Monday, November 10, 2008

David's Unofficial Guide To Disney World (For Adults)

The last time I was in Disney World was the early to mid '70s. When I was last there, there was only one theme park, so I wasn't really prepared for how HUGE it has become.

When you are in Vegas, you often hear people saying things like, "Vegas is just Disney for adults." I have always understood this to mean that Vegas is where adults go to play and Disney is where kids go to play. But the similarity is actually much more substantial. All of the changes to Vegas since, say, 1986, represent a real disney-fication of the place. When I was in Disney, I could not help but constantly think, "This is just like Vegas, only bigger."

Anyway, back to Disney World. How huge is it? Disney World is easily bigger than all of Las Vegas put together. It is mind numbingly large. It is mile after mile of fabulously cool imitation reality or pseudo-reality.

There are a few things that adult visitors might want to keep in mind when visiting, though. The biggest is simply the observation that it is an entirely closed system. If you stay at one of the resorts on the Disney property, you will never leave the reach of a single company. Like other closed systems (airports, isolated casinos, etc) you should expect to pay more than normal and have fewer choices. Disney World is big enough that you still have a bewildering array of choices, but not in everything.

Coffee at Disney World

For example, the coffee in Disney World is absolutely wretched. The regular brewed coffee is pretty variable. At its best it only really makes it up to the level of "pretty fair diner coffee", but on the whole you can choke it down if you have to. The espresso is a complete disaster. They have tons of fully automated espresso machines in various locations, but they are not great machines, they contain inferior beans, and they are run by completely untrained "cast members". The "espresso" they put out is almost impossible to swallow. To add insult to injury, the pricing of espresso drinks is outrageous. To add two shots of espresso to a latte, for example, they will charge you the full cost of a double espresso. On the whole, the espresso drinks end up costing about twice as much as Starbucks, but they are about 1/10th as good (if that). This makes the espresso I consumed in the last few days the worst and most expensive coffee I have ever had, bar none. Oh, and did I mention that most places only have non-dairy creamer?

Deb did tons of internet research on the coffee situation before we went, so we went prepared with a pound of Peets coffee and my AeroPress. At least the first cup of the day was decent that way. The coffee maker in our room took the small basket filters and our resort gift shop (Wilderness Lodge) actually sold the filters, so we could have gotten away with just bringing the coffee.

I can confirm that there are two places with decent coffee. At the Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Resort, they will bring a french press of decent coffee to your table. This doesn't appear on the menu for some reason, so you have to ask for it. Also there is a coffee/desert bar in the Morocco section of Epcot that serves actual handmade espresso. It isn't the best in the world, but it is decent. If you get the Moorish coffee they add some cinnamon and nutmeg to the espresso making it both decent and novel.

Beer at Disney World

I was not expecting to find decent beer (or even any beer) at Disney, but there are a few areas that are actually remarkably good for the beer drinker.

I was surprised and pleased that the various countries in the country showcase offered "local" beer at outdoor stands and you can take a cup to go. This means that it is actually possible to do a round the world walking beer tour. The beers present don't always represent a nation's best, but some are pretty decent. Ironically, the best selection was actually at the American Adventure which was sponsored by the Boston Beer Company who (again ironically) put a better selection of their beer in place there than you can find in all but a few pubs in Boston itself. I had a tasty Black Lager. I also had Guiness, Beck's, and Spaten Optimator (by the liter at the Biergarten) and skipped many more. It is possible that the beer selection is not always as good as my experience, though, since the Food and Wine Festival was underway while we were there.

There is a nice outdoor pub (Raglan Road) at Downtown Disney too. I had a fine pint of Guiness while munching on tasty fish and chips from the next door chip shop.

I never made it to the brewpub on the Boardwalk, but I have to have something to go back for.


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