One of the best parts of visiting Walt Disney World is that there are always new things to try. No matter how often we visit, there seems to be at least a few opportunities for new experiences. Our recent trip was no exception. The key is to be able to pass up some tried and true favorites in favor of the unknown – Risky? Perhaps a little. Exciting? Pretty much. Worth it? Absolutely!
As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of Disney blogs, podcasts and Twitter-peeps! If you want to know what’s going on at Walt Disney World, just follow a few of these folks – they have the scoop on what not-to-be-missed adventures await and which Disney treats are the most delicious. Since it had been a full two years since our last WDW vacation – my list of new-and-exciting + not-new-but-never-tried items for last week was pretty ambitious! I am happy to report, the Dole Whip disappointment notwithstanding, nearly everything new to me was GREAT to me!
Let’s start with food, shall we?
I’m not much of a snacker and there are tons of Disney snacks and treats our family has yet to try. Creatures of habbit, we tend to stick with something we love as opposed to trying something new – which is weird considering how much we LOVE food adventures…aside from Disney park snacks, I guess. We always choose either the classic Premium Mickey Ice Cream Bar or the Ice Cream Sandwich. During last week’s park-hopping madness, we managed to break out of our snack rut (although, I’m not going to lie – ice cream bars and sandwiches were still consumed, just in lower quantities) and try out some of the treats other Disney fans are always praising.
Pretzels – We tried the classic Mickey and the Jalapeno Cheese pretzels (can both be purchased several places) and both were met with enthusiastic, unanimous YUMmmmms of approval!
Cronut – The Croissant Donut from the Refreshment Port in Epcot was a warm, fluffy-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside, cinnamon-sugar dusted bite of heaven! Caution: Don’t try to share one among four people – the situation gets ugly fast.
Red Velvet Cupcake – I love the Starring Rolls Café in Disney’s Hollywood Studios! I’ve tried the everything bagels and the Butterfinger cupcakes in the past and both were delish. This time around, while buying late breakfast items (“Second Breakfast”) – Megan spotted the red velvet cupcakes (with cream cheese icing and crunchy topping) in that glass case by the check-out…you know the one…where the Darth Vader and Yoda cupcakes are during Star Wars Weekends! Meg and I decided, “What the heck – we’re on vacation” – we bought the cupcake and had dessert with breakfast! It was to die for. Just PERFECT!
Roasted Pork Shank – Forget the Turkey Legs – I’ll never go back! Gaston’s Tavern in Fantasyland serves up a giant, hot, meaty, smoky – did I mention giant? – shank o’ the pig that is indescribably delicious. Seriously. Do NOT pass up the opportunity to try one – if you like Disney’s turkey legs, you will LOVE these delectable delicacies. Normally, I let thoughts of calories and fat grams mar my enjoyment of these types of foods – not this time, baby! Picked the bone clean in record time with reckless abandon…worth every extra mile I’ll be running to make up for it. OINK!
Churro – They look strange and uninteresting to me, but they sure are popular among Disney snack enthusiasts! So last week I snagged one at the churro cart in Frontierland. Easy to carry and eat on the fly (while heading to Main Street USA to meet up with the kids) – it was simple, yet sweet and cinnamon-y. Like comfort food. It’s no Cronut, but I’d eat one again sometime.
Empanadas de Queso – My friend Heather sings the praises of these cheesy little half-moons of tastiness – Heather also steered me to the roasted pork shank. Heather knows her Disney snacks. Over at La Cantina de San Angel (outside Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion), you can purchase these warm and tasty tidbits (they come with a side of tortilla chips) – wash them down with a mango margarita and you’ve got an awesome lunch!
Shofferhoffer Grapefruit Beer – When I heard the guys on one of my favorite podcasts discuss the virtues of this beer (which may be purchased in the Germany Pavilion in Epcot), I was a little weirded out by the concept. I like beer. Raised in St. Louis – the home of Anheuser Busch Brewing Company – I know beer! I prefer dark beer best, but was intrigued enough by the grapefruit beer concept to give it a whirl – talked Megan into it, too. We loved it! Low alcohol content combined with the sweetness of pink grapefruit juice made it less a beer than a completely refreshing beverage for a hot, sunny Florida afternoon. Four thumbs up for the Shofferhoffer!
Now on to rides and attractions…
Of course I have to mention the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – which deserves an entire post all on its own and I will pay it homage one day soon. Today let me just say that I’m NOT sorry Snow White’s Scary Adventure left – this new tribute to Snow and her merry band of little men is charming, clever, and suitable for everyone at least 38″ tall. I loved the indoor/outdoor combination of beautiful landscaping and state of the art animatronics and some pretty clever special effects. The ride in the carts is incredibly smooth – just lovely, but I must warn you – the lap bar doesn’t “click” into place as you lower it in front of you – which makes it super easy to lower it too far – you end up squeezed so tight the ride actually hurts! Lower the bar really slowly and stop moving it when you like where it is. Stop.
The next attraction on this list is not new at all and I’m ashamed to admit…We had never taken the time to fully explore Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream at the Studios. Shame on us!!! First the walk-through – this features a staggering variety of actual artifacts, memorabilia (and some reproductions) from Walt Disney’s life – along with stories and information about the creation of beloved Disney characters. It’s cool, quiet and packed with fascinating objects and discoveries. Then there’s a 15-minute film that was SO fascinating – it not only revealed details about Walt Disney we didn’t know, but we got to hear Walt’s voice and see him as the happy, innovative, dream-chasing visionary –that was still a pretty ordinary guy. If you love Walt Disney – do NOT pass this by.
I have to mention Primeval Whirl. Normally we just go over to the Dinoland USA area to ride Dinosaur and then go right back to the parts of the Animal Kingdom park we understand. I like looking at the animals (and taking a crazy number of pictures of them). I have never taken time to explore or appreciate all the gaudy but fascinating aspects of Chester and Hester’s little roadside oddities. I think I was a little offended by the garishly in-your-face, utter tackiness of the small-town carnival rides and midway games. I can admit when I’m wrong…okay, rarely and with reluctance, but I have to do it now. I was wrong to have ignored Dinoland in the past. It’s sort of adorable in its own way and Primeval Whirl is actually a fun ride. Fun enough to ride three times. And make a video of. And take a bunch of pictures of. I was wrong. If I can find the charm, I’m betting you can too.
I know a BUNCH of you have tried new things on your last Disney vacation! Tell me about them!