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The Great Irish Hooley to Occur at Raglan Road This Labor Day

by on August 29, 2016

The Great Irish Hooley

©Raglan Road

Did you know that we are close to the halfway point of St. Patrick’s Day? How would I know something like that? Because once again, it is time for The Great Irish Hooley. The Great Irish Hooley is a celebration of that halfway mark and it will be taking place at Raglan Road this Labor Day weekend at Disney Springs.

This year is the fifth year for this fun-filled event that consists of traditional live music, dancing, and delicious Irish cuisine. Festivities begin at noon on Friday, September 2 and will run through the evening of Monday, September 5.

This year’s party will included performances by nine top Irish bands, authentic step dancing, and first-rate contemporary Irish cuisine.

The entertainment line up for this year’s event includes:

  • Screaming Orphans
  • The Raglan Roots Coalition
  • Flat Out
  • The Marianne Fraser Band
  • The High Road
  • Cooney & Ryan
  • Swingin’ On The Gate
  • The Flyin’ Marys
  • Jake Richardson

Guests will also be able to enjoy the Raglan Road Irish Dancers. The infamous dance group will be found performing throughout the weekend. They will also teach Guests some traditional Irish steps. The Hooley also will feature Celtic face-painting Saturday through Monday.

For more information visit raglanroad.com/great-irish-hooley

This event is certainly packed with the best of Irish music and entertainment. If you’re in Disney Springs this weekend, you don’t want to miss this unique experience!

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10 Things to Do After You Book Your Disney Cruise

by on August 12, 2016

So you’ve booked your Disney cruise!  Woohoo!  After the high of booking starts to wear off and before the low of the credit card bill arrival, what’s next?  Well here are ten things!

Day 1 0241. Find Your Documentation – Do not wait until the last minute to find your passport or birth certificates. Don’t do it. Now is the time to go locate whatever you need to travel.  Now, when you still have time to get new copies of the one you were so sure you had is missing or expired.  Lay eyes on it.  Check the expiration date.  Don’t assume and get into a bind when it’s time to sail!

2. Join Your Cruise Group – If you are on Facebook, I highly recommend finding the cruise group for your cruise and joining. Search Facebook for your ship name and cruise date and you’ll usually find it. These groups are full of great information. Many groups set up meets onboard, private mixology and tasting groups, fish extender exchanges and more. Many years ago, we were able to tour the Walt Disney Suite on the Disney Magic when a member of our group invited everyone for a tour. Sometimes you’ll find a family who wants to book a cabana but doesn’t want to pay full price for it and you can share one for the day! You’ll also often find people joining together for private tours and renting cars together. Even if you’re not into socializing with people you met on the internet (valid), there is still a lot of good information shared. Recommendations for port adventures, updates on what’s booked before your booking window opens, dining rotations, and more! Join! What have you got to lose?

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Three Walt Disney World Discounts Announced for Fall and Holiday Season Today

by on August 8, 2016

Save on your next Walt Disney World vacation

Save on your next Disney vacation ©Disney

Thanks to Sue Pisaturo at Small World Vacations for the heads up on these new Disney discounts.

Today, Disney announced three new specials that are available for travel to Walt Disney World for those traveling this fall and the holiday season!  If you were planning to enjoy the great holiday events that Walt Disney World offers each year, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom or Holidays Around the World at Epcot, these discounts may help you!

Room Only Discount

First, is the room only discount where Guests can save up to 20% on select Walt Disney World Resort hotels for most nights from November 6-10, November 13-22, and November 26-December 23, 2016 with the “Holiday Season Savings” offer. For example, when you book a 5 night stay at a select Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort hotel that has a 20% discount, it will be like getting one of the nights free!

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Selecting an Epcot Resort

by on August 8, 2016

View of the Epcot Resort Area

View of the Epcot Resort Area

With the recent release of the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival menus, I can’t help but think about my upcoming trip. The 60 day FastPass+ window is approaching quickly, and as an avid proponent of planning ahead, I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t fully decided on a hotel!

It’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face when planning any trip to Walt Disney World. It’s especially hard for me during the fall when visiting Epcot’s World Showcase is top priority thanks to the mouthwatering samplings at Food and Wine Festival. I’ve narrowed it down to the Epcot resort area to make walking to Epcot a breeze, but that still leaves me with five wonderful choices – Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Dolphin, Swan, and Yacht Club.

Not one to take the resort decision lightly, I’ve carefully mapped out a comparison to help me (and hopefully some of you) pick the right Epcot resort for any Walt Disney World vacation.

Theming

All five resorts fall into the deluxe category at Disney, and with that designation comes elaborate theming. However, because Swan and Dolphin are the only two that are not owned by Disney, some may find them to be lacking that special Disney touch.

  • Beach Club – It’s a New England-style resort hotel that is painted blue with white trim and adorned with typical beach décor. Think seashells and sand dollars.
  • Boardwalk Inn – Modeled after a turn-of-the-century Atlantic coast boardwalk, the rooms actually sit behind a façade of neon lighted shops and restaurants along a wooden boardwalk.
  • Dolphin – Words escape me when it comes to the theming of both the Swan and Dolphin, and if you’ve ever seen it for yourself, you can probably understand. Disney describes it as “deluxe accommodations inspired by Florida itself, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel juxtaposes modern architectural silhouettes alongside Renaissance flourishes—most notably, the twin stylized dolphin statues gracing its rooftop.” Now, I’m not sure what they think a dolphin is, but based on their designs, I would say that a dolphin is some combination between a goldfish and carp.
  • Swan – Though very similar the Dolphin in theme and design, the Swan is outfitted with two Swans atop the building instead. At least these two actually resemble swans.

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Elena of Avalor To Debut at Magic Kingdom

by on August 3, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

If you have a little one, then you likely already know who Elena of Avalor is. The newest Disney Channel star will soon be introduced at the Magic Kingdom via a brand new show titled “The Royal Welcome of Princess Elena of Avalor.”

The show, which begins on August 12 and will be presented multiples times a day at the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage, will feature Cinderella and Prince Charming who are on hand to introduce their very special special guest, Princess Elena. With great fanfare, Princess Elena arrives accompanied by regal banner carriers and musicians.

Princess Elena of Avalor will not be meeting Guests in the park and instead will only be featured in this new royal welcome celebration.

Guests will be able to see the show for the first time via the next Disney Parks Blog Live stream on August 11 when Princess Elena’s official debut will take place beginning at 10:45 a.m. You’ll want to watch the Disney Parks Blog for more information.

Do keep in mind that “The Royal Welcome of Princess Elena of Avalor” castle stage show will only be around for a limited time.

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A Primer on Visiting Disneyland Solo

by on August 3, 2016

Sleeping Beauty Castle at NightFirst and foremost, I feel compelled to point out that my favorite way to visit Disneyland is with my family and friends. All else being equal, a visit to any Disney park feels most “right” to me when I’m with my people.  

With that said, my job takes me to Los Angeles pretty regularly lately, and one way to pass your downtime when you’re half way across the country by yourself is to visit The Mouse. While it is by no means my ideal way to visit Disneyland, visiting Disneyland solo is better than not visiting Disneyland at all, and there are actually some perks to traveling alone that you don’t see even when you have just one more person. Read on to learn more!

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Get to Know Disney’s Newest Cruise Ship: A Photo Tour of the AmaViola

by on July 26, 2016

A few months back Disney Cruise Line announced the upcoming construction of two new ocean liners. These will be of similar size and capacity to the current Disney Dream and Fantasy ships, capable of transporting thousands of guests across thousands of miles. These ships have planned christening dates in 2021 and 2023. But if you’re not in the mood to wait five to seven years for a new Disney-related cruise experience, you can have one right now via the new Adventures by Disney (AbD) river cruise product.

Disney is currently partnering with AmaWaterways (pronounced like ah-ma waterways) to offer European river cruises on the Danube and, starting next summer, on the Rhine. Ama owns the ships, not Disney, which means that when AbD has not chartered the ships Ama can use them for other ventures. But Disney did have a hand in designing the vessels, asking for family-friendly features, like connecting cabins, not typically found on river cruises.

The first Ama and Adventures by Disney partnership sailings happened this month on the AmaViola, a three month old ship. I was onboard the second of these voyages, the first heading West to East from Germany to Hungary. In the coming days, I’ll be sharing my experiences and describing how a Disney river cruise differs from a Disney ocean cruise, as well as how an Adventures by Disney river cruise differs from a traditional AbD trip. But to start, here’s a photo tour of the lovely AmaViola.

By way of introduction, be aware that the AmaViola has a maximum capacity of 158 guests, compared with about 2,700 on the Disney Magic and Wonder, and about 4,000 on the Disney Dream and Fantasy.

 

Deck plan of the AmaViola

Deck plan of the AmaViola

 

There are 79 guest cabins on three decks. Twelve of the cabins (six pair) have the capacity to be connected to another cabin via an internal door. Twelve cabins have a capacity of three guests. Four suites have a capacity of four guests. The remainder of the cabins sleep two.

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What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go

by on July 25, 2016

Fireworks Over Sleeping Beauty Castle

A few years ago, I was a Disneyland Rookie. I grew up going to Walt Disney World and knew all the tricks and shortcuts from an early age; but when I finally made the pilgrimage to the Disneyland Resort, all of my Walt Disney World prowess went out the window. I was a total Disneyland Rookie as I explored the Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, and loved every minute, but it’s taken a trip or two since that initial visit to avoid those beginner mistakes and experience the park like a pro. To give all of you fellow Disneyland Rookies a step up, here’s are What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go.

Photo - Brian McNichols

Disneyland Hotel by Brian McNichols

There Is No Wi-Fi

The struggle is real. Yes, there is currently no Wi-Fi at the Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure. Fortunately, free WiFi is offered at the Disneyland Hotel, even if you’re not a resort guest! So head over to the hotel when in need of a break, kick back in a teacup chair, and upload those pics to social media, check your email, or just check-in with the outside world for a bit. I also discovered that there are empty outlets in the lounge areas of the themed Disneyland Hotel towers if you need to charge up.

Different Layout Than Magic Kingdom

If you’re as familiar with Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as I was during my first to the Disneyland Park, don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need a park map or that Pirates of the Caribbean is in Adventureland. Contrary to what many may believe, the Disneyland Park and the Magic Kingdom have very different layouts. Attractions you’re familiar with at one park may not be the same place, or the same experience, at another. Also, the Disneyland Park offers its own unique lands! In addition to Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland, the Disneyland Park also offers Mickey’s Toontown, Critter Country, and New Orleans Square. What Disneyland Rookies should know before they go is the Disneyland Resort offers its own unique offerings to experience!

Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

Attractions Close for Weather and Nightly Entertainment

Southern California is known for its gorgeous weather, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to rainy days. As many Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure attractions are outdoors, not all can continue to operate when sunny California fails to live up to its name. The Disneyland Park attractions which may close for inclement weather are Fantasyland’s Alice in Wonderland, Mad Tea Party, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, as well as Frontierland’s Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island (currently closed) and Toontown’s Gadget’s Go Coaster. Weather can also delay or even cancel the Disneyland Park’s parades and fireworks. High winds are also a cause for cancelled fireworks; but if the fireworks continue as scheduled, a number of attractions close down for the display, including the Disneyland Monorail.

Over at Disney California Adventure, attractions that close for weather include some Cars Land attractions and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Also, just like at the Disneyland Park, a number of attractions close for the park’s nightly World of Color performance, particularly those on Paradise Pier like California Screamin’, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the Golden Zephyr and Silly Symphony Swings, and even games on the Boardwalk, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, and the King Triton’s Carousel.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Magic Kingdom

by on July 23, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We LOVE the Magic Kingdom. As you know, this July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. At the beginning of the month we began our journey at Animal Kingdom, which now takes on new life at night. We then made our way over to Hollywood Studios, a park currently going through some growing pains but still has some of the best experiences in all of WDW. Last week? The one and only EPCOT, a theme park like no other across the globe. Today we are going to finish up by heading into the park which was the centerpiece of Walt Disney’s “Florida Project,” the Magic Kingdom.

partners_glover

The partners statue at the Magic Kingdom. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There are not enough superlatives for Disneyland out in California, but with Florida came the “blessing of size” which allowed Walt (and the Disney company) to fix problems they would never be able to in Anaheim. For example, driving to Disneyland is much like driving to the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, in that you can see the park from the road. With the Magic Kingdom, Disney created a theme park where the very entrance to the park is an experience, slowly revealing itself to guests in a truly magical way. Opening in 1971, the Magic Kingdom quickly became the most popular theme park in the world, and retains that title to this very day. What makes it so great? Well, today we’re gonna look at six of our favorite things inside this truly special park. So, sit back, relax in one of the rocking chairs on Tom Sawyer Island, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Festival of Fantasy

Even with heated competition from Universal and many other parks from around the world, there are still areas which Disney parks are completely untouchable. One of those areas is parades, and one of the best parades at any Disney park is the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of FantasyWith elaborate floats, stunning costumes, an original score, and filled with many of our favorite Disney characters, this is a parade worth waiting for. The backstory of the parade is that each of the units were built by the citizens of Fantasyland. It’s fascinating just looking at all the details on each float and how they seem to be designed from an era long ago. The music has that true Disney Difference, with Brave and Maleficent sections being standouts, and the amount of characters involved in the parade is staggering.  From Anna and Elsa to Mickey and Minnie and almost everyone in-between, Festival of Fantasy has something for everyone.

FOFdragon_glover

The impressive fire breathing Maleficent. Sorry Gringotts, but this dragon also moves. (photo by Brandon Glover)

FOF3_glover

Tinker Bell doing her best impersonation of a theme park blogger receiving constructive criticism. (photo by Brandon Glover)

FOF2_glover

In Festival of Fantasy, Merida gets her chance to shine! (photo by Brandon Glover)

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What Kids Like at the Magic Kingdom

by on July 12, 2016

Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater

Nice outfit, pal!

If you’re trying to decide what to see with your kids at Magic Kingdom, here are two tips:

  • Spend more time on character greetings, interactive games, and fireworks
  • Spend less time in Adventureland and Liberty Square.

That’s our conclusion after analyzing more than 126,000 Magic Kingdom attraction ratings from pre-school, grade school, and teen kids we’ve received over the past year. We’re using this data to update our touring plan and Fastpass+ advice for the 2017 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.

The top attraction for kids – by a wide margin – is the Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet at Town Square Theater on Main Street. Kids give Mickey an average score of 4.7 on our 1-to-5 scale. Following the main mouse are the Celebrate the Magic castle show and Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks.

The next tier of popular attractions is topped by character greetings, mostly in Fantasyland:

At the other end of the scale, kids rate Stitch’s Great Escape! in Tomorrowland as the worst attraction in Walt Disney World. In fact, guests of all ages say Stitch is the worst attraction on property.

Other attractions that rate low with kids include four attractions in Adventureland and Liberty Square:

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, in Tomorrowland, also does poorly. Frontierland’s Country Bear Jamboree barely avoids ending up in this group.

I don’t think these ratings are particularly surprising: most young children are unaware of the history of the U.S. presidency, and don’t really care about either the record of technological innovation in the 20th century, or singing South Pacific birds.  I’m a little surprised with Swiss Family Treehouse’s low ratings – maybe it’s the stairs.

You can use these ratings to prioritize the attractions to see on a one-day trip to the Magic Kingdom. The ratings also help when deciding where to use Fastpass+  during your visit. For example, if the waits in line for Jungle Cruise and the Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet are about the same, you’d probably want a Fastpass+ for Mickey. In a worst-case scenario, you could probably skip the Jungle Cruise without affecting your children’s enjoyment of the park.

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