by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Yes, I am a Disney fan and proud of it! Our daughter a few years ago, after surveying my multitude of Disney memorabilia and Mickey kitchen utensils declared, “Dad you need to stop buying more Disney items.” She will be happy to hear that yesterday I purchased new Mickey ears corn holders and a Mickey emoji apron personalized with my name. Having spent most of my career associated with hospitably businesses-originally managing hotels and then teaching Hospitality at Lincoln Land Community College, I am always amazed at the service we receive when Carol and I visit the Magic Kingdom.
Today is my annual Disney column and I am happy to report some of the many great things that are happening in the parks. I am told there’s much more yet to come. I never need a reason to visit Walt Disney World. It’s my happy place and I love the magic I get to share with Carol.
Yes, Disney can be expensive and now that they have implemented variable-peak pricing it is important to avoid holidays. You will score a much better deal if you generally avoid Saturdays. Late March and early April-which falls over Easter and most students’ spring breaks-are also among the most expensive times to go. Summer prices peak from the last week of June through the 4th of July. Kids with late starts to school are in luck-the last week of August is actually among the least expensive time to visit. Fall weekdays are also priced at a value. Do your homework and research hotel packages that include park admissions and food packages. Take advantage, arrive early, stay late and enjoy the parades. Once you’ve paid for your room and tickets, the main part of your vacation is taken care of. The only thing left to worry about is your food and souvenirs. Where else can you go where all your entertainment is included?
For 2018, the big news is that Toy Story Land is opening! Get ready to join Andy and all his friends in a brand new area at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There will be a family roller coaster called Slinky Dog Dash and an Alien Swirling Saucers attraction.
Pandora-The World of AVATAR opened last year at Animal Kingdom. It has been a popular place with lines for Flight of Passage often at a two-hour wait. On the ride, you are made to feel as if you are flying on a banshee over the jungles of Pandora. In addition there is Na’vi River Journey, a trip through a fantastic “bioluminescent” rain forest. Hopefully this year the masses will level off to a more manageable level.
At the Magic Kingdom-still my personal favorite park-the big ride is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train-a swaying roller coaster ride through the diamond mine with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Make sure you get a “FastPass,” a free service for ticketholders that allows you to book a specific entry time on certain attractions up to 30 days in advance of your visit.
If you are thinking of visiting you may want to consider doing so in 2018, because f2019 will be insane. The new Star Wars (recently named Star Wars: Galaxy Edge) will open and the parks are expected be even more crowded.
A variety of stellar new dining concepts are on their way or have recently opened at Disney Springs. In recent years, Disney has completely re-imagined the Disney Springs area as one of the top family entertainment, shopping and dining complexes in the world. These five new dining additions are yet more reasons to set aside a day (or more) of your next vacation devoted to exploring Disney Springs at Walt Disney World.
Terralina Crafted Italian
Coming soon this new restaurant is billed as if you are visiting Italy’s Lake District with all the authentic flavors of Northern Italy. Showcased will be the cuisine of James Beard Award winning Chef Tony Mantuano. Teralina will be located in the space previously occupied by Portobello Country Italian Trattoria. This completely redesigned restaurant will feature an open rotunda with a rustic stone fireplace, a new veranda bar spilling out onto Disney Springs and a two-story glass conservatory with stunning views of Lake Buena Vista.
Wine Bar George
Also opening in early 2018 is Wine Bar George, presented by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, who is one of only 236 wine professionals certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. A selection of wines from a list of more than 100 selections will be available by the glass or bottle. Locally sourced artisan foods and seasonal selections, like charcuterie and cheese, will be featured.
The Edison from Patina Restaurant Group opened last December and describes itself as lavish “industrial gothic.” Inspired by its sister location in Los Angeles, the venue is themed as a 1920’s-era electric company, complete with over-sized gears and defunct machinery. A fully immersive dining experience, Classic American food is offered along with craft cocktails. A central performance area offers live entertainment seven days a week, including aerial acts, musicians and DJs. During the daytime, the performance area is used as restaurant seating. The restaurant opens for lunch at 11:30 a.m., and during the daytime it’s an ideal family venue. In the evening, around 10 p.m., The Edison becomes 21 years + only with entertainment.
Maria & Enzo’s, Enzo’s Hideaway and Pizza Ponte
These three modern Italian restaurants also from Patina Restaurant Group will be arriving at Disney Springs in 2018. Maria & Enzo’s will be set within an abandoned airline terminal from the 1930s that has been converted into a restaurant. The menu is inspired by Sicily with a range of family-friendly dishes like Sicilian baked pastas served tableside. Enzo’s Hideaway will be themed like a speakeasy inside a rum-runner tunnel connected to Maria & Enzo’s. You will be able to enjoy Prohibition-era cocktails and casual Roman dishes. Pizza Ponte will be a fast-casual location offering pastries, pizza and Italian sandwiches on the go.
Opening on the West Side of Disney Springs later in 2018 is Jaleo, a concept by Chef José Andrés’ group. Jaleo will serve an extensive selection of Spanish tapas and dishes, including paella cooked over wood fire. The new multi-level restaurant will feature both a grab-and-go storefront counter on the first floor as well as a full service dining room on the second, decorated with colorful Spanish décor.
Did I mention there are now food trucks at Disney Springs? At least a trio of trucks are present to satisfy your craving for gourmet street cuisine. They also offer a full range of beverages including adult favorites.
Every time I visit, there is a magical feeling from being inside Disney World. It’s a feeling of pure happiness and escape. Visit Disney and be sure to say hi to Mickey for me – your heart and family will thank you.