Finding Donald at Walt Disney World

Today I was invited to collaborate with some fellow Disney fans in posts about our favorite Disney characters and where to find them.  When Livy at emailed me about participating, I immediately responded with an enthusiastic YES!  Donald’s my guy!  How he went from a grumpy duck to my most favorite character was a story from another day (here) but he’s held a special place in my heart for a very long time.  When I’m at Walt Disney World, I find ways to add Donald to my vacation on nearly every visit.

Finding Donald at Walt Disney World

The best (okay, only) ways to locate my most beloved member of the Fab Five are 1) on purpose and 2) by accident.  The first takes a bit of pre-planning and the second just takes some careful observation.

To guarantee a brush with Donald-greatness, I schedule a meal at either Chef Mickey’s (Disney’s Contemporary Resort) or Tusker House (Disney’s Animal Kingdom).  Both places are great, but I’m partial to Tusker House for both the food and the fact that Daisy is there instead of Pluto, who’s at Chef Mickey’s.  Otherwise, guests will meet Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy in those restaurants as well.  In both places, the character interactions and photo ops are fantastic!

Meet-n-Greets are a fun way to see Donald, but can use up big blocks of time and only work out well if you make it in line before the queue is shut down.  Sure, you can check a park’s times guides for Donald appearances, but what fun is that?  I prefer keeping a lookout for Donald and try to catch up with him on the spur of the moment.  Finding Donald at Walt Disney WorldI’ve met Frontierland Donald, Fiesta Donald (Mexico Pavilion), Baseball Donald (runDisney event), and Donald and Daisy in the Studios.  I’ve also seen Donald around and while I wasn’t able to get in line to meet him, I was able to snap pictures of his adorableness.  My kids also love Donald!

Can’t do a character meal?  Don’t feel meeting by happenstance is reliable enough?  You can always count on seeing Donald in the Festival of Fantasy Parade in Magic Kingdom.  The parade is absolutely wonderful and there’s, you know, DONALD!  At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can now catch Donald and other beloved Disney characters in DinoLand U.S.A. at Donald’s Dino-Bash!

Shout on out if you’re a Donald fan too!

Be sure to check out these blogs for more Disney character love…

Hollywood Lassie – (Rapunzel)

Disney Insider Tips – (Ariel)

Zip A Dee Do Dah Travel

Luxury Disney Travel Blog – (Cinderella)

So Cal Style – (Alice)

Rise and Shine at Walt Disney World

Early Morning at Disney's Grand FloridianWhen you’re on vacation do you like to sleep in?  Are you a night owl?  Do you stay up into the wee hours squeezing all the enjoyment you can into every day?  It’s okay to expect a little rest and relaxation when you’re taking a break from the rest of the world, but WAIT!  At Walt Disney World, there are some things that are worth waking up for!  And I don’t mean sleep late and get to them when you’re ready.  No, I mean get up early – set that alarm, request that wakeup call – whatever it takes to pry yourself out of that comfy hotel bed and start the day in a special way!

Five Reasons to Rise and Shine at Walt Disney World

1. The Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom – It’s magical!  But you’ve got to get there mighty Welcome Show at Magic Kingdomearly to get a good viewing spot.  At about 10 minutes before the park’s official opening time, there’s a wonderful welcome for waiting guests.  Disney characters and Main Street Citizens are among the welcoming party.  It’s cute, it’s special, and it’s EARLY!  Get up in plenty of time to be at the park at least 30 minutes prior to opening (rope-drop) – if not sooner.

2. A Character Breakfast – If you choose to book a breakfast at someplace like the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace, Animal Kingdom’s Tusker House, Epcot’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood and Vine – you can enjoy some pretty hearty breakfast fare while visiting with some of your Meeting Minnie at Chef Mickey'sfavorite characters.  Booking an early breakfast means you’ll get in the park before the crowds and will be well fortified to hit the ground running! (All character dining experiences can be found here.)

3. Rope-Drop – If for no other reason than to maximize the number of rides and attractions you can experience, arrive at your favorite park entrance before it opens at least a couple of times on your vacation.  If you’re staying on property consider hitting morning Extra Magic Hours when available (early entrance for resort guests).  If you can’t make it that early, get to a park about 30 minutes before it opens (without the Extra Magic Hour) and prepare to make the most of that less crowded time of the day.  Booking FastPasses?  Save them for a little later in the morning or even early afternoon!Rhino on Kilimanjaro Safari

4. Kilimanjaro Safari – I know, it’s just one attraction, but I’m telling you, if you love animals and want to see them at their most alert and active, you should really try to experience Kilimanjaro Safari at least one time first thing in the morning.  Have your camera ready!  I’m particularly fond of the elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, okapi, wildebeest, crocodiles, well…you get the idea.

5. A Florida Sunrise – Think I’m crazy?  Try it and see.  The coolest, most peaceful part of the day is a wonderful experience – especially if the little ones are still asleep!  Grab a cup of coffee and Morning on the balcony at Old Key Westfind a place to enjoy the sights and sounds of your resort before it becomes hot and crowded.  If your room has a balcony, sit outside in your pajamas!  If you enjoy walking or running, there’s no better time of the day to get out there and get moving.

What’s your favorite way to start the day at Walt Disney World?


Character Dining at Disney’s Chef Mickey’s


I don’t know about you, but when I go to Disney World, I still want to see Disney characters.  I do know how old I am (parts of me are reminding me of it all the time)…I can still be a kid at heart, right?  I love Donald!!!  In this post, I suggested some ways to meet characters on a Disney vacation.  One of them, probably the one I like the best, is character dining – our favorite of which is at Chef Mickey’s.  Why we love it?  It gives children (and adults like me) the chance to meet Disney’s Fab Five:  Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy – while enjoying a meal just a short monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom.  Let me add:  This is a Princess-Free diningIMG_2651 experience which appeals to many families – especially ones with boys! 

Located inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey’s is a buffet serving Breakfast, Lunch (certain times of the year only) and Dinner.  The food, while certainly not of the fancy gourmet variety, is goIMG_2654od and offers a large selection of basic, American fare to appeal to just about everyone – including picky eaters.

A bit about the food:  At breakfast you can expect eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, fruit, danish, pancakes, French toast, cereal and the ever popular Mickey waffles.  Dinner items include things like soups, salads, a carving station, pasta, roasted chicken, ribs, mashed potatoes, veggies, chicken tenders, mac & cheese, and several desserts including all the fixin’s for ice cream sundaes and yummy bread pudding. IMG_5370

During your meal, the characters come around to your table for a little one-on-one time.  Not a long time, mind you (the whole no talking thing kinda rules out idle chit-chat), but long enough for some great pictures and memory making.  It’s good to see The Fab Five without waiting in line outside in the hot Florida sun!  It also seems to me that the characters tend to be a bit more playful here than they are in the parks.  There’s a little routine to get everyone excited where guests are encouraged to wave their napkins over their heads to music.  Just go with it, you won’t be alone.  

IMG_5372As you arrive at the restaurant (reservations strongly recommended), you’re given the opportunity for a family photograph before being seated (photo package prices vary).  Have we done that?  Yes, but if I had it to do over, I would have saved the money.  I don’t like those pictures nearly as much as the ones taken table-side by my own camera.  You can decide what’s right for you, but do have your camera ready at all times and I promise you’ll get some excellent photo ops!  Good food, good company – who could ask for more than that?

What’s your favorite Character meal at Disney World?