Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Hollywoodland

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Captain Cook's

Whee, bad cell phone pic
Being an avid listener of the Be Our Guest Podcast, when Rikki suggested Captain Cook's over and over (and over) for their famous adult grilled cheese, I knew that we had to go there back in August.  Captain Cook's is a counter service restaurant in the Polynesian Resort, and it's great when you're looking to get away from the crowds of the Magic Kingdom for a yummy lunch or dinner (or breakfast).  We went there for lunch on this particular day.

Captain Cook's has an interesting ordering system unlike any other I've seen at Walt Disney World.  Like Pecos Bill's, there are ordering kiosks, but unlike Pecos Bill's, you can't pay at them.  You order using the kiosks and then walk over to the cashiers to pay.  Since the cashiers aren't really near the kiosks, it's a little confusing, but we figured it out soon enough.  Upon seeing the menu, I swear it said that there was blue cheese on the adult grilled cheese, although Rikki swears there isn't.  Anyway, I don't like blue cheese, so the adult grilled cheese was no longer in the running.  Instead I decided to order the multi-grain turkey club (no mayo), and I believe James ordered the aloha pork sandwich.  And, of course, we both got Dole Whips for dessert.  Oh yeah, did I mention the best part about Captain Cook's?  It has a self serve Dole Whip machine!

Once we figured out how the ordering worked, we soon got our food, and we found a table pretty quickly.  The restaurant was by no means quiet, but it was certainly less chaotic than, say, Pecos Bill's likely was on that day.  I honestly don't remember much about my turkey club (probably should have written this review sooner than eight months after the fact), but seeing as I don't remember anything bad about it (like I do about the yucky turkey club at the Studio Catering Co), I'm sure it was good.  I'm pretty sure James liked his sandwich as well.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the only reason that we didn't go to Captain Cook's last time we were at Walt Disney World is only because we didn't get over to the Magic Kingdom resorts much.  I do remember that the multi-grain bread had an interesting, seedy texture, but it was really good.  And both our meals came with Captain Cook's Polynesian chips.  As for the Dole Whips, totally delicious, as usual.

I highly recommend Captain Cook's if you're in the Magic Kingdom area.  Not only is it a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the parks, but the menu choices are quite different from most things you'd see in a counter service restaurant.  Although we didn't order anything out of the ordinary, I'd like to go back (perhaps this August?) and try something a little different.

Have you ever eaten at Captain Cook's?  What did you order?  What did you think?  Is it a must-do for you, or do you only eat there occasionally?  Let me know your thoughts about this restaurant in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The Palace

Monday, April 18, 2011

Early January at the World

Christmas decorations are still up in early January!
You may or may not remember way back in June when I wrote about why I liked visiting Walt Disney World in late August.  My most recent trip, however, was scheduled around our birthdays, so we visited in early January.  And I think we like this even more than late August.

First of all, the weather in January, at least for us, was beautiful.  Most of the time it was in the 60s or 70s, and we absolutely loved it.  I've heard of horror stories where it snowed (I'm looking at you, marathon weekend 2010), but for us, the weather was pretty much perfect.  Plus it doesn't rain as much in January as in August.  And I'd rather be a little chilly than melting in the summer sun.

Second of all, almost all the Christmas decorations are still up.  Really the only decorations that end in December are the castle icicle lights and the Christmas parties.  The Osborne lights and the gingerbread house in the Grand Floridian end on the 4th or 5th of January, but you can schedule your trip, so you can still see them.  Some of the restaurants even had their Christmas menus still, which was cool.  And the best part?  Early January (pretty much as soon as January 2nd or 3rd rolls around) is value season.  So you get all the beauty of Christmas at a fraction of the Christmas prices. 

And finally, the crowds are great in January.  Not only do you get all the beauty of Christmas at a fraction of the PRICE, you also get all the beauty at a fraction of the CROWDS.  It certainly isn't dead the week after New Year's, but the crowds are likely less than half of the crowds the previous week.  Arrive at rope drop and use a touring plan, and you'll get everything done before dinner time.

The only negative thing about early January, in my opinion, is the park hours.  They're much shorter than what we were used to in August.  Sometimes Epcot closed the latest at 9.  Interestingly, this didn't bother us very much.  We were tired from waking up early anyway, and we didn't mind going to bed at 10:30.  We even had time to go swimming after the parks, but we were just too tired.  I bet it wouldn't be too cold in those heated pools!

Have you ever visited Walt Disney World in early January?  What were your favorite and least favorite things about it?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: Yakitori House

I am an epic fail because I don't have any pictures of Yakitori House.  But let's ignore that, and we can focus on the food instead.  Let me preface this with the fact that I really love Japanese food, but I don't really eat sushi.  If I do eat it, I have to be VERY in the mood for it.  Usually, I stick to foods teriyaki style at Japanese restaurants.  James, on the other hand, loves sushi.  As a result of our combination of Japanese food love, one hot August day in Epcot, James and I decided to try the Yakitori House for lunch.

The Yakitori House has both indoor and outdoor seating.  It was raining when we went, so we sat inside, but the indoor area isn't very large.  We were probably lucky we were able to get a table.  I ordered the beef teriyaki.  It wasn't on the menu, but it was on a smaller sign next to the cashier.  James ordered some kind of sushi.  As soon as mine came out, I didn't think I'd like it.

Beef teriyaki, at least when I've eaten it, is essentially steak with teriyaki sauce on top.  The beef teriyaki at Yakitori House was more like semi-shredded beef, and it was extremely fatty.  It sort of reminded me of pulled pork, but it was beef.  The teriyaki sauce was good, but I wasn't into the texture.  That combined with the fattiness meant I mostly stuck to my rice for that meal.  James, on the other hand, had sushi, and I believe he liked it.  Sushi is sushi I guess, and if it's made correctly, it's good.  We also got dessert because we were on the dining plan, but considering I can't remember it at all, it must not have been very good.  I also clearly remember getting a kaki-gori afterwards, so I must have really not liked the dessert.

Overall, I think our meal at Yakitori House was average.  It wasn't anything great, and I probably wouldn't want to eat there again in the near future.  I think there are much better counter service options in Epcot, and if you're really looking for good Japanese food, spend the cash on Teppan Edo or Tokyo Dining.  If you're just looking for a sushi fix, however, this is a good place to grab some quick.

Have you ever eaten at Yakitori House?  What did you order, and what were your experiences there?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: City Hall

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To Rope Drop or Not to Rope Drop

What you would get to see at Animal Kingdom rope drop
Throughout my childhood, we weren't rope drop people.  We were the people who strolled into the Magic Kingdom at 11 am and waiting on line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for 90 minutes in the Florida heat.  We were the people you pity if you're a rope drop person.  When my mom planned our August 2009 trip, however, I was ready to do my research.  And if you do your research for one moment on how to tour the Disney parks most efficiently, you will find that the number one tip is to arrive to the park before rope drop.  But how do you decide if you're going to wake up early and make that trek to the parks at an hour you don't want to see when you're on vacation?  Well maybe I can help.

Rope Drop Pros:
  • Each park has its own little rope drop show, unique to which park you're at.  Magic Kingdom's is most people's favorites (including mine), but I also really like the shows at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.  Epcot's doesn't enthuse me.
  • If you want to ride the headliner of the park more than once without waiting more than 45 minutes, rope drop is a must.  Ride Soarin' (or Space Mountain or Toy Story Mania or Expedition Everest) immediately, and then get a Fastpass for later.  Most likely your Fastpass will be good in the very near future, so you're not stuck in the park all night like you may be if you wait until 11 or 12 to get a Fastpass.
  • You will get things done... fast.  On an average day at the Magic Kingdom (let's say crowd levels are around a 5), we have gotten every ride and show we wanted to see plus lunch done by 2 pm or earlier.  I'm talking 10-12 attractions in five hours or less.  When do the majority get done?  In the first hour that the park is open.
Rope Drop Cons:
  • You have to wake up early.  To be at the parks before 9, we usually wake up at 7.  Some people don't want to be up that early on vacation.  I value ride time more than relax time.  But for some people, waking up early is the big deal breaker.
  • You have to wake up really early.  Plan on taking Disney transportation?  To be sure you'll arrive in time for rope drop, especially to the Magic Kingdom, you should get on a bus before 8:30.  Ideally before 8:15.  Heck, once we got on a bus to Animal Kingdom at 8:00.  That means we were done with breakfast by 8.  So we were down at the food court by 7:30.
  • You have to wait on line at the turnstiles.  Unfortunately, even if you arrive to the park at 8, they won't let you in until 8:45 at the earliest.  Yes, that means 45 minutes waiting at the turnstiles, but unless you're visiting at an absolutely crazy time, that's pretty much all you'll be waiting all day.   Plus, the earlier you are, the more likely you are to be picked as Family of the Day, and the more likely you are to not be stuck behind someone who can't remember which finger they used to scan in the previous day.
Other important factors:
  • If you're visiting Walt Disney World at a busy time, you should highly consider getting to the park at rope drop.  That in combination with a touring plan is really the only way you're going to have a successful day.  Trust me, you'll get more done by noon than most families will get done in the entire day.
  • If you're visiting Walt Disney World at a very hot time of year, you should highly consider getting to the park at rope drop.  The early morning is much less hot and humid than mid-afternoon.  Get the bulk of your attractions done early, then go back to the hotel for a nap, go for a swim, or go for a nice, long, air conditioned lunch.  Come back to the park around 5 or 6.  It'll be less crowded than the mid-afternoon, and you can finish up any attractions you didn't get in the morning.  You'll get just as much or more done than if you arrived at 11 or 12, and you'll have missed the hottest (and most likely the rainiest) part of the day.
Okay yes, if you haven't realized yet, I'm biased against rope drop.  I know it's not for everyone, and especially if you've been to the parks many times, you may not feel the need to get there super early.  But if you don't get to the parks that often, and you want to maximize your touring time, rope drop is for you.  Even though James and I have been to Walt Disney World three times in the past two years, we will be arriving at rope drop during our upcoming August trip.  Why?  It's just too darn hot to be there during the afternoon!  It's worth being a little tired to not be melting in mid-afternoon heat.  Plus a nice afternoon nap perks us right up.

Do you arrive at the parks at rope drop?  What do you think about getting there bright and early?  Let me know in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Karamell Kuche

Chocolate caramel apple!
Back in January when we went to Walt Disney World, I was excited about a lot of dining opportunities, but one that I had completely forgotten to look forward to was Karamell Kuche.  Luckily, it was suddenly remembered when we walked past the Germany pavilion.  We were still quite full from our lunch at Via Napoli, but we stopped to go inside.  After browsing, we left, but we were hardly to the China pavilion when I knew we needed to go back and get something!

For those of you who don't know what Karamell Kuche is, you've been missing out!  It's a semi-new caramel store in the Germany pavilion in Epcot.  It's run by Werther's, and EVERYTHING is delicious!  In the relatively small area of the store, not only are all the delicious treats displayed, you can also see the cast members making caramel treats!  It's so cool to see the different things being dipped in caramel!  Also, there are prepackaged candies that you can buy.

I was able to have two different snacks at Karamell Kuche on two different days.  It is important to note that some of the items do change from day to day, so if you see something you want, buy it while it's there!  On our first trip to Karamell Kuche, we purchased a chocolate caramel apple (pictured above).  As with all coated apples in Walt Disney World, the cast members will slice it for you if you plan on eating it right away.  We had ours sliced, and it was absolutely delicious!  Definitely a good snack to share between two people!  Coated apples are one of my favorite treats at Walt Disney World.  On our second visit to the store, I got a chocolate covered strawberry with caramel drizzle.  Although this was more a chocolate treat than a caramel treat, it was absolutely delicious!  Other items sold at Karamell Kuche included cupcakes, fudge, cookies, and the famous caramel corn.  I don't really like caramel corn, so I didn't try it, but I haven't heard anything but rave reviews!

If you've never been to Karamell Kuche, it's a must try.  Even if you only get a $3 cupcake or bag of caramel corn, I know you won't be sorry.  If you have a tiny bit more money to spend, I highly recommend the apples (there are varieties other than just chocolate covered)!  You'll thank me once you try it!

Have you ever been to Karamell Kuche?  What are your favorite caramel covered treats?  Let me know your thoughts on this delicious store in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Pink

Bonus points if you know from where this picture was taken!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Epcot's Mini Attractions, Volume 2

Do you remember my post a few weeks back highlighting a few of Epcot's mini-attractions?  If not, check it out!  When I wrote that one, I realized that Epcot had far too many fun things to do to put all in one post, so now I present the second portion!  Mini-attractions 1, 2, and 3 were the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, and the Seas pavilion, so for this post, we'll start at...

 4. Segway Trials
Last August, James and I took a Segway tour around World Showcase.  I highly recommend the tour, but many people don't know that you can actually try riding a Segway in Innoventions for free (at least last that I heard)!  Yes, you read that correctly.  If you go to Innoventions after 11am (I believe), you can actually try a Segway!  I'm pretty certain that there are age and possibly other restrictions to this, but it's still a really cool thing many people aren't aware of.  Maybe it'll convince you to try one of the awesome Segway tours that Disney offers, or maybe you'll just try it and go along with your day, but regardless... everyone wants to try a Segway, right?  To try one out, check out Segway Central in Innoventions West.  It's the same area where guests on Segway tours learn to use them!

5. Don't Waste It!
One of James' and my favorite mini-attractions in Epcot is also in Innoventions, this time in East.  Don't Waste It! is a fun little activity sponsored by Waste Management.  It's similar to the Great Piggy Bank Adventure that I mentioned in Volume 1, but this time you get a mini garbage truck instead of a little pig friend.  First you start at a station and answer some questions to determine approximately how much trash you use in a year.  Then you get your mini pushable garbage truck, and you are off to the next station.  You dock your truck at each station to play the game, the first of which is Sort It Out.  At this station, each member of your family (up to four) is in front of a screen, and you need to recycle some of your trash.  For example, if James is doing glass and I'm doing paper, we each have to put the appropriate trash in our bins.  Next you head to Fuel the Burn.  Here you have to fuel a waste-to-energy plant by fueling the fire with the appropriate amount of wet or dry trash.  And finally, at the Landfill Up station, you can choose to turn your trash landfill into a golf course, a ballpark, or a wildlife preserve, and you must properly layer your trash and landfill cover materials to produce your final product.  This mini-attraction is a lot of fun, and it's very educational for younger guests.  I would say it's at a similar caliber to the Great Piggy Bank Adventure, and almost everyone would like it!

James with a tiny Club Cool cup
6. Club Cool
This is an awesome mini-attraction at Epcot, suggested by reader Christine Hardenberger.  For anyone who has never been, Club Cool is essentially one big Coca Cola advertisement, but in a good way.  It has many soda flavors from around the world, and you can sample them in little cups.  Interestingly Club Cool is in Future World instead of World Showcase, but we'll ignore that.  Aside from the free soda samples, Club Cool doesn't offer much except a bunch of Coke merchandise, but honestly the free soda samples are enough to bring me in almost every time I visit Epcot.  Especially if it's hot!  One of my favorites is the Kinley Lemon soda from Israel, and if you haven't, try the Beverly... it's delicious! 

And that concludes my favorite of Epcot's mini-attractions.  Do you think I can do this for other parks?  Let me know what you think of my favorites, let me know your favorites in Epcot, and let me know if you have any suggestions of mini-attractions in the other parks!  If I decide to do a similar series for them, you will most definitely be shouted out!  You can leave suggestions and opinions in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

Friday, April 1, 2011

First Birthday and the Year in Review

If only I could put these ears on the blog!
This is no April Fool's joke!  The Disney College Blog was actually started on April 1st, 2010.  In fact, if you're feeling really sentimental, you can read the very first post here.  Originally I started the blog for fellow college students, but it has grown to be a blog for any Disney fan, regardless of age!  In honor of the first birthday of the blog, I want to give a little "year in review" to show what has happened in the past 365 days...

Since the creation of the Disney College Blog:
  • There have been over 100 posts on this blog, including dining reviews, opinion pieces, and my newest segment, Wordless Wednesdays.
  • I created the @discollegeblog Twitter account and have over 900 followers.
  • I created the Disney College Blog Facebook account and over 100 people "liked" it.
  • I have taken two trips to Walt Disney World, during both of which I was much more knowledgeable than any previous trips.
  • I have met a bunch of amazing people, both in person and online, who I can really relate to and talk to about anything.
  • I started a new podcast with some great friends that I love talking to each week.
  • People actually read what I write each week, and they actually care!
For each person who has ever read this blog, commented on this blog, shown support to me in any way, or tweeted at me even once, I am thankful for you.  This blog, and my internet presence in general, couldn't exist without feedback from all of you.  I am glad to call you my friends, and I am glad that for 365 days, I have been able to keep this blog going.  Here's to 365 more!

In honor of the first birthday of this site, I'd like to get a conversation going in the comments.  What was your favorite post, thing about the site, moment you had with me on Twitter or in person or however in the past year?  I'd love to hear from you, either here or on Twitter!  Maybe we can use the hashtag #dcbturnsone.