Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Dining Review: Big River Grille

by on May 6, 2016

If you’ve ever spent any time strolling along Disney’s BoardWalk or Crescent Lake area, you’ve probably seen my next dining location along the way. Located on the Atlantic Dance Hall end of the BoardWalk, just adjacent to the resort’s merchandise locations, Big River Grille & Brewing Works offers standard family restaurant fare (think: burgers, steaks, salads) with a view of Crescent Lake and the surrounding resorts. I dropped in recently for a quick lunch and then returned a few days later for dinner to see if this restaurant was worth adding to my regular Disney dining rotation.

Big River Grille's Hickory Bacon Burger

Big River Grille’s Hickory Bacon Burger

Both of my visits to Big River Grille were on a whim – I didn’t make a reservation prior to arriving, either on OpenTable or the My Disney Experience app, but it didn’t matter. I was quick to be seated inside both times (choosing the comfort of air conditioning inside over the humidity on the outdoor patio), and my first impression of the restaurant was definitely that of substance over style – inside here, there’s very little theming or space, with tables pretty close together and almost no decoration. If the weather allows, I’d certainly request outdoor seating – far less cramped, less noisy at peak dining times, and with a really fantastic view for lake- and people-watching. Servers were all very prompt in greeting me and offering a few recommendations from the extensive beer and bar menu – one of their biggest draws for diners – and their food menu. It’s also worth noting here that Big River Grille itself is a chain restaurant popular outside of Walt Disney World, which servers said helps to draw in repeat visitors due to familiarity.

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Park Touring Plans Now Handle Ride Closures

by on May 2, 2016

Lines Showing Offline EventWe’ve updated our Lines mobile app to route you around unexpected ride breakdowns while you’re in the parks. If your Magic Kingdom touring plan calls for you to ride Space Mountain soon and Lines learns that Space Mountain is temporarily closed, upon optimization Lines will adjust your touring plan by moving Space Mountain to later in the day, after the time when Lines expects it to reopen.

This new feature keeps you one step ahead of the crowds by finding the best attractions to see now, and by knowing the best time to schedule a closed ride later in the day. It might also save you from walking across the park to find a closed ride.

The idea for this feature came from us testing our touring plan software. Three major ride breakdowns happened in the first few hours I was in the park. My work-around was to just skip those steps in the plan, but it would have been great if Lines detected the ride closures and re-did the plan for me automatically. Now Lines does that whenever I optimize my plan.

We’ve also added a new text field to Lines showing our estimate of when the ride might re-open.

Behind the Scenes

Once Lines learns that an attraction has gone offline, it has to estimate how long it’ll be until that ride re-opens. To help with this, we’ve been collecting data on temporary ride closures for the past few years.

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Trading Post Refreshments: The New Bar in Epcot – Sort Of

by on April 29, 2016

It’s not easy being Canada…in Epcot that is. You’re the first pavilion in World Showcase for anyone who chooses to go to the right. Your neighbor is the UK pavilion which is beloved by many thanks to its charming storefronts, popular pub, and excellent entertainment. Even your World Showcase equivalent–the first pavilion if you go left instead of right–Mexico, really brings on the heat with three dining options, a boat ride, an award winning mariachi band, and an amazing tequila bar that stands as THE ambassador of the heritage and tradition of tequila.

Sure, the Canada Pavilion is a beautiful spot. The lovely gardens found throughout the country are well represented here. There are lots of delightful spots, especially the waterfalls found at the back of the pavilion. Still, many people tend to bypass this pavilion, which is a shame. A new drinking establishment, however, may help to increase interest in this overlooked area.

FullSizeRender

The new Trading Post Refreshments has been dubbed Epcot’s new bar. This terminology is a bit of a stretch since there is no seating inside, as you would find at a traditional bar. It is still a nice addition, however. There are three Canadian beers from which to choose plus two ice wines; each selection represents Canada fairly well.

FullSizeRender (1)

The prices are also relatively reasonable; two out of the three beers are $6.25 plus tax, with the Blanche de Chambly being $9.25. This beer hails from Quebec and is said to have a yeast and wheat flavor, but I opted to go with the Labatt Bourbon Barrel. I love the rise of beers aged in bourbon barrels, something I’m seeing more and more. I enjoyed the smokey flavor of this beer, though it left a long, lingering aftertaste.

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Dani’s Best Week Ever April 14, 2016: Magic Kingdom and Skipper Canteen

by on April 14, 2016

I have a confession: Magic Kingdom is my least favorite Walt Disney World theme park. Well…it was, but things have changed…maybe. Once upon a time Magic Kingdom was my favorite, then about ten years ago I went to Disneyland for the first time. I returned to the Magic Kingdom disappointed and longing for the charm and beauty found inside the park that started it all.

Unfortunately, a major change in my life will now make it difficult for me to return to Disneyland, so I returned to Magic Kingdom for the first time in a while with open eyes and a renewed sense of rediscovery. Despite some frustrating turn of events later in the day, I earned a new appreciation for Walt Disney World’s original theme park.

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The original plan for the day was to start off in the Most Magical Place on Earth then journey to the land of rolling hills and new residential developments, Clermont, to pick up a friend and cap off the night with Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando. What a day to wake up to!

Since I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to make it to Magic Kingdom initially, I had not made any FastPass+ reservations in advance. So, while I sipped my morning coffee I pulled up the MyDisneyExperience app to see what I could get. Not surprisingly, the most desirable FastPass+ options were limited at best.

I arrived to the parking plaza at about 10:00 AM. During my time as a Cast Member the lanes to the right were used to get to the Cast parking lots, and these lanes still usually move very quickly. To make sure I kept the pace going I had my ID and passholder card out and ready for the Cast Member to see. As I drove through the parking area it took a moment to get used to the grassy knoll that is in place of the Walt Disney World Raceway. I also observed a few cars head to the preferred parking area ($35).

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Disney YouTube Channels You Should Be Watching

by on April 13, 2016

TouringPlans logoIn need of a Disney fix? Homesick for the Disney Parks? Looking to learn more about the Walt Disney World Resort? My remedy, along with Disney Movie Marathons and sites such as TouringPlans, is YouTube! To be more specific, Disney YouTube Channels.

There are quite a few out there these days; and while I try to visit the Walt Disney World Resort as often as I can, a number of YouTubers have helped to expand my knowledge of the parks and resorts, granted me a glimpse or two of special park events, and just allowed me to come along for the ride with those who know Walt Disney World best! Again, there are A LOT of YouTubers out there spreading the pixie dust; but for today, I’m listing a few that you may or may not have seen but who I think are well worth your time. So get ready because here’s my list of Disney YouTube Channels You Should Be Watching!

FreshBakedDisney

This YouTube Channel is one of my favorites because it’s so unique! David Erickson, the creator and host of Fresh Baked Disney, visits the Disneyland Resort every single weekend and then uploads a video of his weekly visit each day. That’s why the channel is called Fresh Baked Disney, because you’re getting a little bit of Disney baked fresh daily!

David, along with co-hosts Sara and Mike, are the main cast but other friends and even fans of the show join them during their visits to Disneyland. In fact, the different relationships, personalities, and antics are part of what makes the show so fun and entertaining and you feel like you’re right there with them! When watching the show, you will notice that they are often stopped by their fans, known as Fresh Baked Muffins, for a photo and a chat. They are getting pretty well known by Disneyland Fans so be sure to keep an eye out for them if you’re out and about the resort on the weekends.

In addition to their trip reports to the Disneyland Resort, Fresh Baked Disney also produces other videos for their viewers, such as Disneyland Secrets and History, Top Tens, Mailing and Unboxings, David’s “I’ve Got Something to Say,” and even a new series called The Knothole Gang where, each week, he gives Star Wars Land construction updates from various locations throughout Disneyland.


Fresh Baked Disney has two other channels worth checking out too, such as Fresh Baked Gaming and Fresh Baked Presents.

So yeah, you should definitely be watching Fresh Baked Disney if you aren’t already. Even as a Disney World Regular, I love Fresh Baked Disney because it gives me an insider glimpse into Disneyland from someone who has visited each week for years and brings me along on a Disneyland adventures with friends.

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Tusker House Dining Review

by on April 8, 2016

As we continue to wait patiently for all of the new nighttime offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we also carry on in our look at dining options at the park. I recently reviewed many of the park’s popular quick service options, and today, we continue our dining adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s popular character meal at Tusker House Restaurant. I dropped in for late solo dinner a few days ago to see how the food compares to other dining options around the park and Walt Disney World, and was pleasantly surprised with the meal from start to finish.

First step: getting to the restaurant. If you’ve never been to Tusker House, it’s not super intuitive – the check-in desk is hidden just behind the covered seating area next to Dawa Bar, adjacent to the walkway to Festival of the Lion King, and just across from Tamu Tamu Refreshments in the Africa section of the park. Luckily, Disney has placed a few signs along the path to help guide you to the desk, where a cast member will greet and check you in, then give you a buzzer or take your phone number to text you once your table is ready. At that point, I was led to the outdoor waiting area just behind the desk, full of chairs and benches (and complimentary water to help cool you off on a hot day!). After a short wait, my phone alerted me that my table was ready, and I was led from the second check-in desk to the inside of the restaurant, where the seater acquainted me with the sprawling (and gorgeous) buffet area and led me to my table in a neighboring room. Both the Cast Member who seated me and my server helpfully explained from which direction the characters (Mickey, Daisy, Donald, and Goofy) would come and how they’d move around the room to reach my table, which was really great to know – I could better plan when it was safe to leave the table to grab a plate of food without missing anything.

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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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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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The Basics: Selecting the Right Walt Disney World Value hotel

by on March 11, 2016

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

In a previous Back to Basics post we discussed how to select the right Walt Disney World hotel category. Now it’s time to dig in and select the right hotel in each category. We’ll start off with the Value resorts. 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.

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

Essentially the Value resorts exist as two campuses: Disney’s All Star Resort and Disney’s Pop Century / Art of Animation. At Disney’s All Star Resort there are three individual hotels: Sports, Movies, and Music. At Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation each are two individual hotels but are situated across from each other.  The set-up and features of these two campus are very similar. I’ll break down each individual hotel’s features and include any information that pertains to the campus as a whole.

Movies3

Photo by Brian McNichols

Disney’s All Star Resorts: Movies, Music, and Sports.

  • Room features

The room features for all three of the All Star resorts are essentially the same. However, at Music there are also about 190 family suites available. I’ll get into the features of that room type momentarily. Guest rooms at the All Stars are small at 260 square feet. Almost all rooms sleep four, plus one child in a crib. Themed touches of musicians and music styles at Music, athletes and sports equipment at Sports, and a selection of Disney films at Movies, adorn themed linens, wall décor, and fixtures. Light-finish wood furniture and dark, patterned carpet provide an upscale touch, however, you’ll most likely find that these rooms don’t beckon you to linger. My personal recommendation is if you are traveling with small children then the rooms will be just fine. However, if you have pre-teens, teenagers, or other adults then you’ll most likely find the standard rooms at any Value resort to be a tad uncomfortable.

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