While Morgan Crutchfield was getting a private tour of the Cinderella Castle Suite at the Magic Kingdom, I was ripping every last single hair out of my head trying to find a parking spot at Downtown Disney, the soon to be renamed
Hyperion Wharf Disney Springs. In a stroke of mad genius, I decided to stop by both the Orlando Premium Outlet mall and Downtown Disney on a Sunday afternoon, which is apparently the equivalent of trying to ride Soarin’ on New Year’s Eve.
After pulling into the parking lot in front of T-REX and fruitlessly searching for a parking spot, I ended up driving all the way down to the lot that is in front of Cirque du Soleil – La Nouba. I still had to search for a spot in this lot, and thankfully someone was leaving during one of my trips going back and forth. I can’t even fathom how bad trying to find a parking spot will be when the Christmas shopping season comes.
Down by La Nouba they had a huge photo op set outside. There was a similar one over in the Marketplace section in front of Earl of Sandwich.
Because I had just driven over from the Premium Outlets and was operating on Stress Level: Midnight, the first thing I needed to do was have a drink, and since the first place that offers alcohol on the West Side is Crossroads at House of Blues, that made the decision easy. I have heard a lot of positive feedback over the years from people who have gone to House of Blues, but mostly from those who have gone to the concerts that they hold at the venue. It was time to see how the food was inside. You might have noticed that I’ve been referring to the restaurant as Crossroads at House of Blues. That is the apparently the actual name of the restaurant, but I’m going to just refer to it from this point on as simply “House of Blues” like every other sane person on the planet.
One thing that was interesting walking into the restaurant was the amount of artwork covering the walls. Very unique pieces by a whole bunch of different artists. I wasn’t sure of what the overall theme was, but it was neat seeing everything. On the ceiling were some great looking portraits of famous blues musicians. The bar area was humongous and impressive, but I ended up sitting at a table nearby. There is a large TV above the center of the bar that they had playing NFL games, so they definitely get points for that.
After checking out the menu, I ended up going with a House of Blues salad (I asked for avocado as a substitution for feta cheese. $6.99 plus $1.49 for the avocado), the cornbread with maple butter ($7.99), the pulled pork sliders ($9.99), and a side of french fries ($3.99). The salad was very good. The cornbread was served in a skillet, which I always love. I wasn’t a big of a fan of the jalapeño flakes that were inside the cornbread, but the maple butter more than made up for that. The pulled pork sliders were very tasty, but extremely pricey at almost $10 for two small ones. You can buy a third slider for $3 more. When I realized the sliders didn’t come with fries (I think I just assumed they did given the price), I ordered some on the side. The fries were very good but were a really small portion for the price tag. The smoky tomato BBQ sauce and homemade slaw on the sliders was excellent.
House of Blues gets a thumbs up, and I am looking forward to returning in the future to try a couple more items on the menu that caught my eye, including the Triple Chocolate Cheesecake. A very unique atmosphere throughout the entire building, both inside and out, and that combined with good food overcome any concerns I have with the pricing. If I wasn’t forced into parking in this section of Downtown Disney, it might have been months or years before I actually tried the restaurant, so my Falling Down-like driving experience earlier in the day was actually worth it in the end.
Next up was a walk over through the West Side, and I ran into construction for an upcoming Starbucks that will be taking the place of Wetzel’s Pretzels. The concept art for the new Starbucks doesn’t seem to go with the atmosphere that Disney unveiled for Disney Springs but what do I know? #story
Next up was a walk through the former Pleasure Island, where more construction was taking place.
Time to head over to World of Disney, one of my favorite stores in all of Orlando, and check things out. Plenty of Halloween themed merchandise throughout the store, including these two “toothpick holders” ($9.95 for Haunted Mansion one, $7.95 for Wicked Queen).
This Mickey-as-Jack Skellington plush is actually pretty creepy ($17.95)
Now onto some shirts. First the Good… This “My Walt Disney World Adventure!” shirt for kids is great. ($19.95)
This sweatshirt looks like it would be really neat to see at night when it glows in the dark.
LOVE this 8 bit Mickey one. Would love to see like a montage of characters in this style.
This “tape Mickey” shirt gets points for originality ($24.95)
I like this Oswald shirt. I was looking for a normal size Oswald plush but all they were selling were really bad looking giant ones (will include picture after shirt). Shirt :$27.95. Doll: $29.95.
This shirt reminded me of the cool “This Area Is Being Refurbished For Your Enjoyment” shirts Disney was selling during the construction of New Fantasyland.
This “swaggy” shirt may legitimately be the dumbest piece of Disney merchandise I have ever seen, and keep in mind I have seen the Turkey Leg hats and air fresheners. ($24.95)
Time for a quick run over to Once Upon a Toy…
The biggest surprise here was this table of “Precious Moments Collection” Disney dolls. At first I was bewildered why anyone would buy this just looking at the orange princesses they had up front, but all around the display were some really neat takes on classic Disney characters. Pretty pricey to collect, though.
Next up was a bunch of “it’s a small world” dolls done in the new style of dolls that Disney is pushing with its Animator’s Collection. ($34.95 each)
I liked this panda toy and seeing it suddenly made a scene in The Simpsons Ride make a lot more sense…
Enjoyed this Muppet shirt. I don’t think it’s that new, but it stood out to me on this trip. ($24.95)
I have to imagine boys would want this Gaston Archery Set ($22.95) as much as I desperately wanted my parents to buy me a Pirates of the Caribbean pistol back in the day.
Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this one. ($3.95)
The ‘stache craze continues with this Disney Mouse-stache set that includes Sully, a Hitchiking Ghost, Captain Hook, Gepetto, Cheshire Cat and Jafar. As much as I want to hate it, I can’t. Too cute. ($6.95)
Last stop, as always, was getting an order from BabyCakes NYC to take home with me. First a bunch of cupcakes (6 for $20)
And then a couple pieces of their bread (Pumpkin Slice, Apple Strawberry Toastie, and Pumpkin Chip Slice). As you can see, I couldn’t even wait before the first picture before eating a bite. All were good, but the Apple Strawberry Toastie was great. ($3.65)
Now came for the long walk back to the car. There are huge construction walls all along the way. This walk became almost unbearable about half way through. The petty cab company that Universal uses to transport guests from the hotels to CityWalk and the parks would make a killing here. I legitimately considered paying a cab driver to take me from one part of the parking lot to the other side.
Overall, it was a fun day. There is a lot of construction going on, which makes it frustrating as a day guest. I think it would be a good idea to put up some theming or signs or ANYTHING to give guests an idea of what is coming. Universal has a combination of movie posters and Harry Potter themed signs for their multitude of construction walls. The only glimpse of the upcoming Disney Springs that I saw was the concept art for yet another Starbucks. The parking situation somehow made the worst parking lot in Orlando even worse. Three times worse. At some point Disney had to bite the bullet and build these parking garages, but it is going to be a long couple years, and I can’t wait to read reactions from people coming after Thanksgiving.
QUICK NOTES: The food at House of Blues was very good, and I’m looking forward to a return visit to try some more items. Walked right in and there were plenty of tables available. I have to think this is all about location, location, location. If this restaurant were on the Marketplace side of Downtown Disney, I think it would be packed. It’s one of the few places you can eat and watch sports in a Disney restaurant. The lines for any outside food cart that was selling drinks were always 10 people or more deep, and this includes the Wetzel’s Pretzels that sits outside of World of Disney selling frozen lemonade and the Margarita Bar that is located waterside. The bread “cone” sandwiches that were for some reason brought over from DCA have already vanished from the cart selling them. Goodbye and good riddance!