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Disney Springs Update: The Ganachery, World of Coke, and more

by on February 3, 2016 1 Comment

It’s pretty clear that Disney Springs is slowly, but surely being accepted and welcomed by Disney fans. At first the concept of Downtown Disney being turned into a themed environment with a backstory and everything made many people skeptical. However now that The Landing is substantial enough to warrant a visit on its own and more business are open, it seems Disney Springs is sure to be a hit. Recently a few more establishments opened their doors and many more new buildings are in the midst of construction. It’s an exciting time to see the progress and I recently took a stroll through The Landing and The Marketplace to check out what’s new at Disney Springs.

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The Ganachery

There’s so much springing to life at The Landing that it is quickly becoming my favorite part of Disney Springs. In fact there are many times in which it is the only section that I spend any time in. Between The BOATHOUSE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and Morimoto Asia the dining is delectable. I am no big time shopper, but the retail locations here offer a fairly good variety and new discoveries, my personal favorite shop is Sanuk footwear.

The most recent business to open its doors is The Ganachery. Chocolate lovers rejoiced when Disney announced the arrival of this sweet shop specializing in only chocolate. However, it seems a bit repetitive that The Ganachery would open a mere five minute stroll away from Ghiradelli Chocolate.

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Think of The Ganachery as an upscale chocolate boutique. It is Disney owned and operated providing chocolate made with a supposed proprietary blend of cacao beans. The prices certainly reflect an air of exclusivity. While the prices kept my sweet tooth at bay, the décor and details are delectable. Before even setting foot inside, a sweet little detail made me smile. The door handles are large spoons, the kind used when hand mixing melted chocolate. Once inside, the décor is warm with rich brown and golden tones. Read the rest of this entry »

Updated Information About the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

by on February 2, 2016 4 Comments

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

We are officially one month away from the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival! I have to admit, this one always sneaks up on me so fast, but I also love when it’s back because that means that spring is almost here! Details about the event for 2016 are slowly trickling out.

First, we have word that there will be two new Outdoor Kitchens for this year’s event. The first will be known as La Isla Fresca, where they will serve up dishes like Jamaican Braised Beef with Pigeon-Pea Rice and Jerk-Spiced Grouper or Chicken with Mango Salsa. There will also be the Cider House, which will offer a Field Greens salad with greens harvested from The Land pavilion, heirloom apples, Stilton cheese and dried blueberries will pair well with a blueberry hard cider from Plant City, Fla. Of course, the festival’s other 11 booths will also offer delicious returning favorites, as well as some new food and beverage options.

Also new for this year will be the Harmony Gardens musical playground, which will include interactive drums, chimes, and xylophones where children can create their own musical sounds or have fun at the innovative outdoor playground. The area will also debut debut featuring topiaries of the Fab Five with “band leader” Mickey Mouse plus Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck. Read the rest of this entry »

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

by on February 2, 2016 2 Comments

Yes, Disney has Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while Universal boasts Halloween Horror Nights and Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular – but one of the best and most fun annual events to be found at either of the theme park resorts is actually a little something called Mardi Gras, which, until recently, it seems, was a little-known secret to Florida locals and annual passholders. And, best of all, it’s absolutely free – no need for pesky separate tickets or dessert party add-ons.

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Image © Universal

Plan on checking out the family-friendly version of New Orleans’s most wonderful time of the year? We’ll tell you everything there is to know.
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My Review of the Shop Disney Parks App

by on February 1, 2016 17 Comments

by Disney

by Disney

I’m about to let you in on my latest and most favorite Disney secret? Are you ready? Okay, it’s the Shop Disney Parks App, which allows iPhone, iPad, and Android users to search and browse pretty much everything available at the Walt Disney World Resort and to purchase such items through the app in the parks and at home. Yes, you can now buy items from Walt Disney World at home! Seriously, this is revolutionary fellow Disney shopaholics and it has completely changed my Disney shopping experience. I’ve used the app myself multiple times in recent months and I’m here to give you my review of the Shop Disney Parks App.

Now with Disney Store locations and the DisneyStore.com, you may be asking why is the Shop Disney Parks App even necessary? Well, the Disney Store locations and the website only carry certain merchandise and in actuality barely scratch the surface of all that’s available at the parks and resorts. But the Shop Disney Parks App allows users to purchase products from the different Disney World Resorts, Epcot’s World Showcase pavilions, and even select Disneyland 60th Anniversary items. The only catch is that some products, particularly food items and those that are exclusive to special events or labeled as limited editions, can only be purchased in-store.

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Where a selected souvenir can be found at the Magic Kingdom

The app is the perfect shopping tool for when shopping are at the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts. Users who have found an item they like on the app can simply select the Find on Map icon to see where at Walt Disney World the item is being sold. The app also shows the stock levels of the stores in which it is available too. This is a huge help for those of us who have spent valuable vacation time in the past hopping from store to store to find that one souvenir they just can’t leave without. The app also features a scanner so that when users find an item they like in a store, they can simply scan the item’s barcode to know where else it can be found on Disney World Property. Lastly, for further convenience, app users can send their purchases to their Disney World Resort or to the front of the park to skip the lines at the registers and having to lug shopping bags around for the rest of the day. They can also directly send their purchases to their home address, perfect for users who may not have enough space in their luggage for the flight home.

Now let’s move on to my personal experience with the Shop Disney Parks app…

I first downloaded the Shop Disney Parks app on my iPhone last November for the sake of Christmas shopping, as most of the members of my family love Disney World and park merch just like I do. I ordered through the app several times during the holiday season, and have even made a purchase or two since then. Here’s what I liked, and also what I didn’t…

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! January 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on January 31, 2016 19 Comments

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. The new year has started off exactly where the old one left us: with Walt Disney World closing attractions. It has been a pretty cool month though, including a cool Star Wars runDisney race out in California (and Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to watch a great parody of Undercover Boss featuring Kylo Ren). Erin Foster took us inside Vanellope’s on the Disney Dream, and for those who don’t know, this is a complete Wreck-It-Ralph themed sweet shop (pinch us, we’re dreaming). And Guy Selga introduced us to Four Glorious New Ways to Kill Time at Disneyland, including the am I dreaming this, or is this real Jungle Cruise Skipper School. 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year.

Now while all of you were off taking your kids to see Donald Trump, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

The first item this month made my heart grow three sizes (after double checking, that enlargement of the heart was actually due to eating the Pop-Tart Sandwich at Pop Century). Behold the Luigi’s Flying Tires hat! Anyone who has visited the Disney Dump has seen the remnants of this attraction, which opened with the debut of Cars Land in the summer of 2012 and was already closed by the ending of February 2015. Believe it or not, despite only being open for only 976 days, Luigi’s doesn’t even rank in the Top Five of Short Lived Disney Attractions. Originally $24.95, this baby could be sitting on your head for just $6.99. VIVA LA DISNEY OUTLETS!

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After seeing this, I know how Indiana Jones felt seeing the Fertility Idol.  (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Tsum Tsums returned this month! However it was mostly the ones we have seen in the past (including all seven of the dwarfs), but one that was new was this crying duck. I had literally no idea who this was, but found out it was the Ugly Duckling from a quick scene in Lilo & Stitch. That’s what we call a deep dive, and I love it. I actually dropped Loot Crate this month and started up the Disney Tsum Tsum Monthly Subscription Program, so starting in February I too will annoy you with unboxing videos (although my last one didn’t go so well).

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Ugly Duckling Tsum.

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Ugly Duckling sequence from Lilo & Stitch.

Read the rest of this entry »

The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: Bait You Can Click On

by on January 30, 2016 2 Comments

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a truly special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. What a week. If you’re like us you’ve been deluged with #Blizzard2016 pictures, the Oscars dealing with a diversity problem, and Donald Trump being Donald Trump. However we’ve been informed that a whole lot of stuff happened in the theme park world recently. So we took a page out of our old college playbook and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Pizza Planet Under Major Refurbishment. Coming Back With a New Theme?

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Could Pizza Planet actually come back with a Muppets theme? (photo by Matt Cleary)

First, some backstory. For years Jim Hill, an icon of theme park media, has been telling the story of how the Muppets were originally going to be used in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. One of the things that never ended up coming to fruition was The Great Gonzo’s Pandemonium Pizza Parlor. Can you imagine a Muppet’s themed restaurant, with a kitchen run by the Swedish Chef, where Mama Melrose’s Restorante Italiano now sits?  Dare to dream.

Now it’s time to put on the detective hat. Recently Pizza Planet at DHS closed down for a long refurbishment. What should have been a wonderfully themed venue themed to the world of Toy Story was instead one of WDW’s most bland restaurants/arcade. Back at the D23 Expo, Disney unveiled details of the upcoming Toy Story Land expansion. This new land is going to built on the other side of the park, so it would be strange to have a Pixar related restaurant (no matter how poorly themed) so far away from everything else. After the construction walls went up around Pizza Planet, WDW uncharacteristically put up a lot of humorous signs on the walls. Gags that are much more in line with the type of jokes  you see in the building of say… Muppet*Vison 3D. In a recent edition of the Disney Dish podcast, Jim Hill said that instead of a Gonzo themed restaurant, we may actually see The Swedish Chef’s Cooking School.

Will Pizza Planet return from it’s refurbishment as a Muppets themed restaurant? Time will tell, but it is almost assuredly not coming back as Pizza Planet and for that we can all be thankful. To stay up to date on this story follow the boys over at WDWThemeParks.com.

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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of January 29, 2016

by on January 29, 2016 1 Comment

ICYMIThis week was a week that included a great national holiday — National Chocolate Cake Day! I celebrated with a delightful piece of delicious chocolate goodness. If you didn’t…it’s never too late to celebrate! Enjoy a piece right now.

If you missed the news this week, I have it for you. You can catch up on a great interview with Disney Legend X Atencio, learn about a new shop slated for Disney Springs, and more.

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

 

You may remember the story of Walt Disney Company employees who had to train their replacements from about a year ago. Well, a couple of the former tech workers are filing a lawsuit accusing the company and two outsourcing firms of conspiring to replace workers with less costly foreign ones using H-1B visas.

This is a fantastic interview! D23 recently interviewed Disney Legend X Atencio about his days as a Disney storyteller.

Could a new Hawaiian retailer be coming to Disney Springs? According to the Orlando Business Journal, that would be a yes.

A new venue is on tap to be built for the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. What would you like to see?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. If you are not reading Floyd Norman’s blog, you need to be! This week he talks about the Walt Disney that he knew.

Star Wars and Marvel…looks like they are continuing forever.

Disney Historian David Gerstein shares his thoughts about the recently rediscovered Oswald Short that will be able to be found as part of an exclusive digital bonus on the Disney Movies Anywhere app.

To make way for the refreshed The Muppets which comes back from its winter hiatus next week, a fun video was released that flashes back, in a good way.

In Case We Missed It

What did we miss? Attach your ideas to an Cupid Mickey and send it to blog@touringplans.com with the words “In Case You Missed It” in the subject line.

The Decision Process: What Type of Disney Cruise Line Stateroom Do I Need?

by on January 29, 2016 8 Comments

There are more than two dozen stateroom classifications on the Disney Cruise Line ships (and a variety of floor plan arrangements within some of those classifications), but overall there are just three main types of rooms on the Disney ships:

  • Inside staterooms: Those with no window to the outside world – though some do have a simulated “virtual porthole”
  • Oceanview staterooms: Those with one or more porthole windows
  • Staterooms with verandahs: Those with a “porch” outside the room.

Ask around and you’ll find that some guests will only travel in a verandah room, avowing that they MUST have an outdoor place of their own, while others prefer an inside room because they enjoy the cocoon-like darkness for sleeping. The truth is that the right stateroom type is the one that meets your individual needs. Here are some things to think about as you make your decision.

The ships have many public places to view the water.

The ships have many public places to view the water.

What is your budget?

Your overall budget will obviously be your guide in all your travel decisions. If the sky’s the limit, then all other things being equal, a verandah room will likely be appealing for most folks, if only to have the extra square footage. However, if you’re watching your pennies, then getting an inside room may be an easy way to economize. You’ll also want to think about how your stateroom selection will impact your ability to enjoy other aspects of the trip. Will you have more funds available for excursions or fine dining if you opt for a different type of stateroom?

What is the price difference between the category types?

On some sailings, the price differential between the basic stateroom classifications can be many, many thousands of dollars, making the decision quite impactful to your trip. However, on other sailings, the cost variance between stateroom types is minimal. For example, on one 3-night May 2016 sailing on the Disney Dream, the least expensive room available is 204 square foot standard inside stateroom. The price for two guests is $1,464. On the same sailing, they could also get a 241 square foot oceanview (porthole) stateroom for $1,506 (a difference of just $42), or a 246 square foot verandah stateroom for $1,584 (a difference of $120 over the inside room, or $78 over the oceanview room). Given the macro cost of a vacation, these modest price differences may be small enough for you to be able enjoy whichever stateroom type suits your fancy. Read the rest of this entry »

Seth Kubersky’s Best Week Ever January 28, 2016: Universal Orlando Early Park Admission Update

by on January 28, 2016 4 Comments

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Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

 

I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.

First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.

Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:

  • When Universal Studios Florida opens for Early Park Admission, only Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the attractions inside Diagon Alley (including Escape from Gringotts) are regularly open. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers may also open early if the crowds warrant, but they were not operating early during my recent visit.
  • When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.

 

Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.
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Guests Can Modify Disney Dining Reservations Online

by on January 27, 2016 5 Comments

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

Have you ever made an Advance Dining Reservation and then realized that you needed to make an adjustment because you had a conflict that popped up or because the number of Guests you were bringing to the dining experience changed? It’s happened to me multiple times, however, in the past, I was unable to change my reservation, so I had to either cancel the reservation and start over or beg and be at the mercy of the Cast Member upon arrival at the restaurant.

Well no more! Now, Guests are able to easily modify their Advance Dining Reservations online, right from their computer. No more calling reservations to change seating time or number of Guests in the party!

Guests can make these modifications up to 20 minutes prior to their reserved seating time, however, keep in mind that this option is only available to be able to do through the website, not through a smart phone app, such as My Disney Experience or the Disneyland app. Guests looking to modify reservations can do so by visiting http://www.disneyworld.com/dining or www.disneyland.com/dining

Guests will still have the option to call can also call (714) 781-DINE for Disneyland or 407-WDW-DINE for Walt Disney World to speak with a Dining Reservation agent.