Posts Tagged ‘Unofficial Guide’

New Color Companion to Walt Disney World Available!

by on November 20, 2014

2015ColorCompanionOur new edition of The Unofficial Guide Color Companion to Walt Disney World is out. This guidebook has more than 500 full-color photos of Disney’s rides, restaurants, and resorts. This edition’s updates feature all of the new Fantasyland attractions, such as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and new restaurants like Be Our Guest.

Some of my favorite new parts of the Color Companion are the theme park infographics. These two-page color spreads are like cheat sheets for visiting the parks. Tip #1 includes the park’s typical Extra Magic Hours schedule, plus the pros and cons of Morning and Evening Extra Magic Hours. Tip #2 shows which attractions benefit most from FastPass+ in each park. Tip #3 explains why it’s important to arrive early.

Tip #4 shows which attractions get crowded fastest, and which attractions to visit during the busy, middle part of the day. And Tip #5 shows you which attractions are likely to still have FastPass+ reservations on the day you’re visiting the park. This is the first time we’ve presented this information in print, and it’s super useful when trying to figure out where to use your 3 advance FastPass+ reservations. Big thanks to graphic artist Cassandra Poertner for coming up with these (that’s Cassandra and her daughter in the flying boat).

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Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts REVIEW [Minor Spoilers]

by on July 1, 2014

 

gringotts review

A panoramic view of the majestic Gringotts bank lobby. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth review of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida, and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts review, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction, and is subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

 

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

5 STARS

APPEAL BY AGE

  • PRESCHOOL 2 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 4 stars
  • TEENS 5 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 5 stars
  • OVER 30 5 stars
  • SENIORS 4 stars

What it is Super-high-tech 3-D dark ride with roller coaster elements.
Scope and scale Super-headliner.
When to go Immediately after park opening or just before closing.
Special comments Expect loooong waits in line; 42″ minimum height requirement.
Authors’ rating The ultimate realization of “Ride The Movies!”; Not to be missed; 5 stars
Duration of ride 4 1⁄2 minutes.
Probable waiting time per 100 people ahead of you 4 minutes.
Loading speed Moderate-Fast.

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Disney California Adventure Videos: Mariachi Divas and World of Color

by on April 20, 2014

Disney California Adventure videos Mariachi Divas World of Color

Watch these videos and see World of Color in a whole new way. (images by Seth Kubersky)

Just as Walt famously said that the Disney empire “all started with a mouse,” the magic of Touring Plans all started with a book — namely, the Unofficial Guide. As co-author (with Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa) of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, I’m proud to announce that preliminary work is complete on the 2015 edition of our Anaheim guidebook, which will make its way to store shelves in plenty of time for the resort’s upcoming 60th anniversary. Naturally, we’ll continue to refine the text right up until the time it is sent to the printers later this year, and we’ll be bringing you details on the changes made to the tome as its publication approaches in the fall. But for now, I wanted to share a tiny taste of a couple of the changes coming to the Unofficial Guide, via a few fun Disney California Adventure videos — featuring the Mariachi Divas and World of Color — that I recorded during my most recent visit to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Mariachi Divas

The Mariachi Divas are one of my favorite under-the-radar entertainment diversions found at Disney California Adventure, but until now they’ve be unjustly under-represented in the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. We’ve rectified that with an an expanded entry on this fabulously festive singing group.

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Updates to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Ride Ratings

by on April 9, 2014

A mother from Ellicott City, Maryland, sent us this question last week:

Do you provide a description of how you come up with your star ratings for rides?  I’m not talking about the age-related ones, but the authors’ rating.  This question came up when we were reading about Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

As it happened, last week was also when the Unofficial Guide staff got together to review the ratings for every attraction in Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.

The authors’ rating is the consensus opinion of the Unofficial Guides’ authors. And while everyone’s got personal favorites and criteria, all of us agree that the basic rating system functions something like this:

***** Attractions rated five stars  are iconic attractions by which all others are judged. These are generally combinations of great storytelling, attention to detail, and technical achievement, all done on a grand scale. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal is a good example, as is Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.

**** Four-star attractions are generally either done on a smaller scale attraction, like Mickey’s PhilharMagic, or it’s a headliner attraction that has aged technology or content (e.g., Living with the Land).

*** Three-star attractions are usually budget-friendly rides that Disney uses to increase the capacity of a particular area. Magic Carpets of Aladdin was the example we discussed most often here.

** Two-star attractions are usually older, lightly-themed carnival rides, such as Mad Tea Party, or in the case of Stitch’s Great Escape, a rare attraction with so little merit that it can’t be recommended.

* One-star attractions are either simple diversions that Disney promotes as an attraction, like Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, or the ride has material weaknesses in story, theme, ride experience, and maintenance, and should be avoided.

There are no zero-star attractions in Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando. Also, an attraction can earn (or lose) half a star if it’s slightly better (or worse) than similar attractions.

Here’s a list of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios attractions whose authors’ ratings have changed in the 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and a short explanation for the change:

Citizens of Hollywood *** 1/2  One of the best sets of roving street performers in any Disney park, you’ll find this comedy troupe on Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, dragging unsuspecting tourists into the antics. Previous rating: none

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What’s New and Updated in the 2014 Unofficial Guide to Disneyland

by on September 25, 2013

Just like the Walt Disney World version, the 2014 edition of the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland is now shipping! It's available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle e-books.

Disneyland Resort didn't experience the same explosive growth in the past year that it enjoyed in 2012, but that certainly doesn't mean Walt's original Magic Kingdom has stood still — and neither has the Unoffical Guide! From the newly-constructed Fantasy Faire to the latest food options around Anaheim, we've made over 200 updates and improvements to this 375-page volume.

Below is a quick look at many of the important changes included in the new book.

 

Introduction

  • A brand-new “Importance of Being Goofy” satirical essay.
  • Updated Critical Comparison of attractions found at both Disneyland Park and WDW's Magic Kingdom.
  • Updated list of attractions found only at Disneyland Park.

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Disneyland Debate: Where Do Billy Hill and the Hillbillies Belong?

by on March 4, 2013

It’s no secret that many of us here at Touring Plans are big fans of Billy Hill and the Hillbillies; in the 2013 Unofficial Guide to Disneyland we give their musical comedy show 4 1/2 stars and call it “not to be missed.” Originally a street show created for the opening of Critter Country in 1989, the Hillbillies have been the most frequently featured act in the Golden Horseshoe Saloon since the Golden Horseshoe Jamboree ended its run in December of 1994.

While the Hillbillies have had the Horseshoe stage to themselves for most of the last 17 years (with the exception of Woody’s Round-Up’s run from 1999 to 2000), lately they’ve been on the move. Over the summer, they were shuffled out to the arena stage behind Big Thunder Ranch as part of a seasonal promotion, while the Laughing Stock Co. improv players took their place. More recently, Billy and the boys returned to Big Thunder for the Limited Time Magic resurrection of the beloved Golden Horseshoe Revue, albeit in the form of a “Salute” tribute show.

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What’s New In The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2013?

by on September 11, 2012

On behalf of my co-authors Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa, I’m proud to announce that The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2013 is now available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble, a few days before the book’s 9/19 official release date. It can be pre-ordered from iBooks in advance of its digital release later this month.

This has been a year of remarkable change at the Disneyland Resort, and our latest update to the Unofficial Guide reflects all the radical reimagineering the Anaheim attractions have undergone.

Here’s a rundown on all the fresh material you will find in our 2013 Guide:

Introduction

  • An all-new humorous “The Importance of Being Goofy” essay.
  • Revised overview of the resort, highlighting expansions at Disney California Adventure.
  • Updated comparison chart of Disneyland Attractions vs. their equivalents at Magic Kingdom in Florida.

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Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2013 Sneak Preview: The Importance of Being Goofy

by on June 12, 2012

When readers pick up a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, they expect to get the best independent, in-depth information available on the Anaheim resort. But as an added extra bonus, they get a dose of the authors’ irreverent sense of humor. Planning the perfect Disneyland vacation seem like deadly serious work, but it’s our intention to remind you to look on the lighter side of the little lunacies you’ll happen upon at the happiest place on Earth.

In that spirit, Bob Sehlinger started the tradition of including a short comical essay in the introductory chapter of the Guide. Titled “The Importance of Being Goofy,” these brief pieces feature friendly spoofs of what we imagine goes on behind the scenes at the Mouse house.

As co-author of the 2012 and upcoming 2013 editions of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, I’ve continued that tradition with some silly satire of my own. Right now we are hard at work on the new edition of the book, but I wanted to bring our blog readers a “backstage” look at the process by previewing an unedited version of this year’s Goofy essay. A slightly shorter version of this will appear on shelves later this year, but you can read it here first. Please enjoy, and share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Importance of Being Goofy (Disneyland 2013)

Disneyland’s director of Nomenclature for Entertainment and Retail Domains hovered over his mahogany desk, delicately extracting a shard from a stack of splinters, when his assistant’s explosive entrance toppled the tower.

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2012 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World – What Would You Like To See?

by on February 10, 2011

Here at Unofficial Guide World Headquarters (an undisclosed location somewhere between Madagascar and Bali – don’t even try to find us), we are gearing up for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World – 2012. We know you’re still writing “What Will You Celebrate?” on your checks, but, yes, it’s actually that time again.

So, the question for you, dear readers is: what would you like to see in the next edition of the guide? Are there any subjects you would like more information on? Something that we haven’t covered in previous editions that needs some Unofficial Research? Whacky stunts that may or may not get us finally banned from Disney theme parks for good?

We make no promises. As you already know the Big Book is classified as a lethal weapon in many states due to its heft, so we do have to keep page count in mind. But even if we don’t get your great ideas in print, who knows – they may lead to a blog article or more online content here at TouringPlans.com.

Pitch your ideas in the comments section until February 28. And thanks for reading!

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Unofficial Guide Reader Survey Results Posted for Disney World Attractions

by on May 17, 2009

We’ve updated the reader ratings for all of the Walt Disney World attractions, based on the last year of survey results.   These will be the rating shown in the 2010 edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, due in bookstores in late August.  Website subscribers can get access to them now: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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