There are certain Walt Disney World restaurants that get all the (totally justifiable!) hype. Cinderella's Royal Table, Be Our Guest, the list goes on and on. (In fact, I have an entire blog post dedicated to some of the best romantic restaurants!) Sometimes, those hard-to-get reservations elude us. I've found these tried-and-true hidden gem dining spots for those days where you're in a pinch and need a reservation quickly!
The Wave...of American Flavors is located at Disney's Contemporary Resort. If you're dying to check out the Contemporary, this is an exceptional hidden gem. Located just off the lobby, this spot has breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. The food is fresh and there's something for everyone...even for the pickiest of eaters! (Pro tip: if you're there for breakfast, order the sweet potato pancakes...then be prepared to fall in love!)
Whispering Canyon Cafe is located in the lobby at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort. Here, they're known for the phenomenal all-you-care-to-enjoy skillets for breakfast lunch, and dinner, though you can order an entree a la carte if you'd like. The name of this restaurant is definitely misleading, because this sounds about as far from "whispering" as you can get! Be prepared for some silly shenanigans from your waitstaff. (Of course, if you don't want to participate in the hijinks, just let them know! It's still a lot of fun to watch!)
It's no secret that Walt Disney World can cost a pretty penny. (Though it doesn't have to!) At the end of the day, and despite all of the magical touches, Disney is still running a business. Here are 4 ways that Disney gets you to spend some major moolah, and 4 money-saving alternatives!
The Splurge: Light Up Toys
If you've been to the Disney Parks at night, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The light up toys, light up bubble wands, light up balloons, and light up ears seem to be at every kiosk and store. With nighttime shows temporarily suspended, you may not be in the parks as late. But, you'll definitely still see these. These things are cool, but PRICEY. (Not to mention, they're difficult to travel home with...especially if you're flying.)
The Save: Glow Necklaces
I encourage my clients to pack glow necklaces/bracelets/wands for nighttime at the parks. This lets the kids in your party still participate in the nighttime fun without the hefty price tag. As a bonus, some of those parks are dark when you're walking through at night, and this helps your kiddos stand out.
Walt Disney World gets all of the (totally justified!) hype around its parks, but what do you do if you're not in the parks?
First of all, this means you likely took my advice and purposefully scheduled a non-park day! Disney is non-stop, and sometimes we all need a breather. Non-park days are also a great alternative to arrival and departure days so that you aren't burning a park ticket on a partial day.
#1 - Disney Springs
Disney Springs is the most logical non-park day locale. Disney Springs is a massive shopping, dining, and entertainment district on Walt Disney World property. (Columbus friends: it's Easton on steroids.) I could spend 5 hours going on and on about where to eat, where to drink, where to shop, and where to play. Do yourself a favor and at minimum head there for dinner one night.
*Pro tip: Disney Springs is still much more busy on weekends than weekdays. If you're hesitant about being around big crowds, save this one for a weekday.
#2 - Resort Day
One of the best parts about staying on Disney property is your fabulous hotel! Disney Resort hotels have incredible themed pools, fantastic shopping, delectable dining choices, and fun for the whole family. Rent a boat or surrey bike or check out the arcade. Many Resorts have walking/running paths, and select Resorts even have full-service spas! Your Resort pool will have daily activities (weather permitting), and your resort will have some other entertainment as well. I happen to know from experience that Wilderness Lodge has a fantastic Hidden Mickey hunt. Be on the lookout for characters, too...they've been known to swing by the hotels for a visit! (My recommended 2021 resorts can be found here!)
Okay, okay...I know! I always do a "Mid-Week Roundup", but on Wednesday, I just could not stop watching the inauguration! (I could go on and on about this...but I think I cried 1,000 HAPPY tears!) Anyway, since the world had its eyes on President Biden and Vice President Harris' inaugurations, I'm delivering this news a few days late. Remember, the best way to stay updated with all Disney and Universal news is still to follow my Facebook and Instagram pages. (Both are linked below!)
Walt Disney World
Festival of the Lion King Returning!
More singers, dancers, technicians and other Cast Members are returning back to work...because the incomparable Festival of the Lion King is coming back THIS SUMMER! Festival of the Lion King is one of the most popular shows at Walt Disney World Resort. The Harambe Theatre at Animal Kingdom will present the show in a modified format to be mindful of the current environment. There will be some adjustments to audience seating, the show onstage, and backstage areas to allow for appropriate physical distancing for Cast Members and Guests. It’s going to be an amazing celebration! Are you as excited as I am?
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Wonder 2-Night Seattle Sailing Available for Booking!
I feel like its been forever I've been able to share some positive cruising news! A new Disney Wonder 2-Night Seattle sailing on July 5, 2021 is now available to book! The 2-Night sailing will leave from and return to Vancouver, British Columbia and will stop in Seattle Washington. This sailing is in addition to the June 28, 2021 7-Night Alaska sailing. (The June 28th sailing replaced a June 28th 9-Night Alaska sailing. Guests who were previously booked on that 9-Night Alaska sailing are eligible for a 10% discount* if they rebook this 2-Night sailing.)
*Guests must have been booked on the applicable sailing at time of cancellation (Dec. 11, 2020) by Disney Cruise Line to qualify for the 10% discount. Guests who were booked on Disney Wonder June 28, 2021 9-Night sailing will be eligible to apply 10% of the June 28, 2021 7-Night Alaska sailing and/or July 5, 2021 2-Night Seattle sailing.
Flexibility Options Extended
Beginning January 22, 2021, a temporary final payment extension, relaxation of the cruise cancellation fee, and a Cruise Date Flexibility option were added to all Disney Cruise Line sailings through Aug. 31, 2021.
With the Cruise Date Flexibility option, Guests have the option to change the sail day up to 15 days prior to the cruise. This means that for any new or existing cruises booked prior to March 31, 2021, for sailings through Aug. 31, 2021.
Sunset of the Disneyland Resort Annual Passport Program
More sad news out of Disneyland. Due the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations around the reopening of California theme parks, Disney will be "sunsetting" the current Annual Passport program. They will be issuing refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports. (No word yet on what "sunsetting" means in the long term. I personally think we might be seeing something similar take its place once California parks can open, but that's purely speculation on my part!)
First Look at WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure!
When Avengers Campus opens at California Adventure, you'll notice a very familiar face inside the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (or WEB as the kids call it.) Tom Holland will reprise his role as Peter Parker for WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure!
In the WEB workshop, you'll get to see Spider-Bots, which are designed to be robotic sidekicks capable of building anything a Super Hero might need. When Peter’s demonstration goes awry, the Spider-Bots are stuck in a replication loop, creating even more Spider-Bots! Your mission will be to test-drive a new invention, the WEB Slinger vehicle, and discover your own web-slinging super powers! Through specially designed, innovative technology that recognizes body movements and gestures, you will actually be able to reach out your hands and sling webs from your own wrists! As the WEB Slinger vehicles progress, you will virtually pass through Pym Test Kitchen, Avengers Headquarters and the Collector’s Fortress (also home to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!)
I recently had the opportunity to visit Universal Orlando Resort to experience their health and safety measures in place firsthand! From hand sanitizer to face coverings to physical distancing...here's the real scoop!
Guests and team members are required to wear face coverings, plain and simple. Everyone, ages 2+, needs to wear a face covering that covers your nose, mouth, and chin. They must be secured with ear loops or be secured around your head. This means that, unlike Disney, Universal does allow neck gaiters. Bandanas are not permitted. On our trip, we noticed mask compliance 99% of the time. (A woman in line for Hagrid's removed hers multiple times while in line, as well as for the duration of the ride. She was stopped after the end of the ride by a Team Member. Cameras are everywhere.) Of course, removing face coverings is allowed while eating/drinking, as long as you're stationary and distanced from others. There are also relaxation areas, where mask breaks are permitted. (Find my face coverings infographic here!)
Temperature checks are performed daily, and corresponding colored wristbands are issued upon completion of that temperature check. One of the absolute best perks to staying on-site at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel (we stayed at Endless Summer - Surfside Inn and Suites) was the fact that we were able to have our temperature checked at the hotel, rather than at the parks. This saved us a ton of time! Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater after 3 checks would be asked to seek medical attention and get medical clearance prior to being permitted to enter. I encourage all clients to pack a thermometer to keep in the room. That way, if anyone does register a fever, it isn't a surprise and you can seek medical attention immediately.
On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I had the opportunity to experience the enhanced health and safety measures in place. From face coverings to physical distancing and everything in between, here is everything that you need to know about the phased reopening and the truth about what all of that really feels like!
I can say, without a doubt, that I saw countless Cast Members continuously cleaning high-touch areas throughout our entire stay. Handrails, ride vehicles, elevators, tables, and more were constantly cleaned and disinfected. Additionally, we noticed hand sanitizer and hand washing stations everywhere we looked at Disney Resort hotels, as well as in the parks.
Physical distancing was easy to maintain throughout the Resort hotels and the parks. Signage and ground markings were abundant and easy to follow. We did notice excellent compliance with guests following these. Physical barriers are in place where physical distancing isn't possible. This includes areas around cash registers or hotel desks. Cashless payments are preferred throughout hotels and parks.
There is just something oh so romantic about the magic in Walt Disney World. Whether you're celebrating an anniversary, Valentine's Day, or even planning a proposal (!!!!!) in Walt Disney World, you'll want to refer to this guide. (And DEFINITELY snag those Advanced Dining Reservations!!)
Steakhouse: Le Cellier Steakhouse
Looking for a phenomenal steak to celebrate your special occasion? This intimate steakhouse, right in the heart of the Canada pavilion at EPCOT, is like stepping into a grand wine cellar and feels miles away from the EPCOT experience outside. Their incredible menu features items include the famous (and delicious) Canadian cheddar cheese soup, filet mignon, and maple creme brulee! Le Cellier also features fine Canadian wines in addition to more traditional beers or cocktails.
This waterfront restaurant at the ultra-elegant Grand Floridian Resort features romantic waterfront views and Coastal Cuisine. To splurge for a special occasion, go for the surf-and-turf! The sirloin steak and lobster tail combo can't be beat. Narcoosee's features fresh seafood from both local waters, as well as around the globe. Try the cheesecake with Lambert cherry sauce for dessert!
Prince or Princess at Heart: Cinderella's Royal Table
Dine in a storybook setting fit for royalty! Your royal meal begins with assorted charcuterie before moving on to your entrees. (Try the beef tenderloin!) For dessert, don't miss the signature The Clock Strikes Twelve, a dark chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate ganache served with a raspberry coulis. *Please note, at this time, characters are not greeting guests at their tables. However, this is the only chance to be in the castle. The magic is still there!
Classic Elegance: Topolino's Terrace - Flavors of the Riviera
This signature rooftop restaurant at the European-inspired Riviera Resort features fine French and Italian dining. You'll be able to indulge in fresh seafood, handmade pasta and decadent desserts infused with French and Italian flavors. The restaurant features an exclusive expo kitchen and wood-burning grill. Inspired by the cliffside restaurants of France and Italy, Topolino’s Terrace actually takes its name from the Italian name for Mickey Mouse!
Celebrity Chef Experience: Morimoto Asia
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is the mastermind behind this Disney Springs restaurant. The menu is inspired by Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Malay specialties. You can enjoy specialty wines and sakes, and even a few specialty beers! Morimoto Asia features exhibition kitchens and a 2-story interior with glittering chandeliers. Inside, you'll find lounges, private dining spaces and a second-level sushi bar and lounge with a separate entrance.
Stunning Views: California Grill
California Grill, at Disney's Contemporary Resort, is the gold standard for fine dining at Walt Disney World. This award-winning restaurant features the flavors of the Pacific Coast. Your experience starts in a private elevator, where you're whisked to the top floor of the Contemporary Resort. There, you’ll find panoramic views of the shimmering lagoon and Cinderella Castle in the floor-to-ceiling windows. You'll also find an onstage kitchen and catch a glimpse of the 300 bottles of wines available. Though the menu changes seasonally, keep an eye out for the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli! California Grill is also known for their sushi and brick oven-fired pizza.
The above restaurants do require a dress code (think "business casual"), and Le Cellier and Cinderella's Royal Table do require a park reservation and valid admission for each person in your party. While there are a few others I'd typically include in my guide, (I'm looking at you, Jiko and Victoria & Albert's!) not every restaurant has reopened yet at Walt Disney World. Advanced Dining Reservations are strongly encouraged.
I provide complimentary support with Advanced Dining Reservations with all packages booked through me. Start planning by clicking here!
You can find my list of recommended resort hotels here.
As someone with a bona fide fear of heights, I had my reservations about using Disney's Skyliner. After experiencing it firsthand, here are 5 quick tips for anyone planning a trip on Disney's aerial gondola transportation system.
1) It Connects A LOT of Walt Disney World
The Skyliner conveniently connects Disney's Hollywood Studios and EPCOT to Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Art of Animation Resort, Disney's Pop Century Resort, and Disney's Riviera Resort. Plus, anyone staying or visiting Disney's BoardWalk, Yacht Club, or Beach Club Resorts can easily walk over and hop on at EPCOT's International Gateway.
2) It Moves Quickly
With so much of Walt Disney World being connected, you might expect that this mode of transportation is slow. It's actually quite the opposite! The gondolas slow down at stations for loading (or pause temporarily to allow guests on scooters and wheelchairs to board) so it's continually loading, much like many of your favorite Disney rides. This allows for any lines to move very quickly, even if they look long.
How do I have so many tips and tricks? I’ve made ALL of the mistakes so you don’t have to! The photo here was taken during a February trip. I skipped the sunscreen that day because it “wasn’t hot outside” and I paid the price with that sunburn! (But you can see that I was carrying a cross-body bag! One of my top tips that you can check out here!)
Make sure that you pack and use sunscreen and perhaps some aloe vera, too! You'll find sunscreen and sunburn relief in your resort gift shop, of course, and they will come with a resort price tag!
Make sure you bring that sunscreen with you to the parks, too. You'll need to reapply throughout the day. I also always recommend bringing hats and sunglasses to keep that bright Florida sun out of your eyes.
I include a packing checklist in every client's e-package. Get the ultimate packing checklist by booking a Disney or Universal package through me! Click "Contact" above or email me to get started! email@example.com
Your park bag is one of the most important parts of your trip. Whether you're traveling solo, with a family, riding rides, or shopping, I'm breaking down the best bag for each type of traveler! Just make sure you follow my only rule: ALL BAGS MUST ZIP!
For the Family Traveling Together: Full-Size Backpack
Invest in a great sturdy backpack. I have one from Thirty-One that I bought YEARS ago to use as a park bag, and still use it on every trip. (And yes, that's my maiden name embroidered on it! Told you I've had it for years!) This bag has two large zipper pockets to keep things organized, a smaller zipper pocket (great for snacks), two side pockets for water bottles, an interior zipper pouch, and the world's most comfortable shoulder straps. There's plenty of space to keep everyone's things organized and protected.