Attractions

Does Diagon Alley Feel Like Home?

by on September 16, 2014

The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Ed. – We’re happy to bring back our International Youth Correspondant for another kid’s eye article. We’re also grateful to the Duncan family for being so accommodating when we rang them up and asked to borrow their children for a day.

When I heard that Universal Studios Florida was to welcome Diagon Alley as a new land, and that it was to be connected to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, already existing as Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, by the Hogwarts Express train, I was thrilled. I am a colossal Harry Potter fan and had already visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London, where the eight Harry Potter movies were filmed, for an audio guided tour of the sets. I couldn’t wait to see how Universal was going to duplicate the original Diagon Alley set, replicate my home of London, in general, and build the Knight Bus, Platform 9¾, and, of course, Gringotts Bank.

So when we visited Orlando this summer, my brother and I decided to adopt some American parents for the day, Len Testa and Laurel Stewart – the TouringPlans legends – to take us around the new area and attractions. Len had even concocted a back story in case someone asked how my brother and I got our English accents; we were to reply: “From our Nanny, Mary Poppins.” And to do so with a perfectly straight face! I would have totally failed and was so glad we didn’t have to use this in the end.

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Why You Should Choose the Magic Kingdom’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour

by on September 12, 2014

For those of us looking to learn more about the Disney magic, or for a whole new way to experience the parks, Disney offers a variety of tours to enjoy. For example, there’s Epcot’s Behind the Seeds Tour, Animal Kingdom’s Wild Africa Trek, and the big favorite, Backstage Magic, where you enjoy a backstage look of all four parks! However, my personal favorite tour has to be the Magic Kingdom‘s Keys to the Kingdom Tour, a five hour behind-the-scenes peek of the most magical park of them all; and for anyone looking to splurge on a tour, it’s my top pick. Why? Read on to see why you should choose the Magic Kingdom’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour.

Keys to the Kingdom Tour - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Earpiece guests use during the tour in order to hear even in crowded places

1. Utilidors

So this is one of the Keys to the Kingdom’s biggest draws, so I’m starting with it! Yes, the Keys to the Kingdom Tour allows you the opportunity to check out the legendary Utilidors, the Magic Kingdom’s tunnels that run underneath the park. Now before your imagination runs off, let me be clear. These tunnels are not something you would see in an Indiana Jones film. These tunnels are technically the first floor of the park, as the Magic Kingdom is actually built on the second level; and these tunnels are where offices and utilities are located, as well as wardrobe for Cast Members. Also, the purpose of the Utilidors is to allow Cast Members to get from one side of the park to the other without breaking theme. You see, Disney is all about the details and putting on a show, and having a Cast Member dressed in Liberty Square garb wouldn’t look right in Tomorrowland, would it? Also, you should know that you only get to see a small portion of the Utilidors during the tour; but even so, it’s still awesome! Also during the tour, you will get a chance to venture backstage to see some park attractions and buildings from behind the scenes. During my tour, my guide took our group to see the warehouse where they store the parade floats. It was just as memorable as the Utilidors!

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#TBT: Disneyland’s Light Magic

by on September 11, 2014

Werner Weiss for Yesterland.com

photo courtesy of Werner Weiss for Yesterland.com

Throwback Thursday

Quick! Name three Disney Park nighttime spectaculars!

Main Street Electrical Parade!

Fantasmic!

Light Magic!

…wait. What was that last one?

“Light Magic?”

Many of you might be scratching your heads at the last nighttime spectacular mentioned here. Light Magic wasn’t a parade, wasn’t based on any Disney movie, and wasn’t very liked at all. That’s why the show only lasted 15 weeks in the summer of 1997 despite being heavily promoted for a year.

Yet, when you watch Light Magic, you can see elements of Disney Parks parades from the new millenium appearing in its earliest forms. And if you listen, you can hear one of my favorite Disney Parks soundtracks of all time. Let’s look back at Light Magic.

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Another Note on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

by on September 10, 2014

Oh No!

Oh No!

Ignorance Isn’t Always Bliss

I have one rule in life – no coasting of the roller variety. Regular coasting is perfectly acceptable, of course, but that’s the extent of things. So far, this rule has been fairly easy to follow, which keeps the butterflies from wreaking their unholy havoc in my stomach and also gives me a great sense of accomplishment most days. It would give greater satisfaction if I could manage to work these minor victories into polite conversation, but I lack that gift.

One of the drawbacks to this rule is that I know next to nothing about proper inertial positioning when it comes to these stomach-churning, coastery experiences.

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Fear and Trembling: A Chicken’s Review of Big Thunder Mountain

by on August 23, 2014

“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man . . . .. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place.”

I am not that man.

big.thunder.4

Big Thunder, Big

As I moved resignedly toward the tumblin’ town of Tumbleweed, that sad fact was once again made painfully apparent. My time and place does not involve thrills. Although I’ve never been especially frightened by regular thunder, I have more than my fair share of reservations regarding Big Thunder, and not just of the FastPass+ persuasion. Coffee and creamed-colored crags cast troubled shadows at my feet as we inched closer; it was very clear to me I was in the wrong place. My wife, unfortunately, was not persuaded.

I’ve heard the claim before. Upon our return from a quick Christmastime visit to the Magic Kingdom with my immediate family, my wife and my brother both suggested that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad might actually be an attraction I would enjoy, as it lacked the typical large drops that so twist my stomach in knots—as well as not’s, as in “I’m not going on another of these rides, I’m not going to eat again, I’m not feeling especially manly . . .”, and so on. At this point, my faith in other people’s assessment of whether  or not I will enjoy/survive unscathed any thrill ride has been shaken, not to mention roughed-up and made queasy and more than a little cranky.

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Hidden Details of Animal Kingdom

by on August 23, 2014

There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, let’s take a look at the hidden details of Animal Kingdom!

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Over at Asia’s Expedition Everest, be sure to notice the special height measurement for young riders. Only at Disney would the measurement be a giant, wooden Yeti foot! I’ve always thought that Expedition Everest has one of the most clever, detailed themed queues, and this fun detail just proves it!

Inside of the Dinosaur attraction, look up to see red, white, and yellow pipes running through the queue. Chemical combinations are printed on those pipes, which isn’t anything special, unless you realize the combinations are actually the chemical names for ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard! Weird, right?

Animal Kingdom Harambe Sign - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Village

Animal Kingdom’s Africa is meant to look and feel as if you have just walked into a real African village called Harambe. Disney Imagineers really went to new heights with the details here, as Harambe appears lived-in and authentic with thatched roofs, posters for the village’s Harambe Wildlife Preserve, handpainted signs on the sides of local businesses, and so much more. This particular sign welcoming you into Harambe features ads of the village’s establishments, and the lights above it are even rusted to show age.

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The Disney Dazzle: Meeting Mickey Mouse

by on August 22, 2014

©Disney

Ta-Dah!

My very favorite thing about visiting Disney World is the memories you take home with you. Amongst the celebrations and excitement at the parks, something even more amazing can happen. A magical moment occurs that makes the whole trip so much more meaningful – a personal story you will never forget. I call this the ‘Disney Dazzle.’

My husband and I make trips to Orlando 2-3 times a year as my husband’s aunt and uncle live there. Rewind back to February 2014, and we were on our very first trip with our newborn, Annie. Whenever we visit Disney World, my husband’s uncle, Keith, always has a surprise in store for us. This trip was no exception. Earlier in the day, Uncle Keith had mysteriously left our group for several minutes. He returned, said nothing about his disappearance and we continued about our day. That night, he told us he had a surprise but that we would have to wait a little longer. I walked up and down Main Street, U.S.A. with ants in my pants wondering what his secret could be. After what seemed like FOREVER (although in reality, it was no more than 20 minutes), he led us into the Town Square Theater. I really had NO idea what we were doing there, only remembering the little television playing cartoons and the Camera Center full of camera supplies and pins. While looking around, I saw the sign ‘Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater’ and it hit me. Uncle Keith had gotten us a FastPass+ reservation to meet Mickey Mouse! Now, guests have had the opportunity to meet Mickey in the Town Square Theater since 2011, but it wasn’t until October of 2013 that a special magician Mickey would grace us with his presence. (I won’t give away all the surprises because every encounter with ‘the boss’ is unique!) As a Disney buff, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no idea one could meet Mickey in such an exciting and intimate setting. I was in for a real treat!

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Disney World: Getting the Most of Cast Members

by on August 17, 2014

What do the following three questions have in common?

Tinkerbell in a thoughtful moment. Photo by Thomas Cook

Tinkerbell in a thoughtful moment. Photo by Thomas Cook

  • Is the rain real?
  • Is Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?
  • What time is the Three O’clock Parade?

Answer: They are all questions I was asked as a Walt Disney World cast member.

I hope it’s clear that these questions are not exactly the best questions to ask a cast member. I don’t mean to imply anything about the guests who asked these questions, especially since the parade question is one I got asked once a week or so over a number of years.

This article is not about questionable questions. It’s about how you should ask cast members about park information. It seems like a simple issue, but any longtime cast member will tell you their many stories of frustrating guests and their questions.

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Favorite Park Series: Disney’s Magic Kingdom

by on August 17, 2014

Magic Kingdom

We made it!

We did it. We made it to the end of my Favorite Park Series. To read my highlights on Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, here ya go!

Now, let’s see what puts the ‘Magic’ in Magic Kingdom.

Memorable Moments 

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy” – Walt Disney.

Indeed, these memorable words are embodied in the ambiance and attractions of Magic Kingdom. Main Street, U.S.A., is reminiscent of small town America, with Ma and Pa general stores full of delicious goodies and fun souvenirs. Adventureland creates exotic experiences such as boarding the Jungle Cruise and joining the crew on the fan favorite, Pirates of the Caribbean. Make your way over to Frontierland and enter the Wild West. Hold on to your cowboy hats

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SATURDAY SIX: Six of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Plans for the Next 5 Years

by on August 16, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Plans for the Next 5 Years. This past week The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill podcast went over a lot of exciting possibilities for Walt Disney World’s near future.  The show was the talk of the theme park world, and while it was loaded with a metric ton of information, scintillating rumors, and insider scoops, we’re going to count down the six biggest takeaways of this audio starting with…

# 6 – The Sorcerer’s Hat ain’t going anywhere…

SATURDAY_SIX_DHSHAT

Haters gonna hate. (photo by Matt Cleary and Brandon Glover)

 

The era of nightmares doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Jim Hill says that despite the fact that many guests see the giant Sorcerer’s hat sitting in the middle of the park as the biggest eyesore since Cinderella Castle was turned into a giant pink birthday cake, it serves an important purpose to the park. More to the point, the stage below the ugly hat plays a vital roll in allowing DHS to hold various live shows and draw the crowds away from popular attractions such as Tower of Terror and Toy Story Midway Mania.

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