shoreline99

Wilderness Lodge trip 2017 - Upgrades, Tours and Backstage, Oh My!

97 posts in this topic

17 minutes ago, shoreline99 said:

 

That is one of the issues with the retail there, to address both of your points. It's a small community - restaurants do well, so do the stores that cater to tourists - but most residents shop at the larger retail areas outside Celebration. I would assume that it's hard to attract and retain chains that would lose money in that location.

Also, Celebration prohibits short term rentals, which would really increase traffic to the area if it were allowed.

We heard a lot of stories and anecdotes about both the good and the bad of living there and the challenges of the community.

Thanks to all still reading along, I know this isn't really a standard type of trip report!

Thanks for taking the time to write this report and post photos!  Non-standard trip reports are great!

Going back to the New Urbanism discussion, are there any New Urbanism communities that have thrived as originally planned?  It's been over 35 years now since the experiment began. The only examples I know of are still not really what they were supposed to be.

TCD

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The developer of Westhaven (the community I referenced in my earlier post) has revised the Town Center plans significantly from what was originally envisioned.  Instead of several streets of small shops, boutiques, cafes and such, they went toward a mix of things that provide a service to the community.  Restaurants, banks, insurance companies, investment brokers, medical offices, veterinarian, dog groomer, flower shop and a smaller amount of shops.  There is a full grocery store too.  I think the current mix is working for them as everything seems leased and little turnover.  The neighborhood also is surrounded by farmland, so there are not a ton of shopping options right outside the entrance like Celebration has.  Everything else would be a 10 minute or more drive, so that probably helps the Town Center survive.  We happen to live out in the country but just 10 minutes from that neighborhood, so we frequent the Town Center as it is the closest shopping and dining options we have for the most part.  

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6 minutes ago, DaveInTN said:

Instead of several streets of small shops, boutiques, cafes and such, they went toward a mix of things that provide a service to the community.  Restaurants, banks, insurance companies, investment brokers, medical offices, veterinarian, dog groomer, flower shop and a smaller amount of shops.  There is a full grocery store too.  I think the current mix is working for them as everything seems leased and little turnover. 

Yeah, this seems to be the current mix in Celebration, and it looks to have leveled off - I didn't see much vacant space.

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1 minute ago, shoreline99 said:

Yeah, this seems to be the current mix in Celebration, and it looks to have leveled off - I didn't see much vacant space.

It makes sense, as vibrant downtowns of yesteryear didn't exactly have a bunch of knick knack shops and expensive clothing boutiques.  Those are fine in tourist areas, but aren't going to attract the locals on a day to day basis.  

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1 hour ago, shoreline99 said:

 

That is one of the issues with the retail there, to address both of your points. It's a small community - restaurants do well, so do the stores that cater to tourists - but most residents shop at the larger retail areas outside Celebration. I would assume that it's hard to attract and retain chains that would lose money in that location.

Also, Celebration prohibits short term rentals, which would really increase traffic to the area if it were allowed.

We heard a lot of stories and anecdotes about both the good and the bad of living there and the challenges of the community.

Thanks to all still reading along, I know this isn't really a standard type of trip report!

And the Fiends have a standard type of trip report?

Inconceivable!

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We have a similar community called Providence. Once again, not a lot of large retail, just some smaller shops. There is a CVS that does pretty well, the restaurants do awesome, and the hotels and residential seem pretty nice.

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On 5/15/2017 at 0:14 PM, DaveInTN said:

It makes sense, as vibrant downtowns of yesteryear didn't exactly have a bunch of knick knack shops and expensive clothing boutiques.  Those are fine in tourist areas, but aren't going to attract the locals on a day to day basis.  

Agreed. It's also an industry rule of thumb that most people don't shop where they live, and will actually drive fair distances to purchase items. Plus, you know, the internet.

On 5/15/2017 at 0:32 PM, Travisma said:

And the Fiends have a standard type of trip report?

Inconceivable!

Well, I never argue with a Sicilian when death is on the line either.

On 5/15/2017 at 2:01 PM, mouseketab.....Carol said:

We have a similar community called Providence. Once again, not a lot of large retail, just some smaller shops. There is a CVS that does pretty well, the restaurants do awesome, and the hotels and residential seem pretty nice.

CVS/Walgreens/Rite Aid/etc are the new five and dimes. What I don't understand is the logic of placing them on opposing corners or across the street from one another.

I could talk all day about the pros and cons of new urbanism, but I need to get this trip report moving. We can revisit it later as I'm certainly interested to continue the conversation!

Next up, Disney Springs. I'll try to get a post up later.

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My daughter lives in Avalon Park, a sprawling area consisting of dozens of developments.

She used to live in the "downtown core" in an apartment above different shops.

There were quite a few eateries from coffee/tea shops, sandwich shops, to a couple of sit down restaurants.

There was also a Y, and a comic book shop hair/nail salon, among other things.Not a lot of touristy stuff.

As you got away from the two streets overlooking the pond at the core, within about 3 blocks was a small shopping center with a Publix and more food places.  There was a 7-11 with gas pumps and a CVS.  Then if you wanted to drive a few miles there was a Wal Mart grocery store, Walgreens, and more shops.  I think the biggest thing that was missing from the mix was some sort of hardware store like an ACE though there might've been one up near the Wal Mart market..  If you drove a few miles to Alafaya there was a Lowes.

If you were in one of the sub divisions you would have to drive to get to everything, but most of what you needed was fairly close by and you didn't need to go out onto Alafaya or Colonial for the most part.

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Sorry, it's been a busy week!

The walking tour of Celebration took up most of the morning, and I was headed back to the OCCC for a class and some lunch, and a walk around the expo floor.

If you've never been to the Orange County Convention Center, it is certainly one of the largest I've ever been to!

After lunch I was headed back to WDW for a walking tour of Disney Springs with several of the Imagineers that were directly responsible for the redevelopment of Downtown Disney into this new iteration. We started off by the old bus drop off area, and the temperature was already well into the high 90's so the first priority was to find a shady spot.

The woman in the middle is the director of operations for Disney Springs, and the gentleman to her left (that you can't see) is taking over as her assistant director after several years developing Shanghai Disneyland. The four men to her right are all Imagineers, so we got a pretty good reception by the mouse on this tour. They spent a while describing the logistics of operating a retail center in the middle of a themed area, which was very interesting.

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I definitely felt, on all the tours, that Disney was very happy to show off their projects and really were extremely accomodating hosts.

I'm sure most of you have heard the 'history' of Disney Springs by now, but for those of you who haven't I'm going to quote here and there from a USA Today newspaper article as I start:

"The rebranding is the latest in a series of makeovers for the complex. It began in the mid-1970s as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village and later became known as Disney Village Marketplace. In the late 1980s, Disney added Pleasure Island. At night, visitors initially paid a cover charge to enter the nightclub-filled playground. In the mid-1990s, The Mouse gave the whole shebang the generic-sounding name, Downtown Disney. A couple of years later it expanded with the introduction of Downtown Disney West Side and welcomed flashy new tenants such as House of Blues and Planet Hollywood.

Inspired by real Florida coastal towns like Coral Gables and St. Augustine, the new Town Center gives Disney’s fabled Imagineers the opportunity to develop an elaborate backstory and weave together the mishmash of areas at the sprawling complex into a more cohesive whole. Dave Hoffman, a creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering, conducted a pre-opening construction tour of the area. The Mouse-made "natural" springs, he explained, are the heart of the town. "Each neighborhood reflects its function and its [fictitious] time period when it was developed," Hoffman noted."

Dave Hoffman, who was quoted, was also one of the Imagineers giving the tour.

Our tour started off in the Marketplace, but I'm going to jump around a bit as we go to follow the theming and 'backstory' of Disney Springs.

"The resort's original shopping area is now known simply as Marketplace. Per the story that the Imagineers have concocted about Disney Springs, it was developed in the 1930s and displays the American Craftsman style of architecture that was in vogue then. It is home to an expanded World of Disney Store (which already was the world's largest shop selling Mickey Mouse and other Disney-themed tchotchkes)."

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One of the questions that came up right away was how did the Imagineers plan on integrating some of the more uniquely themed restaurants into the overall master plan (T-Rex, Rainforest Cafe). Their answer was interesting, that they are treating them like 'Roadside Attractions' (more on that later) and that they would be updating the facades over time to better reflect the overall themeing of this area. Think Dinoland, I guess.

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The new bridge was constructed to avoid the giant pinch point for crowds by the Lego store, and also to open up the views of the new areas.

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From here we split into two groups; Dean and Jeff were the imagineers that stayed with our group. Jeff is the current head of art direction for Disney Springs, and Dean is one of the project leads.

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Looking back towards the Marketplace

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The back story for the World of Disney building is that it was originally a hotel that was built for the Marketplace and converted into the store.

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To the right of the bridge is the new Landing area, including the renovated Paddlefish restaurant. Under the bridge is effectively a dam that keeps the water level in the Marketplace area constant and separate from the open lake and river areas.

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Lego Store:

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One of the new food kiosks. Part of the operational logistics is getting food in and trash out to these areas.

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The other shore of the Marketplace still has the look and feel of the 30's Craftsman style. Signage is carefully controlled and integrated:

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From here, the architectural style and building massing start to transition into the Town Center area.

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"The Town Center that grew around the springs features architecture reminiscent of the 1920s. There are stucco facades, terra cotta tile roofs, coral stone, lovely fountains, and other Mediterranean touches typical of the era. Remnants of the old town remain. Ancient machinery sits unused next to a weathered sign, which indicates that the apparatus was used for a spring water ice works operation."

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They really did a wonderful job with the themeing of these retail areas, but they are still having difficulty with directions and placemaking by landmarks. For example, there are no towers or other visual clues - 'wienies', Walt Disney used to call them, to guide people and to draw them from one area to another. Most of the Springs is fairly level and view corridors are narrow, which disorients some people. Disney Springs is roughly 1.2 miles wide, so directionality is important. This area will continue to evolve.

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This is the new Polite Pig Restaurant, which had just opened. I wanted to get back there to try it out, but never made it back over there. We will have to save it for the next trip.

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As you move down this 'street' you head into the 'old town' area, and the architecture reflects the change.

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Here is an example of what I mentioned earlier - signage and themeing displaying the T-Rex restaurant like a roadside attraction.

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TCD's favorite cupcake place:

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The aforementioned springs:

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The original 'Rancher's Cabin' is located in the center of the photo above.

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The springs run over towards the Landing

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And in the opposite direction, towards the Planet Hollywood 'observatory'

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At night the springs are lit by site lighting and the floating lanterns, and the effect is pretty cool.

The buildings directly surrounding the springs all relate to the purported original operations of the area and the architecture of the era:

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The central spring area is very well tied together stylistically, low buildings in an older style, including several restaurants and the 'welcome center'

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This area serves as the hub, and from here you can see how the layout runs from there into the different areas of Disney Springs. Much like the Magic Kingdom, areas are differentiated by changes in the architecture, finishes and even music:

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I will stop here, and my next post will be an unexpected interlude and welcome break from the heat.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to post your photos and share what you heard on your tour of Disney Springs.

Some of it, I've heard before, but some of it I have not- like what they are trying to do with T-Rex and Rainforest Café. 

It's obvious that there are different kinds of architecture and signage, but I didn't realize some of what they were trying to do.

I agree with your comment about it being difficult to find your way around parts of Disney Springs because of the lack of landmarks. I've been there quite a few times, but if I end up parking in a different place than I did the time before, I have to look at a map to find where I am and where I am going.  Part of the problem was construction walls and closed walkways, but it isn't easy to figure out where you're going. And, I typically have a very good sense of direction.

That said, I think they did an amazing job with Disney Springs.  I really question how many of the new businesses will make it though.

TCD

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Thanks, I took a lot of photos! You all will pay the price for that.

Proper 'placemaking' is a common problem, and not an easy one to solve. Things are relatively easy to read on a plan, or a map, but translate that to three dimensions and it can be difficult to see where you are and how to get somewhere without landmarks. Think large college campuses or even a place like Celebration.

In certain areas of DS it's fairly easy to figure out where you are going, but in others it's very confusing. The Imagineers have tried to install low scale visual clues - roadway materials, the lighted spring, walkways along the water and other methods, but to me it's not entirely successful. It's definitely on the radar, so expect some changes as the development in the area continues.

I wholeheartedly agree with you, TCD - as I said before, 1.2 miles is a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of area to fill with restaurants and retailers.

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My current unfamiliarity with where everything is at Disney Springs doesn't really concern me.  I'll figure it out eventually, and will know where to park to get to where I want to go.  I hate shopping, and don't plan on going there much anyway.  Plus, Twin #2 is a Disney Springs expert since she worked at the Lilly Pulitzer store there, and she knows which garage to park in depending on where you're going, and all the shortcuts.

By the way, Twin #2 had to resign her position at Lilly because she was hired to do a summer internship at the Orange County Convention Center, which she just started.  According to her, it is the second largest in the world.  I thought Las Vegas would be #1, but it's actually Chicago. Orlando is #2, but they have expansion plans they're about to begin to become #1.  She is excited because they're going to provide her with a scooter to ride around the convention center.  Almost all of the management there are ex-Disney CM's. The OCCC pays better than Disney and treats their people better too.

TCD

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Did they happen to say how they keep the water so clear?

And possibly mention what would happen if someone took a few dozen gold fish and happened to sprinkle them around there (and maybe Epcot)? What would happen to the fish.. and maybe the nefarious prankster who did it? I'm just asking for a friend... maybe even a fiend.

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Bonus post for today, to make up for my slacking.

We spent some time walking around the Spring, and checking out some of the restaurants in the area, both old favorites (Raglan Road) and new (Hangar Bar, there in the distance).

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However, this side of the springs is dominated by the old 'Disney Springs bottling plant', which is now converted into the Morimoto Asia restaurant.

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It was really hot. And humid. And hot. It was April, not August.

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Next thing we know, we are brought into the restaurant, which is absolutely stunning. Up the stairs, to the second floor.

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There, we were introduced to Jay Valgora, principal of the firm that designed the restaurant along with Chef Morimoto. He was on our tour that day, and was kind enough to show us around and discuss his design for the restaurant and bar. There is a small area on the second floor that can be closed off, and we all squeezed in there to hear him speak.

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And then they brought us drinks. Mo, where the heck were you. Apple Sake-tinis.

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While Chef Morimoto enjoys spending a lot of time at this location, he was not there today. However, they brought us food as well. Lots of appetizers for all! We strolled around and checked out the place. These light fixtures are custom made curtains of glass beads, surrounding copper mesh Japanese fish traps.

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The restaurant seats over 500 people, but it feels very intimate.

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The centerpiece of the bar is a continuous ribbon of white material that forms both the upper and lower bar tops, while swooping around the restaurant to give a sense of motion. Above the bar is a piece of industrial bottling machinery, complete with bottles, that acts as a light fixture.

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The bottling line extends into the foyer of the restaurant to act as the main chandelier, visible at night from outside.

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The floors are end grain cuts of wood, and are very cool.

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Second floor sushi bar. This restaurant is the first fusion restaurant opened by Chef Morimoto, and was originally designed without a sushi bar. It was redesigned about 3/4 of the way through construction to include this feature.

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Main stair:

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Doors on the second floor lead to an outdoor dining area. Too hot to be out there now, but lovely at night, with some nice views of the area:

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The front entry is a custom glass wall, 36' high.

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So, we got a little Disney magic even on our tour. Well done.

My wife and I had dinner reservations at Morimoto Asia that evening, so I'll have a review of the food later as well.

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After drinks and snacks, we strolled down towards Jock Lindsay's and the Landing area.

"A few years ago, Disney shut down the Pleasure Island nightclubs and bulldozed them. The re-imagined area is now known as The Landing. Located next to the Town Center, Hoffman says that according to the storyline, it serves as the community's transportation hub and has more of an industrial feel.

An old billboard advertises the passenger train that used to stop in the town. There are some stray rails still embedded in the pathways. The former train station now serves as an upscale chophouse, STK (which is so upscale, it has no need for vowels). The elegant paddlewheel riverboat that used to be Fulton's Crab House (and The Empress Lilly before that) will become Paddlefish, while The Boathouse provides upscale meals to compliment the views of the amphi-cars that offer tours of Lake Buena Vista.

Opened in 2015, Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar is named for Indiana Jones' pilot. The whimsical lounge is crammed with vintage airplane parts and other artifacts."

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This is probably my favorite area of Disney Springs. Lots of open space, views to the water and activity everywhere.

This building will be the new Edison restaurant, and is supposed to be the old Disney Springs power plant. Adjacent to it will be another establishment, in what is being themed as the old railway terminal for the area.

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The re-imagined 'observatory' of Planet Hollywood

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It's definitely easier to navigate around this area, with so many landmarks.

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We looped back around to the other end of the Springs:

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Has anyone tried Blaze pizza yet? I haven't, but have heard great things.

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Even the light fixture in the welcome center (guest services) is meant to evoke the water from the springs:

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Old equipment and machinery that can be turned to draw up water:

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From here we walked through the old 'farmer's market', where there are many retail stores in a covered outdoor mall.

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From this area or from the landing, you can head over towards the old West Side. Themed bathrooms:

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The new Coca-Cola store

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The theme here is supposed to be of an old industrial building surrounded by glass, like a museum. I'll have to see if I can find a night-time photo, it's really quite striking when it's lit up.

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"According to Hoffman's story, the leaders of Disney Springs developed The West Side as a town expo in the 1950s. A pedestrian bridge connects the outlying area to the rest of the town. A circus tent (which serves as the theater for Cirque du Soleil's resident production, La Nouba) and hot air balloon remain. The expo buildings now house Splitsville bowling lanes, an AMC movie theater, and a House of Blues, among other venues."

Pedestrian Bridge:

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This area is a little narrower, and feels more urban. Portions of the old 'Disney Springs elevated railway' were left in place as shady spots, locations for entertainers, and for future vertical growth. Eventually there may be a walking portion on the upper level like the high line in NYC.

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Themed walkways where portions of the old railway were removed:

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Disney Quest is still here, for a few more months:

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From one end to the other:

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More to come, thanks for reading along. Dinner at Disney Springs, Dapper Day, and a Monorail crawl on our last day.

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I live in one of those districts and it seems it is going quite well. It is called Lake Nona and is South of OIA. It was originally designed as a Medical City with Nemours being the base, now we have UCF Medical School and Florida Hospital as well as the Vets Center here. There are lots of stores and places to shop and more being built all the time. The only thing it is missing is religious houses of worship. The land is too expensive for most churches to build here.

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1 hour ago, Travisma said:

Interesting information about Disney Springs.

Guess when you are as big as Disney you can make your own history...

Thanks, I think overall they did a nice job of tying it all together, and over time the new back story gives them some flexibility in developing new areas or adding to the existing ones. As I mentioned before, they do need to address the wayfinding in the Town Center area, particularly where you arrive in from the Lime garage or the bus drop off area.

7 minutes ago, we3peas said:

I live in one of those districts and it seems it is going quite well. It is called Lake Nona and is South of OIA. It was originally designed as a Medical City with Nemours being the base, now we have UCF Medical School and Florida Hospital as well as the Vets Center here. There are lots of stores and places to shop and more being built all the time. The only thing it is missing is religious houses of worship. The land is too expensive for most churches to build here.

That's one thing that was planned for early in developing Celebration. If I recall correctly, there are seven houses of worship in Celebration, covering most of the major faiths. From what we were told, they are all pretty active parishes.

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Excellent job with the Disney Springs updates.

And you got some funnies in there too!  I loved your comment about STK and vowels. Seriously, how dumb is that?  And how do your pronounce the name?  Are we supposed to say "Steak," or are we supposed to just say S-T-K?

I have not noticed any abandoned rails in any of the pavement-I'm going to have to look more closely.  I did notice the elevated rail platforms, but never understood what they were supposed to be.  Now I know.

It's great how much thought goes into the theming at Disney, but it would be really nice if someone would publish a guide to explain all of the details. I would love something like that.

Oh, and Blaze Pizza?  It's great.  One of the TCD gang's favorite new places in Disney Springs.

TCD

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Bonus update today to finish up our Friday evening at Disney Springs, and our last night at WDW. :(

Our tour wrapped up at the very end of the West Side, and I was meeting my lovely bride at Raglan Road for some pre-dinner drinks and people watching.

I hoofed it back over to the Landing, and was able to get some refreshments prior to her arrival. Slainte.

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We have been to Raglan Road several times, and have already tried the Hangar bar, so we headed up to the Boathouse - I had heard that the dockside bar there has some great views and atmosphere.

An Amphi-car was just arriving up the dock when we walked by. According to the Imagineers we toured with, the restaurant owner has the largest collection of these unique vehicles in the world (42 in running condition), and there are 12 of them here at WDW.

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We think they are really cool, and would love to go for a ride in one, but the cost ($100+) for a half hour is too steep for me. Plus the view is really nothing special, IMHO.

There are many historic boats along the docks here, as the name would imply, both pleasure craft and racing boats.

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Drinks arrived, and we had a lovely time chatting with the couple next to us about the boats. Their bar menu is pretty substantial, and I would highly recommend it - even over a place like Raglan Road - especially on a nice day. It was still hot out but the shade and breeze was beautiful.

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We didn't want to leave, especially as there was a 'Dapper Day' cocktail event happening there later in the evening that we would have liked to sit back and watch, but we had dinner reservations at Morimoto Asia.

We were seated right away, and had a nice view of the restaurant from the balcony

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Neither of us was starving, so we split some sushi (yum) and a few pieces of Dim Sum. For an entree we split an order of the 'Angry Lobster Chow Fun', which is a whole Maine lobster, split up and wok fried. It's served over some spicy noodles with a coconut curry sauce.

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Holy cow, was that amazing. We only had room left for some tea - they have quite an extensive menu there, as would be expected.

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Everything we had there was great. I'd totally go back again, any time.

It was dark when we headed out, and you can see how the building changes at night - there are Japanese characters carved into the sides of the building that are illuminated from inside, making the entrance quite striking.

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The observatory at night, with the Springs in the foreground:

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I think the MK closed relatively early, and we were both beat after a long day, so we headed back to the Lodge for a drink and some dessert from the club lounge.

Good night, Magic Kingdom

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One thing I neglected to mention was that on a couple of occasions while we were there they were testing the lasers and projections for the new nighttime show (no fireworks though), so we had a good view of that.

Tomorrow was checkout, and our last day at WDW. Since it was Dapper Day at the MK, in the next post we will head there and check out some of the sights!

 

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7 hours ago, shoreline99 said:

Has anyone tried Blaze pizza yet? I haven't, but have heard great things.

Yes - been three times and it was great every time.  You customize the entire pizza and for just over $10.00 it's a great deal.  Especially for WDW :rolleyes:.  

Didn't care for the wines they serve but hubby said the beer was ok.

Your pictures and descriptions of the buildings and concepts behind Disney Springs  have been great.  Much clearer than anything we could find to sort the place out.  Thank you

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, shoreline99 said:

 

One thing I neglected to mention was that on a couple of occasions while we were there they were testing the lasers and projections for the new nighttime show (no fireworks though), so we had a good view of that.

 

 

Are they going to use the lasers to shoot down the drones?

Now that would be an impressive show or a great interactive game!

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