Jedi Training Academy: tips for how to sign up!

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I am a high-strung, anxious person. I'll be the first admit it. And so Disney vacations are especially taxing on me --- so many people, so much to see / do, and so much opportunity for disaster. A Disney trip is 1 part pure magic and 1 part misery, and the trick is to maximize the first while minimizing the second. That's why I'm such a stickler for all the obsessive advance planning: because I believe that is the best way to maximize the good parts and minimize the bad (the waiting, the low blood sugar temper tantrums, the standing in the heat, the sunburns, the blisters, the missing favorite rides/characters, etc.)

The problem is, not everything CAN be advanced planned. Specifically, Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios. There is no ADR for Jedi Training Academy, no 30 day FP+. To get a spot in the Jedi Training Academy show parents and the children who want to participate must sign up --- and the spots fill quickly, they're often gone shortly after rope drop.

As you can imagine, that's a really big unknown in my otherwise buttoned-down itinerary. So, I did some research on the best ways to ensure your child gets a spot. Essentially, you need to be first in line at Hollywood Studios for rope drop and then sprint from the gate to the sign up area.

Or - better yet - be in the park prior to rope drop for a breakfast reservation at Hollywood and Vine. Then you only have to sprint from the restaurant to the sign up area.

We chose the later approach, since my younger daughter loves the Disney Junior characters and we were going to be eating at Hollywood and Vine anyway. In my opinion, it's one of the better breakfast buffets, and they take breaks to sing songs and do dance-alongs with the kids.

I'll admit that I struggled to enjoy breakfast as we waited for rope drop and the opening of the Jedi Training Academy sign-up. I had to give this task to my husband because it was just too much for my nerves. He snooped around while we waited for our table and found out where exactly sign up was going to be, and which cast members were guarding the route to sign up. They told him to keep an eye out the window and be ready to bolt when he saw the cast members leave their posts blocking the sidewalk to the sign up location.
 


So, that's what we did. I stayed at the table with Eva who was having a great time meeting Sofia, Jake, and Doc McStuffins, while my husband took off with Viola to get in line. Not only did this strategy get us a spot, but they were actually first!!! in line, and had their pick of showtimes! My husband took along with him our day's itinerary (courtesy of my handy daily itinerary print out!) and was able to get Viola signed up for a show that fit in between our FP+ and other meals.

  Here he is with the golden ticket! I was so proud! :-)

Here he is with the golden ticket! I was so proud! :-)

 The day's itinerary...

The day's itinerary...

Quick tip - make sure to take a photo of your return slip, that way if you lose it you'll still have the digital copy! We also do this for any photopass cards we might get.

It was pretty surreal from the point-of-view of the table. About 5 minutes after my husband left, I started to see the folks coming by from rope drop--- moms sprinting past with jogging strollers stacked with three or four kids, dads with little ones under their arms like luggage. There was one family eating near us that I guess weren't paying close attention because about 15 minutes after rope drop they suddenly tore out of the restaurant, literally tossed their kids into a stroller, and took off. It was seriously strange, like the escape scene in some sort of horror movie--- I half expected to see godzilla turn the corner.

About 20 minutes after rope drop I saw a mom with a really little boy all dressed up in Jedi robes. I don't know whether they made it to the line or not, because by that time I'm pretty sure I'd already seen over 150 kids go by, but I really hope they got a spot!

My husband returned and we all wrapped up breakfast, then headed over to visit Hiro & Baymax until it was time to check-in for the Jedi Training show. He took Viola to check in, while I went to the stage with Evangeline in her stroller. 

 We stopped by the gift shop first for some consolation prizes...

We stopped by the gift shop first for some consolation prizes...

Jedi Training Academy seems to be one of those things that brings out the worst in Disney parents---- well, maybe not the worst, but definitely the fiesty. As we were waiting for the show to begin, a couple near us got into a huge fight because the mom had sent the dad to save a spot in the crowd but I guess he hadn't gone directly there and by the time she arrived (after dropping her son off back stage) there was a crowd of other parents in the first row. I believe her exact words were "we did all that to get him into the show and now I can't even video it!" I squished over and offered her a spot in the front with me, standing behind Eva's stroller because I could totally sympathize with her frustration!

Here is a video I put together of the show Viola participated in. My daughter loves to tell the story of that time she beat Darth Vader in a lightsaber dual and used the force to knock over some stormtroopers that were trying to catch her,  just like in the movie. 

Jedi Training Academy was amazing, and definitely worth all the extra effort and anxiety it took to get Viola a spot. And, as an added bonus (?) my husband learned a whole lot of useful (?) Jedi puns:

Q:  What's the temperature inside a Tauntaun?
A: Luke warm!

Har har har!


If you have a Star Wars enthusiast in your family, here are my tips for getting your child a spot in the Jedi Training Academy show, based on our recent experience (2015):

1. RESERVE a Hollywood & Vine ADR for prior to park opening. True, you can be first in line for rope drop, but then you'll have to sprint through the park and that just seemed awful. Much more pleasant to enjoy some warm Mickey waffles while you wait! You have to time it though to be done eating before rope drop, or have one parent available to take your padewan to sign up.

2. REMEMBER: children must be present to sign up. Children can be as young as 4. We considered signing Eva up for the show, but after seeing it I'm glad we didn't. If you have a very outgoing 4yr old, it might make sense, but I think Eva would have been overwhelmed.

3. DO show up early at the stage --- be sure to arrive ahead of the show start time to reserve a spot in the front of the crowd if you want to be able to take a video. There will be a Photopass Photographer present, but you'll probably want to make sure you take some of your own pictures as well just in case if you can!

4. Finally, and most importantly, DO CHEER FOR ALL THE KIDS!  Be an active crowd participant and make the experience memorable for all the little padawans up on the stage.

Bonus: DO DRESS UP your child in Star Wars garb! Not only is it fun, but it will gain them a little extra attention on stage. :-)  (You can read the story behind the girls' R2D2 and C-3PO sundresses here).


After our Jedi Training Academy experience, we rode Star Tours (Eva was, alas, still too short by 1/4 inch!!) ....

and took some pictures with the AT-AT....

and some more with the Speeder....

and even made lightsabers,  all before our lunch reservation at the SciFi Diner (which is still my favorite Disney restaurants of all time!)


All-in-all, our Hollywood Studios day was one of the best of the trip. The Jedi Training Academy was an amazing experience for my daughter and I look forward to our next trip when Eva can participate too!

What to do when restaurants are being refurbished? (Disney World Tip)

So, it's 180 days prior to your trip and you're making your Advance Dining Reservations and you find out the restaurant you really, really, really want to eat at is scheduled for refurbishment. Even though all the rumor blogs say the restaurant will reopen before or during your trip, they aren't taking reservations yet. What do you do? 

If you've read my earlier post with tips on how to schedule ADRs like a Disney ninja, you've got a great start. But, unfortunately, restaurants sometimes have to be closed for refurbishment, just like rides. This can be super frustrating, especially if it's an "important" restaurant like Cinderella's Castle. I've known folks to reschedule their entire trips because missing Cinderella's Castle is a deal breaker for them. This is especially the case for families that don't go to Disney often, or maybe plan to visit Disney only once in their lives!

Being unable to schedule an important restaurant (because of refurbishment) at the 180-day mark has actually happened to me twice. On our 2013 trip my mom had her heart set on watching fireworks from the California Grill but it was closed for refurbishment in the weeks prior to our trip, and for our upcoming trip in 2015 Cinderella's Castle will be closed for refurbishment, scheduled to reopen on March 6th (at the very end of our trip). 

In both instances, we knew the restaurants would be closed and so we booked alternate restaurants at the 180-day mark, then began persistently checking. For this, you don't need to call at 6:55AM, but you do need to call consistently--- weekly if it's far out, daily as you get closer. My mom and I split up the weeks so the burden of calling wasn't always on one person. When we called we asked two questions: 

1 - Can I make a reservation for (restaurant, date)?  

2 - Do you know when I WILL BE able to make a reservation?  

You'll find that you'll get inconsistent responses. Don't be discouraged if one rep tells you that you won't be able to make the reservation at all --- this happened to us, and it was not true. Keep an eye on the Disney rumor blogs because they're usually spot on, and keep in mind that the restaurants usually open prior to their posted re opening date. Any time you are calling Disney about anything related to your trip, it doesn't hurt to ask about your outstanding restaurant, either! And ALWAYS be polite and curteous to the representatives you speak to, they are your best resource!

In 2013 we were able to finally book the California Grill about two months prior to our trip, which means we'd called consistently for four months! But it was worth it! The experience of watching the fireworks from our table during dessert was a great way to start our trip!  

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For our upcoming trip we booked our ADRs in August, and just today we were able to finally book Cinderella's Castle! My mom had called about adjusting the time of a different reservation and took the opportunity to ask at the end of the call and --- voila! I had called the day before and been told it would be a few weeks still, so that just goes to show that you should be consistent despite what you may be told because you never know when those reservations will open up!

The girls are excited to eat in the castle again and this time we have an early morning reservation, which means an opportunity for pictures in front of the castle with no crowds! We've never had that opportunity before and I'm possibly more stoked about that than the character meal. Also excited to see what changes are being made during the refurbishment: I have my fingers crossed for a brighter dining space instead of the authentic (but drab) interior that they have now. I promise to post pictures as soon as we are in so you can see what changes have been made, too! :-)

I hope these tips help you if you find yourself in the same sort of predicament. Just remember: don't get discouraged! If the restaurant will be reopened during your trip, reservations will most likely open up before your arrival date. If you are persistent and consistent you have a good chance of booking them for your family! 

Need to check what refurbishments are going on during your trip? I rely on Kenny the Pirate's website for that, you can see the list of attractions/restaurants that will be closed for refurbishment here. 

NOTE: In this post I talk about calling daily, but you can also stalk the online dining website scheduler. For some folks stalking the website multiple times per day is probably easier than calling, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned that option!  :-)

#throwbackthursday: Favorite Character Interactions - Mulan, Terrance (2011)

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We have so many digital photos, but precious few printed ones. Last night Viola asked me to find and print a particular image from our first Disney trip for an art project she is doing in class. While I was hunting through the 2011 Photos folder, I came across these great two interactions from that trip. 

The first is a visit with Terrance that went hilariously awry. Even though Viola had already met both Tinkerbell and Rosetta earlier in the day, she was overcome with shyness during Extra Magic Hours. To earn her confidence he decided to show her that there was a hole in the back of the teacup in the area behind him....

Using my psychic-mommy abilities, I predicted that Viola (age 3) would crawl in and not ever come out... which of course, she did. You can hear us in the background giggled with the photopass photographer and Terrance's handler... who both seemed to find the predicament as funny as I did.  

"Should I go help?" I asked.  

"No," they laughed. 

Check it out below. :-)


Later in the trip we got caught in a down-pour near EPCOT China and ducked into the pavilion to stay dry. Being newbies, we didn't know that you could find Mulan there, so seeing her was a happy accident. She was THE BEST. I've held off on sharing this video because Mulan mentioned that she really wasn't supposed to be in the room with the Terra Cotta soldiers display, and I would guess she REALLY isn't supposed to be sword fighting in there and I would never want to get her in trouble. But, since it's been about 4 years I thought it would be safe to share this now. What an awesome interaction, right? You can see how excited Viola is just watching! She still talks about it, and she was only a spectator.  

I wonder if this is what Kenny the Pirate means when he suggests asking Mulan to show you her Kung Fu moves in his Character Interaction Guide?

Advance Dining Reservations - Advanced Tips!

I had a few crafting posts scheduled for this week, but instead I wanted to share with you the story of my ADRs while the experience was fresh. 

For those of you unfamiliar, ADRs are "Advanced Dining Reservations". Disney World restaurants begin taking ADRs 180 days in advance. I wrote a bit about the different steps in trip planning earlier in my Trip Planning 101 post. The big disclaimer to that post is that I'm not saying this strategy is right for everyone--- I'm definitely a type A over planner, and the level of obsessive pre-planning would probably drive some folks bananas. I know there are lots of families that like to be very flexible and un-scheduled on their vacations. I'm just not one of those people. I like to know what I'm doing, when I'm doing it, and ensure that everyone gets to do as much of their "wish list" as possible. So, with that caveat, I'd like to share with you my "secrets" for getting every dining reservations on our wish list. 

In 2013 we planned a trip for 9 people for 9 days to Walt Disney World. Because our group was going in many different directions throughout the day, we wanted to schedule meals so we hand two points per day when we all came together to enjoy each other's company. That meant 18 dining reservations (which really ended up being closer to 30 when all was said and done) at some of the "exclusive" and hard-to-get restaurants like Belle's Castle and Cinderella's Castle. 

For our upcoming trip in 2015, planning started several months ago. As Disney Vacation Club Members (since 2011), we can take advantage of the member booking window for our home resort 10 months in advance. We made our initial reservations for Bay Lake Towers (our home resort), then at the 7 month window transferred that reservation for The Beach Club. I can't tell you HOW EXCITED I am to be staying at the Beach Club! Our trip has three portions: the first 5 days we will be visiting Disney parks and staying at the Beach Club, then we will be moving for 2 days to Cabana Bay, Universal Studio's new hotel, and visiting the new Harry Potter theme parks!  Then, we will be returning to Disney for 3 days and staying at Bay Lake Tower. In hindsight, I wish I had changed the final portion of our trip to the Floridian at the 7 month booking window--- the thought didn't occur to me until a few weeks past 7 months and by then the Floridian was all booked up. We've never stayed at the Floridian and would have loved to add that experience to this trip, but we'll just have to save that for the next adventure (hello 2017!)  :-)  All I can say is that I guess I was just sooooo focused/anxious about booking the Beach Club that I wasn't thinking about anything else! 

Once we had secured the Beach Club, I set about gathering everyone's wish lists together. This trip is for just 5, which makes is somewhat simpler than our last trip (though we are staying in 2 rooms at both Beach Club and BLT, which means that, on top of the separate reservations for Cabana Bay, I am juggling 5 separate hotel reservations!)  The girls' wish lists are loaded with princess-themed meals and activities, all of which really require advance planning. I had to institute a strict maximum number of costumes that they could bring with them because, if Viola had her way, she would be bringing all her dress up costumes and changing outfits for every character meet & greet!

I follow Kenny the Pirate's blog and as soon as the crowd calendar / park hours schedule came out for the dates of our trip, I got busy laying out our family touring plan. When the girls were very little and we were lugging bottles and diapers and two strollers, we scheduled to be in the same park for full days to reduce the hassle of buses and transportation. Now that they're a bit bigger, we're going to try to follow the advice to avoid the park with the EMH (Extra Magic Hours) and then park-hop back for the exclusive park time at the end of the night to avoid the higher crowds at the EMH park during the day. This is our first time park-hopping in a while, so I'll let you know how it goes. It has certainly made planning dining reservations a bit more difficult! 

I'm pleased to say that our ADR 180-day booking window was yesterday and that I was able to get every single thing on our wish list. Here's how I did it:


HOW TO GET EVERY RESERVATION! :-)


STEP 1:  MAKE A PLAN

As I already described above and on my Trip Planning 101 post, you need to make your trip plan in advance. I had this done at least a week in advance of the ADR date. Our plan went through several revisions as I got feedback from the rest of the family. We tried to imagine how the days would go, what risks might happen. We researched travel options between parks to make sure that our expectations were reasonable when making reservations for the same day at two different locations. One goal for this trip is to spend more time at the hotel pool (we tend to "go commando", that is spending all day every day in the parks. On our last two trips we spent precious little time in the pools and always regretted that after we'd left. On this trip we are staying at the Beach Club for the purpose of being able to swim at Stormalong Bay! while the kids are still little. (Squee!) So, I wanted to make our plans such that we were "forcing" ourselves to go back to the hotel for some meals, hoping that this would "make" us take time to swim. We'll see if this strategy works!) We also made the decision that, now that we are DVC members, that we wanted to focus on exploring the hotel we are staying at more than hopping between hotels. So, for instance, though Narcosee's was at the top of my husband's wish list, we removed it and researched restaurants like of the Flying Fish and the Yachtsman Steakhouse, hotels at or near the hotel where we are staying. On a future trip when we have the opportunity to stay at the Floridian we will be sure to focus on the Floridian's restaurants! Taking extra magic hours and expected crowd levels into anticipation, I laid out the following trip plan: 

Oh, by the way, here's a little extra tip: Because you are able to make your ADRs ten days out from your check-in date, you have the greatest booking advantage on the days at the end of your trip. So, if it works into your plans, try to schedule the hardest to get meals/experiences for the end of your trip. 


STEP 2: ASSESS DIFFICULTY 

The hardest restaurants to "get" are the signature dining locations and the character meals. But there are some restaurants within that elite list that are just impossible to get. These include: 

  • Cinderella's Royal Table (Cinderella's Castle)
  • Be Our Guest Restaurant (Belle's Castle)
  • The California Grill 
  • Hoop De Doo Review 
  • Mickey's Backyard BBQ 
  • Chef Mickey's
  • La Cellier
  • Victoria and Alberts 
  • Fireworks Viewing Locations (Rose and Crown, California Grill, Tomorrowland Terrace, etc.)

As a side note, I soooooo wanted to book La Cellier for this trip, but I was overruled in favor of other Epcot dining experiences. Le sigh. I guess it will have to wait until 2017. :-(

Alright, so here's what I do: Anything in my plan that's on that list above gets a 1. All other character dining or signature dining gets a 2. Everything else gets a 3. Remember, this isn't about how much YOU want to go to the restaurant OR where it falls in your trip, but rather how hard it is to book.  Then, I sort the list by the priority ranking. Easy, right? You'll notice that there are very fancy meals that aren't on the priority 1 list, like Ohana or the Perfectly Princess Tea Party---- though these are really awesome experiences, they don't book up like Cinderella's Castle does, so even if they're high on your to do list they still get a #2.

I put notes next to certain reservations, for instance if the meal HAS to be at a particular time, or if there are alternate dining options that would be OK, to minimize the amount of thinking on my feet that I have to do at 6AM. If what I want is booked up, I can check out the alternates and snag one of those real quick so I'm not completely out of luck.

A note about duplicate reservations: Disney's system is set up to kick out reservations for two restaurants at the same time. They did this because people were booking a couple restaurants so that they'd have choices the day of. This is great but if you're in a situation like I was in 2013 where you are making reservations for a large group of people, you might wind up needing to make two dinners for the same time slot. (For instance, the first night of our stay my family wanted to eat at TREX and my cousins' family wanted to eat at Ohana, so we planned to go our separate ways, but because we were staying in a suite with 1 reservation # it made making those reservations really hard. What we found was that the reservations have to be about an hour apart--- so you can schedule a dinner reservation for 5pm and another for 6, but you can't schedule two dinners for 5 pm.  Make sense?  On this trip we have a few duplicate situations where we are going our separate ways but because we are staying in two separate rooms I just made sure to identify the duplicates and divide them between my mom and I (so her dinner is under her hotel reservation and my dinner is under mine). 


STEP 3: DIVIDE AND CONQUER AND PREPARE

How many adults are in your group?  Divide the list up by that many. In my case, there is myself, my mom, and my husband. Each person gets a #1, then we divide up the #2s and #3s.  If there are competing 1's and 2's I will at this point put them in sub-order of what we want to do most.

Each person making reservations needs to have their own Disney.com account (login/password). Before reservation day I make sure that each person logs in and practices making a reservation--- you can cancel it right afterwards--- to make sure we are all aware of what the steps and process are, and to pre-fill in the credit card information. This saves crucial time the morning when you're trying to get those priority 1 reservations. 

 My list of ADR assignments

My list of ADR assignments

 My Mom's list of ADR assignments

My Mom's list of ADR assignments

Here's another little tip I discovered this time around: in the Disney website there is a "wish list" function. If you add the restaurants you will be making reservations at to this wish list it acts as a quick links when you are making the reservations, shaving crucial seconds off your booking time. You laugh, but those seconds can make the difference between getting Cinderella's Castle AND Belle's Castle or just Cinderella's Castle---- seriously! 


STEP 4: EARLY, EARLY MORNING / PRELOAD YOUR MVP!

I am not a morning person. I mean, I am really REALLY not a morning person. I'm something more like this... 

But on coronation day.... I mean, ADR day I am up at 5:30 AM. I splash water on my face, I do some jumping jacks, gargle some black coffee, and then pre-load my MVP reservation. That is my #1 priority 1 reservation. For us, this was Belle's Castle, Cinderella's Castle, and California Grill.  

But wait, you say, that's THREE #1s!  Right you are sir.  (Refer to Step 3). 

If you are particularly ambitious you could hypothetically set up two laptops side by side and log them both into one Disney account to speed up the process even further. I experimented with this yesterday and found that I could be logged in simultaneously and could make reservations from both machines but I could not hit "submit" on both machines simultaneously. As long as I alternated when I was hitting the submit button, I was able to load up the next restaurant and search for a ADR time as I was finalizing the previous reservation on the first reservation. The Dining reservation site has some weird lag and load times, and the process of finding your restaurant, logging your desired date and time, and finalizing the ADR can take up to two minutes per reservation. As I already said above, getting or missing a high priority ADR can come down to seconds. 

Once I've made the ADR, I log the time I was able to get and the confirmation number in my spreadsheet. Once I'm all done I go back and see if there are any reservations that are too far apart from my target time and I'll go back into the system and try to adjust it to get it closer to where I wanted. An example of that is the reservation we just made for "Fantasmic Dining" at Mama Melrose'. We wanted a dinner time (5:00ish) but the only reservation I could get was 3:45, so I took that but then afterwards I went back in and tried to move it later, but I didn't want to waste time fussing over one reservation when I still had a big long wish list to get through. 


STEP 5: 7AM SPEAK TO A PERSON / EVENTS

I understand that not everyone can/wants to make reservations online, and I respect that. But making online reservations does give you an advantage. I've seen for myself reservations that were available at 6:00 online are no longer available by 7:00 when the phone lines open up. I try to get everything I possibly can within the 6:00-7:00 window, and then at 7:00 I'll call up the phone lines and get those last tricky reservations and the Events reservations.

When calling at 7:00, the advice I've read is that you should start calling at 6:55 and keep hitting redial until it goes through because they might actually open at 6:59 or whatever. (IMO, this just means your clock is fast). Another good tip that's worked for me is that when you reach the recording and it asks whether you are in the Orlando area, to go ahead and say you are. This lets you bypass some scripted marketing stuff and gets you to a customer service rep a few minutes faster. Remember what I said about seconds?  Try WHOLE MINUTES!  This tip could make the difference between getting right into a rep or waiting a long, long time on hold.

Events (like the Pirates League and Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique) can't be booked online and so these have to wait until 7:00 when the phone lines open up. Something to keep in mind: if you call Disney Dining they can only help you with making Dining reservations, but if you call the Event number they can do BOTH events and dining, so you should call them if you need to make both types of reservation, otherwise you're going to have to sit on hold twice (once for dining then once for events). Booking the Events at 7:00 after making the dining reservations at 6:00 online worked well for me since several of the experiences we want are tied to meals, i.e. we wanted to time the BBBoutique makeover for only a few hours before dinner, and certainly if we hadn't been able to book the dinner at the castle we wouldn't have wanted to book the Boutique, etc.

The experiences tend to take longer because they have to read through all the details and gather payment and attendee ages, etc. for each event.  


THE END?

I'm happy to report that other than the unfortunate time for dinner at Mama Melrose's we were able to get everything on our wish list at the times that we wanted by following the above steps. The entire process took about three hours, however--- I was up at 5:30 and wrapped up with the experiences cast member at around 8:30.

But what if you weren't able to get everything you wanted? There are a few reservations that we'll have to keep calling about--- they're not making reservations for Cinderella's Castle yet because of the refurbishment, and they don't have the schedule for the Pirate and Pals Fireworks Cruise, so this is where persistence comes in. If you have one or two important reservations that you weren't able to get you should keep calling, at least weekly if not daily. You don't need to call at 6am, but make sure you are calling regularly (even and especially right up to the day before and the day of your desired ADR) because people do cancel reservations all the time! 

I wait until AFTER the 180 day mark, once the reservations are set, to add up how many Table Services we need and to make a decision about which dining plan we'll get (if any). Looks like we'll be doing the Deluxe Dining again this trip.

So, what reservations did we get? Feast your eyes on the coming feasting.... ;-) 

  • TREX
  • California Grill (timed for fireworks!)
  • Flying Fish
  • Akershus
  • Mama Melrose' (fantasmic package)
  • Sci-Fi Diner
  • Hollywood & Vine
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse
  • Biergarten
  • Be Our Guest Restaurant (Belle's Castle) 
  • The Plaza
  • Cape May Cafe
  • California Grill 
  • Liberty Tree Tavern
  • Chef de France
  • Coral Reef
  • Tony's Town Square
  • Crystal Palace
  • 1900 Park Faire (Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner)
  • Tusker House
  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant
  • Tomorrowland Terrace (fireworks viewing and dessert party)
  • Chef Mickey
  • O'hana
  • Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique
  • Pirate's League
  • Kid's Pirate Cruise (Albatross Voyage sailing from the Yacht Club)

I tried to be as thorough in this process description as I could be, but it's definitely possible I might have missed something. Do you have a tip you'd like to share? Please do so in the comments below! And best of luck to all of you making your Disney Dining Dreams come true! :-)

1900 Park Fare: Breakfast vs. Dinner

One of our favorite Disney restaurants is 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort. In the mornings they offer the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, and in the evenings it's Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner.  Both are buffet meals, eligible for Table Service Dining Plan credits.

In addition to these two meals, the venue offers the Wonderland Tea Party in the afternoons. This is an opportunity for kids aged 4-12 to enjoy tea, crafts, and character interactions sans parents. To date, my kids have been too young to participate in the Tea Party, but we have enjoyed the other two Park Fare offerings and am happy to share our experience for those of you considering one or both character meals. 

When you arrive at the Grand Floridian, be sure to allow yourself extra time to enjoy the lobby and the grounds. The resort is one of the prettiest on the property, and the Alice In Wonderland themed splash area is ranked as one of the top 5 pools for little ones! (Pool hopping is allowed in certain circumstances: if you're one of the lucky ones eligible to hop to the Grand Floridian's pool, definitely make sure you set aside time into your schedule to do that before or after your meal!)

During the holidays there are photopass photographers on the Grand Floridian's main lobby... that's where we got this amazing photo of our younger daughter in the midst of her very first crawl! 

And after you check in at restaurant's front desk, there is a photopass photographer waiting to take your family's portrait in front of the mural at the entrance to the dining room for both Breakfast and Dinner. 


Supercalifragilistic Breakfast

The Grand Floridian is located on the Monorail loop, which makes 1900 Park Fare a great breakfast option on days you're planning on attending the Magic Kingdom, which is just one stop past the resort. Breakfast is from 8:00-11:50 most days. The buffet offerings are fairly standard for a Disney buffet, with the addition of the restaurant's signature 'Strawberry Soup', which is served cold and is like a cross between a smoothy and a watery pudding. (Btw, the recipe is available online here, if you're looking to recreate it at home.)

The characters you can expect to see at the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast include Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Tigger and Winnie the Pooh. An odd assortment to be sure. I'd happily trade Tigger and Winnie the Pooh for alternative characters such as Bert or the White Rabbit, especially because the Hundred Acre Woods friends can be found at the Crystal Palace already. 

The girls loved meeting Alice, Mary, and the Hatter. They were fun and spent a fair amount of time at our table chatting and interacting with the girls. 

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Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner

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The Park Fare dinner is a reception of sorts celebrating Cinderella and her Prince Charming, to which the Tremaine Family has been invited (or possibly crashed). There's a lot of entertaining back-and-forth between the Charmings and the Tremains, as well as other delightful moments, such as when Prince Charming and Cinderella take to the floor for a waltz. Prince Charming even chooses a lucky girl from the audience to dance with as well! 

For those whose favorite princess is Cinderalla, this is definitely a must-do! I personally preferred the focus of having only Cinderella characters over the mix of princesses that you'll see at the other meals. Though the food and the decor aren't as regal as what you will experience at Cinderella's Royal Table (CRT) or Akershus, the character interactions are as just as good ---- arguably better; my girls adored the back-and-forth snarky comments between the Tremaines, and you won't see that sort of cross-character interaction at the other princess meals. 

If you are traveling to Disney while CRT is closed, or are unable to get a reservation for one of the other princess meals, or just looking for an alternative, definitely consider Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner. Expect to see Prince Charming, Princess Cinderella, her Evil Stepmother, and Stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella.

We did this buffet dinner in 2011, but opted to skip it in 2013 in favor of dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table. The 1900 Park Fare dinner left an impression on my eldest daughter: almost four years later she recalls it clearly and made it #1 on her wish list of things to do on our next trip. How's that for an endorsement? 

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 By far, one of my favorite pictures from the trip! Notice how contagious the Evil Eye can be.... 

By far, one of my favorite pictures from the trip! Notice how contagious the Evil Eye can be....