Dining

Universal Dining: Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in CityWalk

by on June 3, 2014

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Main entrance to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville

Universal CityWalk is currently in the process of a major overhaul, adding new dining options and getting rid of some of the restaurants locations that were lagging behind. Late in 2013, Red Oven Pizza Bakery opened, followed by Cold Stone Creamery and Antojitos earlier this year. Starbucks moved from its upper level location down to a much better spot next to Cold Stone recently, and just a few days ago Menchie’s frozen yogurt opened its doors. Hot Dog Hall of Fame and Vivo Italian Kitchen are expected to debut their original menus in the coming weeks, while Bread Box and the heavily anticipated Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar should be welcoming guests by the end of the summer. 

With all the new venues coming into CityWalk, it is easy to overlook some of restaurants that have been around for a while and still offer a great experience and unique atmosphere like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. With a prime spot close to Islands of Adventure, Margaritaville offers plenty of indoor and outdoor seating along with three full bars and a margarita to-go window. The outdoor seating at the Porch of Indecision has been recently renovated and is a great place to enjoy the weather and people watch.

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Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville with Islands of Adventure’s Pharos Lighthouse in the background

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Cape May Cafe Character Breakfast: An In-Depth Review

by on June 3, 2014

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OVERVIEW Cape May Cafe has been a favorite for years because of its consistently good food and efficient service. The restaurant is large and tables turn over rapidly, but reservations are recommended. A walk-up request for a table for three at 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning required a 48-minute wait to be seated.

The Cape May character breakfast buffet is known for specialties like Chorizo and Four-Cheese Scrambled Eggs, cold salmon, and cranberry and banana breads.

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What Each Disney Dining Plan Component Costs For 2014

by on June 1, 2014

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[Update: Our statistician Fred Hazelton suggested we post the computed costs of dining plan components from previous years, to show how prices have gone up. Prices from 2012 are now included in the Results section.]

Last week we did a presentation to Furman University math students on the math and science behind a Walt Disney World vacation. (You can see my presentation to the class here.)

One of the things we discussed was how you could use a system of linear equations to determine the value of each component in Disney’s dining plans. And then I realized that I hadn’t run the numbers for 2014. So here they are. (If you want to follow along in Excel, here’s the spreadsheet. You’ll need to load Excel’s Solver add-in.)

Disney has 3 versions of its dining plan:

  • The Standard Plan, with 1 quick-service meal, 1 table-service meal, and 1 snack per person per night of your stay, plus a refillable mug good for the length of your stay, for $60.64 per night
  • The Quick Service Plan, with 2 quick-service meals and 1 snack per person per night, plus a refillable mug, for $41.99 per night
  • The Deluxe Dining Plan, with 3 meals at any combination of quick-service and table-service locations, 2 snacks, and 1 refillable mug, for $109.53 per night

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Heading to Orlando? Pop on over to the Kissimmee Popcorn Company

by on May 26, 2014

Kissimmee Popcorn Company SignFair warning: if you don’t have a trip to Orlando planned soon you might want to postpone reading this one. If you continue on I can’t be held responsible for any airfare booked as a result! You’ve been warned. ;)

Many of you have probably seen me dropping into articles here and there that I’m maniacally planning a trip to Tokyo Disneyland Resort later this year. Apparently, I’ve been talking about it a little too much at home, too. Earlier this week my hubby came home and announced he had a surprise for me. We piled into the car and just a short while later arrived at the Kissimmee Popcorn Company. For anyone who is confused, Tokyo Disney is known for exotic popcorn flavors sold around the parks. Some of the oddest include: curry, strawberry, soy sauce, and milk tea! I didn’t find any milk tea popcorn, but I did find something really special. And just like all good things – I couldn’t wait to share it with you guys!

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Be Our Guest: Prices Up Across the Dinner Menu at the Magic Kingdom’s Newest Restaurant

by on May 23, 2014

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The Be Our Guest Entrance

One of the things we do best here at TouringPlans.com is help you get the best value for your vacation dollar by providing you with all kinds of data about Walt Disney World and helping you make sense of it. Recently, while doing accuracy checks on menus at Be Our Guest Restaurant, we noticed that the prices on various items at dinner had climbed, some significantly, since April.

Three appetizers, the popular (and excellent) Potato Leek Soup as well as the Garden Salad and Salad Trio, have seen increases of fifty cents per dish. In the entrees category, nearly every entree on the menu increased in price by at least fifty cents, with some like the Pan-Seared Salmon and Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops getting price hikes of a dollar per dish. Additionally, every beer that Be Our Guest offers increased in price by twenty-five cents per serving, with Chimay Blue going up seventy-five cents. The desserts have also gone up a dollar each, and while this change may have actually occurred before the others, it has been fairly recent as well.

While fifty cents here or there isn’t such a big deal, if you look at a meal we ate in February with a group of four, you can see a huge impact on what our meal cost would be now. Three of the four in our party had the Shrimp and Scallops, which adds $3.00 to the overall total. The other adult had the Salmon, adding $1.00 more. Three of the adults drank beer, adding another $2.25. Two bowls of Potato Leek Soup were eaten which would now cost $1.00 more than it did that night. Finally, all four of us got dessert (look, we’d just run 13 miles, okay?), which tacks on another $4.00 to the total we would pay if we had the same meal today. In all, the price of our meal for four adults has increased $11.25 in less than two months’ time. We could have added a kid to our party, had another round of dessert for a few of us, or tossed back a couple more drinks for that, especially given the increase in tip this requires at the end of the meal.

While these increases make sense in light of the Disney Dining Plan price increases, they may not make sense to your party’s budget. Be sure to check out the full Be Our Guest menu before you dine there, and be prepared rather than surprised.

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Three New Dining Establishments Now Open at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney

by on May 19, 2014

Over the past few days three new quick service dining locations have opened at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney. Well, technically two simply re-opened, but in new locations.

First, for you pretzel fans, Wetzel’s Pretzels has moved to a new location in the West Side. Menu items are the same as they were at the previous spot. Immediately next door, designed in a similar fashion to Wetzel’s, is the all new Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop. Like the pretzel shop, the menu at Häagen-Dazs is similar, serving nearly the same the deliciousness that was previous offered. Both are simple, yet permanent walk-up kiosks that can be found near DisneyQuest, across from the Cirque du Soleil tent.

The third new location is an Starbucks, which is located by World of Disney on the Marketplace side. This Starbucks is not like your local restaurant and does not have any indoor seating. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t have any inside space at all. Instead, it is a walk-up kiosk that kind of reminds me of small custard/ice cream shops that you’ll find around town. The menu offers the same drink items as the other Starbucks on property like Frapuccinos and lattes, however the food choices don’t seem to be as vast.

The changes at Downtown Disney rapidly continue forward as the area gets ready for its change-over to Disney Springs, which will take place in 2015, with the opening of the first new section, The Landing.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Theme Park Bars in Orlando

by on May 17, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Top Six Theme Park Bars in Orlando. Reading the recent Epcot After Hours Wind Down reviews got the staff of Saturday Six thinking about the best theme park bars in town, so we grabbed our iPad and pulled up the Walt Disney World Bars and Lounges eGuide as a reference, cashed in our 30 day A.A. chips, and hit the parks to make our final judgements. What follows are the very best of your watering hole options inside the theme parks….

# 6 – Duff Gardens (Universal Studios Florida)

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Some of the 7 Duffs topiaries in front of Duff Gardens (photo by Brandon Glover)

Duff Gardens is one of the newer entries in the parks, making its debut at Universal Studios Florida in August of 2013. The variety of drinks served here is limited (various Duff beers, coke products, Buzz Cola, and the Flaming Moe) but what Duff Gardens lacks in overall drink options, it makes up for in atmosphere and location. The topiaries of the 7 Duffs (Tipsy, Queasy, Surly, Sleazy, Edgy, Dizzy and Remorseful) are incredible. There is a photo op with Duffman and guests are steps away from the wonderful statue of Jebediah Springfield. There is signage within the bar that has the trademark Simpsons wit while cleverly mocking traditional beer advertisements. There is plenty of seating at the bar and there are even more tables bordering the nearby lagoon. Grabbing a couple tacos from Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck and a Duff beer on tap from Duff Gardens is one of our favorite theme park meals.

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Universal CityWalk’s Antojitos Now Serving Lunch

by on May 14, 2014

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Antojitos at Universal CityWalk is now serving lunch. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

If you’ve read my review from earlier in the year, you know that I’m a big fan of Antojitos Authentic Mexican restaurant at Universal Orlando CityWalk. The only problem is that the venue didn’t open its doors until 5 p.m., dashing any plans for a noontime tequila spree. Thankfully, as of today Antojitos lunch service is now available daily from 11 a.m., with exclusive lunch special entrees available from opening until 3 p.m.

Note that the downstairs level — inside and outside, as well as the main bar — is open for lunch, while the Antojitos Up area remains closed until the dinner hours. In addition to the lunch specials, the entire standard downstairs dinner and drink menu is available.

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Star Wars Dining at Walt Disney World: What You Need To Know

by on May 5, 2014

IMG_9008Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios has added two Star Wars dining experiences to its Star Wars Weekends lineup and, though Star Wars Weekends hasn’t officially started, the dining experiences began yesterday. Offered daily May 4, 2014, through June 15, 2014, the meals include the Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, and Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine Dinner at Hollywood & Vine. As with all Disney Dining Experiences, there are some things you need to know to make your meal go as smoothly as possible.

STAR WARS DINE-IN GALACTIC BREAKFAST at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

The Dine-In Galactic Breakfast is served at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater every morning through June 15, 2014, from 8 a.m. to noon. The price ($47.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids ages 3-9) gets you pastries, and appetizer, an entree, a breakfast dessert (not listed on the menu), and a non-alcoholic beverage. No discounts are accepted, and the meal will take two adult table service credits per person from your Disney Dining Plan Account. Though it’s rare for a child’s meal to pull adult credits, we did confirm this with booking and the restaurant, so be sure to ask what you’re going to be “charged” if you’re on the dining plan.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Photo Courtesy of Disney

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Photo Courtesy of Disney

What do you need to know about breakfast? First, the menu is fairly limited and a little odd. The full menu is here. Reports from yesterday’s service were that it was a little slow, and some of the food wasn’t the best, but it’s a new offering for this restaurant, so it’s likely that those kinks will work out. Second, the restaurant itself is themed as a drive-in theater, so the environment is pretty dark. While you have an immediate photo op with Darth Vader and Boba Fett (with PhotoPass and a special backdrop) as you enter the restaurant, your pictures with the Jawas, Greedo, and Storm Troopers inside the dining room may not come out so great, even with a flash. If character meet and greets are a big reason for booking for your family, be sure to take this into account. You do get a special PhotoPass card with your entrance photos on it.

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Epcot: Nine Dragons Dining Review

by on May 1, 2014

IMG_1934Anyone that read my around the world series already knows that my favorite restaurant in Epcot is Nine Dragons. I’m not sure if that happened because we’re normally able to sneak in without a reservation or because it’s one of the few places that my picky hubby will eat without complaint. I can tell you that over all the years we’ve never had a single bad meal or experience at this awesome restaurant! I’ve been surprised to read mixed reviews on this hidden gem, so I thought it was time to shine some light on one of our favorite dining spots.

So what do you do if you’re wondering around World Showcase Lagoon and find yourself starving but didn’t make that dining reservation six months in advance? Well, one option is to grab some quick service grub or a snack at one of the many seasonal – but practically becoming permanent – dining booths around the world. However, if you feel like spoiling yourself stop by the podium at Nine Dragons. While I’m sure this isn’t always the case, I can tell you we’ve never been turned away. (Of course, we’ve never tried on New Year’s Eve or an equally insane day in the parks). In most cases we’ve been seated in a matter of minutes.

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