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Archive for the ‘Activities, Travel, Vacations’ Category

Kurt’s Guide to Disney World Resort Hopping

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Resort hopping?

If you are a guest at one of the Disney World Resorts, you can visit several of their other resorts during the day and enjoy quite a bit of entertainment by resort hopping.  Not to mention all the awesome and interesting dining options.  Disney has an “open resort” policy which means that you are allowed to visit their other resorts and enjoy their amenities.  But Disney is very careful to point out that using a pool at another resort is strictly forbidden.


[Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, image from Tripadvisor.com]

But aside from the pool issue, there are lots of reasons to resort hop while you’re staying at Disney.  I will attempt to run down the major reasons below.  Please let me know if I got anything wrong or if I missed something important!


[Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort pool, image from Tripadvisor.com]

Resort choices

Fort Wilderness Resort

  • near: Magic Kingdom, Epcot
  • dining: 1 casual, 2 dinner shows (Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ), 1 bar
  • activities: archery, canoe/boat/kayak rentals, pony/horseback rides, movies under the stars, campfire sing-a-long, bike/jog trails, basketball, volleyball, arcade
  • transportation: boats to Magic Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge and Contemporary

All-Star Movies/Music/Sports Resorts

  • near: Animal Kingdom, Wide World of Sports, Blizzard Beach
  • dining: food courts, pool bars
  • activities: movies under the stars, jog trail, arcade

Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts

  • near: Wide World of Sports, Hollywood Studios, Epcot
  • dining: food courts, pool bars
  • activities: movies under the stars, jog trail, arcade

Caribbean Beach Resort

  • near: Epcot
  • dining: 1 casual, 1 fast food, pool bar
  • activities: mini golf, adventure cruise, campfire, bike/jog trails, arcade

Port Orleans Resorts, French Quarter and Riverside

  • near: Downtown Disney, Epcot
  • dining: 1 casual, 2 fast food, 4 bars
  • activities: carriage rides, adventure cruise, campfire, bike/jog trails, arcade
  • transportation: boats to Downtown Disney

Coronado Springs Resort

  • near: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach
  • dining: 1 casual, 3 fast food, 3 bars
  • activities: campfire, jog trail, arcade

Animal Kingdom Lodge

  • near: Animal Kingdom
  • dining: 1 fine, 3 casual themed, 3 fast food, 2 bars
  • activities: safari animal viewing, African art & artifacts, campfire, jog trail, arcade

Wilderness Lodge

  • near: Magic Kingdom
  • dining: 1 casual, 2 dinner shows
  • activities: bike/jog trails, boat rentals, movies under the stars, campfires, arcade
  • transportation: boats to Magic Kingdom and Fort Wilderness and Contemporary

Old Key West Resort

  • near: Downtown Disney, Epcot
  • dining: 1 casual, 3 fast food
  • activities: fitness center, campfire, movies under the stars, bike/jog trains, basketball, tennis, volleyball, arcades
  • transportation: boats to Downtown Disney

Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

  • near: Downtown Disney, Epcot
  • dining: 1 casual, 3 fast food, 2 bars
  • activities: spa services, campfire, bike/jog trails, tennis, basketball, arcade
  • transportation: boats to Downtown Disney

Contemporary Resort

  • near: Magic Kingdom
  • dining: 1 fine dining, 1 character dining, 1 casual themed, 3 fast food, 4 bars
  • activities: monorail runs through, water sports rentals, volleyball, tennis, jogging trail, campfire, movies under the stars, arcade, nighttime fireworks cruise
  • transportation: boats to Magic Kingdom and Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge

Beach/Yacht Club Resorts

  • near: Epcot
  • dining: 1 fine dining, 1 character dining, 3 casual, 2 fast food, 3 bars
  • activities: fitness center, mini golf, campfire, movies under the stars, adventure cruise, boat rentals, bike/jog trails, tennis, volleyball, arcade
  • transportation: boats to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Boardwalk and Swan/Dolphin

Boardwalk Inn Resort

  • near: Epcot
  • dining: 1 fine dining, 3 casual themed, 3 fast food, 1 bar
  • activities: mini golf, campfire, movies under the stars, bike/jog trails, tennis, arcade
  • transportation: boats to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Beach/Yacht Club and Swan/Dolphin

Swan and Dolphin Hotels

  • near: Epcot
  • dining: 2 fine dining, 5 casual, 3 fast food, 5 bars
  • activities: fitness center, tennis, volleyball, basketball, arcade, jogging trail
  • transportation: boats to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Boardwalk and Beach/Yacht Club

Polynesian Resort

  • near: Magic Kingdom
  • dining: 1 character dining, 1 dinner show, 2 casual themed, 3 fast food, 1 bar
  • activities: movies under the stars, boat rentals, campfire, bike/jog trails, volleyball
  • transportation: monorail and boats to Magic Kingdom and Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

  • near: Magic Kingdom
  • dining: 3 fine dining, 1 character dining, 1 casual, 3 fast food, 2 bars
  • activities: spa services, boat rentals, adventure cruise, movies under the stars, jogging trail, arcade
  • transportation: monorail and boats to Magic Kingdom and Polynesian

Getting from place to place

Epcot is a major bus hub, so you can get to pretty much anywhere from Epcot via bus.  Epcot is also a boat hub for the Boardwalk, the Beach/Yacht Clubs and the Dolphin/Swan resorts.

The Magic Kingdom is  a boat hub for the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, the Wilderness Lodge,Fort Wilderness, and the Contemporary.  The Magic Kingdom is a monorail hub for the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian.  A second monorail line runs between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

Animal Kingdom is also a major bus hub.

Yuo can get to Downtown Disney from pretty much any resort.  Also, Downtown Disney is a boat hub for the Old Key West, Saratoga Springs and the Port Orleans French Quarter/Riverside resorts.

Have fun!

Thanks for reading my blog!  Let me know if I got anything wrong or if you have any information to add!  And also let me know if this blog post helped you in any way shape or form!  Thanks!

Kurt

My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 8

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 8 (Thursday Oct 10th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

Today I slept in till 10am because I was up pretty late last night working on my computer.  After getting up, I caught up on my Facebook news feed and threw in a load of laundry.  Throughout the day today I put laundry either in or out of the washer and dryer in between other tasks I was working on.  At the end of the day I had washed and dried 4 separate loads of laundry.  Yay me!  :-)

I know I should exercise more often than just once a week, but this is all I’ve motivated myself to do so far.  Today I fast walked for just over three miles while listening to my Adam Ant station on Pandora on my phone.  It was a nice cool morning today and it feels like Fall is trying to make an appearance in Central Florida.

fast-walking

It’s weird that the Adam Ant station plays Duran Duran, but the Duran Duran station does NOT play Adam Ant.  What’s up with that, Pandora?  Are they similar to each other or not?

I want to thank my sister and her friend Missy and also my friend Mick for introducing me to Adam Ant along with lots of other great British music in the early 80s.  I was probably 12 or 13 years old which is probably too young for many of the lyrics in Adam Ant’s songs, but I was probably not understanding the lyrics anyways.  I think I turned out okay, regardless.  Now that I’m older and wiser and actually paying close attention, it seems to me that Adam Ant sang mostly about sex, but he also sang quite a bit about pirates and also a little bit about native american Indians.  Weird.

I tried to beat my fast walking time from last week, but I was not successful.  Trying to take my own self portrait while fast walking may have been a factor.  I’m not quite coordinated enough to work the camera on my phone without slowing down, I suppose.  After my little hike was over, I passed a yard sale walking back to my house, so I quickly checked it out.  There wasn’t anything there that I needed to have.  As a matter of fact, I noticed a pair of gently used men’s underwear and also some sexy women’s lingerie.  That’s real classy, people.   Real classy.

Then I sat in my Adirondack chair on my front porch for a while and enjoyed a banana and papaya smoothie.  I caught up on my email while I sat there and I also sent out some feelers for any potential TV or film background talent needs that might be currently active in Central Florida.  I’ve done some extra/background work in the past and I wouldn’t mind doing some now since it would not conflict with my NASA work schedule.  So if you know of any leads, please let me know.  Thanks.

After I pried myself up out of my comfortable Adirondack chair, I went into the shop and changed out my old mower blades with a brand new set.  I was not able to get them off the other day by hand, but I borrowed an air powered impact wrench the other day from a friend and it worked like a charm.  I have a convenient setup in my shop where I can lift up the front of the mower using a cable winch puller (a.k.a. come a long winch) inside the doorway between two rooms in my shop.

mower-lift

Notice that the winch is attached to the header in the doorway which is essentially a strong beam that is designed to support a load.  The rafters/trusses that you can see in the background of the photo (that the lights are attached to) are not designed specifically to support a heavy downward load applied at the lower horizontal members.  Those horizontal members are designed primarily for tension.  You could cause some structural damage if you applied heavy loads to those horizontal “beam” looking portions of the trusses.  So be careful.

There is a really simple diagram on this website that shows the forces on a typical truss.  Scroll down a page or two till you see the blue arrows.  (Some of the arrows should show compression and some should show tension, so it’s not perfectly accurate but you get the idea.)

After I put on the new mower blades, I took them for a test drive.  They worked beautifully.  They sounded great and they cut like butter.  It felt kinda like walking in a new pair of shoes.  You feel light on your feet and empowered to go places.  With my new mower blades I felt like I could take on the world … or at least a few large yards.  My yard doesn’t need cutting for several more days, though, so I put the mower away and went looking for my next task.

I realized that I was starting to get hungry, so I went inside and ate my leftover Mr. Submarine sub sandwich from yesterday.  Then I installed trim around the fireplace brick in my living room.  This has needed to be done for two years now … ever since we bought this house … but I’ve been busy and this was not one of my highest priorities.  Don’t judge me … it’s done now.   :-)

It wasn’t exactly a simple job.  Most trim is just nailed into the bottom wood plate of the wall.  But this fireplace trim had to be installed in the direction such that the tall dimension was laying against the brick and the thin dimension was laying against the drywall.  That left me no place to nail the trim to, so I had to glue it.  I used Liquid Nails Indoor Projects adhesive and then I nailed some finish nails into the drywall to hold the trim tightly against the brick while the adhesive dried.  After I remove the finish nails from the drywall, I will have tiny little holes right along the new trim to patch and paint.  Oh well.

fireplace-trim

This odd installation direction is partially because the gap between the drywall and the brick is too large for the thin dimension to cover, but partially because it looks pretty good this way.  After I got my tools put away, I sat down and did some planning for going out in my canoe tomorrow.  The plan is to go out bright and early in the morning, unless it’s real windy.  It’s no fun rowing a canoe against a stiff wind.

Then I ate dinner which was popcorn shrimp wrap … popcorn shrimp, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, Italian dressing all rolled in a soft flour tortilla.  After dinner I spent an hour or so pulling stuff together for canoeing in the morning … including strapping the canoe to the top of the SUV.  Then I showered and now I’m writing this blog post.  That’s pretty much day eight of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.

My to-do list had 24 items on it last night when I went to bed.  Tonight it now has 21 items on it. Not bad at all.

What will tomorrow hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! :-)

Kurt

My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 7

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 7 (Wednesday Oct 9th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

Today I got up at 9am and got caught up on my Facebook news feed.  Then I ate a couple breakfast burgers and got dressed to leave the house.

I went to a friend’s house to help them with their home renovations that they’ve been working on.  I spent a couple hours rolling primer in the kitchen and in one of the bedrooms.  Then I cut and installed some kick panels in their kitchen.  Then I removed an old ceiling fan and installed three light fixtures.  I really didn’t need any payment for my work, but my friends bought me lunch at Mr. Submarine, here in Titusville.  It’s a great local joint and I highly recommend it for a quick and inexpensive lunch or dinner.

Then I came home and showered and then went to another friend’s house for a couple of hours for family life group.  Then I came home and promptly remembered that I was supposed to drop by the grocery store for some critical items that we had run out of.  So I hopped back in the car and took care of that errand.  Then I took the garbage and yard waste to the road.

After that, I spent an hour or so designing and drawing out a circuit that I plan to build soon to be driven by my Raspberry Pi single board computer.  I’ll talk details about that project in a separate blog post soon.  Then I caught up on my Facebook one more time and now I’m writing this blog post.  That’s pretty much day seven of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.

My to-do list had 25 items on it last night when I went to bed.  Tonight it now has 24 items on it. So I only got one official thing done today, but unofficially it was a busy and successful day for me.

What will tomorrow hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! :-)

Kurt

My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 6

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 6 (Tuesday Oct 8th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

Today I got up at 8am and got caught up on my Facebook news feed.  Yesterday my weight ended in 7 so I weighed myself again this morning and it ended in 5, so I guess yesterday’s weight was a bit off.  I realize that your body weight fluctuates and there’s no reason to weigh yourself every single day, but yesterday’s weight was a bit alarming, so I wanted to check again today.

I looked over my to-do list and decided to try not to do a lot of physical work today.  Sometimes your body just needs a relaxing day.  But I still wanted to get some to-do items knocked off my list, so I found some things that didn’t involve a lot of sweat and tears.  My first task was to add a guest account to my boys computer.  My 11 year old a couple weeks ago asked me to add a guest account and add a password to the account that he and his brother use every day.  Apparently the boys are a little annoyed when friends come over to play and they mess up their places and scores in some of the apps and games they like to play.

Then I upgraded my blog software, WordPress, on my web server.  You probably didn’t notice since it looks and acts the same.  Then I spent a little bit of time practicing a solo that I was recently given in my church‘s Christmas program.  My wife was out of the house for a few hours this morning, so I was able to launch a YouTube version of the song and sing along at full volume without anyone hearing me.  After that, I worked some more on some VHS video tapes that I’m transferring to DVD.  Once I started to get hungry, I made myself a chicken wrap for lunch and ate it.

Then I drove over to the local fitness center and gave blood.  I had missed a couple opportunities to give blood at work several weeks ago, so I’ve been keeping my eye out for the blood-mobile in town.  Their website has a list of upcoming locations in case you’re wanting to give blood.  You could save a life!

blood-mobile

While I was out of the house, I stopped into Firestone and got my oil changed and also got my busted wheel lug replaced.  I had busted off a wheel lug a couple months ago when I was changing a flat tire by hand.  Don’t know my own strength, I suppose.  Then I ran through Lowes for a couple pieces of fireplace trim that I need to install.

Then I went back home and worked on a case mod for my new tiny little Raspberry Pi single board computer.  The board came in a plastic case for shipping, but I added some holes for cables and such.  Once I got it in a case, I felt more comfortable handling it and so I moved it over next to the house modem so I could plug it into the Internet connection and perform some software downloads and installations.  I then wrote a simple program on the Raspberry Pi in Python to turn on and off an output channel on the I/O bus.

raspberry-pi-case-mod

By this time, I had run out of time and had to go shower and go to choir rehearsal.  This week is our first week of working on our Christmas program music.  We had a very good turnout of folks who were starting tonight specifically to be in the Christmas program.

After choir rehearsal, I got back to playing with my new tiny computer.  I verified using a digital multimeter that the channel on the I/O connector was actually being set ON (3.3 volts) and OFF (0 volts) by the Python script that I had written earlier.  This allows the operator to energize or deenergize a relay which can turn on and off lots of different things, like motors, etc.  Basically this thing can control a small or not too complex robot or other electronics that you can think of.  I’ve got lots of little project ideas for this little computer, but the first project that I want to work on is controlling devices wirelessly using a web interface from my laptop or from my smartphone.  So after proving that I could turn on and off the channel from the Python script, I installed Apache web server along with PHP and mySQL.

I tweaked my Python script to run from the web browser under CGI, but it would not run successfully because the I/O library that it was using required adminitrative rights to run.  So I turned to another I/O library for the Raspberry Pi called WiringPi that doesn’t need administrative rights.  After installing and playing around with WiringPi, I created a JavaScript web page that calls multiple CGI scripts written in BASH shell depending on which button you press.  This configuration worked great.  I was able to command the Raspberry Pi I/O bus via wireless web browser connection on both my laptop and on my iPhone.  So the next step is to design and create the custom circuit board that takes the various channel 3.3 volt signals and does something useful and fun with them.  That will be a to-do item for another day, though.

I got a lot accomplished today.  It looks like my to-do list now has 25 items on it.  I got a few checked off, but I did a lot of tasks today that were not actually written down on the list, plus I added a couple new items throughout the day, in typical fashion.

What will tomorrow hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! :-)

Kurt

My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 5

Monday, October 7th, 2013

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 5 (Monday Oct 7th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

I had to change the title of this journal series because last night CNN reported that Congress had approved back pay for all furloughed government employees.  No word on the end of the Government Shutdown, though.  So this means that I’m going to get paid to sit at home and not work while Congress continues to argue over their own specific party-line agendas.  It’s pretty embarrassing.  It’s tempting to just go ahead and do some actual government work from home during this time where we know we’re going to get paid anyways, but we were all warned that we would be breaking the law if we tried to perform any work or if we even volunteered our time to our government jobs.

So here is what I did today.  I woke up at 7:30am this morning and caught up on my Facebook news feed.  I try to catch up at least once in the morning and once in the evening in order to keep up to date on all my friends postings.  Of course, if I have some spare time during the day, I’m not above quickly checking it on my phone multiple times during the day.  But I usually spend not much more than 5 or 10 minutes a couple times a day keeping up to date with my news feed.  I’m not one to go digging for stuff or to go commenting and liking all over the place.

Here is a quote from my post on Wednesday of last week … Government Shutdown Day 2:

My baseline weight ends in 3, so I will try to stay at or below that weight throughout the furlough.

It’s now Monday … only 5 days later.  I got on the scale this morning and my weight ended in a 7.  Whoa.  That’s 4 extra pounds in only 5 days.  I need to lay off the daily banana smoothies.  And the side stops to Burger King.  And the pre-holiday egg nog.  And the special Cub Scout camp fire desserts.  I was doing so good maintaining and even losing some weight before the furlough.  But not being at work all day seems to have changed my eating and snacking habits significantly.  Gonna have to work harder on that while I’m home.  The thing that typically works for me is to not eat at all the regular times, but to hold off my eating until I actually feel hungry.  That, plus not eating very much junk food tends to work pretty well for me.

My first order of business this morning was to sit down and pay the end of the month bills.  Yes, the end of September.  It’s only October 7th, so I’m not technically late on any of these bills yet.  And I’m one full month ahead on paying most of my utility bills, so I’m not really at risk for getting the water or the TV or the phone shut off even if I was really late in paying the bills.  But I should have done it about a week ago, regardless.

Why am I a full month ahead in paying most of my utilities, you ask?  I’m slightly embarrassed to say that several years ago, when I was very busy in a musical at the Cocoa Village Playhouse, I got behind on some of my utility bills and one time got my water cut off.  And another time I got my cable TV and phone cut off.  Embarrassing.  So to keep that from happening ever again, I paid double what was due at some point or another and have maintained that pre-payment status ever since.  So most of my utility bills come to me with a zero balance due.  So basically I pay them all a month in advance.

After paying the bills, I started to feel hungry, so I ate a bowl of cereal.  I know, not very healthy.  But more healthy than a Dunkin’ Donuts doughnut, right?

After that, I picked up sticks in the yard and then I tried to change the mower blades, but I failed.  I was not able to get the old blades off.  I verified that the bolts were right hand threaded and that I wasn’t trying to tighten them.  I posted to Facebook that I needed to borrow an impact wrench and then I mowed the yard using the old blades.  I had to go slower than I wanted because the old blades were pretty dull.

After I was done mowing, I checked the movie showtimes and noticed that Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney was playing on the IMAX 3D screen in Merritt Island.  I got showered and drove to Cocoa to eat lunch before the movie.  I had a club sandwich on garlic toast and bottled water at Oleander Bakery in Cocoa Village which would have been a fairly healthy lunch, but then I followed it up with a pumpkin cupcake which I really didn’t need.  But who can pass up a seasonal limited time only pumpkin cupcake?  It was pretty great, by the way.

Then I saw the movie on the big IMAX 3D screen.  I had a Fandango coupon from the Central Florida blood-mobile, so it only cost me a dollar as opposed to the normal 12 dollar price.  I’m a tight-wad so I would be hard pressed to pay 12 bucks for a movie.  But that’s just me.  Anyway, the movie was really great.  I’m usually not easily impressed with movies these days.  And I’m usually not easily impressed with special effects in movies these days.  But this movie was done very well.  The 3D IMAX experience was probably the only way to see this particular movie.  It feels like you are actually out in space with the characters.  The filming and the special effects and the production were all amazing.  During most of the movie it felt like it was all done in one long take, and it was very well choreographed.  It’s just an amazing movie.  It was so amazingly well made that I forgave them for creating a universe where a debris field could take out all our communication satellites and also take out the Hubble Space Telescope at the same time.  But hey, they had to take some artistic liberties, didn’t they?  :-)

After the movie, I went to a drive-thru car wash and mini-detail joint.  Then I drove home.  I got a phone call from a high school friend who I haven’t heard from in several months and we caught up on each other’s lives for a bit.  We talked for 45 minutes during his drive home from work.  My wife cooked dinner and then had to run to a school parent meeting, so I fed the kids the dinner that she cooked and I ate too.

Then I got online and bought my wife and I two tickets to see Young Frankenstein at the Cocoa Village Playhouse for this coming weekend.  I’ve been in a number of productions there (8, I believe) and have lots of friends performing there, but that’s not the only reason we go.  The quality of the productions there are second to none.  It’s a truly incredible place.  It’s Broadway quality at community theater prices.

I’ve had a full day today, but I had just enough energy to work on one more item from my to-do list tonight.  I got all the photos off my iPhone camera and organized them on my computer and then sent out the best photos to grandparents and aunts and uncles.  And some of the cub Scouting photos, I also sent to our Cub Master.  And now I’m typing up this blog post.  That about does it for today.

Looks like my to-do list now has 27 items on it.  I got a few checked off, but I did a lot of tasks today that were not actually written down on the list, plus I added a couple new items throughout the day, in typical fashion.

What will tomorrow hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! :-)

Kurt