If you’ve spent any time wandering around Disney Springs in recent months (or have followed along with all the coverage here on TouringPlans), you’ve probably noticed just how many new restaurants were on the way in the newly-revamped Landing and entirely new Town Center sections. This past Sunday, several of those options opened to the public and of course, I had to give a few of these new locations a shot to offer some opening day first impressions. I couldn’t make it everywhere, but rest assured, we’ll cover them in the coming weeks and months to see if they are worth some time on your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation.
My first stop of the day was what’s sure to be one of the more popular additions to Disney Springs – D-Luxe Burger, located just across the springs behind Morimoto Asia, in the Town Center section. As with most dining locations on opening day, there was quite a line, but I was impressed at the efficiency of it all – I arrived in line around 11:30 AM and made it to a register in about 20 minutes. The menu here is pretty simple – your choice of six specialty burgers, a la carte sides of fries, various dipping sauces, and then a large beverage menu, including gelato shakes, floats, and several alcoholic options. All of the beef patty burgers are made with a signature blend of angus chuck, short rib, and brisket in-house (none of those frozen patties you see at Electric Umbrella here), and the fries are fresh-cut and take several days to prepare, start to finish. I was warned whilst in line that burgers are cooked “perfectly pink” per the chef’s recommendation by default, but you can request a more well-done patty if you so choose. I would caution those who prefer well-done burgers to be proactive here – I was fine with medium, but unlike other restaurants, I was not asked what temperature I wanted my burger when I ordered it; I would’ve had to have offered that information up myself.
Head under this majestic sign to enter the wild Magic Kingdom.
If you are planning your very first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort, I’m sure you’ve made lists of what attractions you want to see, what characters you want to meet, and I bet you even made those dining reservations the day you booked your trip, right? But despite all your planning and newly accumulated park knowledge, it’s still easy to make those Disney World Rookie mistakes. My goal today is to let you in on some tips and info that I wish I had known before my park visits to help your first time trip to Walt Disney World run smoothly. I’ve already covered What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot; and so for today, I’m tackling What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to Animal Kingdom!
Asia’s Maharajah Jungle Trek
It Is Meant To Be Explored & Discovered
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is all about the magic of nature and living things, and in staying true to that theme this park features a more organic design and encourages guests to explore. The Oasis–the entryway into the park–is quite a departure from the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. or Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Boulevard in that there’s no one way to reach the main part of the park and no visible icon pulling you down the pavement. Instead, The Oasis is thick, lush, and has a number of exhibits to enjoy at your own leisurely pace.
A resident of the Discovery Island Trails
Animal Kingdom also offers a number of wildlife trails throughout the park, such as the Discovery Island Trails and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Unlike centerpiece attractions or eye-catching shops, these trails somewhat blend in with the environment and may be missed if you’re not looking for them. Unlike shuffling through a line or seeing a choreographed show or effect, the trails are self-guided and can be enjoyed at a guest’s own pace. I also appreciate the little paths and hidden seating areas that lay off the beaten path throughout the Animal Kingdom Park and some of which offer spectacular views! So when you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, remember that this is a different kind of park that it’s meant to be explored and discovered.
With miles of walking, heat, and humidity, Walt Disney World is the kind of vacation that you need to get some rest to enjoy. The paradox has always been that to get the most for your money, you’ve got to arrive early and stay late.
Now, with the Animal Kingdom’s longer evening hours and Hollywood Studios’ construction closures, it’s possible to sleep in and still see everything in those parks in one day. That means you can alternate full days in Epcot and the Magic Kingdom with relaxed, late starts at the others – even on short trips. A sample 4-day, long weekend might look like this:
Full day at Magic Kingdom
Sleep late and visit the Studios or Animal Kingdom
Full day at Epcot
Sleep late and visit the park you’ve not yet seen
The key to those sleep-in days is setting up a touring plan with the right FastPass+ choices and times. To get you started, we’ve created new late-start touring plans for the Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios below.
Seth Kubersky and I have tested versions of these plans in the parks already, with different combinations of FastPass reservations. Let us know how they work for you.
Remember a couple of months ago when we released a three part series on Disney’s FastPass+ service at Walt Disney World — how to use it, the best strategy for getting the most out of it, and then hacks and tips to make it even better? Well, Disney had to go and enhance the service, rendering some of our advice outdated. Well, consider it outdated no more. Read on to find out how these changes impact the process of making your picks, and the strategy to using the FastPass+ system!
Eleven months ago (according to schedule), I was up bright and early and on the Disney Vacation Club website to secure a reservation for our family’s April vacation at our home resort, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. We love the serenity and atmosphere there as it gives us a beautiful setting to wind down before, between, or after touring the parks. And then it happened—DVC expansion! Like many other guests, a flood of questions entered my mind. Will this affect my stay, how noisy will it be, how close will it be, will I still enjoy one of my favorite resorts?
Scrims behind the main pool at Wilderness Lodge
Fast forward to our stay. The Wilderness Lodge lobby remains as beautiful as ever, and instantly I was “home.” No signs of construction there.
Wilderness Lodge lobby
As we made the walk from the lobby to the villas building, we were feeling very apprehensive. In fact, based on multiple reports that the construction had turned the entire back side of the villas facing the lake into a construction zone, we had put in a request for a villa on the front side of the building. But when we got Disney’s text with our room number, it was for a room directly facing the construction. Turns out, though, Disney had our backs. As we approached the villas, there it was—scaffolding covering the entrance and extending to the front side of the building!
We’ve updated our Lines mobile app to route you around unexpected ride breakdowns while you’re in the parks. If your Magic Kingdom touring plan calls for you to ride Space Mountain soon and Lines learns that Space Mountain is temporarily closed, upon optimization Lines will adjust your touring plan by moving Space Mountain to later in the day, after the time when Lines expects it to reopen.
This new feature keeps you one step ahead of the crowds by finding the best attractions to see now, and by knowing the best time to schedule a closed ride later in the day. It might also save you from walking across the park to find a closed ride.
The idea for this feature came from us testing our touring plan software. Three major ride breakdowns happened in the first few hours I was in the park. My work-around was to just skip those steps in the plan, but it would have been great if Lines detected the ride closures and re-did the plan for me automatically. Now Lines does that whenever I optimize my plan.
We’ve also added a new text field to Lines showing our estimate of when the ride might re-open.
Behind the Scenes
Once Lines learns that an attraction has gone offline, it has to estimate how long it’ll be until that ride re-opens. To help with this, we’ve been collecting data on temporary ride closures for the past few years.