THE SUMMER 2021 LONGEST GOODY FAMILY WDW TRIP THAT EVER WAS: DAY 6 (ANIMAL KINGDOM DAY AND CALIFORNIA GRILL!!)

Hey everyone!

I know, I know. It’s been a MINUTE since my last post. Last week just sort of got away from me. I got all wrapped up in work and family stuff. Plus, last Thursday I went to Capital Grille in Boston for Dine Out Boston (formerly Restaurant Week) and took part in their Generous Pour wine pairing, which ensured I couldn’t write Thursday or Friday.

On account of hangovers.

Oh, you don’t know what I am talking about? Welllll….you know what that means.

BONUS DINING REVIEW!!! Pew Pew!

Right? Is pew pew that noise that DJs use to signal something that is either exciting or insulting?

Anyways, yeah the Capital Grille. Oh, and if you came here explicitly for Disney stuff, feel free to skip this part. I won’t be offended.

Also, don’t tell me if you skipped forward.

For Dine Out Boston, happening from August 8th to August 21st, a number of restaurants are offering a prix fixe menu for a fixed lower price to encourage people to dine out. Which, like, believe me – I don’t need a reason to go out to eat. Like today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day for example. If someone said to me, “hey, let’s go out to eat to celebrate National Black Cat Appreciation Day,” I’d don my second-best catsuit and bring the car around.

Yeah, my second best. I mean, it’s only Tuesday.

We were dining with friends tonight and prior to dinner, we grabbed some drinks at the Oak Room at the Fairmont Copley. Nickie went for a Cosmopolitan and I got a Grey Goose Martini Dirty.

They were very good drinks. In fact, Nickie said this was the Cosmo she has been searching for. They were so good, in fact, that we ordered 2 each of them. Look how happy we are. With drinks.

But just to prove we are not the raging alcoholics this blog makes us out to be, we can also be happy without drinks.

So yeah, Dinner. The dinner prix fixe price for Dine Out Boston at The Capital Grille is $38 for three courses and there are enhancements as well that can be added to plus up your meal. And I mean, yeah, of course we enhanced.

In fact, let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat. As I mentioned, we also dd the Generous Pour. But you guys might be like, “wha? Huh? WTF is the Generous Pour????”

To which I would answer first, “Calm down. Drama queen.” And then I would paste in how the Capital Grille describes it:

The 2021 Generous Pour is about wine and the wisdom gained through the trials and triumphs of winemaking. The seven talented winemakers featured during our summer wine event would tell you they are in no way philosophers or sages, but that one can’t work so closely with Mother Nature and not learn a thing or two. We invite you to sip and enjoy.

But I mean, to the layman? This is essentially just all you can drink wine.

For $28.

Yeah, it got messy.

They essentially gave us two flights….

Wait. Did I just say “essentially” twice? Dammit, I suck.

But yeah, two flights. One white, one red.

But here’s the thing. After you drink either flight, they then ask if you would like more of any of the wine. And you obviously say yes. And then? If you finish that bit of wine, they come back and fill it up. It was legit non-stop wine.

Oh right. The food.

So, right. We did the whole prix fixe thing right? But they also told us we could order off the regular menu too.

So we did. Duh. Of course we did.

We couldn’t resist the Pan-Fried Calamari with Hot Cherry Peppers. On account of it said it was the signature appetizer and, like, I enjoy when restaurants make decisions for me. Hence, my love for prix fixe.

Which I didn’t stick to.

Yeah. I am an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

Anyways though. The Calamari.

And yup. These were delicious. Eat them you should.

OK FINALLY we get to an actual prix fixe item. For the starter, most of us ordered the Wedge with Bleu Cheese and Smoked Bacon.

I mean. OK. Oof. Yeah. It’s so weird to get THIS excited over a piece of lettuce with some bleu cheese and bacon. But look at that thing. Look at ALL THAT BLEU CHEESE. And that bacon? They were like these big smoky chunks of pig. Seriously good stuff.

For the entrée, I totally went with the standard Prix Fixe offeri…

Oh crap, no I didn’t. I actually went with an “enhancement” and ordered the Sliced Filet Mignon with Roasted Wild Mushrooms.

Yeah, I know. I obviously very much enjoy spending money I don’t need to spend. But still – it was a good call. The steak was insanely tender and while I typically actually do not go in for filets, this one had a lot of good flavor thanks in large part to the wild mushrooms.

And for dessert, a bunch of us went for the cheesecake off the Prix Fixe menu. And MANNNNN I am still having dreams about this cheesecake.

Insanely good. But to be fair, I am a sucker for cheesecake. I think it’s probably because of all the Golden Girls I watched growing up.

Also, all the Golden Girls I watch now.

On with the post!

Day 6 – Animal Kingdom and California Grill!!

Oh Day 6? It’s for the boys.

I mean, at least the morning was.

Because while Myles, Owen, and I were all about that early-morning Disney life, Nickie wasn’t having any of it. She stayed back at the hotel while the three of us headed out BEFORE 7AM to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

And I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “Why would Disney open up a theme park based off an Ellen Barkin-led TNT series that focuses on a family of criminals?”

To which, I am like….

Oh wait. Was that not what you were thinking?

Ah, ok. You were actually probably thinking, “7:00 AM? That is a very early time to head to Animal Kingdom.”

And like, that is a much more intelligent thought to think.

I’m sorry.

Well, Disney posted an opening time of 8:00AM for Animal Kingdom on Day 5. Which, of course, meant things would be opening closer to 7:00AM.

Cuz that’s how Disney rolls.

And although we were up before 7:00, we didn’t get through the gates of the park until closer to 7:20. Which obviously made us late.

For a park that was posted to open at 8:00.

Yeah, man. It’s frikkin Thunderdome at Disney these days.

We had one main reason for getting to Animal Kingdom so early on Day 6. We were looking to get on the second-best attraction in all of Walt Disney World – Avatar: Flight of Passage.

Also, though? Everyone else appeared to have the same one main reason.

Yeah, that line. It was long.

In fact?

I’ve Nav’ii seen a line that long!

Get it? Nav’ii?

No?

You’ve never seen that movie?

Eh, well…neither have most of the people that visit Pandora at Animal Kingdom.

We were officially in line for Flight of Passage by around 7:45AM.

And yeah there was a line. But the queue for Flight of Passage is pretty….erm….pretty.

But I don’t really see what any of this has to do with a charm bracelet.

Anyways, though, it took us around 45 minutes or so to make it through the entire queue.

And yeah, the attraction was as good as ever. It’s awesome stuff.  There was a time when I thought this was the best attraction in all of Walt Disney World. But it has since be dethroned by Rise of the Resistance. But that doesn’t take away at all from how incredible Flight of Passage is.

Look, I still am pretty certain that one day I will learn how to fly. Like 99% certain.

But until then, I am pretty sure Flight of Passage is the closest I will be getting.

Since Nickie had still not arrived at the park, the boys and I decided to hop on another attraction she would have little interest in experiencing – Expedition Everest!

How great is Expedition Everest? I will always ALWAYS have a soft spot in my heart for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when it comes to Disney coasters, but it is hard to beat Everest.

It’s well themed, it’s thrilling, it has some pretty spectacular views…

And yeah, the Yeti doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. His arm hasn’t worked since, like what, opening day? Dude is relegated to just sit there with strobe lights going off in his face constantly.

Poor Yeti.

As we were making our way through the Forbidden Mountain, Nickie texted us to let us know she had arrived at the park. Which was exciting.

And she had breakfast. Which was fortuitous.

On account of chasing Yetis makes one hungry.

We went to meet her just outside Dinoland USA. And on the way, we passed by these quacks.

Silly ducks. You guys can swim. What do you need a boat for?

And like I said, my amazingly awesome and thoughtful wife picked up breakfast for us. Animal Kingdom breakfast biscuits, y’all!!

I don’t know what it is with those breakfast biscuits at Animal Kingdom. They’re sold in multiple locations in the park and I mean, they’re pretty standard breakfast biscuits. But man, they ARE delicious. Very McDonald’s-esque. Which is by no means a complaint.

Since we were right near the entrance to Dinoland, the boys and I ran over to hop on DINOSAUR.

And just so you guys know, Disney writes DINOSAUR in all caps for some reason. Like some sort of old conspiracy theorist on Facebook talking about how the COVID vaccine contains MICROCHIPS….to TRACK US AND CONTROL OUR MINDZ COMMUNISEM WAKE UP WOKE AMERICA!

Annnyways. 

The wait time for DINOSAUR wasn’t too bad at all. We got in line at 9:48AM and were on our time rover by 9:56. That’s an 8-minute wait for my math-challenged readers. And that included the just-back-from-its-COVID-break pre-show with Mrs. Huxtable.

Look how scurred we were.

Also, that family behind us was amazing. As you can see in the photo, they were legit terrified. But their terror seemed to also cause uncontrollable laughter. So, it was an eventful trip back in time to catch a dinosaur. Like more eventful than a standard trip back in time to catch a dinosaur.

While we were going back in time and chasing down dinos, Nickie saw some dinosaurs of her own.

Well, chipmunks dressed as dinosaurs at least.

Ugh, they’re sooooooo cute. And like, Goofy, ain’t no slouch neither.

On our way out of DINOSAUR, I snapped a pic of Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama.

So here is a picture.

Of someplace we did not go.

We quickly met back up with Nickie and, wow, the Character Cruises were like in full force today because, look…Pocahantas and Meeko.

Next up was a show that had JUST come back for the first time since COVID hit – Festival of the Lion King!

It’s funny. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times we have visited Animal Kingdom and not done Festival of the Lion King. But its long absence and then its return made it something we absolutely HAD TO DO this trip.

It really is a great show with an awesome energy.

But while it always has the feel of a celebration, it felt even more special this time around. Returning after being gone for so long, it felt like we were celebrating a return to some feeling of normalcy and the return to work for so many cast members.

I dunno. I just couldn’t stop smiling the entire time.

After the show ended, we had a little bit of time before lunch so we walked over to the Dawa Bar to get in out of the sun and um…hydrate.

And at the Dawa Bar? It was like a Massachusetts meet-up. The bartender’s tag said he was from Brockton, MA and the group of people on the other side of the bar were also from Massachusetts.

Sorry. The group on the other side of the bah.

It was pissah. Wicked pissah.

Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Drink Bacahdi.

Yah evah heah’d ah that group Tha Cahdigahns. Oah-wsome.

The Depahted.

Seriously though? The Cardigans really are a great band.

We downed our beers and waters and soon enough, it was 11:30AM which meant it was time for lunchz.

And lunch today was at one of our favorite unfortunately-named spots – Yak & Yeti!

As in “The name has Yak in it, Yeti’d still eat there.”

11:30 was actually a little early for our reservation still so Nickie and I grabbed a seat at the bar since we hadn’t had a drink in like 2 ½ minutes.

Nickie ordered a Bud Light…

…while I noticed something kinda special behind the bar – Is that. Wait. Is that a Yak and Yeti exclusive bourbon situation?

Yup. This right here is the Yak and Yeti Woodford Reserve Personal Selection. And I am a sucker for exclusive alcohol things. Like to be honest, I am sure I would not be able to tell any major difference between this and a non Yak and Yeti version of Woodford Reserve but still…it’s just nice to say, “hey, I am having this and you can’t because you are not here.”

It’s not so much the me enjoying it, it’s the you not.

I know. I am a man of the people.

So yeah, I wanted to try the Woodford but eh, it was before noon and I have a strict “straight whiskey only after noon except on the weekends” policy.

Thankfully, they DID have a drink that featured said bourbon on the menu – the Snap Decision (the aforementioned Yak & Yeti Woodford Reserve Bourbon Personal Selection, apricot brandy and Crisp Apple Reàl Infused Syrup topped with Fever-Tree Ginger Beer.)

We were seated pretty much once our drinks were served so we brought our drinks to the table and started the awesome that is eating at Yak & Yeti.

We of course started with the Pork Pot Stickers. Because, I mean, have you really eaten at Yak & Yeti if you didn’t get the pot stickers?

Of course they were good. Look at the faces of these two. They’re obviously enjoying them.

Also, look at the faces of these two. They’re obviously attractive.

For our meals, Nickie and I split the Lo Mein Chicken.

Yeah, that was a half portion man. It’s a lot of food. And very VERY good. And it paired very nicely with a cold Bud Light.

Also? Everything pairs nicely with a cold Bud Light.

And both Myles and Owen got the Sweet and Sour Chicken.

But like, they didn’t share. Because Myles. And his inability to do such things.

For dessert, we got the Fried Wontons (Skewers of fresh pineapple and cream cheese wontons, vanilla ice cream, honey-vanilla drizzle) which are always amazeface.

So good.

Yeah, all in all? A real nice lunch at Yak & Yeti. But of course it was. It always is.

When we walked out into the park after lunch, we could tell a storm was threatening but at the moment, shizz was hot. So we decided to head over to Drinkwallah for one of our Animal Kingdom traditions.

And that tradition? FROZEN RUM AND COKES!!

Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe that’s not AS exciting to you as it is to us but it’s a must-get whenever we visit Animal Kingdom. To be fair, when we first had a frozen rum and coke at Animal Kingdom, it was a lonnnnng time ago. This was long before everyone was having all kinds of frozen situations. Long before your Frozen Dark and Stormys or your Frosés or your Frozen Jack and Cokes were all the rage, we stumbled on these and our minds couldn’t comprehend how one could freeze a rum and coke.

Yeah, our minds aren’t the most comprehensive.

Anyways, though – yeah this was good.

Owen also got a drink at Drinkwallah – a frozen Fanta Blue Raspberry in a souvenir Simba sipper. Which was both cute and alliterative.

As I mentioned, a storm was threatening and soon enough? The sky made good on that threat. It rained. Hard. Thankfully, we had our rain jackets packed for such an occasion.

This seemed like a pretty good time to head out of the park. What with the rain and it was around 1:30 anyways. So out we went and drove back to the Wilderness Lodge.

Now.

At this point in my Google Photos album, there is this rando photo of me and Myles at the Wilderness Lodge Mercantile but we are wearing completely different shirts from what we were wearing the rest of Day 6 so I have no clue where this picture came from. Buttt….I like it too much to not post it.

I am just going to pretend this is some sort of parallel universe Myles and Wayne that took this picture.

Back in this universe, though, the rain did start to slow by the time we got back to our room so we threw our suits on real quick to take a dip in the Boulder Ridge hot tub before getting ready for the night.

Owen gives this hot tub a thumbs up. He also gives like most hot tubs a thumbs up. Kid loves hot tubs. Probably because of all that Bachelor he watches.

Our dip was VERY quick though and we were soon back in the room getting ready. We had fancy-pants dinner plans tonight so we all got kind of dolled up. The kids wanted to hang back in the room for a little bit before heading out but Nickie and I went for a pre-dinner drinkypoo at the Territory Lounge.

To spice things up a bit tonight, Nickie ordered a Cosmpolitan and I got an Old-Fashioned.

Wait. Did I say “to spice things up a bit?” I meant to say “to keep things exactly the same as they always are and not try new things.”

And because my wife is so attractive, I did a little drink-focused photo shoot with her.

The camera loves you. You’re an animal.

You’re a tiger. You’re Tony the Tiger.

You’re grrrrrreat!

I then went and ruined the whole aesthetic by jumping in for an ussie.

Yup. Everything was going swimmingly until the dork in the glasses showed up.

While we were in Territory Lounge, we received a message that we had a package waiting for us at the front desk. Which was exciting.

I mean, packages are great anyways. Just ask David Bowie’s pants in Labyrinth.

Ahem.

But this package was especially cool because it was for OWEN’S BIRTHDAY!!! And yeah, technically¸ Owen’s birthday was a couple weeks off but come on, it’s Disney. So long as your birthday is within 364 days of the day you are at Walt Disney World, I am totally fine with you celebrating it there.

I’ve mentioned the breakfast boxes we ordered from Storybook Delights in older posts, but this time around our package waiting for us was a two-fold birthdaystravaganza.

We ordered Owen up a Stitch birthday cake.

Which I believe was a yellow cake with vanilla frosting. Standard stuff, but still…I mean, who doesn’t like yellow cake with vanilla frosting?

But in addition to that cake, we ordered a box of amazing.

Look. At. That. Thing.

So much goodness in there. Cookies, chocolate covered pretzel rods, freakin fudge covered Oreos and MAN those cake pops were insanely good.

Oh and also – when I was picking up the package…

Ahem. Yes.

When I was picking up the cake and sweets.

I also grabbed Owen a free birthday button from the front desk. And I don’t know…because COVID, maybe? They had me write Owen’s name on it myself.

I think I did a pretty good job. I even did those little stars and Mickey heads. I mean, I’m no Bob Ross. But it’s something.

With all of this in hand, the Territory Lounge bartender (who was awesome by the way) brought out plates, napkins, and silverware for us and soon enough, the boys joined us. Look how happy Owen is, being the center of attention.

It was a really nice moment though. Just the four of us in Territory Lounge celebrating the awesome person Owen is, enjoying some sweets and drinks…I dunno. These are sometimes the best moments in Disney – the ones you create on your own, outside of the quote/unquote Disney experience but still bathed in all kinds of Disney-ness.

When we were done, we brought the treats back to the room and headed out for dinner.

Yeah. We had cake before dinner. It was like some sort of dream.

Our dinner tonight was at the Contemporary and we had a little bit of time before dinner so we were excited to be able to stop in for a drink at The Wave.

I got a beer there. Some sort of IPA.

Who knows? And really, it doesn’t matter much. The reason we were so keen on having a drink at The Wave in the first place was that the place was closing soon. And now, it has officially closed. And I mean, that is unfortunate. I actually have had a lot of good meals at The Wave over the course of our trips.

The rumors are The Wave is gonna be turned into a steakhouse. Because there are definitely not enough places to get a steak at Walt Disney World.

I got beef with this decision is what I am saying.

I am not Filet Mignon board with this call.

Porterhow’s this a good decision?

Hrm. T-Bone. Ribeye. Sirloin.

Nope, that’s all I got.

I should also mention how awesome our bartender, George, was at The Wave. Super personable, talkative, responsive. A really good bartender. And bonus – he said he would be working the pool bar at our next hotel on a day we would be there. So like, we will see George again. Which is a good thing.

Onto dinner.

And for dinner tonight, we were heading from the very bottom floor of the Contemporary to the very top floor – for dinner at the California Grill.

Yeah man. Fancy time.

Now, we have honestly had a love/hate relationship with California Grill over all the times we have been there. The food has always been good (especially at brunch)  but the service we have received here has really made or broken the experience. For the money you spend here, there is an expectation of a pretty high level of service. And for sure, we have had some GREAT service here. We have also had some subpar service as well.

What would this Day 6 experience bring? Stay tuned.

To get to the California Grill, you take an elevator specific to this restaurant. And like I mentioned, the California Grill is right at the tippity-top of the hotel. Once the elevator door opens, you are immediately greeted with…

Wine!

Wine is the best. Hey, remember that time I drank way too much wine at The Capital Grille?

You don’t? It like literally just happened there in the intro of this post. Are you even reading these things?

And I noticed they had one of our favorite wines available – The Prisoner!

We were seated in one of those semi-circle booths…

Which is cool because it allows everyone at the table a look at the restaurant and the view beyond.

We put our orders in for some drinks and then headed out onto the observation deck outside to get a better look at the view.

And when we got back to the table, our drinks were there. Which was exciting. Because I like drinks.

I’d like to say Nickie and I flipped the script and got something different for our starter drinks than what we would normally get.

I’d like to say that.

But I can’t.

Because I got an Old-Fashioned and Nickie ordered a Cosmo.

Yeah, I know. We’re boring.

But I will say this Old-Fashioned was a little different as it was a Maple Old-Fashioned (Sonoma Bourbon, Vanilla Maple Syrup, Angostura Bitters, Luxardo Cherries with an Orange Twist.) And it was very good. The maple was a nice touch without being too overpowering and the vanilla notes in there were all kinds of lovely.

To start, our server brought us some bread with a pretty incredible dipping sauce of olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, chives, and spices.

Myles also started off with their “seasonal” soup. Which I put in quotes on account of it was a squash soup.

In the summer.

I mean, I love me some squash soup but this seemed an interesting choice for a seasonal soup in late June.

Regardless, though, I got to try some of it when Myles had enough and it was a delicious soup. And as you can see it was paired with a super-dee-duper good Maple Biscotti and like this whipped brie on top.

Very, very good soup. Just doesn’t scream summer to me.

We also ordered up some of the Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons (Doenjang Miso-Cola-Onion Sauce, Crispy Garlic-Chili Oil, Radish, Pickled Lotus Root) to start.

I thought these were very good – full of flavor and all that – but Nickie found them to be a little too spicy.

For our meal, Nickie and I wanted some wine and as I mentioned, they did have a bottle of one of our favorites on the menu. So we ordered a bottle of THE PRISONER.

Now, for the bad news.

So…when we placed our appetizer order, our server asked us if we wanted to place our entrée order as well. We typically try to avoid doing this whenever we can because it’s like not the best when the entrée comes out while we are still enjoying our appetizers.

But, our server said it shouldn’t be a problem so he took our entire order at once.

Which shouldn’t have been a problem.

But it was.

Out came the entrees. While we were still eating our appetizer. And remember, we only ordered one appetizer so I mean, it’s not like it took us that long to eat it.

I don’t know. I suppose to some people that complaint may seem petty. But again, this is an EXPENSIVE meal. The entrée should NOT come out with the appetizer.

Anyways, though…lets go through the orders.

Myles and Owen both ordered the Oak-Fired Filet of Beef. Myles got mashed potatoes and asparagus with his while Owen got fries and carrots.

Nickie also got the filet and opted for the risotto as her side (and asparagus).

I wasn’t feeling insanely hungry tonight and I have liked California Grill’s sushi in the past so I went for the Spicy Kazan Roll (Crab, Shrimp, Scallops, Tuna, Fireball Sauce.)

Which was very good. Some of the better sushi I have had. But it was spicy for sure. And our water supply had dissipated with very few visits from our server. This meant I had to try and calm the spice with my red wine.

Which was not easy to do.

We didn’t see our server all that much during this meal. Is what I am saying to you now.

In between our entrée and our dessert, the sun had started to go down so we wanted to get back out on the observation deck to get a look at the sunset and the lights coming on at Magic Kingdom and beyond.

Being that we were celebrating Owen’s birthday tonight, our server brought out a piece of confetti cake. Which was pretty dang delicious.

And for dessert, we also split the Grand Marnier souffle (with a Grand Marnier anglaise and macerated oranges.)

The before…

…and the after.

This was a VERY good dessert. The orange flavor was there but not overpowering and it all tasted very fresh and summery. Probably my favorite part of the meal.

And that was our dinner at California Grill. As you may have surmised, the food was great but the service was definitely lacking. And yeah, I could definitely blame COVID which probably had something to do with it. But…the server we had tonight? He was also our server on one of our other meh experiences at California Grill. Plus, again, with these prices…I just expect a little more. We didn’t have these issues at other restaurants. It was hard to not be disappointed.

Also, probably my biggest complaint of the night was that we got our first drinks at 7:30 PM and dessert was served by 8:30. Our meal was just around an hour. Which is kind of unacceptable at California Grill. We made no indication we were in a rush but it felt like we were getting turned over very quickly. I am one for a drawn out meal when it’s at a signature restaurant like this and it felt like we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Chalk this up as another eh experience at California Grill. I don’t know what this means for the future but right now, I am feeling like I may only return for brunch. There are much better experiences in Walt Disney World for this price (or less) for sure.

But other than the service at California Grill, Day 6 was pretty great. And stay tuned for Day 7. On account of we meet up with MORE FRIENDS!!!111one one

Last post – Day 5
Next post – Day 7

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