Try The Grey Stuff, It’s Delicious

Both years, we have purchased Disney Dining — our plan is set up so that we receive one snack, one quick-service meal (at which one orders at a counter generally), and one sit-down meal. Because many of these restaurants reserve months ahead of time, as soon as our window for booking opened, I set up all the meals. We were able to get in every single restaurant we wished, which was terrific.

Some days we needed to eat carefully as it was during Passover, but we brought matzah and it was fine. We saw and met mannnny other families during the same thing, and Disney is fine with bringing outside food in to the parks. Other days, it wasn’t during the holiday so we could carb-out again.

Below are images from both this year and last year’s visits to WDW.

Here, the poutine at Le Cellier, in Wold Showcase at Canada. We wanted to come here since Av loves a good steak and that’s one of LC’s strengths. While everything was quite good, the steak fell a little short.
Poutine at Le Cellier, Epcot, WDW//

Although in general we eschew buffets, Boma is an exception. It’s at Animal Kingdom Lodge and features many items with African flavors. We had a supper at Boma both years — it’s that good.

Tangierine Cafe at Morocco Epcot was the best counter service — good shawarma.

I had higher hopes for Chefs de France at Epcot, but it was only average. Les Halles was just okay.

We heard wonderful things about Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but none of it was particularly interesting or tasty. This malva pudding was good:
Malva Pudding at Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge//

…but the best part of the meal was actually these coconut macaroons that came with the check, so what does that say?
Macaroons at Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge//

Because we wanted reserved seats for Fantasmic, we purchased the Fantasmic Dinner Package, with our meal being at Mama Melrose. We had low expectations for a Disney Italian restaurant, but surprise — this was the best steak Av had at Disney either year! Our waiter was fantastic and gave great advice about where to sit during the show.

One night, we reserved Tokyo Dining so we’d have a great view of the Epcot fireworks show (if it weren’t for the fireworks view, we would have chosen to eat elsewhere). Turned out we watched the show the night before when we were in the park, but the boys still got a big kick out of being served in monorail dishes:
Tokyo Dining, Epcot WDW//

…and the sushi was fine.
Tokyo Dining, Epcot WDW//

For both trips, we had our last supper at ‘Ohana at Polynesian Village. I made the reservations so we would be seated in time to watch the Wishes fireworks from MK. Both times we requested a table by the window and we got them. When the show begins, the lighting in the restaurant goes down, and the music plays over the dining room speakers. It is timed perfectly with the fireworks. So, so special.

Another great thing about ‘Ohana is that it is served a la Brazilian steakhouse, so the servers bring around chicken, beef, etc and it is all delectable. An entertainer gets people dancing and doing some hula moves, and last year, the boys swept coconuts around the restaurant. Can’t even say how fun this is.

One of our favorite places to eat is at Beauty and the Beast — it’s a counter service credit for breakfast and lunch on the Disney Dining Plan. You can order beforehand via the Disney app rather than standing in line. The food is good (here, their version of a cronut):
Cronut at Beauty and the Beast Restaurant, Magic Kingdom WDW//

pastries are brought to the table with breakfast
Pastries at Beauty and the Beast Restaurant, Magic Kingdom WDW//

a little charcuterie:
Charcuterie at Beauty and the Beast Restaurant, Magic Kingdom, WDW//

One of the days after Passover, we were there for lunch and ordered a cupcake with the ‘grey stuff’ — and it was pretty good!

What makes the restaurant so endearing is how well it’s themed
Beauty and the Beast Restaurant, Magic Kingdom WDW//

There are three dining rooms — this one features Belle and the Beast dancing (the middle piece turns like in a jewelrybox)
Beauty and the Beast Restaurant, Magic Kingdom WDW//

The ballroom
and the Beast’s west wing study, where it’s always dark 

Beauty and the Beast Restaurant, Magic Kingdom WDW//

and features the rose

We’ve decided to skip Disney for at least the next two or three years. When the boys are older, though, I think we’ll be sure to gift them with Dine with an Imagineer, and Backstage Magic or Backstage Tales. Maybe Epcot Aqua Tour or the Dolphin experience — or if Papa comes with us and the boys are already certified, I know they’d love to do the Epcot DiveQuest. Those kinds of add-on experiences are probably what keeps Disney fresh to people who visit every year. And I’ll dream about reserving the chef’s table at Victoria and Albert’s too.

Disney — Rides, And Hero Shug

Let’s start with the greatest ride ever, A Small World
It's a Small World, Magic Kingdom, WDW//

It's a Small World, Magic Kingdom, WDW

It's a Small World, Magic Kingdom, WDW//

The boys loved Tomorrowland Speedway
Tomorrowland Speedway, Magic Kingdom WDW//

Tomorrowland Speedway, Magic Kingdom WDW//

Tomorrowland Speedway, Magic Kingdom WDW//

And Av and I had one ride at Magic Kingdom we wanted to do with everyone more than any others: Space Mountain, which we did SO many times!

(Have to say, we are still disappointed our beloved Mr Toad’s Wild Ride has been closed for years. haha!)

We did every ride other than the toddler ones between these two trips. Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion are still terrific.  If you’re going to Hollywood Studios and will do Toy Story Mania, it’s a million times more fun than Buzz Lightyear at MK. Both of the newer roller coasters at MK, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain, are fun but not scary. And Splash Mountain is such a great, long, fun ride. Between Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, we could just do those two over and over while at MK and be completely happy.

At Epcot, Soarin’ was open last year but not this year. We thought Soarin’ was good, but were SO glad we had a FastPass for it as the standby wait was over a couple of hours last year. I still like the ride at The Land:
The Land, Epcot, WDW//

The Land, Epcot, WDW//

We did every ride at Epcot again this year, and the boys’ favorite was the Chevrolet Test Track, where they got to design their own car, then see how it performed during the ride.
Epcot Chevrolet Test Track WDW//

Shugie’s second favorite is Spaceship Earth, which is the slow ride inside the geosphere.

Another nice thing is that both years, our trip as been during the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. There are *so* many more pictures I could have taken, but on this trip I made a decision to take fewer pictures and just experience everything more. Remember it, just like I wanted the boys to. Not everything had to be documented.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival WDW//

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival WDW//

Each night, we watched the closing ceremony from at least one of the parks. This is from Epcot last year:
Epcot Fireworks WDW//

At Hollywood Studios, we are in love with Toy Story Mania. Shug found his cousin’s (kinda distant, and only by marriage) handprints outside the theatre:
Shug, Dustin Hoffman at Hollywood Studios WDW//

One of the best shows we saw was the Fantasmic show at HS. We did the Fantasmic dinner package which cost extra, but we got good seats (our waiter told us the best place to sit in the reserved section — toward the top rather than the bottom, and close to the middle).
Fantasia Show at Hollywood Studios WDW//

HS is a somewhat low on rides, and will be until the Star Wars areas open more.

The BEST THING EVER happened at HS last year, though. We were in the second row of seats in the Great Movie Ride, behind the driver. In the part of the ride where our kind guide gets out of the car and Mugsy kidnaps all of us, Shug *forgot* for a second that it was all make-believe, and before we got moving again, he STOOD UP and told Mugsy that he couldn’t treat our driver like that and he shouldn’t be taking off with all of us! Ohmygosh, people were clapping for Shug and he was our hero! I think ‘Mugsy’ got a real kick out of it too. I reminded Shug that this was all planned and it wasn’t real, but it upset him that our driver was treated so shabbily. So proud of him.

At Animal Kingdom, Shugie wasn’t so sure about getting on Kali River Rapids, but decided he liked it even after he got soaked
Kali River Rapids, Animal Kingdom, WDW//

We rode the Expedition Everest coaster half a dozen times in a row last year because there was very little of a line the hour before the park closed. Av started to turn green, which made everybody else that much more fervent about riding it again! haha! It’s the boys’ favorite coaster, though Shug thinks Wild Eagle at Dollywood and Fury 325 at Carowinds are pretty close.

It was really exciting to see the rhinos up close on the Kilimanjaro Safari
Kilimanjaro Safari, Animal Kingdom WDW//

Kilimanjaro Safari, Animal Kingdom WDW//

Kilimanjaro Safari, Animal Kingdom WDW//

I didn’t bring my phone to the water parks (we didn’t bring anything and didn’t wish to rent a locker) but we visited both Disney water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, this year. Blizzard Beach was fun with several slides and had a very long lazy river going around the whole park. We thought Typhoon Lagoon was tons more fun because it had slides plus a saltwater shark reef that Av and Shug swam through (Shugie was insistent that we get in the lazy river there immediately as that’s his favorite thing). And best of all was TL’s wave pool (the largest in the country), which was different than any other we’ve been to: instead of a constant mix of waves, every couple of minutes there would be a ‘boom’ followed by a six-foot surf wave. Once it comes, you face the beach and it carries you along as you swim. Can’t even say how fun that was!!

Tomorrow: Disney food!

Disney Week

Last year, we surprised the boys with their first week to Walt Disney World. We’ve been waiting because we wanted to make sure they were told enough (at 6 and 7, perfect) to be able to do most everything and be able to remember it. One morning last spring, we got up and told the boys we were going to go in to the airport so they could see some planes taking off (they’d never been on a plane before) — and Av already had the car packed with suitcases so they had no idea what we were up to.

When we got inside, they thought everyone had to go through security, so that was no issue. And then I told them: guess what? We’re going to Des Moines, Iowa!

And they were really surprised and happy about that

Des Moines must be marketing to little kids, because mine were just tickled about going there.

Completely oblivious to the signs and announcements saying we were actually going to Orlando. I think excitement just took over everything.

We took Southwest as it was a direct flight and just the times we wanted. When we made it off the plane in Orlando, we walked right over to Disney Magical Express (the buses that go from airport to the hotels) and opened the box with the boys’ Magic Bands and woweeeee they were just crazy-happy!

This year, the boys *had* to go back to WDW so they did some of the planning, including reading the latest Birnbaum’s and other guides.

Av and I last stayed at WDW in 2001 for a convention that was held at Coronado Springs. Coronado Springs Resort is a Disney convention hotel and is grouped as one of the moderate hotels. Since we planned on staying in the parks from morning to late night and simply using the room to sleep in, we thought it wouldn’t make sense to spend more money on one of the more premium hotels like the Polynesian, Animal Kingdom Lodge, or Grand Floridian. This was a great plan, because that’s exactly how it worked out.

The hotel surrounds this lake
Coronado Springs Resort, WDW//

Some of these pics are from the trip we just got back from, because we were so satisfied with the hotel from the year before that we decided to just do it again this year
Pool at Coronado Springs, WDW//

The rooms are themed after the American Southwest
Coronado Springs Hotel Room, WDW//

The maids made towel art for us each day they arrived
Coronado Springs Hotel Room, WDW//

We had Park Hopper and went to at least two or three of the six parks (besides Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, this year we also purchased the extended passes for the waterparks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) each day. Sometimes in the afternoon, we would come in for an hour or two and hang out at the hotel pool. I actually like this pool better than the other two we saw, Polynesian and Animal Kingdom Lodge — this one at Coronado Springs is large and has a slide Shug went down a couple hundred times. There were other activities poolside too.

Pool at Coronado Springs, WDW//

Because this is a Disney hotel, we walked to one of the bus stops (this year they have screens to let you know what time each bus will arrive! Yay!) surrounding the hotel to go straight to whichever park we wished.

Also: not only was our luggage from the airport delivered to our hotel room without us having to be there (we didn’t have to claim it in Orlando — it has Disney tags and the Disney people took it), when we departed, we simply checked our luggage *at* the hotel which meant we didn’t even have to deal with it again until we arrived home at baggage claim. Huge plus.

Last year, the day we left, the boys got to watch some Disney art being made just with water and a boom behind the main lobby:

Tomorrow, parks and food!