Oct 052016
 

By Teresa Pitman

dscn6572

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.

dscn6597

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

 

title tim parades

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.

1 tim parades

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.

2 tim parades

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.

3 tim parades

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.

4 tim parades

5 tim parades

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.

6 tim parades

7 tim parades

8 tim parades

 

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.

9 tim parades

10 tim parades

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.

11 tim parades

12 tim parades

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.

13 tim parades

14 tim parades

15 tim parades

 

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.

16 tim parades

17 tim parades

19 tim parades 18 tim parades

 

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

1234358_749633087669_801566564_n

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!

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:

Eating Vegan at the Magic Kingdom 2

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:

DSCN5615

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!

Jul 012015
 

By Roye Ann Morris

Disney Open Ticket Books copy

As I was going through some old photo albums recently, looking for a picture for a school project, I came across the scrapbook I had made from my very first trip to Walt Disney World. Although I had not taken many pictures, and the ones I had taken were sadly faded, it brought back so many memories of my introduction to a place that my family and I have come to love.

The year was 1975 (yes, I am that old!), and my sister and I were both in junior high school. My mother, who had recently become a single parent, was a teacher, so we were all on spring break. I can still remember reading about the Magic Kingdom being built in Florida in a Weekly Reader we had in our classroom. It did indeed sound magical, and my sister and I found it hard to believe we were getting to go! So we took off; my mom, her sister (who was our favorite aunt!), and the two of us, driving to Florida in the family car.

Looking back at that trip now, I can only begin to imagine what it must have cost my mother, not just in monetary terms, but also in worry and anxiety over the trip. Here she was, a young mom in her thirties, no husband to help, driving from her home in Mississippi from which she had rarely ventured, all the way to Orlando, Florida. No GPS, no cell phone, just an atlas and a few state maps, the kind you can never fold up properly once they are open.

My sister and I were blithely unaware of all this, of course, but now that I’m a mom, I can identify with the pressure she surely felt to make the trip safe and fun. The only time I remember being the least bit worried during the drive was when we got so very lost in a small town somewhere in Alabama. My mom actually flagged down a policeman to give us directions, and my sister and I were so embarrassed that we hid in the floor of the back seat. How’s that for being supportive!

We stayed offsite in a small hotel with a shuttle to the park. I still remember getting up very early and lining up to get on the bus. We wanted to get an early start since we only had one day. Even after reading about the Magic Kingdom and seeing news stories and watching The Wonderful World of Disney shows about the park, we were not prepared for what we saw when we arrived. I can remember feeling overwhelmed, and wondering where to start and how we would ever see it all! But mostly I remember the excitement of finally being there after the two day drive and the bus ride. I still feel the same way every time we go!

Disney Ticket Books

My mom bought us each an 8 Adventure Ticket Book that cost $6.00. Can you even imagine – $6.00 for a ticket to the Magic Kingdom! There were tickets for the attractions available, divided into A, B, C, D, and E categories. The only problem was that there was not enough of each type of ticket to do every ride in the category! And my mom would only buy one Ticket Book for each of us! My sister and I stood there and discussed (and maybe argued) which rides we absolutely had to do and which ones we could skip. I do seem to remember that in the end, after much begging and pleading, Mom bought us each another book.

Disney Pamphlet Cover

We were also given a pamphlet titled “Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World”. It included a list of each land in the park, its attractions, shops and restaurants, and a fold-out map of the Magic Kingdom. At the back of the pamphlet was a list of the resorts; The Polynesian Village, the Contemporary, the Golf Resort, and Fort Wilderness, along with everything available at each resort. There was even a section on taking pictures and movies, and tips on touring the park. One of the tips was a list of attractions that tended to develop long lines in the afternoons – the Skyway, Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Grand Prix Raceway were all on the list!

I don’t have any memory of what order we rode the rides in, or what we ate or if we watched the parade. I do remember my aunt, who always struggled with motion sickness, throwing her scarf over her face during If You Had Wings (how many people remember that??) and Peter Pan’s Flight. We rode the Skyway, a ride that I was very sorry to see leave, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, one which I do not miss! Mostly I remember the sense of wonder as we went to each new land, each attraction seeming more amazing than the last. I also recall a serious argument that lasted the rest of the trip about whether the men in the The Hall of Presidents were real!

Before putting everything back into the scrapbook, I called my three boys who were at home to come have a look at the pictures and ticket books. It was hard for them to even imagine a Disney World with only the Magic Kingdom, and tickets that only cost $6.00. We had a lot of fun walking down memory lane together, and they enjoyed hearing the story of my first trip. They also had a few laughs over the clothes and hairdos in the pictures, but that’s another story!

Dec 172014
 

By Melissa Bejer

Picture 9 copy

Magical moments around Walt Disney World are plentiful throughout the year, but somehow, around the holidays, they are even more magical! 2014 has been no different. Below are just a few memorable magical holiday moments we experienced a few weeks ago.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was full of magical holiday moments! This year, we participated in the Holiday Hootenanny at the Diamond Horseshoe.   This is a new dance party hosted by the Country Bear Jamboree fellas and also participating were Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and my personal favorite, Clara Cluck. The clock struck 7pm, and MVMCP had officially kicked off when we entered the Holiday Hootenanny. I had the pleasure of dancing with the Country Bears all by myself, as we were the first family walking in the door. There is a reason they call it a Hootenanny, it was a real hoot! Those bears can cut a rug! They played all kinds of music during the dance party, from disco, rock and roll, country and Christmas songs too. The Country Bears took a break after about a half hour of hootenannying, which left the dance floor open for Horace, Clarabelle and Clara to come and share in some of the fun. Clara was even getting people to do “the sprinkler” dance. For the rest of the night, whenever we were a quick mosey away from Frontierland, my family let me run in for a dance or two!

Picture 1

Picture 2

A good tip if you are waiting in line for Uncle Scrooge, Donald, and Daisy: the line is twice as long as Santa Goofy’s line. I was able to grab a quick Merry Christmas with Santa Goofy (he is right across the walkway from the ducks), while my husband held the line and although we still had a 20 minute wait when I got back, it felt like we got a real deal – a bit of a quadruple holiday treat for the time we waited!

Picture 3

Picture 4

Nothing is more festive than during MVMCP when it snows on Main Street while drinking your complimentary hot cocoa. If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, even Uncle Scrooge will roll his eyes are your bah humbugness!

Picture 5

We stayed at the Contemporary during our trip, and this year the resort’s festive display was an homage to Frozen, in all GINGERBREAD AND CHOCOLATE! They also had a small area set up for Frozen merchandise and some gingerbread and chocolate goodness for purchase should you sweet tooth get inspired by the display.

Picture 6

 

Christmas Duffy was greeting guests over at his usual spot in Epcot, he’s always such a fun character to visit.

PIcture 7

And file under rare character sighting (these seems to pop up from time to time around the holidays), Launchpad McQuack from Duck Tails – we found him over by the International Gateway. (Ed. note: While rare characters are just that, rare, sometimes you can happen upon them at the International Gateway. So, always be on the lookout, as these are fun meet and greet opportunities when they do indeed happen.)

Picture 8

The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Lights never disappoints. It is a holiday feast for the eyes and the ears, and every 15 minutes there is a light show to the tune of various Christmas carols. While it can get crowded while walking around viewing the twinkling lights, the crowd actually adds to the ambiance of the scene, as many people are singing along to the carols. It feels like true holiday spirit as everyone sings songs together and marvels at the wonder of it all. I highly recommend a good spectacling!

Picture 9

Picture 10

Picture 11

Picture 12

 

In typical Magic Kingdom fashion, Christmas was in the air all over Main Street! Staring with the Dapper Dans and singing their beautiful carols while playing their organ chimes (Silver Bells, Frosty, Rudolph – they have so many good tunes in their repertoire).

Picture 13

And don’t forget to catch the Trolley Show with the Main Street citizens and their song and dance medley of Sleigh Ride, Jingle Bells, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Picture 14

But Cinderella’s Castle is simply magnificent during the holidays, by day or by night.

Picture 15

PIcture 16

Food Related Honorable Mention (not holiday related, but still memorable) – The famous “croissant doughnut” that is being replicated across the globe as an alternative to the famous Cronut invented and trademarked by Chef Dominique Ansel out of his bakery in New York City, can be found at the Refreshment Port in Epcot. It has been home to the Refreshment Port for about a year now, but if you have walked past the Refreshment Port without knowledge that it is the home of mouthwatering delights, you are missing out big time. Disney’s version of the croissant doughnut is fluffy and light, tossed in cinnamon sugar and while I don’t use this word often, it is delectable! Do not pass up a chance to sample this heavenly treat. Keep in mind, if you decide to partake in this scrumptious yumminess, the Refreshment Port doesn’t open until 11am. So if you were thinking of stopping for a quick breakfast (given that separately, croissants and doughnuts are breakfasty foods), make sure you plan on eating breakfast late morning. And enjoy the water view!

Picture 17

 

Season’s Greetings to all, from myself and the mayor of Main Street, Honorable Mayor Christopher George Weaver!

Picture 18