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…]

Review: Lunch at Crystal Palace in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Welp, boys and girls — it’s time to head into Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and take in lunch at Crystal Palace! This is a beloved character spot for many Disney fans, and a must-do character experience for lots of you.

Me? I hadn’t been to Crystal Palace in foreva…not since an ill-fated late-night visit a couple of years ago when the food was AW-FUL! Yep, it was the end-of-the-night dregs of the buffet and we were pretty much just grossed out. (Have you ever seen a buffet about 15 minutes before a restaurant is about to close? Not pretty.) We ate very little and left as soon as we could. Sad, since we do love dining with Pooh and friends.

But it was time to revisit the 100 Hundred Acre Wood — after all, we’d had lots of great meals here previously — and I made reservations with some friends for lunch.

We have tons of shots to show you, so let’s get started!

Atmosphere

You’ll find Crystal Palace to the left of Main Street USA’s end, just as you approach Cinderella Castle. The beautiful glass building, inspired by ornate conservatories of the late Victorian Age, is a slice of Disney history as well. The restaurant has been around since opening day in 1971.

Entrance to Restaurant

Entrance to Restaurant

And here’s a tip if you’re looking for an extra-special experience during your Disney vacation: try and book Crystal Palace for an early breakfast. You’ll be one of the first guests into the Park when you do this, and visiting a nearly empty Magic Kingdom is an event to remember.

Once you step inside, you’ll see whitewashed walls that carry the bright, light decor throughout. Artwork depicting inspiration for the architecture as well as photos of lush palms cover the walls.

Artwork and Framed Photos

Artwork and Framed Photos

The soaring atrium above is gorgeous — especially on a sunny day!

Crystal Palace Atrium

Crystal Palace Atrium

After you check in, you’ll wait for your table outside on the shaded veranda. But once you step in, pause a moment to take it all in.

Dining Rooms

Dining Rooms

Tons of windows and glass domes allow for plenty of natural light in the two dining areas.

Dining Room from Another Angle

Dining Room from Another Angle

And really — look up. Because the windows are really stunning. I love the beautiful stained glass detail.

Stained Glass Windows

Stained Glass Windows

The decor puts you in mind of a Victorian conservatory, with its outside-but-inside feel. Lush flowers and what reminds me of patio furniture finish the area.

Evening Light

Afternoon Light

Crystal Palace is, of course, a character dining experience, and you’ve stumbled onto a party!

Center Atrium -- Up Close

Center Atrium — Up Close

In fact, visit here, and you’ll take part in a Friendship Day Celebration with Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Banner -- Up Close

It’s Friendship Day!

Just check out these gorgeous flower topiaries of the whole gang!

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Eeyore Topiary

Eeyore Topiary

The sweet little figures appear to be made of dried roses, and foreshadow the characters you’ll meet while you dine.

Piglet Topiary

Piglet Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

And beautiful hanging arrangements of tropical flowers complete the classic conservatory feel.

Fresh Flowers

Fresh Flowers

Seating is standard and fairly comfortable. Heavy, padded chairs share the space with booths, but some tables are situated a bit too closely for our comfort.

Seating for Two

Seating for Two

Seating along windows gives you a glimpse of guests waiting to be seated! But beyond them, you’ll also see a beautiful view of [Read more…]

Sneak Peek: Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort Opening Tomorrow!

Welcome to Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, where “luxury meets magic!” We got a chance to take a look around the hotel before it opens, and wanted to give you a quick peek! (Nope; they’re not paying us to do this. We just figured you’d be interested. ;-D)

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Opening August 3rd, Four Seasons Orlando says they will provide a best-of-both-worlds vacation experience: “easy access to all the area entertainment in a tranquil setting,” at Golden Oak in Walt Disney World, according to Thomas Steinhauer, Regional Vice President and General Manager.

The Disney Help Desk

The Disney Help Desk

Stairwell to the lobby

Stairwell to the lobby

Chandelier

Chandelier

Twenty-six acres will hold [Read more…]

Tip from the DFB Guide: Where To Dine With Both Picky AND Adventurous Eaters!

We’re sharing another great tip from our critically-acclaimed e-Book, The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2014!

disney dining tips

Today, we’re talking about a common conundrum: How do you satisfy all of the people, all of the time?

We’ve all been there. You have a picky eater in your group. No problem, right? Hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets are all available throughout the parks and resorts.

But where do you go when you have both picky and adventurous eaters among your number?

How about a buffet or food court?

Disney excels at offering some truly interesting, all you care to eat options and food court choices, where the picky and the persnickety can both find satisfying options. Let’s check out a couple.

Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of our favorite stops for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The restaurant features a wonderful spread of African-inspired food. And at breakfast and lunch, you also have the added benefit of a character dining experience!

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

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

If you’re feeling adventurous, start your meal off with the interesting array of Chutneys and Spreads, before moving on to interesting house specialties like Bobotie or Potato and Pea Samosas.

Beef Bobotie at Tusker House

Beef Bobotie at Tusker House

And lovers of food and pickier eaters alike are [Read more…]

Guest Review: ‘Ohana Character Breakfast at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

While Disney’s Polynesian Resort is undergoing extensive renovations (including Captain Cook’s), it’s still a good time to stop by ‘Ohana for the Best Friends Breakfast featuring the adorable Lilo & mischievous Stitch. Today, guest author Rebecca Elliott reviews her family’s morning meal at Walt Disney World.

‘Ohana, located in Disney’s Polynesian Resort, is an extremely popular dinner venue with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Its all-you-care-to-eat format of delicious Polynesian-inspired dishes and relaxed atmosphere earn it rave reviews from just about everyone that eats there.

But is the character breakfast equally as good? My husband, daughter and I decided to find out!

Atmosphere

The Polynesian is one of Walt Disney World’s original resorts. I remember going to the luau when I was a kid back in the 70s and feeling like I was in another country.

As an adult, I recognize that there’s something decidedly kitschy about it. I half expect to see Elvis a la Blue Hawaii round the corner with Joan Blackman on his arm. The theming is fantastic, and consistent.

Pluto Makes His Way Through the Dining Room

Pluto Makes His Way Through the Dining Room

‘Ohana is on the second level of the lobby, just a stone’s throw away from the monorail. Guests are required to check in at the host stand before entering the restaurant. We found this a little confusing, mostly because there were a lot of excited children swarming the area.

We ended up walking right past the host stand. We were re-directed to the “cousin” in the lobby’s host area who was pleasant and efficient and whisked us to the photo area. (Cast members are called “cousins” to reinforce the feeling that everyone at ‘Ohana is family.)

We had our picture taken in front of a Tiki-inspired hut and waited for our buzzer to go off. When it did a few minutes later, we made our way to the host stand inside the restaurant, where we were greeted warmly by more exceptionally friendly “cousins.”

Baskets of Welcome Bread Await Diners

Baskets of Welcome Bread Await Diners

Eats

On the way to our table, our host gave us helpful information about the service for our meal and tidbits about the open kitchen and some of the menu items.

We were seated at a sunny table near the window with a sweeping view of Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. (Editor’s Note: Views may be obstructed due to ongoing construction.) Our server quickly greeted us and also took a moment to explain the service style. Breakfast would arrive in a large skillet, with the ever-popular Mickey waffles brought separately. Before scurrying away, she uttered those six magical words, “It’s all you care to eat.

Live Kitchen Elements, Including This Grill, Are a Focal Point

Live Kitchen Elements, Including This Grill, Are a Focal Point

Our server returned with a basket of Hawaiian welcome bread flavored with pineapple and coconut, as well as iced cinnamon bread. Both were delicious.

Welcome Bread with Pineapple and Coconut, and Iced Cinnamon Bread

Welcome Bread with Pineapple and Coconut, and Iced Cinnamon Bread

She also brought ‘Ohana’s famous breakfast beverage – a combination of passion fruit, orange and guava juices, known as P.O.G. I would drink this juice intravenously if I could. It’s heaven.

P.O.G. – Passion Fruit, Orange, and Guava Juice

P.O.G. – Passion Fruit, Orange, and Guava Juice

Next came a fruit plate, with cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, and berries. Poor fruit plate. It barely got touched, because the gigantic skillet of breakfast yumminess arrived, heaped with [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: More Breakfast Goodness!

It’s always so fun to flip through the fantastic photos that our members post on the Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza, our Flickr group. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, head over there! We think a virtual trip to Disney is a great way to take a break from your busy day. :-)

And today, we are all about the tons of yummo breakfast options that you have at Walt Disney World! Let’s take a trip to some of our favorite Disney breakfast spots today for our latest installment in our Disney Food Pics of the Week Series!

Breakfast Skillet at ‘Ohana

Photographer: Ryesah

Yay for the words: “all you care to enjoy” and “Mickey Waffles”! You only need fun interaction with cool characters like Lilo, Stitch, and Mickey and Friends to make this character breakfast at ‘Ohana completely awesome!

Breakfast Skillet at 'Ohana

Breakfast Skillet at ‘Ohana

Baked French Toast at Cinderella’s Royal Table

Photographer: Nancy RK

Starting your day in Cinderella Castle for breakfast? Lucky you! We’ve had some [Read more…]

Father’s Day Sale! DFB Disney World Dining Guidebook Discounts — Limited Time!

This weekend, it’s all about Dad, and we have a terrific way for you to show him just how awesome you think he is! And — even better — it’s a great deal for you and it will save him money! How can you beat that??

For a limited time, you can enjoy $4 off of our DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2014 by using code DadDay!

And scroll to the bottom of this post for details on additional ways to save!

2014 dfb guide 3d cover

The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2014

Our comprehensive e-Book offers and incredible value! With 450 full-color pages to help you plan your very best Disney World vacation yet, you’ll also enjoy peace of mind knowing that it’s fully guaranteed. Not happy? Just let us know and you’ll get your money back!

Our handy e-Book format has been completely updated for your 2014-15 Disney World vacation. And with reviews, tips, expert advice, and hundreds of color photographs, we know that you’ll enjoy savings of both time and money — much needed on a Disney World vacation!

Inside the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2014, you’ll find plenty of must-know information, reviews of every restaurant and kiosk on property, and more; including:

  • Seven sample one-day dining itineraries to help you start the planning process. There are hundreds of dining options in Disney World. These examples, which highlight particular theme parks, touring styles, and dietary needs, will help you get an idea of what a perfect dining day might look like for you and your family.
  • Four free, downloadable worksheets for planning your trip. These worksheets are designed to help you execute all the steps of planning the perfect Disney dining experience. And they’re reusable for all of your future trips!
  • Details about how the My Magic+ Planning System and FastPass+ affect your vacation planning. These brand new tools make planning every aspect of your vacation easier than ever before. We’ll walk you through some of the
  • A comprehensive index of bars and lounges. Disney Food Blog readers asked for this feature, and we were happy to make it happen! An often under-appreciated option for both dining and entertainment, we devote a whole index to the topic. Every single bar and lounge in Disney World is covered — and includes a review!
  • Tables that help you understand if the Disney Dining Plan will save you money. It’s a question we get all the time: is the Disney Dining Plan really a good deal? We walk you through comparisons to determine if the Disney Dining Plan is a good fit for you!
Sample Page from the 2014 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining

Sample Page from the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2014

  • Fun activities, like Trivia and Scavenger Hunts to pass the time while you’re waiting in line or for FastPasses!
  • Disney Food Bingo Cards — because we know you love to play with your food just like us!
  • Plus SO much more!

And the best part is [Read more…]

Guest Review: Disney’s Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast with Darth Vader

Are you ready for an out-of-this-world guest review? Join me in welcoming guest author Miranda Roberts! She’s sharing her experience at the Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World!

My husband and I are not morning people. Not remotely. We are the people who are last out of the park at night, and stay sound asleep until late morning. We love cocktails and fireworks and chilling out by the pool.

But we could not pass up the chance to eat breakfast with Darth Vader! So, despite not really knowing anything else about the set up of this event, we took a chance and made a rare breakfast reservation. We were super excited about this meal!

Atmosphere

As we approached the Sci-Fi restaurant on a very sunny morning, there were friendly cast members waiting to direct us to the check-in desk, and they had added special signs to the front of the restaurant. Having extra cast members with directional arrows helped us overcome our bleary-eyed morning confusion about where we were heading.

Cast Member directs guests to the galactic breakfast!

Cast Member directs guests to the galactic breakfast!

Outdoor waiting area

Outdoor waiting area

Check In here!

Check In here!

This is the line for Vader!

This is the line for Vader!

Once we had checked in, we were told to wait near the entrance until we were called. We only had to wait around five minutes before a server came looking for us “To join the rebellion”.

We joined a short line of about 6 people at the restaurant entrance to have our PhotoPass picture taken with Darth Vader and Boba Fett. The price of this was already built into the meal. Then a server showed us to our seats and explained a little about the restaurant to us.

Shaun and Miranda with Boba Fett and Darth Vader

Shaun and Miranda with Boba Fett and Darth Vader

Special Event PhotoPass

Special Event PhotoPass

If you have dined at the Sci-Fi before, the set-up is exactly as normal with a couple of extra signs outside to advertise the event. For those who haven’t eaten here before, the restaurant is one large room made up like a movie set to look like a drive-in movie theatre from the 50’s. The lighting is very low, to make it seem like evening, and there are stars twinkling in the night sky around you.

Interior restaurant

Interior restaurant

The tables are mostly cars that have three rows of seats. Each row seats 2 adults or 3 kids. Since my husband and I were alone on this trip, we were seated in the back row of a car, and the family in front were told they had picked us up as galactic hitch-hikers!

Movie Screen

Movie Screen

All the cars face the big movie screen at the front, which was showing a series of clips from Star Wars and related spin-offs. There were clips from all the different episodes, plus some cartoon adaptations and some spoof adverts and posters. The Cantina band also had a segment, which was really cool.

Jawa warning!

Jawa warning!

The twilight setting and movie clips set a great atmosphere for the event. Throughout the meal, characters circulated that included Stormtroopers, Jawas, and Greedo. They were all pretty playful, with a Stormtrooper trying to steal my chocolate milk, and making guests kneel like prisoners for photos! It’s worth noting that we only saw bad guy or neutral characters – there were no “hero” characters at this meal.

Watch out for stormtroopers!

Watch out for stormtroopers!

But with the dark lighting in the restaurant, most guests were having problems taking pictures with the characters. With a flash, faces were too over-exposed, and the backdrop looked weird. Without the flash, you can barely see who is in the photo. You’re going to see I struggled with the same problem for these food pictures too; sorry :-(

To help you time your FastPasses, it’s worth saying that we were seated at 9:40am and we left the restaurant at 10:50am. There is no way we could have eaten faster, so this was one of the longer Disney meals we have shared based on our experience that day. Other people might have quicker days, but it would be a shame to rush it with so much to see on the screen and around you.

Now let’s talk about the food!

Eats

The menu and our server explained that we would automatically be brought a selection of pastries. These would then be followed by our choice of fruit salad or yogurt parfait, and then we had a choice of entrée. The meal would then end with a “sweet surprise”.

Food Menu

Food Menu

Beverage Menu

Beverage Menu

She started us off with a choice of drinks, and there was a very wide choice of refillable drinks -– tea, coffee, hot chocolate, juices, sodas, chocolate milk, and a fun Blue Milk (like Luke Skywalker drank in Episode 4 at home on Tatooine).

Blue Milk

Blue Milk

It was blue raspberry flavored and my husband enjoyed the fun and novelty of it, but switched to Coke after one glass. There were also a couple of cocktails, but not being morning people, that was too much of a stretch for our systems. We stuck with soft drinks!

Our pastry platter had six pieces, with three different offerings. All these came automatically, almost as soon as we had sat down.

Star Wars Pastries

Star Wars Pastries

The swirl pastry, that our server said “looks like Princess Leia’s hairdo”, was an almond pastry, the C3PO chocolate one was a mini double chocolate muffin, and the one with Darth Vader was a mini vanilla cream puff. All three were really delicious.

The almond swirl kind of reminded me of frangipane (which I know is popular with the DFB team!) and the chocolate muffin was very moist with good chocolate chunks, but we both liked the Darth cream puff best. It had a really delicious sweet vanilla custard inside, while the pastry was crisp and flaky.

For our next course, my husband had the fruit salad and I had the yogurt parfait. Both came with adorable [Read more…]

Top 5 Restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is my favorite park in Disney World when I’m in it. The themeing is incredible. I could wander around just looking at things there for days! But the other thing that keeps me coming back to Animal Kingdom again are some seriously awesome restaurants. This place has it all!

Let’s take a look at some of our favorites — and what sets them each apart from the crowd.

Top Five Animal Kingdom Restaurants

Tusker House

If you haven’t booked a meal at Tusker House, then you’re missing out.

This sprawling restaurant sits on the main thoroughfare in Harambe village within the Africa section of the park. And with some of the best immersive themeing anywhere at Disney World, it’s hard to take in all of the intricate details and imagineering here with just one meal.

Tusker House -- Outside View

Tusker House — Outside View

But it’s not just the surroundings that are interesting. Tusker House has some incredible food as well. Inspired by the flavors of Africa, you’re in for a treat, whether you’re dining for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

We especially love the Spit-Roasted Meats. And taking advantage of the all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet may save you on other meals during the day.

Spit-Roasted Meats Are a Specialty at Tusker House

Spit-Roasted Meats Are a Specialty at Tusker House

But if you’re still looking to add a character dining experience to your list of advance dining reservations, be sure to book the breakfast or lunch, as characters don’t appear at dinner.

Eating a big breakfast will fill you up -- and cost less than dining big later in the day!

Seeing Your Favorite Disney Friends in Safari Garb at Breakfast and Lunch is Super Fun!

It’s always a kick to add pics Mickey and Friends in different outfits, and at Tusker House, they’re dressed to go on a Kilimanjaro Safari with you!

Yak and Yeti Restaurant

Looking for something exotic with an Asian twist? Then check out Yak and Yeti Restaurant. You can’t miss the big purple building in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom!

Themed as a grand home that’s been converted to a hotel, guests to the town of Anandapur are guaranteed to find

[Read more…]