Bright and early on September 27, I set out to ride the Backlot Tour. Upon first arriving it looked like any normal day, the crowds didn’t seem to know they were experiencing an attraction on the last day. The queue was short and the area was eerily quiet compared to that madness at Toy Story Mania next door.
I asked to wait for the next showing of the pre-show so I could get the best view to film. The cast members were happy to allow me to wait and I dashed into the next showing to line up my shot. Then something odd happened, they started doing the pre-show without any audience participation. For those unfamiliar, the idea is that this area shows you how Hollywood films effects. They choose people from the line to suit up in rain gear and get soaked in this tank. Then they show what was filmed with effects, just like the movies. Only, they didn’t pick anyone and just started firing off the effects at random. I didn’t film because I thought they were just stalling! It was pretty confusing. If I’m honest, I haven’t been near this attraction in years but I was sure they still had audience participation for the pre-show. If you’re wondering what it used to look like you can find videos here.
I did film my entire ride through on the last day in HD video. However, I didn’t upload it because it’s just a sad 14 minutes. The Backlot Tour is such a shadow of what it once was. I always try to stay positive about everything at Disney, but I’m happy to see this ride close. I hope that bigger and better things will come in it’s place. If anyone would like to see the video please let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to upload it. Here’s a taste of what I think was the best part of the ride anymore, the prop house that houses the queue:
Here’s my last view as I was leaving. I wonder if these ride vehicles will find new life as parking trams? I asked a cast member and they said they normally were only running two trams on the tour daily these days. She mentioned that they planned to run three on the last afternoon because they anticipated crowds, but I also saw on Twitter that one had broken down! Even still, the line didn’t look like it ever got very long on the last day.
One ride that never has a short line is Toy Story Mania! As I was walking by on my way back to the front I noticed that toy soldiers were playing with guests in the very long line. Everyone seemed to be having such a good time. It’s nice that Disney makes an effort to keep this long line enjoyable.
Back near the Sorcerer’s Hat I spotted Donald with only a few people in line for him. I thought for sure you guys would like to see him! When it was my turn I had a little trouble with my camera and Donald put on a show of how frustrated he was with me. Everyone in line behind me got a big laugh and I got this great photo! Maybe I should have camera trouble more often!
I also spotted some amazing tape art, someone is really talented! I’ve seen photos posted online of other characters but this is the first time I’ve spotted a Frozen character in person. They should offer classes on this! I have no idea where I would use that skill in life but I’d totally pay to learn.
As I was leaving the Studios I popped into the shops looking for anything new to report. The only thing I noticed that I hadn’t seen before are these awesome sunglasses. I’ve seen Minnie Mouse and princess glasses before but I hadn’t seen these. I love the big Goofy ears. At $19.95 they’re a bit pricey but perfect for the Goofy fan in your life.
The storm clouds were starting to loom so I headed to Downtown Disney to check on progress and see a movie. As you can see, the parking garage is starting to look more like an actual parking garage! Could it be possible that this might still make a Christmas opening date? That would be amazing because the parking situation is bleak at best. When I left around 2pm several people were fighting over my parking spot.
Speaking of movies, I stopped by the AMC Dine In Theater. I know this isn’t something exclusive to Disney so I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in more information about it? Would you let me know in the comments below if you’d like to see more?
September 27th also marked the last day for several shows around the World Showcase at Epcot. You can read all about them in Seth’s excellent post here. The only one he didn’t cover was Off Kilter so I had planned to stop by on the last day and take some video. I was never really a fan of the band just because they’re so loud. I’d walked by while they were performing and seen small crowds so imagine my surprise when I was faced with the below on their last day!
I was totally shocked. I decided to stick around for the next show assuming the huge crowd would move along, but they didn’t! The mass of people cheered and watched as one at a time guests got on stage to take photos with the band. Apparently, the guys decided to skip their break to take photos with fans. How incredibly nice of them to do that!
After squirming and scooting this was as close as I managed to get with nearly an hour until the next show. With people pressing in at every direction and a gentle rain starting to fall.. I gave up. Getting out of the crowd was almost as difficult as getting into it. There were several managers and Disney security guards managing the crowd. I can’t imagine what the last show was like!
I consoled myself with a potato and leek waffle with braised beef from Belgium for $4.25. I know this looks repulsive. It just proves how amazing this tastes if I can get past the nasty appearance. Last year, I almost chucked this in the trash without even taking a bite. It sounded delicious on the menu but I had to work myself up to actually eating after getting to see it. Once I did I was in love, and the rest is history!
The Odyssey pavilion is once again open for Food and Wine Festival. I love the trend of using this building. I loved this place as a kid and it’s a shame to see it sitting there empty. As you can see it’s being used as a craft beers center and all those comfy seats have been removed since the World Cup. Still, it’s a nice air conditioned space even if seating isn’t available. We didn’t try the snacks offered here but are looking forward to it!
Since I’d missed Off Kilter I wanted to make sure I stopped by to see Christopher Cross. Here is some footage of his show. I also asked about the VIP Illuminations area for the Chase Lounge wristbands.I was told if you are facing the American Gardens Theater it is directly to the left. We still haven’t tried it but I’ll report back when we do. This is the time of year we’re at Epcot several times a week!
We made one last stop food at desserts and champagne for the dessert trio: passion fruit coconut creamsicle, blueberry lime cheesecake roll, and chocolate espresso opera cake. This really seemed like a steal at $4! May favorite was the cheesecake but my hubby loved the chocolate cake. The passion fruit dessert gave me the giggles. It was so tart that it tickled my cheeks, but we both loved it and I’m sure we’ll have it again.
One last shopping stop at Mouse Gear before heading out for the night, to visit Chef Duffy. At $30 I think he’s too expensive right now. But I’ll see him when he heads to the outlet in a few months!
Heading over to the Magic Kingdom, I noticed that the awning has finally been installed on the boat dock directly in front of the entrance plaza. The guests boarding these boats must be thrilled to have some shade back!
Looking out at the construction from Tomorrowland there is still a long ways to go with the hub expansion. However, they are really making progress. I can’t wait for this to be complete! As a side note, Disney is doing a great job hiding all this work. If you don’t go looking for it you could easily miss lots of what is going on behind walls.
The reason I’d stopped by the Magic Kingdom was to ride the recently refurbished Astro Orbiter. This is something I always ride by myself so I didn’t think anything of it when the cast member told me to share a rocket with my hubby. Below is a look at the ride vehicle. While signs say these will accommodate 2-3 Earthlings, these two Earthlings found it to be a very tight fit!
Actually, a bit of lap seating was required to make it work. So make sure you know whoever you’re riding with very, very well. Here is your chance to ride on the first day it reopened:
As we exited we noticed that it seemed so much more pleasant and open. It looks like they have moved all the stroller parking over by the Carousel of Progress. Only wheelchairs are at the ride exit now. It isn’t something you’d really notice unless someone pointed it out but it really improves the flow of the area tremendously.
One last catch at the Magic Kingdom was this Zero popcorn bucket from The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is one of my favorite movies and I immediately jumped in line the second I spotted it! Since it was about 5pm in the evening I was concerned it might have just been for guests attending the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but they were happy to sell me one without an event ticket. If you’d like to find one they are just inside the Magic Kingdom at the popcorn cart near City Hall. Cost is $13.50 with regular popcorn and $15 with caramel corn.
That’s everything for this week. Now let’s see what you can expect if you’re visiting next week.
Crowd Calendar: Crowd levels are going to start to sneak back up especially on the weekends and especially at Epcot. If you’re looking forward to the Food and Wine Festival try to stop by on weekdays for the best experience.
Weather: Could it be?? Could we finally see highs in the low 80′s? And low’s in the low 60′s? It’s too wonderful to be believed.. but I hope it lasts!
Remember: While I link to videos on my YouTube “channel” here, it’s just so I have a place to link my videos. For all the latest and greatest videos be sure to subscribe to the Touring Plans Channel. All the cool kids are doing it!!
Here’s my top tip for this week: Don’t forget, if you are attending the Halloween party your tickets are good starting at 4pm. Make sure you take advantage of those extra 3 hours in the park!
Do you have any news I missed or any requests for coverage next week? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, and thanks so much for reading! I’m wishing all of you the Best Week Ever, until next time!
My husband’s aunt and uncle are huge Disney fans. Not only have they made countless trips to the Disney parks, they have been on several in-park tours as well. While chatting with Uncle Keith, he told me all about his experiences with both the Epcot DiveQuest and Epcot Seas Aqua Tour, and I thought I would share his adventures with all of you. If you’d like to read a review of the Dolphins in Depth tour, click here.
Let’s dive right in!
DiveQuest is a three hour experience giving you the opportunity to scuba dive in a 5.7 million gallon tank with over 6,000 sea creatures. In order to take part in this experience, you must be 10 years or older and be SCUBA-certified. (If there are actually any scuba-certified 10-year-olds out there, I applaud you.) To make reservations, call 407-939-8687. The cost is $175.
Keith was told to show up at the main entrance of Epcot about 15 minutes beforehand. The only things he was asked to bring were his swimsuit and scuba-certification card. After arriving at the Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion, he was brought backstage to a classroom. Here, Cast Members summarized the entire program, told everyone what was going to happen, and noted how long everything would take.
Waiting for your next Disney vacation can be grueling. Especially when you get closer to the big day, it becomes almost impossible to focus on anything that isn’t magical and amazing and oh come on why isn’t it here yet? Utterly unbearable anticipation aside, I love the time right before a Disney vacation because it’s usually when I go back and revisit some of my favorite Disney things to remind me of the fun I’m about to have. If you’re reading this site, I’m sure this isn’t a novel concept to you. People watch classic Disney films, research any and all new additions to the parks and do countless other activities in preparation for their vacation. For me, I love to play certain video games that remind me of the Most Magical Place on Earth. For those of you that have the same passion for games, there are several that you can play that evoke the same mood and joy found within the Disney Parks. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite video games that you should try if you’re looking to get excited for your next Disney vacation.
Packing for your Disney vacation doesn’t have to be a stressful part of your planning, and there are plenty of checklists to help you do it. You’ll usually remember to pack sunscreen, bathing suits, and toothbrushes, but what about the things that you might not have thought to put in your suitcase? Money-savers like ponchos and glow sticks from the discount store or gum (which isn’t sold anywhere on Disney property) are among the things most often suggested by Disney Parks veterans, but I’ve got five more things to pack for Disney World.
Trust me on this – it only takes one experience to learn the hard way! Here are a few of the things you shouldn’t leave your home without:
We received 39 photo challenges from friends and family.
Ed. – today we’re running two articles with ideas for silly things that can make your trip to Walt Disney World even more fun. Has your family ever done anything like this? Talk about it in the comments.
This past spring, TouringPlans blogger Erin Foster wrote a blog article about Disney World challenges – defined as anything that can turn your trip into a game, and add a little extra spice. It struck a familiar chord with me, as I’m always looking for creative ways to add fun. In fact, I’m no stranger to the concept as a couple of years ago I created my first Disney World challenge, although it was more of a challenge for my friends and family. I dubbed it “Where in Disney are the VanderVoords” and set out to take pictures of my family in obscure locations around Disney World. I would then post them on my Facebook page with the tag “WIDATVV?” and let my friends and family guess where we were. It was a fun time interacting with our loved ones who couldn’t be with us while sharing a little of our trip.
I’m always a fan of visiting Animal Kingdom in the rain because the animals love a good shower. However, this weekend was a bit of an exception. Normally rain passes quickly here, but Saturday morning it looked like there was no end in sight! Even the animals seemed to be hunkered down for the storm. The entire first half of the safari all we saw was a sleeping rhino! The poor driver, he kept rattling off facts, but you could tell he was having a tough time. Luckily, a group of giraffes came to our rescue, and the safari improved from there.
Lots of female elephants were out. They love the rain, and I was hoping to catch one taking a bath, but they were all above water munching on some breakfast. Want to see how cute they were? Well, you’ll have to click to read more!
Guest Relations is a mythical place where any question can be answered and any problem can be solved. These magical powers attract many guests with a variety of concerns and issues, many of which are not solved quickly. This often makes Guest Relations long and slow-moving. So when you see a queue of people wrapped around City Hall, check this list and see if your issue can be solved somewhere else.
You don’t always need to wait at Guest Relations. Photo By Todd Perlmutter.
If you decided to upgrade your ticket, head to the vacation planning booths–the ticket sales booths at the entrance of the parks–on your way out of the park. There are virtually no lines at the vacation planning booths after noon and they can upgrade your ticket just as well as Guest Relations.
Exchanging Old Ticket
Tickets purchased before 2004 don’t expire, but they need to be converted to the new RFID media (the ticket cards or MagicBands) before being used. Even unused A to E ticket books can be converted into a Magic Kingdom ticket, though they are worth much more than the $105.44 cost of a Magic Kingdom ticket. The conversion can be done at the vacation planning booths.
And we’ll never be roooooyalllls….oh! Hello! Welcome back to another edition of my wearable costume series. I hope some of you found my ideas for Mickey and Minnie Mouse helpful. In case you’re just tuning in, it’s my mission to make your Halloween costumes not only affordable, but comfortable! (Side bar: I sound like an infomercial ad. Think I have a future on TV? Don’t answer that…)
Little Cinderelli looking for her mouse friends.
Next up is my take on Rapunzel, Cinderella and Prince Eric.
Babies and Toddlers
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Disney apparel can be found everywhere. This Cinderella costume is essentially a baby girl onesie with a tutu on it. I found it at Target for less than ten dollars. If you don’t have a matching headband, you can always do what my parents did: Tape a bow to her head. They would take a small bow, attach it to a piece of scotch tape, and place it on my head…thanks parents. My mom claims it would just fall off at the end of the day without any pulling or pain. On second thought, just look for a headband.
There are so many different ways to dress like a Prince. Amongst all these interpretations, a crown and sword seem to be common props. If your little one has a shirt and tie, see if you can convince him to put it on. Hint: Offering a fruit snack or piece of candy may just do the trick. Now, I don’t condone fast food but if you have a burger king, stop by and grab one of their crowns. It would be a really cheap way to get your hands on one. For the sash, head to a craft store and see if they have ribbon 3-4 inches wide. Cut it to size, drape it across his shoulder to his hip and safety pin the ends together. Slick his hair in a nice side part and hand him a sword. Extra points if you find a cape to complete the costume. Voila, your debonair guy will be fighting dragons and meeting his one true love in no time!
The beer situation in the Animal Kingdom is rough. They seem to be cognizant of this, since they recently added several “beer carts” along the paths in Asia (near Everest and on the way to DinoLand U.S.A.). Indeed, the rising demand for good beer seems to be causing a bit of a branding crisis for the park. Ubiquitous is the Safari Amber ($6.95), which Cast Members will tell you is specially brewed for the Animal Kingdom. That’s a little bit of a stretch: it’s actually specially *branded* for the park. You know the “Red” or “Amber” beer that seems to appear in restaurants that only sell Bud and Bud Lite, but has some cute name that directly references the tacky ambiance of wherever you are? This is the selfsame brew, and will taste exactly like Kingdom Red Ale in the Kansas City Chief’s stadium, or Ray’s Red at Tropicana Field in Tampa, or Thirsty Frog Red Ale “brewed exclusively for Carnival Cruise Lines.” If you’ve had one of these mystery “Red Ales” before, you’ve had the mediocre Safari Amber.
I’d like to go though each land of Animal Kingdom like I did for Epcot, reviewing spots and providing rankings for each experience, but it’s just not possible here. You will be looking for an Oasis, not wandering through a verdant field of hops. With that in mind …
Located in Africa, right outside Tusker House. The bar represents a microcosm of the Animal Kingdom experience. The selection is sparse and lacks air conditioning but is none-the-less pleasant and entertaining.
As some of you know, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will be starting September 19 and running through November 10. In honor of this event (and the fact that I will be attending for the first time), I decided to put my culinary skills to the test.
The Challenge: Recreate three popular recipes found at Walt Disney World.