I have a confession: Magic Kingdom is my least favorite Walt Disney World theme park. Well…it was, but things have changed…maybe. Once upon a time Magic Kingdom was my favorite, then about ten years ago I went to Disneyland for the first time. I returned to the Magic Kingdom disappointed and longing for the charm and beauty found inside the park that started it all.
Unfortunately, a major change in my life will now make it difficult for me to return to Disneyland, so I returned to Magic Kingdom for the first time in a while with open eyes and a renewed sense of rediscovery. Despite some frustrating turn of events later in the day, I earned a new appreciation for Walt Disney World’s original theme park.
The original plan for the day was to start off in the Most Magical Place on Earth then journey to the land of rolling hills and new residential developments, Clermont, to pick up a friend and cap off the night with Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando. What a day to wake up to!
Since I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to make it to Magic Kingdom initially, I had not made any FastPass+ reservations in advance. So, while I sipped my morning coffee I pulled up the MyDisneyExperience app to see what I could get. Not surprisingly, the most desirable FastPass+ options were limited at best.
I arrived to the parking plaza at about 10:00 AM. During my time as a Cast Member the lanes to the right were used to get to the Cast parking lots, and these lanes still usually move very quickly. To make sure I kept the pace going I had my ID and passholder card out and ready for the Cast Member to see. As I drove through the parking area it took a moment to get used to the grassy knoll that is in place of the Walt Disney World Raceway. I also observed a few cars head to the preferred parking area ($35).
In need of a Disney fix? Homesick for the Disney Parks? Looking to learn more about the Walt Disney World Resort? My remedy, along with Disney Movie Marathons and sites such as TouringPlans, is YouTube! To be more specific, Disney YouTube Channels.
There are quite a few out there these days; and while I try to visit the Walt Disney World Resort as often as I can, a number of YouTubers have helped to expand my knowledge of the parks and resorts, granted me a glimpse or two of special park events, and just allowed me to come along for the ride with those who know Walt Disney World best! Again, there are A LOT of YouTubers out there spreading the pixie dust; but for today, I’m listing a few that you may or may not have seen but who I think are well worth your time. So get ready because here’s my list of Disney YouTube Channels You Should Be Watching!
This YouTube Channel is one of my favorites because it’s so unique! David Erickson, the creator and host of Fresh Baked Disney, visits the Disneyland Resort every single weekend and then uploads a video of his weekly visit each day. That’s why the channel is called Fresh Baked Disney, because you’re getting a little bit of Disney baked fresh daily!
David, along with co-hosts Sara and Mike, are the main cast but other friends and even fans of the show join them during their visits to Disneyland. In fact, the different relationships, personalities, and antics are part of what makes the show so fun and entertaining and you feel like you’re right there with them! When watching the show, you will notice that they are often stopped by their fans, known as Fresh Baked Muffins, for a photo and a chat. They are getting pretty well known by Disneyland Fans so be sure to keep an eye out for them if you’re out and about the resort on the weekends.
In addition to their trip reports to the Disneyland Resort, Fresh Baked Disney also produces other videos for their viewers, such as Disneyland Secrets and History, Top Tens, Mailing and Unboxings, David’s “I’ve Got Something to Say,” and even a new series called The Knothole Gang where, each week, he gives Star Wars Land construction updates from various locations throughout Disneyland.
So yeah, you should definitely be watching Fresh Baked Disney if you aren’t already. Even as a Disney World Regular, I love Fresh Baked Disney because it gives me an insider glimpse into Disneyland from someone who has visited each week for years and brings me along on a Disneyland adventures with friends.
Every other year, D23 celebrates the Walt Disney Company’s heritage with its Destination D event at Walt Disney World. This year’s event is called D23 Destination D: Amazing Adventures and will be a celebration of Disney adventures of the past, present, and future. The event will be a two day conference and will take place at the convention center found at Disney’s Contemporary Resort on November 19 and 20.
This year’s event will celebrate the excitement and wonder of the spirit of adventure that the Walt Disney Company is so famous for. Presenters at this year’s event will include: Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Tony Baxter; Walt Disney Imagineers Joe Rohde, Chris Merritt, Jason Grandt, and Wyatt Winter; producer Don Hahn (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast); and Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline.
The full list of presentations is quite impressive for this year’s event with many fascinating stories that I’m sure will be told. The highlights will include:
As we continue to wait patiently for all of the new nighttime offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we also carry on in our look at dining options at the park. I recently reviewed many of the park’s popular quick service options, and today, we continue our dining adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s popular character meal at Tusker House Restaurant. I dropped in for late solo dinner a few days ago to see how the food compares to other dining options around the park and Walt Disney World, and was pleasantly surprised with the meal from start to finish.
First step: getting to the restaurant. If you’ve never been to Tusker House, it’s not super intuitive – the check-in desk is hidden just behind the covered seating area next to Dawa Bar, adjacent to the walkway to Festival of the Lion King, and just across from Tamu Tamu Refreshments in the Africa section of the park. Luckily, Disney has placed a few signs along the path to help guide you to the desk, where a cast member will greet and check you in, then give you a buzzer or take your phone number to text you once your table is ready. At that point, I was led to the outdoor waiting area just behind the desk, full of chairs and benches (and complimentary water to help cool you off on a hot day!). After a short wait, my phone alerted me that my table was ready, and I was led from the second check-in desk to the inside of the restaurant, where the seater acquainted me with the sprawling (and gorgeous) buffet area and led me to my table in a neighboring room. Both the Cast Member who seated me and my server helpfully explained from which direction the characters (Mickey, Daisy, Donald, and Goofy) would come and how they’d move around the room to reach my table, which was really great to know – I could better plan when it was safe to leave the table to grab a plate of food without missing anything.
Thankfully, I had the good sense to bring some reading material along just in case I got stuck
It happens. You’re right in the middle of an attraction, and everything just grinds to a halt. Sometimes you’re down for a few seconds, sometimes it’s several minutes, and sometimes you actually have to be evacuated from the ride. I was talking with someone in line on a recent trip, and he relayed a story where he spent an hour at the crest of the big drop on Splash Mountain before eventually having to walk off of the attraction without experiencing its climax. To me, that seems like a pretty awful way to spend an afternoon, and it got me to thinking — what are the best and worst attractions at Walt Disney World to find yourself so stuck that you actually have to exit the ride using your feet? This article attempts to answer this pressing quandary that I suspect most of you had never bothered to contemplate before.
Here are the parameters of the challenge: you’ll be in the midst of the ride, and then at either the most or least optimal moment, the ride will stop moving, although the effects and show elements other than motion will continue to work. You’ll thereafter spend 30 minutes plus whatever time it take to get you rescued in that spot, and then you’ll either be ushered out by Cast Members, or extracted from the ride if necessary. Shows that you could just stand up and leave do not count (i.e., you cannot get “stuck” at Hall of Presidents). Also, you should assume that any momentum-based ride (e.g. roller coasters) is going to come to a natural resting place, such that you won’t be stuck upside down or in the middle of a steep hill.
This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
As we continue our Back to Basics series, it’s time to take a look at one of the most beloved Walt Disney World hotel categories: the Moderates. In previous Basics posts we first discussed how to select the right Walt Disney World category, and later dug into how to select the right Walt Disney World Value hotel. The Moderate category hotels are a great blend of quality theming, beautiful atmosphere, a strong selection of amenities and features, all without the higher price tag found at the Deluxe resorts. They are some elements at the Moderate resorts that are also found at the Value resorts, but you can definitely see these are a step up from the Value category.
Caribbean Beach grounds – photo by Brian McNichols
It’s important to remember there really is no right or wrong choice, but rather a matter of deciding what hotel fits your specific needs the best. There are four hotels in the Moderate level. For each hotel we’ll discuss as many features and elements as possible. I’ve included information for each of the hotels with the following categories:
Food and beverage
Recreation / Activities
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
First came the Deluxe resorts. Then in the 90’s, the Disney Decade, the first Moderate resort came unto the scene: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, which was a prototype of sorts. Disney had never built a resort that was scaled back in order to provide a more affordable price tag, yet it couldn’t just be a hotel, it needed to be a resort. Caribbean Beach ushered in a new resort experience for Walt Disney World, and while it does have its flaws, there is lots of beautiful scenery and enjoyable amenities.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the Walt Disney World landscape in recent months has been Disney Springs – new shops and restaurants galore, with many more still on the way. Recently, I dropped in for a meal at one of the mainstays of the West Side portion of Disney Springs, Wolfgang Puck Grand Café (located just across from the AMC theater and next to Bongo’s Cuban Cafe) to see if it was still worth a visit with all the new competition. This restaurant is divided into three portions – an outdoor Express location with a limited menu, the main downstairs area (the Grand Café itself), and the Dining Room upstairs. An easy way to think of these three portions: Express is like the quick service-y option, Grand Café is the standard table service (think of The Wave at Contemporary Resort), and Dining Room is a little like the signature table service – this should help understand the offerings (and prices) available at each. Conveniently, they place menus for each of the three outside the restaurant, so you can sneak a peek before committing to your chosen location.
Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe’s exterior draws in guests with a facade reminiscent of the 90s.
The Grand Café is 90s décor heavy, and looks much like the gaudy exterior on the inside – you’re definitely not here for the ambiance, though there are nice views of the water through the large window walls on the back side of the restaurant. My first impression of the restaurant upon being seated for my early dinner reservation was one of utility – based on the worn carpet and tables, it’s pretty clear this restaurant sees a lot of people every night. That made me pretty hopeful for great food. I was a little worried I’d never find out, though, as it took about ten minutes for a server to greet my table (odd, considering there was only one other table seated in the entire dining area – clearly not very busy at that time). Eventually, a very nice server came over to take my drink order and offer a few recommendations. I was pretty excited that she was clearly not just trying to sell the most expensive thing on the menu to me by suggesting it as her favorite dish, like you often see at other restaurants. I was selecting my meal from the dinner menu, which features moderately-priced, simplified American and Italian classics and sushi. I chose the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with mashed potatoes, crispy onion strings, & port wine sauce and one of their famous pizzas, Pepperoni Pomodoro with caramelized onions, basil, & parmesan. Pizzas are available all day (as well as at the Express portion of the restaurant), and the meatloaf dish makes an appearance on the lunch menu as a sandwich (and was recommended by my server), so these seemed to be pretty representative of the food most diners would get from this location.
Earlier today, we got information about the dates for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and now, we know the dates for this year’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a very popular hard-ticketed holiday event and a fan favorite experience.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is held on select nights in November and December and for 2016, is currently scheduled to take place on the following dates:
November 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27 and 29
December 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 22
This year’s event will include Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, Holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular, cookies and hot cocoa, the Castle Dream Lights, and the Celebrate the Season castle stage show.
We do not yet know when tickets will go on sale, nor do we know what this year’s ticket pricing will look like. Stay posted to the blog, as I’ll make sure to post these details as soon as I have them!
Guests will soon be able to experience an after-hours, ticketed event at the Magic Kingdom called Disney After Hours. During the event, Guests will enjoy the Magic Kingdom in the dark at an after-hours special event featuring shorter waits at many of your favorite attractions and Character meet and greets. Guests will also receive ice cream treats and bottled beverages during the event. This special evening will occur on select nights throughout the months of April and May.
The Disney After Hours event will occur on the following dates:
April 14 and 21; May 8, 12, and 19 from 11:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.
For the next few months (March 13-May 30), Magic Kingdom guests have a chance to dine once again inside the beautiful Diamond Horseshoe restaurant located in Liberty Square, just adjacent to Liberty Tree Tavern. This restaurant has operated seasonally over the last few years as a quick service dining location, but has added a new table service menu available for lunch and dinner for late spring this year. Signage outside indicated I was in for all-you-care-to-enjoy “fancy dining”, and while I certainly didn’t leave hungry, I’m not sure the experience could be described as all that “fancy”. I was greeted by a gaggle of friendly Cast Members in a fairly empty restaurant (not terribly surprising, given it’s a new offering), and promptly taken to a table where I got a gander at the menu for this “fancy” feast. Prices are exactly the same as Liberty Tree Tavern’s next door ($33 for adults, $19 for children; Disney Dining Plan and Tables in Wonderland discounts accepted), but here you’ll receive salad, choice of an entrée (more on that in a second), and choice of a dessert, along with a non-alcoholic beverage.
In reading the menu through before arriving at Magic Kingdom, I expected family-style entrees, like Liberty Tree’s dinner service, but every entrée actually comes in individual portions – I was, however, allowed and encouraged by my server to order seconds or a new entrée at any point. First up, though, came Frontier Salad – tossed greens, tomatoes, onions, roasted corn, and corn bread croutons with house-made chipotle ranch dressing, served alongside a few pieces of corn bread and honey butter. The salad was exactly as explained on the menu – typical salad greens and fixings tossed in a slightly spicy, creamy dressing. Most diners will find this salad just fine – not too spicy, hits all the bases to make you feel like you’re checking off the “vegetable” box in the meal, and it’s not overly heavy, either. The cornbread on the side was very similar to what you’ll find at Trail’s End or Boatwright’s – sweet, dense, and very cakey, served with an even-sweeter honey butter. Overall, I found the side of bread a nice compliment to the spice in the salad dressing, but a little too sweet for my taste at the beginning of the meal.