Posts Tagged ‘disney world’

A Night Out On The BoardWalk at Flying Fish and AbracadaBar

by on August 5, 2016

The marquee at Flying Fish remains as colorful as everDisney dining fans have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of one of the most popular signature table service restaurants in Walt Disney World, and it’s finally here. After several months under refurbishment, Flying Fish (formerly Flying Fish Café) reopened this week with a new look, new menu, and a new chef leading the way (though Chef Tim Majoras is a familiar face to the restaurant, as he’s been with Flying Fish for the past five years). As a longtime favorite of mine, I was just as excited as all of you to try the new menu (and probably just as sad to see favorites like the potato-encrusted snapper fly away off the menu). But first, I had to make a quick stop into another new addition to the BoardWalk, right next door, at AbracadaBar.

The front of AbracadaBar's menu offers a peek into the bar's backstory.Located in the space formerly occupied by Seashore Sweets, AbracadaBar is the newest addition to the Disney bar scene, though it may surprise a few guests with how different it is from other recent additions. AbracadaBar, open at 4:00 PM daily, is a bar, through and through, and decidedly not a lounge in the traditional Disney lounge sense. The menu (featuring a little magic trick of its own) is fairly short, featuring eight signature cocktails with high-end spirits, a selection of beers, wines, and two non-alcoholic drinks (that can also be tailored to your tastes if you prefer them on the alcoholic side).

If you frequent Disney lounges, you’ll notice something – I didn’t mention any food on the menu; that’s because there isn’t any, though your server will likely offer you some truffle popcorn to snack on with your drink. This is probably for a specific reason – there are a TON of food options on the BoardWalk (AbracadaBar itself is sandwiched between Trattoria al Forno and Flying Fish). It seems like it’s meant more as a stop-off for those on their way to their final dinner destination. This could be a great idea for the area, typically packed with adults looking for a fun place or two to spend a night out without kids.

AbracadaBar's interior is both cozy and welcoming.The space inside AbracadaBar isn’t huge in size, and the beautiful dark finishes and ornate red and gold wallpaper inside make it pretty cozy but welcoming. The tables aren’t on top of each other, which is always a plus in a bar or lounge. I loved coming in to this atmosphere out of the harsh Florida summer sun – a quick twenty minute break inside to enjoy a drink was really all I needed. Speaking of a drink – what to sample? I’m a big fan of many of the style of cocktails on this menu, so my choice was difficult, but I settled on one of the rare-at-Disney drinks, the Elixir 13.

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A Disney Springs Dining Digest

by on August 2, 2016

New restaurants abound at Disney Springs (pictured here: Chef Art Smith's Homecoming Kitchen)We’ve had an overwhelming amount of news and reviews lately about dining at Disney Springs, so I thought it’d be nice to take a step back this week to compile a Disney Springs Dining Digest of all of the new options now open. Below, you’ll find a quick summary of each new restaurant and what we thought of it here at TouringPlans (with links to our menus and full reviews, because we know you love photos of all that tasty food!). I’ll also rank the restaurants to give a sense of my overall favorites, which will hopefully help you plan your next visit to Disney Springs.

The Big Five (Table Service Restaurants)

Disney Springs has always had table service restaurants representative of a variety of modern cuisines with Wolfgang Puck, Bongo’s Cuban Café, and Crossroads at House of Blues. Recently, though, five new table service locations have opened that diversify the dining scene even further. Since we’re looking at the changing landscape of Disney Springs as a whole, we’ll start with one of the first new locations to open, even before Downtown Disney converted to Disney Springs, and move chronologically to restaurants that have opened as recently as the last few weeks.

The BOATHOUSE

  • Food: American steaks and seafood (priced similarly to Yachtsman Steakhouse or Shula’s); sandwiches, burgers, fried baskets (priced similarly to lunch at non-signature restaurants like The Wave or platters at more expensive quick service locations)
  • Atmosphere: The waterfront location and white tablecloths make it seem pretty fancy, but never so stuffy that eating a burger and fries here feels out of place. Families are welcome here, but it also works well for an adults-only date night out.
  • Quick Tips: Wait times for a walkup table here can creep up pretty high, so take advantage of the indoor/outdoor bar areas if your party is small. Steaks are good, but with few exceptions, require ordering other stuff to feel like a full meal: an appetizer (shrimp cocktail or oysters from the raw bar) or a la carte side (giant bowl of mac and cheese? Count me in.) is perfect for two people. On that note, always share desserts here (they’re huge!). Burgers and filet sliders are among the best budget-conscious meals at Walt Disney World for their quality. Beer selection is mostly bottled, so if that bothers you, stick to the cocktail menu.
  • Previously On TouringPlans…: I haven’t formally reviewed The BOATHOUSE here on the blog, but I’ve previously mentioned it as a great alternative to Wolfgang Puck and STK Orlando. Definitely one of the first places I consider for a meal if I find myself hungry at Disney Springs.
  • How Do We Get Here: Park at Lime Garage or use the walking bridge from across Buena Vista Dr; The Landing’s boat dock for water transportation to/from resorts and other Disney Springs docks is right next door to the restaurant

Morimoto Asia

  • Food: Pan-Asian (influences from Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisines); dim sum appetizers, sushi, ramen, noodle bowls on the lower-priced end ($15-25 for a meal, like a standard table service restaurant), plated entrees including Peking duck and amazing kalbi beef on the higher-priced end (signature dining pricing)
  • Atmosphere: The glitzy centerpiece chandelier is worth a visit to the restaurant alone, and it feels a bit more adult and upscale than most restaurants at Disney Springs due to the modern music and darker tones throughout. Kids and families wouldn’t be out of place, but you’ll probably see far more adults-only groups when you dine here.
  • Quick Tips: Grab a spot in the bar/lounge area or the upstairs Forbidden Lounge if wait times are high. If entrée prices are out of your budget (believe me, though, they’re worth saving for), you’ll still have a great meal by sampling from the extensive dim sum, sushi, and appetizer menus. Desserts are easy to share, but your money is better spent trying a cocktail, sake, or beer from their well-crafted menu.
  • Previously On TouringPlans…: In true Len Testa style, this epic review describes reactions to a vast majority of the menu’s dishes. Overall, Len listed it as “good, quality dining at reasonable prices”, and my meals there have reflected the same sentiment.
  • How Do We Get Here: Technically located on the outskirts of The Landing, just across from Raglan Road, it’s a two minute walk on newly-opened pathways from Orange Garage.

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Summer Crowd and Wait Time Trends at Disney World

by on July 29, 2016

It’s been a challenging summer for Walt Disney World. If you go by America’s economic indicators, attendance should be strong: gas is cheap and getting cheaper, unemployment is below 5%, and stock markets are flirting with record highs.

But Disney is also facing some formidable challenges in getting people into its parks.  From the self-inflicted, sharp increase in admission earlier this year – the largest increase in at least 20 years – and a move to “seasonal” one-day ticket pricing that falls squarely on parents with school-age children, to June’s murder of Christina Grimmie, the Pulse Nightclub massacre, and fatal alligator attack at the Grand Floridian.

Based on our analysis of posted and actual wait times for rides at Walt Disney World, we think attendance is lower to this point in summer for Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom, and higher at the Magic Kingdom, versus the same period in 2015. Overall, we think attendance is flat to slightly lower throughout Walt Disney World.

Here’s a breakdown by park. The date ranges are June 1 through July 24 for all graphs. We focus on standby waits, posted waits, and people in line between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., since this is the peak time for crowds.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wait Times

Animal Kingdom Wait Times Summer 2015 and 2016

Every major attraction at the Animal Kingdom has seen its wait time drop in 2016. The average posted wait is down 2 minutes since summer 2015. In terms of people in line, it’s roughly a 7% decline, from 693 people in line per attraction in 2015, down to 646 people in 2016.

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Wilderness Lodge Review and Construction Update

by on July 20, 2016

DSC01039 (2)

Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts in all of Walt Disney World. As a deluxe resort, though, I admittedly don’t get the chance to stay there as often as I’d like because of the prices. Luckily, with a lower than normal nightly rate due to the ongoing extensive resort renovations coupled with an annual pass discount, the decision to pull the trigger on a four night stay was that much easier.

If you have an upcoming trip to Wilderness Lodge planned or are considering making a reservation before renovations are complete, you’re probably wondering if the construction will negatively impact your trip. I’m happy to report that construction was never a detriment to our trip and I’d happily stay there again in the resort’s current state. With that in mind, think of this article as a a resort review combined with a construction update.

Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Upon arriving at the Wilderness Lodge late at night after heading directly to Hollywood Studios from the airport, I took a few minutes to enjoy the ambiance of the resort’s lobby, which is one of my favorites in all of Disney behind Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Unbeknownst to me, the lobby was also in the midst of construction, which I wouldn’t have noticed if my fiancee, Sarah, didn’t point it out to me. Despite one entire side of the Wilderness Lodge lobby being boarded up on the upper levels, I clearly didn’t think it was that noticeable. See the picture above for yourself.

For those of you that were “lucky” enough to see the Polynesian during its extensive transformation into the Polynesian Village Resort, you may remember that the entire middle portion of the lobby was boarded up on the upper level, which created an almost claustrophobic effect for anyone present. Thankfully, this is nowhere near as bad. While I wouldn’t have recommended guests stay at Polynesian during the aforementioned renovations, I’m happy to say that the lobby at Wilderness Lodge doesn’t suffer from the same effect. Other than the boarded upper levels, the more significant victim of construction is that the main elevators in the lobby are down. While there are still elevators operating down the hallway past Roaring Forks, I can see how this could be an inconvenience to guests.

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Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park Part I

by on July 18, 2016

castles

As I’ve said before in this Disneyland vs. Disney World series, Disney never does the same thing twice! It’s a common misconception that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the Disneyland Park are basically the same experience but on different coasts. That is absolutely not true! Even though Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was inspired after the original Disneyland Park, it was never intended to be a carbon copy. Both parks offer their own exclusive attractions, restaurants, character interactions, style, and overall experience. Of course, that gives rise to the question of which park is truly the best? That’s the question I intend to answer in perhaps the most ambitious installment of Disneyland vs. Disney World: The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park Part I.

Due to the scope of this topic, the first part of this article will compare the two parks on categories such as characters, attractions, and dining. The second installment will compare the different themed lands represented at both parks and determine which one is the best!

castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Castles:

So you know I have to talk about the castles. As we all have our loyalties, comparing the two is always controversial. Still, the castles are not just the parks’ icons, but also their centerpieces, and each offers something unique to park guests. Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle has the distinction of being Disney’s original castle standing at 77 feet tall. It features the charming Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, a personal favorite of mine, with scenes and effects that tell the Sleeping Beauty story.

castle

Cinderella Castle

The design of the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle is very different than Disneyland’s and is a whopping 189 feet tall! While it doesn’t offer an attraction, Cinderella Castle does house Cinderella’s Royal Table and the exclusive Cinderella Castle Suite. Now I love Sleeping Beauty Castle for its history, its intimacy, and sense of accessibility. However, the grandeur of Cinderella Castle, the ability to dine with princesses inside its halls overlooking Fantasyland, and that view down Main Street, U.S.A. makes it the winner of this category.

Winner: Magic Kingdom

Amenities:

Let’s start with WiFi, shall we? The Magic Kingdom offers free WiFi. In fact, there’s free WiFi throughout most of the Walt Disney World Parks. But at Disneyland… Yeah. No such luck. Walt Disney World also offers MagicBands. It’s a soft plastic band that contains a guest’s ticket, credit card, dining reservations, PhotoPass info, and their FastPass+ reservations which can be made in advance online or on the MyDisneyExperience App. This new amenity was met with criticism at the start, but I love the luxury of having all I need on my wrist and getting into the park is so much faster!

magic.bands

MagicBands

The Magic Kingdom offers three free modes of transportation in the form of bus, monorail, and boat. But then again, this is necessary as the park sits on the Seven Seas Lagoon and can’t be reached by personal car. Now the Disneyland Park does not sit on the shore of a lake but across a spacious esplanade from Disney California Adventure, which is so convenient for Annual Passholders and those with Park Hoppers. Still, Disneyland guests have to park at a parking garage and either walk or take a tram to reach the esplanade.

Finally, both parks offer early entry into the parks. Disneyland offers Magic Mornings on select days for Disneyland Resort Guests with a valid 3+ day ticket while Walt Disney World offers Extra Magic Hours on certain days which could be early entry or extended nighttime park hours. Another difference is Extra Magic Hours are only for guests staying at Disney World Resorts. Tip: Magic Kingdom usually offers Extra Magic Hours Wednesdays and Fridays.

Winner: Magic Kingdom

FestivalofFantasy2_glover

Festival of Fantasy Parade

Parades:

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom offers two main parades each day. The three o’clock afternoon parade, Festival of Fantasy, debuted in 2014 with fantastically detailed floats celebrating characters represented in Fantasyland. The star of the parade is a steampunk Maleficent dragon that actually breathes fire!

The Main Street Electrical Parade is the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime parade and is a classic in that it originally debuted at Disneyland in 1972! The Magic Kingdom obtained its own version in 1977, which ran off and on in the park through the years. But in 2010, it was reintroduced again and has been offered ever since. Disneyland’s current nighttime parade, Paint the Night, debuted only last year for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary to rave reviews and offers incredible new lighting effects! It also pays tribute to the Main Street Electrical Parade through its soundtrack, which includes the classic parade’s famous theme song, “Baroque Hoedown.”

PaintTheNight_glover

Paint the Night Parade

The Disneyland Park also offers Mickey’s Soundsational Parade in the afternoon. Each float is themed after a particular musical instrument or style with the lead float featuring Mickey Mouse playing the drums. I mean, he really plays the drums. It’s fantastic! Like Festival of Fantasy, this parade also showcases some amazingly themed floats so detailed and imaginative that one viewing is never enough.

So this category was a difficult one for me. I LOVE Festival of Fantasy at the Magic Kingdom, but Mickey’s Soundsational Parade coupled with Paint the Night gives Disneyland the edge in this comparison.

Winner: Disneyland Park

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort + Video

by on July 12, 2016

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!

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Frontera Cocina Dining Review

by on July 8, 2016

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.

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TouringPlansTV: All-Star Value Resorts + Video

by on July 5, 2016

allstar exteriorYou asked, and I answered!

Today’s episode of TouringPlansTV delves into the All-Star Resorts at Walt Disney World.

Enjoy!

Let me know what other topics you’d like me to cover in the comments below!

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Awaken Your Disney World Strategy with “Touring Blocks”

by on July 1, 2016

Toy Story Building at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort

Break your days at Disney World into Touring Blocks

When planning Disney World trips, I have always found it useful to divide the days into morning, afternoon, and evening plans. In multiple plans for trips spanning anywhere from 2 to 8 days, the foundation for each plan has been that basic division, a concept that I have often thought of as “Touring Blocks.”

Planning a full day at Disney World can be stressful and confusing, but breaking it down into Touring Blocks can help take the pressure off. To quote Henry Ford, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Lately, this strategy has come to be more valuable than ever—Disney is stepping up its game with new attractions, shows, restaurants & lounges, and technology for its guests, with more to come. In turn, we can step up our game with Touring Block strategies.

Using Touring Blocks to Enhance Your Planning

Days at Disney World can be thought of as involving three fluid blocks of time, or “Touring Blocks,” with overlap between the times for these blocks based on the plan for each day. My morning block generally spans from park opening (“rope drop”) up to 2 PM, the afternoon block from 12 PM to 5 PM, and the evening block from 3 PM to park close. Meals can fit within or around these blocks. Again, as you can see here, Touring Block times can overlap, and the timing for each day will depend on specific plans.

Touring Blocks

Typically, a good first step in planning a Disney World vacation is to decide which days you will visit Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom over the course of your vacation (you may wish to visit all or just some of these depending on your length of stay or other considerations, discussed later). Using the TouringPlans.com crowd calendar is an excellent way to establish a day-by-day plan.

Once you have a “big picture” plan with at least one park or other main activity each day, you can start breaking your days into blocks, adding in blocks for other fun such as visiting one of Disney World’s water parks or Disney Springs.

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Dining Review: New Epcot Breakfast Options

by on June 29, 2016

With all of the frenzy surrounding the opening of Frozen Ever After in the Norway pavilion of World Showcase in Epcot, it was easy to miss the recent news that there are a few new breakfast options in World Showcase now, too. Aside from the already-available options at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France pavilion and Sunshine Seasons at The Land, guests can now drop in to La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico pavilion or Kringla Bakeri og Kafe in the Norway pavilion to satisfy their breakfast cravings. A few days ago, I tried many of the new items to see if they are worth a stop (spoiler alert: they definitely are!).

Chilaquiles con huevos

Chilaquiles con huevos

Mexico’s new options all come from La Cantina de San Angel, the quick service location just across from the main pyramid of the pavilion. The new breakfast menu features three new full-sized entrees unique to this restaurant and a kid’s scrambled-eggs-with-potatoes option, all of which are offered until 11:00 AM daily in addition to a few of the standard menu items (including soft drinks and the restaurant’s popular churros dessert – yes, you can have churros for breakfast, because why not, it’s vacation?). Once you order and receive your food, just like during the early hours of lunch service here, you can take a seat in the covered area on World Showcase Lagoon, or if the sign near the back of the building indicates, make use of the additional (air-conditioned!) seating in the back of La Hacienda’s main dining room (a welcome option in 100% humidity).

Pambazo de chorizo con huevo

Pambazo de chorizo con huevo

My first taste of the new breakfast options came from the pambazo de chorizo con huevo, a breakfast sandwich-type meal with scrambled eggs, chorizo, jack cheese, red onions, lettuce, and guacamole ($9.95). The pambazo is served dipped-sandwich style, covered in a mild red chili salsa – traditionally filled with potatoes and chorizo, but here we see eggs instead. The scrambled eggs within the bread roll are real eggs (no weird powdered eggs here, a definite positive), cooked with the chorizo to give them a smoky, savory bite offset by the creamy guacamole and crunchy lettuce. My bread roll was a bit stale, but nothing that couldn’t have been fixed by a few drips of the green tomatillo or spicy red chili sauces available on the restaurant’s condiment bar. This is a fairly traditional Mexican take on a popular on-the-go style breakfast, full of flavor and pretty filling, considering the roll and the scrambled eggs. Overall, I was a fan, and think this will probably be a winner for many, though I did prefer the next two menu items I tried a bit more.

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