Over the coming weeks we at the TouringPlans Blog will be going Back to Basics. We often write our posts from the perspective of people who have visited theme parks many, many times and we sometimes forget that there are those who need more basic advice. This entry is our first “Basics” post with several more to follow on topics such as characters, FastPass+, dining, hotels, and how to use our Touring Plans and Crowd Calendar. If there’s anything specific you would like us to cover let us know in the comments. Enjoy!
Sooooo, you’re planning your first trip to Walt Disney World, and you go onto the internet and ask the masses for advice. I see exchanges like this all the time:
You: Hi everyone! I’m planning my first ever trip to Walt Disney World, and I’m not really sure where to begin. What do I need to know?
Within seconds, responses start to pour in:
Helpful person number 1: Doug is the best Jungle Cruise skipper! He’s worth waiting for, so try to get on his boat!
Helpful person number 2: If you go to the phone booth in Tomorrowland and pick up the phone, you’ll hear some funny chatter! It’s a MUST do!
Helpful person number 3: I’ve never done it myself, but I heard from a bus driver that there’s a secret passageway on the pathway between Space Mountain and Storybook Circus that you can use to get to Animal Kingdom! Just whisper “Marcelline” into the third shrub on the east side of the path, and a Cast Member will appear and escort you to a high-speed underground rail that connects directly with Expedition Everest! It will save you so much time AND you get to ride Everest without a wait!
…and so on and so forth — good info to have, and well-intentioned, but not really critical from a planning standpoint for someone that has never even set foot on Disney property. Before you know it, the signal to noise ratio is unbearable, and you’re getting bombarded with so many niche tips and tricks that the information that is legitimately important for a first timer to have gets lost in the shuffle.
The biggest problem a first-timer encounters is that they don’t know what they don’t know, and knowing where to direct your focus is half the battle. With that in mind, I’ve tried to put together my “most important concepts” for a first time visitor that provides the bare minimum amount of information you need to successfully plan a trip, and then you can add on to that as you like. There is probably nowhere on planet earth that rewards a little advance planning like Walt Disney World, so I’d encourage anyone reading this to move beyond this guide, but this will at least provide the concepts that you need to be aware of to plan your first trip that you can use as touchstones if you start to feel a bit lost. Here goes with the most important things for a first time visitor to know:
While you Don’t have to plan every moment, certain planning is wise
Understand what FastPass+ is and use it liberally
Walt Disney World is probably larger than you think
There you have it, have fun on your trip!
Looking at what I’ve written with the benefit of a few seconds hindsight, it occurs to me that there might be a need for a little more detail. I promise I’ll keep it light, though, and will limit it to stuff that will really move the needle for you. Sooooo, without further ado, let’s jump in!
Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. The new year has started off exactly where the old one left us: with Walt Disney World closing attractions. It has been a pretty cool month though, including a cool Star Wars runDisney race out in California (and Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to watch a great parody of Undercover Boss featuring Kylo Ren). Erin Foster took us inside Vanellope’s on the Disney Dream, and for those who don’t know, this is a complete Wreck-It-Ralph themed sweet shop (pinch us, we’re dreaming). And Guy Selga introduced us to Four Glorious New Ways to Kill Time at Disneyland, including the am I dreaming this, or is this realJungle CruiseSkipper School. 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year.
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).
The first item this month made my heart grow three sizes (after double checking, that enlargement of the heart was actually due to eating the Pop-Tart Sandwich at Pop Century). Behold the Luigi’s Flying Tires hat! Anyone who has visited the Disney Dump has seen the remnants of this attraction, which opened with the debut of Cars Land in the summer of 2012 and was already closed by the ending of February 2015. Believe it or not, despite only being open for only 976 days, Luigi’s doesn’t even rank in the Top Five of Short Lived Disney Attractions. Originally $24.95, this baby could be sitting on your head for just $6.99. VIVA LA DISNEY OUTLETS!
After seeing this, I know how Indiana Jones felt seeing the Fertility Idol. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
Tsum Tsums returned this month! However it was mostly the ones we have seen in the past (including all seven of the dwarfs), but one that was new was this crying duck. I had literally no idea who this was, but found out it was the Ugly Duckling from a quick scene in Lilo & Stitch. That’s what we call a deep dive, and I love it. I actually dropped Loot Crate this month and started up the Disney Tsum Tsum Monthly Subscription Program, so starting in February I too will annoy you with unboxing videos (although my last one didn’t go so well).
It’s clear that Universal Orlando has cornered the market on thrilling, exhilarating rides. When you want exciting experiences, Universal Orlando is the clear choice. But there is more to Universal than thrill rides, and we often overlook the smaller, more minor attractions here. Especially with the closure of two of Universal Studio’s minor attractions: Disaster! and Twister Ride It Out! (both names ending in exclamation points I might add), it can be easy to forget the small collection of less thrilling rides.
Kang and Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
It seems that the spinner style ride is a must-have when building a theme park. It all started with the iconic Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Disneyland in 1955. Ever since that time it has become a staple of theme parks to have at least one of this type of ride in its line-up.
At Universal Orlando two spinner rides are offered, both with a little added touch. Twirl and Hurl came onto the scene when the World Expo area received a makeover courtesy of The Simpsons. After The Simpsons Ride took over for Back to the Future, the turf of the Simpsons was expanded to include multiple eateries, midway games, and this spinner ride.
Pay close attention to the signage throughout the ride’s queue and exit, as well as the audio messaging. I love the names of the ride vehicles, each flying saucer has a unique, pun laden name such as Mai Tai Fighter or Ronald Ray-gun. Additionally, the extra touch here are the targets around the circumference of the ride. As you spin through the air aim, your vehicle up or down to line up with the targets of varying heights. If you line it up just right you’ll cause the targets to spin accompanied by silly sound effects.
Maybe you’re looking to take a foot off the (extremely) well-beaten path to get away from the crowds. Maybe you have an appreciation for the under-valued (or a defiantly contrarian attitude, generally). Or maybe it isn’t your first rodeo, and you and your family need an injection of something different and fresh at the parks.
Regardless of the reason, it’s time for you to enjoy the smaller, more neglected, and – let’s be honest here – less-polished offerings that Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld have to offer. It’s time to experience the Best Worst Attractions.
Terminator 2 3D: Battle across Time
Park: Universal Studios Florida Location: Hollywood Opening date: May 6, 1996
Until just recently, Universal Orlando Resort was quite obviously playing in the minor leagues: smaller crowds, smaller budgets, smaller attractions. All of that changed, of course, with the twin developments of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and new corporate parent Comcast, who has only been too happy to invest literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the resort. The result has been some of the best experiences – and some of the best theming – to be had the entire world over.
In my professional opinion, one of Disneyland’s greatest assets is its deep bench of minor attractions that can be enjoyed by all ages, to balance out the heavy-hitting E-Ticket rides. Accordingly, ever since I began working on the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, I’ve been advocating for Big Thunder Ranch‘s goats as the park’s greatest under-the-radar treasure. This year, I’ll have the sad duty of deleting all references to the Ranch from the next edition of the Unofficial Guide, as the petting zoo (along with the adjacent barbecue restaurant) ended operations for good at 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 10, 2016. Of course, I had to be there for Big Thunder Ranch’s closing day — along with every annual passholder in California, apparently — to witness the end of an era.
I was wise enough to get my final scritchings in with Big Thunder Ranch’s whiskered stars on Saturday, since I knew the competition to get “last petting” bragging rights would be intense among goat groupies. Even on Saturday, the Ranch was busier than I’d ever seen before that weekend.
For whatever reason, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is an attraction that you can pretty much always experience without a significant wait even on the busiest days. I’ll be honest, there was a chunk of time in the not-too-distant past for me where I’d walk right by the Tiki Room without even considering going in because, you know, why would I waste my time on an outdated attraction that can’t even generate a modest wait? It would be a mistake, however, to equate demand with quality. The reality is that the Enchanted Tiki Room, while admittedly a straightforward attraction that is a complete throwback, is a an attraction of great historical significance that oozes quirkiness and charm that is a worthy part of any Disney trip. Join me after the jump to learn more!
Sometimes the smaller experiences at Disney World are the most meaningful. A perfect example is the opportunity to become an Honorary Citizen of the World. It was only after multiple trips to the parks that my family even knew that we could become citizens of Disney World, and then it took a few more trips before we actually got around to taking action.
If you too would like to become a Disney World Honorary Citizen, now is the time! Citizenship happens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is the most unpredictable Disney World park right now in terms of what experiences will survive from one day to the next. So if you would like a chance to call yourself a citizen of Walt Disney World, I advise venturing over to the Studios’ Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream at your earliest opportunity because you never know how long it will last. Read on for all the details.