Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Child & Family Safety at Vacation Time

Vacations are the best times of our lives and we live for them.  Whenever families come to Central Florida they always go home with memories to last a lifetime.  The only thing folks seem to forget is that when vacationing everyone seems to let their guard down and forget that accidents can still happen even at one of the happiest times.

The parks in Orlando have many years of professional experience, studies, engineering, and safety measures designed to keep everyone safe.  They post rules for those with disabilities, physical or health conditions, height limitations, or pregnant mothers.  Often, people ignore the rules and increase their possibilities of getting injured.  Please follow the rules.  They are there for good reasons.  The fact is some rides are not good for you or your kids.  They may be too fast, to rough, or not made for small kids.  Kids who are too small for a ride will be turned away and if there is any question, there are always measuring poles at the ride entrances.

Although most parents want to anyway, you should ride with your kids every chance you get.  Keep them toward the middle of the ride or at least away from latches or straps where they could inadvertently unlock something.  Talk to them before boarding. Parents know that kids get excited and will throw caution to the wind so it's good to remind them this is more than a regular playground!

Also, the rides aren't the only hazards.  Play places at the parks are safety marvels but a fall is still a fall.  Another thing to watch out for is kids getting squashed when walking with a big crowd especially in the summer when the population swells and everybody is taking up every inch of walking space.

Be aware of wheelchairs, strollers, and hoverounds.  The theme parks are handicapped friendly and there are many motorized carts so watch out for people backing or trying to maneuver in tight spaces.

Unfortunately, where there are lots of vacationers, there can also be predators.  Keep an eye on your kids at all times and don't let kids watch kids.  My kids are teenagers and I just now feel comfortable letting them go to another ride without me.  They have to stay together and keep in touch with me by cell phone.  We establish where and when we meet again and don't let them be away from you for too long.  If they get lost or someone makes them uncomfortable teach them to go immediately to an employee who is dressed in uniform.  Of course, all the parks have security officers and they are the preferred choice but they cover large areas and  aren't always readily accessible.

Above all, don't go into restricted areas, unlighted areas, or places that are unpopulated, especially when returning to off-site hotels or restaurants.

Parents already know these things.  I mention them because we think about having good times and can let our guard down.  There are people who know this about vacationers and will take advantage of it.  We need our visitors in Florida and take their safety seriously so use caution and have a great summer.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Restaurant Marrakesh - Epcot

Epcot has wonderful restaurants and one of the most interesting is Restaurant Marrakesh at the Moroccan Pavilion.  Lunch is $27.95/person and dinners range from $15-$35.99.  Three are several sampler platters for about $36-38.00.  You can step into the world of Casablanca and forget where you are for a while.  The food is excellent, all served by a pleasant wait staff from northern Africa.

 Always hard to read I try to include the menu posted outside the restaurants.  There is a variety to choose from.  They have a large appetizer menu along with a full service bar.  My favorite is the couscous dinner which is a small semolina pasta with your choice of chicken, beef, lamb, or vegetables.  There is also fish, including salmon, chicken, and the shish kabobs are fantastic.

I rate this place an A for their charm, atmosphere, and food quality.  The staff is topnotch, and there is always somebody playing, singing, or dancing as pictured above.  The experience is unforgettable and Moroccan cuisine is very exotic.  Since I've never been to Morocco I can't talk to it's authenticity but to me it was awesome.  Prices are a little high but they do accept the Disney Dining Plan so it may be something you are interested in.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sea World -Vacation Package Deals

Sea World, Orlando, offers a number of vacation package deals for travelers.  If you book a stay at the on-site hotels, Marriott or Hilton, or with any of the partner hotels, you are also eligible for any of several packages.

First, when you book any 4 nights you get the 5th one free.  Not bad.  Also, you can book with hotels on the Eat Free All Day Deal.  This one offers all day dining at participating park restaurants valued at $29.99 each.  Then there is the package where you book with one of the hotels and get a free ticket to Aquatica, the Sea World Water park, for each participant.

There is also the 5 night stay where you get a Flex Ticket per person for any of 5 theme parks:  Sea World, Aquatica, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Wet and Wild.

Visit for more information.  There are a number of great sites where you can book vacation deals so shop around but these are all good.  Remember to visit reputable, well-traveled sites. There are scams out there so be careful.  Another note is that on this site as well as the others you can roll airline tickets into your deal so have fun and look around.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Raglan Road Irish Restaurant - Downtown Disney

Raglan Road Irish restaurant and bar is one I've written about before but it bears repeating.  The place is about as authentic as one can get with 130 year old bar wood brought directly from Ireland.  The dining room is spacious and inviting but still has the the dark corners of a true Irish pub.

If you go there on a Friday or Saturday night you can see Irish step dancers as in the photo.  The picture isn't out of focus - that is the speed they dance at.  It's really amazing.  Entertainment is dancing, singing, and they also have a band that plays on weekends. All rebel songs of course.

Dinner isn't a disappointment either.  At our table we everything from lamb shank, burgers, and chicken, all prepared by the menu and direction of Master Chef  Kevin Dundon.  We sat for hours and listened to the music.  I also met one of the managers, Steven Dulaney, originally from Dundalk.  He was a fine guy and it was nice to have him take the time. The photo below is a shot of our appetizer - bangers.  It's one of my family's favorites and we almost always have it when we go.

It's a lovely experience and if you want to go but not do the traditional dinner thing there's always Cooke's of Dublin next door, a traditional fish and chips stop.  Also enjoy the two outdoor bars with umbrellas and music till all hours.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Les Chefs de France - Epcot

This has got to be one of the most charming restaurants to dine at in the Disney parks.  Les Chefs de France is upscale French cuisine serving lunch and dinner from $15.99 - $35.99.  Set in the heart of Paris in the 20's the European charm oozes from every corner of the dining room.

You can enjoy authentic French food such as flat baked bread with cream fraiche, onion and bacon. Dinner specialties such as roasted duck (my recommendation) or broiled salmon are exotic but the menu is varied.  Naturally, the choice of fine French wines is a must all served by a gracious wait staff - all French.
This is the real Eiffel tower but there's an exact replica in France at Epcot Center.  The France of Epcot is built around the restaurant and the view even from the center tables is excellent.  It's a real dining experience.  No discounts here but they do accept the Disney dining plan.

I always recommend reservations because nobody wants to walk around all day and stand waiting to be seated.  Call 1-407-WDW-DINE (939-3463), or make reservations at guest relations when you first enter the park.  You will enjoy this experience.  The only thing they don't have is character dining here but everything else is spot on.  I give the place a "A" for quality, service, cleanliness, and cuisine.  Needless to say, a little pricey but all the restaurants at Disney are a little on the high end so if it's too much check out some of the more reasonable venues.  Enjoy.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - Walt Disney World

Probably the best of all the on-site Disney World hotels is the elegant Grand Floridian.  Built with the Victorian opulence of the old Florida hotels this is the "Grand Dame" of them all.  Located on the Seven Seas lagoon about 2 minutes from the Magic Kingdom by monorail it has several hundred rooms, 7 restaurants, 2 pools, and a full service spa (currently under renovation until 2013).

The Grand Floridian  doesn't come cheap.  Room rates range from $460 a night (2 queen beds) to $1660 a night (Victorian Suite).  There are several bars and nightly entertainment.   It also has loads of  activities for the kids like swimming, beaches, pirate adventures, arcade, character dining, and more.

We've only stayed there once in it's 20+ year history.  It's pricey for a family of four but quite worth it to say you've done it once. I an say it will take your breath away.  It's that beautiful.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New Fast Pass at Walt Disney World Theme Parks

Walt Disney World theme parks will soon unveil a newer, faster, Fast Pass technology.  It's designed to help park attendees better manage their day by stetting times and locations.  This way visitors can avoid some of the park lines, especially during the summer season when the parks fill up to capacity.

The idea was featured on local news but didn't give a lot of information.  The reporter who floated the story emphasized that it is an organizational tool for travelers (got that) but didn't really detail how it works.  He did say that it's been tested at the parks and appears to work so we'll see.  As soon as I learn more I'll post an addendum to this one.  Thanks for hanging on.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Universal Studios - Cinematic Spectacular

Two new happenings at Universal Studios, Orlando.  First is the "Cinematic Spectacular:  100 Years of Movie Memories".  This is a light show with 3 water screens that will run every night beginning May 8th, 2012.  Narrated by Morgan Freeman it will highlight the history of Universal Studios film-making since it began 100 years ago.  The show will run nightly with lights, shows on the screens, and Morgan Freeman's great voice.  It will also be accompanied by a water show and should be amazing.

Also, the all new "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem" ride, which will replace the old Jimmy Neutron ride.  This will be a virtual ride through the movie that the kids should love since it was such a blockbuster movie.  Looking forward to this one!