Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s BoardWalk Resort

by on June 27, 2015

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 Port Orleans French Quarter, 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. 

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Disney’s BoardWalk.

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.

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The BoardWalk’s stunning hippocampus electrolier. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love JURASSIC PARK at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 20, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love JURASSIC PARK at the Universal Orlando Resort. With Jurassic World becoming a worldwide smash (the first film ever to take in a half a billion dollars in its opening weekend. To put that number in perspective, the last Jurassic Park film, Jurassic Park III, made $368M in it’s entire six month theatrical run) we figured it is high time to cover one of our favorite areas in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Jurassic Park. While the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man has been the critic’s darling since the day it opened in 1999 and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter completely changed Orlando tourism when it debuted in 2010, Jurassic Park has always been my favorite “island” in the park. Why? Several reasons, and today we’re going to count them down for you starting with….

# 6 – Jurassic Park River Adventure

Jurassic Park River Adventure hits a lot of great beats for me and it all starts with the attraction being a boat ride. From the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom to Living with the Land and Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros in Epcot, if it’s a boat ride, it’s probably one of my favorite attractions in the park. Our journey on JP River Adventure begins by passing through the iconic Jurassic Park gates and proceeds to give a Jungle Cruise-like leisurely ride while enjoying some larger-than-life dinosaurs. As theme park rides will do, “something goes terribly wrong” and we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a raptor attack and surprise, you’re NOT the alpha. In fact you just may be dinner. It is during the second half of the ride when the tension gets amped up, highlighted by the incredible T-Rex animatronic and a huge drop to cap off the ride.

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Splash down at the Jurassic Park River Adventure. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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“Open Paddock 9!” (photo by Jeff Kyle)

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Most Interesting, Most Unusual, and Strangest Souvenirs in EPCOT’s World Showcase

by on June 13, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Most Interesting, Most Unusual, and Strangest Souvenirs in Epcot’s World Showcase. After last week’s article on the Six Best Snacks in World Showcase, we’re going stay in the same area and look at another underrated part of Epcot; all the unique gift shops. This is the one theme park in Orlando, if not the world, where you will not find the same old stuff. Outside of the Norway Pavilion, it’s pretty much impossible to find any Frozen merchandise and you will have to go to Future World if you want the Disney Parks merchandise you will usually see at the other parks, Disney resorts, or Disney Springs. It’s a breath of fresh air and there are so many incredible items throughout World Showcase. However today we are not going to look at those. Instead we are going to look in the nooks and crannies and find the six most interesting, unusual, and strangest items starting with….

# 6 – Panda Sitting On a Toilet (China Pavilion)

While World Showcase is filled my with great shopping experiences, by far and away my favorite area to browse is at the Yong Feng Shangdian Department Store in the China Pavilion. It is a gigantic store packed with some of the coolest and most unusual in all of WDW. Wall of actual swords? CHECK. Intricately designed wooden ships? CHECK. Jade sculptures? Gorgeous Chinese dresses? Paper fans and chop sticks? All here. This is a store you could spend the better part of an hour just walking through and checking everything out. It also may contain the most amount of panda related items in Florida. Panda stuffed animals, keychains, coffee mugs, earmuffs… you name it, this store has it. The greatest of all panda items is this Panda Siting on a Toilet toy. Who knows why it could possibly exist, but aren’t you glad it does?

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Panda has to be reading a collection of the SATURDAY SIX, right? Only thing that makes sense.

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Wait a second. SOLAR POWERED?! Now I’m going to have to buy this to see exactly what it does. Will report back Dear Readers.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Snacks in Epcot’s World Showcase

by on June 6, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Snacks in Epcot’s World Showcase. By now you know we love theme park snacks. From the iconic Mickey Bar and Dole Whip at the Magic Kingdom to the outrageous Brain Freezin’ D’oh-nut Sundae in Springfield USA, we can’t get enough. Today we are going to the holy land of all dining in Walt Disney World, Epcot’s World Showcase. Yes, you know about the incredible restaurants like Via Napoli and bars such as La Cava del Tequila, but we are going to take a look at the underrated dining aspect of World Showcase: the snack department. Everyone has their favorite, so let’s start off the list with….

# 6 – Hand Twisted Pretzel – (Germany)

No offense to the Mickey pretzel but this is THE pretzel to get in Walt Disney World. A hand twisted pretzel in Germany is in fact almost the perfect snack because it’s; A) Easy to eat while touring the park B) Big enough to share C) Is something almost everyone in your party can enjoy D) Goes great with an ice cold beer. Good news on the last point because as luck would have it Germany is also one of the best places to get a beer in World Showcase. How convenient! While we recommend the Oktoberfest brew, you can’t go wrong with the Grapefruit Beer either.

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Pretzel and beer? Who wouldn’t be smiling. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Hand twisted pretzel and Altenmunster Oktoberfest. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: How To Survive Disney’s STAR WARS WEEKENDS In Six Easy Steps

by on May 30, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special one for you, Dear Reader, as it is an invaluable guide that will show you How to Survive Star Wars Weekends in Six Easy Steps. Now of course we are huge fans of the various events at Walt Disney World including Flower & Garden and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but Star Wars Weekends is close to our heart because of how much we love those films. In fact, the greatest Christmas gift Your Humble Author ever received was Han Solo’s blaster. However, this annual event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can be challenging if you don’t know what you are getting into ahead of time. So today we are going to give you the road map to success in navigating Star Wars Weekends in six easy steps, starting with…

# 6 – Watch the original Star Wars films before Disney adds even more stuff to them

Not surprisingly, Star Wars Weekends is filled with references from the original Star Wars trilogy, the three prequels, and even the Clone Wars cartoons (which has actually had six seasons of episodes despite the fact we don’t know anyone who has watched it.) You’ll want to watch the movies so you are familiar with the main characters, but also get a chance to see the films before Disney makes even more changes to them.

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Jack Sparrow added into Return of the Jedi. (photo by Matt Cleary)

You see, Star Wars fans have had to watch their beloved films be tinkered with for years, and almost always in a frustrating way (Greedo shoots first in A New Hope, young Annakin added to end of Jedi.) However Disney fans have had to sit by as their company became the worldwide leader in unwatchable sequels (we’re still waiting to see if anyone can explain the plot to Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End or tell us why Little Mermaid 3 and Brother Bear 2 exist.) Now that Disney has bought Star Wars we may see the darkest of all timelines come true, Disney changing the original films.

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Disney plans on being as subtle as possible with it’s changes, including the Olaf MagicBand worn by Han Solo. (photo by Matt Cleary)

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Adult Drinks at Walt Disney World

by on May 23, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Adult Drinks at Walt Disney World. Who among us doesn’t enjoy an adult libation from time to time, especially on days when Anna & Elsa still have a 40 minute wait at 3 in the morning? While we at the SATURDAY SIX offices respect those who attempt an Ultimate Touring Plan to see every attraction, show, parade and live performance at a Disney Park, you’re more likely to find us attempting to drink around World Showcase or figuring out the best resort to stay at while attempting a WDW bar tour.

We looked at every bar and lounge across WDW property and came up with the list of best adult drinks. The only venue not eligible is the new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, because they will be getting an article devoted entirely to them in the near future (we’re still in the honeymoon phase, and the Nautilus, Shrunken Zombie Head, Rum Flight, Tropical Dark & Stormy, Krakatoa Punch and Polynesian Pearl would fill up the list.)  With that out of the way let’s begin the drink countdown, starting with….

# 6 – Grand Marnier Orange Slush (France Pavilion, Epcot)

Our first stop after crossing the International Gateway at Epcot is Les Vins des Chefs de France kiosk for a Grand Marnier Orange Slush. Similar in taste to an orange sorbet with just the right mix of Grand Marnier and Grey Goose vodka, this slush is absolutely delicious and the perfect drink during a hot touring day at Epcot.

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Gran Marnier Slush. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside

by on May 16, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside. Earlier this year we took a trip to Port Orleans French Quarter, one of our favorite hotels at Walt Disney World, and today we will be looking at French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Formerly known as Dixie Landings, Riverside’s theme comes from the tranquil scenery of Mississippi River communities and lavish opulence of pre-Civil War Louisiana.

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Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside.

While one of French Quarter’s biggest selling points is the resort’s small size and intimate feel, Riverside goes the other way and is a huge resort with a ton of stuff to do. Let’s face it, sometimes more is more, and although Riverside is sprawling it is actually one of the most relaxing areas on Disney property.  From horse-drawn carriage rides to evening campfires to six (yes, six) pools, Riverside has a lot of reasons to love it, and today we’re counting down the top six starting with…

# 6 – The Southern Charm of Riverside’s Theming

While French Quarter focuses on the city feeling of New Orleans, Riverside takes a step back and puts a spotlight on the rural areas of antebellum Louisiana. The overall level of theming is much closer to what you will find at deluxe Disney’s hotels like the Polynesian Village Resort or Wilderness Lodge than a fellow moderate like Coronado Springs.  The Riverside Mill’s 32 foot working water wheel is a standout feature, but it is all the little details which will pull you into the resort.

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Riverside Mill (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Horses play a prominent theme throughout property. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Meet and Greets at the Magic Kingdom

by on May 9, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Meet and Greets at the Magic Kingdom. Let’s face it, meet and greets have become an important part of the vacation experience for many guests. Gone are the days when you could randomly bump into characters roaming the parks as the meet and greets of today have become attractions themselves, with some lines equaling even the best rides and shows in the parks. With elaborate sets, must-do character dining, and even special events based around the opportunity to meet characters, nobody does meet and greets better than Walt Disney World. Today we are going to look at the very best meet and greets at the Magic Kingdom, along with a little advice from an expert on meeting characters, Kenny the Pirate. The rankings are based on several factors including; theming of the meet and greet area, guest interaction with the characters, and a pinch of Je ne sais quoi (the indefinable magic that some meet and greets deliver which stays with you and your family for years, if not a lifetime.) Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, and with that out of the way let’s start with…

# 6 – The Little Mermaid (Ariel’s Grotto)

Disney hit a home run with New Fantasyland delivering a great coaster with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a wonderful dark ride with Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, and the first “E-Ticket” dining experience with Be Our Guest Restaurant. They also over-delivered in the area of meet and greets with the hilarious Gaston (who we just may see later in the list,) Enchanted Tales with Belle (including the stunning Lumiere animatronic and the how did they do that Magic Mirror,) and Ariel’s Grotto.

The Grotto is located right next to the Mermaid attraction and personifies what Disney can bring to the table. Walking into the area guests will receive the same wow factor they got when seeing the elaborate queue of Under the Sea or the impressive Ursula figure during the ride. This is a setting befit of a Disney princess.Guests are asked to sit next to Ariel on her clam shell bench, and this provides an intimate experience you just don’t get at many meet and greets. Like her movie counterpart, this Ariel will comment on unusual items guests may have that wouldn’t be found in the water, along with having age appropriate conversations with each and every guest. This is your only opportunity to meet Ariel outside of a dining package, and be sure to ask how her friends Flounder and Sebastian are doing!

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The Little Mermaid. (photo by Jackie Laughters)

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Ariel’s Grotto. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons You Need to Check Out Busch Gardens Tampa

by on May 2, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons You Need to Check Out Busch Gardens Tampa. While we are generally focused on Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort, we often need to take a quick break and remind everyone that there are a lot of other incredible things to do while in Orlando on your family vacation. They say a rising tide raises all boats, and with both WDW and Universal doing record business Orlando is booming with companies trying to get a slice of the tourist pie. Stalwart parks such as Gatorland and SeaWorld are staples of Central Florida, and you’ve probably seen publicity for some of the new kids on the block including the Orlando Eye and SEA LIFE aquarium. There’s also attractions not far away from O-Town that are well worth your time and money including Legoland in Winter Haven and the Kennedy Space Center near Port Canaveral. 

Today we are going to take a drive on I-4 West over to Tampa and check out possibly the most underrated attraction in all of Florida, Busch Gardens, and give you six reasons you need to check it out on your next vacation, starting with… 

# 6 – The Animals

There is a reason Disney built Animal Kingdom, and it was because it wanted to keep people on WDW property instead of driving to Busch Gardens. For both parks, being able to see and interact with exotic animals is a big selling point. While Animal Kingdom has upwards of 2,000 animals, Busch Gardens Tampa has over 12,000. Elephants, cheetahs, gorillas, rhinos, and giraffes are the headliners but there are hundreds of species throughout the park. Not only are there much more animals, in general you are also going to be closer to them than at Animal Kingdom, getting a more intimate experience.

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Feeding the animals at Busch Gardens Tampa. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Cheetah. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six MORE “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on April 25, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six  MORE “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort. One of our favorite parts of both Universal and Walt Disney World are all the wonderful details that make these fully immersive theme parks stand out from everyone else. In our first look at Universal Easter eggs, we saw a pair of actual Mickey ears on Twister….Ride It Out!, the Jaws references in Diagon Alley, Dennis Nedry’s Barbasol can in Jurassic Park and more. Today we are going to look at six more details that even guests who has been to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure several times may not have noticed. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, keep your head on a swivel, and let’s start counting down…

# 6 – Back to the Future’s Doc Brown in The Simpsons Ride queue (USF)

There is absolutely nothing we like better in new attractions then when they pay tribute to the ones that they replaced. We love the hidden Nautilus in the rock work of Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid at the Magic Kingdom, referencing the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride that was formerly in the area. Revenge of the Mummy in Universal Studios Florida has several images of King Kong during the ride, a tribute to Kongfrontation. In 2008, The Simpsons Ride replaced Back to the Future: The Ride, but it actually created a backstory for the change and put it inside the queue.

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Doc Brown and the “Institute of Future Technology” (facade for Back to the Future: The Ride)

If you stand in line for The Simpsons Ride, you will notice televisions throughout playing classic clips from The Simpsons from episodes in which the family went to theme parks. But mixed in with the old videos are several pieces of new material, including one clip explaining how the Institute of Future Technology (the facade for Back to the Future: The Ride) became Krustyland (the facade for The Simpsons Ride.)

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