Best Week Ever is a series that began as a way to take you along for a jam packed journey through Orlando’s theme parks and other attractions. Along the way our contributors have changed, but our approach remains: to make the most of every visit. This past week I have been fortunate enough to have one of my absolute best weeks ever, and I am excited to share some of the highlights with you.
Independence Day Weekend is a cause for celebration throughout the entire country. In recent years it has meant traveling to my parents’ home and spending time with my brother, sister in law, and my five nieces and nephews. Such was the case this year. Cedar Key, FL feels worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of Orlando. It is about a two and a half hour drive to this island that sits in the Northwest corner of Florida. This little island has a small town feel; there are no chain restaurants, one school, one gas station, time moves slower here. If you have enough time in your Central Florida vacation for a side trip somewhere in Florida, consider Cedar Key for a dramatic change of pace.
Cedar Key, FL
The drive to and from is actually one of my favorite parts of a visit to Cedar Key. There a few routes from which to choose, each having at least one portion that consists of driving through backroads, past horse farms, goat farms, and country landscape. Driving through this scenery made for a beautiful way to start Independence Day 2016.
Country road in Marion County, FL
I arrived back in the metropolitan sprawl of the Orlando area close to lunch time. I made the journey from one small town and was about to head to another. Later that afternoon a friend and I arrived at Celebration, FL. This is the town that Disney built. It is perfectly manicured and was the catalyst for the birth of many other planned communities throughout the country. Although Disney no longer owns the community, if you are a Disney fan a visit to Celebration will prove entertaining and enjoyable.
Visitors enjoy the lake at Celebration, FL while waiting for the July 4th concert and fireworks
Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. We’re now officially into the Summer season here in Orlando and that usually means a whole bunch of new stuff is available to satisfy the hordes of families coming from around the world. Universal soft opened its Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. How to describe Kong? Well, think of your favorite family friendly attraction. Now think of what the complete opposite of that would be. However Skull Island wasn’t the only queue that brought grown adults to tears as Frozen Ever After officially opened in Epcot and had 300 minute waits. Now, 300 minutes doesn’t sound that bad until you work out how many hours that actually is. Five hours. FIVEHOURS. In five hours you could fly from Orlando to Anaheim, start and almost finish a runDisney marathon, or build two meth labs at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
The new Frozen attraction wasn’t the only thing new at Epcot as the Royal Sommerhus meet and greet with Anna and Elsa opened with a wonderful tribute to Maelstrom, and we also had the new Soarin’ Around the World to replace the old Soarin’ Around Scratch Marks and Dust Bunnies. Many guests are raving about the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show at DHS, and SeaWorld opened the first ever hyper coaster in Orlando with Mako. With a staggering height of 200 feet and speeds up to 73 mph, you could ride Mako approximately 32,000 times while waiting in line for Frozen Ever After.
Now while all of you were reading the Shanghai Disneyland etiquette guide – reminding guests, among other things, not to use the landscaping as an outhouse – Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!
Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn yo
It has been a long time but new Tsum Tsums finally showed up, including these three from the Tangled line. Here are Maximus, Pascal, and Rapunzel. All Tsums are $2.99 and I always buy one of each.
Also new was this Mulan Tsum Tsum. EDIT: The comments section suggests this is Mother Gothel from Tangled, which much more sense
I was this close to buying this really long gator plush. At least I think it’s a gator. Originally $26.95, now $14.99.
To completely ruin the writings of Robert Frost, “Some say your day at Epcot will end in fire, Some say in ice.” During this week, I managed to make both of those happen, and lived to tell the tale.
Unless you’re living in a troll cave, you’ve probably heard that the new Frozen Ever After ride opened in Epcot. I had not been a big fan of Maelstrom, and although I enjoyed Frozen, I am not a huge fan. Thus, the Frozen Ever After ride had very low expectations from me about whether or not I’d enjoy it. Because I do have a six-year-old daughter, I knew it would be in my best interest to get on the ride sooner rather than later, so I snagged FastPass+ reservations for the whole family for opening night as soon as they became available. However, being a glutton for punishment, on opening day, my daughter and I headed over to Epcot to be in the crowd of people all trying to be first.
I will say that people were extremely polite and Cast Members were wonderful, helping grab strollers from people who were trying to make their way to the head of the line. Even so, a five-hour wait didn’t sound appealing, so we went for a different type of boat ride.
Do you seek adventure? How about fortune and glory? If so, you may want to add Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar to your next travel itinerary! Last year, Disney Springs gained Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, themed after Indiana Jones’ pilot, Jock Lindsey, from Raiders of the Lost Ark. This incredibly themed dining destination has been on my to-do list for months; but as you probably noticed by this article’s title, I’m somewhat of a teetotaler and was a little apprehensive about dropping in a self-proclaimed bar and ordering a soft drink! But a few weeks ago, after an especially long and hot trek through Disney Springs, I decided to venture in to finally check it out for myself. So if you’re curious about my adventure, or you’re a fellow non-drinker who may have had the same concerns, here’s A Teetotaler’s Review of Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.
As with everything at Walt Disney World, it’s always about the story and Jock Lindsey’s maintains that tradition. The story behind this Disney Springs addition is that Jock came across this particular part of Florida while on an adventure with Indy. He, and his famous pet snake Reggie, returned in the 1940s and bought a waterfront piece of property to operate a seaplane tour operation. His hangar eventually became a popular hangout for fellow globe trotters, particularly for members of The Society of Explorers and Adventures, and now Disney World travelers.
Note: The story behind Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar has ties to the storyline of the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, as The Society of Explorers and Adventures also frequented that location and references to Jock, Reggie, and Indy have been found there as well. Keep an eye out for them if you have the opportunity to visit!
At Disney Springs, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar can be found at The Landing, a charming waterfront area between the Marketplace and the West Side and directly across from the newly opened Town Center. Of all the new spaces to be discovered at Disney Springs, The Landing is by far my favorite. I love the convenient, central location; and as I was staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort, having the resort boat launch right next to Jock Lindsey’s was quite a perk.
Unlike other bars or lounges I’m familiar with at Walt Disney World, Jock Lindsey’s opens each day at 11:30 A.M. and stays open throughout the afternoon and into the evening until Disney Springs closes for the night. During my first visit, I dropped in around 1:00 P.M; and while there were a few guests sitting both inside and out, I still pretty much had the place to myself which was great for exploring and taking a few photos without interfering with anyone’s meal. It would also be the ideal time for families to visit so kids could freely look around too.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special FATHER’S DAY SPECIAL, paying tribute to all our favorite dads at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. After a challenging week in Orlando, we here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters think it’s time for some lighthearted fun. With tomorrow being Father’s Day, it’s about time we gave a little attention to all the dads we see in Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. So sit back, put on your favorite pair of dad jeans, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – WALT DISNEY: The Father of All Theme Parks
What else can we say about Walter Elias Disney? Without him we wouldn’t have the glorious theme parks we enjoy today and instead would be suffering in the shoddily made and poorly themed rides that make up America’s amusement parks. Even worse, we may have been forced to go to places like museums and libraries to actually learn something. I think I speak for us all when I say UGH. However, thanks to a visionary genius like Walt Disney creating Disneyland – and then improving upon with Walt Disney World – we all get to enjoy one of the most amazing pieces of entertainment in the entire world.
Unlike most of our hobbies and interests, theme parks are a place we can go with the whole family and enjoy our time together. The theme parks are one of the very few places you can go where no matter who you are, you are accepted. It just doesn’t matter what size you are, what race you belong to, what religion you pray to, your sexual orientation, or handicap you have. If you’re in a theme park, you are in a safe place. We all owe an unpayable debt to Walt Disney, as his foresight led to us being able to enjoy places that completely transport us away from the real world – and all of its problems – into an alternative reality where everything is as we wish it would be. A world in which the good guys always win. A world where we can fly. A world where our wishes come true.
Walt was also the father to Diane and Sharon Disney. We all know the story that it was Walt watching his daughters play in shabby amusement parks that inspired him to create something better. Something the whole family could enjoy. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel. Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Premier, which is where the Portofino Bay Hotel resides.
Portofino Bay Punch – Bacardi superior, Bacardi ‘O’, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of Bacardi 151.
First, a little backstory. Steven Spielberg can be considered one of the main “architects” of the entire Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Florida, the park which started it all, was built on the back of films that Spielberg either directed (Jaws, E.T.) or was a producer on (Back to the Future, An American Tale, Twister, Transformers). While the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the current draw to Islands of Adventure, it’s Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that sits directly in the middle, and the iconic Jurassic Park visitor center is the first thing you see in the park when coming out of the Port of Entry. It’s only natural that when Universal was putting together Islands of Adventure back in the 1990s that they would pick Spielberg’s brain about ideas for the new onsite hotel they would also be developing.
Spielberg’s suggestion was for the new hotel to be inspired by the classic feel of Portofino, Italy. Loews took that idea and ran with it, faithfully recreating a classic Mediterranean fishing village by the lagoon, as well as representing the luxury of many high end Italian hotels on the inside of the resort. Portofino Bay and its 750 rooms can be considered the flagship resort of Loews at Universal. Today we are going to look at several of the reasons we absolutely love Portofino, including what may be the best themed room in all of Orlando. So sit back, put on The Three Tenors as background music, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – The Pools
A little while back we took a trip to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and fell in love with their Fuentes del Morro Pool. The Beach Pool at Portofino blows away the one at Caribbean Beach and joins the elite of Orlando pools including Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club, and the Nanea Volcano Pool at the Poly. There are a lot of activities surrounding the main pool, including a children’s water play area (complete with pirate ship), pool tables, ping pong, a giant checker board, a fantastic pool bar (with tons of seating and a great menu), two hot tubs, a sandy beach and more, The pool itself is an impressive fort-like structure you can walk around in, a grotto you can swim through, and a great slide.
The Beach Pool at Portofino Bay.
Lounge chairs are everywhere.
There are two other pools at Portofino, including the impressive Villa Pool. Located near the Beach Pool, this area includes even more lounge chairs, 16 cabanas, a hot tub and a plunge pool. Just a gorgeous area with maybe the best pool bathroom area in the entire state of Florida. The third pool is a true quiet pool and located on the other side of the resort.
The Villa Pool, straight out of a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous magazine.