Dining

Disney Dining: Disney World’s Best Pricey Meals

by on July 31, 2014

Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

Sure, Chef Gusteau had it right… anyone can cook. But sometimes, isn’t it nice to let someone else do all the mise en place-ery and take care of the dishes? As much as my husband and I love Disney World for the atmosphere, the attractions, the getting unnecessarily teared up because you met Ariel and she was literally the first movie you remember going to oh noes am I crying DON’T LOOK AT ME, we also love it for the food in a big, big way. Living less than an hour away, we always make a point to plan our trip around where we’re going to eat, and over the years Disney World has provided us with some truly amazing meals. Don’t get me wrong… I love a good burger and fries, and few things are finer than a big plate of buffalo chicken wings. Sometimes, though, you want to try something different. You don’t have to visit during Epcot’s annual Food and Wine festival for some primo nosh, and if you’re willing to spend a little more, Disney dining can be decadent and delicious in ways you might not expect.

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Doing Disney World Solo: Having a Me Party

by on July 30, 2014

Disney Parks are advertised as the quintessential family vacation, but that doesn’t mean that you can only have fun with your family. Whether you’re in Orlando for a business conference, a local looking for a fun afternoon, or just planning a trip all for your “onesy” (as Jack Sparrow would say), the magic of Walt Disney World is easily captured by any intrepid traveler! If Amy Adams and Miss Piggy can have fun with their own “Me Party”, anyone can! Let’s dive in and find some ideas to help you create your own “Me Party” when you are traveling solo at Disney World.

Amy Adams, from The Muppets, shows us that anyone can have fun at a "me party"!

Amy Adams, from The Muppets, shows us that anyone can have fun at a “me party”!

Why Travel Walt Disney World Solo

Believe it or not, there are lots of little perks to being a solo traveler at Walt Disney World. After all, you can create your own agenda. It’s a very liberating feeling walking through the theme parks and only answering to yourself. A quick stop for a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, a last minute dining reservation (ADR) at your favorite restaurant (if you can get it), or maybe you want to re-ride the tea cups at the Mad Tea Party six times in a row. It’s up to you!

Solo Travel Considerations

Safety: Before we jump right into the fun, it’s important to consider the safety of being a solo-traveler. I always stay at a Disney owned resort on property when I travel by myself. That’s not to say that other local hotels aren’t safe, but there is a familiarity with the Disney resorts and the caring nature of the cast members that make it extra comforting. When checking in, I usually tell the cast member that I’m by myself and would prefer a room close to the main building for security reasons. Though there is no guarantee that they can accommodate this request, I’ve never had a problem. I also make sure that I’m aware of my surrounding and stay in well-lit areas. Even though it’s Disney, safety is a top priority. This means, putting away your smart phone, especially when waiting for transportation or in transit between your resort and the park. Not that Disney has many “predators” lurking in the parking lots, when you’re on your own you want to make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings.

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Planning for Spontaneity: Disney World Counter Service Meals

by on July 30, 2014

By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey's Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.

Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank.

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Disneyland Dining: A Few of My Favorite Things

by on July 29, 2014

IMG_3771

Hello, my dears! If you haven’t had lunch yet you might want to save this one for later because I’m about to make you very hungry! We’re going on a culinary tour of some of my favorite Disneyland Dining options complete with photos. To get started we’re heading to Wine Country Trattoria at the Golden Vine Winery. In 2012, we just happened by at lunchtime and decided to try this spot on a whim. We both voted this our favorite meal of the trip and since this it’s a can’t miss for us! The shady, outdoor seating is right by Cars Land but feels a million miles away. My go to item here is the Quattro Pomodoro. It’s simple with just tomatoes, garlic, and basil in marinara sauce. 

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Tables in Wonderland Changes To Take Place August 1

by on July 29, 2014

tables in wonderland logo

©Disney

I wrote about this last year, but I wanted to remind everyone. (I did write about it a year ago…so I am sure you’ve likely forgotten.) Effective Friday, August 1, the Tables in Wonderland card will see some changes.

One major change is that select restaurants will see a few more blackout dates. These dates will include–November 23-29; December 21-27; March 8-April 4, 2015; and May 31-June 20, 2015. The restaurants that will be impacted are:

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Snacks Around the World Showcase – Japan

by on July 29, 2014

Mickey Pretzel and Plastic Cheese

Mickey Pretzel and Plastic Cheese. Perfection.

When Epcot enters the conversation, the first thing many people mention is eating (or drinking) around the world. While there are many worthy restaurants scattered around the World Showcase with a wide variety of different foods to try, there are also many pre-packaged snacking alternatives to tempt an adventurous diner.

In addition to interesting snacks to be eaten while in the park, those packaged snacks make great souvenirs. They are relatively inexpensive, won’t take up much space in luggage, and make a different sort of present to bring home.

Instead of just showing the different options, I decided it would be much more interesting to turn snacking into a challenge. Since the World Showcase has so many options, there had to be some parameters in the snacking quest. There are 11 countries represented in the World Showcase portion of Epcot, which could get expensive quickly if you are to get something in each country. In addition, since the point was trying new things, I would avoid things that are readily available in the United States or things that aren’t particularly strange. Finally, I wanted it to be something I was actually willing to try.

So, here are the rules for the World Showcase Snacking Challenge:

  • No snacks over $10; preferably less than $5
  • As unusual as possible
  • Something I personally would eat

Let’s get started!

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2015 Disney Dining Plan Information Released

by on July 28, 2014

Disney Dining Plan

©Disney

Earlier today, it was mentioned by Len on the TouringPlans forums that the 2015 Disney Dining Plans informational brochures had officially been released in PDF format. (A quick heads up: the 2015 Vacation Packages will be available starting on Wednesday, July 30.)

The actual details of the 2015 Disney Dining Plans haven’t changed from 2014, meaning that guests will still receive the same number of entitlements that were available under the 2014 Plans. RapidFill refillable mugs will also continue to be offered with the 2015 Disney Dining Plans.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six New Snacks in Universal’s Diagon Alley

by on July 26, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Top Six New Snacks in Universal’s Diagon Alley. Last week we went through the best new drinks available in the Wizarding World and today we are going to satisfy our sweet tooth by looking at the top six snacks inside Universal’s new land. All the venues in Diagon Alley, the London Waterfront, and King’s Cross station were eligible. What made the cut from our blue ribbon panel of experts? Let’s count ‘em down…

# 6 – Chocolate Potted Cream (The Leaky Cauldron)

pottedchocolate1

Chocolate Potted Cream (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Top Ten Places to Find Coffee at Walt Disney World

by on July 24, 2014

The Walt Disney World Resort is 47 square miles, which is about the same size of San Francisco. A resort this size is pretty certain to have whatever you might be looking for. For those as addicted to caffeine as I am, my first question in the morning is, “Where’s the coffee?” With this mind, here is my quick and dirty “top ten” guide on where to find coffee at Disney World. Now, this list isn’t all-inclusive, and it isn’t even ranked (who can really say one Starbucks is better than another), but I will give you a list of ten options for you to keep in mind when you’re on your “Where’s Waldo?” search for a tasty cup of Joe.

Starbucks at the West Side of Downtown Disney is easy to spot, next to the Characters in Flight attraction

Starbucks at the West Side of Downtown Disney is easy to spot, next to the Characters in Flight attraction

Starbucks – West Side Downtown Disney: Nestled next to the Characters in Flight balloon launch in Downtown Disney’s West Side, this coffee mecca is pretty easy to find. And the curse/blessing of any chain restaurant is that you know exactly what you’re getting when you order your favorite beverage here. Starbucks regulars can even use their Starbucks gift cards here. What makes this location unique from any other location is the impeccable coffee theming. True to Disney form, you are immersed in coffee culture, so take some time to peruse the walls and learn a bit about this addictive little bean we all love so much. Once you’ve grabbed your beverage, snag a window seat to watch shoppers stroll along or the Characters in Flight balloon lift-off. Or sip while you doodle on the interactive screen.

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#TBT: Club 33 Before the Renovation

by on July 24, 2014

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, at least I hope Kylene Hamulak thinks so! I loved her throw back Thursday article so much I decided to share one of my own. This time visiting Disneyland’s Club 33 before the much debated renovation. I thought now was a great time to preserve the information in case the club emerges nothing like it was in the past. Now, I must apologize for the photo quality. Back in 2011 I hadn’t picked up photography as a hobby just yet. That plus my hands trembling with excitement led to some pretty sad results!  If you want to see (always) amazing photos, check out this old post by THE Tom Bricker.

I’ll never forget how nervous I was that day! I couldn’t think about anything else and I made my hubby push the button to check us in. When they first opened the door and we stepped inside, I immediately snapped a photo of the inside of that door! I’d been waiting so long to see it! It was surprisingly… red. Actually the entire entry was a bright red color with a lovely staircase directly in front of us and the French lift on the right. Maybe I remember that color so well because all my photos are just a smeared mess of that red! ;) We asked to take the French Lift up to our table and it’s really as tiny as people say.

Below is my first photo of the day that turned out. Once we sat down I took a deep breath and photographed everything on the table. Our server tried to unfold my napkin to place it on my lap and was a little confused when I stopped her. I was worried she’d think we were “that” kind of table but it ended up that she was really lovely and appreciated how much we treasured being there.

1 1a

After taking a few minutes to appreciate the dining room we thought we should grab something to eat. When we were at Club 33 you not only got to order from a gourmet menu, there was also a buffet to start your meal. The options were immense with cheeses, seafood, meats, salad, fruit, soups, and more. I wonder if this tradition will continue with the new club? It was an amazing way to start off your meal!

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