Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rate Dining: Tusker House Character Breakfast

Location: Animal Kingdom (Africa)
Type:  Table Service
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Cuisine:  American with a touch of African (likely more African at Lunch and Dinner)
Reservations:   Yes (recommended)
Characters:  Currently only for Breakfast, Lunch added later this year

 The Tusker House, previously a counter service location, currently offers a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   One of the more popular meals is the character breakfast, “Donald’s Safari Breakfast”.   The breakfast includes characters meets with Donald, Goofy, Mickey, and Daisy (subject to change of course) along with a buffet of Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, ham and flavorful dishes with an African influence.

Mark your calendars; Tusker House will soon be adding Donald’s Safari Lunch (December 4, 2011) which will be a new character dining experience for Animal Kingdom. No changes will be made in the buffet at this time.     

Our review will concentrate on the Safari Breakfast, the only meal we have experienced at the Tusker House.

Welcome to Tusker House!   Smile for your picture.   Now shove that food down your throat and get out.
  Once your name is called you will be ushered into a line where you’ll wait to get your family’s picture with Donald.   After you get your picture you’ll be seated.   TIP:  Be sure to ask to have a cast member take a picture with your camera as the pictures offered while you eat will cost over $30.
   Similar to other character style buffets,  this buffet is a bit loud and feels incredibly rushed.   The building is not as unique as other buildings on property but does have some cultural flair to help you feel as though you are in an African Village.    Be sure to look up at the ceiling as you grab your food from the buffet.
The buffet is free flowing, meaning there is supposedly no line.   This seems to cause confusion even though cast members mention it over and over.   So if you go, remember, don’t line up, just get the food you want and smile at the people giving you dirty looks.   


 Food is average buffet food, nothing spectacular and, not as good as some of the other breakfast buffets on property including the Supercalifragilistics Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare.   But if you like Mickey Waffles, scrambled eggs, and sausage you’ll do fine.   Be sure to try the Jungle Juice as it’s one of the best parts of the meal. As you sit, you’ll be visited by Mickey, Goofy and Daisy who will quickly sign your book, take a picture and be on their way. There’s also a parade in which children can line up behind their favorite characters and dance along to African music.   

 Tip:  If the park opens at 9 be sure to make an early reservation to the Tusker House.   This will allow you to get into the park a little early and snap some great photo’s with few people on your way to the restaurant.   You are not allowed to roam the park, but you do have a view of the tree of life and other nice spots on your way.  

Our Rating is 2.5/5

Rating Reason:  There is a certain aura of anxiety when dining with characters at Disney restaurants. Even when the servers are as kind as can be, you know they want you out as soon as possible so they can get the next gazillion people in to eat. It’s usually not a problem, but at no other restaurant have we felt more rushed than Tusker House. Maybe it’s because we schedule an early breakfast, so they are just trying to get all guests in and the process flowing, but it often leads to an aggravating meal.    Donald no longer comes to the tables, so getting his autograph can be a problem. And of course there’s always the pressure of buying that expensive photo.    

Overall, the food is decent and it provides a good fill up at the park before your day begins.    Also, if you get in before park opens you are right at the entrance to the Safari to begin your tour of Animal Kingdom and eating with characters is always easier than standing in character lines in the hot Florida sun.  But because of the frantic pace, you might end up feeling overly rushed.   


Friday, September 30, 2011

Fantasyland Construction Update @ Disney World

 Happy Birthday Walt Disney World!   

To keep up with the Joneses I need to post my own set of construction picture updates taken at the Magic Kingdom.  As we all know, Fantasyland is almost doubling in size with the new expansion.    The DisneyDayByDay family visited the parks just last week and stretched their arms up as high as they could on the Dumbo ride to bring you these exclusive shots.  Oh, and at the very end we threw in a few Swiss Family Robinson Tree House construction pictures as there hasn’t been enough coverage of that.  

When When When
            I know most of you have been wondering when all the new attractions will open.   As you can imagine Disney is not putting firm dates out there yet as weather and construction delays make scheduling a bit difficult. So bear with them and enjoy the progress.   Here is a rough idea of what they are proposing.  

Dumbo will be closed in early 2012 to prepare for the move.  The ride system will be moved to its new home next to the other Dumbo in Storybook Circus.   The double Dumbo will open later in 2012.   The Great Goofini, because it’s just a re-theme, will open in early 2012 along with the new Fantasyland train station.   

 Take a peek at the new attractions: 
·         Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid – This ride will feature attractions from our favorite characters and music from The Little Mermaid movie.   Here is a nice preview of the recently opened Disney Land attraction:
·         Be Our Guest Restaurant – If you’ve been to the park recently you might have noticed the Beauty and the Beast castle rising in the distance.   The castle will be the home of a restaurant, holding about 500 guests.  This new restaurant  will offer counter service throughout the day but will switch to a table service in the evening for Dinner.   No official word yet if this will be character dining.   Around the castle you’ll also find Belle’s Village; including Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour! Village Gifts.
·         Belle’s Cottage – A story telling area for Belle and other characters from Beauty and the Beast.  
·         Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – One of the most anticipated pieces of the expansion will likely be the last to open.   This rollercoaster will feature an entirely new ride system in which the ride vehicles will actually swing back and forth as they take corners along the track.   Take a look at the computer ride here:
·         Princess Fairytale Hall – Say goodbye to the current Snow White’s Scary Adventures.   This attraction is being replaced with a meet and greet for Aurora, Cinderella and other Disney princesses, such as Tiana and Rapunzel.   Sorry to see Snow White go, but glad to hear the princesses will have a home.    
·         Storybook Circus – The replacement for Toon Town will feature: 
o    Dumbo the Flying Elephant Get ready for double the Dumbo!   Will this lessen the wait?  We can only hope.    Dumbo will be moving from its current location and will feature a second ride system doubling the capacity.   The attraction will also feature an interactive ride queue giving you the chance to join the circus and step inside the Big Top for fun-filled interactive experiences for kids of all ages.
o    Goofy as The Great Goofini – If you rode the Barnstormer then you might find this ride to be somewhat similar as it will be the exact same ride system with a new paint job giving you the feeling that you are taking a flight high above the new circus fun.   


And now for the moment you have all been waiting for…….The Swiss Family Tree House is currently closed for refurbishment until mid November 2011.   No changes have been announced so this is most likely standard cleanup and maintenance.       

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rate Resort: Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jamba House)

Opened: April 2001 
Level:  Deluxe 
Theme:  African Village

We just returned from a wonderful stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  We reserved an Arusha Savanna view room and were upgraded to Kilimanjaro Club at check in which was a nice surprise.   The Club included access to the Kilimanjaro Club lounge where they had breakfast and beverages/snacks throughout the day, bathrobes, turndown service and the ability to participate in unique safari experiences (for an additional fee). 
The hotel is set in a 43 acre African savanna with rooms that look out over the savanna, pool, or the parking area.   We enjoyed our stay and would highly recommend the hotel.  

Welcome home and welcome to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The architecture is one of the most amazing parts of this hotel.   The lobby is over six stories tall with a huge 50 foot curved picture window that spans the back wall and looks out over the savanna.   The artistic details of the lobby, combined with the scents coming from nearby restaurants, will make you feel as if you’ve traveled to Africa.  The lobby is an experience in itself and worth the trip to the hotel even if you aren’t staying there.  


The room was nice, but overall felt smaller than the rooms we have stayed in at moderate hotels.   Although the room is actually 30 sq feet or so larger than the moderates, because of the position of the bathroom and the over sized furniture it felt cramped.  Our room was a standard room with two queen beds, a flat panel TV, small fridge, and bathroom.   The best feature of the room was the balcony, which overlooked the Arusha Savanna.   Imagine waking up in the morning, stepping onto your balcony and finding a giraffe staring at you.   The animals can only get up to around 100 ft from the building so they are not close enough to touch but definitely closer than most of us can experience anywhere else.     

Room amenities:

·         Small Refrigerator      
·         Coffeemaker (coffee and tea)
·         In-room safe
·         Hairdryer
·         Makeup Mirror
·         Iron and Ironing board
·         Internet ($10 for 24 hrs at the time of our stay)


While at the hotel we ate at two of the restaurants.

1.     Boma - Flavors of Africa:   Even though this is one of the most popular buffets at Disney World, I was not a huge fan.   One of the issues with this restaurant is the setup of the buffet – they say you can start anywhere but you get looks when you cut through the massive lines.   Even though we had an early dinner seating the line for the meat area of the buffet was long the entire meal.   The main room was crowded, loud and difficult to navigate. As for the food it was all very good, even our son sampled much of the African fare and enjoyed it.   
2.     The Mara – A quick service location at the lodge was very peaceful with great food.   We had chicken and the African stew; both were full of flavor very good.  

Free Items 

Well, not really free but included in the price of your room.  On this trip we decided to take in some of the “free” items that the hotel had to offer   For those of you staying at an onsite hotel, be sure to look at the information they give you during check in as you will find these types of activities at all Disney hotels.   

1.     Savanna views – there are 4 savannas to view at the lodge.   Even if your room looks out over one of them it’s worth wondering the hotel to see the other three.   We found that when our savanna was empty the animals had wondered off to another one of the other savannas.  
2.     Night vision goggles – After wondering around the large pool we noticed that there was a sign indicating a night viewing of the animals.   After walking down a small path we were met by safari guides who handed us a set of night vision goggles with which we could look out onto the savanna at night and see the animals.  A fun and unique experience! 
3.     Learn about Africa - Cultural representatives, many of which are students taking part in an international exchange program, share stories about their native homelands around the fire.
4.     Storytelling and marshmallow roast – This was another activity we just happened to stumble upon.   We followed some signs to a fire pit and listened to one of the culture representatives tell a story from her childhood while including members of the audience.   

5.     Parade – there was a parade that would start every night near the front of the gift shop (Zawadi Marketplace).   Each child would get a small musical instrument and they would parade through the lobby singing and playing.    Simple but fun for the little ones.   

Rating:   4 out of 5 

Rating Comments:   Overall this is a stunning hotel and should be included in your list if you are looking at Deluxe accommodations.    All cast members we encountered were friendly and they offered up a lot of knowledge of Africa.   For us the animals and the savanna view were the most unique and exciting part of the experience.  
One item of note, compared to other deluxe hotels this hotel sits on the outskirts of Disney property for a reason, but this makes getting to any park besides Animal Kingdom a long trek.  If you have ADR’s be sure to leave about 30 mins to get to the other parks.        

Welcome Home!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Surprise Trip

Our son had a week off school last week so we surprised him with a trip to Disney World.   As always we had an awesome time and returned with many memories and pictures to share with all of you.

This was a trips of firsts for us as we tried things either we hadn't tried before or have been skipping on our most recent trips.  We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in a savanna view room as one of our firsts.   To our surprise we were upgraded to club level at check in which was really nice.   Watch for a review of this hotel soon.  

So, for now enjoy the picture to the left and stay tuned to the blog as we share all our stories and pictures of the most magical place on earth!

Have a Magical Day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rate a Ride: Kali River Rapids

Ride Location: Animal Kingdom (Asia)
Fastpass: Yes
Ride Duration: 5 minutes
Year Introduced: 1999
Height Restriction: Must be 38 inches tall 

 How many times have you secretly fantasized about being the chosen one?   Were you passed up when the captains were picking their dodge ball teams?  Did your boss pass you by for that promotion? Well somehow, someway, I am always the chosen one on this ride.   Welcome to Kali River Rapids, the wettest ride at Disney World, excluding the water parks of course.  

As you enter the queue you are transported to an Asian country complete with ancient ruins and a temple.   As you approach the loading area you will be welcomed to “Kali Rapids Expeditions” where they warn you about illegal logging in the area, so be on the lookout.   

Kali River Rapids is raft ride seating 12 people in pairs similar to what you will see at other theme parks but of course complete in Disney style.   Your raft will flow through a rain forest, temple ruins, and finally into an area where loggers have cleared the forest.   Listen closely for the sound of chainsaws as they continue their work.

 Along the way your raft will spin and drop down a few waterfalls.  And here is where my “chosen one” moment kicks in.    If you are at the top of the raft on the way up then you will be at the bottom on the way down and the gush of water will greet you.   I’ve been soaked on this ride each time my family has gone on it so I know the feeling.   A poncho may help, but when the water goes over your shoulder and into the poncho, what’s the point.

Overall the ride is a little disappointing as for the 5 minutes you are on the ride, much of it is spent just on the assent up the hill causing my son to want to go again.    It is fun and a quick way to cool off in the hot summer days, so if the line isn’t unbearable give it a try and see if you can be the chosen one, or two.

Tips:   Ziplocs to put your electronics in would be a good idea. If you don’t have one you can stop by a gift shop and ask for a bag.   There is a covered area in the middle of the raft to put bags and such, but there is no guarantee they won’t get wet.   Shoes are also required on the raft so be sure to bring along a pair of sandals or flip-flops to slip on before the ride. Soaking wet tennis shoes and socks are no fun to walk the park in the rest of the day. The Florida summer sun will quickly dry your clothes, but if you plan to go on the ride in the fall or winter, you may want to bring an extra pair of clothing.  Lockers can be found at the front of the park near guest services (not close by the ride) and run between $9 and $7 a day with $5 deposit which is returned when the key is returned.  

Rating:  3.5 / 5
Rating Comment:     Overall it's a fun ride if you are in the mood to get wet and the line isn't long or you have fast passes just wish it was a little longer.   

Please let me know what you think of this ride by rating it on the right hand side of this blog.   Slip on your sandals and hang on tight… you just might be the next chosen one??? 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tip : What to bring?

We are packing for our next trip to Disney World so what better subject to write about than the things we can’t live without while on our trip! 

·         Backpack – Okay, so some of you might not want to carry a heavy backpack, but for those of you who like to save some money… this allows our family to carry the camera, water bottles, and any snacks we need for the day.   You can also throw in a change of clothes for the little ones who will get soaked at the splash areas.   

 ·         Hat – For those of you with no hair like me, the FL sun will definitely welcome you if you don’t have a hat. Your dermatologist will also tell you it’s good for kids to cover their heads from the harsh sun.      

 ·         Wet Wipes or Hand Sanitizing Gel – There will be many times when you want to sit down to eat or have a snack, and running into the bathrooms to wash your hands just cuts into your Disney time. 

 ·         Poncho – Yes, it does rain in the happiest place on earth so be prepared.  You can pick one up at the dollar store (thin, light weight and cheap at 2 for $1) or at the parks for around $7.  The benefit of paying $7 for a Disney poncho at the parks is if they do rip you can return them to any store for a new one.   

 ·         Sun Block and Sun Glasses – It’s sunny out there, protect your skin and eyes, especially your kids!

 ·         Breakfast food – If you are staying at a Disney hotel or hotel that doesn’t have free breakfast I recommend bringing some breakfast bars, donuts or dry cereal that you can enjoy without milk (such as our family favorite: Fruit Loops) and some Ziploc bags.   Most mornings we will grab something and eating it on the ride to a park or while waiting in line to get into the parks.   Again, you’re on Disney time so you want to be at the parks early and if your family isn’t early risers this gives you a few more minutes.   

·         Snacks – Again, bringing your own snacks into the park can greatly cut down on your snack bill. Just make sure it won’t melt!    Mmmmm Twizzlers.   

 ·         Gift Cards for Kids – Beware the rides that empty into gift shops! I’m talking to you, Pirates of the Caribbean. Kids will beg for everything they see. The best way to deal with a frustrating situation is purchase a gift card at the start of the trip with a certain amount of money that your children can spend.   When it’s gone, it’s gone.   This teaches some responsibility and makes them think twice before buying something.  Gift cards can be purchased before your trip at the Disney Store or some gift card centers at Kroger’s and other stores.

·         Kool-Aid or other drink packs for bottled water – If you aren’t a huge fan of water it’s good to bring some flavor packs.    Since it is so hot, make sure you drink a lot of water.  The park water from the water fountains tastes horrible, it’s best to bring along a flavor pack. Do they do that for a reason?

 ·         First Aid – At least some Band-Aids to throw in your daily backpack and a travel size Neosporin would not be a bad idea.   

 ·         Comfortable Shoes – You are going to walk a lot so bring something comfy.   Now isn’t the time to break in your new shoes, or your new stilettos (which we’ve seen many times).  Look around while you’re at the park, you will be amazed at what people think are good Disney shoes.   

 ·         Camera – Yeah, I know this is a given, but I’m just reminding you. 

 ·         Glow Sticks – If you have kids and you stay at the park until it gets dark you will be happy you have these.   Disney brings out their light up toys at night and you can distract your kids with much cheaper glow sticks from the dollar store, at, again, for only a dollar,   Kid’s usually don’t care where they come from, they just want to have something that lights up.  Plus, they’re a good way to amuse your kids while waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade.    

 ·         Bottled Water – If you are driving be sure to throw a case in the car, then you can put a bottle in your backpack for each family member.  It might be a little heavy, but can save you $2+ a person.   

-   Disney T-Shirt -  Another cost saver is to purchase a Disney shirt at the Disney Store or at your favorite discount store (Target, etc) before coming to the park.  

Leave a comment and tell me… what do you take along on your trip to Disney?