In honor of July 4th we are presenting a special SATURDAY SIX with a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!
# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)
The Voices of Liberty (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
# 5 – Captain America (Islands of Adventure)
Captain America. (photo by Brandon Glover)
America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.
Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. Of course, there’s also a number of things that each park does very well! Today, I’m breaking down Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses with a focus on the most magical park of them all: the Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom Park first opened on October 1st of 1971. While inspired by the original Disneyland Park, the Magic Kingdom was bigger, featured a whole new land known as Liberty Square, had a much larger castle as its centerpiece, and was only the start of the ultimate vacation kingdom which is Walt Disney World.
The Magic Kingdom is home to six themed lands: Adventureland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Main Street, U.S.A. In 2012, New Fantasyland opened at the Magic Kingdom and, in addition to the classic Fantasyland offerings, now has areas themed after the Beauty and the Beast film, a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster, Storybook Circus with two Dumbo the Flying Elephants, and the Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction housed in Prince Eric’s Castle!
So let’s start with the Magic Kingdom’s best points, shall we…
Iconic Attractions – When you think of Walt Disney World, attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Mad Tea Party, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and “it’s a small world” is usually what comes to mind. They are synonymous with the Walt Disney World experience and an expression of that Disney magic. Therefore, there’s rarely ever a question about whether or not visit the Magic Kingdom because its iconic attractions make it a must-do, a luxury that other Disney Parks have never been quite able to equal.
Timeless Appeal – While Walt Disney never saw the completion of the Magic Kingdom, his fingerprints are all over the park. It was inspired off of the original Disneyland Park in regards to the general layout, the number of similar attractions, a castle at its center, and the Main Street, U.S.A. entry. In short, so much of what makes up the Magic Kingdom came from the mind of Walt and his ideas and projects had that timeless appeal, meaning that they transcend time and generation and fads. It truly is a rare thing in today’s rapidly modernizing world for attractions thirty years old or more to still fill queues, such as Peter Pan’s Flight and the Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain. It’s also rare for characters who are decades old to still have merchandise on the shelves and lengthy lines for autographs, but that is certainly reality at the Magic Kingdom. Basically, this park never gets old! That fact is one of the Magic Kingdom’s greatest strengths and it’s why people will keep passing through the turnstiles, year after year, and bringing their kids and then their grandkids to relive it for themselves and to introduce it to the next generation.
The light in Walt’s apartment window above the Disneyland Fire Dept.
One of the many things I love and appreciate about the Disney Parks is that, while they are constantly evolving and improving, they stay true to their history and even celebrate it; and when I’m at Walt Disney World, I’m always looking for it. Much to my family’s chagrin, I have this inner need to educate them about the history of each attraction we find ourselves waiting in line for or about the individual windows on Main Street, U.S.A., or about the original name of Cinderella’s Royal Table or…well…you get the idea. As you can imagine, this self-pronounced Disney World Historian was beyond thrilled to experience her first trip to the Disneyland Park to finally walk in Walt’s footsteps, a literal treasure trove of Disney History and the original. So stay tuned for A Disney World Historian’s Guide to the Disneyland Park.
Main Street, U.S.A.
There is so much history for the Walt Disney World fan to appreciate on the original Main Street, U.S.A., more than I could ever mention in one article! However, a personal favorite of mine has to be Walt Disney’s Griffith Park Bench found just inside the Opera House. According to Walt, he was sitting on a bench in Griffith Park watching his daughters ride the merry-go-round when he first dreamed up a Disney-themed park where families could have fun together.
The Opera House is also where guests can take in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the predecessor to the Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Walt originally wanted audio-animatronic American Presidents in a show, but the technology just wasn’t available at the time for such a large-scale show. It was possible, however, when Walt Disney World opened and The Hall of Presidents was somewhat of a fulfillment of Walt’s original vision. Therefore, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is something every Disney World Historian should check out and is sure to create an even greater appreciation for The Hall of Presidents.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Six BEST Souvenirs at Walt Disney World. Last week we took a look at some of our favorite pieces of merchandise available at the Univeral Orlando Resort and today we are going to cross the street and see what the very best souvenirs are at Walt Disney World. This is a much harder task because as we mentioned previously, Universal only ramped up their merchandise game with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2010. Disney, on the other hand, has been producing great souvenirs from Day One. In fact several items on this list are as synonymous with a Disney vacation as Cinderella castle or Mickey Mouse himself. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – Mickey Ears
The classic Mickey Ears are THE iconic souvenir at Walt Disney World and one whose popularity has exploded in the last decade. Besides the classic black ears, there are now Mickey Ears for almost any part of the Disney fandom: princesses, pirates, Muppets, Star Wars, World Showcase, and almost any Disney character you can imagine. Who hasn’t seen a newlywed couple at the parks wearing bride and groom Mickey Ears? Getting a pair of Mickey Ears has become part of the Disney experience itself.
You can’t help but smile wearing a pair of Mickey Ears. (photo by Stacey Lantz)
There’s a pair of Mickey Ears for everyone, no matter what they like. (photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD mp3 player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness starting with…
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” And you just may hear a song from a little movie called Frozen…
Recently, my family decided to make a last minute trip to Disney World the week of New Year’s. Before everyone faints at the heresy of going during the busiest week of the year, my brother’s school was playing in a bowl game in Tampa, so my family decided to kill two birds with one stone. Quickly putting aside the loud warnings in the back of my head about the massive crowds, I couldn’t turn down a pseudo surprise Disney trip. The resort reservation was all set (we would be staying at a Finding Nemo Suite in Disney’s Art of Animation Resort), and I already had my annual pass, but the flight fares were absolutely insane from Baltimore, which is the closest airport to me. Being a more intelligent person than I, my girlfriend suggested a simple alternative. Why don’t we just drive down? So we did. I hope everyone who is considering the possibility of driving instead of flying finds this useful.
Happy Halloween, everyone! Did you know that the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a week from today. And that it’s sold out? Enjoy your 6 days of downtime between the 2 month holiday of the Food & Hallowine Festival and the next 2 month holiday of Christmas and New Year’s.
Christmas will be here before you know it, and you might be asking yourself, “Hey, self, should I make my holiday season even more magical by going to Disney World?” I’m glad you asked. Disney World during the holidays is one of my favorite times of year to visit. It’s a time when there are several unique elements from decorations to food present that transform the parks into something special. That’s not to say that it’s the perfect time of year to go. Like any season, there are positives and negatives. While I believe that every Disney enthusiast should aim to visit at least once during the holidays, here are some of my personal pros and cons that should help you decide if it’s worth it.
PRO: The Decorations
Walking down a fully decorated Main Street, U.S.A., is almost worth the trip alone for me. I already enjoy spending time just wandering around the Magic Kingdom staple but when the decorations are up, the ambiance gets even better. The decorations don’t stop there. Obviously the rest of the areas in the parks have decorations, but the hotels do, as well. I enjoy hotel hopping just to see how each one is decorated. The level of detail will vary, but some of the hotels go all out: for example, there’s a huge gingerbread house at the BoardWalk!
CON: The Crowds
Like any popular time of year at Disney, you’re going to feel cramped at some points. If all you want out of a Disney trip is short wait times and you don’t care about Christmas, maybe plan a trip for some other time. I could be perfectly happy just walking around the parks and taking everything in, but I understand how some people might not enjoy this and need plenty of attractions. If this is you, whatever you do, do not go during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the busiest time of year by far. Check out our crowd calendar for more information, but generally it’s less crowded the earlier you go in the season (besides the week of Thanksgiving, of course).
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table is Worth Your Time and Effort. One of the most coveted dining experiences at Walt Disney World is Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT). Even with its high price tag ($58.15 for adults, $35.86 for kids, or two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan) this restaurant can be a challenge to get into, especially for breakfast. Is CRT worth the hype? I believe it is, but to get the best possible experience it is going to take more than just money. It is going to take a decent amount of planning, a little bit of patience, and maybe just a pinch of luck to get the opportunity, but you and your family are worth the effort, right? Remember that clicking on any picture will bring up the full size version, and let’s get to counting down what separates Cinderella’s Royal Table from everything else, starting with….
# 6 – An empty Main Street, U.S.A.
How much is this view worth to you?
This won’t come easy, but it is a wonderful reward to some hard work. To be able to get an early morning walk down Main Street, U.S.A., you’re going to have to get up even earlier 180 days ahead of time to book your CRT reservation. With Disney on-site guests getting “180 days + 10” for advance dining reservations, it certainly wouldn’t hurt your chances to be staying a night or more on Disney property. I recommend using this Priority Seating Calculator (not affiliated with TouringPlans) to figure out when you’ll be 180 days out from the date you’d like. On the day you are eligible to book your advanced dining reservation, you need to be prepared to go online or call (407) WDW-DINE at 6 AM. I would recommend the phone call and make sure you are ready by 5:45 AM. The earliest seatings at CRT are one of the hardest reservations in the Disney system, but luck favors the prepared and your chances of scoring an elusive 8:05 AM reservation will increase tenfold if you go into this with a plan.
Today is historically one of my favorite days to go to the Magic Kingdom. While thousands of people are running the marathon, the parks find themselves in a bit of a transportation disaster. The runners clog major roadways, and cleanup efforts add an extra delay. This means that if you get there early, you beat the crowd in a big way. Folks just can’t get in as quickly as on a normal day! Add to that the fact that the huge “Let the Magic Begin” banner has been removed from the train station, and you are talking about some serious magic today!
Now, the banner being removed isn’t really news. Everyone has been buzzing about that! But have you see the Welcome Show with our lovely, new, banner free view? I decided to take video for you guys this morning! Remember, my “channel” is pretty much just for blog linking. All the cool kids are subscribed to the TouringPlans Channel!