Friday, March 30, 2012

Walt Disney World Parks - Dining Reservations

I just recently tried this and it really takes a lot of the mystery out of your day at the Magic Kingdom theme parks.  If you want to make dining reservations at one of the restaurants you can call (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463 and do it by voice.  Another way is what I thought was way cool is go to and make it from your web-enabled mobile phone.  If you are a Verizon Wireless subscriber text MAGIC to 2777 and download a free app to your phone.  Just be aware of your message and data rate since everyone is different.

While I was playing with the whole mobile phone thing I explored the site and found you can check FastPass times and availability in real time. It will give you the current wait time or tell you to go there right away.  Anything you want to know is available on this site so check it out while you're on the go inside the parks.  This is a great way to move away from huge shifts in the crowds.

Here's another tip.  The best times to visit the rides is during traditional meal times, during parades, and especially when the firework shows are on.  Of course if you want to see them it's a priority but if you are visiting for extended days and have already seen them it's a strategy that's worked for me for a lot of years.  Hope you have a great stay at any of our parks!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nine Dragons Restaurant - Epcot

When visiting Epcot at Walt Disney World it's always part of the experience to walk around the countries and visit their restaurants.  Recently we visited the Nine Dragons Chinese Restaurant and the experience was worth it.

We made reservations at Guest Relations earlier in the day and when we arrived we were greeted and seated promptly.  (Our server is the lady right behind the man walking out).  She was most gracious and her service along with her manners were excellent.  We started out with an egg roll appetizer and drinks. Our dinners came out perfectly timed and they were delicious.

My daughter ordered the Kung Pao chicken with white rice.  I had the fried rice with ham, pork, broccoli, and a skewer of shrimp.  All the food was masterfully prepared and very difficult to finish.  We actually could have done without the appetizer but we haven't eaten there before and wanted the whole experience!

It was my daughter's birthday (Big 13!) so they brought her a complimentary slice of birthday cake with a candle, sang her Happy Birthday, and also included a card with birthday wishes hand scribed in Chinese!  I've never received this type of attention, and so sincerely presented, that it made the whole experience priceless.

I know I went a little crazy with the photos but I was that impressed with the restaurant.  All the restaurants at Epcot have staffs who are actually from the countries they represent.  It enhances the ambiance and the tourists (and us) love it.  The prices aren't too bad.  Dinner ranges from $12.99 to $35.99 per person. Drinks not included.  Our ticket out the door was $50.00.  If you have the Disney Dining Card it can be used at all the Disney parks.

This time I was actually able to post a menu you can read.  We give the place an "A+" for management, service, cleanliness, atmosphere, and friendliness.  Prices are a little high but to be expected at theme parks.  If you go I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  Thanks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What's new in the Central Florida Theme Parks

This week at Universal Studios there are a number of performances celebrating Mardi Gras.  Starting off are Rappers Hot Chelle Rae, and B.o.B.  on Saturday night.  At the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival "The Guess Who"  performs one of their legendary performances.  Glenn Campbell will be at Silver Springs on Saturday night as well. Busch Gardens will host Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. All concerts are included in regular theme park admission.

At Sea World this weekend Jack Hanna will be at the Nautilus Theater on both days.  Seating is on an availability basis and there's no extra charge if you have theme park tickets.

Try the all new Hollywood Drive-in Golf at Universal Studios.  One side is a graveyard theme and the other side is like an alien sci-fi trip.  Looks pretty cool!  Check out photos on

NOTE:  At Downtown Disney the Rain Forest Cafe is undergoing renovations.  Don't know yet when it will reopen.  Also Moms, The Basin,  a soap and bath oil store, is also undergoing renovations.  When I find out the reopen dates I'll post them.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Downtown Disney - Ghirardelli Soda Fountain

Whenever we go to Downtown Disney and have dinner we always end up at Ghirardelli's Ice Cream  Parlor.  Desserts there are always fantastic and we love everything!  They have a wide variety of shakes, sundaes , floats, parfaits, and anything else you could imagine having as a treat.

When you enter you order from a stand up register with paper menus posted in front.  Pay for your desserts and they give you a number sign that helps them find you.  TIP:  Have someone in your party locate a table for you while you order.  Business there is always bustly and busy like a New York deli and tables outnumber patrons by a wide margin.  So have someone go hunting.  Also, save money by not ordering drinks.  Our bill for four desserts ranges between $28 and $40 so they are quite pricey but the quality of the experience is worth it.  Courtesy and service rate an "A" from me but prices I give a "B-".  It's not somewhere the average family goes for dessert a lot but it's great when you do because you will absolutely love it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Downtown Disney - Cooke's of Dublin

When you visit Downtown Disney and you have a taste for Irish food but aren't up to the high end prices try Cooke's of Dublin.  Located right next door to Raglan Road, it's a typical Irish street fish and chips stand.  You order at the counter and they bring your food to you.  It's a very efficient little place where you pour your own drinks and sit at very small tables.

The food comes to you in paper baskets and it's very good.  You can sit inside, at stand up tables, or find a seat right outside the door.  Seating is scarce but if you grab a table before you order you'll be fine.

I do my best with these menus but you can never read them!  They serve classic fish and chips, chicken fingers, Irish sausages, and several meat pies.  The prices are reasonable and atmosphere is great.  Don't look for service but it's a nice place.  Help yourself, have a beer, sit out and enjoy the music.  You'll like it.  For fast food I give the place a B+.  It's a very relaxing meal for a good cost.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World

There was a "soft opening" of the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World this week starting with the Storybook circus area.  It will include Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Barnstormer ( a kid's roller coaster), and the new Fantasyland Station of the Walt Disney world  Railroad. The Disney Princesses will be located where Snow White's Scary Adventure is presently located.  All will be completed by late May.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sea World - Bands, BBQ, and Brew

Bands, BBQ, and Brew is in full swing at Sea world right now.  The food concessions are great and the entertainment is as well.  Last week Trace Adkins and Foreigner put on great shows.  Upcoming are the Doobie Brothers, Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, and several others.  Participants are giving high marks for the food, entertainment, and organization of the event.  Note:  Bikers get free parking.  Another thing of interest is that the Sky Tower at Sea World is Free.  I've been going to Sea World since it opened and this is the first time they haven't charged for it so have Fun. 

House of Blues, Orlando - Tesla Concert

On Thursday the 23rd I took my middle son to his first rock concert at the House of Blues in Orlando.  He is an accomplished guitarist and clarinet player and he loves all the old time rock bands that I grew up on.  We saw Tesla who I saw in 2005 in Tampa when they headlined for Def Leppard.  They billed it as an acoustic show and they are a great instrumental band but they play and sing equally in my opinion.  Their opening act was a band called "Built By Stereo".  They're some young guys from Sacramento who are on the way up.