On our first night in Orlando, K and I headed for Downtown Disney to try out the Food and Wine Festival Kiosks–Amuse Bouche and Cheese and Sweets. Disney World took the 2 most popular stands from the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival and made them regulars in Downtown Disney. Of all the food we consumed during our trip, Amuse Bouche was by far the best. I only wished Downtown Disney was more convenient so we could eat here more often!
The food was so tasty and affordable! K and I ordered one of each for $13. The favorite of the bunch was the grilled beef skewer–flavorful, tender and light.
- Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree ($5)
- Shrimp Ceviche, Fried Plantains and Cilantro ($4.25)
- Pork Slider with Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise ($3.25)
Cheese and Sweets
We only ordered the cheese fondue at this stand. It was delish, but there wasn’t enough bread. K and I ended up having to drink the leftover cheese, but hey, we’re not complaining.
- Cheese Fondue with Sourdough Bread ($3.25)
On my next trip to Orlando, I’m definitely planning around this festival because this was just a taste and I want more!
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If you’re planning a trip out to Orlando, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure is a must. I am a huge Disney fan, but I will admit that Harry Potter world is the most impressive theme park I’ve ever seen. The detail put into this park is exactly how it’s described in the book–from the food to Moaning Myrtle’s voice in the bathroom to Hogwarts itself.
The town is based off of Hogsmead which is a town described in book 3, Prisoner of Azkaban. The town houses familiar shops such as the Three Broomsticks, Honeydukes, Olivander’s and Zonko’s Joke Shop. The facade of the town looks unreal, like someone pulled you out of Orlando, Florida and into a Harry Potter movie. In the distance, you can see Hogwarts almost like a backdrop, but really, it contains the most innovative ride I’ve ever been on.
Few tips about the Universal Studios:
- Universal Studios has 2 parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida (If you’re an adult, you only want to go to Islands of Adventure)
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in Islands of Adventure
- K and I only bought passes to Islands of Adventure (which can be done is less than a day)
- If you’re planning to read Harry Potter before your visit, you only need to get through half of book 3
- You don’t even need to be familiar with Harry Potter to enjoy this park
- Unfortunately, there are no free fastpasses at Universal so be prepared to wait in lines. The Express passes are $30+ and may actually be worth the extra cost to cut lines.
- Quick tip: Harry Potter World is busiest in the morning. If you want to avoid lines and crowds, come back in the evening when most families made their way to Universal’s other park.
Pretty much, the whole Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an attraction. Though small, K and I spent almost the whole day here perusing the shops and window displays. Few things to look out for:
- Honeydukes – I easily spent $40 here buying chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, chocolate wands and candy floss.
- Zonko’s Joke Shop – This is a fun place for souvenirs like a Sneakoscope or Extendible Ears.
- Olivander’s – K and I found a line outside Olivander’s and decided to hop in without knowing what it was for. After about 30 minutes, we were taken into Olivander’s wand shop for an experience. Olivander chose 1 lucky person from the group (me) and had me test out 3 wands similar to what Harry did in book 1. I killed a pot of tulips and rattled a bunch of shelves before I finally found my match. For a price of $30, I could have purchased that wand as a keepsake, but decided to pass.
- Hogwarts – The school not only houses the most amazing ride ever, it’s also a tour. While waiting in a ridiculously long line, you’re able to meet your favorite characters–Harry, Ron and Hermione–in the library, see the sorting hat and walk through a corridor of talking portraits.
- Filtch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods – Come here to purchase your favorite Harry Potter scarf or cape.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – I’ll admit that I was extremely nervous waiting in line through Hogwarts for this ride. I had no clue what to expect. Fast speed? Big drops? The answer is neither. To my surprise, it easily became the best ride I’ve ever been on. I don’t want to give all the secrets away, but I’ll describe it as a mixture of a Disney Fantasyland ride and Soarin’ Over California. I loved it so much, K and I found ourselves on this ride 5 times! In order to enjoy the experience, you have to store your things in one of their free lockers. This part of the wait is pretty disorganized, so store your things quickly and continue on throughout the mansion.
- Dragon Challenge – This light-weight roller coaster offers 2 different experiences which are weaved together. When waiting in line, you get to choose which dragon you want to ride.
- Flight of the Hippogriff – K and I skipped this family-friendly roller coaster.
- The Amazing Adventure of Spiderman – There are other things to do/see outside of Harry Potter World within Islands of Adventure. This award-winning ride is also a must. It’s similar to the Forbidden Journey ride without the twists and turns.
- The Incredible Hulk – This is by far the scariest-looking ride I’ve seen at a theme park. Luckily, K didn’t force me to join him.
On to my favorite part about this park, the food! Pasties, butterbeer, pumpkin fizz. It’s all here.
- Three Broomsticks – They don’t have the Hogwarts dining hall in the park, but this is the 2nd best thing to it. This restaurant serves meat pasties, shepherds pie, fish n’ chips and giant roasted turkey legs. K and I actually had lunch AND dinner here since it’s the only real restaurant in Harry Potter world. We tried the pasties, shepherds pie, BBQ plate and fish n’ chips. My favorite of all 4 was the shepherds pie, flavorful ground beef topped with whipped mashed potatoes and a bechamel sauce. Here is also where you can order a cup of FROZEN BUTTERBEER! This drink is the most amazing invention, frozen cream soda with a hint of butterscotch. Don’t get the cold butterbeer, get the frozen version. We also tried the pumpkin fizz, but butterbeer is a thousand times better.
Quick tip: Keep your eyes out for the shadows of elves working in the restaurant.
Hope you enjoyed my very thorough recap of Universal’s Islands of Adventure!
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K and I spent the least amount of time at Animal Kingdom mainly because we didn’t know if we had time to make it to the largest of the 4 parks. On day 3 of our 4-day hopper pass, we managed to find a few hours and hopped on the free Disney shuttle to check it out. Here are the highlights:
- Kilimanjaro Safaris – This is a rather impressive safari built on acres of land filled with tons of animals. You almost forget that you’re in Orlando when riding through this African landscape.
- It’s Tough to be a Bug
- Expedition Everest – This is Orlando’s version of the Matterhorn, but it’s so much more fun!
- Dinosaur – Dinosaur is Orlando’s version of Indiana Jones. It’s a shame they haven’t moved Indiana over to Orlando. The dinosaur ride seems a bit generic, but the experience is the same.
- Sadly, K and I didn’t get a chance to eat at this park. We ended up taking the shuttle back to the Magic Kingdom for another roasted pork shank at Gaston’s Tavern. Though I did read that Yak and Yeti is good.
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Studios celebrates the Golden Age of film making. The movie references at this park are dated and most likely unrecognizable to most children, but the main attractions here are the thrill rides. Quick tip: this is a park you won’t need a full day for. Come here in the morning and finish the day at another park.
- Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage
- Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – This was my absolute most favorite thing to see in all the Disney World parks. Disney decorated all of the Avenue of the Americas in thousands of lights. Every 10-15 minutes, the lights would “dance” to a Christmas song. Unfortunately, this is only around during the holidays, but it’s definitely a must see.
- Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster – This is similar to California Screamin’ without the big drops.
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- The Great Movie Ride – The movies in this ride are a bit out-dated, but the act the castmember plays is pretty fun.
- Toy Story Mania
- Star Tours
- Pretzel Garden – This is the only kiosk I recommend at Hollywood Studios. They have the cheese and jalapano filled pretzels here!
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During my first visit to Orlando at the age of 9, I thought Epcot was the most boring park in all of Disney World. But in my recent return, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I probably appreciate this park because it’s so different than what we have in Anaheim. The park is designed in a hourglass figure and is divided into 2 sides-the Future World and the World Showcase. The park celebrates the innovations in technology and culture and is said to never be complete as long as the world is introducing and testing new materials and systems. My favorite part of this park is that all of the employees in the World Showcase are from the countries in which they represent. How legit is that?
- World Showcase – The World Showcase walks you through 11 countries around the world (Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, UK and Canada). Each country has restaurants and cafes representing the native cuisines. I’ve seen adults turn the World Showcase into a drinking game, ordering an alcoholic beverage in each country. In true culturebite fashion, K and I tried to eat our way through the countries.
- IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth – This attraction is a light and water show at the center of the World Showcase. You can pretty much enjoy this attraction from anywhere around the lake. This is supposed to be Disney World’s equivalent to World of Color, but I enjoyed the latter so much more.
- Test Track – Similar to Radiator Spring in California Adventure, this Chevrolet sponsored ride allows you to design your own sports car and race it around a track. This ride is Epcot’s newest addition to the Future World and has long wait times.
Tip: Grab a fast pass to completely skip the “design a car” phase of the line.
- Mission:SPACE – This ride “Orange” is so intense, I’m not sure my body liked it. In this ride, you’re broken into groups of 5 with each person owning a responsibility in this mission to Mars. You sit in this tiny simulator in which they pump G-forces so you get the feeling of entering space. I got a little disoriented during the ride and had to close my eyes for a break. If you don’t want an experience this intense, you could opt for the “Green” version of the ride.
- Battleship Earth – This Siemen’s sponsored ride is the icon of Epcot. Inside the dome, you’re taken (very slowly) through the history of mankind. This one can be a snoozer, but it’s something you have to do at least once.
- Maelstrom – This is a short ride that takes you through the history of Norway in the World Showcase.
- Kringla – I found this little Norwegian bakery to serve the best food in all of Epcot. Cultural classic like rice creams, school bread and lerden bestes can be found here. My personal favorite was the rice cream – a rich rice pudding topped with strawberry preserves. Super delish and it was only $2.99!
- Crepes de Chefs de France – This kiosk in the France Pavilion serves dessert crepes at $4.50. K and I didn’t make it here, but it was on my list and it had good reviews
- Coffee Kiosk in Italy – I added this to my list because I knew finding a good latte in Disney was not going to be an easy feat. Using common sense, I figured the coffee in Italy would be worth a try (mainly because the employees in each country are natives from these countries). First thing I noticed was the price. It was the most expensive latte I’ve seen in all 4 parks – $5. The taste? Pretty darn good for a Disney park.
- Tip: I know these posts are geared more for adults, but if you’re looking for character sightings, check out the Akershus Royal Restaurant in Norway. They offer character dining here and seems to be less crowded than the other character dining spots at the other parks.
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