Magic Kingdom

Where to Find Walt at Disney World

by on May 17, 2015

Walt and Mickey

Walt and Mickey

When comparing the Disneyland Resort to Walt Disney World, one of the biggest differences that always comes up is that Disneyland was Walt’s park while Walt never lived to see Disney World completed. While this is true, that doesn’t mean you still can’t find Walt’s attractions and touches on the East Coast. So keep reading to discover just a few of many places where to find Walt at Disney World!

The Hub: One of the most popular places to take a photo at the Magic Kingdom is in front of the statue of Walt and Mickey with Cinderella Castle in the background. Known as the Partners Statue, it’s appropriately positioned at the center of the park known as the Hub, where paths branch off towards the different lands of the Magic Kingdom. Just seeing the statue at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. and at the park center brings it all back to Walt and his most famous creation, Mickey Mouse.  The Hub has undergone some changes lately, but you can still find statuettes of other characters that contributed to Walt’s success, such as Goofy, Donald, Minnie, and more.

101_3519Main Street, USA: Did you know that you can find Walt even before you enter the Magic Kingdom? When approaching the park entrance, you will probably hear a train whistle and the clang of a bell from up above as a train pulls into Main Street Station. This is because Walt loved trains! The Main Street Train Station, along with Main Street, U.S.A, provides guests not just a look at what Walt’s creations, but what was in his heart. Trains were one of Walt’s hobbies and he spend his free time planning and constructing a miniature train that he and his guests could ride on in his backyard. He called it the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Once you enter the park, you have to pass under the Main Street Train Station; but I encourage anyone who’s interested in learning about Walt to check it out. It’s filled with nods to railroad history and Walt’s passion for this vintage form of transportation. Main Street, USA was inspired after Walt’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri. Walt loved growing up in Marceline and wanted to recreate his memories of the town in his park. He even included a few odes to his family and Imagineers in the names found on the windows above the street. Fun Fact: Walt has two windows of his own. One of them is on the Main Street Train Station and faces out at the entrance while the other is above the Plaza Restaurant and faces Cinderella Castle!

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: May 14, 2015

by on May 14, 2015

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World.  It feels so good to be home, so we’re starting with a little Orlando Pride this week! I know we normally just feature theme parks, but I couldn’t visit the Orlando Eye and not take you with me! Stay tuned, because we’re also stopping by the Magic Kingdom, Disney Springs, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go ya’ll! :D

When construction started on the Orlando Eye there wasn’t much interest in our house. I mean, it’s just a big ferris wheel, right? Now that I’ve been lucky enough to ride I can tell you that is far from the truth. This thing is massive! Taking a complete trip around takes a full 20 minutes. Here’s the view from the base:

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Want to see more? Click to read on….

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Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Game: Practical Tips to Maximize Your Fun

by on May 13, 2015

SOTMK posterSorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, a free interactive game at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, is another example of the technology that has lately become pervasive in the parks. This time, though, the focus is squarely on having fun rather than the more pragmatic tasks of entering the park or making FastPass+ reservations. Still, my family has experienced a few bumps in the road related to both ticket media and game card collection, and this article offers some tips gleaned from our most recent experience.

Rather than tips on gameplay strategies, the focus here is on non-gameplay tips to ensure you maximize your time at play—but first some background on the game and how to get started playing.

Back Story

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, or SOTMK, challenges players to help Merlin the wizard defeat Disney villains by casting spells at “portals” found on Main Street, U.S.A. and in Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Fantasyland. Players use a special card (their “key”) to open these portals, 5 of which are located in each of the aforementioned lands within innocuous looking windows or walls.© Sarah Graffam

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Meet and Greets at the Magic Kingdom

by on May 9, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Meet and Greets at the Magic Kingdom. Let’s face it, meet and greets have become an important part of the vacation experience for many guests. Gone are the days when you could randomly bump into characters roaming the parks as the meet and greets of today have become attractions themselves, with some lines equaling even the best rides and shows in the parks. With elaborate sets, must-do character dining, and even special events based around the opportunity to meet characters, nobody does meet and greets better than Walt Disney World. Today we are going to look at the very best meet and greets at the Magic Kingdom, along with a little advice from an expert on meeting characters, Kenny the Pirate. The rankings are based on several factors including; theming of the meet and greet area, guest interaction with the characters, and a pinch of Je ne sais quoi (the indefinable magic that some meet and greets deliver which stays with you and your family for years, if not a lifetime.) Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, and with that out of the way let’s start with…

# 6 – The Little Mermaid (Ariel’s Grotto)

Disney hit a home run with New Fantasyland delivering a great coaster with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a wonderful dark ride with Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, and the first “E-Ticket” dining experience with Be Our Guest Restaurant. They also over-delivered in the area of meet and greets with the hilarious Gaston (who we just may see later in the list,) Enchanted Tales with Belle (including the stunning Lumiere animatronic and the how did they do that Magic Mirror,) and Ariel’s Grotto.

The Grotto is located right next to the Mermaid attraction and personifies what Disney can bring to the table. Walking into the area guests will receive the same wow factor they got when seeing the elaborate queue of Under the Sea or the impressive Ursula figure during the ride. This is a setting befit of a Disney princess.Guests are asked to sit next to Ariel on her clam shell bench, and this provides an intimate experience you just don’t get at many meet and greets. Like her movie counterpart, this Ariel will comment on unusual items guests may have that wouldn’t be found in the water, along with having age appropriate conversations with each and every guest. This is your only opportunity to meet Ariel outside of a dining package, and be sure to ask how her friends Flounder and Sebastian are doing!

Ariel1

The Little Mermaid. (photo by Jackie Laughters)

ArielsGrotto_Daisny

Ariel’s Grotto. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

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Fun Facts for Your Next Disney World Vacation

by on April 26, 2015

Castle Concept Art

Castle Concept Art

Do you crave Disney knowledge? Do you spend way too much time online scanning sites for Disney facts and secrets? Is your bookshelf crammed with Disney Imagineering books and guidebooks? If so, then we’re probably kindred spirits because I’m guilty of all the above! I absolutely love discovering new facts about my favorite place on earth that I can use or see for myself when planning my next Disney World trip. So indulge me, if you will, as I share with you some of my favorite fun facts for your next Disney World Vacation.

Did you know that…

12. Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean are Neighbors? Even though the Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean is in Adventureland and Splash Mountain is in Frontierland, things looks a little different backstage than they do when you’re in the park. When backstage, which means behind the scenes, these two water attractions are located next to each other! The layout of the park from inside is a little deceptive; but since both attractions require high volumes of water, it only makes sense to have them located next door. Pretty cool, right?

Look at the Golions!

Look at the Golions!

11. There’s More Than One Beast at the Beast’s Castle? The Disney Animators used different animals to create the Beast we know from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast film. In fact, the Beast is a mixture of buffalo, lion, wolf, bear, and more! But outside of the Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland, there is another beast that’s also a combo of different animals. It’s a Golion! Guarding either side of the castle doors are two stone beasts that Disney invented just for this area; and as they are a combination of both goats and lions, Imagineers decided to name them Golions! Source: Fun Facts: New Fantasyland

10. The Eiffel Tower at Epcot’s France Pavilion is Historically Accurate? Have you ever paid much attention to the Eiffel Tower at Epcot’s France Pavilion? If so, you may have noticed that the tower looks a little different than those photos you see of the one in France and for a really cool reason. You see, the real Eiffel Tower has changed color since it was first constructed in 1887 due to aging and weathering; but since Epcot’s France Pavilion is meant to represent France as it was in the past, the Eiffel Tower we see is beige, just like how it would’ve been in its early years. Talk about attention to detail! Still not impressed? To be even more historically accurate, Imagineers used the blueprints of the original Eiffel Tower when constructing their own.  Source: AllEars.net

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: April 23, 2015

by on April 23, 2015

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re visiting Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Not to mention we’re also stopping by Downtown Disney and Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Phew, that’s a lot! Let’s get moving! :)

The best place to start is where I’ve visited the most the past few weeks. Not once, not twice, but five times we’ve visited Disney’s Polynesian Resort trying to get into the newly opened Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. The wait has never been less than an hour and to be frank, I just don’t want to go to a bar that badly!

However, the time spent at the resort has led to some great photos of the new lobby and the tiki that has been recently added. For anyone not on Twitter, the Disney community has started calling this tiki by the name “Shruggie“. He was mainly given this name because his stance makes it look like he’s shrugging and declaring that the lobby renovation wasn’t his idea! It really finishes the lobby renovation now that he’s in place.

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Want to see more? Be sure to click below!

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Beating Buzz: A Guide for People with No Skill

by on April 22, 2015

Your journey begins here. Photo - Erin Foster

Your journey begins here. Photo – Erin Foster

Confession time: Although I work as an editor for a major video game strategy guides publisher, I am terrible at video games. The last video game I remember beating was the 1991 release of Duke Nukem. As a result, things like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in the Magic Kingdom don’t hold much attraction (pun intended) for me.

But like anyone with a competitive spirit, when I go on an attraction that has some sort of competitive slant to it, I want to do my best. After a little bit of Google-fu, I found many articles about Buzz Lightyear ride tips claiming to have the secrets to max out the ride score. But how would they work in reality? I compiled a team of non-experts, snagged a bunch of FastPass+ selections, and headed on in.

Meet your test team: Julia (hey, that’s me!). Age: “remembers the 1980s distinctly”. Video game experience: Mostly theoretical, but see also the bit about “remembers the 1980s”. No one can beat me at Pong, mainly because I can’t find anyone who still plays it.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World

by on April 18, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World. Nobody enjoys eating at “The World” more than us. From outrageous snacks like the King Cupcake at Pop Century, to Disney food trucks, to table service restaurants like Bongo’s Cuban Cafe or ‘Ohana, food may have actually replaced attractions in what we look forward to the most on our Disney vacations. Can you blame us though? WDW has some of the greatest restaurants you will ever go to, with several one-of-a-kind experiences that you will never get back at home. So today we’re going to take a look the six most unique dining experiences on property, starting with…

# 6 – Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

The Animal Kingdom Lodge just may be our favorite resort at Disney, and one of the biggest reasons is how much we love Sanaa. Located in Kidani Village, this is the only restaurant at AKL that has a view looking out into the beautiful savanna and all the animals. The decor is fantastic, with the chairs having backs echoing tribal shields and lighting fixtures based on nests that Weaver birds would make in Africa. The dining room floor has beautiful representations of acacia trees while the entire room is filled with art, which is appropriate since Sanaa is the Swahili word for artwork. Sanaa is hands-down one of the most gorgeous restaurants in Orlando.

sanaa_glover

The famous Sanaa bread service while seated next to the Savanah. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There are plenty of places at Walt Disney World to get chicken fingers and hamburgers, but Sanaa (along with other AKL venues such as Jiko and Boma) is where you can expand your culinary palate and try dishes you normally wouldn’t. It is worth making an ADR for Sanaa based on their bread service alone. There are five different types of Naan and you can choose up to 9 accompaniments to go with the bread. From a gamut running sweet to spicy, there is a dip for everyone in your party.

sanaa_bricker

Sanaa’s acacia tree decor. (photo by Tom Bricker)

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How to Spend Your Tax Refund with Disney

by on April 15, 2015

TouringPlans logoDisclaimer: Somehow discussions on the Internet of taxes and refunds and who gets them will inevitably lead to talk about government policy. If you feel yourself hearing the siren call to post about politics on a travel planning blog, please ignore it and pretend we’re talking about any random cash windfall. You’ve been warned.

Happy April 15! Are your taxes filed? If so, you may be one of the 8 in 10 US taxpayers who are getting a refund on your 2014 taxes. According CNBC, as of last week, the average check the IRS is cutting to people who overpaid is $2815. A lot people choose to overpay and use this as a de facto savings account (and with interest rates as low as they are, who can blame them?).

So let’s say you’re getting a tax refund. What are you going to do now? If you’re reading this blog, your answer may be “I’m going to Disney World!” Or Disneyland. Or taking a Disney Cruise. What will $2815 get you?

Walt Disney World

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Go West, Magic Kingdom FastPass+ User

by on April 7, 2015

I’m working on an update to the Magic Kingdom chapter of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. A lot of it is fact-checking, which, in a book like the Guide, is a pretty big task. But it’s also a chance to find new ways to explain how the park is changing.

We do a section in the chapter that describes how FastPass+ affects traffic in the park. I adapted the latest standby wait data from our statisticians, to a map of the park. Here’s the result:

MK FastpassTraffic

Green attractions are those where standby waits are lower with FastPass+; orange attractions are those with higher average standby waits. So what FastPass+ is doing is moving people from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, to Adventureland and Liberty Square, maybe with a quick stop along the way.

If this was a map of migration patterns in the United States, we’d say people were leaving Newark and Philadelphia for Phoenix, Palm Springs, and Denver, by way of Louisville.

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