Our one day at The Flamingo Inn Daytona Beach Shores, Florida

Yep, one day. We aren’t really beach people, but we decided to kick off our trip with a quick stopover at the beach before our jam-packed Walt Disney World vacation began. We wanted somewhere that was a quick drive to get us to Disney the next day, so while scanning a map of Florida I settled on the Daytona Beach area.

The Flamingo Inn was chosen because we didn’t want an expensive place, and the reviews were decent on Trip Advisor. I believe we paid around $65-ish for our off-season midweek stay. No complaints there!

The Flamingo Inn is located about 2 miles south of the Boardwalk area, which is where we drove to that night to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack. (We actually thought we were going to Crabby Joe’s, but ended up at Joe’s Crab Shack by mistake. We stayed at Joe’s Crab Shack however,  and it was a lot of fun!)

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Visiting the Georgia & Florida Welcome Centers

We live approximately 900 miles from Walt Disney World. We have never flown to Florida, so we’ve driven every one of those miles. While heading down I-95 South recently we stopped in to visit the brand new Georgia Welcome Center. And no trip is complete without my free cup of OJ from the Florida Welcome Center!

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The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue Review

Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue ReviewThe Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a dinner show located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground near the Magic Kingdom. The old west theme features singing, dancing, audience participation, and a whole lot of good food.

Gary and I had talked about going to the Hoop-Dee-Doo for a while now, but just never found the right trip to fit it into our schedule. On our most recent vacation this past April, Gary booked it as a surprise for me. Spoiler alert: we both loved it and we’ve already talked about going again on a future trip.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Restaurantosaurus

It’s the End of the World As We Know It, and I Feel…….FULL:  A Restaurantosaurus Review

Restaurantosaurus at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park

If you ask anyone to name my favorite thing in the world to do, they would probably say……..sleep.  But, if you asked them my SECOND favorite thing to do, they would probably say EAT.  So, it should be of little surprise that we take our Disney World feeding itinerary very seriously.

There are no shortage of food options spread across the parks and resorts and those choices can be a little bit overwhelming at times.  They can also add up in price if you don’t sprinkle in some of the more affordable options, or “quick-serve” restaurants, to go with the more high-end “signature” dining experiences that are offered.

Lower pricing does not always mean you are going to get a lesser experience, however.  You just need to do your research or, in the case of the restaurant I’m covering today, stumble upon it completely by accident.  The quick-service spot I’m referring to is Restaurantosaurus located in the Dinoland area (naturally) of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.

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Visiting Mayberry

On our road trips to Florida – we start in northern West Virginia, straight down to Charlotte, over towards Columbia, connecting to I-95 and passing by Savannah and Jacksonville – we have often stopped at a GoldeVisiting Mayberryn Corral restaurant in Mount Airy, North Carolina. We’ve eaten there at least 5 times now. The servers are so nice and there is definitely southern hospitality on display.

I’ve always heard that Mount Airy was also known as Mayberry – the setting of The Andy Griffith Show. I will admit that I haven’t seen that many episodes of the show, but I work in Don Knotts’ hometown where one can drive on Don Knotts Boulevard and have a photo op with a statue depicting him. One local TV channel still broadcasts the show daily.

So coming back from Florida we hit the Golden Corral per usual, then I suggested we actually take a drive into Mount Airy for an hour or so. Usually we’re in a big hurry to get home and do all the not-so-fun after vacation stuff like loads of laundry so you couldn’t blame me for wanting to extend our road trip just a little bit.

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Seasons Change, even in Disney’s Epcot, and now I’m at the Point of No Return

Exposé Epcot

I am unapologetically a child of the 80s. We always have the fondest memories of, well, everything that we enjoyed when we were growing up, but specifically as it relates to pop culture. There’s just a special feeling about seeing that movie from your childhood that you probably remember as being far better than it actually was. For me, some of those films are The Goonies, Revenge of the Nerds, Night of the Creeps, Fraternity Vacation, The Care Bears Movie 2………..well, I could go on, but you get the idea. Some are considered classics. Others…..not so much. Television shows are treated the same way. I’d do anything to get a box set of the complete series of Small Wonder. Yes, that’s the show about the little girl who was the robot servant for an inventor and his family.  Was it good? Heck no. It was awful. Do I love it? Heck yes, it reminds me of those care free years of my youth.

Gary Exposé sign at Epcot

That being said, nothing dates a certain period of time more than the music that was released along the way. In the 1980s you had the emergence of Michael Jackson and Madonna, legendary bands like U2 that are still relevant to this day, the height of hair metal, and dozens of other acts that were given so much personality not just from their lyrics, but through power of television. MTV was beaming music videos into houses all over the world and we felt closer than ever to our favorite bands and musical groups.

One such group, whose music really takes me back my adolescent years in the 80s and 90s, goes by the name of Exposé. Do you remember them? If not, you’re not alone. Over time, I had kind of forgotten about them, and I am so ashamed. How could anyone forget the singers that brought us such amazing songs as “Seasons Change”, “Point of No Return”, “Let Me Be the One”, and, my favorite, “I’ll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me”? Well, I rediscovered these amazing women recently and I only have one thing I can thank for that: the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World.

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Hanging out at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar at Disney SpringsThere is plenty of adult oriented things to do at Walt Disney World, and one of the things the two of us love is visiting the bars on property.

Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is located in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), a shopping, restaurant, and entertainment district on Walt Disney World property that does not require a ticket for entry. (On our most recent visit in April, I barely recognized Disney Springs. So many new stores and restaurants since our last visit made it resemble an outlet mall in some parts. Only when we found the World of Disney store did it start to look like the Disney Springs of old.)

We visited Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in 2016, right before we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship for our spring vacation.

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Hooray for Hollywood: Our Stay at the Hollywood Orchid Suites

Hooray for HollywoodLast fall Gary and I spent 3 nights at the Hollywood Orchid Suites, a hotel located in the heart of Hollywood. If you’re into all the touristy things Hollywood has to offer, the location is pretty much amazing. The hotel is at the end of what was essentially a dead-end street, with an easy entrance way to Hollywood & Highland and to Hollywood Boulevard. We hit the ground running as soon as we got there, and we were just amazed that we were in the middle of the action in a 2-minute walk.

We had room 203, a deluxe suite with 1 king bed and sofa bed. The room was next to the breakfast area and overlooked the pool. We had a nice big living room/kitchen area with full sized appliances. The hallway led you to the bathroom and bedroom. I was happy that the bedroom was not near the door since you can hear a lot of hallway noise at most hotels. (However, a few times I could hear music coming from the building next door while I was in the bedroom.)

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7 Reasons to Stay at a Walt Disney World Value Resort

7 Reasons to Stay at a Walt Disney World Value Resort

Disney categorizes their resorts by how much you’re going to pay for them. You start with value resorts and work your way up to multi-room villas in the Disney Vacation Club “home away from home” properties. In between you have moderate and deluxe resorts. Let’s check out the fantastic value resorts at Walt Disney World!

Disney’s All Star Sports, Disney’s All Star Music, and Disney’s All Star Movies were the first of the values, built back in the 1990s. These 3 resorts, all lined up in a row, are in the Animal Kingdom park area of Walt Disney World.

In 2003 Disney’s Pop Century came along, and finally in 2012, the latest value resort, Disney’s Art of Animation, debuted. These 2 resorts are separated by Hourglass Lake, but it is an easy walk between the two by crossing the Generation Gap Bridge. These resorts are in the ESPNWide World of Sports area.

Here are 7 Reasons to Stay at a Walt Disney World Value Resort:

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Why We Love Disney Vacations

Why We Love DisneyFor our first post on Happiest Traveling, we thought we would talk about why we love Disney vacations so much. After all, we’re a *cough* middle-aged couple without kids. Why do we devote so much of our hard earned vacation time and money to the mouse? Gary’s up first.

Why do I love Disney vacations?  That question can mostly be summed up in three simple words:  “The Bubble Effect”.  If you don’t know what the “Bubble Effect” is, it’s pretty self-explanatory.  When you’re on Disney property, particularly Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, you literally FEEL like you’re in a bubble.  The outside world, with all of your worries and responsibilities, disappears.  You can go for miles on Disney property and not see a gas station, a convenience store, or even a chain restaurant (unless you count the one McDonald’s on property to keep the kids happy).  You really do feel like you’re millions of miles away from your normal, everyday life.

The Orlando Disney experience particularly gives this vibe because of the huge amount of property that is encompasses.  You could literally make a whole vacation out of just touring the resorts and restaurants on property and never once set foot in one of the four main parks.

Of course, to get this full “bubble” experience, you have to actually stay on Disney property.  When you’re in their “world,” for however long your stay happens to be, you really never have to leave.  Though it’s completely permissible to use your own vehicle to travel from park to park, you can also use Disney buses to move from resort to park, park to park, or park to resort.  Nervous driver like me?  No problem.  Once you’re in the bubble, you don’t HAVE to drive at all.  With all of that being said, it is nice to have that freedom if you desire to make your own way from attraction to attraction, but knowing you don’t HAVE to do that takes a lot of weight off your shoulders.

Happiest Traveling Jaime & Gary with Marie

Is being inside the Disney “bubble” the only reason to visit Walt Disney World?  Of course not.  While I fully believe anyone can have a blast there with a properly planned vacation, it certainly helps if you open yourself up to enjoying all of the magical experiences Disney has to offer.  I personally, though, wouldn’t have nearly as much fun at PGA World, or Grey’s Anatomy Land, or…………well, you get the idea.  I love Mickey and his friends, and that’s a big plus when being completely surrounded by all things Disney.

To sum things up, go for the bubble………stay for the magic.

 

Now for Jaime’s take.

Gary and I decided to go to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando for our honeymoon in 2010. He had been there before on family vacations, but this was my first trip. Actually, it was also my first time in Florida.

As a kid I never really went on vacations. I grew up the youngest of 4 with a single mom, so vacations weren’t a top priority. We had moved to West Virginia from Michigan in the 80s, so we often went back to the Detroit area during the summer to visit family. But even that stopped after a few years. When my sister moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina I finally got a real vacation. As much of a vacation you can get with staying in your sister’s house and all of your meals coming from the grocery store Food Lion, but I got to see the ocean for the first time when I was 16. I still haven’t been to the Dixie Stampede, but I hung out at the Surfside Pier for a week, and it was a great summer.

 Happiest Traveling Jaime & Gary at Osborne LightsMy other sister had gotten a big fat tax refund one year, and she booked a trip for all of us to stay at Walt Disney World for a few days. We had a room at one of the All Star resorts. I was beyond excited. And then she canceled it.

I had forgotten about a Disney for a while until I met my supervisor when I was a student worker in college. She had just gotten back from a Disney vacation. (The nerd that I am, I can still remember where she stayed – the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort.) She showed me a bunch of photos and told me all about it. I was enthralled. She was a Walt Disney World veteran so I got to hear many, many stories of her trips. I was more determined than ever to get there one day.

When I met Gary I told him about my dreams of a Walt Disney World vacation. He suggested we take a trip there (before we were engaged), but I thought that it would be more awesome if my first ever trip to the World would be on our honeymoon. So that’s exactly what we did.

We didn’t have internet at home at the time (country living) so I remember we booked our hotel room for our Universal Orlando portion using our laptop on McDonalds’ wifi. We had 5 nights at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, followed by 2 nights offsite at a hotel across the street from Universal Orlando. It was the fastest week of my life.

Happiest Traveling Jaime & Gary with the Disney Dream

Because I spent a lot of time planning our DIY wedding, I didn’t spend as much time planning our honeymoon. I was bitten by the Disney bug so I became an uber planner for our next trip, which was two years later. TWO YEARS LATER. (In all honestly, I thought our honeymoon would be my first and only time there.) In those two years I became Disney obsessed. All I listened to were Disney podcasts. The only things I followed on Facebook were various Disney sites. I couldn’t stop buying Disney related items on Etsy. I learned everything I could. When we finally crossed the entrance to Walt Disney World (Where Dreams Come True) I may have shed a tear or three. And guess where we stayed? Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter. It remains my most favorite of all of our Disney trips.

We’ve now stayed at 13 Disney resorts, been on a Disney cruise, and visited Disneyland for my milestone birthday last year. This year we became Walt Disney World annual pass holders. Disney is definitely my happy place.

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