In the Parks

Packing Tips for a Day at Walt Disney World + Video

by on March 26, 2015

Photo - Angela DahlgrenAfter a long day of travel to Walt Disney World, you check into your hotel completely exhausted. All you want to do is plop down on the bed and catch some zzzz’s.

Just as you’re about to close your eyes, you remember – You haven’t packed your backpack for the parks tomorrow!

Not to worry! I’ve provided a list of park essentials to make packing efficient and easy.

Not in a reading mood? Check out my video at the bottom of this post!

The Bare Necessities

Photo - Angela Dahlgren

Top 3: Wallet, Ticket, Phone

  • Park Ticket: Don’t forget that golden ticket at the hotel! Yes, you can use your MagicBand to get into the parks, but it’s nice to have a hard copy if you run into issues at the turnstile.
  • Wallet: License, cash, cards, insurance info, etc.
  • MagicBand: Linking your My Disney Experience account to your MagicBand will give you quick access to your park ticket, room key, FastPass+ and dining reservations as its conveniently located around your wrist. You can even pay with your MagicBand! Since your MB is your room key, there is no back-up key (unless you ask for one at check-in), so make sure it’s with you before you leave!
  • Phone: If you have a smart phone, there are two apps I recommend checking out. The TouringPlans Disney World Lines App helps you plan out your day at the parks with crowd calendars, wait times and customized Touring Plans. The second app is My Disney Experience which, if you have an account, holds all of your reservations, tickets and itineraries.
  • Camera: Disney World is full of endless photo opportunities. Don’t be without a camera!

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Menu Monday: Best Counter Service in Epcot

by on March 16, 2015

This article is the final installment in a series ranking counter service restaurants at each of the Disney Parks at Walt Disney World. In case you missed them, you can review each article regarding Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

One of Epcot’s most notable experiences is the unique dining options. So notable, in fact, that every Fall it plays host to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, a must try if you haven’t already experienced it. Epcot has simply dozens of restaurants, carts and kiosks to try little morsels of culture. Though many of these carts and kiosks are considered by Disney to be “counter service” most of them are stands, windows, or carts, allowing guests to grab a specialty food item and continue their journey around World Showcase. There are actually relative few “counter service” locations that offer multiple menu selections and ample seating on the same level as other counter service option in the other parks.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

If you use the Disney App, or the Disney website and filter restaurants by “counter service” and “Epcot”, the results will yield 24 locations. However, upon further inspection, these 24 locations also include options like popcorn carts and coffee stands. For the purpose of this article, I’ll limit the term “counter service” to only include options that offer meals, and not merely snacks (though there is something to be said for “snacking around the world”). This brings the results down to eleven locations. So, let’s start our culinary adventure!

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Disney It Yourself: Habit Heroes App and Sum of All Thrills Game Reviews

by on March 3, 2015

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Here I am again with more game reviews based off of different attractions found at Innoventions. If you missed my review of the Great Piggy Bank Adventure App, read that here.

These reviews are part of my new series, DIY (Disney It Yourself), where I explore different ways to enjoy Disney Parks at home.

As you’ll soon see, I experienced hits along with a few misses. First on the list: the Habit Heroes App!

Habit Heroes

The Habit Heroes app was introduced in the Apple App Store December 12th, 2012. It can also be downloaded via Google Play. It is based off the attraction of the same name, found at Innoventions East in Epcot. The app states:

The Habit Heroes mobile app is a comic book that chronicles the adventures of the healthy Habit Heroes as they clean up health hazards around the globe. Each comic book issue unlocks an interactive tool that helps foster healthy habits in your every day life.

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Disney It Yourself: The Great Piggy Bank Adventure App Review

by on February 24, 2015

Photo - Angela DahlgrenImagine yourself sitting in front of the television on a Sunday evening. There you are minding your own business when suddenly, a Disney Parks commercial comes on.

BAM! The nostalgia hits you like a ton of bricks. You get that yearning feeling in the pit of your stomach while your heart aches for the most magical place on earth. Your next trip isn’t for several months. What can you do?!

In this series, I’m on a quest to scratch that Disney itch from the comfort of my own home. I’ll be reviewing Disney apps, trying out Disney crafts and exploring different options for satisfying that Disney craving.

First on the agenda: The Great Piggy Bank Adventure App.

The Great Piggy Bank Adventure App was first introduced in the Apple App Store on June 24, 2013. An update followed on March 14, 2014. It is based off the attraction of the same name, found at Innoventions West in Epcot. It is published by Disney and is presented by T. Rowe Price.

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Best Themed Restaurants at Disney World

by on February 23, 2015

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The level of detail that Disney Imagineers put into the theming of the parks is astonishing. If I can be perfectly content just sitting in an area and soaking in all the details, then that to me is a wonderfully themed area of a Disney park. The same goes for Disney dining. Obviously, food quality comes first but with the premium that you’re going to pay at Disney, I always try to eat at restaurants that are immersive and give me that feeling that I’ve actually entered the setting that the Imagineers were trying to convey. If you have that same desire to be transported away during your next Disney dining experience then you’re in the right place. Below, you’ll find a list of my personal five best themed restaurants at Disney World. Each of these restaurants has excellent theming that will surely enhance your meal. Luckily, the food happens to be great at each of them as well.

 

5. Flame Tree Barbecue

Might have to talk to your kids about the birds and the...snakes?

Might have to talk to your kids about the birds and the…snakes?

Starting off our list is the only quick service entry and the only outdoor entry on our list. Located in Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree Barbecue is my favorite place to eat a meal outdoors in the parks. Animal Kingdom is already a beautiful park so it’s no surprise that Flame Tree lives up to its park’s reputation. There are both covered seating areas and more sunny areas that are overlooking the water with Everest in the distance. There’s also a beautiful pond/pool towards the back of the seating area as well. Along with the great views, the covered areas I mentioned before are cool looking and come complete with a surprisingly “real” Circle of Life theme. Each patio features a predator eating its prey, which shows that Disney can take the kid gloves off every once in a while without going over the top. When it comes down to it, Flame Tree has arguably the best counter service food and best outdoor seating areas in the parks, which make it my fifth most atmospheric restaurant at Disney World. Note: Flame Tree is currently closed during Rivers of Light construction at Animal Kingdom, though some of its seating is open and you can find your smoked meats other places in the park.

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SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys”)

by on February 21, 2015

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The most coveted theme park award of all… The Golden Burgy.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents the Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards. This weekend, while the rest of the world is preparing for The Oscars and spending hours watching awards given to films they haven’t even heard of, let alone watched (not to mention the outright Best Picture snubs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), readers of this column will be able to see their favorite theme park attractions get the attention they deserve. The Golden Burgy, theme park media’s highest award, is being handed out to the rides, shows, restaurants, and experiences that truly stood out over the past year.

Just as the Academy Awards hand out their lesser prizes before the main show, we’d like to present two of our minor awards before we get to the big ones. First, a Golden Burgy goes to the Holy Land Experience in the category of Best Theme Park Food Pun for their Garden of Eaten Chicken Salad Sandwich. Interestingly enough, Holy Land had all the nominees in this category including JerusaLamb, Land of Milk (no honey,and My Cup Overflows Souvenir Refillable Cup. The category of Biggest Theme Park Free Fall experience was the tightest race of all the nominees. Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens was the favorite to win, but the coveted Golden Burgy instead went to SeaWorld’s stock price. Now that’s a drop.

With those out of the way, allow us to present to you the Inaugural SATURDAY SIX Theme Park Awards, starting with…

# 6 – Best New Ride Experience – Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts 

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The rotunda inside Gringotts bank includes an incredible view. And this is just the queue! (photo by Tom Bricker)

What else needs to be said about Universal’s newest E-Ticket attraction? The queue for Escape From Gringotts is one of the best in theme park history, loaded with magical details from the Harry Potter films. There are incredible goblin animatronics and million dollar chandeliers hanging above that make the Gringotts Bank lobby almost an attraction by itself.

Unlike IOA’s Forbidden Journey’s “best of” trip through the first four Potter films, Escape From Gringotts places guests directly into events from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Ingeniously showing a movie scene from another perspective, Escape From Gringotts takes Universal’s motto of Ride The Movies to the next level.

Worst New Ride Experience – Being attacked by bees on Rip Ride Rocket 

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“Oh the humanity!” Swarms of bees attack riders on Universal Studios Florida’s Rip Ride Rockit. (photo by Mike Sperduto and Matt Cleary.)

While just a minor blip on the radar in 2014, the story of Rip Ride Rockit having a minor problem with bees was enough for us to envision the plot of a new horror film.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 12, 2015

by on February 12, 2015

101Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’ll be stopping by Beach Club Resort and Epcot for dinner. Then we’re checking out what’s new at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and spending a little time at the Magic Kingdom for an epic view of the Festival of Fantasy Parade. I have so much to share with you, let’s get going! :)

On Friday night when we decided we needed a Disney style dinner we’d originally set out for Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. This is an awesome spot for a casual hamburger, but unfortunately it was packed when we got there and reservations weren’t available. With the My Disney Experience App we were able to find a table available at Tokyo Dining over at Epcot. We spent a little time strolling through the Beach Club on our way there. Wow, it’s beautiful! I haven’t stayed at this hotel since I was a kid. Look at it now!

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So who wants to visit Tokyo Dining with me? Click here to read more! 

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The Demographic Disney Forgot: Best Disney World Restaurants for Teen Boys

by on February 11, 2015

The Disney Parks were designed with families in mind, to serve as escapes from the real world where parents and kids can have fun together. But have you ever noticed that a certain element of the family tends to be overlooked? Do you know what it is? It’s the demographic Disney forgot: teen boys. Now I’m not a teenage boy, but I do know that Disney has something for everyone. I have a teenage brother who loves Disney as much as anyone, despite the lack of commercials and ads directed toward his age group; and so, I sat down with him for the scoop on what Disney World has to offer teen boys like himself. But where to start? Food, of course! I mean, we are talking about teenage boys, aren’t we? So for the first installment of this new series, check out The Demographic Disney Forgot: Best Disney World Restaurants for Teen Boys.

ESPN Club

by Disney

10. ESPN Club – My Disney Bro is a walking sports encyclopedia in a teenage body and he has been wanting to check out the ESPN Club for the past few years, but it’s just never worked out. But then, last June, we finally got the chance and it just happened to be during NBA Finals! You see, the ESPN Club is the ultimate dining destination for your sports-crazed teen as the walls are covered with dozens upon dozens of television screens and sports memorabilia. Also, this restaurant has a basketball court for a floor and even television screens in the bathroom, just so you won’t miss a minute of the game.

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Experiences to Enjoy in a Group of All Ages at Walt Disney World

by on February 11, 2015

Photo - Michael DahlgrenJenna, an awesome reader of the TouringPlans blog, told me how she traveled to Walt Disney World with her family, ranging in ages 2-82 years old. She expressed how the group wanted to stay together the entire time, but it was hard to think of different attractions the whole group could do together and enjoy.

After hearing Jenna’s story, she inspired me to put together this list of activities and attractions that would appeal to a group of all ages.

You’ll notice that I did NOT include any attractions where a guest would have to get in and out of an attraction vehicle. I did this for two reasons:

A. You won’t have to worry about height restrictions!

B. If someone is confined to a wheel chair or electric scooter, that person will not have to stand or do any walking to get on the attraction.

Also, if you see an asterisk (*) next to an attraction, that means a FastPass+ reservation can be made.

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Menu Monday: The Best World Showcase Pavilions for Drinking

by on February 9, 2015

Enjoy the details in Epcot's World Showcase - Torii gate in Japan (Photo by Sarah Graffam)

Whether you’re attempting to drink around the world or simply want to stop in at one of your favorite spots in World Showcase, there’s no denying that Epcot is a great place to kick back and have a few. A lot of that has to do with the fact that you can take in the sights and sounds of different cultures from around the world in a single day. Many park guests have made it their mission to have a drink in every single one of the World Showcase countries in one day, which isn’t a task to take lightly. If you’d rather just sample a drink or two and need help prioritizing which countries to hit up, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find my list of the best countries to drink in at World Showcase in Epcot. When I originally set out to do this list, I was going to rank all the pavilions from best to worst but found that a lot of my descriptions were the same because frankly there isn’t that much to do in a lot them drinking wise besides take in the architecture, walk around the gift shop and move on. With that in mind, I decided to limit the list to the five best pavilions.

I based my rankings on five categories. Each category is scored on a 5-point scale, so there is a total possible score of 25 points. The categories are:

Drink Selection

This category focuses on the amount of different drinks available in the pavilion and whether or not they’re any good.

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