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AbracadaBar Now Open at Disney’s BoardWalk

by on July 25, 2016 2 Comments

This weekend, the AbracadaBar opened at Disney’s BoardWalk. The cocktail lounge is located next to the soon-to-be-opening Flying Fish (opening in August) and the Italian restaurant Trattoria al Forno.

AbracadaBar Exterior

 

The lounge itself is not very large, and is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is room for Guests to be seated at either couches or tables, whichever they choose. Read the rest of this entry »

Cheese, Chicken, and Cocktails: The Best of Art Smith’s Homecoming in Disney Springs

by on July 25, 2016 6 Comments

We’ve already done a full review of Art Smith’s new Homecoming restaurant at Disney Springs, but I had the chance to stop by last night. And since the current “feels like” temperature in Orlando is about 100F, I figured I’d take a minute to write up some notes in air-conditioned comfort. Here’s the dinner menu I’ll be referencing.

The Fried Chicken is as good as the hype says. The skin is crispy and salty, while the meat is flavorful, tender, and juicy.  I’ve been testing different fried chicken recipes at home for a couple of years, and this is up there with the best results I’ve got. (My secret ingredients: powdered mustard, a Dutch over, and love.) The Fried Chicken and Doughnuts plate gets extra points for originality.

I’d definitely order the pimento cheese “Bunch of Puppies” hushpuppies again. They’re light, crispy, and the smooth cheese flavor is cut by the jalapeño jelly that comes on the side.  I’d also recommend the Shrimp Jubilee, a bowl-sized cup of shrimp, served in a salsa-like mix of mango, onion, avocado, and tomato. Lots of flavors there, with the sweet onion and tart tomato balanced well. That’s served with a side of cracker-thin bread.

We also tried the BBQ Chicken Wings – good, but unremarkable – and the Jasper Board, a charcuterie board with shaved ham, smoked sausage, pimento cheese spread, bread and butter pickles, and candied pecans. I’d try the Fried Green Tomatoes instead.

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Fried chicken dinner – $26. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Chicken and donuts. (photo by Brian Carey)

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BBQ chicken wings – $12. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Jasper board – $15. (photo by Brian Carey)

So far, so good. But we were just getting started…

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Universal Crowd Calendar Report – July 17 to 23, 2016

by on July 25, 2016

Universal Crowd Calendar Report

How Crowded Was Universal Orlando Last Week?

Last week, Universal Orlando crowds came in a few points lower than expected, mostly due to weak attendance at Islands of Adventure. Wait times were higher at Universal Studios most days.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report:

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Disney World Crowd Calendar Report – July 17 to 23, 2016

by on July 25, 2016

Disney World Crowd Calendar Report

How Crowded Was Disney World Last Week?

Crowds at Walt Disney World held steady last week with levels hitting the mark most days. Weekend crowds ended up a little lower than expected thanks mostly to Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom continues to be the busiest park this summer.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the Touringplans.com Disney World Crowd Calendar Report:

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Disneyland Crowd Calendar Report – July 17 to 23, 2016

by on July 25, 2016 1 Comment

Disneyland Crowd Calendar Report

How Crowded Was Disneyland Last Week?

Crowds at Disneyland last week closely followed what the Disneyland Crowd Calendar predicted. Crowds on the weekend were less busy that what we saw during the week, as predicted. Only one prediction during the week missed by more than one index level.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Disneyland Crowd Calendar Report:

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What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go

by on July 25, 2016 11 Comments

Fireworks Over Sleeping Beauty Castle

A few years ago, I was a Disneyland Rookie. I grew up going to Walt Disney World and knew all the tricks and shortcuts from an early age; but when I finally made the pilgrimage to the Disneyland Resort, all of my Walt Disney World prowess went out the window. I was a total Disneyland Rookie as I explored the Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, and loved every minute, but it’s taken a trip or two since that initial visit to avoid those beginner mistakes and experience the park like a pro. To give all of you fellow Disneyland Rookies a step up, here’s are What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go.

Photo - Brian McNichols

Disneyland Hotel by Brian McNichols

There Is No Wi-Fi

The struggle is real. Yes, there is currently no Wi-Fi at the Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure. Fortunately, free WiFi is offered at the Disneyland Hotel, even if you’re not a resort guest! So head over to the hotel when in need of a break, kick back in a teacup chair, and upload those pics to social media, check your email, or just check-in with the outside world for a bit. I also discovered that there are empty outlets in the lounge areas of the themed Disneyland Hotel towers if you need to charge up.

Different Layout Than Magic Kingdom

If you’re as familiar with Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as I was during my first to the Disneyland Park, don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need a park map or that Pirates of the Caribbean is in Adventureland. Contrary to what many may believe, the Disneyland Park and the Magic Kingdom have very different layouts. Attractions you’re familiar with at one park may not be the same place, or the same experience, at another. Also, the Disneyland Park offers its own unique lands! In addition to Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland, the Disneyland Park also offers Mickey’s Toontown, Critter Country, and New Orleans Square. What Disneyland Rookies should know before they go is the Disneyland Resort offers its own unique offerings to experience!

Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

Attractions Close for Weather and Nightly Entertainment

Southern California is known for its gorgeous weather, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to rainy days. As many Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure attractions are outdoors, not all can continue to operate when sunny California fails to live up to its name. The Disneyland Park attractions which may close for inclement weather are Fantasyland’s Alice in Wonderland, Mad Tea Party, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, as well as Frontierland’s Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island (currently closed) and Toontown’s Gadget’s Go Coaster. Weather can also delay or even cancel the Disneyland Park’s parades and fireworks. High winds are also a cause for cancelled fireworks; but if the fireworks continue as scheduled, a number of attractions close down for the display, including the Disneyland Monorail.

Over at Disney California Adventure, attractions that close for weather include some Cars Land attractions and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Also, just like at the Disneyland Park, a number of attractions close for the park’s nightly World of Color performance, particularly those on Paradise Pier like California Screamin’, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the Golden Zephyr and Silly Symphony Swings, and even games on the Boardwalk, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, and the King Triton’s Carousel.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Magic Kingdom

by on July 23, 2016 5 Comments

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE the Magic Kingdom. As you know, this July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. At the beginning of the month we began our journey at Animal Kingdom, which now takes on new life at night. We then made our way over to Hollywood Studios, a park currently going through some growing pains but still has some of the best experiences in all of WDW. Last week? The one and only EPCOT, a theme park like no other across the globe. Today we are going to finish up by heading into the park which was the centerpiece of Walt Disney’s “Florida Project,” the Magic Kingdom.

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The partners statue at the Magic Kingdom. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There are not enough superlatives for Disneyland out in California, but with Florida came the “blessing of size” which allowed Walt (and the Disney company) to fix problems they would never be able to in Anaheim. For example, driving to Disneyland is much like driving to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, in that you can see the park from the road. With the Magic Kingdom, Disney created a theme park where the very entrance to the park is an experience, slowly revealing itself to guests in a truly magical way. Opening in 1971, the Magic Kingdom quickly became the most popular theme park in the world, and retains that title to this very day. What makes it so great? Well, today we’re gonna look at six of our favorite things inside this truly special park. So, sit back, relax in one of the rocking chairs on Tom Sawyer Island, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Festival of Fantasy

Even with heated competition from Universal and many other parks from around the world, there are still areas which Disney parks are completely untouchable. One of those areas is parades, and one of the best parades at any Disney park is the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of FantasyWith elaborate floats, stunning costumes, an original score, and filled with many of our favorite Disney characters, this is a parade worth waiting for. The backstory of the parade is that each of the units were built by the citizens of Fantasyland. It’s fascinating just looking at all the details on each float and how they seem to be designed from an era long ago. The music has that true Disney Difference, with Brave and Maleficent sections being standouts, and the amount of characters involved in the parade is staggering.  From Anna and Elsa to Mickey and Minnie and almost everyone in-between, Festival of Fantasy has something for everyone.

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The impressive fire breathing Maleficent. Sorry Gringotts, but this dragon also moves. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Tinker Bell doing her best impersonation of a theme park blogger receiving constructive criticism. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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In Festival of Fantasy, Merida gets her chance to shine! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of July 22, 2016

by on July 22, 2016

ICYMI

I know…it’s summer and you’re busy. That’s why I’m here! I’m here to keep you updated on the Disney and Universal fun you’ve been missing this week while you’ve been running from here to there. So let’s get to the fun.

This week, I share with you information about Disneyland’s 61st anniversary, details from the Star Wars Celebration, and more.

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

 

In a somewhat surprising move (at least I think), the family of Lane Graves will not be suing the Walt Disney Company after their son died from the horrific alligator attack.

We’ve all been hearing the rumors about changes that could potentially be coming to Epcot. Here’s more proof that something could be on the horizon. Read the rest of this entry »

July 4th Characters at Walt Disney World

by on July 22, 2016 4 Comments

Meeting Chip and Dale at Epcot on July 4th

Meeting Chip and Dale at Epcot on July 4th

Welcome to my first post for TouringPlans!

My name is Heather, and even though I live in New Jersey, I’m lucky to visit Walt Disney World often enough that some of my friends think I live in Florida. I’m a runDisney addict, and I especially love meeting characters at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. So of course my first post is character related.

Each July 4th at Walt Disney World, you can meet characters in special outfits that are only available on this holiday. Characters meet in special patriotic outfits at Epcot, and you may also see characters at different Walt Disney World resorts. Even though it won’t help you right now, it’s never too early to plan your character strategy for the future. Here’s a look at who I met this year on July 4th.

At Epcot, you can meet Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Chip, and Dale. Chip & Dale meet together throughout the day on the right side of the American Pavilion, near the restrooms. Chip & Dale are very interactive, so their line usually moves slowly. However, even when their set is over, the next set is only 5-10 minutes later, so you won’t have to wait too long for Chip & Dale to have their acorn break. The line is also partly in the shade, which always helps.

Patriotic Mickey, Donald, and Goofy’s set is different than Chip & Dale’s. The three characters appear at the end of the Voices of Liberty show at the American Gardens Theater. After the show, they walk over to the left side of the American Pavilion to meet guests. The line works like at the Epcot Character Spot. They do not meet together, but you stand in one line and meet each of them in a row.

Mickey, Donald, and Goofy only have 3 sets, since there are only 3 Voices of Liberty shows in the American Gardens Theater, and they are very popular, so make sure you get there early. Their sets start about 15 minutes after the Voices of Liberty show, so I would get in line shortly before the show begins. The line is unfortunately mostly in the sun. It was so hot this year that Cast Members passed out free water to those of us in line for the first set. However, you can hear the Voices of Liberty from the line, which is a nice perk. Read the rest of this entry »

Dani’s Best Week Ever July 21, 2016: Loews Sapphire Falls at Universal Orlando

by on July 21, 2016 12 Comments

Summer is in full swing and it seems every week there is something new opening at one of Orlando’s theme parks. Among the latest places to open in Orlando this week, we have Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando and over at Disney Springs there is Homecoming Florida Kitchen. Originally my week, and weekend, was supposed to be much different than it turned out to be. Some of it for the better, and some of it, well… not so much.

A spur of the moment opportunity early in the week lead me to a place that has been on my Florida bucket list for nearly a year: the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. Hollywood Beach, FL is about a three hour drive Southeast of Orlando. If you are a fan of relaxation and have time for a side trip, I recommend a night or two in this Parrothead paradise. I did not get to do much relaxation since I was “working” during the trip, thus I can’t wait to go back and really soak up the sun here. If it is any indication of the resort that will opening next year here in Orlando, well, we are in for a treat!

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Nadirah Shakoor (a member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band) performs at Margaritaville Beach Resort

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Radio Margaritaville’s JD Spradlin hosts a dance party and concert at Margaritaville Beach Resort

Sapphire Falls Resort

Despite a tiring trip to Hollywood Beach, and some challenging news on the home front, I was able to make the most of a Sunday afternoon and explore Universal’s newest resort. Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is another game changer for Universal Orlando.

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