Tavern Queue: Everything Disney (and then some)
The team made the mistake of letting me write a Tavern Queue about Disney, so here we go!
Surprising no one (probably), I have a lot to say about Disney — though especially the parks (and vacation tips), which a lot of this focuses on. If I didn’t answer your question, my apologies, but I could only field so many. So come on fellow Disney nerds, let’s do this.
This is a tough question. As a kid you don’t necessarily ascribe some larger “meaning” to things. Disney was there, as the movies I watched and the toys I played with. When I was younger, I visited the parks and did a Disney cruise once — I had fun, but did it mean anything? I’m not sure.
As an adult, it’s different. It’s a strange sort of nostalgia for a childhood you probably never had. When I visit a Disney park, I feel like a kid again — but I don’t necessarily feel like the kid I used to be. I just feel younger. Disney parks are a bubble of happiness that burst in an unfortunate way by the time you hit the parking lot, but it’s a good time while they last. Sometimes Disney’s shows or movies have a similar joy to them — you have a couple of totally carefree hours where there’s nothing to do except sit back and enjoy them. It’s mostly Disney movies that I put on when I’ve had a bad day (Lilo & Stitch and Monsters Inc are top of my list) to chill out and not have to worry about anything else for a while. Sure, there are other kinds of entertainment that will do that too, but Disney’s typically a sure bet.
It’s a feeling I don’t think I would have recognized when I was young, but something that’s of immeasurable value now that I have more perspective.
And now that we’ve gotten that heavy stuff out of the way…
This question is really impossible answer, so I ask you, Queuvians. Which Disney characters are we?
(Except Mitch is definitely Iago.)
Mickey and Minnie are apparently stuck in time, never to progress or advance. However, there are some new Mickey Mouse shorts on YouTube (and, I think, the Disney Channel) that are rather charming. This one is probably my favorite:
Disney is kind of a giant Pac-Man, devouring companies as it goes, but that’s not always a bad thing. Disney proper has been on a good movie run lately (Zootopia was great), Marvel has been knocking it out of the ballpark, and the last Star Wars movie was, I think, everything we all loved about Star Wars. Pixar’s latest haven’t been so great. Every studio has its ups and downs, but I don’t think Disney is the death of Pixar — we’ll see more great films out of them.
I can’t argue this: Disney is pricey. But I still make several trips a year even though I write for a living. (And, honestly, I cannot recommend writing for anyone who actually wants to make a living. Don’t. Just don’t.) Mostly, I tuck some money away in savings every month specifically for travel and aim for more budget-friendly park options. Here are my tips:
Disneyland is less expensive than Disney World. Why? Because instead of being a massive, sprawling resort (Disney’s property in Florida is approximately the size of San Francisco) where you almost have to stay in a pricey Disney hotel to be near anything, Disneyland is pretty compact. It’s surrounded by budget-friendly hotels and restaurants that are within very easy walking distance of the park. Sure, it means you have to leave the Disney “bubble,” but it can be a lot easier on the budget.
Go for value hotels. If you’re set on Disney World and staying in the resort (and the resorts are really great), look for hotels in their “Moderate” or “Value” categories. I’d call most of these fairly reasonable. If you’re set on one of the super nice Deluxe resorts, Animal Kingdom Lodge is the most reasonable — plus if you get a savannah room (less reasonable) you can see giraffes out your window.
Go with friends. Hotel is usually your biggest cost and the more people you can split it is the more affordable it is! Make Disney-loving friends. Coerce them into traveling with you.
Pick the right time to visit. Hotel stays Sunday through Thursday are cheaper than hotel stays Friday and Saturday — so if you can make those days work, do it! Disney also has “seasons.” When the park is busier, hotel rates are higher, ticket prices can be higher (one-day tickets have a price hike on busy days), and sometimes even meals can be more expensive. Plus the parks are more crowded, and who wants that?
Use a travel agent. I know, you think travel agents are dead as the dinosaur — but there are a ton of specialty agencies focusing on Disney. These people know the parks and are constantly watching for deals that can save you some cash. Plus they can help you make dining reservations, book tours and events, and suggest the best things to do while you’re there. (I use a travel agent for Disney World trips because it’s so much easier to outsource booking all of this.) Disney is huge and complicated — consulting a pro can seriously help.
And usually agents get a commission from Disney which pays for their time and effort, so you get all of that at no charge — there’s really no downside. But if you do go this route, there are a couple of things to remember:
- Look for an agent who doesn’t charge anything up-front. Some do, especially if they’re doing work that won’t get them a commission (like handling making dining reservations and other plans but not booking your hotel). But you shouldn’t have to pay for an agent in most cases, so don’t!
- Be sure that any money you pay for the trip goes directly to Disney and isn’t “held” by the agency. Some do this and nothing goes wrong… but it certainly can go wrong. You want to watch out for scams just like you would with anything else.
Think about the dining plan. Disney World does dining plans that let you pay for a certain number of “credits” in advance that you exchange for meals while you’re there. It’s expensive, but if you plan on eating in the parks (which is also expensive), it’s very likely to save you money. The standard plan gives you one table service meal (at a sit-down restaurant with a waiter, sometimes a buffet), one quick service meal (at a fast food style place), and one snack every day for around $60 a day for adults (last time I did the math). It sounds like a lot, but if you do that many meals in the park, you’re saving. (Note: “Snacks” include venti-sized Starbucks drinks.)
There are also free dining plans at certain points of the year — usually select dates late summer through early fall. That can save a bundle, again, if you eat that many meals.
Since Disney World is massive, looking for what’s “close” to things really doesn’t work. Some resorts are closer to one park, but that just means they’re farther from another. However, there are a few resorts are super convenient to certain parks, if you plan to spend most of your time in those parks:
- The Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary are all on the monorail loop which goes directly to Magic Kingdom. They’re also pretty convenient to Epcot, since you can connect to the Epcot monorail.
- Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness are a boat ride away from Magic Kingdom — it’s a bit slower, but a nice ride.
- Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, and Yacht Club are all in the Boardwalk area, which is walking distance to Epcot’s World Showcase area.
- Port Orleans, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs are all a boat ride from the Disney Springs shopping district, but these boats don’t run very frequently (expect them hourly).
But for the most part, the hotels that are most conveniently located — the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, and Yacht Club — are the most expensive. And while they’re each convenient to certain places, they’re less convenient to others. My thinking: pick a resort you like and can afford, then just expect everything to be 20 to 30 minutes from everything. (Though if you really want to research how far your resort of choice is from the parks, Touring Plans lists average transportation times from each.) Disney runs reliable bus transportation from every resort to every park (plus Disney Springs), with buses arriving pretty quickly (especially first thing in the morning when everyone wants to get to the parks).
I love the Dole Whip, for example, but I’d like to try a couple other things while I’m there as well.
Waffle sandwiches at Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom (with nutella and fruit if that’s your thing), any pizza from Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot (seriously some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten), Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Resort (thick slices of sourdough stuffed with bananas and covered with cinnamon and sugar; truly indescribable), Kitchen Sink Sundae from Beaches & Cream on the Boardwalk (bring some friends to help finish it), and the pretzels at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs (trust me on this).
There are way too many great places to eat to pick just one… but if I had to, probably Ohana at the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World. It’s got big windows that look out on a (fake) beach with Magic Kingdom across the water (and if you get dinner at the right time you can watch the fireworks). Breakfast and dinner are both family style: they bring huge trays of food around and serve you as much as you want of anything you want. At breakfast Lilo and Stitch come around to greet everyone, but at dinner it’s all about the food: Asian noodles and giant skewers of beef, chicken, shrimp, and veggies. Ugh, I’m hungry just thinking about it.
And the bar next door has Lapu Lapus, which are mostly rum served in a pineapple.
Grand Marnier Orange Slush in France. It’s a grown-up Slurpee and it’s great. (There’s also a Grey Goose slush, but the Grand Marnier is better.) If you aren’t looking for a Slurpee, France also has champagne flights (and wine flights, obviously), Japan has a Sake bar where you can do no wrong (it’s tucked away in the very back, behind all the shops), and in Mexico there’s La Cava del Tequila where (surprise!) you can get tequila and margaritas. Mmm.
Of course the best adult activity in Epcot is to drink your way around the world, where you head to the World Showcase area at noon and make your way around, stopping for a drink in each country. That’s Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada — each country has unique regional drinks, but be sure to pace yourself (and be sure to pick up some food along the way) or you might die. But you’ll have fun and get to sample lots of unique beverages as you go.
A park full of Blizz fans sounds like an absolute blast. ^^
It’s pretty common to see gaming geeks in the park before or after — though I’d say you’ll see more on Sunday than Thursday.
- Disneyland Resort in California, which consists of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure
- Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, which includes Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon)
- Tokyo Disney Resort, which includes Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
- Disneyland Paris, which includes Disneyland Park (a different Disneyland Park) and Walt Disney Studios Park
- Hong Kong Disneyland, the smallest of the Disney parks
- Shanghai Disneyland Park, which opens next month
Say, how about that Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney Shanghai?
(I already saw video of it and it’s awesome, but someone has to ask, right?)
Oh my god the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Shanghai Disneyland. Though Shanghai Disneyland isn’t officially open yet, it is doing “previews” which means we’re getting some glimpses of just what it looks like. If you can get over the cell phone camera video, all of the people taking flash pictures, and various exclamations throughout, we have some video of it:
That’s all for this week’s Tavern Queue — and isn’t that enough? Tune in next week for more off-topic Q&A and feel free to leave suggestions for future Tavern Queues in the comments below!
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