Disney World Dining – Party of Seven

In less than a week it’ll be time to book dining reservations for our fall vacation to Walt Disney World.  Sure, we’re mostly going for Food & Wine and plan to try as many kiosks as we can, but we’ll want some nice, sit-down meals as well.  Our travel party is made up of seven adults:  Our children, Megan, Joseph, and son-in-law, Grant, plus Joseph’s girlfriend, Lyndsey, and his lifelong buddy, Jason.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember Jason from 2010’s Castaway Cay Double Dip vacation, Walt Disney World in 2012, and our Magic in the Med Cruise in 2013.  Since the purpose of this vacation is to celebrate Joseph’s 21st birthday, we feel it’s important for Lyndsey and Jason to come along! We’ll be at Disney World for seven days and nights.

Yoda and Chewie Hats

Jason and Joseph – Star Wars Weekend 2012

Disney World Dining – Party of Seven

Choosing restaurants for this trip is harder than I thought it would be, so I reached out to my Disney friends on Twitter and asked for suggestions.  I want the restaurants to be unique, with crowd-pleasing menus, and also to be a good value (we have Tables in Wonderland, which helps a bit).  The response was tremendous and I got some great ideas, but I’m really no closer to knowing what to do.  That’s where you come in…please add your suggestions in the comments.  Thanks, everyone, for your help!  Here’s what’s been suggested so far…

@kivus was the first to weigh in with “Via Napoli. Ordering XL pizzas is a great value for a party that big.” @joshgonz seconded this idea adding, “2 XL pizzas should work for 7. They even split the pizzas into 2 different kinds so you could try 4 different kinds”  Josh also mentioned ‘Ohana as being great for big groups. – I am totally in favor of Via Napoli for our arrival day dinner and trying to squeeze in an ‘Ohana dinner.  Thanks, John and Josh!

@WITHinMCO suggested choosing “the latest Crystal Palace or Tusker House breakfast so it’s like brunch” – I’d been thinking along these lines already.  We’ve never been to Tusker House and if there’s a Rivers of Light dining package offered as reported by several reliable sites, Tusker House moves to the top of the list.

@HoCoHowie said, “Sanaa all day.” and, while this was another idea that hadn’t occurred to me for this trip, Sanaa is an excellent place for an adults-only dinner in a terrific atmosphere!  Howie also added, “And with the trios you can do a lot of sharing!” – Without a doubt, after Sanaa’s bread service starter, there’s no way I could do justice to an entrée, so sharing would be perfect (and economical)!RM-Sanaa-Bread

From @UrbanOtaku22 – “I would say The Wave and Raglan Road are two adult friendly places.  Raglan road because of the beer.  Wave due to food.”  We love Raglan Road and have enjoyed an evening there many times in the past.  Recently, Raymond and I discovered The Wave’s super menu and great service.  All these ideas may be making our decision harder instead of easier!  We will be staying at Bay Lake Tower, so The Wave is very convenient!Disney's-Wave-Entrance

@CT_Mickey_Man (aka my friend Dean) suggested Wolfgang Puck Express because, “a few can share their pizzas. Good sized salads. good prices.” – Yet another Disney Springs place we’ve never tried!  Sounds like an excellent choice for a big group, but I don’t know if that’s where I’d choose among all the great places in Disney Springs since we’ve not eaten there before.

@SC_singledad (Steve) threw Trails End onto the list of restaurant candidates.  I thought, Hey! We’ve never eaten there, but I understand the food at dinner is the same fare served at the Hoop Dee Do Musical Review.  I have to say, that fried chicken is amazing!  Plus, all you care to eat!  Good idea for a group with big appetites like ours!  Turns out, Steve was actually suggesting breakfast over dinner, and thinks Trails End and Boma are the top two breakfast buffets on property.RM-Welcome-to-Fort-Wilderness

@ree1064 offered up three different ideas – The Plaza in Magic Kingdom (economically good food), ‘Ohana (Polynesian Village Resort), and Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge).  Of these, ‘Ohana is my favorite – nobody goes away hungry, the food is good for the price, and the Poly has Trader Sam’s and the Tambu Lounge – both fantastic places for a pre-dinner cocktail.  I’ll confess, I’ve never been to The Plaza and Artist Point was a two-time disappointment.  ‘Ohana just moved to the top of the list (right after Tusker House).RM-Tambu-Lounge

@sprinklemedis mentioned hearing that Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany pavilion is good for larger parties.  I’m thinking this…Pros:  It’s in Epcot where we plan to spend lots of time, I’ve been trying to get there for a while (unsuccessfully) since I’m half-German, and it’s a buffet, so probably a good value with plenty of options to choose from.  I could use more input on this one if you’re so inclined.Germany Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase

@mechurchlady made several suggestions like Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge), Tusker House (Disney’s Animal Kingdom), Garden Grill (Epcot), Bongos (Disney Springs), Cape May, and Turf Club.  She added Kona Café (Polynesian), Boatwrights (Port Orleans Riverside), Olivia’s (Old Key West) and Portobello.  And also suggested The Plaza (Magic Kingdom), Teppan Edo, Tokyo Dining, and Coral Reef (all at Epcot) as well as Shula’s (at the Dolphin)  Of these, Cape May stood out – We’ve never been there, but have heard great things.  It’s at the Beach Club (convenient), is a seafood buffet (we’re all seafood lovers) and a good value.  If we can afford the splurge, Shula’s would be excellent.  Raymond and I could not have been happier with our experience there in December.Shula's-Dining-Room-Orlando

@SteveGehret was another vote in favor of The Wave – “The Wave has room for big groups, again pricey.  Hit that up at dinner then take the monorail to Trader Sam’s.” – nothing wrong with that, Steve!  Thanks!

@hkeller thinks, “Food and Wine. Every day.” is the way to go.  I’m with you there, Heather, we do plan on spending plenty of time making the rounds.RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Passport

@JamboEveryone voted for Sanaa, Kona Café, Restaurant Marrakesh, and Tiffens.  I agree with Safari Mike on Tiffens as a very strong possibility – Opening at the end of April (I believe), Tiffens (new table service in Disney’s Animal Kingdom) sounds wonderful with a menu dedicated to the art of travel.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for either Tusker House or Tiffens offering that Rivers of Light dining package.

@PeasandCarrots3 (Hi, Carmen!) thinks La Hacienda (Mexico Pavilion) and Boma are two great options.  Of the two, Boma is the stronger option for our group since, sadly, Raymond and Joseph are not fans of Mexican food (at all, not even a little bit).  We haven’t taken a family vacation that did not involve at least one meal at Animal Kingdom Lodge in many years.

After all the helpful advice, I’ve got Tusker House, ‘Ohana, Via Napoli, Tiffens and Sanaa as top choices right now with Trails End, Boma, The Wave, Cape May, and someplace at Disney Springs as possibilities.  Have I mentioned how hard this is?  What would you do???

Special thanks to @DutchLombrowski for spreading the word on Twitter that I needed help.


Orange Bird Bank

When I was growing up, everyone knew Orange Bird!  The Florida Citrus Commission hired the great team of singer Anita Bryant (“Paper Roses”) and the adorable Orange Bird to made TV commercials advertising genuine Florida orange juice.  Having missed Orange Bird’s first appearance in Walt Disney World (I didn’t first visit until 1990 and he was long gone), I was thrilled to see him come back a few years ago.  Immediately, I made a point of collecting all the Orange Bird Pins.  Of course Nick has Orange Bird in his Disney collection too, and he’s here today to tell us all about it.  Happy Saturday and Happy Spring, Disney Friends!

Orange Bird Bank

By Nick

I’ve been trying to get one of these Orange Bird Banks for a few months now, but the prices have been too high. Amazingly, I saw one at our local flea market last Summer, and it was even more expensive than I’ve seen on eBay!

I got this at a reasonable price off of eBay for a good reason.
It is missing it’s stopper.
But since I wasn’t looking to buy this as an investment, or to hold change, I was fine with that.

Copyright: Walt Disney Productions, but no indication of exact production year.

This very happy bird measures 5 inches high.


Until next time, think orange thoughts!

This article originally appeared on Nick’s Disney Musings Blog.  You can also find Nick on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Nick, our friend David Hodges, and I host the Disney Exchange Podcast where you can listen to us argue about discuss all things Disney – New episodes come out every Sunday.

RunDisney Race Recap – Glass Slipper Challenge 2016

Glass Slipper Challenge Medals 201619.3 miles, two days, tons of Disney fun!  There’s nothing quite like a runDisney event for combining all the elements of a well-coordinated race with all the magic of Disney.

RunDisney Race Recap – Glass Slipper Challenge 2016

Last year during the 2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend, I completed my first three runDisney events (Frozen 5K, Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon) and vowed immediately to return this year.  Lots of things were the same, a few were different, and all of it made me begin planning for 2017.Princess Half - heading for the castle

What was the same?  The race courses for the 10K and half marathon (I skipped the 5K this time), the abundant Disney characters, and the absolute precision with which every aspect of each event is coordinated.  Princess Half FantasylandYou can count on consistency of delivery – Disney races are expensive, yes, but Disney goes to great lengths to make sure runners have all the necessities and plenty of extras for a great time.  Safety first, announcements along the course warn runners of everything from speed bumps to a potentially slippery Boardwalk.  Plenty of medical tents, port-o-johns, and aid stations can be found along the way.  Volunteers (seems like thousands) are everywhere and when not handing runners something to drink, are cheering their hearts out all along the way.  runDisney Snack BoxThe post race experience is fantastic – smiling volunteers are waiting to check on you and present you with your medal.  Tables are set up to make sure you get some water and a snack box.  Again, this is very well organized!  Oh, and the medals are absolutely the best!

What was different?  I had friends at the 10K!  Nick and Dave (and Dave’s awesome wife, Anne) were with me for the 10K…well, pre-race anyway and it made a huge difference in the fun quotient!  Enchanted 10K - Nick, Lisa, DavePost-10K I ran in to my friend, Heather (aka Tangled Diva at Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos).  runDisney-Enchanted-10K-Heather-and-LisaThe expo seemed a bit fancier this year – if there were footmen on hand for pictures and door-opening last year, I missed them.  Footmen with Nick, Dave, and Lisa During the races, I expected the same characters I saw last year and while some were there, others were not – replaced by different characters (Jack and Sally instead of the Villains), or not replaced at all – notably the pirate ship and Jack Sparrow were missing on the half marathon course.  Sally and JackPocahontas and MeekoI felt like runners held back (understandably, maybe, due to confusion about what’s now allowed?) on costumes and dressing up.  The weather this year was perfect after last year was downright freezing for most of the weekend.  If it’s even possible, I felt like there were more volunteers along the courses this year and they were generally more enthusiastic than last time.  I loved the pink jackets they wore and I’d have taken a picture of them for you except…the dead phone thing.

I’d like to give a special thanks to those pink-coated volunteers!  Around mile 8 during the half marathon, I took pictures of some turkeys I saw beside the race course and after that my phone completely died. (The Tom turkey was romancing some lady turkeys and he was putting on quite a show!)  Disney World TurkeyI realized immediately that I’d been stupid by not confirming a meeting location for Raymond and I once the race was over – now I couldn’t call him to tell him where to find me.  Enter the helpful volunteers!  One very kind woman texted Raymond for me to let him know exactly where he could find me and we met up post-race exactly as planned.  On the bright side of my phone dying, I finished the race four minutes faster than I did last year – no phone meant no more picture-taking or time-wasting.

I’m absolutely committed to participating in a runDisney event in 2017!  It might not be the Glass Slipper Challenge, but I know for sure…no matter which event I pick, it’ll be magical!

Are you a runDisney fan?  Which race(s) do you love most?  Any recommendations for next year?

Disney Dream – Midship Detective Agency

Midship DetectivesIf you’re sailing on the Disney Dream (or Fantasy) and you want to explore the ship and have fun at the same time, you cannot beat the Midship Detective Agency for providing you with an amazingly cool way to see the beauty of the newest Disney Cruise Line ships while sharpening your sleuthing skills.  This activity is fun for the whole family…or two grownups even or one grownup and her semi-reluctant co-detective husband.  I loved this activity!  Raymond….well, he was supportive if a bit unenthusiastic.  There is quite a bit of detecting involved.  (Recommended for guests ages 9 and above.)

Disney Dream – Midship Detective Agency

The adventure begins at Headquarters where you start your self-guided adventure by picking up your badge and selecting the case you’d like to solve.  Midship Detective BadgeWe chose a crime involving the Muppets and some missing show props.  Clues are located all over the ship and, by using your badge to unlock them, you’ll gather the information needed to solve the crime.  Midship Detective Agency Muppet CrimeThis is not an activity for wimps!  Use your clue map to gather details related to the crime, take notes and carefully eliminate suspects from the list provided – Logic, cunning, and analytical thinking will all be involved in exposing the true culprit. Midship Detective Agency Clue MapMidship Detective DirectionsMidship Detective Agency - Walt PictureMidship Detective Agency Missing Items

We took the stairs in the beginning, but after a while, if the number of decks between us and the next clue was more than four, we’d take an elevator.  If we’d been on a cruise longer than four nights, we  probably would have attempted solving more than one mystery (I’m using “we” liberally here – I’d have been solo on any subsequent sleuthing to be honest, but that’s not important now, is it).  Midship Detective Agency Door Clues Midship Detective Agency Muppet Mystery Midship Detective Agency Crime NotesAll of our efforts (and believe me when I say this took a lot of effort) paid off and we were successful in solving the crime and nabbing our bad guy!  I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  Raymond felt like a beer.  We celebrated our victory over the forces of evil by toasting our brilliance at the Bon Voyage bar.Midship Detective Agency Gonzo Midship Detective Agency Clues

The Midship Detective Agency is a very cool interactive activity with some pretty amazing technology – I highly recommend it for great exercise, ship exploration, and good family fun!

Have you solved a crime on the Disney Dream or Fantasy?  What did you think of the experience?  Yea or Nay?