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Brought to fans, investors, entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, professors, and students by columnist, economist, novelist, reviewer, podcaster, business reporter and speaker Ray Keating

Saturday, June 22, 2024

An Empty EPCOT?

 by Beth Keating

Theme Park Life


June 22, 2024


We went to EPCOT recently, using it as our park hopping entry park in order to get in to the Passholder previews at Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom.  We didn’t need to be at Magic Kingdom until 1:00 p.m. for the virtual queue check in, so we decided to make use of the morning, and maybe grab some lunch at EPCOT before heading to Magic Kingdom.

The thing is, something felt “off” about EPCOT that day.  The crowds were lower, there wasn’t as much energy, and the sound levels were even somewhat lower than normal.  It was hard to put a finger on why it felt so different than any other summer day.

The park felt empty – more empty than just from the lower crowds.  Sure, the construction walls were down, and that opened up a lot of space, and the new CommuniCore Hall was wide open, but it still seemed like more than that.

When we hit World Showcase, the answer became more obvious. The festival booths were closed up and shuttered.  The buildings were still there, but the goodies they usually serve up were not being prepared.  There were no food lines. There were no bands performing on the America Gardens Theatre stage. And there were no marketplace booths lining the pathways, selling event merchandise.  For the first time in a long time, EPCOT was festival-less.

In the early days, there were fairly big breaks between festivals.  There were fewer festivals to start out with, and the downtime between kick-offs was lengthy.  There was time to eat at sit-down venues for meals, rather than snacking around the festival booths for the day.  Over time, Disney added some of our favorite festivals to the lineup, including the Festival of the Arts.  Now, there are four annual festivals: Festival of the Arts starts the year, Flower & Garden Festival ushers in the spring weather with fanciful topiaries, Food & Wine is the granddaddy of the festivals, and the Festival of the Holidays brings the Candlelight Processional and sparkling decorations to wrap up the year.

American Pavilion Food Booth During a Previous Festival

The Food & Wine Festival had gotten progressively longer over the years, particularly post-COVID, and had been running into the summer months the past few years. This year, though, Food & Wine returned to its earlier calendar schedule, making its start in a more fall-friendly time slot.

And that leaves the park feeling a bit empty right now without those food booths.  Flower & Garden ended on May 27, and this year’s Food & Wine doesn’t start until August 29, thus leaving roughly three months of food-booth-less touring.  That’s the way EPCOT used to be when we were traveling with little kids, but it sure feels odd now, when we are used to only a week or two of downtime while Disney switches over from one festival to the next.

The excitement of an ever changing offering of snacks and treats makes the festival repertoire enticing to park guests, and our family, too, looks forward to seeing what new and returning plates are coming with each opening date.  But I will admit – it’s been a treat getting back to making actual dining reservations at the EPCOT table restaurants. We’ve revisited a few favorites that we’ve been away from for a while.  But it still feels out of the ordinary to have the park as quiet as it is!  




Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.


Get The Disney Planner: The TO DO List Solution by Ray Keating. More information at

https://raykeatingbooksandmore.com/shop/ols/products/disneyplanner.  A PDF version is available here.  And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast

Friday, June 21, 2024

Disney and Iger Should Feel Angsty Over Universal’s Epic Universe

 by Ray Keating



June 21, 2024


Should Disney and CEO Bob Iger feel angsty about Universal Orlando Resort’s Epic Universe opening in 2025? Bob says “no,” but the answer is “yes.” 


And it has been a “yes” for a while now, but after seeing Universal’s video introducing its Dark Universe at Universal Epic Universe, now it’s a BIG “YES.” 


Watch the following video, and decide for yourself. But especially as a fan of the Universal monster movies, this looks, well, epic.

When asked about Epic Universe at the MoffetNathanson’s Media, Internet & Communications Conference in mid-May, Iger did what any good CEO should. He sounded reasonable and confident. As noted by CinemaBlend, Iger reportedly said, “As we’ve seen in the past, when Universal’s expanded it does bring more visitation to Orlando. That’s fine. We've had competition from them for a long time. I'm mindful of what they're doing. But I’m confident. I like our hand. I’m confident in what we’ve built and I’m confident in what we’ll continue to build. It's not something that should be distracting to us or anxiety-provoking.” 


Well, okay. But given the creative lull – to be generous – that Disney clearly is currently suffering, I’m not sure Iger would say the same thing a few drinks in at a bar and the conversation off the record. (I’m buying, Bob.)


While that’s pure, tongue-in-cheek speculation, the reality is that Universal Epic Universe looks like a formidable challenge for Disney – more so than what it’s faced before from Universal Orlando – with five lands opening in 2025. Consider what’s coming. 

Courtesy of Universal

First, Dark Universe, according to Universal, “will envelop guests in monstrous adventures across various attractions, shops, restaurants and character meet and greets that will thrill everyone from families to classic Monster fans alike.” Dark Universe will bring together legends like Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Bride of Frankenstein, with a new generation of monsters and characters. And this promises to be family-friendly, but also pushing the boundaries of such friendliness with greater “intensity.”

Courtesy of Universal

Darkmoor is the “ravaged village within Dark Universe,” and among its features will be:


• “Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment – Universal Orlando’s most terrifying attraction yet, this state-of-the-art dark ride takes guests deep into the catacombs of Frankenstein Manor, where Dr. Victoria Frankenstein conducts her twisted experiments. In a vain display of her genius, she invites guests into her laboratory to witness a demonstration of her ability to control monsters – but her plans go awry when her attempts to control the most dangerous of monsters, Dracula, fails, unleashing a horde of enraged monsters. Guests are then thrust into an intense ride through the darkness as they try to evade the grasps of The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Brides of Dracula and others.”


• “Curse of the Werewolf – Deep in the woods that sit on the edge of Darkmoor, guests will find Curse of the Werewolf, a spinning family coaster inspired by ‘The Wolf Man.’ Guests will enter the encampment of The Guild of Mystics where they’ll be greeted by the Maleva, the guild’s all-knowing seer and leader, who warns them that they bear the mark of the werewolf. Guests then board a wagon and venture into the forest – racing to escape the werewolves before they become one themselves.”


• “Das Stakehaus – Darkmoor’s most ominous restaurant, this establishment is a dining hall run by vampire ‘familiars’ who size up unsuspecting patrons to be part of the vampires’ feast. Surrounded by artwork and artifacts detailing the history of the village’s creatures of the night, guests can enjoy a menu of kebabs, burgers, sandwiches and more.”


• “The Burning Blade Tavern – Despite the blades of the windmill still smoldering and flaming periodically, Darkmoor’s monster hunters have transformed this old fiery mill into their favorite hangout. While enjoying a menu of burgers, wings, bratwurst, pretzels and specialty beverages, guests will hear stories of the infamous ‘Hounds’ – boastful hunters from beyond Darkmoor – all while surrounded by an impressive display of the monster heads they consider their ‘trophies.’”


And there’s more. Yes, Iger should feel anxious.


Courtesy of Universal

Consider some choice features for SUPER NINTENDO WORLD. Universal explains, “Inside SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, guests will be able to explore Super Mario Land – where they’ll enjoy adventures alongside Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and other characters; and Donkey Kong Country – where they’ll encounter thrills featuring Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong and other members of the Kong family.” Among the experiences will be:


• “Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge: Guests are invited to join Team Mario and battle Team Bowser for the Golden Cup in this groundbreaking attraction that fuses augmented reality, projection mapping technology and elaborate environments to bring the fun of the Mario Kart video game series to life in a compelling ride-through experience. Guests up for the challenge will enter through Bowser’s Castle – where they’ll wind its corridors and get a glimpse of Bowser’s deceptive plans to stack the odds in his favor – before boarding their kart and heading to the starting line. Then, guests steer through a variety of Mario Kart courses – collecting coins, tossing shells at Team Bowser, dodging obstacles, and more – as they join their favorite characters and compete to help Team Mario win the race.”


• “Yoshi’s Adventure: The delightful Yoshi’s Adventure attraction will make its U.S. debut when SUPER NINTENDO WORLD opens at Universal Epic Universe. On this family-friendly ride, guests of all ages will enjoy breathtaking views of Super Mario Land as they join Yoshis and travel through Mushroom Kingdom landscapes in search of glowing eggs – encountering many familiar characters along the way.”


• “Mine-Cart Madness: Guests will hop into a mine cart and careen through the jungle to help Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong protect the coveted golden banana on this first-of-its-kind family coaster. Utilizing an unprecedented ride system, innovative technology and a unique coaster design, Mine-Cart Madness will send riders on a thrilling adventure where they will experience the jaw-dropping maneuvers that they’ve seen Donkey Kong and the mine carts perform in the video games – including getting blasted out of a barrel, seemingly jumping over gaps as they speed along a rickety track, and so much more.”


Hey, Bob, still no angst? Well, there’s still more. How about “dragons in a colorful, fully-alive world filled with Viking adventures in How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk”? Among the experiences in this land will be:


• “Hiccup’s Wing Gliders – On this family thrill coaster, Hiccup invites brave new Vikings to take a ride in his latest glider contraption – a winged flying machine that launches aspiring Dragon Riders into the sky for a dragon’s eye view of Berk. Guests will fly alongside Hiccup and Toothless and reach speeds up to 45 mph as they soar around the perimeter of Berk – and even through the lagoon – while experiencing firsthand what it’s like to fly on a dragon.”


• “The Untrainable Dragon – Inspired by Universal Beijing Resort’s wildly successful ‘Untrainable’ show, this dragon-filled live spectacular takes guests on an unforgettable journey with beloved characters Hiccup, Toothless, Gobber, and Astrid as they work together to solve the mystery of The Untrainable Dragon. This heartwarming story comes to life with captivating musical numbers, breathtaking sets and life-sized dragons soaring overhead.”


• “Fyre Drill – Mischievous Viking twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut invite teams of Vikings to compete to out score and out-soak each other on this wet-and-wild boat battle. Guests will board a colorful dragon-headed boat and blast water cannons at flame-like targets to practice putting out fires – a crucial skill to master when living with dragons.”


• “Dragon Racer’s Rally – Berk’s new Vikings racers can practice aerobatic maneuvers and high-speed barrel rolls on two Viking-made dragon-riding trainers that reach heights of up to 67 feet in the air. Guests can control how ‘wild’ or ‘mild’ their experience will be as they perform high-flying, gravity-defying, swooping and soaring skills that are necessary to earn the accolades worthy of a true champion dragon racer.”


• “Mead Hall – The beating heart of Berk and the village’s main gathering hall, Mead Hall is where guests can feast like a Viking and enjoy a savory menu featuring a variety of meats, fish, sandwiches and more along with a collection of meads and ciders.”


And what about Celestial Park, which is referred to as “the heart of Universal Epic Universe and the first world guests will encounter at the new theme park.” What could possibly be included there that would warrant noting? Well…

Courtesy of Universal

• “Stardust Racers, a dual-launch racing coaster that sends guests rocketing through the skies aboard comets in a race to see who’s the fastest of them all. Reaching speeds up to 62 mph and heights up to 133 feet along 5,000 feet of track, Stardust Racers will be Epic Universe’s most thrilling coaster experience with unique maneuvers such as the ‘Celestial Spin,’ in which the two coaster vehicles perform an inverted crisscross while speeding through the air – creating an ‘out-of-this-world’ adrenaline rush.”


• “Constellation Carousel – the grand centerpiece of Celestial Park. Here, explorers of all ages will take a fantastical whirl aboard constellations that glide forward, backward – and even make 360-degree rotations – through the milky way in a choreographed dance of music and starlight.”


• ‘Astronomica, an interactive wet-play area that also doubles as a giant compass rose to the many wonders of Epic Universe, featuring crystal blue fountains that spring to life and dance around guests.”


• “An array of unique dining experiences” will include “Atlantic  a full-service restaurant set inside a Victorian aquarium complete with captivating views of Celestial Park.”


• Located “inside Epic Universe at the end of Celestial Park is Universal Helios Grand Hotel, designed to transport guests to a world where the heavens and earth unite – complete with 500 rooms, one-of-a-kind views and its very own dedicated entrance into the theme park.”


I admit that one word comes to mind: Wow! And we’re still waiting on key details for “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Ministry of Magic” land. 


Courtesy of Universal

Finally, while there is some truth in what Iger said about Universal’s expansion bringing more people to Orlando, and that can be good for everyone, including Disney, that effect only goes so far. Why? Because individuals and family budgets only go so far, especially given our inflation challenges over the past two-and-a-half years. 


And it needs to be understood that Epic Universe will have, as Universal puts it, “more than 50 awe-inspiring attraction, entertainment, dining and shopping experiences.” Yes, given the size of Disney World, Universal is still playing catch up. But catch-up also can lead to leaping ahead in key areas. 


As an economist, I understand the benefits of competition, and having businesses vying to better serve consumers. And Walt Disney World apparently is going to see a major step up by its chief competitor, and that’s good news for theme park lovers. Whether it will be good news for Disney depends on how it responds.




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, the Alliance of Saint Michael novels, and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at raykeating@keatingreports.com.


The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?


The Disney Planner: The TO DO List Solution combines a simple, powerful system for getting things done with encouragement and fun for Disney fans, including those who love Mickey, Marvel, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Pixar, princesses and more.


Never miss any new book by Ray Keating by joining the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship with Ray Keating at



Various books by Ray Keating…


• The Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries. There are 19 books in the series now.


• Cathedral: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel is at Amazon


• Order The Weekly Economist III: Another 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an EconomistThe Weekly Economist II: 52 More Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist, and The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist at Amazon.com.


• Signed editions of Ray’s books are at www.raykeatingbooksandmore.com


Also, check out Ray’s podcasts – the Daily Dose of DisneyFree Enterprise in Three Minutes, and the PRESS CLUB C Podcast.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Disney Biz Journal’s Ray Keating Publishes His Second Alliance of Saint Michael Novel - “Subversion” Follows on the Well-Received “Cathedral”



June 19, 2024


Did you know that Disney Biz Journal’s Ray Keating also is a novelist? His latest book – Subversion: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel – is a nail-biting work of historical fiction. This book follows on Cathedral: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel.


Ray Keating talks about his new book – 
Subversion: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel

What’s happening in Keating’s book? With the Nazis on the rise in Germany, the Alliance of Saint Michael is called into action to aid a Jewish businessman and art collector in Berlin, while also countering pro-Nazi rumblings in America. The Alliance of Saint Michael brings together Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Orthodox men and women with varied backgrounds and assorted talents to work against the two most significant threats to Christianity and civilization at the dawn of the 1930s - communism and fascism.


In Subversion, a priest is murdered on Long Island. Meanwhile, in Germany, a Jewish businessman and his wife are targeted for violence by members of the Nazi Party. What do these two events possibly have in common? Members of the Alliance of Saint Michael find themselves at the center of each situation, as they work to aid those in danger while countering Nazi lies within the Church.


Subversion is a work of historical fiction that hits hard on matters like antisemitism and politics corrupting the Church, while also being filled with characters that readers can care about and respect, thrilling action, love and friendship, and reflections on faith and helping others.


Keating, who also has penned 19 Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries (with more coming), said, “As I get deeper into the Alliance of Saint Michael series, I not only get to write some exciting historical fiction, but also explore how various individuals think and react with evil on the rise in what’s supposed to be a ‘civilized’ place. And yes, these are questions that have long plagued and continue to challenge humanity.”


Paperbacks and the Kindle editions of Subversion and Cathedral are available at Amazon.com, and signed books at www.RayKeatingBooksandMore.com.


Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, the Alliance of Saint Michael novels, and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Finally Riding Tiana’s Bayou Adventure

 by Beth Keating



June 19, 2024


I’ll say it right up front – I’ve never been a big fan of log flume rides.  I don’t like spending the rest of my day squishing through the parks with wet shoes, or even worse, wet clothes.  But more than that, those big drops terrify me.

That all being said, I wasn’t especially heartbroken that Splash Mountain was being re-themed. The other members of the family were, however. (My husband even bought me a framed poster of the “Fifty Foot Plunge Ahead” Splash Mountain sign for Christmas one year. Pretty sure that was something he liked, as I was not a Splash “ride or die” fan.). And we’d never seen (or frankly, even been aware of) the Song of the South movie that the ride was based on. We just knew it as a critter story about a fox and bear chasing a rabbit.  Honestly, not even sure we looked that far into that storyline, because the audio on the ride was always so terrible that you just relied on the visuals to figure out what was going on.

Toward the end, no one would argue that Splash Mountain was in serious need of some TLC.  More animatronics were not working than were.  Time to upgrade.

Enter the re-theme of the mountain. We finally got to ride the new “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure” at Magic Kingdom during Annual Passholder previews this week, but it was not without its trials. The ride formally opens to park guests on June 28, but there have been a  number of preview groups in the meantime. In the past, Disney has set it up so that you would go online to a specific link during a select window to choose a day and time to ride a new attraction during passholder previews. By the end of that window, you knew if you’d successfully won a seat, and what the time frame was.  You could plan ahead.

This time around, there was a new, very loose framework for riding during passholder previews. You just showed up at the park with your park reservation in hand, and tried for a virtual queue (not always a successful venture on a normal visit).  It meant that you were taking a random day off from work, showing up, and hoping for the best, without knowing whether you’d actually be riding.

It did not go well for us on day #1.  We didn’t snag a virtual queue in those precious few milliseconds when the “join queue” button lit up.  (If you’ve ever stressed making a virtual queue, you know what I mean!). “Day off” used up without riding the preview.  And while a day at Disney is always better than a day at work, we’d burned a vacation day that could have been better arranged.

The preview process has been a bit fraught with challenges on Disney’s end as well.  Passholder previews, media previews, and cast member days are a bit like a dress rehearsal for a new attraction, and it’s a chance to work the bugs out.  But Tiana’s previews had more bumps in the road (or water, as it were) than most openings, particularly considering that it was a re-skin of an existing ride.  There was lots of down time, late starts that threw the rest of the day’s riders out of synch, and even a few “in show exits.”

After several tries to grab a virtual queue, my son and I finally got to ride (not so the rest of the family).  I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the ride was better than what I was expecting, given how poor the original POV video from Disney was.

In true Imagineering fashion, there were lots of details to take in along the queues.  I would have liked to have had more time to take a closer look at the family letters and photos on the wall, the newspaper clippings scattered throughout, and even the tchotchkes on the shelves. (There’s a set of a ceramic bear, fox and bunny on one shelf as an easter egg tribute to the former ride!).

The queue is well done, and I’m sure that each time you ride, you’ll spot more “stuff.”  Radio broadcasts set the mood for the time period, and you’ll recognize music from the Princess and the Frog animated film, as well as some original tunes. You’ll be wandering through Tiana’s office, checking out her spice cabinets and shipping boxes, peeking into her kitchen and seeing the beignets and gumbo pot, and then heading down the caverns of the old salt mine that Tiana has converted for her employee-owned company.

On the ride itself, I was most surprised by the size of the animatronics. They were so much bigger in person than I expected.  The audio track was light years better than the old one (but still a touch convoluted story-wise – it was initially hard to understand that Mama Odie was “shrinking you down” in the one segment. It didn’t take long to figure it out, but it wasn’t instantaneous.).  The spotlight figures of Tiana and Louis were very fluid, much more like the super cool newer models we’ve been seeing in Tokyo Disney and elsewhere.  There were also a number of adorable critters that were more like traditional animatronics throughout the ride.  A few of those are sure to become favorites of guests.   (Sorry I wasn’t able to get on-ride pictures of the animatronics for you.  I was afraid of getting my phone wet, so it was safely stowed in my Ziplock bag in my backpack!)

One of the most common complaints on Disney chats (not just about the Tiana ride, either) is Disney’s reliance on screen-based tech, and fans were skeptical about how the use of the screens would impact Tiana’s ride.  I did find it a bit jarring in the “shrunk down room,”  with enormous Tiana and Louis faces peering in, but I thought the screens really helped to add to the depth and the kinetic energy in the finale scene, where the party is taking place and there are lots of guests dancing and singing.  The front of the scene is comprised of three-dimensional physical sets with animatronics, including many of your favorite characters from the movie, such as Ralphie, Lottie, and Naveen, but the restaurant façade behind the characters is comprised of screen tech in the restaurant windows, filled with lots of other guests.  It’s a party!  In this case, the screen tech works, and fills out the rest of the scene.

On the downside, the logs themselves were a little bumpier than anticipated.  The underwater track is the same as the Splash Mountain one, and I expected that the ride would be smoother given the refurb, but the logs were scraping (and squealing) in a few places, and there were a few rough clunks along the way.  For those of you that enjoy the spray of swampy bayou water on your log flumes, this ride also seemed to get us much wetter than the old Splash…. Maybe that’s just my memory, but my son seemed happy with the splashier ride. Be reassured that when the Critter Co-op store launches to all park guests at the end of the month, there will be towels available for sale.  Just in case.




Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.


Get The Disney Planner: The TO DO List Solution by Ray Keating. More information at

https://raykeatingbooksandmore.com/shop/ols/products/disneyplanner.  A PDF version is available here.  And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Changes Coming to Frontierland in Disney World This Month

 by Beth Keating



June 18, 2024


There will be a few changes coming to Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World in the next month or so, and that doesn’t even include whatever will be announced for the “Beyond Thunder Mountain” project.

On June 28Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will officially open to park guests, though there has already been some activity at the old salt mine with cast member, annual passholder, DVC and media previews. Kiddos must be 40 inches tall to ride the former Splash Mountain/rethemed attraction. While Tiana and her critter band will be bringing the crowds back to that corner of the Magic Kingdom, Big Thunder Mountain is expected to close shortly for its own refurb, based on recent construction permits that have been filed, so crowd levels will surely ebb and flow in that quadrant of the park.

On July 17, 2024, the Country Bears will be back in their all new “Country Bear Musical Jamboree.” The music will be updated in a more modern “Nashville style,” and the songs will include popular Disney tunes in a “countrified” format. The audio-animatronic bears will be sporting fresh new costumes as well.  The Country Bear Jamboree was an opening day attraction at Disney World, swinging open the doors of Grizzly Hall on October 1, 1971.  It was one of the last attractions that Walt Disney personally helped develop, and was originally set to debut at a never-built Disney ski resort, but moved to Florida instead.

And lastly, another opening day attraction, the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, will see its final day of operation on June 23.  It is being replaced by a Disney Vacation Club lounge.  The Arcade, located next to the Country Bear Jamboree, is an Old West-style shooting gallery, using infrared rifles to take on a hundred different targets.  The shooting gallery is themed to Boot Hill in the frontier town of Tombstone, Arizona, and is currently free to participate.

The new DVC Lounge is the first in the Magic Kingdom, and will have décor “inspired by the bygone era of exploration and adventure.” The Grand Opening date for the lounge has not been set as of yet. The DVC lounge in EPCOT at the Imagination Pavilion is currently undergoing renovations and has set up a temporary home in the Odyssey Pavilion, and there is also a DVC lounge at Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort.

And if you are scoping out the changes in Frontierland, don’t forget to mosey up to the counter at the Golden Oak Outpost, where you can grab an order of the new “Tiana’s Famous Beignets,” which will be available from June 28 through September 6.



Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.


Get The Disney Planner: The TO DO List Solution by Ray Keating. More information at

https://raykeatingbooksandmore.com/shop/ols/products/disneyplanner.  A PDF version is available here.  And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast

Monday, June 17, 2024

Seven Disney Restaurants Rank in Orlando Sentinel’s Foodie Awards for Summer 2024

 by Beth Keating



June 17, 2024


Disney World restaurants have been honored in four of the eleven categories during the recently released Summer Quarter of the “Orlando Sentinel’s Foodie Awards.”


The annual awards are typically given in more than 50 categories, but this year, they are being announced quarterly because there are over 300 restaurants as part of the review process.  In order to give each category their moment to shine, and to make the process more manageable, the Orlando Sentinel is now issuing their awards quarterly, with different categories in each quarter.

In the Best Splurge category, Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian earned a runners-up slot in the Reader’s Choice section.  But in the Best Theme Park Restaurant division, it was a Disney sweep - Disney took home all four slots.  The Critic’s Choice went to Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom, while the Reader’s Choice named The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios the winner, with Yak & Yeti Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and San Angel Inn Restaurante at EPCOT as runners-up.

Best Wine Bar in the Orlando area?  The Readers named Wine Bar George in Disney Springs their choice.  Best Japanese?  The Disney adjacent Swan and Dolphin’s Kimonos garnered one of the Reader’s Choice runners-up spots.

The Summer Quarter Foodie Awards named winners and runners-up in the following groupings:  Best ChineseBest DessertBest Hotel RestaurantBest IndianBest JapaneseBest KoreanBest SplurgeBest ThaiBest Theme Park RestaurantBest Vietnamese and Best Wine Bar.  (You can check the previous “Winter Quarter” awards here, with fourteen other categories.)


Here's a look at the other restaurants that were cooking up the competition in the same categories as the Disney winners for the summer session:


• 2024 Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards: Best Splurge


Critic’s Choice


Camille, 4962 New Broad St. in Orlando.


Readers’ Choice

Winner: Bull & Bear, 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane in Orlando.

Runners-up: Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian, and Trabucco in Orlando.


• 2024 Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards: Best Theme Park Restaurant


Critic’s Choice

Winner:  Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom.


Readers’ Choice

Winner: The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Runners-up: Yak & Yeti Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and San Angel Inn Restaurante at EPCOT.

• 2024 Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards: Best Wine Bar


Critic’s Choice

Winner: Golden Hour Wine, 1560 Lake Baldwin Lane in Orlando.


Readers’ Choice

Winner: Wine Bar George at Disney Springs.

Runners-up: VINIA Wine & Kitchen in Winter Park and The Wine Room in Winter Park.

• 2024 Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards: Best Japanese


Critic’s Choice

Winner: Sushi Kichi, 5368 Central Florida Parkway in Orlando.


Readers’ Choice

Winner: Seito Sushi, 4898 New Broad St. in Orlando and 8031 Turkey Lake Road in Orlando.

Runners-up: Tori Tori in Orlando and Kimonos at the Swan and Dolphin at Disney.



Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.


Get The Disney Planner: The TO DO List Solution by Ray Keating. More information at

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