Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Attractions - Storybook Circus First Look

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World has been undergoing the largest expansion in it's 40 year history, which will allow Fantasyland to double it's size by the year 2014. The project will open in phases with the first phase recently opening on March 12th. DLuminations visited the park and was able to experience the opening of Storybook Circus, which is taking the place of Mickey's Toontown Fair. Though still surrounded by construction walls this is a welcome addition to the Magic Kingdom.
The backstory of Storybook Circus has a circus pulling up to the new train station. From the train station you can follow animal footprints in the walkway to the attractions. Two sets of elephant prints, a mother and her baby, will lead you to the entrance of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Storybook Circus is set in Carolwood Park. Disney enthusiasts may recognize the name, it pays homage to Carolwood Pacific the railroad Walt Disney built in the backyard of his home in the 1950's.
At this time only three existing attractions are running, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Barnstormer coaster and the Fantasyland Train Station with the rest of the attractions opening later this year. Dumbo was always one of MK's most popular attractions, when the project is complete there will be a pair of Dumbo rides side by side. Dumbo now features story panels, a new soundtrack and multi colored water fountains. The Barnstormer is basically a reboot of its previous incarnation with added elements to fit the circus theme. Eventually a Casey Jr. water play area, Pete's Silly Sideshow, a gift shop and a character meet and greet location will open. New colorful costumes have been created for the castmembers, these resemble something a carnival barker might wear and the trash receptacles have been made to fit into the circus theme.
The "Royal" side of Fantasyland is expected to open in late 2013 or early 2014. Once complete this section will include attractions based on classic Disney animated features including:

A Beauty and the Beast themed area that will include the Be our Guest restaurant, Gaston's Tavern, Belle's Cottage and Maurice's workshop.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster that will take riders through the story of Snow White. This attraction will feature ride vehicles that swing back and forth.

The Princess Fairytale Hall will serve as a meet and greet location for Cinderella, Aurora, Tiana and Rapunzel. This will take over the spot that now houses Snow Whites Scary Adventure which closes May 13th.

Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid will be a dark ride identical to the attraction that opened in California Adventure back in 2011.

Seeing the progress so far we are very impressed and are looking forward to the completion of the project more than ever. If you visit WDW in the near future be sure and visit Storybook Circus which is located just past the Mad Tea Party spinning tea cup attraction.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dining - Raglan Road

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, we thought we would discuss one of our favorite places to eat in Disney. Located in Downtown Disney, Raglan Road is a phenomenal Irish Pub that is fun for anyone seeking great food and great entertainmentThere are so many great dishes to choose from, and they are all delicious. Some recommendations include: Keen Eye for Shepherd's Pie, Fish & Chips, and It's Not Bleedin' Chowder. By far, one of my favorite dishes is the Bangers and Booz. These Guinness and onion bangers (sausages) and mashed potatoes are topped with caramelized onions and beef stew. Oh man, I am ready to drive over and order some right now!The meal is only a start to the Raglan Road experience, If you are lucky enough to dine around 9pm from Monday to Saturday, you will witness live Irish dancing. Not enough? How about some great music too? Most nights from 7pm, a three piece band plays some great Irish tunes.Great meals, great entertainment, great atmosphere, great restaurant! Raglan Road does accept the Disney Dining Plan and will cost 1 Table Service Credit. Likewise, Tables in Wonderland is also accepted for Florida residents and Annual Pass holders. Doors open at 11am and close at 11pm, so you have 12 hours of opportunity each day for this delight.

Want to try something at home? How about the Smokie City appetizer?


2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 pound smoked boneless cod fillet, skinned and cut into cubes

4 ounces mature Wexford Cheese

1-1/3 cups double cream

freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F

2. Scatter half the tomatoes among 4 individual ovenproof dishes

3. Arrange the smoked cod on top of the plates

4. Sprinkle over half of the cheese

5. Scatter the remaining tomatoes on top

6. Season with pepper

7. Pour the cream on top

8. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the smoked cod is completely tender and the top is bubbling and golden brown

Now, all you need to do is place the dishes on the table and serve with a basket of crusty bread rolls.

Visit the Raglan Road website for more information. The website is almost as fun as the restaurant! Now, I wonder if we could get that guy to give a few tours for DLuminations.Have you been to Raglan Road? What are your thoughts on this Irish pub, the food or the entertainment? We would love to read your comments below.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Resorts - Old Key West

Disney's Old Key West Resort opened in December 1991 as the "Disney Vacation Club Resort", but was appropriately renamed in 1996. Boasting the designation of being Disney's first timeshare resort, Old Key West set the standard for all other vacation club resorts to follow.Keeping with our approach of introducing resorts with the full understanding that there are a multitude of blogs or sites available with in-depth information about costs, layout, etc.; we will again forgo the in-depth review you may find on other sites and offer a brief overview of things of interest surrounding the resort that may help you make the decision as to whether or not you would like to stay there.

Atmosphere: Reminiscent of the Florida Keys, the resort is awash with pale pastels and lush greenery. Palm trees sway over waterways that lead past a red and white stripped lighthouse to Downtown Disney, and alongside the beautiful fairways of the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. Starting your morning by walking onto the deck outside your room, and listening to a symphony of birds chirping, as well as the "ping" of golf balls being tapped toward luxuriant greens, while the breeze gently blows through the palm fronds automatically sets a relaxing tone. The attention to detail in this storyline might even impress Key West's most famous former resident, Mr. HemingwayResort Location: Old Key West Resort is conveniently located near the Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney, though not far from both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. As always, you can reach any park location using Disney's Transportation Buses. However, you may also take a nice trip in a ferryboat to Downtown Disney. There is also a walkway leading to Downtown Disney for those who would rather walk.

Restaurants: Old Key West Resort features 3 restaurants. Located near the Hospitality House, Olivia's Cafe is a casual restaurant. Olivia's offers both indoor and outdoor seating for the three main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) daily. From conch fritters to spiced pecan-crusted Mahi Mahi, and key lime tarts; Olivia's menu is complete with a variety of delicious courses. Goods Foods to Go is a counter service restaurant near the pool area which serves everything from Angus burgers to conch chowder. The Turtle Shack is another counter service restaurant open seasonally. Lastly, the Gurgling Suitcase offers a place to sip adult beverages if that is what you desire.

Pools: As with all Disney resorts, the story is central to the theme. What story about the Florida Keys would be complete without a sand-castle? Climb the stairs to a second story seat on a water slide that rushes you through a sand-castle structure before releasing you into the refreshing pools waters through the sand-castle's Hidden Mickey opening. This pool is one of my kid's favorites for this reason alone.Other Activities & Attractions: You will find that most Disney resorts offer a wealth of fun and engaging activities, and Old Key West is no different. Tennis, Golf, Basketball Courts, Jogging Trails, Shuffleboard and Watercraft Rentals rank among a number of other available activities to choose from.Have you stayed at Disney's Old Key West Resort? What were your opinions? Was there something you liked about the resort or wanted to add in order to help people better enjoy their stay here? If so, just add your comments below, we would love to hear from you!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Attractions - The Art of Plussing (Hall of Presidents)

Continuing our popular series on Disney's rich tradition of "plussing" attractions, we will take a look at the Hall of Presidents.

For many, this attraction is an ideal location for taking a power nap during a mid-afternoon jaunt through the Magic Kingdom. For others, it is second only to the Carousel of Progress as the best place to sit and cool down during the sweltering summer months in Orlando. But, for many of us history buffs and Disney fanatics, this attraction is nothing short of magical.

The magic begins as soon as you enter the doors. The Presidential Seal greets you in the floor, directly in the center of the room; while portraits of many past presidents gaze upon you as you wait. In several areas around the room are glass cases containing personal objects and artifacts from a few select presidents. George W. Bush's boots, a wine glass from James K. Polk, coat buttons from John Adams, Ronald Reagan's belt buckle, and Herbert Hoover's fishing reel are among the objects on display. This glimpse into the personal lives of past presidents simply solidifies that fact that these giants among men were and are merely men - human beings called upon by a nation to serve in the highest office imaginable, only to willingly give back the mantle when their time for service has passed.

Once ushered into the auditorium, you rest (after moving as far down the aisle as possible) in a seat facing the large, red curtain. After the announcement that "Walt Disney proudly presents The Hall of Presidents" it occurs to you that this attraction most likely highlights Walt's own love of America. You nostalgically begin remembering images of Walt-as a child-dressed as his childhood hero, Abraham Lincoln. Suddenly, the curtain draws and the narrator carries you through a summary of America's founding and it's struggles from 1776 until today. The narration is captivating, while the images stirring. Each working together to stoke the fires of a building pride in America. Each serving to remind us that America is more than a location, it is more than even a nation of laws, it is a nation of ideals, of people. A resilient nation that has fought diligently over more than 2 centuries to establish and maintain a home for freedom. A beacon of hope for the world. And, at the head of that nation sits one man, who represents all mankind within its borders. One man, who has more power than imaginable, yet willfully gives up that power once his term is finished; without struggle, without strife; the President of the United States.

The Hall of Presidents honors both the men who have held that office and the office itself. Highlighting the uniqueness of this country and its government. But, while the history buff swells with pride, the Disney fanatic sits with childlike elation, taking in the details of the surroundings. One noteworthy detail comes in the presidential clothing. In fact, Disney Imagineers not only took painstaking measures to create lifelike audioanimatronic figures of the presidents, the clothes worn by those presidents is both authentic in the look and in the manufacturing process. That's right, Thomas Jefferson's shirt is not only period correct, it is sewn using the very sewing techniques that were correct for that time as well. Just another Disney detail that makes WDW so amazing.

This attraction, one of my favorites, opened in 1971 and remained unchanged at Walt Disney World until 1993; with the exception of adding Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush when they were in office. When Clinton was added in 1993, the show received an overhaul, which lead to a greater focus on slavery and other historical issues. Lincoln's speech was also re-written, and a new musical score was added as was Maya Angelou as narrator. Clinton also recorded a speech as well.

In 2001, George W. Bush followed suit, while another narrator took the place of Angelou. Finally, in 2009, Obama was added as was his recorded speech. The voice of Morgan Freeman also became our guide through time as he elegantly highlighted points of our nation's story. For this history buff, the greatest addition was a speaking role for "His Excellency" George Washington (voiced by David Morse who portrays him in the 'John Adams' HBO miniseries based on David McCullough's best selling biography).

Though your opinion of whether or not these changes actually "plussed" the attraction may depend on your personal political views, in all, it is my opinion that the attraction has indeed improved.

Let us know what you think. Are the attraction changes always positive? Add your comments in the comments box, we would love to hear from you.