An Evening At Disney Springs, A Podcast

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Recorded in the beautiful Hampton Inn Fairfield, NJ.

Last week was another trip to Newark, back to Orlando, and them Miami. If you follow my Newark adventures it seems like either Google Maps, taxi or Uber driver takes me a different way from the airport to the hotel, and for the first time that I can recall, I went the same way that I did in August. However, I did take a different, and I mean a really different route from the office back to the airport.

I’ve really grown in fondness for the Hampton Inn Fairfield, NJ. It’s one of the few Hampton Inn’s that I know of with a full restaurant and bar attached. Calandra’s Mediterranean Grill offers wonderful authentic Italian food and bread. They offer individual-sized brick-oven pizzas, pick any one of them they’re all delicious. If you’re a  bit hungrier go with the Ravioli
Homemade Ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta. Served in a very light tomato basil sauce. A simple dish, yet so tasty. Every Monday night there’s a happy hour from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM, half-price drinks and appetizers. They make a mean old fashioned. Another bonus is that Calandra’s also supplies the bagels, scones and cinnamon rolls for the Hampton Inn breakfast area.

The other hotel that I’ve been frequenting is the DoubleTree Newark airport for my return trips, and for a few reasons. In New Jersey, you can’t pump your own gas, and there’s only one gas station near the rental lot, and it’s normally packed. Then add in that the Hertz lot at Newark is at the end of the Air Train line. Those two things easily add an extra 30 minutes to your trip back into the airport. What I’ve been recently doing is dropping my rental off the night before and then taking the hotel shuttle from Newark to the DoubleTree. Then in the morning, I take the shuttle right to ticketing and that whole process takes maybe 15 minutes. The DoubleTree Newark Airport has a very nice executive lounge as well as a top-notch restaurant….. and don’t forget the chocolate chip cookies.

I flew back into O-Town Wednesday grabbed my car and headed to Miami for a Thursday morning meeting. This was one of those trips that it didn’t make time or financial sense to fly Newark to Miami or Ft Lauderdale. I could easily get direct into Miami but nothing direct Miami to Orlando. However, I knew Southwest flew direct Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando, but that one daily direct flight didn’t have me landing until 8:30 PM Thursday night. I knew my meeting would be done by 2:00 PM and the 4 hours drive would have me home by 6:00 PM. This would save my company the cost of an extra flight and rental car, and it would be two less expense report items that I’d have to fill out.

I never thought I’d ever do any sort of a Disney World post. That being said here’s my first one. If you live in Florida, especially Central Florida two things are at the forefront, Disney World & Universal Studios. Two-fifths of the Chateau’ Relaxo residents work at Universal Studios while carrying a full college course load.

Both of these destinations are crazy expensive. A recent The Points Guy article claims that a 5-night trip for 4 to Disney World can range between $3000.00 and $5000.00 dollars. The bulk of the price difference is due to lodging, as park passes and food costs remain fairly constant each day.

A one day one park Florida resident ticket to the Magic Kingdom is around $109.00, out of state it’s $124.00. Typically we purchase our tickets as 4-day pass. Our latest purchase is good for four visits between now and February 29, 2020. Thankfully, we’ll be subjected to blackout dates around the major holidays. Typically that’s when the parks are full, so I’m good with that.

However, there’s a handful of free things you can do at Disney World.

  • Watch a Movie Under the Stars
    Every night at Fort Wilderness, you can see a Movie Under the Stars.
  • Ride the Monorails
    Riding the monorails can be a lot of fun, especially when you’re not in any hurry.
  • Enjoy Live Music
    Stop in at the Grand Floridian Resort for free musical performances daily.
  • Go on a Scavenger Hunt
    Searching for hidden Mickeys is one of the best (free) ways to spend your day at Walt Disney World.
  • Have a Family Picnic
    Pack a lunch or some snacks and head to one of the beautiful picnic areas at the resorts along the Seven Seas Lagoon’s monorail path.
  • Watch the Fireworks and Water Pageant
    You can get a great view of the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks from the beaches at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge, or watch it from the concourse at The Contemporary.
  • Visit Disney Springs
    Disney Springs not only offers superb dining and unique shopping, but there’s a bunch of free stuff to do there as well.

Recently we decided to punch out from Chateau’ Relaxo for the night and pamper ourselves at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista. We often will head here as it’s close to home, and normally 50,000 Hilton points for an upgraded room. If you’re a Hilton Honors member they’ll typically waive the $35.00 per day resort fee and still provide you with a complimentary breakfast each day. The property offers 3 pools and 7 dining establishments in addition to a fully-equipped fitness center. Take note as there’s a Disney Timeshare booth in the lobby, so don’t make eye contact.

The other benefit is that it’s two sky bridges away from Disney Springs. Typically, I prefer Disney Springs to the actual parks. In the past few years, they’ve revamped Disney Springs to include a 3-story parking garage and a plethora of new stores.

Above it what the updated Disney Springs looks like, here’s a legend for the map  LINK

 

Here’s my first tip for your visit,  and a bit of a rant. If you’re anti-child interaction avoid any restaurants where there’s a parking lot of strollers out front. Think Rainforest Cafe and the T-Rex restaurant.

Here’s my rant…. my children…. I sound like Borat… were born in the ’90s, and after the first road trip with our behemoth 20lb Graco stroller, we quickly bought a $15.00 umbrella stroller. Simple, light-weight and cheap enough to leave one at all of the relatives’ houses. The parents of today, you guys are rubes. I see you most Thursdays at the gate for my flight back to Orlando. Your family is full of smiles, Disney backpacks and sometimes wearing matching “We’re Going To Disney” shirts, God Bless. Your frustration will begin when you get to the end of the jetbridge and you try to collapse that $200.00 double stroller while both kids fuss and your spouse asks you to hurry up. The frustration will increase as you try to get both of your angels to walk down the aisle and not talk to everyone as they pass. For us business travelers we actually appreciate their smiles and energy.

I also see you most Monday mornings as you head back home. You and your spouse are completely banged up and argue over which one gets to take a break and wait in the 20-minute line at Starbucks. No one is wearing matching anything and it’s beginning to set in how much money you’ve spent in the last few days. How much Ramen Noodles can one person eat, and is hot water and Ketchup really a solid substitute for tomato soup? Rant over, and stepping down from my old man soapbox.

If you’ve only got a few hours then here are the places that I would hit, again.

Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories – I appreciate the talent required to create most of the stores’ contents, and if you search enough you’ll find a few bargains along the way.

Anthropologie – This is easily classified as a “Ladies Store”, but for a modern man like myself there’s no shortage of new decorations for my man-cave or kitchen. Bypass all the clothing in the front of the store and head towards the back, that’s where all the cool stuff exists.

Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar – If this wasn’t so far from my house, I’d be here every Friday night. If you’re looking for a place that transports you to another time, then this is it. Don’t waste time sitting outside, inside is where it’s at. Disney invested major time and money putting the interior together.  While you’re here put your phone down and look around, you’ll be amazed at the attention to detail. We went with a couple of Jock’s Old-Fashioned and a side of Snakebite Sliders, thumbs up on both.

Sosa Family Cigars – Until I get the ventilation system perfected in my man cave there’s no cigar smoking at Chateau’ Relaxo. Not everyone appreciates a cigar store, but Sosa nails it. Between the walk-in humidor and the big comfy seats, this is a legit cigar store.

House of Blues Orlando – A couple of things about House Of Blues, it’s one of my favorite gift stores and one of my favorite places for live music. Taking those two things into consideration we stopped in here to watch the Alabama Texas A&M football game. We ordered two old fashioned, notice a pattern? After their delivery that was it, no follow from the waitress asking for a food order. After dumping $25.00 on the table we were done, and moved on.

Pop Gallery – They don’t allow photos, and I understand because there’s plenty of motivation there, even for the most amateur artists. From furnishing a child’s room to your family room there’s no shortage of inspiration.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes – My running joke here with my wife is, do we need to renegotiate our relationship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here and never bowled. If you’re a bowler do yourself and make a reservation, it’ll cut down on your drinking. I always manage to find a seat outside, between the live music and attentive bar staff you won’t be disappointed. As we continued our Old Fashioned adventure Splitsvilleh was the one-stop that added Luxardo Cherries into our drink. If you’ve never had Luxardo Cherries they are a legitimate game-changer. Don’t underestimate their power, and don’t pass up any opportunity to sample one.

If eating, drinking or shopping isn’t your thing, there’s an endless supply of free entertainment as you head towards your car. A quick internet search reveals a few ideas.

  • Ghiradelli’s Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop hand out free chocolate samples throughout the day.
  • Pose for Photos with Live Performers some of the live entertainment walks around.
  • Legos the Lego Imagination Center over by the World of Disney Store offers free interactive Lego fun.
  • Hunt around for Hidden Mickey’s this can prove to be great entertainment.
  • Glass Blowing, visit Arribas Brothers.
  • Candy Creation, visit Goofy’s Candy Co. or Disney’s Candy Cauldron and you can see a cast member whipping up the best looking treats and snacks ever.
  • The Sandbox, at the T-REX restaurant, has a “Paleo Zone,”. It’s a hands-on experience where you can dig for hidden dinosaur fossils, pan for precious treasures

There you have it, safe travels and thanks for listening.

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