Beyond the Parks

The Epcot That Never Was

by on May 28, 2015

(c) Walt Disney Company

Model of EPCOT, (c) Walt Disney Company

Epcot is one of my favorite parks at Walt Disney World. I never get tired of seeing Spaceship Earth, or watching the dancing Fountain of Nations in Future World, or doing a little shopping in World Showcase; but what I’ve recently discovered is that the Epcot that I know isn’t exactly what Walt Disney had in mind when planning Disney World. You see, back in the 1960s when Disney World was being planned, the Magic Kingdom wasn’t what Walt was most excited about. In fact, when Walt introduced television viewers to his plans for Florida, he said that EPCOT would be the “heart of everything we will be doing at Disney World.” Walt also said that it wouldn’t be a park at all, but rather a community of the future where you could live! So what was the Epcot supposed to be like? What happened along the way? Well, keep reading because for today, I’m here to tell you all about The Epcot That Never Was.

Walt’s Original Vision for EPCOT

One of Walt’s many interests was city planning and finding solutions to the everyday problems of the cities of the day, such as traffic, slums, pollution, and crowded conditions. He had learned a lot about planning, building, and construction when creating Disneyland, and he now felt that he could provide some solutions to the problems he saw in the real world in the form of a working community called EPCOT.

EPCOT stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it would be an example to the country and the world for how to build and run better cities. It would also serve as a sort of testing ground for new technology, products, materials, and ideas from America’s industries and corporations that would serve to improve our lives.

EPCOT wasn’t just some idea or possible plan for the distant future of Disney World. Walt fully intended to build it, had many plans and diagrams, and intended it to be the focus of his Disney World on the East Coast where 20,000 residents would live and work. Pretty cool, huh?

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The Amazing Race Around Disney World

by on May 26, 2015

Amazing Race

Three things that my family loves are Disney World, reality TV, and competition. So once a year during our summer Disney World vacation, we combine all of these together into what we affectionately call “The Amazing Race Around Disney World”. In case you aren’t familiar with the popular reality TV series “The Amazing Race“, the basic premise is that teams of two compete in challenges while racing around the world for a million dollars. We follow this same format (minus the million) and create new challenges each year.

Please read on for a complete copy of one of our races and to learn more about how to create your very own “Amazing Race Around Disney World” for your next vacation!

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Behind the Voices: Mickey Mouse and Friends

by on May 24, 2015

Photo - cinedork.comWhile watching a movie I can’t just watch the movie. I have to get on my phone and check out imdb.com to see what other films the actors have been in. The same applies when I’m watching Disney Junior with my daughter.

I listen closely to see if I can recognize where else I’ve heard these famous voices before double checking on the internet. Utilizing my weird hobby, I thought it would be fun to feature a few of these Disney voice actors so we all could finally match the face to the voice!*

*I’ve only highlighted actors who voiced the character at least five years.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Adult Drinks at Walt Disney World

by on May 23, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Adult Drinks at Walt Disney World. Who among us doesn’t enjoy an adult libation from time to time, especially on days when Anna & Elsa still have a 40 minute wait at 3 in the morning? While we at the SATURDAY SIX offices respect those who attempt an Ultimate Touring Plan to see every attraction, show, parade and live performance at a Disney Park, you’re more likely to find us attempting to drink around World Showcase or figuring out the best resort to stay at while attempting a WDW bar tour.

We looked at every bar and lounge across WDW property and came up with the list of best adult drinks. The only venue not eligible is the new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, because they will be getting an article devoted entirely to them in the near future (we’re still in the honeymoon phase, and the Nautilus, Shrunken Zombie Head, Rum Flight, Tropical Dark & Stormy, Krakatoa Punch and Polynesian Pearl would fill up the list.)  With that out of the way let’s begin the drink countdown, starting with….

# 6 – Grand Marnier Orange Slush (France Pavilion, Epcot)

Our first stop after crossing the International Gateway at Epcot is Les Vins des Chefs de France kiosk for a Grand Marnier Orange Slush. Similar in taste to an orange sorbet with just the right mix of Grand Marnier and Grey Goose vodka, this slush is absolutely delicious and the perfect drink during a hot touring day at Epcot.

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Gran Marnier Slush. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Disneyland or Disney World – What’s the Difference? Part 4

by on May 22, 2015

Disneyland or Disney WorldDisneyland or Disney World? Welcome back to our four part series, where we are debating this very question. In case you missed it, in part one we took a look at some of the key differences between Disneyland and Disney World in the areas of size and scope, atmosphere, and weather. In part two, we examined the topics of crowds, pricing, and hotels. In part three, we compared planning, transportation, and the parks. In our fourth and final part, let’s conclude our side-by-side comparison of Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World by discussing events, resort extras, and dining.

Events

Disneyland Holiday TimeDisneyland Resort Events

The Disneyland Resort has lots of exciting happenings throughout the year. As well as offering several smaller events, Disneyland Resort is host to:

  • Lunar New Year: This is a fun celebration at California Adventure filled with festive decorations and entertainment.
  • Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend: This is a runDisney race event complete with Star Wars characters and entertainment.
  • New Orleans Square Mardi Gras: This is an exciting happening in the New Orleans Square of Disneyland complete with lively jazz music.
  • Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend: This is a themed runDisney race event filled with Never Land characters and entertainment.
  • Independence Day: This celebration has themed merchandise, tasty red-white-and-blue treats plus a dazzling fireworks show.
  • Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend: This is another incredible runDisney race event with courses that pass through both California Adventure and Disneyland.
  • Halloween Time: This event includes Disney villains, Halloween crafts, dance parties, yummy Halloween inspired treats, themed merchandise, and festive fall decorations.
  • Mickey’s Halloween Party: This party is held on select nights in September and October and includes exciting dance parties, trick-or-treat stations, character meet and greats, and dazzling fireworks.
  • Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend: This is another runDisney race event this time with a Super Heroes theme.
  • Holidays at the Disneyland Resort: This seasonal offering includes a special version of World of Color, holiday fireworks, a Christmas parade, snow on Main Street, U.S.A., holiday overlays to “it’s a small world” and Haunted Mansion, Sleeping Beauty Castle covered in sparkling icicle lights, themed treats and merchandise, and the entire resort adorned with festive decorations.
  • New Year’s Eve Celebration: This event includes themed merchandise and treats, energetic dance parties, and a spectacular fireworks show.

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Ideas for Entertaining Kids On The Plane

by on May 20, 2015

Photo - DisneyFor some, the thought of flying on a plane with kids is simple and carefree.

For me, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong – I have an amazingly easy child who travels very well. Still, I would be lying if I didn’t admit prior to flying with her, I become a Nervous Nelly.

For those of you who can relate to my anxieties, here is a list of ideas and items for entertaining your child on a flight to Walt Disney World, Disneyland or anywhere else. Although who are we kidding, why go anywhere else when you could go to some of the happiest places on earth? ;-)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside

by on May 16, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside. Earlier this year we took a trip to Port Orleans French Quarter, one of our favorite hotels at Walt Disney World, and today we will be looking at French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Formerly known as Dixie Landings, Riverside’s theme comes from the tranquil scenery of Mississippi River communities and lavish opulence of pre-Civil War Louisiana.

POR_Logo

Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside.

While one of French Quarter’s biggest selling points is the resort’s small size and intimate feel, Riverside goes the other way and is a huge resort with a ton of stuff to do. Let’s face it, sometimes more is more, and although Riverside is sprawling it is actually one of the most relaxing areas on Disney property.  From horse-drawn carriage rides to evening campfires to six (yes, six) pools, Riverside has a lot of reasons to love it, and today we’re counting down the top six starting with…

# 6 – The Southern Charm of Riverside’s Theming

While French Quarter focuses on the city feeling of New Orleans, Riverside takes a step back and puts a spotlight on the rural areas of antebellum Louisiana. The overall level of theming is much closer to what you will find at deluxe Disney’s hotels like the Polynesian Village Resort or Wilderness Lodge than a fellow moderate like Coronado Springs.  The Riverside Mill’s 32 foot working water wheel is a standout feature, but it is all the little details which will pull you into the resort.

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Riverside Mill (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Horses play a prominent theme throughout property. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons You Need to Check Out Busch Gardens Tampa

by on May 2, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons You Need to Check Out Busch Gardens Tampa. While we are generally focused on Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort, we often need to take a quick break and remind everyone that there are a lot of other incredible things to do while in Orlando on your family vacation. They say a rising tide raises all boats, and with both WDW and Universal doing record business Orlando is booming with companies trying to get a slice of the tourist pie. Stalwart parks such as Gatorland and SeaWorld are staples of Central Florida, and you’ve probably seen publicity for some of the new kids on the block including the Orlando Eye and SEA LIFE aquarium. There’s also attractions not far away from O-Town that are well worth your time and money including Legoland in Winter Haven and the Kennedy Space Center near Port Canaveral. 

Today we are going to take a drive on I-4 West over to Tampa and check out possibly the most underrated attraction in all of Florida, Busch Gardens, and give you six reasons you need to check it out on your next vacation, starting with… 

# 6 – The Animals

There is a reason Disney built Animal Kingdom, and it was because it wanted to keep people on WDW property instead of driving to Busch Gardens. For both parks, being able to see and interact with exotic animals is a big selling point. While Animal Kingdom has upwards of 2,000 animals, Busch Gardens Tampa has over 12,000. Elephants, cheetahs, gorillas, rhinos, and giraffes are the headliners but there are hundreds of species throughout the park. Not only are there much more animals, in general you are also going to be closer to them than at Animal Kingdom, getting a more intimate experience.

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Feeding the animals at Busch Gardens Tampa. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Cheetah. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Trip Report: Coronado Springs Resort

by on May 1, 2015

Freshly back from my favorite place to vacation, I can’t stop thinking about the clean white sand, the lazy hammocks, the gorgeous Spanish architecture, and the relaxing atmosphere I experienced. This is one of our favorite resorts to visit; and no, it isn’t next to the ocean. It is a Disney resort: Coronado Springs to be exact.

Coronado Springs hidden mickey lobby - Amy FarkasI have several friends that vacation at the beach. When I ask them why, they describe the sand, the waves, and the relaxation. And to them I say: Coronado. Coronado Springs has all of these things plus a gorgeous pool, a 24 hour fitness center, a spa, some wonderful dining venues, and (a plus for me) is on Disney property. After the hustle and crowds of visiting Magic Kingdom, just hop the bus and head back to your serenity zone at the resort.

Our recent stay here was over the Easter holiday. We flew in late Saturday night, arriving at the resort about 10pm, and even at that hour we found the staff to be warm and friendly. One gentleman even pointed out the “hidden Mickey” in the lobby lighting, as he passed by my photographer husband. Check in itself was a breeze and we were soon on our way to our room.

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Disneyland or Disney World – What’s the Difference? Part 3

by on April 23, 2015

Disneyland or Disney WorldDisneyland or Disney World? Welcome back to our four part series, where we will continue to debate this very question. In case you missed it, in part one we took a look at some of the key differences between Disneyland and Disney World in the areas of size and scope, atmosphere, and weather. In part two, we examined the topics of crowds, pricing, and hotels. In part three, let’s continue our side-by-side comparison of Disneyland and Disney World by discussing planning, transportation, and the theme parks.

Planning

 

Disneyland Resort Planning

Planning a trip to Disneyland is a fairly straightforward process. Let’s look at a basic timeline.

  • 12 months or more in advance: This is the time to research where you would like to stay and book a hotel reservation or vacation package.
  • 11 months or less in advance: If you are going to be flying to Disneyland, this is the time to start checking flights and booking one as soon as you find a great deal. Once your flight is reserved, you can book a rental car or make reservations for airport transportation. If you will be driving to Disneyland, this is the time to plan your route and make any hotel reservations that you will need for your journey to and from the resort.
  • 3 months in advance: At this point, it is time to start researching restaurants and tours that interest you and make a list of reservations that you would like to book.
  • 60 days in advance (exactly): This is the day you may begin booking dining reservations. Character Dining, Blue Bayou, and Napa Rose tend to fill up quickly and should be booked as soon as possible. If you did not reserve a vacation package that includes admissions and you plan to purchase your tickets in advance, this is a perfect time in order to allow for shipping. Purchasing admissions early is not a necessity in Disneyland, but it will save you a little bit of time once you arrive.
  • 30 days in advance (exactly): This is the day you may begin booking any tours that you would like to try.
  • 2 weeks in advance: This is a great time to research the attractions offered at Disneyland and California Adventure, make a list of what you would like to experience, and create your personalized touring plans. Also take a few moments to put together a packing list so that you don’t forget anything.
  • 1 week in advance: It’s now time to confirm all of your reservations, print your travel documents, and pack.

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