Disney Springs – Raglan Road

Florida, Travel, United States

Perhaps one of the best surprises on my last trip to Orlando was finding the gem that is Raglan Road in Disney Springs. It started with finding out that they have Gluten-Free fish and chips (something I haven’t had since 2015 when I was in England) and it ended with knowing it was the perfect place to take my baby sister for her bachelorette party dinner.

Raglan Road is set up part Irish pub and part Irish dance show. What caught my eye is that it reminded me of my last visit to Dublin and a visit to the Celtic Nights dinner and dance show.

What is great about Raglan Road, and a little different, and a totally American fashion, is that the building is absolutely pristine, and the dancing matches that. Call it Disney magic, or an Americana fabrication, but the venue offers a level of escapism that is not always seen in a restaurant.

Orlando ultimately has a little bit of everything for everyone. One can escape into their favorite movies or cartoon and not worry about everything that exists on the outside world. Raglan Road offers its own version of Ireland encapsulated in a restaurant setting.

While I often am put off by “Irish” things or “Celtic” as they often have a tackiness to them, Raglan Road offered a happy blend of the things I love about folk culture in the British Isles.

The restaurant is well designed with touches of traditional architecture and creating a typical pub atmosphere. Even better, the restaurant is staffed by a fabulous group of people that make you feel welcomed and cared for the second you walk inside. Even when I called to adjust our reservation about three times, everyone was friendly and delighted to help. As a restaurant, the food was absolutely delicious, and my fish and chips were cooked to perfection, and the portion was massive, but reflective of a traditional chippy meal!

Raglan offers a great restaurant, but the main draw for people is the folk music, dance, singing, and overall fun that the restaurant is home to. Not only is the restaurant full of talented dancers, singers, and performers, they have taken the care to make the restaurant an immersive experience celebrating food and art!

My sister had a wonderful night, everyone gave her well wishes, we all enjoyed our food, and it was one of the best times out I have ever had. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by, and tap your foot to some great Irish tunes!

Universal Studios – Cabana Bay Resort

Florida, Travel, United States

A big reason why we headed to Orlando in October 2020 was for my baby sister’s wedding. As it goes when friends and family fly in for a wedding, a week of wedding-related adventures must ensue. It was vital that this included a Bachelorette Party and we could not think of a better place to celebrate than the Cabana Bay Beach Resort!

photo- Steven Miller

While Cabana is considered an economical option in the Universal Resort hotels, and it is rated as a 3-star hotel, I truly felt that the accommodations and service compared to 4-star if not 5-star locations. The resort offers a family-friendly atmosphere while not compromising on design and a touch of luxury. With a 1950s/60s theme it’s a fun and nostalgic vacation spot offering a lot for travelers.

Photo- Steven Miller

The resort is located right next to the parks, making it easy to walk from or bus from to the parks (including Volcano Bay). This makes accessing the parks an absolute delight and more comfortable than accommodations of the same caliber at Disney. Which I find a phenomenal perk to staying at Universal. For my group this meant we could go to the parks, have a meal at City Walk, change at the hotel, go back to City Walk, and back again as needed. Going out with a big group also meant that people could come and go as they pleased and a pool-side suite that comfortably slept six gave us ample space and comfort.

The suites offer two queen beds and a pull-out sofa bed. While the two queens share a space, the sofa bed is in a living area with a sliding door to close it off. This is especially nice for those needing more sleep (such as kids) and offering more privacy for a large group of people. The kitchenette, with a microwave and sink, also make time with kids a lot easier to manage and enjoy!

Photo- Steven Miller

In addition to comfortable rooms, the hotel offers a large pool area, with a section of sand for a “beach feel” and some great dining options. While you won’t get much originality in food options, there is a lot of care to make things allergy-friendly, and it was all tasty.

If you are staying more than one night skip inside bars and glasses and head for the pool bar. There you can get a fantastic cocktail for around $15.00 (common drink price) which comes with a souvenir tumbler. This tumbler can be reused for drinks the ENTIRE time you visit and they cost $10.00 each versus $15.00. If you plan on returning, bring your tumbler from before and the discount still applies. I’m not much of a drinker, but the tumbler has proven to be a nice drink mug at home and to show off at work.

Do plan on some additional costs at the resort. Parking is $17.00 per day, per car (versus $20.00 in the regular lot). None of your food or drinks are included with the rate (unless you get a meal plan) and you have to buy tickets separately for the parks.

Photo- Steven Miller

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Cabana and I REALLY enjoyed the whole experience and my time there. While I may return with a bigger budget in the future, I am pretty sold on staying at Cabana for my future adventures.

Happy Travels!

Universal Studios – With Tweens

Florida, Travel, United States

I think it’s easy to assume when a kid gets older that they will have it more together when you vacation later. I could not be more wrong.

12 is an odd age, somewhere between childhood and the teens, the 12 year old brain is a confusing landscape of hormones, angst, and forgetfulness. I was definitely more of the first two than the later, and when I am out and about with my step-daughter I find that FORGETFULNESS is the name of the game.

Lesson learned, when we were at Universal Studios, our second day of play, my stepdaughter had her wand (chosen at Olivander’s and a gift from my sister and brother-in-law)from the day before, we were having an AWESOME girls day before meeting my cousins, and then things went crazy. We could blame the Hogwarts Express, and the unassuming shelves and comfortable seats, and in which my stepdaughter left her wand. I blame not making her take a bigger backpack so she could fit her said wand in it. I also blame the own chaos of my day in which my credit card FELL OUT OF MY WALLET when we were at Universal, which lead to the day feeling disjointed and mad.

Tweens, in their hormonal state, tend to fall into tears. Which is exactly what happened when we discovered the wand was missing and no one had turned it into lost and found. While Lily freaked out, some magic was found in a way only dedicated Universal Studios staff can, by helping us replace the wand. An extremely kind “conductor” at the Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade took us to the wand shop in Hogsmeade to replace Lily’s misplaced fun.

While the gesture was undoubtedly kind, it was that the company’s dedication to making sure that guests were taken care of and happy with all the elements of their vacation that really hit home. It left its influence on my stepdaughter too, as since she lost her wand, and went through the embarrassment of needing someone to save the day, she has been much more conscious of her existence.

It hasn’t made all of 12 better and we are still buckled in for the ride of the next few years (ok 6+), it made a positive influence on miss Lily. However, Lily is more aware of where her phone, and coat, and backpack are. She hasn’t lost valuable items, and her hoodies make it home. While homework is the next frontier, I see changes every week, for the better.

At the end of the day, the hiccups in life make us stronger, wiser, and better and travel often make us face it. Sometimes there are tears, and embarrassment, and hard lessons, but we ultimately learn some big lessons. For my stepdaughter, it has been that things work out, and kindness and manners go a long way (giving and receiving). It is also a lesson in responsibility and organization, and being able to let go of stresses and still have a fun vacation. All of which I am so happy she is learning while seeing the world.

Happy TRAVELS!

Universal Studios – Must Buy Souvenirs

Florida, Travel, United States

I generally find souvenirs a bit on the hokey, at times worthless, side. That being said, I do like getting little things to commemorate my adventures and I know it means even more to kiddos when they get to see the world.

Universal has no end to shopping and items one can pick from, if anything they have too many options to choose from. From Potterhead “musts” to Marvel treats, the entire theme park offers something for everyone. I am definitely in camp Potter, while my family loved the variety of Marvel, pride, and comic books offered in the park. However, while our decisions are based on preferences and fandoms, there are a few things that make great momentos and memories, and you should make sure you budget for with your family trip.

Here is my short list:

  1. A Wand – Harry Potter World offers the fantastic wand ceremony at Olivander’s and if you have young ones in your party, they will most likely hope to be chosen for the ceremony. If they are chosen for the ceremony, the wand that selects them is available for the low price of $55.00 each. While this does seem like a steep price for a fiber glass souvenir, do know that it interacts with the park and “unlocks” surprises throughout the Wizarding World. This means that trip one, or trip twenty is made all the most special. It also means, if your kiddo is chosen, a truly priceless memory is created with the Olivander’s experience AND you likely won’t have to do it again.
  2. A Lanyard – The park sells lanyards everywhere, and while the price may seem steep, it does make for an easier trip. The lanyards they sell allow for holding ones ticket, making going in and out of the parks much easier. As Universal does not offer a virtual or “Magic Band” equivalent, having something on your neck makes for an easier day with less wallets and worrying about losing your ticket. An added bonus, the lanyard works when you go home for whatever use you may need.
  3. Jurassic Park Shirt – This may be a personal preference, but I feel like everyone needs a Jurassic Park shirt. If you are a fan of the movie(s) then the shirt feels like a good purchase, however if you are going to ride the Jurassic Park River Adventure, you are likely to get sopping wet at the end, and a shirt just seems like a good rash purchase. My husband agrees this is a smart buy.
  4. A Hoodie – Living in Colorado we practically live in hoodies for like 80% of the year *short summers and cold summer nights* buying a hoodie on vacation is a common souvenir and they WILL get used.
  5. Sweets – While they mad get consumed in the park, sweets from different areas of the park bring a lot of fun to vacation. I adore the Harry Potter themed options in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and my husband and stepdaughter loved Toothsome and their glorious shakes. Oh – and don’t forget the butterbeer.
  6. Patches – Last, but not least, I buy patches everywhere that I travel to and I sew them onto a jacket. It’s a cheap and small item that I can have as a reminder of my adventures. At Universal they have some great items in the Harry Potter world that are perfect for your own travel jacket.

HAPPY TRAVELS & SHOPPING!