On 9/20/2013, the 23rd annual edition of Universal Orlando'sHalloween Horror Nights unleashed its undead hordes upon horror-hungry fans who have made HHN the nation's most popular and industry-awarded haunted theme park event. Touring Plans researchers have attended all event nights so far to capture data on attraction wait times in order to present this updated itinerary, and we'll continue to improve our advice with new information throughout the month.
Originally a locals-friendly filler during a normally slow season, Universal Studios Florida's Halloween celebration has grown so famous that the 27 event nights between 9/20 and 11/2 will provide a sizable percentage of USF's annual attendance statistics. Much like visiting any of Orlando's theme parks during a peak holiday season, an evening at HHN can be tremendous fun if you go in with a solid plan and sane expectations; without those things…well, you might be better off eaten by zombies…
With only two nights worth of wait time data to analyze, it's impossible to craft an HHN touring plan with the same precision we do for daytime visits. Operational tweaks will continue to be made throughout the event, so the crowd patterns observed during this year's initial operating nights aren't guaranteed to persist. However, thanks to years of experience with HHN (I've attended every edition since 1996) we can extrapolate the opening weekend info to update our preliminary touring plan into a multi-pronged strategy for tackling Universal's elaborate (and infamously long-queued) haunted mazes.
According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, quite a few changes will be taking place at Walt Disney World’s most popular pools.
The first of the major changes is that lifeguards will now be on site all day. Previously, lifeguards were only around for part of the day, with the rest of the day being swim-at-your-own-risk. (Signs were up indicating this.)
The other very large change is that guests will no longer be allowed to swim after posted pool hours. To enforce this, the installation of fences and gates is planned at resorts that don’t currently have them. Feature pools will now open at either 7 a.m. or 9 a.m. (depending on the season) and will close at 11 p.m. nightly.
As of now, the smaller, quiet pools will remain accessible at all hours, with no lifeguards in place.
(Fear not, we’ll be posting an updated HHN touring plan later this week in time for the next event night, based on wait-time data we collected during opening weekend. And we’ll continue refining the plan as the event progresses into October.)
Approaching the park you are now greeted by massive “tree roots” entwined around the iconic archways, framing banners representing the haunted mazes featured at HHN XXIII.
Today we cover the beautiful land of Liberty Square… and for those keeping track we are close to half way through our tour around the Magic Kingdom. I think Liberty Square is often overlooked because it lacks E-ticket rides but there are lots of details packed into this little area. Let’s get started with the view heading in from Adventureland:
Disneyland’s Market House has been transformed in to the park’s first Starbucks location after a multi-month refurbishment. The menu has been significantly expanded and now offers a full selection of Starbucks drinks and food items. You can view the menu here. A seating area has also been added to the location, replacing the former Disneyana shop.
The facade of the building remains mostly the same. Starbucks signage has been added to the windows.
Disneyland Resort didn't experience the same explosive growth in the past year that it enjoyed in 2012, but that certainly doesn't mean Walt's original Magic Kingdom has stood still — and neither has the Unoffical Guide! From the newly-constructed Fantasy Faire to the latest food options around Anaheim, we've made over 200 updates and improvements to this 375-page volume.
Below is a quick look at many of the important changes included in the new book.
A brand-new “Importance of Being Goofy” satirical essay.
Updated Critical Comparison of attractions found at both Disneyland Park and WDW's Magic Kingdom.
Updated list of attractions found only at Disneyland Park.
Walt Disney World visitors have grown accustomed to booking their dining reservations online using an automated system, but Disneyland diners have been stuck using old-fashioned phone or email options. Yesterday it was announced that, as of October 3, 2013, all Disneyland Resort dining arrangements can be made through this new website.
This upgrade means that the firstname.lastname@example.org email reservation system will be discontinued, though phone bookings will still be accepted via 714-781-DINE. In addition, Disneyland will now begin requiring a credit card at the time of reservation; a $10 per person penalty will be charged if you miss your reservation without canceling or rescheduling (which can also be done online) a day in advance. This policy applies to all table service restaurants on property, both Disney-operated and franchises.
Every first time visitor to Walt Disney World should do the iconic things that first time visitors do: ride Dumbo, eat the giant turkey leg, and pose with Mickey. I actually think Florida passed a law stating that all first time Disney visitors are contractually obligated to complete the Dumbo/turkey/Mickey trifecta within 24 hours or their tickets will be revoked. Or maybe it just feels that way 🙂
Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are some more advanced things that everyone should do at least once at Walt Disney World.
Dinner at Victoria & Albert’s is must-try experience
Here are my top eleven choices:
Spend a Day at Walt Disney World Without Going on Any Rides. Guess what, there’s waaaay more to Disney World than roller coasters and spinning tea cups. Spending a day at Disney without going on rides forces you to find ALL the fun that Disney has to offer. Here are some non-ride ideas for spending time in the parks.
People watch. I once camped out with a crossword puzzle at table in the Epcot UK gardens. In the span of an hour, I saw the full spectrum of humankind from gorgeous to grotesque and from near fistfight to get-a-room-already. Fascinating stuff.
Finally learn how to use your camera. The varied and interesting subjects at the parks make it the perfect place to experiment with settings on your camera beyond “automatic.” Take the same shot with different shutter speeds and aperture settings to see how much those factors can make a big difference.
For an added degree of difficulty (and fun), spend the day at Disney without going into a park at all: mini-golf, visit the spa, swim, go boating or fishing, take in a game at the Wide World of Sports complex, shop at Downtown Disney, etc.