Be Our Guest Dinner Review

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One of the newest and most hard to come by reservations at Disney World is having dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. My family was lucky enough to snag one of these reservations on our last trip. We arrived right around 6:00 and were seated within five minutes of checking in.

Of course the overall theming of this restaurant is one of the best at Disney World due to all of the great elements the Imagineers included such as these “soldiers” in the entry way. Guests are able to dine in one of three dining rooms including the Main Ballroom, the West Wing, and the Rose Gallery. Also, this restaurant is only a table service option at dinner as it serves a quick service breakfast and lunch. With that said both breakfast and lunch are still done by reservation even though they are a quick service option.

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We have dined in the main dining room before, but were very excited this time when we were led to the West Wing and we got our first glimpse of the rose.

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Dining in the West Wing itself was fantastic. Of all of the great elements in this restaurant we feel this room really hits the theme in an unbelievable way. The only consideration is it is quite dark, which of course adds to the mood, but it makes taking pictures quite difficult. Or quite distracting to others due to your flash, however you want to look at it.

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We sat down and were greeted with the creative rose napkins on our table and soon had the bread service in front of us.

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For my meal I ended up selecting the Grilled Strip Steak with Garlic-herb butter and pommes frites for $35.

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I have ordered this entree before and have enjoyed it each time. It has always been cooked well, seasoned well, and the garlic-herb butter gives it an extra nice flavor. It is not a steak on the level of Yachtasman’s Steakhouse at the Yacht Club, but it is still a really good meal. The french fries have also been good each time I’ve had then and I even enjoy the mayonnaise based dipping sauce.

My wife also has a favorite menu item hear that she enjoys, the Pork Chop served with mac ‘n cheese au gratin for $27.

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She absolutely loves this dish. The pork is perfectly tender and the mac ‘n cheese au gratin is excellent. In addition to tasting good the pork chop is a large cut of meat and it is also a good size serving of mac ‘n cheese.

After enjoying our dinner we decided to try a couple of dessert options since they are relatively inexpensive at just $5 each. First we tried the Chocolate Cream Puff filled with chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream.

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This dish was good, although it was fairly plain. Also, the catch to them only costing $5 is that they are pretty small. In addition to the cream puff we also tried The “Grey Stuff” served over chocolate spongecake.

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This was maybe the one part of our meal that we didn’t enjoy very much. Their was just not a lot of flavor to the “Grey Stuff” and the cake was pretty dry. I had heard the “Gray Stuff” had a cream cheese flavor, but what we had tasted basically like whipped cream. All in all though if that was the only negative to our meal we ended up with a good experience.

Overall, we had a great meal and experience at Be Our Guest and the meal is finished off as you get to visit with the Beast before you leave the castle. You can’t beat this experience due to the tasty meal, the fantastic theme and decor, the location inside the Magic Kingdom, and meeting with a Disney hero.

Let us know your thoughts on Be Our Guest by posting below or visiting us on Facebook.

Crystal Palace Breakfast Review

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The Crystal Palace

Today we will be looking at one of our favorite breakfast spots in all of Disney World, The Crystal Palace inside the Magic Kingdom. This breakfast is always a family favorite for us due to the food, the location, and the great character interactions. We arrived at 10:30 for our dining reservation and were seated just about five minutes after checking in. This is a beautiful building located just off of Main Street USA and within view of Cinderella Castle.

Breakfast is by far our favorite meal at the Crystal Palace and today was no different. We sampled a lot of the traditional breakfast fare at the Crystal Palace and everything was very appetizing. We enjoyed many of the typical breakfast options such as the biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, and potato casserole.

Of course one of my favorite dishes here is the breakfast lasagna that includes pancakes, waffles, pound cake, custard, and fruit in one delicious mixture. I will say that the lasagna was a little too soggy on this visit. Typically is sets up very well and is a great dish, but today it was just slightly off.

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Breakfast Lasagna (Top Left of Plate)

Another of our favorites is the puffed french toast, a specialty of the Crystal Palace.

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Puffed French Toast (Right Side of Plate)

It is a great mixture between a fritter and french toast that is dusted with sugar. It is delicious with syrup or honey over the top or just by itself. Unlike the lasagna the puffed french toast was spot on in its preparation on this visit. It was crispy on the outside, had the perfect amount of sugar, and was perfectly cooked on the inside.

I also tried an omelette with ham and cheese, yes I’m boring, and it was good. Not the best omelette I’ve ever had, but certainly much better than just getting the eggs off of the buffet.

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Ham & Cheese Omelette

In addition to the delicious food this meal includes characters. Winnie the Pooh and his friends, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet all make a visit to your table during your meal. We have always had great interactions with the characters when dining here, but I had heard going in they had slowed the characters down some. We did not experience that, but we were eating between 10:45 and 11:15 and the restaurant was only about half full since we were at the tail end of the breakfast period. This is most likely why the characters arrived quickly for us and spent a good deal of time at our table. I can certainly see how if you arrive in the middle of the busy dining time you may wait over an hour to see all of the characters at your table.

Overall, The Crystal Palace is one of our go to breakfast spots at Disney World and this visit did not disappoint. Let us know your thoughts on Crystal Palace by commenting below or visiting us on Facebook.

5 Signature Restaurants that “Shouldn’t Be Missed” at Disney World

One of the special events that can take a Disney vacation from being a wonderful memory to an unforgettable memory is all of the varied dining experiences you get to take in. Some of the most memorable of those experiences are restaurants that Disney refers to as “Signature Dining Restaurants”. These are the best of the best table service restaurants and have their own category because if you are on the Disney Dining Plan these will cost you two table service dining credits in most circumstances. The main method that we have used to pick this list of five is first on food experience and then on atmosphere. Above all to make our list the food at the restaurants had to be very high in quality and the atmosphere immersive and worthy of fine dining. Both in atmosphere and in food quality most any fine dining restaurant at Disney World will be a wonderful experience, but the five we are highlighting below, in no particular order, are five of our favorites and are ones that we would say “Shouldn’t Be Missed!”

1. Yachtsman’s Steakhouse – This is one of my most favorite restaurants in all of Disney when it comes to recommending a romantic night out. Yachtsman’s Steakhouse is both elegant and casual in a way that only Disney could make work. The restaurant is full of beautiful hard wood decor and one of my favorite characteristics is that you pass the meat trimming room when being taken to your table. When it comes to the food Yachtsman’s certainly does not disappoint. It is one fine dining option at Disney World that I would recommend to someone who is not a particularly adventurous eater. The majority of the entrees on the menu are a specific cut of steak along with some type of side dish such as mashed potatoes, potato gratin, or a twice baked potato. With that said there are also some nice choices of appetizers, entrees, and sides on the menu that are a bit more adventurous. So this restaurant does work nicely if your group is comprised of some adventurous eaters and some non-adventurous eaters. My favorite menu item at the Yachtsman’s Steakhouse is the 16 oz. Prime Rib-Eye Steak, which is served with Brioche, Bone Marrow, and Point Reyes Blue Cheese Cutter. This is actually the picture you see above although some of the accompaniments may be slightly different than what is now on the menu. All in all Yachtsman’s Steakhouse is a restaurant you cannot go wrong with when looking for a signature meal at Disney World. The steaks are always cooked to perfection, you can’t argue with great sides like potatoes au gratin or the delicious truffle macaroni and cheese, and you are just five minutes from a leisurely stroll through Epcot’s World Showcase after dinner.

2. California Grill – California Grill is one of the most notable signature restaurants at Disney World. Located on the top floor the Contemporary Resort, sits a beautiful restaurant with a beautiful view (see the picture above). In addition to the fantastic view, which may be reason enough to dine here, this restaurant just underwent a major refurbishment in 2014 and is now better than ever. The view and setting is maybe the most sought after part of California Grill, but this is food that definitely should not take a back seat. Now, before we get to food this restaurant has an award winning wine menu and is a place wine connoisseurs go regularly when at Disney World. After getting your glass of wine you will want to try a selection from the chef’s fantastic sushi menu. The Dragon Roll, with spicy tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado, and dragon sauce is one of the favorites. Once you finish your sushi the appetizers and entrees just get even more spectacular. From the Bison Striploin to the Braised Lamb Shank to their signature Pork Two Ways dish you cannot go wrong here. After your meal and some fantastic dessert selections, such as a Breakfast cinnamon roll and bacon for dessert, you think the night is over, but it is far from it. Everyone who dines at California Grill is invited to use the outdoor observation deck to take in the sights and the sounds of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom and this includes the nightly fireworks extravaganza Wishes. Even if you dine earlier in the evening you can bring your receipt back at fireworks time and gain access to the observation deck. California Grill certainly has the food and setting deserving of the title of signature dining.

3. Narcoossee’s – This restaurant is big favorite of seasoned Walt Disney World travelers. It is set in a beautiful location by the boat dock at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort with a fantastic view of the Magic Kingdom. This restaurant is both elegant and casual, so make an evening of it and dress up if headed here on a date or enjoy it with the family. It is important to note this restaurant is it’s own building, not attached to the main hotel, but this does give guests a beautiful walk to the restaurant before dinner. The walk into the front doors even lets you walk by a the herb garden used by the restaurant, which just signifies the freshness of the ingredients here. The inside has the feel of an elegant restaurant, but one set at the beach, so the feel is not stuffy at all. Along with the setting the menu offers a great selection of seafood dishes such as the BBQ Shrimp and Grits appetizer, the Maine Lobster Bisque, or any of their seasonal fish dishes which they modify according to the season. If you are not a fan of seafood there are other great options here though such as a great New York Strip Steak with Idaho Cream Potatoes. Narcoossee’s also is known for their fantastic Key Lime Pie, signature of the south Florida area that this restaurant represents. This restaurant is a great option for a fine dining meal in a somewhat casual, beachy setting at Disney World. You definitely cannot go wrong with this land and sea signature restaurant.

4. Le Cellier – Le Cellier is one of the most popular signature dining restaurants at Walt Disney World that is actually inside of a theme park. Sitting in the Canada Pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase, Le Cellier is a signature steakhouse serving up great steaks and traditional Canadian dishes. The restaurant is a great escape from being inside of a theme park as you are sent into “The Cellar” of the Canada Pavilion to have a remarkable meal. The restaurant is meant to represent a wine cellar and it does deliver on that feel. Dark woods, low ceilings, and archways make this a very intimate and romantic experience. The first great part of the meal at Le Cellier will be the bread basket, which contains a couple of types of rolls that are nice, but also contains their own pretzel bread which is delicious and certainly the star of the bread service. The pretzel bread is especially delicious when dipped into the signature soup at Le Cellier, the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup. It is creamy, cheesey, and has bacon in it, what could be better? The Le Cellier Poutine Fries are also great as an appetizer or as a side dish to share during the main entree. When it comes to your entree the Le Cellier Filet Mignon is not to be missed. It is a fantastic cut of meat and includes a great risotto as well as a tasty truffle butter sauce. All in all, everything on the menu at Le Cellier is tasty, so go and enjoy one of the best meals you could ever find inside of a theme park.

5. Flying Fish Restaurant – The newly re-imagined Flying Fish, located on the Boardwalk between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, is a great option for a fantastic signature meal. The setting is romantic and well-themed to a seaside restaurant that now has a slightly modern feel after the redesign, but the food is the real star. This restaurant is definitely one you will want to hit if you are an adventurous eater, although they certainly have some more traditional options if that is what you are after. The restaurant, as you can probably tell by the name, specializes in serving up some of the best seafood on Disney property, and probably anywhere for that matter. The Corn-Encrusted Wild Gulf Shrimp appetizer is a great way to get yourself into the seafood mood or if you are feeling adventurous give the Kurobuta Pork Belly a try. For the entrees the Flying Fish offers several great items weather you are interested in the surf or the turf! The Ora King New Zealand Salmon with pancetta-laced ivory lentils, kale, and a garden vinaigrette is a great choice from the seafood options. If you are after a meal on the more adventurous side try the fantastic Wagyu Filet Mignon with Okinawan potatoes, foraged mushrooms, rainbow carrots, and Bordelaise sauce or the Bison Strip Loin with ancient grains, salsify, cipollini onions, and a sun-dried tomato choron sauce. All in all the experience at Flying Fish is incredible and you can continue your evening out right next door at the newly opened AbracadaBar, which is a bar in a way that only Disney can create a bar!

Please comment below and let us know any questions or thoughts you may have and we will do our best to help you.

Cape May Cafe Dinner Review

One of our family’s favorite meals when at Walt Disney World is having dinner at Cape May Cafe. It seems as if the vibe of the restaurant fits in so perfectly with what we want in a dinner. The staff is easy going and friendly, and the buffet has always been of high quality when we have dined here. Hopefully this experience would not be any different.

We always like to get an early dinner reservation here, right around 5:00 and this time was no different. The one negative to this restaurant, in our opinion, is that the buffet area can get quite crowded as you get further into the dinner service. There is nothing worse than a buffet of tasty, all-you-can-eat crab legs sitting there, but you cannot get to it because there are so many people. We feel that getting an early reservation helps avoid this as much as possible.

We checked in about five minutes before our 5:00 reservation and were seated promptly at 5:00 PM. One of my favorite parts of this restaurant are the decorative sand castles located throughout the dining area.

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The decor in the restaurant is exactly what you would expect of a restaurant in the Beach Club Resort. The colors are inviting and the sand castles do a great job of putting you in a seafood mood! Soon after sitting down our waitress, Marie, arrived and she was fantastic! She was so helpful with our three year old throughout the meal and spent a lot of time just talking and conversing with us about where we were from and things like that.

Once we got settled I headed up and wasted no time in finding the main event, the crab legs!

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After perusing the first part of the buffet I ended up with a plate of crab, shrimp, and two different types of potatoes.

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One thing that always impresses us about Cape May Cafe is how well done the crab legs are despite being done in a buffet setting. It would be easy to put out sub-par crab legs in this large scale setting, but every time we’ve been here they have been very tasty and well done. In addition to the crab legs I particularly loved a dish on the buffet that was labeled the “Seafood Penne Pasta”. It was fantastic with large chunks of seafood and a nice, cheesy sauce. They also had calamari on the evening that we were there, which is also not a dish you would think of as being very good on a buffet, but it was very tasty. Neither my wife or I just love calamari in general, but we did eat quite a bit of it and definitely enjoyed it.

After we were finished with the buffet we set out to see what desserts were going to catch our eye. The dessert buffet here is made up of many different types of small, bite sized desserts. I ended up with a few different selections.

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None of the dessert selections were particularly memorable, but they were good and since they were included on the buffet we certainly had our share.

As we finished our meal, around 6:00 PM the restaurant was really starting to fill up and this is where we discussed this is definitely a meal you want to get an early dinner reservation. By the time we were leaving their were some pretty long lines just to get down the side of the buffet with the crab legs. All things considered though that is the really the only major complaint of this restaurant. It is a restaurant we highly recommend in terms of the atmosphere and quality of the food. The price tag for this restaurant is a bit high, but considering you get pretty good crab legs it is a restaurant we still tend to frequent when we are at Disney World. The price for adults will range from $47.99 to $51.99 depending on the time of year and the child price will range from $26.10 to $29.99.

Have you been to Cape May Cafe for dinner? If so, give us your thoughts below.

All You Need to Know About Disney World Annual Passes

It’s Trip Planning Tuesday and today we are looking at the benefits of Disney World Annual Passes. One of the most exciting things a Disney fan can possibly do is become an annual pass holder. Having this distinction certainly brings many benefits with it that can help you all throughout Walt Disney World. Below we have a few tips that will help tell you all you need to know about having a Disney World Annual Pass. Keep in mind we are writing this post from the perspective of someone who is not a Florida resident. There are annual passes that are cheaper and available only to Florida residents, but those have some restrictions and blackout dates. Most of the tips below are still valid though on all types of passes.

    1. How Many Days Is it Worth It? – This is the biggest question many people ask. How many days do I need to use my annual pass to make it worthwhile over just purchasing regular park tickets? The annual pass sells for $798 right now including taxes. So let’s just put that into park tickets for two separate trips. First, a 10 day park hopper ticket will cost $499, then let’s say you need tickets for a second trip that is just three days in length, which will cost $368. The total of those two, $867 is well over the amount the annual pass would cost you. Also, keep in mind that Disney Magic Your Way tickets expire 14 days from first use. So, the break even point is generally around 13 days if you include the park hopper option as that will be included with your annual pass.
    2. What Types of Annual Passes are There? – There are two main types of annual passes at Disney World, the platinum annual pass and the premium plus annual pass. Both of these passes work as a park ticket that gets you access for a full year to the 4 major theme parks. The passes also both work as a park hopper pass, meaning you can go into multiple parks on each day. Both passes also offer complimentary parking as well as all of the discounts and perks included with an annual pass purchase. The difference in the two is that the premium plus annual pass also includes admission into the both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon Water parks as well as Disney Quest, the Oak Trail Golf Course, and the Wide World of Sports. The premium annual pass is $80 more than the regular annual pass.
    3. I Heard the Annual Pass Now Includes Photo Downloads. – Yes! Disney increased annual pass price in 2016, but they also added a great new inclusion that pass holders get free, unlimited downloads of any of their Photopass photos for the entire life of their pass. It is as if you have a year long memory maker photo product which includes any photos you and your family have taken in the parks, plus any ride photos.
    4. Does the Annual Pass Get Me Dining Discounts? – The answer is yes! There are quite a few restaurants within Disney World that offer a 10% discount to annual pass holders, and there are a few that offer a higher percentage. It is by no means all restaurants, but there are restaurants at many resorts as well as three of the theme parks, excluding the Magic Kingdom. Keep in mind each year Disney will change and modify the list of restaurants that participates so it is always good to check year in and year out on locations offering a discount.
    5. What is Tables in Wonderland? – By being an annual pass holder (or a Florida Resident) you are eligible to purchase a Tables in Wonderland card. This is a great program if you are a frequent traveler to Disney World as it can save you 20% on most meals in table service locations and even at some quick service locations. The card costs $150 initially for annual pass holders and DVC members and can be purchased at guest relations at any of the parks or Disney Springs. There are two “catches” to a membership, the first one being that gratuity of 18% will automatically be added to any check at a table service restaurant, but that is a pretty standard gratuity now anyways. So, if you plan on spending $750 or more in dining at one of these restaurants in a calendar year you can certainly get your money back pretty quickly. The other “catch” is that the card is blacked out and not available for use on 8 major holiday’s throughout the year. All participating restaurants can be viewed on the Tables in Wonderland website. We will also mention one final perk of Tables in Wonderland is that with the membership in this program you get free valet parking at deluxe resorts when dining at one of the restaurants there.
    6. Are there Any Shopping Discounts? – Many merchandise locations around Disney World offer a 10% discount to annual pass holders. There are some exclusions so you will want to be sure to check the member website, but most of the major shops in each park are included. In addition to merchandise the annual pass also will get you discounts on things such as recreation and spa services as well as miniature golf, and many other special events on Disney property. Be sure and check out the member website once you have your membership to see all of the places you can save money.

 

 
As always, if you have any questions leave us a comment below and we’d love to help you out or hear your thoughts.

Be Our Guest Lunch Review

Sit down dining at the Magic Kingdom can be hit and miss at times, but since Be Our Guest has opened guests have a reliable food location with a great atmosphere. It is also a unique restaurant being quick service at breakfast and lunch and table service at dinner. For this weeks trip review article we are going to be looking at a recent lunch dining experience I had with my family.

We had a reservation set for 11:15 and we showed up about five minutes early. We had decided to take the opportunity to select our food prior to arriving and this helped us avoid a long line of people waiting to order. We were led right up to a register by the main ballroom where we quickly paid and were given out rose and told we could head in and find our own table.

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The decor in the restaurant was fantastic as it had been on our previous dining experiences. We had eaten in the main ballroom before so today we chose to sit in the rose gallery and it was a great experience. We got a seat right at the base of the music box that is the room’s centerpiece.

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The rest of the decor around the room was great as well and we especially enjoyed the Disney artwork.

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By the time we were seated we only waited about five minutes for our food to arrive. My wife ordered the Carved Turkey Sandwich served on a warm baguette with Dijon Mayonnaise and Pommes Frites for $15.99.

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As you can see in the picture she substituted the pommes frites for green beans which was an option when we set our order up online the day before. She loved this sandwich and the main reason was that the turkey was not just typical lunch meat turkey. It was actually nice, thick slices of carved turkey. She did mention the green beans were pretty bland, but it was nice that they allowed this healthier option if you didn’t want the french fries.

I ordered what is probably the most popular menu item, the Croque Monsieur, a grilled sandwich of carved ham, Gruyere cheese, and bechamel with Pommes Frites for $13.99.

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My meal, like my wife’s, we really good. The sandwich was grilled to perfection, crispy, but not burned. The ham was again nice big thick slices of ham, not just a small piece of lunch meat, but real ham. We agreed this was great to see from a Disney restaurant, the fact that they were using quality ingredients instead of just mass producing the cheap stuff.

Overall the meal was a great experience. The only negative is the prices are a little high for just a sandwich for lunch at $13.99 & $15.99, but you are getting a much more themed atmosphere than most quick service restaurants. All things considered Be Our Guest is a great lunch option and we especially enjoyed the pre-order option as it allowed us to bypass the long check in line.

Have you dined at Be Our Guest for lunch? Let us know your thoughts or questions by commenting below.

Disney World Nighttime Entertainment

**Disclaimer: This information is going to change in early 2017 as we are expecting the opening of River of Light, the new nighttime show at Animal Kingdom. We are also awaiting the future schedule of the Star Wars fireworks at Hollywood Studios as well as a parade as the Magic Kingdom as the Main Street Electrical Parade has left Disney World. Stay tuned for further information, but for now we will let this guide you on the events that we have a historical perspective on.

One of the toughest things to plan on your itinerary is the evening entertainment that takes place at the parks. We are speaking of Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, IllumiNations at Epcot, and Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios. The nighttime entertainment options are some of the highlights for many people on their Disney World vacation, but these can also cause some of the biggest headaches for people when it comes to an itinerary. You want to have these great moments with your family, but you also want to make sure you are rested enough to make it through these late nights. Remember, we also think you should probably have a sleep in morning scheduled the day after one of these late nights. Below we will give some things to know about each of the major nighttime events at Disney World and how you can expect to handle them within your itinerary.

Wishes

  • Wishes is the evening fireworks that is going to take place every night at the Magic Kingdom with very few exceptions.
  • A majority of guests will want to view Wishes from the hub or on Main Street USA and unlike a parade, which goes through other lands, these are the only places that have great views of the fireworks as they are designed to be viewed from head on. If you want to view Wishes from these areas you will need to move into a location a early as possible, sometimes as much as two hours ahead of time in extremely crowded times of year. If a nighttime parade returns to the Magic Kingdom that may slightly change things as most guests who were viewing the parade will just stay in their spots for Wishes, so not a ton of spots will open up prior to the fireworks, except the spots in the street itself. Just prepare yourself to be in a large crowd and have to find a spot for your family.
  • The redesign of the entire hub area has drastically improved viewing the fireworks, but we do have some spots that we recommend that may give you a good viewing location, while battling the crowds a little less. There is a path that leads from The Plaza Restaurant to Tomorrowland and this path sometimes has nice spots available a little closer to show time. You are still going to need to move into a spot on the rail and save the spot for 30 minutes, but at least with a rail there you won’t have anyone working their way in front of you. There are also some spots usually around the train station. People crowd towards the castle after the parade and usually leave some space around the train station. This is actually good as you are going to be able to get out of the exits the fastest once the fireworks are over.
  • Another option is the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party, but they’ve recently increased the price of this. This party is around $79 per adult and $47 per child, and can vary slightly during certain times of year. This party includes a reserved table at the Tomorrowland Terrace, all you can eat desserts, and a nice view of the firework, but keep in mind you most likely will still have to stand along the railing of the restaurant in order to see the full fireworks show. We wouldn’t recommend this on every trip, but if you are planning a once in a lifetime trip or want a great view without battling crowds this is a good option. Disney has also recently released a similar experience in one of the grassy areas in the hub called the Fireworks Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing. You still get the dessert party at the Tomorrowland Terrace, but then you are escorted to a standing room only section of the hub. The price is $59 per adult and $35 per child.
  • FP+ is also available for Wishes in the hub area. You will need to pre-book this as it will rarely be available as a 4th FP+ option on the day of. Just make sure it is worth it for you to use a FP+ on this.
  • Finally, there are always some great locations outside of the park to watch Wishes. Around the Magic Kingdom boat docks and ferry boat station provides a pretty good view. The beach at the Polynesian Village Resort is also a popular spot, although they sometimes restrict access during busy times of year. There is also a viewing deck on the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort or if you plan a reservation at California Grill you get access to their viewing deck on the top floor on the night of your reservation.

IlllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

  • IllumiNations at Epcot is a great show, especially for teens and adults, but all ages can enjoy it. It is set around the World Showcase lagoon making it the easiest nighttime show at any of the parks to get a great spot for without much of a wait. With that said it is sometimes tricky to find a great spot for a few reasons. First, there are small islands with trees at points in the lagoon, so make sure wherever you end up to view the show you don’t have one of those in between you and the middle of the lagoon. Second, make sure you are not downwind. This show produces a large amount of smoke and if the wind is blowing towards you not only will you be in a lot of smoke, but it makes it a little more difficult to see what is going on.
  • We recommend find a spot between 30-45 minutes before the show at most times of year if you want a spot right on the rail. If you don’t mind being a few people deep you can wait until closer to showtime, but you will have to see over people.
  • La Hacienda de San Angel (Mexico), Rose and Crown (UK), and Spice Road Table (Morocco) all have lake side seating, but require a dinner reservation. Make a reservation for 75-90 minutes before the show and it is a great view. Also, La Cantina de San Angel, the counter service in Mexico, has a patio over the water that is a great view, but those spots go very early, usually 90 minutes to 2 hours before the show.
  • The Future World side of the lagoon fills up the quickest as people want to get out of the park after it is over, so the time to line up here would be much more than 30 minutes ahead of the start time. The opposite (south) side of the World Showcase lagoon usually is not near as crowded and you can usually find spots 20-30 minutes prior to showtime. Just keep in mind on that side you have more islands and trees in the way so make sure you are aware of where you end up.
  • As far as getting out of the park just know it can get very crowded at the front gate on both the monorail and the bus system. The waits can be very long, so we recommend if you have to exit that way and were on the south side of the World Showcase take your time getting out. Stop in some shops and take your time and maybe the lines will lessen a little bit on your way. If you are staying at an Epcot area resort you can exit the International Gateway and head to your resort.
  • Finally, FP+ is available for IllumiNations, but it is a tier 1 FP, which means if you book it you would not be able to use a FP on Frozen Ever After, Test Track or Soarin’ on that day. Also, the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party is available for $49 per adult and $29 for children. This party includes a viewing location in the World Showplace Plaza with desserts and wine, but there is no seating.

Fantasmic!

  • Fantasmic! is one of the best nighttime shows for the ultra-immersive environment that it puts guests into. This show, located in an amphitheater off of Sunset Boulevard, uses live actors, pyrotechnics, water screens, and floats to create a very memorable show. Being in an amphitheater though means seating is limited and it can be very hard to get into and out of due to the thousands of people trying to do the same thing at the same time.
  • Fantasmic! is presented nightly for most of the year, although there are a few less crowded times when it may only be 3-4 nights per week. Also, Disney adds a 2nd showing at crowded times and just like other nighttime events the 2nd showing is always less crowded and easier to get into if you can handle staying up later into the night.
  • FP+ is available for Fantasmic!, but it is not all that useful as you still have to arrive 30-45 minutes early to get a seat and the seats are not that great as they are off to one end of the amphitheater.
  • The Fantasmic! Dinner Package, at Mama Melrose, Hollywood Brown Derby, and 50’s Prime Time Cafe is a good deal. With your dinner you get reserved seating at Fantasmic! Like the FP+ you still need to arrive early, although not as much in advance, from 25-35 minutes for this and the seats for the dinner packages are right in the middle of the amphitheater.
  • If you are not using the dinner package or a FP+ you need to get in line for Fantasmic! at least an hour in advance and more at very crowded times of year. The line will run almost the entire length of Hollywood Boulevard, so jump in line early and be ready for a hectic entry into the amphitheater. If using the 2nd show time you should enter the theater as soon as you can after the previous show ends. This is probably be around 30 minutes before the 2nd show, although a line may still form on Hollywood Boulevard so make sure you keep an eye on that area.

Let us know if you can think of any other questions about nighttime entertainment that we didn’t answer above and we’ll be happy to help you out.

Missing Magic Kingdom Rope Drop in the Days of FP+

For this weeks trip review article I want to investigate a question that has become pretty important now in the days of FP+. Can I still have a great park day even if I don’t make it for park opening? In the old days of legacy Fastpass if you missed rope drop and that first chance to grab a Fastpass you were in a little trouble as those return times just kept creeping further and further away. I decided to investigate this on a summer day at the Magic Kingdom.

We arrived at the front gates of the park at 9:40 AM and getting into the park was a madhouse. The new turnstile-less system handles the crowds in a much better method than the older turnstile system so that is one big benefit. Despite the large crowds we were on Main Street in about five minutes. We took our time getting down Main Street and even did a little shopping in the Emporium as we were a little early for when I wanted to start our touring plan. We even spent a few minutes looking at the new fake grass areas in the redesigned hub.

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After a little shopping, including picking up a shirt I had been eying, we headed towards our first FP+ location of the day, Peter Pan. The standby line was well over and hour by this time and the FP line even took us about ten minutes to get on the ride. After this we headed onto it’s a small world for a quick trip on the happiest cruise that ever sailed.

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The line looks pretty long in the picture, but we were on in just about ten minutes. We then had an early lunch reservation at Be Our Guest at 11:00 AM, so by the time we got out of the always present boat backup at it’s a small world it was about time for lunch.

We spent about 40 minutes inside the restaurant for our quick service lunch and at 11:45 it was time for our next FP at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The FP line was quick here and it was a fantastic ride as usual. We took a quick spin on the Carousel for our son before getting on our way to Frontierland. Here was a shot of Fantasyland right around noon as we were passing through.

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While walking into Frontierland we saw Chip and Dale meeting guests and we jumped in line and only waited about five minutes to see them.

We then headed to use our next FP+ at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at 12:15. We had a great ride there and when we finished we headed over into Adventureland for a trip on Pirates of the Caribbean. This line took us about 15 minutes to get through without a FP, which was our longest line of the morning. This was all we had planned for the park this morning because when you take ten day trips like we do you can afford to do shorter and easier park trips like this. We also had a special dinner reservation we had to get rested up for before this evening.

Now, on my way out of the park I did stop at a kiosk that didn’t have a line and at that point of the day, around 12:45 we could have gotten a 4th FP for Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or about any other ride in the park except for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Even after arriving around 10:00 AM we were still able to do six attractions, four of which were headliners, by about 12:30 PM and that included a 40 minute lunch stop. That’s a pretty good morning considering we missed rope drop. So, with all that said, due to the FP+ system you can still have a great morning in the Magic Kingdom even if you arrive after park opening as long as you have those FP+ reservations done in advance.

Let us know your thoughts below on touring the parks after missing rope drop.

Garden Grill Dinner Review

From the moment you walk into the Land Pavilion at Epcot one is hit with the smell of the fresh food being prepared both at Sunshine Seasons and Garden Grill and it is one of my favorite smells on property. The entire sustainability theme in this pavilion where they use food that is grown and prepared right there at Epcot make the experience just that much better.

For our dinner at Garden Grill we were really looking forward to the characters with a three year old boy in tow. There is no shortage of experiences and meals geared towards girls and princesses at Disney World, but this is actually one of those meals that I think are great for boys. And after this experience I would continue to hold that viewpoint, although this restaurant is just a really great experience for all ages of boys and girls…and adults alike!

Garden Grill started off on the right foot as we had a 5:15 reservation and were seated at 5:20, which was excellent compared to some other experiences on this trip. The service was fantastic during this meal as our server, Janelle was a real treat! They even had our table set up in neat fashion when we arrived.

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Like I mentioned earlier we had our three year old son with us and were trying to take care of character interaction so we missed a few food pictures. They started us off with their salad which was good and we appreciated that it had hard boiled egg and real bacon on it, although the dressing was pretty bland in our opinion, but along with the salad they served some dinner rolls with this tasty honey butter with sea salt on the top. Those really hit the spot.

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As we were eating we were able to have great character interactions with Mickey, Pluto, Chip, & Dale. We even got to see Mickey and Pluto twice during our meal and I don’t think we were there for much over an hour. All of the characters spent plenty of time with us and took some great pictures with our son. The fact that we saw Mickey & Pluto twice and we weren’t there that long tells me the number of tables in this restaurant actually allows them to move around in a decent amount of time without sacrificing the amount of time they spend at each table.

Next up came our entree plate which looked like this.

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We enjoyed all of the meats overall. The beef was my favorite as it was cooked very well, was nice and tender, and had the perfect seasoning. The turkey was good, I’m just not a big fan of turkey in general, but my wife enjoyed it a lot. Finally, the fish was cooked well and was tasty, but I felt the sauce on the top was slightly overpowering to the fish. That may have just been personal taste or just the person preparing the food got a little generous, but anyway I could have done with a little less of the sauce.

For the sides the big winner was the mashed potatoes, they were fantastic. They were creamy and seasoned well and all three of us loved them so much we had to have them bring some more. The other plate of sides they brought also had some very tasty options on it.

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I’m not sure if everyone gets the macaroni and cheese or if we did just because we had a child with us. Anyway the macaroni and cheese was a big winner with all of us as it was actually really good and not just made for the kids. The broccoli was also good, although not seasoned very much if at all. Finally, we enjoyed the addition of the sweet potato fries, again we may have only gotten these because we had a kid with us.

Now, after all of that food we were ready for dessert and the Garden Grill knows how to do dessert.

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The cobbler that they served us was awesome! It had many different types of berries inside and the crumb and nut topping was done perfectly and the proportions were right on. This was the fantastic ending to a great meal with great characters. One of the biggest wins of this meal is the fact that it is served family style. So many Disney character meals are buffets so when you have kids you have the constant juggling of taking care of your kids, getting your food, getting your kids food, making sure you kids eat, trying to eat yourself, and in the midst of all that you have to handle meeting the characters. With this meal at Garden Grill you never have to leave your table so the character meets are much less stressful and the food is brought to you hot an ready and if you need more all you have to do is ask.

Overall this was a fantastic meal with good food, great character interactions and great service. This meal is expensive, but that is the norm for character meals at Disney World. The adult price ranges from $37.97 to $44.72 depending on the time of year and the child price ranges from $$19.10 to $24.99. Tax is included in those prices, but gratuity is not. This meal is also one credit on the dining plan and they do accept Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount.

Have you been to Garden Grill? Let us know your thoughts below!

Our Top Picks in Each Resort Category

Now that you have looked at all of the less fun parts of planning a Disney vacation you get to do one of the most fun parts…select a resort! Disney has resorts of many different sizes and prices, but we want to list our top resort pick in each of the Disney resort categories. There is not a Disney resort that we wouldn’t recommend, these just happen to be our current favorites here at the MouseDreams Blog.

Top Value Resort – Disney’s Pop Century Resort

pop-signThis resort happens to be our favorite resort in the value category for several factors. Pop Century is a resort that is in that lowest priced value category, but it has a few things that stand out to us when compared to the other value resorts. First, when comparing it to the newest Disney resort, Art of Animation, we know that the newer resort has some added amenities such as the family suites and themed pools, but we feel Pop Century is still a better value because Art of Animation’s standard rooms are almost always excluded from Disney room discount offers. So at a time when you may can get 15-25% off of a room at Pop Century you are not able to get the same at Art of Animation making the value not as good. The main factor we see when comparing Pop Century to the All Star Resorts, the other values on property, is that Pop Century has dedicated bus service that only serves one resort. All of the All Star resorts share bus service at most times of year. This mean Pop Century usually has shorter waits when traveling to and from theme parks. For these reasons we think Pop Century is slightly a better value than the other value resorts on property.

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Top Moderate Resort – Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside

riverside-entranceWe feel the charming theme of the Port Orleans Resort-Riverside makes it the best Disney moderate resort on property. This resort feels like you have stepped into the bayou and are staying in one of the most interesting and relaxing place that exists. From a top notch pool complex, ‘Ol Man Island, to boat service to Disney Springs we feel it is a cut above the other moderate resorts. Port Orleans has a better location than most other moderates with the proximity to Disney Springs and the Magic Kingdom. The only resort that is close in that category is Port Orleans Resort -French Quarter, but that resort is usually not included in Disney room discount offers because of its small size making Riverside resort a better value at most times of year. In addition to these things the Riverside resort also includes the new Royal Room’s to book for the little princesses out there, making it a great choice at the moderate level.

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Top Deluxe Resort – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort & Bungalows

poly-from-lakeThe top deluxe resort in our opinion is the newly re-named Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort & Bungalows. This resort is going to be one of the most expensive on property, but we feel when looking at the theming and amenities of the resort it is the best deluxe resort on property. The South Pacific theming is all around the resort making you feel like you are on an exotic island and in for a week of relaxation. The next biggest positive for this resort is its location on the monorail loop, which leaves guests just 10 minutes from the Magic Kingdom. Another thing we love about the Polynesian is the beach and the great view of the Magic Kingdom from there, especially when the fireworks are going. Finally, we think the Polynesian has some of the best dining on property. Both ‘Ohana and Kona Cafe are two of the best and most popular table service meals on property, and when you pair that with a Dole Whip bar located by the pool, you have some great food options. This resort has it all, top notch theming, top notch location and top notch dining. For those reasons we think it is the best Disney deluxe resort.

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Do you agree or not? Leave us your comments below.