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!

Aug 102016
 

By Ginamarie Palmieri

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Disney Springs is fast becoming a destination for dining within Walt Disney World’s property, especially with so many new restaurant destinations.  My family’s favorite spot in Disney Springs is not a new one however.  We love everything about Raglan Road Restaurant.

Raglan Road is an Irish pub, but don’t let the theme fool you.  This is not an adult-only venue.  It is family-friendly, and it’s not just a place to grab a beer (though you may want to enjoy a selection from their beautiful bar if you’re of age).  Raglan Road will give you the true Irish pub experience, with food from Irish chefs and décor which was imported from the homeland.  The restaurant also has Irish entertainment throughout the evenings, including Irish step dancers from 4-9 pm and live bands that perform both on the restaurant’s indoor stage and their outdoor patio.

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The décor is one of my favorite parts of this location.  It is covered with wood paneling, stained glass windows and brass light fixtures.  The mirrored bar serves a vast variety of beers on tap or by the bottle, wines, hard liquors and cocktails.  I am especially fond of their beer flights, but if whiskey is more your speed, they have whiskey flights as well.  While you can be seated at the bar, there are also tables and large booths located in several rooms.

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The food here should not be minimized though.  Raglan Road’s kitchen puts out some really tasty dishes.  Each table is brought a serving of brown bread with Guinness dipping sauce.  This never seems to last on our table- it is slightly sweet and a great starter.  Speaking of starters- there is a large selection of appetizers on the menu, including a scotch egg, steamed mussels, baby back ribs, and a soup of the day.  My favorite choice though, are the “nom nom wings,” which are some of the best wings I’ve found at Walt Disney World.  They’re spicy and sweet- crunchy on the outside and meaty on the inside.  Many of the appetizers are also available at the bar as “late night snacks” even after the dining room stops serving.

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The entree selections at Raglan Road are upscale versions of Irish home cooking.  The Raglan Risotto is a perfectly cooked risotto with fresh peas, pecorino and mozzarella cheese.  It’s light but also creamy, and a large portion.

The fish and chips is a large piece of fresh fish, deep fried in beer batter.  It’s a great representation of what I’ve eaten in the U.K.  Those who aren’t adventurous at all, should consider the “Serious Steak”, which is a perfectly cooked strip steak with mashed potatoes and beer battered onion rings.

Each night, Raglan Road offers a different pot pie selection, and this has gotten rave reviews from our family.  The chicken pot pie that we had on our last visit had large chunks of chicken, vegetables, a delicious sauce and flaky crust.  Best of all, the pot pie had mashed potatoes hiding at the base, which my husband loved.  The menu is full of options though, including roasted chicken, ham, lamb shank, seafood chowder, chicken curry, baked salmon and confit duck leg.

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The Raglan Road children’s menu is equally as diverse.  They can choose from classics like chicken fingers, cheeseburgers or mac and cheese, or try out more authentic options like risotto, shepard’s pie or baked salmon.  The children’s portions are huge, and we have easily split them between two young children, or taken leftovers back to our rooms for another day.

If you’re not too full from dinner, Raglan Road also has a great dessert menu which includes a decadent bread pudding, flan, an apple/berry crumble, trifle, and whiskey coated berries with ice cream.  My personal favorite is the Dunbrody’s Kiss, which is a chocolate lover’s dream.

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I highly recommend this restaurant for lunch or dinner.  It’s a great spot to have some delicious food and to take in a show from the dancers or the bands.  Reservations are strongly recommended.  This restaurant takes one credit on the Disney Dining Plan and accepts discounts from Disney Vacation Club and Tables in Wonderland.  Try it out on your next Walt Disney World vacation.  I know we already have reservations for our next trip.

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Jul 272016
 

By:  Jennifer Retzlaff

 

Food!  Yes that is one of the many reasons I love visiting Walt Disney World.  This June my family of four along with my parents, sister and brother-in-law all headed down to the Most Magical Place on Earth.   We had the Disney Dining Plan which provided us one table service, one quick service, and one snack per night per person.  We used this to our advantage taking in some of Disney’s great restaurants.   Here is a look at where we went and what we liked and disliked about each of our table service experiences.

 

Tusker House:  Animal Kingdom

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Tusker House is located in Africa within Animal Kingdom.  It offers all three meals throughout the day all in buffet form.  We had lunch reservations at Tusker House where we were able to experience a variety of food from Africa as well as traditional food like mac and cheese and corn dog nuggets.  Another great appeal of Tusker House is that you are able to meet a variety of characters while dining.  While we dined we met Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey.  Here are the good and bad of Tusker House in our opinion.

Good:

For the food we loved the mac and cheese and corn dog nuggets.  I know it seems silly that we went all the way to Disney to eat at an African themed restaurant and then eat the American classics, but they were just so good.

I personally loved the Jungle Juice.  This drink is the perfect combination of orange juice, guava juice and passion fruit juice making it amazingly refreshing on a hot day.

Our service was amazing and so helpful as this was our first dining experience on the trip and with three resort reservations, she was super helpful making sure we did everything correctly.

Bad:

The buffet set up isn’t the best to navigate.  Many feel like it is one big line causing a slow moving process instead of understanding you can jump in wherever.  We wished this was explained more to people as some dirty looks were sent our way.

Character interaction wasn’t great, but not awful either. just average.  They took pictures and signed autographs, but there wasn’t anything overly exciting or special about the interactions.

We felt the seating areas were tight and felt overwhelming as they areas get busy with guests and characters coming and going.

Overall:  

We would give it a 3 out of 5

Don’t need to do it again but thought it was a good experience once.

 

Cinderella’s Royal Table:  Magic Kingdom

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Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of the prime dining experiences for many while at Walt Disney World.  It offers all three meals throughout the day and guests order off a set menu at each of these meals.  We once again had lunch reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Good:

The atmosphere is absolutely amazing as you are in the amazing and magical castle.

Our character interaction was wonderful as each princess made special comments to our daughter about her birthday.   I felt they took their time with us which was nice and made the experience fun for all of us.

Our food was outstanding to say the least.  The meat was tender and full of flavor.  We felt that we had some nice dessert options as well here from the lemon sorbet to the Clock Strikes Twelves chocolate cake everyone could find something they liked.

Our server was once again amazing.   She took great care of us and my dad and husband got a kick out of being called lord the whole time.

 

Bad:

The noise level seemed high here and it might have just been the buzz from all the excitement.  The princesses are announced before coming out and you can barely hear anything.  There is also a time when the kids are asked to make a wish but you couldn’t hear what was being said.  I felt out of the three character meals we had, this was the loudest setting.

Cinderella’s Royal Table is a 2 credit meal which some might find hard to do.  We felt that the food, atmosphere and seeing the princesses was well worth it for us.

Overall:  5/5

I would continue to eat here for the food alone.  We all thought it was delicious and it was great to feel like royalty.

 

Liberty Tree Tavern:  Magic Kingdom

Liberty Tree Tavern is located in Liberty Square within in Magic Kingdom.  This wonderful gem is opened for lunch and supper offering a variety of traditional American meals that customers can choose from while dining here.  We had late lunch reservations at Liberty Tree Tavern.

Good:

Oh my the food.   It is so good no matter what your order.  From the Pilgrim’s Feast to the kids Mac and Cheese all eight of us loved the food.  Not only the main dishes but the desserts were delicious as well.  From the Johnny Appleseed dessert to the sorbet there was a nice variety offered.

Bad:

Our wait to be seated was the longest at Liberty Tree Tavern.  I believe that it was due to the fact that we were a large group and it is hard for them to seat large groups, so keep that in mind it you are a bigger group traveling together.

Our service was lacking at Liberty Tree Tavern as our server was not friendly or magical at all.   She asked for us to stack our plates and wasn’t happy when we asked for waters or refills.  She also forgot our birthday celebration which was stamped on our ticket.  Having three different room reservations for the dining plan seemed to throw her off as well but it turned out fine.

Bathrooms at Liberty Tree Tavern are not the easiest to get to either.  They are located upstairs and there is a small hallway I would call it that you have to wait in usually because there are only two stalls.

Overall: 4/5

Although there are a number of things that we thought didn’t go the best, I wouldn’t judge Liberty Tree Tavern on that alone.  The food is so delicious that it has easily become one of our must dos while there.

 

Be Our Guest: Magic Kingdom

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One of the newest and definitely one of the most sought after reservations at Magic Kingdom is Be Our Guest located in Fantasyland.  This French based restaurant serves meals throughout the day.  Breakfast and lunch are quick service meals where you order ahead of time whereas the evening meal is a sit-down and order.  We had evening reservations at Be Our Guest.

Good:

Service was again great at Be Our Guest.  We actually had two reservations of four each but they were willing to accommodate us with a short wait and get us seated together.   Our server was prompt and friendly throughout the meal.

The atmosphere in Be Our Guest is amazing.  The details that they put into the three different dining rooms are straight from the movie.  The Beast, in the evenings, is also present to welcome guests and take pictures.  This adds to the wonderful atmosphere.

Bad:  

This is the second time we have eaten at Be Our Guest and both times we haven’t been overly impressed with the food. The menu is limited, not unusual for a table service restaurant, which doesn’t bother us as much as the fact that what we do get seems to be very average.  Although we were willing to hide the basket of bread for later because it was so good, our main meal of steak, salads and shrimp and scallops were very average.  If you are not a cupcake fan, dessert is limited as around half of your dessert options are cupcakes.

Overall:  3/5

Now that everyone has eaten at Be Our Guest and experienced the Beast and the amazing atmosphere, I don’t believe we will head back.  That is hard for me to admit as Beauty and the Beast is my favorite movie and the castle is done to perfection but I feel like there is better food out there.

 

Chef Mickey’s:  Disney’s Contemporary Resort

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Chef Mickey’s is a buffet served at all three meals located near Magic Kingdom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  American food is the focus here with Mickey waffles and an ice cream bar being the highlights.

Good:

I absolutely loved our character interactions at Chef Mickey’s.  Each of the characters we saw (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald) spent a great deal of time with us and gave us a unique interaction.  My son got a kick out of how Goofy forgot how to spell his name and needed our son’s help.  These moments were some of my favorite and were handled so well by the characters and cast members.

Although the food isn’t anything out of this world, I really enjoyed our options.  We were there for brunch and that meant Mickey waffles and ice cream too.  This was our only meal that we had breakfast food as an option so it was a nice change of pace for us.

Service once again was great.  At a buffet this is sometimes hard to accomplish because guests aren’t always needing their server but ours did a great job at keeping up with our drinks and taking our dishes.  She also took care of our bill early on so once we had seen all the characters we could head out again.

Bad:

This restaurant is a huge favorite of kids so it does get loud at times with all the kids as well as all of the characters.   I felt like this space was better for characters than Tusker House as it just had more room for the characters as well as the guests to move around.

Bathrooms were hidden at Chef Mickey’s as they are downstairs.  Lots of them available just not on the same level as the dining.

Overall: 5/5

I know many dislike Chef Mickey’s because the food isn’t great but I feel like it always has a nice variety and the character interaction is some of the best we had.

 

‘Ohana:  Disney’s Polynesian

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‘Ohana is located around the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.  It offers a family style meal with Polynesian cuisine at both breakfast and supper.  We enjoyed supper here during our stay.

Good:

‘Ohana means family and you definitely get that feel at the Polynesian.  The atmosphere is so relaxed and welcoming that after long days at the park it is so comforting.

The food at ‘Ohana is some of our Disney favorites.  The honey-coriander chicken wings has the best flavor we have had while eating at Disney.  Although we also enjoy the oak fired meats (shrimp, chicken, and steak) we all felt the chicken wings had the best flavor.  We also liked that we could ask for more of whatever we wanted which was nice.

Delicious drinks are also fun at ‘Ohana.  They are known for their Pineapple Rum drink; however, we went another route and had the raspberry pina colada which was all sorts of wonderful.

Bad:

I am not sure we had a bad regarding ‘Ohana.  Some might feel that the entertainment is a little over the top with the singing, however, we didn’t mind it.

Overall:  5/5

‘Ohana is a must do on our trips to Disney!  We love the atmosphere and the food!

Part of why we love going to Walt Disney World is that we have the experience of all the different restaurants.  We look forward to trying some new ones next time and hitting up our favorites again.

 

Jul 132016
 

By Teresa Pittman

 

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Years ago, when my oldest grandchildren were about five and two, we decided to surprise them with a trip to Disney World.

At the time, Disney was running a great series of TV commercials. In each scene, someone would notice a balloon with Mickey Mouse ears floating past. A little card was attached to the balloon’s string. When he or she caught the balloon, the card turned out to be an invitation to travel to WDW.

Was there a more perfect idea? I got in touch with some Disney friends, who provided us with some of the balloons and cards. The night before our trip, my son and his wife put the kids to bed and packed all the suitcases. Early in the morning, they inflated and released the balloons in their rooms.

When the kids woke up, it was just like in the commercial: balloons floating near their beds with cards attached. They were so excited! The family had a quick breakfast, picked me up, and we drove to the airport. Breakfast in Ontario, lunch in Florida.

At the end of the trip, the oldest grandchild said “ALWAYS surprise me. I love it.”

Well, we haven’t quite managed to always surprise them – sometimes the planning process means we need to let them know. But we do try.

Right now, we have a trip planned for mid-August for the families of two of my children, plus me. That’s a total of five adults and six children. Baby Isla will only be 10 months old, so she’ll be surprised no matter what we do, but the other kids are 14, 11, 9, 6 and 4, so we figured there was plenty of scope for making this a big surprise.

Here’s what we’re doing:

Starting nine weeks before our day of departure (we’re driving down), a mysterious package has been delivered to the home of the older five kids each week. Inside is a letter inviting them to join in the activity (signed by Aseret, which is simply my name backwards) and a set of envelopes with linked puzzles that they have to solve. I’ve had a lot of fun creating the puzzles and tried to have enough variety that even the youngest can take part (some are designated just for them).

The puzzles all have a running theme of creativity and imagination, and many refer to some of the creators mentioned or quoted in that circle on the ground in Epcot. For example, I did one puzzle where they had to work out a code to read a quote by educator John Dewey: “Education is not preparation for life, it is life itself.” (Especially fitting for these kids because they are homeschooled.) The next puzzle was about another Dewey who created something important – Melvil Dewey who invented the Dewey Decimal System. A jigsaw puzzle for the youngest two had to be put together to find the name of the System. And where might they see the Dewey Decimal System in action today? That’s right, the library – so they headed off to the branch near their home and found, on the “HOLD” shelf, two books (purchased for them) being held under the name Aseret, with an envelope with yet another clue tucked in between them.

Once they have all the puzzles worked out each week, they get a final envelope with a letter of the alphabet in it. On the back of each of those letters is another puzzle – the answer to each of those puzzles will be a number, and the numbers help the kids put the letters in order.

They’re not supposed to open the letters until the very last day, which will be our day of departure. The kids have been told that we are going to Great Wolf Lodge (giving mom and dad an excuse to pack!), but when they put the letters together, they will spell MARCELINE.

Okay, readers, do you know what that is?

Give up? The kids will get a chance to research this online, and what we hope they’ll quickly find is that Marceline, Missouri, is Walt Disney’s home town (and the basis for Magic Kingdom’s Main Street). Then the adults will say “let’s go visit the world he created!”

And off we’ll go.

Recently in one of the online Disney discussion groups I belong to, people were talking about whether or not it’s a good idea to surprise kids with Disney trips. Some said definitely not. It’s true, sometimes the surprises go wrong. We’ve all seen the videos where the child just dissolves in tears when the surprise is announced – and not happy tears either! And some parents said they didn’t want to lose the fun of planning with their children and everyone sharing in the anticipation.

We feel confident that the surprise will go over well because my grandchildren have been to WDW before and know that we will go again at some point. They just don’t know when. We’ve been able to plan in a sneaky way by asking things like “next time we go to WDW, where would you like to eat? What rides do you most want to go on?” Or we show them videos of other people’s trips and watch what seems to capture their interest.

But every family knows their own situations best, and these kind of surprises may not work for you.

You don’t need something as elaborate as my puzzle packages, of course, if you DO decide to surprise someone with a Disney vacation. A little online research will reveal hundreds of ways that people have made the announcement, and you can personalize them to fit your family. And for people who like the unexpected, any surprise adds to the fun!

Jun 292016
 

By Roye Ann Morris

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It was 1983. My college roommate, who had also been my best friend since first grade, and I were both Disney fans, and a trip there for spring break seemed like a grand idea. Somehow we convinced our moms that we could handle the trip alone. In the days before cell phones, GPS, and Google maps, a 13 hour car trip was a pretty big undertaking! We recruited my younger sister to go along, and set out for Florida, so giddy we could barely stop giggling for the whole trip.

We had road maps and hand-written directions for driving around the larger cities like Birmingham and Atlanta. I kept the map my mom drew for Birmingham; she drew the cloverleaf around the city and wrote “No!” beside the exits we were not supposed to take. Our first stop was Macon, Georgia, to spend the night with friends. The next morning we drove on to Orlando, where we checked into the Holiday Inn, Maingate East. I still have the hotel bill; the rooms were $81 a night! My friend and I could hardly wait to get to the parks, but my sister opted to stay at the hotel pool and get some sun. So we loaded back into the car without her, and off we went!

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Epcot and the World Showcase had made their debut by this trip, but we opted to start at the Magic Kingdom. We bought a 4-day ticket right outside the park; it was so much easier to have the one paper ticket that covered everything instead of the ticket books! According to the copy of the Walt Disney World News which I found in my scrapbook, the cost was $45! Our goal was to ride everything we could, then meet my sister later. She was more excited at that point to be sitting by the pool than to be at the parks, so she said she would ride whatever we had not had time for after she got to the park. I still remember meeting her at the front gate and watching the magic of Disney surround her. Standing in front of Cinderella’s castle, she took a deep breath and said, “You’ll have to start over; I need to ride them all!” So that’s what we did!

The next morning we headed for Epcot Center, as it was called on the park information. We weren’t really sure about what to expect; we had a vague idea of what the park was supposed to be like from reading about it, but were excited to see it in person. Our first stop was Earth Station, located under Spaceship Earth, where you could book dinner reservations at the World Showcase restaurants. The Walt Disney World News advised that you should make your reservations before 10AM, as most restaurants would be booked after that time. We talked to a live cast member on what looked like a TV screen; who knew that was even possible! It all seemed very much like the future, and we were so impressed and a little nervous. Not being very adventurous eaters at the time, we chose San Angel Inn for dinner and walked out laughing about how we must have looked so silly to the Cast Member since we had no idea what we were doing!

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My favorite memory of that day was Journey into Imagination with Dreamfinder and Figment. I’m sure we went through every attraction, but this one has stayed with me even today. Figment remains one of my favorite Disney characters, and I must say I miss the original ride with Dreamfinder and Image Works to play in after the ride. We were singing the song for the rest of the day. We spent time in Communicore East and West, and enjoyed a ride through the World of Motion. Horizons was still being built.

We headed to World Showcase in time for our dinner reservation, walking slowly through all the countries, admiring all the details of each one. Norway and Morocco were not part of the showcase yet. Our dinner at San Angel Inn was amazing; we were waited on by attentive (and attractive!) Cast Members and served wonderful food. Being small-town girls, we had never eaten at a restaurant where refills on your drinks were free. We had ordered iced tea, and weren’t drinking it so we could save it to go with our meal. Our server walked over to ask if anything was wrong with our tea, and we were so embarrassed when he had to explain to us that we could have as many refills as we wanted! Again, very small-town girls!

We spent two days in each of the parks, and every minute was like being in a dream; on our own, no parents, doing what we wanted when we wanted to, and feeling safe and taken care of the whole time. I’m sure there were moments on that trip that weren’t perfect, but I don’t remember them at all. Wouldn’t it be magical to go back to that time of relative innocence, feeling safe, and having few worries? Although that’s how I feel each time I visit Disney, bringing back the $45 tickets would be magical, too!

Jun 152016
 

By Tim Rogers

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Dining at Disney World is a lot of fun. With over 100 restaurants representing numerous styles and traditions, Disney offers guests a smorgasbord of possibilities when dining (including some literal smorgasbords).

 

But what about vegetarians? If you grew up not eating meat, like me, you might also have a ready made list of restaurants, trips, special occasions, family gatherings, and more where you found that there was nothing for you to eat, or that “vegetarian” option wasn’t actually vegetarian.

 

But at Disney World, you don’t have to worry, and with these tips, you can make the most of your trip to the World.

Tip 1: Do your homework

If you are reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you that trips to Disney World take some planning, from what tickets to buy, what resort to stay at, how to get there, and more. But especially if you are worried about or just thinking about food, part of your preparation should be to check out some Disney restaurant menus.

By perusing the options, you can get an idea of the places that might have more interesting options, what some of the options might be and more. Note that many of the menus are changed seasonally, so a specific menu item you see now might be changed in a year, but you will at least know the type of options available, and they might even make it for you anyway. That brings us to…

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to ask

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As mentioned above, the first thing you can ask for is old menu items that might not still be listed. Depending on what it is, many restaurants are able to accommodate this request.

But Disney’s help to vegetarians does not end there. If nothing on the menu strikes your fancy, ask your server if there are any other options for vegetarians. Some restaurants have a separate vegetarian menu; others might ask the chef if he or she can use their creativity for you. It’s not guaranteed that this will happen, but if you don’t ask you won’t know.

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At many counter service locations, you can also get specific items a la carte or ask for meat to be left off, so as to not pay for non-vegetarian items you won’t eat or miss out on something that sounds great except for that one meat item.

But sometimes asking can just be a clarification. For example, every vegetarian is different and the standard what they will eat changes. Some eat fish, some won’t eat items with chicken stock or gelatin, but just by looking it can be hard to tell what is “safe.” So if you aren’t sure, just ask.

My favorite example of this is when my wife and I ate at the Biergarten, and through some miscommunication the kitchen got notified that we had a food allergy (special note, if you have a food allergy the Disney chef’s will take great care of you), so a chef came out to walk us through the buffet so we wouldn’t accidentally encounter an allergen. When he found out we were just vegetarians, he walked us through the buffet anyway, and that extra help let us know that one of the soups was made with chicken stock (which matters to me) and confirmed some items that did not have any meat. It was incredibly helpful and a great service from the Disney CMs.

 

Tip 3: Go to a buffet

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Speaking of buffets, go and eat at them. Besides often including characters or a show, buffets provide a ton of options for all palates. As an extra tip, look at the difference between lunch and dinner at buffets – many of them charge more at dinner and the only real difference is an additional meat option or two, which will do nothing for a vegetarian. You can get the same experience for less at lunch.

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While I have enjoyed several buffets at Disney World (including Biergarten, which is probably the biggest surprise), the one I would recommend to any vegetarian (or really anyone) is Tusker House. Located in the Africa section of the Animal Kingdom, Tusker House has safari themed versions of Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, but more importantly a wide selection of African and Indian themed foods. This theme provides a wide range of vegetarian options, all of which are great. If you are looking for one buffet to try as a vegetarian, this one should be near the top of your list.

 

Tip 4: Try a signature meal

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While Disney service is great on many different levels, the signature meals take it up a notch. Signature restaurants are more likely to be able to accommodate special requests, and the food is fantastic. I have personally experienced this at Jiko and California Grill, and in both cases was able to get interesting and delicious vegetarian options with impeccable service. Signature meals are pricey, but for a special moment they are definitely worth it.

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Tip 5: Try new things

As seen above, Disney really goes above and beyond in accommodating vegetarians who visit the parks. One of my concerns growing up, and after many of the “incidents” I mentioned in the introduction, is that I stayed very much in a narrow comfort zone of items involving combinations of bread and cheese (side note, who doesn’t love some bread and cheese though). For me, a cruise was actually the experience that broke me out of that and exposed me to a whole range of cuisines. What made the difference is I knew what I was eating would be “safe” because of the level of information, service and care given by the wait staff.

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Disney does that as well. If you, or someone you know, is a little bit of a skittish vegetarian, a trip to Disney World can really open you up to a new world of culinary options. Just get out there and give it a shot.