Our Walt Disney World vacation was a celebration of our 20th anniversary, and we chose to make an ADR at the California Grill as an elegant and romantic way to commemorate the occasion. It was important to us to fill this experience with as much Disney magic as possible. After all, that is why we came to WDW for our anniversary. To that end, we planned to walk from our resort at Disney’s Beach Club to the front of Epcot, by way of the International Gateway that leads into the World Showcase. From the Epcot monorail station, we could ride to the Ticket and Transportation Center, transfer to the resort loop in order to ride into the Contemporary lobby. It would take us about 90 minutes, but it would be a truly Disney experience.
On our way through the World Showcase, we stopped on the bridge that leads to France and had a Disney photographer take our picture with the France pavilion behind us. This certainly added to the romance of the evening. We also stopped at a Disney photographer at the entrance to Future World. He took a picture of us in front of a fountain and Spaceship Earth. It was a little further to the front of the park than we had imagined, and it was a warm afternoon, but we took it slow and enjoyed our first look at Epcot. Our first ride on the monorail gave us an extensive view of the expanse of Walt Disney World between Epcot and the Seven Seas Lagoon. Luckily, we did not need to wait long for the resort monorail. This ride gave us an opportunity to get a glimpse of the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts, as well as the entrance to the Magic Kingdom Park. There we were, on the monorail, traveling in true Disney style.
We arrived at the Contemporary with some time to kill, so we explored the massive lobby. There are several gift shops, and the beautiful 90-foot-tall mosaic by Mary Blair, which celebrates the Grand Canyon and the American Southwest. I was most fascinated by how smoothly the various monorail trains glide in and out of the foyer.
Our dinner reservation at the California Grill was for 7:30. My wife did not realize that I had left special instructions with our reservation. It was important for us to have a table next to the window to give us the best view of the Magic Kingdom. I had also placed a special order with the Disney florist for a rhinestone tiara, which comes sitting on a rhinestone-studded pillow, surrounded by roses, on a silver-tone plate. This surprise was to be delivered to the restaurant earlier that day and placed on our table before we were seated. During our check in at the restaurant podium on the 2nd floor of the resort, I tried to convey who we were and the special instructions for our reservations without openly telling the hostess. It was a little awkward for me, and I had no way of knowing if things were going as planned when they finally called our name.
The hostess instructed us to follow a cast member to a private elevator, which took us up to the restaurant on the 15th floor. A wine wall greets you as you exit the elevator. The California Grill has a curved wall of windows with a vista of the lagoon, the Floridian and Polynesian Resorts, and the Magic Kingdom. The entire dining room opens to the bank of windows, but it was the tables nearest and next to the windows that offer the guests the best view. There are linen tablecloths and napkins, as well as a candle centerpiece. The décor has a retro feel, and the rug design echoes the southwest mural in the lobby of the Contemporary.
As we approached our table, I could tell that all my arrangements, along with some Disney magic, had gone as planned. On our table for two, which was next to a window, sat the tiara and roses. The staff at the California Grill had spread Mickey glitter all over the table and left us a note wishing us a happy anniversary. My wife was very surprised and very happy. Our meal was delicious and the wait staff was very friendly and accommodating. I ordered the Pork Two Ways, which is a plate of grilled tenderloin, goat cheese polenta, mushrooms, lacquered belly and applesauce. We took our time, and ended our evening with a spectacular view of Wishes. The restaurant turns down the lights and the audio from the Magic Kingdom is piped in to the restaurant.
We were surprised that there were many young children at the restaurant that evening. There was a young couple, with a baby in an infant seat and a toddler, sitting near us. This family had come in shortly after 9 and stayed through Wishes. Most, if not all, Disney restaurants try to accommodate young children with different menu items. However, these parents had to, or decided to, bring infant and toddler food into the restaurant. I can only assume that they chose to come to the California Grill for the view of the fireworks, but their children seemed too tired to enjoy the show. I would not bring young children to this restaurant; they would not be able to appreciate the fine-dining experience.
Have you ever had the opportunity to dine at the California Grill, or one of the other fine dining restaurants on Disney property? What are your go-to restaurants for romantic evenings? How do you prefer to travel around Walt Disney World? Do you make an effort to ride the monorail during your vacation, even if you are not staying at one of the Magic Kingdom resorts?
In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse™ I will discuss our trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, including our lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-in Theater Restaurant. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. And, do not forget to consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you.