Magic Kingdom

Disney World Trip Planning Strategies – Segmenting

by on September 3, 2015

Make Your Own "Hidden" Mickey

Elyssa making her own “Hidden” Mickey – © John Kivus, 2015

Fellow TouringPlans writer Sarah Graffam recently wrote a post about Managing Your Disney Evening, a sister piece to her earlier post, Managing Your Disney Morning, that got me thinking about how I manage my Walt Disney World trips. Many Disney guests focus on “days” while they plan, but I normally think of my trip in terms of “segments.” These segments vary in duration, but each usually consists of a meal coupled with certain attractions. It isn’t until after I have decided on the particular segments for an upcoming trip that I start to fit the segments into particular days. This post shares a few examples of trip segments that my wife, Elyssa, and I really enjoy:

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All it Takes is Faith and Trust! (And a Little Bit of Help from the Touring Plans Readers)

by on September 2, 2015

All it takes is faith and trust

“All it takes is faith and trust!” – Peter Pan

It’s no secret that I am a planner. A crazy-nutcase-super-planner (I admit it). I don’t take even a short trip to Disney World without planning FastPass + selections and Advanced Dining Reservations at the earliest opportunity. I mean, have you read my articles on planning for spontaneity? If my introductory and advanced courses in leveraging MyMagic+ didn’t paint a vivid picture for you of my planning love, I’m not sure what would.

As I was planning for our upcoming trip over Labor Day weekend, a wild thought occurred to me. What if, for one of the days of our trip, I didn’t pre-plan anything? (Cue intense hyperventilation.) I know that some people are critical of MyMagic+, citing that it “forces” them to plan their trips months in advance. I don’t share in that sentiment, and even though I don’t personally go the non-planning route that doesn’t mean I believe it can’t be done. (Did everyone follow that convoluted sentence? I plan because I want to, not because I believe that one must plan in order to have a good time at Walt Disney World.)

Now you might be asking yourself, “How would this type-A planner know that someone can enjoy a day in Disney without planning?! She probably doesn’t even know how to have an impromptu day at Disney World!” Valid points, dear readers, and those thoughts are precisely what have led me to this particular experiment. And YOU are the key to this experiment. Essentially, I need you to tell me what to do.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Don’t Meet Me on Main Street: Alternate Parade Viewing Spots

by on August 23, 2015

One of my oldest memories of Walt Disney World was being traumatized and terrified at age five by giant critters in the Main Street Electrical Parade. We were up close and they were coming right at me. I am certain my family barely escaped with our lives. While my five-year-old self might throw a hissy fit at the idea of having an up-close view of the Main Street Electrical Parade, my adult self loves the idea of getting up close for interaction with the parade and being engulfed in the magic of its lights and sounds.

This image from the second parade in Frontierland shows that you can have almost a private parade. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

This image from the second parade in Frontierland shows that you can have almost a private parade. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

And because the name is the MAIN STREET Electrical Parade, the assumption by many people is that the only or best place to watch the parade is on Main Street, or possibly at the Hub. For years, however, I’ve told anyone who would listen about the secret to watching the Main Street Electrical Parade—get off Main Street.

Unlike Celebrate the Magic, which you can only see from Main Street or the Hub area, or Wishes, which is designed with some effects being best visible from Main Street or the Hub, the Main Street Electrical Parade is the same parade on Main Street as it is in Frontierland. The same, but with a major exception—fewer people blocking your view.

Here are my main reasons (pun intended) for viewing the Main Street Electrical Parade from Frontierland.

 

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Of Our Emotions Coming Out Of the D23 Expo

by on August 22, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six of Our Emotions Coming Out Of the D23 Expo. Last week we gave our D23 Expo Preview and can proudly announce that we were the only blog on the entire planet to call Disney involving Stan Lee in their Parks and Resorts presentation. While some would call us The Nostradamus of Theme Parks, we’d like to remind you that we are just your humble servants striving to provide the best possible article in the history of mankind. 

With that out of the way, what a D23 Expo it was! Hopefully you caught some of the excellent   D23 coverage by TouringPlan’s own Guy Selga (who has lovingly been referred to as a poor man’s Tom Bricker, or a rich man’s Tim Grassey). There were so many things to come out of of the Expo, but we’re going to take a page from this summer’s blockbuster hit Tomorrowland Inside Out and express our emotions via the very characters in the film! So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – JOY: Star Wars Land is finally announced!

Our long national nightmare is over. STAR WARS LAND IS COMING! From the day Star Tours opened in the 1980s we’ve all wanted more Star Wars in the theme parks and now we’re actually getting it. The man in charge, WDI’s Scott Trowbridge, is also the very same man behind one of the all time greatest rides in theme park history, Universal’s Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. While details were scarce, what we do know is a jaw dropper. The land will be spread out over 14 acres, have an attraction that sees guests piloting the Millennium Falcon, and cast members will stay completely in character, similar to the witches and wizards inside Diagon Alley.

STARWARSLAND_Joy

Do you believe in miracles?! (photo by Andrew Marchese)

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Magic Kingdom Attractions That Are Worth Your Time, Without Using FastPass+

by on August 19, 2015

The most attended theme park in the world can be a little intimidating, especially for a Disney “beginner.” With the advent of FastPass+ guests are clambering to ensure they select the right FastPass for the right attractions and the right time. Let’s take a look at the attractions at Magic Kingdom that don’t require FP+ so you can use those precious time slots for other attractions. We’ll also review the attractions that are definitely worth your time even if FastPass+ is not offered.

DSC01552

Tomorrowland

Some Disney fans might say that Tomorrowland is the land that time forgot. The problem with lands and attractions based on the future, is the future comes a lot faster than you realize and suddenly the concept becomes outdated. Space Mountain or Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin are decent FastPass+ options, but there are three attractions that are worthy of your time without needing to use valuable FP+ time slots.

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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.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Worst Case Scenarios That Could Come Out of the D23 Expo

by on August 15, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Worst Case Scenarios That Could Come Out of the D23 Expo. Coming along once every two years, the D23 Expo is not just a Disney Convention, it is THE Disney Convention. In fact the D23 Expo is such a big deal that Hollywood powerhouse Marvel Studios is holding their annual presentation at the Expo instead of last month’s gigantic San Diego Comic Con. Already big news is coming out of the Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, including the public display of the incredible scale model of Pandora, giving us a glimpse of what will soon be coming to Animal Kingdom. Movie posters for The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3 made their debut along with the first ever footage shown for Captain America: Civil War. But what theme park fans are interested in is the presentation taking place on Saturday featuring the Parks and Resorts division. It is here where we will find out what is coming to the Disney parks across the world. 

Rumors have been flying for months leading up to the Expo of what will be talked about at the Parks and Resorts presentation, and more importantly, what won’t be talked about. Theme park fans in Florida have watched as Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been slowly shutting itself down, which is surely leading to an announcement for what’s coming, right? Frozen Ever After will be the first new attraction in Epcot’s World Showcase in over two decades, we’ll surely get information on that, right? Everyone is hoping for the best, but to borrow a phrase from our dearly departed friend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper: we’re here to chew bubblegum and pop pixie dust…and we’re all outta bubblegum. We here at the SATURDAY SIX are taking our rose colored glasses off and thinking aloud “what’s the worst that could happen?” So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Frozen Being Expanded in Epcot’s World Showcase

Last year Disney weathered the storm during the #SaveMaelstrom movement. In 2016  Epcot will debut the new Frozen Ever After attraction along with one of the most detailed meet and greets in the company’s history, and imagine the ground that covers. So if Frozen and the fictional country of Arendelle were shoehorned into Norway, why not just keep going? The Mexico Pavilion is right next door, so instead of a ride featuring characters from a Disney animated movie that no one under the age of 50 has even heard about let alone seen, how about we focus on the star of one of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of all time, the lovable snowman OLAF!

GranFiestaOlaf

The newest Tier 1 FP+ selection in Epcot! (photo by Matt Cleary)

But that’s not all! It’s widely known that – at best – The Morocco Pavilion’s Spice Road Table has underperformed since its debut, even after a radical change to its menu. So let’s give it a quick Frozen makeover: a Queen Elsa inspired name along with a menu featuring a mix of “Arendelle” food items from the Electric Umbrella and the BoardWalk Pizza Window, and Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo! The new Ice Road Table has a longer line than the Candlelight Processional.

IceRoadTable

From taking walk ups to needing ADRs 180+10 in advance, just like that. (photo by Matt Cleary)

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