Well, friends. My little bloggy has been sadly quiet as of late. Stepping in to save the day and fill that void is my darling sister, Megan (aka Middle Chip), who was lucky enough to do some traveling over Spring Break this year. And of course, like any good sister of mine, she wrote about everything she tasted. Get ready for a day-by-day review like no other!
I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…
Welcome to a Throwback Tuesday like no other.
For some of you, this may be throwing it back to the golden days of your childhood. For some, maybe a few summers or winter holidays ago. And if this just throws you back to yesterday, then you’re extremely lucky and I’m very jealous!
For me, I’m feeling especially reminiscent of this past March, when my roommate Olivia and I took a fabulous senior year spring break vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth… Walt Disney World!
Our trip almost got off to a less than magical start, when the day before our flight was set to depart from JFK, a snow storm hit New York! I sat through that Friday afternoon with baited breath, constantly checking up on weather forecasts and willing the snow to stop falling. Luckily, by the time I arrived at my Olivia’s house (she had gone home the day before to pack), the snow had calmed and the weather was warming. Disney magic was in the air before we even hit Florida. After a lovely dinner, courtesy of my 100% Italian roommate and her family, of homemade pizza, salad, and biscotti, we finished packing and hit the airport the next morning, Orlando bound!
Getting in the Disney mood early! With some Mickey-infused caffeine, we were ready to fly.
The magic continued, as we arrived at Disney’s All Star Movies Resort! It was my first time staying on-property in Disney, and I highly recommend it if it is doable for you. As college students, we weren’t looking to spend too much on a hotel but wanted to be able to get to and from the parks without renting a car. This was one of their more moderate resorts… but it certainly didn’t feel that way! The duration of our stay felt like 5-star living.
I could happily walk you through each and every step of our trip to the most magical place on earth, but instead I’m going to combo-package with this food blog theme we’ve got going on here and take you through some of the highlights of our Disney dining adventures.
This trip marked another Disney “first” for me… my first time using the Disney Dining Plan! But thanks to my internship at Disney-ABC Television Group, I was actually able to get my Olivia and me a really great deal on a plan, as well as on our stay at the resort. And I could not believe how much it paid off for us – it was UNBELIEVABLE how much the dining plan was worth it! There are a few options, and we went for the Quick Service Dining plan. I believe this plan typically adds about $37.50 per adult ($14.32 per little Mouseketeer 🙂 ), per night. With our discount, the two of us were able to get it for slightly cheaper, but either way I think it is still a great value.
My hesitations toward a dining plan always stemmed from not actually doing the math and understanding what the plan entails. I first said to myself, “Psh! Would I actually pay that much per day to eat?! There’s no way that’s worth it, I would never spend that much.” But as much as I love my company, I will admit that park food prices are ridiculously high. And that’s exactly what our lovely resort concierge made us see. As she said “You’ll never eat for less than $15 per meal in the park,” and as she explained the plans, I quickly saw that she was right. Per day of your stay, the QSD plan allots you 2 meals at quick-service at participating Counter Service restaurants… and their idea of a “meal” includes an entree, non-alcoholic beverage, and a dessert (at lunch or dinnertime).
In addition, the QSD plan gives you one snack per day, which can be used on a variety of treats from those old-classic Mickey ice cream pops, to a full bag of popcorn, to a Mickey cake pop (HIGHLY recommended!). It can also be used at breakfast, but we normally paid cash then because we realized it was our least-expensive meal of the day. You are not limited to only two meal “swipes” per day (you can use three one day and one the next, depending on your plans), but the total meal counts would evenly allocate you two meals and one snack per day. AND you can use it at your Disney resort… which we did in our resort’s awesome food court! When we thought of how much you got out of it, and kept track of the prices we would have paid without a plan, we realized how great of a deal it was.
There is also the option for the Regular Dining Plan, which is more expensive but includes 1 Table Service credit (this can be used at fancier, sit-down restaurants such as Cinderella’s Royal Table and Via Napoli in Epcot Italy), 1 Quick Service Credit, and 1 snack per day. Olivia and I realized that a lot of Table Service places require advance reservations, and after seeing the list of participating QSD places, there were SO many options that we knew we would be just fine on the Quick Service plan (read on to see for yourself…). Plus, “Quick” means more time for fun in the parks! 🙂
And on that note, with our bellies happily anticipating being full, we were off to…
And oh, what memories did we make. And what treats did we taste!
Our first day at the Magic Kingdom was everything we could have hoped for! We got a lovely start and hit all of our favorite rides, saw a few parades, and experienced some of the great new features of the park, including New Fantasyland. But without a doubt, the highlight of my ENTIRE day, if not my entire trip, was our lunch spot…
The brand new Be Our Guest restaurant! I have always had a very special connection to Beauty and the Beast. It was one of my favorite Disney movies, was the first show I remember seeing on Broadway at age thirteen that made me absolutely fall in love with musical theatre, and was my senior year musical in high school (in which I played Cogsworth in my all-girls school. My best friend played Lumiere, and not to pat myself on the back but the two of us performed to rave reviews. 🙂 We were quite the dynamic duo!). Needless to say, I was ECSTATIC to get the chance to dine in Belle’s ballroom!
If you go to Be Our Guest for lunch, it is actually eligible as a Quick Service Dining credit! Which was very exciting for us! Although we got a bit of a later start on this park day, as long as you are on line for seating before (I believe) 2pm, you will be able to dine there for lunch (after that time, they close to additional entrants so that they can turn over the restaurant for their dinner service). We got right on line around 1:30! The line to the order turnstile moved much quicker than we were told and anticipated, and once you place your order you are free to find a table in the ballroom or West Wing. With a GPS system cleverly disguised as an Enchanted Rose, your food is magically brought right to your table. We couldn’t believe how lovely the experience was – it felt like a sit down restaurant!
I ordered the grilled steak sandwich, served with a light garlic butter spread on a baguette with pommes frites! C’est magnifique! Now unfortunately, the restaurant menu has been updated since March and this is no longer a lunch option, but every other meal that passed me by looked just as delicious! And don’t forget my favorite part – our QSD plan also included a delectable dessert! This part of the meal was where the plan really paid off for me. 🙂
I ordered the triple chocolate cupcake, while Olivia opted for the lemon meringue cupcake. It was one of the best cupcakes I have ever had – the cake was nice and moist (not dry, as if it had been sitting out awhile) with a mousse filling, the icing was a nice consistency to balance the cake, and the little chocolate crunchies on top were a great addition. While Disney food may be getting expensive, I will admit that, in my opinion, at least it is not sacrificing quality. And with the portions and Dining Plan, I still felt I was getting value for my money.
With our special Magic Hours, we spent a total of 16 hours in the Magic Kingdom that day. Yes, we are unstoppable. After our big lunch, we had a very late post-fireworks dinner at Cosmic Ray’s (a great Tomorrowland spot for some classic grill food, and a favorite of my dad’s) and ice cream snack at the Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street (amazing cookies n’ cream! Tip: always go for the cone – you get more, and they’ll give you a bowl to help you handle it!).
Ice cream and hot chocolate – the perfect end to a perfect day!
After our long night, we got a bit of a later start in Hollywood Studios the next day. We hit some of our favorite attractions, like The Great Movie Ride (heaven for the communications/media major) and the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. I introduced Olivia to Toy Story Midway Mania, and she fell in love! It’s a great ride for any age, a similar concept to the Buzz Lightyear ride but, in my opinion, easier, more graphically rewarding, and much more fun. Important tip: this is a super popular ride, even though it’s not brand new anymore! Get a Fast Pass for this ride immediately upon arriving at the park, as they have been known to run out of Fast Passes for the entire day very early in the day. We had Magic Hours, so we knew we would get on… but this is a ride you don’t want to miss!
Before Fantasmic (which was ‘fantastic!’) we grabbed dinner at the Backlot Express restaurant. After a delicious turkey and cheese Panini (my favorite at this spot), we each enjoyed the seasonal dessert special… the St. Patrick’s Day cupcake! A chocolate cupcake with peppermint buttercream and white chocolate topping. While I’m not the biggest mint fan, luckily it wasn’t too overwhelming for me. The cupcake part was again nice and moist, and the little white chocolate hat topped it all off. While it was big enough to share (neither of us finished one), it counted as the dessert option for each of our respective entrees. Happy Early St. Patrick’s Day from Mickey Mouse!
On our third day we hit Epcot, prepared to take on the World Showcase full force! Both Olivia and I studied abroad during our college years, and were lucky enough to experience a wide variety of countries and cultures during our travels. We were both so excited to bring out our international flair on our Epcot day. With our brand new favorite souvenir in hand/on head (see pictured below… I think you’ll agree, it was a once-in-a-lifetime must buy!) we spent the morning in Future World before venturing across the globe. Some favorite spots included Ellen’s Energy Adventure (If you haven’t seen it, it’s one of Epcot’s best kept secrets) and the revamped Test Track. And then… well, the pictures speak for themselves. Magical.
Lunch in Mexico! Tacos de carne and churros con cajeta at La Cantina de San Angel. I love our dining plan!
Gelato in Italy and margaritas in Mexico! And, again, my favorite duo of characters ever. 🙂
The final stop on our trip around the world brought me back to the second most magical place on Earth, in my opinion… jolly old England, where I spent my semester abroad! Living in London was unlike anything I could ever imagine, and one of the local features that became one of my favorites was the cider. And, well, just the sight of the Rose and Crown pub in Epcot was like coming home! Of course, I did more than just look. Don’t you worry about that.
Strongbow cider in Epcot UK. I’m a bloody happy camper.
Before the Illuminations fireworks show, we headed back to Morocco for dinner. I haven’t actually visited the country, but Olivia did during her time in Spain! After this meal, it’s on my list! We loved having the dining plan for our Epcot day – we had the opportunity to dine or snack in just about each country for very little out-of-pocket cost! As you can see, we certainly appreciate good food.
Chicken wrap, couscous, lentil salad, and baklava in Morocco
On our final day in Animal Kingdom, we hit some great attractions like Expedition Everest and Flights of Wonder! I hadn’t been to Animal Kingdom since its very early years; as such, in a way it was a “Disney first” for me and I loved it! After a wild morning, we hit Asia for lunch – where I honestly had some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever tasted. Hit the Yak and Yeti restaurant for the beef lo mein!
We headed back a little earlier than evening to pack for our flight the next day, and had dinner at our resort poolside for a final, relaxing evening. And we were not disappointed! During our stay, I enjoyed our experiences dining in the food court, since as is the Disney way, quality is never sacrificed. A huge team of chefs is constantly manning each individual station, constantly cooking fresh food made to order. Our meals were always hot, and being able to talk to the chef allowed them to customize or substitute if we asked– and always done with a Disney smile.
Fresh chocolate chip pancakes (which were obviously so good I started eating before remembering to take a picture), and the “Breakfast Bounty Platter” – eggs, French toast sticks (a slightly different version offered with a Mickey waffle!), home fries, and a biscuit. Our food never tasted as if it had been sitting out, something I noticed and was very impressed by.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Disney World this summer, I hope you have as as magical a time as I did! And I hope you have a delicious dining experience, as well! No matter what age you are, whether you’re traveling with kids or not, remember the wise words of one of my favorite men:
“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” – Walt Disney
Straight on until morning!
Thanks for sharing, Meg. Looks like I need to head back to Disney soon! Good thing I just registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon last week… 😀