Blue skies and white clouds over Cinderella Castle on a recent afternoon in the Magic Kingdom (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
If you follow my Best Week Ever column, you know that I’ve had the dubious fortune of getting exceedingly damp during my last few visits to Walt Disney World. You may have even begun to believe that I carry my own storm clouds around with me, like a cursed Douglas Adams character. So, I thought it was time to sweep away the clouds with six sunny day observations from the Magic Kingdom, where I (miracle of miracles) recently spent an entire afternoon with barely a drop of rain.
Same-Day FastPasses Aren’t Extinct
On my most recent Magic Kingdom visit, I was breaking in my brand-new blue MagicBand, which I received free via mail as a renewing Annual Passholder. (After a few more years I should have the whole color collection). And what better use for a new MagicBand than FastPass+ attraction reservations?
Of course, you may assume that by showing up on a busy summer afternoon and not checking for FastPass availability until I was riding the tram to the TTC, I’d be out of luck. But much to my delight, I was able to secure some decent ride times, after a bit of fiddling with the MyDisneyExperience system.
Pro Tip: The MDE mobile website is much more user-friendly than Disney’s smartphone app when searching for alternate time slots.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD mp3 player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness starting with…
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” And you just may hear a song from a little movie called Frozen…
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer. We are little over a month away from the ultimate Disney fan event – the D23 Expo – where we will gain some insight into the future of the Walt Disney World parks. While the California parks have been blessed in recent years with a $1 Billion renovation to Disney California Adventure (bringing Cars Land, World of Color, and a new park entrance) along with upgrades to Disneyland for the park’s upcoming 60th anniversary (including the critically praised Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever, a new nighttime spectacular,) the Florida parks have been recipient of things less noticeable by your average guest like MagicBands, My Disney Experience, and Downtown Disney’s transition to Disney Springs. While additions like Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers and Winged Encounters have drawn rave reviews, they don’t have the pick-your-jaw-off-the-ground moment like seeing Radiator Springs Racer’s Cadillac Range mountains or walking into Universal’s Diagon Alley.
Many expect us all to be wowed by what will be announced at the D23 Expo, some even speculating a $3 Billion overhaul to DHS (for the record, we here at the SATURDAY SIX don’t expect anything approaching that number, but even “just” a Billion dollars goes a long way baby.) One thing is for certain, whatever is coming isn’t coming soon, and today we’re going to look at how Disney is all but taunting guests to open their wallets starting with….
# 6 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios outright dares guests to go to the park
What a year for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, DHS has removed so many things without replacement that Matt Hochberg – the park’s biggest defender – is rumored to be hiding in the same bunker Saddam Hussein was found in. The Sorcerer’s Hat, gone. Studio Backlot Tour, gone. American Idol Experience and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, gone. Recently it was announced that the Magic of Disney Animation will be closing on July 12th and those in the know report that One Man’s Dream is also on the chopping block. Every park loses stuff as its part of normal theme park operations, but the difference here is nothing has come in to replace anything. Well, to be fair, a recent Soundstage Lounge was installed at the Jack Sparrow location. Unfortunately it looks more like the filming location for a sequel in the Saw series of films than your usual WDI made ultra-detailed area. The park has a shrinking amount of attractions, and while Frozen Summer Fun will get us through the next couple months, then what?
Need an attraction? Make us an offer! (photo by Michael Sheehy and Matt Cleary)
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July! Celebrate our country’s independence, but keep in mind that whatever you’re doing this weekend, make sure you stay safe and think smart!
Disney has passed the 1 billion dollar box office mark, a Universal attraction could be getting a refurb, and more!
In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors
Do you believe the latest rumors? These are some doozies for sure. I’m not sure I believe all of them, but it would be interesting to see what becomes fact and what becomes fiction. (Soon? Disney, please? Like around one month from now?)
Several weeks ago, I took my very first Disney Cruise! I had debated whether or not to try out the Disney Cruise Line for years, as I am one of those people who likes to go 12 hours straight at Disney World and wasn’t sure if I could handle being confined to a single ship. But after hearing so many glowing reports about the Disney Cruise Line from other Disney fans, I decided to take the plunge with a 3-Night Bahamian Cruise on the Disney Dream with stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. So how was it? Let’s just say that I’m already looking at booking my next cruise! But I have to admit, as a cruising newbie, there were a few things that I had to figure out during my incredible 3 days aboard the Disney Dream; and while I have very few, if any, complaints I still couldn’t help but think on what I wish I knew before my Disney Cruise that would’ve made things a little easier.
So if you’re planning your first Disney Cruise, or it’s been awhile since you cruised with Mickey and the gang, here’s a few things that I wish I knew before my Disney Cruise on the Disney Dream. Bon Voyage!
Animator’s Palate onboard the Disney Dream
1. Your Dining Rotation is on Your Key to the World Card – Your Key to the World Card is the most important item you will have on your cruise. Not only is it the key to your stateroom, it’s needed to get on and off the ship and tells you which muster station to report to. What I didn’t know before my cruise was that the three capital letters printed at the bottom of the card were my restaurant schedule for the cruise. For example, my card had AER printed next to my dining time. Maybe you fellow cruisers are smarter than me, but I had no idea what that meant! As it turned out, the first letter stood for Animator’s Palette, where I was scheduled to eat the first night on board. The second stood for the Enchanted Garden and the third for the Royal Palace.
Are you a foodie family? Then you should consider taking part in the brand new Disney Family Culinary Adventure experience at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. During this interactive evening that lasts approximately four hours, guests will be able to prepare and cook a five-course dinner to be served in the kitchen. The Disney Family Culinary Adventure is aimed for the whole family, beginning with guests age 9 or older and the tour can accommodate up to 30 guests.
Experiences can include learning how to make pasta from scratch, roll sushi, or make farmer cheese.
Upon arrival in the kitchen, guests will be broken into groups and assigned a portion of the meal, which they’ll prepare with the aid of a Chef. Teams will regroup to introduce their menu item before sitting down to a wonderful group dinner. At the conclusion of the adventure, guests will be presented with a cookbook signed by the Chefs and a white Chef’s hat. In addition, beer and wine are included for Guests 21 years and over.
Also on hand will be a Disney PhotoPass photographer who will capture photos of the group during the experience.
This will be taking place at the Convention Center at the resort, and guests should check in for the event on the second floor of the Convention Center, near Atlantic Room B. The program is planned two evenings a week (days vary), starting at 5:00 p.m.
This experience costs $175 per adults and $125 for those ages 9-12.
Grab your passport and your poncho, because we’re continuing the rainy refrain from last column with a Best Week Ever visit to Epcot, or as I now call it, Wetcot. Recently, I’ve been on a mission to photograph the menus for every single eatery — table service, quick service, and vendor cart — inside the Walt Disney World parks, as part of our ongoing effort to provide you with the most complete and current WDW menu information anywhere on the internet. (If you think tracking down every food venue across four parks sounds stressful, pity Laurel’s poor fingers as she inputs thousands of items into our database.) But despite my practical purpose in visiting Epcot last week, I couldn’t help but pause for a moment to appreciate some of the park’s overlooked wonders, thanks to the wrath of Mother Nature.
It all started with cheerful blue skies, fluffy clouds, and blazing sunshine as I arrived in early afternoon. Don’t be fooled: this is Central Florida, where the weather can turn on you twice as fast as a spinning teacup.
Here’s what wait times were like in Epcot as I was riding the tram in. Not too ridiculous, considering that this day was predicted as a 9 out of 10 on our crowd calendar.
I had to chuckle as I spotted this construction wall signage near the tram drop-off. Perhaps it’s a not-so-subtle signal to the folks transforming Maelstrom into Frozen Ever After?
They’re small, they’re round, they’re yellow, and when you set foot in Universal Orlando, they’re seemingly everywhere. The adorable, funny, and mischievous minions from the Despicable Me movies are about to get their own movie and Universal Studios Florida is awash in minion mania. Families and fans can get minionized in more ways than ever before, making this summer the perfect time to visit Universal Orlando and celebrate all things minions. Let’s take a look at all the ways you can get into the minion mania.
Minion Scavenger Hunt
New for this summer a fun, simple, and silly scavenger hunt takes place throughout all of the Universal Studios Florida theme park. It’s not elaborate and obviously temporary, but it adds an entertaining way to celebrate the new minion movie. Families and friends are sure to have a good time reading the clues and exploring the park together.
Simply pick up your scavenger hunt card at the minion merchandise store, Super Silly Stuff. The card will give you the instructions and contains 10 clues describing where to find each answer. It’s a scratch off card, so some of the clues are partially obstructed by the scratch off panels, which is kind of frustrating; I’m not sure why the scratch off panels aren’t just under each clue instead of on top off the clue, but I guess we’ll just say it adds to the mystery of the scavenger hunt. Each clue gives a description of where in the park you will find your answer. The answer is marked by a large decal or display of the minions with an answer indicating one of the three most famous minions: Bob, Stuart, and Kevin. Once you see which minion is the answer just scratch off the bubble for the appropriate minion.
I do not like waiting in lines. I’m an impatient person and I always have been. But I do love Disney World so you can see how this could be a problem for me. Thankfully, Disney is all about making every experience at their parks magical. Yup, even the waiting in long lines part. Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a trend at Disney Parks where many attraction queues have been getting special care and attention to become more immersive and interactive. Of course, not all lines, waiting areas and queues are created equal. Some attraction queues are done so well that they feel like a natural extension of the attraction itself while others are indistinguishable from waiting in line at the bank only if the bank were outside in 90 degree weather and the customers all wore fanny packs and mouse ears. What was my point again? Oh right, the lines. Some Disney World lines are just a cut above the rest. These selected attractions below feature the Cadillacs of queues. They’ll have you saying, “Wow, look at those suckers with Fast Passes. They wish they could experience this line!” In all seriousness, though, I always appreciate excellent Disney Imagineering and I really believe that these queues are representative of that. Read the rest of this entry »
Bye bye Cyber Space Mountain. See you later Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlasters. Sayonara Virtual Jungle Cruise. DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park will be officially closing its doors sometime in 2016. The extremely dated video and virtual game center which featured 5 floors of virtual worlds, 3D encounters, and classic video games will be making way for the recently announced NBA Experience.
NBA Experience will feature hands-on activities that put guests right in the middle of the NBA action, creating an immersive experience of both the game and its players. Guests will enjoy unique NBA video productions, a restaurant, and a store.
DisneyQuest opened in 1998 in Downtown Disney’s West Side and was originally supposed to become a chain, however, the idea didn’t take off like Disney had hoped.
There has been no official closing date announced, so I’ll make sure to keep you posted in the future.