Tips from the DFB Guide: Best Spots for Dining with a Toddler

Many of us have been there. We’re all set to go to Walt Disney World for the trip of a lifetime, and we can’t wait to share this experience with our kiddos!

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But even though Disney is the Happiest Place on Earth, navigating its vastness with a toddler can be challenging at best, and a nightmare at worst.

And few parts of the trip are more challenging than meal times.

While we all agree that certain spots are inappropriate for small children — Victoria and Albert’s restricts patrons to the over 10 crowd — there are some choices that are better than others.

And you may be surprised to know…it doesn’t all come down to characters.

Below, we offer you a few choices from our picks for Best Spots to Eat with a Toddler – a brand new section in our just-released DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2015. Pick up yours today for $4 off using code 2015 right here!

Chef Mickey

We Love Him — But There’s More to Eating at Disney with Kiddos Than Just This Guy!

Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

One of my favorite spots to dine no matter who’s with me is Sanaa. Located in Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the restaurant is known for its exotic menu of African and Indian Fusion. And when I dine here, you know you’re gonna spy some incredible Butter Chicken on the table!

Tandoori trio -- chose butter chicken, spicy chicken, rice Sanaa

Tandoori Trio with Butter Chicken and Spicy Chicken

While the menu makes it a must-visit spot for guests who enjoy out of the ordinary cuisine, the restaurant is also quiet and rarely crowded — great features for guests who have a small fry in tow.

But the real attraction for toddlers is the view! Forget animatronics on the Jungle Cruise — look out the windows at Sanaa’s sweeping vistas and you’ll see the real deal!

View from Sanaa

View from Sanaa

Sanaa overlooks Sunset Savanna and spying a zebra, giraffe, or other exotic animal is practically guaranteed!

You Just Might View Some Animals While You Take in Lunch at Sanaa

You Just Might View Some Animals While You Take in Lunch at Sanaa

Here’s another TIP: Keep in mind when you make your advance dining reservation that the animals tend to retire early, and it may get dark on the savanna earlier than you think. Planning lunch or an early dinner at Sanaa during daylight hours is your best bet for seeing the wild side of the restaurant.

Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Although there are puh-lenty of Character Dining options at Disney, some are better than others when it comes to entertaining babies and toddlers. We’ve chosen two in the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2015, and Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine Restaurant is one of them.

So, what sets Hollywood and Vine’s Play ‘n Dine apart? The characters! While practically all other Character Dining options at Disney involve either some subset of the Fab Five or Disney Princesses, Hollywood and Vine’s Play ‘n Dine features the original characters from the Disney Junior lineup! That means that your kiddo will come face to face with friends like Pirate Jake, Doc McStuffins, and Princess Sophia!

Jake the Pirate

Jake the Pirate Just May Try to Join You for Lunch!

Seeing these beloved characters up close and larger than life is [Read more…]

Review: New Year’s Eve Dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table

Dinner inside the Magic Kingdom’s quintessential castle at Walt Disney World is a remarkable experience any night of the year!

But imagine hobnobbing with Cinderella and feasting inside the royal dining room at Cinderella’s Royal Table on New Year’s Eve. Last year, my family crossed this adventure off of our bucket list — right before the clock struck midnight!

New Year’s Eve Tips

First, make your Advance Dining Reservation as soon as possible. For the most popular restaurants (especially during holidays!!), you’ll need to book 180 days prior!

view of fireworks from Cinderella's Royal Table

You’ll find recommendations to arrive the Magic Kingdom early and stay all day and night. Without a break. In the massive crowds. This commando touring is not my family’s style. So I researched when the Magic Kingdom had closed and re-opened to guests for the past several years.

I found that the Magic Kingdom historically reached crowd capacity in the early morning and afternoon with re-openings by late afternoon/early evening. Even with our pre-paid dinner, we took our chances and it worked perfectly! Tip: You do not have to stay in the Magic Kingdom ALL day and night unless you must have a view of the castle forecourt for fireworks time. By 8PM on December 31, 2013, the Magic Kingdom had re-opened to all guests, including families staying off-site!

We spent the morning at the Animal Kingdom (late breakfast at Tusker House!!) and rested at our hotel the rest of the day. Arriving the Magic Kingdom about 6PM, we were admitted with no problems. Once inside, we experienced the thickest crowds that we’ve ever encountered anywhere. We formed a family chain by holding the back of each others’ shirts and somehow made our way to the back of the park.

Passing people sleeping on blankets as they saved their coveted spots in front of the castle for the evening’s fireworks display — we made our way to New Fantasyland. And the crowds were… gone! We practically had Big Top Treats and the area behind it all to ourselves. We got a snack and relaxed at an outdoor table. Tip: there were barely lines for the character meet and greets in this section of the park!

New Year's Eve Snack in New Fantasyland

New Year’s Eve Snack in New Fantasyland

Our advance dining reservation was for 9:30PM. It was especially crowded waiting to be let in to the castle; and believe me, we weren’t allowed to approach the podium even a minute before our reservation time. There was only a small area in which we could wait as the back of the castle was already roped off for the fireworks. Once inside though, we experienced pure magic!

Holiday Decor

Holiday Decor

After photographs with Cinderella, we waited in the lobby to be beckoned to the dining room.

Grand Hall

Grand Hall

Among the last diners of the night, we witnessed Cinderella playing with children. She actually played hide and seek with them all throughout the lobby. It was an intimate moment with a fairytale princess that we reveled in watching, and I’m sure the children and their parents cherished the experience.

Hide 'n Seek with Cinderella!

Hide ‘n Seek with Cinderella!

After our meal, we had to wait by the outdoor podium for the castle show to end. Once done, we were able to exit into Fantasyland. We found a place to sit on the pavement in front of Mickey’s PhilharMagic and waited for the fireworks. And they were amazing!

New Year's Eve Fireworks

New Year’s Eve Fireworks

Ringing in the New Year at the Magic Kingdom was an amazing experience. We continued to walk around the park allowing the crowds to disperse. We found very few crowds in Frontierland where a DJ was still spinning tunes!

DJ Entertains on New Year's Eve

DJ Entertains on New Year’s Eve

So, let’s check out our meal…

Atmosphere

Cinderella was holding court next to a Christmas tree decorated in rich silver, gold, and blue!

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

Once you ascend the winding red-carpeted stairway (or take the more modern elevator), you’ll step in to a medieval dining room with a vaulted ceiling.

Vaulted Ceiling at Cinderella's Royal Table

Vaulted Ceiling at Cinderella’s Royal Table

The table setting was enhanced with purple napkins and a gold table runner. The silver cutlery resembles crossed swords!

Table Setting

Table Setting

Gentlemen (young and young-at-heart) receive swords as souvenirs.

Souvenir Swords

Souvenir Swords

The menu’s cover echoes the jaw-dropping stained glass features found throughout the castle.

Regal Menu Cover

Regal Menu Cover

Eats

The bread basket and accompanying butter were delivered promptly.

Bread Basket

Bread Basket

With a choice of appetizers, hubby and son went with the Royal Tasting of Cheeses and accompaniments. Both of them enjoyed sampling the different options and gave it a thumbs up as a starter!

Trio of Cheeses

Trio of Cheese

For my picky palate, I requested a garden salad with ranch dressing (from the kids menu!).

Garden Salad

Garden Salad

For entrees, note that the accompaniments change up frequently.

The guys had no difficulty choosing the Beef Tenderloin. Again, they both found the steak to be a delicious option but not nearly as good as previous steak entrees at [Read more…]

News! Tusker House Restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Begin Offering Character Dining for Dinner

If you love dining at Tusker House in Harambe Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, then we have some big news for you!

Beginning March 8, 2015, the popular buffet restaurant will begin offering Character Dining at Dinner.

Tusker House has been a great spot for character dining at Breakfast and Lunch for some time, but Dinner did not offer characters.

But beginning next Spring, that changes as Donald’s Safari Dinner will be offered beginning at 4 p.m. daily. This new detail comes on the heels of rumors of brand new restaurants hitting Animal Kingdom soon.

At Tusker House’s dinner, Donald and Daisy Duck are scheduled to appear, but you never know who might turn up!

Goofy Strikes at Pose at Tusker House in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Goofy Strikes at Pose at Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Dinner will continue to be [Read more…]

Cinderella’s Dining Experience at Citricos with Magical Add-On Options

Cinderella’s digs will be closed to diners as of January 5, 2015. But there’s no reason to panic as she’s only sprucing up her dining room, Cinderella’s Royal Table. The refurbished royal room has an anticipated re-opening date of March 7, 2015 — subject to change, of course.

Guests seeking royal dining experiences will not feel left out as the Disney Princesses will take up residence at Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian from January 8 – March 3, 2015.

And all of the traditions that we’ve grown to love at Cindy’s will carry over to the temporary residence. Yes, Cinderella will greet guests upon arrival, Disney princesses will grant photographs and autographs while visiting guests tableside, and the Maqical Wishing Ceremony will still be performed.

This interactive performance will include Cinderella and the Disney Princesses, of course. Wishing Wands and Swords will be bestowed upon the children so that they can join in the fun.

Wands and swords for interactive fun

Wands and swords for interactive fun

Want more? Take your Cinderella’s Dining experience at Citricos to a whole new level with an extravagant add-on gift. Surprise your little loved one with a personalized Princess Proclamation. It’s over-the-top! Perfect for a special occasion!!

Dreams become reality when your princess arrives the table where a “My Disney Fairytale Proclamation” signed by a Fairy Tale Princess is already waiting. And of course, there is bling! A gemstone tiara and crystal light-up slipper will make her smile sparkle. Plus, she’ll be able to don a pink plush princess cape (it even turns into a blanket!!) for when the Palace turns cold. This add-on is currently priced at $285.95.

A fairytale come true!

A fairytale come true!

Further enhance Cinderella’s Dining Experience with [Read more…]

News! Booking Begins TODAY for 2015 Star Wars Weekends Dining Packages

Booking for Star Wars Weekends Dining Packages will return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in 2015 and booking begins December 3, 2014.

Star Wars Character Meal Backdrop

Dinner at the Hollywood & Vine restaurant and breakfast at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater will offer these galactic experiences May 4th through June 14, 2015. Note that the character meals are available all week — not just on weekends!

Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine

At Hollywood and Vine, Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine will feature Disney characters wearing their Star Wars best as they celebrate the greatest saga ever told! See our review from this year’s experience here!

You may get the chance to meet Ewok Chip & Dale, Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and/or Stormtrooper Donald. Star Wars décor, themed foods, and music create a galactic experience. Advance Dining Reservations will be offered from 4:15-8PM.

Ewok Chip and Dale welcome you!

Ewok Chip and Dale welcome you!

Cost: [Read more…]

What’s New Around Walt Disney World: November 18th, 2014

Ready for another trip around the World? We’re heading to three parks and a few resorts to check out holiday treats, gingerbread feats, and new menu eats! And which Counter Service location is now serving up steak? Just read on to find out and see What’s New!

HOLIDAY TREATS

Red and green aren’t the only colors taking over Disney World now that the holiday season has launched around here… hues of blue decorate the festive snacks at this year’s brand new “Frozen” Gingerbread Display at the Contemporary Resort!

Contemporary Resort Gingerbread Display

Contemporary Resort Gingerbread Display

We tried the Blue Raspberry Cake Gelato

Blue Raspberry Cake Gelato

Blue Raspberry Cake Gelato

Read our review and see all the other treats available at the new display here!

Get ready for all your favorite Disney World bakery items (we’re talking Krispy Treats, Candy Apples, and Mickey Macarons) to be dressed up for the holiday season in spots like the Main Street Confectionery, Seashore Sweets, and Big Top Treats.

Holiday Bakery Case

Holiday Bakery Case

Ornament Candy Apples

Ornament Candy Apples

More candy apples!

More candy apples!

Holiday cupcakes

Holiday cupcakes

Red and Green Mickey Macarons

Red and Green Mickey Macarons

And now let’s look into some ways the Parks are getting into the [Read more…]

Dine With Cinderella at Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (well…at least until Cinderella’s Royal Table reopens)

As we shared on our News Pin Board, Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom is slated to close for a lengthy refurbishment beginning early January and extending to March 2015.

With the temporary closure of this royal venue, the Disney princesses will move to Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort. Starting January 8th, a breakfast/brunch experience will be offered daily at this restaurant just a monorail or boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom!

Similar to the welcoming tradition at Cinderella’s Royal Table, Cinderella will meet and greet with guests upon their arrival, while other Disney princesses mingle at each table.

Cinderella greets guests in her castle

Cinderella greets guests in her castle

As always, you can take photos and collect autographs of the Disney royals. The Magical Wishing Ceremony will also move over to Citricos — a fun, interactive experience that involves souvenir wands and swords handed out to young guests.

Sword Action at Cinderella's Royal Table

Sword Action at Cinderella’s Royal Table

Choose to have breakfast or brunch as hours will extend from 8AM to 2:20PM at a cost of $49.99 and $31.99 for ages 3-9. Guests on the Disney Dining Plan can pay with 2 table service entitlements per person.

Looking out over the Grand Floridian's court yard

Citricos looks out over the Grand Floridian’s court yard

To reserve your Citricos princess meal, call 407-WDW-DINE. Reservations will become available for Walt Disney World Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members on December 3, 2014, before opening to all guests the next day.

Adult Menu

APPETIZERS OF THE COURT
Bakery Basket

Choice of One:
Garden Salad–Artisanal Greens, Endive, Roasted Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, and Marcona Almonds with Riesling Vinaigrette
Assorted Fresh Fruits

ENTRÉES ROYALE
Choice of One:
Traditional Breakfast–Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, and Twice-cooked Breakfast Potatoes
Scrambled Egg Whites, Hot Ten-Grain Cereal, Greek Yogurt topped with Granola, Whole-Grain Bread, and Fresh Fruit
Steak and Slow-Poached Eggs with Twice-cooked Breakfast Potatoes and Wilted Spinach
Grilled Ham and Biscuit, Slow Poached Eggs topped with Sausage Gravy
Market-inspired Fish with Angel Hair Pasta, and Aromatic Tomato Sauce
Florida Shrimp with Creamy Cheddar Cheese and Smoked Bacon Grits

DESSERT TRIO

Beverages included:
Unlimited Coffee (regular/decaf), Iced Tea (regular/decaf),Fountain Beverages, and Juices (Apple/Orange/Tomato)

Choice of one Adult Specialty [Read more…]

News: Discounted Walt Disney World Play, Stay, and Dine Packages

Get a discounted Play, Stay & Dine package at Walt Disney World! According to Disney, guests can save up to $400-600 with this discounted offer valid for most Disney-owned resorts, theme park tickets, and Disney Dining plans.

Disney Dining Plan Frequently Asked Questions

Valid for stays December 14 through December 20, 2014 and January 5 through March 7, 2015, your package must include at least 3 nights (maximum of 14 nights) at a Disney resort, a minimum of a 2-day theme park ticket, and a dining plan for the length of your stay.

Your first night must be within the above dates. For example, check in March 7 and your entire stay will be included in the discounted package.

While Value resorts can be booked with any dining plan, all other resorts must include the regular Dining Plan or Deluxe Dining Plan. Take a look at Disney Dining Plans before booking your trip, and read up on the DFB Disney Dining Plan FAQs.

Please note that the offer excludes Villas at Grand Floridian, Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian Villas, Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation Resort, campsites, and 3-bedroom villas.

Packages must be booked by [Read more…]

DFB Reader Questions Answered: Best Restaurants to Celebrate a Grown-Up Birthday at Walt Disney World

Today, we’re pulling another great question out the Disney Food Blog mailbag. You guys ask some great ones, and lots of times, we’ll get several emails and inquiries about the same subject.

Spontaneous Birthday Treat at Citricos

Spontaneous Birthday Treat at Citricos

Today, we’re going to delve into the wonderful world of birthday celebrations for grown-ups!

Celebrating Grown Up Birthdays in Walt Disney World

Our DFB reader asks:

We will be vacationing at WDW in May. My 25-year old son will have a birthday while we are there. We would like to have a special meal to celebrate, something fun but also really good!

I love this question! Disney brands itself a great place for all kinds of celebrations. And when it comes to birthdays, why should kiddos have all the fun?

When planning a special meal to celebrate a birthday at Walt Disney World, the most basic advice is probably a great starting point: what does the birthday boy or girl enjoy?

Birthday Dessert

Birthday Dessert

Does he like fine dining, or would he prefer a great night out at a sports bar? Does she like a quiet, elegant setting, or a spot with intricate themeing? Or are they a kid at heart who can Celebrate Mickey with the best of them?

Fantastic ideas abound for fun birthday celebrations at Disney World, but let’s go with my three favorite ideas. At the very least, it might lead to some good brainstorming when it comes time to plan your own special dinner party!

Signature Dining

For the Disney fan who enjoys a fine dining experience, there would be no other place to celebrate a birthday than where these two things meet — Disney’s signature dining restaurants.

If you’re looking for the pinnacle of fine dining, consider booking a table at Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

Victoria and Albert's Main Dining Room

Victoria and Albert’s Main Dining Room

The ultimate in Disney fine dining, this relaxed, refined restaurant has won countless awards for its upscale take on modern American fare and its stellar wine menu. To make it an even more special experience, book the Chef’s Table!

Another great option is California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The restaurant sits atop the hotel, and boasts panoramic views. It’s a great spot for viewing Wishes, Magic Kingdom’s fireworks spectacular!

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli is as Good as Ever

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli at California Grill

Food here is always fresh and inventive, celebrating the farm to table movement and the Asian fusion style that placed California on the culinary map.

For something a little off the beaten path but no less delicious, check out Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

In a relaxing atmosphere that mimics the [Read more…]

News! Disney Adds Premium Event “Villains’ Sinister Soiree” to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Lineup

If Fall and Halloween are your favorite Disney times of the year, you’re going to LOVE what we have to share!

Mickey Lantern!

Mickey Lantern!

We’ve seen hints that Disney will be offering some new premium enhancements to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This hard-ticketed, after-hours event takes place at Magic Kingdom on select evenings September through November. The party features trick or treating, your favorite characters dressed up in their Halloween costumes (so cute!), the Boo-To-You Parade (with the Headless Horseman!), and Happy HalloWishes Fireworks. It’s a whole lot of fun!

But if you’re looking for an extra special way to enjoy the holiday, you’ll want to check out this news!

Villains’ Sinister Soiree at Cinderella’s Royal Table

Lady Tremaine and Friends are taking over the Castle! Join her at [Read more…]