In my professional opinion, one of Disneyland’s greatest assets is its deep bench of minor attractions that can be enjoyed by all ages, to balance out the heavy-hitting E-Ticket rides. Accordingly, ever since I began working on the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, I’ve been advocating for Big Thunder Ranch‘s goats as the park’s greatest under-the-radar treasure. This year, I’ll have the sad duty of deleting all references to the Ranch from the next edition of the Unofficial Guide, as the petting zoo (along with the adjacent barbecue restaurant) ended operations for good at 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 10, 2016. Of course, I had to be there for Big Thunder Ranch’s closing day — along with every annual passholder in California, apparently — to witness the end of an era.
I was wise enough to get my final scritchings in with Big Thunder Ranch’s whiskered stars on Saturday, since I knew the competition to get “last petting” bragging rights would be intense among goat groupies. Even on Saturday, the Ranch was busier than I’d ever seen before that weekend.
Say bye bye to BJ with our Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue closing day video. (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights may have been the most beloved attraction to close so far in 2016, but it wan’t the only Orlando fan favorite to fold this week. Over at Universal Studios Florida, audiences applauded the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue closing day cast as the boorish bio-exorcist and his monstrous bandmates went back into their tombs for the last time.
The closing day for Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue — also known in its latest incarnation as Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up — came on January 5, 2016, which was extended several weeks from the orginally announced ending date by “popular demand.”
For the final day, a special evening performance was added exclusively for annual passholders. Some super-fans lined up before dawn to secure wristbands for the final show, but there were still hundreds available from USF’s Studio Audience Center in mid-afternoon.
After twenty years of warming holiday memories at Walt Disney World’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has flickered out for the final time. Following a few days extension, the beloved annual tradition was extinguished for the last time ever on January 6, 2016, and we were there to capture the Dancing Lights closing seconds for you in ultra-sharp 4K video.
The last night of the Dancing Lights drew huge crowds to Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the evening. I attempted to park at the theme park around 6:30 p.m., and was redirected to Animal Kingdom instead. The busses arrived for us a a rapid pace, but the detour added at least a half-hour my trip.
Do you love ginormous crowds of people, endless seas of strollers, and triple-digit wait times? If so, you’ve picked the Best Week Ever to visit Walt Disney World. But even if you are allergic to all of the above, it is actually possible survive the madness of Magic Kingdom holiday week crowds, and even enjoy a visit to America’s most popular theme park during the busiest week of the year, with the proper preparation.
In contrast to my relatively calm Christmas Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, my December 29 visit to the Magic Kingdom came smack in the center of 2015’s winter peak season psychosis. I braved the Magic Kingdom holiday week crowds in order to share with you a first-person perspective on navigating Disney when attendance is at its most extreme.
Without that professional motivation, I’d normally avoid Walt Disney World on days when our Crowd Calendar hits 10 out of 10, but many visitors don’t have another option due to work and school schedules. If the busy holiday week is the only time your family can visit WDW, I hope my experiences will help educate you about the perks and pitfalls of a peak season vacation.
Magic Kingdom Holiday Week Parking
As any Magic Kingdom veteran knows, simply arriving at the park is an adventure in itself; that’s doubly true during peak holiday weeks. My day of queuing began around 9 a.m., many yards before the Magic Kingdom parking toll booths.
A tribute to the popular comedy club that once anchored Downtown Disney’s Pleasure Island in the days before Disney Springs, the 2015 Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special brings a half dozen of the beloved venue’s veterans together for half-hour shows of skillfully improvised skits and seasonal songs.
Celebrate Hanukkah the Best Week Ever way at Epcot (Photos/videos by Seth Kubersky)
Halloween and Thanksgiving are done and gone and Christmas and New Year are still on their way, but Hanukkah is here right now! In honor of the Festival of Lights, I’m wishing a hearty Chag Sameach to my fellow members of the tribe with this Best Week Ever exploration of 2015’s Epcot Hanukkah celebration.
My visit to Epcot coincided with the third day of Hanukkah, and commenced with a spin of the cosmic dreidel that determines parking spots. I must have landed on Nun because I ended up just about as far as possible from the front…
Terminator 2 3D is one of the oldest attractions remaining at Universal Studios Florida (right behind opening-day survivors E.T. and Horror Makeup Show) and rumors have swirled for years that the aging show would soon see its demise. But over Thanksgiving Week, Universal quietly debuted a new Terminator 2 3D preshow film, implying that T2/3D may be around for a few more years to come.
Following the Halloween season, Universal Studios Florida premiered four new street shows intended to entertain crowds in the absence of the recently closed Disaster and Twister attractions. It looks like Universal’s entertainment team wasn’t done yet, because you can add a fifth title to that list of new productions. Staged in San Francisco near the Chez Alcatraz bar, the new Fish Mongers acrobatic street show is so fresh that it isn’t yet listed in park map, but we were there during its debut week to bring you this front-row view of a full performance:
Ok theme park fans, it’s time to talk turkey! If you want to have the Best Week Ever at Walt Disney World, common wisdom says that the Thanksgiving holiday isn’t the most stress-free time to visit in terms of attendance. In fact, the last week of November can be one of Orlando’s busiest seasons, right behind Christmas Week and Spring Break. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great time in the parks this week, as long as you go in armed with some advice from your friends at Touring Plans, plus a whole lot of patience. To prove the point, I recently spent an afternoon elbow-to-elbow with Magic Kingdom Thanksgiving Week crowds to bring you this turkey day travelogue. Hopefully you won’t find it too fowl!
Violating the first rule of holiday touring, I showed up at the Magic Kingdom not at rope drop, but at high noon, just as park attendance should be reaching its peak. Much to my surprise, I was parked not in outer Siberia, but in the Zurg section of the Villains lot, right night to medical parking. From here I could walk to the TTC as easily as taking the tram, a nice treat on a busy day.