Be Our Guest Dinner Review

Be Our Guest is a sit-down restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  While a quick-service location for lunch and dinner, Be Our Guest transforms to a table-service spot in the evening.  This (New) Fantasyland restaurant offers French fare, as well as some American dishes.  Be Our Guest offers a 10% discount to Annual Passholders and does accept Tables in Wonderland.  We recently had dinner at Be Our Guest and this review will cover that experience.

BOG castle

Since opening in December of 2012, Be Our Guest has been Walt Disney World’s most popular restaurant.  While counter-service availability is generally easier to gain for breakfast and lunch, dinner reservations are very hard to come by.  Speaking for myself, I had to get a reservation 180+ days in advance for dinner.

We’ve dined at Be Our Guest for lunch many times.  I’ve always enjoyed our meals there and think the restaurant is easily the best Magic Kingdom counter-service option.  I was eager to see if the dinner lived up to the hype, both in terms of popularity and the high standards of lunch.

BOG door

We arrived at Be Our Guest shortly before our reservation and waited for a few minutes outside before being seated.  Knowing the layout of the restaurant, I’m surprised that they keep guests outside while waiting for their reservation to be called.  In the middle of summer the waiting can be uncomfortable.  I think the reason this is done is to create a staging space for the wait staff and a photo opportunity for guests with Beast.  There are plenty of umbrellas outside for guests so most of the waiting is in the shade at least.

After meeting the Beast, we were seated in the Grand Ballroom.  While the most generic of all the rooms, there is still some grandiose here.  The chandeliers at giant windows at the end of the room make the ballroom beautiful.  On top of that, the painted ceiling is a marvel.  While the other two rooms (The West Wing and The Castle Gallery) have a little more character and intrigue, the Grand Ballroom’s scale is impressive.

BOG chandelier

The tables were a little squished but, knowing how hot of a ticket the restaurant is, I’m fine with that.  I’m glad they’re doing what they can to add capacity and didn’t think the experience was hindered at all because of that.  Once factoring in the beautiful ceilings, music and elegance Be Our Guest has one of the better environments of any Disney World restaurant.

Albeit by a slight margin, I do think the environment at dinner is better than lunch or breakfast.  The rooms all look the same, obviously, but there is a slightly fancier vibe and fewer people walking around to interrupt the ambiance.  With that said, I don’t think seeing Be Our Guest at dinner is a big enough difference to justify going over lunch based on ambiance alone.

Moving on to the food, here’s a look at the menu.  I don’t necessarily think the choices are that inventive but there is a good variety of French and American choices.  I wouldn’t be afraid to take picky eaters there as I think there is something for everyone.

BOG charcuterie

We started with appetizers and I had the Charcuterie Board.  This was way too much food for one person but was decent.  I didn’t think the bread was anything to write home about (so instead I’m writing about it while I’m at home) but the a few of the meats and cheeses were decent.  We ate at Chefs de France the night before and the cheese plate there seemed more authentic but this was still pretty tasty.

BOG clams

Melissa had the Marseilles-style Mussels and liked them.  This was another large portion and I would absolutely recommend sharing either of these.  The mussels were good and prepared well.  The tomato broth was a bit chunky but good overall.  We both liked this more than the charcuterie.  With that said, both appetizers were good but neither wowed us.

Meat BOG

(Sorry about the poor photo.)  For my entrée, I had the lamb and enjoyed it.  The meat was tender but didn’t provide as much flavor as I’d like.  The side dishes in this (which I believe change seasonally) were fine but not great.  While I liked the lamb I probably wouldn’t order this again.

BOG shrimp pasta

Melissa ordered the a Shrimp Pasta which is currently on the menu.  This was served in a lobster sauce that we both enjoyed.  I wasn’t a fan of the noodles and thought the shrimp was just okay.  Melissa liked the dish a little more than me but wasn’t wowed.

The most disappointing aspect of our meal was the dessert.  Having dined here for lunch, I was bummed to see that the dessert options at dinner were largely the same.  With dinner options being in the 25-40 dollar price range, having a few $5 cupcakes and cream puffs doesn’t cut it.  I’d be fine with a few of those options plus a few higher priced options that are specifically made for dinner.

The meal as a whole was fine but far from the best I’ve had.  As an overall experience, I didn’t think dinner at Be Our Guest met the expectations that lunch at the same restaurant gave us.  Lunch there has an amazing atmosphere, with good food and is a decent value.  Dinner has a slightly better atmosphere, but the value of the food does not compare.  While the experience is enjoyable, I would generally recommend lunch at Be Our Guest over dinner.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Have you had dinner at Be Our Guest?  Let us know your thoughts on the restaurant, along with any questions you have, in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!

– Andrew

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Favorite Quiet Places – Tom Sawyer Island

When starting a blog, topics seem limitless.  All of these noble series ideas come to mind and posts basically write themselves.  Then, all of a sudden, three years has passed and the realization hits that you haven’t written a post in that series for about two years and 11 months.  Fear not!  This long-lost series has returned!

TSI map MK

The ‘Favorite Quiet Places’ series is a nice idea (don’t mind my self back pat) in that everyone is looking for a little break from the huge crowds that the Disney Parks pull in.  On the other hand, the series isn’t a great idea because there really aren’t that many quiet places in the different Disney Parks.  Generally, the quiet places are quiet for a reason.  That certain area looks worse or has no attractions.

Still, no thanks to blogs like this that tell people all about them, there are still hidden gems around the parks that guests can escape the hustle and bustle.  In case you weren’t reading this blog nearly three years ago this series has included the Japan Pavilion’s gardens (Epcot), Animal Kingdom’s trails, and a Cars Land path (California Adventure).  Today, we’re moving on to another area that is included in both Disney World and Disneyland – Tom Sawyer Island.

That’s not to say both parks have the same Tom Sawyer Island (I prefer Magic Kingdom’s version because I don’t love the pirate tie-ins at Disneyland) but they do have similar virtues.  Tom Sawyer Island is a vestige of adventure.  Instead of a simulator, this mini-land is built to explore and wander freely, without worry.

The route to Tom Sawyer Island is old-fashioned in its own right.  Floating between the island and the main land is this little wooden raft.  Now, this isn’t one of those quiet places.  Usually they pack this raft as full as possible and aside from the ride only being about a minute, it isn’t all that pleasant.  Once on the island though,
Tom Sawyer Island really is different from the area where you just came.  No more rushing to attractions or getting ran over by strollers.

TSI Welcum sign MK

Regardless of Disneyland or Disney World, I like to go clockwise around Tom Sawyer Island in a big loop.  While I don’t often explore the caves now, walking through them can be fun.  Instead I like to slowly make my way around the outskirts on the dirt path.  As with anywhere in Disney Parks, the foliage is quite beautiful and well maintained.  Unlike other places in the Disney Parks, here you can actually stop and enjoy it without feeling like you’re in someone’s way.

Old wooden buildings are strewn across the island, most of them paying homage to its namesake.  If you are a big Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn fan there are plenty of tie-ins to explore.  My favorite is a rather obvious one – a fence with a little spray paint graffiti on it.  I believe this is only in Magic Kingdom.

Tom loves Becky fence MK

Details are not overlooked as anything with a tie-in to Tom Sawyer is usually done from the standpoint of Tom writing it.  All of those signs have misspellings throughout them.

Over in Disneyland, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is filled with a few tie-ins to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  As I stated before, I’m not a huge fan of these additions but they aren’t very intrusive don’t affect the overall experience.

River boat BTMR MK

On the opposite side of Tom Sawyer Island from where guests get on and off the raft is the most playful part.  A barrel bridge floats and shakes above the water as guests try to cross.  While there is an easier path, this bridge is fun and, while probably the most popular aspect of the island, is typically not crowded.  Shortly after this bridge comes a beautiful wooden water wheel in Harper’s Mill.  I enjoy slowing down and seeing the system at work.  The sound of running water relaxes me so this combined with the lake takes some of the edge off from rushing around a busy theme park.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Tom Sawyer Island comes in the unique views offered of the rest of the park.  In Disney World Tom Sawyer Island offers views into Liberty Square and Frontierland.  In Disneyland, the island gazes upon New Orleans Square, Frontierland and parts of Critter Country.

Purple flower MK

My ideal Tom Sawyer Island experience is doing a loop around the outskirts and then stopping as I’m near where the raft picks guests up.  There are wooden patios and typically some shade to be found.  Sitting in this area and watching the river boat pass, seeing the different lands and hearing the water flow is as relaxing as Disneyland and Magic Kingdom get.  Likewise, if you like to take photos then this a great area to do it.

When I first started the Favorite Quiet Places series a few years ago the intention was to write about places people didn’t know about or take time to discover.  I’d wager that most people have heard of Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland or Magic Kingdom but I think that the area is skipped over.  I’ve skipped a few times.  But, if you are in need of a break and want to relax for a while there is no better place to do it than Tom Sawyer Island.  Ride the raft, walk for a bit and then soak in the sights and sounds of a time gone by.

What are some of your favorite quiet places in Disney Parks?  Let us know in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

Question of the Week (12/4/17)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answer!

Question of the Week: What’s your guilty pleasure theme park food that you know you shouldn’t eat but can’t help yourself once you are at a Disney Park?

Mackenzie – Probably popcorn.. I don’t want to buy it there because there are many other better snacks. But once I smell it I can’t get it out my mind. Plus you can get a pretty cool reusable bucket too.

Main Street cart

Leslie – Churros…they are my weakness. I have to get them at least once during my trip. Sometimes that once is getting two of them at the same time. Wonderfully fried dough with pixie dust, I mean sugar and cinnamon. Anyone who doesn’t have a churro on their trip either has amazing willpower, or doesn’t know what they are missing.

Cassie – I think the worst thing I usually go for is the Chili Cone Queso at the Cozy Cones in Cars Land. It’s bread, chili, queso cheese, and Fritos. This little delight has zero nutritional value and is freaking scrumptious. I also love how easy the cone is to hold. So bad yet so so good.

Melissa – The garlic bagel twist that you can get from a Cozy Cone in DCA or Fantasyland in Disneyland. I could eat them over and over again. It’s just a bunch of bread…but oh so very good!

Garlic Bagel Twist

Andrew – I would go with the chimichangas in Disneyland. Similar to Cassie’s pick, these hold no nutritional value and really shouldn’t be addicting or even taste good. Still, I see those carts and my mouth starts watering. I get them every time.

Darin – Every time that I have gone into a Disney park I have convinced myself not to buy a giant turkey leg. It’s pretty good, I could name a ton of other stuff I rather eat though and it is way over priced. Yet, the second I see someone munching down on one I start to crave it, quickly talk myself in to getting one and run to the nearest place that sells one.

Waiting for parade

This question was just an excuse to use this terrible photo.

What would your answer be?  Let us know in the comments!

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

Trattoria al Forno (Bon Voyage) Breakfast Review

We just celebrated our 3 year anniversary of Wandering in Disney.  Thank you for your support!  On to the post!

Trattoria al Forno is an Italian restaurant in Walt Disney World.  Serving breakfast and dinner, Trattoria sits at the base of the Boardwalk Resort and is a short walk from Epcot.  While dinner is a more traditional sit-down meal, breakfast is character dining and offers a mix of both American and Italian inspired dishes.  The restaurant does take part in the Disney Dining Plan (1 credit), accepts Tables in Wonderland and offers a 10% discount to Annual Passholders.  This review will cover a recent breakfast we had at Trattoria al Forno.

Trattoria sign

Restaurants along Walt Disney World’s Boardwalk seem to change fairly often.  At least in the space that Trattoria al Forno currently inhabits.  Before Trattoria came Kouzzina and before that was something called Spoodles and on and on.  I’m not sure why changing of hands because the location is excellent.  Sitting just outside of Epcot and a short boat ride from the Studios, this restaurant is easily accessible.  Still, it feels like the property may struggle to succeed and has to come up with incentives for which to visit.

The latest incentive is the Bon Voyage Breakfast.  Why breakfast has to have a name is beyond me but I digress.  This breakfast features select Disney characters – typically Rapunzel and Flynn Rider along with Ariel and Prince Eric.  While the restaurant wasn’t really on my radar, after my wife saw that there was a character meal with Rapunzel we had Trattoria booked ASAP.  Along with us for our meal was my sister-in-law Amie and my two adorable nephews.  Kids under 3 eat free here.  Colton, the oldest of the two nephews at just under 3 years old, had the chocolate waffles and loved them.  He loved them so much he wished that I would stop taking his photo.

Colton waffle

Back on track, the atmosphere at Trattoria al Forno isn’t anything to write home about.  The seating area looks nice enough but isn’t in the top half of Disney restaurants when it comes to theme or environment.  The open kitchen looked nice but I would imagine that comes more into play during dinner.

Inside of Trattoria

Character meals always seem fairly hectic to me and this was no different.  Fortunately, there was plenty of room between the tables for the characters to maneuver and kids to follow during a parade.  I didn’t notice any differences here as opposed to other character meals I’ve had meaning that the characters came to your table, chit-chatted for about a minute, took a photo and then went on their way.  Your mileage will vary depending on the demographics of your family and how busy the restaurant is, I’ve only had a few frustratingly short encounters over double-digit character meals and none of those encounters were at this particular meal.

Rapunzel Trattoria

Rapunzel is a unique character to have at a meal and is exclusive to this restaurant, as are the princes (or whatever Flynn Rider is).  If your child, or you, love Rapunzel then this is probably the way to go.  I’m far from a character expert but have a decent idea of which ones are at certain restaurants because food.  If you have any questions in that regard let me know in the comments.

Melissa Flynn Trattoria

I didn’t see Melissa for the rest of this trip after this photo.  Odd… (Kidding)

Character meals are definitely in demand and, justifiably so, Disney charges a premium for them.  With that in mind, any meal you have with characters is probably not worth the price based on food alone.  That’s not to say the food won’t be good (we’re getting there), it’s just extra because you’re meeting characters.  Deciding whether to go or not should come down to if the character is unique and special to someone in your party, whether or not you want to wait in line in the parks for that character, and whether or not you want extra time with a character.  Put simply, character dining is a ‘Time vs. Money’ debate and there is no right or wrong answer.  I would advise trying it at least once, especially if you have someone who loves characters with you.

Pastries Trattoria al Forno

On to the important stuff – the food!  Breakfast is started with a plate of pastries brought for the whole table.  Be on the ready to snatch up what you want before the person next to you!  I enjoyed everything I tasted hear, specifically the pastry on the back of the plate that (was supposed to) resemble a clam shell.  This was raspberry filled and delicious.  All of the pastries were themed to one of the characters which was a nice touch.

Fruit trattoria

The next course was a choice between a yogurt parfait or fresh fruit.  I went with the fruit, which was your standard affair.  Everything tasted fresh and was enjoyable.

For the entrée, we had our pick between 7 different options.  Here’s a look at the menu.  I was impressed by the variety of food.  There were some different options here than the usual breakfast fare.

Breakfast calzone Trattoria

I went with King Triton’s Shipwreck al Forno.  Much to Ben Wyatt’s excitement, this was a breakfast calzone.  The inside is filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, peppers and meat.  The sauce this sits in is a sunday gravy, which is apparently similar to a red sauce you’d put on pasta.  I am not well versed in Italian food lingo.  I thought this was an excellent dish and very unique to breakfast.  While a calzone isn’t the fanciest thing, they dressed this up well and I enjoyed the blending of all the flavors.  This was extremely heavy though, to the point where you could share it.  If you like a more hearty breakfast, this is a good way to go.

Melissa's food Trattoria

While I tried to give myself a heart attack before noon, Melissa went with the Swimmers Delight.  This is an egg white omelet with smoked salmon, goat cheese, spinach and a host of other healthy things.  Melissa liked the lightness of the dish but said she probably wouldn’t order again.  No surprise, when you put that much ‘healthy’ food on one plate then you’re asking for trouble.  Jokes aside, I think this was prepared well and had a good amount of flavor packed into the omelet.  Amie had the steak and eggs (Royal Breakfast).  She said the steak was fantastic and would recommend the dish.

All in all, I thought the food was very good.  Generally at character meals (especially breakfast) it seems that food is an afterthought.  That wasn’t the case here at all, I thought the dishes were interesting and all prepared very well.

Ariel group Trattoria

I really enjoyed our breakfast at Trattoria al Forno.  With that said, I’m not sure I would do it again and that is strictly due to price.  The cost is $34 per adult for breakfast, which is very steep for the first meal of the day.  Now, compared to other character breakfasts around property Trattoria looks much better and might even be the best value.  If you are looking for an easy way to meet one of these characters and love breakfast then I’d recommend this place.  If strictly looking for great breakfast food is the goal then I’d recommend trying somewhere else because you will save money.  Trattoria al Forno’s Bon Voyage Breakfast is a pleasant surprise but is still a steep price to pay for the first meal of the day.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Have you been to Trattoria al Forno?  Let us know your thoughts on the restaurant, along with any questions you have, in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!

– Andrew

My Top Ten Photos From Our Disney World Year

Yesterday, our latest trip report came to a close and with it our final trip under our Disney World Annual Pass.  Over the last year, we went to Disney World four times and with it came around 5,000 photos.  While we will certainly be back to WDW before long, this seems the opportune time for a little bit of looking back.

I don’t consider myself a very good photographer.  This hobby I’ve picked up has helped augment my Disney trips, along with other travels.  I thoroughly enjoy it and try to learn more and more about the art but I’m certainly no expert.  For fantastic photography visit Disneytouristblog.com to see my favorite Disney photographer, Tom Bricker.

With that said, sometimes the stars align even for the worst of photographers.  A great scene or setting can be hard to screw up even if you aren’t quite sure of what you’re doing.  Now that I’m done trying to thoroughly convince you that I’m a bad photographer, I’m going to share some of my favorite photos from Disney World that I took in the last year.

I’ll try to stick to ten but won’t put them in any certain order.  I’ll add a few thoughts below each one and I’d love to hear any comments you have down below.  Without further adieu…

Echo Lake night DHS

I’ll start off with an obligatory Hollywood Studios shot.  None of the ones I took really stood out to me but I felt I needed one.  I do think this photograph envelops the mood of this Echo Lake area after dark.  There aren’t many people around and this is one of the more peaceful areas in Walt Disney World.  The area is almost too quiet and bare but is a nice treat to stumble upon.

Dandelion Fantasia end monorail Epcot

One of my favorite shots of the year because of the subject matter.  Fantasia (and Fantasmic!) is one of favorite Disney related projects and this topiary display in Epcot during Flower & Garden Festival is beautiful.  I knelt very close to the flowers and waited for a monorail to pass by.  The results were pretty good, though I wish I had gotten this particular shot at sunset.

Closer Discovery River Harambe AK

Shooting back up Discovery River is an easy way to make a good photograph.  This is from the walkway between Harambe and Pandora.  I love the details in the area along with the ‘natural’ beauty of the water and greenery.

BTMR wider MK

The clouds really make this photograph.  Big Thunder Mountain is a great subject in its own right.  Add in the train for some kinetic energy and the photograph becomes much more exciting.  But a photo full of tan and gray would get a little dull.  The blue in the clouds here add a nice contrast to the mountain’s peak and make the photo much better.

Splash mt. night

This is a case of working hard for a certain shot and now just wanting it to be slightly better.  I love the clouds, reflection and subject in this photo.  But, each aspect can be a little better.  I wish the clouds stretched through more of the sky, meaning a longer shutter speed.  I wish the subject was a little less bright, meaning a higher aperture.  Lastly, I should have raised the tripod just a little higher to get the reflection.  All that said, the color in the sky balancing out Splash Mountain is beautiful.

Pirates Jack Sparrow

I still struggle with dark ride photography.  I don’t spend money to get the highest quality lens but I do my best with a high ISO, low aperture and short shutter speeds.  This shot is the best I’ve ever done.  While I don’t love the inclusion of Jack Sparrow in Pirates, I certainly think this final scene is impressive with all the detail in the room.

Bear ToL wide

This photo is included because the bear is my favorite animal on the Tree of Life and the blurred plant and flowers in the foreground make a somewhat interesting frame of the animal.  I could do my favorite 10 photos of Tree of Life and, while I’d be the only one who found it interesting, would enjoy myself.

China dragon Epcot night

Another case of it being hard to screw up this photo.  The subject, framed by the building in the China Pavilion, is very interesting.  Having a tripod made this photo so much easier.

AK Asia night

Right place, right time.  The photo has a certain energy to it that really matches that of Animal Kingdom at dusk.  There’s a mystery and excitement.  The prayer flags, light fixtures and trees blend into the sky and stars, making for a beautiful blue hour.

MK Hocus Pocus jack o lantern Oogie Maleficent

The is a simple showcase of depth of field.  The pumpkin followed Oogie Boogie(!!!) followed by Maleficent is really fun.  Them all staring in my general direction is a bit fortuitous, although it seems like all of the characters in Magic Kingdom stage shows are told to look right near the Partners Statue.  This is the best spot to photograph these shows if you have a zoom lens.

We Renew Broken Hearts AK

This photo makes it simply because I love the subject.  This is my favorite sign or artwork in all of Disney World.  It’s in the seating area of Harambe Market.

Timon

Hello there!  This little guy was posing for me and the rock he’s standing next to adds a little mirroring to add a little bit of symmetry.  The frame was filled with natural elements so my job was easy.

Ferry boat higher

My favorite photo I’ve ever taken partially because I worked hard for it.  The previous evening I had lost part of my tripod and was pretty down about not being able to do my normal nighttime photography.  We were walking out of Magic Kingdom at about 1 AM and the sky was beautiful so I gave this a shot.  I balanced my camera on the fence and tried multiple shots using a different ISO, aperture and shutter speed each time.  I ended up with this and think it looks pretty good.

Okay, I snuck a few more than 10 in but that’s it for now.  Thank you for reading and looking!  If you’re interested in more posts like this than let me know in the comments!  To check out more of my photos, click here.

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

August 2017 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 6

Apologies for the week off from the blog.  I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  If you missed any of the previous installments just click the corresponding number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that you missed to catch up.  On to the final installment!

Upon leaving Animal Kingdom we headed to our 5th and final hotel of our trip.  Yes, this is too many hotels for a single vacation.  I discussed the merits of resort hopping/split stays in part 4 of this report (as well as this post) so I won’t get into it very much here.  Ideally, I would keep the number of resorts in a trip to 2 or 3.  But, it’s nice to be able to stay in and review quite a few different places.

Wilderness Lodge courtyard

Wilderness Lodge is one of the most beautiful resorts at Walt Disney World.  While I live in the Pacific Northwest, seeing the landscaping and water features was still impressive.  I’ll review the hotel later but I certainly see why this hotel draws rave reviews.

After splurging the previous night at Victoria & Albert’s, we opted for a much cheaper dinner at the Contempo Cafe.  While certainly not as impressive or delicious, this Peanut Butter Pie was fantastic.

PB Pie Contempo Cafe

The Contempo Cafe is a quality counter-service spot for those looking for something around the Magic Kingdom area.  This restaurant also offers the most scenic view of any Magic Kingdom resort counter-service spot.  Watching the monorail pass by in the grand concourse or staring at the Mary Blair mural is a beautiful way to spend a meal.  Not to mention the beautiful view of Magic Kingdom just a short walk away.

MK baseball scarecrow

After dinner we took the quick monorail ride to Magic Kingdom.  The Fall decorations are fun and playful throughout Magic Kingdom.  This baseball player is probably my favorite decoration along Main Street.

MK barbershop

After our stroll around Main Street, we slowly made our way to New Fantasyland.  Melissa and I rode Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.  After I put up with that attraction, Melissa put up with me taking some photos at dusk around New Fantasyland.

All in all, I had fairly rotten luck with the sky this trip as far as photography went.  More often than not, the sky was very grey and overcast.  This led to a lack of sunsets, color and clouds.  Typically, Florida has some of my favorite clouds to photograph but when there is a whole sky full of them then it’s hard to show how puffy they are.  The sky was at least somewhat purple that night so things weren’t quite so dull.

Gaston's evening MK

The biggest reason we were in Magic Kingdom that night was to enjoy another showing of Happily Ever After.  We loved it so much earlier in the trip that we scrapped our original plans and wanted to see this.  While I’m frankly a little ‘Magic Kingdom’d out’ relative to most other Disney Parks, this show makes me want to go back nightly.  While different, I think Happily Ever After is right up there with Illuminations and Disneyland’s Fantasmic as the best nighttime spectacular stateside.  Here’s a few more photos from that show.

HEA pink yellow MK

HEA pink MK

After Happily Ever After we took a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.

PotC Auction MK

This would be our final time seeing the auction scene in Pirates.  I have no problem with them replacing it.  While I certainly understand the sentiment that Disney should never touch classic attractions, there is a mountain of evidence against that thought.  Disneyland’s enhancements to Peter Pan’s Flight and Disney World’s additions to Haunted Mansion are both positive reinforcements to Disney classics.  While I think Disney can make changes without thinking (or with thoughts strictly based on the financial side instead of the customer), they are generally careful with classic attractions.  With that said, there is a counter-argument.

Over the last few years Disney has begun to blur the lines between what a classic attraction is and just a good attraction that needs change.  Tower of Terror in California Adventure had a great story and is now Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!  Likewise, California Screamin’ is about to become Incredicoaster.  I’m not sure if either of these attractions should be considered classics but they were certainly popular.  Now, they’ll both be changed in moves that seem short-sighted.

In the end, my thinking on Pirates changing this scene goes like this.  I work with kids for a living.  Some are very inquisitive and I could definitely see them questioning a scene in a theme park ride.  While there is a time and a place to discuss serious matters (prostitution, slavery) Disneyland and Disney World isn’t that place.  Changing this scene may help parents avoid an awkward conversation in the long run.

Castle Space from Treehouse MK

After Pirates we climbed through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.  The tree offers some beautiful views at night and we essentially had the place to ourselves.  Take a few minutes at the top to soak in the atmosphere and sights.

After our climb we rode Jungle Cruise and then walked over to Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  The moon was beautiful and bright on that evening, shining above the castle.

Carousel castle moon MK

We finished the evening by walking around New Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.  I think I enjoy the other side of Magic Kingdom better at night, exploring Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square.  There really isn’t a bad spot to be though.  New Fantasyland is quite peaceful at night.  The further you go back in that area the less people there are.  The lights are just far enough apart to make some areas seem a little more moody and less vibrant.  Storybook Circus seems somewhat like a ghost town at night, which fits the circus motif albeit in a way that Imagineers probably didn’t intend.

Little Mermaid castle back away MK night

Storybook Circus night MK

Tomorrowland is far more vibrant than the Disneyland counterpart.  Having a few more attractions and the PeopleMover adds to the neon and kinetic energy of the sauce.

Tomorrowland streaks night MK

Eventually we caught a boat back to Wilderness Lodge and called it a night.  The evening was relaxing and quite beautiful.  As is Wilderness Lodge.

Wilderness Lodge night

The next morning saw us up fairly early to enjoy our last few hours of the trip in Magic Kingdom.  We checked out, left our bags at Bell Services and went back out to the boat.  Once inside the park we had a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass (these are becoming easier to get on short notice) and then headed for breakfast at Be Our Guest.

I’ll have a review of our meal up in the next few weeks.  In short, I liked the food pretty well but thought the value was one of the worst at Disney World.

Tree it's a small world MK

We followed up breakfast with a slew of rides that we hadn’t done yet this trip including Mickey’s PhilharMagic and “it’s a small world”.  Both of these are wonderful places to escape the heat and excellent attractions in their own right.

MK flowers on wall

I love the flowers as you head from Fantasyland into Liberty Square.  This area is usually pretty crowded but if you can find a spot to tuck away, the colors are worth soaking in for a while.  The turn from 18-19th century Europe (Fantasyland) to colonial America (Liberty Square) is subtle and nuanced.  This is some of Imagineering’s finest work and the details are exceptional.

TSI map MK

We explored Tom Sawyer Island for a while after doing a few rides.  If a vacation is a respite from everyday life then Tom Sawyer Island is a vacation from Magic Kingdom.  If you back far enough on the island then it is like you are somewhere else entirely.  While the land isn’t appreciated enough (myself included) I love that it still exists and would be disappointed if it ever disappears entirely.

Purple flower MK

Tom Sawyer Island offers some of the best views and photogenic spots in any park.

BTMRR MK from TSI

After a little while on the island we hopped about the train and rode it from Frontierland to New Fantasyland.  This was a bit of an old-fashioned day apparently.  In that same vein, we did 5 attractions and had a longer breakfast in the span of three hours on a holiday (Labor Day).  While the parks are busier than ever, avoiding them isn’t that hard to do.

Dumbo castle MK

We had a FastPass for Space Mountain but the attraction was down and our time was running a little short.  Instead of waiting for Mountain to open we opted to use our FastPass to meet Mickey Mouse.  He wasn’t talking for some reason that day but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.  We snapped a few photos on the way out of the park before catching a boat back to Wilderness Lodge.

Castle MK Main Street

We were sad to leave, no doubt.  Multiple trips to Disney World on our Annual Pass made for an exceptional ‘Disney’ year.  There were several moments I’ll never forget and this trip in particular had been something we wanted to do for a long time.

MK from boat

People ask us often if we get tired of going to Disney Parks.  The simple answer is no.  The long answer is slightly more interesting.  I think Disney destinations offer new areas to explore every time.  This trip included tours, incredible food, and exploring a land that we eagerly anticipated.  We loved every minute we spent at Disney World this year.  With that said, our travels this year were dedicated to Florida.  Wanting to get value out of our annual pass along with living across the country and not having a bunch of money restricted us in where we could go.  First world problems without a doubt and, believe me, we know we’re more than fortunate enough to travel as much as we do.  But our annual passes expiring wasn’t just bitter.  We’re eager to travel more.  We can’t wait to go back to Disneyland on a whim, a much easier and affordable trip for us.  A few years down the road we’ll head back to Disney World and enjoy the new things on line.  For now, a few new adventures are on the docket before that trip.

Melissa Tokyo DHS

If there are any questions or thoughts about our trip report (or just anything in general) please leave them below in the comments.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (11/20/17)

Every few weeks our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: In honor of Thanksgiving… What is the best attraction to ride after eating way too much and being in a food coma?

Mackenzie – Snow White’s Scary Adventure–For the mere fact that it is slow and that there is usually not a long line. Second Choice would be Jungle Cruise–nice boat ride and lots of laughing!

Jungle Cruise sign MK

Melissa H. – I would have to say either Jungle Cruise or it’s a Small World. Both are quite long and very relaxing without having to worry about any fast-moving or sharp twists and turns. Although, I might fall asleep on Small World if given too much time!

Andrew – My conventional answer is the PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom. I could get a vehicle to myself, sprawl out and take a nap. They even let guests go around twice if the line is fairly short.  Allow another alternative though… If you read the blog regularly then you know I like to eat often at the parks. If I’m completely stuffed then how am I going to eat again soon? Well, go on Mission Space (the intense version), California Screamin’ or Rock n’ Roller Coaster and space will be open almost immediately. That’s a good way to wake up too. Well, good might not be the right word.

Epcot SSE front

Leslie – I think my top two answers would be Spaceship Earth and the Sea with Nemo and Friends. Both give you a slow-moving fun ride with a few activities after the fact to walk the food off. So I think both are a nice option.

Cassie – Having “been there done that” I would say the Disneyland railroads. I love to ride the train when I completely wiped out in the afternoon, as it is slow-moving and takes quite some time. You could definitely enjoy this attraction when you are in a food coma. I wouldn’t ever jump on the train first thing in the day when I have a ton energy. Much better to do so after eating an entire turkey leg in 2 minutes.

What would your answer be?  Let us know in the comments!

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

Top Ten Disneyland Resort Restaurants

Disneyland Resort is home to some delicious food.  From corn dogs to sushi, there is a wide variety offered and most exceeds the typical theme park fare.  The Disneyland website lists 109 different dining choices spread across Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney and the three Disney hotels.  Since I have my doubts about anyone getting to all 109 on a single trip, I decided it my civic duty to compile my top 10 list.  Could I have done something more helpful to society?  Maybe but you are reading this nonetheless.  Before the list, a few rules…

  • No bars, lounges, or just snack places – I’m looking for places to get a full meal.  While we’ve all gone for the classic dessert as a meal, I have been told that this is not a healthy way to go.  For the record, there are some bars that serve meals.  Trader Sam’s (Disneyland Hotel) and The Cove Bar (California Adventure) both offer some very good food.  In trying to keep this a little less complicated I’m just going to leave them off the list.  Cove Bar likely would have landed just outside the top ten and Trader Sam’s would probably be in the top five.
  • Downtown Disney gets knocked down a little – I think Downtown Disney is on the verge of getting a massive renovation (I don’t have sources or anything, this is just an educated guess).  Considering that, plus the underwhelming options in the area, will knock most of their restaurants off of the rankings.
  • I haven’t eaten everywhere.  Piggy-backing off the last rule, I haven’t eaten everywhere at Disneyland Resort.  This includes a few of the bigger names in Downtown Disney.  If something you love isn’t on the list, drop a comment and let me know!
  • This is all subjective.  Obviously, this is a blog and is all opinion based.  I like to think that I have an open mind to most any food and will try anything.  The list’s criteria includes atmosphere, food, and value.  Both counter-service and table-service restaurants are considered.

We have full reviews of most of these restaurants on the blog.  If you are interested in one of them, just click on the title an it will take you there assuming that we’ve reviewed that restaurant.  I will warn you, some are a few years out of date!  Before the list, let’s do a few honorable mentions…

Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney) – There is nothing remarkable about Earl of Sandwich but this quick-service location offers one of the best values on property.  I really enjoy their holiday turkey sandwich and if you are looking for a cheap meal and are in the area then this is a good choice.

Pacific Wharf Cafe (DCA) – I think I like the idea of this restaurant more than the actual food.  This cafe offers sandwiches, soups and salads.  Both the soups and salads can come in bread bowls that are delicious.  Maybe the most appealing aspect of this quick-service restaurant is the smell.

Bengal Barbecue (DL) – While the focus at Bengal Barbecue is simple in just making skewers, they make them well and the items don’t cost guests much.  I enjoy some of the drinks offered here too.  All in all, I think Bengal Barbecue offers a nice change of pace.

Storyteller’s Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel) – This table-service restaurant is just a nice place to have a meal.  The mood is far more relaxed than inside the parks and the restaurant has a nice variety on the menu.  While I wasn’t blown away by the food, I still enjoyed it.

Hungry Bear Restaurant (Disneyland) – This simply makes the list because of the beautiful views the restaurant offers.  Sitting right on the Rivers of America, Hungry Bear is a great place to enjoy the sights while having a meal.  Oh, and they have funnel cakes.

On to the top ten!

10. Flo’s V8 Cafe (DCA) – Flo’s food is a fairly divisive subject.  The menu was once ambitious and now has been dumbed down to serve fairly bland items.  The breakfast is still somewhat interesting but is hit and miss.  Why Flo’s makes the cut is because of the wonderful atmosphere.  The counter-service restaurant sits right in the middle of Cars Land and is themed to an old-time diner.  There are different rooms with wonderful details abound.  My favorite place to sit is right near a window facing Radiator Springs Racers.  Flo’s offers one of the best atmospheres on the list, unfortunately the food can’t quite measure up.  I recommend going for breakfast.  Honestly, I think the Cozy Cone’s offer better lunch/dinner options even though they aren’t on this list.

9. French Market (Disneyland) – If you don’t think Disneyland is the least bit romantic then I challenge you to get a meal from the French Market (preferably the Jambalaya), find a seat overlooking the river at dusk, and listen to the live jazz band play.  This idealized version of New Orleans has been going strong for decades and it’s largely thanks to the beautiful atmosphere. The food is pretty good, as well, offering Cajun inspired dishes at counter-service prices.  While there isn’t anything extremely authentic or spicy coming from these meals I still enjoy eating here.

French Market outside

8. Rancho del Zocalo (Disneyland) – This Mexican quick-service location in Frontierland is a great place to have a meal.  There are quite a few different options on the menu, some more authentic than others.  The atmosphere is charming and fits in well with Frontierland.  I thoroughly enjoy the Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada Platter.  For $14.49, this is a good value and enough to share or feed a big appetite.  I don’t share.

7. Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs (Disneyland) – A wagon selling corn dogs is one of the seven best restaurants at Disneyland?  Yes, it is.  Frankly, I almost put it in the top five.  First, the corn dogs are the best in the world.  They aren’t outrageously priced (ask for the corn dog without the chips, this cuts off about three dollars) and won’t disappoint.  On top of that, getting a corn dog from the Little Red Wagon at the end of Main Street is a Disneyland rite of passage.  Set your drink down on a garbage can, accidentally smear mustard all over your face and enjoy the seventh best Disneyland restaurant.

6. Blue Bayou Restaurant (Disneyland) – Blue Bayou has the best atmosphere of any Disneyland restaurant.  There isn’t really a close second.  Sitting inside the famed Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a special aura to this restaurant.  Sadly, the food and the prices don’t measure up.  The entrees aren’t anything special and the prices are outrageous.

5. Steakhouse 55 (Disneyland Hotel) – This Steakhouse doesn’t boast the incredible environment that some on this list have but the restaurant does have very good food, along with some great details and mementos.  There are photos of Walt, and other Disney greats, hung around the dining room.  Steakhouse 55 offers great several very good steaks and a great breakfast, as well.  This is a very good restaurant if you are looking for a nice place to eat.  There isn’t any extra Disney magic here but the restaurant doesn’t really need it.

Eggs benedict steakhouse 55

4. Plaza Inn (Disneyland) – Like the Little Red Wagon, Plaza Inn gains points through nostalgia and history.  The restaurant has been around since 1955, the year Disneyland opened.  This was Walt’s favorite place to have a meal.  While the menu has changed since then (and prices have gone up tenfold) the food and atmosphere still feel as if you’re stepping back into a simpler time.  Plaza Inn offers some of the best fried chicken around and offers other comfort food.  The restaurant serves a character dining breakfast and then transforms into a quick-service location for lunch and dinner.  This is my favorite quick-service spot at Disneyland.

3. Cafe Orleans (Disneyland) – This table-service restaurant in New Orleans Square is one of the best values out there for a sit down meal.  While I do think the entrees here leave something to be desired, the Pommes Frites are a fantastic appetizer and the Mickey Beignets are a great dessert.  Combine that with sitting outside and looking at New Orleans Square and the river and you have the makings of a near perfect afternoon.  Definitely request a seat outside, as sitting inside takes away from the restaurant.  The prices are similar to French Market than they are to the Blue Bayou, which is a big plus.

2. Carthay Circle Restaurant (California Adventure) – California Adventure’s flagship restaurant really surprised and impressed me.  Modeled after the theater where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered, there is no shortage of detail in the restaurant.  Carthay Circle also boasts exquisite service, delicious food and a diverse menu.  I think the restaurant is also given a boost from sitting inside of the park’s icon.  Get the Signature Fried Biscuits for an appetizer, they are fantastic.

1. Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel) – This wasn’t a hard choice.  Napa Rose is the best restaurant at Disneyland and I’m not sure there is much argument (at least if you don’t count Club 33).  The relaxed and sophisticated California setting is a perfect respite and compliment to the California Adventure, which sits just a few hundred yards away.  What really shines at Napa Rose though is the food.  The menu focuses heavily on fish and steak and does each of them exceptionally well.  Service at Napa Rose is always wonderful.  While the prices are certainly high here, I think this is more of a situation where you get what you pay for instead of just the usual Disney inflation. Go here.

Napa Rose steak

That concludes my top ten list.  Andrew Stanton, executive chef at both Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, will be thrilled to know he oversees the two highest restaurants on my list.  I’m sure this is the moment he’s been waiting for.  What did I get wrong on this list?  Let me know in the comment!

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

August 2017 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 5

If you missed parts 1, 2, 3, or 4 of this trip report then click on the corresponding number to catch up.  On with the show!

After a late night in Disney Springs we decided to take the next morning easy.  We woke up late and then went to breakfast/lunch at Art of Animation’s food court (Landscape of Flavors).  The food was decent for being a value hotel’s food court.  I was impressed by the variety of food offered, there was something for everyone.

After a slow-paced morning we decided to spend the day at Typhoon Lagoon.  While I enjoy Blizzard Beach, I find Typhoon Lagoon far superior.  Not only is the theme fantastic, the wave pool is one of the best attractions in Walt Disney World with waves up to six feet.  I could spend hours in that thing, swimming out to the deepest part of the pool and then catching a wave back in.  I’d love to do a surfing lesson there sometime but can’t justify the cost.

Typhoon Lagoon boat

As for the rest of Typhoon Lagoon, there are some great slides and then some that aren’t worth your time.  Miss Adventure Falls is the newest slide and is a nice blend of Disney storytelling with a raft ride.  Typically it’s hard to put much story in a quick water slide but this does a nice job of it.  Crush n’ Gusher is also a great water coaster. Aside from those two, I’d rather spend my day in the lazy river and wave pool  We spent a couple of hours there before heading back to our hotel.  I love water parks and recommend Typhoon Lagoon.  I will concede that they need to keep upgrading both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.  Now that Universal has opened Volcano Bay I think they will do just that.

We went back to the hotel fairly early as we had a dinner reservation at Victoria & Albert’s that night.  We gave ourselves ample time to get ready, as we’d been pretty unlucky with Disney Transportation that week.  Dressed in our finest, we headed out to Disney’s AAA five-diamond restaurant.  Making our way to the Grand Floridian was a bit stressful as we were left waiting for quite a while for busses in multiple spots.  We did make it in time though.

V&A plate

Victoria & Albert’s was nothing short of incredible.  The experience was overwhelming to our senses and something we won’t soon forget.  I’ll have a review to go into more detail in the coming weeks.

This Disney World trip was a “Treat Yo’ Self” vacation.  We had splurged on an Annual Pass the previous year and knew that this was our last trip to WDW with our pass and likely for a few years. We decided this was the time to accomplish some of the items on our Disney World Bucket List.  None of those items, namely the tours and Victoria & Albert’s, disappointed.  While none were essential to having a wonderful trip, they did provide us with memories that we won’t forget and were a nice way to augment an experience.  I’ve heard many people say that you’ll never be able to do it all at Disney World.  That’s absolutely true.

V&A fish

We had planned on hopping over to Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks after dinner.  Victoria & Albert’s was a long dinner though so we opted for a showing of Illuminations in Epcot an hour later.  Even being an hour later, we barely made that showing.  45 minutes after paying for the most expensive (and delicious) meals of our lives, we were sprinting through Epcot and sweating buckets.  Nothing more classy than that!

We arrived at World Showcase at 9:58, two minutes before the fireworks started.  Even with fairly large crowds and arriving late, we still found a decent spot to see the show.  It was fairly bittersweet seeing Illuminations.  I think the show is likely to be changed in the next few years and I have no idea if I’ll ever see it again.  Illuminations – Reflections of Earth was the first Disney nighttime show I ever loved.  I remember seeing it about 15 years ago, being wowed and then getting caught in downpour that only Florida can muster.  Likewise, seeing the show during our honeymoon will also hold a special place in my heart.  I distinctly remember the ash from the countless explosions raining down on us.

Illuminations finale Epcot

It’s also the only show that I have never took the time to photograph.  Part of that is logistics but mostly I just like to put the camera down and watch.  I might regret that someday but for now I’m fine with my choice.  As always, Illuminations was beautiful and I hope that the next time I’m in Epcot I will still be seeing some iteration of it.

Melissa Paris WS Epcot

After the fireworks ended we walked around World Showcase for a while.  As I’ve said before on this blog, security won’t push anyone out of World Showcase right away because many people are still in the restaurants.  While stores in the pavilions won’t be open guests can still wander around and see the sights.  This is one of my favorite things to do in any Disney Park.  The beautiful Illuminations score plays in the area for a while after the show ends and this is the perfect time to sit somewhere and soak up the atmosphere.

Morocco full pavilion Epcot

I forgot a piece of my tripod that night so my photography was limited.  I ended up with a few shots that I liked but for the most part Melissa and I took a relaxing stroll, recovering from that sprint earlier in the night.

UK path night Epcot

Of all my nights at Disney Parks this felt like the most surreal.  I had a meal that I’ll likely never have again.  We sprinted through half of Epcot in a suit and dress.  Then we wandered around a completely empty World Showcase for a while.

Cozy Cone AoA

Eventually we headed back to our hotel and I took a few photos before bed.

The next morning came fairly early and we checked out of yet another resort.  Wilderness Lodge was our last stop of the trip and we would check in there later that day.  Before that, we were off to Animal Kingdom.  Pandora was calling…

Green floating mountain AK Pandora

We scored a Flight of Passage FastPass for that morning.  I’m glad we tried both the FastPass line and the standby line that trip.  Obviously the FastPass line is the way to go right now as you can bypass long lines.  Still, the standby line offers some amazing views that the FastPass queue doesn’t offer.  Flight of Passage is amazing, by the way.

After our ride we ate lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue.  While the food is fantastic at this counter-service restaurant, I think Satu’li Canteen currently holds the top spot in Animal Kingdom’s counter-service ratings.  We’ll see if the menu changes at all over the next year but right now the food and value is fantastic.

Everest Discovery River AK

Both counter-service options offer some of the best views though.  Satu’li Canteen’s outdoor seating can be blocked by the hoards of guests though.  Flame Tree Barbecue doesn’t offer many issues as the closer you get to the water the more seating there seems to be.  I’m very happy that the seating they added for Rivers of Light didn’t take away from the beautiful view of this area.

Giraffe running Safari AK

After lunch, we went on a safari.  My wife is a good sport as she always agrees to go on the attraction with me no matter how many times we’ve been on it.  On this occasion, a giraffe jumped out from the brush and started running by our truck.  We also caught great views of a monkey, rhino and the elephants.

Fire twirler FotLK AK

Next on the agenda was Festival of the Lion King.  This was a sort of greatest hits type day as it was out last visit to Animal Kingdom under our annual pass.  This year has cemented Animal Kingdom as my favorite park at Walt Disney World.  Yes, Magic Kingdom is probably a better theme park (at least from an attractions standpoint) but Animal Kingdom is more appealing to me.  Festival of the Lion King is a big reason why.  Seeing the show one more time was a similar feeling to Illuminations.  Thankfully, I don’t see Festival of the Lion King going anywhere over the next few years.

Closer Discovery River Harambe AK

We walked from Harambe to Pandora on the newly opened pathway.  This was a beautiful walk that offered some great views.  I think walking from Pandora to Harambe may offer some better views but if you take your time then you’ll get views from both ways.  Looking up the river towards Harambe is one of the best sights in the park.  The handcrafted details blend seamlessly with the nature aspect of the park.

Fuzzy blue Pandora AK

Our last hour in Animal Kingdom was spent wandering around Pandora.  I’ve spent many words on this blog talking about WDW’s newest land so I won’t bore you with more.  Instead, here’s a few more photos from the gorgeous Pandora.  Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t cooperating with me that day so the background was pretty ugly.

Tree with flowers Pandora AK

2 waterfalls Pandora AK

Big rocks Pandora AK

Purple flower AK

Pandora scene colors AK

We headed out of Animal Kingdom after exploring for quite a while.  We are still blown away with the beauty and detail of both Pandora – World of Avatar and Animal Kingdom as a whole.  That’s where we’ll end part 5 of our trip report.  Next installment will conclude the series, detailing a few trips to Magic Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge!

If there are any questions or thoughts about our trip report (or just anything in general) please leave them below in the comments.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Yacht Club Resort Review

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort is a deluxe resort in Walt Disney World.  Inspired by New England-style architecture, the Yacht Club sits right along the lake.  The resort shares many amenities (including the famed pool, Stormalong Bay) and is connected with Disney’s Beach Club.  Both the Yacht and Beach Club, along with the Boardwalk Resort make up the Epcot Area Resorts, as they sit just outside of the park’s World Showcase entrance.  The Yacht Club is a DVC Resort but also take guests who are not a part of DVC (like me).  We recently stayed in a studio room here, this review will cover that experience.

Stormalong Bay slide

I’d taken many trips to Walt Disney World without staying at the Yacht or Beach Club.  One of my favorite unheralded things to do over the years is taking the boat from Epcot to Hollywood Studios, or vice versa.  While on this short (and free!) cruise, the boat stops at different hotels.  Along with the beautiful Boardwalk, my eyes would always drift to the large ship that seemed to pop out of the Beach and Yacht Clubs.  When I realized that this large ship was home to a pool and, more specifically, water slide it was a matter of when, not if, I was going to stay here.

I may like water slides more than an adult should, but the more I read about the Yacht Club the more interested in the resort I became.  Disney World’s greatest hotels are a bit like mini theme parks.  They each have a theme, things to do and the best ones have a headliner attraction.  The Contemporary’s headliner, for example, is the monorail soaring through A-frame.  Animal Kingdom Lodge has a savannah outside the backdoor.  All Star Sports has groups of raging cheerleaders and youth football players sprinting around the common areas yelling.  Kidding about that last one, sort of.  The Yacht and Beach Club have a more stereotypical hotel headliner – the pool.

I won’t bury my opinion any further.  Staying at the Yacht or Beach Club probably isn’t a wise choice unless there are is at least an hour or two set aside for Stormalong Bay.  The large caveat here is that if you have a trip centered around Epcot then this is also a great place to stay but more on that in a minute.  The Yacht Club has a nice enough theme.  The lobby is on the smaller side relative to other deluxe resorts.  The restaurants get solid reviews.

Yacht Club lobby

But there is nothing that will blow you away aside from that pool.  Stormalong Bay has the aforementioned water slide that is the longest of any WDW resort pool.  The pool’s floor is sand, which is one of those things that I didn’t know I loved until I experienced it.  There is a lazy river that is surprisingly deep and relaxing.  There’s several large areas for toddlers to splash around in.  Along with all of those features is just a sprawling complex that is beautiful to swim around.

Stormalong Bay is everything that it is cracked up to be and if you are looking for a resort day in the middle of your Walt Disney World vacation, there is no better place to spend it in.

Stormalong Bay chairs

Since we started with an amenity instead of the room I’ll finish up with those.  The Yacht Club features another quiet pool that is just a standard hotel pool.  While it’s nice enough there is no reason to go here unless… I thought I had a reason but there actually isn’t one.  Stormalong Bay is large enough that the pool doesn’t even feel very crowded compared to the quiet pool.

The Yacht Club also sits across the walkway from a beach that looks out on to the Boardwalk.  Pulling up a chair at night with your sweetheart is a relaxing way to spend an evening.  If timed right, guests could watch part of Illuminations from that beach although it doesn’t compare to seeing it in the park.

Boardwalk night sand

There’s an arcade in the hotel that was pretty run of the mill.  Speaking of run of the mill, the counter-service location in the Yacht Club is more of a grab and go spot then an actual restaurant or food court.  The hotel does feature the highly regarded and expensive Yachtsman Steakhouse and is also home to the Crew’s Cup Lounge, which Melissa and I love.  The Beach Club houses a few other restaurants, including the famous Beaches and Cream Soda Shop.  All in all, the dining at the Yacht Club is pretty good but could use a solid counter-service option.  Taking into account the proximity of the Boardwalk and Epcot, I don’t think guests will be disappointed with food options.

All in all, the amenities aside from Stormalong Bay are good but not great.  If you’re looking for an all around resort experience there are probably better options, especially once you factor in the theme.  But if you like pools then this jumps up the rankings.

Yacht Club hall

Last of all, before I get to the room, the Yacht Club’s proximity to Epcot is fantastic.  Without looking it up, this is the closest hotel to a theme park entrance on property (although the Beach Club is technically closer but I’m counting these resorts as one in the same).  Bay Lake Tower’s proximity to Magic Kingdom is the only thing that rivals the Yacht and Beach Club (and the Boardwalk) as the walk to Epcot is five minutes at most.  If going on a trip that will include lots of Epcot time, this resort is a great option.  We stayed here the night before Food & Wine Festival started and greatly enjoyed the convenience of the location.

Yacht club room beds

On to the rooms!  We stayed in a studio room with two queen beds.  The couch did pull out if you wanted to fit another person in here.  With deep navy and a rich wood tone, the room had a very clean look.  While there wasn’t much personality throughout, I liked the overall tone.

Yacht Club bathroom

Here’s the bathroom, which looks like most hotel bathrooms only slightly nicer.  I did like the shower design.

Yacht Club deck

Each room had a deck and ours looked out onto the quiet pool.  They were well blocked off from other guests felt secluded enough for a pleasant sit on the porch.

Yacht Club couch

Here’s a closer look at the couch and the artwork in the room.  All in all, the room used its space well and felt fairly open for being a studio room.  While the theme is far from exciting, the rich tones and sharp lines appealed to me.  This was a very nice hotel room although I prefer my Disney hotel rooms to have a little more character.

As far as value goes, you can find rooms at the Yacht Club starting at $250/night.  During peak seasons, those prices will shoot up.  Room-only discounts or Annual Pass discounts help significantly with the price.  While we aren’t big spenders, I’m certainly glad that we tried out the Yacht Club.  Spending an hour in the pool after dark was one of my favorite memories of the whole trip and made staying there worth it.  Perhaps a split stay can make this place more affordable for some?  That is what we did to make staying here a reality.

Yacht Club courtyard

In itself, the Yacht Club is a beautiful resort.  Once the elaborate and amazing pool plus the proximity to Epcot is factored in, this becomes one of my favorite places to stay in Walt Disney World.  While the theme is lacking compared to some other deluxe resorts, I would still highly recommend staying here even if it’s just a night or two.  A day in Epcot combined with a few trips back to the pool make for a great Walt Disney World day.

Overall Rating – 9.5/10

Have you ever stayed at the Yacht Club?  Do you have any questions about the resort?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!