Best Surprise Reaction to a Disney Trip!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

This Mom's Opinion of Disney's Character Dining...

Ok, so It's no secret if you have read any other posts on this blog - we love us some Disney Character Dining.  But let's be honest.  All Character Dining is not created equal.  We have been to our fair share and I will outline them below...

Over Spring of 2010 & Spring of 2012, we visited 6 Character Dining spots - some that we loved were repeats...

Cinderella's Royal Table -

Located in Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom, this chance to dine with the Disney Princesses INSIDE the most famous castle of all time, was our favorite Character Dining!!  This was QUITE the royal experience!  They first have you come in and have your picture taken with Cinderella herself.  She talks to each child when you first arrive and hug them and take pictures.  This is your chance to see Cinderella, since she won't be joining the rest of the princesses (Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine & Arial) upstairs while you eat.  The castle is just as ornate and elaborate on the inside as it is on the outside!  Unbelievable!  After the first set of pictures, we were taken up a spiral staircase to a gorgeous dining hall complete with royal wait-staff and stained glass windows overlooking all of Fantasyland.  Everyone who came to the table called us by Lord, Lady Princess, and Young Knight.  They brought our daughter and son each a magic wand and a sword, and a wishing star.  The meals were fancy and DELICIOUS!  Maybe it was just the fact we had spent the whole morning walking, but I thought it was some of the best food I had tasted!  Each of the Princesses come around to speak to your children and hug them and take pictures.  It was the most magical lunch I have ever attended in my life.  My daughter especially could not stop smiling and it was so precious!  Then we each had desserts and at the end of the meal, they brought us a wonderful photo package of her with Cinderella which was included with the meal (which totaled $175 - but again – completely covered by our dining plan!!!).
Character breakfast: $43 adults, $28 children;
Character lunch $46 adults, $29 children;
Character dinner, $54 adults, $33 children.
*Note that prices increase during peak periods.
**Reservations required - and highly recommended to book EARLY (up to 180 days in advance)
**Dining here uses 2 Table service meals off the Disney Dining Plan

Chef Mickey's -

Located in the Comtemporary Hotel, Chef Mickey’s allows you to eat while Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie and Pluto all make their way around the room greating the children at each table, giving them hugs and taking pictures with each one.  This Mom gives Chef Mickey's a happy thumbs up! These are the MAIN Disney characters that we were here to see so this huge buffet was perfect for us!  As soon as you are seated, you can help yourself to the great variety on the buffet and then wait and watch the characters while they go around.  The food was delicious and a nice relief from the standard quick service options we faced each day in the parks.  We returned to Chef Mickey's both visits and really enjoyed it!
Breakfast $35 (child $19),
Dinner $40 (child $20).
*Note: Prices increase during peak periods.
**Reservations required - and highly recommended to book EARLY (up to 180 days in advance)

**Dining here uses 1 Table service meal off the Disney Dining Plan

Play and Dine at Hollywood and Vine

Located in Hollywood Studios, this is a buffet where we saw the Characters from Playhouse Disney (JoJo & Goliath from JoJo's Circus and Leo and June from Little Einsteins - but now host an updated cast).  After you eat and the characters visit with you, they choose children to join them and dance in a floor show which was fun to see.  I have to be honest and say that I do not remember the food at ALL... which means it wasn't so good that it made an impression, but at the same time, it was not so bad that I felt compelled to write a bad review of it.  I also have to be honest and say that we have no desire to ever go back to this character dining again.  These characters are just not as desired to see or eat with and it just did not make for that awesome of a dining experience.  This is also more for younger kids who watch these shows which feature Disney Junior characters (which are now: Jake, Handy Manny, June, and Special Agent Oso)
Breakfast buffet $31 (child $17);
Lunch buffet $35 (child $19);
Dinner buffet $40 (child $21)  
*Note: Prices for character meals increase during peak periods.
**Reservations Recommended
**Dining here uses 1 Table service meal off the Disney Dining Plan

Donald’s Safari breakfast at the Tusker House!

Located in Animal Kingdom park, this was quite the breakfast buffet spread!! The food was VERY yummy and they had everything that you could possible imagine eating for breakfast!  Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Daisy (all decked out in their Safari gear) were there for us to see and love on and get our pictures with.  Plus they time the breakfast perfectly so that when it's over, you are right in time to go into the park and start your day!  I would highly recommend this character dining experience.  We have not been at lunch or dinner, so I cannot comment on the food other than the breakfast options, but I know that they do serve foods with African and Indian flares.
Breakfast $24.50 (child $11),
Lunch $21 (child $12),
Dinner $29 (child $14).
*Note: Prices for character meals increase during peak periods.
**Reservations Recommended
**Dining here uses 1 Table service meal off the Disney Dining Plan

Crystal Palace

Located in the Magic Kingdom, the Crystal Palace has a beautiful name, but don't let the name fool you!!!  Yes, it has a buffet and you will see Winnie the Pooh and his Pals there.  But this was by far my least favorite Character dining experience we have ever had!!  The food was not the best, and it was overly crowded and loud and we felt rushed.  I don't know if there had not been enough time to clean thoroughly between guests, but the floor was dirty with old food and it seemed dimly lit (we went for dinner after dark).  My kids enjoyed seeing the characters (although not their favs) but I couldn't wait for this one to end, and you really should not be feeling that way about character dining!!
Breakfast $27 (child $15),
Lunch $29 (child $16),
Dinner $41 (child $20)  
*Note: Prices for character meals increase during peak periods.
**Reservations Recommended
**Dining here uses 1 Table service meal off the Disney Dining Plan

Garden Grill

Locate in Epcot, this was a whole kind of Character Dining for us!!  First, it was a rotating restaurant which slowly turns the whole time - half of which puts you right into a space overlooking the ride "Living with the Land."  This really gave a whole new way to enjoy dining since the scenery was always changing.  Because the floor is revolving, the staff don't like for anyone to get up and move around, to it is truly table service, not a buffet.  The one thing I didn't realize before we ate there, was that you don't order.  Everything is already planned family style.  So they bring out several large portions of that night's menu and plates for everyone to share.  This left my picky eater rather perplexed as to what they would eat...  But the characters that were there made up for any disappointments they felt over food!  Mickey, Donald, Pluto, Chip & Dale were there!!  And Chip and Dale are not easy to find in Disney World!  It was a really different and wonderful dining experience and I would recommend it to others!!
Dinner $35 (child $17);  
*Note: Prices for character meals increase during peak periods.
**Reservations Recommended
**Dining here uses 1 Table service meal off the Disney Dining Plan

Friday, July 19, 2013

This Mom's Take on Disney Dining Plans...

If you are staying on Disney Property -  you will be given the option to purchase a Disney Dining plan for the time of your stay.  Disney Dining plans cover each person in your party for each day of your reservation, giving you each an specified amount of food to use...

The different options are as follows: (PLEASE NOTE- 2013 PRICES!!!)

(as explained in great detail at )

The very first time our family stayed on Disney property (in spring of 2010 with our 2 children who were 7 and 3) we thought it would be a great idea to take advantage of the Deluxe Disney Dining plan.  What were we thinking!??  This was WAY TOO MUCH FOOD everyday for our family!!  I cannot even begin to tell you how much food was wasted on this plan.  It paid for us each to have 3 full meals a day PLUS 2 snacks! Wowzers, we could hardly do anything but eat!  Haha! We agreed that a dining plan was a GREAT thing to have for several reasons which  I will detail below, BUT not to this level of amount of food, for sure. Maybe if we had several strapping young lad who ate everything that didn't eat them!

So, the next time we went to stay in the world (in Spring of 2012, when our children were 9 and 5) we again got the Disney Dining plan, but this time the Standard (now called "Plus") plan and it was absolutely PERFECT for us! There were a few days we had planned to spend away from Disney (one at Sea World and one at Siesta Key beach) so we were able to use any "Extra" meals to go towards our Character dining experiences that required more than one meal credit per person.

What we LOVED about the Disney Dining plans:


     Now, don't let this factor be misleading.  Disney Dining plans CAN be confusing when you are trying to figure out at a resort quick service place how many different items you can get and what it will count for- a snack or a quick service? etc
    BUT when I say care-free ordering, I mean going into a restaurant (be it quick service or table service) and knowing we can order whatever we want off the menu and not even LOOK At the prices!  Now, THAT is what I call being on vacation!!  Because I don't know about your family, but at home, we try to be conservative with our spending and do not splurge on high priced foods on a regular basis.  I know what you are thinking - you ARE Paying for it, just all rolled into one lump sum in the trip price (unless you are blessed enough to get the free dining option).  But at least by the time you get there, everything has been paid for and you are covered for the rest of your trip!  So even if getting the dining plan ends up being more than we would have spent on all of our food expenses otherwise, it is full worth it just for the experience!


    If care-free ordering wasn't enough to sell me on getting the Disney Dining plan - then Character Dining sealed the deal!  Yes, you can get character dining if you don't have a dining plan, but it can be painfully expensive! So if you do decide to take advantage of a dining plan, then by all means, do character dining and do it often!  We would schedule a character dining event for every day we were at a Disney Park (both in 2010 and in 2012) and we were so glad we did!  There is no meal more magical than when Disney characters are constantly coming around to your table to hug and take pictures with your child!  I will speak more about our experiences with Character dining in another post, but just know that this is one of the best uses of the Disney Dining plans (in this mom's opinion!).


     Enough said, right??  I mean, you start out with a good breakfast, but after a couple hours crisscrossing the Disney parks, you need some nourishment to keep you going til lunch!  Or in the hot afternoons, everybody wants an ice cream Mickey head, right??  What I love about this is all the adults get a snack too!! (and that never happens otherwise, I feel like I always end up sacrificing mine so my kids can have one - don't you?).  And to those moms who are counting sugars for their kiddos.. there are lots of healthy snacks available throughout the parks, like fruit stands and baked chips, etc.


     I had you at "dessert," didn't I?!  Seriously though, how much more magical can each day get for a kid when EVERY meal includes a dessert?!! (except breakfast, obviously).  This is just GREAT and for people like us (who normally NEVER order a dessert out and ALWAYS order water only because ordering drinks really adds to the bill) these are 2 huge luxuries that we look forward to when vacationing at Disney World!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This Mom's Disney World Tips with Young Children:

The very first time we went to Disney World, right after we had gotten married, and it was just me and my love. It was truly magical.  Years passed and we had 2 children and we wanted to take them to Disney World for their first time.   We were so excited. They were just 3 and 7 at the time.  And this was a whole new experience.  We learned a LOT by mistakes we made and here are the major tips I gleaned from the first experience.


 If you are going to be at Disney World for long enough to break up visiting the parks - DO SO! Believe me, you will want to thank me the next morning.  Going to a Disney Park ALL DAY is fun and exciting and magically, BUT it is also totally exhausting and draining, and the next morning it is increasingly difficult to force yourself out of the bed to do it all again.  Not to mention the tole it takes on small children and how easily they transform into sleepy, cranky, little people the next morning.  If at all possible, schedule your time like this:
Day 1-Parks
Day 2- Pool (or Putt Putt)
Day 3- Parks
Day 4- Pool
Day 5-Parks
Etc. Now, after you have launged around and let the kiddies play in the pool on your "off" days, sometimes it is VERY nice to go into the parks in the early evenings if possible for just a few hours.

 This is a huge factor of the Disney Magic.  If your child is easily frightened, please do your research on the different rides and shows before you go.  Disney World is supposed to be Magical and Totally fun for kids - not sprinkled with terrifying experiences that your child will take hours to recover from.  Many books review ALL of the rides (I personally LOVE the Unofficial Guide to Disney World - a new one is published each year) and they rank them in likelihood to scare children.

 If you are going to take the time to take your family to Disney World and spend the money for that kind of trip, then spend your time wisely!  Have a plan before you go to each park.  Don't just roll up into the parking lot, willy-nilly, and stroll into a Disney World park going from attraction to attraction as you pass by.  If you do, you will end up spending MANY MANY more hours in lines and not getting to experience near as much as you could if you had a plan.  As I mentioned above, I am a big fan of the Unofficial Guide to  Disney World or (same people).  They provide wonderful plans for your family to follow to make the most of your time in the park.

Tip #4- DO CHARACTER DINING (if possible)
 We have taken our kids to Disney World twice in the past 3 years and are going back in the spring of 2014. Each time we have gone, we have stayed on Disney Property and get the dining plan.  I know that there are great debates on if it is financially better to get the dining plan or just pay as you go.  But in my personal opinion, it is so much more a vacation to walk into each restaurant and order whatever we wanted, not even looking at the prices (which, let's face it - are HIGH is Disney).  Plus it was a total gift to us that we could use our dining plan to pay for Character Dining!!  We would have Character dining almost every night!!  This way, we would eat our meal, while a selection of Disney characters came around and each hugged our children and had their picture made with them.  Not only was this a highlight each day for our kids, but it totally alleviated their need to go and wait in line to hug each random character we passed in the parks!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

This Mom's Opinion of Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

After we suffered through sleeping on double beds at the Pop Century resort the last time we were at Disney World, we decided we had no choice but to upgrade to a moderate resort just to have the option of sleeping on Queen beds.  After going through all the options, we finally decided on Coronado Springs.  This is a sprawling moderate resort built around a beautiful lake in a southwestern theme.

I was a little disappointed this time that we were staying in a resort that was themed more for the adults than the kids - it was a sharp contrast to the value resorts.  But don't get me wrong, this resort was extremely nice and clean!  When we first arrived there was the towel in the shape of a Mickey Head on the bed, and lots of pool options - so my kids were happy (it doesn't take much, really!)

The food court had lots of yummy things for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They had lots to offer in the Tex-Mex flavor to go along with the theme of the resort.

The Pool area was the best part of this resort!!  There was a huge ancient pyramid that water
flowed down and an awesome water slide into the big pool! The staff played games everyday with the kids in the pool (I am pretty sure they do this at all the Disney Resorts) 

The only main complaint we had about the Coronado Springs resort was that the resort was SO SPREAD OUT!  You practically had to get in your car and drive to other places in the resort like the pool or the food court or the bus pick up.  That was a major bummer, because after walking all day long at the Disney Parks, the last thing you want to do is half to walk a country mile to go somewhere around the resort.

This Mom's Tips for Surprising Kids with Disney Trip!

--> I have seen Many, MANY videos of parents surprising their kids with the ultimate surprise - a trip to Disney World!  After watching many kids' reactions which were less than what the parents may have been hoping for - I came up with a great list of tips to keep in mind to get the most excited reaction possible!

Do your best to keep the trip an absolute secret.  They'll never suspect it, and that's the best!

Come up with a fun scavenger hunt, leading up to the big reveal...  drag it out as much as you can (within reason) to build up the suspense!

From the videos I have watched, it seems most confusing to the children who the parents have tricked into thinking they are going somewhere they are really not, and then the parents surprise them with the truth. These children were way too confused to be totally excited!

As clever as it may seem, don't have the kids have to "figure out what this puzzle means" for the reveal.  It's confusing to them, and so their reaction will be to first question if you are serious, trying to understand what this all really means, etc.  When it is time for the big reveal, just blurt out the surprise with as much excitement as you can!!!  This is the best way to truly excite your children!!  (or, it was for mine anyway)

Here you can see the difference in us Surprising the kids in a non-exciting way vs. how we surprised them with the above tips and how VAST difference in their reactions!!!



This Mom's Opinion of Disney's Pop Century Resort

The first year my husband and I went to Disney World after we were married, we stayed at a Holiday Inn just outside of Disney.  The room was nice, and it was just what we needed, plus it was super cheap.  But the next time we went to Disney, we had 2 small kids and thought staying on Disney Property would be a better option.  We went straight to the list of Value resorts and immediately settled on Pop Century.  The choice was a good one!

First I would just like to express what a difference it made staying on Disney property! Disney does everything over the top, and their resorts are no exception!  Pop Century was definitely geared towards kids and they loved every second! The decor was amazing and the pools were awesome! We stayed in the Lady and the Tramp section of the resort which was close to the pools and semi close to the main building where the food court is and gift shop, as well as where the buses pick up to take you to the parks.

The food was pretty good.  Nothing in particular stands out in my mind as  I type this 3 years later, but we had no complaints.  There was an arcade, but we didn't spend any time there - as my children adore a swimming pool!

The resort was very clean, the staff was overly helpful in every way and I would highly recommend Pop Century to anyone interested in a Value Resort - except for ONE DRAWBACK...

The rooms only offer 2 double beds...  My husband is not a tiny guy and we had slept on a King bed for 10 years straight at that time...  so going from a king to a double was TERRIBLE!  I cannot tell you how miserable we were at night!!  Here we had spent ALL day at a Disney Park, and were completely exhausted, only to cram ourselves into this bed and lay awake at night.  I will tell you, however, that the gift shop sells Nyquil and that is what we drank each night to sleep!  Only offering double beds was a deal-breaker for us so sadly, we won't be going back to the Pop Century Resort.

So - if you have a limited budget, are looking for a value resort geared towards the kids, and are not bothered by sleeping in a double bed, then Pop Century should be a consideration!!

See our Pictures from the Pop Century Resort in spring of 2010:

Friday, July 12, 2013

This Mom Would REALLY Miss Seeing Lights! Motors! Action!... if it goes away...

So, I recently read a rumor floating around the Disney World community that Lights! Motors! Action! might be on it's way out in order to make room for a new attraction at Hollywood Studios.  Let me tell you right now that this show is a top favorite for my family to see every time we vacation at Disney!  It is one for the whole family!

Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show, located at the end of the Streets of America, is a copy of the attraction that originated at Disneyland Paris. Guests are introduced to the director and the director's staff and told that they'll be filming scenes for a film about a spy who is trying to make his getaway and now they'll be filming the stunts that need to be performed. The stunts are executed and then explained in-depth how they were achieved.
The action takes place in a "Southern France" setting and as the stunts get more extreme, they add more variety to the set. A large monitor in the middle of the set keeps guests entertained before the show and explains the stunts during the show.   Stunts include automobiles, motorcycles and jetskis.  The black cars are the "chase cars" while the red car is the "hero" car. The designations are there to make it easier for the audience to follow along. (As described by

The rumor is that Disney will soon reclaim this space to make room for some great new attraction... possibly Star Wars land or Cars land.  We are not too big into the whole Star Wars thing, so I guess I would personally prefer a Cars Land...  Although it is unclear just how real these plans are at this time... but I sure do hope to get to take my family back to see Lights! Motors! Action! one more time in the spring!!

This Mom's Favorite Disney-Discussion Site!!

There are a LOT of Disney World sites out there in the great WWW...  But my favorite place to connect with other Disney-obsessed peeps is the DISboards!  There are hundreds of topics to read through and weigh in on!!

So what is yours??