Monday, 17 September 2012

Top 5 special souvenirs!

How do you pick out a special Disney souvenir? With so much to choose from, it's hard to pick out just one or two souvenirs from our trips. If we had our own way (and a never emptying bank account!) we'd probably come home with everything Mousegear sells and a Giraffe from Kilimanjaro Safaris!

Before we look at my top 5 special Disney souvenirs, here's a few shopping tips too;

  • Pull out your camera phone or digital camera and take a picture of the store-front, including name, and then take a picture of the item you're pondering buying. I'm always forgeting where I saw that perfect Disney souvenir! 
  • Keep in mind that many parks have park-specific merchandise, which means you will only find the particular item in question in that park! If you've got park hoppers you'll be OK to nip back into the park another day and pick it up, but if you don't have that option you might want to ask a Cast Member if it's available in other parks, if not then you'll have to buy it that very same day.
  • If you're a Disney Resort Guest have your purchases sent back to your hotel, they'll be with you by the next day and it saves you carrying all those goodie filled bags around all day! For Non-Resort guests, you can have you items sent to the front of the park, but if you're leaving early let the Cast Member know or you might end up waiting around for your purchases!

source: paflip25
Now, onto the Top 5 Special Walt Disney World Souvenirs! 

  1. Personalized everything and anything. If you ca have a carving, etching or embroidery put on the thing then go for it! Nothing is more unique than a personalized gift! Kids love anything with their names on and anything with a date on is a great way to bring back the memories of your trip. My favorites are; bathrobes, Mickey ears and Christmas ornaments!
  2. Subtle dinnerware! Not so much a gift for the children but Walt Disney World do some amazing dinner sets that don't scream 'eek-look-at-me-I'm-covered-in-Mickeys' that are both fun and practical. They're also something that's pretty hard to come by back home! I adore the pizza slice plates and the utensils. 
  3. Music really does make Walt Disney World go around, just hearing the opening line to Wishes puts a smile on my face when I'm back home in Ye Olde England watching rain drizzle down my window. All of the music you hear in the parks is available to buy at various locations on CD and I've seen a selection available for download on iTunes too! 
  4. Books, books and more books! If you're a Disney history buff, want to know what makes an Imagineears tick or the truth behind the Evil Queen then you will find a plethora of books all over Walt Disney World. Have a family member keen or architecture or animation? Both? How about cooking? You know you just have to have the recipe for the cinnamon bread at O'Hanas! You'll find some wonderful Disney Editions to suit all tastes and interests. 
  5. Pressed Pennies are the cheapest souvenir next to freebies! Kids love cranking the machines and watching their coins get squished, stretched and imprinted with their favorite Disney characters! Be sure to try and use the shiniest of pennies! There are machines all over Walt Disney World, resorts, parks and even some limited edition machines that come out for special events. My favorite are the ones that imprint the date on - you won't be able to get that the year after! They not only make a great collection but are brilliant embellishments for scrapbooks of those who make their own jewelry or accessories!
What are your favorite Disney souvenirs?

Until next time,

Monday, 10 September 2012

Should you avoid Magic Kingdom on a MNSSHP event night?

source: dawnzy58

MNSSHP, or Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party kicks off this month, a fantastic Halloween event that takes place on select nights from mid September through October. Its fun for all ages and a great way to celebrate this hauntingly good holiday! Magic Kingdom is completely decked out in time for the season, with pumpkins and Disney characters in costume. Ghostly specters dance across the shop fronts on Main Street USA all the way towards the Castle, swirling around the turrets and evaporating before your eyes.

No Halloween celebration would be complete without some trick or treating and there are several stations set up through-out the park, you can pick up a special event map showing all of them - my favorite has to be the pathway to the left of Space Mountain, treat station after treat station all in a row! And those Cast Members are pretty generous with their goodies too!

Special character meet and greets are set up all over the park, where your favorite characters put on their own Halloween costumes for the celebrations - and you're encouraged to wear a costume too (no face masks though!). They have fun filled dance parties with Djs and disco floors themed to particular characters or areas of the park, tons of fun for the younger ones in your party and if you go early enough you'll snag some wonderful alone time with the characters too (keep those cameras to hand!)

source: whami
MNSSHP has it's own parade 'headed' by the head-less horseman, characters in costumes and the infamous 'Boo to You' soundtrack (if you've heard it before I bet you can't help but sing the chorus for the rest of this post!)

The night ends in the only way a night in Magic Kingdom could ever end - with a fireworks show! Hallo-Wishes puts a ghoulish spin on the classic, as Disney Villains try to take over the Magic Kingdom in a spectacle of lights, sounds and blast to the beat fireworks!

With all of this going on, should you really be venturing into Magic Kingdom when an event is scheduled that night? My answer is yes!

MNSSHP is a separate ticketed event, the party starts around 7pm and party goers are able to start coming into the park around 3 hours before show-time. Regular park guests are encouraged to start leaving before the party and they stop allowing them through the turnstiles around an hour or so before the party starts. Cast Members won’t force non-party goers out of the park, but you’ll find yourself politely pushed towards the exit. That being said, it’s great to hang around Main Street as the party gets going, seeing everyone coming in in their costumes, the effort that’s gone into some of them is amazing! I’ve seen many a guest be mistaken for being on the Disney payroll!

During the day you won’t find the party any busier than usual and as the party goers start coming in, most of them tend to hang around the top of Main Street, getting pictures taking, tacking wings back onto their backs etc. You’ll probably see a few fairies and cowboys in the lines but from my personal experience, I’ve never noticed any dramatic increases in the wait times!

As October 31st draws closer the parties will get busier, so you might want to leave the park a little earlier than planned around that time.

Don’t let an event night put you off a day in the parks, if you have a park hopper ticket you could always head to Magic Kingdom for the morning, then head off elsewhere in the afternoon. If you only have that one day in the park then make the most of it, just know that on event nights you won’t get to see any of the nighttime parades or Wishes as the park closes to regular guests by 7pm.

Do your plans change when you know there’s an event on the horizon?

Until next time,

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Big groups get hungry too!

Could you feed a large Disney dining group on Mickey bars?
How many Mickey bars would feed your group?
Source: Lisa Kline1

What’s the best Walt Disney World restaurant for…big group dining?

When you’re planning for a large group traveling to Walt Disney World everything becomes so much harder – especially planning big group dining!

Most big groups touring Walt Disney World tend to split off into smaller units as the day goes by, eventually meeting back up for shows, parades, fireworks or food! Counter service locations are pretty easy to work with, with places like the ABC Commissary offering a wide variety of choices, you’re sure to please just about everyone in the group.

Sit down meals can be a little more difficult. Not only are the menus more limited, space can be a problem too! As delicious as those sandwiches are at The Plaza in Magic Kingdom but could you really, comfortably, fit a party of 10 in there? If you don’t mind splitting the group up then it could work anywhere, but when I talk about big group dining, I’m picturing everyone around the same table!

Boma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Buffet style dining is a great way to cater for every palette in the group. Boma is a great location serving up all American favorites with an African flair. From traditional chicken tenders to curried sausage and the infamous zebra domes, you don’t need me to tell you how mouth-watering it all is! Not only do they have a great food choice, the place is spacious to boot and they have no issues around catering for large groups. Long tables and large circular booths are available and due to the layout, it’s easy to push a good few tables together to seat larger dining groups without feeling like you’re on each others knees.

O’Hanas at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

If evening diners time it right you can get a great view of Wishes from the window seats – they even pipe in the music! O’Hanas is a buffet again (do you see where I’m going with this?) served family style. Family style means the food is brought to your table on large skillets – want more of something? Just ask your server and they will top you right up! O’Hanas has these great, large round tables too – everyone gets to face one another and be involved in the over dinner chatters about the day!  

Via Napoli
If you’re looking for a non-buffet option and an all round pleaser, pizza is always going to go down well! I’ve heard rave reviews from the large touring groups about Via Napoli. They’ve been able to seat whole groups together and all the food came out at the same time! Meal timing for large groups can always be a sore point, nobody wants to start without anyone else but they don’t want their food to go cold either. Via Napoli seem to get their timing spot on – and who doesn’t love pizza?

Where would you suggest for big group dining at Walt Disney World?

Until next time,

Monday, 3 September 2012

Top 5 - Must do Foods!

I like my food I won’t deny it, and I’ve gone on I don’t know how much about how I love dining in Walt Disney World, from counter to table and the popcorn stands in between, food is a big part of our trips. Free Disney dining makes it even more enjoyable and allows us to eat at so many new places on property, opening up more dining options than ever before.

Each trip I always like to throw in a new dining experience, which is hard when you travel with some fussy eaters and can take some coaxing to step away from the chicken strips and try something new! But usually, I manage to get at least one in there – the beauty of the free dining plan; if you don’t like it, at least you haven’t had to pay for it! (OK, so at table services you are paying the tip but it’s a lot less than the entire bill!)

Our upcoming trip is no different, we have a couple of advanced dining reservations (ADRs) at some never-before-tried locations and I have big plans for those snack credits!

So what are my upcoming trip must-do-foods?

1.       Cup cake crawl – I don’t have the tolerance for a round the world drinking tour, but cup cakes I can stomach by the truck load!  I recently came across this post over at the Disney Food Blog and wow! Just look at all that confectionary goodness! White chocolate, red velvet, peanut butter, spiced apple…my mouth waters at the thought! What better way to experience the cake offerings of Walt Disney World than an unofficial crawl around resorts and parks! The Disney Food Blog gives a great plan of munching attack, giving you the best opportunity to sample some of the best! Challenge accepted!

2.       Via NapoliNext to cake my all time favorite food has to be pizza! I’ve been wanting to eat here since it opened, those traditional wood smoked pizzas, with their and tossed bases and various cheesy gooeyness look delicious! This place has been getting rave reviews for it’s fresh food, and authentic gelatos! I’ve heard those Italian wines are pretty good too!
3.       Sleepy Hollow Refreshments – updated their menu towards the end of 2011, introducing some interesting waffle sandwiches! I love me a good Mickey waffle for breakfast but here in the UK, we don’t generally make a spicy chicken sandwich with them! If I can’t brace the chicken waffle sandwich then I’ll substitute for a fresh Nutella waffle sandwich! Everything tastes great with Nutella! (Except maybe the spicy chicken!)
4.       Teppan Edo & the Katsura Grill -  I’ve been trying to convince our group to eat here for ages and finally succeeded! Score! Teppan Edo combines great food with an entertaining table top cookery show, whilst Katsura Grill offers Japanese cuisine at counter service prices. I’m looking forward to their vegetable pancake and green tea swirl cake!
5.       Victoria Falls loungenot so much a food-do as a drink-do! My last trip to Walt Disney World, I promised myself a stop by the bar, those brown leather chairs, dark wood flows and the sounds of Boma alive below, it’s so inviting – but my invite got lost somewhere between extra magic hours and not enough hours in the day! So it’s a will do for the next trip! Give me something that glows!   

What's on you're food-to-do list?

Until next time,