"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pop Century Is Totally Rad

If this appeals to you, Pop Century may be a good choice
We consider ourselves "moderate people" when it comes to Disney resorts. Our favorite is Port Orleans French Quarter, but we've loved stays at Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs as well. We'll likely stick to the moderates for a week-long trip, but we were really and truly impressed with Pop Century on our recent weekend adults only, no parks Disney weekend.

A few years ago we spent one night in the All Star Movies Resort and thought it was great for a value resort. This time I wanted to try Pop Century because it looked somehow different. Better. And it certainly was. Pop isn't nice for a value resort, it's a wonderful resort in its own right. I can't quite put my finger on WHY it seemed in a different class from the All Stars, but it really did. I think maybe it was the trees. There seemed to be more and larger trees at Pop. It felt more like it was MEANT to be there. The All Stars seemed a bit like they were Disney's answer to lower cost accommodations, which of course both they and Pop and the adjacent Art of Animation are. It's just that Pop doesn't FEEL that way., It feels very Disney, very themed on purpose, very much like it is a true part of the
We were as far from the center as you could get. And that was fine :-)
magic. All Star Movies just didn't give us that.

Pop Century is big. Very big. When we received our room assignment in the 80s building way off to one side, I was a tad disappointed. On the map it's as far from the center (where the food court and bus stop are) as you can get. I figured we'd have a hike. We drove around and settled in and then walked to the bus stop and I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't a long walk at all. And we walked though so much cool stuff! I mean it reads like a garage sale almost. Take a right past giant Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, walk through the giant Foosball game and past the (once again giant) Big Wheel, bear right at Goofy and the Corvette Stingray and you're there! I don't know if it was the distraction of all the cool stuff to look at or what, but we never felt like the walk was long at all, even
coming back from a 1:00 am bus.
How can you NOT smile when THIS greets you on your way back to your room?

So, how about all the stuff you hope to read in a review? Ok, the room was really nice. It was Disney without being over the top. We had a queen bed (with comfy pillows) and what appeared to be a handicapped accessible room, though it wasn't labeled as such. The shower was huge with no ledge at all, it was all on a level with the rest of the bathroom. It had a bench in the shower. All very cool and comfortable and spacious. There is a refrigerator in the room which we never used, but we we thought would certainly come in handy for milk for in-room breakfast.

It's a Pop Tart breakfast sandwich. Don't judge.
Speaking of breakfast, how about those Pop Tart sandwiches? Yep, the Pop Century food court offers a breakfast sandwich made of eggs, bacon and cheeses baked in between two strawberry Pop Tarts. It's just what it sounds like, if it sounds good to you, you'll love it (I did), but if not, don't try it. The food court was fairly chaotic, even with as few people staying at the resort as was the case. I can imagine it being a nightmare during more busy times. We didn't have a bad experience at all, but we saw how it easily could have gone downhill fast. But to be fair, I've never seen a Disney resort food court to which that wouldn't apply, so.......

Actually, the fact that this place was pretty thin is an over-riding caveat to this entire review. Add a few thousand souls and the bus situation, the food courts, the pools, the walks to and from....it could
View from the 4th floor elevator lobby.
all be very different and much less pleasant. But on the mid-September weekend we visited Pop Century was just great.

For a whole bunch more photos (they are really cool) check this out :-)

Especially uncrowded in the morning before it opens.... ;-)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Disney Springs: Love What You've Done With The Place!!

Here's the new logo and all :-)
We've always loved to use Downtown Disney as a first/last stop as we come and go from Walt Disney World. On the way in it's a toe in the water. On the way out it's a sort of decompression stop. This past trip we didn't stop on the way in because we were anxious to begin the Monorail Bar tour, but on the way out we got to be some of the last visitors to Downtown Disney.

As of Wednesday, Downtown Disney officially became Disney Springs, complete with a spiffy new website. While the name and the website are new, the changes that come along with the new moniker have been in the works for a while and will continue for a few years. It's a work in progress to be sure, there are construction walls everywhere, but it is coming along nicely and the newest additions are absolutely right up this guy's alley.

First off, the practical side. I LOVE the new parking garage. Parking was always a hassle here and this was a much needed addition. The garage is easy to get into and out of and looks to be big enough for most times of the year. You exit the garage in the West Side area, right next to Splittsville, which is sort of away from the more traditional shops we enjoy more, but also very close to the water taxi, so no big deal.

Under Construction, from the water taxi
Much of the new development is happening over on the West Side. It's largely not our thing. There are a lot "name," upscale stores that hold little interest for the Stites Fam, but the design tends to draw the people attracted to these stores over to that side, so it's kind of a good thing. In a little bit of a sick way.

In the middle, between Marketplace and West Side, are The Boat House and Jock Lindsey's Hanger Bar, two new additions. If this is the direction Disney Springs is taking, sign us up. We didn't try out The Boathouse, but it looks terrific both from a menu standpoint and the outside themeing. I'm a sucker for wooden sport boats and there is quite a collection tied up to the Boathouse docks. Also, it is home base to the Amphicars. These are four-seat completely amphibious vehicles that look just like the old early 60s commercial models. They drive down the ramp into the water and back up with not even a pause while they tour passengers around the lake/lagoon/whatever that body of water is called. When we first heard of the Amphicars I assumed they'd be rentals like the water sprites. Turns out they are a chauffeured experience, which opens what I desperately hope to make my next career move  as an Amphicar driver. Man's gotta have goals, right?

These Amphicars are too cool
Then there's Jack Lindsey's Hanger Bar. This one warrants and will get its own blog post later, but for now let's just say it met and exceeded some very high expectations. The Hanger Bar is themed as the bar Jock Lindsey, Indiana Jones' favorite pilot, opened in his retirement to Central Florida. It's full, and I mean FULL, of.......stuff. You could spend hours just pouring over the posters, artifacts, trophies, books, newspaper clippings and all sorts of assorted bric-a-brac in this place. It's large enough to serve plenty of people but small enough to seem authentic. It has a big outdoor deck and also a Jungle Cruise-esque river boat hanging in dry dock that serves as seating as well. We sat on the boat (of course) and felt fully enveloped in the story. The menu is simply drinks and apps, it IS a bar and not a restaurant. That's a bit new for Disney, but in this case it works very well. The drinks we had were unique and delicious and the food was the same. I have been wracking my brain for some sort of word of criticism for the place, so I don't come off as a complete fan boy here, but I got nuthin'. Jock Lindesy's Hanger Bar is the best. Period.

Best. Bar. Ever.

It doesn't seem as if much if anything of the "old" Downtown Disney had to go to make room for the new, and Disney is doing a good job of hitting all sorts of interests and tastes in its new development. This is making Disney Springs into a destination in itself, which I'm sure was the idea. And I'm all for it. We'll be back for another no-parks trip and Disney Springs will figure huge into our plans. We can't wait to try the new Morimoto Asia restaurant that just opened a few days ago.

Always something new........