Saturday, April 29, 2017

Oakley Family Life near Walt Disney World, Florida

Here's a tribute to our magical moments  living near Walt Disney World. Things to see and do that will not cost you a fortune.Affordable family fun while vising Orlando's many theme parks.Our family moved here in 1996. We were visiting since 1988 and loved every moment. By 1995 my wife said we visit Orlando so often why not just move there? I got a real nice job and the rest was history.This website is a tribute to our great adventures in the shadows of the Happiest Place on Earth.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hotel Jacaranda in Avon Park,Florida

Have you ever wanted to go back in time and try to experience old Florida?

The Jacaranda Hotel
19 East Main Street Avon Park, FL

2017 ( Update ) 

Avon Park actually has an old style park down the center of the main street.
Almost feels like you've gone back in time.Avon Park is a city in Highlands CountyFlorida, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 8,836 and in 2015 the estimated population was 10,086.It is the oldest city in Highlands County, and was named after Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

A short drive south of Walt Disney World but like no other  part of Florida you've ever visited

Included  in this central park  is an old style gazebo
You just never know what  event or concert will be held here.

Once the location of a gigantic jacaranda tree
Nestled in a quiet corner of Florida’s Heartland, The Hotel Jacaranda is the picture of Southern repose. Built in the 1920s and listed on the National Historic Register, Avon Park’s “gracious lady” boasts high ceilings and quiet hallways. In years gone by, the Jacaranda played hostess to the likes of Babe Ruth and Clark Gable. Today, the hotel radiates unequalled elegance, with a lobby that invites visitors into the warmth of its green, mauve, and beige furnishings. Guest rooms are comfortable and spacious. A sprawling veranda overlooks tree-lined Main Street and serves as a favorite gathering place for avid card players. The Jacaranda lies within easy driving distance of Cypress Gardens, Historic Bok Sanctuary, and Orlando’s numerous theme parks. After a day of sightseeing, guests can relax in the hotel’s swimming pool. As a South Florida State College facility, the hotel and its grounds are tobacco-free.

As a true example of living history, The Hotel Jacaranda is one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Highlands County. When the Jac opened in 1926, it took its name from a 150-year-old jacaranda tree that had been removed to make way for the hotel. Among its first guests were members of the St. Louis Cardinals, who came to Avon Park for spring training from 1927 to 1929. Photos of its famous guests, from Babe Ruth to Hollywood celebrities George Burns and Gracie Allen, adorn its dining room. During World War II, the grand hotel played a hand in the war effort by housing hundreds of servicemen who had come to the area to train as military pilots.

An elegant and restored lobby

Full library with all sorts of treasures

Each night all sorts of casual entertainment

Heated swimming pool

Jacuzzi spa ideal for cool winter  days

Old fashioned check in desk
There is even a bird cage style elevator that requires a porter
to take you and your luggage  to the second or third floor rooms

Fine dining in either the Palm and the Citrus rooms

During its winter season, enjoy the elegant, casual dining experience of The Hotel Jacaranda’s Palm Room and Citrus Room. Lunch and dinner are served Monday through Friday. On Sunday, the Jac’s culinary team rolls out its Grand Buffet.
The all-you-can eat buffet features Southern-fried chicken and other regional cuisine along with daily favorites, a salad bar, a dessert bar, and a choice of coffee or tea. Guests are frequently invited to sample specialty dishes created by South Florida State College’s culinary arts students.
From November through May, pianist Jeff Klein entertains with his musical favorites and special requests.
The lunch buffet is available November through May. The dinner buffet runs January through March. Summer menu is available May through September.

Entrance ramp towards the rear entrance and street level offices
Easy access for those with mobility issues

Sunday brunch with style and at a very reasonable price

In it's heyday home to everyone from bootleggers to    world famous celebrities

Hotel Website

for a truly great  but unusual vacation experience

                                                             Quaint and historic Avon Park, Florida

Special Notes: information provided is updated in May 2017 and may not be  100% accurate. We stayed at this hotel and loved the ambiance. We also appreciate that as time does to all of us it is subject to change over the years.

Allan N.Oakley
Kissimmee,Florida USA

Avon Park actually has a mile long park down the centrer of the main street

Shirley Jones visits Avon Park

Life Beyond the Partridge Family
There is actual life outside of Disney and once in a while it takes on a whole new level of expectation.
Sometimes a great show is missed because it hardly ever garners attention from the Orlando market. The South Florida Community College puts on world class shows and they are less then 45 minutes south of here.
Typical example :

We visited the Night Shirley Jones came to town.

Historic theatre in a historic town. How many of us have ever been there?
This show sells for half what you would pay for it in Orlando.
Well we did it. The drive to Avon Park took an hour and it is not like anywhere else we’ve seen in Florida. The concert hall was spectacular. A pleasant surprise as we were the second show in this brand new concert hall. The restored Performing and Arts centre cost $12 million dollars. For such a private college this was no small accomplishment. Phenomenal acoustics, brand new padded seats and at least 25 opera style balconies. Shirley Jones delivered a wonderful Night at the Oscars show with the Hollywood Concert Orchestra. She and a few other singers belted out two hours of songs that brought a smile to your face. It was a sold out crowd and it seemed that we were the youngest in the crowd. The average age had to be well in to the 70’s.

Once the concert was over we decided to treat ourselves to a unique experience by checking in the Hotel Jacaranda in downtown Avon Park. This 1920’s hotel is so authentic you feel you are going back in time. A grand entrance ,large lobby with over sized plush lounge chairs and music in the background from days long ago. Even the elevator is the old birdcage style with the porter requiring he operate it to get you to your floor. Hotel Jacaranda is also owned by the South Florida Community college as part of their hotel culinary and management program. Half of it is dormitories for enrolled students while the other half open to the public

Free Breakfast is included in your stay and we were pleasantly surprised how bountiful it was. .There are two open restaurants in the Palm Room and Citrus Room located off the main lobby. No fast food served here. The Sunday Grand Buffet attracts locals from far and wide. . The hotel has a large heated pool and Jacuzzi. It is located at the center of oak tree lined downtown of Avon Park. This town is not for anyone seeking excitement. By Saturday afternoon at 3 Pm all the shops are closed till Monday. It was not surprising to see older couples strolling hand in hand down the main street window shopping. The hotel is peaceful and quiet. The rooms are typical for the style of the 1920’s. Very high ceilings, large extra firm beds and antique furniture. The patrons are predominantly senior citizens although the majority of the staff are younger college students. There was a TV in every bedroom and high speed internet on the third floor only and in the library. We almost felt guilty turning on the TV as there was many a guest in the main lobby willing to engage you in a game of checkers or cards or some quiet conversation. Everyone kept asking us where we lived and when we said Kissimmee they seemed perplexed we’d drive 50 miles to stay in their village. From November through May, pianist Jeff Klein entertains each evening with his musical favorites and special requests and show tunes on his restored Steinway. The walls lined with autographed pictures of celebrities that used to stay there long ago. Everyone from Babe Ruth to Al Capone. George and Gracie Burns to Clark Gable. This hotel literally makes you feel you are going back in time. The room costs us $67 for the room. Balconies facing out on the main street add $5 more per night. My main indulgence was enjoying steamy hot shower with powerful water from the basement boilers .The water rushed out of those large ancient pipes and I could have stood there for hours. Once it bed we were lulled to sleep by the distant whistle of trains roaring through the western edge of town .By 11 PM everyone was already asleep.

It just shows that you don’t have to go that far to enjoy a whole different life in Florida. Avon Park and neighboring Sebring are two magical towns that are very much part of life in Florida 60 years ago.

Allan N.Oakley
Kissimmee, Florida

( Updated  Memoir May 2017 )

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Soaring at EPCOT / May 2005

May 5th,2005
As with everything Disney the launch of Soaring at EPCOT was a spectacular event.
Celebrities, food and world class entertainment.The theme was named Taste of California. Whether it was Canada's Bare Naked ladies, actor Patrick Warburton's comedy introductions or any of dozen of celebrity impersonators the night was magical. 3500 VIP guests and 3000 of the worlds media. This event was a show stopper.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rainforest Café at the Animal Kingdom

Rainforest Café at the Disney Animal Kingdom is one of those quirky restaurants hidden away just outside the AK gates. Yes, when you drive up the gatekeeper asks you for a $10 parking charge but tell him you plan to go to the restaurant and he may very well just let you in. Not to worry if you have to pay as the rainforest café will give you that $10 off your meal upon proof of parking receipt. Once inside the place is an eclectic arrangement of strange tables, gigantic aquariums and the most unusual bar that has to seat almost a hundred people. With the sounds of wild animals, rain forest storms with lightning and thunder and even the occasional light rain this place is worth seeing. . If for nothing else just a couple of exotic drinks and an appetizer or two. This is a must see restaurant with something for everyone in the family.

Don’t underestimate the gift shop for an hour of real fun and laughter. All sorts of weird gifts and rib tickling toys. Hippie clothing to safari wear. Hats that you will never forget and the most unusual assortment of affordable trinkets. This place has it all to entertain you. Just outside the back entrance is a courtyard your children will love. Odd statues and fountains and even a few park benches where you can sit down and relax. The rainforest café is much like the same restaurant located at Downtown Disney’s marketplace with one main difference. Here you can expect to walk right in and reservations are never needed.

HOT TIP: when you exit there is always some Disney character greeting opportunities before you enter the gates. Ideal for family photo opportunities without entering the main park.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Celebration, Florida ( Disney inspired downtown )


When staying in Central Florida don’t forget to visit the quaint downtown streets of Celebration. Celebration is a Disney inspired town with  several thousand homes located east of I-4 off of Highway 192.It is well marked an easily found. Although not formally connected to Walt Disney World it might as well be. This town in magical and you can understand why Walt Disney's brother insisted that their company sponsor something of a tribute to his brother inspirations of life in America.You really feel safe here and the town itself is like a small American village the way you'd always hope it could be.

For those of you who have not heard of Celebration, the town was originally designed by Walt Disney and his family.There are all sorts of quirky by-laws that include that every private home has a front porch and you can never see the driveway from the street. The downtown boasts many good places to eat, drink and to satisfy your sweet tooth. One of our favorite features of Celebration is the fountain located near the lake across from the now closed movie theater . At anytime you can hear children giggling and screaming as they run through the fountains. Almost monthly major festivals attract   young and old to the downtown.

There’s a reason Celebration is not a town, but a community in every positive sense of the word. While the population is diverse, the residents share a strong community spirit and a desire for a friendship with their neighbors.
Relationships develop in the many programs, activities and opportunities offered within the community. Residents get to know their neighbors while taking part in local school and sports programs; enjoying the walking trails, parks and amenities; enjoying our restaurants and shops; participating in organizations, civic and social groups; and playing an active role on the committees and Boards responsible for operating Celebration.
Official Community Website :
Downtown is host to all sorts of unusual restaurants.
Here is a list of some of the most popular ones.
Ari Sushi: Great place for sushi and other Japanese favorites and is usually never crowded. You can eat either inside or outside. If you are lucky, Celebration may be hosting a festival of some sort and you will hear a local artists on the stage downtown.

Columbia Restaurant:Great Cuban food and their 1905 salad is the  most popular. They have a nice, quiet bar that often times features Cuban  entertainers.On Friday and Saturday nights that quiet bar converts to party night with local entertainers and the occasional magician working the crowd. They offer the best mojitos in town with mint leaves and real sugar cane sticks. The sangria is a popular drink and made table side with wine, juice and fresh fruit.The menu is balanced to include delights for young and old.

Market Street Café: Definitely the best breakfast in town. Their pancakes are awesome and it has the old time diner feel.Nothing on the menu is expensive and the staff make you feel like you have come home for diner.

Celebration Bohemian  Hotel:  The Lakeside Bar and Grill recreates a true Florida experience of  out door dinig under the stars. I suggest trying the Filet Mignon egg rolls (they are outstanding!) and ordering a martini as they have a large selection of fun martinis to choose from. The hotel has a very charming lobby where a piano player plays the classics on the weekends. You can also take your favorite beverage outside by the lake and relax in an elegant setting. If all you want is a drink or two the bar area is extra ordinary.We suggest you start your evening there with a few special drinks and then wander down the street to enjoy whatever other restaurant you feel like enjoying.

Town Tavern:The burgers, seafood and clam chowder are excellent and the bar is a place “where everybody knows your name.” It is a wonderful spot where the locals hang and is very welcoming. It can get noisy at times as it is a local hang out but if you are in the mood for “ Cheers” but outside this is the place. Family, Food & Friends” says it all when it comes to the Celebration Town Tavern. This New England style restaurant & tavern has become the town’s social hub and place to be seen since opening in early 2000. The town tavern offers an extensive menu that is very family friendly.
Items that the tavern is famous for include: Award winning clam chowder Fried Ipswich Clams Fresh Boston Scrod Haddock ,scallops flown in fresh from the Northeastern Coastline as well as main plate salads, burgers, chicken, ribs & steaks

Imperium Food and Wine Wine bar with a front patio features light global fare along with pairings from around the world.Address606 Market St #140, Celebration, FL 34747

Sherlocks Tea Room: (Desserts) :If you’re looking for some place to satisfy your sweet tooth, make sure to stop by Sherlock’s. They have some very tempting and delicious desserts, wines and teas. On Friday and Saturday nights they feature live music and if you like English beer, this is definitely the right spot.
If you’re looking for ice cream, Kilwins is the place to go. They host many different flavors along with decadent chocolate and fudge that are made on sight.

Café D’AntonioLocated in the heart of Celebration’s downtown area, Cafe D’ Antonio enjoys a lakeside view with seating indoors and “al fresco.” Dress is casual in this warmly decored and family friendly atmosphere. With an open kitchen and the wood burning oven, grill and rotisserie that are common to Antonio’s restaurants, the menu features items representative of many of Italy’s varied regions. Fresh fish and seafood, Black Angus steaks, veal, chicken, pasta --- everything’s a specialty! Sample a simpler fare luncheon menu or a more traditional dinner menu; we have a children’s menu as well. There is a full bar at your service and an excellent wine list with wines by the glass and the bottle. After dinner, enjoy a liqueur or cappuccino in true Italian style.

Kilwin’s of Celebration Confectionery Chocolates and Ice Cream from the masters of confections Kilwin’s.

Starbucks : The bottom line is they always figured that putting people before products just made good common sense. So far, it’s been working out for them. Their relationships with farmers yield the highest quality coffees. The connections we make in communities create a loyal following. And the support we provide our baristas pays off everyday. This used to be the wildly popular Barney’s Coffee shop but as a Starbucks things improved. You can dine inside or out on the patio and watch the world go by. Meeting with friends to you’re your next day on vacation? This is the place. As always, free WI-FI for all patrons.

Upper Crust Pizza :Opened in late 2001, the restaurant features two types of pizza, thick Sicilian style and traditional New York style, both with a variety of toppings. Pizza is served as a whole pie, or by the slice with a drink for $2.79. In addition to the pizza offerings, Upper Crust also features a variety of Pannini’s, pressed sandwiches filled with items such as Tuscan Chicken, Steak and Cheese and Vegetables. A unique item served at Upper Crust is an open faced calzone called a “Crusti”. These hand made delights are stuffed with meatloaf, steak, Greek Salad and other items, and made to order in about 8 minutes. To top off your meal, Upper Crust offers a rotating menu of dessert pizzas including chocolate and apple cinnamon. Delivery is available in the immediate area, with about 20% of sales coming via delivered items.

Thai Thani : Thai food restaurant  located on a the main street across from the fountain park. Prime location with sidewalk seating. Thai and Asian inspired  cuisine with an Asian decor. For those seeking an authentic  Thailand  experience  certain tables allow you to set  almost on the floor on plush pillows as your server  recreates a dining experience only found  in the far east .Address600 Market St #110, Celebration, FL 34747

Sweet Escape Celebration Bakery & Cafe serving European-style pastries & breads plus sandwiches from a small  park-side deli.Address603 Market St #110, Celebration, FL 34747

If that is not enough for 2017  one mile north of the downtown a whole new  set of restaurants has opened  around the Watertower Shops
Website Directory : 

So many new shops and restaurants it is  near impossible to list but well worth the  visit..

Allan N.Oakley
Kissimmee, Florida

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Affordable Tour Guides for guests visiting Orlando many parks and area attractions ?

Can-Am VIP Orlando Tour Guide Services
Allan N. Oakley
Kissimmee, Florida

Is it possible to visit Orlando ,Florida and not  need a second  vacation to relax afterwards?

Yes, it is possible but you have to be cautious.I read about how some tour operators offered the most incredible offers and inexpensive tours but they turned out to be fronts for timeshare tours. That has always disturbed me as this has been happening since we first visited here in the late 1980's.All that is changed is their is more of it going on today.

A friend and I decided to build on our years of travel related experiences and created Can-Am VIP Orlando, Florida Tour Guide Services

One on one tour  guides services that can save you time and loads of  money trying to figure it all out.
We launched our first Facebook page to include   extra details.

Our rates start at $40 per hour but we guarantee you money and time saving tips that will make anyone's vacation that much more  fun.Our target clients are those with little time to research Orlando.The type of client that wants their vacation well planned out right down to what they visit and where they eat.We are also designing custom tours to show that there is a whole lot of life and family fun beyond Walt Disney World.  Minimum 6 hours required and rates vary according to your needs.

Transportation available for up to 4 guests and we can meet you at your Orlando-Kissimmee area hotel. Tours can start as early as 8 AM
Extra Guests:  not impossible but a second guide may be needed for up to 8  guests.

Discretion and Privacy : we have had  such clients. They want to visit  the parks and not be hounded by the  paparazzi or  curious tourists. We know all the tricks  of how to get around and not have anyone bother you or your family.

Bilingual English and French Speaking Tour Guides available 

Custom Tours Include:
Walt Disney World and it's four parks
The Best Natural  Beaches near Orlando

Secret Corners   of Orlando ( including museums, neighborhoods and much more)

The Best Shopping and Deals ( including half price Disney Memorabilia )
Guided Walking tour of Celebration ,Florida and enjoy a quiet  meal.

Contact us for pricing:
Tel: 407 610 3911 and leave a message


We tend to reply within 24 hours but Subject to Availability

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Disney World's Discovery Island

April 8th, 1974 - April 8th, 1999

"I Remember Discovery Island"
A Last Day Memoir by

Allan Oakley of Kissimmee, Florida

Web and Pictures:

History and Background

According to Walt Disney's colleagues, repeated aerial surveys of Central Florida land parcels led to Walt taking notice of the 11.5-acre island ( at that time named Riles Island and having been owned by several other parties before Disney's purchase ) in Bay Lake and deciding more or less immediately that this was the ideal location for his Florida Project.

The story goes that as Walt Disney was flying over the land he was interested in purchasing to locate his new Florida theme park (reported to be on November 22, 1963, around the time that JFK had been shot), it was the sight of this island in the center of Bay Lake that convinced him that this was the ideal place to build his Disney World Theme Park.

From the early 1900s, it was known as Raz Island, named after the family that lived there. In the late 1930s, it was purchased for $800 by a man named Delmar "Radio Nick" Nicholson, who renamed the island "Idle Bay Isle" and lived there for 20 years with his wife and pet crane. It was later purchased, renamed "Riles Island," and used as a hunting retreat long before being bought by Walt Disney (using a corporate name in 1965.

It is well documented that Disney was dissuaded from using real animals at Disneyland's Jungle Cruise, which opened in 1955, because experts contended they would be largely unmanageable and hard to present to his guests in the manner he desired. This led to his first batch of three-dimensional animated animal figures, the predecessors of Audio-Animatronics technology that gained the Disney company a reputation for engineering its own brand of reality. That does not make it ironic that Riles Island would come to be WDW's foremost home of down-to-earth animal reality, but it does make it mildly curious.

Disney originally planned to add a pirate "theme" to the island and call it "Blackbeard's Island". That name was discarded, and was eventually changed to "Treasure Island." (However, the Blackbeard Island name was recycled and given to one of the three man made islands of the Seven Seas Lagoon). Although the name of this new island attraction was changed to "Treasure Island", the original concept for a pirate themed adventure would remain, as it would take elements from the 1950 Disney film of the same name.

Walt wanted a unique diversion from the main theme park attractions. The island was planned to be a retreat for exploration and relaxation, with wrecks of pirate ships, "Ben Gunn's Fort", the "Benbow Inn", and lakes and waterfalls to enjoy.

In 1974, however, plans to add a wide variety of tropical birds to the island emerged, thereby putting the pirate theme on hold. In order to accommodate the more than 600 feathered friends that were going to take up residence here, more than 50,000 cubic yards of soil and 500,000 tons of boulders were brought onto the island, increasing the size of the island to almost 11.5 acres. As well as a variety of flowers and trees from around the world were collected and carefully landscaped.15,000 cubic yards of soil and 500 tons each of boulders and trees were employed in the process of creating an entirely new landscape - one with new bodies of water, new elevations and hundreds of varieties of plants transplanted from destinations including China, the Himalayas and South Africa. New, man-made bodies of water were created, and the one time flat, scrub brush filled island was transformed into a tropical paradise.

"Treasure Island" opened to the public on April 8, 1974 as a relaxing bird sanctuary. There were a few remnants of the pirate theme still present, as evidenced by a reproduced wreck of a ship on the island's southern shore. (Although many Disney marketing materials referred to it as the wreck of the Hispaniola, it was actually the remains of Captain Flint's ship, the Walrus).

A separate "Special Adventure" ticket was required to visit the island, which could only be accessed from a boat from either the Contemporary or Polynesian Resort, or by taking a tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake called (appropriately enough), the "Walt Disney World Cruise."

Ticket Required: Special Adventure ticket or Part of the Water Park-Discovery Island Annual Pass. In 1999 that included River Country which has since closed as well. It was also included in the Premium Annual Pass for Florida Residents.

Billed as a half-day adventure the island did not welcome as many visitors as Disney had planned and expected. As this ticket suggests, Treasure Island could be accessed by either taking a direct motor launch from a resort dock or as part the "Walt Disney World Cruise," a tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake that stopped at the Island. The island was recommended as a low-key diversion that could occupy up to one-half of a guest's day and help round out the complete, varied and leisurely vacation experience that set WDW apart from Disneyland. In the end it was the island's understated nature that contributed so substantially to its demise.

In 1977, to coincide with the theatrical release of "The Rescuers", Disney, in conjunction with General Electric, ran the "Rescuers Diamond Sweepstakes." It offered the opportunity for one lucky family to win a trip to Walt Disney World, and search and dig for a diamond on Treasure Island worth $25,000.

Now, just four years after its opening, the natural inhabitants of the island grew faster than its popularity with guests. The island abandoned any references to the pirate theme in 1978 and was renamed "Discovery Island," which focused on the island's rich, botanical settings, and wildlife such as flamingos, pelicans, eagles, alligators, peacocks, swans, rabbits and deer. The island featured a 40 foot tall, 320 by 102 foot walk-through aviary, bird shows, a flamingo pool, and Turtle Beach. The "Thirsty Perch" snack bar was constructed, and it even had the "Jose Carioca Flyers" bird show, which was performed in the CooCoo Cabana. There were also bird demonstrations, as well as a scavenger hunt which was available to Guests as they arrived on the Island. The 20-question hunt had clues, with answers that could be found on signs throughout the island. Successfully answering all of the questions entitled a Guest to a Jiminy Cricket EnvironMentality Earth Day button.

Charlie Cook was the park's head curator and was often seen posing with birds in Disney publications and also on various TV broadcasts when the Island's conservation efforts were discussed. It was truly a plus for the Disney company, being able to showcase an overt concern for the natural side of Walt Disney World in a setting this tranquil and seemingly removed from the rest of the attractions. As an extension of other responsible environmental practices on the part of the company (the crowning achievement being the decision in the late 1960s to set aside the property's 7,500 southernmost acres strictly for conservation of the delicate Reedy Creek natural drainage system**), the animal care activity on Discovery Island was a key and very public component.

Disney's conservation efforts on the island were recognized in 1981 when it was made an accredited zoological park by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. Eight years later, however, things took a turn for the worse, when charges against the island's director and four employees were filed for the mishandling of wild birds and vultures, as well as the destruction of nests and shooting of falcons and hawks. Unfortunately something went awry in the late 1980s. In September of 1989 the Orange-Osceola state attorney and a U.S. attorney in Orlando filed 16 charges against Cook and four other Discovery Island employees for a number of alleged offenses that included the mishandling of vultures and other wild birds, the destruction of ibis and egret nests and the shooting of hawks and falcons. All of this activity was attributed to attempts made by the five staff members to manage or relocate the animals in question, as they had become nuisances and often disturbed the other species living on the island. The case was ultimately settled, Discovery Island kept its AZA accreditation and Disney enacted a sweeping series of company-wide environmental policies. One cannot help but wonder, however, if there weren't those within the company harking back to the sage advice regarding live animal exhibition that had led Walt Disney to devise electronic alternatives. Disney claimed the employees were trying to relocate the birds, with unfortunate results. Disney settled the case and updated their environmental policies throughout the Resort, while still keeping their AZA accreditation. While damage was done in the public's mind due to this and similar problems that occurred during the same time period elsewhere at WDW, the Discovery Island staff persevered and kept the park running in a respectable manner for many more years. In the 1990s, for example, Discovery Island was the first zoological park to breed South American Maguari storks and white crested hornbills.

When Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, it seemed to sound the death knell for the unpopular island. That, coupled with poor attendance to the island, led to its ultimate demise. Finally, 25 years after it opened, Discovery Island closed on April 8th 1999. Rumors swirled for years as to what was to become of the abandoned island. Talks of a tie-in with a popular video game (Myst), as well as rumors of a private retreat for honeymooners (with lots of cash to spend) came and went, but the island remains deserted to this day.

Want a closer look? Take one of the many watercraft available for rent from the Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness or the Wilderness Lodge and drive by and see what remains. Access is strictly forbidden.

Although Discovery Island has closed seemingly for good, its name lives on in Disney's Animal Kingdom, as it is the land which contains Tree of Life.

In early 1973 the company forecast that "walkways, small lakes and waterfalls will be available to both explorers and picnickers" during the same year. It also said the island would later be "fully developed," offering guests a chance to visit "Ben Gunn's fort, Benbow Inn and the wreck of the Hispaniola." The latter is pictured above in a conceptual painting from the Disney archives

On April 8, 1974, Treasure Island opened to the public. As promised, it was a sanctuary for not only dozens of birds but also reptiles, mammals and other non-avian species. A loosely woven theme of piracy was worked into the mix (cast member costumes, oil lamps, wreckage) but took a backseat to the animal exhibits. The most prominent - and most photographed - man made element was the beached hull of a sailing ship on the island's southwest shore. Although commonly referred to in print as the wreck of the Hispaniola, this small craft was correctly named, in an early edition of Disney News, as the remains of Captain Flint's ship, the Walrus.

In 1978, Disney decided to rechristen Treasure Island as "Discovery Island," effectively throwing in the pirate towel and opting to emphasize the ecological aspects that had taken center stage. As fine as this was for the sake of both "truth in advertising" and the conservation programs themselves, it did rob the island of more than a little mystique. It also placed a formidable challenge upon the staff of the island in living up to the more focused task of exhibiting and caring for a growing population of animals. Among the wildlife represented on the island were macaws, rheas, tortoises, flamingos, pelicans, bald eagles, alligators, rabbits, miniature deer, toucans, cavy, hornbills, scarlet ibis, cockatoos, white peacocks, golden pheasants, Guinea fowl, cranes and swans.

Among the island's diverse features:

- A 320 foot by 102 foot aviary measuring 40 feet in height and with an elevated boardwalk (shown below).

- The CooCoo Cabana and its bird show, "Jose Carioca Flyers," in which cockatoos, macaws and other birds took to the air.

- Turtle Beach, home to 300-pound Galapagos tortoises.

- A flamingo pool especially designed to simulate the ebb and flow of the tides found in the birds natural habitat.

In spite of the turnaround, Disney decided to close Discovery Island not long after the Animal Kingdom park debuted. On April 8, 1999, 25 years after it first opened, Discovery Island officially saw its last guests. A few "postmortem" weekend visits were still accommodated past that date, but the end was close at hand. The company attributed the decision to lagging visitation, evidently a result of too many other options and diversions for guests to investigate during the course of finite vacation time. Discovery Island had become yet another relic from a past WDW era. The closing party/wake was held on 8th April on the Island, and was a very low-key affair which was not widely advertised. All Discovery Island signage on the water transportation was removed during the following evening. The closure date was exactly 25 years after it first opened in 1974.

As for what would become of the island that was so pivotal in Walt Disney's decision to build his Florida empire where it now resides, there were brief discussions between the Disney company and the creators of the software game Myst surrounding a possible collaboration. Those talks, however, ended abruptly in late 1999 and the island's future has remained sketchy since that time.

The Walt Disney Company broke from its off-limits psychology regarding the development of those 7,500 acres in the mid-1990s. At that time they decided to opt for a land mitigation approach in which they purchased land further a field from their more lucrative original acreage and proceeded with plans for the 1995-1996 construction of Disney Town of Celebration on the land which was originally to remain untouched.

April 4th, 1999

I am not really sure what drew us there that April 4th . My birthday was on the 9th but I knew by then the island would be closed. I took Elliot to Discovery Island to witness the closing chapter of a Disney legend. We wanted to film and sketch the island before all was lost. At 15 years of age Elliot was half interested but he also recognized this was going to be a pivotal day. At that point the island was to have its last day of public access. We were told that the final four days would be marked with private celebrations as long time staff took their last look at the island. As we finished our day we knew we had been on the last boat the last time anyone from the general public would see Discovery Island.

We left home around 10 AM

By 10:30AM we were already well on our way to the Discovery Island Dock

We found the easiest way to get there was through Fort Wilderness and catching the launch that went on to the Contemporary Resort and then the Magic Kingdom.

Once on the dock Elliot and did not know what to expect

We did figure out the gift shop and snack bar would have a few rare bargains and souvenirs that would soon become collectables.

Reading the brochure we knew a show was about to start at Reptile Relations

From there we wandered over to Feathered friends where a park attendant was showing off some ducklings

Parrots, birds of prey and a few surprises. When the show ended I asked the park ranger about the birds. She said it would take months to acclimatize them to new surroundings over at the animal kingdom

After the show we wandered over to North Creek Inlet which by now had become an over grown creek that fed the inner ponds at Swan's Neck Falls.

Trumpeter Springs

Swans Neck Falls

A little further along the path we arrived at the African Aviary and discover two contented parrots left unattended in the forest

Animal Hospital and Nursery
Park headquarters were also located here.

Shipwreck Beach and it's picnic grounds

Flamingo Lagoon

Tortoise Beach

500 pound / 150 year old Galapagos Turtle

Alligator Swamp

South American Aviary with Toco Toucans, Kookaburra's, Scarlet Ibis and Hornbills were a few of the exotic birds that were left. Apparently the southern bald eagles, African Crowned crane and demoiselle cranes had already been moved to the Animal Kingdom

One last look and out the last enclosure heading back to the Thirsty Perch. It was 3 PM and we ended a day full of memories, pencil sketches and all kinds of digital pictures.

Allan N. Oakley
Kissimmee, Florida


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2005

We love everything Disney World related. At certain times of the year special events add to the magic.
Here's our tribute to back in the day when we were a little  younger and more foolish.

Walt Disney World - October  2005
 Pictures  and Memoirs  of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2005

Boo! Don't be afraid. The screams you hear are squeals of delight, not fright. Disney fantasy and Halloween fun come together on selected October nights for a one-of-a-kind celebration. Seize this rare opportunity to visit the Magic Kingdom in costume, and trick-or-treat for candy and goodies with your favorite Disney characters*, all in their finest Halloween outfits. With special music, parades and the spectacular all-new Happy HalloWishes fireworks show, this is no trick — it's a real treat.

Our Date Night with friends:
Allan and Lorraine  &  
Steve and Glenda Wilkins
Kissimmee, Florida

Just about the entire park was full of oddball characters. This character cackled at the guests entering the Haunted Mansion. Kind of like Dolly Parton on steroids

September 30, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 2, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 6, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 7, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 11, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 13, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM *
October 16, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 20, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 21, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 23, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 25, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 27, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 28, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 30, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
October 31, 2005, 7:00PM - 12:00AM
* the night we went

The night starts with the scariest  man of them all
The Headless Horseman roams the street of the Magic Kingdom terrorizing all the trick or treating families.

Candy stations throughout the park including at  Cinderella's coach

The Not So Scary "Spooktacular" Parade

The night ends with the most incredible Hallow Wishes fireworks show over the Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle


More magic then ever  this year 
 - , 2017

Allan. N.Oakley
Kissimmee, Florida

We'll be there  for sure.....

Disney's Hollywood Studios Lights,Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show

UPDATE April 2016
It was inevitable: Disney's Hollywood Studios had to make room for the future Star Wars and Toy Story-Pixar Land  expansions, which meant attractions like the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt car show had to close.
Walt Disney World announced the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and "nearby locations around Streets of America" would  be permanently closed on April 2nd ,2016 .

The dust settled on the "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" at Disney's Hollywood Studios. After a run of more than a decade, the last performance of the show -- unlike anything else at Disney World -- took place Saturday afternoon.

The show, which showed off the skills of professional stunt drivers to a grandstand audience, had opened in the spring of 2005, after debuting first at the Walt Disney Studios in Paris three years earlier.The most dramatic moment, though, was saved for the finale of the last show. As always, the hero car emerged from a building, shot down a ramp and soared through a wall of fire. But in this case, the building's door was left shut -- so the car just burst through it, scattering pieces of the door (made of a heavy foamlike material) in its wake. Afterward, fans flooded the stage to express their well-wishes, and a few manly, macho tears might have been shed. The final line of the show, as always, was the rousing reminder to "Drive safely!"

Oakley Family Tribute Webpage  and Pictures:

We were fortunate enough to experience the First showing of Disney's " Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show "
One of the perks of having our son Elliot work part time at Disney World is his getting free tickets to what they call Cast Previews. In other words they test the new shows on the staff before the public can get in. This show was imported from France. We had three tickets and Lorraine Elliot and I saw it March 19th,2005.Long before its official May 5th launch to the general public. Here's some pictures.
The main entrance at the back of Disney / MGM studios. This used to be the very popular street where they had celebrity homes on the back lot tour.
These high powered cars are actually modified motorcycles but you are never supposed to learn that before the show is over
What the public never can see behind the movie set
The actual set
That's one gigantic high definition screen at the top of the building. ideal for close up shots and replays as this show has so much going on at the same time.
The crowd looks over the set but has no idea what to expect
Lights, camera action - the show begins

Herbie the love bug decides to visit the set
At first this car seems to be without a driver
That is before you see a driver hidden on the back side of the car.
Death defying Motorcycle stunts
The final scene was anticipated by the crowd to include a car flying right out the center balcony but it did not happen. Well, that's why they test it on the cast first .Just in case the stunt drivers are not ready.

The show had more than 40 vehicles in the show and backstage in the maintenance garage. The primary "hero" car, which the action revolves around, is a custom-built design for the show, while the pursuit cars are Opel Corsas. The hero cars are all painted red while the pursuit cars are painted black, to easily allow guests to tell the difference between them.
The show also includes specially-designed cars that look identical to the others used in the show, two of which are red "hero" cars. One substitute hero car has the bodyshell oriented backwards, to allow the driver to appear to be driving in reverse; the other has a seat and steering wheel bolted onto the side of the car away from the audience, so that the car appears to be driving without anyone inside the vehicle. One of the substitute black "pursuit" cars is cut in half behind the front doors, so that it can appear to explode during a scene in the show.
All the cars, while they appear simple, are reinforced with rally car roll cages for driver safety and powered by 1400 cc 150 horsepower (110 kW) motorcycle engines mounted directly behind the driver's seat. The cars have four forward and four reverse gears, allowing them to be driven backwards at high speed.
The cars have a bump shift for easier gear shifting: the driver bumps the shifter forward to go up a gear, and back to go back a gear. In order to reverse, the driver twists the top of the shifter and bumps it forwards or backwards. The emergency brake automatically releases when the driver lets go. The show cars are lightweight, at 1,322 pounds (600 kg), and are rear-wheel drive to allow the cars to drift. The drivers wear heavy protective suits; to keep the drivers cool, a cooling system in the rear of the car pumps water through the suits. The show also features jet skis on the small canal at the front of the theater, and motorcycles which maneuver around the cars.

Allan N.Oakley