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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on July 9, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. While we looked at Animal Kingdom last week, today we’re going to turn our gaze over to the park which many insiders agree was created solely as a preemptive strike against the upcoming Universal Studios Florida, the one and only Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (photo by Brian Carey)

Right now Hollywood Studios is in the middle of a transition stage, as two mammoth properties in Star Wars and Pixar’s Toy Story have begun their major expansion inside the park. However, Hollywood Studios still contains some of the most unique dining experiences in any Disney park, amazing streetmosphere, several of WDW’s most thrilling attractions, and two of the best nighttime spectaculars in Florida. In short, we love Hollywood Studios. But what do we love most about this park? Well, sit back, grab a carrot cake cookie , and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – The Citizens of Hollywood

The dedication plaque for Hollywood Studios (originally known as Disney-MGM Studios) includes a line from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner that reads: “We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.” The dedication also refers to the park channeling classic Hollywood as a state of mind, rather than trying to pinpoint a specific time and place. Nowhere is this more evident than the incredible Citizens of Hollywood who roam the thoroughfare of the park. Completely committed to their particular character, the Citizens of Hollywood are an improvisational comedy troupe who have a lot of fun with guests and every interaction is unique. You’ll find policemen writing tickets, aspiring starlets auditioning for their big role, maintenance crews stumbling around a job, and much more. The Citizens, along with the evocative theming of both Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, combine to wonderfully recreate the Tinseltown none of us ever knew but always imagined. Quality streetsmosphere such as the Dapper Dans at the Magic Kingdom or The Citizens in Hollywood Studios separate Disney from all their competitors, as no one else can even approach this high level of show.

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Citizen of Hollywood, Evie Starlight. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Ben Appetit and Dara Vamp. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Dining values at Walt Disney World

by on July 5, 2016

As much as we all enjoy eating at Walt Disney World, you can find yourself feeling sticker shock when the wait staff brings your bill (unless you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, where the sticker shock comes well before your trip).

But, don’t fret. I’m here to help and to tell you that, yes, dining values can still be found on Disney property. Here are a few of my picks for great meals, snacks and drinks on a budget. This doesn’t mean that these are necessarily the least expensive items, but rather the best items and experience for the price. If you’re on the dining plan, you’ll likely want to go for the most expensive item you can get with your credit, but if you’re paying out-of-pocket for food, this list is for you.

Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your picks for dining values.

Table Service Appetizer: Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments at Sanaa, $13.99

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

Sanaa Bread Service with all 9 Accompaniments

This one lives up to its reputation as a unique, filling appetizer that will satisfy multiple people. First, Sanaa, the table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village, is an outstanding value overall with unique cuisine, beautiful decor and animals wandering just outside the restaurant. The bread service is simple in concept, but complex in flavor. You get a variety of freshly made naan bread to enjoy with dipping sauces arranged in order of spiciness. One version of the bread service comes with three sauces, but we recommend getting the full nine, which is a mere $2.50 upcharge. This is also one dish where the restaurant actually increased the portion. In 2014, when the photo above was taken, we were given three pieces of naan, but when we returned a year later, it came with five pieces of naan, which makes this an appetizer that can be comfortably shared among a table of four.

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

by on April 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. Because the last day of April this year ends on a Saturday, the rarest of all birds at the TouringPlans blog can be seen: a daily double of the SATURDAY SIX and the Outlet Report! This week’s SATURDAY SIX is on the Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise TV show is one Your Humble Author has wanted to write for a long, loooooong time, so I hope you enjoy it.

So what happened in the theme park world this past month? Disney started the After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom and sold so few tickets that the movie Mars Needs Moms was heard laughing. Disney has already cut the price of After Hours tickets in half for Annual Passholders and DVC members, and the party is a true value when compared to the $1700 photo shoot available out in Cars Land. Unfortunately The Earful Tower, one of my all time favorite WDW park icons, has made it’s way to the Disney Dump joining about out half of DHS. Goodbye Earful Tower, you will be missed, and we’ll see you later this year in our special In Memoriam article.

Now while all of you were out yelling at American Airlines’ gate agents about missing your Disney Cruise, 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).

The first item I’ve been waiting for ever since they showed up at the regular Disney stores just about two years ago. These hats where you look like you are wearing the carcass of a dead Disney character on your head are next level bananas. Apparently these bonkers hats are huge over at the Tokyo parks, but to be fair they also line up for hours just for popcorn. Popcorn!  To be be even more fair, if I were out there I’d be in line with them. Originally $21.95, these were reduced to $5.99 and you better believe I bought one.

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Goofy hat.

The next item also made my day. Disney has recently started putting out a line of t-shirts featuring these AMAZING Star Wars/Disney Attraction Poster mashups. They actually started selling these designs a while back on dog tags, but let’s get real, who buys dog tags? No offense to any weirdos out there, but that’s a weird thing to collect. A real dog tag for someone who served in the military? Couldn’t respect more. A dog tag featuring Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in a homage to the Haunted Mansion? That’s weird. However, now that the dog tags had their price in half I bought all three designs. There’s one more design featuring Luke’s Landspeeder in a mashup with an Autopia attraction poster, but that wasn’t available. Originally $19.95, reduced to $9.99.

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Given me a break, how FANTASTIC is that design using the space slug from Empire Strikes Back as MONSTRO?!

If you are dating a woman who doesn’t mind carrying around what looks like a decapitated head of an Ewok as her purse, PUT A RING ON THAT FINGER. Originally $60 (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!), reduced to “just” $29.99.

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Yub nub.

This is a first for me at the Outlets. One thing Disney sells in almost all of their resort gift shops are these large and colorful cookies featuring characters. They are cookies in only the most abstract version of the word. I actually use them as roof shingles. They are originally $5.95, but this one featuring Boba Fett was marked down to $1.99. I was there at almost 10 o’clock at night and the cashier said I was the first person who bought a cookie. Apparently word is out.

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“You want a cookie?!” – Chris Rock

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Purchasing DVC resale vs. direct: the new math

by on April 29, 2016

For anyone considering a purchase of a Disney Vacation Club contract, a major curveball was thrown when DVC changed the way that contracts bought on the resale market would be treated when it comes to membership perks.

As the email that went out to members read: “Now, effective April 4, 2016, Members who do not
purchase their ownership interest directly from Disney Vacation Club will not have access to other
Membership Extras, such as exclusive Member experiences and discounts. Please know that as a
current Disney Vacation Club Member (regardless of when or where you bought your membership),
your access to Disney Differences and these additional Membership Extras will not be affected by this
policy change.”

©Disney

©Disney

What that means is that anyone purchasing a DVC contract on the resale market will not have access to membership extras such as member parties and access to the Top of The World Lounge or the soon-to-be-open members lounge in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion. It also means new resale members won’t get the dining, merchandise and, most significantly, annual pass discounts current members enjoy.

So when you’re making the decision whether to purchase resale or direct, you’re going to have to factor in these changes. If you don’t plan on purchasing annual passes, the savings in the resale market are significant enough to continue to tilt in the favor of that option.

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

by on February 29, 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. February during a leap year, is there a better month on the calendar? We think not! Yes, Disney did introduce tiered pricing of tickets, but Your Humble Author did provide Tiered Payment Options. Thanks to the Disneyland 60 special (which surprisingly didn’t have much to do with Disneyland), we finally got some details on Star Wars Land. Speaking of Disneyland, it was rumored that DL guru Guy Selga immediately ripped up his annual pass after stepping through Hogsmeade Village during the Wizarding World’s soft openWe in Florida got news that the Dream Along With Mickey stage show, which ran for an amazingly long 68 years at the Magic Kingdom, is going to be replaced by Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire this summer. Just a whole bunch of win, and thanks to Leap Year we get an extra day to bask in it!

Now while all of you were out taking your kids to see Deadpool, 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, the newest Tsum Tsums to hit the store were from the Lilo and Stitch line, including this one featuring Lilo herself.

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Lilo Tsum Tsum.

A little backstory on this next one. Two years ago this very month, I was finally brave enough to do my first “live tweeting” from the main TouringPlans twitter account. Everything went well until I went to a gift shop in Tomorrowland and commented on a Pink Stitch plush. Apparently I’m the only human being on Earth who didn’t know that was Stitch’s girlfriend Angel. That may actually be the last day I live tweeted from the TouringPlans account as well. Anyway, here is the Pink Stitch Angel Tsum Tsum.

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Pink Stitch Tsum Tsum.

I teased it last month, but now it is finally time for the grand debut of my first ever…

TSUM TSUM UNBOXING VIDEO!

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The Basics: A Cost Analysis of the Disney World Dining Plan

by on February 26, 2016

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to find links to our other Basics posts.

The first thing to understand about the Disney World Dining Plan is the transformation it has undergone since its introduction in 2005. At one time, the promotional material for the dining plan emphasized value, trumpeting savings of up to 40 percent. Today, the emphasis is on convenience. That’s because the potential savings of the Dining Plan is very dependent on how you use it. In fact, it’s fairly easy to lose money on the Dining Plan.

Disney Dining PlanDuring its debut, the Standard Dining Plan cost about $35 per day for adults and $10 for children. For this price, visitors would get the familiar offering of one table-service meal, one counter-service meal and one snack. The big difference from the original offering to today is in the table-service meal, which no longer includes appetizer or gratuity in the cost.

And, of course, that cost has gone up markedly as well. In 2016, the price per day of the Standard Dining Plan is $61.82 per adult and $20.98 per child (tax included). In addition to the table-service meal, counter-service meal and single snack per day, guests using this plan will get a refillable drink mug, valid for the length of stay.

The other dining plan options include the Quick-Service Plan, which includes two counter-service meals and one snack per day, along with the refillable drink mug. Per day, this package will run you $42.84 for adults and $17.47 for children (tax included). Then there’s the Deluxe Dining Plan, which offers a choice of 3 table- or counter-service meals per day at any participating restaurant. In addition to the three meals a day, the plan also includes two snacks per day and a refillable drink mug. Both child and adult credits can be used for adult meals, if desired, on the Deluxe Dining Plan. The cost per day is $111.73 for adults and $32.56 for children (tax included).

Read on to find out where you can find value in the Dining Plan and where you can fall short.

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

by on January 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 new year has started off exactly where the old one left us: with Walt Disney World closing attractions. It has been a pretty cool month though, including a cool Star Wars runDisney race out in California (and Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to watch a great parody of Undercover Boss featuring Kylo Ren). Erin Foster took us inside Vanellope’s on the Disney Dream, and for those who don’t know, this is a complete Wreck-It-Ralph themed sweet shop (pinch us, we’re dreaming). And Guy Selga introduced us to Four Glorious New Ways to Kill Time at Disneyland, including the am I dreaming this, or is this real Jungle Cruise Skipper School. 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year.

Now while all of you were off taking your kids to see Donald Trump, 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).

The first item this month made my heart grow three sizes (after double checking, that enlargement of the heart was actually due to eating the Pop-Tart Sandwich at Pop Century). Behold the Luigi’s Flying Tires hat! Anyone who has visited the Disney Dump has seen the remnants of this attraction, which opened with the debut of Cars Land in the summer of 2012 and was already closed by the ending of February 2015. Believe it or not, despite only being open for only 976 days, Luigi’s doesn’t even rank in the Top Five of Short Lived Disney Attractions. Originally $24.95, this baby could be sitting on your head for just $6.99. VIVA LA DISNEY OUTLETS!

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After seeing this, I know how Indiana Jones felt seeing the Fertility Idol.  (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Tsum Tsums returned this month! However it was mostly the ones we have seen in the past (including all seven of the dwarfs), but one that was new was this crying duck. I had literally no idea who this was, but found out it was the Ugly Duckling from a quick scene in Lilo & Stitch. That’s what we call a deep dive, and I love it. I actually dropped Loot Crate this month and started up the Disney Tsum Tsum Monthly Subscription Program, so starting in February I too will annoy you with unboxing videos (although my last one didn’t go so well).

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Ugly Duckling Tsum.

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Ugly Duckling sequence from Lilo & Stitch.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! December 2015 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on December 31, 2015

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. In fact, with this edition of MMM Your Humble Author is completing the greatest month in the history of theme park blogging. In December we had the 25 Drinks of Christmas countdown (featuring the Nautilus at Grog Grotto, Deathly Hallows at WWOHP, Candy Apple Cotton-Tini at T-Rex Cafe and more), SATURDAY SIXES on the best souvenir cups at WDW along with Indiana Jones references in Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, our annual IN MEMORIAM – Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World, and the inaugural 12 Days of a Theme Park Christmas. Of course readers of this fine column will enjoy Six Gifts Santa Can Bring BACK to the North Pole (AKA The Best of the Disney Outlet Stores 2015)

Now while all of you were out buying the wrong gift for your loved ones, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the 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 are going to start off this month’s report with a story so uplifting that, if it was made into a movie, it could only star Kirk Cameron. When the Disney Outlet Store off of International Drive was shut down in June for a “refurbishment,” we were told it would be closed for three months and reopen in September. Well, September came and went and it still wasn’t open. October came and went and it still wasn’t open. November came and went and it still wasn’t open

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I made many trips past this closed Outlet Store during the Summer and Fall, not unlike Ralphie Parker hoping to find his Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring in the mail.

A funny thing happened in early December. I had bought tickets to go to a private event in Diagon Alley at the Universal Orlando Resort, which is close to the International Drive Outlets. I walked by the Disney Outlet, and found it still closed, but this time there was a sign on the door…

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Wait, is that a sign on the door?!

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Three Great New Walt Disney World Discounts Released Today

by on December 28, 2015

Save on your next Disney vacation

Save on your next Disney vacation ©Disney

Thanks to Sue Pisaturo at Small World Vacations for the heads up on these new Disney discounts.

Today, Disney announced three new specials that are available for travel to Walt Disney World for those traveling this winter/spring.

The first is the “Family Time Package Offer” where a family of four can enjoy a 5-Day/4-Night Walt Disney World Vacation for as low as $1,714.

This offer is available for stays for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights February 22 through March 3, 2016 and April 3 through May 26, 2016 at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. Additional great rates are also available for alternate lengths of stay, different resort hotels and party sizes for stays most nights February 22 through June 11, 2016.

Guests can book this offer between December 28 through February 28, 2016.

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