by Erin Foster
on August 24, 2011
The shops at Walt Disney World move a lot of merchandise. But if you spend time in the parks, you’ll start to notice some serious repetition on the racks; there’s that Mickey shirt, there’s that Mickey shirt again, and again, and again. If you’re the type that wants to stand out from the crowd or put your own spin on things, that same old, same old might not hold much appeal. If that’s the case, there are plenty of options for you to get personalized, unique, or self-created souvenirs at Walt Disney World. Here’s a tour:
Well, my first custom item, the Mickey ear hat, isn’t exactly unique (it’s been a Disney classic for decades), but you can customize it to make it uniquely yours by having your name embroidered on the back. In recent years, fully customizable ears had been available, with choose-your-own beanie, ears, and patches, but the make-your-own product was discontinued this summer. You can still choose among different embroidery fonts and thread colors. Ear hats are available throughout the Disney parks and resorts, customization is at select locations.
Even Duffy needs customization.
If the tees available throughout the World are not for you, stop by the Hanes Design-A-Tee store in Downtown Disney’s Marketplace area. This dedicated shop is filled with computerized kiosks where you can design your own shirt. You have a choice of hundreds of images and you can add any (G-Rated) text you want. If you’re traveling with a group, this is the perfect place to make a shirt that commemorates your travel.
Design-A-Tee kiosk start screen.
If you want to go off the beaten path a bit, check out the newly relocated and expanded Harley Davidson store at Downtown Disney. Here you can have a motorcycle vest (leather or pleather) personalized just for you. Both child and adult sizes are available and most customization is completed within the hour.
Make a vest your own.
Younger princesses will no doubt be fascinated by the many charm jewelry stations throughout Walt Disney World. These typically offer both bracelet and necklace bases to which guests can add charms of their choosing. Among the hundreds of choices, you’ll find letters of the alphabet, flowers and stars, as well as Disney characters.
Slightly more mature royalty can also create charm bracelets and necklaces with designer systems featuring precious metals and genuine gemstones. These charms are generally found behind a jewelry counter display case.
Designer charm systems.
If leather is more your style, each park has a station in which you can have leather bracelets customized with your name. This is a great treat for children with unusual monikers.
A great option for boys too.
Another type of custom jewelry is suitable for either you or your pet. Hey, Fido needs to have some personalized love too. Check out the Disney arcades for these ID tag creation machines. Although they may move around, these stations can also be found in some in-park locations.
Engravable ID tags for two legged or four legged creatures.
Still another jewelry option is the custom rings for sale outside the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. On-site artisans will stamp your name or initials into a metal ring. The results are surprisingly lovely.
Many folks have Mickey watches, but if you want your own spin on this classic product, look for the custom watch stations. Such style!
Watch designs of your choosing.
If you want to display a family crest in your home (and really, who doesn’t), you can have one made at either the England pavilion at Epcot or at Raglan Road at Downtown Disney. This is a cute gift for an engaged couple – showing a merging of the family lines. Many names are available, not just those of Anglo descent.
Your family crest as artwork.
Once ubiquitous throughout the parks, you can still find Mr. Potato Head stations at Downtown Disney’s Once Upon a Toy shop. Grab a potato base and fill a box with some of the hundreds of eyes, ears, arms, hats, feet, and other accoutrements of potato living. As a bonus, the store has a table where junior can spend a moment playing with the spuds while Mom shops nearby.
Mr. P is ready for a day in the parks.
No one should be expected to combat the Dark Side without a custom light saber. Luckily you can make your own at several spots at Walt Disney World, including the shop at the exit to Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (natch) and at Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney.
Light saber components.
Not really a toy but more a way of life (maybe that’s just me ), Vinylmation figures have taken Disney by storm. One of the cornerstones of this product is the create-your-own product. Grab a blank Vinyl and make him your own!
For those with an automotive drive, Ridemakerz vehicles are the perfect custom take-home. Choose a body, wheels, and tons of bling to create the car of your dreams. Many of the offerings are related to the Disney Pixar Cars films, but other styles are also available. The Ridemakerz store will soon be moving to a new location at Downtown Disney, so keep your eyes peeled.
Make the robo car you've always wanted.
Dinosaur lovers will be in heaven at the T-Rex restaurant at Downtown Disney. The popular Build-A-Bear chair has a Build-A-Dino outpost here. Create your own fuzzy prehistoric creature!
Sports fans should head over to Team Mickey at Downtown Disney to find a spot to make engraved baseball bats and helmets. Often ready within the hour.
Art and Art Display
The Arribas Brothers counters and shops at Walt Disney World give you a number of custom framing options in wood, glass, and crystal.
Crystal photo displays.
Engraved wood frames and display cases.
For one-of-a-kind old time art, a silhouette is a nice option. While these are fairly inexpensive throughout Walt Disney World, you should be aware that the pricing at the silhouette stand at Downtown Disney is slightly pricier than the stands in the parks.
If you like your art a bit more realistic, there are portraitists in the parks and in several of the resorts. Each artist has a slightly different style, so spend a few minutes watching before you decide which to go with. You can choose pastel or charcoal at different price points.
Portrait station in the Magic Kingdom.
A faster, and less pricey, custom art option is the caricature. Despite the humorous spin on these portraits, many of them really capture the essence of the subject. Again, spend a moment watching before you decide which artist to choose.
Caricaturists can be found in the parks and some resorts.
Always wanted your mug on a magazine cover, or wanted to look just like Princess Leia? Then there’s trick photography counters that can help you with your dream. You pose for a photo and then you’re magically inserted into a special scene. Now available in poster size!
Hundreds of options available.
Other photo products are available at machines and kiosks throughout the World, but many of these items can be found in one place at the Imagination Works area in the Imagination pavilion at Epcot. I should note here that the laser-etched glass photo cubes that were a mainstay of the Imagination pavilion for many years are now gone.
If you want to watch Disney-themed art being made, you can get a character sketch made for you while you wait. And as a bonus, you can talk with the artist while he or she works – it’s a souvenir and a learning experience in one.
Artist at work.
A fun, and free!, souvenir for kids is the Kidcot Fun Stop stick puppet. Currently these stick puppets depict Duffy the Disney Bear. Color Duffy however you choose and take him to each of the countries at Epcot for a special stamp.
Kidcot Fun Stop.
Another nice option for kids is custom handprint art. As they grow, they’ll never believe that their hands were once that little. Kiosk at Downtown Disney’s Marketplace.
Is the Florida sun beating down on you a bit too strongly? Then a nice souvenir is a custom-decorated parasol. These are also waterproof and can be used as umbrellas. Available in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, as well as near the France pavilion at Epcot.
Many of the shops that sell custom frames also offer custom-engraved glassware. This is also an opportunity to watch an artist in action. Fascinating!
Want to pass down the memories of your trip to future generations? A nice option is a hand-painted Christmas ornament. Available at the Christmas shop at Downtown Disney.
Other souvenirs with a personal spin include Pick-A-Pearls, fill-your-own pirate treasure chests, custom combination Lego buckets, dressable Duffy bears, watches with a band for each holiday, real Disney art with custom framing, and even build-your-own soy candles at Downtown Disney’s Basin stores. And I’m sure I’m missing several others.
What have you found to customize at Walt Disney World? How have you made your souvenirs your own? Let me know in the comments below.
by R. A. Pedersen
on August 24, 2011
Disney is getting out of the golf business and handing over operations of the golf courses at the Walt Disney World Resort to Arnold Palmer Golf. The change is effective September 25, 2011, with the current Cast Members staffing the courses being offered positions elsewhere on property.
As part of the deal the Palm course will be redesigned by the company as a signature Arnold Palmer course in the future. Otherwise operations at the on-property courses should remain mostly the same, with the exception of Osprey Ridge which Arnold Palmer will operate until the Four Seasons resort opens and assumes ownership (tentatively 2014). You can read the full press release at Disney’s news media website.
It’s worth noting that the “Master Starter” position (people who scheduled tee times) for all of the golf courses at Walt Disney World has been, until this point, handled by the Disney Reservations Center (407-W-Disney). The task of scheduling tee times was covered by a subgroup of phone agents Disney called Itinerary Planners who also answered calls for dining reservations, fireworks cruise bookings, and special events. Because this group was fairly specialized and could not book hotel reservations and no other group at Reservations could book golf tee times, we used to suggest that guests “call golf” (407-WDW-GOLF) if you needed to speak to someone on the dining reservations team quickly. In Disney’s call routing system the 407-WDW-GOLF line was prioritized to be answered first ahead of other calls. Whether this advice will remain valid in the future is unknown.
by Brian McNichols
on August 24, 2011
As you may have seen previously on this blog, Disney re-released their schedules for October through March of 2012 and many Fantasmic! shows were added at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The refurbishment period has been shortened slightly as well.
Fantasmic! is now scheduled to run every night through March 31, 2012 except the following:
- October 18, 2011
- November 5, 2011
- November 17, 2011
- December 8, 2011
- January 9 through February 12, 2012 (refurbishment)
- February 24, 2012
- February 25, 2012
- February 27, 2012
- March 21, 2012
If you are visiting Walt Disney World on one of the above dates (with the exception of the refurbishment period); fear not. When Fantasmic! was returned to nightly performances during the summer period there was initially a few dates that it was not listed. As those dates got closer, performances were added to those nights as well.
Hours and showtimes have been updated on TouringPlans.com and Crowd Calendar updates will be up very shortly. Remember to keep checking TouringPlans.com for all the latest news and updates.
by Kristen Helmstetter
on August 24, 2011
So you’ve decided to visit one of Disney’s water parks. That’s great! But you may be wondering how to best accomplish all of the attractions at Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach (or both). Fear not, the team here at TouringPlans.com has got you covered! There are Touring Plans for both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach designed for groups of adults as well as families with kids which can be found here. We will even customize a plan your given touring dates when you enter them into the provided tabs. Doing so will provide the park hours and and pertinent information you may need for that day.
Armed with a Touring Plan and ready to go!
But why use a Touring Plan? Why not just go to a water park and wing it? Well, our Touring Plans are designed to help you accomplish all of your desired attractions in the most efficient way possible. Our plans can save you up to four hours in line in any of Disney’s theme parks! I often opt to take a more leisurely approach to the four main theme parks since I’m there so often. But, even a park veteran like me needs a little help from time to time and I was glad to have my Touring Plans as a tool to have two successful days in the water parks. My friends and I were a group on a mission to tackle all of the water parks’ fun offerings!
Since we are kid-less we opted to use those designed for grown ups. We did the Blizzard Beach Touring Plan on Saturday and the Typhoon Lagoon plan on Sunday. Blizzard Beach was very busy, with several tour groups visiting that day. Even with a Touring Plan we did not finish all of the attractions until about 6 pm! However, we accomplished all of the Typhoon Lagoon attractions by about 2 pm even with a lunch break. A key to a successful Touring Plans day is to arrive at the gate well before park opening. This way you’ll be ready to roll as soon as possible and you will beat many of the crowds who might opt to sleep in that morning.
When I was preparing for this trip I knew I wanted to use the Touring Plans in the water parks, but I thought of a big problem. I couldn’t really carry my iphone around the water park with me all day since I’d be, you know, surrounded by water. Therefore, I couldn’t check out Touring Plans through our Lines application (apparently the fine folks running Lines also realized this and don’t include the water parks in the app Touring Plans section). I was faced with the same moisture problem if I elected to print out my Touring Plan. Was I supposed to memorize both Touring Plans? What to do, what to do. Then, in a stroke of brilliance my friends and I came up with a solution! Place your printed Touring Plan in a plastic baggie to keep it dry and carry it with you throughout the day. Sure, it got a little moist here and there, but over all the paper held up just fine and we were able to use the plan very well. This works especially well if there are men wearing swim trunks with pockets in your party.
Now that we’ve covered some basic Touring Plan for water park tips, let’s take a look at the Touring Plans for both water parks:
- Arrive at the park entrance 30 minutes prior to opening. Take care of locker and towel rentals at Singapore Sal’s, on your right hand side once you get past the entrance walkway into the main part of the park. – This is great advice! Get yourself situated for the day before diving into the park.
- Ride Gang Plank Falls – This is the park’s family raft ride. It is best to get it done first thing before the queue gets long. It is definitely not worth a long wait in my opinion.
- Ride Mayday Falls - The same sentiment applies two Mayday Falls and Keelhaul Falls. They are fun, but certainly not worth waiting a long time.
- Ride Keelhaul Falls.
- Ride Crush ‘n’ Gusher. There are three slides here, and you can re-ride to experience each version. I thought this attraction would be first on the list, but the wait times for the first few attractions exceeded Crush ‘n’ Gusher for most of the day. Those Touring Plan writers know what they’re talking about!
- Swim in the Shark Reef - The Shark Reef is a must do for me. The earlier you go there, the longer you’ll get to spend in the pool without the lifeguards rushing you through to make room for the next group. Don’t forget to visit the observation area to get a good look at the fish while on land.
- Ride Humunga Kowabunga – While this attraction is one of the most thrilling in the park, there are three identical slides which keeps the move moving along quite nicely.
- Ride Storm Slides - While we were following the plan we walked right up to these slides without any wait at all.
- Swim in the Surf Pool - I really love the wave pool, so I leave plenty of time for a good swim or two in my plan.
- Take a ride around Castaway Creek – You could spend hours floating around if you wanted!
- Revisit any favorite attractions - For me, that would be Crush ‘n’ Gusher or Shark Reef.
- Depart Typhoon Lagoon
- Arrive at the park entrance at least 30 minutes prior to opening. Take care of locker and towel rentals at Lottawatta Lodge, to your left just past the park entrance.
- Take the Chair Lift Up Mt. Gushmore to the top of the Green Slope
- Ride Summit Plummet. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. – This slide will most likely have the longest queue in the park throughout the day. If you are brave enough to take the plunge, you really should do it early. If some folks in your group would rather skip Summit Plummet they can take a spin on Teamboat Springs while they wait for those who do Summit Plummet. My friends and I were able to ride it twice while a few of our crazier pals did the more thrilling option.
- Take the Chair Lift Up Mt. Gushmore (the stairs are faster, but tiring) back to the top of the Green Slope
- Ride Slush Gusher - The queue here can also be long so be sure to knock it out early.
- Head to the Purple Slope to the left of the Green Slope on the mountain.
- Ride the Downhill Double Dipper - I couldn’t believe the wait time for this reached over 60 minutes on the day of our visit! We probably waited about 30 minutes even with the Touring Plan since crowds were so heavy.
- Slide the Snow Stormers - Since there are three slides here, the line shouldn’t be too bad.
- Ride the Toboggan Racers – We had just a short wait for this one and we were able to ride it all together!
- Head to the Red Slope, beyond the Purple Slope on the backside of the mountain. Ride Runoff Rapids. There are three slides – ride each if desired. – The stairs here can be harsh if you’ve been touring all day, but we had no wait at all since it is a little off the beaten path.
- Take the Chair Lift Up Mt. Gushmore back to the Green Slope.
- Raft down Teamboat Springs. My favorite slide! We slipped down this family slope several times since it was at the end of the touring day.
- Ride the Cross Country Creek at your leisure – Leisure is the key word here! This is your time to relax!
- Swim in Melt-Away Bay’s Wave Pool at your leisure.
- Depart Blizzard Beach.
We had two very successful days touring the water parks. Using Touring Plans ensured we hit every one of the slides and other aquatic fun Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach have to offer. After you take your last step and depart your chosen water park, I highly suggest a little break back at your resort. A shower and maybe a nap or a drink by the pool will give you that burst of energy to hit one Epcot for dinner around World Showcase and Illuminations: Reflections of Earth or perhaps Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom. Visiting Disney’s water parks can make for a great day with a little bit of planning and the help of your trusty Touring Plan.
How about you? Have you had great success with one of our water park Touring Plans? Let me know about your experiences in the comments!
by R. A. Pedersen
on August 23, 2011
Effective August 24, 2011, the menus are changing at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and the Columbia Harbor House quick service dining locations inside the Magic Kingdom park.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland is adding:
- 1/3 lb. Angus Burger (unsure if this replaces the 1/3 lb. Angus Cheeseburger)
- Beef Salad
- Vegetable Sandwich
- Turkey Sandwich
- Deluxe Chili Cheese Dog
Columbia Harbor House in Liberty Square is adding:
- Baked Salmon with Couscous
- Lobster Roll
- Broccoli Peppercorn Salad
- Steamed Fresh Broccoli
by Brian McNichols
on August 23, 2011
Disney has updated their schedule, adding nightly Fantasmic! Shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for almost all nights through early January.
This post will be updated with details in the next few hours and TouringPlans.com will be fully updated very soon.
by R. A. Pedersen
on August 23, 2011
The Walt Disney World Resort will no longer offer Grand Gathering Experiences beyond January 28, 2012. The Grand Gathering concept was introduced in 2003 as part of the Magical Gathering promotion to entice groups with large parties to visit the resort. The following experiences will all make their way to Yesterland come January: Safari Celebration, Good Morning Breakfast, and the International Dinner & Illuminations Dessert Party.
by R. A. Pedersen
on August 22, 2011
In the “Why on earth didn’t they do this sooner?” category: Concierge Desks at all Walt Disney World Resorts can now exchange Annual Pass Vouchers and now also allow for the purchase of all ticket types. They only thing they can’t do is the renewal of Annual Passes. No more fretting over where to exchange your AP voucher so you don’t have to pay for parking at a theme park.
by Ryan Kilpatrick
on August 22, 2011
If you have a little girl and you’ve been to Walt Disney World, you’ve likely been asked to take her to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I was asked about this several times, and finally relented on our last trip. My little princess was ready to get made up like a real Disney princess, so we made the appointment and took the plunge.
The entrance to the Boutique at Cinderella's Castle
Booking an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is not quite as involved as getting one for Cinderella’s Royal Table, but it’s in the family. You can call 407-WDW-STYLE or visit the actual locations in Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom or the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney. Reservations can be made 180 days in advance, and they fill up quickly, especially at the Magic Kingdom location.
There are lots of choices to be made when booking, not the least of which is whether you’d like to give Disney an arm or a leg for the happiness of your little princess. That’s a slight exaggeration, but quite slight. There are three packages for girls, starting with the Coach package ($49.95) which includes hair, makeup, and a sash. For five dollars extra ($54.95), you can upgrade to the Crown package, which adds painted nails to the mix.
Settling in to the chair for the makeover.
Most girls, however, are there for the works. That would be the Castle package, which ranges from $189.95 to $239.95, based on the dress you choose. In addition to the other packages, the Castle adds on a full princess costume, including dress, shoes, crown and wand. Also added to the mix is a photo session, including a 6×8 and four 4×6 prints.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the time to get a second mortgage, so we went with the Crown package and brought our own dress from home. If you’re looking for an economical way to go, that’s it. The dress we got was from the Disney Store, and it was the same one we would’ve gotten at the Boutique, but for a lot less. It’s a fantastic way to save some money, and it did not greatly change the experience.
Our appointment was at the Magic Kingdom location, inside Cinderella Castle. The theming was incredible there, so if you can get in I highly recommend it. Immediately upon entering, your little princess is presented with an invitation to join the fun, and then is asked to pick a hairstyle. My daughter chose the Fairytale Princess look, where her hair was swept up to the top of her head into a crown look, finished with a small tiara.
Once inside, she was shown to a chair with a mirror, while the rest of us waited on plush couches in the center of the room, able to watch as she was transformed. The lady in waiting then took control of the situation, and started unleashing hair product onto my little girl with a vengeance. If your daughter has a thing about pulling her hair, you might want to forewarn her. The stylist was just doing her job, but it was a little uncomfortable watching my little girl grimace with each hair pull.
Pixie dust being applied
As it wore on, though, the hair styling grew more to her liking. Everything at that point was a choice for her, which greatly enhanced the experience. She was able to choose the tiara she wanted, the color of eye makeup and the color of nail polish. The fabulous thing was that once everything was done, she was given the makeup and nail polish to take home and use again. That is truly a little girl’s dream.
The service in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is unrivaled. We had done the Pirate’s League earlier, and while the stylists there were quite fun, it was nothing like the pampering here. Everything was catered to my daughter’s tastes and the cast members went out of their way to make her feel welcome and comfortable. The smile on her face was well worth the price of the package.
When we finished, she was presented with her sash, then the pixie dust sparkles were shaken over her head. Once it was done, we walked over to Castle Couture and had them shoot pictures for us to put on our Photopass. In the end, we came out of there with a really happy child, who was complimented the entire day on her look. For $54.95 plus tax, that was not a bad deal.
The final result - a happy child
In case you’re wondering, there are Knight makeovers for boys available as well. The boys package is nowhere near as expensive, but includes the hair styling and a sword and shield for $14.95. That’s a good option if you have a boy who doesn’t want to be left out while your daughter is in the chair. Also, adults can get the makeovers, too, so if you ladies out there want to give it a try you can.
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is an expensive proposition to be sure, but my daughter’s expression the rest of the day and the compliments she got from other guests made it worth it. It’s an experience that you won’t forget, and your daughter probably won’t either. Do it for a birthday or some other celebration, and enjoy one of the most fun things you can ever have – the smile of your child.
by Ryan Kilpatrick
on August 22, 2011
Time again to check in with the podcasts, websites and people that we here at TouringPlans.com sponsor, to see what is going on in the Disney community. With the D23 Expo happening, it’s been quite the week for news and opinion, so let’s see what’s been going on, shall we?
WDW Today carried on its usual great work with a show on one of my favorite topics – must-do’s at the resorts. There are some great tips on resort hopping in this show, so take a listen. Another great topic the boys covered this week was deceptive queue lines. Ever get in a line thinking it would take forever, but only took a few minutes? This show tells you which lines are like that, and which might go the other way.
The WDW Radio Newscast this week took to the floor of the D23 Expo, as Lou Mongello brought the box people with him to the show floor. He also took us inside the Parks and Resorts presentation. Check out Lou’s homepage for more information on the Expo.
The cast of Avengers at the D23 Expo
Mousetalgia addresses a subject near and dear to my heart – MARVEL! Chief Creative Officer of Marvel, Joe Quesada, joined the team to discuss Marvel’s upcoming projects and the merger of Marvel and Disney at the D23 Expo (the cast of the Avengers were there!). This is a must listen for anyone curious about Marvel’s integration into Disney.
Ever thought about what you might do to plus Epcot? So have the Be Our Guest Podcast crew, and they discussed it on this week’s show. Check out what Mike and the gang thought about the state of Disney’s second Florida theme park.
The Betamouse podcast has a favorite topic. I’ll give you hint, it involves new technology in the theme parks. Yes, once again, the Betamouse team discusses Next Gen, the mysterious upgrading of Disney’s technology. This time, they’re talking about new concept art.
Disney's Animal Kingdom was just one part of the "Disney Decade"
Matt and Nate on Wedway Radio have been focused on Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary, taking a decade by decade look at the history of the world’s biggest vacation destination. This week’s show looks at the Nineties, which was supposed to be the Disney Decade. See how things turned out on Wedway Radio.
Work continues on the Matterhorn at Disneyland
Speaking of Walt Disney World history, if you’re not subscribed to the All Ears Net newsletter, you missed out this week. Disney historian Jim Korkis wrote a fantastic article about the Mickey Mouse Revue, one of the opening day attractions at the Magic Kingdom. This was a must read for those of you who love the history of the Florida parks.
There was a big shakeup at Disney Vacation Club this past week, as president Jim Lewis was let go, only weeks before the new resort Aulani is set to open in Hawaii. This was covered in the Walt Disney World Update at Mouseplanet, as well as news about Monorail Peach joining the fleet. Meanwhile, the Disneyland update discussed preparations for the D23 Expo as well as info about the refurbishment of the Matterhorn.
In Miceage’s Dateline Disneyland, there are some fantastic shots of the construction on Buena Vista Street at Disney’s California Adventure. New details about the final product were announced at the D23 Expo, so go check out the progress so far here.
Disneyland Live was at the D23 Expo all weekend long, and there was lots going on. Head over there and check out all the reports for new details on things coming to the parks and some awesome looking new films from Disney.
What other things did you see this week that had you excited about Disney?
These websites and podcasts are affiliated with a TouringPlans.com sponsorship.