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April 13, 2015

Trip Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

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In response to one of my recent half marathon blogs, Kristyn sent this comment:

Enjoy your RunDisney posts. I am looking for recommendations on two topics if you can help me, Laura. I am doing my first event this fall at Wine and Dine. Can you do a blog on how you prepare for a nighttime race as most of us are used to the early morning runs. Also, not sure if it has ever been covered, but how to plan on where to stay and how to get to to packet pickup and the event if you don't have a rental car. Would love some advice on how to plan for a RunDisney trip. Thanks.

I'm hoping there are others of you that are interested in this information, too. So here are some of my thoughts on how to plan a trip for a runDisney race.


7-9 months in advance

Choose a race weekend and a race or races.

The first decision you have to make is which race weekend you're going to attend, and which events are you going to participate in. This could be influenced by a number of factors, including work/school schedules, potential weather conditions, and race theme.

As I write this, runDisney offers seven different race weekends in Florida and California, with most race weekends including 5K, 10K, and half marathon races. (There's no 10K for Wine and Dine Weekend; and WDW Marathon Weekend also features the WDW Marathon, which is the granddaddy of them all!)

So, what's it going to be? Decisions, decisions. WDW Marathon Weekend in early January offers all four race distances, in addition to the Goofy Challenge and the Dopey Challenge. This is also the largest runDisney race weekend and has the most participants.

Is The Force with you? Then you might want to choose Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland, which is also in January, a week after Marathon Weekend. There are 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, as well as the Rebel Challenge, where runners do both the 10K and the half marathon. Races at Disneyland have smaller fields since the resort is smaller - this tends to make for a more pleasant race experience, but it also means they often sell out faster.

Are you looking for a "Girls' Getaway"? Then you might be interested in Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World or Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Both of these race weekends are women-focused. That doesn't mean that men are not allowed, but in the last few years women have outnumbered men by about 11:1 in the half marathons. Both race weekends offer 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, as well as a 10K/half marathon challenge. Princess Half Marathon Weekend takes place at the end of February.

This year Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend has been moved from January to Mother's Day Weekend in May. We'll see how that works out - many of us (myself included) think that's a poor choice for a race weekend, especially one focused on women. Getting up really early to run a half marathon is not the kind of pampering that most moms are looking for on Mother's Day!

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend is held over Labor Day weekend, and also offers 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, and includes the Dumbo Double Dare 10K/half marathon challenge. It's pretty warm in Anaheim at this time of year, but a race weekend is a great excuse to visit Disneyland, if you haven't been out here before. The City of Anaheim really comes out in support of this one, with lots of high school bands, cheerleaders, Boy and Girl Scouts, and community dance groups. And then there's the classic cars!

Do you want to run a race and party afterward? Then the WDW Wine and Dine Half Marathon might be for you. This is my favorite WDW race: it's at night, it's a different course that goes through three theme parks, and there's an after-race party in Epcot until 4:00 a.m. The Food and Wine Festival food booths are open, as well as some attractions, and there's also special entertainment. The race weekend takes place in early November. There's no 10K for this one, just the 5K (which takes place the same day as the half marathon - but early in the morning), and the half marathon. But the 5K is also slightly different, since it's held at Animal Kingdom and not at Epcot like the others. This half is also a smaller field than the other WDW races.

If you want to bring out your inner super hero, then how about the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland? In addition to having the longest name, this is the last runDisney event of the year, and takes place the week after Wine and Dine. There are 5K, 10K (new this year), and half marathon races. With the introduction of the 10K, there's the new Infinity Gauntlet Challenge. Weather-wise, this is a terrific time for a race in California.* In addition, the parks are fully decorated for the holidays. making it a special time of year for a visit to the Disneyland Resort.

*Last year's wind event during the half marathon was an anomaly.

Now that you've decided on a race...

Race registration opens 7-9 months in advance, (you can visit the runDisney web site to sign up for a reminder email) and many of the races sell out quickly (sometimes in under 30 minutes!). I highly recommend that you be prepared to register the minute that race registration opens (typically at 12:00 eastern time) so that you don't get shut out. The 10Ks and race challenges are usually the earliest to sell out, because they allow fewer participants. If you are an Annual Pass Holder or DVC member, there will be a pre-registration opportunity about two weeks before regular registration opens. A limited number of registrations are available during this time, and they also tend to go quickly. The good news is that if you qualify for this you get two shots at registering, and if you don't get in via pre-registration, you can try again during open registration. (In the past pre-registration was also available to Disney Visa card holders, but I do not know if this is still the case.)

RunDisney uses active.com as their registration site. If you don't already have an active.com account, then it's a good idea to set one up in advance. It doesn't help with pre-registration, but during open registration it will speed the process if you have an active.com account you can log into.


So you're registered...what's next?

Time to make some additional decisions about the race weekend. Are you going to turn it into a vacation, and add on some days before and/or after the race? Where are you going to stay? How are you going to get around? Some of these considerations are slightly different depending on whether the race is at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, so I'll address them separately.

Since most of us travel to WDW or Disneyland we want to spend some extra time there apart from the races to give some added value to the trip. I personally recommend adding more of the time on after the race and not before. You'll still want to arrive at least a day or two before the race so that you have time to visit the Race Expo and pick up your race bib and shirt, etc., but once the race is over it's nice to have some time to relax and enjoy the parks.

At Walt Disney World, if you are staying on-site at a WDW resort, then race transportation and where to stay are kind of all rolled together. For each race weekend, there are multiple Walt Disney World resorts that are designated "host resorts". Race transportation is provided for runners staying at these hotels - this includes free transportation to/from the Expo in addition to transportation to/from the races. So, between using Disney's Magical Express for airport transportation and normal Disney transportation to the parks, then if you're staying at a host resort you probably don't need a rental car. For Marathon and Princess weekends, all WDW resorts are considered host resorts and offer race transportation. For Wine and Dine, the resort choices are more limited. You can visit the runDisney web site and go to Travel->Walt Disney World and then select the race weekend you are interested in for more information on the host resorts.

At Disneyland everything is much more compact, so from any of the Disney hotels and from many of the hotels in the surrounding area you simply walk to/from any race weekend events. The Expos are held in the convention center at the Disneyland Hotel, and the races all start/end near either the Disneyland Hotel or the Paradise Pier Hotel. (This makes the race morning logistics a WHOLE lot easier than at WDW - no bus ride required!). There are some designated host hotels that are further away which do offer Expo and race transportation, so that's also an option.

One thing to keep in mind is that there's no "Magical Express" equivalent at Disneyland, though there are a number of reputable shuttle services that provide airport transportation to all area hotels. You'll have to pay for it, but balance that off against the price of a car rental. Also, most hotels (including the Disney hotels) charge a fee for parking, so that's another thing to keep in mind. The two most popular airports to fly into are John Wayne (SNA) and Los Angeles International (LAX). SNA is a whole lot closer to Disneyland, but doesn't have as many flights. Long Beach (LGB) is another airport option, but it's very small, and few airlines fly there.

There are only three Disney-owned hotels at Disneyland, and they are all high-end, so Disney depends on their "Good Neighbor" hotels to provide the more moderate and budget-priced options. You won't get the Disney theming, but the accommodations are just fine, especially if your biggest requirement is a place to sleep and shower.

And did I mention that a lot of them are walking distance to the race events and the parks? :-) i can not stress enough what a huge benefit that is when running a race at Disneyland. You can find some additional information, including links to the hotel web sites, on our Good Neighbor Hotel FAQ


2-7 months in advance

Train for your race(s). I'm not going to say too much about this, since everyone has their own strategy, and what works best for them. But I will address Kristyn's question about Wine and Dine, and how to prepare for a nighttime race: I personally don't do anything differently in my training. I typically run one evening a week, but the first time I ran Wine and Dine I wasn't doing that, and it didn't make a difference in my performance. I think that if you've done your training, then your body knows what it needs to do, and time of day doesn't matter. If anything, I find it a little easier to run at night because it's dark and I don't have the sun beating down on me.

This is also the time period where you'll be able to submit your "Proof of Time". This is a race result from some other race you've participated in during the past couple of years, which runDisney will use in determining your placement in a start corral. This is done via a web page. You can use another runDisney race, but most of us don't have our best times in a runDisney race. :-) You'll need to have the race information, including the name of the race, date, location, distance, your time, AND a URL where runDisney can find the race results. If you run a different race and get a better time, you can go in and modify it. But you will not be able to modify your proof of time within about 3 months of the Disney race date - the cutoff date will be posted on the page. You are not required to submit a proof of time, but if you don't have one runDisney will assign you to one of the later corrals.

For WDW races, starting 6 months in advance you can make your Priority Seating arrangements for dining. So if it's important to you to eat a particular kind of food - or at a particular place - before a race, it's something to consider far in advance. And of course there's probably other restaurants you'd like to enjoy after the race - we often have a celebratory dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on Sunday night of race weekend.


60 days in advance

At Disneyland it's time to make your Priority Seating, though this isn't nearly as critical as it is at WDW. The exceptions would be for a special dining package, such as Fantasmic! viewing, or if you're booking for a large party.

For WDW you can make your Fastpass+ selections, if you are staying at a WDW resort.


1-4 weeks in advance

Race waivers will be available on the runDisney web site. You must complete a race waiver and present photo id to pick up your bib at the race Expo. While there are print stations at the Expo, it's a lot easier and faster if you print the waiver in advance and bring it with you. This is also how you find out your bib number, and you can determine your corral placement from that - otherwise you'll have to wait until you pick up your bib, as the corral will be printed on that.

Make a packing list. Don't forget things like gels, running belts, and throwaway clothes. If you use a particular nutrition product bring it with you - don't count on being able to purchase it at the Expo. If you're planning to run in costume, make sure you list all of the pieces. If you can do a test run in the costume to make sure it's going to work that's great, but I'm sure most of us (myself included) don't do that.


The week before

Obsessively stalk the weather channel. Ok, maybe that's just me. :-) But honestly, you want to know what to expect so that you can bring the appropriate clothing, both for running and park touring. And be aware that the weather can change drastically, even a day or two before the race (though this is more often an issue in Florida than California). Predicted starting temps in the 60s can suddenly turn into the 40s (or 30s!), or 50s can turn into high 60s, with finishing temps in the 80s. And rain is always a possibility. I've had experience with all of those, and they all have their own challenges. If it's chilly, the worst part is all the waiting around before the race. In that case, those little chemical hand warmer packets and some cheap throwaway gloves will go a long way to keeping you more comfortable. I ALWAYS pack a LARGE trash bag in my suitcase - it comes down past my knees and really helps me retain body heat while waiting.




Race Weekend

Yay! You've made it to your destination, with your running gear and waiver in hand. Next up is the race Expo. If you want first chance at the race merchandise, then you need to arrive EARLY on the day the Expo opens and be prepared to wait in line. This is the one situation where it's easier if you have a car since the buses don't start running until 30 minutes or so before the Expo starts. Also, remember that bib pickup and merchandise are in separate areas - you can choose to go to merchandise first and later pick up your bib or vice versa. If you don't want to wait in a lot of lines and are willing to take your chances on merchandise, then I would suggest visiting the Expo sometime after 2:00 in the afternoon. I've never encountered much in the way of lines at that point in time.


Be a little cautious about trying the samples that are available at the Expo. That energy bar might contain some ingredient that doesn't agree with you - and stomach issues are not something you want to deal with on race day.


The day before the race

It's really difficult to stay off your feet when you're at Disney, but it's a good idea the day before a race, especially if you're running the marathon. Even with a half marathon, being on your feet for hours the day before will tire you out to some extent. We try to do some limited touring in the morning, and then take an extended break back in our room in the afternoon, before venturing out in the early evening for dinner. And you should be drinking water throughout the day - not drowning yourself, but if you're running a half or the marathon then you want to be well-hydrated.

When you're out and about, pick up whatever it is you're going to want to eat in the few hours before the race. This might be a bagel or a banana, or yogurt - or maybe it's an energy bar that you brought with you. Your choices the morning of the race will be very limited, so if you already have what you need that's one less thing to worry about in the morning.

When it comes to dinner the night before, just about everyone has their own idea of what works best for them. Some want pasta, others pizza, and some swear by Chinese food. At this point, you should have done enough long training runs to know what you need to fuel yourself for the next day. You definitely do NOT want to gorge yourself the night before, but you should eat a good dinner, with some carbs and protein. I like chicken and rice, with some vegetables or a salad, though my go-to meal the night before a Disneyland half marathon is four cheese ravioli from Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta.

For the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, since it's a night race, we do things slightly differently. We still do some touring in the morning, and then we'll try to have our big meal of the day around 1:00-2:00 in the afternoon. And by "big meal", I don't mean gorging on an all-you-can-eat buffet - I mean your largest meal of that particular day. I recommend something similar to what you would eat for dinner the night before a morning race. Then around 6:00 have a light (and I do mean light) meal or snack.

In the couple of hours before the race, whether it's in the morning or the evening, you'll want to have something to eat. Again, from your training, you should be familiar with what works for you. You may want to eat in your room, or you may want to take something with you to the start area.

The Disney resorts usually have some kind of quick service option that's open very early on race mornings where you can get coffee and light fare such as fruit and bagels. At Disneyland several locations in Downtown Disney are open early on half marathon mornings, like Starbucks and Jamba Juice.

Race Day

And...you've made it to race day! Get out to the start line and have a great time on the course!


What about the rest of you? What are your suggestion on planning for a runDisney trip?

Learn more about runDisney from Laura on this episode of AllEarsNet TV




April 7, 2015

Welcome back to WonderCon!

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Convention season is once again upon us, starting off as usual with WonderCon, held at the Anaheim Convention Center.

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This was actually an interesting year for WonderCon, as Anaheim will be playing host to a glut of conventions this year, ranging from Star Wars Celebrations later this month, to the D23 Expo in August.

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(These line corrals for the Arena look familiar? If they don't now, they surely will by the end of summer.)

Possibly because of all the different events going on, there was a decrease in the usual film/television representation that usually takes place here. Marvel passed on having a booth, as they are also reputed to be doing for San Diego Comic-Con this year, presumably saving their content for Expo. All this gave the convention something of an "old-school" feel--a throwback to when comic conventions were actually about comics and celebrating fandom, rather than movie promotion and star appearances.

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Panels ran in a variety of interest tracks, such as costuming, writing, gaming, art, pop culture, and fandom.

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Disney/ABC Writing Program finalist Brandon Easton ran one such panel on tips from established writers on breaking into Comics and scriptwriting. Their main advice: Finish what you start--even failed projects teach more than unfinished ones.

One panel Disney did bring was "Big Hero 6: The Art of the Story," in which Story Artists Brian Kesinger and Normand Lemay described the developmental process for Big Hero 6 and showed some deleted scenes in storyboard format (no recording was allowed.)

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Chris Hardwick ("The Nerdist") had a talk about his multi-media network, and announced that he would be hosting an 29-hour Avengers viewing marathon at the El Capitan in advance of the release of the next Avengers film, "Age of Ultron." Limited tickets available at https://elcapitantheatre.com/event/1139/showtimes/2015-04-20

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In addition to the presentations and discussions, there was, as always, an extensive Exhibitor's Floor, which was actually navigable thanks to a lack of the huge artery-clogging booths the big studios and networks usually run.

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A wide range of Disney-themed merchandise was available, representing all its different franchises:

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...As well as an enormous amount of cosplay. The close proximity to Disneyland seemed to encourage even more people to take the opportunity to show their #DisneySide.

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In all, although the con felt smaller this year without the big star presence it has had in the past, it also felt more individualized with an emphasis on inspiring and educating people to best express their own creativity, whether through art or film production or novels--a nice change from the more passive pop culture consumption that's usually represented. At the end of the convention, it was announced that WonderCon will be moving from Anaheim to the Los Angeles Convention Center for 2016, which likely will please some people by resulting in a bigger, broader experience, but will disappoint those looking to easily combine WonderCon with a simultaneous trip to Disneyland.


April 4, 2015

Springtime Fun at Disneyland

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Lee and I hadn't been to Disneyland in a while to just walk around and enjoy the parks. I wanted to do the Egg-stravaganza (which we missed last year) so we went on Sunday morning. I wrote a separate blog on the Egg-stravaganza, which you can read HERE.

For whatever reason, Disney has been forcing those who come from the south to park in the Toy Story lot, even if we try to go to Mickey and Friends. There are ways around it, but rather than fight it, I just drove straight to the Toy Story lot this time. It's not as busy or as big, so it's faster to get parked and walk to the bus stop, but it takes longer to ride the bus to the parks because the route is on the regular streets with traffic and stop lights and pedestrians. The Mickey and Friends tram route is on a private road. Still, all things considered, it's probably a wash as to which one allows you to get to the parks quicker. My main objection to Toy Story is that it's a regular open parking lot, so the car sits out in the sun all day. In the parking garage it's more than likely going to be in the shade.

Anyway...we arrived at the parks about 9:30 and went straight to Disneyland, since it was going to be more crowded as the day went on. It was a really lovely day in Anaheim! I know those of you on the east coast probably don't want to hear this, but we have had an unseasonably warm March in southern California - with temperatures in the 90s on multiple days. Including just a few days ago. The forecast called for it to be 84 in Anaheim on Sunday, but I don't think it got above 78 while we were there. It was really a great day to be there.

A lot of work has been done on Sleeping Beauty Castle to prepare it for the upcoming Diamond Anniversary celebration, and it looks very pretty - very sparkly when you look at it from the right angle.

In Fantasyland I noticed that the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique has the new Cinderella dress in the window. Very pretty. Though I didn't see any little girls wearing that dress on Sunday - still LOTS of Elsas and a few Annas.

We had not been to Storybook Land since scenes from "Frozen" were added to it late last year. We rode in the caboose of Casey Jr. Circus Train - I hadn't been in that car before. We were facing backward, so that gave us a slightly different perspective! We didn't have as good a view of the new scenes as we would have if we'd been on the water on the Storybook Land Canal Boats, but we still got a look at the town of Arendelle.

One our way into the park we'd gotten a Fastpass for Star Tours so we rode that. The line got stopped for a while when we were near the wise-cracking droid with the infrared scanner. It was really interesting since he detected that the line wasn't moving and made appropriate comments about that!

Once we boarded our Star Speeder I was all set to go to Hoth again, because we ALWAYS get Hoth, but we went pod racing this time! I think that's my favorite. The sequence that we almost never get is Kashykk. We had that one the very first time we rode it, and only once or twice since then. I know this version of Star Tours is several years old now, but it's still a great ride!

I'd read that Innoventions will be closing soon (though Disneyland still doesn't have it listed on their refurbishment calendar), so I asked a cast member there, who told me that yes, March 31 is the final day, and as of April 1 it will be closed for about 8 months. No information on what will be done, though. I'd like to see something Marvel-related go in there. In the meantime I hope they will find an alternate meet and greet location for Captain America and Thor!

The Tomorrowland Theater will be featuring a sneak peek of the new Tomorrowland movie - looks like that will open around April 10 and run through May 22 when the movie opens in theaters.

The construction walls were still up at Critter Country, but it will have re-opened by the time you read this, except for the Hungry Bear Restaurant, which doesn't open until April 3.

It's spring, and that always means baby ducks at Disneyland! We spotted a mama and her ducklings in the water along the path to Big Thunder Ranch.

It's time for the Springtime Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. Jason did a pretty comprehensive blog on this, which you can read HERE. But Lee and I still popped in to take a look for ourselves.

There were two baby goats in the petting corral - they were getting lots of attention, and were pretty unfazed by it.

Jessie was even taking a peek at the activities in the corral!

Back in the Jamboree area the Puyallup High School Symphony Band was performing on-stage. They were on their last number when we arrived - didn't recognize the piece, but they were pretty good. They had a good-sized audience.

The egg painters had still been hard at work.

There were several character greeting areas set up, though only Rabbit (from Winnie-the-Pooh) and the Easter Bunny were out. This is still a great area if you want to see the characters. The lines weren't long at all, and the characters spend a lot of time with guests.

Pluto came out a little later. Love the bunny ears. :-)

It would have been fun to buy one of the cookie decorating kits and decorate a cookie, but it was lunchtime and we were hungry.

We had lunch at Rancho del Zocalo. Several Disneyland locations have special food offerings right now. Zocalo has a Street Taco special, with chicken, beef, and carnitas tacos, along with rice and beans. I ordered that, though I gave Lee the beef taco. The carnitas and chicken tacos were good, though there was too much of the green stuff on top - I think it was jalapeno, but it was too strong for me, so I scraped most of it off.

Lee ordered his favorite Carne Asada and Cheese Enchilada plate. The carne asada is normally medium rare, but they sliced it and cooked it a little longer for him, and he said it was really good. He also liked my beef taco. (I had some of his cheese enchilada.)

While we were eating, Lee noticed one of the Disneyland cats asleep on the roof. :-) I have just recently discovered that the Cats of Disneyland have their own Facebook page. It's fairly entertaining, with posts like: "I’m working on figuring out how to climb the new mini-towers in front of the castle in a single bound" and: "I wonder if the ASIMO robot has a new gig lined up now that Innoventions is closing. He could be my butler..."

Though we didn't try these, here are two of the other limited time foods available at Disneyland:

Linguica and Pineapple skewer from Bengal Barbecue

Cookies and Cream Funnel Cake from Stage Door Cafe

After lunch we went over to Disney California Adventure. Frozen Fun is still going strong in Hollywood. There was still a line to go into Olaf's Snow Fest, and there was a 70-minute wait to meet Olaf! Olaf's Snow Fest ends on April 30 and Freeze the Night ends on May 15, but the "Frozen" singalong and the Anna and Elsa Meet and Greet have been extended, at least through the summer.

We wandered through the Off the Page shop next to the Animation Building. This ornament made me laugh. "Rat, schmat!" :-)

Luigi's Flying Tires is closed, but there were cast members in front of the entrance who had a bean bag toss game set up. They were encouraging guests to play. There didn't seem to be any kind of prize, though.

DCA was not as busy as Disneyland. The standby line for Radiator Springs Racers was less than an hour. We rode it using the single rider line, and were on in less than 5 minutes - neither of us won our race, though. Oh well. The landscaping in Ornament Valley is really well-done - and at this time a year a lot of it is blooming, like this cactus.


The Cove Bar was busy; even at 1:30 in the afternoon there were people waiting to get in. This area used to be pretty dead, but not any more.

But we went to the Sonoma Terrace and Lee ordered a beer. While we were sitting there it occurred to me how much I miss the Food and Wine Festival. The terrace was one of the areas they used for wine tastings and other events. I was really hoping that after all the major construction was done that Disney would bring it back...

The Al Fresco Tasting Terrace is somewhat Food and Wine'ish, but it still doesn't open until 2:00 - and there was a line of people waiting for it to open. We didn't go up there this time, though.

Before we left the park we wandered over to Smokejumpers Grill. With the construction wall still up, it's like the end of the world there! Soarin' over California is due to re-open on May 15, so the walls should be coming down sometime before that.

Jason wrote a blog with lots of photos on Smokejumpers Grill so I'm not going to talk about it here. The menu is pretty much the same as the old Taste Pilot's Grill menu - burgers, a salad, and a chicken sandwich. No more ribs, though. We didn't eat here, so I can't offer any opinion on the food. They have a veggie burger (in addition to the chicken sandwich), so maybe I'll try it sometime.

There are some pretty odd photos inside...this does not look like a comfortable sleeping position to me - I wondered if these are firemen who are just trying to catch a little sleep in any way they can.

We made our way back to the Toy Story lot after that and headed home. We had an excellent day even if it seems like we didn't do very much. Considering how nice the weather was and that it's Spring Break I was surprised the parks weren't more crowded, but it was great for us.




March 31, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 3/27/15

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 27, 2015.

The side of the Soarin' building facing Downtown Disney is being repainted.

Here you can see the second coat is being applied and what the final color will be.

The annual Egg-stravaganza kicked off today at both parks (plus Epcot in WDW).

The way it works is you purchase your map and then set off to find the various eggs and match the character sticker to the location you find.

Here is the kit you get.. a map, sticker, and then a prize egg. In this example it is Tinkerbell.

You can redeem your map at any point and pick your prize.

Under each egg is a character. The one you pick is the one you get. To keep this post spoiler free I will not include any pictures of the eggs or locations here (I do have a separate picture set on my site with them if you wanted to see).

Dale came running by while I was walking through Town Square.

Work continues on decorating Sleeping Beauty Castle for the 60th Anniversary.


I think this confirms the new items will be lit at night. Notice the light bars under the jeweled roof section.

Two turrets have what appears to be a plastic diamond on them.

The Big Hero 6 signage is all gone as the theater prepares for the sneak peek of the Tomorrowland movie.

A check of the Grizzly Peak Airfield from the Monorail. A large crane is in place to install trees.

Time to check out the latest egg creations at the Springtime Roundup in the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree

A closer look at a couple of the eggs. Bunny Olaf and snow babies.

The Merlin egg we saw in progress last week.

The Hatbox Ghost

An in progress egg of Sleeping Beauty

The Hungry Bear is just about ready to reopen along with the rest of Critter Country.

Passing through the Candy Palace

DCA maps for the Egg-stravaganza are available in Elias & Co and that is also the redemption point.

The redemption area.

At Clarabelles.

The Spring Buena Vista Bugle is now on newsstands.

The rock work at the entrance to Grizzly Peak Airfield is taking shape.

The Cinderella preview has ended and the regular "It's Tough to Be a Bug" film has returned. The cast members were enticing guests to enter by saying plenty of ice cold air conditioning inside.

The show building mural is showing some wear.

Spotted a butterfly in the garden area.

The pool closest to Storytellers is walled off at the Grand Californian for some work.

Work continues on this store at Downtown Disney

Looks like they split the space. No indication of what is going in on the left side. But the right has a Disney Vacation Club sign.

Work continues very slowly on the fall protection at the Disneyland Hotel.

Work on the Downtown Disney entrance arch is still going on.

An ice chair at Freeze the Night

The Spring Break shirts

A look at Sleeping Beauty Castle this evening

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 30, 2015

Disneyland Egg-stravaganza, 2015

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It's almost Easter - that means it's time for the annual Egg-stravaganza Easter Egg Hunt at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. (It is also being held at Epcot at Walt Disney World.) This year the event runs from Friday, March 27-Sunday, April 5, or while supplies last.

The Easter Bunny has placed large Easter eggs, decorated like Disney characters, around the parks, and guests get to find them. Luckily the Easter Bunny has also provided a map. :-) There are different maps for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The maps are available are various locations in both parks, at a cost of $5.35, including tax.

There's a sheet of stickers included, with pictures of the various character eggs. Once you find the egg, you apply the appropriate sticker onto the designated space on the map.

In each park there is a redemption location, and the maps can be redeemed there for a character Easter egg - there are six different characters available. You don't have to complete the map to get your egg - you can redeem it at any time. You get to keep the map no matter what: a cast member will stamp it on the back to show that you have received your prize. I saw a number of people purchase their maps and then immediately get their prizes.

We started at Disneyland, figuring (correctly) that it would be the busier of the two parks as the day went on. We purchased our map at Disney Showcase on Main Street.

The maps give you approximate locations of the eggs, but not an "x marks the spot" kind of thing. For example: "Emporium (Outside)", "Emporium (Inside)", "Frontierland (Entrance)". There were quite a few other people also hunting for them, so sometimes it was easier to just watch for a small crowd of people. :-) Cast members were also happy to provide clues - we had a couple who told us one of the eggs (which was harder to spot than many of them) was at an "Eggs-it". (Groan.)

I'll have spoiler photos at the bottom of this blog - with plenty of warning in case you don't want to know where the eggs are located.

We had fun hunting the eggs - we did it while wandering the park doing other things, so we weren't just going from egg location to location all of the time. Once we'd finished we went to the redemption center, next to Disney Showcase on Main Street. There were several tables set up, each with six eggs of different sizes and colors set up. You point to the egg you want, and the cast member picks it up to reveal the egg you have won - though you receive a new packaged egg from one of the bins behind them.

The different eggs are: Goofy, Pluto,Tinker Bell, Thumper, White Rabbit, and Mr. Toad.

If you want a specific egg, you can just watch for a while and see what other people choose, and determine which egg to pick. It's not a shell game - the cast members don't rearrange the eggs in between guests. :-)

After we'd finished in Disneyland we went over to Disney California Adventure. There weren't quite as many people hunting eggs over there - in general the park was a lot less busy than Disneyland. We bought our maps in Elias & Co, which is also where the redemption center was located. This time we went ahead and redeemed the map for the prize before actually hunting the eggs.

Most of the character eggs were the same in the two parks, but there were a couple of differences: Disneyland had Mr. Toad and Tinker Bell, and instead of those two DCA had Mater and Lightning McQueen. The prize eggs were identical, though.

It seemed to me that the hunt at DCA was a little easier, but neither of them was difficult. Though it would be a lot harder at night, since there's no lights on any of the eggs and they would be hard to see.

We really enjoyed this - it was a fun way to spend a few hours in the parks. We saw a lot of other adults on the hunt also - I think there were more adults than kids! I thought the price was reasonable, too. I ended up with the Mr. Toad egg, and Lee got Pluto.

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Mickey at the Emporium.

Minnie in the toy section of the Emporium - this was hard to find.

Goofy near the Astro Orbitor.

Tink near Pixie Hollow.

Chip in Snow White's Grotto.

Mr. Toad at Dumbo.

Dale behind Stromboli's Wagon.

White Rabbit at Fantasy Faire gifts.

Donald Duck, near the Frontierland entrance.

Daisy at the Adventureland Bazaar.

Thumper near the fountain in New Orleans Square.

Pluto at the "Eggs-it" of Haunted Mansion


Mickey above the entrance to Trolley Treats.

Minnie at Disney Jr.

Dale in the window of Tower Gifts.

Chip on the wall outside Tower of Terror.

Thumper at It's Tough to be a Bug.

Mater on the roof of the jukebox.

Lightning McQueen watching the cars at Radiator Springs Racers - I thought this one was very creatively placed.

White Rabbit at Ghirardelli.

Daisy at Treasures in Paradise.

Pluto at Boardwalk Games.

Donald at Silly Symphony Swings.

Goofy at the Embarcadero.







March 24, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 3/20/15

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 20, 2015.

Starting off on Buena Vista Street this trip. Trolley Treats has some Cinderella inspired offerings.

Grizzly River Run has returned to operation after its annual refurbishment.

Part of the Bay Area is under refurbishment.

The entrance arch to Paradise Pier is being refurbished.

Over at Disneyland, work continues on Sleeping Beauty Castle. The turrets are in various stages of decorations. They are overlaying the blink/diamonds on top of the existing structure. Much like they do with the snow each holiday season.

Here you can see some of the shinier 60th and some areas that have yet to be covered.

Over on the east side the new tower

A closer look at the new tower

A closer look at the overlay.

The tower on the west side

The rest of the Frozen snow has been removed from Fantasyland.

Passing over Grizzly Peak Airfield onboard the Monorail.

Most of the scaffolding is down from Small World.

Back to Disney California Adventure. In Paradise Pier where the Maliboomer used to be they have closed the smoking area.

A sign directing smokers to Grizzly Peak.

Now that Smokejumpers Grill has opened the menu at Paradise Garden Grill menu has returned to Mediterranean specialties.

Fountains warming up for their performance this evening.

Freeze the Night had started for the evening and due to the time change kicks off in the daylight now.

Marshmallow out for pictures.

Some Cinderella merchandise in Elias & Co

A few items based on the new live action film

Back to Disneyland. The Primeval World has returned to the Disneyland Railroad.

World of Color returned last week. The show is the regular one and will be until May when the new 60th Anniversary Celebrate! show starts.

A video clip of the Pocahontas segment from this viewpoint.


The back screens looked sharper. Not sure if it was my position, wind, or new equipment. My guess is a combination of all three.


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 23, 2015

Disneyland Springtime Roundup @ Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 20, 2015 featuring a look at the Springtime Roundup at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree.


In the center is a food stand as is the norm now.


Checking out the Chuck Wagon Delights for spring.










I missed their name, but a trio provides the music for the Roundup.






Mr Easter Bunny arriving for the Bunny Hop





The highlight of the event for me is the egg artwork. Here is a look at some of the early creations this year.


R2D2

Hard at work creating the next egg.


A choir from South Dakota performed.

Pluto was dressed as a rabbit for the roundup.

Mickey and Minnie


The White Rabbit from Alice


There is also an arts and crafts area to create your own bunny ears.

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Springtime Roundup at the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 22, 2015

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos taking a quick look at the he Smokejumpers Grill which opened on Friday March 20, 2015.

I have an extended look plus my full pictures set on my site. This dining location replaced the Taste Pilot's Grill. The full project Grizzly Peak Airfield conversion from Condor Flats is not scheduled to be completed until summer. They will be opening pieces as they are finished.

Approaching the new grill from Carthay Circle.

Heading toward the front door.

A menu preview posted outside.

The board on the opposite side of the entrance (this would be the left side as you enter)

A closer look at what is posted.

Heading inside. Looking toward the ordering area. The configuration is the same as before, just new props, paint, etc... so seating is to the left and right. Cash registers and food pickup straight ahead.

Looking to the left some of the props above the seating area and on the wall.

The menu is more or less the same. Some new names and a couple tweaks but your standard burgers and chicken remain.

Thought the True Life Adventure movie posters were great.

The seating area to the right of the registers

The Bearpaw Basin patches and logos are throughout

The outdoor dining on the Soarin' side is still being worked on. So the door and windows are covered.

Walking outside. This is where the engine used to be.


I walked by again after dark to see the lights and get some more detailed shots of the interior.

A closer look at some of the props around the dining spaces.

I thought the model planes were a great touch.

A closer look at the boards in the back of the seating area.

Hope you enjoyed this first look at the new Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 13, 2015

Review: Cinderella

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"Cinderella," a new live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale from Walt Disney Studios and Director Kenneth Branagh, regally depicts the well-known story of a girl, a fairy godmother, and a glass slipper.

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Loosely based on the 1950 animated film, this version is gently updated for the modern times, with more backstory given to Ella's happy early days with her parents, and a longer look at the Prince who inevitably wins her heart.

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It is her mother (Hayley Atwell) who encourages Ella's imagination and perception of good in everyone, and who leaves her with the strong commendation to "have courage and be kind!" Unfortunately, her father's second choice for a wife, Lady (Cate Blanchett) Tremaine, only holds truck with the first part.

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Ultimately, as in the 1950's edition, Cinderella does make it to the ball, with a little help from her friends, and loses a shoe but gains a Prince in the end.

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As the unwaveringly gracious Cinderella, Lily James gives a charming performance of a young woman determined to adhere to her dying Mother's advice (who wouldn't listen to Agent Peggy Carter?) and see the best in everyone. Helena Bonham Carter does her usual quirky best as the Fairy Godmother, and if her sequence alone seems to have dropped out of a Tim Burton film, that may just be by power of association.

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The star of the film however, is Cate Blanchett. As the mostly-fearsome Lady Tremaine, she strikes a powerful image clad in sharply angled outfits reminiscent of Joan Crawford at her most hard-boiled. Treading a thin line, she manages to make the archetypal Evil Stepmother understandable, if not sympathetic: A product of love lost, thwarted ambition, and seething resentment. Her portrayal is so vivid that although you might wish she was given more screen time, to do so would likely overshadow the film's less-defined protagonists.

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As a work of art, the movie looks gorgeous: Branagh is no stranger to sumptuously designed productions, and it shows here. Between the elaborate, striking costumes by Sandy Powell and the colossal baroque sets by Dante Ferretti, the world of "Cinderella" is as magical as any Fairy Godmother could wish.

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While most of the film is a direct callback from the 1950 film, the new scenes meant to make the story a little more accessible to contemporary audiences work very well, with the most successful being the initial meeting of Ella and Prince/Apprentice Kit. The brief hint of "mansplaining" that goes on as Kit tries to help Ella control her horse, and her subsequent indignation at his tradition-based conservative viewpoints helps to establish them as equals and makes their exhaustive efforts to be together more believable.

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Probably both the best and the worst thing about "Cinderella" is that it is an unabashedly unironic retelling of a very familiar story. There are no dramatic reversals at the end--the Stepmother is not revealed to be the heroine and Cinderella does not learn kung fu and slay any dragons. It is an elegant, straightforward tale that dares to recommend kindness and courage over anger and vindictiveness in a world that, like ours, seldom distinguishes between them...and perhaps, sometimes, that's all that's required.

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Also playing with "Cinderella" is "Frozen Fever," the animated short sequel to "Frozen." It has Elsa planning a grand celebration for Anna's birthday, when she abruptly finds that a cold maybe bothers her anyway. With the same cute characters everyone loved from the original movie, and another catchy tune from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, there's little chance that this one's not going to go over like gangbusters. All they have to worry about at this point, is whether the Disney Stores will subsequently be able to keep the Snowgies on the shelves.

“Cinderella” is presented by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Rated PG, it stars Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced by Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur, and David Barron. Screenplay by Chris Weitz.

The film enters general release on March 13, 2015.

March 11, 2015

Eating to Run: Marathon Dining at Walt Disney World

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OK, I'll admit it...one of the reasons that I run is so that I can eat. I don't think I'm alone in that...Still, it's important to at least try to make those calories count, especially when I'm coming up on a race day (or two or three).

This food blog covers my last two WDW race weekends: WDW Marathon Weekend in January, and Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February. My goal is always to keep myself sufficiently fueled, try to eat what I normally would when I can, not eat anything too exotic that might upset my system, and yet still indulge myself a little bit. So far I've always been pretty successful.

We almost always stay at the Boardwalk Villas for Disney race weekends, and so we frequent many of the restaurants in that area for our meals. One of our "go-to" restaurants is The Dolphin Fountain over in the Dolphin hotel. We ate there twice on our WDW Marathon Weekend trip in January: once for lunch and once for dinner.

For dinner I tried something new: a Falafel plate with chickpea croquettes, sesame tahini, and a side salad. Everything was good, but I thought the portion size was a little small.

Lee's favorite here is Build Your Favorite Burger. There is choice of cheese and toppings like chili, bacon, sauteed onions or mushrooms.

It's our tradition to have lunch at The Fountain after the half marathon - we get there around 11:30 when they open and get right in. Though lately it's been quite popular and is often full by the time we leave. My favorite is the Turkey Burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Nice lean protein and it really hits the spot after running a half marathon in the morning!

Lee wasn't very hungry so instead of his usual burger he had some chili with a side of sweet potato fries. The sweet potato fries were pretty good.


A lot of people talk about the burgers and ice cream at Beaches and Cream, but I think the Fountain is as good, and much less crowded. Also, there's a 20% discount if you show your DVC Membership card!

Dolphin Fountain Menu

Since we stay at the Boardwalk, breakfast is often from the Boardwalk Bakery. Thanks to a recent expansion, the Bakery has a few more food items (especially for breakfast) than they used to. The Breakfast Sandwich is bacon, egg, and cheese served on a croissant-type roll, with a small side of fruit. It's pretty good, though I would prefer more fruit and less bread.

Lee had the Biscuit and Sausage Gravy. This looks pretty disgusting to me...he said it was just ok. I wish they offered oatmeal here rather than the biscuits and gravy.


One of our favorite lunch spots is Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion at Epcot. I usually order the Tempura Shrimp Udon Bowl along with a side of steamed vegetables. I've learned to eat the shrimp first, otherwise the tempura batter gets all soggy and falls off. And I dunk my veggies into the broth of the udon bowl to give them some flavor.

Lee had one of the curry dishes with rice, and he also ordered a side of vegetables.

Katsura Grill Menu


The night before the half marathon we had dinner at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion at Epcot. I don't find that I need to carb-load before a half marathon, but it is important to eat a good dinner, and preferably an early dinner, too. 5:30-6:00. Sunshine Seasons has a lot of pretty good choices, though you won't find pasta there other than the kid's mac-n-cheese meal.

I had the Rotisserie Chicken, which comes with black beans and rice. It's a half chicken (a small half chicken), but that's still more than I can eat. The chicken can be a little dry sometimes. I wish it came with a green vegetable, but it's still a pretty good meal for me.

Lee ordered the Slow-roasted Pork Chop with mashed potatoes.

We shared the Butternut Squash Soup which was surprisingly good! The pepitas on top added a nice crunch.

Sunshine Seasons Menu


We're almost always in a DVC unit for race weekends, so we at least have a refrigerator and toaster, if not a full kitchen. For race mornings we like to have yogurt and a bagel before we leave the room. So one of our challenges is always to find yogurt and bagels once we get to Disney so we can have them available in our room in the mornings. The Boardwalk Bakery is usually an option for both, but for whatever reason I've had a very difficult time getting yogurt at the bakery on recent trips - even in the mornings they have been out of it. They have had the yogurt parfaits, but those are too sweet and I don't like them. I've had better luck finding yogurt at the nearby Hess station, which has a mini-mart. The price is a lot lower, too. We bring packets of peanut butter and almond butter from home, and we can usually find bagels either at the bakery, or a package of them at the Hess station or in the grocery section of the Thimbles and Threads store at the Boardwalk. Lee usually has a banana, too, and fortunately those are pretty easy to find - though they aren't usually ripe enough for him. :-)

The night before the Marathon we had dinner at the new Trattoria al Forno, on the Boardwalk. It replaced the Kouzzina restaurant. We were a large party, and were at three different tables all across the restaurant, all with different servers.

One thing I noticed very quickly is that the new restaurant is much quieter than Kouzzina was - in Kouzzina you almost couldn't hear yourself think. Now there's some carpet on the floor, as well as wall hangings and other furnishings that help absorb the sound. It's still far from quiet, but we didn't have to yell to make ourselves heard.

The menu is Italian, but I would call it more up-scale Italian, and not family-friendly spaghetti-and-meatballs Italian. They serve pizza, but it's Neapolitan style with a very thin crust, and odd toppings - you won't find pepperoni pizza here. There's a Margherita pizza, but two of the others are broccoli rabe with fennel sausage, and smoked prosciutto, potato, and rosemary.

It being the night before the Marathon, I asked our server if there was a "Runner's Special", and he had no idea what I was talking about. I've eaten at other Disney restaurants (including Kouzzina) the night before Disney races that have offered a pasta special, so I was very surprised. The Trattoria really doesn't have a simple spaghetti with marinara dish on the menu - he tried to direct me towards the "Polpetta Gigante - giant meatball with ricotta cannelloni and marinara", but that's not the same thing.

I had the Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with tagliatelle. This was a HUGE serving of chicken, and it was very good. Not quite as good as the chicken parm in Palo on the Disney cruise ships, but I liked it. The pasta was just ok - it was heavy and it needed more sauce. But the whole thing was a pretty generous serving and I ended up taking half of it back to the room (we devoured it the next day after the marathon).

Lee ordered the Baked Lasagna with shaved fennel arugula salad. He also thought this was excellent. He said it was very light, but still satisfying and filling.

We had decent but not great service. There were 9 at our table, so that was a fair bit of work for our server. But I think only a couple of people ordered appetizers and no one ordered dessert.

Trattoria al Forno Dinner Menu


The night after the marathon it was time to celebrate, and any ideas of trying to eat light or healthy go out the window. :-) We had dinner at Flying Fish - yet another Boardwalk-area restaurant.

I tried the nightly fish special - I think it was barrelfish, but I'm not positive about that. Whatever it was, it was very good. Of course I don't think I've ever had anything at Flying Fish that wasn't - it's always been consistently good.

Lee had the Potato-Wrapped Red Snapper - this is a signature dish at Flying Fish, and it's always excellent.

Where we really indulged was on dessert: there were four of us, and we ordered four different desserts and shared. The first was a special seasonal sundae - I don't remember now what was in it - maybe cinnamon ice cream, raspberries, and spiced nuts? It was pretty good.

This is the Signature Flying Fish Cafe Caramelized Banana Napoleon. I'm not a banana fan, so I didn't have any of this, but Lee really enjoyed it.

The surprise, and my favorite dessert of the evening, was the Spiced Bing Cherry and Chocolate Bread Pudding. I interpreted it as cherries IN the bread pudding, but instead it was cherry sauce served with it. The chocolate bread pudding was VERY good - more "chocolate" than "bread". It also came with a scoop of "sinful chocolate sorbet", which was excellent. While everyone tried it, my tablemates generously allowed me to eat most of this one. :-) It was quite filling and very satisfying.

We also sampled one of the "no sugar added" desserts: Chocolate Sable-crusted Peppermint Cheesecake. I'm not a big cheesecake fan, but this was pretty good. It had a light mint flavor rather than being overwhelmingly minty, and that was nice.

Really a lovely meal, and a great way to celebrate completing a successful Marathon weekend.

Flying Fish Menu


Before heading home from Marathon Weekend we went back to Trattoria al Forno to try their breakfast menu. Lee and I both ordered Scrambled Eggs with Tomato, Basil, and fresh Mozzarella, though he requested no tomato on his. It comes with choice of bacon or chicken sausage, with breakfast potatoes. As they put peppers in their breakfast potatoes I requested fruit instead. It was a pretty small serving of fruit, but I was glad that it was mostly pineapple and blueberries rather than melon.

People at the next table ordered the Poached Eggs with sausage and tomato gravy served over polenta. That looked pretty good, and they enjoyed it.

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast Menu


Fast forward about 6 weeks to the end of February...

For Princess Half Marathon Weekend I was also staying at the Boardwalk with my friend Deb. Deb is a planner, and she planned almost everything from dining reservations to Fastpass+. That was quite a treat for me and I LOVED having someone else do it for me!

I arrived on an evening flight on Thursday, which meant I'd want dinner soon after I arrived at the Boardwalk. Deb suggested Spice Road Table in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot - and with a reservation time of 7:50, it meant we should be able to watch Illuminations from there, also! She's brilliant. :-)

It was a very chilly evening, and we were bundled up in coats and scarves and gloves. Initially they sat us outside...it was a table right on the water, and on most occasions it would have been a prime location, but after a few minutes we knew we'd be too cold there, and asked to move inside. They had no problem doing that. We didn't have a window table inside, but we could see through one of the windows. And it was SO much warmer and more comfortable!

I'd never dined at Spice Road Table before, but Deb had. Apparently the menu has gone through a number of iterations in the time the restaurant has been open. It started off as small plates for sharing, but now in addition to those there are full dinner entrees as well. We ordered some of both.

We started with the Hummus Fries. Deb had had these before, and said they were served differently - these were large sticks instead of the squares she's had in the past. And they were also MUCH spicier than she'd had before. Not only was the sauce spicy, but the fries themselves were, too. A little too spicy for my taste, unfortunately. They were also very filling.

We also ordered Spicy Garlic Shrimp. As promised these were a bit spicy, but fortunately not as spicy as the fries. :-) Deb enjoyed them, I thought they were just ok.

On the entree side we tried the Lamb Sliders. These came with another order of hummus fries - though the menu didn't say anything about an accompaniment, nor did our server mention it to us when we ordered the hummus fries separately. I really enjoyed the sliders - maybe a bit more sauce would have been nice. I'd order those again.

For dessert we ordered the Chocolate Pyramid. That was a wonderful surprise! It was really excellent. The outer layer was not really cake, but was sort of spongy, with more of a chocolate mousse underneath, and in the center was a white custard. It was served with almond ice cream, though I didn't taste much almond in it. It was an excellent dessert.

We also shared the Spice Road Digestive Flight, which seems like a very odd name for a flight that included Grand Marnier, Godiva Liqueur, and Frangelico. Each was a 1-3/4 ounce pour.

Just after our dessert was served Illuminations started. While we didn't have the best view from that location, it was certainly a good view, and a very interesting place to watch the show from. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The restaurant is not very busy, so it would be great if they would offer some kind of dessert/Illuminations experience here. I'd definitely do it - as it is I'd certainly return to do dessert and wine/liqueur before Illuminations again.

The meal itself...I wasn't too impressed. Which disappointed me, because I'd really wanted to like this place. The sliders were good, but the others were just too spicy for me. And I'd steered away from a couple of the other appetizers because Deb had tried them before and thought the spice level was a little too high. But I really did enjoy the dessert and the liqueur flight.

Spice Road Table


Deb and I went to Magic Kingdom on Friday and had lunch at Columbia Harbour House. I ordered the Broccoli Peppercorn Salad - mixed greens, corn, peas, chicken, broccoli, and parmesan cheese. It is normally tossed with peppercorn dressing, but I requested it on the side. I was expecting the broccoli to be warm, but it was cold. The chicken was warm, so that made for a somewhat strange combination. But it was a pretty good salad.


That night we went to Trattoria al Forno - Deb hadn't been there, and I didn't mind returning. DebW and Linda joined us, also. We started with the Margherita Pizza. I thought it was ok - it needed more basil. And I'm not a big fan of the thin crust Neapolitan style of pizza.

DebW and Linda had dined at the Trattoria before, and they recommended we share the Grilled Treviso. Treviso is a type of radicchio, which is an Italian lettuce (I had no idea what it was). This was served with Gorgonzola and pistachios. Not something that I would ever think about ordering, but it was delicious!

Since I was running the next day I stuck with my Chicken Parmigiana as my appetizer. It wasn't quite as large a piece of chicken as I had in January, but it was still good, and I still had leftovers. The pasta seemed kind of glued together, though - and it still needs more sauce.

We tried several different desserts. The chocolate gelato was excellent, and I really enjoyed it.

The Piedmont Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake was just ok. It was a very small serving, and I thought the cake was dry. It had a lot of hazelnut flavor, though.

We also had the Tiramisu, but we ate this one so quickly that no one took a photo of it! It was very good, and very light. Deb and Linda said it was served much differently than when they had it before, but said it was just as good.

After eating dinner at the Trattoria twice, I'd give it a B-. They do some things very well, and other things not so well. I'm not sure how wide an appeal the menu has to the average WDW visitor looking for Italian food...I'll be surprised if the menu is not significantly changed later this year.


One afternoon we had lunch at Tangierine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot. This has always been one of my favorite counter service locations. I had one of my usual choices: Falafel Wrap served with lentil salad and couscous. The wrap was pretty good, but I don't remember the lentil salad having red peppers in it before. And I don't like peppers. Sigh.

For dessert I had a piece of Pistachio Baklava. It was pretty good - not as good as my mom's - but good. Nutty and crisp and not cloyingly sweet or sticky.


The night before the Princess Half Marathon we had dinner at Il Mulino in the Walt Disney World Swan Resort. I'd never eaten there before. Because it was an Italian restaurant, and it was the night before a big race, it was crazy busy - I'm told it's not usually like that. So we had slower service than usual, unfortunately.

I ordered the house salad to start. It was a nice salad with mixed greens, sliced red onions, carrot strips, and pine nuts.

For my entree I requested a half order of Pappardelle and Tomato Basil Sauce Even a half order was plenty of food!

The menu had lots of interesting things on it, and I'd like to go back again on an evening that's not quite so busy.

Il Mulino Dinner Menu


My last meal at WDW on this trip was Fish and Chips from the shop in the UK pavilion at Epcot. The two pieces of fish were pretty large, and nice and hot and crispy. It's not something I eat very often, but I'd run a half marathon - I could indulge myself. :-)

So there you have it...two long weekends of running and eating.







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