Dining with the Princesses: A review of Ariel’s Grotto

Dining with the Princesses: A review of Ariel’s Grotto

Dining with the Princess: A Review Of Ariels’ Grotto – Disneyland

Ariel's Grotto

Listen here parents: If you’ve got a little girl who loves princesses, this post is for you.  If you are planning on hunting down the princesses for photos and autographs in the parks, I’m here to tell you that Ariel’s Grotto is going to be of huge benefit for you.  Yes, even at Disney prices.  This place has some good bang for your buck!

I recently visited Ariel’s Grotto with just my sister.  Yes, that’s right, two grown women with no children in tow eating at a princess character meal.  But guess what – no one seemed to look at us strangely, so I’m going to guess we’re not the first adults to do a character meal sans children.

When you first arrive, you’ll check in at a podium and likely be given a pager.  When your pager buzzes, you’ll be asked to go down the stairs to the restaurant.  Here, you’ll encounter a small line waiting for a photo with Ariel.  She appears here in her blue dress.

Our Ariel was quite charming.  She wanted to know where we had swam from that day.  When we told her, she said she understood why we were on our legs now, as our fins must be tired from such a long swim!

Ariel’s Grotto Menu

After your photos, you’ll be seated at your table.  The menu is not huge but has sufficient options.  You’ll be choosing a soup or salad, a main course, and the dessert is brought for the whole table to share.

Ariel's Grotto Menu

Bread was brought to the table right away.  This may be some of the prettiest bread I’ve ever seen.

Ariel's Grotto Bread Flower

To start, my sister and I both opted for soup, since it was such a cold day.  My sister had the clam chowder, which she deemed delicious, and I had the butternut squash bisque.  Also delicious!  I make butternut squash soup for my family at home, but this one was decidedly better.  I enjoyed the spices that were used in this version – very holidayish.

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We both chose the Citrus Glazed Chicken Breast which comes on a bed of udon noodles in broth.  For blogability sake, we probably should have ordered different dishes, but hey, this is the one that sounded best to both of us that day.  It was quite good.  My chicken was a little overcooked, but otherwise had nice flavor.  My sister’s chicken was cooked just fine.  The broth was good and the noodles were perfect consistency.  Overall, we’d both recommend this dish to others.

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While dining, a trumpet herald is played and each princess is announced.  They are announced one at a time, with a space of about 5 minutes between each.  This allows them the make their rotations around the tables neatly and in a timely fashion.  Compared to other character meals I’ve done, this was far more organized.  Usually, a character meal has characters milling about the room already when you arrive…they make a point to try to get to each new table, but there never seems to be much order to it.  And if it’s time for one to go on a break, you may see them leave while you sit eating and you have to wait for them to come back on shift if you want to meet them.  Here, they appear to seat tables on a scheduled rotation, such that all tables seem to arrive within 20 minutes of each other, they have all the princesses come out within 5 minutes of each other, make their rotation, leave, and then the tables finish up and clear out.  Then they start the process over again.

The Disney Princesses We Met

We had four princesses at this lunch: Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, and Belle.  To see all of these princesses in the park would normally take a quite a long time waiting in lines, so this is a great way.  When you include Ariel, that’s five princesses while you eat lunch (something you have to take time for anyway)!

princess meeting collage decorated

The princesses came around to each table and in their usual way were lovely and charming and make nice conversation.  You can take multiple photos with each, and if you are doing autographs, you can ask them to sign your book, and then they move on to the next table.

Once you’ve finished your meal and seen all of the princesses, it’s time for dessert.  The waiter will bring you a platter of goodies with a chocolate dipping sauce, much like a mini fondue.  It was all quite good, but we were pretty full already so we ate the fruit and asked for a box for the rest.  The other mini desserts made for good snacks later in the day.

Ariel's Grotto Dessert

While you’ll pay more to eat here than many other lunch options, for those with a princess lover in the family, you certainly can’t beat the experience anywhere else in Disneyland.  Be sure to make reservations, though, as this restaurant does fill.  Reservations open 60 days in advance.  As always, I take care of dining reservations and so much more for all of my clients!

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Dining in Disneyland: Quick Service Beyond Burgers

Dining in Disneyland: Quick Service Beyond Burgers

Dining in Disneyland: Quick service beyond burgers

Could be just me, but when I head to Disneyland or Disney World, I’m hoping for something a bit healthier and more interesting than burgers and fries for every meal.  In Disney World, many people realize up front that Epcot offers some more unique dining options.  But what about Disneyland?  Because Disneyland caters more to locals, percentage wise, than tourists, it’s overall dining options are less.  But fear not – if you don’t feel like downing burgers and pizza for your whole vacation, you’ll have some great alternative options.  And you don’t have to do a sit down restaurant every time to achieve this either!  In fact, Disneyland has some very interesting quick service options, if you know where to look.

It just so happens that my favorites are in California Adventure, so we’ll start there.  I’ll post again another time about options on the Disneyland side.

Here are my favorites and some examples of the food I had on my last trip.

Pacific Wharf Café

First up, something fresh and tasty from the Pacific Wharf Café in California Adventure.  You can get all kinds of delicious bread bowls here (and the bowls are fresh baked all day long).  I chose the chicken salad, which was super fresh, cold and delicious on a really hot day.

 Pacific Wharf Cafe Disneyland


My husband had the classic clam chowder in a bread bowl.  Too hot for me in that weather, but he loved it!

Pacific Wharf Cafe Disneyland

If you like sourdough, this is the ideal lunch for you.  The bread was amazingly fresh with that perfect amount of chewiness in the crust.  The only downside of this quick service location is that all of the seating is outside.  While this isn’t always an issue, on a 95 degree day like this day was, it would have been nice to get into some air conditioning for a little while.

Flo’s V8 Cafe

Another great option is Flo’s V8 Cafe.  Not only is the theming adorable (come on, who doesn’t want to eat inside of the world of Cars?), but the food was quite good and a nice alternative to all the fried stuff out there.  I had the Citrus Turkey Breast meal:

Flo's V8 Cafe

You get to pick your sides, and I had coleslaw and baked beans – both were good.  My mom ordered the Porkloin with a Cola BBQ Sauce:

Flo's V8 Cafe

The amount of food for the money makes this a very good deal.  Plus, the theme inside is fantastic, and there is plenty of seating.  On a hot day when you’d like to have a good meal but enjoy it in cool air, this is an excellent choice.

Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta

And my third favorite option was a bit of a surprise.  We ended up at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, because the kids wanted pizza.  When I first walked in, I wasn’t impressed.  But then I saw they make the pasta dish right in front of you, to order, and a little hope returned.  Turns out the pasta was delicious!

Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta California Adventure

Look at that tasty dish!  I opted for pine nuts and tomatoes and cheese on top, but you can customize it the way you’d like.  Added bonus – this location was the least crowded of any of the dining options on our last trip.

I’ll be returning to Disneyland shortly, so stay tuned for some more dining updates in the near future.  And to keep up on the latest tips and info, subscribe to the monthly newsletter by clicking below!

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It’s Only a Hotel…

It’s Only a Hotel…

It’s Only a Hotel…

Disneyland Hotel Pool


This is what I hear people say sometimes.  It’s only a hotel.


“We don’t need anything fancy, it’s just a place to sleep at night.  It’s only a hotel.”


“We’re there to be in the parks, we don’t really care where we sleep.  It’s only a hotel.”


You probably shouldn’t tell my kids that.  They’d look at you like you have three heads.  They love hotels.  Absolutely adore them.  They always ask about what hotel we’ll be staying in.  See, to them, a hotel is not “only” a hotel; it’s a super cool place to stay.  It might have cool elevators and it might have a balcony to see things from.  It might be really tall or it might have all these little separate buildings with winding paths.  It will certainly, if it’s for our family, have a super cool pool, if they have any say in it.

My kids love to arrive at a hotel, to guess where in the hotel we’ll be staying.  They love to put the key in the door, open it and see which bed will be theirs.  They check out the bathroom, they check out the TV.  They, of course, immediately want to see the pool.

A hotel is only “just a hotel,” if you plan it that way.  But if you want the hotel to be part of your adventure, it can be.  It absolutely can a big part of what makes your family’s vacation magical.

What got me thinking about this is that the other day, I asked my children whether they liked Disneyland or Disney World better.  You may have seen me post their replies on my facebook page.  My 4 year old daughter immediately replied that her favorite is Disneyland because of the super cool monorail slides and doors that open and close by themselves.  If you are racking your brain trying to figure out what ride that is in the park, don’t bother – she’s talking about the Disneyland Hotel.

This hotel was pretty fabulous.  The rooms were modern and done up in dark woods and blues.  There were hidden Mickey’s everywhere, much to my children’s delight.  There is even a magical headboard: when you press a button, it lights up with twinkling stars over a castle and plays “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”  At night, we could see the fireworks from our window.  And the pool is absolutely fabulous, with a monorail themed waterslide section with three different levels of slides.  Oh, and it has automatic doors in the lobby, something that apparently thrilled my four year old.

This does not disappoint me in anyway way.  I didn’t sit there and think, “Really??!?  I took you all the way to Disneyland and what you liked best is the hotel?”  I actually think it’s pretty great – not only did my kids have an amazing time in the parks, but the magic just kept on going… in the afternoon for swimming, in the evenings with twinkling headboards at bed time, and in the mornings as we saw characters greeting children in the lobby.

The next time you are thinking of going on vacation, maybe take a second and think about the hotel.  You can make it “only a hotel” – or you can make it one of the main magical components of the memories your family makes together.



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10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip to Disney World

10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip to Disney World

10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip To Disney World

Snow White at Disney World

1.      Disney World is big.  Really big.  There are 4 main parks, 2 water parks, 32 resorts, over 100 restaurants, and over 130 attractions.  It has its own transportation system.  There are a lot of aspects to consider in your planning.

2.       The sit-down restaurants are very popular and some book up the morning that reservations first become available for your dates.  In fact, reservations open 180 days in advance.  Do be sure to reserve all of your dining early in your planning.

3.       There’s a lot more here than the rides.  Fine dining, fireworks cruises, princess makeovers, parades, firework spectaculars, shows, tea parties, character meetings…the list goes on and on. Your trip can be extra magical by planning for more than just rides.

4.       You don’t have to wait in long lines.  You just have to know how to avoid them. (More on that in a bit).

5.       Your vacation package can be changed up until 45 days before you travel, meaning that if Disney releases a new discount, it’s possible that you can get it applied to your existing reservation.

6.       It’s a LOT of walking…even preschool aged children may benefit from a stroller…heck, even kindergarten aged kids!  Disney’s strollers are NOT always the best option, though… there are some better places to rent through.

7.       There are three levels of dining plan: Quick Service, Standard and Deluxe.  Be sure that the one you are booking is the right kind for you – price may not be the only factor in that. 

8.       You may need more days than you think!  You could stay at Disney World for a month and still likely not do every single thing that is offered.  5 park days is the absolute minimum I recommend.  If you want a little relaxation thrown in, some non park days thrown in the mix can be really nice.

9.       There are many seasons at Disney World, pricing wise and crowd wise.  School breaks are always the most crowded and most expensive.  If you can manage to go sometime other than these breaks, you’ll find it a little easier on your wallet.

10.   It takes many, many hours of research to plan a really smooth, enjoyable Disney World experience.  Or, you can have a Disney expert take care of all of it for you!

Remember how I mentioned not having to wait in long lines?  Just one of the things I do for my clients is creating entirely customized park touring plans to help them avoid the long lines.  And all the rest on this list?  I take care of that, too.  It’s common to think that it’s “just Disney World” when you first come up with the idea to visit.  But if the sheer volume of information starts to get overwhelming and too time consuming, the entire experience can be easier and more magical by having a professional take care of you and your family.  Feel free to contact me for more information!

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    Disney World Transportation: How Do I Get Around?

    Disney World Transportation: How Do I Get Around?

    Disney World Transportation: How Do I Get Around?

    Disney World monorail

    photo by Tanya Saul

    If you are staying on property at the Walt Disney World resort, there are many transportation options available to you.  Let’s take a look at how you can get from here, to there, anywhere inside this giant resort!


    Disney World By Bus

    This is the most popular form of transportation in the parks.  A bus system circles the entire complex, with dedicated buses for each resort that go to each park and Downtown Disney.  In front of your resort there is a bus stop.  Simply wait at the bus stop for the bus that shows your destination on it’s reader board on the front.  Hop on board and away you go!  When you want to return, head outside the park to the bus terminal, and look at the sign for which waiting area is for your resort.  Go to that waiting area and wait for a bus marked with your resort to pick you up.  The buses run on a regular schedule and tend to come approximately every 20 minutes.


    Disney World By Monorail

    There are 2 parks and 3 resorts on the Monorail line.  The resorts in clued the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian.  If you happen to be staying in one of these fine resorts, you’ll be able to take the monorail to either Magic Kingdom or Epcot (via a transfer at the Ticket and Transportation Center).  If you are not staying in these resorts, but plan to visit one of them for a special meal or just for fun, you’ll be able to enjoy the monorail coming from Magic Kingdom.

    The monorail also has a line from the Ticket and Transportation Center.  If you are staying off the property or are parking a car in the parking lot here, you’ll be able to ride the monorail from this stop into the Magic Kingdom.


    Disney World By Boat

    There are several boat options throughout Walt Disney World.  From the Ticket and Transportation Center, you can take a Ferry across the lake and to the Magic Kingdom.  If you are staying at the 3 resorts on the monorail loop, or you are staying at the nearby Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, you can also take a “Friendship Boat” (much smaller than the ferry) to the Magic Kingdom and back.

    At the Boardwalk area resorts, including Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club, you can take a Friendship Boat to Epcot or to Hollywood Studios.

    If you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Old Key West or Saratoga Springs, you can also take a boat to Downtown Disney.


    By Rental Car

    If you’d rather drive yourself from place to place, you can rent a car.  If you are staying on property, parking is free at both the resorts and the parks.


    By Taxi

    Sometimes it’s easier to get somewhere fast via Taxi.  For example, traveling from resort to resort does not normally have a direct bus route.  If you are staying at the Beach Club but want to have breakfast at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary resort, you would have to take a bus to a theme park, followed by a bus to the Contemporary.  This can take a while, and may be impossible early in the morning before the buses are up and running.  In this case, taking a Taxi would take just minutes and be your best option.

    MEARS is the official taxi provider for Disney World and can be contacted at   407-699-9999.


    As you can see, there are plenty of transportation options once you are inside of Walt Disney World.  Many people opt out of a rental car, saving money, because it’s so easy to get around for free!


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    Is a Park Hopper Ticket at Disneyland Worth It?

    Is a Park Hopper Ticket at Disneyland Worth It?

    Is a Park Hopper Ticket at Disneyland Worth It?

    California Adventure Gates by Loren Javier

    photo credit: Loren Javier via Flickr

    Short answer: yup.  And here’s why:  The merit of a Park Hopper ticket at Disney World may take a little more consideration (which I’ll lay out for you here in an upcoming post), but Disneyland is much easier to think about.  This is primarily because the Disneyland Resort is much smaller than Walt Disney World.

    Why the Park Hopper Ticket Is Worth It

    In Disneyland, you have two parks that are literally next door to each other.  When you go to enter the parks, you are in a middle walkway area with gates to Disneyland Park on one side and California Adventure on the other side.  So in this case, you could literally hop and skip (or, you know, just walk) between the two parks.  For Disney World veterans, this is kind of amazing since getting between parks in Disney World take a little more navigation and time.

    Having Park Hopper tickets for Disneyland gives you a lot of flexibility.  Want to hit up Fantasyland and Adventureland in Disneyland Park in the Am, followed by a character meal at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure for lunch?  Sure!  Really like the night time portion at California Adventure?  You can spend most of your days in Disneyland, but hit up California Adventure each evening.

    And did you know that the Fast Pass systems are not connected between the parks?  This means that with a Park Hopper ticket, you could go in to California Adventure at opening, grab a Fast Pass for Radiator Springs Racers, head over to Disneyland, get a Fast Pass for Space Mountain, rides a few rides, use your Fast Pass at Space Mountain, then head back over to California Adventure to use your Radiator Springs Racers Fast Pass.  It’s actually close enough to make that do able.  Just remember to get back to the right park in time for your Fast Pass window!

    Do you absolutely need Park Hopper tickets?  No, you can certainly stick to one park a day if that’s more your style.  If you’ve only got two day tickets, for example, you may prefer to spend just one full day in each park, especially if it’s your first visit.  But if you’ve got more days, or if you have traveled to Disneyland before and have a decent idea of the rides you like most in each park, it can definitely be a valuable add on.



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    Disney World: Top 3 Deluxe Resorts for Kids

    Disney World: Top 3 Deluxe Resorts for Kids

    Disney World: Top 3 Deluxe Resorts for Kids


    The Deluxe resorts at Disney World are fabulous, but which are the best?  Let’s take a look at 3 of the best choices for Delxue resorts when traveling with children.


    Polynesian Resort

    Photo Credit: Express Monorail via Compfight cc

    1.     1.   Disney’s Polynesian Resort 

          This resort sits along the monorail route, making it incredibly convenient for getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  It’s also walking distance to the Ticket and Transportation Center, allowing for a ride on the Express Monorail as well as via the ferry to the Magic Kingdom.  Situated directly across the lake from the Magic Kingdom, you can clearly see Cinderella’s Castle and the fireworks display above it at night.  Coupled with the lush, tropical feel and a zero depth entry pool with a volcano and waterslide, and this is one resort that’s hard to beat.

    2. Disney’s Beach Club

    One of the Boardwalk area resorts, this option’s number one draw is the amazing pool.  Named Stormalong Bay, this pool is a giant water complex comprised of a real sand bottom and sand play areas, a lazy river, and a large waterslide.  If you’ve got kids who love to swim, this resort absolutely cannot be beat.  Like the Polynesian, it has portions of the pool with a zero depth entry.  With its location on the Boardwalk, you also have access to several great dining options, both table service and quick service.  And, from this resort, you can walk to Epcot as well as take a boat to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.




    Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Photo Credit: Brett Kiger via Compfight cc

     3. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Got an animal lover in the family?  Then this resort is calling your name!  Situated next to Animal Kingdom, this resort has views that span a savannah full of interesting animals.  Imagine sitting on your deck, enjoying the view of giraffes below.  Enjoy your morning cup of coffee while zebras and wildebeest roam in front of you.  The interior is exotically decorated and the restaurants on property a far from the usual fare.  And the pool here is also lovely, again with a zero depth entry for the younger children.


    Of course, every family is unique, and there are many other fabulous Disney resorts to stay in as well.  Narrowing it down can seem intimidating, but these three resorts are a great place to start.  If you’d like help finding the perfect resort for YOUR family, I’m  just a phone call or email away.



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    How does Fast Pass work at Disney World and Disneyland?

    How does Fast Pass work at Disney World and Disneyland?

    How does Fast Pass work at Disney World and Disneyland?

    fast pass

    The Fast Pass Process

    A fast pass is essentially holding your place in line.  It’s a ticket you receive at a ride that tells you what time to return to the ride and enter through the Fast Pass queue.  The process works like this:

    1. At a Fast Pass enabled attraction, look for the Fast Pass machines near the ride.
    2. Insert your ticket into the machine, and the machine will print a Fast Pass for you.
    3. You must insert a ticket for each member of your party who wants a Fast Pass.
    4. The Fast Pass will show a window of time in which to return.  This is an hour long window.
    5. You must return to the ride during that time – late arrivals are not accepted.
    6. When you return, you will enter the ride via the Fast Pass line, where a Cast Member will collect your tickets and make sure you are within your window.
    7. This Fast Pass line is usually extremely short.

    Using a Fast Pass saves you substantial time over waiting in the Stand By line.  When you arrive at a ride with a 90 minute wait, it’s a much better idea to grab a Fast Pass that allows you to return in a few hours and bypass the Stand By line.

    Fast Passes Are Not Never-Ending

    They do, in fact, run out, and the more popular the ride is, the faster this will happen.  In addition, the longer you wait in the day to get them, the farther out the return time window may be.  So while getting a Fast Pass for Toy Story Midway Mania in Disney World at 9am may give you a return time of 9:40am-10:40am, just 40 minutes away,  waiting to get a Fast Pass until 11am may mean a return time of 7pm – 8pm.

    How Often Can You Use A Fast Pass

    Once you obtain a Fast Pass for a ride, you cannot get another one until either the return window time or until 2 hours have passed, whichever comes first.   So, if you have a Fast Pass for Splash Mountain, you can’t immediately run over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to get another one.

    Strategic use of Fast Passes is wise!  Take a look at your overall goals for your park day and see where you can plan use of Fast Passes to make your day easier.

    Creating custom park touring guides for my clients is what I do, and I include strategic use of Fast Passes in my plans.  If you’d like to know more about how you can use my services to make all of the planning a piece of cake, please email me at [email protected]



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    Luxury Disney: A Princess Tea Party Dream Come True

    Luxury Disney: A Princess Tea Party Dream Come True

    Luxury Disney: A Princess Tea Party Dream Come True

    Tea Set

    photo by Jeri Gloege via Flickr

    When it’s nothing but the best for your little girl while on your Disney World vacation, then the Perfectly Princess Tea Party at the Grand Floridian Resort is a must.  Held in the Garden View Tea Room, this posh event invites girls ages 4 – 12 to dress up as their favorite princess and enjoy tea time treats like mini sandwiches, fruit and princess cake.  The tea party is hosted by Rose Petal, a helper of the famous Princess Aurora.  Princess Aurora may make a special appearance here as well!

    Special Gifts

    Her royal tea party awaits at 10:30am, and each princess will receive special gifts including:

    • A special 18-inch My Disney Girl doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown plus accessories
    • A ribbon tiara
    • Silver Princess link bracelet
    • Fresh rose
    • Special princess scrapbook page
    • “Best Friend” certificate for their new My Disney Girl doll

    Adult Disney Princess Tea Menu

    Your adult tea menu includes grapes, egg salad sandwich, chicken-almond salad sandwich, salmon salad sandwich, shrimp tart, blue cheese barquette, smoked cheddar cheese, sage derby cheese and lavosh.  Children are served peanut butter and jelly hearts and grapes.  Both of you will also be served Princess Cake and tea for two.

    An adult must attend with the child.  Reservations must be made and can be made up to 180 days in advance.  The event price for one adult and child is $250.

    Imagine the delight your daughter will have dressing as a princess, enjoying the most magical tea party she has ever had, surrounded by the Victorian beauty of the Grand Floridian and with all sorts of Disney princess magical touches!  It’s an experience she won’t soon forget, and I’m willing to bet that watching her joyfully sipping tea from her fancy little cup will be something you’ll cherish forever as well.

    I’d be delighted to arrange this on your behalf as part of your custom Disney itinerary and as part of my concierge services.  For more information, please email [email protected]

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