How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

Though Advance Dining Reservations are a near necessity at Walt Disney World, you can eat quite well at Disneyland without needing to make too many dining plans ahead of time. Certainly there are exceptions (which I’ll cover later) but for the most part, you can walk up and dine at Disneyland when the mood strikes. This is not to say there isn’t a certain amount of planning or even an occasional wait but I’ll let you know how to work around that!

How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

An elegant seafood lunch at Wine Country Trattoria can be accompanied by an adult beverage. Make an ADR to choose the specific time you want (but we were seated immediately without an ADR!)

Disneyland Resort Dining Options

There are several different dining options at the Disneyland Resort. For variety, I like my visits to the Park to be a mix of these through the day.

Table service is at a more leisurely pace. Cafe Orleans, Wine Country Trattoria, Storytellers Cafe and Carnation Cafe are some of the places where you can still a spell and be served by wait staff. ADR is suggested but not always necessary. I’d only book reservations for table service in advance for weekends or very busy times of the year (like summer or holidays). Blue Bayou Restaurant is the exception, as this restaurant doesn’t often have walk-up availability so if you have your heart set on dining inside the Pirates of the Caribbean, making an ADR is best.

Quick service is where you will order at a counter and be given your food, then choose your seating area. Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, French Market Restaurant and the Golden Horseshoe are all examples of quick service dining areas.

How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

Lunch and a show at The Golden Horseshoe (they have huge sundaes, too!)

Nibble on the go? There are plenty of places to grab a snack. The Bengal Barbecue, Corn Dog Castle, Cozy Cone Motel and many of the snack carts that serve fresh fruits & cold drinks are examples of quick snack spots.

How about Character Dining…you’ll be able to eat while being greeted at your table by your favorite characters! We love this because we enjoy a delicious meal and are still able to get autographs & photos with characters as they come to your table. You should definitely consider ADR for all Character Dining, but especially for Ariel’s Grotto & Goofy’s Kitchen.


How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

Tasty sandwiches, salads and pastries at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe at the end of Main Street U.S.A.

Which restaurants at Disneyland accept Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) and which do not?

You’ll be able to see directly on the Disneyland website which locations accept ADR. On the Disneyland website, you are able to not only view restaurant details and individual menus, you can also book ADR with the click of a button and entry of a credit card number to hold the reservation. A simple search of your preferred date and time (along with the size of your group) will reveal available slots for each restaurant around that time. If no ADR are available at that date or approximate time, the restaurant will show up under the section “no availability”.

How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

No reservations needed for mint juleps or beignets…just walk up to the window!


Advantages of ADR –

  • Plans made ahead of time so there are no concerns about when or where you’ll eat while in the Park.
  • Guaranteed seating at popular restaurants without fear of being turned away.
  • No worries about long waits for a table; Yes, you may still have a short wait even with an ADR but it shouldn’t be terribly long.
  • The ability to let Cast members know upfront when booking ADR over the phone if anyone in your family has a food allergy or special dietary request

Advantages of Walk-Up Dining –

  • No need to plan in advance where you’ll be eating, you can decide on a whim.
  • More flexibility.
  • Counter service restaurants (that don’t accept ADR) are often less expensive than table service & Character Dining (that do accept ADR)
  • Faster service at counter service & snack carts when compared to lengthy table service & Character Dining meals
How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

If you want Character Dining, best to plan ahead and book ADR

But I have to eat waterside at Blue Bayou!!

If you simply must eat at a particular table service restaurant during your trip, booking the ADR is a must. Walk-up dining is very rarely available at popular locations like Blue Bayou Restaurant, Carthay Circle, Ariel’s Grotto or Goofy’s Kitchen. You might get lucky (especially if you are a small party of 2) but these are locations you should certainly get ADR for ahead of your vacation. I would also recommend getting ADR for Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue (since it’s expected to close early 2016, this location has been very busy with those wanting one last round of ribs).


How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

Smokejumpers Grill is quick service dining with a full toppings bar for your burgers.

Tips for getting walk-up dining with minimal waits

Eat at “off-times” – Lunch between 11 and noon and dinner between 5-6pm is your usual? Well, those are probably the most popular times for everyone else in the Park too. Try dining 60 to 90 minutes before or after these times for better luck with walk-up dining. Choose snacks wisely so you can stave off the hungry beast until restaurant seating is better available.

Split up – Maximize your time at counter or quick service dining by having one adult take all the orders and another adult grab condiments and find a table. Enlist the help of one of your older children (or a willing Cast Member) to help you carry trays of drinks & food back to the table. So much better than everyone standing in line together and then wandering around searching for an open table.

Eat and walk – If you’d rather optimize your Park time and simply eat while in queue or while walking between attractions, consider purchasing food that can easily be eaten while walking. Note that some queues will not allow food once you enter the building (but eating in outside lines is okay). There are always trash cans placed through the lines to discard trash.

How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

The Disneyland popcorn carts are placed throughout the Park for quick snacking

Try Downtown Disney District – Hop aboard the Monorail and get your bites in Downtown Disney instead of inside the Park. There are a variety of tastes available to satisfy everyone in your group. Full-service restaurants include Tortilla Jo’s, Catal Restaurant, La Brea Bakery Cafe, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, Rainforest Cafe, ESPN Zone and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen.

Just want something fast? Earl of Sandwich offers excellent sandwiches (naturally). Several of the full-service restaurants also have windows for quick serve meals. Grab a slice of pizza or a salad at Napolini. Jazz Kitchen Express offers popcorn shrimp, jambalaya and other New Orleans-style favorites. Yummy Mexican food from Taqueria at Tortilla Jo’s is served quickly alongside aquas frescas & beer. La Brea Bakery Express is a great place to fill up for brunch.

How to Eat at Disneyland Without Advance Dining Reservations

Quick snacks are in style at Fillmore’s Taste-In at Cars Land.

Nibble poolside – The Disneyland Resort pool areas offer food, though some hotels may be seasonal. I’ve yet to see The Sand Bar at Paradise Pier open, despite having visited on a weekend in late spring so check with the front desk first. White Water Snacks at Disney’s Grand Californian offers hearty dishes like breakfast burritos, chicken nachos and veggie burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’ve enjoyed Tangaroa Terrace on our visits to the Disneyland Hotel pool (also open for three meals), including shrimp tacos and flatbread.

Leave the area – Yes, there are local restaurants within walking distance of the Disneyland front gates that you could dine at instead of eating in the Park. Denny’s, Mimi’s and even McDonald’s line Harbor Blvd and if you have the energy for a 10-15 minute walk, these are definitely an option (though they are probably just as busy as the restaurants in the Park since they are frequented by hotel guests as well). But you might save a few dollars eating off-site.


What’s your favorite Disneyland dining experience? Do you always use ADR or do you just wing it? Share with us in the comments! 

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Looking for ways to save on your Disney vacation?  I recommend Park Savers for discount Disney tickets! (affiliate link)

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Minnie & Friends – Breakfast In the Park: Dine with Characters at Disneyland’s Plaza Inn

Minnie & Friends - Breakfast In the Park: Dine with Characters at Disneyland's Plaza Inn

Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park is a delightful Character dining experience for all ages! Located right at the end of Main Street U.S.A with a view of Sleeping Beauty Castle, this breakfast at Disneyland’s Plaza Inn restaurant exudes charm, with excellent customer service you’d expect from Disney. Character meals are great because you can meet your favorite pals and not use your Park time standing in line for an autograph! Each Character will personally come to your table for a meet n’ greet, to pose for photos and to sign your autograph book.

Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park is a delightful place to start your Disneyland morning and to meet a wide variety of Characters. You are guaranteed to meet Minnie (since her name is in the title!) but other Characters change and may vary from day to day.

Minnie & Friends - Breakfast In the Park: Dine with Characters at Disneyland's Plaza Inn

Donald helped himself to some fresh fruit!

One of the lovely things about dining at Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park is an early admittance to the Park before the official opening. If you book a reservation for a breakfast before the Park opens, look for the gate that admits Park guests in early (it should say “Breakfast in the Park”).

Make sure to have your reservation number and valid Park ticket to show at the entrance and you’ll be escorted to the restaurant entrance. Since you’ll be there before the big crowds, this is also a great opportunity to take a quick pic of your family on Main Street U.S.A and Sleeping Beauty Castle without anyone around you!

Minnie & Friends - Breakfast In the Park: Dine with Characters at Disneyland's Plaza Inn

The “all-you-care-to-eat” breakfast buffet has standard offerings like French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and ham. Omelets are made-to order while you wait. Mickey waffles with butter and syrup are a special treat! There are also hearty offerings like biscuits and gravy and breakfast potatoes as well as croissants and danish that will fill your tummy and have you ready for the day. It’s a pricey affair but the “all-you-care-to-eat” option is nice, especially if you have a bunch of bacon-eaters like I do in your group! Dining with characters is also a lot more reasonably priced for breakfast than lunch or especially dinner. If you aren’t big breakfast eaters consider booking one of the last breakfast reservations for the day, fill up and then skip lunch.

Decorated elaborately in pink and gold Victorian decor, the Plaza Inn is a 1955 original restaurant (when it was called the Red Wagon Inn). The Victorian stained-glass ceiling, marble foyer and gingerbread woodwork were all salvaged from a historic Los Angeles home and personally chosen by Walt Disney’s wife Lillian herself to be used in this space. This is a very special space; consider returning in the evening for a big platter of fried chicken and mashed potatoes (no Characters after breakfast, however).

Minnie & Friends - Breakfast In the Park: Dine with Characters at Disneyland's Plaza Inn

To make a reservation for Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park call (714) 781-3463 up to 60 days prior to your visit.


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How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Eat Healthfully at Disneyland…and still enjoy your meals

Going to Disneyland is a celebration for all senses, taste included!  In addition to the top-notch attractions and entertainment, there are also countless unique and delicious meals and treats only to be found within the Disney Parks. But what if you’re aiming to eat more healthfully and a giant turkey leg or stacked marshmallows dipped in chocolate on a stick aren’t a part of your diet? No worries, there are lots of great dining and snack choices throughout the Disneyland Park that will keep you on track! You can eat healthfully at Disneyland and still treat yourself.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Up bright and early to hit the Parks & having breakfast in the stroller

Breakfast

Most important meal of the day, right? Consider eating breakfast before you come to the Park. The smell of frappachinos, buttery pastries and vanilla-scented Mickey waffles will be wafting through the air from the Starbucks and Jolly Holiday Bakery as you walk down Main Street, U.S.A!

I usually bring food to store in the hotel fridge and fill up at daybreak with Greek yogurt, a banana and fibrous flake cereal. My kids usually enjoy granola bars and fresh fruit.

  • I also suggest dining in the Downtown Disney District before the Parks open. We’ve picked up filling and delicious egg sandwiches and omelettes at Earl of Sandwich and the prices are extremely reasonable. Jamba Juice can make a delicious smoothie (choose the low-sugar option).

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

  • If you want to dine inside the Park, River Belle Terrace has a plate of fresh, seasonal fruit (skip the Biscuits n’ Gravy!)
  • Order the fruit platter at Flo’s V8 Cafe and you’ll also receive an oat bran muffin and low fat yogurt.
  • If you choose something healthy like the Spinach and Tomato Egg White Fritatta from Carnation Cafe, request that heavy toppings (like sour cream or fried potatoes) be served on the side so you can control the portion size or share them with someone else in your group.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Fill up on fresh fruit

Snacks

There are snack carts placed all over the Parks so be prepared when that heavenly popcorn or cinnamon-scent of churros hits you! You can always bring in your own snacks to the Park and packing cut veggies or melon is a great way to eat healthy on your trip.

  • Some carts (like Tropical Imports, Fillmore’s Taste-In and Fairfax Market) also offer fresh fruits, like bananas, apples, grapes, mangoes and pineapple spears. They even have veggies and hummus.
  • Need a little something heartier? Swing wide of the corn dog cart and pick up an Outback Vegetable or Banyan Beef Skewer from Bengal Barbecue. Dipping sauces can contain lots of sugar so it’s best to skip.
  • Craving something sweeter? The Dole Whip from the Tiki Juice Bar is light and refreshing with pineapple soft serve and pineapple juice.
  • You can get vanilla ice cream with no sugar added at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain. No sugar added butter pecan is available at Clarabelle’s & Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. Have it served in a cup instead of a sugar cone.
  • A frozen banana is also a decent choice as it’s lightly coated in chocolate and nuts. It will also take a little longer to eat since it’s frozen so you won’t devour it as quickly.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

A frozen banana is a healthy indulgence on a hot day

Lunch

Consider having a filling breakfast and a hearty snack and you might be able to stave off a big lunch and just have dinner instead. Or  make one of these healthy lunch choices.

Salads can be a great idea for lunch and there are lots of salads available at the Disneyland Resort. If you’re watching calories, ask them not to add cheese. Avoid salads served in a tostada shell and always request dressing on the side. Italian or oil and vinegar are going to be lighter than creamy dressings like Ranch or blue-cheese.

  • The Picnic Salad at the Hungry Bear is a nice mix, including turkey breast, strawberries and Feta cheese.
  • The Crescent City Salad at Cafe Orleans comes with either blackened chicken or Atlantic salmon (just ask for it without the caramelized pecans).
  • The River Belle Terrace offers Becky Thatcher’s Vegetarian Chopped Salad that includes hearty and filling proteins like hard-boiled egg, garbanzo & black beans.
  • For other options, The Troubadour Tavern offers a baked potato with broccoli and cheese sauce. Just ask for the cheese on the side so you can control the portion or eliminate all together.
  • Village Haus and Smokejumpers Grill have a Garden Veggie Burger (hold the cheese).
  • Tomorrowland Terrace offers a chicken breast sandwich with fresh veggie toppings and avocado salsa. Choose the fruit side over fries.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Hacienda chicken Caesar salad at Cocina Cucamong

Drinks

If you’re eating healthy, you already know to avoid sugar-laden sodas. Alcoholic drinks are served at Disney California Adventure Park and Guests can indulge in frozen margaritas and beer on tap in the Paradise Pier area, specialty drinks at the Cove Bar and wine at Wine Country Trattoria. Keep in mind that alcohol contains additional calories so if you’re trying to be healthy, don’t drink your calories…save them for food!

You can bring in bottles of water with you into the Parks to re-hydrate throughout the day. You can also request free ice water from any counter service restaurant. Snack carts offer a variety of waters, including coconut water.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Dinner at the Plaza Inn

Dinner

Dinner is a great time to consider sharing a platter of food. Even if the dish is more indulgent, it’s not quite as bad if you share between 2 or 3.

  • The Citrus-fired grilled chicken platter at Rancho del Zocalo is large and delicious (ask if they can sub black beans for the refried).
  • The oven-roasted chicken platter at French Market Restaurant is another favorite to share.
  • Platters at Plaza Inn are enormous. We buy two plates of fried chicken and share between the five of us. With the sides of mashed potatoes & green beans, we all have enough to eat (and if you’re really watching the calories, you can always remove the skin from the chicken and request no gravy on the potatoes).
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

This is ONE THIRD of a platter from Plaza Inn! That’s plenty of food, enough for sharing.

  • You can’t go wrong with the Mediterranean skewers at the Paradise Garden Grill. The grilled meat and veggie/tofu skewers are served with rice pilaf and cucumber salad, making them a light and refreshing meal (skip the baklava though!)
  • At Tomorrowland Terrace, choose a portobello sandwich with loads of veggies. Ask for cheese and aioli on the side and fruit instead of fries.
  • The soups at Pacific Wharf Cafe are so delicious, but opt for broth-based rather than cream. And try to minimize the nibble to the sourdough bread bowl!

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

  • At Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta you can order a single slice of pizza. Both locations offer a version that skips the fatty meats and tops your slice with seasonal veggies. Round out your meal with a small side salad.
  • Carnation Cafe offers the Chef’s Vegan Burger made of beans & veggies and served with lots of fresh vegetable toppings on a multigrain roll.
  • The Hacienda chicken Caesar salad at Cocina Cucamonga is large and filling.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Platters of fresh Mexican food, enough for four people to share.


Tips to keep in mind when ordering

As a rule when ordering, avoid anything that is fried, battered, smothered, candied or has a creamy sauce. Look for grilled meats and veggies served without sauces.

Don’t be afraid to request a substitution. You can swap fruit instead of fries at counter service restaurants. When ordering at full-service restaurants, ask the Cast Member to put toppings on the side so you can control how much you want to add or leave off. If there is any question about the dish, ask them how it is prepared so you’ll know before it’s in front of you. If you have special dietary requests or food allergies, read this section from the Disneyland website and know that you can speak directly to the restaurant staff or chef with your concerns.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Skip the buffet if counting calories. Before you know it, you’ve eaten 12 ribs!

If calorie-counting, it’s best to skip the buffets. Unfortunately this eliminates most Character dining experiences, except for Ariel’s Grotto. You can dine with the Princesses and still order a healthy choice off the menu for either breakfast or lunch!

Kids can eat healthy at Disneyland too! When choosing kid’s meals, simply look for the Mickey Check. Mickey Check meals meet Disney Nutrition Guidelines as a complete meals. Some Mickey Check kid’s meals are also vegetarian.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Enjoy a corn dog, but share it between the family.

Just one bite. If you and your family would love to indulge in something fun or decadent, buy a corn dog. Treat yourself to a caramel-covered apple. Get that frozen treat or stacked marshmallows dipped in chocolate on a stick. And then share it between all of you. Everyone gets a few bites and you all can enjoy the treat!

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

What are your favorite healthy dining dishes at Disneyland? Share with me in the comments!


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Looking for ways to save on your Disney vacation?  I recommend Park Savers for discount Disney tickets! (affiliate link)

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Walt Disney World Restaurant Review – 50’s Prime Time Cafe

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

A trip to Walt Disney World is a experience from the moment you step inside the Park. And in some cases that fun and adventure extends into your dining experience as well! On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, my mom, brother and three-year old son had the opportunity to dine at 50’s Prime Time Cafe. The restaurant is located inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so a valid park ticket is required to dine here.

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

Walt Disney World- Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Though Advanced Dining Reservations are available up to 180 days in advance, I was able to score dinner for a Saturday night just 5 days ahead. Guest often cancel, leaving openings available. So if you also have a last-minute trip planned, I recommend checking the Disney website several times a day to find openings just before your trip. Don’t plan to show up the day-of without reservations and expect to dine though; spots for popular restaurants are quite often full. On the day of our visit, I saw several guests turned away at the counter when they came in to request a table without an advanced dining reservation.

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

50’s decor at every turn

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

My mom & brother…check out the nifty wallpaper and Jell-o molds on the wall behind them!

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

A cabinet full of 50’s kitch

 

The 50’s Prime Time Cafe is set up like grandma’s kitchen, complete with vintage knick-knacks and kitchy decor. Black and white televisions play snippets from classic favorites. Dad’s Lounge at the front of the restaurant serves up retro style alcoholic beverages like the Pina CoLAVA or Dad’s Electric Lemonade.

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

Opening day at Disneyland being aired on one of the televisions

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

Our waitress referred to herself as “Cousin Lorraine” and set the ground rules for the evening, “No elbows on the table. No tattle-taling. And you have to finish your vegetables or no dessert!”

My son and I ordered a strawberry milk shake to share. It was plenty for the two of us and quite a yummy treat. While we waited for our food we watched some of the classic television shows being broadcast around us. Most of them I’d at least heard of but a few were unfamiliar. My mom, however was taking a trip down memory lane, recalling what had been old favorites.

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

Dennis the Menace

The waitress serving the tables in the room behind us kept sternly reprimanding her guests for putting their elbows on the table. She would glare at them each time she left the area. In this photo of me, I’m nonchalantly resting my elbows on the table just a split second before that waitress walks by. What the shot didn’t capture was the moment I caught her walking past me and I swiftly shot my hands into my lap! The waitress serving the tables next to us was a grandmotherly-type and sat down at the table with her guests to take their orders and offer her advice about the food. It was a lighthearted and playful atmosphere.

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

Elbows on the table!!

The menu at 50’s Prime Time Cafe is chock full of classic and traditional homestyle dishes. My mom and I shared Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie. It came without the usual pie tin but served instead in a large shallow bowl. There was still a bottom crust and a flaky pie top. It was absolutely stuffed with large pieces of white meat chicken breast, chunky carrots, button mushrooms and peas all mixed in a creamy cheesy sauce.

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

A half serving of Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie (my mom and I shared)

My brother ordered Cousin Ann’s Traditional Meatloaf. This was a tasty looking blend of beef and pork. I say “tasty looking” because my brother didn’t even offer a bite! I guess that tells you how good it was. It was topped with a thick tomato glaze and served alongside roasted garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables. Veggies are not my brother’s thing and he had a few left at the end of the meal. He tried to cover up the leftover veggies but well, being the dutiful big sister that I am, I ratted him out to the waitress! She reprimanded ME for tattle-taling and gave my brother a sticker for the “Clean Plate Club”, saying he did “well enough” on his dinner. Hmph!

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe

About half of my brother’s meatloaf platter, he’d already started digging in!

It was all in good fun, of course. The food was quite tasty (though slightly overpriced, in my opinion). Portions were good sized but I probably could have eaten the dish by myself. The theme and decor is fantastic and really transports you to another time and place. It’s a good meal location for young kids as well, since it’s bright and noisy and there are televisions to watch (they also gave my son a coloring pages and crayons). 50’s Prime Time Cafe is a blast (from the past!)

Walt Disney World Restaurant Review - 50's Prime Time Cafe


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What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, we spent several hours exploring the world of Epcot. I have a feeling that even a lifetime of exploring wouldn’t have allowed us the time necessary to properly explore this amazing Park!

During our visit to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival we were visually treated to incredibly detailed topiaries, had our taste buds tickled with international treats and were able to delight in the nighttime show, Illuminations from our perch in a private viewing area near the French pavilion.

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Park guests receive a pocket guide to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, including where to find topiaries, gardens, demonstrations, dining and shows. You can check mark off each item as you visit, eat and watch. The guide makes a wonderful souvenir too, as you recall & reminisce about your trip.

 

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festivalepcotcollage9

During the Festival, guests can purchase food at outdoor kitchen locations throughout the World Showcase area of Epcot. These are taster (appetizer) sized portions so you can try a variety of different tastes. My brother wanted German food and I wanted Italian. We compromised. I ate my manicotti and sipped my Prosecco in front of the Germany pavilion while he ate sausage and drank a beer!

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

There are some inspiring topiaries throughout the entire Park. The detail and expression of them are simply jaw-dropping. We were able to grab a photo with the highly anticipated topiaries of Elsa & Anna from Frozen.

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden FestivalWhat I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden FestivalWhat I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

We were able to spend two partial days at Epcot and were simply drawn to the World Showcase area. The cultural aspect here was beautiful and intriguing. To be able to wander from Japan to France in a matter of minutes…incredible!

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Photo Credit: Eric Dill

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

There were some tasty sips throughout the Festival including a non-alchololic La Tizana and Desert Rose (a sparkling wine with pomegranate liqueur).

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden FestivalWhat I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

On our second day at Epcot we opted for a larger meal at the Moroccan pavilion that we could share between us. We chose two platters and it was quickly devoured. I can highly recommend the Tangierine Cafe schwarma platters, they were large and delicious.

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Our only regret? Lack of time to see it all! Oh well, there’s always next time *wink*

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Until next time Epcot!

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Photo credit: Eric Dill


Portions of my visit including my Park tickets and a Disney gift card to purchase food were covered during my visit. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Disneyland Vacation – Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Considering a Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank? Here are tons of options to help you decide!

The great debate – Should you budget or break the bank for your Disneyland vacation? Do you want to go all out and live it up on this trip? Or are you content to stick to your frugal ways for your stay? How about a nice balance of both! Pick and choose what items are most important for your vacation and be thrifty in some places and more free with your money in others.

Budgeting on a Disneyland Vacation? Or Go for Broke?

Pinch pennies or break the banks? Tips for planning your Disneyland vacation

Hotel

In Anaheim, there are hundreds of area hotels and motels in every price range to choose from for your Disneyland stay. Some are literally a stoplight away, directly across the street from the entrance esplanade. Take a look at Disney’s recommended “Good Neighbor” hotels for reasonable suggestions. Consider Priceline if you’d like a fancier hotel at a cheaper rate. You won’t be able to choose your location but you can choose your price and the star-rating. Don’t forget to ask for a discount or if the hotel accepts AAA (or another discount card).

Pinch Your Pennies – Cheap motels can be found all over Anaheim, some within walking distance of Disneyland. These are no-frills, un-themed basic motels with doors that face outside. Some of these motels offer a do-it-yourself breakfast. Most have very basic swimming pools. Some motels are better than others; some are quite nice for the price and others are frankly, dumpy. Read Yelp or my reviews for advice).

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Room at the very lovely Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove

Break the Bank – Some of the more pricey hotels have Disney themed rooms or special features, like bunk-beds for the kids or a kitchenette. Pools are usually larger and offer more amenities. Some nicer hotels offer breakfast included in the price, but most do not. Some of these hotels also offer complimentary shuttle service to the Parks, but again many do not (or they charge an additional fee).

As an alternative to a hotel, there are local vacation homes available. Some have elaborate theming and play spaces for children. This is particularly nice if you are traveling with a large group and want to stay all together.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

The hotels of the Disneyland Resort are completely themed and immerse you in that “Disney Magic”. Pools may have bar and food service and offer life vests and swim diapers for little ones. The Resort hotels are all within close walking distance to the Park entrances. Grand Californian Resort and Spa has an exclusive entrance for Resort guests (with valid Park ticket) to enter Disney California Adventure Park. Disneyland Resort guests can also take advantage of Extra Magic Hour that allows them entrance to the Park one hour earlier (according to schedule).

Go for Broke – For an additional fee, you can add Club-level service to your Resort stay. The room will be exactly the same however you’ll receive access to the Club lounge which includes continental breakfast, sodas and snacks throughout the day and a wine and cheese reception at night. You’ll even receive special treats before bed! We’ve stayed on the Club-level floor at the Paradise Pier and it was lovely to pick up snacks and sodas before going to the pool or into the Park and be greeted with chocolate-dipped Mickey-shaped rice cereal treats on our bed at night!

Rent a poolside cabana for the day at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels. Last summer while swimming in the Disneyland Hotel pool, we *ahem* saw Adam Sandler coming in and out of his poolside cabana!

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Make it Rain– Book a beautiful suite or signature suite at either the Grand Californian Resort and Spa or the Disneyland Hotel. At the Grand Californian, suites are themed in a rustic but elegant art-deco decor. The Disneyland Hotel has amazing signature suites that are beautifully themed to the Park.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Transportation

Pinch Your Pennies – If you plan to be only visiting the Disneyland Resort during your California stay, there is no need to rent a vehicle. The Disneyland Resort Express bus (affiliate link) will take you from the airport to the Anaheim area for a fee. Choose a motel within walking distance of the Parks and simply let your feet be your guide. If your motel is a bit too far to walk, The Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) runs to many of the local motels and other area amusement parks for a small fee. There aren’t any grocery stores within close walking distance of the Resort (only convenience stores) so you may need to take a bus or cab to get to the nearest Target.

Break the Bank – If your trip includes stops in Long Beach, Orange County or San Diego then renting a car is the best way. You can also take the train for a unique experience. It can be convenient to have a rental car with you to drive yourself from the airport to hotel, for shopping and for travel within the area. Parking at the Disneyland Resort is $15.00 per day. Your hotel may have per night fees for parking as well.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Time of the Year

Pinch Your Pennies – When you’re budgeting, Disneyland’s “Value Season” is your bread and butter. You will choose an off-peak time period (not over a holiday, 3-day weekend or school break). You will go to the Parks mid-week, never on a weekend for the best motel prices. Unfortunately Disney often schedules ride refurbishments or closures during Value Season so there may be a chance that you’ll miss riding your favorite or being able to see fireworks. Park hours are often shorter during Value Season.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Christmas inside the Disneyland Hotel

Break the Bank – A visit during Peak Season takes patience and a bit more money. Prices skyrocket at Disneyland over the holidays, in particular the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. However the Parks are dressed to the nines in holiday fashion and there are special events planned, like ice skating in Downtown Disney at Olaf’s Frozen Ice Rink (additional fee). Ride refurbishments are at a minimum during Peak Season and hours are usually longer.

Go for Broke – The holiday season is joyous! Enjoy an elegant Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at one of the Resort hotel restaurants and an over-the-top New Year’s Eve Gala at Napa Rose with dinner and dancing.

Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Tickets 

Pinch Your Pennies– Plan to spend one day in each Park, minimum. Purchase a two-day base pass, one Park each day. Just know in advance that you won’t be able to see and do everything in two Parks in two days! Check with your AAA office, Human Resources department, Costco or local grocery stores for possible discounted passes. I recommend Park Savers, as you can save several dollars off the cost of each Park ticket (affiliate link).

Break the Bank – Purchase a 5-day Park Hopper Pass. The entrances to the Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park face each other across a short esplanade, which makes Park Hopping possible within minutes! If you plan on staying longer than five days, consider investing in an Annual Pass, which will also give you discounts on select dining and merchandising.

Go for Broke – Book a Guided Tour and receive special access and behind-the-scenes peeks. Some tours offer special ride access or reserved viewing for certain shows.

Make it Rain – Request VIP Tour Services for your days in the Parks. You’ll have the assistance of a dedicated guide, reserved viewing/seating and more (all for an hourly rate).

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Dining

Pinch Your Pennies – Pack your own meals and snacks in a soft-sided cooler with a chill pack inside. Bring bottled water (or request ice water for free from any walk-up dining location). If you choose to dine inside the Park, choose meals that are large enough to share. We often purchase two different platters, request extra plates and share between us all. We pad out the meal with snacks (like cheese sticks or carrots) that we bring from home.

Break the Bank – Make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) for some of the elegant dining experiences in the Park and Resort Hotels. At Blue Bayou Restaurant (Disneyland) guests dine waterside inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride! Carthay Circle Restaurant (Disney California Adventure Park) offers alcoholic beverages and fine dining inside their bar/restaurant. Napa Rose (Grand Californian Resort and Spa) offers award-winning cuisine in an upscale setting. Enjoy breakfast or dinner at Steakhouse 55 (Disneyland Hotel) with a specialty in steaks and chops.

Snacks are sold throughout the Parks, many with adorable themes like these cute Olaf marshmallow treats or an enormous candied apple. Some of these premium snacks may set you back $5-10 each

.Should you pinch your pennies or break the bank for a Disney vacation?

Book a World of Color dining package at one of three participating Disney California Adventure Park restaurants and received a three-course prix-fixe meal and a voucher for reserved space at that night’s viewing of World of Color.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Character meals are one of the most fun family dining experiences you’ll have! Enjoy a bounty of food and get one-on-one photo ops with the characters as they visit your table. For breakfast only choose Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends at the PCH Grill (Paradise Pier Hotel), Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe (Grand Californian Resort and Spa) or Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn (Disneyland Park).  At Ariel’s Grotto Restaurant (Disney California Adventure Park) you can pick from breakfast or lunch and meet the Princesses throughout your meal. Goofy’s Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel) offers a rollicking breakfast or dinner, buffet-style.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Downtown Disney

Like a long outdoor mall, Downtown Disney has the Disneyland Hotel at one end and the esplanade to the two Parks at the other. In between are various restaurants, shops, concert venues, Monorail station (with direct access to Disneyland Park) and a side entrance to Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa.

Pinch Your Pennies – Take in the ambiance and one of the free concerts that are hosted on weekend evenings. Play a bit at the Lego Store. Buy a sweet treat to share from Marceline’s Confectionary or a bag of kettle corn from a kiosk. After a bit of window shopping, hop on the Monorail and take a ride back into Disneyland Park (valid Park ticket required).

Should you pinch your pennies or break the bank for a Disney vacation?

Break the Bank – Young guests (ages 3-15) can visit Anna & Elsa’s Boutique for a frosty make-over. Moms can get their own make-up fix at Sephora. Make your own custom souvenir at Build-a-Bear Workshop or RideMakerz. Take in a concert at the House of Blues. Dine at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen or Catal Restaurant. I love a stop inside WonderGround Gallery for a peek at unique Disney-inspired artwork.

Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

PhotoPass

All throughout the Parks, Disney PhotoPass photographers offer their services to take photos of your family. They will use their camera and give you a scannable card that you’ll present to other Disney PhotoPass photographers. Once home, you can view and purchase images online from your trip!

Pinch Your Pennies – Hand your own camera to the Disney PhotoPass photographers and they will happily snap away…No charge!

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Picture taken with my camera by a Disney PhotoPass Photographer

Break the Bank – Preorder Disney PhotoPass+ before your trip. Disney-themed enhancements can be added to your photos for whimsy. Once you return home you can check out your PhotoPass shots online and purchase photo gifts and books with the pictures from your magical vacation!


Souvenirs

Souvenirs can be found throughout the Parks and in Downtown Disney in a wide range of costs for any budget (or lack of budget!)

Pinch Your Pennies – For a classic souvenir that respects your wallet try a pair of embroidered Mouse Ears! Pressed pennies are well-loved and you can display them in a shadow box as a trip memento. I like something practical that my kids can use trip after trip or can wear at home, like my son’s Pluto hat with the really long sun-shading brim. He wore this hat every visit to the Parks for years!

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Or skip the souvenir stand altogether and buy things ahead of time. Disney themed shirts can be had from the Disney Store (affiliate link) for a great price. Purchase a cheap blank notebook and a pack of inexpensive stickers for character autographs (don’t forget the pen!) Buy glow sticks at the 99 cent store and present them to the kids in the evening. Bring your pre-bought goodies like lollipops, little stuffed animals or inexpensive trinkets to hand out to kids at the end of the day so they don’t have to shuffle past the souvenir stands empty handed.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Break the Bank – Take home a memento like an animation cell, giclee or Dooney & Bourke handbag (affiliate links) and you’ll have a timeless treasure.

If staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel, you can request that your purchases be sent directly to your hotel room. Handy if you’re in the Parks and don’t want to lug your souvenirs around.


Princess (or Prince) for a Day

Pinch Your Pennies– Does your child have a Disney-themed costume they love to wear? If your child is under the age of 10, they are permitted to wear costumes in the Park. So feel free to let your little Tinker Bell wear her pixie dress or your tiny Captain Hook wear his pirate hat! Create a cute hairstyle, toss a bit of glitter around and wear something fun and sparkly! Just make sure they are wearing comfy shoes; dress up shoes are simply not appropriate for walking in all day.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Break the Bank – Book your prince or princess (age 3-12 years) a date in the Bibbidy Bobbity Boutique for a royal treatment. Gentleman become knights, complete with suave hairstyle and a shield and sword. Little ladies have more of a variety to choose from including a few treatments that will doll her up from the top of her glittery head to her glass-slippered toe!

Go for Broke – With the Castle Package (starting at just under $200), newly crowned princesses will be escorted in a mini-processional to skip the line at the Fantasy Faire and go directly in to meet with the Disney princesses inside.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation - Should You Pinch Your Pennies or Break the Bank?

Celebrations

Pinch Your Pennies – Are you celebrating something, anything at the Parks during your visit? Visit Guest Relations inside either Park to request your complimentary birthday, anniversary or first visit button.

Break the Bank – Celebrate big days in style with the help of Disney specialists. Whether it be a Quinceanera, FairyTale Wedding or Vow renewal or anniversary you can have the celebration of your dreams! Disney Floral & Gifts can help with delivery of flowers, gift baskets and presents to your Resort room. You can also order special cakes to be delivered for celebrations at your Resort dinner.


Let me know how you like to vacation – Do you pinch your pennies or break the bank? Let me know in the comments below!

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Eat at Home and Save – Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread with Walt Disney’s Chili

Cast iron skillet cornbread with Walt Disney's Chili

There is nothing quite like a buttered wedge of cornbread with a bowl of soup or chili on a chilly night to warm you from the inside out. It’s still actually quite toasty in my neck-of-the-woods but come evening, the air has a cool breeze and we have autumn on our minds.

Cast iron skillet cornbread with Walt Disney's Chili

This is a sturdy, moist slice of bread that you’ll be able to pick up to eat. It’s not overly sweet like some recipes which makes it perfect as a side for dinner. The additions of kernel corn and green chilis make for a savory dish. Pair it with a batch of Walt Disney’s Chili and you’ll have yourself a hearty meal!

Cast iron skillet cornbread with Walt Disney's Chili

Enjoy this recipe for cornbread, oven-baked in either a cast-iron skillet or 8″ metal baking pan.

Cast iron skillet cornbread with Walt Disney's Chili


Cast-Iron Skillet Cornbread

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, level
    1 cup ground ornmeal
    3 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon coarse salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk, room temperature (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar with milk to reach 1 1/2 cups and let sit at room temperature)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, sharp cheddar or Colby-Jack)
  • 1/2 cup corn (can use either frozen sweet corn or about half can of corn)
  • 1 small can of green chilis
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt and pepper. Make a well in the center of the dry mix. Add buttermilk and eggs to the center and whisk . Gently fold in the cheese, chilis and corn. Set aside.

Place butter in a cast-iron skillet. Allow butter to melt and remove immediately from oven. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute and coat the bottom and sides of the pan.

Pour batter into buttered skillet and bake until the top is golden brown. Bake 20-25 or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let the cornbread cool in the skillet at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Eat within one day. Keep cooled leftovers in air-tight container or plastic wrap.

Cast iron skillet cornbread with Walt Disney's Chili

Favorite Food Friday – Disneyland #Halloweentime Pumpkin Spice Cupcake

At the Disneyland Family Media Day reception, we were offered these lovely cupcakes. My sweet tooth has never been one to turn down a cupcake so I had to have one!

#Halloweentime Disneyland Pumpkin Spice Cupcake

The Pumpkin Spice Cupcake was decorated like a pumpkin with tendril vines, a chocolate stem and a magical sprinkling of edible sparkle. Topped with thin chocolate discs, the cupcake was magically Mickey (but I didn’t get to eat either of the “ears” as my toddler got to them first!)

It was a hearty cupcake with a moist dense cake and a light not-too-sweet whipped topping. The sparkles sent me over the edge; this was certainly a decadent and delightful dessert!

Click the photo to link up with your favorite food on Disney Day by Day!

Eat at Home and Save – Disney Resort Banana Bread

Disney Banana Bread Recipe - this is absolute heaven!

Banana bread is simply magic: Take overripe and mushy brown bananas that nobody wants and voila, you have an amazing treat! Banana bread is a very price-savvy recipe and makes use out of produce that would otherwise go to waste.

I have been making banana bread since I was a kid and this is my new favorite recipe! There is so much yummy flavor here; it’s not overly sweet, not too oily and the bread is moist and delicious. You’ll get two loaves from this recipe so you can freeze one and save it for later.

Or do like we did and gobble up both loaves within three days! Look at that beautiful browned top…now I wished we’d frozen one loaf so I could be eating a slice of this right now!

Disney Banana Bread Recipe - this is absolute heaven!

This banana bread was lovely as a treat after dinner and I also served it alongside sausage, eggs and fruit for the kids at breakfast. The recipe is the one used at the Disney Resorts. Recreate the magic at home with this delicious and easy recipe (my favorite kind!)

I tweaked my recipe a bit to include ground flax seed. You can also substitute up to half of the butter with equal parts applesauce to cut the fat.

Disney Banana Bread Recipe - this is absolute heaven!


Disney Banana Bread

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups banana, mashed (about 3 medium-large bananas)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix melted butter and sugar in large bowl until very well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, then add bananas and vanilla.  Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda and fold into the banana mixture, making sure all flour is moistened but the mixture is not over-mixed (to prevent air bubbles).  Fold in walnuts, if you like.  The batter will be very thick.
Grease and flour two bread pans and divide batter equally between them.  Bake for 1 hour or until center of loaf is firm with a somewhat crunchy top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pans for 1 minute before removing the bread from a pan and transferring to a wire rack to cool.
Serve warm or cold, it’s heavenly both ways!
Makes 2 loaves.
Disney Banana Bread Recipe - this is absolute heaven!
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Favorite Food Friday – Disneyland Chocolate Covered Banana

Nothing quite hits the spot for me on a warm day than a chocolate covered banana at Disneyland! A large banana, dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts and then frozen solid, you might be tempted to take a bite right out of the freezer (but it usually takes a few minutes to soften before you can start nibbling!).

Chocolate covered bananas {Saving up for Disney}

As you can see, it’s my son’s favorite treat as well (I must have half a dozen photos of him eating a chocolate covered banana at Disneyland!). We like to find a spot in the shade to rest and snack on our treat.

Sure, you can probably get a chocolate covered banana any place, but to be honest the only place I ever get one is at Disneyland! What is your favorite snack at Disneyland?

Disneyland Chocolate Covered Banana {Saving up for Disney}

Click the photo to link up with your favorite food on Disney Day by Day!

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