Archive for June, 2009

The Last Leg of Drinking Around the World

by on June 30, 2009

This post marks the conclusion of my trek around World Showcase to drink in every country with my friends. This time around Tom and I were the only ones left to tackle the task. We spent a quiet afternoon checking off the last few countries on our list. Thanks for following me on my trip to bars around the world!

First up was a stop at the Tangerine Café in Morocco. In the back of the café there is a coffee bar which also serves up frozen drinks, desserts, and other alcoholic drinks. I’ve had the Tangerine slush on a few occasions and its ok, but I prefer some of the other frozen drinks around the world. This time around I decided to try the Mimosa. It was a lovely way to start the afternoon especially since it was a little early in the day. Tom opted to get Casa beer which he also enjoyed. We took the opportunity to wander around the pavilion a bit since we often overlook it. The details in this area are lovely so you should check them out early in your tour when you are sober enough to appreciate them! The Moroccan stop on the tour was definitely the most enjoyable of the day.

Next up was some Japanese beer. We headed to Yakitori House so we could try to snag an indoor table and enjoy some air conditioning with our drinks. This counter service eatery offers Kirin Ichiban beer on draft as well as hot saki and plum wine. We both chose the beer this time around. Unfortunately I think I should have selected something else. I didn’t even finish mine! Tom wasn’t a big fan of it either. This was definitely low on my list around the world showcase.

Finally the very last stop was Italy to pay a visit to the outdoor kiosk. One would think this would be one of the best places to grab a glass of wine and sit by the water or people watch. But honestly, I didn’t really enjoy my wine choice nor did Tom like his beer. Maybe I don’t have the most sophisticated palate, but it wasn’t easy to finish my glass. I think I may just avoid this pavilion from now on because I also dislike Tutto Italia table service restaurant, but I’ll save that for another blog.

I’m really glad we decided to give drinking around the world a try. It was a ton of fun! When I started writing these blogs I realize we didn’t take one single picture of the festivities! So round two is already in the works, and we’ll be bringing cameras this time. I’m sure I’ll write about it again after we complete it. It’s a great activity, but there are certainly some things to think about before committing to it. First of all be sure to budget for buying 11 drinks. The tab adds up quickly! You also have to decide if there is going to be a designated driver or you’ll use Disney transportation after your last call. Also drinkers need to know their own limits. I couldn’t possible do all 11 countries in one try so I didn’t even try. I’m all for getting tipsy and silly, but please don’t make yourself sick in the parks.

Next week I’m going to take the weekend off from writing to enjoy the holiday at the Jersey Shore with family and friends. I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend! In two weeks I’ll be back with a look at Biergarten in Epcot’s German pavilion.

So Much Fun Outside Of The Parks

by on June 29, 2009

Have you ever had this conversation:

“You’re going to Disney World again?” (funny look on persons face)

“Yes, I am so excited.”

“You just went.  How many times have you been this year?”

I think back and count and then try to justify my visit to the person who “just doesn’t get it” by saying,   “You know there is so much to do there.  You could never step foot in the parks and have a fabulous trip.”

More eye rolls. “Have a nice time.”

“I will.”

I figure that if you read this website and the blog posts, you are a Disney fan and can probably relate to that conversation.  

Before my last trip in June, I literlly decided to go just days earlier. I contacted Len to see if he needed me to do any research.  The only thing he needed at that point was a stay at Bay Lake Towers and since it wouldn’t be open during my short trip, I couldn’t help him out.  He didn’t even need wait times, so time was mine to spend — no plans, no Advanced Dining Reservations.

I have said that mantra: “You never have to step in the parks to have a fabulous trip” countless times.  I have always thought this, but never actually lived it.  I am a “be at the turnstiles 45 minutes before park opening kind of gal.”  This time would be different.   I would actually live my mantra….

We got to the Contemporary super late. Exhausted from the drive, my son, Trent, 13, slept until 1 p.m.  the next day.  (We loved the Contemporary room.  It was great for sleeping.  It was so dark and the beds were really comfortable.  We would definitely stay there again. ) We then hopped on the monorail to the Polynesian and had lunch at Kona Cafe.  Our lunch was great (other than when the man at the table next to us stood up and screamed at his teenage son over and over again.  A Disney first that I never hope to see again.)  Because it was so hot and we really didn’t want to stand in line at the parks, we decided to go to Downtown Disney and see “UP.” (Loved it!!)  How awesome to see a Disney movie at Disney World.  After the movie, the temperature cooled just slightly and because we were staying at the Contemporary, I thought we’re so close to the Magic Kingdom, we have to walk over.   We walked through Cinderella’s Castle, to Tomorrowland, down Main Street USA and out again.  Did nothing –  Just soaked up the atmosphere.  We enjoyed dinner in the bar at California Grill, which didn’t seem as busy as times past.  Saw Wishes and went to bed.

The next day, we slept in again.  We drove to the Boardwalk and had lunch at the Boardwalk Bakery.  We ate in the shade at the outside tables in front of Spoodles and just enjoyed being there.  We took in the scenery.  Watched the people and the boats. The highlight, however, was a mother duck and her tiny ducklings that came over to us and enjoyed lunch with us. 

Enjoying Lunch on the Boardwalk with Tiny Ducklings & Their Mother

After lunch we headed over to the dock at the Wilderness Lodge (we were staying there the last 2 nights) and rented the SeaRacers.  We lathered up with sun screen and headed out for a tour of Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon.  This was also a Disney first and Trent and I both highly recommend it.  We got a great peak into the back of Bay Lake Towers.  It looks awesome.  Even though it was so hot, the breeze kept us pretty comfortable.  Do this late in the afternoon or in the morning in the summer.  That night we ate at Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge. 

On our last day, we did get up early, were the first at the turnstils at Blizzard Beach.  We rode the attractions over and over again.  Had a blast, chatted with the General Manager (always researching) and then headed out by 11:50 a.m.  We lounged around the Wilderness Lodge and the had dinner at “Trails End.”

While we did go to Blizzard Beach and take a walk through the Magic Kingdom, I do believe you can have a fabulous time outside of the parks and on a last minute trip.   We are living proof.  What kinds of things do you do outside of the parks?

Urban Planner Walk Through Liberty Square To Frontierland – Part 2

by on June 29, 2009

Hello. This is continuation of my walk through the various lands in the Magic Kingdom. This week we see how Liberty Square and Frontierland share a a lot of things in common but remain distinctly different in feel.

For more of this type of stuff I invite you to visit SamLand’s Disney Adventures.

Liberty Square is a carefully designed, fully immersive, urban environment. The staging of the design elements is meant to slow you down and soak up the atmosphere. The high level of detail is necessary because this land reflects the qualities of places that really exist and would be accessible to many of Walt Disney World’s visitors. The challenge for the design team was to create, as described by the Imagineers, an “enhanced reality” that is “better than real”.

This is something the Imagineers learned from the animators. In animation, successful storytelling requires you to find a way to suspend people’s disbelief so they could accept talking animals, puppets, clocks, beasts, etc. Walt Disney discovered that you had to create what he called the “plausible impossible”. One method was using highly detailed backgrounds. These backgrounds helped your imagination to accept that you have entered a real place. Once you have accepted the story’s time and location you could begin to accept whatever action was taking place in the foreground. This is how animators make the impossible possible.

Imagineers use a similar technique in the design phase for a project known as “eyewash”. Eyewash is used when the Imagineers are pitching a new concept and it is carried through to the finished environment. The designers are taught to take their idea to its extreme then illustrate it in such a way that makes it seem realistic. The details turn an idea that seems impossible into something that even the accountants will want built.

The design details of Liberty Square capture that early American spirit and set the stage for the shops and attractions. The setting is an urban experience with narrow streets that wind around the buildings. The buildings help to frame this space and create an outdoor room that is alive with storefronts, restaurants, and rocking chairs. The river adds that fourth wall which creates the coziest land in the Magic Kingdom.

Liberty Square is organized around a strong central element. In this case, the central element is the public square and the Liberty Tree. There are minimal vistas outside of Liberty Square. Only a glimpse of Frontierland can be seen from within the land. This preview of Frontierland is important because it becomes the second act in the Magic Kingdom’s time travel story.

Like a movie, the designers have used a consistent thematic thread that ties the two lands together. Combined, Liberty Square and Frontierland will take you through from the east coast of Colonial America and end some at the close of the American frontier in the late 1880s.

Liberty Square and Frontierland use typological architectural details that provide us clues for our trip through time and geography. In Liberty Square, our trip begins in New York along the banks of the lower Hudson River in the early 1700s. The Haunted Mansion is based on the gothic architecture of the Harry Packer Mansion built in 1874 in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The brickwork, heavy stone base and cornerstones, are typical of English Tudor buildings. The building is away from the main square and off to the side. Frankly, the Disneyland version seems like a nice suburban house. This one is kind of scary.

And don’t speed past the cemetery at the end. You will miss something special in the upper left hand corner. One of my favorite Disney characters has taken up a permanent home at the Magic Kingdom. At least he is still alive in Disneyland.

The Columbia Harbor House would feel right at home in the port city of Boston in the mid-1700s. It is also the site of a brilliant transition from one land to the next. The upper dining room bridges over the walkway. One side is themed to Fantasyland and the other is all Liberty Square. This effect is used in other places between Adventureland and Frontierland. Keep an eye out for it. You are probably rushing to the restroom when this magic happens.

Leaving the Haunted Mansion, the buildings begin to take on the Georgian style, which was popular in Williamsburg during the late 1700s. In just that short distance we have moved almost 50 years. The Hall of Presidents is modeled after buildings in Philadelphia at the time of the Constitution’s adoption in 1787. This structure is the centerpiece to the land. Everything else supports this structure. The Liberty Tree helps to soften the public square that is frame by the Hall, the shops, the loading dock for the Liberty Belle, and most importantly, the Rivers of America and the island representing the endless western frontier and the end to our first act.

Liberty Square is not merely a reproduction of a colonial village. It is way too clean. But it has an urban complexity that doesn’t really exist elsewhere in the Magic Kingdom. Much like New Orleans Square at Disneyland (which it is modeled after) it uses its design elements, compact design, winding pathways, blend of hardscapes and supporting plant materials to create the sensation of being in another time and place.

Speaking of Disneyland, Liberty Square was first thought of as an offshoot of Main Street USA. On the earliest park souvenir map drawn by Sam McKim, is an area called Liberty Street. In the space where the parade exists in Town Square plus the lonely wooden structure between the Opera House and the stores has long been the entrance to another land. At first it was International Street – the precursor to the World Showcase at Epcot. In 1958 that concept was put back into the draw and flipped to Liberty Street. Another example of how Imagineers never let a good idea really die.

The building that bridges the divide between the two lands is the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. The western migration had a natural border – the Mississippi River. At the water’s edge was the mighty city of St. Louis. In the 1820s, this type of building would have been typical. It is from here we begin our second act in this historical epic.

Next week we continue along that strip mall we like to call Frontierland.

WDW Today Episode 584 – July 4th Touring

by on June 29, 2009

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Episode 584 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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New VIP Areas In The Water Parks

by on June 26, 2009

Disney recently debuted a new service in its water parks. The new service is a collection of special areas in the parks that provide guests with a VIP experience in the water parks. They are the Beachcomber Shacks in Typhoon Lagoon and the Polar Patios in Blizzard Beach. Your rental of these areas is good for one day in the water parks. Admission to the water parks is required, and admission cost is in addition to the cost of the VIP area. Currently, single-day, adult admission to a water park is $45 plus tax.

Below are the details of the VIP areas:

Price: $250 + tax

Amenities included:

  1. Personal Attendant (read: waiter)
  2. Cushioned furniture
  3. All-day refillable drink mug
  4. Two bottles of water per person
  5. Personal locker
  6. Rental towels
  7. Cooler with ice

After 2pm, if there is availability, you can rent a VIP area for $150 + tax.

The VIP areas can hold a maximum of six people each.

Here is what one of the Typhoon Lagoon Beachcomber Shacks look like. Incidentally, the location of this particular shack was one of our “best spots” in Typhoon Lagoon–namely, the “Wave Pool Spot.”

Beachcomber Shack

Here are some of  the Polar Patios at Blizzard Beach.

Polar Patio

And here’s the menu you can order from.

Beachcomber Menu

Recommending Epcot During The Food and Wine Festival

by on June 26, 2009

Our Crowd Calendar is recommending Epcot on Saturday, September 26th, the first weekend of Food and Wine Festival. Epcot will probably be busy (if not very busy) that day so some people might wonder “What kind of sick statistician would recommend such a thing?” We instruct our Crowd Calendar to make sure that each park is recommended at least once in a seven day stretch. So really, it comes down to a lesser of two evils scenario. With Friday, September 25th being the opening day of Food and Wine our model is choosing Saturday as the second best option. Rest assured, all days that weekend will be busy as locals flock to the park to check out this year’s festival.

WDW Today Episode 583 – Sam Gennawey

by on June 26, 2009

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Episode 583 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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New Disney World Discount Available For Travel August 9 – October 3, 2009

by on June 25, 2009

Thanks to Sue Pisaturo from Small World Vacations for this information.

Sue notes that some folks are finding these codes can be more cost-effective than free dining at the more expensive resorts.

These are the general public codes booking through August 8, 2009 for travel August 9-October 3, 2009 (Subject to availability)

Room only – TDU
Club level room only – JXR
MYW base – EQS
MWY + quick dine – RBS
MYW + Dine – GBN
MYW + Dlx dine – JXP

Disney Visa Codes
Room only: EQT
Basic Dine:  UZE
Counter Dine: JXQ
Deluxe Dine:  EQV

WDW Today Episode 582 – Listener Questions

by on June 24, 2009

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Episode 582 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Drinking Around the World… Again

by on June 23, 2009

Last week I wrote about the first leg of our drinking around the world adventure.

Please refer to this link to read the first part of this report: This time around Don had to go to work so Julie, Tom, and I set out to scratch a few more countries off of our list. We also stuck to beer on this portion of the journey. So without further ado, here are the details of our second day of drinking around the world.

Our first stop was Lotus Blossom Café in the China pavilion to grab some snacks and beer. This location offers Tsing Tao, plum wine, and a few American beer options. Since we were trying to experience the cultural options around World Showcase we all opted for the Tsing Tao to go along with our egg rolls. The beer was light and refreshing on a hot day. I would definitely stop in here again to grab a beer before watching the acrobats or continuing around the World Showcase.

After our relaxing stop in China, we backtracked to Norway. A cart in this pavilion sells Carlsberg beer native to Norway. Kringla Bakeri og Café also offers Carlsberg along with other tasty sweet treats. We just hung out near the water and enjoyed our beers. While I’ve had this one before, there were not many Scandinavian options. Luckily, I like Carlsberg so it made for a yummy stop on the tour. After finishing up and taking a ride on Maelstrom, it was off to the next country.

Our next stop was one of my favorite pavilions, Germany. Sommerfest serves an assortment of beers from Deutschland. We all picked Beck’s to try. Maybe it’s the German girl in me, but I always like this beer. Julie and Tom also agreed that it was a good choice. It may have been wise to also get a pretzel to sop up all that alcohol! We’ll have to remember that next time.

We skipped over Italy to hit the American Adventure. The Fife and Drum Tavern serves Turkey Legs, other snacks, and of course beer. The draft beer options include Bud Light, Samuel Adams, and a seasonal selection. Being a northeasterner I love Sam Adams and I was going to get that, but the seasonal selection was Beach Bum Blonde Ale.  It was light, like Corona or Landshark, and we all loved it. This was the last stop on today’s tour mostly because after our American beer we were too tipsy to continue. It was a hot day and we hadn’t had a lot to eat so it was a slippery slope.

Next week I’ll finish my report up our drinking trip around World Showcase…