Dining

Favorite Parks Series: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on July 16, 2014

We’re at the half way point in our Favorite Parks journey! (Read about Disney’s Hollywood Studios here.) Before doing research for this article, I’ll admit that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was my least favorite park. However, the more I delved into the MAGIC* behind the park, the more I realized how spectacular and incredibly unique Animal Kingdom is.

Memorable Moments

Since Animal Kingdom is known for its hot environment, Kali River Rapids is just the attraction to cool you off. As the unpredictable rapids decide which way the raft spins, no one is safe from the surprising splashes and torrents. Once you’ve become thoroughly soaked, dry yourself off by enjoying two delightful shows; Finding Nemo – The Musical and the Festival of the Lion King. Adrenaline junkies will love running into the Yeti on Expedition Everest, while those looking for further adventure can experience DINOSAUR. An underrated attraction at Animal Kingdom worth attending is Flights of Wonder, an educational and entertaining exotic bird show. You’ll be ‘squawking’ about it for days!

How many animals can you spot?

How many animals can you spot?

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Trattoria al Forno Restaurant To Open at Disney’s BoardWalk

by on July 15, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

While it’s well known that Kouzzina by Cat Cora is slated to close this fall (its last day of operation is September 30), what we didn’t know and have all been waiting to hear is what new restaurant was going to take its place.

Well, wait no more! Disney has officially announced that a brand new Italian restaurant, called Trattoria al Forno will be opening sometime this December at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.

This brand new restaurant will serve up delectable, Old World-inspired dishes, showcasing dishes from the different regions of the country. Menu items will include Neopolitan-style pizzas, Bolognese with house-made cavatelli;  whole roasted fish with roasted vegetables; semolina tagliatelli carbonara; grilled steak; a seasonal risotto; pork chop alla Milanese; chicken breast alla Parmagiana with tagliatelle pasta; shrimp with garlic, capers and anchovy butter with polenta;  baked lasagna; slow-cooked lamb shank with polenta; ruffled campanelle pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes and Genovese pesto; and eggplant rollatini.  

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Disney World Situational Celebration Guide

by on July 14, 2014

Many guests plan Disney World trips, either in whole or in part, to celebrate an event. This phenomenon is such a truism that Disney even planned their 2009/2010 marketing campaign around the theme “What Will You Celebrate?”

While Walt Disney World is indeed a great place to celebrate, not all Disney celebrations should look the same. You’re not going to celebrate your daughter’s first birthday the same way you’re going to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary. Here’s a guide to constructing the perfect celebration for common situations.

Different situations call for different celebrations.

Different situations call for different celebrations.

1st BIRTHDAY

Who should be there?: The birthday boy/girl, mom and dad, siblings, possibly grandparents.

Where should we stay?: The monorail hotels (Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian) are great because you won’t have to fold your stroller to get to the Magic Kingdom. But if that’s not in the budget, try a family suite at Art of Animation or All-Star Music, or a cabin at Fort Wilderness because you’ll have a separate room where the baby can nap undisturbed. At the moderate level, the standard rooms at the Coronado Springs resort have a sliding wooden door between the bed area and the bath area, creating a de facto mini-room which can serve as a nap area. The value resorts, with their small square footage, may be a challenge during this trip because your Pack n’ Play will take up a substantial percentage of your living area.

Where should we eat?: Chef Mickey’s (breakfast or dinner). The boisterous atmosphere will muffle any cranky noises the birthday child might make. Since it’s a buffet, it won’t seem odd if you’re walking around a bit, also you’ll have lots of food options for fussy eaters.

What should we do?: Character photos! This is the perfect time for pictures juxtaposing little toddler next to a giant mouse. Cuuuute!

What should we buy?: Mouse ears embroidered with junior’s name (another perfect photo opportunity!).

Helpful hints: The celebrant is likely pre-verbal, so there will not be any direct memories being made for the child. Focus on making mom and dad comfortable (traveling with an infant can be exhausting) and taking lots of great photos to help convey your family’s Disney/birthday story when the little one is old enough to understand.

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History of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

by on July 9, 2014

Epcot Food & Wine

This year the Epcot Food & Wine Festival will run from September 19 to November 10.

When asked what their favorite thing about travel is, people often respond with a single word answer – food. One way Disney has answered this question is with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The Food & Wine Festival is an annual event that has been taking place each fall since 1996. Disney showcases food and drinks at International Marketplaces, which represent the regular Epcot pavilion countries, additional countries, and specialty food and beverage categories, such as dessert, vegan, cheese, and beer. The Marketplaces serve snack sized plates and various (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages. An Epcot admission give you access to the food and drinks, as well as the Eat to the Beat Concerts. You must pay for the food and beverages, however, some items qualify as snacks on the Disney Dining Plan. Due to increased popularity, advanced reservations and additional fees are required for special events, culinary demonstrations, and wine seminars. As a result of the fees, these events are not as crowded as they have been in the past.

In the fall, Disney World crowds lessen a bit after school starts through Thanksgiving. As a way to attract more visitors to Disney World during this time, Disney introduced the Food & Wine Festival. This year, the festival runs from September 19 to November 10, 2014. I would like to tempt your palate and look back at some of the highlights that have joined the festival over the years.

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Stretch Your Dining Budget by Sharing Counter Service Meals

by on July 4, 2014

t_logo_fbSplitting counter service meals is an easy way to stretch your vacation dining budget. Whether you are on the Disney Dining Plan or have decided to pick your spots out of pocket, finding counter service meals large enough to share is a bonus. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, you can save credits for a resort breakfast before you leave for home. If you are paying out of pocket, you can save $10-15 every time you split a meal. That’s more money for Dole Whips and souvenirs! Appetites can be unpredictable, and I certainly wouldn’t plan on sharing every counter service meal, but knowing that you do have that option gives you some added flexibility when laying out your dining strategy. (If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan and have young ones, don’t forget that kids can order from the adult menu for no extra charge.)

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Pro Tips: Low and No Cost Ways to Improve Your Disney Vacation

by on June 30, 2014

t_logoLast time, I brought you quick tips. This time, we’re talking pro tips. Maybe you’ve been to Walt Disney World a few times now and are ready to plus your experience. Presumably, you’re already subscribed to TouringPlans.com and are saving time and money by using tools like our mobile app, Crowd Calendar, and customizable touring plans. If not, why not? Anyway, read on for some ideas to start with for enhance other areas of your vacation. Here are some of our Walt Disney World tips:

Note: Any product we recommend is one we have used and purchased with our own money. We haven’t received compensation of any kind (no money, no freebies) for mentions in this article. 

Pro Tip 1 – Enhance Your Accommodations

This doesn’t mean bring your scented candle and special blanky with you. One, candles in a hotel room are a fire hazard. And two, bag fees are high enough without bringing extra stuff with you. No, what I mean is get the same or better accommodations for less. You could sleep four to a room at Pop Century. Or you could get more space by either renting a house off site from a company like All Star Vacation Homes or renting onsite from a Disney Vacation Club broker such as David’s Vacation Club rentals. If you really want to go pro, consider an Owner’s Locker (though you probably won’t keep a laser printer in yours like we do for our TouringPlans mobile office).

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The Best Margarita at Disney World – A Quest

by on June 19, 2014

Margarita and ChipsDuring your Walt Disney World vacation, you may get a hankering for a tasty adult beverage. And Disney has infinite options to satisfy this craving. Thinking of a getting a good beer? Your first thought may be to pop over to Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot’s England Pavilion or perhaps Germany. Maybe a nice glass of wine? France and Italy in Epcot come to mind. And common sense says that the Mexico Pavilion should have the best margarita on property, right? Well, that’s the challenge this article will explore! A quest to find the best margarita at Disney World….

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How to Pick the Right Disney World Character Meal

by on June 15, 2014

Disney World character meal

Meeting Aurora at Cinderella’s Royal Table

There are 11 places at Walt Disney World that host ever-popular character dining. While the total value of eating with characters can be debated, the thrill of shoveling sausages into your gullet while Mickey Mouse hovers over you can only be experienced by experiencing a Disney World Character Meal.

I am, of course, being flippant, as I am a huge fan of character dining. Along with my family I have eaten at least once at each of the character dining spots (reviews are linked at the bottom). Okay, truthfully I have never eaten at the Garden Grove character meal at The Swan Resort, but it’s never particularly appealed to us. Someday I will eat there just to be a completist, but for now it will not be further discussed.

So, anyway, I’m here to help you pick the perfect character meal (or meals) to visit while you’re on vacation. Let’s start with a few caveats, the most important one of which is that characters rule. What I mean by that is this: if there is a particular character that you or your child wants to visit more than anything, go to that meal. Even if the food is terrible and the atmosphere is worse than a dentist’s office, pick the one with the characters you want to see. Trust me when I say that a small portion of your meal price is going to food and atmosphere. You are paying for characters, so look there first.

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Disney’s All-Star Music Resort Food Court To See Lengthy Refurbishment

by on June 9, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

The Intermission Food Court at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort will see an extremely extensive refurbishment from August 1 until December 20, reopening on December 21.

During the refurbishment work, guests staying at the resort will have a few dining alternatives. First, the Note-able Games arcade, found in Melody Hall, will be converted into a grab-and-go area, featuring sandwiches, salads, desserts, and bakery items. A Rapid Fill refillable mug refill station will be available there, as well. Guests may also choose to visit the Singing Spirits pool bar, which will serve select menu offerings. In addition, in-room pizza delivery will also be available from 3:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.

For guests looking for a substantial meal, Disney will provide transportation to Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, where guests can visit the End Zone Food Court,as well as to Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, where the World Premiere Food Court is available for guests. Guests can also choose to walk to either resort. (Walking to All-Star Sports will typically be the closest option.)

The refurb work that will take place at Intermission Food Court will be similar to what happened last fall at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, which concluded in a completely updated seating area, as well as renovated meal stations, featuring many create-your-own meal options.

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Universal Dining: Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in CityWalk

by on June 3, 2014

Margaritaville_Front

Main entrance to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville

Universal CityWalk is currently in the process of a major overhaul, adding new dining options and getting rid of some of the restaurants locations that were lagging behind. Late in 2013, Red Oven Pizza Bakery opened, followed by Cold Stone Creamery and Antojitos earlier this year. Starbucks moved from its upper level location down to a much better spot next to Cold Stone recently, and just a few days ago Menchie’s frozen yogurt opened its doors. Hot Dog Hall of Fame and Vivo Italian Kitchen are expected to debut their original menus in the coming weeks, while Bread Box and the heavily anticipated Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar should be welcoming guests by the end of the summer. 

With all the new venues coming into CityWalk, it is easy to overlook some of restaurants that have been around for a while and still offer a great experience and unique atmosphere like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. With a prime spot close to Islands of Adventure, Margaritaville offers plenty of indoor and outdoor seating along with three full bars and a margarita to-go window. The outdoor seating at the Porch of Indecision has been recently renovated and is a great place to enjoy the weather and people watch.

Margaritaville_Porch

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville with Islands of Adventure’s Pharos Lighthouse in the background

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