Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: Six Outrageous Food Items at Walt Disney World

by on April 19, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Top Six Outrageous Food Items at Walt Disney World. Regular readers of this column know that we like our theme park food, and the more outrageous it is, the better. While Disney has its fair share of fine dining (Victoria & Albert’s, California Grill, and Jiko among others), it also has many food items that would make your cholesterol and blood sugar rise just by looking at them. Today we are going to look at six of our favorites…

# 6 – The Doh-Bar (Cookes of Dublin)

Downtown Disney is our first stop, and while Raglan Road is the critics’ darling, Cookes of Dublin next door has one of our favorite snacks on property, the ‘Doh bar.’ Picture this: a Snickers bar is dipped into donut batter, deep fried, and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Basically, a work of art that ranks somewhere in between Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Michaelangelo’s David.

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The ‘Doh bar” – Donut Battered Snickers

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SATURDAY SIX: Six “Secrets” of Universal’s Port of Entry

by on April 12, 2014

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The Pharos Lighthouse

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six “Secrets” of Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry. One of my favorite places at either of Universal’s two theme parks doesn’t have a single attraction or show. Port of Entry is the first official “island” you experience when walking into Islands of Adventure and I consider it the best “Main Street” of any theme park in North America. The level of detail throughout transports guests into a world that never existed, yet somehow feels completely real.

The journey through this exotic land starts before you even hit the park, as the impressive Pharos Lighthouse stands tall outside the gates and the fantastic Call to Adventure theme plays in the background. As far as park icons go, the Lighthouse is right up there with Spaceship Earth and Cinderella Castle in my list of personal favorites and the background music never ceases to thrill me. Once through the turnstiles, guests pass by the archway which promises “The Adventure Begins” and they generally make a beeline to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or over to the Hulk Coaster and Spider-Man at Marvel Superhero Island. With this edition of the Saturday Six we are going to make a plea to you, Dear Reader, to slow down on your race to the rest of the park and take a moment to take in the immersive land Universal Creative has delivered with Port of Entry.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 5, 2014

SS_dayThis week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. When Universal broke ground in January of 2013 for its first ever value resort, not too much was known about what guests would get. There were pieces of concept art, but in the theme park world those have to be taken with a grain of salt as they can often be more of an artistic interpretation than reality. For example, I’m relatively confident the Disney Springs we end up getting won’t exactly look like the one we were promised. However, at a fan meet for the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast last year I was in the audience for a presentation by Russ Dagon, the project director for Cabana Bay. Russ talked about the new things Cabana Bay would be bringing to the Universal family of hotels (including a lower price point and the first ever family suites) but stressed that the concept art we were looking at was pretty much photo realistic. Turns out he was right. Everything in the concept art was there when I walked into Cabana Bay on its grand opening (Monday, March 31, 2014): the outrageously large lobby area, the gigantic representation of an old style diving platform (which houses a water slide in the pool area), and even the ’50s and ’60s era cars outside the front of the resort for photo ops. After walking around Cabana Bay, it became apparent there were a lot of things this resort brought with it that we weren’t told about ahead of time. Today we present six of these surprises…

# 6 – Sonic Fill

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Walt Disney World took a lot of criticism last year when it replaced its old refillable mug program with Rapid Fill. Using an RFID chip inside the mug (or paper cup), Rapid Fill only dispenses soda on days that guests have paid for. Universal hotels have never had a refillable mug program, so it was definitely a surprise to see the debut of Sonic Fill at Cabana Bay. Sonic Fill works exactly like Rapid Fill: you pay for the amount of time you want (from $8.99 for one day up to $17.99 for length of stay), and you can use the mug to fill up at any drink station in Bayliner Diner. The great surprise is that not only does Cabana Bay have the regular Coke soda stations we are used to seeing at Disney resorts, but it has 8 Coke Freestyle machines in the Bayliner Diner and 2 more upstairs at Galaxy Bowl. These Coke Freestyle machines can be used with Sonic Fill and promise over 100 drink choices.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Epcot’s 2014 Flower & Garden Festival

by on March 29, 2014

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Peter Pan and Hook topiaries at Flower & Garden
(photo by Brandon Glover)

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Reasons We Love Epcot’s 2014 Flower and Garden Festival. While there are a lot of annual events in Orlando that are near and dear to us for varying reasons (the wild party atmosphere of Mardi Gras, the scares of Halloween Horror Nights, the incredible parade and fireworks of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the food and, uh, wine of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival), one event stands out from all the rest because it stresses the fact that we should - literally - stop and smell the roses.

That’s right, Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is back, and this year just may be the best yet. What really makes Flower & Garden special is how amazing it is just to walk around Epcot and take it all in. Most events in theme parks are limited in the size and scope of their overall effect on the individual park, but you can see the beauty and tranquility of Flower & Garden everywhere you go.

This week’s Saturday Six is going to look at six of our favorite parts of this year’s festival, and we’re going to start with one of our favorite subjects: food.

 

# 6 – The Outdoor Kitchens

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Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries, Lotus House ($4.25)

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SATURDAY SIX: Our Six Favorite Jokes in Universal’s Springfield U.S.A.

by on March 22, 2014

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Contrary to popular belief, this is not a sign for the FP+ kiosks at WDW

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Our Six Favorite Jokes in Universal’s Springfield U.S.A. Universal Studios Florida has received a lot of attention over the past two years. The park fixed many of its most glaring weaknesses by adding a new daytime parade, a nighttime spectacular, a new E-Ticket in Transformers: The Ride 3D, an incredible family ride in Despicable Me: Minion Mayhemand of course will shortly be debuting the first ever park-to-park attraction with the Hogwarts Express that will travel to what could possibly be the most immersive land in the history of theme parks with Diagon Alley (keep up to date on all the Potter construction with Seth Kubersky’s PotterWatch articles.)

And while all of this is no less than exciting, throughout all these developments one area of the park has quietly become one of our favorite places in Orlando: Springfield U.S.A. The Simpsons Ride has been a favorite of many since its debut in 2008, with the television show’s trademark sarcastic wit taking its aim at the world of theme parks. Now the area is a completely developed land with a second attraction, a Photo Connect opportunity, elaborately themed carnival games, an outdoor bar in Duff Gardens, and some of the best quick service food items in any theme park including Fast Food Boulevard, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, and Lard Lad Donuts.

But what makes Springfield U.S.A. stand out is the clever use of jokes and humor throughout the entire land. Today we’re going to look at our six favorite bits.

# 6 – Kwik-E-Mart Merchandise Signs

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The Kwik E Mart says what we’ve all been thinking since 1971

When you step into the Kwik-E-Mart, the gift store for The Simpsons Ride, you would be best served by walking around and noticing all the details throughout the store. Our favorite gags are the clever signs above some of the merchandise saying things like, “C’mon, if you ran a store I’d buy your junk!, “Satisfaction begrudgingly guaranteed,” and “Today’s merchandise at tomorrow’s prices!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade

by on March 15, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Reasons We Love the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade. Making its debut on March 9, 2014, the new “3 o’clock parade” at the Magic Kingdom sets the bar for Walt Disney World daytime parades. With elaborate floats, stunning costumes, and filled with many of our favorite Disney characters, the Festival of Fantasy Parade immediately joins the list of all time great Disney parades including Mickey’s Boo to You!, SpectroMagic, Tapestry of Nations, and Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. It is going to be hard to cut the list down, but today we’re presenting six of our favorite things about Festival of Fantasy…

# 6 – Anna and Elsa

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Anna and Elsa

Frozen is not just a hit, it’s a certified smash and fresh off huge wins at the Academy Awards for Best Animation Feature and Best Song (for “Let it Go“). The main characters of the film – sisters Anna and Elsa – were added to the Princess Garden Float with their snowman friend Olaf. Disney reacting this fast to a character’s popularity is almost unprecedented but definitely needed after seeing the huge lines Anna and Elsa were drawing to their meet-and-greet at Epcot’s Norway pavilion. In fact, not long after putting Anna and Elsa into the Festival of Fantasy parade, Disney also announced the pair would be relocated to Princess Fairytale Hall at the Magic Kingdom.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six “Secrets” of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

by on March 8, 2014

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Animation Hall’s Chandelier

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six “Secrets” of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Originally conceived to be the second half of Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Art of Animation opened in May of 2012 and was centered around four of Disney’s most popular animated movies: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars. Labeled a value resort but containing theming that even Disney’s deluxe hotels have a hard time competing with, “AoA” brought with it a completely new experience for guests from check-in to dining to everything else. This is my favorite Disney hotel, and I have stayed in all four wings. The staff of the Saturday Six has put together six “secrets” of the resort that you should check out on your next stay…

# 6 – Signed Sketches on Animation Hall’s Chandelier

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A Cars sketch by the director of Cars, John Lasseter

 

Your Art of Animation experience begins in Animation Hall. This is the main check in lobby and also connects to the Ink & Paint Shop (the resort’s gift shop), Pixel Play Arcade, and Landscape of Flavors (the food court). At the end of the lobby and in front of the Ink & Paint Shop is an amazing structure that looks like it is exploding with drawings. If you look closely, four of these drawings have a little something special – signatures. There is a Cars sketch by John Lasseter, a drawing of the turtle Crush by Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton, a picture of Ariel and Prince Eric signed by Little Mermaid co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements, and a drawing of Ariel, herself, that is signed by her voice actor, Jodie Benson.

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SATURDAY SIX: Our Six Favorite Snacks at Universal’s Mardi Gras

by on March 1, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Our Six Favorite Snacks at Universal’s Mardi Gras. Last week we wrote about the reasons we think Universal’s Mardi Gras Grand Celebration is one of our favorite events on the theme park calendar. Great live music, a terrific parade and a fun party atmosphere combine to make a unique experience at the park, but we here at the Saturday Six look forward to one thing more than anything else….the food! This week we’re going to look at six of our favorite snacks that come out during the party.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version. Also, for a comprehensive run-down of the event and a list of all the upcoming dates, check out Seth Kubersky’s Complete Guide to Mardi Gras 2014. But enough of that jibber jabber, on with the food!

# 6 – Beignets

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Beignets

If you are going to do a New Orleans-style party right, you better have beignets. Topped with enough powdered sugar to put you straight into a diabetic coma, this Mardi Gras offering brings a little bit of deep fried Louisiana love to Orlando. If anyone tells you there is something better than snacking on beignets while watching the Mardi Gras Parade, they’ve clearly been bewitched by Dr. Facilier. ($4.25)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons To Check Out Universal’s Mardi Gras 2014

by on February 22, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Reasons To Check Out Universal’s Mardi Gras Grand Celebration. The Universal Orlando Resort knows how to throw a party and Mardi Gras is their wildest celebration of the year. Universal’s Mardi Gras brings in big name musical acts, authentic New Orleans food, and a party atmosphere like no other and on top of it all the price is included in the price of regular admission.  If you need more reasons than that to attend, here are an additional six.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version.

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Daughtry (photo courtesy of Chad Evetts)

# 6 – The Concerts

The music acts that Universal books for the Mardi Gras Grand Celebration are second-to-none in the theme park concert world.  While the Epcot Flower Power series of concerts will be featuring acts like Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Village People and Chubby Checker – people  you may have literally heard a thousand times before – this year’s Mardi Gras concert lineup includes a mix of classic and contemporary artists. Daughtry, Barenaked Ladies, Weezer and The Roots are just a few of the musical acts that will be headlining this year’s event. There’s also country stars like Gavin Degraw, classic rock groups like Foreigner and Lynyrd Skynryd, and even a Christian rock band with Skillet. Whether it’s Nelly, Collective Soul, or Huey Lewis and the News, you can pretty much count on Universal delivering an act you want to see perform.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Be Our Guest Restaurant

by on February 15, 2014

DSC_1118This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Love Be Our Guest Restaurant. With the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train inching towards completion later this year, today we’re going to look at what can be considered the “E-Ticket” of New Fantasyland, Be Our Guest Restaurant. While the Magic Kingdom is the gold standard of the theme park world for meet and greets, dark rides, parades, night time spectaculars and even themed bathrooms,  one area that we all agree needs some improvement is the quality dining. Be Our Guest not only starts to fill that void, but you could make a strong case that it is the best themed restaurant inside any theme park. The Beast’s castle “weenie” can be seen from far away and the closer you get the more impressive everything becomes.

Today we’re going to look at six reasons we love Be Our Guest and why it’s our favorite restaurant experience in WDW. We should add that this article represents the dinner experience, as the lunch experience can be quite different. Some would argue you can get much better value with the lunch menu, but we’ll save that debate for another day.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version.

# 6 – The Beast

Our host for the evening is Beast himself, and throughout the night he does a walkthrough of the three dining rooms (always to a round of applause), and is afterward available for pictures at his study when you’re done with your meal. The design work on this character is impressive and watching him walk through the restaurant is fun. The photo-op at the end of the meal is a nice cherry on top of the sundae and like many of the recent Disney meet n’ greets, the setting for the picture is gorgeous.

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