Let’s Walk That-Away

For some people, there are other important things in life besides Disney. I know, crazy right? Today the New England Patriots would be facing off against the Pittsburg Steelers and Mr. Jones couldn’t imagine not catching it. Being a dutiful wife, I did a little calling ahead to find out where the game might be broadcast. The consensus was that the ESPN Zone at the BoardWalk would be our best bet.

The BoardWalk area resorts. So lovely.

Surprise, Lady! You’re in my blog.

We were running a little close to the bone time-wise. When we arrived, there was a line out the door! Oh, dear.

Guess all these people have their priorities mixed up too,

I had another card up my sleeve. I left Jeff in line, just in case, and booked it over to Big River Grille. This is a brew pub that I had heard a bit about. There was a pretty good chance they at least had a TV at the bar.

Big River

They did indeed have a TV, but I made for dang sure they would be willing to switch over the the Patriots game before alerting Jeff to come meet me. Assurances were made so I made the call!

Big River 90s interior.

The bar area with the brewery vats behind glass.

First, the good: Yay!!! Jeff could watch the game, bullet dodged. The beer was pretty good and the bartender was friendly, that ends the good. The place was long in the tooth and really kind of dirty. There was an old carpet smell right when you stepped in. The decor was not only out of date, but didn’t match up with a Brew Pub theme. I expected rustic woods and leather, but it was more like a 50s diner. I love diners don’t get me wrong, it just to didn’t seem to jibe.  The entrance was lined with planters, just like many of the store fronts along the Boardwalk, only all theirs were punky with peeling paint.


I was really kind of surprised that Disney has allowed this place to slide so far. The reviews online don’t give them any points for food either. Jeff got some nacho chips to hold him over and even they were pretty shabby. I downed half a beer, but there was no way I could spend four hours sitting in a bar when there was exploring to do. I headed out and took a lap around the BoardWalk.

Surry bikes for rent. Looks like a lot of work.

Margaritas on the go!

I payed a visit to one of the newest additions in the area, Ample Hills Creamery.

Ample Hills. Tee hee

The place was bright and cheery as ice cream parlors are want to be. All the ice cream is made on premises and is rumored to be delectable. I considered asking for samples, but I had no intention of ordering anything. I couldn’t in good conscience.

Clean, open kitchen. Nothing going on right now.

Adorable murals decorate the walls.

Step-by-step instructions in case you don’t know how sundaes work.

I continued around Crescent Lake. It was so pleasant and the sun was starting to dip lower in the sky.

Some sort of pavilion, maybe for weddings?

It was bordering on torture that just down this waterway is World Showcase. I had our park tickets parceled out just so, which made it impossible for me to dip in without messing up the rest of the week.

Water way to Epcot!

There’s France, right there!

In hindsight, it would have been negligible to add and extra day’s tickets onto the package. In this case, I could have spent the afternoon traipsing around the countries taking an obnoxious amount of pictures without feeling like I’m dragging my dear spouse down. Either way, having a little safety zone if there’s a change in plans ain’t a bad idea.

Continuing around the lake…

The Beach Club

Grounds, looking gorgeous.

You guys, remember when we got to stay at the Beach Club and we were upgraded to a suite!? Pretty much one of the best days of my life.

Beautiful fresh flowers

Cape May Cafe, a seafood buffet in the Beach Club. If you’re averse to the smell of boiled lobster, you shouldn’t stay here.

These draperies are new. That’s a sign of multiple trips. Am I proud or ashamed?

The pool here is more like a Water Park. It’s locked down so that you need to use your Magic Band to prove that you’re a guest at the Yacht or Beach Club.

Just a small section of the sand bottomed pool.

Their security was a bit lacking this evening.

More pretty plantings.

A long look down the boardwalk to the Yacht Club.

I made it full circle. The game was just about over so I returned to Big River to polish off my beer and reunite with my husband. The Pats won, by the way.

Back to the beginning.

It was a lovely afternoon.

Now my patience would be rewarded. We called on an Uber and motored over to The Grand Floridian Resort. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that we used the heck out of Uber. Getting from resorts to parks and vice versa via Disney transportation is pretty easy. Getting from resort to resort is not. It saved us so much time going this route. It’s just a few bucks and saved at least an hour each time.

Welcome back!

Tonight we would be embarking on a Monorail Bar Crawl. We started at the Grand Floridian. This place will take your breath away!

The Grand Lobby and Disney’s Signature Resort.

The orchestra serenades us from the mezzanine.

Looking down over the lobby.

Our first stop will be Mizners Lounge. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the service, but I really just wanted to spend some time in the Grand Flo. I wasn’t concerned.

Mizner’s, this way.

I knew something was off as soon as we turned the corner into the lounge. Apparently the hotel’s quick service restaurant was under refurbishment. Mizner’s was being used as a temporary stop gap. Apparently they think pre-wrapped sandwiches and Gatorade are more important than my martini. Fear not, there was a plan B already in place.

You are here.

We bellied up to the bar at Citrico’s. We had dined here as a family a fews years back.

Classy Bar

Another embroidered napkin I didn’t steal.

A perfect glass of cabernet.

We chose a light dinner of Charcuterie.

Prosciutto, Sopressata, Dry Pork Coppa, Duck Confit Rillettes, Domestic Olli Artisanal Salame, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Seasonal Pickled Vegetables, and Marcona Almonds

Some hearty sourdough bread and salted butter.

Disney continues to win with the butter.

We enjoyed a leisurely snack and then hopped on the monorail for our next destination.

Whizzing by the Magic Kingdom on the monorail.

We hopped off to our next stop, the Polynesian. When we visited earlier in the week with Sam and Ashley it was packed with people waiting for dinner reservations at O’hana. A couple hours later and the place was emptee!

No waiting at the Tambu Lounge.


I had already crossed one tropical drink off my to-do list. Here comes the second, the Back Scratcher. Yes, that is a full on back scratcher served up with your rum and passionfruit juice. I saved it.

Bacardi Superior Rum, Myers’s Original Dark Rum, and Passion Fruit Juice topped with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and a Bamboo Backscratcher

I mentioned O’hana earlier. This is one of those all-you-care-to-enjoy type places, so we won’t be dining there. They do however serve one of my favorite desserts, bread pudding. More specifically pineapple bread pudding. Thankfully, it was recently made available à la carte right here at the Tambu!

Gorgeous, yes, but wait til we pour on the caramel sauce!

Look at the swirls of vanilla and caramel!

Our light snack at Citrico’s left us perfectly positioned to enjoy this decedent dessert to its fullest. I couldn’t imagine enjoying this after a feast of grilled meats, noodles and pot stickers. Need I remind you of the strawberry shortcake incident at Hoop-Dee-Doo?

As a little bonus, we got to catch a glimpse of Hallowishes once again. We had a great view twice already during the week, so we didn’t need go outside.

Hallowishes from the comfort of the Tambu Lounge.

A true monoril crawl would have finished at the Contemporary Resort, we just didn’t have the steam. We were full and I couldn’t have been happier. Call the Uber!

Goodnight, Poly!

Next Up: We squeeze in some actual educational stuff in at Epcot between stuffing our faces. 

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Pictures In My Head

Today we would be spending our first full day in the Magic Kingdom. I say would because I had to make a bit of a concession due to a certain sports team that was playing that afternoon. More about that later. This was, once again, an absolutely perfect day. We took our time strolling down Mainstreet USA. I just adore all the gingerbread details here. There’s so much to see if you just slow down and look up. Don’t worry, Space Mountain will still be there.


The firehouse, where you can pick up your Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom cards, if you’re into that.


The fall decorations are pretty I guess.


It’s just a store.


Also, not a theater, but and Meet and Greet location. Talking Mickey’s in there!


The confectionary. This shop was so vivid in my memory of my first trip. I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. and the aromas….


Charming little side street.


The Plaza Restaurant. Purported to be “just okay”.

First on the agenda was to head to Liberty Square. There you’ll find a new show that I was beyond excited for.

I love these two rocking chars near the Hall of Presidents. I’ve never gotten to sit in one, though. #Disneygoals


The Liberty Tree  with  thirteen “victory” lanterns hanging from its boughs to represent the thirteen original colonies


Crowds were super light.


The ribbon of brown pavement represents a river of sewage. Yup, that’s right. It’s poop.


Here we are. In just a few minutes those shutters will open up and this lady will transported back to a simpler, more innocent time…



That’s right, my friends, real live Muppets before our very eyes. I can’t tell you how wondrous this was. I’m a grown adult. I understand that these are just puppets made of felt with button eyes, but the Muppets were such a huge part of my childhood I was nearly verklempt.


Hey, friends!

This show takes place about twice an hour from about 9:00am to 5:00pm. It’s really kind of genius. The cast of characters retell one of two stories of American history; The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere or The Declaration of Independence. They perform this in the slapstick manner of Muppets, of course.  When the show was first announced, some Liberty Square purists (yes they exist) fretted that such silliness would take away from the authenticity of Liberty Square. I disagree. This show is silly and fun, but also educational. It takes zero away from the architecture of the square either, so settle down, purists. The performance we saw today the Paul Revere. Yes, we will see the other before the week is out.


The horse of course.


The singing chickens, not in the history books.


The big finale!

Enough of all this nostalgia business, it’s time to eat! We headed over to Adventureland for lunch and the new table service restaurant the Skipper Canteen, or more specifically,  The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. Whew.

Jungle Canteen

We didn’t have reservations, but the place has not been filling up so far so I felt pretty confident. When we arrived, the waiting area was teaming with people. Uh oh. Then I realized it was barely 11:30 so the joint was just opening.


They had a little opening ceremony.


Boom! we were in.

You may have gleaned that the canteen is themed after the Jungle Cruise attraction. The servers wear skipper cast member costumes and the place is filled to the brim with Jungle Cruise backstory, tchotchke and in-jokes. We were seated in the Mess Hall which was just fine, but I knew there were posher digs in the Jungle Room, and the S.E.A. Room. Because we didn’t have ressies, I didn’t want to ask to switch. It was fine.


Skipper Canteen Menu


Cute napkin folding detail.

I had been hearing great things about the food here, that it was different and bordering on exotic, which is probably the reason it hasn’t been brimming with guests. In-park restaurants tend to cater to the masses with burgers and chicken nuggets. It’s usually the resort hotels where you can find upscale or more interesting cuisine. Skipper Canteen is bucking that trend, and my fingers are crossed that they’ll stick with it.


Complimentary Ambasha Bread served with a honey-infused mustard-style dip.

The bread was heady with spices, and the dip was nice, but I didn’t get much mustard, just honey. I read plenty of reviews (of course I did) and while most everything was favorable, the appetizers seemed to get the most glory. We decided on a tapas style lunch.


S.E.A. Shu Mai: A Legendary blend of Pork, Shrimp, Edamame Beans, and Spices wrapped in Gyoza Skin then steamed (and adorably presented in a bamboo steamer).


House Made Arepas – slow cooked beef, black beans, tostones and queso fresco


Shiriki Noodle Salad- Rice noodles, edamame beans, mushrooms, green mango and cucumber tossed with a sweet chili sauce.


Falls Family Falafel – A secret recipe of chickpeas, garlic, onions, lemon juice and herbs with white bean dip and tomato-cucumber salad

Everything was simply marvelous, the standouts being the dumplings and the falafel, both perfectly executed. The arepas were excellent. I did notice that recently they’ve changed this dish so that it is more composed, a good idea I think. The only thing that would have made our lunch better would have been a nice glass of wine, but this is a dry park…or should I say WAS  a dry park. As of this dateline, one can have an adult beverage here, and at other select sit-down restaurants in the Magic Kingdom! Cheers!

We had a few fastpasses to take advantage of on this glorious day. I tried to catch as much of the atmosphere in photographs as I could while keeping up with my traveling companion. Snap, Snap, snap!


The Tiki, Tiki,Tiki Room


Tortuga means turtle. It’s something I know.


First fastpass was Splash Mountain.


Pretty shot from our log.


Cover photo worthy, right?


Haunted Mansion was next.


Ooh, this one is worthy too.

We made our way full circle around back to the Jungle Cruise, the ride, this time.


This is why you need to stay hydrated in the parks.

You may recall that the last time we rode this attraction, the skipper was decidedly ho-hum at best. This time, we had a charmer. Very witty and enthusiastic.


…and cute as a button.


It’s a jungle out there.

A reasonable amount of time had passed so that we could legit get a snack. You may have heard of the Dole Whip, but, my friends, do you know about the Citrus Swirl???


Tadah!!! Citrus Swirl. A creamy twist of frozen orange juice and vanilla soft serve.

The Citrus Swirl is entangled in a long and sordid story in Walt Disney World. Yes, I said sordid. Back in 1969, Disney solicited sponsors for many attractions and restaurants. The Florida Citrus Commission was the sponsor of The Tropical Serenade (Now known as The Enchanted Tiki Room) and the Sunshine Tree Terrace where one could enjoy the aforementioned Citrus Swirl. They also created a Mascot called the “Orange Bird”, which would not only be visible in Walt Disney World, but throughout the state, on billboards and in advertisements for Florida Orange Juice. At this time, a singer and actress named Anita Bryant was the chief spokesperson for the Florida Citrus growers and had in turn collaborated with Disney in all these endeavors.

Here’s where the controversy comes in. Anita Bryant became a very visible opponent of alternative lifestyles. Her public and vocal opposition of homosexuality lead to a full boycott of Florida citrus products. Because of this, the Florida Citrus Commission ended its relationship with the singer. Sadly, the Orange Bird and The Citrus Swirl, which were inextricably tied together with Bryant, were eventually phased out of the parks. Poor Orange Bird didn’t ask for any of this!

The Orange Bird with the Citrus Swirl

By 1987, there was no trace of Orange Bird or Citrus Swirl anywhere to be found in Walt Disney World. Then, around 2004, the Orange Bird started popping up in Tokyo Disney, probably because of the burgeoning “Orange Day” holiday. This brought the lil’ bird back into the purview of Disney, but it wasn’t until 2012  that the  Orange Bird Citrus Swirl was swung back into action. That’s right, we had gone a full twenty-five years without this creamy, citrus treat. Why, oh why must we let politics take precedence over our frozen desserts?

So, you may recall me whining a bit about having to leave the parks earlier than I would have liked, but we did do a whole lot in a short amount of time, so it’s ok I guess. Maybe.

Next up: Can we find a place to watch football in Disney World?

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment


This evening we would be taking a trip to Fort Wilderness for the Hoop Dee Doo Review! We took bus over to the Magic Kingdom, then hopped on to the Water Launch. Transportation around the parks can be cumbersome at times, but a boat ride crossing Seven Seas Lagoon at dusk is a relaxing voyage indeed.


Looking back at the boat launch.


Spectacular sunset behind the Grand Floridian Resort

We first hopped off at the Wilderness Resort to have a cocktail before dinner.


So pretty.

The Wilderness Lodge has a similar design as the Animal Kingdom Lodge, as it was designed by the same architect, Peter Dominick.


Pacific Northwest landscaping surrounds the lodge.

Inside, you’ll find a soaring, grand lobby filled with rustic details and arts and craft touches.


Wilderness lodge lobby


Massive, strata themed fireplace


Carved stanchion poles.

What I just love about these resorts is how they are not just “themed” to look like the design they are trying to mimic, they are authentically constructed and decorated with these elements. All the furniture, light fixtures, and decorations are either actual art affects from this era, or painfully recreated. Here, it feels as if you are really in a lodge at Yellow Stone National park and not anywhere near central Florida.


Railroad touches are throughout.


Random, cozy seating area.


Authentic geometric Arts and Crafts lamp.

We made our way to the Territory Lounge. This serves as the bar for the resort’s signature restaurant, Artist’s Point.


Stop right there!

We sipped on a couple of Manhattans and enjoyed the cozy environs.


Shadow boxes filled with artifacts.



Murals of the former Territories.

Soon it was getting on time to take our leave for the Hoop Dee Doo. Another short boat ride later we were at Pioneer Hall, ready to queue up for dinner.


Pioneer Hall


Hoop Dee Doo!

There are many activities to be enjoyed at Fort Wilderness. The Tri-Circle Ranch is here where all of the Disney World working horses are housed (or barned?). I was considering a wagon ride but time wouldn’t allow for it. They even have free camp fire sing-alongs and movies every night where you can schmooze with Chip and Dale. This is another example of how much a family can do here at the resorts without stepping foot in the parks.


Today’s Adventures!

Before entering the hall, we had to wait in a long but quick moving line to check in. To my surprise, instead of scanning our magic bands, our tickets were waiting in card catalogue file box! It was so old school. This is fitting because Hoop Dee Doo is about as old school as it gets!


Guess who got seated right next to the stage?


You can stop guessing. It was us.

Jeff and I saw this show on our honeymoon almost three decades ago. He had zero recollection of this, even after I showed him a photo evidence of me scraping my spoon on a warshboard with a huge grin on my face. It was burned into MY memory as one of the highlights of the trip.

The Hoop Dee Doo Revue is one of the country’s longest-running dinner shows and has had more than 37,000 performances. They’ve presented two shows a day continuously since 1974, and let me tell you, it hasn’t changed a bit since day one.


Table Settings

The food hasn’t changed either, with one exception; they used to serve apple pie for dessert (how American!) now, it’s strawberry shortcake.


The Vittles

Here’s why the Hoop Dee Doo is one the best values in Walt Disney World. For a category 3 seating, which is what we had, it is currently $63 per adult. This includes all-you-care-to-enjoy (Disney term) fried chicken and smoked BBQ pork ribs  tossed green salad, baked beans, cornbread and strawberry shortcake and, get this,…unlimited draft beer, wine and sangria!!! To cap it off, the tip and the tax is included! When you consider that a combo burger meal and one Yuengling at at Hollywood Studios walk-up counter will cost you nearly $25, this is a steal.

Now, you may think, “Sure, they say unlimited beer, but good luck getting the server’s attention for another round”, but you’d be wrong, my friend. We got our initial two and then they plunked down a whole pitcher of the stuff!


So Much Beer.

We were  just about starving by the time the first round came. The corn bread was sweet and tasty and the salad was… a salad.


Good butter to bread ratio.



The players stomp on in and do a couple numbers at this point. The whole angle of this show is about corny jokes and goofball fun.


The players.


I told you we were close.


Whoopin’ it up!


We got to know each other real good.

The players head back stage for a bit and we’re serenaded by a piano, guitar duo. Then the real food rolls out, little pewter pails filled with all the homespun cookin’ one could desire.  This is an all you can eat affair, but we barely ate half of what the server even brought initially. God speed anyone who can beat the system.


Barbeque Spare Ribs and Fried Chicken


With all the fixin’s

As we continued to stuff our gobs, the players came back out for more antics. You’d never know that these players do two shows every day of the week. They sing the same songs and tell same corny jokes over and over, yet they seem as if they are sincerely having a blast up on stage, even cracking up seemingly breaking character. The show was just as I remembered it.


Six Bits Slocum and Claire DeLune

Next up is the strawberry shortcake, but not before a whole number in honor of the toothsome delight.


Straw-berry! Straw-berry-short! Straw-berry-short Cake!!!

I have to tell you, I’ve never been so full in my entire life. Not from a Thanksgiving dinner nor a Christmas feast, never. When the dessert arrived it was all I could do to take tiny a bit of cake and a strawberry. Shameful.


It was so delicious and we just left it there. Take note of all the beer left in the pitcher!

The last bit of the show is all about audience participation. The players pick out a half dozen folks to help out with a retelling the story of Davey Crockett.


A cute little actor.

Let’s just say that these “roles” are slightly less than politically correct. They always pick a cute kid to play a ranger, all fine. There’s also a good lookin’ gal to play a Can-Can dancer. A little creepy, but okay. However, they push the limits of body shaming by choosing a, let’s say, “sizable fellow” to play a pink fairy. The piece de resistance: an “Indian Chief”. Shockingly, the ACLU hasn’t gotten wind of this situation or there would certainly be a cease a desist order. I say all this in jest, but really, I’m surprised they still get away with it.


The Ranger and the Indian Chief getting instructions from Claire.


The Pink Fairy

We had a heck of time, you betcha! We were a bit ashamed, not by how much we ate and drank, but rather how quickly we tapped out. Still, even with half the beer and food left on the table, it was a good value and an even better time.


Take a bow, Hoop Dee Doo!

Up Next: The real Muppets!!!!

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Another Spring

Today we will be taking a break from the parks and enjoying a leisurely visit to Disney Springs. That’s right folks, two visits to Disney Springs in one trip. You know we’re here for a long time!


The new Disney Springs, very luxe.

If I hadn’t already mentioned it, the weather during this entire trip was absolutely perfect. It was in the eighties and sunny without one drop of rain for nine days!  We’ve had such a good run these last couple of trips, we’re running up against the odds for our next visit for sure. Today we had a task at hand; finding something to bring back home for my mom. I had a pretty good idea of what to get. There’s a new shop in the Town Center area called The Ganachery that I’ve been hearing great things about.


There it is!

This tiny bôite is dedicated to making the finest squares of chocolate ganache. You will find a few bars and pops on the shelves, but ganache is the main event here, as indicated by the name.


Cute Shelving and displays.


A bundle of copper pots fashioned as a chandelier.


Open display kitchen. This guy is so over it.


Even the floors look delicious.


Every flavor one can imagine.

I couldn’t decide, so one of everything it was! With our shopping taken care of, it was getting on time for some lunch! There are literally dozens and dozens of choices at Disney springs. Everything from walk-up poutine to $100 steaks. One place that has gotten a fair amount of praise is Iron Chef Morimoto’s newest venture, Morimoto Asia.


Stunning Dining Room

Though the prices here are pretty reasonable, we were thinking a bit more casual today. Luckily, the Iron Chef has us covered. Right around the corner is a walk-up spot called Morimoto Street Food.


Morimoto on the go.


Chilled Sesame Lo-Mein Noodle



Jeff did the ordering, which is to say, I told him what to order, and I found us a seat with primo people watching potential.


The views in the new areas are lovely.


The goods.


These are the chilled noodle pictured above, dressed in peanut sauce.


Pork Bao – Spicy mayo, cucumber, lettuce, soft steamed bao buns.


Takoyaki – Octopus fritter, nori, pickled ginger, okonomi sauce

The winner here was the Pork Bao. The soft buns and crispy pork paired with the crunchy cucumber were a perfect bite. Loved it. The noodles worked on paper, but there was something about them that I didn’t love. I don’t quite remember. Too vinegary maybe? The Octopus was interesting. I had seen these fritters in a blog about a visit to Tokyo. The flavors were excellent. The texture was not what I was expecting. I thought they would be more like a doughnut with octopus inside, but they were almost gelatinous. I enjoyed trying them, but probably wouldn’t get them again.

We spent a good amount of time just strolling around and taking in this glorious day. We headed toward the MarketPlace side of Disney Springs, which is essentially the original section.


Sprinkles is a new venue. The lines were crazy long when the first opened. The hoopla has died down. They’re just cupcakes, people.


The former Planet Hollywood is getting a makeover to look like an observatory.


Lookin’ good.


Covered shops


We took a rest in this small seating area. It’s so unusual to be able to sit outdoors without shade or AC in Orlando!


View of Saratoga Springs resort.

Things in Disney are constantly changing, usually for the better. Some of us can get pretty nostalgic about silly little things. When we honeymooned here way back in 1989 we had a “fancy dinner” on the Empress Lilly. This was a riverboat (really just a standing restaurant) named after Walt’s wife Lillian. It was festooned with delicate gingerbread details and had a huge red paddle wheel that constantly turned. Years later, the restaurant turned over and became Fulton’s Crab House but the outside mostly stayed the same. Now, it is changing yet again but with this next phase they have totally stripped the boat of any resemblance to a N’awlins steam boat.


Empress Lilli circa 1990


Soon to be Paddle Fish. Looking pretty blahso.

I get that they want to pull this into the overall theme, but it does make ma a bit sad to see it stripped of its former glory. Moving on!


Goofy’s Candy Store. OG Disney.


Once Upon a Toy. Same.

We looped back around to the Boathouse where, dear readers, you may remember we had lunch with Sam and Ashley on day one. This time cocktails were in order.


The back side of the BoatHouse.

I hadn’t noticed on the first visit that there was this delightful outdoor bar around the rear.


BoatHouse Al Fresco

We snagged a table along the perimeter of the bar, which afforded us a perfect view of the goings on on the lake.


Amphicars taking folks on tour.


Coming in for a landing. You know I waved at every single car.


Jeff had an Old Fashioned with a tremendously large ice sphere.


Gin and Tonic with curly cucumber for the Mrs.

We really had no business ordering food, but the shrimp Sam and Ashley had last time we visited looked so dang good!


Firecracker Shrimp – Sriracha mayo, serrano chili and sweet peppers

They tasted just as good as they looked. After a couple of additional beers we were perfectly poised to get napped up and ready for our an evening of old-time food, fun and song at the Hoop Dee Doo Review!


Bye, Disney Springs!!!!

Up Next: NOW we’ll be getting the feedbag on. 

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Into The Night

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is in the midst of a sizable expansion. Pandora – The World of Avatar was announced aaalllll the way back in 2011. Construction has moved at a glacial pace, but all indications are that this new land will be opening this summer. Pandora will feature nighttime attractions with bioluminescent plants and river ways. Because of this, the entire Animal Kingdom is starting to feature nighttime attractions and shows, to officially make this a “full day” park.


The Tree of Life at dusk. Guys, this is like, the best picture I’ve ever taken. Right?

Unfortunately, so far there have been a couple huge swings and misses in the initial attempts. Rivers of Light is a sort of water show which is to feature mist screens, floating barges, projection mapping and live performers. This was supposed to premier on Earth Day of this past year. Weeks before the premier, it was discovered that the GPS technology used to guide the floats was totally haywire. As of this date, there’s no word about when it may come online.

Also newly featured is a Nighttime Safari. This was controversial due to the routines and natural rhythms of the animals potentially being disrupted. Disney animal care experts assure us that these animals were brought in specifically because they are nocturnal. That being said, the artificial “dusk” they have created using light sources is reportedly odd and there are really not many creatures to be seen. There are however, even at this early stage, good reasons to plan to stay at Animal Kingdom after dark.

We needed a little bit of a snack to remain fortified. On the way to snag an egg roll, we happened by this little structure.


A brick turret like structure.

This building had just two little stools and corner shelves inside. It overlooked the nearby water way.


Beautiful detailed carvings.


Sweet view.

This is just an example of the kind of detail that I love. There’s no good reason for this little oasis to be here other than that it adds to the overall theme. Not one more dime can be squeezed out because of it. I’m sure there’s some back story about it somewhere.


Evening snack: Two Funky Buddha beers, one order of egg roll. Perfect.

Perhaps because of  the trouble I spoke of before Disney has stepped up all the nighttime entertainment. There were several live bands running back to back all through the evening. The people were loving it!!!






CA !!!! Not really. It was authentic African music.

We were walking through to use a fastpass for the Kilimanjaro Safari. Not the night one, but the last daytime excursion of the day.


A poor picture of the only real Baobob Tree in the park. The rest are fakes, kids.

Our fastpass did help much. There was an “Animal stopped on the safari route.” (something I think they claim no matter the problem) that brought things to s stand still. Having already done one safari earlier in the week, we bailed and went back to the party! The band and finished up and now were treated to some acrobatic dancers.


Do y’all see something peculiar here?


How is it that this guy is wearing neon pink fishnet and everyone else is in African savannah type tones. Choice? Punishment?

After the festivities waned we headed over to the Tree of life for another new evening show.


The “Rivers of Light” stadium sitting empty for now.

The Awakening is a new nighttime presentation that is just three minutes long and runs several times per night. There are as many as four different shows. Special projection effects make it appear that the  animals carved into the tree trunk have come alive.  The series of pictures below only show the colorful lights.

This high quality video taken by a much more qualified videographer than I shows in detail how astounding this show is.  At first you’ll see just a little movement here and there, then it totally breaks out. It’s just three minutes, you can do it.

After Awakenings we looped back around to Harambe for some more live music. A dance party was going strong.


It ain’t a party ’til there’s a conga line!


Of course, Jeff had to chat up the guitarist.

It was now full on dark and I had never ever  before been in this park at night. I was a bit more giddy about this than I care to admit. I wanted to cover as much territory as possible before we took leave for dinner. The one area we hadn’t yet explored was Dino Land. The “Dinosaur” attraction that we would have enjoyed there was down for refurbishment.


The Boneyard


We found this fella around the back. Why the camping gear?


Dude, you going away for the weekend?

Turns out this is a meet and greet location for Donald Duck. According to Disney, “Donald just uncovered the bones of a Hadrosaur—the large duck-billed creature that lived during the Cretaceous period—but he’ll be thrilled to meet you!” Guess he’s got some gear along for the ride?


Fichwa Fellow!

I hated to leave, but it was getting close to closing time, and we were ready for a sit down meal. One hotel that we’ve visited every single time we’ve been to Walt Disney World is  The Animal Kingdom Lodge. This time would be no exception. We rolled on over for some dinner at Jiko-The Cooking Place.


This stunning lobby always takes my breath away.


A little Djembe lesson going on. So Cute!

I made very few reservations for dinners on this trip. I wanted to keep things fluid. Jiko has a solid reputation and I’ve been wanting to dine here for quite some time. They have a lounge that serves a full menu so I was banking on landing there.


Jiko Dining Room

I looked the lounge up online to get a feel for it and I was a bit duped. The pictures showed a cozy private wine room as a part of the bar. This is not the case. The lounge itself was quite spare and hanging out in the open. The bar only had four stools and they were not comfy whatsoever, not to mention that the restroom were like, right there. I know I’m whining here. It was fine, just not what I expected.


After thought bar.

We chose to sit at one of the two small tables. The bartender was wonderful and took very good care of us.


Embroidered Jiko napkin. I considered swiping it.


Why so serious? I might have still ben complaining about the space.

On to the food! There was one appetizer I had heard enough about to just have to try.


Inguday Tibs in Brik – mushrooms, spinach, cheese in crispy Tunisian filo with apples and curry vinaigrette

These were fantabulous! Hit all the right notes.  Next we chose a flat bread. This wasn’t terribly loaded with toppings but it was filling and a good value.


Mozambican Chicken Flatbread Sweet Plantain, Cape Gooseberries, Cashews, Coconut Mayo

We added some Mac N’ Cheese for the kicker. We really didn’t need it. It was served in an authentic Le Creuset crock. This was another item that the devil on my shoulder wanted me to throw in my purse. Thievery in not normally in my nature, honest.


Braai Macaroni & Cheese Chakalaka, House-made Boerewors Sausage, Provolone, Fontina, Gruyère, Asiago

Everything was marvelous. If I had known that the bar was going to be more of an airport lounge, I may have made a dining room reservation. All in all it was a great meal. After dinner, we took a lap around the property.


AKL Pool.

When you spend enough in Disney circles, you get wind of cult foods. Even you normals may have heard of the “Dole Whip”. One of those snacks that’s been on my to-do list was Zebra Domes. You can find these at Boma, the buffet restaurant here (don’t get me started on buffets) or you can just pop down to the quick serve location and get them to go.


The quick serve location at AKL, the Mara.

Next, we needed to have an after dinner cocktail. We stopped at the Victoria lounge for a couple of Manhattans. Hey, we’re on vacation. Victoria lounge sits on a mezzanine that looks down over Boma.


These guys are all way too full.


Victoria Lounge.


We took our over-priced cocktails and sweets out to the back patio area.


A lovely fire waiting just for us.


Here are the Zebra Domes!

These delights are comprised of Amarula Cream Liquor mousse which is enrobed in white chocolate and drizzled with chocolate and chocolate shavings. The whole thing sits atop a thin cake base. They were as delectable as I  had heard and more! The bourbon and the fire may have influenced my enjoyment.

We lounged by the fire for as long as our weariness would allow. We had a full day at Animal Kingdom. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like when all the new Lands and attractions are finally here. I look forward to finding out first hand.



Up Next: OMG…I’ve never been so full in my life. 

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Happy Trails

Today we would be making a second visit to  Animal Kingdom. This is a first for us due to the fact that we’ve never stayed longer than six days at Disney. When one has a limited amount of time in the World, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios tend to get short shrift. This time we had nine glorious days to luxuriate!  This visit will be less about rides and more about well, animals.


Back to Harambe!


Authentic, overgrown buildings.


Bills plastered all around Harambe Village. A little bit of redundancy here.

First on the agenda was one of the two walking trails at Animal Kingdom, The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The name of this trail was recently changed from Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Gorilla Falls was actually the name of the trail when Disney’s Animal Kingdom first opened. That’s a lot of trail naming drama.


Keeping the sign painters busy.


Lush greens shade the majority of the walk.


Teeny, woven bird nests.


One of the local residents.


Colorful fishes!

The main attraction here are, of course, gorillas! We got a pretty good view of this fella.


The Thinker


On the move.


Having a snack.

The bamboo Mr. Gorilla was chomping on was starting to look pretty good. We set about having a proper meal. On our last visit we arrived a bit too early for lunch in Harambe, this time we hit it just right.


Authentic Harambe market wares.


Perhaps a little too authentic. The plastic hangars are on point for realism, but kinda ugg too.


We arrived minutes before the food windows opened up, so seats were plentiful.

Harambe Market features Chef Mwanga’s Ribs Shop, Famous Curry Battered Sausages, Kitamu Grill, and Wanjohi Refreshments. In the beginning, these windows were all separate, making it difficult for families to order different items. Now, each window serves all of the menu items. I love that Disney goes all in with the flavors here. Even the kids meals are just smaller portions of these African inspired foods.  Our choices were quite interesting and well executed. The portions were generous as well.


Spice-rubbed KARUBI Ribs – Served with green papaya carrot slaw and black-eyed pea salad.


Black-eyed Pea Salad


Beef and Pork Sausage – Fried in curried corn batter and served with green papaya slaw and black-eyed pea salad


Puts a corn dog to shame!

We enjoyed our relaxing lunch in Harambe tremendously. Anyone who tells you that Disney only has burgers and chicken nuggets is missing a wealth of unique culinary riches.


“Fichwa” means hidden. Very cleaver, indeed.

Next we did something that I would NEVER do if we were only hitting the park for one day; we took the train to Conservation Station.


WildLife Express now departing Harambe.

What’s entirely unique about this experience is that the train ride takes you “back stage”. Usually guests only have the opportunity to see these kind of areas by going on a “behind the scenes” tour. This  however, takes regular day guests right through utility buildings, parking lots and animal care areas.


Out of the bubble.


Animal pens


Must be aVIP


Department of Elephants.

I’m really not sure if Disney allows these views intentionally or if they simply didn’t want to spend the money to screen out undesirable vistas. I found it interesting none the less.


Welcome to Rafiki’s Planet Watch!

The reason this spot is not all that popular is because what’s offered is not much different than what you may encounter at your local petting zoo. Educational for sure, but when Expedition Everest is right next door, it just doesn’t have very much of a draw.


Entrance to Planet Watch. This Chameleon is looking a but scaly.


Displays of creepy crawly things.


Up close and personal creepy things.

There are a couple meet and greets here as well. Chip and Dale were greeting folks outside.


Asante sana, squash banana!

Off to the back of Rafiki’s you’ll find the petting zoo.


Jeff made a new friend right away.




I think someone is jealous.


This guys was a little harder to warm up to.

If you have the time, this is a pleasant diversion away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the park. We wandered around for about an hour and that was more than enough. We headed back and promptly parked it in the shade for an iced coffee break.


Catching a little shade.


I shook a little bit of all the toppings in there. It was weird.

We were caffeinated and rested up, but we made one more stop before moving on.


Trading Company

Disney had just added portable charger kiosks which allow for unlimited Fuel Rod exchanges throughout all the parks. Pro tip: buy your Fuel Rod at home and you’ll save ten bucks off the $30.00 price tag. These chargers were extremely convenient. We used the heck out of these during the trip.


Fuel Rod exchange.

Now we were really charged up and ready to attend my most favorite stage show in Disney, Finding Nemo-The Musical.


Mount Everest playing peek-a-boo behind the bamboo.

I’ve told you all about this show before, so I won’t bore you with another recitation. What was different for us this time was how close we were to the stage. Interestingly, the folks who had fastpasses were seated much farther back in the auditorium. We just got in the standby line and had a much better opportunity for a close-up view.



Our view was off to the side which, if it were your first time seeing the show, might not be ideal. Having seen this several times, I enjoyed being able to see off into the wings where the stage hands were setting up for the next scenes and the actors switching up puppets.




I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.


‘I shall call him squishy, he shall be mine and he shall be my squishy’


In the big blue world, we’re ready to go!!!!

After Nemo we headed over to Asia to explore the second animal trail, the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This is one of the most intensely themed areas of any park. There is, of course, an elaborate backstory only the nerdiest of fans will know. The basics are that this is the old hunting grounds of the King or Rajah of Anandapur. The King decided it would make for easier hunting if everything was enclosed to keep the animals from leaving the grounds so he created a royal reserve with a hunting lodge. Spoiler alert: he was eaten by a tiger, because Karma. After this, three much more enlightened rulers helped turn the hunting lodge into an animal preserve. What remains is a crumbling ruin that is slowly and beautifully being reclaimed by nature.


The once fortified doors of the Lodge.


Fountains in the tiger viewing area. There was a tiger there somewhere.


Tiger, where are you???


Prayer flags are strung all around the preserve by the locals who are living harmoniously with the animals.




The last area on the trek is an Aviary where you get a close up view of some funky birds.


Real close and real funky.


Themed bird houses dot the area.


Love the China red.

The sun was starting to get low in they sky. In the past, Animal Kingdom would be shutting down right about now. Not so anymore, the party is just getting started in Harambe.


Evening awaits.

Next Up: Everyone you meet, they’re jamming in the street, all night long…

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Crescent Moon

Rested and refreshed we headed on over the the Boardwalk. This jewel is situated smack-dab between the International Gateway of World Showcase and Hollywood Studios. If we hadn’t ducked out for a nap, we could have just walked on over. Now we needed to take a bus ride back to the studios and hop on a boat to get to our destination. Still easy-peasy.  We exited the boat at the Swam and Dolphin Hotel complex. The sunset was stunning.




The lighting scheme at the hotel was beautiful.


What a beautiful place to walk!


Just like that, we’re on the Boardwalk!

This area includes three hotels and a plethora of restaurants, shops and live entertainment. One of the best aspects of the Boardwalk is that you do not need a park ticket to enter, it’s completely open to the public. Let’s take a tour around, shall we? First, the Atlantic Dance Hall. This does not appeal to me. Although it looks like a ballroom dancing venue, it’s really a video DJ club. No thanks, but there’s no cover, so if you want to peek in you can.


Not usually crowded – if you like to dance, you’ll have room to move.

Next up, JellyRolls, a favorite of several friends of mine. It’s a dueling piano bar, so the live music aspect could have pulled me in, but there’s a $12.00 cover charge! We wanted to hop around tonight, so this wouldn’t be a good investment.


Maybe next time. Jellyrolls.


We’ll be chatting about this place later in the week. Stay tuned, friends.

In the evening you’ll find buskers, magicians, jugglers and such entertaining guests.


He’s working on his core.


He totally had this.


The caricature business is a bit slow tonight.


Magician extraordinaire!


The Flyin’ Fish?

We’ve reached our first destination, Abracadabar. This is a brand new cocktail lounge featuring a “magician” theme. As with most things Disney there  is an overly elaborate back story regarding the bar’s origins.




We had to use the handle. Our powers must have been weak.

This is a relatively small space considering it serves as the lounge for two neighboring restaurants,  but what it lacks in size it makes up for in eye candy. There is an incredible amount of memorabilia on display to take in.


Handcuffs, straight jacket and keys artfully framed.


Book shelf teaming with magician wares.


The decor itself was lush.


The prices of the cocktails have “disappeared”!


Drink coaster I didn’t take. Really, I’m disappointed in myself.


I’m pretty sure this was the Coney Island Negroni: a Boulevardier inspired by the piers of Coney Island; Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Campari, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth

This was a nice bourbon drink which was well prepared. All the cocktails here are twelve dollars (you have to search for this on the back page), which is a commensurate price point for a lounge of this caliber.


But, free bar snacks!

The real draw here for us “Disnerds” is the schtick. Several of the signature drinks are presented with a magical flair. Unfortunately for me they’re all waaaay to sweet for my tastes, Luckily, the “Moms’ Weekend” group of ladies next to us were all too willing to imbibe in these treacly concoctions.


A wave of the Magic Wand!


Voila! A purple drink is transformed into a lighter purple drink!


Oh the cute bathroom signage!




Back to the stage.

A few more snaps of the atmosphere:


Elegantly stocked bar.


A menagerie of mirrors.


Moving on!

Our next stop would be at the the titular hotel of the Boardwalk area, the Boardwalk Resort. The location here is great, just steps away from Hollywood Studios. While there are a lot of good reasons to stay here, there’s one huge reason not to:



Nothing says fun like being spat out of the gullet of a psycho Bozo. I thought this was horrifying during the day, but man, those glowing eyes! Let’s looks at this cute elephant to calm down.


Dang, the clown’s creeping on us.

The Boardwalk resort is fashioned after an idealized version of the  hotels in Atlantic City during the Victorian age.


Merhorse (?) Chandelier



Painting of the boardwalk midway.


Seems legit.


Cozy seating areas are dotted all around the lobbies.


Colorful decor reflects the carnival atmosphere.

Tucked up on the second floor is our next destination, the Bellevue Lounge.


Just around the landing.

This lovely little haven is stuffed with cushy couches and seating areas where guests can play boardgames, chat and of course, enjoy a drink.


Bartender taking care of business.


She seems to be giving an impassioned speech.

As adorable as the lounge was, it was such a lovely evening we decided to take our beverages outside.


Delightful wicker furniture.


Pleasant view of the walkways surrounding the hotel.


A bold glass of cabernet.

I have to say, it was so relaxing and peaceful we could have just sat on this balcony all night, but we had other goals. We set out next to have ourselves a meal.


I only have blurry pictures of the Boardwalk. Must be the wine.


A look across Crescent Lake to the Yacht Club.

A short stroll later we arrived at the Yacht Club. This is on the Epcot side of the Boardwalk. This resort is themed after the tony yacht clubs of New England. Where it’s sister resort, The Beach Club, has more of a casual, Martha’s Vineyard theme, this hotel has a highly polished nautical look.


Daddy’s going to buy you THIS island.

Keeping with the high-end theme, you’ll find a very expensive à la carte steak house here, the Yachtsman.


The Yachtsman


Yachtsman menu. $50.00 entrée anyone?

Sorry kids, we won’t be dining here tonight. I had made reservations for a splash-out dinner here, but in the end  I decided it might be more fun to roam around from lounge to lounge rather than putting all our steak in one basket. Perhaps we’ll go back for an anniversary dinner someday.


We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.

We will instead be noshing at drinking at one of my very favorite pubs, the Crew’s Cup.


Discreet signage.

The Crew’s cup is adjacent to the Yachtsman Steakhouse .


The interior leans more towards Art and Crafts with natural wood and copper accents.

Vegans should be warned that patrons of the Crew’s Cup get a view into the meat room from the Yachtsman. Carnivores, however, will rejoice!


That coulda been my dinner.


Keeping it local.

We came here for the much lauded burger (sorry, the picture didn’t come out very pretty). It was just as tasty as advertised, but the truffle fries that accompanied it were just spectacular! In other news, the second dish we ordered may have been our best bite of the whole trip.


Beer-braised Mussels and Clams – chorizo, fine herbs, garlic-herb butter with toasted focaccia

I’m a sucker for any kind of mussels so I’ve had my share of iterations of this type of dish. The Crew’s Cup version was by far the best balanced presentation I can ever remember enjoying. We lapped up the gorgeous broth, believe you me.

We had just one more establishment to visit to conclude our Crescent Lake bar crawl.


A last look back at the Yacht Club.

This stop would bring us full circle around to the Swan and Dolphin Resort. These sister resorts are on Disney property, but not Disney owned. They are nice enough, but they don’t have the detailed theming that adds so much charm to the Disney resorts. They are geared towards conventions and large crowds, so the common areas are simply huge.


Very mall-like lobby.


Attractive  lighting.


The Lobby Lounge. It’s a lounge in the lobby.

We wound our way through to BlueZoo, the chef-owned feature restaurant of the Dolphin Resort.


Todd English’s BlueZoo


The diners were long gone.


The bar was still ready for service.

This bar has the rare reputation of being worthy of the designation as a “Mixology Bar”.  The cocktails were skillfully created before our eyes by a truly competent bartender. While the first selection was excellent, it was the flamboyant “Burnt Orange” that I had been dying to try.


Serenity: a masterful combination of square one cucumber vodka, st. germain elderflower liqueur, muddled strawberries, basil, rosemary, and a splash of lime and pineapple juice

Oh yeah, baby!


Burnt Orange: herradura blanco infused with brûléed orange and muddled with agave nectar, grand marnier, and orange juice. topped with a flaming orange

This was not just about show, the brûléed brown sugar on the orange wedge settled into the cocktail and added burnt caramel undertone to what would have otherwise been too sweet of a drink. That is to say, I lurved it.

Our leisurely evening around Crescent Lake was all that I had hoped. We strolled, we drank, we noshed and we enjoyed each other’s company. Everything a vacation should be, in my eyes.


Next Up: You guys, Animal Kingdom is truly extraordinary!


Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

If You’re A Star

We were blessed with another perfect day in Sunny Orlando. Today we’re headed to Hollywood Studios. This park is under some serious renovations. Even you “normals” who don’t eat, breathe and drink Disney probably have heard about the epic Star Wars Land coming here. There’s also a Toy Story Land  coming to boot. At the rate that Disney moves on construction these days, they will be cutting the ribbons on these in about 2056.


Hollywood Studios entrance fashioned after the Pan-Pacific Auditorium.


Shops down Hollywood Boulevard


Incognito Starbucks

We had a bit of time to kill before our first Fastpass came due. Instead of fighting the morning lines for burnt coffee at Starbucks, we got a little pick me up at our old standby, Starring Rolls Café.


Perfect spot for people watching.


Chocolate Croissant

On to Pixar Place!


Hopefully the Toy Story Land will spread these crowds out.


Maybe they’ll fix the Speak and Spell while they’re at it.


Move, people! I got a 3D ring toss game to play!


He kicked my butt, as usual.


Just sit down anywhere, it’s cool.

Right Next to Toy Story is the often over-looked “One Man’s Dream”. This is a museum dedicated to the man himself, Walt Disney, focusing on the origins of the parks and Walt’s childhood.


Walt’s hometown, the inspiration for Main Street USA.

There are many models displayed throughout the museum documenting the original concepts for attractions and lands. Some are authentic, while others are re-creations of those models. I didn’t take note of which were which.


Sleeping Beauty Castle


The Jungle Cruise


Vintage attraction posters. Guys, I have that top one! A copy, obviously.


The animatronic that started it all, Mr. Lincoln.

So, with the park in such a state of flux, and many major attraction now gone, one wonders if there’s still enough to do here. It depends. If you have small children, it’s still a great place to take in fun shows like Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Playhouse Disney. On the opposite side, those who are  looking for thrills can enjoy Rockin’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror.  Now that we’ve discovered Jeff’s new aversion to coasters, those two rides were scratched off the list. However, if you’re a Star Wars fan, they’ve got you covered. Disney is pre-gaming for the new Star Wars Land real hard with some awesome shows and character interactions that will make any Star Wars fan ecstatic. First off, the March of the First Order.


March of the First Order

You’ll know this is about to happen due to the ominous and bone- rattlingly loud music playing which heralds the entrance of the Storm Troopers.


Meet ten year old Jeff.




Captain Phasma

This “show” occurs just about once an hour all day long. It is really impressive to see all those Storm Troopers marching across the park. I’m not a huge Star Wars devotee, but I’m married to one and it was a real hoot to watch him marvel at this procession of characters that were such a part of his childhood.

Next up was the Star Wars Launch Bay.


Launch Bay

This offering displaced one of my favorite activities in the former Animation courtyard where you could learn to draw disney characters and take home a free souvenir, a rarity in Disney. All of this is gone and now replaced by a sort of preview of what’s to come in the new Star Wars Land. There are movie props and costumes on display, and the Storm Troopers loom about and assess the threat from random guests.


Threat risk: Low


Threat Risk : Even  Lower


Rebel Flight Suit


Tie Pilot Flight Suit


Darth Vader Costume

Also housed in the Launch Bay are two character meet and greets. There’s Kylo Ren from the latest movie, whom I understand is pretty scary and intimidating and CHEWBACCA!!! I said I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but who wouldn’t be psyched to hug a seven foot Wookie?


Childhood dream fulfilled.


Someone was a bit jelly of me and Chewie.



All this fan boy action was making us hungry. I was very glad to see that one of our favorite spots, the 50s Primetime Café, managed to dodge the clear out for the new lands. Today we would be hitting up the lounge.


The Tune- In Lounge

While the lounge seems to  have a separate entrance, it really just dumps you into the regular waiting area for the restaurant. It can seem pretty busy, but most people at the bar are just waiting to be seated, so stools come available pretty quickly.


After you.


Some of the kitsch in the waiting area.


Dad’s Liquor Cabinet


Primetime Menu


A Racer 5, if I recall.


Bartender slinging a rack of Margaritas.

We got a couple appetizers to keep things sort of light.


Grandpa’s Crab Cake – lump crab cake served on succotash salad with bacon and chili sauce


Beer-Battered Onion Rings – served with horseradish sauce

These were both really excellent. I would have liked to have had another crab cake on the plate for the $12.00 price tag, but the cake itself and the succotash were of real quality. The onion rings, however, were a bargain. A good portion of crispy beer battered onions and a soup bowl of horseradish sauce for $7.00!  Double onion rings next time? Maybe.

Our bellies now full, we popped over to the newly dubbed “Muppet Courtyard”.  Muppets have had a low profile presence in Hollywood Studios for years. Now, it seems there doubling down on the property and I couldn’t be happier.


Muppets Gift Shop


Mama Melrose Ristorante was originally supposed to be Muppet themed. Maybe someday?

The execs at Disney had shoe horned a “Pizza Planet” into this area years ago. The theming really had barely any resemblance to the arcade in the Toy Story movies. To make matters worse, they served doughy, cheap pizza and limp salads and not much else. So when it was announced that “Pizzerizzo”, a Muppet themed, New York style pizzeria was taking it’s place we Disney nerds were psyched!


Pizzerizzo Authentic NY Signage


Things were still under construction on our trip.

The new joint has opened since we returned and voila! they’re serving the same crap pizza as before. Why Disney? Why can’t you serve a nice slice of pie for the people? Oh well.

It was getting on time for a pick-me-up so we skipped over to the new Starbucks for an iced latte. The addition of Starbucks to the parks was once controversial (I’m looking at you, Main Street Bakery), but they have done a really nice job of integrating the shops into the parks with some clever theming. This store is themed after a trolley car station. There’s no trolley to be found here in Hollywood Studios, though there is one in Disney’s California Adventure…hhhmmm. Maybe there’s a Red Car Trolley on the way!


Stately Entrance


Realistic power panels etc.


Selections one would expect.


The boss.

While Jeff ordered, I set about finding a place to plop down on Hollywood Boulevard. I texted him my location and then sent him off on a wild goose chase because I don’t know right from left. He found me eventualy.  Sorry, dear.  We got a bit of a show while we enjoyed our beverages. The Citizens of Hollywood are character players that roam the streets, stopping here and there to put on improv shows that incorporate guests and a lot of vaudeville schtick.


You can’t really see them, but they’re there.

This is the kind of thing that guests tend to walk on by. Honestly, if we weren’t having our drinks, I would have moved on as well. I have to tell you, they were hilarious. The players were doing a tournament of champions of “a guy walked into a bar” jokes. The guests would yell out a key word and they’d have to go with it. Man, they were fast. Disney has been eliminating more and more of this type of entertainment, so if we want this kind of streetmosphere to continue we need to stop and enjoy it. I’m really talking to myself here.


Time to forge on!

We had one more Fastpass left so we headed on over to the Great Movie Ride.



This is an opening day attraction that has seen better days. It’s more about nostalgia now. The show scenes of the classic films run from not-so-good likenesses to horrifyingly bad representations. Poor Sigourney Weaver. There was a refurbishment last year, but I’m afraid it was subtraction by addition. They added a narration that steps on the live actors’ role. It’s just weird now.


Mary Poppins

The Wizard of Oz set is exceptionally good. The animatronic witch is quite realistic.



There’ no place like home, but I don’t want to go yet.

We decided to head back to our room for a wee nap. The onion rings had worn off for Jeff so we stopped into the food court for a flat bread and beer.


Nap insurance.


A bit floppy, but freshly made and spicy.

So, is Hollywood Studios worth a visit right now? I’d say yes, but just barely at this point. We won’t be heading back tonight after our nap, as we would for the other parks. Instead we’ll be enjoying a bar crawl around Crescent Lake. Not a bad concession.


Sleepy time!

Up Next: Drinking Around Crescent Lake!

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

When That Evening Sun Goes Down

We were about halfway around the World and the sun was starting to get low in the sky. We made our way to the Japan pavilion to wander through the Mitsukashi Department Store and buy some strange snacks to send to our son, Matt.


Mitsukashi Department Store

Dried crabs and mochi purchased, we explored the Bijutsu-kan  exhibition gallery which houses long-term exhibits on Japanese art and culture. The show building here in Japan is just mammoth. It was meant to have some sort of an indoor coaster featuring Godzilla, but the sponsor, Fuji film, pulled out and it never happened. An all too familiar story in Epcot, unfortunately.


Gorgeous facade.

The current presentation at the gallery, “Kawaii Life”, features a look at Japan’s “Culture of Cute.”


Kawaii Banner


So cute!

We circled back around to the department store because tucked way back in the corner you’ll find a sake bar.  I just love a hot sake, but it wasn’t chilly enough for that. We got a cold dry sake long with a beer I had heard good things about. It’s a type of Hefeweizen brewed in Japan. Who knew?


A traditional dry sake along with a Ginga Kogen Weizen

Instead of swilling in the bar, we took our beverages outside. Japan has gorgeous garden and Koi ponds surrounding a peaceful sitting area.


I’m feeling a bit Koi.



Again, because of the festival, people were sticking the the main walkways so we were completely alone in this oasis.




The lanterns were just coming on as we finished.


Tokyo Sunset



Our next stop was Italia! It was looking luminous in this fading light.


The Enoteca


Neptune, looking fit as always.

This is another pavilion that includes a small bar, tucked away in a cave like setting, Tutto Gusto.


Wine Bar


Cool and quiet!

This place is a little gem of bôite, however, it is way over priced. We chose a wine flight with very skimpy pours and a plate which consisted of two itty bitty panini and salad.


Over priced wine flight.

That’s just a regular sized toothpick in there, for size comparison.


Small bread sandwiches served with Caesar salad wedge: Proscuitto di Parma; Carciofi and Fontina and Fontina and Salametto

While everything was tasty, it was so paltry for the price, it just wasn’t a good experience.  We certainly weren’t looking to load up on food, but after tax and tip this one stop cost nearly forty dollars! Even a Yuegling here is eleven bucks. That’s just crazy. We’ll be skipping this next time, unless something changes.

By the time we finished up, the sun had set completely. We made our way over to the German Platz.  The detail here is meticulous. 


Replicas of the Hapsburg emperors.



What we lost in Italy we gained in Germany. There is a tiny walk up window here that serves up hearty portions of tasty german fare at a reasonable price.


That’s more like it.

While Jeff ordered our eats I snuck in to the Biergarten Restaurant. So naughty!



I love German food and would really like to experience this place, but unfortunately it’s a buffet. While it’s obvious that I love to eat, I don’t enjoy feeling like I have to load up and over-do it to get my money’s worth. Just looking at all those pans of food makes me feel totally overwhelmed. Bummer, if it was à la carte I would be all over this. They also have entertainment throughout the night. Not while I was there though.


Empty Stage

Meanwhile, back at the platz.


Fresh-cooked Brat with Roll and Sauerkraut and house-made paprika chips


Nudel Gratin: Baked Macaroni with Cheese Custard


Warsteiner Dunkel

My goodness, everything was so flippin’ good. The Nudel Gratin was amazing with that thick, toasty layer of cheese! Mein Gott! All this deliciousness was just over twenty dollars. Bargain! This was officially the end of my eating, but Jeff was lured into another of the Food and Booths.


Extreme close up of Roasted Pork Lettuce Wrap and Kimchi


iCing Grapefruit Sparkling Rice Brew

I turned my attention to a drink in China that is near legend in Disney circles. The Tipsy Ducks in Love. This tasty beverage (dessert) is a combination of coffee, black tea, and chocolate syrup, topped with a generous pour of Jim Beam bourbon. It is usually finished with whipped cream but I thought that was a bit much. Gotta have some temperance, you know.


Oh my!

This drink has been sold at the Joy of Tea stand for years, but doesn’t appear on the menu. They just have a little placard on the counter. You might be curious about the name. Me too. The drink is described as a Hong Kong Style Yuan Yang. This is a reference  to Mandarin Ducks, the symbol of conjugal love in Chinese culture. The birds usually appear in pairs and the male and female look very different. This same connotation of a “pair” of two unlike items is used to name this drink because coffee tea together is unusual. The Tipsy addition is all American. Thanks, China! It was so yummy!!!!

My friends, we have arrived at the last drink of the evening! Our final tipple of the night would be back in the UK at the Rose and Crown. We saluted our victory with a couple drams of Jameson whiskey. I have a life tip for you: when the bartender asks if you want to make it a double for just two dollars more, you say “yes, sir”.


Yes, please.

So, how did we do on our quest? Well, we didn’t follow the rules of one snack and one drink each in every country. That may have killed us. We did, however, have some sort of taste from every country except America, (cause why bother?) and Morocco. We just missed that one. Here’s our tally. I’m not sure if I should be proud or deeply ashamed.

  • Mexico– Two Margaritas and Queso & chips
  • Norway-One Aquavit and School Bread
  • China– One Tipsy Ducks
  • Germany-One Dunkel, Brat, Nudel Gratin  
  • Italy– One Wine flight, Panini
  • United States-nada
  • Japan-Sake, Beer
  • Morocco-Nothing
  • France– Two Slushy Drinks, Wine, Escargot
  • United Kingdom– Two Bumble Bees and two whiskies
  • Canada– One Beer, cheese soup and Filet
  • Bonus: Two craft beers, South Korean pork lettuce wrap and rice drink

We took our hooch up to my new favorite spot to view Illuminations, Canada. Once again we were completely alone up here.


Canada seems to be boring him right now.

This spot is a dozen steps up from the walkway, so while it’s farther back. it’s a completely clear view.





After Illuminations, the park is officially closed. This is when the throngs of people all stream out to the busses. We instead took a post- Illuminations stroll in the opposite direction. This was one of the most magical nights of our trip. Being in World Showcase with practically no one else there was just so lovely. The pavilions look so beautiful at night. I skipped and twirled all around the whole lagoon. Hey, I had a lot to drink.  I’ll leave you with the photos I snapped and won’t burden you with any more commentary.





























Up Next: Is there anything left to do in Hollywood Studios?

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment

Around the World

Today we will be visiting Epcot. Our main objective was to eat and drink around World Showcase but first, we had a bit of business to do in the front of the park.


Yes, we want a selfie in front of the Food and Wine display. Not we’re not waiting in line, off to side will do.

I don’t believe that I’ve mentioned so far how absolutely perfect the weather was while we were there. We had seriously dodged some awfulness in the weeks leading up to our trip. It was obnoxiously hot and humid culminating in a serious hurricane that closed the parks for only the fourth time in its history. Hurricane Matthew took all the mugginess with it and we were left with clear skies and perfect temperatures for the entire week.


Blue skies shining on me.

As soon as we passed through the gates I spotted a delightful surprise, The Muppet Mobile Lab! 



Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew are a part of the “Living Character Initiative” that began over ten years ago. During this ten minute show they scientists can interact with guests in real time while performing a series of  comedy routines. The Mobile Lab is basically a Segway equipped with flashing lights, rotating signs, bubble jets, smoke sprayers, water misters and confetti cannons. The boys had left Epcot in 2009 to travel around the world to other Disney parks, but they came back just in time for our visit. This wouldn’t be our last real encounter with Muppets. Foreshadowing!

We watched the remainder of the show then headed to the Land Pavilion to experience a (almost) brand new attraction, Soarin’ Around the World. 


Gorgeous mosaics line the entranceway.

The Soarin’ attraction has been a staple of Future World since 2005. The original premise was a picturesque trip across the broad and varied terrain of California. While it continued to be a fan favorite, the film had gotten a bit long in the tooth. It went under refurbishment for quite a long time, not only reworking the film, but updating the digital technology and adding third concourse to ease up the wait times.


Lookin’ Good

The new film breaks free of the boundaries of California and takes us all around the world! I had heard enough about the new film to unfortunately be looking out for the negative stuff. All in all it’s great, but they went a little over the top with a lot of CGI in this iteration. Made me a little nostalgic for the old scratchy film.

While we were in the land Pavilion we used our fastpass for Living with the Land. A few years back that sentence would have been ridiculous, but now with the new “Fast Pass+” in place, attractions like this which used to be walk-ons are having wait times of thirty minutes and more. It seems like this new system is just spreading the misery around a little more evenly.


The waiting.

Living with the Land is an opening day attraction whose purpose is to educate, which was originally the whole point of Epcot. It begins with show scenes illustrating how the powerful forces of nature shape the land, then our boat ride proceeds into The Land’s “Living Laboratory”, which showcases ideas about the future of agriculture. This is most certainly not a thrill ride, but it has its charms. The ride through the greenhouses is quite relaxing.


Amaranth in the floral greenhouse.


Water gardens


The experimental hydroponic gardens. Hops! That reminds me, it’s time to start drinkin’

We were visiting Epcot during the peak of the Food and Wine Festival. Loyal readers may recall that we have enjoyed this festival in the past. I was positively giddy the first year we got to go, That being said, I wasn’t so stoked about it this time. We hadn’t originally planned to visit this time of year, but here we were. I was just so looking forward to strolling around World Showcase without it being cluttered with all the food booths not to mention the throngs of people. Also, with all the standing in line for the teeny bites, there’s much less time to wander and explore the pavilions and enjoy the cuisine that’s to be had therein. Lastly, the value of the nibbles and drinks of the Festival has gotten a little bonkers. So, for this go ’round we’ll be (mostly) ignoring the food booths and instead making a courageous attempt to eat and drink around the World! We start north with Canada.


Victoria Gardens

So, remember when I said we wouldn’t be visiting the Food and Wine booths? Well, there’s no choice in Canada for walk up snacks, so…


“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce


Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup with Pretzel Roll

These were both winners. The filet was tender and a good portion (not always the case according to bloggers) and the soup was smokey and perfectly accompanied by the bread. It was more like a cheesy bacon dip. The drink selections here we not so good so I moseyed over to the beer cart that’s in Canada year ’round for a La Fin Dumonde. At $10.50 it may seem pricey, but this beer has a 9.0% ABV and is a full pint. If you ordered this at a pub it would be served in a snifter and probably only ten ounces. Plus, it’s delicious!


Good choice

We made our way up into the pavilion away from the crowds and found a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy our refreshments.


Perfect spot.

We finished our snacks and wandered through the Pavilion before moving on.


We were crossing back over to Mexico for our next stop. We didn’t think that starting with tequila would be a wise plan. On the way, were lured into the Craft Beer Marketplace.


Why not?

This is housed in the Odyssey building which used to be a restaurant but has been closed for decades. It’s just a general use space now. I think this is quite a good use for it. The beers were tasty and it’s a nice spot to cool off and take a rest.


Odyssey interior.


I believe we got the Shipyard Midnight Snack Milk Stout, Clearwater, FL and the Florida Beer Company Passport 20 Belgian-Style Tripel Ale, Cape Canaveral, FL. All the beers were local to Florida.

After our diversion, we made it to Mexico!


Aztec art outside Mexico.

This area is another great place to cool off and take a break. There’s lots of little carts and things to looks at or buy. Not exactly my style, but still fun.


Cheery skulls.


These guys look a bit parched.


Lot of colorful characters.


Like this guy.

Also in Mexico is the Arribas Brothers Glass shop. Their wares don’t seem to fit particularly into the Mexican theme, but it’s interesting none the less.


He’s making a snow man.



We wanted to space out our drinks a little longer so we took a ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour. Always a good take. They added these animatronics to the end just recently.


Donald, Panchito and José

It was tequila time! There was a line out the door at La Cava del Tequila for drinks to-go, but only a short wait for a table inside. I just love this spot. Disney has been creating more and more small lounges like this where you can tuck in and get away from the crowds.


Avocado El Mayor Premium silver Tequila, melon liqueur, fresh avocado, agave nectar and fresh lime juice, served frozen with hibiscus Himalayan salt rim


Cucumber El Mayor Premium silver Tequila, triple sec, caramelized pineapple juice, fresh basil, cucumber and agave nectar, served on the rocks with a cactus-lemongrass Himalayan salt rim

These were both really well crafted, but we agreed that the Avocado was the winner.


There’s no losers here, though.

We got some Chips and Queso here too. Boy, these were just terrific. They also came with a nice smokey salsa.


Perfect Snack.

Continuing on to Norway! This area has recently been infiltrated by Elsa and Ana of Frozen. This was certainly controversial due to the fact that Arendelle is fictional and therefore not in Norway. That being said, they’ve done a nice job with the facades of the show buildings. If you don’t want to see these characters, you don’t have to.  We would be seeing the sisters later. Today, we are here for the School Bread!


Ana And Elsa’s Summer Haus.


Is this the cutest bathroom sign ever???


The pastry case. No decision making here, though.


This is the bomb.


Vikings guarding the joint.

Our drink at Norway was actually a shot of Aquavit. This is purported to be so vile that they have a “Viking Challenge”, wherein you take the shot and then have to hold a straight face for five seconds. If you succeed, you get a pin exclaiming your victory. I took a sip off the top so I could say I had a drink in Norway, then Jeff knocked it back.



Years of drinking cheap bourbon must have been good training for this, because it tasted pretty darn good. It had a nice floral aroma and tasted strongly of caraway. Good stuff. They didn’t have any pins though. That’s bull crap!

Next on the roster was the U.K. This pub is always hopping.


Rose and Crown


I wanted to try one of the Pub Blends, instead of just a Guinness.


We went with the Bumblebee.


Mr. Jones approved.

The bitter of the Boddingtons cut through the Guinness nicely. We didn’t have any food in the U.K., but these were a meal on their own. We wandered through the shops and the back gardens of the pavilion.


So much detail and this is just a gift shop.


I should have gotten reservations here.


Our family crest.


Love these gardens!


This back area is always quiet when there’s no band playing.


The gazebo on the left is where the U.K. tribute band plays. We’ll see them later.


Thatched roof cottage.


We found a nook in the gift shop with just two chairs. Don’t mind if we do!


Over the bridge and we’re in France.


Love the architecture here.

Jeff stepped up to purchase a couple slushy, froo froo drinks.


It takes a real man to order girly drinks.


Scratch that.

There wasn’t any place to lounge in France, so we traipsed on over to Morocco to find a seat.


No waiting here. It was empty. Poor Morocco, everyone is afraid of your food.


Beautiful surroundings.


The drinks were just as I expected, over priced and not very boozy, but hit the spot!


Morocco has other ahem, attributes as well.

It was getting time to get some more food on board so we tracked back to France. We couldn’t resist their Food and Wine kiosk, it smelled so garlicky and delicous!


Viva la France!


The source of the aromas: Croissant aux escargots with garlic and parsley along with a nondescript wine.

This was really good. The escargot have been a staple at Food and Wine France, it’s just the delivery that is always different. Last time, brioche, this time croissant. Both just lovely. 

We’ve made good progress so far, but we’ve got the whole night ahead of us. Take a little rest and we’ll be back to attempt to finish our quest to conquer the WORLD!

Up Next: We have the whole World showcase to ourselves!!!!

Posted in Dining Review, U. S. Travel, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World | Leave a comment