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What I Wish I Knew Before My Visit to California Adventure

by on August 27, 2015

Carthay Circle Restaurant

Carthay Circle Restaurant

I recently went to the Disneyland Resort for the very first time. As a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World since childhood, I was beyond excited to experience a Disney Park as a first time guest, particularly Disney’s California Adventure as it is a totally unique park and would be a great sampling of the Golden State for this California Newbie! But even before I even passed through the turnstiles, I did my homework on Disney’s California Adventure so that I could avoid some of the rookie mistakes and maximize my time in the park. Even so, there were definitely some things that I either didn’t expect or wish I would’ve known to help my day run more smoothly. So glean from my first hand experience fellow Disneyland Resort Rookies and discover what I wish I knew before my visit to California Adventure.

Have a Wardrobe Strategy for Grizzly River Run – If you’re looking to experience Grizzly River Run, the park’s incredible raft ride at Grizzly Peak, I would strongly suggest wearing clothes that dry quickly or picking up a poncho at Rushin’ River Outfitters. There are lockers available for free near the huge bear statue, but only if you pick up your stuff within 2 hours.

Disney’s California Adventure Park Could Be a One Day Park – Some may disagree with me on this, but hear me out! While I loved my day at Disney’s California Adventure, and can’t wait to go back, I felt like I was able to accomplish the best of the park in a single day with proper planning while I needed two days at the Disneyland Park. For example, during my visit in July and with the help of FASTPASSES, I was able to ride almost all of the park’s most popular attractions, do a little shopping and dining, and squeezed in a showing of World of Color in one day. If you only have a short time to check out the Disneyland Resort, I would suggest setting aside two for the Disneyland Park and one for California Adventure.

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Making Memorable Character Interactions

by on August 26, 2015

Interacting with all of the great Disney characters is one of the most memorable experiences guests can have at a Disney park. On all of the planning DVDs, TV specials, and commercials, kids joyously run into the open arms of Mickey and adults engaged in light-hearted sword-play with pirates. But the reality is often children cowering behind their parents and adults awkwardly posing next characters, treating them more as props or marginally liked relatives, rather than the wickedly cool physical personification of the great icons that they are. So, how do you overcome character fear and lackluster photos? Let’s explore some ways to break the ice.

Spice up your character interactions and get great photos!

Spice up your character interactions and get great photos!

First, there are two types of characters in the Disney parks, face characters and fur characters. Face characters are characters where you can see their face and they speak with you. Most princess (Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, etc) fall into this category. Fur characters are characters that cannot speak with guests, Chip and Dale, Goofy, and Mr. Incredible are “fur” characters. But don’t be fooled, just because they don’t talk, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say!

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Don’t Meet Me on Main Street: Alternate Parade Viewing Spots

by on August 23, 2015

One of my oldest memories of Walt Disney World was being traumatized and terrified at age five by giant critters in the Main Street Electrical Parade. We were up close and they were coming right at me. I am certain my family barely escaped with our lives. While my five-year-old self might throw a hissy fit at the idea of having an up-close view of the Main Street Electrical Parade, my adult self loves the idea of getting up close for interaction with the parade and being engulfed in the magic of its lights and sounds.

This image from the second parade in Frontierland shows that you can have almost a private parade. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

This image from the second parade in Frontierland shows that you can have almost a private parade. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

And because the name is the MAIN STREET Electrical Parade, the assumption by many people is that the only or best place to watch the parade is on Main Street, or possibly at the Hub. For years, however, I’ve told anyone who would listen about the secret to watching the Main Street Electrical Parade—get off Main Street.

Unlike Celebrate the Magic, which you can only see from Main Street or the Hub area, or Wishes, which is designed with some effects being best visible from Main Street or the Hub, the Main Street Electrical Parade is the same parade on Main Street as it is in Frontierland. The same, but with a major exception—fewer people blocking your view.

Here are my main reasons (pun intended) for viewing the Main Street Electrical Parade from Frontierland.

 

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2015 Night of Joy Performance Schedule Announced

by on August 21, 2015

Night of Joy

©Disney

Night of Joy is a hard-ticketed event that takes place in the Fall where contemporary Christian artists visit and perform at the Magic Kingdom. This year’s event is scheduled to take place on Friday, September 11, and Saturday, September 12. Night of Joy events take place from 7:30 p.m. until 1:00 a.m.

Well for those attending the event, we now have an official schedule of events for the evening. Performers play for about 40-50 minutes per set.

Friday, September 11th

CASTLE FORECOURT STAGE

  • 7:40 p.m. – Jeremy Camp
  • 9:45 p.m. – MercyMe
  • 11:55 p.m. – TobyMac

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Universal Orlando Resort Photo Update August 18, 2015

by on August 20, 2015

Welcome to my first ever Universal Orlando Photo Update here on TouringPlans!  This week we’ll start things off in CityWalk with a look at the under construction NBC Sports Grille Brew.  Then we’ll move into Universal Studios for a look at the new NBC Media Center, a new themed beverage, and a quick peek at Halloween Horror Nights.  Over at Islands of Adventure, we’ve got an extended look at the next attraction at the resort, Skull Island: Reign of Kong as well as some updates to the Jurassic Park “Island” (what Universal calls the themed lands at Islands of Adventure).  We’ll close this week’s update out with a look at the under construction Sapphire Falls Resort and Volcano Bay Water Theme Park.  Let’s get going!

DSC09631

DSC09915

Between The Cowfish restaurant and Rising Star Karaoke Bar, the two staircases have recently been re-tiled.

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The 10 Steps of Online Check-In for Your Disney Cruise

by on August 19, 2015

You’re going on a Disney Cruise!  Woohoo!  I am often asked what you need to do to get ready for your cruise.  Well one of the big things is your online check-in!  Checking in online is important for a few reasons.  It will save you time at the port once you arrive, it gives you a chance to make sure all of your information is in the system correctly so there won’t be any problems when you arrive, it’s a chance to address any special needs you may have, and you’ll get to pick an arrival time at the port!

Online check-in opens on different dates depending on your Castaway Club level and the category you are sailing in.  If you are a Platinum level Castaway Club member, meaning you have sailed more than 10 times, or if you are sailing concierge, you can check-in online at midnight, 120 days before you sail.  If you are a Gold level Castaway Club member, meaning you have sailed more than 5 times, you can check-in online 105 days before you sail.  If you’ve sailed at least once you are a Silver level Castaway Club member and can check in online 90 days before sailing.  Everyone else can check in 75 days before you sail.  It will be available online until 4 days before you sail.

Pro-tip – You do NOT have to be paid in full to check in online.  In order to book excursions, adult restaurants, etc. when your booking window opens, you must be paid in full.  That is not the case for checking-in online.  You can do that at midnight when your booking window opens, regardless of whether you are paid in full.

Here is a step by step description of online check-in, so you will know exactly what to expect!

1. Retrieve Reservation – Your very first step will be going to DisneyCruise.com and retrieving your reservation. At the top of the screen on the far right, you will see a tab called Planning Center. Hover over it with your mouse and you will see My Reservations.  Click on it.  You can click on the Online Check-In as well to login and retrieve your reservation, but if you click on My Reservations you can do it all on the same screen.

Retry

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Restaurant Inspection Report: Epcot

by on August 17, 2015

We’re back with another installment exploring restaurant inspection results at Walt Disney World. You can read our previous article here. Today, we’re off to explore Epcot restaurants — and you may not believe some of these results.

Best Counter Service: Lotus Blossom Café, L’Artisan des Glaces

I know, I know: Lotus Blossom isn’t exactly on anyone’s must-do list. In fact, I’ve heard it described as a Panda Express without the ambiance. (Ouch.) But at least you know that the food is safe to eat with a perfect score from the health inspectors.

I scream, you scream, but not because of any health code problems! (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

I scream, you scream, but not because of any health code problems! (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Also netting a perfect score is a crowd favorite: L’Artisan Des Glaces. And lest you think “Well, it’s ice cream. It’s hard to mess that up.”, during my research for this article I had the “pleasure” of reading about the emergency closure of the Ben & Jerry’s location at the Vineland outlets. Trust me, it is possible to mess up on a health inspection even if all you serve is ice cream. Thankfully, that’s not the case at L’Artisan des Glaces, which does well in health inspection and overall yumminess.

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The Best Disney World Attractions for Naps

by on August 11, 2015

Carousel of Progress is a famous nap location, but is it the top choice?

Carousel of Progress is a popular nap location, but is it the top choice? Photo by Maddi Higgins

Naps are absolutely essential to a successful day at Walt Disney World. Human bodies are not designed to survive the high temperatures and treacherous treks through a Disney park. Unfortunately, whether it’s the timing of a reservation or the location of your hotel, it may not be possible to leave the park for your break. Lucky for you, I’ve done the strenuous research to discover the single best attraction in each park for a nap. My recommendations are based on the following criteria:

  • Comfort of Seating: It’s impossible to fall asleep if you can’t get in a comfortable position.
  • Length of Show: A 2-minute nap will not cut it when you need rest.
  • Temperature of Location: The point is to get out of the Florida sun. Naps are time to cool off.
  • Level of Noise and Light: If you fall asleep, you don’t want to be jerked awake by noise and bright lights.

Magic Kingdom Winner: Hall of Presidents

Hall of Presidents is famous for its napping accommodations. Unofficial Guide readers report it as their go-to spot for cranky kids—and adults—to relax. The location scores high in all napping qualifications.

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History of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle

by on July 30, 2015

Photo - James Rosemergy

Sleeping Beauty Castle for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary (photo by James Rosemergy)

For characters like Cinderella and Rapunzel, living in a royal castle was just an unattainable dream. Gazing out the window, they would sit for hours imagining what life would be like within the walls of such a majestic place.

If you’ve ever been to a Disney park, those dreams and wishes may pop into your head when you first set eyes on the magnificent castle; the symbol and iconic center of the park. Today, I will be sharing a brief history of the very first Disney palace: Sleeping Beauty Castle in California’s Disneyland.

This is the time to turn on “Once Upon a Dream” or “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

I’ll wait for you to pull up the song….

*Twiddles thumbs, looks out the window, checks phone*

Okay ready? Let’s continue!

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MyMagic+ and Last-Minute Trips: Planned Spontaneity Advanced Course

by on July 24, 2015

Spaceship Earth MyMagic+

Sometimes you just need a last-minute trip to Disney World.

If you caught my previous article on planned spontaneity and MyMagic+, there is one flaw you might have noticed – it requires that you know far in advance that you are taking a trip to Walt Disney World. So the question is, “How do you plan for spontaneity when you decide to take a trip in the next 30 days?”

Before I launch into my method for planned spontaneity for last-minute trips, I first want to make one tiny thing clear: you don’t have to plan for spontaneity to be spontaneous on a trip to Disney World. (Don’t be alarmed, you read that right.) If you want to go sans FastPass+ and wing it with restaurants, you will still be able to have an awesome time. I prefer to use MyMagic+ to its fullest, and for me that means planning in such a way that I can go off-book about 50% of the time and have a plan the other 50%.  If you’re a planner like I am, then this should be right up your alley.

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