GIRLS’ GETAWAY weekend at DISNEY – Who needs theme parks?

Before I get started, I need to explain a couple of things:

1. When I had my first child I took on a new mission statement, since I was in a new season. “Have a baby AND a life.” I had heard way too many stories of moms losing themselves in the craziness, so I wanted to make sure this didn’t happen to me. The ones we love and take care of are much better off if we are taking the time we need to love ourselves. And when I don’t make sure this happens my whole family suffers, because sweet mommy turns into witchy slave-driver (you don’t want to meet her). That being said, just know that I will be writing about this from time to time — and sharing some fun ideas on ways to take care of you.  Sometimes with kids, sometimes without.

2.   I don’t get paid to talk about any of the things I am writing about. Not by Disney, not by OMB, so this is my honest opinion. If I am ever being compensated in any way, I will let you know!

So, here goes.

Girls' Weekend at Disney

GIRLS’ GETAWAY weekend at DISNEY – Who needs theme parks?

Recently I was in charge of planning the annual “getaway” for a rather rambunctious group of girls — myself and my besties. We are a random mishmash in which every womanly cliché is represented. One glorious weekend a year, we pack our bags and head “down south” to enjoy a weekend away from all the responsibilities that go along with #adultlife, #lifeafterthirty.

Although every year we pontificate about going to Miami, St. Augustine or Amelia Island, alas reality sets in, and we realize we can’t really go too far from home for one reason or another. So, “away” for us always ends up equating to Disney. Hey, living in the tourist epicenter of the planet does have its benefits!

In Florida, one need not travel far from home to feel as though you are far from home. This is especially true when we have world-famous theme parks in competition to build the coolest and most immersive vacation right here in Orlando. I wanted to whisk my homies away for an “experience,” not just another couple of days off. However, I had to work within my stipulations, and had to think outside the touristy box.

The Hotel

THE HOTEL:

One could stay on the savannas of Africa (complete with a menagerie of animals outside the window), or on the canals of Venice complete with a gondola ride to … breakfast. Nevertheless, we always stay in the same hotel — Wyndham Bonnet Creek (booked through VRBO.com). WHY? Because you really can’t beat it for our needs (cheap, beautiful, nice, big). It is a time-share community that offers amazing deals straight from the owners of the rooms. As a big group with a modest budget, you get a beautiful, spacious place to stay in a centralized location. It is smack-dab in the middle of Disney “property” without being an actual Disney hotel. Seeing that this weekend was all about forgetting that we are big girls with adult lives, we simply HAD TO stay together for this epic slumber party of age-appropriate, over-21 benefit proportions! And separate hotel rooms just wouldn’t do!

Like many our age, our days of cruising the Caribbean in the Presidential suite (ahem, Sarah! — sorry, inside joke) are still somewhere in the future — the same future where we have unlimited funds and our calendars magically sync up. For now, we opt for a resort with a beautiful kid-less pool that serves fruity adult beverages delivered straight into our lazy little vacationing fingers — never once having to leave our spot in the sun.

The Destination

THE DESTINATION:

We do one big dinner while we are away; it’s kind of the main event. Since it was fall and starting to cool off,  I thought it would be fun to immerse ourselves in  Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort for the evening. The visuals alone of this themed hotel make you feel the chilled air almost immediately. The hotel is meant to be a massive lodge indicative of those found in upper Washington State or Alberta, Canada. It is literally breathtaking to walk into the immense, vaulted atrium, complete with 10-story-high, Native American totem poles which function as vertical support beams for the balconies. A GIANT wood burning fireplace welcomes weary vacationers to come. sit. rock. (in a rocking chair). and just be still. Headdresses, and other authentic native artifacts are on display, so you almost get a museum experience as well.

well spring of the bubbling brook

While exploring the lobby, we heard the bubbling brook before we saw it. We followed the sound to the well of the spring that began inside the hotel, but then flowed out the giant wooden doors to the timberland which overlooks the lake. Outside, we walked alongside fire-pits, through caves and past erupting geysers and pools to the lake. As we turned around, looking back, we saw the amazing lodge lit up and perfectly framed with waterfalls and rock formations. #ohDisney!

BZZZ. BZZZZ, BZZZZZZ just as we were taking it all in, our buzzer went off letting us know our table was ready.

The Dinner

THE DINNER:

There are two sit-down restaurants in DWL hotel: Artist’s Point, considered their “high-end” option, and Whispering Canyon Cafe, which is their less expensive (yet still expensive), immersive one. I really wanted to take these girls to Artist’s Point, which I had heard RAVES about, but the only one with availability that night was Whispering Canyon. Going in, I honestly did not have high hopes for this place. And I was afraid the restaurant choice would be an epic fail. I had heard that the servers yell and throw things at you from across the room, so I wasn’t’ sure what to expect.  Turns out, our waiter was super nice, and accommodating. I believe he took a quick read of our table and realized that we wouldn’t really be into all that on our girls night out. So our experience was not actually loud or obnoxious. Other than the occasional yelp from across the room, it was private and perfect for our large group.

From earlier having looked at the menu online, I had figured it was a really fancy way of saying that they had barbecue. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Everything we ordered totally blew us away. This restaurant’s “thing” is that you can order “family style.” The Slow-Smoked Pulled Pork Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce were to die for — we ended up fighting over them!  My main course of Oak-roasted Pork Loin Rib Chop with Cheese Grits, Buttered Chard, Apple-Cranberry Relish, and Natural Juices, just WOW WOW WOW. I honestly cannot describe the party in my mouth that night! Everything on the menu was up-scaled in some way, even though the dishes seemed relatively familiar.

A couple of my friends ordered the family style Build-Your-Own All-You-Care-To-Enjoy Platter that had the waiter coming back, and back, and back again to refill their plates! They definitely ate all they could, and then they put what they couldn’t, in a doggy bag.

This meal was so good; I couldn’t even imagine what their “high-end” restaurant would have been like!

Disney has a lot of hidden treasures to be found, and if you’re a local like me and not in a huge hurry to cram four theme parks into four days, you can truly slow down and enjoy the amazing goodies that many die-hard, desperate vacationers miss. I for one, am glad I can take an entire night to truly appreciate all that is ONE Disney detail. 

Have you been to Wilderness Lodge, or stayed at Bonnet Creek? Do you agree? What do you do with your girlfriends to getaway?

 

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4 Responses to GIRLS’ GETAWAY weekend at DISNEY – Who needs theme parks?

  1. barnickelamy February 25, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    Great post, Freedom! We use VRBO and Homeaway.com all the time for family vacays. One year we had a family reunion week at a house in Haines City that was on a lake, had a pool, and was enormous enough to fit 11 of us plus kids all under one roof. What a great time. Those from out of town were close enough to go to and from Disney as they wanted, and those of us who didn’t want to go stayed home and played, went fishing, etc. I highly recommend using these services–although it was a few years ago now, I think we paid a total of about $1500 for the week. You can do the math on the savings that afforded us! This summer we are doing the same thing, but we’re going to Wisconsin to visit family and celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday. Strangely, a much smaller place with fewer amenities costs more, and we are not going to a resort town by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s still worth it to be able to take our dog with us and have people over in privacy of a single family home. LOVE the idea for a girls weekend getaway!

  2. Joy February 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Bonnet Creek truly is a gem. My husband and I made the goal of eating our way through all that Disney has to offer. We have been visiting restuarant after restuarant for 4 years and still have not see experienced everything Disney has to offer outside the 4 parks. But we have become foodies! I love living in Orlando. Thanks Freedom, its a great article!

  3. Sarah March 7, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    I’ve also stayed at a Wyndham Bonnet Creek. Rather than eat around Disney like Joy, we drink our way around Epcot. A safe shuttle ride back to a mutli-bedroom unit is a perfect way to finish a day of debauchery. With more than one bedroom but a shared kitchen & living area, we have done couple’s getaways (or is it a stay…away?) in the same strategy. Sometimes we’re even nice and let the sitter (a/k/a grandma) bring the kids over the next morning and spend the day splashing around as a family to get the most out of our rental! We’ve stayed at a dozen other Wyndham Vacation Ownership properties around the country. You can find them all at http://www.extraholidays.com too. That’s their “outlet” for points being unused by owners – multi-room suites at a hotel price. Love!

    Freedom – sorry for the late reply. I didn’t see this post, because I was offline…in the Caribbean…at the Ritz. But don’t take that too personally, because I want an invite to the next one of these girls’ weekends! Just sayin’.

  4. Hannah lloyd October 18, 2014 at 1:55 am #

    My friends and I did a girls weekend away at disney last year in April, we arrived on a Friday night, settled in and visited the game room for free DVDs and a twister game. Back to the room for drinks and fun. The next day we visited downtown disney then hit the pool at Disneys Key West resort which is where we were staying. Went back to our 2 bedroom villa for showers and dinner, then we headed out for the monorail crawl. It was so much fun taking in the resorts on the monorail and hitting 5 different bars for a drink. If you time it correctly you can be at the tower of Bay lake to watch magic kingdoms fireworks. After an evening or girl time and spirits we took the monorail to MK so we could transfer to a bus back to Key West. A great time was had by all. We are currently looking into our girls weekend away for May 2015, I’m thinking we should stay at the boardwalk resort and do dueling pianos at the Jellyroll then head over to Atlantic Dance co to finish the night. The nice thing about staying on disney property is no worries about drinking and driving, we just use the transportation Disney offers.

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