Christmas

Lessons Learned at Universal Orlando on Christmas Day

by on December 28, 2016

When most people think of visiting a theme park in Orlando on Christmas Day, Magic Kingdom is top of mind. However, Universal Orlando presents a great alternative on this festive day. This year marks my second time visiting Universal Orlando on Christmas Day, and although I visited by myself, I had a great time. Here’s how I accomplished having an enjoyable visit and what I learned on this, one of the busiest days of the year in Orlando’s theme parks. Last week in this Touring Plans blog post about Visiting Universal Orlando during the busiest weeks of the year I shared some tips that definitely came in handy.

I had Christmas Day to myself and had set the day aside to visit Universal Orlando. Now, it should be noted that the manner in which I visited Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida this day is a bit different than how the average guests would do. I was on my own. It didn’t matter to me if I rode anything. My purpose was to be in the atmosphere I love and be able to report on the crowd levels, wait times, and the overall experience of being inside Universal Orlando on Christmas Day.

The arrival experience at Universal Orlando on Christmas Day

Arriving at any theme park sets the tone for the whole day. When visiting during a busy day like Christmas it is important to not let the long lines and crowds that you will surely encounter dampen your mood. I arrived around 11:00 AM. The parking toll was not backed up as I expected, but still very busy; I headed toward the left hand lanes which are typically shorter.

 

The security checkpoint at Universal Orlando can get very congested first thing in the morning and on busy days. Such was the case around 11:00 AM on Christmas Day morning. The real backup and congestion came not from waiting to go through the x-ray machines, but rather after passing through and waiting for your belongings to be handed off to you after they go through the machines. Family members wait in clusters making it difficult to exit this area.

 

The third and final hurdle came when trying to get into Islands of Adventure. Lines everywhere! Lines for the ticket windows. Lines for purchasing Express Pass in order to avoid other lines. Lines at Guests Services. And of course lines to get through the turnstiles themselves. I’m just going to say it: Universal Orlando’s ticket taking system is so slow. Word on the street is an upgrade to this system is coming soon; I sure hope so!

Extra tip: There is a “Side entrance” at Universal Studios Florida that can save you time and frustration when the regular entrance is congested. It is the pathway in between Hard Rock Cafe and the regular park entrance, it leads up to the Blue Man Group Theater. As you walk along the Blue Man Group pathway this side entrance to the park will be to the right of the Blue Man Theater.

 

 

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (AKA The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2016)

by on December 24, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is an annual tradition. Six Disney Gifts Santa Can Bring Back to the North Pole (AKA The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores in 2016). Some readers of this weekly column may not know that we also have The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! where every single month for over three years we have braved the insanity of the Orlando Premium Outlet parking lots to cover the two Disney outlet stores (more info on them – including addresses –  are at the end of the article.)  In fact, we even had a very special Three Year Anniversary edition with some congratulatory notes from some very impressive names in the theme park community.

Now, while some Christmas dreams do come true, such as Ralphie Parker getting his official Red Ryder BB gun and Your Humble Author getting a Han Solo blaster back in the day, other Christmas gifts deserve to go straight to the Island of Misfit Toys. Today we will take a look at some of those very items, starting with…

# 6 – Glow With The Show Ears

Let it glow.

Our first item this week was the first ever Made With Magic piece of merchandise to hit the Outlets. These were the Mickey Ears that lit up with different colors to Glow With the Show during some of the nighttime spectaculars at the parks. I have no actual financial numbers to support my theory, but having been the parks many, many times and only seeing a handful of guests wearing these, I’m going to assume Disney took a complete bath on this idea. It’s an item that cost over $25, are heavier than a normal pair of Mickey Ears, and the person wearing it can’t even see it glow. They were reduced to $9.99. This pair of Ears is particularly garish in design.

# 5 – Hats that are “Big In Japan”

This next item I had been waiting for ever since they showed up at the regular Disney stores over two years ago. These hats where you look like you are wearing the carcass of a dead Disney character on your head and 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 even more fair, if I were out there I’d be in line with them. Originally $21.95, these were reduced to $5.99.

Goofy hat.

Donald hat, as seen in the Art of Animation gift shop.

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Daisy’s Best Week Ever December 15, 2016: A Little Christmas

by on December 15, 2016

Hello, lovebugs! I had a great idea for this week, it was going to be “A Very Harambe Christmas”. I remembered seeing lots of fun Christmas shows and decorations at Animal Kingdom in the past. I was off to a good start, the Christmas tree looks gorgeous in front of the park:

As I started looking for Christmas cheer in the park I found it a little lacking. There was some garland here and there, but gone are the days of the Jingle Jungle parade and themed trees at Camp Minnie-Mickey. So instead let’s visit a few of the animals and we’ll get back into the Christmas spirit a little later. First up, check out this giraffe lying down. I don’t normally catch them relaxing, but the weather was so nice I guess they couldn’t resist. What a treat!

The giraffe wasn’t the only animal that couldn’t resist the delicious weather we’ve been having lately! Click below to see more animals and some extra Christmas fun around Walt Disney World.

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Walt Disney World Holiday Merchandise Review

by on December 13, 2016

Like a runaway Polar Express, the holiday shopping season is moving quickly to its conclusion. Whether you’re planning a trip for the holiday season, or just want to have a Disney touch for the holidays in your house, we’ve got you covered. Here’s some picks for holiday gifts that we’d like to see under the tree. Not in the area? Many of these items can be ordered directly from the Shop Parks app.

For the Home

I’m an anti-“stuff” person at heart. Every so often, Disney comes out with items that warm the heart of my Grinch-like demeanor. These Bambi-themed table items win on so many levels for me. First, although there’s nothing wrong with Mickey and Minnie, having other characters is a great change of pace. Second, they have a very classy look to them and don’t feel cartoonish.

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If you have to have Mickey and Minnie, though, there are plenty of choices. Some are very classy.

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Others just seem a bit….different.

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Holiday Characters at Disneyland

by on December 1, 2016

Disneyland Holiday Character - MickeyRecently I wrote about the holiday characters found at Walt Disney World. Now it’s time to look at the holiday characters at the Disneyland Resort. While some holiday characters at Walt Disney World require extra cost for a hard ticket party, all of Disneyland’s holiday characters are available with regular park admission.

Disneyland

Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale all meet in their holiday sweater outfits in Town Square. Sometimes you may find them at the entrance to the park, but they mostly are all around the Town Square area. If you are looking for a specific character, I recommend asking a character attendant what time they will be out. In my experience, the Disneyland app character times have been completely wrong for the Town Square area, especially during my November trip.

Santa meets in Critter Country, where the Winnie the Pooh characters usually meet during the rest of the year.

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Daisy’s Best Week Ever November 24, 2016: So Much To Be Thankful For!

by on November 24, 2016

Hello Friends! First, let me start by wishing the very happiest Thanksgiving to those that celebrate. Personally, I’ll be enjoying more than my fair share of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie today! Due to the crowds I’ll be steering clear of the parks this holiday weekend. But that didn’t stop me from getting some amazing shots to share with you over the last few weeks. For starters, check out this glorious sunset at Epcot!

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Please click below to read more. This week we’ve got holiday decorations, Dr. Strange, PizzeRizzo, and more!

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TouringPlansTV: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2016 + Video

by on November 22, 2016

© Disney

Ho-ho-hope you’re having a great day!

You may be thinking, “What’s with the holiday pun? It’s not even December yet!”

You see, I’m already in the Christmas spirit as I’ve just been to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World!

Allow me to share my tips and tricks below!

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Dani’s Best Week Ever November 17, 2016: It’s Christmastime in the Disney World

by on November 17, 2016

The most merriest of seasons has started to arrive at Walt Disney World. Like hanging ornaments on a tree, it takes a little time for the vacation kingdom to become full dressed in holiday regalia. The first shiny ornament that Walt Disney World unwraps each year is the Magic Kingdom. For well over a week, Christmas decorations, music, and a few festive shows have ushered in the holiday season at the most attended theme park in the country.

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In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you hear

Silver bells, silver bells
It’s Christmastime in the Disney

I awoke one weekend morning with as much zeal and excitement as my younger self did on Christmas. It is rare that I head to the theme parks in the morning. When I was a kid I couldn’t have any fun until my chores and homework were done; as an adult I still often impose such rules on myself.

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img_5506Arriving around 9:30 AM on a weekend resulted in a little bit of a back up at the parking toll and throughout the parking lot, but seeing the wreaths on the parking plaza kept my impatience at bay. Once on board the tram I quickly became covered in goosebumps because the t-shirt and shorts I was wearing did not combat the slightly chilling morning air. I’m a Florida girl so anything below 72 degrees Fahrenheit is chilly to me.

The holiday spirit continues at the Ticket and Transportation Center with decorations, festive music, and red scarves adorning the Mickey and Minnie topiaries. Apparently not having learned my lesson from the chilly parking tram ride, I headed for the ferry boat. The views along the Seven Seas Lagoon made it worth it, though.

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A Frozen Holiday Wish – Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2016 + Video

by on November 15, 2016

Photo - Matt Stroshane

Photo – Matt Stroshane

For today’s TouringPlansTV, I’m bringing you with me to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!

Watch Elsa freeze Cinderella Castle in A Frozen Holiday Wish.

Enjoy!

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First Impressions of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM

by on November 15, 2016

Ok so the name is awful. We can all agree on that. But, if you are a fan of the Disney animated shorts centered around Prep and Landing, then perhaps you get it. Last night Disney’s Hollywood Studios rang in the holiday season without the beloved Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and instead ushered in Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM. Is it a worthy replacement? Read on…

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Ok so I am not one for teasers. No, it is not a worthy replacement of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. But, there is no way that spectacle is coming back. The land in which it formerly resided is barren and blank. It is Tatooine and all us Star Wars nerds await its harvest.

Anyway, the new nighttime spectacular, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM is an energetic night time show incorporating the new trifecta du jour: fireworks, amazing lasers, and precise projections. This combination was made into a fan favorite with a recent Star Wars themed night spectacular and it got my hopes up for a groundbreaking holiday night time show. Sadly, as much as I am obsessed with Christmas and as much as I love Prep and Landing, I am left wanting something just a little more.

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