Archives for June 2013

Parent Panel Tips for Disney World

ParentPanelTips

For those who aren’t familiar with the Preschoolears Parent Panel, it is a group of parents who travel often with their families on Disney vacations, and rate different aspects of their trip from where they stayed and what they ate and what they did. Then, here at Preschoolears, we tally up everyone’s ratings and put them on the Preschoolears website to share with everyone, so we can all help each other plan the best Disney vacation for our family.

We had a few Parent Panel members complete new surveys on their last Disney World trip and I wanted to share some of their wonderful insight and tips, as well as some interesting changes to some ratings on our site.

Disney World Dining

Epcot

“We love eating at Epcot. The sit down restaurant in Japan is entertaining and yummy. Sitting outside at Mexico is very relaxing. We also LOVE the new bakery in France [Les Halles Boulangerie & Pattisserie]. They have made it much bigger with a larger dining area.”

“My children are chicken nugget/pizza type of kids, so they do not enjoy counter service as much in Epcot. As parents, we enjoy the variety of food though. They do love the snacks in Epcot though! Their favorites are Kaki Goris, The American Dream, and anything at Karamel Kuche. We also like the refillable drinks at the Electric Umbrella.”

“The Princess breakfast in Norway [Akershus Restaurant] is much better than Cinderella’s Castle.  The themeing is good and the food, service, actresses all make for a fun breakfast. We also liked doing the Garden Grill with the spinning restaurants [in The Land Pavilion]. The characters were nice and the food was okay. We always have to wait awhile though even with ADR. We love Via Napoli [in the Italy Pavilion]–everything’s great. The Rose & Crown [in the United Kingdom Pavilion] has delicious choices. Teppan Edo is outstanding. Basically, you can’t go wrong with the restaurants. They all feel special. I’d say the country restaurants gear more to older kids/adults. Each country has given outstanding customer service.”

“Breakfast at Sunshine Seasons [in The Land Pavilion] was pretty good. Plates were large enough to split between two adults. Dinner at Chefs de France [in the France Pavilion] could be much better if it was more authentic French cuisine. The soup was excellent and there were good choices for kids.”

“Teppan Edo [in the Japan Pavilion] was lots of fun with the kids!”

Magic Kingdom

“My children love most all of the counter service options at the Magic Kingdom! There is a ton of variety, and we actually prefer counter serve to table service. We like to eat an early or late lunch to avoid crowds.”

“At Be Our Guest restaurant–the West Wing is the best room. The Ballroom is loud. For us, the food was salty. The ‘grey stuff’ is fun so if you have an anniversary, let the waitstaff know. It’s basically a fancy spoonful of an oreo mousse with candy pearls. Cinderella’s Royal Table isn’t worth the money. The few tables by the window are nice otherwise it’s not as special as it’s advertised. The food always tends to come out so quickly and then we just wait for the princesses to make the rounds. Crystal Palace is cute for younger kids. My daughter [age 9] was bored by this after 1st grade. The characters who she can see directly instead of in a stuffed animal costume work better for her. So, we do less character meals here as she ages.”

Hollywood Studios

“Our favorite thing to do is go to Starring Rolls for breakfast. As soon as we get to the Studios, we head to Toy Story Mania to ride the ride and get a FastPass for later. We then hit Starring Rolls for rolls and pastries. They offer fruit as well.”

“Two words: Pizza Planet. My children would eat here all day, every day. We eat here multiple times a trip while mom sneaks away to Starring Rolls to grab a Butterfinger cupcake.”

“We love the theme restaurants with cast member interactions. So, Prime Time 50’s and Sci Fi Diner are for every trip. Mama Melrose, Hollywood & Dine,etc. are just okay. They are worth going to just for a Fantasmic [dinner] package.  Not a lot of good food in these parks.”

“ABC Commissary is horrible. Very limited on choices and the food that is served is not good. Even the burger I had was low quality on the burger-spectrum.”

Animal Kingdom

“The Flame Tree BBQ has nice, shady seating by the lake. We ate at the Yak and Yeti Cafe one time in June. I thought that we were going to all melt because seating was all in the sun. The food was good, but not good for a cool place to eat.”

“This park has some good food options. Tusker House breakfast is a favorite. Their buffet is amazing and the characters mover pretty smoothly to get to everyone. Flame Tree BBQ is reliably yummy. Yak & Yeti had good food but the environment wasn’t that fun.”

Downtown Disney & Resorts

“We LOVE Earl of Sandwich!!!  We eat there at least 2 or three times on each visit. My husband and I ate at Paradisio 37 without kids. The food was awesome. We sat outside and listened to live music. I would suggest this if the kids are with other family members and you have a night out.”

“We had a dinner at The Wave at the Contemporary and were amazed what a fantastic restaurant it is! The food was delicious, the atmosphere was relaxing and the kids menu pleased everyone. And the kids loved the make-your-own-sundae desserts!”

Disney World Accommodations

“Our family loves deluxe resorts with great locations and value resorts for budget trips. There is something for everyone.”

“Favorite is Port Orleans Riverside in the Royal Rooms. No need for special view–the standard is wonderful. We also love Fort Wilderness. Both are very peaceful with loads of activities for kids, plus the food choices/shows are great.”

“We had the best time at the Bay Lake Towers!!  The villas are extremely spacious! You can also go to the top of the building every night for the Magic Kingdom fire works. They even pump out the music through the speakers at the hotel.  I love the location of the Yacht and Beach Clubs and Boardwalk Resort, but the rooms feel very cramped; especially when you have a lot of people in the rooms.”

“Port Orleans French Quarter has very nice landscaping and grounds. It is once you get into the room you realize that it is a moderate resort. Very simple rooms, with little theming and concrete walls. The bathrooms are almost right inside the room. The shower area is very small and would be difficult for bathing kids. The transportation at this resort was very prompt and easy to use since it is the first stop on the bus loop and such a small resort. If moderate resorts are your budget category, then I would definitely recommend Port Orleans French Quarter.”

Disney World Attractions

“We really liked the new line for Dumbo. There was a lot for kids to do in the play area. If the park is crowded or you are waiting for a fast pass, a family favorite is the PeopleMovers. It isn’t that exciting, but the kids love the feeling of being on a ride.”

“Magic Kingdom is our favorite park! My children love rides and there are rides aplenty here! We can spend multiple days here every trip between rides, character meet and greets, and shows and parades.”

“We like the France movie because you get to sit down. You have to stand in Canada and China. My kids always like Spaceship Earth. I would not spend more than 10 minutes in line for this ride. It will decrease as the day goes on.”

“Star Tours was too much movement for me, but my son loved it.  Fantasmic is a great show. The stadium is huge, so don’t worry about not standing in line for hours.”

“[Festival of the] Lion King is a great show!”

Ratings Changes

Some attractions, accommodations and dining locations changed drastically with new reviews coming in. Check out our website for the latest Disney World ratings, but here are some highlights.

Attractions

Hall of Presidents  1 to 3.5 stars
Barnstormer   No rating to 4.5 stars
Casey Jr Splash n Soak   No rating to 4 stars
Enchanted Tales with Belle   No rating to 4.5 stars
Country Bear Jamboree    2 to 4 stars
Swiss Family Treehouse   2 to 3.5 stars
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom    No rating to 4 stars

Circle of Life   3 to 2 stars
Innoventions   4 to 3 stars
Mission:Space   2 to 3.5 stars

Rock n Roller Coaster   1 to 3 stars
Dinosaur!   1 to 3 stars
Primeval Whirl   2 to 3.5 stars

Dining

Pecos Bill’s   5 to 4 stars
Cinderella’s Royal Table   5 to 4 stars
Coral Reef   5 to 3.5 stars
O’Hanas   No rating to 4.5 stars
Akershus Restaurant   2 to 4 stars
Via Napoli   1.5 to 4.5 stars

Those are just some of the bigger changes on our site with ratings. Other changes were only slight or not at all. Our Parent Panel is very excited to share their insight and experiences. All ratings are taken from the perspective of families with young children.

If you are a Disney enthusiasts and would love to share your opinions about your Disney vacations, and you visit the parks fairly often, consider joining our Parent Panel! It is pretty easy to take surveys and share your thoughts, and you are helping other families. If you are interested, contact the Preschoolears team!

 

New Disney Studios Movie “Frozen”

Title

Disney Studios will be releasing a new movie this fall called Frozen. In Frozen, due Nov. 27, Anna (Kristen Bell) heads out on a quest to find her older, more powerful sister, Elsa, the Queen of Arrendelle (Idina Menzel). Elsa has fled after accidentally setting off a curse, leaving her kingdom in perpetual winter. The story is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

Frozen2

Anna has help from rugged mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), whose friendly steed is a reindeer named Sven. The group is joined by talking snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), who provides further comic relief.

Frozen3

Frozen4

The animators traveled to Norway to scope to find inspiration for the 3D scenery in the film. Frozen also promises to have amazing music from the creator of “Book of Mormon” on Broadway. And there may be a little romance with a prince!

Frozen1

Here is the first sneak peak trailer release, although many more are to come. This was also shown in the theaters before Monsters University.

Disney has a new game online to promote the movie: Olaf’s Freeze Fall. Here is a link to it:

http://games.disney.com/frozen-olaf-s-freeze-fall

To keep up on all the Frozen news and info:

Like “Frozen” on Facebook
Tweet the official hashtag: #DisneyFrozen
Visit the official website

“Frozen” releases in theatres in 3D on November 27, 2013!

According to the Kids: Best Attractions at Disney World

preschoolears: According to the Kids

It’s that time again, where I asked my kids what they are thinking and get a glimpse into their interesting minds! This post combines two of my ongoing series’ – According to the Kids meets the Top 10 lists!

Top12AttractionsWDW

I quizzed my four kids after our last Disney World trip to find out the overall top 10 attractions they loved at all four parks. And in true kid style, they couldn’t stick to just 10 and insisted on these 12. I will countdown from twelve to number one, just to build suspense!

12. Dumbo – Still a favorite, and it makes the list simply because my 2-year old kept saying “Dumbo”. My two older just made the cut-off to ride by themselves, so the ride has new excitement.

Dumbo

11. Captain EO – I was surprised this made the list but that is what makes this fun! I guess they really like this movie – what can I say, they have the music in them!

10. Star Tours – We were able to ride this one a few times on our last trip and the kids loved it every time. If your kids don’t like 3D movies, they won’t like this one. But my kids love the 3D effects and the bumping around. And they especially like that it has different parts each time and you never know what experience you will get.

9. Toy Story Midway Mania – Always a favorite at either park! They love the 3D and the interactive games…can’t say anything bad about it except the wait is way too long and the FastPasses run out really fast. If everyone could just stop riding it so much, we could get a chance to ride it over and over and over. Let’s make that happen people!

ToyStory

8. Jungle Cruise – The things the kids loved about this ride was going through the tunnel, and they specifically remember that part. So you never know what kids will love! This classic Disney ride is still a hit!

JungleCruise

7. The Barnstormer – Don’t blink or you’ll miss this ride! It is really that short, but the thrills are just right for kids and mine loved it. If your not sure how your kids will like rollercoasters, this is a good one to start with, and luckily it has FastPasses so you can not wait 45 minutes for a 15 second ride.

Barnstormer

6. Kilimanjaro Safaris – Kids love animals, so it isn’t a surprise this is a favorite attraction. And everytime you ride it, you see something different.

Not taken with a zoom lense, this deer was in touching distance from our jeep!

Not taken with a zoom lense, this deer was in touching distance from our jeep!

5. Kali River Rapids – Basically, kids love to spin and kids love to get wet. So that is why this ride is a favorite. Personally, I don’t like either. But the kids swear this is an awesome ride!

4. Splash Mountain – My kids love this ride at both parks. They love the characters and the little drops and dips inside, and of course, they love the big drop and getting wet. They could ride this one all day!

Splash

3. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Another ride they could ride over and over! They giggle and laugh through the whole ride and usually at the end, they say “Again, again!”

2. Mission: Space – They are still talking about this ride to this day! They loved this one so much. Of course, we ride the Green Side (non-spinning side). But they love pushing the buttons and feeling like they traveled to Mars. Big thumbs up for this one!

1. Test Track – I don’t know if I will hear the end of it about Test Track. Best ride at Disney World for my kids, for sure. The new redesign is fantastic and they love designing their own car to test drive. And when it does the power test and speeds past, it truly is an awesome ride!

Those goofs in yellow are us! See how happy we are!

Those goofs in yellow are us! See how happy we are!

We have two Honorable Mentions to our list – the two rides we had to cut, much to my five year old’s dismay:

Tower of Terror – They are split on loving this one, but for my five year old, this ride is fantastic!
Turtle Talk with Crush – A fun interactive “show” where the kids can talk with Crush. It’s not as much fun if they don’t get picked but still a great experience.

What would be your kid’s list of the Top 10 rides at Disney World? Would you add to our list? Leave me a comment and tell me what this would look like, according to YOUR kids!

WDW Dining Review: Be Our Guest

Sign

The newest dining experience at the Magic Kingdom is in New Fantasyland, and it is the Be Our Guest restaurant. It serves lunch and dinner. Lunch is a quick serve, although the food is brought to your table. And dinner is a table serve restaurant. Reservations are highly recommended for dinner. Lunch usually has a 30-45 minute line outside to get in – no reservations for lunch.

We chose to have lunch at Be Our Guest, and we loved it! This will probably be one of my only dining reviews with so many pictures! The architecture outside and inside is fantastic! The restaurant is located inside the Beast’s castle, and the detail in design is amazing. You are completely immersed into the Beast’s castle.

Crest on the gates at the entrance

Crest on the gates at the entrance

Entrance into the restaurant

Entrance into the restaurant

Statue at the entrance

Statue at the entrance

Stained glass window as you enter the restaurant - so beautiful!

Stained glass window as you enter the restaurant – so beautiful!

Another great statue in the entrance

Another great statue in the entrance

As you enter the restaurant, there are digital kiosks to view the menu. The screen rotates through the different menus, so you can decide what you would like to order before getting to the ordering kiosk.

Menu kiosks

Menu kiosks

Suits of armor in the kiosk area

Suits of armor in the kiosk area

Ordering is a little different than other quick-serve restaurants. You order with a kiosk, although there are cast members that can help you with it. After ordering, you are given a “rose” which is like a pager for the servers. You place the rose on your table and then they know where to bring your order.

There are three large rooms to choose from on where to eat. The largest, and busiest area, is the ballroom. It looks exactly like the ballroom in the movie, including snow falling outside the windows. It truly is stunning.

Ballroom dining area

Ballroom dining area

Ballroom1

Ceiling in ballroom with the cherubs

Ceiling in ballroom with the cherubs

One of the other rooms you can eat in is the music room, and that is what we chose. It has lots of seating and it much quieter than the large ballroom. It was beautiful in that room as well.

Rotating statue in the center of the music room

Rotating statue in the center of the music room

Music room dining area

Music room dining area

Music room dining area as well

Music room dining area as well

Tapestry on the wall in the music room. There are about a dozen of these throughout the music room with different scenes from the movie.

Tapestry on the wall in the music room. There are about a dozen of these throughout the music room with different scenes from the movie.

The third room is the West Wing. If you remember from the movie, that is the part of the castle that was forbidden. This room is smaller and darker. It was hard to get a good picture of this room because of the lack of light. We didn’t think the kids would like this room because of how dark it was. But it did have the magic rose, the magic mirror, and the portrait of the Prince that changed back and forth into the beast.

The West Wing dining area

The West Wing dining area

Portrait of the Prince

Portrait of the Prince

The magic Rose and mirror

The magic Rose and mirror

If you choose to dine at this restaurant only for the atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed! But the food is fabulous as well. For a quick serve, this was by far, the best place we ate at our entire trip. The entree menu includes a Braised Pork, Carved Turkey Sandwich, Grilled Steak Sandwich and Croque Monsieur. They also have a couple vegetarian options.

Braised Pork - this was fabulous!

Braised Pork – this was fabulous!

Grilled Steak Sandwich

Grilled Steak Sandwich

Carved Turkey Sandwich

Carved Turkey Sandwich

Croque Monsier

Croque Monsier

The kid’s menu included Mickey Meatloaf, pasta with marinara, pork, and a turkey sandwich. My kids all went for the Mickey Meatloaf. Three of the four liked it although not completely a fan of the orange sauce.

Kids Mickey Meatloaf

Kids Mickey Meatloaf

The desserts were probably the biggest treat. Options include Strawberry Cream Cheese cupcake, Triple Chocolate cupcake, Lemon Meringue cupcake and Chocolate Cream Puff. They were all wonderful!

Strawberry cupcake and chocolate cream puff

Strawberry cupcake and chocolate cream puff

Triple chocolate cupcake and Lemon merigue cupcake

Triple chocolate cupcake and Lemon merigue cupcake

Overall, I would recommend this restaurant for certain. If you choose it for a lunch, expect to get in line about 30-60 minutes from when you want to eat. We got in line at 10:45 and were eating our meal by 11:45. If you choose it for dinner, make a reservation at your 180 days out window, because it is hard to get a reservation at this popular restaurant!

Preschoolears rating: Five (5 out of 5 stars)

For more dining reviews and information, please visit the Preschoolears Disney World dining page.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

CardLogo

Evil villains, led by Hades, are attacking the Magic Kingdom! Merlin is looking for volunteers to scour the park, find the villains, and, armed with spells, defeat the villains one at a time to save the Magic Kingdom!

Sign

Sound like fun? Well, it is! Our family signed up to be a part of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom on our last trip and we had a great time playing this wonderful game. It is a cross between a scavenger hunt and Disney interactive movie. If you have time at the parks to play along, it is definitely worth it! Here is the inside scoop on how it works.

The sign-up for Sorcerers is on Main Street, just past Guest Relations in the old firehouse. You will need your park passes to sign up. It should only take a few minutes. Families should sign up together so they can work together, and it is more fun that way. So sign up as a family team.

Sign-up booth on Main Street at Magic Kingdom

Sign-up booth on Main Street at Magic Kingdom

Once you are signed up, you will receive a key card and a stack of spell cards (they give you quite a few). You will also receive a map of the Magic Kingdom where all the secret windows are located you will need to unlock.

Key Card to use to unlock each secret window. Card is unique only for your team.

Key Card to use to unlock each secret window. Card is unique only for your team. If you lose it, you can get another one at the sign-in booth.

Our kids being taught how to open the secret windows and use the spell cards.

Our kids being taught how to open the secret windows and use the spell cards.

When you sign up, they tell you where you will begin by showing you a symbol and the land you are heading. You find that symbol on the map to start your quest. To find the magic windows, you look for the emblem on the card (at the beginning of the post) on the ground.

Map of the lands and symbols where the magic windows are located. Grab a couple when you sign up.

Map of the lands and symbols where the magic windows are located. Grab a couple when you sign up.

When you find your first location, you take your key card and place it on the lock to open the magic window. Locks are located to the side of the windows somewhere – you have to find the emblem on the ground first and then find the hidden lock.

Using the key to unlock the window.

Using the key to unlock the window.

When the window opens, Merlin talks to you about what villain you will be trying to defeat and gives you some hints of what to do. Usually the first window just leads you to the next window. The second window will reveal the first encounter with a villain of some sort.

Watching videos

Watching videos

Watching one of the windows

Watching one of the windows

While watching the screen, it is best to stand directly on the MK emblem on the ground so you are ready to cast your spell. Each of my kids picked out a card and was ready. When the video says “Cast Your Spell”, you must hold up your spell card straight in front of the window. If it registers the card, it will do something to the villain.

Villain in the video

Villain getting a spell done to him

Villain getting a spell done to him

What is done to the villain will depend on the card that is held up. You can hold up as many as 6 spell cards if you want. Sometimes it will ask you to hold up the back of the card, but mostly it is the front that casts the spell. In order for the cards to work, you must hold them from the bottom and not the sides. See the pictures below:

Wrong way to hold the cards

Wrong way to hold the cards

Right way to hold the cards

Right way to hold the cards

It takes about 3-4 windows and spell casting to defeat the villain. Each villain will stay within that land before being defeated, so you aren’t running all over the park. So if you are fighting Scar from Lion King, you will visit a few windows in Frontierland to defeat him.

Magic Window in Adventureland

Magic Window in Adventureland

It is best to defeat one villain at a time and not stop in the middle. You can stop at anytime and pick back up again later. And if you leave one day and want to start again the next, you can do that as well.

The spell cards are very cute. Each is related to different Disney characters, and they have numbers on the bottom that determine their strength and effectiveness. Most of the spells we used were effective and we didn’t have to look at the strength, but we did have to use several spells to defeat the villain in the end.

Tinkerbell Spell Card - it has a high number for strength

Tinkerbell Spell Card – it has a high number for attack

Thumper card - it has a lower number for attack.

Thumper card – it has a lower number for attack.

Aladdin card

Aladdin card

Cards are rated differently in categories like charming, strong, energy, quick, gross, and wishful. You use a different kind of spell for different situations. We were able to collect a lot of cards on the two days we played the game. They make very fun souvenirs. You can stop by the sign-in each day and get new packs of spell cards too.

Sorcerer of the Magic Kingdom cards we collected.

Sorcerer of the Magic Kingdom cards we collected.

The screens are fairly easy to see in daylight but best to see at night. We did a lot of our cards during a later evening while everyone was watching the fireworks. Our kids loved finding the next window and unlocking the magic. It is really so much fun and very creative of Disney. As for age of kids, our 5 year old thought it was great and could mostly follow along. Our two year old liked watching the screens but that was it. Our 7 and 9 year old loved it and could follow the map easily. We also saw older kids and adults without kids playing the game, because it really is a great little scavenger hunt throughout the parks.

There are many villains – we only defeated 4 and we didn’t finish by far. So this is something that would take a long time to complete. I don’t know how it ends since we didn’t defeat Hades.

If your kids love doing this at the parks, consider reading the books “Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark” by Ridley Pearson, which this is based upon. There are quite a few books in the series and it is being made into a movie. Reading age of the books is about 10-11 years old.

We highly recommend doing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. It was great fun and something original and new to try at the parks!

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