Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 3

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After all of the excitement of leaving the Magic Kingdom and waiting for the monorails (if you haven’t read the previous installments of this Walt Disney World Trip Report from the 24-Hour Party in the Magic Kingdom, click here to start with those), then getting back into the room and getting ready for bed, it was just after 8 am. Yet, some “genius” had decided it was reasonable to make a lunch ADR for us in Epcot for 1:30 pm. In defense of that person, after the last two 24-hour parties at Disneyland, we had gotten up around noon each time and headed back to the parks. So maybe it was entirely reasonable for that person to make a 1:30 pm ADR, and maybe you should all just get off his back, okay?!

Ultimately, it turned out to not be that big of a deal. While we both were tired and probably could have slept a little longer, we both have a difficult time sleeping while it’s light out, so the quality of our sleep would have been low. Instead, we quickly got ready and made our way over to Epcot. We even made some FastPass+ reservations on the monorail; admittedly, it was pretty nice being able to make these in advance and not having to run around picking up paper FastPasses.

I’m actually looking forward to making some further in advance of our next trip. We don’t typically do much advance planning these days, but I don’t consider spending 10 minutes to make a Toy Story Mania, Soarin’, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ reservation all that much work.

Lunch was at Restaurant Marrakesh, a spot we had decided on after much deliberation. We debated doing it, Teppan Edo, Monsieur Paul’s, Rose & Crown, Nine Dragons, or Chefs de France. We settled on Restaurant Marrakesh for lunch and Chefs de France for dinner. For as many Walt Disney World restaurants as we have experienced, we actually have not done several in World Showcase, with Restaurant Marrakesh being one of those restaurants. This has nothing to do with the ethnic nature of these restaurants (we are open to just about anything), but more to do with lukewarm reviews for many spots. (more…)

Candlelight Processional Review & Tips

Neil Patrick Harris Epcot Candlelight Processional

Candlelight Processional at Epcot is the telling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator with music sung by a mass choir and performed by a 50-piece live orchestra. Three performances are held per night–at 5 pm, 6:45 pm, and 8:15 pm–in the America Gardens Theatre across from the American Adventure in World Showcase.

One of the most popular events of the Christmas season at Walt Disney World is the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. You can find the complete Epcot Candlelight Processional schedule here on Walt Disney World’s official website (subject to change without notice).

Tips

The parenthetical that the schedule is “subject to change without notice” is no joke. Celebrities will cancel if “something better” comes up, and it’s not uncommon for multiple iterations of the schedule to be released as the date draws nearer. Make sure you monitor the schedule to make sure your chosen performer is still set for the date you’re attending as your trip draws closer. Disney will update the schedule faster than fan sites that repost it, so make sure to just go directly to the link above for the most up-to-date schedule.  (more…)

Top 10 Disney Theme Park Attractions

Disney has hundreds (if not thousands, I’m not counting!) of theme park attractions and rides at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Obviously, not all of these attractions were created equally. At their best, Disney attractions are timeless classics that have multi-generational appeal. At their worst, they’re dressed up versions of amusement park staples.

I thought it would be fun to put together a list of what I consider the 10 best attractions worldwide. As there are literally more Disney parks than there are attractions on this list, some great ones are bound to be snubbed, but I’m keeping to a strict 10 attraction limit. Even if I had a list with 40 more honorable mentions, I’d be still be snubbing some very worthy attractions. As it’s a multi-continent list, it’s not like this top 10 has any functional utility anyway…it’s more geared at being a fun conversation piece for Disney theme park fans. I want to do more worldwide lists like this, so if this one is popular, it will be the first of many more to come. I enjoy comparing and contrasting all of the different parks, and want to do more posts like that, anyway. They’re a nice change of pace from the normal trip planning material here.

A few notes about the list before we get started. First, while it’s my personal list, I’m considering not just what I like the best, but also what I consider to be objectively the most impressive and captivating attractions. I don’t have any specific scoring criteria–it’s basically just a mix of my gut reaction and analysis. Second, only attractions that are currently operational are eligible. It’s very easy to say Horizons or Journey into Imagination should be #1, but there’s no perfect way to tell how those would have aged or if opinions today are clouded by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. Third, only the best version of each attraction (we’ll call this the “Tower of Terror” rule). Finally, this list is a moving target based partially on how I feel when I’m writing it. If you ask me my top 10 tomorrow, you might get different answers.

With that said, here’s the list in no particular order! (more…)

IllumiNations Post Show: A World Showcase Stroll

Okay, so this isn’t really a post about the post-show to IllumiNations, but as I was listening to the “Evening at Epcot” music, I started thinking about how there are few experiences we enjoy more at Walt Disney World than strolling around World Showcase at night. In particular, we really like wandering around World Showcase after IllumiNations, when the park is closing and the crowds have cleared out.

World Showcase’s countries are inherently romantic, and there’s something special about being there late listening to the peaceful background music, walking hand-in-hand with someone you love through those beautiful environments, while few other guests are around. This is by far our number one World Showcase experience.

That may seem crazy since it’s not something you’ll find on a park map and isn’t really a “thing” at all, anyone who has ever done this probably understands. For us, Walt Disney World is about the little moments during which we enjoy the place and the presence of one another, and walking through World Showcase after IllumiNations is typically one of those little moments for us.

Since the restaurants in World Showcase make dining reservations until park closing and it takes some guests over an hour after park closing to finish their meals, you have some time to linger and slowly make your way out of the park. In fact, the best way to enjoy this tranquil walk through World Showcase at the end of the night is to make an 8:55 p.m. Advance Dining Reservation for a restaurant deep in World Showcase. By the time you’re done with your meal, you’re pretty much guaranteed one of these enjoyable walks out. Our top recommendation for this is Tokyo Dining, where you can enjoy a great view of IllumiNations, too, and is basically in the “middle” World Showcase, allowing you to see the most countries possible on your way out.

We understand that this late night stroll is not going to be possible for everyone for various reasons. Fortunately, while World Showcase is light on actual rides, it’s a great place to just experience, and actually has quite a lot to offer. This post definitely isn’t meant to be a definitive guide to Epcot’s World Showcase. Since we already have a Guide to Epcot Attractions, we’ll instead focus on some of the little things that many guests miss that we like most about World Showcase and random tips for having your own excellent evening in Epcot.

Let’s start out in Mexico and make a stop in each World Showcase country as we embark on our own (virtual) evening in Epcot. Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your own World Showcase visit. Oh, and this post is best read while playing that “Evening at Epcot” music in the background… (more…)

Sunshine Seasons Review

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Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons is one of the best counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World. The Sunshine Seasons menu offers a wide variety of choices, including many healthier ones, with some of the best desserts at Walt Disney World. Along with Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, it’s one of our sentimental favorites for Walt Disney World counter service dining. Whereas Cosmic Ray’s is mostly a sentimental favorite, we have to say that Sunshine Seasons is also great from the perspective of the food.

Sunshine Seasons participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter service meal. Like most in-park counter service restaurants, it does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan and want to eat here, you’re in luck, because as this restaurant is an exceptional value on the Disney Dining Plan (to read about the other best restaurants for getting the best bang for buck on the Dining Plan, click here).

About the only place where Sunshine Seasons stumbles, and that’s just a little, is in terms of ambiance. The seating area is just a large open-air area in the middle of The Land pavilion, and it can get loud in here at lunch time as people leave Soarin’ and immediately stop at Sunshine Seasons. It’s also a fairly plain seating area, and almost reminiscent of a mall food court. This is too bad, as there used to be a beautiful fountain in the middle of the dining area that made the ambiance more interesting. Still, we really enjoy dining here in the middle of the afternoon or late at night when it’s not nearly as busy, and the background music and balloons overhead give Sunshine Seasons a deceptive sense of calm.

We’ve had most of the major menu items at Sunshine Seasons, but going through each of them would be a bit of a chore. Instead, we’ll take a look at some of the highlights, and offer our takes on the best things to order. It’s actually a bit humorous (to us, at least) that we’ve been to Sunshine Seasons so many times. Thanks to all of the great restaurants at Epcot, we had not discovered Sunshine Seasons until our Summer 2009 Walt Disney World vacation! Since then, we’ve been to Sunshine Seasons 3-4 times per year. (more…)