In the Parks

Head to head: Night of Joy vs. Rock the Universe

by on August 26, 2015

The weekend of September 11 and 12 is one of the holiest in Orlando, and it has nothing to do with a religious holiday. That’s when, for the past 17 years, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts conduct their dueling Christian music festivals, gathering some of the biggest names in the genre and having all sorts of youths flocking to their parks after hours in even bigger numbers than normal.

Night of Joy 2015

Image © Disney

Disney started its Night of Joy event in 1983, while Universal jumped on the bandwagon with its Rock the Universe much later, in 1998. Despite that discrepancy in age, the two actually share a lot in common, and more than the identical dates: both festivals are hard-ticketed events (meaning you’ll need to purchase separate admission in order to get in) and typically feature musical acts that hop back and forth between the two.

That can make choosing one over the other something of a headscratcher, but don’t fret – that’s why we’re here to help. Below, find a complete comparison between the two on every important indicator, helping you to decide which will be more amenable to your family and your tastes (and, of course, your wallet).

Then, once you’ve made up your mind, be sure to let us know which way you’re going in the comments below.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Making Memorable Character Interactions

by on August 26, 2015

Interacting with all of the great Disney characters is one of the most memorable experiences guests can have at a Disney park. On all of the planning DVDs, TV specials, and commercials, kids joyously run into the open arms of Mickey and adults engaged in light-hearted sword-play with pirates. But the reality is often children cowering behind their parents and adults awkwardly posing next characters, treating them more as props or marginally liked relatives, rather than the wickedly cool physical personification of the great icons that they are. So, how do you overcome character fear and lackluster photos? Let’s explore some ways to break the ice.

Spice up your character interactions and get great photos!

Spice up your character interactions and get great photos!

First, there are two types of characters in the Disney parks, face characters and fur characters. Face characters are characters where you can see their face and they speak with you. Most princess (Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, etc) fall into this category. Fur characters are characters that cannot speak with guests, Chip and Dale, Goofy, and Mr. Incredible are “fur” characters. But don’t be fooled, just because they don’t talk, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

History of Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle

by on August 24, 2015

Photo - Rikki NiblettWhile washing after dinner dishes, I allow my brain time to wander.

Re-reading that first sentence, it makes me sound exactly like Cinderella. Do I have a future of being a Disney Princess after all?! Ahem, anyway….

Often, my mind will start planning future vacations. Where does it go approximately 99% of the time?

Walt Disney World.

My imagination starts at the entrance of Magic Kingdom. I hear the whistle of the steam train and the smell of popcorn. As I walk past Main Street, U.S.A. (stopping to grab Starbucks because parenting), my eyes dart straight ahead to a beautiful structure. A magnificent place I can only ever dream to live inside of: Cinderella Castle.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Get “hooked” on Columbia Harbour House

by on August 17, 2015

MK Columbian Harbour House - AmyFarkasNestled on the edge of Liberty Square, across from Haunted Mansion and Memento Mori, you will find Columbia Harbour House — one of the original restaurants of the Magic Kingdom. This Quick Service restaurant opened in 1971 and is themed like a Revolutionary Era tavern or inn. When viewed from outside in Liberty Square, Columbia Harbour House looks as if it came straight out of a New England town. When viewed from Fantasyland the restaurant has a vintage German village feel to it. The inside however, definitely fits in with the Colonial American feel of Liberty Square. It reminds me of an old coastal town in Connecticut that my family visited one year on vacation: full of ship wheels, boat models, pewter-ware, and wood paneling.

For years our trips to the Magic Kingdom included a mere walk by of the bell ringing cast member in front of Columbia Harbour House. The thought of eating greasy battered fish like found at fast food restaurants in our home town just didn’t appeal to us and we wondered why people always seemed to be going in. Boy were we ever disillusioned. One try of the Columbia Harbour House and we were “hooked”. Now it is a must do for every trip.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

2015 Disney D23 Expo Predictions

by on August 12, 2015

D23expologo

This week marks the fourth ever D23 Expo, which is the exposition event for Disney D23 (the official fan club for The Walt Disney Company). Since 2009, and every second year after that, the event has offered fans the chance to come together and celebrate all things Disney while also getting a sneak peek at upcoming projects across the company’s numerous divisions including parks, film and even video games. With rumors swirling about possible announcements for quite some time now, speculation and anticipation are at a fever pitch. One of my favorite parts of any event like this is making predictions because a) it offers me the chance to brag about how right I was or b) laugh at how wrong I was. I can’t lose! With that in mind, here are my ten predictions for the D23 Expo.

©Disney

©Disney

10. Hollywood Studios Gets a New Name

Let’s get one of the big ones out of the way. Every Disney fan at this point knows that Hollywood Studios is getting a huge revamp. With the new changes will also come a new name for the park, which was previously revealed by Disney CEO Bob Iger after he got tricked by a young fan at the annual shareholders’ meeting. From everything I’ve read, the most popular new name appears to be Hollywood Adventure but at this point, it’s anybody’s guess.

Chance it happens: 90%

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

The Best Disney World Attractions for Naps

by on August 11, 2015

Carousel of Progress is a famous nap location, but is it the top choice?

Carousel of Progress is a popular nap location, but is it the top choice? Photo by Maddi Higgins

Naps are absolutely essential to a successful day at Walt Disney World. Human bodies are not designed to survive the high temperatures and treacherous treks through a Disney park. Unfortunately, whether it’s the timing of a reservation or the location of your hotel, it may not be possible to leave the park for your break. Lucky for you, I’ve done the strenuous research to discover the single best attraction in each park for a nap. My recommendations are based on the following criteria:

  • Comfort of Seating: It’s impossible to fall asleep if you can’t get in a comfortable position.
  • Length of Show: A 2-minute nap will not cut it when you need rest.
  • Temperature of Location: The point is to get out of the Florida sun. Naps are time to cool off.
  • Level of Noise and Light: If you fall asleep, you don’t want to be jerked awake by noise and bright lights.

Magic Kingdom Winner: Hall of Presidents

Hall of Presidents is famous for its napping accommodations. Unofficial Guide readers report it as their go-to spot for cranky kids—and adults—to relax. The location scores high in all napping qualifications.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Hollywood Studios Retrospective: Memories of Disney World’s Third Park

by on August 9, 2015

©Disney

©Disney

It’s no surprise that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is set for a major revamp. With the heavily rumored changes coming to Walt Disney World’s third theme park, it could potentially lead to a park that’s almost unrecognizable to what many of us grew up visiting. While I think the changes are long overdue, this article isn’t focused on what may come to Hollywood Studios or whatever its new name will be. Instead, I wanted to take a moment to remember some of the aspects of Hollywood Studios (or MGM Studios as some park goers including myself continue to call it on habit) that probably won’t make it through the renovation.

I’m basing this on the rumors that only Tower of Terror, Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, Toy Story Mania! and the Great Movie Ride will remain. While I won’t argue that this article covers the definitive best parts of Hollywood Studio’s twenty plus year history, these are some of the more memorable attractions, landmarks and shows at the park for me personally. Some of these things still exist today. Some only closed recently and some haven’t appeared at the park in years. Regardless, each had an impact on Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

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)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

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!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print