In the Parks

Boo to You: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP)

by on August 29, 2014

MNSHP

The Halloween party is fun for all ages!
Photo by Kent Philips

Ed. – if it’s August, it must be Halloween in Central Florida. Today we’re running this article on Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, along with one on Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights and Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream.

Not into the dark side of Halloween? Fake blood, chainsaws, and people chasing you not your thing? Although Halloween is usually associated with these things, there are still some of us innocent hearted individuals that prefer the Halloween of our youth: carving pumpkins, dressing up as our favorite cartoon character or super hero, eating caramel apples and drinking apple cider, and my all-time favorite the glutinous event of trick or treating. There was just something about knocking on the door of family and friends dressed as a smurf, hobo, Raggedy Anne, or whatever other thing my mother concocted that made my heart beat with delight. Waiting ever so patiently while grandma oohed and aahed over me, all the while wondering with childhood anticipation what goodie she was going to place into my plastic pumpkin. Sometimes it was raisins (oh granny, what a great sense of humor you have) and sometimes it was a whole regular size candy bar (jackpot!). Either way, it was my reward for this one night of joy.

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Animal Kingdom Touring: How a Touring Plan Can Help

by on August 27, 2014

I have grown to love all of the parks at Disney World, but the one that took me the longest to befriend was Animal Kingdom. It’s not that I don’t love the theme (what’s not to love about animals?). It’s not that I don’t love the attractions (Kilimanjaro Safaris and Finding Nemo the Musical are two of the best things at any park, in my opinion.) It’s that I’m always feeling the pressure of the time schedule.

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

I just love the gorillas along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, one of my favorite YOPAs.

Animal Kingdom is made up of three types of attractions. The first (and most prevalent) is Your Own Pace Attractions (let’s call these YOPA, just for fun). These are experiences that take varied amounts of time, depending on your pace and interest level. The YOPA list is long:

 

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Fear and Trembling: A Chicken’s Review of Big Thunder Mountain

by on August 23, 2014

“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man . . . .. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place.”

I am not that man.

big.thunder.4

Big Thunder, Big

As I moved resignedly toward the tumblin’ town of Tumbleweed, that sad fact was once again made painfully apparent. My time and place does not involve thrills. Although I’ve never been especially frightened by regular thunder, I have more than my fair share of reservations regarding Big Thunder, and not just of the FastPass+ persuasion. Coffee and creamed-colored crags cast troubled shadows at my feet as we inched closer; it was very clear to me I was in the wrong place. My wife, unfortunately, was not persuaded.

I’ve heard the claim before. Upon our return from a quick Christmastime visit to the Magic Kingdom with my immediate family, my wife and my brother both suggested that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad might actually be an attraction I would enjoy, as it lacked the typical large drops that so twist my stomach in knots—as well as not’s, as in “I’m not going on another of these rides, I’m not going to eat again, I’m not feeling especially manly . . .”, and so on. At this point, my faith in other people’s assessment of whether  or not I will enjoy/survive unscathed any thrill ride has been shaken, not to mention roughed-up and made queasy and more than a little cranky.

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Hidden Details of Animal Kingdom

by on August 23, 2014

There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, let’s take a look at the hidden details of Animal Kingdom!

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Over at Asia’s Expedition Everest, be sure to notice the special height measurement for young riders. Only at Disney would the measurement be a giant, wooden Yeti foot! I’ve always thought that Expedition Everest has one of the most clever, detailed themed queues, and this fun detail just proves it!

Inside of the Dinosaur attraction, look up to see red, white, and yellow pipes running through the queue. Chemical combinations are printed on those pipes, which isn’t anything special, unless you realize the combinations are actually the chemical names for ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard! Weird, right?

Animal Kingdom Harambe Sign - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Village

Animal Kingdom’s Africa is meant to look and feel as if you have just walked into a real African village called Harambe. Disney Imagineers really went to new heights with the details here, as Harambe appears lived-in and authentic with thatched roofs, posters for the village’s Harambe Wildlife Preserve, handpainted signs on the sides of local businesses, and so much more. This particular sign welcoming you into Harambe features ads of the village’s establishments, and the lights above it are even rusted to show age.

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The Disney Dazzle: Meeting Mickey Mouse

by on August 22, 2014

©Disney

Ta-Dah!

My very favorite thing about visiting Disney World is the memories you take home with you. Amongst the celebrations and excitement at the parks, something even more amazing can happen. A magical moment occurs that makes the whole trip so much more meaningful – a personal story you will never forget. I call this the ‘Disney Dazzle.’

My husband and I make trips to Orlando 2-3 times a year as my husband’s aunt and uncle live there. Rewind back to February 2014, and we were on our very first trip with our newborn, Annie. Whenever we visit Disney World, my husband’s uncle, Keith, always has a surprise in store for us. This trip was no exception. Earlier in the day, Uncle Keith had mysteriously left our group for several minutes. He returned, said nothing about his disappearance and we continued about our day. That night, he told us he had a surprise but that we would have to wait a little longer. I walked up and down Main Street, U.S.A. with ants in my pants wondering what his secret could be. After what seemed like FOREVER (although in reality, it was no more than 20 minutes), he led us into the Town Square Theater. I really had NO idea what we were doing there, only remembering the little television playing cartoons and the Camera Center full of camera supplies and pins. While looking around, I saw the sign ‘Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater’ and it hit me. Uncle Keith had gotten us a FastPass+ reservation to meet Mickey Mouse! Now, guests have had the opportunity to meet Mickey in the Town Square Theater since 2011, but it wasn’t until October of 2013 that a special magician Mickey would grace us with his presence. (I won’t give away all the surprises because every encounter with ‘the boss’ is unique!) As a Disney buff, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no idea one could meet Mickey in such an exciting and intimate setting. I was in for a real treat!

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After the Touring Plan

by on August 19, 2014

2015UGAs many TouringPlans.com subscribers do, we buy the most recent Unofficial Guide, download the Lines app, read the blog posts, plan our days in Walt Disney World, and have our trip in order well before we depart our homes. This advanced planning helps us make the most out of our vacations in the Happiest Place on Earth.

However, there are times on our trip where our advanced planning works too well. For example: you have decided to spend the morning in Magic Kingdom park, utilizing the morning Extra Magic Hours that are in place. When you show up, you are some of the first people at the tunnel, and you go on to conquer your entire morning Touring Plan…in two hours.

I’m being a bit unrealistic in my example, but there can be points in your trip where things work out so well that you are blessed with that glorious object we Disney fans all crave: extra time. 

So what is there to do if this happens? Plenty, my friend. Plenty.

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Reviewing Hollywood Studios One-Day Late Arrival Touring Plan for Adults

by on August 19, 2014

Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Angela Dahlgren, photographer.

I had an extra day off at the end of my summer vacation, so my sister-in-law and I hopped over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to test out  the “One-Day Late Arrival Touring Plan for Adults.”

The plan is designed to start at 11:00 AM but we were through the turnstiles and had the plan pulled up on the phone by 10:00 AM. The extra hour probably helped in the long run since the new Frozen Summer Fun – Live bumped up the crowd level to a solid 9.  It looked like it was already a 7 when we arrived.

Looking at the list, I forgot to send it though the optimizer, but the first step was to ride Toy Story Midway Mania!, which would probably have been the suggestion anyway.  We headed straight to Pixar Place and into the standby queue. The posted wait time was 75 minutes, but we made it through in 45. When the line splits before the stairs at the end of the main queue room, the Cast Member directed us through the FastPass+ lane, likely accounting for the saved 10-15 minutes.*

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Disney World: Getting the Most of Cast Members

by on August 17, 2014

What do the following three questions have in common?

Tinkerbell in a thoughtful moment. Photo by Thomas Cook

Tinkerbell in a thoughtful moment. Photo by Thomas Cook

  • Is the rain real?
  • Is Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?
  • What time is the Three O’clock Parade?

Answer: They are all questions I was asked as a Walt Disney World cast member.

I hope it’s clear that these questions are not exactly the best questions to ask a cast member. I don’t mean to imply anything about the guests who asked these questions, especially since the parade question is one I got asked once a week or so over a number of years.

This article is not about questionable questions. It’s about how you should ask cast members about park information. It seems like a simple issue, but any longtime cast member will tell you their many stories of frustrating guests and their questions.

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Favorite Park Series: Disney’s Magic Kingdom

by on August 17, 2014

Magic Kingdom

We made it!

We did it. We made it to the end of my Favorite Park Series. To read my highlights on Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, here ya go!

Now, let’s see what puts the ‘Magic’ in Magic Kingdom.

Memorable Moments 

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy” – Walt Disney.

Indeed, these memorable words are embodied in the ambiance and attractions of Magic Kingdom. Main Street, U.S.A., is reminiscent of small town America, with Ma and Pa general stores full of delicious goodies and fun souvenirs. Adventureland creates exotic experiences such as boarding the Jungle Cruise and joining the crew on the fan favorite, Pirates of the Caribbean. Make your way over to Frontierland and enter the Wild West. Hold on to your cowboy hats

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: The Music of Liberty Square

by on August 16, 2014

Music has the ability to take us back through time. So much music has been preserved
from the past 500+ years that whole concerts can be LScentered around one time period. I just got back from a music conference which had an entire Vespers service that could
have taken place in 1724!

Music can also remind us of a feeling. For example, when I hear “The Victors,” I am automatically transported to my Dad’s seats in Michigan Stadium, cheering the team on the field.

Liberty Square has two kinds of music surrounding it. On one side, the music reflects the time. Various pieces played in the area are taken straight from the late-1700s and played on period instruments. (One of many hidden details in the Liberty Square!)

Other pieces in Liberty Square reflect the spirit. The colonial and Revolutionary time periods were full of patriotic and independent thought. There was an energy needed to create a United States out of thirteen small colonies, all of whom had very unique beginnings. Thusly, there is music that was composed later in America’s history, but still reflect that spirit of America.

Let’s break both of them down:

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