Akershus Lunch Review

Recommended:  No for the food.  Yes to see the Princesses in one swoop.

Located in Norway, but surprisingly void of Anna and Elsa, I’m torn on whether or not to recommend Akershus, which is the only character meal available in the EPCOT World Showcase.

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If you are looking to collect a lot of princess autographs quickly, this would be the way to go.  A number of princesses, like Snow White and Belle, are not available for very hospitable hours.  Usually, you have to already know where they’ll be and line up a half an hour before they arrive to get your photo and autograph.  Typically, once the princess arrives to her outdoor station, the line to meet her has already been cut off.  Then, if it rains, the character doesn’t come out at all.  So, when thinking of Arkerhus in those terms, it is an easy way to meet five princesses in one shot.

They say the line up can change any time, but these are the princesses that we saw:

Belle meets you as you enter the restaurant.
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Then you’ll see Cinderella,
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Followed closely by Aurora,
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next is Ariel (in a green dress that she NEVER wears in any of the films – my daughter thought she was Merida because of that),
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and last is Snow White.
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Snow White only hangs around in EPCOT these days, and she is one of those weather-permitting princesses.  We’ve had trouble getting to her in the past, which is what brought us to Akershus in the first place.

However, be warned that there are NO Photo Pass photographers once you get to your table, so you will be on your own there.  There are also a lot of tables crammed into a little bit of building (Akershus was clearly built before Disney World saw the volume of tourist that is does today), so getting great pictures that show off the princesses beautiful dresses will not be a likely possibility.

We also felt very rushed with the time the princesses gave our table.  Much like Chef Mickey’s, we got about 2 minutes per princess in.  It was, hello, hugs, autograph, pose for photos, and goodbye.  They keep these characters on too tight of a schedule, it would be nice if the kids could have a few more sentences with each one and create a stronger memory of the event (like my daughter training squirrels with Rapunzel or teaching yoga to Merida).

The princesses also do a gathering/parade for all the little ones who want to join in.  That seems to happen at every character meal, and it’s always a cute touch.
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The Akershus building is magnificently beautiful.  It feels like an Old World castle that has been refurbished by a modern owner.  As you can see in the photograph above, the walls are stone, and put together in an uneven, ancient architecture type of style (something like Merida’s castle, I suppose).

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The artwork on the walls ranged from tapestry and flags to very somber paintings.

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And even the roof was magnificent.  My daughter said it looked like Elsa’s snowflake.  While the waiter denied any resemblance, I’d be surprised if the designers of Frozen didn’t find some inspiration in this building.
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The food is where the experience gets iffy for me.  Norwegian food is weird, if not gross.  At Akershus, there is a set price, and that include the salad bar, an entree, and a plate of three Norwegian desserts for the table.  Here’s a not-too-great picture of the Oven Roasted Chicken Breast.

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It came with potato dumpling and Brussels sprouts, but they had been cooked (boiled?) until they tasted the same with the same bland texture.  Definitely not my favorite meal from Disney, although my father highly recommended the meatballs.

The dessert portion of the meal was interesting.  They brought out two sets of the desserts, which included a piece of Apple Cake (not my cup of tea, personally), Chocolate Mousse (amazing, actually), and Rice Cream (no, not Ice Cream, a tapioca kind of warm, solid, goop – not a fan!).  Having two sets of desserts for five people, and only one of those desserts being any good, essentially leads to a fight over the Chocolate Mousse.  That is worth the fight, fork your children if you have to so that you can try a piece!  haha.  But, really, it would have been nice if everyone has a smaller sized sampler plate than making everyone share.  I actually missed out on the photo opp here, but I found a picture from DisneyFoodBlog.com to share.

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I also didn’t appreciate that we were a party of 5, we had made reservations months in advance, and we were crammed into a table for four.  There was not enough room for plates, the kids had to climb over people to get to the princesses, and the room we were in (the rounded room in the castle tower portion) was already a tight enough space without putting someone on the end like a baby in a high chair.  That was very poor dining management from whomever decided to seat us there…

So, if you’re looking for a good place to eat, skip Akerhus, there is much better places in the World Showcase.  If you’re looking for a guaranteed slew of princesses, this is your best bet in EPCOT.  It just depends on what you’re looking for.

The Crystal Palace – Lunch Review

Recommended:  Yes to meet Eeyore and Piglet.  Toss up to go for the food alone.

I’m not sure what The Crystal Palace was originally designed to be, but I think the Winnie the Pooh character meal was not their initial intent.  This is a beautiful building, very closely resembling the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  But, somehow, throwing Pooh and his friends in the mix does not hurt the charm of the place at all.  In fact, while it doesn’t seem to fit together theme wise (I know Pooh is a British story), the old and new elements work well together and make the place very fun and lively!

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I have to say that I really, really loved the entry presentation.  The main Pooh cast done in flowers!cp10

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While you dine, your buddies from the Hundred Acre Wood will come to your table.

You’ll see Tigger,cp2

Pooh (my husband’s favorite),cp5

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and Piglet.
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Other than during the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, I have not seen Eeyore or Piglet available anywhere else in Disney World.

Now, the downside to a character meal/buffet is that you’re getting up and down, and you may not be able to see the characters coming before they hit – or miss – your table!  Tigger, especially, seems to carve out his own walking path, and we ended up missing him at first.  The waitress asked his handler to get him to stop by again before he left for the other side of the dining hall, but Tigger was Tigger and didn’t listen!  It was over an hour before we were finally able to catch him again, and this was after even a manager asked him to come back.  >.<  So, keep your eyes open, and be prepared to pounce if you see a character walking away from your table!

This was also the anniversary celebration meal for my husband and myself, so we got a little extra gift!  Apparently, it was supposed to be a photo of the Pooh gang, but those ran out.  I still like this one all the same, though!cp7

To get to the food, as I mentioned before, it is a buffet.  The options are pretty random, stretching from salads and traditional carved meats to samples of Indian and Mexican food.  A number of standard desserts were available.  Nothing was really bad, but nothing was really amazing either.  It reminded me of a smaller scale Golden Corral.

Honestly, though, if you have a party of two adults and two children under 10, you are looking at roughly $80 for any sit down meal that you have, before the tip.  At The Crystal Palace, we paid just around the $100 mark before the tip, and that included time with the characters and any beverage that we wanted, so it’s not an awful deal for Disney prices.  For the extra $20, I prefer to get the character experience and let the kids meet the hard-to-find guys.  So, even though the food wasn’t stellar, considering any other sit down lunch would have cost the same, I’m not dissatisfied with what we got.

Rainforest Cafe Review

Recommended:  YES – both locations are delicious!

I waited to post this review until I was able to eat at both Rainforest Cafes in the Disney zone.  There is one at Downtown Disney and one at Animal Kingdom as you come towards the main entrance.  Overall, there are a few differences in the decor, but the food is very consistent in both restaurants.

Welcome to the jungle!

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Now, Rainforest Cafe was created by the same company that runs T-Rex, so it is essentially the same design, except Rainforest uses exotic animals instead of prehistoric ones.  Noise-wise though, it is about the same, with a rain shower (in sound only!) instead of a meteor shower every thirty minutes or so.  So, be prepared to observe at this meal instead of have a detailed conversation with your dinner-mates.

If you try to talk, a gorilla may end up mean mugging you and demanding your attention, as the walls are filled with animatronic creatures.
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The menu is also similar in structure to T-Rex, which I said was reminiscent of a higher-quality Applebees.  There are a number of options to choose from, all typical meals that American families would be used to, like pastas and burgers.  What I like about the menu at Rainforest is that it is highly diverse in food types and prices, so you can pinch pennies and order a sandwich, or you can throw down some cash and get seafood or steak.  It’s not often that you find such a wide range of price options at a restaurant, and I appreciate that part of Rainforest Cafe very much.

Almost as much as I appreciate the fact that the bar is coming out of a giant mushroom.
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On my first trip to Rainforest Cafe, we were at the Animal Kingdom location and I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich.  It was wonderful and huge, so I ended up being full quickly and taking talk my sandwich to the hotel.  When I wanted to polish that mighty sandwich off for dinner, I realized there was no microwave at Port Orleans.  So, not wanting to toss my lunch out, I tried to eat it cold.  I am usually on the snobbish side of eating hot food when it’s cold or vice versa, but the sandwich was still delicious.  Trying to back match it to the online menu, I believe that was the Blue Mountain Chicken Sandwich.

When we went to Rainforest again, months later and in Downtown Disney this time, I ordered the Rasta Pasta, which was another huge portion size, and so delicious!  I actually still have the photograph of that plate! 🙂
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The staff there is also wonderful, and at least as good to their costumers as the staff at T-Rex.  I also have to recommend again that joining the Landry Select Club BEFORE traveling to Orlando is a great idea, and you can see my thoughts on the club card here https://disneyfangirl.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/best-dining-secret-landrys-select-club/

I can’t really tell you enough good things about T-Rex or Rainforest Cafe, so I hope you’ll try them out and let me know about your awesome experience too!  I can’t wait to go back again myself! 🙂

San Angel Inn Restaurante Review

Recommended:  Toss up.

I came very, very close to cancelling our reservation at San Angel after hearing a number of bad reviews.  By a number, I mean that I posted a question about the restaurant and over a hundred people responded with their bad experiences, and only a few listed positive ones.  With that in mind, I had very low expectations when entering the restaurant.

Just to be clear, there are several restaurants named San Angel in the Mexico section of the World Showcase in EPCOT.  The one I am reviewing is the place inside the Mayan temple, the other two are La Hacienda de San Angel and La Cantina de San Angel.

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Like most other guests, I highly recommend sitting next to the water.  It’s very cool to watch the boats go by for the ride in Mexico.  Now, the place can be packed, so the only way to guarantee that you can sit by the water will be to book a reservation for as soon as the restaurant opens, and check in about 15 minutes early (as recommended).  We did that, we were the first ones to check in, and even though we didn’t get seated first, we did get an awesome table with a beautiful view of the water.

Now, there are three major complaints that I heard about San Angel Inn – it’s too dark, the tables are too small/tight, and the portion sizes are way too small for the price.  I tend to agree with all three of these points.  Most of my photos are blurry from a severe lack of light, and the small lanterns at the table just aren’t enough.

As is the case with most Mexican restaurants, you get complimentary chips at the table.  They come with an interesting green dip and a very, very watered down tomato based salsa.  I like my salsa chunky and fresh, and, in this area, I wasn’t too impressed.

I had the Pollo a las Rajas, which was grilled chicken breast served with red peppers & onion cream sauce, poblano rice, and queso fresco.  I didnt really stop and think that poblano rice was not the usual, brown/red rice that comes with most Mexican dishes, and it seemed like some of my rice was not fully cooked.  But, the meal got better with every bite, so I was not disappointed.  Although, considering how cheap foods like rice are, it would have been nice if they at least were overly-generous with that part.  There really wasn’t much side at all considering that it was $19.50 and a $9 plate at a local Mexican restaurant outside of the park would have been double the food.
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My husband asked the waiter for a recommendation, and ended up getting the Tacos de Carne – which he is still obsessively raving about to this day.  To quote the menu, it is grilled New York strip on flour tortillas, topped with chipotle pepper sauce, scallions and avocado.  He couldn’t get over how amazing the avocado made it.  Although, he was very sad that the three tacos are very, very small for the $21 price.  The photo below is not of a very large plate, and the tortillas were the smallest size I’ve ever seen (roughly half the size of Chipotle tortillas, if that helps as a sizing reference).  Just like with Be Our Guest, he left the meal still hungry.
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My daughter was very happy to find Cheese Quesadillas on the menu.  Those are her safety Mexican food that won’t “spice my tongue,” as she puts it.  Again, though, there wasn’t a lot on the plate for $8.50.

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Finally, my son had the kids Grilled Chicken with Rice.  Oddly enough, he got more rice than my husband and I combined.  His was probably the best value in terms of quality, price, and size of the meal at $9.50.
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So, I will say that it’s a toss up as to whether I would recommend San Angel Inn.  The food was definitely good, but there just wasn’t a lot of it offered, the prices are very high considering the amount of food you get, and it is dark with cramped tables.  Apologies again for the blurry images, that’s a side effect of the advance darkness.  But, overall, I’m glad to have went, but I don’t think that I’d book it a second time.

Art of Animation Review

Recommended:  SUPER YES!!!

As of posting this blog, I have been to the following Disney Resorts:  Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, All Stars Movies, and Pop Century.  I have to say that, while I really loved Caribbean Beach and Pop Century, nothing has blown me away as much as Art of Animation Resort!

I don’t know that I can do the venue justice with words, so I will try to just caption my photos.  I will say, if you need a family suite, Cars definitely looks like the coolest area.  And, if you need this knowledge for any reason, there is a bridge going from Art of Animation to Pop Century (50s/60s area), so it is a close walk away.

Please excuse my gushing, I went to school for an MFA in animation, so this was my personal paradise!  Alright, photo time!!!!

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Even driving by, the outside of Art of Animation is just fantastic to look at!

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All of the family suites have these beautiful sketches on the sides of the buildings.  You could drive around the main road and see a lot of these, even if you aren’t stopping or staying at the resort.

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If you do get the chance to stop and look around, every section has these giant statues based on the main characters/scenes from the movies they’re themed after.  This was the Little Mermaid section, which are all room for four or less occupants (the only non-family suite option).

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There are also smaller displays around each area to have photo-ops with.  Besides Price Eric’s birthday present, there was also a dinglehopper, a snarfblat, a treasure chest, and a big Sebastian conducting the orchestra.  The buildings themselves were lined with dancing fish from the movie too.  Unfortunately, I can put up a thousands photos in one post, or I will make my blog crash, but believe me when I say it is a visual marvel!

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The lobby has an amazing collection of storyboard sketches that run from wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor.

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At the check-in area, the wall is full of color and black-and-white character sketches.

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After we checked in, we saw our Little Mermaid room.  This was the table, and my daughter insisted I photograph it RIGHT AWAY!  That sheet music is actually a part of the table top!

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Next, the beds are adorable, with lights build into each headboard (on/off switches are on the wall between the two beds).  Even the bed skirt was themed!

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I honestly can’t say this room didn’t have enough of a Disney feel to it, because there was a beautiful painting of Prince Eric, Max, and Scuttle sailing on the open seas.  To the contrary, Pop Century only had a poster on the wall to be “themed,” and All Stars Movies only had a boarder of their movies on the wall.

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Here we have the privacy curtain for the sink area.

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I mean even the carpet is Little Mermaid themed!  Can you believe that?

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This was the shower tile!  I almost died when my daughter found it!  The shower curtain was already adorable, with Ariel looking at her neat stuff, but the whole flipping grotto is the shower interior!  This is the first time that a Disney Resort room has really impressed me.  I have never seen the interior be more spectacular than the exterior!

An interesting thing to notice about the Little Mermaid room is that is kind of tells a story.  The desk with the sheet music is right by the door.  This is the beginning of the movie where Ariel gets in trouble.  The bulk of the room is themed like the Under the Sea song, with all the colorful fish dancing and having a good time.  Then what happens in the film?  Ariel runs away during that song and ends up in her grotto, which is where you end up next as the bathroom.  So, from front to back, you have the first third of the story!

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After we saw our room, we went exploring around the other sections.  We found the main characters for every film represented at the Resort, except for Dori.  I didn’t look very hard, but she was the only character I would say is missing (maybe it’s a joke for the upcoming Finding Dori movie?).

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My daughter refused to pose nicely with Scar.

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But, the Elephant Graveyard mini-playground, complete with hyenas, was hard not to enjoy.

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More centrally located in the resort is The Big Blue – the largest pool of all the Disney Resorts.  In the back there is a small playground and splash park that is beautifully detailed with the schoolyard fish.  But, pool jumpers beware, you may be required to have a Magic Band or key card that is activated for Art of Animation to use this pool!

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Here’s why I think the Cars area was the best.  Every car from the first movie was present, and they turned the area into Radiator Springs, so they had the town shops all over the place.  Sarge’s Surplus was decorative, I don’t believe that guests could enter there, but Tow Mader and several other “businesses” were the entrances to the suites.

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I haven’t seen Car World in Disneyland yet, but I can’t imagine it being as wonderfully detailed as this section of Art of Animation.

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And I LOVED that the Cozy Cone Motel was here too, only it was a pool and the cones were little rooms to get out of the sun!

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Casa Della Tires, another suite entrance area!  If you’ll notice too, the family suites are all enclosed like hotel rooms, whereas the Little Mermaid area (for parties of 4 or less) had the motel-ish doors that opened to the outside areas.

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Finally, I want to touch on the dinning area.  Okay, the food isn’t to-die-for, it’s pretty standard “meh” quick service food.  But the dining area is gorgeous, offering tons of landscape concept art to match every themed area of the resort.  Here is the Lion King section, with a bit of the Cars art section in the right top corner.

I cannot recommend this resort enough, especially if you have younger children!  This is the only resort I’ve seen that is decked out in Disney to this level.  And, even the smaller rooms are new, modern, and roomy, whereas the rooms at Pop Century and All Stars feel more cramped, aren’t very detailed, and are really starting to show their age.  While this resort is hard to book if you want the cheaper Little Mermaid section, it is definitely worth staying here if you can manage to get a room! 🙂

Watch Out for that Neverbeast!

I feel like I need to offer a PSA for other, unsuspecting parents out there.  Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast came out this past Tuesday.  In the aftermath I have learned that this was a planned series finale – and the story line may leave your kid balled up and in a puddle on the floor.

***SPOILERS****

When I watched Neverbeast with my daughter, I really had done no prior research and had no clue what to expect.  My daughter, who is seven, was a wreck after seeing Toy Story 3 and Big Hero 6, but, having seen five other Disney Fairies movies, I did NOT expect Neverbeast to be an emotional film.  While Disney is getting more and more into the habit of ripping out children’s souls and stomping them into the ground with the heavy, emotional experiences happening in their films, most straight-to-video Disney movies are geared towards a younger audience.  Because of that, they are usually very kid friendly and have plots that wrap up in a nice little bow.  This was NOT the case with the Neverbeast film.

To put this in a nutshell, Fairies find Neverbeast, Fairies fear Neverbeast, Neverbeast saves the day, then Fairies love Neverbeast.  Yay, end of the film, right?  Wrong!

When the movie should have ended (if it had taken in any consideration for the general age of the audience at all), it decides to continue.  Instead of our stereotypical Happily Ever After, it turns out that the Neverbeast, now a treasured part of Pixie Hallow, is about to go back into hibernation for 972 years.  Now, out of the dozens of ways the filmmakers could have handled this issue, they chose the gut wrenching route.  Just as I complained about in Big Hero 6, it is a frivolous and cruel ending.  After all, the Neverbeast was just invented in a writers room, which means his hibernation schedule was also just invented on a whim.

So, the last portion of the film is dedicated to the Fairies essentially tucking the Neverbeast in for a huge hibernation period.  Is it a joyful or happy event?  Of course not!  It’s a somber, tear-jerking nightmare where the Fairies make sure to stress to the Neverbeast that they’ll never see him again.  The Neverbeast goes to sleep, and the series is over.  Good golly, you’d think we just watched the end of The Sopranos for all the closure that finale gives us!  What ever happened to ending on a high note?

Clearly, this was the creative team’s way of saying their personal goodbyes to their work in the Peter Pan universe, but I am so tired of writers using a genre that was previously deemed “safe” for kids and turning it into an emotional roller coaster.  Could these people possibly consider the fact that sometimes we want our kids to watch a film to escape the harsher realities of life, such a loss and death?  And we can’t even see the Fairies moving on and being happy again in the ending?  I admit, some of these emotions are justifiable for the plot line (such as the first ten minutes of Up showing you why Carl was such a sad, lonely old man now), but, in cases like Neverbeast, it is completely unnecessary and manufactured for no real benefit, other than to make sure that you have lots of feels.

Long story short, this is one of those Toy Story 3 type of endings, and if you don’t want your child thrown headfirst into a tough, emotional journey, I would completely skip the Legend of the Neverbeast.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes Restaurant Review

Recommended:  No.

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For my son’s 10th birthday he forgoed a party to do a weekend Disney World trip, and his two restaurant choices were Splitsville and Rainforest Cafe.  I have to admit, the latter restaurant was a LOT better.

Splitsville is easy enough to spot in Downtown Disney.  It’s not far from Disney Quest, and it has the distinction of being a restaurant AND a bowling alley.  So, of course, this place seemed pretty cool.  I have to admit that I had some high expectations of the place myself, and they were not fulfilled.

We had a reservation, so when we went in we were seated quickly enough.  I was going to bowl and eat, but then I was dumbfounded at the price gouging of their bowling fees.  It was roughly $15 per person to bowl one game – not even including shoe rentals!  Now, maybe that’s nothing to people in the big city, or people willing to throw money away like a maniac on vacation, but, for me, I can bowl for $4 per person back home – shoes included!  Even though it was a birthday trip, there was no way we were paying that much to bowl.

Maybe that soured my taste of the facility, but even after we got our food, I was not pleased.  It was cheap diner food, at best, and also way overpriced.  For me to get a Baja Chicken plate, and two kids pizza meals, I was almost at $40 once the recommended tip was calculated into the price.

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It was Steak and Shake quality food for a much higher price tag.  It wasn’t awful, no one got sick from eating there (which I haven’t been able to say about every Disney eatery), but it was way too much money for what it offered.

I will say, in favor of Splitsville, that they do have a highly diverse menu – at least for adults.  There are rice bowls, sushi, burger, salads, and pizzas.  If you have money to burn, this might be a fun place for you, and I think we would have liked it much more if we had the money to blow on bowling too, but this was a “meh” experience for me.  There are much better options out there for similar prices on better venues.

Build-A-Dino Review

Recommended:  Yes if you’re looking for a unique gift or souvenir.

Inside of the T-Rex restaurant is a dinosaur themed store, and, in the back of that, you can find Build-A-Dino!

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Build-A-Dino is a spin off to the Build-A-Bear franchise, except, obviously, everything is prehistorically themed.  So, instead of teddy bears and kitty cats, you’ll find brontosauruses and pterodactyls.  As far as I’m aware, Build-A-Dino only exists as a boutique inside of T-Rex restaurants – which are few and far in terms of availability.

I feel like we’re up to our eyeballs in Build-A-Bear “friends” at home, but this was part of a birthday trip, and these guys aren’t readily findable anywhere else, so we caved and bought some new buddies.

Please meet Rainbow:
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and Toothy:
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Just like a regular Build-A-Bear, your kids will stuff, “wash,” and make a birth certificate for their new friend.

There are also lots of clothes and accessories for the dino-pals, and I believe the bulk of those are exclusive to Build-A-Dino as well, but I’m a cheap, cheap woman who did not indulge her kids on that end of things! 🙂

I usually get moms asking me for tidbits, so here are some of the key things to know:
You DO NOT have to eat or have a reservation at T-Rex to shop at Build-A-Dino.
You CAN use Build-A-Bear gift cards or reward certificates.You CANNOT use Build-A-Bear coupons or codes.
You CANNOT get credit on your Stuff-Fur-Stuff card in the store.
You CAN call Build-A-Bear later on with your Build-A-Dino receipt information and get the points put onto your Stuff-Fur-Stuff card.

On your way out of the T-Rex building, be sure to stop by the sand pit and dig for fossils!  No charge!
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Caribbean Beach Resort Review

Recommended:  Yes!

This is my second visit to a Moderate Resort on the Walt Disney World property.  I had also been to Port Orleans – Riverside and didn’t think extremely highly of it (review can be found here – https://disneyfangirl.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/port-orleans-riverside-review/ ).  Sure, it was a nice enough place, but the paths are difficult to navigate, and there was nothing particularly stunning or magical about the place.  To the contrary, I felt that Caribbean Beach Resort was such a great experience!

We stayed in the Jamaica section, which I requested because I had heard that those rooms had been refurbished recently.  It was a beautiful room, and I loved that they had a sliding door over the bathroom area (most Disney Resort rooms have had a curtain to pull).  While there wasn’t anything particularly Disney themed in the room, much like the other non-Value level resorts, it was absolutely beautiful.

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However, no matter what section you stay in, you should be able to easily locate the main pool (pictured above), which shimmers and glows like a beacon.

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And, needless to say, there ARE white sand beaches that guests can play in!  And the hammocks are to die for!  I could have gone to sleep while my kids built sandcastles.

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Please keep in mind though that the lake is “for boats only,” as a Cast Member explained to me when I asked about swimming in them.  Honestly, every section has a beach and a heated pool, and there is a beautiful main pool as well that isn’t particularly far from any section of the resort, so I would not suggest getting into the murky, dirty lake water, even if you could.

I know everyone loves the pool talk, so here is the big pool at Caribbean Beach Resort – it is themed after the old Spanish-influenced houses/fortes from the empirical days (basically, it looks like a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean!).  It has a small water slide, as well as a “crazy big” water slide that is mostly hidden inside of that back building.   You can’t see it in this photo, but all pools on Disney Resorts have a device to allow children (perhaps older guests too) with disabilities to get into the pool.  The main pool is certainly the best one I’ve seen at Disney World to date, and we closed the place down swimming there.

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To the side of the main pool is a splash pool/park zone for guests under 48″.  It is certainly impressive to look at, even if no one in your group is small enough to use it.  My daughter was right on the line, so she checked it out for a few minutes, but lost interest in the area compared to the big water slide.

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I will say that the pathways at Caribbean Beach are a bit twisty-turny-getty-losty too, but, because the resort is pretty centered around a lake, it is much easier to use the water as a landmark to figure out where you are going compared to Port Orleans.  So if you are comparing the two resorts and wondering which Moderate Resort is a better option/value, I would say Caribbean Beach is, hands down, the best place to stay.  If you have young kinds and want a full Disney-fied room, I would suggest Art of Animation Resort, but that review will be another post for another day. 🙂

Tower of Terror Kids Races (2014)

Well, whoops, I totally spaced out and never blogged about the Tower of Terror Kids Races that we did back in October of last year!

It’s definitely a process to do a Run Disney race.  First, you sign up for a race via active.com, then you have to make sure that you get a “custom” waiver and print it out, because they apparently cannot get you one at the event.  Once you get to Disney World, you have to go to ESPN Wide World of Sports and find the event registration area.  Twist, turn, wait in line, sign in blood (not really but it feels like it’s THAT serious), and then finally get your shirts, race bib, and other tidbits you may have ordered.  Maybe I’m crazy, but it would be so much less stress and hassle to mail or email out the race bibs and pick up the shirts and other items on site.  But, that’s not the system, so please show up the day before the race and give yourself tons of time to get through (or even find!) the right lines.

They also have an expo for the event, which has lots of neat-o venders and even the occasional freebie.  We found free cinch bags that had the Tower of Terror run logo on them, along with another advertisement logo.  And, if you’re lucky, you may even get your hands on an exclusive Dooney and Burke purse themed for the run.  I was not so lucky, but maybe for the Princess Run in February! 🙂

My daughter wore her Rapunzel run costume, which I don’t think turned out the best in the long run.  I couldn’t match the purple tutu to the shade of purple in the shirt/shorts, and part of her corset ribbon broke.  But I hope it was still obvious as to who she was.  She did still have some of the makeup on her face from the Pirate League the day before, so I’m sure that sent a conflicting message about being Rapunzel.  Oh well, she enjoyed herself!

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My son just threw on a Luke Skywalker Halloween Costume and paired it with some tan shorts.  Much easier, but, I’m not sure that he was any more recognizable.  I had bought him an R2-D2 backpack to wear with it, just to ensure the reference, but he “forgot” it at the hotel. :-/

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There were quite a number of activities around the kids’ race zone, including a mini obstacle course and a station where the kids could use stamp pads and diced fruits to put designs on a chef’s hat.  There was also Mickey out and dressed as a scarecrow for a little while, but, unfortunately, he high-tailed it out of there right after the races concluded (that was bad planning in my opinion, as we tried to wait to get a photo until after the run…).

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We did still get a picture with the Scarecrow Mickey’s backdrop.
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We personally took part in the kids races.  My daughter did a dash (I can’t remember now if it was 200 or 400) and my son ran the Mickey Mile.  Actually, everyone ended up doing the dash with my daughter.  Even though we were in a confined area, parents and siblings were still invited to run with their little ones.  At first I thought I’d skip running with my 6-year-old, but then I felt the peer pressure of being the only parent NOT running.  Being unprepared for racing myself, I was holding a thick Jedi robe, a purse, wearing jeans – well, you get the idea – I was NOT in running attire.

The set up for the kids races was kind of stressful to me.  Every race started somewhere different, and the kids were thrown to the back end of the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  So just getting to the right place took a lot more time than I had anticipated.  Then, the dashes and the Mickey Mile started one after the other, but the Mickey Mile was another quarter to half mile away from where the dashes were.  But then the Mickey Mile ended right where the dashes were held, so I had to drop off my son and run back to the dash venue.  It was super stressful to get across these distances with such a limited amount of time, and I wish the planning staff had done a better job to consider that families might have kids of different ages doing different races (*gasp!*).

The kids races have a clock going, but they also do staggered running (sorry, that’s probably a bad term, but where they release x amount of runners at a time instead of everyone taking off at once).  And, despite my panicked running like a crazy person, my son ended up being in the first group of runners released for the Mickey Mile, and clocked in at 8 minutes 6 seconds for a terrain run that was a LOT of mud.  Pretty good overall! 🙂

Of course, you all want to see medal that every race finisher gets!
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The medals are rubber, and the lanyard around them says the race and date.  The medals are different between the kids races, 5K, 10K, and so on, so that’s makes them extra unique.

We also ordered the commemorative Mickey ears for the event, which are black with the Kids Races medal image as the logo on the hat.  The shirts were cute too, and Donald Duck themed as well.  I will add in a photo eventually, but I seem to be having trouble tracking it down right now.

Take note, they DO have photographers on staff for the races, but they are NOT the same as the Fast Pass photographers!  You have to view and purchase the images online, but the service is run by an independent contractor and is not part of your Memory Maker.  I did not care for that end of it, but it is what it is.