Saturday Six

A SATURDAY SIX Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America)

by on July 4, 2016

In honor of July 4th we are presenting a special SATURDAY SIX with a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!

# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)

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The Voices of Liberty (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

# 5 – Captain America (Islands of Adventure)

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Captain America. (photo by Brandon Glover)

America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in  red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on July 2, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For July, we are going to try something new around here. It’s our first ever themed series of articles for the SATURDAY SIX, and we’re going to put a spotlight on Walt Disney World. That’s right, we are going to take a look at each one of Disney’s four parks and explain why they are some of our favorite places on Earth. First up, the oft-maligned Animal Kingdom which has completely transformed itself from a “half day park” to possibly the best theme park in all of Orlando.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (photo by Tim Grassey)

While Animal Kingdom was originally designed to keep people on WDW property, and not make a side trip to Tampa for Busch Gardens, it has become one of the most interesting theme parks you’ll ever see. By far and away the biggest park at Disney (the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction by itself is larger than the entire Magic Kingdom) Animal Kingdom has a combination of terrific thrill rides, world class shows, and amazing safari adventures. Filled with unforgettable experiences, Animal Kingdom simply has it all. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, pour out a 40 for Little Red, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Tree of Life

With Cinderella Castle and Spaceship Earth, WDW already had two of the greatest – and most recognizable – theme park icons in the world. With the majestic Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom’s park icon immediately joined them. Despite being completely man-made (even the leaves are made out of a special plastic called Kynar), the Tree of Life looks as if it sprung from the ground and it’s only when you stare at it do you begin to see over 300 animal designs carved into the trunk and roots. The details will make your jaw drop.

Recently the Tree of Life became even more breathtaking with the introduction of projection mapping for the Tree of Life Awakens shows. These three minute shows make it appear that some of the animals in the trunk come alive before your eyes, along with spellbinding special effects in the leaves above. This is true Disney Magic.

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Tree of Life. (photo by Brian Carey)

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The Tree of Life Awakens. (photo by Brian Carey)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Queue For SKULL ISLAND: REIGN OF KONG

by on June 25, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE the queue for SKULL ISLAND: REIGN OF KONG. Over the last two years, Trygve Nelson and Seth Kubersky have been tracking the progress of Skull Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Earlier this month it began technical rehearsals and started letting guests experience the attraction. One area that has drawn consistent raves is the queue. Over the last fifteen years, Universal has become the best in the business at building queues in which people actually enjoy spending time in line. Guests walk through what seems like the actual movie set for Men In Black: Alien Attack. At The Simpsons Ride, in two separate pre-show rooms, guests enjoy some hilarious jokes written by actual writers of The Simpsons television show. Meanwhile guests get to tour the Daily Bugle in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (which even has a dedicated themed experience just for Express Pass guests, allowing them to see Peter Parker’s dark room). Universal then perfected the queue experience with Forbidden Journey and Escape From Gringotts, creating lines guests actually wanted to spend more time in. This was not just the theme park equivalent of breaking the four minute mile, this was breaking the three minute mile. 

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Skull Island: Reign of KONG. (photo by Brandon Gllover)

The good news, is that not only does Skull Island: Reign of Kong continue Universal’s era of incredible queues, it becomes the first to take a page from the Halloween Horror Nights playbook and be extremely creepy as well. A good queue sets up a ride’s story and atmosphere, and Skull Island takes that to the next level. The giant facade alone, with seemingly thousands of skulls strewn about and a giant ape head made carved out of rock, is something pretty intense for the theme park world. Inside, the queue gets even better. Today we are going to look at six reasons we love the Skull Island queue, including some details many guests may miss when walking through. So sit back, grab a banana, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Reference to Revenge of the Mummy

Kongfrontation was an opening day ride for Universal Studios Florida back in 1990, and was based more or less around the King Kong film from 1976. Like Jaws, this was an iconic Universal ride that many guests fondly remember to this day. Kongfrontation closed in 2002 to make way for The Revenge of the Mummy. As with many recent attractions, Mummy has several tributes to Kong in both the queue and attraction itself. In an Inception-like nod, Skull Island has a reference back to Revenge of the Mummy. As guests load onto the ride vehicle, to their right will be several skeletons. One of these skeletons is just like one of the skeletons that rise up and attack guests in the Mummy’s impressive throne room sequence.

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Skeleton in Kong queue. (photo by Travis Terrell)

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Skeletons in Revenge of the Mummy. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

# 5 – Eighth Wonder Expedition Co.

Back in March, Universal started teasing their upcoming Kong attraction through the Myth Explorer web series and blog featuring Erin Ryder. In several of her updates, the 8th Wonder Expedition Company was seen or mentioned. In the Skull Island attraction, right before guests grab their 3D glasses, they will be able to see a crate stamped with this mysterious group’s logo. Many Universal fans, including Your Humble Author, believe Universal should have a full line of 8th Wonder Expedition Co. merchandise available. As of this writing, there is nothing.

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Eighth Wonder Expedition Co. Hopefully soon to be seen on t-shirts, hats, Tervis tumblers, and pressed pennies. Hey, a guy can dream can’t he? (photo by Travis Terrell)

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SATURDAY SIX Father’s Day Special: Celebrating Dads at Walt Disney World and Universal

by on June 18, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special FATHER’S DAY SPECIAL, paying tribute to all our favorite dads at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. After a challenging week in Orlando, we here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters think it’s time for some lighthearted fun. With tomorrow being Father’s Day, it’s about time we gave a little attention to all the dads we see in Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. So sit back, put on your favorite pair of dad jeans, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – WALT DISNEY: The Father of All Theme Parks

What else can we say about Walter Elias Disney? Without him we wouldn’t have the glorious theme parks we enjoy today and instead would be suffering in the shoddily made and poorly themed rides that make up America’s amusement parks. Even worse, we may have been forced to go to places like museums and libraries to actually learn something. I think I speak for us all when I say UGH. However, thanks to a visionary genius like  Walt Disney creating Disneyland – and then improving upon with Walt Disney World – we all get to enjoy one of the most amazing pieces of entertainment in the entire world.

Unlike most of our hobbies and interests, theme parks are a place we can go with the whole family and enjoy our time together. The theme parks are one of the very few places you can go where no matter who you are, you are accepted. It just doesn’t matter what size you are, what race you belong to, what religion you pray to,  your sexual orientation, or handicap you have. If you’re in a theme park, you are in a safe place. We all owe an unpayable debt to Walt Disney, as his foresight led to us being able to enjoy places that completely transport us away from the real world – and all of its problems – into an alternative reality where everything is as we wish it would be. A world in which the good guys always win. A world where we can fly. A world where our wishes come true.

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Walt was also the father to Diane and Sharon Disney. We all know the story that it was Walt watching his daughters play in shabby amusement parks that inspired him to create something better. Something the whole family could enjoy.  (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel

by on June 11, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Portofino Bay HotelCurrently, the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Premier, which is where the Portofino Bay Hotel resides.

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Portofino Bay Punch – Bacardi superior, Bacardi ‘O’, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of Bacardi 151.

First, a little backstory. Steven Spielberg can be considered one of the main “architects” of the entire Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Florida, the park which started it all, was built on the back of films that Spielberg either directed (Jaws, E.T.) or was a producer on (Back to the Future, An American TaleTwister, Transformers). While the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the current draw to Islands of Adventure, it’s Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that sits directly in the middle, and the iconic Jurassic Park visitor center is the first thing you see in the park when coming out of the Port of Entry. It’s only natural that when Universal was putting together Islands of Adventure back in the 1990s that they would pick Spielberg’s brain about ideas for the new onsite hotel they would also be developing.

Spielberg’s suggestion was for the new hotel to be inspired by the classic feel of Portofino, Italy. Loews took that idea and ran with it, faithfully recreating a classic Mediterranean fishing village by the lagoon, as well as representing the luxury of many high end Italian hotels on the inside of the resort. Portofino Bay and its 750 rooms can be considered the flagship resort of Loews at Universal. Today we are going to look at several of the reasons we absolutely love Portofino, including what may be the best themed room in all of Orlando. So sit back, put on The Three Tenors as background music, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – The Pools

A little while back we took a trip to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and fell in love with their Fuentes del Morro Pool. The Beach Pool at Portofino blows away the one at Caribbean Beach and joins the elite of Orlando pools including  Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club, and the Nanea Volcano Pool at the Poly. There are a lot of activities surrounding the main pool, including a children’s water play area (complete with pirate ship), pool tables, ping pong, a giant checker board, a fantastic pool bar (with tons of seating and a great menu), two hot tubs, a sandy beach and more, The pool itself is an impressive fort-like structure you can walk around in, a grotto you can swim through, and a great slide. 

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The Beach Pool at Portofino Bay.

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The grotto.

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Lounge chairs are everywhere.

There are two other pools at Portofino, including the impressive Villa Pool. Located near the Beach Pool, this area includes even more lounge chairs, 16 cabanas, a hot tub and a plunge pool. Just a gorgeous area with maybe the best pool bathroom area in the entire state of Florida. The third pool is a true quiet pool and located on the other side of the resort.

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The Villa Pool, straight out of a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous magazine.

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Hot tub and plunge pool

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SATURDAY SIX: Movies and TV Shows That Were Filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 4, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Movies, Television Shows, and Music Videos shot at the Universal Orlando Resort. Loyal readers have gone with us down the rabbit hole to see all the Walt Disney locations used in the Hulk Hogan TV show Thunder in Paradise. Then we checked out the times our favorite sitcoms like Boy Meets World and Full House that went to Disney World. Today we are taking I4 West across Orlando and checking out which movies, television shows, and music videos were filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, Universal Studios Florida is still a working production studio with several sound stages, and has been the home to such shows as Family Feud, TNA Impact, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. However today we are going to look at productions which  – for the most part – filmed outside of the sound stages, allowing us to see our favorite Universal rides, hotels, and characters. So sit back, follow along with us on your Comcast cable box, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!”

Season 2, episode 13

We’re going to start off our list with the newest of the bunch, as this particular episode aired in April of 2016. I have to personally begin with a mea culpa. I have never seen an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s one of those shows (along with Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Veep) that we’re all supposed to watch. But there is just too much good TV on right now to keep up with everything. I will say this after watching just one episode of Kimmy Schmidt, I’m immediately going back to watch the entire first and second seasons. It reminded me of two of my all time favorite comedies: 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.

While Kimmy Schmidt the show didn’t have as much making fun of the theme park world we know and love (unlike Roseanne, which skewered the parks) it was top to bottom the funniest show I have ever seen involving a theme park (this also includes the more recent episodes of The Middle and Modern Family which went to WDW and Disneyland.) The A-plot of the show involved Kimmy Schimdt finally tracking down her mother, played by the incredible Lisa Kudrow (Friends and the must-see The Comeback.) The B-plots, which involved one character finding herself in the middle of the Washington Redskins owners, and another over at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, were just as good as the main storyline.

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Kimmy arrives at Universal Studios Florida.

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The Minions, Olive Oyl, and stilt walkers from The Mummy in the Hollywood section of USF. This led to a wonderful scene where Kimmy was mistaken for a meet and greet character and families kept lining up to take their picture with her just because others were.

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Kimmy and her mom buying Universal Express to ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I just could not believe my eyes at this point. This would be similar to a sitcom at Walt Disney World  having a character make ADRs 180+10 days out.

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SATURDAY SIX Looks at Our Favorite Shows That Went to Disney World (part 2)

by on May 28, 2016

To read part one of this grand adventure, which included a look a Boy Meets World, Step by Step, and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, CLICK HERE.

Without further ado…

# 3 – Family Matters “We’re Going to Disney World”

Season 6, episodes 22 and 23

“Carl, I never told you this, but when your father was on his death bed he said to me, ‘I have only one regret. I never got to take little Carl to Disney World.’ Then he died”

“Wait a minute, Carl’s father’s died before that place was ever built.”

“Quiet, you want to go there, don’t you?” – Estelle and Harriet Winslow trying to convince Carl to go to WDW

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Family Matters

Now this is one for the books.

By season six of Family Matters the show had completely transformed from a “working man’s version of the Cosby Show” into The Steve Urkel Show, for good or for bad. This episode started off with Steve Urkel coming into the Winslow household proclaiming that he was a finalist for the “national inventor’s contest” sponsored by “Amateur Innovation Weekly.” Watching these older shows make will make you appreciate how much better the reboots like Girls Meets World and Fuller House really are. Anyway, because Urkel was a finalist he was able to take as many people as he wanted with him to Florida. You just got to go with these things.

Our first stop was Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Again, the resort was never mentioned by name but we did get to see several exterior shots and the gorgeous lobby. Then we were off to Innoventions in EPCOT, where Urkel’s “transformation” machine turned him from geeky Urkel to “cool” Stephan. Urkel’s assistant liked him better as Stephan, so she sabotaged the machine, keeping him stuck as Stephan until a replacement part could be flown in. The judges said they would reconvene in three days to decide a winner to the contest.

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Wilderness Lodge!

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Wilderness Lodge lobby.

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Innoventions!

One subplot of the show revolved around Carl Winslow. He had no interest in going to Disney World at first (until the incredible line from his grandmother that is quoted at the top), and even once he arrived still had very little “pixie dust.” However all that changed as soon as he walked through the turnstiles of the Magic Kingdom. Soon Carl was in love with Disney so much that he was ready to quit his job in Chicago and move the entire family to Florida.

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Carl meets the characters on Main Street USA.

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SATURDAY SIX Looks at Our Favorite Shows That Went to Disney World

by on May 28, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Of Our Favorite Shows That Went to Disney World. A while back  we took a look at the locations in Walt Disney World used in Thunder in Paradise; a camp classic “action” “adventure” show featuring Hulk Hogan in the mid ’90s. Most people, thankfully, haven’t seen Thunder, however they did catch many of sitcoms of that era who also made their way down to Florida.

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Cory and Shawn get directions from Goofy at The American Adventure in EPCOT in Boy Meets World.

Now it should come as no surprise to anyone that all the shows featured aired on ABC, and all but one of them shortly after ABC merged with The Disney Company. This was corporate synergy in action. Many of our favorite shows (most part of the hugely successful T.G.I.F. lineup) went to the vacation kingdom of the world. Despite having all the sophistication of a Beetle Bailey comic strip, many people that are a certain age fondly remember these shows, including Your Humble Author. Today we are going to take a look at all the ABC shows that ventured to the House of Mouse and examine The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of each. So sit back, try not to have Urkelbot flashbacks, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Boy Meets World “The Happiest Show on Earth.”

Season 3, episode 21

I don’t know. I mean I made a mistake. I thought we could be friends like you and I are but, you know when I see Topanga I want to hug her, hold her, kiss her. When I see you I have no interest in any of those things.” – Cory

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Boy Meets World

Boy Meets World going to WDW is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. The charisma of everyone in the episode is off the charts and you can see why the show is so beloved. However the actual content of the show is little more than a ’90s version of Three’s Company, and by that I mean the entire episode hinges on a non-stop series of coincidences and people seeing things completely out of context. Now sitcoms aren’t generally known for Emmy-award winning writing, especially back then, but the episode could have been just three minutes long if any of the characters just talked to each other instead of letting people think the worst. It’s basically one of the reasons most people had a very negative reaction to the recent Batman v Superman movie.

With that out of the way, this Boy Meets World episode was a fun one. To get the characters down to WDW, schoolmates of Corey (the main character of Boy Meets World) wrote papers for the Environmental Essay Awards. The three winners just so happened to be Topanga (Corey’s ex-girlfriend), Ronnie (the lothario of the school known as “Lips”), and Kristin, a girl Corey had just dated and accidentally called “Topanga” after kissing. Knowing Topanga and Ronnie would be together down in Orlando, Corey’s friend Shawn hatched a scheme to get them down there as well. There was actually a wonderful moment where right before they announced the winners of the contest, Shawn finally turned in his essay. To cover for Corey, his brother Eric created a ridiculous looking dummy and planned a Weekend at Bernie’s situation. It works because it’s so ridiculous. Big thumbs up.

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Overhead shot of EPCOT Center as seen in Boy Meets World.

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Spaceship Earth.

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Topanga and “Lips” ride Dumbo in Corey’s nightmare scenario. It also looks like the Carousel behind them is under refurbishment so interesting choice of shots to use by the producers.

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SATURDAY SIX Looks at TOWN CENTER in Disney Springs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

by on May 21, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Town Center in Disney Springs. The great Jim Hill often says about Disney Cruise Line, “You start building a new ship in one economy, and you finish it in a completely different economy.” The same can be said about building things at Walt Disney World except for one thing, it takes even longer. Years ago Downtown Disney was – to be kind – a mess. The parking situation was the absolute worst in Orlando. The two main areas (West Side and The Marketplace) were bookends to a ghost town once Pleasure Island closed in 2008. Finally, in 2013 Disney bit the bullet and announced the area would be completely refurbished and rebranded as Disney Springs.

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Welcome to Disney Springs. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Disney Springs had some growing pains during the first couple years, but it finally turned the corner in 2015 when the first of two parking garages opened along with The Landing (which includes The BOATHOUSE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC among other venues.) On May 15, 2016 the final phase of Disney Springs began to open with the launch of Town Center. Many guests gave up going to Downtown Disney during the construction and they will not recognize the place once they come back. In the words of Tony Stark in the recent smash hit Civil War, “You’re in dire need of an upgrade, systemic, top to bottom, 100 point restoration” and that’s exactly what Disney fans got. Today we’re going to look at our favorite parts of Town Center, along with some things that could be a bit better. Let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Area Looks Beautiful at Night

Downtown Disney was many things over the years, but you’re probably not going to find too many people who thought that it was “pretty.” With the opening of Town Center, Disney Springs is now aesthetically pleasing to the eye, both during the day and night. The water features and lighting package of Town Center make it a wonderful place to spend time in as the actual springs are gorgeous.

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Morimoto Asia as seen from The Town Center. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Town Center at night. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Drinks You Must Try At Disney Springs

by on May 14, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at 6 Drinks You Must Try At Disney Springs. Tomorrow, May 15th, is a gigantic day in the evolution of Disney Springs. The Town Center will officially be opening with a whole bunch of new restaurants and retail stores. The Lime parking garage will also start accepting guests, joining the Orange garage, dedicated ramps from I-4, and multiple pedestrian bridges that have been built over the last several years. Disney Springs, which was once the absolute worst place to get to on Disney property (and there wasn’t even a close second) has now become the easiest. We here at the SATURDAY SIX want to make a toast to this momentous occasion, and to do so we’re going to take a look at some drinks you need to try next time you go to Disney Springs. So sit back, remember to always use a coaster, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 –  P37 Swirl (Sangria Margarita) at Paradiso 37

The 37 in Paradiso 37‘s name references the 37 countries that make up North, Central, and South America. During the last couple years that Disney Springs has expanded, Paradiso 37 has also increased in size with a large amount of indoor and outdoor seating. You’re going to find a very large drink menu to choose from, but the restaurant’s specialties are tequila, sangrias, and the “coldest beer in the world.” One of their signature drinks is the P37 Swirl, which combines a frozen margarita mixed with frozen sangria. Very tasty, with neither drink overpowering the other, making it a solid choice while dealing with the Florida summer.

Our frozen P37 Margarita swirled with our famous Red Sangria. $10

P37 Swirl at Paradiso 37 in Disney Springs

P37 Swirl. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Now, longtime SATURDAY SIX readers know we certainly weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to try a unique beer. Pardiso 37 has the P37 Lager, which is served at 29 degrees Farenheit (for our non-American readers, that’s like minus 100 degrees Celsius, give or take.) It’s actually a great tasting beer. Not sure how much the temperature adds to it, but it’s a neat gimmick.

P37 Lager in Disney Springs.

P37 Lager, the coldest beer in Orlando. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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P37 Lager, the official beer of Mr. Freeze, (photo by Brandon Glover)

While watching us act like lunatics taking pictures of beer (only the best for you, Dear Reader) a manager showed up with a trio of drinks to try. These included the Prickly Pear Margarita (Don Julio silver tequila, prickly pear syrup, fresh lime juice, and sour mix,) Red Sangria (Premium red wine and brandy combined with pomegranate, guava, and cranberry juice) and White Sangria (Sauvignon Blanc wine, Club Caribe pineapple rum combine with mango and orange). Because of how many tequilas and sangrias that Paradiso 37 has, it’s your go to place at WDW for either.

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Margarita and sangrias (photo by Brandon Glover)

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