Archive for October, 2010

WDW Today Episode 787 – Night And Day

by on October 17, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 787 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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TouringPlans.com Disneyland Site Now In Preview Mode

by on October 17, 2010

Hello, TouringPlanners!

We’re excited to show you a preview version of our Disneyland site. We have a Disneyland Crowd Calendar, a slew of Disneyland Touring Plans (we’ll be adding more), and a Disneyland version of Lines, our mobile wait times app. We’re eager to have you kick the tires on these products.

For now, accessing these products is free while we’re currently in “preview mode.” In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be charging a separate subscription fee for it (and we’re considering a discount if you get both Walt Disney World and Disneyland). Head over to http://touringplans.com/disneyland-resort/join/basic to sign up. If you’re a current user, make sure to login first, so you don’t have two accounts!

We’re opening this up early because we’d love feedback! Please leave a comment or contact us.

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Foto Fridays: The Studios v. Animal Kingdom Face-off

by on October 15, 2010

Congratulations on making it to the conclusion of another work week! With your weekend about to start, hopefully this eases you into relaxation mode. In this edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we are featuring a battle for third place park, between The Studios and Animal Kingdom! Since pictures speak louder than words we’ve decided to seek definitive resolution photographically for this especially hotly contested Disney Debate!

Here is what some of our followers on Twitter had to say:

@mjcollin Animal Kingdom: the food is better, the headliner (EE) is the best anywhere, Love the shows, and Love the animals!!!

@scarlettashley1 AK! Great shows, great rides, great food. Plus, animals and gorgeous scenery. #disneydebate

@AmyBethCombs The Studios. Smaller park, easier to navigate & appeals more to me entertainment-wise. I hardly ever go to AK. #disneydebate

@ajcenac Animal Kingdom > Studios; EE & Dinosaur > TT & RnRC; Nemo, FOTLK & FofW > BB, Indy & LMA; KS > GMR

@Blueline29 Don’t really love either one, but I guess Studios b/c of big 3 rides. Can hit ‘em & take off. ;) Everest big draw, though.

@Disney_Couture Def Studios! Has great attractions & rides plus best sweets to snack on

@RayMTT I love the Studios because they have attractions I like as in Star Tours, RnR, and more. AK just has EE.

@mousemisers AK for sure, the most beautiful Disney park, every detail is perfect.

@twentyfive2life Hollywood Studios. Better rides. I have a zoo at home.

Interestingly, the owner of Studios Central didn’t weigh in. Perhaps he is a closet Animal Kingdom fan?!

Along with their photo entries, we asked for an explanation as to why each Flickr poster preferred their respective choice. Their reasons may pertain to photography, general enjoyment of the choice, or both. Their personal thoughts are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream.

The Studios

CJ Balogh:
32 more days...
DHS gets my vote. Even though it has lost some of it’s theming due to the studios actually leaving, there is still more to do at DHS. Attractions like the Great Movie Ride, MuppetVision, and obviously Tower of Terror, still have that highly themed feel which is what makes WDW.

mr_itty:
Osborn Lights
Gotta be DHS. Especially during the upcoming Christmas season. NOTHING beats the Osborn lights.

Kurt Miller:

DHS also gets my vote. I just love the mix of romantic Hollywood with a touch of that art deco creepiness a la the Tower of Terror. Plus, how can you beat Fantasmic at the end of the night when the AK has nothing!

bethmohler:
100_0263
DHS for me too. Tower of Terror and Toy Story Midway Mania vs Disco Yeti? No contest :)

dd_indy:
Can you hear me now?
Animal Kingdom and the Studios are, in my opinion, two of the most photographically attractive theme parks in Orlando. Animal Kingdom has great repeatability due to the unpredictability of the animals. No two trips on Kilimanjaro Safaris or down any of the many trails are the same. If you visit the park on those rare nights that it’s open after sunset, the Tree of Life and Expedition Everest make great photographic subjects. After a trip to Walt Disney World, even if I spend an equal amount of time in each of the four parks, I always seem to end up with more pictures from Animal Kingdom. However, my vote this week goes to Hollywood/MGM Studios. It has three of my favorite rides (Toy Story, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror) and Muppetvision 3-D has the best movies in all of Walt Disney World (both the pre-show and the 3-D feature). But the main thing that makes this my favorite park is Streetmosphere, also known as Citizens of Hollywood. As I strolled down Hollywood Blvd. on my first visit to MGM in 1992, I heard some people yelling at each other. I was surprised to see several people dressed in 1940s garb who were acting out a scene, sometimes grabbing passing park guests to use as surprised participants. Fortunately, they have remained in the park ever since, and I always try to see them whenever I visit the Studios.

MVanDeusen:
fantasmic night!
I love the Studios from a photography standpoint… Maybe because I have yet (in 5 trips) to see the Animal Kingdom at night– something I will be able to remedy in January thanks to EMH! :) For now, I am saying the Studios– and here is my favorite nighttime shot!

Scottwdw:
Streetmosphere on Sunset Blvd.
This is turning into a runaway. I must say when I saw the face-off, I was on the fence. As Disney’s Hollywood Studios is my favorite park which I will explain why shortly, I have by far taken the most photos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom where I live out my dream of being a famous wildlife photographer. Alas, as much as I burn up the memory cards at Animal Kingdom, “The Studios” burns up my love for the movies. Especially those movies form the Golden Era of Hollywood. Disney’s Hollywood Studios goes beyond even that by depicting a Hollywood “that never was” but one from people’s imaginations. The architecture, restaurants, attractions and those lovable Citizens of Hollywood (see photo above) enhance those feelings for me. Then they added thrill rides, live shows and even the Mann’s Chinese Theater right out of Hollywood movies. Well, if there is one thing Disney does well, is take a story and make it better. Such is the case at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It does not hurt either that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is THE best themed attraction on any Disney property (including the other Towers). Chalk up another vote for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Animal Kingdom

Corsey21:
Expedition Everest
I’m going away from the crowd and going with the Animal Kingdom. Let’s face it, besides a few strong ones, neither of these parks are overflowing with rides so the deciding factor for me was where to go without going on any rides. With all the animals everywhere and different shows to see DAK pulls ahead slightly. Plus, even though it is never open late, DAK is a great place to take great night shots of the Tree and Everest.

Finally, my entry and commentary:
Grauman's Chinese Theatre and Some Other Thing

This one is easy for me, so easy it’s not even close. As usual, I will focus on the choice I’m not picking first, and will probably fixate on this for entirely too long. Animal Kingdom, by far, is my least favorite of the parks. It’s sad, because Animal Kingdom could be one of my favorites, were it executed in a different way. The problem, as I see it, is that Animal Kingdom is too contrived, spending too much time on style to the detriment of substance. To wit, I recall listening to an episode of WDW Radio a while back discussing all of the hidden details and backstory in Dinoland. This backstory is great, but it is not substitute for quality substance. I think it is more an afterthought, added as somewhat of a ‘smokescreen’ or to explain away why Dino-rama is such an eyesore. I couldn’t care less that it’s an “authentic” eyesore, it’s an eyesore with cheap carnival attractions, nonetheless.

I have this same concern in other areas of the park. So much thought, time, and effort went in to making the “Disney Details” truly remarkable, but at what cost? The number of quality-themed Disney attractions is seriously lacking, to the point that the park doesn’t offer sufficient entertainment options to justify staying there a full day. The park lacks any traditional Omnimover dark rides, which I find bordering on absurd. On our recent 11 day honeymoon, my wife and I spent a grand total of 5 hours at Animal Kingdom. We arrived in the late afternoon and planned on staying through Evening Extra Magic Hours, so we ended up missing two favorites in Finding Nemo: the Musical and Festival of the Lion King, but after the near-boredom we encountered in AK after dark, we called an audible another day, and nixed our planned AK morning.

The biggest issue I have with Animal Kingdom after the “style over substance” qualm is that, despite its best efforts with the “Natazu” campaign, it’s not all that dissimilar to a well-done zoo. Granted, things like Flights of Wonder and Kilimanjaro Safaris are well done “edutainment,” but I believe the rest flounders somewhat as simple ‘walk around looking at animal exhibits’. To me, it lacks the proper execution in those particular attractions to distinguish itself from a plain ‘ole zoo. If the park would add some Omnimover attractions and create real entertainment value in the “zoo attractions,” I could see it as on par with the other parks. Or, to open this can of worms, give it Beastly Kingdom.

After reading all of that, you might think that the Studios wins by default for me. This is definitely not the case. I am a huge movie buff—probably better characterized (unfortunately) as a film snob, actually. The Great Movie Ride is one of my favorite attractions; I often contemplate adding scenes, such as the crop-duster scene from North by Northwest, wishing I had the authority. (I about fainted when Len Testa suggested Citizen Kane is irrelevant and Matt Hochberg expressed wanting to see Pearl Harbor added to the attraction in a recent episode of WDW Today.) Beyond the general allure of the idealized Golden Age of Hollywood, there are the other areas of the park that feature things I love. The humor of the Muppets has me in stitches; the themed brilliance of the Hollywood Tower Hotel geeks out the Twilight Zone fan in me, and; rockin’ out with Aerosmith gets me fully amped. I do miss Superstar Television and the proper Backlot Tour, and I could do without Lights, Motors, Action!, but overall I still think the Studios is a great park. It doesn’t beat Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, but it’s great in its own right.

What are your thoughts on the face-off? Animal Kingdom or DHS? Let us know in the comments!

__________________________________

Next week’s challenge is a seasonal one: “Fall-oween”. Post your favorite elements of Fall or Halloween from anywhere “Disney,” be it Walt Disney World, Disneyland, heck, even your local Disney Store! Whether they be shots of colorful leaves in the parks, Food & Wine Festival photos, images from the Halloween Parties, or something else Fall-oween related, we want to see them! Also, please help us determine the best element of Fall-oween at Disney by voicing your thoughts on Twitter to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Fall-oween!” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in the next Face-off blog, so get to Tweetin’ and Postin’!

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Early October Crowds At The Studios – An Update

by on October 15, 2010

This is an update from a previous article. Click here to read the original article.

We have received some great suggestions and some interesting theories about why Toy Story Mania Fastpass is distributing so quickly. Whatever the reason, it would have to be something that didn’t exist before. If it did exist before then our models would pick it up.

For example, attractions at the Studios have been closed before and we didn’t see a spike in Fastpass distribution rates for Toy Story Mania. This makes us think that the closure of Star Tours does not have a significant affect.

Canadian Thanksgiving always occurs on the second Monday of October and altough we have strong evidence that Canadians like Walt Disney World (present company included) historically, the wait times are not affected. The phenomenon seems to be affecting only Toy Story Mania Fastpass so it seems strange that Canadians would specifically be targetting Fastpasses at this attraction.

What makes more sense is a change to the exit system at Toy Story Mania that was implemented in late summer of this year. Check out these comments by our friend Brian, a University of Michigan professor and fellow Disney-nut.

One potential factor: during its most recent refurbishment (in late August of this year), exit gates were added to the attraction. Reportedly, this noticeably increased dispatch interval, which in turn lowers the capacity of the attraction. Once that lower actual capacity is measured, the [Fastpass] system should respond by giving out fewer [Fastpasses]  per hour to maintain the Fastpass/Standby mix—so, [Fastpass] would sell out more quickly than it would have pre-refurbishment. I don’t know how long your model has been under-estimating Fastpass times, but if it is tracking roughly to early September, this could be why.

Are the other attractions also being under-estimated? If not, that could lend more weight to the theory that Toy Story, not crowd level, has changed.

Brian Noble
Associate Professor of
Computer Science and Engineering
University of Michigan

It is interesting that Brian’s theory would explain why we have seen this sudden increase in the Fastpass distribution rate for Toy Story Mania. We took a look at other attractions at the Studios and we see that the wait times and Fastpass distribution rates at the other attractions are in-line with our predictions.

Toy Story Mania 2?

The difference in Fastpass distribution rate is significant. Fastpasses have sold out more than 50% faster since mid-September. Since the opening of Toy Story Mania in May 2008, the capacity of the attraction has been lower than expected (about 900 guests per hour). If the changes to the exit system continue as they are now, Toy Story Mania will compete with Dumbo for the slowest turnover rate of all Walt Disney Resort Attractions (about 700 guests per hour).

What should we do if we are touring the Studios this fall?

Since this is only affecting the Fastpass booth for Toy Story Mania it does not mean that crowds are suddenly heavier at the Studios. Crowds are about the same as one would expect for this time of year (less than 6 on the crowd calendar). If you are planning on experiencing Toy Story Mania in the near future however, it will be even more important to arrive early and head straight to the attraction. If you are in the first few dozen people in line, the standby wait should be small. If you prefer to get a Fastpass, make sure you head to the Fastpass booth before 10:30am. Fastpasses will sell out quickly!

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WDW Today Episode 786 – Fast Pass Theories

by on October 14, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 786 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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They Say It’s Your Birthday

by on October 14, 2010

Disney goes to great lengths to help us make the most of the important milestones in our lives, which is why celebrations are such a huge part of vacationing at Walt Disney World.  Year after year, vacation after vacation people come from all over the world to get married, have a first haircut, go to a Halloween party, celebrate an anniversary, a birthday, or have a family reunion.

Despite the changes brought to the parks by their various park celebrations through the years the message has always been the same: What Will You Celebrate? Sure some of these are looked back upon very negatively like the giant pink birthday cake transformation of Cinderella’s Castle that was done to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom.  Other’s like The Happiest Celebration On Earth celebrating 50 years of Disney Parks were much better received (really loved and miss Cinderellabration).

And the new Let The Memories Begin celebration is really no different, only it takes the question of “What Will You Celebrate?” and turns that into “What Did You Celebrate?”  It’s a subtle, yet clever slant on their existing marketing, and despite that people had psyched themselves up for more out of the announcement a few weeks ago, the change is genius – and I suspect many naysayers will come around once the new celebration kicks off fully.

Leveraging the basic tenants of social media marketing and continuing to deliver an on point message is a strong thing for any business to do.  Sure you may never see yourself up on the walls Cinderella’s Castle, but guess what, you’re not supposed to.  If you do, consider yourself lucky.  But the point is that your picture is supposed to invoke memories in others of their adventures in the parks, and their picture is supposed to invoke your memories in turn.

Right now as you’re reading this my backpack is ready and my wife, Cheryl, and I are heading over to Disney World to celebrate my Birthday… my errr… 29th birthday that is.  We’ve got the “JasperCam” monitoring DisneyDoggie, and he’ll get checked on throughout the day – despite that we’re out having fun, it’s always important for us to know he’s okay.  Years ago, long before we moved to Florida, I made a conscious decision to never work on my Birthday – coming to Disney World for them instead.  It is a long standing tradition of memories that I no intentions of breaking.

One thing I’ve come to learn is that my birthday, October 14th, is a day rooted in Disney History. For example, it is considered to be the birthday of many of Winnie the Pooh’s friends, though not the bear himself, Eeyore, or Tigger.  Though Tigger is considered to have been born in October 1928 as this was his first book appearance.  Disney uses the year 1968 since that was the year of the release of the movie Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day – the basis for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride at Magic Kingdom.  So I like to think of Tigger as my contemporary.

Like many, I lament the loss of my original “birthday ride”, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea.  This is a ride that shares your birthday.  If such a ride exists, and you are in the park on your birthday it is a rule that you must ride it.  So for many years, after 20k closed, I wandered through the parks on my birthday without such a ride.  Often I would stop at the old site and wonder things like why it wouldn’t get replaced with a Little Mermaid version of the ride.

Fortunately last year, on my birthday, The Sum Of All Thrills opened – the first ever ride attraction located in Innoventions.  While this ride is not for everyone, especially the claustrophobic, it is a lot of fun.  The concept is simple, you’re using a specialized computer program to design a roller coaster.  It is then uploaded into the simulator where you get to experience your design in what Disney bills as a “4-D Robotic Simulator”.  The rides you design can vary from simple and tame, to crazy and wild.  You get a card that not only ties into a web site experience, but also stores your roller-coaster for later use should you desire to recall and ride it again, skipping the design phase.

Because of this, my first stop of the day will be in Epcot.  The plan is to start with riding Spaceship Earth, because it’s the iconic park ride – probably the most iconic if you ask me.  After we’ll head over to Innoventions East to ride The Sum Of All Thrills.  And, time permitting I plan to seek out Duffy the Disney Bear who will be making his first appearances in Epcot that day (though I’ve seen him in the World ShowPlace pavillion before) – or at least take a good peek at his new merchandise.

Once this is all sorted out it will be time to head over to my chosen birthday meal for the day at Beaches & Cream.  I’ll be honest, I’m not going for the burgers, because my favorite burger on property is still found at the Turf Club.  In fact, my plan is to get the veggie burger.  At home I’m Kosher, and while I get a bit lax when I’m out, I do try to stick to the basics, and one of those is to not have milk for 3 hours after you’ve had meat – thus a burger would mean no ice cream.  I’m going for a No Way Jose – it’s been a while since I’ve had one, and I’m looking forward to it. That means no burger.

We’ll be meeting with a small group of friends who are planning to join me to celebrate.  To me no celebration is complete without having friends and/or family along to be there with you.  Today I’ll have both, and I couldn’t ask for more than that.  Afterwards we’ll be heading into Disney’s Hollywood Studios for fun, adventure, and stardom.

Looking back, at my birthdays I realize that my single most favorite restaurant in all of Walt Disney World to celebrate a birthday has to be Whispering Canyon.  And I’ve spent a few there, the most memorable of which was my last milestone birthday.  This was a big production put on by my wife and brother, and I honestly had no idea where I was being taken.  They even blindfolded me, though it only took me about 10 seconds of being led around in the lobby by my brother to realize where I was – Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts on property.

Even if you’re travelling, there’s no reason you can’t have a cake on your birthday if you’re heading to Walt Disney World.  This used to require talking directly with the restaurant ahead of time, but these days Disney offers the Cake Hotline at (407) 827-2253.  For a cost of approximately $25 and higher you can get a fantastic cake that will suit your celebration needs.  Cheryl and I do this for our birthdays and anniversary when it makes sense to.

Cakes typically need to be ordered at least 48 hours in advance, though if you have special needs requirements to worry about like Cheryl and I do they will be taken care of.  For our anniversary earlier in the year we had this amazing gluten and dairy free cake that became my breakfast the following day.  Most restaurants have a smaller, less expensive 6” Celebrate Today cake available should you not plan ahead. You should get the smaller cake at least once at Whispering Canyon, you won’t regret it – I still laugh about it to this day.

There are so many other things you could do on your birthday.  Consider that you could be having a specialized party at any of a number of locations (age dependent in some locations).  For example, you could be playing a round of golf, or if miniature golf is more your thing you could have a party at the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course.  Perhaps a Magic Kingdom or Illuminations fireworks cruise – maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get the legendary Captain Mike.  Disney World is ready to provide you with any number of celebration customizations if you want them.

But barring everything else you may choose to do on your birthday at WDW, I can’t stress enough how much you’ll want to be wearing a “Happy Birthday” button with your name written on it.  These can be found at any guest relations, ticket window, or resort registration desk.  Castmembers will make it a point to send you wishes, and sometimes even bestow gifts or special experiences to you.  A free snack, a card in your room signed by Mickey Mouse, a phone call from Goofy, a special celebration PhotoPass, etc.  There’s nothing like getting a little something for nothing just for being you.

What about you? Have you ever celebrated a birthday in Disney World?  If not, would you like to?  What special thing do you like to do for your birthday when you’re at WDW?  What WDW restaurant would you like to or are planning to have your birthday?  What type of cake are we having? Yom Huledet Sameach!

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BETAMOUSE #35 – Cory Disbrow and Tom Bricker

by on October 14, 2010

betamouse logoA new episode of Betamouse is out, co-hosted by TouringPlans.com developer Henry Work.

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

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The Site Gets Photo Banners; Introducing Tom!

by on October 13, 2010

Hello, TouringPlanners! Henry here. We’ve been working hard on the site over the past few months, tweaking and adding lots of things. As you may have noticed at the top of some of the pages, the site now sports some pretty sweet-looking photos that help set the mood of each page. We started with the park pages. Then we added images for each land (some of my favorites are Fantasyland, Future World, Sunset Boulevard, and Africa). And yesterday, we added photos for nearly every attraction in Walt Disney World! Check out Cinderella’s Golden Carousel, Fantasmic, Star Tours, or Great Movie Ride for good examples!

Welcome aboard, Tom!

Behind-the-scenes on this project has been the fantastic photographer and our photo blogger around here, Tom Bricker, otherwise known as wdwfigment on various Disney boards. He’s been gracious enough to join our team properly (we’re currently calling him the “Chief Photo Dude“) and continue to help out both with these kind of projects, as well as the blog. And if you want to see some of the epic trip reports that made him famous, go here, here and here. Or his flickr page.

We consider this a project that will never be fully complete — we’re going to continue to look for the elusive, perfect image that captures the spirit of each page. We also may mess with some image rotation! Stay tuned….

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October Trip Report

by on October 13, 2010

Well, another great trip has come and gone and I’m taking to the Touring Plans blog to tell all of you about it.  It started off with an early flight from Newark to Orlando which went fairly smoothly.  I was a bit concerned because the Northeast was being hit with the leftovers of a tropical storm the morning I left, but we pulled out from the gate on time and had a minimally bumpy trip to Florida.  There was a lot of texting and tweeting going on between all of the folks who were flying out that morning about delays and turbulence so I was happy to be minimally affected by the weather.  Upon arriving at MCO I met up with my friend and roommate for this trip, Kim and we sleepily boarded Disney’s Magical Express to make our way to the Yacht Club.

Things got off to a bumpy start at the Yacht Club.  I’ll write about them in more detail when I write a post dedicated to my stay here, but I’ll leave with a teaser.  It took us far too long to check in and then there was a major issue with our room when we got to it.  The short (and more pleasant) version of the story was my friends and I got a free room upgrade to a water view from our concierge level room.  I’ve never sprung for a superior view at one of the Disney resorts since I spend so little time in the room so I’ve never experience this before.  The view was pretty fantastic with the lighthouse right outside our balcony and Boardwalk across the way.  Although I doubt I would spend the money for this kind of view again, having it was really lovely.  I also have to mention how wonderful it was to be within walking distance of Epcot’s International Gateway.  I’ve raved about this feature when staying at the Boardwalk before, but it is equally exciting from the Yacht Club.

We were busy from the get go on this trip!  Some friends headed to the Yacht Club to meet Kim and I for lunch at Beaches & Cream.  It was my first time there!  This eatery located in the Beach Club is famous for its ice cream, but since it was late in the afternoon and we wanted to try some food and wine festival offerings we just burgers and such and took off.  Our group split up shortly after lunch to hit up different Disney community activities in various places on property.  Some headed to Lou Mongello’s Food and Wine Walkabout in World Showcase while the rest of us went over to the Saratoga Springs Resort to visit the folks from the Be Our Guest Podcast in their treehouse villa.  I was in the group who headed to Saratoga and I’m really glad I went!  I got to meet some great folks and put some faces to twitter names.  It was also here where I got to see some old friends for the first time on this trip which is always wonderful.

Soon it was time to head off to meet up with my other roommate, Caroline, who had driven to WDW from Alabama and collect the rest of the group for dinner at Sanaa at the Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  A group of about ten of us dined together and really enjoyed our meal at Sanaa.  Our server was a lot of fun and really made us feel at ease even though we were a big group complete with kids.  After a lovely dinner we visited the Kidani savannah before heading back over to Epcot to end our evening with Illuminations.  Our group really likes to take in the show from Japan so we headed there to enjoy it together.  Since many of us had been up since the wee hours to travel and several were running the 5k in the morning we decided to call it a night after Illuminations.

Photo provided by Steve Bassett

Saturday was a bit of a crazy day.  It started out with four of my friends running the Halloween 5k through the Magic Kingdom.  A few of us got ourselves out of bed to cheer for them as the crossed the finish line.  We were so proud of our runners!  After the race we headed to Lou Mongello’s meet of the month at the Boardwalk Bakery.  Once again I got to meet some new friends and reconnect with people I’ve known for years.  We shared some laughs and made plans for the rest of the weekend on a nice relaxed morning.  After the meet Kim, Caroline, and I took advantage of the pool called Stormalong Bay which is shared by the Yacht and Beach Club resorts.  Kim and I only got to enjoy it for a short time before heading over to the Magic Kingdom for lunch at the Plaza with some friends.  Caroline stayed behind to take it easy that day since she would be running a half marathon that evening.

Lunch at the Plaza was decent, but not anything amazing.  Our group manages to have fun no matter where we go though so we made the best of bad service and just ok food.  After lunch our bunch disbanded and most of us went back to our resorts to take a nap since we had gotten up early for the 5k and planned to stay up late for the half marathon.  Back in my room a got cozy and dozed off for a little while and woke up in time to see Caroline off before her big race.  Our crew regrouped at the Yacht Club so we could make signs to show support during the race and hang out for a little while before heading to Epcot.  We walked over to World Showcase to take in Illuminations again, this time from Canada.  We all had a “we love these people moment” when everyone of us was singing along to the show.  This is why I love the Disney community so much.

After Illuminations was over everyone had to exit the park even if they had tickets for the half marathon after party.  My friends and I headed back to my resort room to hang out for a little while between events.  The party started at 10 and around that time we made our back to Epcot.  The crowds were thick with half marathon supporters already!  We managed to hit up a few Food and Wine Festival booths before we met up with AJ from the famous Disney Food Blog and then find a spot to cheer for Caroline as she ran by us toward the finish.  The way the race was set up with kind of a pain especially if you had multiple runners to support.  Spectators had to go out of the park, find a spot to cheer, wait for their runner then make their way back into Epcot to try to find their runner.  We had two friends running who were about an hour and a half apart from each other in timing so we had to do this twice (the second one after 2 in the morning).  What a pain!  Not only was this set up a pain, but the party was pretty close to a nightmare.  I’ve heard various numbers in terms of attendance ranging from 11,000 to 14,000!  This would have been more manageable if any attractions were open, but the only things open were the Food and Wine Festival booths which all had enormous lines.  It was a mess and unless Disney makes changes to next year’s event I won’t buy a ticket.

Photo provided by Kim Knight

On Sunday we all slept in a bit since we had been out until about 3 a.m. the night before.  Kim, Caroline, and I grabbed breakfast in the concierge lounge and then lazily got ready for our day.  The first stop on the tour today was the Disney Food Blog meet up at the Beach Club.  Lucky for us we just had to stumble downstairs to the Foodie Fest.  I got to meet a lot of fun people at this one!  I was happy for AJ, the writer of the Food Blog, she had a great turn out and things were going very well.  Next up, it was time to head over to the Mexico pavilion for the Touring Plans meet!  Almost 90 readers and friends came out to mingle and hang out with us and their fellow Disney fans. We broke the record for most money spent at the young eatery!  Thank you so much to all of you who took time out of your busy vacation schedules to enjoy a drink and some great company!  This meet and several others over the weekend gave the me opportunity to meet some new friends who I can’t wait to hang out with again.  The Touring Plans staff stuck around and tried Mexico’s table service restaurant, La Hacienda de San Angel.  I only stuck around for a drink and an appetizer since Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was on my agenda that night.  The coffee margarita I had was great!  I also had the Taquiza, a trio of tacos featuring beef, chicken and pork.  It was tasty, but nothing to write home about.  Kim and I headed back to our room to grab what we needed for the party and meet up with friends.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was a blast!  I have to keep in mind that I can have a great time with these great friends locked in a windowless room, but I’m pretty sure the Disney magic had something to do with how much fun we had that night.  Keep in mind I hadn’t ridden a single attraction since arriving two and a half days ago so tonight was the night!  My friends and I enjoyed several rides and also hit up several of the trick or treating spots before finding a spot to watch Hallowishes on Main Street.  These special even fireworks are awesome!  It was great to take them in with my friends (new and old) surrounding me.  After the fireworks we headed to Frontierland to take our place for the second running of the “Boo to You Parade.”  I’m not a big parade person, but I love this one!  It is charming and a lot of fun and really shouldn’t be missed.  We hit up a few more attractions including Splash Mountain where I was the only somewhat dry one in our log and the Haunted Mansion.  We had a great time playing along with an actress outside the mansion and she was certainly a highlight of our evening.  My experience at the Halloween party has me really looking forward to attending the Christmas party with these friends in December!

Monday started off with an early goodbye to Caroline who had to hit the road to be back in Alabama at a decent time.  Kim and I went back to bed for a bit and then took things slowly getting going, packing up, and getting ready for the rest of the day.  We decided to go to Animal Kingdom when Len (of Unofficial Guide, Touring Plans, and WDWToday fame) let us know that’s where he was.  We met up with him briefly and then spent the rest of the afternoon taking in attractions and enjoying lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue.  We had a nice, leisurely afternoon for a change and it was a welcomed change of pace.

Soon it was time to say goodbye to our remaining crew as we all headed back to our resorts to pick up the Magical Express (DME)  bus back to the airport.  Back that the Yacht Club tears were shed as I said “see ya real soon” to Kim and our friend Doug.  I was the weird girl crying on the DME while other families found their seats on the bus.  I kept checking my flight’s status on my phone to make sure it was on time and all seemed to be going well.  That is, until I actually got to the airport.  As my bus was approaching the terminal I checked one last time and now it said my flight was delayed two and a half hours!  Sigh. I made my way into the airport and hung out with my friend, Dee, who was waiting for a plane at a gate close to mine.  When she took off I was left alone to deal with my delayed flight.  They must have moved the flight time up and down five times while I sat there.  Finally I got so fed up I asked the Jet Blue employee at our podium what would happen if I decided to ditch the flight in favor of one the following day.

After getting a satisfactory answer I did what so many of us Disney geeks dream of doing: I went back to Disney World!  I’ve been a victim of crazy delays for bad weather in the Northeast before and I was already exhausted from my whirlwind trip and I just couldn’t handle sitting in the airport all night waiting to see what ungodly I would wind up arriving back in Newark.  I thought I was going to cry why the pushed my flight the third time and decided it was time to go.  Lucky for me my friend Doug was staying in a two bedroom villa at the Contemporary’s Bay Lake Tower and had room for me to crash there for the night.  Kim had already decided to stay the extra night in the villa as well so I raced back to WDW in time to meet them for Illuminations.  I took a cab from the airport to the Beach Club and then made my way to Epcot’s International Gateway as quickly as I could.  I found them and our other friend, Beci, just in time for the 9 o’clock start!

After watching Illuminations for the third time this weekend (yay!), Kim, Doug, and I stopped in Mouse Gear so I could buy something to sleep in since my checked back flew to Newark without me and then boarded the monorail for the Contemporary.  While I probably should have just hit the hay as soon as we got back to the Contemporary, our friends Kevin and Joe joined us for a drink at the Top of the World Lounge on the top floor of Bay Lake Tower.  If you haven’t been to this bar it’s probably the prettiest in all of WDW and has amazing views of the Magic Kingdom.  The five of us had the best time laughing and being silly that night.  Even though I shouldn’t have stayed up late since I had an 8 a.m. flight to catch in the morning, it was totally worth it.  We closed down the bar and then had to say our goodbyes again.

My trip was wrapped up early the next morning when Kim and I made our way to the airport for our very early flights.  Luckily, our gates were close to each other and we could hang out while we waited to depart.  My morning flight was on time and I made it back to Newark without a hitch.  I stopped into Jet Blue’s luggage office to retrieve my bag and I was on my way home.  Unfortunately, I was thrown head first back into reality since I had to go to the office after stopping at home for a shower and an unintentional nap!  It was another amazing trip with my wonderful friends.  It may have been crazy, busy, and at times chaotic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I can’t wait to see these people again in December!

Next week I’ll talk more about my experience at this year’s Food and Wine Festival!

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WDW Today Episode 785 – Listener Questions

by on October 12, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 785 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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