Disney Character Dining – Chef Mickey’s Versus Tusker House

Looking for a character dining experience at Walt Disney World?  Love Mickey, Minnie and the gang?  You have two choices:  Chef Mickey’s (Disney’s Contemporary Resort) and Tusker House (Disney’s Animal Kingdom).  Which one should you choose?  Both take one Table Service Credit on the Disney Dining Plan, both are similarly priced (Tusker House is slightly less expensive).  Both provide excellent character meet-n-greets with great photo ops.  Let me see if I can help you with a few pro’s and cons.Meeting Minnie at Chef Mickey's

Disney Character Dining – Chef Mickey’s Versus Tusker House

Chef Mickey’s Pros

Not in a Park – No park ticket required to meet the Fab Five in air-conditioned comfort.  Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto (dressed as chefs) make the rounds while you eat.  Because you don’t need park access, Chef Mickey’s is a very popular first and last day choice for many guests.

Easy to Reach from Magic Kingdom – Walk or grab the monorail!  Start the day with breakfast at Chef Mickey’s before heading to Magic Kingdom or take a break for a meal later in the day.

Pluto Fans Rejoice – If Pluto’s your favorite, Chef Mickey’s is a fantastic way to get a meet-n-greet with this lovable pooch.

Chef Mickey’s Cons

Very Basic Fare – Read:  Mediocre food.  Unfortunately, Chef Mickey’s popularity is more about the location and characters than the actual culinary choices.  If you’re picky and/or prefer pretty bland, meat-and-potatoes (or pasta) dishes, this may be a solid choice.  If you want more diversity in buffet choices with a few slightly more adventurous flavors, this is not the place for you.

Loud and Crowded – Big open spaces often full of screaming children.  It just seems crazy noisy to me all the time with lots of distractions.  Goes with the character-dining territory, I know, but Chef Mickey’s is extreme.

Tusker House Pros

Preferred by my Twitter Friends – In a recent Twitter poll I conducted with the simple question, “Which do you prefer?” and a choice between Chef Mickey’s and Tusker House, Tusker House won big (75% to 25%).

Convenient on an Animal Kingdom Day – Tusker House is a fun way to start the day and also a wonderful break for lunch or dinner.  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy make the rounds dressed in their safari attire.

Delicious Flavors of Africa-inspired Dishes (plus plenty for less adventurous eaters).  I wanted to try everything, but had to settle for about a dozen different things to taste before I couldn’t eat another bite.  Our whole group of seven (included varying degrees of pickiness) walked away happy when we had breakfast at Tusker House one morning last year.

Daisy Fans Rejoice – She’s pretty special and if you want to meet her in a park, the lines are often very long (and cut off quickly).  In Tusker House, you’ll have her complete and undivided attention for a few minutes…very sweet!  I love her long eyelashes!

Tusker House Cons

Need a Park Ticket to Dine – Maybe because you have to enter Animal Kingdom to dine at Tusker House it makes it easier to get a reservation there than at Chef Mickey’s.  Seems to me demand is always higher at Chef Mickey’s.

Buffet Area gets Congested – This is basically due to nobody listening to instructions, but it happens anyway.  The hosts and hostesses explain up front that the design of the buffet is to encourage guests to walk up and help themselves to whatever looks delicious.  In reality, nobody does that, everyone forms lines.

Are you a fan of character dining?  Have you been to both Chef Mickey’s and Tusker House?  Which did you prefer?

 

 

Kid Free Disney

If your nest is still full and you love Disney vacations, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to take a kid-free trip to Walt Disney World.  If you fell in love with Disney World before you had kids, you have some idea how that is, and may long for the eventual return of park touring sans stroller, bags full of supplies, and meltdowns.  RM-DuffyTo do what you want to do, go where you want to go…where the only whining you hear is your own on the day you have to leave.  Think about it!  Once the kids are grown, it’s your turn to enjoy Walt Disney World exactly the way you want to.  For us that means we still invite the kids (both adults now) along occasionally, but vacation alone at least once a year.  (If your children still live at home and you can overcome the guilt involved with leaving them behind while going to Disney World, you’re a stronger person than I am!)

Kid Free Disney

So you’ve finally made it.  You’ve booked an offspring-free trip to Disney World.  In order to fully flex your kid-less status, there are plenty of opportunities available to minimize exposure to other people’s children while maximizing your footloose and fancy free vacation happiness.  Here are a few ideas for your consideration…RM-Grand-Floridian-Senses-Sign

Splurge at the Senses Spa – No kids allowed!  With the Spa’s extensive menu, you’ll find something appropriate for pampering yourself at this serene spot at the Grand Floridian.  We’ve enjoyed the Massage for Two on more than one occasion and highly recommend it!RM-California-Grill-Interior

Book a Great Meal – Disney’s Signature Dining options offer an opportunity to dress up a little (or a lot) and dine in Disney splendor.  Citricos-MichaelWe love the California Grill, Jiko, Shula’s Steakhouse and Citricos (just to name a few).  Great service, fewer non-grownups, and excellent food are the draws and while these restaurants are more expensive, it’s worth it for a special evening out.RM-Sunset-Animal-Kingdom-Lodge

Take a Leisurely Stroll – Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, the early and late hours of the day are both great times to take a walk and explore resort grounds.  Bay-Lake-Tower-SunriseI can attest to the beauty of all the monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian), Port Orleans Riverside, and the Boardwalk areas for this highly relaxing activity.  Dawn and sunset are my personal favorite times of the day at Disney World.RM-Mizner's-Lounge

Relax in a Lounge (or a few) – There are so many to choose from!  Whatever your preference – loud and boisterous or quiet and reserved, there’s a pub, bar, or lounge for you.  Mizner’s at the Grand Floridian, the Belle Vue Lounge on the Boardwalk, The Outer Rim Lounge at the Contemporary, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian, Victoria Falls Lounge at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Jock Lindsey’s at Disney Springs are all places we highly recommend.RM-Victoria-Falls-Lounge

Fellow kid-free people! What are your favorite aspects of an adults-only trip to Walt Disney World?

 

 

Disney at Home – Duplicating Recipes

The Wave EntrancePart of (I should really say much of) our Disney vacation happiness is about the food.  Favorite restaurants, favorite dishes, trying new places – oh, boy, do we love to eat at Walt Disney World!  What’s best about all this dining is when a particular dish really surprises us.

Disney at Home – Duplicating Recipes

Last December when Raymond and I were on our post-Christmas R&R, I booked dinner at The Wave (Contemporary Resort) for our last night.  I knew we’d be tired and want to be close to our room at Bay Lake Tower.  We’d never eaten in The Wave before, but had enjoyed snacks and cocktails in the lounge more than once.  We knew the food would be good and were looking forward to the relaxing atmosphere.The Wave Menu

As expected, we were exhausted, but had been having a fantastic trip.  We arrived for our last dinner practically sleeping on our feet.  If you’ve never been to The Wave before, it’s a lot like being in a cellar – no windows, cozy if a bit dark.  The service is absolutely top notch.  We ordered soup for an appetizer and, if I remember correctly, we both ordered fish for our entrees.  I’m positive we ordered a bottle of wine from the cocktail menu.The Wave Menu Cover

The soup was a most pleasant surprise and made the entire meal for us.  In fact, it was one of the most delicious soups we’d ever had.  The ultimate comfort food – creamy soup full of sausage, gnocchi, and spinach.  As we were exchanging Mmmmmm’s, I made the offhanded comment that I could probably recreate this amazing deliciousness at home.  We enjoyed the rest of our dinner, made the short walk back to Bay Lake Tower and crashed.  The next morning we headed for home.

Fast forward about at week and Raymond says, “Hey!  Weren’t you going to try to make that soup?”.  Yes!  I had planned on that and I made my grocery list right then and there.  I’ve cooked Disney dishes at home before, but always found a recipe online to use.  This time I didn’t even search for a recipe, I made it up as I went.  How hard could it be?The Wave Soup Recreation in Progress

Turns out not really hard at all.  I stared by browning spicy Italian sausage which I drained and set aside.  While the sausage was browning (I added red pepper flakes to make it spicier), I defrosted, squeezed dry, and food-processed a package of frozen spinach (the food processing part was a total waste of time).  After that I whipped up a simple roux of butter and flour.  Then I stirred in a healthy amount of both chicken broth and real live honest to goodness cream.The Wave Soup Recreation Begins

I added the spinach and sausage and one store-bought package of gnocchi to the pot and let it all cook together for about half an hour.  This gave the gnocchi time to become soft and all the flavors to blend together.  While all that was going on, I toasted up some garlic bread as an accompaniment.  The original version from The Wave had a crunchy toasted cheese topping which I’ll try to recreate in the future.The Wave Soup IngredientsThe Wave Soup Recreated

While the soups didn’t look exactly the same, the flavors were nearly identical.  I was very proud of my soup!  I will most definitely be making it again as soon as the weather starts to cool off a little in the fall.

Have you made a Disney dish at home?  What’s your favorite Disney recipe?

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!!!