Walt Disney World – Great Places to Explore Outside the Parks

There are lots of magical little corners of the World to be found outside the hustle and bustle of the parks.  Today I want to talk about a few of our favorites.

Walt Disney World – Great Places to Explore Outside the Parks

The walkway between the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian Village Resorts – For us, this is a must-do anytime we’ve dined at Citricos or Narcoossee’s.  We’ll walk off our dinner with a stroll from the Grand Floridian to the Poly.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful way to end the evening.  If we time it right, we can stop on the boat dock at the Polynesian and watch the Electrical Water Pageant go by.  Disney World's Electrical Water PageantOnce we arrive at the Polynesian, we’ll catch the monorail back to Magic Kingdom for a resort bus if we’re not staying in that area.  If we’re staying at Bay Lake Tower (more likely than not), we’ll take the monorail home.  

Fort Wilderness – This is one of my favorite places in the World and we’ve never stayed there!  Sure, the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review is a draw for many, but the entire resort is incredibly interesting.  Feels like no place else at Walt Disney World and has the added bonus of being the home of the Tri-Circle-D Ranch!  We got to explore the ranch’s horse barn during our Wilderness Back Trail Adventure Segway Tour (highly recommend!).  While we were there, we also took the time to visit the gift shop (very cool!) and explore the resort.  If you’re looking for something different, consider either the Segway Tour or a carriage ride or horseback riding at the ranch.    The Boardwalk at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Boardwalk – A great place to explore anytime of the day, but evening is when the Boardwalk really comes alive.  Live performers like mimes and magicians, lounges for a pre-dinner cocktail, ice cream, snacks, and more.  It took us years (and years!) to visit the Boardwalk for the first time and now that we know what’s there, we visit an almost every trip to the World.  We especially love the Flying Fish Café for a nice dinner and the AbracadaBar for a well-themed libation stop.  

Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Savannah Overlook – If you’ve never taken the time to visit Animal Kingdom Lodge, you need to squeeze it in on your next visit.  The place is spectacular and, you know, ANIMALS!  It’s very cool to step out of the lobby and check out the wildlife.  Whether you’re at Jambo House or the Kidani Village area of Animal Kingdom, there’s a lot to see.  We try to go over in the late afternoon straight from Disney’s Animal Kingdom (park) to see the sights and maybe enjoy an adult beverage at the Victoria Falls Lounge.  If we can add dinner at Boma, Sanaa, or Jiko…all the better!  Tip:  If you only have time for a snack, visit Sanaa after you check out the savannah at Kidani Village and order their famous Indian-Style Bread Service!  You won’t be sorry.

When you’re at Disney World, where are your favorite places to visit outside the parks?

Disney Dining Review – Whispering Canyon Cafe

Whispering-Canyon-CafeNeed a Magic Kingdom park-break? Craving a terrific meal in a great setting?  Got a hungry group or family to please?  Have I got a restaurant for you!

Whispering Canyon Cafe, located in Disney’s beautiful and majestic Wilderness Lodge, offers guests a unique, and delicious dining option just a quick boat-ride away from the Magic Kingdom or a bus-ride from the other three parks.  Didn’t I make that sound wonderful?  The real deal is that Whispering Canyon is plain old fun!  Worth the trip no matter how you get there.  The theme is western, the food American, and the service will be either hilariously ridiculous or the usual service of the excellent Disney variety – you get to decide if you are ready to be part of the action or if you just want to watch and enjoy some tasty comfort food.Whispering-Canyon-SignWhispering-Canyon-Indicator-NO-FUNWhispering-Canyon-Indicator-FUN

Raymond and I booked lunch at Whispering Canyon based on reviews we’d read and recommendations from Disney World food fans like us.  Having had poor luck with meals in the past at Artist Point, we were hoping Whispering Canyon would become our go-to dining choice at Wilderness Lodge – a resort we love to visit!  We booked for lunch on a Magic Kingdom day and the break could not have been more perfect.  The weather was gorgeous and our FastPasses were spaced just right to have enough time to get to Wilderness Lodge, enjoy a leisurely lunch, and get back to rides and attractions.Whispering-Canyon-Table

Our first impressions were great!  We gave our name at the podium and were seated immediately.  The décor is adorable!  We were seated near the middle of the room which gave us an excellent vantage point from which to view the action.  If you’ve been to 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Whispering Canyon’s experience is a bit like that one, but (to me) better.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, but if you have a good sense of humor and don’t mind being picked on a little, you’ll enjoy Whispering Canyon.  (If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll use one table service credit to eat there.)  The crowd during our lunch was mostly made up of families and groups of friends who were there to embrace all that this special place has to offer.Whispering-Canyon-Detail Whispering-Canyon-Shelves Whispering-Canyon-Lighting

After a quick glance at the menu, we decided to split the Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce for $12.49.  These were absolutely fantastic!Whispering-Canyon-Cafe-Menu Whispering-Canyon-Pulled-Pork-Spring-RollsWe each ordered a different beer to try (both brews were new to us) and Raymond decided to go with a burger and sweet potato fries (Bacon-Cheese Angus Burger -Thick-cut Praline Bacon, Sharp White Cheddar, and House Ketchup with your choice of House-made Idaho Potato Chips, French Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, or Cucumber Salad -$17.49).  Whispering-Canyon-Cafe-Beer Whispering-Canyon-BurgerI thought a basic tuna melt sounded exactly right (Tuna Melt on Sourdough Bread with Vine-ripened Tomatoes, Sharp White Cheddar, Arugula, and Herb-Olive Oil – $14.49).  Whispering-Canyon-Tuna-MeltWe were very happy with our choices and before we knew it, our bellies were too full for dessert and we could hear our FastPasses for Space Mountain calling to us.  We headed to the boat dock and enjoyed the scenery on our way back to Magic Kingdom.Wilderness-Lodge-Dock

Absolutely we will be making a return visit to Whispering Canyon at the earliest opportunity!  Our expectations were high and we were not disappointed.  Good food, fun atmosphere, excellent service…all in gorgeous Wilderness Lodge.

Have you eaten at Whispering Canyon?  How’d you like it?

 

 

 

Disney Dining and the Two-Strike Rule

RM-French-Regional-Lunch-DessertI believe everyone deserves a second chance, including restaurants.  With Walt Disney World dining, if my first experience in a restaurant isn’t all I’d hoped for, I’ll gladly give the place another try.  I have come to realize though, that two tries is my limit – if a table-service eatery cannot make me happy after a couple of meals, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever darken their door again.  I’ve come to think of it as the Two-Strike Rule.

I am not a picky eater and I don’t think my restaurant requirements are all that stringent.  All I want is a decent table location (not near the kitchen and a window seat is a nice bonus) and a server who paces the meal well and is attentive without hovering.  I’m usually not in a hurry and prefer a leisurely dinner.  The food has to be fresh and well prepared – hot foods hot, cold foods cold; and I’m hoping for a good, moderately-priced red wine selection, but will make do with beer if necessary.  I don’t have any allergies or special dietary needs and will eat nearly anything but black licorice and tuna-noodle casserole.  See?  It’s really not hard to make me a happy restaurant consumer.RM-Brown-Derby-Outdoor-Seating

When we ate at Disney Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Brown Derby the first time, the service was poor and slow (we were basically ignored except when our order was taken and our food delivered).  The food was good and we loved the Derby’s atmosphere, but strike one.  Poor service has a major impact on overall dining satisfaction!  The next time we ate at the Brown Derby we were on the patio for wine and cheese and loved everything about it.  SAFE!  We’ll be going back!RM-Kona-Entrance

I fully expect the next time we eat at Kona Café (Polynesian Village Resort) to be a better experience than our first.  All the components of a great meal were there, but the execution left us dissatisfied.  I’m also willing to give Tutto Italia (Epcot’s Italy Pavilion) another try, but not for a LONG time since we used to love it, but found our last meal there to be a disaster on every level.

Same thing with Le Cellier (Epcot’s Canada Pavilion) – we were, until this year, staunch supporters with years of happy family meal memories there.  RM-Le-CellierSadly, the reports you hear now about it being over-hyped, over-priced, and over-booked are absolutely true.  We ate there in February and I was absolutely miserable.  Bad food, so-so service, and the bill was staggering for what we experienced.  We were crammed in the middle of three tables-for-two, so close to the ladies sitting next to us, we at least had their entire dinner conversation to entertain us – we had no choice but to hear every single word.  We might as well have been sitting at the same table.  RM-Le-Cellier-Entree-2015The servers appear to have a hard time making their way between tables and really have to stretch to deliver plates to some guests.  Now we’ll just leave Epcot and eat at Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club) if we want an excellent steak dinner.  If I hear things have changed for the better, I will absolutely try Le Cellier again.RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Waterfall

Has anyone struck out?  Have we tried a restaurant twice and decided we’re through forever?  As a matter of fact, we have.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I believe in total honesty.  I’m allowed to dislike a restaurant and still love the resort where it’s located, aren’t I?  I love Wilderness Lodge!  The grandeur, the beauty, the massive lobby and fantastic details – yes, indeed, Wilderness Lodge is wonderful!  RM-Artist-PointArtist Point?  Not so much.  It’s not for us.  There.  I said it.  Artist Point struck out and we will not be going back.  We tried it for the first time in 2010 and thought…meh.  For the price, we just didn’t feel the love.  Everything was extremely mediocre.  There are so many restaurants at Disney World that we think are extraordinary, we don’t need to spend money on mediocre.  But, the Two Strike Rule, right?  We had to give Artist Point another try.  And we did in February.RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Exterior

We arrived at Wilderness Lodge with enough time before our reservation time to stroll around, take some pictures, explore the lobby, and stop by the Territory Lounge for a glass of wine.RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Lobby RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Lobby-Totem RM-Wilderness-Lodge-Territory-LoungeSo far, so good!  We soaked up the atmosphere and felt hungry, but relaxed and ready for a great meal.  The dining room was as I remembered it – nothing remarkable, but cozy.  Our server was clearly overworked – we noticed that at once.RM-Artist-Point-Artisanal-CheesesWe ordered the artisanal cheese platter appetizer and a bottle of wine.  After we ordered our entrees, things went downhill fast.RM-Artist-Point-Swordfish RM-Artist-Point-Entree

I won’t bore you with every detail, but I, the non-picky eater, ate about three bites of my burnt, dry fish and was ready to get back to Bay Lake Tower for dessert at the Top of the World Lounge.  You can see in the picture that my fish was black – I don’t mean blackened – I’m from Louisiana and I love blackened fish. RM-Artist-Point-Burnt-Fish I wasn’t going to utter a word of complaint, but the experience was truly awful and we had to wait so long to catch the server’s attention to get our check.  When he looked at my plate and asked me if he could box up my leftovers, I couldn’t be quiet.  I said, “No, thank you, but for the folks that come after me, please let the kitchen know that this was the driest, most burnt piece of fish I’ve ever been served.”  Here’s the key part of this story – he never made eye contact, never said he was sorry, he just mumbled, “I take that off your ticket” and that was it.  He did!  My entrée was not on our bill and it seemed like a normal, regular thing.  THAT, friends, was what caused strike two.

Have you tried a Disney World Restaurant that you want to visit again and again?  What about one that you can live without?  If you have a bad experience, will you return?

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