I have a problem with Animal Kingdom in concept (which I’m sure I’ll address when I do my Things to Improve Animal Kingdom piece) as essentially, it’s a zoo, and I don’t care for zoos. On the other hand, I do like Thrill Rides, and as anyone whose been on it knows, Expedition Everest is a lot of fun, so I can’t bypass the park all together, and a brotha’s gotta eat. Let’s take a look at what a vegan can have at the Kingdom! Read the rest of this entry
Oh Magic Kingdom, with your mountains and your spectacle and your castles… it doesn’t get much better than the Magic Kingdom, does it? And when it comes to being vegan, there are actually options! Nothing to get crazy over, but options!
Perhaps the fact that there are options at all is cause enough for celebration. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been to Downtown Disney maybe three or four times in its existence and I’m not sure if I’ve ever given it a fair shake and spent more than a few hours there, but, to be frank, I’m not sure it deserves one.
My biggest problem with Downtown Disney is the design: it’s a long strip rather than a location with a heart, which creates a lot of unnecessary walking on a vacation that is already walk heavy. For me, the stores are small and don’t feature many items and there is a serious lack of bars. The bars we found were small or outdoors, and when it’s a million degrees out in Orlando, you’ll find yourself making a deal with the devil for an air conditioned bar. The restaurants are nothing special (mostly chain restaurants, if not entirely chains) and if you’re vegan, you’re pretty much screwed if you want an actual meal. We were lucky to stumble upon a felafel burger, which was available in the same building as Baby Cakes, the vegan bakery. (Like wanderers in the desert who’d come upon fresh water, we must have purchased a dozen or so assorted donuts, cakes and breads. It was glorious!) Even though there didn’t seem to be many people around, it always felt crowded – some of the walkways are very narrow.
AMC Dine-In Theatres at Downtown Disney
We saw The Great Gatsby in 3D at the AMC Theater, which was a satisfactory viewing experience. The image was bright, the screen was crisp and the seats were comfortable. There is a table in front of you, but it seems a bit too high to eat off of, but since there was nothing vegan on the menu, all we had was popcorn and booze, which was brought to us by a server. Last call was a bit earlier in the film than I’d expect, but maybe they were on to something as it was a race to the bathroom after the flick was over. The room wasn’t half full, so I can imagine that if it was sold out, all of the servers and activity could be distracting, but overall, we enjoyed the experience, despite the lack of food selection.
Important tip: there are two bus stops!
If you’re coming to Downtown Disney via a Disney bus, it’s important to remember that there are two bus stops. If you have a destination in mind, just ask your bus driver at which stop you should disembark. Otherwise, you’ll have to walk the full length of Downtown Disney, which isn’t that long, but again, Disney is a walk intensive vacation, and any walking you can avoid is a good thing. In any case, you’re going to end up trudging across the parking lot to get back to the bus stop, which is entirely too far from the strip.
Is Downtown Disney a must see during your Disney World vacation? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, if you need a down day away from the parks, it might be worth checking out.
Or, you could just hang at your hotel pool – that’s probably a better idea.
Our latest Walt Disney World vacation brought us to stay at the Contemporary Resort Hotel, which is my dream hotel from childhood – after all, a friggin monorail goes through the atrium! You can’t beat that, and, it turns out, this is my current favorite hotel on Walt Disney World’s property.
We didn’t have a lot of time to check out the hotel’s food, but the Contempo Café did have a flat bread offering with hummus, chickpeas and cherries that was very tasty. They also have some fruit available, so you can certainly make due here – and I am fairly certain I saw soy milk in their fridge and they also had some dry cereal lying around, so there are certainly solid vegan options here that don’t require any fuss. My understanding is that some of the other eateries at the hotel do offer vegan options or they will modify the food for you, but I haven’t experienced them first hand…
The Contemporary really shines when it comes to getting to the other parks. It’s only a five minute walk to the Magic Kingdom (or you could take the monorail all the way around the lake, but that’s a bit time consuming, yet fun) and you can take the monorail to the ticket and transportation center to get a different monorail to EPCOT. That might sound like a hassle, but believe me, by staying at the Contemporary, you can avoid taking the bus to two parks, and that is a fantastic thing. And, that brings us to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, both of which you have to take the bus to, and your bus will stop at both the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Hotels before making their way to the parks, which is lame, but there it is. It’s better than taking a bus to all four parks! There’s also boat service, but I understand it’s very slow and doesn’t go to many destinations… maybe after it stops at other hotels, you can transfer to another boat that goes to EPCOT or DHS, but I imagine that’s an hour trip at least.
Besides two souvenir styled stores, there’s a general store that has drinks, snacks, booze and stuff like that. The shopping, escalator to the monorail platform and most (all?) of the dining is on the fourth floor.
The main pool is very kid friendly and I believe only four feet deep. There’s also a toddler… wet area? I don’t know what you call that, but I wouldn’t describe it as a pool, but just a fun place for the real little kids to beat the heat. There’s also a quiet pool that tops out at 5 feet deep, and that was a great place for us to relax, away from the pool games and general activity of the pool area. There is some beach area as well, but I couldn’t really tell if swimming in the Lagoon was practical or not, but there is certainly beach area to lie out on. While I’m mentioning the lagoon, I should briefly state that the light up water pageant swings by on most evenings (all evenings?) a little after 10 PM (10:10 PM?) – it’s essentially a small version of the Main Street Electrical Parade and it’s worth seeing once, but not something you really need to schedule your evening around.
One of my favorite things about the hotel setup is that unlike the other Disney World Resorts I’ve stayed at, it’s not a sprawling complex. When we stayed at the All Star Music Hotel (motel?), we were all the way in the back and had to walk for what seemed like hours to make it to the bus stop to get to the parks. It was brutal. We didn’t have to walk nearly as far when we stayed at two different spots in Port Orleans, but it wasn’t nearly as convenient as The Contemporary.
On the other hand, I felt like we spent a lot of time waiting for the elevator and their didn’t seem to be any stairs besides the exit only acess stairs on the Magic Kingdom end of the hotel.
Staying at the Contemporary just made our stay easier and just more enjoyable overall because it was so easy and everything is centrally walking. Disney is heavy walking vacation and staying at the Contemporary cuts down on some walking, which is very welcomed. I highly recommend it.
As we’re still plowing through Disney Week here at the site, today we thought we’d do something different and introduce a series of posts that pits one thing at Walt Disney World against another. Our first Disney World Versus battle will feature the Wishes firework show at the Magic Kingdom against Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at EPCOT Center.
We’ve been going to Walt Disney World on a nearly annual basis since 2008 and while some things get better, some things stay the same. One thing that desperately needs to change is the problem shared by Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center.
Both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center just don’t have enough attractions to support the parks. This is slightly elevated at EPCOT by 1) The Presence of Alcohol and 2) The sheer size of the park, but at DHS, the problem is out there for everyone to see. Essentially, each of the parks have three premium attractions that everyone wants to experience.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Toy Story Midway Mania!
It’s not entirely true that everyone wants to experience all three of the attractions at each park I’ve mentioned…
Aside: for the following reasons
Mission Space has two missions – an ‘more intense’ and a ‘less intense’ version, so that keeps the lines down there a bit, but either way, it’s a tightly enclosed space, and some folks just aren’t up for that.
The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith goes upside down and is a roller coaster, and some people don’t like one or both of those things.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror just looks scary from the outside – I’ve seen people look at it and shake their head while simultaneously saying "No Way."
…but there is one on the list for each park that seems to be a must see for all ages: Toy Story Midway Mania! and Soarin’. I, for one, am not wild about either attractions, but I am in the smallest of minorities on this issue. And, because of the mania (if you’ll forgive the pun), these two attractions can easily by missed by casual park goers. You literally need to plan your trip to these parks around these two attractions. As soon as you walk into DHS, you’ll need to get a fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania! or you’re not going to get to visit that attraction without enduring a horrendous wait. The same goes for Soarin’ (although the refit on Test Track is taking some of the heat off Soarin’… for now, at least.), where they post a uniformed security guard at some point later in the day – probably after the fastpasses are gone.
Yeah, that’s another problem: there are only so many fastpasses they can give out in a day.
Aside: a fastpass is a ticket you pick up at the gate to the ride that instructs you at what time you can return and visit the attraction and therefore bypass nearly all of the standby line.
And because there are only so many fastpasses available per day, once they run out, you’re stuck with the standby line and a wait that can be anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, and we’re not doing that. If you don’t arrive at the park early, you’re not going to get a fastpass. For example, walking into DHS at 1 PM and trying to get a fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania! has never been possible for us – and we’ve gone to the park in January. One thing you can do is wait until just before the park closes and hop on the standby line. It’s usually a bit shorter by then and once they let you online, they will not kick you off, even if the park is technically closed. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, take advantage of those extra magic hours, but don’t depend on them for these two attractions – unless they’re in the morning and you’re there when they open, that is. Then it’s not so bad.
This bottle neck of popular attractions is beneath Disney – they can do better. So what can they do? Well, for one, they can start by investing in their parks. They’ve already neck deep in the new version of Fantasy Land at the Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT and DHS both need new attractions. At some point, I imagine DHS will be ripe with Marvel characters and attractions, but that hasn’t happened yet – perhaps because Universal Studios still have a license agreement with Marvel? I don’t know why, but one would think that Disney didn’t buy Marvel just to let that potential sit on the shelf – surely, at some point, they’ll want to incorporate those films into the parks (and hence increase their credibility with boys and stop suggesting they all dress up like murderous pirates), but maybe they’ll get there eventually. I know one of the pavilions at EPCOT is going to become Stark Industries and will presumably feature some sort of Iron Man attraction, but we’ll have to wait and see exactly how that shakes out. And speaking of EPCOT, I think they need to dedicate an entire pavilion to their roller coast simulator, The Sum of all Thrills because it is AWESOME. Planning and then riding a roller coaster was even more fun than it sounds. I barely knew it existed and had no idea where it was until a week ago. They need to rename that pavilion the after SOAT. No one knows what Inovations or Inoventions means… or whatever the hell it’s called now. (Oh and there are two pavilions with that name – that always disorients me as to where I am physically located in the park.)
When you go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center, be ready with a plan, and make sure it starts out with you arriving at the entry gate 5 minutes before the park opens and then going directly to get those fastpasses I mentioned.
If you like the CreativeJamie.com Facebook page, then you already know it’s Disney Week here at the site and you might have even already seen the video above, but it’s short, so… maybe give it another gander?
As soon as Dr. Girlfriend revealed that we were staying at the Contemporary Resort, I began hatching plans for this video. “Marge vs the Monorail” is one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to bring two things I love together.
And seriously, how awesome is the Walt Disney World monorail? 40 MPH and no traffic lights – it’s a highway in the sky! It’s one of the best things ever.
This was filmed using a Samsung Infuse 4G and edited in Adobe Premiere CS 5.5. Initially, I let YouTube do their anti shake/stabilize tool thing to the video, but it looked terrible, so I have hopefully disabled that now.
We recently visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios (aka The Artist Formerly Known as MGM) and perused the vegan dining options. Here’s what we found:
The Brown Derby
Though pricey, TheBrown Derby had an excellent vegan option in a noodle bowl that was topped with a piece of coconut incrusted tofu. I could have used a bigger piece of tofu (the tofu was really excellent, and I wouldn’t call myself a guy who loves tofu), but the noodles and the sauce that accompanied them were great, so I had no trouble eating that. Our waiter was knowledgeable and understood what we meant by ‘vegan’ to the point that he even brought us oil and balsamic vinegar rather than butter when the bread showed up. Again, two entrees and two beers cost us a small fortune, but the food was great.
Miscellaneous Veggie Burger
Although we did not try it, several locations apparently offer a veggie burger (although it looked like the ABC Commissary did not, but the outdoor spots by The Tower of Terror do as does one of the other sit down restaurants… the one with the cars, I think… Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant?), and the veggie burger comes with cheese, so you’ll have to ask them to leave that off. Again, we’ve never tried this, so we don’t know all the ins and outs – for example, if you get a veggie burger at the magic kingdom, you have to ask for a vegan bun or forgo the bun all together.
Outside of Popcorn and Pretzels…
That’s about it. You can get also get a pickle as well as fresh fruit in several spots, and there are some all fruit frozen options (or so the sign says), but that’s about it. Ultimately, you don’t go to MGM to eat, but instead, for the few attractions they offer that are worth checking out: Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, Star Tours (new version) and maybe The Muppets 3D, but they’ve been running that same movie since the park opened, and I’ve seen it a zillion times, so we skipped it on our last trip. The rest of the park is a dud – just get there in the morning, get a Fast Pass for Toy Story, hit the other aforementioned attractions, maybe have lunch in between if you have to (or just want to spend the crazy fortune that the Brown Derby costs), but don’t waste your time on anything else. And if you’re really hungry for vegan food, have a meal at one of the other parks!
Welcome to Part 3 of my on going series, Ideas to Improve Walt Disney World.
When it comes to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, I think I had some fairly constructive criticism for the folks at Walt Disney World to think over. But now I’m writing about Disney’s Hollywood Studios and… well, the center digit on either of my hands kinda sums up how I feel about the situation. Read the rest of this entry