Last week, I wrapped up a month full of awesome travel with a trip to Orlando for the Earmarked Owner’s Summit! This conference is put on annually by Disney for its top travel agencies, and as the owner of one of its agencies thanks to my awesome team of magical vacation planners, I was thrilled and honored to attend! The conference is always super informative about leadership, what’s coming down the pipe from Disney, and includes some fun events!
It was a great week at the Earmarked Summit!
One such event included a sneak peek early one morning at the brand new attraction in Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge, the Rise of the Resistance! This attraction just opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, and will be opening January 17th at the Disneyland location! All I can say about this attraction is a gigantic “WOW.” It is probably one of my favorite Disney attractions of all time, and like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in terms of the level of immersion and magic that is involved. I’m not even a big Star Wars fan, but I would gladly wait a long time to ride this again! When asked by a friend – “what kind of ride is it? A simulator, a walk-through, or an actual attraction?” I could only answer “All of the above.” It truly is a fully encompassing experience, from the amazing pre-show, to a simulator, to an interactive walk through with incredible Cast Members acting as the First Order, to the ride itself on a trackless system (much like Ratatouille’s system we rode in Disneyland Paris, which is coming to Epcot next year!) – this experience makes you truly feel like part of the resistance, and has you cheering, fearing, screaming, dodging, and laughing throughout what is all in all a good 18 minute 3-act experience. If you have been putting off visiting Galaxy’s Edge, wait no longer – this ride alone is worth your ticket price!
What an incredible attraction!
This new attraction wasn’t the only thing new we got to experience during our stay! We also got to stay at the brand new Riviera Resort on its opening day! This resort of studio, one, and two bedroom villas (plus some grander options 🙂 ) is themed to the French and Italian Riviera, a tribute to a place Walt and Lillian Disney loved to travel and were inspired. The resort is absolutely beautiful, with immense detail that makes you feel like you are staying in Paris, and also some subtle but lovely Disney touches as well. The rooms are very spacious – it was by far the largest one bedroom villa we have stayed in on Disney Property. We loved the decor, the Jack and Jill style bathroom with two sinks and a separate toilet vs bathing area, the wide kitchen with dining area, and all of the storage available. We especially loved the classic Mickey behind the 5th sleeper Day Bed, and the classic Peter Pan scene behind the Murphy bed that pulls out over the sofa (which is much nicer than a sofa bed!) We also loved our view – while it was a standard view room, we were on the 8th floor and had amazing views of both the Magic Kingdom and (even closer & better) Epcot Forever fireworks!
What gorgeous, spacious rooms at the Riviera!
Much of the Riviera Cast hails from France and Italy, and that makes the experience extra special! They were all truly excited about the opening of the Resort and you could sense that as a Guest. The pool and food/bar areas were lovely as well, quiet and aptly themed with French dining options, traditional pool fare, wines, and cocktails. Again, all of the decor is lovely and makes you feel as if you’re escaping on the Mediterranean. Perhaps one of the best perks of the Riviera is the fact that it has a Disney Skyliner station, with easy access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios!
The dining options and Resort Grounds are lovely as well!
Oh, did I mention the new Disney Skyliner?This is nothing short of a game-changer for your Walt Disney World transportation experience! Forget waiting in long lines for the buses – from many Resorts, you can now just hop on “old school” Disneyland-esque transportation and enjoy a scenic and quick ride to the theme parks! Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, the Riviera, and Disney’s Pop Century Resort now all offer direct Skyliner access, with ability for expansion in the future. While we could see these being quite warm during the summer, during the cool December evenings they were a lovely mode of transportation, and fast! We only waited 12 minutes or so after Epcot Forever to hop a 5-10 minute ride back to the Resort, and my husband was able to get from Disney’s Hollywood Studios back to the room at the Riviera within 15 minutes of stepping in line/exiting the park!
We are HUGE fans of the Skyliner!
Finally, the Riviera also plays host to a new top-tier restaurant – Topolino’s Terrace(based on Mickey Mouse in Italian) is on the top level of the tower, and has fresh cuisine from Italy and France. Everything is made on site, and if not is shipped in fresh from Europe! We ate here on its opening night, and the service was top notch. We really enjoyed our cocktails, the fresh bread, and all of the dishes we sampled (which were a lot!) – soup, pasta, and sea food were all highlights of the menu. While we find a lot of the Disney restaurants to have overstated flavors and seasoning, this one seemed true to its mission and theme (I’m sure the chef plays a roll here!) with delightful flavors and lots of winners on its menu. The ambience is also lovely, with beautiful decor and a terrace that offers amazing panoramic views of Hollywood studios and the Walt Disney World Resort. You can also go out on the terrace and enjoy a drink without sitting down for dinner, which is another plus and will be a sure popular viewing area for the fireworks!
Delicious food and awesome service puts this new restaurant among our favorites at Walt Disney World!
All in all, this short but busy visit to Walt Disney World made me super excited about all that has opened there, as well as all that is to come over the next few years!