Category Archives: theme parks
Among the many great rides and attractions in Orlando, E.T. Adventure is not well-regarded. Rumor has it that the only thing preventing E.T. from being replaced is the direct intervention of Steven Spielberg himself. The movie the ride is based on was very personal to him and he has been involved in the development and evolution of the E.T. Adventure. Putting that aside, Spielberg is right to protect this attraction because contrary to popular opinion it’s actually an important part of Universal’s line-up.
With my flight back to North Carolina looming, we spend the morning of our Labor Day weekend trip at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With so much of the place either behind construction walls or simply closed down waiting for attention it’s easy to forget the park’s still substantial charms. If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood aesthetics, DHS offers plenty for your eyes to appreciate. Hopefully once they’re done with
Toy Story Land, Galaxy’s Edge, and whatever else they’re going to do but haven’t officially announced yet I’m hoping they never fully abandon the “Hollywood that never was but always will be” concept for the park’s entry and main spokes. Follow us in for some last-minute vacationing before we say goodbye.
With our morning and afternoon in Animal Kingdom in the books, we head back to the Poly so we can “hop” via monorail back to the Magic Kingdom. For the uninitiated, “hopping” is theme park parlance that means roughly: “moving from one park or resort to another park or resort during a single vacation day.” Well, that’s in the neighborhood of accurate, anyway. On a base ticket a guest to Walt Disney World has to decide which of the theme parks they want to visit that day. And then that’s it. You can re-enter the same park you went into first, but if you want to visit a different park in the same day, then you’ll need to have either a special park-hopper ticket (which costs a little more) or be an annual pass holder (exactly how expensive that is kind of depends on how many days you spend in a Disney World park over the course of the year.)
For a first-time visitor staying for a decent number of days, park hopping may not be all that necessary. I never used to do it at all. I’d just decide on which park I wanted to visit each day and be done with it. Of course that was before Hollywood Studios started closing attractions like wildfire and before I bought my annual pass this year. We’ll see how I feel about it when I let my pass expire. I might really miss being able to park hop after having the ability to do so for just one year.
On this trip, park hopping became really necessary for a couple of reasons: the new fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom “Happily Ever After” and the dinner reservation at ‘Ohana that had popped open when I was searching out dining arrangements. If you have ever sat down to get dining reservations for your Disney vacation then you know this is the sort of spot where you grab the table and ask questions later. Only a few places like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and California Grill are perhaps more difficult to get good tables at than ‘Ohana. What this meant was that since our Magic Kingdom day was on the same day as that dinner, if we wanted to see “Happily Ever After” we’d need to go over for it on a different day. And that meant park hopping.
Join us, won’t you?
With Pandora in our rear view mirror, we spend a few more hours taking in some of the highlights of Animal Kingdom. While we do give Kilimanjaro Safaris a miss, top attractions like the Finding Nemo musical, Dinosaur!, and Expedition Everest wind up as priorities and we indulge in a wonderful meal at the still excellent signature dining restaurant Tiffins. Hmmm…I’ve just basically told you almost everything about this video. Watch it anyway, okay?
In case you didn’t know, Walt Disney World is in the process of a complex-wide rejuvenation that will see scads of new attractions over the next few years as the biggest tourist destination in the country looks to rebound from years of inaction and make themselves ready for their 50th anniversary on October 1st of 2021. That might seem like a long time off, but in construction time, it’s not that much.
Their big project opening this year, prior to next year’s Toy Story Land and the following year’s Star Wars themed Galaxy’s Edge, has been a full land in the Animal Kingdom devoted to James Cameron’s huge blockbuster Avatar. Believe it or not, Cameron is in the process of planning four more Avatar movies and Disney parks have bet big on the series and their new land devoted to it, Pandora, keeping visitor interest high. So far, so good, as Pandora has been a huge hit with Walt Disney World’s park guests, seeing big crowds and long lines in the new land since its Memorial Day opening. There are some reports that overall park attendance has not actually been helped by Pandora, just Animal Kingdom, but my guess is that this is looked at as just one step in their overall move to re-invigorate the profile of the parks complex, making it not just the favorite amongst families and nostalgics, but also with more modern audiences.
The still crowded Pandora would be the big target for us on the third day of our Labor Day weekend trip, and if you know me you know that means three words: Rope Drop, Baby. In fact, we took the prudent approach of getting to the park close to an hour prior to opening time. Although you will see us in the middle of a huge crowd anyway, what this will ultimately mean will be boarding the big buzz ride Flights of Passage just twenty minutes after the scheduled park opening. This means we ended up waiting roughly 80 minutes for the attraction, as opposed to people who showed up at the actual opening time who appear to have been facing a full three hour wait. The early nerds clear the berm.
follow us as we take you into the amazing world of Pandora, into the queue for Flights of Passage, for a bite at the Satu’li Canteen, and for a beautiful Navi River Journey.
Thanks to my brother’s family who are Disney Vacation Club members, i got the chance to spend a couple of nights at the Polynesian resort at Walt Disney World this past Labor Day weekend. This video is mostly what it says it is: a tour of the very nice DVC room we stayed in in the Pago Pago building. But if you take a look you’ll also catch a few glimpses of other parts of the resort, including our dinner at ‘Ohana on Saturday night. This really is a true vacation spot all on its own.
Follow my brother, my sister-in-law and me as we enjoy our morning and early afternoon in the Magic Kingdom. There’s not much in the way of touring tips or opinions here, but lots of footage of rides and shows from Liberty Square to Adventureland to Frontierland to Tomorrowland. Just sit back and imagine you’re there!
A big part of planning any trip to Walt Disney World is choosing how and where you want to eat. After all, even if you’re in your absolute favorite place with all of your favorite things, eventually you’ll have to put something into your stomach. There are plenty of people who intentionally sidestep making set in stone dining plans on their Walt Disney World trip. These people either only go to whatever counter service spots are nearby or they just take the pressure off and try finding walk-ins at appealing table service locations. They sit at the bar without any qualms and they shrug and move on if there aren’t any seats to be had. But those people are decidedly in the minority, and there are certainly likely to be few of them reading an article like this. Most of us enjoy the planning and the anticipation that goes into our vacation and one thing we’re looking forward to is that well-chosen table service reservation.
After my long Labor Day weekend trip to Walt Disney World I’m still pretty far from having tried all of Walt Disney World’s table service restaurants. There are something like sixty different table service restaurants in the Walt Disney World theme parks and resort hotels. These are places where you either are being served by a member of the wait staff who will bring your food to you at your table or where you get to carry your plate up to a buffet and select your own meal from everything there. These are the restaurants I’ll be covering here. The places where you order at a window and carry your food on a tray while you look for an available table are called counter service restaurants and won’t be included in this list. I’m also leaving out Disney Springs places because there is so much new there that I haven’t had a chance to sample (and it makes my list seem a little less feeble that way). I’ll have more to say at the end of the rankings, but for now here are my personal rankings of the 23 Walt Disney World table service restaurants where I have dined.
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Come join my brother, sister-in-law and I for breakfast at Chef Mickey’s and the new Magic Kingdom entry. This past December I was at Disney Springs when I found out that Walt Disney World was discontinuing the Magic Kingdom’s welcome show and letting guests onto Main Street for the hour prior to the ‘official’ opening of the park that comes with its many attractions beginning operations for the day. I didn’t really get to experience this new routine during my April trip because every day I went to the Magic Kingdom was an extra magic hour day, which meant a couple of the park’s lands would be opening at the same time as the first guests entered (If you remember, I was a little confused about how this all would be handled). Meanwhile, the underwhelming new castle welcome show has made the rounds on the internet and has generally been met with shrugs. So what would a standard Magic Kingdom morning actually be like? You’ll have to watch to get that answer.
Well, I’m mostly moved into my new place and now you’ll get a chance to see a little of my recent Labor Day weekend trip to Walt Disney World with my brother and sister-in-law. We pretty much skip the travel part of the first day this time around and get right into the fun! Join me as I take a dash through most of the top attractions from the second Florida Disney park.
Much like I’ve been doing over the past calendar year, I carried some lightweight cameras with me on my recent trip to Walt Disney World vacation over labor day weekend.
Unlike with my previous trips, the video I took while in Florida will be leaking out at a much more measured pace for a little while. This is mostly because I’m moving in just three days. For now, please enjoy this full video I captured of the relatively new fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, called “Happily Ever After.” While I have nitpicks about there not being enough “classic” Disney material from the first 50 years of the company’s legendary animation output, the show is undeniably amazing, with fantastic visuals and some real emotional high points. It was one of the highlights of the trip.
Yes, I was just there less than five months ago, but believe it or not, there are still more than enough Walt Disney World experiences that fit the bill here in my typical trip preview article. If you paid any attention to this year’s Disney convention, called D23, you’re probably pretty aware that the whole Walt Disney World complex is in massive flux. After constant expansion between 1982 (Epcot opened) and 1998 (Animal Kingdom opened), the complex fell into a bit of stagnation for a while. Despite this, you’ll notice that I’ve been able to fill this article pretty well each time I’ve written it over the last few years, and as long as I keep showing up in Orlando over the next five years, I’ll continue to be able to do so. Preparations in hopes of having Walt Disney World in a beautiful and exciting state when the place turns 50 years old in 2021 will see to it.
Come along and we’ll take a look at some of my plans this time around which are unique or new.
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Every time you visit Walt Disney World and decide to stay on property at one of their resort hotels, the mouse and company will offer you a brand new MagicBand. This wrist strap has technology inside it which identifies you and allows you to enter your room, enter the parks, and take advantage of your FastPass reservations. Some people visit the parks enough that they have a bunch of these things just lying around the house. Should you refuse a new MagicBand and just carry along your favorite? Join me as I unbox my newest band and talk about why having more than one might be ideal.