Getting Your Disney World Vacation Started Right!

There’s no right or wrong way to kick off a vacation at Walt Disney World.  But a bit of advance planning for some arrival day fun helps make the most of every precious vacation minute.

Getting Your Disney World Vacation Started Right!

First let’s take a quick look at some of the factors that influence your arrival day options

  • What time will you reach the World?  Will you have most of a day? Part of a day? Arrive Late?
  • What size is your travel party?  Maneuvering a group takes time and sometimes more effort that expected.  Spending a bit of time in advance to map out at least a framework of plans is super helpful when you’re traveling with a group.
  • Littles or Bigs?  Will your children need naps?  Did they have to get up extra early for travel?  (Also, it’s good to know before you go what the height requirements are on various attractions.)
  • Will you have park tickets on day one?

Some suggestions…

Lots of folks don’t purchase park tickets for arrival day.  Before we became annual passholders, our family fell into this category.  If you’re staying near or on Disney property, you can jump right into the Disney Bubble and start soaking up the magic before you ever visit a park.

Here are some tried and true ideas:

  • Explore your resort.  It’s a good way to familiarize yourself with the location of restaurants, shops, pools, activities and transportation.  Many Disney World resorts have evening activities like movies, story-telling and S’mores-making – ask about the events schedule when checking in. 
  • If you have a car, make a grocery run.  Stock up on things like snacks, water, and breakfast foods.
  • Plan ahead for a nice dinner.  (Reservations at Disney resorts can be made 180 days in advance.)  There are so many restaurants to choose from, we usually pick someplace new to try on our first day of vacation.
  • Check out Disney Springs.  There’s something for all ages including fun shops, cool atmosphere, and live entertainment.  With or without reservations, there are a bunch of great places to eat.
  • Hang out at the pool.  We have lots of friends who claim this is their most favorite way to kick of a Disney vacation.
  • Turn in early so you can hit the parks refreshed first thing the next day.
  • During the holiday season, resort-hop to check out the amazing decorations.

Have Park Tickets?  With a little advance planning, you can dive right into the action!  If you only have three or four days in Walt Disney World, a few extra hours in the parks on arrival day can make a huge difference in the number of shows and attractions you get to experience.

Head straight to a park:

  • Book FastPasses starting about two hours post-arrival.  That gives plenty of time to check in at your resort and make your way to whichever park you’ve chosen.  Between FastPasses, keep an eye on the wait times in the My Disney Experience app and you’ll be amazed at how many attractions you can fit in on day one.
  • Magic Kingdom is my personal favorite arrival-day park.  There’s no better welcome to the Disney Bubble than seeing Cinderella Castle right away and soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells of Main Street USA.
  • Want a casual, low-key arrival day in a park?  Choose Epcot or Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  During any of Epcot’s festivals, there’s nothing more relaxing to me than a stroll around World Showcase sampling food and drinks along the way.  In Animal Kingdom, exploring the trails and animal exhibits is a laid back way to check out the park without waiting in long lines or rushing around.
  • Pre-shop a bit for park souvenirs to purchase later.
  • Plan a nice dinner at your favorite in-park restaurant.  We like Tiffins (Animal Kingdom), Skipper Canteen (Magic Kingdom), Via Napoli (Epcot) and 50’s Prime Time Café (Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
  • Pick a nighttime spectacular to wrap up the day.  Whether it’s Happily Ever After in Magic Kingdom, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular or Fantasmic! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Illuminations:  Reflections of Earth in Epcot, or Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom – there’s a magical way to end your first day of vacation no matter which park you choose.

Now it’s your turn!  What’s your favorite way to start a Disney World vacation?

 

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?

 

Disney World! Always New Things to Try

Walt Disney World – Trying new things and revisiting old favorites is what makes every visit different from the one before.  I’m committed to adding something new to every trip…our most recent Disney vacation was no exception.

Disney World! Always New Things to Try

Most of the items on this list rate their very own review in the future (please stand by).  Today I’m going for a quick rundown of what was new (to us) and what our initial impressions were.  Please feel free to weigh in on what you’re looking forward to trying for the first time on your next Walt Disney World visit.

  1. Mad Tea Party.  Yes, that’s right, Raymond and I have never, not once, taken a spin on this most iconic of Magic Kingdom attractions.  Now we can say we’ve done it. Aaaaaaand that’s pretty much all I have to say about that…for now.on-the-tea-cups
  2. Disney Springs’ new offerings.  We didn’t have a great deal of time to spare, but we did manage to grab lunch at Morimoto Street Food (new walk-up counter service at Morimoto Asia) and check out a few of the new stores in the new retail shopping section.  Lunch was great, the stores were okay.  In spite of all the fancy, new high-end offerings, I found myself pulled back to my old favorites like the Marketplace Co-Op and Disney’s Days of Christmas.  That’s where I spent my money.  schweitzer-falls-fanI was inordinately happy with my Schweitzer Falls t-shirt buy…can you blame me?tiffins-exterior
  3. Animal Kingdom’s Nomad Lounge and Tiffins – Guys!  We give these new places a resounding, unanimous vote of approval!  I promise more details later, but if you’re on the fence about trying one or both…get off the fence on the side of definitely going.via-napoli-pizza-slice
  4. Epcot’s Via Napoli – Raymond and I enjoyed a special dining experience here during the 2014 Food & Wine festival, but had never made a regular ADR for a meal here until this visit.  I’d been skeptical of reviews that said the pizza was fantastic (Disney pizza is typically anything but fantastic) and the food excellent overall, but I’m a believer now and cannot wait to go back!  We were very happy!sci-fi-dine-in-menu
  5. Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – All I can say in my own defense was that I thought it would be unique and fun.  Yeahhhhh….not so much.  Didn’t hate it, but now that we’ve given it a try, there’s no need to go back.  For the price, service level, and menu, there are too many superior choices…we’ll put this in the “once and done” category.  I’ll go ahead and add that for us, the service was subpar and the seating less than ideal for a party of more than four.frozen-ever-after-figures
  6. Frozen Ever After – Raymond and I managed to score a FastPass for this and ride it on the first day of our vacation.  I hate that we couldn’t get FastPasses for the rest of our party!  This attraction is outstanding.  Let’s not debate its suitability for the Norway Pavilion in Epcot and just focus on the experience alone…wonderful!soarin-new
  7. Soarin’ – This was THE one thing I was most looking forward to.  I’ve always been a fan and could not wait to check out the new version.  I was both delighted and disappointed in equal measure.  Have you ridden it yet?  What did you think?

Okay, now it’s your turn.  Have you tried any/all of these yet?  Where do we agree and disagree?