Tag Archives: epcot

Walt Disney World – Initial Planning Process

Over the last few years I’ve had a number of people ask me for advice on their upcoming Disney World vacations. I’m not an expert in any way, but I’ve been going to the parks since I was a child and I do have quite a bit of experience under my belt. Over the next few weeks I will be talking about my favorite tips and tricks for making your Disney World vacation the best.

Before I start with the planning, I want to encourage any of you who are resisting a Disney Vacation to give it a try. While Walt Disney World isn’t for everyone, it’s truly a magical experience for children and adults alike. The thought and detail within the Disney parks is almost overwhelming. The level of customer service cannot be beat! There’s a little something for everyone on Disney property. Rides, shows, water parks, fine dining, mini golf, shopping, horseback riding, holiday celebrations, guided tours – you name it! Having a good plan can vastly affect your Disney experience.

Today I want to talk about the importance of planning when considering a Disney vacation. Let’s be real, Disney World can be expensive and even stressful for some. Ticket prices, hotel stays, food, souvenirs, etc. will all add up to a pretty penny. I believe that to get the most out of your money, time, and sanity, planning out your trip is essential.

First, consider what’s important to you and your party. Prioritizing is key when planning a trip of this type. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you want to come back to a luxurious hotel room with all the bell and whistles after a long day at the park? Or, would you prefer saving on the hotel room and possibly use that savings on souvenirs or an extra day in the parks?
  2. What are your date options? Crowd sizes vary depending on the time of year, festivals within the parks, new ride openings, and race weekends. Weather should also be a factor when deciding dates. Historically, Saturdays are the busiest and Mondays are the least busy.
  3. Which parks will you be visiting and on which days? This will affect your fast passes and  dining options.
  4. How important will dining be to your party? Are you interested in fine dining? Character meals? Will your budget allow you to eat at the parks or will you need to bring your own snacks/packed lunches? Do you or someone in your party have dietary restrictions? Will you be purchasing a Disney Dining package?
  5. What are your park priorities? Are character meet and greets important to you? Do you want to ride as many rides as possible? What fast passes are you interested in? What about parades?
  6. What logistics do you need to consider? Will you be flying or driving to Orlando? Will you be renting a car from the airport or using Disney’s Magical Express buses to get to your hotel? Do you need to rent a stroller or wheelchair?
  7. Are you interested in any of the “Extras” at Disney World, such as appointments at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, races, or guided tours?

Making a list of your priorities will help to weed through some of the planning process. For example, Ray and I are not interested in character meals, so when we’re planning our dining reservations we can automatically eliminate character restaurants.

I’m very passionate about the planning process because I hate to see people fail to plan and end up having a not-so-magical trip. I truly believe that a well thought out plan (with consideration from everyone in your party), can vastly improve your trip. I also believe it’s important to have flexibility within your Disney World plans. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes rides break down. Sometimes it’s 100 degrees with 90% humidity. Sometimes you’re feet are too tired to walk one more step. Always plan for breaks and be flexible!

Do you have any Walt Disney World planning questions? Send them to me! The next post in this series will be on choosing a Walt Disney World hotel.

Dapper Day – November 2016

img_7913A few years ago I came across an instagram photo from a Disney World Dapper Day event. I was instantly smitten with the idea of a fancy outing at the Disney Parks. A few of our friends attended the Magic Kingdom event last spring, and after seeing their photos Ray and I decided to attend the next Dapper Day outing.
Well, we had that opportunity last weekend! Ray and I, along with our friends Kristi, Nathan, Lacey, Sara, Josh, Katie, and TJ, made our way to Epcot is our dapperest (and somewhat patriotic) attire. Here are a few snapshots from the day:img_7903img_7933img_7961img_7914img_7946img_7962(photo credit : Kristi…or maybe Nathan since Kristi is in the photo. lol)
img_7963(photo credit: Josh)

What a great weekend! Not only were we able to celebrate Dapper Day, we were also visiting Epcot during their Food and Wine Festival. We visited last year during the festival and I blogged about it here. For me, the stand out food this year were the hummus fries from Morocco, cheddar soup from Canada, peanut butter and white chocolate mousse from The Chew, schinkennudeln from Germany, and pescado con coco from Islands of the Carribean! I can’t wait to go to the Spring Dapper Day event!

Epcot’s 2015 Food and Wine Review

Last week I posted a few snapshot from our recent trip to Epcot for the Food and Wine festival. You can read all about the festival on the Disney website and see the full event menu on the Disney Food Blog. Today Ray, Brie, and I are sharing our full review of all the food and drinks we tried!

IMG_4953Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies
Allison – This was interesting. I wasn’t sure about the mint pesto at first, but it was my favorite part!
Brie – Weird and good. The lamb chop was delicious. The mint pesto was interesting, but worked really well with the lamb, and the potato crunchies added good texture and saltiness. I’d get it again.
Ray  – I really enjoy lamb chops, so I knew I’d want to try this. I wasn’t sold on the idea of mint pesto, but I was trying to go into it with an open mind. This was after all one of the dishes we had later in the day, and we had much stranger things than mint pesto already. The lamb chop was cooked perfectly and tasted so good. The mint pesto was creamy and mild, and really added a lot to the flavor of the chop. The potato crunches are really the thing that were really like a cherry on top. That little bit of crunch just pushed this over the edge to being a really enjoyable dish.

IMG_4960 Potato and Leek Waffle with Braised Beef and Smoked Gouda Cream
A – Eh, pretty disappointing. I was expecting great things from this dish and it just turned out mediocre. I will say that the portion size seemed to be larger than most of the other dishes served at the festival.
B – If I hadn’t seen a picture of this dish before we went, I would have been disappointed. It kinda looked like a big gravy slop, and that’s what it tasted like. There wasn’t much meat, but I liked the couple pieces that I got. The waffle was fine, the gravy was good, the carrots were good. I couldn’t really taste the gouda cream at all though.
R – When I hear Gouda cream, I get pretty excited. I love Gouda and felt like the description of this dish sounded delicious. Unfortunately the Gouda cream was almost un-noticeable. If it had been left off I wouldn’t have been able to tell. The leek and potato waffle was crunchy and pretty good. It did seem a little more salty than I expected, but worked out when paired with the gravy. The meat was pretty good, but there just really wasn’t much of that either. All in all it was an okay dish, but I feel like it could have been executed much better.

Canada:IMG_4945“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce
A – Completely worth it. Even the mushrooms were delicious and I typically don’t like mushrooms. TRY THIS!
B – I only tasted a small bite of this, and it was pretty good.
R – This was one of the best dishes we had. The steak was cooked so perfectly. The butter sauce was great and the mushrooms were seasoned perfectly and paired with the filet so well. I would have had a second and third.

China:IMG_4946Happy Peach with Peach Liqueur and Dark Rum:
A – I only had a slip, but it was refreshing and really cold (which we needed).
B – Really good and refreshing. We tried this at a point in the day when we were all sweltering and tired, and this drink was a great pick-me-up.
R – This was a kind of sweet drink, but it was about 2pm and blazing hot. We were all about to die, and I like rum… So I stood in line and got this because it was cold. I honestly think this may have saved our lives. It was very refreshing.

Farm Fresh:IMG_4955 IMG_4768Hard Cider Flight
A – I guess I’m a hard cider fan now? The elderberry cider was my favorite and now that I’m home I NEED it. Ray immediately broke the pumpkin cider cup, so I had to risk my white shirt to drink it.
B – One of our best decisions. There was pumpkin cider, raspberry cider, elderberry cider, and dry pear cider. All were good, but the dry pear cider was definitely my favorite. I’ve been wanting it ever since.
R – I’m the only one who wasn’t wild about the cider flight. It was all pretty good, and surprisingly I didn’t hate the pumpkin cider. But I didn’t really have a favorite. I can take or leave a cider.

IMG_4760Florida Orange Groves Key Limen Wine
A – Too sweet, but not terrible.
B – Good. Sweet.
R – I thought this tasted exactly like what key lime wine should taste like. It was pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d drink a bottle of it.

Assorted Pastries from Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie
A – The last time Ray and I went to Epcot we skipped France and I have no idea why. I wanted to make sure we experienced it this time. I walked into the bakery expecting to get a macaron, but realized I needed chocolate and ended up getting a chocolate croissant. It was delicious and it saved my life. Even though this list is super long and looks like we gorged ourselves all day, we actually only had a small bite or two of each item. Well, I ate almost this whole croissant and it was exactly what I needed.
B – I ordered a beignet with chocolate hazelnut spread inside. It was delicious. I almost wished the Nutella-like stuff wasn’t in it, because the actual beignet was so good. This bakery stop was also one of our best decisions. Absolutely everything sold here looked wonderful.
R – I got a chocolate mousse with crunchies on top. This was so good. It was a great break to get out of the sun for a little bit and I think the sugar helped get me going and ready to brave the crowds again.

Riesling Flight
A – Good. Tiny.
B – Really good. Glad we got this.
R – Rieslings are pretty good. But I like lots of wines.

Kalua pork slider with Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise
A – Ooooooh! This was good.
B – I really liked this and would absolutely get it again. The pork was flavorful and moist, pineapple chutney was good (but really it was just crushed up pineapple), and mine had a lot of the spicy mayo on it. This is in my top 5 fave foods we had.
R –   I think I was the least impressed by this. I didn’t get any of the spicey  mayo in my bites and I wish I had. The pork was pretty good. I’d probably try this again, but it wasn’t life changing.

Tuna Poke with Seaweed Salad and Lotus Root Chips
A – Surprisingly fresh with a great texture. Definitely get this if you’re a sushi person.
B – Nice and fresh. Not bad at all, but I wouldn’t get it again. We’d just watched the Top Chef season 2 finale, which was in Hawaii, and they talked about tuna poke for like an entire episode. So it was fun to try it.
R – This was surprisingly fresh and good. It is raw tuna though, and early in the day I could only have so much of that. It was also very salty. Not too salty, but it did seem pretty salty.

Pineapple Wine
A – Gross
B – Not into it.
R – I didn’t hate it. It really just tasted like pineapple wine. It was sweet.

Mai Tai  
A – Ugh. I just can’t get behind pineapple juice.
B – Bad.
R –  I’ve really been into Mai tais this summer… This is one of the worst I’ve had. Save your $7 and I’ll make you a great one.

Ireland:IMG_4959Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie
A – I only had the tiniest bite, but I didn’t love it. The mashed potato topping tasted fake!! I just don’t care about non-sweet pies! 
B – I also only had a tiny bite. It was fine. I’m never into mashed potatoes as a top crust.
R – This was really good, but it was hotter than lava. I burned my tongue pretty bad on it. But the taste was pretty good. It was like a shepherd’s pie with a seafood bisque under the potato. I enjoyed it.

IMG_4763Bunratty Meade Honey Wine
A – Best drink of the festival!!! Two thumbs up!
B – This was good. I thought I would hate it, because I hate fake honey flavor, but I didn’t!!!
R – I loved this. I’m going to have to find some of this for me.

Spicy Hand Roll: Tuna + Salmon with Kazan Volcano Sauce
A – A good roll and a good size. Honestly, you could probably get something comparable at a nice sushi restaurant anywhere… but I’d still probably get it again.
B – Just a good sushi roll. The volcano sauce was good and spicy.
R – missed out on this one

Mexico:IMG_4767Blood Orange Margaritas at La Cava del Tequila
A – I only got water while in Mexico, but I’ve had this margarita before. It’s pretty good, but not worth the line wait. It’s best to get to this bar when they open (12:00pm) because the crowd can get pretty wild.
B – Ehh, I was disappointed. It wasn’t a bad margarita, but it was expensive and a very long, slow line. I will say that it was stronger than it tasted, though.
R – See, this is a little expensive, and if you don’t go there and wait for them to open you have to stand in a line for 30min+ but it’s the best bang for your buck. They don’t skimp here. The two margaritas I’ve tried (blood orange and avocado) have been great!

Kefta Pocket
A – I think I had a bite of this, but I don’t remember. So, I guess it wasn’t memorable?
B – This was basically a meatball in a pita. A little dry, but good.
R – This was a pita type thing with a meatball in it. Here is the problem I have with any gyro or pita type sandwich… they have a ton of lettuce at the top/opening and then the meet is at the bottom. It’s hard to get a good bite of everything. Everything in it was pretty good, but I don’t know if i’d visit this dish again

Harissa Chicken Roll
A – On the real, this tasted like a southwest egg roll and I loved it. I could have eaten the whole thing in one bite! Unfortunately, it was about the size of my index finger and all 3 of us wanted a try.
B – The second I read this description, I knew I needed it and would love it. And I was correct. This chicken roll was delicious! I have no idea why we only got one.
R – I only had a bite of this, but it was good and spicy, like spices and spicy. I liked it a lot. I would have skipped pita meatball for this again.

A – Ray drank it all!!!
B – Good?
R – Typical sangria, but it was nice and refreshing since it was pretty hot.

Patagonia:IMG_4958Beef Empanada
A – This was good, but I would skip it next time. This empanada can be found at any semi-ethnic restaurant. I don’t think we finished it.
B – Just your typical empanada. Good, but no need to get it again.
R – I like an empanada and hoped this would be the empanada to end all empanadas… but it wasn’t. It was fine, but i’d skip it if given the oppertunity again

IMG_4956Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce
A – I only had one tiny bite. I loved the chimichurri sauce, but the meat wasn’t my favorite.
B – This was pretty good. I kinda wish I had gotten my own. The chimichurri sauce was real good.
R – The meat is a little tough, but still good and the sauce was amazing. I’d say this is worth a try, just know and be prepared for the meat to not be super tender.

Refreshment Port:
IMG_4761Croissant Doughnut
A – A+!! This isn’t exclusive to the Food and Wine Festival. You can purchase a cronut any old day at Epcot… and you should!
B – Guys. This cronut is just to DIE for. It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in my life. We got three in total… and like, they’re pretty big.
R – These are okay. I mean they aren’t exclusive to food and wine and you can get them at other places. I haven’t had a ton of cronuts but I’d assume this one was about as good as any

IMG_4762Dole Whip Soft Serve with Coconut Rum
A – Dole Whip is always good, but especially with rum.
B – I only had a tiny taste of this, but it was really good. I was kinda over the taste of pineapple by the time we got this, but normally I would’ve been super into it.
R – Dole whip is awesome. Rum is awesome. I do wish it had been just normal rum or spiced rum with the dole whip though

Scotland:IMG_4755Fresh Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon and Herb Sour Cream
A – This was something I was really looking forward to. It was good, but not great. The herb sour cream and the salmon went really well together, but the pancake was rubbery. Who wants a rubber pancake? NOT ME!!
B – I was disappointed in this number. I expected it to be awesome, but it was just kinda boring.
R – Herb sour cream is just a basic thing. The salmon seemed more raw than smoked. honestly I’ve thought this whole time that it was shaved raw salmon until i read the description just now to write this. So, for raw salmon it was good. For smoked salmon, I’m unimpressed because it tasted raw. The potato pancake was, unfortunately, forgettable to me.

IMG_4756Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon
A – My favorite dish of the day! Every element to this dish is fantastic! DO NOT SKIP! Also, maybe get your own. Splitting one scallop three ways is just kind of sad. All I can think about is how to recreate this dish.
B – This was my number one food (besides that cronut). If for some awful reason you can only get one food at the Food and Wine Fest, this is the one you need. I’ve been dreaming about it for days.
R – Spinach cheddar gratin was okay. the scallop was great though. I think this is the first time I’ve had a real scallop though, so my thoughts on scallops have changed severely

IMG_4757Whiskey-soaked Cake with Lemon Cream and Toasted Oats
A – This was really good without being overly sweet. Kind of tiny for 3 people to get a really good taste.
B – Oh, this was really good too. It had like a raspberry sauce on the bottom and was a pretty generous portion. I would get it again.
R – I don’t remember anything about this.

IMG_4758Scotch Flight
A – Eh, I’m not a scotch girl.
B – Poison!!!! I’ve never hated three liquors more.
R – Okay, i would just buy the 18 year instead of the flight here. Unless you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting the difference between several different years of scotch. it can be pretty fun. I like scotch though.

Sustainable Chew:
IMG_4957Pork Spareribs with Red Wine, Fennel, and Cheesy Mascarpone Grits
A – I  DIDN’T GET ANY!!!! Ray ate it all!! 🙁
B – I didn’t get to try this, sadly. See my saga below.
R – I got these and the panna cotta’s and then waited around forever for the two girls. (see Brie’s saga below) I was trying to save some of it for everyone to try, but time was just ticking away and grits are only good for so long. So, I ate all of this myself. Even after waiting a long while, everything was delicious. This was an afterthought, i only went to the sustainable chew to get these panna cotta things, and ended up seeing this and deciding i would try it. Guys, it was good. i know this isn’t one of the countries, but don’t pass this up.

IMG_4954Vanilla Panna Cotta with Figs and Pistachio Brittle
A – SO DISAPPOINTING!!! This sounded so delicious, but the texture was just totally off. I was waiting in anticipation to try it and couldn’t even finish two bites. The geletin and panna cotta mixed into a weird curdled-like texture. The “brittle” was just chopped pistachios. It was so bad!! See Brie’s sad saga below.
B – Whew, guys. I was CERTAIN that this would be my number one dish. I was sure of it. I love figs and pistachios and vanilla, so how it could it not be to die for? In fact, Allison and I needed it (and another cronut… Shhhh!) so badly that we had to ignore painful blisters and a bathroom emergency to get it!!! We’d gone through the entire World Showcase and realized we hadn’t been to the Sustainable Chew. We found it on the map, and it wasn’t far from where we were (or from the cronut place, which we’d already decided we had to go back to). There was a ride in a different area of the park that we wanted to go on again before it closed, so the three of us divided and conquered to be as quick as possible. I went to get cronuts, they went to find the panna cotta and spareribs and a bathroom. I was suffering from two gigantic blisters on the bottoms of my feet, so walking was painful. That blood orange margarita had also kicked in, and we’d just finished that hard cider flight and key lime wine. So… I was a little fuzzy. Basically, we all got separated and couldn’t find each other for a very long time. We were finally all back together with the cronuts and panna cotta (Ray had eaten the spareribs and cheesy grits), too late to go on The Land, but worth it because we had the cronuts and panna cotta. Except it wasn’t really worth it, because the panna cotta was awful. Too gelatinous and separated, a weird taste… just really not good at all. Granted, we ate it like 30 minutes after it was ordered. Still, my biggest disappointment of the day.
R -After waiting an hour, I didn’t think this would be very good. Who knows if it would have been good fresh… it was mostly a texture issue.

And that was our day!
Things to know:
– Going to Food and Wine with 3-5 is great because you can split the food, try lots of different things, and not spend $200.
– Most of the food portions are pretty small, but this is how you’re able to buy delicious filet mignon for $7.
– The drink portions are also really small, but they don’t skimp on the alcohol!
– The lines can get really long, but in our experience they moved quickly (except Japan, those slow pokes).

Have you been to Food and Wine? What was your favorite dish? What looks best to you?

Birthday Epcot Trip

epcotIMG_4596Last Saturday Ray, Brie, and I woke up obnoxiously early to drive down to Orlando and enjoy Epcot’s Food and Wine festival. We checked into our Hotel by 8:00am and made it to the park by 9am at opening. We rode rides in the morning, and enjoyed lots of delicious food and drinks in the afternoon. Here are a few snapshots from the day!IMG_4747IMG_4739IMG_4741IMG_4621IMG_4748IMG_4740IMG_4688It was such a great trip! I love Epcot! In the next few day we’ll be posting a full review of all the food and drinks we tried- so be on the lookout for that!

Disney World Tips and Tricks

IMG_0382IMG_0384IMG_0383IMG_0385Can we take a moment and reflect on my childhood Disney fashion choices? Pink fanny pack + SUPER high wasted jeans + turtle neck + center part?! Whew!IMG_2301

I love Disney World! Like, a lot. Maybe too much for a sensible adult. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my family at the magical parks. Some of my favorite young adult memories are of my friends and I at the parks. Living only 2 1/2 hours away from Orlando, Disney World is definitely a convenient vacation destination. Disney World is magical for children and adults, BUT it can be stressful. Here are some tips and tricks to have a magical time and keep any stress at bay!

1. Get to the parks EARLY! On our most recent trip, Ray and I arrived almost an hour early to the Magic Kingdom. This was sort of on accident (actually we planned on getting there early, then forgot we did it) but it ended up being perfect. We were able to watch the opening show and be some of the first people to walk into the park. We were also able to walk directly onto the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with a zero minute wait, while people generally have to wait between 45 mins to 1 1/2 hours in line.
2. Get the app! The My Disney Experience app is for sure a life saver (and time saver) while in the parks. You can schedule fast passes, see wait times, view maps of each park, and even make dining reservations for your party through the app.
3. Have a (flexible) itinerary! Know the rides/shows/parades/restaurants you want to attend before you go.
4. Cool (aka air conditioned) rides!  I’ll be honest, going to Disney World in the summer is horrendous and I refuse to go between June and September. BUT, I understand that it’s the only option for some people.There will be times when you just HAVE to sit in the A/C. For this, I suggest finding the closest cool ride. Best cool rides – Carousel of Progress (my personal favorite), Philharmagic, Muppet’s 3D, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Haunted Mansion, Living in the Land, Spaceship Earth,  indoor shows and most boat rides.
5. Utilize FastPass+! I don’t know if the Disney folks invented the idea of fastpasses, but it’s genius! FastPass+ allows you to schedule ride times for your party, resulting in very little wait time.
6. Some rides are better at night! On our most recent trip, the last ride we rode before we left Magic Kingdom was Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel. At night It was more magical and romantic than ever before. Other rides that fall into this category: Astro Orbiter, Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain.
7. Stay on Disney property! If you’re staying in hotel you MUST stay in a Disney hotel. Yes, they can be a little bit more expensive- but believe me, it’s worth it! Disney hotels provide free transportation from the Orlando airport. You don’t have to worry about renting a car or catching a cab to the hotel. Disney hotels also provide free transportation to and from the parks which allows you to bypass the $17ish parking. This is awesome because Orlando traffic can be kind of terrible and confusing. If you’re staying in a Disney hotel and decide to drive your own vehicle, you still get free parking at the parks!
8. Experience the restaurants on Disney property. Disney is home to some of the best and highest rated restaurants in the state! Because of it’s international cuisine, Disney offers so many opportunities to try something new! Disney dining can be expensive, but it can also be a really unique, memorable, and delicious experience. I suggest saving a little extra cash for a nice meal. Most menus and prices are available online, so it’s easy to plan accordingly. When I was a child my parents would bring snacks and lunch food in a backpack for the day and then we would usually go out to dinner. This worked great for our family!
9. Take photos, but not too many! Disney World is magical and a great place for family photos. I mean, magic backdrops galore. Cast members and Photo Pass people will gladly take photos of you with your camera or phone. BUT, don’t spend all your time taking pictures! Fully enjoying the moment is always better than photographing it.
10. Have fun! Don’t stress out! Relax! Take in your environment! Don’t lose your mind when people accidentally run over you with a stroller! That last one was for me, btw. 😉

Disney veterans, what are some of your tips?