Pandora: World of Avatar

It’s finally here! After what feels like decades, Pandora: World of Avatar has finally been opened to the public! The new land based off of the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar had high expectations and in my opinion, far exceeded them.

To take it all in was exciting. It was like stepping into the movie. Details upon details made the experience borderline overwhelming. I loved every bit of it. I loved how the imagineers were able to make it seem like you were walking through an almost foggy, dense, overgrown area without feeling trapped. 


The area is pretty crowded right now given the anticipation and excitement over the expansion so be prepared to wait in longer lines for the two rides featured in Pandora. The two rides are Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage. Na’vi River Journey is a boat ride through the land of Pandora. I have not been on this ride yet so I don’t have many details. I have been on Avatar Flight of Passage. The ride was very built up as a “Soarin x10” type of experience so I went in there with high expectations. 


They matched my expectations plus some. It is a ride similar to Soarin but takes it beyond with the feeling that you are alone riding this banshee through Pandora. If you don’t look around while riding you will completely forget that you are sharing this ride with 48 people(I think). I would consider this ride a ‘must fastpass’ type of ride. The wait has been starting at around 3 hours but if this is the type of ride you really enjoy I don’t believe you would be upset or underwhelmed if you waited in line. 


I found this entire experience to be very immersive and captures everything that made the movie the hit that it is. I have already spent 2 full days in a row in Animal Kingdom since the expansion opened which is something I can honestly say I have never done. This was exactly was Animal Kingdom needed to bring it from the “half-day maybe” park to the “first stop or more” destination it is now.  


Enjoy!

Courtney(@pdcourt)

MegaCon Orlando 2016 – pictures

I went to my first comic book convention – MegaCon. I will admit that I had a preconceived notion of what I would see. However it was so much more! More sci-fi, more anime, more artists and more everything!

I thought I would be Disney cute and wear my princess tiara shirt and an actual tiara. Well, I was probably one of the most conservatively dressed people there! The highlight of my day was definitely seeing Stan Lee! At 94 years old, he has been elevated to almost god-like status in this community.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!!!

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Universal Studios & Island of Adventure 

As a child, taking vacations to Florida really just meant Disney World. Only once in my 30 previous vacations to Florida did I go to Universal Studios or Island of Adventure. Fast forward to moving to Florida, the day I moved here was the day I got my Disney Annual Pass but it took me 2 years 9 months to finally go to Universal.  Being a #DisneySnob, I was not overly excited but really wanted to see what it was like.


I was not disappointed at all. The parks were beautiful. Walking around Unversal Studios made me miss my Streets of America in Hollywood Studios even more. It was really like walking down busy streets in a bustling city. Something new for me was the rides and shows are literally right next to each other, you can go from ride to show to another ride to another show without really adding many steps to your trackers. This made everything flow pretty nicely. 


Though everything is really close together there are still plenty of places to relax and get refreshed. Pictured below is a stage area where you can sit on the turf. They will sometimes play trailers to their upcoming movies but overall it’s pretty quiet(except for the roller coaster) . It was just a nice spot to relax at. There is also a street in the park that is a quiet street, you can’t be rowdy on it. It is meant as a quiet walk through to settle down some restless kids and cool off. 


Though I mostly only have pictures of Universal Studios(forgot my phone day one), my favorite of the two parks was Island of Adventure. The Jurassic Park area was really cool and immersive. The River Adventure ride is so fun and I REALLY wish I had a child with me so I could have gone on the gliders. And, even though I am older, I rode every ride in Seuss Landing. I just couldn’t stop myself. Plus, I got to see my beloved Marvel Superheroes! Now, I would love to talk about the crown jewel of Universal, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

 

This area was really like entering a different world. I really felt like I was in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The attention to detail that was put into everything just blew my mind and don’t even get me started on the Butterbeer! 


Taking the train was really something. I thought it was going to be a basic train ride just connecting the two lands but not at all. I actually saw my train leaving the station and transitioning into arriving at Hogsmeade. It was absolutely incredible. 


Going back to the detail, it felt as though I could stay just in the WWHP for days. It was truly incredible. To submerge myself more into the area, I purchased an interactive wand. The wand allowed me to cast spells at marked windows and feel like an actual wizard(!!).


The rides in this area are awesome. They also have a ride for Harry Potter fans of all ages, or rides for different intensity levels. 

To wrap up my two days at Universal I would like to say that even though through my time there I definitely did a lot of comparing to Disney World, they are really not the same at all. Most of the rides featured in both parks are definitely geared towards an older crowd. So if you have young children I really don’t recommend anything more than a day at the parks. Also, if you are prone to motion sickness or have back and neck problems a lot of the rides, and even some shows, may be a little difficult for you. 

When you purchase a pass, if you would like the whole Harry Potter experience, get the 2-parks 1-day option on your ticket(essentially their park hopper option) or else you cannot ride the train in between the two lands. I also did not think their express pass was needed. The longest we waited in line was 35-40 minutes and this was considered a “moderate” day in the parks. Universal also has an app like Disney. It helps with wait times and getting virtual passes(essentially a fast pass but you actually NEED one to ride the Jimmy Fallon ride). I will say, the wait times are highly inaccurate on the app but it gave me an idea of where everything was(it had rides shut down that were up and 1 hour long waits for rides that had a 20 minute wait) I do think Universal is a must for families who have thrill seekers or Harry Potter fans. Even if you don’t have either of those, it still may be worth a day trip to experience something different than Disney. 

Courtney (@pdcourt)

The Other Side of the Glass – My Review of  Chefs de France

I had peeked longingly through the windows of Chefs de France for many years. The food looked amazing, the staff attentive and the patrons joyful. When I finally went in, I have to say, I was not disappointed!

The menu is quite extensive. We asked our (super nice and knowledgeable) server for his opinions and suggestions. We had some ideas but were definitely helped along.

The crusty bread was warm and not shockingly delicious. We had the Alsace specialty Flat Bread. It was so creamy and tangy with sautéed onions, crème fraîche  and bacon. This is very rich.

I had the Bisque de homard – Lobster Bisque and loved the large pieces of lobster and creamy texture of the soup. I am a New Englander and can be snobby about my bisque and still truly enjoyed this!

Joe had the Soupe à l’oignon gratinée (French Onion Soup). He has had different versions of this at Be Our Guest and The Grand Floridian Café. He had a hard time deciding which was the best. Although this soup was amazing, his choice is still the GF Café.

Joe had the Boeuf Bourguignon, polenta crémeuse (Beef Short Ribs). I have to say that this was the first time I have ever seen him not able to finish a plate. It was a little shocking. The polenta was super creamy and so rich. I may have stolen some off his plate.

I had the wicked fancy mac and cheese – Gratin de Macaroni. Again, super rich and beyond filling. I could not finish more than half. Don’t worry, I took it home and had it for breakfast the next morning.

Deserts can’t be beaten! Yes, I know I said we were super full but there’s always room for:

Crème Brûlée, Gateau au Chocolat and Meringue aux fruits rouges

All amazing, all finished down to the plate. Don’t judge.

So between the atmosphere, the service, the food and the extra points for scoring this reservation at literally the last moment on Easter, I will give the Chefs de France a 5 Mickey Head Rating – out of 5!

Maybe little kids wouldn’t get the same thing out of this restaurant that teens and adults would. I would go with someone who enjoys a really good meal and being treated like a prince or princess.

 

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort


With great ocean views and endless activities available, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is the perfect destination for a family or couple to have a nice beach vacation. The rooms are updated and spacious with balconies overlooking either the ocean or a garden. If you have a larger family, there are two level cottages that fit 10-12 people. You get to enjoy the crystal clear ocean on the resort’s private beach. For the adventurous types, there are hiking and kayaking trips you can sign up for at the resort and for the people looking to relax, there is a spa right in the main building. Your kids will have plenty to do with a big pool and slide and mini golf. Here are some pictures that capture some of the beauty of this ocean front resort. 

Feeling Charged Up About the Fuelrod System Currently Being Offered at Disney Parks

I am currently sitting in Hollywood Studios, barely any charge in my phone and my day is just starting but I’m not worried. In the past year, Disney has installed a system that eases the stress of a dead phone on vacation.

Each park has a station(or two) that provides portable chargers AND the cord attachments for the most popular smartphones(Samsung, and Apple gen 1-4 and Apple gen 5-7). But this is not the best part! When your charger dies, you just go back to the station and they give you a new charger. You just insert the rod, but keep the cords, and a fully charged fuel rod comes your way!

 

The initial cost of a fuelrod is $30 but if you order it on the Disney parks app before your trip, the price is $25 and the first time you pay is the ONLY time you pay! In my opinion, this option is the best for me. I have bought many portable chargers, for less money of course, but guess what, I forget all of them, or they’re dead or it doesn’t last long. I love the fact that when it dies, I don’t have to worry about charging it, I just give it back to the machine and it gives me another! I think this is a great thing for Florida residents who visit Disney a lot. Or the Disney/Theme Park bloggers who are always looking charge. 

And We’re On To 2017…

And We’re On To 2017…

2016 was full of challenges for me. I’m ready to move onto 2017!

There are some things that I am trying to be excited about, like the new Magic Band. It just seems so big and bulky. My wrists are oddly small and I already wear the band in child-size mode. The new band just seems like it won’t fit me correctly. I get the concept of the removable pod and how versatile it should be. I just like the nice lightweight current band. Don’t worry about me, I’ll adjust (pun intended). I’m also happy that the handles are back on the resort mugs. That was awkward but again I saw that they were trying to make it more travel mug-ish and trendy. Glad to see that the handles returned!

I’m almost always excited about changes in WDW. I loved the new paint job and sign that the Carousel of Progress got but now I’m ready for the show to be updated. I would break it down by: 1. beginning of the 1900’s 2. 1950-60’s and the space race 3. 1980-90’s computers and changing technologies and 4. the future or what it could be with all of the smart devises. Social media needs to be added and make it interactive!

For me, the most exciting thing about 2017 is Pandora in Animal Kingdom! Avatarland is due to open in the summer. I’ve been peeking over and through the fencing for what feels like forever. I will re-watch the movie to give myself a refresher. To me, this is like Pocahontas on another planet with mystical flying animals. I can’t imagine this not being spectacular!

Changes at Hollywood Studios probably aren’t going to be huge in 2017. There will be more of the same construction of the Star Wars and Toy Story themed lands. I do like what they’ve done with the fireworks shows. The projections, laser light show and fireworks combinations truly are amazing. I’m sure they will continue to update and awe.

Epcot will bring us some culture with the Festival of the Arts in January and February – think Flower & Garden and Food & Wine with beautifully Disney art work. I am looking forward to this. I do think that Epcot will eventually just be one long Festival. Maybe something can incorporate the Innoventions buildings?

Hopefully there will be some wonderful surprises thrown in there that will make my year!

Disney Date Night Ideas

Disney Date Night Ideas 

It’s  Friday afternoon and you’re beginning to think about the weekend.  Whether or not you are near the magic, you can still have a wonderful Disney date night.

Here are some suggestions:

Have a Jolly Holiday with Mary!

Visit the Grand Floridian and have dinner at 1900 Park Fare (buffet) or at the Grand Floridian Cafe. The cafe is usually  very open for reservations and the food is fantastic! I highly suggest getting all dressed up and strolling the beautiful grounds.

At home, watch Mary Poppins or Saving Mr.Banks, both wonderful movies. For dinner you could have some takeout fish and chips or even shepherd’s pie. Definitely have a spot of tea.

A Night Out With Lady and the Tramp

Plan ahead of time and make reservations at Tony’s Restaurant in Magic Kingdom. Share some spaghetti and meatballs. The tiramisu is truly wonderful. Take a stroll up and down Main Street and get a great spot for wishes.

When was the last time you actually watched Lady and the Tramp? This is a great chance to bring out the classic. Prepare spaghetti and meatballs as a couple and don’t forget the garlic bread!

May Force Be With You

Head on over to Hollywood Studios! Stop in at the Launch Bay for a picture with Chewbacca or some bartering with the Jawa. Take a ride on Star Tours, they’ve added scenes from The Force Awakens. Have some popcorn in a Han Solo bucket and wait for the awesome Star Wars Fireworks!

With so many options for which Star Wars movie to watch, choosing could be your biggest decision. This could become a whole series of Date Nights or just a really long binge watching day! I would keep it simple with the food but definitely include the popcorn.

Date Nights are important! Have a magical time!

Gina