Beyond the Parks

TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going to Hilton Head

by on July 29, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

Welcome back to the latest news about our big October eventTouringPlans #Everywhere. As a recap, during Columbus Day weekend, TouringPlans is sending our staff far and wide (some far-er and wider than others) to Disney destinations throughout the world to collect content, meet our subscribers, maybe have some fun while we’re at it.

Speaking of people who aren’t traveling very far, I will be visiting the Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, a Disney Vacation Club property. This is roughly 5 hours from my home in North Carolina, and I drive past Hilton Head, SC, every time I’m on my way down I-95 heading to Florida. I’ve always felt a little guilty about never stopping by because I’m a DVC member and believe I should experience all the resorts. (After October, Vero Beach and Aulani will be the only ones left.)

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Legoland: Theme Park for Adults?

by on July 29, 2014

Legoland, Florida’s latest theme park, bills itself as “geared to families with children ages 2 to 12”. The park sports attractions, including four beginner coasters, but all are specifically for kids and their parents, so what were a couple of forty-somethings doing there without kids in tow?

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida. Photo by Thomas Cook

I’m glad you asked.

Legoland was developed on the grounds of Cypress Gardens, a park that opened in 1936. Often called Florida’s first theme park, Cypress Gardens was a large botanical garden to which water ski shows were added during World War II. Comprising 150 acres, it’s one of the larger botanical gardens in the United States.

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Walk Disney: A Review of the Boardwalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour

by on July 28, 2014

t_logo_fbThe Walk Disney series will provide a description and review of activities that can be done while walking the grounds at Walt Disney World resorts.

Do you know why the ESPN Club on Disney’s BoardWalk is shaped like an octagon? Do you know where the hidden Tinkerbell is near the elevators of Disney’s BoardWalk Villas? By taking the free BoardWalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour, you will learn these and many more interesting details about Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas resort area.

Before describing the experience that my wife and I had on the tour, here are the tour basics:

What does the tour entail? The tour covers many of the design choices that the Imagineers made when constructing Disney’s BoardWalk Resort area. The walking, informational tour begins at the Bellevue Lounge, continues through the main floor of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and eventually ends up on the boardwalk outside of the Boardwalk Bakery.

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A Review of Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge Tour

by on July 27, 2014

Our tour guide Ranger!

Our tour guide Ranger!

From the first moment I stepped foot into the Wilderness Lodge just to look around, I fell in love with it. The architecture and ambiance are romantic to me. Both my husband and I are nature lovers. We dream of staying at the Wilderness Lodge someday. But until then, we just visit it often, walking through the lobby and grounds, eating our hearts out. When I learned there were actual free guided tours of this majestic beauty, I couldn’t wait. My husband, on the other hand, was skeptical and thought it would be a waste of valuable park time. What could a tour offer that we hadn’t already seen on our many strolls through? We were about to find out.

On Thursday morning of our trip we had opening breakfast reservations for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. As soon as we finished we grabbed a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge, where our tour was about to begin. The meeting spot for the tour is in front of the large fireplace in the lobby of the Lodge. We were a little early, so we sat in the rocking chairs and enjoyed the slower pace. Soon another couple joined us, and we all waited patiently for our tour guide to arrive.

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Newsies to Go on Tour: Why Disney Fans Should Be Excited

by on July 27, 2014

Disney’s Newsies will give its final Broadway performance on August 24, 2014, after more than two years on stage and an incredible 1,000+ performances. The good news is that the Tony Award-winning musical, which was inspired by the 1899 newspaper boy delivery strike in New York City, is kicking off a 25-city North American tour starting in October.

Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

Aside from the opportunity for many Disney fans to see Newsies close to home, reasons why the tour of Newsies should excite Disney enthusiasts include its potential to inspire fans and the Disney theme parks.

The Connection to Walt Disney

One of the main themes in accounts of Walt Disney’s boyhood is his familiarity with the kind of hard work depicted in Newsies. In fact, as a boy, Walt likely would have identified with the boys in Newsies. Walt’s father, Elias, purchased a newspaper route for the Kansas City Star in 1911, and Walt and his brother Roy became delivery boys, without any pay. The route required them to start their day at 3:30 AM seven days a week, whether in summer heat or winter snow and ice, and Walt delivered newspapers for six years. The lessons about responsibility that likely came from that work are echoed in the musical.

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Disney Wildlife: Florida’s Native Birds

by on July 27, 2014

The Magic Kingdom’s most famous birds might live in the Enchanted Tiki Room, but Disney World’s native birds far out-number the singing and talking ones in Adventureland. All around Walt Disney World Resort, you’ll see magnificent tropical birds, native to Florida and happily adapted to life in a theme park. It’s Disney wildlife: Florida’s native animals living right there amongst the attractions. Thanks to central Florida’s waterlogged environment, many of the most distinctive species are wading birds, inhabiting the trees and rooftops around the Seven Seas Lagoon, Bay Lake, and even Frontierland‘s Rivers of America.

Most people just point and call them storks, or flamingos. But you want to look more clever than that, right? So here’s your guide to the native birds of Walt Disney World. Here are some tips: only one of these birds is a stork, and the only flamingos you’ll find are on Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Great Egret: One of the most elegant birds you’ll ever see, the great egret stands more than three feet tall. Although the egret has the long legs and neck of a wading bird, you’ll often find them perched high in trees or on the roofs of show buildings at Disney. Their diet isn’t limited to seafood either — I’ve seen egrets flying over with long wriggling snakes dangling from their beaks. And they think they ought to live on turkey legs — great egrets stalk guests near the Turkey Leg cart in Frontierland, waiting for hand-outs. While it is funny to watch an unsuspecting tourist turn around and let out a scream at the giant bird lurking behind them, turkey skin isn’t in their natural diet at all. Don’t feed them and encourage the madness.

Keep your eyes open for smaller egrets around Disney World, including the less-common Snowy Egret, which has amazing breeding plumage feathers in spring, as well as bright yellow feet, and the Cattle Egret, a small white egret often seen foraging for insects in roadside verges and grasslands.

From Left: Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret. All call Walt Disney World home. Images: Wikimedia

From Left: Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret.
All call Walt Disney World home. Images: Wikipedia

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A Best Friends Pet Care Resort Primer

by on July 25, 2014

Best Friends Pet Resort Exterior

The exterior of Best Friends Pet Resort has its own visual whimsy.

When my family vacations at Walt Disney World, we enjoy staying on property in quality accommodations. So when it came time to find a place for our cat to stay while we went on vacation, we decided to try Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World.

Located across the street from Port Orleans Riverside, Best Friends is more than just a typical kennel. Even driving by the outside, its Lady and the Tramp-themed decorations let you know that this is something special for your furry (or not so furry) friends.

The majority of animals staying at Best Friends are dogs, but cats, birds, and even “pocket pets” (such as lizards, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and more) are welcome. Different animals are kept in different locations to minimize stress.

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Renting a Sea Raycer: Is It Worth It?

by on July 22, 2014

Renting a Sea Raycer at one of the Disney World Resorts has been on my to-do list for years, but the hardest thing about having so many things to do at the Disney World Resort is that there are just so many things to do! But a few weeks ago, I finally carved out some time courtesy of a Personalized Touring Plan to do a little cruising to see if it’s worth it. Here’s what I found out.

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The Fort Wilderness Marina

First of all, a Sea Raycer is a small, two person watercraft guests can rent at the Disney World Resort marinas. I personally chose the marina at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground because I wanted to cruise around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake to get a view of the Deluxe Resorts and the Magic Kingdom from the water. You can rent a Sea Raycer from the marina at the Yacht and Beach Club, but there isn’t as much to see, in my opinion.

The rental rates for a Sea Raycer are pretty reasonable at $32 per 30 minutes, $40 per 45 minutes, and $45 for 60 minutes. There’s also a 30% discount for passholders, which I gladly took advantage of! I also had to sign a waiver, show my driver’s license, and was warned that Sea Raycers are not known for speed. In fact, you’re looking at top speeds of around 20 mph. I was also informed that have two adults riding in a Sea Raycer, as opposed to driving solo or with a small child, will slow you down even more.

After getting my free life jacket, as it is a requirement for all drivers and passengers to wear a life jacket at all times, I was given a brief tutorial on how to operate a Sea Raycer by a friendly Cast Member, shown a map of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon, was informed a few basic rules, and then was free to head out into open waters!

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Taking Disney World by Storm

by on July 20, 2014

First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.

That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.

The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook

Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.

So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.

Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.

The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.

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Incorporating Disney into Everyday Life

by on July 19, 2014

t_logo_fbRecently, fellow blogger, Daisy Lauren, posted tips to beating your post-Disney blues. Inspired by her article, I have compiled a list of ways to keep the Disney magic flowing once you return home. Keep track of how many you’ve done and put your total in the comments!

Here we gooooooo….. (Peter Pan reference anyone? Yes? No? Okay, let’s move on.)

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