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March 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Walt Disney World Hidden History"

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by Alice McNutt Miller
Guest Blogger

"Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions & Other Tributes" by Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee has written an enjoyable guide to the "hidden history" of Walt Disney World (with a bonus chapter on "History at Universal Studios Florida"), pointing out tributes to Disney personalities, park milestones and opening dates and remaining bits of now-defunct attractions. The book is organized by theme park and has helpful appendices that include the operational dates of now-gone attractions, and the individuals listed on the various windows of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. A person could easily use the book on a "live" tour through each of the theme parks, searching for these interesting historical tidbits (unfortunately, I have not been able to do this yet!). Disney Imagineers left a huge number of homages to themselves, to Imagineers who had gone before them, and to previous Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions scattered throughout the parks. This book will lead the reader on a voyage of discovery of intertwined historical references and remembrance of things past.

I found the book's descriptions of "reused" or "repurposed" items particularly interesting. Yee describes a number of animatronic figures that show up in different guises in different attractions. For instance, the ghostly old woman in the rocking chair in the Ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion is the same figure as the grandmother in the Carousel of Progress, and many of the animatronic figures in Epcot's Spaceship Earth are copies of figures in the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom. It is a great testament to the ingenuity of the Disney Imagineers that they are able to find multiple uses for these complex (and expensive!) figures.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of old attractions, how they have changed into newer ones, and what they left behind. A good example is the section where Yee describes the changes that have occurred over the years in the "Journey into Imagination with Figment" attraction at Epcot. I must admit that this attraction continues to befuddle me. I know that it has loads of enthusiasts, but I just don't get it. After reading Yee's description of the changes in the ride, and the elements remaining from earlier versions, I still don't get it. However, I will look for the references to one of my all-time-favorite childhood movies -- "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" -- the next time I ride.

Here are the things that I liked about the book:

• It was obviously well-researched, and had tons of very interesting information, particularly for those who are either interested in the park histories, or who may be finding themselves missing a now-defunct attraction.
• The entries were laid out generally in order of proximity within each theme park, so finding them should be relatively easy.
• The book was fun to read, even at home when I was not able to actually look at the item being described.

However, I did find the subject headings a bit difficult to follow. Some refer to the attraction or building, some to an event, some to a particular person such as an Imagineer. I would have preferred more consistency in the labeling.

This book is definitely for: Those who want quick, concise historical information on "hidden" remnants and tributes scattered throughout Walt Disney World. This is the type of book that deserves to be taken to the parks with you, so that you can dip into the interesting trivia as you tour.

This book may not be for: Those who want more in-depth historical information on attractions, buildings, artwork and other structures, or Disney personages. While there was lots of basic information, I found myself wanting more in some instances. That may need to be the subject of a future book review...

Happy digging everyone!

"Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions & Other Tributes" by Kevin Yee is available on Amazon through the AllEars.Net store HERE There is also a Kindle version of the book.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AllEars.Net received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author.

March 5, 2011

ESPN The Weekend

Andrew Rossi

I'm having a great time at ESPN the Weekend right now. I spent most of yesterday at the event and my photos are already in the ESPN Weekend Photo Gallery.

Here are a few tips based on my experience yesterday!

1. Be sure to get an event times guide as soon as you enter the park. There are often multiple things going on at the same time at different locations throughout the park so it helps to plan in advance what you are most interested in seeing.

2. If you want to be close to the stage, especially for the taping of live shows, it helps to show up about a half an hour ahead of time.

3. If you are looking for autographs, be sure to head to the ESPN Sports Zone (located near Rock n' Roller Coaster). Athletes make appearances there throughout the day, although there is no set times for when they will be there.

4. The athlete motorcades process up Hollywood Boulevard toward the Hat Stage. It is actually fairly easy to find a spot along the route to view the motorcade, so you only need to get there a couple of minutes before it starts.

Please post your reviews of ESPN the Weekend in the AllEars Rate and Review Section!

March 8, 2011

Magic Kingdom: What's New, What's Next 3/5/11

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We visited Magic Kingdom on Saturday, March 5. We had reservations for the Tables in Wonderland event that evening so we took advantage of the time to enjoy the park. The park opened at 8 and it was not an Extra Magic Hour morning. We were very grateful for the extra hour, especially because it was getting very crowded when we left to go back to the resort to rest. The weather was about perfect- it was slightly overcast and very comfortable outside.

We made it to the park around 8:15 AM. Part of City Hall is still under scrims:

City Hall

Exposition Hall is still partially under scrims as well:

Exposition Hall

The Confectionery is still being worked on:

Confectionery

Confectionery

The new princess windows along Main Street/outside the Emporium were awesome:

Princess window

Princess window

Cinderella Castle looked majestic despite the crane:

Cinderella Castle

We were able to walk through the castle to get to Fantasyland. When we came out of the castle, they were moving something into place behind the walls:

Crane

Crane

Snow White's Scary Adventures is still open (it does not close until some time in 2012):

Snow White's Scary Adventures

Dumbo the Flying Elephant had a 10 minute wait so my brother and I decided to get in line. It's been years since we had ridden it so off we went. We had a blast. We were able to see a bit more of the Fantasyland expansion work from the ride:

Fantasyland expansion

We had never ridden the Liberty Belle around Tom Sawyer Island. Since it was about to depart when we were walking by, we hopped on. It was a leisurely ride and we had unique views of Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. We were able to get a peak at the work going on at the Haunted Mansion queue line from the Liberty Belle:

Haunted Mansion queue line work

Haunted Mansion queue line work

Haunted Mansion queue line work

After we got off the Liberty Belle, we rode Haunted Mansion. The walls are still around the queue line:

Haunted Mansion queue

We all agreed that it they had added some new sounds to the Haunted Mansion and enhanced others. It was nice to hear. At the end of the ride, the Hitchhiking Ghosts' area was covered. They were projecting the ghosts onto a screen (these pictures were taken without flash and my LCD screen on my camera was turned off):

Hitchhiking Ghosts

Hitchhiking Ghosts

After Haunted Mansion, we walked back over to Fantasyland. We noticed this sign at Pinnochio's Village Haus:

Pinnochio's Village Haus

Maurice's cart was open and I thought it was cool how they had ears of corn set up to look like they were being fed into the machine to make popcorn:

Maurice's cart

Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella were greeting near Castle Couture:

Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella

The exterior of Cinderella's Royal Table is being worked on:

Cinderella's Royal Table

Disney has put up signs for Storybook Circus where ToonTown used to be:

Storybook Circus

They are still working on the Tomorrowland Speedway:

Tomorrowland Speedway

Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy (and the dancers) were in new costumes for Dream Along with Mickey:

Mickey and Minnie

Goofy and Donald

Work is still ongoing for the Adventureland bridge:

Adventureland bridge

The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management is still closed:

Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management

Tortuga Tavern has a new sign:

Tortuga Tavern sign

Tortuga Tavern was serving lunch and it was busy:

Tortuga Tavern

Pirate Goofy was greeting guests on the far right side of the Pirates of the Caribbean queue:

Pirate Goofy

Uptown Jewelers had new Dooney + Bourke bags:

New Dooney + Bourke

We went back to the park around 4 PM. The crane we had seen earlier had been lowered:

Magic Kingdom

Work is still being done on the Pecos Bill's exterior. The restaurant is open, though.

Pecos Bill's

Have a MAGICAL day! :)


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March 10, 2011

ESPN The Weekend Recap

Andrew Rossi

Guest blogger Andrew Rossi recaps the exciting events and activities that took place during this year's ESPN The Weekend held March 4-6 at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

ESPN Weekend Signage

Two of my major passions are sports and Disney, and ESPN The Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios offers the perfect combination of the two. This year marked the eighth anniversay of ESPN The Weekend, but it has really grown in size and prominence over the years. Over the course of three days this past weekend, March 4-6, the Hollywood Studios was transformed into a sport fan's paradise with an impressive lineup of sports greats and many well-known ESPN personalities.

This year included possibly the most star-studded collection of athletes to date, ranging from NFL Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Darrell Green to current stars such as Donald Driver and Greg Jennings of the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. There were also NBA legends Karl Malone and Julius Irving, soccer great Mia Hamm, and baseball stars of past an present, including Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven and Cal Ripken Jr. as well as current stars like Mariano Rivera, Cliff Lee, and Justin Verlander just to name a few.

One of the great things about the ESPN Weekend is that it is truly all about the fans. You normally just get to see these athletes and ESPN personalities on television, but here you actually have the opportunity to interact with them. It was amazing for me to get to see people whom I so greatly admire, not only the athletes but also the men and women that I often watch on ESPN, such as Sports Center anchor Linda Cohn, Monday Night Football analyst Ron Jaworski, and college basketball guru Dick Vitale.

There is so much to do at the ESPN Weekend that you can literally go nonstop from park opening to close and still not see everything. The weekend's activities range from the taping of live ESPN shows to question and answer sessions with athletes, sports trivia game shows, and celebrity motorcades. The best piece of advice I have is to get to the park early and be sure to grab an event times guide. There are often multiple events going on in different locations throughout park at the same time. The best thing is to plan in advance what events you want to attend and which athletes you would like to see the most. This will really help you maximize you experience.

Another tip: If you are coming to the Hollywood Studios for the ESPN Weekend do not plan on going on many rides while you are here. With so many special events going on, you will be hard pressed to find time to do anything else. I was at the park for all three days and did not go on a single ride. If you are a Florida local that gets to the parks frequently this will not necessarily be an issue. However, if you are vacationing and want to experience the ESPN Weekend in addition to all the attractions the park has to offer, be sure to schedule another day to enjoy the rides and shows. At the same time, if you are vacationing and are not really interested in the ESPN Weekend, I would suggest avoiding Hollywood Studios altogether on those days and plan to go into the park some time during the week. The park is much more crowded this weekend than it would typically be this time of year (although I did find Friday to be the least crowded of the three days).

Here is a look at some of the things you can expect to see at the ESPN Weekend:

Friday's events kicked off with the live filming of ESPN's First Take. The show featured appearances by a variety of sports stars and the hosts even came down off the stage to interact with fans during the commercial breaks.

First Take Filming

Dana Jacobson

Jay Crawford

All the live shows filmed this weekend were at a stage set up in front of the Sorceror's Hat. If you want to be close to the stage for the filmings, I would recommend getting there at least a half an hour ahead of time. Other live shows filmed this weekend included half-hour editions of Baseball Tonight and NFL Live on Friday in addition to a two-hour Baseball Tonight special on Sunday. It is a great opportunity to see all the hard work that goes into producing these shows.

Baseball Tonight Filming

Bobby Valentine

Tim Tebow Interview

Another highlight of the weekend are the celebrity motorcades that process down Hollywood Boulevard toward the Hat Stage. The motorcades generally feature three or four athletes who then take part in a question and answer session on stage hosted by one of the ESPN personalities. These motorcades feature past and present athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB and offer some great photo opportunities.

Cal Ripken Motorcade

Chad Ochocinco Motorcade

Julius Irving Motorcade

Urban Meyer Motorcade

I was surprised to find that it was not very hard to find a spot along the motorcade route; you could arrive just a couple of minutes ahead of time and still get a good spot to view the athletes.

In addition to the events taking place at the Hat Stage, there are also sports panels and Q&A sessions with the athletes that take place inside the Premiere Theater, which is located behind the San Francisco facade on the Streets of America (the location of the former Hunchback of Notre Dame show). The events held here are a great opportunity for fans to interact with the athletes. I am always fascinated to hear the personal stories of the athletes, which provides a very different view of sports from what you see on television.

Baseball Tonight Panel

Coaches Panel

NFL Live Panel

The theater is fairly large in size and it never completely filled up for any of the events that I attended there. That being said, if you want to be close to the stage I would recommend getting there anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes ahead of time to wait in line.

The ESPN Sports Zone, located behind Rock n' Roller Coaster, is a great place for kids and adults to take part in a wide variety of sporting activities. Here you can try your hand at passing and catching a football, show off your skills on the basketball court, see how fast you can pitch a baseball, take some swings in a batting cage, and even watch a bass fishing demonstration.

Sports Zone1

Sports Zone2

Sports Zone3

Sports Zone4

Sports Zone5

Sports Zone6

What is also great about the Sport Zone is that athletes and ESPN personalities make appearances there throughout the day (although there is no set times for when they will be there). Depending on when you are there, you might be able to see kids playing flag football with a couple of NFL stars or some basketball legends offering tips on the court. This is also the place to be if you are looking for autographs. Most of the time when the athletes are taking part in the panels or Q&A sessions on the Hat Stage or at the Premiere Theater they do not have time to sign autographs, but at the ESPN Sport Zone the athletes make themselves available to take pictures, shake hands, and autograph items for fans.

Overall, the ESPN Weekend is one of my favorite events to take place at Disney World throughout the entire year. In fact, it is unfortunate that ESPN The Weekend only occurs once a year. I would love to see them have one weekend in the fall and another in the spring, which would allow for an even greater variety of athletes to attend.

To see more photographs from the ESPN Weekend, be sure to check out the photo gallery. Also, feel free to add your own reviews of the weekend's festivities here.

March 21, 2011

Walk Around Walt Disney World - What's New, What's Next: March 19-20

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We were able to spend the weekend at Disney. We stayed on-property and since it was Extra Magic Hours at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Saturday morning, we took advantage of the extra time in the park.

'Let the Memories Begin' banners were up near the main gates:

Banners

Work on the Tower of Terror exterior is still be done:

Tower of Terror

One of the things I love most about Extra Magic Hours is that's it's not overly crowded yet and you can wander a bit. It had been a while since we had been nto the Tower of Terror courtyard and store so it was nice to wander around and see some details that I'd never seen before.

We went over to the Animation Courtyard to look around. I had never seen the sketches of the princesses above the costumes- I love this kind of detail!

Jasmine sketch

I heard a lot of families talking about seeing the new Disney Junior show once the park opened for the day.

Disney Junior

It had been at least five years since my brother had seen the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show so we decided to catch the first show (pun intended). I had seen it a couple of years ago but missed the detail of the trident lighting up!

Unlit trident

Lit trident

One Man's Dream is one of my favorite attractions. I was hoping the back section might be finished but the walls still say 'coming soon.'

One Man's Dream

I'm a Star Wars fan so I knew I had to see what was going on around Star Tours. The area where the speederbike photo-op was/is is currently behind a very large wall:

Speederbike wall

Speederbike wall

Behind the Jedi Training Academy is a character meet-and-greet location:

Meet and greet location

[Star Wars side note: In the lobby of Mama Melrose's, there is a picture of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). It's near the bathrooms. Also, in the dining room, there is an Italian version of The Empire Strikes Back movie poster.]

My brother and I rode Rock 'n Roller Coaster and noticed that they have put up these gates at the exit area of the ride:

Gates

I wandered through the watch shop and noticed an animator drawing Jedi Stitch:

Jedi Stitch

Friends from Chicago were in town and we met them at Epcot after lunch. On our way to meet up with them, we noticed this flamingo. It made us smile:

Flamingo

Our friends' son was absolutely enchanted with the train village at the Germany pavilion. I'm so glad he was- the village was hosting its own Flower & Garden Festival and I hadn't noticed it when I was there previously:

Train Village

The Lightning McQueen topiary was out at the World Showcase entrance:

Cars 2

Cars 2

Cars 2

For dinner, we decided to go to the Animal Kingdom Rainforest Cafe. On the way in, we noticed they had two lines:

Rainforest Cafe

The 'extreme supermoon' was visible Saturday night. My mom got a kick out of me leaving the room every 15 minutes to see if it was visible yet.

Supermoon

I went out to the parking lot around 7 AM to see if I could still see the supermoon. I definitely could! It was a great view:

Supermoon morning

Supermoon morning

Magic Kingdom opened at 8 AM Sunday morning so I wandered around to see what was new or had changed.

City Hall is still being worked on:

City Hall

The walls were down around Exposition Hall- the new sign says Town Square Theater. The doors are very ornate. The far right side of the building is open for PhotoPass viewing and camera accessories. Otherwise, the windows are still covered.

Town Square Theater

Town Square Theater

The exterior of Tony's is being worked on:

Tony's exterior

The Confectionery is also being worked on:

Confectionery

There is a wall up on the right side of the castle (if you're facing the back of the castle):

Castle wall

The exterior of Cinderella's Royal Table is still being worked on:

Cinderella's Royal Table

The tops of some of the buildings behind the Fantasyland walls are now visible over the walls:

Fantasyland

Fantasyland

The walls around the construction area had been moved back so there was a lot more room to walk around.

Fantasyland walls

A solid wall has gone up between the Tomorrowland Speedway and ToonTown:

ToonTown wall

The Tomorrowland Speedway was back to four lanes:

Tomorrowland Speedway

Only Minnie remains on the ToonTown sign:

ToonTown sign

I went to the Haunted Mansion to see if the new queue line was being tested. I knew it was a long shot since it was around 9 AM when I got there. It was not being tested but I could see a good bit of it.

Entrance to the new queue:

Queue entrance

This is clearly visible above the shrubs:

Queue line

The walls around the queue line are down and have been replaced with thick green screens:

Queue line

The walls around the Adventureland bridge were down. The new bridge is flat- there is not a hill anymore. The bridge they had set up for guests to use is also still there:

Adventureland bridge

Adventureland bridge

Adventureland bridge

After I had finished my Magic Kingdom 'walk', Mom and I went over to Downtown Disney. The AMC Theater now has automated ticket machines outside the theater.

Automated ticket machines

Walls were up where one of the Pleasure Island clubs used to be. A sign showed the concept art for the store going in its place.

Pleasure Island construction

Concept art

The Lego Store is being worked on. Temporarily, they have a tent set up near Once Upon a Toy.

Lego Store construction

At World of Disney, they have a new section of D-Tech merchandise. It's got mouse pads, laptop bags, iPad and iPhone cases and other assorted 'tech' goodies.

D-Tech

The Winnie the Pooh and friends photo-op has been moved to the Guest Relations area since Pooh Corner has closed.

Pooh photo-op

The temporary Lego Store is in a big yellow tent between Once Upon a Toy and Earl of Sandwich. It was very busy inside... and very yellow because of the tent!

Temporary Lego Store

Tempoary Lego Store

Outside of the tent, they had a little display set up for Flower & Garden at Epcot.

Flower & Garden display

Pooh Corner, unfortunately, has closed.

Pooh Corner

Goofy's Candy Company has started letting guests their own treat.

Create your own treat

That's all for this update. Have a MAGICAL day!! :)

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March 29, 2011

A Relaxing Escape at Olivia's Cafe

Andrew Rossi

Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi returns with a review of Olivia's Cafe at Disney's Old Key West Resort.

When it comes to dining at Disney, the restaurants inside the theme parks tend to receive much of the attention. While there are certainly some dining locations at the resorts that are immensely popular, such as Ohana at the Polynesian, California Grill at the Contemporary, or Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club, a good many resort restaurants tend to get overlooked. These are the restaurants that I like to call my "hidden gems" of Disney dining. While many guests will make reservations months in advance to get into the most popular restaurants inside the parks, there are numerous restaurants at the resorts that you can walk up to without a reservation and get seated right away.

While these resort dining locations may not be as well-known or as crowded as the restaurants inside the parks, that does not mean they are inferior or inadequate. On the contrary, I have been extremely pleased with my experiences at these lesser-known dining locations, all of which live up to the high standards you would expect from any Disney restaurant. If you are looking to get away from the crowds and escape the hustle and bustle of the theme parks to have a calm and relaxing meal, there are so many options waiting to be discovered at the various resorts. Olivia's Café at Disney's Old Key West Resort is one of these restaurants.

Olivia's Signage

Overview:
Spread out amongst several of the holes of the Lake Buena Vista golf course, Disney's Old Key West Resort provides a quiet, relaxing, and care-free environment that can sometimes make you forget that you are even in Disney World. The widespread layout of the resort amongst a natural landscape littered with waterways, palm trees, and other natural vegetation gives it a very secluded, intimate feel and one that perfectly embodies the island paradise theme of the Florida Keys. Because of the nature of the resort's layout, it just does not feel as crowded as many of the other Disney resorts.

Located just across from the lobby and right by the main pool, Olivia's Café is a restaurant that ties in perfectly with the overall theme of the Old Key West Resort. With its beachside feel and nautical touches, it is almost as if this restaurant was lifted out of the real Key West and set right in the middle of the resort. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Olivia's is a great way to escape the crowds of the theme parks and enjoy a relaxing, laid-back meal.

Olivia's Exterior

Atmosphere:
If you are looking for a casual, calm, and quiet meal then Olivia's Café is a great option. I arrived at the restaurant around noon with no reservation and was seated immediately. In fact, there were only three other tables with guests when I arrived and only two other parties were seated during the course of my meal. This makes Olivia's a great option if you have no reservations and are looking for somewhere to eat. It should be noted, however, when I inquired to my server about the relative emptiness of the restaurant she told me that it is generally more crowded for dinner than lunch and they do recommend making reservations ahead of time (but probably not as far in advance as with many of the more popular Disney restaurants).

The restaurant features both indoor and outdoor seating and has large windows offering beautiful views of the resort's marina just outside and let in plenty of sunlight, giving the dining room an open, airy feel.

Olivia's Seating

Even though the restaurant is very casual and laid-back, its relatively small size gave it an intimate feel. It actually feels as though you are eating at some small, family-run restaurant rather than being at Disney World. Adding to this were several walls in the dining room that were crammed with photographs of Disney Vacation Club members and their families. This really helped to give the restaurant a more personal touch that you seldom find at many other Disney dining locations.

Olivia's Family Pictures1

Olivia's Family Pictures2

The main theme of Olivia's is vintage nautical, but it is by no means tacky or over-the-top. The restaurant's light pastel-colored walls and furniture give it a beachside feel in addition to many little details that help immerse you in this atmosphere. It is an atmosphere which is very authentic. Having vacationed in the Florida Keys before, Olivia's has the type of feel you would expect to find in a restaurant on the streets of Key West itself.

Olivia's Seating and Nautical Touches

There are several large pieces that will quickly catch your attention as soon as you enter the main dining room and help establish the nautical theme of the restaurant, such as the large fish mounted on one of the walls, a vintage ship's wheel, oars, fishing nets, and model ships.

Olivia's Nautical Touches

Olivia's Nautical Touches2

However, there are also many little touches to be found that help add extra detail. The walls of the restaurant are adorned with many old black and white photographs of Key West in addition to framed post cards that help add sense of history and nostalgia.

Olivia's Key West Photos

There are many additional touches that help give the restaurant a sense of being older than it actually is. From the vintage wicker fans slowly spinning overhead to the brass light fixtures, Olivia's atmosphere is a throwback to an earlier time (it is the "old" in Old Key West).

Olivia's Wicker Fan

Along the top of the walls there is a shelf that runs around the perimeter of the dining room that houses numerous antique-looking items, such as copper tea kettles, bird cages, cookie jars, ceramic plates and vases, and various other knick knacks. All these little touches give you plenty to look at during the course of you meal and help immerse you into the restaurant's theme.

Antique Items1

Antique%20Items2

The Menu:
I was impressed by the wide selection of offerings available on Olivia's menu, featuring many tropical/island inspired dishes reminiscent of Key West, with seafood featured very prominently. To start, there are many tempting appetizers. With Key West being known as the Conch Republic, it comes as no surprise that Conch Fritters ($10.49) and Conch Chowder ($6.99) are both available. Other appetizer selections include Crab Cakes ($10.49) served with key lime mustard and papaya-ginger sauce, Grilled Mojito-Marinated Shrimp ($10.99) accompanied by Johnny cakes, Island BBQ Pork Ribs ($11.99), Onion Rings with Dips ($5.99), Mozzarella and Tomato Salad ($7.99) with a balsamic syrup, and Caesar Salad ($6.49).

For lunch, the entrée choices are primarily lighter fair and feature many different sandwiches. There is a Roast Beef and Blue Cheese Sandwich ($12.99) served with creamy horseradish, balsamic onions, and field greens, a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sandwich ( $14.49) topped with grilled pineapple, a Cuban Sandwich ($11.49) featuring sliced pork loin, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, mustard, and mayonnaise, an Angus Chuck Cheeseburger ($12.99), and a Turkey Club Sandwich ($11.99). Another option is the Soup and Half Sandwich Combo ($10.99) offering the choice of a Tuna Salad, Roast Beef and Blue, or Turkey Club sandwich with a cup other either Conch Chowder or the Soup of the Day.

If you are looking for something a little more than a sandwich, the lunch menu also includes Blackened Tuna ($19.99) served with fried yellow tomatoes, arugula, and roasted red peppers topped with an avocado ranch dressing. There is also Olivia's Marathon Shrimp Pasta ($17.99) with a sun dried tomato pesto and fresh herbs (you can also substitute chicken instead of shrimp for $15.99) as well as the Key West Salmon Salad ($16.49) with mixed greens, vine ripened tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, cucumbers, and topped with a citrus vinaigrette.

The dinner menu is slightly different from lunch, and a little more pricey, with the sandwiches replaced by heartier offerings such as a Grilled Pork Chop ($21.99) with a chipotle barbecue sauce and accompanied by smoked cheddar grits. Other options include a Grilled New York Strip ($28.99) with mashed potatoes and a cabernet mushroom sauce, Marinated Chicken Breast ($17.99) with a mango glaze served with a warm potato salad, Slow-Roasted Prime Rib ($27.99), and Coconut-Encrusted Mahi Mahi ($21.99) topped with a spiced citrus glaze.

The dessert offerings are few and for the most part fairly standard, but still tempting nonetheless. The restaurant's specialty is the Key Lime Tart ($5.49) topped with a mango and raspberry sauce. There is also the Banana Bread Pudding Sundae ($6.49) served with a warm banana fosters topping, Chocolate Cake ($5.99) topped with a raspberry sauce, No Sugar Added Lemon Pound Cake ($5.49), and a New York Style Cheesecake ($5.49).

For my entrée I chose the Key West Burger ($13.49), which came topped with grilled shrimp, pepper jack cheese, and pico de gallo. This was unlike any other burger I have ever had anywhere and probably one of the best burgers I have tried in Disney World. What I enjoyed most about the burger was the tremendous combination of different flavors. Each of the toppings added their own distinct taste, but they all blended together extremely well. There was the spiciness of the pepper jack cheese, the light, refreshing taste of tomatoes and avocado in the pico de gallo, and a slight citrusy flavor to the grilled shrimp, but no one flavor really dominated or overpowered the others. If anything, I could have done with a little less avocado and a little more pepperjack cheese, just because I like my food to have a little more of a kick.

Key West Burger

I was also very impressed by the portion size, not only of the burger but also the quantity of fries that came along with it, as well as the amount of shrimp that topped the burger.

For dessert I decided to try the Banana Bread Pudding Sundae. I absolutely love bread pudding and have tried it at many restaurants around Disney World. The bread pudding at Olivia's was certainly good, but not the best I have ever had. The bread pudding itself was served warm although I found it to be a little dry. The bread pudding was topped withy a banana fosters sauce that added some sweetness to the dessert but was by no means overpowering; I actually think that the dessert could have used a little more of this sauce. The bread pudding also came topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that provided a light and refreshing contrast and the slices of banana that surrounded it provided additional flavor and texture to the dessert.

Banana Bread Pudding Sundae

Service:
One of the benefits of going to a restaurant that is not very crowded is that your server is able to pay a lot of attention to your table. My server only had one other table in addition to mine, which meant that she was able to provide very dedicated service. I found my server to be very friendly and pleasant, although not too conversational. She did, however, take time to explain several items on the menu in addition the describing the daily specials in detail.

I found the service to be very efficient. After ordering, my food came out quickly but I did not feel rushed at all. On the contrary, the meal really progressed at a calm and relaxing pace that matched the atmosphere of the restaurant. This is the benefit of dining at one of the lesser-known resort restaurants as opposed to the more crowded dining locations inside the parks.

Dining on a Budget:
Olivia's is a great dining option if you are looking for a nice sit-down meal at an affordable price. The prices are just a little more than what you would pay at a counter service restaurant in one of the parks and here you get to enjoy the calm, relaxing atmosphere in addition to larger portion sizes and higher quality meals than what you would find at a quick service location. One of the better values on the menu might be the Soup and Half Sandwich Combo for $10.99. All of the sandwiches are very reasonably priced, ranging from $11.99 to $14.49, and the portion sizes are generous. If you are looking to save even more money, consider ordering an appetizer as an entrée. The Crab Cakes, Conch Fritters, and Island BBQ Pork Ribs are all tempting options that when paired with a soup/salad or a dessert would make a nice meal at a very affordable price.

The Overall Experience:
I was pleasantly surprised by my dining experience at Olivia's Café. It is one of many restaurants found at the various Disney resorts that fly under the radar. These restaurants offer a great option if you are looking to try something different. One thing that you can expect from any Disney restaurant, regardless of whether it is in one of the parks or at one of the resorts, is that you will get tremendous quality in terms of atmosphere, food quality and taste, and service.

Olivia's may not be the best Disney restaurant that I have ever been too, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. The restaurant has everything you could possibly want, including a menu featuring several unique items, high quality and large portioned meals, in addition to a casual and laid back atmosphere that allows you to truly relax and enjoy your meal in a peaceful and un-crowded environment. If you are looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks, definitely consider Olivia's or one of the numerous other lesser-known restaurants at the resorts. I often find these restaurants offer some of the best values for your money and overall provide very enjoyable dining experiences.

Check out Reader Reviews of Olivia's Cafe and post your own too!

Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children

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On Monday, March 28, the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children hosted a media preview. The preview included breakfast and a tour of the facility. The state-of-the-art facility was announced in 2007 and is expected to be completely open around the beginning of April of this year. It is opening in stages and does currently have patients. This pavilion is for pediatrics and the specialties include, but are not limited to, asthma and allergy, cardiology, diabetes, intensive care management, oncology and pulmonology.

They currently have 185 beds now and hope to have 200 by the end of the year. Their goal is 240. All of the patient rooms are private.

Walt Disney Pavilion

I allowed a lot of travel time because of the rain so I arrived about an hour early. The pavilion's ambient lighting is a treat to look at- as you stand and look at the building, the lights change colors.

Walt Disney Pavilion

Inside the pavilion, this sign greets guests:

Pavilion sign

Since I was there early, the wonderful staff of the pavilion encouraged me to wander the lobby. Four movies are featured: The Lion King, The Jungle Book, Brother Bear and The Little Mermaid. Dave was setting up the cameras in the lobby and was kind enough to take the time to show me some of the interactive elements that the lobby has.

Looking into the lobby:

Lobby

The Lion King:

The Lion King

The lobby is interactive. In this area, when you press your hand to the hand prints, the effects light up on the walls:

Hand print

Lit hand print

The Lion King lit up

Simba lit up

There's also a game to play- when you press the red bug, you have to get the order of the bugs correct to win:

Mickey and Child play in the Lobby.JPG

The Jungle Book area:

Children playing

King Louie's throne and organ were featured in the lobby as well. When you pressed the keys on the organ, it played music and the jewels lit up.

King Louie's throne and organ

The spots on the floor triggered animal noises, Baloo's voice and other effects:

Jungle Book

The Brother Bear area:

Brother Bear

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The salmon pond was my favorite portion of the interactive area because it was the most unexpected. When you first see it, you see the salmon swimming around. But if you step near or 'in' the water, it ripples.

The Little Mermaid area:

The Little Mermaid

Ariel's treasure cove features a bubble effect but the effect was not turned on when I was there... but it's something to see!

Ariel's treasure cove

On the opposite side of the lobby, near the elevators, there is a waiting area that shows Disney movies and looks very inviting:

Waiting area

I was sent up to the second floor to check in. Ashley was telling me how much she enjoyed the interactive elements and watching the kids find them. She took me over to an area overlooking the lobby and pointed out the clouds. The kids are able to design their own fireworks from computers in their rooms and every night, they do a fireworks display. They video the performance and are able to put it on screens in the rooms of patients who are unable to go see the show.

Clouds

Not long after I went back downstairs, it was time to be seated for breakfast. The centerpieces they had for the tables were much admired:

Centerpiece

Around 8 AM, Samantha (left) and Marla (right) introduced themselves:

Samantha and Marla

Marla talked about how the pavilion is able to have advantages, such as access to capital and resources, of being a hospital within a hospital. Disney and Florida Hospital have had a long-standing relationship and when the plans for the pavilion first came about, Disney told Florida Hospital to "dream big." The pavilion was built with a "high tech, high touch" philosophy. The staff of the pavilion were all trained at the Disney Institute.

Wyatt, a Disney Imagineer, was introduced and he spoke of how Disney featured movies in the lobby:

Wyatt

Tim spoke next and talked about how the theme continued upstairs into the patient rooms. The characters stayed in the lobby but their environment went upstairs. For example, The Lion King characters were in the lobby and a floor upstairs was savanna-themed to continue the story.

Tim

Next, Connie shared her family's emotional story of how the Florida Hospital for Children helped save her son's life from a form of leukemia:

Connie

We were then asked to break into our smaller tour groups to begin. My group went to the jungle themed floor first. The area we saw was called the "Family Zone" where the families can come to rest for a few minutes. There is also a wash station before they go back to the patient room area.

Jungle themed floor

The Walt Disney Pavilion is the first in the country to feature ambient lighting. The ambient lighting is the changing lighting- for example, the lights on this floor were yellows and greens. On the ocean floor, they are blue tones. Also on this floor, you could hear birds chirping.

Along the halls, these screens show different images depending on which floor you are on:

Screens

Next, we went to the ocean themed floor. The lighting is blue and it smells like the ocean.

The nurse's station was lit with blue tones:

Nurse's station

We were told the nurses were able to customize the lighting.

We were taken to a patient room that had been prepped for us to see. The themeing extends to the room number signs:

Room number sign

The patient (or parents) have can change the color of the ambient lighting over the bed. So, if the patient wants red, the lighting can be red. If he or she wants blue, it can be blue.

Room

Next, we went to the pediatric emergency room. They have an emergency room for adults and one for kids. The hospital has a gorgeous lake on site:

Lake

Pediatric emergency room:

Emergency room

Again, the patients can control the lighting in the room. Images can be projected on the wall and the patients can change the image:

Image on wall

Image on wall

After that, we were escorted back to the lobby and the tour was concluded. I don't know what I was expecting but the Walt Disney Pavilion far surpassed an expectations I could have had. It's great to see that Disney is helping to make such a positive difference in their community- not just in the Orlando area but in the state of Florida and the region. I expect we'll be hearing great things from and about the Walt Disney Pavilion. Kudos to the Florida Hospital for Children, the Walt Disney Pavilion and Disney.

The official opening ceremony for the Walt Disney Pavilion is Wednesday morning (March 30).

Florida Hospital Unveils New Details, Name for Disney Children's Hospital - August 2008 - Press Release

Have a great day!


March 31, 2011

Walt Disney Pavilion Opening Ceremony - Florida Hospital for Children

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The opening ceremony and dedication of the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children was on Wednesday, March 30.

I arrived early because I had allowed extra travel time since the weather was supposed to be bad and it wasn't- not that I'm complaining! When I arrived, I saw several familiar faces from Monday's tour. They gave me a wristband for the tour following the ceremony and took me over to the lawn where the ceremony would be taking place. It had a nice view of the pavilion:

Walt Disney Pavilion

A stage had been set up to use for the ceremony:

Ceremony stage

The event was very well attended by Disney Cast Members and Imagineers, hospital staff, media and patients:

Attendees

The mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, spoke first. He was very enthusiastic about the pavilion:

Mayor

Next, "When You Wish Upon a Star" was sung. The children's choir was from a local school:

Singers

The Florida Hospital for Children administrators spoke and shared inspiring stories about two young children who beat incredible odds:

Administrators

Administrators

Next, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, was introduced. He spoke of how proud Disney is to be a part of bringing a smile to children when they need it most.

Bob Iger

Mickey Mouse was on hand to help lead the choir and a local singer in singing "True Colors":

Mickey Mouse

Confetti

Grand Opening Confetti

After the ceremony, those going on the tour broke into their groups. We went many of the same places that the tour on Monday went to. For more information and pictures, please click here. One of the first places we went was the Pediatric Emergency Department:

Emergency Department

We also went to the savanna-themed floor:

Savanna themed floor

On this tour, we got to see one of the pediatric ICU rooms.

Pediatric ICU

I left the hospital through the main lobby. Confetti was still on the ground and it was neat to hear the kids getting excited about it when they saw it:

Confetti

I would like to say thank you to the staff of the Walt Disney Pavilion and Florida Hospital for Children. Their hospitality Monday and today was much appreciated and they couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. Everyone was so enthusiastic about it. Thank you for allowing us to have a peak at this wonderful facility and to be part of the opening ceremony. It is truly going to make a difference in the lives of so many children.

Have a great day!


Florida Hospital Unveils New Details, Name for Disney Children's Hospital - August 2008 - Press Release

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About March 2011

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in March 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2011 is the previous archive.

April 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.