13 October 2009

Where magic lives

Every time there is a Gazette Roundtable, I cannot express how excited I get by thinking about the possible responses. Currently these may seem like generic questions, but the stories that unfold out of these simple, almost mundane, questions always remind me of how much magic one place or one moment can hold. Honestly, I wish we could have a dozen or more participants each time we do one of these so that we could gather more responses, but 2,200 words seems like more than enough, huh?

Today’s question, and for those of you playing along at home please feel free to provide your own answer in the comments section, comes from our own panelist.

Roundtable Topic: What is your favorite resort?
Roundtable Guests: Elizabeth Caran (Take the Monorail), Fiona Doyle (DF’82), Tony Caggiano (The W.E.D. Page), Greg Grimsley (The Disney Obsession), Eric Hoffman (Netmongrel), Chris Fore (Yet Another Disney Blog), and myself.
Fiona – This is a really tricky one for me...there are so many Resorts and so many advantages (and disadvantages) to each one. As I find it near-to-impossible to stick to just one answer when it comes to Disney, I have two favourites and for two different reasons.

My first favourite would be the Caribbean Beach Resort. It was the second Disney resort I ever stayed in with my family, many, many years ago when I was a young Princess. We had previously stayed at the Port Orleans Resort, but only for two nights, and so this trip we stayed at Caribbean Beach for a longer time - I think it was a week. I don't remember too much about the Resort at the time - but I remember the fun we all had staying there, and how much my Gran loved the Mickey Mouse toilet paper! I remember getting my hair-wrapped and lounging by the pool with my family, and the calming atmosphere of the Resort.

My mum and I were lucky enough to go back and stay there this year, and I fell in love with the place all over again. It is so peaceful, and I enjoy the walk to the food court and 'shopping area' - first thing in the morning it is a beautiful, serene Resort.

My second favourite would be Animal Kingdom Lodge, mainly due to the theming of the Resort. The beauty and the detail that has gone into the construction and creation of the Resort is truly breathtaking. Although I would not call myself an animal lover in the strongest sense, the closeness to animals and natures that one feels while they are here is immense. My mum and I stayed here and every morning we woke to giraffes, and I still love her face as she would peer out the window shouting 'There's another one! And another!'

Eric – First of all my wife and I view the resorts as destinations in and of themselves, and we have made it policy to only stay onsite when visiting WDW. We even take time during our trips to resort hop, taking in the sights and sounds, and try to always dine at at least one resort restaurant each trip. We LOVE the resorts!

My current favorite resort is Disney’s Yacht Club. It gets the nod due to its theming and styling which is New England ocean-front nautical. Crisp white trim and gray siding evoke the sea and the architecture you find on the coast. There is even a light-house styled loading dock for the Friendships that travel Crescent Lake. The Yacht Club really matches my love of the ocean and all things nautical.

I also love where this resort is situated, straddling Crescent Lake and opposite the Boardwalk area, another favorite area of WDW. The lobby is bright and elegant but not TOO stuffy. It almost feels like you are staying with your uncle for a week of care-free fun. It’s okay to walk through in a wet bathing suit too - they don’t mind! After all, the ultimate on-site pool, Stormalong Bay, is right next door and you have full access. Highly themed with amazing water slides, zero-depth entry, sand bottom, and wrecked pirate ship, Stormalong Bay is just an amazing pool!

The entire resort is so full of atmosphere. As night falls the lights sparkle on Crescent Lake, and the entire resort takes on a whole new character. You COULD even forget that you are at Disney World - not that not that you’d want to. During our stay at the Yacht Club we had a 4th floor room overlooking the lake, marina, and light house. At night the distant bells of the Friendships can be heard mingling with the music from the Boardwalk. So peaceful! If your room is high enough up you can even catch some of the fireworks from Illuminations.

Yacht Club will likely remain my favorite resort - at least until we are able to stay at the Polynesian!

Chris – Do I have to pick just one? Seriously, picking a favorite resort is like picking a favorite theme park -- each has something to love. When it comes to picking where we are going to stay on a given trip, we often start by asking ourselves a few key questions:
"What is our budget for this trip?"
"Where do we want to eat?"
"Which theme park(s) do we plan to visit?"
"What other activities do we have planned?"

If I have to pick just one, it has to be the Grand Floridian. This is a sentimental favorite for me (I spent my wedding night there). But more objectively, the G.F. also offers: elegant theming (we love the live piano and jazz music), direct monorail access, and outstanding dining options at multiple price-points (everything from the G.F. Cafe to the incomparable V&A).

And now, for the Honorable Mentions (assuming the editor gives me enough column-inches)...

Best Theming -- Wilderness Lodge. First of all, I love the National Parks / Pacific Northwest theme. On top of that, add a fantastic lobby, excellent details, inspiring background music, and respectable dining.

Favorite "Bang for the Buck" -- Port Orleans: French Quarter. We enjoy the intimate scale and festive theme (especially in the lobby and pool areas). Although the dining options are limited, we use the complimentary boat transportation to Downtown Disney for many of our evening meals.

Favorite non-WDW Disney Resort -- Disney's Grand Californian. This resort combines theming similar to the Wilderness Lodge with dining options and service comparable to the Grand Floridian (the food at Napa Rose is seriously great). Add in the fact that you are walking distance from two theme parks (one of which is the amazing Disneyland), and you have a destination that is hard to beat.

Greg – I remember film in which Harold Ramis and Bill Murray answered a question by replying, “We are willing to learn. Yeah, would they send us someplace special?” I don’t know why that comes to mind when I think about what is my favorite Disney resort.

I suppose it comes from the simple fact that I haven’t a favorite resort. That is, if having stayed in the resort is a qualifier. Now, if we can simply state what is our favorite resort, whether or not we’ve stayed there, the Grand Floridian would win. No question in my mind. It is my “dream” resort.

The reason I have not brought myself to stay there is due largely to the fact that I am rarely in my resort room. My visits are still mostly about being out and about on the property. With that, I can’t justify spending a considerable amount of money for a space that set empty most of the time during my visit.

This is changing. My wife and I like to take enjoy taking short weekend trips with a goal of staying in grand or unique hotels. If we can get there by two-lane highway, it becomes an added treat. I like to think we have stayed in some nice hotels.

But when it comes to grand, they don’t come much grander than the GF. It echoes back to a simpler time, but also to a time when leisure was a valued concept. This is leisure that we created and manufactured for ourselves; not a product that we purchased. It pays homage to a period in time when the pampering resort was the destination, not simply a place to stay while visiting a destination. The resort was a place to relax, not recharge for the next thing – it was the next thing. It is the destination for finally reading the book that you have been meaning to read, to lounge by the pool or have a quiet stroll with your bride. It is a destination that allows you to catch up with life.

Someday, hopefully, in the not-to-distant future, I will do these things. I will journey back to a by-gone era of simple pleasures and spend those few days at this grand destination with my bride. Then I will be able to say, as a matter of fact, and not fancy, that the Grand Floridian is my favorite resort. Not merely my favorite Disney resort, but favorite the world over.

Elizabeth – This is a very difficult question, as I like different resorts for different reasons. But I feel that my absolute favorite is the Contemporary - Magic Kingdom view. The reason I have to specify a view is because THAT is what makes it my favorite! Although a view of Bay Lake is lovely, I can stay at the Wilderness Lodge and get that... so it just changes my priorities.

Anyway, I love the clean, modern decor of the resort, and I really love that it goes up rather than sprawls out. This cuts walking time. The monorail going through is simply neato, both for convenience and aesthetics, and although the lobby can get loud, it never is when I really need it to be quiet. Noisy times are times I tend to be in the parks.

The best part? Watching Wishes from the comfort of my bed. That is what truly makes the Contemporary tops in my book.

Tony – When I sat down to pick my favorite resort I thought it would be a no brainer. I had one picked out, was already to write about it and then I remembered another, and another and another.

The resort that I have, finally, decided to choose is one that I haven't stayed at in nearly 20 years...The Polynesian Resort.

While it has been a while since I was last a guest at the Poly, it will always rank at the top of my list of favorites.

As a kid who was lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World back in the 70's and 80's, the choices were very limited. My family did visit The Contemporary on a few occasions, in the early 1970's. My father had figured that as WDW's Flagship resort (at the time) it was the obvious place to be.

That all changed around 1978 when a full house at the Comtemporary forced us into The Poly...we never looked back!

Growning up in New York City, the flash and "urban" appeal of the Contemp was a bit lost in us...The Poly however appealed on a number of levels. While I could go into them for hours and wax poetic on The Polynesian Village (as it was once known), I will just say that it is now and will always have a very special place in my heart.

Just walking in the door, smelling the foliage in the lobby, is enough to take me back in time to family vacations of long ago.

I look forward to being a guest there again and exposing my own brood to the exotic atmosphere of The Poleniasian Resort.

Ryan – I have stayed in my share of resorts over the years, and there are plenty that I could spout off as my favorite with a completely logical list as to why it deserves that status, but if I didn’t answer what is truly in my heart, the I don’t think I could continue to gush about my belief in the magic. That said, my favorite resort has been, and always will be, Fort Wilderness Campground.

It was my first Walt Disney World experience as a two month old in a cramped two person tent with my parents. It was my weekend hideaway throughout my youth and adolescent years. And I loved nothing more than to pull on my coonskin cap and run through the woods, along the trails behind the campsites, or peddle my bike around loop after loop.

While the old wooden fort playgrounds, River Country, partially paved train tracks, full service at Crockett’s Tavern, underbrush, and boardwalks along Bay Lake may be only remnants and memories there is still plenty of mystery and magic for a young boy, or girl, to uncover at Fort Wilderness. There are still campfires and sing-a-longs starring Chip and Dale, the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool looks even more in character with the campground now that it has its own water tower, Pioneer Hall is still bursting with song and fine fixins’, there are still multiple options for animal lovers to show their affection, and a natural trail still meanders along the cypress.

Call me old fashioned, or a boy who never grew up, but no matter how long it has been since I’ve run along Jack Rabbit Run, I am still a boy of the Wilderness.


Rita said...

I am so glad to hear that Fort Wilderness made this list. It truly is an overlooked resort. I don't know if people are scared of the woods or what. I think you would agree they are missing out on one of WDW's hidden treasures. There is a wonderful sense of community that goes along with staying there too. Maybe I am biased, but campers are extremely friendly. Our first time pulling into FW with a larger camper was an experience to say the least. But within minutes, our neighbors were helping us get the camper backed in and then inviting us for burgers. Oh and the activities are numerous. The upgrade on the pool with added water play area is great. It is not River Country, but at least we got the water tower. LOL! Thank you thank you for giving FW a nod. It deserves it! It is the only place for my family to stay.

Princess Fee said...

Thrilled to be a part of this roundtable - and thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone else's answers. It is such a difficult question, and sometimes it depends what 'mood' I am in, as to what the answer would be. Great work, Ryan!