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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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!
Episode 306: We interviewed our kids about what they love about Disney! Before we get to that we start by covering the big news of the week. The big story of the week is that Disneyland in California finally has a re-opening date! April 30, 2021 Disneyland will be open after an entire year of being closed. There will be some new things to see and do once the park re-opens. Snow White’s Enchanted Wish will debut and Disney is reporting that the Haunted Mansion has also gotten some upgrades. Meanwhile, over at Walt Disney World, Spaceship Earth is receiving some new nighttime lighting effects. Annual Passholders will be getting two (2) magnets in the mail this time. Alright, lets get to the main event…We interviewed our kids (and one best friend) for this episode, 6 in total! We start with the youngest and work our way up to the oldest. Our kids range in age from 2 years to 7 years old. We get a wide variety of responses and rabbit trails but we did manage to get some answers to a very pressing question…Are the Rafts a ride? You know how we feel about it but what do our kids think? We also asked the about the monorail, the skyliner and what their favorite rides are…All in all we had a great time laughing and enjoying what our kids had to say. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Episode: 305. After our week off we catch back up on the news. There’s actually some major stories to cover this week. Ratatouille has an opening date. Many weren’t expecting it but once you stop and think, the date that the chose does make sense…from a certain point of view. Disneyland finally has the green light to re-open with some major limitations. The new Moana themed rooms at the Polynesian look really nice and shiny! The question remains though, how much are they going to charge for these rooms? Epcot has some new entrance features including some new music. Be sure to tune in next week where we will have 6 special guests…Our Kids (and one best friend) will be joining us. You’ll get to hear straight from our kids what they love about Disney!
Episode 304: Today we play a game of Would you rather? Disney Edition! We came up with several scenarios with varying levels of weirdness they we have to choose between. We had fun coming up with difficult choices to try and stump each other with. So look for choices that include rafts, skyliner, monorail and fastpass! Before we get into all of the fun we do go over some news stories for the week. There isn’t a whole lot to report but there’s always construction updates to give from Walt Disney World and even Disneyland has some to report. Let’s hope that they Taste of Disney event out there will help give the Californians a much needed Disney fix! It also looks like Disney is looking for a hotel manager for the new Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser. Speaking of Cruises, the Disney Cruise line is cancelling more sailings through most of the summer.
Episode 303: This week Jason and I returned from Walt Disney World and we give our trip report of what it was like during President’s Day weekend. Also, let us know if you like the new format for the trip reports! First we cover some of the news of the week like some financial reports for the Walt Disney company and the subscriber count for Disney plus is nearing 100 million. Disney Dining plan will remain unavailable for the foreseeable future and the Park Pass system is here to stay for now. The park hours remain all over the place but seem to be getting extended each week. More construction is continuing in preparation for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary later this year. In the trip report section, Jason and I talk about our experience at Pop Century resort, the Skyliner Bar crawl that we attempted and getting a boarding group for Rise of the resistance for 2 days in a row and showing up late to see what would happen. We talk about the different dinning experiences that we had this time including Olivia’s, Ale & Compass, and my birthday dinner at California Grill.
Episode 300: We made it to 300 Episodes! We take a trip down memory lane and discuss our earliest Disney memories and what got us hooked! As a way of celebrating we are going to give away a Traveling with the Mouse Shirt! Click Here to Enter First we do cover some news. There was a few big stories this week like the announcement that current Disneyland passholders will now be called legacy passholders. The PeopleMover refurbishment is delayed yet again. The Jungle cruise will be seeing some significant changes in the near future. Primeval whirl is starting to be dismantled or at least it seems that way. We also (mainly me) discuss our favorite bathrooms in the parks. I for one am a big fan of the companion bathrooms. We wrap up the episode by each explaining what keeps us coming back to Disney today. Here’s to 300 more episodes!
Episode 297: Today we say our goodbye’s to 2020! We also do some predictions about the next 10 years and what attractions do we think will see major changes and which ones won’t see much at all. We do discuss some of the latest news also like, we totally spoil the ending of Mandalorian season 2 so if you are the person that hasn’t seen it yet…ye’ve been warned. We also discuss the news of Snow White’s Enchanted Wish being revealed at Disneyland. This episode ended up being a little all over the place but we really enjoyed making it. We hope you all have a safe and happy new year…Here’s to 2021!
Episode 296: We discuss the latest Disney parks news but we focus a lot of attention on the plethora of new content coming to Disney+ over the next few years. (Along with a price hike). The roller coasters at WDW are starting to fill every row now and the parks are still feeling as crowded as ever even though the attendance is at 35% of capacity. However, as we discuss, 35% is not that far off from regular attendance at non-peak times. The Electric Water Pageant is making it’s return this week! We go through each of the Disney IP’s that are adding a lot of content to Disney+ and some to theaters. Star Wars is adding a lot of new shows and a movie or two as it rides the success of the Mandalorian.
Episode 295: We discuss some of the latest Disney news and rumors. Jon and I are a two man crew this week as Jason was unavoidably detained. We talk about Bob Iger leaving the Disney, The actor behind the Darth Vader suit, David Prowse passed away. The Mandalorian has cracked the top 10 for streaming shows. Rise of the resistance continues to have issues as it celebrates its one year anniversary. Disneyland continues to have more closures due to rising cases of Covid-19. There will be no fireworks on New years eve. We also give an update on some of the progress of various constructions projects that are going on at Walt Disney World.
Episode 294: Today we hear Jon’s thoughts on his recent trip to Walt Disney World. First we cover some news headlines. McDonalds temporarily halted the distribution of the Runaway Railway Toys. Legendary Disney Imagineer Joe Rhode announced his retirement…We wonder if it is just the timing for him or was there any pressure for him to step down. Disney Springs will get a highspeed rail station in the coming years, where will it go and how will that impact travel to Walt Disney World? Park Hopping is going to return to Walt Disney World in January, we talk about potential strategies for hitting multiple parks. We also give some more construction and refurbishment updates. Jon talks us through the good, the bad and ugly of his trip to Walt Disney World. There were some issues with food service and room maintenance at Caribbean Beach but overall the convenience of the skyliner was a big plus. He got to do Runaway Railway and it was a big hit with the family but there was some disappointment with Rise of the Resistance. Crowds were also an issue at times. Will he go back again anytime soon?