Posts Tagged ‘food’

Five Disneyland Holiday Favorites

by on December 24, 2013

Disneyland holiday five favorites

Photos by Seth Kubersky

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (at least according to that ubiquitous song) and there’s no holiday season quite like a Disneyland holiday. In the past, I’ve experienced Disneyland it all its seasonal splendor during Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Fourth of July. But until last week, I’d never visited the Happiest Place On Earth during Christmas time, and as an Orlando resident I was blown away by the quantity and quality of seasonal celebrations. As we enter the final weeks of the peak holiday season, here’s my personal top five favorite aspects of Disneyland’s 2013 special offerings to distract you from the epic E-ticket queues.

Seasonal Sweets and Treats

Christmas is no time to go to Disneyland on a diet, as I discovered an insatiable need to sample the limited-time seasonal snacks offered and nearly every quick-service counter.

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Universal Dining: Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure

by on November 16, 2013

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Backwater Bar

During my most recent visit to Islands of Adventure a friend and I decided to eat lunch at the Backwater Bar, which is part of Confisco Grille. I’ve eaten there a few times before and wanted to give it another try, as it’s what I consider to be the best bang for your buck restaurant in IOA.  The best part about eating in the Backwater Bar is that you don’t have to wait for a table; you can just walk up to the bar and order food along with a wide array of drinks. Guests can eat at the bar or sit at one of the few tables inside the bar space. There is also a large patio outside with covered tables where guests can enjoy their drinks on days with favorable weather. You may notice the large signage out front that includes what appears to be an ad for the Seagram company. Many guests don’t realize that Seagram owned Universal Studios in the late 1990s, when IOA was built.

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The actual Backwater Bar

If you’re looking for a fine adult beverage in IOA, look no further. Backwater has a few draft beers as well as a variety of bottled beers and a full selection of top shelf liquors. There are daily specials on margaritas and other mixed drinks. Whenever I see Shock Top on draft, I have to have it. It has a smooth citrusy flavor and comes with a slice of orange; and because it comes with an orange, that means its good for you, right? Pressing on…

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Overall Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on November 9, 2013

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Overall Restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort (UOR). This was a tough list to compile, and after several agonizing hours of internal debate, I had to cut a list of about a dozen eateries down to only the best of the best. It broke my heart to not include The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel, as The Kitchen Sink Challenge just may be my favorite thing I’ve ever done at the UOR. Another tough one to cut was Finnegan’s Bar and Grill in Universal Studios Florida. Finnegan’s has exceptional food offerings with reasonable pricing (the Guinness Beef Stew being a favorite) and great atmosphere. And of course anyone who has heard me on the Universal NOW! podcast knows my love for the NASCAR Sports Grille runs deep, with their pretzel breadsticks possibly being my all time favorite food.

So knowing how hard it was to get to these final six, let’s have a look at those restaurants which rose above the rest…

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The Three Broomsticks

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I use antlers in all of my decorating… wait, that’s a different restaurant.

# 6 – The Three Broomsticks (Islands of Adventure)

In a word? Wow. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is filled with jaw droppers. The Hogwarts castle facade. The Forbidden Journey queue and ride. Butterbeer. The Ollivander’s wand experience. The shop windows in Hogsmeade village. The Three Broomsticks is as good as anything in WWOHP. From the great Sirius Black wanted poster outside, to the wonderful decorating and atmosphere inside, to the peaceful outdoor seating area, and of course the menu.

Whether it’s a “traditional English breakfast” in the morning featuring black pudding and English bacon to the lunch/dinner menu with roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, Shepherd’s Pie, and Fish & Chips, The Three Broomsticks has items that most counter service restaurants at the park don’t offer. It is also one of the only places in WWOHP that you can get a pumpkin fizz, so make sure you add a meal at The Three Broomsticks to your next visit to IOA.

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Photo Review: A Meat-Eating, Scotch-Swilling Guide to the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on November 8, 2013

Guide to Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Beef: it’s what’s for Food and Wine!

The 2013 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival winds down on November 11th, which means you only have one more weekend to enjoy World Showcase‘s 25+ tempting temporary victual and vino vendors. Earlier this snacking season, Daisy Lauren sampled some of the exotic fare found on this year’s menus, and Derek Burgan went in-depth on this year’s enhanced vegetarian options. But you — or your significant other — may not be fond of feasting of fancy foreign finger foods, much less meatles meals. Just in time for the festival’s final days, here is a photographic guide to my top 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival finds for carnivorous men and women who crave the simple pleasures of charred flesh, perhaps served with a side of spirits.

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Observations from Universal Orlando Resort: October 16-20, 2013

by on October 23, 2013

Over the past week, I logged over 18 hours and 40,000 steps (thank you, iPhone 5S motion sensor) exploring what’s new at the Universal Orlando Resort. To save you the shoeleather doing the same, here’s a super-sized photo essay of my observations from Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventures and Halloween Horror Nights between Wednesday, October 16, and Sunday, October 20, 2013.

I started the evening of 10/16 with a lap around Islands of Adventures to see what guests purchasing the Scream Early ticket option experience.

Here’s a look at the future Starbucks inside Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry. This area is the equivalent of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A., but I haven’t heard any controversy in the online community over this mermaid invasion

Another Starbucks? Where are the torches and pitchforks?

No official word yet whether this will be an indoor location or a walk-up counter only.

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Eating at Universal on Just $20 a Day: Snacking Edition

by on October 12, 2013

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A Duff beer, Flaming Moe, and a Duff Lite. I need to crunch these numbers again…

Recently the TouringPlans blog has posted an interesting series of articles explaining how you, Dear Reader, can survive on eating inside the theme park world for just $20 a day. Click on these links to see the plans for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. It’s only natural that this financial exercise be extended to the Universal family of parks, and who better to tackle this subject than a man who has eaten a three pound slice of cake at Universal, twice?

At first, this seemed like a no-brainer. Well, duh. A Chicken & Waffle sandwich ($10.99) from Cletus’ Chicken Shack and a Flaming Moe ($7.99) from Moe’s Tavern. My favorite theme park food item and a show, but after tax the total came out to $20.11. I quickly realized that I would have to get my thinking cap on for this one (plus I was informed from the Grand Poobah himself, Len Testa, that most guests would want more than that during an entire day at the park. I know what you’re thinking: Americans.)

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Food and Drink Items at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 23

by on October 12, 2013

The Saturday Six is a weekly look at the most interesting, most fun, and sometimes even the most outrageous things within the theme park world that we all love so much. Whether it’s checking out the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, playing the Hollywood Drive-In Mini Golf in CityWalk, or eating at Springfield USA’s Fast Food Blvd, the Saturday Six is your personal guide to experiencing the very best Orlando has to offer

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HHN has arrived…

This week’s Saturday Six looks at the Top Six Food and Drink Items at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 23.  Regular readers of this column know that we like food. Scratch that. We like breathing. We love food. Especially theme park food. Perhaps you’ve seen our article on the six most outrageous food items at Universal or its follow-up looking at six more outrageous snacks. Or maybe you’ve browsed through our look at the best items in Springfield USA’s Fast Food Blvd. Or perhaps you’ve chosen to look at our take on the very best signature drinks at Universal. Today we are going to look at the top six food and drink options at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 23 event. Once Universal Studios Florida closes to regular guests and reopens for HHN, a whole bunch of food and drink stands open up with it. Here is what we enjoyed the most…

(Remember, you can click on any picture to see the full size version)

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Fried Sweet Potato Chips (Applewood Bacon and Cheddar)

# 6 – Fried Sweet Potato Chips 

Located in the New York section of the park (or the Fall of Atlanta scare zone for HHN fans), you’ll run into the stand selling Fried Sweet Potato Chips as you’re queueing up for the Evil Dead house or on your long walk out of The Cabin in the Woods, Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City, or An American Werewolf in London houses. It was good to see waffle fries brought into the park, something that should be around all year. The two available  toppings that are Applewood Bacon & Cheddar and Candied with Cinnamon and Marshmallow, the latter of which scares even me.

We went with the bacon and cheddar topping and found the serving size to be more than generous. While normally I prefer regular fries over sweet potato fries, the taste combination of the sweet potato and the toppings was definitely more flavorful than the regular fries would have been. It’s very filling, and  at $7.00 – it isn’t too bad a deal for the amount of food that you get.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Reasons We Loved the 2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

by on October 5, 2013

The Saturday Six is a weekly look at the most interesting, most fun, and sometimes even the most outrageous things within the theme park world that we all love so much. Whether it’s checking out the World’s Largest Hard Rock Cafe in CityWalk, a look at Marvel Superhero Island in Islands of Adventure, or even going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Saturday Six is your personal guide to experiencing the very best Orlando has to offer.

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Photo courtesy of Morgan Crutchfield

This week’s Saturday Six looks at the Top Six Reasons We Loved the 2013 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. An annual event that originally started in 1995, Food & wine has grown each year and has become one of Orlando’s signature events of the fall. Over 25 marketplaces are placed around World Showcase and each bring their own unique food and drink offerings that offer guests the amazing opportunity to challenge their culinary palate and experience dining opportunities that just don’t exist in the theme park world during the rest of the year. But that’s not all, Food & Wine has a whole bunch of other stuff going on at the same time including seminars, concerts, and even the chance to meet celebrities from the world of food and wine. We loved this year’s festival but what are our favorite parts? For that we need to start the list~!

(Remember, you can click on any picture to see the full size version)

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The Cranberry Bog (presented by Ocean Spray)

#6 – The Cranberry Bog

I don’t know what it is about it, but I am completely mesmerized by the cranberry bog. At night, it actually looks like it could fit in well over at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. During the day Ocean Spray has representatives who will guide guests through the process or harvesting cranberries. Here you’ll find out that cranberries grow on lung running vines and Ocean Spray (along with other cranberry farmers) use rake-like tools to brush them into water. Because the cranberries have air pockets in them, they float, so the berries are then collected en masse. I love watching people wade through the cranberry bog and continue to try to wrap my mind around the fact that something like this exists in the real world. It also will allow me to drop some knowledge bombs during my next Thanksgiving dinner when I explain where the cranberry sauce comes from and – as a bonus – there are free packs of Craisins nearby the bog at the Ocean Spray booth.

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Will Saving Money Hurt My Disney Experience?

by on October 2, 2013

While scanning a recent Quora feed, I came across the question, “What are some ways to save money at Disney World without taking away from the experience?”

Over the years, I’ve seen countless requests for money saving tips and read scores of articles proffering advice on how to save money on Disney travel, but very few of them address the quality-of-experience topic. So I’m here to discuss whether saving money will negatively impact the quality of your Walt Disney World vacation. I’ll preface my discussion by saying that almost all of this is subjective. One man’s minor sacrifice will be another man’s major drag.

The main areas of potential savings are: transportation, lodging, food, souvenirs, and tickets. Here are my thoughts on whether utilizing common money saving tips in these areas will negatively impact your trip.

Saving money by not renting a car can be no big deal or a giant drag, depending on where you're staying.

Saving money by not renting a car can be no big deal or a giant drag, depending on where you’re staying.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Common Savings Tip: Drive instead of fly.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Maybe. Depending on the number of people in your party and the distance you’re traveling, driving instead of flying can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. However, if you’re driving for more than 8 or 10 hours, you’re losing a day of vacation time on both ends of your trip. You’ll also likely arrive at Walt Disney World somewhat tired from the concentration of driving or the frustration of dealing with “Are We There Yet” children.
  • Common Savings Tip: Use Disney’s free transportation instead of renting a car.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: It depends on where you’re staying at Walt Disney World. If you’re at one of the monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian) or one of the Epcot resorts (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club), your travel time to more than one of the theme parks will be shorter using Disney transportation than it would with a car. If you’re at these hotels and spending most of your touring at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (plus DHS for BW, YC & BC), then not having a car will be no imposition at all. However, if you’re staying at a Saratoga Springs Treehouse, which requires two steps just to get to one theme park, or at one of the larger moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs) with multiple internal bus stops, then having a car will be a big plus for you.

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Observations from Universal Studios Florida: September 19, 2013

by on September 26, 2013

Weekday afternoons during mid-September are some of the most wonderfully crowd-free times to tour the Universal Orlando Resort. So last Thursday I stopped by Universal Studios Florida for a few hours to take one last look at the park before Halloween Horror Nights XXIII began on the following night.

(Fear not, we’ll be posting an updated HHN touring plan later this week in time for the next event night, based on wait-time data we collected during opening weekend. And we’ll continue refining the plan as the event progresses into October.)

Approaching the park you are now greeted by massive “tree roots” entwined around the iconic archways, framing banners representing the haunted mazes featured at HHN XXIII.

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