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.

M.M. – Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar

DSC05026Pictured above my friends, is pure happiness. A perch in the shade with my favorite ice cream treat in the ENTIRE WORLD: Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar. Welcome back to MUNCHY MONDAY, the tastiest day of the week.

Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar:

noun

Perfection. A frozen serving of silky, creamy vanilla ice cream covered with a thick, rich chocolate shell in the shape of the iconic Mickey ears.

IMG_0644Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar is a whole-lotta-name. My family and I usually just call it a Premium Bar, and I’ll treat you all like one of the gang and refer to it as such here. Sold exclusively by Disney, we can thank Nestle for bringing this delight to us. The bar comes packaged in a red, blue, and white wrapper featuring a smiling Mickey face. (You can see the wrapper stuck under my cup in the picture above.) Now-a-days you can find a Premium Bar just about anywhere on Walt Disney World property. They’re available at all theme parks, as well as Downtown Disney, from an ice cream cart. You won’t have to trek far in any park to find one of these carts set up with a big, blue umbrella and a sign displaying what goodies it offers. You may also be able to find a Premium Bar in the food court of your WDW Resort Hotel. Just ask a cast member if your hotel serves them up.

IMG_0645 Now that you know where to find them, let’s talk strategy. Everyone has a different approach to how they eat a Premium Bar. Hubby, as seen to the left, digs right in, biting off an ear. He prefers to enjoy the chocolate & vanilla flavors together in bites. I’m not really a bite-my-ice cream kinda gal. I like to savor the ice cream slowly as it melts. So I very carefully eat the chocolate shell first and then eat the vanilla ice cream layer by softly melting layer. You can see below, how I’ve already got the side of the chocolate coating off, exposing the vanilla ice cream. My strategy also makes the Premium Bar last longer. Win.

DSC05027Like Pineapple Dole Whip, I shamelessly eat more than one of these during a WDW trip. I simply love them. They’re the ideal treat – sweet, cool, and refreshing. Incidentally, I’ve discovered that despite of the countless hours I’ve spent at Walt Disney World and the many, many times I’ve enjoyed this treat, I have very few pictures of it. I will say that this reason is probably two pronged. Firstly, it’s so tasty you want to eat it immediately, and photographing it doesn’t really come into consideration. Secondly, we usually visit WDW in the summer. And it’s HOT. There is little-to-no time for snapping pictures before you start to have a melting mess on your hands. But the melting mess, especially when you’re a kid, is part of the fun.

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Disney Springs is Announced!

Disney is dynamic company that has managed to stay on top of the game for decades. In my opinion, Walt Disney was probably one of the most imaginative humans to ever walk this earth. But it wasn’t his imagination alone that made him successful. It was his ability to adapt, change, and pursue his dreams with tenacious fervor his entire adult life. Walt Disney World maintains his principles, for the most part, and that is why his legacy still exists. You can walk into Walt Disney World, no matter your generation, and be struck by wonder and feel completely free and happy. The parks and resort hotels house a few treasures from its start in the 1970’s, but much of what we know and love today as vacationers has been adapted, recycled, and added to what Walt Disney originally planned and built. These changes allow Disney to bring new and exciting experiences to guests, year after year.

Blogging morning

On Thursday Disney announced one of those changes. A multi-year renovation and expansion of the Downtown Disney Area will occur, transforming the area into “Disney Springs.” As of now, I have yet to even write the Downtown Disney information segment of this website & blog, but that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of any attention. I’m just a one-woman-show, and there are only so many blogging hours in a week.

Currently Downtown Disney is a three part shopping and dining area arched alongside a lake. There are currently 13 table service restaurants, 7 quick service restaurants, and plenty of places to find a snack. Cirque de Soleil’s La Nouba calls Downtown Disney home, as well as an AMC Theater, a bowling alley, and a plethora of specialty shops that include a mega Disney Store and a Virgin Records. This general concept: leisure, shopping, and dining will be the mainframe of the new Disney Springs. It will just be on a much grander, more homogenous scale.

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As with everything that Disney creates in the parks, there is a story line. These stories are sometimes fantastical concepts that transport you nevertheless. One of my favorite examples is the story of Typhoon Lagoon: One day a typhoon wreaked havoc upon a beautiful tropical paradise. The storm tossed ships, surfboards, and fishing gear everywhere on this paradise. “Miss Tilly,” was a shrimp boat that got marooned on a mountain peak. And this chaos that was left from the typhoon, created this water park paradise. The story of Disney Springs is a bit more authentic, but still charming. A turn-of-the-century lakeside settlement has blossomed into a thriving town. There is a Town Center and three communities: The Landing, The Marketplace and West Side. Each of the three communities will have its own flavor and personality. With over 150 establishments in the new Disney Springs, there will be plenty of entertainment, dining and shopping to be found as well as a beautiful setting with a focus on water.

Construction is set to begin in April, just a few weeks from now and projected to be completed in 2016. Big changes like this at Walt Disney World often stir the pot, but I think this is a very positive and exciting announcement. Downtown Disney will be taken to an entirely new level and give years of delight to guests of all ages.