Columbia Harbour House Review

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Columbia Harbour House is a counter service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, specializing in seafood, but serving a few other options, as well. The menu is actually fairly diverse, well, diverse if you like seafood. Perhaps “robust” is a better term for the menu here, and mostly devoid of the standard “fast food” options you’d expect to find in a theme park restaurant. Columbia Harbour House participates in the Disney Dining Plan, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card. Depending upon what you order, it can potentially be a good value on the Disney Dining Plan–that’s especially true if you order the lobster roll or salmon.

For years, we avoided Columbia Harbour House because it was mostly deep fried “boat trash,” with a little bit of ocean-dwelling food covered in a lot of breading. It was basically the theme park version of Long John Silver’s, except perhaps not even as good. In the last few years, the menu and quality has improved significantly, making Columbia Harbour House one of our favorite counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World.

Why is Columbia Harbour House recommended? Let’s take a look inside… (more…)

Tips for Making Be Our Guest Restaurant Reservations

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With Advance Dining Reservations now available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you might find yourself wanting to have a meal…or 3…there. After being shut out of getting ADRs there more times than I care to admit, I think I have some helpful tips to offer to ensure that you’re able to score those elusive reservations.

At first, I thought it was simply a matter of waiting for the initial hype of the restaurant to die down, as we were unable to get ADRs during our first couple of trips shortly after it opened. Fast forward almost 3 years later, and I still haven’t eaten dinner there. Some of this is because I simply don’t plan 180 days in advance anymore, which is when the window for booking ADRs opens for the restaurant. It’s a rarity for me to start planning 3 months in advance, and by that time, ADRs are long gone.

In fact, they’re often long gone by the 180 day mark. That may not make sense, but the first tip isn’t really a tip so much as it is a simple fact of life: if you’re staying on-site at a Walt Disney World hotel, there’s a good chance you’ll be shut out for dinner even at the 180 day mark. This is because on-site guests can start making ADRs 180 days before the start of their trip, not the day before they want to dine. In other words, if you’re staying on-site and have a 7-day vacation starting on September 26 (180 days from today), you could make ADRs starting today not just for September 26, but for the duration of your trip, whereas off-site guests could only make ADRs for September 26 or sooner.

Given that there are around 80,000+ guests staying on-site in Walt Disney World on any night, this is a lot of people who potentially can book reservations for Be Our Guest Restaurant before the window for off-site guests even opens. Granted, the vast majority of guests know nothing about ADRs and won’t try book reservations at the 180 window, but around 1% of those guests could book dinner and the restaurant would fill up.

If you’re staying on-site, it’s good practice to try booking Be Our Guest Restaurant as soon as your window opens, and for as far into your vacation as you can. Plan your park days around that. You might even make a couple of ADRs so that you can cancel one after park hours are released. If you’re not staying on-site, well, good luck. Try right when your 180 day window opens, and repeat as necessary for subsequent days of your trip.

Let’s just assume for a second that you’re unable to score one of those coveted ADRs far in advance of your trip. Fortunately, there are other options… (more…)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 Tips

Walt Disney World ResortMagic KingdomMickey's Very Merry Christmas PartyFireworks at the conclusion of the Celebrate the Season stage show during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party! For more Disney Christmas content, check out: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/tag/christmas/

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special hard ticket event held in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. For 2015, the party will be held on select nights in November and December on the following dates: November 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 29 and December 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18. After December 18, the party entertainment will be available to all day guests (and included in theme park admission), but waiting until Christmas week also means going during the busiest time of the year, and when rooms and dining are most expensive.

Last year, Frozen-mania spread to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Not only was there the new stage show, but the Frozen characters were also in the parade at the Christmas Party, too. There was also the ‘A Frozen Holiday Wish’ Cinderella Castle lighting show. With the Frozen Fever now out and rekindling some interest in Frozen, we expect plenty more Frozen this year, possibly more than last year as Disney tries to promote the short or tie in elements with it.

Beyond that, the characters at the dance parties in Frontierland and Tomorrowland have changed, as have a couple of meet and greets. The big news in terms of meet & greets this year is that Jack Skellington appears as Sandy Claws! There’s also a rumor that Olaf from Frozen will be meeting guests for the first time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but he was not meeting the general public at the first party. We will keep you posted if this changes.

This post covers our Christmas Party tips based upon our experiences attending the party for the last six years. The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2015 schedule is now set, with parties starting in early November and continuing through December! Ticket prices will vary for 2015 based upon whether you purchase in advance or on the day of, are a child or adult, and whether you have an Annual Pass, Disney Vacation Club membership, or some other affiliation that entitles you to a discount. In any case, the event is not cheap, starting at $62 for children with advance purchase on select nights and exceeding $70 for adults on the “Premium” night! To purchase tickets (which are now on sale for 2015), visit Disney’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party page. If you’re looking for more info and tips about what happens during the holiday season, read our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World.

That said, if you’re visiting Walt Disney World in November or December, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is an absolute must-do! But more on that later. First, let’s provide an overview of the events to those who haven’t been.

Overview



Here are the things that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party includes, that are unique to the parties (at least for November 7th through December 19th):

  • Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade (view our parade photos)
  • A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show
  • Celebrate The Season Stage Show
  • Character Dance Parties (usually in the Golden Horseshoe and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe)
  • Holiday Wishes Fireworks
  • Disney character Meet and Greets with characters dressed in their holiday attire
  • Complimentary cookies and hot cocoa
  • Snow on Main Street

It’s worth noting that after December 18, 2015, for the remainder of the holiday season, the standard daytime parade in the Magic Kingdom becomes Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and the Holiday Wishes fireworks are shown nightly. This entertainment is arguably 75% of the draw for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but in exchange for not having to pay extra to see these things, you will face some of the worst crowds of the year after December 18th. If you want the best of both worlds, there are some other tricks you can use to avoid crowds during Christmas and New Year’s Eve weeks. So obviously there’s a trade-off!

Now that we’ve set forth what entertainment you can expect at the parties, let’s give you some more details, tips, and our review of whether Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is worth the money… (more…)

Best Magic Kingdom Attractions & Ride Guide

If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, you need to know which rides and attractions are not to be missed, and which rides you can probably skip. This guide to Magic Kingdom rides contains short reviews of our top picks, as well as numerical scores for every attraction in Walt Disney World. Of course, everyone’s preferences will vary (small kids can’t ride roller coasters, teens may not like ‘kiddie rides’, etc.), so we’ll also provide a brief description of every attraction to give you an idea of whether particular attractions might be good fits for your family.

Our list of the top Magic Kingdom attractions includes headliners and sleeper-picks that a lot of people overlook, but that are worth checking out. We don’t recommend skipping any attractions based upon the advice of others if you have the time to experience them all, but chances are that your time is limited, and it would take many guests a couple of days just in the Magic Kingdom to do it all, so there are some things most people will have to skip. This should help give you an idea of which Magic Kingdom rides and attractions are must-see for you, and which ones you won’t have time to do. Note that this list only covers Magic Kingdom. We have separate park guides for the other parks at Walt Disney World. You can read each of those on their pages:

Not everything on this list is a headliner or “E-Ticket” attraction that draws huge crowds. We think this is a good thing–popular attractions are popular for a reason, and most people won’t need to be told that they should experience them. It’s the other, less-popular attractions that round out a day in the park, and experiencing the “right” less-popular attractions can make or break your day. Plus, a day in the Magic Kingdom is about variety, and some lesser-known attractions are also exceptional, just not in a ‘knock-your-socks-off’ way. You could spend all day waiting in lines to experience the “Magic Kingdom Mountain Range” multiple times each because they are thrilling, but if all you care about is thrills, you aren’t having a well-rounded experience (and there might be better Orlando theme parks for you that cater more towards thrill seekers, anyway).

This guide assumes that you have a full day to spend in each of the Walt Disney World theme parks. You may have more or less time depending on how many day tickets you purchase and whether you add on the Park Hopper option (read our Walt Disney World Ticket Guide to determine which tickets are best for you).

Numerical scores are on a scale of 1 to 10, and only take into consideration overall quality relative to that specific type of attraction. In other words, dark rides are judged against other dark rides, roller coasters are judged against other coasters, etc., to create a relatively level playing field. If an attraction has a height restriction that precludes kids from riding it, its “score” for them wouldn’t be as high as what we’ve listed. Likewise, attractions geared towards kids but may not appeal to adults. Here, we only consider how well done the attraction is, overall, within its category, when experienced by its target demographic. (more…)

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café Review

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Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café is a counter service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This review features food photos and our analysis of the value and quality of Pecos Bills. First, let’s start with the basics. Pecos Bill participates in the Disney Dining Plan, but it does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. It is an okay use of a counter service credit if you play your cards right, and it can offer excellent value on the Disney Dining Plan if you go for one of the more expensive menu items (particularly on the dinner menu).

In terms of what Pecos Bill is, basically, it’s the Frontierland equivalent of Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. It’s a high-volume “fast food” restaurant aimed at serving a ton of Magic Kingdom guests per hour, with a relatively standard menu. Personally, I prefer the ambiance at Cosmic Ray’s thanks to Sonny Eclipse playing at Ray’s, but I know a lot of people like the vibe of Pecos Bill, particularly at night. I also prefer the food options to Cosmic Ray’s, which has a more diverse menu. One thing Pecos Bill and Cosmic Ray’s do equally as well as one another is get ridiculously crowded at lunch and dinner time. That’s not really a “pro” for either restaurant, though.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of Pecos Bill, and the restaurant’s atmosphere… (more…)