News: Disney World Testing Free Taxi Service to Signature Restaurants

Disney is currently testing a new transportation method — complimentary direct taxi service — for guests dining at select signature restaurants while staying at Walt Disney World monorail resorts!

Monorail Orange at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Monorail Orange at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Until June 30, 2015, some guests at the monorail resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary) will be selected to participate in this Disney dining test. Those invited to participate will receive complimentary round-trip vouchers delivered to their room.

Participants will have the option of enjoying direct taxi transportation to [Read more…]

Tips from the DFB Guide: Dining Solo in Disney World

When most people think of Walt Disney World, they automatically think of visiting with friends or family, which is lots of fun.

dfb2015_guide_3d

But there’s another way that I really love to tour Disney World. And that’s solo.

Sure. It’s always awesome to experience the magic with others…to catch their smiles, impressions, opinions. But sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes out of preference, I find myself visiting the ‘World alone.

It may sound lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, what better way to take advantage of that single rider line? ;-) You can also spend as long as you want drinking in every detail of attractions and other surroundings.

But even if you’re totally OK with doing attractions by yourself, dining may feel like another matter altogether. You may be tempted to just stick with a table for one in the counter service spots.

And that’s all good, if that’s what you want. But if you’re looking to enjoy some of the great dining choices Disney has to offer, we have some terrific Tips from the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining for making this an awesome experience. And this is just one of the many unique ways of enjoying the World that we cover in the guide. There’s a chapter for everything, so be sure to check it out!

And if you find this information helpful, then be sure to pick up your copy of the Guide today for $4 off using code “2015” right here!

Dine Overlooking a Great View

There is no shortage of great Disney restaurants with equally great views! Why not choose one of them for your next solo meal?

One of my favorites is Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Request a window seat and enjoy an ever-changing view of the animals that call Sunset Savanna home.

Watch the Wildlife as You Dine at Sanaa

Watch the Wildlife as You Dine at Sanaa

And while you enjoy the live action through the window, the food incredible as well! The menu features East African and Indian-inspired dishes, and I can never pass up the opportunity to enjoy their incredible Butter Chicken.

Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-seasoned Butter Chicken and Chicken Vindaloo

Ya Gotta Try the Butter Chicken!

Prefer serenity to scenery? Grab a table at one of Flame Tree Barbecue’s many pavilions. (Flame Tree Barbecue has been closed for refurbishment, but we expect it to re-open very soon.)

Eat at the Counter

Many Disney table service restaurants feature chef’s counters or bars where you can dine while you watch all of the exciting action of the kitchen. Sitting at these high-energy spots was a favorite tip that I received from my friend Gray at SoloFriendly.com. And if I’m choosing some of my favorite bar seating, it has to be [Read more…]

Easter Treats and Spring Break Eats Around Walt Disney World

The 2015 Chocolate Easter Egg Display at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort isn’t the only sure sign of spring around here these days! Easter treats have been “hopping” up everywhere around Disney World Resort to celebrate this weekend’s holiday — not to mention the remainder of the Spring Break season through the end of next week.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday at Disney World without all sorts of specialty cupcakes, and Easter is no egg-ception. (I. Can’t. Stop. Doing. That!). At Epcot, a Chocolate Cupcake with marshmallow filling and marshmallow buttercream frosting can be found at Fountain View from now through April 11th, and at Sunshine Seasons for a very limited run on April 4th and 5th.

©Disney

©Disney

This beauty of a Carrot Cake Cupcake topped with a mini Bunny Macaron will be at the Contemporary Resort only through April 5th! The inside has a pineapple-coconut filling and it’s all topped with white chocolate buttercream frosting along with toasted coconut and — hooray! — jelly beans!

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©Disney

While there, be sure to check out the Contemporary Resort’s display of Chocolate Bunnies and decorated Easter Eggs presented by the Resort’s pastry chefs on the fourth floor!

BoardWalk Bakery boasts its own Easter Cupcake: vanilla cake filled with raspberry panna cotta, topped off with a coconut nest filled with jelly beans.

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©Disney

And, of course, you can check out spots at [Read more…]

News: “Frozen Fever” Sweet Treats at Disneyland and Disney World

So… Frozen Fun ends in Disneyland on May 15th, and Frozen Summer Fun LIVE won’t return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios until June 17th. That’s one full Frozen-free month… What’s an Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf fan to do?!?

What will we do when there's no Frozen Fun?!

What will we do when there’s no Frozen Fun?!

Fret not, Frozen fans! In the downtime between the two events, Disney is releasing a few treats in honor of “Frozen Fever,” the film short that can currently be seen on the big screen prior to showings of the live-action “Cinderella” film.

As in the film short, these treats go about the task of celebrating Anna’s birthday… and what’s a birthday celebration without a little cake? Anna’s Happy Birthday Cupcake is a vanilla cupcake with blue buttercream frosting, topped with marshmallows, snowflake candies, and a white chocolate Olaf.

Anna's Happy Birthday Cupcake

Anna’s Happy Birthday Cupcake ©Disney

At Disneyland, you’ll want to check spots like the Jolly Holiday Bakery, Market House, Pacific Wharf Cafe, Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, and The Coffee House.

Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

While the cupcakes are already available at Disneyland, starting April 8th, Disney World guests can check various eateries scattered across property, in parks and resorts alike. Altogether, twelve restaurants will carry the cupcakes in WDW, including Main Street Bakery and Gaston’s Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, Starring Rolls Cafe and ABC Commissary in Hollywood Studios, and Sunshine Seasons and Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Epcot.

Resort restaurants  that will carry the cupcake include BoardWalk Bakery, Beach Club Marketplace, Contempo Cafe, Gasparilla Island Grill, Landscape of Flavors and The Mara.

BoardWalk Bakery

BoardWalk Bakery

Looking for something a little more frozen to celebrate the cast of Frozen? Olaf’s Perfect Sundae Day features birthday-cake flavored ice cream topped with hot fudge, mint marshmallows, brownie pieces (!), whipped cream, and sprinkles.

Olaf's Perfect Sundae Day ©Disney

Olaf’s Perfect Sundae Day ©Disney

Those mint marshmallows look a lot like the ones currently available to enjoy with your Warm Hugs Hot White Hot Cocoa over at Olaf’s Snow Fest in Disneyland!

At Disneyland, the Sundae is available at Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor and Clarabelle’s.

Clarabelle's in Disney California Adventure

Clarabelle’s in Disney California Adventure

 

And again, starting April 8th, Disney World guests will find it at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Hollywood Scoops, and Beaches & Cream.

Beaches and Cream at Disney's Beach Club Resort

Beaches and Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

In a new twist, even a few Table Service restaurants are [Read more…]

Tips from the DFB Guide: NEW Unique Meals for Kids at Walt Disney World

Many of us have been there — you’re trying to plan the best and most delicious vacation, but when it comes to Disney Kids’ Meals, the options can seem pretty ho-hum at first glance.

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But there’s more to eating with small fry in Disney World than meets the eye! We first told you about Unique Kids’ Meals a while back in a Tip from the DFB Guide.

But times marches on, and menus evolve. And since we first visited the subject, Disney has committed to offering guests healthier eating options — and that includes Kids’ Meal reforms. We’ve fully updated the DFB Guide again this year, and I thought it was the perfect time to revisit Unique Kids’ Meals at Walt Disney World!

These tips come to you courtesy of the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2015! And if they’re helpful to you, pick up your copy of the Guide today for $4 off using code “2015” right here!

Mickey Check Meals

We can’t begin to discuss Disney World Kids’ Meals without at least touching on the biggest change to come to children’s menus in the history of the Resort. We’re talking about Mickey Check Meals.

mickey check for kids meals

Part of the Disney Magic of Healthy Living Initiative, the meals are designated on Disney restaurant menus with the “Mickey Check” Symbol. Meals earning the Mickey Check meet the Disney Nutrition Guidelines and limit the amount of sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats. In addition, they must also include at least three of the following:

  • fruits and vegetables,
  • low-fat dairy,
  • whole grains, and/or
  • lean protein, beans, eggs, and/or nuts.

So what’s the bottom line? The guidelines have certainly challenged Disney chefs to come up with some interesting meals as a result.

Mickey Turkey Meatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf at Be Our Guest Restaurant…Super Cute! But Not So Delicious

But how do they taste? Wellllll…my jury is still out on that one. While I commend Disney for offering healthier options to guests who are in search of them, the Disney Check Meals that I’ve seen and tasted personally…let’s just say they have a long way to go before taste catches up with the requirements.

A la Carte and Appetizers as Kids’ Meals

If you aren’t using a Disney Dining Plan, then another great idea for a Unique Kids’ Meal option is to order a la carte sides or appetizers instead of something from the Kids’ Menu.

This strategy works great for a couple of different reasons. Even with all of the improvements to kids’ meals across the parks and resorts, some Disney restaurants lag behind a bit, and the options can be a little, well, boring. After all, you can only eat Chicken Nuggets so many times. So it’s a great way to get your young, adventurous eater something tastier and more satisfying.

Smoked Chicken Quesadilla

Smoked Chicken Quesadillas, a Whispering Canyon Cafe Appetizer, is a Great Meal Choice for an Adventurous Kid

It’s also a great idea when [Read more…]

News! Enjoy “Eat Local Week” in Disney World

Fun news for those of you visiting Disney World this week!

EatLocalWeek Orlando Logo

Slow Food Orlando is sponsoring Eat Local Week in The City Beautiful — and it’s happening right now!

While the event showcases eating, drinking, and shopping local throughout the Central Florida Region, there are opportunities to celebrate local growers and producers by dining in some of our favorite Disney Restaurants.

Enjoy menus featuring locally-sourced ingredients all this week, showcasing ingredients from Florida farms, ranches, and fisheries.

And the list of participating Disney restaurants includes some of our tried and true favorites. Choose from The Wave…of American Flavors or California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We’ve enjoyed delicious seasonal dishes in both.

California Grill view

A Beautiful View and the Season’s Best Flavors at California Grill

At Disney’s Grand Floridian, dine slow-food style at the beautiful Citricos. Or hop over to Disney’s BoardWalk for dinner at Flying Fish Cafe — hands down, one of my absolute favorite spots! (Read our latest review of Flying Fish here.)

Crab Cake

The Flying Fish Cafe is Always an Excellent Choice, Especially for Seafood, Like Their Killer Crabcakes

But we aren’t finished! Yachtsman Steakhouse, known for perfectly prepared steaks and seasonally-inspired sides, will also be participating. Finally, end your Eat Local tour at [Read more…]

Review: Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

You’re in for a treat today, as we visit one of my most favorite Disney World restaurants —
Sanaa.

Sanaa is truly a hidden Disney treasure, and while I hope you all have the opportunity to enjoy it, honestly, I hope the word never totally gets out!

I know that may sound selfish, but Sanaa is a favorite of mine for many, many reasons. In addition to a number of truly exquisite meals in the past, I also appreciate the quiet atmosphere. And it’s never been difficult to get an Advance Dining Reservation here — even at the last minute.

There had been some changes in the menu since I visited last, so I was anxious to book dinner at Sanaa on a recent trip to see if it’s still just as wonderful as it’s always been.

Atmosphere

Sanaa is a hidden gem in part because it’s actually somewhat hidden. To get to Sanaa, you’ll need to head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Once there, look for signs pointing you toward Kidani Village, the Disney Vacation Club portion of the resort.

Outside of Sanaa

Outside of Sanaa

As with all of the other restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Sanaa has been thoughtfully named. The word “sanaa” is Swahili for “art”. Step up to the restaurant’s entrance, and you start to see why. Hand woven trays decorate the area behind the podium and beautiful beads line the counter.

Sanaa check-in

Sanaa check-in

Be on the lookout for this guy though. (We’re talking about the Hidden Mickey…not the bird. :-) ) You’ll catch a an artistically rendered glimpse or two of him throughout the area.

hidden mickey 3 at entrance Sanaa

Hidden Mickey at Sanaa’s Entrance

One of my favorite touches are the African Proverbs that you’ll find on walls throughout Kidani Village. Think about it for a while!

decor Sanaa

African Proverb and Beads

While you wait for your table — and the wait isn’t likely to be long — you’ll get your first glimpse of Sunset Savanna. Keep your eyes peeled. The area is home to dozens of birds and animals, including gazelles, zebras, cranes, ostriches, and more. And right outside THESE windows, you my get to see a tortoise or two.

waiting area hallway Sanaa

Windows in Sanaa’s Waiting Area

En route to your table, you’ll pass the Lounge. This is one of my favorite spots to relax and unwind.

Bar area Sanaa

Bar Area

Because it’s opened continuously from 11:30 to midnight, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a meal at one of those in-between times, or you just want to meet friends for a quiet night cap.

bar area 2 Sanaa

Bar Seating

This is a detail that I love about Animal Kingdom Lodge (and most spots in Disney, actually) — no space is left untouched. Check out the rich detail on the ceiling in the bar area, which provides a subtle sense of definition…

ceiling detail Sanaa

Ceiling Detail in the Bar

…And this is what I mean. Once you enter the main restaurant, you leave the “building” of the entrance, and you’re under the canopy of a sprawling acacia tree.

overview of restaurant Sanaa

Atmosphere

It blends beautifully with the wide-arched picture windows, and melds the interior with the exterior.

Request a window-side table, and you’ll enjoy great views of the savanna as you dine.

Seating and View Sanaa

Window Seating

Chances are pretty good that you’ll even see a few of these guys.

And it’s a good time to note — the ever-changing parade of wildlife outside the windows is a great diversion for little people in your group! There are few better ways to distract a toddler than by pointing out real life zebras!

view 1 Sanaa

Sanaa’s View

Seating is broken up into small alcoves, and tables and chairs are fashioned with the same artisan detail as other surroundings. The mismatched chairs give the space an eclectic feel.

seating 2 Sanaa

Seating and Atmosphere

Padded booths also offer a cozy option, if you prefer extra comfort to views.

Seating 1 Sanaa

Seating and Rich Ceiling and Lighting Detail

hidden mickey 2 Sanaa

Another Mickey and Round Booth Seating

And remember when I said to keep an eye out for Mickey sightings? :-)

hidden mickey 1 -- on table Sanaa

Hidden Mickey on a Table

Because the restaurant is decorated to resemble an East African spice market, you’ll find some interesting elements. I always stop to take in this [Read more…]

News! “A Cooking Safari with Mickey” Cookbook Coming Soon to Disney Parks

Pam Brandon and the Chefs at Disney have put together yet another cookbook to share some of our favorite dishes — and we have a feeling we’ll be adding this one to our shelves soon!

A Cooking Safari with Mickey will feature recipes from the restaurants of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The emphasis will be on the cuisine of South Africa and India.

A Cooking Safari with Mickey Cookbook Cover

A Cooking Safari with Mickey Cookbook Cover

Could it be…is it possible…we’ll finally have the secret to the incredible [Read more…]

News: Disney Valentine’s Day Treats Make the Celebration Extra Sweet

Nothing says “I love you!” like a giant pile of frosting.  And some of our favorite spots throughout Disney World are featuring extra special love-themed desserts this weekend.

Cupcake lovers have lots of options. We think the Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake at Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Bakery should top the list. After all, what goes better with your favorite Starbucks beverage than a big chocolatey cupcake??

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake at Magic Kingdom's Main Street Bakery

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake at Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Bakery

But the Raspberry Panna Cotta Cupcake from BoardWalk Bakery also has us intrigued. It’s like two desserts in one, and reminds me a bit of the Master’s Cupcake at Be Our Guest Restaurant, which features Grey Stuff — Cookies and Cream Panna Cotta.

Raspberry Panna Cotta Cupcake from BoardWalk Bakery

Raspberry Panna Cotta Cupcake from BoardWalk Bakery

If you like to have your cupcakes and eat them too (plus you’d like a couple other things), then head to the Beach Club Marketplace for the Sweetheart Dessert. It includes Cupcakes, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, and Chocolate Truffles. Best of all — there’s two of everything, so no sharing required. :-)

Sweetheart Dessert from Beach Club Marketplace

Sweetheart Dessert from Beach Club Marketplace

If we had a vote right now for Disney’s cutest couple, I’m pretty sure that Lady and the Tramp would probably score in the top 3. So it’s fitting that they’re the face of amore on a cupcake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios right now.

Lady and the Tramp Cupcake

Lady and the Tramp Cupcake

We had a chance to try this one for ourselves the other day, and it’s pretty adorable. Featuring Red Velvet Cake and whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting, it’s also delicious. You’ll find it at The Trolley Car Café, Starring Rolls Cafe, ABC Commissary, Pizza Planet, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Co., Rosie’s All American Café, and Fairfax Fare.

Lady and the Tramp Cupcake -- Inside

Lady and the Tramp Cupcake — Inside

However, I personally want to drive to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge right now for some of these [Read more…]

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…]