Posts Tagged ‘walt disney world’

Disney Dining: Splitsville at Downtown Disney

by on August 5, 2014

I went to check out the latest developments at Downtown Disney this past weekend and finally got a chance to stop by Splitsville for lunch. I have heard nothing but positive reviews since it opened in December, 2012, in the former home of the Virgin Megastore, but I often end up taking visiting friends and family to the Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex Cafe because of the theatrical nature of those restaurants. I personally enjoy going to House of Blues, Raglan Road, and Cookes of Dublin when I’m by myself or with friends, so it was high time to check out this relatively new venue.

Splitsville is located on the West Side of Downtown Disney, directly next to the AMC movie theaters.

DTD1

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Secret Guide to Epcot Food & Wine Festival in One Day

by on August 5, 2014

Matt Stroshane, photographer

Matt Stroshane, photographer

With the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival beginning September 19, it’s time to share my secret guide to doing it all in one day. Although it seems difficult, I have refined a strategy over time and now effortlessly cruise through the day eating and drinking everything that appeals to me. The secret? Eight rules.

The Rules:

1. Stay on-site

The closer you can afford, the better. You won’t want to drive (nor should you) at any point during your day of gluttony. Epcot resorts like Beach Club are ideal, but not necessary. I recommend Port Orleans French QuarterShades of Green is a good option if you have access to it.

2. Arrive early, on a weekday if possible

Booths open at 11:00 AM and you will want to be one of the first guests wherever you choose to start. Weekdays are less crowded since locals are working. If you stick to these rules though even a busy weekend will be okay. The Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center opens with the park and is a good place to kill some time while you wait for the booths to open.

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Disney World Mini Golf and Massive Cupcakes

by on August 4, 2014

I recently returned from another magical trip to Disney World. After spending several nights in the theme parks, my family and I decided to shake things up and try something different. We headed out for an evening of Disney World mini golf and massive cupcakes. Here’s everything you need to know if you want to relax with a unique outing of Disney World mini golf at Fantasia Gardens and some massive BoardWalk Bakery cupcakes!

Getting There

Epcot Resort AreaOn this particular vacation we had rented a minivan so transportation for us was a no-brainer. We were starting our evening with a round of mini golf at Fantasia Gardens which is located right next to the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel. We just followed the trusty red and purple signs as if we were headed to that hotel and as soon as we arrived, we saw the large parking lot for Fantasia Gardens right off Epcot Resorts Boulevard. If you are using Disney transportation, your best bet is going to be taking a bus to Hollywood Studios and making your way from there. Once you arrive at Hollywood Studios, you have a couple of options. If your feet are up for it, your fastest way to get there is to take the short walk (about 10 minutes) along the path that runs between that park and Epcot. If your feet are too tired, your other alternative is to take a relaxing ride aboard one of the boats that runs among Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the surrounding hotels. If you choose option two, you will want to exit the boat at the stop for the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel. From there, Fantasia Gardens is located right by the tennis courts.

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Favorite Park Series: Disney’s Epcot

by on August 3, 2014

Hello again! Welcome to Epcot. If you haven’t read my highlights on Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, please do so now.

Epcot scenery

Take in the beautiful scenery.

*Twiddles thumbs. Checks Twitter. Reads a blog post.*

Done? Okay, let’s ‘soar’ right in!

Memorable Moments

Pick your mode of transportation! Soarin’ is a popular ride that allows you to hang-glide over California, feeling the wind in your face whilst smelling the fragrance of zesty orange trees. (Fun Fact: The first model for Soarin’ was made out of an erector set!) Once you land on solid ground, hop in a Chevy at Test Track. Strap yourself in and brace yourself for the ride of your life! Put on your space suit, join the NASA team and shoot for the stars as you travel to Mars in your rocket via Mission: Space. To ease back into Earth’s gravity, swim underwater to the ‘clamobile’ where The Seas with Nemo & Friends take you “under the sea.” Finally, use those feet and travel indoors to Innoventions where you’ll find interactive and educational games the whole family will enjoy.

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Observations from Epcot: July 30, 2014

by on August 2, 2014

observations from Epcot

Take a stroll around Epcot with us without having to leave your air-conditioning! (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Following my Frozen-filled visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week, I found myself back at Walt Disney World a few days later for some observations from Epcot. As a child, EPCOT (as it will always be capitalized in my heart) was my favorite WDW park, and the massive Beard/Abrams coffee table book on the park’s creation remains among my most prized possessions. As everyone knows, Epcot’s attractions (especially in Future World) have been radically overhauled over the past 2 decades, and now I rarely visit the park except during the fantastic Food & Wine or Flower & Garden festivals.

My first mid-summer Epcot experience in several seasons started on a sweet note, as I snagged a parking spot along the center aisle; there is nothing worse than having to walk a football field’s length just to get to the tram.

Spending a lot of time at Universal Orlando lately, I’ve been frustrated by how slow their entry procedures are, even after new ticket scanners were recently installed. In contrast, the turnstile-free entry at Disney’s parks has become my favorite element of MyMagic+. Scanning a MagicBand usually seems swifter than swiping a barcode, and the finger scanners at Disney are still far faster and more reliable than Universal’s new biometric readers.

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Top Ten Places to Find: Air Conditioning!

by on August 2, 2014

Being located smack-dab in the middle of the Sunshine State, and having average temperatures of 80 degrees or higher eight months out of year, Walt Disney World is practically a tropical destination. As such, it is necessary to plan appropriately to make sure you and your family are prepared to withstand this intense heat, humidity, and sunshine. And since we’re all the “Type-A” Disney World trip planners, there are definitely some tricks we all have up our sleeves to beat the heat and keep cool in Disney World. It’s great to make sure you pack comfortable, loose fitting clothes, plenty of sunscreen, and incorporate a mid-day nap/pool break in your daily Touring Plan. Once in a while, we find ourselves in the parks during the heat of the day and need to find an air conditioned sanctuary to help us keep our cool (literally and figuratively)! So, here is a list of the top ten places in the parks to find a cool corner of air conditioned sanctuary to revive you before you complete your Touring Plan mission.

 

Escape the heat by enjoying the Carousel of Progress.

Escape the heat by enjoying the Carousel of Progress.

Carousel of Progress (Magic Kingdom): Proudly sitting in the corner of Tomorrowland (close to Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin), Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress is a slowly rotating indoor (air conditioned!) auditorium that takes guests on a time-traveling adventure. Watch how technology and innovations impact the lives of our favorite turn-of-the-century family. This is a fun 20-minute show with pretty cozy chairs. If you manage to avoid taking a brief nap, you’ll have the catchy tune stuck in your head all day. It’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow…

Country Bear Jamboree (Magic Kingdom): Right next door to Pecos Bill Tall Tell Inn and Café, it’s a great spot to soak in some of that great bear culture. Being only a 10-minute show, this entertaining reprieve from the heat is brief. On the bright side, your backside probably doesn’t want to be sitting on those bleacher-style benches much longer than 10 minutes. It’s a cult-classic and has an avid following, while others find it hokey. No matter which camp you fall into, it’s still a great break from the Florida heat. Just remember, don’t feed the bears.

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Ranking Epcot Beer

by on August 1, 2014

The slow but steady transformation caused by the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival’s popularity is positively affecting beer selection in the park. But all pavilions are not equal. Considering selection, ambiance, and variety, what follows is my attempt at ranking Epcot beer options. Please note this list excludes full service restaurants from consideration and is not meant to be exhaustive.

12. China

The nation of China is not well known for beer, and the pavilion reflects this with its position at the bottom of the list. Thirsty guests will find two beers on draft: Tsingtao and Tsingtao Pure Draft. Both options are standard American style lagers and are unlikely to offend anyone but probably will not impress either. Ambiance and practicality take a hit too: the pavilion doesn’t have many shaded areas to drink and the few that do exist are mostly in the quick service restaurant. Both beers can be found at the Joy of Tea kiosk and Lotus Blossom Cafe.

11. Norway

Norway just barely edges out China. Its single draft offering, Carlsberg, is a little tastier with just a slight hint of hops. I do give them an extra point because it’s a beer rarely seen in the US even if the flavor is not outstanding, where Tsingtao is available at most Chinese restaurants in the States. Finding a good place to enjoy the beer nearby is a challenge. Only the dining area next to the Stave Church is shaded and it’s crowded and noisy. Find Carlsberg in the Bakery and at the drink cart.

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Doing Disney World Solo: Having a Me Party

by on July 30, 2014

Disney Parks are advertised as the quintessential family vacation, but that doesn’t mean that you can only have fun with your family. Whether you’re in Orlando for a business conference, a local looking for a fun afternoon, or just planning a trip all for your “onesy” (as Jack Sparrow would say), the magic of Walt Disney World is easily captured by any intrepid traveler! If Amy Adams and Miss Piggy can have fun with their own “Me Party”, anyone can! Let’s dive in and find some ideas to help you create your own “Me Party” when you are traveling solo at Disney World.

Amy Adams, from The Muppets, shows us that anyone can have fun at a "me party"!

Amy Adams, from The Muppets, shows us that anyone can have fun at a “me party”!

Why Travel Walt Disney World Solo

Believe it or not, there are lots of little perks to being a solo traveler at Walt Disney World. After all, you can create your own agenda. It’s a very liberating feeling walking through the theme parks and only answering to yourself. A quick stop for a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, a last minute dining reservation (ADR) at your favorite restaurant (if you can get it), or maybe you want to re-ride the tea cups at the Mad Tea Party six times in a row. It’s up to you!

Solo Travel Considerations

Safety: Before we jump right into the fun, it’s important to consider the safety of being a solo-traveler. I always stay at a Disney owned resort on property when I travel by myself. That’s not to say that other local hotels aren’t safe, but there is a familiarity with the Disney resorts and the caring nature of the cast members that make it extra comforting. When checking in, I usually tell the cast member that I’m by myself and would prefer a room close to the main building for security reasons. Though there is no guarantee that they can accommodate this request, I’ve never had a problem. I also make sure that I’m aware of my surrounding and stay in well-lit areas. Even though it’s Disney, safety is a top priority. This means, putting away your smart phone, especially when waiting for transportation or in transit between your resort and the park. Not that Disney has many “predators” lurking in the parking lots, when you’re on your own you want to make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings.

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Planning for Spontaneity: Disney World Counter Service Meals

by on July 30, 2014

By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey's Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.

Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank.

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 7/28/14

by on July 28, 2014

I’m back with all the great little Disney planning details that I think you need to know!  There’s quite a few little nuggets that have passed through my desk, so enough with this chit chat, yick yack, and flim flam; let’s get on with it!

  • As always, we’ll start with refurbishments. This time I only have one to let you all know about. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin at the Magic Kingdom will be closed for a brief refurb this Fall from November 10 – 21, reopening on November 22.
  • The WonderGround Gallery, which can be found at Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney, now has a presence at the Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World.
  • The Epcot After Hours Wind Down event has been extended. The extra experience, which takes place after Illuminations:Reflections of Earth on select nights, will now last until November 9. The event was originally supposed to run until September 15. The After Hours Wind Down includes a menu featuring a selection of appetizers and one beverage flight. The price is $35 per person, per location. A cash bar option is also available.

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