Question of the Week (1/30/17)

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

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Question of the Week: Would you be for or against removing Autopia/Tomorrowland Speedway from Disneyland & Walt Disney World? If it does go, what type of attraction would you like to see there?

Cassie – Great question! I would say rather than remove the ride completely, renovate and update it. Autopia has a lot of sentimental value and nostalgia associated with it, however the ride it self is very, very outdated and could use a major facelift. I think if they re-did the track and made the ride a bit more thrilling and less clinky clanky, it would appease most everyone. I am thinking of a more cars like track but with the same theme as the original ride. Also, the ride could be more of a flying cars simulation ride which is much more futuristic than the current ride.

Andrew – I like that idea, Cassie. I’m more in the thinking that the attraction should just be removed and they could start over with the land. The attraction footprint is so big that I’d like to see the different things they could do with that space. Ideally, I’d like a futuristic (duh) attraction that all ages could ride. I’d want it to be more thrilling than the current Autopia/Speedway ride. The Tron Coaster that opened in Shanghai is an interesting ride vehicle and proposition. I think that ride vehicle might be something to try but instead have it on a guided track instead of a roller coaster. That way more kids could ride and ‘drive’ the bike. I’d either go with that or a trackless dark ride that has a sense of thrill to it.

Tomorrowland TTA night

Melissa – Unfortunately I find autopia and the tomorrowland speedway very outdated. On our last trip we ventured into the speedway. It smelled like gas, you couldn’t go to fast and it hurt your foot to hold down the gas pedal. I agree with Cassie that these rides hold a lot of sentimental value. I mean I remember thinking when I was younger how cool it was that I got to drive a car! But every time I’ve gone on sense then, it leaves much to be desired. I do like the idea of it for kids, but in the interest of myself, (yes I’m going to choose selfishness today) I think I’d like something new to come in its place. It’s hard to say what though. The future is hard to predict and the possibility of putting something in and it getting old fast is really high. I think it would be fun to somehow replace it with something that holds a nod to the past but has thrill and inspires imagination of all ages.

Leslie – The child in me loves Autopia, I remember walking through the cue thinking the talking cars were so great long before Cars was a thing. The idea of driving a car and even getting a license was such a fun souvenir. Much like other adults though I am not a fan of the gas smell, the track is rough and the bouncing of the cars kind of kills the experience. I would like to see a new attraction but it is hard to place what should go there. I worry that we might be getting to the point we need to revamp Tomorrowland. Honestly I would love to see it modeled more after Tokyo Disney with a tomorrow that could have been, instead of continuously revamping it.

Tomorrowland entrance night

Do you think these speedways should be on the way out?  Let us know in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress.  You can also like our Facebook page.  Both of those options are available on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading and have a great week!

Ample Hills Creamery Review

Ample Hills Creamery is an ice cream shop at Walt Disney World.  Located on Disney’s turn-of-the-century themed Boardwalk, Ample Hills looks the part of an old-time soda stop.  While the shop does somewhat take part in the Disney Dining Plan, they don’t currently accept Tables in Wonderland or Annual Pass discounts.

Ample Hills came to Walt Disney World in 2016 but had grown to fame in Brooklyn 5 years earlier after being opened by a young couple.  Their success story is a simple one but still inspiring.  You can read about their business on the official Ample Hills website (linked here).

Ample Hills sign

Since opening a store in Walt Disney World, I’ve heard many fans rave about their ice cream.  With that in mind, we stopped by this cute little shop on our last trip there.

What first stood out to me was just how well the shop fit the style of the Boardwalk.  Now, the candy shop (and a few other shops) that were replaced by these updates certainly fit the theme too but the inside of those didn’t dazzle quite like Ample Hills, in my opinion.

Ample Hills wall

The decor reminds me of a mix between turn of the century style and my wife’s Pinterest page.  Since most of you haven’t seen my wife’s Pinterest page I guess I should give a little more detail.  I think Modern Hills is chic and modern but also fits in with the old-time feel that an ice cream shop should have.

Ample Hills Mural

I especially like this mural, which is on the back wall of Ample Hills.  It, again, fits the Boardwalk theme while also paying homage to the shop’s beginnings in Brooklyn.

While the decor is great, I should mention that there isn’t any seating in the shop.  That leaves you to sit outside in the sun or make a run for the Boardwalk lobby before your ice cream melts.  As long as it’s not too hot, I recommend going for a seat right along the water.  If it is too hot, I unfortunately don’t really have any tips for you.  Hover around your ice cream inside without a table?  The aforementioned run to the Boardwalk lobby will probably melt some of your ice cream and be more unpleasant than rewarding.  Still, don’t let the lack of seating steer you away from Ample Hills.

Ample Hills Menu

Sundae Menu Ample Hills

Ample Hills menus fit the home made sense that the rest of the ice cream shop has.  As for what’s on the menus, the top photo shows it pretty well.  Sundaes, floats, milkshakes, cones, cups and flights (more on those later) are all offered.  Here is a closer look at a menu if you want it.

Melissa and I went on this trip and ordered way too much ice cream.  We’ll start with the item we liked the best.

Ample Hills sundae

This was the Ample Hills sundae.  The bottom of the bowl is a piece of Ooey Gooey Butter Cake or a brownie.  You can choose any ice cream flavor (we went with the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake flavor, as well as the cake on the bottom).  We also had caramel syrup and chocolate chips on ours.  This was absolutely delicious.  The butter cake was delicious and added a nice texture to the sundae.  The ice cream flavor was the real star though.  Even if you don’t get the sundae, I’d definitely recommend this flavor.  The vanilla ice cream is very smooth and the cake mixed in adds a ton of flavor.  The ice cream is a bit rich and more filling than typical but well worth it.

The sundae is $8.49 which is obviously pretty expensive for ice cream.  Still, I don’t think this is incredibly overpriced relative to Disney prices.  There is at least three scoops of ice cream here, along with cake.  Not to mention, the quality of the dessert is fantastic.  This would be one of the better table-service restaurant desserts if served there, and those typically cost between 8 and 12 dollars.  With that in mind, the sundae falls right in line with that.  I should also say that the sundae is more than enough to feed two (or possibly three) people.  Or you could just eat it all yourself, no one is judging.

Ample Hills ice cream flight package

The other item we ordered was the ice cream flight.  This was six mini scoops of different flavors for $9.49.  I enjoyed the chance to get to try a bunch of different flavors.  I’m going to try and remember the different flavors we tried here and offer a quick review of each one, aside from the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake flavor because I already talked about it.  It’s amazing.

Lemon Sky – This was a very fresh sorbet but extremely tart.  If you love sour then you’ll enjoy this, otherwise I’d pass.
PB Wins the Cup – This is the peanut butter flavor.  I really liked it, although the peanut butter may eventually get a little overpowering if you had a bunch of it.
Sweet Cream N’ Cookies – This was good but not way better than a typical cookies and cream flavor.  While most other flavors felt pretty original, this didn’t as much.
Malty Salty Pretzel Punch – I enjoyed this one quite a bit.  It could have used a few more pretzels but overall I liked the taste.
Nonna D’s Oatmeal Lace – This was my second favorite outside of the Ooey Gooey flavor.  The cinnamon ice cream wasn’t very strong so it really played into the sweetness of the oatmeal cookies in the ice cream.

If you haven’t caught on yet, these choices are all ice cream flavors with stuff put in them.  With that being said, I think they were much more mixed in than at a Cold Stone or similar ice cream chain.  I would guess this is because Ample Hills prepares the flavors like this while the other chains mix them in on the spot?  Whatever the secret is, it makes the ice cream smooth and brimming with flavor.

Ample Hills ice cream flight

As far as the Ice Cream Flight goes, I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend it.  I think it’s a nice way to try a bunch of flavors and possibly to share with another person but I do think this is overpriced.  These mini scoops were about half the size of a usual scoop, meaning you’re getting 3 scoops of ice cream for about $10.  Sure, there are lots of flavors but I have a hard time justifying it being a worthy cost.  I’d definitely recommend the sundae over this option.

Of course, guests can get just a scoop of ice cream as well.  While we didn’t try one, Ample Hills does make their own cones and they looked quite tasty.  With that being said, a small is nearly $6.  While I think the ice cream here is probably the best on property, I don’t know if it’s much better than a $4.69 scoop of ice cream you can get at L’Artisan des Glaces which is a short walk away from Ample Hills.  Now, that’s basically a dollar less and in the grand scheme of things a dollar isn’t much.  But all this to say, I’m not sure if Ample Hills is a good value even if the ice cream is delicious.

Ample Hills night

I would recommend trying Ample Hills at least once to see what you think and I’d highly recommend getting the sundae, as it’s the best value on the menu.  The Ooey Gooey Butter Cake ice cream is one of the best tasting things on property, in our opinion, and is quickly turning into a Walt Disney World rite of passage.  Soon enough, Ample Hills will most likely be mentioned with the likes of Dole Whips, Kitchen Sinks, and Citrus Swirls when talking about Disney World desserts.

Overall Rating – 9.5/10

Review: The Cove Bar at Disney’s California Adventure

Hello one and all! I (Cassie) am so happy to be back, blogging about my favorite place! 2016 turned out to be a pretty whirlwind year for me. Between starting a new career and getting married, I unfortunately did not make much time for visiting The Happiest Place on Earth. However, 2017 is off to a wonderful start and I am hoping to reinstate my Disneyland Annual Pass very soon! This means, more trips, blogs, advice, and happiness in Cassie-land! Woot!

I would like to start my journey back to the Blogosphere by sharing a wonderful foodie experience that has been on my mind since my last Disney trip back in August. I wound up going to the parks with my co-worker/friend Dom, and meeting up with fellow blogger Andrew and his family. The day was easily one of my favorite Disneyland trips of all time, and included quite a few firsts.

Paradise Pier fun wheel from bridge

One of my very favorite parts about the day was my trip to The Cove Bar with Dom. I had only been to The Cove Bar once before, and did not have the same experience as I did upon this trip. In fact, I hardly remember the first time I went, as it was roughly four years ago and I just swung in for a quick drink.

Dom and I arrived at the entrance to The Cove Bar roughly ten minutes before it opened. (11am.) I would recommend to anyone that you arrive early to this hot-spot restaurant, as it was packed busy even before opening. We ended up wandering by later in the day, and the wait was nearly an hour. Mind you, this was on a Sunday in August, a notoriously busy time at the parks.

We were quickly seated in what I believe was the best spot in the house. Our table faced out over the water and we had a great view of Mickey’s Fun Wheel. I can only imagine how popular this place is at sunset…the views must be amazing.

cassie-drink

Our server was an absolute hoot, and was very kind and attentive to our many questions about the fruity, fluffy drinks. As one by one brightly colored concoctions passed our table, we would wave our service over to inquire what the bar tender was creating. It is widely known that The Cove Bar has a secret drink menu, including drinks with names like The Fun Wheel and The Earthquake. I won’t get into too many details about ALL the drinks, but they are very fun! Our server kindly recommended his favorite drink on the menu, The Neverland Tea. The drink was a vivacious green, and included Peach Schnapps, Pineapple juice, Sprite, along with a plethora of other alcohols. Due to the time of day and strength of the drink, Dom and I shared one and also spilt a Corona. The Neverland Tea was fruity and delicious.

For food, we spilt the legendary lobster nachos. This was, as I said earlier, my first time eating at The Cove Bar, and the nachos did not disappoint. Dom had been telling me all week leading up to our trip that the nachos were our number one priority for the day. Now I know why.

For starters, the portion was humongous. I am so glad we decided to spilt an order, as we didn’t end up finishing the plate. The nachos included a large amount of fresh lobster, house-made tortilla chips, Pico, beans, Cheese, jalapeños, and a chipotle cream. I had to ask for the Pico on the side, as I loathe cilantro. The combination of the chipotle sauce and jalapeños made the dish fairly spicy, which I love. I believe, the spicier the dish, the better.

lobster-nachos

We enjoyed every minute of our delicious meal, and stayed for a second round of beers, not quite ready to give up the view. When we finally paid and decided to part, one funny event occurred. A giant green June bug flew right into The Cove Bar, much to the panic of many of the guests. The bug was roughly the size of my ear and really gross. It landed on a neighbor’s table and they swatted it to the ground. Without thinking, I squished the bug under my Nikes with a loud “CRUNCH.” I kid you not, the entire bar erupted in applause while Dom and I exited, having saved the day! We laughed and laughed about the incident all day long, even though I felt pretty bad for ending the life of the June Bug. He probably just wanted to join us for some of those delicious nachos.

cassie

I can’t wait for my next visit to the parks! I am hoping to go very soon, likely with my friend Dom again as she also is renewing her Annual Pass. I am sure to make The Cove Bar a regular spot, and can’t wait to try all the other delicious items on the menu!

– Cassie

Top Ten Disney Parks Buildings to Spend the Night in (If Locked Inside)

The thought of getting locked in an unusual place for a night is a common one.  People dream about it, The O.C. did an episode about it, and churches/schools turned the phrase ‘slumber party’ to the more terrifying yet somehow PC friendly ‘lock-in’.  I’d go as far as to say that this is the most common outlandish dream outside of showing up to school or work in your underwear.  The dilemma of getting locked in a mall or school overnight is an easy case to solve – take out your phone, call someone and say “Hey, I’m locked in a mall can someone get me out of here?”  But, what happens if you want to get locked in somewhere?  More specifically, most of us Disney fans have thought at the end of the night about wanting to just stay inside the park instead of trudging back to our car/bus/hotel.  I’d go as far as to say that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably would be excited about staying the night inside of the parks.  Now, there are many things to consider in developing a plan of getting locked in the parks once they close (don’t get any ideas, it won’t work).  Since most of those plans would be illegal, to an extent, we’ll just keep up the pretense of ‘accidentally’ getting locked in there.

As I said, there are many things to consider once locked inside of the parks for the night but I’m a simple man.  A founding father once said, “Give me food, give me drink, but most of all give me sleep.” (I don’t know what founding father to credit for that quote.) I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment as I thoroughly enjoy sleeping and would want a pleasant, relaxing night once locked inside a theme park.  It’s with that in mind that I bring you ‘Top Ten Disney Park Buildings To Stay The Night In’.

Now, there are rules.  We want this night to be comfortable but not overly so.  With that in mind, no staying in suites or hotel rooms.  Yes, staying in Walt’s room in Disneyland would undoubtedly be incredible.  We all know that staying in the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite would be priceless.  Basically any place that was made for staying the night in is outlawed from this top-ten list.

Wishes blue castle

While we’re at it, let’s just assume that riding attractions isn’t a priority at night.  We don’t want to draw suspicion to ourselves and this list is strictly about staying the night in a place you aren’t supposed to stay the night in.

In these rankings, buildings is a loose term.  I’m considering restaurants, theaters, shops and attractions of any kind.  I don’t actually care if these places are actual buildings or are outside.  Also, you can explore parts of these buildings that aren’t customarily open to guests.  Want to sleep on that boat in the finale of Splash Mountain?  Great, but beware of all those audio-animatronics staring at you.  Want to stay on the top floor of Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror by all of those creepy figurines on the side of the track?  Fine, but that’s an absolutely terrible choice.  While we’re on this subject, let’s pretend that the attractions do turn on once in a while.  I’m sure that cast members need to do some testing and such so this isn’t that big of a stretch.  It’ll make it more fun!

The last rule (until I think of more) is that I’m just using America’s Disney Parks.  Once I visit the international parks I will update this sure-to-be-famous post.  That was a joke.

Now that we’re through the rules, let’s get to how I’ll judge and put together my top-ten.  Here are the categories with which I will judge:

Comfort – Everyone wants to sleep in the most comfortable place possible.  Waking up with a back and neck ache is no one’s idea of a good time so let’s just try to avoid that.

‘X Factor’ – Yeah, sleeping in a restaurants booth may be comfortable but no one should be bragging about sleeping in the booth of some restaurant.  All of these other places to sleep and you choose a booth in a restaurant?  Imagine the ridicule you’d receive from friends and family with that decision!  Choose a cool place to sleep for goodness sake.

Safety – This issue is two-fold.  First, you don’t want to die.  Sleeping on top of Expedition Everest is great until you roll over and slide down 200 feet to your death.  Second, no one wants to be caught by the cleaning crew.  In this instance, we’ll just say the cleaning crew is doing a quick run through of the park instead of sweeping every corner.  If we go that route, this becomes a lot easier for the writer.

Beware expedition everest

Practicality – This could go in with safety but I view this category as an overview.  Sleeping on Tom Sawyer Island would be fun, but how would you get there?  Like I said, sleeping outside is fair game but will you be able to stay warm or dry?  This category is here to balance those questions out.

There will also be 2 bonus points to be had if the building is a common favorite among Disney fans.  Tie-breakers are judged by how cool I think they are.  That seems fair.  All of these categories will be judged out of 10 points and end up with a total of 40.  Shout-out to boats here, I probably didn’t give them enough credit.  Here are some other honorable mentions:

A (Bad) Room With A View

The Hub (Magic Kingdom) 21/40
Island Mercantile (Animal Kingdom) 18/40
Radiator Springs Racers (DCA) 21/40
Discovery Island Trails (Animal Kingdom) 20/40
Katsura Grill (Epcot) 19/40

These are all great places to sit down and look at something, but a dumb place to spend the whole night.  The Hub is supposed to feel like an actual park and mostly accomplishes that.  The grass areas would surely be comfortable to lay around in and you’d wake to a wonderful view.  But if you were to spend the night here, you’d be out in the open and surely caught.  You’d also be completely uncovered.  In other words, The Hub ranks highly in comfort and pretty high in ‘X Factor’ but falls off considerably in practicality and safety.  If I was to rank the honorable mentions, this would end up around 11 or 12 though.

MK fountain castle

Speaking of sleeping outdoors, the Discovery Island Trails offer basically what The Hub does but instead with a view of the Tree of Life.  An added X Factor here is that there are some animals sleeping right by you.  Sadly, you’d either have to sleep on concrete or a bench.  Also, you’re still outside.  The animals add a nice element of excitement and danger, but the sleeping would not come easy being outside and uncomfortable.

The same could be said for Radiator Springs Racers.  I like this option due to the sleeping under the stars element.  There is less light pollution in this area so sleeping outside in desert part of RSR is appealing.  This is also a nice hybrid option where you can sneak inside for a while and warm up if you get cold.  Still, I can’t get past the fact that either you’re sleeping really close to a track (don’t get run over!) or sleeping in dirt, sand or rock.  Ever fall asleep on the beach without a towel under you?  Me neither but it sounds terribly unpleasant.

Katsura Grill’s outdoor seating is one of the most peaceful areas in a Disney Theme Park during the day, so who wouldn’t want to stay the night there?  Well, it wouldn’t work out well for a number of reasons.  The restaurant isn’t very comfortable in their seating, so if you stayed indoors there are limited and uncomfortable options.  Outside is even more uncomfortable and I saw snake crawling around there last time I was sitting outside.  Just a little snake but no one wants that scaling around while sleeping.  We run into that sleeping outside with little cover issue.  If you slept inside it takes away a large portion of the X-factor.  As a hybrid indoor-outdoor option, this is decent but we can do better.

The last of this list is basically any store that faces a park icon.  I picked Island Mercantile as the leader of this pack as I love the Tree of Life and this store offers a pretty good view of it.  Casey’s Corner would be a castle park equivalent of this store if you’d rather.  Still, I can’t get over the feeling that sleeping in a store would be pretty uncomfortable and kind of lame.  With that being said, you could cover yourself and stay warm with whatever the store is selling (hopefully clothes).  I’m starting to talk myself into this option, so I think it would fall just outside of the top-ten.

Nice Room But No One Cares

Reflections of China Lobby(Epcot) 20/40
Heritage House (MK) 18/40
Goofy’s Playhouse (DL) 20/40

This category of honorable mentions is buildings that are cool or comfortable but no one would care about hearing how you spent the night there.  Sure, your parents or best friend might fake some interest in your story but once you left they’d question why in the world you decided to sleep there.

The first of these buildings is the lobby to Reflections of China in Epcot.  The true name for this building is The Temple of Heaven.  Sweet place to sleep, right?  There are long benches here so that would be decently comfortable.  You’d be somewhat out in the open but not outside and there is plenty of space in the building if one area isn’t working for you.  The Temple of Heaven scores high in practicality but otherwise earns average scores.  No one recognizes this building outside of Disney nerds and there isn’t really anything that exciting inside.

Muppets group in window

The Heritage House gets honorable mentioned because it houses The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History.  I like the idea of just hanging out on the second floor (bonus points, second floor is cool) next to Kermit and the gang.  With that said, I doubt the floor is too comfortable and there really isn’t anything else exciting about the building aside from the chance that there will be muppets lying around.

Goofy’s Playhouse might be the most comfortable place I mention on this list Goofy’s Playhouse is a comfortable option.  The floor is pretty bouncy and sleeping here would be like sleeping on a water-bed that’s filled just a little bit too much.  That’s good relative to all the other choices in this insane post.  Unfortunately, Goofy’s Playhouse doesn’t have much else going for it.  Located in ToonTown, there isn’t anything special about the place.  Also, a bunch of 3-6 year olds all bounced around in this area.  Good grief, you don’t know what’s happened on that floor.  It’s staying off the list.

You’ll Be Waking Up A Lot

Sci-Fi Dine Inn Theater (DHS) 21/40
Country Bear Jamboree (MK) 21/40
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (MK) 18/40
Spaceship Earth (Epcot) 18/40

This section is devoted to those that missed the cut because of sleeping distractions.

Sci-Fi Dine Inn offers a nice place to kick back and relax.  I enjoy falling asleep to a movie and this restaurant in Hollywood Studios offers that option.  Yes, we are just assuming that the movie never shuts off.  The nice thing about falling asleep to a movie is you can wake up, shut it off and then fall back to sleep.  No such luck here and that’s why it misses the cut even with decent scores in most categories.

Country Bear big bear

Country Bear Jamboree has the same issue.  Obviously those bears are going to want to play most of the night and even if they aren’t you’re going to wake up, forget where you fell asleep and be terrified that bears are staring at you.  With all that beings said, I’d love to fall asleep on the stage here, maybe cuddled up next to Big Al.  I just don’t think I could last the night.

The TTA is a really comfortable ride, maybe more so than any other Disney attraction.  As you’re zipping through Tomorrowland in the ride vehicle, it’s nice to put your feet up and relax.  This isn’t a great option for staying the night though because the constant moving and wind blowing against your face would be distracting and cold.  You also couldn’t fully lay down here and laying down is great.

SSE fountain

My idea for Spaceship Earth was crawling off the ride into one of the scenes (Rome Burning would be my choice) and hunkering down for the night.  The distraction here would be the ride vehicles passing by and the weird lighting.  I’m also not sure that it would be comfortable.  But, this is your best and most unusual option for sleeping in one of the park icons. (I don’t know why I’m so against sleeping in one of the restaurants but it feels too easy to me and not unique enough.)

For the two people who have read this far, we’re finally to the top-ten!

10. Animation Building (DCA)
Comfort – One of the best places to take a nap in a Disney Park cracks the top-ten. It’s a finalist mainly due to the comfort of the building. Animation Academy is a huge building with no shortage of places to lounge around. I’d probably choose to sleep in the lobby of this building. I think the floor is pretty comfortable and carpeted, as I’ve laid there from time to time. The soundtrack in the building is nice and pretty soft but the screens may be distracting so I can’t max out the comfort rating. 8/10
X-Factor – The Animation Building is somewhat boring and you can sleep in it during the day. This isn’t very unique at all. Simon Cowell isn’t impressed. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to make a Simon Cowell/X Factor joke. 1/10
Safety – You may get caught here, but there are plenty of places to hide. There also isn’t a place to really hurt yourself in this building. You’re pretty safe here. 7/10
Practicality – This is probably the most practical place to stay. Getting in the building shouldn’t be hard. It’s fairly dark in there already. The floor is comfortable. The screens could wake you up but otherwise I don’t see many problems that you’d run into. 7/10
Bonus Points – No way.
Total – A pretty bland 23/40

Animation Building

9. Those buildings in Kilimanjaro Safaris (DAK)
Comfort –
I have no idea… I’m guessing these are storage and food buildings. Maybe you could find some hay to sleep on. That’d be comfortable! Maybe there’d be an animal in there, waiting to eat you. A real wild card here, it deserves an average score. 5/10
X-Factor –
This probably should be higher than a 10. Kilimanjaro Safaris is Animal Kingdom’s flagship attraction so it’s already rating high. Then you have the adventure of getting there, which detracts from practicality but absolutely boosts this category and the bonus points. You would literally have to run through a savannah filled with wild animals to get to this building. It’d be terrifying but that’s the kind of X-Factor I’d watch, as opposed to that one TV show. Is it still on? 10/10
Safety – You’re not going to get caught in the building by a cast member who’s cleaning. On the other hand, you might die.  Give and take. If you stick to the driving path, you should be okay but this is dangerous. 3/10
Practicality –
I mean, you’re sleeping in a building and you’re covered from weather. It’s probably dark in there, so as long as you can get past the fear of hundreds of wild animals waiting outside for you, after they chased you for a mile, you should be able to sleep in there. Unfortunately, the journey there is not going to be easy. 3/10
Bonus Points –
A well-earned +2
Total – An absolutely insane 23/40

Giraffe savannah safari AK

8. Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland)
Comfort – Pirates of the Caribbean is iconic but hardly a comfortable ride while sitting on those wooden benches in a boat.  Sure, you could sleep there but I’m proposing something else.  Take a step off the boat when it comes close to the bank (I’m thinking the prison scene here).  Explore the grounds that the pirates have taken and find a moderately good place to sleep.  It won’t be a soft mattress but it can be pretty dark and relaxing.  4/10
X-Factor – This is one of the most iconic theme park attractions in the world.  It’d also be an adventure getting there, which hurts in practicality but helps here.  This is a perfect ten. 10/10
Safety – This one gets tricky.  Getting to a sleeping location isn’t safe, although the water isn’t deep even if you do fall in.  No one wants to fall asleep with wet clothes.  But once in the location you won’t be found and, unless you are totally clueless on where to fall asleep, you won’t fall in the water.  This is a complicated situation but we’ll stick to more of a sleeping spot, which seems pretty safe to me. 5/10
Practicality – Okay, this isn’t very practical.  It is super cool and might be the best choice if you are a thrill seeker, but not many people are jumping off a boat to sleep by a bunch of crazy animatronics.  4/10
Bonus Point – Yeah, this is a classic. +2
Total – A strong but not incredible 25/40

Pirates night

7. Coral Reef (Epcot)
Comfort –
This restaurant in Epcot probably has a decent booth to sleep in. Nothing exciting, but somewhat comfortable! If booths aren’t your thing then the floor is probably okay. 8/10
X-Factor –
This is basically falling asleep in an empty aquarium. Wake up and see sharks! Cool. Fall asleep in an empty restaurant! Not as cool. I thought this was unique when I first put it on the list, but compared to other options on this list I won’t rave about sleeping in the Coral Reef. 3/10
Safety –
Again, they probably clean these restaurants and it’d be hard not to get caught unless you were into some Home Alone type antics. If you don’t get caught then you’re safe. Unless the glass in the aquarium breaks. Then you’d wake up swimming with sharks! Yeah, you’re pretty safe here. 8/10
Practicality –
Get in the building and find a place to sleep. It would be fairly dark although the fish may be somewhat distracting. Sleeping here and getting here isn’t a big issue. 7/10
Bonus Points –
It already has too many points, so no.
Total – A lucky (to be here) number seven. 26/40

Lionfish closer Epcot seas

6. Omnibus (DL)
Comfort – A surprising addition to the list, the omnibus thrives in comfort and safety.  Climb up to the top floor of the omnibus and sprawl out on a bench.  They’re pretty long and fairly comfortable. There won’t be any perfect tens in this category but this is close. 8/10
X Factor – Well this isn’t great.  On one hand, how many people have spent the night on the omnibus?  On the other hand, I’m guessing it’s probably parked in a garage and the view isn’t great.  I like these more than most people but even I know it’s limited.  3/10
Safety – If you’re staying here, I’m guessing that you’ll be spending the night in the garage.  Nobody is coming to find you in there and there is little that can go wrong, even if you fall off the seat in the middle of the night. 10/10
Practicality – Go find the omnibus, sleep there.  Not much will distract from this plan and it will also be pretty dark in there.  Getting into the garage might not be easy but otherwise this scores well.  7/10
Bonus Points – I love them, but no.
Total – A very surprising 28/40

5. Nomad Lounge (DAK)
Comfort –
One of the most comfortable lounges (and places) around.  The Nomad Lounge has couches throughout it and might be the most comfortable place on the list.  The lounge would be dark and a great place to sleep. 9/10
X-Factor –
Nomad is a great lounge but it’s not a place that you brag about sleeping in.  On the plus side, it has a nice view of the water and will soon have a great view of World of Pandora.  While the building itself isn’t an icon, it is a nice room with a nice view. 5/10
Safety –
I’m guessing that they clean this place.  Being in a small space it might be hard to avoid those people who are cleaning.  Otherwise, you are safe.  Unless you routinely hurt yourself while sleeping on a couch. 7/10
Practicality –
It’s dark, relaxing, and with no distractions.  Sure, you have to get in there but once you are, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble.  Not to mention, free drinks! (That is stealing and I don’t condone that…) 8/10
Bonus Points –
Naw.
Total – 29/40

4. DVC Lounge in the Imagination Pavilion (Epcot)
Comfort – 
This lounge sits on the second floor of the Imagination building and is part of Disney folklore.  About a year ago it was remodeled to a lounge, which isn’t all good news but it is good news when it comes to staying the night somewhere.  This is the other place on this list that has couches and comfortable seating.  No back or neck aches here, especially compared to most on this list. 9/10
X Factor – This building is great and people who knew Epcot Center are incredibly nostalgic about the Imagination Pavilion.  It is not known as much among your average Disney fan and I can’t give it the score that other classic attractions received. 7/10
Safety – A common theme, avoid the cleaners and you’re good!  That shouldn’t be a big deal here. 7/10
Practicality – 
This should be easy to get to just like all the other buildings.  There is a big glass ceiling so the sun will wake you up early in the morning, that’s a bummer.  Otherwise I think this is pretty practical. 7/10
Bonus points – 
This used to be a great attraction but not anymore, so +1
Total – 
A surprising 4th place finish and top non-attraction honors. 31/40

Imagination monorail Epcot

3. Swiss Family Tree House (MK)
Comfort –
This is unique.  A place that is actually designed for living and sleeping.  Unfortunately, the humans that lived here seem to be very small.  I don’t know if you can get to the bed in the treehouse but if you can then we’re in solid shape!  Either way, there are some pretty comfortable places to sleep here, albeit pretty hard. 7/10
X-
Factor – This is a classic attraction.  Not in the like of Pirates of the Caribbean (among others) but still pretty cool.  You tell people that you spent the night there and they will think pretty highly of you.  7/10
Safety –
I don’t think you’ll be found.  I mean, if you’re lying on the top floor and roll over, you might fall to your death.  I don’t think that’s very likely though.  I definitely do not question the structural integrity of the tree. 8/10
Practicality –
You’re outside and that’s the only negative here.  If you check the weather forecast and don’t see rain, I think this is a really good move.  If it’s going to rain, then you can find places in the tree that are covered but it’s not as easy.  I also think this is the easiest place to get into on the list.  8/10
Bonus Points –
I think this counts as a classic. +2
Total – 
The practical man’s number one, but an honest to come by bronze medal. 32/40

2. Haunted Mansion (MK)
Comfort –
There’s no shortage of options in places to sleep here.  You can curl up in the graveyard, where there’s probably some cushion from props.  Sleeping in the ballroom would be fantastic but you’re probably relegated to the table in that case.  Whatever you choose, there will be plenty of space but the bed will likely be hard. 6/10
X-Factor –
(A conversation with a friend) You – “I slept in the Haunted Mansion.” Your Friend – “…” (Silence because their jaw has dropped so low that they look like the ghosts you slept by).  10/10
Safety –
This one is tricky.  You won’t be caught once inside the building.  You won’t die unless you do something really stupid.  But, is the Haunted Mansion actually haunted?  Do ghosts actually hurt people?  Are ghosts even real?  I’m not the man to answer those questions, I’m just the man who writes this blog post and I give this category an 8/10.
Practicality –
The building shouldn’t be terribly hard to get into.  It’s also dark.  But, I don’t think the sleeping would be so good.  The graveyard is actually the most childlike scene in Haunted Mansion and less spooky so that would seem a good spot to sleep until you realize that it’s also the most well-lit and there are animatronics all over the place.  I’m not sure a good night’s sleep is going to happen here, unless you have nerves of steel.  Still, it’s a building that’s easy to sleep in. 6/10
Bonus Points –
Absolutely. +2
Total –
Spookily creeps up to number 2 on the list. 32/40

MK Haunted Mansion bench

1. Inside the Matterhorn (DL)
Comfort – We’ve all heard about the basketball court inside of the Matterhorn. That’s what we’re aiming for here. You probably haven’t slept on a basketball court before but trust me, it’s not comfortable. I’m guessing this is more of a cabin style feel to the floor though instead of an actual basketball court. That makes it slightly better and pretty comparable to most other options. 5/10
X Factor – Just like Pirates of the Caribbean, this place is iconic. This might be even more memorable because the basketball court is such a big part of Disney folklore. An easy 10 here. 10/10
Safety – This is one of our more safe options even though it’s near the top of the mountain. The building has to pass safety checks and I’m guessing this isn’t cleaned very often. No one is going to find you up here and you aren’t going to fall off. There may be an issue in getting to the basketball court but I think it’s doable as long as you have a flashlight or phone. All in all, a safe option. 8/10
Practicality – Again, it might be hard to get to. But we know where it is and that it exists. There shouldn’t be many distractions once up there aside from a few sounds that accompany a roller coaster. The court is also covered and probably warm enough. 8/10
Bonus Points – No doubt. +2
Total – A winning 33/40

Matterhorn at night

There you have it, the best place to sleep if you get locked in a U.S. Disney Theme Park is on the floor of the Matterhorn’s mini basketball court.  I’m sure no one could argue with the science behind my thoughts, but I’d love to hear a few other buildings that you may think are good options.  And if you’ve never read this blog before, most other posts are way less ridiculous and approximately 37 times more helpful to you planning a Disney vacation.  Thank you for reading, this is our 300th post on the site and we’re honored by your support.

– Andrew

Tiffins Review

Tiffins is a restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and considered a signature restaurant by Disney World.  They offer mostly Indian and African fare.  Tiffins is located near the park entrance on Discovery Island and is right in front of the bridge that leads to Pandora – World of Avatar.  Entrée prices range from $25-$55 and this restaurant does participate in the Disney Dining Plan (as 2 credits.)  They are also currently offering a 20% discount for annual pass holders.

Tiffins outside sign

Most Disney fans have dreamt of becoming an imagineer at some point.  Imagineers are the minds behind designing Disney Parks and are quasi-celebrities in the fan community.  So, while daydreaming about how much you’d like to have their jobs you should at least go eat in a restaurant inspired by them, right?

Tiffins is that place.  The idea behind the restaurant is to showcase some imagineers favorite meals and places that they went while studying areas that inspired Animal Kingdom.  For Disney nerds, or those interested in design of the parks in general, Tiffins is very interesting.

Tiffins wall elephant

Because of the theme of Tiffins, it’s pretty difficult for the restaurants design to be understated.  The walls are filled with different artwork, with nearly every space filled.  There are two rooms in the restaurant, each having different displays.  There are also photos from the imagineers adventures throughout the hallways of the restaurant.

Tiffins artwork tiger village

I found the whole idea for this restaurant to be fantastic and incredibly interesting.  There was no shortage of things to look at and this helped to make the atmosphere one to remember.

While great service should be expected at Disney, I felt the service here exceeded our expectations.  Our waiter was very helpful and eager to inform us about the restaurant.  We enjoyed hearing his recommendations and discussing our trip with him.  On top of the service, guests also receive a print of some artwork done by Joe Rohde.  Rohde is the visionary behind Animal Kingdom and is one of the lead imagineers to this day.

Tiffins poles

Moving on to the food, we ate lunch at Tiffins.  When we were there, a lunch special called ‘Taste of Tiffins’ was going on where you could choose 2 options from a list and have that for $28.  I believe that special is still going, even though it isn’t on the menu linked here.  The special offers a very good reason (and great value) to go to the restaurant for lunch, but if it’s not offered or doesn’t appeal to you then there isn’t a difference between the lunch and dinner menu.

Tiffins octopus

To start our meal, we had the grilled octopus.  Our waiter recommended this and said that it was one of Tiffins most popular dishes.  The octopus was prepared wonderfully and had a great sear on it.  We both thought that it could have used a little stronger marinade but I’m glad we tried it.  This dish was on the small side and cost $16, so I don’t think I’d get it every time but the octopus was fun to try.

Melissa's Tiffins

Melissa ordered the Wagyu Strip Loin and Beef Short Rib for lunch.  This came at a costly $53 (before our 20% discount) but showcased the restaurants star dish.  The Wagyu Strip Loin was the best item I’ve ever tried at Walt Disney World.  The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare and had the most amazing seasoning on it.  Even at the cost, I’d have a really hard time not ordering this every time I went to the restaurant.

The short ribs paled in comparison to the strip loin but were also delicious.  These are prepared and then braised for 72 hours.  This shows the kind of pride the staff takes in their food.  Every item we tried at this restaurant felt a little more authentic and interesting than most restaurants, much less restaurants at a theme park.

Tiffins Fish

I did the Taste of Tiffins for lunch and had the short ribs along with the sustainable fish.  The fish had a nice fry on it, as well as the slaw on top.  While I thought this was worst entree I tried, it was still delicious and I wouldn’t hesitate to order fish here again.

The Taste of Tiffins was a good deal and offered a decent amount of food for a fair price (compared to other signature restaurants.) Rice was also included with the dish.  Unfortunately this option doesn’t include the strip loin but I did think this was a good way to try a few different options without paying an arm and a leg.

Tiffins safari wall

We were extremely impressed with Tiffins and there were only 2 questions we had when we left the restaurant – When are we going back and is this the best restaurant that’s in an actual theme park?  The answer to the first question is soon.  The second question is a bit tougher and something I’ve contemplated ever since.  There are certainly some fancier restaurants in Epcot that could rival Tiffins but when you factor in the quality of the food, atmosphere and decent value then Tiffins is my pick for best theme park restaurant.  I’m hopeful that the restaurant will keep their fairly diverse and different menu over the years and will stay as authentic as it is now.  Because right now, I wouldn’t change anything about the restaurant.

Overall Rating – 10/10

– Andrew

Top Ten Things to Look Forward to in Disney Parks in 2017

As a blogger, there seems to be some unwritten rule about needing to write a post reviewing the previous year and previewing the upcoming year.  While Wandering in Disney did not fall into the classic trap of reviewing, we’re not above reproach when it comes to previewing.  (Here’s to hoping you all forget that I said that next New Year when I basically write whatever I want.)  I could say we are doing this because the blog is so optimistic that there’s no need to look back when you could look forward.  I could also say that 2016 was such a lousy year, both from a parks and world perspective, that we shouldn’t look back.  The actual truth is that I was quite busy around Christmas and New Years Day, traveling in Atlanta and Orlando, that I didn’t get to a review.  Now, it’s less hectic and I haven’t done a top ten list in a while.  If this first paragraph is any indication this post should be… uhh… interesting?  Anyway, Happy New Year!

Illumination better green

2016 saw many attractions close (at least temporarily) in Disney Parks.  2017 looks to be a moderate step in the other direction, which is obviously good news.  There is plenty to be excited for on both coasts and that’s what we’ll take a look at with this post.  For being such a simple idea, this post sure has a long title.  You can’t win them all!  Most of what I name will be opening or reopening in 2017 but there will be a few random items thrown in.  Let’s get to the list!

10. DCA’s Tower of Terror Out, Mission Breakout In 

I’ll be honest, excited is not the right word here.  I’m interested and curious about DCA’s Tower of Terror being replaced.  Part of me is curious about the ride.  I’m sure there will be some good aspects of it, as there are with most Disney attractions.  The other part of me is very cynical about this project.  Why replace one area of the park that has quality theming and good on-ride storytelling with something that feels shoe-horned in?  The only reason Disney has, I think, is money.

Tower of Terror old fashioned

This is a short-term win either way though.  If the attraction turns out to be great then most people will be happy even with Tower of Terror being replaced.  If the attraction is average or worse than the Disney fan community will lose their minds.  It’s hard to look away from a disaster and that’s what we may have on our hands here.

9. A New Raft Ride at Typhoon Lagoon

On to something more positive, Miss Adventure Falls is a raft ride that is opening at Typhoon Lagoon in March (supposedly) 2017.  Walt Disney World’s water parks haven’t had much attention paid to them in years so it’s good to see a new slide.  This slide is fairly long and looks to have some sort of show element intertwined with the ride.  I love water slides more than the average person but I don’t really see how you can screw this up.  By the way, if this wasn’t strictly a Disney blog the opening of Volcano Bay (Universal’s new ‘Water Theme Park’) would probably top my list.

Boathouse Lobster Bake

8. Trying More Restaurants at Disney Springs

Disney Springs has transformed itself into a worthwhile destination, with restaurants opening at a rapid pace.  I haven’t been able to keep up with this pace and am looking forward to trying restaurants like Morimoto Asia and Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming.  On top of that, there are more restaurants opening or reopening.  I’m pretty curious to see how Paddlefish, which was formerly Fulton’s Crab House, is received when it reopens with an almost entirely new look.  I’m also excited for The Edison to appear in 2017, as I think it will add a more fun scene which Disney Springs still hasn’t quite covered.  All in all, I expect Disney Springs to keep growing and be even more enjoyable over the next year.

7. Finding Out About Epcot

So, these next few things could all be put together but this deserves special mention.  Head of Parks, Bob Chapek, has confirmed already that major changes are going to be coming to Epcot.  If you have been to Future World in Epcot sometime in the last couple of years this news shouldn’t surprise you.  Still, there are a number of attractions and buildings that are ripe for a refresh or something new.  I think we’ll hear a decent amount of news on what is coming to Epcot over the course of this year and I’m excited for that.

SSE fountain

6. Construction Progress

While I’m excited to see what’s announced in Epcot, there is plenty of construction progress to track.  Most notably of these construction projects are Star Wars Lands on both coasts.  It’s believed but not confirmed that Star Wars Land at Disneyland is ahead as far as construction goes.  Over 2017 there will be quite a bit of vertical construction, which is the most exciting construction to watch.  On top of those gigantic projects is Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios as well as ongoing cosmetic changes in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.  While all of these projects are already announced, we’ll have a much better idea of what’s going on with these lands by the end of this year.

5. D23 Expo

And finally, the last of the hypothetical that’s on this list.  D23 Expo is happening this summer in Anaheim and has become the main source of announcements for the Disney company.  While I’m hoping for Epcot announcements plus updates on what I talked about above, I think it’s safe to assume that there will be other announcements happening this summer.  D23 will surely give updates on the movie lineup, as well as some park announcements.  For theme park junkies, the expo is like a pro sports draft.  We get to learn all about new items that are joining the Disney ‘team’.

ToL sunset water

4. Rivers of Light

Well, this was on the list last year and it didn’t happen.  What’s also disappointing is the somewhat lukewarm reviews that Rivers of Light has received in the previews.  Still, I’m very excited for Animal Kingdom to have a nighttime show that will add to a sneaky good entertainment lineup there.  I’m also guessing that some of the issues Rivers of Light had are being addressed before it’s debut.  I’m guessing Rivers of Light will debut in the next couple of months but no one should count on a date with this show.

3. Reopening of Rivers of America

The next two are somewhat connected.  In early 2016 Disneyland’s Rivers of America closed to make way for Star Wars construction.  With it the Mark Twain River Boat and Disneyland Railroad were shut down for the next year and a half.  Well, it’s 2017 and summer will shortly be upon us.  The railroad and river boat will open again with a different, somewhat abbreviated, route.  Now, shorter isn’t usually better but I think the portion that they’ve changed in the railroad could be really quite beautiful.  The concept art shows elegant rock-work and some nice water features as well as a few nods to Disney’s past in this area.  I’m looking forward to these new views.  I’m also simply looking forward to the river being open.  I think the river really adds kinetic energy in that section of the park and is much-needed.

Columbia Mark Twain evening

2. Fantasmic!

Along with the river comes one of Disney’s greatest nighttime spectacular.  Fantasmic! at Disneyland is one of the coolest experiences the parks offer and it is coming back with a few changes and updates along the way.  I’m really looking forward to seeing updated technology and story brought to a classic show.  Disneyland isn’t complete without Fantasmic! and this summer it will be back and probably as grand as ever.

1. Pandora – World of Avatar

The biggest addition to Disney Parks in several years is what I’m most excited about this year.  Animal Kingdom plays host to this expansion and the construction, as it nears completion, looks quite beautiful.  While we’ll surely have a bunch of coverage of Pandora when it opens, I do think this project was met with a decent amount of cynicism.  I was a small part of that club, not quite understanding why Disney would take on this movie as a theme park project.  Over the years, I’ve changed my mind.  Pandora doesn’t seem to be taking much from the film, instead dedicating itself to the world that came from James Cameron mind.  I expect this to be a beautiful place to visit, especially at night, with two quality attractions.  As I said, we’ll have plenty more coverage of Pandora in the next few months.

Via Disney Tourist Blog

Via Disney Tourist Blog

Naturally there is more to come to Disney Parks this year.  There will surely be surprises along the way, both good and bad.  These were just ten of things I’m most looking forward to although I usually forget something obvious with these lists!  What are you most looking forward to in Disney Parks in 2017?  Let us know in the comments.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (1/8/17)

Every once in a while our writers get together and answer a Disney Parks related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers!

Question of the Week: If you could take a behind the scenes look at any show in Disneyland or Disney World, what show would you pick?

Cassie – I would love to get a behind the scenes look at the new Frozen Musical! The effects, lighting, and scenery excite the theater nerd in me so so much! I loved the show and would love to take a closer look at what makes the magic!

Frozen trolls

Leslie – This is honestly a hard choice because I struggle with wanting to know how behind the scenes works and preserving the magic (something I think most past and current cast members struggle with) but I would really love to see how Dream Along with Mickey was run. The timing and placement and to have many different characters around. Not to mention ensuring the show ran its course with a few fireworks. Really I want to see more of the coordination aspect as well as things from the entertainment side of how they get themselves ready and practiced for a performance.

Andrew – I’m with Leslie here, I think this is a hard choice because I’d be interested in seeing behind the scenes of some of the nighttime shows but it may ruin a bit of the ‘magic’. With that in mind, I think I’d go behind the scenes of Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom. The show is very tight and I’d like to see the choreography up close. The performers all have unique talents and getting to see them practicing those would also be interesting. Special shout out to The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History because that was my next pick.

FotLK bird AK

Melissa – You have all given really great answers! I think I’d like a behind the scenes look at one of the parades! I think it would be really neat to see how they coordinate everyone and get them lined up just right!

Goofy Donald Blur

What shows would you like a behind the scenes tour of?  Let us know in the comments.

If you enjoy Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to our blog via email (or WordPress) and like our Facebook page.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  If you have any ideas for posts, questions, or thoughts please leave us a comment below or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  We’d love to hear from you.  Thank you for reading our blog and have a great week!

Wishes pink castle

Sanaa Review

Sanaa is a table-service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village.  The restaurant is a part of the Disney Dining Plan.  Sanaa also accepts Tables in Wonderland and currently offers a 20% discount to annual pass holders.

When reading about Sanaa, the phrase ‘hidden gem’ comes up constantly.  The restaurant has earned this title for a number of reasons, namely the value and atmosphere.  Being at Animal Kingdom Lodge, access to animals is easy for Sanaa goers.  It’s even easier when those animals are right outside of the restaurants windows.

Giraffe Sanaa

To be sure, watching giraffes roam around a savannah while eating is certainly unique.  For animal lovers, this is enough of a reason to eat at Sanaa.  It doesn’t hurt that the food is also excellent.  We’ll get to that in a minute, but first a little bit more on the restaurant’s atmosphere.  If you want a good view of the animals then arrive at your reservation a little early and ask for a seat by the window.  You may have to wait for a few extra minutes but it is certainly worth it if you have the time.

Sanaa ceiling

Not to fret if you aren’t seated by a window, the inside of the restaurant is quite beautiful as well.  The restaurant, which serves Indian and African fare, certainly matches the high theming standards of Animal Kingdom Lodge.  There is artwork throughout the restaurant with subtle Disney themes throughout.  The rooftop is beautiful, as is the faux tree growing in the center of the restaurant.  Sanaa is a wonderful place to have a meal.

As you know, the atmosphere is only half the battle.  The other half, which is arguably more important, is the food.  For this review we went to Sanaa for lunch.  Here is the menu.

Sanaa bread service high

We started with Sanaa’s famed bread service.  This comes with five types of Naan bread and nine different dipping sauces (you can get just three for a smaller price.) The bread service was one of the most enjoyable and fun things I’ve eaten at Disney World.  We had a blast trying all the different types of bread and sauces, most of which were delicious.  I think this was wonderfully prepared and everything seemed fresh.  The bread service is one of the most unique items I’ve tried at Disney World and I’d encourage everyone to try it.

My entree Sanaa

For my entrée, I had the Potjie Inspired dish.  This was my choice of two heartier dishes served with rice.  I chose the Butter Chicken and Seafood Curry for my two dishes.  The Butter Chicken is delicious and one of the best things served at Sanaa.  It is spicy but still somewhat creamy.  The Seafood Curry didn’t live up to the Butter Chicken but it was still pretty good.  While there was nothing unique about the taste of the curry, I still enjoyed it.  There wasn’t a ton of seafood in it but what was there was fresh and prepared well.  All in all, my entrée was very good but didn’t quite hit the highest plateau.

Melissas Sanaa

Melissa got the Tandoori Chicken which is served on top of naan bread.  She thought this was pretty good but a bit spicy.  Sanaa isn’t shy about their spices, much more so than most Walt Disney World restaurants.  While I don’t think this should keep anyone from going there (options without spices are certainly available) it is something to be aware of.  I thought the chicken was fresh and delicious, although I didn’t think the sauce was anything and other ingredients were anything special.

Sanaa sandwich

Our friend ordered the Kenya Coffee Barbecue Sandwich.  He thought it was good but not great.  It certainly looks delicious in this photo though.

Sanaa tomato soup

The last thing ordered at our table was the tomato soup.  I didn’t taste this either but my friend really liked it and said she’d recommend the soup.

On this day, we skipped dessert.  I have had dessert here before and enjoyed it but that was more than 3 years ago.  The item ordered for dessert is no longer on the menu so I won’t get into that.

The last thing I’ll mention about Sanaa is the prices.  Most table-service restaurants at Disney World have entrees that are all over $20.  Sanaa offers 5 dishes that are less than $20.  I think that makes this restaurant one of the better values on Disney property.

Sanaa ceiling

All in all, Sanaa’s atmosphere is reason enough to go check out the restaurant.  Add in good food and decent value and you have a real winner.  I don’t think the food is the best on property but it is certainly good and worth trying.  Sanaa has earned ‘hidden gem’ status in Disney but it deserves even more than that.  I think calling it the best value of any restaurant in Disney is more fitting.

Overall Rating – 9/10

– Andrew

A Few Thoughts From A Quick Trip To Disney World

I just returned from a quick day and a half trip to Walt Disney World.  Seeing how I just finished a long trip report about the vacation kingdom I thought another one may be a bit of overkill.  Instead I’m just going to add in a few thoughts from our day (and two hours) in the parks.  I’ll have some reviews up on the blog over the next few weeks on what we ate and where we stayed but here are some random thoughts.

Castle wreath lights

I might as well start off with the time Melissa and I went.  First of all, we were within driving distance and that was the motivating factor in going down to Orlando for two nights.  The other factor was that we knew the Christmas decorations would still be up.  For those that can’t make it to Disney World before Christmas, visiting in the week or two after New Years is a great time.  This is a bit of a risky game, as one day guests will wake up and all the decorations will be gone without notice.  Still, it’s safe to say some decorations will still be up in the week after New Years Day.  Are the decorations worth seeing?  Absolutely, especially if you are a frequent visitor.  While seeing Magic Kingdom’s Castle or any of the park icons is usually enough for excitement, there is something special about seeing them in their holiday best.  Those decorations along with the Christmas trees and resort decorations really add something fun and different to the experience.  New Years Day and the few days after are certainly busy, but if you can time it right this would be the perfect time for those who love Christmas but hate crowds.  I’m certainly glad we were able to see the decorations all up.

Wassailing

The other bit of holiday entertainment that Melissa and I ran into was the Jingle Cruise.  This is the layover of the Jungle Cruise with Christmas jokes intertwined with the classic puns.  The queue was certainly fun to look at, as there were quite a few props and signs displayed throughout the line.  The jokes while sailing the world’s rivers were pretty good although our skipper deserves a portion of that credit as he was one of the better sailors I’ve encountered.  Overall, I thought the Jingle Cruise was a nice overlay and some good holiday entertainment.  Like the decorations, Jingle Cruise is a nice little treat for frequent visitors all while still keeping in the spirit of the usual attraction.

Tree of Life stream

We made our way over to Animal Kingdom in the afternoon and walked around there.  The Tree of Life Gardens fully (re)opened about a month ago and they are beautiful.  There was a kangaroo hopping around in front of the Tree of Life.  The actual path got us closer to the tree than I’ve ever been.  I’m a believer in Animal Kingdom being a wonderful place to just stroll around throughout the day.  That starts with all of the paths leading up to the Tree of Life.  Take the time to explore these paths, they are some of the most beautiful places in any theme park in the world.

Everest pink sky

Animal Kingdom didn’t quite have the 2016 many were expecting as Rivers of Light was put off for the entire year and will open sometime in the next few months (hopefully.)  That the show didn’t open is certainly disappointing.  With that being said, Animal Kingdom definitely looks ready for a big 2017.  The park looks as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it and will be ready for the increase in crowds that will come with a nighttime show and then Pandora, which is rumored to open on Memorial Day.

Aladdin camel

Lastly, Melissa and I have a mission while we have our annual passes to ride every single attraction at Walt Disney World (we’ve completed most of them even before getting our passes.)  This quick trip checked another two off of our list with Aladdin’s Magic Carpets and the Astro Orbiter.  Both of these are spinners and not much to write home about, honestly.  The Magic Carpets are especially lame.  They don’t go very high, and the only intrigue is whether the camel on the side will spit on you.  If you go high enough then the camel won’t spit on you.  This attraction is fun for kids I’m sure, otherwise I don’t think I’ll ever go on it again.

The Astro Orbiter is slightly more fun and also more terrifying.  This spinner goes quite high and pretty fast.  The Astro Orbiter soars above Tomorrowland and moves way faster than Dumbo or the Magic Carpets.  This does make it more exciting and fun but in the end it’s still a spinner.  I think the Astro Orbiter might be slightly better than Dumbo, although it doesn’t have the nostalgia.

Blur castle wreath

As usual, we had a great time at Disney World.  Going for a quick few days was kind of like making a greatest hits album.  We chose our favorite things to do, did them and avoided the parts of Disney World we don’t love.  Sure, we wish we had more time there and we didn’t get the full picture but this quick trip was a nice little change.  Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom seem to be in good shape, Rivers of Light and no nighttime parade notwithstanding.  We had some good food and did some f our favorite things, it was a great way to start the new year!

Do you have any questions or thoughts? Leave them below in the comments. Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.

– Andrew