Coca-Cola at Disney Springs

We saw Star Trek: Beyond at Disney’s AMC Dine-In Theater at Disney Springs in Orlando. I liked the film and would rate it five stars. The galactic scope isn’t as broad as the Star Wars universe, but Star Trek focuses more on characters. I thought this movie did a good job with the character interactions among the crew and the personal journeys of Kirk and Spock. The villain’s motivation seemed plausible. His weapons were immensely powerful compared to Federation defenses, and action scenes were plentiful. I had a good time and will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out.

IMG_2423Star Trek Beyond showtimes and tickets

The Coca-Cola Store had opened since we’d been here last, so we had to visit. I was suitably impressed by the array of merchandise offered at the two-level shop inside. The variety exceeded my expectations. Up on the third level, we stopped by the outdoor bar to try their combo sampler of sodas and floats. Be prepared for a sugar high after you try all these drinks. Dinner was at The Melting Pot on West Sand Lake Road. Good for a fondue experience but no leftovers.

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The next day, we hung around Millennia Mall and went to lunch at La Madeleine. There’s a coffee place at one end and a restaurant at the other. You order your food, get a table, and wait for your order to be delivered. Crepes, soups, sandwiches, and salads are on the menu along with more substantial entrees. I felt a couple of pounds heavier as we left.

There’s always something new to explore in Orlando. Make it your destination.

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Magic Kingdom Revisited

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida represents family outings and celebrations. My husband and I went there after we got engaged. We went there again to celebrate when I’d sold my first book. This sale culminated a long, hard struggle as I wrote six books before selling a three-book contract to Dorchester. My first published title, Circle of Light, sold about the same time The Lion King came out. Every time I heard “Circle of Life” playing, it reminded me of my book with a sense of joy and wonder that my career had finally taken off. And since Circle of Light, winner of the HOLT Medallion, was a scifi romance, Tomorrowland was a particular favorite of mine. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the movie by that name. We’ve returned to Disney World every year, often several times, from when our children were babies to now with them as adults. We have annual passes and still enjoy the beautiful landscaping, the happy ambiance, and the place where dreams can come true.

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We went on It’s A Small World and People Mover rides this time. It was too hot for waiting in lines. Lunch was at the Colombia Harbour House opposite the Haunted Mansion. I had a hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw sandwich.

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As we strolled back to Main Street, we came upon a delightful entertainment:

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The Magic Kingdom is still a magical experience. I’m hoping the family memories we create there will pass on to the next generation.


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Epcot Revisited

We spent last weekend getting our Disney World fix. Early in the morning, we took a walk at Riverside Resort, enjoying the old South ambiance with colonial-style buildings. Every few feet along the bayou were signs warning of alligators and snakes. But it was the tropical foliage and beautifully landscaped grounds that captured our attention. We had breakfast in the food court before heading back to our condo for a rest.

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A short while later, we drove to Epcot for a stroll around our favorite theme park. Here is the water fountain by Imagination. Note the water spraying up rather than down.

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We went on the ride at the Land, always a pleasant interlude especially in the ninety-degree heat. I like seeing how their fruits and veggies thrive in a soil-less environment. The fish tanks are what inspired me to research tilapia aquaculture for Body Wave. Note the baby alligators in the tank on the right.

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The new Frozen ride is open that replaced Maelstrom at the Norway pavilion. We noticed a line at Fast Pass, and if you didn’t reserve a spot there, you had a two hour wait. This was around 10:30am. We refreshed ourselves with free soft drink samples from around the world at the Coca Cola building, ate lunch at a fast food place with indoor seating, and gave up on walking around World Showcase. That’s the advantage of having annual passes. You can come and go without feeling the pressure to stay all day and go on the rides. We’ve been on most of them enough times to conduct our own tour.

 

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Disney World Revisited

We had another enjoyable visit to Disney World, our favorite weekend getaway. Over Mother’s Day weekend, we strolled through Disney Springs, enjoying glimpses of new eateries like The Edison (under construction) and STK Steakhouse. A new section is scheduled to open this month. Planet Hollywood is undergoing renovations as is the old paddlewheel boat restaurant. New shops have also opened up. It’s great that parking is still free, and the garage is a marvel of technology that parking garages everywhere should emulate. The second garage is still under construction.

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At Animal Kingdom, we saw building cranes over where Avatar land is being developed. We didn’t spot much else that was new. It was already crowded when we arrived late morning, so we passed by the rides/attractions and stood in line for lunch. This place could have used more than one cashier. Sit-down restaurants are not readily available in this park, other than the Asian one and the Rainforest Café. The windows at the fast-food places get crowded. Let’s hope the Avatar section will have more dining choices. It’s still pleasant to stroll around the park with the tropical vegetation and authentic-looking scenery.

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Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Orlando has a multitude of dining opportunities. We began our sojourn this past weekend by eating hot dogs in the food court at the Home and Garden Show in the Convention Center. Then we strolled the aisles, inspecting the products and services offered by numerous exhibitors.

Hot Dog Home Show

We topped off the day by dining at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. I’d forgotten how delicious food tastes when cooked in front of you at a hibachi grill. The meal included soup and a salad. You chose the main ingredient for the entrée—steak, chicken, or shrimp—and this came with noodles, fried rice, and sautéed vegetables to make a generous feast. The chef showed off his artistry as he prepared the meal.

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On Saturday, we visited Epcot at Disney World. The weather graced us with partially cloudy skies that kept temperatures mild in the seventies. As usual, we admired the lovely flower displays.

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I dipped into Club Cool for a quick sample of soft drinks from around the world.

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Turning right at World Showcase, we sampled a variety of food choices at the marketplace booths. I liked the pulled duck confit at France and the chicken fricassee at Germany.

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We noted construction next to Mexico. I’m wondering what is going up at that site.

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Now that we are home, it’s time to raise the exercise quotient and return to healthy eating.

Dining around the world at Epcot #Disney #food http://bit.ly/1YGGS77

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Star Wars at Disney Springs

We spent Christmas Day at the movies as is our tradition. This year, we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Disney’s Dine-In Movie Theater. I love this experience where you lounge in comfy seats, order a meal, and dine during the film showing on a big screen.

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As for the movie, I loved it. It has action-packed scenes and emotional resonance similar to the original film that started it all. The new characters are complex and engage your interest right away, while seeing familiar faces brings you back to an earlier era when the same universe fired your imagination. It appeals to both old and new fans and satisfies both. Surprise plot twists will startle you even if you thought you saw them coming. As for the final scene, all I could say was, “How can they end it NOW?” We breathlessly await the sequel to see if it will bring another reveal. Meanwhile, I’m ready to pre-order this DVD.

After the movie, we strolled along the west end of Disney Springs amid the Christmas Day crowds, crossed the bridge and headed for a glimpse of the new Hangar Bar. This themed lounge is very small so be prepared to wait for a seat.

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We passed by the Boatyard, a popular restaurant which we’d tried before. It’s next to a landing where you can rent an amphibious car to cruise the lake. We went over to Morimoto Asia instead for drinks and appetizers. I had the sake sangria and an order of steamed dumplings. Reservations are suggested for a seat in the dining room. Otherwise, you can sit in the bar area and order food.

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The mobs of people discouraged us from exploring further changes at Disney Springs, so we headed home.

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Hollywood Studios at Disney

We went to Disney World’s Hollywood Studios to see what changes had taken place since our last visit. Aside from the Christmas decorations, there were a couple of Star Wars related attractions that we visited. The first was Path of the Jedi. This ten-minute film showcases highlights from the first six movies and shows teasers from The Force Awakens. It’s still a thrill to hear the majestic theme music reverberating through the theater.

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Next we strolled around, bypassing Star Tours except to browse in its shop. We’d been on this simulation ride before, but now we chose to avoid the stomach-shaking experience.

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The Backstage Tour is closed, presumably to turn into part of Star Wars land when it’s built who-knows-when in the future. We skipped all the other familiar rides we’d been on before and headed over to the former animation building. This now houses Star Wars Launch Bay. Here you’ll find another short film with a behind-the-scenes look at The Force Awakens. Our fervor to see the latest movie is now at a peak. We toured the exhibits here with model spacecraft, works of art, character uniforms, weaponry, and more. Of course the exit is through another shop, this one with expensive collectible items.

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With the crowds and humidity increasing, we decided to call it a day. As annual passholders, we don’t need to get the most for our money on any single visit. So we left to go do some necessary shopping and to watch our DVD of Tomorrowland in the comfort of our condo.

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Happy Holidays!

Epcot Food and Wine

We had a great time as usual at our annual excursion to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. As it’s their twentieth year anniversary, I bought the hardcover cookbook. Here’s the cranberry bog, back again.

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Here is what we tasted this year.

Scotland: Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon $4.25 (my favorite!)

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Dominican Republic: Grouper $4.75

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Canada: Beef Filet Mignon $7.50

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Belgium: Potato Leek Waffle with Beef $4.25 and Fruit Waffle $3.75

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Germany: Apple Strudel $3.50

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South Korea: Raspberry Wine $3.50 and South Korea Vegan BBQ $4.75

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Coming Next: Our Trip to Bradenton

 

A Day at Disney

Orlando in the summer can be brutally hot. Early in the morning one day last weekend, we took a walk around the lake at our condo in Windermere, Florida. We saw the resident gator poking his head out, a variety of ducks and birds, and a spider web outlined in the sunshine. It’s a tranquil setting, and the sky was bright with promise for a sunny day.

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Before noon, we headed over to the Magic Kingdom. We had lunch in Tomorrowland opposite the race car ride. We’d gotten smart and parked at Epcot, which is the closest theme park to our condo. The monorail ride from there took us to the Transportation Center, where we changed trains for the Magic Kingdom.

Our first stop after lunch was Carousel of Progress. Seated in comfortable theater seats, we listened to the cheerful refrains of the familiar song while viewing the progress of past eras through dioramas with audio-animatronic figures. It’s a good place to escape the heat. Then we hopped on the People Mover that had more folks in line than usual. This zipped around Tomorrowland, and I got some good shots of various attractions. It made me want to see the recent film “Tomorrowland” again.

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By the time we hit Fantasyland, we were sweaty and hot, so we dipped into Mickey’s PhilharMagic® for a 3-D theater experience highlighting favorite Disney tunes. Other rides had at least a 20 minute wait, so we strolled along for our walking exercise. The Jungle Cruise has reopened, but we’ll visit it another time when it’s less crowded. Pirates of the Caribbean was closed while they “swab the decks” according to a sign. Autumn decorations with pumpkins were evident throughout the park. The crowds and heat got to us, so we left. That’s the advantage of being a local resident. We can go for lunch and a brisk walk and then depart. I made over ten thousand steps by virtue of my Fitbit One and was glad for a rest.

What’s your favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom?

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Dining at Disney

Downtown Disney is undergoing a transformation into Disney Springs. One of the new parking garages is open, and driving through this cavernous place is an experience in itself. Numbers lit-up at the start of each row tell you how many parking spaces are available. Then as you drive down the row, a green light overhead marks the empty spots. You don’t have to go searching like in other garages. The aisles are clearly marked and escalators take you to the crosswalk level.

I’ve read that Disney Quest will be replaced by a basketball-themed attraction, but we walked in the opposite direction. Construction is evident everywhere, no more so than the former Pleasure Island. This is long overdue, as family restaurants and shops will attract more crowds than an exclusive evening nightclub venue. After walking all around the Marketplace end, we settled for lunch at the cool new Boatyard restaurant. Guests can rent amphibious vehicles here for a short ride around the lake. These look like something out of a James Bond movie.

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The restaurant is decorated in nautical motif. We had a pleasant lunch. The menu has many choices and isn’t unreasonably priced. A couple of indoor bars hosted a lively crowd. This is definitely worth a return visit.

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Coming soon is a themed restaurant next door shaped like an airplane hangar.

Polynesian Resort
Last Saturday evening, we headed over to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. We’d hoped to get into the new themed lounge called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, but there was an hour and a half wait. We sat outside on their patio instead overlooking a lake and ordered tropical drinks. Mine came with a straw long enough for a giraffe.

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We passed on the fixed price menu at Ohana to eat dinner at Kona Café. This casual, family-oriented eaterie has reasonable prices, but we didn’t think the food was that great, and the menu choices are limited. We would not dine here again.