Observations

Observations From the Magic Kingdom – February 10, 2014

by on February 17, 2014

Hey, everyone! I have a ton of Magic Kingdom pictures for you today, so I’ll try to keep the commentary fairly short. I went to the Kingdom Monday for one of the first great weather days we’ve had in a while. It didn’t disappoint. I’ve been working on getting photos and stories at the parks lately that are hopefully either new to you or different perspectives on things you already love. So let’s see what’s been happening at the Magic Kingdom this week.

I started the day at the Grand Floridian to get some pictures of the (sort of) recently renovated pool area. This Alice In Wonderland themed splash pad is not only fun for kids, but is one of the funniest things on property to see when, after filling for several minutes, the Mad Hatter’s hat dumps a deluge down on the kids below. Even if they’re expecting it, it’s pretty funny.

Mad Hatter Pool

It was an absolutely fantastic day at Walt Disney World on Monday and was possibly a bit more crowded than usual because of it, but bag check took just a few seconds, and I was in.

DSC_0006

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: February 3, 2014 (Royal Pacific, Tchoup Chop, New Merchandise and more)

by on February 7, 2014

A lot is going on at the Universal Orlando Resort this year. Seth Kubersky wrote a great Complete Guide to Mardi Gras 2014 and continues to update us all on the upcoming Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley with his PotterWatch series of articles. The new Mexican restaurant Antojitos had its grand opening on February 5, and major work continues on CityWalk to get the other new restaurants up and running by summer. This past week I spent some time on property, and here’s a quick snapshot of what I experienced.

As a reminder, click on any picture to see it in full size.

CityWalkUpstair

Signage in CityWalk is going through a lot of changes. All references to Katie’s Candy Company, TCBY and Cigarz is gone. There are Antojitos signs popping up here and there, but still plenty of empty spots that will be filled down the road.

The temporary construction walls that are set up by the old Studio Store and Galaxy Bar are also now completely filled with posters teasing the upcoming revamped Studios Store, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Vivo Italian Kitchen, and CowFish.

The temporary Studio Store set up in CityWalk is always a ghost town when I’m there and has never had more than one other person in it during the times I visited. There was an employee standing outside, presumably to encourage people to come into the store. It can’t help that there is no Potter merchandise in the store, as all of that has been moved to separate stand in the middle of CityWalk.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

A Trip Around The World: Morocco

by on February 7, 2014

Welcome to our grand tour of Morocco in Epcot’s World Showcase! I can’t believe we’ve already visited Mexico, Norway, ChinaGermany, Italy, America, and Japan! I will start off by saying Morocco was the most fun to research. It isn’t a land I really spend a lot of time in, and I loved stopping to really take a look around. I can’t wait to show you what I discovered! Let’s start with a nice scenic shot from the World Showcase Lagoon. The white building on the water is the new Spice Road Table restaurant!

1

When you first enter Morocco from Japan, you’ll see this beautiful sign. I can’t think of another land that has something so beautiful with the name of their country (or kingdom)! Maybe that’s because King Hassan II was actually involved with the creation of the pavilion. The government also sponsors the land rather than allowing corporate sponsors.

2

Next is the small stage where you can catch Mo’Rockin. This is a fun group that plays rock and roll music with an Arabian beat. Plus there’s a belly dancer! Sorry guys – I was there too early in the day to get those photos for you! ;)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Observations From Disneyland: January 27, 2014

by on January 28, 2014

DSC01758Hi, and welcome to another Observations post. Before I jump into my trip on January 27, I want to look back at the prior night. I mentioned previously that Fantasmic! is currently down for refurbishment, and because of that the Mark Twain Riverboat is running later than usual. Not only do you get to take some fantastic nighttime rides on the Mark Twain, but you can also view the fireworks from the boat when it is docked. It’s a great place to catch the fireworks and avoid the insanity of Main Street during fireworks time. And, I mean, come on, you’re on a giant steam boat watching fireworks. How cool is that?

DSC01760So if you see a Disney blogger sitting quietly on the Mark Twain at night, it’s probably me.

More pictures after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

A Trip Around The World: Japan

by on January 24, 2014

It’s hard to believe we’ve already passed the halfway mark on our world tour! For those keeping track at home, we’ve visited: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, and America. Next up is the beautiful land of Japan. I always like to begin with a striking image, so I’ll start with the large Torii Gate that marks the pavilion on the World Showcase Lagoon. This bright red arch is visible from all around the lagoon, and it’s the prettiest thing on the water (especially at sunset).

2

But really when you walk into Japan from America, the first thing you’ll see is the tiny Kabuki Cafe. It’s the little building on the left in the photo below. Don’t be fooled by the size – there is a whole lot of awesome in this little package. Not only are there sushi, ice cream, and beer (which are all excellent separately, but we don’t recommend them together) – there is also kakigori!! “What is kakigori?” you ask? It’s shaved ice with with sweet, fruity flavoring added. This is one of my favorite treats on a hot summer night, and at only $3.75 it won’t break the bank.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Observations From Animal Kingdom: January 18, 2014

by on January 22, 2014

This weekend I went over to Animal Kingdom to test FastPass+ and to check out the former site of Camp Minnie-Mickey. I thought you guys would like to come with me! Saturday was very cold by Florida standards! The high was only 57 degrees, so I was thankful afternoon FastPass+ slots were available for Kilimanjaro Safaris. I secured our 3:40 – 4:40 time slot. Since all FastPass+ reservations come in trios, I was also assigned FastPass+ to meet Mickey and to see Finding Nemo – The Musical. Upon arriving at 2:30pm I discovered parking attendants weren’t even directing cars where to park! This suggested that crowds would be manageable. Here is what it looked like walking in:

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Observations Special Edition: Pop-Up Meet and Greet at Epcot

by on January 21, 2014

Hey everyone! I wanted to bring you a special edition of Observations today. It’s a little departure from the photos of crowds and food and things that I usually take because I’ve been working on ways to show you the parks that mix it up so you don’t fall asleep  ”walking” with me through Hollywood Studios or World Showcase. I went to Epcot yesterday to do some recon on a new restaurant and a couple of other menu-type things. I like getting pictures of characters, and I know that every once in a while a princess or a pixie will show up outside the large gate between the United Kingdom Pavilion and the Canada Pavilion in World Showcase.

You know. This gate.

You know. This gate.

I strolled by around 11, but there wasn’t anything going on. I hit Fountain View for a latte (see the menu) and made my way back, and, as I was passing an again-empty walkway, I heard someone talking from behind the gate. Just past the merchandise cart there’s a little break in the shrubbery, and you can actually see into the courtyard behind. Lo and behold, there was a cast member talking to either a very tall man with a hair shirt or Br’er Bear. Deciding it was less disturbing to assume it was the bear, I planted myself directly in front of the gate to see just what was up.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

My First Walt Disney World Annual Passholder FastPass+ Experience

by on January 20, 2014

Based on how much this blog has covered the ongoing FastPass+ rollout at Walt Disney World over the past year or two, you might assume every member of the Touring Plans team already has enough MagicBands to decorate their Christmas tree (I’m looking at you, Morgan Crutchfield). But since I haven’t stayed in a Walt Disney World on-site hotel since before the MyMagic+ program began, I’ve been excluded…until now. As we reported, Animal Kingdom went FastPass+-only late last year, followed by the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday, January 14, and the rest of the parks will remove their paper legacy FASTPASS machines shortly. Now that the FastPass+ service has been opened to all guests, this acknowledged sceptic took the plunge with my first Annual Passholder FastPass+ experience.

Animal Kingdom

To be precise, my first FastPass+ adventure was an incomplete attempt that was unfair to judge the service by. Earlier in January, I tried using the service on one of the first days it was offered to off-site guests by visiting the kiosks outside Disney Outfitters on Discovery Island.

There was no wait, and a friendly cast member assisted me in using the touchscreen computer to enter my information and select three attractions.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

A Trip Around The World: America

by on January 17, 2014

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:

0

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Observations from the Magic Kingdom: January 7, 2014

by on January 14, 2014

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?

IMG_6587

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest