Top 5 Bakeries at Disney World

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Fans of baked goods and desserts rejoice, as here’s our top 5 best bakeries at Walt Disney World! All participate in the Disney Dining Plan with both snacks and counter service meals offered. Notable about this list is that every single location here is located in the Crescent Lake Resort Area (or Epcot Resort Area), with no locations being in the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or any of the resort hotels in the area.

While the Magic Kingdom used to have one of the best bakeries in the Main Street Bakery, since it converted to a Starbucks location, its menu has been a subpar and generic mix of Starbucks desserts, and options like Gaston’s Tavern and Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery simply have too thin of menus to really compete with the other entries on this list. In fact, outside of the locations on this list, there are few spots at Walt Disney World with enough menu options to really qualify as standout bakeries. There are many spots with a couple of standout items, but few locations with heavy-hitting bakery menus.

As big fans of desserts and sweets, this is a bit disappointing, although probably a good thing for both our wallets and our waistlines, as it’s probably for the best that we can’t do a daily “Walt Disney World Bakery Hop” on our trips. As much as we might lobby for cupcakes being made their own food group at the top of the food pyramid, you’re still only “supposed” to have 4 servings of cupcake per day, and we would definitely exceed that amount if more bakeries would around Walt Disney World. ;)

With that said, here is our list of the top bakeries at Walt Disney World. Below each pick is a brief synopsis as to why it makes the list… (more…)

Tear Down That Sorcerer’s Hat!

Note: This post was originally published two years ago as an editorial concerning why the Sorcerer’s Hat should be removed as part of the rumored overhaul of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Two years later, that overhaul still remains a strong rumor, but there has been confirmation that the Sorcerer’s Hat finally will be removed in early 2015. As such, we thought it appropriate to republish this post. It’s as timely now as it was in 2012. 

With a lot of rumors that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is set for a massive overhaul and expansion presently floating around, I thought it would be a good time to weigh in. No, not on the substance of what will be added specifically. I don’t pretend to have any “insider” information, although I am hopeful that Kathy Mangum’s relocation to Florida means something other than Cars Land coming to Florida (my preference would be for it to remain exclusive to Disney California Adventure so that park can have its own unique draw). I’m referring to something far more important–something that needs to be removed as part of any overhaul at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Big Sorcerer Hat (also known as the BAH–I’ll let you mull over that acronym in your head). Over the years, the number of people who like the Big Sorcerer Hat exactly where it stands has surprised me. To be clear, I have absolutely no issue with the Big Sorcerer Hat, I just think it’s not thematically appropriate for its present location in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and should be removed on that basis.

For years, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre had acted as a thematically appropriate “weenie” at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards (not necessarily the park’s main icon–by most accounts Earful Tower was meant to be that) drawing guests down Hollywood Boulevard, which was themed, unsurprisingly, to various design styles of old Hollywood. Grauman’s itself similarly represented old Hollywood, being a re-creation of one of the most iconic theaters in Hollywood. It similarly fit the theme of Sunset Boulevard and transitioned nicely into the surrounding area. While the architecture down the Boulevards might seem like a random mish-mash, it is far from that. In fact, close inspection reveals that the Imagineers went to painstaking lengths to model the buildings after period locations in Hollywood. All of these buildings are representative of an idealized old Hollywood (“the Hollywood that never was and will always be”), and create a clear visual motif and theme to this portion of the park. (more…)

Frozen at Walt Disney World

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Any parent taking their kids on vacation probably wants to know where to find Anna, Elsa, and the rest of the Frozen characters at Walt Disney World. Currently, Frozen Summer Fun Live! is the main offering being held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and consisting of a variety of things, with the Princess Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet taking place in the Magic Kingdom. Oh, and you practically cannot turn around in a gift shop without seeing something Frozen. 

What is looming on the horizon remains to be seen, current popular speculation suggests that Frozen will replace Maelstrom in Norway at Epcot, perhaps with Imagineering going as far as taking out Norway and adding Arendelle. Beyond that, it’s almost certain that the Frozen Summer Fun Live! special entertainment that’s running at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and is slated to conclude on September 28, 2014 will be extended at least until the beginning of 2015. Walt Disney World frequently extends popular offerings “by guest demand” (see Main Street Electrical Parade, which was slated to run only for Summer Nightastic…that was 4 years ago) and the Frozen Celebration has redefined popular, giving Disney’s Hollywood Studios an incredible shot in the arm in the process.

With the American Idol Experience having closed on August 30, 2014 and located on prime real estate, there’s heavy speculation that the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration will be relocated from its current soundstage to a less-temporary set-up in the former home of the American Idol Experience, “Superstar Television Theater.” There’s also new speculation that Anna & Elsa are having their meet & greet return to Norway in Epcot’s World Showcase. There are rumors of an Olaf meet & greet during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. About the only park that doesn’t have any strong rumors concerning Frozen is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and we want to remedy that by starting the (fake) rumor of Sven the Reindeer’s Wild Ride (featuring real reindeer!) coming soon to that park. It’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, except different every time you ride…and you’ll have to sign a waiver!

The flurry of rumor activity concerning Frozen should come as no surprise. Disney likely wants to strike while the iron is hot, and there’s nothing hotter than Frozen. It’s so popular that in July analysts were already predicting one of the “it” Christmas toys would be a Frozen Snow Glow Singing Elsa Doll. There are about a zillion covers of “Let It Go” on YouTube. You can’t visit Tumblr without seeing Frozen fan art. Frozen has its own popular subreddit. It’s a cultural phenomenon, just about every child in the country is absolutely entranced by it. Even more impressive, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. I didn’t realize just how big of a deal it was until attending the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, and hearing a chorus of children singing the words to every song, even when the words weren’t displayed on the screen! It was like a cult chant…except cheerful children singing upbeat music.

Let’s not fixate on what might happen with Frozen at Walt Disney World, let’s take a look at what is happening, along with our tips and advice for how to approach it… (more…)

Tips for Finding Good Beer At Disney World

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Walt Disney World offers a number of craft beers and microbrews in its parks and resort hotels. This post offers tips for finding delicious beer at Walt Disney World, which can be a bit of a challenge. In addition to the normal BMC options you can find just about anywhere (besides the Magic Kingdom), there are some exceptional beers throughout Walt Disney World…you just need to know where to look.

Unlike wine, which (I’m told) Walt Disney World does pretty well–even touting things like their selection of South African wines at Animal Kingdom Lodge–the same effort isn’t put into having high quality beers. Most outdoor vending carts that serve beer at Walt Disney World have Bud Light, plus maybe a token alternative. Nothing against Bud Light–they are great at convincing people their beer is worthwhile with their astronomical marketing budget–but Bud Light is awful. Okay, so everything against Bud Light. BMC are sort of like the fast food of beers: okay options in a pinch, but probably few beer drinkers’ favorites if they had to choose. If Bud Light is your favorite beer, I’d encourage you to try a variety of other beers and give them a chance.

If you haven’t gathered from the remarks towards BMC, I’m sort of a beer snob. Coming from Michigan, I came of drinking age right around the time of the big explosion in craft brewing, with Bell’s opening its brewery ~10 miles from my house about a decade ago. Add to that other great options like Founders (every craft beer aficionado should attend a Kentucky Breakfast Stout release party at some time in their life), Arcadia, New Holland, Dark Horse, and many more, and my opinions of beer have really been shaped by living in one of the greatest beer state. Not really sure how this is relevant to the topic of the post, but I like giving props to my home state when I have the chance. Moving on…

When we first started visiting Walt Disney World as adults, there was a serious dearth of craft beer options, and the selection was laughable. If you wanted a good beer, you pretty much were stuck going to Le Cellier for some Unibroue. While that’s still a great option, Walt Disney World has recognized the growing discontent with BMC, and has incorporated better options into their menus. Things have improved substantially almost every year for the last ~5 years, and continue to get better. So props to Disney for that.

If you’re looking for great beer at Walt Disney World, here are some tips… (more…)

Disney Around the World: Tower of Terror

Today, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror celebrates its 20th anniversary at Walt Disney World. As I believe this is a seminal Disney attraction that showcases Walt Disney Imagineering at its peak, and since there are a few very different incarnations of the Tower of Terror, I thought it’d be fun to look at how they vary around the world.

While I normally am not a huge fan of cloning attractions, Tower of Terror is an exception, right there with Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. There are two reasons for this. First, all of these attractions are so good that they are deserving of homes in every park in the world (you dropped the ball, Hong Kong!). Second, there are enough differences among the various versions that, as a fan of these attractions, it’s actually a joy to see a ‘new’ take on a familiar concept when in the other parks.

My fandom of the Tower of Terror stems from two things: the queue to post-show detail and brilliance of the Tower of Terror, and the way it weaves in the Twilight Zone (one of my all-time favorite television shows) universe into most versions of the attraction.

With that, we invite you if you dare, to join us in a most uncommon elevator, about to take a strange journey. Your destination…the worldwide Disney theme parks… (more…)