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.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s BoardWalk Resort. While we have done articles on several of our favorite Walt Disney World resorts, including Animal Kingdom Lodge, Art of Animation, and Coronado Springs, it was the BoardWalk Inn & Villas which was the hardest to cut down to just our six favorite things. The overall depth of theming and amount of details throughout the resort is second to none.
The BoardWalk was the second of Disney Vacation Club properties to be built (following Old Key West) and its “story” revolves around the great East Coast boardwalk areas of the 1920s and 30s. In the early part of the 20th century, places like Coney Island in New York and Atlantic City in New Jersey were the Walt Disney World of their day. Attractions, restaurants, hotels… they were the place to be. Disney Imagineers and architect Robert A.M. Stern pulled from this incredible era of history of America to create Disney’s BoardWalk and left tons of wonderful details for guests to appreciate. The details are just one of the many reasons we think this resort is the bee’s knees, so let’s begin counting down our top six reasons starting with…
# 6 – The Lobby
There are some lobbies at Walt Disney World which will have you picking your jaw off the floor (most notably the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Wilderness Lodge) but what the BoardWalk lacks in expansiveness it makes up for in fantastic show elements, such as the gorgeous Hippocampus Electrolier hanging above. A hippocampus is a creature from Greek mythology that is part horse, part fish, while electrolier is a name for a ceiling fixture holding electric lamps (a name which never took hold and is just referred to as a chandelier today.) Weighing in at 3,000 pounds and intricately detailed, this may very well be the most impressive chandelier on Disney property, and imagine what that is saying.
The BoardWalk’s stunning hippocampus electrolier. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Hanging above the check-in desks are three paintings of Disney castles. There is one each for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris. The reason for this is that in the 1920s/30s, cameras were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are today. Much of what people saw, even in advertisements, were paintings. These castle paintings, and the gold carousel rounding boards that frame them, help make the BoardWalk’s registration area one of the best at WDW.
A majestic painting of the castle at Disneyland Paris. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Walking through the BoardWalk’s lobby you will be drawn to the glass display cases featuring a miniature carousel and a reproduction of the Flip Flap Railway roller coaster. The closer you get to the carousel the bigger your eyes open as you take in the details. This is a to-scale model created by Marcus Charles Illions (the developer of the “Coney Island Style” of carousel wood carving) and bought by Disney from Illions’ granddaughter. Imagineers restored the carousel to its original grandeur, and even added a little Disney magic.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. With 26 on-site resorts at Walt Disney World, there is a wide variety of choices for families coming down. We’ve covered many here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts (Art of Animation and Pop Century), Moderates (Port Orleans French Quarter and Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (Contemporary andAnimal Kingdom Lodge). We also can’t forget the Disney Vacation Club resorts such as Old Key West. Today we are going to take a look at one of WDW’s most underrated resorts, Disney’s Coronado Springs.
Disney’s Coronado Springs, a member of the Moderate Resorts.
There are several reasons Coronado Springs doesn’t get the love and attention the other Disney resorts do. The biggest factor is that caters heavily towards the business convention crowd as opposed to primarily vacationing families. Ironically, this feature actually provides some of the biggest benefits for families, but we’ll get to that later. Because Coronado Springs is relatively off the beaten path at WDW (it sits close to Blizzard Beach, Winter Summerland mini-golf, but little else,) it’s not a place you generally run into while enjoying something else at The World. We’re here to let you know that you should go out of your way to check out Coronado Springs, and we have our six best reasons at the ready. So sit back, remember to practice your piñata swings, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – The Dig Site: Home of The Lost City of Cibola
For many families, including ours, a resort’s pool area plays a major factor when it comes to deciding where to stay. When thinking of Disney’s best pools, places like Yacht & Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay and Caribbean Beach’s Fuentes del Morro pool come immediately to mind. The Dig Site at Coronado Springs is right up there with the best pool areas on property as it is jam packed with great things to do for every family member, big or small.
The headliner is The Lost City of Cibola pool. With a jaw dropping 50 foot tall pyramid and 123 foot long Jaguar waterslide, this is a main pool that has both the “wow factor” and is incredibly fun. Surrounding the main pool is the largest hot tub at WDW, an incredible children’s play area themed to Mayan ruins, the awesome Siestas pool bar, and the best themed volleyball court we’ve ever seen. Siestas has a To-Go food window that is actually open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while the actual bar features several signature cocktails including the Coronado Crush. This is the absolute perfect pool area for those who want to take a midday break away from the parks, or just spend an “off day” totally on-site at the resort. As a bonus, because the resort is often filled with conventioneers and couples without kids, those with children have much less congestion while enjoying the amenities.
The Dig Site.
The Lost City of Cibola pool. The Jaguar Slide is on the right, while the elaborate children’s play area is on the left.
Now that’s a pool!
The #story of the waterslide is that it features a “spitting Jaguar spirit animal.”
The 2016 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is finally here! I was lucky enough to spend festival kick-off day sampling every (yes, I tried them all!) new and modified dish at the festival this year, to see which dishes were must-dos or must-skips for all of you. Here you’ll find photos and my thoughts on all of these new items, organized as you travel around the world (in the same order they are listed in the festival passport). Below my reviews, you’ll see a few hot takes – I’ve ranked all of these new items based on whether I’d try them again this festival season. As always, click on any photo to see the larger version of each dish. Don’t forget, you can check out full menus and prices from every booth here to start your planning now.
Craft Beers: Piggy Wings – Fried Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds ($4.25)
Sticky, sweet, and sour, these are definitely good BBQ wings, but you’ll only get to taste two of them per order. Perfect with a beer (or three in a flight), these are worth the purchase if you need a snack to munch on while enjoying a little free air conditioning, but I wouldn’t make a special stop here just to try them.
The Chew Collective: Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots, and Feta Cheese ($5.00)
At the end of the day, this dish is exactly as billed: it’s a few pieces of grilled steak on a salad. The apricots and feta bring some necessary freshness and texture, but ultimately, this dish needed a sauce to make it all come together. Kids who like plain steak may want to steal a bite from mom and dad on this dish.
The Chew Collective: Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle ($5.00)
This dish tastes exactly like someone crushed up a package of Nutter Butters (which is definitely a good thing, to me). Rich and slightly salty from the peanut butter, the white chocolate and caramel provide a bit of offsetting sweetness. Everyone (who can eat this) will love this dessert, and though it’s a small portion for the price, it’s worth a shot.
It’s almost Christmas… well, *my* Christmas. Epcot International Food and Wine Festival opening day is quickly approaching, and it’s time to start strategizing how to tackle all of the great eats during your trip around the World (Showcase). To do that, I’ve made “quick pick” lists full of my favorites from past years in a few categories: classics (great for festival first-timers), dishes that are great for families with kids or picky eaters, dishes for adventurous eaters, vegetarian picks (that even carnivores will love), and of course, a few drinks. I’ve included new picks in some of the categories that I’m looking forward to, and also some tips and tricks for making the most of your time (and finding the shortest lines!) at the festival booths.
Classics for first-time Food & Wine Festival visitors
Kalua pork slider (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Hawai’i: Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayo
This booth’s menu rarely changes because it’s always consistently good. Definitely stop here early in the day, as it is one of the first booths in World Showcase and lines grow quickly.
Australia: grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies
Great walk-around finger food to enjoy while strolling Epcot. Only a few bites, but the potato chip crunchies make this a fun take on a classic dish.
Hops & Barley: New England lobster roll
A consistent favorite, usually heavy on the lobster and served on a heavenly butter-grilled bun
Farm Fresh: Loaded Mac & Cheese with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, and peppers
Who doesn’t like mac & cheese, especially when it has bacon and other toppings? This can be a lighter portion, but one that nearly everyone will enjoy
Belgium: beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes
The beer-braised beef returns this year with a new presentation (no more potato leek waffle). This booth can be a little slow, depending on how many are ordering sweet waffles (made to order), but it’s worth the wait for this dish.
Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Almond Truffle (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Mexico: Mexican chocolate flan
Mexico is always a must-stop for desserts for me – every year they make something slightly different, but always tasty, and this flan is sure to fit that pattern. A great stop for the very end of the night, when this always-busy booth’s line tends to be shorter.
This dish debuted last year and became an instant classic for pretty much everyone. It’s usually rich enough to share, and it’s always a blast to watch them freeze the truffles to order.
Perfect bites for families with kids or “picky eaters”
Germany: Schinkennudeln (baked mac and cheese with ham)
Again, who doesn’t like mac & cheese? This rich dish is a variation of the baked mac and cheese found inside Biergarten, and it is just ridiculously heavenly. A good stop if you are worried Farm Fresh’s version is too veggie-heavy, and usually a pretty quick line.
Brazil: Crispy pork belly with black beans and tomato
Most kids love bacon, and this is exactly that, just with the addition of a nice stew of black bean and tomato. Full of savory flavor, this dish will be a winner for many, and bonus – there’s a really cool seating area at this booth, too!
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney’s AbracadaBar Has Us Under Its Spell. With the Flying Fish recently receiving a lengthy refurbishment and a completely new look, ESPN Club getting a major menu upgrade, and the debut of Ample Hills Creamery (serving some of the best ice cream on property), Disney’s BoardWalk area is now better than it has ever been. However, another new addition to the area may actually be the best improvement of all, the AbracadaBar.
AbracadaBar at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.
Following the trend set by Sam’s Grog Grotto, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar and Nomad Lounge, AbracadaBar is an extremely well themed bar, with an elaborate backstory centered around magicians of the Golden Age. Everywhere you look at AbracadaBar, there are winks and nods to the art of performing magic. These can range from straight jackets and chains, items made famous by Harry Houdini, to playing cards, mirrors, linking rings and other items that are part of any magician’s arsenal. However, this being Disney, if you look really close you’ll see some extra special details. What are the six best? Well sit back, remember that real magicians do “illusions” because “tricks” are, well, you know…, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Magic Posters
Throughout AbracadaBar there are “enchanted” posters. They normally represent several of the famous magicians who would visit the lounge in the 1930s. However, part of the the story of AbracadaBar is that one night every magician in the bar disappeared, never to be seen again. Every hour on the 13th minute, the posters change and the magicians depicted in them disappear. This is very reminiscent of the effect Be Our Guest Restaurant uses to show a transformation of a “painting” in the West Wing.
Two of the magician posters “before.” (photo by Brandon Glover)
Bibbidy bobbidy boo! The two posters “after.” (photo by Brandon Glover)
# 5 – Hidden Mickeys
Fans of Hidden Mickeys are going to need to keep their head on a swivel as there are several of them sprinkled throughout the bar area (including some in stained glass.) Our favorite though has to be what looks like a normal Ace of Clubs playing card, but instead is a cleverly designed Ace of Mickey.
Every mouse has an ace up its sleeve. (photo by Brandon Glover)
It is a fairly well established fact that Walt Disney World on-site resort hotels are a step above your average Days Inn or La Quinta in both theming and service. But as far as in-room amenities go, they are fairly standard. All standard resort hotel rooms include televisions with input panels, dressers/nightstands, a table and chairs, a furnished bathroom with separate sink/vanity, a safe, and a small dorm sized refrigerator. Yes, all resort hotel rooms include a small fridge. It is not, as in days past, something that needs to be specially requested. These fridges are not especially large but they are sufficient for storing medical necessities, baby formula, and a few other everyday essentials like coffee creamer, juice, or last night’s leftovers. But exactly how big are they? Let’s investigate, shall we…
As you can see by the side-laying water gallon, larger items are a tight squeeze but the shelves do move around to allow you to fit as much of a variety of items as possible. As you can also see from the location of the water bottle, one thing that these fridges do lack is a freezer component. So your frozen fruit, Hot Pockets, and Mickey Premium Bars are all unwelcome in your hotel room. More seriously, this could be of concern for anyone who might rely on the freezer for medical items. Ice is, of course, available free of charge from resort ice machines.
This week’s SATURDAY SIXRanks The New Restaurants at DISNEY SPRINGS. Walt Disney has a famous quote that goes, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” With the former Downtown Disney being given new life as Disney Springs, a whole lot of impossible has happened along the way. What was once – by far and away – the worst parking situation on Disney property is now the best, hands down. What was once a “shopping district” that had very little places to shop is now loaded with so many name brand stores that the area can compete with any mall in Orlando. However the biggest surprise of all is that the new restaurant lineup actually takes the throne away from EPCOT as The Best Place To Eat At WDW. With Via Napoli, Teppan Edo, Le Cellier and more, I would have never thought we would see the day where another area on property could compete with that murderer’s row of great dining. Turns out I was wrong, and I’ve never been happier to admit it. But which of the new restaurants at Disney Springs is the best? Today we are going to answer that very question. Keep in mind this is not just strictly the best food, it’s the combination of food and dining experience. So sit back, sip on a blueberry lemonade, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza
The newest kid on the Disney Springs block is quickly becoming a guest favorite. The magical love child of a Chipotle and Universal’s Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza allows you to choose every aspect on your pizza creation (crust type, sauce, cheese, and toppings) all for one price. You walk with your pizza down the line, letting each station attendant know exactly how you want your pizza. Want half your pizza to have the white creamy garlic sauce and the other to have the spicy red sauce? You can do it. With 16 veggie types and 6 meats, customers haven’t had this much flexibility in choice since First CitiWide Change Bank. The pies then go into the oven, and three minutes later, BOOM, your pizza is ready. As many of you know, we are rather picky about our Disney pizza, but Blaze is already right up there with the best pies on property joining Via Napoli, Splitsville, and Wolfgang Puck.
Outdoor seating at Blaze pizza. (photo by Tessa Koten)
Making a pizza. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Blaze veggies. (photo by Tessa Koten)
Wait, the pizza is the same price whether I get 2 toppings or 20? LOAD ME UP. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Blaze pizza with high rise dough (thicker crust than standard pizza for small upcharge), spicy red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, onions, jalapeños, and spinach (photo by @bioreconstruct AKA the blogger who can move through time and space)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the ToothsomeChocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. The newest entrant into Universal CityWalk’s murderer’s row of restaurants has just gone into previews, with a grand opening not far behind. Located in the former home of NBA City, the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium sits directly next to the entrance to Islands of Adventure and its visually stunning facade fits in with other worlds that never existed (but you wish did) like Port of Entry or Seuss Landing.
When Toothsome was originally announced, it teased that it would debut with larger than life milkshakes. The idea of a milkshake with a full cupcake or chocolate covered banana on top seemed too good to be true. However, to quote Han Solo, “It’s true. All of it.” It turns out that the E-Ticket milkshakes were just the tip of the iceberg, as Toothsome is filled with both wonder and – believe it or not – an amazing menu. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite features of this magical restaurant. So sit back, play the NXT song “Glorious” as appropriate background music, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Walk Around Characters!
Talk about bucking the trend. In a theme park world where getting rid of the human element seems to be a priority, Universal has walk around characters in the Skull Island: Reign of Kong queue and inside Toothsome. The restaurant has a lengthy backstory (which can be found inside the menu), and it revolves around Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome. In Penelope’s exotic trips around the world, she discovered ways to infuse chocolate into extraordinary recipes. When Penelope returned home from her travels, she discovered that her parents had set out to join her (“Surely the world isn’t so big that we can’t find you.”) Penelope decided she would use her chocolate knowledge to create an emporium, and would share her dishes with the world until reunited with her family.
Penelope can be seen walking about Toothsome, occasionally with her robot companion Jacques. Just as with the best Disney meet and greets at the Magic Kingdom, Penelope stays completely in character, is filled with charm and as they would describe her in the 19th Century: is a bricky gal.
Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The Professor and her robot companion Jacques. (photo courtesy of Attractions Magazine. Attractions also has a great video of Toothsome which you WATCH HERE.)
Penelope’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Literally. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Times THE SIMPSONS Totally Nailed Being A Theme Park Fan. We here at SATURDAY SIX HQ have never hid the fact of how much we love The Simpsons television show. Despite it being a cartoon, for us it is right up there with the all-time great comedies including Seinfeld, Parks and Rec, and Cheers. When Universal Studios Florida expanded the area surrounding The Simpsons Ride into a small version of Springfield, it was a dream come true. As a fan of The Simpsons dating back to when they were just short skits on The Tracey Ullman Show, seeing Duff Beer brought to life was just as a magical moment for me as it is for Potterheads walking into Diagon Alley and getting a Butterbeer.
One of the reasons The Simpsons actually being represented at the Universal Orlando Resort is so great is because the show has spent the better part of 25 years making fun of theme parks! Other shows have gone to theme parks and made some jokes (such as Boy Meets World, Family Matters, and – of course – Full House), but for the most part those shows were just promotional vehicles for Disney. The Simpsons didn’t hold back. Their jokes had some real truths to them, truths that readers of this blog would understand. Today we are going to look back at the history of The Simpsons and theme parks, and at some of our favorite moments over the years. Many of these scenes can actually be seen in the queue for The Simpsons Ride along with exclusive new scenes made just for Universal. So sit back, put on a pair of beer googles, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – “Bart’s New Friend” (Season 26, Episode 11)
We’ll start off with an episode written by Judd Apatow, a man who knows a thing or two about comedy, with a resume that includes Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year Old Virgin. The episode centers around Homer Simpson being hypnotized into thinking he is a 10 year child. Bart Simpson then begins to take advantage of the situation, using Homer as a way to thwart bullies at school and be the “brother” he never had. Before Homer can be de-hypnotized, Bart takes him to Itchy & Scratchy Land and we get to see them ride Soarin’ Over Springfield. This was a five star parody of one of Disney’s most popular rides.
Soarin’ Over Springfield.
Just like the real version, in Soarin’ Over Springfield you get to see guests’ legs dangling in front of you. Note the reference to Mystery Science Theater 3000.
With a swelling score, Soarin’ Over Springfield flies by all the major landmarks in town, including the long running tire fire.
Burning tire smell blown into the faces of guests, just as the scent of oranges was sprayed in the original Soarin’ and fresh cut flowers in the new Soarin’ Around the World.