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Walt Disney World or Bust – 2014?

We just visited Disney World back in March.  But for a fan like me, it’s never too early to plan a return trip.  I enjoy the planning almost as I enjoy the trip itself.  Unfortunately, it’s going to be a while before I can put my plans in action.

As much fun as our March trip was, it was also a lot of work.  My oldest daughter was approaching 5 at the time.  And my youngest was 11 months.  That meant that everywhere we went, we had to cart around a bulky double stroller, a diaper bag, and all the usual theme park survival supplies.  Halfway through our “vacation” my wife and I were exhausted.

Recently (just this past weekend to be exact), I started thinking in earnest about when it would make sense to plan another WDW trip.  It didn’t take me very long to realize that 2014 was the year to go.  The reason is simple.  Disney considers 10-year-olds to be adults.  That means adult ticket prices and adult meals.  If we go when my oldest daughter is still 9, we will save quite a bit of money.

Also, I think that this will put both the girls at good ages to get the most out of a trip.  For example, our oldest daughter is currently tall enough to ride most every ride at Walt Disney World.  But she’s still too timid for anything more adventurous than a “dark ride”.  And many of those scare her too.  By 9 years old, she’ll probably be ready for just about anything (except perhaps the Tower of Terror – but who can blame her.  It’s a tower and it’s full of terror.)

The youngest, on the other hand, is fearless.  She should be 5 (or possibly 6) by the time we go.  So she should be tall enough to ride almost anything.  I expect she’ll be ready to ride anything her older sister will ride and maybe a few she won’t.

If you ask my oldest daughter what she liked best about the trip, you’ll get one of several different answers.  The most common are the pool, the vending machine and the gift shop.  At this age, I could have saved a lot of money by joining the YMCA.

Just the other day, she asked when we could go to Disney again.  I asked if she wanted to rides some rides.  Her answer: “Not too much”.  I asked if she wanted to go to the pool.  This elicited a very enthusiastic positive response.  By age 9, I’m hoping the rides are at least on par with the hotel pool.

The other advantage to waiting until 2014 for another trip to Disney is that a lot of the projects that are currently underway will be completed by then.  During the recession, Disney dragged its feet as far as building new rides and attractions.  And the result is that there hasn’t been much new in the parks.  (Meanwhile, Universal has opened the reportedly amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter.)

Concept Art for the Fantasy Land Expansion

By 2014, the Fantasyland expansion will be done.  With two young girls, the princess and fairy themed expansion is right up our alley.  Aside from expensive princess meals, make-overs and meet and greets with 1-hour-long waits, Disney doesn’t have much currently aimed at the princess crowd.  So the expansion should be a wonderful addition for us.

Concept art for the Little Mermaid ride

The announced schedule for the expansion was broken down into two phases.  Phase one included all of the princess-themed attractions and restaurants including the Little Mermaid ride and the Be Our Guest restaurant.  Phase One should be completed in 2012, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it run into 2013.

Phase 2 centers on Tinkerbell and her fairy friends.  What exactly will be included in Phase 2 is unknown.  One would expect a meet-and-greet with Tink at least on par with the Pixie Hollow currently in Disneyland.  There are rumors that the new Pixie Hollow may even include a modest kiddie ride.  Then again, the budget may get slashed (a Disney tradition if ever there was one.)

Pixie Hollow was originally scheduled for a 2013 opening.  If the entire expansion is delayed, Phase 2 may not open until 2014.  Then again, it may never open at all.  (Although given the immense popularity of the current Tink meet-and-greet, I’d be very surprised if they don’t at least recreate that.)

The third (and most forgotten) part of the FL expansion is the Dumbo area.  In a move of simple brilliance, Disney will double down on Dumbo be installing a second identical ride.  Give the limited capacity of Dumbo (especially in relation to the ride’s popularity) I’m amazed no one though of this sooner.

Concept art for the new Dumbo area

My dad’s last trip to Disney World was over 20 years ago.  And when you bring it up, the first thing he complains about to this day is the long lines for Dumbo.  Dueling Dumbos will cut down on that, but Disney is also installing a “next gen” queue which will operate like a deli counter.  Instead of waiting in line, you’ll be assigned a number (or color).  When it’s your turn to ride, you’ll be notified.  Until then, you can play games and enjoy circus-themed entertainment.

On our last trip, my oldest daughter and I had a great time riding Dumbo.  We got their early and only had a 20 minute wait.  But even a 20 minute wait was hard for her.  She was distracted by the little clown mirrors and blocks that are in the current queue, but they were two infrequent.  After that experience, the “next gen” queue sounds like heaven!

Star Tours 2.0 in 3-D

Over at Hollywood Studios, Star Tours 2.0 will be up and running.  Like any guy my age, I’m a Star Wars fan.  I like the current Star Tours attraction.  But it’s in need of an upgrade.  Hopefully, they won’t overdo it with the pod racing crap.  (If I had my way, they’d stick to the original trilogy!)

While Star Tours 2.0 is the only thing that’s been officially announced for Hollywood Studios, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another addition before 2014.  The long-rumored Monsters Inc family roller coaster recreating the door scene from the end of the first movie is apparently very near to being announced.  With Monsters Inc 2 headed for theaters in 2012 and Pixar Place currently having only 1 ride, I’d be very surprised if this doesn’t happen.

Perhaps the saddest little park on property is Animal Kingdom.  Many (including myself) consider this zoo/theme park hybrid to be a half-day park.  The addition of Expedition Everest helped change that.  But then the yeti stopped working.

I rode Everest when the gigantic yeti was still fully functional.  And let me tell you, he was the star of the show.  Without the yeti, what you had was a souped-up (but much shorter) version of Big Thunder Mountain.  It was the yeti that made Everest special.  Hopefully by 2014, Disney will have fixed the perpetually broken abominable snowman.

But if all they do is fix the yeti, I still don’t think we’ll spend more than a half day at Animal Kingdom.  I’m not sure either of my daughters will be brave enough (for the oldest) or tall enough (for the youngest) to ride Everest by then.  And the rest of the park has relatively limited appeal to us.  So much so that we actually skipped it entirely on the last trip.

Currently, Disney is clearing out some land it says it will use for “backstage” space.  But the rumor mills are buzzing.  Of all the rumors in this article, this is the least likely to happen.  But more than a few people are speculating that this area is being cleared for an expansion.  Could BeastlyKingdom finally become a reality?  Or maybe the rumored Australia area?

Concept art for the abandoned Beatly Kigdom (Could something like this be on its way?)

Again, Disney denies any expansion is underway at Animal Kingdom.  But if there was a park that needed an expansion, Animal Kingdom is that park.  It just may be that Harry Potter and increased competition from the upcoming Legoland have finally convinced Disney to up its game.  I’m cautiously optimistic that something wonderful may be announced in time for our 2014 trip.

Or maybe, it’s just being cleared for “backstage” use.

That leaves Epcot.  Epcot recently (well, relatively recently anyway) received a lot of love in the form of Mission: Space, Nemo and Friends and Soarin’.  I don’t really expect to see much new at Epcot in 2014.

But there are possibilities.  Perhaps Disney will (finally) see fit to complete the descent that was part of the Spaceship Earth refurb a few years ago.  And then there’s Captain Eo.  Eo’s “limited engagement” should be long gone by the time I get back to Epcot.  (If it’s not, I’ll be an angry fanboy).  Maybe Disney will reinstall “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”, but I dare to dream that the Imagination Pavillion will get something brand new instead.

There’s more outside the parks as well.  Currently, the Pleasure Island section of Downtown Disney is a wasteland.  And with the Virgin Megastore also closed, DTD feels empty.  Hopefully in four years’ time, Disney will have rebuilt its shopping and entertainment district so it’s not so damned depressing.

Disney has also announced the Art of Animation Resort.  This will be comprised of 2,000 family suites similar to those at the popular Nickeloedon Suites off property.  Like Dueling Dumbos, this is one of those no-brainer ideas that makes you wonder what took them so long.  If the price is right, this is where I will want to stay in 2014.

A Disney Imagineer sculpts a statue of King Triton for the Little Mermaid wing of the Art of Animation Resorts

Beyond all of that is Disney’s top-secret “next generation” technology.  Reportedly, Disney is sinking over one billion dollars (!) into this new technology which will completely change the way its guests experience a Disney World vacation.  Disney is being more secretive than usual about the project, so very few details are known.

What is known is that the project will apply wireless communication technology in a variety of ways.  The most mundane is a keyless room entry system similar to the one currently used by Great Wolf Lodge.  But the technology could also be used to personalize ride experiences.  All I know is every time the subject comes up, insiders tell us to “think bigger”.

Will NextGen be installed in Walt Disney World by 2014?  No telling.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

2014 is a long way off.  But when I think about all the new things there will be to experience and how much more prepared my girls will be to experience them, I can’t help but get excited.  I think this trip will be worth the wait.

 

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Posted on June 22, 2010, in theme parks, Walt Disney World and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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