Beyond the Parks

Cast Member Chronicles: Melissa’s Disney College Program Experience

by on December 21, 2014

Photo - DisneyMelissa is a friend of mine who completed the Disney College Program in January 2013. She had nothing but wonderful things to say about it, so I decided to pick her brain and ask her to share the experience with all of you. For more information about this program, check out my girl Trista’s post here.

Okay ready? Let’s get started!

Walt Disney World has always held a special place in Melissa’s heart. Growing up, her family made several visits and each time was as spectacular as the last. She first heard about the Disney College Program (or DCP as I will refer to it) from her older sister, who had spent a semester there years previously. With her love of Disney blazing like a hunka hunk of burning love, she made the easy decision to apply.

In the Fall of 2012, she began the application process. Step one involved filling out a general application, mostly requesting education and work experience. There was also a section where she was asked to rate different job roles on a 1 to 5 interest scale. Melissa had experience in the restaurant business, so she felt Food and Beverage would be the best fit. From there, things moved very quickly. Step two was a mere two days later, when a representative from Disney requested an online interview. A few days after that, Melissa had a phone interview. One week later, she was a future employee and student of the Disney College Program!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (AKA The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2014)

by on December 20, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (A/K/A The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2014). Some readers of this weekly column may not know that we also have The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! where every single month we brave the insanity of the Orlando Premium Outlet parking lots to cover the two Disney outlet stores (more info on them – including addresses – at the end of the article.) While some Christmas dreams do come true, such as Ralphie Parker getting his official Red Ryder BB gun and Your Humble Author getting a Han Solo blaster back in the day, others deserve to go straight to the Island of Misfit Toys. Today we will take a look at some of those very items, starting with…

 

# 6 – Luigi’s Flying Tires: The Toy

My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree seeing this toy hit the Outlet shelves. In theory, Luigi’s Flying Tires should have been one of the coolest rides at any Disney park. It used popular characters from the Cars franchise in what amounts to a hovercraft ride mixed with bumper cars. How great is that? Turns out, not that great. For many guests, the degree of difficulty in learning how to control the tires was too much within the short ride span, and that combined with the long wait time (due to the limited capacity) resulted in some very unfavorable reviews. The one part of the attraction that did receive positive reaction – the humongous beach balls on the course which provided a striking visual and the ability to knock them into other guests – was taken away mere weeks after Luigi’s debut. It is rumored that once Flying Tires goes down for refurbishment in early 2015, it will never come back as the ride it currently is and instead will be changed into something different. But, at least we’ll have our Luigi’s Flying Tires toy to remember it by (batteries, and joy, not included.)

Gifts_LuigisFlyingTires

Next year we want to see Stitch’s Great Escape: The Board Game.

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 18: Buffalos and Bacon at The Cowfish

by on December 18, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY EIGHTEEN: Buffalos and Bacon at The Cowfish (Universal CityWalk)

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Buffalos and Bacon at The Cowfish. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

The Cowfish was the final piece of Universal CityWalk’s recent renovation, and it has immediately become the restaurant of choice for many theme park fans. The Cowfish has surprised pretty much everyone with its innovative menu, unique burgers, and their signature Burgushi concept (which includes sushi using burger components, and sandwiches using sushi components.) Come for the food, but stay for the drinks as The Cowfish offers an amazing amount of cocktails, imported beer, and spiked shakes. Our recommendation? Buffalos and Bacon.Why? Because what drink doesn’t get better with bacon? Ingredients: Buffalo Trace bourbon, cherry liqueur, angostura and orange bitters, honey, candied bacon

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 17: Balsamic Grande at Disney Cruise Line’s Palo

by on December 17, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY SEVENTEEN: Balsamic Grand at Palo (Disney Cruise Line)

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Balsamic Grand at Palo. (photo by William Hirsch)

 

There were many aspects of the Disney Cruise that I sailed on earlier this year which gave me a better understanding of why so many people become “addicted” to cruising. One of the areas that stood out to me the most was the overall level of service that guests receive while on the ship, and the pinnacle of that service was at the ship’s upscale Italian restaurant Palo. To summarize: an amazing dining experience, one of the best I have had anywhere, land or sea. The signature cocktail of Palo is the Balsamic Grande, and it is the perfect drink to begin the journey you are about to take within this gorgeous restaurant.  Ingredients: 5 fresh strawberries, divided, 1 1/2 ounces agave nectar, 1/2 ounce balsamic vinegar (aged 8 years), and 5 ounces Grey Goose Vodka Muddle strawberries with agave and balsamic vinegar in a mixing glass. Add vodka and ice; shake and strain into chilled martini glass.

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My Disney World Christmas Vacation Traditions

by on December 17, 2014

The most magical place on earth gets a little more magical around this time of year when the parks and resorts deck the halls with holiday finery and give Disney fans a reason to take one more Walt Disney World vacation! My family and I love to take a trip to Disney World around the holidays, and we have created a few festive traditions over the years. Check out a few of my Disney World Vacation Christmas Traditions.

Downtown Disney's Days of Christmas Store

Downtown Disney’s Days of Christmas Store

Buying a New Ornament

It just wouldn’t be right to leave Disney World around Christmastime without a new ornament to add to our tree. My favorite place to shop for ornaments is the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe at the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square. I love how it feels like we’re walking through an old, colonial home. For a wider variety of Christmas décor, we like to drop by Disney’s Days of Christmas Store at Downtown Disney, where it really does feel like Christmas all year round.

Holidays Around the World

Epcot’s World Showcase is one of my favorite corners of Disney World, and I especially enjoy Holidays Around the World this time of year, where performances educate guests about the different holiday traditions of their respective countries. It’s a lot of fun to hear and see how other countries celebrate the holidays. Our favorites would be Father Christmas at the United Kingdom and the Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers at the American Adventure. The special holiday treats and the chance to do a little Christmas shopping is pretty great too. After all, there’s no chance that what you’re buying as a gift is something someone already has when you shop at the stores in the Norway or China or Morocco pavilions.

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What’s in a Name: Walt Disney World Roads

by on December 10, 2014

I never used to think much about Walt Disney World roads. I simply followed the purple signs and got from one place to another or relied on Disney transportation. Once I became a local resident, suddenly road names were important to help me figure out how to get from point A to point B on and off property. At that point, I realized I how many roads had names that sounded like they must have a story behind them.

Some roads, like Epcot Center Drive or World Drive are pretty obvious where they got their inspiration. Other roads, like Dopey Drive back in the distribution center district, are both obvious for their inspiration, and fun names for roads in general. Besides those, there are quite a few road names that may not be obvious but, like many things Disney, have wonderful stories behind them.

Three guesses which theme park Savannah Circle East can be found at. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Three guesses which theme park Savannah Circle East can be found at. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway

Also known as US Highway 192. If you are staying off property, chances are you are probably very familiar with this road. It is named after Irlo Overstreet Bronson, Sr., a politician and rancher who owned a lot of property in the Disney area. His grandparents had moved from North Carolina to Florida in a two-wheeled ox cart in the 1860s and accumulated large amount of cattle ranchland. As the family ranches were passed from generation to generation, Irlo’s father (George W. Bronson) had more than 50,000 acres. Irlo added more land, but eventually sold 8380 acres for around $100 an acre to Disney, much to the ire of his family. Some say that he sold it at such a low price because he recognized that this would build a better future for Central Florida, but whether that was his actual motivation or just some rewriting of history is the subject of opinion and debate. Regardless, the sale of the ranch lands did allow for the development for Walt Disney World, and so Irlo Bronson’s name is memorialized in the highway running along the south side of property.

Osceola Parkway

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Business Conferences—Tips for Squeezing in Some Magic

by on December 10, 2014

Although attending a business conference at or near Walt Disney World isn’t quite the same as taking a vacation trip, it’s still a wish come true for a Disney enthusiast. Several strategies can help you get your Disney fix around a conference schedule. In fact, a business trip to the World can be an excellent opportunity to experience the park in some new and exciting ways.

Balancing Your Time

The first priority in planning time for fun while at a conference at Disney World is figuring out how to balance work and leisure time. Consider arriving in Orlando a day before the conference or giving yourself an extra day after the conference ends. Being creative with the overall time frame of your trip can give you a free half-day or more to enjoy Disney. Once the conference starts, plan to make a quick exit at the end of the day and spend the afternoon or evening at leisure.

Mix It Up—Spending Time In and Out of the Parks

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Downtown Disney’s West Side, including the AMC Dine-In Theatres (photo by Brandon Glover)

With the limited number of hours you’ll be able to spend in the parks (unless you’re lucky enough to have an Annual Pass), it doesn’t make sense to purchase park tickets for every day of your trip. Instead, a business trip can be a chance to experience some of Disney’s offerings outside of the parks such as at Downtown Disney and Disney’s BoardWalk.

If your hotel is located near Downtown Disney or you have access to Disney transportation (current construction at Downtown Disney makes traffic and parking a challenge), Downtown Disney can be a great non-park destination. It has lots of dining options and an even wider variety of merchandise than can be found at the parks, and don’t forget about its AMC Dine-In Theatres where you can enjoy both dinner and a movie.

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Menu Monday: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

by on December 8, 2014

Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

©Disney

Recently my boys and I returned from another fun-filled adventure in Disney World. As with all great Disney vacations, one of the things we strive to include beyond the attractions are some delicious sweets. At home we don’t eat many extravagant desserts, so when we are on vacation the sky is the limit when it comes to tasty treats. One of our favorite stops is Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. When we first tried this restaurant several years ago, we were enticed by stories of mountains of ice cream and the legend of a famous sundae. Now we keep returning, not only for these enchantingly sweet concoctions, but for the ambiance and other delectable dishes that Beaches & Cream continues to offer.

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 5: Mai Tai at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop

by on December 5, 2014

The Christmas season, my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave advent calendars in the rear view mirror* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014 we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property. Bonus points award for atmosphere where drink is served. And any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY FIVE: Mai Tai at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop (Royal Pacific Resort)

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Mai Tai at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort. The hotel also has one of my favorite restaurants on UOR property, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop. The signature drink at Tchoup Chop is their 1944 Mai Tai Roa Ae. Ingredients: 3 Star Barbancourt Rum, Myers Dark Rum, Orgeat Syrup, Orange Curacao & Fresh Lime Juice. Mai Tai Roa Ae translates as “Out of this world, the best.” This authentic Polynesian Mai Tai from Tchoup Chop tastes as good as it sounds, and we recommend getting it served in the high quality tiki mug.

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Disney Merchandise: Shopping at Orlando International Airport (MCO)

by on December 3, 2014

While I live in Florida now, I grew up in New Hampshire and San Diego, California, two places which couldn’t be farther away from the Sunshine State. However, I always loved flying in because of the Orlando International Airport (MCO.) I always felt that the monorail, from the gate area to the main terminal, was my first official “ride” of the trip. Now I love MCO for different reasons, as I often find myself there picking up friends and family who are coming down for their Disney or Universal vacation. As a person who has been covering the Disney Outlet Stores for over a year and have the walls of my Man Cave covered in Universal merchandise, I enjoy going to MCO because they have SIX theme park gift shops (two each for Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld. Seven, if you include the NASA Kennedy Space Center.) Today we are going to do a photo report of the two Disney shops, EarPort and The Magic of Disney.

First, let’s take a look at Disney’s EarPort.

Disney_MCO2

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