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?

 

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 3 Favorite WDW Out of Park Transportation

cf5fe5b62e26e8efc49fccd8e07beb25_-jiminy-cricket-disney-disney-jiminy-cricket-clipart_236-559Last week we asked… You and Kim Scharoff answered.   The best out of park character dining is Chef Mickeys!

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

One way that Disney keeps the guests on property is by making it easy to get around the property. From monorails to boats and ferries, busses to trams, you don’t need a car to enjoy all that Disney has to offer. While some Disney fans insists that a rental car is the only way to get around, many people enjoy the various forms of Disney transportation and the opportunity to leave the driving to someone else. Here are our favorites!

Rich here:

  1. Resort Launches – My Retirement job!  This is a perfect mode of transportation that is also an attraction all on its own.   I will just ride these boats around the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness Loop just to enjoy a nice ride and see the sights.  I really enjoy being out on the lake, and just letting time pass.
  2. Monorail – The monorail is probably the first mode of transportation when people think of Walt Disney World.   While I really enjoy it, I think the monorail has lost some of it’s luster in the past few years.   Whether it is safety precautions, or just an aging system the Monorail is just not as fun as it used to be, and certainly not as reliable.   All that being said,  it is still a joy to take a ride on the EPCOT loop. 
  3. Friendship Boats – Sure you can walk from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk resort, but after a long day why would you? I enjoy the friendship launches, they are semi air conditioned, they are relaxing, and most of the time they are not that crowded.

Honorable Mention: I am looking forward to the rumored gondola, as much as I have been the monorail expansion or the oft-rumored TTC as a transportation vehicle.

Amanda, what say you?

Amanda here: I think Disney transportation is one of the things that makes a Disney vacation relaxing and easy. Leave your car at home and let Mickey do the driving!

  1. I love the monorail.  Since my first trip back in the 1970’s, the monorail has been an iconic part of the Disney experience for me. My favorite is the trip from the TTC to Epcot where you get an amazing bird’s eye view of Future World. It makes me smile every time!
  2. Although most people stay at the Polynesian for the monorail, I love the early morning boat ride from the Poly to the Magic Kingdom. It’s quiet and peaceful with great views.  And if you’re there early enough, you may even get a private boat.  From the classic wooden boat to the breeze in your hair, this is a great way to travel.
  3. Nothing beats a free trip from the airport to your hotel. Disney does it in style. I love taking the Magical Express to get on Disney property. The drivers are often witty and fun and the video never gets old. After the airport monorail, nothing says “you’re here!” like hopping on the bus.

Special Guest our friend Michael Miller.   How about you?

  1.   For me, love of the Disney Parks Experience transcends the time actually spent in the parks itself. It’s the build up and anticipation that sets a tone of excitement that carries over into the trip itself. That’s why the AutoTrain is my favorite Out of Park transportation. Though technically (ok not so technically) part of WDW itself, our frequent use of Amtrak for our Disney Trips puts it on my list. Originating in Lorton Virginia and terminating in Sanford Florida an hour outside of Walt Disney World. The AutoTrain provides a unique travel experience that blends the old world charm of travel births with sleeping accommodations, fine (way better than you’d expect) dining and the built in white noise of the clickety-clack of the rail line; with the familiar Disneyesque vibe hat harkened to Walt’s love of Trains and their impact on the parks. Wine tastings, snacks, and a movie-car means that the AutoTrain is almost a ride inside of a ride.
  2. Car of your choosing. Though not the cheapest option with the price of parking, the value of time at Disney is paramount in my mind. While the bus system is unparalleled and the boats are both scenic and functional…an ability to go from any Point A to any Point B of my choosing without figuring the best route and/or options allows me to maximize my time in my travels. Finally as the inevitable need to call an audible due to the challenges that arise when moving around Disney, having a car means you can adjust plans mid-trip meet your quickly changing needs.
  3. Monorail. Bonifide, Gentrifide, Quietglide, Monorail. Any mode of transport good enough for North Haverbrook, Ogdenville, Brockway and Springfield, it’s good enough for me.

Michael P. Miller (@makomichael) , a Legend in his own mind, has always been a Disney fan however only started in 2008 to frequently trek to the parks. Even though being abnormally handsome, brilliant and witty…it’s his great humility that makes him stand apart. Far apart…most people like him to stand far apart.

Ok .. now it’s your chance …

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