Disney Dining: How Many ADRs Does Your Disney Vacation Need?

It’s 180 days from your Walt Disney World vacation and you’re ready to book some advance dining reservations (ADRs).  You’ve done your research and you’ve made a list of places you want to try.  Now comes the critical question…

Disney Dining: How Many ADRs Does Your Disney Vacation Need?

I say (as I almost always do) it depends.  How many days will you be there?  What’s your touring style going to be like?  How crowded will it be?  What’s your food budget?  There are so many variables, I could probably write a book on this one topic alone.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll break this down into suggestions for four different scenarios and hopefully you’ll find one of them helpful.

Long stay with plenty of time to relax – I recommend one table service experience per day.  To save some money, make a few of those for lunch (often less expensive than dinner).  If you have the luxury of time, a nice mix of park time, pool time, and maybe a special tour or round of mini-golf will be on your agenda.  Maybe you have time for visiting water parks.  If you have little ones who will need a break or early bedtime, that’s all the more reason to consider a table service splurge for lunch.  This type of vacation allows you to enjoy some special dining experiences without feeling like you’re sacrificing too much time and missing out on other activities.  Too many reservations and you risk spending all your time getting to and from meals instead of relaxing and soaking up the magic.  Moderation is my recommendation.  Once you book your reservations, plan your park days around them.  Personally, anytime I can take a boat or monorail ride to and from Magic Kingdom for a relaxing break, I feel like I’m in heaven.  My favorite restaurants for this include ‘Ohana and Kona Café at the Polynesian Village Resort and the Whispering Canyon Café at Wilderness Lodge.

Medium stay with an emphasis on park touring – Go for an ADR in the parks for breakfast or lunch a time or two and add some special dining experiences on a couple of evenings.  Consider eating only quick service meals for a day or two – especially in Epcot and Animal Kingdom.  Again – you don’t want to waste a bunch of time getting to and from meals when you’d rather be riding rides and seeing shows.  In-park, we especially love Tusker House and Tiffins (Animal Kingdom) and 50’s Prime Time Café (Hollywood Studios).

Short stay with a packed schedule – Consider making no reservations at all.  Okay, maybe one if you have to.  Since Megan and I just did this and found the Quick Service Dining Plan a good value and super convenient, I’m speaking from experience.  We wanted to spend every moment we could in the parks seeing and doing as much as possible.  If we had a do-over, we would not have taken the time to try Paddlefish in Disney Springs.  It wasn’t bad, but took a chuck of time from our measly three-and-a-half days.  Our favorite in-park quick service places include Columbia Harbor House (Magic Kingdom), Flame Tree Barbecue and Harambe Market (Animal Kingdom), and La Cantina de San Angel and Sunshine Seasons (Epcot).  I must confess, we don’t think any of the quick service places in Disney’s Hollywood Studios are all that good and will either just eat snacks or try to snag a table at the Hollywood Brown Derby’s outdoor lounge.  Let’s hope Galaxy’s Edge (a.k.a. Star Wars Land) and Toy Story Land include some excellent alternatives when they open.

Any length of stay during an insanely busy season – Make as many as you can afford!  Based on our experience the last two years at Disney World during Christmas week, we found the park crowds to be nearly unbearable everywhere by mid-afternoon.  We were happy we had a nice dinner to look forward to at the end of every day.  We also booked breakfasts at Be Our Guest and Tusker House then made our FastPass plans around them when the time came.  We booked a Candlelight Processional dining package for breakfast at Trattoria al Forno then walked to Epcot in time for park opening afterwards.  Note: Trattoria al Forno now offers the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast!  As a final thought, If you ever get the chance to enjoy Christmas dinner at the California Grill (Disney’s Contemporary Resort) do not pass it up!

Are you a big Disney dining planner?  What are your best ADR-booking tips?  How many table service meals to you usually plan during your vacation?  What did I leave out?

Disney World Dining – Best 1-Credit Table Service (Part 2)

I’ve talked about my favorite 1-credit table service restaurants at Disney World before (here).  But it’s been a while, so I thought an updated version was in order.  If I were making my ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) right now for an upcoming vacation, here’s what I’d recommend…

Disney World Dining – Best 1-Credit Table Service (Part 2)

I still stand by most of my original picks although I will most likely not eat dinner at Be Our Guest again (preferring the quick service breakfast or lunch) and I’ll pass on Chef Mickey’s in the future because I’ve found a place I like much better.  I’m now proud to say I’ve visited a few of the honorable mentions from the previous list and would highly recommend these:

Kona Café – Right next door to ‘Ohana in the Polynesian, Kona offers a different dining experience.  Where ‘Ohana is great for big appetites and fans of family style dining, Kona is better for folks who want options and have varying tastes and appetites.  The menu is Pan-Asian and offers a great variety (sushi lovers seem to flock here).  The service is consistently good and we’ve been so happy with the food, we’ve eaten both dinner and breakfast at Kona on more than one trip.  Just a short monorail ride from Magic Kingdom, Kona’s an excellent place to eat before heading to Magic Kingdom for the evening.

Whispering Canyon Café – We’ve been twice now and had a great meal both times.  It’s fun, filling, and in an awesome setting at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.  Somewhat similar to 50’s Prime Time Café in server/guest interaction, Whispering Canyon  is a favorite of meat-and-potatoes fans with an American menu that includes an all-you-care-to-eat skillet.

Tusker House – I’ve gone on and on (here) about the food, the characters, and the service.  It’s a buffet with choices aplenty.  I love seeing Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy in their safari outfits while filling up on some very unique menu offerings.  Not to worry if you have picky eaters – this buffet includes plenty of choices for all tastes.  If you don’t want to leave the park to eat at Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge’s buffet) and you love a character meal, Tusker house is a safe bet.

We’ve also tried and wholeheartedly recommend…

Yak and Yeti – The table service option (there’s also a quick service window) of this highly themed restaurant in Animal Kingdom’s Asia section is quite good!  If you like Pan-Asian food and want a nice sit-down, non-character in-park experience, Yak and Yeti’s a solid choice.  The menu is surprisingly broad and we love the atmosphere – very cool décor!

Via Napoli – It was lively and a little loud, but for a family dinner, Via Napoli was fantastic!  Everyone in our party of seven was happy with their choices and the pizza was about as good as it gets at Disney World.  I’d choose again Via Napoli if I wanted to stay in Epcot for dinner and had a group to please.

Morimoto Asia (1-credit for Brunch or Lunch only) – The service, the menu, and the atmosphere are much less kid-friendly than most Disney World eateries.  That’s not to say that kids aren’t welcome, but Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs is where we like to go for a lunch date.  The servers are professional and knowledgeable, the menu is broad with plenty of options for sharing.  We can take our time and feel like we’ve found an oasis in the middle of the often chaotic Disney Springs area.

Raglan Road – This is our tried-and-true dinner choice in Disney Springs.  It’s very family friendly and the menu is full of hearty comfort-food  choices.  Plus, entertainment!  Irish dancers and live music add a very special element to eating at Raglan Road.  Hello!  Dinner and a show for 1-credit? Yes!

Again, if I were going right now, I’d choose Tusker House over Chef Mickey’s or 1900 Park Fare.  I’d choose Via Napoli in Epcot, Kona Café at the Polynesian and Raglan Road in Disney Springs for dinner.  If my schedule made a nice lunch versus dinner possible, I go for a Magic Kingdom park-break at Wilderness Lodge to visit Whispering Canyon or I’d head to Disney Springs and enjoy an awesome meal at Morimoto Asia.

What do I need to try next?  What’s your favorite 1-credit table service restaurant at Disney World?

 

Best Walt Disney World Foods of 2014

Pineapple Dole WhipI did extensive research to come up with this list of food!  See, no sacrifice is too great for you and I’m carrying around a few extra pounds to prove it.  I made the most of the two-weeks-worth of Disney food consumption opportunities I had in 2014 and now organizing my thoughts on my favorite flavors and experiences is more challenging than I thought it would be.  Since we rarely eat out for breakfast (we bring granola bars from home), listing foods by meal is out.  I’m going with four categories:  Quick Service, Table Service, Snacks, and Food & Wine Booth Foods.  This is going to be fun!  Surely I’m not alone in the fact that when I think about Walt Disney World, I think about food first!

Best Walt Disney World Foods of 2014

Quick ServiceRM-Be-Our-Guest-Stained-Glass

Overall Experience:  Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom) – While I was not thrilled with the French Onion Soup or dessert, I was completely happy with the hearty and delicious braised pork (with mashed potatoes and green beans).  Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie and the details in Be Our Guest take you right into the movie in a way only Disney magic can create.  This restaurant offers quick service for lunch and table service for dinner.  After trying both, I highly recommend lunch over dinner.IMG_3779

Runner Up: Gaston’s Tavern (Magic Kingdom) – The roasted pork shank is incredibly delicious.  The décor is pure Gaston!

Table Service

Disney's Flying Fish Cafe InteriorOverall Experience:  Flying Fish Café – the food and service stand out above all the other places we enjoyed this year.  And that’s saying a lot!  We certainly enjoyed our dinners at Sanaa, Citricos, and California Grill, but there was something special about the Flying Fish.  We loved the location (on the Boardwalk), the atmosphere in the dining room, and the top shelf service.  The food was delicious.  From the artisanal cheese appetizer to the decadent chocolate dessert (with bacon on top!), everything was perfect.

Raglan Road RisottoRunner Up:  Raglan Road – a perennial favorite for the food, atmosphere, and entertainment.  This year’s visit was especially outstanding.  Not a place for a quiet meal, it’s a little rowdy and a lot of fun.

Snacks – I consumed a LOT of snacks!  Strictly for research purposes.  It had to be done and I was up to the challenge.  Here are the winners!IMG_3812RM-Epcot-Italy-Gelato-Affogato

Sweet Snack (It’s a TIE!):  Croissant Donut (a.k.a. Cronut) from Epcot’s Refreshment Port and Espresso Gelato “Affogato” from the Italy Pavilion.  I couldn’t choose a favorite between these two.  I loved them both the same.  One’s a warm, flaky, cinnamon-sugar-covered morsel from heaven.  The other’s cold and refreshing with a punch of espresso and cookies on top!  I’ll have to try them both again on my next visit to Epcot and see if that’ll break the tie.

IMG_3355Savory SnackJalapeno Cheese Pretzel:  We enjoyed this surprisingly delicious treat in Animal Kingdom.  The blend of flavors was just right to make it a perfect salty snack.

Food & Wine Booths – We tried as much as we could and loved nearly everything we ate.  There were many more winners than losers in our taste-testing and not a single dish went unfinished.  Picking ONE best dish is very difficult, but if I have to…

RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Crispy-Pork-BellyBrazil’s Crispy Pork Belly – If you read about our experiences at the Food & Wine Festival, you’ll remember how much we loved this treat.  A nice bit of “bacon” served on a bed of black beans.  Simple yet scrumptious.

RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Pepper-Bacon-HashRunner Up:  Pepper Bacon Hash – are you sensing a theme here?  Maybe I’m pork-deprived in my everyday life.  This dish from the Farm Fresh Booth tasted like something you could make at home.  It combined hearty potato and bacon hash with a rich and creamy hollandaise sauce, then topped it all with a few jalapeno slices.  It was rich, a little spicy, and a lot delicious!

Have you tried any of my favorites?  What foods did you like best in 2014?

Disney Dining: Worth Two Table Service Credits?

 

RM-California-Grill-MenuIf you’ve chosen a Disney Dining Plan (or are thinking about it), you may be wondering – WHY do some “signature” dining restaurants, character dining experiences, and dinner shows require the use of TWO table service credits?  I get asked about this quite a bit and let me tell you – if you select some dining package other than the one for just quick service dining, you might find yourself puzzled and perplexed by the restaurant choices!

Yes, you could totally save time and money by avoiding the restaurants/experiences that burn two of your table service credits for one meal, but then again, some of the most popular and highly coveted reservations are at these two-credit places.  What to do…how to choose…  Ah, once again, the beauty of having my own blog is a place to express my own opinions!  However, I’d love to start a discussion here, so go ahead and share your opinions along with mine.  I’m pretty thick-skinned, so if you don’t Citricos-Windowagree with me, shout on out.  For the benefit of readers that don’t have a lot of (or any) dining experience at Walt Disney World – your opinion matters!  All points of view are welcome.  Plus, I’m only talking about restaurants in which I have previously dined.  If I haven’t tried a particular dining experience, it won’t be on the list.

For ease of understanding, I’m using three categories to discuss the two-credit dining choices I’ve experienced.  These are:  Definitely Worth It, Might be Worth It, and NOT worth it at all.  Ready?  Let’s go!

Disney Dining: Worth Two Table Service Credits?

Definitely Worth It:

California Grill (Disney’s Contemporary Resort):  This place is fabulous.  The food, the service, the atmosphere – all top shelf.  The big bonus though, is the ability to watch Wishes from the outdoor viewing area no matter what time your dinner reservation was for.  It’s a pretty grown-up place, but is surprisingly kid-friendly.  My own experience can be found here.

Hoop-Dee-Doo-Musical-ReviewHoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review (Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground):  Dinner (all you care to eat) and a show!  Adult beverages included!  It’s basic food (fried chicken, ribs, sides, strawberry shortcake), but filling and tasty.  The show’s good with singing, funny skits, and great characters.  Full review here.

Might be Worth It:

Jiko – It’s one of our most favorite places to eat and it’s got the added bonus of being at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  If you’re looking for a romantic evening out OR your children have more sophisticated palates, Jiko might be a great choice.  Animal Kingdom Lodge is not only gorgeous, but the savannah viewing area just off the resort’s lobby is a wonderful place to hang out before dinner.  Arrive early to allow plenty of time for exploring and animal watching.

Citricos (Grand Floridian Resort and Spa)– The food and service are amazing.  This is a place I’d The Flying Fish Cafe / Walt Disney World Boardwalkpick for a romantic dinner for two or for a grown-up evening out.  Get to the Grand Floridian early and enjoy a cocktail in Mizner’s Lounge before dinner.  I love the restaurant’s décor and quiet elegance. (Review here.)

Flying Fish Café (Boardwalk) – Like Citricos, but in a completely different setting.  Food and service are excellent and the Boardwalk is a great place to visit.  Arrive early or stay late – the Boardwalk has a lot to offer by way of street performers, shops, lounges and bars. (Review here.)

Le Cellier (Epcot’s Canada Pavilion) – You may have noticed that, up until this point, all my recommendations have been outside the parks.  Le Cellier is extremely popular and some people find it overrated.  We like it, though, and have never had a bad meal there.  It’s dark and cozy inside, which is often a great respite from the Florida sun and Epcot crowds.  If you’re going to be in Epcot and want the convenience of enjoying a pretty good steak dinner without leaving the park, Le Cellier’s a good choice for dinner.  Try the cheese soup!

NOT Worth It:

Magic Kingdom / Cinderella CastleFairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table – If you want a character dining experience, there are tons of 1-credit choices!  Unless you feel you must burn two credits just to say you ate in Cinderella Castle, it’s not worth it!  If you want to eat in a castle, chose Beast’s abode in Fantasyland and dine at Be Our Guest.  If you must dine with princesses, head on over to Epcot and enjoy Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  Personally, I’m particularly fond of dining with the Fab Five at Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort) or with Cinderella, her Prince, Lady Tremaine and the Step Sisters at 1900 Park Fare (dinner / Grand Floridian Resort and Spa).  And, if I’m NOT at Cinderella’s Royal Table, I at least have to option of buying (and enjoying) an adult beverage if I choose.

Pizza Delivery – There are absolutely times when in-room dining holds a certain appeal, but Pizza Delivery at WDWblowing two table service credits to get a pizza, two single-serving, non-alcoholic beverages, and two desserts is a very poor use of those credits.  The pizza at Walt Disney World is notoriously awful.  Grab some snacks from a quick-service place or sundries shop (if one is handy) to take back to your room and save the table service credits for something truly extraordinary.  No food delivered to your resort room will be extraordinary in a good way.  Ever.

Your turn!  Agree with my assessment?  Have places to add?  Tell me what places you think are two-credit worthy!