Sunday, April 29, 2012

What's Happening at Walt Disney World Parks

I thought it was time to show my face again.  It's sometimes nice to have a face to go with what you read.  Thanks for taking the time.   -Kevin-

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ron Jon Surf Shop Cocoa Beach Florida

Ron Jon Surf Shop is located in Cocoa Beach 50 miles west of Orlando on the beach.  It's the largest surf shop in the world boasting two floors and over 52,00 feet of merchandise. They have everything one could imagine from clothing to unique souvenirs to surfboards and cycles.  They also have rentals of bikes, boards, paddle boards, beach umbrellas, and other items.  There is a food stand attached and they even have surf and sailboard lessons available.

If you're looking for a great place to enjoy just steps from the ocean with any type of beach souvenirs and related gifts this is the place for you.  Ron Jon's six locations in Florida and locations in New Jersey, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  It's not just a store, it's an experience if you visit Florida and need a day away from the theme park lines.  Visitors to Florida love to enjoy our beaches and Cocoa Beach is one of the finest.

Take the Beach line east from the airport and follow it along the toll roads straight into Cocoa Beach.  Other than the hotels, Ron Jon is the biggest, flashiest building along A1A so you can't miss it.  Just follow the signs.  While you're enjoy a day at the beach and if you're lucky witness a launch from nearby Cape Canaveral AFS or Kennedy Space Center.  These are once in a lifetime vacations so don't miss it when you come down.

Visit the website at www.ronjonsurfshop for details and deals.  You can also sign up for discounts and specials so enjoy and come to the Space Coast.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Tomorrowland Speedway Magic Kingdom

Tomorrowland Speedway, formerly known as Grand Prix Raceway, is  a ride through twists and turns in go cart-like race cars. I believe you have to be 40 inches to ride by yourself but a child can ride with a parent.  It's not fast but fast enough as the kids steer the cars on a single track so they get the feel of a steering wheel without going off the course.

 We like this one a lot and the kids never mind waiting in line.  The cars move 4 at a time so the line moves quickly.  They strap you in and you go through a course similar to Le Mans or some other type of European raceway.  It takes 2-3 minutes but the feel of a car is fun for everyone.  The cars ran faster at one time but they've slowed them down over the years.  Still worth not passing up.
I don't think there is a Fast Pass option for this ride so check it out when the lines are lighter.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Crystal Palace, A Buffet with Character

Dinner at the Crystal palace is a great experience both for the food and the atmosphere.  We made reservations at 1- 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463) and were seated promptly after reporting to the reservation stand at our appointed time.  The service was good. They seemed confused as to who our server was but once he arrived it went well.

The restaurant is a very nicely laid out buffet with a salad bar, entrees and vegetables, and a dessert bar.  The prices are a little high but it's Disney and to be expected.  The characters are in the dining room the whole time and do a wonderful job of enchanting the kids and posing for photos.  They are really skilled at playing with the kids without talking.  Hats off to the folks who can do this because it must be very difficult.

This place is built like an old Florida hotel with white painted walls, lots of plants, spacious walkways, and almost an ice cream parlor brightness to it.  The serving staff at the bar was very courteous and all the employees are pleasant to speak with.  Supervisors are conspicuously posted in and around the dining room and seem to pay close to details and service.

We were there almost an hour and a half because there was so much to eat and sample.  The salads were fresh and well-maintained and the entrees never ran out.  They had mussels, Spanish chicken, chicken tenders, roast beef, roast turkey, and a vegetarian medley pasta for vegetarian diets.  There are a variety more items but that was all I could remember. I especially like the cod and spinach casserole which I'd never had before but loved it.

Dinner was great and the characters made it a true Disney experience.  Service was a little confused and pricing was a little high.  I give the place a "B+" for the whole experience but it was really enjoyable.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Test Track at EPCOT

Test Track at Epcot is an unusual ride because it combines a thrill with education and is intellectually interesting.  The track is a ride with six people to a car on a track and you are whisked through a mock up like a major motor vehicle proving ground.  As you walk through the winding lines you see examples of what car manufacturers use to test everything from brakes to tires and seat belts.

In Dearborn,  Michigan there are several proving grounds where Ford, GM, and Chrysler put cars through their paces before putting their prototypes into production for the general public.  The tests are to determine safety, comfort, and affordability of new cars, and to learn about the  flaws and failures in production.

The test track at Epcot takes you on winding turns, brake tests, hot and cold weather tests, and several others.  When you complete the trek through the proving ground building you're taken out on a track similar to a race track. The car accelerates onto a bank,  flattens out into a straightaway, and accelerates to about 68 MPH.  You can look up on the marquis and watch your acceleration.

Kids and grownups alike enjoy this one for different reasons but it's worth not missing when you visit EPCOT.   At the end of the ride you go through the gift shop (there's one at the end of every ride - you won't get away!).  Beyond that is a showroom full of  cars, trucks, and SUV's that you can try out and pose for photos in.  Yes, that's me and I know I take awful pictures but I love Camaros so I couldn't resist.  Hope you enjoy.  Please check out my older posts.  You may see something you like.  I appreciate comments on your experiences.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Expedition Everest - Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

One of the most intriguing rides at Disney's Animal Kingdom is Expedition Everest, a high-speed roller coaster train ride to the top of the world guarded by the ferocious Yeti. The visual effects on this one are remarkable. As you enter the country of Nepal you feel as though you left Florida and are climbing into the Himalayas.  The cultural accuracy of this part of the park is so cool that you get into the mood for the ride long before you get on it.

You'll get in line at the train station and wind through the building until you board the train.  As you're walking there are all kinds of examples of artifacts and photos from real expeditions into the Himalayas to keep you interested.  It's laid out in an intelligent display so you can not only enjoy the ride but educate yourself along the way.

The ride takes you straight to the summit and then plunges you backward into darkness with hairpin turns and screaming beasts culminating in a huge plunge down the mountain.  I don't want to describe it any more but I don't thing a could possibly ruin it for you!

This is one of the funnest rides in the park and may well be worth using Fast Pass due to it's popularity. The kids will love it - guaranteed! There are health restrictions but it's also wheelchair accessible like all the rides so check your program or the signs as you enter the ride.  Any questions there are always cast members to help you.  Parents may wish to consider if it's an appropriate ride for children under 7 but I've seen smaller kids on it before. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Busch Gardens - Ticket and Dining Options

Busch Gardens In Tampa, Florida, is another great place we love to visit.  Rides and African animals are the showcase of this park which has been in Tampa since the early sixties.

When planning  vacation to Tampa or Florida in general, it's always best to do it online.  Tickets can be purchased from various websites but I only recommend the mainstream sites.  Sea World and Busch Gardens  are owned by the same company so either site is good.  There are also sites such as AAA, Travelocity, Kayak, Priceline, Orbitz, and the other travel sites where you can book hotels, airlines, and packages.  Military folks should be checking with MWR either at your home station or call MacDill AFB and Patrick AFB MWR.  You never want to pay gate prices.  They are the highest and you can't cut any deals at the ticket booth.

Prices vary from site to site so you need to shop but here are some examples of Busch Gardens tickets:

Fun Card (Busch Gardens or Sea World) - $81.99/Adult   $73.99/3-9 years
Fun Card (Busch Gardens & Sea World) - $138.99/Adult - $122.99/3-9 years
Busch Gardens/Adventure Island Weekday Pass - $124.99/Adult   $122.99/3-9 years

Note:  These are example prices from the Sea World/Busch Gardens site.

Also, Consider the All Day Dining Deal.  It's $32.99/Adult and $14.99/3-9 years old.  This looks like a lot but if you stay all day the family gets hungry and the concessions can nickel and dime you to death.  We've done it with and without the plan and I like the plan better.  You know up front how much you're going to pay for the day. Almost all the cafes and restaurants accept the plan so you may want to explore this option before you end up buying water bottles and chips every hour. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Parades at Walt Disney World

One of the best part of the Disney experience is the nightly light parade and fireworks.  Nobody, I mean nobody, does a light show like the Disney people and they've been doing it for as long as the parks have been open.

Nightly, and on weekends, the parades travel from the firehouse, around the main street pavilion, up Main Street and past the castle.  It disappears into Frontierland but travels the whole of the park. If you are visiting for the first time, please let the kids watch this one as they will be "wowed".

There are all kinds of floats as some are depicted here.  Check the programs as you enter any of the Disney parks for show times.  Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot, all have them and not just at night. Several shows daily travel the streets of the parks so catch what you can.

If this looks good on your screen imagine when you're up close!.  They also change the themes for seasonal celebrations so enjoy!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Haunted Mansion- Walt Disney World

I think the indisputable Grand Dame of The Magic Kingdom is the Haunted Mansion.  This is one of the original attractions that opened with the park in 1971 and had the biggest draw until it was rivaled by the opening of Space Mountain a few years later.

 The house itself is an actual mansion bought by Walt Disney and brought back to Florida from Great Britain.  It was reconstructed on it's present site.  The mansion has frightened and fascinated kids and grown-ups alike for over 40 years and always will.  Sorry but I have no photos from inside as they don't want anybody ruining the experience with flash photography.  I can say you will thoroughly enjoy over 900 happy ghosts and goblins.  It was always my favorite as a kid.

About two years ago they shut it down for a good portion of the year and renovated the interior.  They didn't change the house but updated the technology so we could enjoy it by 21st century standards.  This one doesn't have Fast Pass so pick a time when the lines are down so you don't have to wait too long.  TIP:  If you don't mind standing in the rain it's a good time to wait, however, the Europeans aren't daunted by rain so be prepared!

Splash Mountain -Walt Disney World

This is a favorite, especially in the summertime.  The nice thing about this ride other than the ride itself -- the line is almost exclusively in the shade of the mountain!  In August or September that's a blessing. This one is very popular and lines in peak season can go as long as 150 minutes so Fast Pass is a good one to save this for.

You get into boats and float through this one ending in the huge drop you see at the top.  The second and third photos are inside the Mountain and depict the characters and scenery from the Disney film "Song of the South".  You'll float through the entire mountain and come out on top where you take the big plunge.  It's awesome and the kids love it.  So get nice and wet but chase this one down as soon as you can as it's at the far end of the park across from Tom Sawyer's Island.

NOTE:  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, located right next to Splash Mountain, is closed for renovations.  It should reopen in a few months.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sea World Events

Several events are upcoming at Sea World this year such as Viva La Musica, a Latin celebration of culture, food, and music.  It runs from April 14th through May 5th.  Several big names in music will be appearing there such as Elvis Crespo, Grupo Niche, RKM and KenY, and Gilberto Santa Rosa.  They will all be appearing on Saturdays.

Opening on April 27 this the much anticipated Turtle Trek.  This is a 3-D 360 degree theater in the round displaying amazing footage with ultra modern technology depicting the life of sea turtles and their fantastic journey through the oceans and life.  We can't wait for it to open.

Also coming is the Summer Nights running from June 23rd through August 12th.  It's the summer themed celebration which includes music, entertainment, and fireworks.  Also look for Sea World 4th of July activities.  I will post them as soon as possible.  Thanks

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Country Bear Jamboree - Walt Disney World

The County Bear Jamboree is one of the original attractions at Walt Disney World. Located in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom, the bears have been one of the most popular attractions since 1971 when Disney first opened up in Central Florida.  I first saw the show when I was 11 years old and I still enjoy taking my family.
The show is on an 1800's western stage and has about 20 different bears who sing and play.  There are three mounted heads on the wall who start the show and introduce the characters.  It's amazing to me that they have hardly changed the whole show in so many years but it's still immensely popular even today.  The Bear Jamboree is a show so you can gauge your time since it runs about every half hour.  If you have a Fast Pass

you need to use or anything else you want to do you can come back.  The lines can be long for this one so consider going during parades or dinner hours but usually not too long a wait. I did the "kid test"  on this one and they loved it.  It's always been a happy childhood memory for me and I hope you make it one too. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Plaza Restaurant at Magic Kingdom

This is a nice place to eat at Magic Kingdom.  Right on Main Street USA across from Casey's Corner you can dine in an early 1900's restaurant with excellent food.

You can make reservations at 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463).  I'm not even sure they take walk-ins so I would make the call or go to from your Verizon phone.  The menu is not heavy meals.  It's more like an old-fashioned soda fountain but very good.  We had a cheeseburger, club sandwiches, and a grilled chicken sandwich. The rest of the menu has a Reuben, vegetarian, turkey, cheesecake, and other selections. The only dinner-style plate they have is a meat loaf which none of us ordered but looked good.

 They also have a good selection of ice cream, fountain drinks, sundaes, shakes, floats, sundaes, etc.  The restaurant is collocated with the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor sponsored by Edy's Grand Ice Cream so if you're a fan of theirs you'll love the desserts.  The service was excellent and the food was great.  Prices weren't bad by Disney standards and you can use your Disney Meal Plan here.  It's a great place to eat with kids and we were able to watch one of the parades through the window since we sat so close to the street.  A fun experience.  I give It an "A-" but with no complaints.