Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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Disney Character Dining– A Quick List

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Character dining at Walt Disney World is a must for most families traveling with children.  It is also a great opportunity for people of all ages to meet and interact with favorite characters without standing in long lines.

Character dining can also be overwhelming and knowing which meals to book is confusing and daunting at first…but I am here to help!

Want to plan a Disney vacation like a pro?  Click here.

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Look!  I have on my Disney pants!

 

My quick disclaimer:  If you only learn one thing from my blog posts, I hope it is the fact that Disney changes every day.  That is exactly why Disney is so popular–there is ALWAYS something new for junkies like me to experience!  It is also why I always say everything is subject to change.

More character dining information is at the bottom of the post, so read it all my friends.

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I am going to make this as quick and painless as possible.  You are welcome.

{Restaurant name, location, the meals that offer characters, known characters that visit}

Character Dining, the quick list:

1900 Park Fare.  The Grand Floridian Resort.  Breakfast/Brunch:  Mary Poppins, Pooh, Tigger, Alice and the Mad Hatter.  Tea Experience:  Wonderland Characters.  Dinner:  Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and the wicked step-sisters.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  Epcot, World Showcase, Norway.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Ariel (These princesses are on a rotation. Not all guaranteed).

Be Our Guest.  Magic Kingdom.  Dinner:  The Beast.  Visit him inside the library on your way out after dinner.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Cape May Café.  Disney’s Beach Club Resort.  Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast:  Minnie and friends.

Chef Mickey’s.  Contemporary Resort.  Breakfast, brunch and dinner:  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Cinderella’s Royal Table.  Magic Kingdom.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner:  Cinderella and other princesses.

Crystal Palace.  Magic Kingdom.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.  Read a full review of this character meal here.

Garden Grill.  Epcot, Future World.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Chip-n-Dale, other characters. (Mickey and Pluto usually)

Garden Grove.  Walt Disney World Swan Hotel.  Dinner:  Any combination of Pluto, Goofy and Chip-n-Dale.  Good Morning Breakfast Events on Saturday and Sundays:  same characters.  Call for dates.

Ravello Restaurant.  Four Seasons Resort Orlando.  Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and Pals. Breakfast on Thursdays, Saturdays and some Tuesdays:  Goofy and Pals.

Hollywood & Vine.  Hollywood Studios.  Breakfast and Lunch:  Disney Junior characters, possibly Doc McStuffins, Sofia The First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Handy Manny.  Seasonal Dinner Dining:  Minnie and friends, Daisy, Donald and Goofy.

‘Ohana.  Polynesian Village Resort.  Breakfast:  Lilo and Stitch and possibly other friends.

Trattoria al Forno.  Disney’s Boardwalk.  Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast:  Ariel, Prince Eric, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.

Tusker House Restaurant.  Animal Kingdom.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner:  Safari Donald Duck and friends.

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Character shows and special events:

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.  Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.  Dinner Show:  Mickey, Minnie, and friends (Usually Goofy and Chip-n-Dale).

Perfectly Princess Tea.  Grand Floridian Resort.  Garden View Tea Room.  Princess Aurora.

Tiana’s Riverboat Party.  Magic Kingdom.  Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

 

***Characters are always subject to change.  It is Disney’s prerogative.

 

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***Call Disney to verify any information.  To book advanced dining reservations, visit the Disney website, download the My Disney Experience (MDE) app or call 407-939-3463.

I HIGHLY recommend advanced dining reservations (ADR) for all of these character meals and experiences.

Remember:  Character meals ALWAYS cost more than regular table service meals.  You are paying for the time and interactions with the characters.  If you have children or if you love Disney like we do, book character dining!  It is soooooo much better than waiting in lines at the theme parks to meet your favorite movie figures and the character interactions aren’t as rushed.

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Extra hint:  While dining at character meals, the characters COME TO YOU.  There is a pattern all characters follow, visiting tables in a certain order.  Your party is free to enjoy the meal, as the characters make their way around the restaurant.  Every character will eventually get to your table.

If you have a concern, ask the wait-staff for assistance.  It is very much so frowned upon if you send your child over to a character during a character’s interaction with another table.  Wait your turn, my friend.  That is just good character dining etiquette. ***Be Our Guest is a little different.  The Beast is available after dinner on the way out of the restaurant.

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A theme park ticket is required for any character meals that take place inside a theme park.  If the restaurant is inside of a Disney resort hotel, you do not have to be a guest at that resort to make dining reservations and you do not need a theme park ticket.

If you have advanced dining reservations (which you most certainly should), and your character meal is at a restaurant inside of a resort, you can park your vehicle in complimentary self parking lots or use valet parking for $20-$25.

Character dining takes time.  Schedule at least 1 hour for travel to a character meal and at least 1.5-2 hours for dining.  If you are in a hurry to get to the theme parks or to catch an airplane, I do not recommend a character meal.

Click here to learn all about the 2018 Disney Dining Plan–find out if it is right for you and your family!

Click here to check out a super fun list of FREEEEEE things to do at Disney!

Click here to read about my obsession with rain ponchos!

 

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Dine with a Disney Animal Specialist–A Review

 

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Zebras roam the Sunset Savanna

Are you an animal lover?  Interested in learning about animal conservation?  Looking for an adventure away from the theme parks?

Gallop on over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This resort is a magnificent African-savanna themed oasis away from the crowds, lines and thrill rides.  Public viewing areas overlook vast flatlands with exotic wildlife, unique animals and birds.

Read a full review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort here.

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Inside the Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas (AKL), is an exotic Indian and African fusion restaurant called Sanaa.  Read a full review of Sanaa here.

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Sanaa is the location of an amazing, little-known experience–the opportunity to dine with an animal specialist!

This is a review of our experience of dining with an animal specialist.

In the fall of 2016, I planned a surprise trip to Walt Disney World for my family.  One of the surprises was reservations for me and my daughters to dine with an animal expert at Sanaa.  Honestly, I accidentally found this option during a late-night Googling session and quickly booked it without doing any research.  (That’s how excited I was to find such a thing!)

Around noon on January 7, 2017,  we checked in at the hostess desk at Sanaa.  Sanaa is located one level down from the main lobby inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village.

We were led to our table along with the other diners with reservations for this experience.  There were exactly 12 guests.  My daughters (ages 11 & 12) were the only children.

 

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A view of the windows at Sanaa from the savanna

 

All 12 guests were seated at a large, rectangular table facing enormous 9 foot tall windows with gorgeous views of the Sunset Savanna.  The table was long enough to accommodate the 12 diners and the animal specialist sat in the middle.

Kate introduced herself as our Disney animal specialist host for our meal and experience.

 

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Kate, the amazing animal specialist, and my daughters

 

A very friendly and attentive waitress took our drink orders, while Kate told us about her education, background and passion for animal science.

Almost immediately, the family-style appetizer arrived.  It was the Indian-style bread service, which consisted of five different naans and nine distinctively flavored accompaniments. Though we each had small individual plates, it was awkward to reach for food and share the dipping containers with strangers.

My daughters and I loved the onion kucha, paneer paratha, tamarind chutney, tomato date jam, mango chutney,  spicy red chili sambal, and garlic pickle.  The man sitting next to me wanted more naan and was quickly granted his request.

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The Indian-style bread service was shared by everyone at the table.

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The restaurant was busy and loud because it was prime-time for the lunch crowd.  Luckily, my daughters and I were seated close to Kate.  At times, my youngest struggled to hear her speak, though.

Kate shared personal experiences, stories and fun facts about the animals on the four savannas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  We learned how the animals are acquired, cared for and responsibly bred.

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The salad course came after the bread service appetizer.  Each guest received their own small bowls with a salad sampler of three very unique and fresh salads.  All three salads were meatless.  My favorite was the Nigerian root vegetable and citrus salad, but my daughters preferred the chickpeas with cucumber and tomato offering.

 

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Our knowledgeable animal expert worked closely with the giraffes at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

 

During lunch and while Kate talked about the hoofed animals and birds, we watched zebras, gazelles and giraffes walk by the large windows.

Because I pre-ordered a vegetarian meal at the time of making our reservations, I received a small portion of two different meatless entrées, while my daughters and the other diners were given two small meat dishes.

The meat dishes were butter chicken and Goan seafood curry.  The butter chicken was the winner according to my girls.  Both dishes smelled delicious.

I enjoyed the vegetarian chickpea wat and lentil dhal dishes.  All meals were served with warm scented Basmati rice.

The exotic 4-course lunch concluded with a dessert trio of Afrika Povu (Tanzanian chocolate mousse), lemon lychee tart and seasonal Kulfi.

 

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The dessert trio at Sanaa

 

 

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Kate spoke during the entire meal, answering all questions and elaborating on guest comments.  She taught us about several current field research projects and Disney’s commitment to animal conservation.

The three-hour meal flew by and we could have easily listened to Kate share her knowledge for several more hours.  She was friendly, approachable, patient, very passionate and honest.

She did an amazing job.

After the meal, the 12 guests expected to enjoy a private interaction with radiated tortoises, but most of the small animals were relocated earlier in the day to the barns because of dropping temperatures. (It was early January.)

Instead, Kate accompanied the group outside to one of the main savanna viewing outposts and spent another 20-30 minutes answering questions specific to the animals roaming in front of us.

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The entire experience lasted about 3.5 hours and included a very enjoyable, 4-course lunch and an exceptional interaction with a Disney animal expert.

If you or someone you love has an interest in African wildlife, animal conservation or zoology, I highly recommend this experience.

Advanced dining reservations are required for this event.  Call 407-939-3463 for more information, available dates and to make reservations.

Dining plans are not accepted.  (The dining plan is accepted for meals at Sanaa, just not for this dining experience.)

Guests must be at least 8 years old to attend.

Each experience is limited to 12 people per day.

Vegetarian and vegan options are available.

Dress is casual.

Because advanced dining reservations (ADR) are required, you can park your vehicle in the self-parking lot or parking garage for free during the event.

Valet parking can cost between $20-$25.

At the time of this post, there is no direct transportation between Disney resorts.  The quickest and easiest way to travel to Sanaa from a Disney resort is to take Disney transportation to the Animal Kingdom theme park and then board the Disney bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  You can get off of the bus at Jambo House and walk or you can stay on the bus until you reach Kidani Village.

If you are at a Disney theme park, the best way to travel to Sanaa is to board a Disney transportation bus that is headed directly to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Click here to check out some super awesome top 10 Disney experiences!

Click here to learn about super cool FREEEEEE things to do at Disney!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Sanaa. Take A Walk On The Wild Side Of Dining. A Review.

For those with an adventurous palate and seeking an unique dining experience, I introduce the exciting and exotic world of Sanaa. Sanaa is open for lunch and dinner and is one of four dining options at the impressive Animal Kingdom Lodge in Walt Disney World.

Read a full review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort here.

 

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Looking at Sanaa from one of the savanna viewing posts

 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) consists of two large buildings, connected by a half mile walking trail.  Sanaa is found in Kidani Village while Jambo House hosts other dining options, such as Boma–Flavors of Africa (Read a full review here) and Jiko–The Cooking Place.

 

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This is the walking trail between Jambo House and Kidani Village.  A van also travels between the two buildings for guests who prefer to ride a shuttle.

 

We honestly discovered Sanaa by complete accident.  For a Christmas gift, I made reservations for my daughters to dine with an animal expert, an event that just happened to be hosted at Sanaa.  Click here to read a review of that experience.

My daughters (ages 11 and 12) and I returned to Sanaa the very next day because we wanted to try the full menu and enjoy the breathtaking views again!

Our guest room was in Jambo House so we used the trail and walked to Sanaa. When we entered the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village lobby, we noticed multiple African cultural items and interesting artifacts on display.  We were able to view them all as we walked to the opposite end of the lobby and took the stairs to Sanaa’s location one floor down.  An elevator is also available.

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Because I made advanced dining reservations (ADR) using My Disney Experience (MDE), my daughters and I checked in at the Sanaa counter and were seated quickly to a small, intimate table.

I noticed immediately that Sanaa is a causal and beautiful restaurant, decorated with African baskets, art and unique light fixtures.  Nine foot windows overlooking the Sunset Savanna showcase breathtaking views of a landscape brimming with interesting wildlife.  Like my kids said, “It’s like dinner AND a show!”

 

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Unique and beautiful light fixtures inside Sanaa restaurant.

 

Sanaa is the Swahili word for “art” or “work of beauty” and the restaurant’s name describes the scenery, as well as the food offerings. The menu is a delightful fusion of African and Indian cuisines, creative pairings and full of savory, slow-cooked meats, exotic vegetarian dishes and several vegan specialties.

We ordered the Indian-style bread service, which consisted of five different naans and nine distinctively flavored accompaniments. (There is a gluten-free and vegan option!)  My daughters and I loved the onion kucha, paneer paratha, tamarind chutney, tomato date jam, mango chutney,  spicy red chili sambal, and garlic pickle.  I could eat this every day!  Seriously, who doesn’t LOVE dip?!?

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The famous Indian-style bread service and 9 accompaniments  YUM-O!

 

As a vegetarian diner, I ordered the salad sampler with chickpeas, cucumbers and tomatoes, watermelon with fennel and Nigerian root vegetables with citrus.  It was an outstanding dish, full of complex and fresh, bright flavors.

Potje inspired entrees give guests the opportunity to choose one item from the “journey” and one item from the “harvest”.  Choices include butter chicken (my daughters favorite), lentil dhal, chickpea wat, braised beef and seafood curry all served with Basmati rice.

The lunch and dinner menus are similar and can change according to seasonal offerings.  Dinner presents several more robust items to enjoy, though.  Flavorful and interesting dishes to consider–Oxtail Umng qusho, grilled New York strip, lamb shank and African-inspired Biryani with seasonal vegetables, to name a few.

For dessert, I recommend the Afrika Povu, which is an exceptional Tanzanian chocolate mousse.  Kenya Coffee is also available, as well as a full service bar and substantial wine selection.

Like most Disney restaurants, Sanaa has a kid’s menu with more traditional items, such as pizza, cheeseburgers, mac and cheese and salad.

Sanaa offers full service bar and a good wine selection.

After your meal, go experience the savanna!  There are several public viewing windows and outdoor survey posts where you can observe giraffes, impalas, ostriches, waterbucks and cranes.

 

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One of the viewing areas near Sanaa

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Though the service was a bit slow and our waiter lacked friendliness and timely attention, the food was spectacular and we plan to return and enjoy new, exciting dishes!  The view alone is reason enough to visit this little gem inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas–Kidani Village.

There is no pineapple Dole Whip available at Sanaa, but I still highly recommend you putting this restaurant on your “must do” Disney bucket list!

Keep in Mind:

Additional items are available for guests with special dietary needs.  Ask your server for an allergen-friendly menu.

The current menu at Sanaa can be found on the Walt Disney World website under the “dining” tab.

Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Dinner is served 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Operating hours for all Disney restaurants can change due to seasonal crowd levels and refurbishments.

Advanced dining reservations are recommended and can be made online through My Disney Experience or by calling (407)-939-3463.

Dress is casual.

Sanaa does accept the Disney Dining Plan and is considered one table service meal per guest.

If you have advanced dining reservations (ADR), you can park your vehicle in the self-parking lot or parking garage for free.

Valet parking can cost between $20-$25.

At the time of this post, there is no direct transportation between Disney resorts.  The quickest and easiest way to travel to Sanaa from a Disney resort is to take Disney transportation to the Animal Kingdom theme park and then board the Disney bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  You can get off of the bus at Jambo House and walk or you can stay on the bus until you reach Kidani Village.

If you are at a Disney theme park, the best way to travel to Sanaa is to board a Disney transportation bus that is headed directly to the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort.

Annual pass holders (AP) receive 10% discount.

Disney Vacation Club members (DVC) receive 10% discount.

Tables in Wonderland card members receive 20% discount.

 


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Top 10 FREE Things To Do On Your “Rest” Day at Disney

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Kiki Tikis Splash Play area at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

I am a planner.  Shocking, I am sure!  I know how to plan a super fun day at Disney.  (Just ask me!)  I know how to book must-see character dining reservations and maximize fast passes, which rides to do at rope drop and which rides to visit in the evenings.

But, it is slightly embarrassing to admit that it took my family (ok…me) 10 years to figure out that we needed a “rest” day in the middle of our Walt Disney World vacations.  Ten.  Long.  Years.

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A vacation at Walt Disney World is an adventure like no other.  Most trips are go-go-go, crazy family fun, out in the sun, jam-packed days full of laughter, theme park food and let’s be honest…exhausted kids (and adults!).

I am here to encourage all of you to PLEASE learn from my mistakes!

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It seems backwards, but the constant fun can be overwhelming.  I have a “secret” solution to the madness–Consider planning a day to rest in the middle of the excitement.  EVERYONE can benefit from a day of recharging.  Trust me.  It’s a game changer.

After ten years of trying to ignore the signs, a rest day (or two!) is a permanent, non-negotiable part of my planning for each Disney trip.  Below, you will find a list of super awesome things to do on your next rest day–and they are all FREEEE!  You are welcome.

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What can you do on a rest day?!?

Check out this list of the top 10 super awesome and FREE things to do that do not require a theme park ticket. And, click here to see a list of 10 MORE super cool things that do not require a theme park ticket, but cost a little $$$.

  1. Pool Day At Your Resort!  Disney resorts have some pretty amazing pools and a day of swimming, lounging and relaxation just might be what the Mouse ordered.  2 tiny things you MUST know: (a.) All Disney pools are heated, so you can swim year-round. YIPPEEE! (b.) Disney resort pools are for the enjoyment of resort guests.  You can visit any resort, but you can only swim in the pool at your resort.  And yes, they scan your bands.  And, yes that is true.  Please follow the rules, my friends.

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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

 

2.  Take everyone to check out Disney Springs!  All Disney resorts have free transportation to Disney Springs (DS), which is an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment marketplace.  The complex sits next to the peaceful Sassagoula River and has four main areas:  The Landing, Marketplace, Town Center and West Side.  Check out the open-area splash pad and the Lego Imagination Center, an outdoor play spot with bins full of Legos!

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Amazing outdoor Lego creations at Disney Springs

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Awesome Lego creations near the massive Lego Store at Disney Springs

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Splash pad area at Disney Springs

 

3.  Make it a TRUE rest day!  Sleep late, snuggle up, kick back and watch cartoons (maybe a Disney movie??)  Play board games and cards all day!  Extra hint:  This is a great day to do laundry, too!

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4.  Go exploring at your resort!  If you haven’t had the chance to walk around your resort, a rest day is the perfect time to take a quiet stroll to new areas and possibly discover something fun!  Find out if your resort has a playground, splash pad, arcade, ping pong tables, hammocks, volleyball courts, benches or walking trails.  Get outside and just go exploring!  You never know what you might find.

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Hakuna Matata Playground at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Ping Pong at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Kiki Tikis Splash Play area at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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Relax on a quiet swing or bench

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Find a hammock and grab a book!  (Yes, those are my feet.)

 

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Volleyball courts at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

 

5.  Skip on over to the front desk or concierge at your resort and ask for a calendar of resort activities, which might include super awesome things–outdoor movies, cookie and cake decorating, educational lectures, game night, roasting marshmallows and pool parties–all for FREEEEEE!

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Cake decorating at The Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Cookie decorating at Boma

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Roasting marshmallows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

 

6.  Exercise!  Many Disney resorts have fitness centers, walking paths and running trails.  Burn off some of those theme park calories (excessive intake of Dole Whips anyone?!?) and make your heart happy in the process.  I don’t have a picture for this suggestion because I have never done this on a rest day.  LOL  It sounds like a good option, though, right?!?  No excuses!  Get out there and sweat!

7.  If exercising on vacation isn’t your cup of tea (or even if it is), I have just ONE word:  MONORAIL!  (See what I did there?  The prefix “mono” means “one”.  LOL  I am so clever.)  Anyway, all Disney resorts offer free transportation to the Magic Kingdom (MK).  Once you get to the Magic Kingdom theme park, walk to the monorail boarding station and hop on!  You can ride all day long if that makes you happy.  You can even get off at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and transfer to the Epcot monorail and ride that one, too!  No ticket required!

 

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Riding the monorail and I am wearing my super awesome Disney pants!

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Monorail and Disney pants again

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Monorail again!  Though you can not see them, my husband does have on pants (not Disney pants).   He is a “just jeans” kind of guy.

 

8.  Visit other Disney resorts!  At the time of this post, Disney does not offer direct resort-to-resort transportation.  However, that tiny challenge is quite easy to remedy. While you are jet setting around the Disney property on the super awesome monorail system, disembark and check out one of the deluxe hotels near the Magic Kingdom (MK).  You can also ride a Disney bus (or boat, if available) to a theme park and then transfer to a bus going to ANY resort you want to scope out.  Each resort has an unique theme and super cool things to see!  You do not have to be a resort guest to look around!  Just ask a cast member or concierge what is the quickest way to get where you want to go.  My recommendations, you ask?  Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL), Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), Wilderness Lodge (WL), the Grand Floridian (GF) and the Polynesian Village Resort (Poly).  You can even walk from the Poly to the GF.

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Check out several African-themed savannas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Watch flamingos eating and splashing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has a beautiful, tropical island theme.

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Enjoy the walking trail between The Grand Floridian and the Polynesian Village Resort.  Since this picture was taken, a rope fence blocking access to the open waters was put into place.

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Lots of photo opportunities at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  This is the beautiful lobby.

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Breathtaking mural in Disney’s Contemporary Resort

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Romantic views and walking trails at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

 

9.  Ride some ferry boats!  Disney resorts have multiple forms of transportation:  bus, monorail and/or boat.  There are boats that stop at multiple resorts, theme parks and even Disney Springs.  Hop aboard one of these and see where it takes you!  Some of the ferry boat routes to enjoy:  Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness to Magic Kingdom.  Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian to the Polynesian Village to Magic Kingdom.  Disney Springs to Saratoga Springs to Old Key West to Disney Springs.  Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Boardwalk Inn and Villas to Beach Club Resort, to Yacht Club to the Swan to Dolphin back to Hollywood Studios.  Disney transportation changes often, so ask a cast member or the concierge to share the best way to get to a boat dock.  Feel free get on and get off at your leisure–the ferries run approximately every 45 min-1 hour, depending on route, crowd level and weather, of course.

 

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Riding the boats is super fun and relaxing!

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Waiting for a boat at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

 

10.  Fireworks!  Fireworks!  Fireworks!  You don’t have to be inside the Magic Kingdom theme park to enjoy a spectacular nighttime fireworks show.  Head on over to any of the resorts serviced by the monorail (Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian).  I recommend the Polynesian because it is directly across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom.  Find a cozy bench and wait for the magic to happen!  This is also a great option for people who want to enjoy the show without the loud noises, explosions and booms.  Extra Hint:  You might get the added bonus of experiencing the Electrical Water Pageant, which appears on Seven Seas Lagoon at varying show times throughout the year.

 

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Fireworks as seen from Disney’s Polynesian Village

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Wishes Fireworks from the Polynesian Village Resort

 

BONUS:

11.  Eat a Pineapple Dole Whip!  (Or 2 or 3–no one is counting)  Ok…so, this isn’t actually free…unless you can get someone else to pay for it.  But, it is my favorite thing to do on a rest day.  So, to make this a money-free splurge, I suggest you make a friend and celebrate that new friendship by allowing said friend to purchase you a tasty treat!  Or Plan B–Eat someone else’s Dole Whip when they are distracted by a camera!

***There is only one place outside of the theme parks to find Dole Whip and that Heaven-on-Earth location is Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  Make a friend.  Be a friend.

 

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My super awesome friend (She’s a Jen, too!)

 

I hope you enjoy your “rest” day and find yourself recharged for whatever Disney adventures come next!

Click here to read about the Not-Free Top 10 Things to do at Disney that don’t require a theme park ticket!

 


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Top 10 things to do in Disney without a theme park ticket

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When planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, emphasis is mostly placed on the four super awesome theme parks and the two crazy cool waterparks.  The thrill rides, crowds, fast passes, tons of walking, waiting, and sore feet are all part of the vacation package.

But, SURPRISE!  There is so much more!

Walt Disney World has a TON of amazing things to do that do not require a theme park ticket!  Consider these TOP 10 awesome experiences on your arrival or check out day or plan several days to explore another side of Disney!

Click here to learn about 10 super awesome FREE things to do at Disney on your rest day!

No theme park ticket required!

  1.  Make advanced dining reservations for an exciting dinner show!  Disney offers three family-friendly options for entertainment + meal combination.  Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue are both hosted at The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.  Our favorite Disney dinner show is a breathtaking and enchanting luau and family-style feast called Spirit of Aloha at the Polynesian Village Resort.

 

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Disney’s Spirit of Aloha dinner show at the Polynesian Village Resort

 

2.  Spend a day shopping and eating at Disney Springs!  All Disney resorts have free transportation to Disney Springs (DS), which is an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment marketplace.  Complimentary self parking is available as well as valet parking of your vehicle for $20.

The 150+ venue complex sits next to the peaceful Sassagoula River and has four main areas:  The Landing, Marketplace, Town Center and West Side.

The World Of Disney is the largest Disney store in the country and can be found in the Marketplace.  At the time of this post, 110 retail shops can be found at Disney Springs, including Anthropologie, Coca-Cola Store, Disney’s Pin Traders, LACOSTE, The Lego Store, Levi’s, MAC Cosmetics, Origins, Pandora Jewelry, Savannah Bee Company, Sephora, UGG, and Vera Bradley, just to name a few!

All of that shopping will certainly cause hunger and Disney Springs boasts 55 restaurants (at the time of this post).  You are sure to find something that fills your tummy.  There are kiosks, quick service, food trucks, table service, fine dining and even entertainment dining to choose from.

This is just a small sampling of your dining options at the Disney Springs complex:  The BOATHOUSE, Bongos Cuban Café, The Daily Poutine, D-Luxe Burger, Earl of Sandwich, Namaste Café food truck, Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, House of Blues Restaurant and Bar, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, Paddlefish, Rainforest Café, The Smokehouse, Sprinkles, and T-REX.

 

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Beautiful view at Disney Springs

 

When you exhaust all retail options and eat to your hearts content, there is still more to do at Disney Springs!  Check out AMC Movies at Disney Springs 24, Splitsville Luxury Lanes, The Marketplace Carousel and Characters in Flight.

Still at Disney Springs when the sun goes down?  The list of nightlife options and entertainment includes performance artists, singers and musicians preforming in the streets, live entertainment in several restaurants/lounges and even Irish dancers at Raglan Road.

***Extra hint–There is a Bibbidi Boppidi Boutique (BBB) at Disney Springs!  This is an awesome option for a princess experience or knight package outside of the theme parks (ages 3-12)!  If you can’t get a reservation at the BBB inside of Magic Kingdom, try to snag a time at this location.  Call 407-939-7893 for more information and to make reservations.

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3.  Disney has it’s own unique Cirque de Soleil performance called La Nouba and it’s permanent home is a free-standing circus theater in the West Side section of the Disney Springs complex.  Usual show times occur on Tuesday-Saturday.  For tickets and further information call 407-939-7600.

***La Nouba’s final performance will take place in December of 2017, so book soon!

 

4.  Character dining is NOT limited to the magnificent theme park restaurants.  In fact, some of the most memorable character meals take place at the Disney resorts!

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Character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare inside the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

 

Dining at a resort does not require a theme park ticket and if you make advanced dining reservations (ADR), you can park your vehicle in the complimentary resort parking lots.  Before you enter the resort property, the guard at the entrance check point will either scan your magic band or check for your name on the reservation list.  Valet is also available for $20-$25.

You can also take Disney transportation from your resort.  At the time of the this post, Disney does not offer direct resort-to-resort transportation, but getting to another resort is fairly easy.  Most of the time, it is best to take a bus to a theme park and then take another bus to the desired resort.  Sometimes monorail rides or boats rides are the quickest!  Just ask the front desk concierge for the best route.

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Character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare

 

Our favorite resort character meals are 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort.  Click here to read a full review of 1900 Park FareClick here to read a full review of Chef Mickey’s.  These two restaurants were non-negotiable, permanent parts of our Disney vacation planning when our children were younger.

1900 Park Fare is located inside the Grand Floridian Resort (GF), which is Disney’s signature hotel near Magic Kingdom and part of the monorail system.  Different characters make appearances at both breakfast and dinner and are subject to change.

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Character breakfast buffet at 1900 Park Fare

For many years, we visited 1900 Park Fare for breakfast on the day we checked out of our resort.  It was the last little bit of Disney magic before we headed home.

Chef Mickey’s is an American-style buffet restaurant serving breakfast-brunch and dinner.  It is located inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which is near Magic Kingdom and on the monorail system.

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Historically, this character meal was the first thing we did on our check-in day.  It’s a great way to start the fun and curb the excitement until the first day in the theme parks.

 

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Photo Pass opportunity when you arrive at Chef Mickey’s restaurant inside the Contemporary Resort

Though character meals are always subject to change, we have interacted with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck while dining at Chef Mickey’s.

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We recommend Chef Mickey’s for character autographs minus the waiting in line!

 

‘Ohana (inside the Polynesian Village Resort) is another very popular restaurant that has characters during breakfast.  There are several other character meals available outside of the theme parks and Disney is constantly adding new and exciting dining experiences.

For a full list of resort character dining, just call 407-939-3463.  Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) are highly recommended.

For a full list of ALL character dining options (some are in the theme parks and require theme park tickets) click here.

 

5.  Looking for an adventure away from the theme parks?  Gallop on over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This resort is a magnificent African-savanna themed oasis away from the crowds, lines and thrill rides.  Public viewing areas overlook vast flatlands with exotic wildlife, unique animals and birds.

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The Animal Kingdom Lodge hosts an intimate 12 person “Dine With An Animal Specialist” inside the Sanaa restaurant.  Click here to read about our experience!

Wanyama Safari takes guests on an exciting safari expedition through the resort’s savanna and ends the trek with a multi-course dinner at Jiko–The Cooking Place.

Both of these unique events require advanced reservations, so call 407-939-8687.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has some of our all-time favorite restaurants, too!  Check out Sanaa for exotic African dining with an amazing view or Boma–Flavors of Africa for a delicious buffet!  Read a review of Sanaa here.  And a review for Boma–Flavors of Africa here.

 

6.  For the ARRRGGHHHH, I mean pirate fans, I recommend the Pirates and Pal Fireworks Voyage that sets sail from the Contemporary Resort.

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Headed to the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage

This is a super pirate-y evening aboard a “pirate ship” with “Patch the pirate” as your guide.  Enjoy silly pirate-themed songs, trivia and games while sailing along Seven Seas Lagoon.

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Adorable (I mean despicable) pirates ready to board the ship!

The voyage lasts between 2-3 hours and offers THE BEST views of Magic Kingdom’s nighttime fireworks display.  Lucky pirates might get to meet Peter Pan once the boat returns to shore. Scheduling for this event varies according to season and requires advanced reservations.  Call 407-939-7529 for information.

 

7.  How about a spa day to work out those tense muscles and rejuvenate tired feet?  Yes, please!

Senses Spa has two locations on the Disney property–one at the Grand Floridian Resort and one at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort.

Spa services range from facials to full body massages, arm and hand massages to pedicures and honestly, can be quite pricy.  But, if time and your wallet allow a spa indulgence, rock on, my friend!

Make some relaxing, pamper-me reservations by calling 407-939-7727.

 

8.  One of the breathtaking features of Epcot is the mesmerizing Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium, a 5.7 million-gallon home to over 4,000 sea creatures.

Epcot offers an exciting 2 hour behind-the-scenes tour of The Seas with Nemo and Friends and a 30 minute swim/snorkel experience in the aquarium.

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Dive suits and gear are provided, but you must bring your own swimsuit.

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The aquarium is home to sea turtles, angelfish, sharks and a hidden Mickey!

The Seas Aqua Tour is for ages 8 and up and does NOT require separate theme park admission.  To make advanced reservations, please call 407-939-8687.

 

9.  A day away from the theme parks is the perfect time to buy all of those Disney souvenirs!  Check out the gift shop at your resort or travel to other Disney resorts and find different treasures and mementos.  Disney Springs is a great place to start, especially at the World of Disney store.

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If you are willing to leave the resort area, I recommend visiting the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets and the Disney’s Character Warehouse (407-477-0222).  You never know what goodie will be found at this huge Disney outlet!

Another surprising place to get awesome Disney merchandise is the Walmart Supercenter at 8990 Turkey Lake Road in Orlando.

 

10.  Though Disney offers so many other experiences, tours, golf and fishing excursions, I saved the best for last!

The last top 10 thing to do that does not require a theme park ticket is:

GO EAT DOLE WHIP!

 

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Look at that delicious Dole Whip!

 

Some Disney guests don’t realize the creamy, pineapple-y concoction can be found outside of the theme parks!  YES!  IT IS TRUE!  GO TELL YOUR FRIENDS!

Get to the Polynesian Village Resort, by any means possible.  There you will find the golden goodness we all crave!  Get in line, choose your treat, grab a table and ENJOY!

 

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The Pineapple Lanai is just outside the main lobby of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

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The menu of awesomeness at Pineapple Lanai

 

 

Enjoy, my friends!

 

 


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A Review of Disney’s Chef Mickey’s Restaurant

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Chef Mickey’s Restaurant–2016

 

Character meals are some of the most sought after dining reservations available to guests visiting Walt Disney World.  The convenience of characters that come directly to your table versus waiting in long lines for a character interaction, makes character dining VERY appealing.

The most popular character is, of course, Mickey Mouse.

And guess what?  There is a character meal where you can meet the mouse himself, along with several of his friends.

Welcome to Chef Mickey’s.

 

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Chef’s Mickey’s restaurant is located inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

 

Chef Mickey’s (CM) is located inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which is a Magic Kingdom area hotel.  The resort is on the monorail system and is the only resort that the monorail actually travels through!

 

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View of the beautiful 90 foot mosaic inside the Contemporary Resort

 

On the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort is Chef Mickey’s restaurant.  It serves breakfast, brunch and dinner.  All three meals are character dining, which makes Chef Mickey’s a super popular choice for families and resort guests.  Super popular=crowded.  You do not have to be a resort guest to make reservations at Chef Mickey’s.

 

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Chef Mickey’s is a large and colorful restaurant with the intensity and the energy usually found at a nightclub. It is food and fun and frenzy all rolled into one dining experience!

Bold Mickey shaped cut-outs, puzzle pieces and primary colors fill the dining room.  Tables are spaced nicely and can accommodate small and large parties.  All meals are served via buffet and dishes are traditional American-style fare.

 

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Breakfast is currently served from 7:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m.

Menu items include seasonal melons and fruits, yogurts and toppings, smoked salmon, pancakes with hot maple syrup, bacon, cheesy potato casserole, turkey hash, scrambled eggs, Mickey Waffles (YES!  PLEASE!), pork sausage, Krispy Kreme donut holes and assorted muffins.

The breakfast food is exactly as expected, hot and fresh for a buffet, but it is far from gourmet.  This is a character dining experience, so the focus is certainly on the character interactions.

 

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Goofy signing autographs at Chef Mickeys–2014

 

Brunch is served 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The menu for brunch is very similar to the breakfast offerings, but also includes peel-n-eat shrimp, corned beef hash, carved pit ham, baked salmon, mango-barbecue pork ribs, and chicken nuggets. Mickey Waffles are still available during brunch. (THANK GOODNESS!)  There is also a create-your-own sundae bar.

 

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Yes, we start our meal with a trip to the sundae bar at Chef Mickey’s!

 

Dinner is served 5:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Chef Mickey’s dinner menu includes a variety of salads, beef-port short ribs, farmhouse polenta, lemon-pepper chicken, a carving station, eggplant parmesan, creamy mashed potatoes (MY FAVORITE!), chocolate cookies, key lime and seasonal fruit tarts and of course, the create-your-own sundae bar!

 

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The dinner menu posted at Chef Mickey’s–2016

 

 

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Delicious mashed potatoes, salmon, rice and spinach

 

 

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A variety of desserts!

 

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Chocolate cupcakes with candles for a special celebration!

 

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Yes, my daughter put candy in her mac-n-cheese.

 

So…the big question is…which characters might you meet at Chef Mickey’s?

M-I-C-K-E-Y   M-O-U-S-E!

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Mickey Mouse at Chef Mickey’s–2014

 

Minnie Mouse is a regular.

 

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Minnie Mouse at Chef Mickey’s–2011

 

Donald Duck gets in on the action.

 

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Donald Duck at Chef Mickey’s–2016

 

Goofy makes everyone laugh!

 

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Goofy at Chef Mickey’s–2016

 

And Pluto poses for fun pictures!

 

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Pluto at Chef Mickey’s–2014

 

If you are keeping track, that is Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto.

(Just FYI–no specific characters are guaranteed and are always subject to change.)

(But, just FYI–these characters have been at Chef Mickey’s every time.)

And, all meals at Chef Mickey’s are considered character dining.

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A Photo Pass opportunity is also available upon entering the restaurant.

 

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Photo Pass at Chef Mickey’s–2014

 

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Photo Pass at Chef Mickey’s–2016

 

Quick Family Review For Chef Mickey’s:

Chef Mickey’s is an energetic, party atmosphere, with music, dancing, table napkin waving, over-stimulated kids and crowds.  If your children are sensitive to noise and crowds, skip this character meal.

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Even though we are Mickey Waffle junkies, we all prefer the variety and dishes at the dinner buffet at Chef Mickey’s.  The breakfast isn’t terrible, just expected and simple.  Because the character interactions are the same during all meals, choose whatever time works best for your party.

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Chef Mickey’s–2014

 

Final Family Chef Mickey’s Suggestion:

Choose any meal at Chef Mickey’s!  It is the perfect place to interact with the Fab 5, get awesome pictures and gather some important autographs!  Chef Mickey’s is a good restaurant to visit on your check-in day or your rest day.

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In 2011, we had reservations at Chef Mickey’s at the same time as some of our friends from back home!

 

***Momma Side Note:

As a family, we made Chef Mickey’s a Walt Disney World vacation tradition.  We always made advanced dining reservations (ADR) for the dinner buffet (and 1 time for breakfast).  Historically, this character meal was the first thing we did on our check-in day.  It’s a great way to start the fun and curb the excitement until the first day in the theme parks.

However, after our 2016 trip, my girls (ages 11 and 12) decided to retire this tradition and try a different restaurant (non-character meal) for our check-in day.

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Chef Mickey’s was our first meal on our check-in day in 2016

 

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Jiko–The Cooking Place was our first meal on our check-in day in 2017.

 

As a momma, I must admit that decision hurt my heart just a tiny bit.  I mean, I honestly teared up when my girls didn’t want to gather autographs anymore!  (That’s a post for another time.)

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Getting Minnie’s autograph at Chef Mickey’s–2014

But, our Walt Disney World vacations are evolving as my family changes and matures and who knows…maybe we will return to Chef Mickey’s some day!

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Goofy being “goofy” at Chef Mickey’s–2014

 

So…my momma suggestion is take your kids to Chef Mickey’s restaurant and enjoy the madness and chaos of the music and character interactions.  And, take a lot of pics!  You won’t regret it!

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Chef Mickey’s–2011

 

Friend-to-Friend, I want you to know:

I highly, highly, highly recommend advanced dining reservations (ADR).  Yes, booking meals 180 days before you plan to eat is crazy, but do it.  Just.  Do.  It.

Chef Mickey’s breakfast, brunch and dinner pricing ranges from $35.00-$59.99.  Yes, prices fluctuate at Disney according to season and crowd levels.  Plan accordingly and discuss such changes with your wallet.

Chef Mickey’s does accept some dining plans and is considered 1 table service credit.

To become a Disney Dining Plan master, click here.

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A theme park ticket is NOT required.

Because Chef Mickey’s is a restaurant inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort, getting there can be tricky, but it isn’t difficult.  At the time of this post, Disney does not offer direct transportation between resorts.  However, you can travel to Chef Mickey’s by using complimentary Disney transportation.

The easiest way to travel to Chef Mickey’s restaurant is to take Disney transportation to the Magic Kingdom and then board the monorail and ride along to the Contemporary Resort.  Boats, buses, and the monorail all service the Contemporary Resort.  You can also walk to the Contemporary Resort from Magic Kingdom.  Feel free to ask any cast member or concierge for the best route.

If you have advanced dining reservations (which you most certainly should), you can park your vehicle in complimentary self parking lots or use valet parking for $20-$25.

Remember:  Character meals ALWAYS cost more than regular table service meals.  You are paying for the time and interactions with the characters.  If you have children or if you love Disney like we do, book character dining!  It is soooooo much better than waiting in lines at the theme parks to meet your favorite movie figures and the character interactions aren’t as rushed.

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Extra hint:  While dining at character meals, the characters COME TO YOU.  There is a pattern all characters follow, visiting tables in a certain order.  Your party is free to enjoy the meal, as the characters make their way around the restaurant.  Every character will eventually get to your table.  If you have a concern, ask the wait-staff for assistance.  It is very much so frowned upon if you send your child over to a character during a character’s interaction with another table.  Wait your turn, my friend.  That is just good character dining etiquette.

Every diner over the age of 3 will be charged for a meal at any Disney buffet.

If you only learn one thing from my blog posts, I hope it is the fact that Disney changes every day.  That is exactly why Disney is so popular–there is ALWAYS something new for junkies like me to experience!  It is also why I always say everything is subject to change.

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Last Extra Extra Extra Hint:  Character dining takes time.  Schedule at least 1 hour for travel to the Contemporary Resort and at least 1.5-2 hours for dining.  If you are in a hurry to get to the theme parks or to catch an airplane, I do not recommend a character meal.

Our tradition is to enjoy dinner at Chef Mickey’s on our check-in day.  It is our first dose of Disney magic and it helps to get some autographs before entering the theme parks!  It is also a great restaurant for multi-generational parties!

Consider chef Mickey’s for your arrival day, check out day or rest day.  You can also travel to Chef Mickey’s from Magic Kingdom for a break from the theme parks in the middle of the day.

Click here to find out if the Disney dining plan is right for you.

Click here to learn how to plan a Disney vacation like a pro!

Click here for a list of all character meals at Walt Disney World.

 

 

 


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A Review of Disney’s 1900 Park Fare

 

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The Awesome Mad Hatter at 1900 Park Fare Breakfast Buffet–2016

 

Let’s all just be honest for a minute.

Food is important.

Very important.

And people like food.

And people vacationing at Disney like to eat.

And people vacationing at Disney like to interact with characters.

 

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The Awesome Mad Hatter at 1900 Park Fare Breakfast Buffet–2009

 

So…BOOM!  The genius, Disney powers-to-be created character dining and ever since it was born, we are all on this autograph-seeking, picture-taking, get-a-hug-from-a-stranger-in-a-costume expedition and quite honestly, it can be a little nutty at times.

But, like most Disney guests, I truly enjoy the rush and thrill of meeting my favorite characters.  I mean, seriously…where else can you take a selfie with the Mad Hatter?!?

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Yes!  I have a Mad Hatter Crush!–2017

 

The pure joy my children have experienced upon seeing a princess or character for the first time is second to no other memory.  Seriously.  It’s like Christmas morning!

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And that my friends, is why Disney restaurants with character dining are super popular and on the non-negotiable, must-do Disney vacation list, especially if you have children.

This is a review of one of our family favorites.

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1900 Park Fare Breakfast on New Year’s Day–2017

 

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is Disney’s flagship deluxe hotel located in the Magic Kingdom resort area and serviced by the monorail system.  It was built in 1988 and it’s grand theming is reminiscence of a beautiful Victorian seaside retreat.

Nestled up to the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, the Grand Floridian is pure opulence, luxury and romance.  The expansive and ornate lobby is breathtaking to see in person.

Inside the magnificent Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is one of the best character meals offered at Walt Disney World.

Welcome to 1900 Park Fare

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One morning, we were the first ones to arrive for breakfast at 1900 Park Fare–2014

 

The 1900 Park Fare restaurant is a bright, clean, bustling and crowded restaurant, decorated with pastel colors and soft patterns.  Paintings, wallpaper and carpets are beautiful, ornate and feminine.

Large and fanciful carousel horses are playfully placed between the buffet and guest seating areas.  Big Bertha, an enormous, turn-of-the-century organ from France, sits high above the busy dining room.

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Big Bertha at 1900 Park Fare

Serving traditional American-style buffet breakfast, brunch and dinner, all meals at the 1900 Park Fare are character dining at the time of this post.  And, that is why it is one of our favorite restaurants.

And, that is also why it is crowded.

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Winnie the Pooh at 1900 Park Fare Breakfast–2017

 

Let’s start with breakfast:

Breakfast/brunch is served from 8:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.  The breakfast is usually referred to as the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast because…you got it!  Mary Poppins is a regular.

(Just FYI–no specific characters are guaranteed.)

(But, just FYI–Mary Poppins has been there every single time we have visited for breakfast.)

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Mary Poppins–2009

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Mary Poppins–2011

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Mary Poppins–2014

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Mary Poppins–2016

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Mary Poppins–2017

 

I told you we like 1900 Park Fare.  And we love Mary Poppins.

 

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Breakfast is a large buffet full of expected traditional American fare.  There is a custom omelet station, fluffy pancakes with warm syrup, Mickey waffles (YES! PLEASE!), fresh fruit, a variety of muffins, gooey sticky buns, breads, smoked salmon and lox, creamy oatmeal, yogurt bar, scrambled eggs, French toast, crispy bacon, biscuits with sausage gravy, and a ham carving station.

The guava-orange juice and the Floridian Strawberry Soup are the signature offerings, but our fav treats are the eat-as-many-as-you-can Mickey Waffles and gooey sticky buns.  We eat A LOT of Mickey Waffles.

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Guava-Orange juice

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Mickey waffles with warm syrup, fresh whipped cream and butter balls

The buffet set-up is designed with two separate starting points and that helps keep the lines manageable and people moving in the right direction.  There is always a wait for the omelet station and everything offered is all-you-can-eat.  Feel free to make multiple trips, but always get a new plate.  That is just good buffet etiquette.

The breakfast food is good, hot and fresh for a buffet, but it is far from gourmet.  This is a character dining experience, so the focus is certainly on the character interactions.

For breakfast, we have seen Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger every time.  Characters are always subject to change.

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This pic give you a decent view of the restaurant.  Guest tables on the right, buffet on the left.  Carousel horses and Mary Poppins in the background.  Mad Hatter in the foreground.

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1900 Park Fare is a great place to get important character autographs!

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In 2014, my family and I were the first to arrive for breakfast at the 1900 Park Fare restaurant.  The hostesses invited my daughters to “open” the restaurant by shouting, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”  Then, Mary Poppins appeared and personally lead us to our table.  Pretty magical.

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1900 Park Fare hostesses explaining how to “open” the doors–just shout “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

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Once the doors opened, Mary Poppins appeared and personally escorted us to our table!

 

Dinner time!

Dinner at 1900 Park Fare is called Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner and is served from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Can you guess who you might meet at dinner?

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The Beautiful Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare Dinner Buffet–2014

Always a buffet offering, dishes for dinner include a variety of salads, fruit and mixed greens, several rotating soups, key lime ginger grilled chicken, fresh salmon, crispy catfish, mojo roasted pork loin, butternut squash ravioli, mixed sautéed vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes.

Kid-friendly fare is also available such as pizza, chicken fingers, hot dogs and mac-n-cheese.

Desserts are varied and can include mini cheesecakes, fruit tarts and chocolate mouse.

The characters we saw at dinner were Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella.  Like always, characters are subject to change.  Have I said that enough?!?

 

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Lady Tremaine at the Dinner Buffet at 1900 Park Fare–2014

 

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Lady Tremaine and the wicked step-sisters were the most entertaining character interactions we have EVER experienced at Walt Disney World.  They never broke character, yelling at each other across the restaurant and vying for Prince Charming’s attention.

It was HILARIOUS!  My husband and I actually laughed out loud several times during the meal!

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Prince Charming was super charming, of course.  My youngest daughter was tired and just doodling pictures during most of the interactions.  She was TOTALLY not interested in taking a picture, so Prince Charming sat next to her, talked about her drawings and coaxed out a little smile.  I thought it was very sweet.

 

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Prince Charming was very personable and chatted with my daughter about her drawings.

 

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Prince Charming was “charming”.

 

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Quick family review for 1900 Park Fare:

The breakfast food is a decent variety of expected American dishes.  It is hard to mess up breakfast offerings, right?  Also, we are firm believers in eating a large breakfast and having just a small snack before dinner time.  We definitely prefer the breakfast food found at 1900 Park Fare over the dinner dishes.  The dinner buffet was bland, not very fresh and offered nothing I wanted to eat again.

It is an unanimous vote from my family:  The breakfast food at 1900 Park Fare beats out the dinner buffet.

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BUT…

We all LOVED the character interactions at the 1900 Park Fare dinner!  The characters during breakfast are delightful and sweet and the Mad Hatter is my fav, but Lady Tremaine and her daughters OWN the dinner buffet crowd.  No doubt.  Anastasia’s and Grizella’s antics were so entertaining, the quality of the food wasn’t the main focus.

The service has been top-notch every single time.  The wait-staff is friendly, quick, personable and the restaurant is clean and organized.

I would recommend this restaurant for guest with children and those who wish to meet characters outside of the theme parks.  1900 Park Fare is a fabulous opportunity to interact with characters, take pictures and get autographs.

However, it is very noisy and very crowded.  Tables can accommodate large and small parties, but the tables are placed extremely close together.  It is a character meal, so obviously most guests are families with young children–not the best option for date night.

Final Family 1900 Park Fare Suggestion:

Go ahead and book this character dining meal twice–once for breakfast and once for dinner.  Get the best of both worlds!

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Tigger at 1900 Park Fare Breakfast Buffet–2017

 

Friend-to-Friend, I want you to know:

I highly, highly, highly recommend advanced dining reservations (ADR).  Yes, booking meals 180 days before you plan to eat is crazy, but do it.  Just.  Do.  It.

1900 Park Fare breakfast pricing ranges from $15.00-$34.99 and dinner ranges from $35.00-$59.99.  Yes, prices fluctuate at Disney according to season and crowd levels.  Plan accordingly and discuss such changes with your wallet.

1900 Park Fare does accept some dining plans and is considered 1 table service credit.

A theme park ticket is NOT required.

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Tigger at 1900 Park Fare Breakfast Buffet–2016

Because the 1900 Park Fare is a restaurant inside the Grand Floridian Resort, getting there can be tricky, but it isn’t difficult.  At the time of this post, Disney does not offer direct transportation between resorts.  However, you can travel to 1900 Park Fare by using complimentary Disney transportation.

The easiest way to travel to the 1900 Park Fare restaurant is to take Disney transportation to the Magic Kingdom and then board the monorail and ride along to the Grand Floridian Resort.  Feel free to ask any cast member or concierge for the best route.

If you have advanced dining reservations (which you most certainly should), you can park your vehicle in complimentary self parking lots or use valet parking for $20-$25.

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Tigger at 1900 Park Fare Breakfast Buffet–2014

 

Remember:  Character meals ALWAYS cost more than regular table service meals.  You are paying for the time and interactions with the characters.  If you have children or if you love Disney like we do, book character dining!  It is soooooo much better than waiting in lines at the theme parks to meet your favorite movie figures and the character interactions aren’t as rushed.

Extra hint:  While dining at character meals, the characters COME TO YOU.  There is a pattern all characters follow, visiting tables in a certain order.  Your party is free to enjoy the meal, as the characters make their way around the restaurant.  Every character will eventually get to your table.  If you have a concern, ask the wait-staff for assistance.  It is very much so frowned upon if you send your child over to a character during a character’s interaction with another table.  Wait your turn, my friend.  That is just good character dining etiquette.

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Extra Extra Hint:  1900 Park Fare also offers a Wonderland Tea Party for children (ages 4-12).  It is hosted by Wonderland characters and includes a craft, games, stories and cupcake decorating.  For more information and to make reservations, call 407-939-3463.

If you only learn one thing from my blog posts, I hope it is the fact that Disney changes every day.  That is exactly why Disney is so popular–there is ALWAYS something new for junkies like me to experience!  It is also why I always say everything is subject to change.

Photo Pass photographers have been available at 1900 Park Fare for many years and in the past, was offered as parties entered the restaurant, before eating.  No characters for the Photo Pass shoot, just the people in your dining party.  All characters were found inside the restaurant.

See below:

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Photo Pass Pic at 1900 Park Fare–2014

 

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Photo Pass Pic at 1900 Park Fare–2016

 

On New Years Day in 2017, the Photo Pass process at 1900 Park Fare changed.  There were no pictures taken before breakfast.  At the end of the meal, we took a picture with the Mad Hatter once we exited the dining room.  See…everything is subject to change.

 

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Photo Pass Pic at 1900 Park Fare–2017

 

Last Extra Extra Extra Hint:  Character dining takes time.  Schedule at least 1 hour for travel to the Grand Floridian and at least 1.5-2 hours for dining.  If you are in a hurry to get to the theme parks or to catch an airplane, I do not recommend a character meal.

Our tradition is to enjoy breakfast at 1900 Park Fare on our check-out day.  It is our last little dose of Disney magic and it helps ease the sting of having to start the long trip home.

Consider 1900 Park Fare for your arrival day, check out day or rest day.