runDisney Registration and Race Dates for Late 2017 and 2018 Events

runDisney has posted the dates for the late 2017 and early 2018 events (full list in the runDisney image, below.) Most race dates are pretty much what you would expect (it looks like Marathon weekend is settling right into that first full weekend in January slot instead of later in the month.) There are a couple of milestones, though, including the 25th annivesary of the Walt Disney World Marathon, and the 10th Anniversary of the Princess Half-Marathon, that you might  want to consider (Maybe runDisney will give out a special medal?)

See y’all on the road!

runDisney 2017 and 2018 Events
runDisney 2017 and 2018 Events

Disney World – D23 – A News Nuggets Special Edition

This weekend was D23’s Destination D – Amazing Advenutres event. As you might expect, there was a decent amount of Disney World news that came during this. Here are the highlights:

Pandora – The World of Avatar

I would classify the news concerning Avatarland coming out of D23–especially the announcement of a “Summer 2017” opening–as the most “important” item from the event. Now, obviously “summer” could mean anything from late April through early September, but I’m going to try to be optimistic (remember, Animal Kingdom first opened on April 22).

Satu'li Canteen - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Satu’li Canteen – Artwork courtesy of Disney

Bolstering the opening date announcement, Disney also revealed additional details about the new land, including (i) Satu’li Cantenn (the major restaurant in the land), (ii) Pongu Pongu (a “special drink location”), and (iii) Windtraders (the merchandise location.) What seems pretty clear from the concept art Disney released is that this land–much like the upcoming Star Wars land–is going to maintain its theming throughout the entire land, from the food offerings, to the merchandise offerings, to (I bet) even the way cast members interact with guests (I believe the buzzword is “immersive.”)

Windtraders - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Windtraders – Artwork courtesy of Disney

Robert Niles over at Theme Park Insider also had a write-up of the actual D23 presentation, that included confirmation from James Camerson himself that Na’vi will not be walking around Avatarland, instead limiting their appearances to attractions.

Maybe the most interesting release from the event was this video of a Na’vi animatronic–the “Shaman of Songs”, a key figure in the Na’vi River Journey BOATRIDE:

If the actual animatronics are going to look that good, Avatarland really could be something.

Star Wars

Though the news coming of Avatarland might have more immediate impact on Disney World, Star Wars land also got a minor highlight, including a mention of the attraction that will allow guests to “take controls of the Millennium Falcon” and the release of new piece of artwork showing what the new land will look like at night:

Star Wars Land at Night - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Star Wars Land at Night – Artwork courtesy of Disney
Windtraders – Artwork courtesy of Disney Similar to what happened when Disney released Episode VII, it was also announced that there would be a new Episode VIII theme mission that will be added to Star Tours along with the release of the movie.

Other Items

  • “Major Changes” coming to Epcot – Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek said that Epcot would be going through a “major transformation” in the next couple of years (WDW News Today classified it as “an overhaul“.). Write-ups of the speech all reference his use of the phrases “dream big” and “more Disney, timeless, [and] relevant”, while staying true to Epcot’s “original vision”. At this point, those phrases are more a Disney fan Rorschach test (“relevant means it’s going to be all current IPs!”, “timeless means they’ll be thinking outside of what’s hot now, and doing something that will last”, etc…), than actually revealing about what might happen at Epcot. With so much else going on around Disney World, I’m going to take more of a wait-and-see approach on this one.
  • MagicBand 2 coming to Disney World – This new magic band has been rumored for a few weeks, and involves a removable disc that you can take out of the band and insert in other items (e.g., a necklace.) Ultimately, I’m glad I’ll now have an easy, visual way to know which of my Magic Bands is older, but I don’t really have a lot of excitement (or disappointment) about this. (Check out WDW News Today’s Magic Band 2 gallery if you want to see a metric buttload more photos of the new style of Magic Band.)
  • In-Park Cabanas coming to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. – This news item was not part of the official D23 announcements, but, instead, quickly spread on Twitter. Details are still a little hazy, but it seems like the “cabanas” are $650ish a day “tents” (see here and here) that have AC, seating, television, and the ability to order “room services” (at an additional cost.) As you might imagine, that initial pictures look ridiculous. However, if Disney can somehow offset additional prices increases or staff reductions on the backs of people who want to hang out in a tent and watch tv in the Magic Kingdom, I’m fine with it.

That covers the news from the weekend. If events like this are interesting to you, you might want to take a look at what D23 is offering in 2017. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pongu Pongu - Artwork courtesy of Disney
Pongu Pongu – Artwork courtesy of Disney

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s that time again, time to clear out the (way too long) lisitng of Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! LIke some of the last couple of updates, Disney trips and day job stuff has meant that this list is a little bit longer than previous updates.

Let’s get to it!

We’ll end things with two videos. First, a video from Theme Park Review of the last show of Elyssa’s and my beloved Celebrate the Magic:

and then a video

Disney’s New 4 Park Magic Ticket is an Interesting Option for Shorter Trips

Disney has announced that it is offering a new “4 Park Magic Ticket”. This new ticket is $280 and allows entry into 1 of Disney’s 4 theme parks per day, but–unlike a standard 4 day ticket–only allows entry into each theme park once per ticket. (In other words, the 4 Park Magic ticket allows you to get into Magic Kingdom, the Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom, one time, each.) You save $45 per adult ticket from the standard 4 day, non-park hopper price if you’re willing to accept this additional restriction. It’s also $10 less than a regular 3-day ticket. (All prices, pre-tax.) The ticket is good from Nov. 15, 2016 – May 26, 2017, but has blackout dates of Christmas time and Easter (i.e., Dec. 17, 2016 through Jan. 2, 2017 and April 10-21, 2017.). Other common restrictions such as “use within 14 days of first use”, etc… also apply.

The ticket seems to be marketed to more “price conscious” guest, as it specifically calls out guests in “nearby” hotels and offers packages at “Good Neighbor” (i.e., offsite) hotels.

Families that are planning to travel during this period and are planning on buying 4-day tickets to simply visit each of the 4 parks might want to give this a look. Having an extra hundred-plus dollars in ticket savings could mean the difference between fitting that extra character meal or souvenir into the budget. Also, it might be worth investigating if you were planning on buying a standard 3-day ticket. (Use that extra day to visit the Animal Kingdom at night, grab a drink at Nomad Lounge, and thank me later.) People running one of the runDisney races during the period might also want to see if it fits into their travel plans.

From an analysis perspective, this kind of ticket seems consistent with Disney’s “variable” pricing experiments over the past few years. It provides an incentive for people to visit all of Disney World’s park on vacation, even while some of those parks are under construction. Such efforts remain necessary to distribute guests across the resort. Elyssa and I have seen “mixed” late night attendance at Animal Kingdom since they’ve started the nighttime offerings (frequently it’s empty, but it was somewhat “crowded” during our last visit), and, until Rivers of Light finally debuts, I doubt that will change. Having something like this 4 Park Magic Ticket that encourages people to visit there–and the heavily under construction Studios–seems like an interesting experiment. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

The new 4 Park Magic Ticket is only $70 per day for a limited time and gives one admission to each of the four theme parks on four separate days starting tomorrow, Nov. 15, 2016-May 26, 2017.

Disney to Livestream “Frozen Holiday Wish” Castle Lighting at 6:25PM Tonight

Disney is going to livestream tonight’s “Frozen Holiday Wish” castle lighting tonight. The eaiest way to view the performance is to visit the Disney Park’s blog and look for their new post with the video link. (I’ll try to do my best to update this post, but 6:25pm is kind of a rough time for me to make that update.) Enjoy the show!

UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks blog link, and here’s the video:

Initial Thoughts from Our October 2016 Disney Trip

Our latest trip to Disney World focused around a few major Disney World events: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I’ve learned these past couple of years that having defined things that we want to do lets us feel a little of the time pressure that people who don’t visit as frequently as we do can end up feeling. It makes for an interesting trip. Here are some initial thoughts:

  • The End of Celebrate the Magic:I’ve already written about how much Celebrate the Magic means to Elyssa and me, but seeing the show for the last time was still overwhelmingly emotional for both of us. I have faith that the new projection show will be good, but I doubt we’ll ever have the emotional connection to that new show that we have to this one. It truly will be missed.
  • Kona Cafe (Breakfast): I still love starting a day with a press of Kona Coffee and an order of Tonga Toast. Elyssa almost always ends up with a Big Kahuna (which, again, is a great way to start the day.) We normally get an early ADR, and then head to the Magic Kingdom to watch the Welcome Show. I don’t know if I’d recommend Kona if you want to rope drop Mine Train, but it’s pretty perfect for what we use it for.Breakfast at Kona - Always a Hit
  • Homecoming Florida (Dinner or Drinks): Homecoming is fast becoming one of our favorite spots to grab a drink later at night (in addition to being an excellent dining option for either lunch or dinner.) Fried Chicken, biscuits, and hush puppies aren’t the most “adventurous” of dishes, but Homecoming does them very well. If southern comfort food is something you enjoy, I’d definitely give Homecoming a shot.
  • Animal Kingdom at Night is a (Hidden?) Gem: We now build nights at Animal Kingdom into our trip. An evening Safari, a drink or two at Nomad Lounge, and the Tree of Life Awakenings (which are extremely fun to watch) all make for a really enjoyable night.
  • Seeing Friends is Always Fun: Elyssa and I were fortunate enough to run into world famous podcaster, “Light ‘Em and Hide”, twice including once with a guest appearance by similarly renowned Disney theme park photographer Brandon Glover. Though we didn’t get to meet up with friends of the site, Dutch, Josh, or Eric, I’m sure we’ll run into them again before too long. Name dropping aside, it’s always nice to spend time with people we know from this little hobby of ours. I hope the trend those meet-ups continues.

Over the next week (or two, or three…), I’ll be working some more in-depth coverage of a few of things we did, but here is a little preview:

  • Goofy and Pals Breakfast at the Four Season: Elyssa and I decided to switch things up on the character breakfast front and try something a little different. My (almost) twitter length review: Breakfast was good. It has a little different vibe than standard Disney character meals (fancier?). The food also seemed to be a step up from what you might find at a traditional Disney buffet. The character interactions were superb (and if that’s what you want, I’d recommend making a 10:45am or so reservation, since the place was nearly cleared out by 11:00.).
  • Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party: Halloween is Elyssa’s favorite holiday, so we had been thinking about planning a trip around the halloween party for years. Things finally fell into place this year. We arrived at the party a little before 4 (and used our AP to gain admission.) We ended up meeting Tink, Rapunzel, Tiana, the Seven Dwarfs, and riding Mine Train before the party officially started at 7pm. From then on it was character meet-and-greets, parades, fireworks, and candy. It was a super fun night (Maybe Elyssa and I should do a Mic Drop segment on it??)
    Is there anything left for me?
    Is there anything left for me?
  • Food and Wine: I feel like the stand outs from Food & Wine the past couple of years are either desserts or from the Chew booths (or sometimes, both.) Things like the Liquid Nitro Truffle, or the Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse stand out in my memory more than the duck bun I got from China. At this point, I’d probably be fine attending 1 or 2 mornings mid-week and calling it a Festival.

Overall, it was a pretty great (if not a little jam packed) trip (even with Celebrate coming to and end.)

Celebrate the Memories

It was a day before we left for our current Disney World trip that Disney announced the end of Celebration the Magic. If you’ve been following Elyssa and I for the past few years, you know that Celebrate the Magic holds a special place in our hearts (see, e.g., my first Mighty Men of Mouse podcast appearance and further explanation.) Its uplifting message has become a symbol for us of surviving and overcoming life’s obstacles.

At last I see the light
At last I see the light
We hold hands tightly as the paper lanterns rise on the castle, we smile and laugh as the children around us sing along loudly with Let it Go, and then, when the final segment starts, we shed a tear or two of joy as Pocahontas’s defiant look turns into Carl’s balloon-attached house rising into the air.

Going Up?
Going Up?
For almost three months in 2014, I worried about Elyssa’s health and future. I watched as she struggled to learn to walk (and run) again. On our wedding day, I was so happy that she’d made it that far. It wasn’t until the first night of our honeymoon, though,–when we were standing on Main Street and Celebrate the Magic started–that I finally felt like things were really going to be okay. Even if you didn’t connect with the show itself, just think of some moment in your life that has come to represent something special; that’s what Celebrate the Magic is for us.

I’m glad Elyssa and I were already planning to be down here to say goodbye to one of our favorite shows. Because of our connection with it, it was the list of things we would have had to drive down to see one last time before it ended. Now, we get one more night to celebrate the memories that Celebrate the Magic has given us.

All started with a mouse.
All started with a mouse.

Rivers of Light Dining Packages Page on Disney Website with Possibly Out of Date Information

UPDATE: Disney has now pulled the Rivers of Light dining packages page.

Earlier today, a page for dining packages associated with Rivers of Light went active on Disney’s website. As you can see from this screenshot, there is a date of May 1st listed in the “Know Before You Go” section of the site:

Out of Date Information?
Out of Date Information?

Sites like WDW Magic and WDW News Today are reporting this as confirmation that Rivers of Light’s dining packages will be available starting May 1, 2017. I don’t agree.

Originally, Rivers of Light was supposed to debut on April 22, 2016. I think it’s probably more likely that Disney posted this page that was created to go live when Rivers of Light was supposed to debut earlier this year, and has not yet updated it with the information for when the show is actually going to debut. In other words, I don’t think this listing of “May 1”–without any year–confirms anything. I think it’s more likely the page just got put up prematurely and that the availability date hasn’t been updated yet. (The fact that Tiffins–which is widely suspected to be a package option, but did not open until May 27, 2016–isn’t listed in the “Know Before You Go” section also seems to be in line with this.)

On a related note, I did call Disney Dining to try to make a reservation for the Rivers of Light dining packages and the Cast Member (after talking to her supervisor) said that the option is still listed as “coming soon” in her system and that they have no information about when the option will actually be available.

New Rope Drop [dot] Net Feature – Everyday Carry – John’s Disney Bag

Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed a new navigation option pop up in the menu a few days ago. That was a “soft launch”, but today we’re officially launching a new feature on the site: Everyday Carry – John’s Disney Bag. People who know me are aware of the extent that I iterate over every aspect of my Disney plans, always trying to refine each and every detail. As you might expect, that refinement extends to the bag that I bring with me to the parks pretty much every day.

John's Disney Bag
John’s Disney Bag

This first version of the feature goes directly to my current bag setup. As things evolve (which has a high likelihood of happening in the upcoming months), I anticipate changing the page to more easily view (what will then be) historical versions.

Let me know on Twitter what you think (and what you bring with you to the park!)

The Easiest Way to Calculate Your Disney Timeline: Ask your iPhone

One of the things you’re frequently doing when planning your Disney World trip is calculating dates. (When is 180 days before the first day of my trip? When is 60 days before the first day of my trip?, etc…) Over the years, I’ve tried various options (TouringPlans’s Dashboard, Wolfram Alpha’s Professional Assistant App, and I even wrote my own date calculation program), but none of them were easy as I wanted the process to be. Enter, Siri.

“Hey Siri, what’s 180 days before April 20?”
“It’s Saturday, October 22, 2016.”
Siri Date Example
Siri Date Example

Boom. Done. It’s so simple. Why would I ever bother to do date calculations any other way? (I can also ask Siri to make appointment on my calendar or set a reminder for me, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.)

NOTE: Sadly, my beloved Alexa cannot handle this kind of date calculation (which bummed me out.) Also, Google’s “Ok, Google” assistant seemed to be able to handle the “in the future” calculation (e.g., “What is 60 days from now?”), but couldn’t handle the “days before” type of requests that are so common when doing Disney-related planning (e.g, “What is 60 days before April 20?”). Microsoft’s Cortana cannot do it either, but I don’t know anyone who uses her (except when playing Halo.)

Quick Thoughts on the 2016 Disney Podcast “Awards”

One of the early interviews I conducted on this site was with Brian Perkins, who helped create a set of Disney Podcast awards. I like Brian, so I "reached out" via Twitter when this year's slate of nominees was released under the same banner he used previously. It was not really surprising when he informed me that he did not participate in this year's nomination process, since this year's slate of nomineees clearly was not up to the quality of previous years.

Let me start by saying that I appreciate anyone who is trying to spread the word about Disney podcasts, but I think there is some level of responsibility to do that well. I've tried to do that on this site, and am currently in the process of creating a new version of that directory. As part of that effort, I conducted a survey here on the site (which has more entries than the "panel of 30 people" that apparently did the listing of nominees for this year's "awards"). Though I haven't finished my updated directory, I have reviewed all the submissions, read reviews, etc… and based on my research (which is admittedly influenced by you, my readers), this list of nominees is not reflective of shows that people are currently listening to and enjoying. (In the world of Twitter-dot-COM, I referred to this nominee slate as "hot garbage". As I also said in a follow-up tweet, I am not commenting on any of the specific shows listed in the nominations, I have a problem with the composition of the nominees itself.)

Here is my biggest complaint (and why I can't take this year's awards seriously): I have a mound of data in front of me, where people listed out up to 5 of their favorite podcasts, and 3 of the 4 most popular entries ARE NOT MENTIONED ANYWHERE ON ON THIS SLATE OF NOMINEES. These shows, which clearly be included in any alleged "Best Of" listing are:

There are additional problems I have with the listing ("Modern" Men of Mouse?, Len Testa is a host on WDW Today?), but the main problem I have–as indicated by the data I described above–is that I don't think the shows listed reflect current Disney podcast listening trends. For example, shows that were popular on similar lists in previous years such as WDW Radio and WDW Today received hardly any mentions in this me survey. To me, that indicates that engaged Disney fans aren't listening to those shows as much anymore. The Disney Podcast Awards, however, do not seem to accurately reflect those trends.

Ultimately, I think this issue could be best cleared up by explaining more about the nomination process, the composition of the panel, what the criteria were for each category, etc… Until such time, however, I'm going to disregard these "awards" as things that don't actually have any value as indicators of actual show quality.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

If you’ve been following us on Twitter (including at Elyssa’s new handle!), then you know that the last few weeks have been crazy at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ. Weddings in foreign lands (well, Maine), J O B job stuff getting in the way of site updates, etc…all have conspired to make this a HUGE helping of News Nuggets. I hope you’re hungry (for news)!

First, a quick link in case you pre-order this year’s Unofficial Guide and need to get ir replaced due to the defects: How to Get a Free Replacement 2017 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.

And now, the actual nuggets:

How about we take before we look at more nuggets?

Fall at Disney World!
Fall at Disney World!

Okay…now back to the nuggets…

Here’s a different way to end the post, a video stroll around Castaway Cay from The DIS:

Disney “Princess Collection” on Sale via iTunes

iTunes is currently running a sale called the Disney Princess Collection. There are a variety of books, soundtracks (does anyone not own Frozen?), and apps that could help fill out your library. More importantly, however, is the sale on certain Disney movies (something that is pretty rare on iTunes). The following movies are all marked down to $14.99:

Princess Collection on iTunes
Princess Collection on iTunes

Live Stream Tonight of Disney Fall Offerings at 8:00PM Eastern

The Disney Parks Blog is doing another live stream tonight at 8:00PM. What’s different about this stream, however, is that it’s not dedicated to just 1 event. Instead, it’s supposed to give looks at things like Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party and the Food & Wine festival. I’m interested to see how it works.

Can Disney send me a couple of these to enjoy during the live stream?
Can Disney send me a couple of these to enjoy during the live stream?

Disney D-Tech Cases for iPhone 6 & 6 Plus do Not (Really) Fit iPhone 7 & 7 Plus

UPDATE: Cases specifically designed for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7+ are now available at D-Tech.

If you’re like me, you might have “invested” in one of Disney’s customized D-Tech cases for your smartphone. Unlike in the past when Apple has decided to use the same body design for its updated phones, previous D-Tech cases (i.e., those designed for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (or 6s and 6s Plus) will not really work with the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models. I say “really work”, because it looks like this:

Disney D-Tech iPhone 6 Case on an iPhone 7
Disney D-Tech iPhone 6 Case on an iPhone 7

Since the body size of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 is the same, the case fits the phone, but the camera on the new phone is positioned differently than it was on the iPhone 6. (I thought the problem might be the size of the lens, but it’s actually the lens’ position that causes the issue.) The interesting thing is the camera doesn’t actually seem to be impacted by the weird case over it. Here are 2 pictures of a white wall, 1 taken horizontally and 1 taken vertically, and you can see the only issue is some minor darkness in the the corner covered by the lens.

Horizontal
Horizontal
Vertical
Vertical

That said, having a case cover part of the camera like this looks ridiculous (and I don’t plan on doing it.) (There’s also the issue of the bottom cutout looking funny over the place where the headphone jack used to be. That’s so minor, that I didn’t really even consider it.)

Such a lengthy explanation isn’t necessary for the iPhone 7 Plus models. The dual camera setup on that phone is just too big to fit the existing iPhone 6 Plus case. (I’m sure most people didn’t need me to tell them that.)

So, with that question answer, my next question is: What case, if any, should I get for my new iPhone 7? Let me know on Twitter if you have any suggestions.

Disney Stickers in the iOS Messages App Store!

If you’re the type of person who rushes out to install the latest version of software for your iPhone or iPad that you have probably already installed iOS 10 and have started playing around with the new stickers in iMessage (technically, iMessage is branded “Messages” by Apple, but whatever…)

If you’re reading this site than the first sticker packs you’ll probably want to buy are Disney related. Since the iMessage store can be a little confusing to use to locate them, I’ve provided my favorite, below. Be careful, though, each one of these sticker packs is $1.99.

Have fun sending Kylo, Belle, and Mickey to all your friends!

Disney Stickers for Messages!
Disney Stickers for Messages!

Online Services Aren’t Easy and Disney Does Them Fairly Well

At 3am Eastern today, I–like many a technology geek–was loading and reloading the Apple Store on my existing iPhone in hopes of securing a new iPhone on next Friday’s launch day. The store was supposed to go live at 3:01am, but at 3:08am I was still getting the “check back soon” message that Apple puts up when it’s updating its store. People on Twitter were–justifiably–complaining about how frustrating things were. When I finally got into the store, I received a generic “unable to complete transaction at this time” error on 6 different attempts before my order went through on my phone (during which time I–unnecessarily–went to my computer as a backup, in case I was doing something wrong on my phone). A basic online order that should have probably been completed by 3:04am wrapped up at 3:37am.

When the process was completed, I tweeted about how much the whole experience made me long for Disney’s ADR system. I know there are differences in scale–orders of magnitude differences, probably–but, every day of the year Disney enables its ADR system at exactly 6:00am to allow thousands of people to make their 180-day reservations. Every day. I’ve gone through that process at least 25 times, sometimes making tens of reservations, and it usually works pretty well. The same goes for making new Fastpass+ selections, changing ADRs, and otherwise using My Disney Experience (these days, anyway).

Before you start sending me pictures of your Donald Duck error message (or Stitch in the rain), let me be clear: I am not saying Disney is perfect. I’ve had problems–sometimes very annoying and difficult to correct problems–using Disney’s web services, as I am sure many of you have. What I am trying to say, however, is that making web services which have to support the kind of activity that Disney and Apple receive through their websites and apps is hard. I know that from both my experience as a developer of them and as a consumer of them. Programing at this kind of scale isn’t easy–just ask Apple after last night–, but, overall, Disney does a pretty good job with it.

ASIDE (for people who care): I bought a 128GB Gold iPhone 7. I like a white screen, since it’s easier to find when I leave it on the coach or my dark furniture, and I prefer gold to silver or pink. I chose the in-store pickup option so I can get it first thing in the morning next Friday, and I bought it in the Apple Upgrade Program, since it’s kind of stupid not to.

Capture of Disney's "Server is Busy" Error Message
Capture of Disney’s “Server is Busy” Error Message

STK Orlando – Magical Dining Month Review

Elyssa’s and my trip to Disney World happened to fall during Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. This program is similar to many “restaurant week” type programs, where certain restaurants offer prix fixe dinners at $33 per person from August 29 to October 2, 2016. Participating restaurants on Disney property include Il Mulino, Morimoto Asia, Ravello, Todd English’s bluezoo, and–our selection for dinner–STK Orlando. $1 of each meal is donated to The Russell Home for atypical children.

As has been well documented throughout the Disney blogosphere, STK’s gimmick is a high-end steakhouse mixed with a “club like” atmosphere. (Pro-tip: If you want to fit in with the other guys in “the club”, wear a dress shirt, untucked, with a pair of dark jeans.) Originally, we planned to arrive before the DJ got behind “the 1s and 2s”, but a Florida rainstorm delayed the start of our meal. (For reference, the DJ starts at 6:00pm and progressively turns the music up as the night goes on. It was tolerable for us, if not a little bass heavy, but I wouldn’t wanted to have stayed another hour.)

One item of note before we get into the “meat” of the review (ba dum cha!): our hostess didn’t offer us the Magical Dining Month menu. We had to ask for it. Looking around the restaurant, I didn’t see anyone else that had it. Keep that in mind if you’re planning on taking advantage of this promotion.

As with most restaurant week-style prix fixie offering, the meal consisted of three courses and bread service. The bread at STK is “pull apart” style that comes with blue cheese butter on top and chive oil on the side. This was fantastic (even for Elyssa who only–as someone who is not a blue cheese fan only ate the bottom of pieces.) The chive oil had a nice bit of spice, as well.

STK Bread
STK Bread

We started our actual meal (I say “we” since Elyssa and I ordered the same meal) with what as listed as the Hearts of Romaine salad but differed from the one offered to guests ordering off the regular menu. Ours (shown below) looked more like a traditional salad, while other tables had large leaves of romaine lettuce with dressed dribbled on top and croutons on the side.

Hearts of  Romaine
Hearts of Romaine

The salad was quite good, with a nice flavor to the parmesan-lemon dressing, that went well with fresh peppercorns. The other appetizer options are tomato soup or roasted beets, if the salad doesn’t thrill you.

For our entree, we got the petite filet mignon with “pickled wax beans-almond romesco”. The steak was quite good (I think I prefer a steak from your neighborhood Ruth’s Chris, but it was in the same league as that), and, though the romesco wasn’t particularly flavorful, it complimented the steak nicely.

STK Steak
STK Steak

I don’t really understand going to a steakhouse and ordering something other than steak, but the other entree options were smoked salmon and confit of duck leg.

For dessert, we had the warm chocolate cookie, with chocolate sauce, caramel, and vanilla ice cream. As you can see from the picture below, the cookie they served us was smaller than what Josh had went he reviewed the restaurant a couple of months ago.(Not served in a skillet. 1 star.) The cookie was still fantastic though, and might have been my favorite part of the meal (mostly because I love cookie-based sundaes, not because any of the rest of the meal was particularly bad.)

STK Warm Cookie Sundae
STK Warm Cookie Sundae

The other dessert options are an “orange dream” cheesecake and assort sorbet.

As you might notice, we didn’t order order any sides. Josh’s images depicting 8 bites of potatoes for $10 kept us away. Of course, STK would happily allow you to order their sides from the regular menu even if you are enjoying the Magical Dining Month menu for the rest of your meal. Same goes for their various cocktails (which we also didn’t order, because we planned on hitting up Jock Lindsey’s and Homecoming later that night.) I’ll refer you, again, to Josh’s review for information on those.

Overall, Elyssa and I had a really good meal at STK (and Rebecca G was an excellent server, who provided information about the restaurant and the food as we went along.) I’m perfectly happy paying $66 (plus tax) for what we got (and think it was probably a pretty good value.) That said, I’m not sure STK is for me. As the night wore on, I really started to “feel” the bass of the music, which lessened my overall enjoyment with the experience. If I was paying 2x-3x as much for what I had, that enjoyment factor might mean more than it did when I’m getting a high quality salad, steak and dessert for $33. Since I did only pay $33 per person, though, I give dining at STK during Magical Dining Month a (tepid) thumbs up.

Sunday Night and Monday at Disney – August, 2016

As I mentioned in the last post, one of the goals during this trip was to make smaller updates along the way (instead of waiting to talk about the trip at the very end.) Since we’re going to STK tonight–which means you might never hear from me again–, I figured now would be a good time to post an update.

  • We both really enjoyed the night time Kilimanjaro Safaris. As I mentioned on Twitter, the experience is almost impossible to photograph, but don’t let my crappy photos deter you from giving it a shot. We were lucky enough to see the best lion interactions we’ve ever seen on a safari at Animal Kingdom, and I would still feel like I’m ahead if I rode the ride 10 more times and didn’t see an animal. If you’re at Animal Kingdom at night, I think it’s worth your time to give it a try (and Elyssa would probably even give a stronger recommendation.) That said, if Disney’s only running 1 side of the queue (which I hear is pretty common), you’re going to want to do what you can to get a Fastpass+ reservation. Otherwise, you’re probably going to wait an hour. (We managed to get a Fastpass+ reservation for about 20 minutes in the future after about 3 minutes of refreshing the app around 7:50pm.)
  • The Tree of Life Awakenings are fantastic. I saw 3 different versions, and I enjoyed them all. I especially like the one that featured more “movie type” excerpts, which gave the whole thing a Celebrate the Magic-like feel.
  • Nomad Lounge was pretty much dead from 8:45-10:00 while we were there, but it was a nice, relaxing way to end the day. The Kungaloosh Ale (which almost had Newcastle-like flavors with some added spice) and the Tempting Tigress were both quite good. Elyssa also enjoyed the Hightower Rocks (where the sweetness that covers the alcohol could easily get you sneaky drunk without too much effort.)
    Princess Birthday Breakfast
    Princess Birthday Breakfast
  • The actual breakfast at Akershus is not quite as good as places like Crystal Palace, Tusker House, or Whispering Canyon (it consists of a “hot plate” with eggs, bacon, potato casserole, etc…, and a buffet with pastries and cold cuts.) We had decent princess interactions, seeing Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, and Snow White in the span 50 minutes (though the princesses all came out much later than we thought they would.) We still managed to exit in time to get into Frozen Ever After with only about a 15 minute wait (I’ll probably write about this more later, but you probably want to exit at 8:45-8:50am if you really want to guarantee a low wait. We exited at about 8:55am and ended up merging with the flow of people. I think we got pretty lucky.)
  • I really enjoyed Frozen Ever After. The movement on animatronics–especially Olaf–has to be seen to be believed. It is just so fluid. Elsa’s ice palace scene is also fantastic. For us and our sensibilities, it’s an upgrade over Maelstrom.
    We really liked Frozen Ever After
    We really liked Frozen Ever After
  • Even though we weren’t on the far edge of the Soarin’ screen, we could see some bending of the structures. For us, it was only really noticeable for the Eiffel Tower. That said, the Soarin’ experience is still great. I’ll refrain from any “spoilers” about what’s in it, but I like the new video. (It’s probably blogger bias, but when I first thought about what to write for Soarin, the minimal bending was what came to mind. That’s why that sentence was first, not the part where I explain my overall impression of the ride.)
  • I think Ample Hills is my second favorite ice cream on property (it is probably Elyssa’s first.) I think I still prefer a No Way Jose, but knowing I can get Ample Hills if there are no Beaches & Cream ADRs available is a great fall back. (I know the ice cream itself is probably better than plain ice cream from Beaches & Cream, but I just have so much connection to the No Way Jose, that I can’t pick something else ahead of it.)
    Squad Goals
    Squad Goals
  • After having lunch there on Monday afternoon, I think Via Napoli has moved into a clear 3rd place in the “Disney World restaurant most frequented by the Kivii” rankings. (Whispering Canyon is pretty far out in the lead (since we have stayed at Wilderness Lodge a bunch, and it has breakfast, lunch & dinner options), Beaches & Cream is second place (partially because of stops for No Way Joses), and BOATHOUSE is probably 4th (for now).) The “flexibility” pizza provides is probably one of the reasons we like it so much (we decided to make a last second Ample Hills stop about 45 minutes before Via Napoli, which meant we didn’t eat our entire pizza for lunch. That wasn’t an issue, however, since we were able to take it home and pull it out of the fridge to have for dinner a couple of hours later.)
  • We finished our day by watching the Main Street Electrical Parade. I’m glad I got to see it again before it goes away in a few weeks, but watching it does reinforce that I’m super bummed it’s leaving. Elyssa and I have so many good memories of watching it.
    What are you looking at?
    What are you looking at?

That’s it for this update. Dinner at STK tonight. Wish me luck!

First Evening and Day at Disney World – August, 2016

We’re going to try something different on this trip and try to post some more updates during the trip (in addition to coverage once it’s completed.) Here are some thoughts about the first night and day of the trip:

  • Homecoming turned out to be pretty good (even if I was a little miffed at some of the seating mishaps when we arrived.) The “famous fried” chicken was good, and Elyssa enjoyed her “dinner of sides” (mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and biscuits.) I can think of a couple of local NC places with better fried chicken, but not to the point where I wouldn’t go back to Homecoming. Getting to enjoy the meal with Eric and Kristi certainly helped things, too.(BOATHOUSE is still our top choice, but Homecoming & Morimoto are pretty close to each other in second.)
    Homecoming Friend Chicken
    Homecoming Friend Chicken
  • Kona Cafe breakfast is still fantastic. We had a 7:30AM ADR to load up on Tonga Toast (Elyssa, as always, was a “big kahuna”) before heading over to watch the Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom (which we sometimes forget to enjoy because we’re too amped to get to our first attraction.)
  • Rope drop remains a great way to get a bunch of stuff done as your start your day. (We had a number of our favorite attractions–Buzz, Under the Sea, Jungle Cruise, Pirates–done before 10 am with–essentially–no waiting.
  • When it comes to viewing Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, Josh from easyWDW is not wrong when he recommends standing right near the top of the slope in back of the partner’s statute. I walked to that spot about 30 seconds before the show started and got an (almost) unobstructed view of the whole thing (thanks, random guy with the giant balloon who moved up front for the finale.) It was a great vantage point for a really fun, enjoyable show.
    Let it flow
    Let it flow

Of course, the highlight of our trip so far was getting to meet up with friend of the site, host of Mighty Men of Mouse and all around great guy, Dutch Lombrowski. Dutch took some time out of his night to come join Elyssa and me, ride of Splash, and catch up all various things (that have happened over the 3+ years we’ve known each other.) As an added bonus, always entertaining Gosh Jonzalez joined us for the last hour or so of the night as well. It was great hanging out with both of them.

That’s all for this early trip update. The idea is that we’ll post more soon (but we’ll see how that goes.)

BOATRIDE, baby!
BOATRIDE, baby!
Not a bad squad

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s time for everyone’s favorite serving of Disney World, the Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! There isn’t a lot of particularly juicy news this time, but a few things that I would classify as “transitional” (like the closing of Sum of All Thrills or–essentially–moving all convention space to the Yacht Club.) That said, let’s get to it!

We’ll close out with a video that Disney recently posted of what it’s like to be the eagle at the tail end of the Main Street Electrical parade. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

Back Dropping the Mic on Mighty Men of Mouse

After a (brief?) hiatus, Elyssa and I were back on this week's Mighty Men of Mouse episode with one of our Mic Drop segments. This time we talk about:

(Yeah, it was kind of a downer of a segment.) We also mention some of the tech related articles we had been posting, and my review of the god awful Disney Emoji Blitz.

Thanks for checking it out! We hope you enjoy it!

Rope Drop [dot] Net Interview – Serenity Caldwell

If you listen to podcasts (tech or otherwise), then you’re probably familiar with today’s interviewee, Serenity Caldwell. I think Elyssa and I first heard Serenity on an episode of The Incomparable discussing British television shows, and we’ve been following her work in various media ever since.

After a recent trip to Disney World involved a major life event for Serenity, we reached out to see if she would be interested in being interviewed for the site. Thankfully, she graciously accepted.

 

Rebel Spy? - Picture from Serenity
Rebel Spy? – Picture from Serenity

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: As always, the questions are presented in bold, with Serenity’s answers following. I have made minor edits for readability, but have made every effort not to impact the flow of the conversation.)

After what happened on your most recent trip, Disney World is going to have a major place in the story of your life. Is this a change for you or have you always had strong ties to Disney and its theme parks?

I grew up in southern California, so the Disney fandom has long been strong with my family! We never had annual passes because we lived just too far away from Anaheim to make good use out of them, but we’d usually make two or three Disney excursions a year. Some of my favorite early memories as a kid were at that park — trying to pull King Arthur’s sword out of the stone, riding Mr Toad’s Wild Ride late at night, waiting in line for hours during the debut of the Indiana Jones ride and memorizing the old AT&T decoder card to figure out what the runes on the walls said… and, of course, playing hooky from school with my dad to go ride Space Mountain.

Disneyland will forever be my one true park, but I’ve got a slow-growing fondness for Disney World after some particularly fun and memorable trips—this last one included! I’d wanted to visit Disney World for years, but I didn’t actually set foot there until I was 20, with a college boyfriend who had the same fondness for Disney World as I had for its west-coast sibling. I have him to thank for getting me thoroughly ensconced in the lore and love of WDW: He’d been on some of the fancy WDW backstage tours and provided excellent commentary about the parks and their many attractions as we waited in lines and dodged parades. And he introduced me to the glory — and gut-ache! — of the World Showcase dinner (one piece of food or drink from each pavilion).

Proudly displaying the Happily Ever After Button - Picture from Serenity
Proudly displaying the Happily Ever After Button – Picture from Serenity

How many times since that initial Disney World trip have you been back? How has your anticipation and planning for those trips evolved?

Since that initial trip, I’ve been three times, including our last adventure. The second time was much more whirlwind — only a day or two, and spent largely at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. The third was another two-day adventure, but it came after the FastPass+ revolution, which meant I was introduced to the magic of online scheduling. Once I figured out that you could book not only rides, but food, via the Disney app, I became obsessed.

How's that Grey Stuff taste? - Picture from Serenity
How’s that Grey Stuff taste? – Picture from Serenity

I’ve always used MouseSavers as my baseline guide to all things Disney, but for this last trip, I leaned heavily on Disney’s own resources — the app was where I discovered I could book food experiences at other resort hotels, and we used Disney’s maps and transportation options to heavily plan how we’d jump from park to park. Like my last two WDW trips, this was only a two-day affair, so we had to plan smartly around meals and the like.

People who follow you online know that you had a major life event on your last trip to Disney World. Would you mind sharing what happened and the details around it?

Indeed I did. 🙂 While on our trip to Florida, my boyfriend not-so-subtly set up a lovely proposal, followed by our trip to Disney World!

Funny story: As he tells it, his original plan was to propose to me in the park, incorporating Star Tours — my all-time favorite Disney ride. But when he went to ask my folks for permission and fill his folks in on the plan, both of them rebelled and insisted he do it before we left. (In part, I think, because they wanted to give us a proper congratulatory send-off.) So the official proposal happened on a lovely beach near his dad’s house in Florida the day before Disney; but the “Star Tours proposal that almost was” is how I’ll remember it.

And best of all, we still got to celebrate our engagement at Disney World! We did as many “newly engaged” park activities as possible, including an incredible dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jiko followed by an adorably sweet phone call from Mickey and Minnie wishing us well. (We may have snuck out to the rear patio for some nighttime animal-watching, too, because how can you not when you’re at Animal Kingdom Lodge?)

Best Ride or Bested Ride? - Picture from Serenity
Best Ride or Bested Ride? – Picture from Serenity

Though it might be a little cliche, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t ask such a prominent member of the tech media at least one “tech” question. So, do you have any recommendations for readers of the site for what technology they might be able to use to help with their Disney Vacations?

I’ve been going to Disney parks all my life, but the iPhone era has definitely changed how I pack and plan for trips! After some experimentation, I have a pretty set list of tech to pack and apps to use:

  1. My iPhone 6s + Smart Battery Case (those parks eat battery life!)
  2. My Anker 10,000 battery pack (see point #1)
  3. Disney’s official app (a must for trip planning, fast pass reservations, and dining) (EDITOR’S NOTE: My Disney Experience)
  4. Offline Google Maps caches of the resort property (to save on data and battery)
  5. Heads Up! (Still the best line-waiting iPhone app.)
  6. My Apple Watch for fitness tracking and notifications; it also functions as a great remote Bluetooth shutter for my iPhone’s camera

Your tech needs may vary depending on your own Disney plans, but in general, you want to make sure you have enough battery for navigation, trip planning, and the occasional line-waiting game; a good, easy-to-reach place to grab your phone to capture those magic moments; and any apps you know you’ll want to mess around with while in the park.

I also strongly discourage posting to Instagram, Facebook, and the like while in the park — not only will it drain your battery and your data plan, but you might miss something fantastic while staring at your screen waiting for your photo to upload.

Wrap Up

A huge thank you to Serenity for agreeing to talk with us about Disney World, and a huge congratulations to her on her engagement!. If you want to read more from Serenity, you can find her writings on iMore (her review of the Apple Pencil is a fantastic place to start). If you want to her her talking about technology check out iMore Show and Apple Talk, and, or listen to her chat about pop / geek culture (and an assortment of related topics) at The Incomparable. (If you have any interest in mid-20th century-style radio dramas, check out The Incomparable Radio Theater, which Serenity directed.)

One of the many services offered at the Animal Kingdom - Picture from Serenity
One of the many services offered at the Animal Kingdom – Picture from Serenity
Disney Selfies are the Best Selfies - Picture from Serenity
Disney Selfies are the Best Selfies – Picture from Serenity

 

Thank you again to Serenity chatting with us. We really hope you like these interviews with people outside the standard Disney community, and we hope to bring more of them to you in the future!.