Drinking

A Guide to Souvenir Mugs at Disney

by on February 15, 2017

In recent years it has become an unwritten rule that whenever a new restaurant opens at Walt Disney World a souvenir mug must be created for purchase. This also seems to go for new shows and attractions. The amount of souvenirs all throughout Walt Disney World is staggering. Disney souvenir mugs are a great way to have a practical souvenir that you’re sure to use once you are back home.

Let’s take a look at all the different souvenir mugs available through Walt Disney World. You can decide which ones you must have and plan room in your budget for these little treasures, and make sure to fit obtaining them into your schedule.

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 MUST TRY Drinks at Walt Disney World

by on February 11, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six MUST TRY Drinks at Walt Disney World! Time to let the kiddos watch PJ Masks or the Lion Guard for a bit so us adults can have a brief moment to ourselves. Yes, we enjoy the great attractions, shows, and hotels at Walt Disney World but one thing we love are the drinks. To paraphrase Homer J Simpson, alcohol can (seemingly) make all the stress in the world disappear, and also make good times even better! While many WDW bars may have the “standard bar menu” with the same ol’ same ol’, there are a lot of truly fantastic drinks to be found. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite Must Try drinks at WDW, focusing on originality and creativity of the cocktails. Let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Seven Seas Lagoon (The Wave)

You may want to pack an insulin pump if you plan on heading to The Wave… Of America Flavors for this behemoth, because it is SWEET. While this 24 ounce drink only contains about 4 ounces of alcohol (Skyy vodka and Parrot Bay coconut rum), its presentation is off the charts! The glow cube inside the drink really makes the blue “water” pop, and swimming on top are Swedish fish. The best little touch of all may be the fun candy “life preservers” put on each Mickey straw.

Seven Seas Lagoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Fish being added to the Seven Seas Lagoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 5  – Nautilus (Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto)

Served in an amazing souvenir bowl with the form of the Nautilus from Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this is another drink meant to be shared, as you could possibly be seeing a giant squid outside in the Seven Seas Lagoon if you tried to go it alone. The entire room of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto transforms when a Nautilus is ordered and even the servers get in on the fun. Lighting effects make the room appear as if you are going under water, audio plays orders from the Nautilus captain, and there are several  physical effects happening across the Grotto (keep your head on a swivel).  The Nautilus is an E-Ticket drink in an E-Ticket bar. 

Ingredients: Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, Combier Crème de Pêche de Vigne Liqueur, Tropical Juices, and Falernum. Served in a souvenir Nautilus. 

The Nautilus. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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A Guide to Universal Mardi Gras 2017

by on January 26, 2017

Thousands of plastic beads patiently wait to be tossed into the hands of eager park guests. Spicy Cajun food will soon be devoured. Parade performers practice endlessly, waiting for their time in the spotlight. Universal Mardi Gras 2017 is about to begin!

With more consecutive nights than ever before, Universal Mardi Gras 2017 looks to be a bit different than years past. There’s lots to see and deux so check out this guide to make sure you don’t miss a beat!

This year Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is a little shorter than before, February 4 to March 24, 2017. However, this year is different because the parade, special food, and other festivities will bring the best of the Big Easy every single night through March 24, 2017.

French Quarter Courtyard – Food and live bands

One the best features of Universal Mardi Gras are the bands brought in from New Orleans itself that perform in the French Quarter Courtyard (in the New York area of the park near Revenge of the Mummy and across from the soon-to-open Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon). Many people aren’t aware that these authentic bands perform in the French Quarter Courtyard, but they are a real treat and straight from the land of the Big Easy, so check them out.

Here’s the line up:

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Can’t Wait To See in 2017

by on December 31, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Can’t Wait To See In 2017! 2016 was another unbelievable year in the theme park world, containing a wide mix of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. 2017 is already shaping up to be even more amazing. We have a new immersive land that promises to eclipse what Disneyland has done with Cars Land and Universal with Diagon Alley, a new President being added to the Hall of Presidents, and the first of its kind “water theme park.” If that doesn’t get your blood pumping about the next 12 months you may actually be a Host from Westworld, but for the rest of you, here’s some of the things we can’t wait to see, starting with…

 

# 6 – Pandora: The World of Avatar (Animal Kingdom)

Our long national nightmare is almost over. First announced on September 20, 2011, Pandora: The World of Avatar is nearing completion. Disney is saying “Summer 2017” for this new land, and is going on record saying it is the most immersive area in any theme park. Just from what we can see from what rises over the construction walls and the Blogger-In-The-Sky helicopter camera shots, the land does look STUNNING. The info we’ve been given on the bioluminescent plants in the area along with the experience in the Na’vi River Journey make both seem like “wow” moments. Last year, this fine blog did question what Pandora will be doing in the areas of food and merchandise, two extremely important factors a theme park land needs to deliver on to satisfy its Return On Investment (ROI). These are also two areas that Disney has not released much info on for Pandora. We all know that Avatar the movie – by far and away the most financially successful film in the history of cinema – never really figured out a way to get its fans to buy merchandise the way that Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, and even Star Trek have.

The Flying Mountains of Pandora. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)

Na’vi River Journey. (photo courtesy of Disney Parks and Resorts)

One of the most exciting things about Pandora is that it appears the land will be using projection mapping on its incredible rock work. This is something that has never been mentioned by Disney over the course of the Pandora project, but Johnny-on-the-spot bloggers have seen this technology being tested. Your Humble Author thinks projection mapping is one of the areas that Disney is heads and tails above anyone else in the industry right now. Whether on the castle in the Magic Kingdom, the Great Movie Ride facade in DHS, or the jaw dropping Tree of Life Awakens shows at Animal Kingdom, Disney’s use of projection mapping in the parks is amazing.

What looks to be testing for projecting mapping on the rock work in Pandora. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)

# 5 – Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon (Universal Studios Florida)

Last year Universal fans lost Twister…Ride It Out! along with its Bill Paxton performance that was so mailed in he should have put a stamp on it. In Twister’s place will be the upcoming Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. One of the most underrated aspects of this change, is that the attraction takes place in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida, so it is a perfect fit. There are many who do not like Fallon’s broad sense of humor, but his Late Night TV dominance shows there is most likely a much larger group of people who love what he brings to the table (Your Humble Author included). While there have been some debates on how the “flying theater” ride mechanics will actually work, one thing we do know is that Universal is trying something truly different with how people experience the attraction’s queue.

Much like how Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom allows kids to play in a themed area until it is time to ride, Race Through New York looks to have things for adults to do while waiting. There will be a woman’s quartet singing songs, a chance to check out classic bits from from Fallon’s Tonight Show run (including Lip Sync Battle), write your own “Thank You Notes” at an interactive desk, and even get a meet and greet with the Tonight Show’s mascot, Hashtag the Panda.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon is designed to get guests to laugh, and comedy is one thing Universal is very good at delivering on. From the criminally underrated Horror Make-Up Show to the non-stop gags in Springfield USA, be prepared to bring your smile when stepping into Universal Studios Florida.

Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon concept art.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon in Universal Studios Florida. (photo by @bioreconstruct).

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TouringPlansTV: BoardWalk Inn – Dining and Amenities + Video

by on December 6, 2016

I’m finally here with part 2 of my BoardWalk Inn review!

Here, I delve into the dining options, pools, recreation and amenities.

You’ve all been so patient, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

Check it out below!

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TBT: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2015

by on November 23, 2016

Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to the continuation of TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. This wonderful entry from 2015 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.

Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!

 

This week’s SATURDAY SIX  is our annual Thanksgiving Special and takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2015 was another great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, we ask that all Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Selfie Stick Ban at Walt Disney World

SelfieStick_Partners

no_more_selfie_sticks_pamphlet_sethIf you noticed any #Millenials or narcissists wearing black armbands this summer, it was because after banning selfie sticks on Disney attractions earlier in the spring, Walt Disney World completely banned the use of selfie sticks at the parks. Seemingly out of nowhere, the edict came down right after another high profile news story of Disney California Adventure’s California Screamin’ roller coaster being stopped mid ride because of a guest using a selfie stick. On June 26th, WDW guests were given a pamphlet at the parking plaza explaining the selfie stick ban, signage was displayed on the walkways to the parks along with bag check explaining the new policy.

The selfie stick ban was definitely a controversial move to be sure. Universal had earlier become more strict on preventing selfie sticks on rides, but Disney outright stopped people from even entering the park with them. Now we joked earlier about only kids and narcissists using them, the truth is that selfie sticks have become increasingly popular across almost all demographics. While people using selfie sticks inside the parks can be a nuisance, they were starting to become a serious safety factor on attractions. You may have seen what is called an Envelope of Protection as Imagineers test out the attractions. This device makes sure that all the attractions are safe for every rider, basically simulating the possible reach of every guest in the ride vehicle. This is why while it may seem like your may lose your arms in Space Mountain if you hold them up during the ride, but in actuality you are nowhere close to hitting anything. What the Envelope of Protection doesn’t take into account though, is guests holding on to anything that extends their reach.

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TBT: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2014

by on November 21, 2016

Greetings! TouringPlans.com Blog Manager Brian here to welcome you to TBT: Throwback Thanksgiving week here on the blog. All this week we will be revisiting a few wonderful Thanksgiving-related posts from the past. Starting us off is this gem from 2014 highlighting the six things that Derek Burgan gave thanks for during that year.

Make sure you come back Thursday at 9:00am for this years items to give thanks for!

 

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2014 was a great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning, to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, I ask that Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…

# 6 – Disney and Universal Merchandise is Better than Ever

It wasn’t long ago, that the only merchandise people were buying at Universal were Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts. Over at Disney, almost every single store, whether in the parks, hotels, or Downtown Disney, was selling the same generic”Disney Parks”stuff. A seismic shift started to occur in 2010, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, and blew the doors off everyone’s projections in the area of merchandise and Butterbeer. Guests were now walking out of Universal with house robes, wands and chocolate frogs in hand. This success was then repeated throughout both of their theme parks, with unique and exclusive items found everywhere you looked, from the EVAC action figure at Transformers gift shop, to the faux girl scout cookies in Despicable Me’s Super Silly Store, to my personal favorite – The Film Vault –  a whole new store focusing on retro merchandise.

MarketplaceCoop_Glover

Jungle Cruise merchandise found at the Marketplace Co-op in Downtown Disney. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN

by on November 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs), and Deluxe (The Poly and The Contemporary). Three of the Deluxe resorts are not run by Disney, these include Shades of Green (owned and operated by the US Armed Forces) and the Swan and Dolphin. For over 25 years the Swan and Dolphin has been a part of the Starwood chain of resorts. While Starwood was bought by Marriott in September of this year, the hotels continue to be run under their respective brands (Swan being part of Westin, while the Dolphin part of Sheraton.)

swan_logo

Walt Disney World Swan.

Both the Swan and Dolphin are considered Disney Deluxe Resorts. While neither hotel offers the Disney Magical Express to and from the airport, or participates in the Disney Dining Plan, guests do get the normal WDW on-site ammenities including Extra Magic Hours, Disney transportation, and early access to Fast Pass+. How do the Swan and Dolphin stack up compared to the other on-site resorts?  Well, today we are going to check out our favorite parts of these two incredible hotels, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 –  Todd English’s bluezoo

One of the most underrated restaurants on Disney property is Todd English’s bluezoo located on the ground floor of the Dolphin. The bar area is visually stunning, and sets up the unique food and drink menu perfectly. Recently we did a tongue in cheek look at a Disney Value Resort Bar Crawl, but one thing that stood out at those bars – along with many others on Disney property – is a reliance on the standard Disney bar menu. Todd English’s bluezoo is the complete opposite of that. Whether you get a Burnt Orange that arrives on fire or a Swedish Fish with its infused foam, the drinks served at bluezoo are served with creativity and flair.

The dining room of bluezoo is deceptively large. While the menu is filled with some great items (especially if you’re a seafood fan,) what shocked us was the crispy Asian pork ribs. I didn’t think anyone would come close to touching the quality of Morimoto Asia’s Hoisin sticky spare ribs, but bluezoo’s are somehow better. While many probably wouldn’t think of bluezoo as the first choice to bring your kids, there is actually a part of the menu for kid’s appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The whimsicly named “desserted island” is among the most fun at WDW.

swan_bluezoo_smoke

Smoking Red Sangria. (photo by Brandon Glover)

bluezoo_burtorange_glover

Burnt Orange – “herradura blanco infused with brûléed orange and muddled with agave nectar, grand marnier, and orange juice. topped with a flaming orange.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_ribs

Crispy Asian pork ribs. (photo by  Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_dessertedisland

Desserted Island. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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An Animal Kingdom Convert: Winning a Skeptical Spouse Over to the DAK Side

by on November 9, 2016

I have got to admit that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the park we typically skip on our trips to Disney World. It’s a bit hard to pinpoint exactly why this happens. Maybe because our plan quickly fills in with at least two days or partial days at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, our must-do parks. Maybe because we also like to spend a day at one of the water parks and time visiting the deluxe resorts. Maybe because we love the thrill rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and have been enjoying the increasing number of Star Wars related offerings. Maybe because on the days we have visited Animal Kingdom, it has felt like one giant sauna by mid-morning.

© Sarah Graffam

Expedition Everest at dusk

In early 2016, however, there were hints that something was starting to happen at Animal Kingdom. There was talk of an incredible projection show coming to the Tree of Life, nighttime hours to experience Kilimanjaro Safaris plus Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids, a new lounge and signature level restaurant, new dancers and musicians, and a brand new nighttime water show with amazing effects.

© Sarah Graffam

Tree of Life Awakenings

In late spring 2016, many of these new experiences became available. Okay, so there were some overall delays, and the much-hyped Rivers of Light show was replaced with a decidedly less impressive show during the spring and summer. (Rivers of Light has yet to come on line, though there are some indications—and lots of hope on the part of park visitors—that it could do so soon.) Even so, I was certain that the new experiences that had already come to the park were worth giving Animal Kingdom another shot.

My husband, though—not so much. So, on our most recent trip, I was determined to get him over to Animal Kingdom. If you also have a reluctant tourist on your hands when it comes to Animal Kingdom (or are even one yourself), read on to see how one convert was convinced.

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Worst Theme Park Idea Ever: Disney Value Resorts BAR CRAWL

by on October 19, 2016

We here at TouringPlans strive to constantly give our readers everything you need to know in order to save time and money on your Disney vacation. This past week alone, the Grand Poohbah of TouringPlans, Len Testa, had a fascinating look at The Best Walt Disney World Ticket and Hotel Prices, Liz Mangen explored the oft overlooked Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom tour, and Daisy Lauren had an incredible look at the Disneyland’s in California and Tokyo. Not to be outdone, the think tank over at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters have decided to finally take on the conundrum that faces all vacation planners: how exactly does one achieve the very best Disney vacation?  Now, many inside-the-box thinkers go with the obvious answer, “Do The Things That Are Great.” Ride the best attractions, see the best shows, and eat at the most unique dining experiences. But to that we say Nay, Nay. Instead we are going to reverse engineer the problem by looking at all the truly awful ideas and explain to you Dear Reader, why you should not do them.

That, in a nutshell, is the raison d’être behind the Worst Theme Park Idea Ever series.

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