Saturday, February 18, 2017

Frozen Sing-Along Celebration at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Date of Visit: February 7, 2017

At first I thought Mik just agreed to do the Frozen Sing-Along fastpass+ because it was what the rest of the group was doing and it was one of the few things he could actually do. Turns out that he was actually interested in checking it out even though he wasn't sure he'd like it.

We ended up entering the fastpass+ queue before the rest of our group because Mik wanted to avoid the noise of the March of the Order going on. We figured our group was big enough to be split up inside anyways, but they ended up catching up and being allowed over to the area we were waiting for the upper accessible seating. It seems it's similar to Fantasmic in that they keep the row in front of the top row clear for the whole group to be "together," although we all were able to sit in the top row with Mik since there was room.

 
We had the option to go up front, but from recent experience with only having front row for Country Bear Jamboree and past experience of choosing front for the Mickey's Magical Map show led Mik to choose the back. At the end when it snowed, Mik was particularly happy that he choose the back as it only happens in the front two-thirds or so of the theater.

Overall we all enjoyed the show more than expected mostly because of the humor. I thought it was too much story and not enough singing considering the show's name, but at least it is a different way of experiencing the story with the historian narrator characters.

The only thing we found disappointing was that there are screens in the area you wait for the doors to open, but not by where they have the upper wheelchair section and we felt like we missed the preshow experience, which could easily be fixed with just installing one TV. I mean, after all we think the best part of Soarin' is the preshow now that they changed the attraction to be around the world.


Destination Info:
Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
Hollywood Studios
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot


Date of Visit February 6, 2017

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall has been on our list to try for awhile. We even had a reservation to go on one of our trips last year, but decided to cancel a few days before because we weren't sure about the whole character dining aspect. To some extent, I am glad we saved it for this trip as at least we had one person into the princesses/characters, but I also kind of wish we had already done this place and realized it isn't worth it when it was just us and done something different (i.e. at least cheaper and likely much better experience) for our larger family trip.


The main thing that appealed to us about Akershus is the Norwegian inspired menu. It didn't really disappoint in this regard, especially for the meatball lovers. However, I had thought it was entirely a buffet and it was only the appetizers that were. This didn't bother us so much except that it was fixed price per person and then dessert was a specific trio of desserts for the table rather than each ordering your own or a buffet.


We were mainly disappointed in Akershus because there wasn't much of a character experience, which was why we had chosen to even do this restaurant after we took too long to plan dining and couldn't do the character breakfast we wanted. There are several princesses that come by, so the number of characters is nice. However, they seemed to be in a rush and there was barely time to have them sign the autograph book and take a photo with the kid. Thus, by the time the kid got used to the concept they were already done. All other places we've done the character dining with her, the characters came around more than once. I kind of remember this was the same way the time Mik, my Dad, and I ate at Cinderella Royal Table, but at least there you have a fun castle atmosphere and we had service.

One of the reasons we did not like Akershus was the price. We knew that going in it would be expensive, but somewhere I had gotten in my head that lunch was never more than $50 and it was $57 per person (at least that was before the annual pass discount). The price wouldn't have really bothered us if at the same time we had gotten the character experience we expected (or even just some attentive service...never saw waiter after ordering until they were trying to rush us to finish and clear the table at end, so drinks never got refilled, and they force you to pay 18% gratuity for nothing).

Add to all that, they squeezed way too many tables into the space that it is almost impossible to even dine there with Mik. In order to get him into the table I had to lift and slide the chair sideways up to his spot. It wouldn't have been too bad if it was a regular table dining experience, but since there is a buffet aspect it was extremely annoying to get out around him (and almost impossible). This was the only reason we were glad the whole meal wasn't a buffet, but then we kind of wish none of it was.

Bottom line is I better just book that character breakfast six months out next year. Also, for princesses, Mik and I recommend Cinderella Royal Table over this. I don't remember the food being anything special and we had the characters skip us, but we still really enjoyed that dining experience simply for the castle atmosphere.

Destination Info:
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Epcot
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Monday, February 13, 2017

Be Our Guest Restaurant at Magic Kingdom


Date of Visit: February 5, 2017

For years we've been wanting to try the dinner at Be Our Guest, but never seem to be able to plan out our dining soon enough to manage a reservation (we did the quick service lunch back before they did reservations for that). This time I only managed a reservation because I couldn't get one when planning our November trip and booking for February had just opened. I am glad we ended up finally doing it this trip as while it would've been enjoyable on our own, it turned out to be a great dining experience for our family trip.


There are three different rooms you can end up being seated in. We were in the main dining room and really enjoyed the atmosphere, although either of the other wings seem just as good and it would be interesting to end up in a different one if we go again.


We all enjoyed the appetizers and entrees we ordered and found the portions to be good. Mik had the potato leek soup and the pork chop. I had the sauteed shrimp and scallops.


For dessert, since no one else ordered it, I just had to try the grey stuff. Sadly, it was not delicious, but only because I don't like frosting. The tart it was on top of was good, though. Mik ordered the Elcair a l'Orange and that was very delicious.


Before leaving, we visited the Beast for a group photo minus Mik who didn't want to do it.

Overall we really enjoyed Be Our Guest. We liked that it had a good themed atmosphere and that while there was a character opportunity, it was very easy to skip if you wanted because it was separate rather than being something they send you through before seating you or having the character(s) come around. Not sure if we would go for dinner next time, but only because the breakfast menu looks interesting.

Destination Info:
Be Our Guest Restaurant
Magic Kingdom
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Epcot International Festival of the Arts


Date of Visit: February 5, 2017

When we planned our trip the Epcot International Festival of the Arts hadn't been announced. Finding out we would be able to enjoy it when it was announced was exciting, but we were kind of disappointed it's only a weekend thing because we had already booked our two dining reservations for our week trip 2 of the 3 days we could've enjoyed eating at the festival. We did fit in trying a few things on Sunday for lunch before our early dinner at Be Our Guest, but Mik was disappointed we didn't instead eat at the festival booths on Monday, especially since it was the park we were in for our lunch and it turned out to be our worst Disney dining experience ever (not actually bad, but disappointing...will try to remember to do review later).

On Sunday, Mik and I park hopped by boat from Hollywood Studios and were planning to grab some lunch with my Starbucks gift card on the way over to meet up in Magic Kingdom for dinner. We had forgotten about the festival until we spotted the booth in Canada and then we picked up the little booklet that lists what all the booths have. Mik quickly spotted a picture of doughnuts and when I found the description we knew what we had to have for lunch.


On the way to get the doughnuts, we stopped at the E = AT^2 booth for some cold drinks. Mik enjoyed the Deconstructed Breakfast (non-alcoholic version), which is a spiced apple chai tea shake with maple syrup, a waffle crisp, and candied bacon. It reminded me of the pumpkin one they had at the Food & Wine, which was my favorite last time.


The Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts at the Painter's Palate did not disappoint. Mik enjoyed the chicken mousse one and I enjoyed the herb cream cheese with sea salt one. We split the tuna one. Mik's favorite was the tuna and mine was the herb cream cheese.


We also enjoyed the exhibits in the Showcase Plaza where Painter's Palate was located. In particular, we enjoyed seeing the Mary Blair art. However, they were rather small and left us wanting more of a real exhibit to experience.

Overall we enjoyed our little taste of the Epcot Festival of the Arts and hope to enjoy a lot more of it on Friday. In particular, it would be fun to get a photo in one of be part of the paintings displays.

Destination Info:

Epcot International Festival of the Arts
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Monday, January 23, 2017

National Gallery of Art: East Building

Date of Visit: January 22, 2017

Somehow after all these years of visiting and living in the D.C. area the National Gallery of Art is one place Mik has never been except their sculpture garden, which reminds me I still haven't taken him over to the Hirshhorn one. The East Building in particular has been on our list to visit ever since it reopened in November.

 
One of my favorite parts of the museum is the Terrace, where they have a few sculptures on display and you can get a good view of Pennsylvania Avenue. Mik liked the giant rooster, but he thinks it should be repainted red.


He also really enjoyed the Alexander Calder pieces on display in one of the exhibits on the Terrace level.


Mik also had fun taking this picture of our cousin, Kirsten. He thought this art looked like a tongue and he knew if he asked her to stick her tongue out for a photo she would without question.

We did not have much time to explore the whole museum because Kirsten had to get on the road home, so we kind of bounced around to a few of the different towers and levels to get a general feel of what was on display currently. This did still allow us to experience what I think is the most interesting thing to do at this museum - the elevators.



The elevators vary greatly in size depending on where you are in the museum, although thankfully there are none that are like the tiny one at the National Portrait Gallery. The most fun in the giant elevator in Tower 3, especially if you can get it to yourself, which we did the first and last time we used it. The second time we were on it there were other people and Kirsten said that if there weren't any people in the elevator she could probably do a cartwheel in it. Thus, when we got on it to go back to the ground level to leave and we had it to ourselves I told her now she could do a cartwheel.

video

If you want to experience the terrace you have to go to that level from Tower 1 or 2. These towers both have elevators have a sort of hexagon shape and are quite small, but were still adequate for a wheelchair and probably five people. Tower 2 also has a second elevator near the stairs that is a good size for those that want to access the terrace and not experience the small elevators that can be kind of claustrophobic.


Mik's favorite piece of art was this one that reminds him of the art he has hanging in his room.

Overall it was a fun visit to the museum and Mik wants to go back to see the parts we missed this time.

Destination Info:
National Gallery of Art - East Building 
4th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC

Thursday, January 12, 2017

National Postal Museum


Date of Visit: January 12, 2017

I thought it had been awhile since we visited the National Postal Museum as we probably hadn't gone since moving to D.C. in 2013, but Mik then thought it hadn't been since I went to American University for a semester in 2006. While I definitely have been since then, it really may have been that long ago for him considering it seems we never have posted about it on this blog. Also, last we remember the museum was all on the lower level and the exhibit space on the level you enter apparently has been there since September 2013.

Despite the museum now at least partially existing on the level you enter, it still remains the most awkward of the Smithsonian museums to enter because it also an active post office building, which makes it a government building with security you actually go through versus the Smithsonian museums often just checking bags. While I ignored Mik pointing out the accessible entrance for the actual post office, I did find out that in fact you can go through there to get into the building for the museum, although it seems easier to just use the entrance we always use on 1st Street.


Our focus for this visit was the temporary exhibit "Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks," but we also spent some time exploring the permanent exhibits in the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery since that exhibit space was all new to us, although to some extent it seemed to be just a refresh of exhibits that used to be downstairs. Overall we really liked the area and even enjoyed the interactive parts, although Mik couldn't really use them on his own.


Of course, the "Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks" exhibit did end up being our favorite. The layout was interesting with it having different display cases about the various types of national park units including National Historical Parks, National Seashores, and obviously actual National Parks. We also enjoyed experiencing the old postmaster's suite, which is an area they now use as temporary exhibit space. The interactive part of making your own national park stamp was particularly fun as you even got to crop the photo, but we were disappointed you couldn't email it yourself like you could the stamp collection in the permanent exhibit area.


Destination Info:
National Postal Museum
2 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002

Monday, December 5, 2016

U.S. Botanic Garden: Season's Greetings 2016 - National Parks and Historic Places



Date of Visit: November 24 & December 5, 2016

I misremembered what day we had gone last year and we ended up only seeing the Christmas tree (and Yellowstone model) in the West Gallery on Thanksgiving because there was no way we were going to wait in a line out the door and around the building to see the trains when we've always seen it with no wait and it's crowded enough in the exhibit then.


Today we visited right when it opened and enjoyed it at our own pace without too many other people in the exhibit, although there were quite a few little kids that I kept almost running over because I couldn't see they suddenly got in front of Mik.


We particularly enjoyed the exhibit this year with the theme being National Parks and Historic Places. Mik did not have a favorite this year, but only because he truly liked seeing all the different models representing the places. My favorite was the Grand Canyon National Park display because they featured the train station, which totally fits the model train theme and is also the only way we have ever visited the Grand Canyon.


We enjoyed seeing the models of some of the National Park units we've already visited and other National Parks and historic places we still want to see, such as what we call the other Monticello (the real one...not our home/boat).


Overall this was our favorite Season's Greeting theme, yet, but the tunnel area really disappointed us. They always have a tunnel and in general it is a great feature, especially for kids. However, Mik is always afraid he won't fit under and this year in fact he couldn't. He was still able to mostly see the little scenes by looking in from each end, but it's not the same, especially when it's meant to resemble the drive through tree experience. At least we have actually done that for real.


Destination Info:
United States Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20001

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