, you can’t go wrong with a moderate. They tend to have very similar prices and are a great option for families looking for a little more peace and quiet than a value but are not ready to plunge deep into their pockets for a deluxe. Moderates can get down to $169 per night depending on when you choose to visit. Pick your perfect theme and you can’t go wrong. These 4 resorts offer Disney charm at an affordable rate. If you have any more questions on moderate resorts, please feel free to contact me.

Disney in the Summer…Mother/Daughter Style

CIMG8196 (Medium)Are people born with an addiction to Disney, or are they made? I have been heavily influenced by my mother, who fed my addiction from an early age. She just got out pictures from our first mother/daughter trip. It was the year 2000 and I was an extremely awkward looking middle schooler. No offense to my dad and brother, but on a girls only trip, we made our own rules, plans, and quickly learned what worked well for us. As two easy going gals, we could venture the “world” at our own pace, taking in the smells, people watching, and noticing the details in everything. Before I knew it, I wanted to know more and more about Disney World and I wanted to go back more and more to Disney World. And luckily for me, my mom could be easily persuaded to more frequent trips.

CIMG8615 (Medium)We just booked a trip at Disney World for this July and will be staying at the Beach Club Villas (This has become my new favorite resort). While we had sworn off Disney in the summer (I don’t do well in heat…sweaty everything) it just felt like the right time to go. After a year of ups and downs, we are feeling good, and sometimes you need to celebrate life and family. While I’m not trying to fool anyone, July will be hot, humid, and crowded, I do have a few suggestions for those traveling in hotter months, and/or are traveling with someone that isn’t looking to jump on every ride and hop from park to park.

CIMG8683 (Medium)Pick Your Top “Must Dos”
Do not feel like you have to tackle everything in the park. Use your Fastpasses to pick your top choices, and then maybe hit a couple more if the crowds aren’t too bad. You must be flexible and be ok with leaving the park if you didn’t get everything done you typically do on a February vacation.

Leave During The Hottest/Most Crowded Part Of The Day
The new Fastpass+ system has made this concept work even better. If you really can’t stand the heat, wake up early and hit the parks until maybe 10-11. Head back to the hotel and swim or nap and grab a bite to eat. Since you can now make Fastpass+ arrangement ahead of time, you can schedule them for the evening hours. Come back to the park around dinner time or later to catch the fireworks. The parks are open pretty late in the summer, usually 11 or midnight so you will still have plenty of time to have fun once the sun goes down.

CIMG3881 (Medium)Take Frequent Breaks
As noted above, when you come back to the hotel midday, use this time to check out the hotel’s pool, catch up on some sleep, sit in a hammock that some of the resorts have, just relax. Don’t be scared to take breaks at the parks too. Find a bench in the shade, enjoy some delicious ice cream, or relax on one of the longer rides. You body, mind, and soul will thank you for not overdoing it.

Stay Hydrated
When I was younger, I was definitely guilty of drinking too much Diet Coke on vacation. Now that I’m old and wiser, I realize I need to stay hydrated so I don’t get fatigued. As annoying as it might be to have to run to the bathrooms frequently from drinking so many fluids, dehydration and heat exhaustion don’t sound particularly appealing to me. Maybe try going back and forth between your beverage of choice and water.

CIMG8118 (Medium)If Possible, Avoid Outdoor Attractions
There are many attraction at Disney World where the entire show/ride is outside. While I’m not saying you should scratch these from your itinerary all together, I would wait until evening if at all possible. The attractions/shows that are mostly outdoors are as follows. Animal Kingdom-Kilimanjaro Safari, Epcot-entertainment around World Showcase, Hollywood Studios-Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Lights, Motor, Action Stunt Show, Beauty and the Beast, and Magic Kingdom-any entertainment in front of the castle, Big Thunder Mountain, Astro Orbitor, and Splash Mountain (unless the line is not bad since you will get wet). Save these for a cooler morning or evening and head to the air conditioned rides during hotter times of the day.

Have Different Shoe Options
Make sure to bring shoes that you can walk around in all day. If these shoes are sneakers, I would recommend also having comfortable sandals as well. On a hot day, your tired swollen feet will want some fresh air. But remember, Disney is NOT the place to try out new shoes. Make sure you are able to walk a few miles in your footwear before you deem them Disney appropriate. Also, summer tends to be the rainy season in Florida. Only having one pair of sneakers that are now squish can put a serious damped on your trip.

P1000476 (Medium)A little planning ahead of time can lead to a much more enjoyable vacation. It’s really easy when sitting at your computer with a light springtime breeze ruffling your hair to over plan a summer trip full of every attraction imaginable. Remember, simply checking attractions off of a listed itinerary is not the purpose of a Disney vacation, enjoying spectacular attractions with beloved friends and family is the purpose of a Disney vacation. Sore feet, sweaty clothes, and sunburned skin are easy ways to turn a majestic fireworks display intended to cap off your perfect day into a series of loud noises you can’t wait to end so you can finally collapse into bed. You’re much better off planning a relaxed, conservative trip that will leave you looking forward to the next attraction, show, meal, park, day, and vacation — although if Mother-Daughter trips to Disney have taught me anything over the years, it’s that the next attraction or meal is far less important than the next conversation, smile, laugh, and memory shared with your family.

Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Value Resorts

Getting cozy with Mr. Potato Head

Getting cozy with Mr. Potato Head at Pop Century

As a seasoned veteran of Disney World, I have stayed at the majority of Disney Resorts and have experienced hotels in every category available. This series is will tell you why each one of them is my favorite for one reason or another and might give you some insight on which Resort will be your best option for your next Disney World vacation. I’ll start this series with the Value Resorts. Disney has 5 Value Resorts on property, All-Star Music, All Star-Movies, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. I have stayed at 3 of these 5 but Value Resorts tend to be somewhat identical minus the theming.

So many photo opts, this is my friend Kendall at All-Star Movies

So many photo opts, this is my friend Kendall at All-Star Movies

Pros:

Theming
You can find that niche whether it be movies or pop culture, and experience it with larger than life replicas. There are hundreds of photo ops you could take with your family. These hotels are great for families that love characters, Disney movies, and want to be immersed in full Disney experience 24/7.

Affordable
The value resorts are super affordable for families that wish to stay on Disney property and for families that would rather save money to visit more often.

Buses
Even though buses are the only mode of transportation to get to the theme parks (as opposed to monorail, boat, walking, etc.) I found the value resorts to be very efficient. Now granted you will always get stuck waiting longer than anticipated at least once on your trip, but I believe the buses come more frequently here than at some Deluxe Resorts.

The food courts are huge and have something for everyone

The food courts are huge and have something for everyone

Food Court
This could be a pro or con depending on your personal preference. Granted the food court gets very busy during breakfast time, but the fact that these value resorts have giant food courts with many options is favorable to me. Sometimes I just want a quick bite to eat. I don’t want my only option to be table service meals because that can be time consuming and costly.

Both Art of Animation and All-Star Music offer family suites

Both Art of Animation and All-Star Music offer family suites

Family Suite Options
The All-Star Music and Art of Animation offer family suite options for parties of 5-6 people. The family suites are preferable to booking 2 separate rooms because you get a little living room with couch, kitchenette, and 2 bathrooms. Mom and dad get their own room while the kids can have a great time in the other section of the suite.

Cons:

Size
The walk to your room can be quite long unless you have booked a prefered room location. You might have to bribe you husband to go make the treck to fill up your refillable mug. Some of the layouts can be a bit confusing too.

Can get hot and crowded out here

Can get hot and crowded out here

Bus Stop
The value resort bus stops are basically chain linked queue lines that are out in the open. This can be a little annoying on rainy days or super hot days. Other categories offer covered bus stops and benches. Also, the lines can be very long, especially in the morning.

Proximity
Because these rooms are in the value category, the rooms are the smallest on Disney property. Squeezing 4 in a room might get a little tight, and the walls are a bit thinner than other resorts, but if you’re anything like me after a long day at the park, you will pass right out and won’t hear a thing.

The Generation Gap bridge links Pop Century and Art of Animation

The Generation Gap bridge links Pop Century and Art of Animation

Cool Fact
The Art of Animation Resort was originally going to be the second part of the Pop Century. The “Legendary Years” idea was scrapped after a decline in tourism post 9/11. The buildings were empty for quite a while. There is a bridge that connects the Pop Century to Art of Animation that you can walk on and go venture around the other hotel. I have seen alligators swimming in the lake that separates the 2 resorts.

Let’s face it, Disney World vacations can cost a pretty penny. Value resorts are an excellent option for families that prefer to spend most of the day at the parks or love a good Disney themed experience. They are affordable and true to their name, a great value, considering you get many of the perks offered at Deluxe Resorts: Magical Express, Disney transportation to/from parks, wireless internet, gift shops, pools, suites and more.

I love the 80s, and the Little Mermaid

I love the 80s, and the Little Mermaid

runDisney: Is it Your Marathon (or Half Marathon) Destination?

Greetings blog-reading people. With registration for the Disney marathon open (and almost closed already) it seems timely to field my first obsessive runDisney post. In case you couldn’t tell, this is Brad again.

Watching the first of many starts to the race

Watching the first of many starts to the race

Normal, human people with jobs and families and mortgage payments are deciding to run marathons in record numbers. People run 26.2 miles for a variety of reasons. Some run to cope with loss, to celebrate health, to mark milestones, or to test their fitness and resolve. I run marathons because life is pretty easy for me, but marathons will always stay impossibly difficult, and that’s their whole allure. As a veteran of 7 marathons, I still show up to the starting line excited and terrified about the 26.2 miles that will follow. I look forward to the same feeling when I show up to my 35th marathon. A blogger I follow describes this feeling as joyfear.

Training for a marathon has as much significance as running one. People train to feel that they have control over their lives, to feel daily, weekly, monthly, and marathonly accomplishments, or to get away from the mundane doldrums of life. Sometimes I train to get in touch with myself, my body, my food, my wife, or my beautiful hometown. Let’s be honest though, with the amount of snacks that Sandy and I enjoy, we realistically train for races to maintain some semblance of a slim waistline.

Waiting for the Wine and Dine to start

Waiting for the Wine and Dine to start

Marathon training programs range from 12-24ish weeks (yes, I’m aware that Jeff Galloway, official runDisney consultant has training plans that are much, MUCH, MUCH longer. I’d recommend reading literature from a variety of authors instead of trusting any single training program.(Of course I’d recommend lots of reading, I’m an English teacher.) Training for and completing a marathon is the kind of life accomplishment you will proudly tell stories about for your entire life, and as such it’s important to approach it with joy and care.

So if the question you’re asking yourself is “should I run my first (or next) marathon (or half marathon) in Disney?” here are some questions to structure your internal debate.

Watch me outrun this fire breathing dragon

Watch me outrun this fire breathing dragon

1. Are you a competitive runner? If you’re a competitive runner training for your first marathon, choose anyplace but Disney to run. There are infinity people walking on the course, and without a race to establish your running ability, you’ll start in a slow corral even if you’re an abulous, svelt twenty something in the prime of your fitness — yes, I invented the word ‘abulous’ to describe humans with beautiful and toned abdomens. If you’re competitive, you will get frustrated passing people who are jogging and walking, or stopping for photo opportunities with every character. This will ruin the race for you, and the people who annoy you. Competitive people running their first marathon won’t find Disney to offer a suitable platform for their first race. After setting a scorching time in a small, local marathon, Disney is a great place to race, because you’ll start with a large group of runners who are similarly accomplished to you, and you can steamroll a course with world-class food, drink, bathroom, medical, and entertainment offerings.

I cheered this big kid on the whole way

I cheered this big kid on the whole way

2.Do you have a family? Parents (or late-adolescent teens) who wish to run their first marathon will want it to be a huge event, and Disney will deliver. I know that when Sandy and I have kids, I look forward to crossing the finish line with them cheering me on, not because I will care about the familial acclaim, but because marathons are gigantic accomplishments, and Disney is a magical place for families to grow together. The self growth that occurs during a 26.2 mile race course is important for kids to see parents go through. It’s also important for parents to watch their kids, who are probably young adults if they’re toeing the line of a marathon, go through. (I’ll be equally happy sitting in the stands with our future kids watching Sandy run her next marathon.) If you have a family, and you’re looking to get that family on board with your marathon training and running, Disney is the perfect place to stage your first life-changing running event. Everyone will look forward to the date, and even a non-running family that doesn’t understand your strange obsession will support you.

Wine and Dine is a night run.

Wine and Dine is a night run.

3.How many marathons have you run? If you’re the average marathon runner who averages the same average result at her average marathon race because she’s 12 races deep, maybe it’s time for a change. Run really slowly through a runDisney event and take in the sights. Let’s face it, most runners are running to finish, not to win (myself included.) Will it really make any difference in the world if you run 8:30 min/mile pace or 11:30 min/mile pace? Nope. If you’re stuck in a rut because you’ve run so many local marathons, Disney will be a great place to expand your marathon horizons without straining your physical boundaries.

The course can get pretty crowded out there

The course can get pretty crowded out there

4.Are you a patient person? My patience is stressed every time a person who has only run last year’s Disney marathon starts giving me advice about marathons. “Really, you’ve run one marathon on one course once? Wow, you must be an EXPERT! Tell me more about the importance of nutrition on the one race course you’ve ever run on during that one day of your life!” I’m an average runner, but with seven marathons, and over 75ish races under my belt (I lost count), and after reading marathon training literature for ten years from Hal Higdon, Bill Rogers, Scott Jurek, George Sheehan, Jeff Galloway, Dean Karnazes, etc. and holding a minor in sports and exercise science, I have a really hard time listening to people with far less experience giving me, and everyone else within earshot, advice. Our last runDisney event allowed us to watch someone who had run one marathon give in depth advice about, get this, drinking more water during hotter races, to a man who, at the end of the bus ride, revealed that he was running his 42nd marathon, and who had finished 37th place out of 26,000 runners last year. As mentioned in my previous post, I have vowed never to ruin Sandy’s Disney vacations so I hold in the sarcastic comments listed above. I’ll gladly high-five a person who ran their heart out for 18 miles and is walking through a sunny section until the next water stop. I’ve stopped running on marathon courses to talk first timers through the wall. I have no patience for the person who hasn’t started his first marathon yet, but once read the majority of one book from one author about marathon training and will happily quote training principles incorrectly to everyone who will listen. An impatient, experienced, well-read runner may have a hard time at Disney. runDisney events are more festivals than races. It’s a different animal, and you have to approach it as such. If you’re patient with crowds, learning, and inexperience, Disney is a great place to run.

Not the backgound of your typical race. Plus you could hop on and ride.

Not the backgound of your typical race. Plus you could hop on and ride.

5.Are you looking for a race, or an experience? If you’re looking to race, go to an upstart marathon with 350 entrants on a gravel path somewhere in Boondocks USA. (I plan to run one of those in September.) You and blue-shorts girl will play cat and mouse for twenty miles and possibly high-five and meet for drinks after the race — and a nap. If you’re looking for an experience, runDisney will deliver. The expo is huge. The crowds are enormous. The medals are gigantic. There is a staff of thousands expertly trained to congratulate you on your race when you wear your shirt or medal the next day. There are thousands of people in the same place wearing the same shirt, and you can give a meaningful upnod, or share a full-blown conversation with like-minded people all day. Disney expands the race experience to multiple days, and for such a huge accomplishment, it’s warranted. There is merchandise and pageantry and pomp and circumstance and for one day, you will be a running demi-god regardless of your feeling about your race result. When you runDisney, every step is an experience — even the haphazard, shuffling steps that follow in the hours after a marathon race.

Pricey but fun

Pricey but fun

6.Are you rich? runDisney events are more expensive per mile than any other race anywhere in the world — when last I read an article somewhere. I’m confident they’re still among the most expensive races on the planet. If you’re pinching pennies, or even pinching quarters, runDisney is not for you.

I hope these questions and honest answers help you decide if a major runDisney event is for you. If you have questions about marathoning, half-marathoning, or runDisney, contact me at bkarpie@gmail.com and I’ll happily respond. If you have questions about Disney, Sandy would be a far better source.

I can go the distance!

I can go the distance!

Running a marathon is impossibly hard, but every step in the entire process is worth it. I’m prouder of my mediocre marathoning results than I am of multiple college degrees, jobs, and definitely more than any material possession. Anyone can lease a nice car, it takes a dedicated person to run, jog, and eventually shuffle through any long distance race