Walt Disney World 2012 Day Three Trip Report

Click here for our Day One coverage….

and here for our Day Two coverage.

Now, onto Day Three!

Day 3: Alright, confession time.  This was the day in our trip where I didn’t really know what to expect.  Here was the itinerary I sorta laid out:

8:00am-9:00am: Take advantage of Hollywood Studios’ Extra Magic Hours to finally experience Toy Story Midway Mania

9:00am-1:00pm: Animal Kingdom

1:15-2:30pm: Lunch at Sanaa, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village

3:00pm-6:00pm: Blizzard Beach

See, I’d only been to Animal Kingdom once before, back in 2004, and was massively underwhelmed.  As its newest park, it’s also the resort’s most spartan in terms of attractions (the addition of Avatarland will help address that, though, as I’m sure many Disney-philes feel, I’m kinda sad Disney didn’t reach into its own catalog and pull out stuff from The Lion King or something like that instead. Maybe that’s too obvious…) Granted, I should note that, the one day I visited some eight years ago, it was also pouring down rain, it was pre-Expedition: Everest, and I was with my freshman year roommate, so things like Camp Minnie-Mickey didn’t really appeal to us.

I wanted to give Animal Kingdom another shot, though, since I know there’s a small but ardent fan base for the park.  Did I just miss something the first time around? The schedule was tight, but I thought we could do most of the major Animal Kingdom attractions in about 4 hours.

Well, as it turns out, after staying in the Magic Kingdom the night before until 2:00am and not getting back to the hotel until 3:00, we were bushed, and I couldn’t get myself to wake up at 7:00am to get my butt over to Hollywood Studios for the Toy Story ride.  We were working on a combined 9 hours of sleep over the past two nights and I just had to sleep in…until 8:00am.

Was I ever going to get to ride Toy Story Midway Mania??

(more…)

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Book Review: The Disney Food Blog Guide to Walt Disney World Dining

Here’s an excerpt from the Disney World planning e-mail I sent Lance yesterday:

OKAY!

Here’s what I’ve compiled for our time at Disney.
Thursday, June 28th (EPCOT!)
Breakfast: Boardwalk Bakery (opens 6:30am)
Lunch: Sunshine Seasons (Future World) or Yorkshire County Fish Shop (UK pavilion)
Snack: Kringla Bakeri og Cafe (school bread, sweet pretzels; Norway pavilion) or Boulangerie Patisserie (France pavilion) or Karamell-Kuche (caramel corn, caramel corn cupcake; Germany pavilion) or Kabuki Cafe (kaki gori [shave ice]; Japan pavilion)
Dinner: La Hacienda de San Angel (reservation @ 8:15pm) or Via Napoli (reservation @ 6:20pm) or Les Chefs de France (reservation @ 5:00pm)
Other counter-service options (if we just can’t decide on something for dinner) include:
After dinner: Downtown Disney [walk back to Boardwalk Inn, transfer to bus (19 min)]
I decided we don’t need to do Fantasmic! (the night show) at Hollywood Studios since they do a version of it at Tokyo DisneySea, so we can just catch it then.
So, when did I become so anal retentive about our Disney World trip?
One of the most stressful aspects of Lance and I travelling together is that we are both terribly indecisive, which can lead to time and opportunity squandered as we can’t come up with what to do or where to eat.
Well, I wasn’t having any of that in Disney World.  I wanted the following three things set ahead of time:
  1. where we were going each day;
  2. what we were doing each day;
  3. and where we were going to eat.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Disney dining beyond the counter service pizza and hamburgers at places littered throughout the parks.  In the past, that was all I could afford and, honestly, I didn’t want to spend the time sitting down at a restaurant when I could be standing in line for the Country Bear Jamboree.

At some point in the Disney planning process, I stumbled upon the Disney Food Blog, a website, edited by AJ Wolfe, chock full of wonderful coverage, reviews, and PHOTOS! (blessed be the photos) of Disney dining.  I realized, after perusing DFB, that I could incorporate some finer dining into our trip to make it a more worthwhile experience, especially since we were staying at a Disney resort this trip and had more time to play with.

And, duh!, the biggest revelation for this Disney dining novice: I could also just find a character meal (i.e., a meal where characters like Mickey or Stepmother Tremaine from Cinderella [for real? who wants to see her?] show up and interact/take photos with the guests) and get all of my character photos out of the way in one fell-swoop as opposed to waiting in lines in the parks for hours, collectively. (We shoulda done this, Colleen, instead of waiting in Toon Town for an hour and then me calling you a bad name afterward out of frustration and exhaustion. The more you know..!)

The most comprehensive, one-stop-shop for all of DFB’s coverage is AJ’s The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2012 e-book.  Not only is it updated annually, but as an e-book, it’s loaded with links to more extensive reviews and photo essays on their site, and is great to take with you to the parks on a smartphone (or, if you’re adventurous, a tablet).

A significant chunk of the book is dedicated to spelling out the different dining options (table-service, counter-service, character dining, signature dining, dining plans, advanced dining reservations, etc.) at Disney, the complexity of which can be labyrinthine, so I appreciated the straightforward layman explanations.

The book also comes with budgeting spreadsheets and sample dining itineraries which I found to be extremely helpful.  The list of recommended snack options (like the Norway pavilion’s school bread or the Dole Whip–how’d I never heard of this before??) has made it into our Disney vacay plan, as you can see above.

Lance will also be happy with the book’s comprehensive list of bars and lounges, which I’m sure he’ll need to utilize after one trip on It’s a Small World.

My one gripe with the book? Not enough pictures of the food!  I found myself going to the DFB site for more extensive photo coverage, or even Yelp and TripAdvisor.

The DFB as a whole is a great resource in maximizing your Disney vacation. The biggest downside is that it brings to your attention food and restaurants you probably wouldn’t have considered before, and suddenly you’ve made two dozen reservations for three meal times! (As seen above. Oops.)  My biggest disappointment about this trip already is how our discounted conference-rate room at the Boardwalk Inn doesn’t allow for the Disney Dining Plan to be added to it. Boo! Think about all I could’ve eaten then…

The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-book comes in a bundle pack (which includes their main guide and separate, more extensive guides for Epcot and Magic Kingdom snacks) for $46.95, or you can buy the main guide separately for $18.95.

Highly recommended if you want to eat something different than hot dogs every day (but if you do, The DFB Guide covers where to find the best hot dogs! No joke), though I may be cursing its name after I’ve been to three buffets in one weekend.  Eep!

Disneyphiles! Where do you recommend to eat in the parks?