Holidays

Harry Potter Christmas Experience Announced for Universal Orlando

by on April 13, 2017

I think it’s the Gospel of Luke that, in chronicling the birth of Jesus, quotes Lysanias of Abeline saying “Verily, I say unto you, this day shall be commemorated with a totally awesome video projection show. And maybe dragons.”

Universal Orlando fulfilled that millennia-old prophecy today by announcing a new, Harry Potter-themed Christmas event for its two theme parks. The new event will run from November 18, 2017 through January 6, 2018. It includes new holiday decor and food adapted from the Harry Potter novels, plus a new nighttime video projection show – also inspired by the books – to be displayed on Hogwarts Castle at Islands of Adventure. The video projection simulation looks promising in the video. And Universal does a pretty good-to-great job with the food offerings in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, so new menus are something to look forward to as well.

The announcement also includes updates to Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s. My favorite part of the whole announcement is where Macy’s is referred to as “the global leader in balloon entertainment.” I had no idea there was an official ranking system for this. I’d like to see the belt that the title-holder gets to wear. If you happen to be sitting in spots 2 through 10, now you know what you’re up against.

Easter Must-Dos at Walt Disney World

by on April 10, 2017

Easter Must-Dos at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World loves any excuse to celebrate a holiday, so it is no surprise that there are some special offerings only available during the Easter season.  Easter is April 16 this year, and here are some of the best that Walt Disney World has to offer for Easter.

Meet the Easter Bunny (and Mrs. Easter Bunny, too)

It isn’t a surprise to most people that you can meet Santa around the winter holidays, but at Magic Kingdom, Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny are available for a springtime meet and greet. Although they don’t sign autographs, you can get a picture and a special free “autographed card” as a souvenir. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny usually meet in Town Square at the Magic Kingdom from 9 AM to 2 PM daily through Easter.

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How To Survive New Year’s Eve at Epcot (and Magic Kingdom)

by on December 27, 2016

Epcot’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are unlike any other show at Walt Disney World.

So you’re thinking about doing New Year’s Eve at Disney? Most people would think that’s ridiculous given the massive crowds, but after a few years of experience under my belt doing this very thing, I’m here to tell you, it can be a really fun day in Walt Disney World. Below, I’ll outline a few of my hard-learned secrets to a successful Epcot New Year’s Eve along with a few crowd-sourced tips from my colleagues here at TouringPlans for handling Magic Kingdom, as well.

Julia and Dani have already given some great tips on staying sane during phase closures and planning for crowds at Universal, and many of these rules also apply here, too. Though Epcot does not normally phase-close on New Year’s Eve, the same tips work for surviving the busiest days in any theme park. Dani’s tips about setting up Touring Plans ahead of time are also super helpful for making the most of your theme park visits during the last few weeks of the year.

Why Not Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve?

Despite the crowds, New Year’s Eve is a fun day, unlike any other you’ve spent in a park. One of the toughest parts of the day, though, can be actually getting in to a park. As Julia explained, phased closures are very common for this time of year, particularly at Magic Kingdom. This means that, depending on your ticket type and whether you have an existing dining reservation, you may not be able to enter or even hop on transportation to your chosen park.

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First Annual TouringPlans Blog Secret Santa Party – Part Three

by on December 23, 2016

Finally! The TouringPlans Office Holiday Party has come to and end, and so has our Secret Santa series! We’ve swept up most of the confetti (though we’re cursing whoever brought the glitter). Angela has put down the video camera. And we’re giving the last of our gifts. If you’re just now joining us, pour yourself some eggnog and read Parts One and Two

Angela, Emilio will see you now!

To Angela from Dani:

She’s our hostess with the mostest. Move over Stacy Aswad, Angela’s here! If I could give Angela a special Christmas wish, I would conjure up a team of Disney’s best media specialists to escort Angela around all of Walt Disney World for a day full of filming at exclusive spots with the best film crew money can buy. In fact, once Stacy, host of “Must DO Disney” on WDW Resort television, gets word of the special celebrity host treatment Angela is getting, she’ll insist on being Angela’s co-host. Of course Angela will kick off her glamourous day of filming with anything her heart desires from the Main Street Bakery & Starbucks.

After a full day of filming the best video segments throughout the Most Magical Place on Earth, it’s time for Angela and her darling family to receive some much deserved pampering. First stop, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique so her two daughters can become the princesses they truly are. Second, it’s glamour time at Senses Spa at the Grand Floridian. Wait, is that Emilio Estevez circa 1992 as her personal masseuse? You bet it is! Nothing but the star treatment for TouringPlansTV’s brightest star!

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First Annual TouringPlans Blog Secret Santa Party – Part Two

by on December 22, 2016

Welcome back to the TouringPlans Blog Office Holiday party! We’ve gotten James to relinquish the lampshade but now Daisy has challenged Dani to a Feat of Strength! Gather round the Festivus Pole, readers, and see what gifts Santa brought the virtual office this year. If you missed Part One, read it here.

 

Alex and Taylor are ready for dinner at Club 33!

To Alex from Daisy:

I was a little worried when I pulled Alex‘s name out of the hat. A smart, worldly soon to be 15 year old? Add in her karate skills and I’m pretty sure she might be an undercover super hero. So I started small and decided on one thing that had to be included: Taylor Swift!

Since you can’t give a person as a gift (free will and all) we’ll have to settle on a Taylor Swift concert, but where? Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, or somewhere else in the Disney Universe? I tried to think of all the special places I’ve heard about or been lucky enough to visit. Only the best is good enough for Alex’s virtual Christmas! I finally decided on Club 33 at Disneyland for a private dinner with Taylor and a little after dinner music.

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Christmas in Washington, D.C.

by on December 21, 2016

Your guest author Phil and some bloke he met at the airport. I won’t tell you which is which.

The below is a guest post from Phil Cronin. The new year will bring about a new aspect of TouringPlans.com: coverage of Washington, D.C., our first non-theme park destination. Come back for that, but for now enjoy Christmas in D.C.

Like most people, when I think of Christmas, I think of Washington, D.C. Wait…what? Don’t be shocked–there are many free ways to get the holiday spirit in Our Nation’s Capital.

National Christmas Tree

Since 1923, the National Christmas Tree has been on the Ellipse on the south side of the White House.  The tree is lit from 4:30 PM until 10 PM each night until New Year’s Day.

Next to the National Tree is the Pathway of Peace, which has 56 smaller trees representing DC, states, and territories of the United States.  Each is decorated with handmade ornaments by a group from that district/state/territory.

Going around the National Tree are toy trains.  Folks toss coins into the trains and the money is donated to local charities.  Bring some change for the kiddies.

From December 7th to the 22nd, there are nightly 30-minute musical performances.  

The Pathway of Peace is open from 10 AM daily.  This is a chance to see the trees and trains without crowds.  All activities are free.  Since everything is on the south side of the White House, the Smithsonian Metro stop is the closest.

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First Annual TouringPlans Blog Secret Santa Party – Part One

by on December 21, 2016

The confetti is still everywhere and no one has had the heart to take the lampshade off James’ head, but, sadly, our TouringPlans Blog Annual Christmas party has come to an end. In the time-honored tradition of office parties from Scranton to Springfield, we of course had to include the Secret Santa gifts. We drew names and picked out the best of the best for our co-workers. What did the Holiday Armadillo bring Julia? Did Angela finally air her grievances about Tammy? And what about the love that dare not blog its name between Seth and Derek? Read on to find out what we’ve given our co-workers this year.

 

Seth's magic camera

While those there said they say him crying, Optimus Prime swears it was just an oil leak.

To Seth from Derek:

When I received Seth Kubersky’s name in Secret Santa, a smile grew across my face a mile wide and I knew exactly what I was going to get him. A literary legend, Seth has written many books on the theme park world, including The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. A wordsmith of the highest order, Seth has been known to bring grown men to tears waxing poetic on normally banal subjects such as Green Eggs and Ham in Seuss Landing.

However, as much as it pains me to admit it, there is one small shame in his game: pictures. But, thanks to this Secret Santa project – along with my brilliance and extreme humbleness – I could fix that one flaw.
I knew that this wouldn’t be easy. The camera I would need to get would be beyond the mere means of a simple theme park blogger. I had to recruit some help. So I went to all the Universal characters that Seth has photographed over the years and pitched them my idea. I was going to get Seth a new camera.

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Visiting Universal Orlando during the busiest weeks of the year

by on December 20, 2016

There’s no place like home for the holidays, but it’s difficult to beat Orlando during this festive time of the year. Perhaps you’ve decided to visit Orlando during the final two weeks of the year. Being in the theme parks at Christmas time is magical, but takes some planning.  You’ll need to be prepared. In this post I’ll share some planning tips for visiting Universal Orlando during these last two weeks of the year, which are some of the busiest days in Orlando’s theme parks.

The Basics

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is easy to forget the basics of theme park survival. So here’s a little refresher.

  • Dress comfortably, especially with regard to your footwear
  • Plan for changes in the weather, this means pack a mix of both warm and cold weather clothing, because here in Florida we experience both warm and cold weather in Winter, often from one day to the next
  • Stay hydrated with water (as opposed to soda, adult beverages, etc)
  • Use sunscreen, after all we are actually closer to the sun during Winter
  • Take breaks and rest throughout the day

The great news is Universal Orlando’s longest operating hours of the year are taking place right now through New Year’s Eve.

Coming up with a plan

Plans are what we’re all about here at Touring Plans, and this time of the year is one of the most important to have a good solid plan. The most effective way to do so is creating a custom touring plan through our site. All you have to do when creating your customized Touring Plan is to select which parks you’re visiting, your arrival time to the park, and plug in the rides and shows you want to make sure you experience. Then the service will calculate the best touring plan including exactly which order to visit the attractions and when in order to maximize your time (and sanity). This plan is based on a huge collection of data that will ensure you spend the least amount of time as possible in the standby wait lines.

Creating a custom Touring Plan on TouringPlans.com

If you’d prefer to create a plan yourself, make sure you’ve really determined what rides and shows you absolutely must do. Without the advantage of the Touring Plans data you’ll need to review the park maps and strategize your plan based on the location of the attractions you want to experience. You may want to also consider visiting some of the lesser known attractions at Universal, which typically will have somewhat reasonable wait times on busy days.

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Gifts for a Theme Park Vacationer

by on December 19, 2016

Christmas Minnie Ears

If you’re searching for a last-minute holiday gift or a little something special to add to your own holiday wish list, TouringPlans is here to help! I compiled a list of what I think are some of the best gifts for those planning to visit the parks soon. And while holidays present the perfect gifting opportunity, most of these will work year-round for other celebrations like birthdays or anniversaries too.

Accessories for a Minion fan

Wearable Gifts – For a truly impressive gift, put your knowledge of their favorite character, attraction, or movie to good use. From custom t-shirts and mouse ears to lanyards and pins, there is an endless supply of fun things they can wear to the parks. Even better, there is an endless supply of online or local stores that sell these too, so finding something perfect while staying on budget shouldn’t be too hard.

Disney themed day-bags

Gear – There are certain items that almost every theme park vacationer likes to pack: poncho, day bag for the park, refillable water bottle, portable phone charger, hand sanitizer, and so on. Other items, like a toiletries bag, suitcase, or travel friendly snacks, are great ideas for travelers in general. Depending on the budget, you could pick just one item or put them together into a gift basket that will please any theme park vacationer.

Photo Package – Both Disney and Universal offer photo packages to capture those special vacation memories. Plenty of vacationers on tight budgets question whether the package is worth it, but receiving it as a gift can alleviate those worries. The price is discounted when purchased in advance, and they receive photo memories to cherish for years to come. It’s a definite win-win.

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Walt Disney World December 2016 Preview

by on November 30, 2016

Walt Disney World December 2016

Walt Disney World December 2016

Welcome to TouringPlans’ Walt Disney World December 2016 preview – we hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Who’s with us and ready for December? The holidays, which started as soon as the Halloween decorations came down are in full swing. We’ve got food booths at Epcot, Christmas parties, and TENTS.

Ready for more? Read on.

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