Jun 292016

By Roye Ann Morris

OnTheRoadAgain 002


It was 1983. My college roommate, who had also been my best friend since first grade, and I were both Disney fans, and a trip there for spring break seemed like a grand idea. Somehow we convinced our moms that we could handle the trip alone. In the days before cell phones, GPS, and Google maps, a 13 hour car trip was a pretty big undertaking! We recruited my younger sister to go along, and set out for Florida, so giddy we could barely stop giggling for the whole trip.

We had road maps and hand-written directions for driving around the larger cities like Birmingham and Atlanta. I kept the map my mom drew for Birmingham; she drew the cloverleaf around the city and wrote “No!” beside the exits we were not supposed to take. Our first stop was Macon, Georgia, to spend the night with friends. The next morning we drove on to Orlando, where we checked into the Holiday Inn, Maingate East. I still have the hotel bill; the rooms were $81 a night! My friend and I could hardly wait to get to the parks, but my sister opted to stay at the hotel pool and get some sun. So we loaded back into the car without her, and off we went!

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Epcot and the World Showcase had made their debut by this trip, but we opted to start at the Magic Kingdom. We bought a 4-day ticket right outside the park; it was so much easier to have the one paper ticket that covered everything instead of the ticket books! According to the copy of the Walt Disney World News which I found in my scrapbook, the cost was $45! Our goal was to ride everything we could, then meet my sister later. She was more excited at that point to be sitting by the pool than to be at the parks, so she said she would ride whatever we had not had time for after she got to the park. I still remember meeting her at the front gate and watching the magic of Disney surround her. Standing in front of Cinderella’s castle, she took a deep breath and said, “You’ll have to start over; I need to ride them all!” So that’s what we did!

The next morning we headed for Epcot Center, as it was called on the park information. We weren’t really sure about what to expect; we had a vague idea of what the park was supposed to be like from reading about it, but were excited to see it in person. Our first stop was Earth Station, located under Spaceship Earth, where you could book dinner reservations at the World Showcase restaurants. The Walt Disney World News advised that you should make your reservations before 10AM, as most restaurants would be booked after that time. We talked to a live cast member on what looked like a TV screen; who knew that was even possible! It all seemed very much like the future, and we were so impressed and a little nervous. Not being very adventurous eaters at the time, we chose San Angel Inn for dinner and walked out laughing about how we must have looked so silly to the Cast Member since we had no idea what we were doing!

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My favorite memory of that day was Journey into Imagination with Dreamfinder and Figment. I’m sure we went through every attraction, but this one has stayed with me even today. Figment remains one of my favorite Disney characters, and I must say I miss the original ride with Dreamfinder and Image Works to play in after the ride. We were singing the song for the rest of the day. We spent time in Communicore East and West, and enjoyed a ride through the World of Motion. Horizons was still being built.

We headed to World Showcase in time for our dinner reservation, walking slowly through all the countries, admiring all the details of each one. Norway and Morocco were not part of the showcase yet. Our dinner at San Angel Inn was amazing; we were waited on by attentive (and attractive!) Cast Members and served wonderful food. Being small-town girls, we had never eaten at a restaurant where refills on your drinks were free. We had ordered iced tea, and weren’t drinking it so we could save it to go with our meal. Our server walked over to ask if anything was wrong with our tea, and we were so embarrassed when he had to explain to us that we could have as many refills as we wanted! Again, very small-town girls!

We spent two days in each of the parks, and every minute was like being in a dream; on our own, no parents, doing what we wanted when we wanted to, and feeling safe and taken care of the whole time. I’m sure there were moments on that trip that weren’t perfect, but I don’t remember them at all. Wouldn’t it be magical to go back to that time of relative innocence, feeling safe, and having few worries? Although that’s how I feel each time I visit Disney, bringing back the $45 tickets would be magical, too!

Feb 242016

By Ginamarie Palmieri


Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria is one of three table service restaurants within the Italy pavilion at Epcot. Located in the rear of the pavilion, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, generally from noon until 9 pm. Although the eatery is known for its pizza, the menu has various Italian appetizers, entrees and desserts.


The restaurant is bright and open, with its three giant pizza ovens located to one side of the main dining room. These ovens each represent one of Italy’s active volcanoes- Vesuvius, Stromboli and Etna. We found the environment to be very inviting and loved all of the colorful frescoes. True to the Epcot form, the wait staff at Via Napoli hails from Italy, the pavilion where this restaurant is located. So it’s a good opportunity to learn more about life (and food) in Italy.


Being from New York, my family and I are pizza aficionados, and the pizza at Via Napoli has never disappointed us. It is a true Italian style slice, with a very thin, crunchy crust and toppings that are caramelized and crisp. The ovens at Via Napoli run extremely hot, and pizza is cooked quickly. There are many specialty pies and toppings to choose from, as well as a basic Margherita pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Pizzas can be ordered in three sizes: personal pie, large (for 2-3 people) or mezzo metro (for 3-5 people). The mezzo metro pies are the size of a large metal tray, and a good value for a large family. Our party of 16 people ordered two mezzo metro pizzas and a couple of entrees, and had leftovers to bring back to our room.


If pizza is not your dish of choice, they also serve several different kinds of pasta, lasagna, and chicken dishes, as well as a popular Italian salad to share among the table. We found the pasta to be fresh and the sauce to be authentic, and our order of chicken parmigiana was large and delicious, with a crunchy batter and loads of cheese.


Via Napoli also has a full beverage menu, which includes your normal soft drinks as well as Italian specialty drinks. There are options for Italian sparkling water and Italian sodas, but our favorite is the aqua fresca drinks, which come in blood orange and strawberry flavors. They are so refreshing! The restaurant also offers several specialty cocktails, Italian wines and beers. We ordered pitchers or Moretti lager and house sangria, and everything was delicious. Also, you will not want to miss having a cappuccino or espresso at the end of your meal.


There’s no better way to cap off a meal at Via Napoli than by indulging in their dessert menu. The zeppoles were hot and soft, but most of us wanted gelato. One of their specialties, the gelato frizzante, which is like an Italian ice cream soda, was a family favorite. We tried all of the gelato dishes though, and each one was perfection. Via Napoli makes true authentic gelato, which is creamy and flavorful (rather than full of artificial coloring).

I highly recommend Via Napoli for a meal at Epcot, especially if you are looking for Italian food in a less formal atmosphere than Tutto Italia next door (which we also love). Via Napoli is on the Disney Dining Plan, where it uses one table service credit per person. It is also eligible for discounts with your annual pass, DVC membership or Tables in Wonderland card.

Dec 302015

By Rikki Niblett

2015-11-08 17.43.51

2015 was a crazy busy year for Walt Disney World, however 2016 looks like it’s shaping up to be even more exciting. There are a lot of great things that those of you planning trips for the new year should look forward to that will make your vacation even more eventful. Here are my Top 5 things you should expect to see at Walt Disney World in 2016.

  • Construction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Ok, this first one is going to be more of a warning than anything else. One would expect 2016 will be the year of the construction wall at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A good chunk of the park will be closed off to Guests as Disney prepares for Star Wars Land. (And we still don’t 100% know what’s going and what’s staying…we could still lose a few more attractions along the way.) So, be prepared for lots of walls and long waits for attractions that are there. As a silver lining, the new Star Wars stuff is pretty cool and is a good diversion to enjoy while visiting the park.
  • Soarin Around The World:  Announced at this year’s D23, Soarin Around the World will take guests on a journey to far-flung lands, where they will fly above some of the world’s most unique landscapes and man-made wonders, including the Great Wall of China and Monument Valley. No time table has been announced on the official opening date of this attraction, but it is expected to be open by the summer.
  • Frozen Ever After: For those who love Frozen, this attraction is for you! The attraction which takes place in the former Maelstrom building, will take guests through the world of Frozen, past Troll Valley and Grandpappy Troll, then past Olaf singing and ice skating, past Anna, Kristoff, and Sven, and yes, even through the infamous “Let It Go” scene with Elsa. Guests will also visit Marshmallow and the Snowgies too! This attraction is slated to use the latest AudioAnamtronic technology, and it will be interesting to see it when it’s finished. (Which is rumored to be late spring/early summer.)

Disney Springs

  • Disney Springs: The multi-year expansion is almost done! In 2015, we saw the opening of quite a few new restaurants, including The BOATHOUSE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and Morimoto Asia. We also saw the inclusion of many new shops in The Landing. In 2016, the remaining restaurants and shops will open, including The Edison, Frontera Fresco, Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine, The NBA Experience, Lily Pulitzer, Tommy Bahama, UGG, PANDORA, Sprinkles Cupcakes and more! There will be plenty of great new options to choose from. Disney Springs really has seen a renascence and I look forward to the future enhancements.
  • Rivers of Light: This upcoming Disney’s Animal Kingdom nighttime spectacular is going to be a sight to be seen. The show, which will take place on the Discovery River in between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest, will feature a pair of mystic hosts who have come to the river and are bringing with them the gift of light. During the show, the hosts will journey from the shores to lantern vessels and will present dances of water and light to summon animal spirits. It seems like it will be an experience like no other and it is expected to debut in the spring of 2016.

See! There’s a ton going on a Walt Disney World in 2016! Now, of course, this is just a start of what guests can expect for 2016 and I’m sure as the year goes by, we’ll get a ton of new updates on other great attractions, shops, and restaurants we’ll also be able to experience in the parks and resorts. What upcoming attraction are you most looking forward to?

Aug 262015

By Ginamarie Palmieri

Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie Breakfast Review

World Showcase at Epcot is known for its many delicious food offerings, but many people do not realize there is a unique breakfast option available within the France pavilion without any need for advanced dining reservations. Les Halles Boulangerie-Parisserie is the France pavilion’s counter service option, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the day. The bakery usually opens at 9 am, while most of World Showcase is not open until 11 am.


The benefit of visiting Les Halles for breakfast is that most visitors to Epcot either have no idea that this is a breakfast option or are too busy touring the front of the park to make the trek back to World Showcase for a meal. This means that crowds are minimal if you visit in the early morning hours, something that is not true if you visit this location at lunchtime or later. In fact, despite the expanded size of the bakery- which now has two identical lines and cases of food, Les Halles is known for getting very crowded as the day progresses.


My sister and I planned to visit Les Halles during our day at Epcot, so we did not opt to enter the park through the front gate. Rather, we took a bus from our resort to Disney Studios and then took a boat from the Studios to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot. This entrance is primarily used by guests of the Boardwalk area resorts, and was not particularly crowded. When we entered the park, there were cast members on hand to direct guests either towards the open attractions or towards Les Halles for breakfast. We were surprised to see that almost all of the guests hurried off to Soarin or Test Track, and found ourselves relatively alone in World Showcase. This provided an excellent opportunity for photographs, since large tracks of space were empty.


After taking some photographs, we headed into the bakery, which is large and open. Although you will not find the regular Disney breakfast options, like Mickey waffles or scrambled eggs with bacon here, they do have a nice selection of options. In fact, the full Les Halles menu is available in the morning, so if you have a hankering for a croque monsieur for breakfast, you can certainly indulge. Otherwise, they do offer several varieties of quiche, croissants, and a vast selection of pastries and desserts. The pricing at Les Halles is very reasonable- with a croissant topped with ham and cheese qualifying as a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan or $4.75 out of pocket.


For beverages, Les Halles offers your usual generic orange juice, milk, chocolate milk, soft drinks, coffee and water. However, they also have some unusual selections like smoothies, sparkling water, cappuccino and espresso. Additionally, the bakery serves a small selection of adult beverages like champagne, mimosas, wine and beer.


We could not resist the aroma of the pastries, and wound up opting for an apple turnover and a chocolate croissant, both of which were delicious. Les Halles has some indoor seating, but we opted to sit outside, in the french courtyard area. The outdoor seating is mostly tiny tables for two, and not suitable for a large group, but it suited us perfectly, and it was wonderful to eat our treats outside on such a beautiful morning. From that vantage point, we almost felt as though we’d been transported to France.


We thought Les Halles was the perfect option for a light breakfast at Epcot, and would highly recommend it, especially for the access to World Showcase before its 11:00 am opening.

Sep 172014


Eating Vegan at Epcot



By Teresa Pittman

“You do know this is a steakhouse, right?” The chef who had been brought to our table at Le Cellier was apparently not impressed to hear that we were vegan.

Yes, we knew. But we also knew we were in Walt Disney World, where vegans can usually count on finding food they can eat – even at Le Cellier. Sure enough, our teasing but good-natured chef prepared us seasoned tofu strips with perfectly-spiced vegetables and brought out a vegan “ice cream” for dessert.

I’ve been vegan for eight years now, and others in my family have been vegan for much longer. (Apparently, I’m a slow learner.) This change in eating has made me love WDW even more, because it’s one of the places where I know I’ll be able to find good food I can actually eat.

A few years ago, I interviewed the man who was at the time the restaurant manager of the Sci-Fi Drive-in. He described to me the extensive training the restaurant staff receive about different “special diets” (including vegan, gluten-free, etc.) as well as about food allergies. No Disney CM is going to suggest that since you are vegan, you might like the lamb dish or the cheese-covered pizza! And the chefs are usually happy to make some changes to give you the vegan meal of your dreams.

Of course, especially during busier times, it helps to know which locations have vegan items on the menu or ones that are easily adapted. Here are a few of my favorites to help you enjoy your Epcot dining experiences:


You may not know that many WDW snacks are vegan. Those lovely warm soft pretzels? Vegan. The somewhat-buttery-tasting popcorn? Vegan. The Kaki Gori ice treat with sweet fruity syrup (from the Japan pavilion)? Yes, vegan. And don’t forget that fruit and vegetables are also available in many counter-service restaurants and snack kiosks.

Craving more fruits and veggies? Since the kids’ meals have carrot sticks, grapes and applesauce as sides for counter-service orders, you can usually have those items added to your meal to replace French fries or another less-desirable accompaniment. They are pre-packaged, so it’s easy to take them along with you for a snack later.

Counter-service favorites:

Vegan at Sunshine Seasons

Sunshine Seasons. While the menu here changes frequently, there is usually a vegan entrée for your enjoyment. On my last trip (February 2014), we enjoyed a stir-fry made with vegetables and vegan “chicken” in a light gingery sauce. Very tasty. Also check the “special diets” snack/dessert section as you may find such treats as vegan caramel corn, vegan cookies or vegan brownies.

Tangierine Café. The vegetable platter here provides generous portions of falafel, couscous, hummus, tabouleh, lentil salad and marinated olives. It’s like a Moroccan feast on one plate for under $11! Be sure to ask about the ingredients, though, as some may contain non-vegan ingredients. Usually we have been able to substitute a larger portion of another item for the one we can’t have. Another good option here – the falafel wrap. Again, check to be sure the falafel are vegan, as this seems to change from time to time.

Table-service favorites:

Here’s the thing. The Epcot restaurants rarely have vegan options on their menus, and the vegetarian ones are often heavy with vegan no-nos like cheese and eggs. Don’t let this worry you! When you make your Advanced Dining Reservation, note that you are vegan. When you arrive at the restaurant, let your server know and ask to see the chef.

This all works better if you are eating at a less-busy time (either because the parks are not crowded anyway or because you have arrived for your meal either earlier or later than most guests), so the chefs have more time to get creative with your meal. I’ve had the best luck by asking the chef to surprise me – I let them know what I like (lots of veggies, lots of spice) and what I don’t really care for (rice and pasta). The results have almost always been amazing.

Rose and Crown: I’ve enjoyed vegan versions of the curry, the shepherd’s pie and the cottage pie as well as original dishes that the chef made up for us! The chefs here are excellent and seem to know their way around vegan cooking. The Apple and Frisee salad is also incredibly refreshing. A lovely way to end the day in Epcot is to enjoy dinner out on the Rose and Crown patio while watching Illuminations.

Tokyo Dining: I tend to avoid ordinary Japanese and Thai restaurants because not only am I vegan, I am severely allergic to shellfish. (I know, it’s a wonder anyone will even go to a restaurant with me.) At Disney, though, I know they will be careful to avoid cross-contamination, and I can enjoy the vegetable tempura and vegetable sushi offered here – a real treat for me!

Marrakesh: There are a couple of vegan salad options and vegetable couscous as an entrée here. In my experience, the food here tends to be only very lightly spiced, to the point of being bland – which is a shame because Moroccan food I’ve eaten at other places has been well-spiced with lots of complex flavor. It does help to tell your server that you’d like the spicier versions.

Via Napoli: Yay, pizza! Just ask for the toppings you want with no cheese. Simple and delicious.

While these are my top faves, don’t assume you won’t be able to get vegan options at other places. You can get a veggie burger at Electric Umbrella, for example, and a vegan “chicken breast” sandwich at Liberty Inn (at the American Adventure pavilion).


Vegan at Food and Wine

The Food and Wine Festival: has always been a bit frustrating for me, as few options are vegan. However, the past few years the Terra booth has offered a couple of vegan entrees and a dessert and they have been excellent. (They use the Gardein meat substitutes, if you are familiar with those.) So if you are there during Food and Wine, be sure to drop by the Terra booth and enjoy!

We’ve just scratched the surface! I’ll be back with future articles sharing details on where you can enjoy vegan dishes in the rest of the parks!


Nov 132013

By Rikki Niblett



Wow!  The Holiday Season is upon us (Wasn’t it just January?)  The glorious festive fun is back with colors or red and green popping up, Christmas songs playing on the radio, and holiday decorations everywhere you look.  So, with the Holidays popping up around me in my daily life, it’s also plain to see that they have taken their place already at Walt Disney World too!  Let’s take a look at all the activities that guests can participate in at the four Disney theme parks in Florida.

The Magic Kingdom starts things off and it’s considered by many to be a park so rich in Holiday traditions.  It almost feels like it’s Christmas morning each time you step foot in the park!

There are a few major activities that take place here and the first is something that the whole family can delight in each and every night and that is the Castle Dream Lights. The only word I can use to describe them is breathtaking.  I can’t tell you how much photos cannot do this justice.  The colors simply glow in a way that you can’t even imagine.  Guests should also not miss the special Castle Lighting ceremony which takes place called Cinderella’s Holiday Wish, where Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother works her magic to get those lights to sparkle!  This show takes place anywhere between 6 pm and 6:30 pm, so check your Times Guide and be prepared to be in awe.

The Magic Kingdom also gets into the holiday spirit with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a special hard ticketed event that happens on select nights.  The two major draws for this Party which are the Christmas parade, as well as the fireworks extravaganza.

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