Walt Disney World (FL)

Animal Kingdom Touring: How a Touring Plan Can Help

by on August 27, 2014

I have grown to love all of the parks at Disney World, but the one that took me the longest to befriend was Animal Kingdom. It’s not that I don’t love the theme (what’s not to love about animals?). It’s not that I don’t love the attractions (Kilimanjaro Safaris and Finding Nemo the Musical are two of the best things at any park, in my opinion.) It’s that I’m always feeling the pressure of the time schedule.

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

I just love the gorillas along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, one of my favorite YOPAs.

Animal Kingdom is made up of three types of attractions. The first (and most prevalent) is Your Own Pace Attractions (let’s call these YOPA, just for fun). These are experiences that take varied amounts of time, depending on your pace and interest level. The YOPA list is long:

 

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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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Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Souvenirs at Walt Disney World

by on August 26, 2014

t_logo_fbRecently, a TouringPlans user asked for suggestions about where to find eco friendly or fair trade souvenirs at Walt Disney World. Although Walt Disney World does frequently issue statements about their corporate culture of environmental awareness and ethical trade practices, finding souvenirs that are clearly eco friendly or fair trade does take a bit of looking.

As I shopped, three common themes I found were:

  1. If you are trying to find non-mass produced, fair trade, and/or eco friendly souvenirs, you can almost always skip the larger shopping locations (The Emporium, Mouse Gear, World of Disney).
  2. If you want something that has a Disney character or says Walt Disney World, you will have a lot of challenges finding anything that meets these standards.
  3. When talking with different people about what they consider to be eco friendly or “ethical souvenirs”, there is a lot of variation to what people find acceptable.

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Disney World Ticket Scams

by on August 26, 2014

Disclaimer: While I am a Cast Member, I do not speak for the Walt Disney Company. The following information is based on my own experience and does not necessarily reflect the Walt Disney Company’s policies. Please see the Walt Disney World website for official rules and regulations regarding ticket use.

I’m always on the hunt for a bargain, and I’m willing to take some risks to get one–my recent purchase of clearance yogurt comes to mind. However, Walt Disney World tickets are not the purchase to mess with. I work as a vacation planner (read: ticket seller) at the Transportation and Ticket Center, and I’ve witnessed the many ways guests have tried to game the system to avoid paying full price for tickets. Here’s a quick list of the most frequent Disney World ticket scams and why you should avoid them:

Disney World ticket scams

Beware “Cheap Tickets.” They’re especially scary at night. Photo by Maddi Higgins

Used Tickets

Somebody bought a 7-day ticket, only used 5 of the days. Why not hand those two days off to somebody else and get a little extra cash? Then you can pick up those extra days at Cheep Ticketz on 192 for a major discount.

Why you shouldn’t try it:

The only way to know if a ticket has any entitlements left is through Disney. So when you stop at Tickets ‘R Us on 192, you’ll have to take their word that there are any days left on the ticket. You also have no idea if the person who originally purchased the ticket also got the No Expiration option; if not, the days on the ticket expired 14 days after first use. The biometric scanning information is connected to the ticket, so if you have a different finger than the original user, you will not get through the touch point. So unless your used ticket comes with the chopped-off index finger of the original owner, you won’t have much luck getting into the parks.

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Menu Monday: Top Places to Find Ice Cream

by on August 25, 2014

In Florida, summer seems to last until October. Unless you have a personal flurry, like Olaf, you will quickly find yourself looking for ways to stay cool. In addition to ducking into some of the air conditioned attractions around Walt Disney World, a sure-fire way to cool off and satisfy your snack cravings is to enjoy a cool, refreshing treat. Let’s explore some of the top ten places to find ice cream in Walt Disney World. (Prices listed are current as of post date.)

 

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow.

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow (Magic Kingdom): Sleepy Hollow Refreshments is a quaint window at the entrance to Liberty Square, just off the hub. You’ll know it from the aroma of funnel cake wafting through the air, beckoning you to come closer. But don’t be seduced by the funnel cake, there are giant ice cream sandwiches to be had here! The ice cream cookie sandwich is probably one of best bargains if you’re using a Disney Dining Plan Snack Credit. And at $4.19, I’d argue it’s a bargain paying out of pocket, as well. You get two full-sized, giant, homemade chocolate chip cookies (often still warm from the oven), and squished between them is a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s large enough to share, but why would want to?! It’s that darned yummy!

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New Villains’ Sinister Soiree Added to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

by on August 25, 2014

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

©Disney

Guests who are looking to add more treats to their Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party experience can participate in the “Villains’ Sinister Soiree: A Wicked Takeover of Cinderella Castle” Dessert Party. The event will include many perks, including a preferred viewing area for the 8:15 p.m. “Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade,” a preferred viewing spot for “Happy HalloWishes” fireworks extravaganza, as well as a special dessert party at Cinderella’s Royal Table, hosted by Lady Tremaine. The restaurant will be transformed into a villainous atmosphere, with a piano player and haunting solos from Cinderella’s evil step-mother. The dessert party will include over-the-top desserts and non-alcoholic beverages, plus an autograph card and a souvenir Maleficent Dragon cup.

To check in for the event, guests must visit the Will Call booth outside the main entrance of the Magic Kingdom between 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Guests may begin checking in at the parade and fireworks viewing area, located in the central plaza by the Castle Forecourt Stage starting at 7:30 p.m. where they’ll receive wristband identification, which must be presented to enter the preferred viewing areas and Cinderella’s Royal Table. The dessert soiree will take place at either 10:15 p.m. or 11:45 p.m., depending on the day. It will take place at both 10:15 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. on September 1, 9 and 12 and at 10:15 p.m. only on September 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28 and October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 31.

The cost is $99 per person (ages 3 and up), plus tax (gratuity is included). Admission to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is required and not included in the price of the event. Reservations can be made by calling (407) 939-5262.

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Menu Monday: Snacks Around the World Showcase – France

by on August 25, 2014

It’s time to continue to make our way around the World Showcase, sampling packaged snacks that we generally wouldn’t try in our daily lives. If you have been following along, we have already hit JapanCanada, and United Kingdom, trying snacks from a lollipop to chips. There’s more to discover, so let’s head to France to find a French snack to sample!

the iconic spaceship earth from Epcot.

It’s a great day to look for snacks!

Before we go, since we’re on a snacking challenge, let’s make sure we remember the rules:

Snack Rules

  • No snacks over $10; preferably less than $5
  • As unusual as possible
  • Something I personally would eat

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: The Music of Adventureland

by on August 24, 2014

Do you hear the sound of drums?

Do you hear the sound of drums?

When people say that they are going on an adventure and want you to help them put a playlist together, what songs would you add? Would it be full of somber, slow, quiet, soothing music? Some smooth jazz, perhaps? Absolutely not! The soundtrack would be full of high-energy, quick-paced, fun music.

That fun music can take a variety of forms. Maybe your adventure soundtrack would be upbeat piano music. Maybe it would be full of international flair. Or maybe it would just be full of drums and other percussion.

Adventureland in Magic Kingdom Park has a lot of different styles in its boundaries – from jungles to desert to the Caribbean coast. But any way you slice it, Adventureland means fun. And fun is what you hear in the background music surrounding the area. Let’s go break down the fun together!

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Fear and Trembling: A Chicken’s Review of Big Thunder Mountain

by on August 23, 2014

“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man . . . .. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place.”

I am not that man.

big.thunder.4

Big Thunder, Big

As I moved resignedly toward the tumblin’ town of Tumbleweed, that sad fact was once again made painfully apparent. My time and place does not involve thrills. Although I’ve never been especially frightened by regular thunder, I have more than my fair share of reservations regarding Big Thunder, and not just of the FastPass+ persuasion. Coffee and creamed-colored crags cast troubled shadows at my feet as we inched closer; it was very clear to me I was in the wrong place. My wife, unfortunately, was not persuaded.

I’ve heard the claim before. Upon our return from a quick Christmastime visit to the Magic Kingdom with my immediate family, my wife and my brother both suggested that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad might actually be an attraction I would enjoy, as it lacked the typical large drops that so twist my stomach in knots—as well as not’s, as in “I’m not going on another of these rides, I’m not going to eat again, I’m not feeling especially manly . . .”, and so on. At this point, my faith in other people’s assessment of whether  or not I will enjoy/survive unscathed any thrill ride has been shaken, not to mention roughed-up and made queasy and more than a little cranky.

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Hidden Details of Animal Kingdom

by on August 23, 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 Animal Kingdom!

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Expedition Everest Height Measurement

Over at Asia’s Expedition Everest, be sure to notice the special height measurement for young riders. Only at Disney would the measurement be a giant, wooden Yeti foot! I’ve always thought that Expedition Everest has one of the most clever, detailed themed queues, and this fun detail just proves it!

Inside of the Dinosaur attraction, look up to see red, white, and yellow pipes running through the queue. Chemical combinations are printed on those pipes, which isn’t anything special, unless you realize the combinations are actually the chemical names for ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard! Weird, right?

Animal Kingdom Harambe Sign - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Village

Animal Kingdom’s Africa is meant to look and feel as if you have just walked into a real African village called Harambe. Disney Imagineers really went to new heights with the details here, as Harambe appears lived-in and authentic with thatched roofs, posters for the village’s Harambe Wildlife Preserve, handpainted signs on the sides of local businesses, and so much more. This particular sign welcoming you into Harambe features ads of the village’s establishments, and the lights above it are even rusted to show age.

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