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Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World

by on March 3, 2017

Pokémon GO

With the highly anticipated release of Pokémon GO Generation 2, Pokémon trainers are on the move again, looking to “catch ’em all” and walking miles in the hopes of hatching a rare Pokémon from an egg. One local secret is that Walt Disney World is an excellent place to play Pokémon GO. Here’s some tips to help improve your Pokémon GO experience at Walt Disney World.

What is Pokémon GO?

Pokémon GO is an app available on iPhone and Android devices that lets you “catch” cute creatures, called Pokémon, in real world locations. Players, called Pokémon trainers, hunt for Pokémon, battle in virtual gyms, walk distances of 2-10 km to hatch “eggs” within the game, and collect objects needed in the game from Pokéstops, GPS-identified landmarks.

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DISNEY DINING: Chef Art Smith’s HOMECOMIN’ in Disney Springs

by on March 1, 2017

When Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming opened in Disney Springs last July, it’s safe to say we were big fans. In fact, we were really big fans. In fact, with a restaurant row now loaded with incredible eateries such as Raglan Road, Morimoto Asia, and BOATHOUSE, Homecoming just may be our favorite of all.

This past week the restaurant officially changed its named to Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’. It also has added a few new items to menu over the past few months, so it was high time to go back and check it out.

We’ll start with appetizers, and first up is the THIGH HIGH CHICKEN BISCUITS. These have replaced the bbq chicken wings on the menu and we can confirm that they are one of the top six food items on Disney property.

Three biscuits topped with Chef Art’s famous fried chicken thighs and bread and butter pickles. Drizzled with hot honey.

The “hot” honey isn’t a hot sauce honey, but more of a warm, tangy honey and it is absolutely incredible.  The sweet taste will pair well with a Sweet Tea Shine or one of the many cocktails on the menu.

Thigh High Chicken Biscuits.

Speaking of hot sauce, Homecomin’ now sells its house made hot sauce in bottles you can take home. This slightly sweet sauce gets a lot of rave reviews from hot sauce fans.

Deep South Hot Sauce.

Another appetizer we tried was the BUNCH OF PUPPIES and they were very good, but all we could think about was ordering some more Thigh High Chicken Biscuits. Enjoyed that the hushpuppies had a nice crunchy outside, but soft in the middle. The jalapeño jelly dip added a nice sweet and spicy kick.

House-made hushpuppies served with pimento cheese and jalapeño jelly.

Bunch of Puppies.

The BRAISED SHORT RIBS are one of the newer entree items. As the menu promised, the meat was was boneless and pulled apart easily. Very flavorful and because of the tenderness there was no need for a knife. While we enjoy the regular mashed potatoes at Homecomin’, the whipped sweet potatoes was a nice touch. You don’t see that any many restaurants.

Boneless beef short ribs are slow cooked until fork tender served over whipped sweet potatoes with seasonal vegetable.

Braised Short Ribs.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! February 2017 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on February 28, 2017

Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

It’s the last day of February and – DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?! – the long delayed Rivers of Light finally made its debut in the Animal Kingdom. Reaction to the show has been favorable, except for the fascinating demographic known as theme park bloggers. Bloggers – who have now seen the show more than anyone – started off saying the show wasn’t that impressive at all. After two or three shows, they started remarking how good the soundtrack is and that the show is growing on them. By the end of the week, many had completely flip flopped and said Rivers of Light was a very good show. Now, this could be a case of Stockholm Syndrome, but most likely it is because Rivers of Light completely eschews what we have become used to in theme park shows and goes back to an original concept like the crowd pleasing IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. No intellectual properties, and a show that rewards multiple viewings. There’s reason to believe Rivers of Light will get additions in the coming months to improve that show even more, and that’s a win-win for all of us.

Now, what did Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo, secret shopper Showcase Of Wishes and I find when we stepped into Mordor the Disney Outlet Stores? Let’s check it out!

A while back Disney came out with a unbelievable amount of huge luggage tags. They were very colorful and several of the designs were actually really neat and well themed to “air travel.” Several of the luggage tags made it to the Outlet this month including ones for Dumbo (the flying elephant), Pixar’s Up, and Buzz Lightyear. Originally $12.95 each, these were reduced to $4.99.

How great is the Up one?!

Here is another luggage tag featuring the Genie from Aladdin. Originally $8.95, now $2.99.

So how long before they announce the live action remake of Aladdin? Over/Under is 7 days if Beauty and the Beast opens to over $100M.

Loved this one. It was a small notebook that reminded me of the Disney Little Golden Books. Originally $6.95, now $3.99.

Bambi notebook.

First page of the notebook is gorgeous.

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2017 Pro Bowl Week Schedule

by on January 22, 2017

The Pro Bowl Week is a week-long celebration that unites and inspires the entire football community – players, coaches, families, and fans for a full week of activities, challenges, and true football spirit.

During Pro Bowl Week, everyone has the opportunity to participate in or watch a variety of events, including youth football clinics, the NFL Flag Championships, Pro Bowl player practices, skill challenges, sessions for coaches, the Women’s World Football Championships, and a host of other festivities with the best players of the past, present and future.

Many events are taking place at Walt Disney World, and are free to attend. Practices are free and open to the public but fans can register for priority access here. Some events require a Fan Mobile Pass (FMP). 

 

NFL Pro Bowl Practices

 

Pro Bowl Practices at ESPN Wide World of Sports are not only a chance to see NFC and AFC teams in action, but also the epicenter of a three-day football festival. Practice combined with various fan competitions and activities will be open to the public beginning Wednesday, January 25 and concludes on Saturday, January 28.

AFC Team Practice Schedule

  • Wednesday, January 25: 11:45 AM – 12:45 PM
  • Thursday, January 26: 9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
  • Friday, January 27: 11:20 AM – 12:20 PM
  • Saturday, January 28: 9:45 AM – 10:45 AM

 

NFC Team Practice Schedule

  • Wednesday, January 25: 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
  • Thursday, January 26: 11:20 AM – 12:20 PM
  • Friday, January 27: 9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
  • Saturday, January 28: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

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2017 Walt Disney World Merchandise Now Appearing

by on December 15, 2016

If you’re a fan of Sorcerer Mickey, Disney has you covered for merchandise in the new year. Here’s just a sample of the first merchandise hitting shops (and the Shop DisneyParks app) for 2017.

Clothing and Bags

Most of the clothing for sale is of the t-shirt variety, but that means you can get your money’s worth wearing it all year. Whether iconically Disney, bold and colorful, or subtle in design, Sorcerer Mickey is everywhere for 2017. Selections for kids, like long-sleeve or sweatshirt designs, are fairly limited, but there still are a few designs to choose from. If you prefer to carry your love for Disney with you instead of wearing it on your with sleeves, there are some backpacks and bags, again capturing that Disney magic theme.

 

Cups and Mugs

Depending on who you ask, it is impossible to have too many souvenir cups. If that’s your mindset, you can find a small assortment of 2017 coffee mugs, travel mugs, and “toothpick holders”.

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Walt Disney World Holiday Merchandise Review

by on December 13, 2016

Like a runaway Polar Express, the holiday shopping season is moving quickly to its conclusion. Whether you’re planning a trip for the holiday season, or just want to have a Disney touch for the holidays in your house, we’ve got you covered. Here’s some picks for holiday gifts that we’d like to see under the tree. Not in the area? Many of these items can be ordered directly from the Shop Parks app.

For the Home

I’m an anti-“stuff” person at heart. Every so often, Disney comes out with items that warm the heart of my Grinch-like demeanor. These Bambi-themed table items win on so many levels for me. First, although there’s nothing wrong with Mickey and Minnie, having other characters is a great change of pace. Second, they have a very classy look to them and don’t feel cartoonish.

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If you have to have Mickey and Minnie, though, there are plenty of choices. Some are very classy.

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Others just seem a bit….different.

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Saving Time vs. Saving Money at Walt Disney World

by on December 12, 2016

When I started blogging for TouringPlans, oh those many years ago, I asked our fearless leader Len Testa what kinds of things I should write about. His response was, “Stick with our goal – help people save time and money on their vacations.” While that mission is fantastic, I sometimes struggle with the interplay between the two halves of the statement. Sometimes the things you might do to save time are diametrically opposed to the things you would do to save money, and vice versa. Let’s look at some of the tradeoffs. screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-48-09-am

PRIORITIZING SAVING TIME, EXTREME VERSION

If you have unlimited funds, there are plenty of things you can do to save time. First among them is hiring a VIP guide. For $400-$600, (price varies seasonally) per hour (with a six hour minimum), plus park tickets, for a group of up to ten people, you can have your very own cast member guide escort you around the parks in whatever manner you wish. They’ll pick you up at your hotel and bring you into the parks via a back door entrance (no pesky waiting for the bus or walking from the parking lot to the entrance gate). They’ll scoot you through the FastPass line for attractions, even if you don’t have a FastPass reservation. They’ll take you to a reserved area for parades and shows, so you don’t have to waste time staking out your spot in advance. In short, if you want to throw four or five thousand bucks extra bucks at the “saving time” problem, Disney has you covered.

A similar argument could be made that the new Magic Kingdom shanties cabanas at $650 per day are a way to obviate the need to go back to your resort for a nap. Why waste time shlepping back and forth to the hotel when you can sleep in privacy right in the middle of Tomorrowland.

Magical Express saves money, but might cost you time.

Magical Express saves money, but might cost you time.

PRIORITIZING SAVING MONEY, EXTREME VERSION

On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to save money, you can stay at a bargain-basement off-site hotel. A quick peek on Expedia will show several Orlando area options in the $50 range per night, or about half the price of the Disney World value level resorts. I was even able to find a deal for a $29 per night — at the M Hotel near Universal. (Let’s ignore the fact that the hotel’s reviews are, um, less than stellar. A fairly typical Expedia review said, “The only nice thing I can say about this hotel is that I’m still alive.”) You’ll certainly save money staying there, but you’ll have to factor in at least 30 minutes a day of extra travel time to and from the parks, and significantly more if you want to take a mid-day nap break. There are definitely more palatable bargain hotels that are closer to Walt Disney World, but they all involve time trade-offs. For example, if you’re using an off-site hotel’s shuttle service to the parks, you’ll be dropped off at the farthest bus zone, adding walk time. More obliquely, you may end up spending more time waiting for a meal or a ride because you did not have access to Disney resort guest early access to Dining or FastPass+ reservations.

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SATURDAY SIX: In Memoriam – Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2016

by on December 10, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2016. As theme park fans, we’ve had a lot to be thankful for this year. However, as much as we are looking forward to the opening of Pandora and more Star Wars at Disney, or Volcano Bay and the upcoming Nintendo projects at Universal, it wasn’t all good news. This year we had to say goodbye to some old friends. Today we pay our respects to some of those that we lost in the past year, starting with….

# 6 – Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue (Universal Studios Florida)

While I was never the biggest fan of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue, it did hold a special place in my heart because we got to see the Universal Classic Monsters – including Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein – on stage. Outside of cameos in the underrated Horror Make-up Show and theming inside the Classic Monsters Cafe, these characters are not being used in the park. The live show, headlined by Beetlejuice, had been recently revamped with the addition of new characters (including the Phantom of the Opera’s daughter Phantasia) and a new set list of songs.

Originally, Universal stated that the show was going to close on December 2, 2015. However, the show got a short lived stay of execution and continued on until January 5th, 2016. Both Beetlejuice and its next door neighbor Disaster were closed to make way for the upcoming Fast & Furious – Supercharged attraction coming in 2018.

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A moment of silence for Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice….Beetlejuice. (photo by @Drubov)

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The great big Universal theme park in the sky. (photo by @Drubov)

# 5 – Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

DHS fans may want to get a box of Klennex ready, because you’re about to be in for a bumpy ride for the rest of the article. Speaking of bumpy rides (see what I did there) the Lights, Motors, Action! started its run in America as a “gift” from Disneyland Paris as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth. This is why you should ask for a gift receipt when given something, just in case you want to return it. The Action! part of the stunt show was awesome. Guests got to see cars and motorcycles in a series of elaborate sequences that involved crashes, jumps, and even explosions. Unfortunately the “action” only took up about 7 minutes of the near half-hour show. Like a real movie set, a lot of time has to be spent setting up the next stunt. In 2011, the show added in a segment featuring fan favorite Lightning McQueen from Cars.

On April 2, the Lights, Motors, Action! show performed its last stunt. In its place will be the new Star Wars Land.

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Lights, Motors, Action! (photo by Brian Carey)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Disneyland Snacks You Gotta Try

by on December 3, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Disneyland Snacks You Gotta Try! Longtime readers of the SATURDAY SIX know that we have a big case of the munchies going on 24/7. In fact, because of the articles on The 10 Gallon Challenge at Whispering Canyon and the E-Ticket milkshakes at Universal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, this fine blog series is now the third leading cause of adult onset diabetes in America (and look out soda, we’re coming for you!) This week however we are gonna head across the country over to Guy Selga’s neck of the woods and check out the tasty treats at the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland. Despite having only two parks compared to our four here in Florida, the Disneyland resort is chock full of incredibly unique and delicious items that you can only get out in California. This week we are going to look at six of our absolute favorite snacks, so sit back, loosen your belt a couple notches, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 Matterhorn Macaroon

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The Matterhorn Macaroon in front of the fabled Matterhorn itself. (photo by Brandon Glover)

If you go to Disneyland and don’t stop by the Jolly Holiday Bakery to get a Matterhorn Macaroon, you’re doing it wrong. A coconut macaroon shaped like the iconic Disney mountain, topped with white chocolate, and sprinkled with powdered sugar on top for an awesome snow-like appearance, the Matterhorn Macaroon is ultimate in synergy between theme park attractions and snacks. Oh, and it just so happens to taste GREAT.

# 5 – Mickey Beignets

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Mickey Beignet. (photo by Megan Stump)

Eventually we’ll be doing a blog on our favorite Mickey shaped food items, but one of our favorites is the sugary concoction found at the Mint Julep Bar or Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square (the latter of which serves them with dipping sauces.) We often find ourselves stopping by Port Orleans French Quarter just to grab some beignets here in Florida, so seeing them in the classic Mickey shape in Anaheim brings two of our favorite things together in one. Now that’s synergy we can get behind. Even better, Disneyland also offers flavored beignets such as pumpkin spice during Halloween and peppermint for the Christmas season.

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, December 1, 2016: Thanksgiving Time Out

by on December 1, 2016

2016-11-24-10-37-09Most years, Orange County Public Schools gives kids the entire week off for Thanksgiving so that everyone can travel. This year, because they want school to end in May (!?), they decided to hold school on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. No travel for us, and no one coming in town, so we got some fantastic family time. How much can we cram into one holiday weekend? Come along and find out!

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