Morimoto Asia Lunch Review

Morimoto Asia is a table-service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs.  The restaurant is owned and operated by Chef Morimoto of Iron Chef fame.  Morimoto Asia serves, you guessed it, Asian foods, primarily Chinese and Japanese fare.  This restaurant does take part in the Disney Dining plan, costing guests 1 credit for lunch or 2 credits for dinner.  The restaurant does also offer a 10% discount for annual passholders.  We recently had lunch at Morimoto Asia and this review will cover that experience.

Morimoto Asia outside

Disney World is full of restaurants that take guests to a different place.  Much like the parks themselves most Disney restaurants are made to take you to a different environment instead of just a really nice restaurant.  That trend is broken at times in Disney Springs, most notably by Disney Springs.  Instead of dining with dinosaurs or eating at a drive-in theater, Morimoto looks like an upscale restaurant you may find in New York, Chicago or LA.

Since the more modern, upscale restaurants are somewhat out of the norm in Disney World going to Morimoto is still does feel like a bit of a different environment than everywhere else guests have been eating.  I certainly felt this once we stepped inside Morimoto Asia.

There are two floors in Morimoto Asia, with the downstairs being more for dining.  Upstairs also has some tables along with a few bars.  The kitchen here is out in the open and fun to watch if you are seated nearby.  Despite it’s somewhat dark and square appearance on the outside, the restaurant is very warm and vibrant inside.  Of course, this was lunch and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled the lights down a little bit in the evening.

Morimoto cool lights

The first thing to catch my eye when I walked in were these beautiful, silver chandeliers.  They are the centerpiece of the room and help enhance the straight, sharp lines in the architecture.  As you can somewhat see, the back wall of the restaurant has portraits.  This keeps with the very modern theming.

Morimoto other side

Here’s the view from out the other side of the table, with a better look at the upstairs seating and the giant windows.  There were orchids all around the restaurant that added some color.  The wood finish on the booths looked a step above what I’m used to as well.

Morimoto flowers

What you think of Morimoto Asia’s atmosphere will be largely dependent on how you feel about modern architecture.  If you enjoy that look then you are likely to be impressed.  Even if you’re not a fan of that style I think you’ll find parts of Morimoto Asia breathtaking.

On to the food!  Here’s link to a menu.  At the time we were here for lunch the restaurant offered a ‘lunch set’ or prix fixe menu.  I’m not positive that is still offered but I think it is.  Three of the four in our dining party ordered from that menu.  Because I’m not sure that this is still offered, I’ll look at each individual item.

Morimoto soup

My meal started with the Miso Soup.  This was a step above other Miso Soups I’ve tasted thanks in large part to the broth.  The flavor was rich and hearty, somewhat similar to a chicken broth but stronger.  I’m not much for tofu but this wasn’t too bad.  I did like the onions in the soup, as they enhanced the flavor without be overpowering.  This was a nice way to start the meal.

Morimoto salad

Melissa started with a salad that was very fresh and light.  The dressing was quite bitter so making it through the entire salad was difficult.  It’d be a nice item to share to start but I preferred the soup.

Morimoto Melissa

For her entrée, Melissa had Orange Chicken, dumplings, an egg roll, and white rice.  The Orange Chicken had a great flavor to it, closer to a sweet and sour sauce with a little kick.  The chicken was lightly breaded, which I prefer so that the dish isn’t too filling.

I enjoyed the dumplings but don’t remember them standing out over other dumplings I’ve tasted.  They are a nice little addition.  I really enjoyed the egg roll, as all the flavors were balanced well and the outside crisped perfectly.

Morimoto Andrew

I ordered the Branzino for my entrée and this came with a California Roll.  The sushi was very good and something I’d go back to Morimoto Asia for.  The restaurant has an extensive Sushi Bar and I’m sure you could have a great meal just with that.  I liked that the Prix Fixe menu gave me the option of trying it.  While I’ve just recently started liking sushi so my experience is limited, this is the best that I’ve had.

The Branzino was delicious, as well.  As you can see the sea bass was breaded and fried, topped with vegetables and served over a sweet and sour sauce.  The fish was cooked exceptionally well, very juicy and flavorful.  The breading was a little more hearty than on the orange chicken but not overly so.  Sweet and sour sauce held the dish together with the needed sweetness.  I really enjoyed the Branzino and would recommend it.

Morimoto orange

My mom also ordered shrimp (pictured above) and we all liked this dish, as well.

If you couldn’t tell, I thought the food at Morimoto Asia was delicious.  Like The Boathouse, there are prices from $15 all the way up to $40.  Unless you really don’t like Asian food then I think the restaurant offers enough variety that everyone will enjoy it.

In Disney terms, I think the restaurant holds value.  I would go for lunch, as the menu is slightly cheaper and offers close to the same thing as dinner.  If you’re looking to save some money then order on the cheaper side of the menu.  It is close to what you would pay for some counter-service meals and much higher quality.

Overall, Morimoto Asia is one of the better restaurants I’ve tried at Walt Disney World.  The modern flare is a nice change for the resort and the food left nothing to be wanted.  While I don’t think it is the best restaurant on property, it is in the upper echelon and a must-do for those that like Chinese or Japanese food.

Overall Rating – 9.5/10

Have you eaten at Morimoto Asia?  Let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments below.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (6/19/17)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers.

Maharajah door

Question of the Week: It’s been a while since we’ve done this one, if we’ve done it at all… What’s your favorite attraction that isn’t very popular with most crowds (say wait times generally under 15 or 20 minutes)?

Melissa –The People Mover in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The wait is never long and it is a very relaxing way to recharge and enjoy the scenery! It takes off from above the middle of Tomorrowland and whirls around into different attractions and along the outskirts of Tomorrowland without going above 10 mph. You can put your feet up and enjoy your moment out of the crowd.

Melissa TTA blurred

Leslie – I really enjoy the Grand Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros. It’s never that busy because it is tucked back in the Mexican pavilion and it seats quite a few people. The pavilion in general is a great way to beat the heat, houses lots of shopping, a bar, and a restaurant. Follow José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles as they search for Donald Duck who seems to have his own tour agenda of Mexico in mind. Now you also get a chance to see the animatronics from Mickey Mouse Revue which are an amazing addition to the ride! A great chance to relax and see characters that are rarely seen in the American parks.

Mexico Epcot night

Andrew – I shouldn’t ask questions that I don’t have an answer to… If I had to pick just one then I would go with Country Bear Jamboree in Magic Kingdom. I’m amazed at how well the humor still resonates, not just with me but with everyone. At this point, I think Country Bears are timeless and have become Disney icons. Other less popular attractions that I love are Impressions de France, Muppet Vision 3D, the PeopleMover, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Maharajah Jungle Trek, and the Red Wood Creek Challenge Trail. There’s one for every park in there, which seems like overkill now that I wrote it out.

CBJ BW Big Al

What are some of your favorite attractions that are less popular?  Let us know in the comments below.

Impressions de France

If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email on the right side of this page.  That is also where you can find our social media accounts as well.  If you ever have any question about any of the Disney Parks, please let us know in the comments!  I’ve included the same poll from our previous question of the week, as we try gauge interest in other outlets for this blog.  You can vote for up to 3 and any input is appreciated.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

The River Returns

Disneyland’s Rivers of America has been inaccessible for nearly two years, shelving Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, Fantasmic!, the Mark Twain Riverboat, Sailing Ship Columbia, the Explorer Canoes, and the Big Thunder trail in the process.  While not as iconic as some areas in Disneyland, the river adds a kinetic energy, flow and, as you can see, slew of attractions to it.  The Disney Parks Blog announced today that river and it’s attractions will be reopening intermittently over the summer.  Here are the dates for each opening:

  • Big Thunder Trail – Already Open
  • Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island – June 16th
  • Riverboat, Ship and Canoes – June 29th
  • Fantasmic! – July 17
  • Disneyland Railroad – July 29th

Columbia Mark Twain evening

I’ll go through these attractions one-by-one and add a little bit of commentary.

Big Thunder Trail is now open and is probably the least exciting of these reopening because it is simply just a walkway.  While it’s the least exciting, it is absolutely necessary and will undoubtedly help crowd flow.  This trail runs from Frontierland to Fantasyland so guests won’t have to backtrack to the Hub to get from one land to another.  Aside from this helping crowd flow, it was one of the quieter places in Disneyland prior to it closing.  I’m guessing that will stay the same.  There are some nice details and nods to the past in the new trail.  There is also some new rockwork that looks nice and is hopefully a sign of things to come.  Sadly, Big Thunder Ranch is no more but I’m glad this trail is back.

Star Wars sign

Tom Sawyer Island (or Pirate’s Lair, if you want to be annoying about it) reopens today.  I have not read anything about enhancements to the island, but wouldn’t be surprised if they spruced it up some.  I wish they’d get rid of the dumb pirate overlay but can’t complain too much.  Like the Big Thunder Trail, Tom Sawyer Island will help crowd flow since you can fit a lot of people on that island.  If you are new to Disneyland or have never been on the island I definitely recommend it.  It’s nice to take half an hour or an hour to explore the details and have a quiet respite from crowds.  I’m also guessing that there will be some good views of the newly enhanced river.

The boats on the river are one of my favorite parts of Disneyland.  Riding on the Mark Twain just before sunset is bliss.  While the canoes are fairly tiring if you actually do them (enjoyment will vary depending on the person) I love watching them paddle around the river.  They definitely add to the charm of the river.  I’m hoping Sailing Ship Columbia is regularly used and would guess that will be the case at least through the summer.  Before the river closed, the Mark Twain was far more active than the Columbia. The more boats the merrier!

As for the river itself, I was happy to see the Rivers of America retain that name.  The boat travels through the Mississippi, Columbia, Missouri and Rio Grande.  Many of the iconic scenes from before the river was reconstructed are still there.  I’m also excited to see the new rock-work and waterfalls in the Columbia section of the river.

The two most intriguing items to open are, of course, the last two open.  Sitting on the banks of the river, watching Fantasmic! at Disneyland is as good as it gets in my book.  I’m excited to see the new scenes in the show featuring Aladdin and The Lion King.  Once that opens July 17th, Disneyland will again have the best nighttime entertainment of any park stateside.

The railroad is just as iconic as Fantasmic!, if not more.  The Disney Parks blog post revealed that the Dioramas are still intact and will feature a few new highlights.  The railroad will also take a lesson from Nascar drivers and have a left turn upon reopening.  Again, I’m excited to see the rock-work that will hedge your view into Star Wars Land from the train.

As far as how these reopening will affect touring is mostly positive.  In the long run, all of these openings will help thin crowds and are good attractions making this a huge net gain.  Over the course of this summer though, I expect these areas to be a little (or a lot when it comes to Fantasmic!) more crowded than normal.  I don’t think this will last long, if at all.  As nice as a boat ride or walk around an island are, most guests are searching for thrill rides of some sort.  These reopenings aren’t equal to an E-ticket attraction opening, in that they won’t have 2 hour lines.

With that said, people will line up for Fantasmic! very early especially through July and August (and again when the regional passholder blackout dates are over).  I hardly ever recommend standing or sitting in line for over half an hour but you may have to for Fantasmic! this summer.  As I said, I love the experience and wouldn’t miss it but this will take a chunk out of your touring schedule.

Mark Twain night

I think that about does it.  What are you most excited to see reopen along the river?  Let us know in the comments below.

If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Old Key West Review

Old Key West is a Disney Vacation Club Hotel in Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs area.  As far as categories go, the resort would be considered a deluxe villa.  Being one of the first DVC resorts ever build, Old Key West is often one of the cheapest deluxe villas offered to guests booking hotels.  We recently stayed at this resort and our review will cover that stay.

OKW Main building

We checked in late one night at Old Key West after spending our whole day in Animal Kingdom.  We had booked a one-bedroom villa for my parents, Melissa and me.  Upon check-in we were informed that we were upgraded to a 2-bedroom villa.  I guess this is as good of time as any to say that it never hurts to ask for an upgrade at check-in.  Be polite and still satisfied no matter the outcome but there is no harm in asking.  We didn’t even ask and we still received an upgrade.  The upgrade definitely upped our enjoyment of the resort and probably made this review more favorable (not that it would have been bad in the first place).

Old Key West opened in 1991 and was made to accommodate the Disney Vacation Club.  Back then, DVC had even more of a timeshare feel to it and that is evident in the large footprint of Old Key West’s spacious rooms.  If large rooms are your thing, Old Key West is the place for you.  Every type of room’s (studios, 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom) footprint is bigger than any other Walt Disney World resort.

The Room

Let’s take a look around our 2-bedroom villa.

Living Room OKW

This is the living room and the first room you see when walking in the door of the 2-bedroom villa.  Plenty of seating, as you can see.  The TV is in that cabinet in the bottom right corner of the photo.  Beyond that is the kitchen, which is fairly large especially considering this is a hotel room.  The kitchen has all of the usual appliances and could be a large benefit if you were doing a meal or two a day in the room.  The room may be slightly outdated but I like the flooring and the openness.  There is plenty of natural light.

OKW kitchen

Here’s a view into the kitchen.  The room feels very comfortable to me and has plenty of space even if you had a big group.

OKW beds

Here is the first bedroom, which is to the left as you enter.  The room almost felt as if it was bragging, with two large closets.  There is a TV on the dresser that I would guess is about 30-inches.  The beds were good enough.  I feel like you only remember beds if they were extremely comfortable or the opposite.  I don’t remember this bed, which is fine with me.

Two bed bedroom OKW

Another view of the room.  The one negative of this room is that the vents didn’t cool the room very well.  I slept with the bedroom door open most of the night as the main room cooled us down much better than the vents in the actual room.  I don’t know if this is common but, obviously, I didn’t enjoy that aspect.  Otherwise the room was great and alone was at least the size of our Pop Century room, if not bigger.

OKW bathroom

The room connected to a bathroom with a bath/shower combination.  I can’t say that I love the colors of the bathroom but it matches the pastel colors around the resorts.

Master bedroom OKW

This is the master bedroom.  A king size bed and a slightly bigger TV adorn this room.  While not as big of a footprint as the previous bedroom, I like the use of space here.  The chair in the corner is a nice touch.

Master bathroom OKW

The bathroom connected to the master bedroom is quite nice.  The jacuzzi tub is large and the stand-up shower is equally as nice.  I like the green accent wall there too.  The whole bathroom is nearly as big as the master bedroom and maybe the most impressive aspect of the entire room.

The hallway leading to the master bedroom features yet another closet and a washer and dryer.  For longer stays, this seems like a great benefit.

OKW deck

The deck looked out on the Lake Buena Vista golf course.  It also had a ceiling fan hanging above, making sitting outside a little more bearable in the Florida heat.  I really like the blue on the fence there too.

That’s most of the room.  I like much of the design and color palate, especially the blues and greens.  The issues may be the airflow (again, this might not be much of an issue) and some of the decor is outdated.  The room could use a little sprucing up in places.

Amenities

Old Key West’s amenities are somewhat of a mixed bag.  To start, let’s state the obvious.  Old Key West is on a golf course.  If golfing is going to be a big part of your Disney vacation, Old Key West may score some extra points in your book.  Everything else is a bit of a letdown.

Olivia's OKW sign

Olivia’s is the table-service restaurant at Old Key West.  We had breakfast here and came away largely unimpressed.

Food to Go Old Key West

There is a counter-service place that offers largely American food.  We didn’t eat here but I think it’s odd that this is essentially just a counter to grab and go at.  I’m not sure if Old Key West should be knocked down a peg for this but it definitely isn’t the inviting counter-service areas like the monorail resorts or Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Old Key West pool

The pool is on the smaller side but has a cool sandcastle slide.  It is more than adequate for kids who love to swim, even if it’s not as impressive as other resorts.  There are several other pools scattered around the resort.

OKW hammock

There’s a nice beach area just beyond the pool.  This would be a wonderful place to relax for an hour or two.

Now, for the all important question… Does Old Key West have shuffleboard?

shuffle board OKW

Yes, yes it does.  Well worth the $400 per room price just for the shuffleboard!

As far as other things to consider, the resort is large which makes the bus service a little slower than some areas.  Still, there was only one instance of us having to wait for more than 10 minutes for a bus.  Boat transportation is offered to Disney Springs which is a really nice perk if you’re going to spend some time there.  It’s about a 15 minutes boat ride and is very relaxing and enjoyable.

Buena Vista Queen Boat

Old Key West’s location is one of the worst as far as deluxe resorts go.  Aside from the aforementioned Disney Springs special transportation, the closest park is Epcot.  No park is an incredibly long bus ride but there is no perk here when it comes to location.

The theming of the resort is still somewhat odd to me in that it’s based off a place in Florida that isn’t far away.  I understand the appeal of a relaxing island but there isn’t much connection to that in the theming here.  What Old Key West really feels like is a nice resort on a golf course.  There is nothing wrong with that, just expecting something more may lead to some disappointment.

Old Key West rooms from water

Old Key West isn’t Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Contemporary or the Grand Floridian with their beautiful sweeping lobbies and creativity.  It’s not the Epcot resorts with their elaborate pools, beaches and extraordinary location.  It’s not even Wilderness Lodge with its beautiful grounds.

This hotel is a step below all of those but gifted with large rooms.  Fortunately, it is priced according to that thought.

Old Key West boat dock

And therein lies the question, is Old Key West a decent value for a Disney World hotel?  We’ll start with the studio, which typically runs at about $200-$300 a night.  Taking into account that we didn’t see the actual room, I don’t think this is a very good value compared to the other resorts.  Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge often have studios in the $250 range and I would pick the amenities at either of those over this.  Port Orleans is similar, perhaps with more character, and often has a lower price point than Old Key West.

A one-bedroom or two-bedroom at Old Key West is where I think you’ll start to see some value.  If you are going with a group and like to have a little bit of space, I think Old Key West may be a good spot for you.  With a discount, a 1-bedroom can cost under $400 while a 2-bedroom may be found for under $500.  At those prices, these rooms hold value.  Anything more than that and I’m not sure that I’d be willing to pay for a room here.  Exceptions being if you were going to do a lot of golfing or do a lot of shopping at Disney Springs, then you may get some extra value from the location.  One last caveat… If I was looking to book a room for a group of 8, (assuming we all wanted to be in one room) Old Key West’s 2-bedroom villa would be one of the first places I’d look.  The spacious rooms are really a big sell, in my opinion.

OKW golf course

Overall, Old Key West is a nice enough resort.  The amenities are solid.  The rooms are large and look nice.  The grounds are pretty.  Unfortunately, there is just nothing that stands out about Old Key West and, compared to other Disney Resorts, that’s what hurts it when it comes to value.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Have you experienced Old Key West?  Let us know your thoughts or questions below in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

A Top Ten Attractions Podcast

Just a quick update!  I do a weekly podcast with my friend Darin, who has also written a few posts here.  Typically we talk about movies or TV but this week we decided to discuss our 10 favorite and 5 least favorite Disney Park attractions with our lovely wives.  I may turn it in to a post in the near future but for now here’s a link to that podcast.  Sorry for the ridiculous intro, our awkward babbling, and length of the episode but I hope there’s a few things Disney fans may enjoy.

https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/therosebuds/episodes/2017-06-11T22_45_47-07_00

ToT DHS daytime

Thanks! I’ll be back with a real blog post in the next couple or days!

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe Review

Pecos Bill is a counter-service restaurant in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  The restaurant offers Mexican and American fare, albeit on a fairly small menu.  Pecos Bill does accept an annual pass discount and takes part in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter-service credit.  We recently had lunch here and that is what this review will cover.

Pecos Bill sign

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe changed their menu a few years ago from burgers to a more interesting Mexican theme.  Slowly the menu has changed back and found a middle ground.  While I’d prefer the more versatile menu, the current menu is somewhat fitting thematically.  The restaurant sits at the corner of Frontierland, right not the verge of Adventureland.  Frontierland representing the old west and Adventureland of South America, a southwest menu somewhat fits the bill.  But that may be grasping at straws.

The environment of Pecos Bill will have a lot to do with when you visit.  The restaurant is well themed, if a little understated.  There are several rooms throughout the restaurant.  A couple of these rooms are supposed to fit the cafe theme.  There are just tables spread throughout an appropriately themed room.  My favorite room in Pecos Bill, though, is the one that features the ‘Inn’.  The room gives the feeling of being outside with a little staircase at the corner that would lead guests to their room for the night, as they travel from Adventureland to Frontierland or vice versa.

via Disneyworld.com

You can enjoy this theming, and specifically that room, when the restaurant isn’t very busy.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to happen very often.  Usually the restaurant is packed and it’s hard to see any of the little details around.  That doesn’t make the experience completely unpleasant but it does take away from a pretty solid environment.  Overall, the theming isn’t a reason to go to Pecos Bill but it’s a nice little perk if you go at the right time.

Now, for that previously mentioned menu.  Here’s a link, in case you don’t want to stare at the somewhat fuzzy photograph.

Pecos Bill menu

Before we go on, I should mention that I got this awesome Country Bear Jamboree Jug.  I’m not much for souvenirs but am a sucker for attraction specific merchandise, especially if it contains Big Al.  This was $10, and was filled with soda (which is about $3.50 on it’s own).  That means I was paying about $6.50 for this souvenirs, which is relatively cheap.  Here’s a picture of it via Disney Tourist Blog (apparently I was too excited about the jug to think of photographing it).


Melissa and I both ended up ordering the Fajita Platter for lunch.  Part of the appeal of Pecos Bill is the impressive toppings bar.  Along with your usual toppings, this one included sour cream, guacamole, corn and salsa.  Now, you may be paying for these things in the actual price of the food but the fact that it doesn’t cost extra is a nice little win for the consumer especially considering how guacamole or sour cream can cost extra at the chains like Chipotle or Qdoba.

Fixins bar Pecos Bill

After getting a bunch of fixin’s, we sat down with our fajita platters.  It should come as no surprise that Pecos Bill isn’t authentic Mexican food.  I think you could say it’s a step closer than Taco Bell but that may be generous.  Fortunately, the food was much better and fresher than a fast food chain but don’t mistake your meal here for some great culinary adventure.

The Fajita Platter came with both chicken and beef, as well as rice, black beans and tortillas.  As you can see in the photo, there is plenty of food here.

Pecos Bill fajita platter

If I remember right, each platter came with four tortillas which is more than enough.  Both the chicken and beef were juicy and prepared well.  I liked the flavor on the chicken and, surprisingly, preferred it to the Barbacoa.  As you can see, they were a little heavy-handed with the peppers and onions but that added some extra flavor to the dish.

The rice and beans were pretty good.  They both tasted fairly fresh and not like they’d been sitting under a warmer for an hour or two.  The rice had a good flavor to it.

The Fajita Platter cost $15 and I think that’s pretty fair, in terms of Disney pricing.  There is more than enough food here and I think you could probably share this as a light lunch if you wanted to.  Not to mention, we had a 20% discount with our annual pass that knocked the price of the dish down to $12.  At $12 this is a really solid deal.  Even at $15, I’d be inclined to get it as long as this appeals to you.

Pecos Bill fixins tray

Overall, I think Pecos Bill offers a slightly different menu than the usual Magic Kingdom counter-service options and the toppings bar makes it one of the better places to eat at the park.  The value is fair and the food is good.  Come with realistic expectations in tow and I think you’ll be in for a welcome surprise.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Have you eaten at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe?  Let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments below.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

April 2017 WDW Trip Report – Part 5

If you missed parts 1, 2, 3, or 4 of this trip report, click on the corresponding number to catch up before you begin this final part.

The next morning found us rested and in Hollywood Studios.  It’s no secret that I think the Studios can be a waste of time.  Still, there are spots that still look beautiful.  If you stick to a somewhat compact touring schedule, a few hours at Hollywood Studios is very enjoyable.  On top of that, the park has some of the best attractions in Walt Disney World.

ToT DHS up close

We started out on the Tower of Terror.

desk ToT DHS

The ride itself is technically impressive and thrilling, when you factor in the full experience and details throughout the attraction it’s hard not to put the Tower on the top of any attractions list.

Both my mom and I can get a little bit of motion sickness so starting off the day with a ride that drops multiple stories may seem like a bad idea.  Fortunately, there was no damage done here aside from me being my usual terrified self.

We didn’t have FastPasses for Rockin’ Roller Coaster and half of our group (Melissa and my dad) really like roller coasters.  So, they took used the single-rider line while my mom and I went off for a snack.  It’s not that I dislike Rockin’ Roller Coaster, I just think it’s outdated and doesn’t make me feel the best.  I’d love to see an updated version of the coaster with a new band (or more iconic band, sorry Aerosmith fans).  An action film with a great soundtrack (Guardians of the Galaxy, anyone?) would work in that space as well.

Fruit tart DHS

I’m a sucker for the fruit tart at Hollywood Studios.  I was afraid that this snack was gone since Starring Roles closed but the fruit tart found a new home in the Starbucks across the street.  It was delicious as ever and is my favorite snack at Hollywood Studios.

DHS actors car

There were a few street actors out and around Sunset Boulevard.  I was walking around the area taking a few photos.  When I took one of them, they called me the paparazzi and drove off in a hurry.  It was a nice, little memorable moment.

Model plane TSM

After Melissa and my dad finished hanging out with Aerosmith we went over to Toy Story Mania and used our FastPass there.  While I don’t think the attraction is anything that impressive, it is one of the most fun for a whole family to take part in.  My parents weren’t able to keep up with our scores there.  Don’t worry, we let them pay for lunch to make them feel better 😉

PizzeRizzo facade

We were waiting for our FastPass to Star Tours and headed over to Muppet Courtyard to pass the time.  I meant to eat at PizzeRizzo this trip but ran out of time.  I wandered around that area and liked the looks of it, although I thought it might be a little too understated.  I’ll try out the food next time, but my expectations aren’t too high for the pizza here.

Star Tours queue DHS

We had a great experience on Star Tours.  For those of us that have rode this over and over again it really is a nice treat to see a new scene.  On this instance we saw two new ones in the same ride.  All in all, I think they’ve updated Star Tours pretty well over the years to keep it relevant.  I think both Star Wars attractions that they’re developing for the IP-specific land will blow this out of the water though.  I am interested to see what happens with Star Tours in the future.  It seems like it’d be a fairly easy attraction to retheme into another IP, queue in Hollywood Studios notwithstanding.

After Star Tours we headed over to Disney Springs for lunch at Morimoto Asia.  I’ll have a review in the next couple weeks but we thoroughly enjoyed our meal there.  The atmosphere was beautiful and the food delicious.

Morimoto Asia outside

After lunch we did a little bit of shopping in the area and walked around for a little while.  While not many of the stores appeal to me, the area has vastly improved over the years.  I really enjoy the huge Uniqlo they have there, as well as some of the more unique Disney stores.

That leads me to a small complaint about merchandise at the parks.  While I don’t spend much money on souvenirs, I wish there was more attraction specific merchandise.  Now, there are some shirts that feature specific attractions but I would like to see more of them.  I do think Disney Parks merchandise has slightly improved from the low it hit a few years ago but there is still quite a long way to go.

shuffle board OKW

We returned to Old Key West via the boat from Disney Springs, which is a wonderful little ride and nice change from the buses.  Once back at our hotel we wandered around the pool area and played America’s greatest game – Shuffleboard.

I may be 70 years old at heart because I love playing shuffleboard.  I’m pretty bad at it.  After beating my parents in Toy Story Mania, Melissa and I decided to take it easy on them and beat them by less in our friendly shuffleboard game.  We headed back to our room for a quick rest before heading back to the parks.

Epcot monorail water reflection

I had a few other quick photos in Epcot that I wanted and Melissa had a souvenir she wanted from there so we stopped back by.  The park really was beautiful in the spring and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a prettier time to go to Epcot.

Flowers Canada Epcot

We made the quick walk through Epcot en route to dinner at the Yacht Club.  The Crew’s Cup Lounge is one of our favorite places currently at Walt Disney World and where we enjoyed dinner that night.  With that being said, our burgers weren’t quite as good that time as our first experience there.

The Boardwalk

We arrived to dinner a little before my parents so we sat on the beach, overlooking the Boardwalk.  There are plenty of places to relax around Walt Disney World and this might be the most serene.  We just booked our first stay at the Beach Club for August.  I’m more than a little bit excited!

After dinner, we took the boat back over to Hollywood Studios to enjoy Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.  I really enjoy this show and the projection work done here is impressive.  At the time of seeing this, there wasn’t a show that utilized projections and fireworks quite like this one.  Now that Happily Ever After has debuted in Magic Kingdom I do wonder if this show will feel a little more redundant.  I’m guessing not, as the subject matter is pretty different.  I think the Star Wars fireworks could use a little more pyro though, as I wasn’t as impressed with it the second time around.

The show is also difficult to photograph hence the lack of photos.  I was a little impatient and didn’t set up my tripod so it made it even more difficult.  I’ll try harder next time 😉

Pirates prisoners

My parents headed back to the hotel while Melissa and I headed to Magic Kingdom.  The park was open for another hour but mainly we wanted to stay late and take photos or shop.  We did have time for a few quick rides including the TTA and Pirates.  There was a bit of a backup on Pirates as they were putting boats away for the evening, this led to some better conditions for taking photos on a dark ride.

Pirates Jack Sparrow

I still haven’t mastered that technique, as I struggle between finding the right ISO and shutter speed to keep the picture from looking too grainy or dark.  These last two photos were some of my favorites but, again, I was given the gift of a little extra time.

Pirates night

The park had closed by the time we got off the ride.  I set up to take some photos.  There was a tiny bit of cloud cover which really helps out on these photos, as long as the clouds are moving fast enough.

Splash mt. night

Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square had all emptied out at this point.  We enjoyed having the park to ourselves for a while.

TSI night fisheye

Harper's mill night

Security let us linger around the area for quite some time but eventually crept closer.  We decided it’d be a good time to head to Main Street at that point.  They let us stay in that area longer than I’ve ever been able to though.  Security is always very accommodating at this time of night.

Tomorrowland Night

There are certain feelings that keep me coming back to Disney Parks.  Being on Main Street an hour after closing is near the top of that list.  There are relatively few people, there is plenty to look at, and the atmosphere is lovely.  This was a perfect cap to our last full day at Disney World.

Mickey train station

The next morning saw us back in Magic Kingdom with my parents, catching up on a few attractions that we’d missed.  We started out in New Fantasyland because cinnamon rolls.

SDMT in motion

New Fantasyland is a beautiful area and I especially like it in the morning light.  The area is more spacious, with beautiful sight lines and wide walkways.  While I do think the area could have used a better headline attraction, I talk myself into liking it more and more every time I’m there.

Ariel castle

We shared a cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Tavern.  They’re also selling macaroons there currently and they were surprisingly good.  I think that was a smart and delicious addition to Gaston’s.  After our stomachs were full we took a ride on Journey of the Little Mermaid, which I still don’t like.

After rides on it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion we went over to The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History.  I raved about the show back when we saw it for the first time in October.  Not much has changed since then.

Sam & Chickens

The show is still fantastic and the greatest implementation Disney has done with the Muppet characters since acquiring them over a decade ago.  This time around we saw the story of Paul Revere instead of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The Paul Revere story wasn’t as elaborate as the alternative and not quite as well done overall.  That’s not to say it was bad, quite the opposite.  Just that if I had to choose, I would definitely rather see the Declaration of Independence story.

Muppets finale

I hope this is a show that Disney chooses to update fairly often.  The title of the show lends itself to the Muppets reenacting any of the great moments throughout the country’s history.  Of course, it’s easier for me to recommend them adding a show than actually adding one.  But having a few more stories to cycle through will keep the show even more fresh.

We had lunch at Pecos Bill’s, which was my first time eating there since they changed the menu.  A review is coming before long but the meal was pretty good.

Tomorrowland monster

We hung out in the Hub for a while after lunch, waiting for our final FastPass at Space Mountain.  Relaxing on the grass there (if the sun isn’t bearing down on you) is quite pleasant.  Naturally, the FastPass line for Space Mountain wasn’t moving to fast and we had to hustle back to the hotel in order to catch our bus to the airport.  Luckily, the bus from Magic Kingdom came at the perfect time for us and we made it back no problem.

OKW golf course

Before long, we were back at home dreaming up our next trip.  This one won’t be something I soon forget though.

Flower & Garden was a great experience, as was staying late in Animal Kingdom.  I’m glad we were able to go with my parents and hope they enjoyed going with us.  Most of all though, I’ll remember that trip because of our half marathon and the feeling we had crossing that finish line.  For those of you that are looking for a little bit of motivation when it comes to exercise, make your race a destination trip and then it will be more fun!  I’m only half kidding, as that definitely provided extra motivation for Melissa and I.  We’ll both cherish this trip, thanks to memories of that run.

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Thank you for reading our trip report, we look forward to the next one!  If you have questions or thoughts please share them with us in the comments below.  You can follow us on social media and subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email.  Both of those options are found on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (6/5/17)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers.

What is one of your favorite romantic places at a Disney Park that is a little less obvious than others? What is the least romantic spot in Disney Parks?

 Melissa – One of my favorite romantic places in a Disney Park would have to be night-time in Fantasyland when almost everyone is out of the parks and you pass by the carousel all lite up. The ambiance is wonderful because you are pretty much alone in a very magical place.

The least romantic spot would have to be any bathroom….specifically those in Tomorrowland. They just don’t read “romantic” to me. Haha!
Andrew – I’ll answer for both coasts. I think Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion is romantic. Once inside, the lighting takes you to an evening in a Mexican village. There are places to wander around, little places to eat and a restaurant with a great ambiance. On the west coast, it’s hard to beat a ride around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain River Boat. Get one of the last rides of the day, near sunset, and enjoy a relaxing ride.

Columbia Mark Twain evening
Least romantic has to be A Bug’s Land, ToonTown, or DinoLand U.S.A. It’s hard to feel good there, much less romantic.

Cassie – I think that any of the dark rides are pretty romantic. Pirates of the Caribbean, a little mermaid, Peter Pan, and even Space Mountain. Basically any ride that is dark and you can cuddle up with the one you love.
Haunted Mansion night
I was also going to say Toon town is the least romantic place, and maybe it’s a small world. Nothing like 1 million puppets waving at you to really set the mood.

Donald's boat

What are the most and least romantic spots in the Disney Parks for you?  Let us know below, in the comments.

If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email on the right side of this page.  That is also where you can find our social media accounts as well.  If you ever have any question about any of the Disney Parks, please let us know in the comments!  I’ve included the same poll from our previous question of the week, as we try gauge interest in other outlets for this blog.  You can vote for up to 3 and any input is appreciated.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue Dinner Show Review

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a dinner show at Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort.  The food offered is traditional southern and BBQ food and is all-you-can-eat.  The Hoop-Dee-Doo doesn’t accept an Annual Pass discount but does accept Tables in Wonderland.  The dinner show is also a part of the Disney Dining Plan but counts as two credits.  We recently dined here and this review will cover that experience.

Hoop Dee Doo group dance

Getting to the Hoop-Dee-Doo (or any dining location) at Fort Wilderness is different from going to a restaurant at almost every other Disney World Resort.  If arriving by bus from a theme park, then just hop on one of the internal buses and wait until you get to the stop for Pioneer Hall.  If memory serves, this is about a 10-minute ride.  You can also walk from where the bus drops you off and that takes a good 20 minutes.  We did that and while the walk was pleasant, I wouldn’t recommend it if you are going to be rushed.

Another way to get to the Hoop-Dee-Doo is to go to Magic Kingdom (or if you’re already there just go out the entrance) and catch a boat.  This can also be done at the Contemporary Resort.  The boat will dock a short walk away from Pioneer Hall, which houses Hoop-Dee-Doo.

Chip Dale sign Fort Wilderness

Once there, guests check in at a window or the front door.  Like most restaurants at WDW, it’s smart to book the Hoop-Dee-Doo well in advance.  There are typically 3 showings a night at 4, 6:15, and 8:30.  The dinner lasts just under 2 hours.  All in all, the experience takes a decent chunk out of your day.

Fort Wilderness ranch

That’s not to say that it isn’t worth it though.  If I only had one word to describe the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue it would simply be ‘fun’.  From the moment you step into the building it is hard not to be charmed.

Buffalo Hoop Dee Doo

Pioneer Hall fits the theme of Fort Wilderness well.  It feels like an old mess hall that everyone would gather at for dinner.  That’s not to say it isn’t pretty.  It’s just pretty in an old western way.  There are a few stuffed animal heads on the wall and flowers around the seating area.  There are different seating options, mainly the floor or the second level.  There aren’t many tables up on the second level but the views aren’t nearly as good.  I would recommend the bottom floor unless you want to be more secluded.  I have a hard time imagining the experience being better from up there though.

Hoop Dee Doo cornbread

Our meal was started with corn bread, which was moist and delicious.  I really liked the flavor here and, while I’m far from a corn bread expert, this is some of the best I’ve ever had.

Hoop Dee Doo salad

We also were served a salad to start.  This was fresh but nothing out of this world.  This was a nice break from all of the heavy food that we were about to devour, but I can’t fake much excitement for an average salad.

Hoop Dee Doo stage

As we were dishing up, the party began as the entertainment entered the room.  Along with live banjo and piano musicians, there were 6 actors/singers on the stage, 3 male and 3 female.  There was a loose plot to the show but mainly the whole act consisted of old or original songs being played along with a few skits.

Hoop Dee Doo glasses guy

The plot was a bit confusing because it was about the six actors putting on a dinner show.  Very meta?  I’m still not sure.  Like I said, this is all about fun and if you’re going here for a complex story then you got on the wrong bus.  With that being said, even without much story there is a decent amount of character development.  One character doesn’t quite fit because he tells bad jokes.  One character is a little… uhh.. flirty?  One character is full of sass.  For only seeing these characters sing some songs and tell jokes, we are able to make a connection to them.  That’s something the show does very well.

Hoop Dee Doo Piano lady

I was also surprised by how well some of the comedy works.  Disney often misses the mark on actual comedy outside of a few attractions.  At Hoop-Dee-Doo there is a decent amount of adult comedy.  There was nothing over-the-top and the show is very family-friendly but some jokes will go over kids heads and I see that as a good thing.

My favorite song (or bit) of the show was when the cast went into the crowd and asked people where they were from.  Then they’d come up with a quick verse about that state or city mentioned to fit the tune of the song.  I also enjoyed the old standards sung.  Most of the music has a country-western or old folk tone to it.  If you don’t like that style of music and don’t like comedy very much then maybe this show isn’t for you.  But if you tolerate either of those things then I’m guessing you will enjoy the entertainment.

Dad Hoop Dee Doo

One last note about the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue before we talk more food and overall value is that there is a decent amount of crowd participation.  The cast is out with the crowd almost as much as they are up on stage.  My dad was one of the main subject’s of teasing.  It was embarrassing for him but a lot of fun for us.  Not everyone will be teased as rigorously as my dad (very few will actually) but consider this a warning.  I don’t think it should keep anyone from going and it just adds to the family environment.

Back to the food!  I’ll just write about each item under the photo…

Fried chicken Hoop Dee Doo

The fried chicken was easily the best item of the night.  There was next to no grease on the chicken.  The breading was fairly light and full of flavor.  The chicken was juicy and delicious.  Some of the best fried chicken I’ve had.

Ribs Hoop Dee Doo

The ribs were decent.  I liked the barbecue sauce pretty well and the meat was juicy.  I thought the ribs had a little too much fat on them and the flavor was lacking.  I liked the fried chicken far more.

Hoope Dee Doo plate

Then, there were the sides.  I did not like the flavor of the bakes beans at all.  The mashed potatoes were pretty average.  The corn was buttery and delicious.

Overall, I thought the entrée dishes were pretty good, especially considering you could ask for more of whatever you liked.  I don’t care to admit how much fried chicken I ate that night.

Strawberry Shortcake Hoop Dee Doo

Don’t completely fill up on the main dishes though because there is delicious Strawberry Short Cake to follow.  The cake was moist, strawberries fresh and the flavor was great throughout the whole dessert.  A perfect way to cap off this homestyle meal.

Hoop dee doo menu

I can’t fail to mention that an evening at the Hoop-Dee-Doo comes with unlimited beer, sangria, chardonnay or merlot.  This definitely ups the value of the dinner as alcohol comes at a pretty steep price at Disney.  None of the alcoholic beverages offered are particularly high quality.  It thought the sangria was decent but far from the best I’ve had.  This is probably a big selling point to some and is the most sure way to make this meal worth the price you’re paying.

Hoop Dee Doo washboard

Speaking of price, there are three tiers of seating from $62, $67, and $72.  Frankly, if it’s an option, I would just pay the extra for the top tier.  Being close to the action is a lot fun and getting stuck in the back of the room or balcony could cause some obstructed views.  If you have a a big party, where the extra 5 to 10 dollars could add up, then that’s about the only time I’d consider not paying for Tier 1 seating.

Assuming you paid $72, I think Hoop-Dee-Doo is worth doing once especially if what I described sounds up your alley.  If fancy dinners are more your flavor then maybe go for one of those instead but, as a person who enjoys fancy dinners, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed our experience.  Now, $72 is a lot of money.  I do think the experience is worth doing at least once and overall I would recommend it.

For a comparison of Hoop-Dee-Doo being worth the money, let’s take a look at another all-you-can-eat restaurant – Ohana.  According to Touring Plans, a dinner at Ohana is $46 for an adult.  Now, that is without alcohol but does include soft drinks.  I like the food at Ohana better than Hoop-Dee-Doo and would pay about $10 more for just the food there.  With that thought in mind, that means, in my case, about half of what I’m paying is for the entertainment and alcohol.  I don’t drink a lot so I can’t make up the value like those that enjoy it more than I do.  The entertainment is well worth paying for but I’m not sure it’s worth $25 or $30.

Hoop Dee Doo couple

After breaking it down a little further, I’m not sure Hoop-Dee-Doo offers much value but it is one of those unique experiences at Disney World that every fan who goes fairly often should experience.  I don’t know if we’ll go back for the dinner show but I will look back at our experience here fondly.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Have you experienced the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.  Let us know any questions or thoughts in the comments below.  If you enjoy what the content here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading our blog, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

April 2017 WDW Trip Report – Part 4

If you missed parts 1, 2, or 3 of the trip report click on the corresponding number to catch up on what you’ve missed.

Disney Parks and cinnamon rolls have become synonymous for Melissa.  She loves cinnamon rolls in the first place but a trip to any Disney Resort without a cinnamon roll seems nearly impossible for her.  While I don’t like them as much as her, I do like the one served at Animal Kingdom (Kusafari Bakery) the best.  It doesn’t hurt that it’s also the biggest so I don’t feel guilty stealing a few bites from her.  The caramel drizzle really sets this apart.

After our bellies were full, we headed over to the Festival of the Lion King to watch that show.  As I mentioned in part 3, it was Animal Kingdom’s anniversary as well as Earth Day.  This was never more apparent than at Festival of the Lion King.  Along with mentioning that very fact in the beginning, the show seemed to have a little extra emotion behind it.  Maybe it was just me being nostalgic for my favorite park.

FotLK finale

It could also be that Festival of the Lion King had a few new effects and a (mostly) different cast than the last few times I’d seen it.  I thought all of the new(?) members of the show had fantastic voices and the little extra effects added to the show overall.  You can never go wrong with a little more fire here and there!

Every experience I’ve had with Festival of the Lion King has been wonderful, that day especially so.  This has become my favorite daytime show at any U.S. Park and a must-do every trip.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out!

Elephant water safari AK

After the show, something shocking happened: A bad experience on Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Well, bad is a strong word.  The attraction was still wonderful and breathtaking.  But, our safari driver was by far the worst I’ve experienced.  I don’t often bring up cast members who aren’t doing the best job because by and large I think there’s reasoning behind a job not done as well as usual.  In this case, I think our driver was just miscast.

The guy driving our truck seemed to really enjoy his own voice and telling jokes.  While I don’t have a problem with that, the main purpose of the attraction is to give you an encounter with animals that you can’t get many other places.  If jokes, or anything else, hinder that objective than the ride is worse than it should be.

On this certain ride we were fortunate enough to several incredible encounters with animals, notably the elephants playing in the water.  Unfortunately, all of those encounters were either cut short or skipped because our driver drove right past them or didn’t stop the truck.  I know trucks on Kilimanjaro Safaris can’t stop whenever you want them to but it was incredibly frustrating to see the truck in front of us pause for long periods of time at incredible sights while ours drove by that same sight only seconds later.

Baby elephant running safari

At one point a baby elephant started running towards the water to join the fun.  It was a one of a kind moment, the type of thing Disney marketing would have a field day with if they caught it on tape.  The whole truck full of people saw it happening except for our driver so we kept right on driving.  The whole experience was simply disappointing.  As a guest, you should never want to be in the truck (or pick a different experience and comparable situation like a table at a restaurant) in front or behind you.

With all that being said, I think calling for the driver’s job (or a cast member who didn’t perform adequately in a more general example) is a gross overreaction.  In this case, I thought the driver was just miscast as he would have been a wonderful skipper on the Jungle Cruise.  And who knows, maybe we just caught him on a bad day.  Give cast members the benefit of the doubt.  One of the hard parts about being a fan of anything is finding the line of when to complain about something or when to just shut up and make the best of it.  My thinking usually comes down to this… With the money we all spend on Disney vacations, we should demand the best when it comes to attractions, buildings, cleanliness, expansion, and overall experience.  When it comes to complaining about actual cast members though, take caution and make sure you understand the whole situation before going to complain about someone specifically.  Most of them work hard and do an incredible job showing grace and patience while being underpaid.  Soapbox dismounted.

Harambe wall river AK

After our disappointing ride, our group split up for half an hour or so and I ended up taking photos heading back from Harambe into Discovery Island.

Everest from Africa bridge AK

The park was a little more full than usual (although that’s the norm now that Pandora is open) but there were enough little paths to get away from crowds and get a few shots that I liked.  Those paths are part of the reason I’m hopeful that Animal Kingdom will still have a serene feeling even with the uptick in crowds.

Bird ToL AK

Have I mentioned how great the Tree of Life Gardens are?  I have?  Okay, just a few more photos then.

Orange flower ToL garden

ToL gardens from bridge AK

Elephant ToL

For Earth Day, Animal Kingdom was handing out these little animal cutouts to take photos with.  You were supposed to use that as a frame for a subject but I’m obviously too cool for that 😉

Earth Day elephant ToL

On our way out of the park we stopped and talked to a local artist who was selling paintings and journals where she boiled plants on to paper.  The results were quite beautiful.  I like Disney contracting artists to give the park’s some original souvenirs to get.  It is especially a nice touch for the immersive Animal Kingdom.

Deer ToL AK

After Animal Kingdom we headed over to Epcot.  We had kind of forgotten to eat lunch so we went to the Flower & Garden Festival to sample some items.  I covered my favorites in the festival guide so I won’t spend much time on them here.  I will say that everything at the France kiosk was delicious and caused us to book Chefs de France for an upcoming visit.  Here’s hoping for similar results!

Epcot UK Peter Pan

After an impromptu showing of the wonderful Impressions de France, we headed over the UK Pavilion for a complimentary tea tour that Melissa had signed us up for.  This is another item that I covered in the festival guide.  I will say that the tour was exceptional, especially considering it was free.  I was impressed by thoroughness of the tour guide and how passionate he was about his tea.  We were given a gift for going on the tour and Melissa has found a new favorite kind of tea thanks to that.  The experience was wonderful and I highly recommend it.

Tea Tour Buttermin Epcot FG

After our tour, I had another quick snack before heading over to American Adventure and soaking in that attraction.  While the American Adventure is on the longer side, the storytelling is terrific as is the complex nature of the attraction that has kept it relevant since Epcot opened nearly 35 years ago.

American Adventure mountain

By the time the attraction was over, evening had set and we were off for dinner at Sunshine Seasons.  We naturally had to stop and check out some of the topiaries along the way.  The pandas in China were the most adorable.

Baby Panda topiary Epcot FG

The troll was also a favorite of mine.

Troll tall Epcot FG

I reviewed our dinner earlier in the week.  We enjoyed our meal, as Sunshine Season is always dependable and satisfying.  We called it a night after dinner because the next morning brought a 4:30 wake-up call with it as we were running our half marathon.

I’ve already covered our half marathon in great detail so we’ll skip past that quickly.  What I will say is that we all go on vacations to experience different things, make lasting memories and/or experience joy that is a little different from what we feel in our everyday lives.  Finishing that half marathon definitely fits all of those aspects and is something I’ll never forget.

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After finishing our race we headed back over to Fort Wilderness and had the breakfast buffet at Trail’s End.  Unfortunately, this was the most disappointing meal of the trip.  I’m unsure if I’ll review this restaurant as buffets are harder to get photos of.  I didn’t think any of the food was exceptional and the service was lacking.  I also thought I’d be starving after our race.  While I was quite hungry, I would have rather had a really good meal instead all-I-could-eat of decent food.  Score one for moderation!

Typhoon Lagoon boat

After breakfast, I made the smartest decision of the trip and planned an afternoon at the water park.  At this point in the day Melissa and I were feeling very sore and tired.  We went to Typhoon Lagoon, rode a few slides and then laid in the lazy river for about an hour with my parents.  The water felt great and it was a perfect way to help recoup from a rigorous morning.

Mary Oceaneer slide Typhoon Lagoon

I didn’t think a review of a new water slide warranted a whole new post so I’ll cover Miss Adventure Falls here.  This is a new family raft ride at Typhoon Lagoon.  I liked almost all of the attraction.  The ride starts with boarding a tube on the of the hill and riding that tube (on a ramp) to the top.  You pass a fairly impressive audio-animatronic parrot who heeds a warning.  Once to the top, it’s a typical raft ride on the way down but maybe a little longer than usual.  I thought the ride was a nice addition to Typhoon Lagoon.  While it’s nothing ground breaking, I think it’s more up to date and inspired than many water slides.

Crush n Gusher Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon is a wonderful place to spend a few hours.  I spent the last little bit of our time there in the giant wave pool and am endlessly entertained by that thing.  The slides are pretty strong but the wave pool and lazy river make the park go.  The theming around the whole park is really strong too.

While I was in the wave pool, Melissa fell asleep in a lounge chair so it seemed like a good idea to go back to the room and take a nap.  We did just that.

Buena Vista Queen Boat

My parents didn’t have a park ticket for that day and since Melissa and I were tired anyway, we decided to stay out as well.  After waking up from our nap we headed to Disney Springs for few minutes and then headed over to the Ohana (at the Polynesian) for a celebratory dinner.  Ohana was very good although I wish I could have eaten even more than I did.

Lapu Lapu Ohana

A Lapu Lapu (the drink above) was a nice treat to end the day.  All in all, it was a relaxing day after a tiring morning.  It went to show that having a day without a main park ticket can still be entertaining and fun.

We’ll pick up the next morning in the final installment of the trip report.  If there’s any questions or thoughts about anything I brought up (or just anything in general) please leave them below in the comments.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew