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REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical

A few months ago Chef Mickey’s reopened, but with one very important ingredient missing: there were no characters. Our team visited during that time. The food satisfied, and the lack of characters was welcomed for those looking for a hearty breakfast without the kinetic craziness of typical character dining. Now that the characters are back we have to say, Chef Mickey’s may be our current favorite for Disney character dining.

Chef Mickey’s Atmosphere

The atmosphere at Chef Mickey’s can be one of its greatest features for some guests, and the worst part for others. It is located on the concourse level of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, in a multistory atrium. The iconic monorail whooshes by every few minutes and thanks to its atrium setting the voices of all the guests and the music bounce all around. This is not the place to be if you are not a morning person. If, however, you are looking for a high-energy experience that is undeniably Disney, this is your place. You can’t help but feel excited. There is no denying that you’re at Walt Disney World when you’re at Chef Mickey’s.

REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Food Service Station and Monorail
REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Former Buffet
REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Distanced Tables

There is no more buffet. Everything is served on platters, family style, and your server will gladly bring you second helpings, or thirds or more, of any of the food, which is included in one flat price. The characters, which are Mickey and his pals, come out and greet guests by section rather than coming to each individual table. All character dining is currently done this way, with social distance, but Chef Mickey’s has been the most energetic that our team has experienced since the parks reopened. As each character came to the section that our team was dining in, they danced a little and were very cheerful.

Chef Mickey’s Food and Beverage

If you love breakfast food, you’re going to be in heaven at Chef Mickey’s for breakfast. Here you won’t find anything too fancy, just elevated versions of American breakfast classics. The meal starts off with a select of breakfast breads with honey butter, as well as fresh fruit and yogurt. Then the feasting continues with a bountiful breakfast platter of bacon, chicken sausage, beef brisket, scrambled eggs, and Mickey waffles. This platter is bursting with classic breakfast items.

REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Bread Yogurt and Fruit
REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Breakfast Platter Celebration Pancake Banana French Toast Cheesy Potato Casserole
REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Breakfast Platter

A few specialty dishes are served which include “Loaded” Potato-Cheese Casserole;  a “Celebration” Mickey Pancake; and Banana Bread French Toast with Espresso-Mascarpone Cream, Toasted Bananas, and Chocolate Crumbles. Of the three our research team enjoyed the Potato-Cheese Casserole the most. But all three dishes really elevate the whole meal. It is a lot of food, so if you’re going to do this for breakfast, consider having a very light lunch.

REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Cheesy Potato Casserole

Our team felt the meal was worth the $42 per adult and $27 per child, plus tax and gratuity. Considering the quality of the food, the fact that you can have as much as you like, and the distinct atmosphere, it is worth it. Our team, and many of our readers, are reporting that they enjoy the family-style service much more than the buffet. Having the food brought to your table makes it more of an enjoyable meal, and you don’t have to run the risk of missing the characters while waiting in line at the buffet.

Chef Mickey’s Character Appearances

Thankfully the food at Chef Mickey’s is good and the entire experience doesn’t hinge on the characters alone. But the great news is the character interaction here is high energy and tons of fun. Each character dons a special chef’s outfit that matches their personality. You won’t need that second cup of coffee once you see Donald shake his tailfeather and Goofy’s flap his ears as he skips around. Although the chance to have one-on-one interaction and photos at your table is temporarily gone, it is still a fun experience. Just practice the art of composing a selfie beforehand.

REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Mickey himself
REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Minnie
REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Goofy

Each guest receives a souvenir postcard. This Chef Mickey’s postcard has each of the characters autographs on it, and features great artwork on the front with the characters in the monorail as it pulls through the Contemporary.

REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical
Chef Mickey’s Souvenir Card

We have listings and ranks for every Walt Disney World restaurant. Our readers give Chef Mickey’s an 85% thumbs up rating. It is ranked number 50 out of 106 table service restaurants. Reservations for character dining can be difficult to secure. Our Reservation Finder tool is free to use – give it a try!

Have you dined at Chef’s Mickeys before? What do you think of the new setup?

REVIEW – Characters Return to Chef Mickey’s and It is Magical

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Filed Under: Dining, Dos and Don’ts, kids, Trip Planning, chef mickey’s character dining, disney character dining, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, walt disney world mickey mouse

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Top 3 Disney World Tips That Everyone Forgets About

Planning your Walt Disney World vacation can feel overwhelming. Are you making the most of your trip? Is there something you’re forgetting? There’s lots to know, and we aim to make our website and Lines app as helpful as possible. In that spirit here are three tips for visiting Walt Disney World that practically everyone forgets about.

  1. Merchandise Pick-up / Delivery
  2. Adults can order from kid’s menu
  3. The park doesn’t actually close at closing time

Disney’s Merchandise Pick-up / Delivery

This first tip you may not want to share with your kids. If you’ve ever said, “no we can’t buy that, we don’t want to carry it around all day,” this one’s for you. At most Disney theme park merchandise shops you can send your purchase to the front of the park to pick up at the end of your day. This service is free, and it was suspended during the initial reopening on the parks, but it is now back in service.

When you’re checking out, ask the Cast Member about the Merchandise Pick-Up option. Usually they need just 2-3 hours to ensure your purchase makes it to the park exit. Be sure to double check on if you have enough time, and ask about the exact location for picking up your merchandise. At EPCOT you will need to know if you will exit at the front of the park or at International Gateway.

The other free option is for your purchase to be sent to your Disney resort hotel. Not all hotels on Disney property participate, so be sure to double check with the Cast Member. You will need to provide your room number. The purchase will be sent overnight and available for pick up the next day at your resort’s merchandise shop. This service cannot be done for delivery on the day you check out of your hotel.

Top 3 Disney World Tips That Everyone Forgets About
Hester’s and Chester’s Dinoland USA Merchandise

Adults can order from the kid’s menu

If you’re not too hungry, or you’re trying to save a little money at Walt Disney World, you can order from the kid’s menu. This mainly pertains to quick service dining locations. At table service restaurants it may be a little trickier. Thanks to Mobile Ordering you can easily order from the kids menu and simply pick up your order when it is ready. Disney does have the basics of children’s eating habits like chicken nuggets, burgers, and pizza, but they also have some creative, healthy options too. Be sure to explore!

Top 3 Disney World Tips That Everyone Forgets About
Kid’s Finger Food at Geyser Point

There’s also a great snack pack available at select quick service locations which provides a decent amount of snacks that can keep you going throughout the day.

The park doesn’t actually close at closing time

Each park’s published closing time indicates a few things. First, no more guests will be admitted into the park at that point. Second, no additional guests will be allowed entrance into any of the queues for the attractions. Most quick service locations and many shops will close at closing time or just before. However, if you are already in line, you can remain in line. So, yes, if you’ve got five minutes until the park closes and you jump into a line with a 45 minute wait, for example, you’ll be able to continue in line and ride the ride.

Top 3 Disney World Tips That Everyone Forgets About
Tomorrowland at Night October 2020

You can also dine past closing time. Many table service restaurants will have timeslots available all the way until just before closing time. There’s also been cases when we’ve found timeslots for right after park closing, say 15 minutes. You use our Reservation Finder to help secure a reservation at popular spots and popular timeslots.

Enjoying a meal that goes beyond the published park closing time will not only satisfy your hunger, but will give you a chance to stroll through the park with less people–an enchanting way to end your day. Merchandise shops at the front of the park are open for about an hour past closing as well, in case you need those last-minute mementos.

There’s plenty more tips where these came from. Let us know in the comments if you’d like to see more tips like these.

Top 3 Disney World Tips That Everyone Forgets About

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Where to Find the Exits for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Most Popular Rides

Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a good balance of animal experiences and attractions that range from thrills to relaxed chills. But there may be folks in your group that prefer to just chill and avoid the thrills. In that case it’s good to know where the exits to the rides they are not interested in are at so they can plan to meet up with you when you’re done.

If you want to meet up with your party at the exit area the options at Animal Kingdom are a little weak compared to other parks. But, you can also go through the queue with your party so you can stick together, and then let the Cast Member know you do not wish to ride, and they’ll direct you to where you can wait to meet your party. While in line, browse our Lines app to check out ratings for all the restaurants in the park. Place your lunch, snack, or dinner order through mobile ordering in the MyDisneyExperience app so your food will be ready when you’re done.

Where to Find the Exits for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Most Popular Rides
Rivers of Light Amphitheater for Expedition Everest Waiting

Here’s where to locate the exit for some of Animal Kingdom’s most popular attractions, and yes, some of them do exit into a gift shop.

  • Expedition Everest– The queue for this attraction is well detailed so you may want to consider at least walking through with your party. The “chicken exit” is easy to get to from the loading area. This attraction exits into the gift shop, without any seats nearby. But there is a small waiting area to the far right of the entrance, or you can sit in the Rivers of Light amphitheater.
  • Kali River Rapids – If you’re not up for getting wet like the rest of your group, there’s a few benches just on the other side of the bridge that riders will cross once they exit.
Where to Find the Exits for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Most Popular Rides
Kali River Rapids Exit Area
Where to Find the Exits for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Most Popular Rides
  • DINOSAUR – Besides being a rough and often fast ride, DINOSAUR is dark at parts and loud. This ride exits into a merchandise shop, but there is a nice shaded area just outside the building, to the right of the entrance.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris – Although Safaris is not a thrill ride, some folks may elect not to ride, like expectant mothers and those with heart or back conditions. The exit for Safaris is really awkward, down a winding trail near the entrance to Gorilla Falls. There are some tables and chairs near the ride’s entrance, and Harambe Market quick service is currently not open, but has tables and chairs available.
  • Avatar Flight of Passage – If you’d rather not uh… fly (this attraction is very thrilling after all), there is not much of a waiting area here. This ride does exit into a merchandise shop, and there are a few benches outside.
Where to Find the Exits for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Most Popular Rides
Flight of Passage Exit Area

I like to enjoy some quiet time while my party goes on thrill rides. I usually go grab a drink as soon as they get in line, and then grab a seat near the exit while I sip, sit, and people watch. Of course, in the park it is tempting to just sit and enjoy Nomad Lounge while I wait.

Do you prefer to stick together with your party, or enjoy some quiet from time to time?

Where to Find the Exits for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Most Popular Rides

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How to Thank a Walt Disney World Cast Member for Great Service

To say that right now is a tough time for Orlando’s hospitality professionals is an understatement. And for those that are still able to work in Orlando’s theme parks, it can be very difficult to keep going when so many of your colleagues are no longer working. And so, in the spirit of gratitude as we begin the month of November, the month of Thanksgiving, we’d like to share some ways you can show your appreciation for any Cast Members who help make your trip to Walt Disney World a magical one. 

Guest Relations

Each Walt Disney World park, as well as Disney Springs, has a Guest Relations location, generally near the front of the park. You can think of it as the front desk of the park. Many times Guest Relations Cast Members are fielding complaints and problem solving. It usually brightens a Guest Relations Cast Member’s day when someone wants to give praise for one of their colleagues in the park. Usually the Guest Relations Cast Member will fill out a form so that the Cast Member you are praising can receive formal recognition. Many times this form is noted on the Cast Member’s record which can help them in their career with Disney. If the line is too long at Guest Relations there are alternative ways to give recognition.

Guest Services “Welcome Center” at Disney Springs

Email Guest Communications

As big as Walt Disney World is, they provide multiple ways to get in contact with them. Sending an email to the Guest Communications team is a great way to formalize your feedback. You can imagine this department receives a ton of communication on a daily basis. I have had success reaching out using the email address for Guest Communications, but naturally it does take quite a few business days to hear back. Not every email is responded to, it does depend on the nature of the message. Cast Member recognition is very important and Cast Members are formally praised when an email is received about their kindness or performance.

The email for Walt Disney World Guest Communications is My understanding is this team has unfortunately been reduced as part of the labor cutbacks. If you are able to visit Guest Relations in person that is the ideal way to ensure your praise is formally received.

Magic Kingdom Reopening Be Our Guest Dining July 2020

Sending a Cast Compliment Via Twitter Is No Longer Supported

Many people use Twitter to voice their complaints, especially about airlines. (My heart goes out to social media managers for airlines.) Once upon a time you could give a quick shout out to a Cast Member and tweet to @WDWGuestService with #CastCompliment. Sadly, this account closed up shop months ago. You can still tweet @WaltDisneyWorld, but the formal Cast Member recognition through Twitter is no longer supported. It makes sense to save labor costs, but it’s a shame to lose one of the nicer things about social media.

Bring Your Own Small “Thank You” Sign

When I was a Cast Member a few families over the years gave me a small card to say “thank you”. Many were the size of business cards and had been personalized with messages like “Thanks for spreading the magic, The Smith Family” or “Thanks for making our day a magical one, The Jones Family.” Sadly, it is hard to recommend giving out such cards right now given the importance of physical distancing. 

Instead of having individual thank you cards to give out, consider making a small sign. Many Cast Members are welding small paddle-like signs as a reminder to wear your mask properly and so on. Maybe return the favor and make your own paddle sign that’s easy to carry so you can hold it up quickly anytime you want to wish to thank a Cast Member. Get a little creative and think about what you’d want to see as a thank you or word of encouragement if you were a Cast Member in the parks.

Magic Kingdom Reopening Jungle Cruise Plexiglass Ride Vehicle July 2020

A Verbal “Thank You”

A simple and heartfelt “thank you” said to a Cast Member with a smile goes a long way. Times are tough for everyone right now and even a simple “thank you” can help brighten a Cast Member’s day. And chances are the more you dish out the thanks the better you’ll feel. Even a head nod and a wave helps too.

Final Thoughts

  • Be sure to include their name, and hometown if you catch it, as listed on their name tag, and their work location when submitting a thank you to Disney.
  • If you have a concern or a challenge, ask for a member of Disney management. It is usually best to give them a chance to right a wrong immediately rather than waiting to write a formal letter, tweet, etc.
  • Most important of all, the best way you can thank a Cast Member right now is to follow all the COVID-19 safety precautions. Wear your mask properly, especially when talking to a Cast Member.

Has a Cast Member ever helped to make your Disney vacation more magical? What are your suggestions for ways to thank a Cast Member?

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Fact Check: Walt Disney World Parks Reopening Theories Vs. Reality

Over a month ago I put together a list of my own theories, and theories from many others, about what procedures would be in place whenever Walt Disney World’s theme parks reopen. We received a lot of feedback on our “What Will Walt Disney World Be Like When It Reopens?” post. Since that time, Disney Springs reopened and we got a glimpse of the new temporary reality. Now, the big announcement has come. We can compare the theories we discussed to the reality that will come true in mid-July.

It is important to note that procedures and policies will change as the situation evolves.

Walt Disney World Theme Park Reopening Protocols

By Reservation Only – TRUE (!!!)

This is a big announcement. When I wrote about the parks being accessible only by making a reservation to visit on a specific day, I wasn’t 100% convinced it would come true. Alas, Disney did announce that they are implementing a new reservation system for entry into the theme parks. Personally, I am very glad that the Disney parks will be reservation only. Doing so has a lot of positive implications. Obviously it allows for capacity control. But, it also means guest buy-in and education. Guests who make a reservation to visit the parks on a certain day or days will have committed to their plans. And, one can expect Disney to have a terms and conditions section which would review the safety policies. Maybe even guests will have to acknowledge that they will abide by these policies.

One Orlando attraction is already by reservation only: SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove. Perhaps there are some examples of this system that Disney will follow. There will be lots more information about Disney’s theme park reservation system to come, so stay tuned.

Reduced Capacity of the Disney Theme Parks – TRUE

A month and a half after I wrote about this theory, it seems obvious that yes, Disney will indeed have reduced capacity. Disney has not shared what the capacity looks like exactly, nor should anyone expect them to. As described in this CNBC recap of its interview with Bob Chapek immediately following the announcement of the proposed opening dates: Disney CEO Bob Chapek declined to provide a specific breakdown of its capacity reduction on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” Wednesday, noting that there is no governmental guideline like there is in China. He did say the company would adhere to the CDC’s 6 foot social distancing guidelines when limiting attendance.

Controlled Directional Flow Throughout Disney Property – TRUE

In the original post I discussed the potential for Disney to control traffic flow throughout the property. I mused that Disney might even go so far as to control traffic flow throughout the park, like they do during parade time for example. There was nothing about such specific plans in their presentation and announcement. However, Disney Springs already has directional flow implemented in certain high traffic areas, small areas, and certain retail locations have designated entrances and exits.

Walt Disney World Health and Safety Protocols

All Hands Off Deck and Cleaning Stations – TRUE

We already saw this partially come true during the final days of operation at Walt Disney World, and now, with Disney Springs open we’ve seen hand sanitizing and washing stations added. In addition to these new mobile hand cleaning stations, there is increased signage and reminders about the importance of sanitizing and cleaning. Disney announced that high touch areas such as playgrounds would remain closed and certain water effects would be turned off.

Hand sanitizer station at signage at Disney Springs

Reduced Shows, Attractions, and Character Experiences – TRUE

In our original post, the potential closure and reduction of high touch areas and activities was discussed. This is coming to pass as Disney announced all character meet and greet experiences would become an appearance and interactions from a distance. The possible closure of certain shows and other experiences was also mentioned. Disney states that this would be the case with reopening as well. What we didn’t touch on in our original post was the possible suspension of parades or fireworks. Disney has shared that for the time being parades and fireworks will not resume. You can imagine what a social distancing disaster it would be otherwise.

Required Masks and Temperature Screening – TRUE

It comes as no surprise that temperature screenings and face coverings or masks are required for attendance at Walt Disney World theme parks. After all, they are required at Disney Springs and will be required at both SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando upon reopening of their theme parks. Temperature screenings at Disney Springs  are conducted by one of Florida’s largest healthcare and hospital providers, AdventHealth. What I did not anticipate was the possibility of what Disney is calling “relaxation zones.” To be clear, this is not a definite feature, but Disney representatives mentioned at the Task Force meeting that they were considering creating places where people could take off their masks briefly.

Walt Disney World Theme Park Reopening Protocols

Designated Days for Each Theme Park – TRUE (Kind of)

In the original post it was discussed if Disney would designate certain theme parks to be open on certain days, in order to reduce costs and control capacity. We also wondered if Disney would even designate certain parks to certain types of guests like Annual Passholders and on-site hotel guests on certain days. This is somewhat coming true, only for a short period of time. The theme parks are not reopening on the same day. The kingdoms, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopen first, on July 11, 2020. Then Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT reopen on July 15, 2020.

Restricting Access to Resort Hotels – TBD

The big piece that is yet to be fully communicated is Disney’s resort hotels. Which ones will open and when? How many hotels will stay closed? One would assume since the parks will be reservation only, that top priority will be given to resort guests. What I mused about in the original post is whether or not Disney would restrict access to the resorts to hotel guests only. This would potentially mean no dining at any of the resort hotels’ restaurants, visiting their merchandise locations, or simply sightseeing.

Additional Considerations

One of the potential operational changes we did not discuss in the original piece was the addition of Plexiglas to ticket windows and registers. Disney stated in their presentation to the Orange County Economic Task Force that barriers were being installed in certain retail and restaurant locations. We also got a peek at some of the signage that will be displayed throughout the parks.

Walt Disney World COVID-19 Health and Safety Signage

As we’ve seen with other theme parks and amusements in their reopening announcements, there will be changes to how attractions operate. Ride vehicles will have certain seats and rows closed. There will be multiple instances, especially in queues, in which travel parties will be kept together and served one at a time, other guests not in the current travel party will be asked to keep a safe distance.

This will be a very interesting time to say the least. We have never seen anything like this in modern theme park operations. I am hopeful that this reopening, with its purposeful safety measures, will help in a variety of ways. What are your thoughts?

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