My Top 5 Disney World Breakfast Buffets

I could never imagine starting my day out without breakfast.  Sure, it’s usually coffee and an egg or something equally inelegant, but the way I see it, if I’m getting out of bed, there had better food involved.

I also love going out to breakfast; that’s a real treat! You can have so many things that are too much of a hassle to make yourself, like waffles and fancy omelets and croissants (do these even exist outside of restaurants?).  My only problem with going out to breakfast is deciding between pancakes and something that comes with toast and potatoes because if I’m being honest, I want all of it. I usually end up leaving full, but feeling somewhat deprived at the same time.

That’s where that magnificent thing called the breakfast buffet comes into play, and Disney sure knows how to do it right.  The beauty is that there are SO many different locations that offer breakfast buffets and no two are alike.

Here I have compiled a list of my top 5 breakfast buffets at Disney World;

#5:  Tusker House – Animal Kingdom (Character Dining)

I love doing breakfast here when we go to the Animal Kingdom; it’s nice to eat and then get right out to the park. (I would recommend not making a fast pass selection for Expedition: Everest first thing though!) IMG_0954

The food options are pretty extensive and I really like how they offer the usual fare (MICKEY WAFFLES!!!) right next to some more adventurous selections that you might not see at your typical breakfast buffet.

The theme is that of an African market and there are a few African-inspired dishes to try; if you’re not feeling especially adventurous first thing in the morning that’s ok too because there’s the usual, run-of-the mill offerings as well such as bacon and eggs.  My personal favorite dish from this location is the cornbread-topped corned beef hash casserole; I would definitely IMG_0944recommend trying it if hash is your thing. Also, they have that amazing orange-guava-passion fruit juice that you can only find at some of the Disney restaurants. We don’t typically drink juice, but this stuff is so addictive that our breakfast reservations are often made to include as many places that offer the juice as possible.

My only issue with Tusker House is that it feels a little cramped and dark for my taste.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the atmosphere is unpleasant, but I feel like it could be a little roomier too.  It’s something that I’m willing to let slide, especially because they are really good about making sure that your coffee and juice stay full at all times!

#4:  Boma – The Animal Kingdom Lodge

Even if you aren’t staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, this is a definitely must-try.  The BOMAEofferings are similar to what is available at the Tusker House, and yes, they have the juice!  I first tried Bobotie here, which is something like a ground-beef quiche, and it is de-LICIOUS! And of course, you still have your waffles…only they are not Mickey waffles, but Simba waffles.  Don’t worry, they are just as excellent.

What’s even better is that they offer real Kenyan coffee in a press instead of that coffee-like stuff you get everywhere else.  That in itself almost makes it worth the visit! I’ve only seen fresh-pressed coffee in one other location thus far, and that was at Las Ventanas at the Coronado Springs resort.  It is rumored that Kona Café also offers the French-press, but I haven’t made it there just yet to confirm.

The restaurant itself is beautiful; it’s very open and airy with African inspired décor and furnishings.  As an added bonus, you get to sneak a peek into the beautiful Animal Kingdom Lodge!

#3. Chef Mickey’s – The Contemporary Resort (Character Dining)

We just tried this place for the very first time last year, and honestly I have no idea what took us so long!IMG_4554

The restaurant is in The Contemporary Resort, located right next to the Magic Kingdom; you can take the monorail from MK and if you have an early morning reservation and the monorail isn’t running just yet, don’t sweat it – it’s a quick walk across the street.

What really makes this location fun, besides the bright and modern décor, is that you get to watch the monorail pass through the hotel while you eat.

The food selection is typical American fare, and one of my favorite offerings here is the blintz with cherry topping.  I seriously dream of these weekly.  I’ve seen them in the grocery store, but I know they just won’t be the same; everything in Disney just tastes 10 times better.IMG_4552

Also, it seems like the character rotation was really well orchestrated at Chef Mickey’s; maybe it’s just how things happened to work out during our visit, but I felt like they got the characters to our table one right after the other, which I really appreciated.  That way, I was free to go back for more blintzes as many times as I pleased without worrying about missing the photo op with Chef Mickey!

#2.  Cape May Café – The Beach Club Resort (Character Dining)

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I have done breakfast here several times and it has never disappointed.  First of all, the dining room is absolutely gorgeous; it is designed to look like a New England beach club and it is extremely bright, colorful and cheery.  It certainly has an upscale atmosphere without being stuffy or uninviting.

This place holds a special place in my heart because this is where I first tried the Mickey waffle. I don’t know what they put in them, but there is something about a Mickey waffle that is unlike any other waffle in the world.  I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s a pinch of Disney magic.

Aside from the waffles, I think Cape May Café has my favorite assortment of breakfast foods; delicious frittatas, an extensive bakery section and smoked meats and cheeses, as well as the usual eggs, bacon and the like.  I can satisfy every kind of breakfasty craving possible in this one spot.IMG_2154

When you’re done with breakfast, it’s definitely worth taking a stroll around the grounds before heading to your next destination.  If you happen to be going to Epcot, you can take the ferry to the main gate, or you can take a leisurely stroll to the sneaky back entrance in the center of the World Showcase, which will take you about 10 minutes. We have actually found that this is faster than waiting for the ferry, but if you’re not in a rush it’s certainly a nice boat ride to the main gate.

#1.  O’Hana – The Polynesian Resort (Character Dining)

This feels like kind of a cheat to put this one in the number one spot because it’s not actually a buffet.  Even so, I’m going ahead with it because the breakfast is served family-style, it’s all you can eat, and you get so many items with your meal it almost covers what would be available on a buffet line.img_4363

If you have a table service breakfast anywhere during your stay, you have GOT to do the O’Hana breakfast at least once.  This is always the meal that I reserve first because there is NO way I’m not going to have my pineapple bread!!!

As I mentioned, the meal is served family style, and you start off with two huge pieces of bread; one is pineapple and the other is a glazed raisin bread.  Then you get a platter of fruit such as pineapple, raspberries and melon.  By now, I’m usually starting to get a little full, and that’s when they bring out the giant platter filled with scrambled eggs, breakfast potato wedges, bacon, Mickey and Stitch waffles, biscuits and the best breakfast sausage you will eveIMG_1230r eat!  Plus, they have that amazing juice that I apparently can’t seem to stop talking about.

The dangerous part is that they will keep giving you more of whatever you want; fortunately, they break things up a little with the character visits (yes, Lilo and Stitch appear in this rotation!) and a congo line that keeps the server from getting to your table just long enough to really think about whether you want a couple more waffles, which, inevitably, you do.

Do you agree with this list, or is there another breakfast buffet that you simply cannot miss when you are in Disney World?  If so, leave a comment below and tell me all about it- maybe I’ll have to give it a shot during my next visit!

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Ready, Set…180 Days to Go!

I’m pretty certain that my daughter is avoiding me this week.  I’d like to think that it has something to do with her being a teenager, but I think it has more to do with the fact that every time she sees me, I try to engage her in a conversation about which Disney restaurants she wants to try out this year.

I know she thinks that I’m a little obsessed with this subject, and to be fair she’s right; I really look forward to trying new dining experiences each year. But what she doesn’t realize is that if you don’t nail those dining reservations down as soon as you can, you are going to miss out.

Disney allows guests to start making dining reservations up to 180 days in advance; our 180 mark was at the beginning of this week.  I know that 180 days seems like more than enough time to make these reservations, but I have learned the hard way that there is no time to waste.

For example, I tried to make a breakfast reservation this morning – not even 7 full days since our 180 day window opened – at Cape May Café at the Beach Club Resort.  Do you know what was available? Nothing. Nada. Not a single time slot was available for breakfast at any day during our vacation week, which, I will state again for effect, is in AUGUST.

There are some experiences that fill up faster than others, of course; character breakfasts especially seem to get booked up right away, as does the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.  Basically, if you shudder at the thought of your little ones missing out on a specific character dining experience, there are about a million and one other parents shuddering along with you.  Get on it right away and beat those other parents to the punch.

While we can’t speak for all of the restaurants as we are still working our way through them all, we’ve had the hardest times with O’Hana (breakfast) in the Polynesian, Be Our Guest (lunch) in the Magic Kingdom, Chef Mickey’s (breakfast) in the Contemporary Resort and, just added to the list is Cape May Café (breakfast) in the Beach Club Resort.

Of course, the difficulty in getting the reservation that you want depends on the time of year during which you are visiting; school vacations and summer time are certainly going to be more challenging than visits during the “off” season, but it’s still a good idea to make your reservations at the more popular (and if Mickey’s going to be there, you can be sure it’s popular!) restaurants right away.

 

P.S.

If this is your first visit, I highly recommend downloading the My Disney Experience app on your phone; this app links to your hotel reservation and you can make, change and cancel dining plans quickly and easily.  It is also pretty intuitive; I had booked two dining experiences at the same time for the same day and not only did the app recognize the discrepancy, it canceled the unwanted reservation when I confirmed the experience that we wanted.   If you are looking for a way to access all of your plans and reservations in one place, this app is worth every byte of space that it takes up on your phone.

The Dog Days of Disney (Part I)

Ahhh…the snow is falling, it’s about 10 degrees outside, and I just spent the day white-knuckling it through my errands because that is just what we do here in New England.  Around here, it’s pretty much business as usual unless the snow barricades you in your home; then it’s time to snow-blow your way out and get on with your life. In short, it takes a lot of snow to shut things down here.  A wicked lot of snow.

It’s about this time each year that I start wondering two things: first, why do I still live here (seriously…why??) and second, how many more days until we’re frolicking once more in the Orlando sunshine?

Yes, we’re going back for our sixth visit to Disney World.  And even though every year my daughter and I say that we might try something different the following year,  our internal Mickey Mouse clocks start going whack-a-doodle around December and we know that we just won’t have as much fun in a place that does not have a Space Mountain.

We are doing something a little different this year though; instead of going at the end of April as we have done for the past three years, we’ve decided to go in the middle of August.  When it’s super hot. And humid.  But so is every place in the summer, am I right? Right? Hello?

The truth is that I’ve always dreamed of living in Florida, but anytime I mention this to somebody who has lived there, they tend to laugh somewhat derisively when I tell them that I’ve never experienced a Florida summer.  I’m not going to lie; it makes me a little nervous when they do that.

I’m also nervous about the fact that, with the exception of one year where it rained for the WHOLE FREAKING WEEK, we have been super spoiled with the weather during our vacation.  It has never been too hot or too cold and over time we’ve come to know what to expect.  Now, I feel like I’m going in blind and the way people talk about Florida summers makes me think that we should stay close to some source of water at all times, lest we should burst into flames at any given moment. Of course, as I sit her wearing 20 layers of clothing, a blanket and a parka, that almost sounds pleasant…

At the end of the day, it’s Disney World – and not even the heat of Hades is going to stop us from having a good time!  I’ll be sure to share some tips and tricks that we pick up during our vacation so that your summer Disney vacation can be just as magical as I know ours will be. Also, if you have tips of your own, please be sure to share them in the comments below!

Wow, I just realized that after this visit, we will have experienced all four seasons in Disney World.  Maybe next year it will be time to expand our horizons a little and try something different.  Maybe, just maybe, next year will be the year that we finally visit Disneyland.

 

Two Big Changes to the Disney Dining Plan in 2017

I have a confession to make:  other than riding the Tower of Terror, eating in Disney World is probably the best part of the trip for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the rides, the shows and just about everything that has to do with Disney, but I really look forward to trying out new foods and restaurants during each visit.

I like to use the basic Disney Dining Plan which includes one Quick Service meal, one Table Service  meal, and, until now, one snack per person per day.  The cost is usually about $67 per person per day for this plan, and the convenience of having meals prepaid is worth every penny, if you ask me.

I took a quick peek at the dining plan information for 2017, and I was surprised to see two pretty significant changes.  The plans have stayed basically the same for some time now, and the closest thing to a real change was when Disney officially noted that desserts could be swapped for other items that qualify as a snack in 2016.

If this isn’t your first Disney rodeo, you may also know that Disney provides dessert in excess; in fact, one of the things that I remember vividly from my first ever visit to Disney World is the over abundance of cheesecake (it seems as though the cheesecake has been replaced with cupcakes since then). We seriously had a mini-fridge full of cheesecake that we just couldn’t possibly eat because, well, we are human and incapable of consuming that much cheesecake in a week. During a recent trip, I negotiated with (read: begged) a cast member to substitute ANYTHING for the dessert…I was so fed up with desserts that I probably would have taken a stack of napkins as an acceptable trade at that point.  Needless to say, I was very happy to see that Disney finally got the picture and started to openly offer the choice to substitute dessert for something else.

In 2017 however, it looks like the Disney Dining Plan is taking things one step further; the dessert that has hither-to been included with Quick Service meals has been taken away all together.  In its place, they have added another snack option so that each person gets two snack credits per day instead of one.  Getting your hands on an actual list of items that you can use snack credits for is next to impossible, but the basic guideline seems to be that a snack is any single-serving item that is not an entree; examples include items such as a muffin, a bottle of water, or of course, one of those iconic Mickey ice cream bars.  Anything that has this icon is worth one snack credit:

ddp-logo

To this I say…It’s about freaking time! OK, before you get your Mickey ears in a twist, hear me out.

I can definitely see how this might seem like bad news for those who use the Quick Service dining plan; before you had two desserts per day, and now it looks like you have none.  But Disney has offered you a sort of “loophole” by giving you an extra snack credit.

If you’re a seasoned Disney-goer, I’m sure it’s old news to point out that a snack can actually work effectively as a small meal; a muffin or a bagel from your hotel dining court is a perfect quick breakfast and it will only cost you one snack credit.  You also get one of those wonderful refillable drink mugs that you can use for coffee, tea, cocoa or a soft drink to accompany your breakfast, but be warned, juice or milk is going to cost you another snack credit. If you can either bank your snack points to allow for a non-mug beverage or forgo it altogether, you’re still ahead with two Quick Service credits and one snack credit to get you through the rest of the day.

And do not despair if you look forward to that sugar rush as the end of your Quick Service meal; in previous years, you were able to redeem a snack credit for a dessert at a Quick Service restaurant, and as far as I have been able to determine, you still have this option.  However, if the thought of another sickeningly sweet cupcake has your stomach turning, you now have the option to grab some popcorn or even a bottle of water instead.

These changes have far less impact on those using the Disney Dining Plan or the Deluxe Dining Plan, as these include Table Service meals that still include dessert as long as the credit is used for lunch or dinner.  People on these dining plans also have the option to use a snack credit for Quick Service dessert, so there is far less to lose when using these dining plans.

While I know that there will be mixed feelings on the change to the 2017 dining plan, I believe that the change is a good one that offers more flexibility, especially for the more restrictive Quick Service dining plan.

The best part is that you will now have the choice to…. wait for it….

Have (or not have) your cake and eat (or not eat) it too!

Why I Will ALWAYS Choose a Disney Hotel for my Disney World Vacation

One of my favorite parts about planning a vacation is researching hotels.  Of course, this can be a real crap-shoot, especially if you’re visiting a place that you are not familiar with. Sometimes, no matter how carefully you select a hotel, the fantasy just doesn’t match up with the reality, which can certainly put a damper on any vacation.

This is why I will always choose to stay at a Disney hotel when I go to Walt Disney World.

Disclaimer:  I do not work for Disney and I am not being paid to plug their hotels.  That would be pretty sweet though…can I have that job? Pretty please?

I know that most families are looking for the most economical way to do Disney World and one of the questions that always pops up is the question of whether to stay on Disney property or elsewhere.  To me, the answer 100% of the time is always to stay on Disney property, hands down, no two ways about it.

I say this having stayed at a non-Disney property for a vacation a few years ago. Of course, we were doing more of a “Taste of Orlando” type trip where we visited several theme parks and not just Disney. Our hotel was more in the Universal/Sea World vicinity, and while this was probably the best option for what we were doing, I can easily say that the biggest issue that we had was getting to Disney World.

The good news is that there are several transportation options available, the first of course being a rental vehicle.  However, this can get a little pricey once you add up the hotel parking costs (our hotel charged $15 per day), the park’s parking costs which are between $20 and $35, plus the daily cost of renting the car which can fluctuate between $20 and $150, depending on who you rent from and what you rent. Plus, you get the joy of driving in Orlando traffic while trying to find your way to Disney.  If that doesn’t say rest and relaxation, I don’t know what does!

You also have the option of taking a Lynx bus, which is Orlando’s public transportation system . This is probably the cheapest way to go if you are staying outside of Disney, as you can purchase an all-day pass for $2.25 per day and with some research and planning, you can find a stop in the general area of most hotels.  But please remember, this system was designed for Orlando residents and not visitors, so their top priority is not getting you to Disney World as quickly as possible. In fact, it took about 45 minutes for us to get to the Disney Ticket and Transportation Center from where we were staying – about 7 miles away.  That was precious time that could have been spent riding Splash Mountain, dammit!

Then there is the taxi option, but I would use this one sparingly as this can get pretty expensive, depending on where your hotel is located. Our one-way fare was around $30, not including tip.  Hey, weren’t you trying to save money on this vacation?  If you do have to take a taxi, choose Mears; they are professional and friendly and come highly recommended by locals.

So, now you’ve gotten your transportation taken care of, what about food? The good news is that there are a LOT of great restaurants in Orlando that are very reasonably priced.  If you plan on dining in the parks however, be prepared to shell out some serious cash.

One thing you should know is that if you plan on staying outside of Disney World, you can NOT get a Disney dining plan.  This might not be too devastating if you only plan on having one counter-service meal in the parks per day, but if you want to eat all of your meals in the parks, the Disney dining plan offers a better value, especially if you plan on getting in on some character dining. And trust me. If you have little ones, you do want to do at least a few character dining experiences.  These meals are typically buffets and cost between $35 (breakfast) and $60 (dinner) per adult, if not more.

Ugh. So much to consider. Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing and having fun with your family?

Staying at a Disney resort truly lets you enjoy your vacation by making everything as seamless and convenient as possible, and that’s why I like it so much.

Transportation is included with any Disney vacation package- for free!  They offer the Magical Express that takes care of getting you to and from the airport; all you have to do is check off a box when you make your vacation reservation.  Disney also offers free transportation for getting from your hotel to the theme parks, as well as other hotels (this requires a bit of strategy though, but that deserves a separate post unto itself!).

I also never worry about whether I’m making a bad choice when I’m going with a Disney hotel, because there ARE no bad Disney hotels.  I’ve tried both the Value level resorts and the Moderate level resorts, and they are all maintained as impeccably as their highest level Deluxe resorts.

Then there’s the dining plan.  I LOVE the dining plan, because it gives us the chance to experience some of the Disney restaurants that we might not otherwise be able to if we were paying for it out of pocket.  Plus, I appreciate the convenience of not having to budget for dining; it’s already taken care of and all I have to worry about is tipping for our table service meals. I usually choose the basic dining plan, which includes 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 2 snacks per day, per person.  For two people, it usually adds about $1,000 to the final cost of the vacation, which might sound like a lot but when you break it down, it comes out to roughly $84 per person per day for food.

Finally, Disney also offers a lot of extras at each of their resorts such nightly screenings of Disney movies “under the stars”, child care, free parking and recreational activities not offered elsewhere.

To me, choosing a Disney package is a no-brainer; I literally do not have to think about anything from the moment we check in to the moment we check out. Sure, I might save a few bucks staying outside of Disney World, but at the cost of enjoying my vacation.  That is why I will ALWAYS choose to go with a Disney vacation package for my Disney World vacation;  I get to focus on what really matters, and that is spending quality time with my daughter while forgetting the stresses of life for a little while, and that is priceless.

All Because… (or, Why I LOVE Disney World)

I never went to Disney as a kid (cue the violins); I heard other kids talking about it in elementary school but I knew it wasn’t an option for my family so I never really got excited about it. Then, one year when my brother and I were in high school, my parents gave us the option to either go to Disney World as a family, or go to our rented beach house – that we went to EVERY year – and bring a friend. Angsty teens that we were, we chose the beach house. Spend time as a family? No way. Besides, Disney was “lame” and “for kids”, and we were certainly not kids. Ugh… what fools we were. I still shake my fists in rage at teen me for that one.

img_1233Here it is – the first post!

This is kind of exciting for me, because I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing a Disney blog for a year or so, if not longer.   The first post is always the hardest though…what should I write about? There are so many things to talk about, where do I even start? There is no way that I can even begin to cram all things Disney into one little post!

Gosh lady. Relax. Take a breath.

Anyway, I figured that this initial post might be a good place to tell you a little bit about why I’ve decided to write a blog about Disney in the first place. I touch on this a little in my “About” page, but here I’ll give you the full nitty-gritty of what put me on “Team Disney” for life.

I never went to Disney as a kid (cue the violins); I heard other kids talking about it in elementary school but I knew it wasn’t an option for my family so I never really got excited about it.  Then, one year when my brother and I were in high school, my parents gave us the option to either go to Disney World as a family, or go to our rented beach house – that we went to EVERY year – and bring a friend.  Angsty teens that we were, we chose the beach house.  Spend time as a family? No way. Besides, Disney was “lame” and “for kids”, and we were certainly not kids. Ugh… what fools we were. I still shake my fists in rage at teen me for that one.

Fast forward about a decade or so to 2005; I was in my mid-twenties, married and had a three year old daughter (I still have the daughter, by the way…she’s just much older now). It was that year that my mother-in-law decided to surprise us with an invitation to join her and her husband for an all-expense paid trip to Disney World.  Only, I felt kind of awkward thinking about spending a whole week with my in-laws, as we weren’t super close. So again, instead of being completely amped for this amazing gift that was being given, I went back into “Disney is lame” mode.  I had NO idea what was coming.

Ok, this is going to get a little cheesy and emotional here, so consider yourself warned.

I went into the trip thinking that we were going to an amusement park for a week.  What I experienced from the moment I stepped onto Disney property was a place that was truly – I’m just going to say it – magical.  The attention to detail that went into everything from the food to the rooms to the rides and attractions transformed this place into a living, breathing story book and as silly as it sounds, for that whole week, I was a kid again. A kid who had to swipe napkins from every food stall because her tears of wonder were causing her mascara to run into her eyes.

I have returned several times since, and I have to say that I still feel that way each time.  I have learned to pack waterproof mascara though.

Ok, so why the blog?

Let me ask you this.  Have you been to Disney World? Are you thinking about going but want to know more first? Have you been several times but you just enjoy reading about it because it brings back happy memories? Are you wondering if you should try that restaurant or stay at that hotel? Do you hate everything Disney and you are just trying to figure out what the hype is all about?

Well, there’s your answer!

Happy reading. 🙂