Rides and games galore at the 2015 IAAPA Expo in this Best Week Ever. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)
In today’s very special episode of Best Week Ever, we’re going to take a trip outside of today’s theme parks themselves to a wondrous world where the attractions of the future are on display. Welcome to the 2015 IAAPA Attractions Expo, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ annual convention at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. The enormous event, which is for industry professionals and the media, is a showcase for everything that’s new and next in themed entertainment, and while Disney and Universal don’t have booths on the cavernous show floor, most of the vendors they and other big parks partner with do. So look carefully because you never know — in a few years you may see products previewed below inside a major Orlando attraction!
What do you do with all those sea days once you’ve sailed past the Rock of Gibraltar on a Transatlantic Disney Cruise? You have the Best Week Ever! (photos by Seth Kubersky)
Howdy folks, I just swam in from Spain and boy, are my arms tired! <Rimshot> If you follow the Touring Plans twitter feed, you are probably fully aware of — if not fed up with — my just-completed voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on the Disney Magic. The 11-day journey was certainly a Best Week Ever and a half, but I’m certain some of you are wondering how you can spend 6 straight sea days stuck in a giant floating hotel without jumping overboard. I had some apprehension before going aboard about being away from dry land for so many days in a row, but now I’m wishing the Disney Cruise Line had cruises to nowhere out of Canaveral, because my week on the water was more wonderful than any port of call (with the possible exception of Castaway Cay), thanks to the jam-packed schedule of activities and events and events you’ll find exclusively on DCL repositioning routes and other extended oceanic cruises. So, at the risk of stealing Derek Burgan‘s gimmick, here are my top six ways to while away your sea days during a Transatlantic Disney Cruise.
6. See a Movie or Twenty
Who wants to spend an expensive cruise inside a movie theater? I do! If you love Disney, you probably love movies, and there are few movie theaters on land that can compete with the Disney Magic’s Buena Vista Theatre. Over our 11 day journey, we averaged two movies a day, many in eye-popping Dolby Digital 3-D (the same system used in Star Tours and Escape From Gringotts, and far brighter and sharper than any multiplex) including Avengers: Age of UltronInside Out, and Ant-Man.
The highlight of the cruise’s cinema schedule was the multi-day marathon of the first six Star Wars films. Though screened in release order rather than episode or Machete order, these were the most recent versions created for the Blu-Ray release projected in stunning ultra-high-definition, making it the best presentation of the classic movies I’ve seen since ’77.
Do you ever just sit and daydream about your favorite meals?
…Oh, that’s just me? Well, anyways…
One of my favorite parts of visiting Walt Disney World is trying out the different cuisines and restaurants on property. As I live in the Midwest, I’m limited in the number of times a year I can travel and satiate my palate.
So in an effort to get my Disney food fix, I’ve researched the internet and found recipes for two Disney dishes that I will be recreating for you today!
First up, Gratin de Macaroni which can be found at the France Pavilion in the World Showcase at Epcot.
New Orleans, the Big Easy, is known for many things. Jazz, art, voo doo, and of course tantalizing Cajun cuisine. Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is a popular annual event, but not necessarily because of the special food and beverages offered during this special time of the year. Yet, if you head to Universal Orlando to take part in Mardi Gras, your experience isn’t really complete if you don’t let your taste buds in on the fun.
Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is held each weekend from the beginning of February to mid-April (specific days and dates vary by weekend) and personally it is one of my favorite things about visiting Universal. The fun is definitely saved for the afternoon and evening. It’s touted as “Florida’s Biggest Party.” While this is one heck of a marketing claim, it isn’t too far off the bulls-eye, in the eyes of this Florida Native. I’ll confess, I am not a fan of most of the in-park counter service food offered here at Universal, but I will say some of the better quick style food can be found during Universal Mardi Gras.
While Epcot’sFlower and Garden Festival hasn’t yet caught up with the International Food and Wine fest in edible options, there are still more items to sample than any human stomach should attempt in a single day (trust us, we’ve tried). Therefore, I recently followed up my first visit to 2015 Flower and Garden Festival with another lap around World Showcase, this time in the opposite direction. The following photos show of some of my favorite Flower and Garden food finds from the western “hemisphere” of Epcot’s promenade, along with a closer look at a few of the floral arrangements we overlooked the first time around.
2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Food Finds
Let’s start with Urban Farm Eats, home to two of my favorite dishes at this year’s festival.
This article is the final installment in a series ranking counter service restaurants at each of the Disney Parks at Walt Disney World. In case you missed them, you can review each article regarding Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.
One of Epcot’s most notable experiences is the unique dining options. So notable, in fact, that every Fall it plays host to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, a must try if you haven’t already experienced it. Epcot has simply dozens of restaurants, carts and kiosks to try little morsels of culture. Though many of these carts and kiosks are considered by Disney to be “counter service” most of them are stands, windows, or carts, allowing guests to grab a specialty food item and continue their journey around World Showcase. There are actually relative few “counter service” locations that offer multiple menu selections and ample seating on the same level as other counter service option in the other parks.
If you use the Disney App, or the Disney website and filter restaurants by “counter service” and “Epcot”, the results will yield 24 locations. However, upon further inspection, these 24 locations also include options like popcorn carts and coffee stands. For the purpose of this article, I’ll limit the term “counter service” to only include options that offer meals, and not merely snacks (though there is something to be said for “snacking around the world”). This brings the results down to eleven locations. So, let’s start our culinary adventure!
Donald, Chip, and Dale star in this display near the entry to the 2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)
Though the rest of the country is suffering through a deep freeze, spring is in the air in Orlando, and the 2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom. We stopped by Epcot on the anticipated annual event’s opening day (March 4, 2015) to bring you this photo tour of the flora and food of the this fan-favorite festival.
2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Topiaries and Displays
Here’s a small sampling of the dozens of topiaries and floral displays that currently fill Epcot’s Future World and World Showcase:
These butterflies on the back side of Spaceship Earth make a popular photo op.
One of the (many) reasons I love Walt Disney World is because the parks are so family friendly. There are some vacation destinations where bringing a baby would be impossible. At Disney, even the dining is suitable for all ages.
Having a young one of my own, I know the insecurities that come with bringing an infant to a restaurant.
Will she get fussy? What if she cries? How will I entertain her?
Quick service dining is one thing, but enjoying a nice sit-down meal is quite another. So with that in mind, i’ve provided a list of my favorite infant-friendly restaurants within the four parks.
Note: When making your dining reservation, be sure to include your child into the final number. Disney counts per spot at the table, not just who is eating.
For those of you who don’t know, Teppan Edo is a delightful restaurant found in the Japan Pavilion located in the World Showcase at Epcot. That was a mouth full, wasn’t it? Here you can enjoy teppan-yaki-style cooking prepared right at your table by a talented Japanese chef. It’s not just a meal, but a fun and unique experience. Trust me, it’s something to put on your culinary bucket list!
Teppan Edo is my favorite place to eat in the World Showcase for two reasons: the memories and the overall experience. The first time my husband and I went to Disney World together, it was our favorite dining experience of the trip. We were with my parents and Michael’s aunt and uncle. Michael had raved about this place as he had been there once before. With such positive reviews coming from a Disney Curmudgeon, I knew this was definitely a place I had to try.
Following our arrival, we waited in the “lobby” for a short time before being seated. As we walked down a long hall way, I could peak into each room to see wait staff and chefs tending to their guests. I couldn’t wait to get started!
Now, the grill is centered around family-style seating so if you’re an introvert, you may have to keep an open mind. My parents could talk to a wall, so they plopped right down next to a middle-aged couple from New York. Yes, they had a New York accent. Yes, I couldn’t get enough of it. We soon learned that they were teachers like my mom, so they all had plenty to gab about.
It can be easy sometimes to forget just how much there is to do outside of Disney World’s four theme parks and two water parks. With so much contained within the parks, it might not even cross some guests’ minds that you could actually spend a whole Disney World vacation without ever going to the parks. Although I personally wouldn’t suggest skipping the parks entirely, you could do it and still have a great vacation. Maybe it’s the last day of your vacation or maybe you just want to explore the property a little to see what else Disney has to offer. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many things to see and do without ever having to pay for a park admission ticket.
Disney World wouldn’t be much of a resort destination without golf. With three courses (four if you include the onsite Four Seasons course) and one nine-hole walking course, there’s a wide variety of play options for fans of the sport. Even if you think you’re terrible at golf or you’ve never tried before, this is a good place to start. Resort courses are notoriously less punishing than most courses (people don’t need a stroke on vacation) and even if you do play horribly, at least you’re still in Disney so you can’t be that upset. If the full-fledged sport still seems like too much of an undertaking, Disney also offers two thematically different mini golf courses. Fantasia Gardens (located near the Boardwalk) is themed after its namesake film and even features a more traditional putting green course for those who want to just work on their short game. Winter Summerland Miniature Golf is located at Blizzard Beach and has two courses themed after winter and summer. For those concerned about having to purchase a water park ticket to play here, no need to worry. The mini golf course may be located at Blizzard Beach but it’s actually outside of the Blizzard Beach entrance.