Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - 2012 preview

Well, perhaps preview is not quite the right word.  Maybe we can call it the 2011 flashback.  But.  Many of the details are the same, so perhaps preview is the right word after all. 

So...what is the "Food and Wine Festival?"  For the festival, there are over 25 countries/speciality booths around the world showcase offering appetizer sized portions along with drinks from all over the world.  Along with the booths, there are cooking demonstrations, seminars, and tasting events - some are even with celebrity chefs.  The booths don't require a special ticket, but many of the other events of the festival not only require reservations - some of them can be pretty pricey.   For more event details, check out the Disney Food blog for great descriptions, reviews and prices.

This year is the 17th year for the festival - and it starts the last Friday in September and runs through the 2nd Sunday in November (in case you want to put it on your calendar for next year!).

Enough semantics - let's see the highlights of the food festival!!  (To see a complete list of menus for 2012, check out the Disney website.)

In front of each kiosk is a huge menu so you can decide if there is something that you'd like to try.  Do note that if you are on the Disney Dining Plan, you can use your snack credits for ALL the food items (including ones that are almost $8 in price!!).  

Argentina menu:

(see all those dining plan emblems?!  Those are snack credits!)

We tried both the empanada and the beef skewer, with the beef skewer being the favorite

Now, just a note about "how" we ate at the festival.  There were the four of us (husband, daughters - aged 10 and 13, and myself) - and we pretty much split everything 4 ways.  There were some things that not all of us wanted to try - but typically we each had a bite.  It's a great way to make your money or your snack credits last - and a way to be sure you don't fill up so you can keep on eating!

Next up - Australia:

Australia's lamb chop was the universal favorite in my family - it was fabulous.  And I actually wish we had gotten more than the one.  My oldest gnawed on that bone for longer than was polite.  And this year, I am kinda disappointed that it's a lamb chop with minted pesto instead of the sauce from 2011.

Ireland menu:

Here we tried (and both are still on the menu for 2012) the fisherman's pie and the lava cake:

 The fisherman's pie was excellent - lots of pieces of seafood and not a "fishy" taste to it.  The cake was a hit with my kids.  We were urgently informed that one cake was not enough so I believe at least one more was consumed.  And speaking of one is not enough, let's go to France.

France menu:

Here we tried both the creme brulee and the escargots.  And we each got our own plates of escargots as snails are my kids' favorite food.  Really.  Can you imagine going to open house at your children's school - and seeing the hallway decorated with "about me" pages.  Where the students answered questions like favorite color, subject and food.  And for food, the kids put things like spaghetti, tacos, mac and cheese.  And then there is Madalyn's - with her favorite as "escargots."  

We've had the escargots several times at the festival - but this is the first time in brioche - and it's fantastic this way.  The creme brulee was just okay.

Belgium's menu:
Here, we tried everything.  I am not a fan of mussels, but my husband and oldest daughter thought they were great.  My youngest and I shared the waffle.  And I was pretty disappointed in the truffles - it's a wrapped box of chocolate (so disappointed I didn't even take a photo in protest)!

Let's look at Mexico:

My kids loved the flan - and this year there will be a variation on it - a caramel custard instead of a vanilla.  The ribeye taco was not that good - and it's not on the menu for this year - but the shrimp taco was fantastic.

Greece menu:

This was actually our first festival booth and we tried the chicken souvlaki:

This year when we go to the festival, it will just be my husband and myself while we leave the kids at home to go to school.  They are both pretty upset at being left at home as the food and wine festival is their favorite time of year to go.  My oldest is going to be really upset when she finds out that Greece has added spanakopita to their menu.

Did you know that you could go to the festival and eat all of the above for FREE?  You can enjoy the festival with a free dining plan this fall - just email me today at disneykatrina@gmail.com and we can talk about availability, dates and prices.

If you'd like to see more posts about Disney, be sure to visit Deb's Focused on the Magic!

So...what about you?  Have you been to the food and wine festival before?  What food are you most looking forward to trying?


Monday, July 30, 2012

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

On July 30, 1999, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster opened at Disney's MGM theme park.  Happy 13th birthday to my favorite roller coaster!

And because it's also my 14 year old's favorite roller coaster, she is taking over today to tell you about her favorite ride:

My favorite ride in all of Disney World is Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It’s a fast, fun filled roller coaster located in Hollywood Studios.

The queue is decorated with band posters and concert tee shirts in the first half. During your wait, you will watch a video explaining the ride’s story; you are on a studio tour when you find Aerosmith recording a song. The have to leave for a concert, and offer to bring you with them. When you exit the holding room for the video, the ride scene transforms. There are limos lining up ready to take you to the Aerosmith concert.

Once you get into your limo you’re off to the tunnel entrance. 

There’s a flashy neon sign at the entrance, plus speakers right by both of your ears. A loud countdown is chanted by concert guests, and once it ends you’re off! 

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster takes you from a standstill to almost 60 miles per hour in less than three seconds!
The initial launch sends your limo straight into a loop. However, it’s so dark at this point many people can’t even tell that’s what they’re doing. From here on out your limo swooshes through the dark illuminated by several different neon signs and shapes. There are many swoops and turns, plus another loop and corkscrew. There is one hill, and it’s incredibly small and near the end. After the ride ends, you can see your ride photos that were taken as you first went into the launch.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is my favorite ride because of the intense speed, launch, and loops. Anyone who enjoys thrill rides will definitely enjoy Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster!

One of the best ways to enjoy this ride is to be sure and get a fast pass - but if that doesn't work out, our family loves to use the single rider line.  We have done this - and timed it - and we have managed to get in the line, ride the ride, check out our ride pictures, and get back in line again in UNDER 8 MINUTES!  It is not always that fast - but it's often quite faster than standing in the regular stand by line.  It is a single rider line - you won't get to ride with your friends or family (though sometimes it does work out that you can - but not often!) - and you won't get to choose where you sit (we like to sit in the front or the back - and we request that) - but you'll get to ride multiple times without a lot of waiting.

The other thing that we LOVE to do is to make crazy pictures for our ride photos.  As we stand in line, we talk about what kind of pose we'd like to do.  And here are some of the results:

(The Stephen Tyler pose)

(not sure what happened here!  My youngest looks sleepy and my oldest looks constipated.  Mom and dad are into the groove though!)

(I believe this is our "Home Alone" look)

 (Rock on Dude!)

(Thumbs up - again, what is going on with my oldest - who knows? ;-)

So...what about you?  Do you have a favorite Roller Coaster at Disney?  Have you ever used the Single rider line?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Goofy T-shirts

A quintessential part of every Disney Vacation is a souvenir budget.  And for our family, a huge part of that budge is t-shirts.  We like Mickey shirts.  Park shirts.  Ride shirts.  And even if we aren't buying, I love looking at what Disney has to offer.  There is a great line of "retro" looking shirts harkening back to original fonts and images of 1971.  And then, there is a new line of Goofy t-shirts in Epcot - the "how to dress" series:

From Canada:

From Germany:

And From Norway:

I so hope that Disney continues to add to this so we can see Goofy in all the countries.  Perhaps a "how to dress like a mariachi player" in Mexico.  Or "how to dress like a samurai" in Japan.  Or "how to dress like a mime" in France.

So...what about you?  What "how to dress" shirt do you think Disney should make?  Do you have a favorite souvenir t-shirt?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Inside Cinderella's Castle - a story in mosaics

I practically grew up at Disney World.  And I distinctly remember walking through the castle from the hub and into Fantasy Land.  I remember the heat and the humidity.  And then, in the cool corridor of the castle, a welcome respite.  And in that corridor - I remember mosaics telling the story of Cinderella.

But going to Magic Kingdom with my own children, I don't recall walking through the castle.  It's often blocked off because of the stage for the Dream Along with Mickey show.  And.  My family tends to tour in a circular pattern, so walking through the middle doesn't typically happen.

And then on our last trip, I wanted to go back through the castle to see if things were as I remembered.  My girls didn't even realize you could walk right through!

There wasn't a lot of "traffic" on our end - but at the other end are the entrances to Cinderella's Royal Table on one side and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the other.  So I was able to take a leisurely walk and enjoy the beautiful mosaics and assure myself that I hadn't conjured up a childhood memory - that it was all real.

If you'd like to see more Disney photos themed around the letter C - check out Deb's "Focused on the Magic" blog and join in the hop!

So...what about you?  Have you seen the mosaics inside the castle?  Do you have a favorite childhood memory of Disney World?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge - a Review

As a travel agent, I am often asked if I have a favorite resort.  It's like asking me to pick a favorite child.  I love them all - in their own way - for various reasons.  But.  If you ask my children which is their favorite resort - Animal Kingdom Lodge wins hands down every time.

Why is it their favorite?  Because whenever they want, they can go out on the balcony and see this:

I'll tell you that it was a great motivator to get out of bed in the morning to see what they could see!

And now I am going to tell you a secret.  There are a number of views you can reserve at AKL.  There is standard (which gives you a rooftop or parking lot view), pool view, savanna view, or the very best - Arusha savanna view.  And now the secret - our view that you see above - it's a standard view!  Let me try and explain this lucky circumstance.

Here is a map of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Our room was on the Zebra trail - facing the Uzima savanna.  And our room - well, it was 27 miles from the lobby to our room.  Down, down the zebra trail.  All the way to that fourth pod of rooms - and we were in the corner.  And that corner is how we got the standard room view - because the savanna is partially obstructed by the building.

Now, these savanna view standard rooms - there are very few of them - but if you book standard view - it's worth asking about when you check in!

Let's talk money for a moment.  Another well kept secret - Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the least expensive deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World (Wilderness Lodge is the other).  And if you want a deluxe, but a savanna view is not in your budget - there are still LOTS of places to view the animals from around the resort.  There are huge windows as you walk down the halls that overlook the Arusha savanna.  There are even "porches" on several floors where you can go out and look - some even have night vision goggles!

And there is the overlook - a place where even visitors to the lodge can go and see the animals.  And not only can you walk out - but there are guides from different parts of Africa there to answer your questions.

Another big draw to AKL is the pool.  It's a zero entry pool with a slide - hot tub - pool bar -and lots of shady spots to park yourself to read your book.  And not only do you have this fabulous pool, but you can go next door to the Kidani Village and use their pool, too.

1.  animals, animals, animals
2.  Two beautifully themed pools
3.  Gorgeous lobby and resort grounds
4.  Restaurants - counter service near the pool - the Mara, a table service location - Boma (and Sanaa next door at Kidani Village), and a signature dining experience - Jiko.
5.  large balconies
6.  If you stay club level, you have access to a special tour - the Sunrise safari at the Animal Kingdom park.
7.  Beautiful rooms - gorgeous carvings on the headboards and dresser.  Granite in the bathrooms.  African art on the walls. 
8.  Really unique offerings - like the night vision goggles or African story tellers by the fire pit.  Or even in the gift shop, there are African items - and even a large selection of African wines.
9.  Offers the option to have a room with a bunk bed.
10.  childcare onsite (Simba's Clubhouse)

1.  Location - as a resort near Animal Kingdom, it's really far from all the other parks
2.  Another resort that offers those thick, heavy, stiff comforters
3.  Potentially a really long walk from the bus/lobby to your room
4.  The rooms are the smallest of the deluxe resorts. 

So...what about you?  Is a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in your future?  If you've stayed there - what was your favorite thing?