Friday, January 30, 2009

Try the Grey Stuff. It's Delicious. Don't Believe Me? Ask the Dishes!

With only 96 days to go, I'm quickly approaching my window to make dining reservations. And if you have ever made dinner reservations at Disney World, you will know this is one of the more stressfull parts of the planning.

Up until the Disney Dining Plans were introduced, my Disney World dining experience was minimal. I had eaten at the likes of San Angel Inn, 50's Prime Time Cafe and the Biergarten (when it wasn't a buffet). Now with the plan, I have eaten at almost all restaurants in EPCOT and restaurants I could usually not afford.

This will be the 4th trip we have made on the dining plan, and over the last 3 we have tried new ones each time. For this trip, we will have to limit our travel, since we will have two toddlers. With that in mind, here are the 4 restaurants I have planned so far:

1. Le Cellier (EPCOT, Canadian pavillion)
Le Cellier is by far, our favorite restaurant in all of Disney World. I know it sounds ridiculous that my favorite restaurant is in Canada and it may sound a little biased, but believe me, the food is spectacular. This isn't your typical steak house. Filet Mignon on mushroom risotto.... Do I have to say anymore?!?!? The wait staff is also one of the best in the entire resort.

Le Cellier is also one of the more popular restaurants, so this will be the first one I reserve. If you have ever eaten there, you know that most or all walk-up guests get turned away, as they are always full.

This will also be probably the highlight of our trip, as I'm going to try and reserve Le Cellier for Janice's birthday.

2. San Angel Inn (EPCOT, Mexico pavillion)
Another favorite. We actually didn't eat at San Angel Inn last trip, as we tried a lot of new restaurants. Again, great food (I love mexican and hardly get to eat it), but more importantly, great ambience. You truly feel like you are sitting outside in a square, somewhere in Mexico. As an added bonus, you can get some great entertainment while waiting for your table, as sometimes you have to wait awhile and some guests don't like to wait. Oh the arguements I have seen......

3. The Wave (Contemporary Hotel)
This is a new restaurant for us. The Wave replaced the Concourse Steakhouse about a year ago. I have heard really good reviews of this restaurant, so I'm excited to try it.

4. Tutto Italia (EPCOT, Italy pavilion)
This is a somewhat new restaurant for us. We had dined at the previous Italian restaurant (Alfredo's), which I thought was ok, but not fantastic. Since they have switched over, I have heard good things. My brother ate there last summer and really enjoyed it (he is a somewhat picky eater BTW).

That's all we have planned so far. I need to narrow down 3 more choices. I say 3, as one of them will be a Disney Signature restaurant (which requires 2 table services). The others we are considering are (signature choices in italics):
Spoodles (which we will probably book)
Chefs de France (another one we love)
50's Prime Time Cafe (always a fun dinner)
Liberty Tree Tavern
Flying Fish Cafe
California Grill (another favorite, where I had my ultimate Disney expereince...but that is another post)
Artist Point

If you have insight into my above choices or any other suggestions, please let me know.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Change in Plans...

A few things have happened in the last couple of days. My brother in-law has expressed interest in joing us on our trip. He was able to get the days off and confirmed that he was coming along on our little adventure, which means..... We needed a bigger room!!!

Our group is now 5 instead of 3 (which includes 2 kids under 3). I looked at our options and figured that the DVC Villas are the best way to go. I wanted to stay near EPCOT still, so the Boardwalk Villas was the best choice.

We opted for a 1 bedroom suite, which will give us a room with a King size bed, a pull-out queen couch and a full kitchen. As Janice and I talked about the change, we realized that the kitchen will be a huge plus, as we can feed the kids before we enjoy our dinners in the great restaurants (my next post....).

I was still able to get the Buy 4 Get 3 Free deal, as the time period to book was extended until the end of March. Upgrading our room actually played in our best interests as my portion of the cost is now less than before.... And I have a bigger room. Win, Win for me!!

Another added bonus is that I will have someone to go on the "thrill" rides with, as Janice isn't a big "thrill" ride person.

Oh ya, and only 98 days to go!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Things I can't wait to buy in Disney World: Part 2

I really want to buy this. Unfortunately, it won't be available until September (or later in Disney World). I'm hoping this is the start of a new Disney World series.

I have 3 pieces of the Pirates series (the Helmsman, the Pirate with Pigs and the Pirate on Canon) and hope to buy 1 or 2 more in May, which I will discuss in another post. I also have this Pirates piece, which was sold 9 years ago at a special event.

I guess if I can't get it in May, I will have to convince Janice to take another trip in September. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Things I can't wait to buy in Disney World: Part 1

So, I have decided to start a sub series in my Blog. If you know me at all, you know that I am a big Disneyana collector. I collect everything from PINS to Walt Disney Classics Collection pieces. Suffice to say, going to Disney World isn't just a trip to my favorite place on earth, but also a big shopping trip. Starting with this blog, anytime I see something that is only available at the parks that I will want to buy, I'm going to mention it. That way not only you will get to know me more, but it will also be an on-going shopping list for me.

First up are the new Disney Vinylmation pieces.

Disney teased about these items last summer and also sold pins in a lead up to the introduction. I've been following the designer toy craze lately and even have a small collection of Kidrobot Dunny's and Monster Factory plush. Obviously the Vinylmation pieces have piqued my interest. Now I have to try and find out how I can order a case of them and pick them up when I'm there instead of having them shipped.....


Found some more pictures of first series. I particularly like the Disney Cruise Line exclusive:
Thanks to Plastic and Plush for the picture.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Disney's Vero Beach

The last time my wife and I went to Disney World, we spent a couple of days beforehand in Clearwater Beach. The reason for this was 3 fold: Clearwater has some of the nicest and cleanest beaches I have ever been to, we needed a couple of days to unwind from the long drive, and I had a huge craving for some of the best pizza I have ever had. Also, my family and I used to spend a couple of weeks during summer holidays in Clearwater, so I know the area well and I feel safe going there.

We had a nice time there, but a lot had changed since I was there last. They had a ton of construction going on, because of Tampa hosting the Superbowl this year. It was also a little weird to see all the small hotels completely empty. I guess I should have expected that, considering we were there in October.

While planning for our upcoming trip, we again talked about going to the beach to unwind after the long drive and spend some quality time with Graydon. Even though we enjoyed Clearwater, I threw out the idea of maybe going to a different beach. As I started to think about locations, I couldn't pass up the oportunity to investigate Disney's Vero Beach resort.

For those unaware of the property, Disney has 2 beach resorts located in Vero Beach and Hilton Head, South Carolina (a third will soon open in Hawaii). The resorts are actually Disney Vacation Club (DVC) properties, but non-DVC members can actually stay at the resorts (similar to staying at a DVC property in Disney World). Both are owned and operated by Disney, so you should expect the same level of service as you would get at a Disney World resort.

Convincing my wife to stay there wasn't that difficult. The price was relatively the same as the Hilton we stayed at in Clearwater (actually better after I asked if they had a CAA/AAA discount) and we would end up with the great Disney service we have grown to appreciate. Of course, I made sure there was plenty of shopping close by and an Olive Garden within driving distance (we don't have Olive Gardens in Canada anymore).

I have booked a Deluxe Inn room, as that is all the space we really need. The room has a small kitchenette and plenty of space for a crib.

I have never really stayed on the Atlantic side of Florida. I'm sure the beaches will be nice and the wildlife won't be drastically different.

The amenities in the resort look great (of course a Mickey shape pool is always fun). I know Janice will be looking forward to a beach bonfire! I'm just looking forward to relaxing!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Possibly the Best Disney World discount ever....

Disney has offered some great deals in the past, including free dining plans (September usually), upgrading tickets to include the park hopping option and water parks, room only discounts and tickets at par (for Canadians). But the most recent deal is by far the best discount ever. If you go to Disney World between January and June, you can purchase 4 nights and receive 3 free! Disney has never offered this kind of deal over such an extended time period. Of course there are some rules and regulations and a short black out period (over Easter), which is to be expected. And if you travel between February and March (including March break), you also receive a $200 gift card, to spend at Disney World.

This offer is obviously great for Disney World fans, but it is a sign of the times. I'm assuming that the execs in the Disney Parks division are predicting a decline in park and resort attendance, and want to fill rooms as best as possible. It will be interesting to see what kind of discounts they will offer for the Fall, which is historically a slow time for the resort.

As previously mentioned, we took extra advantage of this deal, and reserved a deluxe resort. I don't think we could have afforded the Boardwalk Inn at the regular rates.

Oh ya, and only 115 days to go....