Showing posts with label character dining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label character dining. Show all posts

Taking your Princess to Walt Disney World

Most little girls dream of being princesses.  And why not?  A great castle, fancy dresses, the best shoes, and Prince Charming to sweep you off your feet.  I get it.

A trip to Walt Disney World is where little girls get to see their dreams come true in front of them and meet those real live princesses who inspire their dreams.  So when you take your little princess to Walt Disney World, here are a few experiences that can add an extra dash of pixie dust to your already magical trip.

Princess Character Dining - A great way to get to meet and interact with the Disney princesses is to share a meal with them.  Cinderella's Royal Table is by far the most popular.  It's location in Cinderella's Castle inside the Magic Kingdom makes this a fairytale experience.  Other great options are Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot and 1900 Park Fare (dinner) at the Grand Floridian Resort.  You can find more information on what characters appear at each on the Walt Disney World website.  Since princess meals are among the most popular dining reservations at Walt Disney World, be sure to book them 180 days in advance.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - Watch your little girl become a princess in front of your eyes!  Packages here include a range of services (and a range of prices) including a princess gown, make-up, hairstyling, etc.  Each girl is treated like royalty by her very own Fairy Godmother who performs her makeover.  There are two locations in Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney.  This is another experience where you'll want to make reservations early!

Princess Meet and Greets - Chances are your little princess won't want to pass up an opportunity to share a hug with her favorite Disney Princesses.  At Magic Kingdom, you can always find Cinderella with Rapunzel and Anna with Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall.  Wait times can be extremely long to meet these princesses (over 2 hours for Anna and Elsa when we walked past in November!) so you may want to consider using one or two of your FastPass reservations for this occasion.  You can also find many princesses throughout Epcot's World Showcase.  Look for Alice in England, Belle and Aurora  in France, Jasmine in Morocco, Mulan in China, and Snow White in Germany.  These princesses are not out all day, but you will find them in their respective countries several times during the day.

Don't Forget Sofia the First - The Disney Junior fans will not want to miss out on their favorite TV princess.  You can find Sofia hanging out at a Character Greeting location just outside of Disney Junior - Live on Stage at Hollywood Studios.  Also in Hollywood Studios, you can find Sofia (along with Disney Junior friends Jake, Doc, and Handy Manny) at the Disney Junior Play 'n' Dine breakfast or lunch at Hollywood and Vine.

Of course you'll find lots of ways to interact with your favorite Disney princesses.  Don't forget autograph books and cameras to capture those priceless moments when dreams really do come true!

Disney Junior Play 'n Dine (aka Preschool Heaven!)

If you are a Disney loving parent with a Disney loving preschooler at home, you have probably memorized just about every Disney Junior episode out there.  From Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Jake and the Neverland Pirates to Sofia the First, these shows captivate the hearts and young minds of children - and I'll admit - even are fun for the adults to watch too!  When planning our trip to Disney with Brody, we knew that anything Disney Junior was a must do.  That meant that breakfast at Disney's Hollywood Studios Hollywood and Vine Restaurant was a no brainer!

Brody dressed as Jake for his breakfast!
Each day, Hollywood and Vine offers Disney Junior Play 'n Dine for breakfast and lunch.  Similar to most other character meals, this is once again a buffet.  And since we were there for breakfast, it was again similar to what you would expect to find on breakfast buffets. . .Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, meats, fruits, yogurt, etc.  The food was good and hot, but it's the entertainment here that you don't want to miss if you have a Disney Junior fan in your house.

Enjoying a piece of watermelon while watching the characters around the restaurant.
This breakfast had the best character interaction I've experienced at a character meal in my time at Disney.  I know that some of this can vary day to day depending on the staffing at the restaurant, but I feel that the Disney Junior Play 'n Dine recognizes that they are catering to an impatient audience that doesn't sit well for long periods of time.  There were more dance and party breaks then I care to count and each one featured the characters actively engaging with the kids as they danced and sang along to their favorite Disney Junior songs. 

Marching around the restaurant with Jake- pretending we were pirates!  Arghhh!

The characters currently featured there (as of November 2014) are Jake, Sofia, Doc McStuffins, and Handy Manny.  Brody is not a Handy Manny fan, but was thrilled to meet everyone else.  In fact, he spent the rest of the day commenting on how pretty he throughout Sofia was!  We didn't get a chance to have Doc McStuffins visit our table because we had FP+ reservations for the Frozen Sing-A-Long show at 10:15 and the earliest time I could get for our breakfast reservation was 9:15.  This is one character meal that you definitely want to plan for the full 90 minute experience.  With the dance breaks and extensive character interactions, the characters take their time making their way through the restaurant - which I appreciate. 

Jake visited our table to say hi!

"Why yes Princess Sofia, you may kiss my hand!"
This is a character meal you don't want to miss if you have a preschooler traveling with you to Disney on your next trip!  Enjoy the fun, music, and laughter as the kids have a great time!!

Breakfast at Tusker House

On our most recent trip to Disney, we experienced yet another character breakfast.  When in Rome, right?  Brody has always loved meeting characters and character meals have become essential on any Disney trip we take.  While Dan and I have been to Tusker House for dinner previously, this was our first visit to the breakfast.

Location -  Tusker House is located inside Animal Kingdom - tucked away in the African village of Harambe.  Once again, we opted to schedule a breakfast before park opening.  This gave us a chance to enter Animal Kingdom before the rush of people and grab some great pictures without braving the crowds.

Food - This is typically where I say that all the food on the character breakfast buffets is the same, but options at Tusker House may pleasantly surprise some.  While you will find your typical Mickey waffles and scrambled eggs, you will also find some dishes with an African flair.  The flavors were delicious and definitely not your run of the mill breakfast buffet.

Character Interaction - The characters at this breakfast included Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Mickey.  There was music and dancing too!  On this particular day, the characters were bunched together which was not ideal, but doable.  We had been in the restaurant about 45 minutes and completely finished our breakfast before we saw our first character and then we saw all 4 characters in 15 minutes.  All of the characters were playful and great with Brody.  We enjoyed autographs and fun pictures with each and then left to have a great rest of the day at Animal Kingdom.

I feel like a twin with Donald in this picture!

Unlike some of the other parks, Animal Kingdom is light on character dining experiences.  If you have a day planned here and are looking for a character breakfast or lunch, I don't think you'll walk away disappointed.



Breakfast in the Hundred Acre Wood

It's been difficult to write a post lately with all of this winter weather bringing me down.  Thinking about sunny Florida is just difficult with the snow and ice piling up outside this week.  However, I've returned to my "happy place" with thoughts of Disney once again.  I decided to dedicate some of my posts in February to love.  Tonight, we'll start with the character breakfast that I LOVE the most - Crystal Palace.

Location - Crystal Palace is inside of Magic Kingdom, tucked just off of Main Street USA.  They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner which makes it easy to fit into your day at MK.  We opted to do a breakfast here which leads to a great tip that I alluded to in an earlier post: If you're doing a character breakfast in a park, book it before the park opens to gain early admission.  Even though the rides aren't open yet, you get some quality "alone time" in the park.  The day we did Crystal Palace was Brody's first ever visit to Magic Kingdom.  It was awesome to bypass the lines of waiting people, walk through the gates, and let Brody run towards the castle down Main Street!

Can you get a more perfect photo?  A big benefit of booking a character breakfast before the park opens!
Food - Like I said in earlier posts, I think the food is pretty much the same at any character breakfast. The food was hot, lots of good choices, and even my picky eater found some yummy things to eat!

Character Interaction - This is what set Crystal Palace apart for me.  At Crystal Palace you'll find the Winnie the Pooh characters including Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.  The characters took A LOT of time with each child - really visiting and playing as well as taking pictures and signing autographs.  Brody had so much fun watching the characters with other kids and was really excited when they came to him!  
Brody had big smiles for his new friend Tigger!

The whole family had to get in on the picture with the bear himself - Pooh!

Overall Experience:
I LOVE this breakfast!  It's been my favorite so far with great characters, good food, and an excellent location inside Magic Kingdom.  They also have a dance party periodically during the meal where everyone can get up and march through the restaurant with the characters.  Brody was happy the whole time which makes for a happy mommy too!

What I Learned in Walt Disney World with a Toddler

One of Brody's favorite things to do is look through our photo book from our Disney trip.  He loves to point out the characters and all of us.  He talks to the characters like they are sitting right next to him as he claps and laughs.

When we had said that we were going to extend our Disney Cruise with 3 days in WDW, we had a lot of nice smiles and sideways looks as if people were telling us "good luck!"  Disney with a toddler does have some challenges, but it can be a rewarding trip if you remember a few tips and tricks along the way.  Here are some things we learned with our 17 month old that may help you if a trip with a little one is in your future!
Brody cruising Main Street USA!

Stay on the Monorail if you can afford it - We were lucky to only be staying for 3 days and in a relatively cheap season at Disney so we could afford the Contemporary this trip.  It was wonderful having the monorail so that you didn't have to break down a stroller for the bus ride and also endure the multiple resort stops on the Disney transportation.  You will have to use the busses for some parks, but with the young crowd you're probably going to spend most of your time in Magic Kingdom.  It also is quick to get back for naps when needed.  We LOVED this and would continue to try and stay at a monorail resort as long as we have kids that are stroller aged.

Take Breaks - Just face it now that you are not going to get to do everything in Disney.  That was a hard reality for me to adjust to, but napping / breaks are crucial for the preschool set.  We went back to the resort for pool time and nap time in the middle of the day which helped a lot.  Also, since we were traveling in July we avoided the parks at the hottest part of the day.

Cooling off in the pool at the Contemporary

Character Meals are Awesome - Little ones love the characters (well, most do. . .some run away screaming!)  Little ones are also not very patient which can make you forget you're in the "happiest place on Earth" as you're standing in long character meet and greet lines.  The Character meals give your kids a chance to meet the characters while taking their breakfast / lunch / dinner break.  I'm personally a fan of the breakfasts.  They are cheaper then the lunches and dinners and I also find the food to be the most toddler friendly for my picky eater.  Great tip. . .schedule your character breakfasts before parks open to the public if dining in a park restaurant.  You get early admission to the parks and some great photo ops at popular spots with no crowds!

Prepare to wait - No matter when you go to Disney, peak season or off peak season, you will undoubtedly find yourself in lines. . .lots of them.  Think about things that are small and easy to carry in your backpack / diaper bag that will entertain your kids if they get antsy.  Maybe download some of their favorite shows to your smartphone or someone else suggested bringing pipe cleaners that you can bend into lots of different shapes and play with while you wait.  

Take Advantage of the Baby Centers - Even if your little one isn't an "infant" anymore, the infant care centers are a great place to catch a break from the heat and hustle and bustle of the parks.  They have a nursing area if you have a really little one, diaper changing areas, rocking chairs and toys and a TV with some cartoons.  I didn't know these existed because they are so well hidden in the parks.

If traveling with a little on is in your future, best of luck!


Breakfast with Character

Today is one of those "perk" days of being a teacher - a snow day!  Snow days in my house find me in Minnie Mouse pajamas and Brody spending the day in his PJs too while we play, read, and watch Disney Junior.  This particular morning, I made blueberry muffins and fruit for us for breakfast.  After eating breakfast, we played with our new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that Santa brought us a few days ago while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on TV.  Disney and breakfast on this snowy day makes me think of the character breakfast experiences at WDW.  Today I'm going to give my thoughts on one of the most popular - Chef Mickey's!

Location - Chef Mickey's is located in the Contemporary resort.  On our most recent trip, we stayed at the Contemporary so the location could not be beat for us!  I will warn you that if you are staying at another WDW resort that you want to allow plenty of time for a trip to a restaurant in another resort since Disney does not offer resort to resort direct transportation.  This means that if you are staying at Port Orleans for example, you need to take a bus to Magic Kingdom and then take the monorail over to the Contemporary.  Within the Contemporary, this is an open air restaurant in the hotel atrium.  You can hear lots of noise from within the hotel and the monorail so it's not a quiet place to eat, but that worked well for us with a toddler who is not always a quiet guy himself!

Food - I feel that all character breakfast buffets are about the same.  Food is good - not great.  You have your Mickey waffles, fruit, eggs, breakfast meat, yogurt, etc.  I don't think that anyone goes to a character breakfast looking for a gourmet meal, but the food is good enough that it won't keep you away.

Character Interaction - Chef Mickey's is THE place to see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald at a character dining experience.  While it is great to knock out all of the classic characters in one meal and this will save you lots of time in potentially long character meet lines in the parks, I felt the whole experience was rushed.  With the exception of Donald, the characters hurried past your table - signing the autograph book, posing for a quick picture, and then moving on.  While I'm sure some of this may have been the people working that day, I can't help but also think that some of it has to do with this being one of the busier character meals and that they were trying to hurry diners in and out.  I've heard repeated stories about being rushed so I don't feel like it was just us.

Overall Experience:
Despite not being thrilled with the rushed experience, we'll most likely end up back here again - especially with a toddler.  Brody knows these characters well and enjoyed meeting them which is exciting to see.  I feel it is overpriced at more than $30 per adult, but I don't know that anything in Disney is really a bargain.  The nice thing to remember with character buffets is that children under 3 eat free.  That's a nice chunk of savings if you're traveling with a toddler and makes the character meals an easier bill to handle.  There are other character breakfasts that will save you $5-$10 per person which I liked better (I'll talk about Crystal Palace in another post), but if the classic Disney characters are a must, then Chef Mickey's is for you!