In only two weeks, I’ll be boarding a plane to Amsterdam and leaving Orlando behind for a month-long European vacation — hopefully not the Chevy Chase kind. While across the pond, I’ll be exploring (and sharing with you, WiFi willing) some of the continent’s best theme parks, including Disneyland Paris. But my impending bon voyage means that my latest Best Week Ever visit to Walt Disney World will likely be my Magic Kingdom farewell until some time in October.
[Note: I realize that to people who don’t live in the Orlando area and only visit WDW every few years, the above sounds a bit ridiculous. But such is the life of a theme park writer, so try to suspend disbelief for the sake of this column.]
With that in mind, I documented this final summer stroll around Florida’s favorite theme park, in which I pulled off the amazing anti-achievement of only experiencing one single attraction during my entire afternoon. What ride or show did I pick for my final taste of the Magic Kingdom before departing the country? Read on and find out!
Chill out with Olaf and friends during the 2015 Frozen Summer Fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (photos and video by Seth Kubersky)
Frozen first hit movie theaters in the fall of 2013, but legions of fans (and Disney’s entertainment department) don’t seem ready to “Let It Go” anytime soon, as we enter a second annual season of Frozen Summer Fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We were on hand for the the first day of festivities, which will celebrate the CGI snow princess and pals every day through September 7.
Frozen Royal Welcome Parade
The first Frozen Summer Fun attraction I attended was the new Frozen Royal Welcome, which runs twice a day (currently 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.). It isn’t quite a full fledged parade on the scale of Paint the Night, but boasts far better production values than the typical Hollywood Studios motorcade we’re used to seeing at special events.
The original Disneyland Band castle show has taken its final bow, but you can relive it with TouringPlans. (Photo and video by Seth Kubersky)
“Now it’s time to say goodbye” to one of the longest-running entertainment offerings in Disneyland history, as the Disneyland Band has disbanded, at least in it’s original form. Weeks ago, an “end of run” notice was filed with the musicians’ union that represents Disneyland Resort employees, notifying members of the historic 16-member marching band that they would have to reaudition for their roles (some of which they’d held for multiple decades) in a newly reorganized Disneyland Band, which will feature “a new sound” and “high-energy choreography.”
The classic Disneyland Band, which has been performing Americana classics since the park premiered in 1955, was originally expected to perform until the new one debuts at Disneyland’s official 60th birthday on July 17th. But (as reported by the “I Support Walt Disney’s Disneyland Band” Facebook fan page) the final performance of the full band under director Kurt Curtis was held on Monday, June 15.
The new Disneyland Band will be slightly larger, and feature 2 members of the original ensemble, while the rest will be redeployed in smaller musical groups (at least through the Diamond Celebration). That’s why I’m so grateful I stumbled into the band’s midday castle show during my recent Disneyland visit. While the microphones weren’t quite cooperating, this complete video of the Disneyland Band castle show should give you an idea why these performances were popular for generations:
In less than a month, we should have our first look at the all-new Disneyland Band, and if you are a fan of modern-day drum corps choreography, you should probably be looking forward to it. If not, keep an eye out for former Disneyland Band members as they pop up in new spots around the parks.
Sindbad fans out there (both of you) may be wondering what’s changed with what can charitably called Universal’s most problematic production. While the show’s spectacular set has received a sparkly paint job and some new props, nothing has been radically changed on the visual side.
Of course, the scenery was never Sindbad’s big problem. It’s the shallow, self-referential script that was always the source of our issues with the stunt show, and (for better or for worse) the dialogue has remained about 90% unchanged.
Before we get to the main event, one element definitely is all-new. Ten minutes before showtime, an “assistant stage manager” selects a few volunteers from the audience to act out the story. Here’s a complete video of the opening day preshow:
Here’s a look at the ride’s Chinese Theater exterior, which has received subtle new signage and a much-needed cleaning.
The attraction had a 25 minute standby wait in the late afternoon when I visited, but earlier in the day it went up to nearly an hour. Is the refreshed ride really popular, or is there just not much else to ride at DHS?…
Mystery, adventure, and lots of rum await at the Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto soft opening. (Photos and video by Seth Kubersky)
It took a couple days longer than originally expected, but WDW’s hotly anticipated Trader’s Sam Grog Grotto soft opening finally began on Saturday, March 28th. Of course, we were on hand when the new watering hole’s doors opened for the first time, in order to bring you these photos and video (it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it). So grab a bottle of rum and take a virtual visit to the Polynesian Village Resort‘s trendy tiki bar, minus the long line or hangover.
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in the Disneyland Hotel has a loyal following, and its east coast cousin looks to be a hit right out of the box, based on the crowds attending the Grog Grotto’s initial days of operation. For the first day of soft opening, some guests got in line 5 hours early, and by an hour before the 4 p.m. scheduled opening there were already well over 100 people waiting.
After a long day of travel to Walt Disney World, you check into your hotel completely exhausted. All you want to do is plop down on the bed and catch some zzzz’s.
Just as you’re about to close your eyes, you remember – You haven’t packed your backpack for the parks tomorrow!
Not to worry! I’ve provided a list of park essentials to make packing efficient and easy.
Not in a reading mood? Check out my video at the bottom of this post!
The Bare Necessities
Top 3: Wallet, Ticket, Phone
Park Ticket: Don’t forget that golden ticket at the hotel! Yes, you can use your MagicBand to get into the parks, but it’s nice to have a hard copy if you run into issues at the turnstile.
Wallet: License, cash, cards, insurance info, etc.
MagicBand: Linking your My Disney Experience account to your MagicBand will give you quick access to your park ticket, room key, FastPass+ and dining reservations as its conveniently located around your wrist. You can even pay with your MagicBand! Since your MB is your room key, there is no back-up key (unless you ask for one at check-in), so make sure it’s with you before you leave!
Phone: If you have a smart phone, there are two apps I recommend checking out. The TouringPlans Disney World Lines App helps you plan out your day at the parks with crowd calendars, wait times and customized Touring Plans. The second app is My Disney Experience which, if you have an account, holds all of your reservations, tickets and itineraries.
Camera: Disney World is full of endless photo opportunities. Don’t be without a camera!
During my recent trip to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to test MDE’s new lunch preordering procedures at Be Our Guest, I filled up my daily FastPass+ dance card with dwarfs, enchanted furniture, and a certain mermaid, leaving no room for a pre-reserved trip to Neverland.
Accordingly, I took this opportunity to record a full walk through of the Peter Pan’s Flight interactive queue elements, which are themed around an exploration of the Darling children’s bedroom.
Find out how the iPhone 6 Plus holds up at WDW’s Magic Kingdom (images by Seth Kubersky)
It took nearly two months of waiting, but my precious pre-ordered iPhone 6 Plus finally arrived last week. And where was one of the first places I took it? Why, Walt Disney World, of course! When Apple’s supersized smartphone debuted back in September, this Techcrunch article on using the new “phablet” inside Disneyland caught my eye. Since theme park reporting is one of the primary reasons I upgraded my iDevice, I wanted to write this companion piece sharing my initial experiences using the iPhone 6 Plus at WDW’s Magic Kingdom.
Yes, the iPhone 6 Plus is freaking ginormous, especially for the first few hours you hold it. Then it starts to seem normal, and your old phone begins to look puny in comparison. While riding attractions, the phone fit fine in the front pocket of my not-so-skinny jeans, and emerged again afterwards with nary a bend in sight.