Dining

Menu Monday: Best Counter Service Restaurants in Animal Kingdom

by on December 1, 2014

This is the second installment in a series on the top counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. The first article addressed the best and worst counter services of Magic Kingdom, and now we’ll take a walk on the wild side as we review the best counter service restaurants in Animal Kingdom. Keep in mind that to dine at any of these locations, you will need a valid park ticket for admission. Additionally, with some of the construction and updates occurring around Animal Kingdom, not all of these locations may be open or accessible during your planned trip, so be sure to check the Disney Dining website for a full list of open dining options.

To refresh your memory, here is the grading scale I’ve used to determining how each counter service location has earned it’s ranking:

  • Value (portion/cost ratio) = 10 points
  • Flavor = 10 points
  • Originality = 5 points
  • Atmosphere = 5 points
  • Grand total = 30 possible points

So, let’s dive in!

Flame Tree Barbecue – Discovery IslandFTB Sign

Flame Tree Barbecue has long been a popular recommendation among Disney vacationers, and for good reason! It’s got a menu that pleases practically everyone in your group, prices that aren’t so difficult to swallow, and after years of visiting this location, I’ve never been disappointed. The quality has remained consistent and delicious. So, swing by Discovery Island for some finger-licking deliciousness.

Value = 10/10

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Menu Monday: Dining with an Imagineer

by on December 1, 2014

“Why are you going THERE again?” If you get asked this question about your vacations to Disney, you completely understand the frustrations. As veterans to the parks of Walt Disney World, we get asked this about once a year minimum. But, my answer is unequivocally because there is something new to experience every time. Whether it be old standard attractions such as Astro Orbiter (which I will get on one day), or completely new shows or parades that Disney has just introduced, you can never do it all.

The famous Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios.

The famous Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios.

We try to make each repeat trip to the World a new adventure. Yes, we have our favorite “must dos” that are a part of every trip we make, such as Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom, a caramel apple oatmeal cookie from the Karamel Kuche in Epcot’s Germany, or a performance of Mulch Sweat n Shears at Hollywood Studios. But we always try to find new Disney magic as well.

For our last trip to Walt Disney World we decided that meeting an Imagineer was high on our priority list, as we had never done it before. Disney has a great program called Dining with an Imagineer. This experience is a lunchtime event. It is a very intimate setting with only 10-12 guests (aged 10 and older) in attendance, plus the Imagineer. It takes place at the Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios, and comes with a 4 course meal served in the private Bamboo Room. It is not offered every day; only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Because it is a dining event, you can make reservations for it starting on your 180 day window if you have a resort stay booked.

Needless to say, the morning that our 180 day window opened we were on the computer trying to secure our reservations for the elusive event. Since opportunities and number of seats for this dining event are limited, this was the first priority of that morning. Pixie dust was on our side, and we scored two seats for the day we wanted. Now the long wait began until our trip and this new experience.

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Thanksgiving on the Disney Wonder and Castaway Cay

by on November 30, 2014

Let’s clear something up right away. If you’re caught up on the TouringPlans blog, or follow us on Twitter, you already know that the Bloom family won Thanksgiving. We’re all just battling for second place at this point.

This Thanksgiving, Len Testa and I were on a 5-night Western Caribbean Disney cruise on the Wonder. To be honest, cruising wasn’t my first choice for celebrating. My intent was always to spend the holiday in Palm Springs. Unfortunately, no one else in the family was keen on it, and airfare to California from North Carolina never dropped to within my comfort level. So with two weeks to spare, and having eliminated a few other options, I found restricted rates* on the Wonder for the 23rd to the 28th. This met my needs of warm weather, not having to cook, and price, so after finding favorable airfare, I booked it.

The atrium of the DCL Wonder decked out for Christmas in November. Photo - Laurel Stewart

The atrium of the DCL Wonder decked out for Christmas in November. Photo – Laurel Stewart

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Thanksgiving Dinner at the Magic Kingdom

by on November 29, 2014

There are many choices for Thanksgiving dinner at Walt Disney World. Most every resort restaurant has some option, and within the parks many of the sit down restaurants offer a Thanksgiving meal. We decided to do something a little bit different. We brought our own Thanksgiving dinner into the Magic Kingdom.

WDW Pilgrims

WDW Pilgrims

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SATURDAY SIX: Inaugural Walt Disney World “Turkeys” of the Year

by on November 29, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special one as we have the Inaugural Walt Disey World “Turkeys” of the Year. For Thanksgiving this week we took a look back at things both Disney and Universal fans should be thankful for, but today we are going to go the other way. Gather round, as we are starting a new tradition and award six WDW “Turkeys” to the craziest, most outrageous, or just downright weird stories of the year, concluding with the coveted Golden Turkey award. Let’s kick off the ceremony with a relatively recent one….

# 6 – FastPass + Testing at Toy Story Midway Mania

Kim Kardashian may have broke the Internet in November, but WDW itself set the precedent in October when it broke Hollywood Studios doing a controversial test using the park’s most popular attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania. For reasons still unknown, the attraction became FastPass+ ONLY for four days, giving guests no opportunity to wait in a standby line. The normally long standby line for TSMM was essentially switched over to Guest Services, where many guests queued up to voice their opinions on this test. The end result of the test? Scores of unhappy guests. One of the only family friendly rides in the park running at less than 100% capacity. And perhaps further evidence of a large percentage of WDW guests that just plain don’t want to participate in MyDisneyExperience or MyMagic+, something which could present a challenge for WDW in the coming years.

turkeys_tsmm1

Sorry folks, ride’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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SATURDAY SIX THANKSGIVING SPECIAL: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2014

by on November 27, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2014 was a great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning, to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, I ask that Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with….

# 6 – Disney and Universal Merchandise is Better than Ever

It wasn’t long ago, that the only merchandise people were buying at Universal were Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts. Over at Disney, almost every single store, whether in the parks, hotels, or Downtown Disney, was selling the same generic”Disney Parks”stuff. A seismic shift started to occur in 2010, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, and blew the doors off everyone’s projections in the area of merchandise and Butterbeer. Guests were now walking out of Universal with house robes, wands and chocolate frogs in hand. This success was then repeated throughout both of their theme parks, with unique and exclusive items found everywhere you looked, from the EVAC action figure at Transformers gift shop, to the faux girl scout cookies in Despicable Me’s Super Silly Store, to my personal favorite – The Film Vault –  a whole new store focusing on retro merchandise.

MarketplaceCoop_Glover

Jungle Cruise merchandise found at the Marketplace Co-op in Downtown Disney. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Menu Monday: How to Order the Chocolate Glass Slipper Dessert

by on November 24, 2014

Looking for a way to make a special meal at a Disney World restaurant even more magical? How about something to commemorate a birthday, anniversary, proposal, or milestone? If so, this Chocolate Glass Slipper Dessert may be just what you’re looking for! What is it? It’s a perfectly royal way to satisfy your sweet tooth and to celebrate a special occasion at Disney World. It consists of a chocolate shell shaped as Cinderella’s famous glass footwear, along with a few other sweet compliments and a personalized message tailored to your celebration. Find out how to order the Chocolate Glass Slipper Dessert for your next special event at Disney World.

Chocolate Glass Slipper Dessert

Chocolate Glass Slipper Dessert

Location

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Menu Monday: Birthday Fun at Teppan Edo with Review

by on November 24, 2014

Photo - Tammy Whiting

For those of you who don’t know, Teppan Edo is a delightful restaurant found in the Japan Pavilion located in the World Showcase at Epcot. That was a mouth full, wasn’t it? Here you can enjoy teppan-yaki-style cooking prepared right at your table by a talented Japanese chef. It’s not just a meal, but a fun and unique experience. Trust me, it’s something to put on your culinary bucket list!

Teppan Edo is my favorite place to eat in the World Showcase for two reasons: the memories and the overall experience. The first time my husband and I went to Disney World together, it was our favorite dining experience of the trip. We were with my parents and Michael’s aunt and uncle. Michael had raved about this place as he had been there once before. With such positive reviews coming from a Disney Curmudgeon, I knew this was definitely a place I had to try.

Following our arrival, we waited in the “lobby” for a short time before being seated. As we walked down a long hall way, I could peak into each room to see wait staff and chefs tending to their guests. I couldn’t wait to get started!

Now, the grill is centered around family-style seating so if you’re an introvert, you may have to keep an open mind. My parents could talk to a wall, so they plopped right down next to a middle-aged couple from New York. Yes, they had a New York accent. Yes, I couldn’t get enough of it. We soon learned that they were teachers like my mom, so they all had plenty to gab about.

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Things to Do at Disney World outside the Parks

by on November 21, 2014

It can be easy sometimes to forget just how much there is to do outside of Disney World’s four theme parks and two water parks. With so much contained within the parks, it might not even cross some guests’ minds that you could actually spend a whole Disney World vacation without ever going to the parks. Although I personally wouldn’t suggest skipping the parks entirely, you could do it and still have a great vacation. Maybe it’s the last day of your vacation or maybe you just want to explore the property a little to see what else Disney has to offer. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many things to see and do without ever having to pay for a park admission ticket.

Disney World Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf

Golf

Disney World wouldn’t be much of a resort destination without golf. With three courses (four if you include the onsite Four Seasons course) and one nine-hole walking course, there’s a wide variety of play options for fans of the sport. Even if you think you’re terrible at golf or you’ve never tried before, this is a good place to start. Resort courses are notoriously less punishing than most courses (people don’t need a stroke on vacation) and even if you do play horribly, at least you’re still in Disney so you can’t be that upset. If the full-fledged sport still seems like too much of an undertaking, Disney also offers two thematically different mini golf courses. Fantasia Gardens (located near the Boardwalk) is themed after its namesake film and even features a more traditional putting green course for those who want to just work on their short game. Winter Summerland Miniature Golf is located at Blizzard Beach and has two courses themed after winter and summer. For those concerned about having to purchase a water park ticket to play here, no need to worry. The mini golf course may be located at Blizzard Beach but it’s actually outside of the Blizzard Beach entrance.

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Menu Monday: Late Arrival Day Food Choices at Disney World

by on November 17, 2014

Late Night Castle, perfect sight for late night dining at disney world

Even if you arrive to see this gorgeous sight, it still isn’t too late for you to find a good meal.

The Walt Disney World Resort area has tons of options for dining, from quick service restaurants, places to get snacks, or regular table service restaurants, to fancy, signature dining experiences. However, sometimes there seems to be no options other than the $2 vending machine crackers at your resort, once you’re on the property, especially if you don’t have a vehicle and are relying on Disney transportation. To avoid the stress of trying to track down dining options for your late arrival, I have gathered a listing for restaurants that stay open late, so you can avoid wandering around hungry. In addition, I listed the items available on the menu, written in plain language for easy understanding (i.e., it might be Oak-Grilled Salmon with a Selection of Winter Greens, but I’ll simplify it down to Grilled Salmon). Obviously, both hours and menus are subject to change, but you can check with Cast Members at the park or at your resort upon check in to ensure that these options are still available and open late. Here goes!

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