Postcard From The Grand Opening of Disney's New Fantasyland
Walt Disney World
I went here to: Cover the grand opening of the New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, catch the Christmas version of the Wishes fireworks and see if I could spot any celebrities among the Mouseketeers.
I stayed at: The new Art of Animation resort. I stayed in the Cars wing, which is themed around the Pixar film. I felt like I was in the movie, actually staying at the Cozy Cone Motel. Maybe it was the neon that blazes to life after dark or the traffic cone lamps in my room, but I actually felt like I was staying in a small motel somewhere on Route 66. Well played, Imagineers, well played.
The best thing I ate was: The Tonga Toast at the Kona Cafe in the Polynesian resort. It's the breakfast of theme park champions -- a massive slab of sourdough bread stuffed with bananas, deep fried, covered in cinnamon sugar and bathed in syrup. My friend Walt actually ate 2 orders of Tonga Toast that morning. He is my hero.
When I travel here, I always eat at: Raglan Road at Downtown Disney. This Irish pub/restaurant may not be the small, dark, neighborhood haunt you find in parts of Ireland, but it certainly has all of the charm. A bit loud with high ceilings and the ability to seat many tourists, Raglan Road has it where it counts: The Irish bistro-style cuisine by master chef Kevin Dundon is astoundingly good and the live Irish music and step dancers make you wish the night would never end.
I wish I hadn't: Eaten at the Art of Animation food court. Don't get me wrong, it's probably the best food court on Disney property, but my choice of supermarket-grade sushi, a bag of chips and 3 milks cost more than the chili-marinated flat-iron steak I had planned to order at The Wave restaurant earlier that night.
Be sure to pack: Your phone charger. If I had, I wouldn't have crossed up my reservations and missed out on dinner at The Wave. The lingering taste of barbecue chips crossed with sushi will forever remind me of this basic packing tip.
Don't miss: The Be Our Guest restaurant in the New Fantasyland. Sure, the food is good, but the theming and creativity of the design will make you swear you just stepped into a scene from Beauty and the Beast. Watch for the snow falling outside the windows in the grand ballroom.
Next time I will definitely: Spend part of an afternoon soaking up the atmosphere in the New Fantasyland. Groves of shade trees and low rock walls in the shadow of Beast's castle make for a perfect people-watching spot.