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.
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.
Riverside Mill (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Horses play a prominent theme throughout property. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the TopSix 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!
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.
Feeding the animals at Busch Gardens Tampa. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
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.
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.)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World. Nobody enjoys eating at “The World” more than us. From outrageous snacks like the King Cupcake at Pop Century, to Disney food trucks, to table service restaurants like Bongo’s Cuban Cafe or ‘Ohana, food may have actually replaced attractions in what we look forward to the most on our Disney vacations. Can you blame us though? WDW has some of the greatest restaurants you will ever go to, with several one-of-a-kind experiences that you will never get back at home. So today we’re going to take a look the six most unique dining experiences on property, starting with…
# 6 – Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
The Animal Kingdom Lodge just may be our favorite resort at Disney, and one of the biggest reasons is how much we love Sanaa. Located in Kidani Village, this is the only restaurant at AKL that has a view looking out into the beautiful savanna and all the animals. The decor is fantastic, with the chairs having backs echoing tribal shields and lighting fixtures based on nests that Weaver birds would make in Africa. The dining room floor has beautiful representations of acacia trees while the entire room is filled with art, which is appropriate since Sanaa is the Swahili word for artwork. Sanaa is hands-down one of the most gorgeous restaurants in Orlando.
The famous Sanaa bread service while seated next to the Savanah. (photo by Brandon Glover)
There are plenty of places at Walt Disney World to get chicken fingers and hamburgers, but Sanaa (along with other AKL venues such as Jiko and Boma) is where you can expand your culinary palate and try dishes you normally wouldn’t. It is worth making an ADR for Sanaa based on their bread service alone. There are five different types of Naan and you can choose up to 9 accompaniments to go with the bread. From a gamut running sweet to spicy, there is a dip for everyone in your party.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Events That Will NOT Be On Any Theme Park Calendar. We here at the Saturday Six offices are huge fans of the special events that take place in Orlando. Whether it’s admiring the topiaries at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival, screaming during Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, or enjoying Santa and the rest of the Christmas parade during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, there seems to be something to enjoy every part of the year. But today we’re going to go in the other direction. We’re going to take a look at six events which we won’t be seeing anytime soon, starting with…
# 6 – Night of Juggalo at the Magic Kingdom
Each year Disney holds its Christian music celebration, Night of Joy, in the Magic Kingdom, but what about other types of music? What about the Insane Clown Posse? The Night of Juggalo event would be a weekend celebration that would totally change up the Magic Kingdom. During the party, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique would offer tattoos and piercings with their offerings. Instead of LeFou’s Brew, Gaston’s Tavern would serve Faygo from its taps. And the Dapper Dans would use their four part harmony to sing tunes from the songbook of Psychopathic Records. It’s an event that no party goer will ever forget, no matter how many counselling sessions they go to.
The Insane Clown Posse playing in front of Cinderella Castle. WHOOP WHOOP! (And seriously, how DO magnets work?!)
With Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J in charge, rules will be a bit more “relaxed” during party nights. We all miss Flash Mountain, right?
This week’s SATURDAY SIX includes the Top Six Food Items at Fast Food Boulevard. Replacing the International Film & Food Festival in 2013, Springfield’s Fast Food Blvd has quickly become one of the most popular dining locations within the Universal resort. Complete with items taken directly from The Simpsons television show, this “food court” style eatery offers a wide array of items to appease everyone in your party. While it was almost impossible to narrow the list down to just the six items – in fact it was almost painful to leave off the Clogger Burger and the Sideshow Bob Foot Long – we now present to you the best of the best…
#6 – The Ribwich at Krusty Burger
The Ribwich. (photo by Brandon Glover)
As a longtime fan of The Simpsons show, the minute it was announced that Fast Food Blvd was going to open I was hoping there would be a Ribwich. Hilariously mocking the McRib from McDonald’s, on the show Krusty Burger described its creation of the Ribwich with the following, “We start with authentic, letter-graded meat, and process the hell out of it.”
Unlike its television counterpart, the Ribwich is nothing like the McRib and is more in line with a pulled pork sandwich. Topped with coleslaw and served with seasoned “Kurly” fries and a pickle spear, the Ribwich was definitely a menu item needed within Universal Studios Florida, with pulled pork being such a staple of Florida dining. In fact, while you can find pulled pork within CityWalk’s Margaritaville, and Hard Rock Café, Krusty Burger is the first to offer it within either of the Universal parks. The combination of the cool coleslaw on top of the warm pulled pork makes for a flavorful experience.
[EDITOR’S NOTE – In case you missed it, there was a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX this past Wednesday featuring The Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World According to Our All-Star Panel. Please check it out as it features the results of voting from 40 Walt Disney World experts including Len Testa, Jim Hill, and Tom Bricker. So today we are going to go back in the Wayback Machine with Mr. Peabody and Sherman to fix earlier editions of the SATURDAY SIX that were written before your humble author could grasp the complexities of WordPress. Welcome to the first edition of SATURDAY CLASSIX…]
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Disney Obsession We Just Don’t Understand. As resident theme park fans, we here at the Saturday Six understand obsessions. We collect park maps. We save our old hotel room keys. We get a new Disney ornament for our Christmas tree every single year. However, there are some Disney obsessions we don’t quite understand fully, and today we’re going to look at six of them. (PLEASE NOTE: these views have been determined after an exhaustive study by the Saturday Six staff and do not necessarily reflect the view points of TouringPlans as a whole or any other individual, especially Len Testa who thinks we are nuts with # 3…)
# 6 – The Turkey Leg Phenomenon
Turkey Leg Sweatshirt
Now, the Turkey Leg made our list of the Top Six Most Iconic Snacks at the Magic Kingdom, but what we don’t understand is all the ancillary products that have also come out for the turkey leg, including wallets, hats, t-shirts, pins, sweatshirts, and air fresheners…yes, AIR FRESHENERS.
Who is buying this stuff? Who outside of Oscar Meyer himself wants his car to smell like a turkey leg? Even the legendary Dole Whip doesn’t seem to have a fraction of the merchandise that the turkey leg does. May we suggest an immediate stoppage of any future turkey leg products and instead look at other food items on Disney property, including the cronut, the macaroons in the France pavillion, zebra domes at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or school bread in Norway?
This week’s special April 1st edition of the SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Worst Attractions at Walt Disney World. Our All-Star Panel was exhausted after voting for the best attractions at Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, but we weren’t done with them yet. No, now it was time to look at the other side of the coin. What are the worst attractions at Walt Disney World? This exercise was a lot tougher than you think, because certain attractions jump to mind, but the more you think about it, the more others start to emerge. Did you know that the Leave a Legacy monuments are considered an attraction at WDW? Ellen’s Energy Adventure takes a lot of heat, but what about the #INCREDIBLESSuperDanceParty in Tomorrowland (and yes, that’s it’s actual name. It should get a vote just based on that.) This was going to be a true challenge so our all star, blue ribbon panel was made up of 40 members comprised of some of the most exceptional people in the theme park community (a full list is available at the end of the article.)
The numbers were crunched, and then re-crunched by the Saturday Six computers.
The Criteria: Each of the 40 experts voted on what they consider to be the six worst attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort. These attractions could be any ride, show, nighttime spectacular, or parade currently in Walt Disney World (including the water parks.) Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points.
When the results were tabulated we then reached out to the great wise man of the theme parks, Jim Hill.
Jim Hill – When Derek invited me to take part in this particular Touringplans.com story, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that enthusiastic. Mostly because — after over three decades of interviewing the people who actually build & design the rides, shows and attractions for the Disney theme parks — I know for a fact that there isn’t an Imagineer on this planet who gets up in the morning and says “I want to create something crummy today. I want to do something that disappoints people.” Every ride, show and attractions starts out with the best possible intentions. It’s just that — between the “Blue Sky” phase and Opening Day — somehow that ride winds up going off the rails for reasons that are completely beyond WDI’s control. So to counter all of the snark found in today’s article, I thought I might try and give you a bit of background on each of the attractions that wound up on the “Worst” list:
We got 40 Disney experts. We got Jim Hill. We got the a list of the worst attractions at WDW. Who’s ready?!
The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX WORST ATTRACTIONS at Walt Disney World.
Len Testa (Co-Author to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and owns a Space Mountain Themed Kitchen) – Let’s start this off by saying that despite having absolutely no driving or mechanical talent of any kind, I can watch car shows like Lionel Richie: all night long. I’ve seen every episode of Top Gear, including the rare pre-James May Series 1. And I’ll watch Two Guys Garage for hours, even though there’s a better chance of a Chevy small block v8 falling on me than me rebuilding one.
So you’d think I’d love the extreme driving of the Lights, Motors, Action! show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, right? Well, no. To quote Mr. May, it’s rubbish. Why? How? Let me count the ways.
To be fair, it could be worse…
First, there’s the opening. It’s the best part of the entire show, and it’s two and a half minutes of excellent stunt driving, drifting, and automotive choreography. The problem is that this 150-second snippet shows virtually every key element of the production, which somehow continues for another half an hour. If LMA was CSI:Miami, you’d know in the opening credits that the butler did it, see how it was done, and then spend the next half hour watching everyone talk about the crime. Which you saw. In the credits. At the beginning.
Next, there’s the super-in-depth discussion of how each movie scene is set up, including multiple camera angles, cinematography, editing and special effects techniques. This may have been mildly interesting a decade ago, before every 8-year old in the audience had a GoPro, and a YouTube account. But today? Dear Lord, half the audience can edit videos on their cellphones. We get it. As philosopher S. Roy Hagar said in Das Beste aus zwei Welten: “That which is understood need not be discussed.”
And that leads into the third big problem with the show: the pace is slower than 60-weight motor oil in a Boston snowstorm. For every minute of action, there’s something like 3 or 4 minutes of talking. It’s like watching C-SPAN debate fuel economy regulations, without the tin-foil hat voicemails for entertainment.
But the show manages to get even worse by pandering to small boys via the Lightning McQueen segment. It’s obvious, dull, and vapid. You know what would be better? Putting cameras in the cars and letting the drivers talk while doing some stunts. Sure, you’d have to get drivers with personality, but I happen to know of a foursome that is seeking gainful employment. Might be worth a phone call.
JIM HILL (Jim Hill Media)- It’s important to understand that when the Imagineers originally proposed this outdoor arena show for the Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Resort Paris, it was supposed to celebrate the James Bond films. EX: The pre-show area was to have taken Guests through Q’s Lab. More to the point, this stunt show was to have featured Bond doing battle with some of the more memorable villains from this film franchise (i.e., Jaws, Oddjob). But when the Broccoli family wanted The Walt Disney Company to pay a ridiculous high fee in order to use the James Bond characters in a theme park setting, the Imagineers were forced to drop all of the hi-tech spy stuff that would have actually made this arena show entertaining and then go instead with a generic stunt driving show that wasn’t tied to any film franchise. So no Bond equals bland.
The turtles are popular now, but in the late ’80s and early ’90s they were a phenomenon. Cartoons, video games, movies, comic books, breakfast cereal, traveling stage shows, and enough merchandise that would make even Anna and Elsa jealous. Starting in 1990, TMNT performed a stage show in New York area of Disney-MGM, followed by a meet-and-greet. TMNT left Disney in ’96, but the Turtles have proven the test of time, connecting with each new generation of kids. While both Disney and Universal could score a coup by having the turtles in their parks, right now they can be seen at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando
The heroes in a half shell with April O’Neil in the Streets of America. (photo by PopRewind)