Disney World Arrival Day

Oh, the possibilities! The World is your oyster! What to do first? What will that Disney World arrival day bring? Let’s talk about the options, shall we?

Arriving the day before you want to use your park tickets – We’ve been fans of this in the past and I want to emphasize that time spent outside the four Disney World parks is not time wasted! Here are my top three recommendations…Raglan-Road-Irish-Dancers

  1. Disney Springs is full of wonderful places to shop and eat! And NO ticket required! Personally, We LOVE Raglan Road for that first night’s dinner…great food, music and entertainment. Just walking around the expanded Disney Springs is interesting and fun. Usually there’s live music and entertainment plus plenty of shopping and those magical Disney details to get you feeling all relaxed and vacation-ish right away.RM-Fort-Wilderness-Pool1
  2. Explore and relax at your resort. Swimming and other outdoor activities are great options. Staying on Disney property? Shopping, dining, pin trading even – all excellent choices. Some resorts offer outdoor movies and S’mores-making too! Think about it, you grab dinner and find a lounge chair in front of an outdoor movie screen to enjoy one of your favorite Disney movies before turning in…looking forward to kicking off the rest of your vacation the next day!Good Morning at the Grand Floridian
  3. Wander the World! Get the lay of the land at your own resort and then go exploring! Take a bus from non-monorail resorts to Magic Kingdom, then hop the monorail and check out the sights, shops, and grounds of the three resorts along the route. Make advance dining reservations (ADRs) for a character meal at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary or 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian. At the Polynesian Village Resort, you can’t go wrong with dinner at the super-popular ‘Ohana.1900 Park Fare / Drizella and Anastasia

If you’re headed for the parks, make some FastPass+ choices in advance and consider booking an in-park dinner to make that first day even more special. We used to make Magic Kingdom our first stop on every visit and back in the day, Cinderella’s Royal Table was our dinner choice. What could be more magical than eating in Cinderella Castle? The view is spectacular! Each park offers plenty of rides and restaurants to choose from – take your pick and kick off your vacation with tons of fun! If your family can make it into the later evening hours, end that first night with a show like Fantasmic in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Illuminations in Epcot, or Wishes in Magic Kingdom.RM-HalloWishes

Whether you arrive early or late, with first day park plans or not, there’s always a way to begin your Walt Disney World vacation in a special way!

What are your favorite first day activities? Do you have any traditions?



Walt Disney World Dining- Resort Loop Table Service (Part 3) Grand Floridian

RM-Grand-Floridian-EntranceThe last stop on our tour of the Resort Loop table-service restaurants is the Grand Floridian.  I’ve saved the best for last!  The restaurant choices are outstanding, the menus are fantastic and the setting is absolutely gorgeous – There’s no place at Walt Disney World quite like the Grand Floridian.

Grand Floridian Table Service

1900 Park Fare (Buffet, 1 TS credit) – This character meal is unlike any other.  At dinnertime, guests enjoy the above average buffet offerings while meeting Cinderella and her Prince along with Lady Tremaine and her lovely daughters.  For older children and adults, the Tremaines provide (to us) the very best and funniest character interactions to be found anywhere.  The full review from our most recent visit is here.1900 Park Fare / Drizella and Anastasia

Grand Floridian Café (1 TS credit) – I’m not going to lie – I’ve never eaten here, but I do have a breakfast reservation booked to give it a try in my immediate future.  From what I understand, this restaurant is a hidden gem.  Among fans, a certain item on the lunch menu is a standout – The Grand Cafe Sandwich “Open-faced hot Ham, Smoked Turkey Breast, Bacon, and Tomato with a rich Boursin Cheese Sauce and Fried Onion Straws”.  What doesn’t sound delicious about that?

Narcoossee’s (2 TS credits) – It’s been almost 26 years since I’ve eaten at this great place.  Our long absence has not been because we had a bad meal, but rather we’ve passed on return visits in favor of trying new places.  We remember it well – the food and service were great!  It’s time for a re-visit and, like the Grand Floridian Cafe, I have an ADR for Narcoossee’s coming right up.  I’ll post a full review shortly – in the mean time, Nick’s review is here and certainly makes me want to try both the calamari and the scallops!Citricos-Window

Citricos (2 TS credits) – For us, Citricos is what Disney signature dining is all about.  Expect outstanding service in a bright, welcoming atmosphere with a broad, creative menu selection that is sure to offer something for everyone.  Raymond and I enjoyed our last dinner here tremendously.  You can read that review here.  There were some children in the dining room, but this place is best suited for a date-night or adults-only evening out.Citricos- Copper-Pot-Mickey

Victoria and Albert’s (Platinum Dining Plan Only) This is, without a doubt, the nicest, most deluxe and expensive place EVER – I had the chance to eat here last year in October and didn’t take it.  *Sigh* Maybe someday.  I do know this – I’ve never heard anyone complain about a meal at Victoria and Albert’s.  The experience is costly, but worth the time, money, and effort of bringing along some fancy duds to enjoy.  If you’ve dined at Victoria and Albert’s, I’d LOVE to hear about it!

Is the Grand Floridian one of your favorite places to eat?  Which restaurant do you like best?

Disney World Dining – Best 1-Credit Table Service Restaurants

RM-Be-Our-Guest-Stained-GlassOnce again, in the interest of full disclosure – I’m not a picky eater.  This is, you know, my blog and thus, my opinion.  I get asked a lot about the Disney Dining Plan in general and table service restaurants in particular.  Disney Dining Plans can be a great value (even if you pay for them and don’t get the free dining promotion), but to maximize your investment, you kind of need to choose wisely (if you care about such things).  There are some terrific web sites and blog posts that work out the details on where you can actually get the best value (Here’s a highly detailed great article from 2014) .  I’m not really into that per se.  I’m more about the overall dining experience versus straight up where-is-the-most-expensive-place-I-can-eat-for-one-table-service-credit.

Bearing in mind that these choices are based on my own family’s experiences – unless otherwise noted, we’ve actually eaten in every restaurant listed.  To make the list, we had to like the food, the selection, the service, and the ambiance as a whole.  Oh, and we’d have to want to eat there again.  So, if we’re all on the same page (HA!) here we go!

Disney World Dining – Best 1-Credit Table Service Restaurants

Exterior Rooftops / Animal Kingdom LodgeBoma Dinner Buffet (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – Boma’s also available for breakfast, but we haven’t tried anything but dinner.  We’ve eaten here several times because the variety of foods on this amazing buffet is simply unbeatable.  Soups, salads, breads, meats, stews, casseroles, kid-friendly fare, unique desserts – it’s all available at Boma.  As an added bonus, arrive early or stay late and enjoy the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s gorgeous lobby and savannah overlook for animal-spotting, entertainment, and educational opportunities. (More about Animal Kingdom Lodge for an evening out here.)

RM-Sanaa-BreadSanaa Dinner (Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village Section) – We recently ate at Sanaa for the first time and thought the atmosphere, service, and food were all excellent.  A bit more adult-oriented than Boma (our opinion), we adored the bread service starter and felt perfectly comfortable lingering over a leisurely dinner.  Romantic? Yes!

Olivia's at Disney's Old Key WestOlivia’s Café (Old Key West Resort) – We discovered this unique restaurant mostly by accident.  We were staying at Old Key West, but honestly had no intention of eating there!  At the very end of our vacation, we found ourselves starving at supper-time with no ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) booked.  Olivia’s welcomed us with open arms.  Great service, broad selection (for all tastes and appetites), and cozy, welcoming atmosphere – Olivia’s won us over!  (Full review here.)

‘Ohana Dinner (Polynesian Village Resort) – This place has wide appeal for the entire family.  All you care to eat, great setting, tasty Brazilian-barbeque-style dinner, decent service – you won’t leave hungry!  If you’re tempted to give this place a try, you must book your ADR 180 days out.  You snooze, you lose…if you want to eat at this uber-popular restaurant.RM-Be-Our-Guest-Sign

Be Our Guest Dinner (Magic Kingdom) – Out of pocket, I thought this was an expensive dinner (review here), but for one table-service credit?  Absolutely I’d book an ADR at Be Our Guest.  It’s gorgeous, the service is great, and the food is fine.  Best, most gorgeous dining room(s) in Magic Kingdom.  Let’s put it like this – if you must book a table service restaurant in Magic Kingdom, make it Be Our Guest where, no matter your opinion on the food or atmosphere, you can at least enjoy an adult beverage with your meal if you like. (Full review here.)IMG_0931

Rose & Crown Restaurant (UK Pavilion, Epcot) – We loved this place.  When we ate there (once so far), we were outside on a lovely evening with a great water view.  The service and food were both great.  We love the UK pavilion – enjoying dinner there is just one more great way to immerse ourselves in its awesomeness.

50’s Prime Time Café (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – This place is so cool!  The “props”, the atmosphere, the humorous servers, the comfort-food-based menu – it all adds up to a fun place for the whole family.  A good experience and value for one table-service credit.  I’m a notorious anti-fan of the Studio’s restaurants in general, but this place is a winner in my book.

Character Dining:

 Meeting Minnie at Chef Mickey'sChef Mickey’s (Breakfast or Dinner Buffet / Contemporary Resort) – For years (and years!) we ate at Chef Mickey’s on every single Disney World visit.  First for dinner, then when the kids were older, for breakfast.  We’d eat there again – and probably will next time we’re all together on vacation.  The Fab Five and a decent buffet – especially during the summer, this combination at an indoor venue, for a meal, just a monorail stop from Magic Kingdom is a pretty good deal!  (Review here.)

1900 Park Fare / Drizella and Anastasia1900 Park Fare Dinner (Buffet / Grand Floridian Resort and Spa) – We loved meeting Cinderella and her Prince, but Lady Tremaine and the Step Sisters steal the show.  What this restaurant lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in character-meeting experiences and a good variety of tasty food.  We saw families of all ages there and our family of four adults had a great time! (Check out all the details here.)

Honorable Mentions:  Places we haven’t tried, but are on our to-try list because we’ve heard great things:

  • Kona Café (Polynesian Village Resort)
  • Whispering Canyon Café (Wilderness Lodge)
  • Cape May Café Dinner (Buffet)
  • Tusker House Dinner (Buffet)

Your turn!  Which table service restaurants would you recommend?


Disney’s 1900 Park Fare is Tons of Fun

Doorway to 1900 Park FareI have come to realize that we will, most likely, never outgrow our love of character meals at Walt Disney World.  Sure, our kids are now 18 and 23, but we still get a kick out of meeting and interacting with Disney characters.  Combine that with food and hey – even more to love!  C’mon, we can’t be the only ones!  Some of you can totally sympathize with this, I bet.

For many years, the Fab Five were our dining companions of choice and no trip to Walt Disney World would be complete without a visit to Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort.  There’s just something so perfectly, Disney Character Autographs at Chef Mickey'sclassically Disney about seeing Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto.  We used to always go for dinner, then we switched to breakfast, then, well, I started thinking about just how many pictures and memories we’d accumulated at Chef Mickey’s….  So, when planning this year’s family vacation, I thought it would be super fun to try something new!  We could still have a character meal, but why not make it with a different crowd of Disney celebs at the Grand Floridian’s 1900 Park Fare?   Well, as usual, I was right!

1900 Park Fare

It’s a buffet (like Chef Mickey’s), but the setting is a bit different and where the Fab Five are silent while they happily pose for pictures and sign autographs, the characters at 1900 Park Fare are all face characters, meaning…they talk!  Cinderella and Prince Charming are there to the delight of children of all ages – but the really FUN characters, especially for big kids (and kids at heart) are Lady Tremaine, Drizella, and Anistasia (the Step Sisters).

Not to diminish Cindy or Charming in any way – they are certainly lovely to look at and as gracious and regal as one would hope and expect.  They make their way from table to table like the seasoned royals they are – greeting guests, making polite cPrince Charming!  1900 Park Fareonversation, paying compliments, posing for pictures, and signing what must amount to hundreds (if not thousands) of autographs as their adoring fans enjoy dinner (and the company of this very kind couple).

That’s not why we ate there.  We specifically went to 1900 Park Fare, upon my recommendation, to see Lady Tremaine and the Steps.  We’d met them before and we knew they’d be wildly entertaining.  Getting the opportunity to mingle with them while we enjoyed dinner was just too good an opportunity to pass up!  The are simply amazing.  Lady TremaineDSCN2998 is constantly a tad stressed and looking for chocolate to soothe her nerves.  And it’s no wonder!  Her “darling” daughters are enough to put any mamma on edge.

Prince Charming visited our table first.  He was, true to his name, charming.  He was polite, an expert at small talk, and very willing to sign the items we’d set out for autographs (more on that another day).  Once he left, we had plenty of time to make our first visit to the buffet.  A HUGE variety of flavors are featured there – representative of all the “kingdoms” around the world.  Just FYI:  The pot stickers and sushi were actually really good!  But, for the Cinderella at 1900 Park Fareless adventurous, there was a good variety of dishes meant to appeal to the tastes of every guest.

Cinderella stopped by our table next.  Smiling, pretty, friendly and kind – just what you’d expect!  She was also very willing to autograph any and everything we had placed at the end of our table (with several pens to choose from).  Cinderella was so nice…I actually felt sorry for her knowing she’d be overshadowed by what we considered the evening’s main event!

Lady Tremaine was all we’d expected her to be.  Short on patience (with commoners), with DSCN3011dead pan humor – she played the adoring and indulgent parent to the hilt!  She was very pleased with our Joseph as a potential match for one of her beloved daughters.  She was funny and slightly intimidating – just as she is in Cinderella!  We thought she was GREAT!  But the best was yet to come.

Drizella was the first sister to arrive at our table.  Enamored of the gold paint pen we’d set out with our autograph items, she wanted to know if it was “real” gold.  We said YES!  At once she asked if Joseph was a prince, where he was from, and how many castles he had.  It seems those questions were answered to her Drizella at 1900 Park Faresatisfaction – she next hinted at their exceptional compatibility.  Joseph offered her a blue gummy bear as a token of his affection and the deal was done – she shouted for her mother, informed Lady Tremaine of the impending nuptials, then proceeded to jump up and down!

At this point, Anastasia, tired of photo-bombing the pictures recording our table’s excitement, made her way over to introduce herself to her impending in-laws and offer advice.  Joseph should begin ring shopping at once – using his nostrils to determine a ring’s suitability.  “If a diamond can fit up your nose, it’s too small!”  Embracing Megan as her future sister, Anastasia posed for pictures, signed autographs, and gave us pointers on how to look skinnier in photos.DSCN3022

Charming in their own way, the Tremaine women were also hilarious and the stars of the show at 1900 Park Fare!  The character of these characters is indescribably fabulous!  You just have to experience it to believe how great it is.  Even more impressive?  When Megan and Joseph ran into Lady Tremaine and the Steps  in the Magic Kingdom the next day, Drizella immediately demanded of Joseph, “WHERE is my RING!?!”

Have you ever experience a character meal at 1900 Park Fare?  What did you think about it?