Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 19, 2015

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201Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re enjoying meals not just at Kona Cafe, but also Finnegan’s Bar & Grill over at Universal. Of course, we’re also visiting the Universal Orlando Parks, Downtown Disney, and stopping by the Magic Kingdom too. I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all into just one blog! Let’s figure it out together. 🙂

For Valentine’s Day lunch we couldn’t think of a better place than Kona Cafe. The food is wonderful and the setting is comfy and casual. Traffic was worse than we’d anticipated so we made it to the podium exactly on time for our 12:30pm reservation. Of course, that meant we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. They seemed quite short staffed with several empty tables despite gobs of people waiting outside. It was nice to have the tables next to us open, though. Our appetizer of potstickers ($8.49) were super yummy and came out so quickly they beat our drinks!

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Want to see what we ordered? Be sure to click to read more!

For lunch I ordered the Kona Surf and Turf Burger ($17.49) and my hubby decided on the Barbecue Pork Tacos ($12.99). I feel like I should explain that I’d skipped breakfast and had soup for dinner the night before, which is why I thought shrimp on a burger sounded like a good idea. After three bites I knew I’d made a mistake and deconstructed the burger to eat the shrimp separately. This burger was huge and would have been plenty enough to share, but I think I’ll try something else the next time we’re there. It was a little on the bland side. In contrast the tacos were awesome! However, the pasta salad it came with was inedible. I almost spit it out when I tried it. 🙁 Though we didn’t order the best things this trip, we’ve always had great meals here and we’ll be back for sure.

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Over at Downtown Disney, the Sanuk store and Sound Lion have opened. While I’m not too excited about either of these shops, they have both made a big difference in the feel of this area. It’s been an empty wasteland for so long that it’s nice to see some life come back! It’s getting to the point where it’s pleasant to walk around again and it will get nothing but better!

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Something else that has just opened is the Art of Shaving. For Valentine’s day I treated my hubby to a royal shave ($55 before tip) and he just loved it. He’s had professional shaves in the past and this was his favorite by far. The only odd part is that you’re really on display during the service as the chair faces windows and a busy walkway. They also let other guests in to see the space while he was in the chair with a towel over his face! Bonus for the ladies, there is a plush area to wait. Plus there was no pushy sales pitch on the way out. This is a great way to spoil someone (or yourself!) on your next trip.

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We stopped by the Magic Kingdom on Valentine’s Day with FastPass+ reservations and no real desire beyond seeing the new hub construction. As you can see below it looks marvelous! It’s a long way from done, but you can tell already that this will all be worth it and the Magic Kingdom will be more beautiful than ever when it’s done.

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I failed to mention that over lunch I’d attempted to change our FastPass+ reservations and the system was totally dead. When we got to the parks all of the FastPass+ kiosks had very long lines so we just kept what we already had. As you can see below left, even with extra locations open they couldn’t keep up with the demand. I held my breath when I scanned my band at The Haunted Mansion, but I’m happy to report it worked perfectly! I removed my other Magic Bands from my online account as a cast member suggested, so maybe that helped.

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Did I mention it was crowded? It was Christmas week kind of crowded with waits like 45 minutes for It’s a Small World and a whopping 180 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train! There was nothing in the park to ride without a considerable wait so we meandered around taking photos until our next FastPass+ reservation.

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We stopped by Tomorrowland to see if everything had been removed from the arcade (below left). I’m sad to report than every single game has either been removed or walled off. Even pinball machines have been replaced by massage chairs. We actually played in this area a lot and are sad to see it go. Below right you can see a cast member holding a sign for the end of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover queue. In my house we commonly refer to this as the sign it’s time to leave!

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On our way out we used our FastPass+ for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh without any trouble. The standby line was at 55 minutes so I was thankful it worked. Honestly, I felt so bad for all the people that had traveled to be there. The park looked like it was nearing capacity and everything had long waits, and when I say everything I mean everything. Remember if you’re visiting on a day this busy to leave extra time for bathroom breaks and for meals. People forget that the waits for those basic facilities can be as long as 30 minutes on a very crowded day.

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I’m very happy to report the Pandora store did open on Main Street (below left)! While I’m excited to have it there, the shop is just a generic shell. The brand name could be taken down and the space used for anything else. I’m sure it’s designed this way on purpose but I was hoping for something a little more special. However, they did have all the park exclusive charms so this is the place to go if you’re in the market! Below right, is a new Dooney & Bourke design featuring the four Walt Disney World parks. Note that the Earful Tower is used as the icon for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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With that, we decided to give up on the crazy crowds and head out for the day. What would you have done? Are you brave enough to stay in the parks with massive crowds? Let me know in the comments below. I can tell you if we had been on vacation I would have gone back to the hotel for a long nap and come back much later in the evening. Since the park was open until 1am, I imagine the crowds would have been much lighter late that night.


Since we weren’t on vacation, we waited until the next day to head over to Universal. Just a little after 9am we walked into Islands of Adventure with no real destination in mind beyond walking through the parts of the park we hadn’t seen since renewing our passes. Apparently, we picked the least popular spot in the parks as you can see from the photo below!


We found the crowds once we made it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The line for Forbidden Journey was already 60 minutes! However, since my hubby doesn’t like this ride I was able to go single rider in less than 10 minutes. I absolutely love Forbidden Journey, there is nothing else like it! Next we hopped on the Hogwarts Express over to Universal Studios. As you can see from the photo below right, I think I’ve figured out the camera settings needed to capture this ride. If I can ever get on a car that isn’t jam packed full I’ll take some video for you guys! 🙂

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I should admit that I skipped live tweeting this weekend because I don’t know my way around Universal very well. I was worried that if the park was crowded I wouldn’t know what to do and you guys would be disappointed. I shouldn’t have worried, though. We had a great day at Universal and were able to stay quite busy. I think the sign below right perfectly shows the difference between Universal and Disney. Sure, it’s a tongue in cheek Simpsons reference but you’d never see that at Disney!

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While I’m not including photos of everything, we were able to see several shows and rides. It almost seemed too easy, I mean check out the queue for Terminator 2: 3-D, below left. Then I realized that we’d chosen to open the park on an evening when Mardi Gras was taking place. I’m sure the crowds came in droves to see the Barenaked Ladies after we’d left for the day. Are you guys interested in seeing Mardi Gras at Universal? Let me know in the comments below! (Side note: Terminator 2: 3-D is holding up great for its age! I was still impressed with it all these years later.)

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Before we left for the day we decided to grab lunch at one of my all time favorite dining spots, Finnegan’s! I have to admit when we don’t have admission to Universal this is one of the things I miss most. It’s tough to believe that food this good and affordable can be found inside a theme park.

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For lunch, I had the Sheperd’s Pie ($11.99) and my hubby decided to share it with me and have some Irish Chicken Stingers ($7.99) on the side. On a whim I added cheese to the top of my meal for an extra 79 cents, but that ended up being a mistake. I pulled off 75% of the cheese because there was just so much of it and it didn’t really add anything to the flavor. That was our only minor complaint of an otherwise perfect meal. The service was excellent and we even got a passholder discount! Our excellent table service lunch cost us about was a quick service meal would run at Disney. Food for thought if you’re considering a visit to Universal.

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That’s everything for this week. Now let’s see what you can expect if you’re visiting next week.

233Crowd Calendar: This weekend thankfully won’t be nearly as busy as last weekend. You can look forward to another few relaxed weeks before Spring Break season starts.

Weather: It looks like it will be nice and warm during the days with cool mornings and evenings. Perfect weather for the parks!

Remember: If you’re interested in an appointment at The Art of Shaving, it’s a good idea to book ahead. Appointments can be made by calling (407) 560-8320.

Here’s my top tip for this week: When you eat at Finnegan’s (not if, when!) be sure you save room for the bread. All meals come with complementary Irish soda bread and apple butter. (pictured left) It’s crazy good! 🙂

Do you have any news I missed or any requests for coverage next week? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, and thanks so much for reading! I’m wishing all of you the Best Week Ever, until next time!

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Daisy Lauren

I'm just about the biggest Touring Plans fan ever and still pinching myself that they let me be part of the team! I love sharing all things Disney with you and always appreciate your ideas and feedback at: daisylauren@touringplans.com or @dizdaisylauren on twitter Above everything else THANK YOU for reading and commenting!

4 thoughts on “Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 19, 2015

  • February 23, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Daisy… I love the pictures in your articles. I wondered if you ever thought of writing an article about taking pictures on the dark rides? While I do get some good pics on some of the dark rides, I often struggle getting the settings right on these rides.

    • February 23, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Hi Keith! You are so kind to say that! I’m very passionate about photography, but I don’t know that I’m the best person to write something like that. There are so many people wildly more talented than me. 🙂 Here are a couple of articles that taught me a bunch:

      THE Tom Bricker: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-ride-photography-tips/

      Disney Photography Blog (Be sure to check out the 3 links at the bottom of the page too): http://www.disneyphotographyblog.com/dark-ride-photography-tips-haunted-mansion/

      Is there any ride in particular you’re struggling with? I can tell you exactly the equipment and settings I’ve used for just about anything. I’m always happy to help! Thanks for commenting. 😀

      • March 2, 2015 at 8:03 am

        Peter Pan and the Haunted mansion are the one I struggle with. Especially the Haunted Mansion.

        Thanks for the links. I’ll studying them before my next trip.

      • March 2, 2015 at 10:22 am

        Hi Keith- first, I hope I haven’t given the false impression that I don’t struggle with these rides! I think everyone does! 🙂

        I’m going to assume you have a DSLR. These particular rides are almost impossible with anything else.

        The Haunted Mansion – this ride requires a super fast prime. I’ve done it with an f1.8, but it’s really better with an f1.4. I’ve been able to get some scenes with a Canon crop sensor at f1.4. Of course, the results are better with a full frame sensor. I’ve shot both a Canon 6D and Sony A7 – I’m much happier with the Sony. It has better noise at higher ISO and allows for manual focus which is HUGE on these dark rides. For HM my usual settings are: Shutter – 50, F1.4, and auto ISO. The only scene I need to adjust for is madame leota. I just drop my exposure a stop so the highlights aren’t crazy.

        (One big tip – if you’re using auto focus then focus on the singing busts then turn your auto focus off. Your focus will be PERFECT for the hitchhiking ghosts. As soon as you can see them just start firing off shots. Can’t remember where I heard that but it really works!)

        Peter Pan – the trick for this ride is that your shutter can’t be slower than 80. I couldn’t get anything on this ride for AGES until I figured that out. However, it’s brighter in there than you think. I’ve even been able to get some shots with the kit lens that came with my Sony at f3.5. Of course, the faster the lens the better. I’m normally set at Shutter – 80, F2.8, and auto ISO.

        I really hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions? You’re always welcome to email me. I love geeking out over camera stuff but I know most folks here don’t really care. 🙂

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