Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Princess Dining at Citricos With A Preschooler Review

My mom recently treated my 3 1/2 year old daughter and me to the Princess Dining Experience at Citricos. Princess Dining at Citricos is only available from January to March while renovations are being made at Cinderella's Royal Table. We were lucky enough to have dined at Cinderella's Royal Table last April for my daughter's 3rd birthday breakfast and had lunch with the princesses at Akershus in Epcot a few months before that so we were looking forward to this whole new experience.
Citricos is located at the Grand Floridian Resort and the Princess Dining is available for breakfast and brunch. Like Cinderella's Royal Table, the seating is done in waves. We are not early risers so I decided to go with a 10:50 reservation. When we did breakfast at the castle we had a reservation for around 8 am and the Magic Kingdom was not yet open. While it was nice to be in a fairly empty Magic Kingdom, there were plenty of other people on Main Street as well as the Main St vehicles. My daughter is not a morning person and was still waking up so our pictures in a somewhat empty Magic Kingdom are less than ideal. We felt a little rushed trying to get through the breakfast entry line and then to the actual breakfast so it was nice to be able to stroll leisurely through the Grand Floridian grounds and lobby from the parking lot to Citricos.
Citricos is located on the second floor of the Grand Floridian. We had brought a stroller along and were directed to park it in the lounge next to Citricos. They had Cast Members greeting families and parking strollers but we opted to park it ourselves and hang out in the empty lounge while we waited for grandma to arrive.
I also used this time as an opportunity to take my daughter to the bathroom, which is located right after you walk under the Citricos sign. If you are able to use a different bathroom before you arrive I recommend doing so because while this one was nice and clean it was small and very cramped with all the little princesses waiting to get into or leaving the restaurant. The changing table also seemed a bit smaller than most of the other ones I used when my daughter was still in diapers. We had to wait in line a little while to use the bathroom because it was so busy.
After using the restroom we walked back to the lounge and met grandma. They recommend all members of your party be present before you check in. We checked in at the desk at 10:45, 5 minutes before our reservation time, and were given a beeper and directed to walk down the short hallway to the waiting area.
Cinderella was in the waiting area to greet us and pose for photos. She spent lots of time talking to and dancing with my little one and we took lots of photos (as did the photopass person). There was only one other family in the waiting area so we never felt rushed.
The waiting area was very bright and had a lot more available seating around the perimeter than the one at Cinderella's Royal Table. We never even sat down though because our beeper went off as soon as we finished taking pictures with Cinderella.
Citricos seems to be divided into two different sections or "rooms." We were led through the restaurant to a table by the windows in the back room.
Although we couldn't see the Magic Kingdom at all we had a beautiful view of the Grand Floridian grounds and Bay Lake. One thing I really liked about Citricos compared to Cinderella's Royal Table was the dining room was a lot brighter. This made for much better pictures. I also thought the tables were a lot less cramped together.
Unlike Cinderella's Royal Table, the price of the meal includes one specialty drink. For kids the choice was a strawberry smoothie or two different punches. I ordered my daughter the Buzz Apple which was a ginger ale, pineapple, grenadine and apple juice mixture in a sovenier cup. Adult choices were things like champagne, mimosas, wine, cappuccino, latte, and espressos. I am not a coffee drinker and did not want alcohol so early in the morning so I asked for the same kid's punch I ordered for my daughter. My mom ordered the mimosa. Both drinks were very good. You can also order coca-cola products if you'd like something more to drink.
We started seeing princesses as soon as we arrived. The princesses of the day visiting in the dining room were Ariel, Snow White, Jasmine, and Belle. This differs slightly from our experiences at Cinderella's Royal Table, where we have always seen Aurora instead of Belle in the times we've dined there since the new section of Fantasyland opened. Aurora visits the tea party downstairs at the Grand Floridian so I imagine this is why but certain princesses are never guaranteed at any princess meal so while I assume the princesses we saw are the regulars at Citricos, it is possible the princesses you see may vary slightly.
We saw Jasmine first and she spent lots of time at our table talking to my little one. Ariel arrived shortly after. All of the princesses were wonderful and spent lots of time talking to my daughter. It could be because the restaurant wasn't full, but I felt like they spent a lot more time talking to her and she got a lot more personalized interaction than she did at Cinderella's Royal Table and Akershus. My daughter can be a bit quiet around the princesses and I find that sometimes if they see she is more interested in her food than she is in talking to them they take photos and move on to the next table fairly quickly. This was not the case at all at Citricos. All of the princesses were able to engage her in conversation about something.
Our drinks and pastry basket arrived about the same time Ariel was visiting with us. The pastry basket is similar to what you get at Cinderella's Royal Table but I thought the pastries I tried tasted better. I had an apple turnover and a blueberry muffin. Both were delicious and my daughter who doesn't usually eat much managed to finish an entire blueberry muffin. One thing I do recall is some of the pastries (the muffins?) were Mickey Mouse shaped at Cinderella's Royal Table but at Citricos they were all just standard pastries. I thought the blueberry muffin at Citricos also tasted a lot fresher than the one I had at Royal Table.
A few minutes after our pastry basket was brought out we were brought our appetizers, which were a choice of garden salad or fresh fruit. For my daughter it was a choice of garden salad or grapes and cheese cubes. Both adults at our table had the fresh fruit & it was served with yummy yogurt on top. My daughter really enjoyed the grapes and cheese cubes and probably would've been happy if that had been her main course. The meal at Citricos definitely includes a lot of food. At Cinderella's Royal Table the only appetizer we got was the pastry basket and the only fruit we were brought was two strawberries on the pastry plate. (I remember asking for more strawberries for my strawberry loving daughter and they happily obliged. The adult fruit bowl at Citricos had sliced strawberries in it so I gave her the strawberries out of mine to go with her grapes and cheese.)
Snow White stopped by to visit with us while we ate our appetizers. She also spent plenty of time talking with my daughter and I never once felt like she was trying to rush to get to the next table. We could see Belle a few tables away but she didn't stop by before our main courses were brought out.
The main courses at Citricos were a mixture of breakfast and lunch choices. They had a traditional breakfast listed but they also had a steak and egg entree as well as fish and shrimp options. Kid's choices included things like Mickey waffles, French toast, and scrambled eggs but also steak and mashed potatoes, a chicken leg with rice, and turkey pot pie.
I thought the menu included a lot more variety than the one at Cinderella's Royal Table. The kid's meal at Royal Table was either a choice of a frittata or a more traditional breakfast platter of eggs, bacon, and French toast sticks. My daughter is a huge fan of waffles and not a fan of eggs so she liked the menu at Citricos a lot better and therefore ate a lot more. The Mickey waffles seemed to be the breakfast choice of all the children at the tables surrounding ours as well.
I am not a big fan of seafood and really don't like eggs so I am probably not the best one to write a review of the main entrees. All of the adult choices include either eggs or some type of seafood. I am sure they would be happy to alter the menu items slightly but like my daughter I am a huge fan of waffles. I asked if I could have the Mickey waffles as well and our server had no problem bringing me them. The Mickey waffle entree also included bacon and sausage. I was given a double portion so I had four mini waffles, two sausages, and four strips of bacon whereas my daughter was served only two waffles, one sausage, and two pieces of bacon. With all the other food we were served the child's portion would've been more than enough for me!
The Mickey waffles, sausage, and bacon were the same standard stuff you can get elsewhere on Disney property. Delicious and always fun to have Mickey shaped waffles for breakfast at Disney but nothing to really write home about. I actually prefer the Mickey waffles with fruit or chocolate chips my daughter and I frequently get at the quick service place at Wilderness Lodge (Roaring Forks) and share before a day at the Magic Kingdom and those are A LOT less money! My mom had the steak and egg meal and really enjoyed it.
Sometime while we were eating our main entree the wishing ceremony took place. I thought this was a  bit of a dud compared to the wishing ceremony at Cinderella's Royal Table. Before the wishing ceremony all the kids in the restaurant are given a wand or a sword (I saw adults at adult only tables with them as well so I guess you can ask for one if you want it). At Royal Table my daughter also got a wishing star but that was not given out here. The ceremony is the same as the one at Royal Table but it just doesn't work as well at Citricos. I think this is due to the fact that the restaurant is so much brighter and they can't dim the lights and make the ceiling seem to sparkle.
My daughter enjoyed the ceremony and waving her wand around but I think they would've been better off doing something like a little parade with the princesses around the restaurant like they do at Akershus instead. We did see more princesses during the wishing ceremony than we did at Royal Table, where it seems to be just one princess in each section. This was nice because her favorite princess Ariel was one of the princesses in our section whereas at Royal Table she was upset that we had a different princess and couldn't see Ariel. At Citricos the princesses even interacted with her a lot more during the ceremony, stopping by our table to encourage her to wave her wand. She was very excited when Ariel stopped by!
After the wishing ceremony all of the princesses seemed to disappear. This happened at Cinderella's Royal Table too so I wasn't surprised. The problem with this, however, was that we hadn't seen Belle yet. We were still eating our main entrees so I wasn't too concerned but my daughter kept asking for her. The kids at the next table, who had already moved on to dessert, were also asking for her and their parents mentioned it to their sever, who went off in search of her. We had been in the restaurant a little over an hour at that point. Most of the tables around us had already left so I assume they saw Belle before the other princesses since she was in our dining room when we arrived. A little while later Belle was brought over to their table and she came to visit with us next.
My guess is she must've just passed by our tables when we were seated and although the restaurant wasn't busy at all, the princesses still have to stick to a certain order with the tables they see. Belle was very friendly and spent a lot of time talking to my daughter about their favorite books.
After Belle left our table we moved on to dessert. The adult dessert is a trio of a chocolate and rasberry mousse cake, a (guava or passion fruit?) tart, and a creme puff. The child's dessert was 3 creme puffs and some raspberries. We also got a standard birthday cupcake since we were celebrating a birthday.
I really enjoyed the chocolate rasberry dessert while my mom really enjoyed the fruit tart. We tried the creme puffs but nobody was overly impressed with them. We expected them to have creme inside but there is none. My daughter licked the fancy blue sparkly icing off the top of one, decided she didn't really like it, and ate the chocolate garnishes on our other desserts and the entire birthday cupcake instead.
She was disappointed not to get a chocolate dessert in the trio like they have at Akershus (she is not a fan of raspberries). I don't remember any dessert being included at all in the breakfast at Royal Table other than the birthday cupcake they brought out for my daughter so I guess it's a bonus that dessert is included at Citricos and we did enjoy what we were able to eat of it, although we were all pretty stuffed at that point.
Overall we had a great time at Citricos. While it is pricey and the atmosphere is just not the same as being in the castle, the food was plentiful and delicious and the princesses spent lots of time interacting with my daughter. I thought it was a very good alternative while the castle is under renovation!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The New Kissimmee Lakefront Park Playground: the Perfect Place for a Party or Playdate

It was a beautiful day today so we decided to head down to Kissimmee Lakefront Park to check out the new playground. Kissimmee has put a lot of renovations into Lakefront Park the past few years and the new playground and splash pad are the latest additions. While it was a very nice park before, with the addition of the splash pad and playground I think it is going to be one of our new favorite places to play!
Before adding this playground and splash pad they added another playground on the other side of the park closer to the library and downtown area. That playground is very modern, colorful, and great for all ages but it frequently becomes very crowded in the summertime and doesn't have a whole lot of parking directly by the the playground. It is also set back quite a bit from the lake, making it hard to enjoy the lake's natural beauty and breeze. The new park has ample parking and is very close to the lakefront. Unfortunately I can't say it won't be overcrowded during the times kids are out of school because I have a feeling it will be a very popular spot for local families to play!
The new playground and splash pad have plenty of parking spaces on the street right in front of them but if they're full there is also a parking lot a short walk away.
If you park on the street you'll cross a sidewalk and small "boardwalk" to get to the park. While there is no fence around the playground to keep tots from wandering out, the park has a bit of a natural barrier to it. The "boardwalk" crosses over some sunken grass that separates the playground from the street. The other side of the park has a short concrete wall around it. In addition to the short concrete wall there are also plenty of benches scattered around the perimeter of the park for parents to sit on.
Next to the playground and right across from the splash pad there is a pavilion with bathrooms and plenty of shaded places to sit. The pavilion has not only adult sized picnic tables and tables and chairs but a few kid sized ones as well. There are two water fountains on the side facing the playground and not only men's and women's restrooms but a family restroom as well. This pavilion would be the ideal place to have a birthday party and I'm sure you'll have to book it well in advance in the summertime!

If you are unable to book the pavilion or are simply looking for a free option there is also a large grassy area across from the playground and seperated from the splash pad by a sidewalk. This grassy area also has adult and kid sized picnic tables and grills to cook on as well. One major drawback to this area vs the pavilion is it really does not provide you with a lot of shade.
On the day we visited the splash pad was not operational. There was a sign apologizing for the inconvenience but no explanation as to why or when it would be turned on again. This wasn't an issue since it wasn't a particularly hot day. If there was a price for the splash pad or only certain hours it will be operating they were covered on the sign by the sign saying it wasn't currently operational. It did appear, however, by the set-up that the splash pad would be free.
Instead of a fence surrounding it there are short walls and on one side of it is a raised grassy area where you could leave your towel and other things. The grassy area slopes down to the splash pad and once the trees grow in it will hopefully have lots of shade.
The splash pad itself has a natural Florida theme to it with statues of several animals you'd find in Florida. I'm looking forward to bringing my daughter back to try out the splash pad when the weather warms up. 
Instead of using the splash pad we played on the playground today. The playground has an astroturf surface so no worries about little ones putting pebbles and sand in their mouths. It has a woodland theme to it and contains several play structures as well as swings for babies and older children. My little girl really enjoyed crawling through the log!
For younger kids there is a tepee structure with a smaller slide that is a bit lower to the ground than the larger playground structure. Kids of all ages, however, seemed to enjoy playing on both this and the larger structure. The biggest hits for the babies and toddlers seemed to be the baby swings and crawl through log.
There are several paved trails surrounding the lake that would be perfect for walking, jogging, pushing a stroller on,or riding a tricycle or bike. Many people were doing these things and enjoying the beautiful day.
My daughter enjoyed the playground so much we never got any further because she started to get hungry after several hours and we had run out of snacks. (Definitely bring food if you visit. The only food options are the ice cream truck that stopped by briefly and a very small cafe with very limited hours that is a bit of a hike from the playground. Most families enjoying the park had brought lunch from local fast food places or there are the grills if you'd like to bring your own picnic.) 
The only things I can think of that would make this playground better is to have easier access to food and have better covering over the top. Although the playground has a shade over the top it is extremely small and not one solid continuous surface so I highly doubt it will provide much shade and keep the playground from getting too hot to play on without burning skin once the weather starts to warm up. 
We will definitely be visiting again soon to explore the walking trails and hopefully the splash pad. The city of Kissimmee put a lot of work into this park and made it a wonderful place for kids to play. The pavilion between the playground and splash pad is the ideal place for a birthday party or other gathering. I can definitely see it becoming a very popular spot in the summertime!