In the Parks

July 4th Characters at Walt Disney World

by on July 22, 2016

Meeting Chip and Dale at Epcot on July 4th

Meeting Chip and Dale at Epcot on July 4th

Welcome to my first post for TouringPlans!

My name is Heather, and even though I live in New Jersey, I’m lucky to visit Walt Disney World often enough that some of my friends think I live in Florida. I’m a runDisney addict, and I especially love meeting characters at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. So of course my first post is character related.

Each July 4th at Walt Disney World, you can meet characters in special outfits that are only available on this holiday. Characters meet in special patriotic outfits at Epcot, and you may also see characters at different Walt Disney World resorts. Even though it won’t help you right now, it’s never too early to plan your character strategy for the future. Here’s a look at who I met this year on July 4th.

At Epcot, you can meet Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Chip, and Dale. Chip & Dale meet together throughout the day on the right side of the American Pavilion, near the restrooms. Chip & Dale are very interactive, so their line usually moves slowly. However, even when their set is over, the next set is only 5-10 minutes later, so you won’t have to wait too long for Chip & Dale to have their acorn break. The line is also partly in the shade, which always helps.

Patriotic Mickey, Donald, and Goofy’s set is different than Chip & Dale’s. The three characters appear at the end of the Voices of Liberty show at the American Gardens Theater. After the show, they walk over to the left side of the American Pavilion to meet guests. The line works like at the Epcot Character Spot. They do not meet together, but you stand in one line and meet each of them in a row.

Mickey, Donald, and Goofy only have 3 sets, since there are only 3 Voices of Liberty shows in the American Gardens Theater, and they are very popular, so make sure you get there early. Their sets start about 15 minutes after the Voices of Liberty show, so I would get in line shortly before the show begins. The line is unfortunately mostly in the sun. It was so hot this year that Cast Members passed out free water to those of us in line for the first set. However, you can hear the Voices of Liberty from the line, which is a nice perk.

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What makes Universal Hollywood’s The Walking Dead Attraction More Than A Maze

by on July 15, 2016

The Walking Dead Attraction concept art at Unviersal Studios Hollywood

Image © Universal

On July 4, Universal Studios Hollywood opened its new, year-round Walking Dead Attraction (because nothing screams patriotism like a horde of zombies, yes?). The experience is, on one hand, a fairly standard walk-through attraction–which isn’t surprising, given the fact that it replaces the House of Horrors (a maze starring Universal’s classic monsters instead of walkers) and the presence of The Walking Dead at the past four Halloween Horror Nights events on both the West and East Coasts.

On the other hand, however, this new attraction has garnered much more money, time, and resources from Universal Creative than either of its predecessors, befitting its mammoth stature in the pop-cultural consciousness and its nature as a permanent, around-the-clock fixture in the park. The sheer amount of detail poured into every nook and cranny of every scene is one of The Walking Dead’s biggest selling points; it has been routinely reported in the themed press that, despite its horror veneer, guests will want to linger in every room to try and soak up every last hidden detail and Easter egg to the television series it’s based on.

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Awaken Your Disney World Strategy with “Touring Blocks”

by on July 1, 2016

Toy Story Building at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort

Break your days at Disney World into Touring Blocks

When planning Disney World trips, I have always found it useful to divide the days into morning, afternoon, and evening plans. In multiple plans for trips spanning anywhere from 2 to 8 days, the foundation for each plan has been that basic division, a concept that I have often thought of as “Touring Blocks.”

Planning a full day at Disney World can be stressful and confusing, but breaking it down into Touring Blocks can help take the pressure off. To quote Henry Ford, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Lately, this strategy has come to be more valuable than ever—Disney is stepping up its game with new attractions, shows, restaurants & lounges, and technology for its guests, with more to come. In turn, we can step up our game with Touring Block strategies.

Using Touring Blocks to Enhance Your Planning

Days at Disney World can be thought of as involving three fluid blocks of time, or “Touring Blocks,” with overlap between the times for these blocks based on the plan for each day. My morning block generally spans from park opening (“rope drop”) up to 2 PM, the afternoon block from 12 PM to 5 PM, and the evening block from 3 PM to park close. Meals can fit within or around these blocks. Again, as you can see here, Touring Block times can overlap, and the timing for each day will depend on specific plans.

Touring Blocks

Typically, a good first step in planning a Disney World vacation is to decide which days you will visit Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom over the course of your vacation (you may wish to visit all or just some of these depending on your length of stay or other considerations, discussed later). Using the TouringPlans.com crowd calendar is an excellent way to establish a day-by-day plan.

Once you have a “big picture” plan with at least one park or other main activity each day, you can start breaking your days into blocks, adding in blocks for other fun such as visiting one of Disney World’s water parks or Disney Springs.

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Magic Kingdom Parades At Walt Disney World + Video

by on June 28, 2016

Magic Kingdom is full of wonder, it's no mystery why preschoolers love it so much.

Welcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Today, I’m talking all about Magic Kingdom Parades at Walt Disney World.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Queue For SKULL ISLAND: REIGN OF KONG

by on June 25, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE the queue for SKULL ISLAND: REIGN OF KONG. Over the last two years, Trygve Nelson and Seth Kubersky have been tracking the progress of Skull Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Earlier this month it began technical rehearsals and started letting guests experience the attraction. One area that has drawn consistent raves is the queue. Over the last fifteen years, Universal has become the best in the business at building queues in which people actually enjoy spending time in line. Guests walk through what seems like the actual movie set for Men In Black: Alien Attack. At The Simpsons Ride, in two separate pre-show rooms, guests enjoy some hilarious jokes written by actual writers of The Simpsons television show. Meanwhile guests get to tour the Daily Bugle in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (which even has a dedicated themed experience just for Express Pass guests, allowing them to see Peter Parker’s dark room). Universal then perfected the queue experience with Forbidden Journey and Escape From Gringotts, creating lines guests actually wanted to spend more time in. This was not just the theme park equivalent of breaking the four minute mile, this was breaking the three minute mile. 

KongLogo_glover

Skull Island: Reign of KONG. (photo by Brandon Gllover)

The good news, is that not only does Skull Island: Reign of Kong continue Universal’s era of incredible queues, it becomes the first to take a page from the Halloween Horror Nights playbook and be extremely creepy as well. A good queue sets up a ride’s story and atmosphere, and Skull Island takes that to the next level. The giant facade alone, with seemingly thousands of skulls strewn about and a giant ape head made carved out of rock, is something pretty intense for the theme park world. Inside, the queue gets even better. Today we are going to look at six reasons we love the Skull Island queue, including some details many guests may miss when walking through. So sit back, grab a banana, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Reference to Revenge of the Mummy

Kongfrontation was an opening day ride for Universal Studios Florida back in 1990, and was based more or less around the King Kong film from 1976. Like Jaws, this was an iconic Universal ride that many guests fondly remember to this day. Kongfrontation closed in 2002 to make way for The Revenge of the Mummy. As with many recent attractions, Mummy has several tributes to Kong in both the queue and attraction itself. In an Inception-like nod, Skull Island has a reference back to Revenge of the Mummy. As guests load onto the ride vehicle, to their right will be several skeletons. One of these skeletons is just like one of the skeletons that rise up and attack guests in the Mummy’s impressive throne room sequence.

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Skeleton in Kong queue. (photo by Travis Terrell)

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Skeletons in Revenge of the Mummy. (photo courtesy of the Universal Orlando Resort)

# 5 – Eighth Wonder Expedition Co.

Back in March, Universal started teasing their upcoming Kong attraction through the Myth Explorer web series and blog featuring Erin Ryder. In several of her updates, the 8th Wonder Expedition Company was seen or mentioned. In the Skull Island attraction, right before guests grab their 3D glasses, they will be able to see a crate stamped with this mysterious group’s logo. Many Universal fans, including Your Humble Author, believe Universal should have a full line of 8th Wonder Expedition Co. merchandise available. As of this writing, there is nothing.

KONG_8thwonder_Terrell

Eighth Wonder Expedition Co. Hopefully soon to be seen on t-shirts, hats, Tervis tumblers, and pressed pennies. Hey, a guy can dream can’t he? (photo by Travis Terrell)

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TouringPlansTV: Quick Date Ideas at Walt Disney World + Video

by on May 31, 2016

photo - touringplans.comWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Walt Disney World is a wonderful vacation destination for people of all ages. There are endless possibilities when it comes to enjoying time with your family.

Now every once in a while, you and your partner may find yourselves alone for a few “kid-free” hours.

What to do with all this extra free time?

Have no fear! With the help of family and friends, I’ve provided a list of quick date ideas to help you and your significant other make the most out of your time together.

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Let’s Do it Again!!! – Dapper Day at Magic Kingdom

by on May 2, 2016

This piece is a follow up to an introductory article about Spring Dapper Day at the Magic Kingdom.  To read it first please visit the following link:  Spring Dapper Day at Walt Disney World.

 

I am happy to report that we have returned from our short trip “home”, are now well rested, and I am ready to tell you all about the dashing good time we had at Dapper Day.  It was so fun to see everyone else in their dapper attire.  Men, women, children:  people of all ages partook in the fun.  I was very surprised at how many people were dressed up.  It seemed like almost everyone!  I felt sorry for those poor souls who were merely wearing their normal vacation clothes.  We did have a few stop us and ask why everyone was so well dressed;  and some of them said they wished they had know so they could have done it as well.

In my last article I had left you all hanging as to what we were going to wear.  It really was a hard decision.  We debated styles from the 1920’s, the 1950’s, and even theming our outfits based on Disney characters.  My husband’s attire was easier to plan and it sort of just fell into place.  For our anniversary earlier last year I had bought him a Mickey Mouse bowtie (with no clue as to when he would ever wear it), and around Christmas time he began growing out his normally very short cut facial hair.  I had fallen in love with the handlebar moustache look and had convinced him that he needed to have one for Dapper Day.  He lovingly obliged.   Also around Christmas last year, while shopping in Target, I had made him try on a hat which I was convinced he would be super cute in.  He was.  I bought it.

He had first thought he wanted to look like a dapper Walt Disney with knickers and a dress shirt that we had scene in a photograph.  That changed when we had a very hard time locating a vintage styled pair of knickers that were in our “wear it once” budget.   Instead he found a very nice pair of dress pants at a local thrift store that went with the shirt he wanted to wear.  The last part of the outfit was leather suspenders.  That was the third piece to his outfit that I insisted on.  I am really lucky that his taste in clothing is pretty much in sync with mine.

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Experiencing A Magical Disney Moment + Video

by on April 26, 2016

Photo - Michael Dahlgren

Meeting Princess Rapunzel

You’ve heard about them…you may have even watched them on YouTube.

Magical Disney Moments.

*I’ll pause for effect*

You know what I’m talking about; Those special experiences where a Cast Member goes above and beyond to make a guest’s day even more magical. 

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Universal’s Summer Concert Series

by on April 8, 2016

To celebrate warm summer evenings – and to help empty out the rest of Universal Studios Florida during the extremely busy month of June – Universal holds the annual Summer Concert Series. While it’s not as well-known as Halloween Horror Nights, it is still a fun and well-attended event – and considering that it’s absolutely free (well, included in regular Universal Studios park admission, that is), it’s more than worth checking out.

Universal Summer Concert Series banner

Image © Universal

We’re already anticipating this year’s Concert Series; in 2014 it was cancelled, thanks to a little something called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley opening up (can you imagine two massive crowds vying for space in the park?), and last year’s was temporarily renamed the 25th Anniversary Concert Series, due to Universal Studios Florida, well, turning 25-years-old last summer. That means 2016 should be a return to standard, old-fashioned form, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

There is a caveat we have to issue here, however: although the company doesn’t typically make its Summer Concert announcements until the end of its Mardi Gras annual event (yes, we think that’s cutting it a little too close, as well), there is the small possibility that Universal opts to skip out on 2016, just as it did two years ago; there is a trio of brand-new openings occurring this summer at Universal Orlando, starting with Skull Island: Reign of Kong and the overhauled Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure and ending with Sapphire Falls Resort, the fifth on-site hotel. If so, then consider this an extremely early bout of vacation planning, and be sure to return here for when the 2017 Summer Concert Series rolls around. (Although it should be noted that we think the concerts will go on as usual. The Diagon Alley opening was at the same park, where this year’s new openings are at Islands of Adventure.)

Where is it?

Like nearly every other Universal Orlando annual event, you’ll find the festivities located at Universal Studios Florida.

Universal Music Plaza Stage

The Universal Music Plaza Stage, where the concerts are held

When is it?

Typically late May to late June, running for select nights (just like with nearly all of the resort’s other annual events). Last year’s Summer Concert Series had six artists performing – you guessed it – on six nights, starting on Saturday, May 23 and ending on Saturday, June 20 (there was one Sunday in there, too, for all those playing along at home).

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Animal Kingdom Late-Arrival Touring Plan

by on March 28, 2016

Discovery Island (4)A couple weeks ago I tested our computer-optimized touring plans in Walt Disney World. My first post was on how the touring plan software routed me around a bunch of ride breakdowns in the Magic Kingdom. Today’s post is how the software worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Just like the Magic Kingdom, I waited until the last minute to make my Animal Kingdom FastPass+ reservations – actually the night before we visited the park. But I was still able to get FastPass+ reservations for the most popular attractions:

Expedition Everest at 10:15 a.m.

Kilimanjaro Safaris at 2:05 p.m.

DINOSAUR at 3:20 p.m.

Kali River Rapids and Flights of Wonder were closed during my visit, so I didn’t have to worry about it.

Bonus Sleeping-In Possibilities!

I used the Unofficial Guide’s standard Animal Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan and plugged these FastPasses in. The first thing I realized was that the plan wasn’t going to take all day – not even close. So I switched my arrival time to 10 AM, which gave us an extra hour to sleep in. In fact, even with the new nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris and Rivers of Light show, it looks like it’ll be possible to see practically everything in the park even if you arrive around 11 a.m.  That makes the Animal Kingdom a great park to visit after a late night at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. (We’re also testing a late-arrival plan at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for an upcoming blog post.)

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