Drinking

Observations from Downtown Disney (Big Hero 6 Kiosk, New Stores, Construction Update, and More)

by on October 29, 2014

It has been a big week for Downtown Disney (soon to be rebranded as Disney Springs) with the news of two new dining venues coming to the area, including one from celebrated Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. A lot of progress has been made since our last photo report of WDW’s shopping district, and today you’ll be able to get a look at two new kiosks that have recently opened (Set the Bar and Sublime) along with updates on the Food Truck Park, the bridge across Village Lake, and new merchandise at the stores.

Our first look is at the status of the much needed West Side parking garage. This garage is huge and stretches all the way from DisneyQuest to Pleasure Island. The scheduled opening date is Spring 2015.

DTD_garage1

West Side parking garage.

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Disney Dining: The Smokehouse at Downtown Disney

by on October 27, 2014

With House of Blues still on double secret probation, it was time to try a new venue for lunch while on a recent trip to Downtown Disney. I had intended on trying the menu of one of the four Disney food trucks, but three of them (the ones dedicated to food representing Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and “Magic Kingdom’s around the world”) were not open until 6PM. I met photographer Brandon Glover near Cirque du Soleil on DtD’s West Side, and The Smokehouse was the first place we walked past, so we made the easy decision of just eating there instead of walking all the way back to the Marketplace, where the Animal Kingdom food truck was parked next to World of Disney. (Please note that all pictures in this article can be viewed at full size by clicking on them.)

 

Smokehouse_ribs

A half rack of St. Louis ribs at The Smokehouse (photos by Brandon Glover.)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons To Go On a Disney Cruise

by on October 25, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons To Go On a Disney Cruise. Earlier this month I was fortunate to be able to take my first ever Disney Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder as part of TouringPlans #Everywhere promotion. The experience was pretty amazing overall, and while before the trip I had a hard time understanding why people would pay so much for a Disney Cruise when there are some great alternatives (such as Royal Caribbean) for a fraction of the price, I now see exactly what draws people back again and again to DCL. In fact, I think for many Disney fans a sailing on the DCL is a must-do, as it provides an overall immersion in the Disney brand that even many on-site WDW vacations can’t compete with. Today we are going to look at six of the reasons you should consider popping a Dramamine and sailing the high seas with Mickey and the gang. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, so grab that life jacket and let’s start counting down…

# 6 – The Characters

DCL_Character_Donald

Donald Duck on the DCL Wonder.

 

We knew that there were going to be characters on board the Disney ships that you could meet, but we were not prepared for how many. There were the Fab 5 of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. The ubiquitous Chip and Dale. Daisy Duck. Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa. Disney Jr. characters such as Sofia the First and Jake. Disney princesses including Ariel, Tiana, Rapunzel, Snow White, Aurora, Belle, and Cinderella. Lastly, there were miscellaneous characters such as Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Stitch. These were just the ones that I personally saw throughout the cruise, as we never looked to see where the characters would be, or at what time, which leads me to believe that there are even more that I didn’t see.

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PHOTO REPORT: Atrium Club Level at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

by on October 1, 2014

Recently I had family staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for a week, and I joined them for one night to check out the Atrium Club Level experience. I have stayed Club Level at several of the Universal hotels, including the Royal Pacific Resort and Portofino Bay, and have always enjoyed it, so it was time to see what Disney provides. I’ve priced out options at staying Club Level at the Polynesian and Animal Kingdom Lodge before, but eventually get scared off by the price and ended up booking a room at value resorts like Art of Animation or Pop Century. For this stay I booked a Club Level room with the Special Offer: Passholder Room Offer for Late Summer discount. The total was $616.79 for one night. Was it worth the cost? Let’s check it out….

AtriumClubLevel_ViewFromMainRoom

View from the shared area of the Atrium Club Level.

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Menu Monday: Animal Kingdom Beer Oases

by on September 22, 2014

Tusker Beer at the Dawa BarThe beer situation in the Animal Kingdom is rough. They seem to be cognizant of this, since they recently added several “beer carts” along the paths in Asia (near Everest and on the way to DinoLand U.S.A.). Indeed, the rising demand for good beer seems to be causing a bit of a branding crisis for the park. Ubiquitous is the Safari Amber ($6.95), which Cast Members will tell you is specially brewed for the Animal Kingdom. That’s a little bit of a stretch: it’s actually specially *branded* for the park. You know the “Red” or “Amber” beer that seems to appear in restaurants that only sell Bud and Bud Lite, but has some cute name that directly references the tacky ambiance of wherever you are? This is the selfsame brew, and will taste exactly like Kingdom Red Ale in the Kansas City Chief’s stadium, or Ray’s Red at Tropicana Field in Tampa, or Thirsty Frog Red Ale “brewed exclusively for Carnival Cruise Lines.” If you’ve had one of these mystery “Red Ales” before, you’ve had the mediocre Safari Amber.

I’d like to go though each land of Animal Kingdom like I did for Epcot, reviewing spots and providing rankings for each experience, but it’s just not possible here. You will be looking for an Oasis, not wandering through a verdant field of hops. With that in mind …

Dawa Bar

Located in Africa, right outside Tusker House. The bar represents a microcosm of the Animal Kingdom experience. The selection is sparse and lacks air conditioning but is none-the-less pleasant and entertaining.

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Disney Dining: ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

by on September 22, 2014

It has been years since I have been to ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and I have been looking forward to a return for a long time. Getting dining reservations at this popular restaurant can at times be as frustrating as Cinderella’s Royal Table or Anna and Elsa at Fairytale Hall, so when Tim Grassey – my co-host of the E-Ticket Report podcast - scored a dinner reservation and asked me to join him, I jumped at the chance to see if ‘Ohana was as good as I remembered it being. (Please note that all pictures in this article can be viewed at full size by clicking on them.)

OHANA_BreadPudding

‘Ohana Bread Pudding a la mode with Bananas-Caramel Sauce. More on this later…. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival Menus Added to TouringPlans.com

by on September 19, 2014

FoodandWinelogosmallYesterday was the soft open of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which officially began today. Because of the invaluable help of Chat moderator, Susan Weaver; friend of the site, Heather Pero; and blogger, Maddi Higgins, we’re able to bring you this year’s Food & Wine menus and pricing in plenty of time to start planning your assault on the booths.

The biggest change this year is the elimination of all larger sized beer offerings. Whereas in previous years beers were sold in 6-, 12-, and 22-oz. sizes, for 2014 you’ll only find 6-oz. pours and flights of 4 beers at 4 oz. each. Those are priced $3.50 and $9.25, respectively.

It will come as no surprise that prices have generally gone up from last year. Most of the returning items are 25-50¢ higher this year. The majority of food items are in the $3.75 to $5.75 range. Desserts are usually around $3.

Nearly every booth at least one vegetarian choice, though many times that choice is dessert only. Vegan choices are only found at Terra, which returns this year.

The Food & Wine Festival runs now through November 10. TouringPlans recommends visiting on weekdays to avoid what can be very long lines at the food kiosks.

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Observations from Downtown Disney (Fit2Run, Theme Park Tagalongs, New Bridge to Saratoga Springs, Construction Walls)

by on September 9, 2014

Time to head back to Walt Disney World’s shopping and dining district, Downtown Disney (DTD). In my last several photo reports of DtD I have skipped over just how many construction walls have popped up all over the place, so today we’re going to get up close and personal with those, as well as a new bridge connecting DTD to the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. We’ll also check out the Fit2Run store on the West Side, look at some new merchandise at World of Disney, artwork at Art of Disney, collectibles at D-Sreet and give a full report on whether or not Theme Park Tagalongs actually do what they say they do (as I had my doubts when I first saw them). So sit back and get ready to take a tour through the construction capital of the world (and don’t forget that clicking on any picture will bring up the full size version). Ready? Well let’s get to it!

 

DTD_MoreWalls

All roads lead to more walls.

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Disney Dining: Bongos Cuban Cafe at Downtown Disney

by on September 8, 2014

Recently I was at Downtown Disney and had planned to go to the House of Blues to do a photo report. Unfortunately, when photographer Brandon Glover and I got to the restaurant they told us it would be a ten minute wait. This was in the middle of a weekday and the House of Blues was – at best – 30% full. There were even two parties ahead of us waiting to get a table. Acting on principal alone, the thought of waiting 10 minutes to get a table in an empty restaurant with so many other choices nearby seemed beyond ridiculous, so we left to try another venue. A couple steps down from House of Blues lies Bongos Cuban Cafe, so we decided to check it out since neither one of us had ever tried it before.

 

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Bongos Cuban Cafe (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Staying in Tampa for Your Walt Disney World Vacation

by on September 3, 2014

©Scott Wurzel

©Scott Wurzel

A common topic of discussion for Walt Disney World vacation planning is whether to stay on or off-site. Assuming you choose the latter, most look to Orlando area hotels and resorts. This of course gives you good access to Disney World parks and other area attractions, but if you are interested in a more complete Florida vacation, staying in Tampa for your Walt Disney World vacation is a compelling alternative. Because Interstates 75, 275, and 4 form a triangle around the city, most attractions in Central Florida are an hour or less away, and the best beaches in the continental United States are even closer.

Orlando Parks

Walt Disney World (All Parks)
Via: I-4
Travel Time: 75 minutes.

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