Archive for February, 2016

Thirty New Tenants Announced for Disney Springs

by on February 29, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Disney Springs is continuing its march towards completion and today, the announcement came about some of the brand new shops and restaurants that will be added to the district. There are quite a few names that I think you’ll recognize, and a few that are Disney creations.

30 new tenants were announced as part of the expansion of Disney Springs. They are:

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! February 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on February 29, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. February during a leap year, is there a better month on the calendar? We think not! Yes, Disney did introduce tiered pricing of tickets, but Your Humble Author did provide Tiered Payment Options. Thanks to the Disneyland 60 special (which surprisingly didn’t have much to do with Disneyland), we finally got some details on Star Wars Land. Speaking of Disneyland, it was rumored that DL guru Guy Selga immediately ripped up his annual pass after stepping through Hogsmeade Village during the Wizarding World’s soft openWe in Florida got news that the Dream Along With Mickey stage show, which ran for an amazingly long 68 years at the Magic Kingdom, is going to be replaced by Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire this summer. Just a whole bunch of win, and thanks to Leap Year we get an extra day to bask in it!

Now while all of you were out taking your kids to see Deadpool, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

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).

First up, the newest Tsum Tsums to hit the store were from the Lilo and Stitch line, including this one featuring Lilo herself.

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Lilo Tsum Tsum.

A little backstory on this next one. Two years ago this very month, I was finally brave enough to do my first “live tweeting” from the main TouringPlans twitter account. Everything went well until I went to a gift shop in Tomorrowland and commented on a Pink Stitch plush. Apparently I’m the only human being on Earth who didn’t know that was Stitch’s girlfriend Angel. That may actually be the last day I live tweeted from the TouringPlans account as well. Anyway, here is the Pink Stitch Angel Tsum Tsum.

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Pink Stitch Tsum Tsum.

I teased it last month, but now it is finally time for the grand debut of my first ever…

TSUM TSUM UNBOXING VIDEO!

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California Grill: A Review of Brunch At The Top

by on February 29, 2016

Recently, California Grill at the Contemporary Resort added “Brunch at the Top” to the restaurant’s signature dining slate, offered every Sunday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. I booked a Dining Reservation for this meal on a whim one recent weekend to see if it was really worth the $80 price ($48 for kids ages 3-11, Tables in Wonderland discount accepted).

“Brunch At The Top” offers stunning daytime views of the restaurant and Walt Disney World Resort.

Right off the bat, there was an upscale note to the experience — when I mentioned my brunch reservation to the security guard at the resort’s gate, he told me that my meal included complimentary valet service (not something I’d normally use, but if you’re going for a fancy meal and it’s included, why not go all the way?). A valet escorted me to the check-in area just outside the main entrance of the resort, where a California Grill Cast Member cheerfully checked me in, took my phone number to notify me when my table was available, and led me to the escalators just inside the main entrance. As soon as I stepped off the escalator, I was greeted by both a text message that my table was ready and another Cast Member from California Grill, who whisked me off to the restaurant’s private elevator.

I was welcomed by name once I stepped inside the restaurant, handed a beautiful cocktail, and immediately shown to my table. As we walked to my table, we passed a live band playing smooth jazz (in what’s usually the restaurant’s lounge area during dinner) and the appetizer buffet (set atop the restaurant’s bar and sushi counter). The entire restaurant glowed with early-afternoon sunlight, bright and welcoming – a different sight than the one you get with a late-night dinner and fireworks viewing here. Start to finish, my arrival experience was probably the smoothest and fastest I’ve encountered at any Walt Disney World restaurant, save maybe Victoria & Albert’s, but it’s certainly close; this definitely impressed me already, even before I’d had a bite of food. 

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The Basics: FastPass+ Strategy

by on February 29, 2016

TouringPlans logoThis is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

Welcome back! This is the second in a three part series about DisneyFastPass+ service and how to make the most of it.  It assumes that you already know what FastPass+ is and how it works, so if you have no idea what we’re talking about, please take a moment to read through my recent primer on that topic.  For the rest of you that know how to use FastPass+, be aware that FastPass+ should allow you to spend less time in line, but depending upon how you use it, it can either save you a lot of time, or essentially none at all.  This will hopefully help you fall into the former category!  Let’s go!  

Selection Strategy


FastPass+ Kiosk LogoSimply stated, your goal in selecting your FastPass+ selections is not just to reserve the attractions that are on your to-do list, but it should be to
select the attractions that are on your to-do list that generate the most significant waits.  For example, I love Mickey’s Philharmagic, and we make sure that we experience it at least once on every trip.  With that said, I would never spend a FastPass on it, because doing so wouldn’t actually save me any time in line. On the other hand, while Peter Pan’s Flight is nowhere near my favorite attraction, it remains a must do and not having a FastPass+ for it potentially sets me up for a soul-crushing wait of an hour or more, so it’s always one of my first picks, even over attractions that I prefer in the abstract. 

A detailed look at which attractions you should FastPass and which you shouldn’t is beyond the scope of this article (if you do want detailed advice for selecting your FastPass+ reservations, check out our advice pages for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom), but here’s a quick list of attractions in each park that are no-brainer options for FastPass+ if you want to experience them:

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Seasonal Pricing Breakdown for Disneyland

by on February 28, 2016

As you may have seen in my blog post yesterday, Disney has moved to seasonal pricing for its one day tickets at Disneyland.

Going forward, each month will be divided into value, regular, and peak days. The new system will work as follows: If you’re visiting in September, you’ll get to pay value pricing. If say, however, that you want to visit around the hectic holiday week during Christmas, you will pay peak pricing.

Seasonal pricing only impact 1 day tickets. Those who purchase multi-day tickets will not see seasonal pricing.

Here’s what this all means for Disneyland tickets.

 Disneyland Resort 1-Day 1-Park Tickets Main Entrance Price Ages 10 & Up Ages 3 – 9
Value Ticket
A 1-Day Value Ticket is valid for one admission to one theme park on any Value season date.
$95 $89
Regular Ticket
A 1-Day Regular Ticket is valid for one admission to one theme park on any Regular or Value season date.
$105 $99
Peak Ticket
A 1-Day Peak Ticket is valid for one admission to one theme park on any Peak, Regular or Value season date.
$119 $113

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Seasonal Pricing Breakdown for Walt Disney World

by on February 28, 2016

MYW_Ticket_LogoAs you may have seen in my blog post yesterday, it was announced that Disney was moving over to Seasonal Pricing (or tiered pricing) for its 1 day park tickets.

Here’s the easy breakdown of how it will work. Each month will be divided into value, regular, and peak days. If you’re visiting in September, you’ll get to pay value pricing. If say, however, that you want to visit around the hectic holiday week during Christmas, you will pay peak pricing.

Seasonal pricing only impact 1 day tickets for Walt Disney World. Those who purchase multi-day tickets or are purchasing an annual pass will not currently see seasonal pricing.

Now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of what this all means.

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Movies to See Before Your Disney World Vacation

by on February 28, 2016

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Ready for a Disney Movie Marathon?

When counting down a trip to Walt Disney World, there are a number of things that need to be done from deciding how many suitcases to take, to setting a souvenir budget, to breaking in that new pair of walking shoes. But for me, there’s one more thing that I always have to do when counting down those last few anticipation-filled days, and that’s refreshing my memory and getting in the Disney spirit with a few movies! Kicking back with some popcorn to revisit a classic Disney flick, or even checking out a film for the first time, will only add to your overall Disney World experience. So go pop some popcorn and get ready for a movie marathon with my list of movies to see before your Disney World Vacation!

But first, let me explain how I came up with this list. Naturally, I included a number of Disney animated classics, even though it was really really hard to narrow down my favorites; but just so you know, I based my selections on what films I felt were represented the most at Walt Disney World or a huge part of Disney World history. Secondly, my list is not just Disney animated films, but also live-action Disney films and non-Disney films which are either represented in the parks or, again, played a big role in Disney history or as Imagineering inspiration! But as always, if you feel that I missed an important movie, or would simply like to add to the list, please do so in the comments.

Okay, are you ready for the list? Here we go…

Photo - Disney

Photo – Disney

Cinderella

Disney’s first princess film since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella is one of the most beloved and important films Walt Disney ever made. The film’s release in 1950 was so successful that it revitalized the Disney Company after World War II and kick-started the decade in which we would get the first Disney Park: Disneyland. Why you should revisit Cinderella before your Disney World retreat is because the Magic Kingdom’s castle is called Cinderella Castle! Inside the castle, a sparkly mosaic tells Cinderella’s story and there’s even a themed restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table, where guests meet Cinderella herself and dine in a medieval, fairy tale setting. Characters from Cinderella are also known to meet guests around Cinderella Castle and throughout Fantasyland; and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa offers a special character meal at 1900 Park Fare where Cinderella, Prince Charming, and her dysfunctional family meet with guests as they dine. All in all, Cinderella is an important film at Walt Disney World and is definitely worth a watch before you pass through the park turnstiles.

African Queen by IMDB

Photo – imdb.com

The African Queen

Why is this film my first pick? Well, believe it or not this 1951 classic, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, inspired the Disney Park staple, The Jungle Cruise. Walt Disney saw this film himself and wanted to recreate the experience in his upcoming Disneyland Park. Although, he planned for guests aboard his boats to see live wildlife on the shores, just as the characters in The African Queen did! Of course, live animals wasn’t exactly doable at the time, nor would they be willing to appear and entertain when a boat passed by every few minutes; and so, the plan for live animals was scrapped in favor of one of Walt’s newest innovations: audio-animatronics. Walt’s vision for an attraction where guests could be entertained by live African wildlife was finally realized in 1998 when Kilimanjaro Safaris opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. In this way, The African Queen technically inspired two attractions at Walt Disney World! This is why I encourage anyone going to Walt Disney World to check out The African Queen. While I’ve always loved the Jungle Cruise, seeing the film which inspired it gave me a whole new appreciation for this classic attraction. Tip: Look for The African Queen poster on Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Seasonal Pricing Coming to Disney Parks Starting Tomorrow

by on February 27, 2016

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©Disney

This is not a drill! If you are planning to head to Walt Disney World or Disneyland soon, purchase your tickets now! Beginning tomorrow, Disney will be starting seasonal pricing (or tiered pricing) for 1 day tickets that are sold to their theme parks beginning February 28.

Here’s how it is slated to work. Each month will be divided into value, regular, and peak days. If you plan to visit, say in the month of September, there will be a variety of ticket options to choose from, including value pricing. If say, however, that you want to visit around the busy Christmas days, you will pay more. (ie. peak pricing.) Guests who are looking to save and have flexibility will be able to do so by purchasing a 1-Day ticket during non-peak times of the year, purchasing a multi-day ticket, or purchasing an annual pass.

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SATURDAY SIX: BUTTERBEER Showdown – Which (Sugar) Extreme Will Reign Supreme?

by on February 27, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at a question that needs, nay MUST be answered. What is the best form of Butterbeer? Now there was a time when there were only two forms of Butterbeer: regular and frozen, and you had to go to Islands of Adventure to get them. That’s right, back in my day we didn’t have all these fancy schmancy new flavors, we just had two and we liked it. We loved it! Kids today have a whole bunch of great new choices and for this very special edition of the SATURDAY SIX we are going to rank the six types of Butterbeer items in order.

Using a top secret double blind scientific study (AKA a Twitter poll), votes were tabulated and have given us a definitive list of the absolute best form of Butterbeer. Today we are going to countdown the flavors to find out which is hands down the greatest, so sit back, keep an insulin needle nearby, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Butterbeer Fudge

Making its debut just days before this year’s A Celebration of Harry Potter event, Butterbeer Fudge is the latest creation from the Wizarding World. Found at Honeydukes in Hogsmeade or the new Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop in Diagon Alley, eating a full piece may fill you with so much sugar that you just might be able to vibrate through walls like The Flash. It does have the classic Butterbeer flavor of caramel and butterscotch, but a little goes a long way so consider sharing a piece with another Muggle (or three). The top is so concentrated that it even has a small taste of candy corn.All that said, it is definitely our favorite piece of any fudge offered at the Universal parks. ($3.95)

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Butterbeer Fudge. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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Butterbeer Fudge. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 5 – Butterbeer Potted Cream

Butterbeer Potted Cream is also a very new addition to the Butterbeer family, making its debut in the parks in December of last year. Available at the Leaky Cauldron and the Three Broomsticks, it is a Butterbeer version of the Chocolate Potted Cream which arrived with Diagon Alley. Served in a really cool and unique container (which would score straight 10’s across the board from any Pinterest focus group), this potted cream basically boils down to an unbelievably great tasting butterscotch pudding. This is one of the snacks that may fly under the radar, so be sure to go out of your way to try one on your next trip to the Wizarding World.

It is also worth noting that both Butterbeer Fudge and Butterbeer Potted Cream were the only items on the list that did not receive a single first place vote. In fact both only got one second place vote each. ($5.29)

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Butterbeer Potted Cream. (photo by @AmusementBuzz)

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Butterbeer Potted Cream. (photo by @amusementbuzz)

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The Diamond Horseshoe at Magic Kingdom to Begin Serving Table Service Meals

by on February 26, 2016

Diamond Horseshoe

©Disney

The Magic Kingdom will soon begin offering a table service meal offering for both lunch and dinner at The Diamond Horseshoe. Beginning March 13 through May 30, Guests will be able to enjoy an all-you-can-eat meal at this Liberty Square restaurant.

Guests will begin their meal with a Frontier Salad that’s topped with roasted corn, cornbread croutons, and housemade chipotle-ranch dressing. In addition, cornbread will be delivered to the table.

For the main course, Guests will get to choose one of the following:

  • Barbeque pulled turkey, served over corn bread with seasonal vegetables
  • Spit-roasted ham, served with country beans and seasonal vegetables
  • Stewed beef, served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables

As far as dessert goes, Guests can have two options, the apple tart or the campfire brownie.

Soft drinks, tea, coffee and milk are included with your meal.

The cost is $33 plus tax for adults (ages 10 and up) and $19 plus tax for kids (ages 3-9.) Guests may make reservations by calling 407-WDW-DINE.