Friday Night – Out on the Town!
Friday night we headed out to Disney Springs (the “do over” of Downtown Disney) to explore the night life. Wandering the property, we observed that most of the bars were essentially dead. On a Friday Night?
I have no idea why, but that’s what it was. One or two couples or a couple of guys, sitting in each one. The bulk of the tables and bar empty. Often those in the bar were looking at their “devices”. Occasionally a family sitting in the bar with kids (perhaps just as a quiet comfortable place to sit, or maybe Dad had need of a “bracer” at the end of a long day of chasing kids). What it wasn’t was a night out at the bar.
Walking the shops (of which, IMHO, there are now way too many), there were lots of folks walking by, few inside each. In fairness, this was about 11 PM and not prime buying time, but if not there for the bars and night life, what else is there but shopping? Too much overpriced merchandise and not enough buying. Something isn’t quite right with Disney Springs.
There was one hot spot. A mini-rave with electro-beat music in an open space on one street. A hundred or so folks dancing in the disco lights. But even there, traffic in the stores and bars around it was minimal.
There were lots of Asian / Latin looking folks. We heard a fair amount of German, some Danish, and occasional other bits I could not identify. What seemed to be missing was all the 20-30 something Americans. Have we, the Boomers, jaded them on Disney since they have all done it a couple of times with us? Who knows…
It might just be a Disney Springs thing, but if it generalizes, this is not a good trend for Disney Parks.
Visiting a non-park off-site venue, usually populated by park goers from “Hotel Row”, there was another string of nearly empty dead bars. Places we had gone before after work that were lively then. BJ’s Brewpub, TGI Fridays, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc. etc. A few scattered people. Everyone looking bored or into their “devices”. Just spillover from the park malaise or something deeper? Is that a result of the park population shifting, or does the same thing hold across the State or Nation? Hmmmm….
The Next Day in Pandora
Up bright and early the next day, the night before having ended prior to plan…
We took a trip to Animal Kingdom to see the “baby” Tigers. They are now 175 lbs and big! “Mama” was still licking and grooming one of them, but it’s like a Mom combing the hair of her High School kid…. Cute in it’s own way, but not babies any more. We did that after a visit to the newest “land”, Pandora.
At first entry to the park, almost at the open, we scuttled off to Pandora. Lots of hype about a New Land at Disney. Loved the movie Avatar. BIG expectations. It was not to be. Supposedly costing something like a $Billion, the landscaping and decoration is superb. What’s missing is scale. This is really just one little glue on area to Animal Kingdom. It has one river float ride through the fake landscaping (wait time 90 minutes at the open…) and one major ride where you “ride” one of the flying beasts (i.e. it’s a video thing and you get moved around to make it seem more real) with a wait time of 180 minutes at the open. Yes, 3 HOURS to wait. 1/3 of a LONG park day. Standing in a line.
We chose to skip the rides. Unfortunately, other than those two “attractions”, Pandora consists of a snack shack (that was not open yet as we were there at the start of the day), a junk shop where you can buy a ceramic coffee mug for $19, and a small open air stage that had 3 guys in funny costumes banging on drums. Oh, and at the entry there’s a large “Plant pod” that spits on you. Not as bad as it sounds as in the oppressive heat a little water spritz is a cooling touch. But still, that’s the “attractions”.
Yes, it has a “floating” island (clearly held up by steel beams in the “vines” trailing from it. Visually it does look kinda-like Pandora. But there are no 11 foot tall blue folks on stilts. No exo-suit battle machines (other than one 1/2 scale or so static display outside the junk shop). No immersion into an experience or world. Just a ride, a boat, and some shopping to drum music.
Feeling a bit disappointed (and if I’d paid $100 to see it, very disappointed – but we were on a ‘retiree Disney pass’ so free to me as guest) we headed out to the Space Coast.
At The Beach In A Bar
Arriving at Cocoa Beach, the “old haunts” had more high rise “names” along the shore. The prior-free public access point parking was now $2.50 / HOUR to park. We decided to “move on”.
A few miles down the coast we were near Patrick Air Force Base. Nice map on the page here:
We got there about 11 am and easily got free parking. (Leaving a 1 PM parking was full) Spent a bit of time walking on the beach, talking to folks, playing with the water… Nice beach and nice folks. One guy had one of these tarp / lean-too things:
It uses cloth bags you fill with sand as the anchors, so no need for stakes or sand screws. The guy said it was stable even in fairly strong winds. It ought to pack into a very small bag, so on my shopping list for “someday”!
Getting a bit thirsty, and this beach being placarded as 45 Space Wing we figured unlikely to have a bar ;-) we drove on to Indialantic, Florida. Along the way we spotted a typical looking old school Florida Beach Bar. Parked and headed in for some beer and afternoon snacks. We didn’t leave for quite a few hours…
The place is Lou’s Blues
We sat in the middle of this area, at the railing, looking out over the ocean:
We had some wonderful “Sweet Thai” wings. Just tangy and spicy enough, not too much. Kona Big Wave on tap (hoppy without being overly so, nice tropical overtones). Somehow the late lunch turned into early evening. My buddy (ex-military) got to talking with a Harley rider with a US Army unit markings on his vest. I got to talking to a Big Black Guy about his Victory Motorcycle. (Not a ‘Biker Bar’, but about 1/2 dozen NICE bikes in the lot with about 2 dozen cars). Seems Victory has gone out of business. These were gorgeous bikes.
His looked like something Batman would ride – all in silver and black tones. His lady was a very nice person to talk with too, and cheerful as could be. I could see they both were happy with cruising the beach scene on a Victory. I could find happiness in that too.
Made by Polaris (snowmobiles) they gave up when 3 of the last 5 years were not at a profit. Wimps.
The “wait staff” were very efficient. They work the whole area as a team, so any need met from anyone near. It worked very well. There were 3 women in tight short pants and “Lou’s” Tees, and one very buff young man who was stellar at hauling loads of drinks in ;-) (Also in tight pants and “T” – so ladies you get ‘eye-candy’ too ;-)
A 30? something guy with a beard plays blues and “standards” on guitar (from about the place where the photo above was taken), assisted by an automated base-line / accompaniment. Decent singing voice, good picking, great choice of songs. All those things that you “connect” with. Hotel California. Down Under (or whatever it’s real name is). and so many more that just ‘clicked’ I can’t remember all the names. Just moody enough, yet with cheerful riffs too.
We never made it any further down the road.
After a few, we crossed the parking lot to the beach. (Some other patrons had done that while we watched and learned). A few taking off their cover layers for a swim, then re-wrapping over the swim suit on the return to the bar. We just sat on the beach a while and enjoyed the evening. At about 7? PM we got back on the road. Somewhere around 8 had ribs at Chili’s (adequate but not as good as Sonny’s…) and was showering off the sand at a bit after 9 PM.
All in all, a wonderful day. But next time we’ll just head straight to Lou’s. As we were leaving, the place was livening up. They have a dance floor “downstairs” from our upstairs balcony. That music was started up and folks were starting to dance and party (more ;-) Now I knew where the “action” was at. Not “Disney Springs”. Not “Orlando Bar Scene nearby”. Nope. It was “At the beach at Lou’s Blues”. Had we not worn ourselves out dashing around Pandora and Animal Kingdom, it would be a great place for a nice evening of “party time”. Dance a bit, have a beer, dance some more, dunk in the ocean to cool off. Rinse and repeat. Their menu had a lot of other things I wanted to try. Several other beers looked good. Might take 3 or 4 weekends to get through them all. Guess what I’ve marked for my next trip? ;-)
So forget commercial Cocoa Beach. Take a short run down the beach, and have a genuine Florida Beach experience. I loved it. I’ll be back.