Archive for June, 2012

Attraction Tips: Soarin’

by on June 25, 2012

Soarin’ is my favorite ride at Walt Disney World. There, I said it. It feels good to get that out in the open. For many years now, a trip has not felt complete without a trip to The Land to hang glide over California. Unfortunately for me, it also seems to be the favorite of many an Epcot guest. In the Unofficial Guide, readers of all ages rank it 4 or above out of 5, with all but two age groups giving it a perfect score. So, how do you make the most of your time at Soarin’?

This sign outside the Land pavilion tells you it's time to park the stroller.

Tip: Visit Soarin’ early. I’m talking first thing early. To ride, I strongly recommend you get in line or obtain FASTPASS within the first 30 minutes the park is open.

If you have never been to Epcot to experience this magnificent ride, you might think it would be easy to grab a FASTPASS and see it during the day. You would be wrong about that. FASTPASS tickets for this ride can be gone as at noon or sometimes earlier. We advise getting your FASTPASS early in the day if you plan to use that method to ride Soarin’. This leads me to the infamous Soarin’ Stampede.

Since Soarin’ is good for kids of all ages (over 40″), it tends to be the first ride many families go to in the morning. As with most Disney procedures, opening time at Epcot can vary depending on the day. In the past, Epcot would allow guests in from 15-20 minutes early and hold at the Innoventions Plaza leading into the breezeway that leads directly to the Land. Currently, they will open the gates without a rope drop at Innoventions on most days and you will be free to head to the Land, but be prepared for either procedure depending on the crowds. Regardless, make Soarin’ your first stop.

Tip: To be among the first in line, arrive at Epcot at least 30 minutes prior to the official opening time. Once through the turnstiles, take the right fork around Spaceship Earth and head to the right to the passage through Innoventions West. This leads directly to The Land Pavilion. Strollers are not allowed inside the pavilion, and stroller parking is to the right, towards The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion. Either park your stroller before the lines surge to the ride or park quickly to the right. Once you are rid of the stroller or if you didn’t have one, you’ll want to enter on the doors to the right.

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Review: Transformers The Ride 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood

by on June 25, 2012

Amid the hoopla over the grand re-opening of Disney California Adventure, it’s easy to forget that the competition across town recently opened a fantastic new attraction of its own. Here is a preview of our review of Universal Studios Hollywood’s stunning new Transformers simulator, which will appear in the upcoming 2013 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.

Transformers—The Ride 3-D

Our Rating: 5 stars
  • What it is: Multi-sensory 3-D dark ride
  • Scope and scale: Super-headliner
  • When to go: The first 30 minutes the park is open or after 4 p.m.
  • Special Comments: Must be 40″ to ride; single rider line is available
  • Duration of ride: 4 1/2 minutes.
  • Average wait time per 100 people ahead of you: About 3 1/2 minutes
  • Loading speed: Moderate-Fast

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Dumbo the Elephant Now Flying With FASTPASS

by on June 24, 2012

Dumbo the Flying Elephant, in the Magic Kingdom‘s New Fantasyland,  is now open with both spinners flying. Also, FASTPASS is now testing for the attraction. Guests may pick up FASTPASS tickets near Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

In addition, a new indoor waiting area is in play-testing and allows children to blow off some steam while waiting for their turns on the attraction.

When the attraction officially opens in July, guests who choose to ride the attraction through the standby queue will be taken into the big top to enjoy the new play area. Guests who choose to use a FASTPASS ticket will bypass the tent and go straight to fly with Dumbo.

First Review: Cars Land Shopping

by on June 22, 2012

California Adventure Route 66 Mugs

If you look at a descending list of the box offices revenues for Pixar films, neither film in the Cars series is near the top. This has not, however, prevented Cars-related merchandise from being astoundingly popular. This comes as no surprise to most parents of a young boys, and a June 2011 Los Angeles Times article even suggests that prospective merchandise sales drove Disney’s green-lighting of Cars 2 and perhaps even California Adventure’s recent expansion. Needless to say, you will find ample themed merchandise readily available in Cars Land and throughout California Adventure.

Tom Bricker writes:

Stores in Cars Land are really small. I was a bit surprised by this, especially given that one of the big ‘sells’ for Cars Land is the merchandising opportunities. It would have been one thing if they all were unique merchandise stores, but they’re not.

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10 Logistical Things You Should Know About Disneyland

by on June 22, 2012

Here my friends, is your alternate programming for the day. Everyone who knows anything about Disneyland knows that the only important news about Disneyland this week is what’s happening at Disney California Adventure this week. The grand, long-anticipated, opening of Cars Land happened last Friday. Since others on the blog did an excellent job of updating us about the goings on there through the blog, Facebook, and Twitter, I will give you some alternate programming. Similar to what competing networks do when the Super Bowl is on, and they choose to air chick flicks or ice skating. We all know where the real excitement is, but we will try to vary the offerings.

Here is some information that should help with your trip planning. That way you’re not standing there bewildered, studying a map looking for lockers while hordes of people are getting in line for Radiator Springs Racers ahead of you. It may not be sexy, but as they say in military planning, “Amateurs talk strategy, but professionals talk logistics!”—and honestly, isn’t planning a proper Disney vacation like planning a battle campaign?

1. Parking at the Hotels – Where on earth are you going to park? Well if you’re staying at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels, that’s an easy question. All three hotels have very clearly marked directions to the hotel lots. There are both self-parking and valet parking available at all three. The parking fee for registered guests is $15 per day for self-parking and $22 for valet. If you are stopping by just for a meal, some of the resort restaurants, like Napa Rose, offer validation for up to 5 hours for the hotel lots. If you are staying at a Good Neighbor Hotel or other nearby hotel, inquire when booking about parking. Some include their parking costs in the hotel, and others will charge an additional fee upon check-in.

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Carthay Circle Restaurant Review

by on June 22, 2012

Snow White Ceiling

When I heard that Carthay Circle Theatre in the “new” Disney California Adventure was going to house a restaurant and two lounges instead of an attraction, I was quite disappointed. After a couple of visits to the downstairs lounge and a meal at the upstairs Carthay Circle Restaurant, most of that disappointment melted away. Carthay Circle Restaurant is the latest fine dining establishment at the Disneyland Resort and compares quite favorably to Steakhouse 55, Club 33, and Napa Rose.

This should come as no surprise, since Disney has been touting the restaurant and its chefs Andrew Sutton and Gloria Tae, who have both helped to make Napa Rose one of the premier restaurants in the Anaheim area. The menu that they’ve crafted for Carthay Circle Restaurant is like no other in any theme park, and surpasses any in-park dining at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Seeing this menu had us convinced that we’d need to experience the restaurant on its opening day, June 15, 2012.

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Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure

by on June 21, 2012

It was a little more than a year ago that Disney brought Phineas and Ferb to Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a meet and greet. Generally well accepted by crowds, one thing was clearly missing: their pet, Perry the Platypus, a.k.a. Agent P. Oh sure, he’s in the meet and greet, but as a prop attached to the background behind Phineas and Ferb – not as an active character. Ever since, folks have been wondering where else these characters, especially Perry, might show up. That was until Disney announced that Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure would be appearing in Epcot’s World Showcase.

As more information was released, we learned that the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure would be going away. It’s a little hard to see Kim leave the parks, but the truth is that Kim Possible went off the air five years ago in 2007 – the same year that Phineas and Ferb first appeared on the Disney Channel. I’m a huge fan of both series, but I can see that it’s time for things to change – progress is after all a part of the foundation on which Epcot was built.

This past weekend I had an opportunity to test out Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure in the Japan Pavilion. I knew there had been some playtesting already, so I made it clear to my wife, Cheryl, and our friend, Lori, that I wanted to check out the starting kiosks to see if we could play. We were lucky enough to find some cast members dressed in regulation Organization Without a Cool Acronym (OWCA) uniforms (minus the hats) over by the Italy Pavilion Field Station, and we were asked to wait to play.

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Update: Delete Function

by on June 21, 2012

In case you missed it when we updated last night – you can now delete your personalized touring plans! Just head to your personalized touring plans page and click the delete link on any plan you have listed (you’ll be asked to confirm, as this action cannot be undone).

We’ve also fixed several bugs recently, including making sure all attractions and shows appear in the drop down menus, fixing a time zone issue for steps in Disneyland Resort plans, clearing up some problems with hard ticket plans, and just general cleanup of text and error messages to try and make things (like water park plans) more understandable.

If you haven’t tried the personalized touring plans (for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland) feature recently, check it out and let us know what you think! We’re always working to improve the system.

New Unofficial Guide Podcast Available: Tomorrowland With Sam Gennawey

by on June 21, 2012

In the last podcast of our walk around the Magic Kingdom, we discuss the retro-future of Tomorrowland with Sam Gennawey. Here’s the link on iTunesAnd here’s the direct MP3.

Look for more episodes with Jim Hill in the month of July. And thanks very much for your reviews and feedback on iTunes.

First Review: Buena Vista Street Shopping

by on June 20, 2012

California Adventure’s Buena Vista Street is filled with various shops whose facades mimic what one might have found in Los Angeles of the 1920s. We provided a general overview of Buena Vista Street last week. Not only did Disney Imagineers put great care into creating this themed environment, but they also put great care into the new merchandise that fills the shelves. In particular, Disney is selling many new souvenirs related to the nostalgia-inducing Red Car Trolleys.

It is not necessarily important that you know which shop has what merchandise; most are somewhat interconnected, and common items like t-shirts can be found in multiple locations not only on Buena Vista Street but throughout the park. If you cannot find what you are looking for, ask a Cast Member. And be sure to enjoy the period details on the building exteriors and the well-designed interiors! Each store has a story behind it.

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