Beyond the Parks

Trivia Tuesday: Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel + Video

by on May 10, 2016

DSC02921Welcome back to Trivia Tuesday!

Here’s a short and sweet video about Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel found on Disneyland Resort property in Anaheim, California.

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Tuesday Video: Deluxe Resort Hotels

by on May 3, 2016

yacht clubWelcome back to Trivia Tuesday!

Today, I’m bringing you on a tour of the Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort Hotels.

Put on your walking shoes and let’s go!

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

by on April 30, 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. Because the last day of April this year ends on a Saturday, the rarest of all birds at the TouringPlans blog can be seen: a daily double of the SATURDAY SIX and the Outlet Report! This week’s SATURDAY SIX is on the Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise TV show is one Your Humble Author has wanted to write for a long, loooooong time, so I hope you enjoy it.

So what happened in the theme park world this past month? Disney started the After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom and sold so few tickets that the movie Mars Needs Moms was heard laughing. Disney has already cut the price of After Hours tickets in half for Annual Passholders and DVC members, and the party is a true value when compared to the $1700 photo shoot available out in Cars Land. Unfortunately The Earful Tower, one of my all time favorite WDW park icons, has made it’s way to the Disney Dump joining about out half of DHS. Goodbye Earful Tower, you will be missed, and we’ll see you later this year in our special In Memoriam article.

Now while all of you were out yelling at American Airlines’ gate agents about missing your Disney Cruise, 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).

The first item I’ve been waiting for ever since they showed up at the regular Disney stores just about two years ago. These hats where you look like you are wearing the carcass of a dead Disney character on your head are next level bananas. Apparently these bonkers hats are huge over at the Tokyo parks, but to be fair they also line up for hours just for popcorn. Popcorn!  To be be even more fair, if I were out there I’d be in line with them. Originally $21.95, these were reduced to $5.99 and you better believe I bought one.

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Goofy hat.

The next item also made my day. Disney has recently started putting out a line of t-shirts featuring these AMAZING Star Wars/Disney Attraction Poster mashups. They actually started selling these designs a while back on dog tags, but let’s get real, who buys dog tags? No offense to any weirdos out there, but that’s a weird thing to collect. A real dog tag for someone who served in the military? Couldn’t respect more. A dog tag featuring Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in a homage to the Haunted Mansion? That’s weird. However, now that the dog tags had their price in half I bought all three designs. There’s one more design featuring Luke’s Landspeeder in a mashup with an Autopia attraction poster, but that wasn’t available. Originally $19.95, reduced to $9.99.

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Given me a break, how FANTASTIC is that design using the space slug from Empire Strikes Back as MONSTRO?!

If you are dating a woman who doesn’t mind carrying around what looks like a decapitated head of an Ewok as her purse, PUT A RING ON THAT FINGER. Originally $60 (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!), reduced to “just” $29.99.

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Yub nub.

This is a first for me at the Outlets. One thing Disney sells in almost all of their resort gift shops are these large and colorful cookies featuring characters. They are cookies in only the most abstract version of the word. I actually use them as roof shingles. They are originally $5.95, but this one featuring Boba Fett was marked down to $1.99. I was there at almost 10 o’clock at night and the cashier said I was the first person who bought a cookie. Apparently word is out.

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“You want a cookie?!” – Chris Rock

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SATURDAY SIX: Walt Disney World locations in Hulk Hogan’s THUNDER IN PARADISE

by on April 30, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise. We’re getting into the DeLorean today with Marty McFly and Doc Brown to head back to the year 1994. It was a simpler time back then. A time when Walt Disney World only had three theme parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney-MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywall’d Studios and soon to be renamed as Disney Studios Escape, Disney’s CineMagic Kingdom, or A Salute to All Movies But Mostly Star Wars).

1994 was also a time where there was not one but TWO successful professional wrestling companies in America. One was WWE (who is still thriving today) and the other was World Championship Wrestling (WCW). In a controversial move at the time, WCW started taping blocks of wrestling shows at Disney-MGM Studios. Because the park was still trying to be a working production facility for movies and TV, an action-adventure television show featuring Hulk Hogan was also filmed on location. That show: Thunder in Paradise.

How to describe Thunder in Paradise? Take Baywatch, strip away all the nuanced storylines and good actors, throw in a high tech speedboat in the vein of Knight Rider/Air Wolf and you pretty much have it. However, Thunder in Paradise does have one thing going for it that will appeal to readers of this fine article series: it shot almost all of its scenes at The World. Who among us doesn’t fondly remember Full House going to WDW? More recently Modern Family shot an entire episode at Disneyland, and it was great! It is awesome seeing the theme parks we know and love in a whole new context. So today we are going to look at some of our favorite WDW locations used in Thunder in Paradise. So sit back, tie that do-rag tight brother, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT

The pilot of Thunder in Paradise actually used the Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete, Florida as the base camp for Hulk Hogan and crew, but when the show was picked up for a series the following twenty episodes used Disney’s Grand Florida Resort. Fans of the Grand Flo are going to LOVE Thunder in Paradise as at least 25% of the entire series takes place inside or on the grounds of the resort. It’s incredible! You’ll see the lobby, the hallways, the rooms, and the Hulkster even has a dinner in Victoria & Alberts! A lot of scenes are filmed directly in front of the Grand Floridian, with the Scuttlebutt Bar N’ Grill being a major location for the show. The Scuttlebutt is where the Grand Flo’s Beaches pool bar now sits.

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Hulk Hogan and WWE Hall of Famer Sting square off in front of the Grand Floridian.

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A group of muscleheads (including Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake” playing tug of war in front of the Grand Flo. Should surprise no one who has read the Death of WCW book that the only person on the other side of this rope was Hulk Hogan.

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The Grand Flo lobby. We’re this close to Mizners!

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Hulk Hogan sitting at Victoria & Alberts. As he always said, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, and get up at 6AM 180+10 days out for your ADRs. Brother.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

by on April 23, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Throughout the years Walt Disney World has created many incredible resorts including Art of Animation, Port Orleans French Quarter and the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but back when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 it had a grand total of two: The Contemporary, and the Polynesian Village. Talk about about two hotels that have stood the test of time! In fact they may be even more popular today than they have ever been.

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While there have been many refurbishments and updates over the years, The Poly still retains the charm it has had for over 40 years. Combining the the lushness of the South Tropics with the mystery of Adventureland, this is one resort that is going make an impact with just about every Disney fan. So sit back, relax on a beachside hammock, and let’s begin counting down our top six reasons we love The Poly starting with…

# 6 – The Bungalows

One of the newest additions to The Poly is also one of the most spectacular (if not pricey). 20 two-bedroom bungalows now sit on Seven Seas Lagoon looking directly at the Magic Kingdom. With a private back deck providing an astonishing view of nighttime spectaculars such as Wishes, the bungalows are filled with subtle Disney touches along with all of today’s modern conveniences that the Disney Vacation Club provides. With prices starting around $2000 a night, you’ll probably want to spend a lot of time inside the actual bungalow to get the most bang for your buck. While relaxing, be sure to check out the Mary Blair artwork along with tributes to Tropical Serenade and the Electrical Water Pageant.

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Bora Bora Bungalows at The Poly. (photo by Laurel Stewart)

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A tribute to the Electrical Water Pageant in the pull down bed. How great is that?! (photo by Tom Bricker)

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A TV in the bathroom mirror? The Bungalows join the elusive list of E-Ticket Bathrooms which include Tangled Toilets in the Magic Kingdom, Moaning Myrtle in the Hogsmeade loo, and the Grand Flo DVC restrooms.

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Wishes explodes over Cinderella Castle as seen from the deck of a bungalow. To the right is Space Mountain. (photo by Laurel Stewart)

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Trivia Tuesday: Walt Disney World Moderate Resorts + Video

by on April 19, 2016

Pool (5)Welcome back to Trivia Tuesday!

Now that I’m back from maternity leave, I’m geared up with all new videos for you.

Starting things off, I’m spilling the beans on the Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Bars and Lounges at the WDW Resorts

by on April 9, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Six Best Bars and Lounges at the WDW Resorts. When we here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters set out to do an article on the best bars and lounges at Walt Disney World, we didn’t want you – Dear Reader – to just take our word for it. So we conducted our patented top secret, double blind, exhaustively comprehensive scientific poll by reaching out to some of the biggest names in the blogging industry. A veritable theme park Who’s Who responded, and today we are here with the results.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!  For this article we contacted a bonafide theme park drinking expert in Drunk@Disney to give his thoughts on each bar and lounge. You will find Drunky’s thoughts at the end of each write-up. You will also hear from Rhiannon, Drunky’s better half and co-author on an upcoming book about drinking at WDW. So sit back, stir that swizzle stick, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Territory Lounge (Wilderness Lodge)

Inspired by the national park lodges of the early 20th century, Wilderness Lodge is the type of resort that is distinctly Disney. Designed by Peter Dominick, who was also behind Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Grand Californian, Wilderness Lodge has a certain warmth and coziness to it that you just can’t find in than any other hotel in Orlando. It also happens to contain three underrated gems in the area of WDW dining: Whispering Canyon Cafe, Artist Point, and Territory Lounge.

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Northwest Exposure. Vodka, Kahlua, half and half, Amaretto, splash of Coke. (photo by Brandon Glover)

With a good amount of seating and an appetizer/dessert menu filled with unique options, Territory Lounge is going to be a spot you will fall in love with. There is even a fireplace to sit by! At SATURDAY SIX HQ two things go over like gangbusters when it comes to bars and lounges, themed napkins and swizzle sticks, so you can imagine our heart was a flutter seeing the Wilderness Lodge swizzle.

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How bout that swizzle stick?!!!  It makes even a Vodka cranberry look magical. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Oregon Pinot Gris Fondue. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, March 24, 2016: Shanghaied!

by on March 24, 2016

2016-03-13 12.11.44What do Floridians do on Spring Break? They travel away from Florida, of course. (At least that’s what I did this week.) Meanwhile, as I mentioned in my last BWE article, my husband is in Shanghai, helping get some finishing touches ready for the big launch of the Shanghai Disney Resort opening in June. As his pictures and experiences in Shanghai are more interesting than my trek up the I-95 corridor, I figured I’d share some of what you might see if you plan to visit Shanghai.

Something to keep in mind is that the city of Shanghai is the 3rd most populated city in the world. With almost 23 million people, Shanghai city has a higher population than the entire state of Florida. Hotels and restaurants are plentiful, mass transit is inexpensive and convenient, and there’s always something to see and do. Although some people speak English, the Shanghainese dialect of Chinese is the primary language, and you may be at a disadvantage trying to read signs in stores and restaurants.

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When it comes to dining, there’s more traditional foods, like this dish of noodles and spicy minced mushrooms.

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And then there’s places like Cozi Hotdog, which specializes in corn dogs — in flavors such as crisp potato, “explosive plasma cheese”, wasabi fish roe, dried meat floss, and lobster salad (which apparently are slathered all over a traditional corn dog). The motto of the place, written in English, is “Hot Dog is Not Dog”. Very reassuring.

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Extending Your Trip to Clearwater Beach

by on March 20, 2016

Clearwater Beach SignageLet’s face it, sometimes there is so much to do on a Walt Disney World vacation that you need a vacation when it’s over. Thankfully, its central location in Florida means Walt Disney World is only a short drive from beaches on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. There are a great many beaches and popular destinations throughout Florida’s gulf coast including St. Petersburg (“St. Pete”) Beach, Dunedin’s picturesque Honeymoon Island, Madeira Beach and John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk, Fort De Soto Park, and Sand Key Park.

Located just a short drive from Walt Disney World, just outside of Tampa, also lies arguably the best among them: Clearwater Beach. Consistently voted among the top beaches in not only Florida but America as well, Clearwater Beach offers something for everyone including restaurants, beach bars, watersports, shopping, nightlife, fishing, and of course miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. With everything in both Clearwater and surrounding areas, Clearwater Beach provides the most “bang for your buck” for tourists making the trek from Walt Disney World, be it for a day, a weekend, or a few days tacked on to the end of a vacation. For those who want this “vacation from a vacation” relaxation to those who still need to “always have something to do,” Clearwater Beach could please all.

Clearwater Beach SunsetGETTING THERE

Unless Florida actually builds the long rumored high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, you will need a rental car to visit Clearwater Beach. If you don’t wish to rent one for the entirety of your stay, rental cars are available from the Alamo and National Car Care Center near the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World Resort guests can contact their concierge desk or front desk for more information.

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: A Look at Recent Stories From Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld

by on March 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is undoubtedly a special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. It has been a whirlwind of theme park related news lately. Our long national nightmare is over as purple MagicBands are available for your WDW resort stay, Disney started a new subscription service themed to the Haunted Mansion for the low low price of just $200 (oh, and it has already sold out), the Orlando Eye did its first baby reveal, and a worker at Art of Animation was caught on video using a dirty mop to clean a table. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

So – as usual – we took a page out of our old college playbook, chugged down a case of 5 Hour Energy, and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our tiny brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – That sound you hear? KONG IS COMING.

As Donald Trump would say, it was a yuge week of King Kong news over at the Universal Orlando Resort. As theme park merchandise fanatics, we loved that a whole bunch of new merch arrived for the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. Then, Universal dropped a bombshell with their reveal of the incredible ride vehicles along with a couple other tasty tidbits: This would be Universal’s first trackless ride system, and the vehicles would be “driven” by one of five characters. While Universal hasn’t released an official opening of the attraction yet, we have a sneaking suspicion we may hear something around the time the Syfy show Face Off features an entire episode (the season finale no less) dedicated to creating characters for the attraction. Stay tuned Wednesday, March 30th at 9PM EST on Syfy.

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Universal’s Kong is almost here, but Disney has Avatar and Star Wars in the near future…. (photo by Matt Cleary)

# 5 – SeaWorld Admits to Ordering Employees to Spy on Animal Rights Groups

Readers of the SATURDAY SIX may remember one of  last year’s annual Turkeys of the Year awards went to a SeaWorld employee who was caught spying on the animal rights group PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). At the time, SeaWorld management was shocked, SHOCKED at this behavior and put out the story that the employee had gone rogue. Fast forward to this month and during another disastrous investor’s conference, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby admitted that employees did go undercover in animal rights groups and, more importantly, did so per order of the company.

Believe it or not this was the most “wow” SeaWorld story of the week until the atomic bomb the company dropped Thursday morning announcing they were ending the breeding of Killer Whales and will also be ending all the theatrical shows featuring orcas (to be replaced by exhibits).

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Disguised as famous YouTube personality Tim Tracker, Shamu himself was able to go completely unnoticed within the PeTA ranks. (photo by Michael Sheehy)

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