Gentlemen, we all want to please our kids at Disney World and part of that will most likely include meeting characters. You have two options to do this: stand in long lines in the parks or pay for character meals. My advice is to pay for the character meals. One of the most popular character meals in Disney World is Chef Mickey’s for a few reasons. First, it is close to Magic Kingdom. Second, it is a buffet with pretty good food (including the famous Mickey waffles) and the characters come right to your table. Third, and most importantly, you get to meet the “Fab Five,” Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy. That said, there is a strategy on how to do Chef Mickey’s and get the most out of it. Here are the top tips for Dads for Surviving Chef Mickey’s.
- Do Chef Mickey’s for Breakfast – First, you should be eating here for breakfast. Chef Mickey’s is not a five-star restaurant. To be fair, it has pretty decent food, but people are not going here for the food. They’re going here for the atmosphere and the characters. So, breakfast is really safe. I mean, who can go wrong with Mickey waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and donuts? Additionally, breakfast is cheaper than dinner (adults cost $41 for breakfast and $50 for dinner).
- Take a Break from the Magic Kingdom – Second, Chef Mickey’s is in the Contemporary Resort. You can eat here on a non-park day if you want to maximize your park time. However, we love going to rope drop at the Magic Kingdom and taking advantage of shorter lines at the beginning of the day for a couple hours. Then, we will walk over to the Contemporary Resort for a late breakfast, which gives us a much needed break after some hard play time early on.
- Take Something to Sign – Third, one of the coolest keepsakes that you could bring home is an autograph from a character. That said, take some different things for them to sign. Leslie has taken a cardboard picture frame mat, a Disney canvas bag, and most recently, these little gems:
- Get Two Meals in One – Fourth, this is a great tip! If you decide to capitalize on Tip #2, make your breakfast reservation for around 11am. Chef Mickey’s switches its buffet from breakfast to brunch at 11:30. If you get there at 11am, you can fill up on all your favorite breakfast food and enjoy the characters. Once your food has settled a little bit, head back to the buffet for some lunch items. Bonus tip – They tend to switch over the dessert line first, so get your breakfast pastries first or you might miss out on them!
- Dining Plan – Finally, if you have a dining plan that has table service meals, use it here. Character buffets are by far the best use of Disney dining plan credits. Chef Mickey’s will cost one table service credit per person, but it is totally worth it. Don’t opt to pay cash if you’re on the dining plan for any character meals, including this one.
Hopefully, these five tips will give you a different point of view on how to make the most of a fantastic experience eating at Chef Mickey’s. To be clear, you won’t have a bad experience here no matter how you do it. But, these have have really helped us enjoy a great venue that much more.
So, how does your family do Chef Mickey’s?
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I probably should have ended the title of this post with a question mark. As you can probably tell by the main picture, I might have pushed my youngest a little fast to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. If anyone has a definitive answer to this question, it isn’t me. That said, I have encouraged both of my kids to ride Disney thrill rides. Sometimes, it worked out well. Other times, the pushing blew up in my face. So, here’s my experience and I would love to hear yours.
The first time we took our kids to Disney World, Aidan was 6 and Jennings was 1. Aidan was big enough to ride almost everything, so I pushed him a little further than he was comfortable with. He really enjoyed many bigger rides, including Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids. He nearly pulled my arm out of socket escaping from Tower of Terror (understandable, I think). And he had mixed reviews on some. Expedition Everest is the one in particular that I remember. He was pretty excited to ride it with me at first before the rider swap. But when it came time to ride with mom, he did not want to do it again. Eventually, he went back on and now it is his favorite ride!
Jennings, on the other hand, is a different story. Our July 2015 trip was the first time he was finally big enough to ride some Disney thrill rides. Needless to say, he did not care for Mine Train. Here is the pic of him on Splash Mountain:
He refuses to go on both Mine Train and Splash Mountain to this day. So, the next trip we took it easy on him. Last July, however, I thought it would be a great time to encourage Jennings to ride Space Mountain. I mean, who wouldn’t like a really fast roller coaster in the pitch black, right? He got off that ride and burst into tears. Here it is, if you can bear to watch this torture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq3KcONOmIc&list=PLMLSh4FYMx2z8GsKgc_TIijHcfmaogdiL&index=2
In our most recent trip over Spring Break this year, we didn’t push Jennings. He still has yet to step out of his shell, but I think that’s okay for now. I pushed Aidan and it worked out well. Now, he loves the thrill rides from Space Mountain to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Here he is from two weeks ago on Expedition Everest (believe it or not, he is loving it):
The bottom line is I think it is up to the kids. In my opinion, I think it is up to us Dads to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone. That said, I also think it’s up to us to recognize when we are pushing them too far.
So, what is your experience with kids and thrill rides? I’d love to hear your comments.
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Gentlemen, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that planning a cruise is WAY less complicated than planning a Disney World trip. There are no dining reservations to make, there are no FastPasses to try and get, and you don’t have to pick and choose between a seemingly endless stockpile of hotel room configurations and resort themes. The bad news is…there’s no planning to do. You pick the cruise and room, pay your money, and that’s about it. Okay, so there are a few things you can reserve ahead of time (mainly shore excursions), but you’re really not mentally committed to the Disney cruise like you are when you plan a vacation to Disney World. But rest assured, these 7 Best Disney Cruise Tips for Dad will give you plenty to plan for. So let’s get to it…
- The Shower – I’m not going to sugar-coat this. The showers in the stateroom are not great. They’re tiny. For a guy that is 6’2″, tiny is not a good thing. However, you can go to Senses, which is the spa area that has the gym attached to it. The spa costs extra money, but the attached gym is included. Part of the gym is the men’s locker room. Inside the men’s locker room is a sauna and two large showers. Free for your use are clean slippers, robes, razors, shampoo, conditioner, etc. Basically everything you need is there and it is amazing. The best part is that not many people know that they are there. Trust me on this. Use the showers in the locker room.
- The Beer – I’m not talking about the beer on the boat. Yes, they have it. No, it isn’t included (or cheap). You can, however, bring on board a six-pack for each adult in your party in your carry-on. There is a mini-fridge in your room for your convenience, which is perfect for cans of beer. However, the only readily available empty cups are small and made of styrofoam for soft drinks. Ask for a grown-up cup (my words, not theirs) from one of the bars on the upper decks and you’re all set. You have craft beer (please don’t take domestic, for all our sakes) for about $1.50 each.
- The Food – It’s included. A Disney cruise includes all food. I will say that again. The cruise includes all food. You can have as much as you want, pretty much whenever you want (room service is included as well). Every evening at our sit-down dinner, I ordered two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. I didn’t order three because I didn’t want to be ridiculous. First, take advantage of the great cuisine on board and order whatever sounds good to you. Then, plan your diet after the Disney cruise while waiting on your last dessert to arrive.
- The Tastings – Make a point to visit Guest Services when you board your Disney cruise and check out the itinerary that has the different tasting options. To be totally upfront, these do cost extra. We signed up for a mixology class, a beer tasting, and a whiskey tasting and they were all about $20 per person. That said, they are totally worth it. The whiskey tasting includes four good pours of really great whiskey. Then, the bartender gave us all two more pours. Here is a picture of the first four.
- The Adult Area – We all love our kids. However, we all want time away from them too. All Disney cruises have an adults only section with an exclusive pool and bar sans kiddos. Enjoy!
- The Kids Only Area – So, how do we ditch our kiddos? Disney cruises do not have casinos like most cruise lines. Therefore, they dedicate almost an entire deck to kid spaces. There are several great things about these places. First, adults who don’t work there are not allowed in the space and you need a secret password to get the kids out. Second, you can use the cruise app on your smartphone or the portable phone that is inside your stateroom to be notified if your kid has a problem or wants to be picked up. Finally, the cast members in these areas are amazing. They do some pretty impressive activities that the kids absolutely love and really want to be a part of. Here’s a picture of one of the themed kids areas. Can you tell which movie it’s from?
- The Bars – So, if your carry-on beer doesn’t last the entire cruise, Disney has you covered. They have several really cool bars on board, both inside and out. Outside, you will find your typical pool bars. Inside, however, you can find an upscale bar and a themed bar at a minimum (adults only area). On the Disney Wonder, you will find the Cadillac Lounge as the upscale bar and is decorated like a Cadillac, complete with authentic leather seats. The Crown and Fin is the themed bar and is an authentic english pub.
So, there you have it. These 7 Best Disney Cruise Tips for Dad will set you up for an incredible cruise. I wish I had known all of these tips before I went on our first Disney cruise, but I was sure to incorporate all of them after that. If you want to see any of these things live, I will be posting videos of our entire cruise and more on our YouTube channel, WorthMelting4. Here is the link – www.youtube.com/worthmelting4
Thanks so much for reading and please let me know your thoughts about these tips. I’d also love to know if you have any more tips to share.
Disney vacations are daunting. First, they can be incredibly expensive. That’s especially true if you want to make it the best vacation for your family, which for me translates into spending more. Then, you have to plan to painstaking levels of detail in order to make your vacation the best it can be. Once you pay the money, the planning begins. There is nothing scarier than spending thousands of dollars on the “perfect vacation” and having it not turn out the way you wanted. However, these 11 Best Disney Tips for Dads will set you on a path to that perfect vacation for you, your kids, and your significant other. So, let’s get started.
- Plan, plan, plan – I’m the worst when it comes to expecting impeccable service when I pay top dollar. I expect all of my family’s wants to be handled when I shell out thousands on a vacation. Disney is not this way. Understand that you need to make restaurant reservations 180 days before your trip begins. You need to make FastPass reservations 60 days before your trip (assuming you are staying in a Disney resort). And before you do these, you need to have figured out where you’re staying, when you’re going to parks, what tickets you’re getting, transportation, etc., etc. Don’t worry, there are many resources for planning. It actually gets pretty fun to do it. The point is to do it.
- Determine your budget – Going into a huge amount of debt for Disney is not the smartest move. There are many ways to do Disney from inexpensive to very expensive. You will enjoy it so much more if you’re not worried about the financial impact of this vacation.
- Figure out what your family wants – To be a Dad superhero, you need to put your family first. Once you know your budget, do a little research on what resorts fit that budget. All Disney resorts are themed really well and none of them are “cheap.” From there, figure out what is more important to your family. My family really enjoys meals at Disney and we put more money toward those than we do toward other things like souvenirs.
- Your kids don’t understand what this costs; don’t get frustrated – Kids don’t get the concept of money. They don’t understand this is very likely a once in a lifetime vacation that you really want to come off perfectly. I’ve heard more than a few parents surprise their kids with a Disney vacation and don’t get the thrilled reaction they were hoping for. I’ve seen multiple temper tantrums from worn out kids in the middle of the parks. This typically occurs in front of their confused and frustrated parents that can’t figure out why their kids aren’t happy the entire vacation. In reality, they’re just tired. My point is, don’t be disappointed if you pull a Clark Griswold and set high expectations that aren’t met. Just enjoy the moments you get.
- Don’t try and see it all – it’s impossible. There are four main parks at Disney World. You could spend two weeks there and not do it all. Pick the things your family most wants to do and make those a priority. Consider anything else icing on the cake.
- Plan rest time – this is a must. There are two forms of rest time. The first is a rest day. Parks are tiring. My family can only do two full park days in a row before needing a rest day. Rest days can still be fun. You can shop at Disney Springs or relax at the pool. The point is in a full week, you will need one or two rest days. The second rest time is during the day. We like to plan a meal in the middle of the day outside the park. Listen to our third podcast for a great place to do this at Magic Kingdom. Some people love to go back to the resort for a nap or pool time. Either way, a couple of hours rest can really recharge your family for the rest of the day.
- Focus on the transportation – your family will focus on the fun stuff. If you want to make it smooth, figure out the transportation piece. First, get to Disney. Second, determine the best way in and around Disney. Third, have a back-up plan as Disney transportation will fail occasionally. Finally, get home from Disney. This picture is my family at a Disney bus stop. See how happy they look? Those smiles go away quickly when transportation becomes an issue. Trust me on this guys.
- Do something for yourself – this is important. You have to take care of yourself. The old saying that nobody is happy when Momma isn’t happy is true. It’s also true for Dad. For me, it’s planning to grab a beer and relax while the kids play each day. It’s something small, but it really lets me enjoy the moment and take a step back. Whatever your release is, do it. Your family will thank you.
- Plan a little extra magic – Disney is famous for magic. After you complete the plan everyone is on board with, do just a little more. On one trip, I ordered some Disney stuffed animals from Amazon and secretly packed them away. When we got into the resort, I went to the room first and set them up for the kids as a surprise. They loved them. It’s the small things that add a little magic that will make all the difference.
- Take a CamelBak – this is my favorite tip. A Camelbak is a backpack with a bladder you fill with water and a hose. You can see the hose on my right shoulder in the main post photo above. I wear this every trip. Every morning before we leave the resort, I fill the bladder with ice and water. We then drink from the hose all day. It really cuts down on what we spend on water or trying to find restaurants that will give us cups of water. Oh, and I hate drinking from water fountains. The other benefit is you can put small souvenirs and snacks in the pockets of the backpack. It works really well.
- “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” – This is a phrase we use in the military and it has a lot of application here as well. It’s important to understand now (before you leave on your vacation) that not every part of your plan will be perfect. No matter how hard you plan, how many reservations you make, and how many contingencies you take into consideration, things will go wrong. The important thing to remember is to take it in stride. Enjoy the moment with your family. Know that you are on vacation and you are with the ones you love. Who cares if you miss a fast pass or it rains on you? Let it all roll of your back…like the water from the rain on the day you desperately wanted it to be sunny.
Okay, so those are the eleven tips that will really make you stand out as a Disney Dad. Good luck and please let me know how it goes! Also, if you have any other great tips, please send them to me. I am always looking for great Disney tips.
Gentlemen, let’s face it. For those of us that enjoy the occasional relaxing brew while on vacation, there is nothing more important than to know the best places to grab a beer in Walt Disney World. Sure, it’s the most magical place on earth, but it can also be a stressful place. From the amount of money you’re spending to put those smiles on your kids’ faces to the congestion of thousands of other families trying to push their way through crowded parks, a nice beer can really help you to just enjoy the moment.
Beer in Walt Disney World is not a new thing, but getting a good beer can be range from easy to very tricky – depending on where you are. I consider myself a novice beer connoisseur. We make our own craft beer at home, keep six corny kegs on tap, and have a beer fridge full of commercial craft beers. That said, I’ve narrowed down this list based on my tastes (with some input from Leslie…yes, she enjoys beer almost as much as I do) which lean more toward the hoppier, craft beer flavors. So, let’s get down to it based on location. The first four best places for beer are found in each of the four major theme parks. Number five is found at Disney Springs. Finally, number six and seven reside in Disney resorts.
- Epcot – As a place known for hosting a “Food and Wine Festival,” there should be no surprise that you can find beer in abundance at this park. In fact, many Disney vacationers have partaken in a little game termed, “Drinking Around the World,” where each person will get a different alcoholic beverage in each of the eleven country pavilions (twelve if you count the outpost between China and Germany). I’ve never played, but I can only imagine that the whole point is to try and remain upright? Regardless, the best place by far to get a beer is the Rose and Crown Dining Room in the United Kingdom. Here, you can find the largest selection of ales, lagers, and stouts in an authentic English pub. Here is a picture of the Rose and Crown:
- Animal Kingdom – You can find regular beer in Walt Disney World in many places, but if you’re craving something a little different, look no further than the Dawa Bar in Africa (a land inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom). My basic go-to beer in the Animal Kingdom is the Safari Amber. This amber has a little more body than the customary national lagers and can be ordered at almost any beer stand in the park. However, when I’m craving something better, I head over to the Dawa Bar and grab either a Sweetwater IPA or a Victory Golden Monkey. Both offer a great reprieve from the ordinary park beer.
- Hollywood Studios – I tried not doing this to you, fellas. But I have to go with Sci-Fi Dine In Theater for number three. It’s not the best location because you can’t easily walk up and order a beer. That said, they’ve got the best selection from Yuengling to IPAs. If you have the opportunity to get a reservation here, enjoy the moment (and the A/C) and relax with a nicer brew in an actual glass. You’ve earned it! This is a beer-induced selfie taken inside Sci-Fi:
- Magic Kingdom – The hardest place to find beer in Walt Disney World is inside the Magic Kingdom. This is because it’s a relatively new thing to even be allowed inside, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! There is one catch. You have to get beer from table service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. That being said, the best place is Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland. My suggestion is to go with the Chimay Blue. It’s good stuff.
- There is an abundance of beer in Disney Springs. It’s also our favorite place to relax when visiting Disney World. There is one place that stands out above the rest for beer here. Number five on our list is Ragland Road Irish Pub in The Landing section of Disney Springs. This is a traditional Irish pub and an incredible place to relax with a beer. If you haven’t been before, it’s worth a trip just to see the wood work inside the bar. As a side note, the fish and chips are excellent as well!
- Disney’s BoardWalk – At number six is the Big River Grille and Brewing Works. This microbrewery offers the most unique beer on property. They’ve got some fantastic recipes that pair well with the great food. Not to mention, the ambiance is fantastic. It is located right on the BoardWalk and you can sit outside and enjoy the experience. Here is the Big River beer flight:
- Contemporary Resort – And finally, number seven is the California Grill. To be fair, this is an upscale dining experience and not just a bar. That said, they have an amazing beer and wine selection. Here’s my tip to the dad’s out there – bring your wife here for date night. Or if that’s not an option, bring the whole family and eat dinner while watching the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. Yes, the restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom. My favorite beer selection here is Jai Alai from Cigar City Brewing. It’s really hoppy and really well done.
So, these are the seven best places to get beer in Walt Disney World. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about any of these. I also really want to know if you prefer any other locations. Cheers!
Ok guys, this place is not cheap, but it’s pretty dang cool. The cost is $129. Each. And that’s AFTER you’ve paid for admission to Hollywood Studios, so we did this one without the boys. That said if you can afford it, take your kids. They would love it. So, I’ll answer the number one question we get. Is it worth it? Yes, in my opinion it is.
This is the whole bag. It is a two-hour event located in the Sunset Theater (next to Rockin’ Roller Coaster) where guests can sit at tables surrounding a dance floor. Around the perimeter of the room are food buffets, dessert buffets, and two bars. It’s all you can eat and drink. The bars serve beer, wine, and specialty drinks created in the spirit of each of the four villains (Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Evil Queen, and Cruella De Vil). Each villain also has two specialty desserts created after them. The food was pretty tasty with shrimp and grits, voodoo pig wings, dirty rice, and more. You will not leave hungry.
The best part of the whole evening is the entertainment. The club manager, Kanzo, is the star of the show and sings songs throughout the night. He is Broadway quality and very entertaining. In between numbers, guests can use the dance floor to shake a leg. This was mostly taken advantage of by kids, but some adults were out there. Finally, each guest has a scheduled time they can go and meet each of the four villains at their respective thrones, also on the perimeter of the room. That was fun, but the Queen of Hearts was hysterical.
All-in-all it was an incredible night. Here’s a tip, sign up for the late show (on Club Villain nights, there are two start times). You get to enjoy the park during the day and when you leave Club Villain, the park is virtually empty. It’s pretty cool.
Check out our video to see our experience here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eFS03ntMhM
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