I’ve just finished up a 10 day trip with our three kids (and without my husband) to visit family and relax in Florida.
To break up time with my parents in Orlando and time with my brother and his family in Jacksonville, I took the kids to a luxury beach hotel near Jacksonville. It was the perfect dose of luxury, beach and ‘us time’ between our two family visits.
We stayed at One Ocean, an uber-cool-feeling hotel.
I was looking for a comfortable hotel right on the beach with a pool, where we would get a little pampering without feeling like we were in the way with kids.
Ocean One delivered.
Check out the gorgeous lobby:
There is even a mini-art gallery off to one side with photographs appreciated by all four of us.:
Although the hotel was so beautiful, it still had a very welcoming and friendly feel and not once did I second guess my hotel choice.
When we went to our room, though, I was surprised by the lack of a view of the beach. I was under the impression that I had booked an ocean view room, but we had to lean back and stand on one side of the window to see it. The very polite bellman explained that they do have ocean front rooms, but there would be an up-charge for switching.
I contacted the front desk and decided to go ahead and spring for a balcony ocean front room and I am so glad I did. It cost us an extra $30 a night, and we really did enjoy the view.
While we were waiting for confirmation on our move, Curt, our personal docent, came by to show us the snacks and drinks which had already been placed in the room for us. He suggested we relax while the details of our move were sorted, so the kids celebrated our arrival with the Snickers bar, Sprite and waters left for us.
Once we moved down the hall, Curt explained that he was there to help in any way. He was happy to steam or iron clothes, shine shoes, bring coffee or tea or help with anything else. (The hotel doesn’t place irons or coffee makers in the room, as they want the guests to be pampered while visiting.)
Curt also came back with a extra snacks and drinks to be sure we had all we would want. He even asked what types of juices the kids might like.
It wasn’t long before we were in our bathing suits and out the door, exploring the ocean.
After digging in the sand and jumping over waves for awhile we made our way to the pool and splashed around there for a bit.
At dinnertime, we took Curt’s advice and hit a local restaurant nearby.
Overall it was a great stay.
Here are my lowlights and highlights of Ocean One:
Ocean One Lowlights:
Tiny bathroom.The bathroom didn’t have space to hang our bathing suits. Most beach hotels offer extra hooks or a string drying line but this one did not. (I did like the shower and its ledge, however. It made it easy to shave my legs. There was only a shower, though, no bathtub, which was fine with us, but might have been inconvenient with a baby.
Not enough towels. Although there were four of us, there were only three bath towels in our bathroom. On our second day we were only given two. I was surprised this detail was overlooked and we weren’t stocked with 4 clean bath towels each day.
Not enough toiletries. Again housekeeping didn’t take into account that there were four of us in the room and did not leave enough toiletries. They were quick to bring more when I requested them, though.
Ocean One Highlights:
Gorgeous and interesting decor. The kids even commented on the artwork and architecture.
Location. The hotel is right on the beach and within easy walking distance to restaurants and shops.
Pool. The pool isn’t huge, but it serves it purpose well and the lounge chairs around it are very comfortable. Plus, the pool is shaded the second half of the day which keeps the deck area from getting too hot in the summer.
Kid-friendly food. They offer all the typical kid-friendly food. Unfortunately you have to ask for it, but I’ll take that over not having the option any day! Plus, the prices for the food were quite reasonable for a hotel.
Azurea resturant. Azurea is a fine dining restaurant, so we opted to give it a try during lunch when it would be more casual. The food was fantastic and I was VERY pleasantly surprised by the prices. Plus it just feels cool in there.
Complimentary DVD players and a use of DVDs. Need I say more? And we ordered warm chocolate chip cookies and milk from room service while we watched the movies. Aaaaah.
Snacks and drinks. The resort fee covers more than enough snacks and drinks in the room which we took to the beach and enjoyed in our room. Perfect!
Staff. Every employee I came into contact with was friendly and accommodating. Even with three young children, I never felt like we were in anyone’s way or were a nuisance. Instead I felt welcomed.
Great overall feel without any stuffiness.
All in all our stay at Ocean One exceeded my expectations. This kids had a blast and I felt relaxed the whole time. The staff was nice, the hotel was beautiful and we enjoyed it all. I would definitely stay there again.
I am glad I decided to splurge on a luxury hotel, and I was pleasantly surprised as to how much ‘extra’ I got from the hotel in terms of service and extras. The hotel definitely had a more expensive feel to it than what I was paying.
Have you ever stayed at Ocean One or another luxury beach resort near Jacksonville? What do you look for in a beach resort stay?
Filed under Florida, Luxury Hotels | Tags: beach, Jacksonville | Comments (2)
Having grandparents in the Orlando area certainly has given my children an extra magical childhood. For example, no trip to visit Mimi and Golly would be complete without a visit to Downtown Disney and the Lego store.
The boys dig the Lego store, where they can preview (and dream about) all the latest Lego sets, play with Lego bricks
And of course, it has amazing sculptures made out of Lego bricks to enjoy, inside and outside of the store.
The store recently went through a remodel, expanding it for more Lego options and even a birthday party room.
This year, while the boys drooled over Legos and plotted how to spend their birthday money with Mimi and Golly, I took my daughter next door to the Bibbidi Bobbidy Boutique for a complimentary sprinkling of Pixie Dust. (Yep, all you have to do is ask for Pixie Dust and the Fairy-Godmothers-in-training are happy to sprinkle for free! )
Next it was time to relax and enjoy lunch at Portobello.
I have enjoyed eating at Portobello for more than 20 years, and I love the delicious, reasonably priced menu for Italian food. (It isn’t cheap, but it isn’t crazy pricey either and the food is always fantastic.)
The best part is that the kids are always free to color on the tables and enjoy their new Lego purchases.
Plus, once lunch is over, the kids LOVE the kid-friendly dessert option: a build-your-own sundae.
Here is my son’s ice cream before:
Like I said, for many years this has been a favorite family outing, whether we buy Legos or not. The kids have a blast at the store and we always enjoy a delicious elegant lunch or dinner… and we almost always get sat right away without a wait. The kids love the excursion and the food, and so do we.
Have you been to Portobello and the Lego store in Downtown Disney? What are you favorite things to do when visiting Downtown Disney in Orlando?Filed under Florida | Tags: Downtown Disney, Lego, Orlando, Walt Disney World | Comments Off
Wanna know how to outscore your kids by hundreds of thousands on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Walt Disney World?
Briana and Toni with Steve, the wonder guide at DisneyWorld.
Or do you want to share some secrets with your kids so they can score more than 500,000 points before even leaving the very first room?
Sure, just riding and shooting here and there is nice, but this is the perfect ride/ game combination to let that competitive side out, get a little crazy and destroy the Emperor Zurg.
On my last trip to Walt Disney World, my friend Andrea won a night in Cinderella’s Castle Suite and I was lucky enough to join her, along with 4 other moms. In addition to the castle experience, Steve of Guest Services also escorted us through the Magic Kingdom, acting as our human Fast Pass and teller of all Disney tales. He was amazing.
On the Buzz Lightyear ride, we all tried our best at earning points, but Steve flipped both of the machines in his car on the ride, which means he scored more than 1 million points with each of his two blasters!! We were blown away and asked him to share a few of his secrets with us.
His first tip was a finger saver: You don’t have to keep pressing your finger and releasing it to make the weapon shoot. Just hold the button down and you will have a stream of ammunition.
Second tip: You can shoot targets more than once and still earn points. So look for the big point-earners and hit them several times.
Here are a few of the top-point scoring targets to shoot for:
The big orange robot on the left side. Shoot for the target inside of his left hand.
Then hit the claw before you leave to earn 100,000 points.
If you hit both several times, Steve said you should earn 500,000-600,000 points before leaving that first room!!
In the second room:
Look for the volcano. The target there is worth 50,000 points.
Next, find then monster in a box. That target is worth 50,000 points.
In the third room:
The target on the bottom of Zurg’s ship is worth 100,000 points
In the last scene, where Zurg is animated, there is a target near his head worth 75,000.
Michael, who was our guide on our second day, pointed out that by turning your car around and shooting from the reverse angles, you can get better aim at each of those targets, so get moving!
Whether you want to share these tips with your kids is up to you. But following these tips, someone is going to earn a LOT of points and have a blast!
- My night in Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World
- You can be a Disney VIP, too
- Waiting in line at Walt Disney World just got better
I am still giggling in disbelief that I got to spend the night in Cinderella’s castle.
I have no doubt that I will be telling and re-telling this story for decades to come.
A few weeks ago I was enjoying the incredible hospitality at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, staying at the gorgeous Grand Floridian, one of Walt Disney World’s most luxurious hotels, feeling pretty pampered, when everything changed and an even more amazing adventure began.
My friend and conference roommate, Andrea Decker of Saving Lifestyle, won the most amazing gift she could ever win at Walt Disney World: An overnight stay in Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom!
We had to pack our bags and be ready to roll when the clock struck 4 p.m.
At 4 p.m., our modern day coach and driver rolled up in front of the Convention Center, collected our bags and whisked us into the Magic Kingdom. This was after much squealing and picture taking, of course!
Upon arriving backstage at the Magic Kingdom (behind Main Street) we were met by our personal guide, Steve.
We traipsed to the castle,
We slipped behind a “Cast Members Only” sign
and met Kate, who would be taking care of us in the Suite.
Kate unlocked the door to the castle and we marveled at the beauty of the entry foyer.
True to Disney style, not one detail was overlooked. Kate pointed out the grandfather clock which was set to 11:59 because the magic never ends
and ushered us into the elevator upstairs. (The elevator is run by the mice, of course.)
We stepped out of the elevator onto a tile mosaic of Cinderella’s coach.
Kate pointed out Cinderella’s glass slipper, crown and scepter as well as three glass pumpkins on display.
“The fairy godmother gave those the Cinderella so she would remember her beginnings and stay humble,” Kate explained.
Then she gave each of us our very own key to the suite! Unlike the rest of the resort keys which are blue, our keys were white, say “Cinderella Castle Suite,” have the “C” crest and had each of our names printed right on them!
We all squealed once again and turned to Andrea, our contest-wining friend, to use her key to open the door.
As we walked in, we squealed again: Cinderella definitely has a beautiful suite!
It is three areas: one bedroom with two beds, one parlor with a sofa that folds out into a bed and a luxurious bathroom with a massive spa tub.
Kate pointed out a few of the details of the suite:
The C’s over each of the bed to signify Cinderella and Charming
The hidden technology which modernized the 17th century castle, including a hidden alarm clock:, a wooden writing desk with hidden outlets for our laptops
and pointed out a telescope which Captain Hook gave to Cinderella as well as some fairy tale books from Belle.
As you can see, the suite itself is amazing, but there was so much more!
As guests of Cinderella, we also had access to Steve, who guided our visit to the Magic Kingdom, acting not only as a human FastPass to get us to the front of every line, but was also an enthusiastic encyclopedia of all things Disney. He pointed out hidden Mickeys, taught us how to gain extra points on the Buzz Lightyear ride and told the stories which guided the creation of each ride we experienced. He also brought each of us to tears as he told us the story of why Walt Disney World is Walt Disney World. We asked Steve as many questions as we could think of and kept him talking until 3 am!
Having Steve as our guide was almost as magical as ‘just’ sleeping in the Castle! His enthusiasm and love was contagious! (And guess what: You can book a Walt Disney World VIP tour with Steve or another castmember on his team!!)
As castle guests we also watched the fireworks from a VIP spot on the lawn complete with Mickey ice cream, popcorn and drinks, got a tour of the secret first floor of Walt DisneyWorld, watched the parade from a different VIP spot and just felt pampered in every possible way.
After all this fun, we returned to our suite to find a white chocolate carriage filled with chocolate-covered strawberries
and a replica of Cinderella’s glass slipper for Andrea to take home.
Just before turning in for the night, though, we put on plush Cinderella robes over our PJs and headed back into the park for one last photo session in front of the castle. Of course we squealed again when we realized we were the only ones in the park.
The next morning we were treated to breakfast with the princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table, where we had our picture taken with Cinderella. Then Snow White, Jasmine, Belle and Ariel visited our table.
When Snow White dropped by, she made us all giggle yet again.
“Oh! you must be the b-loggers!” she said. And, of course, we tried to explain the whole concept of the internet to Belle who thought that it must be something like her magic mirror.
After breakfast we spent the morning with Michael, another fantastic castmember in Guest Services. He shared just as much as Steve and was uber accommodating. We grilled him on all things Animal Kingdom as he dropped us off there for a fun day of exploration. Before that we hoped to get a picture with Rapunzel, but when we couldn’t fit it in, he said he would try to do something for us. Later in the day he brought pictures of Rapunzel to us in our hotel rooms as well as extra copies of our Cinderella pictures from earlier in the morning! How nice was that?
What an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thanks, Walt Disney World, for sharing your extra-special magic with us! It was truly unforgettable!Filed under Florida | Tags: Cinderella's Castle, Walt Disney World | Comments (14)
Your kids just might ASK to wait in line on their next trip to Walt Disney World!
On your last visit, you might have noticed the queue experiences getting better and better, as the Disney Imagineers create new experiences to keep kids (and grown-ups) entertained while waiting in line. But they aren’t stopping there, as there are even more interactive experiences in store.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which opened this year, offers an almost children’s museum-like experience for the kids as grown-ups hold their spot in line.
Kids can make music with fruits and vegetables,
play tug of war with a rabbit,
and spin things, balance things and much more in one spot where kids are encouraged to play.
(Umm, don’t mind my pics of all the adults. We were having too much fun!!)
Further down the line, kids and grownups can even ‘paint’ with honey on a giant touch screen and discover a hidden picture behind the honey.
Look for more interactive queue experiences in the future as Disney continues to infuse its own brand of magic into every aspect of a park visit and make waiting, often an inevitable part of visiting a popular park, a more bearable experience.
Have you already experienced Disney’s new interactive queues on this ride or another? What did you think?
And if Disney was your park, what you would add to make the wait in line more magical?Filed under Florida | Tags: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, waiting in line, Walt Disney World | Comments (4)