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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, July 23, 2016

EPCOT Character Spot--Baymax, Joy and Sadness

EPCOT is now rivaling the other parks for variety of Disney Characters available for meet and greet.  The EPCOT Character Spot, located in Innoventions West originally hosted Mickey and friends.  Then, Baymax, from Big Hero 6, was added just across the breezeway and recently, Joy and Sadness from Inside Out have joined the fun.

Finding EPCOT Character Spot is easy.  Just head for the breezeway connecting Future World to the Land Pavilion.  As you are walking towards the Land Pavilion, Mickey and friends will be on the left, while Baymax, Joy and Sadness, will be on the right. 

Important things to know:
  • Guests can Fastpass the EPCOT Character Spot featuring Mickey and Friends, but not Baymax, Joy, and Sadness.
  • Baymax has is own queue and Joy and Sadness have another queue across the corridor.  
  • The character meet and greet times are listed in the Times Guide, so be sure to check and plan accordingly.
  • Photopass photographers are available at the meet and greets.
  • Joy and Sadness do sign autographs, Baymax does not.
  • No sharp objects are allowed near Baymax--Disney trading pins, purses, bags, etc.  All must be taken off prior to meeting Baymax.
  • We did not see wait times posted for Baymax or Joy and Sadness.
Our strategy was to secure a Fastpass for Mickey and Friends.  Prior to the Fastpass, we queued up for the other characters, but based on the length of the lines, we split up.  The boy and husband got in line for Baymax, as that line was shorter, while I joined the Joy and Sadness queue. 

They made it to the front of the line, met Baymax, got photos taken, and joined me in plenty of time.   Had they not, I would have allowed people behind me to go around while I waited.  The position of the queues allowed us to keep an eye on each other, estimating the timing. 

We had met Baymax on a previous trip, but it was neat to see him again.  The theming of his area is of Hiro's workshop. 

Joy and Sadness' meet and greet is themed to the headquarters, complete with the table.  The digital display behind the table changes, so each photo taken has a different background.  I'm one of those people taking photos of things other than the characters!

Again, EPCOT, in our opinion, is rivaling other parks for the quantity and variety of characters guests can meet during a visit to this park.  Especially with the addition of Anna and Elsa to Norway.  There are two character meals available in this park, too--Akershus and Garden Grill.

Be sure to have your camera and autograph books ready!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dining At Yak and Yeti in Disney's Animal Kingdom

During our Summer 2016 Walt Disney World vacation, we tried several new restaurants including Yak and Yeti located in Asia at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Yak and Yeti offers both a sit down, table service location and a quick service, counter location.  We made Advanced Dining Reservations for the sit down, table service location.

Big doors greet guests.  If you weren't looking for this restaurant, you would most likely walk right by.  The counter service location is around the corner.  How do we know this?  While we were waiting to be seated, several guests entered and asked.  In a matter of minutes, this question was answered several times so I can only imagine the number of times the same question is asked and answered for the entire day.

When Advanced Dining Reservations are made, guests are advised to check-in 15 minutes prior to their reservation.  We did just that, but as our reservation was at 11:00 am, our check-in would be at 10:45 am, which is prior to the time the restaurant officially opens.  The door was unlocked, and we did go in, and eventually a Cast Member greeted us and took our name.  We thought we were checked in.  But alas, when 11:00 am came and went, other guests were being called to their table, so I approached the counter and we had not been checked in by the original Cast Member that took our name.  Glad I double checked.

Our name was called a few minutes later and we were told that we were going to be seated upstairs and given the choice to take the stairs or the elevator.  We chose the stairs and walked through the lounge area to the stairs.  We were seated, given menus, and began taking in the decor.

The menus tell the story of Yak and Yeti--a family who opened a trading post and collected artifacts from all of Asia.  The theming and decor is a feast for the eyes!

Yak and Yeti is a Landry Restaurant, owned and operated by Landry, just like Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex Cafe.  If we hadn't used our Disney Dining Plan entitlements, we could have racked up points for our meal as we are Landry Select Club Members.  Since we did use your Dining Plan entitlements, we did not earn rewards.  The Dining Plan allowed us to order an entree, a dessert, and a non alcoholic beverage per person.
The husband to order hot tea as his beverage.  Yes, it was steaming outside, but he wanted to try it.  He was offered unlimited hot water, but only one tea bag was allowed without an extra cost.
We also decided to order an appetizer and pay for it out of pocket, as it wasn't included in the plan.  The photo above is of the empty plate that held the Pork Egg Rolls with chili plum dipping sauce.  They were delicious and we were glad we tried them. 
The boy ordered the Sweet and Sour Chicken.  He gave it a thumbs up.
I went for the Tempura Shrimp, which was similar to what I had had at other Landry restaurants.
The husband ordered the Teriyaki Mahi Mahi and indicated it was mouth watering.  Next up, dessert!
The boy went for the New York Cheesecake.  There wasn't a bit left when he was done.
I had the Fried Wontons which are skewers of pineapple and cream cheese wontons.  I'm glad I tried them but would order the Pinapple Upside Down Cake next time.
The husband ordered the Sorbet which had three flavors:  Mango, Lemon, and Raspberry. 

Click here to see the menu including prices for Yak and Yeti.

Since all of us ordered different entrees and desserts, bites and samples were shared all around to give each of us a taste of it all.  Glad everyone is willing to share!

Our overall impression was that Yak and Yeti is a unique respite from a theme park.  After the bumpy entree and uncertain first impression, we were pleasantly surprised once we sat down, ordered, and enjoyed our meal.

The service needs to work on timing.  While wait staff takes orders and brings drinks, the food is delivered by different staff directly from the kitchen.  Our food all came at the same time, but we watched a table right next to us with a family of two adults and three children, have to eat in shifts.  The kids meals came first, while the adults waited (and were on their phones) and then the adult meals arrived.

Final verdict:  We're glad we gave Yak and Yeti a try.  Next time we eat here, we may decide to use our Landry Select Club benefits rather than the Dining Plan.  And, again, the decor is amazing!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Splitting Up While At Walt Disney World--Point and Counterpoint

From the Husband’s Perspective:

My lovely wife really loved the Frozen sing along so much that she wanted to see it again. I enjoyed it but not enough to see it a second time. The boy claimed he hated most of it. Our brand new teenage son thought it was too girlish. What to do? How about splitting up for a little bit?

This decision worked out great for several reasons. The first one is that the vacationing Williams Family members need a smidge of time away from each other’s company. For me it gives my brain a chance to re-set. I can have a “guy” relationship with the boy which is slightly different when the spouse is about.

Slumbering fellas
Then there is sleeping in. Usually the Williams Family gets up early so we can do our favorite rides and attractions at the parks before it gets too crowded and not have to use  the coveted Fast Pass. Doing this several days in a row does wear me down. The opportunity for extra “Z”s was nice. The boy and I also were allowed to putz around the room a bit.

We can do some non scheduled stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I love the tremendous effort my spouse puts forth organizing and deciding so we get the most fun out of our trips. Going off script does allow the Williams Family to appreciate the little things of the vacation. The wife enjoyed the people watching in the Frozen audience as much as the show itself. The boy and I explored our resort and talking to Star Wars cast members at Hollywood Studios before reconnecting with my better half.

When the Williams Family got back together we shared our separate experiences and proceeded to have a magical day.

From my perspective:

On this particular day, we had NO plans—other than dinner.  Options for our day included Disney Springs, miniature golf, hanging by the pool.  I know that sounds like plans, but they weren’t firm, no times, no order of events, just suggestions.

I was already up and decided to shower and get ready.  Then, I checked my phone.  There were Fastpasses available for the FROZEN Sing-Along at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 10:00 (which I thought meant the show was at 10:00) and I snagged them. 

So, I let the slumbering guys know that I was taken off.  I would grab some breakfast at Studios, they could get breakfast at Pepper Market and meet me at Studios around 10:30. 

The husband mumbled a few questions including asking if I had laid their clothes out.  Yes.

My Trolley Car Cafe breakfast!
Out the door to the bus stop, on the bus and headed to the park, and I arrived just shortly after 9:00 am, when the park opened.  Breakfast—I went to Starring Rolls Café but nothing was appetizing, so I hopped across the street to The Trolley Car Café, sponsored by Starbucks, and ordered breakfast.  It was lovely dining on the umbrella tables just outside the café. 

When I finished, around 9:30 am, I headed to the Hyperion Theater, where the FROZEN Sing-Along takes place and discovered the first show was at 10:30 am, not 10:00.  Sent the husband a text—that I wouldn’t be able to meet until shortly after 11:00 and then got in line for The Great Movie Ride which had minimal wait.  Oh, and I met Max who was greeting guests just outside the theater.  You know who Max is, right?  He’s Goofy’s son!

Exited The Great Movie Ride just in time to queue up for the show, using the Fastpass entrance which is around the corner from the stand-by entrance.

By this time the guys had gone to breakfast.  I had sent some reminder texts—be sure to tell the bus driver you’re getting off at stop 1 (we had had a transportation issue on another day while traveling to breakfast).  March of the First Order was happening at 11:00—we had only seen a few seconds of it on another day as it had started raining.

I got a great seat for the show and did a Live Facebook feed.  This show really is cool—pun somewhat intended—and the jokes are very timely.  It reminded me of the Aladdin show at Disneyland last summer. 

I had a text from the husband that they were watching March of the First Order.  I messaged back—show over, going to the bathroom, meet you there.  Actually, I could see them in the crowd as I headed to the restroom, so they were easy to find.

When we met up, we had a few photos taken on the way out of the park, ordered large glasses of ice water at The Trolley Car Café, and then caught a boat to the Swan and Dolphin so we could walk across the street for some miniature golf.

Why splitting up worked:
  • We weren’t worried about using a day of park ticket.  Because we have Annual Passes, we can come and go to any park on any day. 
  • Everyone was familiar with the transportation system, the park, everything.  If there was uncertainty, splitting up would have been harder.
  • Cell phones.  We kept each other informed.

While I certainly enjoy traveling and touring with my family, going solo was freeing.  I felt light and nimble, not having to be concerned if the people who usually follow me were following.  I didn’t have to announce the next destination and wait for any feedback, I just decided and went on my way.  And, it was a great opportunity for the husband and boy to navigate without me.