Archive for July, 2014

Disneyland Dining: A Few of My Favorite Things

by on July 29, 2014

IMG_3771

Hello, my dears! If you haven’t had lunch yet you might want to save this one for later because I’m about to make you very hungry! We’re going on a culinary tour of some of my favorite Disneyland Dining options complete with photos. To get started we’re heading to Wine Country Trattoria at the Golden Vine Winery. In 2012, we just happened by at lunchtime and decided to try this spot on a whim. We both voted this our favorite meal of the trip and since this it’s a can’t miss for us! The shady, outdoor seating is right by Cars Land but feels a million miles away. My go to item here is the Quattro Pomodoro. It’s simple with just tomatoes, garlic, and basil in marinara sauce. 

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Tables in Wonderland Changes To Take Place August 1

by on July 29, 2014

tables in wonderland logo

©Disney

I wrote about this last year, but I wanted to remind everyone. (I did write about it a year ago…so I am sure you’ve likely forgotten.) Effective Friday, August 1, the Tables in Wonderland card will see some changes.

One major change is that select restaurants will see a few more blackout dates. These dates will include–November 23-29; December 21-27; March 8-April 4, 2015; and May 31-June 20, 2015. The restaurants that will be impacted are:

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Snacks Around the World Showcase – Japan

by on July 29, 2014

Mickey Pretzel and Plastic Cheese

Mickey Pretzel and Plastic Cheese. Perfection.

When Epcot enters the conversation, the first thing many people mention is eating (or drinking) around the world. While there are many worthy restaurants scattered around the World Showcase with a wide variety of different foods to try, there are also many pre-packaged snacking alternatives to tempt an adventurous diner.

In addition to interesting snacks to be eaten while in the park, those packaged snacks make great souvenirs. They are relatively inexpensive, won’t take up much space in luggage, and make a different sort of present to bring home.

Instead of just showing the different options, I decided it would be much more interesting to turn snacking into a challenge. Since the World Showcase has so many options, there had to be some parameters in the snacking quest. There are 11 countries represented in the World Showcase portion of Epcot, which could get expensive quickly if you are to get something in each country. In addition, since the point was trying new things, I would avoid things that are readily available in the United States or things that aren’t particularly strange. Finally, I wanted it to be something I was actually willing to try.

So, here are the rules for the World Showcase Snacking Challenge:

  • No snacks over $10; preferably less than $5
  • As unusual as possible
  • Something I personally would eat

Let’s get started!

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Chase Lounge Returns for 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on July 29, 2014

Chase Lounge at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Chase Lounge at the American Adventure Parlor for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

For the third year in a row, thanks to Chase’s sponsorship of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, the exclusive Chase Lounge will make a return. The lounge will be located, once again, at the American Adventure Pavilion, in the American Adventure Parlor, which is located on the third floor, with its entrance found between the attraction and the gift shop.

The lounge allows guests to have a seat, relax, recharge electronics, grab a complimentary soft drink, read a magazine, check out the interactive festival map, grab a Discovery Passport, and – most importantly – soak up some much needed air conditioning! (Touring and eating around World Showcase gets HOT!) During last year’s festival, beer and wine were also available to purchase; there is no word  yet on whether that option will return this year. Also, in previous years guests could obtain preferred viewing of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and Eat to the Beat concerts as long as wristbands (which were distributed on a first come, first served basis) were available. No word yet on if that will be available for guests, either. I’ll make sure to keep you posted.

Chase cardholders must present a Disney Visa Card to gain access (though in the past any Chase card would work for entry, and, of course, Epcot theme park admission is required), and each card member may bring up to nine guests. The Chase Lounge will be available from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday during the Festival. Do keep in mind that the lounge often reaches capacity, and when it does, will move to a one person out-one person in system.

I visited the Chase Lounge last year, so if you are curious about how it works, make sure to read my post.

Kindle 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World will have free updates!

by on July 29, 2014

The 2015 edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is now available from Amazon for Kindle devices. The print edition should be out in mid-August.2015UG

Big news: we’re publishing monthly revisions of the Kindle edition through Amazon, so Kindle owners will always be up to date on what’s going on and how to have a great vacation. The first update should be out in August. Print book owners have our Updates page for the same information. 

With more than 800 pages of coverage, the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is the most comprehensive view available of Disney World and Central Florida’s theme parks.

This edition includes a detailed look at Disney’s new Fastpass+ ride reservation system, including what Fastpass+ is, the attractions in each park that you should use it on, and the best times to make reservations. Also, we review the Magic Kingdom’s new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, which opened in late Spring 2014, and the host of new Frozen-themed shows, parades and events. We’ve also got an in-depth review of Universal’s great new Harry Potter-themed Diagon Alley.

Here’s a list of some of the more notable other updates:

Part 1 – Planning Before You Leave Home

  • Updates to Disney’s calendar of special events, including how crowds will be affected

Part 2 – Time and Money

  • A step-by-step guide to making Fastpass+ reservation, including how much time to set aside, what you’ll need before you start, for your family and anyone traveling with you
  • Updated FastPass+ tips, including understanding how FastPass+ attractions are segmented at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, how to get more FastPass+ reservations once you’re in the parks, and why making advance FastPass+ reservations for evening parades and fireworks is frequently a bad idea
  • How FastPass+ is affecting your waits in line, including which attraction wait times are going down because of FastPass+, and which are going up. With this, you’ll make better decisions about where to use FastPass+ in the parks
  • Tips on when Disney typically raises ticket prices, and by how much, so you can buy tickets beforehand
  • Cost of MagicBands for off-site guests and those buying tickets from third-party vendors
  • Updates to Disney’s park opening procedures. Disney has instituted new park opening steps to slow the rush of guests to the popular Frozen Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet in the Magic Kingdom, and slow the crowds at other parks

Part 3 – Accommodations

  • Updated benefits to staying in a Walt Disney World hotel, including earlier access to FastPass+ reservations
  • Details on Disney’s updated package cancellation policy. When you call to make a hotel reservation, Disney will encourage you to book something else along with the room, turning it into a “package.” But cancellation policies for packages are very restrictive, so you need to know what to watch out for
  • Tips on how to use our website’s new Hotel Room Views feature, which shows you the view you’ll get from every hotel room in Walt Disney World
  • A new analysis of the Disney Dining Plan, including how much each component of the plan costs for your stay. With this information, you’ll be able to see whether the dining plan makes sense for your family
  • Updates to more than 60 off-site hotel ratings and rankings
  • An updated list of the best Disney-specialist travel agents, and their contact information
  • Updates to our annual Reader Resort Survey, showing how Unofficial Guide readers ranked every Disney World hotel over the past year
  • Completely updated strengths and weaknesses of every Disney resort, plus the Swan, Dolphin, and Shades of Green
  • Updates to resort room diagrams to reflect new furniture and bedding
  • A new section – Our Picks for Disney On-Site Resorts – where we select the best value, moderate, and deluxe resorts for families with young children; groups of 5 or more; families with older kids; and adults
  • A complete review of The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, including amenities, décor, bedding and bathroom details, and the best rooms to request at the resort
  • Updates to the ongoing construction at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, including the conversion of Tahiti, Tokelau, and Rapa Nui to timeshare rooms, plus how the construction will affect dining, pools, and child care
  • New details on the Wilderness Lodge Villas’ updated rooms
  • A revised list of the best rooms at Bay Lake Tower and Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • A new analysis of the Disney Dining Plan, including how much each component of the plan costs for your stay. With this information, you’ll be able to see whether the dining plan makes sense for your family
  • A review of the fabulous new Cabana Bay Resort at Universal Orlando
  • Review of the Hilton Bonnet Creek resort, an upscale resort in the middle of Disney property, with moderate rates and a really nice pool area for kids
  • Preview of the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and where to sell your vital organs to pay for your stay

 

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TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going to Hilton Head

by on July 29, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

Welcome back to the latest news about our big October eventTouringPlans #Everywhere. As a recap, during Columbus Day weekend, TouringPlans is sending our staff far and wide (some far-er and wider than others) to Disney destinations throughout the world to collect content, meet our subscribers, maybe have some fun while we’re at it.

Speaking of people who aren’t traveling very far, I will be visiting the Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, a Disney Vacation Club property. This is roughly 5 hours from my home in North Carolina, and I drive past Hilton Head, SC, every time I’m on my way down I-95 heading to Florida. I’ve always felt a little guilty about never stopping by because I’m a DVC member and believe I should experience all the resorts. (After October, Vero Beach and Aulani will be the only ones left.)

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Legoland: Theme Park for Adults?

by on July 29, 2014

Legoland, Florida’s latest theme park, bills itself as “geared to families with children ages 2 to 12”. The park sports attractions, including four beginner coasters, but all are specifically for kids and their parents, so what were a couple of forty-somethings doing there without kids in tow?

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida. Photo by Thomas Cook

I’m glad you asked.

Legoland was developed on the grounds of Cypress Gardens, a park that opened in 1936. Often called Florida’s first theme park, Cypress Gardens was a large botanical garden to which water ski shows were added during World War II. Comprising 150 acres, it’s one of the larger botanical gardens in the United States.

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A New Haunted Mansion Gift Shop To Debut This Fall at the Magic Kingdom

by on July 28, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

I hinted at it being true a while back, but today the Disney Parks Blog made it official: The Haunted Mansion will indeed receive a gift shop (finally!) in Magic Kingdom‘s Liberty Square. The store will be located right near the attraction, in the location of the Yankee Trader store, which closed for refurbishment today. (Bye bye, Smuckers jams and jellies!)

The new merchandise location is slated to open officially this fall, drawing inspiration from Madame Leota herself, and will include a whole slew of hauntingly good merchandise for Haunted Mansion fans to purchase. (On my next trip, if the majority of my money is going to be spent at the Marketplace Co-Op at Downtown Disney, the rest of it will now officially be spent here. Basically, bye bye money.)  It’s been heavily rumored that this new store will also feature an on-ride photo pickup location.

While Disney didn’t announce an official reopening date, it is expected that the new store will debut on October 1, just in time for Halloween!

Stay tuned for more details as they get released!

Disney World Crowd Report – July 20 to 26, 2014

by on July 28, 2014

Predictions did remarkably well last week with most days hitting the mark. We saw higher than average wait times, typical of summer crowds with the exception of a slow Saturday. Crowds at Disney Hollywood Studios have bounced back from a slow spring, with wait times in the upper ‘7’s and ‘8’s.

Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Disney World Crowd Report:

Walt Disney World Resort Crowd Levels – Daily Breakdown

Sunday, July 20, 2014

 WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
6

Our predictions swept the board on Sunday with observations matching predictions at each park. There were similar crowd levels at all four parks, a common trait of summer days.

Epcot
5
5
Hollywood Studios
6
6
Animal Kingdom
7
7

Monday, July 21, 2014

 WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
8

Magic Kingdom was an ‘8’ as expected but elsewhere, we saw crowds two levels higher than predicted. Biggest surprises were Spaceship Earth (32 minute average, predicted 12), Toy Story Mania (92, predicted 60) and Kilimanjaro Safaris (28 minute average, predicted 18).

Epcot
5
7
Hollywood Studios
6
8
Animal Kingdom
5
7

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

 WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
8

Close across the board again Tuesday with slightly high wait times at Epcot and The Studios driven by non-headliners like Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land. Toy Story Mania saw higher waits as well, with an average posted time of 83 minutes (predicted 69).

Epcot
8
9
Hollywood Studios
7
8
Animal Kingdom
8
8

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

 WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
8

Great results again on Wednesday including our third day in a row of correct predictions at Magic Kingdom. Summer time crowds tend to be consistent and predictable, especially in mid-July.

Epcot
7
6
Hollywood Studios
7
8
Animal Kingdom
8
9

Thursday, July 24, 2014

 WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
9
7

Animal Kingdom was the busiest park at a level ‘9’ on our scale while the other three parks hit a level ‘7’.

Epcot
8
7
Hollywood Studios
7
7
Animal Kingdom
7
9

Friday, July 25, 2014

 WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
8
6

Lowest crowd of the week at Magic Kingdom on Friday. It was the best park by one level as well, compared the the level ‘7’ we observed at the other three parks.

Epcot
8
7
Hollywood Studios
6
7
Animal Kingdom
7
7

Saturday, July 26, 2014

 WHAT WE
THOUGHT
WHAT WE
SAW
ANALYSIS
Magic Kingdom
6
5

Surprisingly low crowds across the board on Saturday. Only a ‘5’ at Magic Kingdom and only a ‘3’ at Animal Kingdom. Epcot was the only park that matched the prediction.

Epcot
6
6
Hollywood Studios
8
7
Animal Kingdom
5
3
What to Expect This Week
July 27 to August 2, 2014
How Crowded is Disney World?

How Crowded is Disney World?

Summer crowds will continue through mid-August when some school districts begin their 2014-2015 school year. Weekends are tending to be slightly less predictable than weekdays so visiting the parks on a Saturday or Sunday may not be as bad as one thinks.

To see Walt Disney World Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.

To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.

2015 Disney Dining Plan Information Released

by on July 28, 2014

Disney Dining Plan

©Disney

Earlier today, it was mentioned by Len on the TouringPlans forums that the 2015 Disney Dining Plans informational brochures had officially been released in PDF format. (A quick heads up: the 2015 Vacation Packages will be available starting on Wednesday, July 30.)

The actual details of the 2015 Disney Dining Plans haven’t changed from 2014, meaning that guests will still receive the same number of entitlements that were available under the 2014 Plans. RapidFill refillable mugs will also continue to be offered with the 2015 Disney Dining Plans.

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