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Sunday, February 28, 2021

New Concert Series Coming To EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

 by Beth Keating



February 28, 2021


The annual “Garden Rocks Concert Series” at EPCOT may be COVID-silenced for this year, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to appreciate some excellent music as you enjoy the gorgeous topiaries, garden designs, and tasty food kitchens at this year’s Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. Disney has a new live music series planned for the 2021 festival, and it will be brought to you courtesy of some of Orlando’s finest local bands.

The 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival takes place from March 3 – July 5, 2021, and the bands will be taking the stage at the “City Beautiful Bandstand” at the America Gardens Theatre from Friday through Monday evenings. (Hint to those of you from elsewhere – Orlando is known as “The City Beautiful.”) The concerts are free with your EPCOT admission (don’t forget to make park reservations as well!), and the bands will be performing classic songs from the past and present.

The current schedule of band appearances includes:


  • EPIC! - (Pop)

Get ready for a true multi-generational "SuperBand" who continues their run of success—making appearances all over the world with their Concert Style high-energy show!


o   March 5 to 8

o   April 16 to 19

o   May 28 to 31


  • Motown in Motion (Motown / R&B)

Get moving to the sounds of this power-packed, live Motown musical tribute to some of the greatest American artists of all time.  

    • March 19 to 22
    • April 30 to May 3
    • June 11 to 14


  • Vintage Vinyl Band (Vintage Pop)

Drop in for a spin with this unconventional top 40 cover band that specializes in retrofitting today's hits into yesterday's sound, while weaving in classics from the American Songbook.


    • March 12 to 15
    • April 23 to 26
    • June 4 to 7


  • The Hooligans (Pop)

Rock the night away to classic tunes ranging from the British Invasion to ‘80s pop to ‘90s alternative.


    • March 26 to 29
    • May 7 to 10
    • June 18 to 21


  • The Spazmatics (‘80s Pop)

Go wild for this band that recaptures all the best of the ‘80s. Outstanding musicianship combined with creative flair and styles make for an evening of pure energy and entertainment.


    • April 2 to 5
    • May 14 to 17
    • June 25 to 28


  • Latin Ambition (Latin/Pop)

Discover why this bilingual Latin American Party Band has received accolades and honors industry-wide for over a decade—and earning their reputation by promising energy, showmanship and diversity.  

    • April 9 to 12   
    • May 21 to 24
    • July 2 to 5


In addition to the local bands in the amphitheatre, the America Gardens Theatre will also host Disney’s own Voices of Liberty with their all-American a cappella renditions “celebrating the landscape, heart and human spirit of America,” and Mariachi Cobre’s lively Mexican folk music. Over at the Canada Mill Stage, the Jammin’ Gardeners, the funkiest gardeners around, will be doing what the JAMMitors do best, bringing their syncopated sounds, created on an assortment of decidedly non-musical objects, to their audiences. World Showplace will provide a place for guests to relax to live piano music.


Check the Festival Guide at EPCOT for rotating showtimes and locations on the day of your visit.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.


Please support the efforts of DisneyBizJournal.com to bring news, analysis and commentary on Disney to readers such as yourself. Make a contribution right here via PayPal. Thanks!


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Open Air Dining at Disney’s Three Bridges Bar and Grill

 by Beth Keating



February 27, 2021


After a busy day of meetings and work, the day had gotten away from us and we suddenly discovered it was nearly 8:00 pm and everyone was starving. Dining in the age of COVID can be a daunting task, however, so after scouring the Disney website for a suitable choice, we landed at Three Bridges Bar and Grill at Disney’s Coronado Springs. Since it was a location we’d been wanting to try since it opened in 2019, our family was looking forward to the meal.

Three Bridges is a southwestern-style casual dining spot on the “Villa del Lago” island in the center of Lago Dorado, accessed by – you guessed it – three wooden bridges. Its middle-of-the-lake location is especially delightful in the evening, with a breeze blowing through the open air eatery. The lights from the nearby Gran Destino Tower reflect on the water, making for a romantic dining spot that is equally welcoming to families with children in tow due to its laid back vibe. (There is a kid’s menu.) Though we were there in the late evening, it would be a perfect location to relax with a drink and watch the sun set as well. On cooler nights, the firepit and torches give a warmer ambiance to the setting.


In this era of COVID, we were especially impressed by how extra-cautious Three Bridges was compared to other restaurants. Temperature checks were made on the way in, hand sanitizer  stations were available at the entrance, and our server offered up small plates for our masks so that we didn’t put them directly on the table surface or in our pockets. It was the first time we’d seen a restaurant offer this small, and appreciated, touch. QR codes at the table also allowed diners to pull up menus on their phones, rather than touching shared plastic or even paper menus.

The menu consists of an interesting selection of “shareables” and our group ordered two of the most popular ones, the Szechuan peppercorn wings ($14.00) and the shrimp-corn fritters ($17.00).


The wings were brushed with a soy-ginger glaze that had just enough of a kick from its spices, and leaned toward the “sweeter side” of spiciness as opposed to a “burn your lips” kind of spicy. A garnish of pickled vegetables was a surprisingly yummy addition to the plate. 

The real stand out of the night, however, was the shrimp-corn fritters. There were four to the order, with a delightful dipping crema. There was a hint of sweetness to each bite as well, offset by the diced red pepper in the fritter. Perhaps the sweet taste was due to what we thought might be a tiny dusting of sugar over the top of the shrimp ball?  Or maybe the corn in the fritters was just that sweet. In any case, a uniquely made jalapeno-ranch dipping sauce was served with the fritters, and one of our diners thought they could eat a whole bowl of the dipping sauce on its own!


For our entrees, we chose three separate selections. The Braised Pork Tacos ($14.00) came as a set of three filled soft blue corn tortillas. A crunchy marinated carrots and radish slaw topped each of the tacos, with a dollop of salsa verde and Cotija cheese sprinkled liberally on top. The braised pork was very tender, and as a plus, the pork wasn’t one of those pulled pork versions  smothered in so much sauce you couldn’t taste the pork. Rather, Three Bridges lets the pork shine on its own, and it was delicious! 

Our group also ordered the Harissa Lamb Chops ($25.00), which were ultra-tender and juicy. Three chops came nestled on a Naan flatbread, and were perfect for eating right off the bone. Topped with a tzatziki, cucumber and tomato relish, the lamb chops were a big hit.

The Crispy Chicken Biscuit Sliders ($15.00), the final selection, came served two to a plate, and had a bit of an unexpected consistency. They offered a very “homemade” rather than processed feel to the chicken, and the hot honey and blue cheese topping gave the sandwich an extra boost of flavor.


Many of the dishes at Three Bridges come with a choice of smoked paprika fries or fruit, and in our case, two of our diners chose the fries, and found that they were accompanied by a nice dipping sauce that had just a hint of a smoky flavor. The fruit was a combination of chilled grapes and fresh cuts of pineapple.


In addition to their shareables, entrees and salads, Three Bridges offers a full selection of cocktails and their signature sangria pitchers.


Sadly, we didn’t make it to dessert… we were just too stuffed. Next time, though, we have our eyes on the warm churros.  We might just go back one of these days for a late afternoon respite, and order the churros and an ice cold drink. And maybe watch the sun set over the water.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.


Please support the efforts of DisneyBizJournal.com to bring news, analysis and commentary on Disney to readers such as yourself. Make a contribution right here via PayPal. Thanks!



Friday, February 26, 2021

DisneyBizJournal's Ray Keating Talks About His New Book - PAST LIVES


“Past Lives” is the New Pastor Stephen Grant Adventure from Ray Keating of DisneyBizJournal.com

 Page-Turning Short Story Torn from the Pages of Pastor Grant’s Own Daily Journal


Long Island, NY – Kirkus Reviews has called Ray Keating’s Pastor Stephen Grant “an engaging and multifaceted character” and “a consistently entertaining hero.” And now, this latest adventure, Past Lives: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story, is told from Grant’s own viewpoint, unfolding each day in the pages of his journal.

Pastor Grant tells about threats, murder and puzzling people from his past. It’s a compelling mystery involving action, unexpected turns, lost innocence, and twisted revenge. 


Regarding Past LivesSelf-Publishing Review says, “Ray Keating takes a new angle on his long-time hero in Past Lives. A mysterious enemy from the past comes back to haunt the warrior priest in this uniquely styled first-person story. As the clues mount, so does the body count, giving Grant yet another baffling and high-stakes case to unravel. This condensed mystery is enjoyably gripping, and marked by the author's characteristic style of suspense.”


Ray Keating said, “Past Lives is something new for me, and for Pastor Stephen Grant readers. It’s a short story written from a first-person point of view, with Grant telling the story through his journal entries. It’s something different, and I hope readers like it.”


Past Lives comes after the recent publication of Vatican Shadows: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which has earned widespread praise. For example, Kirkus Reviews said, “A riveting entry in a multivolume series that continues to deliver strong characters and suspense.” 


Paperbacks and the Kindle edition of Past Lives: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story are at Amazon via https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WJTPT4M and signed books are at https://raykeatingonline.com/products/pastlives.


About Keating and his Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, Kirkus Reviews simply says “exhilarating.” Lutheran Book Review says, “I miss Tom Clancy. Keating fills that void for me.” The retired host of KFUO radio’s BookTalk declares, “Ray Keating is a great novelist.” David Keene of The Washington Times calls these novels “great reads.”  And another reviewer observes, “How I'd love to see Pastor Grant on Netflix!”


Keating’s previous Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers/mysteries – Vatican Shadows (2020), The Traitor (2019), Deep Rough (2019), Shifting Sands (2018), Heroes and Villains (2018), Reagan Country (2018), Lionhearts (2017), Wine Into Water (2016), Murderer’s Row (2015), The River (2014), An Advent For Religious Liberty (2012), Root of All Evil? (Second Edition 2020)and Warrior Monk(Second Edition 2019) – have received widespread praise from all kinds of readers. 


Review copies, and author interviews and appearances are available upon request. 


Thursday, February 25, 2021

“A Touch of Disney” Experience Coming to Disney California Adventure Park

 by Beth Keating



February 25, 2021


Have you been dreaming about Disneyland’s famous Monte Cristo Sandwich from New Orleans Square while you’ve been under California’s lockdowns?  Craving a DOLE Whip or churro? Now’s your chance to scarf up what you’ve been missing. Those items will be among the food and beverage selections for sale at the new, limited-capacity ticketed experience called A Touch of Disney at Disney California Adventure Park.

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

The event kicks off March 18, and runs Thursdays – Mondays from noon to 8 p.m., through April 5.  Visitors can purchase tickets to sample some of the iconic food and beverage offerings from both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park; look for their favorite Disney characters; and shop till they drop at six special seasonal and themed marketplaces, as well as in the shops along Buena Vista Street. An assortment of unique photo locations (socially distanced, of course) will also be set up for guests during the event. 


Advance tickets are required for A Touch of Disney, and must be purchased for a specific date in order to maintain health and safety capacity limits. Tickets will be available on Disneyland.com beginning March 4, with tickets released for dates on a rolling basis until the experience ends. According to the Disney Parks Blog, “the introductory $75 ticket includes admission, parking for the experience at Mickey & Friends parking structure, unlimited downloads of Disney PhotoPass photos taken during the day of the experience, and a $25 A Touch of Disney dining card valid towards the purchase of food and non-alcoholic beverages (subject to restrictions including not being valid for alcohol). Ticket prices are subject to change.”


If you’ve munched your way around the various festivals at EPCOT, you are no doubt familiar with Disney’s snack-sized offerings, allowing guests to partake of lots of different dishes and flavors during their visit.  A Touch of Disney offers a similar arrangement, with smaller sized versions of many favorite treats. Among the numerous dining locations open for the event will be Smokejumpers Grill, Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats, Award Wieners, Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff and Cocina Cucamonga. Table reservations for Lamplight Lounge and Carthay Circle Lounge – Alfresco Dining will be available beginning March 11.  


A Touch of Disney Foodie Guide will be offered soon with a complete list of the dining spots so you can plan out your culinary choices.


Food and shopping aren’t the only highlights of this special event. Guests should be on the lookout for their favorite Disney characters throughout the Park, including Mater and Lightning McQueen in Cars Land, Joy and Sadness at Pixar Pier, and Mickey and friends “in unexpected settings.”  Some of the photo opportunities and special settings are available only at A Touch of Disney.  A new “specially curated” Disney soundtrack is also being developed to add to the ambiance of the event.


The Disney Parks Blog advises that the “Downtown Disney District will remain open seven days a week with unique dining and shopping that includes Black Tap Craft Burgers and Shakes, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, Naples Ristorante e Bar, World of Disney and Star Wars Trading Post, which recently opened in a new location. Buena Vista Street will remain open as an extension of the Downtown Disney District through March 14, and will be closed beginning March 15. Beginning March 18, Buena Vista Street will become part of A Touch of Disney.” While dining and shopping venues will be open during the event, guests are reminded that the rides and attractions are not yet operational.

Visit Disneyland.com/ATouchofDisney for updates to the event.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.


Please support the efforts of DisneyBizJournal.com to bring news, analysis and commentary on Disney to readers such as yourself. Make a contribution right here via PayPal. Thanks!


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Disney Cruise Line Cancels Additional Sailings

 by Beth Keating



February 24, 2021


Put your cruise wear away for now, Disney Fans. Disney Cruise Line is among the companies who have postponed additional May sailings as COVID continues to stymie the return to the open seas. They have cancelled all sailings departing through May 2021.

In a challenge of one-step-forward, two-steps-back, Disney has seen some of their parks, including Hong Kong, adding back missing days and extending hours, while other sectors of their business, including cruises, have taken another hit.


From Port Canaveral: The Disney Fantasy will not sail until at least June 2, and the Disney Dream is not expected to sail until after June 4. 


From Other Ports: The Disney Magic’s European season tours are docked until at least August 10, “given the likelihood of international borders remaining closed for an extended period of time.”  The Disney Wonder’s Alaska cruises are also impacted, since they operate through Canadian departures, and Canada’s ports are closed until February 28, 2022 for ships with more than 100 passengers.  Disney cautions, “We are evaluating various options for the Disney Wonder’s scheduled season in Alaska. Once a decision is made, we will reach out to Guests booked on these sailings.”

The Disney Fantasy, due to set sail July 22-31 on a longer cruise, has also temporarily docked that itinerary. “Based on the conditional sail order provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Disney Cruise Line must cancel sailings longer than 7 nights,” according to today’s advisory.


Disney Cruise Line is contacting passengers impacted by these changes. Guests booked on affected sailings with paid in full reservations can choose a cruise credit to be used for a future sailing or a full refund. Guests who are not yet paid in full will automatically receive a refund.


You can also contact your travel agent for assistance with rebookings and refunds.


As this is a continually and quickly evolving situation, be sure to check the Disney Cruise Line’s website for the most up-to-date changes.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.


Please support the efforts of DisneyBizJournal.com to bring news, analysis and commentary on Disney to readers such as yourself. Make a contribution right here via PayPal. Thanks!



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Disney World To Celebrate Fiftieth Birthday Beginning October 1

 by Beth Keating



February 23, 2021


Most of us get a single day to celebrate our birthdays. If we are little, and really lucky, maybe we parlay it into two or three days: our actual birthday, the “party with friends” day, and a “family party” day.  If you’re Disney World, though, you stretch it into a year and a half!

Beginning October 1, 2021, Disney World will be honoring the October 1, 1971, opening of the most magical place on earth with “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” saluting the 50th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom’s first day.

Party decorations are important at any celebration, and Disney knows how to decorate on a grand scale. The four park icons will get a stunning makeover, becoming “Beacons of Magic,” with the recently repainted Cinderella Castle receiving new gold bunting, sparkling golden embellishments and a 50th anniversary crest, as well as a sprinkling of pixie dust at night. Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life will glow in the evenings as “magical fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature.” Hollywood Studios will evoke “the golden age of imagination and adventure.” And EPCOT will get a lasting transformation when new lights resembling stars in the sky will light up Spaceship Earth, a change that will permanently illuminate the park at night.

Mickey and Minnie have hundreds of different outfits in their closets, and their most recent “party clothes” were a unique polka dot ensemble. For this magical birthday celebration, they will be dressed in “sparkling new looks, custom-made for this special occasion. Highlights of these celebratory designs include beautifully embroidered impressions of Cinderella Castle backed by fireworks, as well as a brocade in multi-toned, EARidescent fabric – all punctuated with pops of gold.”


Disney is planning to share more details about The World’s Most Magical Celebration in the coming months, including new events and entertainment that will take place during the 18-month-long festivities. Check in at the Disney Parks Blog or the Disney Parks website for future details. You can also sign up for your own email updates on the Disney Parks website.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.


Please support the efforts of DisneyBizJournal.com to bring news, analysis and commentary on Disney to readers such as yourself. Make a contribution right here via PayPal. Thanks!



Monday, February 22, 2021

Stay Calm & Enjoy The Muppets

 by Chris Lucas

Guest Column


February 22, 2021


Already this morning, two reporters have contacted me for a comment on this non-story about Disney and The Muppets (a franchise they’ve owned since 2004.)


Despite the click bait headlines you’re seeing reposted by people who fail to find the actual details of the story - and the comments of overheated TV and radio pundits - Disney has NOT declared The Muppets or The Muppet Show (1976-1981) racist or offensive as a whole. 

Disney has simply put a twelve second disclaimer in front of 18 out of the 115 or so episodes now available for everyone to watch on their Disney+ streaming service, due to short segments on those shows that contain outdated cultural depictions. 


Rather than cutting/censoring those segments, or just burying those 18 episodes forever, Disney has allowed any viewers to watch them, but they also put the short disclaimer in front of them to let folks know up front that there might be some things that shock viewers in 2021. 


Yellow Muppets with buck teeth and slanted eyes in a chorus singing “Ring Ting, Ching Chong,” red skinned Muppets in war paint speaking in “ugga wugga, how!” broken English, and bearded Muppets with turbans blowing things up might not offend you, and that’s fine, but for those sensitive to depictions like that, the disclaimer gives them the opportunity to avoid it, at no loss to you. 


It’s the same as going to the movies or flipping channels and seeing an R rating for sexual situations and saying, “Yeah, my family’s going to skip this one.” 


That’s your prerogative, but that R rating still allows the movie to be shown for others who choose to see that film, even with younger family members in tow.


It’s also similar to peanut allergy warnings on products. If you’re not sensitive, you can ignore the warning and enjoy the product, but for those who are, the “made with peanuts” disclaimer gives them a welcome chance to pass the product by without taking it away from you. They are not “soft” or “weak” because something affects them and not you. 


Disney and other companies have been adding disclaimers as a sensible alternative to banning or removing films/shows entirely.


It’s the mature way to handle it. 


Nothing has been “canceled.” 


It’s the exact opposite of that. Over 50 hours of shows that haven’t been seen in years by most of the general public are there to delight in, which is in no way close to cancellation.


Disney is actually trying to make The Muppets culturally relevant again, and this is a step in the right direction.


Kermit and Mickey are just fine with each other in this particular instance. They’re both part of one big happy corporate family.




Chris Lucas is the author of Top Disney: 100 Top Ten Lists of the Best of Disney, from the Man to the Mouse and Beyond.


On the PRESS CLUB C Podcast, enjoy Ray’s discussion with Chris Lucas about his career as an actor, author and Disney expert. Tune in right here!


Saturday, February 20, 2021

THE BOATHOUSE at Disney Springs to Launch New Brunch

 by Beth Keating



February 20, 2021


For those who love Disney Springs’ THE BOATHOUSE, and we do, there’s a new feature to get excited about.


Beginning tomorrow, Sunday, February 21, THE BOATHOUSE at Disney Springs will be offering a Sunday Brunch.  But as is the case with THE BOATHOUSE’s regular menu, this is no ordinary Brunch. It’s the “Captain’s Sing Along Brunch.”

Your brunch will come with an entrĂ©e and a show.  Brunch will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but a set of dueling pianos will be there to entertain guests from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  Earn a bonus if you wear a captain’s hat or a BOATHOUSE shirt to your meal – you’ll be rewarded with a complimentary mimosa!


In addition to the live music, diners will have a whole new menu to explore, along with specialty beverages.  THE BOATHOUSE is known for its incredibly fresh seafood and raw bars with the largest selection of oysters in Florida, including a version harvested uniquely for THE BOATHOUSE. Diners can be served on a waterside dock, where they can watch the vintage Amphicars touring the lake as they dine, or eat inside in three different dining rooms in the nautically themed restaurant. (If you’re brunching with kiddos, see if you can score the Chris Craft “boat table” for extra fun!)


THE BOATHOUSE is also known for their awesome dinner rolls, and they’ve promised a unique twist on the rolls for their brunch.


DisneyBizJournal has touted the joys of eating at THE BOATHOUSE before.  We aren’t the only ones who love it…. USA Today called it the #1 restaurant at Disney.  If you’re interested, check out our dining review here. THE BOATHOUSE is located in The Landing section of Disney Springs.




Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.


Please support the efforts of DisneyBizJournal.com to bring news, analysis and commentary on Disney to readers such as yourself. Make a contribution right here via PayPal. Thanks!