Old Key West, Epcot and Eats

Originally this weekend was supposed to take place at the beginning of January. Time away, solo, enjoying some sunny Florida weather as a way to refresh and refuel. Lately, I’ve learned how to rent DVC points and grab a cheaper option for a nicer resort. Two years ago we were able to experience Saratoga Springs for the first time and this time I decided to grab an Old Key West reservation. I was excited to check out another DVC exclusive resort and eat at my favorite breakfast on property: Olivia’s.

I stayed with some friends on Thursday night in Gainesville and then headed down to Disney after breakfast Friday. The first night I was there I stayed in one of the good neighbor hotels near Disney Springs; I love close proximity to Disney Springs. It’s so nice to have it as an option just to lounge, shop, get some Disney magic, and get incredible eats.

So after a quick nap in my room I headed towards Disney Springs to check out all the new merch, with a few stops at my familiar comforts! I picked up a new pin from Pin Traders (for Disney Visa Holders) and new ring from Pandora, and the regular grub from the Polite Pig, a barbecue joint with some incredible vegetarian options as well! I checked out a few new toys for Elijah and the latest styles and called it a day!

After settling in for a mostly restful night sleep I woke up and hopped out the door for a walk/light jog, definitely humid, but I couldn’t complain about sunny and not freezing. I made it back just in time to shower, checkout and head to my breakfast reservation at Olivia’s Cafe. There isn’t anything crazy special on the menu but if you want a family feel with cozy eats this is your place. Its located near the main lobby of Old Key West and sits on the water. I made sure to grab some mickey waffles, a LOT of coffee and I headed to Epcot for my one park day. The buses are a little crazy at Old Key West, they do not come through often like they do at a resort like the All Stars and the stops before you actually leave are plentiful. That was lesson #1! When we finally made it to Epcot the excitement was contagious. Typically when I’m at Epcot its during a festival so I am after festival food, unique designs and visuals, but this time it was the week in-between Arts and Flower & Garden so I took advantage of rides and character meets that I usually don’t! It was wonderful. Staying on property also has its advantages here since you can get in early – I was on and off Test Track and in the queue for Ratatouille before the park even opened to the general public.

Ratatouille was a one and done for me, but it’s definitely worth doing! By the time I was out of that line I was starting to get hungry so I went over to Regal Eagle Smokehouse. I was going to try the barbecue, we never have and as someone who lives in a place with fantastic barbecue I was skeptical. Rightfully so, if you live in a place that has access to great barbecue this is a no-go, however, if you don’t then you might find this perfectly acceptable. But it was nothing that a good Joffrey’s cold brew and donut couldn’t make up for! So I sipped as I walked the rest of the show case and stopped for photo-ops, all in all a great day.

After several hours taking it all on I took a lap on the monorail as a break. I had no agenda except to enjoy the ride, I stopped at Magic Kingdom to say hi and then hopped on a bus there to get over to All Star Movies where my sister in law was staying. The afternoon was just as relaxing as can be, we chilled at the pool for awhile, got ready in their room and then hopped over to Hollywood Studios for our first time at the Brown Derby. It’s considered signature dining, and the food was good, but I am not sure quite good enough for the price tag, this was lesson #2.

What happened next was extremely unfortunate and continued to paint Old Key West in a less than positive light. While my sister in law and her friend headed off to rides, I was ready to hit the hay. I walked over to catch a bus to the resort and after 30 minutes I was still waiting for a bus to the resort, it continued to paint the picture that the transportation at OKW is less than ideal. An hour later I finally did get back to the resort, moved my car over the room I was staying in (SHOUT OUT TO MOBILE CHECK IN), grabbed my two backpacks and headed up the stairs to my room, EXCEPT my digital key on my phone wouldn’t open my door. So I rustled through my bags to see if I had any of my magic bands with no luck. Thankfully, when you do mobile check in you’ll get an email that gives a number that goes straight to the front desk of your resort, clutch. So after two calls to them I finally was able to get someone to come let me in, but the process was anything but smooth. Lesson #3 : in person is always better. I should’ve just walked to the front desk myself it would have solved all my issues in a matter of minutes instead of the night and next morning ordeal it became. Who knew you could learn so much after so many times at Disney?

I was slightly disappointed in the rooms at OKW, they seemed more bare bones than the rooms at Saratoga Springs, and there is no access to walk to any parks or Disney Springs. I did NOT like the Boardwalk but the ability to walk to Epcot or Hollywood Studios was clutch. Likewise, at Saratoga Springs the ability to walk to Disney Springs puts it above Old Key West for me.

But again, the food at Old Key West is top notch, and that might be reason enough for some people to still stay there, just probably not me. The next morning I went to their quick service place right on the water called Goods to Go. The harvest breakfast sandwich was hands down one of my favorite sandwiches on property. So while some of the logistics weren’t ideal, the eats were 10/10. Pick your poison.

Leaving is always sad for me, other than on major holidays when I can’t wait to get out of there its just such a fun place to dream, relax, try new things, you can really pick your own vacation! And as you saw above, you’ll learn a few things each time you go!

Enjoy the magic!

Jordan

5 Things You’ll LOVE About Coronado Springs Resort @ Walt Disney World

I recently stayed at the newly opened Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort on the Walt Disney World property. It was majestic and the details intricate and stunning but it wasn’t my first time staying on this property – we stayed in one of the regular rooms as a family back in 2012, and had such a wonderful time. It really has everything you need at your fingertips, and for a reasonable price, want to know why? Here ya go:

  1. Customizing Your Vacay – You can customize however you want and for the price you want. A suite by the pool? A water view from the top of Gran Destino? How $200s/night, high $400s/night (at club level)? Now that Coronado has expanded it really has something for everyone! A great place for a family vacay on a budget or a romantic honeymoon for the happy couple with an incredible view you can choose from an array of options to fit your style and budget.
  2. Foodies Unite – you literally have every option here from top of the new tower to the middle of the lake, the restaurants are plentiful and flavorful. Do you want quick service? Check out Cafe Rix or El Mercado for Mexican inspired and traditional American cuisine. Want a nice restaurant surrounded by the water? Check out Three Bridges that sits in the middle of the lake. Want some incredible views from up high? Check out Toleda for Tapas, or Dahlia lounge for drinks. If you desire something more themed check out Maya Grill. And you can keep going. There truly is something for everyone in the foodie world.
  3. Spa and Fitness – Not every resort has a spa and fitness option but this one gives you everything you need inside the budget you are on. We all know how hot and humid the Florida days can get so this is a great option for keeping in shape while staying cool before you hit the parks for the day.
  4. The perfect running spot – But if you do prefer to keep it outdoors for your cardio this resort is perfectly located and side-walked for a 1-5 mile run. You can get around a mile just running around the waterfront, and if you want to expand the side walk road right out front of the resort gives you a direct and flat route over to the All-Stars and back.
  5. Pools that are top notch – This is one of my favorite pools mostly because of the incredible slide that waves you in and out of the rainforest and pyramids, but I also love the smaller pools that you can find outside some of the individual resort spaces. Besides the pool itself, Coronado has volleyball course and hammocks on the beach area right near Gran Destino Tower.

Obviously I love Coronado for so many reasons, but it’s a really great place to include everything you want on a vacation into one spot and on a budget. Let me know if you have ANY questions: jordan@fuelingherforward.com

For now,

Jordan

Star Wars Rival Run 2019 Race Recap

I love getting to type up a race recap, especially with the hope it encourages you to set a fitness goal and go for it! runDisney provides more affordable options too by opening up virtual runs that come with a good bit of swag themselves. This year’s theme is Marvel and registration is open now over at runDisney.com. However, this post is about Star Wars weekend and if you are a Star Wars fanatic this is one to put on the books for the future.

Jon and I flew in Thursday night after a day of work and were so excited to finally crash in our upgraded room at All-Star Movies. We are always so focused on being out and about that we choose the most affordable resort more often than not; if we are not doing park days then we spend a little bit more. We’ve stayed at Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Port Orleans French Quarter which are in the moderate resort category for our lower key trips, all of which we recommend!

While we wanted to get an early start Friday morning for the opening of Hollywood Studios, it was still nice to sleep until 7am instead of our usual 5am week day wake up call. We headed to the quick service restaurant in the All-Star Movies Hall and grabbed a simple breakfast before heading out. We made it to Hollywood Studios about 25 minutes before opening, right as the rain was backing off, and were pretty close to the front of the line that would soon be making a mad-dash for Toy Story Land. One of the most interesting things we learned here was the way they crowd control the line of people – ALL THE WAY TO THE RIDE. It made it painless and easy to file into the line for Slinky Dog and with a simple wait time of 15 minutes the experience was great. We give the ride 7/10 for fun wishing it was just a little bit faster. We then headed over to the Alien Swirling Saucers with a 5-minute wait time and enjoyed that more than we thought we would. As the crowds started to descend post rain we grabbed one of the already infamous pop tarts at Woody’s Lunchbox and went to explore the other part of the park. We give the pop tart 9 out 10 because who knew premium pop tarts were a thing and that they could be so incredibly delicious. Super fresh, not too much filling, and cooked just past brown for a nice crunch – YES.

The Incredibles Alley was our next stop where we walked up to Edna Mode and snapped a quick pic. No lines – what was this? The same thing happened with BB-8 in the Star Wars Launch Bay and Pluto in the Disney Junior Area (don’t judge I love my Disney pups). Unfortunately, right about that time the skies opened back up with a little sprinkle, so we headed to our Fastpass at Rockin’ Roller Coaster. Then things took another turn as we walked up to a closed sign due to technical difficulties, sad, but nice for a readjustment that sent us to go ahead and run by the race Expo before heading to the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival for lunch. The expo was easy, I really think they make the flow better every time, but I also know it’s a smaller race weekend than some of the others, regardless it was painless.

As we made our way to Epcot for the festival and lunch the clouds started to part and made way for a beautiful day. We started towards the World Showcase and I stopped first at the Honey Bee pop up for a honey roasted rice and cauliflower dish – the portion was a little smaller than I would have liked but the taste was 10/10. As we made our way around we stopped at the Poutine pop up for Jon to get some Coffee-roasted, Smoked pork poutine for lunch. His portion was HUGE and while I only took a few bites it was so full of great flavor. We explored everything the World Showcase had to offer and toyed with stopping at so many places, but it was getting warm, so we decided on something cold and refreshing. We headed to the pineapple pop-up and both grabbed a pineapple soft serve. The portion was HUGE, and even though it was a little bit too sweet we both downed ours and I would give it 8/10 stars.

While at this point we were refreshed I realized I was doing a bad job hydrating and I simply wasn’t feeling my best. I have never been more excited to sit down when we finally made our way to the monorail to hop over to Magic Kingdom. The monorail is simply the best way to travel if you are switching from Epcot to Magic Kingdom or vice versa – OR – doing anything in the resorts around Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom greeted us in the best way as the Festival of Fantasy parade was about to begin which meant no line for the special Celebration Mickey & Minnie meet and great. I waited about 10-15 minutes and snapped a pic with them in their party clothes. Then we made our way out right as the parade was coming down the street.

Ya’ll I cried. There was enough room on the train platform to be able to watch the parade from there and as Beauty and the Beast came around with the music playing tears streamed down my face. Which was bad because I was already dehydrated. The parade was amazing, and the new additions were really excellent, but then it was time for water and coffee. So, we swigged a full bottle of water and walked towards Storybook Circus to see some of the new Dumbo features, and then to Gaston’s for coffee.

This trip was much more leisurely than we are used to, but it made it incredibly nice.

I was exhausted at this point and needed to watch my hydration, so we were back at the resort by 630p for dinner. I grabbed a chicken sandwich and lounged around the resort shop and then went on to bed. Saturday morning, we woke up around 7am again but I went out for a short shakeout run before breakfast. Three hot and humid miles reminded me that missing hydration today was NOT an option. We ate a leisurely breakfast at the resort and headed to Disney Springs around 10am. First stop was Vera Bradley because they have an adorable new Disney collection out NOW, while it was just window shopping I gave some hints to Jon for my birthday next month. We hit all the shops and then grabbed up the free chocolate at Ghirardelli and it was almost time for lunch with some of Jon’s family he hadn’t seen in awhile, but had helped make this trip possible. Paradiso 37 is one of our favorite restaurants and it never disappoints. We talked and ate, and a good time was had by all. We always give Paradiso 9/10 stars – they even sat our large group early.

After our time at Disney Springs and LOTS of water, I was feeling great. I asked Jon if we could check out the Boardwalk since the only time I had seen it was running by early in the morning. He happily obliged and we had one of our memorable experiences here. Jon was really wanting water at this point – it was pretty warm. So, we stopped in the General store and asked for water. Cups of water are FREE at Disney (not bottled but paper cups), but they happened to be out. Instead of sending us on our way they asked if we wanted slushies free of charge. When Disney offers you something for free you do NOT decline, and they were the best slushies. 10/10 for the slushies and the cast member who gave them to us.

The only let down was the part where I was hoping Ample Hills had a dairy free ice cream and they do not, but from everything I hear it is worth going!

When we got back to the resort we decided to eat somewhere a little bit cleaner at the All-Star Music resort next door, where they had some basic dinners that would fuel me better for the coming mornings race. It was an early night in bed watching Iron Man and drinking more water – ha.

 

Sunday morning race alarms are not my favorite because 2:40am is not any time to be awake, but I was up and on the bus at 3:02am and on my way to the Magic Kingdom parking lot where it all began. It didn’t feel terrible as I was walking around but I knew that would soon change. I finished off my water, stood in line for a couple character photos, and downed my Rxbar about an hour and a half before the start. Once the corrals opened I warmed up and jogged over to A where I met up with my new Atlanta, runDisney friend, Michael, and a few other of his friends who I met that morning. Having people to chat with and enjoy before the start made time go by so much quicker – it was such a nice change of pace.

As the start fireworks went off we headed out for the first of 13 miles, and an unusual but not unknown issue arose: I was cramping, and early. The heat and humidity weren’t terrible, but this early in the season I was completely unadjusted to the conditions, so I slowed up, way up after blazing through the first four miles. I grabbed both Powerade and water at all but one of the hydration stops (something that is very unusual for me), but I wasn’t the only one and the comradery around the conditions made it that much easier to keep fighting for the finish line. That and the fact that running through Pandora at night is incredible and turning down the main street in Hollywood Studios is stunning, every mile really is magic.

Finally, the 13-mile mark, and then I turned the corner and the finish line lay right ahead. I didn’t finish with a great time, but a few fun moments of getting jumped at by a storm trooper right at the line and then meeting up with my friends for character photos at the end help the recovery efforts 10-fold. I still managed to finish 7th overall and 1st in my age group so it’s exciting to add a new plaque for the shelf! Another perk was the ALL GLUTEN FREE snack box. FINALLY!

One of my favorite moments of the whole trip came during the post-race brunch. I always try to book a new restaurant on each of our trips and preferably at a new resort. So, I booked Olivia’s Café at Old Key West. Old Key West is a DVC resort so it’s a little quieter and serene. We sat a small table next to the window overlooking the lake as we dreamt about this trip and those to come, Jon over Banana French Toast and me over an omelette w/ gluten free toast. These moments are my favorite as we quiet back down before we head home to the crazy of life. Olivia’s is much like the Grand Floridian in price point, variety, and taste and I always lean towards the Grand. However, it’s a little less intimate so it depends on what environment you are looking for. And then we were headed to the resort to pack up and head out.

Also shout out the Orlando International Airport for some incredible upgrades all-around.

Another great weekend in the books, which means another trip to be planned. Until next time.

I hope this gives you a little insight into race weekends, how we maneuver all the things, and some of the best foodie finds on property!