By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — h. Where to Eat at Walt Disney World

Review: The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness

HOOP-DEE-DOO MUSICAL REVUE…REVIEW

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a musical comedy dinner show that plays three times a night in Pioneer Hall in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Simply put, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a hoot, and among the best experiences at Walt Disney World.

I’ve seen Hoop-Dee-Doo a half dozen times, most recently in July 2017. Not everyone is a fan; you can love Disney World and not find Hoop-Dee-Doo bearable; but if you love Hoop-Dee-Doo, you’ll find that you have exactly the right degree of silliness and child-like delight to enjoy everything else Walt Disney World has to offer.

For this reason it’s one of the quintessential Disney World experiences, and is included in all of my first-timer Disney World itineraries except the very shortest.

The best short description of the show at Hoop-Dee-Doo I’ve seen was in a history of the show published a few years ago on the D23 website: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a “goofball western vaudeville dinner show.”

Jim Korkis wrote about the history of Hoop-Dee-Doo for this site here. An excerpt:

The premise of the show is that a stagecoach of performers on their way to another engagement (and an actual stagecoach used to be positioned outside of Pioneer Hall to support that storyline) had broken down.

They come inside the dining hall to entertain while their stagecoach is being repaired and the guests enjoy an all-you-can-eat meal of fried chicken, ribs, strawberry shortcake and more between the corn-pone vaudeville acts. [Read more →]

September 10, 2017   3 Comments

Review: The New Market Quick Service at the Yacht Club

THE MARKET AT DISNEY’S YACHT CLUB RESORT

A new quick service venue opened at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort in mid-May. I checked it out then, and then again in my June visit.

Part of a renovation (not yet complete) of the Yacht Club’s gift shop area, the new venue provides shelf stable snacks and breakfast goods, frozen treats, fruit, pastries, drinks, a coffee bar, cold packaged food, an eating area, and hot food. All are successful except the hot food, which is quite limited.

Traditionally the biggest weakness of Disney World’s Epcot resorts has been their quick-service offerings. There’s a bit at the back of the Beach Club gift shop, more at the Stormalong Bay pool bar and grill, Hurricane Hanna’s, and a bit more at the Bakery along the Boardwalk. (Links are all to overviews on Disney’s site.)

The opening of the new Yacht Club venue, the Market, adds one more minor option among a bunch of other minor options. It’s better than nothing, but still quite limited.

On one side as you enter is the coffee bar and the area where hot food is prepared heated.

The coffee bar—Joffrey’s coffee—has the full range of coffee options.

Beyond the coffee and grill space is a seating area.

Deeper in the Market is a mix of shelf stable snacks, fruit, pastries, and breakfast items. Other than maybe the fruit, this is comparable to what you’ll find in many resort gift shops, but better merchandised.

Along a wall are freestyle refillable mug machines…

…and coffee, hot chocolate, tea, a toaster, and such.

Around the corner is a microwave and frozen treats.

On the opposite wall is the cold case and hot case.

A closer view of the cold case, with drinks on the left and sandwiches, salads and such on the right.

The hot case has a small selection of ready-to-eat cooked food.

This feta and spinach pastry came from it—it was delicious.

The same hot food can also heated to order behind the counter. The limited hot food menu is above.

My Ham and Cheddar Sandwich came from behind the counter looking like this.

Here it is out of its wrapping. This is likely a good choice for kids, as there is no particular taste for them to object to. I mixed hot sauce and mayonnaise together into a sort of gesture towards horseradish. With that it was fine.

The limited set of hot food means that, other than the drinks, there’s not much here beyond what you might find in a Disney World gift shop anyway. As an addition it is welcome, but it does little to make up for the general lack of quick service offerings in the Epcot resorts.

Note that Josh has a longer and more detailed review of the offerings at The Market here.

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June 6, 2017   2 Comments

Dining Options at Caribbean Beach During Its Refurb

The counter service area and Shutters table service venue in Centertown at Caribbean Beach closed earlier in May for replacement.

I’ll have more to say about the dining alternatives after my multi-night stay at Caribbean Beach in early June, but during an unexpected trip in mid-May I checked most of them out, including three meals—although not any breakfasts.

Here’s the initial version of the scoop with more to come after my June visit. I’ve also supplemented my own experience with info from a ton of helpful posts on the disboards.com Caribbean Beach thread.

THE CENTERTOWN FOOD TRUCK

The principal substitute venues are temporary fixtures just south of the main pool, between the pool and Trinidad North.

All day dining is available from a food truck. You order from the kiosk on the right above…

…and pick your food up at the truck itself. You can then eat outside, bring it to your room, or enter the air-conditioned buffet tent and eat there.

The menu is limited (click it to enlarge it)…

…but the burger was much better than most Disney food court burgers. The sliders and fish tacos look good, too.

I have no image of the breakfast menu, but you can find it here.

The food truck serves breakfast from 7-11.30a, and lunch and dinner (same menu) from 11.30a to 9p.

THE CENTERTOWN BUFFET

The main option, however, is the buffet. It’s open for breakfast and dinner. The breakfast menu is here.

Here’s the dinner menu. Frankly, there’s a little less here than meets the eye, so I strongly suggest that early on a stay at Caribbean Beach you go inside and inspect the actual offerings, so that if you later decide to have dinner here there’s no surprises.

You pay for the buffet at the same area where you pay for the food truck. Prices are $20.99 for those ten and up, and $11.99 for those 3-9 years old, or one quick service credit.

You then get an wrist band, which is what allows you into the buffet line—and allows the buffet tent to also serve double duty as an air-conditioned area for eating off the food truck, and/or filling your refillable mugs.

Here’s a couple of views of the buffet tent, which seats on the order of 250-300 people.

The buffet is all-you-can-eat if you dine in, and you can dine in or do it as a takeaway. However, you can’t both do a sit-down all-you-can-eat buffet meal and then also fill up a to-go plate. One or the other, bucko.

My main issue with the buffet is how limited the options are. Frankly, for a quick service credit, it’s nicely priced if you can find meal items you are in the mood for, but the adult cash price is high for the range of options available.

The first station combines some kids offerings with what the menu calls the “Pasta with a Selection of Sauces.” You’ll find here chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, meatballs, sausage, pasta alfredo, and pasta marinara.

Next are a couple of soups—on my visit, tomato and Island Conch Chowder. I had the chowder—it was very mild.

The salad section has precisely one greens option—mixed lettuce, mostly garden variety—well you know what I mean, it’s exactly the opposite of the variety of greens in our salad garden—six dressings, mixed fruit, and a couple of slaw-style options.

The entrée station includes the carving station—at my dinner, it was carved turkey. Other options include roast pork, jerk chicken, and shrimp curry. No beef—even though beef is common at carving stations at moderate and value food courts. If you want beef, get a burger at the food truck.

The turkey and the pork were dry—though the turkey gravy helped with that. However, I had some of the first turkey and pork of the evening—I arrived just after opening—and logistics needs may have meant that these were “older” and thus drier than what would be served later. I’ll check that out in June.

The image is of my second run through the buffet—my first plate was turkey, pork, jerk chicken, mashed potatoes, a roll, and salad. My second run included the chowder, shrimp curry, rice, and collard greens. All these were delightful, expect for the greens, which were far too sweet.

Vegetables available my visit included broccoli, mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes, rice, and collard greens.

There’s also a bread service area that I did not photograph adequately even by my low standards, and a dessert selection.

Off to the side is the beverage station, which is also accessible to those with refillable mugs. (You can get the mugs in the Island Markets, covered next.)

Service is incredibly attentive—I must have had three cast members ask me how the food was, and two others ask if they could get me a drink. Others have commented on nightly live music here as well—such was not playing during my early dinner, but I’ll keep my eye out for music on my June trip, likely to avoid it.

An expansion in offerings would make me not hesitate to recommend this buffet. Another pasta, another soup, one or two more leaf salad leaf options, some salad toppings, a beef entrée and one or two more “casserole” or sauced entrees, and a couple more vegetable options would round it out nicely.

But without that, unless what’s on offer works exactly for your group, it’s more of an emergency option than something I’d count on for a nice dinner at Caribbean Beach.

The buffet is open for dinner from 5-10p, and for breakfast from 6.30-11.30a.

THE ISLAND MARKETS

“Island Markets” are in three converted rooms—one each in Martinique (2509), Jamaica (4308), and Aruba (5524). (The first two digits of the room number indicate the building number.)

They offer

… ice cream (above, in the box at left), pastries, coffee and tea, cereals and pop tarts (with a microwave above)…

… drinks, yogurt, fruit, salads, sandwiches and wraps…

… and refillable mugs, bananas, and snacks.

The wraps/sandwich/fruit/salad choices are thin, and have sold out at times by early evening. I expect that problem to be largely fixed shortly as Disney learns more about patterns of demand.

Regardless, the offerings of these spaces work better for snacks and for breakfast supplies than they do as a place to grab lunch or a light dinner—unless you are thinking very light.

The Island Markets are open from 7a-10p.

THE FREESTYLE COKE MACHINES

Refillable mugs can be refilled in freestyle coke machines—where you get to design your own drink, like my favorite, peach Sprite.

These machines are available in one or two buildings in each village, replacing in those buildings the old-style Coke machines—which remain in the rest of the buildings. Find the right building, then follow the signs for Ice and Vending.

Buildings with the freestyle machines are marked on the resort map–note what I’ve circled in red.

THE TRINIDAD SOUTH FOOD TRUCK

The overview of dining at Caribbean Beach Disney provides does not include a food truck at Trinidad South.

But on my mid-May visit, one was there, on the parking lot side of the quiet pool…

…specializing in gyro and pita sandwiches (click the image to enlarge it).

I quite enjoyed my lamb and beef gyro. Lots of sauce…

I imagine that the absence of it being listed means you can’t count on it being there.  But if it is, it’s a handy option for those staying in the otherwise distant-from-food Pirate Rooms in Trinidad South.

IN-ROOM PIZZA

Another option is ordering off of the limited delivery menu, which features, pizza, wings and such. I’ve never had delivery pizza at Disney World, but will try it on my June visit and report out then.

THE VENDING MACHINE IN THE QUIET POOL LAUNDRIES

Finally, a post on the disboards thread noted above reminded me that there’s a vending snack machine in the quiet pool laundry rooms!

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May 22, 2017   5 Comments

The Basics: Dining at Walt Disney World

THE BASICS: DINING AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

The basic decision to make about dining at Disney World is how much money and time you wish to devote to it.

Disney World has a wide range of dining options, including distinctive and memorable family dining experiences, sophisticated and lovely “date night” options, a few venues that mix a bit of both, and multiple less special settings, including many options that essentially offer fast food.

The Basics - Where to Eat at Disney World

While prices vary tremendously, all Disney World options are more expensive than you’d pay at home.

Those on tight budgets will largely focus on the lower-priced fast-food-like venues which are found in all the parks and almost all the hotels—in Disney-speak, the “Counter Service” or “Quick Service” options. Eating off-property, and/or making some of your meals yourself is also an option, especially if you have a car, although doing so takes extra time. If you are paying cash for sit-down meals, dinner is almost always more expensive than other meals in the same venue. More ideas for saving on dining at Disney World are here.

Those who can afford more will likely find that dining becomes one of their favorite memories of their Disney World trip. Because of that, recommended dining is included in all of this site’s Disney World itineraries.

DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: SOME BASIC CONCEPTS

Nothing at Disney World is as simple as we’d all like it to be, so here’s some basic concepts (if you just want recommendations, skip to the next sections).

Types of meals

Besides the counter service dining mentioned above (also sometimes referred to as “quick service), there’s other kinds of dining—regular dining with menus, tables and waiters; buffets; and family style dining, kinda like a mini-buffet at your table, as various options are brought to your table and you serve yourself from among them. All these “other kinds of dining” are commonly referred to as “table service” options.

Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Sub-types among the table service options are character meals, where at some point during your meal you’ll get chance to meet, take pictures with, and get autographs from Disney characters; dinner shows, where in addition to your meal there’s a show of some sort; and signature dining—Disney lingo for “even more expensive than the rest.” These categories can get combined– Cinderella’s Royal Table is a character meal that’s also signature dining…

Reservations Open 180 Days Before—And Sometimes Close Then, Too

Table service dining reservations open 180 days ahead. (For those staying in a Disney World resort, they can book 180 days from their arrival date, and at the same time for the first ten days of their visit.) With the exception of Be Our Guest, quick service options neither offer nor require reservations.

Be Our Guest Restaurant from yourfirstvisit.net

Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom

The most popular family dining venues can book really quickly, so a key part of your To-Do List should be booking your dining 180 days ahead.

The Dining Plan

There are several Disney Dining plans, all of which are a way to pre-pay for some components of some of your meals. You have to be booked in a Disney-owned hotel to book a dining plan, and in turn you’ll receive various credits.

The regular dining plan can save real money for kids three to nine years old at one credit character meals and buffets. Otherwise, saving much money on any Disney Dining plan is unlikely.

Booking a plan, though, can provide the comfort of knowing that some of your dining expense are pre-paid, and as a result you can grab anything eligible on a menu for which you have available credits without worrying about its price.

A few key points on the dining plan:

  • Make sure you book your meals way in advance (the plan is of little value if the places you wan to eat are sold out.)
  • You’ll get the most value from using table service credits for dinner, and the least using them for breakfast.
  • The various meals that cost two credits are generally best paid for in cash (so long as you have good use of your remaining credits).

There’s much more on the dining plan in the second half of this post.

Free Dining

Disney World offers lots of deals except during the most crowded weeks of the year. Most popular of these is “Free Dining” which the past few years has been offered for much of September, and bits of October, November and December.

There’s much more on free dining at the top of this page. But the key is that those who get the deal get one of the dining plans for free—the Quick Service plan if they are staying in a value resort, and the regular plan if staying at a moderate or deluxe.

DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: BEST CHARACTER MEALS AND DINNER SHOWS

See this for the Disney World character meals and dinner shows ranked in order.

Me and Aurora at Akershus in Epcot

Me and Aurora at Akershus in Epcot

Princesses. Three meals include princesses—Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Akershus with Belle and a half dozen other princesses in Epcot, and Cinderella and her family in the evenings at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. Any can be a great choice. Cinderella’s Royal Table has the best setting but is by far the most expensive; 1900 Park Fare is the most fun, especially for boys and dads, and has the best food; Akershus is a great choice if you are going to Epcot, and more affordable than the Royal Table.

Mickey. Meals with Mickey can be found both in a couple of the parks and several of the hotels. Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary is the most popular, and breakfast with Mickey (and Lilo and Stitch) at the Polynesian is another great choice. Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom is the best choice for in-park dining with Mickey.

Me and Pooh at the Crystal Palace

Me and Pooh at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom

Other Characters. Other meals focus on different groups of characters, of which the most notable is the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom, with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger.

Dinner Shows. Of the three dinner shows, by far the best is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue.

DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: BEST DATE NIGHT OPTIONS

Your best date night choices are the California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge.

Victoria and Albert's at the Grand Floridian

Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian

Also worth mentioning is the breathtakingly expensive but also breathtakingly good Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian. Not suited for younger kids, it’s best for celebrations—engagements, graduations, winning the lottery (so you can pay for it).

DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: BEST OF THE REST

Bar at California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Bar at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Choices For Both Parents And Kids. Not many venues combine great kid appeal with date night quality and setting, but the California Grill and Be Our Guest (for dinner) come close. The California Grill combines great food with a view of the Magic Kingdom, and, if you time it right, its fireworks show Wishes. Be Our Guest at dinner combines a pretty good menu (and the only alcohol available in the Magic Kingdom) with a kid-pleasing setting and theme.

Picking Your Own Dining. I have a matrix here that sorts all the Disney World park and resort table service restaurants by kid and adult appeal. You won’t find a lot of dining reviews on this site, but there are overviews of dining in each of the parks, and reviews of every table service option, in Chapter 7 of the Disney World guidebook I co-author, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit. Here’s an example of one of our reviews:

The Wave Review from The easy Guide

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March 6, 2016   No Comments

Dining at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Beach Club Resort, click here.)

The Beach Club has two table service restaurants.

  • Beaches and Cream is a wonderful burger and ice cream shop, but is far too small for the demand for it.
  • The Cape May Cafe has at breakfast a buffet with Minnie and other characters, but not Mickey, and an above-average seafood buffet at dinner.

More table service dining is within walking distance at the Yacht Club and BoardWalk, but none has great kid or family appeal.

Quick service dining is quite limited, with just small venues at the back of the Beach Club gift shop and at the main pool.

At one end of the Beach Club, on the way to the Yacht Club (part of the same massive interconnected building) is Cape May Cafe, a table service restaurant that does Mickey-less character breakfasts with Minnie, Goofy and Donald, and a seafood-focused buffet at night.

Goofy at Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.net
Goofy in the distance…

cape-may-cafe-review-from-the-easy-guide

…and the review from The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017 .

Buffet Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Above is a shot of part of the Cape May dinner buffet…

Crab Legs Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…the crab legs, not part of the buffet but rather sent straight from the kitchen on request…

Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and the overall milieu.

Beaches n Cream at Disney's Beach Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

There’s another table-service option, accessible from on the outdoor veranda walkway connecting the Beach Club and Yacht Club, Beaches and Cream.

beaches-and-cream-review-from-the-easy-guideAbove is its review from The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017 .

There are more table service dining options within walking distance at the Yacht Club and BoardWalk, none of any special appeal to kids.

Counter Service at Disney's Beach Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.net
In this gift shop is also what passes for the only counter-service inside the Beach or Yacht Club–too small, too slow, too thin a menu.

On my last visit, the lunch/dinner menu had turkey, ham and roast beef sandwiches; a vegetable wrap; individual cheese or pepperoni flatbreads; Caesar salad; and soup. That’s it.

Shop Food Disney's Beach Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

At least the cold food section of the gift shop is better stocked than that of most other Disney World gift shops.

At the main pool shared by the Beach and Yacht Clubs, Stormalong Bay, the pool bar and grill, Hurricane Hanna’s, offers a different set of quick service options.

Here’s the menu (as always on this site, click it to enlarge it):

Hurricane Hanna's Menu Stormalong Bay from yourfirstvisit.net

Waits can be long at Hurricane Hanna’s.

OTHER AMENITIES AT DISNEY’S BEACH CLUB RESORT

This review continues here!

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January 10, 2016   No Comments

A Report (And Video!) From Breakfast at Be Our Guest

My friend Allison had a chance to try out the new breakfast offering at the Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest. Here’s her report!!

BREAKFAST AT BE OUR GUEST

By Allison

One of the most popular restaurants at Disney World is Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom. Until recently this restaurant served only lunch and dinner. A few days ago, Disney opened this restaurant to include breakfast.

A Report and Video on Breakfast at Be Our Guest from yourfistvisit.netWe know a lot of guests were really excited about this new breakfast, so I grabbed my own family and headed off to Magic Kingdom. I have dined at Be Our Guest many times for lunch and dinner and was anxious to try the breakfast.

The breakfast is a counter service meal. However, it is a set price. The adult meal is $19.99 and the child meal is $11.99. This does include a beverage and a complimentary pastry plate of treats.

You select one entree from a list of menu items; including Eggs Florentine, Vegetable Quiche, Open-Face Bacon and Egg Sandwich, Croissant Doughnut, Scrambled Egg Whites, or Assorted Meats and Cheeses. For the kids, you can choose from Crepes, French Toast, Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, or Cereal.

Since this a counter service meal, you walk up to an electronic kiosk to order your food and then are escorted to an area to sit. You still seat yourself, get your own beverages and utensils.

Your MagicBand (if you have one) or “rose” (themed after Beauty and the Beast) will tell the Cast Member where to deliver your food. They do deliver your food in a very “cool” way that you can see in the video below. You do not have to bus your tables after your meal, Disney will do that for you.

During your breakfast, all three rooms are open so you can wander throughout Be Our Guest. The atmosphere and dining inside Beast’s Castle is the real fun of dining at Be Our Guest. It is truly magical! Enjoy our family’s breakfast experience at Be Our Guest, including an honest opinion.

Since we were at Magic Kingdom, we had to hit some rides, including Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Little Mermaid.

We even spent some time at the new hub in front of Cinderella Castle and saw the Easter Bunny!

What do you think of Be Our Guest Restaurant? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear about your experience!

* * * * *

Thanks, Allison!  For those of you who don’t know her, Allison has either worked or played at Disney World for the past 35 years.

She was a past Cast Member at Typhoon Lagoon and Tower of Terror.  She continued her love of Disney by starting Destinations in Florida Travel.  With over 60 agents, Destinations in Florida is considered the premier travel agency by guests, media, and the destinations themselves.

Contact Allison at allison@destinationsinflorida.com or Kelly at kellyb@destinationsinflorida.com if you would like to book your upcoming Disney & Orlando vacation.

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March 26, 2015   No Comments