In the Parks

SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best SHOWS at Walt Disney World

by on August 1, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best SHOWS at Walt Disney World. Here at the SATURDAY SIX we have done several articles looking at the best-of-the-best attractions, resorts, and restaurants at Walt Disney World, but we haven’t spent much time on one area they do better than any theme park in the world: shows. The live shows across the WDW parks range from the smaller scale and intimate experience of the Dapper Dans singing on Main Street USA, to the elaborately choreographed Trolley shows, all the way to the Broadway caliber Finding Nemo – The Musical at Animal Kingdom. So grab a seat – hopefully in air conditioning, and let’s begin the countdown of the absolute best shows starting with…

# 6 – Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Sorry to disappoint any Shia LaBeouf fans, but one reason for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectaculars‘ amazing 25+ year run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is because it is based around the iconic Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc film. The show recreates several famous scenes from the movie while explaining how they were accomplished. It is a fascinating look at the movie making process (one of the only things of its kind at a “studios” park) and has a fair share of good natured humor along the way. It speaks volumes to the overall quality of the show that it has remained almost completely unchanged since its debut in 1989 and regularly packs its 2000 seat stadium.

SHOWS_Indy_glover

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (photo by Brandon Glover)

Shows_Indy2_glover

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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History of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle

by on July 30, 2015

Photo - James Rosemergy

Sleeping Beauty Castle for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary (photo by James Rosemergy)

For characters like Cinderella and Rapunzel, living in a royal castle was just an unattainable dream. Gazing out the window, they would sit for hours imagining what life would be like within the walls of such a majestic place.

If you’ve ever been to a Disney park, those dreams and wishes may pop into your head when you first set eyes on the magnificent castle; the symbol and iconic center of the park. Today, I will be sharing a brief history of the very first Disney palace: Sleeping Beauty Castle in California’s Disneyland.

This is the time to turn on “Once Upon a Dream” or “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

I’ll wait for you to pull up the song….

*Twiddles thumbs, looks out the window, checks phone*

Okay ready? Let’s continue!

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Magic Kingdom’s Storybook Circus: Don’t Miss Its Old-Time Charm

by on July 29, 2015

©Disney

©Disney

The extremely well-themed Storybook Circus area of Fantasyland in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom can be easy to miss. Hidden behind the newest mountain and one of the hottest FastPass+ attractions in the park (hint: a certain number of dwarfs call this mountain home), Storybook Circus isn’t generally a top priority for guests. However, those looking to indulge in more of the old-time charm that is one of the best features of Main Street, U.S.A. and other lands like Frontierland and Liberty Square shouldn’t overlook Storybook Circus.

So let’s head to the back of the park and take a look at some of the highlights of Storybook Circus, where abundant details bring to life old-fashioned fun at the circus fairgrounds.

Dumbo

No attraction shows off the energy of Storybook Circus better than Dumbo the Flying Elephant. From its fast-flying elephants, to its brightly painted accents and Big Top queue, to its spinning lights, down to its sparkling fountains, Dumbo says “look at me.”

Dumbo night_Tom Bricker

©Tom Bricker DisneyTouristBlog.com

Before the new Fantasyland expansion, when Dumbo was relocated to Storybook Circus and reconstructed in duplicate with much-enhanced details, it was the target of a headlong rush by many guests as their first attraction of the day. Confession time: because of that opening time rush and sustained lines throughout the day, I never actually rode Dumbo in its previous spot. But now that Dumbo has moved to Storybook Circus, my attitude is entirely different.

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Periscope in the Parks: A Beginner’s Guide

by on July 21, 2015

As one of the lucky people who gets to share real-time experiences at Walt Disney World through the TouringPlans Twitter account, I love the ability to share random thoughts and pictures with people from around the world. During Star Wars Weekends, while I was finishing up my day, someone asked through Twitter if I was going to use Periscope app to broadcast the Symphony in the Stars fireworks. Although I had never used Periscope before, and didn’t even have it installed, I agreed — just to see if I could make it happen. Well, less than an hour later, I was sharing some of the best fireworks that the Studios has to offer with dozens of online viewers. Since that time, I have shared live attraction videos, parades, shows, and other events with hundreds of viewers at a time. I’ve also watched the number of people using Periscope to broadcast grow substantially, both in the parks and around the world.

A screen shot from a Periscope broadcast of Illuminations shows some of the limitations of the app: lower-resolution video and portrait format instead of landscape. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

A screen shot from a Periscope broadcast of Illuminations shows some of the limitations of the app: lower-resolution video and portrait format instead of landscape.  (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Although streaming live video is not a new creation, Periscope’s ease of use for both broadcasters and viewers, combined with being a free service that does not flood the feed with advertising has made it instantly popular. At any given time, people from around the world are sharing what is going on in their lives, whether interesting or incredibly mundane. For example, as I’m typing this early one morning, someone is broadcasting a yoga class. Another person will write your name in Arabic as you watch. Morning network TV shows are broadcasting behind-the-scenes videos from the station. And then you’ve got someone broadcasting making morning coffee, someone opening a package they’ve received in the prior day’s mail, a person walking their dog, and even someone doing confessions about their previous night’s exploits.

From Disney itself, I’ve been able to see every parade, fireworks show, some attractions, and even just people walking around or eating a meal, all in real-time. Like any new technology, there’s still a bit of a learning curve, and some of my broadcasts have been more to test the limits of this system. Here’s some of the pros and cons I’ve found using Periscope.

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Lessons Learned from the Disney World Lost and Found

by on July 7, 2015

It’s hard to truly grasp the scope of the lost and found operation at Walt Disney World resort. Tens of thousands of guests lose thousands of items every day. Working at Magic Kingdom Guest Relations, I became part of the system that tries to reunite guests with their lost items. Seeing the items guests lose every day, I saw some patterns I hope will help you keep all of your belongings.

Disney World Theme Park Lost and Found

The Theme Park Lost and Found contains thousands of hats, sunglasses, and MagicBands. Photo by Maddi Higgins.

Sunglasses and hats are easy to lose.

Sunglasses and hats are far and beyond the most often lost items in the park. The lost and found has more Ray Bans than a Sunglasses Hut. While I’m sure your Gucci shades look really cute, you will be very disappointed when you inevitably leave them in the pouch of Space Mountain. And those warnings to stow your hats and sunglasses on the wildest ride in the wilderness are no joke: huge bags filled with hats and sunglasses are lugged every night by Cast Members from the roller coasters who spent the evening clearing the track of lost items. It’s often difficult to reunite guests with their lost sunglasses or hats just because of the sheer volume that must be sorted through to find the right ones, especially at the end of the night.

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The Best Queues in Walt Disney World

by on July 1, 2015

Photo by Disney

Photo by Disney

I do not like waiting in lines. I’m an impatient person and I always have been. But I do love Disney World so you can see how this could be a problem for me. Thankfully, Disney is all about making every experience at their parks magical. Yup, even the waiting in long lines part. Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a trend at Disney Parks where many attraction queues have been getting special care and attention to become more immersive and interactive. Of course, not all lines, waiting areas and queues are created equal. Some attraction queues are done so well that they feel like a natural extension of the attraction itself while others are indistinguishable from waiting in line at the bank only if the bank were outside in 90 degree weather and the customers all wore fanny packs and mouse ears. What was my point again? Oh right, the lines. Some Disney World lines are just a cut above the rest. These selected attractions below feature the Cadillacs of queues. They’ll have you saying, “Wow, look at those suckers with Fast Passes. They wish they could experience this line!” In all seriousness, though, I always appreciate excellent Disney Imagineering and I really believe that these queues are representative of that.

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Once Upon a Time Materializes in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on June 17, 2015

Mr. Gold is back in New York! No, this isn’t a spoiler for the upcoming season of Once Upon a Time, and it isn’t real New York. But if you walk New York Street in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll find a storefront for a very intriguing shop.

ouatSign

Unfortunately, it seems that ol’ Rumplestiltskin is out for the day, as there’s no way to get into the shop, but he’s left some interesting pieces of his collection in plain view in the front and side window.

From the dagger that causes so much trouble (or is it a clever fake?) to the book that ties the series together, there are items to draw the interest of fans of all ages. Since the window display debuted, there hasn’t been a time when people aren’t peering in to see what they can find.

Perhaps even hidden in the display are clues for next season. Only time will tell.

daggerandbook

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Most Interesting, Most Unusual, and Strangest Souvenirs in EPCOT’s World Showcase

by on June 13, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Most Interesting, Most Unusual, and Strangest Souvenirs in Epcot’s World Showcase. After last week’s article on the Six Best Snacks in World Showcase, we’re going stay in the same area and look at another underrated part of Epcot; all the unique gift shops. This is the one theme park in Orlando, if not the world, where you will not find the same old stuff. Outside of the Norway Pavilion, it’s pretty much impossible to find any Frozen merchandise and you will have to go to Future World if you want the Disney Parks merchandise you will usually see at the other parks, Disney resorts, or Disney Springs. It’s a breath of fresh air and there are so many incredible items throughout World Showcase. However today we are not going to look at those. Instead we are going to look in the nooks and crannies and find the six most interesting, unusual, and strangest items starting with….

# 6 – Panda Sitting On a Toilet (China Pavilion)

While World Showcase is filled my with great shopping experiences, by far and away my favorite area to browse is at the Yong Feng Shangdian Department Store in the China Pavilion. It is a gigantic store packed with some of the coolest and most unusual in all of WDW. Wall of actual swords? CHECK. Intricately designed wooden ships? CHECK. Jade sculptures? Gorgeous Chinese dresses? Paper fans and chop sticks? All here. This is a store you could spend the better part of an hour just walking through and checking everything out. It also may contain the most amount of panda related items in Florida. Panda stuffed animals, keychains, coffee mugs, earmuffs… you name it, this store has it. The greatest of all panda items is this Panda Siting on a Toilet toy. Who knows why it could possibly exist, but aren’t you glad it does?

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Panda has to be reading a collection of the SATURDAY SIX, right? Only thing that makes sense.

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Wait a second. SOLAR POWERED?! Now I’m going to have to buy this to see exactly what it does. Will report back Dear Readers.

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A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan

by on June 10, 2015

©Disney

©Disney

One of my favorite annual events at Walt Disney World is Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Star Wars Weekends takes place Fridays through Sundays from mid-May to mid-June and has only expanded over the years.

Today fellow fans of the force can get autographs and photos with Star Wars characters and celebrities, watch the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade and the Symphony in the Stars fireworks display, take in the Stars of the Saga Star Wars Celebrity Talk Show, and, for the kids, participate in the Padawan Mind Challenge and Jedi Training Academy.

There’s also Star Wars themed dining and shopping and even more events for the major fans! Clearly, Star Wars Weekends is true to its name as you need weekends to do it all; but what if, like me, you really don’t want to spend hours in line or have to live by your times guide. What if you just want to check out the event? Sure there are touring plans that work great, but is it actually possible to enjoy a day at Star Wars Weekends by flying casual? Last week, I decided to find out and went to the event on a whim with no plan, no FastPass+, and absolutely no agenda. As it turns out, I was still able to see and do quite a bit. So for today, I’m going to share with you Padawans how I had A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan.

I Visited on a Friday – I decided to check out the event on a Friday; and as Friday is still a work day, I found that the crowds and wait times weren’t quite as bad as what I could have experienced on a Saturday or Sunday. For example, The Great Movie Ride had only a 30 minute wait time on Friday while on Sunday, the posted wait time on My Disney Experience was 60 minutes.

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Typhoon Lagoon Cabanas: Mixing Luxury and Fun

by on June 9, 2015

© Sarah GraffamNow that Disney World has kicked off the Coolest Summer Ever, what better way to join in the fun than by cooling off at a Disney water park? And if you are looking to take a day of fun to the next level, what better way to experience the ultimate in cool than by renting a water park cabana? My family recently spent a day in a cabana, or “Beachcomber Shack,” at Typhoon Lagoon. If you are considering taking the same plunge, here’s what you need to know.

What You Get

A Typhoon Lagoon Beachcomber Shack provides your party with a comfortable place to call your own for the day, plus plenty of amenities. Upon check in, everyone receives a wrist band that allows access into the private area for cabanas. A Disney Cast Member then walks you to your shack, explains the amenities, and answers any questions about attractions and activities in the park.© Sarah Graffam

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