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Visiting Shanghai Disneyland

by on July 11, 2016 3 Comments

This post is written by guest writer Elisabeth Lackey, who recently returned from an opening week trip to Shanghai Disneyland. Enjoy!

The Line Up

No surprise, but entry lines for Shanghai Disneyland’s Grand Opening were impressive. Jammed in among a mass of jostling umbrellas we waited a bit over an hour and a half to step through the turnstiles. Later we read online that the park opened 30 minutes early to help accommodate the crowds, but we saw no indication of this by the line’s movement.

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After quick pics at the Mickey clock tower and some gaping at the Enchanted Storybook Castle, we headed to the Adventure Isle Fastpass kiosk. After about 15 minutes the line was dismissed because all FPs were distributed for the day. Having spent so much time in line with no results except that the Minnie t-shirt I was wearing had become rain soaked, frustration began. Half an hour later, however, I was with my family experiencing the magnificent Pirates of the Caribbean–Battle of the Sunken Treasure and my mood transformed to one of wonder and appreciation.

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Since we had expected crowds and a bit of chaos during SDL’s Grand Opening, we were so pleased with how the rest of our day progressed. Lines were long, e-ticket attractions shut down periodically during the day, and Fastpasses were unobtainable, but we were able to experience much of the park’s offerings. The TRON Lightcycle Power Run’s actual wait time was significantly longer than posted (60 min compared to a stated 30), but we were able to ride the light and action cycle ride. Read the rest of this entry »

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on July 9, 2016 12 Comments

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. While we looked at Animal Kingdom last week, today we’re going to turn our gaze over to the park which many insiders agree was created solely as a preemptive strike against the upcoming Universal Studios Florida, the one and only Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (photo by Brian Carey)

Right now Hollywood Studios is in the middle of a transition stage, as two mammoth properties in Star Wars and Pixar’s Toy Story have begun their major expansion inside the park. However, Hollywood Studios still contains some of the most unique dining experiences in any Disney park, amazing streetmosphere, several of WDW’s most thrilling attractions, and two of the best nighttime spectaculars in Florida. In short, we love Hollywood Studios. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, grab a carrot cake cookie , and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Citizens of Hollywood

The dedication plaque for Hollywood Studios (originally known as Disney-MGM Studios) includes a line from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner that reads: “We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.” The dedication also refers to the park channeling classic Hollywood as a state of mind, rather than trying to pinpoint a specific time and place. Nowhere is this more evident than the incredible Citizens of Hollywood who roam the thoroughfare of the park. Completely committed to their particular character, the Citizens of Hollywood are an improvisational comedy troupe who have a lot of fun with guests and every interaction is unique. You’ll find policemen writing tickets, aspiring starlets auditioning for their big role, maintenance crews stumbling around a job, and much more. The Citizens, along with the evocative theming of both Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, combine to wonderfully recreate the Tinseltown none of us ever knew but always imagined. Quality streetsmosphere such as the Dapper Dans at the Magic Kingdom or The Citizens in Hollywood Studios separate Disney from all their competitors, as no one else can even approach this high level of show.

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Citizen of Hollywood, Evie Starlight. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Ben Appetit and Dara Vamp. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Read the rest of this entry »

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party Has New Location

by on July 8, 2016 17 Comments

Star Wars Launch Bay - Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party

©Rikki Niblett

Are you planning on attending The Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party? Well beginning July 10, the dessert party will be taking place at the Star Wars Launch Bay in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Guests participating in the dessert party will check in at the Star Wars Launch Bay entrance. From there, they will be able to take part in photo opportunities, see the exhibits inside the Launch Bay, as well as take part in the character meet and greets. During the dessert party, Guests will get to enjoy Star Wars-themed desserts, like the R2-D2 and Darth Vader cupcakes, flatbreads, and dips. Guests will also receive a souvenir Chewbacca stein.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Star Wars Launch Bay will remain open to all day Guests, however, dessert party Guests will be given a wristband and will have reserved space at the base of the Cantina steps.

Once Guests have enjoyed their dessert party treats, they will be escorted from the Star Wars Launch Bay to the VIP viewing area for the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show.

The dessert party costs $69.00 for adults (ages 10 and up) and $39.00 for children (ages 3-9).

The Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party can be booked now by calling 407-939-3464.

In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of July 8, 2016

by on July 8, 2016 1 Comment

ICYMI

I think we’re all living on the sun. That’s how it feels out there. Yowza! I saw someone mention that they were thinking about baking cookies on their car’s dashboard!

This week, learn more about when you can pick up D23 Expo tickets, see what Universal has up their sleeves, and more.

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

 

I love this heartwarming story. Captain America at Disney California Adventure shares a special moment with a Guest. You may want to grab some tissues, especially if you’re like me and tear up at the drop of a hat.

Are you ready? Tickets for the D23 Expo go on sale soon! Are you going? Read the rest of this entry »

That Time I Spent the Night at the Air and Space Museum

by on July 8, 2016 2 Comments

IMG_0640 (2)On Friday, July 1, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. celebrated its 40th birthday with an all night event inside the museum. Much like when the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland decided to celebrate Leap Day in 2012 with a 24-hour event, this Air and Space overnight was special simply because it had never been done. And I was there.

I’m going to start discussing my night by jumping to the end and admitting that I lied to you in the title. I didn’t make it all night–in fact, I barely made it past 3am. There are lots of reasons why and several of them are “I am very lame,” but I’ll get to the others as we go.

The Launch Crew

Most of the event was free of charge, but beginning at 8pm there was a 2-hour Launch Crew event. This event was $40 per person (21-and-over only) and here was the pitch:

Get exclusive access to Museum staff, special guests, and our outstanding objects. Sample food and beverages from DC area establishments and help launch the night’s festivities.

It is true that the above happened, but I don’t think they kept with the spirit of that description. Yes, museum staff were hanging around, but it seemed mostly to keep us from wandering (and they had no notifiers of who they were, so I didn’t even know what questions to ask). The special guests were there for a bit, but there were not many of them (see Destination Moon below). The objects were outstanding, but they kept us bottled in basically two different sections (one at a time), so the only non-busy section I saw was one that I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to go into.

By far the most disappointing part, however, was the sample food and drink. I never expected unlimited booze, because that’s just asking for trouble, but for $40/person I expected a few beers. What we got was a checklist and instructions that we could have one of each item on them. That included a few snacks, one cocktail, and one beer–and not even a full beer, a six-ounce cup. Yes, I ended up getting three cocktails because I am sneaky and the woman checking off that square tended to chat with other people, but that’s not the point.

There was nothing in particular that felt like the $40 was worth the price and everyone else I spoke with felt the same way. It was cool being in the museum with a smattering of people, and our second floor overlook of everyone else coming in to the newly redesigned Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall was interesting, but it was kind of boring.

Milestones of Flight

As mentioned, the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall was newly redesigned and officially unveiled at 9pm on July 1. Since members of the Launch Crew still had a private gallery upstairs (the Pioneers of Flight), I mostly stayed there. Later in the night, however, I did wander down into the new entrance hall and it is really well done. The star is the recreation of the LM-2 Lunar Module (seen in photo above), although I dare say the most popular is the Starship Enterprise model (from the original Star Trek TV series). I won’t go into detail of everything in the hall, but I did on our Twitter feed if you scroll back to July 1. Read the rest of this entry »

New Entertainment Act for Morocco Pavilion – Musique Aramenco

by on July 8, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Another new entertainment act is now gracing the stage at the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot.

Musique Aramenco will perform with a fusion of traditional and popular dance music from the Southern Mediterranean and Northern African areas. The show will include the darbuka drum, violins, and a belly dancer.

Musique Aramenco appears five days a week and will perform on the Moroccan stage for a limited time.

 

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Frontera Cocina Dining Review

by on July 8, 2016 3 Comments

As construction walls start to come down all around Disney Springs, the list of new dining venues around the Town Center area continues to grow. The newest restaurant added to the mix is Frontera Cocina, the most recent location in a string of modern Mexican eateries from celebrity chef Rick Bayless. Located next to the new Disney Springs Guest Relations location, across from Sprinkles Bakery, this restaurant focuses on freshly-made classic Mexican cuisine in a casual table-service setting. I dropped in during opening week to try out a few dishes and get a feel for what is sure to be a very popular location in Disney Springs and all around Walt Disney World. Frontera Cocina is open from 11:00 AM daily (closing hours vary, so be sure to check before a late dinner), and for now, works on a walk-up seating basis (reservations are available now on OpenTable for seatings starting July 21st; “soon” on My Disney Experience). I chose to beat the rush this particular day by grabbing a table for an early dinner after strolling around some of the newly-opened shops nearby.

The menu here’s not enormous, but has a pretty wide variety of options: lots of shareable appetizers, a few reasonably-priced tacos and tortas (sandwiches) that look perfect for lunchtime/lighter dining, and plated entrees and sides that are priced similarly to most Disney non-signature table service restaurants (like The Wave or Captain’s Grille). First impressions were two-fold: the menu, while modern-leaning, is still pretty accessible to most diners accustomed to pure neighborhood Tex-Mex; secondly, I had absolutely no idea what to order, because everything sounded fantastic. Luckily, my server was quick to point out both the house specialties and her own personal favorites from the dishes she’d been sampled thus far. First, though, I had to settle on a cocktail from their extensive menu. Options here include the incredibly popular avocado margarita, straight from Epcot’s La Cava del Tequila, but I was looking for something I’d not yet tried and couldn’t get elsewhere – luckily, that fits most of this menu, due to the specialty spirits used, many of which are specific only to Frontera Cocina and La Cava. House specialties on the menu include the agave flights, the Frontera margarita, or the slightly-spicier version that is blood orange & jalapeno flavored. Read the rest of this entry »

A Look at the Refurbished Fort Wilderness Cabins

by on July 7, 2016 15 Comments

The cabins at Fort Wilderness went through a refurbishment that began in fall of 2015 and was completed in early 2016. To learn all the great things about the cabins you can read my blog post from last year. In this post I will give you a glimpse of the changes that have been made to the cabins.

The most dramatic upgrade is in the kitchen, which has been completely replaced. The stove is gone with a two burner stovetop and a microwave/convection oven combination as the new cooking area. At the end of this post, I will share my experience cooking in the oven.kitchen

The bathroom got new cabinets and countertops. The bathtub is fiberglass.

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The bench at the dining table now has a back cushion. The murphy bed was replaced with a large TV and a six drawer dresser. The sofa has been replaced with a larger double size sleeper sofa. The child’s table and chairs are gone. The window coverings have also been updated.

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sofa bed

With the refurbishment, the pantry and a small TV were removed from the side of the kitchen. The new space seems to be missing something, like maybe a side table was supposed to be there. Read the rest of this entry »

Dani’s Best Week Ever July 7, 2016: Celebration, FL and Epcot

by on July 7, 2016 1 Comment

Best Week Ever is a series that began as a way to take you along for a jam packed journey through Orlando’s theme parks and other attractions. Along the way our contributors have changed, but our approach remains: to make the most of every visit. This past week I have been fortunate enough to have one of my absolute best weeks ever, and I am excited to share some of the highlights with you.

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Independence Day Weekend is a cause for celebration throughout the entire country. In recent years it has meant traveling to my parents’ home and spending time with my brother, sister in law, and my five nieces and nephews. Such was the case this year. Cedar Key, FL feels worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of Orlando. It is about a two and a half hour drive to this island that sits in the Northwest corner of Florida. This little island has a small town feel; there are no chain restaurants, one school, one gas station, time moves slower here. If you have enough time in your Central Florida vacation for a side trip somewhere in Florida, consider Cedar Key for a dramatic change of pace.

Cedar Key, FL

Cedar Key, FL

The drive to and from is actually one of my favorite parts of a visit to Cedar Key. There a few routes from which to choose, each having at least one portion that consists of driving through backroads, past horse farms, goat farms, and country landscape. Driving through this scenery made for a beautiful way to start Independence Day 2016.

Country road in Marion County, FL

Country road in Marion County, FL

Celebration, FL

I arrived back in the metropolitan sprawl of the Orlando area close to lunch time. I made the journey from one small town and was about to head to another. Later that afternoon a friend and I arrived at Celebration, FL. This is the town that Disney built. It is perfectly manicured and was the catalyst for the birth of many other planned communities throughout the country. Although Disney no longer owns the community, if you are a Disney fan a visit to Celebration will prove entertaining and enjoyable.

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Visitors enjoy the lake at Celebration, FL while waiting for the July 4th concert and fireworks

Read the rest of this entry »

Tiffins Introduces New Lunch Offerings

by on July 6, 2016 3 Comments

Tiffins

©Rikki Niblett

If you have been curious to try the all-new signature restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tiffins, you now have a great opportunity to do so.

A brand new lunch menu has been introduced for the restaurant which features small portions of some of Tiffins’ most popular dishes. From 11:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. each day, Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy the Taste of Tiffins options. This offering allows Guests to explore the standout dishes from this restaurant. Guests can choose from a pairing of two different options, alongside a Jade rice blend for $28.00, plus tax and gratuity.

Options that Guests can select from include: flash-fried blue mussels, black-eyed pea fritters, crispy Yellowtail Snapper, sustainable fish crudo, 72-hour beef short rib, salad of roasted baby beets, market vegetable curry, marinated grilled octopus, Chermoula-rubbed chicken, or the masa and pulled pork tamale. (My suggestions…the octopus and the beef short rib. I’ve tried both and they were both excellent!)

In addition, a light bites menu has been introduced as well, including:

  • Archaeologist Salad ($12.00)- Spring Vegetable Variations, Pumpernickel Soil, and a Champagne Vinaigrette
  • Tiffins Signature Bread Service ($10.00) – Pomegranate Olive Oil, Harissa Yogurt, Zhough Yogurt, Black-Eyed Pea Hummus
  • House-made Head Cheese and Chicken Liver Pate ($14.00) – Goji Berry Chutney, Accouterments, Whole Grain Mustard
  • Lobster-Popcorn Thai Curry Soup ($13.00) – Basil Emulsion, Popped Sorghum

Should you choose, you still do have the option to order off the regular, all-day menu at lunch, as well. The choice is yours, but I think this new offering is certainly a great way to sample some great dishes without over-stuffing yourself during the lunchtime hours.