In the Parks

The Chase Lounge at Food & Wine for 2014

by on October 20, 2014

signIn all the busy preparations for my Walt Disney World trip and the realities of daily life, I missed this little gem on TouringPlans.com that stated that Chase – a sponsor of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival – would have a lounge for Chase cardholders in The American Adventure pavilion. Imagine my surprise when one of the cast members giving me my sweet pepper hash at the Farm Fresh booth mentioned that I could go to a lounge because of my credit card!

If you look at The American Adventure pavilion, to the right of the main entrance is a side door that leads into a stairwell. Some lovely cast members stand there, and you show them your Chase card. (On the main banner it states that the lounge is for Chase debit and credit cardholders, including Disney Visa members.) Then you follow the signs up to the third floor (there’s also an elevator) and a most wonderful sight beckons.

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Menu Monday: Snacks from the World Showcase: China!

by on October 20, 2014

Epcot's Iconic Spaceship Earth, on our snacks from China Quest

It’s a perfect day to search out snacks! © Disney

It’s Menu Monday! Today we are looking once again at packaged snacks that are available in Epcot’s World Showcase, and we have already visited JapanCanadaUnited Kingdom, France, and Germany. Only a few stops remain on our snacking tour, so let’s check out what’s available as we explore today’s stop, China!

Snack Rules

  • No snacks over $10; preferably less than $5
  • As unusual as possible
  • Something I personally would eat

Let’s see what we can find!

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Extra touches for Celebrations at Walt Disney World

by on October 16, 2014

Once Upon A Time there was a glorious celebration filled with love, laughter, and pixie dust. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create such a memory for yourself or someone you love? Not every celebration can be fairy tale like, but when at Disney the sky is the limit. No matter what you are celebrating, they have options for you. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings, Graduations, and everything in between can be reason for some extra pixie dust on your vacation.

Celebrations Buttons

Courtesy Disney

Courtesy Disney

You’ve probably seen other guests wearing these 3” buttons before. Not being a person who wants to draw attention to myself, I am always a little hesitant about announcing to the world it’s my birthday or anniversary, but it certainly has its perks. The buttons can be picked up at your resort upon check in, or at any vacation planning booth or guest services location within the four parks. These buttons are FREE for the asking and can be personalized. There are currently nine choices available: anniversary, … happily ever after, 1st visit, birthday, family reunion, I’m celebrating…, my magical triumph, just engaged, and just married.

You can receive and wear the buttons 6 months prior to an event, such as your birthday, and up to 6 months after. So, if traveling to WDW two months after your birthday, you can still get a button and proudly wear it around the parks as you have a late celebration of the event.

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Where to Find “Real” Sweet Tea at Disney World

by on October 13, 2014

Starbucks Shaken Sweet Tea

Starbucks Shaken Sweet Tea

If you’re from the South, you know that there’s a big difference between sweetened tea and “real” sweet tea; and if you have been to Disney World, you also know that it can be quite a challenge to find this Southern staple.

Now for those of you who don’t know, “real” sweet tea is Black Tea that is brewed with sugar while it’s still hot, as opposed to adding the sugar later. This process creates a smooth, blended sweet taste and consistency that can’t even compare to fruit flavored tea or the Gold Peak Tea found throughout the parks and resorts.

But if you’re like me, and sweet tea is your go-to refreshment after spending the day trekking through the parks, I have uncovered a few places at Disney World where you can enjoy a Southern-style Sweet Tea!

Starbucks – Starbucks locations have been opening up all throughout Disney World this past year, beginning with the Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom, then Fountain View at Epcot, followed by two locations at Downtown Disney, and soon, a new location at Hollywood Studios. Now I know that Starbucks is all about coffee; but for me, it’s also a go-to for a sweet tea fix. Each Starbucks at Disney World now serves a Shaken Sweet Tea, which has all the flavor of real, Southern Sweet Tea. Plus, the variety of Starbucks locations means that I can grab a sweet tea almost anywhere at Disney World now with prices ranging from the smallest size at $1.99 to the largest at $3.29. Check out the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Bakery’s menu here!

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Cast Member Chronicles: Chef Kevin Marshall

by on October 12, 2014

Photo Credit - Derek Burgan

Crystal Palace

I met Chef Kevin Marshall at a dinner party while visiting Orlando this past September. He is a friend of my Uncle Keith, and was gracious enough to share his culinary talents as our personal chef for the evening. As he prepared a scrumptious feast for us, I interviewed him about his diverse and fascinating career at Walt Disney World.

In June of 1989, he was a man fresh out of tech school. He applied at Walt Disney World, but soon learned there was a hiring freeze for positions he originally desired. Because he had previously managed a Wendy’s restaurant, he was offered a job in food and beverage at The Crystal Palace. As part of the culinary staff, he moved around to different positions, soon cooking alongside professional Disney chefs.

While working at the Crystal Palace, he and two other coworkers were asked to carve a 700 lb pumpkin for Halloween. They were told to carve and hand paint the ‘Blustery Day’ scene from Winnie the Pooh. It took two weeks of overtime and 90 man hours to complete this masterpiece. It was displayed outside the restaurant, surrounded by bales of hay to prevent guests from touching it. One day, a Cast Member saw a little boy ignoring the bales and and putting his hands on the carved image of Pooh. Originally thinking the boy was causing mischief, the Cast Member told the boy to refrain from touching the pumpkin. As it turns out, the little boy was blind. He never knew what Pooh and his friends looked like. From the carving, the boy was able to feel and learn the character shapes. It was his own personal braille pattern. Kevin said it made all his hard work truly worth it and is a memory that touches him to this day.

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Disney Parks Potential: Why The Incredibles Needs A Bigger Presence In Walt Disney World

by on October 3, 2014

Ever feel like some of your favorite Disney characters are underrepresented at Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Me, too! That’s why I’m starting a new series of articles here at TouringPlans Blog called “Disney Parks Potential,” where I’ll take a look at one Disney character or franchise that I feel isn’t being used to its Disney Parks potential (That’s where the name comes from!). From there, I’ll share my ideas on how I think Disney can best integrate these characters into one or more of the parks, which will then probably secure me a sweet job as a Walt Disney Imagineer if all goes according to plan. But enough about my unlikely career goals. Let’s get into my first Disney Parks Potential selection, which is The Incredibles.

IncrediblesOutside of merchandise, character meet and greets and a dance party in Tomorrowland, The Incredibles really don’t have much of a presence in Walt Disney World. For a Pixar film that many would argue is the best of the bunch, this seems like a huge missed opportunity. The need for more of The Incredibles in Disney World is even greater considering that Disney isn’t allowed to utilize Marvel superheroes within the park due to the previous licensing agreement with Universal before Disney acquired Marvel in 2009. Hopefully we’ll get new attractions sooner rather than later now that a much requested sequel to the original film has been announced, but for now my ideas will have to suffice.

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Crowd-Free Quick Service Restaurants

by on September 29, 2014

Crowds are probably the biggest complaint you hear at Walt Disney World; and throughout most of the year, crowds are pretty much unavoidable whether you’re in line for an attraction or to board the Monorail or even to dine at a restaurant. For me, a line out of the door at the nearest park quick service restaurant is the worst! This is especially true when I’ve burned off all the calories from my Gaston’s Tavern Cinnamon Roll eight or nine spins on Pirates of the Caribbean ago. So after much trial and error during my trips to the parks and resorts, I have compiled a list of crowd-free quick service restaurants which offer short lines even during the busier times at Disney World. Take a look!

Boardwalk Bakery - A Glass Slipper Vacation

The BoardWalk Bakery

Tortuga Tavern – Only open seasonally, I can’t say that Tortuga Tavern never gets crowded; however, it is known for shorter lines and lower crowds than its next door restaurant, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn. When lunch rolls around, ignore the line out the door for Pecos Bill’s and make your way over to Tortuga.

Gasparilla Island Grill – The Grand Floridian’s quick service restaurant is one of my personal favorite retreats. This is where I usually go for lunch after spending the morning at the Magic Kingdom; and as many times I’ve visited, I have rarely experienced a crowd. The Gasparilla Island Grill is an airy, spacious restaurant with a great selection of flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, and desserts, as well as gourmet cupcakes! If the weather is nice, I like to head outside for the outdoor seating which offers a view of the resort’s marina and the tip of Cinderella Castle in the distance. So if you’re looking to escape the lines for some fresh variety, this is where you should go.

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Epcot DiveQuest and Epcot Seas Aqua Tour Review

by on September 28, 2014

Photo Credit - Disney

Photo Credit – Disney

My husband’s aunt and uncle are huge Disney fans. Not only have they made countless trips to the Disney parks, they have been on several in-park tours as well. While chatting with Uncle Keith, he told me all about his experiences with both the Epcot DiveQuest and Epcot Seas Aqua Tour, and I thought I would share his adventures with all of you. If you’d like to read a review of the Dolphins in Depth tour, click here.

Let’s dive right in!

DiveQuest is a three hour experience giving you the opportunity to scuba dive in a 5.7 million gallon tank with over 6,000 sea creatures. In order to take part in this experience, you must be 10 years or older and be SCUBA-certified. (If there are actually any scuba-certified 10-year-olds out there, I applaud you.) To make reservations, call 407-939-8687. The cost is $175.

Keith was told to show up at the main entrance of Epcot about 15 minutes beforehand. The only things he was asked to bring were his swimsuit and scuba-certification card. After arriving at the Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion, he was brought backstage to a classroom. Here, Cast Members summarized the entire program, told everyone what was going to happen, and noted how long everything would take.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Loved the 2014 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

by on September 27, 2014

MNSSHP2014_sign

Remember, click on any picture to see it in full size.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Loved the 2014 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. A few weeks ago we covered Villains Unleashed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and came away with more questions than answers for the future of that party. Now we are in Halloween season, and that leads us to another hard ticket event focusing on Disney’s “bad guys,” Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) at the Magic Kingdom. Personally, I think this is the highlight of the Walt Disney World year with guests getting the best bang for their buck. The lines for attractions throughout the park are short or nonexistent, lesser seen characters are out for meet ‘n greets (such as Tarzan and Jane), the Dapper Dans get converted over to the Cadaver Dans, and you get to see a wide variety of costumes worn by guests (with several being almost Disney-level in terms of costuming).

The $64,000 question for most people is simple: is MNSSHP worth the price tag of $62-$71 per person? I think so, and here are six more reasons why….

 

# 6 – Unique Food and Snack Options Throughout the Park

MNSSHP2014_Snacks

Poison Apple and Candy Corn soft serve ice cream from Storybook Treats.

 

MNSSHP has always had a couple interesting food and beverage items exclusive to the party, including the mouth watering pumpkin spiced waffle sundae that made its debut at last year’s party. This year Disney has gone all out with a whole bunch of new treats throughout the park that are available only during MNSSHP nights, including at sit down locations such as Be Our Guest and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. We were looking forward to the candy corn soft serve ice cream available at Storybook Treats, and it did not disappoint, especially with a bunch of candy corn at the bottom of the cup. There was also candy corn cotton candy, which was not as successful. Almost everywhere you turned there was a new treat or drink, including ghost cupcakes at Gaston’s Tavern, candy corn cupcakes at the Main Street Bakery, and a “Buggy Brew” at the Friar’s Nook, which looked like someone went to Diagon Alley and brought back a bunch of Fishy Green Ales. A major thumbs up overall for the variety of items, and let’s hope this trend continues at the upcoming Christmas party in a few weeks.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: September 25, 2014 with Food & Wine

by on September 25, 2014

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! This week we’re spending a blustery morning at Animal Kingdom, making a rare trip to Universal Orlando for a behind the scenes tour, and visiting Epcot to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival. So who’s ready for a super fun week? Let’s get going! :)

I’m always a fan of visiting Animal Kingdom in the rain because the animals love a good shower. However, this weekend was a bit of an exception. Normally rain passes quickly here, but Saturday morning it looked like there was no end in sight! Even the animals seemed to be hunkered down for the storm. The entire first half of the safari all we saw was a sleeping rhino! The poor driver, he kept rattling off facts, but you could tell he was having a tough time. Luckily, a group of giraffes came to our rescue, and the safari improved from there.

Lots of female elephants were out. They love the rain, and I was hoping to catch one taking a bath, but they were all above water munching on some breakfast. Want to see how cute they were? Well, you’ll have to click to read more!

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