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Best-Kept Secrets of Disney

By Jamie Beckman
June 16, 2015
Disney World
Courtesy GL Salava/myBudgetTravel
Think you know Disney World? We're spilling about the park's hidden thrills, from obscure deals to free desserts to weird special effects that'll entertain any eye-rolling teen…plus a racy, adults-only inside joke that you'll only see if you know where to look.

If you weren't a believer in the magic of Walt Disney before, these obscure Disney World attractions and deals might change your mind. First: Yes, there is free stuff to be had at Disney World, and we'll tell you where to get it. Second: Adults, there is a particularly dirty joke to behold...provided you seek it out.

We spoke with longtime theme park journalist and Disney fanatic Susan Veness, whose book The Hidden Magic of Disney World was just updated with the newest secrets about the park. It's full of intriguing trivia—for example, what might look like a tree stump or a rock in Animal Kingdom really holds food or air conditioning to encourage the animals to come out of hiding so guests can see them—but more importantly for Budget Travelers, if there's anyone who can tell you what's worth your time and money, it's Veness. Read on for hush-hush must-do's, must-sees, and insider tips on how to save cash while maximizing fun.

1. The number-one little-known way to save money at Disney is through "cards": the Annual Pass and two other under-the-radar memberships.

Repeat Disney visitors in particular will love this hint: To reap the benefits of the Annual Pass ($697), only one person in your family needs to actually have one. It's good for a year of unlimited, same-day access to the four Disney World parks and free parking, and in turn, it unlocks a domino effect of resort discounts and shopping and dining deals.

"It's all about the cards," Veness says. "Annual Passholders also qualify for the Tables in Wonderland card [$100], which offers great savings on dining, including alcohol. The Landry's Select Club card [one-time membership fee of $25, offset by a $25 Welcome Rewards credit] is perfect for all guests dining at Landry's restaurants, including Yak & Yeti, Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, and several offsite locations within the chain. You can even use it at Landry's restaurants back home." 

2. Freebie alert! For a giant, wallet-friendly lunch, plus a free dessert, head to Downtown Disney. 

Our favorite ways to save on food at Disney are strategies that Veness likes too: "Guests can save significantly at any dining location by paying attention to portion sizes," she says. "Most locations, especially full-service restaurants, have portions large enough that even two adults can share. Counter service locations won’t card you if you order a kids' meal."

But the real way to cash in is at the Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. They have "enormous sandwiches at modest prices [from $6]," she says. "Then pop into Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a free sample of chocolate for dessert."

3. Three cool Disney "secrets" in particular appeal to three different age groups, sardonic teenagers included.

Little kids, especially, dig the interactive movie tie-ins, Veness says: "Youngsters love to find the key under the mat at Muppet*Vision 3-D and have the dog sniff their hand when they stick it up his nose in the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set Adventure."

Older children and teens' minds are blown when they stand at the exact center of the Temple of Heaven in Epcot's China pavilion and speak. "The temple is acoustically perfect, and it's eerie to hear their own voice coming directly back into their ears so that they hear their voice as others hear it," she says. 

Twists on history and nostalgia tend to be big hits with adults. "When they realize what looks like a swastika in the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is really a Balkan Cross with a Nazi flag background, they really appreciate the Imagineers' ability to 'trick the eye' with something more politically correct than the authentic item would be," she says.

4. Beauty and the Beast's Belle has a tawdry literary secret.

Venture into Belle's village in New Fantasyland for a spicy surprise. "Belle has left a book—The Dream of a Woman, by Remy de Gourmont—on the table in Maurice's cottage," Veness says. "De Gourmont's works are not exactly known for being G-rated." Indeed. We at BT—or, rather, I, the writer of this feature, was so intrigued about the subject matter that I dug up a 1927 critique of the book in the Saturday Review:

"[T]he sensual content, which is high in 'The Dream of a Woman,' often saves [de Gourmont's] non-critical books from dullness. There is a fashionable suggestion of perversion in the friendship of his two heroines, which is carried beyond the stage of suggestion in the affair of Claude and the model. It is possible that Remy de Gourmont's book, unimportant as it is, may enjoy some slight vogue because of its purely fleshly element."

Worth noting: Belle reads the book in the animated movie too. Scandal!

However, it's a 1917 paper I found about de Gourmont, "Ideals in Modern French Literature," by Katherine Lee, published in the journal Library, that might make the most sense about why Disney animators and Disney World Imagineers put "The Dream of a Woman" on brainy, independent Belle's reading list:

"Remy de Gourmont thought that each man should have his own personal vision of the world. His point of view in regard to human happiness is perhaps best brought out in his novels, which, it must be confessed, are more of the head than the heart. 'Le songe d'une femme,' a series of letters between various sorts of lovers, has an intellectual rather than a sentimental interest."

5. Keep your eyes peeled at Animal Kingdom to see something truly weird in the shrubbery.

If you go out of your way to see one thing at Disney, Veness says, head to Animal Kingdom. "Strange and obscure" is how Veness describes DiVine, a stilt-walker covered in greenery"Look carefully—or watch for a crowd with a perplexed look on their faces. She blends into the foliage, but when she moves, she's an incredible sight." Another Animal Kingdom favorite: Gi-Tar Dan. "His ability to add guests' names to popular Disney songs makes him a big favorite with people lucky enough to come across him."

6. While you're planning and saving for Disney, remember these two mantras: Villas are your friend, and it's OK to chop your itinerary in half.

Vacation villas, like those on Airbnb and HomeAway, are ideal for families of five or more, or if you're traveling with friends or extended family, Veness says. "Very often these are less expensive per night, with the major benefits of multiple bedrooms, your own pool, a full kitchen that saves on dining out, several bathrooms, and the ability to get out of the hustle-bustle of the main tourist area and decompress for a while." 

Time crunches are a buzzkill, so list what you'd like to do at Disney, then edit, edit, edit: "Be realistic about the tickets you need and the experiences you'll add to your vacation, especially if you plan to do more than just the Disney parks," Veness says. "Many paid-for experiences, such as the Frozen Summer Fun premium package, can be pieced together for next to nothing, and the overall experience is just as good, even without the roped-off viewing area. It's easy to get carried away with all the extras and try to cram everything in, but remember: You'll be back!"

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Hogwarts Comes to Hollywood

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Meet The Fastest Roller Coasters in the U.S.

This article was written by Nicole Rupersburg and originally appeared on Fox News Travel. There’s nothing more American than a ride on a roller coaster, and the U.S. has some of the best in the world. American engineers are constantly designing more interactive and hair-raising experiences: The Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey offers the world’s highest and biggest drop, and Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California has the world’s biggest loop. But it's no secret that Americans have a need for speed, and that's as evident in our roller coasters as it is anywhere else. Strap yourself in and secure all loose items: These are the 10 fastest roller coasters in the U.S.  10. Xcelerator, 82 mph Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, Calif. With a 1950s Grease and greaser theme, Xcelerator looks way more innocent than it is. 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Top Family Travel Spots on Maryland's Eastern Shore

I recently wrangled some of the closest people in my life for a travel adventure along Maryland's Eastern Shore. Bringing together multiple generations in today's busy world is a challenge in itself, but add in a group of tech connected, urban worker bees and it gets more complicated. The fact that we were filming the adventure for Budget Travel and the upcoming PBS TV series, Travels with Darley, meant we were bringing along a full film crew, which made for even more challenging scheduling. We pulled it off and loved our time along the Eastern Shore! Our group consisted of my two best friends Ellen Schmidt of Baby Meets City fame (and her daughters, Vivian and Millie ages 3 and 5) and Chad Davis. We all hail from the Washington, DC, and New York City areas, meaning the Eastern Shore was just a train ride and car ride away. 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Best of all, the ice cream is delicious, and even better in a homemade waffle cone while rocking on a peaceful front porch. Creative flavors include espresso ice cream with chocolate covered coffee beans, fresh blueberry, strawberry shortcake, princess pink and beyond. Berlin For a small town, Berlin offers a lot to do, especially for families. After walking Main Street, our group enjoyed a lesson in glass blowing at Jeffrey Auxer Designs. Millie made three ornaments, a truly memorable vacation memento. Jeffrey himself gave us glass blowing instruction and tips. He has a lot of experience teaching kids, something you definitely want when you have a child nearing an over 1,000° F furnace! His work is beautiful, so even if you don't take a lesson in glass blowing, his shop is worth a visit. While Ellen and her girls went to the Berlin playground, we adults headed over to Burley Oak Brewery (10016 Old Ocean City Blvd.) for a special tour and tasting with owner and brewer Bryan Brushmiller. Being an entrepreneur and someone who enjoys supporting small businesses, I liked hearing Bryan's story of losing his job and following his passion from brewing in his garage to his beautiful, sustainable brewery. We taste tested the Happy Pale Ale and finished just in time to see how popular Burley Oak is with locals and travelers alike. The place was hopping on Saturday at around noon when we departed for lunch and to taste some of Berlin's sweet side. If you want to sit outside or just enjoy some local farm to table food, try lunch or dinner at Blacksmith Bar & Restaurant (blacksmithberlin.com, 104 Pitts Street). Our group sat outside in the shade enjoying rock fish tacos topped with fresh pico de gallo, homemade hummus and Caesar salad sprinkled with zesty parmesan. Another top lunch pick is Drummer Café at the historic Atlantic Hotel (2 N. Main St., Berlin). The Islander sandwich will definitely keep you full until dinner with its fresh roasted turkey. Seafood lovers may gravitate toward the grilled wild salmon BLT. A must-have dessert when visiting this cool, small town is the peach dumpling, the official dessert of Berlin. The Berlin area was once the home of major peach orchards, and the peach dumpling celebrates this sweet legacy. Stop by Baked Dessert Café (4c Bay Street) to get your fix. After you've done all of that, relax. Berlin may have a lot to do, but one of the best things to do while you're here is kick back and take in the ambience of this cool small town. (Berlin was voted Budget Travel's 2014 Coolest Small Town in America.) The OC (that's Ocean City) Being from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I have a soft spot from boardwalks and know that they can be great excursion for kids. 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We chose a trail through the marshland, where Nick took us to a "secret" beach and then in search of horses. Some of the better spots to find horses are near the campsites and parking lots where humans make their mark. There are graphic signs in the bathrooms on the island, showcasing the bruises and welts past visitors have garnered after getting too close to the Assateague horses. Rumored to have landed on the island after a shipwreck, these horses are pony-sized, but radiate a toughness often in found horses living on their own in sometimes harsh environments. Having spent many years riding and observing horses, part of my own passion and my job as the host of the Emmy-winning Equitrekking TV show, I would compare the Assateague horses to some of the horses I've observed on Ireland's wild West Coast in Connemara or in the mountains of Wales: hardy, independent, and beautiful. If you visit Assateague Island, consider camping out to get the full experience. 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I decided to do both, riding bikes along the Cross Island Trail and eating lunch at Bridges Restaurant (bridgesrestaurant.net, 321 Wells Cove Rd, Grasonville) by the water. The Cross Island Trail is part of the American Discovery Trail, a coast to coast recreational trial that spans the District of Columbia and 15 states. Passing through marshland, forests and along the former rail bed of the Queen Anne's Railroad, this six mile trail is an interesting and easy ride. If you want to take in views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from a beach, make sure to include the Terrapin Nature Area at the start of the Cross Island bike trial. If you're traveling to Kent Island, go fishing. I went out with Captain Andrew Aus of Maverick Chesapeake Bay Sport Fishing (fishmaverick.com, Tel. 443-988-8020) from the Queen Anne Marina. I've done a fair share of fishing around the world and this was the best, probably because I caught a really big fish. I usually think of fishing as serene, but it was truly exciting and challenging, as I tried to reel in a 40.5 inch, almost-30-lb Rockfish. A professional outfit, Captain Aus and his crew are not messing around on their fishing adventures. They know the Bay well, having grown up there fishing, and will give you the ins and outs of the Bay health, where to find the best fish and an all-around great day on the water. Distances on the Eastern Shore aren't great, but the diversity of scenery and experiences is, making it a great pick for a road trip, especially if you're bringing along the kids. About the author: Darley is the host and producer of Equitrekking, the Emmy-winning PBS TV series, and currently in production on Travels with Darley, coming to PBS and viewable online now in short form on Budget Travel and AOL . Follow her adventures on the road on Twitter @DarleyNewman and Instagram @DarleyNewman.

Family

10 Memorable Mother’s Day Brunches

This article was written by Kristine Hansen and originally appeared on Fox News Travel. Move over, Champagne and fluffy omelets: Some Mother's Day brunches are ditching tradition for eclectic offerings. Today's moms want a table with an ocean view, or a buffet inspired by the regions of France, or a live musical performance across the room, or a chic tea in America's wealthiest zip code (hello, 90210).  From Mediterranean to Mexican, from farm-to-table to fancy, here are some options from coast to coast (and Hawaii, too). Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa Fort Lauderdale, Fla. With the ocean as a backdrop to this 16-acre waterfront resort, pre- and post-brunch plans suddenly swing into action. After you've noshed in the Ocean Ballroom (with an ocean view, of course)—catered by Riva, with a-la-carte options like South Florida huevos rancheros to Florida wildberry oatmeal pancakes, plus two buffet options and bottomless mimosas—put the whole family on jet-skis or kayaks. All water-sport rentals come with a reserved beach chair and umbrella on the shore. Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe, N.M. Tap into mom's spiritual side with this iconic Santa Fe experience. On top of all the edible frills—flutes of Champagne matched with a massive brunch buffet featuring New Mexican accents like sweet chili grilled chicken)—the Yepa Family of the Jemez Pueblo will bless her. The event takes place in the inn's Zuni ballroom and outdoor garden, enabling good flow throughout the day for a large group. To work off the brunch, peek into art galleries along Canyon Road. Kachina Southwestern Grill Westminster, Colo. Eclectic Mexican fare has found a home in this Denver suburb, and Mother's Day is no exception. Touting a Wild West theme, the brunch menu takes lots of detours with the palate, culminating in dishes like chocolate-chili beignets and achitoe grilled chicken breast with cherry-chocolate mole and tequila cherries. The meal kicks off with refreshing glasses of hibiscus or cantaloupe/thymeaguas fresca and ends on a sweet note: mini chocolate cola cake with pepita crunch, honey-lavender caviar caramel sauce. Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa Honolulu, Hawaii Park mom on the Veranda, just a few steps away from the oceanfront, for the lavish Mother's Day brunch and sample Hawaiian specialties like ahi and tako poke, or dim sum such as steamed ha gow, plus farm-fresh choices like Big Island tomatoes at the made-to-order omelet station. A charcuterie and cheese spread, along with brunch staples such as blueberry-orange granola pancakes, rounds out the meal. There's even a roasted suckling pig with bao buns and plum sauce at the carving station and a dessert table flaunting Hawaiian flair (haupia-pie tiramisu, anyone?) Basin Harbor Club & Resort Vergennes, Vt. Views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks make this five-star farm-to-table spread even better. The brunch buffet—folding in breakfast and lunch choices that rely upon ingredients from a dozen local farms—is served in the resort's main dining room, where jazz musician Jenni Johnson performs for diners. Restless kids enjoy tot-friendly activities led by The Big Blue Trunk. Post-brunch, take the whole family out for retro lawn games on the 700-acre resort's lawn. Montage Beverly Hills Beverly Hills, Calif. Listen to live jazz as you enjoy the special Mother's Day Tea at the posh Parq Bar. Artisan teas are poured into hand-painted porcelain china, and small bites—and desserts like orange-creamsicle profiteroles and pina-colada shortbread—are prepared with love by the kitchen's pastry and culinary staff. After tea, coax mom into Spa Montage Beverly Hills to take advantage of the hotel's "In Gratitude" 150-minute treatment (rose-petal facial, manicure and pedicure). Milwaukee Art Museum Milwaukee, Wis. Tucked into the museum's Quadracci Pavilion, designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, Lake Michigan's pretty blue waters are on the other side of the glass. All moms get a mimosa on the house, and the food spread includes delicacies like a cheeseboard (this is Wisconsin, after all), a carving station, fresh fruit andcrudités, a made-to-order omelet station and plenty of traditional egg and meat dishes. Tea sandwiches are incorporated, too, for an artsy touch. Le Village Buffet, Paris Las Vegas Las Vegas The memory of what you eat in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas. Food stations and made-to-order dishes at the hotel's Le Village Buffet celebrate France's five provinces, all the way down to the dessert table, which features macaroons and vanilla-bean crème brulee. Even kids can find something to love here, like truffle macaroni-and-cheese and savory crepes inspired by Brittany, ensuring everybody leaves happy. Adalya New York City If mom is always hot to visit the newest eatery in town, take her to the year-old Adalya in Gramercy Park. If it's nice out, sit on the patio, where she'll be greeted with either Champagne or sangria on the house (or the "Mediterranean Momma" cocktail), followed by a Mediterranean menu with eclectic picks. The new brunch menu features Turkish Breakfast for Two (hardboiled eggs, olives, Jerusalem salad, olive oils, marmalades and manchego and feta cheeses). Or opt for apple cinnamon pancakes. American Q/B Resort & Spa Orlando, Fla. It doesn't get any more rustic than grabbing your food off the bed of a vintage truck. That's the deal at this boutique hotel, which opened last fall. All moms get a free glass of sparkling cider with an edible rose. During brunch, enter mom in a drawing to win a two-night stay, a couples massage or dinner at American Q. Post-brunch there is the option to relax at B Indulged AVEDA, the hotel's spa, which boasts a zero-entry pool and treatments like a stress-fix mani and pedi that weaves in calming lavender and clary-sage aromas. More from Fox News Travel: We tried Tim Horton's Nutella pastry: Here's the what we thought Panera to cut 150 artificial additives by 2016 Asia cruises: Why it may just be your best bet Ryanair flight to London takes off without toilet paper

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