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Princess Character Changes at the Magic Kingdom

by on June 17, 2016 3 Comments

©Disney

©Disney

A few weeks ago, I let you all know that there would be some changes in regards to which Disney Princesses would be meeting at Princess Fairytale Hall. In that post, I shared that Anna and Elsa would be leaving, since they would be moving over to the new Royal Sommerhaus in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. Now I can fill you in on the rest of the details.

Because of this change, starting today, Cinderella and Rapunzel are now meeting Guests separately at Princess Fairytale Hall. Guests will be able to now meet Cinderella alongside a visiting princess and Rapunzel alongside a visiting princess. So who are these visiting princesses going to be? One will be Princess Tiana and one will be Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty).

For those looking for Snow White, she will be meeting Guests in the Town Square Courtyard next to City Hall.

This information could always change, so make sure to double check the My Disney Experience app while in the park for official details.

Shanghai Disneyland: Photos from Opening Day

by on June 17, 2016 3 Comments

As you likely have heard, the Shanghai Disney Resort opened in Shanghai, China on June 16. The wonderful Elisabeth Lackey, who answered many questions on the Disney Moms Panel, was kind enough to give us an update on her trip to Shanghai. A lengthier report will come once she returns to the States, but here are some photos she sent from opening day. She also added that crowds, while heavy, were more manageable than she expected and they got to experience more attractions than they expected.

Look for her full post in the next week or two, but first allow us to whet your appetite:

Read the rest of this entry »

Crowd Calendar Adjustments

by on June 16, 2016 20 Comments

For readers keeping track, we are currently on the fourth iteration of our Crowd Calendar methodology, which has evolved as we have gotten more data and better technology. In the beginning, the only information we had was data collected by the Testa family doing wait time loops and writing down their observations (seems like 100 years ago). When the Lines app was introduced, however, we began getting hundreds of wait times submitted daily by users.

Today, we get thousands of wait times submitted each and every day. Gifted with all of this wait time data, we can validate and evaluate our predictions and methodologies. Well, it is about time to make some new tweaks, which we plan on implementing for 2017. The reason we are bringing this up now is so users are aware and so we can get feedback. Without our users we wouldn’t be able to do this, so we want to make sure we’re giving you the best product we can.

The Touring Plans Crowd Calendar is based on wait times at specific attractions at each park. Yes, simply using that day’s attendance would be better–and we would love to use it, but Disney simply does not release daily park attendance. The reason we decided on attraction wait times is that they are quantifiable and predictions can be verified.

This method is not perfect, though. For instance, the Disney Hollywood Studios changes over the last couple of years have skewed that park’s crowd levels. There are fewer operating attractions at the Studios right now, and the ones that remain tend to be very popular (Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, et al). Therefore, the wait times have increased, but not because there are more people in the park, just that there is less for them to do once they get there.

The way we have designed the current distribution of our crowd levels is to have half of each year’s days with crowd levels between 1 and 5, and the other days with crowd levels between 6 and 10. With the current settings, there are no days with a crowd level of 1, and very few days with a crowd level of 2. The way we plan on adjusting our settings means that some of the “3” days will become “1” or “2” days. Other parks’ crowd levels are also currently skewed, but not as significant has Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studio's Crowd Level distribution with current thresholds. With the elevated wait times, there are no days with a crowd level 1.

Hollywood Studio’s Crowd Level distribution with current thresholds. With elevated wait times, there are no days with a crowd level 1.

Read the rest of this entry »

Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter’s Food Court To See Refurbishment

by on June 15, 2016 9 Comments

©Disney

©Disney

Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort’s food court, known as Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory will be seeing a very lengthy refurbishment. This work will begin on July 11 and will last until sometime this fall. (It appears that it will be November 21, 2016.)

Guests staying at this resort will be able to dine at an alternative location, which will serve dishes such as jambalaya, po-boy sandwiches, gumbo, and more. Don’t worry beignet fans! They will be available at this temporary location too. There will also be a selection of grab n’ go meals available for purchase here too.

In addition, Guests will also be able to head over to Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and enjoy either the Riverside Mill Food Court or enjoy dinner at Boatwright’s Dining Hall.

Guests can also enjoy in-room pizza delivery, which is available from 4:00 p.m. until midnight.

We’ll make sure to keep you updated on further details about this refurbishment.

 

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Washington DC Dining Quick Hits: The BBQ Joint and Momofuku CCDC

by on June 14, 2016 3 Comments

2016-04-02 at 11-03-29Washington, D.C. is a great place to visit. Sure, it’s not a theme park, but the entertainment and educational mix of opportunities are without equal in America. The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. covers a lot of things, as those guides tend to do (and it is fabulously written might I add). The guide, however, tends to focus on some of the best restaurants available and we’ve been getting questions (for real, we have) about more…reasonably priced offerings.

Since I occasionally travel to D.C. for research I also end up eating, and I rarely have the time or the expense account for elaborate meals. Therefore, I seek out cheap-to-mid-priced options and relay them to you as these mini-reviews.

2016-04-02 at 14-35-25The BBQ Joint

The small city I live in has some surprisingly decent food options, but the two things that I love that it does not do very well are Hispanic food and barbecue. Because of that, I seek either of those out whenever I get the chance. There are a few different spots for barbecue around D.C. so I decided to pick one that got generally good reviews and thus ended up at the descriptively named BBQ Joint, owned by chef Andrew Evans.

There are four different locations: Easton and Pasadena in Maryland and Union Market and 14th Street in the District. I visited the 14th Street NW location, which is in the U Street area of the city–I picked that one basically because I was in the area.

It’s a relatively small, narrow spot that clearly was built as a bar. It was comfortable, if a little dark, but there’s no need to spend any more time on the atmosphere–it was fine but nothing that will enhance the rating. Sadly, that was kind of how I felt about the food, too. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Pulse Tragedy and How You Can Help

by on June 13, 2016 18 Comments

Hi everyone. I know this is a break from our usual policy of sticking to theme parks and other travel destinations. However, the tragedy that occurred in Orlando over the weekend hit us all very hard–we have employees, researchers, and many friends that live in the Orlando area. Beyond that, I feel that it is all our duty as Americans, as people, to do whatever we can in the face of these acts of hatred.

Our community of readers, fans, and subscribers has always been friendly, inclusive, and helpful. This is the time for that to continue and strengthen. Both of our current authors of Best Week Ever–Julia and Dani–are Orlando locals and both contributed to this post.

After this, we will mostly be returning to our regularly scheduled theme park and travel items. We have always treated travel as an adventure and escape, and continuing to discuss it is one way we can help, however slight that help may be. Be excellent to each other.

– Brian McNichols, Blog Manager 

 

For my Best Week Ever article that would have run later this week, I spent the past couple days enjoying the amenities of a Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, exploring Disney Springs, and living the laid back Florida life that so many of us know and love. With my in-laws on the way to the airport, I opened my laptop to start writing up that Best Week Ever, only to be stopped short by the headlines, tweets, Facebook notifications, and more all jumping to the forefront on my Sunday morning computer screen.

By this time, there will be so much said about the dozens upon dozens of vibrant lives cut short or altered forever due to the act of a hateful murderer at the Pulse, and yet no amount of words can ever truly be enough to ease the pain of those who are grieving and hurting. We say (and we do so with deep conviction) that our thoughts and prayers are with those families because we wish we could make it better, and because we don’t know what else to say, knowing we can’t make it right.

Some of the lives lost were tourists, seeking to enjoy a night of fun in The City Beautiful. Some were our friends, family, loved ones, co-workers, and more, relaxing from another week of Florida life. Every single one has loved ones. Every single one has a story. It is my hope that those stories can be shared as a celebration of life far more powerful than the tragedy of their deaths.

For those who will not live to see another sunrise, their best week ever is one in the past, shared and talked about and remembered by those who love them.

For the rest of us, once we have been able to grieve in our own way and in our own time, we honor the memory of those lost by bringing joy and magic back to the World and our world.

This week was not the best week ever for many people in the Orlando area, because it is impossible to say “mass shooting” and “best week” in the same breath. And yet, even in the midst of the tragedy, we saw people in all walks of life coming together to show that Orlando has some of the best people ever. First responders, medical professionals, and regular citizens on the street providing immediate care for those in need. A reporter holding a mother desperate to find news about her child. Social media filled with phone/Twitter/Facebook trees and prayer trees to help people find out about their loved ones. Lines at blood banks that stretched hundreds deep—so many that most were filled to capacity and had to turn away donors for that day. People who came out to those blood drives to provide sunscreen and water and other supplies for those waiting in line. Local businesses rallying support for everyone from the affected families to the first responders and beyond.

Cast Members are often reminded that they make the magic for the guests. In this town, where the Cast Member spirit extends far beyond those who work at Walt Disney World or in the tourism industry, we know that we all have an interest in making the magic for each other.

The Best Week Ever series will return next week, as we continue to find ways to make and share magic with readers far and wide. In the meantime, wherever you are, take some time to make magic for each other.

For more information about how to provide tangible help to those affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting tragedy, here are some resources.

For locations to donate blood in the Orlando area, visit www.oneblood.org or www.redcrossblood.org

Financial donations for the victims and their families can be made to the GoFundMe accounts created by Equality Florida at www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund or The Center at www.gofundme.com/29bubytq

 Counseling resources are available by dialing 211 or through the Orlando LGBT community center at 407-228-1446

And to report suspicious activity, call Florida’s See Something/Say Something hotline at 855-FLA-SAFE (855-352-7233)

 

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel

by on June 11, 2016 12 Comments

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Portofino Bay HotelCurrently, the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Premier, which is where the Portofino Bay Hotel resides.

PORTOFINO_drink

Portofino Bay Punch – Bacardi superior, Bacardi ‘O’, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of Bacardi 151.

First, a little backstory. Steven Spielberg can be considered one of the main “architects” of the entire Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Florida, the park which started it all, was built on the back of films that Spielberg either directed (Jaws, E.T.) or was a producer on (Back to the Future, An American TaleTwister, Transformers). While the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the current draw to Islands of Adventure, it’s Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that sits directly in the middle, and the iconic Jurassic Park visitor center is the first thing you see in the park when coming out of the Port of Entry. It’s only natural that when Universal was putting together Islands of Adventure back in the 1990s that they would pick Spielberg’s brain about ideas for the new onsite hotel they would also be developing.

Spielberg’s suggestion was for the new hotel to be inspired by the classic feel of Portofino, Italy. Loews took that idea and ran with it, faithfully recreating a classic Mediterranean fishing village by the lagoon, as well as representing the luxury of many high end Italian hotels on the inside of the resort. Portofino Bay and its 750 rooms can be considered the flagship resort of Loews at Universal. Today we are going to look at several of the reasons we absolutely love Portofino, including what may be the best themed room in all of Orlando. So sit back, put on The Three Tenors as background music, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – The Pools

A little while back we took a trip to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and fell in love with their Fuentes del Morro Pool. The Beach Pool at Portofino blows away the one at Caribbean Beach and joins the elite of Orlando pools including  Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club, and the Nanea Volcano Pool at the Poly. There are a lot of activities surrounding the main pool, including a children’s water play area (complete with pirate ship), pool tables, ping pong, a giant checker board, a fantastic pool bar (with tons of seating and a great menu), two hot tubs, a sandy beach and more, The pool itself is an impressive fort-like structure you can walk around in, a grotto you can swim through, and a great slide. 

PortofinoPool

The Beach Pool at Portofino Bay.

PORTOFINO_grotto

The grotto.

PORTOFINO_poolchairs

Lounge chairs are everywhere.

There are two other pools at Portofino, including the impressive Villa Pool. Located near the Beach Pool, this area includes even more lounge chairs, 16 cabanas, a hot tub and a plunge pool. Just a gorgeous area with maybe the best pool bathroom area in the entire state of Florida. The third pool is a true quiet pool and located on the other side of the resort.

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The Villa Pool, straight out of a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous magazine.

PORTOFINO_plungepool

Hot tub and plunge pool

Read the rest of this entry »

The Plaza Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom to Offer More Walk-Up Availability

by on June 10, 2016 8 Comments

©Disney

©Disney

Guests will soon be able to have an easier time getting a walk-up at The Plaza Restaurant located on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom.

Starting on July 17, Advance Dining Reservations will only be offered for one hour, from 11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. For those wishing to dine at any other time throughout the day, they will need to visit the restaurant’s podium to inquire if there is any availability for walk-ups. This will allow for more Guests without reservations to have more opportunities to enjoy dining at a table service location on the fly.

For those who have already pre-booked their reservations, those will continue to be honored, however new reservations not within that one hour window will not be able to be made.

The Plaza Restaurant is a casual table service dining establishment that specializes in sandwiches, soups, salads, and ice cream treats.

This news comes on the heels that Jungle Skipper Canteen, which previously was offering walk-ups and day of reservations only, has now been added to the regular 180- day Advance Dining Reservations system.

 

In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of June 10, 2016

by on June 10, 2016 4 Comments

ICYMIDid you pick up your copy of Zootopia yet? I can’t wait to see it again from the comfort of my couch!

This week, catch a glimpse of Shanghai Disneyland, learn things you didn’t know about some of your favorite Disney movies, we learn about the #ChanceofReign and the #ReignofChance, and more.

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

 

Is Disneyland looking to build a new luxury resort? Looks like it. What are your thoughts?

Is a new droid being tested for Star Wars land at Disneyland? Seems like it could be!

Typhoon Lagoon appears to be getting a new family attraction. This is exciting, as it’s been a while since either theme park has seen any love. Read the rest of this entry »

New Entertainment Group for Canada Pavilion at Epcot

by on June 10, 2016 3 Comments

©Disney

©Disney

We’ve been seeing a revolving door of new entertainment acts in the Canada Pavilion lately and now we have a brand new one that’s taking the Mill Stage.

Les Parfaits Inconnus will combine music, circus art and comedy to create an unforgettable show. The group who hails from Québec, consist of talented artists and athletes. Les Parfaits Inconnus will demonstrate a mastery of several circus disciplines as well as proficiency with musical instruments. These off-the-wall characters will showcase a stunning performance that will take place multiple times a day.

As part of this entertainment change, the former band Alberta Bound gave their final performance recently.

No word on how long Les Parfaits Inconnus will be performing at Epcot, but one would assume that this group will also be on stage for a limited engagement, as that seems to be customary as of late with World Showcase performers. (Particularly those who perform in the Canada Pavilion.)