18 March 2013

Make Every Second Count

As most of you know, or perhaps you don’t know, I tend to drive the 9.5 hours down to Walt Disney World so that I have my car with me. This also allows me to put together a longer trip. This past weekend, however, I helped put together a forty-eight hour trip for my cousin that will be a part of their honeymoon. I made a joke during the course of planning to her specifications that I felt like I was planning an episode of the The Layover for Walt Disney World. Which got me to thinking, what if I did put together my perfect two days in Walt Disney World? So, here it is, The Layover – Walt Disney World.

For those unaware, The Layover is a show that has existed on the Travel Channel for two seasons where host, chef, and master snarkologist, Anthony Bourdain, spends between 24 to 48 hours in a town exploring the food, culture, sites (often off the beaten track), and places to stay available there. I’m considering that I didn’t know six months out that I’m going to be there, so there is no Le Cellier on this list of restaurants. This is more an on the go, maybe a nice meal here or there, trip. So, that gives you an idea of what type of adventure we are heading off onto.

We’ll get in on Friday evening and check out on Sunday evening, prior to nighttime spectaculars.


If you’re living it up, why not grab a room at the Contemporary or Polynesian with a view of the Magic Kingdom. Or for those who want a little more subtlety in their morning views, the Animal Kingdom Lodge can offer up a bit of perspective, our place in the circle of life as it were, with the savanna views. If it’s only a bed you’re looking for, then why not save the bucks and grab a room at Pop Century. For me, I’m going to check in at the Wilderness Lodge. If I’m going to have to get up and out the door early two mornings in a row, I’m going to need the beckoning calls of the Walt Disney World Railroad and motor launches to get me upright.

Friday Night:

After a quick nip into the Wilderness Lodge to drop off my bag, I’m back out on the streets again, heading towards Epcot. Is there anything more perfect that watching icons of the world at twilight with a few stars sparkling high up in the sky? Romanticism aside, what does Epcot do better than any other park in Walt Disney World? Food and beverages, lots of adult beverages.

A perfect meal could be a mashed together by grabbing an English Bulldog from Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom and a Cucumber Margarita from La Cava del Tequila in Mexico, but it’s likely one or the other would disappear before I could get to the second stop. But it’s a Friday night, and I want to start it off right with some small bites and a great glass of something, so I’m heading to Italy. First stop, an hour or two in Tutto Gusto, grab a wine flight or two, some great small plates of olives, cheese, and cured meats and I’m feeling good.

I’ll head out of the restaurant just in time to catch IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth as I meander slowly back to my car, likely parked at BoardWalk. The connection I feel to my fellow man after IllumiNations means I’m not ready to head home just yet, and it’s time for some much needed camaraderie. As fast as I can I’ll make a dash over to Port Orleans – Riverside’s River Roost Lounge for a well spent hour with Yehaa Bob and a packed house. A Red Stag Lemonade, or two or three, will help wash down to Prime Rib Sliders that I’m sure to inhale in between making a fool of myself with fifty of my new closest friends. Then it’s back to Wilderness Lodge for a few hours of in the arm of sleep.


I’m not a coffee guy. Let the bellyaching commence. So I’ll be up and out the door, maybe with a bottle of Cherry Coke, and on my way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The first hour is easily spent dispatching Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and Kilimanjaro Safaris, then it is time to slow down. I’ll grab a tea from those available at the Royal Anandapur Tea Company, and watch as Asia comes alive. I’ll spend more time than the average guest along the Maharajah Jungle Trek and Pangani Forest Exploration Trail just marveling at the creatures that take my breath away.

I could easily make a day or weekend of Disney’s Animal Kingdom all by itself. A morning on the Wild Africa Trek, go big or go home, am I right? A meal at Tusker House, or jump around the corner to Sanaa or Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for remarkable dishes, could well be in order. But I’m on a tighter timeline than usual, so it’s a pair of egg rolls, greasy, crispy, chewy rockets of wonderfulness, from Anandapur Local Foods Cafe and then it’s out the gates.

A personal treat that I just cannot forego is a round of miniature golf at Fantasia Gardens, on the Gardens Course. To help work up a bit more of hunger I’ll head to Downtown Disney for a quick trip aboard Characters in Flight and grab some donuts from Babycakes NYC for Sunday morning. I’ll drop the donuts off at Wilderness Lodge and catch a motor launch over to the Contemporary. From there I’ll head up to the Grand Canyon Concourse and pay my respects to Mary Blair and her gorgeous mural before hopping a monorail to the Polynesian.

A late lunch at Kona Cafe will hit the spot. There are a lot of deserving dishes on the menu here, but summer or winter I can’t help but grab the Asian Noodle Bowl. Add pepper paste until the broth is to your liking, which, in my case, means all they’ll give me to induce a spicy flop sweat. Slurp up the rice noodles that are tangled up with snapping vegetables and tender strips of beef and you’ll be leaving happy and with a full belly.

On to the Magic Kingdom. The granddaddy of the Vacation Kingdom’s theme parks, it deserves and demands that you give it a few hours as tribute. But don’t worry, it’s a price you’ll enjoy paying. I’m going to take my turn at the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, I’m going to get aboard the wildest ride in the wilderness (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad), I’m going to sing like the birdies sing (Enchanted Tiki Room), I will be off to Never Never Land on Peter Pan’s Flight, and I’m going to tour the park from both the Walt Disney World Railroad and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and there is nothing that is going to stop me.

Not your cup of tea? I will not begrudge you that Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, it’s a small world, and the rest of the park is amazing and well worth your investment of time. But this is me, and these are a small part of my Magic Kingdom, and I’m going to hit them hard and fast because I love them so.

If you can get in at the Plaza Restaurant, Liberty Tree Tavern, or Tony’s Town Square without a reservation, good on you. If you think you can walk up to Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or Crystal Palace without an ADR, well, just be prepared to catch locals snickering at you because that is not going to happen. It the theme park in Florida! There should be a hot dog from Casey’s Corner in your hand as you make your way to Adventureland for ice cream. Yes, there are those of you who love your Dole Whips, and more power to you. But I’m chowing down on my hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut burning a path to the Sunshine Tree Terrace, the home to the gone, but never-forgotten Citrus Swirl. It may not be your favorite, but if you’ve ever loved any part of the Magic Kingdom, you have to love the Citrus Swirl or you are dead inside.

Somewhere around twilight I’ll start slowing down. I will walk through the rose garden in front of Cinderella Castle and I will slowly walk around the park taking in the sites of the park as the lights come up. New Fantasyland and Storybook Circus have recently added to this ambiance with the installation of circus lighting and two new castles. Oh and water, the water of both areas are gorgeous after the sun has set and definitely worth taking note of. I’ll also enjoy the neon of Tomorrowland and the reflections along the Rivers of America.

I swear to you I almost fainted when it was first announced a few years back that the Electrical Light Parade was coming back. I will be on Main Street, in front of the Main Street Station of the Walt Disney World Railroad, watching this parade, no questions asked. I may tear up when Elliot and Pete chug by, and I’m certainly going to wave at Alice, and I don’t care who sees. As soon as the last float passes however, even before the lights come back up, I will be out the gate and on the first motor launch back to the Wilderness Lodge.

Why the hurry, you ask? I have a date with another light parade. I’m going to run down to the Territory Lounge, grab a whiskey sour, and get back down to the beach in order to watch the flotilla of the Electrical Water Pageant roll in. Afterwards, I’m certain to pass out from exhaustion in my bed.


I’ll wake up and sit on my room’s porch watching the boats and fog roll in while enjoying the donuts for Babycakes NYC that I picked up on Saturday. It’s time to slow down just a bit before the mad dash to the weekend’s finish line begins. A dip in the hot tub will most certainly lead to the rental of a Sea Raycer. After an hour tour of Bay Lake, that’s right gang I’ll spend an hour on Bay Lake touring the undeveloped areas and passing by, albeit at a safe distance, the once thriving River Country and Discovery Island because the Seven Seas Lagoon is for tourists, I’ll get changed and get back out to the parks.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a lot to offer me, Indiana Jones, Star Tours, Muppets, Star Tours, Twilight Zone, and did I mention Star Tours? They also have Carrot Cake Cookies and Red Velvet Cheesecake Cupcakes, but I’m going to bypass the park on this trip and head back to Epcot.

It was my father’s attraction, and I’m about as different from my father as two guys could be, but I have to take a tour of The Land’s greenhouses aboard Living with the Land. I need this boat now. If time allows, I’ll make a mad dash over to Test Track to design my own car, and punish those in my Sim Car who can’t handle the amount of Responsiveness that I can pour into a single vehicle. Otherwise, it is on to World Showcase.

Lunch in World Showcase? Where isn’t good? You could opt for the tacos of Mexico or the frankfurter of Germany, the pizza of Italy or teriyaki of Japan, and any of these would be fine. For me though, I’m heading to Morocco for shawarma. Bitter, creamy vegetarian sides abound, but it is the running down your hand and arms juicy shavings of meat that make this a pure carnivore experience.

It’s a waste of time, considering France is right next door, but I am going to walk all the way around to Mexico for my Cucumber Margarita and then down it and gnaw on the chunks of cucumber as I make my way back to France. Why France? Pastries, my friends, pastries.

Let me be upfront. I was ridiculously overcome with grief when I found the new Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles had not brought my beloved Raspberry Schuss with it to its new digs. Now, I don’t have a go to dessert at my favorite spot to gorge myself on sugar in Walt Disney World. I guess that means I’ll spend some time sampling two or three new sweet treats in an attempt to cauterize the wound left by the loss of the Schuss. Then, a viewing of the classic Impressions de France, the only opening day film from 1982’s EPCOT Center to still be seen in its original, albeit digitized, form.

By this time I will be scurrying back to Wilderness Lodge, racing the setting sun and the clock, to grab my luggage and get out of town. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll have to grab some glazed almonds on my way to keep me warm on the journey home again. It hasn’t been a perfect weekend, but there was fun, probably a few friends, and a lot of food and drink. And you can’t ask for more than that.


Greg said...

Good post Ryan. Food for thought as I may have a two-day jaunt coming up soon.

Unknown said...

Loved this post. It's got me thinking about what I would do. :)

Gator Chris said...

Great post Ryan!

Definitely have to applaud your choice of Tutto Gusto (our new fave hangout spot in WDW)!

Walter said...

Wow! What a trip! I heard a sonic boom around the time of your trip: was it your stomach exploding?

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

You nailed it! Great weekend!!