The Doge’s Palace, St. Marco Square and the Campanile highlight the Venetian architecture of the Italian Pavilion but for me the architecture of Venice and the great leather and jewelry shops of Florence pale in contrast to this pavilion’s restaurant. Walt Disney made a deal and had the head chef from Rome come to Epcot to setup and train the staff for this restaurant and it shows -–whether at the Italian Pavilion in Epcot or in Rome Alfredo di Roma Ristorante is nothing less than fabulous.
Getting back on more familiar ground and half way around the lagoon sits the American Pavilion. The American Adventure Show is the singular highlight of this pavilion but that’s all you really need. The show is excellent.
The Japanese Pavilion is next along the lagoon and offers great shopping and great eating. The Mitsukoshi Department Store provides for the shopper. Teppanyaki is the restaurant similar to what we have seen in the Benihana chain of restaurants in the U.S. The pavilion also offers a tempura restaurant Tempura Kiku.
Morocco is the most exotic of the pavilions and perhaps the simplest. Marrakesh Restaurant offers excellent Moroccan cuisine while belly dancers and musicians entertain. For the untried, sampler plates are available and may be a wise choice for these foods may not be for the uninitiated. Beyond the restaurant is a plethora of small typical artisan shops that give you a very true feel for the country.
Vie la France – The French Pavilion is so…so French! See "Impressions de France" in the Palais du Cinema but then you must eat! While France is famous for its cuisine Walt Disney did it again when he made a deal to acquire three of the best chefs/restaurants in France to open, train and operate Chefs de France – if this is just too too much go upstairs to Bistro de Paris or if the Bistro is still a little too too much then try Au Petit Caf� at the front of the Pavilion – then – don’t forget the shops!!!
Between the French and British Pavilions is a shopping mall called the International Gateway consisting mostly of Disney fashions and memorabilia. I think it’s out of place.
Back on English speaking ground the next pavilion is the United Kingdom. While there is no singular "attraction" at this pavilion, everything is laid out so well and everything flows so well that you are immediately engulfed in the atmosphere and tradition of Great Britain. You will enjoy walking through the pavilion and getting a good feel for the country while also visiting any number of small shops within. Once you have seen the pavilion, as you exit you will find the Rose and Crown Pub & Dining Room in a separate building right next to the lagoon – good food – better ale.
The Canadian Pavilion is the last pavilion before you return to the World Showcase Plaza. O Canada! is a stirring film in Circlevision 360 and rivals the Chinese film. The pavilion is on a grand scale and is a great way to end your trip around the world! The pavilion’s restaurant Le Cellier is cafeteria styled but offers good value and some interesting and very tasty foods for you to try.
Well, that’s two out of three and there’s still a lot more beyond Walt Disney World.
The third theme area of WDW is the DISNEY-MGM STUDIOS THEME PARK. This is the newest and the busiest of the three theme areas. Not far from Epcot Center, the MGM Studios sit on 110 acres and consist of many different components – and – the park is still growing with new attractions having been and being added throughout the 1990’s.
Entering the Studios you arrive on Hollywood Boulevard (a la Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom) and instantly are transported back to the 1940’s – 1950’s. Here are dozens of shops, attractions and restaurants plus a seemingly never ending array of strolling entertainers, character actors and much more! A major part of this area of the studios is window shopping – and it’s great!
Before a short tour of the theme park there are two restaurants you should know about – and visit. These restaurants are as much attractions as they are eateries:
The Hollywood Brown Derby is a very faithful re-creation of the restaurant on Vine Street (of "Hollywood & Vine" fame) that saw the two top columnists (and arch rivals) of their day, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons constantly in attendance. Here you will still find Louella and Hedda, the restaurant’s famous Cobb Salad is still on the menu, and the atmosphere and quality of food is as authentic as you might imagine.
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is a "must" even if you only go in for a look. The tables are 1950’s cars – the restaurant is setup like a 1950’s drive-in theater – with stars on the roof, speakers next to the car and a 45-minute film on the big screen! The "film" is actual sci-fi cartoons and movie trailers from days-gone-by. The food is simple and good and includes sandwiches, salads, desserts, et al.
Now to the rest of this park’s attractions beginning with the center of attraction at the far end of Hollywood Boulevard, The Great Movie Ride. This is a ride through some of Hollywood’s most memorable sets and with the help of audio-animatronics and the usual great work by Disney "Imagineers" this is a "must" event.
Much like the Magic Kingdom, while everything at the Studios is fun and enjoyable some of the attractions and shows are definitely for a younger audience so I’ll try to hit just the older-young-audiences "must" list.
Backstage Studio Tour is another thoroughly enjoyable ride. For 25 minutes you will wind through areas of typical movie studio (wardrobe, prop, lighting, camera, et al departments) as well as back lot streets and houses and then right through the middle of a spectacular special effect – warning – when you board the tram be sure to sit on the right hand side (where you are assured of staying dry.) This is a "working studio" so on any day you may find actual sets in various stages of production.
Star Tours is the last of the MUST SEE rides and it is based on the famous Star Wars trilogy. Riders board a 40-passenger moon shuttle for a trip to the Moon of Endor – but – things happen. Great effects and great fun.
Now, there is another MUST ride but this ride is only a must for those of us who love high speed, hurl your body through space, hold your breath and scream-type of rides. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is that type of ride. As a hotel guest at the Hollywood Hotel you will experience a minor glitch in the elevator system as you free-fall eight stories. This, in conjunction with more great special effects makes this one of the best and scariest rides around.
The Magic of Disney Animation is a stroll through a working animation studio plus a short (8-minute) film that could easily be the highlight of your visit to this park.
A sit down theater show that is a MUST is Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3-D. The effects, asides, and general goings on surround you throughout the show (which is actually more than just the 3-D presentation.)
Inside the Magic Special Effects & Production Tour is our last MUST attraction. This walking tour focuses on the visiting children tourists but is a great way to see how special effects are created. The tour includes a couple of short films and a look into three separate sound stage – any or non of which may actually have a shoot in progress.
There is still a lot to do and see at the studios and personal preferences will dictate just where you end up. Some of the other attractions include Superstar Television where roles from some of the most famous television shows are given to some of the guests. There are no bad seats in the 1,000-seat theater – the entire production lasts about 45 minutes.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular takes place in a 2,000-seat theater and is a set above the usual theme park stunt show events. The show lasts for about 30 minutes.
Yet another theater production is Monster Sound Show, a multi-layered event that actually starts outside the theater with a short by David Letterman, then into the 270-seat theater for a short film starring Chevy Chase and Martin Short, audience participation in trying to match sound effects to a film, and a post-production area where you get some hands-on encounters of your own.
Yes, there is more – much more – at each of these three theme parks – but, as if you had the time and energy WDW also gives you PLEASURE ISLAND for your late night dining, entertainment and dancing needs. How about Typhoon Lagoon?, Discovery Island?, the hotel restaurants and shops surrounding the Walt Disney World Village? – and you haven’t even left WDW property yet!!!
Now that you have a little insight into this fabulous and magical honeymoon destination, next month you will get some insiders’ tips, information on where to stay – plus the overall general how’s, what’s, where’s and why’s for this honeymoon destination.
Last month, in Part I of Destination – WDW, I talked about the three theme parks within Walt Disney World. This month I’ll give you an overview of the rest of WDW, some of the other attractions that make the Orlando area the #1 vacation destination in the U.S., plus, a few personal tips and insights.
Though you could easily spend a full seven days and evenings enjoying the diversities within the 3 theme parks (The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios) WDW itself offers a lot more. To start with let’s look into some of the more mundane possibilities and sites available to you (realizing that at WDW things considered "mundane" can still be quite extraordinary.)
At last count, eleven Disney hotels were scattered throughout the resort with many of them (not to be out done by the theme parks) designed as their very own theme attractions and/or get-a-ways. While many of these properties carry a hefty price tag for accommodations, a few years ago WDW got a little smarter and added moderate priced accommodations by building the Caribbean Beach Resort, Dixie Landings and Port Orleans, taking the number of rooms offered, on site, by Disney, to just short of 14,000! Making up the balance of the accommodations available you have the Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village Resort (all on the Seven Seas Lagoon and on the monorail circuit that circles the lagoon stopping at the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center which is your transfer point for monorail service to Epcot Center and Bus Service to a number of other points of interest) The remaining eight properties include The Disney Inn (set a short distance back from the Polynesian Resort with connecting bus service every 15 minutes); Yacht Club & Beach Club resorts sit closest to Disney-MGM Studios and just south of Epcot along with the Dolphin and the Swan; also in this general vicinity is the Caribbean Beach with its five "villages" housing some 2,100 rooms in five themes (Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique and Trinidad); in close proximity to Hotel Plaza Blvd., with more than a dozen non-Disney first class and deluxe hotel properties, Walt Disney World Village houses the last two WDW resort hotels named Port Orleans and Dixie Landings. All eleven of these properties offer their guests easy access to the WDW theme parks (frequent shuttle buses – some have water bus access, some monorail access, some tram access.)
In truth, WDW hotel properties evoke the atmosphere, lifestyle and timeframe presented in their names. Properties such as Caribbean Beach can be destinations by themselves with plenty of variety in water sports, restaurants and nightlife to satisfy most individuals’ notion of a complete Honeymoon. Once you combine the "accommodation experience" with the rest of the offerings you will be hooked for life.
Beyond the plethora of hotels found at Walt Disney World Village you also find a host of excellent shops plus the Gourmet Pantry where you may want to shop and purchase a picnic lunch if you are planning to visit somewhere like Discovery Island (covered later in this article) or if you are planning a day away from WDW.
At last count WDW Village housed about eighteen shops while also acting as the gateway to Buena Vista Lagoon where you can rent canopied party boats (also good for water picnics) or tiny water sprites for touring the lagoon.
Also on the lagoon, just to the south end of WDW Village is Pleasure Island. If you are a long distance runner, if you are a marathon man (or woman), if you love to party until you drop or if you are just masochistic here is your chance to shine! After a day (that usually starts between 8 and 9 AM for those WDW enthusiasts) of walking and riding and talking and dining and doing a dozen other things – then – there is Pleasure Island with its shops, restaurants and six nightclubs that party on until 2 AM – Pleasure Island, where every night is New Year’s Eve with a troupe of street dancers, confetti, fireworks (outstanding) and special effects – Pleasure Island were once again, in consort with your choice of WDW accommodations could easily fulfill many couples’ dream honeymoon!
Scattered among the dozen or so goods and food shops on Pleasure Island you also have Adventure Club, Cage, Comedy Warehouse, Mannequins Dance Palace, Neo Armadillo Music Saloon and XZFR Rock & Roll Beach Club. Nightlife from progressive adult music videos to comedy – from live rock bands (with some top names) to live C&W – from DJ hosted music, a spinning dance floor and spectacular lighting effects to an outdoor stage with nightly live entertainment – Pleasure Island is worth the trip and the time.
Drinking age in Florida is 21 though all but Cage and Mannequins allow you in at 18.
He’s finally popped the question and of course you said yes. Now the work starts. Your wedding plans must begin right away.
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