Archive for October, 2010

WDW Today Episode 793 – The New Tastes Of World Showcase

by on October 31, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 793 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

Foto Fridays: Fall-oween Face-off!

by on October 29, 2010

Congratulations on making it to the conclusion of another work week! Even bigger congrats to those who had the day off work because their employers recognize Pre-Halloween as a holiday. (Let’s start the national movement, TouringPlanners, for this oh so special day to become the next federal holiday!) With your ghoulish weekend about to start, hopefully this eases you into relaxation mode. In this edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we are featuring a Fall-oween Face-off to determine the best aspects of Disney in the Fall and at Halloween!

Here is what some of our followers on Twitter had to say:

@truffino The cooler weather.

@floridamingo MNSSHP 🙂 specifically the Boo To You parade

@rashizb Mickey’s Boo To You Parade! #DisneyDebate

@myfizzypop helping plan my post Thanksgiving trip to Disneyworld with top tips and a great community… 🙂

@lintman My favorite aspect is the parties. At #WDW I love the parade, at #DLR I love the fireworks. They are both fun. #DisneyDebate

@RyanKilpatrick Besides everything? Food & Wine, MNSSHP, lighter crowds, better weather…it’s the best time of year

@guyselga Favorite Halloween aspect of Disneyland is THE PUMPKIN FUDGE!!!!

Along with their photo entries, we asked for an explanation as to why each Flickr poster preferred their respective choice. Their reasons may pertain to photography, general enjoyment of the choice, or both. Their personal thoughts are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream.

Halloween in Liberty Square [Explore]
Halloween party in Walt Disney World, Florida. Did you know that when people walk next to you on this bridge it shakes! Not very fun when you’re taking pictures.

Isabelle Boivin:
2009 was my first visit to the World during Halloween time. And I loved it ! MNSCHP was a hit for my friend and me. We where there the first night of our stay. The mood is so cool in MK on Halloween nights. Specially around the Haunted Mansion. That picture was taken at almost 1AM… I think my eyes were closed as I hit the shutter ! Sill, I tink this HDR came out not so bad.

CJ Balogh:
Magic Kingdom Train Station
2009 was our first time visiting during the Halloween season as well. Actually, we were there mid September and were surprised to see so many decorations. It’s so cool at night, especially Magic Kingdom, gives the park a totally different feel than a regular, non-themed night. As for the photo, sadly a year ago I was not as ‘photo-minded’ as I am now, so this was the best shot that came of the decorations.

Adam Hansen:
Gotta love Main Street at Halloween
This just says Halloween at WDW to me when looking at it. It turned out to be one of my favorite photos I took on my last trip. The Halloween party is amazing, though I think the best part is seeing how great Main Street looks during the event. All the buildings are lit perfectly and change color throughout the night. There are decorations everywhere and it just feels like the entire park is transformed for Halloween. This was taken at the end of the night and turned out to be my last shot before leaving. You can see the cast member standing on the left waiting for me to finish up. I really am happy with how this came out between the building colors and the sky above the castle.

Expedition Everest
This shot of Expedition Everest taken in late October 2008 reminds us that the shorter days of autumn are, for most of the US, a precursor to winter’s snow and frigid temperatures. Sounds to me like a good excuse to go to Walt Disney World!

Mickey pumpkin
Have always loved all of the little details that Disney puts in to their decorations, and Halloween isn’t any different. Was wandering around Main St this past Oct during Wine & Dine Weekend, just taking it all in, and saw this little guy with the scarecrow. The feeling you get at Disney around any holiday is like no other!

100_0309 e
I absolutely love Halloween at WDW. The atmosphere is completely different in the Magic Kingdom during MNSSHP. The lighting and decorations make for fantastic photos!

wonderful world of Hilary:
Jafar Revisted
Plain and simple during Halloween all my favorite Villains come out to play. When else can you not only watch them dance in a snappy stage show but can than indulge in photos with the baddest of Disney’s bad guys and gals.

Finally, my entry and commentary:
Boo to You - Happy Halloween!
I’ve only been to Walt Disney World once during the Fall, and that was last year on a photo trip. Even though it was more aimed at photography than the Fall and Halloween events, we did attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and also participated in a few Food & Wine Seminars. The Food & Wine seminars were awesome, and a great value (especially considering the samples there compared to what you’d pay for the same samples at the various kiosks), but I really would have enjoyed doing more. One of the speciality dinners prepared at a resort under the instruction of a celebrity chef, the Eat to the Beat concert series, and many other presentations we all missed. We definitely love food, but because we experienced so little of the Food & Wine Festival, the Halloween Party wins somewhat by default. But that shouldn’t be construed as a knock at it in any way, as it is certainly a “Fall Heavyweight.”

Since Sarah and I are big character photo geeks, we really ate up Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. We were able to develop an excellent strategy for seeing the characters prior to our trip, and we interacted with nearly all of them. The characters out during the party, for the most part, were either rare (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) or festively decked-out. It was very cool seeing them like this, and the experiences made me wish Disney would have more themed versions of the popular characters out on a regular basis (e.g. Chip and Dale dressed in astronaut garb in Tomorrowland). In addition to the characters, we caught both Boo to You parades; this parade is easily one of my favorite Disney parades. It’s probably second to the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Parade, but it’s close. The soundtrack, dancing, and entertainment during the parade were all phenomenal. The fireworks were another highlight, with another exceptional soundtrack. Not quite on par with Holiday Wishes, for me at least, but very strong, nonetheless. We, unfortunately, were unable to catch Villains Mix & Mingle during the party as we bustled around everywhere–and we didn’t even ride a single attraction, get any candy, or stop for photos during the party. To me, this is a testament to the amount of entertainment offered during the party. Although I prefer MVMCP, I think MNSSHP provides better value for the money.

In addition to the scheduled entertainment, there were a lot of nice little touches that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Chilling lighting, spooky background music, projections through the park, and a layer of fog on Main Street, just for good measure. Although some balk at the $55 ticket price for the party, it is easily a good value. I think next time we’ll probably attend two parties during our trip. It probably doesn’t quite have that level of value, but we’re just crazy. And I’m not even that big of a fan of Halloween.

We’re planning on heading back next Fall for a longer trip centered around Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary on October 1st, so hopefully we’ll get to experience more!

What are your thoughts on the face-off? What’s the best aspect of Disney in the Fall? Let us know in the comments!


The next challenge features all of the countries of World Showcase! Post your favorite country in the World Showcase and tell us why it’s your favorite! (I’m assuming we’ll have 10 entries of American Adventure, because anyone who submits some other country is distinctly unpatriotic!) Also, please help us determine the best country (in the World Showcase) by voicing your thoughts on Twitter to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – World Showcase!” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in the next Face-off blog, so get to Tweetin’ and Postin’!

BETAMOUSE #37 – BetaPotter

by on October 29, 2010

betamouse logoA new episode of Betamouse is out, co-hosted by developer Henry Work.

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

WDW Today Episode 792 – Castle Suite Stay

by on October 29, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 792 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

TouringPlans Invades Disneyland!

by on October 28, 2010

TouringPlans’ own Reilly and Henry are in Disneyland now through Sunday! They’ll be there tonight for the ElecTRONica meet-up, and for the Halloween Party tomorrow. Len might be around off and on, too. Hit them up on Twitter at @TouringPlans if you want to meet up!

Ahoy Yacht Club!

by on October 27, 2010

On my last trip I got the opportunity to try a new resort.  Since it is my goal to stay at every resort on

Photo by Megan Annunziata

property I leapt at the chance to stay at the Yacht Club when I received a 40% off pin code from Disney when planning my October trip with some friends.  As an added bonus to my wallet, three adults can easily be accommodated so my friends Kim and Caroline and I decided to bunk together on this adventure.  These lovely ladies made wonderful roommates and I’m excited to experience another deluxe resort with them in the future.

My Disney’s Magical Express bus pulled up to the front courtyard of the resort where guests can easily walk to the convention center or head inside to the lobby.  The exterior of the building is painted a soft gray color with white trim as you might imagine homes in Cape Cod to be decorated.  I always felt the color scheme was a bit drab especially since the Yacht Club sits so closely to the Beach Club which is painted a more pleasing (at least to me) blue.  However, I do really enjoy the New England Coast architecture of the resort.

Photo by Megan Annunziata

I had met my friend and roommate, Kim, at the airport and rode the DME with her to the Yacht Club.  We headed inside to the lovely lobby which greets guest with a cozy atmosphere featuring boat models and wood tones inspired by the cabins on a ship.  Several seating areas allow folks waiting for their friends or family with comfortable places to sit and chat.  Some of my friends enjoyed playing checkers here while they waited for us to come down from our room.  The lobby is lovely and feels warm and inviting.  I feel at home in a nautical setting so I really enjoyed this setting.

Once we got inside things got off to a rocky start for Kim and I when we checked in at the Yacht Club.  We were staying on the concierge level on this trip and we were expecting to have a check in area strictly for concierge guests.  However, when we inquired about where to find out where to go for this service, we were directed to the regular check in desk.  Then, we were told our balance was significantly higher than we had anticipated.  We had to fight to get the right rate when (after several minutes in a back room) the cast member helping us finally explained there had been a computer issue.  We had been given a free room upgrade, but it had not been marked as complimentary in the computer system.  Eventually, we got the situation taken care of and were on our way to our room.

We were already less than impressed with the service at the resort when we arrived to our room to find out housekeeping had not been to our room yet.  The beds were unmade, beer bottles were on the tables, and to top it all off a container for disposing needles was on our bathroom vanity.  The less than stellar service continued when a manager came to help us with the dirty room situation.  We were not unreasonable to let them know we were no happy about the situation.  We did not make crazy demands or yell and scream, but we were disappointed and wanted to be treated properly.  Apparently, this manager did not have the same sentiment.  Finally, we were compensated for our trouble after being treated like we were asking to stay for free for a month.

After our initial rocky start at the resort, service improved.  A different manager called us the second day to make sure our stay was going better.  He even offered to call us every day to check on us which I told him wouldn’t be necessary.  I wound up enjoying my stay in the following days.  Stay tuned next week when I’ll talk more specifically about the service in the concierge level at the Yacht Club.  Did I mention we had gotten a free room upgrade?  Our view was amazing from our now clean room!  I’ve never wanted to spend the money on an improved view, but looking out on the lighthouse and across to the Boardwalk couldn’t be beat.

Now that you’ve read about my room’s view, let’s discuss what it looked like once it got inside once it got cleaned up.  The standard furniture in rooms at the Yacht Club includes two queen beds with very cozy bedding, a desk with an internet connection, day bed, two dressers, a mini refrigerator, and a flat screen tv.  The furniture obviously has a nautical theme which to me is relaxing and pleasing to the eye.  I happen to be a big fan of anything having to do with boats and the water so this theme suits me very well.  The bathroom is divided into two areas which is really great when you have three women staying together.  The outer area has two sinks with a marble countertop and several storage shelves.  A separate room has the toilet and shower so one person can shower while another brushes their teeth.  The room is pretty typical for a deluxe resort, but the layout always works out for my roommates and I so it was great for us.

So what else does the Yacht Club offer?  One of the biggest draws to this resort is Stormalong Bay, the pool shared by the Yacht Club and Beach Club.  It is a huge complex with plenty of lounge chairs, several pools, and a great feature slide.  This complex is so popular cast members are posted at the entrances to ensure only guests staying at these resorts may enter the area.  Guests must show their room key and then they are given a bracelet to wear before making their way inside.  I was more impressed by the service of the cast member (CM) who took orders for the pool side grill than I was with the service when my friends and I got a cabana at Typhoon Lagoon.  This CM couldn’t have been nicer and more attentive to all of the folks lounging around in my area.  I only got to spend a little bit of time here, but I can’t wait to lay by this pool again.

Photo by Betsy Bates

The Yacht Club also offers several restaurants.  Yachtsman Steakhouse offers a signature dining experience for guests who want more than the standard theme park fare.  The Captain’s Grill is a more casual atmosphere where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served.  The Crew Cup Lounge is a cozy bar and lounge area where folks can watch the big game and order typical bar munchies with their beer or cocktail.  It looks like a place I will be heading in the future for a post parks drink with friends.  Even if you are not staying at the Yacht Club these dining facilities are just a short walk or boat ride from Epcot’s International Gateway or DHS.  However, if you are staying at this resort and none of these excite your taste buds you can easily head over to the Beach Club next door, to Epcot’s World Showcase, or over to the Boardwalk to find something yummy.

Photo by Betsy Bates

The transportation options at the Yacht Club are the same as its neighboring Epcot area resorts.  Friendship boats are available to bring guests to the other nearby hotels as well as Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  You can pick up the boat from the dock near the iconic lighthouse at the rear of the resort.  The boat ride can be a relaxing way to get from place to place, but keep in mind that walking is often the faster option.  Although I did not venture to DHS on this trip, I probably would have taken the boat there since it is a bit of a hike from the Yacht Club.  However, when I made my way to Epcot, the Swan and Dolphin, or the Boardwalk I opted to walk.  Buses also service the Yacht Club for guests wanting to get to the water parks, Down Town Disney, Magic Kingdom, or Animal Kingdom.  The bus stop is located to the side of the lobby’s front entrance.  The buses often make stops at the Beach Club as well, so keep that in mind at park closing.

Here at the Unofficial Guide and Touring Plans when we survey our readers on their resort stay we ask if they would stay at their resort again. I think I would stay here again if I got a good rate.  I really enjoy the Epcot resort area and liked having access to the coveted Stormalong Bay.  While the Yacht Club is not on my list of top Disney resorts, it was an enjoyable experience.  Once we got past our initial bumpy start my stay was lovely and I had no complaints.  It wasn’t the greatest Disney experience ever, but it was certainly enjoyable.

Photo by Betsy Bates

What about you?  Is the Yacht Club your favorite resort or maybe you hated your stay there?  Let me know what you think about this deluxe resort!

Next week I’ll take a closer look at the Yacht Club’s concierge level service!

Us – In The News!

by on October 27, 2010 and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World have been featured in recent articles by USAToday the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and The Miami Herald.  Perfect reading for a lazy Wednesday morning at home.  Or, you know, a lazy Wednesday morning in the office.  We’re not judging.

WDW Today Episode 791 – Listener Questions

by on October 26, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 791 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

WDW Today Episode 790 – Light Up The World

by on October 24, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 790 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

Foto Fridays: Our First Visit to Disneyland

by on October 22, 2010

Although it’s roughly two months after the fact, as I just completed my August 2010 Disneyland trip report, I thought I’d write up a condensed, photo-heavy version of the report here. Since TouringPlans presently seems to have a bit of a Walt Disney World bias, I don’t want to spoil some of the ‘surprises’ of visiting Disneyland for those readers who have never been. Instead, I’ll give my basic impressions.

The reason we took the trip out West, in the first place, was because one of my college buddies was getting married. I couldn’t believe this was true, so I had to be there in person to witness the event (plus I was in the wedding, so I sort of had to). Knowing it would probably be several years before we visited Disneyland otherwise, we decided to tack on a few days to the front-end of the trip for visit to Disneyland. We flew in from Indianapolis, saying hello to John Wayne before heading to our “resort”.

If given five words to describe me, most of my close friends who choose “frugal” (or a less flattering variant thereof) as one of the words. When I found a $50/night hotel within walking distance to Disneyland, I jumped on it. The proprietors were obviously playing fast and loose with the term “hotel,” as it was more akin to a Hoover town.

The Domineering Castle?

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Back of the Front of Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland: Land of Compasses

I will admit, even though I saw images of Sleeping Beauty Castle prior to the trip, I was shocked by its (lack of) height. Because of this, I tried to photograph it from perspectives and with lenses that made it appear larger than life. Similarly, some of the lands were a tad aesthetically jarring, without smooth transitions between some lands (Splash Mountain is very close to Haunted Mansion). At the same time, there was very little wasted space, which was nice. If you walked 100 feet from any point in the park, you were almost certain to run into an attraction, or at least it seemed that way.

Space Mountain Starport

Prior to the trip, we decided that we weren’t going to do any thorough research (meaning anything that would include photos or video of the park) as we wanted it to be entirely fresh. Our sole means of preparation was picking up an Unofficial Guide and reading some information inside to determine what would be our ‘must do’ attractions if time became of the essence.

Once we arrived, we followed a TouringPlan on the first day, but after that we realized that we liked the park enough that we’d be back in the very near future, so we focused more on immersing ourselves in the experience, and only followed a TouringPlan loosely.  In retrospect, I wish we would have adhered to one a little closer, as it would’ve been nice to accomplish a bit more.  But, c’est la vie.

In the three days we were there, we accomplished quite a lot, but also left a lot undone, which is the way I like to visit, as it gives us reason to come back. We spent two days at Disneyland park and one at Disney California Adventure; ideally, I think we could’ve used about two more days, one at Disneyland and one at DCA.

King Arthur Carrousel

I don’t have the space here to properly run down everything, so I’ll just cover some of my favorites. Of the parks, Disneyland was my favorite. No small surprise here, as Disneyland is the original, and the one that has the bulk of the attractions. If the Magic Kingdom is your favorite Walt Disney World park, it is doubtless that Disneyland will be your favorite Californian park. It’s like a smaller Magic Kingdom, but with more attractions. The only land, from a personal perspective, that I would say is superior at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is Tomorrowland. Granted, unpopular attractions such as Carousel of Progress and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover are two of my favorites, and I refuse to consider the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage part of Tomorrowland in Disneyland, so perhaps I’m a bit biased.

Disneyland's Tomorrowland

Within the Castle Walls

I also probably prefer Walt Disney World’s Frontierland, and that’s even after you combine Disneyland’s Critter Country with its Frontierland. Then again, I love those unpopular, irreverent, singing bears from Tennessee.

That said, Disney California Adventure is no slouch. Going into the trip, I had heard so many stories of how DCA is lacking, cheaply done, etc. Perhaps enough has already changed that this is no longer the case, but we were both very impressed by DCA. The one area I’ve heard the most negatives about, Paradise Pier, we actually found to be quite charming. It reminded us of a quaint, almost Victorian style, turn of the century boardwalk. It certainly does not deserve the same kind of scorn levied at Animal Kingdom’s Dinoland! Maybe it’s just the photographer in me talking, as Paradise Pier is rife with great photo ops, but I found it to be a very nice land, especially at night. Other lands were equally well done; for my personal enjoyment, this park easily surpassed Animal Kingdom. Once everything in the Blue Sky Cellar comes to fruition, it could surpass the Studios as well.

Paradise Pier: Fun in the Sun for Everyone!

Due South on the Esplanade (HDR)

Grizzly River Run (6 Stop ND Filter)

My favorite land was probably New Orleans Square. Featuring the heavy-hitting duo of Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, plus wonderful theming, a superior version of Fantasmic!, and the delicious Blue Bayou restaurant, this land really won me over. I know I will probably lose all respect as a Disney fan for saying this, but the only thing I didn’t like about New Orleans Square was Blue Bayou’s Monte Cristo sandwich. I know I am a healthy eater, but I don’t know how anyone could eat that much deep fried ‘stuff’. Their ribs, soup, and the ambiance in general were all exquisite, though.

Welcome to the Haunted Mansion!

New Orleans Square only wins by a tiny margin. Adventureland, with the original Tiki Room and Indiana Jones Adventure, was perfect; Toontown demonstrated how cool that land can be if built with the mentality that it’s not temporary; and even Fantasyland had some great attractions. I did, however, discover that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was not superior to Pooh, and somehow, Disneyland’s Snow White’s Scary Adventures is actually worse at Disneyland than WDW. Other than that, and a less-than-stellar Tomorrowland, Disneyland was a real heavy-hitter. Hopefully Magic Kingdom will be equally impressive when all of the ongoing refurbishments, plus Fantasyland Forest, are complete.

Clang Clang Clang Goes the Trolley!

My favorite attraction? That’s a tough question. I had two, actually. Indiana Jones Adventure and Aladdin the Musical. In my full trip report, I likened comparing the two aforementioned attractions to comparing “apples to hand grenades.” Both were absolutely incredible, and its really hard to decide between them. We enjoyed Indy so much that we rode it at least 6 times, and although Aladdin ate up a big chunk of our day the first time we saw it, it was just so good that we ended up seeing it a second time.

Overall, the trip was great, and Disneyland is now in our “rotation” of parks to visit. Before the trip I had read advice from many individuals indicating that it’s not necessary to stay in a Disney resort in California because there aren’t any real guest advantages and because third party hotels are within walking distance. However, after being a little afraid for my safety walking back to our motel on the second night of our trip at 1:45 a.m., I think the Grand Californian is in the cards for our next trip. We are the type of people who like to escape reality when we visit Walt Disney World (heck, we don’t even rent a car for this very reason!), so being “on property” out West will be worth the additional cost for us.

Disneyland's Summer Nightastic Fireworks - "Magical" (78 second exposure)

Those are my thoughts, and some of our photos from the trip. If you’d like to read my thoughts on Disneyland in more detail, check out my full trip report here.