St. Patrick’s Day at Walt Disney World!

St. Patrick's Day!

Biergarten – Not your usual location to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

Hello everyone, and thank you for stopping by today as we join in on the Magical Blogorail’s #RidingtheRails series this week!  Today we are gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day, which is on March 17th this year.  I know that most people think of restaurants like Raglan Road at Downtown Disney when they think of St. Patrick’s Day:

St. Patrick's Day

Raglan Road is located at Downtown Disney

However, since I don’t drink very much, I like a restaurant that has a great atmosphere, great food, and great spirits, all rolled into one!  For me, that restaurant is the Biergarten, located in Germany in Epcot’s World Showcase!

My family has eaten at Biergarten twice in the past three years, and we have enjoyed it each time.  The first time we ate there was with my sister-in-law Nancy and her family, and then last year we ate there with our friends Brenda and Butch.  Brenda is a Pixie like me, and we are great friends.  That dinner was exceptionally special because Sophie and I got to dance, and it meant as much to her as it did to me.  Here are a couple of photos you might enjoy:

St. Patrick's Day

Dancing with my daughter Sophie at the Biergarten

St. Patrick's Day

I guess I’m practicing for my first dance after she get’s married — several years from now!!!

I know that Biergarten is not your typical Irish type restaurant to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with — but if you can overlook the German food, and the German decor, and the German Beer, well, then I think you’ll love it for St. Patrick’s Day! Now, a question for you all.  Have you ever eaten at Biergarten — at any time, not just for St. Patrick’s Day?  If so, what did you think of it?  Please let me know in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!  Go ahead and leave your comment and then click the button to see the rest of the great entries!

Magical Blogorail Blue – Exploring my DisneySide

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Welcome to those of you joining me from Disney on Wheels and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

My DisneySide emerges…

In 1979, the summer after my Grandparents retired to Florida, my Mom, Sister, and I went to visit them, and being the Grandparents they were, they took us on a trip to Walt Disney World!  When I walked under the railroad tracks for the Walt Disney World Railroad, and emerged in Town Square and Main Street, U.S.A., I remember the feeling I had, that no matter what I did that day, nothing would compare with the feeling that I had arrived.  I didn’t know this at the time, and it has taken many years, my wife, and my daughter to bring it out, but that day in 1979 was the start of My DisneySide.

As I got older, my DisneySide would take a little bit of a back seat at times, because in my early years, I didn’t get to experience Walt Disney World as much as I would have liked to.  I went that first time in 1979, and again in 1983 when Epcot opened, and one more time when I went to what was then MGM, but after that, it would over a decade until I would visit again with Cindy in the year 2000.  To this day, I credit that first trip with Cindy as the trip that really kicked my DisneySide into high gear.

My DisneySide grows with my family…

This Snow White Lithograph still hangs in my daughter's room! This is one of four!

This Snow White Lithograph still hangs in my daughter’s room! This is one of four!

This Snow White Lithograph still hangs in my daughter's room!

This Snow White Lithograph still hangs in my daughter’s room!

The two pictures — as poor as they are — are representative of the change in me with the birth of our daughter Sophie.  These lithographs — a set of four that still hang in Sophie’s room to this day — were a free gift at the Disney Store when we purchased the Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The movie was purchased before Sophie was even born!  That was the continuation of the evolution of my DisneySide!

My DisneySide important points…

Finally, let me share with you a quick list of some of my other DisneySide moments.  I’m sorry for the length of this post, but when you talk about your DisneySide, sometimes you can’t be brief!

  • 2005: Sophie’s first trip to Walt Disney World, with her best friend Riley.
  • 2006: The one day trip to the Magic Kingdom Sophie took with us and her Meemaw!
  • 2007: Our first trip to Disney where we stayed on property!
  • 2008: Our second straight trip staying at Coronado Springs Resort!
  • 2009: Our first trip staying at Port Orleans French Quarter.
  • 2010: The time we surprised Sophie with Stephanie joining us, and the year we bought our DVC property!
  • February 2011: My first Magical Blogorail post!
  • 2011: Staying at Bay Lake Tower with Nancy, Otis, Anna Jane, Sherry, and Stephanie!
  • October 2011: Seeing the Food & Wine Festival for the first time, and also visiting for the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World!
  • 2012: Staying at Kidani Village with Monica, Maddie, Kerry, Neal, River, and Izaiah!
  • February, 2013: Signing on as a part time travel agent with Pixie Vacations!
  • June, 2013: Taking a trip to Disneyland for the first time, and meeting Sheila and her family!
  • July, 2013: Staying at the Grand Floridian! Incredibly blessed!
  • June, 2014: Staying at Bay Lake Tower again, this time with Leigh Ann and Riley, and Sheila, Randy, and Miss J.!

I think you can see that my DisneySide has blossomed into what some would call an obsession!  As for me, though, I think it is just a true love for all that Walt Disney brought to this world that we live in, and the legacy that he left in 1966.  In a nutshell, I guess my DisneySide is my attempt to keep the ideals that Walt Disney lived his life by in my life, and to instill that love of life and the simple things into the life of my family so that they can continue to pass it along.  Thank you for stopping by, and remember to make every day a Disney Day!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Disney Babies Blog.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ Disney on Wheels
2nd Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
3rd Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog
4th Stop ~ Picturing Disney
Final Stop ~ Manda’s Disney Blog

Magical Blogorail Red – Ideal Disney Resort Meal

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Welcome to those of you joining me from Growing Up Disney and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

Disney Food…there’s nothing quite like it.  In this month’s post, the Magical Blogorail Red team is bringing you our thoughts and ideas on what our ideal Disney Resort meal will be.  Already my mouth is watering, and I’m thinking of all the yummy delicious things that you can get at Walt Disney World.  How am I going to make some serious decisions here?

Well, for starters, my meal is going to consist of an appetizer, entree, and dessert.  We aren’t much on alcohol, so my drink will probably be a Diet Coke…

Appetizer

From Canada: The World Famous Cheddar Cheese Soup!

From Canada: The World Famous Cheddar Cheese Soup!

While this may not look like much, mainly because of the photographer in this case (that would be me!), the Cheddar Cheese soup from Le Cellier in Canada is at the top of my appetizer list.  I’ve only had it one time — during the Food and Wine Festival we went to in 2011 — but it was so good I’ve got to try it out again!

A close second in my mind would be the appetizer bar that you have available to you at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway.  All those incredible meats, cheeses, and breads are really tasty!

Entree

The Traditional Kjottkake at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is delicious!

The Traditional Kjottkake at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is delicious!

Yum!  Speaking of Norway, the Traditional Kjottkake at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall gets my vote for my favorite dish, although, I will admit that the entrees you get with the dinner at the Garden Grill Restaurant are absolutely fabulous also!  Anyway, the Traditional Kjottkake is Norwegian meatballs with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and lingonberry sauce.  The gravy, the meatballs, the tang of the sauce, it all works out to be a truly wonderful, comfort food that you will truly enjoy!

Dessert

The Berry Cobbler is a delicious dessert! Image ©tripadvisor.com

The Berry Cobbler is a delicious dessert! Image ©tripadvisor.com

When it comes to a dessert at Walt Disney World, I haven’t come across one that I like more than the berry cobbler that you get at the end of your meal at the Garden Grill Restaurant.  This incredibly delicious dish comes in it’s own skillet, warm, and with a whipped cream/ice cream type accompaniment on top.  This is truly a comfort food at its finest, and one that I truly enjoy time and time again!  If you have never eaten at the Garden Grill Restaurant, you are missing out, not just because of this dessert, but it’s a big reason why!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Disney Donna Kay.

Red Map Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ A World View
2nd Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
3rd Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
4th Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
Final Stop ~ Colorado Mountain Mom

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?

Disney Dining Plan

By Mike Ellis.  The Disney Dining Plan is often a subject of great debate between Disney fans.  Some people swear by the Disney Dining Plan, insisting that they do not experience their vacation fully without adding the Disney Dining Plan — or getting it for free through a Disney promotion.  Others insist that the Disney Dining Plan isn’t worth the money you spend, that you end up overeating, not enjoying yourselves as much, and that the resort drink mug you get with your plan just isn’t worth it.

So where does the truth lay?  I’m betting that it is somewhere in the middle…

In this post, I’m going to take an in-depth look at the Disney Dining Plan and help you discover if it is worth it for your family, and if it isn’t, I’m going to also explore some options that may be a better fit for you.  As always, I invite you to comment and let me know your thoughts, and tell me — do my points make good sense or do you think I’m full of it?

Disney Dining Plan Options

There are three different Disney Dining Plan options.  Here they are, along with a quick description of what each plan offers you:

  1. Quick Service Dining — The Quick Service Dining plan will give each person in the travel party aged three and up two counter service meals per night of stay, plus one snack, along with a refillable resort drink mug.  The Quick Service Dining plan is the least expensive option.
  2. Plus Dining — The “Plus” Dining plan option is the one most people go for — it includes one table service meal, one counter service meal, and one snack per person, per night of stay, for everyone aged three and up.  It also includes the refillable resort drink mug.
  3. Deluxe Dining — The Deluxe Dining plan option gives each person in the travel party aged three and up three meals per night and two snacks per night of travel, along with the refillable resort drink mug.  The three meals can be any combination of table service and counter service meals.

Five reasons for the “Plus” Disney Dining Plan

For the purposes of this article, I am going to really focus on the most common option that people go for with the Disney Dining Plan — the “Plus” Dining option.  Here are my top five reasons why we love the Disney Dining Plan:

  1. I like the idea of having my vacation expenses already taken care of as much as possible before my vacation.  By ordering the Disney Dining Plan, I already know that I have my dining taken care of except for any alcoholic beverages (which are really few and far between) and gratuities to our wait staff.
  2. I am a person that likes to eat.  As a result, I like being able to try out restaurants that offer food that I won’t normally experience when I’m back home.  It is for this reason that I really enjoy Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway.  The food is authentic, and is something I just won’t experience back in North Carolina!
  3. One thing we like to reserve is character dining restaurants.  By doing so, we are filling our bodies with energy during our meal, and we’re also taking care of a large number of our character pictures and autographs that we want to get as well!
  4. As you all probably know, one of the biggest things that I love about our Disney vacations is the Disney Magic and special Memories that we have experienced.  Many of them have happened during our table service meals, and I don’t want to miss those opportunities!
  5. Lastly, while there are a great number of incredible counter service restaurants — for my top ten, just click here — eating the Disney equivalent of fast food does get old after a while, and I don’t think that it is nearly as healthy as a good, relaxing, sit down meal at a table service restaurant.  For these reasons, I really enjoy the Disney Dining Plan.

Five reasons against the “Plus” Disney Dining Plan

Now, in comparison, let’s take a look at five reasons why the Disney Dining Plan may not be the best option for you.

  1. Expense.  The Disney Dining Plan is not cheap — in fact, for a family of four (two adults and two children aged eight and five) that is going to Walt Disney World in late June for six nights and seven days, the cost of their dining plan comes out to $930.48!  That is a huge expense.  For a family on a budget, that is potentially a big savings, depending on how they plan to take care of their meals while they are there.
  2. Picky/small eaters.  In many cases, guests that travel to Walt Disney World are either very picky when it comes to the food they like, or don’t eat a whole lot.  In either case, if you are making one table service reservation after another for your stay, you may find yourself or your kids not eating very much, and definitely not getting your money’s worth with regards to what you are paying for the plan.
  3. Your family is always on the go.  If your family is the type of family that is always on the go, wanting to get to the next attraction and the next show and on and on and on, the Disney Dining Plan may not be for you because you might not want to take time away from your time enjoying the great attractions and shows.  In a case like this, the Quick-Service Dining Plan might be a good alternative for you.
  4. “Scheduling your vacation.”  In many cases, people don’t like to go for the Disney Dining Plan because they don’t like having to make reservations for restaurants — they feel like they are planning every minute of their vacation because of the reservation times for their table service restaurants.  In cases like this, the Disney Dining Plan is probably not for you.
  5. Lastly, if you are not staying on Disney property for your resort stay, you can not participate in the Disney Dining Plan.

Tables in Wonderland

Tables in Wonderland vs. Disney Dining Plan

So, if you are leaning in the “against” group when it comes to the Disney Dining Plan, it’s okay — you can still take advantage of the great Disney table-service restaurants to enjoy.  If you have a big enough party size, one option that may be of interest to you is the Tables in Wonderland card.  This special dining card — which, by the way, is only available to Florida Residents, member of the Disney Vacation Club, or Annual Passholders — offers 20% off dining costs at over 100 Walt Disney World restaurants, and is good for the cardholder and up to 10 additional guests.  The cost of the card is $100, and the card is good for one year from time of purchase.  However, if you use the Tables in Wonderland card, you will automatically be charged an 18% gratuity, so keep that in mind when using it.  There are cases where I don’t think the Tables in Wonderland card is going to result in savings.

I hope that this article has helped you in your understanding of the Disney Dining Plan, and whether or not it is right for you and your family.  If you are interested in a quote for travel of your own, click on the image at the bottom of this post or on my sidebar on the right.  Each will take you to my quote page where you can fill in your information and generate an email to me for requesting a quote.  Also, if you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments, or email me at Mike@PixieVacations.com.  Lastly, let me know — do you like the Disney Dining Plan, or do you do without it?  Let me know in the comments as well, and thanks for stopping by!

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Disney Favorite Character Dining Restaurant?

Disney Dining Review

 

Hello everyone!  I hope you all have had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and are tackling your leftovers with gusto!  Since much of America was focused on dining this past week, I thought it would be fun to explore the different dining options at Walt Disney World to try and figure out what my favorite is — and for you to figure out what your favorite is also!  So, without further ado, let’s get cracking on it!

Here is the list of all of the character dining restaurants that I and my family have eaten at for Walt Disney World:

*Liberty Tree Tavern used to be a character dining restaurant — but isn’t anymore.

In order for me to determine my favorite — if I can, I might add, I fall back to some of the pictures I have of the dining experiences we’ve had at the restaurant, so let’s take a look at each of these with a favorite picture.

Favorite Character Dining Restaurants — the Resort Restaurants

Chef Mickey’s

The look on Sophie's face is priceless in this trip to Chef Mickey's in 2007!

The look on Sophie’s face is priceless in this trip to Chef Mickey’s in 2007!

We’ve eaten at Chef Mickey’s twice — this time in 2007 for dinner, and in 2012 for breakfast.  I totally think that breakfast is a better time to eat here, but I’ve got to say, when I came across this picture of Sophie watching Mickey sign her autograph book, the look on her face said it all.  That look of adoration towards Mickey is just priceless!

‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast

Sophie is pleasantly surprised by Stitch at 'Ohana Best Friends Breakfast!

Sophie is pleasantly surprised by Stitch at ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast!

We have eaten at ‘Ohana just one time — but it was a lot of fun!  We had breakfast there in August 2009, and we traveled to the Polynesian Resort by way of Water Taxi from the Magic Kingdom, and loved our trip over.  The food was incredible, Lilo and Stitch were fun, as were Mickey and Pluto, where were there that day, and we will definitely eat there again!

1900 Park Fare

Sophie poses with Cinderella for a picture at 1900 Park Fare!

Sophie poses with Cinderella for a picture at 1900 Park Fare!

Of all our character dining experiences, probably our least favorite was 1900 Park Fare. Sophie liked meeting Cinderella, and enjoyed seeing her and the Prince dancing, but she most definitely did not like the stepmother and stepsisters!

Cape May Cafe

Stephanie and Sophie hugging Goofy at the Cape May Cafe in 2010!

Stephanie and Sophie hugging Goofy at the Cape May Cafe in 2010!

Cape May Cafe was another of our character dining restaurants — this time, we went in 2010.  We really enjoyed it, with Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy entertaining us!  We will definitely eat there again!

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

Over at Mickey's Backyard BBQ, Sophie gets her picture taken with Mickey & Minnie!

Over at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, Sophie gets her picture taken with Mickey & Minnie!

We ate at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ in 2010.  I thought the food was just okay, but I really enjoyed the show and seeing Mickey & Minnie and the other characters all decked out in their western garb!  I think next time we need to see about the Hoop Dee Doo Revue!

Favorite Character Dining – Magic Kingdom

Liberty Tree Tavern

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If the Liberty Tree Tavern was still a character dining restaurant, it would probably rank up there right at the top of my list — but it was discontinued as a character dining restaurant not long after we ate there in 2008 for Sophie’s birthday with her best friend Riley.  I loved the period clothing, and love the food too, but miss that it isn’t a character dining restaurant anymore.

Crystal Palace

Sophie at the Crystal Palace, loving on Winnie the Pooh.

Sophie at the Crystal Palace, loving on Winnie the Pooh.

I love this shot of Sophie hugging Winnie the Pooh at the Crystal Palace.  We have never been here for breakfast (yet), but I have never had a problem with the food at the buffet for either lunch or dinner.  As you can see, this restaurant features the characters of Winnie the Pooh, so you’ll meet Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore when you eat here.  This picture was also taken in 2007.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

Mary at Cinderella's Royal Table

Mary at Cinderella’s Royal Table

We’ve eaten at Cinderella’s Royal Table a few times, and have enjoyed it.  I thought I would share a not often seen photo of Mary from Cinderella.

Favorite Character Dining – Epcot and Hollywood Studios

The Garden Grill Restaurant

Here are Mickey and Sophie at the Garden Grill Restaurant!

Here are Mickey and Sophie at the Garden Grill Restaurant!

The Garden Grill Restaurant is a great character dining restaurant.  Hosted by Chip and Dale, you will often find Mickey and Pluto here too.  What makes this restaurant cool is that is spins in a slow moving circle, and you can see the different seasons from the Living with the Land ride below.  I really enjoy this character dining restaurant!

Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Here are Sophie, Stephanie, and Cinderella at Princess Storybook Dining

Here are Sophie, Stephanie, and Cinderella at Princess Storybook Dining

We often visit Princess Storybook Dining, it is such a good location to enjoy great food — and it has Princess appeal that ranks up there with Cinderella’s Royal Table!  This one is definitely high on our list of character dining restaurants!

Play and Dine at the Hollywood and Vine

Sophie whispers to June at the Play and Dine breakfast

Sophie whispers to June at the Play and Dine breakfast

The breakfast here is like a normal Disney breakfast, so the food is good.  We enjoyed our time here the one time we ate here, but Sophie has outgrown this now, so it’s not one that we have been back to.  If you have young ones, I would recommend it once for them — and the characters have been updated to also include Jake, Handy Manny, and Special Agent Oso.

So, after all of this, what is my favorite Character Dining restaurant?  Well, I think that I have more than one favorite.  Truly, it really comes down to the memories for me, so, because of that, almost all of them are favorites because of the different memories that they invoke from the times we ate there.  Do you have a favorite?  Well, how about picking one from our poll below, and thanks!