List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Two (2): Hollywood & Vine – Fantasmic

2nd Place: Hollywood & Vine

Lord love me a buffet! Seriously, the thing about Disney Dining for me is: I happen to have numerous dietary restrictions, namely Dairy, Gluten, Egg and Soy. Therefore, chefs speak with me on a regular basis. Taking the number two spot is Hollywood & Vine. Why? The chefs talk to me and give me NUMEROUS options all while my children can happily crash the buffet without having to wait for mom to AGAIN talk to the chef and then WAIT for their food to show up. Nope! They get food right away - lots of beautiful, varied and delectable options while I get to converse with the chef about the options that are available to me! This is a huge win for anyone who suffers from food allergies but also has children that despite their patience, just want to eat on their Disney trip and get back out to explore and have more fun!

This restaurant has a bit of a 1950's vibe and is sister-hallwayed (I made up that word...isn't it great?) with 50's Prime Time Café, so there's some blend over between the two restaurants since they share a bathroom in that sister-hallway.

Hollywood and Vine often has character guests at lunch and dinner. I have seen Jedi Mickey Star Wars, Disney Jr. characters, Minnie's Holiday dine at Christmas, Spring and Summer and there always other characters to enjoy and have pictures taken with as well including but not limited to: Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, Jake and more! The meal characters depend on the time of year and the time of day.

Look for the Hollywood and Vine: Fantasmic offering while browsing through restaurant dining options at My Disney Experience. Or you can call 1-407-WDW-DINE and ask for the Fantasmic package. Fantasmic is a show put on at Hollywood Studios at night and is a spectacular extravaganza of all things Disney, Magic, Villains, Fireworks, Pyrotechnics, Heroes, Mickey, boat rides and more! This package is offered at Hollywood and Vine, Mama Melrose's and Hollywood Brown Derby. While I have eaten at both Hollywood Brown Derby and Mama Melrose's; I cannot recommend either. I especially cannot recommend Hollywood Brown Derby. Too expensive, food often of sub-standard taste by all accounts and by people I have dined with of all ages. All have agreed that Hollywood and Vine is the best of the three options specifically owing to the buffet as well as the Character Dining experience! Scroll down for some pictures of Hollywood and Vine and the Fantasmic show from a 2015 trip I took with the kiddos.

Hopefully I can update this post with recent pictures of characters at Hollywood and Vine! We have been at least a dozen times. That's how convinced we are of its awesomeness.

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Entrance from side of Hollywood & Vine Buffet and Character Meal Restaurant at Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World.

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Allergy-Free Brownie and Dairy-Free Ice Cream - a simple dream come true. Hollywood & Vine chefs prepare allergy -free desserts in house! The brownie is moist on the inside and just firm enough on the outside to withstand the creamy dairy-free goodness that sits atop.

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Example receipt. Do NOT forget to bring extra money for tips - MAN do those ever add up meal over meal!

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Specialty VIP Viewing Section for all guests who have eaten a "Fantasmic" meal earlier in the day. You receive a voucher at the end of your meal to gain entrance into the VIP viewing section of the nighttime show "Fantasmic". Do NOT lose that voucher! Depending on when you eat; you are very likely to still be stuffed from your meal. Disney feeds you well!

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The Mickey Section is the VIP section that you sit in when you arrive at Fantasmic utilizing your voucher that you received at your meal earlier in the day.

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While waiting for Fantasmic to start, my son showcases BOLT which he drew earlier in the day with an Animation specialist in the Animation courtyard. Sadly, this no longer exists inside the Disney Parks. The free drawing seminars have been replaced with Star Wars Launch Bay and character meet-and-greets. If you ask me, it was a FLOP SWAP. I just don't know why they get rid of great things when they could easily just expand to include them all. I never once saw an Animator's session that wasn't filled-to-capacity attended.

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The Hollywood & Vine entrance lit up in neon lights at night. Sorry so blurry!

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The Fantastic show begins!

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The Fantasmic show continues.

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Characters on neon-lit boats during Fantasmic performance.

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Fantasmic characters on boats sequence. Famtasmic is only shown at night. Typically there are two showings nightly.

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Numerous water displays with fountains, blasts and projections of light at Disney imagery on and over water. Fantasmic has quite an appeal!

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Showboat Sequence with many Disney characters towards the finale.

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 2

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 3

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 4

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Character Showboat Sequence at Fantasmic: Picture 5

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Goodnight and Goodbye to Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World! You'll leave stuffed, entertained and fun-filled. You'll also have a little room to "spread your wings" at the end of the night as the park guests clear out and head "home" for the evening.

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Tram ride back to the parking lot with the son. Struggling to keep our eyes open or awkwardly keeping them open, we've had a tiring but food, fun and excitement-filled day.

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Outside the main entrance to Hollywood Studios. Sometimes there is a Photopass photographer here and sometimes there isn't. It's a better photo during the day.

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Baby girl celebrating her birthday at Hollywood Studios ! Looks like she still might have a little gas left in the tank! Nevertheless, it's bedtime and we can get back at it tomorrow!

List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Three (3): Tony’s Town Square Restaurant

Our number three restaurant is a BIG upset owing to the fact that looking around the grand old internet, Tony's Town Square Restaurant seems to score averagely across the board. Trip Advisor scores Tony's (as I'll simply call it from now on) at #328 of 2,930 Restaurants in Orlando. Also, on the star-system it seems to score and average of 3.5/5 stars. Why so high for us? Well dig in, my friends!

3rd Place: Tony's Town Square Restaurant

We LOVED Tony's mostly owing to the fact that we were famished but also because the food was delicious, the prices were reasonable, the presentation was lovely, the server was attentive and the ambiance was superb!

The wait was excessive and the drawback is that there was (and continues to be) limited space in the lobby. Hence, my kiddos camped out on the ground, up against a wall and next to the bathrooms.20150401_133558 Apart from this waiting scenario, the food was absolutely tremendous. I can still taste the tangy balsamic vinaigrette dressing that accompanied the incredible iceberg lettuce wedge salad with sugar glazed and coated pecans as garnish.

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What a feast for the senses. The presentation was fantastic, the food plentiful and filling as well as incredibly tasty. Additionally, I appreciate the "allergy" sticks. It's a clear marker to all at the table whose food is whose, especially when duplicates of anything are ordered. What more could you ask for? Ambience, you say?

We thought the ambiance was perfectly in keeping with the Lady and the Tramp theme.20150401_140531

Especially nice was the booth. Having eaten at Tony's on more than one occasion now, I can say that the best seats in the house are the booths next to the wall if dining within the restaurant20150401_140511 (because they are relatively private and rather quiet) or the bright and airy terrace seating with wrought-iron tables in white which gives a sense of alfresco dining albeit enclosed within glass so as to see Main Street U.S.A. and the flagpole surround easily.

Have you eaten at Tony's? Do you agree with this review? Write me a note in the comments section and I'll delightfully respond to you!

As they say, "Have a magical day!"

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List of Disney Dining Experiences at Disney World Spring Break 2015, Number Four (4): Rainforest Café

Disney Dining is the thing in my family. Of the great debate: Dining First or Park First? We choose Dining first and structure our vacations around dining. We ate at numerous restaurants during our week-long tenure at Disney World in 2015 and ate out on the Deluxe Dining Plan. It has informed our dining decision making at Disney enormously on every trip since, of which there are soon-to-be three new Disney vacations (Summer 2015 for a month, Spring 2016 over Easter and upcoming Mid Summer 2016).

In 2015, I was unaware of how much things cost and whether I was getting a good deal or not. I have since become aware of my first-time Disney naivete and acquired much more Disney acumen since last Spring. Therefore, I've been sharing our list of the TOP 12 Disney Restaurants but in reverse order. This is our Worst-to-Best List, counting down to number one.

4th place: Rainforest Café

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The Rainforest Café comes in at #4 for our family due to the outstanding theming and the even better FOOD! Good lord, we left this place stuffed! I think we had trouble walking for about two hours while the food had time to properly digest. Also, there's a *hidden* entrance to Animal Kingdom after eating at this restaurant. At the time, I did not know this. I was initially flabbergasted when I had to use my magic band to enter the park! I thought..., "Wait. Didn't I already do that? This doesn't look anything like the entrance!" And so I then proceeded to ask my question out loud and was met with answer: "It's the secret, hidden, awesome, magical entrance to Animal Kingdom through the exit from the Rainforest Café!" Aha! Obviously. 😉

Both my children and I agree that the food here was really outstanding. Since this first experience, I've had a chance to dine at Rainforest Café again, and once again, it did not disappoint. We feel very firm in our conviction that Rainforest Café hold a solid #4 spot on our list of worst-to-best dining experiences. Pros and cons are as follows:

Pros: Theming, quality of entrees, fun hidden entrance to park.

Cons: If you miss a breakfast reservation, even if you are only ten minutes late, you will not be served breakfast - even if you are not in the mood for lunch. Also, limited dessert options for those with food allergies. The sorbet was the *only* thing I could have, whether I wanted it or not.

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If there is one thing that Disney has a LOT of it's DINING and GIFT SHOPS. This is the dual-sided entrance to Rainforest Café. One side = Restaurant, other side = Gift Shop.

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I love elephants. Owls and elephants, actually. In any case, Rainforest Café is a delight to your sense of majesty in nature's creations. All throughout the restaurant you will find creatures of the Amazon and African Savannah. It's beautiful.

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Waiting without shades in the shade of the "Amazon Rainforest".

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Waiting with shades in the shade of the "Amazon Rainforest". Much cooler, bruh. Much cooler.

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You don't even need central incisors to eat at the Rainforest Café!

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Amazing "coral reef" pillar aquariums serve as a gateway between restaurant and gift shop.

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The menu does not change just because you are at Disney. If you've been to one Rainforest Café, you will have had a similar experience. Disney just happens to have two Rainforest Cafés. The other is in Disney Springs.

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A bird's-eye view of the Rainforest Café main dining section.

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Numerous aquariums abound in the Rainforest Café.

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This monument encourages us to "Save the Rainforest". It would be nice if they offered up ideas as to "how" next to the monument! Just a thought.

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Aquariums all over the place!

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There are many ledges to go around and have your picture taken throughout the restaurant. Only problem is the lighting isn't so great, so you'll want to use one of the fancy, expensive cameras -- not just your smartphone, like I did!

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The "animals" come alive through some type of animatronics. Every ten minutes or so, you'll hear the sounds of the Rainforest and this "gorilla" will start to roar. Also, misting fans will go off to give the illusion of a Rainforest "lightly wet" experience.

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Even the stools are something to see! Here each stool appears to be the hind end of some African animal, right next to another aquarium bar this time!

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I love the cups at Rainforest Café! They are souvenir cups so they do cost extra but they light up! Ooooooh, aaaaaaaah! We've since brought them home and I have to say: HAND WASH ONLY. My previous cups bit the dust and have brown stains where the battery box is. Somebody put them in the dishwasher!

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Fancy light-up rainbow cup, costs extra, but it's a lot of fun and a great souvenir. You'll need a tall cabinet space for all the collectible cups and mugs you can get at Disney!

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Of course, daughter had to get a frog cup. It's cool, right? There were different "heads" to choose from as I recall. Only caveat? They really don't fit anywhere in my cabinets at home. The "head-lid" is so awkwardly sized.

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Carb craving? Hungry at all? You will leave stuffed. Look at the MOUND of food piled on this kid's plate!

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This meal was STUNNING. I believe it was inspired by the flavors of Persia (as if I knew something about the flavors of a land that no longer exists as named). Nevertheless, you need WORDS! Succulent, mouth-watering, oozing with goodness and flavor. It turns out that absolutely NOTHING was wrong with the main entrée. It was perfection on a plate. Well presented and incredibly tasty.

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Just look at these perfect kebabs! Really. They were perfect. Perfect seasoning, lovely vegetables and the rice was cooked just right.

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I took so many pictures of this meal. Why? Because it was downright AMAZING. My kids food was good too but my entrée was off the charts.

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Look at this so-called "slice" of cake. I think it is bigger than my son's head. With the Deluxe Dining Plan you are entitled to an appetizer, entrée and dessert: all included in your one credit meal. Quite a deal, really.

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Alas, I can usually and often only have fruit-based desserts at Disney due to my gluten, egg, dairy and soy free dietary restrictions. Nevertheless, the presentation of these sorbets makes my mouth water now just looking at them a year later!

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Unbeknownst to us, we would travel down a path away from this fountain and find ourselves at *the magical, secret, hidden entrance* to Animal Kingdom!

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The final bill came to $106.09 for the food alone. I was charged $24.48 for the collectible cups. In terms of the Deluxe dining plan? I came out AHEAD $1.99. Not too bad. This was closer to hitting the mark.

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