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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Top 5 Disney Restaurants for Preschoolers

I'm a mom to two preschool-aged children.

If your kids are anything like mine, some trips to restaurants can be... let's say, adventurous.

Some trips they are like little angels (usually my only shot at this is if at least one of them is asleep!). 

Other trips? Well, pick your poison.... crawling under the table, knocking over their cups, playing with silverware, demanding we go see a fish tank or stuffed bear, or playing peek a boo with an irritated couple trying to enjoy their dinner at the booth behind us.

However, if you are considering a trip to Walt Disney World, there are some wonderful restaurants for you to take your children. There's all kinds of ways to keep your children entertained just by sitting at the table. This is one of the reasons you HAVE to eat at Disney when you are there. 

Will you pay more than you would at a Chilis or Applebees? Most likely. But these are experiences you won't find anywhere else- and will help you create even more wonderful memories on your trip. They can save you time in the park, as well as getting in the parks sooner. You'll get a more intimate experience with some of the characters.

I've come up with my own top five list of Walt Disney World restaurants for preschool aged children. These are guaranteed hits that your kids will love- and I think the food is pretty good, too.

(A disclaimer: you do not have to be preschool aged to enjoy these restaurants. Grandma and Grandpa will have just as big a smile on their face as your little ones!) 

My preschool aged children love the Crystal Palace! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Downtown Disney & Disney Springs

First I posted the rumors about the Downtown Disney renovations a couple of weeks ago, and this week Disney made the announcement official.

They are redoing quite a bit- it's going to look like an entirely different area. 

From the Disney Parks Blog-

"Once complete, Disney Springs will expand from 75 to more than 150 shopping, dining and entertainment venues, featuring some of the world’s most iconic brands and restaurants. Construction is set to begin next month."

It's also going to feature four different neighborhoods. 

The Town Center, which offers a sophisticated mix of shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can relax, refresh and reconnect.

A colorful and thriving commercial district called The Landing with inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views.

The family-friendly Marketplace that will continue to delight guests of all ages by combining new experiences, such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway, along with classic Disney favorites, including an expanded World of Disney store.

A West Side that provides an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below.

You had me at double the shopping venues. 

Some other important details-

Construction will start next month, but won't be finished until 2016. 

Disney tried its hand previously to some adult nightlife entertainment, with Pleasure Island. PI had a bunch of mixed reviews, and eventually closed. Disney is going to add some new adult options, most likely in the West Side. There will be more than enough for families to do, but there will be new options for those 21+ at Walt Disney World.

For those who drive, they are going to add a couple of parking garages. 

Unfortunately, I don't know YET how this will affect current stores- I'm sure Disney will try to keep all of them open-and I don't know what stores are included in the new plans. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... This is what keeps Disney on top, and people returning each year. They constantly reinvest in their parks, whether it's maintaining classic rides that still look new or completely new construction.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Walt Disney World for Boys-What is there for Boys to do at Disney?

Us girls get all that we need at Disney- princesses, the castles, the Fantasyland expansion, Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins coming to Disney Junior Live....
But what about the boys? I've posted about Walt Disney World for Dads before- but what about the little guy in your house?
This came to light because of this Huffington Post story- Ethan, an 8 year old boy, is disappointed after his Disney Cruise that he didn't see more "manly" characters, like Prince Eric or Aladdin. He also suggested Jack Sparrow-um hello, why not? Peter Pan, Jake and the Neverland Pirates- is there a better tie in with Disney Cruises? Put them all on! This is one of those times I wish I had a direct line to Disney to make this suggestion (sorry, the only line I have is for booking hotel and dining reservations !). 
Now, let's not go overboard- there's plenty of stuff to do on a Disney Cruise for boys, girls, guys, and gals. This is strictly about characters on the ship. Like Ethan said- he had a pretty good time, and this is something they could do to make it better. It'd be nice to meet a character they think is cool.
And while we are on it- what is there for boys to do in Walt Disney World? 
There's plenty- they just aren't as obvious and marketed as much. 
The Pirates League is the testosterone version of Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique for girls. Your little guy will get dressed up like a pirate, hang with the crew, and search for buried treasure. It's for boys ages 3 and older... I can't wait to take my son! It's right by the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Magic Kingdom-and yes, this is something I can book for you.
You can also visit Handy Manny and Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates while dining at Hollywood and Vine. No need to wait for pictures and an autograph- head here, and they'll come to your table while you eat!
In addition to Hollywood and Vine being located at Hollywood Studios, there are a couple of other interesting things for boys. There's Cars characters, the Toy Story Mania attraction- where you can find the green army men and other Toy Story characters-as well as Star Wars.
At Animal Kingdom, there are many options as well. My son is in love with Dinosaurs (in addition to Mickey). He won't be able to ride the Dinosaur ride anytime soon- this ride even scares me a little- but he can go and see all of the dinosaurs in Dinoland. A good place to eat here is Donald's Safari Breakfast. I'm also sure he'd love the "It's Tough to be a Bug" attraction, which is housed in the Tree of Life. Most boys will love the safari, and the Festival of the Lion King Show.
Speaking of the Lion King- this is also a great time to mention the Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars rooms at Disney's new Art of Animation resort. Nothing "princess" about these rooms!
If your little guy likes dinosaurs- check out the T-Rex cafe in Downtown Disney. I'm pretty close to a T-Red restaurant in Kansas City.... they have large animatronic dinosaurs inside! There's even a spot where Build A Bear has switched to Build a Dino- stuff your own dinosaur, and pick out the outfit. 
At Magic Kingdom, you can also find Woody from Toy Story near Splash Mountain for pictures and autographs. Buzz will appear next to Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin. There's also Stitchs Great Escape right across from the Buzz attraction. The Haunted Mansion and Tomorrowland Speedway- two other great attractions boys are sure to love.
Disneyland also has the recent addition of Cars Land- and its amazing. 

There's plenty for BOTH boys and girls to have the trip of a lifetime at Disney theme parks!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pixar restaurant coming to Walt Disney World!

Disney just announced they will be opening a Pixar-themed restaurant in Hollywood Studios. While the menu and theme hasn't been released, park officials did say that you'll be able to take pictures and get autographs from all of your Pixar movie favorites- Buzz, Woody, Jesse, the Up characters, the Incredibles, Flick, Mike and Sulley, and Merida. They'll be rotating around breakfast, lunch and dinner. 
And...... back to reality. This is purely just something I wish Disney would bring to WDW. Really, I dream of a Pixar Land... but a restaurant will surely do.
Seriously- is Pizza Planet from Toy Story not the perfect restaurant to pull something like this off? They have a quick service "Pizza Planet Arcade," but it could be better. I'm imagining something straight off the movie. Pizza, and some of the most popular recent characters- I can't think of a better combination that would attract kids. 
This is another "Hey, Disney. Why in the world don't you do this?!" post. 
Disney already has Chef Remy appearing at Les Chefs de France. It's very cool- here's a brief clip. This is also a restaurant I could book for you on your trip to Walt Disney World.

Seriously, there is a world of possibilities. Irish food from Brave, Pizza Planet from Toy Story, a Nemo restaurant- Fish are friends, not food!

Disney does so many great things, and I always wonder what I would do different. Well, make me Disney CEO for a day, and this would be at the top of my list.

The lines for pictures and autographs for these Pixar characters are always quick to form in the parks. It'd be worth a visit to a restaurant alone to save the time you spending waiting to meet them.

Would this be a must visit for your family? I know my little Mouseketeers would love it!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Disney Vera Bradley Bags

Two of my favorite things are teaming up! Vera Bradley bags and Disney are teaming up to make some  of their famous bags and I couldn't be more excited. I LOVE Vera Bradley bags, I own about 10 and they are my favorite. They are so fun and colorful and they are such good quality. I actually just bought one last week but I will definitely be getting some of these in the fall.

True to Vera Bradley, each pattern has it's own name and now they are Disney named. The black pattern is "Midnight with  Mickey" and the pink is "Just Mousing Around"
Pictures are from Disney Park's Blog

Pictures are from Disney Park's Blog

Which one is your favorite? The Disney Vera Bradley bags release date is said to be in the fall, which means they probably won't be out until the Christmas season. They are only going to be available at Disney parks in the beginning but they will be on Disney Store online in the future. In the beginning, the Disney Dooney and Bourke bags were only available in the parks and then they became available online so it sounds like the release will be similar. Which one is your favorite color?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Disney Problems- It happens to everyone!

A trip to Disneyland and Walt Disney World can be a lot of work. Choosing transportation, resorts, restaurants, character visits, when you are visiting which park.... it's the reason why I have a job that I love, planning Disney vacations.

But after that's all settled, you are ready to go on your trip. You'll be full of excitement with everything you have planned. You can't wait to see the looks on your children's faces. 

Things are going great! The weather is perfect-you left the snow at home- and you got seated right away at your restaurant. You already got a FastPass, and are going to hop on one of your favorite rides. And look, there's Mickey signing autographs-with no wait! Is this the perfect trip or what?!

And then it happens. Maybe someone forgot their cell phone, dropped a FastPass, or really wanted that $30 toy. It could be anything. But suddenly your trip has taken a turn for the worse. Everything is magnified- I DONT WANT TO WAIT IN THIS LINE! WHY CANT YOU THREE JUST GET ALONG! WHY IS THIS PERSON WALKING SO SLOW IN FRONT OF ME!! WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE ON THIS BUS! 

And really- nothing is different. Now you are annoyed, and it seems like a rain cloud is over you.

Here's my story from my last trip.

First, we were staying at Bay Lake Towers. We must have just missed the bus to Hollywood Studios (we were eating with Jake and Oso...we were so excited!), so we waited about 15 minutes for the next one. About five minutes into the bus ride, my husband looks at me. He then proceeds to tell me he had left our FastPasses back in the hotel room. (We had some golden ones for this trip)This is kind of a big deal- now he has to take the bus back, there are other stops, he has to run to the room, and then wait for another bus. 

So, we just stayed on the bus and watched everyone jump off the bus in excitement. Our Toy Story Mania FastPasses were back in our room- and if we had gotten off then, our return time for a new FastPass wouldn't be until 8 pm that night. We also had to stop at Typhoon Lagoon on our return trip. As soon we got back, my husband ran up to the room, while we stayed in the gift shop. About 45 minutes later, we ended back in Hollywood Studios, FastPass in tow. No biggie- hey, we are in Walt Disney World, right?

Well, when it rains, it pours. We planned on eating at Beaches and Cream- we couldn't wait to eat the "Kitchen Sink!"

We got off at the Beach Club resort. First stop was changing my son's diaper. Next, we had to find the restaurant- I had actually never been there before. I've stayed in nearly every resort on WDW property, and we had visited the Yacht and Beach Club before to dine at Yachtsman Steakhouse. 

Beaches and Cream was pretty easy to find, it was just a bit of a jog. With a son who wanted out of his stroller, and a daughter who was ready to eat. My own stomach was growling. Finally, we make it to Beaches and Cream... and see a line out the door. I checked with a worker, and they told me the wait to be seated would be about 90 minutes. Not what I wanted to hear... and my stomach was starting to growl like a dog. 

Note: Beaches and Cream does not take reservations, otherwise, I would have made them. Just like I make dining reservations for all of my clients :) !

Ok, no problem. There's another sit down restaurant in Beach Club. It is Captain's Grille. We'll just eat there. 

Only to find out.. once we make the trek back... to Captain's Grille only to find out it was CLOSED! So, there goes that idea. We went into the gift shop and got a few snacks-water, juice, and some candy for our children. We then head back to the bus stands.

After plenty of arguing of where to go-and eat-we decide on just going to Animal Kingdom. We had been before, and could knock out the rest of the park with the half day that remained.

So we waited...and waited...what seemed like forever for another bus (like I said-everything is magnified when things are going wrong). 

We finally make it to Animal Kingdom, and then decide on eating at Pizzafari. Our kids like pizza, and we know we won't have to wait. Nothing special-it's pizza- but it certainly gets the job done. Because we use our dining plan credits, we also get a salad and some chocolate mousse. Not the best value for our dining credits- but it was convenient, and was food. I would have settled for Hamburger Helper at that point.

We finally get done eating... and then realize we are blocked in because of the parade route that is currently taking place in Animal Kingdom. Nothing we can do but just sit back and watch.. so that's exactly what we did. Again- what else can go wrong?
I was looking forward to our day at Animal Kingdom- I really wanted to try a jalapeño cheese stuffed pretzel at one of the food carts. It looked wonderful, and I was salivating over pictures before our trip. You can only buy these at Animal Kingdom. I couldn't wait!
We found the stand that sells the pretzels. Only one person in line in front of me. They ordered a jalapeño cheese pretzel too- it's a popular item! So imagine my face when I ordered one... and the cast member says "Sorry, I just sold the last one to the person in front of you!"
So let' see- we wasted over an hour because we forgot our FastPasses, wasted time at Beach Club (and couldn't eat), got stuck at Pizzafari, and then I missed the jalapeño cheese pretzel by one STINKING PERSON!
And then, we went on some rides, did some shopping, and had a whole lot of fun. We got over it. Oh well, we are in Walt Disney World- what are you doing to do? 
Everyone has their own story. Maybe it won't happen to you. But just know-sometimes things will happen that are out of your control. You can prepare, prepare, prepare- and still, a hiccup will happen. It's just life- but it always spirals out of control when you are on what is supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth! Just collect yourself, develop a plan, and get back to it! Apologize for all the bad things you and your party members said to each other, ask for help (or text your favorite Disney travel agent :) ) and put a smile on your face. 
Disney problems- first timers, veterans, and even Disney travel agents can experience them. Just remember- you're in Disney, and there's always something magical awaiting you!