Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Columbia Harbour House Dining Review

I have always dreaded the Quick Service dining choices at the Magic Kingdom. I can only eat so many burgers and chicken nuggets before I just have to say "No more!" Fortunately, there is a wonderful Quick Service restaurant tucked away in a corner of Liberty Square: Columbia Harbour House. The first thing you notice about this restaurant is the East Coast - sailing ship decor, and the food is themed to match. They have figureheads, paintings, and a ton of other nautical paraphernalia, and the seafood is wonderful.

One of my favorites is the Chicken Breast Nuggets and Fish Basket, which comes with either steamed broccoli or french fries. Everything is crispy and perfectly cooked, and the servings are generous enough that we often split this. Menu items range between $9.00 and $11.00 and include Fried Fish or Shrimp Basket, Grilled Salmon for guests looking for something a little lighter, New England Clam Chowder and even a couple of salads. Kids entrees include the usual Macaroni & Cheese and Chicken Nuggets, but they also offer a Tuna Sandwich.

They have several menu items that were added in the last few year that I haven't had the chance to try, but I've heard they're pretty good. The Lobster Roll seems to be a point of contention, with some people loving it, and others really hating it, but most people just find it average. There are even two vegetarian options: the Lighthouse Sandwich & Chili. Columbia Harbour House is part of the Disney Dining Plan with Quick Service meals and some snack items.

The service is fairly quick and there is a lot of seating available. My favorite place to sit is on the second floor. If you sit in one of the gables near a window, you can see the Liberty Belle paddling along the Rivers of America out of the left windows. From the windows on the right, you can catch a glimpse of the Haunted Mansion.  It's a great place to rest and relax and is rarely overcrowded. On a side note, the upstairs restrooms are very small and hard to find. They are tucked away in a corner near the left-hand staircase. I've heard the restroom location is actually in Fantasyland because Colonial buildings wouldn't have had indoor restrooms, but who knows. If you are traveling with an infant, I would recommend finding a different restroom, or at least trying the restroom on the first floor, which is much larger.

I love eating at the Columbia Harbour House and usually have lunch here every trip. If you're looking for good seafood on a budget, give Columbia Harbour House a try.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Muppets Most Wanted Trailer

Have you seen the new trailer for Muppets Most Wanted? It looks like another great Muppet romp!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Maleficent Trailer

Have you seen the new teaser trailer for Maleficent? It looks amazing!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Voices of Liberty

One of the most moving experiences at EPCOT can be found in the American Adventure Pavilion. The Voices of Liberty are an 8-part A Capella choir, specializing in songs from the 1700s and 1800s. The choir is made up of both men and women whose voices blend in beautiful harmony. They have been called "the United States vocal ambassadors to the world" and have performed for five American Presidents. They wear costumes representing the early days of the thirteen colonies through the time of the Civil War.

When they enter the rotunda for the first song, the choir director requests that everyone move closer to the center of the room. The acoustics are absolutely amazing! The director introduces each song as well as giving a brief history lesson about where the song came from and why it's important. Then they begin to sing and the music reaches a crescendo- honestly, it gives me chills.

The program of songs changes with the seasons. Most of the year, they sing American patriotic songs. At Christmas, they sing traditional Christmas Carols. One of my favorite songs performed by Voices of Liberty is the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It's enough to make you cry, it's so beautiful. Other favorite songs include the Americana favorites: This Land is Your Land, America the Beautiful, and Ol' Man River. You can also hear Disney favorites such as Golden Dream and When You Wish Upon a Star, as well as classics like Amazing Grace. There is a CD available from Amazon and other retailers featuring a selection of their songs. It is called "A Capella Americana" by the Liberty Voices.

The Voices of Liberty perform several times a day, for approximately 15 minutes, before each showing of the American Adventure. They are definitely worth adding to your "must see list" at EPCOT.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thanksgiving Crafts on Spoonful

Are you looking for a few fun crafts and printables for Thanksgiving? If so, be sure to check out the Disney themed crafts on Spoonful.com. There are printable activities, mazes, and games to keep kids busy while they wait for Thanksgiving dinner. And the paper Mickey and Minnie pilgrims and squash Pluto crafts are too adorable. Snow White's cranberry necklace would be a great way to introduce felting techniques to kids. I think my favorite, however, is the printable shrink bracelet with Mickey and  Minnie acorn charms and a super cute pumpkin pie charm. There is even a charm with the whole gang dressed as pilgrims gathered for dinner. Should you need invitations, planners, or cup labels  for your holiday meal, those are available as well. Just save and print and you'll be well on your way to a Disney-fied Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

To Disney World and Back Again

It's been quite a week. We made a mad dash trip to Disney World last week and I just got home. I kept trying to tell you all about some of the fun things we had discovered on our trip, but the hotel's internet connection left a lot to be desired. We had a great time this trip. The crowds were generally lighter and we were able to experience some special Disney magic. Disney's Animal Kingdom had a special Bat Day on Halloween which was very informative and fun, and we managed to complete all of the Wilderness Explorer activities that day too. We went to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, which was a little slow to get going this year, but was great after 9pm. The food at EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival was amazing this year! I discovered several new things that I really enjoyed and very few that I didn't. (I especially liked the vegetarian haggis and the trick'n chick'n curry. They were surprisingly good.) I really only had a few complaints: the fast pass + system really messed up the fast pass distribution so the times were really wonky, and Anna and Elsa from Frozen failed to make their scheduled appearance. We were rather disappointed not to see them after waiting patiently for a whole week. Unfortunately, they were having some problems building their meet and greet location and it wasn't quite finished when they expected. Overall though, we had a lot of fun.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Soarin' at EPCOT

One of my favorite rides at EPCOT is Soarin’. Soarin’ is located in the Land Pavilion in Future World. It is an amazing hang-glider simulation that lasts approximately 5 minutes. The lines for this ride can be very long, so I would recommend grabbing a fastpass early, because this is one of the most popular rides at EPCOT. However, if you decide to go through the full queue, there are several interactive games to participate in while you wait. The five different games are projected on massive digital screens. Much like a video game, the players motions guide the movement onscreen as you pop the blobs to uncover a picture, collect treasure in a hot air balloon, or alter a landscape by moving mountains and planting seeds. At the end of the queue, you are taken to a pre-flight area where you will be given instructions regarding your flight. There used to be a safety video featuring the hilarious Patrick Warburton, known to many Disney fans as the voice of Kronk in the Emperor’s New Groove.

For the best view, I like to request a seat in the front row. When they lift the seats up in front of the screen, the front row is at the top, so you don’t see feet dangling above you. However, if you are afraid of heights, try the back row, which only gets a few feet off the ground.

When you enter the flight deck, you will see three rows of seven seats that are hanging at normal chair height above the floor. The seats are fairly roomy and should be comfortable for most guests. You place your bag under your seat in the small netted carrier, or if it’s too big, on the floor beneath your seat. Loose shoes and other articles should be removed and stored in the netted carrier or on the floor. After taking your seat, buckle up and prepare for takeoff.

Just before you lift off, a canopy above you lowers slightly, then you are lifted into the air in front of a massive screen. Fun Fact: The ride was originally designed using an old Erector Set. It helped Imagineers solve the problem of how to get guests into the ride and then up to the screen. The seats swing and sway as you “fly” over various locations in California. The scenes are gorgeous shots of the best scenery that California has to offer. You fly over the Pacific Ocean, orange groves, pine forests, and snow covered mountains. Disney is famous for “plussing” rides, and Soarin’ is no exception: the Imagineers added scents to the breeze in several scenes. As you fly over the orange groves, you can smell the oranges, and the pine trees smell real. The ocean smells breezy and clean, which always makes my family laugh, because I never noticed that the Pacific smelled good when we lived in California. And the music, which was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is a perfect accompaniment to the flight. The flight ends with a trip down Main Street in Disneyland, when it’s covered in lights for Christmas. The final firework display is absolutely spectacular! As the ride ends, the screen goes dark and you are flown backward, returning to the spot where you boarded.

The entire ride lasts about 5 minutes and is well worth the wait. If you’ve ever wanted to go Soarin’ over California, this is the ride for you.

Scream factor: 2, the ride is fairly tame, but if you are afraid of heights, it can be a little intimidating.

Height Requirements: 40″

Wheelchair accessible, however guests must transfer into the ride vehicle from their wheelchair or ECV.