What's the best part of living in Central Florida or Southern California in the Theme Park "offseason"? That's right, our theme parks don't close. While some go to weekend only operation those of us in CA and FL can literally visit a theme park every day of the year.
And when you're incredibly local that means you can visit a few times over the span of a couple of weeks and experience a plethora of different experiences. And that's just what Renée has been doing over the past few weeks, so we have great stuff from so many of the great Holiday happenings at Walt Disney World that we couldn't dream of fitting it into one update.
And we still have a few weeks until the Holidays are over so who knows where our adventure is going to take us next.
Written by Renée Girard
Cast previews for Disney's Rivers of Light begins tonight. No photos or video allowed but we'll be there! Hoping for a great show!
Getting ready for Rivers of Light to start in 30 minutes!
Got our seats and beer, let's do this.
No photos tonight. Excited to see this much anticipated show! 10 minutes till it starts.
We loved Rivers of Light! Beautiful show, amazing technology, and a million times better than Jungle Book.
This week we're spending some time at the Epcot area resorts. The Boardwalk is great all year round but it's perfect for the holidays!
Right next door at the Boardwalk, the Flying Fish restaurant has recently been renovated. It looks beautiful!
Everything was delicious! I enjoyed the frittata with a caffe latte. Everyone else had egg dishes as well, and pancakes, all equally yummy.
One of Disney's newest themed bars, Abracadabar, on the Boardwalk. It's a small space packed with lots of unique detail. Open 4pm-midnight.
It wouldn't be Disney without a hidden Mickey! The one in Abracadabar isn't so hidden but still very cool.
Looking around at some of the holiday decorations at the Epcot resorts too. Over at the Beach Club, there is the gingerbread carousel.
Christmas tree in the lobby of Disney's Yacht Club resort.
Having some drinks at the Crew's Cup Lounge at Disney's Yacht Club resort. What a cool, cozy little bar this place is!
Dinner tonight is at the Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney's Yacht Club Resort
Had an amazing meal at Yachtsman Steakhouse! Definitely highly recommended by everyone in our party!
And of course, any dinner near EPCOT would be incomplete without the "Peace on Earth" finale of IllumiNations
Goodnight from Disney's Yacht Club resort!
We are starting our day with breakfast at the Captain's Grille at Disney's Yacht Club resort.
You can order regular breakfast menu items at Captain's Grille but we're going with the buffet.
New this year, Captain's Grille is offering the Candlelight Processional dining package. It's a great deal and guaranteed seat for the show!
Tonight we will be celebrating the Holidays Around the World at Epcot!
One of the best ways to get in the holiday spirit is to see the Voices of Liberty sing.
There are a lot more Food & Wine-ish offerings for the holidays at Epcot. Looking forward to trying some later!
But first we will be attending the Candlelight Processional narrated by
Some of us are attending the show, with one performing in it. Nerves are starting to set in, even tho this is my third year doing it! Eek!!
Showtime in 30 minutes! Always a joy to share the stage with the legend....ary Neil Patrick Harris!
And we'll leave you waiting for part two to see what happens at the Candlelight processional. Did Renée fall off the stage? Run off with Neil Patrick Harris to raise babies in the Haunted Mansion?
You may never know ... or you know, just find out on Thursday in part II of our epic adventure. =)
Today we're going to have some fun and speculate and imagine if Disney had gone in a COMPLETELY different direction when they tried to "fix" Disney's California Adventure.
What if they'd stuck to the original concept of making the park different than every other Disney park but still invested money to fix it ...
Written by Gregg Condon
February 8, 2001 - A brand new Disney theme park opens in Southern California. We've seen it being constructed in the former parking lot for years. The intamin roller coaster. The signature mountain that looks like the head of a bear. We've heard about the designer restaurants from Robert Mondavi and Wolfgang Puck. Themes around Soap Opera's and Parades that didn't feature Disney Characters. This was going to be the anti-Disney Disney park. Full of new experiences, more shows and alcohol.
And then nobody showed up ... and Disney panicked.
After the initial failure of DCA 1.0 there were a couple of different ways Disney could have gone. The one direction we're going to talk about below, and then the direction that Disney eventually took.
So first let's start off with the direction Disney took:
Almost immediately they started shutting restaurants like Wolfgang Puck and Robert Mondavi, but in addition to that they also started cutting hours. Most days DCA would close at 6pm. So it's really no surprise that restaurants that are targeted to adults wouldn't do well if people couldn't actually have dinner there.
In addition to shutting restaurants that were targeted to adults they immediately started adding Disney characters to the park. Meet and greets, quickly put together parades and shows and bringing back the Electrical Parade.
The list of closures during the first year of DCA included Superstar Limo (no surprise), Soap Opera Bistro, Eureka Parade, Steps in Time, Lights Camera Chaos, Vineyard Room by Robert Mondavi, Avalon Cove by Wolfgang Puck, and Maliburitos (seriously, did ANYBODY ever get a chance to eat here?)
What came in it's place were some cheap replacements (X-Games anybody), the Christmas show LuminAria and many others.
Soon after the re-theme of DCA began with the addition of A Bugs Land in 2002, Tower of Terror in 2004, Monsters Inc in 2006 (retheme of Superstar Limo), Toy Story Midway mania in 2008 and then the conversion to DCA 2.0 starting in 2010 all the way to it's re-dedication in 2012.
Through all of that, including a multi-billion dollar expansion and improvement, the attendance of Disney California Adventure went from 5 million in 2001 to about 9.5 million in 2015.
But what if they could have kept the original design of DCA in 2001 and expanded using it's original intention of being a different kind of theme park ...
So let's go back to 2001 ... instead of shuttering adult themed restaurants and closing the park early let's say DCA does indeed cuts their hours but does it in a different way.
Now nobody is ever going to deny the original DCA was built "on the cheap". But on the same note I don't think anybody could deny DCA looked MUCH better at night than it did during the day. MUCH better. So let's say Disney capitalized on that.
Instead of opening the park at 10am and closing at 5pm or 6pm every day and thus insuring the high-end restaurants would remain empty, let's say DCA opened at 3pm or 4pm every day and stayed open until 10pm or midnight every day.
Stay with me here ...
As was mentioned above, DCA was supposed to be different, it sold alcohol, brought in high-end brands and was generally made to cater to adults. Not just with food but with rides.
When DCA opened there were only a handful of rides somebody under 40 inches could ride, and they weren't exactly thrilling (Sun Wheel, Carousel, Superstar Limo, Golden Zephyr). At the same time they had the first looping coaster at a west coast Disney park, an S&S Space Shot and other rides that were geared towards adults.
And let me say, having drinks at the cove then riding Screamin' and then drinks and then Screamin', repeat, repeat, repeat is a LOT of fun. =)
So instead of totally changing to become Disneyland 2.0, what if DCA became more of a true "pleasure island" theme park, the possibilities could have been endless.
Sure, the eventual re-do of the front area of the park was somewhat inevitable. It was ugly and needed to be done.
Tower of Terror would have eventually been added, but let's just imagine that instead of a rushed version to get an E-ticket into the park they actually built an amazing original version of it that rivaled it's counterparts in Florida and Tokyo.
Superstar Limo was always never going to last. But instead of having to do a cheap overlay of a children's movie and bring in the Millionaire show what if they had built Rock N Roller Coaster with Red Hot Chili Peppers or No Doubt?
Remember when they first started doing the Food and Wine events at DCA? That was the first time they had brought in a big chunk of DCA's original targeted audience. And the first year it was done very quickly. Imagine if they would have been able to continue to expand events and attractions geared towards adults instead of just Disneyfying the entire park?
But by that time the writing was on the wall. Instead of them seeing the success of those events and being able to expand them, those at the very highest levels had already deemed that DCA needed "fixing" (it did) and the way they were going to do it was to make it like every other Disney theme park.
Could you imagine now, instead of Cars Land that was built (as amazing as it is) if a more grown up land, say based on Marvel or Star Wars Land or even Avatar was built in it's place?
Or instead of having 13 years of Aladdin and now Frozen you had actual "Broadway" type shows in the Hyperion theater? Selling "Show/Park" combo tickets. Allowing people to come into the park before the show, have a nice dinner at one of the parks many restaurants (maybe eventually something like the Carthay).
Seeing touring shows of Wicked or Lion King or any other number of amazing touring productions that make their way through Southern California each year. Even nighttime events like Mad T Party but themed to the show that's playing in the Hyperion.
Obviously none of us know what could have happened had Disney stuck with the DCA concept while in the meantime continuing to improve it. It's hard to tell if an actual "Pleasure Island" type theme park would have actually worked. But the possibilities would have been endless instead of shoehorning themselves into a limited California theme (which let's face it, no longer makes ANY sense).
Imagine with the amount of AP's they have now how a true nighttime park would benefit them, and maybe even after spending all that money to "fix" DCA They wouldn't have to have DCA only Annual Passes.
Maybe one day Disney will give us a park that is different but actually invest the money in that park to make it successful from day one. Instead of being reactionary and adding cheap overlays and last minute shows they do it right the first time.
But sadly it likely won't be in our lifetime.
Today we're taking our first look at the amazing EPCOT Food and Wine Festival for the 2016 season. As you'll see there is SO much good food and drink to take in this year that we can't even fit it into one update. So guess we'll have to do it again soon. =)
Written by Renée Girard
(Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version)
We're going to be eating and drinking our way around the world today at Epcot!
Signs at the entrance of Epcot with some food favorites
There are several shops and kiosks around Epcot to do some shopping for food and wine festival merchandise
You can get your own Food and Wine festival medal for $200 to wear proudly around Epcot
The Chew will be back filming at Epcot once again this year
Oooh, selfie stick at a Disney park
First stop of the day is Farm Fresh for some loaded mac and cheese.
We got the always popular pork slider in Hawaii but someone ate it before I could take a photo
They are making great use of The Odyssey building again for one of our favorite stops, craft beer!
We'll take one of everything, please!
We're skipping desserts and champagne for now, but it looks like they have one of the priciest drinks at the festival.
Islands of The Caribbean is a new booth for 2016.
The wine and cheese sampler is delicious! Highly recommend getting this.
We will definitely be stopping back at the chocolate studio later!
The peanut butter and whites chocolate mousse with the festival Cabernet Sauvignon is excellent at The Chew Collective
Loaded Greek nachos and spanakopita from Greece. Yum!
The pretzel bread is an awesome addition to the cheddar cheese soup this year!
The coffee stands have some seasonal offerings and specialty drinks for the festival too
$1 coffee at Disney? Yes!
The warm chocolate pudding from Ireland is always amazing!
We love the cheese bread from Brazil!
Another new item this year is the spicy hummus fries from Morocco. So good!
Disappointed that a beer flight wasn't offered at Hops & Barley but we still enjoyed the Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale
Pumpkin fans rejoice, you can get pumpkin spice funnel cake at Epcot!
Escaping the rain showers and taking a break at the Chase Lounge.
The Brewer's Collection offers an unadvertised beer flight, hooray!
RIP Mexico margarita stand.
Please be responsible at the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival . Don't drink and climb.
The Festival Center at the old Wonders of Life building at Epcot
At the Festival Center, you can attend seminars, do some shopping, and sample wine and chocolate
Handmade chocolate displays at the Festival Center: Ratatouille, Star Wars, A Bug's Life and Expedition Everest
A look at a few of the booths we have yet to sample ... but we'll be back. =)
And some more... it's pretty much impossible to try everything in one day at Epcot!
Editors Note: Challenge Accepted!!!
After eating and drinking around the world, it's time to go soarin' around the world.
The bakery in The Land at Epcot always has some really cool treats!
We stopped by the Inside Out meet and greet to say hi to Joy and Sadness
Traveling around the world again for a few more things. Cooper's Brewery ale from Australia is yummy!
Beef brisket and Sam Adams grapefruit IPA from Hops and Barley
Los Lobos performing for Eat to the Beat
Finishing the night with some delicious Belgian waffles!
Attempting to wait for Frozen in hopes that the wait time is less than posted (75 min). Hey look, Sven is proud of his medal!
Frozen Ever After was only a 25 min wait. I have to admit, we really love this ride! Here's a rare sight, an empty queue.
Goodnight from Epcot! Had a great time eating and drinking around the world at the Food and Wine Festival!