Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mini Trip Report: Times Square Disney Store, D23 Member Mixer

Post Mixer Lunch, Photo from Michele!
I thought I'd do a mini trip report about a recent trip to the Times Square Disney Store.  My first trip to the new store, actually.  At the beginning of February, I had heard that there was going to be a D23 event in New York City.  Unfortunately, I am not a D23 member.  Also, all the tickets were sold out.  So as you may expect, I completely forgot about the event.  That is, of course, until Michele tweeted at me on a Friday, letting me know that she had extra tickets to the event two days later.  I jumped on them, telling her that James and I would love to go.

We left for the city bright and early, since the meet started at 10, and we wanted to meet up with Michele around 9:45.  James and I left school around 7:30, and we got to the train station around 8.  (We decided to go to the train station near home rather than school, since there were more trains from there, and the trip is shorter.)  Our train was at 8:0-something, and we were at the city around 9:15.  After walking to Times Square from Penn Station and James getting an overpriced breakfast at McDonald's, we made our way to the Times Square Disney Store.  We found Alison and Dana waiting in line outside the store, so we hung out with them for a while.  Soon, we met up with Michele and her friend.  After waiting for 10 or 15 minutes, we went into the store to sign in, and we were directed up the escalator to the second floor.

Trivia and D23 CMs! Photo by Michele
Once on the second floor, there was a trivia game that we played on the big screen.  The cast member gave us the hardest quiz, knowing that we were Disney fans, but almost everyone got a perfect or near perfect score anyway.  Then two D23 cast members came out, Laura Sanchez and Becky Cline from Disney archives (disclaimer: I totally didn't remember their names, so I got them from the review of the same event on the blog).  They came bearing prizes for even harder Disney questions, but none of us won any.  We were kind of far away from the speakers.  Before they allowed us to mingle on our own, they let us know that they wanted to talk to all of us about D23.  Also, we were told that there were little gifts for us!

The gifts we got: a keychain, a magnet, and
a set of 23 vintage Disneyland postcards.
It was really cool that people that really had an effect on D23 events wanted to talk to us about what we wanted to see.  Since many New York based D23 members can't make it to all of the events in Florida and California, we were glad that we were being heard as well.  There was mention of possible events being movie screenings, possibly of old silent cartoons, and we were asked if Boston or Washington DC was too far for us to travel.  We were also asked if we were willing to pay for future events, since the D23 mixer we were attending was free (although note that there was no food).

After the event was over, we explored the Times Square Disney Store for a while.  Here is the highlight reel of what we saw:  Magic mirrors are cool.  They have the Harveys bags but no Dooneys.  There is one 3 inch and three 9 inch special edition New York Vinyls.  They also were carrying Villains, Animation, and I believe Nightmare Before Christmas Vinyls.  They had some Urban 5 9 inch Vinyls.  There was a lot of kid stuff, including one section full of princess merch and one section full of Marvel and other superhero merch.  There is a section devoted to "I [Mickey] NY" merchandise.  There is a section with the couture princess merch that they sell in TrenD.  Although I was tempted, all I bought was a 3 inch New York Vinyl.

After we checked out, we left the store and went to have lunch at the Brooklyn Diner with Michele and her friend, Dana, Alison, Leslie, James, and I.  We discusses D23, and they made me really want to join (though I haven't bit the bullet yet).  After lunch, we were ready to head our separate ways, and before we knew it, James and I were back on the train home.  It was a fun event, and although some people were a little disappointed with the actual content of the event, we knew it was a one-hour, free event.  I thought it was great all things considered.

Have you ever been to the Times Square Disney Store?  Have you ever been to a D23 event?  Are you a D23 member?  Why did you become one, or why did you decide not to?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

Welcome to those of you joining me from Magical Memory Planners.  I am the second stop on our Magical Blogorail.

For those of you who are unaware, the Magical Blogorail is a "loop" of blogs that focus on one topic for one Friday each month.  There are currently three blogorail loops and a fourth in the making, and I am part of Blogorail Green.  This week's topic is to introduce myself, my blog, and what inspired me to start a blog.  So if you don't care much about the blog and just want your regularly scheduled posts, those will begin again on Monday!

For those of you who are curious about me, as you may know, my name is Amanda, and I'm a (gasp!) college student.  I had been wanting to start a blog for a while in the spring of 2010, but I wasn't quite sure what to start a blog about.  Also, I had a Twitter, but I didn't use it for much at all.  Then, Betamouse started.

I had been listening to Disney podcasts for a little while, so I was interested in Betamouse.  I'm not sure it was anything the hosts of Betamouse said in particular, since this epiphany happened before their episode about blogging, but while listening to them, I realized that if I wanted a blog, I needed a niche.  And college students who love Disney is a niche.

Thus the Disney College Blog was born.  I also started following many of the people that I now call friends on Twitter, which helped me get the word out about the new blog.  And it definitely didn't hurt that I reviewed Betamouse in my second post.  Although the blog started as a place to talk about how Disney could relate to college, the blog is now for anyone of any age or education level.  In fact, I started a similar project in podcast form with a few friends... check out Generation Mouse if you're interested.  If this is your first time visiting my site, I try to post three times a week when life allows.  Look around, and if you like what you're reading then stay a while!  And for those of you who are my loyal readers, as I said earlier, your regularly scheduled posts will begin again on Monday!

Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is A Disney Mom's Thoughts.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
2nd Stop: The Disney College Blog

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ready for Take Off

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Check it out: Generation Mouse

Okay, I'm sorry if you've already heard about this, but I just wanted to make sure you all knew that I am one of the hosts of a new Disney podcast!  The Generation Mouse podcast is a young adult perspective on all things Disney.  We talk about literally everything that has to do with Disney, from parks and resorts and restaurants to movies and video games and collectibles.  We only have two episodes out so far, and we're trying to average around 30 to 45 minutes per episode.

Our first episode is called Must Do Disney, and the panel (which consists of James, Ashleigh, Mark, Libby, and I) gives our top three things we must do at Walt Disney World.  Our second episode is Snacking Around the World, where we give our favorite snacks around the World Showcase.

Although the podcast is billed as for young adults, must like this blog, everyone is welcome, and I honestly believe that any Disney fan in any age group would enjoy this podcast.  I mean, hey, I am one of the hosts, but I think it's pretty darn good so far!

We would love if you checked the podcast out, so you can find us at, on Twitter (@generationmouse), on Facebook, or on iTunes!  Thanks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: Crystal Palace

Back in August, Akershus was the first character meal James and I had gone to since we were kids.  We really enjoyed it, so we decided to try another crowd favorite: Crystal Palace.  We really wanted to get into the Magic Kingdom before it opened, so we made an ADR for 8:30 am on the second day of our trip.

We arrived a little ahead of time, at around 8:15, but they let us right into the park.  After lingering on Main Street, taking some pictures of the empty street and stopping for a Photopass photographer to take pictures of us on the empty street, we headed over to Crystal Palace.  Crystal Palace is an absolutely beautiful building.  The check in for the restaurant is outside, and there was a very short wait to check in.  Once we did, we were handed a buzzer, and it went off within five minutes.  The inside of the restaurant was decorated for a celebration, and there was confetti on our table because of our birthdays!

Obviously the main attraction of the restaurant is the characters, and Crystal Palace features Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore.  We were able to meet all of them, though we had to wait a while for Pooh to come back around since we had just missed him when we came in.  If your waiter doesn't tell you, ask which direction the characters come from.  We were really glad that our waiter told us that the characters went from left to right by our table, so we could get our food right away and not wait for Pooh, who wouldn't be coming by for a while.  We didn't feel rushed by the characters, though we didn't spend very much time with them.  Also, at one point throughout our breakfast, there was a little parade around the restaurant, and all the kids joined in... so cute!

As for the food, I thought it was really good!  Breakfast is the least expensive meal at Crystal Palace (or any Disney buffet!), but I thought there was a pretty good selection.  There was your standard bacon and eggs and biscuits and fruit, but there were some other unique items as well.  I snagged two really cool foods from the "kid's section": breakfast pizza and puffed french toast.  For those who haven't heard of these, breakfast pizza is a pizza crust with eggs and melted cheese on top, and puffed french toast is this really delicious food that I'm assuming is essentially fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon?  No matter what it is, it's delicious.  Also, there are chocolate Mickey waffles in addition to the standard flavor!  So cool!  By the way, since drinks are included in your buffet price, don't feel bad if you want orange juice AND chocolate milk... it's vacation!

Overall, I really liked Crystal Palace, and I think if you have Pooh fans in your group, it will be an especially good time.  It's really cool to get into the Magic Kingdom before park opening, and I thought the food at Crystal Palace was really good.  That said, if your party is into princesses more than Tigger and Piglet, I'd recommend Akershus!

For those interested in the buffet offerings, check out the breakfast menu here, as well as the lunch and dinner menus.

Have you ever been to Crystal Palace?  What meal did you go for?  What were your favorite items on the buffet?  Or do you plan to visit in the future?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Birthdays at the World

To be completely honest, there is nothing more exciting than being in the most magical place on earth on your birthday!  Before this trip, I vaguely remember going to Walt Disney World around age nine or ten for my birthday, but I didn't remember any details.  Nevertheless, I knew that my birthday would be an absolute blast.

One of the best things about celebrating anything at Disney is that you could do it for the whole week.  I wore my birthday pin every day on our trip.  Even if you're not at the parks on your specific date of birth, you can fudge the date a little bit and wear your pin anyway.  Which brings me to the most important thing about celebrating your birthday at Walt Disney World: get a birthday pin.  

If you love your birthday, then you will love having a birthday pin.  Tens or even hundreds of people per day will wish you a happy birthday.  They are usually cast members, but sometimes even fellow guests want to wish you a special day!  One old couple even stopped James and I to sing us happy birthday!  On occasion you may get special treatment - for us, a CM gave our party of four Fastpasses that were usable immediately on Rock N Roller Coaster (although I promptly chicken exited!).  Another CM let us have a free popcorn and frozen lemonade.  (Interestingly, both of these happenings were in Hollywood Studios... coincidence?)

Speaking of food, my next birthday tip is to put it on all of your ADRs.  When you make an ADR, it gives you the opportunity to add a celebration.  Put that it is your birthday on all of them!  Even if you just get a little Mickey confetti on your table, it will make your day a little more special!  Likely, you'll even get another little treat!  James and I got countless birthday cupcakes, cards signed by characters, and even menus that said "Happy Birthday!" that we were allowed to take home!  Cast members honestly want to make your day, so let them know that it's your birthday!

And finally, my last trip for making your birthday at the parks extra magical is to do something special.  During our birthday trip, we ate at three different deluxe restaurants, plus Le Cellier which is one of my my favorites.  On my actual birthday, we had an amazing dinner at California Grill and watched Wishes.  On James', we ate at Bistro de Paris because he loves French food.  If you can afford even one special meal, it will make your birthday that much more special.  Another awesome thing we did was go on the Keys to the Kingdom tour.  That was James' birthday gift to me, and it was a really cool experience!  One of the best presents ever!  Whether it's spending a night at a deluxe resort, eating ten Dole Whips because you can, or even hugging Push the trash can (I really did that one!), do whatever you really want on your birthday, and it will be extra magical.  Bonus points if you buy the birthday ears!

Have you ever been to Disney on your birthday?  Did you do anything to make it extra special?  Do you have any tips on how you can make your birthday even more magical?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

This post is featured in the 18th Disney Blog Carnival.  Click the link to see more great Disney articles!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Welcome Foolish Mortals

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: California Grill

You guys may remember, way back in June, I was already thinking about ADRs for our birthday trip.  I was puzzled on where to eat on my actual birthday, so I asked all of you.  I was leaning toward a signature restaurant, and a few of you mentioned California Grill.  Well you are the lucky winners because that was where I chose to have my birthday dinner!

California Grill menu
I was a little nervous because our first time at a signature restaurant in August didn't go so well.  That said, I had faith in California Grill.  Even though I woke up at 6 am to book my ADR exactly 180 days in advance, I couldn't get the 6:30 pm reservation I wanted, so I settled for a 5:55.  The fireworks were at 8, and I was nervous about finishing too soon, but I figured we would have to wait for a table.  Amazingly, we didn't.  You check into California Grill on one of the lower floors of the Contemporary, and you are escorted up in a special elevator.  Our buzzer started going off while we were still in the elevator.

The view from my seat!
Once we got to the top, I made sure that I told the host that we wanted a Magic Kingdom view.  This was my birthday, and I would wait for one.  He told me that he had a great Epcot view from the wine room, and I said we'd wait for a Magic Kingdom view.  He said he'd see what he could do, and less than a minute later, the two of us were taken to a table for four with a PERFECT castle view.  It was magical, and I was so happy.  They put confetti on our table, and we started browsing the menu.

Course one: Triple Cheese Flatbread
 We were on free dining on this trip, and we were using two dining credits to eat here.  That said, the standard dining plan only includes a nonalcoholic beverage, an entree, and a dessert.  Then again, it was my birthday, and James said that I could order as many courses as I wanted.  We started with sodas, and our excellent waitress brought out some bread and butter while we continued perusing the menu.  We knew we wanted to split a flatbread, but we were stuck between the three cheese and the suckling pig.  When we asked our waitress which she recommended, she said the same two!  Finally, we decided on the triple cheese, and it was quite good.  It also had sun dried tomatoes and pesto on top, and we were very pleased with this selection.

Course two: Serrano Ham wrapped Local Rabbit
I wasn't quite sure what to do about our second course because none of them really jumped out at me.  I was at Disney, though, and James was paying.  So I really wanted to step out of my comfort zone.  I definitely did that by ordering the ham wrapped rabbit.  I had never had rabbit before, and I probably never will again, but at least I can say that I tried it once!  It may have been a waste of $16, but it was definitely worth the experience at least.  For those of you who were wondering how it tasted, I partially didn't like it just because I couldn't get past the fact that it was rabbit.  Also, it was rather dry, which didn't help.  I just ate the ham off of it and left the rest on my plate.  For James' second course, he had the Maine Mussels because they ran out of lobster cakes.  I suppose he enjoyed the mussels, since he cleaned his plate.

Course three: Oak Fired Filet of Beef
For our next course, James and I both had the oak fired filet of beef in a teriyaki barbecue sauce.  I was a little nervous about this filet since the one in Jiko was so disappointing, but I had faith that Disney wouldn't disappoint me twice.  And they certainly didn't.  The filet was very good, and James and I both enjoyed it greatly.   I was really happy with this entree, and even the potatoes and carrots were delicious!  We couldn't fill up too much, though, since we still had dessert coming!

Course four: A Birthday Dessert!
I believe they were still using the Christmas-y menu in January when we went because this dessert was still on the menu.  It was a chocolate molten lava cake with eggnog ice cream and peppermint bark.  James and I both ordered this and both chose to opt for vanilla ice cream instead of eggnog.  And James mentioned that he didn't want his peppermint bark, so they put his piece on my dessert!  Mine also came with a thin slab of chocolate that said "Happy Birthday from the California Grill."  It was magical, and I didn't want to eat the slab!  I did want to eat everything else, however, so I dug in.  This dessert was absolutely fabulous!  And even better, right as I was finishing dessert, Wishes started, and we had a perfect view from our table.  It was a magical end to an amazing dinner.  California Grill is now one of my all time favorite Disney restaurants.

I love California Grill, and although it can get very pricey, I think it was worth it.  This is the perfect restaurant for a special occasion, and if you are willing to wait for a Magic Kingdom view, it's worth it.  We didn't even have to move to see Wishes.  I would definitely return to California Grill.

Have you ever been to California Grill?  What did you think of it?  What did you order?  Would you like to try this restaurant?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!