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Favorite Parks Series: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on July 16, 2014 14 Comments

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We’re at the half way point in our Favorite Parks journey! (Read about Disney’s Hollywood Studios here.) Before doing research for this article, I’ll admit that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was my least favorite park. However, the more I delved into the MAGIC* behind the park, the more I realized how spectacular and incredibly unique Animal Kingdom is.

Memorable Moments

Since Animal Kingdom is known for its hot environment, Kali River Rapids is just the attraction to cool you off. As the unpredictable rapids decide which way the raft spins, no one is safe from the surprising splashes and torrents. Once you’ve become thoroughly soaked, dry yourself off by enjoying two delightful shows; Finding Nemo – The Musical and the Festival of the Lion King. Adrenaline junkies will love running into the Yeti on Expedition Everest, while those looking for further adventure can experience DINOSAUR. An underrated attraction at Animal Kingdom worth attending is Flights of Wonder, an educational and entertaining exotic bird show. You’ll be ‘squawking’ about it for days!

How many animals can you spot?

How many animals can you spot?

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Walt Disney World To Hold ESPN Fantasy Football Convention

by on July 15, 2014 1 Comment

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©Disney

©Disney

Are you ready for some football? It seems so weird to ask in JULY, but football season is just around the corner, and this year Walt Disney World is getting in on the fantasy football fun.

Over at ESPN Wide World of Sports, from August 22-23, Disney will be holding the inaugural ESPN Fantasy Football Convention. (For those who follow along with my In Case You Missed It posts, you may have seen me mention the event was taking place about a month ago.)

The convention sounds like a dream for those who love their fantasy football. The festivities will include events such as the exclusive ESPN Tailgate Party, where guests can mix and mingle with ESPN talent, like Matthew Berry, Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen, Tim Hasselbeck, Stephania Bell, Trey Wingo, Robert Flores and Sara Walsh. The Tailgate Party will also feature the first ever ESPN Chili Bowl. (Yum!) Here chili will be prepared by world class chefs from around the world, and guests can judge which is the best of the best. (I’m ready to vote now…my spoon is currently in hand.)

The next morning, things will kick off with a breakfast that features characters dressed ready to catch the pigskin. Guests can also witness a live broadcast of Fantasy Football Now, which will be aired on ESPN2, plus they can take part in a post-broadcast Q&A session. The evening will end with an opportunity to participate in a live fantasy football draft, where this season’s winner will receive a customized trophy!

The event costs $349.00 per person to participate, and registration is now open at the ESPN Wide World of Sports page.

Who do you want on your fantasy team?

Trattoria al Forno Restaurant To Open at Disney’s BoardWalk

by on July 15, 2014 15 Comments

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©Disney

©Disney

While it’s well known that Kouzzina by Cat Cora is slated to close this fall (its last day of operation is September 30), what we didn’t know and have all been waiting to hear is what new restaurant was going to take its place.

Well, wait no more! Disney has officially announced that a brand new Italian restaurant, called Trattoria al Forno will be opening sometime this December at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.

This brand new restaurant will serve up delectable, Old World-inspired dishes, showcasing dishes from the different regions of the country. Menu items will include Neopolitan-style pizzas, Bolognese with house-made cavatelli;  whole roasted fish with roasted vegetables; semolina tagliatelli carbonara; grilled steak; a seasonal risotto; pork chop alla Milanese; chicken breast alla Parmagiana with tagliatelle pasta; shrimp with garlic, capers and anchovy butter with polenta;  baked lasagna; slow-cooked lamb shank with polenta; ruffled campanelle pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes and Genovese pesto; and eggplant rollatini.   Read the rest of this entry »

Disneyland Planning for Disney World Experts

by on July 15, 2014 16 Comments

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Planning for Disney World is what I do, but planning for Disneyland is proving to be an entirely different matter. Joining the pilgrimage of Disney fans to Walt Disney’s original park? If you’re a Walt Disney World veteran, you’re going to need new skills for Disneyland planning. Or for some, old ones.

Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

If you’ve been visiting Walt Disney World Resort long enough, you remember the days before FastPass+, My Disney Experience, even that weird blip when dining reservations were only available 90 days in advance. You remember planning your days with a much more loose feel, instead of racing from one reservation to the next. Of course, those days are gone. That knowledge is useless now.

Or is it? For Disney World veterans traveling to Disneyland Resort, planning a visit can feel like a return to form. So how does a Disneyland trip differ from a Walt Disney World trip? Dining, touring plans, getting around the resort, and fitting in extras and off-site adventures are all different with Disneyland planning. Let’s take a look.

Dining: 180 days prior to arrival, I’m rising with the sun to book Walt Disney World dining reservations. With a Disneyland trip, 180 days comes and goes without fanfare. You’ll have to wait until 60 days prior to your visit to make Disneyland dining reservations. Read the rest of this entry »

New Behind the Scenes Tour of Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba”

by on July 15, 2014 1 Comment

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Cirque du Soleil La Nouba at Downtown DisneyIf you are a huge fan of the Cirque du Soleil show, “La Nouba”, then you will enjoy Disney’s latest backstage tour! Called L’Experience, guests who book this tour will not only receive a ticket for the show, but they will also get an unprecedented, unique look at some of the backstage happenings of the popular, long-running show.

This brand new tour experience gives fans of the show the opportunity to take an inside peek at the whimsical costuming, to get a unique look at the backstage area, and to meet a performer from the show. Tour participants also receive popcorn and soft drinks and a gift bag filled with Cirque du Soleil merchandise, plus, they get a 10% discount coupon for The Cirque Boutique shop. Finally, Front and Center category tickets for the 6:00 p.m. show are included.

This package is available for performances on Fridays and Saturdays and costs $250 (plus tax) for adults (ages 10+) and $215 (plus tax) for children (ages 9 and under).

For more information or to purchase tickets, call (407) W-DISNEY or the Cirque du Soleil box office at (407) 939-7600.

Best Evening Extra Magic Hours Attractions at Disney World

by on July 15, 2014 10 Comments

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The Kiss Goodnight is a light show projected on the castle when the park closes.

Staying on property during your next Walt Disney World vacation? Then you should absolutely be taking advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, which offer resort guests the opportunity to get to a park early or stay late. Simply show that you’re staying in a Walt Disney World resort and you can have fun in the parks beyond the normal operating hours. And if you’re using our Personalized Touring Plans, you can also extend your plan hours for both morning and evening Extra Magic Hours. As stated, Extra Magic Hours are offered both in the morning and the evening but for now we’re going to concentrate on some of my favorite Evening Extra Magic Hours attractions. While not every attraction is operating for Extra Magic Hours, some of the best and most popular attractions across Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are open to resort guests. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not offer evening extra magic hours. Perhaps that could change with the eventual opening of the park’s new Avatar Land but for now, park guests will have to get their Extra Magic Hours fill at the first three Walt Disney World theme parks. So without further ado, here are my top Evening Extra Magic Hours attractions for each park.
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Connect@Sea Internet Access on a Disney Cruise

by on July 15, 2014 8 Comments

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t_logo_fbAlthough many of us enjoy going on a cruise to unplug and get away from it all, sometimes you can’t leave your connection to the mainland behind when the ship sails away. In the past, Internet connections at sea were slow, spotty, and expensive. With the Connect@Sea plan, Disney Cruise Line has made Internet access more affordable, easy to use, and fairly reliable with decent connection speeds. I recently went on the Disney Dream and had to bring work with me, which meant I got to put Connect@Sea through its paces. Here’s what I discovered.

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Disney World Crowd Report – July 6 to 12, 2014

by on July 14, 2014

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Last week we updated our Crowd Calendar and our predictions bounced back nicely. We saw most park levels within expected ranges of our predictions. Crowds were still skewing lower than normal but not significantly so as was the case the past several weeks.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week:

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, July 6, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
4

An average day across the resort which is fairly unusual for mid-July. Magic Kingdom and Epcot were the better choices Sunday even though Magic Kingdom opened until 2:00 am with Extra Magic Hour evening. Wait times were slightly higher at the other two parks but still quite manageable.

Epcot
5
3
Hollywood Studios
7
6
Animal Kingdom
8
6

Monday, July 7, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
7

All of Monday’s predictions fell within acceptable limits including a correct prediction of ’7′ at Magic Kingdom. Spaceship Earth was the resort’s biggest surprise with a 25-minute average posted wait (a ’10′ on our scale).

Epcot
4
5
Hollywood Studios
6
7
Animal Kingdom
5
6

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
7
8

Lower than expected wait times at Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom pushed the resort wide level two points lower than predicted. Magic Kingdom went the other way thanks to a 67-minute average wait at Space Mountain.

Epcot
7
6
Hollywood Studios
6
5
Animal Kingdom
8
6

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
7

Higher crowds than the previous three days rolled in on Wednesday. Animal Kingdom was especially crowded including a 64-minute average wait at Kali River Rapids.

Epcot
5
5
Hollywood Studios
6
7
Animal Kingdom
9
9

Thursday, July 10, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
7

By comparison, Kali River Rapids dipped to a 45-minute average on Thursday, pushing the crowd level three points lower than predicted and three points lower than the day before. Soarin’s waits were low as well, only a 58-minute average on Thursday.

Epcot
7
5
Hollywood Studios
6
6
Animal Kingdom
9
6

Friday, July 11, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
6

Solid predictions resort-wide on Friday, with the noted exception of Spaceship Earth at 22-minutes. Even Living with the Land at 7 minutes was higher than normal. Otherwise, our predictions hit the mark.

Epcot
5
7
Hollywood Studios
6
6
Animal Kingdom
6
5

Saturday, July 12, 2014

  WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
4
4

We didn’t believe our predictions for low crowds on Saturday but they ended up accurate. In fact, Animal Kingdom was less crowded than expected. Anyone in that park experienced the rare crowd level ’2′ in summer.

Epcot
3
3
Hollywood Studios
6
6
Animal Kingdom
5
2
What to Expect This Week
July 13 to 19, 2014
How Crowded is Disney World?

How Crowded is Disney World?

Crowd levels are expected to be higher this week than they were last week. The ’4′s and ’5′s will be replaced with ’7′s and ’8′s.

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.

Planning Disney During School

by on July 14, 2014 20 Comments

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Approaching an approved field trip may be daunting, but with preparation, can be easy.

Approaching an approved field trip may be daunting, but with preparation, can be easy.

You’re a planner by nature, certainly. That’s why you’re on TouringPlans.com, right? Following guidelines for the best family trip suggests visiting Walt Disney World during the school year, but planning for a week out of school may be daunting. Checking  in with the teacher, educational field trip requests, and team schedules may overwhelm even the most ardent planner. With a little organization, and some honest assessment, any parent can manage school parties, rehearsals, and get all the homework done on time. My wife and I have over thirty years of combined teaching experience, and are notorious over-planners. We can help. You thought all of these tests were done years ago, didn’t you?

Before even making your 180 day dinner reservations, or plunking down the deposit, make some honest assessments about your children. Pull out attendance records and grade reports from the last school year. See what the district reported about performance. If your child missed double digits of school without a trip involved – or any other extenuating circumstances – a trip may impact the year negatively. Even with work provided and advance notification, missing school loses out on that educational experience. With most districts in the United States making a strong shift to common core, much of the educational process builds on previous learning. Especially in math and science, what kids learn today assumes they have the knowledge from previous days.

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Disney World Situational Celebration Guide

by on July 14, 2014 8 Comments

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Many guests plan Disney World trips, either in whole or in part, to celebrate an event. This phenomenon is such a truism that Disney even planned their 2009/2010 marketing campaign around the theme “What Will You Celebrate?”

While Walt Disney World is indeed a great place to celebrate, not all Disney celebrations should look the same. You’re not going to celebrate your daughter’s first birthday the same way you’re going to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary. Here’s a guide to constructing the perfect celebration for common situations.

Different situations call for different celebrations.

Different situations call for different celebrations.

1st BIRTHDAY

Who should be there?: The birthday boy/girl, mom and dad, siblings, possibly grandparents.

Where should we stay?: The monorail hotels (Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian) are great because you won’t have to fold your stroller to get to the Magic Kingdom. But if that’s not in the budget, try a family suite at Art of Animation or All-Star Music, or a cabin at Fort Wilderness because you’ll have a separate room where the baby can nap undisturbed. At the moderate level, the standard rooms at the Coronado Springs resort have a sliding wooden door between the bed area and the bath area, creating a de facto mini-room which can serve as a nap area. The value resorts, with their small square footage, may be a challenge during this trip because your Pack n’ Play will take up a substantial percentage of your living area.

Where should we eat?: Chef Mickey’s (breakfast or dinner). The boisterous atmosphere will muffle any cranky noises the birthday child might make. Since it’s a buffet, it won’t seem odd if you’re walking around a bit, also you’ll have lots of food options for fussy eaters.

What should we do?: Character photos! This is the perfect time for pictures juxtaposing little toddler next to a giant mouse. Cuuuute!

What should we buy?: Mouse ears embroidered with junior’s name (another perfect photo opportunity!).

Helpful hints: The celebrant is likely pre-verbal, so there will not be any direct memories being made for the child. Focus on making mom and dad comfortable (traveling with an infant can be exhausting) and taking lots of great photos to help convey your family’s Disney/birthday story when the little one is old enough to understand.

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