Disney Dining – Off the Beaten Snack

The tried and true, wildly popular, well-known Disney snacks are great!  Essential contributors to Disney vacation happiness, those Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars, churros, Mickey-shaped pretzels, and Dole Whips are must-haves for masses of fans.  But there are so many more options!  What about those?  Let’s talk about the lesser known but just-as-delicious Disney World snacks. (My apologies, turkey leg fans, I just can’t include you’re precious poultry treat here today…or ever.)

Disney Dining – Off the Beaten Snack

I consider the iconic snacks – you know, the ones mentioned above that are made into souvenir magnets and such – to be “tier one” Disney snacks.  Those would be followed by the slightly less popular “tier two” selections.  Those include Magic Kingdom popcorn (I’ve never had it, but I hear it’s the best in the World), Mickey krispie treats, and funnel cakes.  Also in this category are cupcakes like Butterfinger, Red Velvet, and the ones decorated like Disney characters, the Studios’ Carrot Cake Cookie, and those amazingly fancy candy/caramel apples.  I suppose my beloved Citrus Swirl would also fall into the tier two category (being slightly less popular that that frozen pineapple concoction). Starring Rolls / Red Velvet Cupcake

Finally, there are the snacks that fall out of the mainstream and into “tier three”.  These include some of the tastiest and best snacks in Disney World that are not available in every park.  Thus, they’re less well-known.

Think about the offerings in World Showcase like School Bread in Norway (Kringla Bakeri og Kafe), Macarons in France (Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie), caramel popcorn in Germany (Karamell-Küche), and the Churros with Caramel Sauce in Mexico (La Cantina de San Angel).  That caramel popcorn got me through Hurricane Matthew!  The School Bread, macarons, and churros are still on my to-try list.  Disney Dining - Off the Beaten SnackAlso in Epcot there’s the Croissant Donut from the Refreshment Port (YUM!) and let’s not forget that kiosk over in Italy where that Espresso Gelato “Affogato” is sold – so incredibly delicious!  I’ve mentioned the cinnamon glazed almonds and pecans before.  I’m not sure where else they can be purchased, but I always enjoy them during a visit to Animal Kingdom.  Finally, I’ve got to add the Cheeseburger Spring Rolls from the Adventureland egg roll wagon.  Yet another thing I haven’t tried, but I keep hearing how good they are.

The point of all this?  So many snacks, too little time!  I’m training like crazy for the Dark Side Challenge with just two weeks to go.  All that running makes me hungry and has me daydreaming about what snacks I’m going to have while I’m at Disney World.  Seriously, if running 19.3 miles in two days doesn’t justify a few extra snack calories, I don’t know what does.  This is a short trip and if I had more than four days to snack, I wouldn’t have to pick and choose.  Decisions, decisions…

Do you have a favorite Disney snack that I haven’t mentioned?  Please, tell me what it is and where to find it!

 

Disney FOMO is Real – I’ve Been Stricken

Google FOMO and the simple definition displayed says it all.

“noun: FOMO

  1. anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Therein lies my problem.  FOMO clearly afflicts people of all ages…including middle-aged Disney fans who have been obsessively watching all things World of Avatar on the internet.  My April Disney vacation is too soon.  My November Disney vacation is sooooo far away!  Pandora is finally opening in May and I want to see it!!!

Disney FOMO is Real – I’ve Been Stricken

It’s not like Animal Kingdom’s newest land is suddenly showing up after a few months of preparation.  The first announcement of Pandora’s imminent arrival was made in early 2011.  That’s SIX years ago.  Six years of speculation, starts, stops, controversy, rumor, and (for some) excitement.  Construction began in 2014 and, by bits and pieces, we’ve learned the details of exactly how Pandora will make its place in Animal Kingdom.  At long last, the time has arrived – May 27, 2017 – and I won’t be there.  New rides, restaurants, shops, exquisitely themed and amazingly detailed, and I’d already booked April and November before the opening date announcement was made.  The internet is full of ride details and food pictures – constant reminders of what I won’t be seeing anytime soon.

What’s a girl to do?

I have a plan, of course, and a willing cohort.  Megan and I have been talking about a mother/daughter getaway forever, so I filled her in during our usual Sunday visit.  In short order we had vacation schedules verified, 42 vacation club points booked (Saratoga Springs), and a route planned.  Since we have always flown to Disney World, this driving thing will add a different aspect to our trip, but Meg and I are pretty stoked.  We have virtually unlimited packing space for the first time ever and can bring important things like breakfast foods and wine.  As many pairs of shoes as we want!  Once we arrive at Disney World, we’ll have three whole days to explore Pandora before heading home.  Our first summer road trip, just the two of us, and we couldn’t be more excited.  See you in June, World of Avatar!

Have you suffered from Disney FOMO?  What new Disney World attractions are you looking forward to most?

 

 

Animal Kingdom’s Wild Africa Trek Review

Recently we crossed a long-awaited item off our Disney wish list.  Raymond, Joseph and I finally, after talking about it for years, took the Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom.  Was it everything we hoped it would be?  Yes and no.  Much of the experience was the way we’d imagined and we learned a lot about the animals we saw along the way.  To be fair and balanced, I must also add that some of this pricey adventure was disappointing.  Here are the details of our experience on…

Animal Kingdom’s Wild Africa Trek

We were booked for the day after Christmas, but the only person who knew it was me.  During Christmas dinner at the California Grill, I sprang the surprise and then everyone was excited about the next day’s big plan.  After breakfast at Tusker House, we’d have time to go on Kilimanjaro Safari before we checked in for the Wild Africa Trek near the Safari’s entrance.  We were scheduled for the 10:15 am trek, which would end at 1:15 pm.  Information we received about the trek ahead of time emphasized the need to dress in pants or shorts with sturdy, closed-toe shoes.  We all wore jeans, t-shirts and athletic shoes, which were perfect choices.

As soon as we arrived, the Cast Members got busy outfitting us in our gear.  We were weighed (very discreetly) and strapped into a harness/vest combo.  We then had all our loose items strapped on (Disney provided straps for glasses and cell phones/cameras) and received our complimentary water bottles to fill and also have secured to our vests.  (Note: the harness were snug around the tops of our legs, so loose pants tended to bunch up on some folks.  Looked uncomfortable!)  We were also given wireless audio devices that allowed us to easily hear our guides throughout the first part of the tour.  After some instruction and a group photo, we were ready to go.  Photos are included in the price of this experience and the guides take pictures all along the way from start to finish.  (I’m not using any of those photos here due language in the licensing agreement that comes with the pictures.)

So far, so good.  Our group of twelve guests was made up of Raymond, Joseph and I, two adult men (father and son maybe), a mom with young son and daughter (minimum age for the trek is 8), and a family of four (with teen girl and tween boy).  We noticed early on that the tone of the tour was geared strongly towards children.  There were some cute jokes involving Frozen references, but also some not-so-cute childishness that I thought even the kids didn’t seem to like.  We were taught to use Swahili words like hakuna matata (no worries),  asante sana (thank you very much), twende (let’s go) and kwaherini (farewell).  The guides insisted that every time they asked if we were ready to go, we throw our hands on the air and say twende!  But when the group was enthusiastic, we received a lecture about how we had to be quiet because we would upset the animals.  Personally, I thought we could have done without both having to say twende repeatedly and the lecture.

The tour was broken up into three main parts:  The walking path and rope bridges, touring by safari truck, and eating on the savanna.

Walking path and rope bridges:  Here we learned about hippos and crocodiles.  The path to the hippo pool was a little rugged and jungle-esque, and that part was fun.  There was an additional guide waiting to tell us about hippos.  She had some hippo snacks in a big plastic bowl and she struck the bowl repeatedly with a plastic stick to lure the two male hippos (father and son) over for a snack, so we could have a closer look at these enormous and interesting animals.  Unfortunately, the hippos were having none of it.  They remained completely uninterested in the guide’s tasty offering.  They did not budge an inch.  After that, we got to look at a reproduction hippo skull before we threw our hands in the air and quietly said twende.

Next we made our way to the rope bridges.  There’s a lot of concern for safety, which is understandable of course, but it’s also time-consuming.  Before we can be clipped to any of the safety cables, each person’s harness must be checked and tightened as necessary.  When my harness was checked, the guide loudly proclaimed, “This is way too loose!” before proceeding to tighten the straps.  This bugged me and I and wanted to reply, “YOU are the one who strapped this thing on me in the first place!”, but I managed to restrain myself.  This particular guide was snarky and condescending throughout the tour and as time went on, it irritated me more and more.  Especially when he wasted time being especially unpleasant to the youngest member of the group.  Poor kid was just excited and didn’t deserve the extra-snarky treatment.

There were a lot of small details involved when walking over the rope bridges – stand in a certain spot when it’s your turn, hook your cable to a pulley which a cast member up on a platform uses to get your harness attached above the bridge.  Wait until told, open the gate to the bridge (watch your feet), step onto the bridge, close the gate.  One at a time, we made our way over the bridge – the next person was allowed to go only when the person in front of them had reached the half-way point.  Kids went with an adult before and after them.  The bridges are made to seem rickety and well-worn.  Many of the slats are “broken”, so we had to pay careful attention to where we were stepping and the going was slow.  This took up a big chunk of touring time.  If you are afraid of heights, you will not like this part.  If you’re a thrill junky who’s zip-lined before, this will most likely seem very mild.  You do get to see hippos and many enormous crocodiles below and a guide will take your picture on the bridges.

After the bridges and another safety check, our harnesses were clipped onto an overlook for more crocodile viewing.  We were cautioned many times to be sure we didn’t lean out in a way that would put any pressure on our harnesses.  We learned some interesting facts about crocodiles and got to ask some questions before our group moved on to board our safari truck.  We were, thankfully, able to ditch the harness/vests at this time.

As a huge fan of Kilimanjaro Safaris, this was probably my favorite part of the tour.  We traveled the same path as the Safaris (for the most part), but got to stop several times to learn more about giraffes, African painted dogs, and a few other animals and take pictures.  While the vehicle was parked, we could stand up and move around (in the truck bed) for better animal viewing and picture-taking.  We were given some ice-cold, individually wrapped, bug-repellant-treated wash cloths.

Our safari truck eventually made its way to a building where we had lunch.  We each received a metal container full of smaller containers, naan bread, and an edible flower. The food was great!  Humus, chicken salad, cured meats, a shrimp, a slice of salmon roll-up, and fruit.  Juice was available as well.  After we ate, we could move to the far side of the building where the deck overlooked some rhinos.  I mentioned to our guide that we’d taken the safari that morning and I had a question about something we’d seen.  He actually rolled his eyes at me and asked, “Why would you take the safari if you were coming on the Wild Africa Trek?”  I love the safari and it’s a must-do on every visit to Animal Kingdom.  I had FastPasses booked later in the afternoon for other attractions, but the safari is best (to us) in the early morning.  Did I explain all that?  Nope.  I just said we wanted to scope out where we’d be going on the tour if we could.  Then I asked my question about the rhinos.

On that morning’s Kilimanjaro Safari, we’d noticed one rhino facing off against three other rhinos.  They were all very close together with the one nose-to-nose with the other three who stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a stare down.  The guide explained that a male rhino was being allowed to spend small periods of time in the enclosure with the three female rhinos, but the three were firmly against getting to know the poor lonely guy any better and tended to band together to indicate a hard pass on his advances.  This was exactly the kind of information we’d hoped to learn on this adventure – to find out more about individual animals at Animal Kingdom…who they are, if you will, and what their lives are like living in the park.When time was up for eating and rhino-viewing, we got back on the truck and continued on our way to the end of the tour.  We exited the truck at the same place as Kilimanjaro Safari and made our way to the lockers to retrieve our stuff.  The guides passed out slips of paper that provided directions on how to get our pictures from the tour.

Would we do it again?  Not for the price we paid (during peak season, $249 per person).  We think a kid-free option like Disney Cruise Line offers for many of their excursions would be appealing.  Not that the kids were trouble, they were very well-behaved and enjoyable.  We just felt like the guides’ scripts were targeted towards children, people who know nothing about animals, and Animal Kingdom park newbies.  As long-time Animal Kingdom fans who have visited many times, we wanted more in-depth information with a less condescending delivery.  I know several people who have taken the Wild Africa Trek and all had a wonderful experience.  I’m sure it greatly depends on the guides and unfortunately, one of ours seemed to not like his job very much.

Have you taken the Wild Africa Trek?  How was your experience?

Disney’s Pandora – What I Want to See

Since the recent announcement about Pandora’s opening date in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I can’t stop thinking about this new land.  What will it really be like?  After all the doubt and speculation, will Disney and Avatar fans all be pleased?  Will that amazing Na’vi shaman animatronic figure be as cool in person as she seems on Facebook?  What would I like to see?  That last part, I’ve got figured out!

Disney’s Pandora – What I Want to See

Joseph came home to visit for a couple of nights while Raymond was out of town on business this week.  He knows I hate staying by myself (Junior’s not much of a watch dog).  He gets free food, I avoid loneliness – it’s a win-win for both of us.  For fun, I came up with my best idea for a Pandora attraction and ran it by Joseph to see what he thought.  He not only liked the idea, he immediately started building on it to make it better!  Armchair Imagineering is FUN!!!

I started with this idea:  Think about the experience of Turtle Talk With Crush (in Epcot’s The Seas With Nemo and Friends).  Imagine that same technology used in a classroom made of glass (instead of just one wall).  Guests would enter a special environmentally controlled room (to protect humans), reached via short tunnel extended from the main Pandora research facility.  The tunnel would take “students” partially into the wilderness of Pandora lessons on the planet’s flora, fauna, and culture.  As everyone takes their seats, Na’vi “instructors” would approach the enclosure, introduce themselves,  and talk about what it’s like to live on Pandora.  Visitors in the classroom would be able to see Pandora and the Na’vi people through all four walls and the ceiling.  The experience would be interactive exactly like Turtle Talk, but instead of being geared towards the pre-school set, this attraction would mainly engage tweens, teens, and adults.  Students would have an excellent view of the plants, animals and people of Pandora with the ability to ask (and answer) questions.

Joseph added his thoughts:  The experience would change along with the time of day – just like Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Early mornings would show the Pandora landscape during sunrise (or suns-rise?) and the Na’vi teachers would explain how the planet changes as night turns into day.  Midday would offer completely different “lessons” and then, as the sun(s) set, dusk and nighttime would transform the experience yet again with different animals in the wild among the glow of the bioluminescent plants.

The technology is already available for this attraction!  Think about the possibilities!!!

What would YOU most like to see in Pandora?