Drinking

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

by on August 27, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the Toothsome Chocolate 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.

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Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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.

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Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The Professor and her robot companion Jacques. (photo courtesy of Attractions Magazine. Attractions also has a great video of Toothsome which you WATCH HERE.)

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Penelope’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Literally. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Times THE SIMPSONS Totally Nailed Being A Theme Park Fan

by on August 13, 2016

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.

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The Simpsons

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.

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Soarin’ Over Springfield.

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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.

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With a swelling score, Soarin’ Over Springfield flies by all the major landmarks in town, including the long running tire fire.

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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.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on August 6, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has five on-site hotels. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (The Poly). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Premier (Portofino Bay Hotel), and Prime Value, which is where Cabana Bay Beach Resort resides.

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Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Cabana Bay is Universal’s first attempt at a lower priced “value” resort, and  is also the first time they have gone after the increasingly popular Family Suite market (led by Disney’s incredible Art of Animation Resort). Unlike Disney’s lower tier hotels (such as the All Stars) Cabana Bay is loaded with amenities. In fact there are so many “extras” at Cabana Bay that many Universal fans consider it their favorite on-site hotel despite it not offering Unlimited Express Pass. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite features of this fantastic resort. So sit back, put on the soundtrack to Mad Men as background music, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – Lazy River

Now, Cabana Bay has two huge pools, a giant slide, several jacuzzis, and a water play area, but what separates it from the pack is everyone’s favorite water feature: a lazy river. The E-Ticket of pools, a relaxing float along the lazy river – with its waterfalls and lush theming – can be just what the doctor ordered. Unlike many lazy rivers, Cabana Bay does not supply tubes to guests (they have no cleaning facility to disinfect them) but they do offer a wide assortment of tubes for pretty much the same price you would pay at WalMart or a pool store. Several of the tubes they offer are Cabana Bay branded and are relatively inexpensive souvenirs. One of the more popular tubes for kids is one that is themed to a car’s tire. There are also several water cannons around the river which kids love to play with.

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Lazy river at Cabana Bay.

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Lazy River at Cabana Bay.

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Water cannons at the Lazy River. There is actually very little water pressure in these, so guests who don’t want to get wet can easily avoid them.

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Wilderness Lodge Review and Construction Update

by on July 20, 2016

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Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts in all of Walt Disney World. As a deluxe resort, though, I admittedly don’t get the chance to stay there as often as I’d like because of the prices. Luckily, with a lower than normal nightly rate due to the ongoing extensive resort renovations coupled with an annual pass discount, the decision to pull the trigger on a four night stay was that much easier.

If you have an upcoming trip to Wilderness Lodge planned or are considering making a reservation before renovations are complete, you’re probably wondering if the construction will negatively impact your trip. I’m happy to report that construction was never a detriment to our trip and I’d happily stay there again in the resort’s current state. With that in mind, think of this article as a a resort review combined with a construction update.

Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Upon arriving at the Wilderness Lodge late at night after heading directly to Hollywood Studios from the airport, I took a few minutes to enjoy the ambiance of the resort’s lobby, which is one of my favorites in all of Disney behind Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Unbeknownst to me, the lobby was also in the midst of construction, which I wouldn’t have noticed if my fiancee, Sarah, didn’t point it out to me. Despite one entire side of the Wilderness Lodge lobby being boarded up on the upper levels, I clearly didn’t think it was that noticeable. See the picture above for yourself.

For those of you that were “lucky” enough to see the Polynesian during its extensive transformation into the Polynesian Village Resort, you may remember that the entire middle portion of the lobby was boarded up on the upper level, which created an almost claustrophobic effect for anyone present. Thankfully, this is nowhere near as bad. While I wouldn’t have recommended guests stay at Polynesian during the aforementioned renovations, I’m happy to say that the lobby at Wilderness Lodge doesn’t suffer from the same effect. Other than the boarded upper levels, the more significant victim of construction is that the main elevators in the lobby are down. While there are still elevators operating down the hallway past Roaring Forks, I can see how this could be an inconvenience to guests.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love EPCOT!

by on July 16, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We Love EPCOT. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. We started at Animal Kingdomand then made our way to Hollywood Studios, but this week we are going to look at a theme park that is unlike any other in America: Epcot.

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EPCOT, the only Walt Disney World park in which the monorail goes into the actual park. (photo by Brian Carey)

Comprised of two distinct sections (Future World and World Showcase,) it’s impossible to compare EPCOT to any other theme park you’ve been to. The term “edutainment” is often used to describe the park because it generally eschewed the traditional model of quick and whimsical children’s rides, and instead focused on long and elaborate dark rides that refused to shoehorn in Disney characters (RIP Horizons.) EPCOT’s mascot Figment became an immediate hit, and certainly remains the most popular character ever designed for a theme park. We’ve seen many changes to EPCOT over the years, but it remains a wonderfully unique park. Yes, we miss Kitchen Kaberet, World of Motion, and the original Journey into Imagination as much as anyone, but there are still plenty of things to love about EPCOT’s current state. What’s our favorite?  Well, sit back, snack on some school bread, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Frozen Ever After

In 2014 we shed our tears with the rest of the #SaveMaelstrom movement, but an amazing thing happened when Walt Disney Imagineering converted the old Norway boat ride into an attraction based around the hit movie Frozen: they hit a monstrous home run. Given the constraints WDI had to work with including – for Disney – a rapid turnaround, Frozen Ever After is a dark ride so good that it would fit in perfectly with the legendary Fantasyland attractions at the Magic Kingdom. The animatronics are amazing (Olaf steals the show), guests get to see all their favorite Frozen characters and hear almost the entire film’s soundtrack, including the contractually obligated “Let It Go.”

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Elsa, Anna, and Olaf in Frozen Ever After. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Sven after getting a triple dog dare. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Queen Elsa. (photo by Brian Carey)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on July 9, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. While we looked at Animal Kingdom last week, today we’re going to turn our gaze over to the park which many insiders agree was created solely as a preemptive strike against the upcoming Universal Studios Florida, the one and only Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (photo by Brian Carey)

Right now Hollywood Studios is in the middle of a transition stage, as two mammoth properties in Star Wars and Pixar’s Toy Story have begun their major expansion inside the park. However, Hollywood Studios still contains some of the most unique dining experiences in any Disney park, amazing streetmosphere, several of WDW’s most thrilling attractions, and two of the best nighttime spectaculars in Florida. In short, we love Hollywood Studios. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, grab a carrot cake cookie , and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Citizens of Hollywood

The dedication plaque for Hollywood Studios (originally known as Disney-MGM Studios) includes a line from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner that reads: “We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.” The dedication also refers to the park channeling classic Hollywood as a state of mind, rather than trying to pinpoint a specific time and place. Nowhere is this more evident than the incredible Citizens of Hollywood who roam the thoroughfare of the park. Completely committed to their particular character, the Citizens of Hollywood are an improvisational comedy troupe who have a lot of fun with guests and every interaction is unique. You’ll find policemen writing tickets, aspiring starlets auditioning for their big role, maintenance crews stumbling around a job, and much more. The Citizens, along with the evocative theming of both Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, combine to wonderfully recreate the Tinseltown none of us ever knew but always imagined. Quality streetsmosphere such as the Dapper Dans at the Magic Kingdom or The Citizens in Hollywood Studios separate Disney from all their competitors, as no one else can even approach this high level of show.

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Citizen of Hollywood, Evie Starlight. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Ben Appetit and Dara Vamp. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Dining values at Walt Disney World

by on July 5, 2016

As much as we all enjoy eating at Walt Disney World, you can find yourself feeling sticker shock when the wait staff brings your bill (unless you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, where the sticker shock comes well before your trip).

But, don’t fret. I’m here to help and to tell you that, yes, dining values can still be found on Disney property. Here are a few of my picks for great meals, snacks and drinks on a budget. This doesn’t mean that these are necessarily the least expensive items, but rather the best items and experience for the price. If you’re on the dining plan, you’ll likely want to go for the most expensive item you can get with your credit, but if you’re paying out-of-pocket for food, this list is for you.

Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your picks for dining values.

Table Service Appetizer: Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments at Sanaa, $13.99

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

This one lives up to its reputation as a unique, filling appetizer that will satisfy multiple people. First, Sanaa, the table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village, is an outstanding value overall with unique cuisine, beautiful decor and animals wandering just outside the restaurant. The bread service is simple in concept, but complex in flavor. You get a variety of freshly made naan bread to enjoy with dipping sauces arranged in order of spiciness. One version of the bread service comes with three sauces, but we recommend getting the full nine, which is a mere $2.50 upcharge. This is also one dish where the restaurant actually increased the portion. In 2014, when the photo above was taken, we were given three pieces of naan, but when we returned a year later, it came with five pieces of naan, which makes this an appetizer that can be comfortably shared among a table of four.

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TouringPlansTV: Quick Date Ideas at Walt Disney World + Video

by on May 31, 2016

photo - touringplans.comWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Walt Disney World is a wonderful vacation destination for people of all ages. There are endless possibilities when it comes to enjoying time with your family.

Now every once in a while, you and your partner may find yourselves alone for a few “kid-free” hours.

What to do with all this extra free time?

Have no fear! With the help of family and friends, I’ve provided a list of quick date ideas to help you and your significant other make the most out of your time together.

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SATURDAY SIX Looks at TOWN CENTER in Disney Springs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

by on May 21, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Town Center in Disney Springs. The great Jim Hill often says about Disney Cruise Line, “You start building a new ship in one economy, and you finish it in a completely different economy.” The same can be said about building things at Walt Disney World except for one thing, it takes even longer. Years ago Downtown Disney was – to be kind – a mess. The parking situation was the absolute worst in Orlando. The two main areas (West Side and The Marketplace) were bookends to a ghost town once Pleasure Island closed in 2008. Finally, in 2013 Disney bit the bullet and announced the area would be completely refurbished and rebranded as Disney Springs.

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Welcome to Disney Springs. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Disney Springs had some growing pains during the first couple years, but it finally turned the corner in 2015 when the first of two parking garages opened along with The Landing (which includes The BOATHOUSE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC among other venues.) On May 15, 2016 the final phase of Disney Springs began to open with the launch of Town Center. Many guests gave up going to Downtown Disney during the construction and they will not recognize the place once they come back. In the words of Tony Stark in the recent smash hit Civil War, “You’re in dire need of an upgrade, systemic, top to bottom, 100 point restoration” and that’s exactly what Disney fans got. Today we’re going to look at our favorite parts of Town Center, along with some things that could be a bit better. Let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Area Looks Beautiful at Night

Downtown Disney was many things over the years, but you’re probably not going to find too many people who thought that it was “pretty.” With the opening of Town Center, Disney Springs is now aesthetically pleasing to the eye, both during the day and night. The water features and lighting package of Town Center make it a wonderful place to spend time in as the actual springs are gorgeous.

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Morimoto Asia as seen from The Town Center. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Town Center at night. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Drinks You Must Try At Disney Springs

by on May 14, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at 6 Drinks You Must Try At Disney Springs. Tomorrow, May 15th, is a gigantic day in the evolution of Disney Springs. The Town Center will officially be opening with a whole bunch of new restaurants and retail stores. The Lime parking garage will also start accepting guests, joining the Orange garage, dedicated ramps from I-4, and multiple pedestrian bridges that have been built over the last several years. Disney Springs, which was once the absolute worst place to get to on Disney property (and there wasn’t even a close second) has now become the easiest. We here at the SATURDAY SIX want to make a toast to this momentous occasion, and to do so we’re going to take a look at some drinks you need to try next time you go to Disney Springs. So sit back, remember to always use a coaster, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 –  P37 Swirl (Sangria Margarita) at Paradiso 37

The 37 in Paradiso 37‘s name references the 37 countries that make up North, Central, and South America. During the last couple years that Disney Springs has expanded, Paradiso 37 has also increased in size with a large amount of indoor and outdoor seating. You’re going to find a very large drink menu to choose from, but the restaurant’s specialties are tequila, sangrias, and the “coldest beer in the world.” One of their signature drinks is the P37 Swirl, which combines a frozen margarita mixed with frozen sangria. Very tasty, with neither drink overpowering the other, making it a solid choice while dealing with the Florida summer.

Our frozen P37 Margarita swirled with our famous Red Sangria. $10

P37 Swirl at Paradiso 37 in Disney Springs

P37 Swirl. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Now, longtime SATURDAY SIX readers know we certainly weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to try a unique beer. Pardiso 37 has the P37 Lager, which is served at 29 degrees Farenheit (for our non-American readers, that’s like minus 100 degrees Celsius, give or take.) It’s actually a great tasting beer. Not sure how much the temperature adds to it, but it’s a neat gimmick.

P37 Lager in Disney Springs.

P37 Lager, the coldest beer in Orlando. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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P37 Lager, the official beer of Mr. Freeze, (photo by Brandon Glover)

While watching us act like lunatics taking pictures of beer (only the best for you, Dear Reader) a manager showed up with a trio of drinks to try. These included the Prickly Pear Margarita (Don Julio silver tequila, prickly pear syrup, fresh lime juice, and sour mix,) Red Sangria (Premium red wine and brandy combined with pomegranate, guava, and cranberry juice) and White Sangria (Sauvignon Blanc wine, Club Caribe pineapple rum combine with mango and orange). Because of how many tequilas and sangrias that Paradiso 37 has, it’s your go to place at WDW for either.

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Margarita and sangrias (photo by Brandon Glover)

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