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Disney World Planning Challenges: Managing Your Disney Morning

by on October 14, 2014 23 Comments

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t_logo_fbTime is precious on any vacation, and a Disney World vacation in particular can create the feeling that time is passing at a far quicker pace than in everyday life. With so much Disney fun waiting each day (and the feeling that time flies at the World unlikely to abate), who wants to spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning. Whether your goal is to be at the parks at opening or to eke out a bit more sleep before you start your day, getting up and out of your room efficiently will help maximize your vacation time. And the rewards for your efforts can be significant.

Whether you need to get your entire family up and out the door or just yourself, there are several steps you can take to smooth the morning routine. These steps will not only save time but make the morning (and the people getting ready) more relaxed so that you can leave the room happy, stress-free, and ready for fun. This article highlights specific tips for your morning as well as TouringPlans tools and information that can extend the benefits of a calm morning to the rest of your day. Read the rest of this entry »

Where to Find “Real” Sweet Tea at Disney World

by on October 13, 2014 13 Comments

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Starbucks Shaken Sweet Tea

Starbucks Shaken Sweet Tea

If you’re from the South, you know that there’s a big difference between sweetened tea and “real” sweet tea; and if you have been to Disney World, you also know that it can be quite a challenge to find this Southern staple.

Now for those of you who don’t know, “real” sweet tea is Black Tea that is brewed with sugar while it’s still hot, as opposed to adding the sugar later. This process creates a smooth, blended sweet taste and consistency that can’t even compare to fruit flavored tea or the Gold Peak Tea found throughout the parks and resorts.

But if you’re like me, and sweet tea is your go-to refreshment after spending the day trekking through the parks, I have uncovered a few places at Disney World where you can enjoy a Southern-style Sweet Tea!

Starbucks – Starbucks locations have been opening up all throughout Disney World this past year, beginning with the Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom, then Fountain View at Epcot, followed by two locations at Downtown Disney, and soon, a new location at Hollywood Studios. Now I know that Starbucks is all about coffee; but for me, it’s also a go-to for a sweet tea fix. Each Starbucks at Disney World now serves a Shaken Sweet Tea, which has all the flavor of real, Southern Sweet Tea. Plus, the variety of Starbucks locations means that I can grab a sweet tea almost anywhere at Disney World now with prices ranging from the smallest size at $1.99 to the largest at $3.29. Check out the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Bakery’s menu here! Read the rest of this entry »

Appetizers Only at Carthay Circle Restaurant

by on October 13, 2014 2 Comments

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Carthay Circle Restaurant - Natalie Reinert

Carthay Circle is a gorgeous icon at the end of Buena Vista Street.

Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure beckons park visitors from the moment they step through the turnstiles. With its white spire soaring into the blue California sky, its historical connections to the Walt Disney Company of yesteryear (the original Carthay Circle Theater was the site of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie premiere) and its gorgeous Art Deco styling, stepping through its doors is alluring whether you’re a foodie, a Disney history fan, or both.

I happen to be both, and knew from the moment I started planning my Disneyland vacation that Carthay Circle had to be a centerpiece of the trip. There was just one problem–the reviews of the entrees seemed so mixed. And the entrees themselves didn’t thrill me.

Consider the lunch entrees at Carthay Circle. A steak salad. Ravioli. Fried shrimp. A $22 burger. Granted, all of these are served with gourmet flourish: the fried shrimp are tempura-style, and come with black rice stir fry and Red Thai curry. The burger… well, the burger has house-made pickles on the side. But while all of these things might be delicious, none of them are particularly unusual or innovative. I felt like I could get any of those things within a few blocks’ walk of my apartment. Read the rest of this entry »

Menu Monday: AMC Dine-In Theatre at Downtown Disney

by on October 13, 2014 1 Comment

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IMG_0135Hi everyone! By request, I’m stopping by with another Menu Monday to tell you all about the AMC dine-in Theatre at Downtown Disney. Anyone that has read my park reports knows I’m a fan of sloshing through Disney World in the rain. It might come as a surprise that another one of my rainy day favorites is visiting the AMC dine-in Theatre. Not to mention it makes for a great date night!

This past weekend I stopped by for a movie because a storm was coming and I hadn’t packed my rain gear. Since it was before noon, the parking situation was simple, but you should know that parking can be very difficult to find these days if you stop by later. It’s very simple to park at Saratoga Springs and stroll over. At the guard shack just tell them that’s your plan and they’ll direct you to the best parking. There’s nothing sneaky about it. With the limited parking available at Downtown Disney right now they’re encouraging you to find parking at a nearby resort. Read the rest of this entry »

Cast Member Chronicles: Chef Kevin Marshall

by on October 12, 2014 10 Comments

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Photo Credit - Derek Burgan

Crystal Palace

I met Chef Kevin Marshall at a dinner party while visiting Orlando this past September. He is a friend of my Uncle Keith, and was gracious enough to share his culinary talents as our personal chef for the evening. As he prepared a scrumptious feast for us, I interviewed him about his diverse and fascinating career at Walt Disney World.

In June of 1989, he was a man fresh out of tech school. He applied at Walt Disney World, but soon learned there was a hiring freeze for positions he originally desired. Because he had previously managed a Wendy’s restaurant, he was offered a job in food and beverage at The Crystal Palace. As part of the culinary staff, he moved around to different positions, soon cooking alongside professional Disney chefs.

While working at the Crystal Palace, he and two other coworkers were asked to carve a 700 lb pumpkin for Halloween. They were told to carve and hand paint the ‘Blustery Day’ scene from Winnie the Pooh. It took two weeks of overtime and 90 man hours to complete this masterpiece. It was displayed outside the restaurant, surrounded by bales of hay to prevent guests from touching it. One day, a Cast Member saw a little boy ignoring the bales and and putting his hands on the carved image of Pooh. Originally thinking the boy was causing mischief, the Cast Member told the boy to refrain from touching the pumpkin. As it turns out, the little boy was blind. He never knew what Pooh and his friends looked like. From the carving, the boy was able to feel and learn the character shapes. It was his own personal braille pattern. Kevin said it made all his hard work truly worth it and is a memory that touches him to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

by on October 11, 2014 19 Comments

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons Halloween Horror Nights is Better than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Now, before we start, this is not an article that’s trying to sell you on the idea that MNSSHP is not good, as we wrote several weeks ago that we love it, and it’s definitely the best Halloween event in town that you can bring the whole family to. That said, Halloween Horror Nights brings some elements to the table, which Disney could learn from in terms of over delivering to its guests. While HHN may not be for everyone, if you are a regular reader of the Saturday Six it’s probably for you and today we’ll look at the reasons why. Please remember that clicking on any picture will open it up in full size, and let’s count ‘em down…

# 6 –  A night at HHN is completely different than any other experience you’ve had at Universal Studios Florida

HHN_DieIn_Glover

Mel’s Drive-In becomes Mel’s DIE-In for HHN. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

For anyone who has gone to MNSSHP you know that the one of the bigger differences between a party night and any other night is how well Main Street, U.S.A. is decorated. Unfortunately, outside of The Haunted Mansion, that’s where the level of theming stops. All the lands of the park are the same (albeit with wonderful candy stations) and all of the attractions are the same, just with less people going on them. That’s where I find the value in a MNSSHP ticket. You can do all the E-Ticket rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder without having to worry about FP+ or standby lines as almost everything is a walk-on. Halloween Horror Nights on the other hand completely changes the dynamic of Universal Studios Florida. There are scare zones and seemingly hundreds of scare actors thoughout the entire park along with 8 haunted houses, none of which are available to non-party going guests.

Read the rest of this entry »

Disney Offering One Day Memory Maker Option With Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

by on October 10, 2014 1 Comment

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Disney PhotoPassFor those who love photographs, there is a great new option for you if you’ll be attending Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is currently testing an option where guests can purchase a one-day Memory Maker that can be utilized during the evening’s events. This one day Memory Maker costs $39 and is added to a party ticket.

As a nice bonus, not only will guests be able to have any photo taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers during that evening’s party, but they will also be able to digitally download any photo taken that day – not just during the party hours. This includes photos taken at select dining establishments, as well as any on-ride attraction photos.

To purchase this one-day Memory Maker option, guests can visit a ticket booth at the Transportation and Ticket Center, and for those who’ve already purchased tickets but still would like to purchase this fun option, you can still add it on the evening of your party.

 

In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of October 10, 2014

by on October 10, 2014

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In Case You Missed It!

In Case You Missed It!

So, now that we’re full into October, are you getting ready for Halloween yet? I’m slowly starting to decorate the house and I’m starting to see the neighbor’s decorations going up too. What are you doing to get ready for the spooky holiday? Do you carve pumpkins, go to haunted houses, hand out candy? I love hearing about what others do to celebrate! (PS: if you are carving pumpkins this year, consider making a pumpkin Olaf!)

This week’s collection of articles includes a look at the upcoming Tomorrowland movie, details on what potentially made Maleficent one of the best Disney villains, and more! There’s a ton I have to share with you, so make sure to let me know your favorite in the comments!

 

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

 

Napa Rose at the Disneyland Resort recently reopened for an extensive rehab. Read about what went into the refreshing of this popular restaurant, as well as additional details from Executive Chef, Andrew Sutton.

Speaking about fine dining restaurants, Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian was named by TripAdvisor’s 2014 Travelers’ Choice awards as one of the “Top 5 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in the United States.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 10/10/14

by on October 10, 2014

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Happy Friday! Who is ready for more Newsworthy Notes? If you’re visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom or wanting to visit Typhoon Lagoon, I’ve got some news you should definitely read!

  • The Affection Section petting zoo area at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be closed for refurbishment until November 10, reopening on November 11. Guests will still be able experience the other animal encounters at Conservation Station. Also, at the Out of the Wild shop, they are now offering some food items, including things like fresh fruit cups, hummus, and apples with caramel, and ice cream treats. This is good news, considering Rafiki’s Planet Watch previously had no snack options at all.
  • For those who are unaware, currently all guests wishing to visit Typhoon Lagoon after 2:00 p.m. must go to Epcot and transfer to a bus which will take them to Typhoon Lagoon. (This is being done to accommodate Disney Springs construction.) This means that Magic Kingdom resort hotel guests who currently want to visit the water park must go to Epcot via monorail (transferring to the Epcot monorail at the Transportation and Ticket Center) and then transfer to the bus taking them to Typhoon Lagoon. However, from October 12-25, Disney will be offering a bus route that will give guests the option to be transported from the Magic Kingdom resorts, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, to Epcot. From there, the guests will be able to hop on another bus to transfer to Typhoon Lagoon. This route will only be in service daily from 2:00 p.m. until Typhoon Lagoon closes for the evening. Guests will also still be able to utilize the monorail to make the journey to Epcot and then transfer to the water park if they choose. Typhoon Lagoon will be closing for its annual refurbishment October 26, which will last until January 3, 2015.
  • Due to maintenance work, the Hess gas station located near Disney’s BoardWalk Inn will be temporarily closed beginning October 13. The project has no official end date, but it is expected to last approximately three weeks. The other Hess gas stations found on property will remain open.

That’s it for this installment. Thoughts?

 

Friday Face Off – Aging Attractions

by on October 10, 2014 25 Comments

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Running a theme park has to be a dicey experiment. The more a park works to stay current, the older the older attractions tend to look. While many attractions retain their charm throughout the years, many others tend to feel dated pretty quickly. Attendance drops, lines decline, and parks decide to refresh the attraction through refurbishment, rebuilding, or demolition. Today, let’s look at a few Disney and Universal attractions, and throw them down in a Friday Face Off – Aging Attractions. Universal’s Jurassic Park River Adventure vs. Disney World’s Dinosaur and the recently-deceased Maelstrom.

Here to save the World?

Here to save the World?

First, I’ll beat the dead horse that was Maelstrom. Relax, people. Relax. Don’t get me wrong: I’m disappointed that Maelstrom will be re-created into a Frozen attraction, but I don’t think it’s any great loss. Those crying over its demise will no doubt rue the day that Captain EO eventually is mercifully put out of its misery.

On a side note, I truly believe that Disney Cast Members are punitively placed to work there. I mean, how COULD this be such an epic failure? Spielberg? Coppola? Space? Michael Jackson? Dancing? Puppets? I can remember being there in 1986 – sporting the mullet, most certainly, and seeing the preview posters for the upcoming Captain EO film, and being disappointed that Captain EO didn’t premiere until that fall. We were out of the Disney World environment until 2009, when we saw Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. Then we returned in 2013 for our visit to the Return of Captain EO. Let me tell you how that trip went.

When we entered the queue area, we encountered the most seriously working – and for the most part completely clueless – Cast Member employed at the Disney World property. Read the rest of this entry »