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Universal Orlando Preview — Week of January 20, 2018

by on January 18, 2018
Filed under: CityWalk, Universal Orlando Resort, Weekly Preview 1 Comment

Donuts. Do I need to say more? This week we cover the news of a famous donut store coming to CityWalk, free tours around Universal Orlando, low crowd levels, and more!

Weekly Crowd Levels

Detailed crowd level information can be found here.

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The #RockTheDots Event is Back at Walt Disney World and Disneyland

by on January 18, 2018
Filed under: Disney Springs, Downtown Disney, Recent News

©Disney

Last year, Guests were able to experience the very first #RockTheDots event, where the resorts celebrated everything Minnie and polka dots! This year, the event is back once again, on January 21, the day prior to National Polka Dot Day (because there is a day for literally everything).  During the #RockTheDots event, Guests will be invited to participate in a variety of fun offerings to celebrate. Guests looking to celebrate should visit Disney Springs in Walt Disney World or Downtown Disney in Disneyland dressed in their polka-dotted attire.

Guests who visit should first stop and pick up a commemorative button. At Disney Springs, the button can be found at World of Disney, Tren-D, and the Welcome Center while supplies last. At Downtown Disney District, they are at

At Walt Disney World, Guests will be able to take advantage of special retail discounts or Minnie-themed items from January 18-22 at the following locations: Read the rest of this entry »

Food Favorites from the 2018 Epcot Festival of the Arts

by on January 18, 2018
Filed under: Dining, Epcot, Walt Disney World (FL) 1 Comment

2018 Epcot International Festival of the ArtsIt’s a new year, which means it’s already time for a new festival full of fun flavors at Walt Disney World. Following the rousing success of last year’s inaugural Epcot Festival of the Arts, 2018’s fest returns with thirteen food booths featuring incredible culinary creations from around the globe. During the festival’s opening weekend, I had a chance to try so many great new and returning dishes, and today, I’ll be sharing a few of my favorites from every booth with you, including a few of the more interesting drinks on offer at the festival. As always, click on each image to see a larger version!

The Painter’s Palate (Odyssey Festival Showplace)

  • Trio of Croissant DonutsTrio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts
    • Whipped Boursin Garlic and Herb Cheese
    • Chicken Salad with Shaved Fennel and Fresh Herbs
    • Spicy Tuna with Wasabi and Seaweed Salad

The return of the savory cronuts brings another killer trio to snack on in the festival center. Who doesn’t like garlicky cheese on a buttery croissant? Bonus: the chicken salad here is really awesome – not too saucy, full of savory and sweet counterpoints from the well-seasoned chicken and the fennel. The spicy tuna cronut seemed like an odd mash-up of cultures before I tried it, but I was sold after one bite.

  • Gallery BitesGallery Bites: A Trio of Hors d’Oeuvres
    • Chilled Shrimp with Cucumber Cream Cheese on a Crostini
    • Traditional Deviled Egg with Candied Bacon
    • Crispy Truffled Risotto Ball with Stone-Ground Mustard

If cronuts aren’t your thing, this snacky trio is a slam-dunk. A good old fashioned deviled egg with a sweet (albeit a bit chewy) piece of bacon, an addictively crispy-chewy truffle arancini with spicy mustard, and a perfectly poached shrimp on toast make for a solid serving of elevated goodness, if you’re in search for a substantial snack.

  • Popcorn and Beer FlightPopcorn and Beer Flight

I did not expect a beer flight to feature as one of my favorite drink picks of the festival, but with individual popcorn pairings, it was too novel to pass up. Alongside a pilsner comes a few bites of sweet and smoky bacon barbecue popcorn; with the IPA, a zippy jalapeno ranch flavor popcorn; and with the brown ale, my favorite, a tangy buffalo blue cheese popcorn.

The Deconstructed Dish (Showcase Plaza)

  • Deconstructed BLTDeconstructed BLT with Crispy Pork Belly, Tomato Jam, and Soft Poached Egg

Though I wouldn’t necessarily say this’ll satisfy a craving for a good ol’ fashioned BLT, this dish is certainly tasty. A sizeable portion of pork belly and a perfectly runny soft poached egg combine with tangy and sweet tomato jam to create an umami bomb of a snack. The herbaceous pesto smeared on the plate is somewhat reminiscent of the “green” flavors of the lettuce in a BLT, and while I do miss the crunch of toasted bread, the richness of the egg and pork belly more than make up for it.

  • Deconstructed CheesecakeDeconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake – Whipped New York-Style Cheesecake with Fresh Florida Strawberries, Sugar Cookies, and Micro-basil

Think of this as cheesecake pudding with toppings – the whipped cheesecake definitely has the tang you’d expect from a typical New York-style cheesecake, but the sugar cookies and strawberry topping donate a bit of sweetness to the party. The addition of the micro basil is a fun and artsy touch, making the plate pop visually and flavor-wise. Read the rest of this entry »

Julia’s Best Week Ever, January 18, 2018: Art in the Park

by on January 18, 2018
Filed under: Best Week Ever, Events 2 Comments

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Out of all the festivals that Epcot offers, my absolute favorite is Festival of the Arts. Yes, the food at Food and Wine is yummy, the holidays are festive, and Flower and Garden is beautiful, but the folks in charge of Festival of the Arts really hit it out of the park last year and this year looks equally as amazing. With cold weather coming to Florida in wave after wave (and when I say cold, I’m not talking Florida cold–I’m talking 30s tonight), my family decided to squeeze in a quick trip this week, just to see the tip of the festival iceberg.

When we arrived at Epcot on Monday (albeit a holiday Monday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), crowds were brisk. I’m guessing many people had a similar idea. The secret is out about this festival.

 

Truth told, we were also looking for Pokémon on that day, and one showing up on sightings was over near the old Universe of Energy pavilion. That was a very lucky thing for us, because we might have missed the amazing chalk art over in that area. The 3-D chalk art always amazes me.

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Walt Disney World Preview — Week of January 20, 2018

by on January 18, 2018
Filed under: Walt Disney World (FL), Weekly Preview

We’ve got Broadway Performers, a new bar, and some beautiful weather. Keep reading for your Walt Disney World weekly preview!

Special Events

  • Enzo’s Hideaway is now open at Disney Springs. You’ll find this new bar underneath Maria & Enzo’s Risorante.
  • See Broadway Performers Kevin Massey and Kara Lindsay at Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre from January 19 – 22.
  • Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable will be closing February 3. Check out this Epcot attraction before it’s gone forever!
  • Florida Residents: Discover Disney tickets are available for you to purchase now through June 20. This option allows you to enjoy 3 days at a Walt Disney World theme park for $159 + tax. Note: Tickets can only be used through June 24, 2018.

Read the rest of this entry »

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Testing Cash-Free Payment Options

by on January 17, 2018
Filed under: Recent News, Walt Disney World (FL) 15 Comments

cash-free payment at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

©Disney

Well this one is certainly interesting. Beginning Monday, February 12, on the the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House will participate in a test where all monetary transactions will be handled with cash-free payment options. What does this mean? Well, all purchases and services made at the resort will only be able to do so through payments via MagicBands, credit cards, debit cards, Disney Gift Cards, Disney Rewards Redemption Cards and contactless payments such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay. Cash will not be able to be used.

For those who don’t have access to or prefer not to use credit cards, Cast Members at the front desk will be able to help Guests with their hotel charging privileges and a cash deposit can be made at check-in to activate room charging privileges.

What about gratuities that may need to be paid? They can still be paid in cash.

It will be interesting to see how this cash-free payment test goes and if it will get rolled out at other resorts. I’ll make sure to keep you updated.

Aloha, Aulani: A Resort Primer

by on January 17, 2018
Filed under: Aulani, Trip Planning 6 Comments

TouringPlans welcomes guest author May Flaum.

When I plan a vacation to Walt Disney World my desk is like a war room complete with plans of attack, alternate arrangements, current restaurant menus, and more. I build and optimize touring plans, I read blogs daily, and I love every planning minute of it. That said, sometimes it is wonderful to plan a trip quickly, easily, and without multiple notebooks and Excel spreadsheets.

If my budget isn’t tight and I get to pick said vacation? My pick is Disney’s Aulani on the island of Oahu. It really is an ideal vacation place for so many people of all ages – and perfect if you want a Disney fix but travel with someone who doesn’t love the parks. As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit the resort a few times, I’d like to share with you my strategies for planning a trip to Aulani.

Budget

Let’s address the elephant in the room: budget. There are a lot of ways you can flex the cost of an Aulani trip. But the bottom line is this: Hawaii is an expensive and popular high-demand destination. Take a look at airline routes, costs, and Aulani (and other hotel) rates to begin your planning process.

If you’re able to swing a trip to Oahu but not stay at Aulani, you still might want to visit for a half day. You can book the character breakfast, shop the gift shops, and walk through the resort, out to the lagoon, and around the Ko’olina resort area. Note that character meets other than at breakfast, as well as all amenities, pools, and slides are for the exclusive use of registered resort guests.

If only a short stay is possible, or if you want to explore more of Hawaii, then save Aulani for last. Visit other areas of Oahu or even other islands first while staying at a less expensive hotel, apartment rental, or time share. Then head up to Aulani first thing in the morning and check in. Your room likely won’t be ready, but bell services will store your bags, there is a lounge with shower you can access until your room is ready, and you’re able to use all amenities including pools and slides. You are able to utilize all resort amenities all day on both check in and check out day – use that to your advantage.

If the budget allows of course, my ultimate recommendation is to stay at Aulani for as long as you possibly can and simply enjoy all that this marvelous resort has to offer.

What to book in advance?

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Ask It: Do You Order New MagicBands for Each Trip?

by on January 17, 2018
Filed under: Just For Fun 11 Comments

When my husband went to Shanghai for a month before the park opening, our daughter and I strung a chain of MagicBands across the baker’s rack in our kitchen to use as a countdown calendar. Each day, we’d remove one MagicBand until it was time for my husband to come home. Almost every one of those MagicBands were used once and only once. At one time, it was a challenge to get Disney not to send MagicBands for an upcoming vacation, and so people often ended up with huge collections of bands in every color offered. Now with “designer” MagicBands sporting characters, attraction art, and more, and the option not to have MagicBands sent to you, it is easier to reuse old MagicBands from trip to trip. Yet, there is still a thrill of getting a new box of MagicBands in the mail that builds trip anticipation.

This week, we’re asking you

Do you order new MagicBands for each trip?

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The poll is live here and on Twitter. We’ll have your results next week. In the meantime, let us know in the comments what you do with your collection of MagicBands.

Ask It Results: Best Non-WDW Disney Vacation Club Resort

by on January 17, 2018
Filed under: DVC, Just For Fun

It’s Wednesday again, and time for another round of Ask It results. Although it is fairly laughable at this point to say that Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s Best Kept Secret, the non-Walt Disney World DVC resorts may be somewhat of a mystery for even seasoned DVC owners. With only one of the non-WDW DVC resorts being in easy access to a Disney theme park, these resorts tend not to get a lot of attention. They certainly provide a different kind of vacation from a Walt Disney World trip, and for many people, that’s part of their charm. Last week, we asked you:

Which non-Walt Disney World Disney Vacation Club resort is the best?

Here’s your results.

Vero Beach (31 votes, 5%)

©Disney

Located a couple hours away from Walt Disney World on Florida’s Atlantic coast, Vero Beach provides a wonderful beach retreat with lots of natural splendor. From nesting loggerhead sea turtles to a variety of birds to manatees and a wide variety of plant life, there’s plenty for a nature enthusiast to love about this setting. You can enjoy lounging on the beach, taking a dip in the pool, going for a spa treatment, or participating in resort activities at the Community Hall. It’s a much more relaxed pace than a Walt Disney World vacation, which may be why some people do land and land split stays between Walt Disney World and Vero Beach.

Hilton Head (63 votes, 11%)

The pool at Hilton Head Resort

Disney’s Hilton Head Resort has a pool for those who prefer their water chlorinated. Photo ©Disney

Disney’s Hilton Head resort is located, not surprisingly, in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Although it is not located at the beach itself, shuttle service is provided. There’s also easy access to swimming, golf, tennis, and more recreational activities. Different activities, events, and meals, including a low country boil (a seafood-lovers dream) or some good ol’ South Carolina BBQ, are available depending on season. Hilton Head provides a touch of Disney along with South Carolina charm.

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This Month in Disney Parks History: January

by on January 16, 2018
Filed under: Just For Fun

Can you believe we’re only two weeks in to 2018? I don’t know about you, but I feel like the holidays were ages ago already. I guess that’s what happens when you go back to a regular work or school schedule after enjoying some time off. The good news is, here at TouringPlans, we know the cure for those post-holiday blues. Disney, Disney, Disney! So we’re back with another edition of Disney Parks History. Let’s take a look at all the January happenings over the years.

1959: The Dapper Dans, a barbershop quartet act, premiered at Disneyland almost six decades ago.  They can still be found entertaining guests with their humor and harmonization along Main Street U.S.A. in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Read the rest of this entry »