Located in the heart of Africa is quick service restaurant, The Mara! OK, so you don’t need to travel that far to enjoy the amazing food this restaurant has to offer…although the scenery within its proximity is reminiscent of African lands. This restaurant is easily located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort.

What makes this hidden gem stand out the most? The taste of course! The Mara is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Your breakfast offerings can range from the traditional fare (like bacon, eggs, and waffles) or you can be adventurous and try something beyond what you’re accustomed to. The bounty platter and Bobotie platter both offer Pap and Chakalaka as part of the meal. I also have never had a breakfast flatbread before, but it sounds amazing with sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, tomatoes, and cheddar. A perfect twist on traditional breakfast foods.

Lunch and dinner options, again, will offer the traditional foods we can find anywhere (burgers, chicken nuggets, and Caesar salads)…but what about their unique offerings? African Potjie (African stew), Braai Chicken Flatbread, or a Chef’s choice hand carved sandwich with Kool Slaai are just some offerings you will not find traditionally in other areas of Disney World. You may also enjoy a hearty meal like the oak-fired rotisserie chicken dinner that I loved or a filling mixed tomato flatbread if you are less adventurous but still looking for a lot of flavor. Lunch and dinner also offer the ‘soup of the moment’….can I just say, wow! The offerings of soup change daily, which allows you the opportunity to try something new and bold on various visits. I had the chicken corn chowder and it did not disappoint. Daily they offer the amazing butternut squash soup, a staple that is loved by those who frequent the location.

Do not forget dessert! There are a variety to choose from, like zebra cupcakes, Oreo cheesecake, and even Pina Colada cupcakes, but they’re most famously known for their zebra domes. If you are gluten free, there is no need to worry, because at special request, they will make these well-known domes for you to enjoy as well. They are so good, you do not even notice the difference!

Being that this location is in a Disney Resort, you won’t find a Disney bus that will take you from your resort directly here. Simply take a bus from any of the parks to Animal Kingdom Lodge and ensure you exit at Jambo House (not Kidani Village). From the lobby, go to the right and down the stairs and outside to the covered walkway to get there.

This dining location is hands down one of my favorites on property! From the theming inside of the wetlands and grasslands of the reserve to being able to make a 5-minute walk to the outside viewing area of the savanna, stopping here for a bite to eat and relaxing scenery afterward is my idea of a perfect evening in Disney World.

The Mara Menu

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

 

Innovation and change is a constant throughout Walt Disney World.  The Edison, recently opened at Disney Springs is the bee’s knee’s!  It is surrounded by 3 other recently opened venues as well.  Each with their own unique offerings, but the focus of this review is the largest of the group!

A larger than life clock tower greeted us as we entered the dining area. There was so much to take in as we were seated.  Even the uniforms of the cast members were reminiscent of a 1920’s Speakeasy!  We were greeted quickly once we sat down and our server pointed out interesting areas throughout the venue to enjoy.  There were tables throughout the upper and lower area of the restaurant.  She quickly pointed out that in the evenings, the lower area tables are removed and that area is used for dancing.  Although families are welcome for lunch and early evening to dine, after 10pm, the venue is an adults only location!  Please note, when visiting this location late night, you may be required to pay a cover charge.  A dress code is also followed: Men may wear slacks, jeans or dress shorts, jackets are optional. No ball caps, sleeveless shirts or flip-flops allowed.

Movies from the 1920’s are playing in various locations throughout the venue.  There is a trapeze apparatus hanging from the ceiling and our server shared with us that a performer will use the trapeze multiple times each evening over the weekend.  A live band will fill the restaurant with classic cabaret tunes and even dancers in their classic 1920’s attire will inspire guests to cut a rug!!!  There are several full service bars throughout the venue with 20’ inspired cocktails!

We are always excited to try a new dining location, and that is what drew us to enjoy The Edison on our spontaneous shopping day!  The menu is very succinct, yet intriguing.  I was thankful to have a dining partner who was agreeable to sharing, as I could not decide what to order.  Ultimately, we chose to enjoy the Organic Tomato soup and grilled cheese, as well as the Edison burger  with a side of fries.  The grilled cheese was indulgent and oozing with cheese, with a wonderfully crispy bread.  The burger was a mix of ground sirloin, short rib and brisket meat.  Flavorful and juicy, covered with a delicious cheddar cheese, with an onion ring, bacon and the standard lettuce and tomato.  We requested to have the “special sauce” on the side.  It appeared to be similar to Thousand island dressing.  Despite feeling ravenous when we were seated, we were unable to finish the entrée’s.

My daughter was connecting topics she had learned in school to various details throughout the venue.  Although, this is an in demand adult only location in the evenings, do not hesitate to enjoy this venue with your family into the early evening!  The food was delicious, and if you are an appetizer person, they offer candied bacon and dancing corn dogs. Unfortunately, we were wet blankets and were too full to entertain the idea of ordering dessert.

What are you most excited to experience at The Edison?

Missy Zolecki

Travel Specialist

 

 

Rotational dining is a unique dining experience on Disney Cruise Lines, which allows all guests the opportunity to enjoy dinner in each of the restaurants onboard. Guests receive their specific rotation when they check-in at the port. Each evening, all guests will rotate to an assigned restaurant along with their wait-staff and tablemates to a new restaurant. Depending on the length of the cruise, some/all restaurants will be experienced at least once on each cruise. However, if a guest is scheduled for more than one night in the same restaurant, the menu will change, so every night truly is a unique experience.

The restaurants onboard each ship:

Disney Magic

  • Animator’s Palate
  • Lumiere’s
  • Carioca’s

Disney Wonder

  • Animator’s Palate
  • Triton’s
  • Tiana’s Place

Disney Dream

  • Animator’s Palate
  • Royal Palace
  • Enchanted Garden

Disney Fantasy

  • Animator’s Palate
  • Royal Court
  • Enchanted Garden

If you decide you do not want to visit one of the restaurants on the rotation, you are welcome to enjoy dining at Cabana’s or one of the quick serve restaurants on the pool deck or simply enjoy a quiet evening in your stateroom by ordering room service. All are included in your cruise fare. Enjoy your cruise and bon appetite.

Janene Jaroscak

Travel Specialist

 

“This will be so much fun”, “Let’s see if my sisters, brother and parents want to go too.”  Planning a group trip can be so exciting and at the same time overwhelming!  Whether you are taking your larger than “average” immediate family, friends, or a multi-generational Disney trip I have some great tips that will help in experiencing Disney as a large group.  

Timing

When planning to go to Disney as a large group I try to go during a discounted or off peak travel time (if you have any flexibility in your travel dates).  Going during an off peak travel time can help save  money as well as help you go during a less busy time of the year.  Some off peak travel times to consider include:

-Mid January – mid February

-First 3 weeks in May

-Late August and September

-First 2 weeks in November and First 2 weeks in December

The downside of going during an off peak travel time is that this may be the time Disney uses to do refurbishment work on some attractions.  You can talk with your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist to inquire about any attraction closures during your travel dates.

Resorts

I prefer to stay on property.  I love that I am close to everything and if one of the little ones in our family needs to go back and take a mid-afternoon nap we can do that without any inconvenience.  Disney has many resorts that will accommodate families of all sizes.  If you have a child the age of 2 and under,  a pack and play can be requested, and they are not counted in the max number of individuals in the room.

If staying in multiple rooms, requests can be made for rooms near each other or rooms that are adjoined by a door.  Disney does their best to honor requests but they are not guaranteed.  

Another benefit to staying on Disney property is that when you fly into Orlando International Airport you can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express transportation to and from the airport.  For more information on all the benefits of Disney’s on-site transportation and how it would benefit your group click the link.

Dining

Disney has different dining plans for nearly every budget and taste.  A perk of the dining plan is that you will get a discount on the meals by pre-purchasing the dining plan versus paying for your meal the day of service.  I also like how adding the dining plan onto your package gives it an all-inclusive feel.  

When traveling as a large group it is important to make your dining reservations as close to the 180 day mark as possible!  You may need to be flexible with your seating preference as some restaurants may need to split your group between different tables.  

Make sure to show up early to your dining reservations.  Since you are dining as a large party you want to give yourself plenty of time to get get where you need to go.  

Also, keep in mind that when you are dining with a party of 6 or more gratuity is automatically added onto your bill.  

Memory Maker

If this is a large group trip to Disney I highly recommend getting the Memory Maker Photo package.  More often than not these are once in a lifetime trips and by adding the Memory Maker Photo Package you will have wonderful photos, with everyone in them, to remember your trip!  When going in a large group only one person needs to purchase the Memory Maker  but everyone in the group can get linked via the My Disney Experience app and use the Memory Maker.  

Be Flexible but Organized

When you are traveling with a large group unpredictable things can happen; kids need naps, some in your group won’t like certain rides, others may want to go back to a different park.  It is very important to talk before you go about your expectations.  Are you expecting that all of you will do everything together?  Are you okay with splitting up and meeting for meals or rides that you have a fastpass for?  If you are splitting up make sure you are very specific on where and when you are going to meet up.  Also, if splitting up make sure everyone has a cell phone and a cell phone portable charger  to help in the event you need to change plans.

Your Me and the Mouse travel specialist will be able to help in creating an itinerary that will best benefit your group.

Fastpasses

I touched on fastpasses above but make sure to pre-pick out your fastpasses.  Fastpasses can be picked out 60 days before you travel if you are staying on Disney property.  If you are staying off  Disney property they may be chosen 30 days before you go to Disney.  You are able to split up fastpasses so if some in your group would prefer to use their fastpass allocation on thrill rides and others would prefer a slower pace that can be done!  

My Disney Experience App  

Make sure those in your group that have a smart phone all download the My Disney Experience App.  This app will link all of your Disney vacation plans into one place.   This app will allow you to make and see your dining plans, fastpass choices, maps of the theme parks, wait times for rides, and more!  Your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist can help so that you all are linked, and will be able to see everyone’s plans!

So to review it is important to be flexible in your days but also very organized taking advantage of Disney’s fastpasses and My Disney Experience app.  Your travel specialist will be a wealth of information with putting all your pieces together for your group’s vacation needs!

Beth Rodgers

Travel Specialist

 

  

I must admit when I think of Disneyland I do not think first of fine dining experiences. But Steakhouse 55 has completely changed my mind about high end dining at the Happiest Place on Earth and I hope it changes your mind as well.

Located beside the famous Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel, Steakhouse 55 is a classic old-Hollywood style restaurant with high end service, style, and food. Named after the year that Disneyland opened, the restaurant has a cozy atmosphere filled with rich furnishings and black and white pictures of celebrities from years past enhanced by the dimmed lighting.

Arrive early to your reservation and grab a drink at the Lounge before your table is ready. Steakhouse 55 has many signature cocktails including The French 75 and The Aviation. If you prefer something without alcohol, the restaurant serves Press Pot coffee, supporting sustainable coffee growth, and full-leaf tea with white sugar swizzle sticks.

When you think back on your meal at Steakhouse 55, what you are going to remember is your dining experience and you may even be salivating when you do so! From appetizers, to the main entrée, to dessert, the food is beyond delectable. The highlight of my meal was the 8 oz Filet Mignon accompanied by the Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and the Green Beans with Applewood Smoked Bacon. Coming from Texas I have had great steaks at top restaurants but this might have been the very best steak I have ever had. The Cabernet Demi-Glaze amplified the cut of meat and the chef grilled the steak to perfection. The end of the meal included Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee with fresh raspberries and mint. It was as creamy and rich as what I had imagined and the perfect way to cap off an evening meal.

Children are not forgotten on the menu of Steakhouse 55. From salmon or chicken with pasta, to a hamburger or grilled cheese sandwich, there is something to please your younger family members. Children are welcomed warmly to the restaurant and treated as young gentlemen and ladies. I recommend this location as a wonderful way to introduce fine dining to the next generation.

I cannot thank the servers at my table enough. They were attentive to our needs, courteous, and offered the Disney magic in the classiest way imaginable.

The walk back to my hotel room at the Grand Californian Resort and Spa was just what was needed after a night of yummy. I can’t wait to head back to Disneyland and experience another delicious meal at Steakhouse 55.

If you are ready to enjoy a high end dining experience in a wonderful, classy environment be sure to tell your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist that you would like to include a reservation at Steakhouse 55 on your next Disneyland vacation. Reservations are accepted 60 days in advance and highly recommended.

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

 

 

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I find it fitting to talk about the charming little French bakery that adorns Disney Springs. After a long afternoon of shopping, or even for a fun little date, Amorette’s Patisserie provides the perfect setting to tantalize the taste buds.

While sandwiches aren’t the first thing you think about getting at a French bakery, you absolutely should at Amorette’s. They only have three to choose from, but they are some of the most delicious sandwiches! They have Smoked Turkey on Focaccia, Smoked Ham, also on Focaccia, and a Vegetable Croissant. The first two are both delicious, but it is the Vegetable Croissant that steals the show. I am not a vegetarian at all, but I just couldn’t resist after seeing it in person. It comes on a multi-grain croissant with herb cream cheese spread, zucchini, mushrooms, roasted onions and tomatoes, arugula, spinach and red quinoa. Even though it sounds “healthy,” it’s bursting with flavor. Additionally, all three are accompanied by a salad dressed with a fantastic vinaigrette. The sandwiches are truly the perfect opening act for the vast amount of pastries and cakes they offer.

Now, onto why you are reading this… let’s talk pastries and cakes! There are glass cases filled with different types of pastries. From the key lime tart to the New York cheesecake with lemon curd, blueberries, and Chantilly whipped cream, to the Mickey Mousse (no, that wasn’t’ a typo) which is chocolate chiffon cake with both dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse. Not only are these pastries delicious, but each one is intricately designed. They also offer macaroons, Crème Brûlée, chocolate covered strawberries, and even crepes, just to name a few. You can also enjoy these treats with a latte or some bubbly.

Now you remember when I said it would be a good place for a date? At this point you are probably scratching your head as to how a quick service restaurant would be an ideal date spot, or maybe you just assumed I was a cheap date (ask my husband, I am not…lol). But the reason that I said that is because Amorette’s offers a 90-minute cake decorating experience. In it, you will learn the process of cake decorating from design to completion and also learn how to pour glaçage and coat Mickey’s ears, tail, belt, and buttons with edible paint. Drinks, both alcoholic and non, are included and you get to take your cake home with you after the class. Classes are $149 for two people and reservations are required for the cake-decorating class so if it’s something you are interested in, make sure to talk to your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist to get it set up for you.

If you happen to be at Disney Springs, make sure you stop by the quaint little corner spot and I promise you won’t regret it!

Jen Morrison

Travel Specialist

If you are visiting Disney Springs during your trip to Walt Disney World, Bongos Cuban Cafe is an exciting family-friendly dining option located in the middle of all the action.

Owned by the world-renowned entertainer Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, this award-winning restaurant offers a fun, Old Havana style vibe plus authentic Cuban food, music, dancing, and atmosphere. You can choose to join in on the conga line or quietly take in the colorful surroundings from your table.  Just make sure you have some fun!

When you grab a table, start out with a Cuban chicken soup or one of the many different salad options provided. There is a lot of fun appetizers to pick from like the ham croquettes, savory empanadas, and unique stuffed plantain cups. After appetizers, dive into your main course ranging from beef and pork stylings to fantastic steaks. If you love chicken, you are in luck as it can be shredded, breaded, or roasted in pretty much any way you can think of. If you prefer surf over turf, there are a number of seafood selections to satisfy your taste buds.

If you are in a hurry for a quick bite to eat, Bongos also provides a quick service Bongos Express station attached to the outside of the restaurant. The menu here is a little bit different from the offerings of the inside restaurant. The express station does still offer the delicious empanadas and croquettes. Sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads with unique Cuban flair can be ordered here that are not found of the inside menu. In addition, soup and salad is also available if you are feeling less adventurous.

A favorite menu item that my family and I love is the hearty Cuban sandwiches. It is great if you are looking for something quick and easy. These sandwiches are classic Cubans pressed with their award-winning slow roasted pork, topped in addition with ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard on Cuban Bread served with a crispy load of French fries.  Since these sandwiches are so colossal, my daughter and I have found this to be a great meal to share.  My husband and son’s big appetites may be a bit less willing to share though.  For the smaller appetite, order a Cuban sandwich off the kids menu and enjoy half a hearty sandwich with fries for a great value.

If you are looking to take advantage of the Disney Dining Plan, this would be a great place to use it.  Even if you do not have the Dining Plan, the menu is reasonably affordable for all families.

Need more information or help making a reservation, call your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist.

Traci Perjack

Travel Specialist

 

With the continued hype of Jurassic Park movies, it’s no doubt that the T-Rex restaurant in Disney Springs is still as popular as ever!  This dinosaur themed restaurant is sure to excite the kids in your group and equally satisfy the taste buds of the adults.   

Open for lunch and dinner, T-Rex is a table service dining location with an extensive menu.  As simple as burgers and fries, to seafood and steaks, to salads and pastas, there is something for everyone!  The kids also have some of the most extensive menu options I’ve seen.

As you check in at the podium, you will not miss the 15 foot T-Rex proudly on display as you get ready for an exciting dinner.  To your left you will see the beginning of the themed rooms throughout the restaurant, a room and bar with giant octopus tentacles overhead and a fish tank as the back drop.  As you continue to walk though, other themed areas including a color-changing ice cavern and a fern forest with giant wasps will not go unnoticed.  To keep you completely immersed, every 20 minutes the entire restaurant comes alive as a meteor shower gets every prehistoric creature to react.

Such a variety of food will have you second guessing what to try this visit.  You may want to consider splitting with someone so you can try a couple of different tastes they have to offer.  From the Mega Mes-O-Bones ribs to the Prehistoric Pasta with Chicken, the portion size will not leave you feeling hungry.  There is also a variety of prehistoric drink options to enjoy as you dine, from a glass of wine to a Candy Apple Cotton-tini, there is a drink for satisfy all.  You do not want to skip dessert either!  My favorite (which is made to feed up to four guests), is the Chocolate Extinction.  With some fudge cake, ice cream, caramel and bits of Butterfinger crumbs, this dessert had me eating my husband’s portion as well….do not miss this!!

As you exit, stop at their Dino-Store to check out unique merchandise the kids will love. They are sure to find a great souvenir to bring home.  If they like Build-A-Bear, they will love the chance to Build-A-Dino as a way to remember this fun dining experience.  If you want to skip the shopping experience, at least check out the Paleo Zone, a hands-on experience where the kids will enjoy digging for hidden dinosaur fossils.  They can also pan for treasure in Discovery Creek or check out the interactive displays to learn about “the time before time”.

This location does take reservations starting at 180 days from your trip.  It can be quite the popular spot, so make sure you have your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist add this as one of your choices for dining during your stay.  I personally love to put it on our radar for an Animal Kingdom park day…it really ties in our day in the park and extends it to the evening hours!

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

 

 

Located on the first floor of Disney’s Paradise Pier at Disneyland in California is a hidden gem of a dining experience. The only place on property where you can meet Mickey Mouse while you eat, the Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends at the PCH Grill, is a treat for young and old.

The stars of the show are the characters themselves. Ready for a day at the beach, the characters have stopped by for breakfast before grabbing their surfboards and heading off for a day of fun. While they are there, the characters will stop by your table for pictures, autographs, and the occasional dance party. While Mickey is the official host, some of the characters that might visit your table include Minnie Mouse, Stitch, and Daisy. Pictures with Mickey’s official photographer occur near the entry under the PCH Surf Shack sign. If you wish to have these pictures included with your MaxPass pictures, be sure to have your breakfast scheduled after you have time to enter a park for the day to activate that day’s MaxPass. If you do not have time to activate your MaxPass, the photographer will be happy to use your own camera to take pictures.

The PCH Grill will not disappoint as delicious treats start your day in the most scrumptious manner. You know you are at Disneyland when you see the celebrated Mickey waffles and Minnie pancakes. The Bananas Foster French toast is decadent and the pastries are sublime. Build your own parfait, select one or more the flatbread selections, or enjoy a traditional breakfast of eggs and sausages.

The PCH Grill has a welcoming environment for all. The restaurant is open and airy with large windows showcasing the California sun overlooking Disneyland Drive. The buffet has a wide, curving aisle to move around with your children as they make their selections and the tables have fresh and lively colors to brighten your spirits.

The PCH Grill Surf’s Up! character meal is only available during breakfast hours. Standard dining vouchers, available as a package add on to your Disneyland reservation, are accepted. Dining reservations open up 60 days in advance and reservations are strongly recommended. Be sure to contact your Me and the Mouse Travel agent to book your breakfast and get ready to “hang ten” with Mickey and all his friends!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

 

Walt Disney World is a very magical and the happiest place on earth. Everyone is happy and eager to help. There is a hidden gem of a restaurant that things just aren’t what they appear. The restaurant is Whispering Canyon Café located in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.

Walking up to the podium, you’re surrounded by headdresses of past Native American chiefs and other relics from past times. The restaurant’s theme has the same motif. It’s an Old Western eatery that has bottomless platters and chuck wagon favorites will please the whole gang.

Breakfast starts with an all you care to enjoy family platter that’s loaded with breakfast meats, eggs, potatoes and buttermilk biscuits. Lunch and dinner also have some finger licking delicious food. For lunch, there’s a very expansive menu to order from and come dinner time, the family platter isn’t to be beat. It has an all you care to enjoy selection of foods such as chicken, sausage, ribs and amazing sides.

If you’re lucky enough to be at Disney over Thanksgiving or Christmas, be sure to check out the special menu at Whispering Canyon Café. Be sure to make your reservations early, as they will fill up quick! Even though the food is spectacular, the hidden secret are the cast members. While these cast members have the same happy and eager to help attitude, they also have a reputation for sassing customers. They like to play along with the customers and get into some shenanigans. There’s also plenty of fun for the kids! They’re encouraged to play with Lincoln Logs, coloring, spirited sing-alongs and even hobby horse races.

Along with the rustic atmosphere, the fantastic food, and the good natured fun of the cast members, this is a restaurant that you don’t want to miss on your next trip. One tip though, be careful when you ask for refills!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist