Thursday, September 20, 2018

A NEW FAVORITE! - The Baseline Tap House at Disney's Hollywood Studios

A nice hide-a-way at Disney's Hollywood Studios

   One place that I always looked forward to visiting was a secret little spot that many people didn't even know existed.  The masses would walk right past it, some maybe thinking it was just a facade, others maybe thinking it was just another gift shop, but it was a special place for me.

   The Writer's Stop at Disney's Hollywood Studios was like an oasis.  A place to go in and sit in air
conditioned solitude. Sipping on a coffee or soft drink, and enjoying one of Disney's best sweet treats - the legendary Carrot Cake Cookie. I loved it, and it even made an appearance in my blog at Disney Dispatch (Disney Tale of the Tape)! It battled 6 hard fought rounds against Epcot's Boulangerie Patisserie, losing a split decision to the France pavilion's champion.



Click Here to see the Sept. 2011 battle between:
BOULANGERIE PATISSERIE vs THE WRITERS STOP

   Big changes have come to DHS and with those changes we had to say goodbye to one of my little favorites. But, it is not just the end of an old favorite. Rather, the discovery of what is now a new favorite - The Baseline Tap House.

  
I found my new "Oasis" at the Studios
   We walked up to it and liked what we saw. A relaxing setting with umbrella covered tables outside in a patio lounge setting. Soft jazzy covers of popular songs were playing, and it felt like something a little different from a common Disney park offering.

   Inside was a long bar with a bartender type system - where you just walk up and order. The offerings were interesting and the thing that caught my eye was the Charcuterie plate.

   There was not a whole lot of seating inside, so we found a table out on the patio and sat down for what turned out to be a very relaxing visit. The Charcuterie was tasty, beautifully presented, and felt a little upscale for such a casual atmosphere. It almost made me forget all about the Writers Stop that once owned this corner. It is not "fancy" at all. A nice theme that is not overdone. It fits into this part of the park very well. Right next door to the popular Sci-Fi Dine-in Restaurant and just steps away from Muppet Vision 3-D and Star Tours.

A patio that invites you to sit, rest and socialize!

   Yes, the Carrot Cake Cookie is gone from this location, but you can still find it at Trolley Car Treats (aka - Starbucks) on Hollywood Blvd. at the Studios. The treat itself has undergone a change too. Now offering more "Cake" and less "Frosting".

   The more diverse offerings are nice though. If you like Beer, Hard Cider, and Wine, they have some interesting offerings for you.

Create Your Own Beer Flight - Select 4 Beers | 5 oz. each - $11.00   


   It is a whole different experience from what The Writers Stop was, but it is a good one, especially for adults who need a break from all of the theme park scrambling. A nice change of pace. A welcomed addition to an ever improving Disney's Hollywood Studios! A new favorite for this Disney Grandpa (& Grandma loved it too!)

____________________________

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

MY RETIREMENT TRIP TO DISNEYLAND ...Again!

 
The Trip Plan
After I retired in 2015, we celebrated with a week-long trip to So. Cal. which included 5 nights at the Grand Californian. Things went awry as the missus and I got pretty sick and had to miss out on much of the festivities, and pretty much just "soldier through" the rest.  We wanted to have a do-over and planned this trip as our "re-do" of my 2015 retirement trip.  We had not been back to Disneyland since that trip, so after nearly 3 years, we were more than ready!
Operation: Disneyland Retirement Trip 2.0

The crew was my wife and I, Daughter, Son-in-Law, and our 2 Granddaughters. Same as the trip in 2015, only the girls were a little older, and we (hopefully) would not catch any traveling bugs this time!

We decided to fly into LAX, rent a vehicle, and stay 2 nights in Irvine, CA.  We would hit Knotts Berry Farm (which I consider Disneyland Resort's "3rd Gate"), and then head over to Anaheim for 5 nights at the Grand Cal with 5 "park days" to enjoy.

Knotts Berry Farm
Anyone who knows me, knows how much I LOVE Knotts! Since moving away from Southern California to New Mexico, I have always considered it as the 3rd park to visit on any Disneyland trip. Does the park really compare with the Disney parks? Probably not. But for pure nostalgia, there is something about Knotts that any So. Cal. native will feel deep in their heart. One thing that should not be missed is a dinner at Mrs. Knotts Chicken Dinner House.
The fried chicken is good, but the sides and biscuits are GREAT!
The girls are READY for Chicken Dinner!


The park itself has really changed over the years since I was a youngster.
The ol' Chuck Wagon remains at Ghost Town Grill!
Roller Coaster fever took over the park in the 1990s & 2000's and it has lost a bit of its original old west feeling, but thankfully, they have kept the "Ghost Town" section of the park pretty much intact, and that's the highlight of the place for this ol' sentimental park goer. The Calico Mine Train and Log Ride are classics of the park which remain. If you like roller coasters, they've got something for everyone from mild to wild, and camp snoopy will test the patience of parents, but delight the little ones!
Hard to believe: HER MOM used to ride this one! (Huf-n-Puff at Knotts)

Before you accuse me of heresy for calling Knotts my "3rd Disney Gate", just hear me out.  Walter Knott and Walt Disney were actually friends, and Walt spent much time at Knotts "scouting" for ideas that could be translated to Disneyland. I can't help but feel a slight connection between the two when I'm there.

On to Disneyland!
We had a great time checking out Orange County, doing Knotts, and even hitting our old Southern California favorite - In-n-Out Burgers!  We packed up and headed over to Disneyland for 5 nights at the Grand Californian Hotel.
Ready for 5 nights at "The Grand Cal"!
We set up camp with 2 DVC studio rooms, and hit Disneyland while we waited for our rooms to be ready for us. Our Daughter really stepped up and did most of the "trip planning" for us on this adventure. She did an awesome job, and this time, the trip really ran smooth. I can't think of anything that we missed, and it all really fell into place nicely. A memorable trip for sure!

Pixar Fest in full swing  

We didn't plan it that way, but without knowing it when we planned our return trip to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA, we stumbled right into Pixar fest! It was nice having a special event going on while we stayed on property for those 5 nights. Pixar was everywhere! We LOVED it! Special treats were enjoyed and that little extra touch was so much fun.

DCA is changing (again)!
 Disney California Adventure park is going through some pretty big changes over in the old Paradise Pier section. The park's premiere Coaster ride - California Screamin' is changing over to the Incredicosaster themed off of the incredibles movies. Much of that section was walled off, but some great things are in store for future visits to DCA for sure! 
Guardians of the Galaxy was a massive HIT with our whole group!
This park has gone from the "ugly step-sister" to a premiere park to visit.  Cars Land was one of the most amazing additions to any park, The change from Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy: Breakout seems to be a big hit, and was FOR SURE with my oldest Grandaughter who probably rode it 6 times on this trip!

   Of course Radiator Springs Racers still seems to be the favorite ride in the park, after all, it is one of the most amazing rides ever created!

   The old favorites remain, but I hear that Bugs Land is on the "chopping block" so our girls got to enjoy at least one more visit to that simple-but-wonderful spot for little ones.

Paint the Night Parade
We didn't plan it out, but we stumbled on to a GREAT little spot to see the Paint the Night Parade at DCA. World of Color is down during the work on Pixar Pier, so Paint the Night is the big night-time event for the park, and it is SPECTACULAR!  Personally, I usually don't care either way if I see, or miss a parade, but I have to admit, after seeing this night time spectacular, it made the trip feel "complete".

      













A Special Lunch & Dinner

One of the hilights this time around was a return trip to Carthay Circle Restaurant at DCA. Last trip in 2015, My wife took me for lunch to Carthay. It was our first time there, and we were impressed, but... neither of us was feeling too well that trip, and it took much of the magic out of our lunch date.
The atmosphere in this place is unequaled in any Disney Park

This time, we were feeling well, and were able to enjoy a most amazing meal. Atmosphere, service, food, everything was A+ for us. We met a gentleman who seemed to be a huge Disney fan, so I gave him a copy of my book (Disney Tale of the Tape) and he had me sign it for him, as he gave me some tidbits about Carthay Circle and Disneyland. HE should write a Disney book!

   Then it was our Daughter and Son-in-Law's turn to go to Carthay Circle for their first time. They gave it rave reviews and seemed to put it at or near the top of their favorite Disney eateries.  It is easy to see why, the place is amazing, and if you are a fan of Walt Disney's life story, there is nothing like it!
A special dinner date for a wonderful couple

Trip 2.0 was a success!
I could go on-and-on about the wonderful time we had. The Rides, the meals, the sights, the fun. So many great memories to look back on. As Hanibal Smith used to say on the TV Show - The A-Team... "I love it when a plan comes together!"

A few pictures:










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Thursday, January 25, 2018

DISNEY DINING TIP: SHARING IS CARING (...But Splitting is SAVING!)

     A big part of the Disney Parks experience is the food.  That's for sure.  If you are tripping on a budget, one easy way to save a few bucks is by splitting meals.

   Most meals at the Disney eateries are served in very generous portions.  And, one of the nice things is that most (if not all) of the table service restaurants will not charge for "splitting" meals.

The Turf Club

  
Ask for the larger cut of Prime Rib (like this one at Disney's Turf Club) for splitting. You won't go hungry!

   Since retirement, I don't have the (seemingly) "unlimited funds" that I did when I was working.  Our last trip, was a bit of an experiment in saving on meals.  I've learned that while I may not have as much expendable money since retiring, I also don't eat as much as I did when I was younger (and working).

   The Turf Club at Disney's Saratoga Springs resort was a perfect place to share a delicious meal in a cozy (and kinda' romantic) setting.  Our server Houda was more than happy to help us out with our split meal.  She had a great suggestion. When I asked about the Prime Rib, and said we wanted to split it, she asked if we would like to order the larger cut (18 oz. I think?) for just $8 more.  It worked out great.  We still got the dinner rolls, and she brought us both steak knives, and served the meal with an extra plate for sharing. I'm a self-proclaimed connoisseur of Prime Rib, and this was one of the best I've ever had.  We were both satisfied (actually quite full), and the price was right for such a great dining experience.

The next night for "Split Meal Dining": Boatwright's Dining Hall

   It worked out good, and the next evening, we headed to another old favorite of ours - Boatwright's Dining Hall at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside resort.  Like the Turf Club at Saratoga Springs, Boatwright's is open at 5:00pm for dinner only.

   We took the boat from Disney Springs over to Port Orleans Riverside, and on the boat ride, we met a gentleman named Mark who was from Pompano Beach, Florida. We got to talking, and he said how much he liked the Etouffee at Boatwright's.  We decided to try it, I don't remember ever having Crawfish in a dish before, so we decided to order it and asked the waitress about splitting.  She was more than happy to split a meal for us, and the kitchen served the dish in two separate bowls to make it easy for us! 

Yes, that is a HALF portion of Etouffee in that bowl!

   We ordered a Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer along with the meal, and with that delicious corn bread served with the meal (all you want), it was terrific!


....and this is the OTHER HALF!


   Boatwright's is another overlooked gem of Walt Disney World dining.  If you like cajun cookin' in a relaxed atmosphere, this is your place.

A lesson learned: Casey's is great for "Splitting a meal"!

   Table service meals are not the only place where splitting can work out.  The "foot long" hot dogs at Casey's Corner in the Magic Kingdom are HUMONGOUS! It was our first time at Casey's and I didn't realize what they offered, if I had only known...we would have just split the foot long.  You can easily split one of the large hot dogs (comes with fries) and be full!  There is a fixin's bar with Relish and Sauerkraut
The foot long Chile-Cheese dog with added Sauerkraut from the fixin's bar






The foot long makes the regular dog look like an appetizer! Great for splitting.























































So good we had to return: The Turf Club


      The Turf Club was so good, we had to hit it one more time before the end of the trip (especially since we were staying right there at Saratoga Springs).  Our server Nestor was awesome and suggested that the Lamb Osso Buco might be great for splitting. 
Another great dish from Disney's Turf Club
He was right!  A huge "shank" of braised lamb (bone-in) with Red Pepper-Cheddar Polenta and Gremolata was perfect for 2 to split. We added the Wedge Salad and it was a complete and very filling meal.




How about this for dessert? Brown Butter-Chocolate Mousse, Peanut Butter Cream.
Splitting is a great way to enjoy the great dining experiences at the Disney parks & resorts. Try it, you'll like it! And with the few bucks you saved, why not split a dessert too!

Our server - Nestor.  One of the BEST on Disney property!

Have you split meals at Disney? Please, leave a comment below!

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Fun match-ups of great Disney parks experiences.... head-to-head, and in-the ring!

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Back to Disney's Vero Beach Resort!

   Seems the sun never sets on the Disney Empire. Parks on both U.S. coasts. Japan, China, France, am I forgetting something? And those resort hotels are a big part of it all.  Aulani in Hawaii, Hilton Head in South Carolina, and the one we just spent 3 nights at - Disney's Vero Beach resort in Florida.
   We spent a fun filled week at Walt Disney World (Old Key West), and then tacked on 3 "bonus nights" at the Vero Beach resort.

   If you are not familiar with it, the resort is a fantastic place with Disney touches throughout. Right on the beach, beautiful views, and plenty to see and do. Nearby places to explore. No rides, no fireworks, no parades, but if you are looking for a more laid back way to do Disney, this is one that I heartily recommend.
Welcome Home!

   Our Party consisted of Grandma/Grandpa, Mom/Dad, 2 kids. We had 2 "Inn Rooms", so Grandma/Grandpa had their own room, and Mom/Dad/Kids had theirs. Not connecting, but right next to each other in the main building. Very nice.
The Sea shell hunting was good today!

   It is a really nice setup. A ramp that leads right down to the beach. Personally, I like to stand up on the deck and look out at the beach. The rest of the gang? They love to stroll along the beach, getting their feet wet, while our Granddaughters collect sea shells.

   Hammocks, A bean bag pit, snack bar, poolside bar, great pool, tennis courts, basketball court, nature trails to explore, even a 9 hole miniature golf course!

 
   The rooms have been renovated since our first visit back in 2015 with our "DDF's" (Dear Disney Friends) from Idaho, and they've done a wonderful job of sprucing up the rooms.

Lunch time at Dixie Crossroads!
   If you like to explore, there is plenty to see and do around the area. One of our favorites is to drive about 90 minutes up to Titusville for lunch or dinner at "Dixie Crossroads". The house specialty is Rock Shrimp. These tasty little guys are like tiny little lobsters, with a split shell that you peel the meat off of. What a treat! There is a little bit of a back story to the restaurant. Here is a little info about it, check it out:



   Museums, Restaurants, and of course, the Beach! Plenty to see and do around the Vero Beach area if you have wheels. But there really is plenty to do right on the resort grounds.

   The resort's restaurant has been changed from "Shutters" to "Wind and Waves", and the makeover turned out very nice.

Ready for the "catch of the day"!
The new decor is a hit!
  
   Seafood is the specialty of the house, but there are also steaks, chops, and other choices. We had a wonderful meal there.




   There is also a place upstairs in the main building called "The Green Cabin Room". It is a lounge that overlooks the ocean in an open air setting. Just beautiful. You can enjoy drinks, and they serve food too!

That ol' pirate ship can be a highlight of the day for the kiddos.
   Of course, the pool is always a big part of the resort experience, and Disney's Vero Beach resort has a great pool complex. A big water slide, a pirate ship splash & play area for the younger ones, plenty of tables and chairs, with the miniature golf course, and quick service restaurant just steps from the pool.
Somehow, they got Grandpa Dan to come down to the beach!



      It is a complete resort experience. If you catch it right, there are Sea Turtle nesting areas, and early each morning there are Disney Cast Members ready to give you a little educational mini-tour of the nesting sites. Vero is a great add-on to a WDW trip. It's not too hard to shift gears from theme park mode, to resort mode, especially with the sound of the waves filling the air.







Monday, March 20, 2017

BEING A GUEST OF "THE PANDA"!

It was so much fun to meet John Saccheri aka- "Big Fat Panda" in Jan. 2017.  He came and picked us up for a taping of the Feb. show.  We were treated like family, and made a great new friend.  Here is his Feb. 2017 show (#44).  It started with some exciting and fun news about things at Walt Disney World.  Then the interview.  We had a blast talking about my first book - Disney Tale of the Tape - Theme Park Boxing.  John is one of the judges in the book for two of the matchups!

Here's the show.....enjoy!


                                              Click Here: BIG FAT PANDA - SHOW #44