#Drunkcot2k15: A (very) Belated Trip Report

Hello lovely internet! Long time no blog. I could make a lot of excuses as to why that’s the case, but instead I’ll just jump right back in (thanks to all the free time Winter Storm Jonas is giving me this weekend).

To be honest, this post has been sitting in my drafts since October, but for whatever reason I just never hit publish. I’m glad I wrote it when I did, because this trip already seems like it was a million years ago, and I’m also happy I’m publishing it now – because editing it this morning gave me some major Disney Magic that I desperately needed. So without further ado – let’s jump right in!

First off – in case you don’t know me in IRL, here’s some important trip background: I spent four days in Orlando in mid-October with my three best friends from my CP. Lauren and Alix and I flew down to visit our friend who is still a Cast Member, and if you couldn’t tell by the official trip hashtag used in the post title, things got a little crazy, in the best possible way. Here’s what you missed:

Friday: “On Fridays We Food & Wine”  

annndd drunk 🍺🍷🍸 | #drunkcot2k15 #foodandwine #epcot #disney #rideordie #vsco #vscocam

A photo posted by ⓐⓛⓘⓧ ❉ ⓖⓤⓡⓢⓚⓘ (@alixgurski) on

Our first stop off the plane was EPCOT, because, well – it’s our favorite place on this spaceship we call Earth. We spent all afternoon in the park, and hit all of my favorite Food & Wine booths. If we’d made it back to EPCOT for a second day, we probably could have completed a full passport between the three of us, but alas – this wasn’t in the cards this trip (though I did complete one in a long weekend last year).
Saturday: “Have A Goodnight And Never Have Kids” 

It's tough to be a bug, but these ladies help. // #drunkcot2k15 #disney #MorgansWorldTour2015 #instasize #vscocam

A photo posted by Morgan L. Nelson (@morganlnelson) on

Saturday morning featured my triumphant return to the park I called home for six months during my College Program: Animal Kingdom. Although we didn’t actually visit the Jungle Trek, we did get the mojito’s from the Dawa Bar that sometimes are featured in my dreams, and we hit all the major attractions (while killing our Expedition Everest ride photo).

Saturday afternoon we headed to Hollywood Studios, and after a quick happy dance about the removal of that awful Sorcerers Hat, it was time for Star Tours, meeting Max Goof (which I fan girled HARD about), the Tower Of Terror, and the Prime Time Cafe bar. If you’ve never been to the Tune-In Lounge, I highly recommend it, if only for the people watching. While we sat and had a drink while waiting for Fantasmic, we had great chats with the waiters and bartenders, but mostly with drunk parents who confirmed what we already knew: that Walt Disney World with out kids can be just as fun as with them. As one particularly tipsy Mom said as she left the bar: “don’t have kids until you have to!”

As always, Fantasmic was fantastic, and a perfect end to a perfectly Disney filled day. (Hitting up Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s single rider line on the way out didn’t hurt either).

Sunday: “What Did The Vampire Say To The Invisible Man?” “Long Time No See!”  

Today in #drunkcot2k15: Mama Morgan takes her crippled child to #seaworld. // #instasize #vscocam #MorgansWorldTour2015

A photo posted by Morgan L. Nelson (@morganlnelson) on

Sunday was full of new experiences and favorite traditions for me. We hit up Seaworld in the morning, and although I expected it to be less than thrilling, their roller coasters are not to be messed with. I also love most aquatic life, so getting to see turtles and manatees and penguins didn’t suck at all. What did suck was having to push Alix around in a wheelchair all day because her fankle (fake ankle) wasn’t letting her be very mobile, but hey – that’s what friends are for.

Sunday night saw the introduction of my co-worker Michael to our group, and my favorite Disney tradition: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I went dressed as Tina Belcher, and while many people didn’t get it, one very enthusiastic Cast Member made my night by yelling about it from across the parade route. I love everything about Not So Scary, and the addition of the Hocus Pocus show really threw it over the edge as my favorite Disney Park Event that isn’t Food and Wine. Also, meeting talking Mickey was even cooler than I thought it would be, if only because he told us the Dad joke that’s the title of this day.

Monday: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

The Monday of this trip may actually go down as the best day of my life. And while I will probably be doing a whole other post on how important The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter is to any fan, let me just saw that Diagon Alley is truly a site to behold. After walking in and forgetting how to speak for a solid 10-15 a Butterbeer and shot of Firewhisky calmed myself and Lauren down enough to ride Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, as well as wander through every shop, and make a quick pop over to Hogsmede, which I’d already experienced during my College Program days.

While I didn’t end up buying the robe in the photo above, I did buy just about everything else I could get my hands on. The merch in Harry Potter World is truly top notch, and I walked out with a backpack, sweatshirt, Head Girl pin, and lanyard (all Ravenclaw, because you’ve got to show that house loyalty).

We did spend time in the rest of Universal as well, and as a huge Simpsons nerd, it’s always nice to get a Krusty Burger and beer at Moe’s tavern. While Walt Disney World will always hold a very special place in my heart, I did walk out of this trip with an annual pass to Universal, which I’ll be using on at least one or two more weekend trips before the year is up. Also, pro-tip: if you’re visiting Universal for more than one day, I highly recommend looking into the annual pass option. Lauren and I have already gotten our money’s worth, which brings me to the final day of the trip…

Tuesday: “See Ya Real Soon!” 

Alix departed at the crack of dawn Tuesday, leaving Lauren, Michael and myself on our own. Michael wasn’t interested in paying another day of park admission, so while he went resort hopping Lauren and I went… back to Diagon Alley. As bummed as I am they didn’t have it open while I lived down there, I also think it would’ve made it way harder to leave Orlando, so I was happy to get one more morning (and some more shopping) in before we departed. Another Universal pro-tip: Uber is your friend. Lauren and I got to and from Disney property for under $20 a person, which is much cheaper than renting a car, or even using another taxi service.

After a Universal morning we headed to Disney Springs for lunch. We ended up with Oysters and tropical beverages on the patio at The Boathouse. We thought about renting an amphicar, but decided against it when we saw the price, and instead tipsy shopped at World Of Disney before it was time to catch The Magical Express.

Overall the trip was a raging success, although the parks did feel more crowded than they have in Octobers past (if anyone else went this year – did you get the same vibe?). You can check out more photos on Instagram, and if you have any questions or want any advice on any part of my trip please let me know!

…. Phew. I think that covers everything! If you made it to the end of this post, congrats to you! I love how I’m able to write 1,000 words about my trip to Orlando, but have a hard time composing a work e-mail.

Tips For Traveling To Disneyland With 20 Somethings

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing some tips to help you plan your Disneyland vacation.


tips-for-traveling-to-disneyand-in-your-20s

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love Disneyland. I went there approximately 1,000 times growing up (mostly in the year 2009), and not only made it to #Disneyland60 but also made a trip with a bunch of my high school friends for our five year reunion. I fully support going to Disneyland as a 20 something for so many reasons, but below I’m giving my top three tips for each kind of Disneyland visitor: the huge Disney nerd, the person who is angry they have to be there, and the person just looking to party.

winnie the pooh, pooh's thoughtful spot, disneyland, high school reunion, disney characters, disney meet and greet

My high school friends and I had some great meet and greets. This activity would probably fall in the ‘Disney Nerd’ category.

For The Disney Nerd: 

If you’re a major Disney fan and you’ve never made it to Disneyland before, get ready. There’s something extra magical about walking where Walt walked, and seeing what his vision truly was (as far as I’m concerned The Magic Kingdom is just a copy cat). Here are some ways you can really feel the original spirit of the park:

1. Visit Walt’s Firehouse Apartment – When Walt was still alive he spent many a night in the apartment above the Main Street fire station. In fact, you can still see the light in the window that he used to light to signify he was spending the night. While you can’t go inside the room, I recommend stopping by and saying hello to Walt’s ghost (because I’m creepy like that).

2. Ride The Original ‘It’s A Small World’ – In no other Disney Park would I tell you to ride ‘It’s A Small World’, but this is a World’s Fair original. And although most of the original facade didn’t survive the ’64 World’s Fair, the spirit of the ride seems more appropriate in Disneyland than any other park as far as I’m concerned.

3. Do The Walk In Walt’s Footsteps Guided Tour – My sister and I did this tour in 2010, and it has stuck with me as one of my most important interactions with the Disney Resorts. We were lucky enough to be the only people in our tour group, but spontaneous private tour aside, this guided walk around the park does such an amazing job of telling you just how important Walt was to the park, and to the world at large.

cozy-cone-motel

I don’t care how anti-Disney you are, neon is always cool.

For The Anti-Disney Visitor: 

1. See ‘World Of Color’ – I don’t care if you don’t care about any Disney movie, World Of Color still has something for you. If you get excited about nothing else, enjoy how crazy water projection technology is.

2. Eat At The Blue Bayou – Again, this is something both Disney fans and non-fans alike can enjoy. The food is great, and the setting is beautiful without being overly cheesy.

3. Visit Car’s Land At Night – Another part of the parks that is themed, but not overly Disney, Cars Land when the neon lights up is a truly beautiful reminder of Route 66.

Walt Disney World, EPCOT, Mexico, Margaritas, selfie, lgbt, gay

I clearly fall into this last category.

For The Person Just Looking To Party: 

Full disclosure: you can’t drink anywhere inside Disneyland (unless you’re rich or important enough to get an invite to Club 33). That being said, there’s plenty of other places in the Disneyland Resort where you can get your drink on.

1. Downtown Disney – There are bars galore in the Downtown Disney district. And the best part? Unlike Walt Disney World, they’re all within walking distance of the parks!

2. Hotel Hopping – My first night of any Disneyland vacation is spent at Trader Sam’s Grotto. Add in a night cap at Disney’s Grand Calfornian and you have a great, and park admission free, evening lined up right out of the gate.

3. Go To The Mad Tea Party – There are glow cubes and dance music. Need I say more?

 

Have you ever visited Disneyland while in your 20s? What was your favorite thing to do when you visited?

For more Disneyland trip planning tips,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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The Three Best Ways To Thank A Disney Cast Member (From A Former Disney Cast Member)

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing stories and ways you can thank Disney Cast Members.


thebestwaystothankacastmember

During my time on the Disney College Program I dealt with guests of all types. While some were truly odd, and others were straight up rude, many guests helped make my work day fly by. That last form of guest where the reason I enjoyed my time at Disney so immensely, and if you want a cast member to say the same thing about you, here were my three favorite ways to be thanked by guests while on the job:

3. Leave a gift – A few times during my internship I received small notes from families, once even including a small lollypop. I still have a few of these notes saved in my keepsake box, and I still think of that lollypop as the perfect end to my lunch break that day.

2. Tell a manager – If a Cast Member really made your day, be sure to let their superiors know about it! I once received a four keys card based on guest feedback. A Cast Member receives a Four Keys Card when they go above and beyond to achieve the company’s four keys to success (safety, courtesy, show and/or efficiency). Not only do these cards show up on your Disney permanent record, but having your boss know that a guest loved you enough to tell them about you is never a bad thing either.

1. Just Say It – It was amazing how little I heard the words ‘Thank You’ while working at Walt Disney World. Being a polite guest goes very far at Walt Disney World. So, be patient and understanding when a Cast Member tells you to move inside the taped lines to view the parade. Be cool when the Cast Member tells you you can’t bring food into their ride queue. And always say thank you when a Cast Member helps make your day a little more magical. It may seem simple, but it truly goes a long way – especially in hour ten of your twelve hour shift.

castmembernametag

Somedays I really miss wearing this thing, and some days I do not at all.

For more ways to thank Disney Cast Members,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Want A Taste Of Food And Wine? The Frozen Dragon Berry Colada Is Where It’s At.

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Teal loop. Today we are sharing some of our favorite recipes from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.


Image Via The Disney Food Blog

It should be no surprise to anyone that based on the title of this blog, or my many other posts about The Food and Wine Festival, that I love drinking around the world at EPCOT. That being said, there are approximately 360 days a year that I am not at Walt Disney World, and during those times the homesickness for Blood Orange margaritas, and all my other favorite Disney drinks, is so real.

When that happens, I turn to this easy recipe for The Dragon Berry Colada. Served in the Caribbean booth, I find it’s the easiest to recreate at home while still feeling distinctly Disney.

dragon-berry-colada-recipe

In fact, the first time I used this recipe was during my Disney College Program, when my roommates and I made them in our apartment for one crazy night that ended in eating way too much Domino’s Pizza. Here is how that night started, for reference:

What’s your go to Disney Recipe? I still have a list of things I want to try next, but in the meantime if you need me I’ll be sipping Dragonberry Coladas and planning my October get away!


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La Cava Del Tequila Is The Best Disney Bar You’re Not Going To

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are discussing some of the best bars and lounges at the Disney Parks.


tequlia

#BBBsFoodAndWine Tour continues this week, in a sort of back handed way. This week I’m sharing one of my favorite things about EPCOT that exists year around: La Cava Del Tequlia. While I first experienced this hidden gem of a bar during the Food and Wine Festival, it’s what makes me feel okay about missing out on Food and Wine on the rare chances I visit the parks at a time of year the festival isn’t running.

If you’ve never been to La Cava, here’s what you’re missing out on:

1. The Ambiance – the bar is literally a whole in the wall inside the temple at the Mexico Pavilion. Sure, this tends to lead to longer wait times when it comes to getting drinks to go or a seat at the bar, but it also means that once you get inside, you really feel like you’ve been transported to a cellar in the middle of Mexico. (I promise you it’s not as creepy as it sounds).

My College Program Friends and I the last time we visited La Cava. Those are the Blood Orange Margaritas live and in the flesh.

2. The Drinks – The Blood Orange Margaritas are my personal favorite, but as long as you like tequila, you can’t really go wrong when it comes to this bar. I can say from experience that the Pineapple, Cucumber and classic margaritas are also great options, but if you want to be even more adventurous, I’ve always been curious about the avacado and jalepeno options (just not curious enough to replace it with my favorite Blood Orange).

3. The Food – Should you wish to sample all of the margaritas, and still remember the rest of your trip to Disney World, La Cava also serves various tapas at their few sit down tables. While I’ve never actually partaken in them myself, I can say that at least visually they are stunning. I’ve rarely seen guacamole look so good or a shrimp cocktail look so fresh. One of these days, I’ll just have to sit down and try them all for myself.

For more great Disney bars & lounges,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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The Best (And Worst) Of The Food and Wine Festival Booths

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing what you need to know to get ready for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.


It’s the most wonderful timeeeeee of the yearrrrr… and no, I’m not just singing Christmas carols way too early – it’s Food and Wine Festival season. Anyone who knows me in real life knows this is my Christmas, and I’m so jazzed to be heading back again this October with my College Program friends to eat, drink, and be merry all over again. Because of this, and because of the Blogorail, I’m happy to be kicking off this year’s #BBBFoodandWine Festival coverage.

food-and-wine-festival-booths

For those of you who haven’t been to EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival before – here’s what you need to know: the Food and Wine Festival (which from here on out I’m calling F&W) transforms the World Showcase from it’s normal splendor into a World Showcase on steroids. All around the World Show Case Lagoon bonus countries hosts small pop up booths featuring the countries best food, wine, and (if you’re lucky) national alcohol. The booths look something like this:

While some of these booths are expected (all the countries normally in the world show case represent), some are truly extraordinary, and what I dream about when I dream about F&W. While I usually hit up every booth – thanks to my OCD need to complete my F&W Passport, there are some I run into on my first day in the park, and some that I hold off on until I’m too full and tipsy to remember that I ate them. With out further ado, here are my three favorite (and three least favorite) booths from the Food and Wine Festival:

The Best 

  1. Australia –  The lamb chops in Australia are to die for if you’re a fan of mint and potato chips, which I 10000% am.
  2. Dessert & Campaign – The title of this booth is pretty self explanatory, so I’ll just tell you a story about how one time I got a glass of campaign from this booth and when I tried to pick it up I dropped it. Because it’s Disney World, they gave me a new one right away. Pro tip: Dessert & Campaign is a great booth to hit up right before Illuminations.
  3. Canada – While I usually try to avoid the booths that I could regularly access thanks to the World Showcase, Canada has a very important Cheddar Cheese Soup that is to die for. Plus, when else in your life are you going to get filet mignon for $6?
Image via Lauren Spinelli

Image of the Dessert and Champagne’s 2012 Dessert Trio via Lauren Spinelli

The Worst 

  1.  America – While there’s actually a few stands that take up the ‘America’ pavilion (the Fife & Drum Tavern has a stand, as well as Block & Hans, The Coffee Cart and a special stand called Hops & Barley), I don’t find any of them to be particularly inspired. I know it’s on theme to keep these stands classic ‘American’ food, but that’s not what I find myself craving at EPCOT, especially during Food and Wine.
  2. The Vegan Stand – While it appears that this year The Vegan stand won’t be in attendance, in the past there has been a booth serving some sort of chicken substitute, and it’s just not my jam. More power to you vegans out there, but I’ll be happily enjoying my Candian steak and Japanese sushi.
  3. Farm Fresh – Really, the stands I don’t like all share a similar theme: it’s food I could find anywhere else. The Farm Fresh stand is no exception, although they do tend to have good beers.

While this is not the last (or first) food and wine post you’ll see from me, I am by no means the only expert on the Food and Wine festival. If you’re interested in a 20-something perspective, please get in touch! Otherwise, for a more fact based approach I highly recommend you check out WDW Info‘s coverage, the full menus for the each booth via the Disney Food Blog, and of course – the official Walt Disney World website itself.

And for even more information Food & Wine Festival, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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All The Best Things About D23

Way back when, I was thinking about attending this year’s D23 Expo. Instead I went to California for Disneyland’s 60th birthday, and while I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, I do wish I’d done both.

If you, like myself, were stuck at home this weekend, here’s the most important things you need to know about what went down:

Disney Parks: 

Star Wars Land is happening, and in a major major way at both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. That’s not the only major addition to DHS either: Toy Story Land is coming folks – and I’m hoping that some day I can have a character breakfast with Buzz and Woody and then hop over for a quick ride on the Millennium Falcon.

In other news, my former home park Animal Kingdom keeps getting talked about, but nothing serious seems to be happening. I know they’re working on Pandora, but I would like to see an opening date for that, or the night safaris, or the new water show they keep mentioning. Also, The Magic Kingdom is getting a Jungle Cruise themed restaurant, which I’m excited about experiencing. Hopefully it’ll be a Blue Bayou situation, but for an even sillier ride.

The Disney Parks Blog live blogged the whole panel, and I highly recommend reading it for a pretty comprehensive recap of the event!

Disney Films: 

Apparently a life changing sizzle reel for the live-action Beauty and the Beast film was shown, but of course – it will never see the light of day on the internet. Will Turner will be returning to Pirates Of The Caribbean 7 million (or which ever number this is), and my 13 year old Orlando Bloom fan girl is screaming with delight.

On the animation side, Disney Animation Studios announced ‘Gigantic’, a new film based on Jack and the Beanstalk and composed by the same team that gave us ‘Let It Go’ (and the rest of ‘Frozen’, but let’s be honest – that will be their legacy). Pixar gave its Day Of The Dead film a name and release date, while also announcing about 26 more sequels for movies I don’t really care about (sorry not sorry Incredibles II and Cars III, I’m Team ‘Finding Dory’). For more info on this panel, including an ‘Inside Out’ short film I CAN NOT wait to see, I recommend checking out The Delightful Life’s recap of the panel.

All in all, as a very nerdy Disney fan, I wasn’t majorly surprised by any of these announcements, but I am very excited for most of them. Although I am already a little nostalgic about the inevitable but unannounced destruction of Disneyland’s Toontown to make way for Star Wars, I think overall the park improvements will be just that, improvements.

As far as the film side goes, I’m not super jazzed about Pixar becoming a sequel machine (my feelings about Toy Story 4 could take  up their own whole blog post), but I am excited about their original productions (CoCo and Moana in particular).

How are you feeling about the state of The Walt Disney Company after D23? Is there any major news I missed in my recap? Please let me know, because I’m genuinely interested! (Also, I’m already taking down names of people who want to share a hotel with me in two years).