Kudos: Brad from PA at the BaseLine Tap House

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a visit special. For today’s “Cast Member Kudos” article, I wanted to thank Brad from Pennsylvania. We met him while enjoying drinks and snacks at the BaseLine Tap House at Disney’s Hollowood Studios.

BaseLine Tap House at DHS on September 10, 2018.

The Tap House is relatively new. I did not recognize it as the former location of Costume Shop…

Costume Shop at D/MGM on August 26, 1996.

…or Ellen’s Buy the Book

Ellen’s Buy the Book at D/MGM on May 19, 1997.

…or Disney’s Buy the Book

Disney’s Buy the Book at D/MGM on October 16, 1998.

…or even Writer’s Stop:

Writer’s Stop at D/MGM on October 3, 2007.

In fact, I probably still wouldn’t know this if it weren’t for Werner of yesterland.com clueing me in last year.

But I digress…

This spot is hot and trendy on with folks on Twitter, so I wanted to check it out. Since it was new to me, I would probably have popped in anyway to see what it was.

During my most recent visit, we stopped by just as it was opening at 10 a.m. (“What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?” Wait until 10 a.m., apparently.) I am not a huge beer fan, so I tend to just try things that are special (local craft brews, or beers made exclusively for a theme park). This visit, I inquired about the shelves of liquor that were on display. It seems they can make all kinds of drinks beyond what is on the menu.

I had a Long Island Iced Tea, and noticed the number of liquor shots that went into it made it a much better cash-to-booze value than probably anything else I had in the park during my visit 😉 I forget what the second drink was, but perhaps a California Sunset or the Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider.

BaseLine Tap House drinks and eats on March 3, 2019.

As we sat outside enjoying the crowd-less patio, I asked the cast member who was near us about their costumes. I was curious about what components might be their’s, personally, versus supplied by Disney. (Many company dress codes might say “black slacks, black shoes” and only provide a Polo shirt or apron or whatever.)

We ended up having a delightful chat with Brad from Pennsylvania and learned more about how much attention to detail Disney puts in to even the shoes their employees wear to work. Everything seems to have a reason.

I won’t try to bore you with a recount of my Q&A session asking about footwear, but suffice it to say, we found Brad to be a great example of the type of cast we expect from a Disney visit. (And, hey, he’s even been to Kennywood in West Mifflin, PA!)

Thanks, Brad, for taking a few moments to spend some quality time with a few random tourists from Iowa.

Until next time…

Kudos: Sam, Haley and Kayla at Islands of Adventure

Previously, I mentioned tracking down my 2007 bartender from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This led me to write some “kudos” articles about other cool workers I’d encountered at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. Today I will continue, this time focusing on providers of tasty adult beverages at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

It was a cold and rainy day. By 10 o’clock, we’d already made the loop around the park and seen much of what we wanted to see, thanks to the lines being non-existent. We found ourselves back at Port of Entry near the park entrance just in time for the Backwater Bar to open for the day.

Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure on a cold, rainy March 27, 2019.

Although I’d walked past it many times, this was my first time inside. It was small, cozy and, most importantly, dry and warm.

Unfortunately, no spiked hot drinks were to be found here. After checking with Universal’s Twitter folks, it seems spiked hot drinks were just not available inside the park (though they did suggest trying Toothsome in CityWalk). Instead, we decided on cold drinks at hot soup.

Hot soup and a cold drink at Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure on March 23, 2019.

Since the bar was empty (maybe one other group the entire time we were there), we had a wonderful chat with our bartender, Sam. It was a pleasant and personable experience that let us warm up and pass some time while waiting for the rain to stop. (Yes, I know this is how a bartender should be, but it was definitely not the case at many “bars” I visited during my Orlando trips.)

Thanks, Sam!

A few hours later, I was working on checking off some more items on my Twitter “to do” list and I found The Watering Hole in Jurassic Park.

Watering Hole at Islands of Adventure on March 23, 2019.

This place was recommended due to having some specialty drinks, including some seasonal ones.

Twitter suggested that I try the Prehistoric Punch, so I did. My girlfriend tried a (I think) the Prehistoric Rocks. Both came in souvenir (plastic) cups.

Watering Hole specialty drinks in the souvenir cups on March 23, 2019.

This is were our bartender Haley comes in. She was letting us know about the various drinks and also that this refill cup would get a discount on them later in the day. It was also good for $1 off beer refills at certain places with draft beer. I appreciated the effort to let me know something that could help make my visit a bit more affordable.

Thanks, Haley!

And last on the list was a stop at Hog’s Head in the Hogsmead: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This popular place had a line going out the back door.

Hog’s Head at Islands of Adventure on March 27, 2019.

When I finally made my way to the counter, Kayla was nice enough to let me sample some of their custom beers before I committed to one. They don’t do that at Disney’s California Adventure, for sure. In the end, she convinced me to go with my Twitter suggestion of The Triple and try this interesting combination drink of beer, cider and beer.

The Triple at Islands of Adventure on March 23, 2019.

I’ve had a “black and tan” before, and it really wasn’t my thing, so I didn’t expect to like this any better. The Triple was just a variation of a common drink I can get locally, except being made using one of the “brewed just for Universal Studios” beers, which I can’t get locally. It was at least unique from that perspective. And, hey, though it didn’t qualify for a refill discount, I did get to use that souvenir cup at least once!

Thanks, Kayla!

Although these interactions were simple and minor, they were enough to stand out among hundreds of other interactions I had during this trip. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make the difference.

Until next time…

Fantasmic and the Walt Disney World alcohol turning point in 1998.

UPDATES:

  • 2019-04-19: Added a 2014 version of the “beer tray” photo, compliments of DisneyDrinking.com.

In 1955, Walt Disney opened the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. After he passed away in 1966, his brother Roy continued part of Walt’s vision of his Florida Project. In 1971, he opened Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom theme park.

The 1970s were the era that I grew up in, and was exposed to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom during one amazing family road trip from Houston, Texas.

In 1982, EPCOT Center opened. It was the first Disney theme park that did not feature Disney characters! Yes, Virginia, there was a time when you couldn’t meet Mickey and every fairy tell princess at Epcot… Another first was the addition of alcohol to guests (if you ignore Holidayland at Disneyland, which served beer back when Walt was still alive and in charge).

In the early years, alcohol was limited to restaurants. You could buy a margarita at the quick service food stand in Mexico, but a cast member would make sure you did not carry the drink out to the rest of the park.

Obviously, at some point both of these things changed and now about the only thing you can’t get at the park is a photo of you holding a beer while standing next to a Disney character.

But I digress…

I don’t recall when the open carry policy for alcohol changed, but I do recall the first time I ever saw booze being sold “in the lanes.” I had visited Universal Studios Orlando earlier, and noticed they were selling booze in the lanes, and I clearly remember thinking “I wonder how long it will be before Disney does it?”

Within a year, apparently. The Disney/MGM Studios was opening a version of the Disneyland smash-hit Fantasmic!

Fantasmic! coming soon sign at Disney/MGM Studios on May 19, 1997.

By coincidence, I happened to be in town when they first did a soft-open preview performance. The wikipedia says the show opened on October 15, 1998, but I thought it was later, and that the earlier shows were for cast members only. I remember waiting in a long line for a chance to see it and the (first?) show was cancelled (or full?). The earliest photos I have are from October 16, 1998:

Fantasmic’s first public showing on October 16, 1998.

I don’t recall the details, but something happened that caused a swarm of people to go to guest relations that night:

Disney fans swarm guest relations on October 16, 1998.

I guess Disney fans were whiney back then, too. I seem to recall they did a second show and that is that one I watched. Perhaps this first night didn’t happen at all and I am remembering a second attempt later? I don’t seem to have any photos of the show from that night.

I have a photo from October 23 that shows was cancelled:

The brand-new Fantasmic cancelled on October 23, 1998.

Tonights? I guess people forget apostrophes even at Disney World!

It appears the first photos I took of the actual show were from October 24, 1998:

Fantasmic! on October 24, 1998.

Well, either my memory is wrong, or the Wikipedia is wrong, or the Mandela Effect is real. But that’s okay, because that has nothing to do with this article.

THIS is what I am writing about today:

Popcorn being sold to folks in line for Fantasmic! on October 16, 1998.

Well, not those popcorn sellers, specifically, but the whole concept of people walking around with trays of stuff to sell to folks standing in line. More specifically, people walking around with trays of beer to sell to folks standing in line! That’s what I saw the first time I tried to see this show.

Beer being sold to people in line on October 16, 1998.

Can you believe it? Disney had cast members walking around with a tray of beer cans, selling it to people standing in line for Fantasmic!

And that, my friends, may have been the first time Disney sold alcohol “in the lanes.” Do you know of any earlier instance?

Today, most ice cream carts seem to have a few beers on tap.

UPDATE: And, it seems the “beer in the lanes” trend continued. Here is a photo taken by DisneyDrink.com on June 1, 2014, showing a Fantastic-aproned cast member selling beer from a tray:

A Fantasmic! cast member selling bottled beer (poured into plastic cups) from a tray, and @DrunkAtDisney of DisneyDrinking.com, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on June 1, 2014. (Photo by DisneyDrinking.com).

My, how things have changed from the early years of Walt Disney World (no alcohol from 1971 to 1982, then limited alcohol at EPCOT Center) to what we have today (shots, ice cream “bars”, spiked drinks at coffee stands, etc.).

Until next time…

Bryon, my 2007 Animal Kingdom bartender

In the late 90s, I used to travel with a PalmPilot PDA (a Palm III, actually). These PDAs (personal digital assistants) were what we used in the years before Androids and iPhones. I also had a snap on 14.4 modem (spiffy!) so I could dial in to my ISP and download/upload e-mail from a hotel, or even from a payphone (if it had a phone jack on it). High tech! Later I would upgrade to a Kyocera 6035 – one of the very first smartphones. It was a phone with a PalmPilot and modem built in! Higher tech!

I used my Palm III (and later, Kyocera) to take vacation notes and maintain a TO DO list of everything I wanted to see/ride/experience. These notes are how I used to document my trips on my 1990s website from my front page “news.”

But I digress.

When the first iPhone came out in 2007, I purchased one and brought it with me on Disney trips. It became my new notepad and TO DO list. Even though I’ve upgraded my phone a few times since then, my old notes and reminders I had migrated to my later phones.

Recently, I came across my “cast member kudos” notes I took during a trip in March 2007. If I ran into a CM who I thought was really exceptional and going above and beyond “typical Disney,” I’d make a note of them and write into to Disney to share my kudos after I returned home. (This is something I encourage all of you to do.)

My 2007 trip notes included the following:

Barry Plank City, FL photopass
bryon at Dawa Bar DAK
Tomoko, Yuki

Cast Member Kudos, March 2007

I don’t recall what PhotoPass Barry did to impress me, but I think Tomoko and Yuki were the fun CMs at the saki bar in Japan. (That was the first time I’d ever really been there.) But Bryon? He was one I think I remembered. I wondered if he might still be around, twelve years later…

Many things have changed since 2007. The Dawa Bar in Animal Kingdom, for example, has been rebuilt and relocated since I last saw it. Here’s the version I remember:

Dawa Bar on September 30, 2007.

And here’s what it looks like today:

Dawa Bar in 2018.

I decided to ask at the current incarnation of Dawa Bar if they knew of a bartender named Bryon. Indeed, the bartender I spoke of said he did, and informed me he was still with the company and currently working over at Epcot at the Garden Grill.

I now had a mission to find out if it actually the same Bryon that impressed me so much in 2007 that I included him on a very short list of cast member kudos?

The next day, I visited Epcot and made a specific trip into The LAND to ask about their Bryon.

Garden Grill in 2018.

To my surprise — their Bryon was indeed the Bryon I remembered! He’s been with the company for almost 30 years.

It’s a small world, after all!

If you make it to Epcot, and feel like a huge all-you-can-eat breakfast with visits from Mickey, Chip, Dale and Pluto, check out the Garden Grill and ask for Bryon. If he’s not around, Vickie is also great fun.

That’s your Park Hopping tip for the day. Use it wisely.

Until next time…

Park exclusive beers at Universal Studios Florida

I don’t know why, but it’s always annoyed me to see so much “generic” merchandise for sale at Disney and other theme parks. What compels people to buy a generic Mickey Mouse shirt at Disney prices when they can get the same shirt for much less at their local Walmart?

Over the years, some things have gotten better. At least now you can buy a generic Mickey Mouse shirt (that doesn’t mention Disneyland anywhere on it) that at least has “Disneyland” on the sizing tag.

I’ll also give a pass to generic things found at World Showcase and spots in Universal Studios’ parks — you might not ever make a trip to the United Kingdom or New York, so perhaps picking up something “from there” in the parks is fine since you probably can’t get them at home.

But folks still pay jacked up prices for Starbucks coffee or Coca-Colas that we can find, literally, around the block back home.

With that in mind, I present you with a list of the park exclusive beers made just for Universal Studios Orlando … Feel free to try as many of these as you want, since you can’t get them back home at your local brew pub.

The beers of The Hog’s Head at Islands of Adventure’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade

Kudos to Casey at the Universal Orlando twitter account for this list.

Universal Studios Florida

  • DUFF Beer and DUFF Lite – Springfield – Duff Gardens
  • Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew– The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley – Fountain of Fair Fortune, Leaky Cauldron, and The Hopping Pot
  • Mardi Gras Brew (only available during their Mardi Gras celebration) – French Quarter

Islands of Adventure

  • Dragon Scale and Wizard’s Brew – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade – Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head
  • Hog’s Head Brew – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade – The Hog’s Head

Volcano Bay

  • Volcano Blossom – Dancing Dragons Boat Bar and Kunuku Boat Bar

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

  • Jake’s American Red Lager– Jake’s American Bar

Casey adds that Jake’s American Red Lager is one of her personal favorites. She also notes that many locations also have signature drinks, and recommends the Triple in Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. It is three different beers layered on top of each other (Strongbow, Hog’s Head Brew and Guiness). I can’t wait to check this out my next visit. Thanks, Casey!

Until next time…