Beyond the Parks

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

by on November 28, 2014

MMM positiveBlack Friday. One of the biggest shopping days in the ‘Murica calendar. There couldn’t be a a more appropriate day of the year for a photo report of the Disney Outlet Stores (other than April Fool’s Day of course.) I will be said to see November go though, because as a theme park fan this was a HUGE month. We said hello to the much needed parking garage at Downtown Disney, and goodbye to my beloved NASCAR Sports Grille at Universal CityWalk. Both Universal and Disney opened new eateries: the unbelievably great Cowfish at CityWalk, and the just plain unbelievable (as in not believable) food truck park at Downtown Disney. The Magic Kingdom unveiled the awesome new queue for Peter Pan’s Flight, and the entire WDW resort area is starting to look like Christmas with the Wilderness Lodge getting its King Kong-sized tree and the Grand Floridian & Contemporary resorts putting up their must-see gingerbread houses. 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).

We’re going to start off with my of my all-time favorite items I have ever seen at the Outlets: a Luigi’s Flying Tires toy! The huge rumor over in California is that the Luigi’s Flying Tires attraction is going down in January for “refurbishment”… and not coming back. Even mainstream film and pop culture sites have picked up on the story. Seeing this toy at the Outlets would be like stumbling upon a Habit Heroes comic book, or a pin for Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration. Originally $9.95, this bad boy is now just $4.95, but its value to me is priceless.

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Staying true to the ride itself, this toy also doesn’t work.

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SATURDAY SIX THANKSGIVING SPECIAL: Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks in 2014

by on November 27, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2014 was a great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning, to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, I ask that Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with….

# 6 – Disney and Universal Merchandise is Better than Ever

It wasn’t long ago, that the only merchandise people were buying at Universal were Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts. Over at Disney, almost every single store, whether in the parks, hotels, or Downtown Disney, was selling the same generic”Disney Parks”stuff. A seismic shift started to occur in 2010, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, and blew the doors off everyone’s projections in the area of merchandise and Butterbeer. Guests were now walking out of Universal with house robes, wands and chocolate frogs in hand. This success was then repeated throughout both of their theme parks, with unique and exclusive items found everywhere you looked, from the EVAC action figure at Transformers gift shop, to the faux girl scout cookies in Despicable Me’s Super Silly Store, to my personal favorite – The Film Vault –  a whole new store focusing on retro merchandise.

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Jungle Cruise merchandise found at the Marketplace Co-op in Downtown Disney. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Things to Do at Disney World outside the Parks

by on November 21, 2014

It can be easy sometimes to forget just how much there is to do outside of Disney World’s four theme parks and two water parks. With so much contained within the parks, it might not even cross some guests’ minds that you could actually spend a whole Disney World vacation without ever going to the parks. Although I personally wouldn’t suggest skipping the parks entirely, you could do it and still have a great vacation. Maybe it’s the last day of your vacation or maybe you just want to explore the property a little to see what else Disney has to offer. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many things to see and do without ever having to pay for a park admission ticket.

Disney World Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf

Golf

Disney World wouldn’t be much of a resort destination without golf. With three courses (four if you include the onsite Four Seasons course) and one nine-hole walking course, there’s a wide variety of play options for fans of the sport. Even if you think you’re terrible at golf or you’ve never tried before, this is a good place to start. Resort courses are notoriously less punishing than most courses (people don’t need a stroke on vacation) and even if you do play horribly, at least you’re still in Disney so you can’t be that upset. If the full-fledged sport still seems like too much of an undertaking, Disney also offers two thematically different mini golf courses. Fantasia Gardens (located near the Boardwalk) is themed after its namesake film and even features a more traditional putting green course for those who want to just work on their short game. Winter Summerland Miniature Golf is located at Blizzard Beach and has two courses themed after winter and summer. For those concerned about having to purchase a water park ticket to play here, no need to worry. The mini golf course may be located at Blizzard Beach but it’s actually outside of the Blizzard Beach entrance.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Contemporary Resort

by on November 15, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Contemporary Resort. After examining some of the value resorts on Disney property, including Pop Century and Art of Animation, it’s time to head straight to the top of the WDW resort food chain and see the benefits a deluxe resort brings to the table. First stop, The Contemporary. As a long time Disney fan, I have wanted to stay at The Contemporary since I was a little kid, but my parents always booked hotels off-site to save money. As an adult planning my own trips, I would often price out a stay at The Contemporary, only to end up choosing a cheaper alternative myself. I’m not a big fan of the cliche you only live once, but if there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s that the biggest regrets are not doing things when you have the chance, because those opportunities may not be around forever.  So whether it was philosophical reasons, or the fact that I felt the awesome Contemporary Resort Monorail Toy Accessory was taunting me, I decided to fulfill a near lifelong dream and book a stay at The Contemporary this year.

Now that it is crossed of the bucket list I can report back that…. I loved it. The stay confirmed several things I thought The Contemporary would be like, and opened my eyes to amenities I did not know much about before. Today we are going to countdown six takeaways from my experience, starting with…

# 6 – A Million Dollar View

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View from Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

 

The views from The Contemporary A-Frame building are spectacular. One side faces Bay Lake, the other faces the Magic Kingdom.  Waking up in the morning we could see Disney’s Polynesian Resort Village, the Grand Floridian, the monorail passing by, ferry boats in the lake, the Walt Disney World Railroad, and not to mention the Magic Kingdom itself, with icons such as Cinderella’s Castle and Space Mountain. I’ve stayed at on-site hotels at various theme park resorts, and hotels across the United States including Las Vegas, Boston, San Diego, Times Square, and Hawaii, but this was the most amazing view I have ever had. I was able to enjoy fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant, two of my favorite things at WDW, from the room. I was speechless. I knew it would be good. I didn’t know it would be this good.

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What’s On TV? Your Disney World TV Channel Line Up

by on November 13, 2014

Disney World TVI just returned from another incredible Walt Disney World vacation a couple of weeks ago, and I am still suffering from the post-Disney blues! One of my family’s favorite things about a Disney vacation is being able to stay in the “Disney Bubble” from the moment we arrive until the moment we leave. An integral part of that “Disney Bubble” is only watching Disney World TV and turning on the Must Do Disney channel as soon as we arrive to listen to Stacey talk about all of the fun things we will be doing during our visit. During this vacation, my boys and I spent a little time each morning while we were getting ready and a little time each night while we were winding down watching some of the Disney World TV channels that were offered at our resort hotel, the Art of Animation. Have you ever wondered about what is on TV at Disney World or have you ever wanted to know more about our favorite Must Do Disney gal – Stacey? Please read on for the full Disney World TV channel line up as well as my interview with Must Do Disney‘s Stacey Aswad!

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Outdoor Movies at Disney World FAQ

by on November 13, 2014

At the end of a long day of park touring, sometimes the only thing you have the energy for is kicking back and watching a movie. Sure you can do that in your hotel room on the TV or your trusty iPad, but it can feel a bit more vacationy to watch a movie under the stars. And wouldn’t you know, Disney has you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about outdoor movie viewing at Walt Disney World.

Toy Story 3 poolside at All Star Music. (Not shown: me crying hysterically in the back row.)

Toy Story 3 poolside at All Star Music. (Not shown: me crying hysterically in the back row.)

Does every Disney hotel show outdoor movies?

In general, yes. There may be situations where construction or refurbishment temporarily halts the movies at that particular hotel.

There is one case where sister resorts, the Yacht & Beach Clubs, share a movie location. One resort, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, has two movie locations.

Is there a charge for the outdoor movies?

Nope, the cost is included with your resort stay.

Do I have to stay for the whole movie? Is it weird to leave in the middle?

Not at all. Since most of the movies are near the pools, guest will often pop in and out of viewing, alternating a few minutes of screen time with a few minutes of swim time.

I will often stop and watch just a few minutes of a film if I pass one while walking back to my hotel room in the evening.

Are movies shown every night?

Usually yes. Some resorts have experimented with twice-a-week movies in the off season, but for the most part you can expect that your hotel will show an outdoor movie every night, weather permitting.

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Add a Touch of Disney to Your Christmas at Home

by on November 12, 2014

Between holiday shopping, parties, school concerts, wrapping, baking, and spending time with family and friends, it can be difficult for many Disney fans to take a trip to Walt Disney World at Christmas time. But that doesn’t mean that Disney can’t be a part of your Christmas. Here are just a few ideas to bring a little bit of the joy you feel in the parks into your home and to mix some pixie dust in with your Christmas spirit.

Photo by Sarah Graffam

Christmas card from the Villas at Wilderness Lodge lobby (Photo by Sarah Graffam)

Christmas cards. If you have visited the World during the year, one of your favorite family photos from the vacation could be the perfect Christmas card. If you are lucky enough to visit in November when Disney World has put up some of its holiday decorations, you can take a photo for your card in front of one of Disney’s several Christmas trees or giant gingerbread houses, many of which are up at the parks and resorts by Thanksgiving (although Magic Kingdom’s tree is not up until after the first weekend in December). Disney Hollywood Studio’s Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which typically begins in early November, is another holiday photo op. Later, you can frame the card to display in your home as a special souvenir.

Christmas ornaments (Photo by Sarah Graffam)

An ornament collection is a great way to create family memories (Photo by Sarah Graffam)

Park merchandise. Next time you are in the parks, even if it is in the heat of summer, keep the Christmas season in mind when shopping. Many shops offer holiday merchandise year-round. Daisy Lauren has a great article on shopping for holiday merchandise at Walt Disney World. One of my favorite shops for Christmas collectibles is Magic Kingdom’s Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, which is just as full of Christmas festivity in July as it is in December. Tip: Start a family tradition by collecting a favorite holiday item. My family’s tradition is to bring home an ornament for our tree to remind us of our visit. Ornaments that show the year can bring back memories of a specific trip.

Make a gift of your next trip. Are you planning a trip to a Disney park in the next year and can keep a secret until Christmas morning? Surprise your family with a scavenger hunt to discover the trip. Or hide a note in a gift box full of Disney character plushes to reveal the surprise. One year, we put the letters to spell out Disney World in several packages for the kids to unscramble.

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Disney Cruise Line: RunDisney Castaway Cay 5K Photo Report

by on November 12, 2014

My recent sailing on the Disney Wonder brought with it several surprises, the biggest of which – for me – was biting the bullet and signing up for my first official runDisney event, the Castaway Cay 5k. I had no plans to participate in the event before the cruise, as it would clearly cut into my buffet time, but when researching a Castaway Cay 5k question from a TouringPlans reader, I temporarily lost my mind and signed up for the race. I will now present a gripping tale of human triumph and the 100% totally true story of how one man overcame all obstacles, including Mother Nature herself, to take home the elusive Castaway Cay 5k medal.

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Castaway Cay 5k bibs.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of the Disney Cruise Line

by on November 8, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Surprises of the Disney Cruise Line. Several weeks ago we posted an article on Six Reasons To Go On a Disney Cruise, which covered the “big picture” of why you should consider setting sail with The Mouse, but this week we’ll take a look some of the smaller details that made a significant impact on my vacation. Leading up to the cruise, I had done a decent amount of research on TouringPlans, the Disney Cruise Line Blog, and reading Erin Foster’s numerous DCL posts on the blog, but once I stepped onto the deck of the Disney Wonder I still had one surprise after another.  Here are my six favorite surprises of the trip (remember, you can click on any picture to see it in full size)…

# 6 – DCL Beer Mug Card

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DCL Beer Mug.

 

I’m a big fan of souvenir glasses (and we covered several of options available in the photo reports of the DCL gift shops and Castaway Cay) so I was definitely drawn to the DCL Beer Mug. Aside from being a neat souvenir, the mug has two benefits that come along with it. The first benefit is the fact that each time you get a beer in the mug you are given a 22 oz serving, but only charged for 16 oz.  Secondly, the mug itself has a good amount of weight to it, so it was a nice surprise to find out you don’t have to carry it around with you during the cruise. When you are done drinking, you hand the mug back to your server/bartender, and they will give you a card which you can then exchange for another mug when you are ready to drink again. This option became so handy and convenient throughout the trip, that I began to wish there was some practical way the theme parks could incorporate it into their day-to-day operations.

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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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