In Which Jenn Has A New WDW Background Music Obsession

GUYS. With Thanksgiving is behind us, no one can disagree with me that it’s officially Christmas time. Which means that I can now tell you, with no fear of repercussions whatsoever, about my newest background music obsession.

Okay. We know Christmas at WDW is, like everything that happens there, pretty magical. The special holiday background loops are part of what makes the ambiance so festive. I definitely listen to loops from the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and more.

But the thing about those loops is that they’re all a little… dare I say it… generic. They’re collections of holiday carols, lovely in their own right, but they don’t necessarily scream Disney out of context. At least not to me.

You know what’s full of holiday cheer AND feels super duper Disney to me? The Animal Kingdom Lodge Christmas music loop, that’s what! 

That’s right, these aren’t your average run-of-the-mill season’s greetings. These are holiday carols sung by African singers and choruses, and they have the distinct flavor of my very favorite park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, while still being merry and bright. And I am SO INTO IT. Thanks to the Disney Hipsters for sharing this amazing collection with the world!

P.S. At 15:30 an African chorus lays down a bass line chant while a fake Elvis sings “White Christmas” and it’s everything I want December to be.

What’s your favorite Disney holiday music loop?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Thinks The Swolphin Is…

Since I spent most of this WDW trip in a conference, I won’t be doing a traditional trip report, but I definitely still have a lot of stuff to tell you about that will be loosely collected under the July 2018 trip keyword. Read on!

I’m not really going to do a full review or overview of the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Lots of other websites have already done one, almost certainly better than I could’ve done and probably frequently updated, too. 

Instead, I’d like to discuss my impression of the hotel in the pantheon of Disney lodging options and why, even with its many advantages, it is probably not for me in the future.

But first, let us be objective: the Swolphin (as I and others generally refer to it) is a great hotel. It has tons of dining options, from full-service fancy-pants restaurants to grab-and-go coffee shops. The pool complex is extensive and includes a slide and hot tub (I am never warm enough). There’s even a gym!

My personal interactions with the staff were all excellent, and the rooms were nice – although being a Starwood Preferred member didn’t seem to garner me any special treatment as my view kinda sucked. Amenities were certainly a step up from a value resort, with free water and a coffee maker in-room. Views from the hotel’s general area were by contrast largely great, and of course the location – with easy walks to Epcot, the Studios, and the Boardwalk – can’t be beat.

Much is often made of the price; depending on the time of year the cost can be comparable to that of a Disney moderate resort. Of course, the Swolphin tacks on a resort fee and does not include the Magical Express, so you’ll have to pay to get yourself to the resort, too.

All the same, from a purely practical perspective, the Swolphin can’t be beat – except that it falls down, hard, in one key area.


What I love about Disney resorts – hell, you could argue what I love about Disney general – is its ability to create a sense of place. I love a good theme. I could sit in the village of Harambe or Serka Zong all day because they both evoke lands beyond. (Psst. DAK is the best park.)

This particular skill of the Imagineers extends to the resorts. For all our complaints about it, Port Orleans Riverside beautifully conjures the bayou. The Polynesian takes you away to a faraway island. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a freakin’ safari. Even the value resorts, with their colorful statues and terrible puns, create a sense of whimsy and irreverence.

The Swolphin’s theme is: a very nice hotel.


Much of what I love about Disney parks is that wonderful ability to rip me away from reality. Themed resorts are less showy than theme parks, but they too create a story that, when done well, weave me into the tale. While I can’t say for sure I’ll never stay at the Swolphin again, for now I’m content to pay a little extra for Disney to take me far away from the real world.

Have you stayed at the Swolphin? Am I overreacting or what?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Runs A Boardwalk 5K

Hello from Orlando International Airport! My flight took off three minutes ago. Haha, just kidding! It was supposed to take off three minutes ago. Now it takes off in two and a half hours.

Clearly I have some time to kill, so I’m going to tell you nice people about the conference 5k I ran.

This race is always a fun run with no chip times, just approximations, plus they don’t even promise it’ll be exactly 3.1 miles, but I like to participate every year anyway because hey, free race!

In this particular case there was the added incentive of running amok on Disney’s Boardwalk. It was enough of a draw to get me out of bed and hanging out at the Swan lap pool before 6:30am, 78 degrees and humid or not. Truly the magic of Disney conquers all.

The start was informal, and the pack set off with no real preamble or organization beyond: okay, go! The course matched the Swan & Dolphin’s suggested run route exactly, so we saw pretty much all there was to see of the Boardwalk.

First we set out across the bridge headed for the Yacht & Beach Club, curving around Seabreeze point where a breakfast buffet was being set up for a private event (an Epcot wedding, maybe?). Then we passed by the pirate ship – WDW Marathon deja vu! – and curved around to pass by the Boardwalk area proper, with ESPN and Ample Hills and Boardwalk Bakery and all that jazz.

From there we veered onto the path toward Disney’s Hollywood Studios – so, now in reverse of the marathon course. Luckily for my sense of cognitive dissonance, we were turned around at the top of path right before the bus stops and sent back down the trail, now in full accordance with marathon proceedings.

It was a blurry day.

After that it was one more loop of the Boardwalk before hitting in the finish, back where we started by the Swan. There was water and some Kind bars, plus plenty of cheering conference spectators. A couple of them were even cheering from swan paddle boats out on the lake!

As for my performance, it wasn’t too bad for all that. It was hot and muggy (aka Florida), and at the start I had to dodge around some slow people and a briefly narrow course, but I brought the whole thing in under a 9 minute average mile. All in all I wasn’t displeased.

Mostly I was just happy to be running at WDW again – and proceeded to do so twice more before I left. But that’s a story for later…

Have you ever run the Boardwalk? How do you feel about it?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Is Coming At You LIVE From The Swolphin

Hello! I am in Walt Disney World! RIGHT NOW!

I’m conferencing at the Swolphin, and it is going very well. I’ve walked on the Boardwalk, chilled in the hot tub, and seen the tippy-top of the IllumiNations fireworks over Crescent Lake. Can’t beat that.

I’m only halfway through the trip, and I know I’ll be mining this trip for lots of content (just WAIT until I hit Disney Springs, kids – I have cocktails in my sights and a shopping list in my head!). In the meantime, check these photos. Anything else you want to see? Let me know!

Have you ever stayed at the Swolphin? What do you think?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Is All About That DAK Area Background Music

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, say! Jenn hasn’t mentioned anything about what Disney background music she’s been listening to lately.

It’s cool. I saw you coming. Here’s how I’ve been easing the pangs of WDW homesickness:

You saw my news about staying at Kidani Village, right? When you stay at a new resort, it’s important to prepare yourself. I aim to ease my acclimation by carefully familiarizing myself with Kidani’s background loop.

I’m hella jazzed about this new Disney resort adventure and have all sorts of activities planned for myself! This includes wandering across the way to Jambo House for some exploring and maybe even dinner at Jiko. Naturally this means that I’ve added the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s main music loop to my rotation too.

And as the final feature of this musical installment, let’s take a verrry short trip over to Nomad Lounge, because I <3 Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Next time you’re in Nomad, drink a round of Hightower Rocks in my name!

What Disney parks background music are you currently digging?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Is Venturing Beyond The Parks

Not to make you jealous or anything, but I have three Walt Disney World trips on the docket within the next seven months. No, honest, I’m not trying to make you jealous! ‘Cause, listen: I don’t plan to spend much time in the parks.

Which is sort of silly – isn’t this exactly the sort of thing Annual Pass dreams are made of? But the first trip is during a conference, so I won’t have a ton of time to kill; and anyway the wrap party gets me into Epcot for some limited experiences. The second trip is during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, which gets me into Epcot for the after-party sans ticket media. And the last trip, for the marathon, is only three days long, with one day largely taken up by the race.

Instead of throwing money at an AP I might not be able to fully get my money’s worth from, I’ve decided to save that money for an AP the year after, in the hopes that Pat and I will be able to take a much longer trip in November 2019. This isn’t definite, but I feel optimistic enough that I want to try to keep costs down for the interim. Blowing $850 on an AP doesn’t exactly fall in with that plan. :/

Of course this means I’m going to miss out on experiencing new attractions, like the new Pixar area of the Studios or the revamped Hall of Presidents. But as yet nothing I’ve seen announced is setting me on fire. I can bear the deprivation in the name of an epic trip for later. I can learn about deferred gratification.

am pondering buying a 1- or 2-day pass for my upcoming November trip, since I’ll be there 4 days. I could potentially cover it with Disney Visa points… I’m still debating. But honestly, the more I think about it, the more amazing, comparatively low-cost non-park ideas I come up with…

I could go to the pool for once! And I could watch a poolside movie! I could go horseback riding at Fort Wilderness! I could barhop on the Boardwalk or at Disney Springs! I could explore the AKL savannas and try one of the free resort tours! I could get a post-race massage! I could watch the fireworks from the California Grill bar! I could try a fancy restaurant without worrying about wasting time!

Indeed, the more I ponder it, the more I think there are more no-park activities than I have time for. Okay, maybe you should be jealous after all. ^_^

What’s your favorite thing to do on resort property that doesn’t require park admission?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Goes DVC…ish

Like I said a couple weeks ago: it’s gotten hard to book a room at Disney, let alone find one at a discount rate. This was making me antsy for marathon weekend. Generally I would stay at Pop Century as per usual, but what would Disney charge this time around? Wine & Dine weekend room costs are definitely not rock bottom. Would I be able to get a room for only two nights? 

I began to ponder an option that’s been on my mind a lot lately: renting DVC points. As much as I’d love to actually join the Disney Vacation Club, the… entry fees? …down payments? …initiation fees or whatever you call them are just too high for me. Points via rental, however, are potentially within my reach, and as Pat and I have discussed trying to stay at the Polynesian sometime point rental has been on my mind.

I did a little research, checked out some potential pricing, agonized and obsessed for a requisite period… and decided to try an experiment. I put in a request through a dedicated DVC points broker for a studio at either Animal Kingdom or the Boardwalk (two of the cheapest available considering I didn’t want OKW or Saratoga) for Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend.

Annnd got rejected. Not only got rejected, but was told that there were no DVC rooms available whatsoever for that time frame.

Daaaaaamn. See what I mean about snagging rooms nowadays? Good thing I already have a room at Pop!

That was apparently that. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that DVC points rental was a good fit for me. While there are risks involved – the broker I worked with does not allow for cancellations (unless you want to buy outside insurance) and payment is required up front. But the pricing is better than what you can get directly through Disney and after a decade of staying in values with the occasional moderate thrown in for fun I am itching to try out some deluxe resorts, y’know?

So I took a leap: I requested the same AKL or BW studios for marathon weekend. Once again, no dice – BUT there was a Kidani Village studio available. It was more expensive by about $100 but still – a deluxe resort, Sanaa and Jiko and the savanna all there for the taking, the amazing ambiance an extension of DAK, my favorite park… A couple hours of pondering and a very necessary Twitter poll, and I took the room.

In truth, this doesn’t really “save” my money, per se – if I waited patiently for Pop’s rates to come out they’d probably be $100 – $150 cheaper total. But… for Pop. And I love Pop, but I have a feeling Kidani Village is going to compare favorably. I can’t wait to find out!

Save me some naan from Sanaa!

Have you ever rented DVC points? Would you like to loan me $17,000 so I can join?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which It’s Rough Out There In Disney Room Reservations

Hot damn, you guys. Can we take a second to talk about how near impossible it’s gotten to book a room in a Walt Disney World hotel in a reasonable time frame?

I’ve talked about some of my odd room reservation experiences before, and I’ve learned a lot from them. Primarily, I’ve learned to book a room the SECOND you so much as CONSIDER going to WDW, a year in advance if possible.

I was smart for this year’s Wine & Dine Half weekend, and booked my room at Pop in January. When I decided to extend my races weekend to include the 10K, I was luckily able to cancel my first reservation and re-book with the additional night. That was March.

Two months later, I asked my race weekend buddy Erika if she had booked a room yet. She’s a newbie to WDW and runDisney, and she hasn’t decided yet if she wants to share a room with me or bring her kids and get her own room. I encouraged her to book a room now just to be safe; she can always cancel later. (For the record, you can cancel a WDW hotel reservation up to a week in advance without penalty. The more you know!)

I promised to send her an email with info about Pop, where I’m staying, as well as some alternatives. A search on the Disney site with our dates found that, six months in advance of arrival, you can stay… practically nowhere. 

Certainly no values. Art of Animation has suites, but they’re twice as expensive as a regular room. On the moderate level, I’ve seen Coronado and Caribbean waft in and out of availability – but they’re both under construction, so yuck. And then of course you have a smattering of deluxe resorts, but it’s mostly only the fancier rooms that are still available, with views and suchlike. I don’t run in circles where the people are made of money, so.

For now I’ve advised Erika to pick up the Art of Animation suite (which wouldn’t be the worst to have with two kids). If she wants to stay with me in the end, great; she can cancel. If not, she has a room – and in the meantime she can keep checking back. If her nerves are steely enough, she can probably expect a value to pop up a couple weeks out from check-in day. I’ve had that luck before.

Remember the good old days, when you could wait until room-only discount offers were released a couple months in advance and casually book then? Yeah. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a return to that model any time soon. When Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens, we better all watch our backs…

What’s your Disney hotel reservation strategy? Have you ever been locked out?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Goes On All-Star Runs

It’s trip report time! You can see all the posts in this report here.

In a Walt Disney World trip diaspora dominated by races, there’s not usually a ton of room for training runs. When you’re pounding out a half or even a full marathon (or both and more!) you don’t exactly want to pile it on. And so when I planned my most recent trip with my mom and there was no race in sight, I knew I needed to squeeze in some early morning solo miles.

My runs took place mostly on the sidewalk that connects all three All-Star results. Not precisely the most magical trail WDW has to offer, but a helluva lot more magical than anywhere else, y’know?

The official running path itself is pretty unassuming – you pick up the sidewalk in front of (or even inside) your resort and then pick a direction. If you head toward the main road you’ll run out of the resort past the security checkpoint, a McDonald’s in view across the intersection. If you go the other way you’ll bottom out in All-Star Movies.

Running the whole thing out and back will net you roundabouts 3 miles if you tack on a little bit of time in Movies. Which I did, circling Bo Peep and Woody and some of Andy’s toys. You could easily eke out a little more mileage snaking your way through all three resorts and their oversize decorations, but then you run a greater risk of having to dodge other people, which I didn’t want to do. (And yes, there were people out and about at 6am. Go figure.)

There is another chance for expansion – I saw across from the McDonald’s a bit of path and a bridge heading into the woods. I don’t know where it goes or how far or if it’s even accessible by the common man, but I am intrigued. Perhaps I’ll have to check it out sometime.

The only other resort I’ve ever taken a training run in is Pop Century, and to be honest I think I prefer running lazy loops around Hourglass Lake. But the All-Star path ain’t bad. And maybe, if I’m very lucky, I’ll someday get to run the Boardwalk or even the monorail resort sidewalk. Goals!

Subliminal messaging?

Have you run in any of the resorts? Which is your favorite for training?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Week In Review: 11/21

Normally in a week in review post I do my exercise stuff first and my Disney and life stuff second, but screw the boring stuff because I HAVE DISNEY NEWS.

Y’know how I’ve been kvetching basically since I made the reservation about my room in Caribbean Beach for my upcoming WDW trip? There’s the construction, of course, which means weird food options to boot, plus the resort itself is sprawling with multiple bus stops AND the only room I could get was a pirate room, which is more expensive AND supposedly at the very back of the resort. Bleh.

Well, you’re all Disney pros so I hardly have to preach the gospel of Continuing To Check Back. But last week, a mere 10 days before the penalty-free cancellation deadline, I did it: I found us a room at All-Star Music! EEEE!!!

Perhaps it sounds odd to be rejoicing over a change from a moderate to a value resort, but I really think this is a major improvement. The construction becomes a non-issue, and even when the All-Stars share buses there’s at least only one stop and it can’t be too far a walk. Best of all, this saves us well over $300! 

So yeah, I’m pretty jazzed. Nine days to Disney!!! 

P.S. Did you know you can make your Magical Express reservations via a website? I’m been doing it on the phone all this time like a chump!


… What else is this post usually about again? Oh yes. Go go gadget workout log:

Sunday | ran 7.16 miles outside in 1:10
I did this run at my parents’ new place in Wilmington, and it is flaaaaaat. I was flying!

Monday | ran 5.29 miles outside in 55 minutes
Back to my plain ol’ boring not at all flat regular training route. But the cold does seem to improve my times.

Tuesday | walked 2.19 miles outside in 35 minutes; 60 minute ballet class

Wednesday | ran 7.35 miles outside in 1:15

Thursday | walked 2.24 miles outside in 35 minutes; 60 minute ballet class
This walk had greater purpose: I walked from work to the local Whole Foods to pick up my bib for my Thanksgiving Turkey Chase! Why they chose to hold packet pickup a full week in advance I couldn’t tell you.

Friday | ran 7.35 miles outside in 1:15

Saturday | rest
My family held Fake Thanksgiving on this day, so done so that none of our air traveling relatives have to pay through the nose for flights. So I spent a lot of my day in a car going to or from New Jersey. Mine is a very glamorous life. At least there was pie.

Okay, workout log done. What else? The roundup:

Important note: Shindig is my favorite episode of Firefly.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!