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April 2011 Archives

April 2, 2011

Magician Mickey Mouse and Princesses Meet and Greets

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On April 1, the new Magician Mickey Mouse and Princess meet-and-greet areas opened up in the newly renovated Town Square Theater (formerly Exposition Hall). See the press release here.

This sign points guests to the new meet-and-greet:

Sign

Wait times for the Princesses and Mickey are posted outside:

Princess wait time

Mickey wait time

There are separate queues for the Princesses and Mickey:

Queue

The inside sign shows which Princesses are greeting guests in the theater that day:

Princesses

There are separate lines for stand-bys and FastPass holders:

FastPass and standby

Posters like this one line Mickey's queue:

Poster

The queue is very nice and spacious:

Queue

The story of the Mickey meet-and-greet is that you are his guest at a backstage meet-and-greet before his magic show. You go through the theater office to get to the meet-and-greet area:

Theater office

Mickey has his own letter box:

Mickey letter box

I have to be honest and say I wasn't wowed by what I had seen... until I stepped into the actual meet and greet area and noticed the details they had worked into the room. It was a treat to see. I won't show you every little detail because I had so much fun finding them. Fans of 'The Sword in the Stone' and 'Mary Poppins' will spot several references to the movies throughout the area. When I looked through my pictures, I saw several things I didn't notice earlier.

The rehearsal schedule is posted near the door:

Rehearsal

This hat rests on top of the trunk. Be sure to listen for his "nibbling" noises. I only heard them because I was the last person in the group they let in so it got quiet when I was looking at everything.

Hat

There is a poster for Mickey's show:

Mickey's poster

Mickey has been quite the traveler. Here are a couple of the stickers on his trunk:

Club 33 sticker

Castaway Cay sticker

Right before you see Mickey, you see this banner on the wall:

Banner

I was expecting just Mickey so seeing Minnie was a pleasant surprise. I did not hear whether Minnie will always be with him or if it will be an occasional appearance:

Mickey and Minnie

Details of Mickey's costume trunk:

Costume trunk

Costume

Trunk

Hidden Mickey

Leota's Crystal:

Leota's Crystal

Mickey's sorcerer hat:

Sorcerer hat

Mickey's vanity:

Mickey's vanity

The meet-and-greet exits at the new store. The details in the store are just as awesome as the details in the meet-and-greet.

Store

Store

Mickey's house

While I met Mickey and Minnie, my mom had grabbed a FastPass for us to meet the Princesses. The queue was very plain:

Princess queue

Princess Aurora, Belle and Cinderella were greeting guests. Their backdrops were lovely:

Princess Aurora

Belle

Cinderella

When we left the Princess area, we noticed this 'box':

Box

The FastPass distribution it located to the left of Tony's- walk all the way down you'll see it tucked behind the hat shop:

FastPass distribution

The machines have hats on them that let you know which machine is for which character(s):

FastPass machines

I thought the new meet-and-greet area was very well done and creative. I enjoyed looking at the details. It was not very crowded when I was there but I expect it will be as more guests become aware of it.

The Princess area is not their permanent home - they will move to Fantasyland when their areas in the expansion is complete. Snow White is greeting guests outside of Tony's.

Have a great day!


April 3, 2011

Disney World: What's New, What's Next April 1-2, 2011

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On April 1, I spent the afternoon at the Magic Kingdom. A lot had changed since my last visit less than a week before.

Part of City Hall is still behind a wall:

City Hall

The new Mickey Mouse and Princesses meet-and-greet was open. Click here to see pictures of the new area.

Sign

Part of the Tony's patio is now open. A smaller part is still behind the scrims:

Tony's

This sign was new to me:

Sign

Sidewalk had been added along the side of the Confectionery:

Sidewalk

The Confectionery is still behind scrims:

Confectionery

Magic Kingdom was very crowded and Tortuga Tavern and the Tomorrowland Terrace were serving meals:

Dining

The Haunted Mansion interactive queue was open on April 1. The ride had a very long wait to we decided to bypass the Haunted Mansion in favor of doing it early one morning soon.

Lots of progress has been made on the buildings for the Fantasyland expansion. The parts in the pictures were the most visible. You could see the rest but they had propped the trees higher up so it was hard to get pictures of it.

Fantasyland

Fantasyland

This area near Dumbo has been walled off:

Walls

The back of the castle is still being worked on:

Castle

This wall, for lack of a better term, was being built in the Storybook Circus area:

Wall in Storybook Circus

The Confectionery had springtime treats:

Treats

Treats

Treats

Tomorrowland Terrace was open for dinner when we went by:

Tomorrowland Terrace

We spent the evening at Downtown Disney. Work continues on the area for the dining area at the AMC Theater:

Amc Theater

LittleMissMatched is still open on the West Side:

LittleMissMatched

A new pin cart was set up near Bongos:

Pin cart

The Lego Store is still under construction:

Lego Store

Lego Store

The temporary tent near Once Upon a Toy is still open:

Lego Store temporary location

Work on the exterior of the former Mickey's Mart has begun:

Exterior work

The wall is still up on Pleasure Island:

Wall

On April 2, we spent some time at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Sounds Dangerous was operating:

Sounds Dangerous

Walls are now up around the entrance area to Star Tours:

Star Tours

The walls are down around the speederbike photo-op area:

Speederbike

A Winnie the Pooh poster is up outside of the Magic of Disney Animation:

Pooh poster

Pooh artwork is now being displayed at the Magic of Disney Animation:

Pooh artwork

On the other side of the case, Cars 2 artwork is displayed:

Cars 2

Some scaffolding is still on Tower of Terror. It has been getting an eco-friendly repainting- click here to read more about the new paint.

Tower of Terror

Have a great day!

April 5, 2011

Gardens of the World Tour

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During the Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot, the Gardens of the World tour is offered. I went on this tour on April 1, 2011.

We met in front of Guest Relations at Epcot- this is to the far right of the turnstiles before you enter the park, not the Guest Relations inside the park. Around 8:50 AM, several Cast Members broke us into our tour groups - there was another tour that was meeting at Epcot as well.

We were given name badges to wear for the tour:

Name badge

We were also given a pin that is exclusive to the tour:

Pin

Headsets were distributed for everyone to wear. We were glad to have them because the music and noise of the park made it difficult to hear at times.

We got a late start because we had a couple of people who were running late. When everyone got there, we gathered in a group - there were about 20 of us - and he asked us our names, where we were from and why we were interested in the tour. We had several avid gardeners in our group.

Group

We went into Epcot around 9:30. The first stop we made was near one of the flower towers. Rickie told us that there were 40 of these in Epcot and they were easy to create. The tower holds the flower pots inside it so it makes assembling and disassembling the towers easy.

Flower Tower

Then, we went over to the area near the stroller rental. This plant (the name of this plant is escaping me) was around when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The leaves are thicker than you would have expected.

Plant

The theme for Future Wold is the future. Therefore, the design team keeps flowers to a minimum except during Flower & Garden. Several different types of palm trees are used in this area.

Palm trees

When we walked through Pixie Hollow, he pointed out the eco-friendly mulch underneath the play area. This material is actually recycled tires and it won't hurt the kids if they fall. The 'grass' is actually artificial turf with padding under it.

Turf

The Pooh topiary area has bloomed nicely. He pointed out the various types of plants that made up Rabbit's garden.

Rabbit

He said that the flower blanket took about a night to plant. They had an entire team that evening. There is a staging area behind the Germany pavilion where it was all set up and then brought in.

Flower Blanket

At Bambi's Butterfly Garden, he talked about how the monarch butterfly tastes bitter to predators because of the nectars they consume.

Monarch butterfly

At the Mexico pavilion, he discussed how the jungle theme was created by using various tree and flower and types.

Mexico

He said there are some plants/trees that are look-alikes at the pavilions because they won't survive in the Florida climate.

At China, he discussed the Zodiac figures. They are all made out of seeds. But my favorite part was when he discussed the gardens. He said that Chinese gardens are all about tranquility, very little movement and letting the garden be. The grass is longer at this garden because of this.

China garden

In contrast, Japanese gardens are all about movement. The koi pond and waterfall help to create constant movement in this garden.

Japan garden

I never knew that this lantern at the Japan pavilion was a gift to Roy E. Disney from the emperor of Japan.

Lantern

He said that the Aladdin topiary is one of his favorites because it incorporates so many different plants and textures. Some of the plants are secured to the topiary using hair pins. Aladdin's hair is coconut fiber.

Aladdin

We spent some time at the Victoria Gardens area at the Canada pavilion.

Victoria Gardens

The tour ended with a backstage look at the Canada pavilion. No pictures are allowed backstage. We were given the Flower & Garden poster as a keepsake, which was unexpected and a nice surprise.

Overall, I enjoyed the tour and I'm glad I did it but I didn't love it. The focus was more on how to do similar things at home in your garden and plant types and that wasn't of as much interest to me as hearing about the hows and whys Disney creates things the way they do. We spent a decent amount of time in Future World but made it through World Showcase very quickly because we got going late. Our guide was wonderful about answering questions and making sure our curiosity was satisfied before moving on. He was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I would do this tour again if someone really wanted to go but it would not be on my 'must-do' list.

The Gardens of the World tour is $60 per person ($63.90 with tax) for guests ages 16 and older. This tour is during Flower & Garden Festival only. Be sure to ask about Annual Passholder, Disney Visa or DVC discounts as well. The tour is offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 9 AM. Call 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687) to book.

To read reviews of the Gardens of the World tour, or to post your own, click here.

April 9, 2011

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony

by Guest Blogger
"Uncle" Bob Elsie

While one of my granddaughters and I were checking a recent issue of AllEars® and we saw a blurb about something called "Flag Retreat" that veterans could participate in.

I remembered that years ago you published something that the Wilderness Lodge did with a flag raising but you had to be staying at Wilderness Lodge to do it. My granddaughter said "Pop, you should try to do this one because your a veteran!" So we planned to see about it when we got there.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

On Monday, Aug. 30, my granddaughter and I went into City Hall and asked about "Flag Retreat?" The cast member explained that from the first day "Magic Kingdom" opened to the present they performed a flag lowering ceremony called "Flag Retreat." She then asked if I was a veteran, to which I replied, "Yes. a Viet Nam veteran." She then asked if I would like to participate, to which I replied "Yes!' She told me to wait for a cast member who would explain what would go on. A few minutes later the cast member came, took my name, rank and branch of service and told me to meet with another cast member by the flag pole at about 4:45. That person would explain what would go on.

My 3 granddaughters, son, daughter-in-law and I were soooooo excited. We didn't know what we were in for but knowing Disney we knew it had to be good. All day long we kept checking our watches to be sure we didn't miss it.

At 4:40 we arrived at the flag pole and met with the cast member. He also asked for my name, rank and branch of service and introduced me to a member of "The Dapper Dans."

Dapper Dans

He asked if my granddaughter would like to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, she said NO (she was afraid she would make a mistake). He also introduced me to a PhotoPass photographer who was going to take pictures of the whole thing (you get one 8X10 free).

The "Dapper Dan" explained that the "Dapper Dans" would sing a few songs, "The Main Street Philharmonic" would play some tunes, everyone would recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the flag would be lowered and that one of the security detail would show me what to do.

GAWRSH!! As Goofy would say, I just thought they would lower the flag, WRONG!! The security detail came out and one of them explained and showed me what was going to happen. Here's how it goes, as best as I can remember:


Cast members form 2 lines facing each other between the station and flag pole.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The Main Street Philharmonic is positioned at the railroad station, both upstairs and down.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The security detail (3 members) and the veteran are at the end of the line closest the flag pole.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The the Dapper Dans and the veterans family are on the City Hall ramp of the flag circle.

The ceremony opens with the band playing America The Beautiful.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then march through the lines of cast members followed by the veteran and security team, the band circles the flag pole, the veteran and security stop in front of the flag, facing the castle.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The Dapper Dans lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

A single trumpet player sounds retreat.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat


The flag is lowered while the band plays the Star Spangled Banner and everyone sings along.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Security folds the flag while the Dapper Dans lead everyone in God Bless America.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The flag is presented to the veteran with the announcer stating the veterans name & home town.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then plays a medley of armed forces songs.

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

The band then walks toward City Hall followed by the veteran, holding the flag, security, the Dapper Dans, the veterans family and the cast members. The procession makes a wheel right, go to the beginning of Main Street, wheel left, and proceeded up Main Street. The band was playing the Semper Fidelis March (I think).

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

They make the first right and the band, Dapper Dans and cast members exit through the back gate (many of them thanked me for my service as they passed. How nice was that! ).

The security detail, veteran & veterans family stay for the final part.

The security leader then announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Magic Kingdom would like to proudly recognize United States Army specialist Bob Elsie as our honorary Veteran of the Day, this the 30th day of August, 2010.

Let's hear it for him."

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

He then presented me with a certificate stating that info and a Magic Kingdom "Veteran of the Day" pin .

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

You may not be aware of the the climate of the country for returning veterans during the Viet Nam war era. There were no parades, ceremonies or acknowledgments. Most veterans wouldn't even say that the served over there, say what they did, or even wear their uniforms when on leave. Many had very bad experiences when they did say they served. It wasn't a pleasant time for veterans.

Gradually, it became less of a stigma to say you were there. I was very fortunate to have a family that supported me and was proud of my service. I have attended many veteran ceremonies and was proud to be a part of them but, as good as they were, they didn't compare to what happened to me at Walt Disney World on Aug 30,2010. Thanks to you and your team, I finally got to march in what I considered a "Welcome Home" parade!

But not only was I honored but "MY FAMILY" as well! And the icing on the cake was that it happened at Disney World , right on Main Street, truly the place where Magic Happens and Dreams Come True!

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat

Later on at least 6 people also came up to me, in the park,and thanked me for my service, one veteran also gave me the greeting veterans give each other, a shake of the hands, hug, and "Welcome Home". I can't begin to tell you how much the day meant to me and my family.


April 14, 2011

Parasailing with Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center at the Contemporary Resort

Every year, I take a trip to Disney World with my husband and two boys, ages 10 and 11. We have been going since my oldest was one years old.

We try to stay at a different resort each year and try to do different things each time we go. There is so much to offer at Disney that you would be amazed at how much you can do there, even outside of the parks.

On our last vacation, we decided to check out Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center at the
Contemporary Resort Hotel.

Parasailing was always something I wanted to try but never had the guts to follow through. This time, however, was different. We made reservations for the following morning. We were advised to make the reservations for the morning so that we could possibly avoid the usual afternoon thunder shower and before the temperature rises.

Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center Parasailing

We got there around 9:30 a.m. and made our way onto the boat with two instructors. We were doing tandem flights, so I was going to ride with my oldest son, and my husband would go with our youngest. The instructors were very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions and concerns, no matter how silly they may have sounded. I was so nervous about parasailing, but they assured me that everything would be ok.

They gave us signals to use if for some reason we needed or wanted to come down. The signal was for us to start kicking our feet. I opted to go first, so that I would not chicken out after I watched my husband go up! We sat in these swing-like seats and had the harnesses put on. Then it was time to go up!

We rose up further and further and before you knew it we were 450 feet in the air. I have to say once we got to our destination, a calmness came over me. It was an unbelievable sight. We saw the Castle and so many other things while we were up there. It really felt like we were flying. We stayed up flying and taking in the sites for about 10 minutes
and then descended back down.

Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center Parasailing


My husband was a little more daring and opted for the 600 foot flight! It was truly an amazing experience and I cannot wait to do it again!

Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center Parasailing


Lori Hawe

More information and pricing on Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center!

SAVE 10% with the Special AllEars® Coupon for Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center!

If you have Parasailed at Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Center, please post your review: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=630&cat=194



April 15, 2011

Nature Inspired Design Tour

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On April 2, I went on the Nature Inspired Design tour. For a description of this tour, click here.

The tour began at 8:15 so they directed me to the Character Breakfast turnstile toward the far left. For this tour, I checked in a Guest Relations inside the park. I signed a waiver for use of the Segway.

At 8:15 on the dot, my guide came to get me. He told me that I was the only one who had booked the tour that day! I was stunned. He said it was the first time ever the tour had been for only one person. He took me to the Segway training room and I watched a video about the Segway and began my training. The Segways are surprisingly easy to use. I was a little intimidated at first but quickly got the hang of it thanks to my guide. He was right- it becomes more about feeling than thinking once you're used to it.

Segway training area

Once I had gotten used to the Segway, the tour began. He radioed ahead to let Soarin' know we were on our way. We went through Future World toward the Imagination area. We went through a backstage area and made our way to the backstage entrance to Soarin'. The Cast Members seated us in the center, top row. It had been a while since I'd been seated there so that was a treat for me.

After Soarin', we made our way backstage to The Land. A Cast Member was waiting on us and took us into the greenhouse. They told me that the areas we would visit could also be seen on the Behinds the Seeds tour. I was allowed to take pictures in this area.

The Land

She told me that small, at home herb gardens like this one could be done at one with just one square foot of space. This particular one had chives in it.

Herb garden

Disney has begun using a lot of Hydroponics in their gardening. What it does, on a much larger scale than this fish tank, is hydrate the roots while giving them space to breathe and circulate air around them. This is easy to do at home and you can create a little herb garden this way as well.

Hyrdroponic

She discussed the three different kinds of materials they use around the plants:

Materials

We were shown the cucumber plants. She had pieces of a cucumber for me to sample. I don't love cucumbers (but I don't dislike them either) but these were GOOD. They were crisp and had a wonderful, fresh flavor.

Cucumber

The Land is home to a record holding tomato plant.

Record holding tomato plant

We could see this Mickey from where we were standing:

Mickey

He radioed ahead to The Seas with Nemo & Friends to let them know we were coming. Again, a Cast Member was waiting on us and took us right into the pavilion. He discussed how Disney wanted The Seas to be like looking right into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They selected fish that lived near the top of the water, in the middle of the water and the bottom to help maintain this. Lighting also helps maintain this effect.

The Seas

The coral at The Seas is not real coral. The fish, however, behave as though the coral is real. They lay their eggs, take naps and swim through just like they would if it was real.

Then, they took me to the 'water' area. This is the command area where they control and monitor the water for The Seas and several other areas of Disney World. He explained how they make sure the water is clean, how they monitor everything and how they add the salt to it if they need to.

The tour wrapped up after this stop. We put our Segways up and talked a little bit more.

I LOVED this tour. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was worth every penny to me. The guide was so enthusiastic and personable. He answered all of my questions and pointed things out to me that I might have missed. He was wonderful about letting me know when I could and couldn't be taking pictures. The Cast Members at Soarin', The Land and The Seas were very enthusastic and extremely knowledgeable. I had never ridden a Segway before so that was a very fun experience for me. If you have the chance to do this tour, I highly recommend it.

Nature Inspired Design is offered Tuesdays and Saturdays during the month of April. For other months, the tour is offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It begins at 8:15 AM and lasts three hours. Guests must be 16 or older. It costs $124 person ($132.06 with tax). Annual Passholder, DVC and Disney Visa discounts are available.

To read reviews of Nature Inspired Design, or to post yours, please click here.

April 22, 2011

Disney World: What's New, What's Next April 21, 2011

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On April 21, we went to Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney. A lot of changes had been made in since we were at Disney World the last time.

These banners had been added to Town Square Theater:

Banners

The scrims on the Confectionery had been partially rolled up and it's looking great! Easter displays were in the windows.

Confectionery

Easter display

The back of the castle is still being worked on:

Back of the castle

Through the trees, we were able to see the exterior work of Beast's castle. I was very excited. :)

Beast's castle

My brother and I rode Dumbo and got a look at what's going on in the expansion area.

Expansion

Expansion

More progress has been made on the 'wall' in Storybook Circus:

Storybook Circus

I had heard that Beast's castle was visible from the Astro Orbiter. I had never ridden the Astro Orbiter so I figured now was a good time to do so. It was a gorgeous view from the platform!

Beast's Castle

We went back to the Haunted Mansion and finally got to see the new interactive queue. Click here to see the image gallery of the queue. Disney really did a great job with it.

When you first enter the interactive queue, there is a set of busts of a family. Beginning with Uncle Jacob (middle bust), read the epitaphs to figure out who killed who.

Busts

The bride's engagement ring is in the pavement. It's been thrown to the ground like it was trash .

Ring

Be sure to touch the cat on the Decomposing Composer's Crypt.

Crypt

The Hitchhiking Ghosts' effects were back. The video is a little dark but it should give you the general idea of what goes on. We liked the new effect and heard other guests saying they did too.

We made our way over to Pirates of the Caribbean and some 'On Stranger Tides' pictures can been seen near the ride's exit:

Blackbeard

Jack Sparrow

We noticed there is a new sign out at Tortuga Tavern with Angelica, the new character from 'On Stranger Tides', on it:

Tortuga Tavern

Angelica was greeting guests just over the Adventureland bridge:

Angelica

Angelica

The temporary bridge to Adventureland had been removed:

Bridge removal

Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny were greeting guests near City Hall. This area had been under scrims the last time I was there so I was glad to see it was open.

Easter Bunny

Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny

We went in Curtain Call Collectibles (in Town Square Theater) to have a look around. The Mary Poppins dress being sewn together was new:

Mary Poppins dress

Mary Poppins dress

The work on the porch for Tony's has been completed:

Tony's

After lunch, we went to Downtown Disney. The renovated Lego Store is open and the displays on the exterior of the store are awesome.

Family

Prince Phillip

Buzz and Woody

Snow White and Dopey

Dwarves

The interior of the Lego Store was more spacious but had less displays than they used to.

Lego Store

Lego Store

Lego Store

The temporary tent for the Lego Store is still up near Once Upon a Toy but it is closed:

Tent

Marketplace Fun Finds is now open. It's not entirely a discount shop- there are some items there that have been discounted/deals but there are some current merchandise items there that are under $10, under $20, etc. It's more of a bargain store. It's all well marked.

Marketplace Fun Finds

Marketplace Fun Finds

LittleMissMatched is now in its new location:

LittleMissMatched

LittleMissMatched

LittleMissMatched

The Pooh and friends photo-op has been moved back to its original spot:

Pooh and friends

Outside Pin Traders, chalk artists were drawing Simba and Nala:

Chalk artists

The Harley Davidson store is still open in its spot on Pleasure Island:

Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson will be moving to LittleMissMatched's old location on the West Side this summer:

Harley Davidson

The walls were down around the exterior of the AMC Theatre's Dine-In area but it doesn't open until May.

Dine-In

Dine-In

The Times Guides have a coupon for 25% off dining at select locations attached to them:

Coupon

The Times Guides also have information on how to receive real-time updates while you're at the parks. I signed up for the text messages at 11 AM this morning and my first update didn't come in until 7:30 PM.

Real-time

That's it for this update. Have a great day! :)

April 26, 2011

Whispering Canyon Cafe: A Fun Meal For The Entire Family

Andrew Rossi

Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi returns with a review of Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

One thing that Disney restaurants excel at is creating memorable dining experiences, but they are able to do so in so many different ways. For some, it is their highly detailed, themed, and immersive atmosphere, such as 50's Prime Time Café or Sci-Fi Dine-In. With others it is all about their breathtaking location, like the California Grill or Narcoossee's. Other restaurants offer whimsical character interactions, including Chef Mickey's or Crystal Palace. And with others it is their ability to transport you to exotic locations through their cuisine and atmosphere, as seen with restaurants like Sanaa or Restaurant Marrakesh.

Just as with all of these other restaurants, Whispering Canyon Café at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a truly unforgettable dining experience, but in a way that is completely different. It is not necessarily the restaurant's atmosphere, or its location, or even its cuisine that makes it memorable. Rather, it is the service provided by an extremely dedicated and passionate group of Cast Members and the overall family-friendly nature of the restaurant that make Whispering Canyon Café truly unique among Disney restaurants.

Whispering Canyon Cafe Sign

Overview:
Overlooking the grandiose lobby of the Wilderness Lodge, Whispering Canyon Café has a very unassuming appearance from the outside. In fact, if you weren't specifically looking for the restaurant, you might even miss it as you walk through the lobby. However, don't be fooled by appearances because Whispering Canyon Café is actually one of the more fun, care-free, rowdy dining experiences that you will find in all of Disney World.

Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Whispering Canyon Cafe is a restaurant that is great for the entire family and both little kids and adults alike will all have a good time. This type of restaurant is really what Disney is all about, a dining experience that goes beyond just the food. Just as with all Disney restaurant, you know that everything is going to be of the highest quality. Where Whispering Canyon Café is most successful, however, is with a wait staff that truly goes above and beyond to create a unique and unforgettable experience for guests of all ages.

Atmosphere:
The rustic feel that is evident as soon as you enter Wilderness Lodge, and carried throughout the rest of the resort, is continued inside Whispering Canyon Café. However, in contrast to the grandeur and majesty of the resort's lobby, the restaurant has a more casual and laid-back feel. The theming here is a little more subtle and subdued, but that does not mean there is a lack of detail.

The restaurant features a frontier/wilderness décor comprised of both Native American and old western, cowboy influences. The restaurant's log cabin feel is similar to that of the main lobby, if only on a smaller scale, featuring everything from wooden floor boards to log columns and support beams.

Wooden Ceiling

Adding to the rustic feel, there is one entire wall of huge windows looking out into the dense forest that really helps bring the outdoors inside and lends a sense of authenticity to the restaurant. You really feel as though you are dining in a secluded log cabin out in the wilderness. The restaurant, and the resort as a whole, gives you the sense that you are in the middle of nowhere rather than at Disney World just minutes from the Magic Kingdom.

Large Windows

The artwork adorning the walls is absolutely beautiful with various hand-painted scenes of Native American villages, natural western landscapes, and lively rodeos.

Native American Painting

Rodeo%20Painting

My favorite part of the décor was the light fixtures. First, there were smaller lights in the shape of teepees with buffalos scampering around the outside. These were so finely detailed that they had the appearance of being made out of animal hide that had been stitched together and had the look of being hand painted with different Native American symbols.

Teepee Light Fixture

On the ceiling were large iron chandeliers with faux candles. These had more of an old western, frontier influence and featured small cowboy figures riding or lassoing buffalo.

Cowboy Chandelier

Overall, the restaurant has a very open, spacious feel with high ceilings, large windows, and one side of the restaurant open to overlook the lobby. It is a restaurant that has a very welcoming and comfortable feel that makes it a good place to take the entire family.

Dining Room

The Menu:
Breakfast at Whispering Canyon Café features a menu of classic favorites with a little western flair. Among the choices are Raisin Bread French Toast ($9.99), Belgian Waffles ($10.99) with a strawberry topping, Pancakes ($9.99) accompanied by bacon or sausage, a Western Omelet with ham, cheddar, bell peppers, and onion ($11.49), and Barbeque Eggs Benedict ($10.99) featuring poaches eggs on an English muffin with beef brisket and barbeque hollandaise sauce.

The lunch menu may not be as extensive as at other restaurants, but it features some interesting choices. For appetizers there are Barbeque Pork Spring Rolls ($9.99), Smoked Trout Lettuce Raps ($9.99), Chicken and White Bean Soup ($6.99), Venison Chili ($7.99), and a Mixed Greens Salad ($6.99) topped with an apple vinaigrette.

Entrée selections are predominantly sandwiches, including a Turkey Sandwich ($13.49) with dried cranberry-arugula mayonnaise on blue cheese griddled multigrain bread, a Chicken Sandwich ($12.99) which features a fried chicken breast topped with pineapple slaw, and a Slow-Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12.49). There is also an Angus Chuck Bacon Cheeseburger ($13.99) as well as a Whiskey Maple-Glazed Trout ($17.99) served on a bed of arugula-frisee salad.

For dinner the appetizer selections remain the same but the entrees feature heartier dishes in place of sandwiches. Included on the dinner menu is a Chicken Vegetable Penne Pasta($18.99) tossed in olive oil, garlic, and parmesan, Pot Roast ($19.99), Meatloaf ($18.99) accompanied by mashed potatoes and topped with mushroom gravy, Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin ($22.99) with chorizo-tillamook grits, and a Grilled New York Strip ($31.99) accompanied by oven-roasted sweet potato fries.

The dessert offerings for both lunch and dinner are the same and include a Kahlua-flavored Chocolate Cake ($7.99) with chocolate mousse filling and fudge icing, Smores Cheesecake ($6.99) with a graham cracker crust topped with chocolate ganash and marshmallows, Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding ($6.99) with a fig and cherry sauce, and an Apple Caramel Pie ($7.99).

What Whispering Canyon Café is best known for, however, is its all-you-care-to-enjoy Canyon Skillets which they feature at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Breakfast Skillet ($15.99 per person) features scrambled eggs, red bliss potatoes, bacon, sausage, waffles, buttermilk biscuits, and sausage gravy. The Lunch Skillet ($18.99 per person) includes smoked pork ribs, oven-roasted chicken, pork sausage, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and freshly made cornbread. The Dinner Skillet ($28.49 per person) likewise has the smoked pork ribs, oven-roasted chicken, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and cornbread, but also includes pulled pork, beef brisket, and a mixed greens salad with apple vinaigrette.

I went to Whispering Canyon Café for lunch and there was no hesitation with what I wanted to get. I did not even have to look at the menu and immediately ordered the Canyon Skillet. The amount of food that you get is absolutely staggering. It would be worth the $18.99 even if it was not all-you-care-to-enjoy.

Canyon Skillet

I want to start with the ribs because I first thought that I was going to be immensely disappointed with them but they turned out to be my favorite part of the meal. The ribs that arrived with the skillet were very tough, dry, and had hardly any meat on the bones. When I brought this to my server's attention he apologized and brought me out a new helping. These new ribs were amazing, very tender and moist with very little fat. I actually did not find the ribs to have too smoky of a flavor, but just enough to enhance the overall taste of the meat. The barbeque sauce that topped the ribs was also very tasty and, unlike other ribs that I have had at other restaurants, I found the barbeque sauce to be more of a compliment to the flavor of the ribs rather than the predominant flavor.

The chicken was also extremely flavorful. If you are not a fan of black pepper, however, then this chicken might not be for you because it was certainly heavily seasoned. The chicken was also perfectly tender and moist. I enjoyed the peppery taste of the chicken so much that I did not even bother to add any barbeque sauce onto it and just ate it as is.

The pork sausage really wasn't anything special, especially when compared with the ribs and the chicken, although it was a nice addition to the lunch. I actually found the sausage to have more of a smoky flavor than the ribs.

These meats came accompanied by corn on the cob (which was a little overcooked for my taste), as well as cowboy beans, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. The beans were fairly standard, but they paired perfectly with the chicken and ribs. I really enjoyed the mashed potatoes, which were very light and fluffy, and the coleslaw also provided a nice, light and refreshing contrast to the other aspects of the skillet.

The skillet also came with a generous portion of cornbread, which was served warm and was absolutely delicious. The slight sweetness of the cornbread was the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the meal, its flavor a definite contrast but one that complimented the other elements of the dish. With so much food, there was no way that I was going to have room for dessert. Instead, it was the cornbread that served that purpose.

Cornbread

Service:
While Whispering Canyon Café's atmosphere provides a rustic charm and the food certainly does not disappoint, it is the restaurant's service that really sets it apart. When you dine at Whispering Canyon Café you need to go with a similar mindset to that of when you dine at 50's Prime Time Café. This means that the waiters and waitresses are going to say and do things that you would not typically expect when dining at a nice restaurant, but they do so all in good fun.

The severs here may tease or poke fun at you, play little tricks at your expense, and be overly sarcastic, but that is really what makes the restaurant so much fun. For example, you might want to watch out if you ask for ketchup, and the same holds true when asking for napkins or straws. As with the 50's Prime Time Café, the severs won't shy away from making comments if you finish all of your meal or leave a lot of food behind on your plate. However, as is also the case at 50's Prime Time, some severs are far more over the top than others.

Not only do the severs have tremendous interaction with their guests, but they also play off one another. While I was there, I witnessed two severs going at each other throughout the course of my meal complaining how the other was always putting trays of food in their way or how one was able to clear tables of dishes so much faster than the other. It was really quite funny and entertaining.

The severs' role here goes far beyond that of just bringing out food and drinks; they are really the entertainment for the meal and they greatly encourage participation from their guests, especially children. The waiters and waitresses lead the dining room in songs, having all members of the family clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and twirling their napkins. Kids are invited to get up and do the hokey pokey and even participate in a hobby-horse race around the perimeter of the restaurant.

All in all, this tremendous service provided by a dedicated group of Cast Members creates a very rowdy, boisterous, and loud atmosphere. If you are looking for a quiet, romantic meal this is not necessarily the place for you (although I did notice lunch to be a little more calm and peaceful because the restaurant was far less crowded). But, if you are looking to have a good time with the entire family, the servers at Whispering Canyon Café ensure that all members of the family are involved in the fun.

Dining on a Budget:
When it comes to dining on a budget, Whispering Canyon Café's all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner Canyon Skillets are a tremendous value. The breakfast skillet is $15.99 and features a wide selection of traditional breakfast favorites. It is like being at a buffet with the food being brought right to you rather than you having to go get it for yourself. While this skillet does not offer as vast an array as a breakfast buffet, it is definitely comparable and far cheaper. Breakfast at the Crystal Palace will cost you $23, the buffet at Boma is $24, and Chef Mickey's is $26. I am not saying that the breakfast skillet at Whispering Canyon Café is at the same level as these breakfast buffets, but if an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal is what you are looking for then it is a viable alternative at a far cheaper price.

The lunch skillet for $18.99 and dinner skillet for $28.49 are likewise also very good values for your menu when you consider all the food that you get. Of the two, however, I would say that lunch is the better option. At lunch you still get the ribs and chicken that you get at dinner in addition to the cowboy beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and cornbread. The only difference is that dinner also includes pulled pork (as opposed the lunch's pork sausage), beef brisket, and a mixed greens salad. Unless the pulled pork and beef brisket is something you don't want to miss and would be the make-or-break point of the meal, I would suggest going for lunch because the $10 difference between lunch and dinner is pretty significant and really adds up if you have a lot of people in your party.

Even if you decide not to get the Canyon Skillet, the lunch menu offers many affordable options with a good variety of sandwiches ranging from $12 to $13. Another great value on the menu is the bottomless milkshake for $6.39. The shakes come in your choice of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry and are constantly refilled throughout the course of your meal.

The Overall Experience:
Whispering Canyon Café is one of those restaurants that is really what Disney is all about. It is a dining location that is fun and entertaining for the entire family, kids and adults alike. Dining here is about so much more than just the food (although the food will certainly not disappoint). Singing, dancing, clapping, racing, and napkin twirling are all part of the experience at this restaurant, all driven by a group of extremely dedicated and passionate Cast Members, and that is what makes it so unique. Dining at Whispering Canyon Café is an experience you will not soon forget. This is the type of restaurant that you go to not only to just have a good meal, but to have a good time, laugh, and enjoy the time spent with family and friends.

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About April 2011

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in April 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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