We start off our IAAPA experience right by seeing some new announcements about new rides and coasters coming soon. And of course, we get the Dippin Dots. You gotta get the Dippin Dots.
Travel, Theme Parks, and Resorts
I’ve written before about the wonderful hotel options at the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando. We stayed there back in 2015 for their Race Weekends package, and I’d been there before with my friend Amanda, on a girls weekend getaway, full of fun, food, and sunburn in my case. Back then, I called these hotels the “best kept secret in Walt Disney World,“ and while I think that word has gotten out, there are still many people that don’t even know where these resorts are located. Food and Wine Weekends may just change that.
A great way to get introduced to these beautiful properties is one of the many event weekends they have going on throughout the year. The aforementioned Race Weekends are a great option for runDisney races; they really give you extra fun for your races, with all sorts of great amenities to enjoy. They also have Florida Resident rates, breakfast included packages, and more. Last night we were invited to experience a taste of their Food and Wine Weekends. These weekend menu options extend the “Magical Dining” menus that happen all over Orlando in September, with proceeds going to various charities, and are a perfect complement to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
Food And Wine Weekends Breakdown:
The Food and Wine Weekends offer special tasting menus at 3 of the restaurants throughout the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria. The best part (for me and many of my friends) is that they also offer full vegan menu options at each of these locations.
A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed the vegan Magical Dining menu at Zeta Asia, and it was truly amazing. I was very happy Amanda made that reservation because I didn’t know it existed and I’m still thinking about the menu items we had (I am officially in love with the vegan Bao Buns and the Bibimbap)!
You can find ALL of the Food and Wine Weekends menu options, including Peacock Alley’s “Bar du Chocolat and Champagne tasting” and the Myth Bar’s “Pop Culture” with house made fresh fruit popsicles, organic ice pops, and “poptails” for the adults, in this guide from Hilton Bonnet Creek.
Last night, we were treated to the vegan Cauliflower Salad from La Luce, the Vegetable Fricassee from Bull & Bear, and the Impossible Bibimbap from Zeta Asia. These were all wonderful choices, and honestly, I was full after the first option, and absolutely stuffed by the 3rd. I somehow made room for the two vegan desserts we were offered, a dark chocolate and passion fruit dessert from Bull & Bear, and the special request dessert available in the hotels when you request a vegan dessert: fresh fruit sauce over a coconut tart, with fresh berries and whipped non-dairy cream. They were both SO wonderful, it definitely didn’t feel like a thrown-together vegan option, which is often the case with desserts. Check out photos in the gallery below from the evening and some of the hotel properties. Just click to enlarge any photo:
We were also treated to a vegan cocktail, since the one they were serving that night had sheep’s milk in it. We were given a modified “Bee’s Knees” with agave instead of honey. It was very floral and lovely. You can order this at Peacock Alley any time! You can watch the bartender create this drink for us, as well as chefs creating the amazing nitrogen-cooled chocolate pictured above, any time on my Food and Wine Weekends Instagram story highlight.
I hope I’ve tempted you a bit to head over to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando or Hilton Bonnet Creek and experience their Food and Wine Weekends for yourselves. It really is a wonderful experience, and such a nice, relaxing, crowd-and-line-free way to enjoy some culinary delights. I was hosted for our tasting experience, but I truly do love these properties and think they are such a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Disney hotels. Did I mention the lazy river?
If you’ve never been, enjoying a Food and Wine Weekends tasting menu is a great way to get over and explore the properties before staying the night (but staying the night is also a great way to end your Food and Wine Weekends evening!).
Have you stayed at either of these properties, or enjoyed their Food and Wine Weekends, or their stellar dining options?
Disclosure: As mentioned, I was hosted by Hilton for this tasting event, but my thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
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Walt Disney World’s Newest Resort Option – Gran Destino Tower
As I’m sure you’ve heard and seen by now, Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs is now open. We shared video and photos over on our social channels and Christian and I discussed our thoughts on the highlights of this amazing new resort in our latest resort video. But there is something else you must see before you visit or check-in to Gran Destino Tower…
Two Artists Combine Their Vision
Salvador Dalí first met Walt Disney at a Warner Brothers studio party in 1945. He had come to Hollywood to work on a dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound. The pair struck up what may seem to some as an unlikely friendship, but in reality made perfect sense. Disney had already been pushing the boundaries of art and animation for years. Pink elephants on parade from Dumbo, and the frightening forest scene from Snow White to name a few. Of course, Fantasia itself was a lesson in taking feature animation to a higher plane. So a common bond of creative envelope-pushing, combined with boundless self-promotion, naturally brought these two men together. The next logical step was to collaborate on a project combining Dalí’s surreal vision and Walt Disney’s gift for animation.
Here is an excerpt from Salvador-Dali.org about the origin of the Destino project:
On January 14, 1946, Salvador Dalí signed a contract with Walt Disney to make a short animated film entitled Destino. To work on the project, the painter installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. The main characters, a dancer and a baseball player who is also the god Chronos, develop Dalí’s original concept, which revolves around the importance of time when we are waiting for destiny to enter into our lives. The song chosen for the soundtrack of the film, ‘Destino’, by the Mexican Armando Domínguez, was a major inspiration for Dalí in the development of his work.
The short, intended as part of a package film, was to have a running time of between 6 and 8 minutes, but only 15 seconds were made and it was not until 2003 that Disney resumed and completed the project on the basis of Dalí’s first ideas and original sketches.
A Found Treasure
Despite having 135 storyboards and 22 paintings from Dalí’s eight months in the studio, the project was abandoned when the Disney Studios could not continue funding it. The project was shelved and forgotten until Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, discovered the artwork while working on Fantasia 2000. He secretly sent the project to be completed in France by a team of animators and a director, Dominique Monféry, who attempted and succeeded in continuing the story that Dalí and Disney (and Imagineer John Hench, who is credited as a writer as well) set out to tell. It was released in 2003, and nominated for an Oscar that year for Best Animated Short. If you haven’t seen it before, here it is below in its (2003) entirety:
If you happen to own the Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 Blu-Ray + DVD Movie Collection set, there’s a bonus. Destino is actually on the Fantasia 2000 disc! Also included is an 82-minute documentary, Dalí & Disney: A Date with Destino. There you’ll hear more about the collaboration between these two artistic geniuses.
Additionally, the always-impressive Taschen has published a few books on his elaborate dinner parties. Taschen Diners de Gala and the Wines de Gala, if you want to delve deeper. And of course, The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida is an amazing place to explore Dalí ‘s life and work. It’s also not too far from Walt Disney World, if you want to extend a vacation and see something new.
Inspiration for Gran Destino Tower
Getting back to Gran Destino Tower, when you first approach the tower from either the parking lot or the Lago Dorado side, the inspiration of Destino is more than apparent. The shapes and designs throughout the resort come straight from the art in the short. Dahlia, and her morphing into a bell shape in the film, is directly represented in the lamps in guest rooms, and the designs in the Dahlia lounge on the 16th floor. The Dahlia lounge in particular is entirely inspired by the film, with Dahlia’s hair represented in waves on the ceiling, the dandelion images in a painting on the wall, and the seed heads floating away and becoming the light fixtures on the ceiling.
So before you head to this gorgeous new resort, watch the 6 minute short, and then see how many representations you can see as you explore and discover. Whether Surrealist art is your thing or not, the artistic vision and creativity is undeniably impressive. Gran Destino is enjoyable and breathtaking even without viewing Destino, but seeing it and the inspiration, is, in my opinion, worth your time. I’m sure Disney history buffs, animation and art fans will agree. Kudos to the Disney team for transforming art into function and honoring the work of Salvador Dalí as well as Walt Disney. I’m so excited that Destino has been brought to life for all to see and enjoy in a new way.
Have you visited Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort? What was your favorite part of this newest area of Walt Disney World?
*Disclosure: some links above are affiliate links.
Today was the grand opening of the brand new Island H2O Live! water park at Margaritaville Resort Orlando, and they invited me down to check it out, so let’s see what they have to offer!
For more info, and to book tickets, visit: https://www.islandh2olive.com/
This video was filmed on June 21st, at Island H2O Live!, for their grand opening. Check it out below!
Roving reviewer and videographer Christian recently visited SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando to experience their newest sensation – Mermaids! Every Friday through Sunday starting May 31 through June 23, visitors can come face to fin with real-life mermaids as they dive into the ocean habitats alongside rays, sharks and all their fishy friends.
Mermaid dive times:
- 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
- 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
- 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
- 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
- 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
- 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Check out Christian’s video of the Mermaids at SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando and get your tickets today!
Thanks to SEA LIFE Orlando for having us out to share the Mermaids with you!
SEA LIFE Orlando is celebrating the summer with a brand new event – there are mermaids at the aquarium! Join us as we check it out.
More info about the Mermaids event, including dates and times: https://www.visitsealife.com/orlando/…
This vlog was filmed on June 1st, 2019, at SEA LIFE Orlando, for the opening celebration of the new event, Mermaids at the Aquarium. Check it out below!
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s fabulous summer-long event, Summer Nights begins this weekend! This means extended park hours every night through August 11th and fireworks every Friday through Sunday. Be sure to take advantage of the limited-time Memorial Day Sale to get the best deals of the season.
Starting next Friday, May 31, the thrills go late and the fun lasts longer at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay with the return of Summer Nights.
Music, entertainment and more create a vibrant nightlife atmosphere surrounding Florida’s best thrill rides. In addition to fan-favorite coasters, thrill seekers can now take on Tigris, Florida’s tallest launch coaster, in an exciting new way after dark. The triple-launch coaster takes thrills to new heights as riders face a 150’ upward surge, dramatic heartline roll and top speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour through the night sky.
Park guests can also enjoy special-edition menu items that feature a new twist on traditional summer fare.
Classic popcorn gets a makeover with an infusion of buffalo ranch and white cheddar flavors.
Summer tastes sweeter with a churro sundae or a fireworks ice cream slushy.
The grilled cheese of childhood memories is transformed as a mac and cheese melt, also available with lobster.
Grown-up indulgences include colorful handcrafted cocktails and pop-tails (new frozen treats with alcohol) in addition to the continued free beer offer as a part of the park’s 60th anniversary celebration.
Memorial Day Sale:
Now through June 2, guests can enjoy limited-time offers for the best value of the summer season.
Busch Gardens Single Day Ticket – SAVE UP TO 60%!
Price: $49, must visit by June 23
Add Adventure Island for only $10 more
Busch Gardens Fun Card – SAVE OVER 30%!
blockout dates apply
Busch Gardens, Adventure Island & 4-Park Annual Passes
5% off Bronze
10% off Silver
20% off Gold
For more details on limited-time offers, visit BuschGardensTampa.com; Restrictions apply. Be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by following Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s blog and social media channels on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.
If traditional Cinco de Mayo celebrations aren’t really your speed, Merlin Entertainments Attractions has a deal for you. The four fun-filled Central Florida attractions of Madame Tussauds Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, LEGOLAND Florida Resort and LEGOLAND Florida Water Park, along with the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Atlanta, are offering a big discount on “Awesomer” annual passes during Cinco de Mayo weekend.
Available May 3 – May 5, 2019, the “Awesomer” Annual Pass will be only $99.99 per person – a $70 discount! The pass includes 12 months of unlimited access to the FIVE attractions named above. In addition to park and attraction admission, the “Awesomer” Annual Pass includes free standard parking as well as discounts on dining and retail at LEGOLAND Florida Resort. “Awesomer” Passholders can take advantage of year-round discounts at LEGOLAND Florida Resort Hotel and Beach Retreat.
The sale comes just in time for guests to experience all-new summer offerings. Passholders can meet real-life mermaids at SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium every Friday through Sunday from May 31 through June 23. The mermaids will dive into the ocean habitat at Orlando’s only aquarium to mesmerize guests with their unbelievable underwater feats.
Visitors can also join forces with The Flash and Cyborg, the latest additions to Madame Tussauds Orlando’s Justice League: A Call for Heroes experience. Only in Orlando can guest complete daring missions alongside the ENTIRE Justice League cast, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and now, Cyborg and The Flash.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s discounted “Awesomer” Pass will be available online and at walk-up admission windows (during operating hours May 3 – May 5) at LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Madame Tussauds Orlando and SEA LIFE Orlando. Learn more about the “Awesomer” Pass at legoland.com/awesomer, visitsealife.com/orlando/awesomer-pass-cinco-sale, or madametussauds.com/orlando/en/cinco-de-mayo-sale.
We bought this pass ourselves on the last sale like this, and it is SO worth it! If you plan on experiencing any of these fun attractions, especially LEGOLAND Florida, we highly recommend snagging this deal!
It is no secret that I LOVE LEGOLAND. It may be more of a secret that I love all things 80’s, from my Lisa Frank stickers to rainbows and unicorns and brightly colored everything. That’s not so much a secret as it is just something a normal woman my age might not admit, but normal is not fun. Anyway, I digress. My point is, The LEGO Movie features a particular character, Unikitty, which embodies many of those same qualities as my childhood. LEGOLAND Florida has taken the background, setting and characters from The LEGO Movie, and brought them to larger-than-life fruition. And it’s amazing.
It’s impossible not to be cheerful in such a big, bright place. You walk in to this area of the park and feel as though you’ve stepped into The LEGO Movie itself.
Here’s the rundown of what to see and do:
The LEGO Movie World consists of 3 rides, a kids playground area, a Taco
Tuesday Everyday quick service restaurant, a small gift shop, and an indoor character meet and greet area. We’ll break down each of these spots below.
As you enter the park, go to the right and right again through the Duplo Valley. You will see the GIANT dog building ahead, and that’s where you’ll find The LEGO Movie World. Very close to the front of the park.
If you are coming from the back half of the park or the Water Park first, head toward the Dragon Coaster area where the Lost Kingdom is, and Movie World is right next to the Dragon Coaster.
HEIGHT REQUIREMENTS/RIDE RESTRICTIONS:
Unikitty’s Disco Drop – Height/Age Requirements:
- Guests under 40” in height or under 3 years of age are not allowed on the ride
- Guests between 40” to 48”, and 3 to 6 years of age, must be accompanied by a supervising companion age 14 years or older and capable of ensuring the child’s safety
- Guests 48” in height and above 6 years of age may ride unaccompanied
Masters of Flight – Height/Age Requirements:
- Guests under 40” in height or under 3 years of age are not allowed on the ride.
- Guests 52” in height and above 8 years of age may ride unaccompanied.
Battle for Bricksburg – Height/Age Requirements:
- Guests who can sit upright without assistance may ride.
- Children under 6 years of age or less than 48” must ride with a responsible person age 16 years or older and capable ensuring the child’s safety. The responsible person must be seated on the same bench as the child.
Unikitty’s Disco Drop – This is a super bright fun and quick ride that you can see as soon as you enter the LEGO Movie World area. There are no surprises for kids who may be a little wary to try a ride like this, you can see it when you walk in, and watch others ride before you. Unikitty narrates the ride, changing things based on her various moods, and it’s full of fun music to make you feel like you’re right inside the movie. This is a quick ride, so the waits shouldn’t be too long, and if it’s not crowded, that means you can ride again and again.
Masters of Flight – The premier ride of LEGO Movie World, this is probably the most technologically advanced ride in all of LEGOLAND Florida. It is definitely along the same lines as Epcot’s Soarin’ down to the fact that you don’t need any 3-D glasses to ride. There are three different levels to load into the attraction, we went up to the 3rd floor, and I think based on the screen vantage point, that was the best place to be, but we’ll have to go back and try them all.
You load into a seating system very similar to Soarin’ except that you are facing the way you walked in. This made a few of us fear we were going to go upside-down to get to the screen part of the ride, but that was not the case. You tip back a little, then just turn around to the screen surrounding your viewing area. At first, I was afraid I was going to get a little motion sick, but I quickly adjusted and it was a SUPER FUN ride.
My 10 year old LOVED it, and I think any fans of the LEGO Movies and LEGO Movie video games will feel like they are right there with Emmet, Unikitty, Benny and more. You’re also treated to some fun scents to match your environment, but I won’t give anything else away. You’ll definitely want to check outMasters of Flight, and I don’t think you’ll be alone, so be prepared for a bit of a wait. Luckily there are several LEGO play areas throughout the queue to keep little folks entertained.
Battle for Bricksburg – Those familiar with LEGOLAND Florida will recognize this attraction as the former Legend of Chima boat ride. It has been completely re-worked and re-themed to fit in to the LEGO Movie World. Now you are battling aliens (made from DUPLO) to keep them from invading and stealing LEGO bricks, by spraying water at targets from your boat. If you’re not on the ride, there are water cannons outside, where you can spray guests (who are also getting soaked from water spraying as they sail by), making for lots of fun. You WILL get wet, in fact, you’ll probably get SOAKED, so be prepared for that and plan accordingly. It might be a welcome side effect on a hot Florida day!
The three attractions aren’t all in the LEGO Movie World, there is also a quick service taco stand straight from the movie, where it’s not just Taco Tuesday, it’s Taco Everyday! There you can grab a quick grilled chicken or brisket taco or some dessert sopapillas – the Double Decker Sofa-Pilla Bites, along with drinks as well.
There is also a play area called Benny’s Play Ship with two slides and lots of fun places to climb and run around. Despite all the rides, the play areas of LEGOLAND are always a must-do for my son!
Rounding out the area is Emmet’s Super Suite – a meet and greet area where throughout the day you can meet Emmet, Wyldstyle, Benny, and General Mayhem. The photo area is inside, and exits into a small LEGO Movie World themed gift shop, so you can leave with some souvenirs of your favorite LEGO friends.
Again, this is an amazing new addition to LEGOLAND Florida and I can’t wait till we can get back again. I’d recommend getting there early, and heading straight to Masters of Flight to start your LEGOLAND day off right, then enjoy the rest of the park, and maybe stop by on your way out.
For more info on LEGOLAND Florida hours, ticket prices and hotels, head to LEGOLAND.com/Florida.
*Disclaimer: LEGOLAND Florida provided us with complimentary admission to the park to preview the LEGO Movie World area, but my opinions are, as always, my own.