Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘theme parks’

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 6, 2017

We visited Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and set out to explore the world of Avatar. Our entrance into this magical land took us past a lounge that looked inviting.

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We skipped the new rides, not having fast passes and not caring to wait two hours in the standby line. It was delightful to stroll around and view the amazing flora and fauna. Disney did a wonderful job making you feel you’re on an alien planet.

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Mountains rise in the distance, past this floating masterpiece, while musicians welcome visitors to their land.

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Hungered by our journey, we entered the canteen where healthful choices tempted us. I had the chicken bowl with rice and vegetable slaw. Others in our party had cheeseburger pods or vegetable curry pods. My non-alcoholic drink, a Pandoran Sunrise, was green and tasted like melon juice.

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Inside the gift shop, you can buy all sorts of theme-related wares. It was fun to browse although we left with our wallets intact.

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It took us a couple of hours to stroll around. If you go on the rides, allow more time. You’ll still have the rest of the day free to explore the Animal Kingdom. I love the lush greenery of this theme park anyway, and the new addition adds to the allure.

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Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Magic Kingdom Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 3, 2016

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida represents family outings and celebrations. My husband and I went there after we got engaged. We went there again to celebrate when I’d sold my first book. This sale culminated a long, hard struggle as I wrote six books before selling a three-book contract to Dorchester. My first published title, Circle of Light, sold about the same time The Lion King came out. Every time I heard “Circle of Life” playing, it reminded me of my book with a sense of joy and wonder that my career had finally taken off. And since Circle of Light, winner of the HOLT Medallion, was a scifi romance, Tomorrowland was a particular favorite of mine. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the movie by that name. We’ve returned to Disney World every year, often several times, from when our children were babies to now with them as adults. We have annual passes and still enjoy the beautiful landscaping, the happy ambiance, and the place where dreams can come true.

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We went on It’s A Small World and People Mover rides this time. It was too hot for waiting in lines. Lunch was at the Colombia Harbour House opposite the Haunted Mansion. I had a hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw sandwich.

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As we strolled back to Main Street, we came upon a delightful entertainment:

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The Magic Kingdom is still a magical experience. I’m hoping the family memories we create there will pass on to the next generation.


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Star Wars at Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 28, 2015

We spent Christmas Day at the movies as is our tradition. This year, we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Disney’s Dine-In Movie Theater. I love this experience where you lounge in comfy seats, order a meal, and dine during the film showing on a big screen.

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As for the movie, I loved it. It has action-packed scenes and emotional resonance similar to the original film that started it all. The new characters are complex and engage your interest right away, while seeing familiar faces brings you back to an earlier era when the same universe fired your imagination. It appeals to both old and new fans and satisfies both. Surprise plot twists will startle you even if you thought you saw them coming. As for the final scene, all I could say was, “How can they end it NOW?” We breathlessly await the sequel to see if it will bring another reveal. Meanwhile, I’m ready to pre-order this DVD.

After the movie, we strolled along the west end of Disney Springs amid the Christmas Day crowds, crossed the bridge and headed for a glimpse of the new Hangar Bar. This themed lounge is very small so be prepared to wait for a seat.

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We passed by the Boatyard, a popular restaurant which we’d tried before. It’s next to a landing where you can rent an amphibious car to cruise the lake. We went over to Morimoto Asia instead for drinks and appetizers. I had the sake sangria and an order of steamed dumplings. Reservations are suggested for a seat in the dining room. Otherwise, you can sit in the bar area and order food.

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The mobs of people discouraged us from exploring further changes at Disney Springs, so we headed home.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 21, 2015

We took a stroll this past weekend around Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. It was already mobbed when we got there around ten o’clock. Up ahead, the main stage heralded “Frozen” along with signs from every direction.

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We veered left, past the Theater that now holds a Frozen Sing-Along show. Jedi action was in full swing at Star Tours, with little kids learning light-saber fighting skills on a stage front and center. Having been on the ride before, we dipped into the shop to see what was new. Merchandising for Disney’s Star Wars acquisition is evident throughout the park. You can even buy a Jedi robe for a Halloween costume. I resisted the urge, however, and moved on toward the backstage sets. We like the Writer’s Stop, where you can buy coffee or a snack and check out the books and videos for sale in a cozy atmosphere. Both stunt shows are still viable, Indiana Jones and the race cars. But the Backstage Studio Lot Tour is closed. The attendant said it will be torn down for a new attraction. The park will be renamed as well. Meanwhile, The Great Movie Ride supposedly has new narration and scenes added to the finale movie clip. I wish they’d updated some of the sequences in the ride itself, but I suppose it retains classic value.

We ate lunch at the 50’s Prime Time Café, which is always fun. The menu is mostly dinner-type choices with not a sandwich in sight. I had fried chicken with mashed potatoes. My husband had chicken pot pie that wasn’t baked in a crust but had a flaky pastry on top. As before, the waitress admonished us “children” to eat our vegetables.

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Over by Tower of Terror, it got even more crowded. Dark clouds scudded overhead. Sensing a thunderstorm about to invade, we hustled to our car. We’d had our morning walk, indulged in a hearty lunch, and were ready to return to our condo for a nap.

 

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Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 12, 2011

My husband and I are Disney addicts. Every so often, we have to get our fix of Mickey Mouse or Living with the Land ride or Star Tours at Walt Disney World. This past weekend, we visited the Magic Kingdom and turned right past Main Street toward Tomorrowland. We headed to our favorite attraction, the Carousel of Progress.

I suspect this is the oldest attraction in the park, originally appearing in the old World’s Fair. The revolving showroom takes you on a twenty minute experience into the past, beginning in the early 1900’s, to look at man’s progress over time. I love how the people of each era thought their time was the best. Family dynamics change along with technology until we reach the modern age and beyond.

Also in Tomorrowland, we boarded the People Mover, a sedate ride on an open-air tram. It whisks you around an elevated track so you get a glimpse of the various pavilions to visit later.

You can have the thrill rides; we’ve done them all and don’t need to experience them again.

Over by Fantasyland, past the race cars, we stopped opposite the old-fashioned carousel to view the placards announcing upcoming additions. I’m excited for the new changes! Here’s what to expect:

Map of Fantasyland Additions

Be Our Guest Restaurant

Castle under construction

Mural Showing Changes

Another view of construction area

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Tales with Belle

I can’t wait to try the new restaurant when it opens.

Oops, then it started to rain and we left. We didn’t get to go into the Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean or any of the other attractions we like. But we have annual passes, so we can easily return.

Are you a Disney fan? What’s your favorite attraction in the Magic Kingdom?

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Flower Power

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 2, 2011

We visited Epcot at Disney World this past weekend and I didn’t realize their Flower festival was underway until I noticed displays of topiary art and patterned flower beds in abundance. The landscaping at Disney always amazes me. It’s perfect in every aspect: well-shaped, no bugs, freshly mulched, bright blooms and glossy leaves. I suspect an army of gardeners come out at night to perform maintenance.

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We saw some truly awesome displays as we strolled to World Showcase and around to lunch at Les Chefs de France. Here, in a white clothed elegant restaurant, we ordered the chicken and mushroom crepe. Let me warn you that these huge portions are big enough to share. Our daughter got the prix fixe menu and started with French onion soup, macaroni baked with special cheeses, and a puff pastry with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

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Well stuffed, we strode around the other end of World Showcase, stopping at one of my favorites attractions, the Maelstrom ride. This ride inspired my paranormal romance series, but more on that another time. We stopped into the Land pavilion further along for another favorite, the Living with the Land ride. I am always astounded by the bountiful fruits and vegetables that they grow in their hydroponic gardens. Why can’t all of our high rise buildings have greenhouses like this on top growing produce, and the patios have plants growing without soil? Giant pumpkins, lemons, pummelos, and papaya amaze the eyes. The tilapia tanks inspired Body Wave, one of my Bad Hair Day mysteries. In this story, my sleuth and hairstylist Marla Shore interviews a suspect who is a tilapia farmer. So this ride has special meaning for me, although I liked it when they played the “Listen to the Land” song that’s been eliminated from the current narration.

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Naturally we had to ride Spaceship Earth. Disney tip: Bypass this ride when you enter the park and hit it when you leave. There will be no lines later in the afternoon. We preferred the original version of this attraction, too, but it still has appeal and makes you appreciate how far we’ve come in terms of worldwide communication. Historical dioramas take you from the cavemen days to today’s global Internet network and beyond to the future.

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Tired but satisfied, we left for the day. The weather is perfect this time of year and it makes you appreciate the beautiful flowers and landscaping all the more. It’s second to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival for our favorite times to visit. So here’s to flower power (the real blossom type) and to a glorious Spring season ahead.

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Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Epcot Food & Wine

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 10, 2010

As per our annual family tradition, we attended the Epcot Food & Wine Festival last weekend. The weather was perfect, delightfully cool in the morning and warming into the 70’s in the afternoon. World Showcase opens at 11am so we arrived by lunchtime, turning left toward Mexico. For those of you not familiar with this event, each country has a little pavilion where they offer samples of food and drink for a fee.

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Here are some photos from previous years. I didn’t bring a camera this time; too busy eating.

We passed on the entries at Chile, Brazil, and Puerto Rico but stopped at Argentina for the grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato puree ($4.75 per portion) and a glass of Kaiken cabernet ($5.50). Delicious. Next came Mexico. They have a whole new area across from the pyramid with a dine-in restaurant and counter service café with outdoor seating under cover. Our kids got the taco at their festival pavilion. We went past Poland, then came to China and just had to get their barbecue chicken stick. This was a generous portion and very tasty. We skipped South Korea, although the honey ginger tea sounded good.

At South Africa, the seared beef tenderloin with mango barbecue sauce and sweet potato puree is a good choice. I had to taste the shrimp cake with noodle salad at Singapore next ($3.50 each). Another tasty dish. Am I making your mouth water yet?

By now I was full, so I strode by Germany, Italy, the U.S., Japan, Australia and Morocco. I’d had some of these foods at previous forays anyway. Belgium was new and there was a long line. The baked Belgium waffle with berry compote and whipped cream was to die for. Very luscious and reasonably priced at $2.75. The Godiva chocolate liqueur iced coffee was expensive at $7.25, but I had to try it. Lip-smacking good.

Too full to eat more, we passed by Spain, resisted the chocolate crème brulee at France and the warm chocolate lava cake at Ireland, even the maple glazed salmon at Canada. Would have loved to try the items at Greece or the lamb slider at New Zealand, but we’ll save those for next year. My stomach always gets satiated halfway around World Showcase.

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Harry Potter

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 8, 2010

We finally got to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The weather, cool and sunny, was a delight and perfect for entering Hogsmeade with the “snow-covered” rooftops. The village is quaint like in the stories. The tall buildings have slanted roofs with fake snow and chimneys and historical looking shop window displays. Some are real; some are not, like the old bookstore with Lockhart Gilderoy’s (sp?) books on view. You can go into the candy shop, although there was a line the day we went. Prices are high for things like chocolate frogs, jelly beans, and such.

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The magic shop didn’t seem to have anything unusual either. Wands cost $28.95 in an assortment of styles. Scarves were popular in the cool weather, and I indulged in buying one myself. I got the red Gryffindor scarf, made in China, acrylic fabric, for around $30. You could buy a school robe for $99 if you need an expensive costume.

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After waiting in line for over an hour, we entered Olivander’s wand shop where the old shopkeeper himself chose a “student” from the crowd and matched her to a wand amid special effects. It was cool, and she got to keep the wand, but this was, like, a ten minute show after a very long wait.

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We went into The Three Broomsticks for lunch. Here we entered another line to place our order wherein we were given a number and shown to a table. We ordered the platter for four, consisting of barbecued chicken and ribs, corn on the cob (with decorative husks still remaining), roasted potatoes and vegetables, and salad. It was a pretty good deal considering the feast we got, $49.99 for four. We all got Butterbeer with its white foamy top. You can get it with or without a souvenir plastic mug. It’s like very sweet cream soda with maybe a hint of root beer. Too sweet for my taste.

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I had Pumpkin Juice later, which comes in a cute plastic bottle topped with a little pumpkin. This was also heavy on the sugar with apple juice and pumpkin puree. Anyway, the décor in the restaurant is cool. There are very high slanted ceilings with wood staircases going in all directions like you see in the movies. Tables and chairs are all wood. You can almost imagine the dining hall where Harry and friends eat, except there weren’t any floating candles in the air.

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Hogwarts Castle is very imposing, a huge mountain of a fortress atop a fake hill, looking every bit as ominous as in the movies. We had no wait when we entered. There were two lines, one for people going on the ride (they had to wait inside as they wound around the premises) and one for people just wanting to tour the castle. Here we split up. I went into the latter line and followed the narrow passages inside the structure.

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As you climb a staircase, figures in portraits on the walls talk to each other. In one room, you see Dumbledore’s office as the headmaster addresses you from afar. Another chamber is like a great hall with a balcony at the far end. Standing on this balcony are holographic type images of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They make snow fall and use their invisibility cloak. It’s all very cool. Too bad it was dark inside and photos wouldn’t come out. Inside one display case was a newspaper with a talking photo. That’s all I remember. Our son said the ride was fun. You’re strapped in and have to leave loose items in a locker. Your feet dangle and you twist and turn, sometimes on your back, but it isn’t a roller coaster or a simulator. Sounds like a cross between Soarin’ and the dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom.

We enjoyed the food and the ambiance and the reality of this adventure, but it would be nice if there were more shops to explore with less crowds and perhaps some interesting merchandise beyond souvenirs. Since we’re not thrill ride lovers, we didn’t partake of much else in Islands of Adventure.

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

THE OTHER ORLANDO

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 11, 2010

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ORLANDO: BEYOND THE THEME PARKS

We could spend a weekend every month in Orlando and not just for the theme parks. There’s a lot to do in this vibrant and growing Central Florida city. Next time you visit, leave time to explore beyond the usual tourist sites.

Re the Theme Parks:  If you think of Walt Disney World as just the Magic Kingdom, think again. There’s Hollywood Studios with its behind-the-scenes glimpse into movie making and its own version of American Idol. Epcot showcases different countries and their wonderful restaurants along with Spaceship Earth and other fantastic rides. My favorite place is in The Land pavilion where you ride a boat and see the wondrous fruits and veggies growing in their hydroponics labs. The Animal Kingdom is the best, especially in Spring and Fall when the weather is warm with low humidity. It’s a habitat friendly zoo and rainforest mixed together with lush tropical foliage. They do animal conservation projects making this an eco-friendly park. Aside from Disney, Universal Studios has two parks including the brand new Harry Potter attraction. Seaworld and Aquatica and Dolphin Cove invite water-oriented exploration. You can spend a whole week at the theme parks, but then you’re missing the real Orlando. So keep your walking shoes on and venture beyond the theme park gates.

ORLANDO: THINGS TO DO
Copyright 2010 by Nancy J. Cohen
 
CHINATOWN: Asian markets and Vietnamese restaurants on E. Colonial Drive
 
COLLEGE PARK & BALDWIN PARK: Village Centers (shopping & dining)

 

DOWNTOWN DISNEY  (shopping, dining, attractions, movies, free parking)

FARMER’S MARKETS: Winter Park (Sat.); Lake Eola (Sun.)

FLEA MARKETS: Osceola; International Drive

LAKE EOLA: Sunday Farmers Market, Swan Boats, Lakeside Walking Trail, Amphitheater

MUSEUMS: Morse Museum of American Art, Orlando Science Museum, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, and more!

NATURE LOVERS: Henry P. Leu Gardens, Mead Garden, Lake Tibet Nature Preserve, Wekiva Springs State Park, Arboretum at UCF, and more.

PERFORMING ARTS : Regional Community Theatres, Orlando Ballet, Broadway shows, Cirque du Soleil, Dinner Theaters, and more.

SHOPPING: Prime Outlets, Premier Outlets, Millenia Mall, The Florida Mall, Pointe Orlando, Festival Bay Mall, Winter Garden Village, Park Avenue in Winter Park, Fashion Square Mall.

SPORTS: Orlando Magic, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Golf, UCF Knights.

THORTON PARK: Downtown restaurants and clubs.

WINTER PARK: Park Avenue shopping & dining, Winter Park Village, Boat Ride, Saturday Farmer’s Market, Mead Garden, Henry P. Leu Gardens, Museums, Movies.

DAY TRIPS OUTSIDE OF ORLANDO

CASSADAGA (certified mediums give psychic readings)

DAYTONA BEACH

DELEON SPRINGS STATE PARK and Old Sugar Mill Pancake House

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER and COCOA BEACH

LAKERIDGE WINERY in Clermont 
 
MOUNT DORA (quaint town with shops, restaurants, train ride, nature walk, boat tour)
 
NEW SMYRNA BEACH

ST. AUGUSTINE  (Historical Sites, Museums, Shops, Restaurants and Beaches)

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