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 entrées 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!

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

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!

I know that we have slowed down on releasing new episodes over the last few days, but it is for a good reason.  Adam and his wife have welcomed a new addition to the family.  Hopefully we will be able to get some new material out sometime next week or so.  However, don’t be surprised if it takes a little longer as Hurricane Irma is scheduled to come right through our area in the next few days.  Thank you for visiting our page and listening to our show.  Hope everyone stays safe out there!