As the year closes, I’m looking back at some of my favorite theme park memories of 2015. One of the best parts of the year was traveling to Epcot for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. I had not been to this festival in over ten years, and my husband has never been. All the food was so delicious, and there was a great variety. I’m a fairly picky eater (I don’t eat beef or pork), but I found something at nearly every stand. Vegetarian, vegan and allergy friendly options also abounded.

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I began my feast with a cheese plate from Ireland. It’s impossible to go wrong with cheese in my book. Check out the festival passport! You received a stamp for every country you got food from.

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The chicken sausage with peppers, onions and polenta and cheese soup from Canada were amazing. I later found out the soup had bacon in it, which I do not eat, but I really didn’t care. It was that good.

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The yummy cheese soup again. My mom made this soup (minus the bacon) for Christmas. She got the recipe from the Epcot cookbook I bought her!

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I took a break from the heavy options with a Greek salad at the Greek booth, of course!

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The shrimp tacos in Mexico featured a spicy creamy sauce and pickled red onion. Yum!

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The buttered chicken in African, served over naan bread, was very flavorful. The cilantro on top added a nice texture.

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This shrimp from Australia was spicy, and the veggies were crisp and delicious. I accidentally got some of the sauce in my eye while eating (how? I wish I knew) and had to rush to the bathroom to flush out my eye. All part of my glamorous life, folks.

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There was an entire area dedicated to CHEESE. This spot was made for me. My favorite is probably that lovely cheese triangle soaked in honey.
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The chicken dumplings in China were delicious and were served with a sweet and spicy sauce.
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I had to have a cannoli in Italy. It’s one of my favorite desserts, and this one did not disappoint!

In short, I came. I ate. I conquered. I did not eat breakfast or lunch on this day, and I probably should not have eaten dinner. I highly recommend visiting Epcot during this festival. Be sure to bring your appetite!

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Photo Review: Chefs de France

As Epcot Food and Wine is well underway, let’s look back at one of World Showcase’s best restaurants, Chefs de France. Located in France, of course, this table service restaurant is one of my favorites. I highly recommend making reservations.

Service, like any Disney restaurant, was excellent. Our French waitress was knowledgeable and helpful.
Service, like any Disney restaurant, was excellent. Our French waitress was knowledgeable and helpful.
Unfortunately I don't have a picture of our cheese plate, but I highly recommend starting your meal with one.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of our cheese plate, but I highly recommend starting your meal with one.
We were near a window, so we were able to see some of Illuminations when it started.
We were near a window, so we were able to see some of Illuminations when it started.
This dish is one of the best meals I've ever had. This is the Gratin de Macaroni. It will change macaroni and cheese forever! It's incredibly filling; I wasn't able to finish.
This dish is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. This is the Gratin de Macaroni. It will change macaroni and cheese forever! It’s incredibly filling; I wasn’t able to finish.
I don't have a photo of Kent's meal, but he had the  Canard aux cerises (Duck Breast with Cherries) and loved it.
I don’t have a photo of Kent’s meal, but he had the Canard aux cerises (Duck Breast with Cherries) and loved it.
I couldn't wait to take a bite of my creme brulee before snapping a picture.
I couldn’t wait to take a bite of my creme brulee before snapping a picture.
Puff choux with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Kent ordered this, and I think I will next time. The creme brulee is good, but I prefer the pistachio creme brulee at Tony's in Magic Kingdom.
Puff choux with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Kent ordered this, and I think I will next time. The creme brulee is good, but I prefer the pistachio creme brulee at Tony’s in Magic Kingdom.
Yum!
Yum!

6 reasons why Disneyland quick service food kicks Walt Disney World’s quick service food to the curb

disneyland diningThere are so many awesome things about Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Regardless of which resort you grew up on, visit both Disney coasts.

I’m a WDW girl, only recently making my fourth visit to Disneyland, and I tend to prefer some attractions at the World because it’s what I remember as a child. However, the World has a lot to catch up in terms of quick service dining.

Disneyland has WDW beat here.

When you’re eating quick service at WDW, you usually have a few food options throughout all four parks that vary little. Pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, various sandwiches and salads. The only spot offering more variety in quick service dining is World Showcase at Epcot.

Now I’m not saying that quick service dining hasn’t improved at Walt Disney World, now with healthier options and vegetarian choices. But, as I’ve said, they’re lightyears behind in comparison to their pals on the West Coast.

So, why is Disneyland quick service dining SO much better?

  1. Fresher Ingredients
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    Jolly Holiday Salad at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

    I mean, just look at this salad at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland. The basil vinaigrette was the perfect addition to this sweet salad. I felt that whenever I ordered any kind of fruits or vegetables at quick service restaurants at the Disneyland Resort, they tasted way fresher than those at WDW. This salad was filled with mixed greens, tomatoes, dried cranberries, spiced pecans and feta.

  2. Better themes
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Churro cone and Dinoco cup at the Cozy Cone Motel in Disney California Adventure

First of all, Cars Land at Disney California Adventure is one of the best-themed areas of any theme park I’ve ever visited. The Imagineers really brought their A game with this expansion.

The Cozy Cone Motel, based on Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel in Cars, feels like you actually stepped into the movie. The office. The lawn decorations. The occasional pal from Radiator Springs (the cars drive up and park here at various times). And, most importantly, the cones. Pop Cones (popcorn), Chili Cone Carne (chili served in a cone), ice cream cones, cones filled with pretzel bites, and, my personal favorite, the churro bites cone (pictured above). Plus, these souvenir Dinoco cups are too cute to even be real.

3. More healthy options 

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Photo from Disney.com

Though I have never eaten particularly healthy (why can’t I have fried chicken and cupcakes at every meal), I’ve been trying to recently. I felt like there were more options for healthy eating at DLR, especially beyond a salad. I love a salad as much as the next twently-something white girl, but they can get old. Fast.

The Paradise Garden Grill at Disney California Adventure, for example, serves kabobs, a great low-carb and low calorie meal.

Of course, Disneyland is in California, so they tend to make better decisions about preparing food than those of us in the South. But…

4. Plenty of not-so-healthy treats, too

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Matterhorn Macaroon at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

When you’re on vacation, dessert is mandatory. Though I enjoy the quick service desserts at WDW, there aren’t a ton of options. Sure, there are macaroons in France at Epcot and Dole Whips (my forever favorite) at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, but quick service restaurants tend to offer cookies, carrot cake, and chocolate cake. There is some variance, but not a ton. This macaroon, however, was one of the best I’ve had. It was huge (I wrapped some up and saved it for later) and represented one of my favorite Disneyland attractions, the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

5. Better creativity and quality 

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Fried green tomato sammy at the Hungry Bear Restaurant

A fried green tomato sandwich with mango slaw, remoulade, heirloom tomatoes and havarti cheese on multigrain bread — are you kidding me? These ingredients are more along the lines of an episode of Top Chef rather than a counter service restaurant in a theme park. This dish is original, and the ingredients were high-quality.

Who knew I had to go to all the way to California to get this Southern-inspired sammy? The FGT sandwich is available at the Hungry Bear Restaurant in the Critter Country area of Disneyland.

6. More options overall

Chicken tacos at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill at Disney California Adventure
Chicken tacos at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill at Disney California Adventure

These chicken tacos were fresh, yummy, and incredibly filling. Also, they were served on a real plate with guac at no extra charge!

Something I especially enjoyed is that I could get these tacos with a side of rice and beans, just rice, just beans, just roasted vegetables (pictured), roasted veggies with rice, and roasted vegetables with beans. WDW will usually let you sub out fries for carrot sticks or apple slices, but that’s about it. I enjoyed having more options. P.S. The roasted veggies were great!

Note: I think WDW and Disneyland are evenly matched as far as table service. Both are outstanding.

In summary: Disneyland quick service is like eating at Epcot throughout your entire trip, but somehow, with more options. Now, get your tail to Disneyland and eat every thing.

Try new things, but there’s nothing like the classics at Disney

As I’ve mentioned, I’m jetting off to Walt Disney World today. I woke up promptly at 6 a.m. (we are not leaving for several, several hours). 

My previous post shared trying new things at Disney, something I like to do every time I go. Below, though, I’ve shared some of the old favorites I can’t miss. Nostalgia makes the heart grow fonder, right?

  1. Tony’s Town Square Restaurant   

This is our absolute favorite restaurant. The theming is spot-on, and the food is always delicious. We are spending our anniversary dinner here! My favorite? Chicken Parm (I don’t eat beef/pork, so the classic spaghetti and meatballs is a no go for me). I previously wrote a review of Tony’s here

2. Dumbo the Flying Elephant – 

 
Probably my first favorite Disney ride, Dumbo never disappoints, and it’s a Disneyland/WDW original. Plus, you get great views of Fantasyland and Storybook Circus. With the expanded Dumbo ride at WDW, wait time has improved. Plus, there’s rarely a long wait late at night at Magic Kingdom.  

 As you can see, I’ve been a Dumbo fan for QUITE a while. Hint: I’m the small child. 

3.  Dole Whips – 

Dole Whips, available at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom and (new) Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Animal Kingdom. Soft serve pineapple ice cream from the kings of pineapple, Dole, is a must. I always opt for the Dole Whip Float, soft serve pineapple ice cream served on top of fresh pineapple juice. Dole Whips and Dole Whip Floats both count as snacks on the Disney Dining Plan! 

4. Space Mountain as many times as possible –  

 

I love riding Space Mountain over and over (and over and over) again. I remember waiting forever to be able to ride it (I was a short child and a short adult). When I finally could, I was amazed. The darkness makes it incredible, and the last drop (you know what I’m talking about) makes me scream every time. If you’re lucky, sometimes a cast member will let you ride it back to back without getting back in line. It pays to be friendly! 

5. Soarin’ – I’ve been giving the MK a lot of love, but my favorite Disney attraction of all time is Soarin’. I rode it for the first time at the ride’s original home in Disney’s California Adventure before Soarin’ opened a second location at Epcot. I was upset to see Food Rocks go (there was something special and nostalgic about this musical concerning nutrition), but I loved gaining Soarin’. The technology, images and music (which played at our wedding) are perfect. I cry every time. 

6. Spaceship Earth 

 

An Epcot original (that’s sensed been reimagined), Spaceship Earth is visually amazing and one of the most iconic park figures. The ride inside, narrated by the lovely Judi Dench, celebrated human innovation (or communication, depending on if you accept the update or not. Communication is the original theme, as the ride was once sponsored by AT&T). As a journalism major and media professional, the excitement of the printing press and the first newspapers are my favorite parts of the ride. 

These are just a few of my Disney favorites. Be sure to follow along on Instagram (@tarabulburton) to see my trip! 

Always try new things at Disney

My husband and I are jetting off to Orlando tomorrow for our Disney anniversary trip, or disneyversary. We will have been married for a year Sunday, and we are excited about celebrating at our favorite place. 

  
I’ve started a new tradition when I go to Disney. I strive to try something new every time I go. What’s new for this trip? Check out my list below. 

  1. Backstage Magic Tour – For the first time in forever, I am going behind the scenes at all four WDW parks via the Backstage Magic Tour. I can barely contain my excitement. I’ll write a full review after my trip! 
  2. Star Wars Galectic Breakfast – On our actual anniversary, we are dining with the Star Wars characters! This will be my fourth Star Wars Weekend and my husband’s second.   
  3. Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party – I enjoyed the Epcot Illuminations Sparkling Dessert party (below) on my bachelorette trip last year. We’re looking forward to an up-close view of Wishes with yummy desserts.  
  4. Disney Fine Art Photography Session – Since we are celebrating a momentous occasion, we booked a mini photo session with Disney Fine Art Photography. I’ll share the pictures once we get them. Hint on the photo location: it’s the grandest resort of all. 
  5. Chefs de France – We’ve never eaten at the Frenvh restaurant in Epcot. I always thought I was too picky of an eater for it, until I found out they have grown-up macaroni and cheese as an entree. Yum! 

In addition to these planned novelties, we will be sure to engage in new and spontaneous adventures, too. Be sure to follow along with my trip on Instagram, @tarabullburton.