Archive for May, 2009

Walt Disney World Restaurants Rated and Ranked – Your Opinions

by on May 21, 2009

We’re crunching the numbers on the latest Unofficial Guide reader surveys for restaurants.  This year’s survey included more than 13,000 votes on various restaurants around Walt Disney World.  As in past years, we asked you to give each WDW restaurant a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” rating.

Here are your top ten sit-down restaurants:

Jiko-The Cooking Place (96% thumbs up)
Beaches & Cream (96%)
Teppan Edo (95%)
Narcoossee’s (95%)
House of Blues (93%)
California Grill (92%)
Citricos (91%)
Boma (91%)
The Crystal Palace (91%)
Kona Cafe (90%)

And your bottom ten, from less-bad to worst:

Portobello Yacht Club (62%)
Shula’s Steak House (60%)
Shutters at Old Port Royale (59%)
Gulliver’s Grill (57%)
Planet Hollywood (54%)
Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant (51%)
Finn’s Grill (50%)
Baskervilles (50%)
Bongos Cuban Cafe (50%)
Bluezoo (50%)

With the exception of Beaches and Cream, none of last year’s top restaurants (headed by Victoria & Albert’s) made this year’s top list.  We think this has a lot to do with the economy, as we’ve commented in the past that folks tend to add “…for the money I paid” to the end of most survey questions.  Your thoughts and comments on this are welcomed.

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Expanded Walt Disney World Dining Coverage – More Restaurants, Tips and Planning Advice

by on May 21, 2009

We’ve added a new Dining section to TouringPlans.com.  This new section adds reviews of  35 Walt Disney World resort sit-down restaurants as well as information on Advance Dining Reservations, dress codes, dining surcharges and more.   All of the reviews follow the same Unofficial Guide style and include ratings for value, quality, service and the overall experience, as well as descriptions of the food, setting and atmosphere.

We’ve also added charts showing whether a restaurant participates in the Disney Dining Plan, how many credits it requires if so, whether you need a credit card to book a reservation, and whether you’ll need to pay in full when you make that reservation.

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WDW Today Episode 567 – Listener Questions

by on May 20, 2009

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Episode 567 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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Last Minute Dining Options

by on May 19, 2009

Most of the trips I take to Walt Disney World are last minute.  While I am always super excited to go, I am often left with few choices for dining options. I am sometimes envious of the person planning 90 days out who has a plethora of Disney Dining choices.  I don’t let this get me down because there are a few places that generally have last minute availability and have turned out to be some of my favorites:

Beaches and Cream: located at the Beach Club near the pool.  Sad to say, I am familiar with most everything on the menu.  I like it all.  We love the burgers, fries, and ice cream.  I even enjoyed the veggie burger.  Go around 11 am and you should have no trouble being seated.  ( Accepts Tables In Wonderland)

Kona Cafe:  located at the Polynesian on the 2nd floor.  We love this place.  We have eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner here.  Now please don’t tell your friends about Kona Cafe, let’s keep this our secret.  If we had to chose our favorite meal, it would probably be breakfast — but we love them all.  The Tonga Toast for which Kona Cafe is famous for is quite a treat.   Someone in my family orders it every time.  Served on the side is a tiny pitcher of strawberry puree and it is fabulous. (Disney Dining Plan. Accepts Advanced Dining Reservations. Accepts Tables In Wonderland.)

Whispering Canyon Cafe: located at the Wilderness Lodge on the first floor.  I have only eaten lunch here.  I think overall the quality of the food is good: all you can eat ribs, chicken etc or you can order off the menu which is what I always do.  You also get a performance from the waiters that adds to the atmosphere.  This is a fun place. (Disney Dining Plan.  Accepts Advanced Dining Reservations. Accepts Tables In Wonderland. )

Flying Fish: located on the Boardwalk.  This is a little hidden treasure at Walt Disney World.  I love this restaurant.  The food is always excellent.  The waiters are helpful with wine and food recommendations.  This fine dining Disney establishment is always a treat.  While expensive, I do believe it is worth it.    (Disney Dining Plan: 2 Table Service Credits.  Accepts Advanced Dining Reservations. Accepts Tables In Wonderland. )

California Grill: located on the top of the Contemporary.  Disclaimer: it is extremely rare to find last minute availability.  That is OK because you can eat in the bar.  You can order off the menu, enjoy the view and if you are there — enjoy the fireworks too.  90% of the time this is what we do.  I also love, love, love the California Grill.  I don’t love the price.  It has gotten so expensive over the years.  They obviously have a very high opinion of themselves.  Like the Flying Fish, the food quality is outstanding and the waiters are extremely helpful with food and wine recommendations.  (Disney Dining Plan: 2 Table Service Credits.  Accepts Advanced Dining Reservations. Accepts Tables In Wonderland.)

So, if you find yourself headed to Walt Disney World at the last minute, there are some dining options available in all price ranges.     Bon Appetit!

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Recommending Animal Kingdom on Gay Days – Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

by on May 18, 2009

On June 4th through June 7th, 2009 the annual “Gay Days” event will hit Walt Disney World. Since 1991, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered community as well as their supporters were encouraged to “Wear Red and Be Seen” at Orlando’s theme parks . The events are not officially Disney sponsored but they do represent enough of an increase in crowds that we add it to our crowd calendar. Each day, the event rotates through one of the four major parks starting with June 4th at Animal Kingdom; June 5th at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; June 6th at Magic Kingdom; and June 7th at Epcot.

Normally, we encourage our readers to avoid parks that are holding special events but on June 4th we have recommended Animal Kingdom. It is one of those cases where the Animal Kingdom represents the best choice among the four parks. Magic Kingdom and Epcot are out for June 4th because they are hosting Extra Magic Hours. Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be a good choice but there is a Fantasmic show scheduled that night. Add this all together along with our dozen or so other crowd statistics and Animal Kingdom still looks the best.

If you’ve always wanted to wear those rainbow colored Mickey ears, now is your chance! Take our advice and head to the Animal Kingdom. If touring the park with your family and a few thousand of your gay and lesbian red-shirted friends doesn’t sound appealing then go to plan B. Really, choosing amongst the other three parks is at your discretion. Unfortunately there are valid reasons to avoid all four parks that day. Pick your favorite park, take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, try a Water Park or go off-site.

If you do take our advice, tote the red shirts and be proud! Also, send us the wait times you experienced so we can see if we were right.

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Best “Spots” In Typhoon Lagoon

by on May 18, 2009

We’ve been doing a lot of research in the water parks lately, and we came up with this idea as we would often see families staking out their spots for the day as their first order of business. And we suggest doing the same. But where to go?

Below, we highlight some of the spots that we have noticed and experienced to be among the best in Typhoon Lagoon. Each spot will have some kind of descriptive title as well as a picture. Below all of the descriptions and pictures is another image of the Typhoon Lagoon park map. We circled the area in which you can find these spots, each with a different color highlighter on the map.

Crush ‘N’ Gusher Spot

This spot has a little of everything to offer. It is near one of the most popular attractions in the park, it is close to restrooms, there is ample shade, it is usually uncrowded, and there are picnic tables nearby under a gazebo for having your lunch. This spot is circled in BLUE on the map.

Crush 'N' Gusher Spot

Read the rest of this entry »

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WDW Today Episode 566 – Disneyland Today

by on May 18, 2009

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Episode 566 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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Unofficial Guide Reader Survey Results Posted for Disney World Attractions

by on May 17, 2009

We’ve updated the reader ratings for all of the Walt Disney World attractions, based on the last year of survey results.   These will be the rating shown in the 2010 edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, due in bookstores in late August.  Website subscribers can get access to them now: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Trip Report Part II

by on May 16, 2009

First of all, I’m so sorry I haven’t finished my trip report sooner. I got home a week ago and have been sick, trying to get back into the swing of things at the office (and life in general), and have had illness in the family. It’s been one of those weeks. On Monday, I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled programming. So without further ado here’s an overview of the rest of my trip.

On Wednesday we checked out of Wilderness Lodge, moved back to Pop Century, and headed to the Animal Kingdom. Have you ever noticed how hot this park feels? As the day progressed we became more and more miserably hot! We hit most of the headliner attractions and had lunch at Flame Tree Barbeque. Julie had to go back to North Carolina that afternoon so Tom and I decided to take a break and go to the pool at Pop when she left. I now understand why the Unofficial Guide recommends doing this! It was exactly what we needed. That evening we headed to Downtown Disney to have dinner, ice cream at Ghirardelli’s (yum!), and do a bit of shopping.

Thursday we finally got to sleep in! Tom got up just in time to still grab breakfast at Everything Pop. It was such a nice break! When we finally got going we parked at DHS and took to boat over to Epcot’s International Gateway. We spent the afternoon finishing up our drinking around the world and exploring some of the countries we often overlook. We grabbed drinks in Morocco, Italy, and Japan to conclude our expedition. We had dinner at Biergarten in Germany which is climbing up my list of favorite places to eat in WDW. Later we headed back to DHS to try to hit up a few attractions before calling it a night. We didn’t realize it was Fantasmic! was running that night, making it pretty crowded. We decided to skip out early since we weren’t in the mood for the mob.

On our last full day of vacation we grabbed a breakfast ADR at Whispering Canyon Café. After eating far too much we hopped on the boat to visit Magic Kingdom. After wandering around Frontierland and Adventureland for a while we headed back to Pop for a pool break. After our break we went to Epcot to hang out in Future World. We tried some of the activities in Innoventions since I had never spent much time in there. Later, our friend Don came to join us after he was finished with work for the day. We capped off a good day in the parks with some drinks at Petals at Pop.

Saturday was departure day. I was planning on meeting up with Don at Magic Kingdom for a while before making my way to the airport, but I woke up sick. The idea of walking around MK in 95 degree weather not feeling well was not appealing. I called Jetblue and was able to snag a seat on an earlier flight. So my last day was sort of a bust, but luckily it didn’t spoil the trip.

Thanks for following along on twitter and my few blogs about my trip! It was another great trip with great friends. Stay tuned to future blogs to hear more detailed reports on some of my activities.

Next week I’ll give my review of Disney’s newest restaurant Sanaa…

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Disney Water Parks Increase Prices Tomorrow

by on May 16, 2009

We’ve heard from a reliable source that Disney is planning to increase the price of one-day admission to Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. The price of a one-day adult (ages 10 and up) ticket will increase from $40 to $45 before tax. The price of a one-day child (ages 3 to 9) ticket will increase from $34 to $39 before tax. That’s a five dollar increase for each ticket. The new price for tickets is about $47.93 after tax for an adult ticket and $41.54 after tax for a child ticket.

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