Saturday, September 7, 2013

Disney World Trip: Part 2 Downtown Disney

Buzz Lightyear

Here is the second installment of our Disney World Trip! You can view our first blog post here. On the second day in Orlando we were still so jet lagged from our trip that we kind of slept in to our dismay. Since it seemed like most of the morning was already gone, it wasn't worth trying to go into the theme parks yet. Instead we decided to check out the Downtown Disney shopping area and have a low key day of just walking around and checking the sights.

Downtown Disney Lake
I can't recall the size of the Downtown Disney in Anaheim, but I am sure that this one in Orlando was larger. A map of the area can be found here. The shopping area surrounded a big manmade lake where you can rent little boats to ride across. The weather was beautiful that day so it just nice to sit on a bench and people watch by the water.
Disney World 2012-78.jpgJust as you would expect from Disney, there were tons of Mickey motifs all over the architecture, some were obvious and others were hidden. I heard that there are some "hidden mickeys" around the parks that people search out for like a game or something. I don't think I would have enough patience for that though. 
Daisy and Donald
We meandered through the different shops and picked up a few items here and there. But the one store that beat them all was the World of Disney store. It boasts being the largest Disney store ever and it really was. It took most of our time to look at everything in there. You can buy all your souvenirs at this one stop and I overheard from another visitor that it's cheaper to buy stuff at this store rather than at the parks. 
Autograph Books
We ended up getting some Mickey Ears, Autograph books and a few other fabulous souvenirs.
Mickey Oven Mitts and Apron
All that shopping built up our appetite and we had to figure out where we wanted to eat. There is quite an offering at Downtown Disney from sit down restaurants to counter service fast food. We had purchased the Disney Dining Plan for this trip, but we were terribly confused on how to use it and where it can be used. You can view all the details about it here. Basically all your meals during your trip are prepaid and you just present your dining card to cover your meal at any Disney restaurant. Based on which plan you buy, you are allotted one counter service meal (fast food), one sit down meal (at a sit down restaurant), one snack (like chips, fruit, ice cream, etc) and one refillable drink. And each meal includes an entree, drink and desert per person. It could turn out to be a ton of food and whatever you do not use for the day can be carried over to another day. A lot of people purchase the dining plan for convenience and to not worry about having extra money for food but some critics say it's not the most cost effective way to go if you are trying to save money for your trip. We did agree that if we were to go again, we probably will not purchase the dining plan.
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Wolfgang Puck Express

We gave my niece the choice of where to eat and even though she was enticed by the Rainforest Cafe she ultimately decided to go for Wolfgang Puck's Express which was a great choice. It was a counter service restaurant that offered gourmet style pizzas, sandwiches, salads and pastas with dessert options. The food ended up being quite delicious and the service was very fast and friendly.
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For dessert they offered cookies, ice cream and creme bruleƩ. We each ordered different ones so that we can try them all and they were of course very yummy. We liked this place so much that on our last day in Orlando when we came back to Downtown Disney for last minute shopping, we ate here once again. ;)
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We walked around some more until our feet couldn't take it any more. They had a small fireworks show at night and it was then I noticed that the area was kind of split, meaning part of the area was family friendly and there was another part called "Pleasure Island" that was catered more to the adult crowd with what looked like bars, clubs and other activities. We just turned around once we found ourselves around there. I have heard though that Disney planned to revamp this area to be more "family friendly" it might have been updated since we were there. This is also where a movie theater is housed and the big Cirque de Soleil show. We made our way to the bus stops and then took the bus to our hotel since we had dinner reservations at Kidani Resort's star restaurant.
The Disney Bus Shuttles are great!

When we got to our hotel we decided to go back to our room to drop our stuff off, get some rest and wash up for dinner. One thing I forgot to mention in my first post is that if you want to dine in any of Disney's sit-down restaurants, you MUST make reservations ahead of time. You can get by without making any but be prepared to wait a long wait or possibly get turned away. When I booked this trip there was a page on the website that allowed you to make reservations in all their restaurants in advance. This helped a huge deal, only downside is that you have to keep track of your reservations for time management but it really wasn't that bad.
Sanaa Restaurant at Kidani Village
We were interested Sanaa Restaurant mainly because we are big fans of Indian food. This restaurant boasted "African cooking with Indian flavors" and we were curious. This is the only restaurant located in the Kidani Resort and only offers lunch and dinner service. Most people recommended lunch service since the restaurant has a magnificent view of the savannah and you can admire all the animals walking by as you eat. I didn't reserve lunch since I knew we'd be out and about during the day, so dinner was the next best thing.
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The decor of the restaurant was very nicely decorated, and the dark atmosphere made it a good place to have an intimate romantic dinner. We were seated rather quickly despite the restaurant being busy (thank goodness for the reservations) and our server was friendly and gave us some suggestions. The menu was rather easy to navigate and many of the dishes sounded familiar if you've dined in an Indian restaurant before. Since our dining plan only covered entrees and desserts we bypassed the appetizers and enjoyed the naan bread service.
Red and Green Curry Tadoori Chicken
These are photos of a couple of the entrees that we tried. The top photo was the red and green curry dish with basmati rice and the bottom photo was their tandoori chicken dish. The serving sizes were just right and everything tasted good, but it was just not what we were expecting. It had a milder, sweeter flavor than what you get at a traditional Indian restaurant. This may be because of the African influences in the cooking. I couldn't quite put a finger on it except that it tasted like something was missing. I do remember that the tandoori chicken was pretty dry as well. My mom ordered the sustainable fish dish that came with some shrimp and scallops in a curry broth and she did say it was perfectly cooked.
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This was the free kid's dessert that Kidani and most Disney restaurants offered; vanilla ice cream with Mickey sprinkles and a chocolate Mickey head. My niece was of course really excited to get this even though she did not finish all of her tandoori. We also sampled a couple of their desserts:
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The dessert trio had three small samples of the desserts that they were offering that night. One was a chocolate cake, the middle was a chai cream and I think the third was mango kulfi with a fruit sauce. I remember it all tasting very good.
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This was the single serving of the chocolate cake with a raspberry-mint sorbet.
"Let the memories begin"
Eating at Sanaa was a nice ending to our first full day on the Walt Disney World Resort. We were really excited for the days to come and talked about all that we wanted to see and do. After dinner we retired early since we had to wake up early for a reservation we had for a Disney Princess breakfast! Stay tuned for part three of our Disney adventure where we discover all the different countries at the Epcot theme park!!

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