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Frozen Summer Fun Events Added To Personalized Touring Plans

by on July 1, 2014

A "Frozen" Summer at Disney's Hollywood StudiosAre you planning to enjoy Frozen Summer Fun – Live at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World this summer? Disney announced the event last week, and now our personalized touring plans support the special attractions associated with Frozen Summer Fun.

These are listed as “seasonal” items in our system, so you’ll find most of them at the bottom of the list of attractions once you click “Add Attraction” on your personalized plan. The screenshots at the bottom of this post illustrate where to find seasonal items.

Enjoy all that Frozen Summer Fun!

 

First, click Add Attraction at the bottom of the screen.

First, click Add Attraction at the bottom of the screen.

Then you scroll to the bottom of the attractions list to find Seasonal Items

Then you scroll to the bottom of the attractions list to find Seasonal Items

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Honoring a Loved One at Disney World

by on June 10, 2014

Disney World is seen by many visitors as their “happy place.” Frequent guests may find that their visits are filled with ritual, memory, and meaning, taking on an almost spiritual aura. For guests who move often, Disney may well be a faithful constant, a touchstone to which they can return no matter where they reside. It is not hyperbole when guests call Disney World their home. Not surprisingly, some people want to use this joyful and, for them, near scared space as a place to commemorate the passing or honor the memory of a loved one.

You may find the Magic Kingdom wishing well to be a place of comfort.

You may find the Magic Kingdom wishing well to be a place of comfort.

Before I offer suggestions on ways that you might use a visit to Disney World to commemorate the passing of a friend or family member, I must state up front that Disney World is unequivocally not a place to deposit you loved one’s cremains. Scattering ashes at Disney World is illegal and unsanitary, even in small amounts. No matter how much grandma adored It’s a Small World, its waterways are not the place for her to spend eternity. Indeed, if Disney discovers any covert dispersal of ashes on an attraction, it will be closed and cleaned, and you may face charges. Please do not attempt this.

Another memorial which will not be possible is the placement of a permanent commemorative marker. There is currently no way to place a enduring symbol at the parks. Sales of the Walk Around the World bricks found at the Transportation and Ticket Center and near the entrance to the Magic Kingdom were discontinued in 2000. The Leave a Legacy engraved markers at Epcot were discontinued in 2007. I don’t know of any plans to revive these programs or anything similar.

Now let’s move on to the things you can do at Disney World to mark a passing in a positive way.

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Disney World Crowd Report – June 1 to 7, 2014

by on June 10, 2014

Early June crowds at Walt Disney World have been surprisingly light. History tells us that this time of year brings above average crowds in the range of ‘6’ to ‘9’ on our scale. Instead, this past week we saw crowds at or below average levels. In some cases, well below average. In particular, attractions at Disney Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot (in that order) have shown wait times significantly lower than expected.

Our theory is that some school districts have pushed back the last day of school to account for days lost due to weather, and that families have postponed or cancelled their visits to the parks as a result. Magic Kingdom, the park most likely to attract families with pre-school children is inherently less affected. It is just a theory but seems to be the most likely explanation.

What it means for visitors is that the greater the number of school days lost to weather between September and May, the lower the expected crowds will be in early June. If your child’s school board does not have to extend the school year, early June may make a great chance to plan a trip with lower crowds.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week:

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, June 1, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
6

Sunday was the first of many days last week when wait times came in lower than expected. Wait times at Disney Hollywood Studios hit a level ‘5’ on our scale despite hosting Star Wars Weekend. Magic Kingdom’s Extra Magic Hour evening kept the park open until 3:00am for resort guests but that didn’t push wait times higher than a level ‘6’ for most rides. Normally, a closing time of 1:00am would indicate large crowds but even Space Mountain only averaged 47 minutes (predicted 72).

Epcot
5
4
Hollywood Studios
7
5
Animal Kingdom
7
6

Monday, June 2, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
6

Monday was the only day of the week when our resort-wide estimates hit the mark. All parks were within one index level and Hollywood Studios had the lowest crowd level again. Epcot’s Mission: Space (Orange) had an average wait time of 49 minutes between 10:00am and 5:00pm, a ’10’ on our scale and much higher than a normal day (we predicted 29 minutes). Wait times at other Epcot attractions were close to our predictions.

Epcot
6
6
Hollywood Studios
5
4
Animal Kingdom
7
6

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
6

Both Disney Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom had wait times below predictions while Animal Kingdom missed by one and Epcot hit the mark. The Studios continues to host underwhelming crowds on weekdays, a trend that began in mid-may. Tuesday’s wait times at Star Tours and Great Movie Ride were basically non-existent all day (14 minute average) while Toy Story Mania averaged a measly 60 minutes.

Epcot
7
7
Hollywood Studios
6
3
Animal Kingdom
6
7

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
6

Wednesday’s crowd at the Studios was even more surprising. History would tell us that because almost half of the largest U.S. school districts are finished school, crowds should be large. Instead, Disney Hollywood Studios saw some of the lowest wait times of the week on Wednesday. It is strange that the low crowds are focussed at The Studios. We see that although crowds at the other three parks are lower than expected, they are much more in-line with predictions. This may be because the Studios attractions appeal to older youth and those older youth may be less likely to miss school if the last day of school was pushed later into June.

Epcot
5
4
Hollywood Studios
8
3
Animal Kingdom
7
5

Thursday, June 5, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
6

Thursday’s crowds were similar, with all parks coming in lower than our predictions although we missed by a much smaller margin. Jungle Cruise averaged 39 minutes (predicted 41), Spaceship Earth 21 (predicted 22), Great Movie Ride 14 (predicted 15) and Kali River Rapids averaged 31 minutes (predicted 29).

Epcot
5
4
Hollywood Studios
5
3
Animal Kingdom
6
4

Friday, June 6, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
5

Our resort-wide predictions rarely miss by more than two levels (less than 1% of the time) but Friday’s wait times were low enough across the board to pull the resort-wide crowd level to a ‘4’, three down from the ‘7’ we predicted. Good news for those of you in the parks, bad news for the statisticians. Even Disney Hollywood Studios which hosted Star Wars Weekends on Friday only reached a level ‘3’ on our scale, including an average wait time of only 18 minutes at Star Tours. This is the lowest crowd level recorded during Star Wars Weekends since 2009.

Epcot
6
3
Hollywood Studios
8
3
Animal Kingdom
7
5

Saturday, June 7, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
5
5

The Studios wait times were even lower on Saturday. Perhaps the special Star Wars events were popular enough to (a) draw guests away from the attractions and/or (b) keep non-fans away from the park. Mark Hamill attended the festival this weekend for the first time in the event’s 18-year history so that surely had something to do with it. Regardless, we can’t remember ever having a day at the Studios during Star Wars Weekends with wait times that low.

Epcot
5
3
Hollywood Studios
7
2
Animal Kingdom
7
5
What to Expect This Week
June 8 to 14, 2014
The Crowd Report

The Crowd Report

Disney Hollywood Studios continues to be a great choice during the week. Just as we have seen a dip in attendance while schools push ahead the last day of school we might see a bump in attendance when the majority of schools complete the school year. By the end of June, nearly 100% of the major school districts will be out of session and many of them will be on vacation.

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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PotterWatch: Preliminary Diagon Alley Touring Plans

by on June 6, 2014

Wizarding World of Harry Potter preliminary Diagon Alley touring plans

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is nearly ready — but are you? (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

With only two weeks to go before the worldwide media descends upon Universal Orlando for its unveiling of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, we already know plenty of things about the experience that awaits behind Universal Studios Florida‘s imposing new London Waterfront. We know about the E-ticket “multi-sensory thrill ride” inside the dragon-topped Gringotts bank; we know about the Hogwarts Express train that will transport guests to the original Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure; we know the names of that will line this magical shopping mall; we even know the varieties of pie (Seafood! Steak and Guinness!) and ice cream (Chocolate chili! Butterbeer!) you’ll be able to eat. So it’s no wonder that many of our subscribers have requested Diagon Alley touring plans to prepare them for their upcoming vacations. Unfortunately, we still lack two pieces of data vital to providing our usual expert advice: when we can get inside, and how long we’ll wait once we get there.

Through a combination of inside information, experience observing Universal’s operations since Potter arrived, and some educated guesses, we’ve devised the following preliminary Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley touring plans, along with a summary of our surmises about how the area will operate. Be aware that much of this is based on unofficial intel, and is subject to change before, during, and after the grand opening of the attraction.

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Disney World Crowd Report – May 11 to 17, 2014

by on May 20, 2014

Only three of our predictions last week missed by more than one index level. That’s 91% within one on our scale, a success rate above our goal of 90%. Crowds were moderate all week with only a few exceptions. We saw a crowd level ’7′ only three times and all on the weekend. Star Wars Weekends began at The Studios on Friday and crowds were significant on both Friday and Saturday but wait times at the attractions remained moderate.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week:

Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, May 11,2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
5
5

Sunday’s crowds turned out to be almost exactly as we expected with only our prediction at Animal Kingdom proving to be one level higher than predicted. Test Track at Epcot only averaged 50 minutes between 10:00am and 5:00pm, which represents a ’3′ on our scale.

Epcot
4
4
Hollywood Studios
2
2
Animal Kingdom
5
6

Monday, May 12, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
5

Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom had wait times slightly higher than expected on Monday but not enough to push the crowd level more than one level higher than predicted. Disney Hollywood Studios witnessed crowds among the lowest of the year. Toy Story Mania, with an average posted time of 65 minutes, was the only Studios attraction that didn’t stay at a level ’1′ on Sunday. Tower of Terror averaged 19 minutes.

Epcot
2
3
Hollywood Studios
2
1
Animal Kingdom
4
5

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
5
5

Tuesday was a resort-wide ’3′ as predicted including the ’5′ at Magic Kingdom. Our attraction level predictions did very well with no estimates missing by more than a few minutes.

Epcot
3
2
Hollywood Studios
1
2
Animal Kingdom
3
3

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
3
4

Wednesday brought the week’s first surprise with Epcot reaching a level ’5′ thanks to higher than expected wait times at Soarin’ (64 minutes, we predicted 58) Spaceship Earth (21 minutes, we predicted 16) and Test Track (67 minutes, we predicted 54). The Studios during the week continues to be a great choice most days as many guests will reserve their visit until the weekend to experience the Star Wars special events. If Star Wars Weekends aren’t you’re thing, any weekday is a good choice.

Epcot
2
5
Hollywood Studios
1
1
Animal Kingdom
4
3

Thursday, May 15, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
3
4

Another resort-wide ’3′ on Thursday and another day of low wait times at The Studios. Magic Kingdom and Epcot had the largest crowds but they only reached a level ’4′ while wait times at Animal Kingdom were low.

Epcot
2
4
Hollywood Studios
2
1
Animal Kingdom
5
3

Friday, May 16, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
6

Friday was the first day of the week where we saw crowds reach above average. Resort-wide we observed a level ’6′ including ’6′s at both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Although Star Wars fans did flock to the Studios to partake in the first Star Wars Weekend events of 2014, wait times actually ended up lower than predicted. Star Wars Weekends should be avoided unless you are there for the festivities however you can tour the park effectively with a good touring plan if you do choose to go.

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
7
5
Animal Kingdom
5
6

Saturday, May 17, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
6

Star Wars Weekends continued on Saturday with large crowds but moderate wait times at Disney Hollywood Studios. We saw crowd level ’7′s at Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Epcot’s crowds were a little elevated thanks to local guests taking advantage of the final weekend of the Flower and Garden Festival.

Epcot
5
7
Hollywood Studios
6
5
Animal Kingdom
6
7
What to Expect This Week
May 18 to May 24, 2014
The Crowd Report

As Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival concludes and Disney Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars Weekends begin we prepare for moderate crowds to build higher as we approach Memorial Day. Magic Kingdom’s 24-hour Rock Your Disney Side event on Friday (and Saturday morning) may bring huge crowds to the Magic Kingdom although we don’t expect wait times to be prohibitive until the late evening.

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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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 5, 2014

SS_dayThis week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. When Universal broke ground in January of 2013 for its first ever value resort, not too much was known about what guests would get. There were pieces of concept art, but in the theme park world those have to be taken with a grain of salt as they can often be more of an artistic interpretation than reality. For example, I’m relatively confident the Disney Springs we end up getting won’t exactly look like the one we were promised. However, at a fan meet for the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast last year I was in the audience for a presentation by Russ Dagon, the project director for Cabana Bay. Russ talked about the new things Cabana Bay would be bringing to the Universal family of hotels (including a lower price point and the first ever family suites) but stressed that the concept art we were looking at was pretty much photo realistic. Turns out he was right. Everything in the concept art was there when I walked into Cabana Bay on its grand opening (Monday, March 31, 2014): the outrageously large lobby area, the gigantic representation of an old style diving platform (which houses a water slide in the pool area), and even the ’50s and ’60s era cars outside the front of the resort for photo ops. After walking around Cabana Bay, it became apparent there were a lot of things this resort brought with it that we weren’t told about ahead of time. Today we present six of these surprises…

# 6 – Sonic Fill

SS_SonicFill

Walt Disney World took a lot of criticism last year when it replaced its old refillable mug program with Rapid Fill. Using an RFID chip inside the mug (or paper cup), Rapid Fill only dispenses soda on days that guests have paid for. Universal hotels have never had a refillable mug program, so it was definitely a surprise to see the debut of Sonic Fill at Cabana Bay. Sonic Fill works exactly like Rapid Fill: you pay for the amount of time you want (from $8.99 for one day up to $17.99 for length of stay), and you can use the mug to fill up at any drink station in Bayliner Diner. The great surprise is that not only does Cabana Bay have the regular Coke soda stations we are used to seeing at Disney resorts, but it has 8 Coke Freestyle machines in the Bayliner Diner and 2 more upstairs at Galaxy Bowl. These Coke Freestyle machines can be used with Sonic Fill and promise over 100 drink choices.

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In the Parks with Morgan: Festival of Fantasy

by on March 20, 2014

For the first time in more than a decade, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World has a new parade. Festival of Fantasy debuted on Sunday, March 9, 2014, and I have a ton of great photos for you from the parade, as well as a little background, some viewing tips, and my impressions of the newest addition to the Kingdom’s entertainment.

First, some general information. Festival of Fantasy begins at 3:00 p.m. in Frontierland and travels in front of the castle and down Main Street, U.S.A. This parade will be highly susceptible to rainy days because of the elaborate costumes and mechanics, so expect that if it’s raining at all, Festival of Fantasy will be cancelled. The FastPass+ viewing area for this parade is in front of Cinderella Castle in the inner ring of the hub. It’s a great place to watch from, but not the best place to photograph from as it puts you very close to the floats and makes it hard to get them in their entirety. Guests who have attended the parade in the FastPass+ area have reported that they were pleased with the number of people they watched with and didn’t feel crowded. Anna and Elsa are on a spinning platform with Tiana and Naveen. If the platform is still for the parade, which it has been both times I’ve watched, Anna and Elsa will only be visible from the Country Bears side of the street in Frontierland and the Emporium side on Main Street, U.S.A.  The Tangled float has a lot going on, but it’s easiest to see the acrobatics taking place on the float from the Tom Sawyer Island side of the street in Frontierland and the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor side of Main Street, U.S.A. While the parade is very large, guests are allowed to sit on the curbs with their feet tucked under them.

And now we’re going float-by-float, so let’s get started!

First up? The Princess Garden float. This float is actually inspired by a Tokyo Disneyland float of the same name. Our version features Beauty and the beast, Tiana and Naveen, and as a special surprise, Anna and Elsa and Olaf.

DSC_0112

The Princess Garden float and accompanying dancers.

Portions of the float rotate to reveal the sets of characters. Most popular according to guest reaction? You guessed it: Anna and Elsa and Olaf. Anna appears in her coronation dress on this float, the only place you can see her in this dress at Walt Disney World right now.

DSC_0135

Anna, Elsa, and Olaf on the Princess Garden float

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Our Pop Century Resort Page Gets A New Look

by on March 4, 2014

We’ve added more coverage of Disney’s Pop Century Resort to the site, including new photos and these sections:Pop Century Icon

  • How Pop compares to Disney’s All-Star and Art of Animation resorts
  • What’s in a room (and what’s not in a room), including photos
  • Handicap-accessible room options
  • The difference between a Standard and Preferred room, and Standard and Pool views
  • Where to check in, purchase tickets, and make dining reservations
  • Photos and details on Pop’s pools and playgrounds, including handicap accessibility
  • Dining and Restaurants, from the Everything Pop food court menus, to refillable mugs, to in-room pizza delivery
  • Your transportation options, including Magical Express, Disney’s typical bus schedule to the theme parks, when to drive your own car, and getting to Universal
  • Shopping and recreation choices, including Pop’s 1.28-mile jogging trail route
  • Babysitting and in-room child care options and prices
  • Extensive comments from readers who have stayed at Pop Century

We’ve also greatly expanded the Good Rooms and Not So Good Rooms section, with photos and recommendations on the best rooms (and their views!) from each building.

Take a look at the new page, and leave comments and suggestions below. Thanks!

 

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons To Check Out Universal’s Mardi Gras 2014

by on February 22, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Reasons To Check Out Universal’s Mardi Gras Grand Celebration. The Universal Orlando Resort knows how to throw a party and Mardi Gras is their wildest celebration of the year. Universal’s Mardi Gras brings in big name musical acts, authentic New Orleans food, and a party atmosphere like no other and on top of it all the price is included in the price of regular admission.  If you need more reasons than that to attend, here are an additional six.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version.

IMG_2374

Daughtry (photo courtesy of Chad Evetts)

# 6 – The Concerts

The music acts that Universal books for the Mardi Gras Grand Celebration are second-to-none in the theme park concert world.  While the Epcot Flower Power series of concerts will be featuring acts like Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Village People and Chubby Checker – people  you may have literally heard a thousand times before – this year’s Mardi Gras concert lineup includes a mix of classic and contemporary artists. Daughtry, Barenaked Ladies, Weezer and The Roots are just a few of the musical acts that will be headlining this year’s event. There’s also country stars like Gavin Degraw, classic rock groups like Foreigner and Lynyrd Skynryd, and even a Christian rock band with Skillet. Whether it’s Nelly, Collective Soul, or Huey Lewis and the News, you can pretty much count on Universal delivering an act you want to see perform.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Be Our Guest Restaurant

by on February 15, 2014

DSC_1118This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Love Be Our Guest Restaurant. With the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train inching towards completion later this year, today we’re going to look at what can be considered the “E-Ticket” of New Fantasyland, Be Our Guest Restaurant. While the Magic Kingdom is the gold standard of the theme park world for meet and greets, dark rides, parades, night time spectaculars and even themed bathrooms,  one area that we all agree needs some improvement is the quality dining. Be Our Guest not only starts to fill that void, but you could make a strong case that it is the best themed restaurant inside any theme park. The Beast’s castle “weenie” can be seen from far away and the closer you get the more impressive everything becomes.

Today we’re going to look at six reasons we love Be Our Guest and why it’s our favorite restaurant experience in WDW. We should add that this article represents the dinner experience, as the lunch experience can be quite different. Some would argue you can get much better value with the lunch menu, but we’ll save that debate for another day.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version.

# 6 – The Beast

Our host for the evening is Beast himself, and throughout the night he does a walkthrough of the three dining rooms (always to a round of applause), and is afterward available for pictures at his study when you’re done with your meal. The design work on this character is impressive and watching him walk through the restaurant is fun. The photo-op at the end of the meal is a nice cherry on top of the sundae and like many of the recent Disney meet n’ greets, the setting for the picture is gorgeous.

DSC_1215

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