Archive for March, 2010

Disney Fan Gatherings

by on March 31, 2010

Do most of the people in your life look at you like you are nuts when you announce you are going to Walt Disney World again?  Do they constantly ask you why you go so much?  Do they roll their eyes when you bring up WDW yet again in conversation?  Well then you need to get yourself to a Disney fan gathering and meet people who are just like you and can talk about Disney for days on end.

Several Disney podcasts, blogs, magazines, and websites host gatherings for their fans throughout the year.  Some of these events take place around the country, but many of them happen on Disney World property.  I cannot speak of those off site since I have not been able to attend any of them.  However, I have been to several held within in the World so I can easily discuss them.  I’ve been to both big and smaller events and I have to say the really large ones are be fun, but it’s harder to meet people and make new friends.  People tend to stick with the people they know at events with several hundred people rather than branching out like they tend to do at the smaller ones.  If you are heading to your first fan gathering I would recommend starting with a smaller one.

So what goes on at these sorts of events?  Each is different.  Some are smaller affairs like Lou Mongello’s WDW radio meets of the month.  Other communities host similar meet ups generally somewhere in a park and advertise them via their podcasts or blogs as well as on facebook and twitter.  Some people may just stop by to say hello, but many will linger and chat for hours.  These types of  are a great way to get your Disney meet up feet wet if you aren’t so sure you’d like to commit to a whole weekend of events.

Folks enjoying the Tentfest barbecue

Other events such as the upcoming wdwtoday Reunion will feature days of meets, group rides, and fun.  Guests do not need to feel obligated to attend all of the various activities, but of course they could.  For example, at Tentfest there was a barbecue at the Fort Wilderness Campsites, a night of group rides during Epcot’s extra magic hours, and a time to meet at the Mexico’s tequila bar, La Cave del Tequila, to name a few.  Many members of the Disney community (like me) will plan their trips around these kinds of gatherings.  However, if you just happen to be in Orlando at the right time and would like to stop by to check out the scene you would be more than welcome.

Some of my new friends from Tentfest

My most recent fan get together was in early March for wdwtoday‘s Tentfest.  It was a blast!  Some friends I had met at previous fan events and I planned to travel together to this one.  We made some of our plans and also attended many of the organized meets throughout the weekend.  It was a great opportunity to a great time with old friends, but also make a lot of new ones!  I have to give a shout out to all of the new friends I made that weekend.  You guys were a ton of fun and I can’t wait to hang out with you at WDW again soon!

Friends having fun in Epcot

If you’ve ever thought about signing on to a Disney community meet, I encourage you to try it.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of great people from all over the country (and a few from across the pond) and there is almost an instant bond with fellow Disney geeks.  It’s nice to hang out with people who understand why you are so passionate about Disney World and who don’t look at you like you’re crazy when you tell them you average three trips a year.  I love not having to explain what an ADR is or who the Voices of Liberty are.  Don’t be shy!  We crazy Disney folks couldn’t be more friendly and welcoming.  You’ll come away with a bunch of new friends and a smile on your face.

Still going strong long after the meets were done for the day

It may seem silly, but you won’t believe how the people you meet at Disney fan gatherings will impact your life.  My Disney friends have quickly become very near and dear to my heart and I know they all feel the same way.  My next two trips to WDW will be planned with friends I have met through the Disney fan family.  If you are willing to put yourself out there you will be adopted by our fun, inviting, silly, and genuine group.  It’s nice to know I am a part of such an awesome community and I count myself lucky every day.

If you aren’t already a part of our Disney addicted bunch, consider this your formal invitation.

Next week I’ll take a look at this year’s Flower and Garden Festival…

Disney Theme Parks May Open Earlier Than 9am

by on March 31, 2010

A quick heads-up to folks heading to the theme parks over the next couple of days. Word from our Lines users is that the parks have opened 15 to 30 minutes early recently, to help take some of the pressure out of large morning crowds. So if you can get to the parks 45 to 50 minutes before official opening, you may be rewarded.

WDW Today Episode 701 – Listener Questions

by on March 31, 2010

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Episode 701 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Crowd Calendar Updated to Reflect October Park Hours

by on March 30, 2010

October hours have been posted by Disney and our Crowd Calendar now reflect those changes. Our predictions for dates of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party were pretty close. We removed 2 dates and added 3. These dates are still unofficial until Disney announces them but based on park hours this is what we expect.

October Hours Are Out – Update to Crowd Calendar Coming

by on March 29, 2010

Disney has released their official hours for October. The crowd calendar will be updated accordingly followed by a short blog post.

WDW Today Episode 700 – Yesterland – Fantasyland

by on March 29, 2010

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Episode 700 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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WDW Today Episode 699 – Future Pasts

by on March 25, 2010

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Episode 699 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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Disney World “Cheat Sheets” Updated

by on March 24, 2010

We’ve updated our Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Studios and Animal Kingdom “cheat sheets” to reflect the latest “best times to visit” for each attraction, as well as the morning and evening Extra Magic Hours schedule.  Each park has different sheets for various crowd levels, from light to peak holidays.  And each sheet is presented two ways: horizontal and vertical, so folks who like to see their attractions in columns or in rows are both happy!

WDW Today Episode 698 – Listener Questions

by on March 24, 2010

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Episode 698 of WDW Today is now available for download here.

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The Treehouses at Saratoga Springs

by on March 23, 2010

To my fellow DVC members: the Treehouses are awful. Not worth booking at all. You should just stop reading now and call member services to reserve a room over at the Beach Club Villas – now those are some great rooms. Thanks for reading my review.

Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you walk in to this!


OK then. Now that no more DVC members are reading, I’ll share my thoughts on the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs. They are awesome! The villa was the most unique and relaxing accommodations I have had at Walt Disney World. There are only 60 Treehouses at SSR, and I don’t want to have to stress too much over being able to get in the next time I want to stay there.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Treehouses or only remember them as those abandoned buildings that sat on Disney Vacation Club Way for the last few years, here is the lowdown: The Treehouse Villas are standalone units on the river between Saratoga Springs and Old Key West. Of particular note to DVC members (darn, you didn’t fall for my ploy not to read this) is that they book for the same number of points as a 2 bedroom at Saratoga Springs. The Treehouses have 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and Disney says they will sleep up to 9 guests. More on that fallacy later. As they are part of SSR, check in is done at the Carriage House.

The units are less than a year old and very impressive. The attention to detail in the decor and the fixtures shows that a lot of thought went into bringing the Treehouses back to use for guests. From the vaulted ceilings, to the rustic furniture, to the plumbing fixtures that look like old fashioned pumps, from the moment you walk in the door you know you’re in a really special place.

The set up is a little different from other DVC resorts. The master bedroom has a queen-sized bed and attached bath. Of the other 2 bedrooms, one has another queen and the second has bunkbeds. These 2 bedrooms share a bath. In the living room, the sofa pulls out into a queen sized bed and one chair pulls out into a twin. These are the same type of pullouts all the newer DVC properties use, which means no bar across your back, but still not as comfortable as a bed. There were 3 adults in my traveling party so we had plenty of room to spread out. Our friend who got the bunk bed room reports that the bed was not especially comfortable though most likely fine for kids. The master bath has a soaking tub and a shower in the same area behind a glass door. This is great if you have just run a race and want to alternate between a cold shower and soak in the warm tub, but otherwise it feels a little weird. The rest of the villa is standard DVC – washer and dryer, full kitchen, dining area and living area. Each unit has a large deck. Ours was right on the golf course.

This is where you will sit and text all your friends to let them know you are at WDW and they are not.

One strange thing we all noticed was that the villa was noisy. Not from other people or even from the buses. The villa itself made a lot of noises like the building was settling.

We had an excellent location this trip. Villa 7036 is directly across from the pool and a short walk to the South bus stop and the trail to the rest of Saratoga Springs. Parking was very close by. My only complaint would be that we could see the Grandstand buildings from our unit which distracted from the otherwise woodsy and isolated feel of the area.

The Treehouses make you feel like you are in your own corner of Walt Disney World. This is a good thing if you want to relax. It is a bad thing if you like close proximity to the services of the resort like buses and restaurants. We were lucky enough to have a car this trip, but used Disney transit half the time. If you choose Disney transit, you can either walk to the Grandstand bus stop or take a bus from the Treehouses to the main resort and transfer to a bus to the parks. Because we were very close to the path to the Grandstand, we chose to walk. If we had been on the north end of the resort, we would have probably chosen the bus. The buses between the Treehouses and the rest of Saratoga Springs run often, nearly on a continuous loop. As far as whether you need a car to stay there, it’s a toss up. The walk to the Carriage House to the Treehouses was no farther than it would have been from the Paddock or the Carousel sections of the resort. There is also boat service to the Carriage House and Downtown Disney from the Treehouses.

There is a pool and hot tub at the Treehouses. Being so close to it, we made good use of it and had it nearly all to ourselves. Towel service is provided. The pool is not themed, nor does it have a slide, but is comparable to other quiet pools at the resorts. The usual poolside rules apply, but if you have the hot tub to yourself, no one is there to judge you if you BYOB. I’m just saying.

Disney claims you can sleep up to 9 people in these units, but I wouldn’t want to try it. To do this, you would have 3 people sleeping in the living area and that area really isn’t big enough for 3 people and their stuff. I would sleep a maximum of 6 people (4 adults/teens and 2 small children) in one unit. Moreover, the living/dining area really wouldn’t accommodate 9 people for meals or just hanging out without feeling really pressed for space. The smaller space and 2 bathrooms for 3 bedrooms is why these villas “cost” the same number of points as a 2 bedroom in the main resort.

Of the 60 units, 4 are designated as accessible with ramps instead of stairs to reach them.

I would absolutely book the Treehouses again the next time I need 2 or more bedrooms on a trip. They are that something special that Saratoga Springs has needed to make it more than the place you book when you can’t get into the DVC resort you really want to book.