Breakfast – Disney World Monorail Loop

On that rare (for us anyway) occasion that we aren’t planning to be at a Disney World park when it opens, we make time to enjoy a good breakfast.  Some of our favorite spots are near Magic Kingdom.

Breakfast – Disney World Monorail Loop

At the Contemporary – There are two places we favor:  Chef Mickey’s and the Contempo Café.  The breakfast buffet at Chef Mickey’s offers basic breakfast fare of all kinds.  Mickey Waffles, cereal, eggs, potatoes, pastries and more.  For a character dining experience, it’s a solid choice.  Meet the Fab Five and fuel up for the day.  We’ve booked Chef Mickey for our departure morning on more than one occasion – it was a great way to say farewell and end our vacation on a happy note.Meeting Minnie at Chef Mickey's

The Contempo Café is a quick service restaurant right next to Chef Mickey.  The menu‘s not huge, but for a decent price we can share the “Bounty Platter” and an order of cheesy grits (we love our grits in the South!) and be on our way.

At the Grand Floridian – Again, we’ve been pleased by two places.  One’s a sit-down restaurant and the other’s a quick service spot.  The Grand Floridian Café boasts a big, broad menu in a fancy, Victorian setting that’s still considered casual dining.  If our meal will be falling into the brunch-ish time frame, this is where we’ll eat.  We’ve found it easy to make a last-minute breakfast reservation no matter what time of the year we go.

At the Gasparilla Island Grill, the menu is very similar to the Contempo Café, but we’ll pass up the Bounty Platter here for a freshly prepared Croissant Sandwich…yum!  Note to other lovers of grits – don’t order them here.

At the Polynesian – There’s only one place for us and that’s Kona Café.  There are a couple of perfectly respectable quick service options at the Poly, but if we’re having breakfast at this resort, it’s going to be at Kona.  There’s lots to choose from – sweet, savory, lite, heavy – there’s something for everyone on this unique and delicious menu.  The Tonga Toast is legendary.    Added bonus for us – the grits here are the absolute best!

How about you?  Do you make time for resort breakfasts at Disney World?  Which ones are your favorite?

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?

 

 

Chef Mickey’s Character Dining Review

Happy Saturday, Disney Friends!  Let’s talk character dining today!  When our kids were little, Chef Mickey’s was a must-do for every visit to Walt Disney World and I’ve recommended this fun chance to meet the Fab Five many times over the years.  Nick’s opinion of Chef Mickey’s is a little different than mine.  I welcome all views and opinions here and now you can hear about Chef Mickey’s from someone who prefers to enjoy his character dining experiences elsewhere.  What I want to know is this – How about YOU?  Are you a fan of Chef Mickey’s or do you favor a different restaurant?

Chef Mickey’s Character Dining Review

By: Nick

I’ve eaten at Chef Mickey’s twice in the last several years. Once with our Godson, Flynn, back in 2009, and just a couple of months ago with our friends Kandi and John and their kids Jazzlyn and Grayson.

 Me, Jazzlyn, Barbie, Kandi, Grayson, and John

I’m going to just come out and say it. It’s my least favorite buffet in Walt Disney World.

It’s not bad, but I have some issues.

Let’s look at the good first. The Fab Five, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy, are here, and that is truly awesome!

 None of our Minnie Pics came out well!

They come around often and spend quality time with each table. Periodically, there is even an opportunity for kids and adults to cut loose with the characters!

The not so great?
The layout of the restaurant, which is located in the Contemporary Resort, is just odd.

Somehow, both times we’ve eaten here, we have been put up in an upper corner. This past time, it was a very dark corner.

There really shouldn’t be any dark corners in a character buffet, in my opinion.

Then, there is the food. It’s not bad, I just don’t feel it’s on par with other Disney buffets, with the exception of the desserts.

There are a variety of salads and a soup du jour, as well as sushi and pick and peel shrimp.

There is Mac and Cheese, Chicken nuggets, pasta and meatballs.

Some of the better items were the small individual dishes, such as the Braised Beef. The Lemon Pepper Chicken was pretty good also.

There are a few other seafood selections as well as BBQ ribs.

The carving station included turkey and beef.

The desserts include a variety of cakes, cream puffs, and cookies, as well as ice cream.

I can see why this would be a top priority for kids with the Fab Five, but I don’t recommend this buffet when there are so many other better character dining options, such as Crystal Palace and Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast at the Garden Grill.

Don’t miss any of Nick’s Disney adventures!  Follow along at the Disney Musings Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Pinterest. You can listen to Nick, our friend Dave and me on The Disney Exchange Podcast where we talk about…well, you can probably guess.

Headed to Walt Disney World in 2016? The Disney Exchange Podcast will be having a meet-up in February during the Princess Half Marathon Weekend! Details will be available on The Disney Exchange’s Facebook Page and also on Twitter. We’d love to see you there!!!

 

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?