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!
It may not be the kind of round-number milestone that attracts massive media attention, but this month's 58th anniversary of Disneyland is well worth celebrating — and hey, the park doesn't look a day over 50! Starting today, Annual Passholders visiting the Anaheim resort on the next few Tuesdays have an opportunity to attend special presentations saluting the five lands that debuted at Walt's original Magic Kingdom.
Passholders attending Disneyland Park tomorrow (7/2), next Tuesday (7/9), or the following Tuesday (7/16) can register for either of two daily sessions (5:30pm or 7:30pm) held inside the Main Street USA Opera House. Disney artist Stacia Martin will be on hand to show off historical snapshots and videos from the park's formative years. Each week different original lands from the park are highlighted; the schedule of topics is as follows:
July 2, 2013: Adventureland & Frontierland
July 9, 2013: Fantasyland & Tomorrowland
July 16, 2013: Main Street, U.S.A. & Disneyland in 1955
Today, I’m concluding this series with a look at the best options for ending your evening at Disneyland Park. While Disneyland is magical at any time of day, there is something particularly special about those final hours before closing at the original Magic Kingdom. Any one of the following activities (or combination thereof) should guarantee a fitting finale to your day at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Fireworks and Fantasmic!
No one does explosive spectaculars better than Disney, and there is no better one-two punch among theme park pageants than Disneyland’s fireworks and Fantasmic! Whether the show is Remeber…Dreams Come True, Magical, or one of the special seasonal displays, Disneyland’s pyrotechnics are not-to-be-missed. And Disneyland’s Fantasmic! is the ultimate assemblage of animated characters, action stunts, and enormous animatronics. On nights when both shows are performed,first watch the fireworks from the hub near Frontierland, the head immediately towards the river for a seat. Alternatively, stake out a spot early for Fantasmic and you’ll still have a fine view of the overhead sky bursts (though not effects on the castle or Tinker Bell’s flight).
The brand-new Fantasy Faire at Disneyland Park doesn’t open to the public until tomorrow (March 12), but annual Passholders like our own Guy Selga Jr. have already been inside the princess-centric expansion adjacent to Sleeping Beauty Castle.
If you’re a Passholder who can’t get enough of Fantasy Faire, a free presentation and panel discussion will be held on Thursday, March 14, in Disneyland’s Main Street Opera House. Show Director Christopher Utley and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Director Michel den Dulk will share “fascinating” details on the new mini-land’s design and construction, and answer audience questions.
Registration for Thursday’s 6pm show begins that morning at 11:30am at the Opera House, and must be done in person by all participating Passholders. Space is limited, so arrive early to register if you’re intent on attending.
Do you love the Disney animated classic Peter Pan?
Would you like to spend a couple extra hours in Fantasyland this week?
If your answer to the following questions is “all of the above,” head over to Disneyland on Wednesday night (February 27, 2013) for the latest Limited Time Magic event. For one night only, Passholders can see a special screening of Peter Pan at the Main Street Opera House, in honor of the film’s recent Blu-ray release.
As an added bonus, select Fantasyland attractions will be open to participating Passholders for 2 additional hours past the park’s public 8pm closing time. Be warned, however, that my recent experience with extended Passholder hours at Disney California Adventure did not result in light crowds and short queues; in fact, it was exactly the opposite.
Film screening start at 11am on Wednesday. Passholders may register for the event in person at the Opera House beginning at 10am on the day of the event; online and advance registration is not offered. See here for details on the event direct from Disney.
The masses of annual Passholders that were anticipated to invade the Anaheim attractions after blackout dates were lifted last week didn't quite materialize. So if you've been avoiding Disneyland all summer, now is a great time to visit as preparations begin for the Halloween season.
Quietest Day: Friday 8/17 was a 5 out of 10 at the resort, with DCA crowds at 4.7 and Disneyland Park at only 3.1.
Busiest Day: Sunday 8/19 was an 8 out of 10 at the resort, with DCA crowds at 8.9 and Disneyland Park at 5.7.