Most Sentimental Attractions in the Disney Parks

A couple weeks ago we offered a collaborative post of the Best Website for Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation. It was so much fun gathering members the cast members of the MouseQuest around the virtual table that we decided to do it again. This time we are going to talk about our most sentimental attractions in the Disney Parks. These are the attractions you have to experience EVERY SINGLE TIME you are in the parks. As you will see, they mean something different to each of us for many different reasons such as, family memories, the legacy of Walt Disney, etc. Enjoy!

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Best Websites for Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation

Written by Sue Nowicki

Whenever I plan a Disney vacation I have several go-to websites I visit to do my research every time. This led me to wonder, what are some of the websites my fellow MouseQuesters use when planning their own Disney adventures. So I put a call out to the MouseQuest team and asked them what are the best websites for planning a Walt Disney World vacation.Disney Websites

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Planning Special Occasions at Walt Disney World

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase a recommended item a small commission is received to help keep the MouseQuest running. 

There isn’t a more magical place on Earth to celebrate a special occasion than Walt Disney World. From dawn to dusk you can immerse yourself in pixie dust as you commemorate any type of occasion… birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and much more. Here are some ideas you can use to make planning special occasions at Walt Disney World the most memorable celebration ever.

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Disney by Land, Disney by Sea – Part 7

Written by Sue Nowicki

Disney by Land & Disney by Sea

“Disney by Land, Disney by Sea” is a blog series where we discuss the pre-planning for a grand Disney Land/Sea adventure. Here are the previous issues:
Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – When to Go to Disney
Part 3 – The 180th Day Massacre
Part 4 – Cabin Switch, Paying for the trip & Online Check-in
Part 5 – Fish Extender Exchange & Port Cams
Part 6 – Another change & Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

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Why I Won’t Ever go to Walt Disney World During Free Dining Again

Written by Sue Nowicki

A short rant if you will indulge me…

Any Disney planner worth their salt knows some of the best times to visit Walt Disney World are the two weeks before Thanksgiving and the weeks after Thanksgiving through the week before Christmas. This is not only a time of historically low crowd levels but the parks are also decorated in their holiday finest. Last year we visited December 2 – 7 and it was magical.

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Disney by Land & Disney by Sea – Part 5

Written by Sue Nowicki

Disney by land and sea

WHY DO I NEED TO EXTEND A FISH?

Disney by land and seaOn our upcoming Disney Cruise we have decided to join a Fish Extender Exchange. This fun gift exchange was created by guests in the early days of the cruise line. The Fish Extender Exchange name comes from the fun little holders on the side of each door which are typically used to hold your Personal Navigator, receipts and correspondences. Depending on which ship you are on and what side of the ship your stateroom is, you might have a fish, a seahorse or a starfish.

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Disney By Land & Disney by Sea – Part #3

Written by Sue Nowicki
Disney by land and sea
As I mentioned in my last post, booking our Advanced Dining Reservation was less than magical.

I don’t think it’s hard to see that I am kind of an obsessive planner. Approximately 220 days prior to our vacation I know where we are staying, what parks we will be visiting each day, how we will be touring each park and where we are going to eat. Therefore, at exactly 5:55am on the 180th day I have every computer in the house and my cellphone logged into My Disney Experience to start making my Advanced Dining Reservations. If that method doesn’t work I start calling the Disney Dining phone line at 6:55am. I have ALWAYS been able to get every reservation I wanted… until now.

We have been to Walt Disney World many times. Therefore, we have been lucky enough to experience a great number of the dining options at Walt Disney World. This means the method for choosing our dining plans have changed slightly. Instead of booking two or more table service meals a day, we have old favorites we like return to and we add in 1-2 new locations each trip. Therefore, we are only planning on one table service meal each day.

This was my plan going into the 180th morning:

Monday – Rose & Crown, 8:00pm – This is an old favorite for us and holds a special place in our Disney memories. When our daughter was 5-years-old we were dining at R&C and she was picked to start Illuminations. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime magical moments. Besides the memories we come back vacation after vacation because of the great food and the amazing view of Illuminations. If you are lucky enough to get one of the coveted verandah seat you will have a front row seat for the show. And even if you aren’t selected to sit on the verandah, they have a super-secret location reserved for their guests only to watch the show. Results: Nothing available

Tuesday – Whispering Canyon Café, 6:00pm – We are planning on spending at least part of this day at Downtown Disney with lunch planned at Earl of Sandwich. (The Holiday sandwich is calling my name… can you hear it?) We thought this would be a great day to have an early evening meal in the resort. After the meal we can either hit the pool (Of course, after the required 30 minutes waiting period, Mom), maybe go to the Polynesian and watch Wishes from the beach or just simply call it a night. Results: Nothing available

Wednesday – Hollywood & Vine Fantasmic! Dinner Package – If you ask my daughter we picked the restaurant because of the pictures of the chocolate fountain on their website. We have seen Fantasmic! before but we always seem to be in the extreme stage right area even with a FastPass+. With the dinner package we will get guarantee seats in one of the center sections. RESULTS: Dinner packages not available yet.

Thursday – California Grill, 9:00pm – How can you beat the view of Wishes from that vantage point… not to mention the wine list. RESULTS: SUCCESS! We got a 9:05pm ADR.

Friday – Be Our Guest, Lunch – We will be attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this day. My daughter and I have been to this restaurant while DH has not. He has to try the Grey Stuff… It’s delicious. RESULTS: NO LUCK!

I came out of the 180th day with ONE Advanced Dining Reservation. How can this be? Dejected, with my Ultimate Disney Planner title on the line, I headed to work with my head hanging low. Several of my Disney friends did their best to console me when I complained. “Don’t worry, just keep checking.” “It must be a glitch in the system.” “It’s the week BEFORE Thanksgiving, there’s no way everything can be gone?” “Try calling again?”

Here we are two month later and the bleak outcome of what I now call the ‘180th Day Massacre’ has turned into a not-so-bad plan.

Since Monday is the last day of the annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival we have decided to ‘eat our way around the world’. Recently the menus for F&W were released and there is no way I would be able to eat a sit-down dinner after eating all the tasty treats which caught my eye. As far as the view of Illuminations: We can always grab something from one of the outdoor kitchens and pull up a bench along the World Showcase Lagoon.

After checking multiple times for a Tuesday ADR at Whispering Canyon Cafe an 8:30pm reservation showed up. This wasn’t ideal but at least we would be able to eat there without a long wait. Using my friend Amy M’s advice I kept checking just in case something more suitable to our plans showed up. Lo and behold a week or so ago a 6:00pm reservation opened up. SCORE! As an added bonus the Garden Grill announced a special character breakfast featuring Chip & Dale. We were going to use Tuesday as a ‘catch up on some sleep day’ so we made a 10:00am ADR. I have been by the Garden Grill many times while making our way to Living With the Land and loved the idea of the rotating restaurant.

With the addition of this ADR and the fact that we are still planning on heading to Downtown Disney that day, we are considering cancelling our Whispering Canyon Café ADR. We have been there several times before so it’s not like we will be missing a new experience and we will probably still be full from the Holiday Sandwich from Earl of Sandwich.

Our Wednesday plans brightened as well. I guess I was always under the impression that the Fantasmic! Dinner Package reservations opened at 180 days like the rest of the reservations. Turns out that isn’t the case. In early July the Disney Parks Blog reported the dinner package was now open for booking. I immediately went over and booked the package at Hollywood & Vine for a late lunch.

There was a little twist to this when the brand new Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine opened up for reservations. Not only is this a character meal which features the characters in their holiday best including Santa Goofy, it also offers special seating for Fantasmic!. Again, I was on my computer bright and early… NOTHING. I started calling Disney Dining line at 6:55 a.m… NOTHING! Oh well, I guess we will keep our lunch reservation and keep checking to see if this opens up.

I am still hoping for some pixie-dust to get a lunch reservation at Be Our Guest on Friday but I did learned a few things from this misadventure: (1) Free dining really does have quite an impact of the availability of Advanced Dining Reservations, (2) Just keep swimming – by continuing to check we were able to get a couple of the ADRs we weren’t able to get on the 180th day, and (3) Disney really needs to get their act together BEFORE the 180th day on special dining experiences such as Candlelight Processional and Fantasmic! Dinner Package.

In the next post I will talk about a slight change we made to our Disney Cruise, how we got 8.9% off our Disney vacation and our first foray into the Fish Extender gift exchange.
Disney Land Sea
Sue Nowicki splits her time between planning her next Walt Disney World vacation and being team mom to ten high-energy volleyball players where she fills the roles of secretary, navigator, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist. You can follow her on Twitter @JazzinDisneyMom.

Other posts by this author:
Latest Disney News
”The Descendants” Movie Review
Disney by Land, Disney by Sea: Part 1 & Part 2
”Tomorrowland” Movie Review
Best Walt Disney World Smartphone Apps
Restaurant Review – Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – The Way Life Should Be
A Day in the Life of Disney’s FastPass+ Service

Disney Channel’s new movie The Descendants: High School Musical Meets Once Upon a Time

Written by Sue Nowicki

Descendants

The newest Disney Channel original movie premiering Friday, July 31 at 8:00pm has big shoes to fill. Predecessors have included, among others, three super-successful High School Musicals, Halloweentown & Halloweentown High, Princess Protection Program, Jump In and Camp Rock. Does it live up to these high standards? Let’s find out.

MOVIE: The Descendants
RATING: PG
RUNNING LENGTH: 1hr 52min
MAIN CAST/CREW: Dove Cameron, Mitchell Hope, Cameron Boyce, Kristin Chenoweth, Kenny Ortega (Director/Executive Producer/Choreographer)
SYNOPSIS: As his first proclamation prior to ascending to the throne, the son of Queen Belle and King Adam invites the children of several evil villains to attend prep school with the children of Disney’s heroes.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Pictures if you will the wide-eye optimism of High School Musical combined with the revisionist story-telling of Once Upon a Time. That is exactly what you get with the new Disney Channel original movie The Descendants. The combination of well-produced musical numbers, stellar costumes, above-average effects and the furthering of the story of Disney’s most evil villains push this movie from what could have been a campy farce (Yes, I’m looking at you, Teen Beach Movie.) to a potential Disney classic.

The focus of the story is on Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Carlos (son of Cruella De Vil), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen) and Jay (son of Jafar) who have reluctantly agreed to attend a posh prep school in Auradon. Current attendees of the school include Doug (son of Dopey), Jane (daughter of Fairy Godmother who is also the Head Mistress of the school), Ben (son of Belle & King Adam), Audrey (daughter of Aurora), Chad (son of Prince Charming & Cinderella) and Lonni (daughter of Mulan).

Descendants

Prior to leaving for their new school, Maleficent gives them all a mission: find the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand. With the wand, she, and the other villains, can break the spell which confines them to the Isle of the Lost and allow them to rule the world. The villains’ children devise a plan to capture the wand but in the meantime they learn that they each are much more than their lineage. Ben puts it best while talking to Mal when he says, “We are not automatically like them. We get to choose who we are going to be.”

This musical follows the High School Musical formula of large, full cast production numbers interspersed with heartfelt ballads. What I really like about Kenny Ortega-directed musicals is how the music seamlessly fits into the story. We have all seen those musicals which songs pop out of thin air and make no sense to the storyline. The musical numbers in this movie serve to enhance the storyline and convey the emotion of the scene. The songs which stand out in this feature are “Evil Like Me” by Maleficent (Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth – Honestly, can she do anything wrong?), a quaint cast performance of a “Be Our Guest” remake and “If Only”, a lovelorn ballad performed by Mal (Dove Cameron).

The culmination of the story takes place at Ben’s coronation where the plot to steal the magic wand is set to unfold. It is here the villains’ children are forced to make the final decision. Will they follow in their parent’s ways or step out from that evil shadow? Can Mal reconcile herself to the fact that she might not be as evil as she was raised to be? Does Jay really believe Jafar’s mantra of ‘There is no team in I’? Will Evie realize she is more than just the beautiful image in a Magic Mirror? Can Carlos overcome his fear of dogs?

DescendantsThere are two standout performances in this feature. The first, which should be no surprise to anyone, is the scene-stealing performance of Chenoweth as Maleficent. Like I said before, can she do anything wrong? I doubt it. Aside from brilliantly acting the tension between mother and daughter, she delivers some of the best one-liners in the movie. The next performance which deserves special recognition is that of Dove Cameron as Mal. Whether holding her own with powerhouse Chenoweth or coming to terms with her goodness, she play her part with both vulnerability while at the same time commanding each scene she is in.

I highly recommend this movie for fans of Disney’s classics as well as the teens and tweens in your family. Lucky for us the movie will be played hundreds of times over the next few weeks on the Disney Channel. Make sure to catch it at least once… or ten times.

GRADE:Disney Movie ReviewMickey Ranking

 

Sue Nowicki splits her time between planning her next Walt Disney World vacation and being team mom to ten high-energy volleyball players where she fills the roles of secretary, navigator, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist. You can follow her on Twitter @JazzinDisneyMom.

Other posts by this author:

Disney by Land, Disney by Sea: Part 1 & Part 2
”Tomorrowland” Movie Review
Best Walt Disney World Smartphone Apps
Restaurant Review – Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – The Way Life Should Be
A Day in the Life of Disney’s FastPass+ Service