Prior to this vacation, I would have told you that Animal Kingdom Lodge was my favorite resort on Disney property. Now, the Boardwalk has moved into that top spot. I’ll talk about exactly why as we go through, but to sum it up, Boardwalk has an amazing location, great food options, it’s GORGEOUS and the entertainment can’t be beat. Let’s take a look around. On arrival, we were amazed at just how pretty this resort is. It has an “old school” cool vibe, designed to resemble Coney Island. Inside the lobby
These steps lead down to the Boardwalk, where you find shops, dining and entertainment.
Seriously, guys, this view is amazing. We requested a courtyard view, but I didn’t expect this.
I can’t get over it!
It’s even more beautiful at night, if that’s possible.
Now, the rooms. I didn’t think to take a picture of the entire room, however it should be noted that we rented Disney Vacation Club points, so our experience may vary from that of making a reservation directly from Disney. Our room opened with a small foyer, with a bathroom to the left along with a vanity, sink and closet. On the right was a mini kitchenette, with a toaster, microwave and sink.
The Boardwalk is one of the few resorts that will sleep 5 and boasts a queen bed, pull out sofa bed and fold-out Murphy twin bed (where my daughter is posing above). We were traveling as a group of 5, so this met with our needs nicely.
The beds and bedding were typical for Disney World resorts and quite comfy.
Do you want to know one the best perks to staying at Boardwalk? The proximity to the parks. A short, ten minute walk to Epcot and about 15 minute walk to Hollywood Studios. No Disney transportation required! Pictured above you see the path to the International Gateway, with its own entrance to Epcot (security, bag check and all). You enter between the UK and France pavilions, which we found very convenient. We even went to France for breakfast one morning and enjoyed a nearly empty park.
You can also see the fireworks from Hollywood Studios and Epcot from the resort. I saw several people stopped to watch Illuminations from the bridge before the International Gateway.
Directly across from Boardwalk, you see the Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts. During our stay, we enjoyed a Surrey Bike ride (7/8 of a mile and you FEEL it on the hills) around Crescent Lake to get a closer look at these resorts. We also utilized the Sandcastle Club, a kids club located at the Beach Club, one night to enjoy a child-free evening in Disney Springs.
You can also see the Swan and Dolphin resorts located nearby.
On the Boardwalk, you’ll find several shops including The Screen Door (a general store), Thimbles and Threads, Disney Character Carnival and Wayland Galleries. You’ll find some Boardwalk-specific merchandise, but also a lot of items you can find in pretty much in Disney store. There are sweet treats, however! I made sure to buy a Mickey caramel apple to enjoy at home before I left.
Dining was the one thing I was most worried about before the trip began. Boardwalk does not have a traditional quick service food court. Instead, you have the Boardwalk Bakery, which offers pastries and traditional eggs, sausage, etc in the morning and deli style sandwiches for lunch and dinner. For quick options, there is also the Pizza Window and several food kiosks. I still maintain this is the only downside to the Boardwalk.
Boardwalk also offers several Table Service restaurants, including Flying Fish, Trattoria al Forno and the ESPN Club. The only one of these we tried was the character breakfast at Trattoria al Forno, which features Rapunzel, Flynn, Ariel and Prince Eric.
One of the newest establishments includes the Abracadabar, a magician themed bar. I only took a peek inside, but it looked like a really fun atmosphere!
A discussion of Boardwalk would not be complete without talking about the ice cream! Ample Hills Creamery is a must-do. My kids loved it!
I also have to mention the nighttime entertainment! I wish I had taken more pictures, because we had the most fun. On two occasions, we stopped to watch a magic show out on the Boardwalk, we also passed by a juggler and a guitarist on two other evenings. You could honestly not leave the resort and feel as though you had an amazing vacation!
We loved the Boardwalk and I can’t wait to stay there again!
One of the best things about planning Disney World trips is deciding where we are going to eat on that trip. Have I mentioned that I love food? As we are often looking for a quick bite, more often than not we are looking for a quick service restaurant. I typically plan one table service meal per day as our plans allow, but for the rest of the time we are hitting a quick service on the way to our next Fastpass. Below, I’ve listed my top 5 favorite quick service restaurants. Obviously, I haven’t eaten at every single quick service available, but I’ve sampled a good many.
Sleepy Hollow – Magic Kingdom
I feel like I may have talked your ears off about this place, but I’m just so in love with it. It’s a must-do for me and my family. I particularly like it for breakfast as the fruit and Nutella waffle. Okay, I’m downplaying that a bit, I really, really, really love that waffle. I’m sure Sleepy Hollow has other great offerings, but it tops this list just for that fruit and Nutella waffle.
Also, it has pretty great seating. Just to the side is a covered area with picnic tables and smaller tables. The view is just to the side of Cinderella Castle and if you catch it during the Castle Show (currently Mickey’s Friendship Faire) you can see a great side view in addition to watching the character performers move from the stage to backstage.
Friar’s Nook – Magic Kingdom
The Friar’s Nook is located in Fantasyland, just on the backside of Cinderella Castle. The Friar’s Nook’s offerings are fairly slim, ranging from a hotdog and fries, carrot cake and hummus to it’s real specialty – macaroni and cheese. The macaroni and cheese here is to die for, but the claim to fame is the seasonal toppings. It can range from barbecue, to chicken, to pot roast, but it’s all amazing. It’s also quite filling. While not quite shareable, one serving is still plenty to tide you over until the next meal.
The seating here is also good. Covered tables are available to the right of the restaurant and are in the perfect location to people watch.
La Cantina de San Angel – Epcot, Mexican Pavilion
My personal favorite quick service in Epcot, maybe just because I really love Mexican food. I first tried this restaurant on my “eat around the world” challenge last summer. My husband and I split the empanadas and they were just SO good. La Cantina de San Angel’s menu also includes tacos, nachos, salad and churros. I also love the seating here, as it is also covered (a rarity in the World Showcase) and you can look out over the water while you enjoy your meal.
Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge – Hollywood Studios
Located just outside the Hollywood Brown Derby proper, the lounge is a perfect spot to grab a quick bite, dessert or a drink while you people watch at Hollywood Studios. We find it to be very casual, easygoing and relaxing. Not exactly covered, but the umbrellas above the table provide nice shade in the hot afternoon sun. If you pick a table with a fairly unobstructed view of the stage in front of The Great Movie Ride, you may get a nice view of the March of the First Order or the other stage shows throughout the day.
I will add here that the Disney Dining Plan is not accepted at this location, so just be conscious of that if you typically use the dining plan.
Flame Tree Barbecue – Animal Kingdom
I’m clearly a sucker for comfortable, covered seating areas, if you hadn’t noticed the theme of this post already. Besides that, the food options here at Animal Kingdom really can’t be beat by other quick service options. I’ve already mentioned there are sharable items here that will help save you a little cash, but it is all just so good. If you like BBQ that is (are there people that don’t?). Now, I’m actually a little strange, in that I don’t eat meat off of a bone (it stems from a very strange encounter on a farm when I was young), so the traditional fare here doesn’t appeal to me at all, however a turkey sandwich or a salad sound pretty great all the time.
Runner up: Be Our Guest (lunch), Magic Kingdom
I didn’t want to include yet another Magic Kingdom quick service, and I’ve already written a review of the lunch service here, but it’s hard to not mention Be Our Guest. Unique, in that it is a quick service only for breakfast and lunch, the seating is all indoors and is GORGEOUS. The food for lunch is pretty darn good too. However, don’t think it’s like most other quick services, you must make a reservation in advance, or you’ll have little luck getting in.
I want to know, what are your favorite quick service picks in Walt Disney World?
I just got back from four fabulous days at Walt Disney World. I haven’t been during the summer in a very long time (since the lower crowds and temperatures of September swayed me that way), so much of this was a new and different experience for me. So I don’t forget things, I wanted to detail the trip here and add in some tips and tricks I picked up along the way.
One new experience this time around was flying in. We grabbed cheap tickets from Allegiant and then rented a car. One thing I didn’t realize at the time I booked our flight was Allegiant only flies into Sanford Orlando (SFB) and the Magical Express doesn’t run there. By the time we calculated the cost of a taxi to and from our resort, it made just as much sense to rent a car. We also like the freedom that a car allows you as opposed to the Disney transportation system.
After checking into Animal Kingdom Lodge (my first ever Deluxe stay – more on how I got that at a bargain in a later post), my husband and I headed over to Sanaa for lunch. Something else I learned about this resort is that it is actually TWO resorts – Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo House is the main section and has three restaurants, Boma, Jiko and Mara. Kidani is where Sanaa is housed. Figuring out the shuttle/parking situation was a pain, but dinner was definitely worth it.
Following Sanaa, we hopped in the car to check out Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime experiences. On this particular evening, Animal Kingdom was open until 11pm, so by arriving at 3 or so, we had plenty of time to explore the park at dusk, evening and night. We rode Everest (three times!), Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl, and Kilimanjaro Safaris at dusk. I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice a huge difference in the movement or activity of the animals on the safari, but others have said that it’s better in early evening, so take my experience with a grain of salt. We also took in the Nomad Lounge, the bar attached to the new signature restaurant, Tiffins. It was absolutely beautiful, and offered much needed air conditioning. We also saw Festival of the Lion King for the first time, which was thoroughly entertaining. And finally, it was time for Jungle Book: Alive with Magic.
For anyone who isn’t aware, Jungle Book is the replacement nighttime show in Animal Kingdom. Originally, Rivers of Light was supposed to have opened by now, but technical difficulties have caused it to be pushed back for an undetermined amount of time. To me, and I’m just being honest, Jungle Book looks like a replacement show. It seemed fairly thrown together. The water projections weren’t as crisp as those in Fantasmic. The singing and dancing are great, but it wasn’t breathtaking by any means.
Immediately after Jungle Book, the entire park goes one of two places. Either to Everest (we saw the wait time spin from 5 minutes to 40 minutes as people lined up) or to the front of the park to see the Tree of Life Awakening. By 9:45, the park was completely empty. We walked around until 10:30 before deciding to call it a night.
On the next day, we had decided to split the day between Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. Since we were traveling without our kids this time, Magic Kingdom didn’t warrant quite as much time, and Hollywood Studios is struggling for attractions right now with all the closures in preparation for Star Wars Land, so it made sense to put them together. I did make the choice to make our Fastpass+ reservations for Hollywood Studios, thinking I could get a 4th FP+ for Magic Kingdom later. This ended up being a really good strategy, which I’ll go into more detail about in a bit. In the span of three hours, we were able to ride Tower of Terror (FP+), Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (FP+), meet Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, ride Toy Story Mania and Star Tours(FP+), and have a snack at the ABC Commissary. The lines early in the morning were manageable and the 3rd track at Toy Story Mania allowed us to only have to wait for 25 minutes for that attraction.
We went back to the resort to rest for a bit, then headed out to Magic Kingdom. On the ride there, I snagged a 4th FP+ for 7 Dwarves Mine Train, mostly because I was shocked there were any available given its popularity and figured we’d skip anything that was really worth doing (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, etc) because I’m just not willing to waste my park time in long lines. But this is when it got interesting. Somehow, I must have missed the memo that you are no longer limited to only 4 fastpasses, so after Mine Train, I got back on to the My Disney Experience app to check something else and low and behold, the app told me we were eligible for ANOTHER fastpass. I snagged a Space Mountain, we rode, then got yet ANOTHER fastpass for Haunted Mansion, then ANOTHER for Jungle Cruise! All in all, we used 7 Fastpass+ reservations in one day. And thanks to this change, in addition to those fastpasses, we were also able to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Astro Orbitor, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Stitch’s Great Escape and the Peoplemover (twice!).
As an aside, the Peoplemover is a great, often overlooked attraction that really shouldn’t be missed. It never has a line, you get to ride behind the scenes of some fun Tomorrowland attractions and you get to SIT. I’m clearly getting old, because that’s my favorite part of the whole thing.
We also had dinner at Be Our Guest, watched Wishes and hung around for the Kiss Goodnight. You know you’re a Disnerd when you get a little giddy for being able to fit in so many attractions in the peak summer crowds and not feel like you really missed out on anything.
So, now I mention another big tip. I think I’ve put this out on social media before, but its a big enough time saver that it can be repeated. Following the Kiss Goodnight, literally everyone left in the park exited. Hundreds of people headed straight for the monorail. By the time we got there, the line was ridiculously long. DON’T USE THE MAGIC KINGDOM MONORAIL BACK TO THE TICKET AND TRANSPORTATION CENTER WHEN IT’S THAT BUSY. Go right on past and use the Resort Monorail loop. The line was about…5 people long and we were able to hop right into an empty, air conditioned monorail car. Yes, you will have to go through several resort stops before circling around to the ticket and transportation center, but it’s totally worth it to not be in that crowd of cranky, hot, sweaty guests. Nothing I got for waiting on a tram though, unless you pay for preferred parking and can walk to your car, that part is just going to suck.
Now, this is the part of my trip where flexibility had to come in. I could tell that being out til midnight was wearing on my husband and myself. We were tired and really needed the extra sleep, so I altered our Epcot plans a bit. We decided to take on the Eat Around the World challenge in the World Showcase, and I had wanted to start at 9 to try the new breakfast items in Mexico. However, understanding that a well-rested husband is a happy husband, we slept in and didn’t make it into Epcot until noon. Still, after a Fastpass+ for Soarin’, we made our way into the World Showcase to stuff our faces. See the pictures below for our food journey (it was delicious!).
We also were able to ride Mission Space Green and Orange, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, watch Turtle Talk with Crush and visit Anna and Elsa in their new location, the Royal Summerhus in the Norway Pavilion. Then, we finished up the night with dinner at Ohana in the Polynesian with a window view of Wishes.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect trip, and am always amazed that no matter how many times I visit Walt Disney World, it is always evolving. There’s always something new to learn, something new to try, a new restaurant to visit, and always the same Disney magic!
The Tusker House restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the only character meal in that park. On a recent trip, my family and I had the opportunity to eat breakfast here. I really enjoyed it, but a couple of members of my party gave it an “eh”. Is it worth it? Let’s break it down.
During this meal, you’ll meet with Donald, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy in their safari gear.
(You’ll notice my two year old isn’t quite to the “OMG I LOVE CHARACTERS” stage yet.)
The character interactions were good. Nothing amazing or super special, but certainly fun and interactive. And it’s always fun seeing characters is different outfits.
Food at Tusker House is buffet style. It has a mix of traditional breakfast fare, as well as some more adventurous African influenced dishes. I loved everything I tried, but my sister only thought the food was so-so. Try the Jungle Juice though – we all agreed it was delicious!
Service here, as everywhere in Disney World, is above par. Our server was very attentive and was sure to answer to any questions we had about the menu, characters and anything else that might have come up. Drinks were always full (a BIG deal for my husband) but no hovering. Just how we like it.
Besides the fact that, you know, people need to eat, why choose Tusker House on your next trip? For one, character meals are a great time saver. You get to eat a good meal, plus see several characters without having to stand in long lines. That’s a win-win to me.
Tusker House in particular has its perks because it is the only restaurant in Animal Kingdom that accepts pre-park opening reservations. My favorite thing is to walk through a (nearly) empty park in the early morning. It’s a great way to get the fabulous photo ops without hundreds of people in the background.
Finally, Tusker House is a part of the Dining Package available at Animal Kingdom for the Jungle Book: Alive With Magic nighttime show (and eventually the Rivers of Light). What does that mean? Essentially, you book dining reservations at Tusker House, and after your meal you are provided with tickets for preferred seating at the evening show. Please note that while Tusker House Restaurant is available for all meal periods with this dining package, you must dine at this location no later than 2-and-a-half hours prior to your designated performance time.
I would definitely give Tusker House a try if you’re looking for a table service reservation in Animal Kingdom. Have you eaten there? What did you think?
The Art of Animation resort is the newest resort at Walt Disney World. It is unique in that, while it is categorized as a Value Resort, it offers much more than a typical resort in that category. The Art of Animation offers unique dining, family suites and it’s own non-shared bus system.
Originally, the Art of Animation was supposed to be an extension of Pop Century, and is actually connected to that resort via a bridge.
All of the Value Resorts are themed, but Art of Animation is truly exceptional. This resort was designed to tell the story of how the concept of animation and the flow from concept to animated feature.
Throughout the entire resort, you will find fantastically themed areas. There are four different movies represented here. They include Cars, The Lion King, Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid. Cars, The Lion King and Finding Nemo areas house the family suites, while The Little Mermaid rooms are traditional, standard hotel rooms.
During our stay, we chose the Cars suite.
Each of the family suites includes a separate bedroom, two bathrooms, a pull-out couch and a Murphy bed. They comfortably sleep up to 6 adults.
We loved this set up. When we visited, it was myself, my husband, our two children (age 5 and 2) and my sister. There was enough space to not feel completely closed in and the two full bathrooms made getting ready in the mornings a lot less hectic.
The Little Mermaid rooms, while also fantastically themed, are smaller, more traditional hotel rooms. It should also be noted, that the Little Mermaid rooms are never included in promotions, including Free Dining.
The Art of Animation is home to the Landscape of Flavors, a food court.
Again, beautifully themed, this food court is unique in several ways. First, it is the only Food Court to utilize real plates and silverware, in an attempt to be more eco-friendly. The food offerings are also set up in “pods” where different items are offered in different sections of the food court. The food was good, but not special. The pod system was very frustrating to our family. When you’re wrangling a toddler and another small child, trying to figure out what everyone wants, and where those items are offered, piling it all on one tray, holding it in one hand and a 2 year old (who will dash away as quick as a wink) in the other it was very difficult to manage. I appreciate the pod system as a concept, and I’m sure it will be easier to manage as my children grow older, but for this point in my life, it was difficult and more than a little frustrating.
There are three pools at the Art of Animation. The Finding Nemo pool is the main pool. It’s quite large, gorgeous, and you can even hear music when you go under the water.
The Cars pool offers Cone cabanas, which are completely adorable. They are first come, first serve so be on the lookout if you want to grab one!
Finally, the Little Mermaid pool is another, smaller pool located in the Little Mermaid section. You will feel as tiny as Flounder staring up at the giant icons of Ariel, Ursula and King Triton as you swim.
The Art of Animation also offers Movies Under the Stars. Watch some of your favorite Disney films outside in the fresh evening air—located on the grassy area found between The Lion King building and Finding Nemo building.
Overall, we loved this resort. We will definitely stay here again. In fact, my daughter is begging to stay in the Lion King section – though she calls it the Lion Guard section, thanks to the new TV series. Though the suites are pricier than most value resorts, the extra room was definitely worth it.
I don’t know if you all have figured this out about me yet, but I’m a little Type A. My family will tell you that I start to get a tic when I even think for a moment that we might be late for something. In Disney, that means that we are never late for dining reservations or fastpass+ reservations. It also means that I know if we don’t leave at a certain time, arrive at the park at a certain time, and line up for the first planned attraction at the right time, we won’t be optimizing our time efficiently. Yes, I’m neurotic, but I’m working on it.
All of that to say this. I’m always looking for a quick bite we can grab for breakfast on park days when we don’t have pre-park opening table service reservations. I’ve compiled a list of quick service restaurants that offer good, filling and fast breakfast food in each of the parks.
Main Street Bakery
Located on Main Street USA, the Main Street Bakery offers various pastries as well as Starbucks coffee. It’s open from park open to park close and accepts the Disney Dining Plan.
Sleepy Hollow is located in Liberty Square and is my personal favorite quick service breakfast in Magic Kingdom. Our last trip, it was cold and windy. There are covered tables with a corner spot that blocked the wind and gave us a nice view of the street to people watch, eat our breakfast and sip on some hot chocolate. What does Sleepy Hollow offer? Only the most amazing waffles.
Seriously, I could eat one of these every day. Delicious waffle, covered in nutella and fruit. My daughter and I split one, and if she wasn’t my flesh and blood I would have fought her for each and every bite.
Located in New Fantasyland, Gaston’s Tavern offers pastries, and quite possibly the largest cinnamon roll I’ve ever laid eyes on. Try one with the famous LeFou’s Brew. Open from park open to park close, they also accept the Disney Dining Plan.
This quick service restaurant is located in Future World. Another Starbucks location, you’ll find a variety of coffee and pastries here. They accept the Disney Dining Plan and are open from park open to park close.
Les Halles is located in the France Pavilion. As the only quick service restaurant open before 11am, you can best access it through the International Gateway. Croissants and various pastries are offered here, and they also accept the Disney Dining Plan.
La Cantina San Angel
Another option in the World Showcase, La Cantina de San Angel only recently began offering breakfast options, mostly due to the popularity of Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion. La Cantina de San Angel is the first pavilion you encounter on the left side of the World Showcase and is one of three locations open prior to the regular World Showcase opening time of 11am.
Kringla Bakeri og Cafe
Another World Showcase location open prior to 11am, Kringla Bakeri og Cafe offers Norwegian options while you wait for Frozen Ever After. Offered items include pastries, fruit parfaits and a variety of other items.
Disney Hollywood Studios
Trolley Car CafeAnother Starbucks location, the Trolley Care Cafe is open from park open until 8pm most days. Enjoy your favorite coffee drink, along with a delicious pastry or hot croissant.
Located on Hollywood Blvd, the Trolley Car Cafe accepts the Disney Dining Plan.
The final of our Starbucks offerings, Creature Comforts is located on Discovery Island in Animal Kingdom. You’ll find the typical pastries and hot coffee beverages here. They are open from park open to park close and accept the Disney Dining Plan.
Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery
Tucked away in the Africa section, this bakery offers cinnamon rolls, hot breakfast wraps, danishes, muffins and more. A great stop for a quick bite, they are open from park open to park close and accept the Disney Dining Plan.
So, there you go! A list to get you started on picking up a quick bite on your way to experience Disney magic!
You know who finally got a reservation at Be Our Guest? This girl! I have been dying to try this restaurant since it opened, and I knew the lunch menu was for me. It was the easiest to please my picky family as well, so I was ridiculously overjoyed when I finally snagged this reservation.
Be Our Guest is unique in that it changes from a quick service restaurant for breakfast and lunch to a table service restaurant for lunch.
The check in process was really easy. We utilized the pre-order option and had ordered our food in advance, so we were seated right away. If you do not pre-order, you have to go to the ordering kiosks first, and the lines for those even at 11am were quite long. I strongly suggest pre-ordering. At breakfast and lunch, you are allowed to choose your own table and room. There are three rooms in the restaurant, including the West Wing, the main Ballroom and Belle’s Library. We chose the Ballroom for two reasons. The first, I really wanted to watch the snow fall from the windows and second, the West Wing was rather dark, and I was afraid my 2 year old would be frightened. We loved the Ballroom. The snow falling was beautiful and just look at the ceiling!
The food was very good. Our group ordered:
Grilled Sandwich of Carved Ham and Gruyere Cheese and Bechamel with Pommes Frites.
Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich
Served warm on a Baguette with Horseradish Sour Cream and Pommes Frites.
Carved Turkey Sandwich
Carved Turkey Sandwich served warm on a Baguette with Dijon Mayonnaise and Pommes Frites.
I will say, while the flavors were great, the bread did come out a little too toasty, so it was a little too crunchy for my group’s taste.
We also ordered a variety of desserts, including The Master’s Cupcake (with the famous “grey stuff”), the Triple Chocolate Cupcake (shown below) and the Eclair a l’Orange. All were very good, if rich. None of us could finish the chocolate cupcake!
There are no characters at the breakfast or lunch times, only at dinner. I just got dinner reservations for my upcoming July trip, so I can’t wait to see the changes from quick service to table service. Have you tried Be Our Guest? What did you think?