Walt Disney World (FL)

Walt Disney World Preview — Week of September 2

by on August 31, 2017

If you’ve never visited Walt Disney World when the crowds are at a 1 (yes, I said a one), now’s the time to do it. Read on for news, park hours, and more!

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! AUGUST 2017 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on August 31, 2017

Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo, secret shopper Daisy Lauren and I found a whole bunch of neat items this month including Adventureland Tsum Tsums, next level bonkers coffee cups based on Fantasy Football, and a Dapper Dan nutcracker (like we could make that up.)

Ready to see what we else we found? Alright, let’s go!

Disney spent a long time on the creation of the Rivers of Light show at Animal Kingdom, and while the show itself isn’t drawing the rave reviews The Mouse was looking for, it did bring with it a whole bunch of great merchandise. Between the food & drink components, the awesome Rivers of Light soundtrack, and the other items at the gift shops, no other show at WDW comes close to touching the merch quality of Rivers of Light. Some of those items – all of which actually debuted well before Rivers of Light because the show got delayed so long – made their way to the Outlets this month.

First up is the E-Ticket Lotus popcorn bucket. This is hands-down the best popcorn bucket the American parks have ever made. It looks incredible, holds a giant amount of popcorn (have you seen the 10 kernels of popcorn that the Star Wars Tie-Fighter popcorn bucket holds?), and actually has an led lighting feature. The other two items also light up and they were both souvenir cups. The “adult” one resemble a stein, while the “kid” version was like a lantern which you could actually collapse.  I bought all three of these when they came out at the parks, so of course it drove me insane to see them at the Outlets, but good for all of you (he begrudgingly wrote).

(photo by Captain Cruiseline himself, @TheDCLBlog)

I really liked these Mad Tea Party coffee cups. May actually make my top six all time Disney coffee cups. Originally $19.99, now $5.99.

Mad Tea Party cups. (photo by Daisy Lauren)

Also a big fan of these Mickey and Minnie cups that came out during the Flower and Garden Festival. I believed they arrived late though because these probably would have flew off the shelves if they were offered throughout the Festival. Originally $14.95, now $5.99.

Mickey and Minnie (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Quick Tips and Picks for the 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on August 30, 2017

 

The 2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is finally here! Are you excited? Overwhelmed by all the options? I’m right there with you, but as Touring Plans’ resident food reviewer, I’m here to help you navigate all the menus and the festival itself over the next 75(!) days. We’ve already sent many of you down the planning rabbit hole a few weeks ago, when all the festival menus were released.

Today, I’m offering up a few tips I’ve acquired over years of festival snacking. Then, I’ll help point you towards a few highlights at the festival by grouping over 50 dishes by the most popular themes you, our readers, ask about every year! Check out each category listed below, with quick links to that section of the article. To whet your appetite, I’ve included photos of some dishes from previous years’ festivals (of course, they may look slightly different in 2017… we’ll see soon!).

The Tips
The Food
Classics For Food & Wine Festival First-Timers
Family-Friendly Bites Perfect for Picky Eaters
Must-Do Desserts
New Items That Sound Like Winners
Dishes Aimed Towards Adventurous Eaters
Vegetarian Dishes Perfect for All Palates
Gluten-Friendly Treats
Can’t-Miss Specialty Drinks

 

The Tips

 

Even for well-seasoned festival-goers, the ever-growing Food & Wine Festival can be a bear to conquer. With so many options, so little time (and money!), and heat and humidity coming into play, there are a few tried and true strategies to guarantee success without going broke or missing out on your favorites:

  • Do: Set a budget. It’s ridiculously easy to sink $100 into Food & Wine dishes in less than a few hours, if you’re not careful. Set a realistic limit for what you want to spend and stick to it. To help, each menu featured here at Touring Plans includes the prices for items after they are revealed on festival day one.
  • Do: Make a plan for all your must-do dishes, so you don’t run out of stomach space or money before you hit the back of World Showcase. Speaking of planning…
  • Don’t: Start your snacking at the front of World Showcase. Just like with touring a park, you’ll want to avoid the first booths you see in order to optimize your waits in line. I won’t tell you to go all the way to the back of World Showcase and work your way forward, either – this is a very common strategy nowadays. Your best bet, in my estimation, is to start with a popular booth on either side of World Showcase – France, China, Canada, Belgium, and Germany are always solid bets for long lines that will only grow longer as the day progresses.
  • Do: Pace yourself. Even if you only have one day to snack around the festival, it’s definitely best to take it slow, especially in the early, hottest days of the festival. Speaking of heat…
  • Don’t: Forget to hydrate! Even if you aren’t partaking in any alcohol, Epcot in August and September heat is brutally hot midday. Take advantage of the bottled water sold at booths, or better yet, grab a free cup of ice water from quick service locations in Mexico, Japan, Norway, China, and the American Adventure.

Finally, probably my most controversial tip, but after a few years of experience with marathon Food and Wine days, is definitely the key to success:

  • Do: Eat breakfast. I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous. Why eat breakfast before going to Epcot to snack all day? Why? It’s simple – you need to fuel your long day of walking around in the heat somehow, and if you plan to drink any alcohol, this will ensure you are starting your day off on the right foot. I’m not suggesting a character breakfast buffet, to be sure – just make sure you grab something before heading out to the park for the day.

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Disney Testing Pre-Order Service at All Star Music

by on August 30, 2017

Disney is testing a new pre-order service at Intermission Food Court, the quick service location at All Star Music. This service is currently offered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at All Star Music only. The other All Star resorts (Sports and Movies) are not testing pre-orders, nor are the other value resorts, Pop Century and Art of Animation. This service is different from mobile ordering through MyDisneyExperience.

To use the service, pick up any grab and go items you want, place your order with the cashier, pay, and take a pager. You can then grab a table, cutlery, napkins, and any fountain beverages you ordered. When your food is ready, the pager goes off and you collect your order at the pizza pickup window.

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The Best of Walt Disney World for Girls

by on August 29, 2017

Welcome back to Part 3 of my blog series – The Best of Walt Disney World! In case you missed it, over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the top picks in attractions for various groups of travelers visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks. So far we’ve discussed favorites for babies and preschoolers. Next up are those cute little princesses…grade school girls. When checking out the list, keep in mind each attraction that made the cut scored at least four stars by the grade school kids surveyed. Come on, everybody, here we go!

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Allergy-Friendly Trick or Treats at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

by on August 29, 2017

As a child, I learned very early on to say “No thank you, I have allergies.” or flash my metal medical alert bracelet when in doubt. In the era I was growing up, there were few alternatives for my most severe allergies (soy being the most dangerous to my personal safety with the potential for anaphylaxis). Today, thankfully, I have outgrown many of the allergies that caused me discomfort as a child, and I can even eat soy in certain forms (although tofu and edamame can still trigger anaphylaxis for me, and some other legumes cause severe pain). But when I hear about children (and adults) who still have the challenge of dietary allergies, I really can sympathize from a personal level. Halloween nights were always a challenge in my house, watching candy get sorted into “safe”, “okay in moderation”, and “not safe” piles based on ingredients. Years ago, when I heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project (to offer allergy friendly or non-edible trick or treat options for kids), I was delighted. Out house has participated for several years now.

At Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, there’s also a “teal friendly” (allergy friendly) option for trick or treating. When it comes to food allergies, I don’t have to worry about an allergic reaction from physical contact with foods, and because I was pretty positive that there wouldn’t be individually wrapped pieces of tofu handed out, I figured that I’d give a try trick or treating in line with the allergies I had as a child to see how allergy safe the experience really is. My experience was, pun intended, a mixed bag.

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2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival + Video

by on August 29, 2017

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins this week!

My mouth is watering just thinking about all of those delicious dishes…

Okay, back to work. For today’s video, I’ll be showing some highlights this festival has to offer.

Bon appétit!

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New Dining Tool on TouringPlans.com Dashboard

by on August 29, 2017

At TouringPlans.com we provide you with tools that help you plan and enjoy your vacations. We know that dining is an important part of Walt Disney World trips, so to help secure hard-to-get dining reservations we offer our Reservation Finder. Building on the success of that tool, we are now making use of our extensive menu database to help you make decisions related to Disney Dining Plans.

The first version of this “Dining Calculator” is available now. At this point, the tool is simple: it shows you what dining plans are offered, and it gives you an estimated value of the food you’d get if you consumed “average” meals or “maximum value” meals. These (especially the “maximum value” meals) are not necessarily realistic since you would need to eat at same restaurant and order nearly the same thing for every one of your meals to get that value. However, these numbers should give a sense of the potential savings (or lack thereof) for your group in using a Disney Dining Plan.

To access the Dining Calculator tool, click on the DINING button while looking at a Walt Disney World trip on your dashboard (if you don’t already have a “trip” on your dashboard, you will need to create one). If you have an existing trip, you may need to edit your trip to specify the number of adults and children in your group.

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Touring Plan Review

by on August 28, 2017

August 25th was the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party for 2017. I volunteered my wife and myself to test out the premium touring plan, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for Parents with Small Children (Focus on Treats). It’s a great touring plan if you’ve already covered most of the Magic Kingdom. The primary focus of the touring plan is on meeting characters, trick-or-treating, and the activities that can only be found during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It also includes tips for finding great viewing spots for the 9:15 pm Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade and 10:15 pm HalloWishes fireworks show.

The touring plan has been updated after our experience. We found the plan was very ambitious. Most of our touring plans are designed using our software and historical data, however with unique character meet and greets in this event, the wait times can vary dramatically. This plan is more of a strategy to navigate the Halloween party, rather than a precise itinerary.

The plan starts in Adventureland for character meet and greets and trick-or-treating before the 9:15 pm parade. After the parade, we squeezed in a ride on the Haunted Mansion before heading to Main Street to see HalloWishes. Then it is off to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland for more characters and candy.

It has been a few years since I did the Halloween party but very little has changed.  The markers for the trick-or-treat locations have been changed from a Mickey Ghost to a colorful Mars|Wrigley branded marker. Disney has added multiple party-exclusive Magic Shots, Animated Magic Shots, and photo opportunities from the Disney PhotoPass service. The candy path that went from New Fantasyland to Space Mountain is no more. The top-off candy at the exit at the end of the party has also departed. (But have no fear–with trick or treating, you can still get a full bag of candy by the end of the night.)

Copyright Disney

What We Learned

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Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl

by on August 28, 2017

ice cream crawl passport cover

Leave it to artist Donna Yan’s adorable Dole Whip couple to make us simultaneously want Dole Whip and a Mickey Bar!

I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute must-have indulgences at Walt Disney World is ice cream. Add into that my love of coming up with themes or challenges for our Disney trips, and you get a recipe for success. (Specifically, you get a Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl!) My husband and I are apt to try a variety of challenges on our trips. We might focus on only getting snacks from places we’ve never been to before. Or we might make all of our table service reservations for restaurants we’ve never visited. Or we’ll do a trip dedicated to resort dining. (I’m just now noticing the theme of food in a lot of our planning…) For our upcoming trek, we decided to crank it up a bit and focus on ice cream.

I knew from the very beginning that not only did I want to do an ice cream crawl, but I wanted it to have its very own passport. I was inspired by the Epcot festival passports that detail out what food items you can find where. Seriously, what better way to keep track of all the amazing ice cream options than to have a dedicated ice cream passport?! (You can download your very own passport later in the article.) Let’s back things up a bit and discuss how the ice cream crawl was formed.

Simply put, the ice cream crawl was born out of an intense desire for ice cream. (Okay, it was actually as a result of the Whole30 we were in the middle of, but don’t tell anyone else that. It’s not like we were dying for sugar or anything…) First, I needed to decide what locations would be fair game for inclusion in the passport. All four theme parks were obvious, but what about resorts? Water parks? Disney Springs? At the end of the day, I went with locations that we would be reasonably likely to frequent. This included all four theme parks, Disney Springs, and the area around Crescent Lake. It’s so easy to pop out of Epcot and over to the Crescent Lake resorts that including those seemed appropriate. (And we really needed Ample Hills Creamery in there!)

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