Trip Planning

Street Performers at Disney Hollywood Studios

by on October 16, 2014

Visiting Hollywood Studios but not a fan of the amusement rides? I’ve got a solution for you: Live actors mingling with guests throughout the park. Yes, walking (and even driving) about; interacting with you. We make it a point every visit to seek them out and enjoy their shenanigans, um I mean, their shows.

Just your average Citizen. - Courtesy of Disney

Just your average Citizen. – Courtesy of Disney

The Citizens of Hollywood

The Citizens of Hollywood, or Streetmosphere characters as they are otherwise known, are characters that perform every day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can usually find them on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. The characters range from aspiring actors to directors and even to police officers. They perform a variety of skits that generally have us rolling with laughter and are a great source of family-friendly entertainment. The skits are always different because the crowd they are interacting with constantly changes.

A Brief History:     Streetmosphere has been a part of Hollywood Studios since its opening day in May 1989. The entire idea of Streetmosphere was created by C. McNair Wilson, who would later become an Imagineer at Disney. Wilson was one of the directors of a street theater company, SAK Theatre, which performed at renaissance festivals throughout the country. In 1982 Disney Imagineers asked the group to perform in the Italy pavilion in Epcot. They were quickly extended to performing in the United Kingdom pavilion and then Future World. By 1985, they were performing 45 shows-a-day in Epcot in four different locations. That year they were brought into the plans for the upcoming Hollywood Studios Park as part of the planned 2-hour Backstage Tour show. Once Disney decided to go in another direction, Wilson still was inspired to make SAK part of this expansion. Wilson presented a collection of 40 characters that would make the guests feel like they were actually in Hollywood. The Disney executives were won over and presented Wilson with a budget for 23 characters.

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This Ain’t Disney World! – Planning a First Visit to Universal Orlando

by on October 15, 2014

The scenery may be beautiful, but the line is VERY long.

The scenery may be beautiful, but the line is VERY long.

On our first visit to ‘the other Orlando park,’ my oldest daughter and I attended a viewing of Universal’s Horror Make-up Show. During the show, the volunteer, a nice woman ended up covered in red-dyed corn syrup. The hosts threw a towel out to the woman and called after, “That’ll be $14.50!” We all laughed, but knew it wasn’t exactly distant from the truth. Certainly, we knew most of the major differences between Disney World and Universal Studios. We weren’t, however, expecting to encounter such a myriad of differences between the two parks. Hopefully, some quick research, a planned touring plans itinerary, and this article can help you get a quick overview of what to expect at your first visit to Universal Orlando Resort.

The parks are over a small area. Really small. If you could walk through a few buildings, you could easily get back and forth between the parks. We could see Dr. Doom from our window at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. You can also take Hogwart’s Express between the two parks at any time, too. I’d avoid going during the surge of the middle of the day, but make certain to go both directions, so board at Hogsmeade Station, as well. Each ride is a bit different. The walk wasn’t quick, but it was awfully close.

Don’t, however, mistake close for convenient. I could see the park, but our walk to the entrance was about fifteen minutes each day along a winding path that seemed to close back over itself. We ended up walking to and from the parks every day, but getting through Universal can’t always be done quickly.

The queue and exit line for every ride can be pretty long, if they are needed or not. The line to get onto Dragon Challenge at Islands of Adventure is filled with beautiful pieces, the Triwizard Cup, banners for each champion, and VERY few people. Most of the occasions we were on the ride, it was essentially a walk-on. The theming was much better than I had expected, but the walk was LONG. The wait may have been longer for Flight of the Hippogriff than it was for Dragon Challenge. The queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was long, as well. It was filled with stations throughout Hogwarts, talking paintings, and myriads of setup. Perhaps the rides were purposefully trying to delay our boarding, but on multiple occasions, I wondered why I STILL had to walk through tons of labyrinthian mazes to get on the Seuss High in the Sky Trolley ride. The exit for Ripsaw Falls, I felt like I had mistakenly gotten back in line for another ride. Even the pathway between our hotel and Islands of Adventure I felt like it had carved out a purposefully winding path to throw off our pace. Each day, my pedometer on my iphone killed its battery. I never had an accurate step count, but I was well above 15,000 steps.

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A Guide to Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating: Epcot

by on October 14, 2014

t_logo_fbWe recently brought you guides to the ride and attraction seating situation at the Magic Kingdom and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Next up is our guide to the attraction seating at Epcot.

Keep those hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times …

FUTURE WORLD

Captain EO, Imagination Pavilion

  • Seating capacity per row: Several dozen.
  • Seating capacity per vehicle: NA. Show-style attraction. More than 100 guests per show.
  • Seating surface: Lightly padded chair with armrest.
  • Safety restraints: None
  • Boarding procedure: Walk into theater
  • Height requirement: None
  • Notes: Wheelchair and ECV users may ride directly into the theater. Some of the special effects can only be experienced when seated in the attraction chairs. Guests wanting the full attraction experience may want to transfer to the standard seating if possible.

IMG_8329

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Disney World Planning Challenges: Managing Your Disney Morning

by on October 14, 2014

t_logo_fbTime is precious on any vacation, and a Disney World vacation in particular can create the feeling that time is passing at a far quicker pace than in everyday life. With so much Disney fun waiting each day (and the feeling that time flies at the World unlikely to abate), who wants to spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning. Whether your goal is to be at the parks at opening or to eke out a bit more sleep before you start your day, getting up and out of your room efficiently will help maximize your vacation time. And the rewards for your efforts can be significant.

Whether you need to get your entire family up and out the door or just yourself, there are several steps you can take to smooth the morning routine. These steps will not only save time but make the morning (and the people getting ready) more relaxed so that you can leave the room happy, stress-free, and ready for fun. This article highlights specific tips for your morning as well as TouringPlans tools and information that can extend the benefits of a calm morning to the rest of your day.

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A Guide to Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by on October 6, 2014

t_logo_fbWe recently brought you a guide to the ride and attraction seating situation at the Magic Kingdom. Next up is our guide to the attraction seating at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Buckle up …

Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage

  • Seating capacity per row: Several dozen
  • Seating capacity per vehicle: NA. Show-style attraction. More than 100 guests per show.
  • Seating surface: Metal bench with back
  • Safety restraints: None
  • Boarding procedure: Walk into theater
  • Height requirement: None
  • Note 1: Wheelchair and ECV users may ride directly into the theater.
  • Note 2: This theater is outdoors. It is shaded, but it may be hot during summer months and is occasionally impacted by severe weather.

IMG_7989

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Friday Face Off – Universal Orlando Water Rides

by on October 3, 2014

Splash Mountain Exhilaration

Splash Mountain Exhilaration

When touring through any amusement park, but especially on a hot day, jumping into the line of a water ride can be a refreshing way to exhilarate the senses, cool down, and experience a different ride, too. For the seasoned Disney World guest, it’s easy to take a ride on Splash Mountain, Kali River Rapids, or just let the kids run and splash through the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station. Making the transition to Universal Orlando‘s water rides brings a great variety, too. But before hopping onto one of the rides, make certain you know exactly what the ride will bring to your family. As we experienced, the Universal Orlando water rides bring quite a few surprises.

Universal Orlando created itself, I think, as either a great complement to a visit to Disney World, or a unique alternative to Disney World. This certainly extends to Universal Orlando water rides. While natural comparisons can be drawn between the two resorts and their water rides, Universal offers a completely different experience. I’ll assume that if you’re reading this article, you have some familiarity with Disney’s rides but less experience at Universal.

The most natural comparison between the two parks is probably Splash Mountain to Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Both are very good rides, in their own right. Both capture a relatively obscure cartoon and turn them into enjoyable water rides. They both tell a story that probably doesn’t make too much sense to many riders. Even after a few re-rides, I’d guess that most riders would have difficulty really telling the entirety of the story. Both are beautiful expansions of the traditional ‘log flume’ ride. Nearly any other amusement park would swoon to have a ride with even half the capability of either of these rides.

Splash Mountain, however, is an immersive wonderland. From start to finish, and throughout the ride queue, as well, guests transport themselves into the film – that most of us have probably never seen. The animatronic characters, immersive set-up, beautiful scenery, and music that plays throughout all transport riders into the scene. Outside of one or two moments, it infallibly works. The negative moments? When Brer Rabbit hops behind the fence and is re-set, he appears visible behind the fence. The climb up the last hill seems scantily populated. A few Brer Bear animatronic characters appear a bit bent at the fabric. And Brer Frog is not in the movie (not that anyone has seen it): he’s just a creation for the ride. But outside of my criticisms, the ride is nearly perfect, with two dips into water and one long dive at the end. Although the water explodes over the drop, most riders get wet but stay fairly dry, too.

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Best Video Games To Play Before Your Next Disney Vacation

by on September 26, 2014

Disney Infinity

Waiting for your next Disney vacation can be grueling. Especially when you get closer to the big day, it becomes almost impossible to focus on anything that isn’t magical and amazing and oh come on why isn’t it here yet? Utterly unbearable anticipation aside, I love the time right before a Disney vacation because it’s usually when I go back and revisit some of my favorite Disney things to remind me of the fun I’m about to have. If you’re reading this site, I’m sure this isn’t a novel concept to you. People watch classic Disney films, research any and all new additions to the parks and do countless other activities in preparation for their vacation. For me, I love to play certain video games that remind me of the Most Magical Place on Earth. For those of you that have the same passion for games, there are several that you can play that evoke the same mood and joy found within the Disney Parks. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite video games that you should try if you’re looking to get excited for your next Disney vacation.

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Disney Life Hacks: Five Things I Will Never Forget To Pack Again

by on September 25, 2014

t_logo_fbPacking for your Disney vacation doesn’t have to be a stressful part of your planning, and there are plenty of checklists to help you do it. You’ll usually remember to pack sunscreen, bathing suits, and toothbrushes, but what about the things that you might not have thought to put in your suitcase? Money-savers like ponchos and glow sticks from the discount store or gum (which isn’t sold anywhere on Disney property) are among the things most often suggested by Disney Parks veterans, but I’ve got five more things to pack for Disney World.

Trust me on this – it only takes one experience to learn the hard way! Here are a few of the things you shouldn’t leave your home without:

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A Guide to Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating: Magic Kingdom

by on September 23, 2014

t_logo_fbThe seating situation on Disney World rides and attractions is a cause for concern with many guests. Physical constraints, size, and family configuration are all reasons why you might have issues with the attraction seating. For example:

  • I’m a single parent with two small children, will I be separated from them on rides?
  • I’m a plus-sized person, can I fit into the ride vehicles without embarrassment?
  • My knees are bad, will I have to step up or down to get into the ride vehicles?
  • I’m in a wheelchair, do I have to transfer out of it to go on the rides?
  • I have a large party, how will we be split up when visiting the attractions?
  • I have balance issues, will the attraction vehicle be moving while I’m trying to board?

To answer these questions and more, here’s a photo guide to all the vehicle and attraction seating at Walt Disney World. Pull down on that lap bar, we’re going for a ride…

MAIN STREET USA

Walt Disney World Railroad

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Menu Monday: Animal Kingdom Beer Oases

by on September 22, 2014

Tusker Beer at the Dawa BarThe beer situation in the Animal Kingdom is rough. They seem to be cognizant of this, since they recently added several “beer carts” along the paths in Asia (near Everest and on the way to DinoLand U.S.A.). Indeed, the rising demand for good beer seems to be causing a bit of a branding crisis for the park. Ubiquitous is the Safari Amber ($6.95), which Cast Members will tell you is specially brewed for the Animal Kingdom. That’s a little bit of a stretch: it’s actually specially *branded* for the park. You know the “Red” or “Amber” beer that seems to appear in restaurants that only sell Bud and Bud Lite, but has some cute name that directly references the tacky ambiance of wherever you are? This is the selfsame brew, and will taste exactly like Kingdom Red Ale in the Kansas City Chief’s stadium, or Ray’s Red at Tropicana Field in Tampa, or Thirsty Frog Red Ale “brewed exclusively for Carnival Cruise Lines.” If you’ve had one of these mystery “Red Ales” before, you’ve had the mediocre Safari Amber.

I’d like to go though each land of Animal Kingdom like I did for Epcot, reviewing spots and providing rankings for each experience, but it’s just not possible here. You will be looking for an Oasis, not wandering through a verdant field of hops. With that in mind …

Dawa Bar

Located in Africa, right outside Tusker House. The bar represents a microcosm of the Animal Kingdom experience. The selection is sparse and lacks air conditioning but is none-the-less pleasant and entertaining.

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