secrets

A Dragon, a dragon…I thought I saw a dragon!

 

As the official opening of New Fantasyland fast approaches, Disney continues to release mysterious nuggets of information about Dragons. What role will they play in the expansion? We’re not sure, but it’s really exciting! We’re keeping our eye on the Believe in Fantasy Tumblr as well as the Believe In Fantasy 2012 Youtube channel. Plus, you can always look for hidden information at the official New Fantasyland page. This looks to be a fantastic viral campaign by the marketing team at Walt Disney World, which could have actually kicked off a few months ago with the strange appearance of a flying machine that looked like a dragon over Animal Kingdom. Send use your thoughts!


Tom Sawyer Island Adventures

Well, here’s a first……..I went to Tom Sawyer Island for the very first time!! Yup, you heard me. Now, I pride myself on being a Disney expert of sorts but when you’re admitting you haven’t DONE something in the Park I feel as though I must explain myself. Continue reading

Off to a Disney Cruise? Wanna know a secret….

OK, you have probably already been informed that Disney has in fact released ANOTHER new ship. This past weekend on March 31st, will hold a special date in the hearts of many who have been waiting for her release. Disney Cruise Lines set sail on the Inaugural cruise for The Disney Fantasy. Now, much like my previous post about Disney Cruise Lines and their fleet……The Fantasy holds some pretty special magic of her own. Continue reading

The Making of IOA: Marvel Super Hero Island

You could be forgiven for thinking that Marvel Super Hero Island has come to us from another planet. Though not as mysterious as the goings-on at Hangar 13 in Roswell, some of the early creative work on the project took place in a “secret, abandoned” warehouse in Burbank, CA. The island was designed to suggest that it was a ship that had landed on a lagoon in the middle of Orlando. The Marvel universe, with heroes and villains ranging from Thor to Doctor Doom to the Incredible Hulk, is certainly more alien than the family-friendly crew assembled over at Disney–or any other theme park, for that matter. And the island’s centerpiece, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, with its seamless blend of motion-based and 3D technology, is unlike any other attraction on the planet.

Continue reading

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: The Myth and Truth's of Hidden Mickey's

I am sure that you have heard about the mysterious Hidden Mickey’s. I also bet you have probably wondered what they actually are. There has even been, in recent years, an almost cult like following to find new ones throughout Disney Parks.

I can even admit that I even given into the obsession to find them. I have even purchased a copy of the very popular book by Mr. Steven Barrett to familiarize myself with the crazy sweeping the population. Wikipedia has even dedicated a page to the entire subject. There’s even an app for that!
Hidden Mickey Book Now, I cannot find dates when they started to create them, but what I can say is there are Hidden Mickey’s in the Snow White Movie so they have been around since 1937 when the movie was released. This is big business and is pretty fun trying to locate them. Look on rocks, bridles for the horses on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, every Resort, motion pictures, TV series, cruise lines. You name it, there most likely will be a Hidden Mickey somewhere.

Now, cheating as I have in the past, the book is very helpful for the beginner to get you familiar with them but once you have located a few yourself, it is so much fun running around trying to find others not listed in the books. However, I can with all certainty tell you that this has been going on for a very long time and everyone knows all about them. If you’re lucky, you can even ask a Cast Member wherever you may be and see if they know of any in that particular location. At our Canadian Pavilion, we can even tell you that if you look up, WAAAAAAAY UP on one of our totem poles, you will even see a Hidden Mickey if you look closely. It was even a special task for us in Le Cellier, the amazing Canadian steakhouse to create Hidden Mickey’s for our guests.

There are deliberate ones, like I just mentioned, but thousands of ones that have been secretly placed in some pretty incredible places. Snow White movie…….you see it? Ummmmm can you imagine a GIANT one in Hollywood Studio’s that can only be seen from the skies? (Note, this was before the giant Sorcerer Hat was added.)

How about in WISHES the nighttime spectacular fireworks high above?

Animal Kingdom Lodge towering over you whilst you check-in?
Maelstrom, Norway’s boat ride in EPCOT, while you wait in line?

Hollywood Studio’s………from the manhole covers on the ground to the front of most of the cars in the afternoon parades to the outside the buildings down Hollywood Boulevard, they are everywhere.

Even the Water Parks are getting into the act with splash pools and if you look at the lifeguard stands, you might find one in the least expected places and those, those are the most coveted ones. No matter where you go, what you’re watching, be on the look out for these hidden gems. It is a fun little game you can join in, it’s a FREEBIE and gives you something extra to do whilst waiting in a queue line somewhere. Don’t be surprised i[warning][/warning]f you find others walking around the Parks with a little book to assist them in hunting down the elusive Hidden Mickey.  Good luck locating your own.

Now, I have to go, I have an exciting day at Blizzard Beach Water Park ahead of me and I hear that there is a Hidden Mickey at Mt.Gushmore I need to find.
Until next time:
TTF

Tracey

The Making of IOA: Secrets of the Signage

For more than 25 years, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory —    with its many visual wonders and thematic units — has exercised the imaginations of young and young-at-heart viewers alike. Such magic-wielding worlds as Willy Wonka’s are typically confined to movie land. But movie viewing isn’t the only way to experience paradise. If you’re seeking an off-screen Eden for all ages, you might consider visiting Orlando, FL’s Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park.

Located adjacent to Universal Studios Florida ®, the billion-dollar Islands of Adventure was conceived in 1994. “We were looking for thematic content for a second park; we were looking to build large ‘islands’ that would house attractions,    restaurants and merchandise shops,” explains Steve Leff, Universal Studio Inc.’s (Los Angeles) graphics manager.
To create the park’s six islands, Universal went to great pains to find themes that appeal to both children and adults. The science-fiction/fantasy film Jurassic Park ®provided the details needed to create one island. Another island was born after Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., La Jolla, CA, granted Universal permission to use Seuss characters. At the same time, Universal contracted with Marvel Comics, New York, to use Marvel    Super Heroes, as well as King Features, a division of the Hearst Corp., New York, to incorporate “Sunday Funnies” characters. The park’s “Port of Entry™” and “The Lost Continent™” islands are themed to reflect adventure, exploration, trading, myths and legends. From these contract agreements, Universal acquired enough content to build a new park. Steve recalls, “We wanted to go into the fantasy realm and create worlds based on the thematic properties we collected from outside sources.” To ensure the detail of each island, it took Universal approximately five years to oversee and complete the project. The park celebrated its grand opening May 28, 1999.

Jurassic Park River Adventure entrance sign

Designing the park 
Under Steve’s guidance, Universal’s seven-person graphics team created design concepts for Islands of Adventure’s more than 2,100 signs and graphics. The designers’ first task was to name the park’s attractions, restaurants and shops. Steve explains, “Many facilities had not yet been named. And since we had to design signs for these facilities, we needed to first create names to put on the signs.” Once the nomenclature was established and legally approved, the designers began creating concepts for the park’s main-identification and large-scale signs. To establish the signs’ placement on various buildings, as well as to ensure the appropriate structural and electrical components, Universal designers worked closely with outside architectural and engineering firms.
The team’s primary goal was to ensure the graphics complimented the overall theme-park environment. Steve says, “Park graphics should blend in with the facility’s overall theme. However, they should not blend in so well they go unnoticed by the visitors.” Another design goal was to differentiate the appearance of the islands while maintaining a uniform wayfinding system for the entire park.
Early planning, hard work, skill and outside help from a number of graphics-design and architectural and engineering firms allowed the Universal team to accomplish its goals and create what it considers “coffee-table-book graphics.”
Upon completing the project’s design concepts, Universal mailed letters to approximately 50 qualified sign fabricators requesting information about their shops’ size, capabilities and product  offerings. The fabricators were also asked to send photos and shop drawings of prior, heavily themed project work. From this feedback, Universal narrowed its search to 25 companies. Steve then traveled to each location and interviewed the candidates. He says, “I wanted to get a feel for the companies and select the island(s) for which they could produce the best graphics.” For example, to produce the signage for “Toon Lagoon™” and “Marvel Super Hero Island™,” Steve sought electric-sign shops. Many of the signs for these two islands incorporate fabricated aluminum, Plexiglas ®and internal neon illumination. Likewise, he sought shops with experience fabricating foam and fiberglass sculptures to complete the signage for “Seuss Landing™” and “The Lost Continent.”
The signshops were then asked to bid on the project, as well as submit technical proposals outlining how they would plan and complete the job. Once Universal received the proposals, it matched qualified fabricators with the appropriate project work. The number of sign fabricators and vendors assigned to each island was determined by the amount and type of work required.
One of the many Dueling Dragons signs

Managing sign production 
Fifteen-year-old Design Communications Ltd. (DCL), Boston and Orlando, FL, fabricated all signs for “Port of Entry” and “The    Lost Continent.” According to Steve, DCL’s proposal stood out because the company’s found-parts coordinator could visit ship yards and salvage companies to seek ship and airplane relics for “Port of Entry,” which features an adventure-and-exploration theme. Also, DCL’s foam- and fiberglass-sculpting experience made it the perfect sign fabricator for “The Lost Continent.” DCL was the only company chosen to fabricate signs for two islands.
The signshop began fabricating signs for “Port of Entry” in February 1998 and “The Lost Continent” in June 1998. Approximately 480 signs were produced for both islands. DCL President Mark Andreasson says his shop’s biggest fabrication challenge was creating so many one-of-a-kind, large-scale signs. “We’re    accustomed to producing large-scale signage — for shopping malls, stadiums and airports — which is repetitive in nature. For the Islands of Adventure project, however, we had to create many completely unique signs that were complicated to engineer and fabricate,” Mark explains.
Project management, Mark says, is the key to overcoming such fabrication challenges. To manage the Islands of Adventure job, his shop broke the project down into small parts and assembled in-house teams. Approximately half of DCL’s 110 employees worked on the project during its peak time. Any work not assigned to an in-house team was subcontracted. DCL hired approximately nine subcontractors to share the workload and more than 100 vendors to supply materials and miscellaneous items.
Good project control helps overcome any production and communication challenges that might arise when a signshop has to monitor the progress of both in-house and outside production. Mark advises that communication between shops remain open at all times. When working on a job of this size and nature, sign-makers should keep the project’s scope in mind throughout fabrication to limit rework. “It’s important for sign fabricators to encourage conceptual designers to spell out what they want. By doing so, fabricators can keep a job’s parameters from changing,” Mark says. To ensure profitability, sign manufacturers should also track a project’s every detail and cost, as well as maintain good documentation and update shop drawings.
Hogsmeade Sign....one of the newest signs at the park

Fabricating and installing the signs 
There was no cookie-cutter approach to the fabrication and installation of the 480 signs DCL produced for Islands of  Adventure. Aluminum, fiberglass, Sign•Foam high-density urethane (HDU) and natural wood were among the variety of    materials the shop used to create the theme park’s signage. Fabrication techniques included hand-carving, hand-painting, sandblasting and sculpting. In addition to being one-of-a-kind, each sign was engineered, manufactured and installed to withstand abuse from the park’s many visitors, as well as Central Florida’s humid climate and severe wind load. Mark and his crew completed fabrication and installation of all signs for “Port of Entry” and “The Lost Continent” in 12 months.
Here’s an overview of the materials, techniques and installation methods DCL used to create five of the signs for “The Lost Continent”:
Alchemy Bar: Measuring 6 feet tall, the sign incorporates an aluminum frame structure distressed to resemble aged pewter and wrought iron; cast-resin embellishments, a carved urethane sign band and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) lettersA hammered, stainless-steel mixing bowl cups a 27-liter    Pyrex™ borosilicate-glass flask, which is plastic-coated for    safety and to simulate a hand-blown appearance. A magnetic stirring device — housed within the steel mixing bowl — spins a plastic-coated steel bar inside the flask and stirs 150 pounds of    fluid. To illuminate the fluid, a neon ring is placed inside the    sign’s base enclosure. A faux-finished mounting plate and square, aluminum tube are used to support the structure.
Dragon’s Keep: The 4-foot-tall sign employs aluminum and medium-density overlay (MDO) with carved Sign•Foam. Acrylic, foam and cast resin make up the sign’s 2-foot-tall medallion. Internal neon illumination accentuates the sign’s acrylic push-through letters, which are filled with crushed amethyst. The sign’s acrylic jewel features bevel-cut edges and internal, fiber-optic illumination. The 9-foot-tall tree — in which the sign is embedded — contains a steel structure with a sculpted-foam shape. Painted, fiberglass, epoxy-coat detailing make up the construction’s outer shell.
Frozen Desert: DCL used aluminum and Sign•Foam to prepare the 7-foot-tall masterpiece. The sign’s aluminum patterns are router-cut from successive layers and filled in with cut-glass tiles. Epoxy resin holds the tiles in place. The sign hangs from steel chains attached to a 10-foot-tall aluminum support arm with a foam and fiberglass surface shaped, carved and painted to resemble aged wood. In addition, this support houses six MR-16 electrical lamps.
Oasis Coolers: An aluminum core structure and a sculpted, rigid Sign•Foam lower panel make up the 8-foot-tall sign. Its 1-inch-thick, double-sided acrylic centerpiece features a translucent cloisonné (an enamel decoration) finish. A    custom, sculpted-foam, glass- and resin-coated tapered flagpole supports the sign.
Shop of Wonders: To produce the 9-foot, 6-inch-tall sign, DCL combined aluminum and carved Sign•Foam. The lower arc’s internal, neon-illuminated, foam-carved letters are paint-filled and covered with glass beads. A translucent paint    finish on polycarbonate makes up the sign’s molded sun and moon faces. The sign’s upper arc comprises internal, neon-illuminated, colored-enamel, routed letters. A gear motor and cam device — housed in the sign’s upper arc — allow the center faces to rotate 90 degrees. The sign is affixed to a building with a square-tube steel support.
Steve admits Universal pushed the envelope in specifying the park’s signage. However, he thinks the project’s designers and fabricators overcame the challenges and produced what he considers outstanding theme-park signage. He says, “I think we’ve created the best theme park in the world. Its signage, as well as its architecture, thematic elements, lighting and rides are state of the art. And the public’s reaction has been tremendously positive.”
According to Mark, the park is a sign professional’s paradise because the signs incorporate every imaginable substrate and fabrication technique. Although DCL has worked on a number of large-scale sign projects worldwide, it considers Islands of Adventure to be its most creative and detailed work to date. Mark says, “The theme park’s environment is superior to anything else I’ve ever seen. And it’s rewarding for DCL to have been an integral part of such a tremendous project.” The only way to grasp the magnitude of this undertaking, however, is to visit Central Florida’s newest unique destination. “It’s a smorgasbord of signage,” Mark laughs.
Islands of Adventure main entrance sign

Island Designers and Fabricators 
Port of Entry: The signage for this land of adventure, exploration and trading juxtaposes crude and elaborate elements,    incorporating ship and airplane relics, as well as other salvaged    materials. Senior graphic designer: Wayne Clark, Universal Studios    Inc., Los Angeles; fabricated signs: Design Communications Ltd.    (DCL), Boston and Orlando, FL; DCL’s project manager: Karen    Gorczyca; painted graphics: Jim Neal Signs, Orlando, FL.
Seuss Landing: A wacky, irregular land inspired by the stories of Dr. Seuss, its animated signage is sculpted from foam    and fiberglass and brightly painted. Senior graphic designer:    Cathy Lloyd, Universal; main-identification signs: Jon Richards    Co., Mira Loma, CA; secondary sculpted pieces: Scenic Productions, Gainseville, FL; plaques: Graphic Systems, Orlando, FL; flags and    banners: Olympus Flag & Banner, Milwaukee.
The Lost Continent: The subtly lit signs in this land of myths and legends are sculpted, carved and textured to mimic trees, shields and stone. Senior graphic designer: Stephen Oliver, Universal; fabricated signs: DCL; DCL’s project manager: Angela    Goddard; painted graphics: Jim Neal Signs; flags and banners: Olympus Flag & Banner.
Jurassic Park: Based on the science-fiction/fantasy film, this island incorporates signage made from wood, granite and patented metals. Senior graphic designer: Wayne Clark; all sign work: Architectural Graphics Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.
Toon Lagoon: Inhabiting this island are    larger-than-life, digitally printed graphics of “Sunday Funnies”    characters, including Betty Boop, Blondie, Beetle Bailey and    Popeye. The island also features internally illuminated voice    bubbles and painted, newspaper-shaped walls. Senior graphic    designer: David Woody, Universal; fabricated signs: Heath &    Co., Oldsmar, FL, and Sightline Studios, Starke, FL; painted walls    and graphics: Adirondack Scenic, Glens Falls, NY.
Marvel Super Hero Island: Spider-Man is one of many    Marvel Super Heroes who calls this island home. The island  contains a number of aluminum-backed 3M Scotchprint graphics, which feature various lighting and neon effects. Senior graphic designer: Stephen Oliver; signs and graphics: Architectural Image Manufacturers, Atlanta; Scotchprint graphics: Visual Impessions,    Charlotte, NC.

5 reasons to stay on property at Disney

Your on a budget, I get it. Hey, breaking the bank ain’t tops on my priority list when I think of my vacation either, but let me assure you staying on property is seriously worth all the money your about to fork out. Sure, now your saying to yourself, Tracey your always going to tell us to stay on property because, hey, it’s Disney and you LOVE Disney. Allow me to explain why I recommend staying on property rather than outside the Parks. Here are my 5 reasons you should stay on-site at Walt Disney World:

1. Free transportation

Yes, you certainly can get a budget friendly resort outside and rent a car to get around.  Yes, I agree, you got an AMAZING bargain at the Maingate Magic Castle Motel, a mere 20 minutes outside the Disney property. Here’s a dirty little secret about these off property places: while they claim that they are at the “main gate” of Walt Disney World, they fail to disclose is that they mean the pretty little entrance gates you drive through as you get onto Disney property. Walt Disney World itself does not have a gate, because that’s the name of the whole resort. The 4 parks and 2 water parks have gates.  Meaning while you may be across the highway from the “main gate” to Disney property, it can still take you 15 minutes to drive to the real main gate of the park. Now you have to keep in mind that you can take a cab from the airport to your said AMAZING bargain resort, which from Orlando International could cost you a small child’s college tuition.  Add to that the $14 a DAY for parking at each Park that your going to visit for the next 7 days. Or, you can hop onto Disney’s Magical Express bus service and be whisked away to your hotel. Then, a quick bus or monorail trip and you’re in the parks. You actually check your bags at the airport with the Magical Express, and they put them into your hotel room for you while your out enjoying your vacation. This service is FREE with a Disney Resort stay!
2. Free Dining
Depending upon the time of year you vacation, you could stay at a Disney Resort and be eating on Disney’s dime with the Disney Dining Plan. Simply choose a package that best suits you, we will review this later, and your meals will be included. However I cannot stress enough, just because your saving money by getting free meals, you still have to tip your servers at your restaurants. And while it’s free upfront, it’s really built into the cost of your vacation. But as food is a big expense when on vacation, it’s one less thing to worry about while you’re there.
3. Resort Options for every budget & taste
You probably you already know that Disney has so many choices when it comes to accommodations. The truth is, everybody has different tastes.  From the value conscious to luxury seekers. No matter where you stay, each resort is themed just as well as any of the parks. The details are everywhere, meaning the magic doesn’t end when you leave the parks at the end of the night.

Here’s a quick breakdown of your options for Disney Resorts:

All Star Movies

Pop Century Resort

Value Resorts
These are the ones that the majority of the children stay at. Think about it, if you have more than 1 child now a days, your added dollar signs in front of everything you do. So, the Value Resorts offer you the best value for your money. Please don’t expect to have tons of amenities. Obviously you will have a bed and a bathroom as you would expect, you also have a swimming pool or two, but don’t expect a Spa or fine dining.
Pop Century, All Star Movies, All Star Sports, All Star Music & the soon to open Disney’s Art of Animation Resort fall under these categories. These accommodations offer value, quick service dining and great service as all the Resorts offer just no frills. And yes, yes I have stayed at these locations.  I see no reason to not have just a bed when all I really want to do is head to the Parks. if that sounds appealing, then this is totally your option.
Port Orleans Riverside

Coronado Springs

Moderate Resorts
These just happen to be my favorite types of resorts. They have more amenities than the Value Resorts as previously mentioned and most locations have sit down restaurants or pubs to grab a snack and a beverage after a sweaty day of fun.
Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter are both what some of us like to call our home resorts, meaning it’s were we go to stay on property whenever we come down (which is quite often!) The two just happen to be separated by the Sassaguola River. One offering a Mardi Gras feel (French Quarter) and one offering a Mark Twain Bayou type Resort. Plantation style and French Quarter styled buildings overflow with charm and laid back paces. You could literally just stay here and never go the parks and call it a vacation. Be sure to stop at Boatwrights in Riverside for breakfast.  I can assure you it will fuel you up for a hard day of walking the Parks. There are several other Moderate Resorts to chose from, including Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs and the Cabins at Wilderness Lodge Resort. My favorite Resort pool from any type of Resort has got to be the Coronado Springs.  It is a feast for the senses.
disneys polynesian resort
Polynesian Resort

disney's animal kingdom lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge

wdw-resorts-grandfloridian
Grand Floridian

Deluxe Resorts
Now, if you are going to spoil yourself rotten and have the means, then I recommend any of the Deluxe Resorts. They can certainly cater to your every whim. From award winning 5 star dining at Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort, to the grass skirts and gentle palm trees swaying at the Polynesian Resort, Walt Disney does luxury like no other.
The Deluxe category also applies to Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club Resort, Boardwalk Resort, The Contemporary Resort, The Yacht Club and Wilderness Lodge Resorts. All have so many incredible things to chose from and you will find your piece of heaven wherever you chose to stay.  Concierge Levels offer unique services and each of these Resorts has the incomparable Disney service that they have famous for.
I am not in any way saying that the Deluxe Resorts offer the only top notch service either, but I am going to say that if your paying to stay at a Deluxe Resort, your expectations are different.
Fort Wilderness Campground
Wait a second, you think I’m done don’t you? I am certainly not, I have one more little surprise. Fort Wilderness is one of the original accommodation choices back in 1971 when Walt Disney World first opened and deserves it’s own category.It is hard to believe that it has stayed as popular as it has. You can pop a tent if that is what vacations mean to you, or you have an RV that you have decided to drive to see the countryside float by, then this is your spot.

4. Free activities & events around every corner

chip & dales campfire singalong dsney
Chip & Dale's Campfire Sing Along

Think nothing is free at Disney? Well, you’re wrong! Many of the resorts offer fun & free activities for kids, families & kids at heart. There are too many here to describe, but my favourite is Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing Along. This gathering is held nightly and starts at 7:30. It’s a great way to get some quality time with characters, sing some great songs and enjoy a relaxed evening. The best part is they also offer a movie by the campfire as well. You can even purchase the ingredients to create smores and who wouldn’t want to have those sitting by a roaring fire?

5. Stress free vacation

Here are a few thing’s you won’t have to worry about if you stay on site, after all what’s a vacation if you’re stressed out?
Package Delivery: No more lugging around all the great souvenirs and presents you purchase, Disney will deliver these to your resort for free.
No Driving: Imagine not having to drive for a whole week! No parking fees, finding a spot, walking to the park, remembering where you parked. Parents, you can even both have a few beverages at EPCOT without having to worry about who will drive. Now that’s a vacation1
Magical Wake-Up Calls: How thrilled will your kids be when Mickey wakes them up in the morning with a friendly phone call? Try that at Super 8!
Extra Magic Hours: You actually get to spend more time in the parks than anyone else!
Plus many, many other options! All part of your Disney Resort stay! Trust me, it’s totally worth it to stay on property
All in all, I have given you a very brief overview, giraffe’s munching leaves from you room, armadillo’s sneaking around your tent, or breakfast on the Sassagoula River, all examples of different ways to enjoy Disney Resorts. There is something for every budget, taste and interest.  All you have to do is decide where and Disney will take care of the rest to have a truly magical vacation!

You will have to excuse me now, I am off to the Grand Floridian Spa for a quick facial and maybe Cinderella will be there so I will catch up with you again soon.

Until next time,
TTFN

Big Red's Top 5 Walt Disney World Dining Locations


Please allow me to say first off, planning is something I used to scoff at.  Seriously, sometimes I really just love flying by the seat of my pants when I’m on my vacation. I mean, I worked my keester off for these 10 days and dang it, I want to do and eat what I want, WHEN I want. Now, I’m not talking insane planning, like an Excel spreadsheet my brother creates for Every Single Trip (sorry B I had to include you)……simply put, some restaurants are so good that they take up to 3 months or more to get in. They must be good right? Your taste buds are tickling with anticipation right? Restaurants, in my opinion, are in the top 3 things you are going to spend a lot of time doing at Disney. Every person craves and enjoys different things. Unless you want to eat hot-dogs or hamburgers for 10 days. You can see what I am harping about now right? So, visit Disney.com, ask your friends, or grab some books and do your homework. This very important time will offer you the very best part of your vacation. I swear. If I am wrong, feel free to write me your nastiest notes and I shall retract my statements.  But until then……..
Here are 5 of my favorite locations for dining at Walt Disney World (in no particular order) and I can assure you, I have eaten at the majority of them and I have tried to include the inexpensive, expensive and tasty options.

1. Le Cellier Price Range: $15-$36

Location: EPCOT Canadian Pavilion

I had to include this one as I not only worked there, I still get a kickback from them for the shout outs! Just kidding, I don’t but you think I might after what I might say.) My first recommendation is going to be Lunch! If your watching the purse strings, like everyone in the world is, it’s much less expensive and you can dine pretty quickly then get onto the fun that is EPCOT. Le Cellier has, as of recent months, gone to a Signature Dining status for dinner. This basically means a sit down meal, dress code, longer time inside to eat and it’s more money. The kitchen in this Canadian masterpiece offers diners the Canadian options you have always heard so many fantastic comments about. The cheddar cheese soup is a staple to any order here at Le Cellier. Miss Kitty puts so much love and passion into this soup and people have been returning for years to taste this wondrous creamy goodness. You can even buy a Disney recipe book to recreate it but it doesn’t include the love but you can certainly give it a go.

Mushroom Filet

Now, for the stuff you have been waiting for…………the Mushroom Filet.I can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying this slowly. Medium rare and you’re in heaven. It’s so well crafted and cooked to perfection that I can almost guarantee you will not need a knife. It cuts like butter and will melt in your mouth.  I bet you never thought you would ever hear someone describe a steak like that now did you. You also have your selections of wine and some mouth watering desserts, but go with the Maple Creme Brulee and you will not be disappointed. In all, Le Cellier will offer you an incredible, fun and generally authentic Canadian treat. This is one of the restaurants that has a 3 months wait so might I suggest you definitely put it on your list to see what all the fuss is all aboot.

2. California Grill Price Range: $36-$60 dollars

Location: Contemporary Resort 15th Floor

I realize your looking at the price and having a fit right now, but let me tell you a few things before you judge my recommendation OK? I can’t begin to think of a better place to go and watch the nightly fireworks show presented in the Magic Kingdom, called Wishes. When making reservations, please explain to the agent this is your first visit and you want reservations at a window seat so you can enjoy the fireworks. Or, time it correctly and you can walk outside to the private terrace to watch Wishes. The Resort has graciously included speakers to sync with the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show so you can have the very best viewing this side of Seven Seas Lagoon. I totally recommend asking your server to enable you to enjoy coffee or your favorite cocktail while you are dazzled by Jiminey Cricket and the magic of Disney pyrotechnics. As my dear friend Brad always says,“pyro makes everything better!”

California Grill Sushi

In the food department, this restaurant showcases California Fusion cooking at it’s finest. My friend, Executive Chef Brian Pisaki and his amazing team of artists create some pretty amazing items. You love sushi? You can sit at the Sushi bar and watch a world class Japanese chef create it in front of your very eyes. Nothing says fresher than that I assure you. The Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli is something I go back year after year for. You see now why reservations and a little planning are so important? You may never remember a lot of most vacations, but when you have incredible food, you remember! This is also a Signature Dining Experience like Le Cellier, so remember to pack some chinos. They will not allow denim here, although don’t panic, you don’t need a suit. A simple button down and some chinos will work.

3. Boma: Flavors of Africa Price Range: $5-$36 dollars

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Are you adventurous? Interested in trying  zebra domes?  Don’t let the usual buffet stigma fool you, this isn’t your usual cheapo buffet. Boma offers something uniquely African and something fun. In addition to the fact my friends work there, I have many reasons to recommend this place. The selection includes familiar fare such as homemade soups, fresh fish and tender beef to the unusual. Regardless of the classification you decide, these are some incredibly tasty creations.

Boma Platters

The selections seem to be endless. There is even a separate section for the younger diners who might not want to explore the Savannah. Chicken fingers and mac & cheese are here to save the day. But for the person who is searching for something different, I really think you should give it a try. It has a fun feeling, you may even see the South Africans break out the drums for a little dinner music. Don’t worry though, your not going to be eating anything like elephant ears or tiger tail, but the zebra domes……I promise that no animals where harmed in the making of this famous dessert. Jambo!

4. La Cantina De San Angel(Quick Service) Price Range: $5-$15 dollars

EPCOT- Mexico Pavilion

Empanadas

Since the recent renovations have been completed, this amazing Epcot location offers authentic Mexican food and not to mention a wicked spot to catch some rays and people watch while enjoying some yummy stuff. I am thinking lunch outside, traditional Margarita in your hand and an Empandas de Queso to snack on. I prefer eating outside to the usual La Hacienda Restraurant that is located inside the Mexican Pavilion.  If you can fend away the many birds trying to share your lunch, I really think this is a fun choice. Ole!

5. Artist Point Price Range: $36-$60

Wilderness Lodge Resort

Salmon, almost as delicious as Bison

Representing the Pacific Northwest, Artist Point delivers a charming experience. I have returned to this location many times over the last 5 years and I have never been disappointed. Now, on the whole, I have never really been the adventurous eater, sticking mostly to the stuff I know and love, but a server challenged me to go outside the box on one of my very first visits to Artist Point and because of his coaxing (and this redhead never tries to pass on a challenge)I was challenged to try the bison. Normally, and I did in fact do it when I was first asked, I scoffed. Ummmmm NO!! There is no way I am willing to stray from my chicken, beef or on a wild and crazy occasion, pork. I asked for a recommendation for something delicious and our server bet me that if I didn’t fall in love with the bison, he in fact would take care of my meal for me. Pretty darn tall order if you as me. So, give it to me, I will prove you wrong buddy.
Wham, with egg on my face, and a tummy that hasn’t ever stopped thanking me, I loved every, last, bite.

Magical Servers

This is another reason I Love Disney. The servers. I cannot ever stress this enough, the servers are what makes an incredible and dare I say, magical visit to Disney. These charming individuals go through immense training. No jokes. We go to Disney University (another story perhaps at a later time) we go through one on one time training shadowing another seasoned server and oh, did I mention we have to know EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT OF EACH ITEM ON OUR MENUS?? That’s right. This is what sets Disney apart from other resort destinations in the world. We are trained to know everything so we can personally offer recommendations to our guests and knowing what is inside something often makes it so much easier to suggest items. With this being said, and I promise to finish my rant here, please tip your servers. These people may not have the high paying office job that you do, but they are busting their chops to create a wonderful experience for you and go through a lotto ensure a hopefully seamless visit to your Disney restaurant. Appreciate them and I promise you will be rewarded with a…..wait for it…..MAGICAL experience.

Cast Members: We make the magic!

In conclusion, these are my recommendations. These are pretty much for the childless couples. I will do a complete family friendly version soon. So, until then, please let me stress the importance of doing a little planning and it will offer you the most enjoyable experiences of your trip. For detailed information, there are many resources for you. I suggest taking a look at the Disney Dining & Reservations Website. You can do your research and make your reservations. Or call a real Cast Member at 407-WDW-DINE.
Agents are standing by to offer their assistance as well but book WELL IN ADVANCE so you can not eat french fries for 10 days. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

Until next week folks- TTFN

Tracey