Katsura Grill Review

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Katsura Grill is a counter service restaurant in the Japan Pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World. The menu here is quite expansive, and consists of teriyaki, udon, sushi, curry, and various combos. For an ostensibly Japanese restaurant, many of these options are fairly approachable and will appeal to a broad selection of guests. In other words, it’s fairly Americanized. You aren’t going to find poisonous fugu fish that will leave you with 22 hours to live if you eat it.

While Katsura Grill made our list as the #3 counter service restaurant in Epcot, it’s worth noting that it’s not in the same league as Tangierine Cafe or Sunshine Seasons. In terms of basic info, Katsura Grill participates in the Disney Dining Plan, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. It can be a reasonably priced or expensive meal depending upon what you order–it’s a solid use of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit if you order one of the combos and are trying to maximize your counter service credit value on the Disney Dining Plan.

We tend to eat at Katsura Grill a lot. Here’s why… (more…)

Drinking Around the World Showcase at Epcot

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This post is a guide to Drinking Around the World in Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World, with our picks for the best beers, wine, and mixed drinks. There’s also plenty of strategy for conquering this worldly task without climbing up the side of Mexico pavilion and holding up a Duffy plush Lion King style. We originally wrote this post a couple of years ago, and have now updated it for 2015 with new ideas and drink recommendations.

Since most of us probably won’t be able to haphazardly spend thousands of dollars to fly to Paris at a moment’s notice for some artisan cheeses or brave a winter in Canada just for some fine brews anytime soon, Epcot’s World Showcase offers us the next best option: sampling many alcoholic beverages and decadent desserts of the world in authentic-looking environments all while on vacation at Walt Disney World. Of course, whose bucket list doesn’t also include having a drink in 10 different countries in a single day? No? Well, now you can add it to your list and cross it off. 

The premise is simple: start out at one end of World Showcase, and continue through the countries, sampling a drink and/or dessert in each country. As there are 11 countries in the World Showcase, this is easier said than done. It’s even more difficult during Food & Wine Festival, when Epcot adds lots of kiosks that serve additional drinks. If you’re looking to complete this drinking event then, check out our Guide to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival for additional tips & info. With even more drinking options, expect Drinking Around the World during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to be a lot of fun…albeit perhaps not for your liver.

First, we will start with our tips and strategies for Drinking Around the World Showcase, generally, followed by specific drink recommendations…. (more…)

Top 10 Epcot Counter Service Restaurants

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This post ranks the best quick service restaurants in Epcot at Walt Disney World, including both World Showcase and Future World. Rankings are best on overall quality, with factors such as quality, uniqueness, menu variety, and more all taken into account. There are also photos of some of our favorite food items from each location, which might help you visual folks make the decision a little easier.

Epcot has long been regarded as one of the best dining options at Walt Disney World, with World Showcase in particular viewed as a culinary highlight. It should thus come as no surprise that we view Epcot as having the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. There are a couple of things that probably will surprise you, though. First, this reputation is largely predicated upon its top 2 dining options: Sunshine Seasons and Tangierine Cafe, both of which are also near the top of our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list. Second, there actually are not a lot of good counter service options in Epcot that have “full” menus as compared to Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Given that a lot of the spots that could be considered counter service restaurants around Epcot have very limited menus, and since I’ve learned from my mistake of ranking every counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom (including the Starbucks Main Street Bakery and seasonal places that are seldom open), I’m limiting this to a top 10. This means that some small stands aren’t on this list at all, which is either a product of them not being noteworthy, or of us just never having tried them.

All in all, we think that Epcot is a fairly straightforward park when it comes to counter service, with the good choices being undeniably good, and the rest being varying degrees of decent. There are a couple of surprises, particularly with restaurants we’ve previously criticized that have since improved. It is also worth noting that most of the options in World Showcase are highly dependent upon what you think of a particular regional cuisine. Namely, if you don’t like it at all, you likely won’t like its Epcot counterpart, and if you are used to highly authentic versions of a particular cuisine, you might find the Epcot versions overly Americanized or bland.

We’ve separately reviewed many of the Epcot restaurants in this post, so if you want to know more, those thorough reviews are the way to go. To read our full reviews and see additional food photos of each spot, click the restaurant name (if it’s not click-able, we have yet to review it).

Let’s get started with the Epcot counter service rankings…

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Best IllumiNations Viewing Spots

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This post highlights the best viewing spots for the IllumiNations fireworks at Epcot in Walt Disney World. Here we will provide some general tips about the best locations, and point out the best of these on a map of World Showcase. I’ve watched and photographed IllumiNations way too many times (actually, you can never see IllumiNations too many times–it’s by far the best nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World) and can say that not all viewing spots for Illuminations were created equally.

Unfortunately, unlike my Best Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Spots post which contained an easy to follow map with color coded areas of good, bad, and okay spots from which to watch Wishes!, the same really isn’t possible for Epcot. This is because within a span of 10 feet, you might have both an awesome and awful viewing spot, due to trees, food carts, or other obstructions.

Instead of a color-coded map that won’t really be helpful, for this post I’m going to instead highlight my 5 favorite spots, along with some alternatives to those spots, and general discussions about choosing a spot for watching IllumiNations. Choosing a prime location for IllumiNations is actually easier said than done, as certain variables, such as the direction of the wind and where there might be IllumiNations dessert parties or private events that eliminate potential viewings areas as options for regular park guests change often.

Before choosing a spot for IllumiNations on a particular day, determine which way the wind is blowing. There are all sorts of scientific ways for doing this (and there’s probably an app for it), but it should be as simple feeling the wind blow on you. If it’s intense enough that you can feel the wind, you will want to avoid anywhere that will be down-wind of the center of the fireworks in the middle of World Showcase Lagoon. The show can produce a lot of smoke, and if you’re down-wind of that, you may not see much of the second half of the show. Most nights it’s not windy enough for this to be a problem, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

The first thing you should do when arriving at any potential viewing spot is to survey the area above and around you to see if there are any torches, light poles, or trees blocking your view of the Lagoon. If so, and you still have the time to find a different spot, do so.

If you didn't blink for 103 seconds, this is what Illuminations would look like to you. I don't recommend not blinking for 103 seconds. This fireworks photo was shot with a neutral density filter.More on neutral density filters: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/neutral-density-filter-reviews-buying-guide/

Along the same lines, but easier said than done, look towards the middle of World Showcase Lagoon to determine whether you can see to the middle, or if your view is blocked by a little island of trees. There are a couple of these that can impact views of the Earth Globe barge during the show.

The good news is that, obstructions and weather aside, since IllumiNations takes place in the center of World Showcase Lagoon, if you pick a spot that can see the center of the Lagoon, you will be able to see IllumiNations. It isn’t like Wishes in this regard, as some spots that have good views of Cinderella Castle actually are poor views of the fireworks due to perspective distortion. There’s no perspective distortion here. The bad news is that IllumiNations doesn’t just take place high in the air…it also has low-level fireworks and a globe display, meaning you really will want a “front row” spot along the rails around World Showcase Lagoon.

That pretty much covers the basics, now let’s take a look at my favorite specific spots… (more…)

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2015 Guide

The 2015 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs March 4 to May 17, 2015 at Walt Disney World. This guide covers our tips & tricks for experiencing the highlights of the Flower & Garden Festival, as well as what to expect from the new for 2015 offerings. Actually, as of right now, it doesn’t sound like a whole lot has changed for 2015. The “Outdoor Kitchen” food kiosks return for 2015, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more added, making this like a mini Food & Wine Festival.

Aside from the snacking, Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival offers Walt Disney World guests the ability to enjoy expert-designed flower and garden displays, Disney character topiaries, the “Garden Rocks” live music concert series (formerly Flower Power concert series), special programs and seminars by HGTV (the main sponsor), DIY, and Epcot expert gardeners. Most of the offerings for Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival are included with theme park admission to Epcot.

Because most of the event is basically a “plussing” of Epcot at no additional charge, we highly recommend it. Whether you’re a first time guest or a seasoned veteran of Walt Disney World, visiting during Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival is a great idea. Epcot is at its most beautiful during Flower & Garden Festival. (Disney often uses the #EpcotInSpring and #EpcotInBloom hashtags to promote the beauty of Flower & Garden Festival, and hashtags never lie! ;) ) Really, though, the park smells and looks wonderful, and there are a lot of unique offerings, displays, and photographic opportunities.

While Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival used to be our favorite time to visit Epcot, the prices have skyrocketed, as have the crowds of drunks. Flower & Garden is a nice time to visit for lower crowds, and you can still enjoy some of the snacking (albeit to a lesser degree) without the headache of the crowds and lines. In general, many of these spring dates of Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival are great times to visit Walt Disney World (consult that guide to avoid the busy weeks).

Thinking a visit to Flower & Garden Festival might be for you? Then keep reading this guide for our ins and outs, and top picks for the festival!

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