Walt Disney World (FL)

SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Kept Secrets at EPCOT

by on August 20, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Six Best Kept Secrets at EPCOT. Yes, we love the awesome rides, the incredible resorts, and the mouth watering restaurants at WDW, but the more trips we take, the more we appreciate all the little details throughout The World. While most guests know of Hidden Mickeys, there are many other “Easter eggs” to discover, with many of these secrets being hidden in plain sight. We’ve previously looked at some great details at the Magic Kingdom (including references to Mr. Toad and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), and today we are going to look at some of our favorite “secrets” at EPCOT. So sit back, pour a out a 40 for Horizons, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – The Hollywood Tower of Terror at DHS Blends in with the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase

The Hollywood Tower of Terror is one of the greatest rides in Walt Disney World – in fact it took first place in our very own Best WDW Attractions Poll – but one of its most amazing features is that the ride not only fits thematically into Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it fits into EPCOT. The attraction is so tall that – from certain angles – it is one of the few things that you can see from inside a WDW park, but the Tower’s facade was ingeniously designed so that it would fit into the theming of the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase.

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If Guardians of the Galaxy replaces the Tower of Terror in DHS, Morocco may have to be rethemed to the Knowhere Pavilion.  (photo by Brian Carey)

# 5 – Future World Lights Up At Night

This is one that kids will probably notice well before adults, but at night some of the pavement in Future World takes on new life thanks to a fiber optic lighting package. In an area in-between Spaceship Earth and Innoventions Plaza, some of the pavement tiles have tiny lights that sparkle, making for a magical appearance. Meanwhile, over by Innoventions West, there are larger sections of pavement completely lit up with designs that “move” and change colors. Don’t feel bad if you’ve been to EPCOT 1,000 times and never noticed any of these lights, as most guests don’t even come near this area on their dash out of the park. As always, one of our best tips when it comes to touring the WDW parks is to slow down, and give yourself time to take it all in.

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Future World, who may want to consider suing Pandora: The World of Avatar for gimmick infringment. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Stacey, enjoying another magical night at EPCOT. (photo by Ryan Pastorino. Instagram @disphotomagic)

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Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri Working on Menu for Planet Hollywood Observatory

by on August 19, 2016

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©Disney

We’re starting to get some information about the updates planned for Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs. The restaurant, which was supposed to open this summer has now been pushed back to a Fall reopening and today, they announced that celebrity chef Guy Fieri is developing some of the menu items. This mostly includes several flavorful burgers and sandwiches.

Sandwiches will include the Prime Time American Kobe-Inspired Burger, Turkey Pic-a-nic Sandwich, and a lobster roll. The menu will also feature some of Planet Hollywood’s classic favorites such as the return of a few favorites including Chicken Crunch. (Which are chicken fingers with a Cap’n Crunch cereal coating.) The rest of the menu will range from from salads to steaks and ribs.

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The 5 W’s of Pre-Park-Open Dining at Disney World

by on August 19, 2016

Did you know that it’s possible to enter the parks at Walt Disney World before they officially open for the day? A valid park ticket and dining reservation for one of seven restaurants is all you need to get into the park before regular guests. Read on to learn about the who, what, where, when, and why of these reservations.

Who?

Regardless of whether you’re staying on or off site, guests with valid theme park admission are eligible to enter the park early if they have an Advanced Dining Reservation scheduled for before the park’s official opening time. Since these are some of the hardest reservations to score, guests staying at a Disney resort have an advantage due to the extended 180 day + length of stay window for dining reservations for on-site guests. Our dining Reservation Finder can also help you snag those hard to get reservations.

Walking through World Showcase before Epcot's official open

A perk of early reservations – walking through a nearly empty Epcot

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Disney is Celebrating Disney PhotoPass Day on August 19

by on August 17, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

If you’ll be in Walt Disney World this Friday, August 19, you’ll be able to take part in an event promoting Disney PhotoPass. Disney PhotoPass Day will promote making memories. (Making memories. Taking pictures is making memories.)

Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland will be taking part in this event which will feature exciting offerings and experiences for Guests to enjoy.

At both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, you’ll be able to take part in special character meet and greet experiences. Meet Pinocchio, Gideon, and Foulfellow in Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. At Epcot, you’ll find the Queen of Hearts who will join Alice in the United Kingdom Pavilion, Dopey will join Snow White in the Germany Pavilion, and Mushu will meet with Mulan at the China Pavilion.

In addition, at one select location throughout each of the four theme parks and at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World and at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort, Guests will be able to receive a complimentary photo that will be available to download at no charge as part of the #DisneyPhotoPassDay celebration. Guests will find these photos in their My Disney Experience app at the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland app at the Disneyland Resort. Participating locations include:

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What you need to know about security procedures at Orlando’s theme parks

by on August 17, 2016

Orlando’s theme parks have enjoyed a decades long reputation for providing a clean and safe environment for all guests. Over the years the theme parks’ security procedures have evolved, adding layers and new processes. In the past few months we’ve seen a significant change to all the major theme parks’ procedures. In hopes of helping you prepare for your visit, I’ve laid out some of the security measures you can expect to encounter.

Keep in mind, there are multiple layers of security at all the parks. There are efforts that go unseen and procedures we don’t know about. Additionally, out of respect for the theme parks, their staff members, and their security, I won’t go beyond what is already shared with the public and easily seen when visiting the parks.

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Walt Disney World – Four Main Theme Parks

The Most Magical Place on Earth can’t hold such a title without having some solid security procedures in place. At the beginning of the year it was standard that all of Orlando’s theme parks conduct a bag check on any guest who had any bag of any kind, including strollers. Then a few months ago all three of Orlando’s major theme park destinations installed metal detectors at the security checkpoint. The rollout process and ramp up period varied for each destination.

Walt Disney World has proceeded with using their metal detectors for random checks. Although every single guest will go through a more-thorough-than-ever bag screening process, not every guest is asked to go through a metal detector. After the bag screening guests are selected at random to go through the detectors.

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The metal detectors are off to the side and are manned by a group of Security Cast Members. I have been selected multiple times. Each time the Cast Members have been very courteous and it has only added a minute or two to my ability to get to the park entrance. You may also notice law enforcement personnel at a few posts throughout the front entrance area, as well.

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Disney’s official park rules can be found here. Some of the highlights include statements that all persons, bags, parcels, and clothing are subject to screening, as well as stating that they reserve the right to not allow any item they deem inappropriate into the premises.

Guest that do not have bags have a separate area they can go through to bypass the bag screening area, but they are still subject to random metal detector screenings.

Of all the theme parks, you will most likely find that Walt Disney World’s screen process takes the least amount of time. Still if you arrive to the parks right around their opening time, be prepared for an extensive line at the checkpoints. It’s one of the reasons that we recommend arriving 30-60 minutes before any park’s opening time.

Disney Water Parks and Disney Springs

Currently, there are no metal detectors at Disney’s two water parks nor Disney Springs. At the water parks there is a bag screening, though not very extensive. There is no screening at Disney Springs, though there is a strong security and law enforcement presence.

Universal Orlando

Here you will find the most extensive screening process–and perhaps the most talked about process. Every guest will go through metal detector and all bags go through an x-ray machine. When you first approach the security checkpoint it really does resemble being at the airport. This security checkpoint is for all guests regardless of if you are visiting the theme parks or just CityWalk.

I have a slight concern with the location of this checkpoint, though it is difficult to think of an alternative location. During peak time, especially first thing in the morning, this domed area is extremely crowded. It can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience and when that feels like a bad bottle neck situation.

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Universal Team Members who park in the main parking structure must also go through the same screening area, though they have a dedicated separate lane. A few friends of mine that go through this process on a daily basis have expressed concerns with some of the interactions they’ve encountered with Security personnel, as well as encounters they’ve observed with guests.  I have had mostly good experiences, though there have been some rare occasion to the contrary.

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Best Outdated Attractions for Beating the Heat at Disney World

by on August 16, 2016

When it comes time to make your touring plan, there is no doubt you will include well known attractions like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, or the NEW Frozen Ever After. But not every attraction is a headliner. For every Mountain, there is a Mad Tea Party or Voyage of the Little Mermaid. And we need them. Why? Because the steamy heat of central Florida can cause more than one kind of meltdown during your magical vacation. When that happens, you need a place of retreat. Somewhere without a 75 minute outdoor queue. A chance to sit, relax, and cool off. What you need are these 3 outdated attractions. We are here to celebrate 90s fashions, movies your children don’t care about, and some “interesting” thoughts on energy and climate change.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure

Let me be clear by stating that Ellen’s Energy Adventure rates just above Stitch’s Great Escape for my least favorite spot in Walt Disney World. However, when it’s 96 degrees outside with 96% humidity, the dated 1996 film inside this attraction gets a lot more appealing. With little to no wait, and the longest ride time in Walt Disney World, this attraction is worth considering.

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Photo – Ben Crain

Inside the Universe of Energy, you can enjoy a 45 minute air conditioned respite from the summer heat. The attraction begins with Ellen DeGeneres appearing across several giant screens in the pre-show theater. There are only a few benches located at the back of this area. Be prepared to stand during the short 5-minute introduction to the ride.

Next, the audience is loaded up into 6 large ride vehicles, each holding up to 97 passengers. Due to the attraction’s age and lack of popularity, chances are good your ride vehicle will not be full. That means your party can usually choose a row and spread out. Now we come to the reason you will want to put up with a 20 year old script from Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy: you can sleep right through it! Kids, or shameless adults can stretch out in the long rows and take a nice nap. The vehicles crawl along the track through the primarily dark space of the attraction’s interior. If you can tune out the sound of dinosaurs and the beep, beep, beep of Jeopardy, you can sleep for the next 35 minutes.

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Blaze Pizza: A Fast Favorite at Disney Springs

by on August 16, 2016

As I mentioned last week, Disney Springs has had so many new restaurants open in the past few months. Just last Friday, one of the final pieces of the dining puzzle opened its doors to welcome pizza lovers from near and far. Blaze Pizza, located in the Town Center area just across the springs from Homecoming Kitchen, is a fast casual chain that promises fast-fired pizzas and salads in just 3 minutes. The easiest way to think of Blaze is to look at it as Chipotle for pizza: pretty much everything is customizable, from the crust, to the sauce, toppings, and pizza finishes.

After my first glance at the menu board outside the restaurant, I was excited to try Blaze just based on the price – a plain cheese pizza, 11” personal size (as all pizzas are served here), is just $7.25; add one topping out of a huge selection, and the price is $8.45. For any and all toppings you want, or one of the specialty pizzas, the price is still less than $10, at $9.65! You can even have your pizza made half-and-half, if you’re indecisive or looking to split a pie with a friend, at no additional cost.

I visited Blaze not long after it opened a few days ago for an early lunch, so there wasn’t yet a long wait that particular day (though a queue was set up outside for later use during rushes). Once I was greeted inside, I was introduced to the huge variety of topping options and the four “simple salads” available. I decided to leave my first pie at Blaze Pizza up to the experts, so I ordered half-White Top (white cream sauce base, mozzarella, bacon, garlic, oregano, and arugula) and half-Art Lover (artichoke, mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, and dollops of red sauce on top). I also chose to add pepperoni on the Art Lover half, just to see what the portion size was like there, too.

I’m glad I took a chance adding a topping here, because my expert pizza makers made it clear that some who’ve passed through the doors of Blaze had already made a fatal pizza flaw: too many toppings. They really do know their stuff – too many toppings leads to soggy pizza, one that’s harder for them to cook and for you to eat.

Simple is better here, and while you don’t get a ton of each topping on your pizza, everything I tasted on my pie was fresh and flavorful to the point that I didn’t really miss the extra few bites. I chose the standard crust, which is thin, almost like a flatbread. The high-rise crust was explained to me as being a bit more like what most would think of as “normal pizza crust”, but at $2 more, I felt like the standard crust was just fine.

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StormStruck and Sum of All Thrills Leaving Innoventions

by on August 15, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Big changes have been happening at Epcot’s Innoventions lately with many attractions closing. Now, two more attractions are closing in Innoventions East – The Sum of All Thrills and StormStruck. The two attractions will be closed as of September 14 due to their sponsorship agreements ending.

The Sum of All Thrills which was sponsored by Raytheon was a simulator that allowed guests to utilize math skills to create a thrill ride. Guests would then be able to put their creation to the test courtesy of a Kuka arm.

Storm Struck, which was presented by FLASH, educates Guests on how to prevent storm damage around the home.

With these two closures, this means that the only attraction remaining open in Innoventions East will be the relatively new Colortopia by Glidden, which opened in November of last year.

Disney has said that plans for Innoventions are going to be shared at a later date.

 

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SATURDAY SIX: 6 Times THE SIMPSONS Totally Nailed Being A Theme Park Fan

by on August 13, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Times THE SIMPSONS Totally Nailed Being A Theme Park Fan. We here at SATURDAY SIX HQ have never hid the fact of how much we love The Simpsons television show. Despite it being a cartoon, for us it is right up there with the all-time great comedies including Seinfeld, Parks and Rec, and Cheers. When Universal Studios Florida expanded the area surrounding The Simpsons Ride into a small version of Springfield, it was a dream come true. As a fan of The Simpsons dating back to when they were just short skits on The Tracey Ullman Show, seeing Duff Beer brought to life was just as a magical moment for me as it is for Potterheads walking into Diagon Alley and getting a Butterbeer.

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The Simpsons

One of the reasons The Simpsons actually being represented at the Universal Orlando Resort is so great is because the show has spent the better part of 25 years making fun of theme parks! Other shows have gone to theme parks and made some jokes (such as Boy Meets World, Family Matters, and – of course – Full House), but for the most part those shows were just promotional vehicles for Disney. The Simpsons didn’t hold back. Their jokes had some real truths to them, truths that readers of this blog would understand. Today we are going to look back at the history of The Simpsons and theme parks, and at some of our favorite moments over the years. Many of these scenes can actually be seen in the queue for The Simpsons Ride along with exclusive new scenes made just for Universal. So sit back, put on a pair of beer googles, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – “Bart’s New Friend” (Season 26, Episode 11)

We’ll start off with an episode written by Judd Apatow, a man who knows a thing or two about comedy, with a resume that includes Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year Old Virgin. The episode centers around Homer Simpson being hypnotized into thinking he is a 10 year child. Bart Simpson then begins to take advantage of the situation, using Homer as a way to thwart bullies at school and be the “brother” he never had. Before Homer can be de-hypnotized, Bart takes him to Itchy & Scratchy Land and we get to see them ride Soarin’ Over Springfield. This was a five star parody of one of Disney’s most popular rides.

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Soarin’ Over Springfield.

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Just like the real version, in Soarin’ Over Springfield you get to see guests’ legs dangling in front of you. Note the reference to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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With a swelling score, Soarin’ Over Springfield flies by all the major landmarks in town, including the long running tire fire.

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Burning tire smell blown into the faces of guests, just as the scent of oranges was sprayed in the original Soarin’ and fresh cut flowers in the new Soarin’ Around the World.

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The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic to End at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on August 12, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

It is time to say goodbye to The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The show will end its limited engagement on September 5.

With this change, I am happy to report that the other nighttime festivities, such as the Kilimanjaro Safaris at night, Harambe Wildlife Parti, Discovery Island Carnivale, and the Tree of Life Awakening will continue to take place each night in the fall. Disney’s Animal Kingdom hours will continue to fluctuate during the fall season.

One would expect that with the ending of this show, Disney will be able to continually tweak and test Rivers of Light to prepare it for its eventual debut. More information on Rivers of Light is expected to come soon.

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