Summer Fun At Walt Disney World

If you are looking for some place to take an end-of-summer vacation, look no further than Walt Disney World. With so much for the entire family to enjoy, there’s no better time to go than now! Here’s everything you need to know to experience a fun-filled time with your friends and family at Walt Disney World this summer courtesy of Disney:

This summer season, guests can discover a magical mix of new and unforgettable experiences throughout Walt Disney World Resort, with an all-new land and evening show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a dazzling new show at Magic Kingdom Park, epic entertainment at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and world-class dining at Disney Springs.

Here are the exciting new ways guests can explore Walt Disney World Resort this summer:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Guests can travel to an otherworldly destination this summer: Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This new land gives guests the chance to explore a mystical world of bioluminescent rainforests, floating mountains and soaring Banshees. In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Disney is bringing to life the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s epic film AVATAR.

Guests can discover two main adventures. Avatar Flight of Passage sends guests flying above the jungles of Pandora on a Mountain Banshee, and Na’vi River Journey, is a family-friendly boat ride that sails down a sacred river hidden within a glowing rainforest for an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman.

Hungry adventurers can recharge at Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location in Pandora, or Pongu Pongu, a drink kiosk with a design as eclectic as its expat owner. Shoppers can stock up on Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more at Windtraders.

And after the sun sets, Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests can discover rich new experiences throughout the park, starting with the new nighttime show, Rivers of Light. This visually stunning after-dark experience celebrates the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans. It’s a dramatic visual blend of water, fire, light and imagery all choreographed to an original musical score.

Magic Kingdom Park

 Guests are being treated to one of the most elaborate fireworks displays ever created – a brand-new show called “Happily Ever After.” It features the latest in fireworks, pyrotechnics and projection technology, plus fresh animation, and a new musical score and theme song.

“Happily Ever After” takes guests on an inspiring journey filled with heart and humor, as Cinderella Castle itself becomes part of the story. Dazzling projections bring heartfelt Disney stories to life on and around the iconic castle. The 18-minute spectacle features moments from beloved Disney films such as “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin,” as well as modern blockbusters “Moana” and “Zootopia.”

“Happily Ever After” is presented nightly, with show times varying based on park hours.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

A new limited-time concert event debuted this summer. “The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters” showcases memorable music from Pixar Animation Studios films, with appearances by beloved Disney•Pixar characters. A live orchestra provides the soundtrack for this 40-minute concert that is presented three times nightly at Theater of the Stars (following regular daily performances of “Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage”). The show also includes appearances by Woody, Jessie, Mike and Sulley, the Incredibles and more.

Day or night, new Star Wars experiences are immersing guests in the world of this iconic saga. Guests can now interact with BB-8, the loyal droid from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” as well as other Star Wars characters inside Star Wars Launch Bay. New authentic props from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” are also featured in Star Wars Launch Bay, and the new AWR Troopers from “Rogue One” now appear in the daytime stage show “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away.”

Disney’s Water Parks

Guests can cool off on a whitewater adventure aboard Miss Adventure Falls, a brand new family-style raft attraction at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. Guests are immersed in the story of Captain Mary Oceaneer, a treasure hunter who roamed the seven seas in search of undersea artifacts – until a rogue storm marooned her ship and treasures at Typhoon Lagoon.

At Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, the “Frozen” Summer Games return until August 13, 2017. Kristoff and Olaf are available for a special character greeting and photo opportunity, making Blizzard Beach the only place where guests can meet Kristoff at Walt Disney World Resort. During the friendly competition, guests are able to participate in ice-pail relays, a snowball toss and much more snowy fun.

Disney Springs

The culinary scene at Disney Springs continues to evolve with more exciting food and beverage locales, including The Polite Pig and Paddlefish, both open now.

Featuring modern barbecue cuisine prepared in an open kitchen, The Polite Pig serves up Southern sides like mac-and-cheese and smoked corn and a hearty selection of craft beers and cocktails. There’s also a bourbon bar offering more than 50 selections. The Polite Pig is the newest concept from award-winning Orlando Chefs James and Julie Petrakis who own local favorite restaurants The Ravenous Pig and Swine & Sons.

Guests can also step aboard Paddlefish, Disney Springs’ iconic 1800’s paddleboat that’s been reimagined into a modern yacht experience. Paddlefish offers guests a delectable menu of fresh seafood, steaks and chops for lunch and dinner, as well as a delectable Sunday brunch. A new rooftop lounge serves up a late-night menu as well as fantastic views of the water and Disney Springs.

Disney Resort Hotels

Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort is now open as the newest Disney Vacation Club Resort. Inspired by the legendary mining and railroad history of the Pacific Northwest, guests can come “home” to rustic elegance with these new studios, villas and waterfront cabins.

At Disney’s BoardWalk, there’s an enchanting new dining experience at Trattoria al Forno, the Bon Voyage Breakfast, featuring beloved Disney characters including Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Ariel and Prince Eric. Guests can make reservations by clicking here or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Cost is $34 for adults and $20 for children.

501 WaysHeading to Disney World soon?

If you are planning a vacation to Disney World, be sure to check out these valuable resources to help you save time and money:

Will you be visiting Walt Disney World before summer is over?
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Summer Fun At Disney Springs

As a frequent guest of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, I have become a big fan of its neighbor…the recently reimagined Disney Springs. If you haven’t visited for a while, it’s definitely worth the time to stop by and take a look at all this place now has to offer. Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy a fun-filled time with your friends and family at Disney Springs this summer courtesy of Disney:

Wrapped in Florida-inspired, made-for-strolling promenades, arcing footbridges, flowing streams and waterfront charm, Disney Springs treats Walt Disney World Resort guests to an exciting, one-of-a-kind blend of shopping, dining and entertainment – with an unmistakable Disney touch.

By day or night guests can expect a vibrant scene, whether they are shopping top-name retail brands, enjoying high-quality entertainment, having that special dining experience, pleasure boating on Lake Buena Vista or hopping a balloon skyward for spectacular views of Walt Disney World and beyond.

The former Downtown Disney completed a dramatic, multi-year transformation in 2016, was renamed Disney Springs and more than doubled – to more than 150 — the number of shops, restaurants and other venues for guests to explore and enjoy.

Stop for a snack or cool drink, listen to talented musical performers or enjoy a meal at one of many great dining establishments. From sweets to street food to everything in between, there is something for every taste at Disney Springs.

If it’s a memorable meal you’re after, Disney Springs offers unforgettable dining experiences – some created by celebrity chefs and James Beard award-winning chefs. Chefs including Matsaharu Morimoto, Art Smith, Kevin Dundon and Rick Bayless call Disney Springs home with exciting restaurants offering unsurpassed dining.

Newest dining choices include The Polite Pig, where renowned Orlando chefs James and Julie Petrakis serve up modern barbecue with Southern sides and a bourbon bar offering more than 50 selections, and Paddlefish – an elegant old paddlewheeler reimagined into a modern yacht experience dishing up fresh seafood and steaks, a delicious Sunday brunch and a late-night menu with starry views from a deck-top lounge.

If shopping is your thing, Disney Springs is an experience like no other, with many great venues you won’t find anywhere else. Guests can shop a “Springs” brimming with everything from fashion apparel and jewelry to collectibles and artwork. For that special something, unique shopping found only at Disney Springs includes Uniqlo, American Threads, the Coca-Cola Store, Trophy Room, Shores and Sugarboo & Co. And The Force is more than with you at the Star Wars Galactic Outpost – great Star Wars merchandise is, too.

That’s only part of the shopping story. Fans of All Things Disney can stock up on Disney merchandise at World of Disney and Marketplace Co-Op. Uniqlo, Vera Bradley, Pandora, Alex & Ami and more stock Disney co-branded merchandise.

In creating the largest expansion in its history, Disney planners infused Disney Springs with the same focus on storytelling and attention to detail that are hallmarks of Disney theme parks, resort hotels and cruise ships, creating a welcoming space that only Disney can provide.

The story of Disney Springs begins as Florida’s did, with bubbling springs and natural beauty that first attracted settlers to the area. At the turn of the 20th century waterfront towns sprang up, dotting Florida’s landscape. Today’s Disney Springs fittingly starts with a clear water stream and fans out to exciting precincts for entertainment, dining, lounging and shopping.

Guests will find four outdoor, fun-to-stroll areas, each with its own personality:

  • Town Center offers a sophisticated mix of noteworthy shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can relax, refresh and reconnect. Town Center features Spanish “Revival” style architecture, drawing from a rich history of explorers that landed in Florida centuries ago. Stop at Sprinkles where yummy cupcakes dispense from an ATM-style machine. Or order up an artisanal pie at Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza and it’s “fired up” oven-to-table in a lightning-fast 180 seconds. Long noted for Hollywood stars, the newly-renovated and renamed Planet Hollywood Observatory sets its sights on celestial ones. Its out-of-this world setting is home to a revamped menu that includes signature burgers from celebrity chef Guy Fieri.
  • BoathouseA colorful and thriving commercial district called The Landing offers inspired dining and breathtaking waterfront views. High-quality retailers are found along its lantern-lined byways, including Sanuk for footwear, Chapel Hats and The Art of Shaving. Dine fine at STK, Morimoto Asia, dine fun at Paradiso 37 or the Raglan Road Irish Pub. The BOATHOUSE serves up a great menu and terrific lakeside views. Book a romantic sailing on an Italian water taxi or opt for the thrills of an Amphicar: vintage-style cars that transition from the land to the water for an unforgettable cruise of Disney Springs sights.
  • The family-friendly Marketplace continues to delight guests of all ages by combining new experiences such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway, along with classic Disney favorites, including a Lego Store for hands-on play or an expanded World of Disney store – largest Disney character store in the world. Cooling refreshments at the water’s edge are found at Dockside Margaritas. For the little ones, a spin on the Marketplace Train Express or a charming Venetian carousel is sure to bring smiles. Treat the family to dino-themed dining at T-Rex Café or jungle-style at Rainforest Café.
  • The West Side delivers an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, retail and dining along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below. From Cirque du Soleil to iconic restaurants like House of Blues to bowling with a stylized twist at Splitsville Luxury Lanes, West Side offers something for everyone. For unmatched aerial views of Disney Springs and beyond, hop aboard Characters in Flight. Operated by Aerophile, the world’s largest tethered helium balloon ascends 400 feet.

Thanks to new slot-smart parking decks where green lights indicate available spaces (and take the guesswork out), parking is convenient to the entire Disney Springs scene – and free. Valet parking also is available.

Disney Springs is easily accessed from I-4, Central Florida’s major interstate, and connected to the rest of Walt Disney World Resort by motorcoach, watercraft or pedestrian pathways.

501 WaysHeading to Disney World soon?

If you are planning a vacation to Disney World, be sure to check out these valuable resources to help you save time and money:

What do you love most about the recently reimagined Disney Springs?
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First Look At Terralina Crafted Italian Coming To Disney Springs

If you’re an Italian food lover heading to Walt Disney World soon, you have plenty to get excited about. With several new restaurants opening in the near future at Disney Springs, you can get your fix of delicious pizza, pasta and more coming this fall 2017 at Terralina Crafted Italian. Here’s a first look:

Terralina Crafted Italian, a new dining experience curated by James Beard Award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano, will open this fall at Disney Springs. The new restaurant, which will replace the space at The Landing previously occupied by Portobello Country Italian Trattoria, is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar makeover inspired by the design and lifestyle of Italy’s Lake District.

Set on the shores of Lake Buena Vista, Terralina’s sweeping waterfront views and dining will provide guests with a tranquil escape to another part of the world. Just as in an Italian home, the kitchen will serve as the hearth and perfect centerpiece for guests to gather around in the restaurant. Each dining room will include eclectic decor made up of found art and pieces that share the stories of moments worth celebrating. A newly installed veranda bar outside the main entrance will serve as the perfect welcome mat for guests to relax and sip on craft cocktails, muddled with herbs similar to those grown in a garden located right outside the restaurant.

Terralina’s menu will feature authentic, Italian cuisine cooked in Chef Tony’s signature olive oil, imported directly from Italy. The restaurant’s wood-burning oven will fire up a selection of artisanal, hand-tossed pizzas and fresh vegetable dishes. Fan favorites from Portobello Country Italian Trattoria such as the antipasti platter and signature pasta dishes will remain on the menu alongside new additions like mussels and pork chops.

The new food landscape at Disney Springs is amazing and the guest choices are so diverse that it has become a true dining destination,” said Andy Lansing, President and CEO of Levy Restaurants. “We are excited to open Terralina Crafted Italian and share our vision to deliver authentic food, hospitality and every last detail as part of a memorable guest experience.”

“It’s been an honor to lead the concept and vision for Terralina Crafted Italian,” said Tony Mantuano, James Beard Award-winning chef. “We wanted to create a dining experience that would transport guests to the shores of Italy. Focusing on the hearth of the kitchen, dishes will embody the passion and flare of the flames. Executive Chef Justin Plank and I cannot wait for guests to come in and have a taste of Italy.”

Construction is expected to be complete this fall. Terralina Crafted Italian will be open for lunch and dinner.

501 WaysHeading to Disney World soon?

If you are planning a vacation to Disney World, be sure to check out these valuable resources to help you save time and money:

What is your favorite Italian restaurant in Walt Disney World?
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New Restaurants Coming Soon To Disney Springs

If you’re a foodie heading to Walt Disney World soon, you have plenty to get excited about. With several new restaurants opening in Disney Springs, there is something that everyone is sure to enjoy. Here’s everything you need to know about the newest dining options courtesy of Disney:

Five new dining concepts debut as early as Fall 2017, joining the stellar line-up of awarding-winning restaurants at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort:

Opening in 2018 on the West Side is Jaleo, a concept by world-renowned Chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup. Bringing the spirit and flavors of Spain, the Disney Springs restaurant will feature an extensive menu of tapas that reflect the rich regional diversity of traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine, such as paella cooked over a wood fire, hand-carved Jamon Iberico de Bellota and wood-grilled Iberico pork. With five locations in the United States and Mexico City, this will be the first location in Florida. The first floor of the multi-level restaurant will feature a “grab-n-go” storefront with Spanish-style sandwiches. Designed by noted Spanish designer Juli Capella, the multi-level space will feature vibrant, theatrical décor representing the colorful culture of Spain.

Also in 2018, a new Wolfgang Puck concept will open in a new location in Town Center. Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, will modernize the traditional “bar and grill” concept in a setting inspired by traditional farmhouses with a touch of elegance. The restaurant, designed by tonychi, will capture the essence of laid-back California dining made popular by Puck at Spago, his flagship restaurant in Los Angeles. The menu will highlight the best of Puck’s signature dishes with Mediterranean influences, innovative takes on comfort food classics and handcrafted specialty cocktails, beer and wine.

This fall, Chicago-based Levy Restaurants is introducing a new Italian concept at Disney Springs with James Beard award winner and “Top Chef Master” Chef Tony Mantuano leading development. The new restaurant will replace Levy’s Portobello Country Italian Trattoria and will feature dishes inspired by Mantuano’s adventures in Italy.

Opening later this year, The Edison, a lavish “Industrial Gothic” restaurant, bar and nighttime destination will debut. A collaboration of Patina Restaurant Group and Kinetescape’s Andrew Meieran, The Edison is noted for classic American food, craft cocktails and live entertainment including cabaret. (The Disney Springs location is inspired by its sister location in Los Angeles.) With Old World sophistication and romance, The Edison will be themed to a 1920s-era electric company, recalling an exuberant era of invention and imagination with entertainment that includes contortionists, aerialists, DJs and more.

Also opening in late 2017 is Wine Bar George, with Master Sommelier George Miliotes bringing his expertise to Disney Springs with an unparalleled wine list including more than 100 selections by the bottle and glass in a range of varietals, vintages and prices. Shareable plates, cheese and charcuterie will complement the wine list, featuring local artisans and seasonally relevant dishes. Wine education will be served up in an approachable and fun manner, including special events and visits from renowned winemakers. Miliotes is widely regarded as one of the industry’s foremost wine experts, and is one of only 236 professionals certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

501 WaysHeading to Disney World soon?

If you are planning a vacation to Disney World, be sure to check out these valuable resources to help you save time and money:

Which restaurant are you most looking forward to trying?
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New Restaurants To Try At Walt Disney World In 2017


If you’re a “foodie” heading to Walt Disney World this year, you have plenty to get excited about. With several new restaurants at the resort, there is something that everyone is sure to enjoy. Here’s everything you need to know about the newest dining options courtesy of Disney:

From a stellar line-up of celebrity chefs at Disney Springs to trend-setting creations from Disney’s new global test kitchen, the Walt Disney World culinary team exceeds expectations of food-savvy guests. Here’s the buzz for 2017:

Disney Springs Celebrity Eats, Fast Bites

D- Luxe Burger 1The biggest news was the proliferation of new places to eat at Disney Springs, from grab-and-go food trucks and kiosks to restaurants by award-winning chefs. Fast- casual spots included Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza and D-Luxe Burger. Three James Beard Foundation winners joined the line-up: Chef Art Smith a Homecomin’—Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine; Chef Rick Bayless at Frontera Cocina, and Masaharu Morimoto at Morimoto Asia. Superstar steakhouse STK also opened an outpost at Disney Springs.

Now open is Planet Hollywood Observatory, a re-imagined restaurant with the new Stargazers Lounge that lets guest relax under the stars with live entertainment. Recently reopened is Paddlefish, formerly Fulton’s Crab House, featuring contemporary, seafood-centric cuisine, craft cocktails and an all-new interior. Later in 2017, look for Bar George wine bar, the Polite Pig with craft brews, and more.

Next Generation of Sweets

Ganachery 1The Ganachery at Disney Springs showcases the beauty of chocolate, with Disney’s proprietary recipe for the custom-made ganache, a luxurious mixture of melted chocolate and cream. Amorette’s Patisserie features classic and contemporary pastries by the Disney chefs, with custom cakes that are works of art. And Sprinkles serves up handcrafted cupcakes, slow churned ice cream and homemade cookies. (Their innovative Cupcake ATM satisfies sweet-toothed epicureans 24/7.)

In the Disney Resorts

Disney’s famed monorail is your connection in a movable feast called Highway in the Sky Dine-Around. The new experience gives guests priority boarding on the monorail for a distinctly Disney dining experience with stops for cocktails, appetizers, dinner and dessert. From a welcome cocktail at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests call at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (apps), Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (entree) and back to the Contemporary for dessert, cordials and coffee. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

CA Grill Brunch 3For those who brunch: For those who like a leisurely Sunday morning, Disney offers two brunches. The Brunch at the Top at California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort features both a buffet (with an extraordinary Bloody Mary bar) and table service, plus a remarkable view from the 15th floor. Narcoossee’s Waterfront Brunch at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a three-course delight with Mimosas, Champagne or Bloody Marys. For reservations, call 407-WDW-DINE.

New lounge for small bites, original cocktails: At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a favorite of Disney fans, with more than 1,200 pieces of memorabilia. Hand-crafted cocktails and small plates are a hit with guests.

Flying Fish at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort reopened in September 2016 with a whole new look and new menu. Sustainable fish is the star of the menu, and a new high-tech wine system allows more special wines by the ounce.

New in the theme parks

Tiffins 9Global cuisine at two new restaurants: At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tiffins features cuisine from places that inspired the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Open for both lunch and dinner, Tiffins has waterfront views and is situated at the entrance to Pandora: The World of AVATAR, opening in 2017. (“Tiffin” is an Indian English word for a midday meal or a type of container used to carry food while traveling). Adjacent to Tiffins, Nomad Lounge features hand-crafted cocktails with African, Asian and South American flavors; beers, and sustainable wines from those regions, plus specialty non-alcoholic beverages and small bites.

The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom is the first restaurant inspired by a classic attraction. Just steps from the legendary Jungle Cruise attraction in Adventureland, the 222-seat restaurant features bold, flavorful tastes of Asia, South America and Africa for lunch and dinner.

Great Food Among the Flowers and More of The Best Food Fest

EEpcot Flower & Garden Festivalpcot is becoming a park of festivals, including the debut in 2017 of the new Epcot International Festival of the Arts (weekends through February 20); the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 1-May 29, and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival that kicks off August 31 and runs through November 13. All three festivals showcase culinary tastes in kiosks around World Showcase Promenade, along with special events.

What Disney does best: Allergy-friendly menus are found in more than 120 quick-service and table-service locations at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, along with more ways to make the special-diet-request process easier. Guests are still able to consult directly with a restaurant chef or special diets trained cast member. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is the recipient of a FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Award for dedication to providing a safe and enjoyable dining experience for vacationing families and Disney chefs have been recognized for their commitment to food allergy awareness, education and management.

Where it all starts: Ever wonder how a new dish makes it on the menu? Or how a cocktail comes to life? The Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Flavor Lab brings the chefs, front-of-house managers, sommeliers, mixologists and more together in a state-of-the-art research and development facility. The new 7,000-square foot Flavor Lab serves as a hub of new product, packaging and equipment innovation for food and beverage programs across Walt Disney Parks and Resorts around the globe. While not open to the public, Disney guests will be the ultimate benefactor of all the testing, measuring and collaborations that will happen in the expansive new space.

Best of the Best: Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa took home the AAA Five Diamond award for the 16th consecutive year in 2016. It also was voted the No. 2 restaurant in the United States in TripAdvisor’s 2016 Travelers’ Choice awards. The restaurant wows guests every night of the year with three dining experiences: the dining room, the elegant Queen Victoria’s Room and the Chef’s Table in the Kitchen.

Reservations are accepted at most Walt Disney World table-service restaurants, signature restaurants, character dining locations and dinner shows, and may be made up to 180 days prior to arrival by making them on the My Disney Experience app, or by calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).

501 WaysHeading to Disney World soon?

If you are planning a vacation to Disney World, be sure to check out these valuable resources to help you save time and money:

Which restaurant are you most looking forward to trying?
Please leave a comment; I would love to hear from you!