Hello! And welcome to the halfway point on our tour around the world! Can you believe we’ve already visited Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, and Italy? Today we’re bringing you the best pavilion around the World Showcase Lagoon – the U.S.A! And what a lovely pavilion it is:
When entering the USA from Italy, the first thing you will see is coffee and donuts. While I can’t start my day without a cup of joe, I have to point out the irony in this.
I know there are relative degrees of chill. And of course I know that a cold that freezes a Super Soaker stream before it hits the ground is much worse than the thirty and forty degree temperatures that crept into Florida on this day. But, when you’ve spent the last nine months sweating in places you didn’t know you owned, a sudden plummet to the low 40′s feels pretty frigid. It’s been a long time since I experience a Kingdom Cold Snap, so I decided to find out whether or not anything different happens at Walt Disney World (besides water park closures) when the mercury drops.
First things first, a very (very!) important announcement. I don’t often throw a selfie into a blog post, but this is pretty major. Anyone notice what’s NOT in the background behind me?
I started off Monday with a ride on the Greatest Disney Attraction of All Time, the Omnibus! You can see the crowds on Main Street were thin; that’s because Disneyland is currently enjoying a bit of an off season. Unfortunately, the light crowds won’t last long, because the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is coming up this weekend.
Riding on the top level of the Omnibus gives you some great views of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Today is historically one of my favorite days to go to the Magic Kingdom. While thousands of people are running the marathon, the parks find themselves in a bit of a transportation disaster. The runners clog major roadways, and cleanup efforts add an extra delay. This means that if you get there early, you beat the crowd in a big way. Folks just can’t get in as quickly as on a normal day! Add to that the fact that the huge “Let the Magic Begin” banner has been removed from the train station, and you are talking about some serious magic today!
Now, the banner being removed isn’t really news. Everyone has been buzzing about that! But have you see the Welcome Show with our lovely, new, banner free view? I decided to take video for you guys this morning! Remember, my “channel” is pretty much just for blog linking. All the cool kids are subscribed to the TouringPlans Channel!
Ciao and welcome to Italy! Can you believe we’ve already been to Mexico, Norway, China, and Germany? We’re almost halfway through our tour, and the scenery just keep getting more beautiful! Today, we start with a very wide angle view showing the pavilion that is modeled mostly after Venice, more specifically Saint Mark’s Square. The first building on the left is Palazzo Ducale.
On the right hand side when entering this land you can see gondolas, rivers, and bridges. These make a lovely photo spot during the day and an incredible spot for the fireworks at night, if you can swing it.
If youâ€™d asked me a week ago what my plans were for New Yearâ€™s Eve, I would have told you that weâ€™d decided to stay in for a quiet night on the couch. Weâ€™d been in the parks the last several years, and my hubby had asked for a year off. Iâ€™m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was when on December 30Â he declared we were going to Epcot because we hadnâ€™t been there to ring in the New Year in ages! I thought I would take you guys with me to see what it’s really like to celebrate at Disney!
For starters, we certainly didnâ€™t follow my ultimate plan. We left our house at 6pm and did not hit a bit of traffic until we got through Epcotâ€™s gates.
I’ve never participated in the running of the bulls in Spain, nor rung in the New Year in New York’s Times Square, because I don’t need to: I’ve been engulfed by the Christmas week crowd in Orlando’s theme parks. In the spirit of “taking one for the team,” I took on the challenge of visiting Universal Orlando Resort’sIslands of Adventure on two of the busiest days of the year — Christmas Eve (December 24, 2013) and the Friday after Christmas (December 27, 2013) — to give you idea of what guests face during 8 to 10 days on our crowd index.
We maintain our Crowd Calendar to help you avoid days like these, and Tourimg Plans to help you navigate should you be meshuggenah enough to ignore the following photos. These Islands of Adventure Christmas week crowd photos should also serve as great advertisement for the unlimited Universal Express access included with an on-site hotel room. And remember, these mob scenes are just a hint of hordes certain to swarm when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley opens at Universal Studios Florida next summer.
Christmas Eve (12/24/2013)
We’ll start with my mid-afternoon stroll around Islands of Adventure on Christmas Eve:
Wait times are substantial with Forbidden Journey posted at 100 minutes.
Guy here again with another Observations post. December 23 was a rarity for me: I spent all day in Disneyland/DCA (8 AM until 12 AM). I like to spend a full day in the park at least once a year. It gives me the opportunity to test out our optimizer and submit plenty of wait times to our Lines app. Plus, I had a friend in town making his once-a-year visit. This gave me the chance to tour like a tourist instead of a local (this means actually riding rides).
Our first task of the morning was to grab FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers over in DCA. We arrived at the front gate at 7:25 and got through the turnstiles in less than 5 minutes. After entering the park we made our way to the FASTPASS line, which at this point was surprisingly short considering the park was only 30 minutes away from opening. By the time my friend and I got in line, it was only back to Carthay Circle Restaurant.
Today we’re taking a look at Germany on our next stop around the World Showcase. If you’re just joining us, you might want to visit Mexico, Norway, and China first. I’m sure a few people will catch that I omitted the Adventure Outpost area in between China and Germany. I really don’t understand what it is other than some drums and an ice cream stand. I don’t think it’s a great tribute to any land – so I left it out! Once you’re past this confused little area you’ll start heading into what looks like a storybook, starting with Snow White’s Wishing Well.
This week Universal NOW‘s Brandon Glover and I went to the Universal Orlando Resort to experience Grinchmas and see the latest construction work at CityWalk and Universal Studios Florida. We also wanted to see the Blues Brothers Holiday Show. We had heard a lot of great things about this show and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. Spoiler Alert: it does, but more on that later. Lastly, we were determined to finally go into NBA City and check out the legendary Towering Cheesecake dessert.
Our first stop was the upcoming Mexican restaurant Antojitos. Â Earlier this month,Â Morgan CrutchfieldÂ was at the Universal press event that detailed the upcoming dining venues including Antojitos. Her writeup of the event details all the upcoming restaurants in the massive CityWalk renovation, including concept art for each.
Antojitos, the former home of Latin Quarter
The above picture was taken on a Friday and the one below was taken on Sunday. Universal is using a lot of color on the outside of this restaurant. I personally don’t like it. The overuse of color is perfect in Seuss Landing, but – to me – just seems out of place in CityWalk. Â I think the front of this restaurant looks gorgeousÂ and all the wacky colors just take away from it. Maybe I’m alone on the island on that one though. I am looking forward to trying the restaurant out as I’m a huge fan of freshly made guacamole and quality Mexican food.