Cinderella’s Royal Table Review

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Cinderella’s Royal Table is a table service princess character restaurant inside Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. This review features food photos and our thoughts from dinner at the restaurant. Disney considers Cinderella’s Royal Table a “Fairytale Dining Experience,” which I think just refers to the fact that you can meet Cinderella and other visiting princesses here. The meal also includes a print of your party and Cinderella taken by PhotoPass photographers. The menu consists of American cuisine that is almost fine-dining caliber. This is actually quite a surprise given that it’s a character meal. It’s arguably the flagship restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, and the most uniquely “Disney” restaurant in all of Walt Disney World.

Due to some ADR-hoarding a number of years ago by a group called “Howie’s Angels,” (nothing surprises me in Disney fandom anymore) Cinderella’s Royal Table requires prepayment in full for secure an Advance Dining Reservation. Despite this, it accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount  (you receive a refund when you present your card in the restaurant for the amount of the discount), and participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 2-credit Signature meal. Due to its status as a Signature Restaurant, it is not a good use of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan.

With Be Our Guest Restaurant now being the top draw in the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Royal Table ADRs are now easier to score. For years we had no chance at dining here as the restaurant booked up a full 180 days in advance, and we never make ADRs that early. I found this reservation a month before our trip, so we figured ‘what the heck,’ it would be awesome to dine in Cinderella Castle. We had previously been inside the Castle, but that was for a tour of the Cinderella Castle Suite, so…not quite the same.

We cringed at the cost and the idea of paying for a photo package we didn’t really want, and for meeting characters we didn’t really have an interest in meeting. Still, we booked it because it was something new to try, and I really wanted to photograph and see the inside of the restaurant, which I’ve always thought was really cool. I can still remember looking in the Walt Disney World book I had as a kid and seeing the star-filter enhanced photo of King Stefan’s Banquet Hall, and thinking how awesome it would be to eat inside Cinderella Castle. We further justified eating at here despite the price in the name of research, as many people have asked us about this restaurant. 

So, although we figured it wouldn’t be worth the money to us, we convinced ourselves to give it a try anyway. We were downright shocked by the restaurant… (more…)

1-Day Magic Kingdom “Daily Trip Blueprint”

If we were looking for the perfect way to spend one day in the Magic Kingdom, these are the attractions we would do, the restaurants at which we’d dine, and the quiet moments we would stop to enjoy. This post continues our series of single-day itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We call this series our “Daily Trip Blueprints,” or DTBs for short. Get it? It’s like the website name! (Yes, we are dangerously corny. But knowing you have a problem is the first step, right?)

This Daily Trip Blueprint isn’t a touring plan or strategy guide for efficiently experiencing every attraction in the Magic Kingdom. For our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions, read our comprehensive Best Magic Kingdom Attractions & Ride Guide post. This is only a 1-day “sample” itinerary of what we would (reasonably) accomplish in a day at the Magic Kingdom. If you’re for something more comprehensive to plan every aspect of your Walt Disney World vacation, from where to purchase discount tickets to when to visit and more, read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

Instead, this is Daily Trip Blueprint is an itinerary of our favorite things to do during our “ideal day” in the Magic Kingdom with moderate crowds (on busier days, doing this all will be tough), and when you should do certain things for the ‘best experience,’ but not necessarily the most efficient experience. It’s a rough, subjective itinerary rather than an objective one. Emphasis on rough–the blocks of items below are not in any sort of concrete order, meaning that if you want to break up a block of rides with one of the snack times below, you can do it early. You can also skip the snacks, meals, etc., entirely.

We aren’t your mother (this much should be clear by the morning ice cream break!); we aren’t trying to tell you what to do or not to do. Just don’t you dare use the restroom unless that’s specifically called for in the plan. ;) You get two restroom breaks per day…use them wisely! If you’re looking for a statistically-efficient plan of attack, consult TouringPlans.com for Walt Disney World, which has been developing excellent plans exactly like that for years. Their structured plans might provide a nice compliment to what we have here.  

FastPass+ sort of throws a monkey wrench into this whole thing, and not every guest is going to have access to all FastPass+ selections based upon when they make their ride reservations (read more about FastPass+ in our MyMagic+ FAQ). In the interest of keeping this guide concise, we are going to assume no FastPass+. Obviously, it is in your best interest to get FastPass+ and use them as you can to get more out of the day. Our picks for the “objective” best FastPass+ choices are the Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Peter Pan’s Flight. Other strong options include the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). Personally, I also like the FastPass+ location for the Festival of Fantasy Parade, and I hate staking out parade spots way early, but as an objective pick, this one probably isn’t the best.

We’re going to start out each of these DTBs with a recommended hotel ideal for that park. Chances are, you won’t want to change hotels every night, so this is only meant to be mildly influential. Pick one hotel for your entire Walt Disney World stay based on your “most important” park. For the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the easy choice for its 10 minute walk to the Magic Kingdom, plus boat and monorail access. If you are willing to stay slightly farther away but still in the Magic Kingdom area, my top pick is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. It has better theming and a lower price point, and is one of Disney’s coolest hotels. Plus, you still have boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom. (When searching for a Magic Kingdom-convenient hotel, the goal is to avoid having to take a bus or drive to the Magic Kingdom.) I’m not-so-secretly hoping you choose Wilderness Lodge.

Once you wake up from wherever it is that you are sleeping, here’s what to do… (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 1

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Thanks for joining us on our Walt Disney World Memorial Day 2014 Trip Report. It’s been a while since we did one of these for Walt Disney World, and a lot of trips have occurred in between, so we figured it was time to get back to our roots with a Walt Disney World trip report…like we used to do in the ‘good ole days.’

We are fortunate in that we are able to travel regularly, a result of a dedicated effort we made a few years ago to make travel our #1 priority at this point in our lives, with any necessary spending sacrifices made elsewhere. Because we travel so regularly, it may seem a bit disingenuous when I say I was really missing Walt Disney World, because I hadn’t spent a full day in the parks since last October (I spent 2 hours in Epcot earlier this year and Sarah was down for a few days with her sister this year, but my last full day in the parks was the beginning of October 2013). I know it certainly reads like a “First World Problem,” and it is. But that’s how I felt. Even when we could only afford to go to Walt Disney World once per year, we went through ‘withdrawals’ only a couple of days after our trips were over, so I don’t think it reeks of entitlement too much that I missed the place after being away from the parks for 8 months.

In that time, we weren’t exactly taking a hiatus from Disney, so I can’t even begin to complain. Like I said, we’ve been fortunate to be able to travel a lot, but there really is something about going to Walt Disney World that I just can’t explain. For me, it’s my “home” resort and I have nostalgia for no other Disney destination besides Walt Disney World. Even though I think the parks in Tokyo are far superior to the ones at Walt Disney World, nostalgia is a powerful drug (even for me). Besides, there’s something I find legitimately, truly special about visiting Walt Disney World. Maybe I am hopelessly sentimental, but I still have a passion for Walt Disney World that I don’t think I could ever have for any other parks. I don’t know…maybe that just makes me a fool, because I have seen what the other global parks have to offer.

Still, there’s something about riding around the TTA Peoplemover as the sky turns deep blue and the neon lights illuminate Tomorrowland that just makes me smile. No matter how many times I’ve seen Impressions de France, I still get goosebumps from seeing its sights and hearing that score. I still look up at Spaceship Earth as we close down Epcot, and just marvel at its grandeur. I still tear up during the Kiss Goodnight. We may visit Walt Disney World less in favor of other places, but we still love it. Is a lot of that love rooted in nostalgia and our memories? Sure. I see nothing wrong with that, as that’s not the only reason I love Walt Disney World, and each of us do things on a daily basis grounded in our memories and attachments.

That should give you an idea of why I was approaching this trip with a good amount of excitement. I was looking forward to being back “home.” It was also nice to have plenty of time to plan and tweak our Advance Dining Reservations, and to give serious thought to what we wanted to do. Suffice to say, we packed a lot into the 5 day trip. Good thing one of those days was going to be 24 hours long! (Well, they all would be that long, but…you know what I mean!) Unfortunately, I did not have an active Annual Pass, so we couldn’t book FastPass+ in advance. Long story, but I let mine lapse and waited for our Disneyland Annual Pass to also expire so we could start fresh with Premier Annual Passes instead of having separate Annual Passes for Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

My normal ritual of getting McDonald’s from the Indianapolis Airport had to be skipped because we cut it a little close on time, so let’s fast-forward to our arrival. We were staying at the Contemporary to start our stay, and unfortunately, we had to wait about 15 minutes before even getting on a Disney’s Magical Express bus, then another 20 minutes for it to fill up, and then nearly another hour as we were the last stop for the bus. There was nothing magical about the experience, and it really has us rethinking our staunch “no rental car at Walt Disney World” policy.

Fortunately, we built some cushion into our first night schedule and didn’t schedule our ADRs at Chef Mickey’s until 9:15 pm. Unfortunately, when we got to our room, we found that our MagicBands didn’t work to open our room, so we had to go back to the front desk and spend more time with them troubleshooting the problem. Not the first problems we have had with MagicBands, and not the last, either.

To their credit, every Cast Member was incredibly nice and patient in dealing with these problems, and I can only imagine the abuse the frontline Cast Members deal with on a daily basis–despite them having no say over how the MyMagic+ system operates.

They were able to get us in the room, nixing my plans of setting up a tent in the Grand Canyon Concourse and falling asleep to the peaceful sounds of monorails gliding overhead. Also nixing my plans of having to figure out where to buy a tent in Orlando and how to convince Security (and Sarah) that sleeping in a tent in the middle of the Grand Canyon Concourse was an okay idea. (more…)

Top 10 Magic Kingdom Rides at Night

When the sun goes down at Walt Disney World, the party gets started. Well, not party, but nighttime is when the parks are best experienced, and most attractions that have outdoor portions are at least somewhat enhanced at night. At night, the parks come alive with a wonderful energy. This is especially true at the Magic Kingdom, where brilliant lighting, Wishes! fireworks, Main Street Electrical Parade, and more, all of give Magic Kingdom a fantastic ambiance that just cannot be replicated during the day.

Beyond that, the overall sensory experience of the Magic Kingdom seems heightened at night. The background music in Tomorrowland seems louder, the sweet scents from the Main Street Confectionery are more fragrant, and the Magic Kingdom is both aglow with color and more peaceful in its quiet corners. There are few things I enjoy more than walking along the wooden boardwalk along the Rivers of America in Frontierland at night. From the lighting to the lights of the Liberty Belle reflecting off of the water to the illuminated spires of Cinderella Castle in the distance, nighttime really puts the magic in the Magic Kingdom.

We’ve already covered the Top 10 Disneyland Rides at Night in a separate post, so we thought it would be fun to take a look at the best attractions are best at Walt Disney World’s castle park at night. Obviously, since the parks share a good number of attractions, so will appear on both lists, but many of our top picks are unique to each park. Let’s take a look… (more…)

Walking Right Down the Middle of Main Street, USA

Main Street, USA. It’s the entrance land to every Disney castle park, from Disneyland to the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World to even Tokyo Disneyland (albeit by the name World Bazaar there). As the first land any guest sees when they enter these parks, Main Street USA serves an important role, and sets the town for a day in the park.

I was going to title this “Main Street Throwdown,” but I don’t really know what there is to “throw down” in this case. With the exception of one stand-out, each of these versions of Main Street brings something to the table. Each of them are excellent, and unlike other lands throughout the park, there isn’t as much (at least for a casual observer like me) to critique. I love each of the Main Streets around the globe, and I have a hard time picking favorites. Usually my favorite is whichever one I’m in at the moment.

Despite all of their similarities, there are plenty of differences between the various Main Streets, too. In this post we’ll take a look at the differences, similarities, style, history, and other features of each Main Street. I’ll also offer some critique where appropriate, as well as plenty of photos of each Main Street.

Alright, let’s start walking right down the middle of Main Street(s), USA! (more…)