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Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.



So you want to go to Disney World. Good for you. Before we go any further, though, I must tell you: there are about one billion quality Walt Disney World vacation websites out there. However, most are concerned with the minutiae of planning and visiting the “Vacation Kingdom of the World,” and they're not too newbie-friendly. What I've written here is an introduction to Disney World for those who've thought about going but haven't yet pulled the trigger. This post will be light on details. I'm aiming for clear answers to broad and common questions that will give you an idea of what to expect when planning and while you’re there.

I know there are other Disney World fans on these forums, so if you think I've omitted something important or got something wrong, chime in. I'll be happy to amend the OP when necessary.

OK. When people think about going to Disney World for the first time, they usually think this is where they're going...



...which is Disneyland, not Walt Disney World. Same thing, right? FALSE. Let's start things off the right way by getting our bearings. This won't take long.

In 1955, Walter E. Disney opened Disneyland in southern California. He and his entertainment properties were already very well known, and the theme park opened to tremendous fanfare and was an instant hit. He and his team had essentially built the very first “theme” (as opposed to “amusement”) park, so they learned everything the hard way. Walt soon realized his vision of Disneyland was limited by simple geography. Expansion beyond the park's original boundaries was difficult if not impossible, as the property was quickly surrounded by a zillion unsightly restaurants, gas stations and cheap hotels. By 1959 he was already looking for a place to build a bigger, better park, where the real world could not encroach.

I'm telling you this so you can understand what Walt Disney World is not: it's not a standalone theme park like Disneyland, but an entire city in central Florida that includes four world-class theme parks, two water parks, 26 hotels, five golf courses, nightclubs, restaurants, camping, fishing, para-sailing, and way, way too many things to list here.

Here is Disneyland (the one in California), along with its sister-park Disney's California Adventure, plus all Disney-owned hotels and parking:



That’s one mile by ¾ of a mile. Shown at the same scale, here is Florida's Walt Disney World:

[click for full size]


So you see we're not screwing around here. That's 47 square miles (121 square kilometers), roughly twice the size of Manhattan. You don't really drive in, park the car, ride some rides and drive home. Well, you can, but that would miss the point entirely. Walt Disney World wasn't built for a day of fun; it was designed as a vacation destination. And it is bad rear end.

This guide is written for the Disney World first-timer. Some call the place intimidating for novices, but that's an undeserved bad rap. Yes, there is much to see and much to do. In fact, too much for a single visit, so don't get caught up in I-want-to-see-everything. It’s very easy to have a smooth, stress-free Disney World vacation, and still experience the things that make Disney World worth your time and money. Whatever you miss, you can do next time you visit. Oh yes, there will be a next time.

First...what to do...




The bulk of what you'll do at Disney World will be at the four main theme parks.

The Magic Kingdom – This is what most people think of when they think of Disney World. Cinderella's castle, Space Mountain and so on. It was patterned after Disneyland. This is the heart and soul of Disney World, and it was the first (and when it opened in 1971, the only) Disney World theme park.

Epcot – Formerly EPCOT Center, this park opened in 1982. Disney refers to it internally as a “discovery park.” It's split into two distinct (but still very large) sub-parks: Future World, featuring several pavilions that explore specific fields of technology or nature. Here you'll find The Seas, Universe of Energy, Mission: Space and so on. Second, we have World Showcase: eleven pavilions, each representing a different country. All World Showcase pavilions have a signature restaurant, smaller eateries and plenty of shops. Several have rides or attractions, too. Unlike at Magic Kingdom, alcohol flows freely at Epcot. World Showcase is actually the world’s greatest bar. Hey, can I buy an enormous beer and walk around with it? Of course you can.

Disney's Hollywood Studios – This movie-themed park opened in 1989. Yep, there are rides: Star Tours, Rock-N-Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and more. Plenty of shows, and much food and drink. If you've been to Universal Studios, you'll find all of this familiar. But you'll also notice it's distinctly a notch above what you've experienced at other movie parks.

Disney's Animal Kingdom – Half zoo, half-theme park. Think Busch Gardens or Sea World, but more high-end and with fewer coasters. Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 and (like Hollywood Studios) is just now starting to be considered an all-day park. Just as impressive and immersive as the other three, Animal Kingdom features the largest single attraction at Disney World: the Kilimanjaro Safaris, a safari through a simulated east Africa with real animals; it's larger than the entire Magic Kingdom. I find Animal Kingdom to be the most immersive and intricately themed park at WDW.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Not to give the rest of Disney World short shrift, but there's way, way too much other stuff to cover here. Just understand that most of your time and fun will be at the four main parks. Everything you do outside the parks will also be really fun, but I don't have time to deal with them here and it's best you discover that stuff yourself, anyway. Some of it is dealt with piece-by-piece below. Still, here's a thumbnail sketch:

• Water parks Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

• Disney Springs*, a dining and entertainment complex with indoor theme park Disney Quest, its own Cirque du Soliel show, craploads of shopping, nightclubs and bars, plus more. It's a nighttime entertainment district, basically. *This used to be called Downtown Disney, and you'll hear it called that a lot. It’s now undergoing a massive refurb/rebuilding which will roughly double the total number of shops, restaurants and attractions, plus completely re-theme the district. As I write this (April 2014), the entire area is much more a demolished Downtown Disney than a functioning Disney Springs, so this forum recommends you just stay away for now. I'm sure it will be lovely when it's complete, but it's a wreck right now, with not a lot to do. It's all scheduled to be complete in 2015.

• Amazing golf courses, all 4 or 4.5 stars

• A sports complex and full-size speedway where you –yes, you– can drive a NASCAR

• Dining and entertainment at a lot of the aforementioned 26 hotel/resorts

• Fishing/boating/nighttime cruises on three different lakes

Plus all the ancillary stuff like water parades, fireworks, horseback riding, etc. Like I said, way more than I can do justice to here, but as you spend more time at Disney World, you'll discover all kinds of stuff like this on your own.




HOW TO GET THERE AND WHERE TO STAY

I'll discuss the “where to stay” part first. In some ways that will affect how you get there.

ON-SITE HOTELS & RESORTS

There are advantages to staying at a Walt Disney World hotel or resort. They're convenient, as they're all on-property, and have free transportation to the individual parks, Downtown Disney and the other resorts. They're high-quality, as is pretty much everything at Disney World. Great service at all the hotels, and outstanding amenities at the nicer, more expensive resorts. And they grant certain perks, like early-entry or after-hours admission to the parks. The one drawback used to be that they were all considerably more expensive than off-property non-Disney hotels, but that's no longer the case, as discussed below.

Disney categorizes its hotels into three tiers.

Deluxe resorts – These top tier options include everything you'd expect at a fancy resort: full-service dining, on-site recreation and entertainment, really fancy pools and/or beach access, luggage service, concierge service, child care, the whole enchilada. Three of them –the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian– have direct monorail service to the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center. But more on that later. Off-season prices are as low as $280 per night at the least expensive deluxe resort, and start at $480 a night at the most expensive. All hotels are more expensive during peak season. NOTE: For most, if not all, of 2014, the Polynesian is undergoing major expansion and refurbishment. It will be a construction zone much of the time, so you may want to stay someplace else until it's done.

Moderate resorts – These are nice hotels with a number of extras. Full-service dining, food courts, nice swimming pools, luggage service, and so on. Off-season prices are as low as $165 per night.

Value resorts – Amenities include food courts, hourly luggage service and swimming pools. Despite the low price and lack of luxuries, they're still very clean and well-themed, just like the moderate and deluxe joints. And you still get great service. Off-season prices are as low as $85 per night at the least expensive value resort, and start at $100 a night at the most expensive.

The value resorts started appearing in the 1990s (I think), as Disney noticed many people were unwilling to pay premium prices for on-site hotel rooms, especially larger families that needed multiple rooms or a suite. Now you can get a 6-person family suite for as little as $200 a night (same room at the Grand Flo starts at $1,235 a night). The newest value resort opened in 2012.

I'll say this: if you're willing to shell out the dough for one of the nicer hotels, you will know where that money went. There's a very discernible jump from each category to the next.

OFF-SITE HOTELS

Yeah, OK, I don't know anything about these, beyond that they range from fantastic to awful, and that you'll generally pay less for the same grade of hotel, compared to a Disney property. Many (if not all) offer complimentary shuttle service to and from locations inside Disney World. More than that, I can't tell you, so if anyone out there has some experience with off-site hotels, please post your tips and experiences. I'll add the good stuff to the OP.

HOTELS SUMMARY

For what it's worth, I recommend staying on-site. Assuming you fly to Orlando (rather than drive), your hotel will probably be the least expensive part of your vacation if you stay at a value resort. Seriously, you're going to spend a poo poo-ton of money on everything from park tickets to food, drinks and souvenirs. Staying on-site affords you a lot of convenience you won't otherwise get.

If you're really ready to dip deep into your wallet, stay at one of the “Magic Kingdom resorts.” Those are the three I mentioned above: the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian. All of the deluxe resorts are really great, but these three in particular have monorail stations. Transportation around the World is discussed below, but for now I'll just say that direct monorail access will have a bigger positive impact on your stay than just about anything else. Without leaving your hotel, you board a monorail that takes you directly to the Magic Kingdom or to the Ticket and Transportation Center, where you can board another monorail to Epcot, or get on a bus or boat to any other location at Disney.

I cannot overstate the level of convenience this represents. Just think: it's closing time at MK or Epcot. You and about ten-bajillion other people are all leaving at the same time because everyone wants to leave right after they watch the fireworks. 9.9-bajillion will go to their cars in the parking lot, or wait in line for a bus; both of those options are lousy under the best of circumstances. Toting a couple of exhausted kids? Your long hike and long wait just got worse. But if you're staying at a Magic Kingdom hotel, it's one or two monorail rides to your hotel lobby. Not even your hotel's parking lot...the freaking lobby. There are similar advantages to staying at an Epcot-area resort, but those are dealt with below.

Finally, I strongly recommend avoiding Disney World during “peak season,” as it’s called. That boils down to: mid-June through Labor Day, plus any other holiday during which kids are not in school. Peak season is the most expensive time to visit, and the most crowded. And oh my God, is it ever so hot and muggy in the summer. When the park is full, you’ll wait in line for 2 hours to ride Haunted Mansion; in January, you’ll walk on. There are many online resources detailing the best and worst times of year.

For you spatial thinkers, here's a big map of the entire resort, listing all the parks, water parks and hotels. I also included the TTC and the monorail lines (marked in orange).

Click for big:


Magic Kingdom Hotels
C - Contemporary
GF - Grand Floridian
P - Polynesian
WL - Wilderness Lodge

The first three hotels are all connected by the Magic Kingdom Resort monorail, which runs clockwise and stops at the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary, TTC, Polynesian and Grand Floridian. (The Magic Kingdom Express monorail runs counter-clockwise and only stops at the Magic Kingdom and the TTC. The two lines are side by side: the hotel line is the inner ring and the express is the outer ring.) You can walk from the Contemporary to the MK. Wilderness Lodge is NOT on the monorail line; boats run from Wilderness lodge directly to Magic Kingdom. Take a bus from WL to the TTC.

Epcot Hotels
B - Boardwalk Inn
SD - Swan and Dolphin (technically two separate hotels, but many people treat them as one)
YB - Yacht Club and Beach Club (again, two separate hotels, but they are similarly themed and share the same space)

These hotels are walking distance to Epcot (particularly the Yacht and Beach Club). They are all served by boats that run a 5-stop circuit: Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Boardwalk - Swan & Dolphin - Yacht and Beach Club. If you walk (or boat) to Epcot, you'll enter the park at World Showcase, not the main park entrance at the far end of Future World. This is especially cool if you're just hitting Epcot for dinner or fireworks.

All other hotels
AA - Art of Animation Resort
AK - Animal Kingdom Lodge
AS - All-Star Music Resort
CB - Caribbean Beach Resort
CS - Coronado Springs
FW - Fort Wilderness (a campground)
KW - Old Key West
PC - Pop Century
PO - Port Orleans
SG - Shades of Green
SS - Saratoga Springs (walking distance to Downtown Disney)

TTC - Transportation and Ticket Center. The monorail lines are marked in orange: two lines ring the Magic Kingdom resorts, and the Epcot express runs back and forth between Epcot and the TTC.

Downtown Disney [the map still says "Downtown Disney," but it's in the process of becoming Disney Springs.] and the two water parks are also marked.


HOW TO GET THERE

You have two options: drive there or fly there.

We’ll start with driving. I’m the oddball in my family, as I’m the only one that hates road trips. Still, you’ll save a LOT of money by driving. And I don’t just mean the huge difference between gasoline and airfare; you can also bring a lot of stuff with you that isn’t practical to fly with, like a cooler full of food and beverages to keep in the hotel room.

Having your own vehicle definitely makes mealtime less expensive. There are a lot of family-friendly dining options just off-property, and you’ll generally pay less than on-property for the same quality food.

Disney hotels offer free parking for guests staying at the resort. If you plan to travel to places outside WDW –like Sea World or Universal– having your own car is the best option. If you plan to stay on Disney property, you may leave the car in the parking lot for the entire vacation, as Disney transportation is frequently the most convenient way to travel around the World (more on that below).

I’d appreciate some more knowledgeable info from the other WDW vacationers out there. I don’t think my wife and I have ever left the resort during any of our stays.

If you fly, you’ll arrive at Orlando International Airport (MCO). Once there, you have a number of options to get to your hotel (it’s a 30-minute drive from MCO to WDW)…

• Option A: Rent a car. As mentioned above, if you’re staying at a Disney hotel, you’re unlikely to need the car once you check in; if you don’t think you’ll be driving the family off-property for meals or other entertainment, consider one of the options below. However, if you’re staying off property, a rental car is a wiser (but still optional) choice. Many hotels that border Disney World offer inexpensive or complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport, and round trip shuttles to the parks. Keep in mind that waiting for a shuttle can be tiresome, especially with kids in tow.

• Option B: Pay for a shuttle bus/town car/limo. This can be arranged through your travel agent, through Disney, or on your own. A town car or limo can be pricey, but if you’re with a decent-sized group, splitting a limo makes it very affordable. Plus, a town car or limo is the quickest and most comfortable way to get to your hotel…you know, there’s a guy in a hat waiting at baggage claim, holding a sign with your name on it. Very cool. If you want a garden-variety shuttle instead of some fancy-pants limousine, Mears is probably the most-used shuttle servicing Walt Disney World. They use 10- to 12-passenger shared vans, and it’s best to book your shuttle service ahead of time. The shuttle may make multiple stops. As of this writing, a Mears shuttle van round-trip costs $34 for an adult, $27 for a child and is free for 3-and-under.

• Option C: Use a hotel shuttle. It’s my understanding that many off-property hotels offer free or low-cost shuttle service to and from the airport. I’ve never used this service, so if any readers would like to contribute some more info, please do.

• Option D: Disney’s Magical Express. Here’s how it works: First, you have to be staying at a Disney hotel. Doesn’t matter which one. When your plane lands, you go straight from the gate to Disney’s Magical Express area, check in, then get on a nice Disney bus which takes you to your hotel. You do not need to pick up your luggage from baggage claim. Disney will get it for you, and deliver it to your hotel room. The service costs nothing. It sounds like WDW is doing you a big favor, and they are, kind of, but the real reason they want you to use Magical Express is so you can’t hop in your rent car and drive somewhere else to spend your money. Cynical, yes, but if you don’t plan on leaving Disney property anyway, it’s a great deal. You will also have an opportunity to check your baggage and get your boarding passes at the hotel when it’s time to go home. That is freaking awesome. Anyway, you need to make sure Disney knows well ahead of time (like, at least a couple of weeks) that you want to use Magical Express, because they mail you special luggage tags that identify your bags as Magical Express luggage. It works with most airlines.

Lincoln fucked around with this message at Jun 15, 2014 around 22:59

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Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.



GETTING AROUND THE WORLD

Remember that Walt Disney World is large. With only a couple of exceptions, you’re not really going to walk between hotels and parks. So they’ve built a network of boats, busses and monorails (and formerly trains!) to get you from A to B as quickly and comfortably as possible, at no charge. We will start…well, where you will probably start:

The Transportation and Ticket Center. This serves as WDW’s primary transportation hub. It is in close proximity to the Magic Kingdom, and the TTC (as it’s usually called) parking lot also serves as the Magic Kingdom parking lot. You park your car at the TTC, then take a monorail or boat to the Magic Kingdom. Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom each have their own parking lots, so you can drive straight to those parks, or park at the TTC and take a bus/monorail.

Speaking of monorails. They are the iconic mode of transportation at Disney World. The smaller monorail at Disneyland in California was built as a simple attraction, but the WDW monorail was purpose-built from the ground up as a legitimate mass-transit system. I will not get into detail here, but understand that the monorail can take you from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and a handful of hotels in the vicinity of the Magic Kingdom. And back, of course.

You can take a bus from the TTC to virtually any other park, attraction or hotel on Disney property. I say “virtually,” but that may be literally true. You can also take a bus directly from your hotel to many other locations, but wait times are considerably longer at the hotel bus stops. Oftentimes it is quicker to take a bus/monorail from your hotel to the TTC, then another from the TTC to wherever.

Boats, boat, boats. There are many different kinds of water transportation at Walt Disney World, and like the monorail, they ain’t just for show. The two most frequently used are: 1) the ferryboats that run between the TTC and the Magic Kingdom, and 2) the boats that serve the Epcot-area resorts and Epcot itself (plus Hollywood Studios).

Your own car. Staying at a monorail or waterfront hotel is nice, but if you're not staying at a deluxe resort, you'll have to take some more mundane transport to the parks. Buses can be a nightmare, especially late at night when need overwhelms capacity. A lot of people love the freedom of using their own vehicle, and if you're staying at a Disney resort hotel, parking is free at the parks; just remember to put your parking pass in the car. Otherwise, it's $15/day, but those three fins do let you park-hop without having to pay again.

Taking all this into account, you’ll see there are two clusters of hotels that really have excellent transportation options: the Magic Kingdom resorts and the Epcot resorts. Both have multiple ground and water transports, and the MK resorts even have direct monorail service. Not surprisingly, these hotels cost more.




HOW DO I BOOK MY TRIP?

I’d recommend you either book through a reputable travel agency that specializes in Disney World vacations, or you book directly with Walt Disney World itself. You’ll find that identical vacations booked through Disney and through a travel agency cost almost exactly the same, though agencies do sometimes offer deals.

A third party agency can book any non-Disney hotel, of course. Disney, meanwhile, will only book its own hotels and (I think) a very small number of “partner” hotels just off property. Both Disney and an agency will sell you park tickets at the same price.

Is there an advantage to booking your trip directly through Disney? Kind of. If you do that, then Walt Disney World is considered to be your travel agency. That’s a good thing. They will be responsible for fixing any problems, answering any questions, or doing whatever it is you need your travel agent to do leading up to a vacation. In the past, my wife and I have run into problems, and Disney has always bent over backwards to help. In fact, our first ever trip there was in September 1999. Hurricane Floyd hit Florida the day we were supposed to fly out there. The Orlando airport shut down, and Disney World closed that day for the first time in its history. Disney helped us re-book the entire vacation, moving everything back one day…air travel, hotel reservations, transfers, everything…and did not charge one penny more. You won't get that level of cooperation from some travel agencies. Plus, Disney is always very up front with exactly how much you will pay. Nothing is ever hidden, and you will never be surprised by some little charge.

Lately Disney has been offering a variety of promotional discounts. Even if I’m already taking advantage of a particular deal, I’ve got into the habit of asking the WDW Reservations person if there are any others available. Quick story: two years ago, I had booked a trip that included a free dining plan (see “Eating” below) for both of us. A few days later, I learned that our hotel had a 30%-off deal that same week. We could only take advantage of one or the other, but the 30% room discount was worth quite a bit more than the dining plan would have cost, so I switched discounts, and then paid for the dining plan. Ended up paying less for the same package. True Story.

Never, ever buy “discounted” tickets via eBay or wherever. Chances are high that you will get ripped off. Again, there really is no such thing as a legitimate “discounted” WDW ticket. People will buy used multi-day tickets with some days remaining…only to find when they arrive at the park that Junior’s ticket actually has zero days remaining. Vacation: ruined. This is about to become impossible, anyway, as Disney is rolling out a new system that fingerprint-IDs everybody’s tickets, which have always been non-transferable.

HOW DO I BUY TICKETS?

You have a number of ticket options. The least-expensive route is what’s called the “Magic Your Way” option. That means one park per day for the length of your stay.

The other option is the “Park Hopper.” It lets you jump from park to park as many times as you like throughout each day. It’s more expensive than Magic Your Way.

In both cases, the more days you stay, the less each day costs. Consider that a 1-day, single-park ticket is about $95. Your fifth day costs like an extra 10 bucks, and the cost of additional days beyond that is negligible.

You can also add a “water parks” option to your ticket for…wait for it…an additional charge.

I’ve always purchased my tickets at the same time I booked my trip, but you have the option of purchasing them at the TTC when you arrive. I think you used to be able to buy them at the front desk of your Disney World hotel, but I don’t know if they still do that. (Anyone?)




AND LET’S NOT FORGET ABOUT FEEDING OUR FAT FACES

There are way, way too many dining options to discuss here. So much so, that I will not bother to name one single eating establishment. Suffice it to say that you cannot swing a dead cat in the air at Disney World without hitting something edible. I am not exaggerating when I say there is probably not one single place you can stand in any of the theme parks where you cannot directly see a vendor, fast food joint or restaurant. Snack carts are about as common as trash cans. And I’m not talking about popcorn and cotton candy snack carts — I’m talking about massive turkey legs and churros the size of golf clubs.

It’s ridiculous. Wonderfully so. (My wife and I watch what we eat back home in Texas, but not on vacation. You walk so much at WDW, you can probably eat whatever the hell you want and not gain any weight. We're a fit couple, and we both exercise six days a week, but at WDW, we eat as much as we want and don't even think bout a gym while we're there.)

I will not go into much detail about this, but WDW offers something called the Disney Dining Plan. For a charge, you get a certain number of meals and snacks each day, and the higher tier you purchase, the fancier the meals get. For example, the standard plan –the one in the middle– gives you one snack, one counter service (fast food) meal and one table service (sit-down restaurant) meal each day. I think now they also give you a refillable souvenir mug.

Since the U.S. economy has been in the shitter for some time now, WDW has been offering the dining plan free of charge during certain times of the year. The last couple of times we’ve gone, my wife and I have received the dining plan for free. I love it, she hates it. We definitely eat more when we have the dining plan, and if you know what you’re doing, you can save a ton of money by using your credits at the most expensive restaurants. I guess that’s what it boils down to: the plan is worth it if you use it. I think families with kids will get more mileage out of the dining plan than anyone else. If you’d like advice on gaming the DDP system, ask away. There are probably already several online resources that will help you screw the Disney Dining Plan to the wall.




OK, you're asking, so what's all this going to cost me? There are four variables to consider: travel, hotel, park tickets and food. I'll break down three real-world sample trips, booked through the actual WDW website. And I'll calculate each vacation twice, once for a family of four (mom, dad, a teen, and a child 9 or younger), and then again for an adult couple. The examples below do NOT include your travel expenses to the WDW/Kissimmee/Orlando area. I'll let you figure that on your own. Also, they all include some sort of Disney Dining Plan. If you want to know what it would cost without the DDP, I list the prices so you can subtract them if you wish.

And these prices assume you're traveling during the off-season; specifically, mid-January of 2014. You want to take your kids to Disney World in July? Hey, it's your funeral, but I'm not gonna help you into the casket.

OPTION A, THE BUDGET TRIP

For the family of four: Five nights in a standard double-queen at the All-Star Music Resort (a value resort), plus four 6-day Magic Your Way park tickets (good for one park per day), and the Quick Service Dining Plan (2 counter service meals, 1 snack, 1 refillable drink per person, per night). TOTAL: $2,440, plus tax.

For the adult couple: $1,544, plus tax.

If you want to factor out the Quick Service Dining Plan, it's $38 per night, per person; $15 for kids 9 and under.

Adding the Park Hopper option to your tickets would add $63 per ticket for the entire stay. Not per day; that's for all six days combined. Trust me, best 63 bucks you'll ever spend.

OPTION B, MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

For the family of four: Five nights in a standard-view double-queen at Caribbean Beach Resort (a moderate resort), plus four Park Hopper park tickets (jump from park to park as much as you want), and the standard Disney Dining Plan (1 table service, 1 quick service, 1 snack, 1 refillable drink per person, per night). TOTAL: $3,424, plus tax.

For the adult couple: $2,291, plus tax.

If you want to factor out the Standard Dining Plan, it's $56 per night, per person; $18 for kids 9 and under.

OPTION C, DADDY WARBUCKS

For the family of four: Five nights in a garden view double-queen at the Polynesian Resort (a deluxe resort), plus four Park Hopper park tickets (jump from park to park as much as you want), and the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan (3 table service, 2 snacks, 1 refillable drink per person, per night). TOTAL: $5,727, plus tax.

For the adult couple: $4,310, plus tax.

If you want to factor out the Deluxe Dining Plan, it's $100 per night, per person; $27 for kids 9 and under.

NOTE: None of the above plans factor in any sort of promotional deals, like free dining plans or discounted room rates, which have become common during non-peak season. We have a couple of Disney-specialist travel agents cruising this thread, and they're always up on that sort of thing, so ask around. Also, any time you call Disney reservations, ask. Incidentally, the day you check in is what determines whether you get one of these special deals, regardless of how long you stay, so you may want to see if moving your arrival date up or down a day or two will help.

Lincoln fucked around with this message at Jul 1, 2014 around 00:49

Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.



WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE

At the top of the OP, I say Walt Disney World has an undeserved bad rap for intimidating first-timers. I concede, it’s a little deserved. Thing is, the place is so big and there are so many things to do, you feel there’s no possible way to do everything. Well, unless you’re staying for weeks instead of days, there isn’t.

So here’s what I’ll do: offer up a guide of sorts that will point you in the direction of all the BIG stuff…the things you definitely want to do, as they encapsulate a typical Disney World vacation. Because I know that along the way you’ll discover all of the little things that really make the trip memorable. Those little things are different for everyone, and their discovery is what makes them such fond memories. But I’ll try to give you a taste here and there.

We’ll start with the “big 4,” Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Unless you’re planning the strangest Disney World vacation of all time, you’ll spend a lot of time in them.

A QUICK NOTE BEFORE WE GET STARTED

How many days you’re staying will affect how you tour the parks. I think the absolute minimum required to see all four parks for a decent amount of time (and this assumes you’re NOT visiting during peak season, when the lines are long) is 2-and-two-half days. Meaning, a half-day when you get there, two full days, then a half-day on the day you leave. But that's really pushing it. Regardless of how long we’re staying, my wife and I always book flights to take advantage of the two half-days. Our flight lands at MCO about 11:30 AM, we’re checking into our hotel an hour later, and then it’s straight off to Magic Kingdom via monorail. We usually schedule our return flight to leave late afternoon; that gives us until at least lunch to keep having fun on our final day. If you’ve purchased a length-of-stay pass, it’s good for the day you arrive and the day you depart.

Magic Kingdom and Epcot are definitely all-day parks. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom can be done in half a day each, but that assumes you’re rushing between attractions simply to cram everything in. And you have to be willing to miss some stuff.

Ideally, you want to give yourself at least four full, non-travel days. And to take full advantage of your time, purchase the Park Hopper option on your tickets. We spend most evenings at Epcot, regardless of where we had spent the rest of the day (for reasons explained below).




If you’ve seen the TV commercials, you’ve seen a lot of the Magic Kingdom. It’s where you find the big castle, It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and so on. Many people who’ve never been to Disney World think the Magic Kingdom is Disney World. Probably because that’s what Disneyland in California is (or was for a long time): a single theme park. The MK was modeled after the original in most respects, though 15 years had allowed Walt and his engineers to correct and perfect a lot of things.

Like I said above, you can easily commit an entire day to the Magic Kingdom, even during the off-season when the lines are short. If you show up a few minutes before it opens, you can watch the opening ceremony with the steam locomotive and Mickey and Minnie and the “good morning” song and all that jazz. If you have little kids, it’s a must-see.

Once inside the park, a number of goofballs always make a dash for the “mountains,” which are Space, Splash and Big Thunder Mountain, three of the MK’s most popular rides. They’re hurrying to get their FastPasses** for one of the mountains, then get in line for another.

**NOTE: Disney is rolling out a new system called MyMagic+ ("My Magic Plus"), which is replacing the existing FastPass system. As I write this (early April 2014), WDW is in the process of launching the system resort-wide. It's already being discussed in this thread by people who have experienced it first-hand, so stay tuned. Long story short: your park ticket, hotel room key, dining plan (if applicable) and credit card will all be merged into a single RFID bracelet called a Magic Band. You will schedule Fast Passes online before your trip or at Fast Pass kiosks in the park while you're there. More details to come.

Magic Kingdom must-dos:

Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Haunted Mansion
It’s a Small World (you’re going to go all the way to Disney World and not ride It’s a Small World?)
Mickey’s Philharmagic
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (soft-opened in late-May 2014; built to be the central attraction of Fantasyland)
Space Mountain

Magic Kingdom probably-ought-to-dos:

Enchanted Tiki Room (some hate; I love)
Country Bear Jamboree
Liberty Belle Riverboat
Peter Pan’s Flight
Journey of the Little Mermaid
Enchanted Tales with Belle (especially if you have kids)
Carousel of Progress
Peoplemover
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor




Epcot is two gigantic theme parks in one…

The first half is called Future World, and it’s a “discovery park,” with seven large pavilions that each showcase a specific technology or resource: energy, space, communication, the seas, agriculture, automobiles, and for some reason, imagination.

The big golf ball in the middle is actually a ride. It’s called Spaceship Earth, and it takes you through time to witness the history of human communication, from cavemen to the near future.

I’d recommend you visit all the pavilions, because I enjoy almost all of them, but I’m a huge nerd. The weakest is the “imagination” pavilion, but go ahead and check it out.

Future World “big ticket attractions”:

Mission: Space – insane the first time you do it; may make you hurl
Test Track – car-test simulator
Soarin’ – hang glider simulation; really, really, really fun
Spaceship Earth – the disembodied voice of Dame Judy Dench
Universe of Energy/ Ellen’s Energy Adventure – Bill Nye & Ellen DeGeneres; wait, what year is it?

Future World “lesser attractions”:

Living with the Land – boat ride through agriculture/aquaculture tour
Circle of Life – preachy Lion King stage show
Turtle Talk with Crush – animated Crush interacts live with kids; pretty entertaining, actually
The Seas with Nemo & Friends – two words: clam mobiles
Captain Eo – 3-D movie starring the still-revenue-generating corpse of Michael Jackson
Journey Into Imagination – wait what I don’t even

World Showcase is the other half of Epcot, and me likey. Eleven pavilions, each representing a nation. Most are recreations of what a plaza or street from that country would look like. Every pavilion has multiple shops, a signature restaurant, a smaller eatery, and sometimes an attraction like a ride or Circlevision film. But World Showcase isn’t really focused on attractions; instead, it’s mostly about the restaurants, bars and shops.

The pavilions are arranged around an artificial lake: the World Showcase Lagoon. Moving clockwise around the lake, the countries represented include:

Mexico
Norway
China
Germany
Italy
U.S.A.
Japan
Morocco
France
U.K.
Canada

Here’s a picture that gives you a good idea of the size of the pavilions; this is Germany, Italy and part of the U.S.A. (obscured by trees):



The photo was taken from clear across the lagoon, and those buildings are pretty large. So you can see that each pavilion gets plenty of real estate. You can spend quite a bit of time touring each one.

Epcot is my favorite park at Walt Disney World. Kids tend not to get a rise out of it, and I understand why, but they’ve recently added more youngster-friendly activities, including a Phineas and Ferb-themed scavenger hunt that sends them to all the different countries. So drink up, mom and dad. Your kids are in no hurry to leave.

And one of the early “laws” of Epcot has been rescinded: Disney characters now inhabit the park. When EPCOT Center opened, Mickey and Donald were verboten. Now characters are all over the place. The Living Seas was rebranded The Seas with Nemo and Friends. The boat ride at the Mexico pavilion is now a Three Caballeros adventure. I even saw a giant white cat signing autographs in the France pavilion last year; I had no idea who it was supposed to be. Later found out it was Marie from The Aristocats. Way to pull out the obscure characters, Epcot!

TRIVIA: One lap around World Showcase is exactly one mile. I accidentally discovered that while mapping the length of the main walkway in Google Earth. I am such a massive nerd. Between Future World and World Showcase, you will do a lot of walking at Epcot. The place is just enormous. In fact, the entirety of the Magic Kingdom will fit inside Epcot’s parking lot.

Each day ends with Illuminations, Epcot’s fireworks show. Actually, it’s way more than fireworks. The show is centered in the World Showcase lagoon (if you scroll up to the shot of Germany & Italy, you’ll see some of the barges that hold the fireworks). There are lasers and fire effects, and even the pavilions themselves get in on the act. I highly recommend you stick around for it. It starts each night at 9:00, and if you plan far enough ahead, you can swing dinner reservations with a view. There are several Epcot restaurants that offer a great view of the show.

Since we always have the Park Hopper option added to our tickets, we find ourselves ending a lot of our days at Epcot. It’s a great place to eat dinner, and Illuminations itself is worth the trip there.




You’ll sometimes hear people refer to this park as “MGM.” When it opened in 1989, it was called, “Disney-MGM Studios.” The park was hastily slapped together by Michael Eisner when Universal announced it was going to build a park in the Orlando area. Disney beat Universal to the punch, but the park sucked balls. It opened with a grand total of four attractions. Four. That’s only four more than I have at my house, and I don’t have an amusement park at my house.

But now it’s way better. The entire park is very well themed, stuffed with attractions and quite immersive. It’s my brother-in-law’s favorite WDW park, and I didn’t think this was anyone’s favorite. But he says he loves that it all seems so authentic. And he’s right. If you’re really into themed design (and who isn’t), this place is fascinating.

Like most Disney parks, it’s divided up into zones:

Hollywood Boulevard – This is DHS’s “Main Street.” It’s where the parades take place, and it’s lined with shops. At the end of the street you will see Mickey’s big blue sorcerer’s hat, which was added several years ago and perfectly blocks what would otherwise be a fantastic view of Grauman’s Chinese Theater at the end of the street. It’s my understanding that the hat will be coming down soon to restore the intended view of the theater. The theater itself houses The Great Movie Ride, in which you ride through many famous movie scenes.

Sunset Boulevard – Here you’ll find a pair of thrill rides —Rock-N-Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror— plus a Beauty and the Beast stage show and Fantasmic!, a nighttime water/stage/fireworks show that’s really entertaining and a total bitch to get into. If you want to see Fantasmic! (you do), I suggest you buy the “Fantasmic Dining Experience” package, which gets you reservations at one of DHS’s better sit-down restaurants, then reserved seating at Fantasmic! The best part is, you don’t have to wait in line for the show, which would normally be like a 90-minute bullshit ordeal.

Echo Lake – This is basically where all your (former) George Lucas properties are: Star Tours, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and the Jedi Training Academy, all of which are worth your time. The first is a simulator ride, the second is a live stunt show, and the third is an audience-participation show where little kids all learn to become Jedi. That last one is a hoot to watch, even if you don’t have any kids participating. If I had to guess, I’d bet Disney plans to morph this area fully into Star Wars Land, now that they own the franchise. But who knows. There’s also a large Star Wars-themed gift shop called Tattooine Traders. I bought a Yoda backpack there…it looks like Yoda is “riding” you like when he was training Luke on Dagobah. Very clever. Anyway, I’m ringing up at the register, and the lady clerk says, “Would you like me to send this to your room, Lincoln?” “No,” I say, “I’ll be wearing it.” She kind of stops for a second, then looks at my mortified wife (not a Star Wars fan), and gives me her employee discount because she feels sorry for my spouse. JACKPOT.

Streets of America – This area is kind of scattershot, as it’s home to three seemingly unrelated attractions: the Studio Backlot Tour, which is what it sounds like; Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, which I find that men love and women hate; and Muppet Vision 3D, a Muppet movie that’s very funny (the pre-show waiting area has about a million sight gags).

Pixar Place – The newest area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it only has one attraction: Toy Story Midway Mania. You’re shrunk down to toy size, and you zoom through a series of 3-D carnival games. More fun than I’ve made it sound. This is an extremely popular ride, and FastPasses run out quickly during busier times of the year. It’s great, but you don’t want to get stuck waiting two hours to ride it. No sir.

Animation Courtyard – One live stage show and several (three, I think) walkthrough attractions. The show is Voyage of the Little Mermaid. The walkthroughs are semi-interactive museums and movie scenes.

I don’t want to give DHS a bad rap, because it doesn’t deserve one. Not anymore, anyway. They’ve clearly worked hard to add a large number of quality attractions over the last several years. In fact, I didn’t realize quite how much stuff there was to do until I typed all this up, and I didn’t list everything.

Another thing DHS has going for it is that it’s home to some of the most beloved sit-down restaurants in Walt Disney World:

The 50’s Prime Time Café: comfort food served in your own kitschy kitchen.
Brown Derby: a replica of the Hollywood original (not the one shaped like a hat).
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: Your table is a car, and you get to watch cheesy 50’s sci-fi movies at a “drive-in” while you eat.
Mama Melrose’s: Italian food. Never been there, but it’s gets consistently good reviews.

Highly recommended:

Rock-N-Roller Coaster
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Star Tours
Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
Muppet Vision 3-D
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
Toy Story Midway Mania

If you have time:

The Great Movie Ride
Beauty and the Beast – Live
Jedi Training Academy
Studio Backlot Tour
The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
The Magic of Disney Animation




Animal Kingdom is essentially an animal-themed amusement park with a lot of live zoo exhibits. It’s not entirely an amusement park, and it’s not entirely a zoo. It’s an effective blend of both. As I wrote above, it’s the most immersive and highly-themed park at Walt Disney World.

The first zone you enter at AK is Discovery Island, the visual centerpiece of which is the Tree of Life. Inside the tree is the 4-D film/stage show “It’s Tough to be a Bug.” Discovery Island is also sprinkled with small animal exhibits. This zone serves as the “hub” of Animal Kingdom, and leads to its three other main lands:

Africa – This is where you’ll find Kilimanjaro Safaris, a safari through “east Africa.” If you ride this attraction early in the day, you’ll see more animals, so while everyone else is running off to Expedition Everest when the park opens, go do the safari instead. In fact, most of the animals across the entire park (not just in the safari) are more active during the first half of the day, before it gets too drat hot. So if you plan to check out the animal exhibits, you’ll see better stuff if you do that early, then start riding rides later in the day. Africa’s animal exhibits are collectively called the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.

Asia – Asia’s anchor attraction is Expedition Everest, a roller coaster that takes you through the “forbidden mountain” to find the yeti. Quite possibly the best-themed queue (line) at Walt Disney World. Go out of your way to ride this one. There’s also the Kali River Rapids, a white-water raft ride. Just like the warning signs say: you will get wet; you may get soaked. If it’s chilly outside, avoid this one. If it’s warm and really humid, you’ll take forever to dry off. It’s a really fun ride, but you have to consider when you want to ride it. Asia’s animal exhibits are collectively called the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Dinoland, U.S.A.Dinosaur is this area’s anchor. You travel back in time to capture a dinosaur. I love this ride, but it’s dark, loud and scary, so it’s not good for little ones. Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama is a mini-park inside Dinoland that is like a little traveling carnival. It has a mouse coaster and a Dumbo-type spinner and traditional carnival games. It’s kid-friendly. Finding Nemo - the Musical is a stage show featuring large-scale puppetry. I went into this reluctantly and came out a huge fan. Very entertaining and the puppetry is amazing to watch. Why is a Nemo show in Dinoland? I guess because they had nowhere else to put it.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Camp Minnie-Mickey – these two areas have a lot of events and live animal displays for children. There’s an up-tempo stage show in Camp Minnie-Mickey called Festival of the Lion King.

Avatar Land – Construction on this new land began in earnest in January of 2014. They announced the new land back in 2011, but barely talked about it until they broke ground. According to Disney, "Guests will experience the wonders of Pandora when they fly with banshees and explore a rich natural environment with mountains that float and interactive plants that glow at night." I think it’s an awful idea, because a) Avatar sucked terribly, and b) it doesn’t belong in Animal Kingdom. poo poo, put it in Hollywood Studios, if you insist on cashing in on a short-term movie property you don’t even own.

No list of suggested attractions here, because I recommend everything mentioned above, more or less. Animal Kingdom has a small handful of average-to-good table-service restaurants. The Dawa bar in Africa comes highly recommended. Apparently it’s become a very popular place to sit and get blotto while soaking in the sights.

I really enjoy spending time at Animal Kingdom. If you take your time and want to see all of the animal exhibits, it’s a full-day park. If you’re just there to ride the rides, then get there when it opens, ride everything, then hop to another park. But really, AK is designed to reward visitors who are willing to slow down and look at everything it has to offer, much more so than any other park in the Disney family.


TA-DAA!

In the future, I’ll go over FastPass+ and MyMagic+ in more detail. And I hope to add good tips for doing Disney on a budget.

If any other WDW aficionados out there think I neglected something or got something wrong, please contribute. I’ll try to keep the OP fresh.

Lincoln fucked around with this message at Jul 2, 2014 around 17:11

Fifth Horseman
Dec 31, 2007
Includes Basic Features!

Euro goons should look into the 7, 14 and 21 day ultimate tickets.

http://www.mousesavers.com/walt-dis...visitors/#21day

These tickets gives unlimited access to the four parks, both water parks, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, Disney’s Miniature Golf and ESPN Wide World of Sports for the duration of the ticket.

We usually did one park in the morning then visited one of the waterparks arround noon and then back to the parks to finish off in the evening.

And yes you can easily spend 14 days in disney world without getting bored and we are currently saving up for a three week visit next year.

Fluffy Bunnies
Jan 9, 2009

Half Dog.

Half Horse.

All Awesome.

Fifth Horseman posted:

And yes you can easily spend 14 days in disney world without getting bored and we are currently saving up for a three week visit next year.

This depends on group size and who the group is made out of. I fully expect a week down there will be plenty for me and my husband, but it'll be just us two. Groups of any more than 4, or groups with kids, will slow you down a lot.

Military goons should call the Disneyworld/land reservations hotline, because hot drat does your military ID get you some sweet deals (currently). 40% off disney-owned rooms, $159 4 day park hopper tickets for adults, dining discounts-all sorts of stuff. And Shades of Green might feel a bit like a barracks, but if you're e-5 or below, you should stay at Shades of Green. You're looking at $100-ish a night (depending on time of year) for some of the largest rooms on the property. However, the DoD owns Shades of Green so you won't get a discount on the rooms and it's low on ( ) "Disney magic" in that you won't get towel animals or theming and such.

E-6 and above should look at the discounts and see if they can get in cheaper at a disney-owned room (value or moderate). After running numbers for friends for 4 years now, it's almost always either a tie, very nearly a tie, or a bit cheaper to stay at a disney room than Shades.

allears.net is generally my go-to because they constantly keep stuff up to date.

Re: Dining/Dining plan: Menus are everywhere online, and a quick GIS will show you what the food looks like in almost all cases. Have an allergy? You can work with it. Even the quickie snack carts are selling soy milk these days because they're trying to be that inclusive. It's great, especially for people that are sensitive. If you have a reservation, you can call the kitchen and talk to the chefs about your options if there's nothing on the menu that you can handle, or if you just want to make a small change to the food and want to be sure it can be done. If anything, these people will bend over backwards to make you happy as long as you're concise with what you want. They really, really understand food allergies and really try to help out. Even if you're allergic to oxygen, I'm pretty sure they'd try to find a way to help you enjoy your stay.

Dining plan-as he said, it's more for families in my opinion. It's also good to browse around and see what restaurants require two credits and then do the math, dining plan versus paying for the item. Unless you're dining upscale, you will often do better just to pay. Mostly where you save cash is snacks with the dining plan, and little kids tend to want more Mickey pretzels than adults will. Still, if you get free dining plan, you may as well use it. So largely I agree, but if you ask for the cash value of the dining plan daily, the operators will happily tell you. Makes the math easier.

legendaryRev
May 1, 2008


Holy crap, what a great OP! I've lived in central Florida all of my life, and usually make a couple of trips a year. I regards to changing/adding packages, you can still do it in the lobbies of the resorts, although only on the day of arrival, at least if you want to take advantage of the packages. You can't try to add a park hopper on day 3 if you've already been paying for individual passes for two days. I have to concur that the level of service is unprecedented. It's not like "most Hilton's are great, but X one has kinda crappy service. Everywhere inside Disney property has impeccable service, from the front desk to the janitors. Even in budget places like the All-Star resorts, the room might look like a motel in the way the place is laid out, but the linens are clean, and the grounds are immaculate. The biggest difference between properties is the quality of food, which is never bad. Even at the All-Stars, it might be burgers and sandwiches, but they're good burgers. Every tier above that just affords you better trappings.

WDW really spoils you for any other traveling, they are so on point.

Admiral Joeslop
Jul 8, 2010


My girlfriend, her daughter and I went to WDW last year with two of our friends and their daughter.

Some minor points to consider:

If you take refillable water bottles (Platypus bottles, I think they're called) keep in mind that all of the parks except Magic Kingdom have filtered water. The check-in staff said that due to the location of Cindarella's Castle, they literally can't install filters, or something. I didn't really notice a difference in taste but then I was thirsty in the heat.

Speaking of heat, get hats and sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. If the parks are busy, you will probably be waiting in a line outside at some point, for a ride, or character signings.

Character signings? They have a service where you get a card, and it gets swiped for most characters. They take a picture, and when you get home or to the hotel, you can look at all the pictures and order prints. They don't mind if you take your own photos though. Also, a good idea is to bring a scrapbook notebook, with different colored paper, and CLICKABLE permanent markers. Clickable like a pen; it can be a pain in the rear end trying to hold a bunch of stuff and the marker, I'm sure the character's appreciate it, and it's just easier overall. Also, especially on hot days, characters will take 15-20 minute breaks (which probably involves just switching people) so if you see a character walking away and people dispersing, hang around for a bit and you might be first in line to get a picture and autograph.

If you have a small child (6 or younger, I'd say?) get a stroller. Unless your kid is a beast, they WILL get tired from all the walking, and you certainly won't want to carry them through all that. We bought a cheap $20 or so stroller from Walmart. Every ride, restaurant, and attraction has a stroller park nearby with attendants, and in the week we were there, we never had a problem with the stroller being taken. I still wouldn't leave any valuables with it though.

If you have a smartphone, they have apps to tell you where everything is in the park, showtimes, and such. There are also physical maps at the entrances.

Bring an umbrella or 3, and ponchos. It rains in Florida at seemingly random times.

Also, if you have kids, nearly (if not every) ride have areas at the end of the line where a parent can wait with the kids (if say, you have a baby, or a kid too small to ride something) while the other parent rides the ride. Once that parent returns, the waiting parent can get right on with no wait.

Lots of rides have Fastpass (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastpass). You should absolutely take advantage of this. 30 minute wait for Space Mountain? Slide your tickets through the Fastpass, get a paper ticket, and go do something else for however long until your Fastpass is ready. Come back, present said ticket to the ride operator and you get put in the Fastpass line, which is much shorter. Sure, you technically had to "wait" for as long or longer than the actual line but at least you were off doing something instead of just standing around in line.

Go on It's A Small World if you have kids. I personally found it super boring, even if it was impressive from an engineering standpoint.

For the love of God, have a plan if you get separated, whether it's on purpose or not. My girlfriend was with her daughter at one of the Finding Nemo things at EPCOT, and I wanted to do that MISSION: SPACE thing because I thought all the rides shutdown when the park closes at 9 (they don't, it seems). Well, in the meantime her phone died. I return to where we parked the stroller, she's not there. I wait around a bit, and go inside the ice cream shop that is literally 10 feet away. I come back, and oh the stroller is gone. Turns out she came looking for me at the stroller, saw I wasn't there, and took the stroller to go find me. This is a point of contention between us and I don't see the argument ending anytime soon. The point is, if you don't have a way to charge your phone, set up a meeting place beforehand, or even certain times throughout the day to meet if you're going to be separated most of the day.

Finally, Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure are also super cool, and Legoland is loving lame.

Admiral Joeslop fucked around with this message at Apr 19, 2013 around 15:05

Roar
Jul 7, 2007

sounds rough, ollie

Joeslop posted:

Every ride has Fastpass (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastpass). You should absolutely take advantage of this. 30 minute wait for Space Mountain? Slide your tickets through the Fastpass, get a paper ticket, and go do something else for however long until your Fastpass is ready. Come back, present said ticket to the ride operator and you get put in the Fastpass line, which is much shorter. Sure, you technically had to "wait" for as long or longer than the actual line but at least you were off doing something instead of just standing around in line.

This is not exactly true, at least not yet. Almost all of the major attractions have fastpasses and what time they'll be for is based on how popular the attraction is. They will be revamping the system soon, though - I haven't been paying attention to how much is public knowledge.

As a side note, 30 minutes for Space Mountain is a drop in the bucket. With its popularity and frequent breakdowns, 80 minutes is closer to the norm.

quote:

For the love of God, have a plan if you get separated, whether it's on purpose or not. My girlfriend was with her daughter at one of the Finding Nemo things at EPCOT, and I wanted to do that MISSION: SPACE thing because I thought all the rides shutdown when the park closes at 9 (they don't, it seems). Well, in the meantime her phone died. I return to where we parked the stroller, she's not there. I wait around a bit, and go inside the ice cream shop that is literally 10 feet away. I come back, and oh the stroller is gone. Turns out she came looking for me at the stroller, saw I wasn't there, and took the stroller to go find me. This is a point of contention between us and I don't see the argument ending anytime soon. The point is, if you don't have a way to charge your phone, set up a meeting place beforehand, or even certain times throughout the day to meet if you're going to be separated most of the day.

If your kids get lost at the park and are found by cast members and they are under 12, they'll be brought to the Baby Care center. If they're over 12, they'll be brought to Guest Relations.

Nathilus
Apr 4, 2002

I alone can see through the media bias.

I'm also stupid on a scale that can only be measured in Reddits.

The absolute best time to go in my opinion is during the food and wine festival. Particularly if you can get in during the latter half, toward the trailing end of October. The weather and crowds are both most manageable at that time of year and the festival itself bumps EPCOT from being the best park by just a little bit to unrivaled king of all parks everywhere in the universe. Each country's pavilion serves a taste of something awesome and booze for a few bucks. REALLY reasonable for Disney prices and the quality is outstanding. Just don't go trying the drinking around the world challenge. You'll be too smashed to be in a theme park by Germany.

I also highly recommend going all out and paying the 150+ bucks a person to get into A Party for the Senses. It's like an old school Roman hedonism party. There is every sort of food and wine imaginable, and Cirque du Soliel also performs which is always neat. But mostly it's about some serious world class tasting. I'm not even a wine person but I still wish I could live there.

Roar posted:

As a side note, 30 minutes for Space Mountain is a drop in the bucket. With its popularity and frequent breakdowns, 80 minutes is closer to the norm.

I worked Space Mountain! I love that old piece of atomic age engineering. Its cantankerousness kept my job interesting and the technology itself is endlessly fascinating, if in a sort of horrifying way. I actually ended up talking to one of the guys who programmed the... I don't even want to use the word 'computer', it's misleading in the modern context. Central control unit. So much of the work that would be done digitally now is mechanical instead. It's perfectly safe, more so than many digital equivalents, but it's pretty offensive to modern sensibilities when you get into the guts of it.

Anyway, yeah in peak season the wait tended to be 60-90 minutes. More if we had a breakdown, which was often.

Nathilus fucked around with this message at Apr 20, 2013 around 07:26

Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.

Nathilus posted:

The absolute best time to go in my opinion is during the food and wine festival. <snip>

I wrote a ton of stuff for parts 2 & 3 of the OP yesterday, and even I'm amazed how much I end up writing about food. My wife & I aren't even foodies! I never realized how much of our trip revolves around eating. It's amazing that the first big crisis WDW ran into when they opened was that they has so woefully underestimated the amount of food they would need to sell.

Expect major additions to the OP next week.

Nathilus
Apr 4, 2002

I alone can see through the media bias.

I'm also stupid on a scale that can only be measured in Reddits.

Lincoln posted:

I wrote a ton of stuff for parts 2 & 3 of the OP yesterday, and even I'm amazed how much I end up writing about food. My wife & I aren't even foodies! I never realized how much of our trip revolves around eating. It's amazing that the first big crisis WDW ran into when they opened was that they has so woefully underestimated the amount of food they would need to sell.

Haha no kidding. The first couple of times my family went there when I was a kid, my parents were being cheap bastards and wouldn't let us eat a sit down meal inside the parks. They felt it was a waste of money so we'd eat off property after the day was over, completely ravenous. In retrospect, lovely decision. Staying and eating on property might be expensive, but it is so so SO worth it. Eventually I got them to relent and we ate at the Restraunt Akershus before it got turned into a damned princess dinner hamburger joint, my first experience with Norwegian food. It was so delicious we never turned back, and on every trip since have eaten at all sorts of places inside the parks. The dining plan makes this calculus even easier. And of course, when I worked there I would literally just pop into EPCOT to eat. Now when I think of Disney the rides and atmosphere are second in my mind after all that glorious, glorious food.

Dining plan trick: even if you use the mid tier, save up two sit down meal credits and splurge at one of the fancy joints like the Brown Derby. TOTALLY WORTH IT. Also eat at Ohana's at the Polynesian. There's nothing like being accosted with incredibly tasty meats over and over again until you beg for mercy and the sweet escape of death. I discovered that joint while I was working there, and took my parents some time later, after the gig was up. I weigh a buck thirty sopping wet with five pounds of quarters in my pocket, but they are a bit older now and their metabolisms are slowing down a bit (IE: American PigDogs). Both of them were so impressed by the food there they ate themselves sick, which neither had ever done before. I've never laughed so hard in my life. My mother was groaning all the way back to the room and when she got there she didn't pass out, it was more like going into hibernation.

Nathilus fucked around with this message at Apr 20, 2013 around 15:51

Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.

Added "What to do" section (part 3) with MK, Epcot, DHS and AK info.

Nathilus
Apr 4, 2002

I alone can see through the media bias.

I'm also stupid on a scale that can only be measured in Reddits.

Good update. A few suggestions, if I may. You missed a few things I consider drat near essential. First, two nearly perfect kid dumps: the frontier island in the Magic Kingdom and the awesome play area near the Muppet attraction in Hollywood Studios. I remember both being baller as hell when I was a kid, but what strikes me most about them these days is the clear relief of the reviving parents nearby. Just BEING at Disney World is like three or four lines of cocaine to a kid, these places where they can safely work out some of that energy (so they can be tired and cranky by the end of the day) are a godsend.

You mentioned food in the Animal Kingdom and left out the best value for a counter service credit on the entire property! Flame Tree isn't as high brow as a lot of the dining at other parks, but the food is good and I love the seating area.

Finally, I thought maybe you might want to say a few words about the shops? I've noticed a lot of first-timers seem frightened or intimidated by them. Or even dismissive. But I found that a lot of them have unique things which are interesting to browse if not even to buy. Like the African knicknacks shop in the Animal Kingdom. Or the shops in the world showcase, particularly Morocco, China, and Japan. I'm not sure how I'd tell a noob not to be scared of the shops and that browsing them can be really rewarding and a big part of the experience, but it might be worth trying.

Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.

Nathilus posted:

kid dumps...

Flame Tree BBQ...

shops...

Ha! Three things I have little to no experience with! We don't have kids (we never even visited WDW when we were kids), we've never eaten at Flame Tree (I think we ate once at Yak & Yeti, and that's it for Animal Kingdom), and we don't shop much (the Yoda backpack I mentioned is probably the most expensive souvenir I've ever bought at WDW). Really, I'm 0-fer on everything you mentioned.

However, I'm working on a "restaurants" section, so everybody please keep it coming with the dining suggestions/advice.

And, of course, anything specific to people with kids.

Hell, anything, really. I'm making this up as I go.

Oh, and I'll start adding links to external sites for newbies who want more detail.

stoko
Nov 26, 2003

Wobbuffet! Wobbuffet!! WHERE!?

My dad has been driving one of the boats that takes people from the various hotels to Downtown Disney for something like the last 5 years, and still loves it just as much as when he started. It also gives my wife and me a good excuse to go to WDW every year or so, which is an added plus.

Every one of the parks has some great stuff to do, but I find that we also tend to spend most of our time at Epcot. I have probably seen Illuminations a good five or six times, and it is still just as good as the first time. Once we were lucky enough to be there when they were launching a shuttle from Cape Canaveral. It was maybe thirty minutes before Illuminations started, so you could still see the trails in the sky when Illuminations began. I would post some of the pictures I took except they are pretty terrible. Needless to say, sitting in "Morocco" listening to the music while watching a shuttle take off with the sun setting on the other side was one of the most memorable things I have ever witnessed.

I still feel like the best day I have spent at WDW was just leisurely wandering around Hollywood Studios. Up until that point I wasn't so sure how I felt about the park, but now it is right up there with the other three. Just taking in the atmosphere at the park was fantastic, and I'd highly recommend it. We were only able to stand waiting in line for Fantasmic! once, but it was absolutely worth it. I'd say it is more entertaining than Illuminations, though I'm not sure it would put up to multiple viewings quite as well.

One other thing that I highly recommend if you have the time is riding Thunder Mountain Railroad at MK while the fireworks are going off. It's hard to explain just how cool it is to pop out from below and see the mortars bursting in the sky, but it is totally worthwhile. I should probably note that Wishes (the Magic Kingdom fireworks show) is definitely my least favorite of the three nighttime shows, but is still pretty impressive and worth seeing. I'm not a huge fan of fireworks though, so take that with a grain of salt.

Jay Dub
Jul 27, 2009

I'm not listening
to youuuuu...


My family recently spent a week at WDW two weeks before Christmas, and as far as holiday trips that is the perfect time to go. It seems like there are two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the crowds just evaporate. Most kids are still in school, and generally speaking most of the crowds wait until the week of Christmas/New Years. By the time we left, people were really starting to roll in.

But two weeks before Christmas, all the parks are decorated for the holidays, Epcot does their Candlelight Processional, the other parks have their own holiday events/parades, and the crowds are relatively low. It's a great time to visit.

Anyway, what I actually came here to post was that there are a number of smartphone apps that you can use to see how long the lines are at the parks. I prefer "Disney World Wait Times" (or Disneyland Wait Times, if you're headed there). It's completely user-operated, so if you see a wait-time that's incorrect, you can personally submit an update. I used it on my family's last trip, and it proved pretty handy in knowing which areas of a park to steer clear of at a given time.

It also helps that Disney's been pretty good about offering free wifi throughout the parks.

Toolband
May 28, 2003

Year of the Tiger....probably not but hey we started 2-0

the 2 times me and my wife went it was right after labor Day and while still hot lines were pretty quick. The downside to off season is some rides are down for fixing.

We're going this year with a our son who's just shy of 3, May 6-11. It's the flower festival and every country in Epcot will have special pavillons up with special food during this time.

Riptor
Apr 13, 2003

here's to feelin' good all the time


Awesome OP. It made me want to go back to Disney World

Random question that I figure you may know, since you seem to keep up on your Disney rumors. I remember reading years and years ago that there was a proposal for a fifth park with more intense rides (coasters, specifically) that would be themed all around the villains of Disney movies. Any truth to that? Or was that even a rumor?

Ryen Deckard
Jun 28, 2008

My blood is red, white, and blue.


Riptor posted:

Awesome OP. It made me want to go back to Disney World

Random question that I figure you may know, since you seem to keep up on your Disney rumors. I remember reading years and years ago that there was a proposal for a fifth park with more intense rides (coasters, specifically) that would be themed all around the villains of Disney movies. Any truth to that? Or was that even a rumor?

Disney has 0 plans to build a fifth park right now.

Fluffy Bunnies
Jan 9, 2009

Half Dog.

Half Horse.

All Awesome.

Riptor posted:

Awesome OP. It made me want to go back to Disney World

Random question that I figure you may know, since you seem to keep up on your Disney rumors. I remember reading years and years ago that there was a proposal for a fifth park with more intense rides (coasters, specifically) that would be themed all around the villains of Disney movies. Any truth to that? Or was that even a rumor?

Villain Village/World/Park (etc) was supposedly an idea thrown out a really long while back. Disney's not going to build anything major any time soon with them working so heavily within the parks that they already have, and last I'd heard Villain (whatever) was just sort of something they amused themselves with. That the only current incarnation of villain-anything is the stuff they do during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and that's as far as they want to go with it for the foreseeable future, because the money is in fairies, pirates and princesses. And while Disney's not exactly hurting for money, they're going to ride that particular train into the ground because so much is already set up (or can be altered) to easily cater to it.

E: Supposedly that's one reason for so many new meetup spots and "interactive Disney meet and greet experiences" like Belle reading to kids and so on and so forth.

Ockhams Crowbar
May 7, 2007
Always the simplest solution.

That is a fantastic OP. Absolutely amazing.

My fiancee and I are looking at going to Disney World to visit with out family - we live overseas, and would meet up with them there. Does anyone have any recommendations on visiting Disney World with a large group? Are any of the hotels or resorts particularly set up with groups of 12+ people in mind? We'd be looking to visit in January of this next year, to avoid the crowds, get some nice temperatures and hopefully some off season rates.

Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.

Ockhams Crowbar posted:

That is a fantastic OP. Absolutely amazing.

My fiancee and I are looking at going to Disney World to visit with out family - we live overseas, and would meet up with them there. Does anyone have any recommendations on visiting Disney World with a large group? Are any of the hotels or resorts particularly set up with groups of 12+ people in mind? We'd be looking to visit in January of this next year, to avoid the crowds, get some nice temperatures and hopefully some off season rates.

If you want to stay at a WDW hotel, I think the largest single rooms available are the "treehouse villas" at Saratoga Springs Resort, which have 3 bedrooms and accommodate up to 9 people. (link) Check out the photo gallery...they're really nice and have a full kitchen, etc.

Off-site, I'm not sure. I'll leave that to the other readers.

WDW resorts that hold up to 8 guests per room: Animal Kingdom Villas, Beach Club Villas, Wilderness Lodge Villas, Boardwalk Villas, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Contemporary Resort. Note that some of those are the "Villas" section of a resort, and some are part of the normal hotel room blocks.

Call WDW Reservations if you want to stay on-site, and tell them you have a large group. They'll tell you pretty much anything you want to know about all of the hotels, even if you're not planning to book through WDW. Or, you can find a Disney-specialist travel agency to do the same thing.

DNova
Jan 11, 2006



Toolband posted:

the 2 times me and my wife went it was right after labor Day and while still hot lines were pretty quick. The downside to off season is some rides are down for fixing.

We're going this year with a our son who's just shy of 3, May 6-11. It's the flower festival and every country in Epcot will have special pavillons up with special food during this time.

Maybe it's just because I never go to the toddler areas of the parks, but all of the kids under about 4 that I see in the parks seem absolutely miserable. Hell, I'd be miserable at some flower festival in Epcot.

Abugadu
Jul 11, 2004

1st Sgt. Matthews and the men have Fashioned for me a cummerbund for my aptitude as a scuffler. i am Honored.

Thanks for the app recommendation, I'll be heading there later this month. Any restaurant recommendations for Downtown Disney?

Nathilus
Apr 4, 2002

I alone can see through the media bias.

I'm also stupid on a scale that can only be measured in Reddits.

DNova posted:

Maybe it's just because I never go to the toddler areas of the parks, but all of the kids under about 4 that I see in the parks seem absolutely miserable. Hell, I'd be miserable at some flower festival in Epcot.

I tend to agree that 5 or 6 is the earliest age it is wise to take a kid. A toddler simply doesn't have the stamina or faculties to appreciate most of the parks. Besides they'll likely barely remember it at that age.

Jay Dub
Jul 27, 2009

I'm not listening
to youuuuu...


Abugadu posted:

Thanks for the app recommendation, I'll be heading there later this month. Any restaurant recommendations for Downtown Disney?

Earl of Sandwich gets my vote for best quick service restaurant in all of WDW.

Now that I think about it, I'm not really familiar with most of the dining at Downtown Disney.

Fluffy Bunnies
Jan 9, 2009

Half Dog.

Half Horse.

All Awesome.

Abugadu posted:

Thanks for the app recommendation, I'll be heading there later this month. Any restaurant recommendations for Downtown Disney?

http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm#pi and http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showcat.php?cat=40

I don't have any recommendations, but that has a listing of restaurants and reviews from folks that've been down there recently. And menus, too.

Nathilus posted:

I tend to agree that 5 or 6 is the earliest age it is wise to take a kid. A toddler simply doesn't have the stamina or faculties to appreciate most of the parks. Besides they'll likely barely remember it at that age.

I think it depends on where you go, what you intend to do and how much patience you have. If you're just going to Magic Kingdom for a day, the toddler will probably have plenty to do (if they aren't freaked out by the characters) and they have child swap on all the rides I can think of. If you're staying down there for a week, yeah, it'll probably be lost on the kid. We lived near there when I was a toddler. My dad worked construction on the place. We went a lot because we got discounts. While I don't remember it great, I do still remember bits of it.

We also took a 15 month old and his 3 year old sister to Disneyland and they had a blast. They only got fussy after the fireworks went off, and we did plan the day around entertaining them, not us. So some kids can do it, and while I agree 5-6 is probably the best age, it's possible to do it with a smaller kid and for the smaller kid to enjoy themselves.

Nathilus
Apr 4, 2002

I alone can see through the media bias.

I'm also stupid on a scale that can only be measured in Reddits.

Fluffy Bunnies posted:

http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm#pi and http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showcat.php?cat=40

I don't have any recommendations, but that has a listing of restaurants and reviews from folks that've been down there recently. And menus, too.


I think it depends on where you go, what you intend to do and how much patience you have. If you're just going to Magic Kingdom for a day, the toddler will probably have plenty to do (if they aren't freaked out by the characters) and they have child swap on all the rides I can think of. If you're staying down there for a week, yeah, it'll probably be lost on the kid. We lived near there when I was a toddler. My dad worked construction on the place. We went a lot because we got discounts. While I don't remember it great, I do still remember bits of it.

Yeah I agree with everything here. Another proviso is that a five day vacation with a very young kid is doable if you just take it easy. You don't have to rush the parks like they are going out of style the whole week like I do when there, others find a more leisurely vacation preferable and it's certainly easier on very young kids and their likely exhausted parents. There are even childcare services available so if you want to go out to dinner with a spouse while your kid goes nuts with games, it's cool.

It's just... well, Disney World is loving Expensive. Totally worth the money, but it's enough to make my rear end in a top hat clench up pretty tight. Part of the way parents rationalize spending thousands of dollars on a Disney vacation is how memorable it will be for their kids. If a kid's so young they can't fully appreciate it, it makes spending all that time, money, and stress seem like a more dubious decision.

Six or seven is like the primo age for a first visit IMO. Most 5 year olds will enjoy the poo poo out of themselves too but they tend to run out of energy before the day is through. A six or seven year old will be going balls out the whole time and loving it. And the memories of that trip are likely to last them a lifetime.

Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.

Seconding (thirding?) that sentiment. Taking a toddler is inviting disaster. Seven or eight is a perfect starting age. I told my wife after our first couple of visits: Disney World isn't made for kids. It's made for adults; it just accommodates kids very well.

Little kids can certainly have fun, but they won't remember the trip. I read some WDW planning book many years ago, and the author said that the strongest memory most little kids have of their Disney World vacation is the swimming pool at the hotel. The pool. I tell people my first trip to WDW was when I was 29, but that's not true. My dad took me when I was four, but I remember nothing.

Regardless of age, I think the most important variable is whether or not the child is old/big enough to do a lot of walking. Even so, I still see 8- and 9-year-olds in strollers. Strollers! Oh my God! This may be unfair for me to say, since we don't have kids, but poo poo man. The Magic Kingdom needs family-sized nap rooms, I think. Maybe that's why Universe of Energy is still open and unchanged: it's like 45 minutes in the dark. Great place for the kids (and the Lincolns) to recharge the batteries.

So, to sum up: my wife and I have two catchphrases in the parks that will never go out of style: "Another satisfied customer," (for meltdowns) and, "That kid's too big for a stroller." Don't make my wife and I turn your vacation into a catchphrase for our own amusement.

OK, amazing coincidence: I'm in Terminal C at DFW Airport right now. A family of five just walked past me, and they obviously just got back from WDW. Or maybe they're headed to, but anyway, they're all decked out in park shirts and mouse ears. So jealous.

v v v v
e: HPanda, duly noted. You're right, of course, families with young kids have a great time at the parks. I just re-read my own post and realized it came off as a little snarky. It sounds like you guys are more prepared for and much more realistic about a Disney trip with a toddler than most.

Lincoln fucked around with this message at May 3, 2013 around 11:11

HPanda
Sep 5, 2008


I'm gonna have to disagree with people saying toddlers can't have fun at Disney or that it's inviting disaster. Our now two-year-old daughter has been going since she was two months. Granted, she didn't really perk up at things until seven months, but she's had a blast ever since (that first trip was more for us, admittedly, but she did like the pretty colors). She even gets super excited when a Disney World commercial comes on TV. Sure, she won't remember all this when she's older, but that really isn't the best metric to gauge whether or not it's good to take them.

We went just a couple weeks ago, and the memories that my wife and I will have from that trip are priceless, it was a great bonding opportunity, and it definitely stimulates their brain cells in all the right ways.

For the Flower and Garden Festival, they've set up three themed playgrounds for little kids. I didn't see the Cars-themed one, but the Oz and (I think it was) HGTV-themed ones are a bunch of fun.

The new circus addition to Fantasyland is absolutely awesome for toddlers. There's a big indoor playground while waiting for Dumbo now which we spent a couple hours in over the trip. Hollywood Studios has the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, and from what I understand, Epcot has an indoor playground, as well, though we haven't seen it yet. We haven't visited Animal Kingdom since she was old enough to play on playgrounds, so I'm not sure of any there.

Seriously, toddlers can have crazy amounts of fun all over Disney. My wife and I went all the time before we had kids, and while it is a different experience with different considerations and priorities (the character meet and greets are must-do's now, for one thing), Disney did a great job creating parks for all types of families.

But just a list of things off the top of my head that are great for toddlers in the Magic Kingdom: Carousel, Mickey's Philharmagic, Dumbo, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Little Mermaid, Tomorrowland Speedway, People Mover, Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, Winnie the Pooh, Barnstormer, Flying Carpets, character meet-and-greets, and parades. These are just the things my two-year-old got super excited about on our most recent trip, so it's by no means even a list of all things that are alright to do with a toddler. Mickey's Philharmagic is only really good once they learn to not take sunglasses off, and two other rides with height requirements are obviously only good once those requirements are met.

We've managed to have a full day of activities at each of the four parks, but I definitely think Magic Kingdom is built the best for toddlers. You just need to remember to keep the little ones hydrated, fed, and properly napped. Know the locations of the baby centers. Keep a slow pace. Realize that any plans you make are going to need to be much more malleable than going with older kids. Learn the areas where it's safe to let them run loose every so often (may not be possible in busy times of the year).

Ockhams Crowbar
May 7, 2007
Always the simplest solution.

Fluffy Bunnies posted:

http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm#pi and http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showcat.php?cat=40

I don't have any recommendations, but that has a listing of restaurants and reviews from folks that've been down there recently. And menus, too.


This is a great link. I remember vividly going as a kid - I have no idea how old - and thinking that the Garden Grill in Epcot was absolutely amazing, because they just kept bringing us more and more food to share amongst ourselves. I'd never been to a restaurant like that before. Plus, characters.

Does anyone have any recommendations on any of the in-park places that are really, really strikingly good? Good food, good atmosphere, something worth being a destination in the park instead of just a place to fill up?

This is the best thread for getting my fiancee all excited about this. She's never been, despite being a Disney fanatic. Wrong continent and all that.

Nathilus
Apr 4, 2002

I alone can see through the media bias.

I'm also stupid on a scale that can only be measured in Reddits.

Ockhams Crowbar posted:

Does anyone have any recommendations on any of the in-park places that are really, really strikingly good? Good food, good atmosphere, something worth being a destination in the park instead of just a place to fill up?

Tons. I could go on and on and on about this. My biggest hobby when I was working there was going to the parks to eat. EPCOT is pretty obviously the crown jewel. Out of its restaurants, Restaurant Marrakesh is the best experience IMO. They serve plates with stuff like lamb and giant piles of tasty couscous, the place is pretty, and there are belly dancers. WOOT. It's also sort of expensive even by Disney standards, 30-40 per person, so it's a really good use of a single dining plan credit.

I also really like San Angel Inn in Mexico. It's around the same price for fair to good Mexican food, but the dining experience is pretty unique and the cool, dark interior of the pavilion is a godsend in the middle or toward the end of a hot Floridian day. Be warned, this is my most controversial suggestion. A LOT of people would smirk at the idea of going to WDW and paying 30 bucks for a plate of food about as good as something you could get for less than 10 back home. All I have to say is take a look at the joint.

The Garden Grill likewise has a really relaxing atmosphere and their food is really good, but I hate character dining because of an experience I had at MGM when I was younger.

In Hollywood Studios there's the Brown Derby. It costs two credits like the other extremely fancy places and significant amounts of dough if you're not on the dining plan, but the food is very good and you get priority seating for the nightly show, which cuts down the time you have to deal with that bullshit significantly.

You asked for places in the parks, but some of the real gems are at the hotels. 'Ohana at the Polynesian Resort is a long time favorite for a lot of people. They serve meat on giant skewers and Polynesian themed sides, and it's delicious. Make reservations for a time during the evening fireworks show. This requires a bit of CS wrangling, but Disney-style it will be very pleasant.

At the Animal Kingdom lodge, both Boma and Jiko are amazing African themed dining. Boma is also very good for breakfast, but at dinner Jiko really stands out with some top notch food that you can't get everywhere. It's also expensive, and there is a dress code. Boma has the same kinds of stuff but it's lower brow dining by a notch both in food and atmosphere. Still far above average and significantly cheaper. I'd say one or both of these places are absolutely must visit, so if you're getting low on bills or credits Boma might be the better bet.

Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge is like Jiko in that it's signature dining thus expensive and has a dress code. They serve seasonal northwestern food including some of the best game meats I've ever had at any restaurant.

There are quite a few more but I'm going to stop before I hurt myself.

Ockhams Crowbar
May 7, 2007
Always the simplest solution.

Nathilus posted:

There are quite a few more but I'm going to stop before I hurt myself.

Awesome stuff, thank you so much. I haven't been since I was a kid, so I have really foggy memories of eating, and I wasn't sure how things might have changed in the meantime. I'm glad to hear that the Epcot restaurants are still fantastic. I vaguely remember the San Angel Inn from last time we went - or at least, I remember eating a bean burrito at a table someplace dark, which seems to fit the description.

And the resort restaurants seem perfect. We were on a pretty strict budget when I went as a kid, and WDW was a big stretch for us as it was. Now that I have the means to, taking my parents out to a few of the nicer places would be a nice chance to pay them back for putting on with me and my squabbling siblings during that trip. Plus, by the time I've paid to fly back to the US, food won't seem like much of a budget hit.

I'm not huge into character dining - I always feel kinda bad for whoever's in the suit, and it ruins the experience - but my partner is incredibly into the princesses and villains.

And Boma sounds perfect. Animal Kingdom was my favorite of all of the parks, but when we went there we were near the end of our trip and everyone was exhausted and eating muffins from stands all day because we were hot and tired. I always suspected there was good food to be found someplace in that park.

Fluffy Bunnies
Jan 9, 2009

Half Dog.

Half Horse.

All Awesome.

Ockhams Crowbar posted:

This is a great link. I remember vividly going as a kid - I have no idea how old - and thinking that the Garden Grill in Epcot was absolutely amazing, because they just kept bringing us more and more food to share amongst ourselves. I'd never been to a restaurant like that before. Plus, characters.

Does anyone have any recommendations on any of the in-park places that are really, really strikingly good? Good food, good atmosphere, something worth being a destination in the park instead of just a place to fill up?

This is the best thread for getting my fiancee all excited about this. She's never been, despite being a Disney fanatic. Wrong continent and all that.

Your other post also says she's a fan of the princesses. While the new Be Our Guest restaurant doesn't have characters wandering around (I don't get the appeal of that either), well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noAge3e0hAY

It's really, really pretty and the food is supposed to be fantastic. It's back in New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/d...est-restaurant/ There's a menu, and you have the option of 'quick service' for lunch or a full service dinner. And they take reservations if you want to do that.

Nathilus
Apr 4, 2002

I alone can see through the media bias.

I'm also stupid on a scale that can only be measured in Reddits.

Ockhams Crowbar posted:

I vaguely remember the San Angel Inn from last time we went - or at least, I remember eating a bean burrito at a table someplace dark, which seems to fit the description.

Hahaha, yep. That's definitely the place. I get a huge kick out of it. Having lunch by a fake river in the fake evening in fake Mexico with a random volcano painted on in the background has this pleasurably surrealist vibe that can't be had anywhere else.

Roar
Jul 7, 2007

sounds rough, ollie

Nathilus posted:

Hahaha, yep. That's definitely the place. I get a huge kick out of it. Having lunch by a fake river in the fake evening in fake Mexico with a random volcano painted on in the background has this pleasurably surrealist vibe that can't be had anywhere else.

It's all fake, sure, but it's also super peaceful as hell. One of the chillest places in EPCOT.

HPanda
Sep 5, 2008


Fluffy Bunnies posted:

While the new Be Our Guest restaurant doesn't have characters wandering around (I don't get the appeal of that either)

That's not completely the case. The Beast does come through every so often. They have a big fanfare while he greets his guests, then he goes back to the room where he's available for pictures. I just bring this up because when we went in December, we had a three-year-old with us who was absolutely terrified of him the first time he walked through. She did warm up to him his second time through, though. I think that might have had something to do with her seeing our 20-month-old give him a hug.

The food is quite good. It's not my favorite in Disney World, but probably the best sit-down restaurant in the Magic Kingdom (Orlando, anyway; California Disney Land has several great sit-down options). Honestly, though, we generally avoid the sit-downs in the Magic Kingdom because they're not great cost-for-quality, at least not compared to the resort restaurants and the restaurants in the three other parks. The recent opening of Be Our Guest changes that a bit, but I think reservations are still needed well in advance. Oh, it's also the only place in the Magic Kingdom to get beer and wine, so there's a novelty factor for that, as well.

If anyone is going to Downtown Disney, I highly recommend Raglan Road. The food is excellent and the live band they have six nights a week is a lot of fun. They have many good food options, but my current favorite is the heavenly ham. For dessert, get the bread and butter pudding. Cut a hole in the top of it and pour the sauces in.

At Hollywood Studios, The Brown Derby is a great restaurant. We've had several really great experiences there, mostly due to the servers. The Cobb salad is excellent. I also recommend the Sci-Fi Dine-in. My wife hates it, but I thought it was a really cool atmosphere and they have about an hour-long loop of old sci-fi trailers playing on a big screen. The dark atmosphere is nice on a hot day.

At Epcot, The Coral Reef has a great atmosphere with the giant glass wall and view of the aquarium. Epcot has great counter service everywhere, too, especially Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion.

We really don't visit Animal Kingdom much, so I can't comment much about that park.

Fish Biscuit
Dec 10, 2006



Ockhams Crowbar posted:

Does anyone have any recommendations on any of the in-park places that are really, really strikingly good? Good food, good atmosphere, something worth being a destination in the park instead of just a place to fill up?

This isn't in-park so much as in the Animal Kingdom Lodge hotel but Sanaa so far is my favorite dining experience and my husband and I have been pass holders for 2 years so we go quite a bit. It had large floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the Savannah so you can see giraffes and zebras and other animals while you eat. We went for lunch in January for my birthday so the weather was cooler and the animals were wandering about. Make sure to ask for a window table. The food was also wonderful African and Indian blend. I'd go back for the bread service alone.

I also highly recommend doing the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party. You get an unobstructed view of the fireworks show and a desert buffet to boot. At $25/adults $13/child a lot of people think it's too pricey for a sweets buffet but I think being able to relax and enjoy the fireworks comfortably instead of being packed into the street in front of the castle like sardines is worth it. Plus in usual Disney fashion the food was excellent. You absolutely need to make reservations for this though and they usually book up really quick.

Lincoln
May 12, 2007

Ladies.

Ockhams Crowbar posted:

Destination restaurants?

I think somebody's already mentioned O'hana at the Polynesian. We go literally every time we visit, and since it's always been just the two of us, it's easier to get a window seat during the Magic Kingdom fireworks. And we love Biergarten in Epcot. That place is super fun when it's crowded for dinner and everyone is drinking and singing. Consider the Coral Reef at Epcot, and request a table right next to the aquarium. The food is mediocre at best (at least, it was the two times we went), but you go there for the atmosphere and "wow" factor. And I haven't been since it opened, but Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom is supposed to be really keen. It's fast food for lunch, but a full sit-down restaurant experience at dinner. Our most recent visit was the first time we ate at Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian and we loved it. Don't bring the kids - they'll hate it. And it's pretty expensive; two credits on the Dining Plan.

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lamb
Mar 9, 2004

A single act of carelessness leads to the eternal loss of beauty

Ockhams Crowbar posted:

And Boma sounds perfect. Animal Kingdom was my favorite of all of the parks, but when we went there we were near the end of our trip and everyone was exhausted and eating muffins from stands all day because we were hot and tired. I always suspected there was good food to be found someplace in that park.

Boma is awesome. We eat there every time we go to WDW, because the food is so varied and so different from what we can normally get around here. Note though, that it's actually at Animal Kingdom Lodge rather than the park. Since AK is an early close park, you can do your whole day at AK then take the bus over to the hotel for dinner. It's good for large groups - there were 14 of us the last time I went to WDW. Depending on where you stay though it can be a hassle getting back to your hotel because you'd probably have to take the bus to either downtown Disney or MK then switch transportation. If you're renting a car, you could park at AKL in the morning, take the bus to AK, then your car will be right there after dinner. Just tell the people at the gate you have dining reservations.

Inside Animal Kingdom, the Yak and Yeti has good food.

I also love the beef brewat rolls and the baklava at Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco in Epcot, although I read a lot of Disney blogs and people have had less than stellar experiences there. If you like Baklava but don't want to eat at the restaurant, you can also get it at the quick service cafe in Morocco.

I actually don't recommend the Sci-Fi at HS because I feel like the food doesn't make up for the atmosphere. Plus, you're basically sitting in a car with 2 or 3 rows that seat 2 each, so you either wind up at a table with people you don't know in front or back of you, or if you're with a larger group it's a pain in the rear end to talk to the other people you are with. At HS, the Prime Time Cafe is nifty. It's got solid American comfort food served in a 50's style kitchen, and the waitresses harass you to finish your vegetables (it's a lot more fun than it sounds).

Some other random things I recommend as far as food: Dole Whip float (MK, Adventureland across from the treehpouse), chocolate covered pineapple (the store across from Dumbo, MK), the Passionfruit Margarita at La Cava de Tequila in Mexico (Epcot), the School Bread in Norway (Epcot) and LeFou's Brew (MK New Fantasyland).

A great site for Disney food porn is http://www.disneyfoodblog.com

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