Attractions

Washington DC: World War II Memorial Review

by on April 29, 2016

2016-04-03 at 06-07-40World War II was a pivotal period for many countries. For the United States of America, it represented a time – some would say the last time – when the entire country was united in a singular cause. The World War II Memorial represents this unity by lining the elliptical monument with 56 pillars representing the 48 states (at the time) along with the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

These pillars form the ends of the memorials oval, with 43-foot arches acting as midpoints for the curves. Each side represents a different WWII campaign, with the north being “Atlantic” and the south “Pacific.” In the center of the memorial is a 246-foot wide, shallow, fountain-laden pool. The walls of the memorial are inscribed with scenes depicting each stage of a soldier in the war, from troops being issued uniforms right through a handshake agreement of peace. The Freedom Wall is found on the western side, complete with 4,048 gold stars: one for every 100 Americans who died during the war.

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Experiencing A Magical Disney Moment + Video

by on April 26, 2016

Photo - Michael Dahlgren

Meeting Princess Rapunzel

You’ve heard about them…you may have even watched them on YouTube.

Magical Disney Moments.

*I’ll pause for effect*

You know what I’m talking about; Those special experiences where a Cast Member goes above and beyond to make a guest’s day even more magical. 

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Walt Disney World Relics and Tributes: The Magic Kingdom

by on April 20, 2016

relicsandtributesWalt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. It is something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to.” Imagineers have made sure that the Disneyland and the Disney Parks have stayed true to that intention throughout the years.

In fact, the Walt Disney World Resort has been changing and growing a great deal in the past few years, such as the addition of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and re-imagining of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs, and prepares for new openings like the Rivers of Light show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and the Frozen Ever After attraction at Epcot. But oftentimes, to gain something new, something has to be given up and past attractions must make way for new ones, such as in the closure of attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in preparation for Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land. Fortunately, Disney has a tradition of honoring its history while in the business of creating that great, big, beautiful tomorrow, and oftentimes through little tributes and details and even the recycling and reimagining of familiar icons.

I recently took a trip to the Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to uncover some of these tributes and relics from the park’s past. I tried to avoid including those that many fans already know about–such as the windows on Main Street, U.S.A. or the picture of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to Owl at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh–in hopes that you may discover something new and maybe get a little dose of nostalgia in today’s Walt Disney World Relics and Tributes: The Magic Kingdom.

snowwhitevultures

Snow White’s Scary Adventures Vultures

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the Magic Kingdom’s newest attraction and one of the crown jewels of New Fantasyland. This attraction is incredibly detailed and a ton of fun, but one of the things I appreciate about most is its number of tributes to a former Fantasyland attraction: Snow White’s Scary Adventures.

Snow White’s Scary Adventures was a classic dark ride and one of the park’s original opening day attractions. It sadly closed in 2012 due to New Fantasyland; but it’s sister attraction, by the same name, is still operating at the Disneyland Park today. It’s never easy to lose an attraction, especially one with so much history, and I suppose Imagineers felt the same way because there are a number of relics and nods from Snow White’s Scary Adventures hidden in and around this coaster.

The Vultures

When walking around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or while aboard your gently swinging mine car, look up and you might see two menacing vultures. Do they look familiar? They used to be part of Snow White’s Scary Adventures! Imagineers recycled these feathered scavengers for the park’s newest Snow White-themed attraction; and in doing so, made a piece of the past work for the present.

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Best (and Worst) Attractions to Get Stuck On

by on April 6, 2016

Thankfully, I had the good sense to bring some reading material along just in case I got stuck

Thankfully, I had the good sense to bring some reading material along just in case I got stuck

It happens. You’re right in the middle of an attraction, and everything just grinds to a halt.  Sometimes you’re down for a few seconds, sometimes it’s several minutes, and sometimes you actually have to be evacuated from the ride.  I was talking with someone in line on a recent trip, and he relayed a story where he spent an hour at the crest of the big drop on Splash Mountain before eventually having to walk off of the attraction without experiencing its climax.  To me, that seems like a pretty awful way to spend an afternoon, and it got me to thinking — what are the best and worst attractions at Walt Disney World to find yourself so stuck that you actually have to exit the ride using your feet? This article attempts to answer this pressing quandary that I suspect most of you had never bothered to contemplate before.

Here are the parameters of the challenge: you’ll be in the midst of the ride, and then at either the most or least optimal moment, the ride will stop moving, although the effects and show elements other than motion will continue to work. You’ll thereafter spend 30 minutes plus whatever time it take to get you rescued in that spot, and then you’ll either be ushered out by Cast Members, or extracted from the ride if necessary. Shows that you could just stand up and leave do not count (i.e., you cannot get “stuck” at Hall of Presidents). Also, you should assume that any momentum-based ride (e.g. roller coasters) is going to come to a natural resting place, such that you won’t be stuck upside down or in the middle of a steep hill.

So, without further ado, let’s go!

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SATURDAY SIX: Looking at ways Disney can introduce MARVEL characters into the theme parks

by on April 2, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Ways Disney Can Introduce MARVEL Characters into the Theme Parks. Yes, April Fool’s Day was yesterday, but believe it or not the this-can’t-possibly-be-real news stories started earlier last week when word started getting out that Disney was considering a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay to the Hollywood Tower of Terror attractions in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. You may be thinking, “No way! That’s insane!” but on the latest episode of the Disney Dish podcast, Jim Hill and Len Testa lay out exactly why Bob Chapek (chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts) at least wanted to explore this very idea.

SATSIX_GOTG

Guardians of the Galaxy Hotel. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

SATSIX_GOTG2

Bellhop Groot. (photo by Matt Cleary and Mike Sperduto)

Public reaction to the Guardians of the Galaxy overlay was – to put it politely – overwhelmingly negative. In fact, because of the virulent reaction there is almost no chance this overlay makes it to Florida, but never say never when it comes to the Tower of Terror in Disney’s California Adventure. We here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters were at first taken aback by this idea, in part because the Tower of Terror took first place in our poll on The Greatest Attractions at Walt Disney World. But then we got to thinking. What if Disney did try to think “outside the box” when it came to introducing Marvel characters in the theme parks? More importantly, how could they do it in the cheapest way possible? We think we have some ideas. As luck would have it, six ideas. So sit back, put down your copy of the Spider-Man Clone Saga, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Howard the Duck takes over Stitch’s Great Escape

Remember how we mentioned that Tower of Terror came in first in our expert’s list of Best WDW Attractions? Well, guess which attraction took first place in our poll on Worst WDW Attractions? You guessed it: Stitch’s Great Escape. What do you get to overlay one of the all time worst reviewed theme park attractions? Why one of the all time worst reviewed comic book movies. Please welcome Howard the Duck. To put into scale how poorly received Howard the Duck’s movie was, consider that the recent Batman V Superman film took a beating by the critics, scoring a miserable 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Howard the Duck sits at 14% fresh.

We have to hurry on this one though. Howard the Duck had a cameo in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy movie. When the Guardians team up with the Avengers in the Infinity War (which is expected in either part 1 in May 2018 or part 2 in May 2019), he may be considered part of the Avengers extended family. If that happens, he could become off limits to the Orlando parks thanks to Universal’s contract with Marvel.

SATSIX_howardtheduck

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The Future of Universal Orlando (2016-2017 edition)

by on March 13, 2016

One of the most exciting aspects of a Universal Orlando vacation – besides all the thrill rides and the ever-more-expanding selection of butterbeer products, that is – is the constantly changing nature of the resort; with $500 million being poured into all three domestic Universal parks each and every year by parent company Comcast, there’s bound to be a few new additions practically every time you turn around.

The Universal globe

While terribly exciting, this can also make planning your next sojourn terribly frustrating. When is the optimal time to visit? What will give you the best bang for your vacationing buck? Will there ever be a time when construction walls won’t dot the landscape as far as the eye can see? (That one’s for your picky Aunt Millie.)

While we can’t definitively answer questions that are so inherently subjective to both your and your family’s desires, we can sketch out the next several developments that will be popping up over the course of the next two summers.

Enjoy, and please let us know when you think you’ll next be slipping past all those bulldozers and cranes.

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Disney World it’s a small world Attraction Adds Personalized Farewell

by on March 9, 2016

Without much ado, it appears that Untitledit’s a small world” at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has added an interactive farewell screen. Jeremy Stimpson on Twitter has notified us that his party was named personally as it exited the ride today. We don’t know yet if this is permanent or all of the mechanics of it, but take a look at that photo to see what it looks like right now.

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The Best of Walt Disney World for Babies

by on March 1, 2016

TouringPlans logoWelcome to Part 1 of my new blog series – The Best of Walt Disney World! Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the top picks in attractions, entertainment, and experiences for various groups of travelers visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks.

How is this going to help me with my planning, you ask? Great question! Here’s how…Maybe you’ve always traveled to “the most magical place on earth” as a couple and now you’ll be taking your new baby, maybe this time grandma and grandpa will be joining you, or maybe this is your very first visit. No matter who you’re traveling with, I’ve got you covered with The Best of Walt Disney World series! And here’s how it will work…In each post, I’ll give you a rundown of the must do’s from each park along with some key information about that particular attraction or experience and a link in case you are looking for even more in-depth details.

Now that we’ve gotten all of the basics out of the way, let’s begin Part 1 of The Best of Walt Disney World with the tiniest of travelers – babies!

So if this is your first time taking a baby with you to Walt Disney World, you may have heard people say there is no reason to bring them. They won’t be able to ride anything! Let me reassure you that is simply not the case. There are plenty of things for baby to experience at Walt Disney World. In fact, as long as there isn’t a height restriction, your little one is permitted to ride. My youngest son has been enjoying a wide variety of attractions and shows at the parks since he was just six months old. Please read on for a full list of The Best of Walt Disney World for babies!

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Disney World Big Kid / Little Kid Attraction Alternatives

by on February 25, 2016

One sometimes overlooked feature of the Disney World FastPass+ system is that members of a party do not all have to make the same FP+ selections. That’s great news for families with children of different ages or different interests.

Consider, for example, a hypothetical family of four with Mom, Dad, 10 year old sister, and four year old brother. Sis is a thrill ride enthusiast. Little bro is a few millimeters too short for some of the big rides. What do they do?

The Carousel is a good alternative for little kids.

The Carousel is a good alternative for little kids.

Your first thought may be “Rider Swap option” which allows families with small children to have each parent ride in relatively quick sequence, while the other hangs back and minds the youngster. The Rider Swap is indeed a terrific choice for families with infants. Real baby babies won’t much care what they’re doing as long as they’re fed, dry, and in the company of a loving caregiver. On the other hand, a sturdy, verbal, walking/running/climbing child, who just happens to be short, is going to want some more oomph in his vacation. He needs something to DO. Waiting around while Mom and Dad go on a visually enticing ride like Big Thunder Mountain with big sister, twice!, is no self-respecting preschooler’s idea of a good time.

An ideal solution would be for the family split up for a few activities, using their time and FastPass+ selections to ensure that each faction has engaging entertainment that doesn’t detract from the family’s experience as a whole. This means that the alternatives should be:

  • Physically Near Each Other, whenever possible. This ensures that the family won’t spend more time walking to attractions than enjoying the attractions themselves.
  • Rank Low on the “Universal Appeal” Factor. Some attractions (Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin or Kilimanjaro Safari, for example) hold near equal appeal for all ages. Try to avoid these as substitutions because these are the attractions the family should enjoy together.
  • Approximate actual fun for the little kid. “Watching parent shop” is not typically fun for a preschooler.

Here are some good big kid / little kid attraction pairings to satisfy both ends of the spectrum.

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The Basics: Walt Disney World First Timer’s Guide — The Minimum You Need to Know

by on February 8, 2016

TouringPlans logo

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
  • Relax

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!

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