Dispatches from a Small Business
I have updated my post on Disney World reviews and advice based on my October trip with my daughter. Below is a picture from the trip. I am the one in orange.
The last time we went to the Hall of Presidents at Disneyland, they had changed the show, and added an audio feature that was really cool. It might still be a little boring for the kids, but there was at least one point where, despite all the evidence to the contrary, we were convinced that someone was cutting our hair right there in the theater.
I don't know if it's at WDW, or if they even still have it at Disneyland, though.
My wife and I go there every year in October, so I thought I'd mention a few things in response to your update:
It used to be that October was a slow time, but Disney has concentrated on attracting conventions during October and November, resulting in larger crowds than there used to be. We did go in December a couple of times, and the first three weeks or so are very slow, but also cold. At least, colder than you would expect in Florida.
Epcot has the Food and Wine festival every October, and the food is always very good. It can get pricey quick if you eat your way around Epcot, though, so we usually limit ourselves to a few booths. The Patisserie at the French pavilion is a must-visit, and we tried the "other" French restaurant (Bistro de Paris, upstairs from the big restaurant) which was quite good but more expensive and not very kid-friendly. The Mexican table-service restaurant is also very good, as is Morocco. The rest are decent, but as you said, weaker than the other Disney restaurants. I recommend Narcoosee's, a seafood place at the Grand Floridian, which we eat at every year (except this year. It was full!).
We usually stay at one of the Epcot resorts (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club) because you can walk from there to Epcot or MGM (a bit of a hike, but easily doable), and you can take the monorail from the front of Epcot to the Magic Kingdom. Much more convenient that waiting for a bus to get anywhere. BTW, even though the Swan and the Dolphin are "Epcot Resorts," they are not true Disney resorts, so you can't use the dining plan (if you have it) at the restaurants there or charge things to your room. I think you can use the Extra Magic Hours privilege, though.
Speaking of which, go to the Magic Kingdom in the evening on a day when they have evening Extra Magic Hours. After the fireworks, off-site guests and (many) people with little kids leave, making for much shorter lines than normal. Also, go to Animal Kingdom when they have morning EM Hours, get a FastPass for the Safari, ride Everest (maybe a few times) in the meantime, and them go on the Safari. They feed the animals around this time, so they are all out and awake.
Fantasmic is not worth the wait. Seriously, don't bother. The MK fireworks ("Wishes") are very good. If they have a Halloween Party that night, they do a different and even better fireworks show ("HalloWishes"). Epcot's are still the best.
We got lucky this last time. As we were leaving the Haunted Mansion (early in the morning), a Disney worker was standing there giving out FastPass lanyards, which allow you to use the FastPass line one time at each of the attractions on the lanyard at any time you want to go. They hand them out at all the parks early in the morning, and at random locations, but if you get one it's as good as gold! The revamped Haunted Mansion is wonderful - probably my favorite attraction at MK, and second overall only to the Tower of Terror at MGM.
FastPass times work as follows: You can get your next FastPass after the start time on your current one, or two hours from the time you got your current one, whichever comes first. This means if you get a 6:00 pm pass for Soarin' at 10:00 am, you can get your next pass at 12:00 pm. The FastPass will tell you what time you can get your next pass (in small type at the bottom).
Pleasure Island is closed, or at least the clubs are. They are "redeveloping" it into more shops and restaurants, from what I understand.
Good points on all the others. My wife and I have DisneyWorld down to a science by now, and if you play your cards right you can do a lot in a few days without spending a fortune along the way.
You could be a (skinnier) twin for Peter King the footbal writter