Villains After Hours Review

This was a last minute decision for our trip. Anticipating the hot summer weather in Florida, we decided to forgo the daily park ticket and instead go at night. I would only suggest this if your kiddos are good with staying up until 1:00 a.m. (or later). The Villains After Hours Party at Disney World runs from now until August on select nights (you can check here for more details). It’s similar to some of the other after hours parties (and annual pass holder after events), but it features specially themed treats, a stage show, and the dragon, Maleficent, makes appearances throughout the park. Here’s a peak at the map:

 

Let’s start with what we loved about it!

First, short lines. I mean walk onto Peter Pan short. We rode Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Tea Cups, Buzz Lightyear, and Haunted Mansion all within the “party window”, but we also rode additional rides before that because you are allowed in at 7 p.m. (3 hours before the party actually starts).

Second, drinks, Mickey treats, and popcorn are all included in the cost. You can just walk up to any of the carts and the cast members will hand it to you. That was great (especially when I needed a second box of popcorn after riding Space Mountain with J).

Third, fun light theming of different rides:

 

Fourth, there are themed snacks for purchase, which the boys were very excited about.

We tried the headless horseman brownie:

This was a basic brownie, the theming is basically that one chocolate on top. It was made well though and is big enough to share.

We also tried the dragons breath:

The theming of this one was fun! The spun candy on top was VERY hard to eat, but the boys enjoyed the soft serve with cherry sprite type soda. Think a Shirley Temple with vanilla soft serve.

Last we tried the Hades Temptation:

So, besides being nearly impossible to carry without spilling it, this was very tasty. It again had kind of a cherry/berry slushie taste.

So, now that we’ve talked about what we loved, let’s talk about a few things that were just okay.

First, villain encounters. They kind of make it seem like although you won’t have the opportunity to do meet and greets with the villains, that they will be walking around the park. This is the only place we saw them:

Second, the theming of the rides for villains was waaaayyyy over stated. If you tell me there’s going to be a themed Pirates of the Carribean, I’m expecting Jack Sparrow. Although, this guy was humorous:

 

Last, the transportation back to the hotels is by bus. For our experience (I say that because that type of thing is always subject to change), there was no monorail or boat option. We had to get on a bus after the party that went to the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian. It took awhile. Overall, I think the after hours experience is a great idea. I would suggest trying it. However, if you want a spooky themed experience (depending on when you are going), I would suggest Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The tickets are similar cost and you can check out our experience with that here!

 

 

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Kona Cafe

Also known by my kids as “not Ohana”, Kona Cafe open air table service restaurant on the second floor of The Polynesian serves up Asian style eats with a Polynesian twist. Despite the fact that this is not Ohana, our meal was very good, and I would recommend it if you are staying at The Polynesian, one of the other nearby resorts, or you want to take a break from The Magic Kingdom and head over here for dinner.

First up, we got an appetizer of potstickers, because that seemed to be the theme of this trip:

They were pan fried (my favorite), and I can honestly say I’ve never been served potstickers like this. They were pull apart and were definitely a filling way to start the meal! A loves potstickers:

In addition to our order of pot stickers, we were also snacking on the Hawaiian bread with macadamia nut butter that comes with the meal:

 

You all. Come for the rolls. They are delish! Anyway, while we were eating those we checked out the menu:

As you can see the menu contains a wide-range from sushi to burgers. You also can watch them making the sushi if you are sitting close enough, which we were:

B ordered the sashimi sampler:

We found the prices for both the sushi and sashimi to be very reasonable. The sashimi was light, and B probably would’ve ordered a side…if he hadn’t had an extra helping of rolls.

I ordered the Mahi Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato:

It was weird. The Mahi was also a little dry. And there were big pieces of barely toasted bread underneath….it was just a little odd. I would probably order something different if we went again.

And the boys ordered pasta and a burger:

Both were good. Oh and a heads up from our resident kid foodie:

If your kiddos also get dessert, just a heads up. The yogurt parfait is just a scoop of yogurt on a plate. Get the ice cream instead.

Afterwards, we headed outside to watch the fireworks:

At The Polynesian they dim the lights and play the music from the fireworks show at The Magic Kingdom, so its fun to view it from the beach!

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Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs

Can one dream about a meal? By far this was one of our favorite meals of the trip. I’ve read mixed reviews, but let me tell you, our server was fantastic, our meal was fantastic, and I really loved how the kids’ meals, menu, and options were so unique!

The atmosphere is upscale, but like most Disney restaurants, people were in a variety of dress from casual to cocktail-ish. The sushi kitchen is upstairs and it was fun to view it from below.

We started off with pork dumplings for our appetizer because those are A’s absolute favorite. These would probably be my only complaint. For eleven dollars there were only four, and they were barely filled. They were also steamed, and I prefer mine slightly pan fried (this I knew when we chose them, so that’s on me). For the cost, I would pick something else. They also don’t tell you on the menu how many you get, and I assumed we’d get at least six (again, I should’ve asked this before ordering). On the plus side, it came in a fun steamer and the boys tested out their chopstick skills before their lo mein came.

 

 

On to better things! Starting with the kid’s menu, because it was awesome. It had three origami papers and instructions for making three basic origami items. We spent (okay maybe, I spent) almost all the way until our dinner came working on the fish and frog.

 

And while we were working on those, we were sipping on fruity boba tea. J was unsure, but A was totally converted. He’s been asking for boba tea again ever since.

 

They both ordered the kids’ shrimp lo mein, and there wasn’t a noodle left.

So, now for the grown up meals. B is a big fan of sushi and sashimi, so he ordered Jyo Sushi Combo, and the only potential issue for his allergies was the sushi roll. Our server was great and easily requested to have his roll swapped (the combo is a “chef selects” so it depends on the day what you get). It was almost too pretty to eat!

I opted for the buri-bop which is the famous dish that Morimoto created to win one of the Iron Chef competitions. They prep it by the table, and unfortunately I didn’t take a picture before it was mixed. It was sooooo good. I mean. It was a combination of yellow tail, rice, egg, veggies, and other tasty items. As a side note this does come in a 400 plus degree bowl, that stays that hot pretty much the entire time you eat it. So this is not a meal you’d want to eat near small kiddos who might grab the bowl (or irresponsible adults who might do it “too be funny”, just saying).

And finally, we ended the meal with hidden Mickey sorbets for the boys!

We really loved our overall experience at Morimoto’s and would definitely go again!

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Shades of Green Review

For our recent trip to Disney we tested out The Shades of Green resort, and I’ve got that review for you today! First up, a few important pieces of information about the resort. It was originally a deluxe resort that was later purchased by the government. This means that you (or someone in your group) have to meet the qualifications on their website.

It is a hotel on Disney property, but not a Disney hotel specifically, so they use different buses, etc (more on that later). I’d always been reluctant to try it because I was worried it wouldn’t be Disney enough, when we are quite used to the Disney resorts. However, for this stay we decided to test it out and see what we thought!

The resort is lovely. It has spacious rooms many of which sleep up to five. It’s a quiet property, and we had a nice view of the golf course.

We stayed in The Palm Wing on the second floor, and I liked it so much, I would specifically request that area the next time we go.

There are two outdoor pools, one that has a zero entry area, and the other has a water slide that J LOVED:

The food is very reasonably priced (there are several restaurants and a Starbucks). Picking up Starbucks and reading my book in the morning was one of my favorite things to do during our stay!

The self-parking is only 9 dollars a day (cheaper than the Disney value resorts). It’s also an easy drive over to Disney Springs. Quick tip…we always parked at the Lime Garage because it is close to some of our favorite shops and restaurants. If you’re driving, check which garage is closest to your favorites to cut down on walking!

For transportation, they have buses that go to the ticket and transportation center, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. You can also walk to the Polynesian Resort (it’s about a fifteen minute walk to the monorail), and take any of their buses or the monorail. In addition they have a tram at times that will drive you down to the end of the property and cuts about seven minutes off the walk.

We loved getting a chance to take the monorail more than we usually do, and did quite a bit of resort hopping more than other past trips.

Overall, of all the Disney resorts we’ve stayed at their bus transportation was by far my least favorite. And it’s not that they aren’t efficient about it, the buses run when they say they will. However, instead of running every twenty minutes, like the Disney resort buses they come essentially twice an hour….which means that you need to carefully plan park entrance and exit to minimize wait times. Also, their bus stop is not with the other Disney bus stops…it’s usually a secondary area with a very small overhang….no big deal if it’s not raining, except in Florida, where huge rain storms can (and did) pop up at any time. You can take The Polynesian bus and walk, but we found that the buses for The Polynesian and Grand Floridian (they share a bus), were usually also packed.

 I would recommend considering taking advantage of the Minnie Van service (especially if you are going to or leaving Animal Kingdom), because you are saving money with the lower cost of the room and parking. If you have people in your group that either have trouble standing for long periods, or small kiddos, this would be a life saver. If we stayed at Shades of Green again we would definitely budget for that in order to save some time…and tantrums on the behalf of seven year olds who you made hike a park all day in 95 degrees and then have to hike home.

Overall, the resort is a great option for qualifying government and military families. You can find out more about the resort here! Happy trip planning!

 

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Fast pass to multiple experience pass tips

We’ve experienced lots of different situations on our Disney trips, but on this past trip we experienced a new to us situation, that lead to us learning some insider tips that we didn’t know before and wanted to share it with all of you!

On our Hollywood Studios day we entered the park to both Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Rollercoaster being shut down. We had fast passes for both and so while we did other rides (which as you know right now at Hollywood Studios is minimal, but won’t be in fall 2019), we periodically checked back to see if the rides were running again. Our fast pass time came and went, and so we missed both rides. Or so we thought. When a fast pass ride is shut down and the window to ride it goes by, it should turn into a multiple experience fass pass on MyDisneyExperience for the park. However, the boys were kind of done at Hollywood Studios. Knowing this I went to guest services and spoke with a cast member. Our kind cast member then turned our 2 multiple experience fast pass for Hollywood Studios to 4, and added an all park multi-experience fast pass on for each of us!

 

The boys then asked if we could go on Toy Story Mania again with the extra Hollywood Studio fast pass, so we rode that one:

After that time Rockin’ Rollercoaster started working again, so B and J rode that and then we left and went back to the hotel to relax for a bit. Later that day we walked into Epcot and used our remaining fast pass there.

So a couple of important things we learned. One, if your fast pass ride goes down during your window of riding, it should automatically turn into a multiple experience fast pass for the park. Two, if you have park hopper you may be able to transfer this fast pass to another park (you will probably need a cast members help to do this at guest services, and it does not cover all rides….don’t expect to get one for Flight of Passage). Three, it pays to be polite. I’ve read this time and time again on Disney tip blogs, as well, and I have always found no matter how frustrated you may be about a situation, if you approach cast members with kindness and patience it’s going to be a much better experience all around.

 

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Disney Dining Plan Comparison

If you didn’t know how crazy organized we are, you’re about to. When we first went to Disney as a family of four in 2016 we got the dining plan. Then for our next trip in 2017, we decided to see if the dining plan was actually worth the cost. We got the dining plan and wrote down everything we spent. Everything. All snacks, quick service, and table service. Then in 2018 we decided to not do the dining plan, and see if we ate “normally” (i.e. not trying to meet the quota of snacks and meals) what the comparison would be. B wrote down everything in an excel document and I’m happy to share our results with you!

Before we get started a few things to note. First, the price of the dining plan has changed, so always check what their latest prices are. Second, this is for two adults and two kids on the standard dining plan (2 snacks, 1 quick service, and 1 table service per night of stay).

First up, our 2017 on the dining plan table:

 

So on the dining plan we actually came out 223.50 ahead of the plan cost (essentially we spent more than the plan cost). And we spent everything. No quick service unused, all snacks accounted for, and plenty of character meals (always a higher cost).

Second up is our 2018 not on the dining plan table:

This time around we ate how we wanted. We didn’t always get quick service, sometimes we had snacks for lunch, and we only did one character meal (Ohana breakfast). If we had gotten the dining plan we actually would have lost $88.63. Not a big difference, but still close to $100.

So, what did we conclude? If you are planning to eat at least a quick service, table service, and two snacks per person per day the plan is a good choice. If you are planning to do a bunch of character meals the plan is a great choice. If you want to be able to pay for your food in advance and not have to worry about it when you get there the plan is an excellent choice. However, if you are doing more quick service, don’t want to worry about keeping up with how many snacks you have left to spend, and aren’t doing hardly any character meals then you may find the plan is not for you. This, obviously, is only one example, but hopefully it provides some insight into the dining plan and it’s cost!

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Mobile Ordering at Disney

 

On our last Disney trip we tried out Mobile Ordering for the first time and had such a great experience I had to share! A lot of people haven’t used it before, so from a “not at Disney right now” standpoint it can be hard to see why it’s beneficial. There are several benefits that make it a must use on our future trips. First, you can set up an order before you get to your lunch location. We selected our lunch order from Flame Tree Barbecue will on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Animal Kingdom. The boys were writing down information in their Wilderness Explorer Guides while we set it up. For many quick service restaurants you can order it in advance (like several hours or even the day before), and then you just a tap a button when you are headed towards the restaurant and they will prep it for you.

Second, you get to avoid lines. After standing in line at Disney nothing is more stressful than having to stand in yet another line to get food, and having your kids suddenly unable to decide between chicken fingers or chicken nuggets. You’re able to walk to the restaurant and grab a table first, and sit and wait for the order to pop up as ready on your phone. Then you go have one or two people grab it while everyone else can sit at the table.

Third, it’s relatively new so people tend to not use it, or not realize they can so it’s super fast. It’s like the fast pass of food. We have literally walked by a line thirty people long and grabbed a Dole Whip that we’ve mobile ordered. So use it now before everyone else has it figured it out!

Lastly, you can specify exactly what you want or don’t want on the food, and it’s on a typed list. This is helpful with our food allergies. It takes less time to select items you want or don’t want on a sandwich than having to list it all out in person, and we have found the menus to be pretty customizable. The other thing I really like is it automatically emails you a receipt, so there is no having to keep up with paper receipts (they do give you a paper receipt as well when you pick up your order):

Overall, we have had a great experience with mobile ordering, so I would recommend trying it out! It is also compatible with the Disney dining plan at many locations now, making it an even better value! Happy Disney traveling!

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Disney Packing Guide

Traveling with two kiddos, often, I’ve got our packing down to almost (almost!) an exact science. I find especially when we get close to leaving on our trips that I am most stressed about forgetting something. Not that you can’t purchase items at Disney, but I like to be prepared. I do want to preface this with the fact that we almost always drive to Disney, so we have a little more room to bring extra items, like snacks and water bottles. However, if you do fly there are several good grocery services (and Amazon if you have Amazon Prime) that you can order items to be delivered to your hotel. Today I’m sharing my packing lists (you can download it here: Disney World List), and a few other essentials for our trips!

Most of our trips start out like this:

Packed in to our SUV, with headphones on, backpacks with essential items, and lots of snacks. A few of my favorite items that make road trips easier are packing cubes to divide out our items in suitcases, easy to access thermoses for the boys, and kid friendly headphones for their devices or DVD player. We usually separate the trip into two days on the way down and then drive all the way back in one day. I also have a trusty collection of Vera Bradley bags that I use to corral items throughout the trip. We’ve added more things to the list through the years (especially medicine, it can be expensive at Disney), but the items above are our tried and true! Happy planning and packing!

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Disney Five Day Travel Guide

One of the things that we get asked a lot about going to Disney, is it worth it to do all the work/planning ahead to go? And my answer is always yes. I’m a planner by nature, so I love checklists, charts, etc. so planning all of our days in advance is definitely something I enjoy. However, even if you are not a planner like me, you can still do just a bit of pre-trip organization to make your experience while you’re there much more enjoyable. Our favorite website to use for ride/event planning is WDWPrepSchool, and our favorite food planning site is DisneyFoodBlog. For every trip we go on I plan out a travel guide that includes our fast passes, dining places, and events. We sometimes follow it exactly, and other times we go off the path. For example, on our last trip we walked into Disney early on Saturday, so we ran to fantasyland and liberty square and walked on several rides we weren’t planning to go on. Another day, we were headed out of lunch in Frontierland and there was only a 25 minute wait at Splash Mountain so B and J went and rode it.

A couple of other items to note, as I’ve talked about in the past A doesn’t like big rides, so we actually divide up our magic bands, so J can ride them with either B or I. You can tell this in the set-up if there is a big ride, but it says N & A it is typically J & N. This is a good plan if you have one like ours, or a kiddo who’s not quite tall enough for the rides and one who is.

The last thing, is that I try to plan so we aren’t trekking back and forth across the park, you will log a lot of steps anyway, and backtracking with kids is not fun. Happy Disney trip planning!

Disney World

Monday-Arrival Day

  • Arrive at Beach Club and drop off luggage 
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Lunch: The Mara
  • Pool at Beach Club

Tuesday- Magic Kingdom Day 1

  • Pirates of the Caribbean 
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Dole Whip Snack Aloha Isle
  • Pirate Adventure Kiosk
  • Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
  • Lunch: Pecos Bill 
  • Thunder Mountain 11:40-12:40 FP x 2 A &B
  • Splash Mountain 12:35-1:35 FP x 2 J & N
  • Tom Sawyer Island
  • Haunted Mansion FP x 4 1:35-2:35
  • Peter Pan FP x 4 2:40-3:40
  • Finish pirate scavenger hunt
  • Take Disney train 
  • Mermaid cupcake or Mickey cinnamon roll
  • Dinner: Casey’s Corner

Wednesday- Epcot Day 2

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Explore World Showcase
  • Test Track FP x 4 1:30-2:30
  • Spaceship Earth FP x 4 3:00-4:00
  • Living with the Land FP x 4 4:45-5:45
  • The Seas
  • Finding Nemo Ride 
  • Dinner: Coral Reef 6:50 p.m.
  • Soarin’

Thursday- Hollywood Studios Day 3

  • Toy Story Mania FP x 4 9:45-10:45
  • Lunch: ABC Commissary 
  • Rocking roller coaster 12:00-1:00 FP x 2 B & J
  • March of the First Order 1:00
  • Tower of Terror 12:40-1:40 FP x 2 N & A
  • Star Tours x 2 FP 2:15-3:15 B & J
  • Muppets 3 D
  • Dinner: Via Napoli 7:05 p.m.

Friday-Animal Kingdom Day 4

  • Wilderness Explorer Books
  • Kilimanjaro Safari
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  • Jungle Juice Slush @ Tambu Tambu- Snack
  • Pretzel – Snack
  • Gorilla Falls Trail
  • Lunch: Flame Tree BBQ QS 11:00
  • Kali River Rapids – FP x 4 12:25-1:25
  • Dinosaur 1:50-2:50 FP x 2 B & J
  • Boneyard
  • Snack
  • Navi River Journey 3:05-4:05 FP x 2 N & A
  • Flight of Passage x 2 3:25-4:25 FP x 2 B & J
  • Expedition Everest x 2 4:40-5:40 N & A
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Flights of Wonder
  • Dinner: Yak and Yeti 6:15 p.m.

Saturday – Magic Kingdom Day 5

  • Breakfast: Ohana 7:50 a.m.
  • Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Prince Charming Carousel
  • It’s a small world 
  • Dumbo 
  • Meet Disney carnival characters
  • Lunch: Be Our Guest 12:20 p.m.
  • Seven Dwarves 1:05-2:05 FP x 2 B & J
  • Little Mermaid 1:10-2:10 FP x 2 N & A
  • Carousel of Progress
  • Space Mountain 3:10-4:10 FP x 2 B & J
  • Tomorrowland Speedway 2:30-3:30 FP x 2 N & A
  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor 
  • Buzz Lightyear 4:35-5:35 FP x 4 
  • Dinner: Ohana 6:50 p.m.
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ESPN Club

The ESPN Club at The Boardwalk in Disney doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition, but for three sports loving boys, it was one of their favorite restaurants at the resort. The restaurant is filled with sports memorabilia and lots of televisions to watch all the games that are playing at that time. The meal itself was very good, and our waiter was excellent. I especially appreciated how kind the waiter was with our boys, answering their endless sports questions patiently, and bringing celebratory apples (A’s request) for A’s birthday.

B picked the ESPN burger…

And I chose the fish and chips:

J selected the hot dog:

And A loved his birthday apple slices!

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