In the Parks

SATURDAY SIX: Six MORE “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on April 25, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six  MORE “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort. One of our favorite parts of both Universal and Walt Disney World are all the wonderful details that make these fully immersive theme parks stand out from everyone else. In our first look at Universal Easter eggs, we saw a pair of actual Mickey ears on Twister….Ride It Out!, the Jaws references in Diagon Alley, Dennis Nedry’s Barbasol can in Jurassic Park and more. Today we are going to look at six more details that even guests who has been to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure several times may not have noticed. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, keep your head on a swivel, and let’s start counting down…

# 6 – Back to the Future’s Doc Brown in The Simpsons Ride queue (USF)

There is absolutely nothing we like better in new attractions then when they pay tribute to the ones that they replaced. We love the hidden Nautilus in the rock work of Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid at the Magic Kingdom, referencing the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride that was formerly in the area. Revenge of the Mummy in Universal Studios Florida has several images of King Kong during the ride, a tribute to Kongfrontation. In 2008, The Simpsons Ride replaced Back to the Future: The Ride, but it actually created a backstory for the change and put it inside the queue.

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Doc Brown and the “Institute of Future Technology” (facade for Back to the Future: The Ride)

If you stand in line for The Simpsons Ride, you will notice televisions throughout playing classic clips from The Simpsons from episodes in which the family went to theme parks. But mixed in with the old videos are several pieces of new material, including one clip explaining how the Institute of Future Technology (the facade for Back to the Future: The Ride) became Krustyland (the facade for The Simpsons Ride.)

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What’s In My Diaper Bag: Disney Parks Edition + Video

by on April 24, 2015

Photo - Angela DahlgrenAs you saw in my Packing Tips for a Day at Walt Disney World article, I am a pack rat. In fact, a few readers wondered if I actually bring all this stuff with me to the parks. The answer…is yes.

Yes, I have a big back pack.

Yes, it is very heavy.

So with that, it only seemed natural to share what I bring in my diaper bag for a day at the parks!

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Disney Savvy Tips for Blizzard Beach

by on April 22, 2015

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In addition to four theme parks, the Walt Disney World Resort also offers two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both of these water parks boast unique themes and, in true Disney fashion, a great story! Blizzard Beach, however, just may have the craziest story in water park history. The legend states that a freak blizzard hit Central Florida and so a ski resort was quickly built; but when the Florida sunshine reappeared, the snow began to melt turning ski runs into water slides and snow drifts into refreshing pools. So instead of a ski resort, we now have Blizzard Beach, a whimsical, wintry water park where you swim among snow drifts and shop for beach towels in ski chalets! So if you’re considering a visit to this popular water park, check out these Disney Savvy Tips for Blizzard Beach to make your day as magical as possible.

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Disney Detour – Knott’s Boysenberry Festival

by on April 17, 2015

IMG_4487Six miles away from Disneyland Resort is the Southern California institution known as Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s hard to explain to outsiders or first time visitors the place that Knott’s has in the hearts of Southern Californians. It’s a place that our grandparent’s grandparents took them to. A place that not many people would call their favorite theme park, or even necessarily a place they like to visit. But it’s our nice little local park. The typical response I hear from out-of-towners that visit Knott’s is, “It’s nowhere near as good as Disneyland.” That’s like telling a wrestling fan that wrestling is fake. Duh, they know. Sure, it’s not as glamorous, exciting, or well-themed as Disneyland, but it definitely has a lot of charm and is well worth a visit.

Anyway, this post isn’t about Knott’s history or quality; it’s about boysenberries. This week I visited Knott’s with Tom Bricker. This was his first trip, and our main reason for visiting was to experience the annual Knott’s Boysenberry Festival. You see, boysenberries are one of the major reasons Knott’s Berry Farm exists (Knott’s says all boysenberries in the world can be traced back to Knott’s Berry Farm), so it makes sense that the park would honor them.

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Ultimate Water Park Showdown: Blizzard Beach vs. Typhoon Lagoon

by on April 14, 2015

The iconic Summit Plummet on Mount Gushmore with the sun rising on the horizon

© Disney

With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start planning for a trip to one of the Walt Disney World water parks. Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are both awesome, but Disney fans still love to endlessly debate which is better. No matter where you fall in the debate, I think both parks have their strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve never been to either and want to know which water park is for you, you’re in the right place. I’ll break down the parks into categories and pick which park is better in each category to help you better determine where you should go. Maybe you like fast slides or maybe you just want to float in the lazy river all day. Either way, you’ll hopefully have a better idea of which park is for you after reading.

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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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