Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Walking the Trail of America’s First Christmas





McKonkey's Ferry Inn, courtsey of Visit Bucks County
It is forever Christmas at McKonkey’s Ferry Inn. The dining room in this lovely tavern, located on the banks of the Delaware River, 42 miles upstream from Philadelphia, is always decorated as it would have been on Christmas night, 1776, when George Washington had his dinner here.

As Washington dined, 2,400 of his men assembled outside along the riverbank. They were a rag tag army, dressed like scarecrows and huddled in blankets against the cold and spitting snow. 
Re-enactment at McKonkey's Ferry Inn, Visit Bucks County


Their password for the evening told the story: “Victory or death.” This night, Washington was to gamble his army on a desperate stroke – an all or nothing surprise attack on the enemy across the river in Trenton.

What happened in the next 24 hours changed the world.

* * *

Today, the setting along the Delaware River is remarkably scenic and little has changed from the fateful night that shook the British Empire and saved a young nation. Many of the historic structures have been preserved. You can see the spot where Washington crossed the river and enter the two ferry houses he used as temporary command posts.

Nearby, you can examine replicas of the boats he commandeered for the crossing and march in the footsteps of his men on the old Continental road. The natural starting point is Pennsylvania’s Washington Crossing Historic Park. A short film in the museum sets the stage.

1776 began well for the Americans in their struggle for freedom from Great Britain. Washington successfully forced the British from Boston and moved his army of 20,000 men to New York.

But then the Empire struck back.


Reenactment at the exact crossing site, Visit Bucks County 

In August, the largest armada the world had ever seen arrived off Long Island with a British army of 30,000 crack troops. They quickly routed Washington’s smaller force and drove the rebels south through New Jersey. Marching in the retreat was journalist Thomas Paine, who summed up the situation, writing “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

When Washington’s demoralized army reached the Delaware, he seized all the boats and retreated across, using the river as a temporary buffer. But the end was only a matter of time. Soon the river would freeze and the British could march over the ice. Congress fled from Philadelphia and even Washington confessed, “the game is pretty near up.”

Crossing the Delaware

After watching the film, the highlight of the museum is a digitally reproduced, full-size copy of Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. The original 12x21-foot masterpiece hangs in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The painting’s depiction of a stern, determined Washington, standing at the prow of a boat, leading an invasion of landing craft into an ice-choked river, is an American icon. Reproductions can be purchased in the gift shop on everything from kitchen magnets to mouse pads.


Wayne Henderek, Washington Crossing State Park
But from a military standpoint, the masterpiece has several mistakes. Most prominent is that Washington’s crossing took place in pitch darkness with the commander probably seated in the back of a boat. For another, the river depicted in the painting is the Rhine.

You can see the real river and crossing point just outside the museum.

The only building here at the time was McKonkey’s Ferry Inn, but today there is a picturesque village of structures lining a tree-rimmed road. At the Boat House, there are four reproductions of the Durham boats that were used in the crossing. Built to carry iron ore, the pitch black craft were 40 to 60 feet long and looked like long, thick canoes.


Wayne henderek, Washington Crossing State Park

Washington’s plan was to stop retreating and go on the offensive against a regiment of Hessians stationed across the river in Trenton. The timing was crucial. An aide wrote: “They make a great deal of Christmas in Germany, and no doubt the Hessians will drink a great deal of beer and have a dance. They will be sleepy tomorrow morning. Washington will set the tune for them about daybreak.”

The Delaware today is a placid stream with hardly a current, but on Christmas night 1776 it was a hellish scene with swift swirling waters and huge cakes of floating ice. The boats were manned by a regiment of fishermen from Marblehead, Mass., but it took these expert small boat handlers nine hours to ferry the 200 horses, 18 cannons and 2,400 men across the icy current.


Wayne Henderek, Washington Crossing

Fortunately, it’s much easier to cross the Delaware today. Leave your car on the Pennsylvania side and walk across a narrow 1933 steel bridge to New Jersey. There are pretty views of the river along the way, giving you time to think about the men in the boats below.

As Thomas Paine had written, the “summer solider and sunshine patriot” had long ago deserted. But the men who were left were special. Among the men crossing the Delaware were James Monroe, who would become the fourth U.S. president; Alexander Hamilton, who become the first Secretary of the Treasury; and John Marshall, who would become a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

On the other side of the river, you enter New Jersey’s Washington Crossing State Park. In 1776, there were dueling ferries here; today there are dueling state parks. Use the pedestrian overpass to walk to the Johnson Ferry House, which Washington’s staff used as a command post.

One of Washington’s aides recorded the scene in his diary. “Dec. 26, 3 a.m. I am writing in the ferry house…I (have) never seen Washington so determined as he is now. He stands on the bank of the river, wrapped in his cloak, superintending the landing of his troops….The storm is changing to sleet, and cuts like a knife. The last cannon is being landed, and we are ready to mount our horses.”

The historic trail they marched on.
You can follow in their footsteps on a short stretch of the old Continental lane, which today is a shallow grass depression between rows of trees that runs for a quarter mile to the Visitor Center. A Major Wilkinson remembered that the snow “was tinged here and there with blood from the feet of the men who wore broken shoes.”

At the Visitor Center, an excellent museum has exhibits, maps, paintings and artifacts that trace the retreat through New Jersey and the coming battle.

It’s about a half mile walk back to your car in Pennsylvania and then a nine mile drive to Trenton.
The Attack on Trenton

Not much of colonial Trenton has survived. It is a modern, confusing and not particularly attractive city, but the Trenton Battle Monument, marks the spot where the battle began. The 148-foot high column opened in 1893 and has an elevator to an observation deck.

The Hessian commander, Johann Rall, ignored threats of an American attack and stayed up all Christmas night playing cards and drinking. In the gloomy morning, the Americans advanced to the edge of town before the Hessian guard saw them. With cries of “Der Fiend!” -- “the enemy” – the guard tried to alert their men. It was too late.

The Battle of Trenton
Washington placed his artillery at the head of Trenton’s narrow streets, where they could fire canister -- tins filled with musket balls that exploded from the cannon barrel like a giant shotgun, sweeping everything in their path.

As the dazed Hessians poured out of their barracks, they were cut down by cannon fire. Rall ordered a retreat to an orchard and tried to make a stand, but Washington’s men surrounded them. When Rall was mortally wounded, the fight went out of the Germans and they surrendered.

The battle lasted less than an hour. Ninety Hessians were killed or wounded and more than 900 were taken prisoner; the American casualties were two men wounded.

After the fight, an uncharacteristically beaming Washington rode up to Major Wilkinson, grabbed his hand and said, “This is a glorious day for our country.”

And it was. From a military standpoint, Trenton was a minor raid. There were still five years of bitter war ahead. But psychologically, it was a turning point. Never again would American spirits or prospects sink so low.
IF YOU GO:

The dramatic crossing is re-created every year on Christmas day.  The Visitor Center on the Pennsylvania side is undergoing an expansion and is temporarily closed, but both parks are open, as is the excellent museum at Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey.  For information:   www.VisitBucksCounty.com   or www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing
Best Book: The bestseller 1776 by David McCullough tells the dramatic story of Washington’s retreat from New York and the attack on Trenton, Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer is the best book on the event itself.

BREAKING NEWS:   Historical artist Mort Kunsler has just released a new, much more historically accurate painting depicting Washington crossing the Delaware.  For a look at the painting and the story behind how it was created, visit: http://blog.mortkunstler.com/2011/12/abc-world-news-now-washington-crossing.html

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Walking and Drinking Beer on New York’s High Line

With hip new beer gardens on either end and two of the city’s best outdoor bars in-between, the High Line is one of the best places to walk and drink beer in New York City.

This new, one-of-a-kind park, offers a zen-like paradise of trees and flowers, high above the noise and chaos of the city. It’s great people-watching, great beer, and a rare New York opportunity to stretch your legs without stoplights.
For 30 years, the High Line was an ugly, rusting, eyesore -- an abandoned elevated railway that ran along Manhattan’s West Side from 34th Street south to the Meatpacking District. It had been built in the 1930s to take dangerous freight trains off the streets.





The elevated railway made it possible to carry trainloads of milk, meat and produce to warehouse loading docks that were built 30 feet above the busy streets below. But over the years, trucking became the main way of bringing in goods and use of the elevated railway declined. The last train to rumble down the overhead tracks was three carloads of frozen turkeys in 1980.

Abandoned, the rails were soon covered with wild weeds and flowers and urban renewal called for the whole crumbling line to be demolished.

Enter the Friends of the High Line. Formed in 1999 by community residents, the group had the vision to imagine the High Line as a unique park. That dream was finally realized when the first section from 20th Street to Gansevoort Street opened in June 2009, followed by a second section that extended north to West 30th Street and opened in June 2011. Total cost: $153 million.

Today, the High Line is a thin, narrow ribbon of a park, 40 to 50 feet wide, with more than 200 species of grasses, flowers and trees that meanders for 1.5 miles through New York, 30-feet in the air.

Walking the High Line offers a unique view of the city. Unlike New York’s other elevated railways that ran directly above a street, the High Line was designed to run down the center of the block, going right smack through the middle of buildings.

Along the way there are views of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, as well of the trendy Meatpacking District, where you now look down on old warehouses are today filled with chic clubs and outdoor restaurants. But it’s the strange feeling of floating in a garden high above the city that makes the High Line such a trip. A few beers doesn’t hurt.


Meatpacking Distrist
Grab your first one at the Lot at 30th, an outdoor beer garden built under the railway at 10th Ave. and West 30th. There’s a food truck roundup with a half dozen trucks selling tapas and tacos, while Colicchio & Sons has an outdoor bar with local NY beers and wines. Try the High Line Elevated Wheat from Brooklyn Brewery.

There are big long tables to share your food and drink with local New Yorkers.Then climb three stories and get on the High Line as it makes a long slow curve heading south.

A walk on the High Line is meant to be a slow stroll, taking time to enjoy nature. Bikes and rollerblades are forbidden. There are plenty of sleek wooden benches along the way for sitting and sunning and there’s even a section of lawns. At night (the park stays open until 11 p.m.) the walkways are illuminated, creating eerie scenes as they cut through, under and between modern buildings.

The northern section is the prettiest. Called the Chelsea Grasslands, it’s a meandering path through small fields of colorful flowers and grasses. Here and there, the outline of the original tracks have been left, or worked into the pattern of the pathway.


The Diller- von Furstenberg Sundeck between 14th and 15th Streets has comfortable wood deckchairs and benches surrounded by wildflowers, fountains and sumac trees. It’s a perfect place to relax and people-watch, as a steady stream of New Yorkers stroll by.

The 10th Avenue Square has a small amphitheatre providing a unique view of busy Tenth Avenue below, while the Washington Grasslands between 12th and 13th preserves the native grasses and flowers that grew up between the abandoned rail lines and gives some idea of what it looked like before being turned into a park.



At the southern end is the Gansevoort Woodland, a thicket of birch and serviceberry trees with vines that hang over the railing creating a green balcony for those below.

The Porch
There’s plenty of food and drink on and below the High Line. The Porch at 15th is a hanging elevated outdoor bar with tables and umbrellas, just below the High Line, but still above the streets. They offer changing New York wines and beers, the current offerings written on a chalkboard. Try the Empire IPA from Syracuse if they have it.

There are stands selling gelato and coffee, ice cream sandwiches, and plaetas (ice pops) in flavors ranging from mango-chili to hibiscus to coconut.

You can hop down from the Highline at 16th and visit Chelsea Market, a two square block food market in an old 1890s bakery that once made Oreo cookies. Everything you could possibly imagine to eat is here, each with its own specialty shop. There are nuts and chocolates, bakeries, sandwiches, fresh fruit and even a lobster bar. It’s worth a visit.

The southern end of the High Line has natural vegetation.
At the far southern end at Gansevoort Street, again built under the Highline, is The Standard Biergarten, an authentic German biergarten with long outdoor wooden tables, pretzels, currywurst and German and Austrian beers such as Ayinger Weisse and Kostritzer Dark Bier. The location under the elevated railway gives it a cozy feel.

Hogs and Heifers

A block across the street is the legendary Hogs & Heifers. This is the classic rock ‘n roll dive bar that in 1992 started the tradition of scantily clad bartenders and patrons dancing on the bar, a routine now copied by Coyote Ugly and others. Decorating the walls are 11,000 bras donated by patrons, including one from Julia Roberts.

The Standard Hotel
A better peep show is back up on the High Line looking towards The Standard Hotel, a trendy highrise glass building that straddles the walkway. The hotel features floor to ceiling glass walls in all its rooms and even in the restrooms of the restaurant on the top floor. The hotel warns guests that the windows are very transparent and “activity in your room, when the curtains are open, may be visible from the outside.” I’ll say.

You can see right into every room in a bizarre scene that resembles a set from the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Rear Window.” The people in the rooms either don’t know, or don’t care. One guy, who looked like he’d been lingering on the High Line for days, told me, “there’s something happening in one of the windows every minute.” From the minute I spent there looking, I can believe him.


The Half King



One final bar worth a stop is the Half King, located just under the High Line at the 23rd Street stairway. This classic pub has more than 50 literary readings a year and is owned in part by writer Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm.

Whether you stay inside by the candlelit tables in a maze of rooms, or sit on their streetside patio, one of the nicest outdoor bars in the city, this is a great pub with more than a dozen beers. Try a local Greenport Harbor Ale.

If you go:

There are numerous events along the High Line, from guided walks on Saturdays to stargazing with the Amateur Astronomy Association, every Tuesday. http://www.thehighline.org/

The High Line can only be accessed at Gansevoort Street, 14th Street (elevator access), 16th Street (elevator access), 18th Street and 20th Street, 23rd Street, 26th Street, 28th Street and 30th Street. Gansevoort is a only a few minutes walk from the all the pleasures of the West Village.








Monday, July 4, 2011

Walking and Drinking Beer in Disney’s World


The Rose & Crown
 I was standing at the bar of the Rose & Crown pub in Epcot, a third of the way through a pint of Guinness, when my friends decided it was time to move on. No worries. I was about to chug the rest when the bar maid said, “would you like that to go, Love?” What a pleasant idea! She poured the remaining beer into a plastic cup and I was soon out the front door, sipping stout as I strolled around a lake, into the gardens of Paris on my way to the back alleys of Tangiers.

Welcome to Epcot, where Disney has a surprisingly liberal, and enlightened drinking policy. Three of the four Disney theme parks (Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios) allow you to walk and drink beer – or wine, tequila, sake, whiskey, or frozen Margaritas. Even better, they make all these drinks readily available with infinite choices. The nearby Cava del Tequila bar has 70 tequilas. No wonder it’s the happiest place on earth.

The Magic Kingdom is the only place you can't drink.

And great fun too. Make no mistake, Disney is for adults, as well as for kids. Families with children will best enjoy the Magic Kingdom (the one park with a strict no drinking policy), but adults taking a break from an Orlando convention …or from winter… can spend a couple of crazy days with Disney at Epcot, eating, drinking and shopping your way around the world. There’s great food and drink, thrill rides and wild architecture, manicured gardens and celebrity chefs, music acts and at night, the skies light up with amazing fireworks displays that blow away any Las Vegas spectacle. All this with no cigarette smoke and no clanging slot machines….although you may hear piped music playing “It’s a Small World After All.” Try forgetting that song.

It might not be the place for a bachelor party, but it’s certainly as hip and drink friendly as the average resort, and a lot more fun.

Epcot’s World Showcase


A replica of Beijing"s Temple of Heaven

Of all the parks, the best places for adults are Epcot and the free commercial center called Downtown Disney.  Epcot is Disney’s version of a permanent world’s fair. Shaped like an hour glass, one bulge is devoted to science and the world we inhabit, with exhibitions on land, the ocean and space mixed with thrill rides that take you hang gliding over California (Soarin) or blasting off and landing a space capsule on Mars (Mission: SPACE). Those two rides, and Test Track (the longest and fastest ride in Disney history) are definitely worth the long lines. Soarin’ is particularly wonderful, a ride that takes you hang gliding with wind blowing in your face and the smell of orange blossoms, in the air as you bank and curve, legs dangling over orchards, mountains and seacoasts.


There are gardens everywhere in Epcot, and monorail or boats to the hotels.

The bottom bulge of Epcot’s hourglass is the World Showcase, a circular, mile-long pathway around a lake surrounded with pavilions glorifying the shopping, drinks, culture, architecture and history of 11 nations. It’s a blast.

The “Imagineers,” as the Disney people call themselves, have used an architectural device known as forced perspective to make the park seem much larger than it is. The bottom floors of buildings are done at 100 percent size, the second floor at 75 percent and the top floors at 30 percent and less. This can create the illusion that you are seeing an entire German village built around a town fountain, topped by a gigantic castle miles in the distance. In reality, the whole German site might occupy just two acres.


The German town square has pretzels and beer.

In this same way, you can see the Eiffel Tower looming behind a Paris street, a Mayan temple that looks many times its actual size, the famous St. Mark’s Square of Venice with a 100-foot high campanile, a wooden stave church of Norway sitting beneath a 14th Century fortress, and even the Canadian Rocky Mountains.


This replica of Piazza San Marco in Venice has a 100-foot Campanile.

It’s the Disney attention to detail that keeps the showcase from being corny or just another bad Irish pub or Vegas casino imitation. The British street has eight different architectural styles, from Tudor to Victorian. Although the “thatch” roof is made out of plastic, it looks real. The local pub appears to be airlifted from the U.K., from the shabby carpet to the “bulls eyes” in the hand blown window glass to the standing room only policy at the bar.


Every tile has a crack, a nod to Islamic belielf that only Allah is perfect.

The Morocco pavilion used nine tons of handmade, hand-cut tiles and had 19 native craftsmen put them together into a replica of the Koutoubia Minaret, a prayer tower in Marrakesh.

There are Mediterranean citrus and olive trees in Italy, and native Japanese sago and monkey-puzzle trees decorating nearby Japan. The American pavilion has an Independence Hall-like building made of 110,000 bricks, while China re-creates Beijing’s Temple of Heaven with flute and zither music playing on the speakers while acrobats perform in the courtyard.

The American Pavilion has a show narrated by Mark Twain.

All of the countries have daily shows consistent with their theme. A pretty good Beatles tribute band rocks out their early songs in a garden, while a very sexy belly dancer does a very un-Disney like performance in Tangiers. There’s a not-bad Canadian Celtic rock group, German oompah bands, Mariachis, and Japanese Taiko drummers.

France, China and Canada have films that are worth a look, especially Canada’s 360- degree screen that lets you pass through an attraction like the Mounties on parade, seeing them from front, rear and on the sides.

Most of the countries are set up with back alleys or plazas to explore, leading to shops, restaurants, bars and bakeries. You can munch a pear tart in Norway or a chocolate éclair in Paris. Germany has pretzels and beer, including a full liter of delicious Radenberger pilsner for $12. You can do a tequila tasting in Mexico or buy a wine flight that gives you two, two-ounce samples of regional wines in Italy, Germany and France.


The Mayan pyramid houses a water ride, restaurant, market and tequila bar.
 
And then there’s shopping. From Italian silk scarves to Norwegian wool sweaters, Japanese kimonos to French perfumes, the Disney touch extends to the stores, giving each of them an authentic feel. At Mexico, you can shop for silver and pottery in an indoor market in Taxco at twilight. There’s probably not much of a market for Norwegian wool sweaters in Orlando, but at $8, the beer stein sunglasses in Germany are a steal.


Better than the Chunnel, there's an easy bridge between England and France

Of course, on the one hand, Disney is charging you to come into a theme park for the privilege of spending more money shopping, eating and drinking…but you won’t mind. It’s all done so well, whether you’re looking at rugs and brass in Morocco, or tea sets in China, have another drink and it all looks real enough. Disney employs people from the native countries (part of 60,000 “cast members” who run the empire) and they’re mostly young and pretty and love to chat about their native lands…and how glad they are to be out of them and living the dream in Florida.


Based on torri gate in Hiroshima Bay.

A wood stave church in Norway.
Dinner is another experience not to miss. Reservations are messy.
You’ll need them in advance, or at least first thing in the morning at the best – and more expensive --restaurants like Bistro de Paris, Marrakesh, Mitsukoshi and Tutto Italia. Easiest is the huge Biergarten, Epcot’s nightly Oktoberfest with a Bavarian band, long tables that you share with strangers, plenty of beer and a buffet of bratwurst, rotisserie chicken, spaetzle, and a couple dozen other German specialties. Also easy is the Rose & Crown for fish and chips; get an outdoor, lakeside table at dusk – it’s one of the best places to watch the fireworks. You can easily do a meal of tapas, getting snacks from outdoor carts and cafes all day and evening like cheese empanadas and tacos at La Cantina, a Mongolian barbecue beef sandwich and pot stickers at the Lotus Blossom Café, sushi and sake at the Yakitori House, or make a meal of a fresh baguette and brie at the Boulangerie Patisserie while you sit in a garden by their version of the Seine, watching boats come and go from nearby hotels.

One of many beautiful gardens, this one in Paris.


Epcot’s hours vary by day with the park generally closing at 9 p.m., but on Tuesdays it often stays open until midnight. Try to go then – the world showcase looks even better by night, and there are no crowds.




Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is attractive at night with lights, islands and bridges.

Another adult area is Downtown Disney, a series of islands in a lakeside setting, with bridges connecting shops, bars and restaurants. At night (the only time to go) there’s a Vegas feel with bright lights and huge theme restaurants like Planet Hollywood (stop in to see big name props like the dress Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz or the axe Jack Nicholson used in The Shining). There’s a House of Blues with an outdoor concert area, a Wolfgang Puck with pizza to go, and the gigantic Raglan Road Irish Pub with scallops on a stick, step dancing, and a good beer selection, including changing local Orlando brews. Fulton’s Crab House has a good seafood menu in a romantic setting aboard a three-deck river boat, the Empress Lilly, and Bongos Cuban Café is owned by Gloria Estefan and has the overhead fans, shutters and palms of a film-version Cuba, with music and patios, all wrapped around a three-story high pineapple.

Be warned, in addition to catering to adults, Downtown Disney also attracts lots of families, and the endless shopping opportunities for Mickey souvenirs, princess parafeneilla, toys and dinosaurs seems to whip the kids into a frenzy. One harried dad on line in front of me at Capt’n Jack’s outdoor bar asked for a straight 120 proof rum, and with a pleading voice, said, “can you make it double?” There’s beer, frozen margaritas, and rum galore, at stands and bars and restaurants, and you’re free to carry and drink it anywhere you like – even, amazingly, in the shops.

It’s quite pretty along the lake, with the lights and crazy architecture, but no mistake, this is big time tourism and crowded. The fact that it’s free (at least to get in) with free parking appeals to families tugging kids, hundreds of them done up like princesses, complete with tiaras. It is amazing to see. The princess beauty parlor has a waiting list six months long.


Planet Hollywood

The more adult bars are to the left as you face the lake, with Cirque du Soleil anchoring that side, while the kid-oriented shopping and theme restaurants are to the right. But don’t miss the kid’s side for a look. The sheer scale of the place, the amount and variety of souvenirs stacked to the ceiling, the frantic kids from every country of the world (I saw one young English girl stamp her foot and say, “But mummy, I simply must have it!), the insanity of the family theme restaurants (life-size 30-foot high dinosaurs move around waterfalls in the T-Rex café, while the Rainforest Café has a thunderstorm, tropical fish and animated animals), it’s all designed to overwhelm….and it does. But no worries…have another frozen margarita and always know it’s a quick and easy retreat to Paradiso 37 and their South American menu and 37 tequilas.

IF YOU GO:

Magic Kingdom

Orlando had 50 million visitors in 2010, the first destination in the world to do so. The travel guides to Walt Disney World are thicker than guides to France. There are hundreds of tips on how to save time and money. You’ll have to study the guides, but here’s just a few tips.




Where to stay: If you can afford it, stay on a Disney property. There are hotels in most price ranges, and all are connected by free shuttles, or in the case of the Grand Floridian, Contemporary and Polynesian, by monorail and boat. There’s always a free bus going to where you want to go…the challenge is you can wait 30 minutes for the bus and some of the trips are 40 minutes or more, so it takes longer than you think to get around. The key is, don’t try to do Disney World in one or two days. Ticket prices drop drastically the longer you stay (they know they’re getting their money on lodging and food, so park admissions drop the longer you stay).  Some of the Disney hotel properties are worth visiting just for fun, and many are connected by free boat rides. The Boardwalk area is particularly good, with a Disney brewpub, Big River Grille & Brewing Works, and a honky-tonk, Atlantic City seashore atmosphere on the lake.


The Boardwalk is fun, has a brew pub and boats to Epcot.
 


Go to Animal Kingdom in the morning, dinner at Epcot.

 The Wilderness Lodge is an incredible thing to see (note the electronic crickets chirping as you walk around the grounds, and the 55-foot high totem pole in the center of a lobby based on the Yellowstone Lodge). The Grand Floridian is a Disneyfied version of a grand hotel where high society would have wintered in Florida at the turn of the century and has one of the great restaurants of central Florida, the Victoria & Albert (no children, jackets for men, and reservations six months in advance, please). You’ll probably never stay there on your own dime, but one of the great “scores” of the corporate world is a meeting at the Swan & Dolphin. If you can’t stay here, stop by for a drink.


A great dinner option is the nightly Oktoberfest in Germany. 

The Grand Floridian
  If you go 100% Disney and stay there, you don’t need a car. You can take the complimentary Magical Express from the airport and get anywhere in Disney by free bus, monorail or ferry boat. If you want to see Harry Potter and Universal too…well, you’ll need to rent a car. Distances are far and cabs expensive.

Another tip, if you’re staying awhile, is get the multi-park pass for a day or two and hop around the parks. The best fireworks are in the Magic Kingdom, which turns the castle into a light show with bombs bursting overhead; Animal Kingdom is fun for a morning when the animals are active and Hollywood Studios has some of the best thrill rides. It’ll take an hour or more to travel between parks, but sometimes after a day on your feet, an hour air conditioned bus ride can be the best ride of all.