Sanaa; A Savannah Dining Experience

The Sanaa Restaurant located in the Kidani Village of the Disney Animal Kingdom Villas, is definitely a welcomed change of pace from your Disney adventures. Sanaa serves both lunch and dinner and is a pleasure that is missed by many but was enjoyed by my family at our last visit to Walt Disney World.

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Having planned our reservation to Sanaa on a day we were exploring the Animal Kingdom, we caught a bus to the Kidani Village from the Animal Kingdom Villas bus stop. The Kidani Village lobby is beautiful with a glass back wall, giving you a full view of the Savannah. The restaurant is found down the staircase in back of the lobby, and once there you feel as though you have arrived at an African Game Reserve: gazing upon giraffes, zebras, ostrich, kudu, and gazelles. After checking in for your reservation, walk out onto the deck. This view should never be passed up. It’s amazing to see the animals so close. You and your will family quickly get immersed in the wonder and magic of Disney and forget for a moment that you are still in Walt Disney World!

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I always encourage guests to talk to the Cast Members they meet, as you will hear fascinating stories of far away places and cultures. We met a special Cast Member, Bulelani, from South Africa, and he shared with us the many facts and stories about giraffes. We hung on his every word and really enjoyed talking to him! Did you know that giraffes in their native habitat sleep only 30 minutes a day? They take very short naps because of the constant danger of predators. We saw a giraffe lying down, and he told us you would never see that in the wild. So fascinating! Bulelani continued to entertain us by talking about his home, and we were amazed that there are 11 official languages in South Africa.

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Our adventure continued as our name was called and another wonderful Cast Member sat us at our table. Amee was from Botswana, and she told us that is was very hot in Botswana but that Florida was way too humid for her – she could hardly breathe!

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The menu at Sanaa is a fusion of African and Indian – the best of both worlds! They did include a Bison Burger on the menu in case your tastes were more traditional. The entrees were delicious, but the desserts could not be beat in display or taste! I had the Tanzanian Chocolate Mouse (my mouth waters just thinking about it today!). Everything on my plate was made of chocolate – including the butterfly and the writing on the plate! At this point, I became a little selfish, and would not share with anyone, no matter how much the begged; it was way too good!

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After the enjoying your meal, don’t let the adventure stop – be sure to explore the Resort! One place to stop is The Library. As you enter the lobby from the stairway, walk down the hall on your left… you will find a sign for the Library. We actually thought we were going to a Library (we are readers). However, we found a beautiful sitting room with an outdoor porch where you can sit in rocking chairs and enjoy the Savannah View.

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With the beauty of this Resort and the tremendous views, you can understand how easy it would be to get lost in the moment and feel as if you had been transported to the exotic continent of Africa! It was a perfect ending to our visit to the Kidani Village. Don’t you think it is time for you to enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

sylvia@travelwiththemagic.com

Beat the Heat! Indoor attractions to cool you off on your Summer trip

Indoor attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort to cool you off on your Summer trip

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Summer in Florida and California can get HOT. VERY HOT! But you can still enjoy your trip by planning out some cool off zones in each park. Finding a spot to cool off doesn’t mean you have to be bored or waste time away from the attractions. There are TONS of things you can do at any of the parks that do not require standing in the heat. Below are some of my favorites:

Animation Academy: (Hollywood Studios and California Adventure Park)
Take an art class from a Disney Animator! This is An Animation Experiencethat you won’t soon forget. The class lasts 20-30 minutes and there is even more to see and do inside the Disney Animation building at Disneyland and Animation Hall at Hollywood Studios. Plan to spend at least an hour cooling off here!

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Turtle Talk with Crush: (Epcot and California Adventure Park)
This show is geared toward kids but with or without children this is a must see. Crush is live and interacts with audience members which make each show unique. Everyone will laugh and you will remember why Crush stole the show in Finding Nemo. Turtle Talk is located inside The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot and inside the Disney Animation building in Disneyland. Both locations offer more indoor activities besides turtle talk so this could also easily be an hour or more of cool off time.

Turtle Talk

3D movies: (All Parks)
Even before you get into the theater to see the movie you get to wait inside for a little while and still be entertained. This maximizes the cool off time and gets everyone rested up and cooled off before the show. Each park has 3D movies available including Captain EO a resurrected classic featuring Michael Jackson (Disneyland and Epcot), MuppetVision 3D at Hollywood Studios and California Adventure), Its Tough to be a Bug featuring your favorite critters from It’s a Bug’s Life (at Animal Kingdom), and my favorite, Mickey’s Philharmagic at Magic Kingdom. Make time for the 3D movies and you will be refreshed and entertained, ready for your next walk in heat!

Live Stage Shows: (California Adventure, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios)
If you do not typically take the time to see the live shows you are really missing out! Not only will you get to sit down and cool off but you will get to experience Broadway quality shows that are unique to the Disney Parks. Some of my favorites include Festival of the Lion King (Animal Kingdom) which is an interactive musical and dance show that is non-stop thrills and fun the entire time. Finding Nemo-the Musical (Animal Kingdom), Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage (Hollywood Studios), and Aladdin-a Musical Spectacular (California Adventure) are wonderful retellings of your favorite stories with live actors, music, and some great special effects.

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Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor: (Magic Kingdom)
Like Turtle Talk, this show is always unique because of the audience participation and interaction with the animated characters from Monster’s Inc. Text your joke to a number you will see in the lobby before your show and they might use your joke in the show. Be ready to be a part of the show and the laughter when you enter the Laugh Floor. This is one I could do over and over again.

These are just a few of my favorites but of course I need to at LEAST mention some runners up, Kali River Rapids (California Adventure and Animal Kingdom), The Enchanted Tiki Room (Disneyland and Magic Kingdom), Innoventions (Epcot), and of course all the great movies and shows in the pavilions of Epcot’s World Showcase.

There are MANY more tips for keeping your cool during your summer vacation to a Disney Park. And don’t forget to add the Water Park Fun + More option to your tickets so you can cool off at the Water Parks and indoors at Downtown Disney’s DisneyQuest! For more info and help planning the perfect trip for YOUR family give me a call or shoot me an email, I would LOVE to help you book and plan your next magical vacation.

See ya real soon,

Aleshia

Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel with the Magic
~ 1-800-670-4312 ext. 139 ~ aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com ~Find me on Facebook ~

Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life

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The 15th Anniversary of the Animal Kingdom Park inspired me to write about the Tree of Life. The park opened on April 22, 1998, it is Walt Disney World’s 4th theme park located in Orlando, FL.  Along with the opening came the unveiling of the iconic Tree of Life. The tree is located on Discovery Island. The island is the central hub connecting all of the lands in Animal Kingdom. The only area not connected is Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

The park is the largest of all of the Disney theme parks, coming in at over 500 acres.

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The Tree of life is a whopping 145 foot tall, 50 foot wide park icon that is a symbol of animal conservation, creativity and beauty. The tree was designed by more than a dozen artisans. There are more than 325 animals intricately carved into the roots and branches at the base of the tree. The tree also has over 103,000 leaves attached to 8000 branches that bend & sway like regular trees.  To get an up-close & personal look at the carvings, take a walk on the Discovery Island Trail.

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The construction of the tree had to withstand the Florida climate that includes hurricanes, winds and massive thunderstorms. The plan was to build a steel structure like that of an offshore oil platform. For the tree to sway it has a giant expansion joint that encircles the tree at each branch. It took 18 months and thousands to construct the tree.  At the base of the tree you will find a 430 seat theatre that plays an 8 minute long 4D movie called, “It’s Tough to be a Bug” based on the Disney Pixar film A Bugs Life.  Starring in the film is Flick, everyone’s favorite Ant and Hopper. Be prepared to wear 3D glasses and become immersed in the show as a human bug.

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The Tree of Life is truly amazing. As they say at Disney, this is a “must do attraction”.  Park admission is required.  Are you ready to plan a trip to the World? Let me help you!

I am Allison King a Travel Agent from North Carolina.  I am affiliated with, Travel with the Magic.

To learn more about Animal Kingdom and all things Disney, find me on Facebook or Pintrest

Contact me at Allison@travelwiththemagic.com or 1-800-670-4312 ext. 134

I’d love to help you plan, a magical Disney vacation for your family & you.  Don’t forget to order Photopass Plus when booking your reservation.

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Why I love the Playgrounds at Disney World

Disney Playgrounds

We all know Disney has awesome rides, attractions and restaurants but did you know they also have some great playgrounds? I bet I know what you’re thinking…Why in the world would I want to pay money to go on a Disney vacation and have my kid play in a playground? I can do that at home, thank you very much. I completely understand and I’ll be honest, the playgrounds used to drive me nuts because I had to drag my children out of them kicking and screaming every single time. Well, I’ve since changed my ways and now I’ve come to embrace the playgrounds.

My 8 year old son particularly has A LOT of energy, as most young children do. I discovered while at the parks, most of the time, we were either walking to and from rides, standing in line or sitting down riding a ride. While this does allow movement (and certainly can be exhausting), my son thrives off running, jumping, sliding and spinning. I noticed whenever we would come across a playground, that’s where he would have the time of of his life. I’ve since learned to make time for active play with playgrounds (and swim time too). In case you aren’t sure where the playgrounds are located, here you go!

Playgrounds at the Resorts

You will find playgrounds at many of the Disney resorts. They are usually your standard playgrounds with swings, slides and tunnels. Some are more elaborate than others. A couple of our favorites are at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort and Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort. The kids can enjoy playing on the playgrounds which are located on the beaches of Bay Lake. If you time it right, you’ll also get a great view of the Electrical Water Pageant as it goes by each night. Disney’s Coronado Springs also has a pretty impressive playground near the Dig Site pool you won’t want to miss if staying there.

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Playgrounds at the Parks

  • The Boneyard, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is amazing! A two story elaborate playground designed to look like a dinosaur dig site. It’s complete with slides, caves, an area to dig for “bones” and a water feature to cool off.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is another elaborately themed, interactive playground which makes you feel like you’ve shrunk down to the size of a bug. You are surrounded by huge grass, ant tunnels, a sniffing dog and other oversized details you won’t want to miss. There are also a couple of water features you may want to hit (or dodge).
  •  Tom Sawyer Island, located at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park. OK, so this one isn’t “technically” a playground like I’ve been discussing but it’s an island where kids are free to run around and burn some energy. It features caves, a barrel bridge, a rope bridge, mine, dirt paths and an old fort. Did I mention you’ll need to take a river raft to get to the island which is a unique experience in and of itself? Please note: Tom Sawyer Island is quite rugged and not wheelchair accessible.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Located at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park. You’ll find this interactive playground inside the big top tent located at the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction. Use the standby line and you will receive a pager upon arrival. Kids are then free to play in the air conditioned playground featuring a toddler play area, fun sound effects, flying nets and slides instead of standing in line (Best. Concept. Ever.). Your pager will let you know when it’s time to ride. If the kids are still having fun, you can stay and play and ride later.

Dumbo Playground

Seasonal Playgrounds

My personal favorite of the playgrounds are the ones you can find at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival each year. My kids LOVE these and I enjoy sitting on the “grass” taking in the beautiful atmosphere the festival brings each Spring.

Flower and Garden Festival Playground

Tips

  • Keep an eye on your child. It can be tricky so be prepared! If your child is older, you may be able to sit at the entrance if there is only one way in and out. Have them check in with you regularly. With younger children, parents may need to split up, one go with one child and another can keep an eye on the entrance. Be sure to set up a meeting place in case someone gets lost.
  • Make sure kids don’t get overheated! Florida weather can often be hot and humid which doesn’t usually go well with running around. I recommend bringing a mist fan and having a cold beverage near by.
  • Set time limits before entering a playground. This will help children not become over exhausted or over heated. It will also make it easier to get them out and on to other attractions if they know ahead of time they have X amount of time to play.
  • Bring a change of clothes. Some playgrounds have water features so kids may get wet.
  • Lots of little hands touch play equipment- bring sanitizer.

The Boneyard Playground

While I may prefer to ride leisurely on one of Disney’s rides, obviously my son prefers to be active. It took several vacations until I came to the conclusion…We are all different and it’s not just my vacation, it’s for the whole family. Each family member should be able to enjoy whatever it is that makes them happiest, even if it’s a playground. We used to have our fair share of arguments on vacation. We’d get to a park and my family (full of hard heads) would start fighting over what we wanted to do first, getting little accomplished in the process. Now we have conversations during our vacation planning about what is most important for each person to do for that particular trip before we even get in the car. Each person has a list and we make sure they get to scratch off their top picks so no one leaves unhappy. We all have to compromise at some point.

If you have an active child who enjoys getting lots of physical play, I would encourage you to take time out each day to allow them to get some energy out. They’ll be happy and you’ll get a kick out of watching them enjoy themselves.

If you are considering a trip to Disney World, feel free to contact me at corby@travelwiththemagic.com. I’d love to assist with your Disney vacation planning!

Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park