Observations

Planning for Spontaneity: Disney World Counter Service Meals

by on July 30, 2014

By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey's Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.

Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank.

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Taking Disney World by Storm

by on July 20, 2014

First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.

That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.

The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook

Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.

So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.

Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.

The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: July 17, 2014

by on July 17, 2014

Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! I have tons of Frozen fun to share, but to start let’s pop over to Epcot. While the weather has been incredibly hot, the skies have been beautiful! Check out those blue skies and fluffy white clouds! 

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I wasn’t just there to admire the skies, though. I’d heard online that personalized bottles of Coke were available for free. It wasn’t something I was excited about but I wanted to check it out for you guys. I got there about 15 minutes before the posted start time thinking I’d beat the rush. As you can see from the photo below, I could not have been more wrong! There must have been 100 people in line! I quickly decided that Coke bottles were not newsworthy and moved on. ;)

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: July 10, 2014

by on July 10, 2014

Hi Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever, and for me it really was amazing! I went to Disneyland!! If you can believe it, we only planned this trip a few days in advance! I did pop over to take a look at the Frozen Summer Fun – Live now that I’m home, but I’ll need a full day in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios to really do it justice. With that in mind, I’m excited to share my trip with you. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled Walt Disney World coverage next week. Let’s start somewhere delicious. This special cupcake was available for the 4th of July. The cake was apple flavored, and it tasted even better than it looks! 

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I wanted the first picture to look generic for the holiday, but now I have to show off Sleeping Beauty’s quaint castle. I love the lush trees all around. I remember when the Magic Kingdom had more trees, before hurricanes came through and took care of them. Did you know you there is a walking tour inside the castle? There are display windows that tell the story of Sleeping Beauty. I took too many photos to share them all. (It’s tough to whittle 1,000 photos down to about 30!) But you should look it up for your next trip.

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: Main Street, U.S.A. Music

by on July 8, 2014

t_logo_fbHave you ever tried to watch a movie without a soundtrack? I have watched behind-the-scenes documentaries of movies and TV shows where they show a dramatic scene or huge action sequence, and it sounds…well…dull. But once that soundtrack is inserted, with the ebbs and flows matching the feelings and actions on screen, suddenly the scene pops!

With this in mind, can you imagine walking down the streets of Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World without any of that music coming out of the speakers? Maybe you’ve never really paid attention to the atmospheric soundtrack, but that music subliminally creeps into your psyche and gears you up for wherever your feet take you!

If there was no music, the only thing you’d hear is the noisy people around you. And let’s be honest: anything that helps keep your mind off of the loud discussions, crying, or crabbiness surrounding you and keeps you in your “magic zone” is a welcome one!

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Observations: June 17, 2014: A Magical Evening

by on June 23, 2014

I hope you’re ready for a magical evening, because earlier this week the rain finally stopped, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the Magic Kingdom! Before we get started I wanted to remind everyone that the new monorail schedule goes into effect in just a few days. Be sure to check it out.

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Actually, maybe the monorails not being around isn’t such a bad thing because it took me almost 40 minutes to get from the parking lot over to the Magic Kingdom gates. I can’t complain, because I did end up in the most magical place on Earth, but I would’ve liked to have been there earlier than 8pm! In any case, you can see this time of year I had plenty of sunlight left to take photos for you. :)

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Observations: June 1, 2014 Lion King Reopening

by on June 5, 2014

Jambo, Everyone! Welcome to our look at the very blustery opening day of the Festival of the Lion King. When FastPass+ were released just a couple days before, I jumped at the chance to see this show return after a six month closure. Unfortunately, I was only able to reserve the last show of the day. Around 1pm I couldn’t wait any longer and decided to head to the park and attempt to get into the 2pm show through the standby line, even though it was drizzling outside. The new theater looks great and fits in perfectly with the rest of Harambe.

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I arrived at the theater at 1:45pm and hopped in the line. It wasn’t as long as I’d expected, but I noticed people were only trickling in a few at a time. When I was closer to the podium, I was advised that only standing room was available for the show. I didn’t remember this from the old theater, so I decided to check it out for you guys. Basically, Disney is allowing guests to stand on the staircases around the seating areas and at the very back of the theater. I was pushed off to one side, so my photos didn’t turn out at all. The below photo will give you an idea what this view is like. Full disclosure: this is an older photo from the previous theater.

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Star Wars Weekends: A Special Edition Observations Post

by on May 30, 2014

DSC_0018Walt Disney World has really ramped up the offerings at Star Wars Weekends this year with new experiences, characters, and celebrity shows. If you’ve never been to Star Wars Weekends, there’s a lot you don’t want to miss and a lot to know before you come. But what’s a day on the ground look like? We went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sunday, May 25 to show you.

First, a little background. Star Wars Weekends are celebrated on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through June 15 at Hollywood Studios. The festivities include a Star Wars themed parade and fireworks show, special character appearances by stars from the movies and television shows, and even special dining. The park fills quickly on these days, and it’s often really hot. If you’re looking to meet lots of characters and get a bunch of photos, get there early. Our trip started around 10:30 a.m. at the gates. The lines weren’t terrible, but that’s likely because most people were already in and seated to wait for the “Legends of the Force” Motorcade and Celebrity Welcome.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort – May 26, 2014 (Margaritaville, Red Oven, Cabana Bay, and more)

by on May 29, 2014

Seth Kubersky recently published the latest addition to PotterWatch, and it takes a look at the newly installed dragon on top of Gringotts Bank, new benches and massive lion heads in front of the London Waterfront, the growing of the Hogsmeade forest, and updates on the latest information concerning the possible opening of Diagon Alley. For this trip to the Universal Orlando Resort, Brandon Glover and I took a look at other new things that have popped up at the parks, CityWalk, and hotel area.

Our first stop was lunch at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. We had tried some of their new items on our last trip to UOR (including the Volcano Burger and insanely large Volcano Nachos) but saw others on the menu that we had to go back for, including this Margarita Flight.

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Margarita Flight (includes Who’s to Blame, BlueBerry Pomegranate, Fins to the Left, and Last Mango in Paris) $16.95

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24 Hr Rock Your Disney Side: A Magical Morning

by on May 23, 2014

Were you ready to Rock Your Disney Side this morning but couldn’t make it to Walt Disney World? I decided to head to the park for opening to make you feel like you were there. :) Forgive me if this is a little shorter than normal, but I’m editing photos quickly to get this to you as soon as possible. Not to mention someone needs quite a long nap so I can Rock My Disney Side all night too!

If you can believe it my alarm went off at 3:45am this morning! The plan was to leave by 4:45am to arrive just a little after 5am. Of course, we ran late but ended up at the monorail by 5:20am. As you can see we reached the Magic Kingdom station just a little after 5:30am.

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Unlike last year, bag check was a zoo. I thought it was much more crowded! I was about to hand my camera bag off to my hubby and run through the no bags line to make sure I was able to get video for you guys, but they opened more bags check stations just before I dashed. Phew!

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