Favorite In Park Character Dining

cf5fe5b62e26e8efc49fccd8e07beb25_-jiminy-cricket-disney-disney-jiminy-cricket-clipart_236-559Last week we asked… You answered.   We would probably not choose to do the dining plan unless it was free. Thank you, Jon N.  for feeding us with this topic! 
There’s a reason ADRs for character meals are so hard to get. Despite the insanely high cost of character dining, it’s a great way to have character interactions. And for parents of younger children, having characters come to your table is a great way to keep the kids entertained while you get time to eat.

Rich here:

  1. Tusker House- Safari Donald is the host at this delicious lunch. The last time I visited there were few people in the restaurant, so we had additional access characters, and unlimited food with no lines. I really like Tusker House’s unique view on character meal food, with things like hummus, couscous and other ‘foreign’ foods. The breakfast is also great, with hash and other non-standard food. All good things, and lesser noise than many of the other dining character options.
  2. Be Our Guest – I will be honest. My last time at BOG I had horrible service. I know this is not standard, and I know that everyone can have a bad day. That being said, there is no better character dining food than Be Our Guest. Sure this is not a buffet, and not a fixed price menu, but the options for lunch and dinner take the character dining experience to a new level. Eating in the castle is special, and any of the rooms offer amazing views and lets you experience the magic. The only let down is the sole character in the house is Beast, I wish Belle was in attendance too!
  3. Garden Grill – Good food, quiet, nice character interactions, and lesser booked option. All these things add up to a great character dining experience. I’m not really sure why this is a lesser known character meal, maybe it is just older, but I still like it. There is a sense of fun in looking out on the boat ride from above, and it is easier to have a magical experience meeting Disney friends. 

Amanda, what say you?

Amanda here: My kids and I have had many memorable character meals over the years. Some of my fondest Disney memories occurred when characters stopped at our table. That nostalgia certainly shades my opinion of which places I love most.

  1. . Garden Grill is my all time favorite character dining experience. I’ve never had a bad meal there. Because of the layout, the character interaction feels very private and it always feels like the characters spend a lot of time with you. I love the menu-free family style dining. It allows my kids to taste foods that they might not order off a menu and the food is fresh and healthy. Plus when my kids were younger, it was nice to not have to make a million trips to the buffet to refill plates.
  2. My next favorite is the Princess dining experience at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. From the pre-meal photo with Belle to the children marching with the Princesses around the dining room, it will put a smile on any princess’ fan’s face. There is a salad bar followed by an entree off the menu. The menu is Norweigan-inspired (which means fish is a good choice!) but my kids have never had a problem finding something to eat.
  3. Just walking into Be Our Guest is a special experience. Beast’s Castle has been magnificently recreated and even with eating a bite, it’s worth a visit. I think the French-themed food is quite tasty and there’s a decent balance between “fancy” French food like the mussels and sautéed shrimp and scallops and more accessible food like the strip steak.

Special Guest Kim Sharoff: How about you:

  1. Crystal Palace – What can I say…I’m an Eeyore gal! Here you get to meet Winnie the Pooh and friends as they celebrate friendship day. The buffet is a standard Disney buffet with lots of choices that should satisfy all.
  2. Garden Grille – this is a great place in EPCOT that serves family style. I’ve been able to get items that were on the menu for kids as an adult. Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale are great at interaction. They tend to roam a little more freely than I’ve seen in other restaurants without a character handler right on top of them. I’ve actually had Chip or Dale (can’t remember which one) sit down with me and take selfies with my camera.
  3. Tusker House – In Animal Kingdom, so the food is more culturally based. I am a picky eater and find it harder to find stuff here that I will eat because of spices. I’m sure I could ask for some special stuff to be made for me but I’ve eaten things from the kid’s area and some other stuff that I know I like (salads, meat, rice). Donald, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy are dressed in their Safari gear and make their way around the restaurant.

 

Kim (@kscharoff) is a Figment lover. She runs Disney as an excuse to go visit her home away from home as many times as possible.

Ok .. now it’s your chance …

  • Who was right?
  • Who was wrong?
  • What is your favorite?

 

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Animal Kingdom Favorite Attraction Discovery Island, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, & Africa

cf5fe5b62e26e8efc49fccd8e07beb25_-jiminy-cricket-disney-disney-jiminy-cricket-clipart_236-559Last week we asked… You answered.   The most anticipated out of park transportation is THE RESORT LAUNCH.  Thanks again Michael P. Miller for helping with a moving topic. 

Now let’s see what we will find this week!

In honor of Earth Day (and meeting the world famous Helen Dunn this weekend), we present Not-a-zoo!    Welcome to the zooiest not a zoo in all of FL.   There are so many sights to see, and such great exhibits to explore.   This week we explore the entrance to the Animal Kingdom, around to the left side of the park (aside from Pandora).

Rich here:  I really like the entire left side of the Animal Kingdom (currently).   Between the mystery of the oasis, to the majesty of the Tree of Life, around to the immense safari. This is the best of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  

  1. Kilimanjaro Safari – Of all the attractions in the Animal Kingdom, the one which resembles the spirit is the Safari.   Between the environmental message and the celebration of animals is a 20-minute ride through multiple diverse and animal stocked landscapes.   This is my must not miss anytime I visit DAK. 
  2. The Legend of the Lion King – I am amazed that Imagineers were able to take the unwanted floats from the Disneyland Lion King Celebration and convert it into a three ring circus with singing, dancing, fire juggling, ribbon acrobats, and yes even tumble monkeys.   This is even better in its new setting, and well worth the wait. 
  3. Pangani Forest Expedition Trail – the real reason why we should come to the Animal Kingdom – to see ANIMALS.  Monkeys, hippos, zebras, meerkat, naked mole rats, and yes even gorillas.   It gives me a time to reflect and see ‘nature’ and a view of real live animals.   

Amanda, what say you?

Amanda here: While there are many fantastic animal viewing opportunities on this side of Animal Kingdom, my family always seemed to focus on the rides and shows more than the animal viewing. On our most recent visit, we spent more time exploring than in the past.

1. Kilimanjaro Safari is a great way to view animals and learn about their habitats. Because these are real animals, each time is slightly different. I prefer the early morning as the animals seem more active in the (slightly) cooler temperature. I found the nighttime safari ride to be a bit disappointing.
2. Probably my favorite Disney show, Festival of the Lion King, is an enjoyable experience for all ages. Kids will have opportunities to participate in the show if they wish and the music and spectacle are amazing. 
3. One reason why my children have become more interested in exploring “off the beaten path” at Animal Kingdom is because of the Wilderness Explorers. Even the jaded tweens enjoy collecting “badges” by participating in different learning experiences. I think this is a great program and I’m glad it was added.

Special Guest Helen Dunn, How about you:

  1. Kilimanjaro Safari. Let’s get real: the animals are what we’re all here for and this is their main gig. I never get tired of the giraffes stopping in the middle of the road delaying all the safari vehicles or trying to catch a glimpse of the newest baby animal (right now it’s an elephant!) I don’t miss the old storyline about poachers but I admit I do think about Little Red every time I ride. My most recent safari had a dose of Jungle Cruise style jokes thanks to our driver and I really thought that made it all even more fun. Asante Sana!
  2. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. You can see real live gorillas up close….do I really have to say more? Over the years I’ve seen baby gorillas nappy, young bachelor gorillas chasing one another around pounding their chests Kong style and the big old silverbacks napping or snacking on leaves. Even though these guys can get quite smelly this walk is a must see for me. Even get to these amazing primates you’ll have a chance to check out an aviary full of colorful birds, hippos, adorable meerkats, or creeped out by the naked mole rats and other creepy crawlies from Africa.
  3. Tree of Life. Technically this is not an attraction but I dare you to pick up a Mickey Bar or something from the Dawa Bar and just take the time to really look at the tree while you eat/drink. The Tree is beautiful and massive and in my opinion, under-appreciated. Most of us just rush on by it on the way to the next FP. It will be even better if you take an exploratory walk on the trails around it for an up close look.

Helen (@hmonkeyruns) has been vacationing at WDW since 1978 and has been on nearly every ride in every park at least once. New goal: riding Aladdin’s Magic carpets and TriceraTop Spin to make it EVERY ride in every park. 

Ok .. now it’s your chance …

  • Who was right?
  • Who was wrong?
  • What is your favorite?

Top Three Things About Solo Travel

 

cf5fe5b62e26e8efc49fccd8e07beb25_-jiminy-cricket-disney-disney-jiminy-cricket-clipart_236-559Last week we asked… You and Holly Adams answered.   The most important thing to pack are those extra comfy shoes. .

Now let’s see what we will find this week!

While many people continue to harbor the misconception that Disney World is only for families with children, Disney can be a great vacation for a solo traveler. With dining options ranging from counter service, communal, food festivals, to bars and lounges, it is easy to have a meal by yourself without worrying about feeling awkward. There are several events which target adult fans of Disney such as race weekends, D23 Events such as Fanniversary or sip and stroll, or Food and Wine Festival with all sorts of courses and events that would be perfect for a solo traveler.

Rich here:

  1. Single Rider Lines – Want to take another spin on Test Track? Need to face the Yeti again? Aerosmith wants you to rock and roll? It’s all good with single rider lines. As a solo traveler, there are multiple options for a single rider and many other attractions that will look for that one more passenger. Way too often, they are looking for that ‘odd’ rider to fill a journey on Star Tours or that last body for dino bait. 
  2. Go at your own pace. I found that as a solo traveler, I would tour hardcore from rope drop to lunch time, and then take my break, and go slow the rest of the day. As a single rider, you can maximize your time, and just do those things that are calling out to you. No need for groupthink on this trip!
  3. You get to choose the must dos.   Way too often we over book our vacations… Touring plans, ADRs, Fast Passes.   Want to blow off a day and do the monorail loop dining plan… you can do it.   Want to meet some friends in world showcase, and not see Rivers of Light… why not? Sometimes it’s fun to be free!

Amanda, what say you?

Amanda here: Most of my solo travel experiences have been during race weekends where I have had roommates and running friends for companionship although I have traveled alone on a few occasions.

  1. One of my favorite solo trip experiences involved a magical day at Animal Kingdom where I literally rode Expedition Everest five times in a row. I got there at rope drop and kept riding until there was a line. It was super fun and not something I would ask anyone else to endure. The ability to do whatever you feel like doing is a major advantage to solo travel.
  2. Most Disney trips are non-stop action with a focus on getting as much done as possible. When you’re alone, you can take the time to stop and smell the roses. I had a fantastic day at Epcot during Flower and Garden Festival (I was in Orlando for a work conference and was able to sneak away for one day). I’m not a great photographer but I brought a DSLR camera and spent the day taking photos of the flowers. There is NO way my kids would have tolerated that. Having the ability to Slow Down and enjoy the details is a real luxury.
  3. I am a natural born extrovert who could make a new best friend in line at the grocery store (much to my children’s horror) so one of my favorite things about solo travel is the ability to meet people and talk to them. I love talking to cast members and fellow travelers. Disney attracts a diverse group of people and it’s fun to hear everyone’s stories. Plus, as someone involved in the Disney fan community, it’s rare for me to be at the World without knowing someone else there. When you’re with a group, it’s harder to keep the flexibility necessary to meet up with others. When you’re by yourself, it’s easy.

Special Guest David Koch of the Mickey Dudes Podcast: How about you:

  1. Stopping to smell the roses in the World Showcase.
    I like to wander the pavilions of the World Showcase and really appreciate the intricate architecture of all the buildings. I then like to take a slow look in all the shops, experience some of the cuisine and have a nice drink associated with that pavilion. I also like to take time and experience all the character greetings and entertainment offerings of each pavilion: be it a band or an acrobat.
  2. Not having to worry about anyone else. I’ve lost track of how many times I have been to Walt Disney World. I have experienced a vast majority of the magic. When I am with other people in Disney, my main concern is to help others experience the magic. When I’m alone I don’t have to worry about other’s enjoyment. I can just take it for what it is and not have to worry about being a manager of the world.
  3. It’s a good time to socialize.
    Believe it or not, the trips where I come solo, I am the most social. This blog, for example, is for Disney fans, by Disney fans. Chances are if you are reading this, you are a member of some type of community of Disney Park fans. Through social media, I have made lots of friends in the Disney community. Every time I am here I meet up other travelers or locals. With travelers, they are usually with their family. So as to not impede on family time I might meet them for just a little while to experience a few attractions or to get a bite to eat. Locals have met me in the parks after work for a few hours almost every time I came. I have even used meetup.com and a well know Disney Parks fan forum to attend a monorail bar crawls of mostly locals looking to meet like minded people. I find that I am more social when I travel solo. When others are in my travel party, I tend to stay with them and am unable to meet up with others. When I’m solo I just see where the wind takes me. In my experiences, a simple tweet or Facebook post saying I will be in WDW with dates has always yielded somebody to hang out with for a time.

Dave Koch @FigmentsReality is a relatively new fan of Disney Parks, only visiting for the first time 7 years ago. You can say he has made up for lost time holding an AP for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. He is the cohost of The Mickey Dudes podcast, (https://themickeydudespodcast.podbean.com/) where a group of guys discuss all things Disney. His spirit animal is Figment and he collects pictures of himself with different Disney characters: having over 150 of them.

Ok .. now it’s your chance …

  • Who was right?
  • Who was wrong?
  • What is your favorite?

What we are looking forward to most in ‘Pandora: The World of Avatar”

 

Animal Kingdom…. The home of Camp Minnie Mickey – oops – no!?  The amazing home of the Beastly Kingdom!!??  nope.   Well, we get the land of Pandora.   Finally, after months of anticipation, it opens with 2 new attractions, 2 dining locations, shops, and floating mountains.  (Well the mountains are cool).

Rich here:

  1. There are a couple of cool new ideas here in Pandora.  I am mostly looking to see the unique terrain, the floating mountains, and how it all is put together.   Just the idea of the bioluminescence, and how that will be used has me looking forward to seeing this at night.
  2. Of the 2 attractions, I am most interested in the Navi River Journey.  While the Banshee attraction sounds cool, I’m really not getting the attraction car concept, (it just looks uncomfortable) and I am looking forward to something special as you cruise the rivers.  Just like Sinbad in Tokyo Disney Sea, I am expecting just as big things coming from this water adventure. 
  3. Pongu Pongu  will serve drinks in a spot said to be “as eclectic as its Expat owner.”  To me, this calls out to the great amusement drinking establishments – Trader Sams or The Adventurer’s Club.  If we get that, it will be a tough ticket to get into, and too many sights to see in one visit. 

Amanda, what say you?

Amanda here: I’m pretty skeptical about Pandora, mostly because I haven’t even seen the movie and I’m not sure it belongs at Disney. On the other hand, I’m always happy for more attractions and I’m hoping that the theming is amazing.

  1. I love thrill rides so I’m hoping that Flight of Passage lives up to the hype. The idea of having a bird’s eye view of Pandora seems incredible. Some of the pre-release press describes this as being similar to Soarin’ which is a favorite of mine!
  2. Jock Lindsey’s is one of my favorite bars…anywhere. Another well-themed bar inside a theme park? I’m there! If Pongu Pongu follows the model of Jock Lindsey’s and/or Trader Sam’s, it’ll definitely be on my list of places to visit.
  3. More stuff to do at Animal Kingdom….. While Animal Kingdom has a few things that I love – Expedition Everest, Safari, great shows – it has always felt like a half-day park to me.  As my kids are getting older and ready for longer days of touring, I’m really looking forward to a new land to explore. I have faith that, even if Avatar isn’t the concept I would have chosen, the Disney Imagineers will make something really unique and special here.

Special Guest Helen Dunn,  How about you?

  1. It’s new! I haven’t seen the movie so all I knew before watching the preview clip with Joe Rhode was that the people were blue. The video looks like it will be amazing and I can’t wait to see it all. 
  2. Avatar: Flight of Passage. I have no idea what a banshee is but I was totally obsessed with the book series the Dragon Riders of Pern when I was a kid and this looks like I’m going to get to fly on a dragon and I am totally in for that!
  3. Bioluminescent forest. One of my favorite things in any of the parks is watching how they transform from day to night and this sounds like it will be like that times a million.

Helen (@hmonkeyruns) has been vacationing at WDW since 1978 and has been on nearly every ride in every park at least once. New goal: riding Aladdin’s Magic carpets and TriceraTop Spin to make it EVERY ride in every park.

Ok .. now it’s your chance …

  • Who was right?
  • Who was wrong?
  • What is your favorite?