Sunday, February 24, 2013

The ducks at The Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida is filled with all sorts of special moments with traditions and stories that I believe deserve attention.  There is a great story behind the "World Famous March of The Peabody Ducks" and you can witness this march twice a day, 365 days of the year at The Peabody Hotel. 

The true story is that in the early 1930's, the General Manager of The original Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee came back from a hunting trip to Arkansas with his good friend.  Back in those days it was legal for hunters to use live decoys and the buddies thought it would  be fun to place live duck decoys in the Peabody Fountain.  They used three small English Call Ducks and the reaction was very enthusiastic.  That was how the tradition began and since 1933, you can take part of this event every day.  The original ducks have long since passed, but their descendents still grace the beautiful marble fountain in the hotel's Atrium Lobby.

Daily around 10:30am, the preparation begins as someone vacuums the plush red carpet.  Soon after, The Duckmaster puts the steps in place for the grand march.  At 11am, The Duckmaster gives a wonderful description of the story behind the march and if you're interested, you can even work out in advance to be an "Honorary Duckmaster for the day."  Soon, the ducks are led down from their $100,000 "Royal Duck Palace" in their own special elevator.  The red carpet leads straight from their elevator down the marble halls and past a crowd of onlookers.  Come early, good viewpoints fill quickly. 
 The 5 marching North American Mallard Ducks are wild.  They don't spend enough time in the hotel to keep them from adapting back into their natural, wild habitat.  At 5 years old, the ducks retire and there is a farm near each hotel.  Currently, there are three families of ducks and on the day I was there, we had the youngest family of ducks at around 1-year-old.

After the ducks march in to the tune of John Philip Sousa's "King Cotton March" you are welcome to speak with the Duckmaster, and take pictures. You can even take the elevator to the Rooftop, past the tennis courts and see their Royal Duck Palace.  The ducks are available in the lobby atrium for 6 hours a day, from 11am to 5pm.

The Peabody Hotel is the only organization that can use the title "Duckmaster" and they have a Duckmaster and march of The Peabody Ducks at each hotel location:  
In the original Memphis, Tennessee location you can see Anthony, the Duckmaster.  In Little Rock, Arkansas (the newest hotel location) you can see Lloyd the Duckmaster.  And in the Orlando, Florida Peabody Hotel, we are proud to have Donald the Duckmaster. 

I truly enjoyed this wonderful slice of Great American History as well as hearing Donald the Duckmaster tell of the wonderful historic tradition.  And yes, his name truly is Donald - what a great job to be a Duckmaster in Orlando with a name like Donald...I love it!  You do not need to be staying at the hotel to watch the march of the ducks, but parking in their garage is $14 for 30 minutes - 8 hours.  If you don't want to park in the garage, there are not a lot of parking areas around but they are on the I-RIDE Trolley system.  
If you'd like to find out more, check out 
If you'd like to see my personal video of the March of the Peabody Ducks to  John Philip Sousa's "King Cotton March" copy this link into your browser:

I'd like to say a special thank you to Donald the Duckmaster for his time and say hello to the nice ladies from Rhode Island that I met as we awaited the grand entrance...Orlando is always a great place to meet wonderful people from around the world!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge is an amazing resort that allows you to embrace the African culture, animals and people in ways that many of us would never have the opportunity to enjoy!

It has a special flair of Disney & if you are a Lion King fan, you will LOVE the special "extras"- but don't worry if you see a special kind of mouse in certain'll love it!

By staying in this resort, you have the opportunity to have African animals right outside your room with your own private observation.

I'll go over some of the FREE events that I participated in:  "Medallion Rubbing" was an activity that I truly enjoyed more than I thought I would.  The medallion just inside the entryway actually represents the shape of the continent: Africa.  There are 54 countries in Africa.  The areas of the medallion show the animals, plants and interesting things about their culture that you exist in that area.  I would have never known without speaking with Cast Members:  Erny (from Botswana) and Mandisa (from South Africa) told me about their villages and even autographed their artwork for me.

In fact, Erny explained that the area of the Medallion that represents his country is a monkey getting his food out of a termite mound.  I learned so much about his culture and truly enjoyed speaking with him.  Erny is here until August 2013 and he's also an excellent cultural drummer...
My next FREE activity was cookie decorating!
 This took place at Boma Flavors of Africa Restaurant.  Check your activities guide - but you can choose from a Giraffe, Hippo or Rhino to decorate.  You get to choose your FREE cookie & have icing, M&M's, Gummi Bears and other things to decorate your animal.  Neo, from Botswana truly seemed to enjoy our decorating.  Even though I'm almost 40 with no kids, it looked like a 5-year-old decorated my giraffe...I had a blast!  You can eat your cookie after decorating or they have covers to preserve your decorated cookie for later.  You can see my paintbrush & masterpiece to realize that you don't have to be very good...just have FUN!

I also  enjoyed learning about Flamingo & Pelican eating habits.  This was done in the area behind the pool at Jambo House.  Mandeli & Irene taught us that Flamingos are flexible birds that sleep on 1 leg & like to tuck their head under their wing when they are sound asleep.  Flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp & we had the opportunity to practice how they comb the shrimp and drain the water in their beak before eating their meal.
And don't worry if you don't have kids.  As you can see, I was the only single adult in the circle & had no problems having fun!  The Cast Members are wonderful and informative.

The Pelicans were really interesting:  their pouch holds 3 gallons of water.  Pelicans take one fish at a time & have muscles in their pouch to squeeze out the water so they are not too full of water to take one fish at a time for their meal.  If they take in a lot of water, they'd be too full to eat their fish.  I will never look at these birds the same after learning these valuable lessons.  The key to our activity was "Do Not Litter" and "Conserve Water" to save our fine feathered friends who feed on the fish.  

One thing that I cannot stress enough is to talk to the Cast Members!  I have met wonderful people from Botswana, Durban, South Africa, Uganda and totally immersed myself into a world that I would have never known.

You can also book a special Safari if you stay at this resort.  Wanyama Safari is for any guest and includes a dinner at Jiko - The Cooking Place.  There is also a Sunrise Safari for Concierge Level guests.  Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance.

We also learned how to use animal tracking devices to find a Mickey safari plush with the tracking device in his backpack.  It's cute to point & hear the beep as you feel like you're tracking a Leopard...ooh maybe that's just me.  I learned of the various varieties of Zebra at Animal Kingdom Lodge:  Kahn Zebras have stripes all around while Mountain Zebras have a white belly. 
We were there on a chilly day and found out that at 45 degrees, they bring in Giraffe, Red River Hogs, Okapi & Tortoise.  Those breeds don't like the cold temperatures. 

My favorite animals to watch from our room is the "Somali Wild Ass" - they are a mix between Donkey & Zebra, but more related to the Zebra.  Look at the stripes on their legs, but how much they resemble a Donkey - very cool new animal!  And they were so fun to watch playing!

I will say that the Animal Kingdom Lodge was definitely an experience that I look forward to doing again as soon as possible.  My favorites were the interior extravagant lobby, tiles in the kitchen & bathroom, animals to watch outside the room, hand-crafted specialties and Hidden Mickeys in the carpet.  It is a world to immerse yourself into and enjoy every experience.  I look forward to hearing any experiences or things that you tried and enjoyed while staying at this resort!  PS - don't forget to look up, down & all around for the full experience...& talk to Cast Members.  Learn from their experiences & enjoy every moment!