Jun 23

Food Truck Rally Review

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Melissa as a new blogger here on “Mouse”cation.  She joins Laurie and myself (since I am also a travel agent, I am usually busy with that aspect so I don’t blog much).  I will be adding a couple more bloggers to my site soon too.  Looking forward to their blogs.  Thanks Melissa!

Food truck rally was held on Saturday 6/21/14 with over 14 vendors including some of Disney’s hits from food and wine festival, including beef sliders, cupcakes, Philly cheese steaks and some awesome food from Germany! Epcot really made a hit with their truck but with 14 trucks and a lot of choices it was hard to pick! I ended up getting some beef sliders with chips from Germany. And let me tell you how excited I am for food and wine to begin LOL.

As with all this good food came the crowds of people trying to get in to downtown Disney last night which was a gridlock near the entrance by House of Blues and DisneyQuest, to no parking spaces available at all! Even cast parking was overflowed…now coming in we decided our best option was VIP parking which cost $20, but right away we got out and got to enjoy it with no hassle…and with that being said when Disney has events like this it’s best to pay for VIP to just relax or take Disney shuttle to avoid the nightmare that comes with it.

The only downfall of the event yesterday came by the tour groups that Disney is known to dislike….with chanting inside Starbucks to being almost everywhere…we are in the season of these groups to start appearing.

Here are a few tips to avoid nightmares at downtown Disney

** to avoid parking nightmares use VIP parking to go about your time or take Disney transportation

**don’t forget to bring rain gear as you never know with nasty weather (this is summer for downpours)

**take your time going through construction areas (aka walls up/small areas) around downtown Disney for the expansion of Disney Springs.
Enjoy and have a magical week!

Hey my name is Melissa I am 27 and an avid Disney fan and I have a premium pass! I stay on Disney property every month and it never gets old.  I love Disney and everything that comes with it.

Jun 21

Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise

There are four launch routes serving Downtown Disney, Port Orleans, Treehouse Villas, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West. Currently Downtown Disney has docks located by Cirque du Soleil and IMG_3124Paradise Island with one launch running between those two docks. There are three routes running out of the Cirque du Soleil dock to the resorts. Yellow flagged launches go to French Quarter and Riverside resorts in Port Orleans. Blue flagged launches head to Saratoga Springs resort and the Treehouse Villas. Green flagged launches go to Old Key West resort.

Launches have porDTDtable ramps like the ones on the monorail for boarding wheelchairs and scooters. There is room for scooters on these launches but one must be skilled in backing up or one can end up in the river. If in doubt then have family put the scooter in free wheel and push the scooter off the launch. I back in as it is easier to get out of the launch going forward. The resorts do not have railings on the docks so you have to watch your kids and watch out for guests who might run into you. I had no problem with loading and unloading my scooter but one guest took a very long time to back out of the launch after getting stuck several times. Note that ferries do not operate during high winds, lightening, or other weather that makes it unsafe to operate. The last launch leaves around 11 pm for the resorts.

The ferries are free and open to everyone. They offer visitors a chance to explore the resorts and Downtown Disney without having to constantly move the car or be on a cramped bus. There are glimpses of the resorts though moss draped trees that at times seems to be right out of the South. Many skippers DTD2will take time to speak with guests. Saratoga Springs has the awesome Turf Club for one of the best dinners you can find in WDW. They have Chips and Slices quick service, Artist Palette quick service, and a lounge with a full bar and a pool table. Old Key West has paths to explore, a DVC store, Gurgling Suitcase bar, Goods To Go quick service restaurant that is very allergy friendly, and Olivia’s sit down restaurant. Food, drinks, and decor is themed after Key West. The only thing to do at Treehouse Villas is enjoy nature as you walk through the resort. There are paths to Downtown Disney, nature paths, and jogging paths intertwined with the golf course. There is a “cast members only” bridge and a “golfers only ” bridge so make sure you know your route while exploring the area. I suggest the Mousesteps site for a photo tour of her walks through some of these areas and check online for jogging sites that go into detail on jogging paths.

DTD1Port Orleans has 2 pool bars, 2 bars, 2 food courts, and Boatwright’s Dining Hall for a wide variety of food and drinks that feature New Orleans and Southern items. The partially built ship in Boatwright’s is a replica of an 1820’s flatboat while Fulton’s General Store is named for Robert Fulton who built the first commercial steamboat. IMG_3471Riverside is steamship, bayou, and antebellum mansion themed while the French Quarter is themed after Mardi Greas and the French Quarter of New Orleans. There are carriage rides, bicycles, and surry bikes to rent. I love exploring the area for its architecture and decor and especially down by the river for a peaceful stroll.

DTD3The launches are not just transportation but a way to get to adventures, dining, and shopping. I like to park at Downtown Disney then take a ferry for exploring the resorts, dining at the resorts, and enjoying the entertainment at the resorts. I love dining at the Turf Club and popping into River Roost for a snack while watching Yeehaw Bob perform. I now am in love with all the DVC resorts and hope to stay there one day. For kids it is a free adventure that most enjoy.

My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW.  I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.

Jun 17

Downtown Disney – Guide to West Side and Paradise Island

Laurie is writing a Four Part series on Downtown Disney.  See what she has to say about the West Side and Paradise Island…….

IMG_4458There are four paths from Cirque du Soleil to the east side of Paradise Island. The easiest way is along the parking lots that go from Cirque du Soleil to Marketplace bus stop with no hills to climb and no detours. Second is the water taxi from House of Blues to the Paradise Island dock which is on the bridge that goes from Characters in Flight to a very, very, very steep hill up to Paradiso 37 and down to Raglan Road. There is a waterside path from House of Blues to Characters in Flight. The main central path ends in front of Harley Davidson where guests go right to the parking lot or left to the bridge that leads to that steep hill.

Stand with your back to Cirque du Soleil and face the central path. Behind you are bathrooms and drinking fountains. To your right are the DVC kiosk, Wetzel’s Pretzels, and Häagen-Dazs. Currently to your left, a bit back, is Namaste Cafe food truck which has awesome food. Heading up the street you will see House of Blues restaurant and their Smokehouse quick service restaurant. Next door is Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Cafe that has quick service, a table service cafe, and upstairs a fine dining room. Next is Bongos quick service window and table service restaurant with walls where the food truck court will be. Finally you will be at Starbucks and Characters in Flight balloon adventure.

IMG_4058Over on your right is DisneyQuest which has a snack bar and a quick service restaurant. Some love DisneyQuest, and others hate it, as it can be dark, dingy, and full of rude people. I was a pinball queen so I know that their machines are not well maintained like the old days of arcades. IMG_4443You will find lots of chances to pay to play just like the old arcades and the same cheap prizes. Go on YouTube to see recent videos to decide if this is for you. The next building has Fit2Run, Curl, and Splitsville. and around the corner is Pop Gallery. The next building has the main entrance to AMC theater, Something Silver, Hoypoloi Gallery, Sunglass Icon, Disney’s Candy Cauldron, United World Soccer, D Street, and Orlando Harley Davidson.
At the wall, the right path takes you past AMC Dine-In Theaters on your right and on the left is Planet Hollywood, then you are in the parking lot. Turn left and follow the path to Raglan Road and make a right toward Marketplace. There is a detour to the right around the parking lot toward Marketplace. I avoid the path on the left as it goes up a very steep hill and I do not recommend it as it is far easier to take the parking lot path. Paradiso 37 is the only thing of note on that path currently.

Downtown Disney has many items to replace lost, damaged, or forgotten items as well as souvenirs, birthday gifts and holiday gifts. Cirque du Soleil has clothing, toys & jewelry with their logo. DisneyQuest has your typical Disney Store items such as kitchenware , potholders, bowls, Mickey ears covered casserole dish, candy, Disney infinity, and Magic Bands. House of Blues has snacks, cornbread mix, waterless tattoos, knick knacks, hats, clothes and the Q is Jake and Elwood rubber ducky as well as Jake and Elwood shirts. IMG_4056Splitsville has clothing, bowling balls, jewelry, and glassware with their logo. Free shipping is offered on any child bowling ball purchased. Bongos has clothing, hats, mugs, glassware, and golf balls and tees boxed sets with their logo.  Planet Hollywood has golf ball and tee boxed sets, t shirts, hats, jewelry, clothing and other items with their logo. They have a 50 percent discount table. They have the cutest little Planet Hollywood plush dinosaur. Raglan Road has kitchenware, glassware, keyring, and magnet with their logo.  Rhey also sell Irish CDs, cookbooks, perfumes and lotions, clothing, Christmas ornaments, and bar ware.

Fit2Run, The Runner’s Superstore, has fun run and offers a club that gives 10% off almost purchases. The cost is $30 a year and features promotions, events and other happenings. Cast members receive 10% off of most purchases and 20% off if they are club members. They have sports bra, hats, running shoes, running apparel, socks, power bars, GU energy gel , Luna bars, lemonade tablets, ankle wraps, Nathan clip light, shoe laces, Thule jogging stroller, and jewelry.

Curl by Sammy Duvall has the cutest hand painted Toms shoes.  For an additional $25 to $85, they have a book of designs available but customers may ask for custom designs. Curl has cover ups, bathing suits, backpack, flip flops, skirts, mens shorts and shirts , beachwear, jewelry and other surf themed items. Sunglass Icon offers sunglasses, sunglass accessories, and some replacement lenses. Sosa Family Cigar Company is known for their cigars, cigarettes, and cigar accessories. They allow smoking and have a nook to relax and enjoy your cigar. One of my favorite shops is Hoypoloi with local artists and famous artists. I lost my notes but have fond memories of umbrellas, jewelry, kinetic art work, paintings, ceramics, and other fun things to look at. Something Silver has the sweetest manager who would stand by the door to make sure guests are taken care of as they come in the door. They offer a wide variety of jewelry and other items including amber. They give 15% discount to cast members, military members, and annual passholders. United World soccer offers team jerseys, sports gear, World Cup apparel, and accessories. They are a new store just opened within the last month. Pop Art Gallery is hidden in an alley out of public view. They remind me of Sunset House with every possible art genre in one tiny shop. They have Dennis Debon (Frogman) art, glass wind chimes made from recycled glass, Carbonic Kangaroo trophy head from Dr. Seuss, dog and cat clocks (like the Kit Kat clock), collectible figurines, mobiles, paintings, jewelry, giftwear, Lladro Atelier, and Storm watches.

Disney’s Candy Cauldron offers a wide variety of candy and give discounts for DVC, Annual Passholders, and cast members. The same discount is available at D Street where you can buy apparel, pop culture items, and vinylmation. The anchor of West Side is Harley Davidson which I love. They have dog toys, hats, and leashes for your Biker Beagle. There are so many things here that I want and the staff is so nice. Clothing, hats, jewelry, and more await you but the best thing is the gas tanks on the wall.

There is a dog service area next to the parking lot behind Cirque du Soleil. Guest Services is located at the ticket windows for DisneyQuest. Restrooms are next to Starbucks on the central path and water path as well as across from Planet Hollywood. There are restrooms tucked under the stairs at Cirque du Soleil.

Stay tuned for Part Two in this Four Part Series.  Have you visited any of these places?  What are your thoughts.  Let us know what is your favorite.

Jun 13

Garden Grill – Review of Improved Menu

Laurie brings us her recent experience of the Garden Grill.  Have you eaten there?  What are your thoughts?  Did Chip and Dale really drop acorns in the gears and make it stop working? 

The Garden Grill is known for its rotating restaurant, family dining, and characters. It was The Good Turn Restaurant (October 1, 1982 – May 1, 1986) and The Land Grille Room (May 2, 1986 – October 4, 1993) then the Garden Grill opened on 15 November, 1993. There are no plans for the restaurant to rotate so diners are stuck with tweeting jungle birds or barnyard animals. It was refreshing to change scenes and get a new view and new sounds. There are booths on the lower level and tables on the upper level with plenty of room for us matronly ladies. The lighting is very good, disabled access is good, and over all this is a great tourist class diner for the family. The booths have three tables so you might be squeezed in with strangers.

Garden Grill is located down the ramp from the main entrance and one floor above Sunshine Seasons restaurant, Soarin’, and Living with the Land. I was seated within a 10 minutes and led to a booth that had another family in it, sharing is caring. The chef came out to tell me that everything is soy free but the salad dressing and everything is gluten free but the demi-glace butter, the turkey dressing, and dessert. The first thing after iced tea that hit my table was two squares of butter that sat in a pool of the most delicious orange blossom honey. Garden GrillThe honey had distinct hint of it not being plain honey and the butter had grains of sea salt on top. I started on that before the gluten free rolls came out. Next was a Farmer’s Salad that was heavy on everything but the lettuce which is not bad but had me chewing and chewing. I gingerly removed the hard boiled egg from the top of the salad as I cannot have those. I left some yolks which added a unique taste that made this more of a mini Cobb salad with cucumber bits, bacon, paper thin radish Garden Grill1slices, cherry tomatoes, and field greens. I am disappointed that every time I eat here they  do not have a dressing that I can eat. Overall I loved this salad and could have eaten it for a main course if they added protein and more lettuce. BACON, who can complain about that.

The main course is brought out family style and everyone digs in, but not to worry as the waiter will bring out more. I started with the fluffy mashed potatoes with chives, hints of buttermilk, and chunks of potatoes which I would love to have more of. The rice was light and fluffy, brownish in color.  That was one of the best I have had in a long time. It was flavorful and had bits of cooked onions and red bell peppers. For the most part, the sliced filet of beef was medium temperature and very tender. It did not need the butter as it stood on its own with good flavor.Garden Grill2 For me turkey gravy is rare, so I slathered it on the mashed potatoes and turkey, for a kid like moment of sheer joy unspeakable. AWESOME, light with definite turkey flavor. The turkey slices taste like fresh turkey and look like they were carved from a fresh turkey breast. I do not like tomatoes on my fish but the tomato jam was sweet but tart for a great accompaniment to the fish of the day. The fish was flaky, tender, moist and done perfectly except one overcooked spot. I hate tomato jam but this is an exception as the two made for a symphony of deliciousness. The veggies were crispy which I would not eat but many guests seem to like crunchy carrots and pea pods or snap peas. Hidden in the veggies were tiny corn niblets that were removed from fresh ears of corn. There was woody slivers of something that was like waterchestnuts but was not waterchestnuts. I loved the fresh bits of corn so much that the waiter offered to get me a bowl of the corn.

Garden Grill4Overall the quality of the food they serve has drastically improved. It is tourist food but you will be happy with what they offer and there is plenty to eat for the price. Farmer Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Pluto will stop at your table 3 to 4 times which is rare with characters. I still have the birthday card they gave me recently, silly waiter. The staff is awesome, service is on time and friendly, and they really care about their guests. The bad side is that it no longer rotates but who cares as our most loved restaurants do not rotate. It is the food and staff that counts more than a rotating restaurant. The other bad thing is that they cannot offer me soy free dressing. I was given two Enjoy Life hard chocolate chip cookies with whipped cream and raw blueberries. There is no ice cream or other nice desserts. They can do vegan but the potatoes have buttermilk so that leaves rice, veggies, berries, salad, and maybe gluten free dinner rolls.

I RECOMMEND GARDEN GRILL.
The main issues are inability to offer soy free dressing, Gluten Free desserts other than cookies, and for some the cacophony of the scenery. This is still an awesome restaurant despite not rotating and the management is trying to meet the needs of guests while making the food taste better. The orange honey butter is an example of stepping up the menu so that guests do not just get a foil wrapped pat of butter. They offer adults sangria and wine by the glass or bottle as well as beer.

NOTE: the restaurant may need hard to get parts or custom made parts, may require months of down time, or is too expensive to fix. The restaurant was reported as not rotating in April and May, 2014 so this is NOT new information. The only news is that they changed from maple butter to orange honey butter; red wine sauce became demi-glace butter; and the lemon caper sauce is now a yummy turkey gravy.

 

Jun 09

Festival of the Lion King – Information

Dawa Bar was a freestanding bar in the middle of a patio between Discovery River and Tusker House restaurant. The bar was torn down to make a path along the river while a new bar was attached to the front of Tusker House. On the patio you can see a sign for Harambe Theatre and the hours for Festival of the Lion King. Harambe has a back-story that few know about. A plaque in the line tells us that Fort Lion King5Harambe was built in 1498 which is the year that Vasco de Gama arrived in Mozambique. At the Harambe Theatre exit is a handbill on a post in Swahili advertising the Festival of the Lion King. Disney has used the history of East Africa under Portuguese, Omani Arabians and finally in 1895 the British to make a thriving port town instead of just lines for a show. I spent over an hour studying that rich history that is displayed in the Harambee beach area, the architecture, a shuttered window left open to catch a breeze, an ad for a hair salon, plaster coming off of a wall, and finally the artwork and baskets inside the line. I am the one holding up the line to take photos.

As you enter Harambe you will find stroller parking to your right and a gift kiosk with cold drinks to your left. The entire front of the theater consists of holding lines despite the facade that looks like a place to shop. Lion KingShow times are on the hour from 10 am to 7 pm with some days having a few shows at night. My fastpass was for 9:30 to 9:50 a.m. so they let us in at 9:30 am then we waited there for about 10 minutes for the doors to open. All shows follow this pattern. I recommend getting there earlier so you can get the seat you want.

The line to enter with fastpasses is in the sun and rain but thankfully once admitted you are in the shade. Guests without a fastpass are sent through the left turnstile where they wait under a partially shaded area. Sometimes that line extends out into the main path where there is no shade or protection. There are bathrooms and drinking fountains at the end of the path. You will see a white bridge which is a service road and under it the path that leads from the bathrooms to that bridge and onward to Avatarland. The patio by Tusker House and this path are about the only truly shady spots in the area.

DISAPPOINTMENT!!!
Disney recreated the show and theater right down to the area that disabled guests sit. The first rows are on the floor so that guests end up trying to see over guests in scooters and wheelchairs. I am so upset because we were promised better seating in that area. Disabled guests are mainstreamed and seated as they come through the doors. If you are a slow mover who wants a seat in the bleachers, not the floor, then send someone ahead to save you a spot. Cast members lead disabled guests to their seat. Lion King2However, that does not stop people from race walking to a seat, climbing over seats, or even pushing a guest out of their way. Most are civilized but I have seen too many guests so desperate for a good seat that they forget their manners. Exiting is hard because guests are trying to get out of the theater without stopping to let someone merge in front of them.

Before the show guests are chosen to show how to do the Hand Jive and later to show the sounds that the animals make. During the show the kids are allowed to come up front to shake percussion instruments and parade around the stage. I have seen so many kids balk at being a Jedi Knight or in a parade so work with your children before coming to WDW so they can participate. Lion Kin3Groups should have a designated meeting area such as the cannon as groups do get split up. A major issue with strollers are the parents who bring the entire family into the stroller parking lot then stand there putting the children in strollers and handing out snacks and drinks. It is easier on everyone if just one person fetches the stroller and takes it over to the river area where nobody is bumping into you and you have better lighting. This frees up space for incoming strollers and leaves you with nobody pushing or shoving to get their stroller.

You can watch YouTube for full videos of the new version. The main difference is the fog that rises from the ground as it has sulfur that smelled like rotten eggs. Some children freaked out during the show.  Be prepared, part of the show gets dark and scary. I have looked at videos of both versions of the show to verify, that honestly, the only difference is a slightly larger floor space for the actors and maybe better lighting. It will always be my favorite part of WDW and somewhere I will be as often as a I can. I love that the theater is just off the main walkway and a long trek like the old theater. I left with many photos for my own use as none really came out good and with a song in my heart. HAKUNA MATATA!!

My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW.  I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.

Jun 09

Happy 25th Anniversary Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon LagoonI left Animal Kingdom after a very hot morning checking out the Festival of the Lion King. As I left my hot dry parking spot I was hit by a monsoon. I arrived at Typhoon Lagoon to see illegally parked vehicles at the entrance that made it hard to see pedestrians. People were huddled anywhere they could find shelter both inside and outside the park. People were running to their buses and vehicles to avoid the rain despite having spent the day in the water park.

I headed for Leaning Palms for a burger and chips. I cannot eat the free cupcake so the nice chef gave me a couple bags of chips. I love their burgers. I sat in the patio as the roof dripped on my table. I was prepared with a dry change of clothes and spare board shorts. I had my umbrella for the heavy rains so I was happy eating lunch then went splashing through puddles as I searched for the celebration. There were no brochures, signs, or other indications of this being a celebration or what was happening.

There were two DJs at the Clock Tower pumping out surfer type of music until they were rained out. typhoon lagoon2The rain let up so they started back up but finally surrendered to the rain. The Surfer Minnie and Mickey meet and greet in front of the gift shop was rained out when the rain hit. The alcoholic drinks were cash only but most guests at the water parks bring debit and credit cards or their Magic Band. People wanted to try the cheap drinks but were turned away as they had no cash on them. Some cast members did not know the alcohol content or ingredients. The free cupcake with entree is great unless you cannot have one, I was lucky to know the chef from past visits.

TyMoral of this event is that you have to plan for rain and cash only items. This was a fun little event that got very little press coverage. 25 years is a milestone that warranted a collectible pin and t-shirt at the gift shop, but there was none to be found. Due to the slides and other issues, buttons are out of the question but I feel that the park did not get a big birthday party it deserved. I had fun in the rain and chatting with the DJs.

 

My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW.  I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.

Jun 09

Duplo Valley and $30 Senior Ticket (Sept. 1st only) – Legoland

I popped into Legoland for the afternoon since I live across Lake Eloise from Legoland. Duplo Valley Legolandconnects Fun Town with World of Chima and with Lego Kingdoms. The area has been there since the beginning, Duplo Valley was created for toddlers. The Barn has in the back a toddler room where toddlers can run free and play in an enclosed air conditioned space. There are plugs for parents to charge their electronic devices while the toddlers play at tables, chairs and bean bags that are their size. Next door, in the same building, is the Baby Center that has changing tables that have a dip in them to keep babies from rolling around. There is a kitchen with a microwave and sink. There are semiprivate rooms with rocking chairs for mothers and their toddler and a tiny stool. Only the mother may use the plugs in here for their electronic devices, breast pumps, etc. There are plugs around the park for others to use for charging.

Legoland2The train ride goes through a campground, a covered bridge, and wilderness. The tractor features a gas pedal, steering wheel, front seat with locks, and a tour through the farm. I rode both to see if they were adult sized. A person with a very large belly might have trouble as the lap belts were not as big as Dumbo in Magic Kingdom at WDW. The rides are two laps around which is nice for kids who are used to doing one lap then getting off the ride. The water splash area is gentle on toddlers with an area for parents to sit. Duplo Snack Bar sells yummy caramel corn in a cute bucket as well as popcorn, soda pop, and bottled water . Toddlers can look at the animals and the decorations are simple for kids to understand and say BUNNY or HORSE. Legoland1I strongly recommend LEGOLAND to parents of toddlers and kids under the age of 10.

The park is back on daily operating hours. For $35 per person (plus park admission) guests may have breakfast on the Mansion veranda that overlooks Lake Eloise. Guests dine with Laval, Buddy, and one other character before the park opens. Guests will receive one front of the line pass for a ride and kids receive a LEGO mini figure. Legoland has a VIP Experience starting from $445 per child & $495 per adult (plus tax). This includes tour guide, time with a model builder, priority access to rides and attractions, VIP lanyard, lunch with refreshments, gift bag, free parking, and free use of a locker. For about $100 more per person, guests can add the water park to their experience and receive free towels, lockers, and a private cabana. At $595 a child, there is the 90 minute hair and beauty styling session at Emma’s Heartlake Salon that includes all of the VIP experience except the water park. For those on a budget there are birthday parties starting at $35 per person plus park admission with a 10 guest minimum.

June 8th from 10:30 am to 4 pm there will be the LEGOLAND Florida Ocean Potion Beach Party with Ocean Potion and staff from 97 Country Radio. This will happen in the water park that is way in the back of Legoland that requires additional admission or an annual pass with the water park included. They say they are giving away samples and prizes.

September 1st all seniors with valid ID get into Legoland for only $30, the minimum age is 60 years old. Senior Gardens Day will have Winter Haven historian Bob Gernert to answer questions and maybe make a presentation on the history of Cypress Gardens.

For those who cannot make it to Legoland can try to go to Legofest in Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and Indiana. This is a traveling show with many kid friendly activities. http://www.legokidsfest.com/

Legoland3 Legoland4 Legoland5 Legoland6

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW.  I love to watch cooking shows so I can learn about food.  I love exploring new places, eating out, cooking, helping people, and playing online games.  I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.

 

Jun 09

Universal Studios – Diagon Alley News

Universal Studios is going all out with Diagon Alley. Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour will offer Earl Grey and Lavender, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Chili, Clotted Cream, Salted Caramel Blondie, Apple Crumble, Strawberry and Peanut-Butter, Orange Marmalade and even a soft-serve ice-cream flavor of Butterbeer. The Leaky Cauldron will feature British fare such as bangers and mash, toad in a hole, ploughman’s lunch, fisherman stew, and fish and chips. Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment cart will offer elixirs such as Draught of Peace, Babbling Beverage, Elixir to Induce Euphoria and Fire Protection Potion which when added to Gillywater makes for magical things to happen. Elsewhere you will find pastries, scones, tarts and sweet cakes.

This will be the first amusement park to offer transportation between two parks where the stations are inside the parks. At WDW you have to exit the park to take a boat or monorail to another park. Each direction of travel offers a different view including Hagrid on his flying motorbike,Hogwarts Express Animation - Fred Weasleytmb the Weasley twins on their brooms and the Knight Bus darting through London traffic. Diagon Alley and Wizarding World of Harry Potter are located at the furthest end of their respective park entrances so this can mean walking through one park and out another for a two park Potter packed experience. Guests must have a two park ticket good for that day or an annual pass good on that day.

The details are down to the tiniest details. Guest may speak with the Universal Orlando Resort revealed the exciting details behind the unique entertainment experiences that will debut as part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Ð Diagon Alley.conductor of the Knight Bus while he speaks to a shrunken head. Gringott’s and Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, are two shops that will make one think they were in the actual Harry Potter movies. At Carkitt Market you will be able to hear The Tales of Beedle the Bard as told by troupe of four from the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts. Keep a watch for Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees who will perform never heard songs.

 

My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW.  I love to watch cooking shows so I can learn about food.  I love exploring new places, eating out, cooking, helping people, and playing online games.  I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.

Jun 03

Turf Club, Polynesian Resort, and other Updates

 Laurie has the lastest news for us.  See what she found out…….

ALLERGY FRIENDLY DINING

The Turf Club has made changes to their menu which they try hard to keep allergy friendly. Barbecue ribs replaced the firecracker shrimp. They use a brown sugar, spice rub, and chipotle sauce on the ribs then finish with a side of CREAMY cole slaw. I had to check as I do not recall having creamy cole slaw in a decade due to eggs and soy. This dish was a melody of tangy, sweet, and spicy notes for one of the best appetizers on the market today. The seasonal salad was spinach, strawberries, onions, blue cheese, and greens with a strawberry vinaigrette which was something that is one of the best salads I have had this year. New this season is lemon curd with gingersnap cookie and blue berries for a lighter summer dessert. There is a a no sugar added lemon mousse with blueberries. ALL DESSERTS ARE GLUTEN FREE!!!!!! Upon requests guests may opt for ice cream. The pasta can be made gluten free and has gone from a cream based sauce to an Italian herb infused olive oil dressing. The two lamb chops have a new set up of fingerling potatoes and spinach in bacon, shallot, and mustard vinaigrette. AWESOME, the spinach still had its texture and flavor for something I enjoyed despite my disdain for spinach.

The walls are down at Art of Animation’s Landscape of Flavors is down and they are serving me soy free French fries. There are areas that need work still and signs warning about construction. i had an open face steak sandwich that left me staring. Just bread and I added ketchup. OH DEAR, this was supposed to be a tough piece of meat based on the fat and cut that I saw. Even the fatty edge was tender and flavorful. I think if not for the 2 hour round trip I would go eat there that steak every night. They take Tables in Wonderland discount card.

Free after hours in the park seems to be happening. Tusker House is taking reservations until and hour after Animal Kingdom. Epcot’s World Showcase has restaurants seating guests after the park closes. Citrico’s is offering a $155 for a 5 course wine dinner on July 24th, contact them at 407-824-3988 or Keith.Gimbel@Disney.com. Earl of Sandwich has an app that you can download and earn food with every visit and they have a dining club that gives a free sandwich on your birthday. Fulton’s Crab House, Wolfgang Puck Grand Café and Portobello have a preferred customer card that they jointly use that gives you seating without a reservation and a birthday treat. There are menu changes at various restaurants throughout WDW so check first if you really really really want an item. Chicken skewers at ‘Ohana may be gone and the risotto at Le Cellier is made with peas instead of mushrooms.

Planners remember in Winter the water parks take turn going down for refurbishment. Perfectly Princess Tea Party is on holiday at Cítrico’s from June 20 – August 29, 2014 then it returns to the Garden View Tea Room. It’s Tough to be a Bug will be down July 7 – August 11 at Animal Kingdom. Peoplemover/TTA will be down June 2 – August 4 in Magic Kingdom.

 

Captain Cook’s 2 is now open and NOT the same as it used to be. It is not the lost guests, smaller seating area, or pared down menu but the quality of the food that is being served. I received a pitiful piece of fish and gelatinous rice. I can eat almost any rice but this was inedible with dried out areas and wet gooey areas of the rice that had to be mass produced. My dirty rice pan that has been soaking for 2 days has better rice. The manager was doing orders by hand. She called my order out first then when I spoke up and only then did say to change gloves and cook it allergy style. Golden Corral has better white rice. Another issue was the clerk at the Kona Island Coffee Bar that did not know that cafe con panna is espresso topped with whipped cream.

Kona Cafe has a two page menu with a half page on the right side that lists sushi, craft beer, wine, and sake. It is nice to have everything right there on hand. The spinach salad is gone but they kept my favorite appetizer in WDW, the Maui Onion and White Bean Soup. Rainbow Poke that had Tuna, Salmon, Hamachi, Cucumber, Carrot, and Siracha drizzle with Eel Sauce is gone as is the spicy tuna roll sushi. They have added the Kona Combo Plate with California luau roll, salmon sashimi, and tuna poke. New is the Crab Rangoon roll that is crab salad rolled in nori, tempura fried, and served with eel sauce. Nigiri was just salmon, tuna and chef’s choice but now is salmon, tuna, hamachi, seared scallop, eel, and yuzu poached shrimp.

The grilled steak no longer has Teriyaki sauce and the set up has changed to molasses bacon butter, seasonal veggies, and roasted fingerling potatoes. Pork chops now come with spiced carrots and mashed potatoes. They changed the chicken to Taal Chicken with succotash and rice. Taal is the fruit of palm tree as well as a spice blend native to Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. I did not check desserts but will be back soon to check out the steak dinner.

 

Jun 03

California Grill Review

Laurie recently went to California Grill.  Our family loves California Grill and can’t wait to get back there again.

The night began with valet parking at the front door of the Contemporary resort. The valet offered to remove my scooter but I have to do it a specific way. They are such patient gentlemen. The check in desk faces a wall of glass that faces the Magic Kingdom. I was given a pager and sent to Fred who held the door open as a group of us boarded the elevator to the top of the Contemporary.

I was greeted by a friendly hostess who sent me to the lounge to wait. I spent some time speaking with a very nice manager about his long history with Disney. No matter what limitations a guest has this restaurant should not be a problem.. Kids for the most part were well mannered as were the adults. There is great lighting, comfortable seating, helpful staff, special diets, and no banging drums like Boma. During Wishes the lights dim and the music plays but that should not be an issue with most guests, I was seated at a table across from the open kitchen along the main walkway. The waiter brought Cane sugarout a pot of brown sugar cubes, lemon, and a tiny white pitcher of cane syrup for my tea. The sweet liquid cane syrup was so different for crystal sugar as it dissolves immediately. My mother had a hard time with heavy glassware so I was very happy to use a lightweight glass. Too many times I have spilled a drink because of the heavy glassware.

The California Grill has a new second observation deck for watching fireworks and they pipe in the music for Wishes and other fireworks events. It is a great place to wait for dinner to be served. I read over and over the “Sushi for Guests with Allergy and Dietary Considerations” menu until the chef arrived to plan myGluten free dining experience. He started me off with GNI dinner rolls with soft butter topped with a lavender leaf and sea salt. I was presented with an artistically presented plate of eight California Roll pieces, ginger, wasabi, thinly sliced sweet pickles, and a flower. There was almost no hint of vinegar to overwhelm the delicate ingredients that laid within. The black sesame seeds added to the eye appeal of the rice that was not too sticky. Inside was nori that held cucumber matchsticks, fresh avocado, and fresh crab. I picked at Sushi1the sushi to get to the crab to savor it as it was so fresh and tasty. The thin pickles were sweet, refreshing, and had a slight citrus or yuzu note. By far the best sushi I have ever had.

I put the sushi aside to start on the Farmer’s Salad that features a Lake Meadow poached egg which I had to pass on as I cannot eat poached chicken eggs. Another work of art with frisee and field greens topped with watermelon radish slices. The baby carrots were pickled through and through but were in a raw crunchy state. There was tiny flecks of a white semi-soft cheese, candied pecans, pistachios, and artichoke tidbits. saladThe crunch of carrots and nuts combined with a medley of palmetto honey vinaigrette, sweet nuts, and and pickled carrots made for a symphony of notes that took me to my happy spot. Everyone was running to the observation decks to watch Wishes but like Remy I was seeing fireworks from my orchestrated meal.

I had a good view of things coming from the kitchen including an artistically designed pile of food. I stared for a bit to figure what is what without using my fingers. On top was tender, flaky Atlantic Flounder with a nice brown sear on the edge that like everything on the plate was from Florida. There were cherry tomatoes, frisee, a huge slice of sweet red onion, bits of honeybells, and an onion vinaigrette. A symphony of sweet tangy tangelos, crispy sear on the fish then a bite of tomato then sweet onion and oh that fish was one of the best ever. I kept digging and digging with more treasures hidden inside. This was a work of art handcrafted by the chefs that I was sad to destroy. Rare is it to find such a perfect, light, filling entree that is so lovely to behold.Flounder
I love ice cream so I went for the Sundae Sampler which are deconstructed versions of Frangelico Toffee, Reverse Root Beer Float, and Banana Split. I started off with the Frangelico Toffee in its cute glass jar with a lid. Dark chocolate and hazelnut combined in a creamy pudding of sorts that was awesome. The root beer float was a miniature glass with root beer ice cream that is made in house with a tiny bottle of in house made cream soda. Cali Grill samplerI was taken back to A & W burgers and root beer floats with my parents, so much fun to eat. The finale was the banana split with candied nuts that reminded me of a banana split.
They feature local items on their market menu. They offer such a wide array of food and drink that everyone should be happy here. I want to try the bison, chicken, Charcuterie, creme brulee, salads, and more sushi on my next visit. Overall, I highly recommend this restaurant for a 2 table service and for splurging on a night out. The menu, lighting, seating, modern decor, observation decks, views, Wishes with music, and staff add up to an experience that is a rare gem.

May 30

Festival of the Lion King and Other Coming Events

Laurie gives us some info on some upcoming events…….

We were first to announce that Fastpasses are now available for the Festival of the Lion King with dates starting June 1, 2014. I loved the old version of the Festival of the Lion King.Lion King6 It was as if a small town gathered in a warehouse to honor their king. It was not big like Las Vegas or Broadway. It was a place friends gathered to sing, dance, clap, laugh, and celebrate life. Nobody cared that the floats were from a parade as they were part of the Circle of Life gathering to honor their King. Guests wanting to avoid the hoopla can head to their right toward Dinosaur and Flights of Wonder.

Father’s Day is June 15, 2014 so make your dinner plans now. Usually there are a few collectible items for sale but not much else going on that day. That will be the last day for Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. At the American Gardens Theater in Epcot mostly tribute bands will be onstage in Sounds Like Summer. Dates are June 08 – July 26 and shows are 5:30 pm, 6:45 pm and 8:00 pm (except July 4: shows at 5:15, 6:30, 7:45 and 9:00 pm). Gay Days Orlando is an unofficial event that has been running a long time that will be held June 3-9, 2014. They do not affect park attendance and are in the parks only a few days. There are expos, shows, parties, and lots of fun at various locations in the Orlando area. Some events like the art auction are free but most of the parties and entertainment charge a fee. Disney Soccer Academy is being offered at ESPN Wide World of Sports this June and July. It is $390 per four day session of intense training for children ages 5 – 19. See https://www.espnwwos.com/events/soccer/disney-soccer-academy/ for more details.

June has some great kid friendly activities including Pollinator Day on June 10th in Animal Kingdom and on June 4th it is World Oceans day at The Seas with Nemo and Friends in Epcot.

Epcot has celebrations for most countries throughout the year. July 1st is Canada Day, July 7 is Tanabata Star Festival in Japan Pavillion, and July 14th is Bastille Day in France Pavillion. September 16 is Mexico’s independence day. October 1st is China Day, October 3rd will be German Reunification Day, and Wednesday (no date given) is Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifices) in Morocco. November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day in the United Kingdom pavilion, November 18th is Morocco Independence Day, and the American pavilion maybe will have Chickahominy Tribal Dancers and a Pilgrim Storyteller on Thanksgiving Day. January 18th is Scottish Heritage Celebration in the Showcase Plaza. Tuesday and Wednesday in February come celebrate the Year of the Snake and Chinese New Year’s Day. April 25th might, this is tentative, be Italian Liberation Day. May 5th is Japan’s Children’s Day and May 17th is Norway’s Constitution Day. Most events run 11 am to 5 pm at the Kidcot station of that pavilion so check your times guide for more information. Events may change or cease to exist while new ones are added.
Labor Day weekend from Friday through Monday is the Great Irish Hooley Festival at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney. They are offering entertainment, food, and lots of fun in this annual event. Festival of the Masters is in November in Downtown Disney. This art show features artists and their wares, live entertainers, hands on things for kids to do, and food. On September 11th the Magic Kingdom will have a special flag retreat in Town Square in honor of Patriot’s Day. Check with ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex if you are interested in the Disney Fit Challenge on September 26 – 28, 2014 where you test your power, strength, endurance, and limits in this new athletic event. Not much yet on the Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival that takes place on Village Lake in Downtown Disney on certain weekends in October. Night of Joy is happening September 05 – September 06, 2014 at the Magic Kingdom. This is a Christian music festival with rock, pop, and gospel singers that runs each night from 7:30 PM to 1:00 AM. Purchase a 2-night ticket through August 5, 2014 and enjoy one admission to a Disney water park or DisneyQuest® Indoor Interactive Theme Park. For those not attending be warned that the park closes early on those days. Big River Grille will be having an Oktoberfest tapping party on September 12th. Epcot and the Magic Kingdom celebrate their birthdays on October 1st.

At Animal Kingdom
July 29: Big Cat Day
August 5: Primate Day
September 23: Elephant and Rhino

Future updates will cover Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Halloween, and other holidays. There is a lot out there to do beside rides. I will be at Animal Kingdom for the first show of the Lion King Festival if you want to meet me.

Thank you, Laurie.

May 20

LEGOLAND News

DUPLO Valley is a 2.5 acre area for kids age 2-5 that will open May 23, 2014. It will have a train ride, mini tractor ride, and a water play area. The barn will reopen as an air conditioned place for toddlers to play and house the Baby Care Center. The Baby Care Center offers private nursing stations, rocking chairs, microwaves, bottle warmers, high chairs, changing stations, Wi-Fi, cell phone charging stations and more.

They are offering a Preschool Pass for one adult and one child age 5 and under for only $90 that is good during weekdays. The pass is assigned to the child so that the child may go with different adults. For divorced parents this means each parent can take the child to the park for the price of one pass. May is First Responder Days that gives eligible guests free admission and up to four tickets at $40 each. Police officers, EMTS, and fire fighters need to show professional organization or employee ID, applies to retired and active employees. There is a similar offer going on for active members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists. Do not forget to plan for the 4th of July, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s at Legoland.

May 20

Rock Your Disney Side – 24 Hour Event

Laurie gives us the low down on the Rock Your Disney Side.  Will you be there?  I may venture over there after the Star Wars event.

BE PREPARED!! Based on the Hollywood Studios villains fiasco you better be prepared for long lines, closed parking lots, long bus rides, traffic jams, detours, lack of traffic control, long lines at the gates, long ferry rides, and other difficulties. During the villains fiasco it took 2 hours to go 3 miles and I was stuck there despite repeatedly telling the driver that I needed to eat NOW. 2 hours while the guests were hungry and needing to go to the bathroom and no compensation. I was refunded by Disney for the Fantasmic event that my group was supposed to meet up with. About 20 of us missed that Fantasmic event and some did not even get into the Studios. One lady was at guest services complaining about a 5 hour trip from a Disney resort to the Studios. Be prepared for monsoons, heat, high winds, cold, and anything else that Florida can throw at you. There are few villain events, meet and greets, or parade characters in WDW or in any amusement park. People want villains and are not getting them except at Star Wars Weekends, Halloween, and a few of the weaker villains such as Lady Tremain and her daughters. The mine train ride is scheduled to open the next weekend and fastpasses were made available for the event at the Anna and Elsa meet and greet.

They will start off with a Welcome Show to open the event that will feature heroes and villains. There will be a closing special Kiss Good Night starring villains as the park closes. “Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It!” Street Party will have 3 parades that feature Disney heroes at 10 a.m. and Disney villains at 1:30 p.m. Disney will announce how to vote for who gets to be in the 5:45 p.m. parade. They also have “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade” at 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Rounding out the evening are “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” fireworks at 9 p.m. and “Celebrate the Magic” at 8:45 p.m., 9:45 p.m., and 11:45 p.m. Those staying into the wee hours of the night can join the dance areas at Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Cinderella’s castle. There is a pre-parade of villains before the Electric Parade.

Sleepy Hollow will offer the Poisoned Apple Waffle Sundae: waffles with stewed apple topping and whipped cream. Storybook Treats will offer the Poisoned Apple Shortcake Sundae: ice cream, yellow cake, stewed apple topping and whipped cream.  Princess themed cupcakes can be found at Gaston’s Tavern while Main Street Bakery will offer Olaf, Maleficent, and Frozen themed cupcakes. Lunching Pad and Friar’s Nook will sell an Olaf souvenir cup with a special beverage. Outdoor vending carts will have pink heroes and blue villains cotton candy with a special event themed bag label. Now for the scary part, breakfast, dare I go there? Quick service restaurants will offer breakfast sandwiches, French toast sticks and bacon, breakfast flatbread, and breakfast hot dog. There will be the usual breakfast baked goods, individual boxes of cereal, yogurt, and fruit. Check the times guide for restaurant hours as finding food in the wee hours may be hard.

Characters take over the park at about 2 am including Jafar replacing Aladdin, Dr. Facilier for Tiana, and Captain Hook for Peter Pan. Anna and Elsa stay in their home at Princess Fairytale Hall while the Queens from Snow White and Sleeping Beauty take over the other half of the hall. Expect very long lines for some villains as the Hollywood Studios fiasco had 2 hour wait times to visit with one of the few character meeting areas. Keep your children and any slow moving adults in front or next to your group. The crowds can suddenly break up a group so that kids get left behind. It is very important that you take pictures of children as you leave to go to the parks just in that rare incident that you get separated. Take photos of landmarks so you will not get lost. Mark your strollers with something unique that stands out when you see a sea of strollers. Some people use online maps on their electronic devices to bookmark where they parked. The application for Legoland has a link to a map that you can bookmark your parking spot. Use paper and pencil if that is easier to right down the directions. Have a specific meeting spot not just “in front of pirates”. Disabled guests should get their DAS before the event if possible.

Guests are encouraged to wear kid friendly costumes to the event. The usual WDW rules such as visible eyes, no swords and sharp objects, no signing autographs, no implying you are the REAL Disney character, and no dragging costumes. Hours of operation for the event will take place from 6:00 AM, May 23, 2014 to 6:00 AM, May 24, 2014. Not everything will be open in the wee hours and some things will be down for refurbishment. This is not a hard ticket event so any admission will get you into this event.

REMAIN CALM! As with any holiday or packed park day you can avoid the stress and issues by having a game plan and 10 back up plans. Try to get there at 5 am. Designate one person as the schlepper who takes bags through the bag check thus freeing up everyone else to get in line. They will have guests line up at the gates and wait for admission at about 5:30 am or a few minutes after that. Watch for hidden lines and lines on the end that are shorter. Guests will plow into the front area to watch the Welcome Show or to get strollers. I doubt it but they may have the human chain again on Main Street because of Anna and Elsa. Take the train around to Frontierland or Fantasyland if it is running. The traffic will not be so bad at 5 am compared to midday as the main villain related activities will not start until after noon. Check with your resort to see what buses are running that morning. Taxis will drop you off at TTC where you take a ferry or monorail. Enter the park and stay right then head back to the light then left to the taxis and and drop off area. You can have your taxi drop you off at the Contemporary and walk to MK. The Lynx buses will not be running that early.

 

May 16

The Ultimate Day at Star Wars™ Weekends

Any Star Wars Fans out there?  Well how about this?  A little pricey but wouldn’t this be great?

Disney VIP Tour Services is offering the Ultimate Day for Star Wars fans. Start off with a continental breakfast at The Hollywood Brown Derby then spend the day with a VIP tour that includes expedited access to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Toy Story Midway Mania! and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Guests have reserved viewing for Legends of the Force Motorcade and to Stars of the Saga at Premiere Theater. During the day guests will receive a table service dinner.

The Ultimate Day at Star Wars Weekends is available for $499 per Guest (tax not included) and takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from May 16 to June 15, 2014.

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/hollywood-studios/star-wars-weekend-vip/

May 01

LEGOLAND Hotel in 2015 & Photos of Newest LEGOLAND Garden

LEGOLAND Hotel will open in 2015 along the northeast shore of Lake Eloise. This 4 story hotel will offer Legoland hotel152 rooms and be themed after the brightly colored Legos and Lego characters. There will be a pool, interactive areas, and a restaurant. The disabled parking area has been broken up and moved east but I had no problem getting a spot. This will bring 250 construction jobs and 250 permanent staff positions. They will renovate the boardwalk area too.

Based on old brochures one can see that the entrance was across from the main stadium for water shows. On your right were the botanical gardens as you entered. On your left was kiddie rides, dining, and Island in the Sky (sky tower). The far left (east) was a menagerie, gator show, bird show, and Magnolia Point Pier which have been hidden from public view while others were removed. The new hotel grounds will open up that area to the public and there are hints of make the pier open for guest experiences such as a boat ride.

The Oriental Gardens and the Florida Pool have reopened. Nestled in a corner southwest of the banyan trees lies a giant Buddha who watches over the Japanese themed garden. legoland gardens5There is a quiet hut for resting and contemplating life as well as paths decorated like a garden in Japan. Few find their way here and I hope someday to bring snacks and lunch to savor the beauty of this area as seen in these photos. I missed the pool probably as there are no maps and it is easy to get turned around. Head toward Lake Eloise for breathtaking sunsets and views. I am so happy to live so close to Lake Eloise. Paths can be hilly and bumpy but they are doable. I rather rent a park scooter as they can take the terrain better. Head north through the banyan tree to find St. Francis and St. Fiacre statues.

Thank you Laurie for taking us to Legoland and the gardens!

Legoland gardens1 legoland gardens2 legoland gardens3 legoland gardens4