Archive for June, 2011

Crowd Calendar Update: Some Park Hours Have Changed June – December

by on June 10, 2011

Some news to report for the Crowd Calendar!

  1. We have many updates to Disney World and Disneyland park hours recently that will affect the predicted crowd levels and the park recommendations.
  2. Our statistical team has implemented some changes to some of the methodology for the crowd ratings which will improve our accuracy.

You may notice that the recommendations for your travel dates have changed as a result of this latest update. It will be up to you to determine if the change is significant enough to warrant adjusting your plans. As always, the vast majority of the changes to the calendar are a result of changes to park hours and that is the case again for this update. Recent changes to Disney World park hours included changes to June, July, October, November and December. We’re sorry to say that some of these hours were released at the end of May and we haven’t been able to incorporate them until now due to a bug in our updating mechanism. We’ve added extra guards to prevent this happening in the future.

As usual, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Happy planning!

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Unheralded Dining Gems: The Wave…Of American Flavors

by on June 10, 2011

I began my previous article making light of the only sure things in Walt Disney World planning being that you need to make advance dining reservations 180 days out, and that park hours will change at least once while you’re planning your trip. Well, in the Disney universe in general, there’s one more thing that’s certain: sequels. Not wanting to miss out on the lucrative market for these, I’ve decided to capitalize on the runaway box office success of my Kona Cafe post, and develop the idea into a series of posts on the topic. I’m also going to start syndicating the posts, and I will be introducing a line of merchandise soon. Who wouldn’t want some “TouringPlans.com Unheralded Dining Gem” boxers? Yeah, the idea is pure gold.

For the second restaurant in our series, I decided to stay inside the monorail loop, this time making a stop at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This one might be a bit divisive, if only for its history, because it replaced a perennial favorite in the Concourse Steakhouse. However, the past is past, and The Wave certainly qualifies both as delicious and as unheralded. If it’s “easy” to make reservations at Kona Cafe, it’s almost impossible not to be able to be seated as a walk-up to The Wave (not that I’m advocating this strategy). It seems the place is never more than half full.

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As with Kona Cafe, location is a big plus here. It’s a short walk from the Magic Kingdom, and while I don’t think the Contemporary offers as good of ambiance as the Polynesian, I think it compensates for that by actually being secluded from the main lobby of the Contemporary, thus keeping noise levels down. All of this makes it an excellent impromptu dinner choice when the Magic Kingdom crowds and heat begin to wear on your family on a busy summer day. It’s equally as accessible if you’re coming from Epcot and heading over to the Magic Kingdom for some Evening Extra Magic Hours.

As soon as you enter the repetitive circular entrance-way of The Wave, you know you’re about to be a part of something hip. Blue lights, a bar with heavy aquatic influences, and a posh waiting area that looks like it’s straight out of an exclusive Miami nightclub (not that I would know) all greet you as you enter the restaurant. If this isn’t your scene, it might be a little intimidating at first. Based on the general lack of kids I’ve seen at The Wave, I think families with small children may actually be intimidated by the restaurant. Then, you spot the dining area, which is much more subdued but still nicely appointed, and reminiscent of a your typical Disney restaurant.

The servers at The Wave reinforce the notion that The Wave fancies itself as somewhat of a trendy restaurant, explaining that the a menu is mostly sustainable and environmentally-friendly. While I think this is a great goal and I hardly criticize any company truly seeking to be a more responsible corporate citizen, part of me thinks Disney is disingenuously paying face to these ideas for the marketing and public relations benefits. It’s with claims like these that The Wave borders on eye-rolling pretentiousness. But not once does this impact the food. As far as sustainability and environmental-friendless go, don’t be scared away from The Wave if you avoid things like all-natural and organic foods because you like eating flavorful food. The Wave most certainly fits the bill as serving food with great flavor.

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From appetizers to main courses to desserts, everything my wife and I have tried at The Wave has been wonderfully prepared and has tasted delicious. Menu items seem thoughtfully determined, with each component of a dish complimenting the other tastes. Even the unorthodox garnishes and toppings, that ostensibly were chosen for their shock-value, end up tasting wonderful, and leave you thinking, “why don’t all restaurants prepare this dish like this?!”

The reason The Wave is likely most well-known is for its decision to only carry wines with screw-off tops. Among the general public, there is a misconception that screw-off top bottles of wine are one step above bagged wine in terms of quality. However, many oenophiles will tell you that screw-off tops are actually better for the wines! Since I’m hardly an oenophile (it actually sounds like a martian off the same planet as Sonny Eclipse to me!), I can’t really speak to this, nor can I speak to the wine list at The Wave, but I have only heard great things. I do find it disappointing that at The Wave, as with almost every other Disney restaurant with an exceptional wine list, the craft beer list is fairly non-existent. Disney, there are plenty of folks out there who like to pair beer with food, maybe it’s time to start recognizing this ever-growing group of consumers?

In addition to its wine list, the other stand-out among stand-outs at The Wave is its dessert menu. These are served in small groups of three, with a common theme weaved between the trio to tie them together (and give them their menu name). Here, the flavors again actually do compliment one another nicely, and come together to form (unexpected) perfect desserts. Unconventional, yes. But also delicious.

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Overall, The Wave’s menu is incredibly balanced, and is solid all around. Some options may not be the best cuisine you can find on property, but nothing that we have tried there has been mediocre. Most choices are adventurous, thanks to sides and little garnishing touches ranching from avocado mouse to spinach-bacon salad. While I might expect these touches at Animal Kingdom Lodge or in the World Showcase, to see them show up at a restaurant that describes itself as a wave “Of American Flavors” is incredibly refreshing. (American Adventure, are you taking notes?!)

This summer, when you find your blood boiling as you walk through the Great Stroller Parking Lot in Fantasyland, consider cooling off with a lunch or dinner break at The Wave. Even if you don’t have ADRs, there’s a good chance they’ll take you in! Whether you have an adventurous palate or enjoy the typical “American fare,” you won’t be sorry dining at The Wave!

Ever tried The Wave, or still bitter over the Concourse Steakhouse? Do you love or hate The Wave? Share your thoughts on The Wave, and any other “unheralded dining gems” you may have, in the comments!

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New Phineas and Ferb Meet & Greet

by on June 9, 2011

First appearing on Disney Channel in August of 2007, and appealing to both children and adults, the animated series Phineas and Ferb has taken the world by storm.  With a sketch on some butcher paper in a restaurant by Dan Povenmire of a boy with a triangle head, he and his partner Jeff “Swampy” Marsh were inspired to create the Emmy Award winning show we know today.  It wasn’t always this easy though as it took them 16 years of pitching their idea until Disney finally accepted it.

It was hard for Disney to make the leap.  Here’s an animated series that presents itself as hard lines and well defined shapes and angles.  Not being rounded or humaniform it wasn’t exactly the type of animation Disney is used to producing.  In fact, Disney Channel CEO Gary Marsh was against it, and the company had originally said “No” to the series.  However, looking for something to rival Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, Disney eventually piloted and then signed on for the series.

And that’s when it started.  That one question everyone who visits a Disney Theme Park starts to ask about their (or their children’s) favorite characters.  In this case it was, “Where can I find Phineas and Ferb?” or “Where’s Perry?”  Of course, the answer was initially nowhere.  Disney did not throw their marketing and franchising genius behind the show fully until after it’s second season.  The first official in park appearance of Phineas and Ferb was in the 2009 Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade at Disneyland.  People immediately wanted more, and since this time they’ve appeared a few more times, especially media events.

Now, as a lead in to the release of their upcoming movie “Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension”, Phineas and Ferb have created a movie set on Disney’s Hollywood Studios Backlot.  It can be found near the exit to Muppet*Vision 3-D.  There is a well organized rope-queue where you’ll find a sign that is intended to bring you into the story.  And the hours as indicated when I visited were 10:30AM – 2:00PM and 3:00PM – 5:30PM.

The premise is that the boys are on the backlot to make a movie called ““We’re Making a Movie” – The Movie”.  And the best part?  Everyone’s a star in it.  The set is considered “hot” (meaning they’re making a movie), and you’re in line waiting to film your scene in the movie with Phineas and Ferb.  The set itself is full of all sorts of eye candy for fans of the show, including Ducky Momo, the Giant Floating Baby Head, and an occasional appearance of Perry the Platypus (sadly not a live character).

The queue can be long, I waited about 45 minutes to see Phineas and Ferb, and this was on our second attempt.  We had decided that the line was far too long the first time.  They payoff is pretty good, you can spend as much as 4-5 minutes with the characters.  They do take frequent breaks, heading behind the scenes roughly every 10 to 15 minutes which contributes to the long wait time.

The boys are working with a Director who, while interacting with the boys is also there to help create other scenes for the movie.  Pulling guests out of the queue he will stage some of the better known musical numbers from the show including: Gitchee Gitchee Goo, S.I.M.P. (Squirrels In My Pants), and Backyard Beach (a personal favorite).  These folks don’t just act out the parts, they get props to do it with.  Inflatable guitars, the giant baby head, hula skirts, etc.  The Director then pulls out his camera and a clapperboard and after announcing the take with the help of a guest, he “films” the scene.  Keeping with the highly interactive nature of the Studios it is exciting, fun, and enjoyable to watch.

Here’s a clip of the Director in action by Shane G (used with permission) of StudiosCentral.com:

The characters are definitely the best part of this meet and greet.  And I don’t just mean Phineas and Ferb, who look fantastic (though freakishly large), I also mean the Director who, no pun intended, can steal the show if he’s very into it (I’ve seen a few different castmembers playing this role).  If anything the set itself is a disappointment.  It’s a 2D background depicting the tree under which the boys get most of their “creative” ideas.  The rest of the set is entirely built out.  It just feels out of place.  Sadly Perry the Platypus is not an interactive character he just pops up as a painted piece of the set from time to time.  Disney also missed the mark in not painting the building behind the set to look like Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated.

Whatcha doin’? Have you met Phineas and Ferb yet?  Long to?  Excited to meet them?  Are you their biggest fan?  Today is gonna be a great day.

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Take A Stroll Down Memory Lane at Pop Century!

by on June 8, 2011

I’m sure all Disney World fans could name their favorite resort.  Maybe you love the atmosphere

Photo by Betsy Bates

at the Polynesian or you just love the southern charm of the Port Orleans resorts.  While the Boardwalk Inn is my all time favorite, the majority of my stays at Disney World are spent at the Pop Century Resort so  it feels like a second home to me.  While it is not as elaborate as many of the other resort offerings, I’ve always been very comfortable here.

One of the reasons I keep returning to this resort is the price tag.  It is categorized as a value resort which makes it among the most affordable accommodations on property.  Since I make multiple trips to WDW each year, keeping my budget in check is a must.  While I love when I have the opportunity to stay at one of the deluxe resorts, staying at a value allows me to keep coming back to my favorite place without breaking the bank.  Standard room rates vary from $82 a night in the value season to $164 per night during the busy holiday season.  However, annual pass holders can often get a discount, and keep an eye out for savings for the general public as well.

Photo by Betsy Bates

The price may have been what attracted me to Pop Century, but the fun theme keeps me coming back for more.  The theme of the resort is a larger than life representation of pop culture icons from the 50s through the 90s. When guests arrive, they will immediately notice the bright colors and nostalgic items used to decorate the resort.  Inside the huge lobby displays line the wall with memorabilia from each decade and fun  photos are hung

Photo by Betsy Bates

behind the desk.  Outside, the strong theming continues with each group of buildings representing a decade.  Giant icons like Lady and the Tramp in the 1950s and jute boxes are used to mark each area.  The exterior of each building features phrases and pop culture references appropriate to its given decade.

 

 

 

Resort Lobby Photo by Deanna Simmons

Resort Lobby Photo by Deanna Simmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme even continues with the resorts three swimming pools.  The main pool is called the Hippy Dippy pool which is just behind the main building called Classic Hall.  It is shaped like a flower and offers plenty of lounge chairs and room for kids of all ages to have a blast splashing around.  There is an additional quiet pool which sits among the 50s buildings so it is in the shape of a bowling pin.  The nearby decor drives home the bowling alley idea with prop bowling balls and a huge rack of bowling shoes.  The third pool is between the 80s and 90s buildings and has been dubbed the Computer Pool with its stack of floppy disks .

Bowling Pool Photo by Betsy Bates

Computer Pool Photo by Betsy Bates

 

 

 

 

 

The food court even gets into the act at this resort! Everything Pop offers a wide array of menu choices from 6 a.m. until 12 a.m. each day.  I think this is one of the better resort counter service restaurants in all of Walt Disney World with its vast offerings and fun atmosphere.  I don’t know of any other resort where the cast members encourage guests to do the hustle or the twist!  Additionally, each night the “Mom’s night out” dinner special is presented in a TV dinner tray.  How cute is that?

Photo by Betsy Bates

Looking for a place to grab a drink during your stay? No problem! Petals pool bar is located between the Hippy Dippy Pool and Classic Hall.  Here, guests can have a night cap or order a drink to enjoy while they lounge by the pool.  It is a fun place to hang out on a nice night and the bartenders couldn’t be more friendly.

Now that we’ve discussed the common areas around Pop Century, let’s talk about the rooms.  They are approximately 260 square feet which is fairly small, but is comparable to the other value resorts.  The vibrant and cheery colors used outside are also used in the rooms to further the bygone days theme.  There are two full beds as well as a flat screen tv, a table and chairs, as well as a dresser and nightstand.  The bathroom has been split into two sections with the toilet and shower being in one area, and the vanity sink being in the other.  The rooms are nothing lavish, but they have been clean during every one of my stays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Betsy Bates

Since the rooms are pretty similar at all of the value resorts I though I’d point out an advantage to Pop Century over the others is the bus system here.  The buses which transport guests to and from the parks are shared among the All Star hotels, but Pop has its own buses.  This is a great time saving feature since your bus will not stop at two other resorts along the way.  You’ll also be more likely to get a seat on your bus since there will be less people waiting at your stop.  While the buses aren’t so bad at Pop Century, you may want to consider renting a car when you stay here.  I find it much easier to have my own transportation than to rely on the bus system where ever I stay at WDW.

 

Photo by Betsy Bates

I just returned from another stay at Pop Century.  As usual, my room was exactly what I expected and cast members were friendly and helpful.  I enjoyed spending time by the pool when I needed a break from the usual craziness of my Disney vacation.  I only used the bus once on this trip since we rented a car, but it was efficient and I had no complaints.  I view Pop as a cheap place to sleep at night when I know I will spend most of my time in the parks and having fun with friends.  The rooms aren’t huge or fancy, but they are clean and comfortable.  The pools are not as flashy as those found at the deluxe and moderate resorts, but I barely use it.  If you are on a budget and looking for a place to crash after a day of commando touring, this is the resort for you.

It seems many Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World readers have mixed feelings on this resort I love so much, giving it a C+ rating; however, 93% of our readers would stay there again.  How about you? Have you stayed at Pop Century recently?  Let me know all about your experience in the comments!

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We Made Some Videos!

by on June 7, 2011

TouringPlans.com World Headquarters - location undisclosed

Here at TouringPlans.com World Headquarters in an undisclosed location in the South Pacific, we like to branch out and try our hand at new things from time to time. In that spirit, we give you some videos about the features included in a TouringPlans.com premium subscription. What do you think? Helpful or not? And, yes, that really is me doing the voiceover. Len Testa thought it was more “authentic” to hear me trying to spit out phrases like “tips and tricks” than to hear it from a “professional” with “skills.”

We plan to add more videos in the future. What would you like to see?

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Wait Times At Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

by on June 6, 2011

Wait times at Disneyland Park’s newest attraction Star Tours: The Adventures Continue have been out of this world since opening on June 3rd, 2011. Our fearless researcher Robbie has been reporting from Disneyland since the attraction opened. You can follow Robbie’s reports via Twitter, Facebook or the website at StarTours2Live.com. Check it out!

While the adventures continue at Disneyland let us fly over to the southeast and check in on Walt Disney World’s version of the new attraction. Opening on May 20th, 2011, it had a two week head-start on its west coast counterpart. We have a slough of wait times collected at the new attraction and it is interesting to see how the wait times compare to the previous version.

Wait Times at Star Tours (Hollywood Studios)

Thanks to our enthusiastic Lines users and our dedicated staff, we have collected 895 wait times at the new attraction. More than enough to get a sense of what the wait times look like on any given day. In the previous version of Star Tours, wait times typically peaked at 60 minutes on the busiest days. In fact, of the thousands of wait times we have collected over the years, on only eleven occasions did we see wait times higher than 60 minutes at Star Tours version 1. Since the re-opening about 10% of the wait times we have collected have broken the 60 minute mark and we are still seeing wait times for Star Tours in the hundreds at the Hollywood Studios. In fact, during the Memorial Day Weekend, the wait time hit 210 minutes!

If you look at the general trend of the wait times at the new attraction so far (red curve) you can see that the wait times are about double what they used to be. This is what we guessed before the attraction opened, based on our experience with other redesigned attractions in the past. We are certainly seeing evidence that wait times are low enough in the morning and late afternoon to experience the attraction without waiting a long time. Just make sure that Star Tours appears in the morning block of your touring plan or plan to use Fastpass.

Our experience also tells us that the “newness” factor of an attraction can affect its wait times for up to a year depending on the popularity of the attraction. Will that be the case for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue? Only time will tell.

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Restaurant Review – Kona Island Sushi Bar

by on June 6, 2011

One of the increasing problems at Walt Disney World is the influence that the Disney Dining Plan and 180 day dining reservation window has had on the availability of tables at great Disney restaurants.  While certain restaurants like Le Cellier or ‘Ohana will always be difficult to get into, it’s gotten to the point where it is difficult to get into ANY Disney restaurant without making reservations at least a month out. 

The sushi bar sits right next to the monorail platform.

When you’re in the World without reservations, as I was during the D23 Scavenger Hunt weekend, you have to improvise.  There are some fantastic options for a sit down meal without reservations, but my pick was the Kona Island Sushi Bar.  After walking up to the check in table at the nearby Kona Café, we were told it was a 45 minute wait.  But wait!  We could sit at the Kona Island Sushi Bar right next door, and order from the full Kona menu. 

Excited to try something new, my wife and I decided to give it a try.  On the second floor of the Polynesian, the Kona Island Sushi Bar serves only from 5-10 pm each day.  During the morning, it’s known to coffee lovers as one of the places to get real coffee at Walt Disney World, as well as a quick snack or pastry.  In the evenings, though, this stand alone bar is devoted to sushi. 

The menu is posted for review right next to the bar.

As the Kona attendant had promised, we picked our own spot, along the bar facing the window looking out towards the monorail platform.  Our server presented us with the full sushi menu as well as the Kona Café menu and took our drink orders as we settled in for the meal.  If you have never been to Kona, you might be surprised by all the great stuff they have. 

Kona Café is a fusion of Asian and Polynesian cuisines, and the sushi bar lives up to that.  For our meal we decided to split some sushi rolls and the Sticky Wings for Two appetizer.  But it’s not just appetizers available here.  The couple next to us was enjoying a Teriyaki Style New York Strip and Coconut Almond Chicken.  I’ve had both before and they’re quite delicious.  

Paired with a Kona Longboard Lager on my part and a sangria for the wife, this was my favorite kind of meal.  The sushi was very fresh, made right there in front of us, and the wings were hot and delicious.  After a long, hot day in the parks, this was a light, refreshing meal that I did not have to wait 45 minutes to enjoy.  The entire experience was very relaxing, with a great view out the Polynesian window and great food.  

We did not end up ordering dessert on this trip, because we had ice cream plans elsewhere, but

Everything was very fresh, prepared right on site.

Kona offers some great dessert options.  The chocolate fondue is massive and very good, but I lean towards the Kilauea Torte, a warm liquid chocolate inside of a chocolate cookie volcano.  I’ve also heard the White Chocolate Cheesecake is something to behold as well. 

Overall, this was a decent priced meal for two people, with two alcoholic beverages, two sushi rolls, an order of wings all for just over $50.  If you’re on the dining plan, the sushi bar uses a table service credit, just like the café.   If you’re one of those people who likes spontaneity or flexibility in your plans, this is a great option for you.  The next time you’re wandering around the Magic Kingdom or other parts of the World looking for a good sit down meal, I recommend the Kona Island Sushi Bar as a great alternative.

What about you?  What last minute table service dining spots have you discovered?

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Introducing The TouringPlans Affiliate Program!

by on June 6, 2011

While working on your personal Disney site or blog, do you often find yourself exclaiming: “I love shamelessly plugging TouringPlans.com and its wide array of magnificent services to my friends, family, and co-workers, but how–besides the attendant increase in world happiness–can this benefit me?” If so, we finally have your answer to this question! We are proud to introduce the TouringPlans.com Affiliate Program!

If you have your own Disney website or blog, you’ll definitely want to check out our new TouringPlans.com Affiliate Program.

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Star Tours, Little Mermaid Officially Opens in Disneyland

by on June 3, 2011

The day we’ve been waiting for is finally here in Disneyland! Star Tours: The Adventures Continu and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure are opening today at the Disneyland Resort. The wait times will be hard to predict over the next few weeks, but we’ll be on-the-ground to try to keep you updated as much as possible. We also encourage our fabulous Disneyland Lines users to help contribute as many wait times as possible!

If you’re keen to see photos, wait times, and crowd reports from Disneyland today, we’ve resurrected StarToursLive.com to help cover the Disneyland Star Tours opening. Be sure to follow @StarTours2Live and StarTours2Live on Facebook to follow the happenings!

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Crystal Palace Breakfast: Starting Your Magic Kingdom Day Off Right

by on June 3, 2011

When following a Touring Plan, we recommend arriving at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom 50-70 minutes before park opening. Most of us have probably done this a number of times, maybe even every day per trip. If you’re willing to take a break from commando style touring at the start of your day (heresy, right?), I’d recommend booking breakfast Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for the Crystal Palace. Here’s why:

Get Great Family Photos On An Empty Main Street: PhotoPass photographers are typically out early, so this makes a great time to get great family shots with no one else in the frame. Must get photos: your party running (err, briskly walking) up an empty Main Street, your party around the Partners statue, and your party directly in front of Cinderella Castle. This is a rare opportunity, so get as many shots as you possibly can!

Meet Characters Without Spending Valuable Attraction Time On Meet & Greets: At the Crystal Palace, you can meet Piglet, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger. This is a great opportunity to meet the characters as they come to your table, rather than you having to wait in a long line in the sun later in the day. If you’ll be meeting these characters at some point, anyway, an early morning ADR can definitely save you time touring. The characters, with rare exception, make their rounds fairly quickly here, so you can typically have decent quality time with all characters within 45 minutes. Just don’t get up to head to the buffet when a character is almost to your table, otherwise you’ll have to wait for that character to complete another full loop of the restaurant before you see them again.

Enjoy A Hearty Breakfast At A Magic Kingdom Staple: The Crystal Palace is a Magic Kingdom staple, a 1971 classic that has existed since the park’s opening. Its victorian architecture is gorgeous, and the inside of the restaurant well maintained, with beautiful Pooh topiaries in the entrance-way. Oh yeah, and the food. The food is pretty good for a breakfast buffet. Offering everything from breakfast pizza to those famous Mickey waffles, there’s certainly something here for everyone!

Enter The Park An Hour Before Park Opening: If your family eats quickly, you might just be able to finish breakfast before rope drop, and still make it out to the park as the rest of the commando-tourers begin pouring through the turnstiles. In this case, you have a definite leg-up on the “competition,” as you’ve already had breakfast and met some characters. (While many seasoned vets will eat breakfast in their hotel rooms, it’s very unlikely that they’ll meet characters in their room!)

Tips For Early Advance Dining Reservations: While this post recommends Crystal Palace as it’s my personal favorite choice for early morning ADRs, restaurants in all four park offer pre-park opening ADRs! In the Magic Kingdom there is also the (incredibly overpriced) Cinderella’s Royal Table, featuring Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, and Belle. Epcot dining makes a good alternative to Cinderella’s Royal Table, where Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, featuring assorted princesses, offers early ADRs. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House Restaurant offers early ADRs, and includes the following characters in safari attire: Mickey Mouse, Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Goofy. Finally, Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios features Leo, June, Handy Manny, and Agent Oso.

The most important tip is to book these reservations at or as close to 180 days out as possible. The earliest time slots go incredibly quickly, and if you wait until 160 days out to book, you’ll likely end up with 8:30 am reservations, at best. Which brings us to the next tip…

Book the absolute earliest ADR, which is 8:05 am at the Magic Kingdom restaurants and 8 am everywhere else. This gives you as much possible time to dine before the park opens officially, and hopefully gives you a fairly strong chance of being out of the restaurant before 9 am.

Crystal Palace: A Buffet With Character

Disney transportation will be available to take you to the park this early, but strongly consider using a rental car or take a taxi. Disney transportation is just too hit-and-miss to trust with something so vital. You laugh now at me calling this “vital,” but just wait until you’re tapping your foot at a bus stop, wondering why 7 Animal Kingdom buses have stopped, despite no one heading to AK, in the same 30 minute span that 0 Magic Kingdom buses have stopped, as your stomach growls and your children begin to tire of the heat and humidity. If you don’t have a rental car, the $20-30 cost of a taxi is negligible when considering the peace of mind and preservation of sanity it will bring.

Finally, show up to the advance dining turnstiles before your ADR, and enter as early as they will let you, but don’t check-in to your restaurant until you’re ready to eat. This is especially true if you want to take some photos of your family in the empty park, because you’ll want to give yourself time to take these photos. Typically, Cast Members won’t let you idle on Main Street for too long, so make sure your camera is set up and ready to go in advance, because you don’t want to fumble with the settings when it’s time to take the photo. Plus, once you’ve checked into the restaurant, that’s it. They can call your name at any time, and typically will skip over your party (costing you your reservation, not just your place in line) if you ran off to grab more photos.

Once you’re done snapping some great early morning photos, check-in to the podium, wait for your name to be called, go inside and consume your tasty rewards!

Have you ever done an Early Morning ADR? At which restaurant? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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