Date:April 10, 2014 Crowd Level: 3 Weather: 77°F at 5 p.m. with no rain
It’s time for a walk around Epcot during the middle of what is Spring Break season down here. I actually started out in Future World this time around, which is kind of rare for me as I like to come in the back gate at the International Gateway. I took some shots of the entrance topiary, but instead of focusing on the characters I wanted to catch the riot of wildflowers around them. To my surprise, there are glass flowers intermingled with real flowers, and they’re fantastic! Here are a few shots.
The only two places to park in front of Downtown Disney itself and these are the lot by the Marketplace and way down the other end by Cirque du Soleil. Even at 10 AM, the sign leading to the Marketplace lot said it was “full,” so we parked down by Cirque du Soleil. This lack of parking is caused by the two parking garages Downtown Disney is in the process of building. Many people are hoping for these to be done by the holiday season of this year, but guest services said it wouldn’t be until early 2015. There is also parking across the street in which you can take a Disney shuttle to Downtown Disney.
Status of the parking garage closest to Cirque du Soleil
Hi, everyone! Glad you’re able to stop by for a look at the beautiful, sunny weather at Epcot on April 5, 2014! I have a lot to show you, including the new Muppets Scavenger Hunt that just started today. As always, I have lots of photos and video to share. If you were hoping for a look at the Flower & Garden Festival you can look here, this week is more about random fun in the park. Of course, this time of year you almost can’t take a photo without capturing some lovely flowers. So why don’t we start there?
Pretty, aren’t they? But just so you don’t miss the full experience, I grabbed a few seconds of the tram ride in. Doesn’t it feel like you’re really there?
Despite the overcast skies, Sunday, March 23, was a beautiful day to visit Epcot. But it wasn’t the first park I tried that day. At 8:30am I was rolling up to the parking plaza for Magic Kingdom, but it looked more like a parking lot. The crowds were unreal, with bumper to bumper traffic several lanes deep. I chose to stay in the left lane and head straight for the exit with my fingers crossed crowds would be more manageable at Epcot. Luckily, they were, and I have lots of fun to share! For starters, check out these flower beds!
But, I’m getting ahead of myself! I took several photos of the deep lines at bag check and entrance gates. I’m guessing those aren’t as fun to look at as the topiaries at the park entrance. Sorry for the odd angle, but this was just mobbed with folks taking photos! (Don’t worry – there are lots more coming!)
There’s so much going on in the Magic Kingdom right now that I’ll just jump right in. You may have heard about the Festival of Fantasy Parade that started on March 9. And it’s so spectacular that I gave it a whole post here. Take some time to give it a read if you’re coming for FOF in the near future, or just look at the pictures if you can’t get to World any time soon.
Recently, Disney announced that it was starting major a major revamp of the “hub,” the Magic Kingdom’s center section, so that the park would better handle crowds during peak season, parades, and fireworks shows. Construction has already begun, and if you’re coming to the Kingdom in the next year, be ready to see a park very different from the one you may be used to. First, you’re going to notice cranes (sometimes up to three at once) and the refurbishment going on at the castle.
Wow – it’s been a while since we’ve been time traveling, hasn’t it? Finally, the other day, while I was walking through Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I felt the past calling out from The American Idol Experience. I remembered the other two great shows that lived there before and wanted to share them with you. Before we get started, it’s a good idea to point out that these are mostly my memories. I do tend to prefer the sugary sweet things in life, and I fondly remember my past at Disney. If you remember it differently, please leave your comments below! I’d love to hear what everyone else thought about these old shows.
If you stepped into a time machine and traveled back to March of 1999, you’d find Doug Live! performed several times a day in this theater. I’ve heard the show described as “nightmarish,” but it was one of my all time favorites. Doug was a Nickelodeon cartoon until Disney purchased the show’s production company in 1996. The cartoon hit the air waves in 1991 and focused on a young, awkward teenage boy and his dog. That was right around the time I was a young, awkward, not quite teenage girl with a cat. You can see how I became a fan! The stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was energetic, bright, and full of memorable situations from the cartoon. At the beginning of each show, a host would come out and select adults to perform later in the show as Doug’s favorite band, The Beets. Two seats were reserved in the front row for the actors to sit in during the “concert”. The show was staged in a very creative way, and huge projection walls were used to transport you through the story. If you never saw this show, it’s easy to find on YouTube. It’s worth taking a look at this very short-lived piece of Disney history. Doug Live! closed abruptly in May of 2001, leaving this theater vacant for nearly eight years. I heard several rumors as to why it closed with short notice, but I’m not sure any of them are credible. In any case, this is a show I still miss and hope many of you had a chance to enjoy!
I spent all of last week in Walt Disney World with Unofficial Guide author Bob Sehlinger, using FastPass+, listening to questions that guests asked to Cast Members, and seeing how guests used the new FastPass+ kiosks and lines.
One thing we noticed was that FastPass+ lines could grow quickly at an attraction, if even the simplest thing went wrong at the front of the FastPass+ line. Because we’re geeks, we tried to identify both the root cause of the problems, and their solutions.
We think that Disney can reduce guests’ waits at FastPass+ lines through a few simple operational changes. Here’s our list of suggestions.
1. Build a Recovery Zone Next to Each FastPass+ Entrance
The main reason for long FastPass+ return lines is that the guests at the very front of the line don’t have valid FastPass+ reservations. During our trip last week, this happened every 1 or 2 minutes, at every attraction, for a variety of reasons:
Guests arriving outside of their FP+ window
Guests not having a FP+ reservation for that attraction
Guest not understanding how FP+ works
These issues are compounded if the guests don’t speak English.
Maybe the most common FastPass+ issue we saw was guests arriving too early for their FastPass+ reservations. Unlike paper FASTPASSes, MagicBands don’t have a way to display your return time, and checking the My Disney Experience app is a lot of effort. As a result, many guests just scan their MagicBands to see if they work.
If the MagicBands don’t work, a Cast Member has to figure out the problem, explain it to the Guests, and provide a resolution (let’s call this the Recovery Process, “Recovery” for short). This stops the entire FastPass+ line dead, because the Guests are still standing right in front of the FastPass+ readers while the CM is doing Recovery. Here’s a diagram showing the problem at Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland:
(Clearly, my drawing aptitude is giving my singing skills a run for their money.)
This is it! The grand finale we’ve all been waiting for, Canada! I have to tell you guys I’m a little sad to see it end, but I’m so excited to show you the Canada pavilion! If you haven’t been able to join us until now, why not take a look at Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, and the United Kingdom? You can take a world tour and still be home in time for dinner! (Anyone who caught that obscure Muppets reference, please leave a comment. We should really be best friends.)
I always like to start with a wide shot of the land, but if you were leaving the United Kingdom and heading towards Canada, the view wouldn’t be quite so glamorous. You’d come to the park entrance to the old Millennium Village. This area hasn’t been open to the average guest since 2001, and it’s now used mostly for convention space and private events. The photo below gives you a peek at what it looks like inside today.
Greetings from the United Kingdom! Can you believe we’ve already toured Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, and France? We’ve almost seen the entire World Showcase, with only two stops left on our world tour. If you recall when we left off in France we were crossing a long bridge. At the end of this bridge you have two choices. You can head towards your right into the United Kingdom, which will look like the below photo.
If you turn left, you’ll head towards the International Gateway, which exits the park towards the Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, Dolphin, and BoardWalk resorts. This makes it an easy walk to Beaches & Cream, which is one of the most fun restaurants on all of Disney property. (Seriously – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click that link. You don’t want to miss this place! Okay – now back to our regularly scheduled world tour.)
Bonjour, mes amours – and welcome to France! I hope you’re ready for one of the most beautiful lands around the entire World Showcase. The day I went for photos was just perfect. The weather was crisp and sunny and the crowds weren’t too bad. I could almost hear the soft music from France before I crossed over from Morocco. When coming from this direction the first thing you will see on your left is Les Chefs de France. I haven’t eaten here in ages! Does anyone love it or hate it? I’d love to hear in the comments below.