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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of July 15, 2016

by on July 15, 2016 2 Comments

ICYMI

Have you been wondering around town playing Pokemon Go? I can’t escape it! It’s being played in my office, around my neighborhood…it’s even being played in the Orlando theme parks (I know because it’s invaded my Twitter timeline!) I just can’t escape it!  I think it will be intriguing how this new app makes its way into theme parks going forward…particularly with that partnership Universal has with Nintendo now.

Speaking of Universal, this week was certainly heavy with Universal related news what with the official opening of Kong, info about Halloween Horror Nights, and more. Let’s see what more fun we can explore in this week’s In Case You Missed It!

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

 

Reign of Kong is officially open! USA Today takes a fantastic look at the newest attraction for Islands of Adventure.

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is now open and it looks gorgeous! What do you think? Read the rest of this entry »

What makes Universal Hollywood’s The Walking Dead Attraction More Than A Maze

by on July 15, 2016 1 Comment

The Walking Dead Attraction concept art at Unviersal Studios Hollywood

Image © Universal

On July 4, Universal Studios Hollywood opened its new, year-round Walking Dead Attraction (because nothing screams patriotism like a horde of zombies, yes?). The experience is, on one hand, a fairly standard walk-through attraction–which isn’t surprising, given the fact that it replaces the House of Horrors (a maze starring Universal’s classic monsters instead of walkers) and the presence of The Walking Dead at the past four Halloween Horror Nights events on both the West and East Coasts.

On the other hand, however, this new attraction has garnered much more money, time, and resources from Universal Creative than either of its predecessors, befitting its mammoth stature in the pop-cultural consciousness and its nature as a permanent, around-the-clock fixture in the park. The sheer amount of detail poured into every nook and cranny of every scene is one of The Walking Dead’s biggest selling points; it has been routinely reported in the themed press that, despite its horror veneer, guests will want to linger in every room to try and soak up every last hidden detail and Easter egg to the television series it’s based on. Read the rest of this entry »

Club Villain Returns to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on July 14, 2016 2 Comments

©Disney

©Disney

Looking to get spooky at Walt Disney World this fall? Club Villain is returning for select dates in September and October.

Club Villain, which takes place in the Sunset Showcase at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (located near Rock n’ Roller Coaster), is hosted by Dr. Facilier, the baddie from The Princess and the Frog. The evening features a night of dancing and dining, all while celebrating with your favorite Disney villains.

The event will feature a delightful menu inspired after The Princess and The Frog‘s New Orleans location. Dishes will include beef striploin rubbed with herbes de Provence, Voodoo sticky “pig wings” with citrus gremolata and spicy shrimp sautéed with Andouille sausage, tomato, okra and onions over creamy polenta. There will also be great chilling cocktail concoctions, plus beer and wine at the Potions Bar. Read the rest of this entry »

Julia’s Best Week Ever, July 14, 2016: Road Trip

by on July 14, 2016 6 Comments

Growing up in Florida, every summer, we’d make the trip north to visit family in the mid-Atlantic. My husband, growing up in Maryland, would travel south for the beaches or trips to Walt Disney World. In both cases, we had the experience of traveling I-95 through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. With the cost of the AutoTrain or flying being out of our budget, it was our turn to take our daughter on the multi-day trek along I-95, so we decided to hit as many roadside experiences as we could (while still making time).

Here’s the highlights from each state, going north to south. (Note: All photos were taken by whoever was sitting in the passenger seat — never drive distracted!)

Washington, DC/Northern Virginia

I often get asked by people considering moving to Florida if traffic on I-4 is as bad as they’ve heard. My answer is that it really depends where you are coming from. Well, I found out that traffic in the NoVA/DC/MD corridor is pretty insane any time of day, and although there are normal chokepoints, huge backups can occur anywhere and any time. (The most popular radio station in the area is WTOP, which does traffic every 10 minutes–or more often if conditions require it.) Southbound on 95 seemed to be the direction to go (or sit, actually). The backup when we were headed towards DC was around 20 miles.

2016-07-02 09.12.48

When it was our turn in the southbound lanes, we paid for the HOT lanes — around $1 per mile, with the alternative being more than an hour to go about 20 miles.

Thankfully, traffic around the District was pretty light when we were traveling, so we had the ability to cut through the city and see the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. Read the rest of this entry »

Homecoming Kitchen Review: Delectable Southern Fare at a Fair Price

by on July 13, 2016 4 Comments

Chef Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen & Southern ShineProbably one of the most eagerly-anticipated of all the new Disney Springs dining locations, Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming: Florida Kitchen & Southern Shine sits in a prime location in the springs: just behind STK, across from Morimoto Asia, right across the springs from D-Luxe Burger.

Open as of Tuesday, July 12 to all guests, the restaurant is taking walk-ups only for lunch and dinner (Sunday-Thursday 11:00 AM-midnight, Friday & Saturday 11:00 AM-1:00 AM); guests will be able to make reservations beginning July 15 for meals on or after August 15 through My Disney Experience. Sadly, no discounts are offered just yet, but the Disney Dining Plan is accepted. I was lucky enough to dine at Homecoming Kitchen on opening day to taste their take on upscale Southern comfort food.

A Southern Welcome

The view of Homecoming Kitchen from across Disney SpringsFarm-to-table Southern classics are are the focal point of the menu, highlighting the flavors of Chef Art Smith’s native Florida. Even the décor in the restaurant is Florida-centric: 51% of everything inside was sourced locally, and the beautiful murals of Florida’s natural wonders on the interior and exterior were painted by a local Florida artist.

Natural light floods the main dining room, with a large bar in the center, burlap-sack lighting fixtures accenting the custom-crafted wood tables and Homecoming Kitchen-logo-adorned chairs. A screened-in porch wraps around the back side of the restaurant, perfect for enjoying an outdoor meal right on the springs. The amount of home-state pride really shines through in every facet of the restaurant as soon as you first walk in, setting the expectation that this is probably going to be a great meal for Southern comfort food fans.

The menu has a pretty wide spread of options, depending on your budget and hunger level: easy-to-share starters and desserts book-end reasonably-priced sandwiches/salads and more-filling main plates, along with a wide variety of shareable side dishes. Like we saw with Frontera Cocina’s all-day menu, I was happy to see that Homecoming Kitchen does a really great job including options appropriate for both lunch and dinner.

My server, incredibly excited to greet and seat me in the bustling restaurant, recommended a few of her personal favorites right off the bat: the Palmetto Punch or Fig & Berries to drink, shrimp jubilee to start my meal, and shrimp & grits or any of the fried chicken dishes as my main dish. I also learned that many of the favorites from the main menu are available to-go – takeout menus featuring many of the restaurant’s favorites are available at the hostess stand and you simply place your order at the bar, or order from the shorter “grab and go” menu of sandwiches and sides from the outdoor bar – a great option for those on the go! Read the rest of this entry »

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Now Open at Disney Springs

by on July 12, 2016 3 Comments

Chef Art Smith's Homecoming

Photo ©Rikki Niblett

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming is now open in the Town Center section of Disney Springs. The restaurant which overlooks The Springs, features Southern classic dishes for Guests to enjoy.

Menu items for Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming include Art’s Fabulous Fried Chicken, Shrimp & Grits, Fried Catfish, Momma’s Mac and Cheese, Sweet Collards, Addie Mae’s Chicken & Dumpling soup, the Tarpon Springs Greek Salad, Church Lady Deviled Eggs, Anna Maria Fish Dip, Chocolate Pecan Pie, and Shine Cake. Full menu offerings for this great new table service location can be found here. The restaurant also features a grab-and-go offerings including fried chicken and chopped pork sandwiches.

The interior features plenty of Florida touches, including the cocktail bar and two large tables which were crafted from reclaimed Florida camphor and eucalyptus. There’s also Florida cypress through the interior. Even the zinc tabletops were made in the Sunshine State. Artwork also includes over-sized murals by a local artist.

The great thing is that Chef Art Smith is literally coming home with this new restaurant. He is a native of Jasper, Florida, as well as a former cast member in the Disney College Program.

For those looking to make reservations at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming, you will be able to do so beginning July 15th for seatings beginning August 15th. Walk ups will be taken prior to August 15.

Homecoming is open Sunday through Thursday until midnight and Friday and Saturday until 1:00 a.m.

Disney Early Morning Magic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on July 12, 2016 18 Comments

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

Recently, Disney introduced the idea of Early Morning Magic at the Magic Kingdom. Well it seems that the concept was a good idea, so they are now rolling the idea over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This special event allows Guests to enter the theme park early in the morning before the park opens officially for Guests for the day and allows for the ability to ride attractions that commonly have long waits, as well as enjoy a great in-park breakfast.

During the event, Guests are able to experience Toy Story Mania!, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue and meet favorite characters such as Buzz and Woody at Pixar Place, Mickey and Minnie at Red Carpet Dreams, and Olaf at the Celebrity Spotlight.

Plus, in addition to getting in some some early morning fun, Guests will also be able to enjoy a fantastic breakfast at ABC Commissary. Breakfast will be served from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Menu items will include:

Read the rest of this entry »

TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort + Video

by on July 12, 2016 9 Comments

Photo - Amy FarkasHello.

It’s Angela Dahlgren.

I was wondering if after seven days you’d like to…

Talk about Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort!

I know, I know…I couldn’t resist the Adele reference.

Anyway, if you’re looking to to learn more about this moderate resort at Walt Disney World, check out the video below! Read the rest of this entry »

Epcot Food and Wine Festival International Marketplace Menus Released

by on July 12, 2016 3 Comments

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

©Rikki Niblett

The 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival is going to be here before we know it. Information about this year’s events has been coming out lately, what with the announcement of the performers for the Eat to the Beat Concert Series yesterday. But today, I have information about the International Marketplace menus for this year’s event!  (Which let’s be honest…is one of the best parts of the festival. There’s nothing like getting to walk around the World Showcase promenade sampling delicious food and beverages!) Standby favorites will be returning like cheddar cheese soup from Canada and the Kalua Pork Slider from Hawaii, and new dishes, like loaded Greek “nachos” from the Greece Booth, will be delighting palates.

So, let the planning process begin. I’ve got my list started! Here’s what you can expect to experience this year at the Marketplaces for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival:

Read the rest of this entry »

What Kids Like at the Magic Kingdom

by on July 12, 2016 15 Comments

Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater

Nice outfit, pal!

If you’re trying to decide what to see with your kids at Magic Kingdom, here are two tips:

  • Spend more time on character greetings, interactive games, and fireworks
  • Spend less time in Adventureland and Liberty Square.

That’s our conclusion after analyzing more than 126,000 Magic Kingdom attraction ratings from pre-school, grade school, and teen kids we’ve received over the past year. We’re using this data to update our touring plan and Fastpass+ advice for the 2017 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.

The top attraction for kids – by a wide margin – is the Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet at Town Square Theater on Main Street. Kids give Mickey an average score of 4.7 on our 1-to-5 scale. Following the main mouse are the Celebrate the Magic castle show and Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks.

The next tier of popular attractions is topped by character greetings, mostly in Fantasyland:

At the other end of the scale, kids rate Stitch’s Great Escape! in Tomorrowland as the worst attraction in Walt Disney World. In fact, guests of all ages say Stitch is the worst attraction on property.

Other attractions that rate low with kids include four attractions in Adventureland and Liberty Square:

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, in Tomorrowland, also does poorly. Frontierland’s Country Bear Jamboree barely avoids ending up in this group.

I don’t think these ratings are particularly surprising: most young children are unaware of the history of the U.S. presidency, and don’t really care about either the record of technological innovation in the 20th century, or singing South Pacific birds.  I’m a little surprised with Swiss Family Treehouse’s low ratings – maybe it’s the stairs.

You can use these ratings to prioritize the attractions to see on a one-day trip to the Magic Kingdom. The ratings also help when deciding where to use Fastpass+  during your visit. For example, if the waits in line for Jungle Cruise and the Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet are about the same, you’d probably want a Fastpass+ for Mickey. In a worst-case scenario, you could probably skip the Jungle Cruise without affecting your children’s enjoyment of the park. Read the rest of this entry »