Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: Disney World - Tony's Town Square

We had dinner with a group of 3 (including one 3 year old).  The food was pretty average to below average.  We had a calamari appetizer and it was chewy and ended up being left mostly untouched by our family. 

Our waitress was very kind and we discussed if the kids Ariel cup was considered a specialty beverage and she said there was discussion last week that it was but if its not she would not charge us.  She confirmed it was not considered a specialty beverage but did not charge us so my daughter was a happy camper.  She also suggested we get our daughter an adult appetizer because my husband and I both wanted a salad bur wanted to try the calamari.  She even reminded us that we could order my daughter an adult meal (since we were on the deluxe dining plan) but she was happy with the kids pizza.

We have been to Tony's a couple time before and really enjoyed our meals. However, this meal was not worth the price at all and I would have been even more disappointed if I had paid out of pocket because the check was one of the most expensive of our trip.  So, I have to agree with the reviews of hit or miss with this place. 
Not a specialty drink

Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Disney World - Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

There is a check in station near the main walking path toward the lake side.  Its easy to walk past it if you only are looking for the restaurant sign and then you have to head back toward the lake and look for the check in station again.

We had dinner with a group of 6 (including one 3 year old).  The food was good standard breakfast food.  My family is not adventuress enough to try the lunch or dinner options so we stick to breakfast here.  Its a good mix of buffet and family style where you can go immediately to the buffet and they bring your table the warm options of eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage.

Our waitress was good just as you would expect.

The characters were good and spent plenty of time with us. They have a princess parade which my toddler enjoyed but it was a little odd because she was big enough to want to participate but not big enough to go on her own.

Overall this is a good use of a Disney dining credit and a good option if you cant get an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) at Cinderella's castle. 

3 Adults and 1 Child

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Review: Tucker Boulder Park

Tucker Boulder Park, Appalachian Highway, Davis, WV, 26260
GPS: 39.132675, -79.473774
Website

Visit Day and Time: April 6, 2018
Temperature at visit: 50-65 degrees (mild but warm enough to enjoy it)
Crowd level: None

Pros

  • Very unique park 
  • New park
  • Nice seating
  • Multiple levels of climbing from little kids to adults 

Cons

  • If you have a hard time letting your kids climb and fall it might be a stressful park for you
  • If your child climbs up and panics might be hard to get them back down

Trash Info

  • No trash around
  • Trash Cans available 

Shade Info

  • There are a few trees around so probably some shade for the benches but the climbing rock are out in the full sun.

Adult Seating

  • Several nice metal benches available 
  • Bleachers are near by at the baseball feild

Swings

  • None

Slides

  • None

Access

  • Handicap Parking very close 
  • Pathways are only gravel and might be harder to navigate

Misc

  • There is a donation box onsite to collect funds for Rock #3 so be sure to take some cash with you if you get to enjoy this park or better yet donate online via their website.

Broken equipment

  • None

Rock #1 basic climber
Rock #2 Complex Climber
Climbing Park 2 Rocks with room for one more
Benches and Trash
Parking is pretty close

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: Grand Vue Park Playground

GPS: 39.940031, -80.729304
Website

Visit Day and Time: Thursday 5/10/2018
Temperature at visit: Hot
Crowd level: Low

Pros
  • New play structure 
  • Lots of variety in the activities 
  • Music based play spaces
    They had these drums and an electric piano activity.
Cons
  • All of the the play structures are out in the sun, so my toddler complained the slides were hot.
  • The road getting to the park is narrow in some spots and is generally very out of the way.
Trash Info
  • There were several cans along 
Shade Info
  • There is a covered picnic structure but otherwise not much shade for the play structures. 
Adult Seating
  • There are several benches around the play area.
  • There is a covered picnic area with multiple tables at the front of the park.
Sheltered area with picnic tables
Swings
  • There are several swings including a couple accessible swings.
Unique swing
Slides
  • There were six open air slides.
     Slides in the younger children section
     Slides in the younger children section


     Slides in the younger children section
Access

  • Accessible swings available.
  • There is a sidewalk all the way around the play structure.
Misc
  • Restrooms were onsite at the entry to the play structure.
  • There is also a pool very close to the play ground.  Check it out here.

Broken equipment
  • None
Climbing structure in the older children's area
Climbing structure in they younger children's area
Lots of parking

As you enter from the parking lot there is a building with restrooms to the left

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Review: Idlewild

GPS: 40.262589, -79.276311
Address: Idlewild & SoakZone, 2574 U.S. 30, Ligonier, PA 15658
Facebook
Website

Meet and Greet with Daniel Tiger
Pros
  • Little kids can join parents on most rides
  • Lots of spaces for preschool age kids
  • Plenty of active play areas
  • Seem to be play spaces with limited entrance and exits to make it easier to keep track of your kids
  • Variety of food onsite
  • Refillable drink cup options
  • Crowds seem manageable (when we have been there especially on the extra bring a buddy days)
Cons
  • Park is pretty old and some areas really show their age
  • Sometimes their staff is limited causing rides or booths to be closed (especially when the local schools go back in late august)  
  • Food onsite is pretty pricey (combat this by bringing your own or getting the season meal pass)
Cleanliness
  • Its pretty clean but older so some areas seem dingy even though there is not trash littered around
Adult Info
  • The younger your kids are the more they will enjoy themselves
  • If your older kids like water parks they will probably be happy as well 
Access
  • There are gravel paths and some steeper inclines in areas so be area when we have our stroller they suggest going in via the parking area immediately to the left after the gates.
  • Some of the restrooms are smaller (due to their age) and you might need to be aware of that.
  • Wave pool is a zero entry pool as far as I could tell from passing by it.
  • They do have wheelchair rentals available. 
Restrooms
  • There are plenty of restrooms around but some are older so they are little and kind of dingy (but they free of trash)
Misc
  • We enjoy this park with our toddler.  I like using the bring a buddy days to drag along friends and relatives that are not sure the park is worth it.  
  • We had passes several years ago with our older daughter one year.
  • We have had passes for 2017 and 2018 with our toddler.  
  • I purchased one of the 2018 All Season Dining Pass on Black Friday for $69.99 I will try and report back on the value of this as the season goes on.  Comment below if you have any questions.
  • There is a Chick-Fil-A about 30 minutes before you get to the park (coming from the west) and we would get sandwiches and put them in a cooler and have after we spend a couple hours in the park.  
  • We tend to get to park at opening and stay until 3-5pm so we can make it a day trip (we drive about an hour and 40 minutes to get there)
Pricing
  • At the gate price is $44.99 - DON'T pay that you can get it as low as $29.99 for just ordering online before you go or a 4 pack starting at $114
  • Season passes start for just $59.99 (This is a great option if you are planning on going a couple times during the summer)
  • If you plan to go during the week you can get the platinum or gold pass and use the buddy passes for someone in your family.  (Example family of 4 could get 2 gold passes for $74.99 each and take 2 trips (Monday - Friday) and end up paying $18.75 each for the two trips.  If you can squeeze a trip on the extra bring a buddy days you can keep bringing that price down.
  • You can always pay the price difference to the next level of pass and get more buddy passes.  NOTE:  I bought a pass on Black Friday and upgraded it and they only charged me the current difference from the price of my current pass to the one I upgraded.  So don't worry if you get a great Black Friday deal you don't lose any of that discount.
  • Towards the end of the season they will offer discounts to purchase a season pass for the following year and you get the rest of the current year.  I actually renewed my summer only pass at the end of august to the gold level season pass for next year and got buddy passes for the current year and next year.
  • In 2017 my summer only pass was also given access to the fall leaf weekend for no additional charge (September weekend but not the Hallowboo weekends.) So make sure you follow them on Facebook and check to see if any additional bonuses have been added to your passes.
  • Tickets and Passes

Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: Disney World - The Garden Grill Review

First off this was the best character meal we had during our last visit.

We had dinner with a group of 6 (including one 3 year old).  The food was great, basically all of it.  More specifically the meats were great even the french fries were amazing.  The broccoli was great too.  The mac and cheese was extremely cheesy.  Honestly all the food was good standard home cooked food.

Our waiter was amazing had been working at Disney for something like 26 years.  My family is a bunch of jokers so we had some great moments of banter.  He was funny and very attentive we never had to worry about our drinks going empty.  Additionally he confirmed that Garden Grill is one of the few places on property that brews their own sweet tea.  That's huge plus for my husband as he drinks a ton of tea and was bummed by the gold peak tea everywhere else.  So as a part of our waiter's joking my husband ended up with multiple glasses of tea at a time which was great because he drank the majority of them or filled up our portable travel bottle when we left.

The characters were great and spent plenty of time with us and even a couple even made it around more than just once.  Which was great because we were not waiting on that last character when we really wanted to be on our way.

This was the first time we ate here but definitely will not be the last.  We already plan to stop there on our next trip.

3 Adults and 1 Child

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Value of Deluxe Dining Plan 2018

We are back from our January 2018 Disney trip.  We added the Deluxe Dining Plan to our trip because the math worked for us.  You can see the pre trip numbers here.

Our meal schedule was heavy in the character meals as it was our 3 year old's first trip.  My mother-in-law joined us in the parks for 3 of our days, that is really where our value was added by having deluxe dining.  She used 6 of our credits, without her there those credits would have had much less value.  Generally speaking we would have used those credits but probably more as a shareable lunch at a quick service instead of a full table service meal. So those 6 credits would have gone from a $35-49 value down to $20-25.  We would have still saved some money, so its still good to do the math.

Big things to remember when thinking about the difference of the deluxe dining plan and the quick or standard plan is that deluxe included an appetizer and desert for table service meals.  Our 3 year old also was not required to eat off the kids menu (I think that is not the case for standard dining plan table service).  Only 3 of our meals were not buffets the first one I did not realize that she could order a standard meal/appetizer, the second we ordered her an adult appetizer (after the waitress suggested it) but a kids meal and the third (Be Our Guest) I did not order her a meal she shared with us.  It's my understanding that for quick service the meals are all grouped together and kids are not required to order kids meals so that makes for much better value.  I would recommend knowing where the best shareable quick service locations are to maximize your value.  We used one of our credits at Flame Tree BBQ and shared it between 4 people (toddler included) because we got the chicken, ribs, and pulled pork combo.

I will admit that I did not maximize our snack credits  because I had just intended to use them instead of spending any money on snacks.  Looking back I wish I would have gotten water to take into the parks as I bought several bottles of smart water, at $4.5 a bottle its a good value but if I would bought it before hand at $1.50 a bottle it would have freed up several snack credits.  Even if I only had a bottle a day to start our day with it would have given us 5 extra snack credits.  I only purchased one cupcake out of pocket when we were leaving the hotel so our credits really covered our needs just not anything extra to take home.  I also wish I would have had a better plan to have a grab and go breakfast in our room for my husband.  A bag of bagels would have saved us a lot of stress.  I had planned several late breakfasts so that we could ride stuff first then head to breakfast on those days we really needed something to take with us for he and my daughter to eat at the bus stop or walking through the park.

As I look back the best advice I can give you is check the numbers based on what you would order at each location you want to visit.  If you plan to have two rooms really check the value of one room with deluxe dining and one room with a different plan until you find a combo that will benefit you.  Be creative if you planned on having two rooms one with 2 adults and one with 2 adults and 1 child it might make more sense to have 3 adults and 1 child on the deluxe plan and the other adult on no plan.  You have to be careful because this affects your room entry but if your all going to be together or if  your rooms are adjoining keep the door open and it wont matter.  When doing the math it always makes more sense for kids to be on the deluxe plan rather than an adult.  My sister and I have discussed this option and really think the next time we visit it will be the way to save money.  What you need to do when you plan ahead is to be sure that the standard dining plan is used for buffet meals and the deluxe is used where at non buffet table service options.  You also need to be sure that you plan if you all wont be dining together that someone has meals on their account to use.  I would also have a written plan of what room will pay for which meals so that you don't have to think about it once your there.

Day 1:
Hollywood and Vine (Fantasmic Package) - 3 credits
Sci-Fi Drive In - 3 credits

Day 2:
Crystal Palace - 3 credits
Tony's Town Square - 3 credits

Day 3:
Akershus - 4 credits
Garden Grill - 4 credits

Day 4:
Be Our Guest - 3 credits
Cinderella's Royal Table - 8 credits

Day 5:
Tucker House - 4 credits
Flame Tree BBQ - 1 credit

Out of pocket$1,339.86
Deluxe Dining$1,090.00
Refillable Mugs (3)$53.97
Snacks ($4.50 each)$96.00


Total Value$399.83

3 Adults and 1 Child