30 April 2012

I wish tonight

Up to six months in advance we schedule our dining reservations for a trip to Walt Disney World. Then we pencil electrically lit parades, over the top fireworks displays, and other nighttime spectaculars into our itineraries. Yet, it never seems to fail, there is always an evening left open or a night you decide you’ve simply had enough of the crowds of firework gawkers. The question then becomes, what do you do with a night off in Walt Disney World?

Well, fear not dedicated reader, the Gazette Roundtable is here with their thoughts and suggestions.

Roundtable Topic: What do you do in Walt Disney World when you need a night away from the parks?
Roundtable Contributors: Greg Grimsley (The Disney Obsession), Matthew Sedler (the geekTicket), Elizabeth Caran (Take the Monorail), George Taylor (Imaginerding), Fiona (DF’82), AJ Wolfe (The Disney Food Blog), Andy Jackson (Eating (and Drinking) around the World), Eric Hoffman (Netmongrel), and yours truly.
Greg – A night away from the parks? Is there such a thing? It is at night when I love the parks all that much more since it gives me the opportunity to set up a tripod and hope to capture some nice nighttime shots. But, I do admit that I do get out of the parks during the evening now and then.

In fact, I feel no trip to Walt Disney World is complete without spending a few hours in Downtown Disney. An hour or so in The Art of Disney is a "must do" on any visit, as is some time spent in Once Upon A Time. Rarely will I leave either of these shops without a merchandize shipping receipt tucked nicely in my wallet. The Pin Trading shop and World of Disney are also on the list, and lately, I have really enjoyed browsing Mickey's Pantry. I can spend a half hour experiencing the spice blends.

I like to visit Downtown Disney on an evening when the park I am in closes early. This gives me a chance to get there while it is a bit less crowded. Once the shopping is done I can grab a drink and find a place to set and indulge in another Disney pass time; people watching.

So, at night, if I am not taking photographs, you'll find me milling about Downtown Disney.
Matthew – This is such an easy question for me, because I think I could spend every night away from the parks at Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village. It's my favorite restaurant on property. Period. And when you're done, you can check out the wildlife roaming on the grounds nearby. Just thinking about it makes me want to book a trip. 

Elizabeth – I enjoy being creative for a "down" night. I am fortunate enough to have a good friend in the area and we have taken in a bit of the local theater scene together. As you can imagine, there's a rich pool of talent in the Orlando area and I am constantly impressed by the high caliber performances both inside and outside the parks. But when I'm not out prowling the arts scene, there are plenty of choices closer to the parks for a quiet evening away. My favorites include dining at one of the fine resort restaurants or enjoying an evening at the spa. As a Vacation Club member, I've even hosted a dinner party in our villa. That's one of the fantastic things about Disney World. The options are limited only by your own imagination.

George – I'll be honest, Ryan, I don't understand the question.

A night away from the parks? 

That usually only happens when I visit in the winter months and the Magic Kingdom closes at 6:00pm. Then I head over to Epcot. The only time I am not in a theme park at Walt Disney World is when I am sleeping or driving to and from the park. Occasionally, I will eat at a Disney hotel.

I guess that is as good of an answer as any. When I am at Walt Disney World and I need a night away (shudder) from the parks, I will visit a Disney hotel  to eat at a restaurant and enjoy the grounds. Preferably, it is a hotel restaurant with a theme park view (like the Polynesian or the Contemporary) so I can still see the Castle. I will even visit the beautiful Animal Kingdom Lodge to eat at Boma since it is great food and a gorgeous atmosphere. Of course, I tend to like places with good atmosphere; dining some place without oxygen might be a little difficult.

Even if I am in the middle of a trip and I have to leave the Magic Kingdom (you know, because Security is making me leave so they can clean the place), I will feel really sad and not want to leave. It is that odd moment when you approach the exit turnstyles and you don't know if you will ever be able to come back. Friends will have to promise me special treats and surprises to get me to leave the entrance area.

So, yeah, I do have a problem. But don't we all?
Fiona – When I need some time away from the Parks in the evening, I will usually head away to one of the Resorts. Some of the best dining on property can be found at the Resorts, in my opinion. When Ryan posed this question, the first place I thought of was the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is one of the most beautiful Resorts in the evening, and has one of my favourite restaurants on all of property – Boma. You can spend some time at the bar if you are too early for your dining reservation (and yes, reservations are recommended!), and then when it’s time to have your meal, you can spend hours enjoying the different tastes on offer. And whilst everyone raves about the meats and deserts (which I second as being delicious), they serve some of the freshest fruit too, and their pineapple is divine...
After dinner, be sure to walk around the Lodge itself. You can walk out into the night-air and enjoy the views of the animals in the evening. On my past visits (and it’s been a while), I have been able to have a look through the night-vision binoculars, and see the animals enjoying the evening on the savannah. Be sure to take some time to sit outside, if the evening is pleasant enough, and enjoy the sounds and the smells of the area. The lobby is also a gorgeous area to spend time in, and to people watch.

If you’re not an animal lover, or want a change from the wilderness as such, my other suggestion would be to go to the Boardwalk area. One of my perfect evenings in this area includes a dinner in the Yachtsman Steakhouse (which can pass the time most enjoyably!), then wonder around the Boardwalk, perhaps taking in some ice cream at Beaches and Creme, if you have room for it. I can just about taste the ice cream as I write...

AJ – Ha ha! Usually I SLEEP! But some of my other favorite past times are heading to Jellyrolls on the Boardwalk, watching the fireworks and the water pageant from the beach at the Polynesian, and escaping to dinner at a resort. Or maybe all three! In fact, let's do this: dinner at Citricos in the Grand Floridian, walk over to the Polynesian to watch the fireworks from the beach, then head over to the Boardwalk for an Alabama Slamma' and a night requesting Journey songs over and over and over again. Ah... perfect! Oh, you'd like to join me? But of course!
AndyA night away from the parks... most visitors to the World probably can’t imagine all the possibilities that exist on property outside the confines of the four parks.

I’m sure the other respondents here will mention several ideas I’m not familiar with, but some of the “usual suspects” are great choices: an evening listening to (and participating with) the amazing performance of Yeehaw Bob Jackson; testing your putting skills at Winter Summerland or Fantasia Gardens (I’ll actually be pretty shocked if a certain person here doesn’t bring this one up); taking in a movie at Downtown Disney, or one of the movies shown outdoors at many of the resorts; having a campfire sing-along with Chip and Dale - or a more adult sing-along at Jellyrolls - and on and on and on...

But for me, it will be no surprise that my de facto “outside the parks evening” will involve a great meal, some adult beverages, and then a bit of a Lagniappe...

So we’re going to head to a resort, have a pre-dinner beverage or three (along with a few during and after the dinner), and then explore the resort area for a little something extra (that’s your Lagniappe) to top off the evening...

For one night we can head to Animal Kingdom Lodge - a visit to the Victoria Falls Bar is a great way to start - for a romantic evening Jiko is the choice for sure, for variety the buffet at Boma can’t be beat... after a wonderful meal, we head outside for a bit of night vision viewing of the savannah to top things off... if it’s cool outside, a sit-down around the fire pit could also in order...

If you’re more in the Island mood head over to the Polynesian one night - you can start with a Lapu-Lapu at the Tambu Lounge, then have some great sushi (or order from the complete Kona Cafe menu) at the Kona Island Sushi Bar. After dinner head down to the beach to watch Wishes - one of the best ever places to view fireworks from!

How about the Boardwalk area? Start your evening at the often overlooked Bellevue Lounge, one of my favorite bars in all of WDW. Great dining possibilities abound here: the Greek-influenced dining at Iron Chef Cat Cora’s Kouzzina, a traditional steakhouse menu at Yachtsman, seafood and more at Flying Fish. For more casual dining (and some great in-house brewed beers) Big River Grille is worth a try... or take a short walk over to the Swan/Dolphin for even more dining options: bluezoo, Kimonos, Il Mulino and even the surprisingly interesting items at the poolside dining at the Cabana Bar & Beach Club.

After dinner you can wander the Boardwalk and enjoy in the entertainers that make that area their home - you may find a juggler or a magician... If you like hire a surrey-bike and take a ride...

And that’s just for a start... you can find some great dining and before/after dinner fun also at the Wilderness Lodge (try taking a boat ride to or from the Magic Kingdom), Kidani Village (Sanaa is one of the best, and most under-rated restaurants in WDW), drinks, food and fireworks at the California Grill on top of the Contemporary or at any of the great restaurants at the Grand Floridian (again, you can have great food at Narcoossee's, and if you time it right, a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks).You don’t have to settle for delivery pizza and some TV if you don’t want to stay in a park all night... have some fun, eat some great food, explore...

Eric – If we are in the mood to spend time on property but outside the parks, we will invariably be drawn to the resorts.  My wife and I are in love with the Disney resorts and never tire of touring them.  A great way to spend some non-park time for us would be to catch a meal at a Boardwalk Resort restaurant, Kouzzina is always a good choice for us.  An evening reservation allows us to then spend time at dusk watching night fall on Crescent Lake.  The atmosphere in the Boardwalk area is truly magical!

In order to fill in some mid-day time, a dip in the pool at your Disney resort (you are staying on-property of course) and then some miniature golf at Fantasia Gardens is a perfectly acceptable way to spend a day at WDW.

Some other suggestions:
1. Rent boats from the Polynesian marina and tour the Seven Seas Lagoon
2. Parasailing
3. Shopping and dining at Downtown Disney
4. Take a DVC presentation - informative, low-key, and interesting
5. Take advantage of resort tours

There are endless things to do outside the parks, all worthwhile, many free, and all are full of Disney magic.
Ryan – I’ll keep my thoughts simple, miniature golf or Electrical Water Pageant.

What, that needs more of an explanation? Okay, fine…

One of my time-honored traditions stems from partaking in a round of miniature golf on each visit to Walt Disney World. While I prefer the whimsy of the Garden Course at Fantasia Gardens, any of the four courses make for a chuckle-filled evening. Oh, and playing after the sun has set also means it’s a bit cooler and you are less likely to end up as red as an apple.

My other evening pastime is grabbing a spot on Bay Lake and awaiting the arrival of sea serpents, octopuses, dolphins and other creatures of the deep. While I usually precede the watery parade with something off of Trail’s End’s take-out menu and some roasted marshmallows at the Camp Fire Sing-A-Long, these are not necessarily required.

Last but not least, over the course of a very long research trip, I have been known, on occasion, to simply hit the sack a little early.

As you can see, there is enough to do after hours away from the parks to fill a trip itinerary unto itself. Which idea from our distinguished panel hit the right note with your itinerary? Or, better yet, what other activities do you find to occupy your evenings in Walt Disney World?

29 April 2012

Disney This Week - 29 April 2012

Matt Hochberg weighs in with his thoughts on the exportation of Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Studios Central.

Concept art for the redesigned Test Track came down from Jennifer Fickley-Baker and the Disney Parks Blog.

AJ Wolfe highlights the crème brûlées of Walt Disney World at The Disney Food Blog.

Eating WDW and Sarah Holodick check out the music, libations, and dishes of Biergarten.

Melissa Loflin breaks down what it means to be a Conservation Hero for Makin’ Memories.

Adam and Andrew of the Disney Hipster Blog find as much to love in the art of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge as I do, this week they look at Nupe pot displays.

In the gone-but-not-forgotten category, Estelle Hallick gives readers of This Happy Place a great tour of the yesterdays of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Josh Taylor looks at Fire Mountain, an attraction that never found its way to the Magic Kingdom, for WDW Radio.

27 April 2012

A guaranteed cure

If you’re looking for the perfect spot to roast some marshmallows or create some s’mores, there really is no better spot than the campfire show held in the Meadows area of Fort Wilderness. This is especially true if you like to have a sing-a-long to go along with your gooey treats! While the wagon advertises every sort of miracle cure you can think of, it’s who this set-up belongs to that is really intriguing.
To uncover the proprietor of these shame remedies, you have to venture around the back of the stage to see the backside of the wagon. The name listed is Doctor Terminus. Doc Terminus was the scheming charlatan in the 1977 live action, animated hybrid film, Pete’s Dragon. Taking place in the town of Passamaquoddy, a term which Terminus has an incredible amount of trouble remembering, the film follows the antics of a small boy and his friendly dragon, Elliot. Of course, once the Doc finds out about the dragon he must have him for his wild designs. It should go without saying that his plans are doomed to fail.

Doc Terminus was portrayed by comedian Jim Dale, most recently known for his work as the audiobook voice of the Harry Potter series.

Before we depart the wayward medicine sideshow, we should take pause to inspect the advertisements on the wagon stage. A Hearth Cure, worth its weight in 14K gold, the classic Snake Oil, and a Hair Restorer courtesy of O.U. Wish (Suddenly I feel like I’m over at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) can all be found here. On the back side, where the WORLD RENOWNED Doctor Terminus hangs his name, the proclamations include MIRACLE CURES and REMEDIES FOR INSTANT RELIEF. Considering the location of where Doc Terminus has chosen to set up the next line, where the medical cures come from, is a doozy: FROM ACROSS THE SEVEN SEAS

26 April 2012

Whole bean or ground

When Walt Disney World opened and into its second decade in the 1980’s, a cup of Maxwell House could appease even the most finicky of coffee drinkers. Yet, since the early 1990’s our coffee IQ has come up as a whole. Espresso beverages became more and more the norm and a regular cup of joe just didn’t seem to cut it, in Walt Disney World or otherwise. Word came down this week that Starbucks would be making its way into the six domestic Disney parks. As I don’t drink coffee, I thought I’d reach out to someone who has coffee streaming through her veins, my wife, Aileen.
Hello Main Street Gazette readers! I am here today to discuss one of the great loves of my life…coffee. Finding drinkable coffee while at Walt Disney World has been one of my biggest struggles. In fact, after my first trip as an adult, we had to add coffee and the other accompaniments that go along with it to our packing list so that I was prepared in the morning. I was utterly shocked that a resort location with the size and reputation of Walt Disney World had such a shameful selection of coffee products.

Whenever I forgot to bring coffee on our trip, it ended up being a fight to figure out how I was going to find something that would satisfy, usually ending with a trip to Kona Café at the Polynesian Resort or The Swan and Dolphin. 

However, my constant complaining and prayers to the coffee gods have apparently paid off! Starbucks is coming to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. In June, the first location will be coming to Disney California Adventure park, with more locations planned for Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort. I am not exactly sure when the Starbucks locations will open in Walt Disney World, but I am hoping it won’t be much after the first opening.

Obviously I am excited about this decision, but I do have some reservations. How is Disney going to make sure that Starbucks actually fits into the theme of the area? What type of pricing are we going to have to deal with? Starbucks coffee is already very pricy, is it going to be even more expensive inside the parks? Also, is this change going to reach the resorts? Will we be able to get Starbucks drip coffee at the food courts and restaurants or will that still be the same coffee they have been serving?

Overall, I think this is a move in the right direction. Starbucks is much better quality than what has been offered in the past and will definitely make the coffee drinkers happy. Also, this makes perfect sense for a company who has long had alliances with outside food companies (i.e. Nestle, Edy’s, McDonalds etc.).  I just hope that Disney considers price, theme and product availability.

25 April 2012


If there are two types of cake that are classic, and yet done to death by just about every restaurant out there, they are red velvet and cheesecake. On their own, each has their place, but short of the best cheesecake you’ve ever had, they all seem to run together. Find a way to combine them, however, with a dash of creativity thrown in and you have something truly worth your taste bud’s time!
The Tie-Dyed Cheesecake can only be found at Everything Pop in POP Century. I don’t know about you, but I love finding unique items that can’t be tasted anywhere else on property. The cake is half red velvet and half cheesecake. By placing the red velvet on the bottom, the need for a graham cracker crust, or any other type of crust for the cheesecake, has been eliminated. The cheesecake itself is a whirl of colors, which is accomplished by divvying up the cheesecake batter into separate portions and adding food coloring. From there, large dollops of each color are added, swirled together, and repeated until the cheesecake portion reaches the desired height.

I know there are those of you out there who love graham cracker crust with your cheesecake, unfortunately, I am not one of them. The cushiony, spongy texture of the red velvet cake, however, is right up my alley! It pairs well with the creamy texture of the cheesecake, and both are very sweet and rich. While I’ve never had a problem devouring a whole piece of the Tie-Dyed Cheesecake, I could see splitting a section as a viable option.

If I have one complaint, it comes from the red velvet cake. It does tend to get a bit oily at times. Obviously, the cake is sopping up what is coming from the cheesecake, but it can make it a bit greasy at times.

Considering that Everything Pop is situated right next to the 1960’s section of POP Century, the Tie-Dyed Cheesecake is a wonderful way to pay respect to that bygone age. It may be a bit out of pocket, but this dessert is worth the miles and calories!

24 April 2012

Every single shot we take

VOICES OF PAST Disney motion pictures are reunited with TV host Mike Douglas, left, during videotaping of Mike Douglas Show at Walt Disney World. Others pictured are from left, Scatman Crothers, the voice of Scat Cat in the Aristocats; Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White; Clarence Nash, voice of Donald Duck; and Sterling Holloway, voice of Winnnie the Pooh and other characters. Behind each guest is the famed Disney character as it appears today. Mike, himself, was the singing voice of Prince Charming in the movie Cinderella. Five 90-minute shows were being taped during the week of January 26 for national telecast in February.
The above photograph from January of 1976 sure packs some star power, huh? However, it should come as no surprise to anyone that what really drew me into this picture is the GAF Photo Trail Sign that standing in the background. Positioned at the corner of Pinocchio Village Haus and the Tournament Tent, this sign designates the exact spot where a picture perfect photo could be staged. Think Kodak Picture Spots, but a much earlier version of the concept.

We talked more about the GAF Photo Trail back in 2009. You can read that article here: GAF Photo Trail 

Back to the main subject of the photograph, these amazing actors and actress have brought to life some of the most amazing characters in the Disney canon, and it is nice to see everyone back home in the Magic Kingdom, specifically in Fantasyland. The 1970’s Snow White, Scat Cat and Winnie the Pooh with the hunny pot on his head are the true gems of this line up. Considering the only Aristocat seen these days is Marie and that both Snow and Pooh have been updated, it wonderful to see this vintage interpretations of the characters.

23 April 2012

Trails cast

We’ve talked before about volunteering for entertainment, from Streetmosphere to shows like the American Idol Experience, and we’ve touched upon what an illuminating production Flights of Wonder is. Today, we’re going to merge the two and show you how to have one of the most inspired experiences in all of Walt Disney World.

For starters, Flights of Wonder takes place on the border of Asia in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the Caravan Stage. With the ruins as a backdrop and a quilted canopy enclosing the auditorium, the show features miraculous feats from a variety of feathered creatures. The narrative helps a skittish adventurer overcome his fear of birds, while the audience laughs and learns along. Toss in a couple of scenarios where a guest can join in on the antics, and you have a show that is a True Life Adventure and the embodiment of edutainment rolled up into one.
One of these moments where guests get to take to the stage involves the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, a gigantic bird that swoops down onto a perch just behind a couple of guests. The hosts of Flights of Wonder ask the audience for volunteers who have a camera out and ready for the ‘picture of a lifetime.’ Once onstage, the selected guests are shown where to focus their cameras just as the hornbill goes soaring out to the back of the theater from offstage.

The next few moments are a whirl of activity. The hornbill dives towards its perch behind the seated guests on the stage. Those same guests hastily snap a photograph or two during the flight and duck, or fight the instinct to flinch, as the hornbill settles onto its post. A moment more to take a picture of this massive bird at rest, and then the guests are ushered back to the audience, along with a certificate proclaiming them a member of the ‘Trails Cast.’
It isn’t until they really look at their photographs later that these guests, of which I was one in March, truly understand what it is they captured. Yes, there is a bird in soaring along, wings outstretched, in the center of the photograph. However, surrounding the bird are the images of the audience. Some ducking, some in utter awe, some determined to capture the best shot they can of this majestic bird. Each guest in the audience is having their own cocktail of emotions, as guests at any production in Walt Disney World do, but aside from the actors on the stage it is rare to be able to witness the entire audience as a guest. Rarer still, is the ability to capture that moment in an image.

Volunteering at Walt Disney World can be a truly terrifying experience, especially if you’d rather stay unnoticed as I do. However, there is so much to be gleaned in those moments when you are the center of attention that it is worth taking that step outside of yourself. As in the case of Flights of Wonder, you become a part of the story, you learn something about the world around and about yourself, and your efforts never go unrewarded.

22 April 2012

Disney This Week - 22 April 2012

Adventureland is a pretty popular place these days, huh? Stepping away from the orange and citrusy magic happening there, Richard Terpstra has a fantastic Adventureland shirt design to share at DesignerLand.

Studios Central and Matt Hochberg show off their keen eyes when they uncover this Who Framed Roger Rabbit gag.

AJ Wolfe reminds readers of The Disney Food Blog about the ability to tour the restaurants of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for free.

A perfect complement to AJ’s article, Adam and Andrew have a photo tour of Sanaa for the Disney Hipster Blog.

James attempts to unravel the mystery of Nahtazu at This Happy Place.

Another affordable tour is covered by Suzannah DiMarzio when she takes Zannaland to The Land for Behind the Seeds.

Sarah Holodick fills us in on her lunch at Fulton’s for Eating WDW.

Continuing her thrifty eating series, Melissa Sue has Epcot options for budget minded diners at The Affordable Mouse.

20 April 2012

Before shipping your droid

Some droids are essential to the proper operation of a starship, but what should you do with your droid if you’re going to be a passenger onboard a starspeeder with a cramped passenger cabin? What else, ship the droid in the cargo section of the ship!

C-3PO may consider this one of those indignities that droids are made to suffer, and he’d be right considering all they do for the lives of the average citizen in the Star Wars universe, but there are certain protocols that must be followed in order to ship your droid. Here’s the rules, as posted by the Star Tours port in Stage 12 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can choose to read them in English or in Aurebesh, the written version of the Basic language in Star Wars.





19 April 2012

In the sunshine tree

I thought about dodging the Orange Bird issue this week, after all it is getting a ton of attention across the Disney community and I haven’t even offered up my thoughts on the return of the Citrus Swirl yet (patients, dedicated readers, my thoughts are coming). But, with dreary weather here I couldn’t help myself but to think some sunny thoughts and dive right in.

The Orange Bird, or more precisely the Florida Orange Bird, first flew into the hearts of the masses in 1970 as the mascot of the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC). When the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World opened in 1971, the Orange Bird joined the host of Disney animated characters the filled the corners of the park and met guests right outside of the Sunshine Tree Pavilion in Adventureland. Anita Bryant was tapped to be the other half of the Sunshine State’s orangey-duo, belting out the sweet, smile-inducing lyrics to The Orange Bird, a song crafted by another duo, the Sherman Brothers.

A collection of falling dominos caused the Florida Orange Bird to become, in the words of Roger Rabbit, “an innocent victim of circumstance.” The first domino, his long-time partner, Anita Bryant fell in 1977 when she took her talents to South Beach. Bryant began promoting an inflammatory campaign against anti-discrimination legislation in Miami, which left a bad taste in mouths everywhere. With Florida’s main export being citrus, and Bryant the face of the citrus society, she was arguably the face of Florida and such hate-filled message had no place with sunny thoughts. The Orange Bird continued on solo, but without a spokesperson to give words to his orange smoke thoughts, he was soon relegated to merchandise duties. The FCC renewed its sponsorship for five years beyond 1981, but the Orange Bird meet-and-greet character stopped making appearances and, when the sponsorship ended, the little birdie flew the coup.

Those who loved the Orange Bird never gave up hope that he would one day find a perch in the Sunshine Tree Pavilion again, even though every outward sign over the past twenty-plus years said we should. For those of us who grew up in Florida, we can remember seeing the smiling beak of the little bird long beyond his days at Walt Disney World at citrus stands around the state. Any native Floridian will tell you, we have orange juice for blood, and the Orange Bird is forever connected to our identity as a people.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the Orange Bird was returning to his home at the Sunshine Tree Terrace. Figurines, Orange Bird sip cups (sip cups in general are a throwback, aren’t they?), shirts, pins, hats, you name it the Orange Bird has his shining face on it now! The question is, should he have returned at all?

The argument any time something is changed is that Walt always wanted to see things changing, that the keep moving forward attitude doesn’t make a ton of sense if all we want to do is hold on to what we have or had. The other side of the dispute likes to remind us that while Walt had one eye to the future, he also had one foot in the past, as is evident by the stories told throughout Disneyland. The reality is, Walt Disney World’s attractions are like friends, you know the old saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.”

It is a fine line to walk, however, if we are being perfectly honest with ourselves, we know that the Orange Bird we see today is bright, and shiny and new, especially for guests who were born after the mid-1980’s. The way he is presented is new to all of us. Never before have we seen him on a pair of mouse ears or wearing a pair of mouse ears, that is a modern development. We know and love the Orange Bird and the brains at Disney (I’d like to take a moment to thank Jason Grandt here. You sir, continually find ways to amaze me and make me smile!) have found the perfect way to honor the old and ring in the new with the return of the Florida Orange Bird.

18 April 2012

Meat can be neat

The menu listing of Beef Nachos served with Black Bean Salsa doesn’t exactly make you want to run out to the Magic Kingdom and sprint over to Tortuga Tavern, does it? But let me elucidate on why this entree should be on your list of Disney eats for an upcoming trip.

For starters, the Beef Nachos shouldn’t be listed in the entree section of the menu, but given that it’s not really a side dish either, I can understand its alignment with full-portion items than the sides. That isn’t to say that the Beef Nachos don’t provide a meal sized serving, they do, but that isn’t where they really thrive. Where they truly shine is as an accompaniment to the other options available to Tortuga Tavern. Placing a plate of the nachos in between two to four guests who are also occupied with their burritos or taco salads, the Beef Nachos offer a different taste in the same flavor spectrum of southwest/south of the border.

The chips are crisp, though nothing to whoop and holler over, the beef is ground and seasoned, and there is a cheese sauce that is sure to stick to anything that it comes into contact with. Is it the best thing for you? No. Is it a must have each and every trip to Walt Disney World? No. But it is fun and the Black Bean Salsa is awesome! A mixture of black bean, cucumber, tomato, red onion, and corn, the salsa is fresh, crunchy, and has the ability to mix and match textures without being overwhelming or distracting.

This is not a hot dog from Casey’s Corner or a turkey leg in Frontierland, but it is a tasty dish that is perfect for sharing with family and friends when gabbing a bite to eat at The Faithful Bride,… err… Tortuga Tavern!

17 April 2012

Artists in residence

When you think of the words ‘Africa’ and ‘Walt Disney World,’ it is safe to assume that most of our thoughts venture to Harambe in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For some of us, those first thought may move towards the once planned and plotted World Showcase pavilion of Equatorial Africa. In modern day Epcot, the only nod to the Equatorial Africa pavilion is the Refreshment Outpost occupies the space between China and Germany where the pavilion was once slated to go in 1982.

Of course, just because the pavilion wasn’t built the early 1980’s, doesn’t mean that EPCOT Center did not bring in authentic entertainment choices from Africa. Let’s jump to the summer of 1983.
AFRICAN DANCERS -- The Cosaan African Dance Company will become artists in residence at Epcot Center May 29 – July 10. The company includes 21 performers from the West African nations of Mali, Nigeria, Upper Volta, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and the Ivory Coast.

16 April 2012

Setting the scene

The Animation Gallery has been a revolving display that features work from upcoming animated releases for years now. The entranceway, or exit depending on which direction you venture through the exhibits, has been prime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for a quite a while, but recently the two room gallery shifted away from a specific film and into the realm of a specific feature of the film process itself.
Titled Setting The Scene, the showcase seeks to spotlight the artistry of background animation and how background art, beloved by many but easy to overlook in the scope of a film, is critical to setting down a feature in a precise place and/or time. There are evolution pieces within the gallery that highlight how the process unfolds from sketches to finished art, lengthy specimens that would have been utilized with the multiplane camera, and gorgeous artwork from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

What is so wonderful about Setting The Scene is that no matter what your favorite feature film is, you are likely to find a piece from it. It may take some closer examination than just a passing glance, but this is one of those exhibits where working for it can truly deliver just rewards. In all honesty, whether you’re looking for something from Fox and the Hound, Lilo and Stitch, or Sleeping Beauty, the gallery is well worth the investment of time.
The next time you are at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, don’t fly by Setting The Scene on your way to meet Mickey Mouse. Or if you do, make sure you take the time to come back and examine the panels within the cases. These are the worlds in which the characters we know and love live in, and we should pay jut as much attention to their homes as we do to ours.

15 April 2012

Disney This Week - 15 April 2012

Richard at DesignerLand gave us one of the greatest sneak peeks ever! I am thinking orange thoughts, I am thinking orange thought…

Sticking with the theme, Eating WDW and Sarah Holodick stops by the Sunshine Tree Terrace to get a taste of the new décor and the Asian Pineapple Salad.

George Taylor gives us his review of the latest Kingdom Keepers installment at Imaginerding.

Also in the books-you-must-own category, The Disney Food Blog and AJ Wolfe unveiled the 2012 edition of The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining.

FoxxFur continues her wonderful tour of the lights of the Magic Kingdom at Passport to Dreams Old & New.

Giving the kids their own space is the topic over at Zannaland, where Suzannah DiMarzio is talking about the kid activity centers.

Adam and Andrew give us some insight into the moon music of the Jungle Cruise over at the Disney Hipster Blog.

A glimpse of River Country’s construction comes via Progress City, U.S.A. and Michael Crawford.

13 April 2012

From the moon to the Earth

There is a joke when you are talking about the Apollo missions to the moon that only a man (or American, depending on who is telling the joke) would travel all the way to moon and have to bring their car with them in order to go for a drive. However, it functionality far surpassed the passing fancy of ‘going for a spin on the moon.’ Plus, have I mentioned how cool the Lunar Roving Vehicles looked? Here is a replica of the lunar rover, also known as a moon buggy, which is displayed in the queue of Epcot’s Mission: SPACE.
Like the vehicles of the Tomorrowland Speedway, the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) had a very slow top speed. In fact, the rovers topped out at a breeze-inducing 8.7 miles per hour! The first usage of the moon buggy didn’t come until the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 and were used regularly through 1972’s Apollo 17 mission. The battery powered vehicles are touted as having a radio that could reach all the way back to earth, and included other necessary components, such as tools, life support systems, a drill for sample collecting, cameras, and a couple of antennas, but the piece of the rovers that I find truly remarkable were the wheels and tires.

Designed by General Motors, the ability to drive on the moon was dependent upon finding a suitable wheel that could be durable, while not utilizing the standard rubber and air construction. In the end, Ferenc Paulics came up with wheels and tires that employed aluminum, steel, zinc, and titanium. The mesh tires were half covered by titanium slats in order to create traction and move the rover forward.

While it may look like something a child built out of scraps in their backyard for their clubhouse, the Lunar Roving Vehicles captured the hearts and mind of young astronauts-to-be and the adults who dared to dream of the moon all across the globe. For all the jokes and winks, who wouldn’t want to cruise on the moon?!?!

12 April 2012

20 magical years

This week, registration for the 20th running of the Walt Disney World Marathon opened. Among the festivities planned as part of the 20th anniversary of the race are a new medal, heightened entertainment at mile marker 20, and a Downtown Disney after party. All of these new elements, however, pale in comparison to the greatest gift the races of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (a marathon, half marathon, Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, Family Fun Run 5K, and a Mickey Mile), the drive to get up and move.

It seems like we are bombarded daily with reports of failing health and the ever-present epidemic of obesity. Yet, for 20 years, Walt Disney World, has set a goal for thousands upon thousands of individuals who have made the conscious decision to take pride in their healthy habits. Habits that start with the youngest of guests.

Even when I was a child, outdoor activity was the first and foremost thought on our minds when we got home, although video games were creeping into the forefront. I often had a misguided thought in my teenage and early twenties that I wanted to be younger than 30 (the age my father was when I was born) when I had my first child. It was misguided because I believed my father was unable to take part in certain activities when I was a preteen/teenager due to his age. As I’ve grown older, and maybe just a tad bit wiser, I’ve realized that it was his inactivity (a trend that he has recognized and corrected in recent years) that caused him not to be able to engage with me in athletic pursuits. With races like the Mickey Mile and Family Fun Run 5K, whole families can and do get involved with getting up, getting out, and moving. It doesn’t take running laps on a track to get into shape to run these races, but continual activity in a variety of fun, family inclusive ways. Bike rides, tag/hide and seek, swimming, homemade obstacle courses, kickball, catch, Frisbee, and any number of other activities will not only prepare the entire family for one of the shorter Walt Disney World race, but also have wonderful effects on the overall health of the family.

As adults, a sedentary lifestyle is much easier to accept. We work all day, take care of our families at night and before the sun comes up, and think we don’t have time to be active (no matter how many engaging public service announcements the NFL’s Play 60 movement releases). It doesn’t take much of a nudge to put down the sneakers and plop down on the couch. However, a nudge from a friend or a loved one can just as easily convince us to get up, get out, and get moving. Running groups, soccer teams, flag football teams, paintball or laser tag, and other team sports are the perfect way to set up a healthy groundwork for running one of the longer races held at Walt Disney World. Will team sports alone allow you to run a half or full marathon? No, but it may trick you in to pushing yourself harder and farther and eventually get you running down the road to success.

The Walt Disney World Marathon turns 20 in 2013. 20 years of helping us help ourselves. There is magic in that thought. Many of us have taken on these races simply because they include the name Disney or present us with a piece of hardware featuring a Disney character. The reasons we chose to run aren’t as important as the fact that we are running. Walt Disney World being a part of making us a healthier society is about as special as exercise can me.

You can register for any of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races, being held January 10 – 13, 2013, at the runDisney website.

11 April 2012

Kona Cafe experience

If you’ve been following the culinary adventures of the Gazette for a while, you know I’m prone to wading my way through the set menus at table service restaurants. While these may not include the most glamorous menu items they do contain some of the restaurant’s guest favorites and a fairly accurate slice of the menu offerings. My main reason for continuing to review these options is that fixed menus are regularly selected by guests who want to try some of everything without the muss and fuss of trying to figure out how expensive their meal might be. In this instance, we’ve headed upstairs in the Polynesian to give the dinner menu at Kona Café a whirl.

The Chef’s Choice menu includes an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Appetizer choices include: Kona Salad, Sweet Potato and Lemon Grass Bisque, or Pot Stickers. Entrée options are: Coconut-Almond Chicken, Chicken Pan-Asian Noodles, Shrimp Pan-Asian Noodles, or Sustainable Fish. The best part of any meal, dessert, offers the following: Kilauea Torte, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, or Kona Coffee Panna Cotta. For my meal I opted for the Pot Stickers, Coconut-Almond Chicken, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
Pot Stickers – The menu lists this item as Wok-seared Pork and Vegetable Dumplings with a creamy Ginger-Soy Sauce. The plate comes with four dumplings and a healthy portioning of the ginger-soy sauce on the plate and drizzled on the dumplings. I appreciated this presentation, as opposed to a cup overfilled with sauce to dip into which can overpower the other elements of the dish. The ginger-soy combination digs into the palate with a strong and salty bite, and plays well with the rest of the pot stickers. The dumplings had been seared, but I could have done with a bit more charring to give the shell a chewy-crispy texture that I find so appealing in seared dumplings. As for the filling, it was a spot on mixture of savory with a bit of sweet from the veggies. Overall, I would certainly order the Pot Stickers again.
Coconut-Almond Chicken – Described as Breaded and Baked Chicken Breast served with a Salad of Asian Greens, fresh Fruit, and Almonds. I opted out of the Kona Salad appetizer as I knew there were be a small salad garnishing my chicken, which made this a win-win situation. The Asian greens salad, along with the chicken itself, is a study texture. The sweetness of the fruit weaves back and forth across my tongue with the bitterness of the greens just as the soft qualities of the fruit play against the crispness of the greens. The chicken itself is crunchy and sweet, with the nutty crusting holding in the juices very well while not becoming a mushy exterior. Again, another item I would tuck away in my ‘order again’ file.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake – Pretty self-explanatory, the dish is complimented by a Lemongrass and Caramel Sauce. This may seem like a throw away dessert, after all it’s been around since Dole perfected pineapple canning in 1903, but there is something comforting to knowing what to expect with a sweet ending. The cake here is dense and the sugars from the pineapple have caramelized throughout the single-serving portion, which is just the right size in my opinion. With the lemongrass and caramel sauce streaking on the plate and not covering the cake, you are allowed free reign to choose how much or little you want to use. It does, I will say, add a lubrication element that is nice to have with a dry cake.

My body must have been craving sugar on the day I visited Kona Café as my meal was clearly a study in sweetness. Then again, with pineapple and sugar cane being major exports of Hawaii, is it any wonder that natural sweeteners have found their way into many of the restaurant’s dishes? I am always happy to with my meal at Kona Café, and the dinner menu holds true to the quality I expect from the establishment. There are many options to choose from on the menu, both on and off of the Chef’s Choice, any I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy any of them.