Disneyworld - we're doing it!
November 5, 2012 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Disneyworld - we're doing it! Our trip is next week, and we're headed to Disneyworld with our niece. We're staying onsite (Art of Animation), but are looking for food tips (and any other tips you'd like to give).

To what extent can you take food and drinks into the park?

We have the unofficial guide book, and plan on getting the app and doing touring plans. We're not doing the dining plan - we intend to eat dinner away from the park, eat breakfast before we go onto the park (and bring something for our niece to have as a mid-morning snack, who is not a morning/breakfast person).

We're thinking about taking a microwave to our room to heat up breakfast items. Any thoughts/suggestions - will they even allow you to do this?

Are there any great food places outside the parks that you recommend? I know we'll be tired from long days, and driving around looking for food can be trying.

We're going to have a partial day on Saturday, and plan to do Animal Kingdom. We will be there on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, driving back up the Weds before Thanksgiving. We plan on taking advantage of the evening extra magic hours, and maybe the morning hours, but then switching parks once they open to the public (as the guide says this makes that park the most crowded one).

I really want to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks/light shows, and we're still exploring what the other parks have that we absolutely must do.
posted by needlegrrl to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, you can take a microwave.

I would really suggest eating in the parks and taking park transportation, rather than driving, if you are staying on-site.

Art of Animation apparently (I haven't seen it yet, but might drop by this weekend) has a WONDERFUL quick service dining.

EPCOT Illuminations is a must do, as well as Fantastmic at Hollywood Studios. When you go to Animal Kingdom, head immediately for the Kilimanjaro Safari, and then Expedition Everest, if you are roller coaster inclined.

The Mickey Very Merry Christmas Party begins THIS week, so check touringplans and the hours for the parks; MK will close early and you will be asked to leave if you haven't already bought party tickets.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:18 AM on November 5, 2012

Get one of those souvenir mugs for each of you, that's refillable in many different parts of the park. It seems expensive at first, but being able to bypass the cashier for just a drink of coffee or juice or soda or whatever is great.
posted by xingcat at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's already a microwave in all Art of Animation suites.

I really enjoyed Wolfgang Puck Express and Pollo Campero at Downtown Disney. I love the Boma buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Ohana is always fun at the Polynesian Resort.

You may bring your own snacks into the parks. But no glass bottles.

Touring Plans are fine, but leave room for you to be flexible. The most important thing to avoid crowds is judicious use of Morning EMHs and Fastpass. For example, when we did Disney Hollywood Studios, we got there at AM EMH open and went straight to Toy Story Midway Mania, got a Fastpass, rode it in the empty standby line (which was great because it had just opened). Went over to Star Tours, rode it Standby twice (still no waiting) and then rode Toy Story again with the Fastpass (by this time, the standby wait was 45 minutes!). So you see what I mean.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a must-do, even though it's a separate hard ticket event. The snow on Main Street, the parade, the fireworks...all top notch. Plus the big rides will be open!
posted by inturnaround at 8:23 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

How old is your niece?

You can take food and drinks in easily, but not alcohol and no straws to the Animal Kingdom, not even straws on juice boxes. Take advantage of the morning and evening extra magic hours and go offsite in the afternoons if you need a break. Take the buses as much as feasible. You should always have one Fastpass per ticket. The Very Merry Christmas party is fun, and the lines are much shorter too.
posted by jeather at 8:26 AM on November 5, 2012

Try to get reservations for dinner at the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort for about 8pm. When the fireworks show begins at the Magic Kingdom, they dim the lights and play the show program inside the restaurant. Dinner and a show!
posted by Fleebnork at 8:30 AM on November 5, 2012

How old your niece is may determine the majority of "how much you can do" in a day, but the best advice I have is to use the touring plans website to determine the crowd levels (we've used them for 3+ Disney trips and they have been dead on each time). Our little one is almost 5, and we still follow the same basic pattern:

Get up early, try to get to the Park of the Day before opening, and use the Early Morning hours if you can. This is especially great at the Magic Kingdom as they do their "Good Morning" show, bring in the train full of characters, etc as the gates are opened...lots of fun. If you have MUST RIDE rides, definitely do them first...the first 30-45 minutes are prime no-line time at all the parks.

If you can arrange it, lunch and an afternoon nap back at the hotel is a great way to refuel and make sure you're not totally miserable by the time the fireworks go off. We always block 2-3 hours in the afternoon as "down time" and do the parks in two big spurts (open until noon-1pm, and then 4pm or so until close). It works for us, keeps us sane and rested and fed.

If you or your niece wants to meet characters and get autographs, definitely do at least one "character meal". It's expensive, but guarantees some decent food and that you'll definitely get some time with characters. The breakfast at the Contemporary with Chef Mickey is particularly good, I think, but there are a lot of options. If she's a princess fan, eating in Cinderella's castle is a huge treat. If you don't want to do a meal, the other best time to hunt down characters is during a parade...especially at the Main Street meet-and-greet for Mickey and Minnie, but really at any of the non-street character locations. The crowds all watch the parades, and you can often get in and out of a character meeting before it's even over.

I'm a huge fan of the Magic Kingdom, and could easily spend days there, but the "classics" are: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, it's a small world and Peter pan, in my book. In Epcot, definitely get a Fast Pass for Soarin'. In Hollywood Studios, Star Tours and the Tower of Terror are great.
posted by griffey at 8:59 AM on November 5, 2012

Response by poster: My niece is 12. We just have a standard room at Art of Animation, but I'll call and check about the microwave. We will definitely check out the food court. Thanks!
posted by needlegrrl at 9:36 AM on November 5, 2012

Already some great ideas above. Just chiming in on what we do.

We also usually have a breakfast in the room before heading to the park. It's fast, easy and cheap. We tend to use lunch as the opportunity to go to the nicer restaurants in the park. Lunch is cheaper, it's a lighter meal and it's easier to be seated at that time.

A relaxing break in the afternoon is a great idea for folks of any age...go back to the room OR I always enjoyed relaxing in some of the shows at that time of day. You aren't walking or standing in a line and if you don't like the show, just zone out!

Don't know what kind of park hopper passes you're getting, but if you're getting daily passes, then the Very Merry Christmas party can be an excellent deal! It's less than the price of a day pass, you can get in by around 4:00, and with the short lines have plenty of time to ride a ton of rides, see the parade, the snow and the fireworks! Take full advantage of those free cookies and hot chocolate. They're delicious! This would also be a good choice for your partial day so you don't waste a full price ticket on just a few hours.

Quick service at the hotel will be great. It isn't too expensive and it's so much easier than going off site if you're lucky enough to be staying on site. There are not any super great restaurants outside the park that I find to be of the "do not miss" variety...unless you go over to Universal Studios ...and if you're into it, Medieval Times is one of those things you should do once in your life.

I agree that the refillable souvenir cups are a fantastic deal, Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary is the best character meal, lunch or dinner in Cinderella's Castle is kind of a magical experience. It felt really special to me as a child.

Other classics already mentioned in the MK are a must, and I have to add Splash Mountain along with Thunder Mountain Railroad. Lines in November are not too bad actually, except for the super popular rides. We were there last November and had a blast!

If you do Hollywood Studios and you love thrill rides, do NOT miss the Tower of Terror and the Aerosmith Rockin' Roller Coaster - LOVE those! The Muppet 3D show is pretty fun too.

In Epcot, France and Italy have great places to have a nice snack for a reasonable price. You can even do wine tastings there if you're into it. As a child, I did not care for the German restaurant. YMMV because I tend to love German food now. The light show at Epcot is pretty cool too.

P.S. Downtown Disney has fun shops and some excellent restaurants (some are pricier...again, lunch time is a better deal). Buses are good but can be slow - use the monorail and the ferries when you have the opportunity. They're also more fun!

I'll stop now. Disney is a place I could go on and on about!! Have a great time!!!
posted by 3fluffies at 10:01 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Be aware that Animal Kingdom is only open until 5 PM. All of the animal attractions close then, even if it's Magic Hours there, because the caretakers have to feed them, tuck them into bed, etc. :)

Animal Kingdom has a parade that starts around 3:30 PM. It is basically one-way through the park, so if you get stuck somewhere, you're there for a bit. It is really hard to move around.

Last time we went, we said no to the dining plan, too--but next time, we are definitely doing the dining plan.

I like the character breakfast at the Contemporary and the Polynesian. And the dinner at the Polynesian is really nice, too--you can see the fireworks at night.
posted by FergieBelle at 10:25 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

To what extent can you take food and drinks into the park?


They are very strict about taking things into the park and they do search your bags.

I would really, really URGE you to get the dining plan. It's super amazing and oh-so convenient.

It will take you at least 30 minutes to drive off the property onto International Blvd or Erlo Bronson. Then the traffic will be jammed up. So if you want to spend at lest 2 hours for every meal off property. DON'T DO THIS!

There is NOTHING off property near Disney that's worth going to. There are good Cuban places, if you know where to look, but I was a Florida Resident for 15 years, and I don't recommond anything in the Disney area. Everything on Erlo Bronson Blvd is a tourist disaster (crap and expensive) or a chain restaurant.

There is a fridge and a coffee maker in your room. There is a Publix On Erlo Bronson (use your GPS because getting on and off property is rather a chore.)

My suggestion is: Before you get on the property, stop at Publix and load up on things like pop for the room, bottled water, snacks for the room, and light items that are easy to eat with breakfast.

The Quick Service at the hotel will allow you to get a full meal and a pastry. Save the pastry for breakfast the next day.

Once you're in the parks, determine where you'll eat there.

Getting into and out of the parks for meals is NOT easy and will drastically cut into your park time.

The meal plan is actually more affordable than buying meals off property.

I love Animal Kingdom, but be aware that it closes at Sundown. The Magic Kingdom and Epcot have fireworks.

If you want to save money for one day of park admission, I recommend walking around Downtown Disney, perhaps catching a movie, or swimming at the resort for your first day.

Then do Animal Kingdom one day, with Magic Kingdom at night for fireworks and parades.

I used to like Epcot, but it's not aging well and the cool sciency stuff was replaced by crap like Nemo's Adventure. The country stuff hasn't been updated in decades, although some of the better restaurants are there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:31 AM on November 5, 2012

Best answer: Note: you absolutely, 100%, are allowed to take food in. This used to not be allowed. It is now allowed, and though they do search your bag, it is not for a sandwich.

Hollywood Studios: the attraction with the killer lines is absolutely Toy Story Mania. It's a lot of fun and you should be sure to go there first (you'll have no trouble finding it, everyone goes there first) and both get in line and get Fastpass tickets, which are usually for a few hours later by then.

I believe that the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights has already opened by then, and it's fun to walk through at night.

For Animal Kingdom, Everest is busiest, the Kilimanjaro Safaris are second busiest, and Kali River Rapids is always emptyish in November because it's cold and you get wet. Like really wet. Do you see how they sell towels and clothing *right down to the underwear* at the exit? This is not a coincidence. (I find that a poncho, bare legs and sandals that can get wet are the best choice for this ride.)

In Epcot, in one of the buildings just past spaceship Earth (the one on the left as you face the fountain, I think), there is/was something called "The Sum of All Fears", which is sort of a VR roller coaster. Don't miss it. Also the coaster is less scary/fast than it looks like it will be when you create one.

Some rides I'd suggest especially:

Big Thunder/Space/Splash Mountain are all fun thrill rides, Big Thunder being the mildest.
Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, are classics. (it's a small world is also, but your niece is too old for it.)
Buzz Lightyear is fun (an older version of Toy Story Mania), and the Monster's Inc Laugh Floor is a nice place to sit down for 15 minutes, and reasonably funny.

The fireworks and parades here are worth seeing.

Spaceship Earth, Soarin' (go here first), Norway. Epcot isn't about rides so much. Because of the layout it's a lot of walking. Don't miss the laser light show at night.


Everest, Kilimanjaro. The two walks are also very nice. Kali Rapids and Everest are both open for the extra magic hours. The parade is missable.


Toy Story Mania. Thrill rides are Rock n Roller Coaster (upside down, inside, painfully loud) and Tower of Terror (just a plain drop). Tower of Terror gets longer lines. The Magic of Animation is interesting, and every half hour they do a "how to draw character X" show which is neat. The Great Movie ride is worth seeing, once, I really like the Muppet movie, the Indiana Jones was fun. The Fantasmic show is worth seeing.
posted by jeather at 10:35 AM on November 5, 2012

Ruthless Bunny: "To what extent can you take food and drinks into the park?


They are very strict about taking things into the park and they do search your bags.

This is not accurate. From the official policy:
Guests are allowed to bring food items—such as snacks or foods that do not require heating—into any Walt Disney World Theme Park.
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:48 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

We were just there in October. It was my 12th visit, wife's 8th or 9th, and we've been 2 or 3 times with the kids.

First, notes from things listed above:
1. You can bring food and beverage into the parks. No alcohol, no glass. The bag check is primarily for illegal/prohibited items. Depending on when you get to the park, the lines for bag check can be the worst you'll see all day.
2. In all honesty, dining plan is only worth it if you don't have a way to make breakfast in your room, and your niece eats like an adult (since she'll be charged for it), and you like dessert at every meal. My hunch is you'll be fine without it.
3. The souvenir mugs are technically only refillable at your resort, not everywhere in the park. In fact, I'm not sure there's anywhere in the park you can refill them officially. Can you get away with it? Probably. Ethically, it's up to you.

Maybe it's just when we were there, but the Halloween Party hours felt more crowded than the normal park hours the day we did it. We enjoyed the parade, but otherwise didn't think it was worth the cost.

If you stay for MK parade and fireworks, be aware that people start staking out their place on the curb early. An hour and half before, the entire parade route was at least one person deep on both side. And plan for it ti be a late night - even if you plan to leave right after the parade or fireworks, there's still a ton of other folks doing the same thing. It's going to take a while to get out of MK, onto the monorail or ferry (hint: take the ferry), and then onto a bus back to Art of Animation. Or to your car and out of the parking lot. Don't get me wrong - it's totally worth it and probably one of my favorite memories of the past two trips, but it will be a late night.

The suggestion of going back to the room for naps/pool during the afternoon is an excellent one.

For crowd suggestions ,check out easywdw.com. The commentary on his photo posts is pretty good, if you like that kind of thing. But his crowd calendars are dead on.

Ride wise, I think a lot of it is up to your niece and your pace. You're not going to be able to see everything. Don't exhaust yourselves trying. Figure out what you want to ride and plan around that. If your niece has a favorite movie or character, there's probably an opportunity to work that in.
posted by neilbert at 11:55 AM on November 5, 2012

If you need a rest while at The Magic Kingdom, hit up the Carousel of Progress. It's rarely crowded, and you get a nice 20 minute sit down in dark room. It's also really cool, and you'll have the theme song stuck in your head all day.

For planning, we used Tour Guide Mike. Worked perfectly, we hit all of the rides on our priority list with either no or minimal wait. As noted above, get to the parks before they open and you'll have plenty of time to ride the good stuff before the crowds really hit. And the Kingdom's opening ceremony is fun.

Peter Pan is the best ride.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:08 PM on November 5, 2012

I strongly recommend the Guide to the Magic for Kids for your niece. She might be a bit old for it, but it's a beautiful book and a great reference to all things WDW. Tons of people in the parks (including Prince Naveen, who almost broke character in admiring it) wanted to know where we got it.

The best thing we accidentally did was to forget about dinner until 8 pm one night in Epcot. The English pub was the only thing without a crazy-long wait. They seated us on their patio and took our order just in time for the fireworks show to start over the water right in front of us. It was great. The meal and service were good too.

My other piece of advice is that the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom is REALLY SCARY. Not just Disney scary, truly worthy of all caps. It's dark and loud and filled with horrific visuals broken up by strobe lights. Incredibly well done, like most Disney attractions, but terrifying.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2012

The cheapest food is definitely off-site.

If you exit the Disney property out Hotel Plaza Blvd, and go directly across the street - there is a shopping / dining complex there called Crossroads. There are a bunch of (chain) restaurants in that complex - and they are all cheap compared to being on Disney property.
posted by Flood at 1:43 PM on November 5, 2012

Best answer: We just got back from Disney, and a stay at Art of Animation, in September.

Hands down, the best resource I know of for WDW visit stuff is easyWDW.com. It has a lightly snarky tone, thousands of photos, and great advice. He's local to Disney (ie: visits at least once a week; usually more often) and I found his touring plans to be much more useful than the "Unofficial Guide" touring plans.

Art of Animation: if you are staying in The Little Mermaid section (ie: the non-suite rooms) be aware that it is a long, long, long walk to the main building where the Disney transportation picks you up, where the food is, and where the Big Blue Pool is. Like, a ten minute walk if you have straggly kids.

We found the refillable cups to be pretty much useless. They only refill at your own resort, and we were so far from the food building that we hardly ever used them.

We had the dining plan (free with our rooms); my opinion (and that of many Disney bloggers) is that unless you work hard to "maximize" your meals (ie: always order the most expensive thing, even if it's not quite what you want) that you will save money just paying cash. One great tip I found was to purchase a pre-paid credit card and/or Disney gift certificate in the amount you would have spent on the dining plan. Then use that card to buy your food. It's a good bet you'll end up with money still on the card at the end that you can spend on some kind of special souvenir or treat. The EasyWDW website I linked above has many, many, many photos of foods and restaurant reviews.

FWIW, Animal Kingdom was -- by far -- my favorite park. I had orginally planned to spend our short day there, but I'm glad we didn't. Although there aren't many rides, there is a ton to see and do. We spent almost an hour watching hippos and gorillas, for example.

You know that you'll be visiting right smack in the middle of "new Fantasyland" previews, right? So read up on that.

Don't try to do too much. Build a break into your day, every single day. Relax in the pool.

EasyWDW Ideal Animal Kingdom Touring Plan (part 1)

EasyWDW Ideal Magic Kingdom Touring Plan (part 1)

EasyWDW Ideal Hollywood Studios Touring Plan

Easy WDW November Crowd Calendar and Park Recommendations

At Hollywood Studios, be sure you know about the unadvertised Characterpalooza that takes place on days Fantasmic is scheduled.

I would not plan to eat outside the parks, unless you go to "Downtown Disney". The food at the hotel is fantastic, and there are plenty of fantastic food choices inside the parks.

Feel free to Mefi Mail me if you want to chat about your trip or have specific questions.
posted by anastasiav at 2:21 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Anastasiav is spot-on. We stayed in the Little Mermaid resort about two weeks ago and everything she says is accurate. And no, we didn't have a microwave in our room.

The dining plan was a bit of a pain because every time we ate something we had to stop and figure out if it counted as a quick-service meal, a snack, or whatever. They'll tell you if you ask, but since you don't get enough credits for breakfast and we ate breakfast at the resort, it was a mess. We ended up with a bunch of extra credits and used them the last night for junk (although they wouldn't count a smoothie as a meal, but would count it as a drink if we got a meal, so we had to get food to get the smoothie for free...).

Art of Animation had good food, but it is far, far, far away from Little Mermaid.
posted by tacodave at 3:51 PM on November 5, 2012

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