Posts Tagged ‘WDW’

Observations from Downtown Disney Part 1 (Parking Garage, West Side shopping, Food Truck Park)

by on August 11, 2014

It has been a while since I have done a photo tour of Downtown Disney, and it was time to head back into what might be the construction capital of the world. There are major projects going on in every single section of Downtown Disney, making a day trip there a potentially stressful challenge. However, it seems as though the area has finally turned a corner, and we are starting to see developments that make Downtown Disney a place worth checking out rather than avoiding because of the construction hassle. Looking at my previous Downtown Disney article from April shows some rather significant changes, so here is what is going on now….

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Status of parking garage on West Side of Downtown Disney near Cirque du Soleil

 

The parking garage is looking massive, and the map of the area says it should be completed “Early 2015.” Busch Gardens should have done that for its long delayed Falcon’s Fury ride that is “Opening Sometime in 2014.” As ugly as Downtown Disney is right now because of the overall construction, far and away the biggest problem is parking. It was bad enough before huge sections of parking spaces were completely shut down to make way for a much-needed parking garage, and now it can be maddening. For the Guardians of the Galaxy showings this past weekend, the AMC movie theater at Downtown Disney was advising guests to arrive an hour early to give themselves time to find a parking space, with many guests being directed to the overflow areas across the street at Team Disney and Casting.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Theme Park Bars in Orlando

by on May 17, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Top Six Theme Park Bars in Orlando. Reading the recent Epcot After Hours Wind Down reviews got the staff of Saturday Six thinking about the best theme park bars in town, so we grabbed our iPad and pulled up the Walt Disney World Bars and Lounges eGuide as a reference, cashed in our 30 day A.A. chips, and hit the parks to make our final judgements. What follows are the very best of your watering hole options inside the theme parks….

# 6 – Duff Gardens (Universal Studios Florida)

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Some of the 7 Duffs topiaries in front of Duff Gardens (photo by Brandon Glover)

Duff Gardens is one of the newer entries in the parks, making its debut at Universal Studios Florida in August of 2013. The variety of drinks served here is limited (various Duff beers, coke products, Buzz Cola, and the Flaming Moe) but what Duff Gardens lacks in overall drink options, it makes up for in atmosphere and location. The topiaries of the 7 Duffs (Tipsy, Queasy, Surly, Sleazy, Edgy, Dizzy and Remorseful) are incredible. There is a photo op with Duffman and guests are steps away from the wonderful statue of Jebediah Springfield. There is signage within the bar that has the trademark Simpsons wit while cleverly mocking traditional beer advertisements. There is plenty of seating at the bar and there are even more tables bordering the nearby lagoon. Grabbing a couple tacos from Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck and a Duff beer on tap from Duff Gardens is one of our favorite theme park meals.

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More Adventures with Disney World Annual Passholder Advance FastPass+: DHS & DAK Edition

by on March 22, 2014

Welcome back to the continuing saga of Walt Disney World’s recent roll-out of Annual Passholder Advance FastPass+ privileges to the general public. As explained in our last episode, all WDW annual passholders should now be able to make up to 7 days of FastPass+ reservations within the next 30 days through the My Disney Experience website and apps. Last time, we looked at how I set up my first week of FastPass+ selections, and saw how my first intinerary turned out at Epcot (TLDR: not perfect, but pretty good).

For this followup, follow me to Walt Disney World two least-popular parks for examples of how advance FastPass+ may (or may not) work to your advantage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios FastPass+

Much like my day at Epcot, I arrived at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios parking lot a little after 1:00 p.m.

Advance FastPass+

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Adventures at Epcot with Walt Disney World Annual Passholder Advance FastPass+

by on March 21, 2014

Walt Disney World regulars rejoiced last week, as the rollout of advance reservation FastPass+ features finally reached all WDW annual passholders. That means that all Disney World annual passholders should be able to access the My Disney Experience website or mobile app and make FastPass+ bookings up to 30 days ahead of time. Previously, I shared my experiences using FastPass+ as an annual passholder making same-day reservations using in-park kiosks, as off-site guests still must do (at least for now). Now, I’m going to detail my personal adventures with week #1 of Annual Passholder advance FastPass+ reservations.

Getting Started with Annual Passholder Advance FastPass+

First of all, if you haven’t already, log into MyDisneyExperience.com and set up an account. Be sure to link your account to your valid annual pass using the ID number on the back of your pass, or voucher number if you have not yet redeemed an online purchase.

Next, visit the Magic Band page to customize your RFID wristband. You can select a color and name, verify your shipping address, and receive confirmation that your order has been received.

According to the webpage, Magic Bands should start shipping to annual passholders shortly.

Until your Magic Band arrives, you can continue to use your RFID-enabled credit-card-sized annual pass to enter the parks and activate FastPass+ sensors.

If you carry a smartphone in the parks, be sure to download the Apple or Android app. The iPad app is probably the most efficient platform for scheduling and adjusting FastPass+ reservations, but the website and phone apps work fairly well.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About

by on February 1, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About. It’s hard to believe that in a land full of fantastical theme parks, luxurious hotels, and wonderful memories filled with pixie dust that people could have anything to complain about. But they do. In fact, after a thorough investigation the Saturday Six staff has compiled a list of 548,321 complaints, and that’s just in the Florida parks. Today we’re going to look at the six of most prevalent complaints and say “STAHP!”

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If you thought Talking Mickey was a hit, wait till Barista Mickey makes his debut….

# 6 – “They are building too many Starbucks”

Out of nowhere, Starbucks has seemed to have taken over the theme park world in Florida. The first step in theme park world domination for the coffee brand? The beloved Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom. Starbucks then moved over to Epcot and replaced the Fountain View Cafe, complete with a hidden Communicore logo to appease the hardcore fans. Two more Starbucks are coming to Downtown Disney, and it is rumored that locations will be opening up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, as well. Not to be outdone, the Starbucks location over at Universal’s CityWalk is moving from its second floor No-Man’s-Land location down onto the ground level, and Island of Adventure’s Arctic Express has been converted into a Starbucks, as well.

What’s going here? The answer is simple. People love Starbucks. Period. The Starbucks brand is strong enough that it can charge a premium price for a drink you can get almost anywhere else cheaper, and have people lining up for it. While the Main Street Bakery certainly wasn’t hurting for business before, it’s easy to see how successful the ones at Downtown Disney and Universal will be compared to what they are replacing. The new Starbucks locations are in prime real estate and will be all but printing money.

If these Starbucks locations were McDonald’s, you could make a case that there are better restaurants all over either property. If the locations were Dunkin’ Donuts you could make a case that there are better bakeries around. But no one at Disney or Universal is doing a better job than Starbucks at making good coffee and, as far as we know, the world didn’t end when the first Grande Latte went out.

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My First Walt Disney World Annual Passholder FastPass+ Experience

by on January 20, 2014

Based on how much this blog has covered the ongoing FastPass+ rollout at Walt Disney World over the past year or two, you might assume every member of the Touring Plans team already has enough MagicBands to decorate their Christmas tree (I’m looking at you, Morgan Crutchfield). But since I haven’t stayed in a Walt Disney World on-site hotel since before the MyMagic+ program began, I’ve been excluded…until now. As we reported, Animal Kingdom went FastPass+-only late last year, followed by the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday, January 14, and the rest of the parks will remove their paper legacy FASTPASS machines shortly. Now that the FastPass+ service has been opened to all guests, this acknowledged sceptic took the plunge with my first Annual Passholder FastPass+ experience.

Animal Kingdom

To be precise, my first FastPass+ adventure was an incomplete attempt that was unfair to judge the service by. Earlier in January, I tried using the service on one of the first days it was offered to off-site guests by visiting the kiosks outside Disney Outfitters on Discovery Island.

There was no wait, and a friendly cast member assisted me in using the touchscreen computer to enter my information and select three attractions.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Top Six Iconic Snacks at the Magic Kingdom

by on November 30, 2013

SS_CastleThis week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Iconic Snacks at the Magic Kingdom. Regular readers of the Saturday Six know that we love eating and drinking at the theme parks. From outrageous snacks like the Chocolate Allspark at Transformers: The Ride-3D, to signature drinks like the Flaming Moe, to a meal at the Three Broomsticks, we’re constantly on the look out for new food an drink options. But sometimes we want our old standbys… our long time favorites… the snacks which evoke memories of trips gone by and remind us of why we became fans of theme parks in the first place. The Mecca for these snacks is, of course, the Magic Kingdom.

Now it seems that pretty much everyone has an absolute favorite snack at the Magic Kingdom, but today we’re going to eschew newer snacks such as the Mickey Pretzel, LeFou’s Brew, and the incredible cup cakes and focus on the six most iconic snacks. Without further ado, let’s start the list!

# 6 – The Mickey Bar

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The Mickey Bar

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! November 2013 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on November 29, 2013

MMM positiveToday is not just any day. Today is Black Friday. The official beginning to the Christmas shopping season. A day of bargains, lines, and absolute terror excitement. There couldn’t be a better day to lather ourselves up in pixie dust, strap on our Jessie cowgirl hat, and put on our Mickey Mouse “Hang Loose” shirt as we head out for our monthly photo report of the Disney Outlet Store.

You may remember last month that the outlet stores started selling 2013 merchandise at a deep discount, and this month a whole bunch of 2013 branded items joined the clearance rack including pins, graduation hats, basketballs, and laptop covers.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! October 2013 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on October 31, 2013

IMG_8804It’s our favorite part of the month. Time to bathe ourselves in pixie dust, strap on our Mickey Mouse wristwatch, and put on our four armed Monsters University hoodie (because the weather is starting to turn just a little cooler) as we head out for our monthly photo report of the Disney Outlet Store.

The first thing of note when walking into the store is the amount of 2013 branded merchandise available: plenty of photo albums and magnets to grab, as well as calendars. I actually think giving someone a 2013 calendar for Christmas might make for a good gag gift with a note saying something like, “Better late than never,” or “Sorry, they were sold out of 2012s.” Or maybe rip out all the months but December and black out the first three weeks of the month. It makes for a cheap funny holiday gift!

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Out with the old, in with the new!

 

Let’s take a look at some of the shirts available this month…

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Eating Vegetarian at the 2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

by on October 3, 2013

The 2013 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (see all the menus) is in full swing and continues to pack in the crowds. Some guests like to attempt to “Drink Around The World” and sample all the various drinks, while others like to try exotic food items from countries not regularly found in World Showcase. While eating vegetarian at Disney and Universal can be challenging (especially if you want more than the ubiquitous garden salad or veggie burger), this year’s Food & Wine has many unique options. Below is a list with every vegetarian option at this year’s festival, along with my review of the items I personally tried. (Click on any picture to see a much larger version)

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Chili Colorado with House-made Chips and Cashew Cheese (Terra)

We’re going to go through the booths in alphabetical order except to start off, as that spot is going to Terra. Why Terra? Because everything in Terra is vegetarian. That earns it a special spot on the list.

*Trick’n Chick’n Curry with Basmati Rice ($3.75) – A returning favorite from 2012, Trick’n Chick’n is made from Gardein brand chick’n breast with a great spicy curry served over basmati rice. I enjoyed the curry because it had a kick to it, but overall was mild and not overwhelming.

*Chili Colorado with House-made Chips and Cashew Cheese ($3.75) – The chili is made with Gardein brand beefless tips and cashew cheese.  I’m pretty tough on vegan cheeses, as I feel they generally come nowhere close to real cheese (as compared to the incredible advancements in the  meatless meats over the past few years), but this was great. I loved scooping up the chili onto a chip and eating it that way.

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