This past week we were lucky enough to stay at the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort in Orlando. This Wyndham is an Official Walt Disney World Hotel on 13 lake front acres in Disney Springs. The Official Disney Springs Resorts are some of Walt Disney Worlds greatest hidden secrets.......that is until now!
Being big fans of the Disney Springs area we loved the fact that the hotel is located directly across the street with a safe and quick pedestrian bridge that gets you into the Springs within moments. It is also less than 2 miles from most of the Disney theme parks and only a 17 mile drive from the Orlando International Airport. This hotel does not offer the typical Magical Express included with other Disney properties however we used Lyft to and from the airport for $25.00 (including tip) each way. I have to tell you, we were smitten with the walking distance to the Springs right off the bat!
This property contains two hotels, the Wyndham Garden and the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, although you would never realize they were considered separate resorts without someone telling you. The Wyndham Garden pricing would be slightly less expensive than an All Star Resort stay while the Lake Buena Vista would be comparable to the pricing of staying at one. Honestly in my opinion it is a no brainer which one I would personally choose. Both share a lobby, a pool area, gift shop, restaurants and more. They are only separated clearly for pricing and placement within the hotel grounds.
Our stay took place in the Wyndham Garden area in a pool view room with two double beds. The room was clean and simple which was fine because we were never in it. One of the things we were happy to see was the condition of the air vent. It may seem silly but in many of our hotel stays the air vent is extremely caked with dust. Not here, not only was the air vent spotless but there was a brand new air filter inside. Not many people would think to look at this but we comb over everything and believe me there was not much to pick apart here. They have a much larger refrigerator than many other hotels which is great for those who store cold drinks (there was even a crisper inside the fridge for fruit). I also really loved the fact that they had a multi port outlet that housed six outlets in one area. We all know how much electronics we travel with anymore.
I did also get to tour a room at the Wyndham Lake Buena which was recently renovated. This part of the hotel is a little bit more exclusive and a room key is required to obtain access to any floor in the tower.
Staying at this Official Walt Disney World Hotel gives you access to many of the awesome Disney benefits you would get staying in one of their other resorts. You will be able to take advantage of making your Fast Pass + selections 60 days before your arrival, Disney Theme Park Transportation as well as enjoying the Extra Magic Hours that the Disney Theme Parks may offer during your stay. You will receive a voucher to show when required to enjoy those Extra Magic Hours when you check in. Plus, as a bonus, when we checked in we also received the new Disney Springs Passport booklet that features discounts and specials from Disney Springs merchants on entertainment, shopping and dining. Some of the coupons that are currently in the booklet are special offers at House of Blues Restaurant & Bar, T-REX Cafée, Paddlefish, Rainforest Cafeé at Disney Springs Marketplace, The Polite Pig, The Boathouse, STK Orlando, Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs Marketplace, Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, Crystal Arts by Arribas Brothers, Dino Store at T-REX, Rainforest Cafée Retail Village, American Threads, Johnny Was, and Sephora. Since we spend a lot of our time in Disney Springs this booklet came in very handy.
The hotels theme park busing transportation was surprisingly spot on with what they advertised. Transportation pick up is right outside the lobby and is every thirty minutes from an hour before park openings to 90 minutes after park closing. You can have anything from a Mears bus with those nice comfy plush seats to a regular park bus with the traditional Disney bus seating.
This resort even offers a Disney Character breakfast buffet that is served on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. Their buffet had a nice choice of offerings including a delicious omelet station and of course Mickey waffles! I also felt that you had much more time to spend with the characters at this specific breakfast because it was not booked to capacity and somewhat under the radar.
They have a "Director of Fun" on staff who keeps the kids and families entertained with games by the pool, arts and crafts and more. One of the neat activities she created a few years ago is the Legacy Tile Wall which is located by the pool. While vacationing your child can decorate a tile that is then placed on the wall for display forever. For years to come your family can return to see the tile again on your future vacations.
The hotel offers an Oasis Aquatic Playground featuring two pools, interactive water features and a large hot tub. You can also grab a bite to eat at the Oasis Pool Bar and Grill. They also have a Jeoffry's Coffee and Sundial 24-7 Cafe (open 24 hours a day) in the lobby along with the Eclipse Lobby Lounge. They also have an official Disney Gift Shop for those like me who can not have a visit without purchasing that souvenir from your resort gift shop!
We had a great stay and even talked about our future stays at this specific resort. Given the location of Disney Springs and the cleanliness of the hotel, the choice is very easy!
To book your next Disney Springs Resort stay or any adventure, please contact us at Info@StarstuffTravel.com.
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Recently, my spouse and I took a trip to Walt Disney World and we stayed at Pop Century which is a value resort that resides on hourglass lake across from Art of Animation. We have stayed here numerous times before! This resort is awesome for those who feel a sense of nostalgia with the past! It is broken into 5 different decades; 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Each one is covered in the different past times of that decade that some of us miss. The food court even has themed food like the Tie Dye Cheesecake! The lobby is totally decked out in pictures, posters, toys, and games from each decade (both Disney and non-Disney) and you never see the same thing twice. They are always playing music that takes you back to the past, and it always smells like a fair to me.
We come back to Pop for a few reasons. One of those reasons is the proximity of the buildings to the Classic Hall is closer than other resorts. The last thing anyone wants to do after a long fun day at the parks is to walk a long distance to their room then back to the food court to use their refillable mugs. Pop Century makes this walk not as long! Plus, the themed déecor on your way makes it easy. From large bowling pins as your staircases, to beloved characters such as Mowgli and Baloo, there is always something fun and entertaining to see! Another reason we choose Pop Century is for the pools! They have three of them, whereas the All Stars only have two. There is the Hippy Dippy pool that is centered in the 60’s section, the bowling pool in the 50’s, and the computer pool in the 90’s. If one pool is full, you can always make your way to another to enjoy. My favorite would have to be the bowling pool, because who doesn’t want to swim in a large bowling pin?! The bus system is great too, they have Tv’s outside to alert you when the next bus is coming for each park and they have a ton of benches in the shade to sit in if the lines aren’t too long. It is very well organized and there is a ton of space to line up to catch the Disney transportation system, it’s never super crowded!
The highlight of this resort stay though is the newly renovated rooms! Since we have stayed in this resort before, we are familiar with the old rooms, but we LOVED the new rooms! First thing I fell in love with were the queen-sized beds. The other value resorts all have full size beds. There is a queen sized (incredibly comfortable) standalone bed, and then there is also a pull-down queen Murphy bed. If you are not utilizing the murphy bed, it has a large table with two chairs that you can sit at to eat, or to plan your next days fun! If you opt for a king room – you will not receive the murphy bed, but you will still receive a sitting area, and a king size bed! Another highlight for us was the storage and the electrical components. There were so many storage compartments, I couldn’t fill them all up even if I tried! And each side of each bed has two outlets and two USB outlets per person right on the elevated night stand. The dresser, the kitchenette, and the bathroom counter all had two outlets with usb’s built in. Plus, all the outlets on the walls... you are never short on outlets to charge anything!
Another feature we loved was the bathroom renovation! There was plenty of privacy with a door you can close once you enter the bathroom area, and also a large sliding door that gives you privacy into the sink area. Our bathroom had a gorgeous walk in shower, but it did not have a tub. They do have tubs, but I found out that it would have to be requested. Each bathroom area is equipped with a hair dryer and a new lighted focal mirror to put on makeup. There is vinyl and tile flooring throughout the entire room now, so no more carpet! There is also a small area that has a coffee pot and a mini fridge along with counter top storage... I’m telling you, the storage in this place is amazing! It wasn’t overly Disney, which we appreciated, but still had that Disney magic.
By far, the renovated rooms get a 10 out of 10 in my book! Pop Century is the perfect resort for anyone who is looking for nostalgia, fun, and a good time! It’s a perfect resort for families and adult couples alike.
To book your next Disney vacation or any adventure, please contact Meagan Bunner at MBunner@StarstuffTravel.com
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We were not sure what to except when we first arrived to Aulani, which is situated in the Ko Olina section of Oahu. We knew it was going to be beautiful but did not realize the magnitude of how amazing this property truly is. Ko Olina itself is my new favorite place in the world to visit. The area is committed to the land, the sea and their rich history of cultural traditions in this part of Oahu and is truly where heaven meets the earth. Ko Olina is a gated community comprised of four hotels along with a few expensive homes and shopping. It is a very peaceful area, so if you are looking for rest and relaxation this is the place to visit. It is about 40 minutes away from the Honolulu airport.
When you first see the resort as you are driving up it takes your breath away. The architecture blows the other three hotels in the area away. When you actually enter the lobby it gives you a somewhat similar feel to Polynesian Village in Orlando, on a much grander scale. The Lobby is open air with an overlook to the property, pool area, and beach. The ceiling is reminiscent to a canoe used in the Hawaiian culture along with many stories told along the walls. For instance there are two towers for their guest rooms and villas in Aulani. The one pictured above is the Waianae tower which represents the masculine side. This towers shape, art work and vibe portrays the story of the men of Hawaii where as the Ewa tower represents the feminine side. The storytelling, details and artwork in this resort encompasses everything that true Hawaiian culture is about.
For the majority of our stay we had a partial oceanview room in the Waianae tower on the 11th floor. The room, also similar to the Polynesian Village theming in Orlando, had a great view of the pool and a portion of the beach. They had two very comfortable robes, two pairs of slippers and some really great toiletries.
The last night we stayed in a one bedroom grand villa that is a great option for families. We enjoyed being able to do all of our laundry before making the trip home. This villa is perfect for those who are staying longer and would like to have all the comforts of home. There is a full kitchen to take advantage of and a market right across the street you can walk to for groceries.
At Aulani you will have so much to do that you may not know where to start. Aulani is home to incredible pools (including an adults only pool area), a children's splash area, lazy river and a few really fun water slides. You wont find characters all over the resort like you would in the parks back home so you will need to check the daily activity list to see where you can find them if you want to steal a picture.
They also offer a special area called Aunty's Beach House where kids can explore Hawaiian culture, art and music with a dash of Disney magic. This supervised activities club is for guests ages 3 to 12. Most activities are complimentary however there are select experiences that are also available at a fee. They do conduct an open house every morning for parents who would like to check this neat area out before leaving their children.
In the Pau Hana Room- Community Hall, you can connect with friends and family over games, crafts, movies in this game room. They have things like Ukulele lessons, Tee shirt painting, and more. You can also rent out a tablet and go on an adventure choosing either the Lobby trail or the Menehune Adventure Trail that takes you on a high-tech immersive scavenger hunt that helps you discover enchanting surprises throughout Aulani.
Laniwai, Aulani's spa, offers top notch spa treatments for men, women and families. Once you have a spa treatment booked, you can actually take advantage of the spa for as long as you would like for the day. Once you leave the spa however you can not re-enter. They also offer a salon for children ages 3-12 years old called Painted Sky. They offer many different salon options including something similar to the parks Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where your child can be transformed into their favorite character.
The dining at Aulani is nothing short of spectacular. They have many different options for whatever type of atmosphere or food you are looking for. From a poolside lounge called Off the Hook that serves light fare and cocktails, to their signature dining at Ama'Ama' (which also has a whole entire story about how it was constructed) that serves all three meals, to little snack shops located along the resort property serving thing like Hawaii's famous shaved ice or Disney's popular Dole Whip and of course their Ulu Cafe serving anything from Ahi Tuna Bowls to bagels. If you are staying for a long time and looking for something new and different you can also consider walking right across the street to the Ko Olina market area and dine at one of their yummy restaurants. We actually ate at a place called Just Tacos one night while we were visiting. If you are a fan of fish tacos, this place is a must!
While you are here you can book many different adventures to take part in. We took advantage of the Hawaiian Ocean Adventures canoe ride (yes, they call this boat a canoe). The guides were so full of Hawaiian education and stories that between that and the view of the area, we never wanted it to end. We also visited the Kualoa Ranch and did a movie site tour that was one of my favorite things I have done in my travels to date.
We were lucky enough to attend KA WA‘A – A Lū‘au at Aulani that is so well done that I would have paid twice to attend again. When you are a VIP guest all cocktails and food are included and you also get to enter a half hour before the general public guests. There are many pre Lu'au activities such as Ukulele lessons, tattoos, and lei making so having the extra half hour with less crowds is a huge added bonus.
We walked away from this trip to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, a little changed. Learning all about the Hawaiian culture, seeing the beauty Aulani has to offer, and feeling the true love of the island the people have for it has taught us more about the world and how we want to travel. I personally can not wait to return with the rest of my family and we are so excited to create memories for our clients to share with their families for many years to come.
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