I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘Ohana should be accepted as a way of life, not just another restaurant situated on the Walt Disney World property. It’s home to an appealing Polynesian atmosphere, an animated dining area, and an obscene parade of luscious food that could give an Andre the Giant-sized appetite pause. ‘Ohana isn’t for the meek or the miserable, it’s a sweeping playground for drooling carnivores who’ve pulled the safety restrictions off their meat intake valve, or perhaps a place for those who enjoy the kitsch of Hawaii without the burden of a plane ride.
Last weekend brought about the return of the Great American Pie Festival, an annual event that rolls on down to Celebration, Florida for a few days, leaving the lucky ‘burb in a diabetic coma. It’s a time of community. It’s a time of joy. It’s a time of rapidly expanding waistlines.
In February, I was coerced into celebrating a dark, impossibly depressing event that I’ve come to anticipate with all the hand-trembling, teeth-grinding joyfulness of tax day: my birthday. Barf. To help digest such a bleak occasion, I made a choice to visit one of my favorite Walt Disney World restaurants, The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s not an establishment known for its killer culinary lavishness, but solely for its spirited ambiance, and on a day like that day, I needed all the simulated enchantment I could seize. To me, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is a home away from home.
I'm sorry to report there are no swooshing noises inside. Click here for HD.
Craving a gooey shot of pure shameless geekery, I motored over to Orlando’s MegaCon last weekend to drink in the spandex sights and fill my ears with the din of plastic lightsabers. This was my second visit to the area’s most popular sci-fi/comic convention, which was granted a spacious hall to fill for 2010, filling the room with all types of dealers, artists, and celebrities. Excitement was in the air, along with an eye-crossing brew of musty body funk.
The Kona Café is one of those super-secret handshake restaurants inside Walt Disney World. While obviously open to the general public, the eatery’s reputation is perhaps most widely circulated through Disney superfans, a blindly passionate group that always speaks highly of the establishment, practically breaking down in tears when the name of a certain menu item is uttered. That’s right, I’m talkin’ Tonga Toast.
Those mouth-watering highlights of “Julie & Julia” aside, French cuisine doesn’t hold quite the same twirl of utensil-dancing romanticism for me as it does the general public. The food retains outstanding craftsmanship and thrilling exotic flavors, but rarely, if ever, have I been in a position where I bust out a touchdown dance when the prospect of visiting a French restaurant is brought up. While hardly an exclusive Parisian hideaway shooing away Americans, the prospect of lunch at Epcot’s Les Chefs de France was somewhat daunting. However, for the purposes of high adventure, reservations were made, hunger was locked in, and personal prejudices were cast aside.
It's tough to skate on plastic.
Have you’ve ever visited a restaurant and thought, “Gee, this place could use more unreasonable intimidation?” Well, do I have a place for you. Located within Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the 50’s Prime Time Café is a throwback eating escapade to the family dinners of old, where mom, dad, and the kids would stifle their rampant sexism and racism and gather around the television to revel in the latest Tinseltown entertainment, scarfing down the most fundamental of dinner dishes with eyes glued to the tube. Disney provides the rose-colored glasses, and all the guest has to bring is a generous wad of cash and the ability to enjoy a good-natured teasing while digesting.
I visited Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights for the very first time last year (recap here), and while entertained and awed, the sheer force of bodies and bratty behavior made me carefully consider returning for 2009. It’s one thing to have a haunted house attraction that welcomes giddy hordes of eager horror enthusiasts, it’s another to encourage said fanbase to booze up to a point of sickness, treating the Universal layout like an elaborate frat party. Granted, it doesn’t always reach a point of distaste at HHN, but I’ve made a few visits to the event this year, and again, while exceptionally themed and executed, the experience can be awfully trying at times. This year registers as extraordinarily irritating.
The Spooky Empire Ultimate Horror Convention has come to Orlando this weekend, bringing a mass of celebrities, uncomfortable beards, and smiles to town, thrilling horror fanatics who wait all year for this event. To kick off the festivities, there’s a Zombie Walk, encouraging undead fans to dress up as decrepitly as possible and march (or drag) a harrowing 1/2 mile to the front door of the host hotel. It’s a community of fun-loving, grotesque participants, and there’s a clear love for the macabre tradition.
Last year, I stumbled upon Sea World Orlando’s Halloween Spooktacular by accident. While making a routine visit to the park, I wasn’t immediatley aware that a holiday blow-out was in progress over by Shamu Stadium and Bayside Stadium, leading me to wonder why “pumpkin fish” signage and strange costumed characters were suddenly around every corner. Turns out Sea World has their own variation on a theme park Halloween celebration, and get this: it’s free with admission.
Character dining at Walt Disney World is always a mixed bag. Elementary culinary experiences aimed toward the Duggar crowd of mass appeal, these family feasts are a chance for broods to chow in total chaos while costumed icons roam the floor encouraging photo and autograph interaction. It’s really never about the food at these establishments, only the easy-peasy face time with characters that would normally be a hassle and a half to tackle within a theme park. Still, Disney does cough up a little extra effort for these daily events, leading me to visit the restaurant Chef Mickey’s, located in the Contemporary Resort.
When I finally received the opportunity to board the “Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit” roller coaster at Universal Studios Florida today, I figured the event might be an intricate prank assembled by my enemies to humiliate me further. Since its “opening” on August 19th, “Rockit” has been nothing but trouble to ride, enduring a series of vague technical glitches that have routinely thwarted my angelic plans to partake in the excitement. Additionally, Universal employees have been sinisterly trained to shoo away any potential inquiry of service during down periods with squawks of “it might not open today” or “it doesn’t look good.” And then I would learn the coaster opened for business 15 minutes I left. Arg.
I think a proper challenge for any resident of Orlando (or perhaps adventurous tourist) is to dine at all of the pavilions located within Epcot’s glorious parade of countries, the World Showcase. It’s an expensive proposal (Mickey’s a cute mouse, but he loves money), but not impossible, especially if this lofty gastric quest is portioned out over an extended period of time. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, satisfying an itch for a theme-park-exclusive challenge and to wave an extended middle finger toward my personal foodie fraidy-cat nature. While I’ve visited a few of the countries in the past for eats, I’ve never actively pursued them all. It’s time to change that. The first stop was the famed Le Cellier, located inside the Canada pavilion.
Wow. Star Wars Weekends ended over a month ago, and I never got around to posting my pictures from the event. Chalk it up to pure absentmindedness, not a reflection of the month-long celebration of all things “Star Wars.”