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.

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!

Sum of All Thrills & Stormstruck Closing at Innoventions in Epcot

Disney has announced that Sum of All Thrills and Stormstruck, two attractions inside the Innoventions building at Epcot, will be closing on September 14, 2016. These exhibits are in Innoventions East along with Colortopia. At this time Colortopia will remain open until the contract with its sponsor, Glidden, concludes. At that point guests can expect an announcement about the future of both Innoventions spaces. Innoventions West closed last year and has been used primarily for limited time meet and greets since that time.

These closings are not completely unexpected as many people are predicting some major changes coming to the Future World section of the Epcot park, and that includes major change for the Innoventions East and West buildings. It is rumored that these large indoor spaces will be re-designed and re-imagined in the near future.

Extra Magic Hours Update at Epcot

Spaceship Earth at Night (CC)With the opening of Frozen Ever After and Royal Sommerhus in the past few weeks the lineup of Extra Magic Hours attractions at Epcot has been updated to include both of those attractions. The park also added Turtle Talk with Crush and The Seas with Nemo and Friends to the morning lineup. Here is the current list of all Extra Magic Hours Attractions at Epcot:

Morning EMH
Frozen Ever After
Living with the Land
Royal Sommerhus
Soarin’
Spaceship Earth
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush
Test Track

Evening EMH
Character Spot (Until 15 minutes prior to park closing)
Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
Frozen Ever After
Gran Fiesta Tour
Journey Into Imagination with Figment
Living with the Land
Mission: Space
O Canada!
Royal Sommerhus
Soarin’
Spaceship Earth
Test Track
The American Adventure (9:45 PM & 10:20 PM)
The Circle of Life
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush (Last Show 20 minutes prior to park closing)

Candlelight Processional Tickets on Sale and Narrators Announced for 2016

Candlelight Processional (CC)Tickets are now on sale for the popular Candlelight Processional Dining Package at Epcot for the upcoming Holiday season. In addition to making these packages available for booking Disney has also released the names of most of the narrators for the event which include several popular returners as well as newcomers like baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. Here is the schedule that has been updated on October 25, 2016:

 

 

  • 11/25-27 – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • 11/28-12/1 – Neil Patrick Harris
  • 12/2-12/3 – Whoopi Goldberg
  • 12/4-12/6 – Edward James Olmos
  • 12/10-12/12 – Robby Benson
  • 12/13-12/15 – Meredith Vieira
  • 12/16-12/18 – Jim Caviezel
  • 12/19-12/21 – Joe Morton
  • 12/22-12/24 – Ming-Na Wen
  • 12/25-12/27 – Jodi Benson
  • 12/28-12/30 – Cal Ripken, Jr.

One very interesting addition to the dining package this year is the addition of breakfast to the available options at both Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and the Garden Grill. Also, Disney has opened a couple of restaurants at the Yacht Club Resort and Boardwalk Resort for these dining packages as both the Captain’s Grill and Trattoria Al Forno are both offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The event takes place three times each night at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 at the American Gardens Theatre in the World Showcase. The packages include a meal at a participating Epcot restaurant as well as a reserved seat for the show. The packages start at $27 per adult and $14 per child for breakfast and increase to $47 per adult and $20 per child for lunch and dinner. Those prices do not include tax and of course some restaurants will cost more than that, those are the starting and lowest priced options. Here are the prices for all restaurants that are participating in the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package.

Buffet/Family Style Restaurants

Biergarten (Epcot World Showcase – Germany Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $39, Children – $22
Dinner: Adults – $53, Children – $29

The Garden Grill (Epcot Future World – The Land Pavilion)
Breakfast: Adults – $39, Children – $23
Lunch: Adults – $57, Children – $34
Dinner: Adults – $57 Children – $34

Traditional Sit-Down Restaurants

Trattoria Al Forno (Disney’s Boardwalk)
Breakfast: Adults – $27, Children – $14
Dinner: Adults – $58, Children – $23

Captain’s Grill (Disney’s Yacht Club Resort)
Breakfast: Adults – $31, Children – $17
Lunch: Adults – $47, Children – $20
Dinner: Adults – $64, Children – $23

Nine Dragons (Epcot World Showcase – China Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $41, Children – $14
Dinner: Adults – $51, Children – $18.50

Restaurant Marrakesh (Epcot World Showcase – Morocco Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $50, Children – $21
Dinner: Adults – $58, Children – $21

Spice Road Table (Epcot World Showcase – Morocco Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $50, Children – $21
Dinner: Adults – $58, Children – $21

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot World Showcase – Norway Pavilion)
Breakfast: Adults – $54, Children – $32
Lunch: Adults – $69, Children – $41
Dinner: Adults – $69, Children – $41

Via Napoli (Epcot World Showcase – Italy Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $54, Children – $20
Dinner: Adults – $57, Children – $24

San Angel Inn (Epcot World Showcase – Mexico Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $57.25, Children – $15.50
Dinner: Adults – $71.50, Children – $17.50

Rose and Crown (Epcot World Showcase – Great Britain Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $58, Children – $23
Dinner: Adults – $58, Children – $23

Tokyo Dining (Epcot World Showcase – Japan Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $62, Children – $16.99
Dinner: Adults – $74, Children – $20.75

Teppan Edo (Epcot World Showcase – Japan Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $62, Children – $16.99
Dinner: Adults – $74, Children – $20.75

Les Chefs de France (Epcot World Showcase – France Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $65.99, Children – $17.99
Dinner: Adults – $75.99, Children – $22.99

Tutto Italia (Epcot World Showcase – Italy Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $64, Children – $22
Dinner: Adults – $70, Children – $25

Coral Reef (Epcot Future World – The Seas Pavilion)
Lunch: Adults – $69, Children – $24
Dinner: Adults – $69, Children – $24

La Hacienda de San Angel (Epcot World Showcase – Mexico Pavilion)
Dinner: Adults – $76.50, Children – $17.50

New Resort Experiences Coming For Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Food & Wine (CC)New in 2016 Disney has introduced several new experiences that will be taking place during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. What is unique though is that some of these events will be taking place at various resorts around Disney World property. The Disney Parks Blog state yesterday:

“For the very first time, we’re expanding the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival experience to some of the Walt Disney World Resort

  • “Brunch with a Twist at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa” — a sumptuous 5-star, 5-course meal prepared by the resort’s award-winning chefs
  • “The Secrets of Flavor at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort” — a three-course lunch that gives guests a ‘sensory-food connection’ at Yachtsman Steakhouse
  • “Culinary Adventures with a Master Chef” at Disney’s Contemporary Resort — a hands-on chef’s table experience in a professional working kitchen
  • “Behind the Scenes at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto” at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort — an entertaining tour of the whimsical Trader Sam’s, followed by lunch and a special mixology session”

Watch for more news about the upcoming Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Top Five Quick Service Food Items at Epcot – Episode 7

cropped-NEW-Icon-Edit-A.jpgIn this week’s episode, for March 7, 2016, we are continuing our series of top quick service food items at Disney World and we will be visiting Epcot.

Please send any questions about the show to host@mousedreamsblog.com and visit our website, www.MouseDreamsBlog.com for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MouseDreamsblog and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at podcast@MouseDreamsBlog.com, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at www.MouseDreamsBlog.com/podcastquestions. We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!

Subscribe to the Podcast:    Podbean          iTunes          RSS Feed

What’s Coming to Disney Parks in 2016 – Episode 2

cropped-NEW-Icon-Edit-A.jpgEpisode #2: Week of February 1, 2016
Host: Jon Arthur
Co-Host: Lysa Thornton

In this week’s episode Jon and Lysa will be discussing news and current events at Disney Destinations around the world, discussing a preview of what’s to come for Disney Parks in 2016, and taking your listener questions on Disney travel.

Please send any questions about the show to host@mousedreamsblog.com and visit our website, www.MouseDreamsBlog.com for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MouseDreamsblog and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at www.bigdreamstravelusa.com to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at podcast@MouseDreamsBlog.com, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at www.MouseDreamsBlog.com/podcastquestions. We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!


Subscribe to the Podcast:      Podbean         iTunes         RSS Feed

Via Napoli Review

For today’s Saturday Review article I want to highlight a very popular restaurant in the Epcot World Showcase, Via Napoli. This restaurant is not only a favorite of ours, but it is a favorite of a large number of Disney World visitors. The large restaurant with the open kitchen and pizza oven is a fantastic option for families, especially those with large groups. The atmosphere is festive, the smells are divine, and the pizzas are authentic.

We arrived at around 11:20 AM for our 11:30 reservation time and the small lobby was already bursting at the seams as the restaurant didn’t open until 11:30. We could still see them having their staff meeting inside the restaurant, and some of them were still meeting even after we were seated at about 11:35.

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We decided to try and appetizer we haven’t had before in our previous visits and as you can tell from my picture we wasted no time jumping right in and trying the Arancini which is described as fried risotto balls with mozzarella and meat ragu.

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It was so good I was honestly considering getting another order. The flavor was great and the texture of the risotto after being fried was absolutely perfect. Even our three year old son loved his portion!

For our pizza selection we ended up getting a large pizza and splitting two of our favorite flavors, Quattro Formaggi and Piccante. I’ll also take this opportunity to say that our main waitress was awesome throughout the meal as she wanted to make sure we had everything we need. She even served us all a piece of pizza when it arrived, which kept me from getting a nice picture of the entire “pie”, but it was a great gesture nonetheless. I did the best I could!

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The Quattro Formaggi was fantastic as always and our three year old naturally loves it because it is all cheese and my wife would agree. My personal favorite is the Piccante.

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The Piccante is described as tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Italian spicy sausage, and it has been great each time I have ordered it. The sausage has a nice amount of spice to it, but not to much to make it in-edible. I also tend to enjoy that their pizzas don’t have a lot of tomato sauce, which is a big positive for me. Overall we were satisfied once again with our meal at Via Napoli and will most certainly be making a return trip in the future.

Disney-Pixar Short Film Festival Open in Future World

The Magic Eye Theatre, the former home to Captain EO, is now the home to a Disney-Pixar Short Film Festival. This theatre, located in the Imagination Pavilion, will be open from park opening to park closing each day in addition to being available during evening extra magic hours. This attraction is currently showing three short films at this time, “Get A Horse”, “For the Birds”, and “La Luna”.