Oct 052016
 

By Teresa Pitman

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Imagine you’re a skipper on one of the Jungle Cruise riverboats in Magic Kingdom. You’ve had a long day pointing out the backside of water and shouting “Shoo! Shoo!” at that menacing hippopotamus. But finally, your boat is docked.

Where are you going to go for a drink and dinner?

The obvious choice: Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen. This new table-service restaurant opened in December 2015 and (the story goes) started off as a spot for the skippers to eat, with private rooms that were opened up for guests. Now it’s open to all.

Eager diners walk up to a broad white-painted front porch surrounded by greenery where they can check in. The cozy wicker chairs at the entrance give you a relaxing place to wait if the rest of your party is a bit slower to arrive. (Okay, I admit it, I actually dozed off while waiting!) It definitely has that dining-in-the-jungle feel.

We had a party of 11 (with ADRs) and as soon as everyone arrived we were quickly taken to a table large enough for everyone. The inside of the restaurant replicates the exotic feeling of that front porch, but has dark wood walls, floors and tables, making the room feel pleasantly cool on a hot day.

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Our friendly server was one of the best we’ve had: she interacted well with the children, was very knowledgeable about the menu and kept us laughing with jokes and Jungle Cruise stories.

The décor fits the story perfectly, with artifacts from the various locations on the Jungle Cruise ride, books with intriguing titles on the library shelves, an exotic butterfly collection and more. When the little ones were restless, we took them for walks around the restaurant to see more of the items on display. If you enjoy restaurants with plenty to look at, this is likely to become one of your faves!

You’ll also be entertained by the menu listings: amusing names for the various dishes like “Tastes Like Chicken (because it is!)” and “Trader Sam’s Head on Shrimp” make choosing what you want to eat more fun and remind you of the humour of the Jungle Cruise ride. We also enjoyed the Fanta Melon Frosty drinks (a Coke product from Thailand). (And no, you can’t order Beverly here.)

There is even a “Kungaloosh!” dessert for fans of the much-missed Adventurer’s Club.

I’ll confess that Magic Kingdom has long been my least favorite park for meals, but the Canteen has kicked it up several notches. The food we had was excellent, with plenty of spice and flavor, and there were options that pleased everyone from the vegans in our group to the somewhat picky little kids. I had the Curried Vegetable Crew Stew and was delighted to find that the sauce was delicious and the vegetables were all cooked perfectly.

The Canteen is now on the top of our list for future WDW trips – we can’t wait to try it again.

Sep 012016
 

By Tim Rogers

 

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A big part of any day in the Magic Kingdom is the parades. For some, parade time is a great chance to get to the more popular attractions with less of a wait, but for many guests, the parades are a must-do for their trip.

However, even if you have seen a Disney parade before, a great way to get a new experience is to change your viewing location. In the Magic Kingdom, all of the parades use the same route, and most go in the same direction, from Frontierland, through Liberty Square, to Main Street (the Main Street Electrical Parade, while it is still running, begins on Main Street and goes through this route backwards).

While you are thinking of where you want to be, or trying to get a good spot, watch about an hour or so before the start of the parade, when Cast Members begin taping walkways and putting up rope lines – this will tell you exactly where you can be.

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But for picking a spot, let’s start where every Magic Kingdom day begins – Main Street U.S.A. Main Street is probably the most obvious place to want to see one of the Disney parades, if for no other reason than you get the castle in the background. However, some of the spots on Main Street also fill up the earliest, so having a slightly different plan can give you a new experience.

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The first time I was able to see the Festival of Fantasy parade we tried to position ourselves near the end of the parade route. Start by hanging out near the park entrance next to the Emporium and Harmony Barber shop. If you are in this area, watch for a Cast Member to put a post up in the middle of the street and start running a line toward the exit to back stage.

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As the parade comes around the circle it will turn to wards the gate between the fire station and the barber shop. If you can get a spot on or near that post you will get some great straight on views of the whole parade, and some wonderful interaction with the characters on foot.

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The second spot on Main Street I wanted to mention is the upper level of the train station. Sometimes the front of this can fill up early, but the sides often have some space. Especially with the height of some of the newer floats, watching them from the same level can be really fun and let you see details you missed before.

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Outside of Main Street, the next place I have had a great experience is near the border of Liberty Square and Frontierland along the storefronts between the Frontier Trading Post and Diamond Horsehoe.

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This area is good for a few reasons. First, for parades beginning in Frontierland you get to see them at a slight angle so you can see them from the front as they approach and the side as they pass.

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Second, the porches here give multiple levels of viewing, so more good spots are available for longer. A hidden benefit of this area is that you are right next to the passage to Adventureland, so you have an easy escape when the parade ends.

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We started near the backstage gate on Main Street, and we will end at the backstage gate in Frontierland. I’ve seen parades here from both sides, first by Pecos Bill’s and also on top of the hill by Splash Mountain. Especially for parades ending in this location, you can get some nice views with the added benefit of jumping into Pecos Bill’s for a restroom or delicious cuisine.

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Viewing parades in the Magic Kingdom can be a lot of fun, but branching out across lands can make each viewing a brand new experience – so go check out your own!

Aug 242016
 

Ann Dunnington

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Fall is in the air.  Can you feel it?  Ok, maybe it’s still technically summer, but school is back in session and pretty soon, pumpkin-spiced EVERYTHING will be everywhere you turn.   If you’re planning on visiting the Walt Disney World resort in September or October, you will undoubtedly be there during a special ticketed event at the Magic Kingdom known as “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party”, or MNSSHP for short.  This event is full of special parades, shows, fireworks, trick-or-treating, character meet and greets, party-specific merchandise and treats, and little to no wait time for select attractions. This event is always a hit, and is a fabulous way to get into the Halloween spirit!  We are attending one of the parties this year, so here are my top 5 tips for getting the most out of your MNSSHP experience!

 

  • Save time, money, and potential sell-outs by purchasing your ticket in advance

Depending on the date you choose, adult ticket prices can range from $72 to $105 if purchased in advance ($67 to $100 for children), or $79 to $105 if purchased on the event day ($74 to $100 for children).  So save yourself a few dollars and purchase your tickets in advance on the Walt Disney World website.  This will also save you time by being able to skip the ticket counter at the Magic Kingdom, and prevent the potential disappointment of the party being sold out when you arrive.  There are only a select number of tickets available for each party, which helps keep the crowd levels low.  BONUS TIP:  Even though the party begins at 7:00 p.m., Cast Members have historically allowed entrance to the party as early as 4:00 p.m.!   If you purchase your ticket in advance, add it to your My Disney Experience account, and you can add up to three FastPass+ selections to use before the party starts!  Your FastPass+ selections can be between 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., 4:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., with no additional admission ticket required!  Of course, this is historical information, so it’s all subject to change at any time.  But, this allows you to have a nice restful day swimming and relaxing at the hotel, and then a full 7 hours at the Magic Kingdom starting at 4:00 p.m.!

  • Dress Up… carefully

Children are allowed to wear full costumes of their choice, as long as the costume isn’t long enough for them to trip on, doesn’t have a mask that they can’t see through, and doesn’t have any weapons.  Adults have a few more restrictions now due to safety concerns.  The new adult policy states: “Guests ages 14 and older are strongly discouraged from wearing layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body as they may be subject to additional security screening. Additionally, costumes may not contain any weapons that resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.”

Because of how hot and humid Florida can be in the fall, and of course there’s always the potential for rain, choose a costume that is comfortable and can be covered with a poncho if necessary.  Disney bounding, aka dressing in normal clothes that are inspired by a Disney character, is a popular choice, as are family-themed costumes (like the whole cast of Finding Dory).  But don’t feel like you HAVE to dress in costume- you don’t!  My husband and I will be Disney bounding this year, dressing up as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels… because we’re completely normal…  Ha.

  • Trick-or-Treating with a special diet? No problem!

Disney is known as being the ultimate destination for guests with special needs of all kinds.  If you’re attending MNSSHP and have food allergies, but still want to participate in the Trick-or-Treating fun, bring the bag of candy back up to City Hall and exchange it for some special diets treats!  Or if you don’t want to Trick-or-Treat at all, head straight to City Hall upon arrival and pick up your goodies!  These treats are generally “Big 8 Allergen” friendly, and sometimes aren’t even edible at all (think pencils, stickers, small toys, etc.).  To make sure that special diet treats are available during the party you will be attending, you can email Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com.  They always have these available at every party, but they can sometimes run out if there’s a lot of demand.  Stop by early in the party, just in case!

  • Catch the 2nd shows/parades of the night for smaller crowds

The most popular parades and shows are the first ones of the night.  If you want to meet characters that are only out during the party, like Jack and Sally or all Seven of the Dwarves, get in line for THEM early (I suggest 6:00 p.m.), rather than getting a spot for the first parade or castle show.  You’ll be able to meet the character you want to meet, and have fewer crowds around you when the later show or parade rolls around.

In regards to the best places to stand for the parade, I prefer Frontierland or Liberty Square over Main Street.  These areas seem to be less crowded.

  • Not all attractions are open during the party, so plan accordingly

Of course, riding rides at MNSSHP is not high on everyone’s to-do list, but for those that prefer taking advantage of the more popular attractions with little to no wait time (like us), this is something to keep in mind.  A few of the popular attractions, like the Jungle Cruise are not open during the party, so these would be great attractions to use those FastPass+ selections on before the party starts.  This year’s MNSSHP map is not yet available, but you can see last year’s map here.

So there we have it!  What are your tips for making the most out of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party?  Are you planning on attending this year?  Let us know!

Nov 042015
 

In each issue we share tips from our readers. If you have a tip to share send it to us at info@magically-speaking.com.

We’re looking for your best tips to share with us all about touring during the holiday season at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf take to the Cinderella Castle stage daily at 6:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (on regular park days) for the short “A Frozen Holiday Wish” show. The group, visiting from Arendelle, gives guests a treat when they convince Elsa to use her powers to turn Cinderella Castle into an icy, glittering palace. The result is “Castle Dream Lights”, featuring over 200,000 twinkling lights draping the castle to create a shimmering ice palace. A Frozen Holiday Wish and Castle Dream Lights can be seen in the Magic Kingdom each evening through December 31, 2015 and is available for all Magic Kingdom guests to enjoy.

 

Best of Be Our Guest Podcast

BOGPLogo

Each issue we will feature a snippet of what you could learn by listening to the Be Our Guest Podcast. Be sure to check back each issue for more fun.

Episode 928 – Beach Club, November Fun and Friends

Listener Barbara from Boston joins and we discuss her stay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort and compare that to her “go-to” resort of Disney’s Polynesian Village.  We also discuss planning strategies and why she picks her meals early.  Also, we talk about touring the parks with friends and making the most of the times with family!

The Be Our Guest Podcast is hosted by Disney lover Mike and co-hosted by fellow Disney aficionados Pam, Rikki and Debbie. The show covers everything from listener experiences to questions about how to make the most of your dream trip to the world! We hope you will join us each week as we share our love of all things Disney and we hope you will share yours as well. The BOGP family has members from all over the world and we hope you will join us!

Listen to us every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Be Our Guest Podcast!

Oct 212015
 

By Teresa Pitman

Eating Vegan at the Magic Kingdom

It’s the heart of Disney Magic. The first place many people think of when they hear the words “Walt Disney World.” The favorite park of most kids. But what’s it like eating at the Magic Kingdom for vegans?

To be honest, it’s not always easy. As a vegan (meaning I eat no meat or fish or animal products such as eggs or milk), it’s sometimes a challenge to get a tasty and satisfying meal in the park with Cinderella Castle. However, there is good news: it’s definitely been improving in recent years. Here are some tips for hungry vegans:

Snacks:

  • Dole whip! Yes, Dole whip is now vegan! Enjoy!
  • WDW popcorn is vegan despite that rather buttery taste.
  • Soft Mickey pretzels are also vegan, and they are delicious with mustard.
  • Check the carts for popsicle-type treats and fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • The Main Street Bakery has a nice selection of fruit and vegetable snacks as well.

Quick-service:

My favorite quick-service spot used to be Columbia Harbor House. The chili is vegan and you can get steamed broccoli to go with it! You can also get the Lighthouse sandwich made vegan by leaving off the broccoli slaw. However, I also have a shellfish allergy and was told on my last visit that there is potential for contamination of ALL foods sold in the restaurant so I have stopped eating there – a big disappointment for me.

Be Our Guest offers a hearty quinoa salad during their quick-service lunch which has good reviews.

Gaston’s Tavern has Sabra brand hummus and pretzel chips to dip, as well as raw vegetables which unfortunately come with a non-vegan dip. Makes a nice light lunch if you skip the other dip. LeFou’s Brew is also vegan!

Pecos Bill’s now has a vegetable and rice bowl, Cosmic Ray’s has a rather uninspired veggie burger, and I have heard that you can get vegan pizza at Pinocchio Village Haus. Generally, not much to get excited about!

 

Full-service:

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Be Our Guest wins for me here! The Seasonal Salad Trio was a wonderful appetizer with great flavour and variety, and the Ratatouille main course was also delicious. Definitely worth checking out for vegan eaters.

But after that, the choices are slim. Cinderella’s Royal Table serves a fairly plain vegetable and rice dish for vegans. Liberty Tree Tavern has a vegetable sandwich (with vegan mayo!) for lunch. However, if you go for supper, you will have to pay the full price ($32) even though you just get the sandwich and salad and other diners are having a big turkey dinner. So if you want to eat there, lunch is a much better value for your money. The Plaza restaurant can make their vegetable sandwich vegan for you. Crystal Palace is fun for the characters, but you’ll find very few vegan options on the buffet.

Vegan food can be tasty and flavorful, but I find these dishes are all pretty bland. On the other hand, if you are just trying to fill your tummy so you have the energy to do Space Mountain again, they’ll work.

Another option: nearby hotels

One of the good things about Magic Kingdom is that several hotels are quickly accessible. You can hop on a boat or the monorail and be at a resort in a short period of time, and that expands your eating options. Some of our favorites:

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Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness. Normally this buffet would not be too vegan-friendly, but the wonderful Chef TJ is working there now and making incredible multi-course meals for vegans who visit. You will leave absolutely stuffed and very happy!

Kona Café at the Polynesian. The Pan-Asian Noodle dish can be made vegan and is very tasty; we have also had the chefs make us special vegan dishes when asked. You can also buy Dole Whip at the Polynesian.

The Wave at the Contemporary has a Curry Vegetarian Stew, and Artist’s Point at Wilderness Lodge has a Vegan Lo Mein. I’ve also had some outstanding vegan meals at California Grill.

These options will give you meals with more flavor and spice than the run-of-the-mill veggie burgers.

So while I find the vegan meals at Magic Kingdom aren’t always as magical as they could be, you won’t go hungry while you’re there!

Oct 072015
 

In each issue we share tips from our readers. If you have a tip to share send it to us at info@magically-speaking.com.

We’re looking for your best tips to share with us all about touring during the summer and tips for experiencing the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. In addition we are looking for your best tips for experiencing Halloween events at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

At Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Halloween-themed specialty treats have been available at the following locations:

  • Gaston’s Tavern
    Ghost Cupcakes
  • Storybook Treats
    Candy Corn Soft Serve Ice Cream
  • Main Street Bakery
    Spider Cupcakes and Monster Cupcakes
  • Main Street Bakery
    Halloween Cookie
  • Plaza Ice Cream Parlor
    Halloween Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Outdoor Vending Carts
    Candy Corn Cotton Candy

Make sure to pick up your themed sweet treat at the party!

 

Best of Be Our Guest Podcast

BOGPLogoEach issue we will feature a snippet of what you could learn by listening to the Be Our Guest Podcast. Be sure to check back each issue for more fun.

Episode 919 – Mother/Daughter Trip to Disneyland

Angie talks about her Mother/Daughter trip she took to to Disneyland over Spring Break 2015.  Hear what she thinks about her first visit to Disneyland after many trips to Walt Disney World.  She also shares details about staying at two Good Neighbor Hotels, including the legendary Candy Cane Inn, and more!

The Be Our Guest Podcast is hosted by Disney lover Mike and co-hosted by fellow Disney aficionados Pam, Rikki and Debbie. The show covers everything from listener experiences to questions about how to make the most of your dream trip to the world! We hope you will join us each week as we share our love of all things Disney and we hope you will share yours as well. The BOGP family has members from all over the world and we hope you will join us!

Listen to us every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Be Our Guest Podcast!