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…)

Tips for Finding Good Beer At Disney World

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Walt Disney World offers a number of craft beers and microbrews in its parks and resort hotels. This post offers tips for finding delicious beer at Walt Disney World, which can be a bit of a challenge. In addition to the normal BMC options you can find just about anywhere (besides the Magic Kingdom), there are some exceptional beers throughout Walt Disney World…you just need to know where to look.

Unlike wine, which (I’m told) Walt Disney World does pretty well–even touting things like their selection of South African wines at Animal Kingdom Lodge–the same effort isn’t put into having high quality beers. Most outdoor vending carts that serve beer at Walt Disney World have Bud Light, plus maybe a token alternative. Nothing against Bud Light–they are great at convincing people their beer is worthwhile with their astronomical marketing budget–but Bud Light is awful. Okay, so everything against Bud Light. BMC are sort of like the fast food of beers: okay options in a pinch, but probably few beer drinkers’ favorites if they had to choose. If Bud Light is your favorite beer, I’d encourage you to try a variety of other beers and give them a chance.

If you haven’t gathered from the remarks towards BMC, I’m sort of a beer snob. Coming from Michigan, I came of drinking age right around the time of the big explosion in craft brewing, with Bell’s opening its brewery ~10 miles from my house about a decade ago. Add to that other great options like Founders (every craft beer aficionado should attend a Kentucky Breakfast Stout release party at some time in their life), Arcadia, New Holland, Dark Horse, and many more, and my opinions of beer have really been shaped by living in one of the greatest beer state. Not really sure how this is relevant to the topic of the post, but I like giving props to my home state when I have the chance. Moving on…

When we first started visiting Walt Disney World as adults, there was a serious dearth of craft beer options, and the selection was laughable. If you wanted a good beer, you pretty much were stuck going to Le Cellier for some Unibroue. While that’s still a great option, Walt Disney World has recognized the growing discontent with BMC, and has incorporated better options into their menus. Things have improved substantially almost every year for the last ~5 years, and continue to get better. So props to Disney for that.

If you’re looking for great beer at Walt Disney World, here are some tips… (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…)

Best Magic Kingdom Counter Service Restaurants

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This post ranks the quick service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for 2014. Despite the Magic Kingdom’s historically poor reputation for counter service dining, there are a surprising number of good options. Sometimes these good options are in the form of a specialty at a particular restaurant, which can make dining in the Magic Kingdom with a family of diverse eaters particularly difficult. The other matter that complicates your dining choice when you’re in the Magic Kingdom is the sterling options just outside of the Magic Kingdom. Captain Cook’s, Contempo Cafe, and Roaring Fork are all a short monorail or boat ride from the Magic Kingdom, and they all rank higher than almost all of the options within the Magic Kingdom on our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list.

The Magic Kingdom’s counter service restaurants are also more difficult to rank than any other park. You have three locations–Diamond Horseshoe, Tortuga Tavern, and Tomorrowland Terrace–that are only open when crowds reach a certain level, meaning they probably aren’t even going to be options for a good number of guests reading this post. Then you have choices like Sleepy Hollow and Gaston’s Tavern that are absolutely awesome if you like the handful of things they serve, but are probably better considered ‘snack stops’ than actual bona fide restaurants because of this. Because of these complications and other issues with how restaurants that only serve a specific type of food (Casey’s Corner and its hot dogs, Columbia Harbour House and seafood, etc.) this list was difficult to put together and probably is more useful for the descriptive reviews that accompany each restaurant than for its numerical rankings. That way, you can read and see whether a particular restaurant sounds like it’s your style or not.

Now, this might sound like an easy out in case you don’t agree with the numerical rankings we’ve given these Magic Kingdom counter service restaurants (and maybe that’s our devious goal!), but that’s the actual dining situation in the Magic Kingdom. We’ve separately reviewed a decent number of these restaurants. To read our full reviews and see additional food photos of each option, click the restaurant name (if it’s not click-able, we have yet to review it).

NOTE: This list was revised in August 2014 to reflect menu changes and a couple of overall shifts. 
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2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival Info & Tips

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Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World runs September 19, 2014 through November 10, 2014. During this culinary celebration, guests can taste (and drink!) around Epcot’s World Showcase.  The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of our favorite events at Walt Disney World, and is one reason why we love visiting Walt Disney World during the fall.

Although this article will provide tips for the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, there are a lot of things we recommend doing in the fall; make sure to read our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Tower of Terror 10-Miler runDisney event, and our When to Visit Walt Disney World posts to get an idea of what else to do this time of year. As you may know, fall is the perfect time to visit Walt Disney World! Well, my personal “perfect” time of year is Christmas (nothing beats Christmas at Walt Disney World for me!), but fall is a close second.

We’ve been to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival for each of the last several years, spending more money on snacks than we care to think about! While Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival can be a pricey event, it can also be an a ton of fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you have the right approach (we’ll cover how to save money at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival further down this post).

If you’re looking for what’s new for the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival or what our recommend plan of attack is for the festival? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our preview of what’s new, what we recommend doing, and strategy for keeping your sanity at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival! (more…)