By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



Meet Dave and Josh and get your 2017 easy Guide signed Saturday 1/28 at Epcot. Details here!



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor







Category — w. Most Recent Stuff

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Shades of Green

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

SHADES OF GREEN

By Jim Korkis

Shades of Green originally opened as a Disney-owned resort known simply as the Golf Resort in December 1973 with 151 rooms. The Golf Resort was located in the middle of the Palm and Magnolia golf courses and was meant as an amenity for golfers using the courses.

It was designed to look like a two story country clubhouse and originally did not have any guest rooms. Guest wings were added in 1973 as part of Walt Disney World’s Phase 2 expansion that was also meant to include three other Magic Kingdom resorts that were never built.

The resort was generally known for its dessert of French Fried Ice Cream served in the Magnolia Room restaurant (later the Trophy Room) that also included live entertainment. In addition to golf, the resort had two lighted tennis courts for night time play and a pool.

Unfortunately, Disney guests did not consider it a resort since it was off the monorail loop so it suffered low occupancy. In February 1986, Disney expanded the resort and renamed it The Disney Inn in hopes of attracting more than golfers, promoting it as having the intimate and rustic charm of a quiet country inn.

In 1988, it was re-themed to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in hopes of reinforcing the Disney connection. The snack bar was called “The Diamond Mine” to make the connection with the dwarfs. There was also a Diamond Mine Arcade. However, the resort still could not match the popularity or attendance of the other WDW resorts.

A that time, the U.S. military was looking for a continental America location to build an Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) and surveys showed that Orlando, Florida was the highest ranking location for its service members.

On February 1, 1994, the US Department of Defense to Disney’s delight at declining attendance leased the resort and the land it sits on with a 100-year lease to use for the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) program and limited the resort to eligible guests.

Eligible guests active and retired members of the U.S. military, National Guard and Department of Defense as well as their families. Others who are on vacation with an eligible sponsor are also allowed. Room rates are based on rank and pay grade.

In 1996, the resort was purchased outright, for $43 million, due to the high success of the resort, although Disney still owns the land on which the resort sits.

In the process the resort was renamed Shades of Green referring to the colors of the different uniforms. At the time, all war-fighting uniforms had some shade of green.

The resort was completely remodeled and expanded during 2002-2004. Those renovations by KBJ Architects included a new five story wing featuring an additional 299 rooms, a 500 seat Magnolia Ballroom, a fitness center, pools, tennis courts, new restaurants and dining areas and a new lobby featuring a vaulted ceiling, fireplace and veranda.

Jim Korkis on Shades of Green from yourfirstvisit.netThe front entrance overlooks a large, natural pool with plants, rockwork and five waterfalls, with each flume representing a branch of the U.S. military.

The architects designed the new building and surrounding area to blend with the existing resort to create the feel of a Floridian lodge. Its new five story parking garage was a first at a WDW resort.

The U.S. military funded the expansion project, coordinating its efforts with Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney World leaders.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! I’ve stayed at Shades of Green multiple times (thanks Dad!), and a complete review is here. Steve Bell, military moderator of this site, is the master of Shades of Green.  His web-based material is here. His book for military visitors is here.

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

January 20, 2017   No Comments

Other Hotels in Disney World

STAYING IN A HOTEL THAT DISNEY DOES NOT OWN

The best reason to stay in a non-Disney hotel is to save money. (For the Disney-owned hotels, see this.)

The Non-Disney Hotels at Walt Disney World from yourfirstvisit.net

Water Play Area at Four Seasons Orlando

Four non-Disney hotels are in the heart of Disney World, and offer deluxe-quality rooms and amenities for typically less than the Disney deluxes (at Shades of Green, much less).

Shades of Green Resort

Shades of Green Resort

Shades of Green Floor Plan

Shades of Green Floor Plan

They are the Swan and Dolphin, Four Seasons, and Shades of Green. (I’ve stayed in all these multiple times–the links go to detailed reviews.)

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Floor Plan Four Seasons Orlando from yourfirstvisit.net

Four Seasons Floor Plan

All these but the Four Seasons participate in Disney’s Extra Magic Hours program.

Disney World Dolphin

Disney World Dolphin

Dolphin Floor Plan

Dolphin Floor Plan

The Swan and Dolphin in addition use Disney’s transportation system and have access to FastPass+ 60 days in advance, not 30.

Swan Floor Plan

Swan Floor Plan

The Swan and Dolphin used to be part of Starwood, but are now part of the Marriott family.  These means many more folks will have points they can use to rent these, as they now go for both Marriott and Starwood points.

I’m not keen on any of these four for first timers.

  • None has any distinctive Disney theming–you could be anywhere.
  • Shades and the Four Seasons have less than great transportation, and only can access FastPass+ at 30 days.
  • The Swan and Dolphin have transportation comparable to the Disney-owned resorts, and get FastPass+ at 60 days, but are inconveniently located for a Magic-Kingdom-centered trip–which most first visits are.

They can each be great choices for returning trips–Shades of Green for its prices, The Swan in particular for a lower-priced way to be close to Epcot (the Swan has queen beds and two sinks, making it a better family choice than the Dolphin with its full beds and one sink), and the Four Seasons for its stunning amenities, and in particular its pool complex–the best at Disney World.

Complete reviews:

Another group of hotels on Hotel Plaza Boulevard are on Disney property but isolated from the main attractions at Disney World except for the shopping and dining at Disney Springs.

There are literally hundreds of other hotels and thousands of condos/villas/homes for rent off the property. The condos/villas/homes for rent will particularly save money for larger families or groups.

Be careful in your price comparisons to include added rental car costs, hotel parking, resort fees, theme park parking.

For more on saving money on lodging at Disney World, see this.

The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

January 19, 2017   No Comments

Next Week (January 21 Through January 29, 2017) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: JANUARY 21 TO JANUARY 29, 2017

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic Hours, parades, and fireworks.

Disney World 1-21 to 1-29-2017 from yourfirstvisit..net

For more on January 2017 at Disney World, see this.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 1/21/-1/29/17

The Magic Kingdom will be open from 9a-11p 1/21, 9a-10p 1/22, 9a-8p 1/23, 9a-9p 1/24, 9a-8p 1/25 and 1/26, 9a-9p 1/27, 8a-12MN 1/28, and 9a-11p 1/29

Epcot will be open from 9a-9p every day

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open 9a-8p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open 9a-7.30p every day

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 1/21-1/29/17

Saturday 1/21 Morning:  Animal Kingdom Evening: none

Sunday 1/22  Morning:  Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Monday 1/23 Morning: Animal Kingdom  Evening: none

Tuesday 1/24 Morning: none Evening:  Epcot

Wednesday 1/25 Morning: none  Evening:  Magic Kingdom

Thursday 1/26 Morning: Epcot Evening: none

Friday 1/27 Morning:  Magic Kingdom Evening: Hollywood Studios

Saturday 1/28 Morning: Animal Kingdom Evening: none

Sunday 1/29  Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none

Mickey and Minnie Festival of Fantasy Afternoon Parade from yourfirstvisit.netPARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 1/21-1/29/17

The Magic Kingdom: Afternoon Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3p every day

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 1/21-1/29/17

Wishes at the Magic Kingdom:  10p 1/21; 9p 1/22 8p 1/23 through 1/27; 9p 1/28; and 10p 1/29

IllumiNations at Epcot: 9p every night

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 7p every night

Star Wars Show and Fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 7.45p every night

Wishes at the Magic Kingdom from yourfirstvisit.net

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 1/21-1/29/17

See Steve Soares’ site here. Click the park names at its top for show schedules.

The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

January 19, 2017   No Comments

August 2017 at Walt Disney World

January   February   March   April   May   June   July   August

OVERVIEW: AUGUST 2017 AT DISNEY WORLD

August 2017 at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.net

This page reviews August 2017 Walt Disney World crowds, prices, deals and discounts, weather, and operating hours; adds a few other notes; and ends with week by week summaries.

There are no great times for first-timers who may never return to visit in August. Kids start going back to school in August, so crowds go down later in the month–but that’s also when the peak of the hurricane season kicks off.

Prices begin the month low at the deluxes and stay low all month long. Prices begin the month OK at the moderates, and high at the values. Values prices drop to moderate levels on 8/13, and on 8/25 prices drop to among the lowest of the year at both the values and the moderates.

For first-timers who can’t return, the best week is that beginning 8/5–higher crowds and prices than later in the month, but lower hurricane risk. For those who can return, then later in the month is best.

[Read more →]

January 18, 2017   No Comments

Meet People Who are Good at What They Do, and/or Dave and Josh, in Late January

MEET THE AUTHORS

Co-author Josh and I will be doing a meet-up and book signing Saturday January 28 at Epcot.

Meet Dave and Josh 1-28 at Epcot at 1pWe’ll be outside the main pyramid in Mexico on the right from 1p to 2p (or until the crowds go away) and would love to say hi and sign your copy of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017.

For your own copy of the 2017 edition of the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever (ever!), click here.

PRO BOWL AT DISNEY WORLD

That’s the same period that for the first time the Pro Bowl will be in Orlando, with many festivities in Disney World, especially at ESPN but also at Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.

Cleveland Browns at the Pro Bowl from yourfirstvisit.net

Here’s the current scoop on what’s going on with the Pro Bowl at Disney World:

Pro Bowl at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.net

To actually see practices or the skills showdown, go here to get tickets.

Pro Bowl Event Tix at Disney World from yourfirstvisit.net

The tickets are free and are just a way of limiting access to capacity. Note that Saturday the 28th is already sold out, so just come to the meet-up. You don’t need tickets for the “Pro Bowl Experience” fan zone.

In addition there’s a parade of players Friday at the Magic Kingdom—no details yet—and something at Disney Springs, possibly late night player sightings at Raglan Road or, more likely, STK.

Younger son and I will be doing most of these experiences so we can review them for you in case you want to try them out next year. (Older son can’t make it because he’s too busy BECAUSE HE WON A TICKET TO THE SUPER BOWL.)

It’s hard to say what impact the Pro Bowl and associated festivities will have on the parks that week—the best guess is little, except for Friday at the Magic Kingdom and the roads around ESPN Wide World of Sports. (We’re at Art of Animation most nights, so are theoretically within walking distance, although I don’t recall any sidewalks on Victory Way.)

The Pro Bowl fan events and practices at ESPN and parade at Magic Kingdom obviously makes a Disney World visit a little more attractive that week for some football fans, and if it gets the rep of being fun, may make that week a bit more of a target next year. That’s’ why I’m going—to see for myself so I can offer guidance for next year.

ALTERNATIVES TO EPCOT’S FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS

Over that weekend I’ll also be seeing Epcot’s new International Festival of the Arts, which occurs Fridays to Mondays until February 20th. This looks, so far, more promising than I’d thought it would, and after the visit I’ll let you know what I think.

DSC02942

However, you can do your own Festival of the Arts at home—grab some Triscuits and pimento cheese, and settle down with a copy of The Walt Disney Film Archives.

DSC02938

Wildly expensive at 135 bucks on Amazon, this huge (I put the playing card on it for scale, and had to reorganize one of my bookshelves to fit it), 14 pound book is the most beautiful book on the classic animated films you’ll find, and despite the tiny type, my favorite Disney-related book in years.

DSC02964

I’ll post more on this amazing book later, but in the meantime, just trust me and get it.

DISNEY AFTER HOURS

Friday night the 27th we’ll be doing the Disney After Hours event, an expensive way to see a bunch of Magic Kingdom rides with hardly any waits.

Not something I’d recommend for first-timers, this event is well worth it for returning visitors who can stay up through it, especially on nights Magic Kingdom closes at 8p, or if they’ve otherwise blown their Disney World visit hanging around at ESPN.

Space Mountain at the After Hours Party

Space Mountain at the Disney After Hours Event

It’s currently on the calendar for multiple Thursday and Friday nights into early March—specifically, January 20 and 27, February 2, 9, and 16, and March 2 and 9.

See this for how it went in 2016.

THIS AND THAT

FWIW, also on this visit I’ll be staying in and photographing a refurbed One Bedroom Villas at Kidani, and also, I hope, a refurbed room at the Dolphin.

The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

January 15, 2017   No Comments

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Raglan Road

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

RAGLAN ROAD

By Jim Korkis

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs is owned and operated by Great Irish Pubs Florida, Inc., the company of Irish partners John Cooke, Paul Nolan and celebrity chef Kevin Dundon.

(c) Disney

(c) Disney

The restaurant that opened in October 2005 has both a loyal local and international following and has won numerous national and local honors. Each March, Raglan Road hosts multi-day St. Patrick’s Day events. Over the four day Labor Day weekend, it hosts the Great Irish Hooley Festival.

Traditional and contemporary Irish music, storytelling and dance are featured nightly and guests are encouraged to participate.

“Having built more than 400 Irish pubs in the four corners of the world, we believe that this is our best expression yet,” said Paul Nolan, “We are incredibly proud and excited to continue bringing the best of Ireland to Disney Springs

The name Raglan Road comes from an actual road of the same name in Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland. The real Raglan Road is on the south side of Dublin.

In 1946 the lane was made famous by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh considered one of the foremost poets of the 20th century. He used the melody of the old poem “The Dawning of the Day” for his poem entitled “On Raglan Road.” The poem was written about his unrequited love for a young woman.

In the 1960s Irish folk singer Luke Kelly first put the poem to music. “(On) Raglan Road” has become a seminal Irish song and has been covered by such artists as Van Morrison, Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler and U2.

Kavanagh was always seen sitting alone on a park bench by the Grand Canal in Dublin so when he passed away in 1967 after a long battle with cancer he was commemorated with a statue by the banks of the canal.

Today, the only replica of this bronze statue of a man sitting alone on a bench thinking of his lost love, specially commissioned for this location, is found outside the front door of Raglan Road in Disney Springs.

That’s why there is a crumpled hat placed next to him and the seat is not flat but slanted inward so it makes it awkward for a guest to try to sit next to him for a photo while he is looking down and pensively remembering what might have been.

Kavanagh is remembered by three plaques in Dublin. Two of them are at locations where he lived while the third plaque is beside his bronze statue sculpted by Peierls at the location by the canal where some say he found inspiration for his work. The lines on this plaque read: “Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal, pouring redemption for me.”

The four aged mahogany and walnut bars that feature marble adornments, leaded glass and ornate detailing were handcrafted in Ireland for old Irish bars and churches more than 130 years ago and shipped to Florida. In addition, Raglan Road’s furnishings, lighting and wall coverings were all created and built in Ireland. Authentic Irish antiques, ornamentation and bric-a-brac complete the authentic décor.

The works of Irish artist Graham Knuttel have found homes among Hollywood celebrities and on November 11 2011, the restaurant unveiled his commission painting for the restaurant based on Kavanagh’s poem.

It depicts a pub scene in which more than two dozen unconventional Knuttel figures that include Kavanagh, Kelly, Irish rockers Bono and The Edge and writers James Joyce and Brendan Behan are celebrating. Looking closely, admirers may discover a photo of a child wearing mouse ears in the painting.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! Here’s the review of Raglan Road from The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit:

Jim Korkis on Raglan Road from yourfirstvisit.net

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!

January 13, 2017   No Comments