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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, August 31, 2015

Disneyland Dining--The Plaza Inn

Sitting at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. before the turn into Tomorrowland, is the Plaza Inn, an iconic Disneyland restaurant.  Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily via buffet, guests can fill up and recharge.

We ate breakfast at the Plaza Inn aptly named “Minnie and Friends—Breakfast in the Park” on our very first day at Disneyland.

The park opened at 7:00 am for Extra Magic Hours—if you were a guest staying at one of the three on-site Resorts, or Magic Morning—if you were a guest staying at a “good neighbor hotel” and had a park ticket featuring Magic Morning.  And, we were there at rope drop and hit the park running.  By 8:40 am, the time of our reservation, we were ready for some sustenance.

We checked in at the podium outside of the restaurant with name and confirmation number in hand.  Good thing we had a reservation, as there were several guests waiting in line for an opening.  

The photo taken by the Photopass photographer.
Soon we were being called and were directed to get our photo taken by the Photopass photographer.  Guests who have purchased Photopass + get the print photo package along with having the photos digitally added to their Photopass account.  Otherwise, the print package is about $33.

We were then given a short tour of the restaurant and directed to our table, which was outside on the covered patio.  Note that the majority of the seating at the Plaza Inn is outside either covered or uncovered.  For us, our table was in a great location.  A family was seated at the table right beside us and they requested to move.  Hopefully, not because of us!

At breakfast there was a made to order eggs/omelet station along with many other offerings hot and cold.  My family is funny about how each of us approach a buffet.  The boy and husband dive right.  I on the other hand, take a closer look at all of the offerings and then make my selections.  So when I return to the table they are looking at my plate as if I went to a different restaurant.  They either return to get what I got or take samples from my plate.  A familiar question is “Where did you find that?” 

Characters and buffets make for some interesting timing and we know that.  So when we were seated, I stayed at the table to keep track of any characters that might be stopping by.  The boy came back with his plate just in time to meet the first character that came to our table.  I had already secured the autograph before the boy returned.  Whew!

When the husband has his plate and is ready to take over the camera and autograph book, I then go to the buffet.  We trade on/off throughout the meal for anyone who wants to make a return trip to the buffet or the bathroom.

Max--Goofy's son
Speaking of the bathroom, guests needing to use the facilities at the Plaza Inn have to leave the restaurant and use the restrooms just outside to the right on the way to Tomorrowland.   This was one of two “cons” we experienced while dining here. 

The other con was that Cast Members will not tell you how many characters will be greeting guests.  When I asked two different Cast Members I got answers like “several” or “5 or 6”.  The real answer is more like 11 and I think we met 10.  I then inquired as to why not tell us the straight answer.  Response:  “The characters change frequently and we don’t want guests feeling like they have to wait for all of them and can go when they are finished eating.” 

The characters were plentiful at Minnie’s breakfast.  We did keep waiting to see Minnie and she was the last character that we waited on to come to our table.

The cost of the breakfast is reasonable although we used one of our “Regular Character Dining Vouchers” to pay which included tax and gratuity. 

Fairy Godmother
I also talked the ladies at the table behind us into purchasing Photopass + as the Cast Member peddling the photo print package was trying to but wasn’t closing the deal.  I couldn’t help it and chimed in.  The Cast Member thanked me for helping her.  No problem!

When we were deciding on dining for our upcoming Walt Disney World trip, the boy chimed in about how this was the best character meal.  We heartily agree.  And, the food was good too!

Suzy--one of Cinderella's mice.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

180 Days From Trip #13 to Walt Disney World

July 2014
Believe it or not, it has been over a year since we have been to Walt Disney World and in another six months, we’ll be back there again. . . over a year and a half later!  I know, it seems like we were just there to us, too.

Today we are “180 days out” as Disney fans put it, which means, we could make Advanced Dining Reservations for our trip.  So, this morning I was on-line and on the phone securing all the plans that could be made at this stage in our trip countdown.

Advanced Dining Reservations went smoothly. . . well, mostly.  This is the first time that I have actually made the reservation as our travel agent typically does it for us, but it is Sunday.  I made all of them on-line but soon realized that I had made a dining reservation for this evening.  There wasn’t a “button” to cancel, so I picked up the phone and a very helpful Cast Member canceled the reservation for me, waiving the cancellation fee, AND added a note to all of our dining reservations about my birthday.  Yep—all the rest of the Williams Family has celebrated a birthday at Walt Disney World and this time, it’s my turn.  It’s a BIG birthday, too, making it even more special.

After making all of the dining reservations, it was time to do one more thing, something I’ve been researching for months.  We made a reservation for the Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour.  Here’s what the tour includes:
The day begins at Magic Kingdom park, where you’ll brave the excitement of select attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion and the rollicking new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train—all with expedited admission.
A little later in the day, treat your taste buds to a thrilling occasion, courtesy of a delectable lunch at a Walt Disney World table-service restaurant—which comes included with the cost of your VIP Tour.
Then, brace yourself—this adrenaline rush is just getting started! At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can take off on attractions like Toy Story Midway Mania!, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Star Tours – The Adventures Continue.
Finally, go wild as you end your VIP Tour with a trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, where you’ll brave a perilous race through time on DINOSAUR and embark on a monumental adventure rocketing you through the Himalayas on Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.
The 7 plus hour tour comes with a hefty fee, but we got a 15% discount by using our Disney Rewards Visa.  The tour also includes lunch at the Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios—a new restaurant for us. 
I’ve already added Memory Maker to our reservation which means we’ll get all the ride photos from this day AND the ride videos from Tower of Terror and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster.
When I called to reserve the tour I learned that it is “fast paced,” requires walking, and for guests to wear closed heal and toe shoes—no sandals or crocs.  The Cast Member was very specific about shoes, inclement weather protection, and arrival times.  I’m very excited to give this tour a try.
Whew!  This trip is almost in the bag.  We just need return airfare.  The next milestone is “60 days out” when we can make our Fastpass +’s.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Perks of Traveling With Disney Rewards Visa--Character Meet and Greet

 Earlier this Spring we obtained a Disney Rewards Visa, initially to get a discount on tours at Disneyland.  What we have discovered is that there are other perks as well.
 In both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Disney Rewards Visa holders are offered a special character meet and greet opportunity.  I Disneyland, that meet and greet is in California Adventure at the very end of Hollywood Land.

The hours were 10:30-1:30 daily.  And, guests with the Rewards Visa can take advantage of the meet and greet once each day and requires showing your Disney Visa and photo ID.  In addition to the character interaction that includes photos taken by a Photopass photographer, guests are given a voucher to redeem for a free 5 X 7 photo at the photo shop on Buena Vista Street. 

At Disneyland, I was informed by a Cast Member that Daisy, Minnie, and Stitch are the characters in the rotation.
Our experienced was mixed.  We joined the short line before 10:30 am only to hear that Daisy was off shopping and would not be greeting guests.  We were encouraged to wait until 10:45 which is when a character would be available.  Knowing that we had an 11:00 am Advanced Dining Reservation for Ariel's Grotto, which was across the park, I did not feel comfortable waiting until 10:45. 

The empathetic Cast Member gave us the time that Stitch would be greeting guests and told us that even if there was a line that if we returned, we would be granted front of line access.  Deal.  Off to lunch we went and when we returned, we got to see Stitch.

On another day in California Adventure, we tried again at 10:30, as we were in the area.  Again, no Daisy and we were told we could wait.  A return trip to the area wasn't in our touring plan so we did not use this perk again.

We are looking forward to trying out this Disney Rewards Visa perk while at Walt Disney World!

Want to know more about Disney Rewards Visa perks--click here.

Friday, August 28, 2015

California Adventure--Character Interactions

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was the one character the husband was determined to meet.
For us, meeting and greeting Disney characters is a part of the fun of visiting theme parks and our Summer 2015 Disneyland vacation was no different.  Click here to read more about the characters we met at Disneyland.

Here are the characters we met at Disney's California Adventure:
 Cars Land offered up three characters for us to greet--Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Red.  What a treat!

 In Hollywood Land, we exchanged family stories with The Incredibles and Frozone.  They have a new movie coming out!
 Olaf was also greeting guests in Hollywood Land, near Mike & Sulley to The Rescue.  We had read that this was a Fastpass only meet and greet, but no Fastpasses were offered or required.
 We found Oswald right in front of the gate.  The husband was thrilled as this was the one character he definitely wanted to meet.
 The Mouse himself was on Buena Vista Street.
 Donald Duck has his own gazebo just across the bridge into Paradise Pier.
 Dug was in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. . . a part of Grizzly Peak.
 Stitch was one of the characters in the Disney Visa Card rotation.  I'll write more about this perk in another post.
 Mike was in the Monsters University portion of Hollywood Land, just across from the entrance to Aladdin.  The boy got him to dance with him--what fun!
 The one and only Fastpass required meet and greet in the park--Anna and Elsa.  The Fastpasses have a 20 minute return window and you can have a Fastpass for the meet and greet even if you have other Fastpasses.  Animation Academy is the home for these ladies.
 Pluto was near Soarin' in Grizzly Peak.
 The only time guests can see Russell is after his ceremony in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.  Check the Times Guide for show times.
 Woody and Buzz meet guests just past Toy Story Midway Mania in Paradise Pier.

 We bumped into some "friends" on Buena Vista Street.  We got a ticket for being "nice"!
 Flik was in a bug's life land.  It was great to see him again.

As you can see, it took us a few days to round up all of these characters, but we did knock out several on one day!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Disneyland--Character Interactions

Mary Poppins was near Matterhorn Bobsleds.
During our summer 2015 visit to the Disneyland Resort we spent 7 days in the parks--4 in Disneyland's Magic Kingdom and 3 days in Disney's California Adventure.   What we discovered is that we had many more Photopass photos taken in California Adventure and part of that was due to character interactions.  We met plenty of characters in Disneyland, too, but the Photopass photographers were primarily with the the Fab 5 or designated character meet and greets such as inside Mickey's house in Toontown or at the Royal Hall.

Characters we met at Disneyland:
Captain America and Thor were greeting guests in Tomorrowland.  A character handler told us that both would be out at 2:45 pm, so we waited so that we could meet both characters by waiting in the same line.

Mickey in his 60th Anniversary suit was greeting guests on Town Square.
 Chip 'n Dale and Donald Duck were also greeting guests on Town Square.  Multiple characters were out at once, so we divided and conquered.  The line was longest for Mickey Mouse, so the husband waited in that line, while the boy and I went to see the other characters for autographs and photos.  We were able to manage two lines and then re-join the husband.  The people waiting in line near the husband mentioned that we were pretty clever. 

We found Goofy in Toontown, just to the right of the entrance.
The Royal Hall is one of the best places to meet Disney Princesses.  Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle--picture further below--were greeting guests on the day I visited.  The Princess selection varies and is posted outside the entrance.  P.S.  The tunics that the Cast Members wear here are pretty cool--I wanted one.

Merida had her own shaded spot just outside the Royal Hall.  Here queue is taped off on the ground in a busy walk-way.
We discovered Jesse and Woody in Big Thunder Ranch, along with Farley who plays music and interacts with guests by telling jokes.  He was hilarious!

Goofy was also on Town Square.  We wanted to see the sparkles inside his jacket.

Cruella DeVille was on Town Square, too.  
 Peter Pan was offering photos and autographs near Matterhorn Bobsleds.
 We had been searching for the Mad Hatter and found him in Fantasyland near the castle.
 I went to the restroom and discovered people waiting in line along with a Cast Member.  When I inquired, the line was for these characters.  What a surprise!

Pluto was on Town Square
W found Captain Hook between Casey Jr. and Storybook Canal boats in Fantasyland.

There were other characters that we met during character dining.  We were pleased with the assortment of characters found in the parks.  No Fastpasses for any of the ones we met, just great timing, good eyes, and asking the right people the right questions.  The boy is the best one for spotting the characters!