Showing posts with label WDW. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WDW. Show all posts

Walt Disney World Is Open For Business!

I miss Goofy hugs!

"There's a great big, beautiful tomorrow. . ."

And that day is here.  Following the closure of Walt Disney World Resort due to the coronavirus pandemic, the resort has been in the process of re-opening for weeks beginning with Disney Springs, followed by select resorts, and now the parks.  While things look different - masks, reservation systems, temperature checks, characters, dining - there can still be magic to be found.  While I haven't been to Florida and won't be going any time soon, several of my local friends have been out and about covering the re-opening.  Here's a quick round-up of their coverage!

Disney Springs Re-Opening


Disney Springs was the first destination on Walt Disney World Resort property to reopen.  My friend Meg from www.megforit.com was at Disney Springs on opening day.  Check out her report at what you can expect in this YouTube video.


Since opening day, more has reopened in Disney Springs like my favorite restaurant, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'!  

Guests Return to Walt Disney World Resorts


Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Resort properties around Walt Disney World have been slowly reopening, beginning with some DVC fan favorites.  While not all resorts are opening at this time, you can find availability and even book new reservations for a 2020 stay.  My friend Brandon has his YouTube channel Expedition Neverland and shared this video of his stays at both Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian.  


Looking for reviews on some hotels around Walt Disney World, both on and off property?  Check out my list of resort reviews!


If you're interested in booking a Walt Disney World vacation package, visit my friends over at Get Away Today (Affiliate Link).  There really has never been a better time to use a travel agent with so much uncertainty in the air.  Take the guess work out of your vacation planning and leave it to the experts!

Walt Disney World Resort Park Previews


Disney's Hollywood Studios

Magic Kingdom Park and Disney's Animal Kingdom are scheduled to reopen to the general pubic on July 11 with EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios following on July 15, but both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have had some special cast member and Annual Passholder preview days ahead of time.  While there can be varying stories found on social media, the overall feedback seems to be pretty positive.  More details about how Disney is asking everyone to do their part for health and safety can be found here on the Disney Parks Blog.

In the meantime, check out my friend Tina from Footprints in Pixie Dust and her visit to Magic Kingdom Park during the Annual Passholder Preview! 

Update on the AP Preview! What did we ride? Where we eat? Whom did we see? What can you expect?

Posted by Footprints in Pixie Dust on Thursday, July 9, 2020


Not able to visit the Disney Parks?  Catch some fun movies on Disney+ to add some magic to your summer at home!



Walt Disney World will certainly be a different vacation destination for some time.  However, I was happy to see characters and fun interactions around the parks, even if they weren't the same as in the past.  If you're planning a trip soon, pay close attention to the latest phased re-opening news as announcements come frequently about updates to the systems in place!  See ya real soon pals!

Walt Disney World Resort Re-Opening: What We Know!!!

Slinky Dog Dash at Disney's Hollywood Studios

It's coronation day!

Well, not quite. . .but for Walt Disney World fans it's kind of the same thing.  For the first time in forever, Walt Disney World Resort is preparing to open the gates again!! On May 27th, Walt Disney World presented to the Orange County Task Force about their plans.  While I'm sure more will be shared in the days and weeks ahead, this is what we know so far.

Walt Disney World Re-Opening


As always, for the latest information, visit the Walt Disney World website and the Disney Parks Blog.

With announcements from Universal Studios Orlando and Legoland Orlando, Disney fans have been patiently waiting their turn.  Here's what Disney shared:
  • Reopening of the parks begins on July 11th with Magic Kingdom Park and Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Both EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios will follow suit on July 15th.
  • No parades or fireworks for now.  Disney is limiting these in park events that draw large crowds and said they plan to have them return "at a later date."
  • No character meet and greets, no makeovers, no playgrounds - for the time being.  They do mention that characters will be around the parks though.
  • Limited capacity means you'll need an advanced reservation to enter the park.
  • Currently new tickets and new hotel reservations are not being accepted.  Disney is working with guests who have existing reservations first before allowing new reservations to be accepted.
  • Masks are a must for everyone 3 and over.
  • Temperature checks will also be required prior to park entry.
  • Of course, increased cleaning and disinfection will be a priority around the park.
  • DVC resorts at Walt Disney World will begin reopening for members and guests on June 22 along with Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  Hilton Head and Vero Bech Resorts will begin reopening June 15.

It's never too early to plan your next WDW vacation! Find all the details on Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and celebrating the holiday season at Walt Disney World here!


SeaWorld Announces Re-Opening Plans Too!


Not to be outdone by Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld Orlando also announced their plans to reopen at the same Orange County Task Force meeting:
  • June 11th reopening for SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove.
  • Masks required for guests 2 years and older.
  • Temperature checks prior to park entry.
  • Limited capacity in pools and rivers.
  • Hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit of each ride.
  • Character interactions and parades may be modified to promote social distancing.
  • Increased cleaning procedures and practices to promote social distancing. 

For the latest information on SeaWorld, visit the official SeaWorld website.

Planning a visit to SeaWorld, check out my guide to Sesame Street Land!


So what do you think?  We all know that visiting theme parks this summer will be unlike anything we've ever experienced before.  Will you be joining those braving the parks, or watching and waiting to see how things go?  

Walt Disney World Totchos Copycat Recipe

Woody's Lunchbox Totchos

Food blogging isn't normally my jam, but when it comes to recreating the magic of a favorite copycat Walt Disney World recipe and it goes well, I feel the need to share it so others can get in on the fun.  If you're a regular at Walt Disney World, you know that totchos are a hot commodity.  And Disney fans can rejoice in the fact that totchos are super easy to recreate in your own kitchen to bring a little bit of Disney Parks magic to your day!  Added bonus, I've found a few ways to save some calories on my recipe and give you the breakdown of how this works into my Weight Watchers Blue plan.

What are totchos?


Totchos are essentially nachos but made with tater tots instead of tortilla chips.  You can top them with any number of goodies, just like you would with nachos - the sky is literally the limit!  So why mess with something as good as nachos?  I don't know the origin story of the totcho, but trust me when I tell you it's delicious.  I feel like it's even more filling than nachos as the tater tots are more dense than the tortilla chips.  

Give the Gift of a Family Vacation!

This holiday season, why not give the gift of a family vacation to the ones you love?  What better way is there to celebrate the season then creating family memories that will last a lifetime?? You've heard me share about the specials my friends at Get Away Today have had in the past, but Black Friday deals keep getting better and better!  Check out information below on specials for not only California, but Florida travel too.

Disneyland Travel - Get Away Today still has Adult's at Kid's prices on 3 day or longer tickets for Disneyland.  This is good on a variety of tickets including park hoppers or one park per day and can be used with or without MaxPass.  There are no blackout dates and they are good through the end of 2020!  Purchase your discount tickets to Disneyland Resort here.

Southern California Combo Ticket - Looking to plan a longer visit to Southern California?  You can combine the above Disneyland ticket deal with savings on other popular SoCal attractions like Universal Studios Hollywood and LEGOLAND, plus get an EXTRA combo discount to save even more on these tickets.  No promo code is required - you'll see the savings pile up in your cart! Check out the Southern California Combo savings here.

And For The East Coast - No need to fear!  We get included on the fun with this Black Friday Sale!  You can save an extra $10 off tickets for Florida attractions like Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando off of the already discounted prices offered through Get Away Today.  Use code BLACKFRIDAYFL to access this savings.  For more on Florida deals, click here.

Don't forget to use my special code PIXIEDUST to save even more when you book a vacation package including tickets and hotel stay.  Visit soon though!  There is limited availability on some of these deals and they ALL expire on December 2nd!  Happy traveling my friends!

I'm an affiliate partner with Get Away Today.  That means that while you're saving money on some amazing vacations, I may also earn a small commission.

My Kid Threw Up on a Walt Disney World Bus

So, this one time, in Disney World, my kid threw up on the bus to Hollywood Studios. (You're supposed to see Alyson Hannigan there. . .did you??)


via GIPHY

Yeah, you read that right.  Here's a little context.  My first child (actually, my only at the time of this incident) was just 17 months old and wrapping up a whirlwind 10 day vacation where we sailed for a week on the Disney Fantasy and then spent three days in Walt Disney World.  It was supposed to be a magical time, and, for the most part, was that ideal first visit.  But on the last night of the trip, my son was particularly fussy overnight.  I thought the July heat and long vacation may have just been getting to him and knew we were heading home the next day so he'd be getting back to his normal routine in no time.  The next morning, we left our room at the Contemporary Resort and had breakfast inside the hotel at Chef Mickey's.  I expected this to be an incredible time for my little guy, but he seemed disconnected and refused to eat almost anything.  C'est la vie, right?  Well, we had a few hours to go explore Disney's Hollywood Studios before heading to the airport.  We took advantage of Disney's Airline Check-In service and sent our bags over to MCO from the hotel leaving just our carry on at the hotel and heading to the park with our stroller and diaper bag.  I had my son on my lap on the bus to the park, and about halfway through the journey, he began vomitting. Let me tell you - this is not a fun experience.

He's covered. I'm covered. My diaper bag is covered.  It smells.  Everyone is watching.

My husband is in the seat across the aisle and staring in a paralyzed horror.  After what seems like an eternity, but was probably more like 15 seconds, he sprang into action and alerted the bus driver who handled the whole experience like the calmest person on the planet.  Does this happen often on Disney transportation?  I don't know, but he certainly wasn't fazed. We cleaned up what we could with paper towels as the bus continued towards it's destination.

When we arrived at Hollywood Studios, we quickly exited and took the clothes off of my son and threw them in the nearest trashcan.  Fortunately, the diaper bag was zipped during this ordeal so the spare change of clothes I had in the bag were safe and I was able to throw him in a onesie.  What I didn't pack was extra socks and shoes - and those items were clearly destroyed.  You want to know how much a pair of baby socks costs inside a Disney park?  Well, I can't remember exactly but it was a lot more than at Wal-Mart.  And we just decided to bypass shoes the rest of the day. . .I mean he's only 1 1/2 right? Fortunately, he didn't get sick any more that day, but he did scream like a madman during the plane right on our descent into Baltimore.  What caused all of this?  Well, we found out the next day when we went to the doctor that he had a pretty bad double ear infection.

Why am I sharing this with you?


So you can learn like I did from my travel experiences.  As a relatively new mom on our first major vacation with a little one, I had some important takeaway moments from this that changed how I traveled with kids in the future.  First things first, always have a change of clothes with you.  I don't care if they are 5 months old or 6 years old - accidents happen and a spare change of clothes can go a long way in a crisis situation while also saving you money on buying expensive items in a theme park.  Next thing was always traveling with a few key medicines for the kids - Advil, Tylenol, and Benadryl - as well as a thermometer and band-aids. In this case, I could tell my son wasn't feeling well, but didn't have anything readily available to help him out.  Maybe a dose of Advil would have helped the fever he had (which I didn't really realize he had until much later) and made him more comfortable during the flight home.  Kids medicine isn't as readily available as it may seem too sometimes when you're on vacation so this can be really helpful!  Looking for help with a little one in the park?  Check out my Guide to Baby Care Centers located inside each Walt Disney World theme park where you can find medicine, quiet respite, changing areas, feeding areas, and much more!

The final reason I'm sharing this with you is so that you know you're not alone.  As parents, we can easily become overwhelmed and stressed and feel very alone when things go wrong - especially in public places.  So next time your child gets sick on a theme park bus, or screams on an airplane ride, or throws a tantrum in the grocery store - know that you are not alone.  We've been there too.  It's not always easy, but this journey of parenthood is the best adventure out there!

Don't Miss Disney - Holiday Edition!

We all know that there are several things that are "don't miss" items on any Walt Disney World Resort vacation and the holiday season brings it's own list of must-see attractions, events, and entertainment.  In fact, I talked about what makes the holidays a bit more magical during my Disney Parks Moms Panel Application video when I applied for the 2019 panel.  Even though I didn't make the panel, I think my video sums up a bit of what makes the holiday season extra special when vacationing in Walt Disney World.  Take a look at my video here:



Excited to learn more?  Check out my top 5 things you won't want to miss to put a little extra jingle in your bells this holiday season!

2014 Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party - This is a special ticketed event on select nights at Magic Kingdom Park.  Similar to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, you'll find all the magic of the season at this party!  From top notch decorations to put the jingle in any bells to free hot chocolate and cookies throughout the park, you'll feel holly jolly as soon as you enter the park.  Don't miss the parade during this event which features a very special guest at the end!  The holiday fireworks are also an amazing end to the evening.  You will need to purchase a separate ticket for this, but that ticket gets you entrance at 4PM even though the party doesn't begin until 7PM.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional - Included with your ticket to Epcot is the chance to take part in this spiritually mesmerizing event.  Join celebrity narrators, an orchestra, and a enormous choir to hear the Biblical tale of Christmas as never before.  There are several performances each evening of this show and it is incredibly popular.  If you want to guarantee your seat, you can book a dining package at one of Epcot's restaurants with a special reservation on My Disney Experience.  For those of you choosing to attend without that dining reservation, plan to arrive early and wait in line in order to secure your spot!

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail - We all know Disney Springs is a premiere shopping, dining, and entertainment destination, but it gets even more spirited during the holidays.  With themed Christmas trees from Star Wars to Pixar to Disney classics, you'll quickly find yourself lost in a maze of color and merriment.  One extra perk of this particular holiday attraction?  It's located outside of theme park so if you're in the Orlando area for work, fun, or as a resident - you don't have to pay park admission to enjoy with your family!

Hotel Decor and Experiences - The holiday festivities and decor aren't just limited to the parks around the Walt Disney World Resort, but can also be found in hotels on property as well.  A great way to spend a low-key afternoon or evening is by taking some time to visit different resort properties and enjoy all they have to offer.  For example, the giant gingerbread house display at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is not to be missed.  Feeling a bit more rustic?  Make a visit to Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground where you can find special horse-drawn holiday sleigh rides around the property.
2017 Dinner at Minnie's Holiday Dine

Minnie's Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine - Looking for a festive dining experience with some of your favorite characters?  Look no further than Minnie's Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine in Disney's Hollywood Studios!  This dining option is available for lunch and dinner and provides guests with a wide buffet selection and memorable character interactions.  You can find something for everyone at this restaurant and can even grab a special dining package to get reserved seating for Fantasmic later on in the evening!

This is just a sampling of some of my favorite ways to celebrate the holidays at the Walt Disney World Resort!  You'll find holiday magic around every corner and the decorations, costumes, and special events around the resort will help you create memories that will last much longer than those gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate on Main Street, U.S.A!

Ultimate Walt Disney World Planning Guide

Planning a trip to the most magical place on Earth can be overwhelming for those who are new to the experience - and sometimes even to those of us veteran mouseketeers!  There's so much to think about when planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, let's break it down to what you should be doing before, during, and after the all important 180 day mark.

More Than 180 Days Before Your Trip

  • Book Your Resort Reservation - It's never too early to plan your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation! In fact, there are some great specials you can find before checking out of your current WDW resort.  These deals, called bounce back offers, allow you to grab great percentage off rates or even something like free dining.  Regardless of whether your booking a bounce back offer or planning your vacation from your couch, booking your hotel is a great place to start.  You have choices when you book as to whether you are booking room only or adding a ticket and/or dining package.  Sometimes booking as a package will allow you to take advantage of even deeper discounts.  There are a number of properties to choose from when staying at Walt Disney World Resort, and you can find a guide to understanding those categories here!  By booking your WDW resort BEFORE the 180 day mark, you can take advantage of a little bit of a head start on your dining reservations as resort guests can book their dining reservations for their entire stay beginning at the 180 day mark.  Not sure if a Disney Resort stay is right for your family?  There are many choices around the Orlando area for all of your vacation needs! Here's a look at what to consider when staying off property.
  • Plan a Tentative Itinerary - Are you someone who wants to park hop 'til you drop or are you someone looking to relax more on your WDW vacation?  Looking to see and experience the newest attractions?  Want to book gourmet dining experience?  Need three days in Magic Kingdom or just one?  You can start answering these questions and lay out a tentative itinerary. My plan changes probably fifty times or more from when I start planning, so you don't have to set anything in stone.  However, having an idea of what you want to do on each day of your vacation will help you starting looking ahead to those dining and FastPass+ reservations.  I use a simple table in Word to layout my plans and track changes I make, but there's lots of ways to keep your itinerary organized.  
    With so many unique dining options, where will you eat?

180 Days To Go!

  • 180 days is a big milestone in your Disney planning timeline!  This is the time when reservations for many of the activities you are interested in become available for booking - namely, dining reservations!  Using the plans you made prior to this point, you can begin thinking making dining reservations to go with your trip.  Did you book the Disney dining plan?  You'll want to make sure you're using your credits and booking one or two table service meals per day depending on the plan you booked. Most days I like booking one meal per day as a reservation.  That gives us an opportunity to sit down together and take a break from the rush of the day without feeling tied down with too many dining reservations to make the day our own while we're there in the moment.  If you don't get those reservations you wanted at the 180 day mark, keep trying!  Guests are constantly changing and updating plans so days and times may become available that weren't before.  Other reservations also open up at this point including recreation activities, makeovers, and much more! Looking for dining ideas?  Check out my restaurant reviews and also other options to try when you can't get the dining reservations you were hoping to grab.
  • Update your itinerary - Now that you have some dining reservations you may want to switch park days around or change up your plans.  This is a great time to start utilizing the My Disney Experience app.  Here you can track all of your reservations and plans in one place.  Find out more about this helpful planning tool here.

It's The Final Countdown


  • 60 Days to Go! - If you're staying at a Walt Disney World Resort or a Good Neighbor Hotel, you can begin booking your FastPass+ reservations at 60 days out.  Each ticketed guest can book up to three FP+ reservations per day.  You need to have purchased your tickets in order to reserve FP+ so make sure you have that taken care of prior to this date.  
  • Confirm information in My Disney Experience - Double check your MagicBands order on the My Disney Experience website.  You are able to customize your MagicBands by selecting a color option and can even upgrade to a character design now!  This is also the perfect time to make sure your flight information is added to reservation so that your Magical Express transportation to and from Orlando International Airport can be confirmed.  There is also a spot in the website to add specific room requests for your Walt Disney World Resort hotel stay.
  • 30 Days to Go! - This is when the FastPass+ booking window opens for guests staying off-site.  History as shown that some new times come available when this window hits to allow off-site guests a chance to still get FP+ for popular attractions.  Like with dining reservations, if you don't get what you want on the first try, keep checking back.  Guests continue to change their plans right up until the day of their trip and you can sometimes find great options at the last minute.
  • FastPass+ helps you experience more
    rides with less of a wait!
  • Finalize your itinerary - As you get closer to "D-Day" (That's Disney Day in this context!), it becomes more and more difficult to change your plans because you likely have more and more reservations booked.  With that said, it's not impossible.  Most of Disney's reservations have a very liberal cancellation policy of only 24-48 hours notice.  Just be sure to check the fine print, when booking your reservations so you know what to expect!  
While some bemoan the work that goes into planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, it is really a fun way to get your family excited about the trip as your countdown to creating your own magical memories!  If you are using a travel agent, they can help you manage all of this at no additional charge - just make sure they have adequate knowledge of Walt Disney World vacations.  Have specific questions?  Why not visit my friends over at the Disney Parks Moms Panel where you can ask your own questions and get answers from expert moms, dads, and Disney fans!  Happy Planning!

Where to Eat When You Can't Get Those Hard to Get Walt Disney World Dining Reservations

Eating at the Walt Disney World Resort.  It's the reason we go there, right?? Well, it's true there may be lots of fun things to during your visit to the Disney Parks, but one of my favorite pastimes is eating my way around all the parks. . .and I know I'm not alone.


via GIPHY

Advanced dining reservations for table service restaurants open 180 days prior to your stay.  Guests staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel are offered an additional perk of being able to make reservations for the entire length of stay once they hit 180 days prior to arrival.  Still, some restaurants fill up before you have a chance to score your must-dos.  No need to fear though - there are some great alternatives when the most popular options book up quickly.  While these options are often "easier to get" it's not because they are less good.  And, as a disclaimer, even these restaurants book up at peak travel times so still follow all the tips out there to book your dining reservation early!  Let's look at great alternatives to some of the more popular options!

When Your Want to Meet the Original Gang but Chef Mickey's is Unavailable - Chef Mickey's provides a breakfast, lunch, and dinner character buffet where you can meet some of the original gang, but is also a tough reservation to get.  No worries though!  There are three great alternatives to find Mickey and friends.  The first is Tusker House Restaurant located in Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Tusker House is an African themed buffet that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well.  Don't let the African flair scare you if your family is not adventurous eaters - there's plenty on the buffet for the whole family to enjoy.  Here you'll meet classic characters in apparel fit for a safari experience! The second option is Garden Grill Restaurant located inside Epcot.  I LOVE this dining experience.  Again, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all character meals offered here and the food is deliciously served family style.  That's right - it's served to your table so you don't have to get up and miss a character interaction while visiting the buffet.  The whole restaurant is a unique experience too as it rotates through the Living with the Land ride.  Mickey and friends greet diners wearing their best farming gear.  Lastly, you can see Minnie and friends at Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club Resort for a character breakfast.  The food here is good and it is typically not a busy location.  However, since this restaurant is located in a resort instead of a park, you may want to allow extra transportation time - resort hopping isn't always quick!

When Your Little Princess Wants to Meet All the Princesses but Cinderella's Royal Table is Unavailable - I'll be honest, in my 30 years of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, I have yet to be able to get a reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table so I know how hard these reservations can be to grab.  With that in mind, there are two alternatives to princess dining to definitely check out.  Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot features character dining experiences for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that hosts an A-list cast of princesses!  This Norwegian restaurant is pricey for the food in my opinion, but it boasts great interactions with classic princesses.  The second option is the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno located on Disney's Boardwalk between Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  This was one of my favorite character meals I've experienced on property.  Here you meet two princesses AND their handsome counterparts.  Maybe it's because I'm partial to the smolder and Flynn Rider that I enjoyed this so much?!?

When You Want a Romantic Night of Deluxe Dining but California Grill is Unavailable - Let's face it. . .the entire dining experience at California Grill is hard to top.  From the fireworks, to the setting, to the high quality food, there are few places at the Walt Disney World Resort that compare.  But reservations at this location can be tricky to catch.  There are a number of signature dining experiences to choose from, but my favorite alternative to California Grill is Jiko - The Cooking Place located in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  While you can't watch fireworks exploding over Cinderella Castle here, you still get some of the best food on property and may even catch a glimpse of some exotic wildlife while you're exploring the resort before or after your dinner.

The moral of this blog post is that there are so many great restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort, you have plenty of options to explore even if you're top choice may be unavailable.  If you have your heart set on one of those hard-to-grab reservations and can't get it on the day your Advanced Dining Reservations open, don't give up hope!  I've been able to grab some great reservations just a week or so before our trip as that's the time that people start releasing reservations that they made "just in case" or that they double booked.  For even more dining reviews, including a look at dining in Disney Springs, visit my restaurant review page here.  Bon appetite!

The Edison at Disney Springs

If you've visited Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort in recent years, you have noticed the addition of more great restaurants and stores making this a top destination for visitors to Orlando. The Edison is no exception to the reputation for delicious food and a fun atmosphere.  My visit in October 2018 was a Saturday lunch reservation with one of my good friends who moved to Orlando a few years prior.  The outside presents as an industrial throwback and welcomes guests with a patio and ample outdoor seating.  It's located in The Landing of Disney Springs near some other favorites such as Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' and Morimoto Asia.

Upon entering the restaurant, the industrial theming from the outside continues.  A large clock greets customers while you check in and wait for your table.  We were seated promptly at our reservation time and found the restaurant only partially full on a Saturday afternoon at 1:00.  With the expansion of dining options in Disney Springs, availability for many of them can be found, especially if you can be flexible with days or times. On our way to the table, we walked past several recreations of inventions from the past.  There are also many casual seating options in the restaurant such as oversized chairs and couches.  The vibe inside the restaurant reminds of The Great Gatsby and a throwback to the 1920s. It's a multi-level restaurant as well which adds to the visual interest. I have seen events advertised here featuring jazz music on select evenings - this looks like a fabulous place to enjoy an evening out at Disney Springs!  While you probably wouldn't be bringing the kids out too late, it's worth noting that this does turn into an adult only (over 21) venue after 10PM.

Industry means comfort inside of The Edison
When we were seated at our table, we found ourselves faced with an impossible choice of what to eat.  The lunch menu features a wide variety of favorites including burgers, sandwiches, seafood, and an assortment of soups and salads. I ended up opting for The Edison Burger while my friend decided to give the Fish Tacos a try.  The presentation and taste were both great on the fish tacos.  My friend shared that the Mahi-Mahi was cooked perfectly and the tastes were bold and flavorful.  I'm really glad I chose The Edison Burger too.  After a few days of trying to eat healthy while working, I went all out on my final meal in Disney. The burger was topped with cheddar cheese, crispy onions, bacon, special sauce and french fries on the side - this was close to heaven on a plate!  I regret not giving the Clothesline Candied Bacon a try after seeing this served as an appetizer to the table next to us.  It features an assortment of bacon literally hanging on a cute little table sized clothesline. There's always next time, right?!?

How great does this burger look?
So what were my overall thoughts on The Edison?  I'd definitely recommend it to friends and family looking for good food and a casual, fun environment.  It's certainly a family friendly spot for lunch or dinner.  Guests can expect pricing in line with most non-signature table service restaurants in Disney with main dishes ranging between roughly $15 and $30.  With so many great places to eat in Disney Springs and throughout the Walt Disney World Resort it's truly becoming harder and harder to make decisions when planning your advanced dining reservations.  Featuring a menu that I would describe as classic American fare, this is one place where the whole family will be able to find choices to suit them.  Bon appetite, friends!

To Infinity, Beyond, and Toy Story Land!

Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort has been a magical addition to this fabulous park! Ever since Andy welcomed us into his home and shared his favorite toys with us back in the 90s, Toy Story has been a fan favorite.  We've watched Andy grow from a little boy to a college freshman and his toys have grown up along the way too learning the true meaning of friendship.  And with Buzz, Woody, and the gang making a return to the big screen in June 2019, a whole new generation of Toy Story fans are ready to join the adventures.  The timing was perfect to unveil this land and I'm excited to share with you an overview of everything you need to know about visiting Toy Story Land with your family on your next Disney vacation!

Which characters can you expect to meet in Toy Story Land? How do I think the rides compare to others across the Walt Disney World Resort?  And of course, what is there to eat?  Check it out and let me know what you love most about Toy Story Land!


Cruising into Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen

Life is a jungle. . .and then you stop and eat dinner.  When you're up for an adventurous bite in Magic Kingdom, head over to Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen and you won't be disappointed!  The name of this Adventureland restaurant may be a mouthful, but the mouthfuls of delicious food that follow will make it all worth it.  So what makes this such a great place to eat? There's just so much to love!

Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen (let's just stick with Skipper Canteen for the rest of this post) is a table service restaurant located across from the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom.  If you love the corny jokes and fun atmosphere of the Jungle Cruise, you will fall instantly in love with the theming of this restaurant!  The hostess greeted me warmly and I was quickly escorted to my table for one.  On the way to the table, we shared a few Jungle Cruise type jokes and she pointed out some of the memorabilia from the Jungle Navigation Company that is located around the restaurant.  There are three distinct rooms in the restaurant, each which tell their own unique stories.  I dined in the former family parlor of Dr. Albert Falls himself!

The waitress who served me was absolutely delightful.  I always like to ask restaurant staff what their favorite items on the menu are and there was easily so much to choose from with the delicious flavors of Asia and Africa coming to life for all of the hungry explorers!  While she shared that the Curry Vegetable Crew Stew was her favorite, I had to opt for the Whole Fried Fish as it seems like such an iconic dish for this restaurant.  I did take her suggestion and asked for a substitution to have the coconut rice.  The presentation of this fish dish is not for the faint of heart!  My boys would have been completely weirded out by staring at an entire fish standing up on mommy's plate.  The fish was cooked perfectly!  It was crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside.  I'm really glad I added the coconut rice with the dish as the sweetness was a nice addition to the meal.  While I would recommend the fish to any seafood lovers, I think next time I dine here I would opt for another dish.  With so many rich flavors on the menu, I think there is even more to explore and love here!

I dined here on the night I attended Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party so I decided to skip dessert knowing that I wanted to savor all the sweet treats that were awaiting me out in the park. As a whole, this is a fun table service dining experience inside Magic Kingdom that the whole family will enjoy.  Pricing is mid-level and provides a nice alternative to some of the more expensive character dining options that are inside the park.  Reservations here are also easier to come by then some other restaurants in the park and it certainly won't disappoint.  Bon appetite!

An All-Star Stay at Disney's All-Star Movies

When travelling to the house of mouse, vacationers to the Orlando area know that there are many choices for your hotel stay.  On my most recent Walt Disney World Resort visit, I once again returned to the bubble of being “on property” and stayed at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort.  This was my first stay at a value resort in about 15 years as recent family trips have found us preferring moderates or deluxe resorts on property or choosing to stay for free using our Hilton points at one of the nearby off-property hotels.  I have to say that I was really impressed with my stay at All-Star Movies and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there in the future or to recommend it to friends and family!

If you are unfamiliar with the All-Star Resorts, there are a few things to know first before we dive into the specifics of Disney’s All Star Movies Resort.  First, the three All-Star resorts are built along the same stretch of road closes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and include the following themes – Music, Sports, and Movies.  Each resort is very similar (minus the theming obviously) and guests at one resort are welcome to enjoy amenities at the other All-Star properties.  The All-Star resorts along with the Disney’s Pop Century have been undergoing and are still working through renovations to update the rooms.  With these things in mind, the information I’m going to share with you about Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort would also be likely to translate well to the other All-Star properties.


In my opinion the two most attractive things about Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort is the pricing and the theming.  I may drink the dole whip flavored Kool-Aid with a fancy Mickey straw, but even I can admit that a Disney vacation is downright expensive.  This is really rock bottom pricing when it comes to a Disney hotel stay with pricing fluctuating between $100 and $200 per night depending on season, room preferences, etc.  During my stay, the average price per night for a standard room was $133 and on a trip that I priced out while writing this, it came up to $114 per night.  That’s a great deal when you consider that you get all of the perks of staying on Disney property including complimentary roundtrip transportation to and from Orlando International Airport on Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours in the parks, access to the Disney Dining Plan, early access to Advanced Dining Reservations and FastPass+ reservations, and much, much more.  If you’re a family that spends most of your time out and about in the parks anyway, this is a very budget friendly option.
 
Next, let’s talk theme.  I LOVED the themes of Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort as everywhere you look there are larger-than-life tributes to your favorite Disney films.  I was solo on this trip, but my two young boys would go absolutely nuts here!  You will make no mistake about the fact that you are in Walt Disney World.  Each section of the resort has a different theme based on a Disney movie.  A quick walk around the resort will highlight Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, Herbie the Love Bug, Fantasia, and The Mighty Ducks.   The resort also features two themed pools including the main pool featuring Sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia and a “quiet pool” featuring Goofy playing hockey in The Mighty Ducks area.  The theme was so amazing that it may make be break my own Disney rule of staying at a different resort each vacation just to experience it again.
A hidden playground!


Speaking of pools, the resort does feature some amenities for families to enjoy, although this where you will start to see a different between value resorts and those in other categories.  I found a nicely hidden and shaded playground for little ones in addition to the pools to enjoy some downtime at the resort with you need a break.  They also have an outdoor area where movies play at various times.  The food court features all quick-service items – no sit down restaurant at any of the All-Star properties.  The food was what you would expect from Disney quick service – good, but not great.  It was hot and service was friendly and fast.  There also is a gift shop (imagine that!) at the resort to pick up all of your Disney vacation goodies.  There’s nothing “fancy” here and certainly no amenity that stands out to make that the reason you book this resort in my opinion, but everything was clean, friendly, and certainly met my needs.

The rooms are also another place where you will see a difference in categories at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Again, my room was clean, comfortable, and certainly met my needs, but nothing to write home about – which was totally fine because most mornings I left my room by 6:30AM and didn’t return until 10PM or later.  I stayed in a room that had not been renovated yet and that was also handicap accessible so my pictures are probably very different than others out there.  My room featured one King bed, some furniture around the room, a TV, the dressing area with a vanity and sink, and then a bathroom that was all open including a wheel chair shower.  If you are considering a stay here soon, Google to get updated room pictures.  The rooms are being updated to include a Queen bed and then a Murphy bed to give guests more options in their room setup while not compromising space.  New carpet and updated bathrooms as well as new art will all give the rooms a fresh feel.  I booked a standard room and was located in The Mighty Ducks section which is the furthest away from the main building.  I was actually directly next to the main building for Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (literally just walked across an driveway to get there) so the front desk recommended and I took advantage of using that resorts restaurant each morning and bus transportation in the evening. 
Breakfast is always better when it's
shaped like Mickey!

The last thing I’ll comment on is the bus transportation because I often hear people criticize this when it comes to the All-Star properties.  Common complaints are that it is crowded and slow to these resorts.  I don’t think I would agree with slow.  After staying at a variety of properties from value to deluxe now in recent years, I think bus transportation is bus transportation and they all run on about that 15-20 minute schedule it seems.  I will say that busses were crowded, but again, I don’t know that I’ve experienced busses at park opening or park close that aren’t crowded when staying on Disney property.  There are times that a bus is shared among all three resorts so you do sometimes make multiple stops picking up and dropping off guests.  This isn’t always the case though.  Overall, I would not have any bus concerns scare you off from staying on Disney property.  You’re in Disney. It’s crowded.  

So, to wrap all of this up, I stand by my previous thoughts here on the blog that there's not a "bad" choice of where to stay on Disney property - just what's right for you and your family.  I really enjoyed my stay at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.  If your family prioritizes budget and time in the parks with young kids, this is probably a great choice for you.  If you are looking for a quieter, slower paced resort as you want to build more R&R time into your Walt Disney World Resort vacation, consider staying at a moderate or deluxe property to enjoy more of the amenities offered there.  I hope this helps you plan a stay that is "practically perfect in every way" for your family when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort!

Find Your Way to Ale & Compass Restaurant!

Welcome to Ale & Compass Restaurant
Ahoy fellow Walt DisneyWorld Resort lovers! Recently I visited Ale & Compass Restaurant located inside Disney's Yacht Club Resort and there is so much love about this nautical inspired restaurant.  Let's break down the location, atmosphere, and menu to get an overview of all you can expect to find here.

Location - Disney's Yacht Club Resort is located on Disney's Boardwalk and Ale & Compass Restaurant is easily found right off the resort's main lobby.  Dining at resort properties can sometimes be tricky from a transportation standpoint, but guests wanting to check out Ale & Compass Restaurant will find easy access from both Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.  This is also easily accessible to guests enjoying stays at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Disney's Beach Club Resort, or the Swan and Dolphin.  Both of the theme parks and all of the hotels mentioned are within easy walking distance of this dining location.  If you haven't taken time to stroll the Boardwalk area located between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, it is absolutely beautiful and has many dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
View of Disney's Boardwalk

Atmosphere - Once inside the restaurant, you will fall in love with the calm, quiet atmosphere.  I love Disney and even get excited about people watching, but even I need a break from the busy theme parks.  I went at lunch time on a Wednesday and the entire time I was in the restaurant, there were no more than 5 tables seated.  The color scheme is also warm and relaxing with rich blues and wood finishes.  There is certainly nothing here that would overly appeal to parties traveling with kids, but it's not a restaurant that is off-limits because it's "too fancy" for little ones.  The waitstaff could not have been more friendly and I was impressed by their willingness to accommodate food allergies with such care and precaution.  While no one in my family has a food allergy, one of the ladies traveling in the group next to my table did and the waiter talked extensively with her about the allergy and then had the chef come out to review the menu with her and offer options for preparing the meals.  Great customer service!

Lunch menu
Menu - So one of the pitfalls to writing a restaurant review when you travel by yourself is that you only get to try what you eat off the menu.  With that being said, I can tell you that my meal was one of the best salads I've had on Disney property.  I had a hard time choosing with so many delicious options on the menu, but opted for the salad to try and eat a little healthier before heading into Disney's Hollywood Studios where I would most certainly being enjoying less-healthy options throughout the afternoon.  On my waiter's recommendation I chose the Roast Chicken Kale Salad.  The dried cranberries and spiced walnuts added a sweet and salty kick to the superfood mix of kale, swiss chard, and quinoa.  I felt ready to take on the day when I was finished and no so full that I couldn't blast of on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in just a bit!  I decided to save my dessert for the park later on and wrapped up my visit.  As you can see, prices are pretty reasonable when compared to other Walt Disney World Table Service restaurants.  If using the Disney Dining Plan, you'll probably get more "bang for your buck" elsewhere as that one table service credit can buy you character dining experiences as well.  Don't forget that this is one of the restaurant locations on property that offers 10% off to Disney Visa Rewards Cardholders.  Don't have a Disney Chase Visa yet?  Check out my referral link here to learn how you can save money and earn rewards with your Disney Parks vacations!  

Roast Chicken Kale Salad at Ale & Compass Restaurant
While I can't speak to the quality of the menu entirely, if the salad is any indication the rest of the menu should be delicious - and I'd love to come back and try more on a future trip.  It's a quiet respite from the rush of Epcot or Disney's Hollywood Studios and can easily be fit into your day at either of these parks.  This is also an easy reservation to grab if you're planning a last minute trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.  Bon Appetite at Ale & Compass Restaurant!  

Say "Boo-to-You" at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been delighting guests of the Walt Disney World Resort for more than two decades.  Once you've visited this event, it's easy to see why guests return year after year for spooktacular fun.  Whether you are looking for unique treats, rare characters, fa-boo-lous entertainment, or more time on your favorite attractions, there is certainly something for everyone to enjoy.  So here is a list of my frightful dos and don'ts while visiting this special ticketed event.

Do Arrive Early - Magic Kingdom Park opens to guests holding a ticket to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at 4PM even though the party doesn't start until 7PM.  With the cost of the event soaring in recent years, make the most of your party ticket by entering early.  Use this extra time to ride some of your favorite rides (you can even grab FastPass+ reservations between 4PM and 6PM!) and grab some dinner.  You're paying a lot of money for the special entertainment and characters available during the party so you won't want to waste party time eating dinner.

Don't Miss the Special Treats - Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party features many great sweet treats.  Throughout Magic Kingdom Park, there are several trick-or-treat locations which generously distribute mounds of Halloween candy.  In addition, you can find desserts and unique eats at many of the dining locations around the park.  From cupcakes to ice cream and everything in between, you certainly won't go hungry during the party.  I tried the Zero Waffle Sundae at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments which was filling and fun featuring the image of Zero from The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

Do Arrive Early for the Parade - Whether you choose to watch the early or late parade or you choose to watch it from Frontierland or Main Street, U.S.A., be sure to arrive approximately 10 minutes early so you don't miss the Headless Horseman's arrival.  Of course, if you want a prime viewing location, you'll probably want to snag your spot up to 30 minutes ahead of the parade, but this also isn't necessary unless you're picky.  I went to the 11:15PM parade and watched it from Liberty Square.  Arriving at 11:05 still gave me a front row location and I grabbed my spot right on time for the beginning of the parade.  Speaking of the parade, Mickey's Boo-to-You Parade is fantastic - probably my favorite on property.  You won't want to miss the Grim Grinning Ghosts and the Gravediggers as they captivate audiences along the route.  Of course, villains and some other favorite characters make appearances too!

Don't Head to the Party Without a Plan - There is so much to see and do you won't want to come and "wing it."  Know what your priorities are before you arrive and make a plan to achieve them.  I love meeting rare characters, but no character in my mind is worth a wait of more than an hour so I knew not to worry about Jack Skellington and Sally.  I also knew that I only wanted to do rides during the party that were "special" as I can ride the other rides on any visit to Magic Kingdom Park.  For example, Space Mountain had a Halloween makeover and Pirates of the Caribbean featured live pirates in the queue and in the ride!  I used Kenny the Pirate's Character Locator app to help me plan out the characters I wanted to meet and used his tips for timing to make the most of my evening in the park.  I also knew that I'd be able to stay until the end of the party since I was traveling without my little ones so I opted to watch the later parade and the midnight Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular which were less crowded.

Do Dress Up and Have Fun - Halloween is a time for everyone to be kids so don't miss out on the fun!  There were plenty of adults and kids alike dressed in full costume and others simply wearing festive attire.  I opted for a simple Lularoe outfit using my Maleficent leggings and my new Maleficent ears to be comfy as I ran around the park. If you are dressing in costume, be sure to visit the Walt Disney World Resort website for current guidelines.  Costume restrictions are looser during the party, but there are still items that are prohibited for adults.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was an amazing time and I hope to return again in future years.  I would still hold off a year or two to bring my kids as I want them to get the most from this special event and I know they wouldn't be able to hang late into the evening.  For families visiting the party, I would definitely recommend not visiting another park that day.  Enjoy your morning relaxing around your resort to rest up for the fun that awaits you and be in line to enter Magic Kingdom Park when your ticket becomes active at 4PM.  Here's wishing you and your family many boo-tiful memories at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.




Top Tips for Visiting Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

Chef Remy said "If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff." With that in mind, there is plenty of good stuff to be found at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival - an annual hit at the Walt Disney World Resort.  With so much to see and do, it's easy to get overwhelmed at an event of these delicious proportions.  After a recent visit, I've compiled a list of my "top tips" to make the most of your experience tasting around the world.

Visit on a Weekday - Unlike special ticketed events, the festival runs during Epcot's normal operating hours.  Friday nights and weekends tend to be more crowded since these are times locals will  most likely be able to visit.  You can also visit throughout the day and may find midday and early afternoon park times to be less popular.

Buy a Gift Card - It's easy to get carried away with food and beverage purchases as you bounce booth to booth.  Buying a gift card ahead of time with the budget you are comfortable spending will make sure you don't wake up to sticker shock on your room charges in the morning! Epcot has special gift cards on a bracelet that you can purchase on site, but I like buying my gift cards at home before traveling.  You can save 5% buying your gift cards at Target when you use your Red Card.  You know what that means - more money to taste the world!

Hydrate with Free Water - Yes, that's right - something is free in Disney!  You can get free cups of ice water at any quick service dining location.  It's a great way to stay hydrated and save money, both of which are important when you consider the array of drinks available during your international journey.  Cast members at these locations are happy to provide you with the cup of water and often asked me if I would like more than one with each visit.

Make a Plan - Before you begin your culinary cabaret, plan to visit the Festival Center first to get oriented to the festival and the booths.  There is too much to taste it all, so pick out your favorites.  Better yet, the Food & Wine Festival is my favorite time to recommend using a Park Hopper ticket.  Skip planning a meal and hop over to Epcot for lunch or dinner to check several items off of your festival passport, then visit again the next day to try even more!

Have Fun - The spirit of the Food & Wine Festival is to try new things, so dive in with both feet and enjoy!  Visiting with friends and family will allow you to taste even more goodies if you split the items you order.  Whether you are enjoying the flavors of Hawaii, New Zealand, Mexico, or Italy - just to name a few - your taste buds will enjoy their journey around the world just as much as you will!

So that's it, five quick tips to make the most of your visit to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  I hope you have fun planning a delicious visit!  Bon Appetite!

Planning a "Mom-Only" Trip to Walt Disney World

Everyone knows that my two passions besides my family are Disney and my career as an Assistant Principal.  When two worlds collide, I simply can't resist and I found myself planning a trip to Orlando this October for the 2018 Association for Middle Level Education Annual Conference.  With the timing of this trip, my family couldn't attend and none of my colleagues in my school district expressed an interest in attending so this will be my very first SOLO trip to Walt Disney World.  Sprinkling in some pixie dusted activities in the evenings following my work at the conference during the day is a must for me and, as always, I'm looking to try new restaurants and new experiences while there.  Here's a quick look at what is "new" on my trip this year:

Experiencing Walt Disney World while working - I've always only vacationed in Orlando, never actually had to work during my time there.  The conference is Thursday through Saturday with registration taking place on Wednesday evening.  I'll only be in Orlando Wednesday through Saturday and my first priority is work, which doesn't leave much time for play but with the discounted, partial day conference tickets that Walt Disney World offers for large events like this, it makes evenings in the park a real plan!  I'll be using the "after 5PM" ticket to head to Epcot on Friday night for the International Food and Wine Festival - a must do on any fall Disney visit!

All-Star Movies Resort - I'll be back on Disney property for this trip.  For those of you that regularly follow me, you know that we go back and forth between stays on and off property.  I was trying to stick to a pretty tight budget for this trip, so this value resort made the most sense.  At an average of only $133 per night, it was much cheaper than many other options in the Orlando area that were off property and who can forget the complimentary Magical Express airport transfer which was another cost saver for me!  In sticking with my goal to never stay at the same resort twice, All-Star Movies is another new resort for me and the first time I've stayed at a value since 2003.  I'm excited to check it out!

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party - The last time we visited Walt Disney World around Halloween we opted not to spend the money on these tickets as the cost for a family of four is high and our two young goblins would not have turned into pumpkins very early in the evening.  This time though, I'm ready to party!  I can't wait to check out this event that I've read and heard so much about over the years!  My conference events end at 4:00 that day so my plan is to head right to Magic Kingdom and take advantage of the early entry that comes with you MNSSHP ticket to squeeze in a few more magical hours of fun.  

Toy Story Land - Toy Story Land opened this summer to huge crowds and rave reviews.  This will be my first trip back to the House of Mouse since opening this new land within Disney's Hollywood Studios and I'm pumped to ride Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers.  I'm sure I'll have to grab a bite at Woody's Lunchbox and who knows, maybe my new ears this trip will have a bit of Toy Story magic to them?!?  This will be my first stop when I arrive on Wednesday and I'm sure my social media accounts will be blowing up with pictures and excitement that day!

New Restaurants - Currently I have dining reservations at three new restaurants around Walt Disney World during my stay.  Breakfast will be at the resort each morning and lunch at the conference, but I will be trying out some new dinner locales to broaden my taste buds!  So far I have reservations at Ale and Compass, The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, and The Edison, but those might shift just a bit depending on other availability that opens up.

So that's it!  I'm counting down the days as I tweak dining reservations, secure FastPasses and wait for my MagicBands to arrive in the mail.  I've also been busy reading up on the absolutely amazing conference sessions that I'm lucky enough to attend while there at AMLE.  I can't wait to share everything with you along the way.  If you're not already following me on social media, be sure to join the fun @dsnyrunrgrl on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/runonpixiedust.  See ya real soon!