Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. As you can see, thanks to a landslide vote, the Outlet Report is continuing despite it’s negative impact on my mental health (more on that later). However, no matter how crazy the Vineland Ave outlets make me, nothing can take away from the incredible month we had in the theme park world. The D23 Expo came with the announcements of Star Wars land, Toy Story Land, and more details on the incredible World of Avatar coming to Animal Kingdom. You can read both of my articles about the D23 news including one written BEFORE the convention and one written AFTER. Not to be outdone, Universal announced that it would be building a Fast & Furious attraction while getting rid of Disaster and Beetlejuice. Fast & Furious has actually quietly become one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood history. Furious 7 has made over $1.5Billion dollars this year and to put that in perspective Frozen made “just” $1.27Billion. What a great time to be a theme park fan.
Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).
Our first item is actually one of my favorite things that I have ever bought inside a Disney park and it was at Star Wars Weekends two years ago. This Star Wars Bowling Set was originally $21.95, marked down to $12.99. The bowling balls are the Death Star and a thermal detonator, how great is that?
Luke Skywalker could bullseye womp rats in his T-16 but can he hit a 7-10 split?!
If we have to get a thousand bad Star Wars items just to get one great one, I guess I can live with it.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Great Souvenirs From the Universal Orlando Resort. After two straight years of covering The Disney Outlet Stores each and every month for this fine blog, you can assume that we are pretty big fans of theme park merchandise (that or we did something awfully bad in a previous life). While exiting into a gift shop has become a running gag for many theme park guests, browsing those stores is actually something we here at the SATURDAY SIX offices look forward to almost as much as the rides themselves.
Today we are going to look at great souvenirs found at the Universal Orlando Resort. Until the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2010, it was actually rare to see guests walking around with merchandise bags, but today it is more rare NOT to see someone carrying around loads of souvenirs. But how to determine the best theme park souvenir? Sparing no expense, we used the Arnim Zola algorithm (along with such factors such as price point, usage in actual movies/TV, and theme park exclusivity) to break down the best of the best on property. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – Bort Keychain (Kwik E Mart, Universal Studios Florida)
No one has mercilessly attacked the world of theme parks with sharper wit than The Simpsons television show. One classic moment when they turned the screws on the parks we all love happened way back in 1994 with the episode “Itchy & Scratchy Land.” One of the more memorable gags from the show was Bart Simpson running into one of the most ubiquitous pieces of merchandise at any theme park, the gift with YOUR name of it. In this instance, Bart was looking at personalized mini-license plates and found the names Bert, and Bort. What happens after is even better but the capper comes later in the episode when it is revealed the park has sold out of Bort license plates. Universal’s own Springfield USA pays tribute to that classic moment with a Bort keychain found in the Kwik E Mart gift shop.
Bort keychain at the Kwik E Mart.
They even have more personalized items with Bort!
Bort, the Kwik E Mart’s employee of the month. (photo by Darren Schmidt of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast)
August is almost over…what?! Seriously. What?! We’re about to start soon with Halloween festivities in the parks soon and I’m not quite ready! Bring back summer!
The news was flowing this week, with new runDisney shoes, throwbacks to Disney past, and much more. We’ve got it all here in this week’s In Case You Missed It!
In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors
Wow will this be nice. Disney is proposing a fly-over that would allow guests headed to Disney’s Contemporary Resort or Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to not have to stop at the toll plaza any longer. This is so welcome. But that’s just one of the many different road improvements proposed by Disney.
Why is it that nothing Marvel related was announced for Disneyland at this year’s D23 Expo? Here are some of the potential reasons.
One of the first things I noticed that was different at Universal Orlando and SeaWorld versus Walt Disney World is the refillable mugs inside the theme parks. What I didn’t realize until after my first few months of becoming a regular Universal Orlando visitor is the substantial variety of refillable mug programs available throughout Universal Orlando. There’s four options just in the theme parks themselves, then there’s two different programs at the Universal hotels, and finally two programs inside CityWalk, oh and none of the programs can be combined. So in hopes of helping you navigate through the busy waters of all the refillable mug options I’d like to share the details of each option. I’ll also give my stance on if I think each mug is worth it or wasted.
In the theme parks
Character mugs – $15.99 / $0.99 refills
Wasted: If you or your child is a big fan of a specific character then the character mugs might be a good value for you. Personally, I think their clunkier size make them impractical for repeated, every day use. However, they certainly are unique and add to the fun of being inside the theme parks.
Regular refillable cup and Black Transformer mug – $8.99 / $0.99 refills
Worth it: If you are an Annual Passholder or will be visiting for an extended amount of days, the basic refillable cup is a good deal. The $0.99 refills are not limited to the day of purchase, so you can easily get your money’s worth considering one fountain soda is $3.19. If you use the refillable cup more than 3 times you’ll have spent your money wisely. There are also a good amount of food and beverage locations throughout the park to snag your free refills. The downside is the refills are your basic fountain drink variety, not the fancy smancy Coke Freestyle flavor selection.
I recently went to the Disneyland Resort for the very first time. As a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World since childhood, I was beyond excited to experience a Disney Park as a first time guest, particularly Disney’s California Adventure as it is a totally unique park and would be a great sampling of the Golden State for this California Newbie! But even before I even passed through the turnstiles, I did my homework on Disney’s California Adventure so that I could avoid some of the rookie mistakes and maximize my time in the park. Even so, there were definitely some things that I either didn’t expect or wish I would’ve known to help my day run more smoothly. So glean from my first hand experience fellow Disneyland Resort Rookies and discover what I wish I knew before my visit to California Adventure.
Have a Wardrobe Strategy for Grizzly River Run – If you’re looking to experience Grizzly River Run, the park’s incredible raft ride at Grizzly Peak, I would strongly suggest wearing clothes that dry quickly or picking up a poncho at Rushin’ River Outfitters. There are lockers available for free near the huge bear statue, but only if you pick up your stuff within 2 hours.
Disney’s California Adventure Park Could Be a One Day Park – Some may disagree with me on this, but hear me out! While I loved my day at Disney’s California Adventure, and can’t wait to go back, I felt like I was able to accomplish the best of the park in a single day with proper planning while I needed two days at the Disneyland Park. For example, during my visit in July and with the help of FASTPASSES, I was able to ride almost all of the park’s most popular attractions, do a little shopping and dining, and squeezed in a showing of World of Color in one day. If you only have a short time to check out the Disneyland Resort, I would suggest setting aside two for the Disneyland Park and one for California Adventure.
Join the Best Week Ever parade and stroll through WDW’s Port Orleans resort (photos by Seth Kubersky).
Hold on to your beads, Best Week Ever readers, because we’re heading to the Big Easy! Long before the Art of Animation resort brought California Adventure’s Cars Land to Orlando in motel form, Walt Disney World’s Port Orleans hotels have stood as the East Coast analogue to Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, minus the animatronic pirates and ghosts.
It had been so long since I’d stayed at Port Orleans, that the last time I visited the section now known as Riverside was still named Dixie Landings. The resort has had quite a colorful history, including being partially shuttered for a time during the post-9/11 recession; check out this page at PortOrleans.org for a bit of background.
Since Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside are our top picks among moderate resorts at Walt Disney World, I figured I was way past due for a return visit to WDW’s NOLA. And what better time to let the good times roll than bright and early on a Sunday morning?
Ok, 9 a.m. isn’t exactly “bright and early” for many people, but as a congenital night owl it’s the best I could do.
One of the popular aspects of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. These concerts take place in the America Gardens Theatre at the America Adventure Pavilion nightly during the festival and feature beloved artists such as Boyz II Men, Sugar Ray, Air Supply, Wilson Phillips, and more.
Well, for the first time ever, if there is an artist that you absolutely cannot miss, you potentially won’t have to. You see, now you can make FastPass+ reservations to ensure they will definitely see their favorites.
With the upcoming latest Star Wars release coming out in December, there is, of course, going to be a large merchandise push. So for those who must have the newest or any collectible merchandise, you’ll want to take part in the Force Friday Merchandise Event. This ticketed event will take place on both coasts at Disneyland at the World of Disney Store and at Walt Disney World at Once Upon a Toy on September 4, at 12:01 a.m.
Tickets to this special event will cost $50 per person and will include the opportunity to be the first to buy new Star Wars, as well as new Star Wars: The Force Awakens themed merchandise including Disney theme park exclusives and licensed products. Guests of the event will also receive an amenity gift.
The past couple of weeks, Disney has rolled out with some very interesting tech opportunities that you may want to take advantage of either in the parks, or even at home, but more on that in a second.
The first update is that the Walt Disney World Resort finally has a Twitter account that is similar to the current @DisneylandToday Twitter account for Disneyland Resort. The new Twitter account will be known as @WDWToday. (Hmmmm…why does that sound familiar? By the way, no relation to a certain beloved podcast.) This official account will offers Guests suggestions, tips, and answers to their questions during their visit to the Walt Disney World Resort.
Moving on to the My Disney Experience app, a new upgrade has made where Guests will be able to take advantage of aspects of Disney PhotoPass including:
The weekend of September 11 and 12 is one of the holiest in Orlando, and it has nothing to do with a religious holiday. That’s when, for the past 17 years, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts conduct their dueling Christian music festivals, gathering some of the biggest names in the genre and having all sorts of youths flocking to their parks after hours in even bigger numbers than normal.
Disney started its Night of Joy event in 1983, while Universal jumped on the bandwagon with its Rock the Universe much later, in 1998. Despite that discrepancy in age, the two actually share a lot in common, and more than the identical dates: both festivals are hard-ticketed events (meaning you’ll need to purchase separate admission in order to get in) and typically feature musical acts that hop back and forth between the two.
That can make choosing one over the other something of a headscratcher, but don’t fret – that’s why we’re here to help. Below, find a complete comparison between the two on every important indicator, helping you to decide which will be more amenable to your family and your tastes (and, of course, your wallet).
Then, once you’ve made up your mind, be sure to let us know which way you’re going in the comments below.