Posts Tagged ‘disney world’

Dining Review: Liberty Tree Tavern Lunch

by on April 27, 2016

A mainstay of dining in Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tree Tavern has always been a favorite for my family and friends for a filling mid-day meal. Recently, the kitchen underwent a few improvements in connection to the construction of nearby Skipper Canteen, so I thought it was about time to head back to the Tavern to see if this spot was still worthy of a stop. The lunch menu features slightly elevated versions of American classics like burgers and sandwiches, pot roast, and an individual portion of the popular Pilgrim’s Feast (Thanksgiving turkey dinner) offered as an all-you-care-to-enjoy dinner here. After a little investigating, I realized the pot roast entrée on the lunch menu is pretty much the same as what I sampled a few weeks ago at Diamond Horseshoe next door (the two share many similar menu items, so if it sounds the same, it probably is). I knew that a few items looked new to me, and after talking with my very friendly server, I decided I’d give the three newest dishes on the menu a shot: sweet corn fritters for my appetizer, the updated Liberty Boys Sandwich for my entree, and the Boston Cream Pie for dessert.

First to arrive were the sweet corn fritters ($7), five fritters served alongside a pepper jelly made in-house and atop a schmear of creamed corn (a nice plating touch, but altogether unnecessary – I appreciated the effort, though!). The fritters had a crispy fried coating sprinkled with a bit of salt, and a creamy and sweet corn flavor inside. Some of the fritters were more like hushpuppies in texture, with one or two a bit softer (I got the sense these weren’t quite cooked long enough, and the cornbread/hushpuppy texture was meant to be the real deal). Overall, I found these fritters sweet and savory, with a touch of warmth from the jalapenos inside the batter. The sweet and slightly spicy pepper jelly served on the side cut through the dense flavors of the fritters, but was a bit tough to use as a dip, practically speaking. I should also note that spicy-food-averse people shouldn’t necessarily write this dish off altogether, as the flavors from the fritters overall are relatively innocuous. I’d probably suggest these to anyone on the deluxe dining plan in search of a different kind of appetizer compared to other restaurants, but unless you’re absolutely starving, I’d probably skip appetizers altogether here and save room for dessert (you’ll see why shortly).

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Experiencing A Magical Disney Moment + Video

by on April 26, 2016

Photo - Michael Dahlgren

Meeting Princess Rapunzel

You’ve heard about them…you may have even watched them on YouTube.

Magical Disney Moments.

*I’ll pause for effect*

You know what I’m talking about; Those special experiences where a Cast Member goes above and beyond to make a guest’s day even more magical. 

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Walt Disney World Relics and Tributes: The Magic Kingdom

by on April 20, 2016

relicsandtributesWalt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.” Imagineers have made sure that the Disneyland and the Disney Parks have stayed true to that intention throughout the years.

In fact, the Walt Disney World Resort has been changing and growing a great deal in the past few years, such as the addition of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and re-imagining of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs, and prepares for new openings like the Rivers of Light show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and the Frozen Ever After attraction at Epcot. But oftentimes, to gain something new, something has to be given up and past attractions must make way for new ones, such as in the closure of attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in preparation for Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land. Fortunately, Disney has a tradition of honoring its history while in the business of creating that great, big, beautiful tomorrow, and oftentimes through little tributes and details and even the recycling and reimagining of familiar icons.

I recently took a trip to the Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to uncover some of these tributes and relics from the park’s past. I tried to avoid including those that many fans already know about–such as the windows on Main Street, U.S.A. or the picture of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to Owl at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh–in hopes that you may discover something new and maybe get a little dose of nostalgia in today’s Walt Disney World Relics and Tributes: The Magic Kingdom.

snowwhitevultures

Snow White’s Scary Adventures Vultures

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the Magic Kingdom’s newest attraction and one of the crown jewels of New Fantasyland. This attraction is incredibly detailed and a ton of fun, but one of the things I appreciate about most is its number of tributes to a former Fantasyland attraction: Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

Snow White’s Scary Adventures was a classic dark ride and one of the park’s original opening day attractions. It sadly closed in 2012 due to New Fantasyland; but it’s sister attraction, by the same name, is still operating at the Disneyland Park today. It’s never easy to lose an attraction, especially one with so much history, and I suppose Imagineers felt the same way because there are a number of relics and nods from Snow White’s Scary Adventures hidden in and around this coaster.

The Vultures

When walking around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or while aboard your gently swinging mine car, look up and you might see two menacing vultures. Do they look familiar? They used to be part of Snow White’s Scary Adventures! Imagineers recycled these feathered scavengers for the park’s newest Snow White-themed attraction; and in doing so, made a piece of the past work for the present.

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Dining Review: Il Mulino New York Trattoria

by on April 15, 2016

If you’ve ever had a craving for Italian food at Walt Disney World, you know there certainly isn’t a lack of choices, particularly in the Crescent Lake Resorts/Epcot corner of the World. Recently, I took a trip to the Swan resort’s Il Mulino signature Italian eatery to see what it had to offer and how it compares to its neighbors.

I’d never been to Il Mulino before (but had always heard rave reviews), so I brought along a friend who had – as it turns out, this was an excellent decision, otherwise I never would’ve found the restaurant! The Swan hotel has two “lobbies” of sorts, so you have to walk through the main hotel lobby to the other central lobby to get to the restaurant. Once you’ve found it, you have to walk through the bar to get to the hostess stand (though I have occasionally seen a hostess outside the restaurant helping direct guests inside). After a few minutes of confusion about where to seat us in the bustling restaurant, we headed to a table in the main dining room. My first impression was that of an upscale modern eatery in a big city – a loud dining room with bare bones décor, filled to the brim with large parties of conventioneers and only a smattering of families. Our server was very quick to greet us (and introduce his serving partner), but then took a bit of time to come back to take our order. We were pretty overwhelmed by all the options on the menu; it’s probably twice as large as most signature dining options, with appetizers, salads, soups, pizzas, pastas, seafood, and meat entrees along with the family style dining section (available for parties with four or more people). Our server didn’t offer up any recommendations at first, but I had no idea what to order – so many options, many of which sounded fantastic. After a little prodding, he recommended a few of the pasta dishes and the steak entrees. We went against the grain and ordered a few items from several sections to try to get a representative sampling of the large menu.

Our drinks arrived in due time – I tried the “Piano Piano” ($13), basically an aviation cocktail you’d find at many other restaurants. After sampling this lightly-poured drink, I’d hazard a guess that most of the cocktails here follow suit – meant for conventioneers and tourists who rarely drink, so think light on the liquor, heavy on the sweet fillers. Sangria was recommended by one of our servers, as was the extensive wine list, but at convention prices (think: slightly higher than most Disney signature restaurant wine list), I was reluctant to order selections I’ve seen all around property for a few dollars cheaper per glass. I eventually caved and tried the red sangria, but it was, rather predictably, cloyingly sweet and lacking in any nuance. Along with our drinks, we received the restaurant’s bread service – several slices of crusty Italian bread, a few pieces of tomato herb focaccia, and a plate on the side with a few slices of salami and a healthy portion of eggplant caponata (a pretty standard mix of eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, with a few olive slices here and there). The salami was odd – very little flavor, no spice, no savory twang; but the caponata was excellent – not overly salty, and it brought out the sweetness of the tomato flavor in the focaccia.

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The Basics: Selecting the right Walt Disney World Moderate hotel

by on April 4, 2016

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

 

As we continue our Back to Basics series, it’s time to take a look at one of the most beloved Walt Disney World hotel categories: the Moderates. In previous Basics posts we first discussed how to select the right Walt Disney World category, and later dug into how to select the right Walt Disney World Value hotel. The Moderate category hotels are a great blend of quality theming, beautiful atmosphere, a strong selection of amenities and features, all without the higher price tag found at the Deluxe resorts. They are some elements at the Moderate resorts that are also found at the Value resorts, but you can definitely see these are a step up from the Value category.

Caribbean Beach grounds

Caribbean Beach grounds – photo by Brian McNichols

It’s important to remember there really is no right or wrong choice, but rather a matter of deciding what hotel fits your specific needs the best. There are four hotels in the Moderate level.  For each hotel we’ll discuss as many features and elements as possible. I’ve included information for each of the hotels with the following categories:

  • Room features
  • Resort layout
  • Food and beverage
  • Transportation
  • Pool
  • Recreation / Activities
  • Additional information

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

First came the Deluxe resorts. Then in the 90’s, the Disney Decade, the first Moderate resort came unto the scene: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, which was a prototype of sorts. Disney had never built a resort that was scaled back in order to provide a more affordable price tag, yet it couldn’t just be a hotel, it needed to be a resort. Caribbean Beach ushered in a new resort experience for Walt Disney World, and while it does have its flaws, there is lots of beautiful scenery and enjoyable amenities.

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Why Pop Century is the Only Value Resort For Me

by on March 22, 2016

612px-Disney's_Pop_CenturyWhen planning a Walt Disney World Vacation there are a number of decisions to make ranging from which FastPass+ reservations to book, what ticket option is best for you and your group, and even how to get there. But one of the most important, if you’re staying on property, is which Walt Disney World Resort to choose as your home away from home during your stay! Now as you may have guessed, the size of your budget will play a considerable role in the decision-making process. This is why Disney has conveniently grouped the Disney World Resorts into three different categories based on price with Deluxe Resorts being the most expensive, Value Resorts being the least, and Moderate Resorts falling somewhere in the middle. I’ve already covered my Why Port Orleans Riverside is the Only Moderate Resort for Me and Why Wilderness Lodge is the Only Deluxe For Me; but for today’s post, I’m focusing on one of Walt Disney World’s budget-friendly resort options in Why Pop Century is the Only Value Resort for Me!

But first, a little more info about the Disney World Value Resorts!

The Disney World Value Resorts have bright and colorful theming and are geared towards families whose vacation budget isn’t quite as flexible. Disney World’s Value Resorts consist of the Pop Century Resort, All-Star Music Resort, All-Star Movies Resort, All-Star Sports Resort, and the Art of Animation Resort.

Now when I want a Disney World fix with the least damage on my bank account, I have to say that Pop Century is the only Value Resort for me.

SS_PopCentury_BigWheelHere’s why…

Generational Appeal

Walt Disney’s motivation for Disneyland was a place where he could have fun with his daughters, and the Pop Century Resort stays true to that original vision in that it offers a theme geared towards both kids and adults. Each section of the Pop Century Resort is themed after a particular decade ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s. Each section, or wing, is decorated with huge, colorful icons and catchphrases from their respective decades, such as giant 8-track tapes, Big Wheels, bowling pins, and foosball. The lobby is also filled with shadowboxes of memorabilia from days gone by. I always stop and check out the boxes from the ‘80s and ‘90s to revisit some favorite old toys and mementos from my childhood, and I love hearing music from the different decades when waiting for the buses. Naturally, all this nostalgia is fun for adults; but for kids, Disney wisely included some larger than life Disney Characters alongside the pop culture icons based on what decade their films debuted. In this way, everyone in the family is familiar with and relates to the fun resort décor!

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What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to the Magic Kingdom

by on March 18, 2016

Adventure is out there

A fine day for a drive to the Magic Kingdom.

As Spring and Summer are just around the corner, that means Spring Break and Summer Vacation and many guests making pilgrimages to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Actually, many will be visiting for the first time ever! If you are planning your very first visit to the park, and you’re like me, you’ve probably been doing your Disney World homework to avoid those rookie mistakes and hopefully maximize that precious vacation time. Still, oftentimes, they are a few things that aren’t mention in guidebooks which could’ve made your park time run more smoothly. So please glean from my first-hand experience Disney World Rookies and discover what I wish I knew before my trip to the Magic Kingdom.

Character Line

Meeting Rapunzel at Princess Fairytale Hall

Characters Can Be Found at the End of a Line

While I love Disney commercials, they aren’t exactly a realistic representation of what it’s like in the parks. First of all, there are almost always people pretty much everywhere. Those shots in the commercial where the happy people seem to have the parks all to themselves? Not real. This is also true of how you meet Disney Characters. Very rarely does a character suddenly appear and surprise you with a hug. You see, at Walt Disney World, characters are escorted by a Cast Member to a designed spot and then guests wait in line for a little conversation, an autograph, and a picture or two. Now that doesn’t mean that meeting characters isn’t fun or memorable. It absolutely is! But it’s just not as spontaneous as it appears on those promos.

Always Ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight First

The Magic Kingdom has the most attractions of any other Disney World Park and many of them are extremely popular and absolute must-dos for first timers. However, something you definitely will wish you knew is that two Magic Kingdom attractions in particular are notorious for ridiculously long lines and they are the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. Of course, the solution for anyone who has done their Disney World homework is to book a FastPass+ reservation for these attractions. But if none are available, or you just want to experience them again, you should definitely ride them first. Now I don’t mean you should ride them first whenever you happen to arrive at the park. No, I’m saying you need to ride them as soon as the park opens.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the park’s newest attraction and a hybrid between a tame coaster and a dark ride. The ride vehicles also sway slightly when going around corners, just like an actual mine car. All of the detail, technology, and just the fact that it’s a large, new attraction mean that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue is filled from the first half hour of the day until fireworks at night; and so, I strongly encourage first timers to head here first thing when the park opens.

After Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, guests should most definitely make tracks to the other side of Fantasyland to experience Peter Pan’s Flight. This attraction was an opening day attraction back in 1971, and was inspired by Disneyland’s version which was also an opening day attraction there in 1955. Basically, Peter Pan’s Flight is timeless and will fill up the lines until the end of time. Personally, I don’t even think of getting in line for Peter Pan’s Flight once the park has been open for more than an hour, so definitely plan to ride it when the park opens.

Ft. Wilderness Boat Launch

Taking a boat to the Magic Kingdom

You Can’t Drive There

It’s true. You can’t exactly drive to the Magic Kingdom. There’s no way you can drop off your family near the gate and go find a parking spot and there’s no tram. Actually, if you’re planning on driving around Walt Disney World and want to go to the Magic Kingdom, you will have to park your vehicle at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). It’s located next door to the Polynesian Village Resort and is all the way across the lake from the Magic Kingdom. It’s basically the transportation hub of the Walt Disney World Resort. Here, guests have the choice to take a boat or Monorail to the Magic Kingdom entrance. Tip: If you are planning on taking a Monorail, choose the Express Monorail to the Magic Kingdom to bypass stops at the resorts.

The only exception to the no-traffic access in front of the Magic Kingdom is Disney Buses. Disney Buses are the only form of Disney Transportation that can drive Disney World Resort guests to the Magic Kingdom and drop them off near the entrance at designated bus stops. This is why many Disney World Resort guests who have a car or rental car choose to use the Disney Buses or Resort Monorails when heading to the Magic Kingdom for the day. So yeah, this is something you will want to know before your first trip to the Magic Kingdom.

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The Basics: Meeting Characters at Hollywood Studios

by on March 14, 2016

Character meet

Hollywood Studios has a pretty solid line-up of Character Meet and Greets, including some great Character Meals.

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

We’re back again with another installment on Character Meet and Greets at Walt Disney World! We’ve already headed back to the basics with meeting characters at Epcot, and then we traipsed over to the Animal Kingdom. Today it is time for [insert dramatic pause] Hollywood Studios! (You’d never have guessed that from the title, right? And yes, I’m intentionally saving Magic Kingdom for the end.)

Character meet and greets can be magical for both adults and children alike, so even if you’re traveling without kiddos in tow, give some consideration to making time to meet the many characters who live in Hollywood Studios. (Expect maybe for the Disney Junior characters. That might be weird.)

Hollywood Studios offers some interesting characters, but it is worth noting that right now the park is under quite a bit of construction, which means that there could be more changes to character meet and greet offerings and locations than one might expect. For example, although you can meet Mike and Sulley from Monster’s Inc. at the moment, that character meet is scheduled to be closed on April 2, 2016. Just remember to double-check the character schedules right before your trip so you’re not taken unaware in the event any last-minute shuffling is done.

One of the major themes that seem to be occurring with my character meet and greet articles is that Disney has decided that right now is the best time to shuffle characters around! (I’m not kidding – the Epcot article was written and scheduled and the day before it was published Disney removed THREE of Epcot’s meets. Sigh.) Anyway, as I’m penning this particular article another announcement has come forth about adding new characters at Hollywood Studios. Check out this Touring Plans article for details about the new Olaf and Mickey and Minnie meets, which are coming soon.

Before I start with the details on who you can meet where in Hollywood Studios, I’m going to review the basic meet and greet tips I provided in the first two articles of the character meet series. Feel free to scroll past this section if you’ve already experienced it! (Or re-read it and see if you can spot the tiny adjustments I made to each version. And before you even ask, OF COURSE I’m providing new photos!)

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Disney Haiku Challenge

by on March 11, 2016

"Disney Haiku"

“Disney Haiku” (yes, that’s really what it says)

I’m not sure why exactly, but I’ve always found haiku to be a fun little creative outlet. My law school roommate and I would often sit in the back of our Estates & Trusts lectures and compose absurd haiku as a way to pass the time. This might explain why neither of us do estates and trusts as a part of our practice, by the way, but that’s a discussion for another day.  

Anyway, as a reminder for those of you that have not encountered it since elementary school, haiku is a form of short Japanese poetry that follows a particular format: a traditional haiku is 17 syllables in three phrases that follow a 5-7-5 pattern.*  In other words, the first phrase is 5 syllables, the second is 7, and the final phrase is 5 syllables.  To the extent that it requires you to wedge your thoughts into a small number of words and still convey something worth reading, you can almost think of it as an ancient version of Twitter (minus the abbreviations, emoticons and vitriol).  Alas, I digress.

Haiku have traditionally been used to convey very Zen-like observations regarding the serenity of the natural world.  Accordingly, the juxtaposition of this simple, beautiful form of poetry and its traditional use, and different subject matter — like the decidedly un-serene and not-particularly-natural Disney Parks — can lead to some wonderfully absurd results.  Soooo, here’s a challenge for all of you — come up with some Disney park haiku and share them in the comments below.

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Disney Hacks #3: FastPass+ Hacks & Advanced Tips

by on March 8, 2016

disney hacksOK, so you know what FastPass+ is, you know how to use it, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of how to get the most out of it? Now you’re looking to crank it up to 11 and take this ninja level, right?  

First of all, full disclosure, the glory days of being able to hoard multiple FastPasses and then use them at the end of the day in a headliner free-for-all are unfortunately behind us, and there’s nothing in here that reaches that level of awesomeness. Moreover, everything here falls squarely within Disney’s rules and practices. With that said, information is power, and knowing what it will and will not let you do can help you make the most of it, and hopefully do some things you hadn’t considered. 

Split Your Party to Get Hard-to-Get FastPass+ Reservations

Sometimes, you’ll try to make a FastPass+ reservation for an attraction for your group and there’s simply nothing available (this is probably most frequent when trying to make reservations on relatively short notice for in-demand attractions). Before you relegate yourself to waiting in the regular line like a plebeian, you might try splitting your group into smaller groups to see if that changes the availability.

©Disney

©Disney

For example, let’s say that you have a party of 4, and you want to experience the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but the FastPass+ system is telling you that there’s no availability. It could be that they don’t have an hour of time for a party of four, but they might for two groups of two, or even four single reservations. Accordingly, try breaking your party down into smaller groups and see if that changes the availability. Moreover, those time blocks for the smaller groups might overlap, such that you could still experience the attraction together (e.g., if one window starts at 1 pm and the other starts at 1:30, there is a 50 minute window, including the grace periods, where both groups could ride at the same time).

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