Tag Archive: resort activities

  1. Top Reasons to Love Disney’s Old Key West Resort

    Old Key West was part of my family’s first ever Disney Vacation Club split-stay at Disney World.  We will always have a special love for this property.  

    This is a quaint, charming resort that reminds me of life on a quiet island with the faint sounds of Jimmy Buffet echoing across the water and the warm breeze caressing your face as you contemplate whether to relax some more, go for a leisurely walk, or order another cold drink while basking in the sun.

    For my family, Old Key West had the most ‘remote’ feeling, but in a good way.  It felt like an oasis community that was sheltered from the hustle and bustle found only minutes away.  

    There are many reasons why Disney’s Old Key West is a wonderful Resort choice. 

    In a nutshell, this resort offers a few unique features that make it most appealing, namely, Atmosphere, Waterfront, and convenient Boat Access to Disney Springs.

    Want to relax in a community-like setting that puts you in a tropical oasis where time slows down?  Want to enjoy a true ‘home’-like experience?  How about some great food and lots of fun activities?  Old Key West Resort is the place for you!  

    Top 3 Reasons I Love Old Key West Resort

    #3. Boat Access to Disney Springs

    Feeling remote is very different from actually being remote.

    We love the transportation options at Disney, and especially when water taxis are available.  Old Key West offers a convenient boat launch from which you can travel to and from Disney Springs.

    We just love the activities, entertainment, shopping and food at Disney Springs, day or night.  It is a must visit place for us at least a few times per trip, so having the option of a relaxing boat ride on a nice day/evening is much appreciated.

    Get your Mexican fix at Frontera Cocina

    Or, if Italian is your desire, don’t miss Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante

    … and do NOT forget about desserts! 

    Whether catching a movie at the AMC Theater, grabbing an award-winning dinner, or just window browsing while enjoying a treat, Disney Springs is awesome!

    #2. Activities, Atmosphere, Room Size

    Yes, I cheated.  I had such a hard time separating these three factors that I bunched them all together into one Reason to Love the resort.  The rooms, activities and atmosphere are like parts of a puzzle that relate to one another so closely, it takes each doing its own part to create the end feeling of overwhelming satisfaction.

    While all Disney Deluxe Resorts have engaging amenities, the small footprint of the clubhouse area at Old Key West makes for a more intimate setting with all activities easily accessible from one primary spot.  

    From the main clubhouse area, you are literally steps away from beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, shuffleboard courts, ping-pong tables, gitoni tables, a small arcade, the feature pool, sandy play areas, food, beverages, and more.  

    The feature pool at Old Key West is large, blue, and very relaxing.  The sandcastle waterslide is a highlight for sure!

    The theming immerses you in South Florida’s Key West with white sand, a palette of island inspired colors, and the inviting blue skies and waters of the tropics. Oversized sand buckets and sandcastles dot the play area…

    We loved trying the Shuffleboards! And of course, a trip would not be complete without enjoying some quality time at the Community Hall

    Our son loves it… and even Mom likes to get involved.

    It is so hard to not feel all of life’s stresses begin to fade away while surrounded by the Old Key West setting…

    The resort exudes serenity and comfort. 

    Many rooms have large covered balconies that overlook water features…

    Rooms offer ample space for families to enjoy their resort days to the maximum. Rooms offer sitting areas, large bathrooms, large bedrooms, and the one-bedroom villas dwarf most big city condos!  

    This resort is one of the Original Disney Vacation Club properties, so rooms were built larger.  We enjoyed having the extra space whether in the standard Deluxe Studio or the One-Bedroom Villas.

    #1. Olivia’s Cafe

    Old Key West offers one main sit-down restaurant called Olivia’s Café. This restaurant will not disappoint, morning, noon or night.  When you enter Olivia’s, you will feel right-at-home with pictures of DVC families and guestsadorning the walls.

    It has an eclectic, home-grown feeling about it that rings of a proud Mom-and-Pop anchor that has stood at the center of a small, close-knit mariner community for decades.

    The nautical theme is fun and inviting, and the island-inspired meals are exciting and warming to the soul.

    This cozy table service restaurant serves as a hub for good food and socializing; it adds a sense of community to the resort.

    Beyond the wonderful feel of the casual indoor seating area or the breezy outdoor seating area, the food and service are memorable highlights.  The menu offers many local (to Southern Florida!) dishes that are uniquely crafted to bring the seaside to your plate.

    They offer novel breakfast choices like the Sombrero Omelet. I recommend an Olivia’s hallmark dish for breakfast, Banana Bread French Toast!



    The menu offers a wide variety of meats and sides, serving wonderful breakfasts, brunches and dinners.  One of my favorite homestyle meals is the Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken… 

    My wife still talks about her Duval Street Burger!  Yes, those are plump, grilled shrimp with an avocado and Pico de Gallo blend!  Delicious!

    We had so much fun at Old Key West, our dinner table also served as a comfy napping area some evenings….

    Old Key West is a seamless balance of simply being away from it all, but still being very close to it all.  This resort is the perfect blend of flip-flops and hammocks as well as excitement and action.

    Surrounded by waterways, fountains, and tropical greenery, this resort offers space to stretch your legs and an atmosphere to unwind.  With recent room renovations, an amenity-rich clubhouse area, and the famous Olivia’s Café, you may enjoy spending more time at the resort than originally planned.



  2. Top Reasons to Love Boardwalk Villas

    The Boardwalk Villas take visitors back to the turn of the century and put you smack in the middle of Atlantic City!  The colors, the nightlife, the food, and the entertainment meet the quaint waterside leisure.

    For my family, we found that the location, as well as the whimsical and novelty-like entertainment, resulted in an experience that was truly unique.

    There are many reasons why Disney’s Boardwalk Villas would be a great Resort choice.

    In a nutshell, this resort offers multiple features that really help to set it apart, such as location, the amusement factor of the lakeside boardwalk, the food options, a large pool area, a great community hall, and a very unique lobby full of fun-facts and artifacts from long ago. 

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC

    Want to enjoy a calming palette of pastels?  Want to feel the excitement of a real boardwalk with vendors, games, and entertainers?  How about a great location and lots of food options?  Boardwalk Villas is the place for you!  

    Top 6 Reasons I Love Disney’s Boardwalk Villas 

    #6. Community Hall

    The Community Hall located at the Boardwalk Villas was large and full of fun activities.  It had a wall of screens with different video game consoles. We played board games on rainy days, and it was the only Community Hall we had come across that offered a Pinball Machine and an upright Galaga Arcade Machine for guests’ use. Our son loved it!

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Community Hall  Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Community Hall Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Community Hall Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Community Hall

    Community Halls play a big factor in the enjoyment we have as a family while staying on property at Disney World.  Yes, there are Theme Parks and attractions galore, but a Disney trip is not complete without some good, old-fashioned, sit around a table together and do some crafts kind of quality time.

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Community Halll Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Community Hall

    There was just so much to do, from games to pottery to a large sitting area for big-screen, Disney movie watching!

    #5. Pool Time

    Disney Boardwalk Villas Pool SlideDisney Boardwalk Villas Pool

    The pool area at the Boardwalk Villas is truly
    fanciful and fun! Some might even say that
    the pool is a bit on the creepy side!

    We also loved the pool games… the kids have a blast!

    #4. The Lobby

    The Boardwalk’s Lobby is like walking through a blast from the past that is dedicated to the carnivals and seaside oddities from yesteryears!  The first piece that intrigues visitors is the large chandelier depicting four beasts that are half-horse and half-fish.

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas DVC Chandelier

    Of course, the ‘Nanny Chairs’ are also cool throwbacks to 19th-century carousels found throughout Europe.  You can spend hours inspecting the various artifacts in the lobby, researching their relevance, and being genuinely enthralled.  

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas DVC Nanny Chair Disney's Boardwalk Villas DVC

    I love the model roller coaster that depicts the first-ever looping coaster in the U.S.A., which was first located on the boardwalk at Coney Island. Then, there is Lucy the Elephant sitting atop the lobby fireplace mantle.  The real, full-scale Lucy is now a National Historic Landmark and can be found just south of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

    Disney Boardwalk Villas DVC Disney's Boardwalk Villas DVC

    #3. Location

    Swain Family

    The Boardwalk Villas give you a beautiful view of Crescent Lake and a prime location for those who enjoy visiting Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  Now, with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land being must-see additions to Hollywood Studios, the Crescent Lake resorts have become even more valuable.

    From the resort, you are about an 8-minute walk to the International Gateway entrance of Epcot. Park accessibility and transportation options are key factors for many people.  We love being able to walk to desired destinations.

    Also, from Boardwalk Villas, you are about a 17-minute walk to Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Land, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge via the connector walkway.

      Swain Family EPCOT 

    #2. Food Options

    The Boardwalk Villas sits amongst a multitude of wonderful nearby dining options!  Dining is always an important part of our family trips, and some spots that we love are in close proximity to the Boardwalk Villas, such as Trattoria al Forno, Flying Fish, dining options at Beach Club Resort, located only a short walk or boat ride away, and all of the options at both Epcot and Hollywood Studios!

    Food Disney Disney Food

    #1. The Waterside Boardwalk

    Well, we finally made it to our favorite reason for loving the Boardwalk Villas, the gorgeous boardwalk that runs along Crescent Lake.  It is the perfect pathway along which to stroll, jog, or enjoy the live entertainment.

    From storefronts and restaurants to views of the water, the boardwalk will teleport you back to the olden days of American oceanfront boardwalks like Old Orchard Beach, Atlantic City, and so many others that dwell in the memories of our youth.

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC

    Day or night, there are always vendor carts, food carts, midway games, and live entertainment to enjoy. And maybe our favorite boardwalk pastime is competing with other guests at the midway games.

    And, of course, taking home some plushies is always a highlight of the games!

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC


    Boardwalk Villas is a blast from the past with a prime location and amenities galore.  It’s both cheerful and elegant, sophisticated and quirky.  

    Overlooking beautiful Crescent Lake, you will feel like you are at an early 1900s family resort with a full schedule of activities and amusement.  The Boardwalk Villas appeals to young and old alike.

    Disney's Boardwalk Villas Resales DVC


    See Video by Jason Swain: DISNEY’S BOARDWALK RESORT TOUR

    Previous blogs by Jason Swain:






  3. Top Reasons to Love Disney’s Riviera Resort

    Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    The newest of all the Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts, and a completely different feeling than all the rest. From European architecture, to relaxing grounds and a view of the water, this resort is amazing. We love the Riviera Resort!

    In a nutshell, this resort is a welcome addition to the Deluxe Resort lineup. It offers luxurious rooms, common areas and grounds, with glimpses into Walt Disney’s rich history of travel and a love for Europe.

    Want to be transported to a European-inspired haven where you are surrounded by luxury, stone facades, and blue umbrella dotted landscapes? Do you like to take things slower, and sip specialty coffee while strolling luxurious grounds? Do you fancy yourself a food connoisseur who will savour a largely French and Italian themed menu of delectable dishes? Want to relax in a slightly more adult-oriented environment but still be connected to the Disney action? Riviera Resort is definitely the place for you!

    Top 4 Reasons I Love the Riviera Resort
    #4. On-Site Character Dining Experience

    Mickey Mouse at Character Breakfast at Riviera’s Topolino’s Rooftop Terrace Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    It is always a special thing to have an on-site Character Dining experience. In this case, my family feels that the Character Breakfast at Riviera’s Topolino’s Rooftop Terrace is the BEST Character Dining Experience on property! Yes, I know that those may be fighting words to some Disney fans out there but the food options at this Dining Experience are phenomenal!

    Starter's Plate Character Breakfast at Riviera’s Topolino’s Rooftop Terrace Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    My wife loves the Sour Cream Waffles with Chantilly. My Wood-Fired Butcher’s Steak breakfast was the BEST breakfast dish I have had on Disney’s property to date! Cooked and Seasoned to Perfection! The European Art Theme is fun and whimsical with a starter’s plate of baked goods resembling an Artist’s Palette. Then we have the Characters! Look at Mickey’s adorable Painter’s Apron! Minnie Mouse adorns a beautiful and fashionable dress straight out of an upscale, European, leading designer’s shop! Daisy Duck is present, and of course, so is the number one Duck, Donald Duck! The atmosphere in this Rooftop Restaurant is one of spacious comfort encircled by windows and gorgeous views. Also, the quality of meals is a reminder that you are in one of Disney’s Signature Restaurants. It is our favourite Character Breakfast!

    #3. Immediate Skyliner Access

    This resort offers guests immediate access to a dedicated Skyliner Station via a short, covered walk from your room. Disney’s newest means of mass transportation is a Game Changer in my opinion. The Gondola or Skyliner system of transportation is a huge perk to guests at Disney’s Riviera Resort. Not only is it super fun to ride, but it is the most efficient transit service available. We literally walked into the boarding line at the Riviera Skyliner Station and were exiting a Gondola at Epcot 9 minutes later!Skyliner Transportation Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    The Skyliner currently connects Riviera Guests to Epcot via a Direct Route. It also connects you to Pop Century as well as Art of Animation. Kids love visiting Art of Animation for some fun Arcade action or just taking in the life-sized Lion King, Cars, Little Mermaid, and Nemo environments. Even the walk to the Skyliner Station is lovely as you stroll through water feature enhanced gardens and through a tunnel adorned with beautiful Mosaics. The Gondola System also quickly connects you to Hollywood Studios and all the park has to offer including Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge.

    Galaxy's Edge, Hollywood Studios Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    Galaxy’s Edge, Hollywood Studios

    Upon arrival at the Resort, we decided to zip over to Hollywood Studios for a tour of Galaxy’s Edge. On returning back to the Riviera at Park Closing time, we saw that the lineup waiting for a Gondola was huge! We were discouraged but asked a Cast Member an approximate wait time for a lineup so large. When we were told “maybe 10 minutes”, we had our doubts. However, within 7-minutes, we were sitting in a Gondola and 10-minutes later (after one transfer at Caribbean Beach Resort), we were exiting at Riviera. Amazing!

    So, whether you want to lounge at the resort, zip over to Morocco for a meal at Restaurant Marrakesh, or take in some sites in France, or even Build a Droid, The Riviera has you conveniently covered!

    #2. Relaxed, Elegant European Vibe and Theming

    Gelato Disney's Riviera Resort Pool Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    It is hard to describe the atmosphere and ambiance of the Riviera other than to say it was elegant, luxurious and had a familiar European comfort to it that encouraged lounging, strolling, exploring, and appreciating the small indulgences in life, like food, beverages, and architecture. You are greeted by amazing Cast members and gorgeous grounds. Would you believe there is even a Gelato Cart by the pool?

    If you enjoy the clean lines of rectangular pools, you will love Riviera’s feature pool. I think the Tower Slide is just stunning! Even the kids’ water play area, S’il Vous Play, is architecturally attractive. A whimsical play on Fantasia.

    Pool Tower Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    Everything just felt so upscale, from the stonework to the colour palettes. The impressive Resort stands as the backdrop while creating a wonderful skyline. Inside, you can sit and sip a drink in the Voyageur’s Lounge while exploring the books and paraphernalia that marked Walt Disney’s past intrigues. And of course, how European would the place be without Le Petit Café, a coffee bar turned wine bar by evening?

    The Games Lawn offered Blocks, Bocce, Giant Chess, and Lawn Billiards. While still offering Movies Under the Stars and a fire pit for S’mores, the Eventi room also has wine tasting and painting sessions for older crowds. In addition, they offer two very European-inspired activities: The Morning Regatta – racing remote control speedboats in the feature pool; and Monaco Car Racing in the Eventi Room – build cars and then race them!

    And then there was the room. Absolutely gorgeous! Beautiful woodwork, and very space conscious. My wife’s favourite Deluxe Studio on property!

    Deluxe Studio Room Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    #1. Dining and Food Quality!

    So, we made it to the Number One Reason for loving Disney’s Riviera Resort. In my family’s opinion, the food here was just awesome! There is no better Resort Counter Service than here at the Riviera Resort, and the on-site Signature Restaurant, Topolino’s Terrace, was extravagant!Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC

    Primo Piatto and Bar Riva offered an elevated quick service dining experience from the menu options to the quality of the food, to the real dishes & silverware. We enjoyed eating lakeside. The Burgers, Fries, pizzas, and Side Soups here were incredible! But even the kids’ meals were higher level! We could not get over how nice the counter service breakfast dishes were! Beautiful Italian Sausages, Polenta, Croque Madame and Blueberry-Lemon Pancakes. Regional, fresh, and satisfying.

    Disney's Riviera Resort Orlando Florida Resales DVC


    To top it off, diner on the Rooftop at Topolino’s is a must-do. Top notch service and food with a view that most resorts will just have to envy. Fresh pastas, sea foods, meats… we loved it! My favourite dish was the Braised Chicken Rigatoni, while my wife preferred the Pesto Seafood Dish. The view from this Terrace is so breathtaking in the evening.

    The location of the Riviera Resort also opens up all of the wonderful dining options in nearby Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and it’s an easy walk over to Sebastian’s at Caribbean Beach Resort.


    This, the newest of all the Disney World DVC Resorts, is a welcome option to the collection. It offers just the right amount of theming, luxury, and adult-oriented indulgences. It then goes over the top with mouth-watering meals, a connected location, and the best mode of transportation on property.
    We love calling Riviera one of our homes away from home!

    [envira-gallery id=”73945″]

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  4. Resort Activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Many features set Walt Disney World resorts apart from other hotels, such as elaborate theming, impeccable guest service, and extensive daily resort activities.

    And while every resort at Disney World offers activities, I’d argue that Animal Kingdom Lodge offers the widest array of resort activities and the best options for kids.

    This fall my family stayed five nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge and only went to the theme parks one day, so we had lots of time to explore the resort and try out the many offerings.

    You can view a sample calendar of resorts activities from September 2017 here, but keep in mind the options and times can change from month to month. The best part of these activities (to a cheapskate like me, at least) is that they are all free!

    I’ll describe the activities we participated in below, and you can decide if you think the offerings at Animal Kingdom Lodge are the best on property or not!

    Culinary Tour of Jiko & Boma

    Animal Kingdom Lodge Activities

    Every day at 4:15, Cultural Representatives from Africa lead a tour of Jiko and Boma, the two incredible table service restaurants at Jambo House.

    The cast members who led our tour explained the how the design elements in the restaurants symbolically represent African culture and nature. For example, in Jiko you’ll find the shape of wheat stalks in the flooring which represent an abundant harvest in Africa. I was once again bowled over by the thought that goes into every detail at Walt Disney World.

    Animal Kingdom Lodge Activities

    Aletta from Namibia led our tour of Boma, and here she is explaining how people from her country use the pots that inspired the columns in the restaurant. It was such a pleasure to learn about life in Africa from these talented young people and to be able to ask them questions about their home.

    In addition to learning about the design of the restaurants, you’ll get to learn about their culinary offerings – and even taste some!

    Animal Kingdom Lodge Activities

    At Jiko, we were offered a sample of the bread and dips from the Taste of Africa appetizer. At Boma, we got to sample some soup (ours was an African peanut soup that was out of this world) and their signature dessert, the Zebra Dome.

    The tour lasts 45 minutes and there’s need to register ahead of time – just arrive in the Jiko bar area by 4:15. The restaurant tour is open to any Walt Disney World guest, so you don’t even need to be staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge to participate.

    African Face Painting

    Face painting at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Every day from 2:00 – 3:00 pm kids can get their face painted in a traditional African design by a Cultural Representative. This takes place in the patio area outside of the Mara, the quick service restaurant at Jambo House, or inside the Mara if the weather isn’t great.

    Face painting at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Phumalane decorated my daughter’s face in the style of an African princess on her wedding day. Can you tell she loves to have her picture taken?

    Considering that face painting in the theme parks costs at least $15, this activity offers great value. We were the only ones there so we got to talk to Phumalane for a while, which was a bonus on top of the lovely face painting.

    Cookie Decorating at Boma

    Cookie Decorating at Boma

    The activity my little one was most excited about was cookie decorating, of course. Every day from 1:30 to 2:00 pm kids and their grown-ups can decorate African wildlife-shaped cookies at tables inside of Boma.

    There’s no need to register for this activity and you don’t have to be a guest at Animal Kingdom Lodge to participate. I have read on other sites that you do need a kiddo with you, but I couldn’t confirm that because I went with my daughter.

    Cookie Decorating at Boma

    Here is her adorable lion with a gummy bear collar. I decorated a cookie, too, but I ate mine before I could get a picture. Oops!

    Cookie Decorating at Boma

    Another girl made this giraffe scene and she was kind enough to let me take a picture.

    The best part of this activity was chatting with the two Cultural Representatives who led it while we decorated. I learned so much about life in Africa and how they came to be working at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

    Poolside Activities

    Poolside activities at AKL

    We spend lots of time at the pool during our stays at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our little one loves the water, and she is finally getting old enough to participate in some of the fun poolside recreation activities!

    Poolside activities at AKL

    Every day from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Cast Members lead games and activities at both Animal Kingdom Lodge pools. They change daily and include everything from hula hooping contests to Name That Disney Tune.

    The kids can win prizes (usually beach balls and other water toys) when they participate. My four-year-old daughter played water balloon games and a critter roundup, and we played Bingo together. You can see more examples of the poolside activities on the sample September Recreation Calendar here. 

    Mini Cake Decorating

    Cake decorating at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Every day at 3:30 in front of Sanaa (Kidani Village) kids can decorate their own animal-shaped mini cake with help from Cultural Representatives. This was another high priority for my daughter – are you noticing a theme here?

    Cake decorating at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    We were the only people decorating cakes that day so we had our choice of cakes and toppings! Those little candy rocks were incredibly good. We enjoyed talking with Kefilwe from Botswana who helped us with our cakes, and learning that she is scared of chickens! (Note: we keep chickens at home and she said she would run away from them, which my daughter thought was hysterical.)

    Wildlife Viewing

    Activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Last but not least is the activity that makes Animal Kingdom Lodge such a unique place – viewing the animals that make the savanna their home.

    Activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Here are some pictures I have taken on various trips to the Lodge over the years. All of them were taken from the public viewing areas (we always stay in Standard View rooms).

    Activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    I personally think the wildlife viewing and photography opportunities are better at Kidani Village than Jambo House. The animals seem to be closer and more active there in my experience.

    For a few hours after sundown, you can view the animals with night vision goggles at either overlook. I’ve never tried this but it sounds like something older kids would really get a kick out of!


    Activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge

    The activities I highlighted in this post are just a small sampling of what’s offered at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Most activities are free, and there are plenty geared towards adults if you are visiting without little ones in tow.

    For me, the highlight of participating in these activities was the connection we made with Cultural Representatives. The activities gave us a chance to spend some time chatting and getting to know these incredible people who traveled halfway around the world to share their experiences with us. Cast Members really are what makes Walt Disney World so special.

    I encourage you to schedule a day (or more!) to experience the resort activities at your resort during your next stay at Walt Disney World. Do you agree that Animal Kingdom Lodge offers the best activities of any resort? Or are there better options elsewhere? Join the discussion over at the ResalesDVC Facebook page!