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New Disney’s Hollywood Studios Late Arrivals Touring Plan: A Field Test

by on April 28, 2016 9 Comments

Sunset Blvd (1)For decades, a truism of Walt Disney World touring was that you had to arrive before rope drop to efficiently experience everything in the park in one day. But what if a combination of attraction closures and FastPass+ reservations made it possible to sleep in and still experience everything of note at Disney’s Hollywood Studios — including most of the new Star Wars entertainment — before closing time? That was the theory behind Len’s new Disney’s Hollywood Studios One Day Touring Plan for Late Arrivals, and I put it to the test last Friday, April 22, a day that was predicted to be a 7 out of 10 on our Crowd Calendar.

For the TL;DR crowd, I’ll cut to the chase: with our new Late Arrival touring plan, and the proper FastPass+ reservations, it is now possible (even on a busy day) to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at noon and see every worthwhile attraction before the evening ends. This is great news for families who want to hit the snooze button after a late night in the Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom, once nighttime hours there begin.

 

Preparing to use the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Late Arrivals Touring Plan

There is a catch: you’ll need to do some preparation in My Disney Experience ahead of time. The key to this plan is to secure consecutive FastPasses for Toy Story Midway Mania, Star Tours, and Tower of Terror beginning as soon as possible after your noon arrival time. In my case, I booked Toy Story for 12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.; Star Tours for 1:15 p.m.-2:15pm; and Tower of Terror for 2:15 p.m.-3:15 p.m.

Late arrivals

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Dani’s Best Week Ever April 28, 2016: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Before It Changes Forever

by on April 28, 2016 5 Comments

In one month from now Disney’s Animal Kingdom will never been the same. Night time will descend upon the park and rather than become dormant, the park will spring to new life and welcome guests until as late as 11:00 PM. Ok, so I may be a bit dramatic, but still, to have the park open so late with quite a respectable amount of night time offerings is something many of us devoted DAK fans merely dreamed of. Now that such a dramatic change is on the horizon I wanted to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom one more time before that dream becomes a reality.

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Sometimes weekends as an Orlando resident can be difficult. This is home after all and we have chores, responsibilities, and hobbies to spend time on just like everyone else. Despite what we may post on social media, it’s not a vacation 24/7 — but it still is a really fun place to live. Initially I planned to spend my Saturday taking care of my responsibilities, but after a few hours of doing what needed to be done while staring at the beautiful Spring weather, I couldn’t fight it anymore and headed off to enjoy my favorite WDW park!

I arrived just before 4:00 PM and not surprisingly only two other cars enter the parking lot at the same time I did. Once parked, only about ten to fifteen other guests joined me on the tram. As we pulled up to the entrance it appeared that about 150-200 guests waited to board the tram in order to exit the park. I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of being one of the rare few to enter a theme park towards the end of its operating hours for the day while rows of guests make their way for the exit.

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Unsurprisingly plenty of space awaited me at the front entrance. About six ticket touch points were ready and waiting without any guests ahead of me. This is the life. That relaxed yet joyous feeling grew stronger as I entered the Oasis. This first part of the park is the antithesis of all other Walt Disney World park entrances. It’s lush, it’s calm, you can’t see the park’s icon ahead of you. I simply adore it.

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Anna and Elsa Will Leave the Magic Kingdom

by on April 27, 2016 10 Comments

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

When the Royal Sommerhus meet and greet opens at Epcot in the Norway Pavilion this summer, it appears as though the Frozen sisters will be leaving the Magic Kingdom’s Princess Fairytale Hall. No official date has been announced for when exactly they will leave, but it will coincide with the opening of the Royal Sommerhus, and one would assume, the Frozen Ever After attraction.

The Royal Sommerhus will be Anna and Elsa’s summer home that was opened for visitors and was inspired by a Norwegian countryside cabin.

Currently, Princess Fairytale Hall is still offering FastPass+ reservations to meet Anna and Elsa through early June, however, once the sisters move to Epcot, other characters will replace them in the meet and greet area.

For Guests still looking to see Anna and Elsa in the Magic Kingdom, you’ll be able to at least see them in both the Festival of Fantasy Parade and the upcoming new Cinderella Castle stage show, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire.

Stay tuned to the blog for more details about when you’ll be able to meet Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus, as well as more details about all the Frozen fun heading to Epcot in June.

 

Dining Review: Liberty Tree Tavern Lunch

by on April 27, 2016 4 Comments

A mainstay of dining in Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tree Tavern has always been a favorite for my family and friends for a filling mid-day meal. Recently, the kitchen underwent a few improvements in connection to the construction of nearby Skipper Canteen, so I thought it was about time to head back to the Tavern to see if this spot was still worthy of a stop. The lunch menu features slightly elevated versions of American classics like burgers and sandwiches, pot roast, and an individual portion of the popular Pilgrim’s Feast (Thanksgiving turkey dinner) offered as an all-you-care-to-enjoy dinner here. After a little investigating, I realized the pot roast entrée on the lunch menu is pretty much the same as what I sampled a few weeks ago at Diamond Horseshoe next door (the two share many similar menu items, so if it sounds the same, it probably is). I knew that a few items looked new to me, and after talking with my very friendly server, I decided I’d give the three newest dishes on the menu a shot: sweet corn fritters for my appetizer, the updated Liberty Boys Sandwich for my entree, and the Boston Cream Pie for dessert.

First to arrive were the sweet corn fritters ($7), five fritters served alongside a pepper jelly made in-house and atop a schmear of creamed corn (a nice plating touch, but altogether unnecessary – I appreciated the effort, though!). The fritters had a crispy fried coating sprinkled with a bit of salt, and a creamy and sweet corn flavor inside. Some of the fritters were more like hushpuppies in texture, with one or two a bit softer (I got the sense these weren’t quite cooked long enough, and the cornbread/hushpuppy texture was meant to be the real deal). Overall, I found these fritters sweet and savory, with a touch of warmth from the jalapenos inside the batter. The sweet and slightly spicy pepper jelly served on the side cut through the dense flavors of the fritters, but was a bit tough to use as a dip, practically speaking. I should also note that spicy-food-averse people shouldn’t necessarily write this dish off altogether, as the flavors from the fritters overall are relatively innocuous. I’d probably suggest these to anyone on the deluxe dining plan in search of a different kind of appetizer compared to other restaurants, but unless you’re absolutely starving, I’d probably skip appetizers altogether here and save room for dessert (you’ll see why shortly). Read the rest of this entry »

Disney After Hours Discounts for Annual Passholders and DVC Members

by on April 26, 2016 6 Comments

Disney After Hours Event Guide

©Laurel Stewart

The Disney After Hours event is a fun late-night experience where you can enjoy the Magic Kingdom with little to no wait. The event lasts for 3 hours after the park closes for the evening. Also during the event, Guests will receive ice cream treats and bottled beverages. This special evening will occur on select nights throughout the months of April and May.

Well, going forward, Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members will be able to get a discount on this special event. The regular price for the event is $149, however AP holders and DVC Members will be able to get their tickets for $75 each. Guests can purchase their discounted tickets by calling (407) 560-PASS or by visiting any Walt Disney World ticket window.

The following nights are available for the discounted event:

  • April 28
  • May 5
  • May 8
  • May 12
  • May 19

If you are curious as to whether or not the event is worth it, Laurel recently experienced one of these evenings, so make sure to check out her post.

2016 Tokyo Disneyland Trip Planning Guide

by on April 26, 2016 2 Comments

18741086704_6694d4a43f_zYou want to go on another Disney vacation, but where do you go? You’ve been to Walt Disney World more times than you can count and you can recall every small detail of Disneyland because you’ve covered every square inch so many times that it makes your head spin. Next you think “Maybe a Disney Cruise?” Not happening, your brother-in-law wants you to wait until little Sally (your niece’s second cousin, twice removed) graduates from sixth grade so you can all go as a family. Disneyland Paris? No way, they’re in the middle of more refurbishments than there are blades of grass on Earth. Then it comes to you, Tokyo Disneyland. You remember your curiosity being piqued from seeing pictures of DisneySea online. “Doesn’t that place have a volcano?” Hell yes it has a volcano, and I’m here to tell you that it’s awesome. You’ve found your next Disney destination, and hopefully with this Tokyo Disneyland trip planning guide I will help you plan it.

Note: This is an updated version of the TDR trip planning guide I posted last year.

Step 1: When to visit Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort, or TDR, is always going to have huge crowds and high wait times, especially on the weekends. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the American Disney parks but have never seen anything like the crowds during a weekend in Tokyo Disneyland. With that being said there are a few times out of the year where crowds are smaller than they usually are, but this luxury may come at the cost of poor weather or multiple attraction closures due to refurbishments.

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Experiencing A Magical Disney Moment + Video

by on April 26, 2016 3 Comments

Photo - Michael Dahlgren

Meeting Princess Rapunzel

You’ve heard about them…you may have even watched them on YouTube.

Magical Disney Moments.

*I’ll pause for effect*

You know what I’m talking about; Those special experiences where a Cast Member goes above and beyond to make a guest’s day even more magical.  Read the rest of this entry »

Disney’s Magical Express FAQ

by on April 26, 2016 23 Comments

Disney’s Magical Express is a service that provides free bus transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and Disney’s resort hotels, for guests staying at those hotels. While the word “FREE” always sounds good, there may be some situations where using Magical Express does not make sense. There are also some tips and tricks that can make your Magical Express experience better if you do choose to use it. Here’s what you need to know.

Sign up for Magical Express when you make your room reservation.

Sign up for Magical Express when you make your room reservation.

Who can use Disney’s Magical Express?

Registered guests of Disney-owned hotels are eligible for Magical Express Service. These hotels are:

  • Art of Animation
  • All-Star Movies, Music, & Sports
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas, Jambo & Kidani
  • Beach Club & Villas
  • BoardWalk & Villas
  • Fort Wilderness Cabins & Campgrounds
  • Caribbean Beach
  • Contemporary & Bay Lake Tower Villas
  • Coronado Springs
  • Grand Floridian
  • Old Key West
  • Polynesian Village
  • Pop Century
  • Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Wilderness Lodge & Villas
  • Yacht Club

But I’m staying at the Swan! Isn’t that on Disney property? Don’t I qualify for Magical Express?

Sorry, no. While the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and a few Disney Springs area hotels are quite close to the action, only guests staying at the hotels actually owned by Disney qualify for free Magical Express transportation. Read the rest of this entry »

Fulton’s Crab House to Become Paddlefish at Disney Springs

by on April 25, 2016 5 Comments

Fulton's Crab House/Paddlefish

©Rikki Niblett

Currently, Fulton’s Crab House at Disney Springs is closed for refurbishment. The restaurant closed at the beginning of this month to make way for a new theme, menu items, and now it has been revealed, a new name. When Fulton’s reopens from its lengthy refurbishment, it will be known as Paddlefish.

Paddlefish will feature a newly updated interior that includes a modern yachting theme, as well as a rooftop lounge that will overlook Disney Springs. Guests will also get to experience an outdoor waterfront bar featuring a “build your own” fish boil and private dining areas.

The menu will see slight changes, as the restaurant will feature fresh seafood and steaks. Specialties will include oyster shucking bar, Florida stone crab and Alaskan king crab, steaks and chops, as well as classic and curated cocktails.

The table service location will continue to serve both lunch and dinner.

There is no official reopening date for Paddlefish. All we know is that it will reopen this fall. Stay tuned to the blog for further information!

Disney After Hours – Is It Worth the Money?

by on April 25, 2016 36 Comments

Disney After Hours Event Guide

Disney After Hours Lanyard Front and Back

Update – April 27, 2016 – Disney has announced that Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members may now purchase Disney After Hours tickets for $75, half price.

Last month when Disney announced its late night event at Magic Kingdom, Disney After Hours, I was pretty happy. It coincided with a trip I’d already planned (thanks for nothing, Rivers of Light), so I figured – what the heck? If you haven’t heard about Disney After Hours, and given ticket sales, that may be a near certainty – more on that later, here’s the lowdown: Disney After Hours is a hard ticketed ($150 per person) event at Magic Kingdom in April and May. As of today, April 22, two of the parties have already happened with five yet to come. After Hours is three hours in Magic Kingdom for guests after park close with much shorter lines, most attractions open, and complimentary bottle drinks and ice cream novelties. Sound like Extra Magic Hours, but ticketed? Yeah, kinda.

Ticket purchased, I looked forward to a fun night at the park. Until reports of the first night started coming in with tales of tickets being given away, cast members outnumbering guests, and empty Main Street vehicles, that is. I was already doing this alone (solo trip) – was I going to be walking through a deserted park with desperate cast members forcing Mickey bars on me until I couldn’t eat any more? I tried bribing someone to come down to Florida just for the night to keep me company (thanks for nothing, Len). I watched social media to see if anyone I knew was going (or would admit to buying a ticket). No dice. News started coming in that Disney was giving away more tickets for that night too. I imagined myself in the narrative of Kingdom Keepers. Well, I’d be alone, but maybe I’ll save the park from Maleficent. But I’m a pro and wanted to see how the night unfolded. Read the rest of this entry »