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Does Diagon Alley Feel Like Home (London)?

by on September 16, 2014

The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

The actual Diagon Alley Set from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Ed. – We’re happy to bring back our International Youth Correspondent for another kid’s eye article. We’re also grateful to the Duncan family for being so accommodating when we rang them up and asked to borrow their children for a day.

When I heard that Universal Studios Florida was to welcome Diagon Alley as a new land, and that it was to be connected to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter already existing as Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, by the Hogwarts Express train, I was thrilled. I am a colossal Harry Potter fan and had already visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London, where the eight Harry Potter movies were filmed, for an audio guided tour of the sets. I couldn’t wait to see how Universal was going to duplicate the original Diagon Alley set, replicate my home of London in general, and build the Knight Bus, Platform 9¾, and, of course, Gringotts Bank.

So when we visited Orlando this summer, my brother and I decided to adopt some American parents for the day, Len Testa and Laurel Stewart – the TouringPlans legends – to take us around the new area and attractions. Len had even concocted a back story in case someone asked how my brother and I got our English accents; we were to reply: “From our nanny, Mary Poppins.” And to do so with a perfectly straight face! I would have totally failed and was so glad we didn’t have to use this in the end.

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New Lines App Features

by on September 14, 2014

You may have noticed in the last day or so that the Lines App has a new look. We’ve added some new features to it that hopefully make it faster and easier for you to get to the information you need when you’re in the parks.

Ride/Wait Suggestions

Ride/Wait suggestions

We’ve also added ride/wait suggestions to the biggest attractions, which will let you know at a quick glance whether you should ride an attraction now, or wait for shorter lines (though if you’re using an optimized touring plan, keep following those steps instead). If you go to a Park page, the attraction list will show green “Ride now” or yellow “Wait” suggestions for most rides. These are based on our predictions for future wait times for each ride. If you go to an attraction’s page, you can also view a graph of our predicted wait time forecasts for the day, which can also help you visualize the best/worst times to ride something. Also, it may be good to view this chart and make your own ride/wait decisions, since our suggestions are calculated on the fly, and thus prone to error sometimes (but not often!).

Trip Dashboard

Sample Trip View page, showing selected parks and touring plans.

The Trip Dashboard from the TouringPlans.com desktop website is now on Lines as well. You can view and edit your existing Trips, as well as create new ones. Existing Touring Plans will show up on the main page, as well as on their associated Trip’s page. From the Trip page, you can create or view Touring Plans, select Park Days, add/edit Trip Notes, and view park information like crowd levels, operating hours, and Extra Magic Hours.

 

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: The Music of Frontierland

by on September 14, 2014

Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

Howdy!

If you’ve been to a Wild West town before – whether it was an old authentic ghost town or right out of a theme park (like, say, Walt Disney World?) – you probably know the keys to a good western locale. First, there should be lots of wooden buildings. Second, there should be a saloon, or two, or four. Third, there should be some rollickin’ good music to put you in a square-dancin’ mood.

The Frontierland area of Magic Kindgom park has all three of these keys. The music in the area really transports you back in time to the good ol’ days and gets everyone excited to be in that area of the park. Whether you are eating at the Pecos Bill Cafe or heading to the queue for Big Thunder Mountain, you are successfully inundated through the atmosphere and AtMousePhere.

Let’s take a closer look!

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Why You Should Choose the Magic Kingdom’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour

by on September 12, 2014

For those of us looking to learn more about the Disney magic, or for a whole new way to experience the parks, Disney offers a variety of tours to enjoy. For example, there’s Epcot’s Behind the Seeds Tour, Animal Kingdom’s Wild Africa Trek, and the big favorite, Backstage Magic, where you enjoy a backstage look of all four parks! However, my personal favorite tour has to be the Magic Kingdom‘s Keys to the Kingdom Tour, a five hour behind-the-scenes peek of the most magical park of them all; and for anyone looking to splurge on a tour, it’s my top pick. Why? Read on to see why you should choose the Magic Kingdom’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour.

Keys to the Kingdom Tour - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Earpiece guests use during the tour in order to hear even in crowded places

1. Utilidors

So this is one of the Keys to the Kingdom’s biggest draws, so I’m starting with it! Yes, the Keys to the Kingdom Tour allows you the opportunity to check out the legendary Utilidors, the Magic Kingdom’s tunnels that run underneath the park. Now before your imagination runs off, let me be clear. These tunnels are not something you would see in an Indiana Jones film. These tunnels are technically the first floor of the park, as the Magic Kingdom is actually built on the second level; and these tunnels are where offices and utilities are located, as well as wardrobe for Cast Members. Also, the purpose of the Utilidors is to allow Cast Members to get from one side of the park to the other without breaking theme. You see, Disney is all about the details and putting on a show, and having a Cast Member dressed in Liberty Square garb wouldn’t look right in Tomorrowland, would it? Also, you should know that you only get to see a small portion of the Utilidors during the tour; but even so, it’s still awesome! Also during the tour, you will get a chance to venture backstage to see some park attractions and buildings from behind the scenes. During my tour, my guide took our group to see the warehouse where they store the parade floats. It was just as memorable as the Utilidors!

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Menu Monday: Trials and Tribulations of an Amateur ‘Disney’ Chef

by on September 8, 2014

FoodandWinelogosmallAs some of you know, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will be starting September 19 and running through November 10. In honor of this event (and the fact that I will be attending for the first time), I decided to put my culinary skills to the test.

The Challenge: Recreate three popular recipes found at Walt Disney World.

The Line Up:

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Hidden Details of the Disney World Resorts

by on September 4, 2014

There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, let’s take a look at the hidden details of the Disney World Resorts!

Deluxe Resorts

Grand Floridian Wedding Pavilion - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Grand Floridian Wedding Chapel

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa: Disney’s flagship resort is also home to Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, a fairy tale location with a view of Cinderella Castle! Even if you’re not getting married, you can still walk over to the pavilion area where the chapel and Franck’s Bridal Studio are located. Be sure to look up to notice a special detail: a heart-shaped weather vane of Mickey posing as Cupid!

Animal Kingdom Lodge: Throughout Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village you will find African quotes and proverbs on the walls and rock work; however, one of them is different from the rest in that it’s a quote from Walt Disney. You can find it around the Samawati Springs pool area!

The Contemporary: For years, guests have been reporting a small, metal Mickey perched on the edge of a rooftop at the Contemporary Resort. When riding the Express Monorail, keep your eyes open when you approach the entrance to the resort.

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#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.

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‘Wearable’ Halloween Costumes: Mickey and Minnie Mouse

by on September 2, 2014

Photo - Angela Dahlgren

Oh Boy!

It’s finally getting to be that time of year in Minnesota: jacket weather, football games, falling leaves and trips to the Pumpkin Patch. It all leads up to my favorite holiday: Halloween. As if I haven’t mentioned enough already, I will be visiting Disney World this Fall and experiencing my very first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.To get into the Halloween spirit, I’ve taken inspiration from classic Disney characters and shared a few costume ideas with you fine readers!

Now, if you share the same sentiments as a few of my relatives, you may not jump at the chance to walk around in a hot and itchy costume for several hours. Therefore, my goal is to make the costumes you see here more ‘wearable’ and comfortable!

Let’s Begin with our Favorite Couple – Mickey and Minnie Mouse

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IllumiNations Cruise: A View Worth Every Penny

by on August 26, 2014

Epcot lights up the sky.  Photo by Disney

Epcot lights up the sky. Photo by Disney

If you are one of the unfortunate ones to never have experienced IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth before, you have really been missing out. IllumiNations is the story of our Earth’s history, its present, and the hope for its future, showcasing people, flora, and fauna. This fireworks, laser, and video show will be the culmination of your extraordinary day at Epcot. After visiting Future World and then stuffing yourself with wonderful delectables throughout the many countries around World Showcase, find a seat or standing area around the Lagoon and be prepared to experience pyrotechnic greatness.

The only downside to IllumiNations is that I sometimes find it a waste of good Disney time to be camping out around the World Showcase hours before the nightly showing to get a prime viewing location. If this has ever crossed your mind or if you are just looking for that over the top experience, perhaps to celebrate a wedding, birthday, or anniversary, then you should try an IllumiNations Cruise.

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Disney World Crowd Report – August 17 to 23, 2014

by on August 25, 2014

Our prediction that summer crowds would dwindle starting last week seems to be well timed. We saw some low crowd levels at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom last week that we haven’t seen since May. Lots of ‘4’s, ‘5’s and ‘6’s elsewhere with only a few minor surprises. Guests using our crowd calendar to plan late August trips will be very happy with the moderate crowds we observed.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Disney World Crowd Report:

 

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, August 17, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
5

We considered Sunday to be the de facto end of the summer break for Disney World guests and the moderate crowds seem to agree. Only Animal Kingdom, which hosted Extra Magic Hour morning hit a level ‘6’ but the average posted time at Expedition Everest was only 25 minutes.

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
6
5
Animal Kingdom
6
6

Monday, August 18, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
7

Magic Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios edged a little higher on Monday but crowds were mysterious at the Studios. We saw Toy Story Mania hit an average of 91 minutes (a ’10’ on our scale) while Tower of Terror only averaged 41 minutes ( a ‘1’ on our scale). Animal Kingdom was a stark contrast with the lowest crowd level by far, as predicted.

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
5
8
Animal Kingdom
3
3

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
7

On Tuesday, it was Magic Kingdom that stood out with most attractions showing average wait times higher than expected. Splash Mountain averaged 49 minutes (predicted 34), Jungle Cruise 36 (predicted 23) while Big Thunder Mountain Railroad averaged 33 minutes, only one minute lower than the 34 minutes we predicted.

Epcot
7
6
Hollywood Studios
5
5
Animal Kingdom
3
4

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
5

Crowds at Magic Kingdom and The Studios settled nicely on Wednesday while Epcot’s wait times went up. Again, average waits at Spaceship Earth are up significantly with an average posted wait of 24 minutes, a ’10’ on our scale while Test Track was way down, averaging a mere 54 minutes, a ‘1’ for that attraction.

Epcot
3
6
Hollywood Studios
5
5
Animal Kingdom
6
8

Thursday, August 21, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
5

No park hit a level above ‘5’ on Thursday, a sure sign that summer crowds are dwindling. Magic Kingdom hosted Extra Magic Hour morning but only Splash Mountain averaged a posted time above 50 minutes. Our predictions for Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan, Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion were all within a couple minutes of what we observed.

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
4
5
Animal Kingdom
3
4

Friday, August 22, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
4

Animal Kingdom’s level ‘2’ on Friday was the lowest level we’ve seen at any park all summer. We almost didn’t believe our prediction of a level ‘2’ but the predictions were right, including a 19 minute average at Expedition Everest and a 16 minute average at Kilimanjaro Safaris. Crowds seemed mostly focussed at Epcot and The Studios where we saw ‘6’s, both two levels higher than expected.

Epcot
4
6
Hollywood Studios
4
6
Animal Kingdom
2
2

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
3

Saturday’s ‘3’ at Magic Kingdom was the lowest we’ve seen at that park all summer as well. Only Peter Pan’s Flight (40 minutes) and Space Mountain (43 minutes) reached average posted times in the 40s while most other attractions averaged posted waits in the 20s.

Epcot
4
6
Hollywood Studios
5
3
Animal Kingdom
4
4
What to Expect This Week
Aug 24 to 30, 2014
How Crowded is Disney World

How Crowded is Disney World?

Now that summer crowds have left, fall crowds have begun and we enter the single best time of the year to avoid crowds at Disney World. The heat will remain but we’ll see average wait times at some attractions reach their lowest point of the past 365 days. Labor Day weekend will bring a small bump in attendance but not enough to push crowds above average for the year.

To see Walt Disney World Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.

To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.

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