Unofficial Guide News

Disneyland’s Paint The Night Parade Review

by on June 17, 2015

How does Paint the Night stack up? Find out in this review from the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016 (Photos by Seth Kubersky).

It’s been nearly a month since Disneyland debuted its new Diamond Celebration nighttime entertainment, and by now several members of the Touring Plans team — including Seth Kubersky and Guy Selga — have had a chance to experience the new productions from multiple angles. Over the coming days, we’ll be sharing a preview of the new 60th Anniversary updates that we’re including in the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016. To start off, here is our newly released Paint The Night parade review:

Paint The Night

Author’s rating: 5 stars

Paint The Night Description and Comments

Disneyland’s newest nightly parade, Paint The Night (Author’s rating 5 stars) is patterned after the processional that debuted at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2014, and was duplicated (with a few new additions) as part Disneyland’s Diamond Anniversary entertainment additions. Inspired in part by the original Main Street Electrical Parade, these brand-new floats are covered in 1.5 million LEDs. Each float represents a classic Disney or Pixar film, as scenes from from Monsters Inc., Cars, Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and (wait for it…) Frozen are brought to life by a cast of over 75 performers, who bounce down the route to the upbeat soundtrack of Wreck-It Ralph’s “When Can I See You Again?” by pop artist Owl City (your kids will know who that is). Keep an ear out for musical nods to “Baroque Hoedown,” the old Electrical Parade’s synth-tastic theme song.

 

These super-bright displays go far beyond earlier nighttime pageants, and include character puppets with digitally animated faces, a tractor trailer full of floating 3-D designs, and a kinetic Sorcerer’s Apprentice sculpture whose twisting motion defies description.

In our opinion, Paint the Night is one of Disney’s best nighttime parades ever, and is not to be missed.

Paint The Night Viewing Tips

On nights with two scheduled Paint the Night parades, the first performance will start at ‘it’s a small world,’ travel past the west side of the Matterhorn, go clockwise around the Tomorrowland side of Central Plaza, head down Main Street, and then circle Town Square counter-clockwise. The second performance will begin at Town Square and run the route in the opposite direction. Most guests watch from the Central Plaza or from Main Street. The viewing area in front of ‘it’s a small world’ will fill up last so we recommend checking there if you need a spot. Keep in mind this is a new parade for the 60th Anniversary Celebration and has already proven very popular with guests. On busy days you may need to devote over 1 hour of time to make sure you secure a good spot for the parade.

 

The parade route will fill up will fill up a couple of hours early for the first showing, so we recommend grabbing a spot for the fireworks, and then immediately taking a spot for the second performance of Paint the Night. Any spot along the parade route will offer the same experience so you shouldn’t worry if you can’t see the parade on Main Street. And since all the floats and many of the puppets are exceedingly tall, you shouldn’t have to be seated right up front to have an excellent view.

 

Once the parade has started, count on gridlock all along the route, especially on Main Street. And since all the floats and many of the puppets are exceedingly tall, you shouldn’t have to be seated right up front to have an excellent view. Due to aggressive crowd control restrictions on the sidewalks, you’re best off entering or exiting the park via the backstage breezeways (if open) or Emporium shops.

 

If you can’t make it to see Paint The Night in person, enjoy this video of the complete show shot by Guy Selga:

 

 

What do you think of Paint The Night? Share your own review in the comments below!

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Go West, Magic Kingdom FastPass+ User

by on April 7, 2015

I’m working on an update to the Magic Kingdom chapter of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. A lot of it is fact-checking, which, in a book like the Guide, is a pretty big task. But it’s also a chance to find new ways to explain how the park is changing.

We do a section in the chapter that describes how FastPass+ affects traffic in the park. I adapted the latest standby wait data from our statisticians, to a map of the park. Here’s the result:

MK FastpassTraffic

Green attractions are those where standby waits are lower with FastPass+; orange attractions are those with higher average standby waits. So what FastPass+ is doing is moving people from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, to Adventureland and Liberty Square, maybe with a quick stop along the way.

If this was a map of migration patterns in the United States, we’d say people were leaving Newark and Philadelphia for Phoenix, Palm Springs, and Denver, by way of Louisville.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Updated Universal Orlando Content Now Online to Celebrate Upcoming Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando

by on March 16, 2015

I’ve written tens of thousands of sentences in the nearly 5 years I’ve been working for The Unofficial Guide and Touring Plans, but this one is the most exciting: The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, our first stand-alone guidebook dedicated to the home of Harry Potter, is on its way!

Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando

The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando is on its way! (Not to scale; book not shown actual size).

The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando is available now for pre-order, and is listed on Amazon.com with an August 11 release date. If you know The Unofficial Guides and Touring Plans from our Disney coverage, you may be wondering, “Why create a guide for Universal Orlando?” Well, as the author (along with co-authors Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa) of the new book, I’m glad you asked!

The short answer is that we listen to our readers, and we watch where people are spending their vacation time and dollars. Ever since the opening of the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, and especially since the debut of Diagon Alley in 2014, interest in and attendance at Universal Orlando has exploded. Every day, more and more Central Florida visitors are choosing Universal as their primary destination, or at making it a significant sideline.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Meet Unofficial Guide Authors in Celebration March 9 and 11

by on January 29, 2015

Event flyer

Event flyer

Authors of the Unofficial Guide series, including TouringPlans’ own Seth Kubersky, Laurel Stewart, and Len Testa will be at the West Osceola Library in Celebration, Florida, March 9 for a Q&A with aspiring writers. Bob Sehlinger (UG to WDW, Disneyland, WDW for Kids, and Las Vegas) and Liliane Opsomer (UG to WDW with Kids) will attend as well. Seth and Laurel will also be at a meet and greet at the library March 11. Both events are at 7PM. The library is at 305 Campus St., Celebration, FL 34747.

We look forward to seeing you!

 

 

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

New Color Companion to Walt Disney World Available!

by on November 20, 2014

2015ColorCompanionOur new edition of The Unofficial Guide Color Companion to Walt Disney World is out. This guidebook has more than 500 full-color photos of Disney’s rides, restaurants, and resorts. This edition’s updates feature all of the new Fantasyland attractions, such as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and new restaurants like Be Our Guest.

Some of my favorite new parts of the Color Companion are the theme park infographics. These two-page color spreads are like cheat sheets for visiting the parks. Tip #1 includes the park’s typical Extra Magic Hours schedule, plus the pros and cons of Morning and Evening Extra Magic Hours. Tip #2 shows which attractions benefit most from FastPass+ in each park. Tip #3 explains why it’s important to arrive early.

Tip #4 shows which attractions get crowded fastest, and which attractions to visit during the busy, middle part of the day. And Tip #5 shows you which attractions are likely to still have FastPass+ reservations on the day you’re visiting the park. This is the first time we’ve presented this information in print, and it’s super useful when trying to figure out where to use your 3 advance FastPass+ reservations. Big thanks to graphic artist Cassandra Poertner for coming up with these (that’s Cassandra and her daughter in the flying boat).

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

#TBT: EPCOT Center Touring Plan for Adults

by on September 4, 2014

Original Flavor Unofficial Guide

Original Flavor Unofficial Guide

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a day we jump into the Wayback Machine and look at the Walt Disney World that was. It’s 1985; when Epcot was still EPCOT Center and the year of the first edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.

Today we’re going to look at the first touring plan we published for EPCOT Center. This is taken directly from the first edition of the Guide. If you get too hot, you can always take a dip at River Country or take in some retail and dining therapy at Walt Disney World Village.

At this point, EPCOT Center had been open for 3 years. The old ticket books were a thing of the past, and guests used either a one-day ticket ($18) or a World Passport (what is now a multi-day park hopper, at $45 for three days) to enter the park. Wonders of Life wouldn’t be opened until 1989, and you’ll notice there’s no nighttime spectacular on the plan. In the book, there is a short mention of LaserPhonic Fantasy, which was performed on World Showcase Lagoon when the park was open late.

The Fife and Drum Corps and Voices of Liberty were at the American pavilion, but Canada boasted its own band, the Maple Leaf Brass.

If you were hungry, Le Cellier served up its food cafeteria style, and the Odyssey was still open to the public.

EPCOT Center One-Day Touring Plan for Adults

For: Adults without small children.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Kindle 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World will have free updates!

by on July 29, 2014

The 2015 edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is now available from Amazon for Kindle devices. The print edition should be out in mid-August.2015UG

Big news: we’re publishing monthly revisions of the Kindle edition through Amazon, so Kindle owners will always be up to date on what’s going on and how to have a great vacation. The first update should be out in August. Print book owners have our Updates page for the same information. 

With more than 800 pages of coverage, the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is the most comprehensive view available of Disney World and Central Florida’s theme parks.

This edition includes a detailed look at Disney’s new Fastpass+ ride reservation system, including what Fastpass+ is, the attractions in each park that you should use it on, and the best times to make reservations. Also, we review the Magic Kingdom’s new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, which opened in late Spring 2014, and the host of new Frozen-themed shows, parades and events. We’ve also got an in-depth review of Universal’s great new Harry Potter-themed Diagon Alley.

Here’s a list of some of the more notable other updates:

Part 1 – Planning Before You Leave Home

  • Updates to Disney’s calendar of special events, including how crowds will be affected

Part 2 – Time and Money

  • A step-by-step guide to making Fastpass+ reservation, including how much time to set aside, what you’ll need before you start, for your family and anyone traveling with you
  • Updated FastPass+ tips, including understanding how FastPass+ attractions are segmented at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, how to get more FastPass+ reservations once you’re in the parks, and why making advance FastPass+ reservations for evening parades and fireworks is frequently a bad idea
  • How FastPass+ is affecting your waits in line, including which attraction wait times are going down because of FastPass+, and which are going up. With this, you’ll make better decisions about where to use FastPass+ in the parks
  • Tips on when Disney typically raises ticket prices, and by how much, so you can buy tickets beforehand
  • Cost of MagicBands for off-site guests and those buying tickets from third-party vendors
  • Updates to Disney’s park opening procedures. Disney has instituted new park opening steps to slow the rush of guests to the popular Frozen Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet in the Magic Kingdom, and slow the crowds at other parks

Part 3 – Accommodations

  • Updated benefits to staying in a Walt Disney World hotel, including earlier access to FastPass+ reservations
  • Details on Disney’s updated package cancellation policy. When you call to make a hotel reservation, Disney will encourage you to book something else along with the room, turning it into a “package.” But cancellation policies for packages are very restrictive, so you need to know what to watch out for
  • Tips on how to use our website’s new Hotel Room Views feature, which shows you the view you’ll get from every hotel room in Walt Disney World
  • A new analysis of the Disney Dining Plan, including how much each component of the plan costs for your stay. With this information, you’ll be able to see whether the dining plan makes sense for your family
  • Updates to more than 60 off-site hotel ratings and rankings
  • An updated list of the best Disney-specialist travel agents, and their contact information
  • Updates to our annual Reader Resort Survey, showing how Unofficial Guide readers ranked every Disney World hotel over the past year
  • Completely updated strengths and weaknesses of every Disney resort, plus the Swan, Dolphin, and Shades of Green
  • Updates to resort room diagrams to reflect new furniture and bedding
  • A new section – Our Picks for Disney On-Site Resorts – where we select the best value, moderate, and deluxe resorts for families with young children; groups of 5 or more; families with older kids; and adults
  • A complete review of The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, including amenities, décor, bedding and bathroom details, and the best rooms to request at the resort
  • Updates to the ongoing construction at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, including the conversion of Tahiti, Tokelau, and Rapa Nui to timeshare rooms, plus how the construction will affect dining, pools, and child care
  • New details on the Wilderness Lodge Villas’ updated rooms
  • A revised list of the best rooms at Bay Lake Tower and Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • A new analysis of the Disney Dining Plan, including how much each component of the plan costs for your stay. With this information, you’ll be able to see whether the dining plan makes sense for your family
  • A review of the fabulous new Cabana Bay Resort at Universal Orlando
  • Review of the Hilton Bonnet Creek resort, an upscale resort in the middle of Disney property, with moderate rates and a really nice pool area for kids
  • Preview of the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and where to sell your vital organs to pay for your stay

 

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Hogwarts Express REVIEW [Minor Spoilers]

by on July 2, 2014

Hogwarts Express review

All aboard the Hogwarts Express at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth review of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida, and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Hogwarts Express review, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction, and is subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

Hogwarts Express

4 1/2 STARS

 

APPEAL BY AGE

  • PRESCHOOL 4 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 5 stars
  • TEENS 4 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 4 1/2 stars
  • OVER 30 4 1/2 stars
  • SENIORS 4 stars

 

What it is Transportation attraction with special effects.
Scope and scale Super-headliner.
When to go Immediately after park opening.
Special comments Expect lengthy waits in line. A park-to-park pass is required to ride.
Authors’ rating A moving experience; Not to be missed; 4 1/2 stars
Duration of ride 4 minutes.
Probable wait­ing time per 100 people ahead of you 7 minutes.
Loading speed Moderate.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts REVIEW [Minor Spoilers]

by on July 1, 2014

 

gringotts review

A panoramic view of the majestic Gringotts bank lobby. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth review of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida, and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts review, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction, and is subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

 

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

5 STARS

APPEAL BY AGE

  • PRESCHOOL 2 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 4 stars
  • TEENS 5 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 5 stars
  • OVER 30 5 stars
  • SENIORS 4 stars

What it is Super-high-tech 3-D dark ride with roller coaster elements.
Scope and scale Super-headliner.
When to go Immediately after park opening or just before closing.
Special comments Expect loooong waits in line; 42″ minimum height requirement.
Authors’ rating The ultimate realization of “Ride The Movies!”; Not to be missed; 5 stars
Duration of ride 4 1⁄2 minutes.
Probable waiting time per 100 people ahead of you 4 minutes.
Loading speed Moderate-Fast.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Updates to Epcot’s Ride Ratings for the 2015 Unofficial Guide

by on May 21, 2014

Illuminations_BrickerThe Unofficial Guide team got together last month to update our authors’ rating for all of the rides, shows, and attractions in Walt Disney World. I’ve already reported on the criteria for our 5-star rating system and changes to Hollywood Studios’ attractions. Now it’s time for Epcot.

Here’s a list of the Epcot attractions whose authors’ ratings have changed in the 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and a short explanation for the change:

Epcot Character Spot *** Has Mickey, Minnie and Pluto all in one spot, which is good. But not as themed as, say, Princess Fairytale Hall or other meet-and-greets, and a bit more chaotic than most. That doesn’t bother our readers, though, who give it 4.2 stars on average.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth **** 1/2 It was surprising to see that we hadn’t ever rated IllumiNations, Epcot’s nighttime spectacular. The Studios’ Fantasmic! is Bob’s favorite evening show, and others prefer the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes. But IllumiNations is my favorite. It’s got big visual images, an iconic floating globe that’s both a spherical television and fire-throwing grill. Plus the soundtrack, Gavin Greenaway’s Reflections of Earth, is the best audio accompaniment to any Disney show. (It’s also part of the soundtrack that U.S. Customs and Border Protection plays while you’re waiting in line to enter the country.) Finally, it harkens back to a time when Disney creative didn’t just drag out its animated characters – or the words magic, dream, wishes, and celebrate– to entertain its theme park guests.

Off Kilter *** 1/2 Another surprise in that we’ve not previously rated this Celtic rock band, this group of kilt-clad musicians has been entertaining Epcot audiences since 1997. We’re all big fans of live music, and Off Kilter combines guitar, keyboard, and bagpipes into cover tunes of rock classics, traditional Celtic music, and original songs. Every set is loud, fast, and innovative – the way music should be. Check out Off Kilter’s website here.

That’s it for Epcot’s changes. What attractions would you change? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print