(Continuing my very slowly-written trip report of our 12/7-12/15/08 visit to Walt Disney World and Orlando)
Even on a direct flight, the travel time from Los Angeles to Orlando is nearly 5 hours. When you add on the three hour time change (as well as the travel time to and from the airport), most of the arrival date is used up. On our trips, we have typically arrived at Walt Disney World by around 8pm or so Florida time. After a long day, this is usually a bit late to head into a theme park, so we instead usually look for a fun place for dinner somewhere that isn’t overly far from the resort where we are staying.
This year, our arrival night dinner was at T-Rex Cafe, the newly-opened dinosaur-themed restaurant at Downtown Disney. Saratoga Springs is just a short bus ride from there, so trying out this new restaurant seemed like an ideal choice for the first night of our trip. It did turn out to be a good choice and really helped us to transition from the high-stress of travel into the fun of themed entertainment. Giving credit where credit is due, I should mention here that I was so hungry and hurried to get to dinner that I forgot to take my camera along to the restaurant. All the pictures in this post were taken instead by my father (most during a previous visit to the restaurant) and I thank him for sharing them with me.
At the time of our visit, the restaurant was still officially in "soft opening" meaning that it hadn’t yet had its official grand opening and would still be operating with a few limitations. The main result of this was that they were not yet taking any reservations, which did at least increase the potential for fairly long lines. Even though it was a Saturday night, it was fairly late (around 9pm) by the time we got checked into our hotel room and then found our way over to the restaurant for dinner. In addition, my sister just met us there instead of coming over to the hotel, so she was able to monitor the wait time and jump into the line as soon as we called and let her know we were on the way over. This resulted in us getting a table almost immediately after we got there.
One other effect of the restaurant being in soft opening (and so new) was that we actually had a little bit of trouble finding it. Even though the building is rather distinctive and rather hard to miss, Downtown Disney is pretty tightly packed which means that individual buildings aren’t visible from everywhere. With the restaurant not yet having "officially" opened, it wasn’t yet on the maps or most of the directional signs. We even asked a couple employees for directions, but the ones we asked didn’t really seem to know the answer. We finally found it by simply starting to walk across the complex until we spotted it in the distance.