Welcome to DisneyBizJournal.com - News, Analysis and Reviews of the Disney Entertainment Business!

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

What Are Those Weird Towers at EPCOT?

 by Beth Keating

Parks Visit

DisneyBizJournal.com

April 24, 2024

 

There’s an unwritten rule at Disney that no matter where you are in the Resort, you need to look up, down and sideways because the Imagineers “fill in all available spaces,” and if you aren’t looking up-down-and-sideways, you’ll be missing important stuff.  Sidewalks aren’t just sidewalks, and plants and trees are often chosen for reasons other than just aesthetics.



If you’ve hurried along the World Showcase bridge recently, and didn’t raise your eyes to the sky, you may have overlooked a very neat detail.  On the Odyssey pavilion side of the bridge, you’ll find a half dozen strangely shaped towers, and you may have wondered what these sci-fi looking spires were.

  
Those poles are home to Disney’s visiting Purple Martin families.  For more than two decades, EPCOT has played host to visiting Purple Martins as part of Disney’s conservation efforts, and you can learn more about them at the 2024 International Flower & Garden Festival.

   
Purple Martins make their home throughout North and South America, migrating to North America to nest. These songbirds are only native to the Americas, and will often travel thousands of miles during their yearly migration. Their journey northward from their warmer winter homes brings them through Florida in late January or early February, meaning that their arrival fortuitously coincides with the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival. They will stick around until early to mid-summer when they finish nesting.

  
And that’s what those weirdly shaped towers are for – a place for momma and poppa martin to hatch their babies. If you look closely, you’ll see that the individual, gourd-shaped houses are lettered and numbered, so that observers and researchers can keep track of the new little families. Bonus? The Purple Martins often return to the same breeding site, year after year if they liked the digs the first time around.  According to the Purple Martin Conservation Association, “East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins nest almost exclusively in human-supplied housing. They are dependent on us for their survival.”



I may have noticed the nesting towers a few years back, not because I’m more observant than the average Disney fan, but because, many moons ago, when I worked in suburban government in New York, we had a town wide project to increase the number of Purple Martin colonies visiting our area.  (Fun fact: Purple Martins eat while flying, making them especially lethal to the local flying bug populations.)  So, to combat our area’s mosquito population without resorting to more chemical means, one of our councilmen dreamed up the idea of encouraging residents to post their own Purple Martin houses.  Soon, local scout troops, schools and individual families were picking up plans to design Purple Martin houses for these members of the swallow family, and the birds were welcomed with open wings… err, arms. Or at least, available housing units.


In Florida, nearly one-third of Walt Disney World Resort has been set aside as a protected area. That’s 8,000 acres of wetland and upland habitats in which a wide variety of critters make their homes (and not just the Florida gators or the animatronic creatures!). More than 200 different species of birds feather their nests at Walt Disney World, both seasonally and permanently. You aren’t the only one who wishes they never had to leave the most magical place on earth!  Central Florida is on the flight path for many kinds of migratory birds, and like countless families, they too enjoy making a vacation pitstop in Lake Buena Vista along the way.

   
The EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival runs through May 27, 2024.   Stop by and see if you can spot a Purple Martin or two.  

 

__________

 

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. And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast

Monday, April 22, 2024

Walt Disney’s Patriotism Alive and Well at Disney World

 by Beth Keating

Parks Visit

DisneyBizJournal.com

April 22, 2024

 

Leaving the Emporium one afternoon several years ago, I unexpectedly came across a very brief, but very heartwarming, ceremony just steps from the Emporium’s doors at the front of the Magic Kingdom.  The Dapper Dans had gathered to sing some patriotic tunes, and at first, I didn’t realize they were the prelude to a special event.  As a Dapper Dans fan, I stepped forward to hear them perform.



The Dapper Dans were just the lead in that day to a Flag Retreat ceremony, a daily tribute to America, and to our men and women in uniform that most park guests don’t even know about.  The ceremony still takes place today while the American flag that has flown over the Magic Kingdom is retired for the night. According to the cast member I was recently standing next to in time to catch the ceremony again, the flag was reverently lowered each day during COVID as well, even though the parks were closed and there were no park visitors there to see it happen.

  
During the daily tribute, the Main Street Philharmonic brings out the brass and drums, and accompanies the gathered crowd in the singing of the "The Star-Spangled Banner.”  The Pledge of Allegiance is recited, and a trumpet fanfare sounds the Retreat as the American flag is lowered.


 

The Flag Retreat Ceremony is also an homage to our country’s veterans for their service, and each day a visiting vet is chosen to be recognized during the ceremony and presented with the flag that flew over Disney World that day.  The service member accompanies the Main Street Philharmonic as they parade down Main Street, to the applause and thanks of assembled park guests, playing the anthems of each branch of the armed forces. 

 

The entire ceremony lasts only 15 minutes at most, but it is a quiet and moving few moments in the middle of the frantic pace of the park. The Retreat currently takes place at 5:00 p.m. at the center flagpole in Town Square in front of the train station. (Times subject to change along with the sunset.)


Walt himself once declared, “Actually, if you could see close in my eyes, the American flag is waving in both of them and up my spine is glowing this red, white, and blue stripe.”  (He also noted, “I get red, white and blue at times.”)


And perhaps we can also remember Walt’s gratitude that, “I thank God and America for the right to live and raise my family under the flag of tolerance, democracy and freedom.”

It's good to see that spirit still alive and well at Disney World.

 

__________

 

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. And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast

Friday, April 19, 2024

Carousel of Progress and Other Disney Attractions Hit Their Sixties Approaching the World’s Fair Anniversary

 by Beth Keating

Parks History

DisneyBizJournal.com

April 19, 2024

 

Sixty years ago, Walt Disney helped kick off the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York, and while I wasn’t personally there, my teenaged parents were, and as a New Yorker, I grew up with references to my family having attended the World’s Fair.  Later trips to Shea Stadium (yes, I know Shea Stadium is gone and replaced by CitiField) would take us past the giant globe (the “Unisphere”) and the flying saucer towers (the “Tent of Tomorrow”) that marked the location of one of the defunct World’s Fair pavilions.  If you’ve seen Men in Black, you, too, have seen those landmarks!


Photo courtesy of D23.com


Four Disney exhibits were part of the fair, which debuted April 22, 1964. Walt was quite the businessman, leveraging other companies’ financial investments in the World’s Fair displays into attractions that would make their way to his Disneyland park when the fair was over. Walt saw his opportunity to expand his own park as he was invited to create the exhibits for other sponsors. Someone else was footing the bill for Disney’s Research and Development (R&D)!


Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln awed everyone at the State of Illinois’ pavilion with its previously unseen animatronic abilities.  On Disneyland’s website, it notes that Abe was “so life-like that National Geographic magazine called the figure ‘alarming’ in its realism.”  Great Moments was a project that was personally important to Walt, and it later landed at the Main Street Opera House in Disneyland, opening there on July 18, 1965. The show still thrills audiences at Disneyland today. Walt Disney explained, “Ever since I was a small boy in Illinois, I’ve had a great personal admiration for Abraham Lincoln. So when we decided to recreate some of the great moments in Mr. Lincoln’s life for the World’s Fair, we directed all our energies to that task. We wanted to bring to the people of today, the inspiring words of the man who held this nation together during its moment of greatest crisis, the Civil War.” (credit to the Walt Disney Archives at D23.com).   The attraction is now called “The Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” and has been updated with more modern animatronics, and additional films and displays.



it’s a small world, presented by Pepsi-Cola and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), was a slow boat ride that showcased the beautiful artwork of Mary Blair and the gorgeous costume design of Alice Davis (with more than 300 costumes!). Both ladies later became Disney Legends. The ride has subsequently been duplicated at Disney parks around the world, including Florida (1971), where it was an opening day attraction.  After the World’s Fair, the ride was trucked back across the country to set up the “happiest cruise that ever sailed” in Disneyland in 1966.




Ford’s Magic Skyway introduced guests to an early version of a continuously moving attraction – a prototype Omnimover ride, if you will – at Ford Motor’s Wonder Rotunda with dinosaurs that are now residing along the Disneyland Railroad route. Walt Disney himself provided the narration for the ride on the cars’ radios, which took riders into the past to experience the evolution of transportation.



Carousel of Progress was created for sponsor General Electric, and it first moved to Disneyland after its glorious debut at the World’s Fair, before later being relocated to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 1975. Despite some (ahem) technical and mechanical difficulties of late, the attraction is one of the most historically important to Disney fans, in part because Walt himself had a hand in its creation. The first three scenes - the 1890s, 1920s, and 1940s – are still pretty much the same scenes that were seen at the World’s Fair, while the final scene has been updated a few times as John, Sarah, and the family moved forward in time. 



The “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” follows the American family as they “go through the 20th century, experiencing all new wonders as they came.” Walt’s theatre-in-the-round moved guests around the center stages as the decades pass by, and his revolutionary new audio-animatronics wowed audiences. Oh, and the appliances on stage? They were all state-of-the art GE appliances at the time!  If you listen to the opening narration, you’ll also hear credit given to the 1964 World’s Fair.

  

__________

 

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. And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast

 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Disneyland Expansion Approved in California – Without Taxpayer Subsidies

 by Ray Keating

News/Analysis

DisneyBizJournal.com

April 18, 2024

 

It might seem strange to some in other parts of the country, but in places like California and New York, efforts by business to invest in the economy, in the community and in jobs often get rebuffed, or chased away by draconian costs. But then the same politicians who chased away business and investment will use taxpayer dollars to subsidize other businesses – you know, the ones they happen to like. Sure, it makes no economic sense, but that’s politics and government.



Therefore, The Walt Disney Company’s effort to get approval for an expansion of Disneyland was anything but automatic in Anaheim, California.

 

But Disney’s plan to expand the Disneyland theme park did get unanimous approval on Wednesday, April 17, from the Anaheim City Council. A second vote related to the project comes on May 7, and is expected to pass. Disney is pledging a $1.9 billion investment over the coming 10 years, including new rides, attractions, dining and hotels.

 

As the Orange County Register reported: “The development agreement the city is agreeing to maps out where new theme park construction could occur over the next 40 years, giving Disney flexibility to determine what exactly would be built – though all still within the footprint of its current properties.” 

 

Interestingly, Disney isn’t seeking taxpayer subsidies. Instead, the company has agreed to pay “more than $100 million in community benefits,” which would fund related infrastructure upgrades, and would “give Anaheim $30 million to use to help build affordable housing and $8 million for city parks.” In another Register report, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken was quoted, “I have been a critic of city subsidies to private corporations. I have been a critic of sometimes not working with the community … a critic of the city shortchanging itself and selling its assets for below fair market value, I do believe (Disney) did it right.”

 

Government subsidizing business makes no economic sense, and quite frankly, a private company having to effectively pay extra – on top of very burdensome taxes and regulations in California – to get its project approved is a costly precedent. 

 

Regarding payments to the city from Disney, the Register noted, “City staff are already thinking of ways to use money coming from Disney.” Of that, I have no doubt.

 

In the end, Disney got their project approved, and Anaheim got a really good deal … for now.

 

__________

 

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

https://www.patreon.com/pastorstephengrantfellowship.

 

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, April 17, 2024

Butterfly Landing Offers Peaceful Retreat at EPCOT

 by Beth Keating

Park Visit

DisneyBizJournal.com

April 17, 2024

 

Whenever we travel, it’s a sure bet that we’re going to step into the butterfly tent at the regional zoos or botanical gardens where we are visiting.  It’s always a colorful and peaceful respite in what is sometimes a hectic round of airline flights, business obligations, or family events.



EPCOT is currently hosting the 2024 International Flower & Garden Festival, and tucked away near Figment’s Imagination! pavilion is a delightful butterfly garden. The enclosed tent is home to dozens of different butterflies in various stages of their life cycles, flying freely and occasionally landing on delighted guests.  Disney is usually a loud and boisterous place, but stepping into this tent, it’s as if someone turned the sound off.  It’s quiet and peaceful, an oasis in the middle of park craziness. People find themselves whispering to each other.



It's a beautiful place with winged creatures all around you, but Butterfly Landing also harkens back to EPCOT’s original mission – that of “edutainment.”   You can certainly enjoy these delicate creatures just for their beauty, but you also have the chance to learn about their role in the environment.  Placed strategically throughout the walkways are small signs that introduce some of the flora needed for each stage of the butterflies’ lives, as well as ways that you can encourage butterflies to make their homes in your landscape.

  


There are a number of nesting boxes for the chrysalis along the walkways, so you can see the hatching butterflies as they make their way into the world, but there are also markers helping you learn what plants are necessary for each step of the butterfly life cycle.  Other placards give you details about individual species of the creatures.  




While this is a fascinating spot to visit during your trip to EPCOT, it isn’t just for the “oohs” and “ahhs” (though there are quite a few of those happening!). Disney has been very involved in breeding Atala butterflies, a species thought to have been extinct in Florida.  Helping these delicate flyers make a comeback, Disney has been breeding the Atala and releasing them back to their native habitat.  Atala butterflies only lay eggs on cycad plants, and Florida happens to have a native plant, the Florida Coontie (Zamia integrifolia), a fernlike looking plant, which is attractive to the butterflies as an egg site since it is an important food source for the caterpillars.





In fact, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, on Florida’s east coast, is very involved in the efforts, and the Vero Beach climate is perfect for these special butterflies (and the Florida Coontie).  Vero Beach has reported promising new Atala butterfly populations as a result of Disney’s efforts.  (They aren’t just about the Loggerhead Sea Turtles at Vero Beach!)



The butterfly pavilion hours are different than EPCOT’s daily hours. The tent closes at dusk, and cast members will also limit the number of visitors in the tent as needed so that everyone gets a great visit with the butterflies.  The EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival runs through May 27, 2024.   

 

__________

 

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. And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast

 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

When Worlds Collide: Pete Rose, TCM and Pastor Stephen Grant

 by Ray Keating

Commentary

DisneyBizJournal.com

April 14, 2024

 

Today, April 14, marks two birthdays – one for an individual and another for a television channel. Both had big impacts on me, and in turn, on a character I created, i.e., Pastor Stephen Grant.



First, April 14 is Pete Rose’s birthday. Rose is the Cincinnati Reds great who is the all-time Major League Baseball leader in hits – The Hit King. When I was a kid, Rose and his style of play – namely, he seemed to will his way to greatness as he did not have the most natural talent – made me a Cincinnati Reds fan. Of course, Rose also is one of the most tragic figures in the game, as he bet on baseball while managing the Reds. That got him a lifetime ban from the game and from the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

 

In turn, given my own Cincinnati Reds fandom, I made Pastor Stephen Grant a Reds fan as well. I like to call him the biggest Reds fan in fiction. And by the way, he married someone who roots for the Cardinals!

 

Second, April 14, 2024, marks the 30th birthday of Turner Classic Movies. TCM grabbed my slowly growing appreciation for classic movies, and truly allowed it to flourish. TCM is a treasure.

 

And yes, as a result, Pastor Stephen Grant is a fan of classic films, and he has been introducing his wife to these movies as well. In addition, my appreciation for classic movies merged with my love of history, and one result has been my first work of historical fiction – Cathedral: An Alliance of Saint Michael Novel.

 

More Pastor Stephen Grant and Alliance of Saint Michael novels are coming, as well as other new series. And they, no doubt, will be marked in some way by my love for the Reds and baseball, and for TCM and classic films. 

 

For good measure, by expanding my appreciation for classic films, TCM increased my fascination of Walt Disney, and now I also am writing for and managing this DisneyBizJournal website.

 

This is my personal version of what happens when worlds collide!

 

Thanks for reading and God bless!

 

__________

 

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

https://www.patreon.com/pastorstephengrantfellowship.

 

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 Economist.Kindle editions here.

 

• Grab The Weekly Economist II: 52 More Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist. Kindle and paperback editions here.

 

• Purchase The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist. Kindle and paperbacks here

 

• 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.

Off The Beaten Path, Olivia’s Offers a Friendly Break From The Parks

 by Beth Keating

Review

DisneyBizJournal.com

April 14, 2024

 

It was the opening day of an EPCOT festival, and we’d just spent 25 minutes in line for a black iced coffee (and not at the Starbucks counter, either), and another half-hour or so in line for two sample-sized dishes at one of the food booths.  The crowds were growing by the hour, and we’d decided that we’d had enough of shoulder-to-shoulder company, so we elected to bail out of the park and look for dinner elsewhere, rather than standing in yet another long line for food booth selections.


We opened the My Disney Experience app, and perused the Disney restaurants that had dining reservations or even walk-ups available.  While there was a fairly good selection of eateries available much later in the evening, many were located in other parks, and we really didn’t want the hassle of moving our car to another park, clearing security, scanning into a new park, etc.  We eliminated all the selections that were at the other theme parks, and focused on the restaurants that were at the Disney Resorts.



One of the locations that popped up was one that we’d never tried before – Olivia’s Café at Old Key West Resort.  In fact, we’d never even been to Old Key West.  We needed to use our friendly voice assistant from Google Maps to find our way there.

 
Old Key West was the first of Disney’s Vacation Club (DVC) properties, opened in 1991 and renamed to Old Key West in 1996 when other vacation club properties started coming online. While it’s not hard to get to, it is a bit off the beaten path for most travelers.  We decided to give it a shot.  And, spoiler alert, we’re really glad we did.  We’d been overlooking this hideaway for far too long.

 

Old Key West’s backstory is that you’ve arrived in “the tranquil community of Conch Flats — a sprawling island hamlet with shimmering waterways, swaying palm trees and manicured golf-course fairways.”  The facility is imbued with “the romance of the Florida Keys,” and Olivia’s, the café on site, is said to have been established by a lady named Olivia Farnsworth.



Olivia “lived in a small cottage along Turtle Krawl, upwind of the strip. Almost daily, she would invite curious passersby who smelled her cooking to come on in and pull up a chair. People loved her vibrant flavors and earthy personality, and, before long, she found herself setting more tables. Eventually, Olivia opened the doors to her eponymous cafe, which has been a haven for locals and a must-visit for out-of-towners ever since.”


While Disney Imagineers are really great at creating backstories for their attractions, sometimes guests are completely unaware of these backstories.  In this case, Olivia Farnsworth’s tale really does inform the setting and service in her small, Key West-flavors-themed café. The cast members there were among the friendliest we’ve experienced, and they seemed to also have formed closer bonds with some of the diners – perhaps because many of the diners are DVC members who return year after year, and stay for longer stints?  The cast member at the next table called the couple by name, and even asked if they wanted a particular appetizer again. They were obviously repeat patrons.

 
That “family atmosphere” is set from the very moment you walk up to Olivia’s reception desk. As you enter the waiting area, dozens of family photographs adorn the surrounding walls, “filling in all available spaces,” as they say at Disney.  The walls are even labelled the “Family Album,” just in case you didn’t figure it out on your own.

  
But these aren’t just stock photos gathered from a prop department. They are actual photos sent in from families who have stayed at Old Key West throughout the years (reaching back decades, in many cases!). The photos were everything from group shots taken at Old Key West, to First Communion photos, wedding photos, and new baby snaps.  While we didn’t wait long for our dining reservation, these walls of photos made passing the time more interesting.


The crowd that evening ranged from families in tee shirts and shorts, to a couple dressed up all fancy-like for a night out, she in a lovely floral skirt and heels, and he in a jacket and tie.  A quartet of older ladies were also dressed quite nicely, enjoying the full complement of the meal, from stemmed drinks all the way through desserts.  It was obvious that this was their “girls’ night out,” and it reminded me of my mother-in-law and her friends treating themselves to a night on the town. 


Serving up American home cooking with a flair of the Caribbean mixed in, Olivia’s is a tiny place, barely two dozen tables scattered about the nautically-décored room.  Pale blues and yellows dominate the casual atmosphere, and the place is as full of seaside charm as it was diners taking up tables by 5:30 p.m.  There is lots to look at here, from the old bottles, china plates, and tin boxes ringing the ceiling, to other seafaring paraphernalia adorning the walls.  Ships’ wheels, fishing poles, figureheads from bows of ships, and various prized fish intermingle with old photographs of fire houses and the like.



Our meal started off with a lovely loaf of homemade bread, served warm with a sweetened whipped butter.  The bread arrived at the table almost as soon as we did, so it was a welcome start while we perused the menu.


We began with the shrimp cocktail ($16.00), six decently sized shrimp served with two sauces.  The red was a house-made, traditional cocktail sauce, while the other was a Key Lime sauce that had just a little bit of spice and a whole lot of flavor.  Definitely try the lime sauce to get into the Island vibe.  The shredded bed of vegetables that the shrimp were served on (red pepper, radishes and maybe zucchini?) were lightly dressed in a vinaigrette with a hint of citrus.  The shrimp were fresh and tasty, and nicely chilled.



We almost went with the Fresh Catch of the Day for our main course, but after hearing that Olivia’s is known for its “Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken” ($25.00), we made a last minute decision, and indeed, it was the right one.  The thick piece of chicken was juicy and tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and lightly seasoned.  It was plated with the best mashed potatoes we’ve ever eaten (no kidding!), southern gravy, and perfectly al dente string beans. The pepper gravy was ladled over the chicken, and the nearby potatoes were creamy and just a touch garlicky.  A warm, savory buttermilk biscuit rounded out the platter. This chicken is a dish worth returning for!



Another diner in our party opted for the Mahi Mahi ($30.00), which came with fingerling potatoes and chorizo, and was served on a delicious bed of corn succotash.  The citrus butter gave a nice tang to the milder Mahi Mahi, which was seasoned with a good deal of blackening spice. The blistered tomatoes brought a pop of color to the dish, but the succotash was really a nice addition, bringing a lot of homestyle flavor to the meal.



We were too stuffed by then to tackle dessert, but if you want to stay in the Key West mood, Olivia’s does offer a Key Lime Tart ($9.00) that is dressed with mango and raspberry sauce. We admit to being sorely tempted as we watched it float by to another guest’s table.  There’s also a Bananas Foster that could be a whole lot of yum, made with warm banana bread ($9.00).


Olivia’s only serves brunch and dinner, and reopens at 5:00 p.m. at night after a several hour closure.  But if you are in a brunch mindset, Olivia’s is the place to go, because they serve it daily, and not just on weekends, as many other restaurants limit themselves to.

  
At brunch, you can start with a Parrot Punch for $15.00 (what else would you serve up in Key West?), or enjoy more traditional breakfast foods like pancakes and eggs.  If you are feeling a bit more adventurous that morning, you can order up the hushpuppies ($12.00); the Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken (though in the mornings you can change it up with eggs instead of mashed potatoes); Blackened Fish Tacos ($19.00); or a Banana Bread French Toast ($19.00) that sounds divine!  We’ll be back to try that another day, for sure. Those are just a few of the treats on the brunch menu.

 

Brunch is served from 7:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., then Olivia’s closes until dinnertime, reopening at 5:00 p.m. and serving until 9:00 p.m.  If you’d like to make a fun trip out of your dining experience, you can park at Disney Springs and take the Sassagoula River shuttle boats from Disney Springs to Old Key West. It’s a lovely cruise down the river, to enjoy a relaxed (and excellent) meal in a Vacation Club resort that will make you feel like you are miles away from the theme parks.

 

__________

 

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. And please listen to the Daily Dose of Disney with Ray Keating podcast