Dining with Character: 1900 Park Fare

1900 Park Fare, located at the Grand Floridian, is home to Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. This meal includes a buffet (not great, but not bad) and the best character interaction we’ve ever experienced! Cinderella and Prince Charming were pleasant and, well, charming.

Prince Charming

But the real fun began when Lady Tremaine and her daughters came around. First, Drizella decided that our oldest son would be her new butler. She renamed him Jeeves.

Drizella

Her mother quickly showed up and got in on the action, draping Jeeves’s arm with a napkin and piling it high with sugar packets – so many that they fell over, and she tossed the surplus packets across the room.

Jeeves in training

Not wanting to be left out of the action, Anastasia came over to pose with “Jeeves.”

Anastasia

When I asked Lady Tremaine if we could have our portrait done together, as I’m a fan of hers, she taught me how to stare daggers.

Lady Tremaine

She then invited me to a hush-hush card game at Gaston’s Tavern. “Ladies only!”

So, the food is just all right (fortunately, they have lots of gluten-free options), but the meal is totally worth it – at least once – for the awesome characters!

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Why We Went DVC

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 10.06.57 PM

About a year ago, we decided to join the Disney Vacation Club. This decision was years in the making (see my 2012 post debating the issue). In the end, here are the things that mattered most to us:

  1. Proximity to the parks. Magic Kingdom is, by far, our favorite park. Hence, our DVC “home resort” is Bay Lake Tower, the only resort that is walking distance to MK. Our secondary home resort, where we have a smaller DVC contract, is Boardwalk Villas. This resort is walking distance from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Why is choosing the right home resort so important? You can book your home resort 11 months before the start of your vacation. You can book other DVC resorts 7 months before your trip. With DVC villas in high demand (and showing no sign of slowing down any time soon), it’s important to have that home resort advantage.
  2. Staying at a deluxe resort for a fraction of the deluxe price. Disney deluxe resorts are crazy expensive. For example, a room (not a suite) at the Contemporary starts at $393 per night. A 1-bedroom suite at Bay Lake Tower (the DVC property attached to the Contemporary Resort) starts at $655 per night. So, for a 6-night stay, the room is a minimum of $2358, and the suite is at least $3930. If I take my initial DVC investment, divide it by the number of years on my contract, and add in the yearly maintenance fees, that comes to $1558/year. I have enough “points” on my DVC contract to get a 1-bedroom suite at Bay Lake Tower for six nights, with a few points left over to use the following year. This is far less than the $3930 rack rate. Furthermore, it’s less than the $1800 or so we were paying for a 6-night stay at All-Star Music family suites (a Disney value resort).
  3. An awesome excuse to keep going back to Disney, over and over and over! Yup, I’ll admit it: Disney World is my absolute favorite place. Now that we own a piece of it (at least until our Bay Lake Tower contract expires in 2060), we have to keep going back in order to get our money’s worth. And if circumstances prevent us from going, our family or friends can use our membership that year. The way I see it, that’s a win for everybody!

I’m fairly new to the DVC lifestyle, but if you have any questions, I’d be happy to do my best to help.

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The Rose & Crown Pub

Wow, I’ve been talking a lot about food and drink around here! Let’s do one more:)

We adore the Rose & Crown Pub in Epcot’s UK Pavilion. On our last trip, we stopped in for one of our favorite snacks at Disney World, the Scotch egg.

The Scotch egg - golden-fried hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, with mustard sauce.

The Scotch egg: golden-fried hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, with mustard sauce.

To go with the egg, Rich surprised me with a glass of Scotch. Why was this such a surprise? Because he opted for the $29 glass of Scotch!😀

Scotch

The Macallan 18-year.

Fortunately, the bartender gave us a generous pour, much more than the 2 ounces listed on the menu. And, I have to admit, the Scotch was quite nice (and I’m not all that partial to Scotch).

Have you been to the Rose & Crown? What’s your favorite Disney snack (or drink)?

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Epcot Wine Walk

The Epcot World Showcase Wine Walk is an actual thing, even though I can’t find any mention of it on the Disney World website. For $20 a person, you can get samples of two wines from each of three pavilions – Germany, Italy, and France. What a bargain! Once Rich and I heard about the wine walk, we just had to try it out.

Epcot wine walk sign

Start at any of the three pavilions listed, go to the wine shop (Weinkeller in Germany, Enoteca Castello in Italy, Aux Vins de France in – you guessed it – France), and pick up your… passport? Ticket? Paper thingy? I don’t know what it’s officially called, but it’s how the Cast Members in each wine shop keep track of where you’ve been (because someone has to).

We started in Germany with two sweet white wines. I adored them.

We started in Germany with two sweet white wines. I adored them.

Next up was Italy, where the red and the white were both quite sweet. These I adored, as well.

Next up was Italy, where the red and the white were both quite sweet. These I adored, as well.

Ah, France. A red and a white, both drier than these others on the wine walk. Not heavy, just very nice.

Ah, France. A red and a white, both drier than the others on the wine walk. Not heavy, just very nice.

After visiting all three wine shops, we decided to stop in at the Rose & Crown Pub in the UK pavilion for a bite to eat. Rich had finished his French wine, but I still had my red left, so I took it into the pub with me. At the Rose & Crown, we had… oh, that’s a story for another day:)

Have you done the Epcot Wine Walk? Which wine was your favorite?

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Our favorite Disney restaurants: Sanaa

Ah…Sanaa… This lovely restaurant located at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village overlooks the savanna and its animal occupants. We had a late dinner here, and thus couldn’t see the animals through our window-side table, but it was still a wonderful meal in a charming atmosphere.

We started with drinks in the lounge while waiting for our table. I had the African Starr Mojito (Starr African rum, Van der Hum tangerine liqueur from South Africa, fresh mint, and lime). It was quite tasty. (I can’t remember what my husband had. Something on the rocks, I think.)

African Starr mojito

I’d long heard amazing things about Sanaa’s bread service. Not familiar with this? It’s pretty much a wooden board full of heavenly flavors. There are five different types of naan (Indian bread): traditional, garlic-ginger, spiced naan, onion kucha, and paneer paratha. You can choose three accompaniments, or pay a little extra and get all nine – cucumber raita, roasted red pepper hummus, mango chutney, tomato-date jam, tamarind chutney, coriander chutney, garlic pickle, red chile sambal, and spicy jalapeño-lime pickle. You should definitely get them all. My favorites were the cucumber raita, coriander chutney (which I called cilantro chutney), and red chile sambal. Actually, the three mixed together were quite nice.

Sanaa bread service

For our entree (we split it because, well, bread service), we had the braaivleis – a South African sampler platter with boerewor (South African sausage), a lamb chop, and pork tenderloin with veggies and maybe some potatoes? I’m not sure. We failed to photograph it. I think our minds were still on that amazing bread service. Not to diss the sampler platter – it was delicious! Our excellent server recommended South African wines to go with our meal, based on our individual preferences. Mine was a bit lighter, my husband’s more bold. They were both very good.

Have you dined at Sanaa? What’s your favorite bread service “accompaniment”?

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Kidani Village – so relaxing

Animal Kingdom Lodge is divided into two sections, Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo House is bigger and has more amenities, while Kidani Village has a cozier vibe. The path between them makes for an easy walk, though there is also a shuttle that runs between the two halves of the resort. We chose Kidani Village for our first DVC stay as DVC members because, well, by the time our purchase went through, our home resort of Bay Lake Tower was booked up for the holiday weekend visit we had planned. I’d really wanted to stay at BLT on this first official DVC vacation, but ended up being very pleased with Kidani. The lighting is warm and low, the finishes are gorgeous, and the theming is done to perfection. All in all, I found this to be a very relaxing, soothing place to stay. I look forward to future visits to Kidani Village.

Kidani entrance lanterns

The warm, welcoming environment embraced us as soon as we entered the lobby.

Kidani lobby

Our studio was beautiful, as well.

Kidani studio

Kidani wardrobe and dresser

Kidani bed

Kidani kitchenette

Kidani vanity

Kidani bath

We had a “standard” view, as it costs fewer points than a savanna view, and we intended to spend most of our time in the parks. Though we couldn’t see any animals from our balcony, the view was still quite lush.

Kidani view

The animal viewing area, just off the lobby, was really great. At one point, there were giraffes standing so close to us, we felt like we could reach out and pet them. (Though, of course, we didn’t!) I was so into the animals, I forgot to take any pictures. I highly recommend checking out this viewing area if you get the chance.

The bus service to and from Kidani Village was excellent. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for a bus, and the longest drive was 20 minutes (to Magic Kingdom). The buses typically stopped at Kidani first, then Jambo House, then went to the parks. However, on occasion, we would board an empty bus that would take us directly to the park without stopping at Jambo House.

This might not seem like an option for a big family, as the studio only sleeps up to four, but Kidani Village has one-bedroom villas that sleep up to five, as well as two-bedroom villas that sleep up to nine. For photos of the larger accommodations at Kidani Village, visit the Walt Disney World official site.

Have you ever stayed at Kidani Village? What did you think of it?

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Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks

Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks – I was really excited to try this new “food place” on our last Disney trip. Located right next to Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, this grab-and-go spot helps round out this corner of the park.

Trek Snacks

Trying to kill time before our Expedition Everest FP+ window opened, and hungry because we’d not yet had breakfast, we moseyed up to Trek Snacks around 10:30 in the morning. I wanted to try the Banh Mi (a Vietnamese sandwich of roasted pork, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and Sriracha on a roll). Sadly, it wasn’t listed on the menu. I inquired with the Cast Members, and was told that they were still on the breakfast menu. The lunch menu started at 11 am. “Oh,” I said sadly. “But,” they said cheerily, “we have the sandwiches! We can sell you one!” Yay!

Now, my husband and I love us a good banh mi. We’ve even perfected the concoction at home. Although the Trek Snacks version of a banh mi was a decent, quick bite to eat, it wasn’t a true banh mi.

Trek Snacks banh mi

The Thirsty River Bar half of the establishment didn’t open until 11 am, so we used our Expedition Everest FastPass+ before returning to the bar for a tasty beverage.

Khumbu Icefall: Cruzan Guava Rum with coconut and raspberry pureé.

Khumbu Icefall: Cruzan Guava Rum with coconut and raspberry pureé.

Have you tried this new, quick spot? What did you think?

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Star Wars stuff at DHS

If, like me, you’re anxiously awaiting the impending Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (or whatever the park will be renamed), you need some sort of Star Wars in-park fix to tide you over. That’s where Star Wars Launch Bay and Star Tours (both at DHS) come in.

SW Launch Bay

At the Launch Bay, you can watch a 10-minute behind-the-scenes movie, view replicas of props/costumes/models from the Star Wars movies, meet Chewbacca or a bad guy (Darth Vader while we were there, now replaced by Kylo Ren), play Disney Infinity 3.0 (which is pretty Star Wars-heavy), and, of course, buy stuff. You may even see Storm Troopers and Jawas roaming around. My favorite part was meeting Chewie:)

Chewbacca

Chewie and us

Over at Star Tours, the ride has been revamped to add in a scene from The Force Awakens. It was very cool!

There are lots of other Star Wars things going on at DHS, from Jedi Training (for your younglings) to Symphony in the Stars – a fireworks show I’ve yet to see, but hear is out of this world. (Sorry!) For info on even more Star Wars stuff coming to DHS soon, check out this post on the Disney Parks Blog.

Have you enjoyed the expanded Star Wars offerings at DHS? What do you hope to see in Star Wars Land? And what do you think the park should be renamed?

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Our monorail pub crawl

Trader Sam

The monorail pub crawl is a fun way to do a sort of progressive dinner around the monorail resort loop. Most people seem to start at the Contemporary Resort and visit the lounge at The Wave, then continue on – via monorail, of course – to the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian. We decided, however, to start at the Poly. We hadn’t yet been to the relatively new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, had heard it could be tricky to get into, and really wanted to try it out. It was awesome! Not only were the drinks and food very tasty, but there’s a wacky performance that plays out whenever one of the specialty drinks is ordered. We sat at the bar and had a blast!

Shrunken Zombie Head and Krakatoa Punch

Shrunken Zombie Head and Krakatoa Punch

Kalua pork tacos

Kalua pork tacos

Crazy Cast Member

Crazy Cast Member

Next up was Mizner’s Lounge at the Grand Floridian. I’d never been inside the Grand Floridian before, so we explored for a bit before heading to the lounge. This classy, comfortable bar is located behind the Grand Floridian Lobby Society Orchestra’s performance area, so the smooth sounds of jazzified Disney tunes set the tone for this relaxing space. I thoroughly enjoyed their renditions of Under the Sea, Once Upon a Dream, and the Mos Eisley Cantina song.

Salted Caramel Manhattan and Mizner Cooler

Salted Caramel Manhattan and Mizner Cooler

Awesome bread and arancini

Awesome bread and arancini

Our plan was to hit the Top of the World Lounge next, but when the monorail stopped at the Magic Kingdom, we couldn’t help but hop off. It may have been a grown-ups-only trip, but we spent a lot of it acting like kids. But isn’t that the beauty of Disney?

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Skipper Canteen – really average

Having heard excellent things about Skipper Canteen, the new table-service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, I was super excited to try it. Sadly, it fell short of my high expectations.

First, there was the process of getting a table. Unlike other Disney World sit-down restaurants, Skipper Canteen does not take reservations (or ADRs, in Disney-speak). This seems like a good idea – I mean, who wants to plan every single second of a vacation? The spontaneity and flexibility of having a walk-up sit-down restaurant (if that makes any sense) seems good. Until you take FastPass+ into consideration. These, you must plan 60 days in advance of your trip (if you want the more popular rides). So there we were, our FP+ plans for the evening all set, strolling up to the Skipper Canteen desk to see if they had a table for two… and finding out that we could either wait a half-hour and try to squeeze dinner in before our next FastPass+, or wait until after that ride and risk the restaurant being booked for the remainder of the evening. We opted for the former.

So, after strolling around Adventureland for a spell, and then sitting on a crate in the Skipper Canteen outdoor waiting area for a while, we were called for our reservation. We then had to sit in an indoor waiting area. Finally, we were called again, and our table was ready.

The Jungle-Cruise-esque theming was fantastic. I didn’t take any pictures of the decor, but it’s all over the internet. Search away! I’ll wait for you.

The menu was adorable. Here’s the back:

Skipper Canteen menu back

Now, for the food. The menu looked inventive and fantastic. We had really high hopes. To begin, our server brought out Ambasha bread with seasoned honey. It looked good, but tasted quite average. Actually, it was kind of on the stale side. After we each ate a few bites, we both started to feel a bit off. From bread. This was not a good sign.

Ambush bread. Like a stone.

Ambasha bread. Like a stone.

For an appetizer, we shared the house-made arepas. I love arepas, and those offered at last year’s Epcot Flower and Garden Festival were amazing. These arepas were nowhere near as good. They looked good, but the flavor was on the bland side.

Skipper Canteen arepas

Arepa with black beans, beef, queso fresco, and a tostone.

For our entree, we both ordered the rice noodle bowl with duck. This is a pho broth (Vietnamese soup) with fresh veggies and herbs. And, as mentioned, noodles and duck. You can get it with chicken or tofu instead of the duck, but I would highly recommend the duck. It was the best part of this dish, tender and delicious. The herbs and veggies were fine, but the broth… oh the broth! It could have been so much better. I’ve had pho many times. I kind of love pho. This particular broth had a really odd flavor, borderline unpleasant. I like bold flavors, but this was just not that good. (My husband, by the way, says that the pho broth was not bad, but not good. Just unremarkable.)

The unremarkable noodle bowl.

The unremarkable noodle bowl.

By the time I was less than halfway through my bowl, I was done. My stomach felt like I’d swallowed a rock. Plus, we were in a hurry to get to that dang FastPass. We asked for the check, MagicBanded it, and headed to our scheduled attraction just before the close of our FP+ window. While we walked, my husband told me that the bread had instantly turned to stone in his stomach. I agreed. And that pretty much set the tone for our meal.

Have you eaten at Skipper Canteen? What did you think? Did you suffer any ill effects from the stone bread?

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