Downtown Disney

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever July 30, 2015: Drizzling Disney Springs

by on July 30, 2015

Best Week Ever Disney Springs

Take a drizzly tour of Disney Springs in this Best Week Ever (photos by Seth Kubersky)

The end of July 2015 has certainly earned a spot on my Best Week Ever list, because just days ago my brand new book, The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, emerged from the printer on actual dead trees, and will be available for purchase early next month. What better way to celebrate such a milestone than with a wet walk around the worksite known as Disney Springs?

 

Unlike Derek Burgan, I’ve been avoiding the area formerly known as Downtown Disney like the plague since construction began on its massive re-imagining. This week, I picked a blustery afternoon to make my return to Walt Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex in the hopes of experiencing some of its newest additions.

 

The changes began long before I landed at Disney Springs, as electronic traffic signs detoured me away from my usual direct route to the parking lot behind Cirque du Soleil.

 

Instead, I found myself on a “scenic route” behind Old Key West and Saratoga Springs, in a land where golf carts roam,…

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s OLD KEY WEST Resort

by on July 18, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Old Key West Resort. One of Walt Disney World’s biggest strengths against all of its competitors is the wide variety of unique resorts it has on property to offer guests. We’ve covered several here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts such as Art of Animation and Pop Century, Moderate Resorts with Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside, and Deluxe Resorts including the Contemporary. While our reviews on both Animal Kingdom Lodge and BoardWalk Inn & Villas included a Disney Vacation Club component, today we are going to take a look at our first DVC exclusive resort with Old Key West.

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In fact, Old Key West was the very first Disney Vacation Club resort built at WDW. Originally named Disney’s Vacation Club Resort in 1991, it wasn’t until 1996 when the name was changed to Old Key West. With its pastel colored buildings and lush vegetation throughout, the resort definitely stands out from the other hotels on property. When Walt Disney said “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland…the blessing of size” he may have been foreshadowing Old Key West, as the resort itself is massive.

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Welcome to Conch Flats, the mythical town of Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

 

With the sprawling size comes some downsides, including many rooms being quite far away from the check-in area and several of the resort’s amenities. There is an internal bus system, and the grounds are gorgeous to walk across, but it may be a shock to guests who have not stayed at such a large resort. Thankfully the TouringPlans Hotel Room Request will help make getting a room closer to front easier, but it is still something to consider. That said, the size of Old Key West is also a positive, as it is one of the best places at WDW to spend time at outside of the parks because there is so much to do. So sit back, grab a plate of conch fritters and an ice cold margarita and let’s begin counting down our top six reasons we love OKW starting with…

# 6 – The Sandcastle Pool Area

Anyone who travels with their family on vacation knows how important pools are when it comes to selecting a resort. For our family, pools with slides now rank above any E-Ticket attraction or dining experience at WDW. Old Key West has a total of 4 pools spread out across property, but the Sandcastle Pool located by the front of the resort is where you want to be. In this area you’ll find the main pool along with its incredible 125 foot waterslide and a plethora of  nearby activities. There are several play areas for the younger set, a whirlpool spa, a sandy beach, and even a themed sauna!

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The Sandcastle Pool at Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

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Theming around the Sandcastle Pool.

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More Details About Two New Downtown Disney Dining Establishments for Walt Disney World

by on July 6, 2015

Today, I am here to share some updated information about two of the new Downtown Disney/Disney Springs dining establishments; one of which has opened already and one which is to come in the future.

Let’s start with the one that recently opened. Tea Trader’s Cafe by Joffrey’s has officially opened its location this week in The Landing and can be found near The BOATHOUSE.

©Disney

©Disney

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer

by on July 4, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer. We are little over a month away from the ultimate Disney fan event – the D23 Expo – where we will gain some insight into the future of the Walt Disney World parks. While the California parks have been blessed in recent years with a $1 Billion renovation to Disney California Adventure (bringing Cars Land, World of Color, and a new park entrance) along with upgrades to Disneyland for the park’s upcoming 60th anniversary (including the critically praised Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever, a new nighttime spectacular,) the Florida parks have been recipient of things less noticeable by your average guest like MagicBands, My Disney Experience, and Downtown Disney’s transition to Disney Springs. While additions like Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers and Winged Encounters have drawn rave reviews, they don’t have the pick-your-jaw-off-the-ground moment like seeing Radiator Springs Racer’s Cadillac Range mountains or walking into Universal’s Diagon Alley. 

Many expect us all to be wowed by what will be announced at the D23 Expo, some even speculating a $3 Billion overhaul to DHS (for the record, we here at the SATURDAY SIX don’t expect anything approaching that number, but even “just” a Billion dollars goes a long way baby.) One thing is for certain, whatever is coming isn’t coming soon, and today we’re going to look at how Disney is all but taunting guests to open their wallets starting with….

# 6 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios outright dares guests to go to the park

What a year for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, DHS has removed so many things without replacement that Matt Hochberg – the park’s biggest defender – is rumored to be hiding in the same bunker Saddam Hussein was found in. The Sorcerer’s Hat, gone. Studio Backlot Tour, gone. American Idol Experience and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, gone. Recently it was announced that the Magic of Disney Animation will be closing on July 12th and those in the know report that One Man’s Dream is also on the chopping block. Every park loses stuff as its part of normal theme park operations, but the difference here is nothing has come in to replace anything. Well, to be fair, a recent Soundstage Lounge was installed at the Jack Sparrow location. Unfortunately it looks more like the filming location for a sequel in the Saw series of films than your usual WDI made ultra-detailed area. The park has a shrinking amount of attractions, and while Frozen Summer Fun will get us through the next couple months, then what?

HalfOffStudios

Need an attraction? Make us an offer! (photo by Michael Sheehy and Matt Cleary)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! June 2015 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on June 30, 2015

MMM positiveWe have reached the end of June and the non-stop amount of theme park new continues. Most importantly, our prayers were answered and Disney World banned the use of selfie sticks at any of its four theme parks, two water parks, and DisneyQuest. Over at Animal Kingdom, snacks shaped in the form of animal poop became an instant success last week, generating more viral attention for Disney than I have seen in years, yet they have already been taken off the market. Meanwhile at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Frozen Summer Fun began its summer run, but with the good comes the bad, as it was also announced that The Magic of Disney Animation would be joining the Studio Backlot Tour, the Legend of Capt Jack Sparrow, Sounds Dangerous, American Idol Experience, and the Sorcerer’s Hat in the great big theme park in the sky. Universal, already in the middle of building an E-Ticket attraction (Skull Island: The Reign of Kong), a new hotel (Sapphire Falls) and a water park (Volcano Bay) also just committed to what looks like a MAJOR renovation of the Incredible Hulk Coaster and the removal of what is expected to be Twister: Ride It Out for a rumored attraction based on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Don’t the theme parks know it’s summer and they are supposed to be resting on their laurels while the theme parks are packed?!

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).

This trip started off with a surreal experience at the Disney Character Warehouse on I-Drive (close to Universal) because everything in the store was 50% off the already discounted prices. A lot of stuff that was normally in the store was gone though, such as Tsum Tsums, most of the pins, all the plush, etc. Later in our journey I’ll explain why this once-in-a-lifetime sale was happening. However, to show the type of deal that this was, that next level bananas Mama Melrose sign had been brought down to “just” $30 after all the discounts were applied. I was tempted to buy it, if only as a gag gift for Len Testa, but somehow held back.

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I promised to all that I will personally buy the BoardWalk Pizza Window sign if it is ever for sale. Because that will mean the place has finally been closed and I’ll be in euphoria.

It’s long been known that WDW Today’s own Matt Hochberg is terrified of the Dinosaur attraction at DHS, and you can imagine why if his parents ever got him this photo frame as a kid. I actually wish Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights merch was this scary. Originally $14.95, this was marked down to $7.99 (and keep in mind that would be $4 after the final discount.)

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Mesmerizing.

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The NBA Experience Coming to Disney Springs

by on June 3, 2015

imageDetails about Disney Springs’ transformation have been slowly trickling out and today we have another piece of the puzzle.

A new one-of-a-kind destination will be opening up in the shopping and dining district called The NBA Experience at Walt Disney World. This attraction will feature hands-on activities that put guests right in the middle of the NBA action, creating an immersive experience of both the game and its players. Guests will enjoy unique NBA video productions, a restaurant, and a store.

“We’re excited to join the NBA in offering this unique form of family entertainment,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It will be a terrific addition to the world-class lineup of shops and restaurants coming to Disney Springs.”

Not many additional details are known about this new eatablishment headed to Disney Springs, as it’s still in the early development process, but as soon as I do know more, I’ll make sure to let you know.

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Where To Get Work Done At Walt Disney World

by on June 1, 2015

Photo - Erin Foster

Business Center at the Contemporary

As much as we’d like a trip to Walt Disney World to be all play, sometimes the career gets in the way. After begrudgingly pulling out your laptop or tablet, you realize the last place you want to be is cooped up in your hotel room. Where else can you go to concentrate and get some work done?

Whether it be answering email or working remotely, here are some places to set up your make-shift office and get down to business (“to defeat…the Huns.” Name that film!).

The Supplies

If you know you’re going to be working throughout your trip, here are a few extras to consider bringing along for a more comfortable experience:

  • A mouse for your laptop
  • A stylus for your tablet/iPad
  • A keyboard for your tablet
  • Chargers for your devices
  • A power strip
  • Headphones
  • Paper and pen (if you don’t have technology handy)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! May 2015 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on May 31, 2015

MMM positiveMay has come to a close and the start of the Theme Park Summer (AKA Some Attractions Are Worth Melting For) is upon us. In case you weren’t paying attention, May just happened to be one of the biggest of the year. Star Wars Weekends started, and I even wrote a handy dandy guide on how you can survive it in Six Simple Steps. Universal had a busy month, officially announcing the new King Kong attraction, a partnership with Nintendo that will bring new attractions to the Florida parks, and a brand new ultra-themed water park in Volcano Bay that looks to compete with Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Meanwhile out in California Disneyland delivered the goods in a major way with their new Paint the Night electrical parade, debuting 60 new pressed pennies, added a new World of Color show, and even a new nighttime fireworks spectacular! Walt Disney World fans weren’t left out in the cold either, as the Lunching Pad at the Magic Kingdom has a brand new crisped rice treat that looks like a flip flop. Everyone came up a winner this month!

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).

Our first step is checking out the new Tsum Tsums that have arrived, which naturally have become the newest thing I’m addicted to. Here are two of our favorite pals from Toy Story, Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

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Toy Story Tsum Tsums.

There were also several puppies from 101 Dalmations along with Cruella Deville.

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How many of the 101 Dalmations have official names and are identifiable by fans? Do people have their favorites like the Seven Dwarfs?

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside

by on May 16, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside. Earlier this year we took a trip to Port Orleans French Quarter, one of our favorite hotels at Walt Disney World, and today we will be looking at French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Formerly known as Dixie Landings, Riverside’s theme comes from the tranquil scenery of Mississippi River communities and lavish opulence of pre-Civil War Louisiana.

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Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside.

While one of French Quarter’s biggest selling points is the resort’s small size and intimate feel, Riverside goes the other way and is a huge resort with a ton of stuff to do. Let’s face it, sometimes more is more, and although Riverside is sprawling it is actually one of the most relaxing areas on Disney property.  From horse-drawn carriage rides to evening campfires to six (yes, six) pools, Riverside has a lot of reasons to love it, and today we’re counting down the top six starting with…

# 6 – The Southern Charm of Riverside’s Theming

While French Quarter focuses on the city feeling of New Orleans, Riverside takes a step back and puts a spotlight on the rural areas of antebellum Louisiana. The overall level of theming is much closer to what you will find at deluxe Disney’s hotels like the Polynesian Village Resort or Wilderness Lodge than a fellow moderate like Coronado Springs.  The Riverside Mill’s 32 foot working water wheel is a standout feature, but it is all the little details which will pull you into the resort.

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Riverside Mill (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Horses play a prominent theme throughout property. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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13 New Retail and Dining Establishments Announced for Disney Springs

by on May 15, 2015

Disney Springs

©Disney

Today some exciting new tenants were announced for Disney Springs, as the transformation from Downtown Disney continues. 13 new shops, 8 of which are retail-based will be coming to the area. It is an eclectic bunch of establishments, for sure.

These new shops are set to open in both The Landing and the Town Square sections of the shopping and dining district.

The new shops are:

Zara: Zara is known for its men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, and how it expertly interprets current fashion and style trends of the season, delivering original designs to the consumer in a matter of weeks.

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