Full Review: Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, FL

And now for something completely different… Sort of.  Disney owns Star Wars so I suppose this counts.  This post is about Star Wars Celebration.

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Star Wars Celebration at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL

If you’ve read any more than one of my posts you might have figured out that I really love Star Wars.  So much, that we went to the mecca of Star Wars in Orlando in April of this year.  Held at the Orange County Convention Center (this year, some years its in California, some in Europe), Star Wars Celebration is a 4-day convention of, you guessed it, Star Wars.

Lets talk about what you can do at Star Wars Celebration.   There are so many options… Walk the floor, go shopping, go to panels and events, visit the tattoo area, visit artists alley, get celebrity autographs and pictures

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“The only fight: against the dark side. Through the ages, I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order.”

There was so much going on that this would be an incredibly long blog post if I were to talk about everything.  One day we were on out feet for roughly 16 hours straight.  I’m going to touch on a few things that were particularly fun and have particularly interesting pictures to share.  Essentially, let this be a guide for if you’re ever at a Con and come across any of these things.

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“Utini!”

The R2-D2 Builders Club:

These guys and gals are so cool.  They build screen accurate, and not-so-screen accurate working R2-D2s and Mouse Droids.  They were all on display in their own room so you could see everyones creations.  They also host races, panels on droid building and droid building history, and are all around awesome.  While we didn’t make it to any of the panels this time around, we strolled through the Droid Builders Room with over 100 droids on display.  Really makes you want to try your hand at it (you know, if you didn’t live in a 2 bedroom apartment and had more room).

The 501st Legion of Stormtroopers:

The 501st Legion is an all-volunteer costuming organization that performs costumed charity and volunteer work.  The costumes are ridiculous.  At Celebration they had an area with some displays of costumes, helmets, photo-opportunity areas, and where a lot of the 501st hung out in costume.  It was so fun to see everyone in their costumes and to see the hard work everyone put in!

Panels:

We went to a bunch of panels.  Some better than others, but none of them disappointed.  While we couldn’t get into the larger panels, like the 40th Anniversary Panel (hosted by Warwick Davis, featuring Kathleen Kennedy), or The Last Jedi Panel (which had surprise guest Harrison Ford), we still went to as many as we could.  Well… We may have been able to get into those panels, but you had to wait overnight, sleeping on the conference center floor.   Warwick Davis (the guy who played Wicket the Ewok) was a fantastic and funny host.  The panels that particularly shined were Anthony Daniels:  40 Years with Theepio, where Warwick Davis and Anthony Daniels displayed a special type of chemistry.

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Warwick Davis and Anthony Daniels
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…Anthony Daniels as a C3PO Tape Dispenser

The Music of Rogue One:  Analysis with David Collins was one of the absolute coolest panels I have ever been to, David Collins completely broke down the score of Rogue One, talked about the themes of the score, its ties to John Williams original score – I learned so much.

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One section of seating for a panel

Finally, the Heroines of Star Wars Panel, which featured Carrie Beck, Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), and Tiya Sircar (Sabine) who spoke about the importance of female role models in Star Wars.  The best part of this was the sudden and surprise appearance by Daisy Ridley!  You never know whats going to happen!

Actually, at Celebration 2012, we had a surprise George Lucas appearance at the Star Wars Detours Panel – awesome!  Except no Star Wars Detours…

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Daisy Ridley, Ashley Eckstein, Tiya Sircar, Dave Filloni, and Carrie Beck

Alright, that all being said, lets talk logistics.

I will fully admit, day one logistics were all around poor.  So poor that the company that was running the con, ReedPop, issued an apology.  We waited in a 2 hour, 2 mile long line outside in Florida in the sun to get into the building.  We assume this was because of security bringing everyone through one entrance, but by the time we got to the front they just waved us through metal detectors that didn’t even seem to be on.  Every single thing was a line.  There was a constant 2 hour line to get into the Official Celebration Store, lines for panels (even overnight lines), lines to get food… LINES EVERYWHERE.  While this is my main complaint, the convention was around 70,000 people, so I would have expected some lines, but would have preferred to not wait in the sun for 2 hours to get in the building.  The following days were better, while we still waited in line we were inside, and got on the floor much faster.

There were fast passes available to get into the Celebration Store, allowing you to skip the line, but you had to run over to the store as soon as you got in when the Con opened to get one.

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Panel backsplash

For the large and medium sized panels, a wristband system was in place.  As soon as you enter the building you can choose 2 wristbands, allowing you entry into a given panel.  Once you get your wristband, you’re guaranteed a seat.  If you want a great seat you still need to get there early and queue.  If you’re okay with a mediocre seat, you can show up 5 minutes before the panel starts because you cant bear another minute of waiting in line, and walk right in.  This was done in an effort to mitigate giant lines for every single panel at all times of the day.  We got into a lot of panels, but also learned very quickly not to be picky.  For instance, we really wanted to go to Mark Hamill’s panel or the Carrie Fisher Tribute panel, but the wristbands were gone pretty fast, so we planned second and third choices.  I cant comment on the overnight campout lines because we didn’t participate, however, the 40th Anniversary Panel and the Last Jedi Panel were streamed on the convention center floor (… with some technical issues and some sound issues, but still).

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Waiting for The Last Jedi Panel to start

While I would have loved to have attended the Last Jedi Panel, watching the trailer with thousands of other fans standing on the convention center floor, in my Rey cosplay, was a moment that is pretty special to me as a Star Wars fan.  The excitement was palpable.

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Still waiting for the trailer!

Finally, I highly recommend leaving the convention for lunch instead of waiting at the food stands in the convention center.  There are 5734957430 hotels and restaurants near by, all of which will be less crowded.

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Overall, I definitely recommend going to Star Wars Celebration if it comes back to Orlando.  But, you have to be willing to go with the flow.  No more panel wristbands?  Thats okay, you get to see surprise Daisy Ridley at a different panel.  Wait in a two hour line?  Look at the awesome costumes!  You’re going to have fun, regardless of the hiccups you may encounter.  Just enjoy it.

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Full Review: Sprinkles Cupcakes at Disney Springs

Sprinkles Cupcakes is a California-based cupcake bakery chain that sells hands-down the best cupcake I have ever had in my life.  And there is one in Disney Springs.  And I’ve asked everyone I know to vote for a South Florida location.  Or possibly Boston, so we can have Sprinkles Cupcakes at our upcoming wedding.

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Look at all the cupcakes!

One can only hope.

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Sprinkles, if you’re listening, South Florida or Boston would be great.

Something about their frosting is ridiculous.  And the cake.  I think I’m drooling.

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Frosting cupcakes at Sprinkles

Sprinkles has a rotating menu of cupcake flavors depending on day of the week and season.  I recommend the flagship flavor, the quintessential, the one and only Sprinkles Cupcake.  And actually all of the other flavors too.  Just go and get cupcakes.  So far we have sampled, the Sprinkles Cupcake, the carrot cake cupcake, the salty caramel cupcake, the black and white cupcake, the peppermint chocolate cupcake (during Christmas), and the vanilla cupcake, and probably others.  I’m not even sure.  They’re all amazing.

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Sprinkles Cupcake

In order of amazingness, here are my rankings:

  1.  Sprinkles Cupcake
  2.  Carrot Cake Cupcake (this is the only time I have ever rated something with carrot cake second)
  3.  Salty Caramel Cupcake
  4.  Peppermint Chocolate Cupcake
  5.  Black and White Cupcake
  6.  Vanilla Cupcake

But really they’re all pretty much tied.  The cupcakes come in 2 sizes, large and these adorable mini cupcakes, so you can try 2 flavors.  Or three.  Or four.

 

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Mini Sprinkles Cupcake, look at how cute it is!

In addition to cupcakes, Sprinkles also sells cupcake sandwiches (a scoop of ice cream between two halves of a cupcake or two cookies), shakes and floats, sundaes, cookies, and ice cream.

And frosting shots.  Yes, that is just a cup of frosting for $1.50.

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Sprinkles Menu

We have gotten one of the cookies and some ice cream, and admittedly they were somewhat unmemorable next to the cupcakes.

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Salted caramel cupcake, vanilla cupcake, peanut butter cup ice cream

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on Sprinkles Cupcakes at Disney Springs?

GO. TO. SPRINKLES.

What we like to do is arrive at Disney.  Go to Disney Springs.  Get some drinks and a snack at Hangar Bar.  Get two mini cupcakes at Sprinkles.  Then head to Epcot.

On the day we leave we get two cupcakes in a to-go box (which they will happily do, and give you an instruction sheet for how best to care for your cupcakes), and save them for dessert the next day when we’re sad we’re not at Disney.  Its awesome.

 

 

Drinkin’ Around Disney Resorts: Crockett’s Tavern at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Disney’s Fort Wilderness has 2 options for guests, a campground and cabins for rent.  This could be a very cost effective option for those of you who are looking to spend a little less on your lodging.

Its very easy to get to Fort Wilderness from Magic Kingdom, among other options, you can hop on a boat that will take you right there.

Fort Wilderness is a very cool resort to visit if you get the chance.  There are a ton of recreation options such as archery, pony, wagon, and carriage rides, boat rentals, fishing, canoe rentals, bike rentals, and the Wilderness Back Trail adventure which takes you through the resort on a segway.   And the resort is on about 750 acres of cypress and pine forest, so there is a ton of animal life to see.  We’ve seen a lot of deer!

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Sunset at Disney’s Fort Wilderness

Its also pretty if you go there near sunset.

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Davy, Davy Crockett! … Oh wait thats from Hoop Dee Do.  

And, if you’re looking for some adult refreshments, Crockett’s Tavern is the place to be.  While there is a walkup window where you can get to-go beer and wine, there is also a small bar inside that serves some appetizers and the standard Disney drink menu.

When we were there they also had some specialty drinks made with Ole Smoky Moonshine – very fitting for the atmosphere.

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Strawberry Lemonade made with Ole Smoky Strawberry Moonshine.

We tried the Strawberry Lemonade made with Ole Smoky Strawberry Moonshine, Odwalla Lemonade, Wild Strawberry Monin, and Sprite.  It is very appropriately served in a mason jar.  I was a little afraid to try this because I’ve never had Ole Smoky Moonshine, but it just tasted like alcoholic strawberry lemonade.  I do recommend the drink though, it was pretty good.  I wish I had tried some of the other options!

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With a full bar and some snack options, Crockett’s Tavern is a nice spot to sit if you’re staying at Fort Wilderness, waiting to go to Trails End or Hoop Dee Do Musical Review, or just want to see the resort.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on Crockett’s Tavern?

While I wouldn’t necessarily make a special trip specifically to go there, checking it out should you be staying at Fort Wilderness or visiting is definitely recommended.   And don’t be afraid to try a drink made with moonshine!

Try This!: Moscow Mules at Walt Disney World

You might think this is an odd topic for a post.   I disagree (obviously, because I’m writing it), because I drink so many Moscow Mules I consider myself a “connoisseur” of them.   Seriously.

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Moscow Mule on the WDW Drink Menu

The first time I had a Moscow Mule I was browsing the standard drink menu at Disney, lamenting the loss of my most beloved drink, the Citrus Infusion (you can find the recipe here, but its never the same when I make it at home).  I wasn’t seeing anything that jumped out at me.  The best bartender in all of Walt Disney World, Walter, who works at Tambu Lounge, suggested the mule.  I thought, “well this one has a cool cup” and ordered it.

That was the beginning of my love affair with the Moscow Mule.

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Moscow Mule from Tambu Lounge at the Polynesian

For those of you who have never had one, its a pretty standard drink.  Vodka (I prefer Tito’s, sometimes then called an “American Mule”, but you may have another favorite), ginger beer (I prefer Goslings, but also like Fever Tree), and lime.  Its light, refreshing, and it comes in a copper cup which makes it seem fancy.

I’ve had Moscow Mules all across Disney property, and my favorite pour is at Tambu Lounge at the Polynesian.  Its really just proportions of vodka/lime/ginger beer, but they get them perfect.

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Moscow Mule from the Boathouse at Disney Springs

You might think that its an easy drink to make.  But, despite having one of the better Moscow Mules I’ve had at Tambu Lounge, there is one Disney restaurant that made the worst Moscow Mule I have ever had.  And I don’t say that lightly.  I’ve ordered them everywhere in the US from Florida to Seattle, and I’ve had good ones and bad ones, and this one was objectively the worst.

So, what Disney restaurant is the culprit?  The Boathouse at Disney Springs.  For somewhere so expensive and classy that boasts the drink on their menu, it was SO. BAD.  Way too much lime, an inexplicably large amount of ice, and flat ginger beer.  They use Stoli, and I generally do like Stoli, but it didn’t work with the flavor of the ginger beer.

So, Drinking Ever After, what is the moral of the story?

If you’re looking for a light and refreshing drink, go with the Moscow Mule.  Just, don’t get it from the Boathouse.  Especially if its your first one, it will just tarnish the experience for you.

And, just for good measure because its my favorite drink, I’ve had some kick ass versions of the drink that you should try if you’re ever in any of these locations:

Wood Pizza New Orleans made the best standard Moscow Mule I’ve ever had (on their menu as an American Mule).

 

Giving points for creativity and their own ginger syrup and charged water, Bar Tonique, also in New Orleans, is an all around amazing bar that serves a great drink.

Another with points for creativity is Copper 29 Bar in Coral Gables, FL.

Try one the next time you go out!  Hopefully, you wont be disappointed.

 

If You’re Ever In: Boynton Beach FL, Try Copperpoint Brewing Company

Hi everyone.  I’m going to take a break from Disney content to review Copperpoint Brewing Company in Boynton Beach, FL.  Its on a side-street in Boynton Beach FL, close to Due South Brewing Company.

My mom was insistent that we go here the day after Thanksgiving.  Absolutely no argument here, sounds great mom!

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The Taproom at Copperpoint Brewing Company in Boynton Beach FL

Copperpoint has a GIANT taproom, very clean, lots of tables and seating for a variety of group sizes, and an outdoor porch area.  They also have various food trucks, and Troy’s BBQ was there that day.

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Copperpoint Brewing Company and Troy’s BBQ Food Truck.  Yep that’s a smoker on the back.

They have a fairly extensive beer list, with some flagships and a few collaborations.  You can’t see it in this photo, but the bar itself is pretty cool, its copper (hence the name!).

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Copperpoint Brewing Company Taplist

We sampled the Copperpoint “G” (Grapefruit) Saison and the Trick Shot IPA Collaboration with Civil Society.

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Copperpoint Brewing Company “G” Saison and Trick Shot IPA

I love saisons, they are my favorite style of beer, and I usually jump at the chance to try one that has an interesting note – in this case grapefruit.   It was an enjoyable saison, though the grapefruit wasn’t very pronounced, more of a nondescript “fruitiness” that added a unique note to the beer.  The bartender described this beer as having some tart to it but I didn’t get any, possibly because I also drink a lot of sours, so “tart” to me is usually more pronounced.  Overall, solid and easy to drink, the fruitiness adds some lightness to the beer.  The Trick Shot IPA was a standard IPA, but on the hoppier side than other IPA’s, so if you like that you’ll like this beer.  Overall recommended, despite the added hoppiness it was on the lighter side.

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Mac and cheese, pulled pork sandwich, and fries from Troys BBQ food truck

We also grabbed some food from Troy’s BBQ.  We got pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, with sides of coleslaw and mac and cheese, and a large fry to split.  Okay, guys, if this food truck is here GET A SANDWICH.  Even if you’re not that hungry, split one.  It was gigantic (I could only finish 1/2), the BBQ sauce is great, the meat was tender, and it had that awesome smokey flavor you totally want from BBQ.  The sides were… sides… The sandwiches came with them.  Get the fries, they were hot and crispy, and we actually finished that mountain of fries between the 4 of us.

So, Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on Copperpoint Brewing Company in Boynton Beach FL?

Occasionally, you might be visiting Disney and want to take a trip to south Florida.  Or maybe you’re driving from south Florida to Disney.  Or maybe you have family in the Boca Raton/Boynton Beach area.  Whatever the case, give this place a shot.  Take your relatives!  Everyone who we spoke with at Copperpoint was exceptionally friendly and nice, and the atmosphere is great.  Definitely give it a try if you’re in the area.