It’s A Brews World After All

One thing you probably don’t think about when you hear Walt Disney world is beer. Me, on the other hand, the beer is one of my favorite parts about the trip. You can get brews from all over the United States and even the world. There is something for all the beer fans out there, you just have to know where to find them.Beer

Top Beers at Disney World

That is where I come in. Here is a list of some of my favorites, from Epcot all the way to Pandora.

6. Black and Tan – Rose and Crown, England Epcot World Showcase

A mix of all kinds of goodness. A Black and Tan is a mix of two different type of beers. In my case, it was a Guinness and Harp. Besides being able to get this brew in my favorite park at Disney, this amazing concoction is very tasteful and is great company while rocking out with British Revolution. (You know, that British “rock band” that plays in the back of the England pavilion?) That being said, the Black and Tan is #6 on my list of favorite brews. Plenty more goodness to come!

5. Dole Whip and Coconut Rum – Animal Kingdom

Now this next one is not a beer but, I think everyone is a fan of a good ole Dole Whip from Disney. Dole WhipAdd coconut rum to the mix though, and it makes it even better. I had no idea that this glorious drink existed until stumbling upon it at the Animal Kingdom. Tamu Tamu Refreshments is now a definite pit stop of mine at the Animal Kingdom.

4. Hawkes’ Grog Ale IPA – Pandora The World of Avatar Animal Kingdom

First off, this was my first time to Pandora since it had opened. I was pretty blown away at the awesomeness of the floating mountains and sounds of the Banshees from the tops of them. So what to do in that atmosphere you ask……. That is to get you an ice cold Hawkes’ Grog IPA from the Satu’li Canteen and enjoy the sights and sounds of Pandora World of Avatar. For the IPA lovers out there, this is a good one to put on the list to try. Not too much bite to it with fruity flavors thrown in, with a little bit of wheat at the end ( It’s also green people ). I am a big fan of this brew, I’m sure you will be too.

3. Funky Buddha Floridian Hefe – Art Smiths at Disney Springs

Brewed right in the state of Florida, this German-style wheat beer should be at the top of every wheat beer fan’s list This brew packs in the flavor while not being too heavy at the same time. With flavors like banana and citrus, the Funky Buddha pretty much encapsulates Florida. This brew is just as great as the food at Art Smiths…. ( I recommend the fried catfish and the Moonshine Flight)

2. Tri Wishes Grand Irish Red – Raglan Road at Disney Springs

Folks, Raglan Road is definitely at the top of my list of pit stops at Disney. This place has all things that make me happy…. Irish music, Irish dancing and cold brews. Brewed by Crooked Can Brewing Company in Florida the Tri Wishes Ale is a bit on the lighter side and has a combination of American and European hops. This brew really put out a lot of flavor and goes great with the Fish and Chips and Irish tunes in Raglan Road.

1. ( And the WINNER is ) Einstok Icelandic White Ale – Norway Epcot World Showcase

Brewed by the Einstok Beer company in Iceland, this White Ale would be picked by any Viking. This beer is brewed with pure Icelandic water with all the flavors of a classic whitbier. Norway is always my first brew stop when drinking around the world, and usually my last. I found this brew my first trip back to Disney a few years ago, and it quickly became my favorite. So, if you happen to find yourself cruising around Epcot World Showcase. Do yourself a favor and stop off at Norway and pick you up and ice cold Einstok Icelandic White Ale.top beers at disney worldEnjoy folks and May The Brews Be With You….

Many thanks to our contributor, Michael, for this brewtastic post!

Best Tips for Epcot Food and Wine Festival

If you are a Disney fan and a lover of all things FOOD, then the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot is a can’t miss experience. One of my favorite things in Disney World is the World Showcase in Epcot. With the Food and Wine Festival taking place in the World Showcase, I knew it was something that I absolutely couldn’t miss.

Best Tips for Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Traveling and eating are some of my most favorite past times, so being able to “eat my way around the world” in one day filled me with such excitement. I knew that I had two trips to Disney World already planned for this year, so I purchased an Annual Pass. In trying to make the most of my Annual Pass, I planned a quick trip to take my brother for his very first time. I figured that a trip to the Food and Wine Festival would be perfect for his first time in Disney World. Keep reading to for my best tips for Epcot Food and Wine Festival.Epcot's Food & Wine Festival is an incredible experience! It can also be very overwhelming. Follow these best tips to plan your trip and enjoy all the festival has to offer.

Research, Research, Research

There is a plethora of information on the internet about the Food and Wine Festival. From the menus and reviews of the food and beverages, to maps of the kiosk locations around the World Showcase, planning your Food and Wine experience is easy.Best tips for Food and Wine Festival

Make Lists

The menus posted online made making my “must haves” list very easy. Reading the reviews online also helped me remove items from the list that I wanted to try, but that overall had poor reviews. In one instance, I ignored the reviews and ended up disappointed. (Thanks Belgium!) I plan to return in just a few weeks and will not make that mistake again.

Use the Festival Map

If you’ve never been to the World Showcase, it’s a big circle. When you come up to it, you can begin your tour of the world by going left or right. In planning your Food and Wine experience, it will be very helpful to plan your attack in order of the kiosks. This way, you’ll eliminate wasted time skipping around to different kiosks.

Hang on to Your List

If you plan to have a drink or two at the festival, having a detailed list will really come in handy. I speak from experience. If I didn’t have my list of “must haves” with me after having two drinks, I would have become lost in what I wanted to do. This is important in making the most of your festival trip.

Have a Budget

Most food items are between $3.50 – $8.00. It can be upwards of $10.00 for drinks. My brother and I had the Disney Dining Plan, and we used 1 quick service credit and 4 snack credits. 1 Quick Service credit can be turned into 3 snack credits, but you can do this only at one kiosk. This is a good option when you want multiple items at one kiosk. Snack credits are best used for the most expensive items, but cannot be used on alcohol. My brother and I budgeted $200 for the festival. This does not count the dining credits we used. We visited only 9 kiosks out of the 35 featured. We shared everything we purchased ,and we were full almost to the point of busting when we left. With that said, we spent all of the $200 we had budgeted.

Best Food Kiosks

Favorite: Hawaii

Everything we tried at Hawai’i was amazing. My favorite was the Kalua Pork Slider. The most talked about Teriyaki-glazed SPAM Hash lived up to the hype. I can also speak very highly of the Grilled Tuna Tataki. The drink we tried from here was the Mai Tai featuring Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, which was very delicious. Even though there is still so much more I want to try, I plan to visit Hawaii again when I return in a few weeks.

Least Favorite: Belgium

Gouda is my favorite cheese, so when I saw that Belgium was featuring a Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes it instantly went on my “must haves” list. Even though I read several poor reviews of this dish online before going, I was hoping that they just weren’t true. To my dismay, they were. The dish was bland and the potatoes weren’t the right consistency for mashed potatoes. I cannot speak for the other dishes at the Belgium kiosk, but this one is a dish you can totally miss.

Designated driver

Finally, my last tip for making the most of your Food and Wine Festival experience is, if you are planning to drink, please have a method of transportation planned ahead. From the monorail and resort buses to the Minnie Van Service and Uber, there is no excuse for drinking and driving while on Disney property. Plan for alternate method(s) of transportation in your budget, and your conscience will thank you later.

I hope that I have helped you prepare to make the most of your Food and Wine Festival experience. I can’t wait to return myself, so I can share my new favorites with you!

Restaurant Review: The Polite Pig

The Polite Pig

 

 

I am one of the biggest BBQ fans there is. I mean, I LOVE it! When I heard about this new BBQ joint called The Polite Pig in Disney Springs, I knew I had to try it.The Polite Pig

Where is The Polite Pig?

The Polite Pig is a quick service restaurant located near the Lime Garage at Disney Springs. If the lime garage isn’t available for you or you arrive at a different location at Disney Springs, you can find the Polite Pig near the Welcome Center in Town Center. It was busy when we walked up, with a moderate line, but we didn’t wait very long.

Ordering

While waiting in line, you’ll be teased with the delicious food to come!  I will say that this restaurant is a meat lover’s dream come true. You can watch them as they chop and weigh the meat for perfect portion sizes.  The Polite PigWe also were greeted in line by a manager who offered us drinks while we waited.This was a fantastic gesture, though we didn’t wait in line long enough to drink our drinks.

Ordering was quick and simple. You place your order and they give you a number to put on your table. Considering how busy they were, there was plenty of seating inside and outside. The Polite PigDrinks

Alcoholic

The Polite Pig offers an array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. From beers on draft to original cocktails, you are sure to find the perfect concoction to wet your whistle. They have beers available on tap that are brewed especially for, and are only available at this Disney Springs location.  If beer isn’t your thing, let me suggest the Tequila and Grapefruit cocktail that is also on tap. I was intrigued when I saw this and decided this was a must try. It is unique and refreshing. I didn’t know how well tequila and grapefruit would pair, but it was absolutely delicious.  The Polite Pig

Non-Alcoholic

Any good southern BBQ must be accompanied by some delicious sweet tea. Considering Walt Disney World is technically located in “the South,” you’d think that most places at Walt Disney World would offer up the southern favorite. Unfortunately that isn’t the case and you can only find this drink in a few locations. (No mango, strawberry, whatever-infusions. You can find those around too. I’m strictly referring to tea brewed with lots of sugar). So for those who can’t go without a little sweet tea while on vacation, the Polite Pig is a great place to try! They’ve also got your standard soda fountain fare also.The Polite PigIf one drink is not enough for you, don’t worry about getting back into line again. The Polite Pig has servers going around to tables taking extra orders. This makes everything about this quick service restaurant even more convenient and customer friendly.

The Polite Pig also offers an extensive Bourbon Bar. With something around 50 different types of Bourbon. A connoisseur is sure to be in Bourbon heaven. Main Course

Pulled Pork

After ordering and finding a table, we were told about the Sauce Bar. This is an awesome idea, catering to people with different BBQ Sauce tastes. Choose from Thomas’s Southern Gold, Spiced Vinegar, Lil John’s Signature Black Pepper, Layla’s Sweet Sauce, and BBQ Ranch. The Polite Pig has a sauce for everyone.The Polite PigThe Southern Pig is a beautifully crafted pulled pork sandwich topped with apple slaw, mustard and mayo. I can attest that this is one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I have ever had. It was tender and very messy. While I wasn’t able to finish the whole sandwich, I really wanted to. The Polite Pig

More Than Just Pulled Pork

Our group can also attest to the delicious Brisket sandwich, the Chicken Salad sandwich, and the Kid’s Chicken Tenders. I will give forewarning though. If your children love Ranch with their Tenders, the only Ranch available here is the BBQ Ranch, which the kiddos weren’t a big fan of.The Polite PigIf you’re not a big fan of pork or chicken, The Polite Pig also offers Salmon in a salad or in a sandwich. I think anyone in a group could find something to suit their lifestyle in this varying menu. The Polite Pig

Market Sides

While the star of this show should be the meat, I must say that the Market Sides won me over big time. Our group had the Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Smoked Corn, and the Sweet Potato Tots.The Polite PigEach and everyone of them had our tastes buds dancing in pleasure, but my favorite were the Sweet Potato Tots. These were so crispy and packed with flavor, I had someone stealing them off of my plate! I don’t fault her though; I wouldn’t have been able to help myself either.The Polite Pig

Next Time

I plan to return to The Polite Pig in September and am looking forward to trying other things on their menu. They offer some delicious sounding salads and appetizers. From the BBQ Cracklins with Spiced Vinegar, to the Hop Shop Pretzels with Beer Cheese Fondue and IPA Mustard, my taste buds are already watering with anticipation.  And just maybe, next time I’ll save room for the intriguing Orange Blossom Honey Cake… Though I may just have to get that one to go!The Polite PigThanks for reading and be sure to check out all our posts from Disney Springs here! And thanks to Noelle for this fantastic review of the Polite Pig at Disney Springs. 

Artist Point Restaurant Review

Dining at Artist Point

Because I wanted to make the best of my last Walt Disney World trip by eating at the best restaurants I could find, I studied all of the menus I could find! I got super excited when I found an apparent hidden treasure called Artist Point. This gem of a restaurant is located at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort. So, I booked my advanced dining reservation for my solo day and began dreaming about the cheese plate listed on the menu!Artist Point Restaurant Review

Location

I had a dinner reservation schedule for 7:45 p.m., so I got to the Wilderness Lodge a few minutes early so that I could take a look around. This Disney resort is a huge beautiful log cabin in the woods, with a big waterfall in the back courtyard that is sure to take anyone from the city to the forest in a short walk. The website touts the “rustic elegance” of the dining room and I can attest that the space is comfortable and elegant while maintaining the cabin feel. Unfortunately for me, I visited at night and during a rainy day. I was unable to enjoy the waterfront views, but the ambiance was relaxing and perfect for enjoying a fine meal. Dining at Artist Point

Starters

I started my meal off with a delicious amber beer called Magic Hat and their house made 9 Grain Sourdough Bread with Smoked Sea Salt Butter.  Let me just say that this was by far the best bread and butter I have EVER had. Let me repeat this…. EVER HAD. I fought with myself many times trying to not eat it all. I would push the plate to the other side of the table, only find my hand reaching for it a few minutes later. Needless to say, I finished it off by the end of my meal. Dining at Artist Point

Special Extras

During this scrumptious course of the meal, my server brought me a “gift” of Strawberry Kimchi from the chef.  I have not been able to locate this on the menu, so I assume this is not a usual menu item. The Strawberry Kimchi was beautifully plated and looked delicious, but tasted like black licorice (which I am not a fan of).  It was by far the most disappointing thing I ate my whole week. And I’m very happy that I did not have to pay for this one. Though I do hate to disappoint a chef. Thankfully, happiness on a plate arrived shortly thereafter!Dining at Artist Point

The Cheese!

The Artisanal Cheeses plate was everything and more than I had been dreaming of.  The cheese plate is variety of five cheeses served with handcrafted breads and seasonal accompaniments. This dish made me do a crazy, happy dance in my seat.  All of these beautiful cheeses are made in the U.S.A. and are a delight to the taste buds. The accompanying breads, jelly, and fruits pair wonderfully with these cheeses and make a well rounded cheese plate. I expect I will continue to dream of these cheeses. Continuing on with my meal, I ordered an Aged Buffalo Strip Loin.Dining at Artist Point

The Main Course

The Aged Buffalo Strip Loin is served medium rare with Farro Risotto, Root Spinach, Favas, and Radish. Having never experienced eating buffalo before, I didn’t know the melt in your mouth, deliciousness that was to come.  The buffalo was cooked perfectly and elegantly plated. The risotto and veggies were creamy, adding just the right textures. It was truly a flavor explosion with every bite. I can say that I will definitely have buffalo again.  Now for the last course of my amazing Disney World trip, dessert!Dining at Artist Point

Dessert

The Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee was just heaven. Served with cherries, gooseberries, and topped with a crisp honey crunch, this creme brulee was baked to perfection. The custard was smooth and creamy. The honey crust on top gave it the best sweetness and crunch. The cherries and gooseberries gave just the right tartness to a sweet dessert. I don’t believe that I could have ended a trip with a better meal. Dining at Artist PointThe Artist Point is by far one of my favorite restaurants I’ve eaten at anywhere. I HIGHLY recommend this hidden treasure to anyone visiting the parks.  

Thanks to our contributor Noelle for this restaurant review!

Tips for Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar

Tips for Pandora: The World of Avatar

Tips for visiting Pandora : The World of Avatar

Meredith

Be Patient

Pandora is new, as it just opened on May 27th. This one is most important to remember because everyone wants to see and do it all too. There’s no need to be rude to other guests just because you’re having to wait. This should go without saying, but everyone has paid to be there and no one is more special than the other. You’ll all get a turn soon enough! This extends to Cast Members too because they’re working hard to make it an unforgettable experience for you. Sit back and enjoy knowing that it may take a little longer if you’re one of the first humans to visit Pandora.

Meredith

Do Not Miss Flight of Passage

Queue up for this attraction as early as possible so that you can experience the wait queue at least once. The fastpass queue doesn’t have any of the fun theming that the standby queue has and it’s worth the wait at least once. The standby queue is the only time you’ll get to see the Pandoran caves with wildlife and all of the experiments that the Pandoran Conservation Initiative scientists have ongoing. This includes everything from water samples and small creatures to the full-size and very life-like floating avatar in its liquid-filled chamber. This is also the only time you’ll be able to see the giant wall that has the mural of the flying banshee and the life-size silhouettes of a Na’vi male and female. 

ikran

Then gear up for a most fantastical journey into Pandora on the back of your very own banshee after being paired with an avatar and linked in the link chairs. It’s also good to know that some Pooh-sized guests may have a bit of trouble boarding the ride since the back and leg braces flip up to engage. Be sure to scoot as far forward as possible and sit straight up. You’ll also want to push your knees forward and stay on your tip-toes until the ride harnesses engage in case you have long legs or large calves. Then hold on tight for one of the most thrilling and amazing rides Disney has ever imagineered! This ride is breathtaking, well except for when you’re taking in all the smells that Pandora has to offer too. This ride cannot be skipped!

Meredith

Use Extra Magic Hours

Extra magic hours are a perk of staying in a Disney resort and can help you experience the parks without the massive crowds. Check the app the night before your park days to see which parks and hours have this special perk so you can plan accordingly. Some magic hours occur in the morning, so you’ll need to be prepared the night before. Additionally, some magic hours happen at night and nighttime magic hours in Animal Kingdom will allow you to travel back to Pandora so you can experience its glowing beauty. 

fastpass

Schedule FastPasses ASAP

Scheduling early is a huge perk for guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort and this one is huge. If you’d like a fastpass for either ride, scheduling your fastpass at 60 days out the second they become available is crucial. And it’s good to know that the Pandora rides are now part of a tiered Animal Kingdom fastpass+ system, so you’ll have to choose one or the other. Both wait queues have outdoor areas and that means waiting in the sun, so a fastpass is like having a VIP status! Just remember that only guests staying in a WDW resort can schedule fastpasses 60 days in advance. If you’re staying off-property or are an annual passholder, the earliest you can schedule a fastpass is 30 days out. It pays to stay on property!

avatar

Stop and Look

The Na’vi have a phrase oel ngati kameie” meaning “I see you” and you won’t want to miss seeing and actually taking in all of its beauty. You’ll especially want to take your time and look if you’re waiting in line for either of Pandora’s feature attractions. The world is beautifully themed throughout and there are many little nooks where you can rest or just relax in a bit of shade. You can even find plants to drum on!

Pandora

If you’re lucky, or smart because you checked your times guide for the day, you can watch an authentic Pandoran drum circle in front of the Mountains! You can watch my the live feed I provided on opening day over on our facebook page. Travel back to Pandora (or just stay til the sun sets) to experience all of Pandora’s nighttime wonder. The star of Pandora’s nighttime magic is its “syuratan” or bioluminescence. You’ll be surprised that you may even glow too!! 

Meredith

Make use of Memory Maker

This should go without saying if you’ve ever used Disney’s Memory Maker. If you’re not sure what Memory Maker is, be sure to read this post. Like most lands at Walt Disney World, Pandora also has several photopass locations where you can get an epic photo with the floating mountains or even have your photo taken as an official Visitor to Pandora! There’s several locations and you can find these stops in your app. Simply open up your My Disney Experience app and slide the selection over to PhotoPass to see all the locations.

Meredith

Order Food Via App

This is another big one! With the opening of Pandora and its dining option, Satu’li Canteen, Disney has begun implementing its first use of a mobile food order feature. By ordering food via the app, you’ll save loads of time and give your feet a break from standing in yet another wait line. Not to mention, you’ll feel like a VIP as you stroll past the wait line straight to the counter to pick up your food. You can order from the app under the “My Plans” section. And once it’s ready, it’ll give you a push notification to let you know that your food is waiting for you. 

Meredith

Be sure your app is updated to the most current version to access this feature. It’s also good to know that if you have a card saved for all your incidentals (dining reservations etc), your app will automatically process the payment from that card. So if you plan to order from the app, be sure to have a card on file to save yourself time while in the park inputting card information. It’s also good to know that mobile order pickup will allow you entry into the canteen even if there’s a cast member outside keeping track of guest numbers inside. Just show them your “Order Ready” screen and they’ll show you where to go!

Meredith

Visit Windtraders Early 

The grand opening day of Pandora brought wait times in excess of three hours just to gain access to the Pandoran store! And be sure to queue up for the adopt a banshee at the rookery while there! Adopting a banshee has been super popular, so again be patient if you’re in a longer than expected line.

Meredith Meredith

You can also have yourself scanned and your DNA combined with that of a Na’vi to create your very own Avatar! This experience however, takes time and you will need to revisit Windtraders around an hour later to pick up your avatar.

Meredith

It’s good to know that your card (they give you when you sign up) will allow you entrance back into the store even if there’s a wait line. Simply go to the door and let the cast member know you’re back to pick up your avatar. You may get some dirty looks from those waiting in line to go in, but you won’t have to wait to actually go in again. 

Meredith

More than Just Rides and Food

Disney has gone above and beyond to create a world that seamlessly fits within the Animal Kingdom’s nature-based story. And Pandora: The World of Avatar helps to further push us to see our own beautiful Earth in new ways. Personally, our ride aboard the Kilimanjaro Safaris, after experiencing Pandora, had me more closely examining the plant life that surrounds each habitat’s wildlife. How amazing our own world is!

Meredith

The food had me questioning what exactly should alien food look like?! And would our own everyday foods seem alien to the Omiticaya people or other alien beings? Additionally, you don’t have to have seen or liked the Avatar movie to appreciate this new land. My kids loved Pandora and have never seen the movie. They actually came home and used their own money to purchase the movie so they could see the movie based on their unique experience. This new land is more than a couple of rides and some weird food; It’s an experience that leaves you “newomum nì’ul,”  wanting to know more!

Extra Tips for those with Special Accommodations:

Make Use of Rider Swap

If you’ve got a child that isn’t tall enough or just doesn’t want to ride, you can make use of Disney’s rider swap which allows one parent to stay behind with a child(ren) while the other parents waits in the standby line. The cast members will give the first parent a rider swap return fastpass and once that first parent completes their ride, the second is able to go back through the fastpass line. Best yet, that second parent can be accompanied by two other people, so your other kids have the opportunity to ride twice by waiting in the standby line with the first parent and then again in the fastpass line with the second parent!

Meredith

Make Use of Disability Access Service

If you or a member of your travel party has a disability,  be sure to stop by guest services at the beginning of your stay to receive your disability access service card, or DAS for short. This card will allow you to avoid waiting in the actual queue  while still waiting the standby wait time. Simply see a cast member at the fastpass entrance to any attraction and tell them you’d like to get a DAS wait time and they’ll give you a time to come back and ride. This is especially beneficial as some of the wait queues can be difficult to navigate with a wheelchair or ECV. And not waiting in the line for Flight of Passage will allow you more time to explore Pandora while you wait for your ride time. 

If you’d like to find out more about the world of Avatar, be sure to check out the official Disney website here.

Free Dining at Walt Disney World: Is It Right For You?

After many rumors spread like wildfire the past few weeks, it became official April 24, 2017…free dining for late summer and fall travel to Walt Disney World was released. Guests are eligible for free dining plans with select non-discounted 5-night/6-day Magic Your Way package. Packages must include a room at a select Disney Resort hotel and at least 2 day  tickets with Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus.

Free Disney Dining Dates

  • August 21 – September 30, 2017
  • November 14 – November 20, 2017
  • November 25 – November 27, 2017
  • December 8 – December 23, 2017

The dining plan offer depends on which resort level you are staying at: Value and Moderate Resorts have complimentary Quick Service Dining Plans. Deluxe Resorts or Deluxe Villa Resorts will receive the regular Disney Dining Plan for free. You can make upgrades to whichever plan you qualify for, and pay the difference.

The following resorts are excluded from the free dining offer: Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter and Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside is excluded during the following dates: November 14-20, November 25-27 and December 8-21, 2017.

What’s the Catch?

Why wouldn’t someone want free dining? As someone who has traveled to Disney twice with free dining offers, I personally know the value this offers to a family traveling on a budget. We have eaten like kings at Disney with the free dining. I know that I would have been pinching pennies if we were paying out of pocket.

Crowds and Blocked Dates

Many people have come to expect free dining offers in the fall at Disney and with that comes larger crowds. Larger crowds mean more time waiting in lines and it’s harder to obtain reservations at your first choice restaurants. Disney has also blocked out the entire month of October this year, which had historically been open for free dining.

It seems as though Disney has caught on to the high number of school systems that have fall breaks now, and they have no reason to discount that season anymore. Many people have spent hours and hours on hold with Disney only to find out that due to limited availability at each resort, they couldn’t have the discount applied.

Is it worth it?

It’s a tough call on whether or not the value of the free dining is worth it anymore. For many it is. For others, it would mean changing travel dates or choosing a different resort with availability. If you hadn’t budgeted for adding park hoppers it could make the cost of the trip more expensive.

For reference on the value of free dining, here is a breakdown of the prices for the 2017 dining packages at Disney.

2017 Disney Dining Plan Pricing

We had an anniversary trip planned for December 2015 to Disney. I had already booked our reservations prior to the release date for free dining. We had added the regular dining plan to our reservation. I figured that if free dining was released for our dates, then that would be wonderful. If not, at least I knew that our meals were already budgeted for. I’m all about not paying out of pocket for meals! Our reservation totaled a little over $1600 for our vacation, including the dining plan. Our dining plan was $480.32 of our total. We were not doing park hopper passes on this trip. Here is my personal experience:

My Personal Experience

When the free dining dates were released I found out that our reservation was outside the booking window. Out of sheer curiosity, I played around with our reservation dates and checked out the prices. That year was the first time that Disney has had the caveat that in order to qualify for free dining, guests must purchase either a Park Hopper pass or a Water Park Fun and more option. They did the same thing for 2016, and for 2017 also left in the Park Hopper requirement.

We were staying at a value resort, and I would have had to upgrade to the regular dining plan (personal preference here) and pay the difference, as well as upgrade our tickets to a Park Hopper pass. Because of this, I was actually going to end up paying more out of pocket, just for the “perk” of free dining. It took our $1600 vacation to just under $1800, so I would have ended up paying almost $200 more for free food.

Is a Room Discount better?

It was an easy decision for me for that trip – no free dining. However, when free dining isn’t an option look for a room discount to come out to save a little money.  All things considered, with the right availability and some flexibility with your arrival dates, you can save money with a free dining vacation.  And don’t forget that utilizing a Disney vacation planner like Jolly Holidays by Sarah, Main Street Memories by Meredith or Tomorrowland Travels with Amy can make the hassle of booking free dining something your TA worries about for you.

When considering the value of free dining at Disney ask yourself if the discount is worth it to your family. In our case for our last trip it wasn’t, but it might be perfect for your family! What are your thoughts on free dining at Disney? Let’s chat in the comments. ~Amy ºoº

Can’t Miss Foods at Walt Disney World

Can’t Miss Foods at Walt Disney World

Even if you are not a self-proclaimed “foodie,” why not take the chance to branch out while on vacation? Not only does Disney Springs have some amazing options to try, but you might even be surprised at what you find inside the parks too. Today, we’re sharing some great options for “can’t miss” foods at Walt Disney World.

Kona Cafe

If you love bananas, strawberries, and french toast, you must try the Tonga Toast at the Kona Cafe. This quaint cafe is located at the Polynesian Village Resort. Be sure to have a healthy appetite when you visit because the Tonga Toast is HUGE. It is a slice of sourdough bread stuffed with banana, rolled in cinnamon sugar, and served with strawberry compote. This meal is sure to get anyone ready for a day at the parks.can't miss foods at walt disney world

Yak and Yeti

In Animal Kingdom, the Yak & Yeti is the place of your dreams. For sit down or counter service, Yak and Yeti will satisfy any appetite. My favorite menu item is the Wok-Fired green beans served with a soy lime dipping sauce. I never knew that fried green beans would change my world, but these sure did. During my next trip, I know that I must try the Potstickers and Dim Sum basket for two. I’m never one to order desserts at an Asian restaurant, but their Fried Wontons skewered with fresh pineapple and served with vanilla ice cream and honey vanilla drizzle is making my mouth water at just the thought of it. This is a must try for me!

Coming Soon: Satu’li and Pongu Pongu

I absolutely loved the beauty of floating mountains and bioluminescent rainforests in the Avatar movie, and I’m so excited to be visiting the Pandora World of Avatar park on opening weekend. I’ve been looking over the menu for Satu’li Canteen, and these dishes look otherworldly. Satu’li is a fast casual restaurant serving everything from beef to tofu, but the most interesting thing I see are the steamed pods. If it’s anything like the Pork bao at Morimoto’s Asia, then I will be one very happy adventurer. Available in Vegetable Steamed Curry and Cheeseburger these light and fluffy looking pods do seem interesting. Pandora: The World of Avatar also offers another quick service option that will definitely quench any explorer’s thirst.

Serving bioluminescent frozen cocktails, indigenous beers, and sweet treats only available here, Pongu Pongu sounds like the perfect stand to visit on a hot day. Read our list of can't miss foods at Walt Disney World and see if you've eaten any of our favorites! What's on your "can't miss" list?I cannot wait to try all of these new, amazing looking dishes this summer! I will definitely be sharing which ones are best in another round of “Can’t Miss Foods at Walt Disney World.” Until next time, Bon Appetit!

Can’t Miss Foods at Disney Springs

morimoto asia

Can’t Miss Foods at Disney Springs

Don’t count Disney Springs out on your next Disney vacation. The revamped and expanded dining and shopping district boasts so many choices, it’s hard to know what to pick! This list of can’t miss foods at Disney Springs will help you plan your trip effectively.Can't Miss Foods at Disney Springs

Morimoto Asia

First, I would like to talk about Iron Chef Morimoto’s Morimoto Asia located. Meredith and I enjoyed dinner here last March, and it is by far one of my most favorite restaurants EVER! I like to consider myself somewhat of a “foodie” with Asian cuisine being my go to choice. disney foodNot only does Morimoto Asia have a beautiful atmosphere and open kitchen, but there is also Morimoto Asia Street Food. Diners can get counter service at a patio dining area near the main restaurant. Prices are very inexpensive considering the prices of the main restaurant, but the menu is also much smaller. Dining in the main restaurant is a bit more expensive, but, believe me, the scrumptious morsels you will eat will be well worth the price of the final bill.morimoto asiaI can highly recommend the Kakui Pork Bao, which is a steamed bun with braised pork belly, lettuce, and spicy mayo. I also fell in love with the Morimoto Spare Ribs.morimoto asiaThese pork ribs with cilantro and hoisin sweet chili glaze were such a wonderful delight. Several of the items that I’m looking forward to trying are: Pork Dumplings, Japanese A5 Wagu Beef, and the Morimoto Peking Duck. With the kitchen being behind a wall of glass, I was able to stare upon these mouthwatering Peking ducks my whole meal. I know that I must try them next time.Next,

The Ganachery

I’d like to tell you about The Ganachery. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, this place is heaven on Earth.

disney snackWhether you like sweet, fruity, or spicy you’ll be able to find a chocolate square to satisfy any palate. If you’re unable to make it down to Orlando to visit Disney Springs in person, you can still get a tasting of what’s available at The Ganachery by visiting the Shop Parks app by Disney.

Vivoli il Gelato

Last but not least, we visited another sweet cravings eliminator, Vivoli il Gelato. disney snackThis place knocks other ice cream parlors out of the park. Offering creamy gelati, fruity sorbetti, and hot espresso drinks, this place is sure to make you dance in your seat!I hope to share more of my Disney foodie obsessions with you again soon. Until next time, Bon Appetit!

Thanks to Noelle for sharing her fantastic foodie tips and Meredith for the delicious photos!

Make Your Vote Count

We are roughly 200 days away from our next Disney trip, and I’m coming to you today because I need advice! I can’t make up my mind about what we should do on our next trip. Who else should I turn to but our trusted Mouse & Monorail readers for their input and opinions. So here goes…

We are taking our family on another Disney cruise in late May 2017 for our son Roo’s 6th birthday. It will be my husband, our 2 sons (ages 10 and 6) and myself. I know that there is simply no way I can cruise from Port Canaveral and NOT visit Walt Disney World. The question then turns to, “what do I want out of our next Disney trip?” We are wanting to be there for a couple of nights before our cruise, and we don’t want to break the bank. Here are a few options I’m tossing around:

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Option 1: Stay in a value or moderate resort, perhaps Pop Century or Caribbean Beach. We would purchase a 1 day water parks and more tickets and visit Magic Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon. We haven’t visited the WDW water parks yet, so this would be fun and new for us. The boys love water parks, and I think with their ages there would be plenty to do to keep us all happy.

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Option 2: Once again stay in a value or moderate resort, and purchase 2 day tickets. We would visit Magic Kingdom and either Epcot or Animal Kingdom. I would like to see the new Animal Kingdom light show when it comes out, but a date hasn’t been set for that. The kids would probably enjoy Animal Kingdom (especially Expedition Everest) more than Epcot, but Jeremy and I fell in love with Epcot on our last trip. I’d love to really explore Epcot more, and allow them to see all the fun things around the World Showcase. And hello, Soarin’ and Test Track!

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Option 3: Skip the parks all together and splurge on a savanna room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This resort is on my bucket list, and I would absolutely be in heaven waking up and seeing the giraffes outside my room. If we picked this option, we would probably explore the resort, eat at restaurants we’ve never tried, play in the pools and visit Disney Springs. We might even get tickets to La Nouba by Cirque de Soleil. It would truly be 2 days of relaxation enjoying the resort amenities to the fullest. I’d also like to do the starlight safari at Animal Kingdom.

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So those are a few of my ideas. What do you think? Which option would YOU pick if it were your trip? Feel free to throw out other ideas in the comments. I’m truly open to all suggestions, and can’t wait to hear which choice you would pick. Have a magical day! ~Amy ºoº

Saving Money at Disney World

Saving Money at Disney World

When it comes to traveling to Disney World, I’m always looking to save as much money as possible, especially considering that it is a pretty hefty investment to get a family of 4 to the most magical place on Earth. I’ve researched a lot before our all of our trips and found plenty of great information. These tips are some of the best I’ve found for keeping things low cost while enjoying your stay.

Saving money on a Disney vacation is a lot easier than you would think. Try our tips on your next trip and see how much you can save!

 

Celebration Buttons

If you are celebrating at Disney, Disney is going to celebrate with you! They offer free buttons for birthdays, honeymoons, first visits, anniversaries, family reunions, and general “I’m Celebrating” buttons. Wear your button, every day of your trip! They write in permanent marker on the bottom of the button what you are celebrating so you could put anything from “I’m Pregnant!” or “School is Over!” to “I’m Retired.” You also never know what kind of cool freebies or attention you might get just for wearing your button. Celebration buttons are free and are saving money at Disney World.

Autographed Photos

When checking into our Disney resort, I made sure to mention that it was Tigger’s birthday trip, and they asked me what his favorite character was. On our last day, we had a signed photo of Buzz and Woody waiting for us in our room. Tigger was thrilled, and I love the free keepsake we got!

 

Memory Maker

While not an actual freebie, make sure to take advantage of the Memory Maker photographers. It is free for them to take the pictures, and you can always decide when you get home if you want to purchase any pictures. If you don’t purchase the MemoryMaker, the photographers are still happy to use your camera or phone to take pictures. All you have to do is ask!

Memory Maker is not free, but it is another way to be saving money at Disney World

Park Maps

Maps are available at all the parks. Make sure to grab a handful to bring home. They make good souvenirs of your trip to remind you of all the attractions you did on your trip. Try our tutorial for making a craft with the maps you bring home. They can also be helpful for planning future trips.

 

Stickers

Cast members are loaded with stickers free for the taking. Just smile and ask and see what characters you come up with. Definitely makes a fun souvenir for school friends, and it doesn’t cost you a dime!

Stickers are saving money Disney World.

Ice water

I know this doesn’t sound very exciting, but you can score free cups of ice water at any Disney quick service restaurant. Pack a few containers of flavored drink mix into your backpack, and you can save TONS by not buying drinks. With the heat in Orlando, the water is so much better for you than soft drinks. By using flavor drops, kids won’t even realize that they aren’t drinking soft drinks.

Saving money Disney World includes getting free water!

Bring Your Own Food

Disney will let you take food and drink into the park. I packed a small soft sided lunch box filled with gummies, crackers, cookies and cereal bars to tide us over without having to spend tons on snacks. It definitely comes in handy when you are waiting in a long line and the kids are “starving” and can’t wait until the ride is over to eat!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my freebies and money savers, and please comment with any other ways to save money at Disney. Remember, every dollar saved gets you one dollar closer to your next trip!

How to Plan a Disney Vacation in 2017

Plan a Disney Vacation in 2017

Plan Disney vacation with our easy tips.

In case you haven’t heard the news, on June 21st package rates will be released for 2017 travel to Walt Disney World. Packages include rooms and tickets to the parks. If you think that you want to visit WDW in 2017, but don’t know where to begin, here are some of our helpful resources that can help you get ready to plan the trip of your dreams.

Travel Agents

Walt Disney World can be very overwhelming for newbies. Travel agents can take care of the details for you so you don’t have to worry. If you book through an authorized Disney Vacation Planner, you know you are getting an expert, and the best part…you don’t have to pay anything for the service! Disney pays them for you! If you have questions on using a TA, listen to our podcast all about the services travel agents can provide for you. You can find each of our travel pages here: Jolly Holidays by Sarah, Main Street Memories by Meredith, and Tomorrowland Travels with Amy.

Where to Stay

Plan Disney vacation and learn where to stay.

You can check out our posts on which Disney World Resort is right for you. My part 1 post includes value and moderate resorts, and part 2 includes deluxe resorts and villas.  Our family loves Pop Century, a value resort, but other families may favor more deluxe accommodations. Sarah has covered why her family loves Port Orleans French Quarter and Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Dining Plan

After covering where to stay, you’ll need to decide if the dining plan is right for your family. Listen to our podcast where we dished on Dining. Read what I shared in December about how I got out of my Disney dining comfort zone on the plan and loved every second of it.

Other Considerations

Would your family like the Memory Maker PhotoPass? How can you take the best pictures possible to remember this trip forever?

Plan Disney vacation and get your FastPasses early!

Wondering what in the world FastPass+ is? What about how to beat the heat in Orlando? We’ve got you covered on those topics too!

Lastly, check out my Top 5 Know Before You Go Tips. These tips will help you plan a Disney vacation with a lot less stress. Use the search button at the top of this page to check for anything else you might be wondering about or email us your questions at mouseandmonorail (at) gmail (dot) com.

Need to plan your Disney vacation and don't know where to start? Check out our best tips for easy planning and stress free Disney fun!

We would love to answer any questions you have! Will 2017 be the year for you and your family?

Epcot: A Free Printable Guide

Epcot Guide

Epcot is a gorgeous park to visit.

Epcot is the park at Walt Disney World that you may be tempted to skip – but please don’t! There is so much to see, do and EAT at Epcot! Epcot covers 300 acres, and is broken down into 2 sections: Future World and The World Showcase. Future World also includes Imagination! Pavilion, Innoventions East, The Land Pavilion, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. The World Showcase includes pavilions from 11 countries around the world.

Dining in Epcot

There are almost 75 dining options at Epcot, and that doesn’t include special events such as the Food & Wine Festival or the Flower & Garden Festival when food carts are added! Epcot is definitely THE park to visit if you are foodie! I’ll be honest that, in the past, I didn’t have much love for Epcot, but that all changed on our recent anniversary trip to Walt Disney World, sans kids. It gave us the chance to actually take our time and really take in all that Epcot has to offer.

I’m going to take a moment of silence for the Del Mar seafood grill at La Hacienda de San Angel. Hands down, the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Learning While on Vacation

Beyond the food, Epcot is amazing at allowing you to explore new technology in Future World, and visit countries around the World Showcase. Attractions such as Test Track and Sum of All Thrills combine the latest technology with science and turn it into rides. You (and your kids!) are doing science while you are having fun. Total win/win!

Epcot has great learning rides like Spaceship Earth.

I fell in love with Epcot on a trip without kids, but do not fear if you are visiting Epcot with kids! Epcot offers Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure in the countries of the World Showcase, and it is so much fun! You receive a phone type device, and are given clues as though you are a secret agent from Phineas and Ferb. It is so much fun and really makes you slow down and explore the countries to try to solve your clues. We loved it! Kids also can get a Passport to get stamped in the countries, as well as do free crafts and activities with the cast members in each country. I think this was a genius idea from Disney to help parents to entertain their kids around the World Showcase.

Unique Activities in Epcot

In addition to touring the amazing pavilions, each country features food, drinks, souvenirs, experiences and shows. For example, you may hear a mariachi band in Mexico, and see Chinese acrobats in China. You might want to check out the Pick-A-Pearl in Japan, or shop for authentic Moroccan jewelry. Perhaps you would like a drink? Get a beer in Germany, a shot of tequila in Mexico, or a glass of wine in Italy. Not a drinker? How about trying some authentic snacks! Try school bread in Norway, a pastry in France and sushi in Japan.

Epcot Snacks in France.

Click on these links to get your free guides to all the Future World Attractions  and World Showcase Attractions for Epcot. Please note that especially for the countries in Epcot, even if an attraction isn’t listed, the pavilion itself is an attraction! Take your time to explore the nooks and crannies of each country. Don’t forget that Illuminations – Reflections on Earth can be seen from all pavilions. The Mouse and the Monorail Guide to Epcot

If you are planning a trip to Epcot, take the time to explore the menus and attractions before your trip. Print out our guide so you don’t miss anything fun or yummy! Don’t forget to print out our Magic Kingdom guide to go with this one!

Magic Kingdom: A Printable Guide

Magic Kingdom Guide

When someone says they are going to Walt Disney World, 9 times out of 10, they have the Magic Kingdom in their mind. For anyone who has never visited Magic Kingdom, or maybe you haven’t visited in many years, there is a ton of stuff to see and do! But, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect. Magic Kingdom is broken down into lands that are like spokes on a wheel, with the center of the wheel being the main attraction, Cinderella Castle. The other lands include the following: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.Entrance Walt Disney World Resort

Free Printable Guide

Each section of Magic Kingdom has unique theming, architecture, attractions, food and music. If you pay attention as you are going to one land from another, you can see a slow transition of design, even with things as simple as flowers and plants, to which kind of music you hear playing in the background. Disney does fantastic at transitioning their guests into new experiences. They do such a good job, for example, that you won’t even get a glimpse of the castle from the heart of Adventureland. You know why? Because you can’t find castles in the jungle!

The Mouse and the Monorail Free Printable Guide to the Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom Attractions and Dining

To make it easier to plan a trip to Magic Kingdom, I’ve broken down the attractions and dining options by section throughout Magic Kingdom. Attractions with height requirements are indicated with the measurements necessary to ride. I’ve also listed whether the dining option is quick service, table service, or snack service. You can view the guide below and print it here:  Magic Kingdom AttractionsMagic Kingdom Attractions_Page_1

Magic Kingdom Attractions_Page_2

Magic Kingdom covers 142 acres, and it’s the smallest of the Walt Disney World parks! Preparation is key to having an enjoyable Disney vacation. Study YouTube and My Disney Experience for rides, attractions and menus to see what you know your family would love – or what you can mark off your list!

Helpful Tips

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Print this guide and put it in your park bag with your notes before you begin your day. Take your highlighter or pen to the pages! Don’t by shy when it comes to marking it up and checking off the things you want to do. I hope you find this guide to Magic Kingdom helpful. Check out our Epcot guide too!