Walt Disney World (FL)

Should You Visit Disneyland?

by on July 11, 2014

The great debate of Disney World vs. Disneyland rages on across the Internet every day. While I could never pick a favorite, some reader comments last week gave me the idea to share my opinions on what makes the two coasts so different. With that in mind, here are the top ten differences between Disney World and Disneyland to help you decide if you should visit Disneyland.

Size: Starting with the itty bitty castle, some could view Disneyland as a scaled down version of Walt Disney World. However, I look at it like the greatest hits! In a smaller space they manage to pack in all the best attractions. Sure, it takes a little while to get used to seeing Star Tours across the street from Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, but you can ride them both without setting foot on a bus! Even better you can hop between the two California parks with just a quick walk. It’s enough to spoil a Disney World fan rotten!

IMG_1118People: Imagine a summer in the parks without tour groups everywhere. That actually happens at Disneyland! Not only that, but the main customer base consists of Annual Passholders. This means that the lines generally don’t get as crazy as at Walt Disney World. In general, the guests are more laid back as their trips are not “once in a lifetime” experiences. The locals also mean that rides can be taken down to offer seasonal events like Haunted Mansion Holiday.

Seasonality: The downside of the smaller tourist draw is seasonality in entertainment. During slower months there may only be fireworks or Fantasmic on the weekends. Other offerings are also adjusted based on occupancy. Tools like Touring Plans become very important, as Disneyland only posts its park hours and schedules 45 days in advance. Historical trends are what you have to depend on when picking dates if you aren’t booking a last minute trip.

Planning: The upside of this “last minute” attitude at Disneyland is that you can relax when planning. Putting together a Walt Disney World vacation can feel like wedding planning! There are so many little details, and if you don’t call exactly 180 days in advance you may not get to try a restaurant you’d dreamed about. At Disneyland you can normally call just a day or two before or even (gasp!) just walk up to the podium for a table. We love the relaxed attitude at Disneyland and not having to plan months in advance.

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 7/9/14

by on July 9, 2014

Hello all! Today, I bring just a few smaller things you may need to know that are currently taking place at Walt Disney World. In addition, I’ve got some details that you may need to know if you have a trip scheduled for later this fall. These are just a few minor notes that could be beneficial for you to know as you progress with your planning process. So, here we go:

  • First, we have a couple of refurbishments I wanted to note. Currently, It’s Tough To Be a Bug at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is closed until August 10, reopening on August 11. Moving over to the Magic Kingdom, the Walt Disney World Railroad will see maintenance work from September 28 through November 8, reopening on November 9. Finally, Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park will see its annual refurbishment from January 4 through March 14, reopening on March 15.
  • We all know that Kouzzina will be closing at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn on September 30. The location will be re-open later this year as an all new restaurant. In the interim, Flying Fish Cafe will be offering breakfast beginning on October 1 and lasting until December 7. Breakfast will be served from 7:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. and will include dishes like a waffle with tiramisu mascarpone, frittata with roasted red pepper and prosciutto, and soft polenta with fennel sausage.
  • Guests who are still cheering on their favorite World Cup teams will now have two more locations to watch the final games from. At Epcot, guests can choose to watch from the Festival Center (the former Wonders of Life Pavilion, which is located between Mission: SPACE and Ellen’s Energy Adventure). The Festival Center will open one hour before game timem and food and beverages will be sold at this location. Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom can visit Restaurantosaurus to view the remaining games. There are three games remaining, with the World Cup Final taking place at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 13.
  • The minimum age to travel alone on Disney’s Magical Express has been lowered. The age for unaccompanied minors is now 12. It had previously been 16.
  • Beginning on July 27, PhotoPass print packages will no longer be offered for sale table-side at select restaurants, including ‘Ohana, 1900 Park Fare, Chef Mickey’s, Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Tusker House Restaurant. At Cindrella’s Royal Table and Akershus, PhotoPass print packages will be available until January 4, 2015. Beginning January 5, the inclusive photo package option will be discontinued. Once the PhotoPass print packages are discontinued, guests will need to view and purchase photos via the My Disney Experience app and website.

That’s it for this edition of Newsworthy Notes…what are your thoughts?

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Wild Africa Trek – An In-Depth Review of the VIP Backstage Tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on July 9, 2014

Disney describes the Wild Africa Trek as “[a] privately guided VIP expedition offering close encounters with exotic African wildlife in their native habitat.” In other words, the Wild Africa Trek is a tour that builds upon the experience of Kilimanjaro Safaris by taking you to areas of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve that you may have seen on Kilimanjaro Safaris, but only from afar. This article takes an in-depth look at the Wild Africa Trek experience, details the cost associated with the tour, responds to possible FAQs from those considering the tour, and, ultimately, attempts to the answer the question: Is the Wild Africa Trek worth its cost?

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Candlelight Processional Dining Packages Now On Sale

by on July 8, 2014

Candlelight Processional

©Disney

The Candlelight Processional, which takes place at Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre, is honestly one of the best parts of the holiday season. What is better than a celebrity narrator, a mass choir, and an orchestra performing a re-telling of the Christmas Story? To ensure that you get to see this fantastic show, which is extremely popular, Disney offers the Candlelight Processional Dining Package, and I bring good news! The package is now on sale!

This year’s Candlelight Processional takes place from November 28 through December 30. Showtimes are at 5:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. nightly. (With the exception of December 7, which will only have showtimes at 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.) While most of the celebrity narrators haven’t yet been announced, we do know a few of them. The list currently includes:

  • November 28-29: Jodi Benson
  • November 30-December 2: TBD
  • December 3-4: TBD
  • December 5-6: Whoopi Goldberg
  • December 7-8: TBD
  • December 9-11: TBD
  • December 12-14: TBD
  • December 15-17: Sharon Stone (New)
  • December 18-20: Ana Gasteyer (New)
  • December 21-23: Marlee Matlin
  • December 24-25: TBD
  • December 26-27: TBD
  • December 28 – 30: Steven Curtis Chapman

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: Main Street, U.S.A. Music

by on July 8, 2014

t_logo_fbHave you ever tried to watch a movie without a soundtrack? I have watched behind-the-scenes documentaries of movies and TV shows where they show a dramatic scene or huge action sequence, and it sounds…well…dull. But once that soundtrack is inserted, with the ebbs and flows matching the feelings and actions on screen, suddenly the scene pops!

With this in mind, can you imagine walking down the streets of Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World without any of that music coming out of the speakers? Maybe you’ve never really paid attention to the atmospheric soundtrack, but that music subliminally creeps into your psyche and gears you up for wherever your feet take you!

If there was no music, the only thing you’d hear is the noisy people around you. And let’s be honest: anything that helps keep your mind off of the loud discussions, crying, or crabbiness surrounding you and keeps you in your “magic zone” is a welcome one!

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Seven Disney Souvenir Buying Mistakes

by on July 8, 2014

The 1,200 Vinylmation figurines staring at me from the shelves of my home office right now will tell you that I am a veteran Disney parks shopper. I truly understand the desire to troll the theme park shops for the perfect souvenir. But as satisfying as it can be to come home with just the right thing, there are plenty of pitfalls to Disney parks shopping. Here are seven potential Disney souvenir shopping mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Some Disney take-home items can be had for free.

Some Disney take-home items can be had for free.

1. Thinking that you have to pay for souvenirs.

Believe it or not, you can score many items for free at Walt Disney World. They practically throw Mickey stickers at kids during resort check in and there’s always a reason to grab a free celebration button. You can also get free bookmarks by participating in the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction at the Magic Kingdom, free stick puppets at the Epcot Kidcot Fun Stops, or a lei at the Polynesian resort. These free items can go a long way toward scratching that “but I MUST bring something home” itch, with no additional outlay of cash.

And don’t forget that the best Disney souvenir is usually a memory. “Remember when Cousin Billy spilled his milk on Goofy’s shoe at Chef Mickeys?” “Remember when Baby Sally hugged Cinderella for the first time?” “Remember when we finally got Grandma to go on the Teacups and she actually had a blast?” Assuming that you’ve got a digital camera or a camera-equipped phone, these memories can all be captured gratis. Disney PhotoPass photographers will even take group shots using your camera, at no charge. Isn’t a photo of Mom wearing Mickey ears a better souvenir than a snow globe?

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Disney World Crowd Report – June 29 to July 5, 2014

by on July 7, 2014

Last week, with the exception of July 4th at Magic Kingdom, crowds were lower than history would suggest during the first week of July, including a remarkably uncrowded Independence Day at Disney Hollywood Studios. Although Magic Kingdom and Epcot are showing wait times in line with historical averages, The Studios and Animal Kingdom are not. It may be time to discuss the possibility that Universal’s Harry Potter expansion is drawing guests away from the Disney parks. It may be that guests are visiting Magic Kingdom and Epcot at the same historical frequency but their park choices for further days are begin split between Disney and Universal at a more level ratio than usual. This doesn’t seem to be the case however because wait times are down at Universal parks as well, with the exception of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So, it appears that the drop in crowds is more likely due to an overall reduction in attendance across Central Florida parks.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the Disney World Crowd Report:

 

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, June 29, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
6

Low crowds at the three newer parks started off the week again on Sunday. Magic Kingdom, which hosted Extra Magic Hour morning, was the only park with an above average crowd. Epcot’s attractions hit both extremes with a ’10’ at Spaceship Earth (24 minutes) and a ‘1’ for Mission: Space (Green) (5 minutes).

Epcot
6
4
Hollywood Studios
6
3
Animal Kingdom
7
5

Monday, June 30, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
7

The last day of June brought a near repeat of the 29th with Magic Kingdom hitting the mark and the other three parks falling short of our predictions. Toy Story Mania averaged 73 minutes (‘4’ out of ’10’), Mission: Space (Orange) 15 minutes (‘1’ out of ’10’) and Expedition Everest 35 minutes (‘5’ out of ’10’).

Epcot
6
4
Hollywood Studios
7
4
Animal Kingdom
8
6

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
6

Tuesday’s predictions did much better with only The Studios missing by more than one level. Epcot’s Extra Magic Hour morning pushed the park level to one higher than predicted, the first time of the week where our prediction was low.

Epcot
6
7
Hollywood Studios
6
4
Animal Kingdom
7
7

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
5

July 2nd and 3rd are usually the days where we begin to see Independence Day crowds surge to the parks. However Wednesday’s crowds did not quite reach the levels that one would expect. The Magic Kingdom had the lowest crowd, with Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight averaging only 50 minutes.

Epcot
7
6
Hollywood Studios
9
7
Animal Kingdom
9
8

Thursday, July 3, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
6

Again on Thursday, no park hit higher than a level ‘6’, the lowest July 3rd crowd in 5 years. Those who took our advice and visited the Magic Kingdom on Thursday saw the same Fourth of July Fireworks on a day that reached a level ‘6’ rather July 4th itself when crowds reached a level ’10’.

Epcot
7
5
Hollywood Studios
8
6
Animal Kingdom
9
6

Friday, July 4, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
10
10

The resort-wide ‘6’ on this year’s Independence Day was the lowest since 2010 although the Magic Kingdom did hit a level ’10’ as expected. Shockingly, crowds at The Studios were among the lowest of the year, especially for a holiday. Toy Story Mania averaged 62 minutes while Great Movie Ride averaged only 8 minutes. If you visited the Magic Kingdom on July 3rd and The Studios on July 4th you saw some spectacular fireworks presentations with some the lowest holiday crowds we’ve ever recorded.

Epcot
9
9
Hollywood Studios
8
2
Animal Kingdom
6
3

Saturday, July 5, 2014

WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
4

Saturday’s crowds returned to normal except for Animal Kingdom which saw very low wait times including a 24 minute average at Expedition Everest and an 11 minute average at Kilimanjaro Safaris. If we learn one thing from this year’s July 4th holiday it would be to schedule yourself for Magic Kingdom on July 3rd, The Studios for July 4th and Animal Kingdom for July 5th. Perhaps we can all remember that for next year.

Epcot
6
5
Hollywood Studios
6
6
Animal Kingdom
7
3
What to Expect This Week
July 6 to 12, 2014
How Crowded is Disney World?

How Crowded is Disney World?

Our crowd predictions continue to be skewing higher than what we observe but we continue to expect summer crowds to remain steadily above average for the rest of July. With a bit of planning however, it appears that this summer may be a great time to visit with lower than expect crowds if July 4th crowds are an indication of what is to come.

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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Disney World’s Electrical Water Pageant: The Original Light Show

by on July 6, 2014

When Disney Imagineer Bob Jani looked out over Seven Seas Lagoon at night he saw a black gulf, void of interest. It was late 1971 and Magic Kingdom, Polynesian Resort, and Contemporary Resort opened soon. The lifeless lagoon, formed from draining the swamp that dominated the land Magic Kingdom occupies, would presently be filled by ferries and water attractions, including a water ski show. But something was missing. His mind turned to his hometown of Los Angeles, where any body of water reflected myriad lights every night. Somewhere this need to fill the dark with twinkling lights sparked the idea of the Electrical Water Pageant: a train of barges sporting colorful animated lights.

The final float in the aquatic scene.

The final float in the aquatic scene.

A brochure given to guests in the Summer of 1972 entices the guest to “watch porpoises leap . . . seals play . . . even a sea monster breathe fire!” Guests were directed to see the Pageant nightly 9:00 PM through 10:00 PM along Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon, advice that is still good today. The whimsical attraction’s appeal eventually inspired the Main Street Electrical Parade even copping the song “Baroque Hoedown” as its theme.

Today the Pageant is one thousand feet long and features 25-foot tall screens on fourteen barges. The show is split into two parts: an aquatic theme featuring King Triton and various sea creatures followed by a patriotic salute. Total time, nose to tail, is about ten minutes.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: July 3, 2014

by on July 3, 2014

Hi everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! This week we’re starting off with some changes to the Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. If you’ve tried it before, you’re probably used to the ancient flip phones used to play the game. This week those were upgraded, and it has definitely made the game more popular. They actually aren’t distributing phones in Future World anymore to help keep up with demand. Even with that change I had to stop at two different locations before finding an available phone to play with! I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait in the past.

1

Here’s a look at the new graphics in action. You can really see that the upgrade made a huge difference. However, Disney hasn’t done a great job locking down the phones. My husband was out of the game and playing with other phone features in a minute flat. They’ve actually put a sticker over the camera lens rather than locking down that feature. I imagine this is going to cause some problems down the road.

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Walt Disney World Extended Monorail Operating Hours for July 4 Holiday

by on July 2, 2014

Late last month, I reported that Walt Disney World was adjusting monorail schedules in order to perform work to update the systems. However, during the busy Independence Day weekend, Disney has adjusted the monorail operating schedule to accommodate the large influx of crowds.

Here’s how the monorail schedule will look over the next three days:

July 3 & 4

  • Magic Kingdom Resort Beam: 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.
  • Magic Kingdom Express Beam: 7:30 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
  • Epcot Beam: 8:00 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.

July 5

  • Magic Kingdom Resort Beam: 7:00 a.m. – 12:00 midnight
  • Magic Kingdom Express Beam: 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
  • Epcot Beam: 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

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