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Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

January 26, 2019

REVIEW: Hamilton at Dr. Phillips Center Orlando


Can I make a confession? I didn't want to like Hamilton. I avoided the entire subject for a long time for a couple of reasons. For starters - I felt that it had taken on too much partisan significance. I knew many Democrats who simply had to go see it for no other reason than the fact that they felt it was the thing for Democrats to do. I also knew Republicans who never wanted to hear mention of it for much the same reason. I didn't want to claim a stake in it as a political statement on any side. Frankly, I'm trying to decrease my exposure to divisive climates, and I was afraid this could be one. 

My other point of hesitation... I have had a lifelong aversion to anything bandwagon-ish. It took me three years to finally cave in and watch The Walking Dead for this very reason, and today it's one of my greatest pop culture obsessions. Well.... that's kind of what happened with Hamilton, too. My daughter was playing, and playing... and playing... (you get the idea) the Hamilton soundtrack, because the bug had already bitten her. I heard "Helpless" one day, and... well... my heart went BOOM! One thing led to another and I listened to practically nothing but the soundtrack over and over... and over... for a few weeks myself. Then I read up on the Hamilton/Burr story again (it's been a while, after all), and I fell deeper down the historical rabbit hole - and then my daughter and I started discussing the stories. Wow! Crazy how that bug grew into a consuming virus, eh? 

Maybe I didn't want to like Hamilton - but I do, and it really doesn't matter which side of the political divide I'm on or how trendy I don't want to be. In fact, after seeing it live, I completely understand the accolades, and I absolutely appreciate the frenzy. Multiple casts are currently touring with the show, and Orlando was treated to the "Philip Cast". I always feel great admiration for stage performers, but this particular show holds extreme expectations, and I was stunned to see just how well they nailed it... every step and every note. The talent on that stage was simply immeasurable, and every bit suitably evolved from the original cast. This is not a show - it's an experience - and one that far exceeds expectation. A Hamilton performance has it all: history, romance, humor, and a soundtrack that makes it far too difficult to sit still. The first show I ever attended at Dr. Phillips Center was I Love Lucy - Live On Stage, and it was also my favorite of all the performances I've attended there - until Hamilton, which legitimately may in fact be the best theatrical show of all time. 

January 19, 2019

REVIEW: Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum - NEW FOR 2019!


Every year seems to bring so many new amusements and original experiences to the Orlando area, and 2019 is shaping up to be no different. Aside from all the theme park updates, we continue to stress that you cannot allow yourself to overlook the expanding options beyond the big three parks. International Drive is continuing its progressive growth with new shops, entertainment, lodging, and dining options - and one that launched like a racehorse straight out of the gate is the Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum. Receiving rave reviews all around, this is a venue that has absolutely earned every ounce of praise it's received.

The background on this one is really quite interesting. It's a surprising location and one that I know well from my days at the now-defunct CSI: The Experience. The Orlando Forum has taken up residence in a building across the street from the CSI building, in what used to be a Ponderosa Steakhouse. I know what you're thinking because I mentally went there, too - a revamped buffet "steakhouse" as a performance venue?? Maybe not such a logical fit at first consideration, but it really works. There wasn't a complete and total level-and-rebuild of the building, and it transformed quite quickly overall. It's opened up to be seamlessly functional in its new purpose, and intimate enough to give the theme of the location a much greater appeal. The vibe is classy - almost like the atmosphere of a wedding reception, and moreso than the traditional dinner show. I wouldn't show up here in my tourist garb after a full day at Magic Kingdom, in other words.

Another notable difference between Rock Dinner Show and area competitors... I often remark about the intrusion factor of a typical dinner show - the servers and guests constantly coming to and fro, consistently in your view, or interrupting the show to peddle up-sell photos, additional drinks, etc. It is probably a combination of the venue's layout, the flawless skills of the staff, and the coordination of the specific show model, but Rock Dinner Show does not present these standard dinner show nuisances - and I love it! The meal service and clean-up were practically ninja-level in nature and wrapped up before the show kicked into gear. There was none of the chintzy money grab photo pitching going on, either - and that was so refreshing. The only "extra" we were advised of was an alcohol add-on. Although you can select from a menu of wine, beer, and liquor selections (prices on par with I-Drive expectations), you can opt for a bracelet that offers unlimited beverages from a slightly narrowed list for less than $30. If you plan to have more than two drinks, this would be a worthwhile option, so keep it in mind!

I've always been of the opinion that you shouldn't go into a dinner show experience expecting the finest standard of food. Behind-the-scenes, as a former dinner show employee, I realize that it is mass-produced, to be blunt (hence the limited menu options), and you have to go into the event feeling that you are there for the show primarily. Of all the Orlando dinner shows (we've been to each venue), Rock Dinner Show absolutely has the BEST quality of food. There is absolutely nothing generic about the menu items, and in no way did we find the food to be lacking in freshness or flavor. Frankly, it tasted every bit as tantalizing as it sounded in its description! In fact, let's take a look at what's on the menu ...


FIRST COURSE: FORUM’S WEDGE SALAD
Crispy lettuce wedge topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta and house brined olives, served with blue cheese buttermilk dressing.

ENTREE SELECTION: SCALLOPINI OF CHICKEN
Parmesan crusted chicken breast with fire roasted tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese, served with creamy Pecorino Romano risotto and Chef’s selection of market fresh vegetables.

ENTREE SELECTION: BRAISED SHORT RIB
Fork tender slow braised short rib of beef seasoned with sea salt and fragrant rosemary, accompanied with truffle mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables and a natural beef broth.

DESSERT: “SWEET EMOTIONS”
Double chocolate mousse filed cupcake topped with a creamy and rich chocolate frosting and chocolate pearls.

Vegan pasta options also available, as well as entree upgrades.

But what about the show? If I'm too be entirely honest, it was a challenge to go into this with no advance potential comparisons in mind. I really had little idea what to expect, but I knew that there was a celebrity impersonator theme to the show. A couple experiences I've had with this type of performance stand out a bit. One of those is a place called Memories Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the other is Mango's - also on I-Drive. Those are both entirely different in scope, and Rock Dinner Show added yet another new layer to my celebrity impersonator experiences. Rock Dinner Show differs from Mango's in many ways. I wouldn't really say one is better or worse than the other - but it depends on what type of experience you seek. As I said before, Rock Dinner Show is more intimate. Rock Dinner Show also does not stray from its focus, whereas Mango's presents a performance event with only bits of impersonator inclusions. It follows the dinner show "model" more than Mango's does, but you still can just visit The Orlando Forum for drinks at their indoor-outdoor bar/patio. Unlike Mango's you won't get the full, direct stage view from that perspective, but it has a more inclusive and inviting feel than other dinner shows... sort of like an in-between venue that takes all the best aspects of everything similar!

Memories in Tennessee did not include a dinner element. It was performance only, set in a theater. One thing that Memories had that I did somewhat expect at Rock Dinner Show was diversity of performers. Unfortunately, this is the one area I was somewhat disappointed in at Rock Dinner Show. When I originally heard of it, it sounded like it would be a journey through the evolution of rock. It was not. It is worth mentioning that performers rotate, so the lineup varies, but thus far the website roster for Rock Dinner Show doesn't show the diversity or span I'd personally appreciate. While the performers were much better than I expected, and every bit fit to their roles, I didn't really find the "rock" in the lineup, or much of an expanse in the timeline represented. My disappointment was in the expectation more than the event, however - and I am hopeful that the show's cast will begin to show more of an array of artists. Certainly, Orlando has a great pool of creative workers to choose from! During out visit, we caught: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Adele, and Prince. Again... all very skilled in their portrayals, but this was a pop show, with each performer offering up three of their most recognizable chart-toppers from a pretty narrow time frame.

But don't just take our word for it - check out Rock Dinner Show at The Orlando Forum for yourself! We've included a brief mashup with segments from the performances (see top of page). As you probably know by now, we do not attend these events with high-profile intrusive equipment, opting to visit and review these experiences as any other guest. While the video is not pro-level, it is a fair representation of the show. Rock Dinner Show takes place seven nights per week, with doors opening at 6:30 PM. Adult admission is $64.95, children 3-12 are $39.95. For more information, or to reserve your spot, visit http://orlando-forum.com/. Don't forget to stick around after the show for selfies and meet-and-greets with the cast!

November 18, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Paradise Coast

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our previous features on Amelia IslandBradenton/Gulf IslandsHistoricCoastTreasure Coast, and Tampa Bay. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 




-OVERVIEW-

Florida’s Paradise Coast – Naples, Marco Island and the Gulf Coast portion of the Everglades – provides travelers an array of holiday and business travel options year-round. Naples is a charming resort city on the coast, offering the ultimate in luxury, fresh local cuisine, great shopping, a thriving arts and culture scene, and much more. Slightly more relaxed than Naples, Marco Island is the largest of Southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, and is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and pristine mangrove estuaries on the other. Visitors to Marco Island can enjoy beautiful, white-sand beaches, fresh seafood and a variety of water activities including backcountry and offshore fishing, boating, and paddling. Located just south of Naples and Marco Island, Everglades National Park is the only subtropical preserve in North America and is part of the largest wetlands ecosystem in the United States, and it is one of 21 World Heritage Sites in the USA. More than 80 percent of Florida’s Paradise Coast, within Collier County, Fla., is dedicated to parks and nature preserves, with much of this area covered by the Everglades ecosystem and its many inhabitants, including hundreds of species of colorful birds, fresh and saltwater fish, alligators, bobcats, Florida black bear and the rare, endangered Florida panther. 

November 2, 2018

REVIEW: Jersey Boys at Dr. Phillips Center


In 1960, a little-known band called The Four Lovers evolved into The Four Seasons - rocketing four men from New Jersey into a stardom so solid that it would cross generations. During a time that produced more than a few endearing quartets, there was something remarkable that distinguished this foursome from the Beach Boys and Beatles of the day - and, for many years, the majority of their fans didn't even realize that it was more than their musical skills that broke the mold... it was their story.

Jersey Boys officially premiered in 2005 at August Wilson Theatre in New York, and on October 30, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning "Best Musical" kicked-off the 2018/2019 Orlando Broadway Series at Dr. Phillips Center.

October 28, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Tampa Bay

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our previous features on Amelia IslandBradenton/Gulf Islands, HistoricCoast, and Treasure Coast. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 


- HIGHLIGHTS FROM ORLANDO'S NEIGHBOR TO THE WEST -


Tampa Bay is experiencing a hotel boom. Two luxury properties -- the five-star, 173-room Tampa EDITION (opening in 2021) and 4-star, 519-room JW Marriott Hotel & Resort (opening in 2020) – are on track for downtown. In 2019, a co-branded Home2Suites and Hampton Inn will grace the Channel District, a few minutes from Port Tampa Bay’s cruise terminals. In trendy West Shore, the Current, a new Marriott Autograph hotel, adds to the area’s waterfront luxury. New in 2018, AC Hotel by Marriott opened in the heart of the West Shore District, and the Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas offers waterfront boutique features minutes from the airport.   

New in 2018, food halls bring a dynamic vibe to historic Tampa Heights. Sample mouth-watering fare at Hall on Franklin or at Heights Public Market located inside the fully restored Armature Works, both iconic buildings reborn as stylish, modern venues.  In Seminole Heights, Chef Farrell Alvarez brings his exciting culinary vision to new in 2018 Nebraska Mini-Mart, a funky hangout with great food and shuffleboard. Waterfront dining grows with new in 2018 seafood-focused Blue Harbour. Our favorite eateries imbue their menus with local flavor are La Segunda Central Bakery, Oxford Exchange, and the Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant.  

October 21, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover the Treasure Coast

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. You can also check out the previously published features on Amelia IslandBradenton Gulf Islands, and Florida's Historic CoastPlease note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference.


-OVERVIEW-

Situated along Florida’s Treasure Coast on the Atlantic Ocean, the communities of Vero Beach, Sebastian and Fellsmere are the geographical starting point for the Florida tropics, with winter temperatures rarely dipping below 70° (21°C). The county is centrally located 70 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center and 135 miles north of Miami. The destination resides at the intersection of green and glamorous, with 100,000 conservation acres, 26 miles of pristine beaches and a treasure trove of cultural attractions. Hotels and resorts with rooftops no higher than swaying palm trees support the destination’s motto “Sunrises, not High Rises.” 

October 14, 2018

REVIEW: Terror at the Inn - Holiday Inn Orlando Suites & Waterpark



We have some of the coolest hotels here in Orlando, don't we? In October of 2010, we gathered the whole clan for a weekend-long birthday event at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort. It was one of the most memorable family celebrations we've had, and we were all quite impressed with the expansive, useful space, as well as the associated amenities. Eight years later, that same birthday boy returned to this location to enjoy another event with me - Terror at the Inn! A lot has changed, including the ownership of the resort, but we still found a brilliant use of space tucked away in a central area of the theme park corridor.. even more so, in fact - with the creation of this all-original, family-friendly attraction spookily suitable for the Halloween season! Best of all, Terror at the Inn is open to the public, so you can visit the attraction even if you are not a registered hotel guest.

Terror at the Inn consists of a haunted house, 4D movie experience, and more. The haunted house is themed around the curse of an Egyptian crypt. It is devoid of gore and disturbing scenes, making it suitable for younger guests who likely find events like Halloween Horror Nights to be too intense. There are well-conceived scenes routed cleverly in a winding pathway lined with a smart mix of both animatronic and live-actor encounters - providing genuine jump scares without the terrors that may be a bit much for more squeamish guests. I am an easy target in haunted houses, but my son is not. Once I made him go ahead of me in the house for a span, I was amused to see him startled a time or two, so the efforts were effective by non-chicken standards, too! The overall quality of the house was frankly surprising, and the length was more than fair. Definitely one to recommend, and now I will admit that I was not going into this expecting to be impressed! Halloween attractions are very easy to go cheesy... but this one had substance and effort - undoubtedly.


Your Terror at the Inn ticket also includes a visit to the in-house theater for the Panic House 4D experience. This immersive cinematic experience provides a haunted house tour from another, sensory perspective... with a few surprises that you wouldn't expect to encounter from the safe comfort of a movie theater seat. You may have escaped one haunted house during this visit - now you've tempted fate with a second harrowing exploration!

After all these tests of courage, you deserve a reward - and lucky for you, your admission includes 20% off the Lakeside Café, Hideaway Lounge, Club Candy, and Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop! These are located in the Marketplace area, just beyond the haunted house and 4D theater. Grab a snack and a drink before testing your skills at the carnivalesque midway area for prizes (and bragging rights). Don't miss all the great photo ops along the way, and keep your eyes peeled for roaming characters, too! Now through October 31, Terror at the Inn is open select weekdays from 6pm-10pm, and 6pm-11pm on Friday and Saturday. Admission is just $19.95, with $5 discount available to military personnel, first responders, and Florida/Georgia residents. Parking is complimentary. For more information, visit terrorattheinn.com


REVIEW: UNDead in the Water - Tampa Bay


Thanks to the resurgence in mainstream popularity of zombie culture, the apocalypse is a topic we're able to ponder from a sort of "fantasy" slant. After all, the rise of the undead for a human harvest couldn't really become a realistic event... right?

But, what if...

Work with me here. Even if you haven't considered your survival plan in the case of a zombie apocalypse, haven't we all had a moment to wonder where we would go and what we would do if an apocalyptic event were to unfold? Let's face it - we Floridians have emergency plans embedded in our brains thanks to hurricanes anyway, so maybe it's not a huge leap to throw the potential for flesh-eating monsters into the mix - just in case. (Right about now, you are raising an eyebrow at me, but let me profess - I actually took a course through UC Irvine: 'Survival Lessons From The Walking Dead'... it's a thing, people! But I digress...)

It just so happens - in the case of a zombie apocalypse, those lucky folks near Tampa's Channelside District have a pretty nifty escape option... the American Victory Ship!

October 8, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover The Historic Coast

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our previous features on Amelia Island and Bradenton/Gulf Islands. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 


-OVERVIEW-

Promising “Culture Around Every Corner”, Florida’s Historic Coast is represented by St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and 42 miles of Atlantic Beaches in St. Johns County - nestled midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. Among the area's many claims to fame, it is the first continuously occupied European settlement, a military outpost, the first port, a key Civil Rights location, a beach resort area, and generally a hub of "arts, culture and heritage". For more than 450 years, Florida's Historic Coast has been widely acknowledged as a valuable and worthy destination appealing to an array of interests and vacation styles. Some of the region's recent acknowledgements include: USA Today 10 Best - Top 10 Attractions in Florida (January 2018), US News & World Report - Top 50 Most Romantic Places in the World  (December 2017), AARP - Nights of Lights #1, 10 Top Holiday Light Displays in the US  (December 2017), Jetsetter Magazine - 9 Cutest Small Towns in America (May 2017), Money Magazine – number 1 Best in Travel for destinations that deliver the most value for your dollar (March 2017),  and TripAdvisor - St. Augustine Beach a Top 10 U.S. Beach three years in a row (2015-2017).

September 29, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Bradenton Gulf Islands

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy this second feature segment - on Bradenton Gulf Islands or refer to the first feature - spotlighting Amelia IslandPlease note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference.


-OVERVIEW-

The Bradenton/Anna Maria Island/Longboat Key area is located on Florida’s west coast between St. Petersburg and Sarasota. It is bordered on the north by Tampa Bay, and to the west by the Gulf of Mexico. Recent rewards and accolades include: Top 10 Island Beaches for Perfect Sand, Conde Nast Traveler: Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island; Ten Best Little Beach Town in Florida, Coastal Living:   Anna Maria Island; Best Beach for Families, Family Vacation Critic /Trip Advisor: Manatee County Beach; Top 30 Island in the World, Conde Nast Traveler: Anna Maria Island; Top 25 Happiest Cities in the US, National Geographic: Bradenton.

September 23, 2018

Tour of Florida - Discover Amelia Island

Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual "tour" of Florida. These articles will be released in a series - each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we're featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our very first feature on Amelia Island. Please note - information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor's Conference. 


-OVERVIEW-

Amelia is 13 miles long and two miles wide, with preserved park lands at its northern and southern tipsmaking up nearly 10% of the entire island... Amelia Island is edged with natural Appalachian quartz beaches and framed by sand dunes as high as 40 feet. Amelia Island is consistently ranked among the best of the best, including: one of the Top Beaches in Florida (USA Today, 2017), the No. 4 Happiest Seaside Town (Coastal Living, 2017), one of the South’s Best Small Towns (Southern Living, 2016), and seven consecutive years among the Top 10 U.S. Islands (Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards). 

September 16, 2018

Conquering Generation Gaps With David and Jonah Stillman


I've been to my fair share of conferences and business seminars. While I won't go so far as to invalidate them, I don't usually find the level of value I expect or desire from the presentations by public speakers, panelists, and the like. One may be a bit too basic in its content for my current level of ability, while another will be a bit over my head and beyond the scope of my role. I always loathe discovering that I've locked myself into a blatant sales pitch, and who doesn't dread the droning speaker with absolutely no aim, point, or effort in delivery? Truth be told, picking an education track or attending a keynote sometimes feels like a risky gamble with intimidating odds. Then, along came the Stillmans...

June 10, 2018

REVIEW: MegaCon 2018 - Recap, Roundup Tips & MORE

Click Any Image For Full Size
MegaCon truly is like Christmas for a great many of us. I watch an increasing number of friends, family, and acquaintances getting anxiously prepped for the fandom extravaganza each year, and I can genuinely say that the enthusiasm that swirls around it is at least equivalent to the excited frenzy that one may notice for the arrival of Santa Claus, or other such annual icons. Yes... it's like that, and every year it seems to get a little better - slowly evolving into the perfect geeky beast.

MegaCon remains one of the few events that my kids and I can all benefit from, although we do tend to split up for our own individually-tailored adventures once we arrive. This is the primary reason MegaCon appeals so much... it's very inclusive. Conventions have become a frequent occurrence in the Central Florida area, but MegaCon is one of the few that gives equal attention to all things fandom. I can benefit from the event just as much as my son - even though I haven't followed anything anime in the last ten years - and my son has all but lost interest in television serials. My daughter (whose greatest passion is shopping), considers this to be the most worthy occasion for spending, so she has her own method for MegaCon enjoyment.

While Tony and Sierra focus heavily on the things they know best, my approach is always broad exploration and discovery! So, how did we fare at MegaCon 2018?

June 3, 2018

REVIEW: B Resort & Spa - A Disney Springs Resort Hotel


Every year, we feature a few select recommendations for your Central Florida summer vacation. In our case, this is typically a staycation, of course... and we have had a few firsthand experiences with the Disney Springs Resort Hotels - which never fail to impress. This time around, we're spotlighting the B Resort & Spa!


The B Resort features 394 guest rooms and suites. Select rooms include bunk beds, kitchenettes, and/or wet bars; and all rooms feature exquisitely comfortable beds, 47" HD LCD TVs, Aveda bath products, in-room safes, iron/ironing board, mini-fridge, and ultra-modern power hubs with USB, HDMI and international outlet plug-ins to keep everyone connected (this goes well with the FREE WiFi throughout the resort). Compared to many area hotels, B Resort has an impressive selection of television channels and media options. Even the most basic rooms are spacious, sleek and inviting. The bathrooms feature dazzling, top-of-the-line elements and exceptional accommodation for cleanup after the parks before a night out, or a relaxing extended soak in the jacuzzi tub. These rooms are so comfortable that you'll need a little added motivation to make your way to the nearby Disney parks (and if your room is properly positioned, your fireworks view will make being there even more appealing as night falls)!


That extra motivation may come in the form of the Disney-styled amenities you'll receive... even though you smartly avoided the Disney resort price tag! As a B Resort guest, you can take advantage of the complimentary shuttle to all Walt Disney World® Theme Parks and Disney Springs™ as well as Disney's Extra Magic Hours!


Believe it or not, some people do come to Orlando without spending every waking moment in a theme park. If you want to take advantage of a little vacation on your vacation, you'll appreciate the B Resort's zero-entry pool, B Indulged® by AVEDA full-service spa, and the benefit of preferred tee times at Disney championship golf courses. Children are sure to love the Kids' Zone - a great place for games, movies, and socializing. In-room dining, the quick service "Pick-Up", and American Kitchen Bar & Grill offer a diverse array of reasonably priced dining options on-property to appease every palate. Sure - you're technically at the Walt Disney World Resort, but if you're smart enough to realize that not everything you do or buy needs to happen within the park gates, you'll find treasures and experiences of equivalent quality at a much less dramatic cost right at your resort.

The Disney Springs Resort Hotels are regularly offering fantastic specials to cut costs even further. Why not extend your stay by a day or two with the money you'll save - and make sure you plan time to take full advantage of the resort itself. This one is the kind you'll want to return to year after year!

Highlights: Views were stellar - staff very helpful, attentive, and pleasant - lobby smells AMAZING!
Drawbacks: Parking is a bit convoluted here, and there is a fee for self-parking that isn't much less than the valet cost. 

May 13, 2018

REVIEW: (Medieval) Times They Are A-Changin'



It's been a while since we visited the castle... you know the one - the one standing alongside its  Medieval Village in Kissimmee? It's an icon... a well-known tribute to an era seemingly frozen in time within its mighty walls; and recently, it quietly became a symbolic monument to societal change. Quietly - until you play witness to the show inside!

The flagship Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament opened in 1983. The timeless, beloved tale of battles and romance in the quest for the princess and kingdom unfolded under the watchful eyes of the powerful king for 34 years. This year, that has all changed as Queen Doña Maria Isabella has officially taken the throne following the "death" of the king.

While it seems to be an incredibly relevant time for such a change in regime, the political and social climate whirling around #MeToo, and rejuvenated analyses of gender equality aren't responsible for some frenzied, obligatory rewrite of the Medieval Times performance. These changes have been in the works for a couple of years as a result of guest feedback and certainly just an acknowledgment of the need for something new.

April 8, 2018

REVIEW - World of Beer Downtown Orlando


Founded in 2007, World of Beer is a cornucopia of craft beer, spirits, original eats, and fun! Featuring more than 350 bottled beers and 50 taps from over 40 countries, there is no room to wonder about the origins of the name, but there's a lot more to enjoy here beyond the beer.


We recently attended a media event at World of Beer's Downtown Orlando location to experience a new combination of beer and food pairings, and to soak in the result of extensive outdoor and indoor renovations to the enviable space. Some of the new features include interior flooring and furniture upgrades as well as outdoor entertainment elements like new TVs, interactive games, and a pet-friendly patio area along the banks of Lake Eola. New spaces for entertainment and private meetings are also fostering the opportunity for unique new events.

March 31, 2018

GUEST POST - Top Villas Guide to the Best Restaurants in Disney World for Every Type of Budget


Provided by: Craig Gilhooly - Top Villas

When planning a Disney vacation, there's plenty of things to consider including accommodation, attraction tickets, where to eat and transportation. Disney World is known to have a wide selection of restaurants that it can be a hard choice on where to dine. With this guide, Top Villas put together a list of the best restaurants in Disney World for every type of budget.

Magic Kingdom Park - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Hollywood Studios

February 25, 2018

REVIEW: Nikon School Photography Classes


Recently, I was lucky enough to experience Nikon's traveling photography school during its stop in Orlando. The class series runs over the course of four days, but each class is priced, scheduled, and themed individually - ranging from a few hours to all-day. I found the "Elements of Photography" course to be the most inclusive, and probably the best option for an amateur seeking a well-rounded foundation of skills to build on. This course is broken up into four topical sections (exposure, control, light, and creativity), presented over the span of seven hours with a lunch break. 


The class I attended was led cooperatively by Reed Hoffman and Michael Schwarz. Their decades of diverse experiences really combined to make for an intriguing blend of techniques, tips, and knowledge.The facts and suggestions that formed the course content were a balance of creative personal passion and fine-tuned technique - presented in a way that made sense and drew interest. I did get the distinct impression that many of my fellow students had at least a fair amount more experience than I did, and at first that was slightly intimidating. However, Michael and Reed were able to craft their delivery in a way that encompassed definition for the less-experienced while also including the trial and error methods for success that more seasoned photogs were sure to appreciate. Throughout their lectures, they shared examples of their own work that put the lessons into perspective. THIS was the specific approach that spoke to me, and it helped me to comprehend some basic terms and skills that I've struggled to grasp. They regularly referred to the balance of creativity and technicality that makes for good photography, and their presentation of the course was the most brilliant example of that perfect combination.


Nikon's official description of the course provides the following topical outline: 
  • Exposure—ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed—how to get a proper exposure and be more creative
  • Taking control of your camera—understanding what all of the modes and settings are used for in order to take photos and make them more unique
  • Managing autofocus to your advantage
  • Understand the quality of light—learning how to modify light and use a camera’s built-in flash or an accessory flash to take well-lit photos
  • Workflow basics—shooting JPEG vs. NEF, basic editing using Capture NX-D software
  • Sharing your images via built-in Wi-Fi or by using Nikon’s Wireless Mobile Adapters
  • Fundamentals of shooting video
  • Explore creative types of photographs—High Dynamic Range photos, Time-Lapse, Night Photography, Light Painting, Underwater pictures, Close Ups, Black & White and more.

...But that really is a very basic summary! I had a couple of concerns going into the class. For starters, I was worried that the quality of the information would be minimal. So many topics were covered in ultimately a short frame of time. That raises the concern that crucial details would be lost to the rush. Surprisingly, this wasn't the case. While I won't say that a total novice will walk out of here ready to sell a million dollar photo to National Geographic, a person with a reasonable understanding of photography and an eye for a good shot can certainly get a great foundation of knowledge that Google searches and discussion forums can subsidize! (Speaking of - there is an official Facebook group for Nikon School students - wonderful resource, and the instructors remain active here as well!) This course provides you a starting point to build from, and the motivation to practice. My second concern was that this would essentially be an extended Nikon infomercial with little value beyond a sales pitch. Well, if you think about it... Nikon is already a well-regarded name. Do they really need to waste effort on such an oddly-veiled tactic for no other purpose than a traveling commercial? Of course, Nikon products were the basis of the examples, and this makes good sense for many reasons, but the knowledge and tips that were shared applied to photography in general. There wasn't a blatant, cheesy pitch interwoven through the entire course, and the focus genuinely was on the skill of photography. Personally, I found this to be refreshingly endearing.


As far as my overall take-aways from the course... I have often been told that I have a good eye for photography. My skills are "okay", but I rely heavily on having a cooperative canvas. Toss a curve ball my way, and I'm likely to be sunk. I photograph a very diverse range of scenes - personally, for my "day job" as a marketer, and for this website. I can rarely afford to be stymied by a challenge, because I encounter far too many of those! Many situations I am tasked with photographing are one-time opportunities, and I am devastated when I can't get it right. I'm ashamed to admit that I've had a decent camera for a while, but I always set everything to auto and let it fly. This left a lot to chance, and many times, I found myself disappointed in the result. I'm anxious to explore camera settings a bit more, now that I have a grasp on what they mean. I am particularly interested in photographing sunrise and sunset scenes, so I've looked up the best places to find them locally, and a range of suggestions on settings to use (including those obtained in our class discussion). I'm creating a photo schedule to test out my newly-learned skills in these and other settings and situations... and I'll be trying it all out on a camera that Nikon is kindly loaning me. I see some very interesting pictorials in our future - and just in time for some stellar upcoming events! In the interim, I was out this weekend when I stumbled upon a small carnival. All I had with me was my mobile device, but it does allow for some ISO and aperture settings. So, I took just a quick moment to snap a picture of a very vibrant piece of one of the rides. First, I took one as I usually would - auto all the way:


Then, I spent two quick seconds making a simple adjustment or two based on what I learned in class, and I tried taking that very same shot again:


Not a flawlessly perfect image, but the difference is clear - and before this class, I never would have known how to do it! 

If you have the option to attend a Nikon School course, I highly suggest you do so. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of experience, you have plenty to gain from these courses. The instructors have a vast array of knowledge they are only too happy to share. For personal or professional tweaking, this opportunity is every photog's dream.

December 28, 2017

REVIEW: Titanic Gala Dinner Event

Photo: Titanic The Artifact Exhibition
All aboard for a one-of-a-kind experience as you set sail to cross the North Atlantic on the world's most luxurious ocean liner. She's been called the 'Ship of Dreams', but her name is Titanic. You can find this fabled vessel in one of the last places you may expect... on Orlando's International Drive.


Titanic The Artifact Exhibition is a year-round attraction that serves as a clever combination museum-show experience. Guests have the option of a self-led tour, or a guided tour with an authentically tailored period character through the series of recreated scenes and hundreds of artifacts. And, if you really want to make it a first-class experience, jump into your mental time machine for the Titanic Gala Dinner Event!

November 26, 2017

REVIEW: Christmas at Gaylord Palms 2017


2017 marks the 15th season of Gaylord Palms Resort's holiday spectacle, ICE! - and the first year to feature "Christmas Around the World". This brilliantly inspiring theme spotlights a cascade of global tradition and culture in vibrantly colored, hand-carved ice scenes and sculptures (more than two million pounds worth, to be specific).

But, I may be putting the cart before the horse here. You see, ICE! is merely a portion of what Gaylord Palms has to offer for the holiday season... the tip of the iceberg, you could say. There is a lot more to Christmas at Gaylord Palms than the nine-degree anti-Floridian tundra takeover known as ICE! This event is a genuine festival of merriment that rivals any other holiday extravaganza in the Orlando area; with a slew of opportunities for celebration.