Beyond the Parks

The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! October 2014 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on October 31, 2014

MMM positiveToday marks the end of October, and what a month it was. Our long national nightmare finally came to an end as Disney announced that the Sorcerer’s Hat would finally be leaving Hollywood Studios. Also leaving DHS will be the Legend of Jack Sparrow, bringing the total amount of attractions at the park down to something like two (give or take). A new lumberjack show made its debut at Epcot, nets around the Tree of Life came down at Animal Kingdom, and Marvel announced it would be making Disney approximately 100 Billion dollars over the next five years. All of this and I somehow managed to sail on my first ever Disney Cruise. This may go down in the history books as the greatest month of all time, at least until next month.

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.)

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I Know What You Did Last Summer Mickey plush.

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Disney Cruise Line: Merchandise Photo Report of Castaway Cay (iPhone Cases, Shirts, Letters In a Bottle)

by on October 31, 2014

Earlier this week we covered the exclusive merchandise on the Disney Cruise Line, and today we will take a gander at the products on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Much like the gift shops on the Disney Wonder, it was amazing to see the wide variety of merchandise available on the island, and how much of it was actually good. I knew that I was in for a treat when the first thing I came across was the refillable mugs, and not only did they have a style similar to ones we see at the Disney resorts, but they also had plastic coconut shaped cups. Now, these coconut cups are completely impractical, as you have to separate them almost in half to put in your soda, but I absolutely loved them. There are several soda machines on the island where you can refill your mugs for free, and then you can use them on the ship as well.

 

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Refillable mugs and coconuts at Castaway Cay.

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Observations from Downtown Disney (Big Hero 6 Kiosk, New Stores, Construction Update, and More)

by on October 29, 2014

It has been a big week for Downtown Disney (soon to be rebranded as Disney Springs) with the news of two new dining venues coming to the area, including one from celebrated Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. A lot of progress has been made since our last photo report of WDW’s shopping district, and today you’ll be able to get a look at two new kiosks that have recently opened (Set the Bar and Sublime) along with updates on the Food Truck Park, the bridge across Village Lake, and new merchandise at the stores.

Our first look is at the status of the much needed West Side parking garage. This garage is huge and stretches all the way from DisneyQuest to Pleasure Island. The scheduled opening date is Spring 2015.

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West Side parking garage.

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20 Things To Do When Your Hotel Room Isn’t Ready

by on October 28, 2014

Photo - Angela Dahlgren

A few more hours my beloved Boardwalk…a few more hours.

We were up at 4:30 a.m. for an early flight to Orlando. Taking no pride in my appearance, I hardly minded when my daughter spilled pureed peas all over my shirt during the flight. After all, I would have time to shower, change and decompress once we entered our hotel room right?

Wrong.

When we approached the front desk, we were informed the room wasn’t ready due to our extra early arrival. This wasn’t in the Touring Plan! We were now left with several unscheduled hours of time. What now?

While time did pass quickly and we managed to stay busy, it got me thinking. What else could we do should this happen again? Here are some ideas!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things To Do On Your Next Orlando Trip (Outside of Disney and Universal)

by on October 18, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things To Do On Your Next Orlando Trip (Outside of Disney and Universal). When I was growing up, our family trips to Orlando never meant just going to Disney. Sure, we would spend time at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but we always built time in our vacation to travel outside of Walt Disney World and visit attractions like Cypress Gardens, the Kennedy Space Center, and SeaWorld. Now it seems many guests lock themselves into a vacation at WDW and – thanks in part to Magical Express - never leave property. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has convinced some to venture over to the dark side of the Universal Orlando Resort, and today we are going to look at six other things to do on your next Orlando trip that are worth checking out. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, and let’s count down the fun….

 

# 6 – Fun Spot America

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Fun Spot America. (Photo by Mike Sperduto)

 

Located near Universal off of I-Drive, Fun Spot America doesn’t away the immersive theming you will see at Universal and Disney, but still has the fun rides and at a very reasonable price. One unique feature is that admission to the park is free, so that if you have family members who don’t enjoy going on rides, they can still be with everyone without having to pay the full cost of a ticket like you do at the theme parks. For my family this is a great option because my grandmother loves coming with us to the parks but has zero interest in riding anything. She does enjoy watching the kids have fun, and at Fun Spot this entertainment costs her $0 where at Disney it’s $100. Another ticket option Fun Spot has that I wish the bigger parks would adopt is pricing of rides based on height rather than age. I’ll never understand why both Disney and Universal for all intents and purposes charge a full price ticket to kids whose height prevents them from going on many of the park’s rides.

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Beating the Post Disney Blues – Part 2

by on October 8, 2014

You planned what to do before your trip – how to tell the kids, what to pack, book the flight, or chart the roadmap course. You definitely planned what to do during your trip – where to stay, what to visit, where and what to eat. Did you plan what to do after the trip? After vacationing at the happiest place on earth, it is hard to come back to reality when your vacation is finished. To make your return home a little less “blue”, you may want to organize a plan for your return home from your trip.

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Jedi Training Certificate

1) Plan time with friends: Before you leave for vacation, make plans within the first week or two of your return with someone fun. That’s what friends are for – to lift your spirits. Our kids usually miss their friends by the time we get back, so we invite a whole family over. If you know someone else who is planning a trip to Disney, even better. You can share all of your tips while they are still fresh in your mind.

2) Frame the souvenir: Did you pick up any certificates or autographs while in the park? Frame it with a photo of the event happening. My son trained as a Jedi and fought Darth Vader. Now he has the certificate and photo to prove it.

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The Disney Dazzle: Wishes Fireworks Cruise

by on October 7, 2014

Photo - Keith Dahlgren

Mom and Dad sharing a special moment

Today, I’m going to share my experience attending the Wishes Fireworks Cruise. I first went on this cruise in 2011 and again in September 2014. This most recent time, it was a birthday surprise for my dad. If you know me personally, you will understand just how hard it is for me to keep a secret. The cruise can be booked as early as 180 days in advance, but mine was booked about 90 days beforehand. That’s 90 whole days I had to keep my lips zipped…I barely made it! After a fun day at the parks and a delicious dinner at The Brown Derby (Yes, he was spoiled rotten!), we arrived at the Contemporary. We led my confused dad through the lobby and outside to the marina. He had no clue what this birthday surprise could be!

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TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going on my First Disney Cruise Aboard the Disney Wonder!

by on October 7, 2014

Over the past few weeks and months you’ve probably read several articles on the upcoming big October event - TouringPlans #Everywhere. If not, here’s the skinny: during Columbus Day weekend, TouringPlans is sending its staff across the world to Disney destinations in order to collect content, meet our subscribers, and if we can squeeze it in, have some fun, too. Brian McNichols, my cohost of the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast, is going to Disneyland. Gerelyn Reaves is going to the Aulani resort in Hawaii. Guy Selga is going to Tokyo Disneyland. And I’ll be going to the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Just kidding, I’ll actually be taking my first ever trip on the Disney Cruise Line aboard the Disney Wonder.

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Spoiler Alert: This is NOT the Disney Wonder, this is the Disney Dream.

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The Four Seasons Orlando (Part 1)

by on October 6, 2014

Ed. – To hear (literally,™ James Hill) more about the Four Seasons, listen to Steve and Paula Bloom on today’s episode of the WDW Today podcast.

The Four Seasons Orlando is the newest resort at Walt Disney World. My in-laws, wife, and two children visited the Four Seasons Resort September 18-21. After the Touringplans Everywhere trip in October we will do a blog post comparing the deluxe resorts in Orlando. This blog post is going to focus on our experience at the Four Seasons.Four Seasons View from 14th floor

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SATURDAY SIX: The Disney Hipsters Examine Six of Their Assumptions After Visiting the Universal Orlando Resort

by on October 4, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one. A little over a year ago I was introduced to the Disney Hipsters podcast via the TouringPlans Podcast Network and I became an immediate fan. They are refreshingly different from the seemingly hundreds of Disney podcasts out there that just recite Disney press releases and while they have a true passion for Walt Disney World they never shy away from pointing out the bad along with the good. When they announced their first ever trip to the Universal Orlando Resort earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to get their unique perspective on the theme parks and staying onsite after years of being “Disney Only” fans. Today Disney Hipster Adam Ferretti is here to examine six of the assumptions they had about Universal before going on the trip and whether or not they held up after the vacation. As always, clicking on any picture will open up its full size version, so with that out of the way I will see you, Dear Reader, at the end of the article and hand the reigns over to Adam…

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The Disney Hipsters, Andrew and Adam, with Krusty the Clown.

As Disney nerds going into Universal, we had tons of preconceived notions on what to expect. We thought we would discuss six of those assumptions.

ASSUMPTION # 6 – Universal Team Members Would be Inferior to Disney Cast Members

This assumption was very wrong. As a rule, the team members were super friendly, helpful and amazing. We expected the customer service aspect and general employee/guest interactions at Universal to be less than great. We ended up being really surprised by the enthusiasm of the team members at both the parks and our resort (Royal Pacific.) This was especially true of performers inside both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

Universal pays their team members a bit better (we have heard) and gives them more freedom when doing their jobs. This results in guest interactions that come off as way more genuine along with performances that were truly engaging (check out the hosts of Disaster or the Horror Make Up show for great examples.) Disney is more controlling on Cast Member behavior, including what they can and cannot say. Sometimes this makes Cast Members seem like they’re faking it, resulting in their performances being generally stale and boring (see The Great Movie Ride).

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Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show. (photo by Trygve Nelson)

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