Frozen Ever After Dessert Party at Epcot World Showcase

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

The Frozen Ever After Dessert Party was introduced at Walt Disney world last July and, while I always try to explore new experiences as soon as they are available, I was just able to experience this event for the first time!

This special ticketed event is sold separately, and theme park admission is required in addition to your party ticket.

You can arrive for check-in at any time but it’s best to arrive early to get the most out of your party experience. You will receive a sparkly wristband [the MagicBand is mine] when you check-in and the “doors” officially open at 7:45 pm and tables are assigned so if you are a smaller party, like me and my husband, you will be seated with other 

Guests that you may not know.  Once seated you can partake of  the food and beverage buffets set up throughout the reserved party area.

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From fresh fruits and breads with cheese fondue to sweet treats specially designed with a ‘Frozen’ theme, the buffet also included warm pudding treats [with ice cream if you like] and fun Freeze Fried Salted Caramel Popcorn at the Nitro Station. In addition, there were specialty Frozen-themed beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, as well as beer and wine.


Then, from the special VIP reserved viewing area we were able to get an amazing view of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.


It seemed as if the fireworks were right above our heads – and with our reserved seating, we were able to enjoy the fireworks display comfortably without anyone blocking our view.


They even gave us all special viewing glasses that made the fireworks look like they had snowflakes around them – I wish I could have gotten a photo of that for you!!


After the fireworks ended, we were then escorted to the Frozen Ever After ride for a private, no waiting experience!


If you or your little ones love Frozen, I highly recommend this reserved experience.

Check My Disney Experience for more information and to reserve your experience online – Frozen Ever After Dessert Party at Epcot World Showcase – or contact your Travel Agent!

New Details Emerge at a Toy Story Land Industry Showcase

written by Sara Toerner, Travel Specialist

A park-wide reimagination has been revealed for Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida and new details emerged recently at an industry showcase hosted by the Walt Disney Company.

Toy Story Land Opens June 30
Hollywood Studios invites guests into an immersive world of Hollywood music, theater, and film and this year marks one of the most exciting enhancements since its debut in 1989. Disney World’s Incredible Summer brings big changes to Disney parks, particularly the opening of Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios June 30, 2018.

What makes this such an exciting time at Disney World?
Toy Story is a movie franchise that began in 1995 with the release of the first film, in which Andy’s entourage of toys (led by cowboy Woody) is rocked by newcomer, and Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear. The series continued with the success of Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, granting the franchise multi-generational appeal.

At a recent tourism industry showcase, The Walt Disney World Company revealed that guests will step into a NEW eleven-acre playland in the larger-than-life setting of Andy’s imagination. Andy has designed the perfect play space decorated with more than 400 toy blocks and towering toys from the hit Toy Story franchise, including the stars of the movies Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

Toy Story Land brings the addition of new attractions to Hollywood Studios
***Slinky Dog Dash send riders dipping and dashing around blocks, stretching Slinky’s coils to the max on a coaster that the whole family can enjoy together.
***On Alien Swirling Saucers, guests climb into a toy rocket and hang on for dear life among high-energy music, lighting, and sound effects. Alien Flying Saucers is designed to look like one of the three-eyed alien play sets and sends guests flying around while trying to capture our vehicle. If we’re lucky we may be captured by the claw!
The entrance to Toy Story Land is near Toy Story Mania, which remains one of Hollywood’s top attractions and falls in line with the theme of the new Land.
***New intelligence reveals that the height requirements are 38’ for Slinky Dog Dash and 32’ for Alien Swirling Saucers. Just confirmed – BOTH new attractions will be eligible for FastPass+!!!

Also announced as part of the massive addition:
The toys have turned Woody’s lunch box into new eatery, aptly named “Woodys Lunch Box.” Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Woody’s participates in the Disney Dining Plan and features a new style of cuisine (which we nickname “lunch box fusion”) with tasty treats like three-cheese grilled cheese and a banana split parfait. Guests can take home treasures from their visit to Toy Story Land in new merchandise locations – keep an eye out for collectible trading pins with new attraction logos and a light-up tumbler that guests can take home as a souvenir.

Toy Story movies are light-hearted, inspiring, fun films that the whole family can enjoy together. Toy Story Land is designed the same way – to provide families with a fun place to play together in a space that entertains both young and old.

Contact Wish Upon a Star with Us to book YOUR next Universal Studios, Disney, or Cruise vacation. You’ll appreciate the personal knowledge and professional assistance provided while planning a memorable vacation experience.

Magic Bands Are Disney’s Hottest Trend And A Must Have For Every Disney World Vacation

written by Sara Toerner, Travel Specialist

Be on the lookout for the next big headline: Magic Bands are the HOTTEST trend in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, and Milan. Disney Passholders and Florida Residents know that Magic Bands are a practical tool, essential to the ideal Disney World vacation experience but they’re also a customizable accessory. We wear ours loud and proud!


See, this family’s love for Disney parks runs deep. I’m a vacation planner specializing in Disney cruises but we’ve had a lot of fun over the years planning visits to Disney’s Florida and California parks, too. There’s a little something special at Disney World in Florida though, and it’s free with every Disney resort stay.


So, Disney guests this next one is for you. Be nice. ?

I may have let my love for “MB’s” go a little too far this time….

Ode to Magic Bands
Dear Band,
on my hand
with hip,
microchip.

Accessory so fine,
Even diamonds won’t shine.
Turkey legs on demand;
Divine.

Silhouette of the season
SO fierce. SO rad.
This year’s trends
MB’s make sad.

Sweet Band,
on my hand
with slick, clever tricks
Onyx parallels, vibrant hues
Nubby clip, fashion DO.

Finally! Customize purple!
I just have to have it in blue.
(Wait…. did someone say,
now there’s a version TWO?)

Oh, string of Skittles
With Magical powers
You are my sun through
Summer showers.

Mighty Fortress of PhotoPass
Headmaster of Hacks
Deliverer of Drinks
Sacred Servant of Snacks

So simple yet understated.
Standard-issue but custom planned.
You may look like a basic wrap,
But you’re my Magic Band!

Hold my ticket. Get my door.
I SAY, you DO!
Matte ribbon of wonder
I LOVE YOU!

Do you sport your MB with pride? Do you plan to stalk the mail carrier until your Magic Band package arrives or know someone who does? Copy and paste the web link above and share. Magic Band lovers unite!

Narcoossee’s Signature Dining at Walt Disney World Resort

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

I have eaten at many of the Signature Dining locations on Disney property, with plans to try the rest very soon – but they keep adding more!


Narcoossee’s, located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, was definitely a favorite! The venue is not very large, and the restaurant location is a bit hidden, but it does offer a panoramic view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant from the waterfront verandah.


Narcoossee’s offers steak and seafood – including whole-steamed Maine lobster. And, like all Walt Disney World Resort restaurants, a tasty kids menu too! Dining Plans are accepted and this Signature Dining experience requires 2 meal entitlements per person.

I shared my dining experience with my husband and a good friend. To start, we ordered the Artisan Romaine Wedge with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Herbed Mascarpone, Tomato, Avocado, and Parmesan along with the Shrimp and Crab Cake with a Creamy Rémoulade Sauce and Red Quinoa-Cabbage Slaw. Both were visually appealing and well prepared.











Our entrees were both sea & land selections and we shared the Narcoossee’s Signature Mashed Potatoes made with Boniato-Russet Mash, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Tillamook Cheddar, Scallions. This dish was excellent! The portion size was large, the potatoes were perfectly prepared, the bacon was thick and very flavorful and it was hot when delivered to our table.

For our main courses we chose Benne-crusted Herbidean Salmon with Haricot Verts, Vidalia Onion Soubise, and Peanut Romesco and the Grilled Grass Fed Filet Mignon with Yukon Gold Rustic Mash, Seasonal Vegetable, Red Wine-Oxtail Reduction – the filet was my choice and I requested the Roasted Brussel Sprouts in place of the Seasonal Vegetables. I am particular about my Brussel Sprouts and these were some of the best that I have had on property and my steak was cooked to perfection!

 

We all chose to skip dessert, although there were many sumptuous offerings that sounded very tempting – especially the ‘Narcoossee’s Candy Bar’ – a Dark Chocolate-Mocha Bar with House-made Guanaja Chocolate Gelato!

In addition to a delicious meal, we were pleased to learn that Narcoossee’s also carries a couple of our favorite adult beverages – Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer for my husband and Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon for me.

If you are planning to visit Walt Disney World Resort, I highly recommend Narccoossee’s for food, service and atmosphere. Reservations are recommended at this and all Signature Dining experience restaurants and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit. Menus are subject to change.

All Signature Dining experiences at Walt Disney World Resort have a ‘business casual’ dress code…
        Men may wear slacks, jeans or dress shorts and collared shirts. Jackets are optional.
        Women may wear dresses, skirts or dress shorts with blouses or sweaters.
Not permitted in the dining room are tank tops, swimsuits, swimsuit cover-ups, hats for gentlemen, cut-offs, torn clothing and shirts with offensive language or graphics.

Minnie Van Service – Walt Disney World

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

Have you heard about the new ‘Minnie Vans’ at Walt Disney World? I recently had the opportunity to experience this new way to get around property.

With the new ‘Minnie Van’ service, all vehicles are driven by Disney Cast Members and the vans are owned and operated by Disney. Service is offered from 6:30 am – 12:30 am daily (subject to change). Currently, you use your Lyft app to request a ride. The flat rate of $25.00 will get you anywhere on property from a designated originating resort and if you would like to tip your Disney Cast Member, tipping is also available through the Lyft app. If all goes as planned, within about 2 years, Disney plans to expand their fleet and offer originating rides from more resorts and locations on property, and add the service to the My Disney Experience (MDE) app.

To be eligible to use the new ‘Minnie Van’ service, you must be staying on property at one of the designated originating resorts –

**UPDATED: February 27, 2018 – Check back for future updates.

To get started, you must have a Lyft account already set up on your phone through the Lyft app, and there is a one-time set up process using the phone number that you use with your Lyft app.

Note: On your arrival at one of the designated originating resorts, your MDE app should notify you that the ‘Minnie Van’ service is available and you can complete the set up right from your MDE app. If you miss that notification, just inquire at the front desk for set up.

And, Landon, at Bell Services at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort is the expert at that location but any Cast Member at Bell Services or the front lobby desk can assist you with set up and questions.

Once you are set up with the service, you are ready to request your first ride!

You should plan to reserve your ride about 15 minutes before your preferred pick-up time as wait times can be 15-20 minutes. The standard ‘Minnie Vans’ will seat up to 6 guests and all carry 2 car seats and each will accommodate rear facing up to booster. Vans are configured with bucket seats in the front row, captain’s chairs in the second row, and a third row bench seat that is best suited for your little ones or smaller adults. All vans offer phone charging via USB ports, and rear seat climate controls to help you adjust the temperate to your liking. And our driver even had Disney music on the radio!

If you require a mobility van, which will accommodate one mobility scooter/vehicle and up to a total of 8 guests, you will need to ask the front desk to request this type of van for you. There are 2 mobility vans currently in the fleet.

The $25.00 flat rate is per vehicle so, if your group is larger than 6 guests for a standard van or 8 guests for a mobility van, you will need to request 2 vehicles from separate Lyft accounts and pay the $25.00 flat rate each.

The ‘Minnie Vans’ will only provide service on Disney property – no airport pick up or drop off service. They will make multiple stops if needed – for example, if you originate at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and you have friends staying at Pop Century that you would like to stop and pick up – as long as you are all going to same destination and you all fit in one vehicle you’re set! The ‘Minnie Vans’ will also make quick stops (around 5 minutes) at non-Disney locations on property, such as gas stations and McDonald’s.

If you are headed to experience the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, your ‘Minnie Van’ will drop you off right at The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort so you can skip the bus. At Magic Kingdom, they drop off and pick up at Bus Stop #11 in the bus loop – however, the Lyft app will show Ticket & Transportation Center. At the larger resorts, the ‘Minnie Van’ will pick up and drop off close to your room. And, if you take a ‘Minnie Van’ to a destination on property from your designated originating resort you can absolutely request a return ride!

If you happen to lose any items during your ‘Minnie Van’ ride, they will try to get your Lost & Found items back to the location closest to where you were dropped off or originated from.

I would definitely suggest trying the new ‘Minnie Van’ service, especially for early morning dining reservations, signature dining experiences where you a bit more dressed up or getting back to your resort at park closing after a full day of parks. It’s quick and convenient and, well, it’s just FUN to ride in that red polka dot ‘Minnie Van’!!

The Pirate’s League

Show your Pirate side the next time you visit Magic Kingdom park!

Similar to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience, which is for ages 3-12, The Pirates League is a makeover experience that the whole family (ages 3 and up) can enjoy together! Choose from pirate, empress or mermaid options, all with coordinating accessories to complete your makeover. Most pirate packages include facial makeup and hair, sword and The Pirates League logo sash, reversible bandanna, earring and eye patch, The Pirates League bag, temporary pirate tattoo, unique pirate coin necklace, pirate’s key, official pirate name and personalized pirate oath. The mermaid packages include luminous mermaid makeup and makeup palette and nail polish, mermaid hairstyle and color-changing hair clip, distinctive mermaid necklace, mermaid sash and bracelet.

Our little pirate chose the zombie pirate makeover because it was scary. Your first task for your makeover is to determine your pirate name by spinning a wheel which turns a treasure chest to roll the dice. The num

bers on the dice lead you to your pirate name.  Our zombie’s official pirate name was ‘Benjamin Sharkstench’.

All of the ‘Pirate Masters’ are friendly and very good with the little ones, telling jokes and sharing pirate stories as they transform your pirate. If it’s your birthday, be sure to let them know and they whole crew will sing you a pirate birthday song!

Once your makeover is complete, you are sworn in to The Pirates League and taken to a hidden chamber where your Pirate Master will surprise you with a bit of pirate treasure.

Our little pirate enjoyed this makeover experience. One of his favorite parts was that during our day in the park everyone was looking at him and commented how awesome his face paint was.

For the money and the experience, I highly recommend this makeover. It’s much easier to confirm a reservation than the Bibbidi Bobbidi Bo

utique and adults can participate too – I think, one day soon, my husband and I might just have our own pirate makeover experience!

The Pirates League is located between the entrance of Pirates of the Caribbean and Plaza del Sol Bazaar. Reservations are recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance, packages start at $39.95.  Options for the basic pirate and mermaid packages can even include an entire pirate or mermaid outfit, for an additional charge.

Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park opened on May 27, 2017 bringing a flight simulator based banshee attraction and boat ride through the landscape of Pandora.

As you enter, you walk through the Valley of Mo’ara and the enormous floating mountains are all around you. The valley is also home to many unique species of plants that can only be found on Pandora. There is a Na’vi-built drum circle, containing instruments you can play, Na’vi totems and other cultural items found throughout the land as well as two new Wilderness Explorers challenges with badges to collect.

This new land offers 2 new ride experiences as well as a Quick Service dining option, a beverage stand, and, of course, Pandora – The World of Avatar themed shopping experiences too!  Make sure you experience Pandora – The World of Avatar both in the day and at night because the land comes to life with beautiful bioluminescence each night!

Rides:

Avatar Flight of Passage (44″)
This experience is an exhilarating, 3D ride where you fly on the back of a mountain banshee offering you a breathtaking, first-person flight over the moon’s incredible landscape. It is for those 44” and taller and is quite a thrilling ride. Once you enter, there is a pre-experience queue similar to DINOSAUR that is narrated by video conferencing but that is also interactive. Once you enter the flight room, you mount your own banshee and prepare to take flight. Many have compared this experience to Soarin’ but it is SO MUCH MORE! This is not just a view of the World of AVATAR; this ride truly immerses you in the land!  FastPass+ is highly recommended for this new experience.  Even if you don’t have FastPass+, the standby queue is quite amazing in itself!

Na’vi River Journey
This experience is a boat ride that takes you on a journey deep into a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs that the whole family can enjoy.  It is similar to boat experiences at the other Walt Disney World parks.  The boats each have two rows that will comfortably seat 4 Guests each.  After coasting through a series of caves, and passing by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures of the rainforest, you’ll soon find yourself face-to-face with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs. Your adventure comes to a conclusion as the Shaman demonstrates her deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through the power of her music.

 
 
 
 
 

Dining:

The new Pandora – World of AVATAR dining and beverage options are Satu’li Canteen and Pongu Pongu, meaning “Party Party” in the language of the Na’vi. Both offer themed menu items with Satu’li Canteen offering Quick Service dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner and Pongu Pongu offering a quick stop for themed beverages. Of course, my favorite treat on the menu was the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse!

Mobile Food Ordering:

On opening day, Walt Disney World also introduced mobile ordering – only available at Satu’li Canteen. Simply find a table at the canteen area and, using your My Disney Experience Mobile App, you can easily place your order for food and beverage and will be notified via your app when your order is ready. You will only need to know your order number for pick-up. Currently, to use Mobile Order, your MDE account must have a credit card linked and all charges will be applied to the linked credit card – Disney Dining Plans and Gift Cards are not accepted. Mobile Order will expand to other quick service locations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park this summer – and hopefully property-wide soon after!

Entertainment:

Entertainment on Pandora – The World of Avatar is focused around a Na’vi-built drum circle, containing instruments you can play, Na’vi totems and other cultural items found throughout the land. Swotu Wayä – which means “Sacred Place of Song” – is located in the heart of Mo’ara Valley and has the most beautiful backdrop of any stage at Walt Disney World! Performances are fun and interactive with a message of peace and can be seen every hour on the half starting at 10:30 am until 30 minutes before Pandora closes.  *Please check Time Guides for updated performance times.

Shopping:

For Pandora – The World of Avatar themed shopping, this new land offers Windtraders, which is the exit for Avatar Flight of Passage where you can choose from Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more. And Colors of Mo’arais a retail kiosk that also offers Na’vi-inspired face-painting.

Wilderness Explorers:

While exploring Pandora – The World of Avatar, stop by the Wilderness Explorer stations and earn two new badges!

Experiences at Night:

Once darkness falls, the many unique and exotic plants of Pandora come to life with their beautiful bioluminescence in many different shades and patterns – even the ground you walk on is full of beautiful color! Look for interactive experiences throughout the land too – floating plants that respond to your arm movements and more. And it’s not only the colors that will surprise you, even the sounds of this amazing land change after sunset. As you move through Pandora at night you can occasionally hear the calls and footsteps of the many fantastic beasts that populate the nearby mountains.

 

 

Maximize Your Time:

There are some great ways to maximize your experience in The World of Avatar with extended theme park hours, “Extra” Extra Magic Hours for resort Guests and FastPass+!

*TIP: Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey are both Tier 1 FastPass+ selections at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. If you are only planning for one day at this park, I highly recommend FastPass+ for Avatar Flight of Passage and doing Na’vi River Journey as standby. However, if you are a resort Guest the “Extra” Extra Magic Hours may give you the opportunity to do both without FastPass+.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits: Crystal Boston, Missy Tillman, Debi Mitchell     

Rivers of Light–Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

The long awaited ‘Rivers of Light’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park has finally made it’s debut!

Rivers of Light is located in the park’s Discovery River lagoon between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest. It features water fountains, mist screens, floating lanterns, fire effects, lasers, lights, fog, projection mapping as well as live performers and incorporates the park’s Tree of Life into the show too .

This new nighttime experience celebrates the beauty of all living things. With a brilliant fusion of water, sound and light, it’s a unique experience that will entertain the whole family!

Rivers of Light is staged in the middle of the Discovery River, with seating split in two sections: on the shores of Asia in front of Expedition Everest, and along the banks of DinoLand U.S.A. in front of Finding Nemo—The Musical. All of the seats in Asia – half of the show’s 5,000 seats – are reserved for Guests with FastPass+. The other half of the seats, on the DinoLand side, are for those booking the Rivers of Light dining packages (available at Tusker House or Tiffins) and for standby Guests. There are also very limited, partially obstructed viewing areas around the river. I have viewed from all 3 areas and I highly recommend the dining package viewing area if you plan to see this new experience!

As sunlight fades, the ‘stars’ begin to twinkle in the trees surrounding Discovery River. A vibrant awakening of flitting fireflies leading to a ceremonious procession across the water of floating lotus blossoms that morph into colorful dancing fountains and over-sized animal sculptures – tiger, turtle, elephant, and owl – that light up in various colors.

The show begins with four flickering, lotus flower lanterns floating on the lagoon. They’re soon joined by shamans. The shamans conjure the forces of fire and water to reveal the majesty of the natural world, mostly as video projections on a huge water screen projected at the back of the lagoon.

In the final moments, the largest lotus sprouts a blazing tower. This magnetic display culminates in a triumphant blend of song, light, color and earthly elements. We are all bound together by earth and spirit — past, present and future.

Rivers of Light joins other nighttime experiences recently added to Animal Kingdom, including the sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris, Discovery Island Carnivale, Harambe Wildlife Parti and the Tree of Life awakening. Be sure to watch the video posted above, my photos do not do this show proper justice!

 

My Top 5 Places to Eat Breakfast at Disney World…

….That You May Not Have Thought About

written by Sally Portera, Travel Specialist

I am sure that y’all know the classic favorite breakfasts at Walt Disney World: Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Castle, Crystal Palace, Akershus…  While those can be fun places to eat breakfast, I find that they are typically crazy busy, loud and can be hard to secure reservations (understatement!).  This top 5 list offers a variety of food options, character experiences and give you the opportunity to choose between a leisurely breakfast and a quick bite.  They can also expose you to resorts you may not have visited and are a great first or last meal on your next Disney World vacation!  Also, many of these great places do not require a dining reservation at 6 am 180 days in advance.  Here they are in no particular order!

1. Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House

This restaurant is one of my favorites for a great lower key character experience, especially for little ones.  This was actually where my son first met Mickey when he was three.  Smaller than Chef Mickey’s, it’s not as loud or busy and the characters have more time to spend with your kids.  Donald, Mickey, Goofy and Daisy are decked out in their safari gear.  I also enjoy the food there so much!  For those with a more adventurous palette, there are amazing African–inspired options.  My favorite are the sweet plantains, mealie pap (aka cheese grits) and ham with sweet and spicy mustard sauce.  For picky eaters, Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon, and breakfast pastries are offered.  We alternate between reservations before park opening and at around 1030 so we can catch both breakfast and lunch.  Tip: The other great thing about Tusker House is that, as a hidden gem, reservations can easily be made and changed last minute.

2. Boma

Love, love, love, Boma breakfast!  What a great excuse to visit Animal Kingdom Lodge!  The awe I experience entering the lobby at Jambo House and the opportunity to visit the animals never gets old for our family.  It is also relatively easy to get reservations, even last minute.  When you first sit down, the server will offer you my favorite, POG juice (passion fruit, orange, and guava).  I discovered it in Hawaii earlier this year and can’t get enough!  In addition to the standard Disney buffet fare, you can select a made to order omelet, scrambled eggs with goat cheese and chives, hand-carved African ham and turkey, and A-MA-ZING French bread pudding with pecan caramel sauce.  I don’t normally like bread pudding, but this one is a delightful “dessert” to end a great breakfast!

3. Be Our Guest

Who doesn’t love eating any meal in a Castle?  This reservation can definitely be tough to get, especially if you want a reservation prior to park opening.   The day that we ate there this summer, we were able to ride Seven Dwarves Mine Train twice before the park even opened!  Tip: With Early Morning Magic being offered at the Magic Kingdom now on select days, this will not always be possible.  I enjoyed the Croque Madame – an open-faced egg sandwich with ham and topped with a Gruyere cheese bechamel sauce.  I hear the croissant doughnut is sweet and tasty!  One thing to be aware of: the Feast a la Gaston breakfast could definitely be a more bountiful feast.  Fortunately, a basket of small pastries is served at each table and happily provided us a box to take with us for snacking later in the day.  Cost-wise, this is the best use of a quick service dining credit for breakfast in all of Disney World.

4. Garden Grill

We experienced Garden Grill for the first time our last visit and loved it!  Located in the Land Pavilion at EPCOT, Garden Grill is a rotating restaurant with two levels of booths facing out towards the Pavilion and rotates over the Living with the Land attraction.  We made nearly one full rotation while we ate.  It feels very private.  I could hardly hear the family that was next to us.  Another perk is that the food is served family style so there is no worry about missing a character while off at the buffet.  The server made sure Farmer Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale had all been by to visit with us before we finished our meal.  Our meal started with cinnamon rolls served in a cast iron skillet followed by Mickey waffles with Nutella chocolate sauce, scrambled eggs with salsa, bacon, sausage and potato barrels.  They also serve my favorite POG juice here and I was able to get a cup to go!

5. Kona Café/Captain Cook’s

Located at the Polynesian Resort, the popularity of ‘Ohana eclipses Kona, but I enjoy eating at Kona more for both breakfast and dinner.  The favorite breakfast entrée is the Tonga Toast.  If you like French toast and bananas, you will love the Tonga toast.  At Kona café, it is served with strawberry compote and bacon or sausage.  At Captain Cook’s, the Polynesian’s quick services restaurant, you can also get the Tonga Toast, but it does not come with the strawberry compote.  Both ways are delicious, but the strawberry compote does help moisten the toast.  The price difference is $6.50, so I will let you decide how important the compote is!  I love that you can enjoy the Tonga Toast whether you are in a hurry or want a relaxed meal.  They do offer more specialty items than just Tonga Toast at Kona.  The Macadamia-Pineapple pancakes are also delicious!   Tip: Don’t eat at Kona Café using the dining plan.  It is not a good use of a table service credit.  Captain Cook’s offers the Tonga Toast, but not the specialty pancakes for a quick service dining credit.

 

My runDisney Experience

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

Are you thinking about participating in a runDisney event?  In 2016 I experienced several runDisney events. My goal for 2016 was to run my very first Half Marathon events and earn my Coast to Coast Race Challenge medal. I wanted to get a feel for the runDisney race experience before I jumped right into the qualifying events to earn my Coast to Coast Race Challenge so I started with the Princess 5K at Walt Disney World Resort in February then moved up to the Star Wars Dark Side 10K in April, also at Walt Disney World Resort and finished my year with the Disneyland Half Marathon in California in September and the big finale was the Wine and Dine Half Marathon back at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida! Each event was so different yet had similarities and it was an amazing year of runDisney!

runDisney events are held on weekends, typically beginning on Thursday, ending on Sunday. There is always an Expo for each event and I recommend going to the Expo as early as possible as I found that popular items sell out quickly. You will also receive a t-shirt for each race you are registered for and a finishers medal for each race you complete. Also, runDisney will provide you with a course map prior to your event date. Each race has a bit different course due to the length differences.

With my first event, the Princess 5K at Walt Disney World Resort, we met at Epcot at 5 am and it was a very chilly morning for Florida. I had a little time before heading to my corral to enjoy the pre-party with DJ and character photo opportunities. I ended up in corral B so I had a quick start once the race got underway.  The course took us around Epcot’s parking lots on surface roads and then through some backstage areas before moving through the World Showcase and then Future World, finishing near the Start line in the parking area. It was pretty magical to run through Epcot in the dark without the crowds and it was a great introduction to the runDisney events!

For my second event, the Star Wars Dark Side 10K at Walt Disney World Resort, we met in the parking lot at Epcot again. This time the course took us through Epcot and then out the International Gateway and around the Boardwalk before heading over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and finishing at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Again, it was very magical to experience this side of Disney! There were, once again, DJ’s, character photo opportunities and entertainment before and after the event as well as on the race course – this time Star Wars themed! This was a tougher course with some unpaved roads and paths near the end. I was happy it hadn’t or wasn’t raining as then we would have been running a ‘tough mudder’ and, well, that’s not what I signed up for… Disney provided buses to return us to our resorts or cars parked at Epcot. The bus lines for this event were very long and I waited approximately one hour for a bus. Even though this was a bit more challenging course, I did enjoy it more.

Now, for my Disneyland Half Marathon, this was my first experience back at Disneyland in California since June of 2004 so this was going to be a pretty amazing and magical experience for me even without the half marathon experience! Again, Disney offered pre and post-race entertainment, character photo opportunities and DJ’s as well as on the course. The course took us through both parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, and I must admit, I did become a little teary-eyed when running through Cars Land in California Adventure as this was my first experience in that new Disney land. It was so spectacular and I just took it all in!! This was a very easy course and we had amazing California weather! The course took us through the streets of Anaheim and we even ran through the Angels Stadium. There were locals on the sidelines cheering us on during the entire race, it was so wonderfully overwhelming how they came out to support us! The locals even cheered us on with their participation in a car show through an extensive part of our run which concluded with a Lightning McQueen look-alike. Bus service was provided for all participants and the only snag I experienced with this event was the huge backup at security as Disneyland only offered one security checkpoint at the main entrance to the “Disney areas” and runners and general guests were all trying to get through the same security checkpoints. Needless to say, these lines were very long! My goal for this race, which was my very first Half Marathon, was to finish in 3 hours and I finished just under! This was a great course and experience and I highly recommend it for anyone thinking about a runDisney event.
And, for my big finale, I completed the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and earned my Coast to Coast Race Challenge medal! As usual there was ample entertainment, DJ’s and character photo opportunities before after and during the event. The course took us through all of the Disney parks except Magic Kingdom and we also ran on Disney owned surface streets and backstage areas. The entertainment was varied with many different Disney characters and musical entertainment. Our 4 am morning did start out a bit cool but we enjoyed exceptional weather, without the usual Florida humidity, so that helped to make this race a bit easier to get through. This was the first year this race was held in the morning, they have always held this race at night but have experienced inclement weather the past couple of years. In Florida, it tends to rain or storm at night but our mornings are usually nice so, my guess is, that is the reason for the time change. With the good weather, I had a great run for my second half marathon and finished in 2 hours and 48 minutes!

If you are considering participating in any runDisney event, we are a preferred runDisney Travel Provider and I hope that you will also consider reaching out to me to help you book and plan your resort stay and participation! Participating in a runDisney race event is truly a magical experience and I think everyone that loves Disney should at least try it once!