Episode 322: I discuss my most recent trip to Walt Disney World to rekindle the magic. With all of the recent negative news about price hikes and money grabs I needed a good weekend at Walt Disney World to remind us why we love it so much. My weekend trip did just that! One of the often overlooked factors as to why Disney is so great is those special Cast Members that create magic for you. It may not happen every trip but in my experience there’s always at least one Cast Member that goes above and beyond to make a memorable experience for me. I tell about a few of those cast members that I came across this weekend. We do begin the Episode by discussing some of the news going on in the world of Disney. The big story of the week is the mask mandate returning for all guests indoors. This decision comes on the heels of the CDC guidance update in response to the delta variant. The Destination D23 event is already sold out but we preview some of the presentations and we can’t wait to hear from Josh D’amaro!

Eposide 321: Today is episode 321 and we are counting down to…something. We’ll figure that out as we go. We discuss the Disney news of the week and Jon talks about his latest trip to the Philadelphia area where he made some stops at Sesame Place and Hershey. In the Disney news, the Epcot monorail is back! The Hall of President’s is re-opening next month. The Polynesian is slowly re-opening but not everything is fully operational yet. Food and Wine Festival is going and Jason gives us his ranking of the Epcot Festivals while Jon considers renaming Epcot to Efcot. Jon then walks us through his trip to Pennsylvania. He gives a review of Sesame Place and breaks down what he liked and didn’t like about the park. He also walks us through the other stops he made on his trip including a stop in Amish country and Hershey PA. I’ll be at Walt Disney World this weekend to see if I can recapture some of the magic that the recent news has zapped out of us. I’ll report back next week!

California Grill

Back in July 2020 it was a lot easier to get a reservation at signature restaurants like California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This one happens to be my favorite restaurant on property. In fact this year in our March Madness bracket episode we named California Grill as the best thing at Walt Disney World! I love this restaurant so much that I chose to brave covid-19 and dine here last July. It was the first restaurant that I had visited since the start of the pandemic. I was definitely a little nervous but we quickly felt at home thanks to the wonderful cast that works here.

Why do we love California Grill so much?

First of all, the views are incredible. You can look down into the Magic Kingdom and see the tops of the mountain range. When fireworks are happening the restaurant dims the lights and guests can exit the restaurant onto the rooftop to have a unique view of the show. The food is fantastic and the drinks are top notch! I love the sushi, the flatbreads and the bread service is good as well. I almost always order the beef filet which is my favorite. I haven’t had anything bad here.

3 hour dinner

We enjoyed this experience so much last July that we stretched it out as long as we possibly could. We made this dinner last over three hours. It felt so good to have a semi-normal experience again that we didn’t want it to end. We asked our server to bring us everything slowly because we didn’t want to rush. Our kids had full charge on their iPads and my wife and I just sat and enjoyed our drinks. This dinner was a much needed break from the reality of the pandemic that surrounded us.

When it comes to the food. We wanted some of everything since this was our fist sit-down meal in months and at the time we didn’t know how long it would be before we would have another one. We ordered flatbreads for the kids and as an appetizer for us we ordered the sushi. My favorite one on the menu is the Spicy Kazan roll with the fireball sauce…delicious! For the entrĂ©es my wife chose the Grouper while I went with the Filet of beef. Both were outstanding! The desserts are also a winner here!

Conclusion

To sum up, We love the California Grill because the staff here make sure that you have a good time. Even when it looked as though we were going to have a very negative experience they more than made up for it. There was a time in 2019 where we were an hour late getting to our table. We had a large group but that was still no excuse. The manager more than made it up to us by comping some appetizers for the table and by giving us all additional fast passes for the next day because we missed out on some that night. That’s why I say it is the best restaurant on property. The food is great, the views are great but also the cast members who work there are amazing!

Episode 320: We are back from our summer travels! We discuss the latest Disney news and rumors. This might sound like a bit of a downer episode because a lot of the news and rumors are frustrating to us. We spend time taking out our frustrations on Bob Chapek. However, I do have two Disney trips coming up soon so we are not slowing down our Disney travels! In some positive news, Fireworks are back! Ohana is now open and Christmas offerings have been announced. Other things that are returning include the Disney Dinning Plan and there was a Parkeology completion at Disneyland. The rumor that has us on edge is the rumor that the Disney Premier access that Disneyland Paris unveiled recently could be coming to Walt Disney World. This would replace the old Fast Pass Plus system. We hope this won’t happen at WDW because in Paris it will cost between 8-15 euros per-person per-ride. Time will tell so let’s stay positive!

Magic Kingdom July 18, 2020

It has been one year since Walt Disney World re-opened during the Covid-19 pandemic. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at my trip in July 2020. This was probably the least crowded I have ever seen the parks. The only other time I can recall it being similar crowd levels was in September 2001. Jon and I went to Walt Disney World just 2 days after 9/11 and the parks were also empty. This time was just as surreal because we were in the middle of the pandemic and things were only getting worse at that time so the future was very uncertain. There was definitely a feeling of…are we supposed to be here? It felt like we were doing something we weren’t allowed to do but were somehow getting away with.

Magic Kingdom

Empty Fantasyland

Our first stop upon arrival was the Magic Kingdom. We arrived 2 hours before closing and the park was a ghost town. It was both exciting and a little un-nerving. As you can see here, Fantasyland was very quiet. There were only a few people walking around and even fewer people on the rides. In the picture you can see one lonely stroller here parked outside of Prince Charming Regal Carousel. We made our way over to see what the wait for Peter Pan looked like and to our surprise there was nobody in line.

No guests in line for Peter Pan’s Flight

The line was empty for both Peter Pan’s Flight and It’s a Small world. We walked right on to both of those attractions. You can see below a group of two guests exiting the boat as we made our way through the queue.

Empty Line for It’s a Small World

After waiting in the longest line of the day for 7 dwarfs mine train (5 minutes) we decided to walk back over to the storybook circus area to see if anyone was back there. This section of the park tends to get pretty quiet towards the end of the day during normal times but on this day it was empty.

Under the Sea-Journey of the little Mermaid

You can see another lone stroller parked near the entrance to Under the Sea-Journey of the little Mermaid. We walked right onto this attraction and yet again saw one group of guests exiting the ride as we were boarding. We had the whole ride to ourselves. After our journey under the sea we walked over and rode Dumbo and Barnstormer multiple times. By the time our kids were tired of Barnstormer the park was about to close.

Storybook Circus July 18, 2020

There was a good 20 minutes or so where we didn’t see another guest while we were back in Storybook Circus. We only saw the cast members who were operating the attractions and the custodial cast members that were preparing for nightly cleaning.

Empty Tomorrowland July 2020

Once we made our way towards Tomorrowland the park was closed. We started our slow walk out of the park because we had a dinner reservation at California Grill and it was only a short walk away.

As we walked out through Main Street we encountered the biggest crowd of the day. The remaining guests were walking out with us as Mickey and friends waved goodbye. I snapped this picture looking back towards Cinderella Castle.

Main Street, July 18, 2020

In my next blog I will talk about my 3 hour dinner at California Grill and how great it was to actually sit an eat at a restaurant after being stuck in quarantine for several months. You can hear about this trip from our podcast episode from last year

Episode: 319. We take a look at what is coming to Walt Disney World on their 50th Anniversary! We also cover some other news and we take a trip back to 1971 and we ask the question…What you rope drop at Magic Kingdom if you could go back to 1971? We also ask another interesting question, If you could go back to anytime during the 50 year history of Walt Disney World, what year would you choose to visit? That’s a tough question! In the news, Jon and I both saw Luca recently so we give our review of it. The Incredibles themed rooms at the contemporary look…nice. Harrison Ford is injured on the set of Indiana Jones 5 and the jungle cruise continues to add new scenes during their operating refurbishment. A fast pass kiosk was uncovered and turned on at Magic Kingdom so naturally it got people wondering if it is coming back. In Disneyland new, their Rise of the Resistance saw a record breaking number of boarding groups called. I was shocked when I saw the number. Can Hollywood Studios catch up to Disneyland’s numbers?

Episode 318: Today we cover the rapidly evolving Disney park news! Covid restrictions are being rolled back faster than the launch at Rock n’ Rollercoaster. We highlight some notable ones like the monorail no longer has dividers as well as other attractions like Jungle Cruise. Distancing Markers are nowhere to be seen except for the impressions the left in the pavement. (Perhaps a little something to remember them by for years to come) In other new, Boo Bash is starting to sell out even though the price is higher and the experience is more limited than the Halloween Party was. With all of the things going back to normal, we point out the noticeable absence of Fastpass and it can’t help but make us wonder…is a paid system just around the corner? Perhaps the biggest news of the week is that Fireworks are coming back! You thought I was going to say that the noodles are back at Ohana, didn’t you? Those are back too, but FIREWORKS! I am very excited to see some Happily Ever After again! We wrap up the show by examining an article about what resorts to guests tend to repeat visit more than others. We look at each resort category and see which resorts rise to the top of the list.

Baseline Tap House

If you’ve been to Disney’s Hollywood studios lately then you know the importance of getting there when the park opens. If you want to ride Slinky Dog Dash without an hour wait, then you need to be on the first bus or Skyliner gondola over to the park. However, what I am talking about is not a ride or an attraction. The second most important “rope drop” at Hollywood Studios happens at 10:30am. That is when Baseline Tap House opens for business each day. It has become a regular part of our Hollywood Studios routine! We feel that making this “rope drop” is just as important as securing that Rise of the Resistance boarding group or making it to the park in time to get onto Slinky Dog with a short wait.

Our Hollywood Studios Strategy…

Here’s how the last several trips to Hollywood Studios has gone for us. We get up before 7am so that we can grab that Rise of the Resistance boarding group. We get to the park at or around the time it opens and we head to Slinky Dog Dash. Sometimes we may choose to go to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway instead. After the initial ride, we may hit up Toy Story Mania or Smuggler’s Run. By the time we are done with those it is usually around 10:15am which means it is time to hightail it over to Baseline Tap House to be one of the first in line when it opens!

We regularly get the charcuterie plate, ($10.00) Bavarian pretzel, ($9.00) and the Beef Puff ($11.00). As far as the drinks go, Jason and I prefer the beers on tap while our wives tend to prefer the cocktails. I usually go the for North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner ($10.50 for the 22oz) My wife prefers the California Sunset cocktail ($14.00). Yes, I know it is 10:30 in the morning but we are on vacation! Besides, what better way to Prepare yourself for joining the resistance than by settling the nerves with a little refreshment from Baseline Tap House? You can hear more about Baseline Tap House from our recent trip report episode here!

Timing that boarding group…

Baseline Tap house Souvenir glass

I believe the sweet spot for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group is between groups thirty and forty. What that typically means is that your boarding group should be called somewhere between 10:30 and 11:30 am. This gives you plenty of time for a mid-morning drink and bite to eat at Baseline before joining the Resistance! Throughout the day this place gets and stays pretty busy so finding a table can be tricky. It is also important to find a spot in the shade. Next time you find yourself at Hollywood Studios, stop by Baseline Tap House for a nice refreshment…Tell them Traveling with the Mouse sent you!

Maybe this is common knowledge but it wasn’t to me. We even went on a VIP tour a few months ago and our VIP tour guide didn’t believe that there were any hidden Mickey’s in Galaxy’s Edge. We very quickly showed him pictures of the one from Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run. You know, the one on the side of the TV screen right before you enter the cockpit. He wasn’t aware of that one, a VIP tour guide at Disney. So naturally I was curious, if there is one on Smuggler’s Run then there must be one on Rise of the Resistance too, right? Long story short, I scoured the interwebs to see what I could find on the subject. I located one reddit post where someone had a blurry picture from the ride and pointed out what they believed to be a hidden mickey. It just so happened that I found that picture just minutes before we received an incoming transmission from Rey. Below is the second picture that I was able to get that finally came in clear…See it?

Hidden Mickey on Rise of the Resistance

This hidden Mickey is located in the room with the flailing Kylo Ren animatronic. As soon as you exit the gun room where only one turret gun seems to work any more…you enter this room and quickly pass by two control panels. The hidden Mickey is located on the second control panel. You can see it right before Kylo uses the force on your ride vehicle. If you are sitting in the back row it might be a little harder to see it because of the current plexiglass dividers but from the front row it is easy to spot. So now I know of at least two hidden Mickey’s in Galaxy’s edge, one in each attraction. Does anyone know of another in a different part of the land? Let us know in the comments if you spotted another hidden Mickey. We also talk about this during our Trip report episode. You can find it here!

Episode 317: We are back after a week off and we discuss our recent Trip to Disney’s Old Key West resort! First, we cover some of the news that has happened like the mixed feelings people have about Ohana re-opening at the Polynesian resort. It’s great that is is coming back but people are very upset about the noodles being taken away from the dinner menu. Because of the hoopla surround noodle gate, people didn’t seem to notice that Sabastian’s Bistro is also re-opening soon. We have been saying it for years…you should make time to go there and eat dinner, you won’t be disappointed. (order the rum flight and you definitely won’t be). The skyliner crashed again but nobody seems to care any more. Rope-drop procedures are returning to normal and Indiana Jones 5 has begun filming in the UK. Alright, now with the news out of the way we shift to discussing our memorial day weekend trip to Walt Disney World. We discuss things like, what it is like to walk around Disney without a mask, Finding a hidden Mickey on Rise of the Resistance, and how important it is to be on the rope for Baseline Tap House!

Episode 316: In this episode we talk some Disney news and then preview an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World this weekend! We start with some Disneyland news…Soon out of state guests will be welcomed back. Also, Disneyland’s newly reimagined Jungle Cruise will be opening in July. The big news of the week out of Disneyland however, is that the Spiderman Adventure attraction will require a boarding group once it opens. This means that guests will have to choose between Spidey and Rise of the resistance at the start of the day. In Disney World news, we continue to see restrictions lifted and talks of capacity expanded. It looks like Minnie Vans could be returning and the monorail had a Badger problem. After the news, Jason and I discuss our upcoming trip this very weekend to Walt Disney World. We are trying out a DVC resort and are staying together in a 2 bedroom villa. Look out for us on social media this weekend!

Episode 315: We take a deep dive into the Haunted Mansion! We explore the history and details of this attraction. Plus did you know that Walt had a favorite stretching room portrait? We do start with the news and cover several of the developing stories this week. Covid-19 guidelines continue to loosen on both coasts. The three caballeros are back at the gran fiesta tour! The Grand Floridian is getting new DVC studios added soon. The dark saber made its way to Galaxy’s Edge. Disney Cruise line released the pricing on the Wish’s inaugural sailing…my wish was for lower pricing! The later sailings in 2022 look better as far as price though.

Episode 314: Today we have 2 special guests join us! TheBrothersWDW as they are known in the challenge community, Ryan and Reagan. We chat with them about the challenge and go through some of their most exciting challenge completions. They have a lot of records and several completions during their many different challenge runs. We also ask them about the future of the challenge and if it will still be possible in the years ahead. They also give us their challenge advice. After the interview we dig into some of the news of the week. We recorded before some of the details came out around the increase in crowds and rumors of when the masks mandate will be lifted but we discuss our thoughts on when we thought that might happen. We also poke fun at the Harmonious fountain testing…we hope the show will look better than the tests.

Episode 313: This week we have a lot of Disney news to cover…From Disneyland to Cruise line and Star Wars! We begin with the re-opening of Disneyland and talk about some of the things that have changed like having to shorten Rise of the Resistance, The secret entrance to Haunted Mansion and the new Snow White attraction. It’s good to see Disneyland open again. We move on to the Disney Cruise Line news and cover the new info on the Disney Wish and Jon talks about whether or not he want to book this ship for his next cruise. Next we discuss some of the updates at Walt Disney World like the upcoming removal of the temperature screenings and the return of some more character meals. Lastly, we cover the Star wars news of the week. The new lightsaber that everyone want but probably isn’t anywhere near ready to sell made its debut this week in a short video. The Star Wars cruiser looks to be delayed until next year but we got to see some new concept art. Is anyone going to book this as soon as it is available?

Episode: 312. Yeah, we waited 7 hours to ride the PeopleMover this week, but it was totally worth it! We were among the very first park guests to ride after being down for over a year. Jason and I recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World where we got upgraded to the Grand Floridan. We enjoyed several trips to our favorite bars and lounges on property. We watched the Electric Water Pageant from our hotel room. We had one fantastic table service meals and one not so fantastic meal. We explored Tom Sawyer island and compared the experience to that of Rise of the Resistance….You’ll see what we mean. In the news we discuss the newest update to the Jungle Cruise and Disneyland is open once again! We talk about the latest Ride Every points challenge and the recent controversy surrounding it.

Episode 311: Today we cover the recent news and preview our Disney trip this weekend! That’s right, Jason and I will be at Walt Disney World this weekend for a rare kid-free Disney experience. Disneyland could soon allow out of state guests and the reservations don’t seem to be filling up as quickly as expected. The famous uh, photo opp in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot has been modified. There been a price increase for custom light sabers at Savi’s Workshop. I also follow up on part of last week’s episode where I talked about the part of the Disney World property that Walt Disney himself actually set foot on. I actually found out more to this story. I discovered that the house is still on Disney property but it has just been moved to another location. Here is the link to the article. Jason and I will be in the parks this weekend most likely hitting up the bars and lounges. If you are in the parks this weekend let us know!

Episode 310: We take a look back 50 years ago and discuss a few things at Walt Disney World that haven’t changed. (much) It was another slow news week, aside from the construction updates. We noticed updates to the Contemporary, Several things in Magic Kingdom are continuing to see a refresh, and Epcot has new things opening this summer. That’s right, club cool is returning as well as the new shop with a new name. Cast members can now show visible tattoos and wear visible jewelry and other accessories. Finally we get into our main topic…With the 50th anniversary looming we want to start peppering in some episodes dedicated to the occasion. We are starting by talking about a few things that were there over 50 years ago that are still around today. Some things have changed a little and others haven’t changed at all. Let us know if there’s anything you think we should talk about that we didn’t include on our list.

Episode 309: Today Jon and I discuss some of the top headlines of the week and then we go through Jon’s trip report to Legoland and a park-less trip to Disney at Art of Animation. You can now go mask less for outdoor photos at Walt Disney World. There’s some more delays on Disney Cruise line. Josh D’Amaro teased some new technology coming to the Disney parks as well as a working retractable light saber?!?!? I can’t wait to find out more about that! We get into Jon’s trip report and he walks us through is experience at Legoland. It was a mixed bag of long waits but good service and food that was included with his stay. Next he stayed a few days at the Art of Animation resort to check out the newly refurbished Little Mermaid rooms. He got to have a day at the big blue pool the day that it re-opened. He also had a good meal at Art Smith’s Homecomin’ and an unforgettable dinner at the California Grill. (Recently voted by us as the best thing at Walt Disney World) He capped it all of with Dole whips at the Polynesian and some great Disney cast interaction that reminds us why Disney is still a step above when it comes to service!

Episode 308: Today we finalize our 2021 March madness bracket and crown the champion of what believe is currently the best thing at Walt Disney World. Last week we started with 64 things in 8 different categories and we narrowed that down to 32. Today Jon joined us live from Walt Disney World from the business center of Art of Animation resort as we work to narrow down the top 32 all the way to the champion! Was Jon swayed by some of the things he experience on his trip this week? You be the judge! Oh, and look for his Orlando trip report next week. Let us know if you agree or disagree with our pick for this year’s champion as the best thing at Walt Disney World. I think we even surprised ourselves this year!

Episode 307: It’s time for our annual Disney march Madness bracket! This year we are going to determine the best thing about Walt Disney World! We have categories ranging from Park Icon’s to Signature Restaurants and everything in-between. Before we get to that we do discuss the big new story of the week. The Disneyland concept art that everyone went crazy over this week. While it looks cool we have to take it for what it is….a concept. We hope that some day an expansion to Disneyland can happen but we know in reality that it will be a challenge to get anything built any time soon…for a number of reasons. Ok, back to our Disney World bracket. We have 8 categories of items that we believe make Walt Disney World great. We are going to narrow this list down to one championship winner that will be crowned “The best thing about Walt Disney World! Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion but also tune in this week to hear the exciting round one matchups!