Walt Disney World (FL)

Pandora – Everything You Need To Know

by on March 21, 2017

Pandora – Everything You Need To Know

Disney’s collaboration with James Cameron, Pandora – World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom park is the biggest expansion we’ve seen at Walt Disney World since New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. It was first announced in 2011 (yeah, it blew our minds that it’s been nearly 6 years too).

Want more Pandora, and then some? Listen to The Disney Dish Podcast with Jim Hill, produced by TouringPlans. Find episode 123 on iTunes or on all fine podcast apps.

We also recommend this video from Brian McNichols on Pandora touring strategies. It was made before we knew details about how FastPass+ will work with the new attractions, but the advice is still sound.

Check out our Pandora page for the latest news on Animal Kingdom’s newest land and attractions.

When will Pandora open?

The official opening date is May 27, 2017. However, media is invited on the 22nd, and the land should be in soft open. When an attraction is in soft open, it’s accessible to guests, but can be closed at any time for testing. This lets Disney work out the kinks of something new before its grand opening. Disney Vacation Club owners, Annual Passholders, and Cast Members can expect their own previews of Pandora, possible as early as the last week of April. We will post more information to the blog when we hear it.

What attractions does Pandora have?

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Captain’s Grille Coasts By With Fine Fare

by on March 20, 2017

Captain's Grille Review

Note: from mid-May 2017 to fall 2017, Captain’s Grille will be going through a refurbishment. During that time, it will relocate to Ariel’s at Disney’s Beach Club. The breakfast buffet will not be available during that time, though there will still be an a la carte option in the morning.

Some of the most popular restaurants for Walt Disney World resort guests lie just around the corner in their own resorts, providing a close option for a meal any time of day before or after a long day of park-hopping. Captain’s Grille at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort fits this bill – set just off the main lobby, it’s open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, ready to serve any visitor with a wide variety of menu options. I dropped in for dinner recently to check out whether this restaurant is worth a stop during your next trip.

First Impressions

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Family-Friendly Flower and Garden Festival Favorites

by on March 17, 2017

flower and garden festival favorites

As I mentioned in my review of all of the new 2017 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival items, the number of great options to sample has exploded in recent years as the festival has grown to include fresh and seasonal food offerings. Today, though, I want to visit a few family-friendly returning festival favorites that kids and parents alike will enjoy (with a few options snuck in just for the adults). As always, click on each photo to see a larger view of each delicious dish.

Lotus House

  • Beijing-style Candied Strawberries ($5.50)

Lotus House: Spicy chicken lettuce wrap (new item) and Beijing candied strawberries (returning favorite).While not the most out-of-the-box treat you can sample at Flower and Garden, these strawberries are sure to be a hit with kids (and kids-at-heart) who like to play with their food. A crunchy coating of sugar is fun to crack open with sweet strawberries underneath – simple, but fun and tasty.

Bauernmarkt

  • Roasted Bratwurst with Curry Ketchup and Paprika-Spiced Chips ($5.00)

Bauernmarkt (clockwise top L-R): Schofferhoefer Zitrone (returning favorite), currywurst with paprika chips (returning favorite), Potato pancake with house-made applesauce (new), potato pancakes with caramelized ham and onions (new), warm cheese strudel with berries (new).Currywurst is a pretty popular German snack, and a more unique take on bratwurst than what you can normally sample in the Germany pavilion, so this is always a treat during festival seasons. The curry ketchup is slightly tangy and earthy, a fun new flavor kids will enjoy trying in this small plate. While not a huge portion, this is definitely enough for a hearty snack.

  • Schofferhoefer Zitrone Weizen Mix ($4.25)

A treat for adults, this specialty beer is a cousin of the ridiculously popular “grapefruit beer” also served in the Germany pavilion. A seasonal variation, this one focuses on a bright lemon flavor, a truly refreshing drink to enjoy during an afternoon stroll around World Showcase.

The Smokehouse

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Pro Tips – Things You Shouldn’t Pay For at Walt Disney World

by on March 15, 2017

save money at Disney by avoiding these common purchases

A few days ago Tammy Whiting wrote a great article about Things You Shouldn’t Pay for on a Disney Cruise. Today I take that idea and apply it to Walt Disney World! Here are some purchases to avoid to save money at Disney.

Some of you might think, “Hey Claire, everything is expensive at the Disney parks! You just have to deal with it!” I agree with your statement, but there are always things that are just a little too ridiculous, or a little too much like a nickel-and-dime scheme, or WAY too expensive to warrant even being put on the shelf or promoted by the company!

So if you’re trying to afford that great Disney vacation and are thinking of ways to reduce the overall budget, here are some things you can definitely ignore:

Save Money at Disney – Don’t Fall for Preferred Parking

Walt Disney World’s parking is huge and sprawling. They have always accomodated the early riser and the late arriver by shuttling people with their tram system to roughly the spot where their vehicle is located. If you are close enough to the entrance, you can just hoof it to the security checkpoint.

save money at Disney - don't pay for preferred parking

A rental car minus a Disney resort = extra cash for parking. Photo – Claire Nat

Disney’s commuting guests have grown accustomed to this arrangement. However, one year ago Disney decided to provide an up charge by giving guests really, really great parking spaces for just $20 more!

I need to remind you that parking for a Disney park in Florida is already $20, so if you want the best spot in the Mouse House you have to double your parking payment. $40 paid for the day and you haven’t even made it to the entrance yet!

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The Dress Shop To Open at Disney Springs

by on March 14, 2017

The Dress Shop

©Disney

Disney….you just love to find ways to part me from my money, don’t you? (Of course you do…that was absolutely a rhetorical question.) This time, I really think you’ve done it though. The Dress Shop, an all new shopping experience, is coming to the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs.  This area will sell gorgeous dresses and apparel that are whimsical and full of great Disney fun.

Dresses emulate costumes that Disney Cast Members wear (hello easy way to Disney Bound!), as well as include fun Disney touches. (Oh, look! Orange Bird!) My favorite dress, hands down, is the one themed after Tower of Terror. Other designs feature Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, “it’s a small world,” and The Haunted Mansion, Minnie Mouse, Snow White from Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and Alice from Walt Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

Looking to accessorize? Handbags resembling an apple, the White Rabbit, or a Hollywood Tower Hotel suitcase will also be released.

There is no word on how much these dresses will cost. (I absolutely fear for my wallet.) Dresses will run all the way from XS to XL, with select dresses running up to 3-XL. Also, currently these dresses will only be available at select merchandise locations at the Disney parks. It is unknown if or when they will be added to the Shop Disney Parks app.

Oh and if you’re in Disneyland, you can pick up some of these items soon from this collection at Vault 28 in the Downtown Disney District.

For those who don’t know, Marketplace Co-Op is home to different specialty boutiques all located under one roof. The store’s purpose is to be a testing ground for new Disney retail concepts, shops, and products.

The Dress Shop is expected to open in the Marketplace Co-Op on March 31 and there will be special activities that day and throughout the weekend to celebrate.

Celebration at the Top at California Grill Extended

by on March 14, 2017

Celebration at the Top

©Rikki Niblett

I guess it’s been a popular new offering because the Celebration at the Top – Savor, Sip, and Sparkle event has officially been extended. The event, which was announced a little less than a month ago, will now occur through September 24 on select Sunday evenings at the California Grill which is located on the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

During the evening, Guests will enjoy complimentary bar offerings and a variety of small plates, including canapés, sushi rolls, flatbreads and more. Beverages will include a complimentary bar offering California wines, beers, and cordials. Guests then have the opportunity to relax and dine in the private Sonoma Room and Napa Room for one hour prior to the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Once the fireworks are about to begin, Guests will be able to head out to their private observation deck for a fantastic view,the lights dimmed and the music pipped in. Petit fours, coffee, and cordials and desserts will follow.

The cost of Celebration at the Top is $99 per person, plus tax and gratuity and complimentary valet parking is included. Reservations can be made by calling (407) WDW-DINE.

Stitch’s Great Escape to Be Open at Magic Kingdom

by on March 13, 2017

Stitch's Great Escape

©Seth Kubersky

One thing is for certain. Spring break is officially here. Know how I know? It’s because the currently seasonal attraction, Stitch’s Great Escape is currently open for Guests. Guests can stop by the Tomorrowland attraction until March 17 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. daily. The attraction will then return back to seasonal status beginning March 18.

Stitch’s Great Escape initially became a seasonal attraction back on October 2. Rumors indicate that a new attraction themed after the film Wreck-It Ralph have been floated around, however nothing is concrete yet about what will eventually happen with the attraction. (For those who are unaware, most of the time, seasonal attractions don’t come out of seasonal status until they are replaced.)

If you will be in the Magic Kingdom and you want to make sure to see Stitch’s Great Escape, now is your change to do it!

New Details and a Recap of What to Expect When Exploring Pandora – The World of Avatar

by on March 10, 2017

Pandora - The World of Avatar

©Disney

Wow! Yesterday was a flurry of new information all about Pandora – World of Avatar courtesy of a plethora of ABC shows -“The Chew”, “Good Morning America“, “The View“, and “Nightline.”  The goal of these spots were clearly to get excitement ramped up and it most certainly worked!

So if you’re looking forward to the official opening of this new land as much as I am, here’s what you should know courtesy of recent news developments. (If you want to avoid minor spoilers about the land, stop reading now. This is your only warning!)

According to James Cameron. The story is that we are found in a generation of Pandora after all the movies when the warfare between the humans and Na’vi is over. The Na’vi have welcomed us to Pandora to help us understand nature and ourselves better. Essentially, we are welcome because we are here to learn and educate ourselves.

There are two Pandoras that Guests will get to experience. Day and night. Trust me, you will want to see this place lit up at night!

Guests walk through an opening and will be immersed in the Valley of Mo’ara. Here, Guests can walk right under the enormous floating mountains. The land is lush and is a mixture of earth plants and Pandorian foliage that all helps to gives the idea that it’s a real ecosystem. Of course, these plants will come to life with beautiful bioluminescence each night.

The Valley of Mo’ara will also include a Na’vi-built drum circle that will contain instruments that are playable by all, Na’vi totems and other cultural items found. For those who are Wilderness Explorers fans, there will be brand new challenges and badges to collect in Pandora too! Guests who visit may even come across tour guides from Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE), scientists from the Pandora Conservation Initiative (PCI), or even an eclectic expat or two!

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Every New Dish at the 2017 Epcot Flower And Garden Festival Reviewed!

by on March 9, 2017

The iconic "flower blanket" is one of the many favorite views of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.Spring has sprung, and the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival has finally arrived for the 2017 season! Originally just a great time of year to see some of the coolest topiaries around, over the last few years, Disney has steadily transformed the Flower and Garden Festival into a must-do for those looking to sample some of the freshest flavors of the season. This year, two new food booths join the festival, and more than 20 new dishes complement the growing list of must-try treats. Today, I’m reviewing every new food dish (and, as a bonus, a few of the new beverage samplings); below my reviews, I’ve ranked the new food items so you know exactly where to head on your next festival visit. As always, click on every photo for a larger view of each dish – you might spot a few returning festival favorites I’ll review in a future post!

The Dishes

Urban Eats: Urban Fairy cocktail (returning favorite) with the Crabless Crab Cake (new).Urban Farm Eats

  • Crabless cake with crispy vegetable slaw, lemon vinaigrette, and old bay remoulade ($6.25)

If you can get over the texture, this is a definite winner for me. The crabless cake itself is vegan (plant-based, no crabs involved!), so the texture is a bit firmer, more like a moist burger patty. The old bay remoulade had a nice kick to it, still savory, but helped bring a little zing to the crabless cake’s mild flavor. The veggies in my slaw weren’t super-crisp, but the bright vinaigrette really tied the whole dish together. An unexpectedly good dish.

Northern Bloom

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Fun Ideas for Disney World Problem Solving

by on March 9, 2017

Hard to believe it, but Disney World could be even better!

Hard to believe it looking at this view, but Disney World could be even better!

Let me throw this out there to start — I LOVE Disney Parks. In addition to just being, well, FUN, they are also marvels of modern engineering, and it is astonishing to me that they can do what they do at the scale that they do it every single day and night. Considering what they seek to accomplish, the efficiency is pretty incredible, and its amazing that we don’t have to deal with more Walt Disney World problems than we do. 

With that said, there do indeed exist imperfections. What Disney may not realize, however, is that the solutions to these minor annoyances exist right under their noses right now! That’s right, by just borrowing ideas from other aspects of its parks, Disney can make its already great parks even better! Read on for a few realistic and not-so-realistic, blue sky hopes for the future of the parks to find out how!

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