The Aulaini Resort

This is the large window below the main lobby entry doors.

This is the large window below the main lobby entry doors.

I gave you a room tour, but want to show you a little more of the resort itself. The lobby is always the first impression and it is gorgeous! The arched roof lines are reminiscent of the native canoes and the lighting is a soft golden glow from gourd-like fixtures.

This was taken from the outside at night from near the Dancing Waters fountain area.

This was taken from the outside at night from near the Dancing Waters fountain area.

Standing lobby lights - a warm, welcoming glow!

Standing lobby lights – a warm, welcoming glow!

This shot shows the arch motif nicely as well as the gourd-like ceiling fixtures.

This shot shows the arch motif nicely as well as the gourd-like ceiling fixtures.

My favorite Menehune was tucked up in one of the elevators. A cast member (that's what Disney calls their employees, remember?) told me that this guy will switch elevators upon occasion!

My favorite Menehune was tucked up in one of the elevators. A cast member (that’s what Disney calls their employees, remember?) told me that this guy will switch elevators upon occasion!

Disney did a lot of research into the Hawaiian culture and, although there are the expected “Hidden Mickeys” like the other resorts, the changed it up at Aulani and had Menehune tucked everywhere! Menehune are little mischievous characters that spend their nights creating fantastic inventions and sleep during the day.  I believe there are more than 200 of the little guys all over the resort! Although there is a kind of scavenger hunt activity to try and track them(probably geared toward kids, but that doesn’t usually stop me), I chose to snap a few pictures and enjoy floating past ones placed along the Waikolohe Stream.

This Menehune is the largest one I saw.

This Menehune is the largest one I saw.

The patterns in the hallway wallpaper evoke many native themes - flowers, people, food - but do you see the hidden Mickey?

The patterns in the hallway wallpaper evoke many native themes – flowers, people, food – but do you see the hidden Mickey?

Dancing Waters fountain outside Makahiki Restaurant. Hmmm - I see Goofy and Minnie in there!

Dancing Waters fountain outside Makahiki Restaurant. Hmmm – I see Goofy and Minnie in there!

Water features are prominent throughout Aulani. The Laughing Waters fountain ends in a koi pool which is just across the path from a whirlpool next to the Waikolohe Stream. See what I mean?

The koi pond - Dancing Waters fountain in background.

The koi pond – Dancing Waters fountain in background.

Whirlpool next to Waikolohe Stream. Can you see the shark carving on the far side?

Whirlpool next to Waikolohe Stream. Can you see the shark carving on the far side?

Ama Ama had fabulous views of the lagoon!

Ama Ama had fabulous views of the lagoon!

The views are extraordinary. We enjoyed breakfasting at Ama Ama – which has a lovely view of the lagoon, or lounging near the pool to look for hidden carvings on Waikolohe Mountain (water slide). At night, looking down from an upper floor to the whole pool area is magical!

The Waikolohe Mountain (Disney always has to have a mountain!) has subtle carvings that are fun to hunt for while lounging or walking around the pool area.

The Waikolohe Mountain (Disney always has to have a mountain!) has subtle carvings that are fun to hunt for while lounging or walking around the pool area.

The Waikolohe Valley at night

The Waikolohe Valley at night

HallArtWork

One of the many paintings throughout Aulani.

On every floor, in elevator bays, along the hallways – there was beautiful artwork. The paintings looked like they were painted on sheets of plywood – there was wood grain visible through the vivid pigments used for each piece. The staircase leading up to the lobby from the entrance to the Makahiki Restaurant at pool level is a work of art in and of itself!

Carved container in a lobby display.

Carved container in a lobby display.

Beautiful stair case.

Beautiful stair case.

I’m sure I missed many aspects of the Aulani Resort – I probably should go back and take a little better notes…

Next Stop: Aulani Resort in Hawaii!

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We finally did it – we bought into the Disney Vacation Club and booked a vacation at the Aulani Resort for late January 2012! This is a brand new resort that opened this past fall (2011) and, although it is a Disney Resort, it is not “character driven” like the theme park locations (not that there is anything wrong with that!). It looks to have a lot of water/pool features, so I bit the bullet and bought a couple of new swimsuits (and am exercising furiously, but hopefully not futilely!) before our trip.
This will be our first experience as DVC members and also our first trip to Hawaii, so there is much to be excited about! I hope to post before, during and after our trip, so stay tuned! More information about DVC can be found HERE.

Mickey’s Fun Wheel: A Disney Sidebar

We had a fabulous viewing spot for the Wonderful World of Color show on the boardwalk of Paradise Pier, across from the giant ferris wheel. The light display on Mickey’s Fun Wheel was very nearly hypnotic as we waited for the start of the show. I took a short video clip – wish I’d recorded more! – added a couple of snapshots from the area and put it to “The Spectrum Song.” The song is from one of the old World of Disney television shows and sung by Ludvig VonDrake – remember him? Click here to view the video on YouTube.

PS Unless you open the link in a new window or tab, you will be directed away from this blog post.

Mickey's Fun Wheel at night

Mickey's Fun Wheel at night - beautiful!

Day 3: Don & Shirley do Disney (part 2)

Disney California

Just outside California Adventure

After a quick stop in our room, we headed back out to Disney’s California Adventure. We had several “must do’s” for this park – first on the list was Soarin’ Over California. This is an amazing ride that gives you the sensation of flying through the many environments in the state of California – including the scent of pine or orange trees! We decided to go as single riders as it had worked out so well for me before, but -maybe because it wasn’t as busy – the cast members seemed to be more sticklers for protocol and separated us down different hallways. They kept everyone in their lane from the line before “boarding” to seating assignments – ah well! Next time through, we stayed together and got in the front row – weeee! Before going through “Soarin'” again, though, we went over to the Grizzly River Run – a “white water rapids” ride where everyone gets wet – at least a little bit! We had tossed a Mickey poncho (from a previous trip to Disney World) into my backpack as well as some large plastic bags for Don’s shoes. It was in the low 70’s that day, so we weren’t worried about a little bit of water, but it is uncomfortable to walk in wet shoes and we had miles to go before we slept… The locals considered the weather to be too cool for Grizzly, so we walked right on and shared our “raft” with a young man – a kid in his mid-teens. We gleefully bagged Don’s shoes and tucked my backpack (with my shoes & socks) under my poncho, regaling the kid with tales of our upcoming soaking! It was great! I did get a good-sized splash in the face, but our clothes came through just fine.
We headed to the Paradise Pier area next to check the line for Toy Story Mania – it was long, so we decided to try out the Mickey Fun Wheel. The boarding process was tedious – it took a while to fill all those “cages” and I insisted on a non-moving cage. After the Ferris wheel was filled, I think we only went around twice before the unloading process began. The views were amazing from the wheel, though – you could see the whole California Adventure Park and the higher points of Disneyland. After dark, the wheel was beautifully lit with changing colored lights and simulated movement, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
Next was Toy Story Mania with it’s 40 minute wait – and this was a slow day in the park! It is much better to stand in line with someone instead of by yourself, though!! Don beat my score this time, although my accuracy percentage was better than his – I consider that a moral victory.
By now, it was time to pick up our picnics for the World of Color Show. I had purchased them online ahead of time to get us into a preferred viewing area for the show. We were still stuffed from our huge lunch in Blue Bayou, so we planned to take them up to our room and tuck them into the fridge for later. As we walked away with our cool new lunch bags, we found that the Pixar Parade would be starting soon and we had the opportunity to sit along the edge of the route – we took it!
Monsters Inc character Boo in parade

Boo from Monsters Inc toddles toward us.

We were able to see the full parade unobstructed and you know Disney does a good parade!
We hustled our food up to our room and grabbed our previously discarded jackets and headed back into Disney California. We had a bit of time (still!) before we were to get into the queue for our viewing area, so we wandered into the Backstage area and went on the Monsters Inc ride. Now this ride is specifically for the little ones – too bad they didn’t take the chase scene in the door area from the movie and make that into a ride. That coulda been something! It is a cute ride, though and it is fun to see the little ones as they enjoy the animatronic figures. As we walked out of the ride exit, Don said, “let’s go through again!” He wanted to try to get some pictures inside the ride. He cajoled me (and was supported by the lady with two kids who was following us out – “Aw c’mon! Let him ride again!”) so we went through again to take pictures. Weee! (the pictures did not turn out)
Now it was time to head back to the Paradise Pier area and find our preferred viewing area. Oh – that would be the hundreds of people surrounded by cast members and guided by rope lines across the water from Mickey’s Fun Wheel. Holy crap! Not so exclusive feeling anymore! Eventually, it was announced that, if we didn’t mind the possibility of getting wet, people could get right down on the boardwalk and line up along the water. We decided to chance it and settled on a couple of folded towels right at the railing. Others filled in around us, including a set of grandparents with a couple of grandchildren who pondered aloud what would happen if we should stand up. “They will let you stand in front of them and you will have a front row view!” exclaimed the grandpa. “As if!” I thought. This family was swathed in ponchos to avoid the splashes we were warned about. While we were waiting, the grandpa talked loudly and constantly so I was worried we’d get a running commentary throughout the show. We were also treated to a light show on Mickey’s Fun Wheel – very mesmerizing! I took some video of the changes and now wish I had taken more. (Look for a side bar on the Fun Wheel light show soon!) The show began and the music was loud enough to mask “grandpa’s” remarks. The prevailing wind – which was very slight, moved across the water parallel to our seats so we had the occasional light mist.
It was an amazing show – animation was projected onto walls of water, jets of color shot into the air (how did they make the color so intense!?), familiar Disney songs played throughout, fire blasted up from the water – hot enough to feel the heat. I highly recommend going to this show – and getting the picnic lunch for a preferred view as it is cheaper than the dinner at Ariel’s Grotto and the viewing area is not much different.
Our day of doing Disney together came to end after our late picnic in our room and we went to sleep knowing we would be leaving the next day….sigh!