Saturday Six

SATURDAY SIX: Your Six Lowest-Rated Disney World Restaurants

by on April 22, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Lowest-Rated Disney World Restaurants!  We all know about the amazing benefits of being a TouringPlans subscriber – including unbiased reviews, an amazing WDW hotel room finder, the ability to save hours a day normally spent waiting in line, and of course the world’s greatest Disney Outlet Store Photo Report – but one thing you may not know is that after every trip we send members a survey to see how satisfied they were with each part of their vacation. Last year we received 122,000 responses on Walt Disney World restaurants, a number greater that the amount of Disney reviews Yelp and TripAdvisor got in 2016 combined. Len Testa, the grand poobah of TP, has written several articles on the Walt Disney World restaurants which received the highest scores: including the venues at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom/DHS. But this is the SATURDAY SIX, home of the annual  Turkeys of the Year awards: we want to know what the worst restaurants were.

So today we’re going to look at the lowest rated restaurants in all of Walt Disney World as voted by YOU, Dear Reader, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Garden Grove (Disney World Swan)

I loved staying on property at both WDW and Universal, but despite hearing raves for years on the Swan and Dolphin hotels, I had never stepped foot in either. That changed recently when I booked at stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and I discovered the hotels were incredible. It was much cheaper than my stay just months earlier at the neighboring BoardWalk resort, was situated between two Disney parks, and was filled with great restaurants. However, despite the high marks that Todd English’s bluezoo and Shula’s Steak House receive from TouringPlans members, not all of the resort’s restaurants were thought of as highly, including Garden Grove at the Swan.

Garden Grove. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Garden Grove. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Read the rest of this entry »

SATURDAY SIX: 6 Secrets of Disney’s SKIPPER CANTEEN Restaurant

by on April 15, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Secrets of Disney’s Skipper Canteen! Regular readers of the SATURDAY SIX know just how much we love all the little details hidden throughout Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. These theme park “Easter Eggs”  are a great touch for longtime guests, whether it’s a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Nautilus in the queue for the Little Mermaid ride, Back to the Future’s Doc Brown in The Simpson’s Ride, or even references to the former Seashore Sweets bakery in BoardWalk’s AbracadaBarThis week we are going to look at six of our favorite references in the Magic Kingdom’s Skipper Canteen, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Jungle Cruise Imagineers

It’s no shock that Skipper Canteen (full name Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd Skipper Canteen) has a lot of nods to the Jungle Cruise attraction, but one of the best references is the faux upstairs offices for Skipper Marc, Skipper Bill, and Skipper Harper. “Marc” refers to Marc Davis, one of the most well known Imagineers in Disney history. While Marc was involved in creation of the Jungle Cruise, he is also known for his design work on other beloved attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and the Country Bear Jamboree.

Tribute to Marc Davis.(photo by Brandon Glover)

Another door honors Morgan “Bill” Evans. The plant studies designation underneath his name refers to how instrumental Bill was in developing the horticulture of the Jungle Cruise. In fact, Bill Evans and Disney landscaping includes the creation of Disneyland itself. When Walt Disney needed to convert acres of orange groves in Anaheim into a theme park environment, he called the team who had just landscaped the grounds of his personal home. Those men were Bill Evans and his brother Jack.

“Walt told me we were all out of loot and that the time had come to put Latin names on the weeds.” – Bill Evans

Tribute to Bill Evans(photo by Brandon Glover)

Read the rest of this entry »

SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

by on April 8, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s RACE THROUGH NEW YORK STARRING JIMMY FALLON! 

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

This past week Universal Studios Florida (USF) officially opened their newest attraction, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. While not the E-Ticket thrill ride many Universal fans are used to, it is the family friendly attraction that the Universal parks needed. Featuring the crowd pleasing Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, the attraction continues the Universal tradition of including humor within the attraction, while also implementing a whole new way to experience the thing we all hate the most: Theme Park Lines. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – The Facade

One of the many synergies between the attraction and the park itself is the ride’s natural placement in the New York section of USF. With many theme park fans about to riot because of the Guardians of the Galaxy overlay of Tower of Terror out in California, it is great that Universal was able to place a ride exactly where it should go (as opposed to say, the nearby Transformers: The Ride 3-D.) Not only is Race Through New York in the best possible spot, the facade itself looks so good it immediately made everything around it look better. A scaled down replica of the actual NBC building at “30 Rock” in New York City, Race Through New York looks fantastic. Even better, while the facade looks stunning during the day, the area looks even better at night when the sun goes down.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Read the rest of this entry »

SATURDAY SIX: 6 Disney references in James Cameron’s AVATAR you might have missed

by on April 1, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Disney references in James Cameron’s AVATAR! Longtime readers of the SATURDAY SIX know we are pretty much obsessed when it comes to Hollywood movies or TV shows having references to our beloved theme parks. We’ve done articles on shows such as Roseanne and Boy Meets World going to Walt Disney World. We looked at movies such as Sharknado 3 and Ace Ventura Pet Dectective Jr. (yes, it actually exists) that were filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort. Remember when The Simpsons made all those jokes about theme parks over the years? We do. Let’s be honest, which blog series in the entire internet is brave enough to watch the ENTIRETY of Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise series just to find out which scenes were shot at WDW? Only us.

What many humans would have logically concluded as a monumental waste of time was instead training for our greatest achievement, discovering all the Disney references in James Cameron’s Avatar.

Avatar was a worldwide phenomenon making over $2.7 BILLION at the box office. To put that number in perspective, Star Wars: The Force Awakens barely crossed the $2 Billion mark and we all remember what a hit that was. However, when Disney announced it was building an entire land around the film Avatar, many people thought they were crazy. The movie just didn’t have the memorable characters that franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or the animated Pixar film Cars. Turns out Disney was crazy… like a fox! While all of us were marveling over the gorgeous 3D landscape of Pandora on the big screen Disney had tossed in a whole bunch of Easter Eggs into Avatar that have gone undiscovered until now. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the Disney references, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Lapu Lapu

For those that remember (ah, who are we kidding?), after the wheelchair bound Jake is transferred into his N’avi “Avatar,” he immediately begins to run and test out his new body. Jake ran into the Avatar for the character played by Sigourney Weaver, and she threw him a piece of fruit that was indigenous to Pandora’s eco system. Turns out, that wasn’t just a normal fruit, that was actually the pineapple based Lapu Lapu from Disney’s Tambu Lounge! Like Jake, we the audience were so blow away by the new world we had entered that we didn’t see this small – but important – detail.

Jake holding a Lapu Lapu, which an indigenous drink to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. (photo by Matt Cleary)

Read the rest of this entry »

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

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)

Read the rest of this entry »