Saturday Six

The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the (possible) future of Walt Disney World

by on March 25, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the (possible) future of Walt Disney World!  As part of an annual tradition, TouringPlans’ own Len Testa teamed up with industry icon Jim Hill to record an episode of the Disney Dish podcast discussing the future of Walt Disney World (there is also a Disneyland edition available via Bandcamp.) The two theme park titans discussed many rumored additions and changes to the resort, as well as giving reasons why they may – and may not – actually come to fruition. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the more important items, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Is Cinderella’s Royal Table a “canary in the coal mine?”

For a long time Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT) in the Magic Kingdom was the hardest dining reservation to get in all of Walt Disney World. Guests would need to wake up at the crack of dawn 180 days out from their vacation to call and attempt to get a coveted ADR. In the last couple years, Be Our Guest Restaurant has become the hardest ticket to get in town, but CRT has been a close second. However, Cast Members have reported that usual high demand ADRs for CRT breakfast and dinner have been available…and no one knows why. This could be computer glitch, but it could also be a sign of a very soft summer for Disney. In theory, if CRT was a proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” Disney would be well served to put on a full court press of advertising to get people to the resort this Summer and Fall. Getting near unprecedented coverage on ABC show’s Nightline,  The View, and The Chew would probably be a step in the right direction.

As a little princess looks out into Fantasyland, Cinderella’s Royal Table has that “million dollar view.”

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SATURDAY SIX: Planet Hollywood Observatory – 6 Crazy Road Stops on the Highway to Flavortown

by on March 18, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at PLANET HOLLYWOOD OBSERVATORY!    After every trip to Walt Disney World, TouringPlans sends its members a survey to see how satisfied they were with each part of their vacation. In 2016, we received more than 122,000 responses on WDW restaurants. To put that number in perspective, TouringPlans has more surveys on WDW restaurants than Yelp and TripAdvisor combined.

In total, there were 909 options that readers could give a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” to and these included everything from table service restaurants such as the Grand Floridian’s Victoria & Albert’s to the turkey leg cart in Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland and everything in between. In the list of over 900 WDW venues where a person could get food, Planet Hollywood in Disney Springs came in dead last.

But that was the old Planet Hollywood. In January of this year, the newly reimagined Planet Hollywood Observatory opened with a menu partly inspired by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. That’s right, Flavortown was coming to Disney.

Just as Finding Nemo taught us all drains lead to the ocean, in Orlando all roads lead to Flavortown. (photo by Kinny Brown)

With Downtown Disney’s recent transformation into Disney Springs, the area now boasts not just the greatest collection of restaurants at Walt Disney World, but possibly in all of Orlando. Restaurants such as Homecomin’, Morimoto Asia, and The BOATHOUSE have joined longtime favorites Raglan Road, the House of Blues, and Wolfgang Puck Express to deliver a murderer’s row of fantastic dining experiences. 

Would the reimagined Planet Hollywood Observatory completely change the restaurant and put it up there with the best of the best?

In a word: no. But, in a lot more words the Planet Hollywood Observatory is completely next level bonkers in a way that you need to experience. At Disney we’ve eaten ice cream out of 10 gallon cowboy hats, seen poop snacks at Animal Kingdom, and have even order the infamous Pop Tart sandwich at Pop Century and we still weren’t prepared for what we saw at the Observatory. Today we’re going to take a look at the most unique options at the Observatory, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – High Roller Platter Served in a Ferris Wheel

Talk about a “wow factor” right away, the High Roller Platter appetizer comes out a giant ferris wheel that will draw attention from anyone sitting near you. It is visually spectacular and includes chicken crunch, Texas tostados, Buffalo wings, five cheese dip, and peri-peri shrimp. The ferris wheel itself does not move, but it is an incredible visual. ($34.99)

(photo by Brian Carey)

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SATURDAY SIX – 6 Reasons We Love MARDI GRAS at Universal

by on March 11, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Mardi Gras Celebration. No one loves theme park events more than us. Mickey’s Not So Scary? Fantastic. Halloween Horror Nights? Even better. Grinchmas, Mickey’s Very Merry, and Food & Wine? Can’t wait for each of them. Earlier this year, EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts was shockingly good and we’re incredibly excited it is already scheduled to return in 2018.  Villain’s Unleashed? Okay, that was the exception that proves the rule.

King Gator float. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s SAPPHIRE FALLS RESORT

by on March 4, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Sapphire Falls Resort! Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has five on-site hotels, with a sixth (Aventura) opening next summer. Universal separates its hotels into three categories: Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), Preferred (Royal Pacific Resort), and Premier (Hard Rock and Portofino Bay.) Sapphire Falls falls under the Preferred category.

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Sapphire Falls is located directly next to Royal Pacific, and the two hotels actually connect in their convention space area. As part of the Loews brand, Sapphire Falls has the type of service you receive at a higher end hotel, and stays at Sapphire count towards the Loews YouFirst Loyalty Program. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of Sapphire Falls, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – The Lobby

The lobby at Sapphire Falls is the most guest friendly of any Universal hotel. Similar to the lobbies at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and the newly renovated Polynesian Village Resort, guests walk into a wide open lobby with a huge window on the opposite end overlooking the property. One of the most oft-talked about features of the lobby is the striking “beach ball” chandelier. Pictures do not do this chandelier justice and, when lit up at night, the fixture looks absolutely fantastic.

There is plenty of unique seating in the lobby, including one area with a huge TV. There are outlets all over the place to plug in  your electronic devices, including a large wooden table which has enough space for at least ten people to work from their laptops. If you need to spend time in a hotel lobby, this is the exact type of one you want to be in.

Sapphire Falls lobby. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Lobby chandelier. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Lobby. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Outlets.

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SATURDAY SIX – 6 Reasons We Love Disney’s RIVERS OF LIGHT

by on February 25, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s RIVERS OF LIGHT! On March 2nd, 2016 Disney whetted all of our appetites when it announced on the Parks Blog that Rivers of Light – the first ever nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, would debut on Earth Day (April 22nd). April came and went with no show, but we were told we would get an update “in May.” May came and went with no show and no update. It wasn’t until late November when – seemingly out of nowhere – there were cast member previews for Rivers of Light. While no official announcement was made, that’s a pretty good sign that the show would be opening soon for the general public.

Turns out that was also wishful thinking, as both December and January passed with no word on when we would finally see this highly anticipated show. Then in early February – again, almost out of nowhere – Disney announced that the debut performance for the public would take place on February 17th.

Disney’s Rivers of Light. (photo by Brandon Glover)

When February 17th arrived, anticipation was at an all time high. Standby guests were lined up all the way back to Flame Tree Barbecue, and even those with FP+ were getting into the theater over an hour early to secure a seat. The question on everyone’s mind was simply: was Rivers of Light worth the wait? SPOILER ALERT: Yes. Even better, just as the Main Street Electrical Parade’s return to Disneyland brought along a lot of other cool stuff for guests to enjoy, Animal Kingdom has gone all out for Rivers of Light as well. Today we’re going to look at the actual show along with awesome food and merchandise that supports it. Let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Lotus Flower Popcorn Bucket

Walt Disney World has stepped up its popcorn bucket game in a major way in the past few years. We’ve seen neat buckets themed to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Cinderella’s carriage, and even Han Solo frozen in carbonite. But a true E-Ticket popcorn bucket arrived for Rivers of Light. Based on the show’s iconic lotus flower, the popcorn bucket not only looks visually stunning, but it also lights up. A game changer in the world of popcorn buckets and we love it.

Lotus Flower Popcorn Bucket. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The Rivers of Light lotus flowers. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Popcorn, a top six theme park snack if there ever was one.

# 5 – Lotus Flower Drink Topper

We’re not the biggest fans of glow cubes in drinks, but themed glow cubes? Now you’re talking. While Disneyland has the cute turtle drink topper, over in Walt Disney World we have an awesome glowing lotus flower. Once the sun goes down, this little flower looks wonderful in any drink, and even makes a beer look better! These toppers are available at Thirsty River Bar and Snacks, directly across from the Rivers of Light theater.

Lotus Topper on (photo by Brandon Glover)

Lotus Flower glow cube. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The SATURDAY SIX Uses Disney Villains to Explain Theme Park Blogging

by on February 18, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one as we use Disney Villains to Explain Theme Park Blogging! Now, many of you reading this know the online Disney blogging community is one filled with many unique and colorful characters. What kind of person would spend 10 minutes photographing a single piece of Frushi at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival from every possible angle? What kind of adult man has an awkward meet and greet with Elena of Avalor in order to be #First? With all the white noise, a hapless person at home trying to plan a vacation may be overwhelmed. Today, the SATURDAY SIX is here to help guide you through this wacky community – using some Disney Villains to put everything into context – and get you the info you need to achieve a great trip. Let’s kickoff the list with…

# 6 – SYNDROME – “Because when everything’s BREAKING, nothing is…”

A recent trend in all of blogging – including our precious theme park world – is websites using the term “BREAKING!” to cover pretty much anything. For those of us who like movies, the Hollywood blogs have become inundated with BREAKING! and EXCLUSIVE! headlines only to reveal the casting of a minor character, played by someone you’ve never heard of, in a movie coming out in three years. For those of us inside the theme park bubble, we get subjected to BREAKING! reports of a new cupcake being offered in the Magic Kingdom or the EXCLUSIVE! news of merchandise coming out for Flower & Garden (the best part of all the EXCLUSIVE! reports is that every single one of them is just copying the exact pictures and verbiage from the Disney Parks Blog.)

Are gondolas on their way to WDW? (art by Kinny M Brown)

Sometimes not all news needs to be BREAKING! (art by Kinny M Brown)

Some “news” probably shouldn’t be news at all…(art by Kinny M Brown)

The reason “Fake News” has run rampant is because so many websites are more interested in getting you to click on their links, rather than making sure what they are telling you is based in any sort of fact. The good news is that there are plenty of theme park news options available that avoid the sizzle when giving you the steak. Some of my favorites are TouringPlans’ own Rikki Niblett, theme park icon Jim Hill, Attractions Magazine, and the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen.

# 5 – GASTON – The Shameless Self Promoter

Ah, the most vain blogger of them all. This type of theme park blogger retweets themselves on Twitter, making sure to tag every single person they know in every single post. They watermark their pictures, as if there is some sort of black market offering big money for photos of theme park attractions. They even do podcasts talking endlessly about the parks because they are secretly in love with the sound of their own voice. Who are we kidding though? We love these devilishly handsome scallywags!

“You’re the most amazing thing in the entire world. No one deserves you.” (art by Kinny M Brown)

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 MUST TRY Drinks at Walt Disney World

by on February 11, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six MUST TRY Drinks at Walt Disney World! Time to let the kiddos watch PJ Masks or the Lion Guard for a bit so us adults can have a brief moment to ourselves. Yes, we enjoy the great attractions, shows, and hotels at Walt Disney World but one thing we love are the drinks. To paraphrase Homer J Simpson, alcohol can (seemingly) make all the stress in the world disappear, and also make good times even better! While many WDW bars may have the “standard bar menu” with the same ol’ same ol’, there are a lot of truly fantastic drinks to be found. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite Must Try drinks at WDW, focusing on originality and creativity of the cocktails. Let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Seven Seas Lagoon (The Wave)

You may want to pack an insulin pump if you plan on heading to The Wave… Of America Flavors for this behemoth, because it is SWEET. While this 24 ounce drink only contains about 4 ounces of alcohol (Skyy vodka and Parrot Bay coconut rum), its presentation is off the charts! The glow cube inside the drink really makes the blue “water” pop, and swimming on top are Swedish fish. The best little touch of all may be the fun candy “life preservers” put on each Mickey straw.

Seven Seas Lagoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Fish being added to the Seven Seas Lagoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 5  – Nautilus (Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto)

Served in an amazing souvenir bowl with the form of the Nautilus from Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this is another drink meant to be shared, as you could possibly be seeing a giant squid outside in the Seven Seas Lagoon if you tried to go it alone. The entire room of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto transforms when a Nautilus is ordered and even the servers get in on the fun. Lighting effects make the room appear as if you are going under water, audio plays orders from the Nautilus captain, and there are several  physical effects happening across the Grotto (keep your head on a swivel).  The Nautilus is an E-Ticket drink in an E-Ticket bar. 

Ingredients: Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, Combier Crème de Pêche de Vigne Liqueur, Tropical Juices, and Falernum. Served in a souvenir Nautilus. 

The Nautilus. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The SATURDAY SIX Looks at Disney’s New Seven Hour STAR WARS Guided Tour

by on February 4, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Disney’s new Star Wars Guided Tour! One of the most underrated attractions at Walt Disney World are the guided tours available across property. Behind the Seeds at EPCOT is a true gem, Magic Kingdom’s Keys to the Kingdom is a must-do for hardcore Disney fans, and the Sanaa Cultural Tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge is a fascinating look at all the details in one of Disney’s best restaurants. In late 2016, Disney announced that a new seven hour tour based around Star Wars would be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at a price of $121.12 per person, not including cost of admission to the park.

Star Wars Guided Tour check-in. (photo by Meg Stump)

Star Wars Guided Tour credentials, where guests are separated into different planets. All theme park bloggers hail from “Mustafar.” (photo by Meg Stump)

To put seven hours into perspective, if you were to watch A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi consecutively it would take less than six and a half hours (although watching the prequels back to back would probably seem like 100 hours). The price is also one of the highest of any tour that WDW offers, would there be value to be found? Thanks to an in-depth investigation by SATURDAY SIX editor in chief Megan Stump, we’re happy to report back the answer is a resounding YESToday we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of the new guided tour, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – March Behind the First Order

One common theme you see among many of our favorite shows that go to Walt Disney World – including Full House, Step By Step, and last year’s Blackish – is that characters from the show end up joining Disney parades or other shows in the parks. I think this because there is a subconscious, or maybe even conscious, feeling by many people that they want to be part of the show. Guests who take part in the Star Wars Guided Tour get to live out their theme park fantasy by being a part of Captain Phasma’s march of the First Order. Guests meet up up with Captain Phasma and the gang as soon as they come onstage and you travel directly behind the stormtroopers as they make their way down Hollywood Blvd.

Captain Phasma leads the First Order. (photo by Meg Stump)

Guests doing the Star Wars Guided Tour follow directly behind the First Order. (photo by Meg Stump)

Where else can you be this close to the action other than the Star Wars Guided Tour? (photo by Meg Stump)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Main Street Electrical Parade’s Return to Disneyland

by on January 28, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love the Main Street Electrical Parade’s Return to Disneyland! Beginning its original run in Anaheim all the way back in 1972, the Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP) has entertained generations of guests on both coasts. Much like it’s a small world and the Electrical Water Pageant, the beloved MSEP has a nostalgic charm – along with a catchy soundtrack – that makes it special no matter how much technology has improved over the years. There have been variations of MSEP at Disney parks around the world, but Disneyland’s run ended in 1996. In the ensuing twenty years, that particular version of the show bounced around between Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney World. On October 9th, 2016, the MSEP turned off its last light in Orlando and began a cross country trip back home to Disneyland.

The Main Street Electrical Parade comes home. (photo by @hintofspy)

This past week the MSEP had its triumphant return in Disneyland and began a limited time engagement that is scheduled to end on June 18th. Now, we’re just glad the MSEP is back, but Disney also delivered a whole bunch of surprises that truly made our day. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of the MSEP’s return, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – The SNACKS!

Readers of this fine blog series know we like our snacks. No, we really like our snacks. So imagine our surprise when the MSEP’s return to Disneyland brought with it a whole slew of tasty treats! With designs based on some of the iconic MSEP floats, these snacks are some of the cutest we have ever seen. Ladybug macaroons, turtle creampuffs, cheshire cat cookies and more!

Where was this when the MSEP was in Walt Disney World?! BE FAIR TO FLORIDA!! (photo by Brian Pinsky)

Cute caterpillar snack. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

Cheshire cat tails. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

Electric Cotton Candy. We’re 90% sure this is safe to eat. (photo by Brian Pinsky)

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Most Artistic Snacks at Epcot’s Festival of the Arts!

by on January 21, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six Most Artistic Snacks at Epcot’s Festival of the Arts! When word came around that Epcot was adding another festival to its annual lineup, we were skeptical to say the least. Sure, we love the Flower & Garden and Food & Wine festivals, but did we need another one? Long story short: YES. Yes, we did.

The festival is filled with incredible art to see (and buy) along with an even better menu of unique food and drink options. From the Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts to the Wild Mushroom Risotto, the festival is filled with indulgent foods, but as always we here at the SATURDAY SIX were drawn to the more sugary based options. Today we’re going to look at the most artistic snacks at the festival, along with a whole bunch of non-food related reasons detailing why we really love the Festival of the Arts. It’s basically TWO editions of the SATURDAY SIX in ONE. You’re Welcome! Let’s start this party off right with…

# 6 – Mary Blair White Chocolate Art Painting

This may be the coolest looking chocolate in the history of chocolates at Walt Disney World, a miniature Mary Blair “painting” on a chocolate easel. This is such a fantastic idea executed so flawlessly that you don’t mind paying $7 for a pretty small piece of chocolate. The chocolate itself tasted really good, even though it is so pretty we didn’t even want to eat it (but c’mon, it’s chocolate, it was gonna be eaten sooner or later).

Served at The Painter’s Palette, ($7)

Mary Blair White Chocolate Art Painting. An E-Ticket snack. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Reason We Love the Festival of the Arts: Figment’s Brush with the Masters

Epcot continually has the best scavenger hunts in any Florida theme park, thanks in part to the great souvenirs you get when accomplishing your hunt. The Easter Egg hunts are always a blast during the spring, and we also enjoyed Remy’s “Hide and Squeak” hunt during Food & Wine. For Figment’s Brush with the Masters, guests are given a blank map along with a set of stickers featuring well known paintings. You then have to go from country to country in World Showcase to match the correct country with the painting it features. In a fun twist, each of the famous painting features our favorite Epcot character, Figment!

Blank map. (photo by Megan Stump)

Figment inserted into Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting. (photo by Megan Stump)

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