Dining

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons You Need to Check Out Busch Gardens Tampa

by on May 2, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons You Need to Check Out Busch Gardens Tampa. While we are generally focused on Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort, we often need to take a quick break and remind everyone that there are a lot of other incredible things to do while in Orlando on your family vacation. They say a rising tide raises all boats, and with both WDW and Universal doing record business Orlando is booming with companies trying to get a slice of the tourist pie. Stalwart parks such as Gatorland and SeaWorld are staples of Central Florida, and you’ve probably seen publicity for some of the new kids on the block including the Orlando Eye and SEA LIFE aquarium. There’s also attractions not far away from O-Town that are well worth your time and money including Legoland in Winter Haven and the Kennedy Space Center near Port Canaveral. 

Today we are going to take a drive on I-4 West over to Tampa and check out possibly the most underrated attraction in all of Florida, Busch Gardens, and give you six reasons you need to check it out on your next vacation, starting with… 

# 6 – The Animals

There is a reason Disney built Animal Kingdom, and it was because it wanted to keep people on WDW property instead of driving to Busch Gardens. For both parks, being able to see and interact with exotic animals is a big selling point. While Animal Kingdom has upwards of 2,000 animals, Busch Gardens Tampa has over 12,000. Elephants, cheetahs, gorillas, rhinos, and giraffes are the headliners but there are hundreds of species throughout the park. Not only are there much more animals, in general you are also going to be closer to them than at Animal Kingdom, getting a more intimate experience.

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Feeding the animals at Busch Gardens Tampa. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Cheetah. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Harambe Market Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom This May

by on May 1, 2015

It’s been a relatively quiet project, up until now, but if you’ve visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom lately, you’ll likely have noticed the construction occurring in the Africa section of the park. Well, Disney has finally released some solid information about this new quick service/merchandise area of the park called the Harambe Market, and let me tell you, it looks fabulous!

©Disney

©Disney

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Trip Report: Coronado Springs Resort

by on May 1, 2015

Freshly back from my favorite place to vacation, I can’t stop thinking about the clean white sand, the lazy hammocks, the gorgeous Spanish architecture, and the relaxing atmosphere I experienced. This is one of our favorite resorts to visit; and no, it isn’t next to the ocean. It is a Disney resort: Coronado Springs to be exact.

Coronado Springs hidden mickey lobby - Amy FarkasI have several friends that vacation at the beach. When I ask them why, they describe the sand, the waves, and the relaxation. And to them I say: Coronado. Coronado Springs has all of these things plus a gorgeous pool, a 24 hour fitness center, a spa, some wonderful dining venues, and (a plus for me) is on Disney property. After the hustle and crowds of visiting Magic Kingdom, just hop the bus and head back to your serenity zone at the resort.

Our recent stay here was over the Easter holiday. We flew in late Saturday night, arriving at the resort about 10pm, and even at that hour we found the staff to be warm and friendly. One gentleman even pointed out the “hidden Mickey” in the lobby lighting, as he passed by my photographer husband. Check in itself was a breeze and we were soon on our way to our room.

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NBC Sports Grill Brew Replacing NASCAR at Universal CityWalk

by on April 30, 2015

NBC Sports Grill Brew

The new NBC Sports Grill Brew is bound for the site of Universal CityWalk’s former NASCAR restaurant. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Since late last year, the entire theme park community (ok, just Derek Burgan) has been mourning the closure of the NASCAR Sports Grille, and eagerly awaiting news of what’s next for the former restaurant’s prominent footprint along the promenade of Universal Orlando‘s CityWalk. After months of watching NASCAR’s slow-motion demolition, we finally have evidence confirming rumors that an NBC Sports themed restaurant would be the new replacement. User “CatCatCat” on the OrlandoUnited.com forums was the first to share a new State of Florida business license filing that lists “NBC Sports Grill Brew” as the new eatery’s name.

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A Birthday Dinner at Victoria and Albert’s

by on April 27, 2015

Everyone has items on their Disney bucket list. For me, dining at Victoria and Albert’s was high on the list. Not only does it take a bit of budgeting to roll enough pennies to make it happen, but then you also have to score a reservation for a restaurant with very few tables and very limited dining times. So when that all happened to fall into place for the day before my husband’s birthday, you know I had to jump on it.

The Colorado bison with black radish slaw and kumquat was a fine example of the quality and presentation of food at Victoria and Albert's. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

The Colorado bison with black radish slaw and kumquat was a fine example of the quality and presentation of food at Victoria and Albert’s. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

My husband and I are not total strangers to fine dining, but previously our top experiences at Walt Disney World included things like the California Grill or bluezoo, or Palo on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

After we dropped our daughter off at Lilo’s Playhouse for her evening of fun, we drove over to the Grand Floridian. Valet parking is included if you are dining at Victoria and Albert’s, so make sure to hand your valet ticket to the server at the end of the meal.

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Disney Savvy Tips for Blizzard Beach

by on April 22, 2015

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In addition to four theme parks, the Walt Disney World Resort also offers two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both of these water parks boast unique themes and, in true Disney fashion, a great story! Blizzard Beach, however, just may have the craziest story in water park history. The legend states that a freak blizzard hit Central Florida and so a ski resort was quickly built; but when the Florida sunshine reappeared, the snow began to melt turning ski runs into water slides and snow drifts into refreshing pools. So instead of a ski resort, we now have Blizzard Beach, a whimsical, wintry water park where you swim among snow drifts and shop for beach towels in ski chalets! So if you’re considering a visit to this popular water park, check out these Disney Savvy Tips for Blizzard Beach to make your day as magical as possible.

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The Best Dessert and Breakfast at Universal Orlando

by on April 20, 2015

We’ve already taken a look at the best full-service and counter-service restaurants at Universal Orlando Resort. Now it’s time to take a step back from the bigger picture and dive into the scrumptious details, considering some of the best individual meals instead of a holistic dining establishment.

And it just so happens that these best of the best dishes at the ever-expanding resort are probably ones that you’d normally – and tragically – pass by, making this spotlight all the more necessary.

Let’s tuck in.

Dessert: Cinnamon Berries

NBA City

Image © Universal

If you would normally eschew NBA City during your rounds at Universal CityWalk, we could hardly blame you. The first location of a proposed chain that never really managed to take off, the restaurant features bland décor and, should current scuttlebutt prove true, an incredibly short lease on life (Universal is currently in the midst of booting all older or under-performing venues from CityWalk and replacing them with more original – and more intriguing – fare).

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Trip Report: Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

by on April 20, 2015

Napa Rose is Disneyland Resort’s “fancy” restaurant. It’s fancy because the food portions are small, which in my mind is a sign that a place is fancy. Luckily, the food is spectacular overall, but I’ll get in to that later. TChef’s Counter isn’t cheap: the current price is $100 per a person. That price may scare most people away, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it’s completely worth it. I’ve done the Chef’s Counter twice now, and I’m not exaggerating when I say both times have been the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. $100 gets you a six course meal that is tailored to your tastes.

DSC04344This was our view for the night. We were located at the dessert section of the kitchen, which gave us a direct view of the dessert chefs at work. I quickly bonded with chef Janae after I explained to her that I love desserts and view regular food as a hurdle I must get past to obtain them. Anyway, there are two Chef’s Counter times each night, 5:30 PM and 8:30 PM. We opted for the 5:30 service because we knew from experience that the entire dinner would take over 2 and a half hours. The service started with sous chef Gloria explaining how the Chef’s Counter works and asking for our likes and dislikes. This is one of my favorite things about Chef’s Counter: if you don’t like something they will do their best to tailor the food to your taste. I told chef Gloria that I hated eggplants, and luckily there are none on the menu. For the rest of the meal she would check back with us randomly to see how things were going.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World

by on April 18, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World. Nobody enjoys eating at “The World” more than us. From outrageous snacks like the King Cupcake at Pop Century, to Disney food trucks, to table service restaurants like Bongo’s Cuban Cafe or ‘Ohana, food may have actually replaced attractions in what we look forward to the most on our Disney vacations. Can you blame us though? WDW has some of the greatest restaurants you will ever go to, with several one-of-a-kind experiences that you will never get back at home. So today we’re going to take a look the six most unique dining experiences on property, starting with…

# 6 – Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

The Animal Kingdom Lodge just may be our favorite resort at Disney, and one of the biggest reasons is how much we love Sanaa. Located in Kidani Village, this is the only restaurant at AKL that has a view looking out into the beautiful savanna and all the animals. The decor is fantastic, with the chairs having backs echoing tribal shields and lighting fixtures based on nests that Weaver birds would make in Africa. The dining room floor has beautiful representations of acacia trees while the entire room is filled with art, which is appropriate since Sanaa is the Swahili word for artwork. Sanaa is hands-down one of the most gorgeous restaurants in Orlando.

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The famous Sanaa bread service while seated next to the Savanah. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There are plenty of places at Walt Disney World to get chicken fingers and hamburgers, but Sanaa (along with other AKL venues such as Jiko and Boma) is where you can expand your culinary palate and try dishes you normally wouldn’t. It is worth making an ADR for Sanaa based on their bread service alone. There are five different types of Naan and you can choose up to 9 accompaniments to go with the bread. From a gamut running sweet to spicy, there is a dip for everyone in your party.

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Sanaa’s acacia tree decor. (photo by Tom Bricker)

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Ultimate Water Park Showdown: Blizzard Beach vs. Typhoon Lagoon

by on April 14, 2015

The iconic Summit Plummet on Mount Gushmore with the sun rising on the horizon

© Disney

With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start planning for a trip to one of the Walt Disney World water parks. Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are both awesome, but Disney fans still love to endlessly debate which is better. No matter where you fall in the debate, I think both parks have their strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve never been to either and want to know which water park is for you, you’re in the right place. I’ll break down the parks into categories and pick which park is better in each category to help you better determine where you should go. Maybe you like fast slides or maybe you just want to float in the lazy river all day. Either way, you’ll hopefully have a better idea of which park is for you after reading.

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