Le Cellier Review

Walt Disney World May 2012 930


The delicious meats of Canada beckon carnivores like us from opposite ends of the park. Le Cellier is one of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World, and it has a legion of fans. While we like the restaurant, we don’t believe it’s as great as many make it out to be. Le Cellier is located in Epcot’s World Showcase in the Canada pavilion. Le Cellier participates in the Disney Dining Plan. It also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.

We last dined at Le Cellier in 2012, but 2013 changes to Le Cellier’s status (it’s now a Signature Restaurant for both lunch and dinner, and has one single menu so you can’t choose less expensive options for lunch) have caused us to revise this review slightly. We typically pay out of pocket when dining here, as this restaurant is not a good value on the Disney Dining Plan because it requires two credits. (more…)

Disneyland Bar Crawl Guide

Although no alcohol is sold in Disneyland itself (except in Club 33), locations in Disney California Adventure, the Disney-owned hotels, and Downtown Disney serve alcohol. Here’s our guide to the best beer and mixed drinks available throughout Disneyland Resort.

While it’s not as popular as Drinking Around the World at Epcot in Walt Disney World, leisurely afternoon spent exploring the various Disneyland Resort bars is a lot of fun. Plus, all of these bars are within a short walk of one another given Disneyland’s condensed footprint, so it’s easy to hit them all in one day.

Fruity sugar-laden drinks are nice in moderation…

Some of the mixed drinks here might be off-menu at some locations, but they’re listed because the bartenders at the given location do a great job with these drinks. We try to give a couple suggestions for each location so that you don’t have to order a random drink off what I “lovingly” prefer to as the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®. I loathe this menu of sugar-water and vibrantly color concoctions meant to appeal only to vacationers who don’t regularly drink. It is the epitome of what is wrong with the contemporary Disney theme parks: homogenization that has replaced unique experiences in the name of saving a few bucks because bean-counters either don’t understand the “Disney Difference,” or think most guests won’t notice, anyway. More importantly, if you’re someone who has the mental and physical fortitude to partake in a bar crawl, you will be largely unimpressed by these drinks. Plus, consuming more than a couple will make you sick to your stomach from an overdose of sugar. (more…)

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar Review

Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar is located at the Disneyland Hotel (and rumored to be opening at Disney’s Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World in February 2015). Drawing inspiration from the Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Adventurers Club, and many other locations from Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Trader Sam’s is a richly themed location, and is a veritable treasure-trove for Disney theme park fans with its excellent drinks, sight gags, and many many references to Disney history. You can take a look at some of these awesome references and gags in our Trader Sam’s Backstory & Details post.

Trader Sam’s offers Annual Passholder discounts and also serves food from its own menu and from the kitchen of the nearby Tangaroa Terrace. Both restaurants opened as part of the extensive recent overhaul to the Disneyland Hotel. (more…)

Disneyland Christmas Trip Report 2011 Pt 7

The meal at Club 33 may have been over, but the SUITED UP Disneyland Resort Bar Crawl was just beginning. Our goal was originally to hit every bar on Disneyland property, as we assumed this had never been done in one day given that Club 33 had a bar that most people couldn’t access. Unfortunately, we came a little short of this goal.

Obviously, nothing else could be accomplished in Disneyland, so it was time to hit the rest of the Resort. First stop, Disney California Adventure. Minus one short stop there, we had pretty well neglected Disney California Adventure this trip. This trend would continue. As I’ve mentioned before, we like DCA, but with very little in the way of Christmas decorations and no attractions with seasonal overlays, it just didn’t make sense to spend much time during our first Disneyland Christmas trip at DCA. Plus, we view Disney California Adventure as more of a warm-weather lounging around park, and the weather was anything but warm. Rest assured, on our next Disneyland trip, we’ll be spending the bulk of our time in Disney California Adventure!

The first stop was to get FastPasses for World of Color. It seemed a little odd to be walking into the 90s-hip-”X-Games”-esque area of Grizzly Peak Recreation Area in a suit, but I suppose that was half the fun of this bar crawl. A lot of the places we intended upon visiting (Silly Symphony Swings, etc.) weren’t actually places you’d normally find suited up bros.

After acquiring FastPasses for the late show of World of Color, we headed to Ariel’s Grotto. Or, should I say, everyone else headed there while I stopped at Paradise Bay seating area to get some photos of the sunset over Paradise Pier. I told them I’d meet up with them at the bar.

In no time, they were back. The Cover Bar at Ariel’s was either really busy, or already had a cover charge, or something. I don’t quite remember (I was still in the zone taking my pictures), but for whatever reason, we couldn’t go there. Already our plans for a complete bar crawl of Disneyland Resort had been thwarted!

Instead, we headed to the Mendocino Bar at Golden Vine Winery. I can never remember the name of this place (Henry simply refers to it as the Lassetter Bar because…I think maybe he thinks John Lasseter owns it or something? I really have no idea why), but it’s the second-story bar above Wine Country Trattoria. This places offers the best views in the park, with the possible exception of Cove Bar, which overlooks Paradise Pier. Mendocino Bar offers great views of Cars Land, and I think these views will be even better once Cars Land opens.

This bar is rarely busy (unless you know it’s there, it’s easy to miss), and this evening wasn’t much of an exception. However, the service was somewhere between terrible and atrocious. I believe it took us around 30 minutes to receive our drinks after ordering them, and once Sarah and Kate finally received their coffee-alcohol concoctions, they realized these drinks were disgusting. I have no idea what these drinks were, Sarah said they ordered Irish Coffees, but whomever created the recipe for this drink clearly was intoxicated. Due to some twisted curiosity (and my desire to not waste $10) I tried the drink, and it was gag inducing. I would err on the side of caution and never order a coffee drink at the Mendocino Bar.

My drink was better, but since it came off of the lovely Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu® (gotta love that drawing of Miss Tilly from Typhoon Lagoon on Disneyland bar menus!), it was 3 parts flavored sugar water and 1 part alcohol. I think it was the Antioxidant Cocktail, but that’s really just a guess. I should have just followed Henry’s lead and ordered a decent beer.

After an eternity, we received our bills and paid them, before making our way out of the park. Of course, I had to stop for some blue hour photos along the way!

Next, we headed over to the Hearthstone Lounge at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa. This is one of Henry’s favorite bars on property, and we had visited there previously in May. We had a great time in May, as our bartender was great, making us some wonderful off-menu drinks that weren’t primarily sugar-water.

This time, there were no spots at the bar, so we grabbed a table in the back, and a server came to help us. We asked what she recommended, thinking a server in a bar might have an idea as to the bartender’s specialties. This was obviously a ridiculous assumption on our part. Instead, she told us that “anything on that menu is good.” She was referring to the aforementioned Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®. It’s a good thing I didn’t have another couple of drinks in me, as my urge to respond, “Really? Because we’ve had several of the drinks in that menu and they all pretty much suck!” would have gotten the better of me. Instead, we tried to extract some sort of recommendation out of her, but this got us nowhere, except the information that she had only worked there a couple of months. I can’t recall exactly what I ordered, but I think it might’ve been the Tennessee Honey. No clue what Sarah ordered.

At this point, as you can probably tell, it was a crap-shoot with that Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®. I was basically closing my eyes, flipping through the menu, and randomly pointing at things. No clue why I didn’t switch to beer. Disney may have a generally paltry craft beer selection, but the few craft beers they do have are better than those awful mixed drinks (which I don’t normally drink, anyway).

We left Hearthstone and headed for Paradise Pier Hotel. I’m not even sure that the bar here had a name. Everything I can find online simply refers to it as the “bar in the lobby.” I ordered a Long Island Ice Tea here, and this was much better than any of the drinks I had ordered from the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®.

This was actually our first time in Paradise Pier Hotel, and while the bar was underwhelming (we literally were just sitting in the lobby while some Tinkerbell movie played), the hotel itself looked surprisingly nice. A lot of it had not been changed since Paradise Pier had undergone its massive retheming, but I thought this was sort of cool. I enjoy seeing remnants of Disney California Adventure past (the ice cream carts are good for this), so this was neat. Plus, I don’t think the somewhat dated art somehow hurts the hotel. Disneyland Hotel now features art from long-gone or changed attractions, yet no one complains about that. Perhaps it’s the stigma associated with 2001 Disney California Adventure versus that of 1955 Disneyland that makes the difference!

After Paradise Pier Hotel, it was time for Trader Sam’s! Given that we had already been there, we knew this is one bar with a menu that would not disappoint. Our only concern was that it would be packed since it was rather small, and we were visiting on a weekend. Much to our surprise, it was not too busy.

We started out with the Uh Oa! for the four of us to split. The menu describes it well: “Whoever is brave enough to conjure up this concoction cursed by Uh Oa, the tiki goddess of disaster, must be forewarned: When you mess with Polynesia, the tiki gods will squeeze ya (often with a lime)! Light and Dark Rums, Orange, Passion Fruit, Guava, and Grapefruit Juices, Falernum, Cinnamon, and Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice. Recommended for two or more guests.” As it was on our previous visit, this drink was awesome. The presentation was great, and the reaction from the building was a hoot.

I’d definitely make sure to order this with at least one other person. It doesn’t taste like there’s much alcohol in it, but it seemed to sneak up on us. Despite all of the juices, it wasn’t overly sugary like the drinks on the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®.

After that, we each ordered one more drink. At this point, Sarah and I didn’t need another drink each. Although these events were spaced out over the course of several hours, I think that Uh Oa! had gotten to us. We were feeling good after it, and by the time we finished our next drink, we were feeling a little loopy!

The thing is, it’s tough to pass up a Kungaloosh! That’s what Henry, Kate, and I all ordered, with Sarah ordering a different specialty “building reaction” drink. While I still miss the Adventurers Club, Trader Sam’s carries on its bloodlines well. Plus, at Trader Sam’s, at least when we were there, there were no annoying regulars who recited lines and acted obnoxiously in general. This was one of the things we absolutely hated about the Adventurers Club (I really wish that place had a separate cover that EVERYONE had to pay EVERY night), and I strongly suspect many of the vocal fans still mourning the loss of the Adventurers Club are these obnoxious idiots.

I could go on a lengthy diatribe about these guests, but I would hazard a guess that they’re part of the reason that it closed in the first place. It’s been stated by multiple insiders that the Adventurers Club, and Pleasure Island as a whole, closed because of profit margins (it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to pinpoint this as the reason, even without insiders–if the clubs were as profitable as Disney would’ve liked, they’d still be open today. That’s how the Walt Disney Company operates in this era!) Given that they seemed to never purchase drinks, were always there (suggesting to me they were Cast Members or admission was included on their APs), and were probably annoying to other casual guests, I can’t imagine that they gave the Adventurers Club much financial support. If anything, they caused others to give it less support with their annoying behavior. A bit ironic that those mourning the loss of the Club most loudly are the very ones who helped lead to its demise!

About the time loopy set in for Sarah and me, we decided that it’d be a good idea to head over to elecTRONica. Actually, I suspect she had been scheming to do this all along. While I hate dancing, if I have a couple of drinks in me, it suddenly becomes the best of ideas. I’m fairly certain that I’m still terrible at it, but I like it a lot more for some reason. For this, we decided that we needed to head back to the hotel to change, so we caught a cab, intending to regroup with Henry and Kate at elecTRONica in 30 minutes.

It took far longer than this to get to our room, get changed, and return. Once we finally did get back to Disney California Adventure, there were only 30 minutes or so left of elecTRONica. Sarah really wanted to do that, but I thought it’d be a better idea to get in line for World of Color, which also started in around 30 minutes. We compromised, heading over to elecTRONica for 10 minutes (it was almost a ghost town at this point) then making our way to World of Color. Thankfully we had FastPasses, as they allowed us to head right down to the front row of the show! Even without them, it wasn’t too busy, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

This was the first time seeing World of Color this trip, and I was really excited to see the Prep & Landing tag at the beginning of the show. The Christmas Song (no, not the one sung by those three chipmunks) will never be the same to us after seeing World of Color’s new Christmas tag.

This is because, much like the animated Christmas special upon which it’s based, World of Color now begins with The Christmas Song as blue and white jets of water methodically cross one another.

Of course, also much like Prep & Landing, this doesn’t last long before everyone’s favorite elves show up and begin their work, descending down into the mist of the World of Color fountains wearing their night-vision goggles. Even though the introductory tag is only around three minutes in duration, it is an action packed three minutes (well, after the elves cut short the slow rendition of the Christmas Song), complete with red and green lasers, background projections on California Screamin’, and even a Christmas tree composed of water jets!

The Prep & Landing tag is definitely not-to-be-missed. Hopefully in future years Disney California Adventure will take advantage of the programmable nature of the World of Color jets to create an entirely new Christmas show along the lines of the “Believe… In Holiday Magic” fireworks, but for now, the Prep & Landing tag is a great addition that really utilizes all of the technology and features of World of Color quite well. And hey, at least it’s better than LuminAria!

The rest of the show began as it normally did, with a few cool changes made since we had last seen it in May. I’ll cover those in a later installment of the trip report.

After World of Color, we headed back to Disneyland, where we were set to meet the three photographers who run Tours Departing Daily. I played text-message tag with them for a little bit, and we rode Pooh in the interim.

We finally found them up by Sleeping Beauty Castle, where we shared some war stories with them for a little bit and talked photography in general. They were a cool bunch, about our age (I’d guess) and definitely passionate about Disneyland. I’d highly recommend that you checkout their website, especially if you’re interested in fine art HDR photos of Disneyland. Awesome stuff.

After a bit, we made our way over to “it’s a small world” holiday to do some shooting there. We had already shot our hearts out at “it’s a small world” holiday (of course I thought that at the time, but now I’m sure I could come up with 20 new shots!) during the course of that trip, so we separated to head to New Orleans Square.

Once in NOS, I tried a few shots that came to mind earlier that day, during the daylight hour that were better suited for nighttime.

From there, we made our way back to the hub through Adventureland and Frontierland, stopping to take a few random photos (more illustrative than artistic) along the way.

Once we arrived back in the hub, we went through Sleeping Beauty Castle to Fantasyland and found the Tours Departing Daily photographers again. We shot with them for a bit, which was fun. I always enjoy seeing other photographers work, as it’s interesting how they approach shots. Plus, during the nighttime hours at Disneyland, it seems like there’s strength in numbers.

Exhausted from our early morning, and day of eating and drinking, we called it an early night. As said our goodbyes to the Tours Departing Daily crew (who undoubtedly thought we were actually “weak” if they had previously heard that we try to stay in the parks as late as possible) and headed out.

Next time we go to Disneyland, I’m going to have to find a better way to adjust to the time zone difference. More than anything else, that killed me this trip. There’s nothing quite like going to bed at 2 am and then waking up before 7 am. While I don’t need a whole lot of sleep, less than 5 hours per night is not ideal!

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Epcot Food And Wine Festival Seminar Reviews

With the 2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival country booths soon to be announced, as well as celebrity presentations, Eat to the Beat concert performers, special events, and seminars, a lot of you are probably wondering if Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival is worth your time. Let me answer that question for you, with a resounding YES!

In addition to the snacks found at the country kiosks throughout World Showcase (click here for our top picks), one of our favorite things about Food & Wine Festival is the seminars (although we’ve never done the special events or celebrity chef-prepared meals). Certain seminars are free, although there can be long waits for these seminars due to locals with nothing better to do on a weekend than wait in line (sorry locals, not a knock at you, my weekend time at home isn’t that valuable, either.) By contrast, the paid seminars don’t have lines, and for around $11-13 each this year, they offer terrific value and a much better use of your biggest resource on vacation: your time. To give you an idea of what to expect from each type of seminar, read these reviews from past year’s seminars. While these exact seminars will not be offered this year, seminar value is fairly consistent. (more…)