Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 4

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We got close to a full night of sleep that night (if you missed our previous installment at Epcot, click here to start from the beginning), but I was still up fairly early the next morning. Unfortunately, Sarah had some work-related stuff to deal with, so we couldn’t get an early start on the morning. While she was doing this, I went out and wandered around the Contemporary, trying to find some interesting photos. Once you get past the cool a-frame building, there isn’t a ton of photographic interest, so I basically just wandered. Sort of like the rooms themselves, it’s just a modern looking hotel with a really cool hook in the design.

As a kid, I always thought the Contemporary was about the coolest hotel ever, an impression formed entirely as we whisked through it on the monorail. Even when we first returned to Walt Disney World as adults, it was a dream to stay there. Now that we have stayed at many other nice modern luxury hotels around the world, the luster of the Contemporary has sort of worn off for me. Like I mentioned in the first installment, Sarah really liked it, and I love being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom, but it just isn’t a top hotel for me on a list of Walt Disney World hotels at which I’d personally want to stay.

For me, where Disney excels is in the creation of hotels that blend nice accommodations and interesting themes, with an emphasis on the themes. You can get luxury hotels anywhere in the world; frankly, many brands and boutiques do these types of hotels much better than Disney does. Themed hotels are rare, and themed hotels that are well-executed (rather than just a light bit of window-dressing to differentiate the supposedly ‘themed’ hotel from countless other hotels in an area) are exceedingly rare. For this reason, I’d much rather stay at a hotel like Port Orleans Riverside or Wilderness Lodge than the Contemporary. I still liked the Contemporary, but Sarah is enamored with the hotel, and it just doesn’t quite do that much for me.

We got a really late start that morning, and headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekends just before lunch… (more…)

Star Wars Character Breakfast Review at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

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New for Star Wars Weekends 2014, Walt Disney World is offering Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This Star Wars character breakfast is available during the entire Star Wars Weekends “season” (in other words, weekdays in addition to the weekends) and features Star Wars characters roaming the “outdoor” drive-in theater at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. In addition to this Star Wars character breakfast, we also did the character dinner. For a look at that, check out our Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine Review.

Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast costs $47.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids ages 3-9, or two table service credits for those on the Disney Dining Plan. This meal does not accept Tables in Wonderland nor does it accept any other form of Walt Disney World discounts. Since it does require 2 credits, it is not a good use of Disney Dining Plan credits if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan. It will forever go down in the record books as the most expensive breakfast we’ve ever eaten. (ALERT GUINNESS! ;))

We have dined at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater previously, and absolutely love the ambiance (and, unlike many others, the food!). In fact, we like it so much that it is near the top our of Top 10 Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World list. You can read more of my thoughts on the theming in those posts, but suffice to say, we are big fans of the ambiance at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.

In this case, I was worried that the ambiance would be what would make the experience unpleasant. Since Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is themed to be an outdoor drive-in set at night, it’s dark in there. And since it’s not actually nighttime during the meal (well, unless you eat there at night–but the restaurant is still indoors, so you get the idea), this theming is accomplished by way of lighting and a little Disney wizardry. A character meal in this setting means two things: flash photos and poorly lit photos. The former could potentially ruin the ambiance, while the latter is the probable result even when using a flash (since most people won’t be able to balance the ambiant light in their exposures).

Despite the exorbitant cost and the difficulty of photographing characters in Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, we loved the experience. This Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast in Disney’s Hollywood Studios review will cover why we enjoyed the breakfast, who it will be a good idea for, and who should probably skip it. We’ll also have some photo tips to help you get at least decent photos.

My concern was that Walt Disney World was shoe-horning this experience into Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater despite it not being a good spot for a character meal, because they wanted to put a Star Wars character breakfast somewhere in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and this was the most suitable location. It turns out that I was right and wrong. (more…)

Star Wars Character Dinner Review at Hollywood & Vine

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New for Star Wars Weekends 2014, Walt Disney World is offering Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This Star Wars character dinner is available during the entire Star Wars Weekends “season” (in other words, weekdays in addition to the weekends) and features Disney characters dressed in Star Wars attire.

The Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine costs $55.99 for adults and $33.99 for kids ages 3-9, or two table service credits for those on the Disney Dining Plan. This meal does not accept Tables in Wonderland nor does it accept any other form of discounts (we’ve heard Disney Visa Cardholder discounts have been honored, but we forgot to bring our Disney Visa credit card!). It can also be done as a Fantasmic dining package for $59.99 (adults) and $36.99 (kids). This option is probably the way to go if you want to see Fantasmic. Since it does require 2 credits, it is not a good use of Disney Dining Plan credits if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan.

When the Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine and the Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast were announced, I decided to call immediately and make us reservations. The prices for these meals made me a bit uneasy, but I knew they were going to be fairly popular with Star Wars fans, so better to make the reviews and cancel later if we decided we just couldn’t stomach the prices. We wavered back and forth on canceling, but ultimately decided to bite the bullet and just do both meals. We love unique/special offerings at Walt Disney World, plus…we have to find something to blog about, right?! ;) Make sure to read our Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast Review, too!

We had never dined at Hollywood & Vine previously (well, I did long ago when it was not a character meal), mostly because it’s a meal with obscure (to us) characters that hold no interest for two adults with no children. Plus, the venue looks fairly dull. So, on the one hand, this meal presented an “opportunity” for us to dine in a place we normally wouldn’t. On the other hand, even with some mild Star Wars overlays, it was still a really uninteresting venue, especially by Disney’s Hollywood Studios standards. I don’t know what they’re going for with this place, but it reminds me of actual generic mess halls at which we’ve eaten at movie studios. I guess kudos for nailing that if that was the idea, although it’s probably a “theme” that should have never been attempted.

Despite this, we both were incredibly glad that we didn’t cancel either meal. This review of Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine will cover why we enjoyed it, who it will be a good idea for, and who should probably skip it. Let’s dig in! (more…)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Top 25

Saw a screening of Iron Man 3 last night. Very good, lighthearted popcorn flick that didn't take itself too seriously with some sharp-tongued humor. I have the feeling that it's going to cause a lot of false rumors about Disney doing an Iron Man attraction in Grauman's Chinese Theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios to replace Great Movie Ride!

Today is the 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (known for most of its life as the Disney-MGM Studios), so we figured it would be a perfect time to look at 25 of our favorite things about the park. This post will be a mix of focusing on “big” things like our favorite attractions and restaurants, but also even the little details that make Disney’s Hollywood Studios special. Basically, whatever we think makes the park special, and think others should make a point of checking out when they visit, even if these things aren’t technically “attractions” or even spots listed on a park map. Since we are big on the “Disney Details” (and since we already have a post covering Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ attractions), this post will be light on actual attractions and heavy on the little things.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a much-maligned park, and we ourselves have been critical of its recent direction. However, on its anniversary, it doesn’t seem right to fixate on the negative or the past. Rather, we’re focusing on what we still love about the park. There’s still plenty to love about the former Disney-MGM Studios, and without some of its changes over the years, we wouldn’t have excellent attractions like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, or even entire areas of the park, like Sunset Boulevard.

Join us now as we enter the Hollywood that never was—and always will be!  (more…)

Star Wars Weekends 2014 Tips & Info

Star Wars Weekends 2014 will occur May 16-18, May 23-25, May 30-June 1, June 6-8, and June 13-15, 2014 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World! Star Wars Weekends are geared towards all things Star Wars (including the animated TV show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Celebrities are in attendance, there’s a special parade, shows, and every day ends with fireworks! It’s a lot of fun whether you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan or just a fan of fun (we fall into the latter camp).

If you’ve been to Walt Disney World countless times (and it’s probably not a bad assumption that you have if you’re reading this blog), you might be looking for ways to see the place a-new. One way to to find new experiences is to visit during a seasonal festival or weekend event. One such weekend event is Star Wars Weekends, held in May and June at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This post has been updated for 2014 to reflect changes to Star Wars Weekends, including the ‘retirement’ of Hyperspace Hoopla and the addition of the Symphony in the Stars fireworks, as well as new strategy and tips. We attended Star Wars Weekends the weekend of May 23, 2014. 

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