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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! December 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on December 31, 2016

Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

Can you believe 2016 is already over? Think about where we were a year ago at this time. There was no such thing as tiered ticket pricing, there were no cabanas in the Magic Kingdom, Tom Staggs was still with Disney, and we were all waiting for Rivers of Light to debut in Animal Kingdom. Well, at least some things never change.

I want to say up from that this month’s edition of the Outlet Report is a slightly shortened, and the reason for that is during December the Disney Outlet Stores become busier than the Magic Kingdom on a phased closure day. It’s just not fun. Both of us managed a trip in, but ran out screaming in short order. Now, I was going to make Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo go back on Christmas Eve in order to get a first hand report of the carnage, but Head Honcho Len Testa told me that would break several treaties in the Geneva Convention. First they take away water boarding and now this… maybe this generation has gone soft after all.

However, there is no rest for the wicked, and since December is my favorite month of all, I personally had a lot of fun outside of the Outlets. Myself and TouringPlans TV’s own Brian McNichols put out a new episode of the critically acclaimed Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast. While over on Twitter I did a 25 day unveiling of the Theme Park Blogger Advent Calendar as well as drawing many Derek Doodles for a good cause.

Now, what did Julia and I find when we did briefly step into Mordor the Disney Outlet Stores? Let’s check it out!

First up was a good one. You’ll remember last month I pulled my hair out seeing a May the 4th Be With You R2 droid at the Outlets that I had picked up earlier in the year at full price in Disney Springs. Well, this month brought the special Halloween figure, R2-BOO, which I did not buy at the stores. Jackpot! Originally $12.99, reduced to $4.99.

R2-BOO. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

In 2015 Disney went all in on hand sanitzers, creating a whole bunch of them. Each one holds 1 0z of hand sanitizer, which is just about the amount you will need if your kid wipes his hand on that “honey wall” in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queue. This year brought even more designs. The bottles originally were $8.85 each, but these were reduced to just 99cents. Picked one up at that price. For $9 I’ll take my chances with the germs.

Mickey Hand Sanitizer

More Disney Infinity stuff hit the Outlets. Disney stopping the entire system cold earlier this year was a shocker, and even made the special SATURDAY SIX: IN MEMORIAM article for this year. Here is Mulan, and even more unbelievably, the character “Time” from the Alice Through the Looking Glass movie. Maybe this line needed to be put out of its misery after all. Originally $13.99, reduced to $6.99.

Disney Infinity.

Also appearing were Disney Infinity Power Discs that were originally $9.99, now $4.99. Now I have picked up some of the Disney Infinity figures, even though I have never played the game, because I absolutely adore that cartoonish art style throughout the line. It’s like an awesome shared Universe line-up that has everything from The Incredibles to Pirates of the Caribbean to iconic Disney parks characters. Basically it’s like if Marvel Studios worked with Warner Bros to make an Avengers/Justice League film. Anyway, I was going to take a jab  at why anyone would buy these power discs, but they seem to be almost the exact same shape and size of the ridiculous “pogs” I grew up with and bought way too many of.

Disney Infinity Power Discs (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Boxing Day Special – Everything Free at Disney World

by on December 26, 2016

Here’s some holiday leftovers for you today – a favorite topic from earlier this year, Free Disney stuff you can get during your vacation. 

Free and Disney are not words that you typically think of as belonging in the same sentence, but there are indeed a number of items and experiences, both large and small, that can be had for free during your Disney World vacation. Here’s a comprehensive list of everything we could find that you can get free at Walt Disney World (although park admission is required for some). Happy savings!

FOOD and DRINK

  • Baked goods or candy samples. The Main Street Confectionery often has cast member walking around with a tray full of samples for guest to try. I’ve tasted Krispie treats, cookies, bits of cake, and even cotton candy. Plus, there is almost always a tray of fudge samples sitting on top of the main display case. You won’t be able to fill up here like you might at your local Costco, but if you’re looking for just a bit of sweet to satisfy your palate after your meal, the Confectionery is the place for you.
Sample treats at the Magic Kingdom Confectionary

Sample treats at the Magic Kingdom Confectionary

  • Soda. Stop by Club Cool at Epcot and drink your fill of eight flavors of Coke products from around the world. These range from the bubblegum sweet Peruvian Inca Kola to the, in my opinion, totally yummy, Beverly from Italy. The Club Cool drink stations are supplied with tasting-size cups, but you’re welcome to stay and taste as much as you want for as long as you want.
  • Water. The water bottles sold throughout the parks cost $2.50 (or more) each. If you want to hydrate for free, simply walk up to any counter service restaurant and ask for a cup of ice water. They’ll hand it over at no charge. Add a lid and a straw to your cup, and you’ve got almost the same level of portability as a bottle.
  • Ice. When answering questions for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, I have often seen questions from international guests asking if ice is available at the Disney hotels and how much it costs. They can rest assured that there are free ice machines at all the Walt Disney World resorts.
  • Meals for infants and toddlers. Children under the age of three will not be charged for food at Disney’s buffet and family-style table service restaurants when dining with their families.
  • Dining. Disney often uses free dining plan offers as lure to entice guests to visit during historically low-crowd times. If this year follows the typical pattern, it will be fairly easy to travel to Walt Disney World and receive free dining from mid-August through early October. However, there is a definite caveat emptor with this. Depending on your eating habits and where you stay, free dining might end up costing you. Tom Bricker’s wrote an excellent analysis of whether free dining really makes sense. The numbers are a bit dated now, but the principal still applies.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN

by on November 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs), and Deluxe (The Poly and The Contemporary). Three of the Deluxe resorts are not run by Disney, these include Shades of Green (owned and operated by the US Armed Forces) and the Swan and Dolphin. For over 25 years the Swan and Dolphin has been a part of the Starwood chain of resorts. While Starwood was bought by Marriott in September of this year, the hotels continue to be run under their respective brands (Swan being part of Westin, while the Dolphin part of Sheraton.)

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Walt Disney World Swan.

Both the Swan and Dolphin are considered Disney Deluxe Resorts. While neither hotel offers the Disney Magical Express to and from the airport, or participates in the Disney Dining Plan, guests do get the normal WDW on-site ammenities including Extra Magic Hours, Disney transportation, and early access to Fast Pass+. How do the Swan and Dolphin stack up compared to the other on-site resorts?  Well, today we are going to check out our favorite parts of these two incredible hotels, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 –  Todd English’s bluezoo

One of the most underrated restaurants on Disney property is Todd English’s bluezoo located on the ground floor of the Dolphin. The bar area is visually stunning, and sets up the unique food and drink menu perfectly. Recently we did a tongue in cheek look at a Disney Value Resort Bar Crawl, but one thing that stood out at those bars – along with many others on Disney property – is a reliance on the standard Disney bar menu. Todd English’s bluezoo is the complete opposite of that. Whether you get a Burnt Orange that arrives on fire or a Swedish Fish with its infused foam, the drinks served at bluezoo are served with creativity and flair.

The dining room of bluezoo is deceptively large. While the menu is filled with some great items (especially if you’re a seafood fan,) what shocked us was the crispy Asian pork ribs. I didn’t think anyone would come close to touching the quality of Morimoto Asia’s Hoisin sticky spare ribs, but bluezoo’s are somehow better. While many probably wouldn’t think of bluezoo as the first choice to bring your kids, there is actually a part of the menu for kid’s appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The whimsicly named “desserted island” is among the most fun at WDW.

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Smoking Red Sangria. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Burnt Orange – “herradura blanco infused with brûléed orange and muddled with agave nectar, grand marnier, and orange juice. topped with a flaming orange.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Crispy Asian pork ribs. (photo by  Brandon Glover)

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Desserted Island. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! October 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on October 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. 

So what happened in October? We had some good news and we had some bad news. Good news: the Muppets themed PizzeRizzo is opening in just a couple weeks! Bad news: unfortunately it appears that the venue will be serving the exact same awful food as its predecessor, Pizza Planet. This would be a shame as Blaze Pizza in Disney Springs just proved that you can have a great tasting, affordable, personal size pizza at Walt Disney World. We also had more good news in the form of Muppets as the new Great Moments in American History show in Liberty Square is a certified hit! This is the Muppet humor we know and love. We also have to end on some more bad news as the first man is down at Disney Springs. That’s right, the incredibly named Aristocrepes has now gone seasonal. With the opening of so many great dining options, it was only a matter of time until we lost one. My bet was on Yesake (it’s actually a good place but you never see anyone there) being the first to go, but if you read this Me Thinks STK Doth Protest Too Much article, a certain high end steak house could be the next tenant to go buh bye.

Now while all of you were trying to sneak guns into EPCOT, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

We always love to start with new Tsum Tsums, and at the International Drive location, this month we had the rest of the Pirates of the Caribbean line arrive with The Pig and The Bad Pirate. We also go another member of The Avengers B-Team with The Vision. Normal Tsum Tsums at Disney cost $5.99, and at the Outlet Store they are usually $2.99, but this month they were once again just 99 cents each. Picked up several of the pigs and one each of the other two.

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Seeing this pig reminds me of that awesome moment in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie when Orlando Bloom tosses a second bucket of water onto a guy and says, “That was for the smell.”

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The Bad Pirate.

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Vision.

Meanwhile over at the Disney Outlet Store on Vineland, they had the JUNGLE BOOK line! Also at 99 cents, bought one of each.

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Jungle Book Tsums. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

Next up is an item I’ve been waiting a while for. At the World of Disney store they have had three great Beauty and the Beast items show up in the last year or so that I’ve really wanted. A light up Lumiere, a “life size” Cogsworth, and a ceramic Chip cup. Well, the Chip cup finally made it’s way to the Outlet and now I begin my daily praying ritual for the other two. Not sure what the original price was, but I’m thinking it was around $19.95, which is why I always passed it. Outlet price was $6.99. Ya-hoo!

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Interesting how they do the “chipped” part of the cup.

Here is a stunning tapestry featuring the Magic Kingdom’s carousel, and the picture does not do it justice. The colors really make the picture come alive and it’s terrific. Originally $125, this was reduced to $29.99.

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Tapesty.

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How to Make a Disney World Vacation Affordable

by on October 24, 2016

It’s true that a Walt Disney World Vacation isn’t cheap. It’s one of the complaints you hear the most and is a big hurdle for families and individuals eager to experience the magic but must keep to a budget. But a Disney World Vacation may not be as out of reach as some might think! The price tag attached to the ultimate vacation destination can be significantly less if you know a few tips and tricks and money-saving strategies. So read on to learn how to make a Disney World Vacation affordable for you and your family.

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Make Your Disney Visa Work For You

I applied for a Disney Rewards Visa Card from Chase several years ago, and I love it! It was free to apply, there’s no annual fee, and if you accept another cardholder’s recommendation, they get a Disney gift card and so do you. Cardholders also earn 1% in reward dollars and enjoy discounts and perks at a Disney Store, DisneyStore.com, and at the Disney Parks.

A Disney Rewards Visa Card can help you pay for your vacation if you can make the card work for you. For instance, I use my card to pay for the majority of my daily purchases, but immediately pay off what I charge to avoid accumulating debt or interest. Then, throughout the year, I allow my reward dollars to accumulate to apply towards the cost of my resort, tickets, or Annual Pass. It’s great knowing that each tank of gas or bag of groceries is helping to trim down my vacation costs; and of course, the card’s discounts help with those costs too.

Visit During the Off-Season

One of the best ways to save on a Disney World Vacation is to visit during the off-season. When the crowd levels drop, so do the rates for airfare, the resorts, and even park tickets due to Disney World’s new tiered ticket system. Seriously, a Disney World Vacation in the off-season may be half the price of the same vacation in July. But how do you know just when the off-season is? A good rule is to avoid the summer months and holidays; but for the rest of the time, the best source is the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! September 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on September 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Hard to believe it’s Fall already, and as a Floridian I mean that it’s literally hard to believe as it still “feels like” 100 degrees down here on a daily basis.

So what happened in September? Well, there was good news for many of us who waste way too much time on social media, as Disney is considering a bid to buy Twitter. Judging by the Mouse’s history of technology (go.com, Mobile ESPN, Epic Mickey, etc), once they take over Twitter it won’t be long before they shelve it entirely and move on to something else. Meanwhile over on the Florida roadways, which are the closest equivalent to a real Mad Max Fury Road experience as you can get, a huge WDW sign came crashing down. Those who follow Your Humble Author on Twitter go to see a look at what really caused the accident. Maybe the greatest news of the whole month though was that Sitch’s Great Escape is days away from going “seasonal” at the Magic Kingdom. This brings us one step closer to my dream being fulfilled as well as the chances of the attraction actually being re-themed to Wreck-It-Ralph (as rumored by Jim Hill on the Disney Dish Podcast.) Happy days are here again!

Now while all of you were passing your kidney stones the fun way Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

First up was a nice surprise as the 2016 EPCOT Flower and Garden MagicBands arrived. Featuring Figment, a Sorcerer Mickey topiary, Spaceship Earth and a monorail, you better believe I bought one of these. Originally $29.95, reduced to $14.99. Unlike the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Magic Bands, which seemed to still have 4,994 available out of the 5,000 made, there didn’t seem to be that many of the Flower and Garden bands.

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Flower and Garden MagicBands.

Next up, it was like I died and went to Tsum heaven, as not only were the Tsum Tsums still on sale for 99 cents each (original price is $5.95, and they are usually reduced to $2.99) but they had THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN collection! These included the “Dog with the Keys,” one of my favorite characters in Walt Disney World. In fact I had just bought a great plush featuring Pluto as that very same dog earlier in the month. This is legitimately one of the top five things I have ever seen at the Outlets.

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Pirates Tsum Tsums.

There was also “The Redhead.”

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Pirates Tsum Tsums.

The “Pirate Captain.”

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Pirate Tsum Tusms.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! August 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on August 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

The Disney Outlets: the true final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Testa, beginning year four of our five-year mission: to explore strange old stores, to seek out weird merchandise and ugly vinylmation, to boldly buy what no MagicBand has bought before.

We actually have a big surprise this month at the end of this fine blog, but we do have to start off with a little theme park news. Universal soft opened an E-Ticket restaurant – the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (imagine a T-Rex Cafe for adults except the food is actually good) – and was promptly sued by someone claiming the restaurant was their idea. Some are claiming this is the most frivolous lawsuit against Universal since 2013, when the landmark case of Burgan vs. Comcast unjustly ruled that just because I said, “they should build more Harry Potter” after visiting Hogsmeade Village, I wasn’t responsible for the creation of Diagon Alley. I blame my lawyer.

Now while all of you were tweeting your thoughts on Disney changing the “obscene hand gesture” in Rock n Roller Coaster (warning, NSFW!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

Prices were SLASHED this month on Tsum Tsums, marking them down to an unheard of $0.99. This of course brought out the merch jerks in droves, filling up their baskets with Tsums to flip.

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The infamous Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum (I think.)

I honestly thought we had seen every single piece of merchandise made for the Disneyland 60th Anniversary and yet more and more just keep coming to Outlets. Here is a Dapper Mickey photo clip Frame. Originally $14.95, now $7.99.

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Thank you Disneyland annual passholders, for not buying a single piece of merchandise and making me go through it all. Yes, I’m looking in your direction Tom Bricker, Guy Selga, and Matt Gottula.

Disneyland 60th iPhone 6 case on left. Originally $39.95, now $14.99. On the right is a Minnie Mouse one where the character is stuck on the case. Has a lot of thickness. Originally $39.95, now just $7.99.

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iPhone cases.

Some houses have “fine china” but we theme park fans know what our favorite dinnerware is. The smaller Disneyland 60th plate was originally $17.95, now $7.99. The larger one was originally $21.95, now $9.99.

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If author extraordinaire Seth Kubersky ever gets married, I volunteer for the Ashkenazi tradition to break these plates (and as many more as they’ll let me.)

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! July 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on July 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. How long? Today marks the THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! What started out as a simple $1 bet between Len Testa and Laurel Stewart to see if they could take a simple Florida blogger and turn him into a two time runDisney medal winner/PizzaMania champion, has transformed into what many would consider the 9th Wonder of the Modern World (in terms of “people wonder why we keep writing it.”) The best rags-to-riches story this side of Cinderella, our monthly treks into Orlando’s Disney Outlet Stores have provided highs and lows (and then even more lows) in order to deliver you, Dear Reader, a glimpse into a world which very few have lived long enough to tell about. A sincere thank you to each and every one of you for taking the time to read this little article. Except Tom Bricker, of course.

Also, in an unbelievable gesture, we have been swamped with “congratulations” messages and telegrams from people around the globe and we’re going to print some of them here, so keep your eye out!

Now while all of you were saying goodbye to Dateline Disneyland (we’ll miss you Andy!) Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

As always we start off with any new Tsum Tsums and this month we only had one. I spent a couple seconds trying to figure out which Star Wars character it might be until realizing it was Black Widow from The Avengers. All Tsums have been reduced to $2.99.

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Black Widow Tsum Tsum, but doesn’t that look like a lightsaber on her side?!

This is interesting. Last month I made a slight “faux pas” and identified the Mother Gothel Tsum Tsum as MULAN. All of a sudden, for the first time ever, a TSUM TSUM GUIDE FOR DUMMIES appeared showing people who each Tsum Tsum was and what movie they were from. I’m not 100% sure you can all blame my accidental racism for this chart, but I’m also too old to believe in coincidences.

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Tsum Tsum For Dummies.

Speaking of things I don’t understand…

POKEMON AT THE DISNEY OUTLET STORE!

We wrote about Pokemon Go this week in the SATURDAY SIX (go ahead and read that masterpiece, don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back) and honestly, the game makes absolutely no sense to me. Then again neither did “on fleek,”  gluten free desserts, or Universal’s Straight Outta Food Truck. For those of you who do play Pokemon Go, you’ll be glad to know you can catch various Pokemon at the Disney Outlets!

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Pokemon Go! at the Disney Outlet Store. Reports are that people are going all around the globe to catch Pokemon but many are just catching the Zika virus. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

Was a little surprised to see these Magic Kingdom salt and pepper trashcans make their way to the Outlets. Originally $9.99, now $3.99 and I picked up the Frontierland and Fantasyland ones. This is one of those 50% bonkers/50% absolutely awesome items. Going to try to slip these into the rotation for our next dinner party and wait for one of my non-Disney neighbors to ask which garbage can has the salt.

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Would have paid extra for the “Talking Push” variant.

Pretty sure this is the first appearance of a SHELLIE MAY item at the Outlets. This pillow pet was originally $29.95, now $9.99 and yes, I bought one. My secret shame.

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WE WANT GELATONI ITEMS!!

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! June 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on June 30, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. We’re now officially into the Summer season here in Orlando and that usually means a whole bunch of new stuff  is available to satisfy the hordes of families coming from around the world. Universal soft opened its Skull Island: Reign of Kong  attraction. How to describe Kong? Well, think of your favorite family friendly attraction. Now think of what the complete opposite of that would be. However Skull Island wasn’t the only queue that brought grown adults to tears as Frozen Ever After officially opened in Epcot and had 300 minute waits. Now, 300 minutes doesn’t sound that bad until you work out how many hours that actually is. Five hours. FIVE HOURS.  In five hours you could fly from Orlando to Anaheim, start and almost finish a runDisney marathon, or build two meth labs at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

The new Frozen attraction wasn’t the only thing new at Epcot as the Royal Sommerhus meet and greet with Anna and Elsa opened with a wonderful tribute to Maelstrom, and we also had the new Soarin’ Around the World to replace the old Soarin’ Around Scratch Marks and Dust Bunnies. Many guests are raving about the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show at DHS, and SeaWorld opened the first ever hyper coaster in Orlando with Mako. With a staggering height of 200 feet and speeds up to 73 mph, you could ride Mako approximately 32,000 times while waiting in line for Frozen Ever After.

Now while all of you were reading the Shanghai Disneyland etiquette guide – reminding guests, among other things, not to use the landscaping as an outhouse – Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn yo

It has been a long time but new Tsum Tsums finally showed up, including these three from the Tangled line. Here are Maximus, Pascal, and Rapunzel.  All Tsums are $2.99 and I always buy one of each.

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Tangled Tsums.

Also new was this Mulan Tsum Tsum. EDIT: The comments section suggests this is Mother Gothel from Tangled, which much more sense

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Got me.

I was this close to buying this really long gator plush. At least I think it’s a gator. Originally $26.95, now $14.99.

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Reptile 2695 1499

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The Ghost Post Box: Part III

by on June 8, 2016

Welcome to part three of the Ghost Post mystery box series, reviewing the contents of Disney Merchandise’s Haunted Mansion puzzle subscription. To catch up with where we are, you’ll want to take a quick peek at Ghost Post Part 1 and Part 2.

The third Ghost Post box retains the now-familiar format. The only differences to the external carton are that this box is labeled for “N.E. Plott,” while the others were addressed to “M.T. Graves” and “I.M. Mortal,” and the back of the box had, as I predicted, a drawing of the roofline of the mansion, thus completing the picture.

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Opening the box, we agin see a few displayed artifacts and an envelope.

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