June 2015: Day 3 Magic Kingdon & Epcot

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For me and hubs, Magic Kingdom and Epcot are like peanut butter and jelly. Both awesome on their own, but put ’em together and BOOM! – a perfect pairing.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, Epcot is my husbands favorite park. I love Magic Kingdom and Epcot pretty equally, but for separate reasons. Magic Kingdom is nostalgic, full of wonderful aromas and attractions. Epcot offers adventure and excellent and abundant dining. Conveniently linked by the monorail, getting from one park to the other is easy and enjoyable. Going to both parks in one day also saves us the “argument” of which park to visit first on our trip.

So on our third day, the alarm buzzed at 6:30, we each grabbed a quick shower, enjoyed apple with almond butter and granola on the balcony, and were on our way to Contemporary Grounds for depth chargers by 7:00ish. We walked over to MK and passed through security and the turnstiles just as the opening show was wrapping up.

We walked straight back to Fantasyland and walked on to the virtually empty “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.” Our luck continued when we were able to walk onto “its a small world.” Next we went across to Peter Pan’s Flight. The standby queue was 35 minutes, which for Peter Pan, isn’t bad. Disney recently redid the standby queue to feel like you walk through the Darlings’ house. I CAN NOT rave about this enough! It is so awesome! If you spot Peter Pan’s Flight with a 30ish minute standby – go! You’ll enjoy your time in the queue as much – if not more – than the attraction itself. Post Peter Pan our streak continued with no wait into Mickey’s PhilarMagic and finding a 15 minute wait at The Haunted Mansion. (This kind of morning is why I think waking up early and taking advantage of early hours is the way to go.)

Leaving Haunted Mansion we stopped off at Sleepy Hollow and split a waffle filled with Nutella and fruit. So good. With our bellies full we headed back to Adventureland and walked right into the Enchanted Tiki Room.

At this point, though we were clearly on a roll, we decided to walk back to Bay Lake Tower for a break. We didn’t have any Fastpass+ reservations until later and our dinner reservations were fairly late at Epcot, so we thought breaking earlier in the day made sense. After returning to Bay Lake Tower, we both worked out (the Contemporary has a small, but awesome gym), we showered and went to the Contemporary’s Contempo Cafe for lunch. We got on the Monorail and were on our way back to MK to use our FastPass+ reservations for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. Next we spun ourselves silly in a teacup at Mad Tea Party and then cooled off with this delicious raspberry lemonade slush from the neighboring Cheshire Cafe. We did a little people watching at the Casey Jr. Splash n’ Soak Station outside of Dumbo while we waited for our final FastPass+ reservation at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We’ve only experienced this attraction a couple of times, but it really is fun and adorable. I will say this about it: I spotted a lot of hats and a couple cell phones lost from the ride. Stash ’em away people. Think of how silly (furious) you’re going to feel to be out your iphone because you wanted a selfie.

At this point we felt like we’d had a really great first day at MK and so we hopped the Monorail over to Epcot to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening.

After passing through the gates, we had planned to head directly to the World Showcase to spend the evening, but Spaceship Earth had very small standby time that we couldn’t resist. After a glimpse at our future we ambled to the World Showcase to roam and kicked off with a beer in Germany. Prost!

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We had dinner reservations at Via Napoli in Italy. This was our first visit to Via Napoli and we loved it! Everything was delicious and the ambience is light and airy. It was simultaneously a cozy spot for a romantic dinner and a relaxed family environment. We would definitely dine there again, and I don’t hesitate in recommending it.

Post dinner we felt full and content, and decided to head home to Bay Lake Tower for a little swim and balcony relaxing. We caught a beautiful sunset on the way back that was the beautiful cap on a beautiful day.

 

 

June 2015 Trip Report Day 2, Animal Kingdom

On our June 2015 trip our first park day was Animal Kingdom. We have no traditions about beginning with one park over the other. Generally, we follow the Extra Magic Hours calendar when planning our days. It happened that Animal Kingdom opened early that day, so that’s where we went.

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I can tell you our alarm went off at 6:20, aka early o’clock. By 7:00 we were on our way to Contemporary Grounds for Depth Chargers. Armed with caffeine we headed to the bus stop, where we didn’t wait long. We got to Animal Kingdom and through security before 8:00 am. I say this practically every time I blog, getting up early may be a pain, but the payoff is worth it when you’re through the ticket line and onto your favorite attraction right at the start of the day.

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At 8:00 we were in queue for Expedition Everest. We waited a few short minutes before we climbed aboard. I love to start a day with a roller coaster. Hubby does not feel this way, but he’s a trooper who mostly indulges my fancies.

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After Expedition Everest we made our way to Kilimanjaro Safaris. The park was cool and uncrowded in the morning – really pleasant. We took our time walking, stopping to snap pictures. I think Animal Kingdom has an incredible amount of atmosphere and I love to just take in all of the scenery detail. We didn’t have much of a wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris, and we had a good ride. We spotted lots of animals, but my favorite of that trek was a baby rhino. The exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris spits you out right at the entrance for the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This is a great place to scope gorillas. The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail also features a really awesome bat display that was closed for refurbishment when we were there. Upon leaving the Pangani Trail we headed to the new Harambe Market to check it out. We also poked our head into the new Zuri’s Sweets Shop. Zuri’s had nut mixes and plenty to satisfy sugar cravings, including adorable animal sugar cookies and fun animal themed candy apples.

 

After that fairly leisurely morning we decided to hunt down the Dawa Bar. This is a really sweet spot to grab a drink, cool off, and take in the atmosphere. If you’re into bloody marys, Dawa Bar has you covered with a killer bloody mary menu. Though they looked awesome, neither hubby or I are big bloody mary people, so he had a St. George beer and I had a class of Fair Valley Chenin Blanc. The bar was uncrowded, our bartender was awesome, and we could see and hear the African Drummers street performance from our perch. Though we wanted to linger here we had Fastpasses for Expedition Everest at 11:35, so we headed back to Asia for our second pass at the Yeti, and scored front car seats. Did I mention I love roller coasters? We followed up by walking the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Tigers are one of the main attractions on the Trek, but we didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of them. Though we didn’t see tigers, we did see an incredible array of exotic birds in the aviary. One bird in particular must have been very fond of hubby because he deposited a load of poo on hubby’s brand-new fedora. Fortunately I had some wipes in our backpack and we had a good laugh about it as we cleaned up the, um, gift. Everyone loves souvenirs, right??

At this point we were both in the mood for some chow. Normally Flame Tree BBQ is our go-to Animal Kingdom lunch spot. It’s so tasty. However, it was being refurbished, so we decided to go back to Harambe Market. It was kind of a zoo, no pun intended. Lines were long and slow moving. Table seating was at a super premium. Hubby and I split up the task. I ordered food and he scouted for a table. We both ordered a chicken skewer that came with a broccoli, tomato, red onion salad. We both had a milk tart for dessert. The chicken was delicious, especially the bbq sauce that was on the side. We both enjoyed having a healthy lunch that day. It was worth the wait.

After lunch we made our way to DinoLand U.S.A. to use our 1:05 Fastpasses for Primeval Whirl, followed by 2:15 Fastpasses for Dinosaur. We left DinoLand in pursuit of the 3:00 Finding Nemo the Musical show. I love this show. It runs about 40 minutes and outside of its great music and beautiful costumes, it’s an excellent way to cool off and get out of the sun.

After Finding Nemo the Musical we decided to forgo It’s Tough to Be a Bug, which was the only attraction we had left on our list. We elected instead to head back to the Dawa Bar to wait out the interval before our Tusker House reservation with a refreshment. (Tusker House is located right behind Dawa Bar.) The bar had really picked up traffic since our late morning visit. We met some really cool people while perched on a bar stool. I find that Disney World is an awesome place to converse with people, whether at the bar, or just in a queue.

When our time came for Tusker House, we got right in and ushered to a table. Tusker House is a buffet character dining experience. Neither of us had dined there before and we enjoyed having a new experience. The buffet was varied, including familiar and more exotic flavors that had Indian and Asian influence. We managed to see Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy who were all dressed for safari.

 

Both hubby and I agreed on an early night for our first day in the park. So with our bellies full of grub we left Animal Kingdom to head back to Bay Lake Tower. We managed to get in a  good swim with a few water slide runs before returning to our balcony for another evening of fireworks. All in all, a pretty perfect 1st park day.

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The Magic Kingdom “Can’t Miss” List

Sometimes, when we are in the car, Hubs and I play a game where we propose hypothetical scenarios and we ask the other to respond. Usually it goes something like this:

Husband: “We’ve just arrived at Disney World! Where are we going first?”
Me: “Hmmmm… I’m feeling Epcot today.”
Husband: “Excellent selection. What is the first thing we are going to do?”
Me: “Straight up classic – Spaceship Earth.”

The answers vary depending on our mood. Often the answers involve Epcot or Magic Kingdom. Probably 95% of the time often.

Epcot DayIn my last post I discussed finding a perfect WDW vacation balance. For me, that involves my favorites mixed with unfamiliar delights and some relaxation. It’s hard to fit in all of the attractions, in every park during one vacation. So how do you choose? What you decided to do will depend on your time, interests, if you’re traveling with kids, weather, FastPasses, etc.

I started my “can’t miss” Walt Disney World attraction list. It’s kinda long… What can I say? I have a lot of favorites. So I’ve broken it down by park starting with Magic Kingdom. The list includes attractions, snacks and quick service food. (Table Service dining is excluded because they can act as whole blog posts.) I’ve given a brief note about why each has made the list. Attractions with an asterisks are super favorites. Since I totally made that up, I’ll qualify it with a definition:

Super favorite, noun, a Walt Disney World attraction/food that can not be missed on a park visit and will mostly likely be visited multiple times during a trip.

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The Walt Disney World Blog 2015 “Can’t Miss” Attraction List:

Magic Kingdom

(By land) Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, New Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Main Street USA

  • Pirates of the Caribbean * – Set sail with the pirates? Yes, please. This is usually our first Magic Kingdom stop. And that brings us too….
  • Aloha Isle – Dole whip? Yes, yes, and yes again. I like my pineapple, in a cup, no juice please. Whip is perfect on its own.
  • Jungle Cruise – It’s corny and classic. There is nothing fast or feverish about this attraction, but it makes us chuckle. 
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – The audio-animatroics for the Disneyland version of this attraction were among the first that Disney designed. There is a simulated thunderstorm in the middle of this attraction and when I was a little girl I was never quite sure if it was real or not. Once we exited the theater and I saw the hot, dry pavement I knew it wasn’t real.
  • Tortuga Tavern Code of ConductTortuga Tavern – Tasty Mexican food such as taco salads and burritos with a pirate theme. There is even a code of conduct written in pirate speak. Arr!
  • Splash Mountain * – Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear, and Br’er Fox make this log ride full of charm. This ride is over 10 minutes long, making it one of the longest in Magic Kingdom.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad * – The wildest ride in the wilderness is a family favorite. We like to ride it during the day and then again at night where it takes on a new feel.
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe – Awesome taco salads and burgers,
  • Haunted Mansion * Delightfully creepy any time of the year. Hubs and I always find this a fun one to day late on Extra Magic Hour nights at MK.
  • it’s a small world – I won’t lie, this one does not make my husband’s “can’t miss” list. In fact, it’s more on his “I really don’t like it, but I’ll go once to make my wife happy.” But I like it. I love the costumes and I do not find the song irritating in the least.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – A brand new interactive queue was just introduced to this attraction. The standby time is often long for this ride so it’s a good one to FastPass. Peter Pan is one of my favorite Disney movies and this is like flying through the film.
  • Mickey’s Philarmagic * – I love everything about Mickey’s Philarmagic. It blends Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy seamlessly with scenes from Disney films like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Alladin, and Beauty and the Beast.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – I think this ride is adorable. Everything from the queue of Whinnie the Pooh book pages to the little hunny pot you ride in to the part where your hunny pot bounces like Tigger. This is a must for little ones.
  • Mad Tea Party * – I love to spin, so this is a winner for me. Bring on the twirling! My mom does NOT feel that way. She won’t go anywhere near this ride. Ever. I’m sure she’s not alone. If spinning of whirling motion is not your thing, watch and wave while other go ’round.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – I have only been on this new attraction once. On our last trip this ride had just opened and they were clearly still working out issues. On two different days during our trip the ride was closed for hours. We were pretty annoyed. Our first impressions of the ride itself were positive, though the ride seemed as though it was over in a flash. I hope we get a chance to experience it a couple of times this summer so we can really get a sense of it.
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – The queue for this ride is gorgeous. Actually, the castle and everything from the exterior is stunning as well. We only had the chance to ride this once on our last trip, and that was our first time. Overall, I found this ride disappointing. I think it was the style of the audio-animatronics. I do remember being distinctly impressed by the Ursala portion of the ride. I told my husband that it would’ve spooked the pants off of me as a little girl. But I love the queue, and I love the little mermaid. So this gets a second chance this June.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – The re-imagining of this attraction was brilliant. I love the entire set up and all of the themeing and detailing that Disney does so well. And the splash zone they set up? Love at first sight.
  • Space Mountain * – This was one of my first roller coaster experiences. I loved it then and I love it now. This coaster rattles and it’s a little rough compared to so many coasters now, but I think that’s fun. Add space sound effects and subtract the light to imitate space and you’ve got a great ride.
  • Carousel of Progress This was one of Walt Disney’s original attractions. It’s vintage but a classic for me. 
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover * – Just kick back and relax for a few on this one. There is nothing crazy about this ride. But, it’s just a opportunity to unwind and take in some great Magic Kingdom views from an elevated perspective.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – Buzz Lightyear has enlisted your help! Climb aboard and aid him in defeating the evil Emperor Zurg with your marksman skills.
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor  – If you like a good chuckle don’t miss this one with the Monsters, Inc. gang. This attraction is audience interactive, which gives it a new twist every time you visit. If you have a favorite joke you can even text it in and it may appear in the show.
  • Walt Disney World Railroad  This is great for traveling from Frontierland to Main Street or to get to Fantasyland from either of those two. We like to just get on and ride the full loop. It’s fun and a good way to relax.
  • Casey’s Corner – So this is a little funny. In my day to day life I don’t eat much meat. Irregardless, I LOVE hot dogs. Piping hot with ketchup only please. (And maybe a small sprinkling of raw onions.) Casey’s Corner brings you some awesome hot dogs with a baseball theme. Yum. Oh, and often there is a ragtime piano player on the porch. Need I say more?

Cinderella Castle Close up

Finding the Perfect Disney World Vacation Balance

IMG_3152I am a creature of habit. I like a routine and if I find something that works I tend to stick to it. This is also true of my Walt Disney World vacations. I have resort hotels I really love, and attractions I can’t miss, and treats I must eat. (Ahem, Dole whip!!) And when in WDW I will go to any length to fit it all in. (My husband was entirely unprepared for this on our first trip together.)

As I mentioned yesterday in my Pack Like A Pro post, my cousin just honeymooned in WDW and I made this list of my “must see” attractions for her. It occurred me as we were talking about attractions and dining, that in my two recent trips I have focused on the things that I love to do and sort of dismissed things that didn’t fall into that category. Several times I said, “Well, I haven’t done that in a few trips, but I remember enjoying it.”

I am certain I can’t be the only person in this boat. Disney World is so massive, and offers so much to to do. You only have so much time when you’re there, and you feel this pressure to do the things you know you love because once you leave it’ll likely be a while before you go back. Sound familiar to anyone?

This repetition pattern is especially true for dining. Typically we only have one table service meal per day. We have spots that we really love to dine and so we repeat locations. Do we enjoy our meals? Absolutely. But trying a new restaurant is fun – and at Disney World it will probably be delicious.

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Peter Pan’s Flight was a 1st time experience for Hubs last June.

On our last trip, we did a better job of having a more balanced vacation. We enjoyed a little relaxation and did lots of swimming. We fit in attractions that we missed the trip before and all of our favorites. In our upcoming trip in June, Hubs and I have a new motto: balance what we love with “new” experiences. Let’s qualify “new.” New will be something neither of us has experienced, something one of us hasn’t experienced, or something we didn’t do in our last two trips.

IMG_3775For us, barring favored Les Chefs de France, all of our table service restaurants will be “new.” We are staying at Bay Lake Tower, which will be a brand new experience for both of us. We have a short list of attractions that we have not done together that we are going to try to hit. Additionally, to my husbands fervent delight, we have scheduled a day where we will not be going into a park. If you can manage it, a day away from the parks to rest and relax by the pool or whatnot is a great choice. You’ll be better refreshed and able to enjoy your vacation.

In the next few days I will be sharing my list of “can’t miss” favorite attractions, and I can assure you we will try to squeeze all of those in. (Our favorites list is plentiful.) But I think we are on our way to a more balanced Walt Disney World vacation that will leave both us feeling very joyful.

Ultimately everyone will have their own idea of a perfectly balanced Walt Disney World vacation. But for us, the perfect balance looks like this: our “must see” favorites mingled with new experiences and a little relaxation.

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Caribbean Beach Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll stick to it. Deciding which Walt Disney World Resort Hotel to call home on your vacation is half the fun of planning. But with over 25 options covering three financial tiers (Deluxe, Moderate, and Value) each with its own theme, choosing can also be overwhelming. Fortunately any choice on property is a great choice.

When we booked our last trip to WDW it was late in the game and so we had few hotel options available to us. As it worked out Caribbean Beach was our luck. Already being a family favorite, no one was disappointed and our return visit only solidified the special place it has in our hearts.

IMG_2936You know the Jerry Maguire quote, “You had me at hello?” That’s Caribbean Beach for us. After exiting the Magical Express and approaching the Custom House where guest check-in is located, we were peppered with warm salutations and friendly smiles. The Custom House is enchanting with tile floors, high ceilings, fans swishing, and shuttered windows. Check-in was a breeze. We arrived early in the day and our room was not yet ready. Caribbean Beach graciously held our luggage and we made our way over to the Boardwalk for lunch. But that’s another story. Upon our return our room was ready, our luggage was delivered, and we took a stroll to survey the scene. IMG_2998What awaited us were bananas perfectly, inconspicuously hanging in the landscape. *Sigh* If only I could be looking at those beautiful bananas right now. And I hate bananas – I will not eat them. I think they’re revolting. My husband disagrees.

Vibrant colors are everywhere. The landscape is lush and tropical and the entire property hugs a lake named Barefoot Bay. Tell me that’s not inviting. Guest rooms are located in the six “villages” – Martinique, Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica, Trinidad North and Trinidad South that all sit around the lake. Caribbean Beach Lake ViewCaribbean BeachThere are seven white sand beaches with palm trees and hammocks and each village has its own pool.

Old Port Royale FountainAt the heart of everything is Old Port Royale Centertown. Here you can grab a bite to eat at the food court or at the restaurant Shutters. Or perhaps take a dip in the Fuentes del Morro pool, complete with cannons dripping water and two waterslides. One slide is 102 feet long, and I promise you’ll go back for seconds and thirds. Next to the pool is a magnificent splash area for little ones in the form of a wrecked pirate ship. Mini-slides and a giant barrel atop the mast that periodically dumps its water contents will delight toddlers. We paid a couple of visits to the Banana Cabana Pool Bar where you’ll find beer, wine, and plenty of tropical cocktails. At night they show a movie next to the bar on a giant screen. One of the best memories my husband and I had from our last trip was watching Wall-E with a cocktail after dinner at Shutters and a dip in the pool. (Our swim may or may not have included several trips down the large waterslide.) Fuentes del MorroRooms are comfortable with soft, fluffy beds and extra touches you expect from Disney. There is a Finding Nemo motif to each room, and it meshes perfectly with the Caribbean themeing. IMG_3001Bed Detail

Shower Curtain

Shower Curtain Detail

View from our room.

View from our room.

The temperatures have dropped into the 40s and 30s this last week and right now the rain is gushing down. As it is true that a picture is worth more than words I will cease my rambling and display some of the images from our stay at Caribbean Beach. I hope they bring you the smile and thoughts of warm days that they bring me.

Caribbean Beach MapGrab N Go Windows Gran N Go Cups Menu ShuttersCaribbean Beach Sidewalk Detail  Fuente Del Morrow Morning Aruba HibiscusAruba SidewalkAruba Pool 2 Aruba PoolPlayground Aruba Sunrise

How To Plan Your Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World

HOW TO PLAN YOUR DINING RESERVATIONS AT WALT DISNEY WORLDHello friends! As promised from my post earlier this week, I am sharing my dining reservation strategy with you. I’ve been using this method for many years now, and I find it to be the best, most efficient way to plan my time at WDW.

Here are the two firm truths about planning a WDW vacation – short or long. 1.) Walt Disney World is expensive. 2.) Walt Disney World is gigantic, with hundreds of options for things to do. If you don’t at least spend a little time planning your trip before you go – you will end up wasting precious time. Using the WDW Blog Disney Vacationing Theorem we know that Truth 1 + Truth 2 = THE ULTIMATE TRUTH. See below:

WDW is Expensive + Nearly Infinite Ways to Spend Your Time =
TIME IS MONEY!!

Like my lesson for the day? It’s true. I promise. But here’s the deal – I’m not saying you have to pre-plan every minute of your trip. In fact, I frown upon that. Over-planning is a great way to be miserable during your vacation. You can’t control everything at Disney World. Buses run on loops. Attraction queue line times fluctuate. It’s all about balance. Your planning should have structure – but not be overly full. And your plans should be FLEXIBLE.

When I start to plan my WDW vacation I start with my Table Service dining reservations. Why? Disney World restaurants are not like regular restaurants. Availability is limited, reservations do fill up and a stand-by wait time can be hours. MAKE RESERVATIONS. And make them early. You had better believe I am online or on the phone 180 days out from my vacation to make dining reservations. If you do that, you can usually have any restaurant you want at any time you want.

As you know from my last post, my upcoming trip was short notice. As soon as we had booked our room we got working on planning and making said dining reservations. Here’s how I go about it.

First, I make a chart for the number of days I am going to be on vacation, and I include a bisection for each of the four main theme parks: chart 1Below the WDW Vacation 2014 block I have 7 spaces down the left side of the paper, one block for each of the days on my vacation. Across, to the right of the WDW Vacation 2014 block I have 4 large blocks for the 4 main theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

Once I have the grid in, I start to fill in the blocks across for the 4 parks and the blocks down with the specific dates of my trip.chart 2Once all the dates are filled in, I visit Disney’s official website to find out what hours each of the 4 parks are open every day. AND most importantly, what the Extra Magic Hours are for the days of my vacation. Extra Magic Hours are extra times, either before a park opens or after it closes that are available ONLY to guests staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. EMHs (Extra Magic Hours) are a great way to visit your favorite attractions with lightened wait times. I place morning EMHs above the parks regular hours, and night EMHs below. I also highlight the EMHs so I can see them apart from the regular park hours. I do this because I almost always take advantage of the EMHs when they are offered. You’ll also notice Epcot is divided into two. That’s because Future World (FW) and World Showcase (WS) have different hours. time chart completeOnce everything is filled in, I take a look at the chart with a PENCIL (so you can make changes) and circle what park I think I’ll visit on what day. This is almost always dictated by the EMHs. Above you can see that on Friday, May 9 the park hours aren’t filled in. This is the theoretical day I arrive at WDW. I won’t go into the parks that day. Instead I’ll hang by the pool, go shopping at Downtown Disney, visit Disney’s Boardwalk, or buy tickets to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach.day planning chartFor me, this all comes down to what parks I love and the EMHs. On Saturday, May 10 I circled Disney’s Hollywood Studios because it has morning EMHs. I then drew an arrow over to Epcot because I’ll probably finish my day there. Same thing happened on Wednesday, May 14. I chose to take advantage of the morning EMHs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but have myself jumping to Animal Kingdom that afternoon.

Once I have this tentative plan sketched out in pencil I consider my dining reservations. Typically my family will eat at one Table Service Restaurant a day, and eat at Quick Service spots for the rest of the day. Usually our Table Service picks are for dinner, but now and again we’ll go for breakfast or lunch. This is where the WDW Blog Vacationing Theorem comes into effect. To make the most out of your time you want plan your Table Service dining reservations to be in the park you’re visiting that day. If you’re in Animal Kingdom for the entire day, but you have dining reservations at Epcot, you will lose time traveling to Epcot, which could take up to an hour. If you had dinner at Animal Kingdom you could spend that hour visiting an attraction or two.

So for example, on Sunday, May 11, I circled Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom has evening EMHs, so I would plan to be at MK all day and night. So logically I want to make dining reservations for a Magic Kingdom restaurant. On Wednesday May 14th, I have morning EMHs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then plan to hop over to Animal Kingdom to finish the evening. I should plan to make Table Service reservations for breakfast at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or dinner at Animal Kingdom. Lunch reservations could be made at either park, depending on when I want to hop from one to the other. Since Animal Kingdom closes early (6 PM), another choice would be to have dinnerat my Resort Hotel after Animal Kingdom is closed.

Once I have planned what meal I want to eat in what park, I start looking for reservations. If you’re calling 180 days in advance, you shouldn’t have any problems snagging what you want. If you’re like us this year, planning a short notice trip, you just need to be a little flexible with your times and restaurants. We had no trouble making satisfactory reservations for our upcoming trip in June. IMG_2739Once I have my dining reservations made, I like to highlight the block where they occur, and write the place and time off to the side (PINK). I also marked my park visiting plan in purple. This paper becomes my go-to physical reference for what’s going on, before I leave for my vacation. The My Disney Experience Application on my phone (or on Disney’s website) is my digital copy. The My Disney Experience App really makes it easy to see what you have going on each day. Love it.

Here’s a recap of my Table Service Dining Tips:

  • Reserve Early! You should be prepared to make your reservations 180 days out from your vacation, or as soon as you can if you’re planning a last minute trip. This will grant you the most choices.
  • Plan to eat where you’re playing! This is where my chart is useful. If you’re going to be in Epcot – eat in Epcot. This will save you the most time. (Again referencing the WDW Blog Vacationing Theorem stated above.)
  • Keep your times consistent! If you make reservations for dinner every night, make them for about the same time. This will keep your body from going haywire.

One last word: the strategy listed today is really all about time and making the most of it. It doesn’t factor in other dining considerations such as character dining. If you have kids who would love Mickey & Friends character dining – find a place that does that! But be logical about it. If you’re at Magic Kingdom, make a reservation for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. Yes,The Contemporary is outside of Magic Kingdom, but it’s right next door just a short walk or Monorail ride away. You won’t waste much time in transit.

ABOVE ALL, be prepared AND be flexible. Have a game plan going in, but be prepared to change. On my last trip to WDW I probably changed or canceled at least 2 of our dining reservations. Maybe you wind up wanting to spend more time at one park over the other, or you decide you want to just cut your day short and go back to the hotel for a pizza and a swim. Go with it!

P. S. Just so you know, the chart I made up for this post was just an example chart. It was much prettier than my charts usually end up looking when in process. See below for my working draft of our upcoming trip… Needless to say, I made a nicer draft in the end.

my real chart

 

M.M. – Epoct International Food & Wine Festival Picks

After taking two days to bring you two (very) long posts about the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, I just couldn’t seem to let it go. Food, food, food, was all hubby and I could talk about. So I made the decision last Friday that we would take the weekend to consider the Food Marketplace menus I divulged in Part 1, and pick our must-tastes. We worked separately on our lists, so we could compare. There was no set number of items – just a food & drink choosing free-for-all.

Hubby sat down and chose his list within about 10 minutes. “How?!?” you ask. I don’t know. It took me forever. (Forever looking more like 30 minutes.) At any rate, here are the lists: His, Hers, and Ours (common items among our lists).

IMG_0645

HIS EATS:

  • Grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce & boniato purée – Argentina
  • Seared mahi mahi with jasmine rice and “singa” sauce – Singapore
  • Almond crusted blue cheese soufflé with fig jam- Cheese
  • Artisan cheese selection – Cheese
  • New England Clam Chowder – Hops & Barley
  • California roll – Japan
  • Dole pineapple fritters – Refreshment Port
  • Fried shrimp with Dole pineapple sweet & sour sauce – Refreshment Port

HIS DRINKS: 

  • Tequila flightMexico
  • Rogue Chocolate Stout – Hops & Barley
  • Orlando Brewing Company Sun Shade Organic Pale AleFlorida Local
  • Glenfiddich Scotch FlightScotland
  • Beer Flights 1 & 2 (essentially, all of them) – Craft Beers

BeccaHER EATS:

  • Black Pepper shrimp with suchuan noodles – China
  • Schniken nudel (pasta gratin with ham and cheese) – Germany
  • Roast bratwurst in a pretzel roll – Germany
  • Ravioli de formaggio all’emiliana (baked cheese ravioli with creamy beef bolognese sauce) – Italy
  • Florida shrimp cerviche with fire-roasted vegetables and micro cilantro – Florida Local
  • Steamed Green Lip Mussels with garlic butter and toasted bread – New Zealand
  • Boeuf bourguignon (braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes) – France
  • Canadian cheddar cheese soup – Canada
  • Seared Scottish salmon with cauliflower purée, watercress and malt vinaigarette – Scotland
  • Berbere-style beef with onions, jelapeños, tomato, okra, and pap – Africa

HER DRINKS:

  • Aulani SunriseHawai’i
  • Möet & Chandon Impérial –France
  • Orange Dole Whip with Crème de Cacao White – Refreshment Port (I’m not sure what the actual consistency of this would be – but Disney calls it a drink, so that’s where I put it. All the more reason to try – curiosity.)
  • La Face Neige Sparkling –Canada
  • Sparkling Pomegranate KirFrance
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Noir – New Zealand
  • Once Upon a Vine’s The Lost Slipper Sauvignon BlancCheese
  • SangriaMexico
  • Pascual Toso Sparkling BrutArgentina

UsOUR EATS:

  • Beef empanada – Argentina
  • Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies – Australia
  • Spicy hand roll (tuna and salmon with chili pepper, soy sauce, and sesame oil topped with Kazan Volcano sauce) – Japan
  • Teriyaki Chicken roll – Japan
  • Potato and leek waffle with braised beef – Belgium

OUR DRINKS:

  • Terrrazas Reserva MalbecArgentina
  • Singapore SlingSingapore
  • Beer Flights 1 & 2 – Brewer’s Collection

Clearly I had more items than hubby. I just had a harder time deciding! I don’t really think there are any items I wouldn’t be happy to at least try. My list was a mix of favorite flavors with a one or two out of my everyday comfort zone. The point is to have new adventures right?

Hubby is a big beer guy, so I wasn’t surprised to see so much of the brew on his list. I”m much more of a wines gal – with a fervent love for sparkling wines. There were plenty of those to tempt me. BUT here is my COMPLAINT for the Food & Wine Festival Food Marketplaces: There were several food marketplaces offering beer flights, and a couple (Mexico & Scotland) offering a liquor flight – but NO ONE offering a wine flight. How silly and disappointing is that? *Sigh.  Guess I’ll just have to head to the Wine Cellar in Italy to quench my wine flight thirst. For the record – hubby and I liked that spot so much we visited it twice on our last trip. I do think this is the last of my Epcot International Food and Wine Festival posts for this year. Feel free to weigh in and offer up your picks from the Food Marketplaces in the comments section. 🙂

Wine Cellar Wine Flights

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – PART 2

Epcot DayOver the last couple of days, as I have been writing about this year’s International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, my mouth has just been constantly watering. I’ve just felt hungry, every time I think about the festival. So many delights!

Yesterday we reveled in all of the flavorful offerings of the Food Marketplaces. Today in Part 2, I’m going to fill you in on the Special Events portion of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. There is a ton to see and do this year aside from the Food Marketplaces, with the opportunity to learn quite a bit. Many of these events are located in the Festival Center, which you shouldn’t miss. The festival center is located in Future World in-between Ellen’s Universe of Energy and Mission to Mars. Other Special Events take place in the World Showcase – just make sure to check your Guidemap and Festival Guide to know where to go.

Special Experiences at the Food & Wine Festival fall into two categories: “Free” (included in your Epcot park admission) and Ticketed, meaning of course that there is an additional cost to participate.

I like free, so let’s start with that list:

  • Authentic Taste Seminars – Based on a single, whole food ingredient, these are 30 minute seminars that discuss the ingredients history and uses.
  • Book & Bottle Signings – Daily there is an opportunity to meet with a well known wine maker or chef, and get their autograph. The schedule changes daily, but here a few of the names for the signings this year: Buddy Valastro, Jamie Deen, Warren Brown, and Jill Ramsier & David Forrester from Quantum Leap Winery.
  • The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar – Calling all chocolate lovers! Hosted by the beloved Ghirardelli, you can sample chocolate and admire sculptures made only of chocolate designed by Walt Disney World Pastry chefs. You can also shop for chocolate gifts or try a cup of “drinking chocolate.”
  • “Seasons of the Vine” – Running continually though the day, this a great seven minute video about the making of wine.
  • Intermissions Café – Another spot to try a bite. Wines, cheeses, sandwiches and salads are on the list of available eats.
  • The Stock Pot Shop – This is the place to purchase a little Food & Wine Fez to take home with you. There is special festival merchandise, cookbooks, and cooking products. Calling this one “free” may be a stretch, but it’s free to look, right?
  • The Art of Food & Wine – A play on words, this is a gallery with prints and original artwork that you can purchase or simply admire.
  • Discover the Cranberry – Ocean Spray Cranberry has an awesome information set up this years festival. On your way from Future World into the World showcase you’ll find Ocean Spray has set up a cranberry bog (cool!!). Learn all about this amazing crop and sample some dried cranberries. Yum.
  • Eat to the Beat Concert Series – Daily, there are several concerts featuring a rotating group of musicians. Epcot does a great job of bringing in a variety of musicians, who all have had pretty well known careers. The concerts are shady, and a great opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy a bite to eat. Or just digest. Here are this years artists: STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas, The Go-Go’s, Air Supply, Sister Hazel, Sugar Ray,Edwin McCain, The Manhattan Transfer, Wilson Phillips, The Pointer Sisters, Night Ranger, Boyz II Men, Survivor, 38 Special, Smash Mouth, Spin Doctors, Christopher Cross, Hanson, Dennis DeYoung, and Big Bad VooDoo Daddy,

Eat to the BeatThis is one of the best perks, in my opinion, of the Food & Wine Fez. Who doesn’t want to catch a bit of a concert?

Now the not free, but very awesome (I-want-to-TRY-THEM-ALL) available Special Events:

  • Wine/Beverage Seminars – Join together with a winery principal or beverage expert who will guide you through a selection of wines or beverages. Delight your palette and learn at one of these informative sessions for $14 a person. Count me in!
  • Culinary Demonstrations – A variety of chefs and beverage specialists will be sharing tips, while they prepare an item you will get to sample. With a cost of $14 per person, this is a great way to learn and taste without breaking the bank.
  • Kitchen Memories – Big names in the restaurant world, such as Art Smith and Robert Irvine, will demonstrate the preparation of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. Wines will be paired with each course. This is a great way to have a personal experience, taste a lot, and learn a little along the way.
  • Mixology Seminars – This is another great value, and an experience I would recommend if you want to try something extra at the Food and Wine Fez. For $15 a person, you will watch a drink specialist prepare a selection of 3 cocktails. And of course you will get to sample all of them as well. Cheers!
  • Cheese Seminars – Paired with wines and beers, this is a great opportunity to sample, taste, and learn about a variety of cheeses.
  • The Discovery of Chocolate – Now crazily enough, I am not really a chocolate person. But I know more people than not, who would love to give this experience a go. On select Sundays, Chocolatiers will teach guests about chocolate. And of course there is plenty of tasting, with accompanying wines.
  • Sweet Sundays – Here the day kicks off with a breakfast buffet, sparkling wines, and of course – dessert! The desserts preparations are all demonstrated by a prestigious pastry chef or baker. Breakfast, sparkling wines, and dessert!?! How did they know three of my favorite things?
  • Culinary Adventures in Signature Dining – Located at a variety of restaurants across the WDW property, these are specially designed feasts prepared by Disney’s signature chefs. Dine on a specialty multi-course menu with selected beverage pairings.
  • Food & Wine Pairings – Pull up a chair at either Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco or Tokyo Dining in Japan to indulge in three specially prepared dishes with a specifically chosen wine pairing.
  • Pavilion Dining Events – In this series, the Mexico, Italy, France, and Japan Pavilions of the World Showcase are hosting specialty events. Try the Mexican Tequila Lunch in Mexico. Italy is offering both a Food & Beer pairing as well as a Food & Wine pairing at the Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria. France has three options: Parisian Breafast, Regional Lunches – to get a tour of France’s wine regions, and a Mixology Series: Taste, Shake, and Indulge Like the French. Presented by Grand Marnier, guests will taste and prepare a range of French cocktails. Or perhaps you’ll want to head to Japan for The Hibachi Experience, which is new this year. This is Hibachi on the finest level, including specially selected sake for each course.

Once again, as you can see, there is a myriad of events and choices involved in the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Your experience is completely customizable. Spend just a little or go all out – it’s completely up to you. If I were going I would certainly take advantage of as many of the free events as possible. I also think that I would try a couple of the low cost seminars: Mixology Seminars, Culinary Demonstrations, and Wine/Beverage Seminars.

Now that I’ve gone through the entire festival I will also say this is a much more adult centered event, than family/kid centered. Some of the Food Marketplaces we discussed yesterday have things kids would love, and would make a great addition to your family’s exploration of the World Showcase. If Mom and Dad really want to get into the festival on the family vacation, I suggest utilizing one of the many fantastic Disney run childcare services. That way the kids are having a great time and Mom and Dad can really enjoy the festival offerings.

It’s been a very exciting couple of days bringing all of the Food & Wine Fez happenings to the blog. I decided that on MUNCHY MONDAY next week, I am going to give a sort of Part 3 of the festival, and share the things hubby and I decide we want to try from the Food Marketplaces. Until then, have a great, TASTY weekend!

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Part 1

Welcome to EpcotAlrighty, here we are again, to talk about the other BIG happening in WDW right now – Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. I am just as excited to chat about this event today as I was to tell you about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Just so you understand my enthusiasm, let me elaborate – I love food. I love to make it and I love to eat it. I LOVE wine. Probably more than food. Maybe. It’s a tough call… Anyway, I also love to photograph food I make or that is served to me. My husband teases me about this constantly. He calls me a hipster and says I embarrass him. We went to California Grill last year on our honeymoon and he wouldn’t let me take any pictures of the food. I should have. The food was as BEAUTIFUL as it was delicious. Now all I have are my memories… *Sigh.

So now that I’ve shared, you can imagine the kind of excitement this event can bring. I am going to be honest with you though, I’ve only been to this event once, a couple of years ago before I developed the habit of photographing food. So unfortunately I don’t have a lot of pictures. But I DO have a ton of information and tips for you! Hooray! So much so, in fact, that I am breaking Epcot Food and Wine Festival into two posts.

The Basics: Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, this year, began on September 27th and will be running daily through November 11th. This insanely large event breaks down into two main categories: Food Marketplaces and Special Events (seminars, demonstrations, concerts, celebrity appearances, etc.).

Today, in Part 1, we are focusing on the Food Marketplaces.

World ShowcaseYou will need an admission ticket into Epcot to visit Food & Wine Fez, and from there some events are free and some are of an additional cost. The Food Marketplaces are all a-la-carte. So you can purchase as much or as little as you would like to taste.

This year there are 30 (holy cow!) Food Marketplaces. Some of the Food Marketplaces have several things to eat and drink while others may only have one or two offerings. You can certainly try a little flavor from around the world. Here are this year’s Food Marketplaces and their offerings:

  • Terra – This tantalizing menu was developed with a focus on things that come from the earth. Munch on: Trick’n chick’n curry with basmati rice featuring Gardein chick’n breast, Chili Colorado with house-made chips and chashew cheese featuring Gardein beefless tips, and Chocolate cake with coconut mousee and passion fruit sauce. Sip on: Fresh watermelon juice, Napa Smith Organic IPA, The Vegan Vine Chardonnay, The Vegan Vine Red Blend.
  • Brazil – To Eat: Seared scallop with ragout of tomatoes, peppers, hearts of palm, and steamed rice or Crispy pork belly with black beans, onions, avocado, and cilantro. To Drink: Cerveharias Kaiser Brewery Xingu Black Beer, Carnaval Moscato White, and Frozen Caipirinha featuring LeBlon Cachaça.
  • Argentina – Taste the Beef empanada, or the Grilled beef skewer with Chimichurri sauce and boniato purée. To drink:
    • Pascual Toso Sparkling Brut
    • Terrazas Reserva Malbec
    • Terrazas Reserva Torrontes
    • Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Australia – Head down under with these food and beverage options:
    • Garlic shrimp with roasted tomatoes, lemon myrtle and rapini
    • Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies
    • Pavlova – crispy meringue shell with fresh Driscoll’s berries and vanilla custard.
    • Rosemont Estate Pinot Grigio
    • Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay
    • Rosemont Estate Merlot
    • Penfolds Bin 8 Carbernet Shiraz
  • Mexico – This booth is bringing classic Mexican flavors that are sure to delight. A comer y beber:
    • Shrimp taco with purple cabbage
    • Taco de ribeye with salsa de chipotle
    • Rice pudding
    • Dos Equis Beer
    • Sangria
    • Tequila Flight
    • Mango-Habanero Margarita
  • Singapore – Travel to far-away places with the flavors in this Food Marketplace:
    • Lemongrass chicken curry with coconut and jasmine rice
    • Seared mahi mahi with jasmine rice and “Singa” sauce
    • Tiger Beer
    • Marqués de Caceres Satinela
    • Singapore Sling featuring Hendricks Gin and Cherry Herring
  • China – This Food Marketplace has a large selection of China’s flavors. Food offerings: Mongolian beef in a steamed bun, Black pepper shrimp with suchuan noodles, Chicken potstickers, and Silky spun ice with toppings (3 flavors, coconut, strawberry and chocolate). Beverage offerings include: Tsing Tao Beer, Francis Ford Coppola Su Yuen Riesling, Francis Ford Coppola Su Yuen Syrah, Kung Fu Punch with vodka, Happy Lychee with vodka, and Lychee-aerated water.
  • South Korea – Have a true taste of Asia with these offerings:
    • Kimchi dog with spicy mustard sauce
    • Lettuce wrap with roast pork and kimchi slaw
    • Bohae Black Raspberry Wine – Bokbunjajoo
    • Jinro Chamisul Soju
    • Soju Fruit Slushy featuring Jinro Chamisul Soju
  • Africa – Try the Berbere-style beef with onions, jelapeños, tomato, okra, and pap or the Spinach and paneer cheese pocket. To drink you’ll find Man Vintners Chenin Blanc, The Wolftrap Red, and Porcupine Ridge Syrah.
  • Cheese – This Food Marketplace is featuring Once Upon a Vine’s The Lost Slipper Sauvignon Blanc, The Fairest Chardonnay, The Big Bad Red Blend, and A Charming Pinot. They would all make an excellent pairing to the Almond-crusted blue cheese soufflé with fig jam, or the Artisan cheese selection including: Beechers Flagship Reserve served with honey, La Bonne Vie Triple Cream Brie served with apricot jam, and Wijngaard Goat Gouda with Craisin bread.
  • Brewer’s Collection – This impressive collection can be tried singly, or in two different flight options.
    • Schöfferhofer Grapefruit
    • Radeberger Pilsner
    • Altenmünster Oktoberfest
    • BraufactuM Parlor
    • BraufactuM Roog Smoked Wheat Beer
    • Warsteiner Premium Verum
    • BraufactuM Darkon
    • Warsteiner Premium Dunkel

     

  • Germany – Delight your German side at this Food Marketplace offering traditional eats and a host of beverages. To eat: Schniken nudel (pasta gratin with ham and cheese), Roast bratwurst in a pretzel roll, Apple strudel with Werther’s Original Karamel and vanilla sauce. To drink: Altenmünster Oktoberfest, BraufactuM Darkon, J&H Selback Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay Reisling Auslese, Weingut Pitthan Dornfelder Dry Barrique Style
  • Poland – Good eats: Kielbasa and potato pierogie with caramelized onions and sour cream or Zapiekanki (toasted mushroom, caramelized onion, and cheese break with house-made ketchup). Good drinks: Okocim Brewery, Okocim O. K. Beer, Frozen Szarlotka (apple pie) featuring Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, Temptation Zinfandel
  • Italy – This menu is made of traditional dishes from this well-loved culture’s cuisine that will have your mouth watering.
    • Ravioli de formaggio all’emiliana (baked cheese ravioli with creamy beef bolognese sauce, parmesean and mozerella)
    • Salsiccia e “papacelli” Napoletani (sweet Italian sausage with peppers and onions on ciabatta bread)
    • Cannoli al cioccolato (chocolate covered cannoli filled with sweet ricotta, chocolate, and candied fruit)
    • Moretti Beer
    • Prosecco Zardetto
    • Pinot Grigio Mezzacorona
    • Chianti Castello di Querceto
    • Italian Margherita
  • American Adventure Coffee Cart – Here you can find your coffee fix. Shakin’ Jamaican coffee is made with Kahlua, with a touch or either vanilla or caramel. You can choose to have it hot or cold.
  • Hops & Barley – New England is brought straight to you with the tastes of this menu. If you can’t decide which beer floats your fancy, you can go for the flight option.
    • Lobster roll with lemon herb mayo
    • Griddled lobster tail with garlic herb butter
    • New England clam chowder with a side of Tobasco
    • Craisin bread pudding with Gran Marnier anglaise
    • La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
    • Rogue Chocolate Stout
    • Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvée
    • Samuel Adams Boston Lager
    • Samuel Adams Octoberfest
    • Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat
  • Florida Local – This spot is all about celebrating the Florida flavors. Dine on the Florida grass-fed beef slider with white cheddar and sweet & hot pickles, or try the Florida shrimp ceviche with fire-roasted vegetables and micro cilantro. Beverage offerings from the sunshine state: Florida Orange Groves Hurricane Class 5 White Sangria, Florida Orange Groves Key Limen Florida Key Lime Wine, Orlando Brewing Sun Shade Organic Pale Ale, and Cigar City Brewing’s Florida Cracker Belgium-Style White Ale.
  • Japan – Presenting traditional Japanese dishes, this booth will delight the sushi and teriyaki lover. To eat: California roll, Spicy hand roll (tuna and salmon with chili pepper, soy sauce, and sesame oil topped with Kazan Volcano sauce), Teriyaki chicken hand roll (marinated dark meat chicken with sushi rice topped with teriyaki sauce), Youki tofu (topped with miso sauce, edemame, and served with grilled veggies). To drink: Sapporo Draft Beer, Saki: Junmai Ginjo Yuki “Snow,” Green Tea Colada
  • Morocco – To eat: Kefta pocket, Harissa chicken roll, Baklava. To drink: Casa Beer, Ksar White, Sangria, Mimosa Royale
  • New Zealand – Well known for their wines, this booth is certainly offering a charming sampling of New Zealand grapes. Not to be outdone by the wines, the food offerings are full of flavor:
    • Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Bread Crumbs
    • Venison sausage with picked mushrooms, baby arugula, and black currant reduction
    • Lamb meatball with spicy tomato chutney
    • Kim Crawford Pinot Grigio
    • Mohua Sauvignon Blanc
    • Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay
    • Kim Crawford Pinot Noir
  • Belgium – Belgium is bringing the waffle! Try the Potato and leek waffle with braised beef, or the Belgium waffle with warm chocolate ganache and whipped cream, or a Belgium waffle with berry compote featuring Driscoll’s berries. On tap you’ll find Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Leffe Blonde, and Leffe Brune – served singly or try a beer flight. Chilled coffee featuring Godiva Chocolate Liqueur is also available.

French Toast

  • France – Rich traditional flavors make up this menu from the country with a long-standing classic culinary history.
    • Escargots persillade en brioche (garlic and parsley snails in brioche)
    • Boeuf bourguignon (braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes)
    • Crème brûlée au chocolat au lait (chocolate milk crème brûlée tropped with caramelized sugar)
    • Beer Kronenbourg Blanc
    • Chardonnay, Macon-Villages, La Côte Blanche
    • Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Château Bonnet
    • Sparkling Pomegranate Kir
    • Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slush (vodka, Grey Goose Cherry Noir, Gran Marnier, and cranberry juice)
  • Ireland – This Food Marketplace is bringing the best of Ireland’s favorites:
    • Lobster and seafood fisherman’s pie
    • Kerrygold cheese selection: reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout, Skellig
    • Warm Chocolate pudding with Bailey’s custard
    • Guinness Draught
    • Bunratty Meade Honey Wine
    • Chilled Irish Coffee featuring Bunratty Potcheen
  • Canada – To eat: Canadian cheddar cheese soup (yes please!), Seared rainbow trout with bacon, frisee, maple Minus 8 vinaigrette, or “Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce. To drink: Moosehead Lager, La Face Neige Apple Ice Wine, La Face Neige Sparkling, and Mission Hill Family Estate Syrah.
  • Greece – Taste the classic Mediterranean flavors of Greece in this extensive menu. To eat: Taste of Greece – grilled and marinated calamari, hitipiti, eggplant dip, olives and pita bread, Griddled Greek cheese with pistachios and honey, Chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce, Spanakopita, or Dannon Oikos Blueberry Greek Nonfat Yogurt Cup. To drink: Domaine Skouras Moscofilero, Siglas Assyrtiko/Athiri, Apha Estate Axia Syrah-Xinomavro, or Ouzo by Metaxa
  • Refreshment Port – Dole Pineapple is the star of the show here! Try these tropical delights:
    • Dole pineapple fritters
    • Fried Shrimp with Dole pineapple sweet & sour sauce
    • Fried chicken chunks with Dole pineapple sweet & sour sauce
    • Orange Dole Whip
    • Orange Dole Whip with Crème de Cacao White
    • Frozen Dragon Berry Colada featuring Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum
  • Desserts & Champagne – It’s as if this Food Marketplace was made just for me, filled with sweet delights and bubbling wine. Dessert offerings: Chocolate orange cupcake, Hazelnut chocolate cheesecake, Morello cherry pistachio mousse, Guylian Belgian chocolate seashell truffles. Can’t decide?  Don’t worry, they offer a Dessert trio option. To Drink:
    • Pyranud Weiss Cream Beer
    • Möet & Chandon Ice Impérial
    • Möet & Chandon Impérial
    • Möet & Chandon Nectar Impérial
    • Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé
    • Frozen S’mores
  • Hawai’i – Through this menu I can almost hear the ocean and the ukulele. Eats: Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise or Tuna Poke with seaweed salad and lotus root chips. Beverages: Kona Brewing Company’s Big Wave Golden Ale, Kona Brewing Company’s Pipeline Porter, Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer Réserve, Aulani Sunrise featuring Ocean Vodka
  • Scotland *NEW THIS YEAR* – A delightful menu full of tradition is a great way to welcome this beautiful country to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.
    Food: Seared Scottish salmon with cauliflower puree, watercress and malt vinaigrette, Vegetarian haggis with neeps & tatties (grilled vegetable cake with rutabaga and mashed potatoes), Scottish banoffee tart with bananas, Scottish whisky toffee, Walkers Shortbread Cookies and sweet cream. Drinks: Innis & Gunn Original, Loch Lomond featuring Glenfiddich, and Glenfiddich Scotch Flight.
  • Craft Beers – A selection of craft beers that would please any beer lover can be tried singly, or in two different flight options. (Here is where my hubby would want to stay.)
    • Dogfish Head Brewery, Namaste
    • Abita Brewing Company, Fall Fest
    • Leinenkugel’s Seasonal Shandy
    • Florida Beer Company, Devil’s Triangle
    • New Belgium Brewing Company, Fat Tire
    • Widmer Brothers Brewing, Alchemy Ale
    • Red Hook, Audible Ale
    • Sierra Nevada, Torpedo Extra IPA

As you can plainly see, you could eat and drink ALL STINKING DAY and still probably not try every Food Marketplace. Hubby thinks that a long weekend should be devoted to the sole purpose of taking in as much of the festival as possible. I have to say that it’s not a bad idea.

Whether you have one day or 4 days to check it out, here are my TIPS to make the most out of your time visiting the Food Marketplaces in the World Showcase:

  • Plan Ahead and Prioritize Make sure you make yourself aware of all of the food & beverage offerings. Pick up a Food & Wine Fez guide and mark what you most want to try. If you are still wanting more, you can go back for your second choices.
  • Share, Share, Share! While all of the portions at the Marketplaces are sized with the idea of sampling in mind, sharing with a friend or family member is the best way to go. You will save on cost, and room in your tummy, so you can try more flavors.
  • Budget Know how much you are willing to spend ahead of time. Taking a specific amount of cash, or buying one of the Food & Wine Fez prepaid giftcards will keep you from overspending.
  • Pace Yourself Make sure to give yourself enough time for what you want to experience. The World Showcase is huge, so be sure to factor time for walking, as well as the Food Marketplace lines.
  • Avoid the Weekends If possible visit the Food & Wine Fez Monday – Thursday. The weekends draw in the locals (understandably!), so the lines are often longer.

M. M. – T-REX at Downtown Disney

How is it Monday already!?! My busy weekend, which included my husband and I buying our first house (!!) and moving, probably has something to do with my bewilderment. I’m ready to admit that I almost slacked today and skipped writing this post. I’m tired, and I have a million things still to clean and unpack. But somehow I just couldn’t go a week without posting. I knew I would be washing windows and unpacking dishes thinking about how I should have blogged. So here we are – MUNCHY MONDAY!

This week we are traveling to Downtown Disney – a foodie paradise. Currently there are over 28 various spots to grab a bite to eat, ranging from an AMC Dine-In Theater to an authentically Irish-themed pub, to a Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Soda Shop. You can find table service restaurants and quick service dining, as well as stands offering drinks and snacks. The choices are amazing. Perhaps even more amazing still, is the fact that Downtown Disney is under-going an extensive renovation and expansion that will include even more dining delights. When the project is complete, Downtown Disney will be called Disney Springs.

DSC_0237On our last trip, my family and I ate dinner at T-REX. If you’re familiar with Rainforest Cafe, then you’ll have a great idea what this restaurant is about. Owned by the same parent company, T-REX is a prehistoric dining adventure.

Mum at T Rex

My beautiful Mum giving a smile. Look carefully behind her and you can spot a wooly mammoth and a few jellyfish in the background.

My Grandmother, taking in the restaurants action.

My Grandmother, taking in the restaurant action.

As you approach the restaurant, you’ll see a mountainous structure with a cave-like opening. Perched atop is a very large dinosaur skeleton, green ferns, and palms. Inside, is a prehistoric wonderland. At the front of the restaurant you can locate the bar area, which has an oceanic theme. Behind the bar is a large saltwater fish tank on which a giant octopus is perched, with its tentacles stretching over the blue, water-like ceiling. Colored jellyfish are suspended from the ceiling, mingling with the octopus tentacles. The restaurants tables are nestled into several themed rooms such as an ice cavern and fern forest. While the rooms have individual themes, they are open to each other and one theme flows into the other. Everywhere you look there are animatronic wooly mammoths, giant bugs, and dinosaurs – including a 15 foot tall T. rex. About every twenty minutes there is a “meteor shower,” and the entire restaurant springs to life with movement and sound. With so much going on, this place is a sensory mecca.

The Ice Cavern Ceiling.

The Ice Cavern.

DSC_0282With a restaurant that is so focused on entertainment, I always find myself skeptical of the quality of food. I was very pleasantly surprised here. Not to be outdone by the decor, the T-REX menu delivers. The kitchen, appropriately named The Kitchen of Fire, is located behind a long fire pit. On the wall behind the fire pit you can see chickens rotating in a giant rotisserie. The menu is quite expansive, with something for any taste. Most of the menu flavors are true American, though there are some light Italian touches. Food is easily organized into sections: Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Carnivores, Pastas, Burgers & Sandwiches, and Seafood. Mixed drinks can be found in a section labeled “The Watering Hole,” and there are plenty of beer and wine selections as well. Desserts are can be located in “The End is Near.” Each and every item has a clever, prehistoric reference in its name, such as: Fossil Fish-N-Chips, Pork-Asaurus Sandwhich, Layers of the Earth Lasagna, and Jurassic Salad.

On our visit, I ordered the Paleozoic Chicken Sandwich: pizza dough with grilled chicken, lettuce, bacon, Pepper Jack cheese, avocado, tomato, and lemon aioli. It came with my choice of side (french fries!), and it was absolutely delicious. The portion was big, the chicken was cooked perfectly, and it was full of tasty flavors. My young cousins were with us, and one of them was kind enough to give me a bite of their Cosmo’s Cheesy Macaroni. Let me assure you I would’ve devoured any of the unfinished noodles, but he cleaned the bowl leaving me high and dry. Can’t say I blame him.

Open for lunch and dinner, T-REX is a very popular spot to eat. In the busy seasons the wait can be excessive. My family had a reservation, and we still had a fair wait to be seated at our table. That being said, we were also a party of 14 altogether. Bottom line: make a reservation. That goes forever and always, at any Disney dining location.

Between the active theme and the large number of tables inside, this restaurant is noisy. Downright loud, really. It’s hard to hear anyone that is not seated next to you or across from you. Additionally, the meteor shower that occurs every twenty minutes includes flashing lights and thunder-like rumbles that may be frightening to very young children. This is not the spot for a quiet, romantic dinner. But, T-REX is definitely a fantastic place to dine with kids of all ages. Overall, I was really impressed with the environment and food in this unique dining spot. My family and I had a blast.