My very favorite thing about visiting Disney World is the memories you take home with you. Amongst the celebrations and excitement at the parks, something even more amazing can happen. A magical moment occurs that makes the whole trip so much more meaningful – a personal story you will never forget. I call this the ‘Disney Dazzle.’
My husband and I make trips to Orlando 2-3 times a year as my husband’s aunt and uncle live there. Rewind back to February 2014, and we were on our very first trip with our newborn, Annie. Whenever we visit Disney World, my husband’s uncle, Keith, always has a surprise in store for us. This trip was no exception. Earlier in the day, Uncle Keith had mysteriously left our group for several minutes. He returned, said nothing about his disappearance and we continued about our day. That night, he told us he had a surprise but that we would have to wait a little longer. I walked up and down Main Street, U.S.A. with ants in my pants wondering what his secret could be. After what seemed like FOREVER (although in reality, it was no more than 20 minutes), he led us into the Town Square Theater. I really had NO idea what we were doing there, only remembering the little television playing cartoons and the Camera Center full of camera supplies and pins. While looking around, I saw the sign ‘Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater’ and it hit me. Uncle Keith had gotten us a FastPass+ reservation to meet Mickey Mouse! Now, guests have had the opportunity to meet Mickey in the Town Square Theater since 2011, but it wasn’t until October of 2013 that a special magician Mickey would grace us with his presence. (I won’t give away all the surprises because every encounter with ‘the boss’ is unique!) As a Disney buff, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no idea one could meet Mickey in such an exciting and intimate setting. I was in for a real treat!
Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! This week we’re stopping by Disney’s Hollywood Studios to say goodbye to The American Idol Experience and The American Film Institute Showcase. Next, we’ll stop in to see how things are going with the Polynesian Resort refurbishment, and then we’ll wrap up this week at the Magic Kingdom. Let’s get started by taking a look at American Idol. While I’m not surprised that this show is going the way of the dodo, I’m sad to see people lose their jobs. Hopefully there are better plans to utilize this space for all the talented actors who worked here. In the short term it seems pretty obvious that with the Frozen Sing-A-Long suddenly offering FastPass+ on September 2 that the show will be moving into this space. Does anyone want to see video of American Idol before it closes on August 30? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to include it next week.
Already closed as of August 17 is The American Film Institute Showcase. I stopped in this weekend to get a final look and video walk-through for you, but first, the gift shop:
Click to read more and more see video of the Showcase.
Now, let’s see what puts the ‘Magic’ in Magic Kingdom.
“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy” – Walt Disney.
Indeed, these memorable words are embodied in the ambiance and attractions of Magic Kingdom. Main Street, U.S.A., is reminiscent of small town America, with Ma and Pa general stores full of delicious goodies and fun souvenirs. Adventureland creates exotic experiences such as boarding the Jungle Cruise and joining the crew on the fan favorite, Pirates of the Caribbean. Make your way over to Frontierland and enter the Wild West. Hold on to your cowboy hats
It has been a while since I have done a photo tour of Downtown Disney, and it was time to head back into what might be the construction capital of the world. There are major projects going on in every single section of Downtown Disney, making a day trip there a potentially stressful challenge. However, it seems as though the area has finally turned a corner, and we are starting to see developments that make Downtown Disney a place worth checking out rather than avoiding because of the construction hassle. Looking at my previous Downtown Disney article from April shows some rather significant changes, so here is what is going on now….
Status of parking garage on West Side of Downtown Disney near Cirque du Soleil
The parking garage is looking massive, and the map of the area says it should be completed “Early 2015.” Busch Gardens should have done that for its long delayed Falcon’s Fury ride that is “Opening Sometime in 2014.” As ugly as Downtown Disney is right now because of the overall construction, far and away the biggest problem is parking. It was bad enough before huge sections of parking spaces were completely shut down to make way for a much-needed parking garage, and now it can be maddening. For the Guardians of the Galaxy showings this past weekend, the AMC movie theater at Downtown Disney was advising guests to arrive an hour early to give themselves time to find a parking space, with many guests being directed to the overflow areas across the street at Team Disney and Casting.
What does Mickey call his home? A mouse pad. Who handles Br’er Rabbit’s money? Br’er Broker. How do you turn Epcot into the best park in Disney World? Turn 21. Now that I’ve clearly established my comedy expertise with these masterful jokes, I hope you’ll trust me to guide you through some of Walt Disney World’s Funniest Attractions. One of the words most often associated with Walt Disney World is “magical” but don’t be fooled. Disney World is host to a bevy of attractions that’ll have you laughing out loud. Of course, everyone has his own sense of humor, but if you’re a first time visitor or just happen to have never been on one of the following attractions, I hope this article will give you an idea of just what makes these attractions so funny. I may have only recently started doing stand-up but I’ve been laughing at Walt Disney World my entire life.
If you love “dad” jokes, you’re going to love Jungle Cruise. The attraction features a guided tour through the “jungle” and while you’ll see a bunch of animatronic animals along the way, I think the real appeal of the attraction is your skipper who provides some hilariously corny jokes. Like any attraction with different guides, your enjoyment will definitely hinge on how into it your cast member is. Some of the better ones will have both kids and adults of all ages in stitches by the end of your “six month cruise.” Also be sure to ride it at night and you might be lucky enough to get some jokes that are a little too “edgy” for the day crowds. For a more official new experience, go during the holidays when the whole attraction is re-themed to the Jingle Cruise.
After getting pregnant, I’ll admit I was worried that visiting Disney World with a baby would prove too difficult. However, after bringing my daughter Annie at 11 weeks old, I realized that with a little more planning, we could still have an amazing time. With that said, allow me to share my tips and tricks for bringing an infant to Disney.
Top Tips for Visiting Disney with an Infant
- You can check your car seat and stroller for free with most airlines. It’s your choice if you want to check them at the desk or the gate. The employees don’t usually mind either way. It’s a good idea to put a name tag on your stroller (unless someone has a better stroller than you…then you might want to “accidentally” walk off with theirs – I did say I would give you tips and tricks, didn’t I?).
- Most airlines will let people with children board first, giving you extra time to get situated without the crowd. Take note that the airlines will not let you sit in an exit row if traveling with an infant, so keep that in mind when booking your seat.
By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.
A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.
Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.
Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank.
We all have our favorite stores in Walt Disney World such as Mouse Gear in Epcot, the Emporium on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, or Villains in Vogue at Hollywood Studios. Disney has made gift shops as ubiquitous in theme parks as churros and turkey legs. Most of us have Disney magnets on our refrigerators, coffee mugs in our cabinets, and shirts in our drawers that immediately bring back memories of previous vacations. Not all merchandise gets sold though. Some of it sits on the shelves long enough to be shipped over to the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando, and that’s where we come in. The Magic, The Memores, and Merch! is your monthly guide to these products which never found a home.
Our first find at the outlet is AULANI DUFFY. Original priced at $35, these are now $9.99.
Turns out that ancient taboo idol that Bobby Brady found wasn’t the worst thing to come out of Hawaii after all.
First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.
That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.
The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.
Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook
Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.
So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.
Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.
The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.
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.
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!