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September 2012 Archives

September 9, 2012

I Find It Surprising . . .

GaryCruisebanner.jpg

I find it surprising that someone could visit Walt Disney World 41 times and not ride the Tea Cups or explore Tom Sawyer Island. Very surprising!

I mentioned in a previous blog that my wife Carol and I "hang out" at Tagrel.com It's our favourite Disney Fan community. A recent discussion thread on the Tagrel forums asked members to complete the question "Am I the only one who's never . . . "

My last two blog entries focused on all the things you can do at Walt Disney World outside the theme parks and I was simply boggled when I read some of the responses to the Tagrel question. There is a huge variety of things to do outside the parks but it really surprises me what some veteran Disney fans have skipped inside the parks! Most of us in the Tagrel community are not what you would call casual Disney fans. We are real diehard fans - we are the folks who put the merely fanatical fans to shame. That's why I find it so hard to imagine!

Consider Mark, who started the thread on Tagrel.com. He has made 19 visits to WDW and he's a Disney Vacation Club owner. Mark has never been to Tom Sawyer Island, never been to Rafiki's Planet Watch, never taken a trail ride at Fort Wilderness and never visited Downtown Disney's West Side.

Tom Sawyer Island - Fort Langhorn

Rafiki's Conservation Station

Fort Wilderness Trail Ride

Susan is also a DVC owner and has enjoyed a whopping 41 Walt Disney World vacations. As I mentioned earlier, Susan has never ridden the Tea Cups or crossed over to Tom Sawyer's Island. She has never played mini golf, never taken a trail ride at Fort Wilderness, never eaten in Cinderella Castle, never been to Raglan Road or the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre.

Fantasyland Tea Cups Ride

Tom Sawyer Island Floating Bridge

Raglan Road

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre

Naturally there are plenty of folks who have never done the thrill rides like The Tower of Terror, Mission Space or any of the roller coasters. That's understandable; some people don't tolerate the motion very well.

Plenty of folks have never had a Turkey Leg; I can understand that. I've tried one but they're not one of my favourite things.

But some of the answers remain astounding. There are avid Disney fans and frequent park visitors who have never had a Mickey Bar . . . yes; you read that correctly . . . they've NEVER HAD A MICKEY BAR!

Mickey Bar

A friend from New Jersey insists that the Mickey Bar is the fifth basic food group!

Mickey Bar the Fifth Food Group

Several others have never seen Fantasmic . . .

Fantasmic

. . . never had a Dole Whip. (I prefer the Pineapple Float)

Dole Whip

Pineapple Float

Others have never seen Flights of Wonder. It's an attraction we seldom miss; Carol and I consider it one of our "must-do's". How can anyone pass it by?

Flights of Wonder

Of course, Carol and I are really no different; there are still plenty of things we have not done. We have covered the parks quite thoroughly but Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is a different story. We have taken our motor home to "The Fort" eleven times and most times we stay for two weeks. In all those weeks at our favourite campground we have never seen a movie at Chip 'n Dale's Campfire Sing-A-Long and we've never gone to Mickey's Backyard BBQ.

Chip and Dale Sign

BBQ Pavilion Sign

There are plenty of restaurants we have yet to enjoy and many attractions, both inside and outside the parks, which we haven't seen in a long, long time. Should we sit down, analyze the parks, make a list of things we have not done and then devise a plan so we can mark them all off the list? Or would that take the spontaneity and some of the fun out of our vacations?

Yeah, I think we'll stick with our spontaneous approach!

I guess the main thing that thread on Tagrel.com pointed out to me was the diversity of interests and tastes among Disney fans. We are all very unique individuals and different things appeal to each of us. This is a good thing! It adds variety and colour to our lives.

We are truly fortunate that Walt Disney World offers such a wide array of attractions to choose from; there will always be enough variety there to engage the child in all of us, despite our different tastes!

So, how about you? The question is, "Am I the only one who's never . . . ?"

How would you complete the question?

September 23, 2012

Mickey's Circus - 2012 Disney Trade Celebration

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Earlier this month I enjoyed the annual Disney Trade Celebration at EPCOT. I first attended this event in 2005 and I had so much fun that I have not missed a year since. This was my eighth consecutive Trade Celebration at EPCOT.

2012 Event logo

The 2012 Disney Trade Celebration was called Mickey's Circus. The theme coincided with the newly renovated and expanded Fantasyland that will hold its grand opening in December. The pin event kicked off on Thursday with a pre-registration session and continued with all-day events Friday and Saturday. Sunday was set aside for the Vinylmation portion of the event. This year, for the first time, the Sunday event lasted all day. In previous years the doors to World ShowPlace were opened at 1 p.m. and any park guests could enter to trade pins and purchase any of the remaining event merchandise.

Pin Event Invitation
Vinylmation Event Invitation

My adventure began on Tuesday, I drove to Syracuse NY to board my flight to Orlando. I landed in Florida at 7 p.m. and once I had picked up my luggage and selected my rental car I was on my way to Disney. I went directly to Downtown Disney and met my pin trading friends at Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich

After a great dinner and plenty of catching up with friends I hadn't seen for a while we wandered through a couple of the shops.

Pin Trading friends

Before we knew it, everything was closing down for the night. I still had not checked-in to the resort so my roomie and I headed over to All Star Movies. It was close to midnight by the time Carrie and I found the room. We were only staying the one night; we would move to the Boardwalk the next day so there was no need to unpack. Carrie is a Disney Vacation Club owner and had booked us a studio for the following five nights.

I was awake early and walked down to the food court to grab some coffee, wandered the grounds a bit and then went back to the room. We were ready to check-out and head over to Hollywood Studios by 8:30 a.m. We browsed a few of the shops and I looked at a recently released cel in the Animation Gallery.

Hollywood Studios

We stopped at Starring Rolls for a Danish and then meandered back to the gates. It was almost 10:30 so decided to see if our room was ready at the Boardwalk. It was, so we parked, unloaded everything and took time to get settled.

Boardwalk

Soon we were headed to the Magic Kingdom to get our Sorcerer cards (both Carrie and I are collecting them) and meet our fellow Canadian pin traders for lunch. We ate at the Columbia Harbor House and then decided we needed a swim so back to Boardwalk we went.

Boardwalk pool

That evening we had dinner at Wolfgang Puck's in Downtown Disney's Westside. This was a chance for our group to spend some peaceful time together before the event took over our lives.

Pin Trading friends

Thursday morning was the start of the non-stop four days of Disney pins and Vinylmations. The first thing we did was drive over to Coronado Springs, where the pre-registration was being held, beginning at noon. Last year we had to park a long, long way from the convention centre and it was too far to carry our pin bags in and then later carry out all the new pins we were picking up. So this year we had a plan! Susan drove over early and parked her car there, close to the door with all our bags and trading goods in the trunk. That way if we had to park miles away at least our stuff would be close. Carrie and I picked up Susan and Allison in our car and they rode with us to EPCOT. We joined friends Ann and Mike at the gate. We were all attending a special breakfast with some of the Disney pin artists.

EPCOT breakfast group

This breakfast was held in the private lounge at the Norway pavilion and was hosted by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. It was the second annual breakfast with the Disney Design Group and the artists who joined us were Quynh Kimball, Caley Hicks and Monty Maldovan. At 8:30 we were greeted at the main gate by a Cast Member and escorted through Future World and around to Norway. When we entered there was a large table of really good food waiting for us and lots of piping hot coffee. Life was good!

Pin artists

We enjoyed our meal while chatting with our table mates for about 45 minutes, then John Rick of CJDPT introduced the featured artists. The format was very relaxed and informal. Questions from the floor to the artists flowed easily and the time flew past. It was hard to believe that 2 hours had already passed when it was announced that it was 11 o'clock and time to pack up! The breakfast was closed with a special raffle, drawing for some original sketches that the artists had brought along. At the very end Quynh Kimball announced that he had brought a very special button for everyone. It was going to be worn by the Cast Members at the event and we were all presented with one. We all left happy and full, what a great start to the weekend.

Naturally we made a short detour to the Magic Kingdom to pick up our daily allotment of Sorcerer Cards before going on to Coronado Springs.

Sorcerers

Next stop - Coronado Springs for early registration and of course pin and Vinylmation trading. The standing in lines officially started!

Registration line

This year I have to say that the registration went the fastest ever. The Veracruz A Hall was divided in half, one half set up for registration the other half full of tables and chairs for traders. Once I received my credentials and event merchandise I was allowed to cross over into the trading area. This area was set aside for use by those registered for the event until 7 p.m. and then it was opened up for the regular monthly pin trading night that is normally held at the Contemporary Resort.

I found the table where my friends were gathering and we all started to go through our bags of goodies.

Opening goodies

Opening goodies

Everyone received a welcome gift.

Welcome gift

There was an Early Registration gift for the first 750 registrants.

Early bird gift

Everyone registered for the Vinylmation event received a Vinylmation Welcome gift as well.

Vinylmation Welcome gift in the box

Vinylmation Welcome gift

The next exciting thing we all did was open our Mystery Pin Boxes! Each box held 2 of the new pins. This year the mystery pins were Villains, each participating in a sinister circus side shows. There were 13 Villain pins that were limited release, and then there were 13 different ticket pins that were chasers and limited to 100 each. I was very lucky this year, I bought 5 boxes and got 5 chasers. Lots of people didn't get any! Of course the chasers were the big trading item and everybody wanted the ticket chaser to go with the Villain pin.

Opening goodies

Villains and Tickets

I was happy to get the 3 pins and chasers that I actually wanted and then have a few sets left over for trading.

Gabes pin trading board

Carrie and I stayed until about 8:30, trading and talking, our only break from the room was when we wandered over to the Pepper Mill to get some food to go. We drove one of our friends over to the Beach Club Resort so it seemed only fitting that we make a stop at Beaches and Cream before going to our own resort. A great way to finish off the day!

Beaches and Cream

Friday morning we hit the ground running, caught the boat to EPCOT, checked through security and found our place in line, waiting for the doors to World ShowPlace to open. They do a great job at security during this event; they have a special entry gate just for pin traders and Max, a sniffer dog, checks all the bags. There are all sorts of bags that get brought in, from small over the shoulder bags to large suitcases on wheels. This year was a first for this one, I saw a person coming through with a Costco Grocery Cart, full of boxes and books of pins!

Max the security dog

Friday morning line

The doors opened at 9:30 a.m. and we all rushed to find a spot in a line for the pin trading boards. The room was decorated like The Big Top; Mickey's Circus had come to town. Disney spares no expense when decorating, they really tap into Disney history to immerse you in the theme of the event. I always look forward to seeing what they have in store for us every year.

Ringmaster Mickey

Entrance decor

This year the "mystery pins" on the pin trading boards were circus elephants which linked together with magnets. Each person was allowed to trade 2 of their pins for 2 pins off the board. Each board holds a few hundred pins and you had 60 seconds to find what you wanted. Along with the elephant pins you could find AP pins (artist proof) PP pins (pre-production) and LE pins (limited edition). When your minute was up you went back to the end of the line and started all over again.

Pin board pins

When you got tired of the lines you could relax in the back room where the trading tables were set up. I spent a great deal of my day in line. There is plenty of chatter among the folks in the line and many trades completed while you wait to get to the pin boards. Pin traders are always anxious to complete their collections and most of them willingly try to help you complete yours as well. They are a very cooperative bunch!

Trading board

Trading board

During the day there were always activities going on, special announcements, merchandise for sale and some fun games.

Entertainers

The only break we took was when Carrie and I went over to The Rose & Crown and had a really good lunch; I love the Cottage Pie there.

When they made the announcement that it was 6 p.m. and we had to leave, we all gathered up our stuff and wandered out into EPCOT. Carrie and I walked to the International Gateway where we boarded the boat to the Boardwalk. The others walked to their cars. Next on the agenda was pin trading night at Port Orleans Riverside. This is another annual activity organized by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. As if we don't get enough pin trading during the day, we have to keep it going into the night!

Carrie and I picked up our friends Sandy and Mo on the way. When we got to Riverside we joined the rest of our group, had some dinner in the food court and checked out the pin books that everyone had set out. We stayed until about 9 p.m. when exhaustion started setting in, time to call it a night.

Port Orleans Riverside

The Saturday morning line outside World ShowPlace stretched all the way back to the Rose Garden.

Saturday morning line

Saturday was a repeat of Friday during the day. Lots of lines, the silent auction, pin trading in the back room, checking out the new products being released in the up coming months and artist signings.

Artist pin signing

At 1 p.m. Jeanne Lewis and Julie Young took to the stage for the Big Top Pin Talk.

Jeanne and Julie

They told us about the up coming pin releases, introduced the representatives from the other Disneyland Parks, and then the big announcement that everyone was waiting for. What would the theme be for next year and when will the event be held? There was a roar out of the crowd when they announced that the 13th annual event would be held on the weekend of Friday the 13th next September. The event is going to be called "Reflections of Evil 13" and the Villains will be the focus.

New pins

2013 Event logo

Even though I am not a big Villains fan it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement. It was also announced that a special pin was being release right then and there . . . as part of the future events collection. Of course that meant another line; this pin was limited to 750.

13 Cruella pin

After the event closed at 6 p.m. we wandered through EPCOT and hitched a ride with Susan and Allison to Downtown Disney. We had a bite at Wolfgang Puck's at the Market Place, where we sat and talked for quite a while before wandering through some of the stores. We all decided that we shouldn't be too late - the Vinylmation event was the next day - so Susan and Allison dropped us off at the Boardwalk and we all called it a night.

Sunday morning it was the same drill, catch the boat, go through security, stand in line, the only difference was that we were not dragging our pins - we had our Vinylmations. Just as we got to the line the skies decided to open up and the rain was really coming down. Thankfully Disney took pity on us and opened the doors to World ShowPlace early. We could go in and get in our lines but none of the trade boxes were open until 9:30 a.m.

Sunday morning line

Vinylmations

The Vinylmation trading is similar to the pin trading, you stand in line until it is your turn at the trade box, you can trade 2 of your Vinylmation for 2 from the mystery box or open box. They do a refresh every 30 minutes and if you are in the right place at the right time you can get some great Vinylmations. There were lots of chasers and older rare vinyl's being pulled out of the boxes. This year the event mystery chaser was a clown, and of course everyone was trying to get these. I was lucky to get one.

Vinylmation chaser

The back room was full of traders, similar to the pin event. I wandered around a bit and made some good trades, but like Friday and Saturday I spent most of my time in the lines. Carrie and I escaped for an hour to the Rose and Crown again for lunch, but that was the only time we left the building until they closed down at 5:30 p.m. We caught the boat back to the Boardwalk to drop off our stuff before heading to the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

This was our last night and we wanted to walk Main Street and of course get our Sorcerer cards. We did a bit of card trading at Tortuga Tavern before heading back to the Boardwalk.

Trading Sorcerer cards

We had ice cream on the Boardwalk and savored our last evening there before we started packing.

Monday morning I checked my luggage at the resort, I was worried I might be over my weight limit but I was just under the 50 pounds so all was good. We had some time to kill before driving to the airport so we went to Downtown Disney for a breakfast sandwich at Earl of Sandwich and wandered through a couple shops. It was then time to hit the road, return the car and get checked in for our flights home. I was flying back to Syracuse and Carrie was flying into Toronto an hour later.

It was over . . another great time at another great Disney event, with a bunch of great friends. I can't wait until next year!



Read Carol's blog on Vinylmations here.

Read Carol's blog on the 2010 Pin Celebration here.

Read Carol's blog on the 2009 Pin Celebration here.

Read Carol's blogs on the 2008 Pin Celebration. Part 1 Part 2

September 25, 2012

Enjoy a Taste of Southern Comfort Food at Boatwright's Dining Hall

Andrew Rossi

When it comes to dining at Disney World, the resort restaurants tend to fly a little more under the radar than those at the parks. Certainly there are quite a few of these restaurants that receive much notoriety, such as Ohana, California Grill, or Yachtsman Steakhouse, but there are also hidden gems to be found. One such restaurant is Boatwright's Dining Hall at Port Orleans Riverside. The restaurant's more out-of-the-way location may mean that it is a little more difficult to get to, but it also makes for a more quiet and calming dining experience.

I often find that restaurants at the various resorts help provide more of an escape from all the hustle and bustle of a Disney vacation. Here you can get away from all the crowds and just relax. It really makes for a great change of pace. A restaurant like Boatwright's may not have the same name recognition or draw in the same number of guests as other restaurants across Disney World, but that is part of its allure. This is one of the best parts about dining at Disney World. While there are numerous popular and well-known dining experiences, there are also many other lesser-known restaurants for you to discover that will really surprise you.

Overview:
When it comes to quiet and relaxing, the Port Orleans Riverside resort certainly fits the bill. Combining the luxury of the old South with the rustic charm of the Louisiana bayou, Port Orleans Riverside is a far cry from the fast paced atmosphere of the theme parks.

Mansion


Bayou

Whether you want to enjoy a leisurely bike ride, take a boat down the Sassagoula River, or merely sit by the pool on Ol' Man Island, this resort provides a quiet and intimate setting that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. There is really enough to do at the resort that you could spend a whole day there and not even worry about going into the parks. While the resort provides plenty to do in terms of recreation and entertainment, it also features a couple of dining options whose Southern cuisine fits in perfectly with the resort's theme.

Port_Orleans_Exterior

The Riverside Mill is the resort's food court and offers a wide variety of dishes ranging from grilled items to pizzas, pastas, salads, and sandwiches. If you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside, however, the must-do dining experience is Boatwright's Dining Hall. In fact, it is worth the trip even if you are not staying at the resort. Port Orleans is easily accessible via bus from any of the parks or by boat from Downtown Disney. One of the only drawbacks of Boatwright's is that it is just open for dinner and thus has limited hours from 5:00-10:00pm daily.

Boatwrights_Outside

At the entrance of Boatwright's is a plaque that explains a little about the history of the restaurant. Here it states that it is the goal of the restaurant to offer a unique dining experience that combines quality and attention to detail with authentic cuisine and unmatched service. After dining there for the first time I can say that Boatwright's delivers on all counts.

Boatwrights_Signage

Atmosphere:
The history of Boatwright's is very interesting. Designed to resemble a turn-of-the-century boat shop, the story of Boatwright's actually begins at the Brewers Dauntless Ship Yard in Essex, Connecticut. When they were first planning the restaurant, Disney obtained from the Smithsonian the original blueprints of a 46-foot Lugger. Brewers Ship Yard was then commissioned to partially-build the ship, a sturdy, wooden watercraft that was used to haul cotton up and down the Mississippi River. This partially-built ship feels right at home in the middle of the Boatwright's dining room. In fact, if you arrive at the restaurant just as it opens the servers ring a large dinner bell and declare all boat-building done for the day so dinner can begin.

Boat

In terms of theming and attention to detail Boatwright's offers so much more than just the massive 46-foot boat at its center. All across the restaurant the walls are filled with various ship-building tools, such as hammers, saws, and axes. It makes you feel as though if at any moment a group of boat builders could enter the restaurant, pick up the tools, and continue working on the partially-built ship.

Tools1

Tools2

Tools3

There are also blueprints of various ships that add to the authenticity that this is indeed a working boat shop.

Blueprints1

Blueprints2

The main dining room, which is dominated by the 46-foot ship, features high, lofted ceilings and receives plenty of natural light.

Main_Dining_Room

My preference, and where I was seated for my meal, was the smaller, more intimate dining room off to the side that offers a more cozy and homey feel.

Boatwrights_Dining_Room

This area of the dining room to me felt almost reminiscent of the Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom, more like you were dining in someone's home than in a restaurant. Everything from the honey-colored wooden tables and spindle-backed chairs to the hardwood floors and checkered cloth napkins all lend to the restaurant's feeling of nostalgia.

Tables_and_Chairs

The tables even come topped with a small lantern to provide some additional light during your meal.

Boatwrights_Table_Setting

Another nice touch in this part of the dining room is a working fireplace.

Boatwrights_Fireplace

Overall, Boatwright's features a calm, laid back, and relaxing atmosphere. It is a casual, family-friendly setting that makes it a great option if you are looking for somewhere to dine with the entire family. At the same time, it's cozy, quiet, and rustically intimate feel also make it an good option for couples dining without children. The restaurant's success lies in something that Disney prides itself on, creating a well-themed and immersive atmosphere that helps transport Guests to an entirely different time and place. However, this immersion does not just stop with the restaurant's atmosphere but continues on with its cuisine.

The Menu:
Boatwright's menu is nothing flashy, but it features an array of Southern comfort food influenced heavily by Creole and Cajun dishes of Louisiana that makes it fit perfectly with the restaurant's theme.

For appetizers there is Bourbon Barbecue Shrimp ($10.99) served with a grilled grit cake, Spinach Salad ($6.49) topped with grape tomatoes, raspberry vinaigrette, roasted beets, candied pecans, and goat cheese, Cajun-Seasoned Crawfish Bites ($10.49), Romaine Salad ($8.49) with parmigiano-reggiano croutons and prosciutto served topped with a house dressing, French Onion Soup au Gratin ($6.49), and the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo ($6.49), which I was told was the restaurant's most popular appetizer.

The entrees are not necessarily going to offer you a gourmet meal, but feature dishes reminiscent of a home-cooked meal, the type of food that will leave you feeling full and satisfied at the end of the meal. Leading off the entrees is a Louisiana favorite, Jambalaya ($17.99) with spiced chicken thighs, Andouille sausage, shrimp, rice, and vegetables. The menu also features Grilled Tenderloin Medallions ($27.49) served with mac and cheese, crayfish beignets, and a red wine demi-glace, a Grilled Pork Chop ($21.99) with an amber ale barbecue sauce, cheesy grits, and onion rings, Pasta with Shrimp ($19.99) mixed with spinach, olives, eggplant, shallots, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. This can also be served with chicken for $18.99 or as a vegetarian entree for $16.99.

Other entrees include Andouille-Crusted Catfish ($15.99) with a cayenne butter sauce and chive aioli, a Slow-Roasted Prime Rib ($27.99) accompanied by a red wine demi-glace with Yukon gold potatoes, watercress, and balsamic vinaigrette, Voodoo Chicken ($17.99) served alongside red beans, rice, and collard greens, a Blackened Fish Fillet ($20.99) with a grilled grit cake and stewed green tomatoes, and a Vegetarian Jambalaya ($15.99) featuring asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and tomatoes with rice.

The menu also features a good variety of desserts. There is a Chocolate Cake ($5.99) with a raspberry sauce, Pecan Pie ($5.49), which is a traditional Southern favorite, New Orleans Bread Pudding ($5.49) with rum raisin ice cream and a bananas foster sauce, Butterscotch Creme Brulee ($5.99), and Bananas Foster Angel Food Cake ($6.49).

The server first brought out some freshly made cornbread. Served warm, this was a great way to start the meal and its sweetness provides a nice contrast to the spicier dishes found on the rest of the menu. It was hard not to fill up on the cornbread before the rest of the meal was even brought out.

Cornbread

For my entrée I decided on the Jambalaya. This is a dish that I have tried at several other restaurants, but this was one of the better ones I have had. This is certainly not a meal that is going to leave you feeling hungry. Not only is the dish very filling, but the portion size is extremely generous. I was able to get two full meals out of it.

Jambalaya

Overall, I found the jambalaya to be spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. I have had other jambalayas that leave you sweating because of the spiciness. The one at Boatwright's had a definite kick (I went through quite a few glasses of water throughout the course of the meal) but it was not unbearable. Still, if you do not like spicy foods I would probably not recommend this dish. The jambalaya was full of pieces of chicken and came topped with two large slices of Andouille sausage and two jumbo-sized shrimp. My only complaint was that I wish there had been a few more shrimp.

I am a lover of bread pudding and have had it at numerous restaurants across Disney World, so I jumped at the chance to try the New Orleans Bread Pudding. There was nothing spectacular about the bread pudding in itself, although I did appreciate that it was served nice and warm.

Boatwright_Bread_Pudding

What really made this dessert special was the combination of the rum raisin ice cream and the bananas foster sauce. The sauce had a little kick to it and provided a lot of sweetness to the dessert. While the sauce had a slight banana flavor there were no actual bananas topping the bread pudding. The rum raisin ice cream provided a light and refreshing compliment to the sweet sauce and was very smooth and creamy in texture. While not my favorite bread pudding at Disney World, this was still a very good dessert.

Service:
This was the only aspect of my meal that was a little disappointing. I hardly ever saw my server throughout the course of the meal. He came to take my order, brought out the cornbread, and brought out the check at the end of the meal. He did check in on me once as I was eating my jambalaya to make sure I was enjoying everything, but he was not very personable. That being said, I witnessed the table next to me getting impeccable service. They had a child who had a food allergy and the chef personally came to the table and talked with them about what different dishes they could prepare for the child. This is something that Disney does very well. It does not matter what restaurant you are dining at, I have friends with food allergies that say that Disney is always extremely accommodating when it comes to food allergies.

Dining on a Budget:
Boatwright's is fairly reasonable by Disney standards. With most entrees ranging from $16 to $20, you can enjoy a good meal at an affordable price. I found that all the dishes I saw being brought out of the kitchen were generously portioned, so you are certainly getting your money's worth in terms of quantity but also quality. Likewise, the desserts are mostly around $6 a piece and give you very good value for your money. If you want to save a little extra I saw someone at a nearby table order the Bourbon Barbecue Shrimp appetizer which comes served with a grilled grit cake. For $10.99 this looked as though it could be a meal unto itself. If you are looking for a lighter meal, the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo for $6.49 is likewise generously portioned and combined with a dessert might make a good meal for someone who does not have a large appetite.

Boatwright's is on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one table service credit. The restaurant is also a participant in Tables in Wonderland and offers members the 20% discount. However, there are no discounts offered to Disney Vacation Club members or Annual Passholders.

The Overall Experience:
Being my first time dining at Boatwright's I really was not sure what to expect and I am pleased to say I was pleasantly surprised. This is a restaurant that can make you totally forget that you are in Disney World. Offering a cozy, comfortable, and relaxing atmosphere, it is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. At the same time, the dining room features all the great little details that you would expect from a Disney restaurant and really helps to immerse you in the theme. This is probably one of the best-themed restaurants to be found at any of Disney's moderate resorts and better than some I have experienced at deluxe resorts. The menu is not going to blow you away with glamorous, gourmet dishes, but it features some good, old fashioned Southern comfort food that leaves you feeling very satisfied at the end of your meal. With a number of intriguing menu items available, I will definitely want to be dining at Boatwright's Dining Hall again in the future.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of Boatwright's Dining Hall and post your own too!

September 30, 2012

Disney Fun – With a Group

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Have you ever been a part of "group activities" at Disney? We have, and it can be loads of fun! We have met some wonderful people and made some lasting friendships as a result of our involvement in group fun at Disney.

Back in 2004 Carol was planning our December trip to Walt Disney World. She had recently gotten involved with Tagrel.com, an internet fan community, and in one of the threads she had read about something called "MouseFest". It was a group of different internet communities who gathered at Walt Disney World for the first time in early December 2003. MouseFest #2 would be taking place while we were there. She wanted to check it out. A few folks she had "met" online were going to be there and they had some activities or "meets" planned.

We had some reservations - What if they're all geeks and weirdo's? So we approached the whole event with caution. We were extremely wary as we sidled toward the group who had assembled for our first meet . . . we were trying to sneak up without being seen. If they were really weird we could just walk away!

This first encounter was a group ride on Kilimanjaro Safari. The event was hosted by some people we had never met before, Deb Wills and her AllEars.net team. What do you know, these people were normal . . . well, maybe not normal . . . but they were just like us.

Meeting at Kilimanjaro Safaris

Deb was there to greet us and we were extremely excited when she handed us each an AllEars button! Soon we were off; about 200 of us joined the line and our group filled truck after truck to ride through Africa. Most of the folks knew the recorded script by heart and before long we were all reciting the radio banter along with Warden Wilson Matua. Our driver attempted to stick with his normal story but eventually he abandoned the script and roared with laughter as we took over the narration. It was a great ride . . . I'm sure we must have seen some animals, but that seemed secondary compared to all the other fun we were having.

Riding Kilimanjaro Safaris

As soon as we left Kilimanjaro we walked down the road to nearby Harambe Fort to begin a Hidden Mickey search. Dr. Steven Barrett, the famous Hidden Mickey hunter, was there handing out clue sheets and explaining the ground rules. There were subtle clues directing us to some not-so-obvious Hidden Mickeys. Soon we had teamed up with a couple of Tagrel.com "friends" we were meeting for the first time and off we went. What a blast we had, searching for elusive images of the mouse and snapping pictures of them. Back at Harambe Fort Steve told us a bit about the origin and history of Hidden Mickeys and then he drew for some door prizes. Wow! I won one of Steve's Hidden Mickey books and he autographed it for me.

Steve Barrett the king of Hidden-Mickeys

It was a great day! We met two well known personalities in the Disney fan universe, Deb Wills and Steve Barrett. We laughed a lot, we learned a little bit and we made some new friends and acquaintances. We were hooked! We never missed MouseFest after that! Each year it got bigger and better.

Alas, like many good things it ended too soon. The last MouseFest was held in December 2008. But don't despair . . . while MouseFest is a thing of the past, there are still plenty of groups who get together for Disney fun!

Tagrel.com Disney Fan community.jpg

Tagrel.com has regular gatherings at Walt Disney World we refer to as "Tag-O-Mania" and when we occasionally get together at Disneyland it's "Tag-A-Venture". The next Tag-A-Venture will be held in mid October 2012 and the next Tag-O-Mania will likely be in early December 2013.

Tagrel friends at Expedition Everest

What do we do? Plenty!
Do we have fun? YES!

Toy Soldiers at Toy Story Mania

Picture us heading to It's a Small World. Yes, I know, many of you don't like it. The music just won't quit . . . it's in your head all day. But when you ride with 50 or 60 friends it creates some new memories. It's kind of special to remember sailing through this old attraction when the two boats in front of yours, and the two boats behind it, are filled with your friends and everyone in all 5 boats is loudly singing along with that tiresome old tune!

Once, at the Tower of Terror we filled an entire elevator car with Tag-O-Maniacs. At the end of the ride when the elevator car rotated and the exit door slid open we all screamed at the top of our lungs. It was quite a surprise for the doorman who was poking his head in the door ready to startle us!

Tower of Terror

Group meals are fun too. When the server asks, "Where are you folks from?" it's nice to be able to say, "I'm from Canada, he's from Boston, those two are from Albuquerque, she's from Seattle, the old guy is from Scranton and the lady in the corner - I have no idea where she lives."

The most frenzied activity I've ever seen at Walt Disney World was a Tag-O-Mania event called "Capture the Magic". We formed teams of about six people and took off on a photo-scavenger hunt. Each team received a list of about 40 riddles which had to be solved to find cryptic clues. The clues sent you to places all around the Magic Kingdom where the team had to be photographed in some crazy activity.

We had to find strangers, two generations in the family, to "Walk like an Egyptian" with us on Main Street USA.

Walk like an Egyptian

We had to arrange the team in Liberty Square with the team's bodies (along with two total strangers) spelling out the word Mickey.

Spelling out M-I-C-K-E-Y

We had to find a cast member and have them join us as we performed a can-can dance in front of Country Bear Jamboree.

Can Can Dance

It was impossible to complete all of the tasks in the allotted 90 minutes but we sure had a blast trying!

One of the nice things about the Tagrel meets, and all the other groups too, is that you can pick and choose what you want to participate in. There is a published list of events and you select which ones to get involved in. There is no pressure and no one takes attendance! You can still have plenty of time to your self!

But of course Tagrel.com is not your only option if you're looking for group activities. There are plenty of other groups.

AllEars.net has regular meets in the parks throughout the year. You can find details here. There is a unique AllEars Trading Card created for each meet and these cards have become a very popular item with Disneyana collectors!

Last year we took part in "A December to Remember", the 15th Anniversary celebration for AllEars.net. It was magical - Mouse Fan Travel worked with Walt Disney World officials to dazzle us with some "extra magic"! As always they did a magnificent job. We enjoyed all of the events but one of the highlites for us was a session with noted Disney artist Don "Ducky" Williams.

Ducky Williams

Ducky has an amazing life story and he tells it very extremely well, all while drawing Disney characters on his easel.

Ducky Williams

Ducky Williams

There was some over-the-top pixie dust one night. Mouse Fan Travel arranged a private viewing of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. After Hollywood Studios closed for the evening a group of about 150 of us were escorted back to enjoy the lights with no crowd! WOW! What a treat!

Osborne Lights

Osborne Lights

There are many other Disney fan communities who meet at the parks as well. Here are just a few of them:

Reunion, co-hosted by WDW Today & Mouse Fan Travel, takes place each year in early December. Details are here.

Lou Mongello of WDW Radio hosts a regular "Meet of the Month". Details are here.

RADP, the grand-daddy of all the internet groups, also meets each year in December. Details are here.

So if you are an avid Disney fan but you have not participated in any of the many group activities, what's holding you back? It's time you added this new dimension to your Disney experience! Find an Internet Fan Community that appeals to you and sign up for some fun. You'll be surprised how many new friends you will make!

If you have already taken part in some of the groups I've mentioned then you know how much fun it is when you get together with folks who share your addiction to Disney!

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About September 2012

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in September 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2012 is the previous archive.

October 2012 is the next archive.

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