Unofficial Guide News

An Epcot one-day touring plan with Frozen Ever After

by on May 21, 2016

This plan assumes: A willingness to experience all major rides and shows; Soarin’, Test Track, and Frozen Ever After are in the same FastPass+ tier and you can choose only one in advance; Frozen Ever After opens at 11 a.m.

Touring Epcot requires a lot of walking regardless of whether you’re using a plan. This plan uses a small amount of backtracking in order to avoid long waits in line.

The opening of Frozen Ever After complicates touring Epcot for a couple of reasons. Because it’s in the same FastPass+ tier as Soarin’ and Test Track, you can only obtain one in advance. It’s also unlikely to have much day-of FastPass+ availability, because it’s based on a hit film and is one of the few things in Epcot specifically designed for children. And its location in World Showcase makes it impractical as a detour while you’re in Future World.

For those reasons, we think you’ll save more time by choosing Frozen as an advance FastPass reservation than Soarin’ or Test Track. As in years past, we suggest visiting Soarin’ as soon as the park opens, and without FastPass+. Your next visit should be to Test Track, making use of the single-rider line there if possible. Your total wait in line for both attractions should be 40 minutes or fewer. For comparison, we estimate the wait at Frozen to be at least 40 to 60 minutes most of the day. When you factor in the backtracking involved in the alternatives, FastPass+ at Frozen seems to make the most sense.

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Disney World’s Hardest Dining Reservations to Get and Often-Available Alternatives

by on February 9, 2016

Rose and Crown (5)It’s barely 2016 and we are already busy working on the 2017 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. While the book itself won’t be available until August, we can give you a preview of some of the research we have been doing. One thing that we’ve been looking into quite a bit lately is the availability of Disney Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World. While some of the hard-to-get reservations will not surprise you (hello Cinderella’s Royal Table, my old friend) some might.

What follows contains excerpts from the 2017 Unofficial Guide:

The Reality of Getting Last-Minute Dining Reservations

If your trip is more than 180 days in advance and you want to dine at a popular venue such as Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table, getting up early and getting onto Disney’s reservation website at 6am Eastern time will get you the table you want more than 80% of the time.

The longer you wait, the more effort you’ll have to put in to find a reservation. For example, if you’re trying for breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table within the next 7 days, your chance of finding any table the first time you check is less than 3%, based on our tests. But if you’ve got the time and patience to visit Disney’s website around 30 times over the next week (that’s not a typo), you’ve got a 50/50 shot at finding a last-minute cancellation.

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Washington DC: Touring the White House at Christmas

by on December 23, 2015

Very soon a brand new version of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. will be released with all new content. Co-written by our very own Len Testa, this excellent book (yes, I’m biased) will also bring about an evolution right here on TouringPlans.com. To date we have focused on theme parks, but in 2016 we will also begin introducing Washington, D.C. content to the site with the same thoroughness we give to our other destinations. This post represents the first of our periodical entries about our nation’s capital. 

IMG_20151218_113845657_HDRJust last weekend I visited Washington, D.C. and was lucky enough to get admitted on a tour of the White House, the residence of every U.S. President except for George Washington (who selected the construction site). Sure, there were a few instances where an American leader had to move out — namely when the British burned it down in 1814 — but, for the most part, it’s been the house of presidential families for over 200 years. Now, attempting to get onto a tour of the White House is an adventure in itself, but I’ll wait until the end to outline that process.

As one probably expects these days, there are several layers of security before getting anywhere near the White House. There are two tents with ID checks, a trailer with a metal detector, and another trailer with an ominous machine that scans for…something (I passed though!). Naturally, at every checkpoint are multiple representatives from the police and/or Secret Service on hand with an impressive array of armaments. All in all, it will take you about 20 minutes to get from the entry gate to the door of the White House. Of course, as I’ll discuss below, time on the White House tour is solely dictated by the large number of people in front of you.

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World of Color Celebrate Review

by on July 16, 2015

World of Color Celebrate Review

Read our Unofficial review of DCA’s new World of Color Celebrate show starring…wait for it…Neil Patrick Harris (photos by Seth Kubersky).

Nearly two months after after Anaheim kicked off its Diamond Celebration, Disneyland‘s 60th birthday has officially arrived. By now, several members of the Touring Plans team — including Seth Kubersky and Guy Selga — have had a chance to experience the new anniversary nighttime entertainments from multiple angles, so in honor of Disneyland’s big day we’re sharing a sneak preview of the new reviews that we are including in the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016. If you missed our previously published Paint the Night coverage, and Disneyland Forever Fireworks review, check them out now. Then read on for our in-depth review of of the newly revamped World of Color show:

World of Color Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney

Authors’ Rating: 4 stars

World of Color Celebrate! Description and Comments

 

The 1,200 high-pressure water nozzles installed under the surface of DCA’s Paradise Bay are the infrastructure for Disney’s $75-million attempt to keep guests in the park (and spending money) until closing time. If you’ve seen or heard about the spectacular fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, World of Color – Celebrate is similar but larger, with more special effects and themed to Disney movies.

 

Though the original version of World of Color was still wildly popular, in honor of Disneyland’s Diamond Anniversary it was completely overhauled and given the new subtitle ‘Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.’ This new ‘special edition’ of World of Color is explicitly a tribute to Walt Disney the man and his “dreams of Disneyland,” and incorporates classic animated images with live-action footage of Uncle Walt and a new musical score, along with clips from dozens of Disney films, attractions, and characters in its 22-minute performance.

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Disneyland Forever Fireworks Review

by on July 16, 2015

Disneyland Forever

Learn the best way to experience the Disneyland Forever fireworks in our new 60th Anniversary entertainment review. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Nearly two months after after Anaheim kicked off its Diamond Celebration, Disneyland‘s 60th birthday has officially arrived. By now, several members of the Touring Plans team — including Seth Kubersky and Guy Selga — have had a chance to experience the new anniversary nighttime entertainments from multiple angles, so in honor of Disneyland’s big day we’re sharing a sneak preview of the new reviews that we’re including in the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016. If you missed our previously published Paint the Night coverage, check it out now. Then read on for our in-depth review of of the all-new Disneyland Forever fireworks:

Disneyland Forever

Authors’ Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Disneyland Forever Description and Comments

As part of its Diamond anniversary celebration, Disneyland retired the popular Remember…Dreams Come True fireworks spectacular (originally created for the park’s 50th birthday) in favor of the all-new Disneyland Forever show. Created by extravaganza expert Steve Davison, who designed Wishes and World of Color, his latest production runs the full gamut of special effects: a rousing score, castle lighting, lasers, and an impressive flight from the fairy Tinker Bell – not to mention spectacular fireworks effects. After an introduction evoking the orange tree groves that originally covered Anaheim, the show sails through memorable musical vignettes from beloved Disney movies.

 

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

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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).

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