Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Reasons to Visit Disney Hollywood Studios in December

Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Orlando, Orlando
The two top reasons I wanted to visit Disney Hollywood Studios this month were to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights - sadly, for the final time - and to see the new Star Wars attractions that opened earlier this month.

The lights, as usual, were spectacular. Plus, Disney's Hollywood Studios added new features this year that took the attraction over the top. First, the lights are timed to so many different holiday music themes that you are constantly entertained as you walk through the expansive attraction. We also marveled at the tunnel of LED lights that displayed very unique dancing shapes.

The new Star Wars Launch Bay did not disappoint. First, you watch an interesting 10-minute documentary of the making and importance of the Star Wars movies (albeit a promotional push for Star Wars movies and video games). Next, you get to see cool props from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and even get your picture taken with them.

Star Wars Launch Bay, Disney Hollywood Studios, Orlando, Walt Disney WorldWe were also thrilled that the Star Tours sim ride included scenes from the new movie and an appearance by BB-8. We didn't check out the other new Star Wars attraction, which is sort of a Jedi training camp for kids.

So, make sure to visit the park before January 3 to see the Osborne Lights - and get to all the new Star Wars happenings before they get too crowded!

Also see:

Inside Scoop on Revamped Star Tours 3D

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Top reasons to visit The Smiling Bison - Sanford

The Smiling Bison's food, drinks, service and atmosphere make me, well, smile. We had a fun, relaxing time on a recent visit to the Orlando eatery's new Sanford location, and would recommend the top notch food to anyone.

The appetizers, or "bar snacks", were inventive and delicious. You must order the Chorizo Scotch Egg. It was unlike any scotch egg I have had, with a light, crispy exterior, paired with a delicious sauce and avocado puree. The Rye "Corn Dog", with rye-battered house-made beer brat, pickles and coriander mustard, is also tops on our list. I could eat the full-flavored brat by itself, but really loved the corn breading as well. 

My favorite entree was the Shrimp & Grits, a different take on the classic dish than I have ever seen. The delicious, local Bradley's stone ground grits were topped with Gulf Shrimp, corn, okra, tomato and tasso ham. The dish featured a nice, light sauce that brought all the flavors together. At first I was concerned about the $17 price tag, but let me tell you, this Shrimp & Grits is definitely worth that. Smiling Bison also serves a "Spaghetti and Meatballs" unlike any I have had. The dish doesn't use a tomato-based sauce; instead it is cheesy, with tomatoes sprinkled throughout. The quality of the house-made noodles and delicious cheesy flavor hooked us. Of course, we loved the bison, pork and ricotta meatballs too.

We are very impressed with the local sourcing at The Smiling Bison, and the fact that all the
meats are cured and prepared in-house. We also loved the atmosphere - which has been significantly modernized and upscaled from the former Italian-style eatery. Since it was an Italian restaurant, The Smiling Bison is utilizing the pizza oven, with several deep dish offerings, and more to come.

We also had wonderful dessert - Banana Cream Puffs with chocolate and rum sauce - and cocktails - including the yummy Gargleblaster - with dinner. Special thanks to co-owner Ron Thomas for his hospitality, and for Sous Chef Jessie for taking great care of us at the chef's table!

See also:

Corner Cafe a Hidden Gem in Sanford