Archive for May, 2012

This Month at Disneyland Resort: June 2012

by on May 31, 2012

Welcome to the June 2012 edition of “This Month at Disneyland Resort,” your “CliffsNotes” guide to everything imminent at the Anaheim attractions. Better buckle up tight, because we are about to accelerate into the most momentous month at Disneyland since the turn of the millennium.

According to a count by the Orange County Register, 18 new “entertainment offerings” will be open within the next few weeks. So if you haven’t already booked your summer visit to Disneyland, you may want to consider holding off until autumn, since the resort is about to embark on what may be its busiest few months in memory.

All photos copyright Disney.

Crowd Calendar

Kiss that last relatively crowd-free month goodbye. As the June 15 relaunch of Disney California Adventure approaches, attendance is expected to intensify right up to the start of summer break, and stay stratospheric all season.

Quietest Day: Tuesday, June 12, will be the last “slow” day before the Cars Land crowds descend, with the resort at 5 out of 10 overall, and Disneyland Park predicted at only 3.1 (though it is a Grad Night).

Busiest Day: Because DCA will be closed on June 14, Disneyland will be at peak capacity on that day. After June 15, crowds will remain high at DCA and moderate at Disneyland, peaking on June 30.

Subscribe to the Touring Plans Disneyland Crowd Calendar for full details on predicted attendance for the next 30 days.

Special Events

  • The entire Disney California Adventure park will be closed to the public all day on June 14 for press events, and to prepare for the grand opening the next day.
  • A dedication ceremony will be held at the entrance to DCA on June 15 prior to its 9am opening. Thereafter, a daily “rope drop” ceremony will be held each morning.
  • Grad Nights continue at both parks on June 1, 6-8, 12-14 (Disneyland on on 14th), 19, 21, and 22.
  • Sneak Preview events at DCA will be held on June 9 and 10 for Passholders, Club 33 members, and D23 members purchasing special tickets.
  • Annual Passholders can register now online for two early entries (one for each park) on select days between June 18 and September 13.
  • Disneyland Resort introduces Extra Magic Hours on June 18, allowing Disneyland Resort hotel guests early entry into both parks on alternate days. The existing Magic Morning Hours program will continue to operate alongside Extra Magic Hours for purchasers of “bonus” parkhopper tickets.

Openings, Closings and Refurbishments

Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
Downtown Disney

Be sure to visit us daily during the DCA grand relaunch week for on-the-scene reports from the Touring Plans team!

Hipstamatic Disneyland: Frontierland

by on May 31, 2012

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to the wondrous photographic time machine that is the Hipstamatic iPhone app.

In this installment of my ongoing visual gallery, I want to go on a virtual voyage back to the 1970s, when Disneyland’s Frontierland looked…pretty much the same as it does today. As long as you ignore the late-model mountains at either end, modern Hipstaprints from the middle of Frontierland look like might as well have been taken forty years ago.


The clothes are the giveaway that these aren’t Polaroids out of my attic.

The Shooting Exposistion recently had its marquee refurbished, so this really is a historical photo now…

Does anyone remember if Disneyland did Day of the Dead decor back in the 70s?

This petrified tree was an anniversary gift from Walt to his wife. Legend says she was less then thrilled, and made him put it in his park instead of their home.

The rigging of the Sailing Ship Columbia is truly timeless.

One last look at the Mark Twain riverboat pulling into its dock.

Do you have favorite Hipstamatic pics, or genuine instamatic photos from past? Please pass them along to and we may feature them on our blog!

The World of Disney World Smells

by on May 30, 2012

Let’s face it, Disney is a smelly place.

In an effort to give you a fully immersive, all-five-senses experience, the Disney Imagineers have infused many of the attractions and environments with aromatics designed to enhance your park experience. Most guests find these scents enchanting or evocative, enhancing the park experience, while others, especially those with asthma or allergies to airborne particulates, may find them to problematic. So whether you’re scent sensitive or want to take a whiff of something wonderful, here’s a guidemap to the smells of Walt Disney World.

Rides/Attractions With Purposely Piped In Scents

Ahhh, the siren scent of fresh popped corn.

  • Stitch’s Great Escape, Magic Kingdom. That wacky alien Stitch belches chili dog, in your face.
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Magic Kingdom. Mmmmm, pie.
  • Soarin’, Epcot. Smell the pine forests and orange groves of California.
  • Spaceship Earth, Epcot. Rome burns, with burning scent.
  • Journey into Imagination, Epcot. I think that scent spinner thing is rigged, I get the skunk every time. 🙂
  • Test Track, Epcot. Acidic, chemical smell in the Corrosion Testing room. Not sure if this will remain in the current ride rehab.
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Animal Kingdom. There’s an accurately described stink bug on the program.
  • Kali River Rapids, Animal Kingdom. Burning logs have burning scent.

Rides/Attractions That Have a Scent Due to the Nature of the Experience

The Journey to Imagination ride stinks. Literally.

  • Walt Disney World Railroad, Magic Kingdom. Possible fuel or steam scents.
  • Main Street Horse-Drawn Trolley, Magic Kingdom. The horses may have some odiferous output.
  • Tomorrowland Speedway, Magic Kingdom. Fuel and smoke odors.
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Fuel and smoke odors.
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Fuel and smoke odors.
  • Water rides, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, water parks. Rides/attractions which have an water component may have a damp or chemical scent. These include: Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, it’s a small world, Living with the Land, Maelstrom, Gran Fiesta Tour, Studio Backlot Tour, anything at the water parks.
  • Fireworks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Live animal areas, Animal Kingdom. They do what they can to keep odors to a minimum, but these are live animals.
  • Why do they even let Stitch eat chili dogs?

  • Campfires, Fort Wilderness and others. Possible smoke odors.

Food Areas

Of course any food service area has the potential to emit odors. These are some of the most noticeable.

  • Popcorn carts, located throughout the parks. The strongest scent is at the cart on the left, immediately after you enter the Magic Kingdom.
  • Candy shops, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Boardwalk. The Main Street Confectionery and its sister sweets purveyors emit a decidedly sweet aroma.
  • Funnel cake/donut stands, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, water parks. The scent of fried dough wafting through the air. Nuff said.
  • Karamell-Küche, Epcot. This is what heaven smells like.
  • Bakeries, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Boardwalk. The Main Street Bakery and the entire France pavilion are permeated with the smell of butter and sugar.
  • Sniff the piney goodness of Soarin'.

  • Flame Tree Barbecue, Animal Kingdom. Strong scent of fire and roast meats.

Other Areas

  • Gingerbread House, Grand Floridian. During the holiday season, the giant gingerbread house periodically puffs gingerbread scent out of its chimney.
  • Flower & Garden Festival, Epcot. There are extra plantings at Epcot during this time. Many are scent heavy.
  • Perfume shops, Epcot. The England, France, and Norway pavilions all have perfume counters in their shops, with guests spritzing and sampling the various concoctions.
  • Incense sales areas, Epcot. Incense is sold and sometimes burned in the shops in the Mexico and China pavilions.
  • Basin bath shops, Grand Floridian, Downtown Disney. Sales area for scented soaps, lotions, etc.
  • Fuego by Sosa Cigars, Downtown Disney. It’s a smoking bar.
  • Spas. Scented products may be used.

So fellow sniffers, what have your scent experiences been at Walt Disney World? Do the smells enrich your theme park experience or have you had any adverse reactions to scented areas? Are there smelly spots that I’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Updated Disney Touring Plan Software

by on May 30, 2012

We’ve released an update to the software which creates our free personalized Disney World touring plans.  This release should resolve two intermittent problems:

  1. Shows and live performances scheduled at times other than 00, 15, 30 or 45 minutes past the hour were not always being considered as options for the plans.
  2. The amount of “free time” before a show, meal, break or attraction using FASTPASS was not always calculated correctly.

If you’ve created personalized touring plans for an upcoming trip, we recommend re-optimizing them when you have time.

Thanks to everyone who sent in plan URLs with examples of these problems.  Those were very helpful.

New Details For the 17th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

by on May 29, 2012


The Disney Parks Blog has officially released some great new details for the upcoming 17th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

First of all, we need to discuss the food. I mean, that is one of the best parts, right? There’s nothing like gorging yourself on little samplings from all over the globe!

This year, there will be two new offerings for guests to enjoy! First will be the Terra marketplace, an area that will strictly offer vegan items such as Trick’n Chick’n Curry with Basmati Rice and Chili Colorado with House-Made Chips and Cashew Cheese. (I’m not even vegan, and those both sound delicious!) The other new food booth for this year will be the Florida marketplace. This area will offer fresh and unique twists on local Floridian flavors, like Florida Shrimp Ceviche with Fire Roasted Veggies and Crispy Plantains.


In addition, Disney claims the festival is going to try to appeal to a more kid friendly demographic this year with a few treats that will appeal to a pickier age set. (For example, cheese fondue and beef empanadas.)

Finally, for those of you who love Disney tours, each Wednesday during the Festival, a festival chef will host a walk around with guests where you’ll be able to stop at several of the marketplaces to try a morsel or two. Guests will get to try five dishes and five beverages. Plus, you may learn a few cooking tips along the way. No word on how much this experience is going to cost just yet, but it certainly sounds like a fun adventure!

So get ready, because the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is coming, September 28 – November 12, 2012! Bon Appetit!

Liberty Square Riverboat To Close For Refurbishment

by on May 29, 2012

According to Disney, this relaxing and scenic paddle wheel ride at the Magic Kingdom along the Rivers of America will be closed for a brief refurbishment from August 4-10, 2012.

Inexpensive Eats Outside Disneyland (Part 2)

by on May 29, 2012

After transportation, tickets, and accommodations, food takes the biggest bite out of the budget of most Disneyland visitors. It doesn’t help matters that the food sold on Disneyland property is unavoidable, plentiful, decently edible, and extremely overpriced. But that doesn’t mean you have to choose between going broke or going hungry on your next Anaheim adventure.

In the first episode of Inexpensive Eats Outside Disneyland, I highlighted two of my favorite inexpensive off-property restaurants that are within walking distance of the Disneyland Resort. Though there are a number of viable options accessible around Disneyland to anyone on foot, having a car exponentially increases the number of outlets available to you.

Here are two places within a short drive from Disneyland’s front door that I always take time to visit on nearly every trip to the Hungriest Place on Earth.

Viva Bargain Center

One of our top money-saving tips in the Unofficial Guide is to get a hotel room with a refrigerator (or a cooler with ice-filled water jugs) and stock it with store-bought snacks. This tip is even more applicable now that Disneyland has installed upgraded mini-fridges in its on-site hotel rooms, and most of the lodgings ringing the resort (regardless of price range) at least offer one for a modest extra charge.

If the place you are staying doesn’t offer a free breakfast, a cooler of comestibles is essential to following an efficient morning touring plan. It’s infinitely easier to make it to the park before opening when you can breakfast bedside in your boxers. In-room food can also come handy around your early-afternoon break time (essential if you’re planning to stay in the park until closing) and for late-night snacks.

But where to stock up? Obviously, convenience stores (such as the 7-11 at the corner of Harbor and Katella) are most convenient, but also overpriced. The nearest full-service grocery stores are Vons (12961 Chapman Avenue) and Food 4 Less (1616 West Katella Avenue), each about 2 miles from the resort.

Instead, I usually head to the shopping center at 12000 Harbor Boulevard, just south of Chapman Avenue. There is a Target for groceries and supplies, and Walgreens pharmacy that sells liquor. Most importantly, it is home to the Viva Bargain Center, the most wondrous dollar store I’ve ever found.

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, every item sold in Viva costs exactly 99 cents or less. Unlike similar establishments I’ve encountered, Viva isn’t dank, depressing, or disorganized. While you’ll find some out-of-season and off-brand items on the shelves, the majority of the merchandise is name-brand and not yet expired. I frequently make Viva my first stop after unpacking to pick up some ramen noodles (my usual post-park midnight snack), drinks, and cookies. And along with a wide sampling of salty, sweet, and spicy (including large Latin food selections), you can also pick up some dirt-cheap Disney branded souvenirs to distract the kids from the pricier in-park items. If you want a one-stop shop to shave some dollars off your Disneyland dining expenditures, this is it.

Los Sanchez

Mexican food isn’t really “foreign,” in Southern California; it’s practically the local cuisine, and should certainly be sampled by any out-of-town visitor who is only familiar with the terror of Taco Bell. While the enchiladas at Disneyland Park’s Rancho del Zocalo are at least edible, and Del Taco (2330 South Harbor Boulevard) is a great guilty pleasure of mine, neither can be considered anywhere near authentic. If you want a genuine taste of great Sonora-style Mexican food that makes the locals line up, drive three miles south of Mickey to Los Sanchez (11906 West Garden Grove Boulevard).

This perpetually-packed counter-service establishment may have fast-food style service, but the quality is first class. The menu features chicken, the best chocolate mole sauce I’ve ever had, fresh-caught fish ceviche, and tender lengua (tongue) tacos, along with more conventional dishes American will find familiar. Most of the platters on the menu are around $8 or under (through you can spend up to $18 on a feast of lobster or oysters), and all come in enormous portions you’ll want to share. All guests get a complimentary appetizer of freshly made tortilla chips with cheese and guacamole (something any other place would charge at least $5 for), and there’s and unlimited toppings bar of salsas and raw radishes (try one as an antidote for the spices).

Don’t forget to order a super-sized bottle of Mexican-made Coca-Cola with your meal; unlike modern domestic Coke, it contains old-fashioned sugar instead of corn syrup, and tastes like Coke used to before the 1980’s New Coke/Coke Classic debacle.


Last Week at Disneyland Resort (5/20/2012 – 5/26/2012)

by on May 28, 2012

Welcome to the final May 2012 installment of “Last Week at Disneyland Resort,” as we race towards the Disney California Adventure relaunch next month. Hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Here’s what just happened at the Happiest Place on Earth:

Crowd Calendar

Last week was the final “slow” week before the big buildup to the June 15 grand openings. Don’t expect to see lines that short again until long after summer.

Quietest Day: Tuesday May 22 (3 out of 10)

Busiest Day: Saturday May 26 (predicted 8 out of 10, actual 9)

Subscribe to the Disneyland Crowd Calendar for full details on projected wait times for the next 30 days.

Special Events

  • The final after-hours Passholder parties for Fantasmic! were held on May 21 and 22.
  • Grad Nights were held on May 23-25.
  • New television commercials, depicting Buzz Lightyear detecting “high levels of happiness” at Disneyland Resort, were released.
  • Disneyland Resort announced it would offer Extra Magic Hours early theme park entry to on-site hotel guests beginning June 18. The program is similar to the current Magic Morning early entry, which will still be offered to purchasers of “bonus” parkhopper tickets. Extra Magic Hours will allow guests at Disneyland’s 3 hotels to enter Disneyland Park on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and Disney California Adventure on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, one hour before the official opening time.

Openings, Closings, and Refurbishments

Disneyland Park

Disney California Adventure

Downtown Disney and Hotels

  • Construction continues on WonderGround art gallery and Earl of Sandwich.
  • The newly refurbished LEGO store held a Master Builder Event to celebrate their grand reopening. Guests could help assemble a model of “Brickley the Sea Serpent.”
  • New souvenir cocktail glasses are available at Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel.


All photos copyright Disney

Disney Transportation – A Weekend Evaluation

by on May 28, 2012

I’m an Atlanta native, so typically when I talk about going to Walt Disney World, I’m planning to drive. In most situations, it’s cheaper and easier for me to drive down and then use my car to shuttle between parks while I’m at the resort. From time to time, however, I’ll catch a special fare, and that makes it easy to fly down, but it makes me reliant on Disney transportation. This past weekend proved to me again why driving was a better option.

At Disney, the vast array of transportation options seems like a convenience that is unrivaled in major resorts. And in many cases that is true; however, in my most recent visit for the opening of Star Wars Weekends, I was paying close attention to how long it took Disney to shuttle me from place to place. I timed every trip to see how long I was on the bus/boat/monorail/flying swan to get from place to place. Here’s what I found:

Magical Express was a very good transportation experience.

Disney’s Magical Express – This was the best of the services Disney offered, and a big reason why I was comfortable flying and not renting a car. As soon as we landed, my wife and I were able to head straight down to Terminal B, Ground Floor, and hop onto the bus. There was no waiting, no mess, and we were on the road to Disney in no time. We landed at 8:15 p.m. and were checked into our room at Disney’s Pop Century Resort by 9:10 p.m. That’s less than an hour from deplaning to having a room key. That’s about as good as it gets.

Returning to the airport was no different. Our pick up time was scheduled for 10:45 a.m, and we headed out to the bus stop in front of the resort around 10:30. We were on the bus and pulled out by 10:50, making it to Orlando International Airport by 11:30. The exact time was 39 minutes from the time we left until we were walking into the terminal. Again, very good, considering how far away the airport is from Disney.

Disney Buses – Here is where the center of the Disney system falls apart. Disney sells to its guests that they don’t need a car because the wildly efficient bus system will get people from their hotels to the theme parks or Downtown Disney without any issues. On my honeymoon 15 years ago, that was certainly true.

The Disney buses were there on time...but not quite timely.

On my last two trips that relied on Disney buses to get me to the parks, though, it has been a poor experience. Our first bus trip was from Pop Century to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the opening of Star Wars Weekends. We left early so we could get there for rope drop. From standing at the bus stop at 7:12 to arriving at the Studios at 7:35, it was a very manageable 23 minutes door to door, including wait time at the bus stop. That would be the last decent time on our trip.

The next morning, we woke up late and decided to go to the Magic Kingdom to have a nice breakfast at Main Street Bakery then check out Storybook Circus. We lined up for the bus along with about 75 other like-minded people at 8:47. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom bus depot at 9:35. If you do the math, that is 48 minutes, including only 5 minutes of wait time at the bus stop. I could have easily driven, taken the monorail and arrived quicker than that. I know that because I have made it from my front door at Pop Century to the Magic Kingdom in less than 30 minutes.

Our final bus ride of the trip was when we left the Magic Kingdom to make it over to the Studios for more Star Wars Weekends. The word nightmare comes to mind. First of all, to get a bus to the Studios, you must take the monorail over to the Ticket and Transportation Center. Considering that there is a bus depot right outside the Magic Kingdom, that’s insane. But we did it, which took us only 10 minutes, from 11:43 to 11:53. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

It was 12:19 before a bus came to the Ticket and Transportation Center to pick us up. That’s not quite 30 minutes, but it’s darn close. Then, the bus trip itself, which should take no more than 15 minutes, took from 12:19 to 12:53. That’s 34 minutes on the bus. I don’t know if you’ve been on a lot of Disney buses, but they aren’t exactly built for long term comfort. To be fair to Disney, the crowds for Star Wars Weekends were extremely intense that day, to the point that the Studios parking lot was closed. So even driving that day would have been tough, but again, that’s back on Disney to figure out better ways to handle the crowds, isn’t it?

Disney's boat service was good, but had to deal with the weather.

Boats – I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to do at Disney is to take a boat from Epcot to the Studios or vice versa. It’s relaxing, easy to do, and forces you to slow down. So, on our first day of this past trip, we decided to take a boat from the Studios to World Showcase, where we had planned to spend our evening. We walked out of the Studios around 2:11, waited for the boat as it loaded, and were on our way.

As I said, we knew the boat would be slower, and that was perfectly alright. It took a while to get from the Studios boat dock to the Swan and Dolphin, longer still to the Yacht and Beach Club and a short hop across Crescent Lake to make it to Boardwalk. It was at that point that the captain of the boat informed us that because of lightning in the area, we would be forced to wait on the boat or get out in order to make it to Epcot. We chose the latter.

Our boat trip had taken us 31 minutes to get to BoardWalk. Again, we wanted to take our time, so this wasn’t a problem. It took another 11 minutes to walk from Boardwalk to the International Gateway, so it took 42 minutes in all to make the trip from the Studios to Epcot. Not a bad way to go, since it was easy to maneuver and the boat was a relaxing way to go. Sure, it took longer, but it was for good reason.

Waiting for a Studios bus at the TTC is a BAD idea

Taxi – I know what you’re saying…that’s not Disney transportation! What gives? Well, when Disney doesn’t give you the option, you have to take a cab. After our afternoon at World Showcase, we spent the evening at Disney’s BoardWalk, grabbing a drink at the Belle Vue Lounge then dancing the night away at Atlantic Dance Hall. The only problem? There’s no way for Disney transportation to get us from Boardwalk back to Pop Century.

That in itself is an issue. We got a cab from the valet at BoardWalk, and were back at Pop in 8 minutes. Easy travel time, no problems except the cabbie had issues taking my credit card. But once that was resolved, it was easy enough. With tip the total fare was $10, and we made it in plenty of time to get rested up for the next day.

So what’s the final verdict? Is staying on property without a car worth it? Well, in my opinion, the answer is no. My room rate at Pop Century was $115 a night after taxes. I could have stayed off property in a nicer room and rented a car for about $5 less than that a night. The time spent on the trip from the Magic Kingdom to the Studios alone was extensive, not to mention we would not have had to take a cab if we had driven or rented a car. So I paid a grand total of $35 extra for the Disney bus system. That’s not a lot of money, but it did give me pause, because I think I would have rather rented a car and not given up so much control of my schedule. While the Magical Express buses and the boat were actually quite nice, the inconvenience of the bus system and the lack of adequate stations at the Magic Kingdom or Boardwalk were very poor.

What about you? What’s been your experience with Disney transportation? Would you have rented a car in my case?

New Unofficial Guide Podcast – Frontierland and Liberty Square w/ Sam Gennawey

by on May 27, 2012

A new episode of the Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish podcast is available on iTunes (link) and MP3 (link).   We walk through Frontierland and Liberty Square in this show, and Sam points out some surprising details along the way.  For example, you know that archway in the Adventureland plaza that has a sign saying “Frontierland” on one side and “Adventureland” on the other?  That’s not actually* the border between those two lands. Where is it?  Sam describes what to look for to find out.  We also find the Mississippi River, and, of course, more sewage as pavement.

* I was going to write literally then thought better of it.