Disney Dining – Why I’m Cheering for Skipper Canteen

Let’s talk about Magic Kingdom dining and Adventureland’s best restaurant – The adorably themed Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen. I’m always surprised by the Skipper Canteen’s seeming lack of popularity. It’s easy to get into and has a great location. The food and service are consistently good and the menu changes frequently. That being said, I’m not sure if the menu changes are an attempt to get more people in the door or just to keep things interesting. I’ve never had a bad meal at Skipper Canteen and I’m pulling for them to succeed!

Disney Dining – Why I’m Cheering for Skipper Canteen

We first visited Skipper Canteen right after it first opened. There were cheesy Jungle Cruise-like jokes by both the host and server although that seems to have been scaled back on more recent visits. There was bread served with dipping sauce (spiced honey) – both are gone now. There was tasty shu mai (still our go-to appetizer), outstanding noodle bowls (alas, also gone) and yummy desserts (still there). It was and still is nice to have a place to sit and relax in Magic Kingdom that’s relatively quiet and serves beer. We like many quick service locations in Magic Kingdom, but they’re rarely quiet and never serve beer.

Perkins Thai Noodles – Spicy and Delicious!

Skipper Canteen has more going for it than peace and booze.

Why does it bother me that this particular restaurant seems to be struggling? Because we like the concept. We like a table service restaurant in Adventureland and would like Skipper Canteen to be successful enough to prompt the addition of one or two more places like it. Imagine Frontierland and Tomorrowland with their own versions of well-themed table service eateries. I’d gladly stay in Magic Kingdom rather than heading to Wilderness Lodge for lunch at Whispering Canyon or the Polynesian for dinner at Kona Cafe. We also prefer the menu prices at Skipper Canteen compared to dinner at Be Our Guest (fixed price for adults is $60/kids $36) or Cinderella’s Royal Table ($65-$80 for adults/kids $45-$65).

Curried Vegetable Crew Stew – Excellent Lunch Option!

A successful Skipper Canteen might pave the way for additional options in Magic Kingdom and we are all for that! Have you eaten at Skipper Canteen? How was your experience there? What other restaurants would you like to see in Magic Kingdom?

Magic Kingdom – Tater Tots, Fried Twinkies & Pirates

The new menu items at The Friar’s Nook in Magic Kingdom were on my wish list for Joseph’s dining reviews.  Lucky guy, he possesses both the metabolism and intestinal fortitude to try food items I would not.  The other day he had a chance to pop over to Magic Kingdom and grab a snack before checking out the newest version of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Here’s what he had to say about all of it. (Good job on the pics this time, Joseph!)

Magic Kingdom – Tater Tots, Fried Twinkies & Pirates – According to Joe

By Joseph Green

I knew The Friar’s Nook was in Fantasyland, but having never eaten there, it took me a minute to locate the restaurant.  Like many of Disney’s quick service snack shacks, the menu is small.  My choices were limited to tots, tots, tots, hotdog and tots, and the fried Twinkie.  I zeroed in on the Loaded Fiesta Tots (currently $9.49) and the Twinkie with chocolate sauce (currently $4.99).  There’s an assortment of sauces offered which also includes vanilla, strawberry, and caramel.

The Fiesta Tots were surprisingly good.  They’re topped with chili, cheese sauce, pico de gallo, and jalapenos.  Like those fries in the Refreshment Port’s poutine, the tots were hot, fresh and crispy.  The chili wasn’t greasy, but with the cheese sauce, might have been too heavy without the pico de gallo and peppers, which added just the right amount of freshness to this snack.  It didn’t hurt that the appearance of this tot concoction was really appetizing.  For what it’s worth – this tasted like something I could get at Taco Bell (I like Taco Bell).

Now, let’s talk about that Twinkie.  It looked harmless enough covered with powdered sugar and the chosen chocolate topping.  Unfortunately, frying a Twinkie causes it to lose much of its Twinkie-ness.  I’m not sure how to describe the texture, but it was denser than the non-fried version and less spongy.  The cream filling was gone completely.  It was a sweet, battered, fried dessert…if that’s your thing, you might like it.  Think funnel cake in log form.

A few words about Pirates.  I went to see the new Redhead and was blindsided by the changes that came before that part of the ride.  The mermaid skeleton is gone and the beach looks barren and unadorned, not to mention less menacing.  I liked it the other way better – menacing set the right tone and added just the right creepy feeling at this point in the ride.  The Auction scene looks great!  I was expecting the dialogue to be at least as funny as the old version and for me, it fell a bit short.  This was a missed opportunity to make the change more acceptable to those who didn’t want it.  I think it could have been a lot better or at least more clever.

Watch for my Blaze Pizza review coming soon and thanks for reading…Joe

Just Back from WDW – The Best and the Worst of it

It was a whirlwind trip and somewhat overshadowed by two things – a 1600-mile round-trip drive (ugh!) and leaving Joseph behind when we came home.  Knowing those aspects have a negative effect on how this trip will be remembered, I shall endeavor to do my best in giving balanced feedback.

Just Back from WDW – The Best and the Worst of it

The Great Stuff

Saratoga Springs – This was Megan’s and my second time staying here and Raymond and Joseph’s first.  We all thought our room location in The Springs section was fantastic.  On the first floor, our room was unbelievably quiet and relatively close to the bus stop and the main pool/recreation area.  We did not have to wait too long for a bus at any time.  The only negative I could see is that this is the last bus stop in the loop.  While the rooms at Saratoga Springs are a bit dated and could use an update or at least a little extra TLC, our room was clean, everything was in working order, and the building appeared well-maintained.  Last June, in The Paddock section, we had “Welcome Home” doormats which were nowhere to be found on this visit.

Festival of the Arts – If the weather had been better, this would have been a really great time.  As it was, we sampled very little food, but loved the theme and the fun photo ops.  As a bonus, we got to see a couple get engaged on the bridge in Italy and it was great.  She said yes.

Morimoto Asia for Dinner – We’ve enjoyed lunch at Morimoto’s a couple of times and thought the food and service were wonderful.  Our first dinner there did not disappoint!  We ordered a variety of dishes and all were delicious.  Raymond and I finally tried the Peking Duck for two…wonderful!

BaseLine Tap House – This new addition to the Studios is…what, WHAT?  Something NEW?  Yes, you heard me correctly!  After closure after closure, finally something new and it’s great!  We stopped in for beer then also shared a pretzel.  Both were great, but what really struck us as the best feature of this place was the music.  Thumbs up all around for the cool vibe and a libation menu that feels custom-made for us.

Moonlight Magic – We almost never get to take advantage of DVC events.  We’ve never been there when they had one before, so RSVP-ing for this complimentary Magic Kingdom after-hours event was a must!  Unfortunately, the weather was crap with constant drizzle.  We did enjoy getting to see unusual characters and the wait times for rides were super reasonable.  We had dinner at Skipper Canteen, checked in and got our wristbands, then managed to ride Pirates, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Little Mermaid, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear, and the People Mover.  We left Megan practically all alone on the People Mover while Raymond, Joseph and I rode Space Mountain (since it’s off limits for expectant mothers).  There were photo ops with lots of characters and we stopped for pictures twice.  We met Louie and Balou in Adventureland and then space-Pluto and Goofy in Tomorrowland.  We got to see both Wishes and the event’s special fireworks show which had a special name, but it escapes me now, but leads me to…

The Bad Things

Raglan Road – After years (and years!) of loving this place and taking flak from folks who don’t see eye-to-eye, we were not just disappointed, we were crushed.  We had dinner there Saturday night and one of our favorite happy, fun, tasty, go-to favorites had transformed into an unrecognizable dump.  Given no option, we were seated in the bar at a very small table where we could not see the stage.  I hate those high chairs for any length of time…my short legs make sitting comfortably nearly impossible.  The tiny table made everything crowded.  The ribs we ordered for an appetizer came on a giant wooden board which barely fit on the table and made plates, drinks, utensils, etc. in danger of being pushed off.  The ribs were barely seasoned and barely luke warm.  Things went downhill from there.  The service was okay, but our server was clearly spread too thin.  A tall man, who seemed to be a manager of some sort, kept coming by and asking how everything was, but he never made eye-contact or smiled and was completely insincere.  I ordered a salad that was made up of horrible lettuce scraps and a single clump of blue cheese among the other ingredients.  Nothing was so horrible that we felt we needed to formally complain, but the overall experience was lousy enough that we all agreed to take an extended break from Raglan Road before trying it again (maybe) in the future.  On the bright side, new choices for dining at Disney Springs abound!

The Collapse of Society – Sure, people litter, cut in line, stop in the middle of walk-ways, ram you with strollers and all that.  Other people make up for it by being kind and friendly.  It’s like that everywhere.  Rude and nasty people have never made me think about vacationing someplace less crowded.

Two remarkable things happened on this trip though that have stuck with me as a sign of worsening times.  First let me add that I have a personal pet peeve about naked feet.  They’re gross.  And unhygienic.  Pool-side, they are to be expected.  In a restaurant, not so much.  Please people, for the love of all that’s holy, keep your shoes on!  It’s not okay to remove them in public indoor spaces!  There’s a reason for signs that say, “No shirt, no shoes, no service”.  I think Disney needs to put those signs on all their restaurant entrances, pronto!

The second incident was a bit more alarming.  Raymond and I were standing side-by-side at the top and towards the middle of Main Street (along with many other people) watching the Moonlight Magic fireworks show.  Once the lights go down in the park for fireworks, most people seem to either stay put, or move to the edges of the crowd if they’re trying to leave the park.  Not so with the big guy who came straight towards us, turned slightly to the side, lowered his shoulder and literally plowed between us.  I tried to hold my ground for a minute because I was both incredulous and furious, but he was too big and I didn’t want to get knocked to the ground.  I did turn back and yell, “EXCUSE YOU!!!!”, but that reaction was stupid.  Clearly, when a younger guy, built like a linebacker, feels it acceptable to shove mature fellow guests out of his way in a DISNEY PARK, something is wrong with the World.  Makes me sad that we’ve come to this as a society, but here we are, I guess.

Well, there you have it.  A very quick trip made bittersweet by our happiness for Joseph and his Disney College Program adventure and our leaving him behind when we went home.  Some of our experiences deserve blog posts of their own and some are better off forgotten forever (if possible).  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Have you had a disappointing experience at Walt Disney World?  What impact (if any) will (or did) it have on future visits?

Festival of Fantasy Parade – Favorite Viewing Spots

To me, Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade is one of the most fantastic, magical, amazing Disney creations EVER! (Totally not kidding – I’m crazy about it!)  Watch it once and tell me I’m wrong.  I love everything about it and while I may not be able to squeeze it into my schedule on every Walt Disney World visit, I make a point of seeing it as often as I can.  Finding the best spot from where to take in every charming detail can be a challenge, so let me share what tips I’ve learned.Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

Festival of Fantasy Parade – Favorite Viewing Spots

When deciding on an ideal parade viewing locale, a lot depends on the day’s FastPass line-up and what time we’re planning to leave Magic Kingdom.  Planning a little in advance, I try to minimize parade-spot-hunting time while making sure we’re well-situated for whatever’s next on our post-parade schedule.

Option 1 – Near the StartFestival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

The parade starts in Frontierland near the edge of Adventureland, so finding a place close to where the parade begins means no waiting for it to arrive further along the parade route.  Megan and I did this recently and thought it was great.  Once the parade passed, we were able to follow it to Liberty Square and ride Haunted Mansion with little wait.

Option 2 – On the HubFestival of Fantasy Parade

This one’s a little challenging on a hot, sunny day since there’s no real shade.  That being said, there’s nothing like watching Festival of Fantasy with Cinderella Castle as a backdrop.  If we can find a place to sit down, folded rain ponchos provide excellent posterior-protection from the burning hot concrete.  Tip – Claim your spot early and be ready to fend off encroachers.  This is a great spot to watch the parade if you’ll be headed to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland afterwards.Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

Option 3 – In Front of the Main Street Station

This is an excellent option if you want to make a quick getaway.  We stood facing Cinderella Castle and could see the parade as it made its way down Main Street USA before circling around right in front of us.  This location is at the very end of the parade route, so it takes a while for the magic to get there.  The ability to walk right out of the park after the last float passes by without battling the park crowds is so convenient!Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

The important takeaway here is that seeing Festival of Fantasy is worth the time and effort to find a place that fits into your family’s Magic Kingdom Plans.  There are tons of spots other than the ones I’ve listed from which to take in the action.  But do make room in your plans…you won’t be sorry!

Are you a Festival of Fantasy Parade fan?  Where’s your favorite parade-viewing location?