I’m back to reality after a long (almost two week) vacation to the happiest place on Earth! Our Disney World 2020 vacation just ended and have I got lots of stuff to talk about!!!
About every three years since my kids were very little, my mom and dad have been taking our whole family (my family and my sisters and their families) on an all-expense-paid trip to Disney World. It started when my kids were just 7 and 4 and they are now 23 and 20. Now my sister’s boys are 7 and 5 and it’s so much fun to watch them enjoy all the characters and kids’ stuff!
We all live in different parts of the US so we rarely get a chance to be together at one time. Disney is our home away from home and a way for us all to see each other in a happy environment and have a great time! I’m so grateful to my parents for giving us these wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
I’ll do individual reviews of each of the places we ate and the gluten free options offered to me (some great, some only so-so) throughout the next several weeks, but for now I want to just give an overview of our whole trip and what we did and how much fun we had!
Where We Stayed This Disney 2020 Trip
Every single time we’ve gone to Disney we’ve stayed at the Polynesian. It’s gone through a recent name change so I think it’s official name is now the Polynesian Village Resort. It’s our absolute favorite place ever! Sadly, we weren’t able to get rooms there this time so we ended up at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
Let me first say that the Grand Floridian is gorgeous and beautiful and magnificent!! And I’m grateful for staying so close to the Magic Kingdom and on the monorail loop. And I love the restaurants at the GF and always have.
But I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the Poly. The vibe at the Poly is so much more laid back. Tropical island meets Disney. It’s my favorite place on Earth to be!! When walking through the Poly at night, you’ll see tiki torches lit and hear music of the islands, music my sisters and I would listen to when we were younger thanks to my mom’s Annette Funicello Pineapple Princess album! Fun fact–Annette Funicello was an original Mouseketeer!!
I will say, however, that if they could flipflop the quick service locations between the Poly and the Grand Floridian, it’d be perfect! I LOVE Gasparilla Island Grill at the Grand so much more than Captain Cook’s at the Poly. There are plenty of gluten free selections at Gasparilla’s and they all ROCK!! (More on that later).
Doing Away With the Dining Plan
As you might imagine, being at Disney for 13 days meant TONS of wonderful meals!! My parents used to get the Deluxe Dining Plan, but we found it was too much food for our needs.
The Deluxe Dining Plan offered 3 counter service or table service meals every day, along with two snacks per person per day. While that may be normal for most to eat 3 meals a day, at Disney that’s a whole lotta food!! It includes an appetizer, entree, AND dessert for each person. It also means constantly running around just for meals and not having enough time for rides and other Disney fun.
We found the best way to deal with all of those meals on a dining plan level was just to skip lunch. Often we’d have enough 2-credit (signature dining) table service meals to use up enough of the credits from lunch. To get my parent’s money’s worth, we’d all feel the need to eat an appetizer, entree, and dessert at EVERY meal! Even if we weren’t hungry!!
We finally got smart this time around and did away with the dining plan altogether. It meant freedom to eat whatever we wanted and not be “forced” into getting appetizers or desserts we really weren’t that interested in.
To make it fair, each person was allowed to pick one restaurant of their choice for dinner. Breakfast was always something close to the resort or on the monorail loop.
We also chose to do other activities that included dinner, which I’ll talk about later.
Like I said above, I’ll do individual posts of each of the restaurants, but for now I’ll list the ones we went to:
- T-Rex at Disney Springs
- The Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom
- Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness’ Pioneer Hall
- ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Village Resort
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios
- Gasparilla Island Grill at The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- The Wave…of American Flavors at the Contemporary Resort
- Boma Flavors of Africa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Grand Floridian Cafe at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Woody’s Lunch Box at Hollywood Studios
- Pinocchio Village Haus at Magic Kingdom
- Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (see my old review of Sanaa here)
- 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Storybook Dining with Snow White at Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge
- Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort
- Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Village Resort
- The Plaza Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom
- Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen at the Magic Kingdom
- Tokyo Dining at the Japan pavilion in Epcot
- Le Cellier at the Canada pavilion in Epcot
- California Grill at the Contemporary
Phew!!! I told ya the list was long of places we went! It was also very diverse, so keep an eye out for my reviews. Maybe you’ll find a new place you want to try out for yourself 😋
There were a few things we did this time around that really made our vacation that didn’t include a meal. These included:
- Pirates & Pals Fireworks Dessert Voyage
- Getting a boarding pass for and riding Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios
- Riding Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway on opening day at Hollywood Studios
Pirates & Pals Fireworks Dessert Voyage
One of our most favorite things to do at Disney is the Pirates & Pals Voyage at the Contemporary. If you’ve never heard of this before, check out the link above.
It starts at the Contemporary, where each family member is given a pirate bandana and gathers in a room filled with lots of snacks and sweets. They have a laminated list of the foods we gluten free people can eat (check with Disney as this changes constantly, but for the most part they’re pre-packaged snacks). Every time we’ve gone, I’ve been too full from dinner to care about these snacks and sweets.
Captain Hook, the scallywag himself, was there in the room, along with Mr. Smee, for Photopass pics with anyone who was interested. I think even at one point Hook had a sword fight with one of my nephews!
The real fun, though, begins when we depart with our pirate captain on the boat to Seven Seas Lagoon to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. While we’re cruising around finding the perfect spot for watching, our captain is on a mike getting the audience involved with lots of games, trivia, songs, and jokes. These guys are so good at what they do, we all just LOVE them and their humor!
After the beautiful fireworks display, the boat is piloted back to the dock at the Contemporary, where Peter Pan himself is waiting to greet guests and take pictures. It’s the perfect ending to a swashbuckling good time!!
Rise of the Resistance (and How to Get a Boarding Pass)
Rise of the Resistance is now my all-time favorite ride EVER!!!! It’s not just a ride. It’s an experience. And if you’re a Star Wars fan like myself, you will LOVE it!!!!!! It’s like you’re in an actual Star Wars movie, complete with cast members acting as part of the First Order and a holographic image of Rey talking to us, among MANY other exciting things that’ll BLOW.YOU.AWAY!
While in the future Disney will probably put Rise on the Fastpass system, for now they offer a boarding group. But you have to jump through hoops to get one, which is exactly what we did, haha! We got there about an hour before rope drop and waited in line in the 35-degree temps that were so unusual for Florida. And we were lucky enough to snag a boarding group!
I’d suggest getting to Hollywood Studios no later than a half hour before it officially opens. They’ll let everyone in early anyway. You MUST have ALL of your party through the touch points in order to get the boarding pass for each person. In other words, you can’t have some people sleeping in that day while you try to get a boarding pass for them. I can’t stress that enough!
Have your phones ready with the app open at “access by boarding group” under Rise of the Resistance. As soon as it hits 8:00 (or whenever the opening for the park is that day), refresh and hit “join boarding group.” Constantly refresh until you get a boarding group.
Our boarding group was 46 and it took until after 2:00 p.m. for them to finally get to our group. We rode a few rides, ate breakfast, and then went back to the hotel until it was time to go back.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
When we were down to just four of us, we were able to snag a Fastpass for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway on opening day! We talked to a guest relations person and were able to trade Fastpasses for Millenium Falcon to ride Runaway Railway. Having already ridden Millenium Falcon earlier, we wanted to try the new ride.
We had a BLAST on this ride, so much that I now have it ranked right up there with Rise and Flight of Passage!! It has that same trackless system that I love and at some points you wonder “how’d they do that?” It’s what they’re calling a “2 and 1/2 D” ride through a Mickey and Minnie short. The imagineers at Disney have to be geniuses is all I can say!
I took a video of the ride while we were on it, which is on my YouTube channel if you’re interested in watching it. I purposefully edited out the first part of the ride. That way you’ll be just as surprised as we were! You’ll find the video in the link here. While you’re there I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel!
Be on the lookout for my reviews of the places we ate complete with pics of the menus and the food. There’s so many it’ll take me a while, but I’m looking forward to reliving my Disney foodie moments with you 🍔🍟🍿🥓🥚🧇🧈🍞🍱🥩🍣🥣🍦🍧🍨🍪🧁🍫🍬🍭🍮 When’s your next Disney trip??