Disney Parks in 2014

I thought I’d write a quick post tonight as my wife is already asleep at 7:30.  Pretty impressive work on New Year’s Eve for her.  Melissa Hoyt’s post will be up on Saturday instead of today.  That one will be about the changes Disney’s California Adventure has gone through since it opened.  I’m really looking forward to that one.

MK gold fw
Seeing how it’s New Year’s Eve, it seems like the perfect time to ask the question, what will the Disney Parks be remembered for in 2014?  There were a number of small (although that might not be giving enough credit) additions to the parks.  Frozen fever hit both coasts and continues with no foreseeable end.  Disney Springs and Pandora (Avatar Land) construction saw significant progress.  Rumors of Star Wars Land are circling in both American resorts, although more so in Disneyland.  A few restaurants closed and opened.  Festival of Fantasy debuted in Magic Kingdom, along with a new theater for Festival of the Lion King in Animal Kingdom.  Several rides in Disneyland are or have gone through refurbishment or renovation to prepare for the 60th anniversary coming in 2015.  There was the controversy of Maelstrom closing.  Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train finally opened in the Magic Kingdom to pretty good reviews.  Those are just a few of the things that happened throughout the American-based Disney Parks.

SDMT Continue reading

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Festival of Fantasy Parade Review

In 2014, a new day-time parade called ‘Festival of Fantasy’ premiered at the Magic Kingdom.  I was lucky enough to see the parade a few months later.

FoF Tangled

I guess I should start off by saying that I’m not a huge parade fan.  There are a few that I like, although most of those are at nighttime.  Mickey’s Soundsational Parade in Disneyland is fine by me, but nothing I’m dying to see when I go there.  Parades don’t interest me as much as they do other people.

FoF happy

With all that being said, Festival of Fantasy is very interesting.  As the name tries to portray, this parade has much imagination behind.  Festival of Fantasy takes a few themes (and even floats) from a former Tokyo Disneyland parade called ‘Jubilation!’ that ended in 2013.  The parade really does have a lot of imagination.  Some of the costumes in it, when seen outside of the context of the parade, might make you scratch your head.  But, truthfully, it felt like most of the costumes worked.

This is going to be mainly a picture post, with me adding in text about the pictures.  If you don’t want the parade spoiled (although a blog post doesn’t come anywhere close to seeing it in person), you may want to stop here.

FoF BatB
The first of the floats to go by is a Princess Garden float.  There are several princesses and princes on this float and some beautiful flower arrangements.

FoF Cinderella
The float itself might be the least creative of the bunch but it’s beautiful and a nice table-setter for what’s to come.  It’s also a good thematic way to see a group of the princesses.

FoF Frozen
Yes, even Anna, Elsa and Olaf make an appearance with this float.  This section of the float seemed a tiny bit thrown together, which is completely understandable.  But, if there was a section of the float to spruce up a bit, this would be it.

FoF puffy guy
This guy serves as a prelude for what’s to come next.  Can anyone figure out what he’s from?  As always these characters are well done first in the costuming and then in their interactions with the crowd.

FoF Rapunzel

If you guessed Tangled then you still haven’t seen it as many times as my wife has got me to watch it.

FoF Flynn Rider
The Tangled float provides a nice transition between the flower float at the beginning and to what’s to come. Rapunzel’s hair, as you can see above, is draped through the whole float with flowers throughout it.  Flynn Rider and Maximus are perched upon this, let’s call it an, anchor that swings back and forth.  Continue reading

Weekly Question and Round-Up (12/28/14)

Every Sunday all of our writers get together and answer a Disney related question. Here’s this week’s question and responses:

Question of the Week: As we’re in the middle of the holiday season, which holiday would you pick to spend in the parks and what resort would you pick? Take into account everything, including crowds and heat.

Andrew – This is a tough choice but I think I would go with Epcot at New Year’s. I love Epcot and all of the fireworks as you stand around the lagoon in World Showcase. I know they do special fireworks for the New Year and I love fireworks. New Year’s Eve is supposed to have a party atmosphere and I think World Showcase, for better or worse, has that more than any other American Disney Park. It’d be a blast to go around to all of the different countries with gobs of people on a cool Winter night in Florida. New Year’s Eve is special to my wife and I because that is the night I proposed, so celebrating there would be perfect.

Epcot

The others that I considered were Christmas in Disneyland and 4th of July in Epcot. I love the looks of Disneyland in Christmas but I decided against that one because of the crowds and because I already love the Christmas traditions my family has. I went against 4th of July in Epcot because of the heat, but I’d love to see the show there sometime.

Melissa Hoyt – I know that I would definitely choose to be in the parks for New Year’s Eve… However, I really don’t know which park I would like to be in. I really think that any park on that night would be fun because you have all sorts of people there bringing in the year together from all over the country (and really all over the world). To me it would also be an awesome way to end a year on a happy note and to start a new year off in a fun atmosphere.

Leslie – I actually would love to be in the Magic Kingdom for Halloween. Halloween is one of the few times adults can be in costume in the park. As I am a big kid at heart I would love to be able to celebrate Disney in costume. No one could say I couldn’t wear a pretty Elsa dress too so there. Magic Kingdom is my pick because it has more rides that I would like to ride as well as the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party takes place there. I think it could be a lot of fun and hope one day I can experience it.

Christmas

Melissa Long – This is a tough one… But I think I would go with Christmas in Magic Kingdom! A few years ago my family and I went during the second week of December and it was a blast! All the decorations are gorgeous and everyday you go into the park, you see something different that just gets you in the season! They also do a Christmas themed firework show which is just AMAZING! Christmas is one of favorite holiday and it is just really fun to celebrate it there.

Kelsee – As much as I would love to say Disneyland or Disney World at Christmas, because of my previous experience at Disneyland the week of Christmas, I cannot. It is difficult to enjoy the experience and the holiday due to the extreme amount of people.

I’ve spent Fourth of July, Christmas, and Halloween(ish) time at Disneyland. I must say with taking everything into account and wanting to be able to fully enjoy the holiday minus the massive crowds, I would choose Valentine’s Day at Disneyland. February is a perfect time to go to the parks and it is not an over popularized holiday so people would not be swarming in and heat wouldn’t really be a factor.

I know that’s an odd decision but I think it’s mostly because I haven’t been during this time and would love to experience it.  Continue reading

Is New Fantasyland a Success?

In 2010, Disney set out on a major expansion at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  The expansion was (and is) called New Fantasyland.  This land has now been completed and has been functioning wholly for about eight months.

In this post, I’m going to review each attraction (quickly) in New Fantasyland and then add in a few thoughts about the area as a whole.

Be Our guest castle

 

Be Our Guest Restaurant

I’ve already reviewed Be Our Guest Restaurant (you can find it here) but I think it’s amazing.  There is so much detail inside and outside of the restaurant.  The food is good and the looks of it really add to the beauty of New Fantasyland.

Gaston's Tavern

Gaston’s Tavern

Gaston’s is located right next to Be Our Guest.  This is a little quick service option in this side of the park, which is needed.  They serve Lefou’s Brew (an apple-flavored frozen drink), turkey legs, and cinnamon rolls here.  The food that I’ve had here is good but the detail inside is what takes the cake.  The imagineers have taken you right out of Magic Kingdom and into the tavern from Beauty and the Beast.  There are antlers as chandeliers and many nods to Gaston himself.  This is a really fun little place to take a break and grab a bite to eat.  If there’s one thing to pick at, it’s that the menu selection isn’t very large but that doesn’t bother me.  Otherwise, this place is great.

Voyage of the Little mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

This attraction is in both Disney’s California Adventure and, now, Magic Kingdom.  The ousted of Voyage of the Little Mermaid is absolutely amazing.  Most of the queue is outside but there is so much to look at.  The building is themed after Prince Eric’s castle and the guests walk around the outside of it in the line.  There are waterfalls and some beautiful plants along the way.  Once inside, this attraction falls well short for me.  I think the ride is lazy.  Voyage of the Little Mermaid takes the guest on a retelling of the story of Little Mermaid, hitting the highlights.  They couldn’t have come up with a better way to tell the story then to simply just show you some of the favorite scenes from the movie?  Plus, I think the ride doesn’t look that great as you can see the roof of the building in places.

dumbo

 

Storybook Circus

Storybook Circus is home to a few different attractions.  The classic Dumbo ride has been placed into this section of the park and has doubled in size.  The queue is different too.  The guests are given a buzzer, for lack of a better word, and the children can go play on an indoor playground until it’s the families turn to get on the ride.  There is also a little kid’s roller coaster called The Barnstormer (or The Great Goofini).  These are both pretty classic attractions and their move has made the lines for each decrease in time.  There is also a water play area.  The area that all of these attractions are in is themed after a traveling circus.  I’ve heard several different opinions on this, including some from writers on this blog.  I’m a little indifferent on how all of this looks.  I love all the color in the area.  I also love the whimsical feel that Storybook Circus has, because it matches what a Fantasyland should be, in my opinion.  But, it’s easy to question how this matches the rest of New Fantasyland and if circuses will transcend time to be a recognizable thing for years to come.  If they are, which I have my doubts about, then this area has an attraction that’s also transcended time to go with it in Dumbo.

Enchanted Tales With Belle

I have never been to this attraction but I’ve heard good things.  This is an attraction that is more for kids.  Guests listen as Belle tells the a story with a little help from her friends.  Then they have a chance to have a meet-and-greet with Belle afterward.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

SDMT

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was the last attraction to open in New Fantasyland.  It is right in the center of the land.  Guests take a ride on a train that goes in and out of a mountain.  I’m not going to spoil much more than that.  The ride is fun and family-friendly.  The outside looks beautiful, although I wish there was a way for it to be lit up at night.  Maybe in time.  The mountain looks great otherwise.  The show scenes in the attraction look great.  The biggest complaint here is that the ride is really short.  It only lasts 2-3 minutes.  That’s a fair complaint and does make the attraction a tiny bit disappointing as it was billed as the big E-Ticket attraction of this new land.  But, what is there in the ride will make this roller coaster a classic over time.

Overview

There are a few other attractions here.  A few meet-and-greets as well as shops to go into.  With five attractions (at least) and two restaurants, this area really has added a lot.

I love the looks of the area.  It’s beautiful.  There is running water, usually waterfalls or streams, all over the place and there is something refreshing about that.  The rock-work on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Be Our Guest Restaurant is second to none.  Each attraction compliments the looks of the one next to, although you could argue that Storybook Circus doesn’t.  New Fantasyland has the looks to make guests just want to linger there.

gargoyle

Unfortunately, I don’t thing the actual attractions meet the standard of the looks on the outside.  Voyage of the Little Mermaid is the biggest offender in that area.

All in all, I believe New Fantasyland is a success but a moderate one.  The feel of it is fantastic and, again, whimsical.  The restaurants are fantastic.  But the actual attraction content is merely just pretty good.

Have you been to this land?  Let us know your thoughts on it or any of these attractions in the comments.

– Andrew

Weekly Question and Round-Up (12/21/14)

Every Sunday all of our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here’s this week’s question and responses:

With Christmas coming, we’ve been appointed the Christmas list makers for the Disney Parks (only in our fantasies). So, what would you add to any Disney theme park if you could? It doesn’t matter how big or small and you ask for more than one addition.

Melissa Hoyt – Personally, I can think of two different things that I would add – both to Disneyland. The first thing that I would want to add would be more space to expand. Walt basically learned the hard way with Disneyland that a popular park will draw crowds and make the surrounding area look cheap/cheesy. He took the lesson and made sure that he got plenty of space for Disney World and even with all of the additions there, they still have plenty of room. At Disneyland however, in order to build something new they have to be creative/very decisive about what they get rid or build over. It would be nice for Disney to have the freedom to expand however they want to in California. In addition, I would love it if Disneyland could have a Fantasyland expansion similar to that in Disney World. I personally haven’t been to Disney World since the expansion was finished, but it seems like an amazing place that I would love to visit. Even if Disneyland can’t have all the bells and whistles like Disney World, an update/expansion would still be awesome.

Fireworks, crowded DL

Leslie – If I could add anything it would be in a sense more space on the walkways. Let me explain. As night falls and shows begin it becomes 1) increasingly difficult to leave the parks in general (even during the day it is difficult to walk through areas during a parade) and 2) it is difficult for everyone to have a good view of just what is going on. This also adds stress to cast members when people are where they should not be. If we could expand the walkways perhaps that would make things a bit easier and Jr. would be able to wave at Mickey as he went by free of adult bodies blocking their way. This would also help preserve the magic as there would be no need to open back areas for guests to “escape” to their busses. Consider this my conservative present that offers more functionality than fun but helps make the park more fun as well.

Andrew –  I agree with Melissa and Leslie about wanting more space in the park. It seems that Disney is trying to address that (especially in Disney World) but it would really help the overall feel and make everything more pleasant.

My next pick would be to speed up the renovations at Hollywood Studios. They haven’t begun building anything new and there is hardly anything going on in that park right now. There are a few great rides and then a whole bunch of empty spaces and construction walls without anything being constructed behind them. My wish is that one of the many areas that will be undergoing renovations would speed up their timetable and open within 18 months, to help salvage that park.

I’ll be selfish and do 3. My last pick is nothing big, just a wish for a 3rd park at the Disneyland Resort. While I agree with Melissa that an expansion in Disneyland itself would be great (although I don’t love New Fantasyland, just merely like it), I think a 3rd park at Disneyland could be very natural. Yes, it’d have to be a bus ride away from the 2 current parks, but that 3rd park having Marvel and other attractions would be really cool. That park would get Disneyland noticed for all it has, and then others would notice the overall higher quality Disneyland has compared to Disney World (no offense, Disney World, I do love you).

Melissa Long – Hmmm this is a hard one for me, but the first thing that pops in my head is adding some sort of dining package to Disneyland like that have in Disney world. And o guess to go with that would be a few more sit down restaurants. I love the idea that I’ve already paid for my meals and I don’t have to worry about it once in the park and I miss that when in Disneyland.

Another thing that would be awesome, would be another thrill ride! I love them and think it would be another fun stop on the attraction list for those that like a little bit of a faster ride. And then I can sit next to Andrew on it and laugh my head off!

Kelsee – I definitely agree with adding more space to Disneyland, if only that were possible.

1) In a perfect world, I would wish all of the cheaper hotels out of the area and I wish Disneyland would have the freedom to build new/more resort hotels. I feel like the resort hotel experience is limited at Disneyland since they can’t add variety both financially and aesthetically.
2) I’d like to see a revamp of Tomorrowland at both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. They need a facelift in my opinion. It does not seem like the future any longer.The technology and attractions need an upgrade.
3) I wish they’d put PhillarMagic in at Disneyland just like they have it at the Magic Kingdom. I love that show, it’s a unique experience.

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Let us know what your answers to the questions would be in the comments!  A recap of the week, our favorite posts around the Disney blogosphere, and a look ahead are all after the jump.   Continue reading

May 2014 Disneyland Trip Report – Part 3

Last May, Melissa (my wife) and I headed south to Disneyland to celebrate our anniversary. We were joined by some friends, while we spent 5 days in the parks. Over the next few Saturdays, I’ll be recapping that trip and trying to add a few opinions into the posts, as well. Enjoy! You can find part 1 and 2 on our Trip Reports page

Mark Twain Disneyland

After an evening at the beach, we returned to the parks.  We went during the hottest week of the spring (it was right around 100 for half the week) so that added to our slower pace.  After sleeping in, and with the heat in mind, we started our day off with Dole Whip.

Dole Whip

If you have never had Dole Whip before, that’s reason enough for the $100 it takes to get into Disneyland and buy a Dole Whip.  Just kidding, sort of.  Dole Whip is soft-serve pineapple ice cream.  I prefer the Dole Whip Float, which my lovely wife is holding above.  This is one of my favorite snacks at any Disney park and while the writers on here can fight over where to put Star Wars Land, we can all agree on Dole Whip.

DL Railroad
After the Dole Whip was gone or melted all over our fingers, it was time to hop aboard the Disneyland Railroad.  It had been a few years since I had rode the railroad and I was eager to take a loop around the park.  I think there’s a pretty decent argument to be made that the Disneyland Railroad is the most nostalgic part of the whole resort.  Once on it, I find it hard not to step back in time and really get swept up by the amount of people who have rode this before me.

tree railroad
Of course that’s only half of the nostalgia.  Walt Disney’s love of trains has been stated on every Disney website it seems, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.  Going back to our question of the week last Sunday, I think it’s obvious that each of us truly care about Walt’s vision of the park.  The railroad is something he loved and truly cared about.

Matterhorn RR
Getting into The Disneyland Railroad specifically, I think it’s a must-do.  While I might save some details for a specific post about the railroad, I think the ride around the park gives an excellent view of parts you can’t see anywhere else.  Going inside Splash Mountain, seeing the green nature between the New Orleans Square and Toon Town stops, and getting a look at some Dinosaurs are just another part of what makes the railroad special. There are some great views along the way, as well.

ToT Disneyland

 

After a loop on the train, we headed back into Adventureland to continue our afternoon in Disneyland.  Next on the agenda was a trip through the worlds most famous rivers on the Jungle Cruise.

jungle cruise sign
Speaking of classic attractions, this is about as classic as you get.  The picture above is one of my favorites from the trip.  The Jungle Cruise ride itself is great, but the attraction begins as soon as you step inside the queue (the line).  Like most Disney attractions, the queue area is full of detail.  I love the signs inside of the Jungle Cruise.  While this isn’t my favorite line to stand in (it does get really hot) it is pretty great. Be sure to catch on to the story behind the attraction as you walk through it.

Elephant in Jungle Cruise
The ride itself is wonderful and can be covered in detail at another time.  If you don’t know what the Jungle Cruise is, it’s a boat ride through famous rivers.  On the banks and sometimes even in the rivers are animals.  Now, the animals may be fake but they are up to all kinds of tricks.  As you go, the skipper of the boat is full of puns that you should probably laugh at if you have a soul.  When Walt was overseeing the building of this ride, he wanted to put real animals in this ride.  Unfortunately, that was pretty unrealistic but it did help spur the idea for Kilimanjaro Safaris in Animal Kingdom.

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Look out, everybody duck, duck, duck!  Goose.

kidshippojunglecruise

I don’t know these kids (not to be a creeper), but I really like this picture.  While Jungle Cruise at night is a blast, it’s always pretty fun to ride on with younger kids on board.  Most of the jokes go right over their heads but they are always so fascinated by the animals on the ride.  Who could blame them? Hippos are rad.

tarzan's tree

After the ride, it was back to our wandering through the left side of the park.  We walked through the rest of Adventureland and then moved on to the Mark Twain Riverboat on the Rivers of America.

Rbtsi

Much like the Disneyland Railroad, the riverboat gets a little bit overlooked.  The attraction provides a place to relax and slow down.  It also gives you a little bit of a breeze as you’re right on the water, circling Tom Sawyer Island.

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The bird on the bottom of this picture followed us around as we went in our loop.  I’ll talk about Tom Sawyer Island later on in the trip reports but it sure is fun to photograph.

rivers

Since I didn’t remember ever being on the Mark Twain before, I was blown away by the amount I’d missed.  On one side there is Tom Sawyer Island to look at and the other side is full of more nature and places you can’t see anywhere but from the river boat.

Island

If photography interests you, then I recommend the Mark Twain River Boat even more.  There are an incredible amount of different scenes to take photos of.

After our ride was over, we went on a few more attractions and then it was time for dinner.  The afternoon’s really slip away quickly.  On this evening, Melissa and I decided to try out Rancho Del Zocalo.  This is a quick service location pretty close to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad that serves Mexican Food.

Rancho Del Zocalo sign

A review of the restaurant will be coming in the next month, but I was really surprised by this place.  I had read some decent things about it, but we had a very good meal there.

I think that’s where I’ll leave this excerpt of the trip report.  Next week (or the week after) we’ll pick up where we left off, moving into our evening at California Adventure and our next day’s breakfast at the Paradise Pier Hotel.  Thanks for reading and leave your questions, feedback or comments in the… Uhh, well comments!  Imagine that.

– Andrew

The Most Wonderful Time of Year at the Happiest Place on Earth: Christmas at Disneyland

It is beyond belief that the magic of Disney could be surpassed, however during the holiday season, the magic reaches new heights. Disney and Christmas go together like Mickey and Minnie, they are meant to be together. When entering the parks the smell of peppermint fills the streets, the sound of classic Christmas songs fill your ears, and the sight of the marvelous Christmas decorations places you in a joyous holiday coma.

Disneyland Christmal

When going at this time of year, timing and planning your Disney trip is more important than ever. For example, last year my family and I decided to spend Christmas in Disneyland. We had the naïve perception that if we went to Disneyland during the week of Christmas, it wouldn’t be as crowded because most people would be home with their families. Of course, to our unprepared surprise, we completely underestimated the crowds. It was definitely a learning experience for us. Let me clarify, Christmas TIME at Disneyland if absolutely fabulous, the week of Christmas or spending actual Christmas Day at Disneyland is a whole other story. In a way, it takes away from Christmas and the magic gets lost in the sea of crowds. If you do decide to visit the parks the week of Christmas, make sure to have a detailed plan and itinerary. Even the most seasoned Disney Parks goers need to have a set strategy to pull off Christmas at Disneyland.

Christmas

Luckily, Disney celebrates Christmas for 60 days from November 13th- January 6th so you have a variety of dates to choose from. In my experience, the golden window of opportunity for visiting the parks during Christmastime is right after Thanksgiving break through the first two weeks of December. This is problematic for those of you with school aged children, however if you can coordinate your trip with the Thanksgiving break it is the ideal time to go to experience Disneyland at Christmastime.

I believe that one of the things that makes Disney so magical is their meticulous attention to detail. There is no one in the industry that can do what Disney does, and that also rings true with the incredible spectacle they put on for Christmastime.

It's A Small World Christmas - day

Disneyland transforms a few of their attractions for the most wonderful time of the year. It’s A Small World is by far my favorite holiday transformation. Both inside and out are transformed into a wondrous Christmas display. At night there are 300,000 multicolored lights that illuminate It’s A Small World and represent everything that is joyful and merry about the holiday season. There is truly no way to describe it and is a definite must see when visiting during the holidays. Especially at this time of year, it is a great reminder to us all that it really is “a small world after all” no matter where we are in the world or how we celebrate.

It's A Small World Christmas

Another holiday overlay that Disneyland does is The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Haunted Mansion. I am not a huge Jack Skellington fan, but my husband is and I know there are many others that are. Even though it is not one of my favorite movies, I must say the transformation they do to this classic ride is amazing. Unlike “It’s A Small World’ where the ride is very similar just spruced up with Christmas decorations, The Haunted Mansion is completely taken over by the Nightmare Before Christmas and it seems as though you are on a completely different ride.

The newest addition to the attraction holiday makeovers is the Jungle Cruise, or Jingle Cruise as it is the dubbed at this time of year. Jingle Cruise passengers help the skippers find their missing holiday cargo and sit back and enjoy their new set of cheesy holiday jokes and newly decorated boathouse.

Kelsee and fam IASWAA

After you are done with your holiday ride experience, hop on over to the Jingle Jangle Jamboree at the Big Thunder Ranch. Holiday games and crafts are available just when you need a break from the lines and crowds. There is also an opportunity to meet the big cheese himself, and I’m not talking about Mickey. Santa Claus is available to meet the kids and lend an ear to hear their Christmas wishes.  Continue reading

Jiko-The Cooking Place Dinner Review

The Animal Kingdom Lodge has it’s own allure compared to the other resorts but one of it’s big pulls is the restaurant Jiko-The Cooking Place. When I heard African cuisine I was excited to try something new but had no idea it would become a place I would return to several times on my trip. Because I was on the Disney dining plan I could afford that luxury (keep in mind for most packages Jiko takes 2 meal points per visit, since my family and I were not big breakfast people this worked out for us). As such we were given our choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert as well as a non-alcoholic beverage of our choice. Because my dessert is no longer on the menu I will not devote much attention to it as I hate to tease you with something you cannot have.

 

First I will focus on the atmosphere. The restaurant is split off into two areas for dining, one is a more open area where you can appreciate the wine “trees” as well as watch the chefs at work with their wood-burning oven. The other dining area is more private and closed off from the main floor. Having been seated in both I can say either is a good choice depending on your party. I am not certain if you can request one of the areas as the restaurant is very busy and reservations are encouraged if you do not want to wait for a while, this is not to say it is as hard to get a table here as say Be Our Guest. It is possible and we did ourselves at 9 pm our first night there.

 

Service at Jiko is beautifully elegant; as you arrive at your table the hostess will bring you warm hand towels infused with lavender to wash your hands with. While normally something one would expect at a spa I grew to appreciate the gesture. It brought a sense of comfort and an air of relaxation as we began our meal. Our waiter was attentive and happy to explain the menu to us and even offer suggestions for my little brother that he might like to try.


Of all the appetizers I sampled there my favorite was perhaps the grilled wild boar tenderloin (I know it sounds different but the flavor profile here is what counts) it was probably some of the most delicious things I have ever eaten and I could perhaps eat it as a meal itself. Comprised of Mealie Pap, Chakalaka, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Cilantro this dish while not one I could recreate at home it is one I look forward to eating again on my next visit to DisneyWorld. This was also a dish each of us enjoyed and would order together.

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For my main entrée the best dish I ordered and would recommend is the oak-grilled filet mignon. This is a dish that has been transformed during its time at Jiko. Where once it was served with mac and cheese now it is served with beanpoles and spoon bread. The red wine reduction sauce is either something you love or simply do not care for (only one of us who did not was the 10 year old). I personally loved it, which was surprising because I do not like wine in the first place. The spoon bread is moist and pairs well with the beanpoles and steak while the portion is healthy for the price. While the filet is a good-sized cut, the portions are equal and only leave you wanting more of everything (in the best way possible). The only thing stopping you is perhaps the size of your stomach.

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While the dessert I had (a lavender crème brulee) is no longer on the menu there is still a variety of desserts to try from. This gives room for plenty of taste options (of which I hope to enjoy myself). I highly recommend Jiko The Cooking Place as most dishes range from $30-$60 it is one of the pricier options for dining but completely worth it.

Restaurant Rating: 10/10

-Leslie

What Lies Ahead For Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been scrutinized since it opened its gates in 1998.  People claim that this is a ‘half-day park’ and that it ‘doesn’t have enough attractions’.  While I see where those people come from, I love Animal Kingdom.  There is more detail here than just about any Disney park, which explains why this park is made for wandering.  Plus, it combines animals with a theme park, two of my favorite things, and does it in a natural way.  With that being said, Disney has taken note of Animal Kingdom’s faults and changes are coming.  In this post, I’m going to lay out common complaints (they will be in bold text) about this park and give you the ways this semi-expansion is going to fix them.

Tree of life

‘This is only a half day park’

While I disagree with this sentiment for the most part, it’s hard to argue this when Animal Kingdom typically closes around 5 P.M. every night.  Now, things are changing.  In 2016 a new nighttime show called ‘River of Light’ will debut on the Discover River.  From the sounds of it, this show will feature music, lights, mist screens and floating lanterns.  I’m guessing, but I think the show will be along the lines of World of Color in Disney’s California Adventure.  What’s the best way to keep people in the park all day?  Put a show at the end of the day.

Everest:discovery
On this water in front of Expedition Everest is where the show will take place.  Along with a night-time show, all of the attractions will be open later as well.  Riding Expedition Everest at night will be fantastic.  I don’t know if they’ll keep the shows, like Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical, running through most of the evening but I would guess that they’ll stretch out the times a little bit so they’ll run a little later.

elephants in the rain

The other big part of this nighttime extension for the park is that Kilimanjaro Safaris, an attraction that really embodies this theme park, will now have a special nighttime version.  On this attraction, the rider sets out on a safari covering several different areas to see nature and tons of animals.  With a new night-time safari there will be a few new animals to see.  How are we going to see them in the dark?  I’m not sure but I look forward to what the imagineers come up with!

giraffe
With a new show and a new nighttime attraction, as well as everything else staying open later, I think Animal Kingdom will no longer be thought of as a park people only spend half their day in.

‘Animal Kingdom is too hot and crowded’

This complaint I completely understand.  Animal Kingdom doesn’t have many indoor places to rest from the hot Florida sun.  The walkways in the back of the park from Africa to Asia are pretty small and it has a tendency to get pretty crowded and crammed there.  Disney has done a few things to spread people out in that section.

Lion King
The first part of this ‘spreading people out’ plan has already been accomplished.  Festival of the Lion King (a live stage musical) has been moved from its former spot in Camp Minnie-Mickey (RIP) to the African section of the park, known as Harambe.  They have built a new theater here, that’s air-conditioned unlike the old one, and it’s beautiful.  It was designed specifically for this show and opened a little bit of a new section of the park that I believe will eventually connect to Pandora (Avatar Land), but more on that in a little bit.

Via Disney Parks Blog

Via Disney Parks Blog

The above photo shows the concept art for another mini expansion that is set to open next year.  This place will be known as Africa Marketplace.  There will be several shops and a counter-service food location here.  Africa Marketplace will also be right by Harambe.  This will help alleviate some more of the crowd congestion because there will be more places for the crowd to go in this section of the park, instead of only one or two ways out.

Harambe
With these simple changes, there are places to go get out of the sun and more paths so the old ones won’t be as crowded.

There aren’t enough attractions.

While I’ve never bought in to this idea, I get where people are coming from.  There aren’t a ton of attractions to actually ride in this park.  There are lots of attractions to walk and explore (if you haven’t done the Maharajah Jungle Trek, do it!) but not many of your standard theme park attractions.  This is where the biggest ‘expansion’ of Animal Kingdom comes into play.

Via The Disney Parks Blog

Via The Disney Parks Blog

The aforementioned Pandora: Land of Avatar is coming to the parks.  I’ll be the first to say that I don’t enjoy the movie Avatar.  But, after seeing Cars Land and Diagon Alley, I’m really looking forward to what the imagineers can come up with for this land that’s set to open in 2017.  Above is concept art of the land.  Here’s what we (pretty much) know the land is going to have, after the jump: Continue reading

Weekly Question and Round-Up (12/14/14)

Every Sunday, all of our writers gets together and answer one Disney related question.  Here’s this week’s question (and some passionate responses):

It’s been rumored heavily as of late that a Star Wars Land will be coming to both parks. Mice Chat is saying that it could replace Toon Town in Disneyland. So, a 3-part question. Would you be excited for a Star Wars Land? Would you be okay with it replacing Toon Town? What would you most like it to replace in both resorts?

Kelsee –  I can’t say I would be excited. However, I know there are many people who will be, so it is a smart move on Disney’s part. I would rather have them theme a new land with Marvel than Star Wars but that’s just my opinion.

As far as replacing Toon Town with the proposed Star Wars land, I find it quite disheartening. I understand they are trying to make profit and reach a diverse group of people, but Toontown is a great place for families. If they had to replace Toontown, I’d at least hope they would keep Minnie and Mickey’s house. I would much rather have a new Fantasyland expansion in Disneyland as they did in Disney World if they really wanted to remove Toontown.

In my opinion, I think they should replace Bug’s land in California Adventure than put Star Wars Land where Toon Town is. It fits much better in California Adventure (theme wise) since a large part of California’s culture is the movie business and Hollywood.

As far as where to put it in Disney World, I’d also like to see Star Wars land stay out of the Magic Kingdom. Either Epcot or Hollywood Studios would be a great place since both parks need a breath of fresh air.

I really don’t believe having Star Wars land would ever be in Walt’s plan if he was still alive, especially in the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland. It would be a great expansion for other parks and I understand the concept, but I don’t want the original idea of Disney to be tainted (for lack of a better term) to something that was never a part of Walt’s vision, and I don’t think ever would’ve been.

Melissa Hoyt –  This blew my mind because I had heard rumors of Marvel and Angry Birds expansions, but nothing about a Star Wars Land until now. As far as excitement goes, I think a Star Wars Land could be really cool. In fact, with Disney World, I think Star Wars has enough diverse planets, characters, etc. that they could make a whole Star Wars Park with different lands based off of the franchise. I could see this being a really neat and popular idea.

As for replacing Toon Town with it, I have mixed emotions. I rarely visit that area of Disneyland anymore, but I remember it being extremely magical as a child. I have a really, really, REALLY difficult time justifying tearing down Mickey and Minnie’s houses. Destroying the “living place” of the character who started it all seems really wrong to me. That could be just because I hate change, or perhaps because I love Mickey Mouse so much, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.

I think overall I think of Walt Disney and what would have been his vision for the parks. Most, if not all, of what started these resorts was a Walt Disney original creation. I also know that he state himself that the parks would be an ever-growing and changing place. However, I don’t think he would enjoy the idea of “selling out” and creating new lands just based on the popularity of other franchises that Disney now owns. It just doesn’t seem to capture the true heart and spirit of Disney to me. I also think about the fact that both Disneyland and Disney World already have Star Tours located within the park and wondering what moving that attraction (as I am sure they inevitably would) would do to the flow and feel of the lands that they are currently in.

I would much prefer something more Disney related, like another Fantasyland expansion or a land dedicated more to Pixar, something like that. Again, I think with all the property they have at Disney World they could just create a completely separate Star Wars park. I will be interested to see what they end up deciding and what the general public as well as Disneyphiles like us think.

Mickey's toontown

Leslie –  With my newfound love of Star Tours I would love a StarWars land I think it would be awesome and bring a bigger part of a large culture to Disney instead of Universal (which has much for my nerd culture). It though may not be the best move to do in Disney World right now as they are working on their Avatar themed area so I would like to see how each area would do on their own before trying to put them in both American resorts.

Let’s get down to the big no on the table. Do not replace my childhood Disney. I love Toon Town, I love it so much that I would probably cry if they replaced it, even if they replaced it with StarWars land. I love Toon Town, and it is one of the best places in the park especially for children and for character interaction. Personally it feels much more interactive to visit Mickey’s house in Disneyland than any of the character interactions I went to in Disney World. I also worry that by removing Toon Town they are working to phase out the old image of Mickey and Friends and are trying to phase in their new….”versions” of our beloved characters. It also seems really weird to put StarWars land anywhere but next to Tomorrowland. Especially given the fact Star Tours would need to be moved into StarWars land since it would be weird the two being in the same park but not together…seems kind of awkward to me.

I agree with Kelsee, replace Bug’s land in California Adventure, a much better fit and less giant bugs to me to have nightmares over.

As for if they were to put it in Disney World I definitely think it should go somewhere by Star Tours in Hollywood Studios, especially since there is the giant AT-AT Walker (which is so amazing) I think it should be tied in there somehow because the detail would be amazing once it came together. The problem in this lies in space. There would need to be so much deconstruction if this was to happen as there is no room to add-on with the freeway and entrance so close. With the Backlot Tour closed though it sounds like they have plenty of room to incorporate it there.

Melissa Long –  For me, I think a Star Wars land would be epic! I used to watch the originals on VHS all the time and I think it would be a great addition even if it wasn’t ‘originally’ Disney.

As far as Toon Town, I’d be fine to see it go as long as they either moved Mickey and Minnie’s house or kept those. To be honest that is the only part of that land that I remember and would be a little sad to see go. However, I hardly ever go to Toon Town anymore and in fact forget that it is there, but if a Star Wars land went in there, I would definitely not forget about that part of the park. I also can’t think of any other place in Disneyland to put it unless you moved to California adventures as mentioned by most of you. But I enjoy the Bugs Life land so if say take over that part by the flying swings, that’s a part of that park I never seem to remember about.

And if it goes in Disney World, I would say add it to Hollywood studios or add another park.

Andrew –  First of all, I’d love a Star Wars Land. Assuming that the land would be of the highest quality, I think the attractions that would be a part of it would be absolutely incredible. There are pretty limitless options as far as creating attractions. It’s a whole universe, so if it came to both coasts they could be different (say one Star Wars Land could be Tatooine and the other could be The Death Star, I’m just making stuff up). That way they wouldn’t just be replicating things and both parks are a destination.

This whole making lands after franchises (Cars Land, Avatar (Pandora) Land, Harry Potter World) is the fad right now in theme parks and while it might not last it’s pretty incredible. This may get me in some trouble, but I don’t like the movie Cars yet I absolutely love the Land. I don’t care a bit about Harry Potter but Diagon Alley is a blast. I really don’t like Avatar but I’m pretty dang excited to see some floating mountains. So, seeing a franchise I love being turned into an immersive environment is extremely exciting to me.

Now, I’ll become the real bad guy. I’d be excited about Star Wars Land replacing Toon Town. There’s not really an attraction I love there. Roger Rabbit is the only one I’d miss but it’s not irreplaceable by any means. I’ll tread lightly here because so my fellow bloggers don’t get too upset. Mickey and Minnie’s House doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. To me, Disneyland is Mickey’s house. Mickey and Walt made that park and as long as that ‘Partners Statue’ is standing in front of the castle, that won’t be forgotten. Disneyland is very kid friendly even without Toon Town.

I’m not the biggest fan of A Bug’s Land either but I don’t think there is enough space if you simply take out that land and try to replace it. There’s no room for expansion there either as they won’t be taking out Cars Land or Tower of Terror anytime soon. That’s why I think Star Wars Land fits best in Toon Town in Disneyland. As far as Disney World, I would do as Leslie suggested and put it surrounding where Star Tours currently is. There’s a nice Lucas connection too with the Indiana Jones Theater (assuming that makes it through the Studios overhaul). It could take up from the Streets of America to where Star Tours is now with a Pixar expansion coming to where the old Backlot Tour was. Go Star Wars!

Please leave your answer to the question in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you.

A recap of the week, links, and a look ahead after the jump.   Continue reading