Downtown Disney

Testing Budget Hotels Near Walt Disney World

by on February 5, 2016

We’re often asked to recommend an inexpensive hotel room for one night near Walt Disney World. If your family is staying at at Disney resort for most of your visit, for example, and you need a place to crash on your arrival night before their vacation begins, you may not want to spent hundreds of dollars on a Disney hotel for just a few hours of sleep. Or if you’ve just finished your Disney vacation and need a bed for the night before your early-morning flight, you could save a lot of money by moving to a budget hotel.

Finding cheap, clean, safe hotel rooms is part of the basic research we do for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. There’s even a section titled “Top 30 Hotel Deals” that takes price, amenities, and location into account. It’s one of my favorite research projects, and I’ve stayed at more than 100 Disney-area hotels over the years. Only once did I wake up covered in bugs.

My “Holy Grail” of hotels is one that’s $50 or less per night (with tax), clean, safe, and where everything in the room works. From what I’ve seen over the past week, though, that room might not exist. Here’s a summary of the 6 hotels I checked over the past 5 nights, along with their pros and cons.

Laurel says: I’ll be adding my own asides in this article. You should read them in your head in the voice of your significant other. For perspective, I was perfectly happy with a room I stayed in in New York City once where the sink was IN the shower. 

Hotel #1: Motel 6 at 5909 American Way, just off International Drive

Pros: Very clean. Great layout. Best night’s sleep I had the entire trip. $49.49 with taxes. Feels safe.

Cons: Sink and toilet didn’t drain properly. Wi-fi didn’t work. Low water pressure in shower.

I’ve wanted to stay at this Motel 6 for a long time (“Dream big, Len”, I know). It was one of the first to introduce a new room design across Motel 6’s properties, with triangular bathrooms, hardwood floors, and vertical storage cubbies. Plus it’s really close to Universal Orlando.  I was ready to like this hotel.

Then I saw this sign at the check-in desk:hotels-motel6-1

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! January 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on January 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. The new year has started off exactly where the old one left us: with Walt Disney World closing attractions. It has been a pretty cool month though, including a cool Star Wars runDisney race out in California (and Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to watch a great parody of Undercover Boss featuring Kylo Ren). Erin Foster took us inside Vanellope’s on the Disney Dream, and for those who don’t know, this is a complete Wreck-It-Ralph themed sweet shop (pinch us, we’re dreaming). And Guy Selga introduced us to Four Glorious New Ways to Kill Time at Disneyland, including the am I dreaming this, or is this real Jungle Cruise Skipper School. 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year.

Now while all of you were off taking your kids to see Donald Trump, 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 you).

The first item this month made my heart grow three sizes (after double checking, that enlargement of the heart was actually due to eating the Pop-Tart Sandwich at Pop Century). Behold the Luigi’s Flying Tires hat! Anyone who has visited the Disney Dump has seen the remnants of this attraction, which opened with the debut of Cars Land in the summer of 2012 and was already closed by the ending of February 2015. Believe it or not, despite only being open for only 976 days, Luigi’s doesn’t even rank in the Top Five of Short Lived Disney Attractions. Originally $24.95, this baby could be sitting on your head for just $6.99. VIVA LA DISNEY OUTLETS!

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After seeing this, I know how Indiana Jones felt seeing the Fertility Idol.  (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Tsum Tsums returned this month! However it was mostly the ones we have seen in the past (including all seven of the dwarfs), but one that was new was this crying duck. I had literally no idea who this was, but found out it was the Ugly Duckling from a quick scene in Lilo & Stitch. That’s what we call a deep dive, and I love it. I actually dropped Loot Crate this month and started up the Disney Tsum Tsum Monthly Subscription Program, so starting in February I too will annoy you with unboxing videos (although my last one didn’t go so well).

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Ugly Duckling Tsum.

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Ugly Duckling sequence from Lilo & Stitch.

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The 12 Days of a Theme Park Christmas

by on December 24, 2015

Everyone has their favorite Christmas traditions. For some it’s a dramatic reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, while for others it is the 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story. Many of us enjoy reading the famous poem 12 Days of Christmas, even going so far as to figuring out how much all those items would cost (imagine if they were bought at a theme park!) This year we are starting a new tradition on the blog with a look at the 12 Days of a Theme Park Christmas. Get close to your loved ones, slip on an ugly sweater, drink a big sip of egg nog, and let’s begin with…

TWELVE CLOSED ATTRACTIONS

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This is a busy time for the Disney Dump as many attractions have been added to the pile. A great time to invest in construction walls though!

ELEVEN BANISHED BUBBLE GUNS

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Guns have been completely banned from Walt Disney World, even the bubble guns.

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Twenty Two: Candy Apple Cotton-Tini at T-REX Cafe

by on December 22, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

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

DAY TWENTY TWO: Candy Apple Cotton-Tini at T-REX Cafe

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Candy Apple Cotton-Tini, BEFORE, at T-Rex Care. (photo by Brandon Glover)

T-REX Cafe in Disney Springs is a true dining experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Over-the-top theme park quality theming, an excavation site where guests can dig up fossils, Build-A Dino, the awesome Chocolate Extinction dessert and more, T-Rex cafe is the restaurant your kids always dreamed of. While foodies may find a better meal at the nearby Morimoto Asia or the BOATHOUSE, those looking for an adult beverage are going to be more than happy at the massive Watering Hole bar. The gigantic fishtanks are gorgeous, and the huge octopus above the bar (and the jelly fish lighting fixtures) is impressive. T-REX has a good selection of signature drinks, but for today’s selection we are going with the most theatrical.

Cotton-Tinis are exclusive to T-REX and combine cotton candy, a staple of theme parks, with alcohol. This is a true marriage made in heaven. T-REX offers three varieties, but we went with the Candy Apple Cotton-Tini (also available are Cosmo-Paleo and Tropical versions). Cotton candy is put into the glass, while the bartender mixes the cocktail in a shaker. The cocktail is then poured over the cotton candy and you get to see the liquid completely absorb the candy. It is a very sweet tasting drink and don’t be surprised to see a good amount of sugar at the bottom of the glass when you are done. As a bonus, you get to keep the shaker as well!

Ingredients: Finlandia vodka, DeKuyper sour apple pucker Schnapps and a splash of sweet and sour.

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Candy Apple Cotton-Tini, AFTER. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The Ganachery Now Open at Disney Springs

by on December 15, 2015

We know you probably already read this on the Disney Parks Blog, but the Ganachery is open for business now. This retail shop in Disney Springs sells hand-made chocolates in an exquisitely themed storefront in The Landing area of Disney Springs.

TouringPlan Chat moderator extraordinaire, Susan Weaver, sent these photos to get you excited:

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A look into the future: Walt Disney World 2025 – part 2

by on December 13, 2015

A lot can change in 10 years. In part one of our peer into the future of the Walt Disney World resort, we looked at changes in the theme parks and ticketing (hint: ticket prices will rise). In part two, we look at the resort hotels, Disney Springs, and Disney transportation, which has a more exciting future than you might imagine. We know that the Disney company is planning to develop more land on property, due to this report on a request to increase the amount of land it will restore on its preserve to offset wetlands development. Ultimately, any additions will be focused on accommodating ever-increasing crowds and growing revenue.

Photo Courtesy Brian McNichols

Expect more well-themed value and moderate resorts in the image of Art of Animation. (Photo Courtesy Brian McNichols)

New resort hotels: Rising attendance and demand will continue to drive the development of new resort hotels in Disney’s never-ending quest to keep as many travelers in the Disney bubble as possible. Recently, high-end additions such as the Polynesian bungalows have stirred talk that Disney is catering to the “1 percent,” and neglecting middle-class travelers. To counter that notion, future development will include well-themed value or moderate resorts along the lines of Disney’s Art of Animation. The new resorts will offer more variety in room sizes, responding to a demand for larger family suites. As more “Star Wars” sequels are released, a Star Wars-themed resort will  capitalize on the success of Star Wars Land and become an attraction that draws visitors beyond the parks. The success of Pandora-The World of Avatar expands attendance at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, creating demand for additional rooms near that park. Perhaps an Asian theme would complement the African-themed Animal Kingdom Lodge, though likely without the live animals of that resort. Alternately, if next year’s animated feature “Zootopia” is a big hit, Disney may opt for a more cartoony version of an animal-themed resort.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Indiana Jones References in Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar

by on December 12, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six Best Indiana Jones References in Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. 2015 has been a big year for Disney Springs. The BOATHOUSE and Morimoto Asia have elevated Disney Springs dining to the point where it competes with Epcot’s World Showcase as the best place for Disney foodies to go on property, but one of the the biggest surprises of the area has been the new Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.

A bar themed to the world of Indiana Jones that is filled with references to our favorite movies? We haven’t been this excited since finding out about that Jaws themed restaurant at Universal Studios Japan. Today we are going to look at our six favorite references, and the film scenes where they came from. So sit back, grab a bowl of dates, and prepare yourself as we start off with…

# 6 – Voodoo Doll From Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is by far and away the darkest of all of the Indy films, including two scenes in which the Maharajah uses a voodoo doll to cripple Indy. Keep in mind the Maharajah is a child. Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar not only features a voodoo doll of Indiana, but also ones for Short Round and Willie Scott, the other main characters in the movie.

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Voodoo dolls of Indiana Jones, Short Round, and Willie Scott. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Indiana Jones being shown his voodoo doll as he is being attacked in Temple of Doom.

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Who among us hasn’t wanted to do this a Duffy the Disney Bear? (photo from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)

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25 Drinks of Christmas – Day Nine: Cool-headed Monkey at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar

by on December 9, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

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

DAY NINE: Cool-headed Monkey at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar (Disney Springs)

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Cool-headed Monkey at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The new additions to Disney Springs so far have been terrific. Earlier on this list we have discussed how we were blown away by The BOATHOUSE, but Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar may be the biggest surprise. Disney’s recent attempts to make food and drink experiences from the Star Wars brand have been, at best, unique. A bar based around a character from the Indiana Jones films that no one remembers could have been a complete disaster, but instead it’s actually kinda good. Actually, it’s really good. While not as elaborately themed as Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Jock Lindsey’s has a much better food menu and generally has much less of a wait to get into.

Our recommendation for the Hangar Bar is the Cool-headed Monkey. One of the most memorable moments from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a dinner scene in which our heroes were served a meal consisting of snakes, live bugs, and monkey brains. The brains were served out of what appeared to be the head of a monkey, causing one character to faint. This is where we should point out that Temple of Doom is by far the darkest of all the Indiana Jones films and is usually the one people like or dislike the most. In a great touch, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar has a drink and souvenir mug to commemorate this classic film moment with the Cool-headed Monkey.

Ingredients: Starr African Rum, Van Der Hum Tangerine Liqueur, fresh Lime Juice, Watermelon, and Pineapple Juice

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Cool-headed Monkey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 7: Mint Julep at The BOATHOUSE

by on December 7, 2015

We’re back with everyone’s favorite theme park advent calendar: a daily countdown of our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld building anticipation to the Big Day. 

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

DAY SEVEN: Mint Julep at The BOATHOUSE (Disney Springs)

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Mint Julep at The BOATHOUSE. (photo by Brandon Glover)

A recent addition to Disney Springs and already one of our favorite dining experiences on WDW property, The BOATHOUSE Restaurant has three great bars to enjoy a drink at (two inside and one outside on the docks). With great theming and wonderful views, the drink we recommend to enjoy in this beautiful atmosphere is a Mint Julep. Not generally found on Disney bar menus unless it’s Kentucky Derby season, The BOATHOUSE offers its Mint Julep year-round and it tastes wonderful: a familiar taste of good bourbon paired with the smooth taste of mint that lingers on the tongue.

Ingredients: Woodford Reserve, Mint Leaves, and Simple Syrup.

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The BOATHOUSE at Disney Springs.

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10 Ways To Have Free Family Fun At Disney World

by on December 7, 2015

Disney Phineas and Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure

Enjoying a little free family fun!

Walt Disney World can be expensive. You know that, I know that. But what if I were to tell you that there are lots of ways to add some magic to your Disney World vacation for absolutely free? That’s right folks, I’m going to share with you 10 of my favorite ways to have family fun around the resort without spending an extra penny.

So without further ado, let’s enjoy some free family fun and save some money!

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Location: Magic Kingdom

The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is an enchanting interactive game where you use spell cards at magic portals to defeat Disney villains. Kids and gamers alike love this experience, especially because they can collect and keep the spell cards.

A Pirate’s Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas

Location: Magic Kingdom

During A Pirate’s Adventure join Captain Jack Sparrow on an interactive adventure raiding hidden treasures throughout Adventureland. There are five different missions, each taking about 20 minutes to complete. There is no time limit on the missions, so they can be started and stopped at your leisure. This is a lot of fun for the whole family and each adventure sets off some exciting special effects scattered throughout Adventureland; especially great at night.

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