October 28, 2015

Restaurant Review: California Grill

I have dined at California Grill twice. Once in May 2007, and most recently in February. Ethan had never been there, so I wanted to splurge on a dinner and have a great time. California Grill is located at the top of the Contemporary resort just beside Magic Kingdom. In my opinion, it is worth it just for the view. I figured I would do some restaurant reviews from my most recent trip, to hopefully help those of you looking for where to eat on your Disney vacation.

One of my favourite pictures from the night :)

One of my favourite pictures from the night 🙂

During this trip Ethan and I booked the Keys to the Kingdom tour at Magic Kingdom, so we were there earlier the day of our reservation. We were planning on staying all day so we brought a change of clothes with us for dinner and rented a locker outside of Magic Kingdom. We also put the tripod in there so we could get some great pictures of Wishes! I was really happy we rented the locker because it made it much easier throughout the day. When it was almost time for our reservation, we changed in the Magic Kingdom washrooms and walked over to the Contemporary. It is about a 7 minute walk, but it was definitely nice to escape the busy Magic Kingdom, and it was the closest thing to a break we had that day!

We found our way to the check in desk for California Grill, and were asked if we were celebrating anything. I of course said Ethan’s birthday because it was two days earlier. After just a few minutes of waiting we went into the elevator that took us up to the restaurant. The Cast Member is the elevator mentioned that if you bring your receipt back to the desk, you can go onto the observation decks to watch Wishes at night. Our reservation was fairly early, so we weren’t sure if we were going to take advantage of this. I have seen Wishes from the decks before, and it is nice to have a different view. We were escorted to our seat which was sprinkled with Mickey Confetti! The view was amazing. I am obsessed with the Grand Floridian (I think because that is where the Tanners stay in Full House) and I had a great view.

California Grill

Our server was great, and the food was amazing. They have an in-house sushi chef, so I knew what I was getting. Ethan wasn’t as sure, and ended up ordering a seafood dish, with lobster, scallops, shrimp, rice and sweet potatoes. I had he California Combination Roll. We got bread to the table (always great, I went to chef school and has a sweet spot for good bread). My sushi was delicious, and I ate every last roll. Ethan thought his was good, but not necessarily worth the price. California Grill is expensive (it counts as 2 table service meals with the dining plan) but the view alone is worth it. Once we finished our meals, a complimentary dessert was brought to the table! Remember when I was asked if we were celebrating anything? Look at what we got!

It was free!

It was free!

The dessert was really good, and sadly our meal was over. The servers are great and tell you that you can go out to the observation decks, one at each end of the restaurant. Ethan and I got our cameras out and headed outside. It was so peaceful up there, and so cool to see so much of Disney World. You could easily see Spaceship Earth and Tower of Terror, and even closer you can see all of the mountains of the Magic Kingdom! Seriously, go there to see the view. Even if just for appetizers or drinks! You will not regret it!

Ethan and I took our pictures and headed back to Magic Kingdom, We decided to stay in the park for fireworks, and even ended up staying to see The Kiss Goodnight. Hopefully we will be able to Wishes from California Grill sometime soon.

A Look Over Magic Kingdom

The restaurant has recently received a makeover, and I thought the decor was beautiful. I can’t remember much about my first time there, but I definitely liked the new look. I remember being seated near the Pastry Chef when I went with my family, and it soon became my dream to work there. It only took a restaurant-like exam to change my mind!

I had so much fun going to such a nice dinner with my guy, I hope you liked some of the pictures we took!

As you can see, California Grill is a special restaurant for me, and I love having the chance to eat there! Have you ever dined at California Grill? If not, what is your favourite Disney restaurant? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Kelsey
October 21, 2015

So You’re Thinking About Going To Walt Disney World…

First of all, I’m jealous. Planning a Walt Disney World vacation is so much fun! I just went in February and I already wish I was planning another vacation, it might as well have been a year ago. Not that I didn’t have fun, it just already feels like it was a long time. (The goal for my next trip is November 2016, I just have to convince my family Dad).

There are a lot of decisions to make when booking a vacation to Walt Disney World, and the first piece advice I can give is use the Walt Disney World website. It has the most detailed information and is very helpful when booking a trip!

This post will serve as sort of a dashboard for lots of information you would need when planning a Disney Vacation. All of the things that you need to consider when thinking about visiting Walt Disney World, and links to other posts here on the blog that expand on those topics. I will continue to update this post as other topics are posted so everything is easy to find! Let’s get started!

Length of your stay

There are so many things to see and do at Walt Disney World! That’s why I would suggest dedicating an entire vacation to it, especially if it is your first time! A 5 night, 6 day trip is usually enough time to see most of what Walt Disney World has to offer, but I’ve been seven times and still experience new things each trip! A week is generally enough time, and a lot of deals are geared towards staying this long. It sounds like a long time to be there at first, but once you go you will be glad you were there for a week!

Anyone recognize this carriage?

Anyone recognize this carriage?

Where To Stay

Disney owns a bunch of restarts on property, and I have done a post all about it! You can read that here. I break down everything you need to know about where to stay, and give my opinion on whether or not it’s worth it to stay on site. It is a different decision for everyone, but the post shows where I stand!

Dining Plan

If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can take advantage of the Disney Dining Plan! This post goes through the different “levels” of the dining plan and talks a little bit about if it is worth it or not. During my last trip I did not purchase the Dining Plan, but I have on previous trips so I could compare.

Who would believe this is in Orlando?!

Who would believe this is in Orlando?!

Dining Reservations

Walt Disney World has amazing food! As I explain in my Disney Dining Post, there are two types of food service in WDW. Quick service, where you order at a counter (like McDonald’s) and Table Service meals, where you are served at a table (like Boston Pizza). If you are looking for a sit down meal, you should make a reservation. You can make dining reservations up to 180 days before the first day of your trip if you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. If you are staying off site, you can make a reservation 180 days in advance of the day you are booking for. Obviously Disney gives you a slight “advantage” if you are staying on site, but it is something you should plan for because you need to eat while you are there! Disney restaurants can be found on the Walt Disney World Website and can be made from there as well, or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Trust me, the food in Walt Disney World is different than anything you have had at a theme park!

Disney’s Magical Express

Look for a post all about Disney’s Magical Express coming soon! This service is free, and available to guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels. You receive luggage tags before your trip, and when you arrive at Orlando International Airport you don’t need to pick up your bags! You just head to the bus that takes you straight to your resort an get your vacation started!

Eric's Castle

Park Tickets

There are a few different types of tickets that are available when visiting Walt Disney World. In a future post I will break down all of the different types and which I think are worth the extra money. You have your basic ticket, a special ticket if you want to visit the water parks, and if you want to visit more than one park in a day. You don’t want to be spending money on something that you aren’t utilizing, so it’s important to know the difference!

Which park to visit on which day?

This point applies more to guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels because of Extra Magic Hours, but it is still something to think about when planning your vacation! If you are staying off site but eating at a Walt Disney World restaurant, you are going to want to go to a park on the day with the longest hours, to get the most out of it! Park Hours are available months in advance on the Walt Disney World website, so it is definitely something to check out!

My Disney Experience

My Disney Experience is the dashboard of your vacation. I wrote a post with everything you need to know! Even if you are not staying on site, it’s something you will want to check out! You can read that post here.

The FountainWhat sort of things do you think about when booking a trip to Walt Disney World? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

Kelsey
September 30, 2015

My Walt Disney World Strategy

To expand a little more from last week’s post, I thought I would give a little insight into how I approach the parks during my vacations. Not everyone will be able to take this approach, but hopefully you can try some of the things I do to be successful in the parks! I have adapted this strategy during my last two trips (May 2013 and February 2015) and they have worked really well for Ethan and I.

Be There for Rope Drop

What’s rope drop you ask? It’s when the park first opens. And you should be there. Getting to the parks early is a key part of my strategy in the parks. The first few hours of the day is the time when the parks are the least busy, so you can do the most popular attractions with the lowest crowds. I’m serious. And if you arrive early at Magic Kingdom, there is even an opening show, complete with a countdown and some fireworks! It is AWESOME! In most cases, Cast Members actually have a rope holding back the line, and they will walk you to the different areas of the park. More on that below.

Welcome Show

When Ethan and I went to Walt Disney World in 2013, I had heard about rope drop from The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and really wanted to try it. We made it to most of the parks pretty early, but only to official rope drop on Animal Kingdom day. We were there 20-30 minutes before park opening, and were near the front of the line. We were roped off, and the crowd finally started moving. Everyone was heading to Discovery Island (where the Tree of Life is located) and I’m not really sure how, but Ethan and I managed to get away from the crowd. We went the Dino-rama route, and it was quite funny. It was us versus the crowd. We could see the crowd across the way, inching closer to Mount Everest. Would we beat them? Should we run for it?! We kept looking back and sped up! We walked quite fast, and were the 4th and 5th guests in line for Expedition Everest. It was really neat to be on the first train of the morning, although there was some dew on the seats. Just to paint a picture of how fast the lines move, we rode Expedition Everest 4 times in less than 20 minutes. It is the most popular ride at Animal Kingdom. 20 minutes people! Waking up early does have it advantages! If you can make it to the park for rope drop, it is definitely worth it!

 

Fastpass +

Fastpass + is free! And it gets you onto your favourite rides faster! February was my first trip using this new system, and I have to say I liked it! You know which fast passes you have well in advance (up to 60 days before your trip), and you don’t have to have someone run to all of the different rides to get fast passes for your party. I will be doing a post that goes into depth about the new system, so make sure to keep an eye out for it! Now you can also get Fastpass+ for nighttime shows and parades, securing your spot without having to worry. Definitely something to take advantage of on your next trip!

Take a break

Especially if you make it to the parks for rope drop, you’re going to need a break! I like to take a rest during the busiest time of the day (early afternoon). It’s when kids are at their crankiest, and when it’s the hottest. It just screams break time to me. I head back to my hotel, take a nap, or just lounge around for a little. I haven’t been one to swim during this time, but if you are travelling with kids who won’t want to nap it would be a perfect time to do so. I’m not sure how I made it through some of my previous trips without taking breaks! During my last trip there were only two days where we didn’t take a break, but they were days that were a little slower paced. Basically, if you go crazy every day and are there from park open to close, you aren’t going to make it through your vacation! You are going to be tired when you get home from Walt Disney World no matter what, but this way you won’t be quite as tired!

The Tree of Life

Get the Dining Plan

I’ve discussed the dining plans before here, and gave my opinion on whether or not it’s worth it. By the title of this section, I’m sure you can guess where I stand. Having a sit down meal a day gives my days a little bit of structure, without taking a lot of time from your day. Not having the dining plan on our last trip meant looking at food a little more closely, and seeing how much we were spending every day. Having the dining plan is much more relaxing, and that’s what you want to do while you are on your vacation! Depending on the level of dining plan you purchase, it doesn’t mean you will be eating burgers and pizza the whole time, Disney does food really well.

Eat a small breakfast

This is a recommendation for those purchasing the Disney Dining plan, more specifically the ones with only two meals. I found that eating a small breakfast or sometimes even just coffee was great. It helped us get to the parks faster in the morning, and when the meals rolled around that we used our dining credits for we could take advantage of the large servings. When you are getting the dining plan you have paid for it in advance, but it is only covering 2 meals per day so it’s nice to stretch that a little. This helped to keep food costs down, and we could get more out of the dining plan.

Reflections of Earth

I hope this has given you some insight into what my trips look like, and I hope you can try some of these during your next trip!

What strategy do you take when heading to Walt Disney World? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Kelsey