Archive for November, 2013

PotterWatch 2.0: Harry Potter Construction Update (11/23-25/2013)

by on November 27, 2013

Harry potter construction update

Construction continues on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion at Universal Orlando.

Welcome to the first installment of PotterWatch 2.0,’s Harry Potter Construction Update. This recurring photo gallery series will follow the construction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley in Unversal Studios Florida and other related expansion at Universal Orlando Resort. So grab your broomstick and sail with us to London!

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Get to Know Stormalong Bay: The Yacht & Beach Club Pool Area

by on November 27, 2013

In my personal tally of how many times I’ve stayed at each Disney World resort, the clear winner, with more than 15 stays, is the Beach Club and Beach Club Villas. There are many hotels we love, but we continue to circle back to the Beach Club for two reasons: the proximity to Epcot and the rockin’ awesome pool situation. Stormalong Bay, the pool complex shared by the Yacht & Beach Club, is 3+ areas of fun, nearly a waterpark unto itself. If you’ve got water lovers in your party, Stormalong Bay may be reason enough to make the Yacht or Beach Club your Disney resort of choice. Here’s a tour.

As a first step, take a look at our general guide to the Disney World pools. This covers things like lifeguards (there are lots), floatation vests (they’re free), towels (take as many as you need), and water temperature (warm)!

Moving on to Stormalong Bay specifics, this is the map you’ll receive during check-in. You can see that Stormalong Bay (those amorphous blobs in the center) is neatly centered between the Yacht & Beach Clubs. All guests of those resorts are entitled to Stormalong Bay access, even those staying at the Beach Club Villas. It’s worth noting that Stormalong Bay access is strictly limited to use by Yacht & Beach guests, you will need to show a valid room key or have your MagicBand scanned for access. They’re quite strict about checking.

stormalong map

Now let’s zoom in a bit and take a look at an aerial view from Google Maps. I’ve added some labels so you can get oriented. All those red dots are lifeguard station umbrellas.


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Ask Jim Hill Ep 16 – What Is Disney’s Justification For Next Gen?

by on November 26, 2013

Jim answers a viewer question about Disney’s justification for investing, designing, and implementing “Next Gen.” Hotel bookings? Crowd control? Find out what Jim thinks on this week’s episode.

New episodes are posted every Tuesday, so be sure to subscribe on YouTube!

If you would like to download an audio version of Ask Jim Hill, Episodes 1 – 9 are now available on iTunes.

New Frozen Inspired Gallery Opens in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion

by on November 26, 2013



A brand new gallery called Norsk Kultur (meaning Norwegian Culture) has officially opened in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. Norsk Kultur was created in conjunction with the opening of the Disney movie Frozen. It can be found inside the Stave Church that’s located in the front part of the pavilion.

The artifacts found in the exhibit are on loan from the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which is located in Decorah, Iowa. Twenty-one artifacts have been included in the new gallery, and they will be at Epcot for three years, according to an article in the Decorah Newspapers.

Items that can be found in the exhibit include:

  • an authentic hand-made bunad, the traditional costume of Norway
  • a hardanger fiddle, as well as other handmade instruments
  • hand-carved artisan furniture, including a carved wooden chair called a kubbestol
  • silver brooches
  • a small loom
  • a men’s Southern Sami outfit
  • examples of rosemaling (traditional Norse decorative painting)

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2014 THEA Awards announced for Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room and other Disney Attractions

by on November 26, 2013

Disneyland 2014 THEA awards enchanted tiki room

Photo copyright Disney

On Tuesday, November 19, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) announced the recipients of its 2014 THEA Awards, which honor the best achievements in amusements and attractions, at the annual IAAPA convention in Orlando. Several notable Disney attractions were singled out for recognition.

The THEA Classic award will go to Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Also honored were Enchanted Tales with Belle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland.

Watch the entire 2014 THEA awards announcement from the floor of IAAPA in the following video. Awards will be officially handed out at the annual THEA awards dinner at the Disneyland Hotel on April 5, 2014.

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Walt Disney World Crowd Report November 17 to 23, 2013

by on November 25, 2013

November 17 to 23, 2013, ended up being a great week for low crowds at Walt Disney World. Our Crowd Calendar predicted low crowds all week with the exception of Saturday. In fact, wait times came in even lower than our predictions, including on Saturday. Although our predictions hit the mark at the park level for some days, in general we overshot by one index level. If you used our calendar and selected last week for your trip to Disney World, you experienced some of the lowest wait times of the year.

WDW Crowd Levels Nov17-23, 2013


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Run the World: Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter

by on November 25, 2013

I had the recent pleasure of enjoying a short ‘racecation’ during the 2013 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Port Orleans French Quarter, one of Walt Disney World’s moderate resorts. It was a fantastic stay – I enjoyed everything, from the beignets at the bakery to the easy bus transportation, but what stood out to me as a definite winner were the running paths!


I had only stayed at Port Orleans once before – and this was long before my running days, so although I had my handy map (and was given a physical copy at check-in). I was just a little hesitant, as I have a tendency to get lost. My fears were cast aside rather quickly, however, as I set out on a pre-run walk around property to capture images of landmarks and waypoints to guide my run the following morning.

Let’s get running!

The best part about this run is that you don’t need to find an exact location to begin your run or jog – you can set off from wherever you are. In my case, I was staying in Building 3 of the French Quarter, and so meandered east to the river-side “Carriage Path” to begin.


“Streets” are marked.

On the French Quarter side of the resort, the walkways between buildings and attractions (such as the pool and laundry facilities) are clearly marked in gridded corridors, as if you are actually in a small city, making it very easy to navigate. This set-up allows for easy “add-ons” to your mileage in even, small lines and boxes…and another bonus? The area is almost completely shaded by lovely trees and complemented by quiet fountains and sitting areas. I found it to be very peaceful – both in my afternoon walk and my late morning run.

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Christmas at Magic Kingdom – November 22, 2013

by on November 24, 2013

I decided to head over to the Magic Kingdom this afternoon to see the Christmas decorations in the lovely, Florida sunshine! It has been very gray and rainy lately. Today was the first day with perfect blue skies, so it was worth running over, even though the park closed early tonight for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.


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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Reasons We Loved the 2013 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

by on November 23, 2013


This candy cane is a treat location icon, new for 2013

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Reasons We Loved the 2013 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP). Recently, Kristina Murphy wrote a blog answering the question “Is MVMCP worth it?” Personally, I think the Disney hard ticket parties are the best way to experience the Magic Kingdom, especially if you take advantage of the fact that they will let you into the park as early as 4PM on party nights (the party official runs from 7PM-midnight). I think the parades are better, the fireworks are better, the characters you can meet are rarer, the lines for the attractions are generally much lower, and the overall atmosphere just feels special.

Regardless of whether you think the parties are worth the cost or not, there is no debate that they bring something unique to the table compared to an average day at the park. Today we’re going to look at what we enjoyed from this year’s MVMCP…

(Remember, you can click on any picture to see a full size version)

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New Disney World Welcome Package Mailed to Guest Homes

by on November 23, 2013

I opened my mailbox today and was surprised to find a box from Disney. This was a new welcome mailer related to my upcoming vacation in January. For those of you keeping score, the box arrived on November 20, 2013,for a trip that starts January 9, 2014.

The sturdy presentation box is slightly larger than a VHS tape and contains a welcome brochure, as well as fun flash drive shaped like the MyMagic+ logo. The flash drive contains two two-minute long videos featuring Incredibles character Edna Mode. In video one, Edna describes MagicBands, and in video two she shows you how to use My Disney Experience. This welcome box appears to be an attempt to educate guests about the new technology being used in the parks and resorts. I’ve ordered a MagicBand for my trip, but I’m not expecting that to come for several more weeks, in its own super cool Incredibles themed box. In addition to spending gobs of money updating the in-park systems, they’re obviously spending even more gobs of money to get guests excited to use those systems.

Here’s a tour of what arrived:

Front of the box

Front of the box

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