Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando's biggest attraction is the Forbidden Journey.  This most recent addition to the park opened in 2010 and has blown away the competition.  Set at the back of the park it's a world unto itself set in 19th century England.  Rising many stories above the park is the foreboding Hogwart's Castle that contains the Forbidden Journey, a ride through the entire book theme.  21st century technology will make you fell as though you're flying on broomsticks and enjoying a game of Quidditch while you battle the forces of the dark arts.

While you're there walk the streets of Harry Potter's world and visit Ollivander's magic shop.  Enjoy a glass of Butterbeer and try the confections in Honeyduke's sweet shop.  The souvenirs are incredible and one of a kind (we love gift shops in Florida!).  You can also take a ride on the Dragon Challenge a, a dual roller coaster that will rattle your teeth.

You must be 48" to ride the two big rides but the Flight of the Hippogriff is especially designed for the younger riders and they will love it.

Eat at the Three Broomsticks which serves British food in a rustic self serve tavern.  Take all day in just this section of the park and you will get your money's worth not to mention a lifetime of memories.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater Restaurant at Disney Hollywood Studios

When you're at Hollywood Studios this summer and looking for a place to eat this is unique because the entertainment doesn't stop when you do.  A great way to spend part of your day with the kids this restaurant blends dining with entertainment like no other restaurant at the Disney world complex.

Set up like an old-fashioned drive-in, the whole family sits in their car and orders from a Happy Days style menu.  Appetizers range from buffalo chicken potato skins, wings, spinach & artichoke, to onion rings and BLT soup which is an uncommon creation.  Entrees feature the ever popular burger, chicken, Reuben's, and veggie for the vegan in your crowd.  I've had the double cheeseburger and can't finish it. Or you can go for a Rib Eye with garlic mashed potatoes in red wine sauce.

Dessert is sure not to disappoint with cakes, sundaes, ice cream and red velvet cheesecake.  There is also a mixed drink list, beer and wine.  Also, milk shakes and flavored sodas for the kids.

Lunch and Dinner ranges from $15-$35 per person. There is also a full kids menu.  This place is great for the kids but parents will love it.  I give it an "A+" for sheer enjoyment and entertainment.  The food is awesome too!

Enjoy dinner and a show. Go on line or call 1-407-WDW-DINE to make reservations and see what's playing that day.  Don't forget to mention your Disney Dining Plan if you participate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Splash Mountain - Magic Kingdom - Walt Disney World

Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is a great thrill ride that's good for all ages.  It's fashioned after the 1960's film "Song of the South" featuring the adventures of Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear.  The ride is a water experience so plan on getting wet.

 You'll climb to the top of the mountain and get into log boats where you ride through the mountain and into the world of the briar patch where you recognize all the characters from the iconic movie.  I believe there's a height requirement for this one and may not be best for kids under 5 but they can guide you when you arrive.  The ride lasts about 5 minutes and culminates at the top of the mountain where you plunge down the mountain at break neck speed.

I did my best to get good pictures but the boats move through limited lighting and it's hard to focus on any one thing so I did my best.  (I'm a writer - not a photographer).  We enjoy this ride because the animation and details are as exquisite on this attraction as on all the Disney rides and you'll love it.  Although most of the ride is a boat ride you are excited because you know what's coming at the end so it makes the whole thing interesting.

As you come down the mountain at the end you will get very wet so brace yourself!  It's an awesome feeling in the hot Florida summer and a cold shock in the winter months.  Your boat will be photographed on the way down which is fun because you get to see every body's unrehearsed reactions to the big fall.  It's usually hilarious and makes a great keep sake photo to take home with you. Have fun!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crossroads at House of Blues Orlando - Downtown Disney

Another great place to eat is the Crossroads at the House of Blues in Orlando.  Although every one's heard of HOB not everyone knows there is also an award-winning restaurant attached.  If you want to do dinner and a show without going broke this is worth looking into.

The menu is a mix of grill and New Orleans style casual dining.  Chef Aaron Sanchez has a great lineup of spicy, mild, and barbecue that will please most anybody.  The House of Blues is set up for the greatest in customer service.  You can go to the website and make dinner and concert reservations in the same transaction.  Another perk is that with dinner on concert night your party gets early entrance to the same day show.  This is great since most concerts are general admission and you can get right to the stage.

I cut off the menu on the left but most of it's still readable.  The variety is impressive with plenty of starters and some southern favorites like shrimp with grits and lobster mac.  I always go for the jambalaya but you can get a great steak or just sandwiches if you like. I also recommend the voodoo shrimp.  Nobody cooks like Cajuns!

I give it an overall "A" for location, service, food quality, and atmosphere.  The prices are good and you don't have to spend a fortune for a great night on the town.  The convenience of planning your evening is A+ all the way.  They really do it all for you.  Enjoy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Biergarten Restaurant - Epcot

At Epcot in the Walt Disney World complex you can enjoy all kinds of authentic food from around the world.  I think all agree the Germans are tremendous cooks and are world renowned for their dishes and desserts.  The Biergarten Restaurant has it all.  Lunch is $21.99 and dinner is $32.99 for all you can eat buffet.

We ate there recently and weren't disappointed.  Like all the Epcot restaurants, Biergarten employs people straight from Germany so you get all the Disney treatment flavored by old European manners and charm.

The menu won't disappoint you.They have every kind of salad for starters and for entrees you can choose from pork, beef, bratwurst and other sausages along with salmon, and some other things I can't remember.

Dessert includes apple strudel, vanilla pudding, fruit, and Bavarian cheesecake.  Needless to say, they serve a wide variety of German beer and you can enjoy a show while you dine.  Seating is at long tables with benches.  Good with kids so you don't have to get up every few minutes.

The atmosphere is typically festive like in Germany and the place is comfortable.  It's clean and the wait staff is very polite and accommodating.  They encourage folks to participate in the singing and dancing and while we were there a lot of folks did just that.

I give it an "A" overall.  It has everything you want in a German restaurant but I thought the desserts could have had more variety.  I also don't care to be seated at a table with other families although many people don't mind that.  It was a totally enjoyable experience and the German folks should be proud of how their country is represented. I hope you visit and like it as much as we did.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Murray Brothers Caddy Shack Restaurant - St. Augustine

If you head north from Daytona Beach on I-95 you'll find World Golf Village just outside St. Augustine.  Actor/comedian Bill Murray and his brothers have the Caddy Shack restaurant right at the edge of the greens.  It's a sports bar and grill fashioned after the iconic movie from the 80's.  Inside the place is spacious and decorated with lots of memorabilia from the movie and Bill Murray's days of amateur golf.  There are two bars and a large dining room with great food.  You can order a gigantic 2 patty burger or any kind of sandwich and appetizer you'd find at these type of restaurants.  There is also a Chicago Dog and "Chicago Blues" burger to commemorate his growing up in Chicago.

The food was great and so was the atmosphere.  Several large screen TVs are over and around the bar and the view from every window is very nice.  You have a gift shop attached and down the walk by the lake there is a large golf pro shop for those looking for more.

We don't go there often because it's a little far from home but we always stop in when traveling up and down I-95.  It's aesthetically pleasing, clean, and well laid out.  The prices are reasonable from $12.99 to a little over $20 for the larger dinners.  They have a wide range of beer and liquor and a great dessert menu.

The service was efficient but not at all friendly.  The girl at the door acted like we were bothering her when we walked in and didn't seem to want to be there.   Our waiter was nice but didn't offer the daily specials although we heard other tables being told about them.  Those who served our food were edgy and displayed no people skills.  Not a very warm place.  I give it a "B-" only because I think the employees make the dining experience more fun if they are nice.  This won't discourage us from going again but they could use some improvement in the interpersonal skills.