Thursday, November 18, 2010

Disney Goes Gowalla

Image from the Disney Parks Blog
I'm sure you're all aware of this (if the 70 Gowalla friend requests I got in the past 24 hours mean anything), but the Disney Parks Blog announced yesterday that Disney and Gowalla are teaming up together.  Yes, this means that my post from last week is no longer up-to-date, since I mentioned Foursquare in depth and Gowalla not at all, but I'm willing to overlook that for this HUGE step that Disney is taking.  They are truly embracing technology, and this is one of those times that I really think that Disney does listen to us.  We want to check in, we want cool badges, and we think this is awesome!  Or at least I do.

The one thing that I wasn't a huge fan of is that they went with Gowalla over Foursquare.  I do understand why they did it (thanks to Cliff's insight in the Betamouse Friendfeed room), what with the fact that you can add pictures to your check-ins.  Also, there this cool feature on Gowalla called "trips," where you can create a trip that consists of multiple locations, and then (I assume) you get a special badge (pin?  stamp?  whatever they're called on Gowalla) when you've checked into the different parts of that "trip."  And it looks like Disney's created some cool trips, along with tons of unique badges.  It's awesome, but I prefer my good old Foursquare.

I was having some issues with Gowalla when I first tried it out yesterday (it wouldn't let me check-in to a place I was at because it thought I was too far away), but I'd like to think that all the bugs will be worked out if you used it in Walt Disney World.  I also would like to think that there could, eventually, be real rewards for checking into places, like a discount for checking into a restaurant or store or even a cool real-life sticker or badge.  I think this Disney plus Gowalla thing has some real potential, and I honestly hope that Disney does more with it.  Though I'd probably be perfectly happy just to use it, even if they left it alone.  Way to go, Disney.  I'm proud of you.

What do you think about the Disney/Gowalla announcement?  Did you join/download immediately like many others?  Are you excited to try it out?  Or do you not plan on using it?  Let me know what you think in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ride Wimp 2: Space Mountain

Image from
Some of you readers may remember back in May when I confessed that I was afraid to ride Splash Mountain.  I really wanted to ride it because I was in love with the audio, but I was terrified.  Somehow I overcame that fear, and I conquered it!  I even liked most of it, except for the jerky part in the dark.  And speaking of jerky things in the dark, my next fear is Space Mountain.

I almost rode Space Mountain courtesy of a friend's very persuasive children, but a 70 minute wait bailed me out of that one.  Nevertheless, it made me think:  if a five year old isn't afraid to ride Space Mountain, why am I?  Well, honestly, it's the darkness probably.  The fact that I can't see where I'm going freaks me out.  Roller coasters freak me out in general, and I figure that added to the dark factor just makes it bad news for me.  I mean, the short dark jerky part of Splash Mountain sometimes makes me rethink riding that (the long drop, ironically, didn't bother me).  Also, I can't sit next to James, so he can't hold me in my seat (I really dislike being thrown around, which is another reason I often skip roller coasters, and I hear Space Mountain is really jerky).  So I suppose being alone plus disliking roller coasters plus the darkness.  But I am sort of curious what I'm missing.  And I do sort of want to conquer it just for the sake of conquering it.  And then I could have officially completed the Triple Mountain Whammy.

So what do you think?  Should I just stop being a baby and ride the darn thing?  Are my fears well founded, and I shouldn't push myself?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Social Media in the Parks

One of the new great things about going to Disney parks is the social media aspect.  Ten years ago, you probably went to a Disney park, shared the experience with a friend or two or your family, and maybe took some pictures.  Now, the whole experience is much different.

If you've spent any reasonable amount of time on Twitter, you see that people are always tweeting from the parks.  Whether it's Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or a lucky duck in an international park, you'd be hard pressed to find a day where someone isn't tweeting from a Disney location.  When you're on the tweeting end, however, it can make a trip so much more fun.  There's nothing like tweeting a picture of Spaceship Earth and getting five responses in ten minutes.  And who else can really understand how thrilled you are to be walking right down the middle of Main Street USA?  And I can personally say that it's amazing how many people that were strangers a year ago care about which Vinylmation figures you bought and traded.  My Twitter followers are my friends, and tweeting from the parks is a blast (especially on long, boring bus rides!).

Then there's Foursquare.  It hit the big time a few months ago, and now it seems to be fading out a bit.  In the parks, however, it's so much fun.  I was thrilled to the get "I'm on a boat" badge on a Friendship Boat, and others were thrilled when I checked into my first park of the trip:  Disney's Hollywood Studios.  My friends could respond if I was checked in at Epcot to get a kaki-gori because they couldn't, and they could wish they were me when I checked into my lunch at Le Cellier.  Plus, I could go back to my Foursquare history and see exactly what I did, even if I didn't broadcast it on Twitter.  Now that's awesome.

And finally, there's Ustream.  Ustream is another big thing I used on my last trip to Walt Disney World.  It started with streaming the Main Street Electrical Parade, which, despite a technical issue that caused the first half of the parade to have no picture, was a big hit.  I also streamed the Main Street Trolley show and the Voices of Liberty.  People at home could see what I was seeing, and when I got home, I could go back and watch the videos I shot.  I had decided that I love when people stream from the parks, so I wanted to do the same.  And so I did.  Hopefully any of you who watched enjoyed.

Twitter, Foursquare, and Ustream are just of the few social media outlets used in Disney parks.  Which are your favorites?  Do you ever unplug and spend a trip without social media?  Do you agree that sharing your experiences on these outlets makes a trip even more fun?  Let me know your opinions in a comment, a tweet, or on Facebook!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Food Spotlight: Burgers

Beaches and Cream burger, healthy stuff removed, of course.
There's nothing like a good burger when you're at Walt Disney World.  Although people say that the burgers are the same everywhere, I must disagree.  I've had burgers at many counter service locations in the World, and I must say, I have two big favorites.

Beaches and Cream, Beach Club Resort.  This is a table service restaurant at counter service prices.  I visited this restaurant for the first time in August, and I thought it was awesome.  Most people come here for the ice cream, but the burgers are awesome too!  You can order a single or double burger, and both are priced quite well.  There are also other entrees for the non-burger inclined.  The only warning I have is not to use credits here if you're on the dining plan.  You can get a much better value elsewhere.  At Beaches and Cream, shell out the nine dollars in cash or charge it to your room... you'll be saving yourself money in the long run if you use your credits somewhere more expensive.

Pecos Bill's, Magic Kingdom.  This counter service venue is probably a legend for people looking for good burgers.  The patties are 1/3 pounders, and you can get the epic Angus burger that has bacon and onion rings on top.  Yes, that's right... onion rings on top of your 1/3 pound burger.  Plus, there's the famous topping bar where you can top your burger with everything from lettuce to pickles to the deliciously terrible hot cheese.  You can not go wrong with a meal at Pecos Bill's, and especially not if that meal is a burger.  Another warning for dining plan guests: I have been known to use counter service credits here, but if the dessert portion of the meal is important to you, know that your only choices at Pecos Bill's are strawberry yogurt and carrot cake.

So there are two amazing places to get burgers.  Where are your favorite burgers located?  Do you agree with my choices, or do you have some different opinions?  Let me know what you think in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Magical Moment

In today's post, since I didn't have a very magical Thursday, I just wanted to share a magical moment with you all that happened on our recent trip to Walt Disney World.  It was the last night of our trip, we had just eaten at Jiko, and we didn't have the best meal.  I was feeling kind of down about the whole thing, since not only was it our most expensive meal, but it was the meal I was most looking forward to.  Since it was around 9 pm, and the only park still open was the Magic Kingdom, we'd have to transfer there to get back to our resort (All Star Music) from the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Overall, we weren't enthused about this, especially after our disappointment of a dinner and the exhaustion of the end of our trip weighing on us. 

When we saw an Animal Kingdom bus pull up to the Lodge, I thought it might be possible to take that bus back to the Animal Kingdom, so we could transfer there.  I knew Animal Kingdom had closed much earlier, but I figured it was a possibility.  Unfortunately, once everyone was let out of the bus, the driver closed the doors and stepped outside to talk to those of us waiting outside his bus (us and one other family).  The other family spoke to him first, and they asked him how to best get back to Caribbean Beach.  He directed them to transfer at Downtown Disney, and I assumed he'd do the same for us.  Despite this, we asked him the best way to get back to All Star Music anyway.  He looked at us and said Downtown Disney was very far out of the way to get to the All Stars.  Then he told us to hop on his bus, and he'd drive us back to our resort.  And this kind bus driver proceeded to drive James and I back.  This was honestly such a magical moment; I couldn't believe it!  For all we knew, this bus driver was probably done with his shift for the day, yet he went out of his way to drive us directly from the Animal Kingdom Lodge to All Star Music.  Thanks so much, kind bus driver!  It really was a magical moment for us!

Have you had any magical moments at Walt Disney World?  What magical occurrences happened on your trips?  Share your moments in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Jiko

The napkin at Jiko
I was incredibly excited about visiting Jiko, but unfortunately, I must say, I didn't have the best time.  I'm hardly joking when I said I absolutely dreamed about the oak grilled filet with mac and cheese (note: the mac and cheese is no longer a part of this dish, but it is still a side dish on the menu that can be ordered in addition) before our trip, but this dream turned out worse than expected.  This was supposed to be the most amazing meal of our trip, and it was our first signature dining experience.  Yes, our expectations were high, but they were also high for Le Cellier, where we were not disappointed.  But anyway, on to the review, and you can see where our dinner went wrong...

We arrived at Jiko around ten minutes before our ADR time, and we were seated almost immediately.  We learned that the restaurant had the largest selection of South African wines in the world (not that either of us were old enough to drink it), and we were given our menus.  Jiko is very romantic, and it is a perfect place for a date night.  It's dark but not too dark, and the servers are excellent (or at least ours was).  We ordered the Taste of Africa as an appetizer, which is an assortment of breads served with three dipping sauces (one was hummus; I can't remember the other two).  We also each ordered the filet with mac and cheese, cooked medium.

The Taste of Africa was excellent.  It was so interesting to try the different dipping sauces, and the bread was great.  The appetizer was $9, and it was totally worth paying out of pocket, since we were on the dining plan.  Then our entrees came out.  The first thing I did was taste the mac and cheese, which was awesome.  Then I cut my steak open.  I had ordered it medium, and it was bright red inside.  There is no way to describe it but rare.  Honestly, I'd rather them have cook it all the way to well done than eat it rare.  I do not like rare meat.  I felt bad, but I decided to send it back, and our server was very apologetic.  At this point, he brought us little salad appetizers compliments of the chef because of our troubles, but I noticed that many other tables also had that appetizer, also complimentary.  Some hadn't even ordered yet, so it couldn't be because of kitchen mistakes.  It made me wonder if we were treated differently because we were young, which is not a thought I often have at a place known for it's service like Walt Disney World.

Anyway, my second attempt at the filet came out, and unfortunately, this one turned out to be rare upon cutting it also.  I honestly didn't want to delay our dinner any more, so I simply decided I would eat it.  This is where Disney service truly shined, however.  Our server came by to make sure I was happy with it, and I said I was.  I didn't want to bother him with the fact that it was still wrong.  But he noticed that it was still bright red inside and tried to convince me to send it back another time.  The fact that he was honestly concerned (or at least it sure seemed like it) that I wouldn't enjoy my meal made me a little happier about the situation.  I ate the less-rare edges of the filet, and I ate the mac and cheese, but this certainly wasn't the best meal of our trip.

This may be slightly of topic, but many people say Le Cellier shouldn't be going back to two table service credits.  I could honestly say that our meal there was 100 times better than our two credit meal at Jiko.  The steak there was perfect, and everything was delicious.  At Jiko, we were just disppointed.  I'm hoping it was just a rough night, and I hope that I do get to try Jiko again in the future.  That said, I probably won't be returning for a while.  Luckily I'll be trying other signature dining experiences in January.

What do you think about Jiko?  Was my experience just a fluke?  Is it true that Jiko has been getting more bad reviews lately?  What do you usually order at Jiko?  Let me know what you think about this restaurant in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!