Travel

Carter’s Mountain Orchard, Charlottesville VA

IMG_2781The past two weekends, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the gorgeous Charlottesville Va. area and of course Carter’s Mountain Apple Orchard. The first trip was a day trip with my girlfriends to celebrate a birthday, the second trip was for the entire weekend with my sweet family.

Carter’s Mountain is always our first stop when traveling to Charlottesville. Let me tell you, this place oozes with stunning autumn ambiance with everything you need for a day trip with friends or fun outing with your family.

The anticipation always mounts with each visit as we make our way up the heavily wooded and windy road. It’s the perfect entrance to set the scene for the breathtaking summit. We pass the rolling hills of grape vines and apple trees lined up like dutiful soldiers as we reach the top. IMG_2803

I know it’s almost time enjoy the stunning views but maybe more importantly to retrieve our prized apple cider donuts. Nobody does them better than Carter’s Mountain Orchard.

Of course there are acres and acres of beautifully plump apples of every variety, delicious hot cider and huge bins of every shade of pumpkins and gourds you can imagine. Falls bounty is evident everywhere you look. Scenic hayrides through the orchards roll by as we make our way to the charming little shop with wine, food, gifts and seasonal home decor. But we are there for one reason and one reason only, the apple cider donuts and dramatic vistas, also the hot cider… ok maybe two or three reasons!

IMG_2956Grab a dozen donuts, a cup of fresh hot cider and take in the sensational views of downtown Charlottesville. This is a really unique place with the perfect country charm you will love especially during the holiday season.

What a great place to bring the family and pick some fresh apples from the endless rows that make up the historical family owned orchard. But if picking apples

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is not your thing, not to worry! There’s an array of apples and seasonable delights for you to choose from at the market. Check out their website at chilesfamilyorchards.com to get all the details and don’t let another weekend go by without visiting Carter’s Mountain.

Travel

Game On Gaming Center

My son and I recently had the privilege of visiting my friends new business she just opened in Virginia Beach, VA called “Game On Gaming Center”.  We were so impressed with this place.  I’m not a gamer and know nothing about that sort of thing, but my son had a blast and I did too!  Each person has their own state of the art gaming chair complete with a brand new XBOX 1S, personal controller and flatscreen. IMG_2782The center is set up perfectly to play on your own or join friends and game together.  I loved the ambiance of this place, the lighting was just right with cool green and blue neon back lighting which provided the optimal environment for video gaming.  The center is dividing into three sections: green or blue gaming areas and a preschool area in the back complete with an interactive gaming floor system.  There’s something for the whole family!   The Center can host all inclusive birthday parties, gaming tournaments, and walk in play time, complete with monthly membership options.  They are reasonably priced but also provide a military discount. IMG_2661What a great place to hang out after school, on the weekends, during the blazing hot dog days of summer or a cold blustery afternoon.  I can’t wait to take my nephews when they come to visit, but we will most certainly be back before then! Some of the services they provide are:
  • Open Play
  • Parties
  • Tournaments
  • Membership
  • After School Club
  • E-Sports Tournaments (coming soon)
  • Puterbugs Computer and STEM classes for kids (coming soon)
  • Mobile Gaming Bus that will come to your location if you are in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia
  • Beam Interactive Gaming Floor  
  • Air Graffiti Touch 
    An amazing photo wall that allows guests to take pictures and create touch-based drawing with tools like stamps, stencils and filters. Print out your pictures or upload them to your social media account.
  • Fundraising and Community Outreach
For additional information and more on hours, pricing, check out their great website gamerbus.com  
Travel

5 New Attractions I can’t wait to experience coming to Disney!

Guardians of the Galaxy – This will be a gigantic enclosed roller coaster based on the hugely popular (and one of our favorite movies) “Guardians of the Galaxy”. The coaster will be located in Epcot’s Future World and is slated to open in 2021.

Disney’s Skyliner – Walt Disney World is in the process of constructing a much needed new transportation option called Disney Skyliner, a gondola style lift system. It will be a new way to connect several resorts right to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios . This is rumored to be opened the fall of 2019, just before Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge will open in Hollywood Studios.

Ratatouille – The Adventure in Epcot at the Frace Pavilion: This was such a cute movie and will be a great addition to the France Pavilion. I’m always excited when Disney upgrades and adds new rides to the World Showcase Pavilion, it’s one of my favorite places to visit at WDW. Apparently this will be a 4-D adventure that is similar to one already located at Disneyland in Paris. This ride is scheduled to open in 2021.

Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Holiday Studios: opening fall of 2019. We are particularly excited about this addition as my family are all huge Star Wars fans, so it goes without saying that we can’t wait for this one! Black Spire Outpost is the name of Disney’s newest and largest completely immersive land. Guests will be able to board the Millennium Falcon as well as other life sized Star Wars attractions from the movies. Of course there will be the favorite Star War’s characters on site to meet and greet. This will be a hugely popular new addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and will be extremely crowded upon opening. Make sure to plan for this while deciding when to visit.

Mickie and Minnie’s Runaway Railway – To be honest, I was very disappointed about the loss of “The Great Movie Ride”. That has always been one of our “must do” attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, I’m very pleased that a new Mickey and Minnie themed ride will be taking its place and I’m sure it’s going to be incredible. This ride will be based on a Mickey and Minnie cartoon short film that will take riders on a wacky railroad adventure. This attraction will be open the fall of 2019.  Visit disneyworld.disney.go.com for more information.

Travel

DISNEY Vacation Tips when Staying Offsite

Yes, it’s true. You can thoroughly enjoy Disney World while staying offsite. I know because I’ve done it several times… but I also know that the die hard Disney fans will have a hard time with this post, I get it but let’s just try to have an open mind…

First things first, Disney has phenomenal accommodations. I love the extensive variety of themed resorts that are on the Disney property. They are comfortable, cleverly planned out and provide guests with convenience to the parks and other Disney attractions. Over the years we have stayed both on site and off site numerous times. There have even been a couple of vacations that we stayed on site for a couple of nights and then a week off property while still enjoying the Disney parks. We actually had our cake and ate it too!?!

A note on transportation: We usually drive to Orlando. We live in Virginia so it is easy for us to hop on I95 and head south. Once in Orlando we have our car to be able to travel back and forth from the parks. We also buy groceries as soon as we get checked in to our resort, there is a very convenient grocery store just around the corner from where we stay to make it a relatively quick process. You will have to pay for parking once a day at Disney, but if you are staying off site chances are that you will be spending less for your accommodations and still be coming out financially ahead. Disney is now charging guests that are staying on site for parking at the resorts, so either way you WILL pay for parking if you drive. If you are unable to drive a car, you will need to factor in the cost of a rental car. Many off site resorts provide their own transportation but I don’t recommend them, they are typically not an efficient way to spend your time.

The reason we started staying off site is that my parents bought into a time share program which included the Marriott resorts. They offer discounted “Friends and Family” rates for time share owners, so we can really save money and get a much larger room. The time shares are typically one or two bedroom villas with full kitchens and living areas. Now, I know what you’re thinking…. “I don’t have a timeshare – nor do I want one”… I understand completely, but even if you paid the regular nightly prices offsite, most off site resorts would be considerably less than the Disney Resorts.

The most important thing to remember when staying offsite is to factor in the time it takes to get on and off the property. We usually stay at one of the Marriott Vacation Club resorts that are not very far outside of the Disney property. While, we have to make sure we plan out our travel time if we have a dining reservation or need to be back in the park for a show or use our fast passes, we have never had a problem.

The key to any Disney vacation whether on or off site is planning!!

FASTPASS and DINING: For those staying offsite, you can still reserve fast passes but you will have to wait until 30 days prior to your trip. You will also want to make your Disney dining reservations for your favorite places to eat just like you would if you were on site, just don’t forget to factor in your drive time.

EAT BREAKFAST AT RESORT: Unless you have a Disney dining reservation for breakfast, just eat at your resort. It will save you so much money. We have a kitchen where we stay but many resorts will also offer a free continental breakfast – take advantage of that. If you don’t have a kitchen or continental breakfast, I suggest buying simple breakfast pastries and items you can eat in your room before heading out for the day.

ARRIVE EARLY: This is seriously one of the most important things to do especially when staying offsite. You can get so much more rides done at the parks if you arrive just before opening and are one of the first ones in the park. Don’t forget at Magic Kingdom it will take you longer to park your car and get to the entrance than at the other parks.

TAKE BREAKS: We usually leave the park sometime between 11:00 and 2:00 pm. This is when the parks are usually at their peak with the crowds and it’s really hot if you’re there in the non winter months. Getting out of the Disney crowds for a few hours during the hottest part of the day is extremely refreshing! Once back at our resort we will make a nice lunch and eat it by the pool, enjoying the resort. Once we’ve eaten and had some time to relax by the pool we are rejuvenated and super excited to head back to the parks for the evening.

EAT DINNER (or at least one meal) IN THE PARKS or DISNEY RESORTS: Because we eat breakfast and lunch at our resort, we always eat dinner at the park. Sometimes we will have a breakfast reservation so we will just adjust our schedule a bit to try and only pay for one meal a day. It is really fun to plan where we will eat each evening for dinner and the food digests so much easier knowing we’ve saved money by not eating the other two meals in the park!!!

ENJOY THE DISNEY RESORTS: We love exploring the resorts!! Don’t be afraid to take the monorail and get off at some of the stops. I like to make dining reservations at the Disney resort restaurants because they are a little less hectic and can be a fun change of pace while still on site. If nothing else, grab a cup of coffee or snack and enjoy a stroll around some really amazing and gorgeous resorts. Many of them are easy to access via the Disney transportation. And, Yes, you can use Disney transportation even if not staying on site.

Bottom line is that if you are trying to save some money and want to go to Disney but need to stay offsite, you will still have a blast! You may even enjoy it more than you think. Do a little homework and make sure you’re not too far away from the magic, do your planning ahead of time for your vacation like you should do anyway and please don’t be afraid of the non Disney properties!!!!

 

family, Travel, Walt Disney World

Disney Tips for Those with Limited Mobility

A few months ago our family took a trip to Walt Disney World. If you know me, this is nothing new. We love Disney and typically go every year, once in a while we are lucky enough to visit twice in one year. This past trip, however, was much different from many of our former vacations. This time we were traveling with a family member with disabilities requiring a wheelchair. We had five people in our group, I was nervous, to say the least. Would we manage to keep up the fast pace we are so used to, getting the most out of every second of the day? What would it be like moving through the crowds at each park? Let me just tell you, this was our best trip yet! Disney did not disappoint. Their attention to detail in providing excellent costumer service exceeded my already high expectations. We made some beautiful family memories that we will always treasure as well as some much needed quality time together. I can’t wait to do it again. Here is what we learned from our experience… Tip #1 Take your own wheelchair or scooter… We traveled to Florida by car, so we were able to take our own wheelchair with us, saving money and a lot of time waiting in line to rent one each morning in the park. Having our own wheelchair was very convenient, but many people don’t. If you are unable to travel with your own wheelchair but don’t want to wait in the long lines at the park to rent one, try checking local mobility rental companies to see how much it would cost to rent one for the week. It may be worth it, I’m not sure you save money but you will certainly save precious time that could be spent in the park and not waiting in rental lines each day. Cost to rent at Disney: Wheelchair Rental – $12.00 per day or $10.00 for a multiple day rental ECV (Electric Conveyance Vehicle) – $50.00 per day Tip #2 Use a wheelchair NOT scooter… If you’re trying to decide between a wheelchair or a scooter (ECV electric conveyance vehicle) I suggest wheelchair. I know what you’re thinking…someone has to push it all day. Yes, that is correct. Obviously you will only be able to use a wheelchair if you are traveling with people who are able to push you. We had four able bodied adults that had no problem taking turns with the wheelchair. Florida is flat! It is extremly easy to push the chair. So, the reason why we chose the wheelchair over the scooter can be summed up in one word: CROWDS!!! It’s my experience that traversing the chair through the crowd is much more convenient than the big scooters. Our family member in the chair used a scooter the previous visit and saw a remarkable difference in how we were able to manage the crowd. I noticed a lot of people struggling to maneuver their scooters through the crowds and buildings. It’s a matter of personal preference I guess but if given a choice, we choose wheelchair. Tip #3 Always check in with a cast member before each attraction/show Everything we wanted to do provided wheelchair accessible queuing areas. Some rides allowed the guest in the wheelchair to wait in the usual queue and transfer to the ride while other attractions have what Disney calls an auxiliary entrance where the disabled guest and five family members may wait together. The only caveat is if the disabled guest is able to transfer on their own to the ride or if they must stay in their chair. This is why it is absolutely essential to check in with the cast member and get assistance. They will know just what to do in either scenario. Another quick tip on accessing rides: don’t be afraid to ride the continual moving attractions. The cast members will stop the ride to allow the guest to board safely! There are even designated viewing areas during the parades for those in wheelchairs, but get there early because they fill up quickly. Tip #4 Take Breaks! We take breaks…we go strong when we’re in the park but we are not afraid to get out of the park and rest for a bit. This would be a tip I would give to anyone visiting Disney whether disabled or not. The parks are at their fullest typically between 11:00 and 4:00 and they can get hot depending on when you go, so we usually go back to the resort for a couple of hours during time frame. It is great to get a bite to eat, cool off in the room or by the pool and then go back in to the parks in the evening feeling refreshed and ready to get back at it! The bottom line is that Disney is a great place to visit, don’t let a mobile disability stop you or anyone in your party. For more information on services available at the Disney Parks and Resorts check out disneyparks.com or call (407) 560-2547.