Archive for April, 2010

WDW Today Episode 708 – The Essence Of Walt Disney World

by on April 15, 2010

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Episode 708 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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WDW Today Episode 707 – Listener Questions

by on April 14, 2010

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Episode 707 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Happy Campers at Trail’s End

by on April 13, 2010

Today I want to discuss a restaurant I’ve heard about for years from my fellow Disney enthusiasts, but I only just recently tried for the first time.  Since I camped one night on my most recent trip I figured it was the perfect opportunity to stop into Trail’s End at the Fort Wilderness Camp Ground.  Never heard of Trail’s End?  Yeah, most people haven’t and that is half of its appeal.  The restaurant offers a moderately priced buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  You most likely can sit down without making an advanced dining reservations (ADR) since so few people even know this little gem exists.

The easiest way to get to this restaurant is to take the boat from the Magic Kingdom, making it a great break from the park.  Trail’s End is located right next to the location for the Hoop Dee Doo Revue at the Pioneer Hall area of Fort Wilderness.  It just happens the boat dock where guests can catch a ferry to the Magic Kingdom is just a hop skip and a jump from the restaurant.  If you drive yourself there is no parking in the immediate area of Trail’s End and guests must park at the large parking lot at the entrance to the camp ground.  You must leave your car and take the internal bus to the restaurant.  So if you drive yourself allow time for travel between the parking lot and Pioneer Hall.

As I said, a buffet is spread out for guests throughout the day.  In the morning the standard breakfast fare was offered including Mickey waffles, fresh fruit, eggs, and lots of other goodies. The cost of the breakfast smorgasbord is $13.99 for adults and $8.99 for kids.  At lunch time the menu includes salads, fried chicken, and chili. Lunch will set you back $16.99 for adults and $9.99 for children.  And at dinner they add onto the lunch menu with peel and eat shrimp, ribs, and a carving station for a cost of $20.99 for adults and $11.99 for the younger set.

We were originally going to head here for dinner the night Tent Fest’s night of camping, but the guys from wdwtoday surprised us with a barbecue at the camp site so we skipped it.  However, we made the point of heading there for breakfast after a night in the tent in 38 degree weather.   My friends and I took the bus from our campsite loop over Pioneer Hall and were seated immediately.  I thought the food at breakfast was pretty good.  It is by no means a gourmet experience, but it hit the spot.  Service was good and we were in and out fairly quickly.  The only thing I thought was odd was guests must go outside to a separate entrance to use the rest rooms (it doesn’t seem like fun in the rain).  All these things being said, I would certainly go back again and maybe I’ll try lunch or dinner next time.

If you have big eaters in your family this would be a great value.  Teenage boys could go to town with this buffet for a reasonable price.  I also suggest heading there mid-morning for brunch and loading up so you can skip lunch and just have dinner elsewhere during your touring.  Trail’s End is a great option to keep in the back of your mind for last minute meals and a good deal.  Have readers headed to this restaurant before?  What do you think of it?

To keep with the Fort Wilderness theme I’ll discuss my stay there next week…

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Want To Chat About Walt Disney World? Go Grab Lines

by on April 12, 2010

In case you’ve missed it, our Walt Disney World mobile wait times app Lines now has a chatroom! Come chat about everything park with people who are in the parks today, including wait times, FASTPASS, character greetings, schedules, avoiding the crowds, trip planning, etc. It’s evolved into quite the active discussion place for touring! Just click on “WDW Chat” inside Lines. Or, if you’re on your computer, you chat connect by logging in at http://m.touringplans.com.

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Location, Location, Location: Does the View Make the Meal Better?

by on April 12, 2010

To me, dining at a restaurant with a beautiful view makes the meal taste just a bit better. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived so much of my life in snowy trundra and urban wastelands (where very few restaurants have wonderful views); or maybe I’ve just always been the type of eater who’s greatly influenced by surroundings like table location, smells, sounds, crowd level, etc.; but an incredible view from my table is something I’m willing to fight for.

So, whether you want to do some people-watching, see the Magic Kingdom fireworks or Illuminations from your table, spend your dinner spotting African wildlife, or just relax with a tranquil lookout, here are a few Disney World dining spots that I think afford incredible views:

California Grill Sunset

California Grill
The California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort is probably my top suggestion when someone wants an outstanding restaurant view. From the top floor of the resort, the floor to ceiling windows offer amazing views of the whole of Walt Disney World — and the rest of Orlando. Watching the sun set behind the Grand Floridian Resort, or catching the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks show from this location, will probably be one of your grandest memories from your vacation.

Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room
Because this is one of the most well-known “good view” locations, it’s also one of the very crowded! Guests line up nightly to wait for Rose and Crown‘s outdoor patio tables where the view of Illuminations is one of the most spectacular in Epcot, but I also suggest booking a table for lunch. Sitting outside on the lovely patio, watching the boats glide back and forth over World Showcase Lagoon, and taking in the detail of the other pavilions within your view is a wonderful way to spend a mealtime.

View of Giraffe from Sanaa Table

Sanaa
Sanaa‘s casual, relaxed atmosphere and tucked-away location make it a wonderful place to detox after a hectic morning in the theme parks. But what I find enchanting about this place is that it’s the only Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort restaurant that actually has a view of the hotel’s main draw — the African animals on the savanna. Go for lunch or an early dinner to guarantee plenty of daylight, and request to be seated next to one of the restaurants large picture windows. Expect to see giraffe, zebras, Ankole cattle, African birds, and other incredible animals.

‘Ohana
Another one of the best views in Walt Disney World, ‘Ohana‘s wall-to-wall windows give guests a generous view of Seven Seas Lagoon, the Polynesian Resort grounds and Volcano pool, and the major landmarks of the Magic Kingdom. Book a spot here when the restaurant opens for dinner at 5pm to take in the relaxing late-afternoon and evening sunlight spilling over Seven Seas Lagoon, or make an advanced dining reservation just in time to catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant!

The View From Tokyo Dining

Tokyo Dining
An excellent restaurant for sushi gourmands, Tokyo Dining also offers one of the best views in Epcot’s World Showcase. During the day, look out over the World Showcase promenade and amuse yourself with some wonderful people-watching; in the evening, schedule your meal in time to see Illuminations: Reflections of Earth explode over World Showcase Lagoon.

Honorable Mentions
Other great spots to enjoy the view, in my opinion of course, are Narcoosee’s, in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort; Cantina de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico — I imagine the new incarnation opening in the Fall will have some astounding views of the World Showcase Lagoon; and Animal Kingdom’s Flame Tree Barbecue, where you can enjoy a stunning view of Expedition Everest from the seating area.

What are your thoughts? Any additions to the list or experiences you can share about great views from Disney restaurants — and whether or not they make the meal better for you?

You can find more Disney Restaurant information from AJ Wolfe over at The Disney Food Blog.

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Magic Kingdom Touring Plans Updated

by on April 11, 2010

We’ve updated the Magic Kingdom touring plans to reflect the closing of Ariel’s Grotto in Fantasyland.  We also changed the order of  Toontown attractions in a few plans which focused on character greetings.  The detailed versions of the touring plans will be uploaded Monday morning.

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Magic Kingdom Character Meet-and-Greet Changes Imminent

by on April 10, 2010

Courtesy of Stitch Kingdom, a rundown of imminent character greeting changes in the Magic Kingdom.  The most significant of these is the closing of Ariel’s Grotto in Fantasyland.

We’re updating our Magic Kingdom touring plans now and should be finished this weekend.

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First Impressions Of The Polynesian Resort Club Level

by on April 9, 2010

In March when I went down for the Princess Half Marathon, my son and I stayed at the Polynesian Resort – Club Level.   Having stayed at the Polynesian several times, I’m a big fan. When hard pressed, would say the Polynesian is my favorite Disney resort.  After vacationing there for a week last summer, I was excited anticipating the outstanding service we would have.

When staying club level you check in at the Valet Desk outside in the carport.  You are then taken by the Polynesian golf cart to the Hawaii Longhouse where you are given your room keys, welcome packet and your leis.    When we arrived they didn’t have anyone to take us back to the Hawaii longhouse–we must have caught them between shifts.  They seemed a little flummoxed, but it’s wasn’t a problem, we were willing to walk. 

When we got to Hawaii, the staff was great. Super friendly. Wonderful.   

They checked us in, gave us our leis and sent us down the hall with our golden keys.  Upon entering the room, you would normally find a note with your name on it and a lovely chocolate with a picture of the Poly on the front.  We had neither.  I waited a day hoping the chocolate would appear.  When it didn’t, I asked if they had discontinued the chocolate due to the economy.  They apologized and said no and they were so sorry.  They reached in the drawer and handed me the chocolate.  Not quite the same as finding a surprise when you walk in your room.  It’s still nice and Tyler and I enjoyed it.

After we checked in, we went to the Lounge on the second floor for dessert. 

There was about an hour left in the dessert service.  When we arrived most of the trays of desserts were empty.  The girl in line in front of me had loaded her plate with the last cupcake, cookie and tart.  I asked if they had more in the back and they told me no.  There was an hour left in the service, I was paying an exorbitant amount of money to stay there, I know Disney service and that wasn’t it.  I think the cast members working the dessert service wanted to clean up and get home.  If that was my first impression, I’d never stay there again. 

Because I was there for the Princess Half Marathon, I didn’t spend a ton of time in the parks.  Tyler and I enjoyed vacationing at the Polynesian.  We checked-out old movies from the concierge.  It was such a treat being able to get snacks, water, coffee etc.  from the lounge.  It was so convenient.

Had my March trip been my first experience staying at the Poly Club Level, I would have been a little disappointed to say the least; the rest of the stay was stellar.  I will go into more detail in the next chapter of the Polynesian Club Level Chronicles.  Is staying Club Level worth the added expense?  The cost is roughly over $100 per night more expensive compared to non-Club rooms — no matter what discount you have.   What do you think?

Special thanks to Steve Seifert of Tikimanpages.com for the photos.

 

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Things are Blooming at the Flower and Garden Festival

by on April 9, 2010

Every year Walt Disney World’s Epcot springs to life with the International Flower and Garden Festival.  This year the festival runs from March 3rd through May 16th and offers lots of imaginative horticultural displays throughout the park.  Each year there is a theme and this time it is Celebrate the Great Outdoors.  The main entrance at Epcot always has a grand display for the festival and this year’s features Mickey, Minnie, and pals camping, hiking, and enjoying nature.  As always, this main planting bed is a lot of fun and sets the tone for the entire park’s gardens and topiaries.  While character topiaries are always the main draw, nature inspired exhibits are littered all over the Future World as well as World Showcase for guests to enjoy.

Donald and Goofy in the Main Entrance Garden

In addition to the topiaries and displays throughout the park, there are also special events and demonstrations during the festival.  Open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the former Wonders of Life Pavilion in Future World has been converted into Garden Town where guests can view a film called Making of the Flower and Garden Festival, do some shopping, or watch a gardening demonstration by several experts who are on hand.  Several events designed to give avid gardeners tips and tricks from experts will take place during the festival in this building.  Do you have questions about your home garden?  “Master Gardeners” from the University of Florida will be on hand in the pavilion to answer your queries.  Scheduled events include exhibitions like “Easy to do Water Features” and “Creating Back Yard Retreats.”  These demos are very popular and guests should arrive well before their start time.  There are also several demonstration areas, play spots for the kids, and merchandise kiosks scattered around the park.

On top of all of those free festivities, guest can also enjoy free concerts at the American Gardens Theater at the American Adventure.  The Flower Power Concert Series features bands from the 60s and 70s performing three times daily on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through May 16th.  Acts like Davy Jones, Starship, and Chubby Check will have folks dancing in the aisles.  Shows begin at 5:15, 6:30, and 7:45 so don’t miss out!

There are also several special events which come at an extra cost.  I have never taken part in any of these so I cannot give an opinion on them.  For $59 guests can participate in Garden Explorations — Epcot Gardens of the World Tour.  On Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays throughout the festival this tour provides gardening enthusiasts with Disney horticulturists to guide them through special displays and exhibits.   The newest addition to the events line up is the Garden Town Breakfast which combines cooking and gardening demonstrations for those who have a passion for both.  The menu even features produce grown in the Land Pavilion!  The breakfast will be offered three times during the festival at a cost of $60 per person.

For the last few years I have been lucky enough to catch the International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. I have always enjoyed this event and this year was no exception.  The topiaries are always beautiful and bring a special element to the park for a few weeks each year.  I love how the topiary characters featured in each country tie into the character’s home.  For example, Peter Pan and company can be found in the UK and Belle and the Beast a featured in France.  One of my favorite parts of the festival each year is the butterfly house set up between near Test Track.  This year it was renamed as Fawn’s Butterfly House and up to 700 butterflies will flutter around guests as they marvel at their beauty.  Another feature I look forward to each year is the floating planters and the beautiful “Floral Mosaics” plantings on the banks of Future World’s ponds.

If you can make it to WDW during this special celebration I highly recommend roaming around Epcot enjoying the topiaries and other displays.  Guests do not have to have green thumbs to enjoy this unique festival.  Walking around World Showcase (drink in hand optional) checking out the character floral arrangements makes for a lovely spring afternoon.  And if you are really into gardening head over to Garden Town to see some of the demonstrations and do a little shopping.

Next week I’ll take a look at a restaurant off the beaten path…

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WDW Today Episode 705 – Food Vs. Atmosphere

by on April 8, 2010

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Episode 705 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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