Dining

A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan

by on June 10, 2015

©Disney

©Disney

One of my favorite annual events at Walt Disney World is Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Star Wars Weekends takes place Fridays through Sundays from mid-May to mid-June and has only expanded over the years.

Today fellow fans of the force can get autographs and photos with Star Wars characters and celebrities, watch the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade and the Symphony in the Stars fireworks display, take in the Stars of the Saga Star Wars Celebrity Talk Show, and, for the kids, participate in the Padawan Mind Challenge and Jedi Training Academy.

There’s also Star Wars themed dining and shopping and even more events for the major fans! Clearly, Star Wars Weekends is true to its name as you need weekends to do it all; but what if, like me, you really don’t want to spend hours in line or have to live by your times guide. What if you just want to check out the event? Sure there are touring plans that work great, but is it actually possible to enjoy a day at Star Wars Weekends by flying casual? Last week, I decided to find out and went to the event on a whim with no plan, no FastPass+, and absolutely no agenda. As it turns out, I was still able to see and do quite a bit. So for today, I’m going to share with you Padawans how I had A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan.

I Visited on a Friday – I decided to check out the event on a Friday; and as Friday is still a work day, I found that the crowds and wait times weren’t quite as bad as what I could have experienced on a Saturday or Sunday. For example, The Great Movie Ride had only a 30 minute wait time on Friday while on Sunday, the posted wait time on My Disney Experience was 60 minutes.

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Emeril’s Orlando: Very Nice, but Skip It

by on June 7, 2015

My culinary tour of Universal Orlando Resort has, thus far, hit all the highs: the best food, best dessert and breakfast, best theming, and, of course, the best restaurant, in both full-service and counter-service varieties. But now it’s time to hit a low – one of the biggest lows, in fact, that Universal has to offer.

Emeril's Orlando

Before CityWalk’s recent renovations – which have, to date, unleashed eight brand-new venues on the area – Emeril’s Orlando was the flagship eatery at the dining/shopping/entertainment district. And, really, it’s easy to see why: slick, upscale décor, an expansive (and decadent) menu, and a staggering collection of wines (all impeccably stacked in a 12,000-bottle gallery) all make for an impressive dining destination. Eating here is undeniably an experience.

Unfortunately it’s still an experience that, for most people on most schedules and with most budgets, is an experience I recommend be skipped – particularly considering all the other gastronomic delights that Universal Orlando has on hand, from the exclusive themed offerings of The Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter and Springfield, USA to the more traditional (but still excellent) likes of Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food and The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.

Here’s why you’re better off spending your hard-earned vacation dollars somewhere else:

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Snacks in Epcot’s World Showcase

by on June 6, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Snacks in Epcot’s World Showcase. By now you know we love theme park snacks. From the iconic Mickey Bar and Dole Whip at the Magic Kingdom to the outrageous Brain Freezin’ D’oh-nut Sundae in Springfield USA, we can’t get enough. Today we are going to the holy land of all dining in Walt Disney World, Epcot’s World Showcase. Yes, you know about the incredible restaurants like Via Napoli and bars such as La Cava del Tequila, but we are going to take a look at the underrated dining aspect of World Showcase: the snack department. Everyone has their favorite, so let’s start off the list with….

# 6 – Hand Twisted Pretzel – (Germany)

No offense to the Mickey pretzel but this is THE pretzel to get in Walt Disney World. A hand twisted pretzel in Germany is in fact almost the perfect snack because it’s; A) Easy to eat while touring the park B) Big enough to share C) Is something almost everyone in your party can enjoy D) Goes great with an ice cold beer. Good news on the last point because as luck would have it Germany is also one of the best places to get a beer in World Showcase. How convenient! While we recommend the Oktoberfest brew, you can’t go wrong with the Grapefruit Beer either.

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Pretzel and beer? Who wouldn’t be smiling. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Hand twisted pretzel and Altenmunster Oktoberfest. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Brunch

by on June 5, 2015

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Although I’ve eaten at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Hotel for breakfast and dinner, neither my husband nor daughter have had the experience. Most Disney meals tend to be last-minute impulses for us, and Chef Mickey’s is often a difficult one to secure at the last minute. So when I heard that they were going to start brunch, and I was able to get a reservation for the first day, I was delighted to give it a try.

The official name is Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Brunch Buffet, and the price is the same as breakfast at $37.99 for adults and $19.99 for children ages 3 to 9 (plus taxes and gratuity), with Tables in Wonderland discounts available. This price includes your choice of a non-alcoholic beverage.

How does the menu stack up? Well, here are the breakfast menu and the brunch menu side by side.

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NBC Sports Grill & Brew Opening Fall 2015 at Universal Orlando CityWalk

by on June 1, 2015

NBC Sports Grill & Brew Citywalk

Concept art for CityWalk’s new NBC Sports Grill & Brew (image via Universal Orlando)

We’ve been watching the construction and following the permit filings for months, but now it is finally official: NBC Sports Grill & Brew is coming to Universal Orlando CityWalk, on the site of the former NASCAR Sports Grille.

The new venue was announced at an industry convention last night, and publicly revealed today via the following Youtube video:

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Lombard’s Seafood Grille: The Best Food at Universal Orlando

by on May 25, 2015

When discussing dining at Universal’s Islands of AdventureMythos typically steals the culinary spotlight. Even Finnegan’s tends to get lots of love within Universal Studios Florida itself, but it’s actually Lombard’s Seafood Grille where a great deal of Universal’s gastronomical delights are to be found. When its top-notch offerings and ideal location on the park’s waterfront are combined with its low profile, an unexpected bonus pops up: lower wait times (on average, at least) and a quieter, more relaxed ambiance. The result is that Lombard’s is not to be missed.

Lombard's Seafood Grille -- exterior.

Image © Chuck Plagmann

Is that a hyperbolic statement, given the totality of the resort’s high-class dining offerings? In a word, no. While it’s true that Mama Della’s is the best overall full-service restaurant at Universal Orlando, and The Three Broomsticks is the highest quality quick-service location – and let’s not forget Mythos itself, which has to easily take the crown for the best-themed eatery – Lombard’s has some of, if not the, best meals around, coupled with an atmosphere that is subtly themed but nevertheless sublime.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Adult Drinks at Walt Disney World

by on May 23, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Adult Drinks at Walt Disney World. Who among us doesn’t enjoy an adult libation from time to time, especially on days when Anna & Elsa still have a 40 minute wait at 3 in the morning? While we at the SATURDAY SIX offices respect those who attempt an Ultimate Touring Plan to see every attraction, show, parade and live performance at a Disney Park, you’re more likely to find us attempting to drink around World Showcase or figuring out the best resort to stay at while attempting a WDW bar tour.

We looked at every bar and lounge across WDW property and came up with the list of best adult drinks. The only venue not eligible is the new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, because they will be getting an article devoted entirely to them in the near future (we’re still in the honeymoon phase, and the Nautilus, Shrunken Zombie Head, Rum Flight, Tropical Dark & Stormy, Krakatoa Punch and Polynesian Pearl would fill up the list.)  With that out of the way let’s begin the drink countdown, starting with….

# 6 – Grand Marnier Orange Slush (France Pavilion, Epcot)

Our first stop after crossing the International Gateway at Epcot is Les Vins des Chefs de France kiosk for a Grand Marnier Orange Slush. Similar in taste to an orange sorbet with just the right mix of Grand Marnier and Grey Goose vodka, this slush is absolutely delicious and the perfect drink during a hot touring day at Epcot.

25DrinksOfXmas_GranMarinerSlush

Gran Marnier Slush. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Star Wars Weekends: A Meal with Jedi Mickey

by on May 21, 2015

cover image

Photo by Julia Mascardo

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

An epic lightsaber battle took place between Princess Leia and Darth Vader for the fate of the galaxy.

Well, okay. It was last Sunday night in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Princess Leia was played by Minnie Mouse and Darth Vader was played by Goofy. And the fate of the galaxy might be a bit of a stretch. But this dining experience was, well, epic.

During Star Wars weekends, Hollywood and Vine’s dinner buffet is turned into Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood & Vine. Even if you’ve done more character meals than Mos Eisley has scum and villainy, there are some unique aspects to this meal.

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Halal Dining at Walt Disney World

by on May 18, 2015

There have been members of the Islamic faith vacationing at Walt Disney World for decades, but the growing number of adherents to Islam in the United States, along with increased accessibility from the Middle East (including non-stop flights from Orlando International Airport to Dubai, UAE) means that more Islamic guests than ever are visiting the parks.

morocco

Many times you can have luck requesting halal meals in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot. (Photo by Erwin Mascardo)

Like many Jewish guests, Islamic guests often have special dietary restrictions that they maintain while on vacation. In the past, many guests have reported that when it comes to halal meals, you had to create your own solution. Some people have suggested selectively ordering kosher meals, even though not all kosher meals are halal. Others have had luck visiting Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot’s Morocco pavilion and talking with the chef to see what could be put together on that particular day.

Thankfully Disney has started to realize that with the large number of guests requesting and having a preference for halal food, better accommodations need to be made. In correspondence with the Special Diets Team at Disney, I have learned that there are a few solutions for eating halal at Walt Disney World.

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Menu Monday: 9 Differences Between Trader Sam’s at Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland

by on May 18, 2015

The tiki drums are pounding, the tropical libations are now flowing, and there is cause for celebration. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is now open at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to the delight of Disney fans and tiki lifestylers. There is so much to love about this East Coast installment of a Disneyland Resort treasure. But as is always the case with siblings, there are some characteristics that set the two apart. These little touches give a difference that is just distinct enough between these two enchanted tiki destinations.

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A Dream Come True

Before we begin our list of differences, let’s take a moment to look back. About three years ago I sat at the Tambu Lounge on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. I nursed a tall frosty mix of tropical juices and rum; like so many Disney fans, Tambu Lounge had earned its place on my regular rotation of Disney bars & lounges.

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