By Anthony Murphy
We began our last trip to Walt Disney World with a trip to the much hyped Kona Café in Disney's Polynesian Resort. This smaller and open-air restaurant seems to have been created for overflow from the famous Ohana, but this restaurant has created a reputation for its breakfast.Tweet
When we arrived, we were promptly seated, but the place was full of people. We didn’t feel claustrophobic, but I could see some guests feeling a little close to each other in certain areas of the place. Reservations were not hard to get, but there were very few walk ups that were able to find openings.
We started our breakfast with some Kona Coffee and some Liliko’i Juice which was made with Orange, Passion Fruit, and Guava. My mother works at Whole Foods coffee section so she is familiar with Kona Coffee and she said that this was some of the best she ever had. My Liliko’I Juice was a little warm, but I didn’t mind because it told me that this was squeezed and made to order. It was one of the best juices I have ever had. Very tasty!
The main reason why I wanted to come here is the (Walt Disney) world famous Tonga Toast, a French Toast concoction that has been named best breakfast items by other travel and Disney websites. It is a banana stuffed sourdough French toast rolled in cinnamon sugar and topped with strawberry compote. Now, I am usually not a fan of French Toast since it is usually pretty soggy, but the Tonga Toast came out crunchy and left the softness to the fresh bananas in the middle. This dish lives up to its reputation. It was one of the most unusual and delicious items I have ever eaten for breakfast. It was outstanding without the compote, but adding it gave more flavors to the dish. It also came with a choice of a side (I got bacon).
My parents decided to share the Big Kahuna and it probably was a good idea. It was huge! It included French Toast (not Tonga), Pancakes topped with pineapple sauce, eggs, potatoes, ham, sausage, and bacon. I got to taste everything on this dish and the pancakes were really good. I am surprised that this is a dish for one person because it was easily enough for my two parents.
If neither of these items sound like your kind of breakfast, do not worry. Kona Café also has omelets, steak and eggs, and pancakes to name a few. What we really liked about Kona Café is we felt that the pricing for what you got was very good. Sure, you are still at Disney World, but the food did not appear to be overpriced. The Tonga Toast and Big Kahuna was around $13. If you are looking for a breakfast place that is really good and has more than just the common bacon and eggs, I highly recommend checking this place out!
If you don’t want to sit down and just are looking for some pastries and Kona Coffee, they do have a quick service right next to the restaurant. Sorry, no Tonga Toast there!
By Krista Joy
The 2013 holiday season is here, and Universal invites you to start "untraditional" holiday traditions at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.Tweet
This year I was very fortunate to attend on the behalf of Theme Park Insider for the opening of the 2013 holiday celebrations at Universal. You too can catch the festivities at Universal December 7 through January 4.
Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular
The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular is the centerpiece of the Grinchmas celebration at Seuss Landing. It's a very sweet, live show starring the Grinch. The show also includes a colorful cast of Who-ville residents and music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller. As wonderful as the live actors are, an actual dog plays the part of the Grinch's dog Max, and he certainly steals the show at times. The Wholiday Spectacular is scheduled at various times throughout the day. You will want to check your in-park map for times. Something important to note is that there aren't any restrooms available inside the building — so be sure to plan accordingly. The show is really enjoyable and the Grinch makes the audience laugh quite a bit. I remember being a little frightened by the cartoon at a young age — but nothing about this show seemed to bother even the youngest kids, which was nice.
The Who-ville Tree as seen backstage when you are waiting for the show to open.
Who-ville residents are super excited that Christmas is coming!
Max rides on the sled that the Grinch has filled with gifts. To get the best view of this part of the show, you'll want to sit stage left.
The Who-ville Tree before the Grinch steals the ornaments...
Then afterwards...that naughty Grinch!
No worries, at the end of the show all is restored, and the Grinch is much more kind and gentle. However he does not lose his gritty edge. He is still that rebellious Grinch that we all know and love.
After the show, the media was treated to a question and answer session with the show director for Universal Orlando Resort, Lora Wallace, and John Piper, the vice president and creative director of the Macy's Parade. It really shows that they are very proud of just about every aspect of this beloved parade. The excitement and giddiness of these two business professionals was really great to see.
One of the things Lora and John told us is that the major change in this year's parade is the addition of Happy Hippo. Just like the song, "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas," Happy is really fun and makes everyone smile. You may recognize Happy from her TV appearance on the original Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. She hasn't appeared in the parade since the 1940's — and she has had a makeover since then. She is now in Orlando, fresh from New York, with her newly updated girly pink toenails and eyelashes. In fact — she is such a star — that she was revealed to us in her very own mini preview. Doesn't she look fabulous?
This is the first time Universal Studios guests will be able to see a parade balloon before it's marched through the park. Happy will make a street appearance like this one near Mel's Drive-In each night. "She will walk out as low as we can possibly make her walk..." said Lora. Balloon pilots also delighted guests by making Happy "dance" and jiggle to the music. It is really funny to see. Happy will appear at 3:50 p.m. ahead of the 5 p.m. parade during Universal's event except from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31, when the parade will step off at 8 p.m., and Happy will appear at about 6:50 p.m.
Safety precautions were also discussed during the press conference. John told me that the New York and Orlando balloon pilots go through very extensive training. In fact, because the show here in Orlando has been running for so many years, some of the Orlando pilots are now training the New York pilots. Other members of the team in white suits with devices that measure wind speed can be seen everywhere before and during the parade. Universal turns all the traditional looking street lamps to the side, and any that have pointed decorations are covered in Santa hats as an added precaution.
Santa hats — not just for decoration!
This method has worked so well that many of the light posts wear jester hats during that other famous parade at Universal — Mardi Gras! Once the press conference was over we made our way to our parade viewing spot.
Along the way we saw Curious George
and these sweet faces behind us!
Macy's Holiday Parade
For many of us, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is something most of us have probably only seen on TV. The beauty of Universal hosting this parade here in Orlando is that once the legendary New York City parade ends, many of its awesome balloons and (even the floats!) are sent down here to us!
Universal does a great job with this spectacular version of the parade. Here are some highlights:
By Robert Niles
A friend of the site recently sent me this photo, from inside the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, under construction at Universal Studios Florida.Tweet
We've given you the full line-up of attractions, restaurants and shops you'll find in Diagon Alley at Universal. We've shown you construction photos from outside and above the site. And we were first with a detailed look at the land's centerpiece attraction, the Gringotts coaster, nearly two years ago.
Friends of Theme Park Insider have been sending me photos from inside the construction zone, but I haven't been able to share most of them with you. At least, not yet. But, frankly, if you've seen one photo of scaffolding in front of a gray wall, you've seen 'em all.
This was one of the first photos I've gotten that hints at the level of decoration we'll be seeing in Diagon Alley. Though this is an outdoor shot, much of the new land will be under cover, including most of Knockturn Alley. The experience will be both intricate and intimate — I'm certain that crowds will jam every inch of space in the new land when it opens. Diagon Alley was not some broad Paris boulevard, after all. It's a cramped London back alleyway, and Universal's version will reflect that.
But it will be one wildly entertaining alleyway, themed and decorated to a level of detail not otherwise found in American theme parks. I'm getting more and more excited for this new land, from the photos I've seen. So I'm happy to be able to share one of those photos with you.
By Robert Niles
Australia's Sea World Gold Coast park has debuted its new US$18 million Mack water coaster, called Storm Coaster.Tweet
Photo courtesy Sea World
Storm Coaster features a 98-foot drop and 44-mph top speed. The ride begins in and ends in a show building, with the roller coaster portion of the ride at the beginning, followed by a splashdown return to the show building. You can see a POV video from the park in this news report. (For those of you wondering, Australia's Sea World is owned by Village Roadshow and is not affiliated with the US-based SeaWorld parks. Note that space in the name.)
The ride's the second big coaster to open in Australia this season, following the debut of Abyss, a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter coaster, at Adventure World in Perth last month.
Disney buys the film distribution rights for Indiana Jones. So what's that mean for the theme parks?
By Robert Niles
Disney today announced that it had purchased the distribution rights to the Indiana Jones franchise from Paramount Pictures. Disney had obtained the character rights to Indiana Jones when it bought Lucasfilm, but Paramount had retained the right to distribute any future Indiana Jones movies. With today's deal, those rights now go to Disney.Tweet
Which invites speculation that Disney now will produce and distribute a fifth Indiana Jones film. After all, there's no value to buying the rights to distribute a movie that no one's going to make.
With Disney almost certain to at least be pursuing a fifth Indiana Jones film, theme park fans ought to be excused for wondering what Disney's long-term plan for the franchise might be. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, which counts Star Wars and Indiana Jones among its properties, the company quickly began work on a new Star Wars-themed land for Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and a new Star Wars overlay for at least part of Disneyland's Tomorrowland. With new Indiana Jones movies on the horizon, might Disney also increase its investment in Indy as a theme park franchise?
Certain Disney World fans long have desired their own version of Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride, wanting more of a presence for the franchise than the stunt show now playing at DHS. But Disney World already has the Indiana Jones ride. Sort of. The Dinosaur ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom uses the same ride system and track layout as Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure.
Disney's 2000 Dinosaur movie didn't launch an enduring franchise. Heck, Don Bluth had more luck with The Land Before Time franchise in attracting kids with animated dinosaurs. For grown-ups, Universal's locked up the market with the Jurassic Park franchise. If Disney wants to increase the theme park presence of Indiana Jones, it might get the most return on its investment by giving up on dinosaurs and retheming the Dinosaur ride into an east-coast version of the Indiana Jones Adventure. Disney could complete the transformation of Dinoland USA into an Indiana Jones land by removing the troublesome Primeval Whirl roller coaster and replacing it with the Indiana Jones et le Temple du Peril/Raging Spirits coaster now found at Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea. It's not an especially popular coaster, but it's a fun ride that would give Disney a second looping coaster at the Walt Disney World Resort. Heck, Disney could lift much of the design for DisneySea's Lost River Delta to create an Indiana Jones land at Animal Kingdom.
Of course, Indy's an archeologist, not a paleontologist. But Disney already blew up the park's theme with the announced addition of an Avatar-themed land. Indiana Jones at least would provide a second powerhouse franchise to help make Animal Kingdom an even more popular destination for theme park fans.
What would you like to see the Walt Disney Company do with the Indiana Jones franchise in its theme parks?
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