Nov 30

Christmas around Disney World – Food Edition

Merry Christmas

We have a lot of things to share and some things are not yet set in stone. In the shops you can find a few items for Hanukkah but most items are for Holidays and Christmas. Hanukkah offerings are a glass plate, goblet, coffee mug, wall hanging, pin, and a Joy & Lights pin. There are listed in Shop Parks App, 132 items for this Christmas season. If I find anything for other Winter Holidays I will let you know. Watch for mechurchlady and mousecation on Facebook and Twitter.

WDW – Everywhere

IMG_1057Confectioneries offer peppermint fudge and holiday treats. There are cupcakes, cake pops, rice crispies, apples, cookies, and candy decorated for the holidays. In stores, are bags of Peppermint bark, gingerbread flavored popcorn, rice treats, gingerbread mixes, hot cocoa, and more. Most of the big stores carry these items. Grand Floridian and the Contemporary are selling holiday treats including Babycakes vegan and gluten free treats.

You have to be wide awake and on the prowl for holiday items at bars, stores, restaurants, lounges, and carts. There might be a little sign on the register indicating a holiday item or the gift with purchase items. At the Coffee bar in the Contemporary there is a sign with three drinks listed. Anyone walking by would not see that sign.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

There are stands and carts in the Osbourne Lights area selling adult drinks and kid friendly snacks. There are rice treats, buckets of caramel and regular popcorn, cupcakes, and cookies.IMG_1059 They offer spiked eggnog, regular eggnog, the rum based Twinkling Twilight, the vodka based Gumdrop, peppermint hot cocoa, and a black forest shake (Min and Bill’s). Pretzel Garden offers a pumpkin spice filling stuffed into a pretzel.

EPCOT

Mexico – Sweet tamales.

Norway – Frozen Peppermint Trifle; Traditional Rice Cream.

China – Kaikouxiao (Happy Face Fried Cake).

Germany – Stollen, the classic holiday fruit bread; Glühwein, a hot spiced wine; Werther’s Original specialty drinks and treats, and a German artisanal cheese plate.

Italy – Prosecco sparkling wine and Panettone (Italian Christmas bread).

American Adventure – Start with a peek at the edible United States Capitol Building and Washington Monument (starting December 1) made out of 50 pounds of gingerbread.

On the promenade at American Adventure, The Sugar and Spice shop (open November 27) is the place for treats for the Candlelight Processional. You’ll find peppermint bark, gingerbread cookies, chocolate chunk cookies, holiday tree sugar cookies, hot chocolate, eggnog, hot chocolate with peppermint Schnapps, and eggnog with Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon.

Japan – A savory grilled Kurobuto pork sausage with pineapple and onions and Hitachino Ginger Beer.
Morocco – honey chocolate baklava.

France – A classic Buche de Noel au Chocolat (chocolate Christmas log) and a special glace à la cannelle et noix de pecan caramélisées (cinnamon ice cream and caramelized pecans).

United Kingdom – Hot applejack cider.

Canada – Pecan maple bark.

Promenade Refreshments – A little savory, a little sweet: a warm turkey sandwich on cranberry bread with mashed potatoes and gravy; peppermint sundae, chocolate grasshopper, hot chocolate, hot chocolate with Godiva Coffee Liqueur and Red Hook Winterhook Ale.

Fountainview in Future World — Mickey Santa Hat Cupcake

Nov 28

Review of The Good Dinosaur

Laurie had a chance to go see “The Good Dinosaur”.  Here is her review.  Sounds like a good movie.  I can’t wait to go see it.

People have said this is a takeoff of Rango, for example, but it is a John Wayne, John Ford, and Yakima Canutt western. At the end, I was in tears when I said “best western ever” as it is one of the best westerns ever. This is supposed to be about a boy and his “dog” lost in the mountains but it is more than that.

The dinosaurs evolved over time to where we see them as cattle barons and farmers. Unlike Theodore Rex the dinosaurs do not wear clothes and are much like Simba, Bambi, and Atta. It would be easy to replace the dinosaurs with clothed humans and in many ways this movie as the best meshing of human qualities in animals. They have the same concerns that humans in the west used to have. The best part is the siblings who are a trio that would wear out any parent.

The opening scenes are in a prairie much like the Searchers and My Darling Clementine where people build homes on the prairie. The scenery from prairies to mountains are breathtaking beauty with great attention to detail. The mountains are mindful of High Sierras used in movies for everything from mountain men to outlaws. If not for the dinosaurs, I would have expected Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, Sam Elliott, Harry Carey, and Yakima Canutt to appear.

Is this a great movie? Yes, I would watch this 50 more times and still be engrossed in the movie. The secondary characters, such as the t-rex family, are a medley of western cattle barons and cowboys that are perfectly portrayed.

Is this really kid friendly? Death is much like in Finding Nemo and Lion King where we almost are at the point of seeing a person die then blink it is over. The only things scary are things seen in other Disney movies such as Simba seeming to die in the desert only to wake up to new friends who pamper him.

Please let us know what you though of the movie and if Walt Disney World should have more tie-ins to The Good Dinosaur.

Nov 25

WDW News and Disney Springs Changes

Fasten your seatbelts as I have Star Wars, Disney Springs, Hollywood Studios, and Holidays coming your way. First off I want to address Disney Springs. Are you ready?

Check out the Disney Springs site for the latest news:  Disney Springs.  This is something to bookmark as it lists all the businesses in Disney Springs. It lists hours for the next two months, disability access, and other information. There is a map link that opens a new window and a little icon stating if the business is in Westside, Marketplace, or the Landing. I opened the map for the shop in Splitsville and ended up in the Marketplace. Great site! It even covers the carts on the bridge and walkways.

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Parking and Traffic

There are ground level parking lots around Cirque du Soleil for tall vehicles, long vehicles, and guests who stress out in parking garages. There is valet parking and open lots across the street. Take any road to Buena Vista Blvd, then to the garage. Coming from Hotel Plaza stay in the right lane and turn right into the garage. Heading from WDW stay in the right lane and be prepared to hit the ramp. At the top at the ramp turn left then right into the garage. NUMBERS!! Each level has a number showing how many spaces are open. There are water taxis at both ends and in the middle to ease getting around. The major areas left are the area in Town Center and the new parking garage. As soon as the bus station opens in the center, then guests on buses will be able to start in the middle instead of walking or taking a water taxi. The bridge across the water took me 3 minutes to go from Rainforest Cafe to T-Rex.

Hoypoloi was the Sunset House of gift shops and so much fun to visit. I will greatly miss all the top notch quality gifts. They will be replaced by World of Soccer which moved out for a while to make room for Marvel.

World of Disney has completed its expansion and store improvements. The store has wide aisles, bright lighting, a bathroom, and a wide front door with no steps or ramps. DTDRooms are themed such as Belle Room and Pinocchio room. Watch the adults as it is easy for parents to get lost. 6,000 square feet of new space now includes an information desk.

“To celebrate the newly expanded location, we are offering a “Free Shipping” promotion on purchases made only at World of Disney in Disney Springs Marketplace from Thursday, November 26 through Sunday, November 29, 2015. This would be a great time to get a jump start on holiday shopping!”

SANTA CLAUS is in town. He is available from noon to 10 pm daily through the end of the year. His chalet is located on the water but he is quite busy so guests are given a pager when the lines are long. This past weekend there was a dance party, various performers and bands, and a stage show.
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The Marketplace will have Christmas tunes from 6-10 p.m. each evening from Nov. 13- Dec. 30th. A Kwanzaa musical group appearing at the Waterside Stage Dec. 26 – 27th, and that venue will have Hannukah nightly Dec. 6 – 13th. Holiday stilt walkers appear daily through the end of the year. Some shops went all out like Jock who has travel themed wreaths and garlands.

The Landing, best be known as Pleasure Landing, for its wide variety of food and beverages offered. December 15th will see the addition of one last shop, The Ganachery. Babycakes, Vivoli sorbets and gelatos, and Joffrey’s baked goods are going to be joined by a world class chocolatier.

Fulton’s Crab House will feature a special surf and turf menu, including braised short ribs and Alaska King crab with mashed potatoes, crispy Brussels sprouts, lardons, and cabernet demi ($45 per person).  Portobello will offer a three course meal, including a filet with roasted garlic whipped potatoes and sweet cannoli for dessert ($50 per person).

Planet Hollywood and Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant will offer a delicious turkey dinner. Wolfgang Puck Express will offer tender pork chop with mashed potatoes and broccolini with a special holiday dessert. Wolfgang Puck Grand Café offers a three-course meal complete with a wine selection($75 per person).

Nov 25

Big River Grille & Brewing Works Review

Laurie brings us her review of Big River Grille.

Big River is located on the Boardwalk with sidewalk cafe seating for viewing tourists and the scenery. I sat in the bar which serves dinner and lunch from the regular menu. Overall the restaurant is disabled friendly with good lighting and comfortable seating. I wish I had sat in the main dining room but I did not want to wait. The staff was helpful, cheerful, and knew their menu. They serve tortilla chips with dip, nachos, salad and soup as appetizers. Entrees are their awesome burgers, Caesar Salad, sandwiches, steak, ribs, and other American Diner type entrees. They run a tight menu with entree having mashed potatoes and vegetables or potato chips. They have a couple of desserts, but honestly, I feel like they are running a factory line.

The overall feel is an upscale American Diner that one visits after work at the office. They really try to have a classy place despite the tight menu. I can recommend this restaurant based on staff, theme, disabled friendly, and overall experience while dining. However, before the confetti and celebrating I have to address issues with the menu for Vegans and special diets that leave me puzzled.

After much work they gave me a hamburg steak with toppings and mashed potatoes. Hamburg steaks are ground beef patties in a rectangle much like a Salisbury steak but no gravy. They are usually topped with gravy as Salisbury steak or plain with onions and mushrooms. The creamy mashed potatoes had pieces of skin and chunks with hints of butter. I loved the potatoes and had to stop eating just potatoes. This is one of the top five cheeseburgers in WDW. The burger was slightly smooshed but the grind was that loose, juicy meat that falls apart in your mouth. The charred parts were flavorful, savory, and well seasoned. Overal,l this was one of the best meals I have had but having to eat a hamburg steak with burger toppings is messy, hard, and does not allow a balance blend of toppings and meat. If this was served on a GF bun or in a wrap I would say it was the second best burger in all of WDW but it was a hamburg steak, sigh.

RECOMMEND except for vegans, vegetarians, and those on a limited diet such as allergies and sensitivities. Upscale but kid friendly with great food and service. I would love to sit out front on a warm day and people watch. This is American Diner food with a tight menu so you won’t be able to get a wide range of substitutions unlike Boma or Pop Century. They can handle no-sodium requests with ease. Getting there requires a bus to Disney Springs or a park, then a bus or ferry to Boardwalk, Swan, Dolphin, Beach Club, and Yacht Club. One can walk from Hollywood Studios.

Nov 14

Laurie’s Trip Tips

Animal Kingdom

Sometimes we forget about things like candy wrappers at the bottom of our purse. I started my day trip with the cleaning of my purse. I removed anything that could not be replaced like photos then removed pens that do not work, candy wrappers, trash, and old business cards. I went through my credit cards and put my credit cards, driver’s license, and AP discount card at the top of the pile.

Do you need a Publix discount card? Most people will not use their discount cards on a trip but will spend time trying to replace them when lost or stolen. Leave at home stuff you don’t need. Make a list of places you will have to call to replace things. I moved and to this day am finding forwarded mail from companies that I forgot to notify. Do you have a copy of your eyeglass prescription so you can order a new pair? I always plan as if I was tossed into Bay Lake and came out with everything lost. If you loose your eyeglass case does it have a contact number? The contact number can be your mother or friend. As for GPS always use a local site such as Dunkin Donuts as your HOME. If you are lost you can find your way home from a store or gas station near your home.  It is handy to have easy access to accounts, but in my case, someone went onto Facebook with my cellphone. There are internet sites dedicated to safety.
I placed my license and AP card in the ash tray of my van. I double checked that I had charger cords, plugs, phone, ipod, Morphie battery, and other needs. When I arrived at the tollbooth I immediately handed my cards and was zooming, 10 mph, to the parking lot. At the bag check I had all bags open and I went for a short line. Each attendant has two sides so you have to watch for hidden short lines. At the entrance I went through a short line and picked up my Times Guide. I parked my scooter out of the way and made sure there were no last minute changes. This is the time for bathrooms, rentals, asking questions, planning, and guest services. It is amazing how many people stand at the entrance while waiting for family. If you go inside then move away from the entrance so others can enter.

Navigating Animal Kingdom (AK) can be daunting like a trek through the jungle. The main hub is Discovery Island that is surrounded by Discovery River. The Tree of Life is on that island and can be seen in most of the park. AK has three themes for architecture. Dinoland is dinosaurs and roadside carnival. Discovery Island from Africa down and around to Dinoland is bright teal blue and Caribbean colors that can at times be whimsical. Africa and Asia are rustic villages with adobe buildings such as seen in Harambe Village and in Anandapur. These two town themes are very distinct and great for orienting oneself.

At the first intersection after the bridge you will see two paths. The left path follows the river into Africa and Harmbe. Going right you will come across a path to your left that bisects the island and heads into Africa and Asia. Continuing on the path you will end up in Dinoland. I stayed right and headed for Dinoland where I picked up some candy at the store, rode Triceratops Spin, and checked out the play area. Triceratops Spin is a hub of sorts. Across from it is the restaurant, Dinosaur the ride, bathrooms, and a shop. The playground has a greeter and only one way in or out. I enjoyed the Cretaceous Trail with shady places to rest and dinosaurs for kids to play on. Someday I am taking lunch back there for a quiet respite.
I left Dinoland and followed the path with the river on my left side. My next landmark was Everest but first a stop to see Nemo. This is a large theater but I had to have a fastpass (FP) as I don’t like waiting outdoors. The area nearest the stage is the bubble zone which is ideal for kids but watch your electronic devices. Fastpass is important if you want a front row seat or to leisurely enter the theater without being trampled. I sit in the back with the scooters which gives me a panoramic view. Up close you don’t see the lighting effects on the ceiling but you do get to see the magic of the puppeteers. There are dark spots and scary spots but for most people it is a safe show. I cannot stop coming back to this air conditioned theater for more Nemo. I left with a chipper heart and headed toward Africa. I passed Everest and Kali Rapids while keeping the river to my left side.

I had to stop for Flights of Wonder for an educational and fun bird show. One or two guests are chosen to hold up a dollar bill and have a bird fetch the money. Two guests are brought up on stage to sit and take pictures/videos of a large bird as it flies over their head and lands behind them. The best spots are the shady ones and the ones in the center. That is where the birds fly overhead. After the show guests came down to the stage to take pictures. I am sorry but the time of day was not in my favor as I was allowed to get close to a spectacle owl. They were letting people sit as the show started and often there is seating even on busy days. Look at the line to see how many are there and if it is getting long then hop in before it gets full. This is in front of the path that bisects Discovery Island but I took the path to the right toward Africa. Behind the carts near Africa is a back path with one covered picnic table and a few benches for a quiet escape from the crowd. This path has a stream and lots of plants.

Harambe Market

This is a food court. I love how they went into great detail on making this an old market place that has become a place for merchants and food vendors to meet. I am gluten and soy free so there was not much to eat for me. The main issue is that you stand in line, often in the sun, to get ribs then go to another line for bratwurst, and another for grilled meats. If you cannot split your party then you are stuck ordering from one window.

I tried chicken skewer, chickpea salad, and watermelon lemonade. The only other things I can have in this NEW diner is cookies I get from a store and broccoli salad. I have seen the spice mix used on the chicken and be warned. It is flavorful juicy chicken with a black exterior from grilling. There are no sauces as this goes well with tzatziki, ranch, barbecue, and fruity sauces. I was happily eating my chicken when it hit me MILK! I prefer subtle sneaky spicy chicken like at the food trucks. I would eat it again but for the time, weather, and lack of choices would rather eat elsewhere. The watermelon lemonade was a sweet, delicious blend of commercial lemonade and watermelon that is not overpowered by either flavor.  I was not very happy to see cold chickpeas. I am a believer as it was minced tomato, cucumber, and onions amidst cold chickpeas for a cooling and refreshing blend that I would eat again and again. There are few vegan items here and very limited offerings for special diets.  They are disabled friendly but not special diets and vegan friendly. However, what I did eat and drink, was quality food that was something I would eat again, just not waiting 25 plus minutes on a slow park day.

As I was on the path to Harambe, there was the market on my right, river on the left, and the village straight ahead. I had to do the Lion King show next.  I learned that the Tumble Monkeys do not do acrobatics if they do not have 4 men. It is a safety issue, sorry, it rarely happens like that day one of them was injured so there was no time to get a replacement. Disabled guests sit in the front so sign up with me on the DAS if you want front row seat. All seats have a great view except the ones right behind the disabled seating. The first row is too low so kids cannot see. the third row of disable seating is on flat ground so that guests have to peer around the guests in front of them. Fastpass is recommended unless you want to wait in line. Stroller parking is on your right by the exit. When exiting take the entire family far from the theater while someone picks up the stroller. Then you can take your quiet time loading the stroller without dealing with other guests.
My last Fastpass was for the safari. I could walk the line or wait 30 minutes for my Fastpass to kick in. I used my scooter to go through the line without stopping along the way until the disabled split. The ride is a lot smoother but still I was in the fourth row and was thrown around in my seat.  The ride does, at times, get you some great encounters and photographs. I love the ride but it is too bouncy for me in the front. They let parents take the stroller through the line until a spot where parents drop off their stroller. Turn right to head to the village and left to do the trail which has lots of cool things to see and do, except bathrooms and food. I had an appointment so I could not do the trail. I love the displays and viewing areas so much.

Other Stuff

Isle of Java is between the Dinoland bridge and Flame Tree barbecue. They offer slushies, soft drinks, coffee drinks, pretzels, and baked goods. It is easy to miss and rarely is there a line. Flame Tree has greatly improved seating. River of Lights construction can be seen from time to time and seems to indicate an awesome show coming with new areas for guests viewing. The construction has little affect on guests besides blocking the view of the river. Avatar Land has buildings and features rising above the treeline. Stay tuned for more information as it is available.