The BEST Purchase I’ve Made At Disney

Cooling Towel InstructionsIt is very easy to overheat at Walt Disney World, no matter how much water you drink!  I drink a LOT of water so I never have an issue of dehydrating, but intense heat is something I can’t handle.  I tend to avoid the summer months when possible for this very reason, but sometimes you arrive at Walt Disney World and it’s just TOO HOT.

Being Canadian, we love our summer months, but I’m not out walking for 12 hours in that heat.  At Walt Disney World I’m walking from building to building just looking for the air conditioned relief!

The other night at Animal Kingdom I stumbled across these ‘cooling towels’.  I had read about them online, but didn’t pay too much attention to it.  Since the weather said it ‘felt like’ 40 – I would have tried ANYTHING to cool down a little.  I decided to buy the towels for myself and friends and give it a shot.  If we didn’t do something, we were going to have to leave the park or sit in some air conditioning for an hour – I couldn’t take much more heat.

Disney Cooling Towel

The directions said:

  1. Wet it
  2. Wring it
  3. Snap it

Off to the restrooms we went to wet our towels.  I was concerned because the water that comes from those sinks isn’t cold – I figured I’d end up with a lukewarm towel wrapped around me!

I shouldn’t have worried, this towel was the BEST purchase I have made in the last week here.  They stay cool for between 90 and 120 minutes!  They aren’t heavy like some of the other cooling towels I’ve bought before.  They still have a bit of water in them after you wring them out so your shirt may get a little damp around the collar – but it really wasn’t a concern for us.  Every time we stopped at a restroom we wet them again – and presto, instant cooling.

The towels were $16.90 USD and available throughout the parks.  They are machine washable and and worth every penny!  I honestly don’t know how I survived without it.

Have you bought one of the cooling towels?  What did you think?

Disney After Hours Event Returns For 2018

Disney After HoursThe popular After Hours event at Walt Disney World will return to the Magic Kingdom in 2018.  The special ticket event is an amazing night time experience that you don’t want to miss!

The Magic Kingdom event allows for entry as early as 7pm with the ticket purchase.  You will experience little to no wait times at some great attractions, you feel like you have the park to yourself!

I have experienced the After Hours Event and it was wonderful.  Having a limited number of guests in the park let us ride Space Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without waiting at all.  We rode the mine train 3 times in a row, just walking right back on.  It was so much fun.

The events are currently scheduled in 2018 for:

  • January 19, 26, and 30
  • February 8 and 15
  • March 1 and 8

Tickets are $119.00 USD each and can be purchased here

Check out the great fun you can have below

Have you experienced the After Hours Event?  Did you love it as much as I did?

Disney Parks To Open After Irma

Hurricane Irma WDW Before the StormTheme parks in Walt Disney World are getting ready to open on September 12th, 2017 after Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

After being closed September 10th and 11th, guests are anxious to get in to the parks to see how they held up.  There are many trees down around the resorts, and clean up efforts began as soon as it was safe for Cast Members to be outside.

Hours for the parks for September 12th are:

Magic Kingdom

Extra Magic Hours 8AM – 9AM

Park Hours 9AM – 7PM

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 7PM – 12AM

Epcot

Park Hours 9AM – 9PM

Extra Magic Hours 9PM – 11PM

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Park Hours 9AM – 9PM

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Park Hours 9AM – 9PM

Disney Springs

Hours 10AM – 12AM

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach Water Parks show as closed on the Disney site, but open on the 13th.  Keep checking for more updates.

Mobile Food Ordering New Locations Added Walt Disney World

Mobile Food Ordering DisneyOrdering a quick service meal at Walt Disney World is getting easier every day!  I had the opportunity to try the Mobile Ordering feature at Pandora – The World Of Avatar for the first time and I was impressed.  It save time as well as the aggravation of standing in a long line for food.

Due to the popularity of the service, Disney has expanded it to even more locations!

Now you can pre-order your quick service meal at any of the locations below:

Magic Kingdom Park:

  • Columbia Harbour House
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight CaféMobile Food Ordering WDW
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe
  • Pinocchio Village Haus
  • Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant (seasonally)

Epcot:

  • Electric Umbrella
  • Liberty Inn

Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

  • ABC Commissary

    Order is ready confirmation in the app

  • Backlot Express
  • PizzeRizzo

Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • Flame Tree Barbecue
  • Pizzafari
  • Restaurantosaurus
  • Satu’li Canteen

Disney Springs:

  • D-Luxe Burger

Currently the only form of payment accepted through the app is credit card, but I assume that will be updated in the future for more options.  Anyone on the dining plan or with dietary restrictions must place their order with a cashier.

Disney has said that they are working on expanding it to even more locations.  I am excited about this and can’t wait to use it again when I visit!

Have you tried it yet?

 

Satu’li Canteen Review At Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Pandora – The World Of Avatar

blueberry cream cheese mousseOn our visit to Pandora we had to have lunch at Satu’li Canteen.  We were there early enough to do breakfast, but I really wanted the lunch menu so we waited until they started serving lunch.

When we arrived at the Satu’li Canteen I was immediately impressed with the amount of seating offered, there were plenty of tables available both inside and out.  The theming was detailed, showcasing Na’vi artwork and different items, but since I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie – some of these details were lost on me.

The line and ordering stations are similar to other quick service restaurants around the parks with the cashier in the middle with a line on either side.  After you pay, you step up to the window to collect your order.  There is also Mobile Ordering available at this location.  You can read more about that here.

Satuli Canteen Quick Serve Ordering

For lunch we both knew that we had to try some kind of bao bun.  I opted for the cheeseburger (of course) while Becky had the vegetable curry.

My cheeseburger pod was filled with ground beef, ketchup, mustard, pickle, and cheddar cheese

Becky’s vegetable curry had eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrots, and shallot cilantro cream

Satuli Pods

Both of our dishes were served with vegetable slaw and vegatable chips.

Normally I can’t eat a burger without french fries (aren’t they mandatory??) – but these chips were good!  The pod was a little chewy so the crunchy chips were a great balance.   The slaw was light and a bit tangy, somehow it all just worked together!

Inside Satuli Pod

Becky enjoyed her curry as well, but when I tasted it – it was a bit too much curry for me.

The portions were really big, but we had to have dessert (how could we not?).

Satuli Chocolate Cake

I had the chocolate cake while Becky had the blueberry cream cheese mousse.

blueberry cream cheese mousse

Both were good, but the chocolate ‘cake’ seemed less like a cake and more like a mousse.  The blueberry one was light and delicious and of course so pretty that you wanted to take multiple pictures of it!

Would I recommend Satu’li Canteen?  Yes.  It’s a great atmosphere, different food from elsewhere in the park and it’s good.

Have you been?  What did you have?

 

Caring For Giants Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Caring for Giants Disney's Animal KingdomCaring for Giants is a tour offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom giving you a closer look at the elephants.  The cost of the tour is in addition to your park admission, but read below why I think it’s a great value!

My sister Becky is a huge fan of the elephants. Over the years she has tried multiple times on Kilimanjaro Safaris to capture the perfect picture of a baby elephant to no avail. We haven’t figured out if we are moving through the area too quickly or her photography skills are the issue (I think it’s the latter), but it’s been a challenge! When she heard about this tour, we had to try it. It might be the only way for her to capture the elusive photo of a baby elephant.

We arrived at Animal Kingdom and checked in next to Kilimanjaro Safaris. We were warned that there was no bathroom breaks on this tour, so best to visit the facilities before we left.Stella Baby Elephant Animal KingdomThere were 8 of us on the tour and we boarded a bus back stage to take us to the viewing area. The driver gave us a lot of information about how the animals are protected and the fencing around the enclosures backstage. We were amazed to see fencing that wasn’t related to the savannah and the explanation made sense – the fencing is to keep the native Florida Wildlife out of the savanna.

When we arrived at the viewing area we realized that we were on the other side of Kilimanjaro Safaris and could see the attraction vehicles passing in the distance. The first cast member told us about how they care for the elephants and some of the rituals they have with them.Elephants Caring for Giants

The second cast member that spoke to us was a cultural representative from Zimbabwe. While she had only been working there for 3 weeks, she did a fantastic job of telling us about the research being done by the Disney Conservation Fund.   She shared details about one of the projects where they found a solution that allows farmers to protect their farms without harming the elephants. It was fascinating; I could have listened to her for hours.Caring for Giants Elephant

Aside from the great information from the cast members, we got some fantastic views of the elephants! We were told that the views really depend on the elephants; they are free to roam around and may not stand in the ideal spot for your photos.   This is important to recognize that Disney allows them the freedom to do as they please. We were lucky to have so many come around, it was the first tour of the morning and they tend to be more active.

Caring for Giants Stella

My sister with baby Stella in the background.

Caring for Giants was worth every penny of the $30 we paid for it. We spent an hour with some fascinating cast members and of course – the elephants. We loved the tour so much that we’ll be adding this as a regular ‘must do’ on our trips. Not only did my sister get a picture of a baby elephant, she got one WITH a baby elephant!

 

 

 

FastPass Crackdown – Cheaters Will Be Cheaters

7DMT Magic KingdomFastPass+ at Walt Disney World is a free service that allows you to effectively schedule up to 3 attractions in advance to avoid the long standby lines. If you stay at a Disney resort, you can make your selections 60 days in advance of your trip, if you’re staying offsite it’s 30 days.

FastPass+ was always a fair system, free to everyone with a valid park admission. Unlike those “other guys” who offer a paid service to skip the lines, Disney has a limit to how many FastPasses are available per hour for each attraction. At the other parks, if you have paid for this service you can skip the line on the same attraction all day if you would like. Imagine that – 100 people all skipping the line multiple times on the Hulk. How long do you think that standby line will be? For those who don’t pay, it can be a substantially longer wait than it had to be. Your ability to experience the attractions is directly tied to how much you were willing to pay.

At Walt Disney World, everyone had a fair shot at a FastPass for the big attractions – that was until a loophole was found.

MDE FPIt has been reported that people were using the in park kiosks to book FastPasses with expired tickets or tickets that were not used to enter the park. They were ‘borrowing’ annual passes to book extra FastPasses and taking away the availability from other guests. This ‘fair system’ was being abused by those who thought they were entitled to a better experience than everyone else – until Disney found out.

Disney has begun to crack down on these scams and are enforcing a validation process. Cast Members who are working in the FastPass line will be able to see if the guest used a valid ticket to enter the park that day. If they didn’t, they will be sent to the standby line.

Disney is reportedly locking the My Disney Experience accounts of those who book a FastPass without a ticket being used to enter the park.

Magic BandI think it’s great that Disney is addressing the issue and cracking down on this. How long before they start cracking down on all the fake resort and dining reservations?  Time will tell!

 

 

Avatar Flight of Passage Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Pandora Flight of PassageAvatar Flight of Passage was an attraction that I was determined I had to try. The reviews said that it was not good for those with motion sickness and it could be intense, but I had to experience it at least once. Since I had the opportunity to visit during a preview before the official opening, I went straight over to Flight of Passage and there was no wait. I stood for a second, took a deep breath and thought, “I guess I’m doing this!”

Here are my thoughts on the new Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It’s an overview of my experience with some information you should know before you go, but without too many spoilers!

The queue was impressive – but long

The outdoor portion of the queue for Flight of Passage is gorgeous. You’re walking slightly up hill and have a perfect view of the floating mountains. There will be some great pictures and selfies taken from this line!

Once you leave the outdoor area, you enter in to something that looks like a cave. You will be happier in here since there is air conditioning and shade from the Florida sun. As the cave transitions in to the building, you’re able to see paintings, a bioluminescent mining area and of course – a real Avatar. I had seen the Avatar on many different online videos, but I didn’t appreciate the size or details of it until I had seen it in person.

 

 

While I didn’t have a wait for Flight of Passage, it struck me as I was walking through this queue how long it took me to get to the end. It seemed like quite a long walk with the capacity to hold VERY long lines.

The claustrophobia

Nearing the end of the line, you enter the first of 2 pre-shows. The first room is where you are matched to your Avatar. It is primarily a video with some special effects, but the room felt a bit small to me. I was glad I was the last one in and had some space behind me. We were in there a few minutes when we moved on to the next briefing – the vehicle seating system is explained and you get your 3D glasses.

The vehicle

I don’t like feeling ‘trapped’ anywhere and this was my biggest fear for this vehicle. I am the person who sits at the end of the row in a movie theatre to avoid feeling like I can’t get out. Knowing that things would come and encapsulate on this attraction had me very nervous. I straddled the vehicle like a bicycle and leaned forward towards the support in front of me. I chose to leave a little bit of space between the support and myself and prepared myself for the various restraints that were coming. As the restraints were activated, I heard the man beside me gasp a little. The man had leaned so far forward that the restraint at his back was way too restrictive and a cast member had to come and adjust it.   I was happy with the amount of space I had and didn’t feel closed in with the back restraint at all. Maybe it’s because I had my legs out in front of me as opposed to at the side, but I didn’t even feel the ones on my legs at all. I did notice that this might be quite restrictive and uncomfortable though for my Pooh-sized friends. There is a test vehicle outside of the attraction for you to try before waiting in line.

 

The flight

Once the ride started I was in awe. Disney has created an attraction where I really FELT like I was flying on the back of a Banshee. It wasn’t just the sights, sounds and smells, but when my Banshee took a break on a branch of a tree, I could FEEL it breathing underneath me. The scenery is breathtaking and colorful, it seemed so real! There is no comparison in my mind to Soarin or Star Tours – this attraction made me forget that I was sitting on an attraction vehicle with 3D goggles on. I was transported, and I flew on a Banshee.

 

The motion sickness

Pandora 2I feel sick on Star Tours and have never made it back on Mission Space since it opened; I was worried about Flight of Passage. I went first thing in the morning, took some motion sickness pills and didn’t eat anything before the ride. There were a few moments where the Banshee took some sharp turns and some drastic drops where I had to close my eyes. Closing my eyes for a second or two really helped, especially when were flying through some tight spaces. I do think the cool breeze on my face helped me avoid overheating that happens when I’m nauseous. I really didn’t feel sick at all, I suspect that might have had something to do with the pills I took.

 

The 4 things you need to know:

  1. The queue has been designed to hold lines of up to 4 hours inside. The wait will be long.
  2. There is a lot of walking for the queue as well as upon exiting. Be prepared for inclines and stairs, especially if you have trouble walking.
  3. There are moments that those who are prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia will struggle, but they are short lived.
  4. Love or hate Avatar the movie (I didn’t love it), this attraction is among the best on Disney property and you should experience it once. I know I will be back to try it again.

 

My only criticism, and it’s a big one

Winnie the PoohSurprisingly, this attraction is not friendly to certain body types or guests with mobility issues. Given that this is new, I would have thought that Disney would have invested in making sure that more people could experience it – not less. One of the things that I don’t like about that ‘other park’ is that they have attractions that are not suitable for my Pooh-sized friends. I have always maintained that having the test vehicles out in front of their attractions is both humiliating and degrading to those who want to try them before lining up. Couldn’t they put them around the corner out of plain view of the masses of people? Who wants to try a vehicle in front of a bunch of people to see if you’re too fluffy to fit? I have always thought that was a big difference between Disney and the other guys, until Disney did the same thing with Flight of Passage. I think it’s terrible that a good portion of the population wasn’t accounted for when designing this attraction. I only hope that Disney makes the necessary adjustments to the attraction to accommodate more people, and once again set itself apart from the other parks.

If you want to see a good video of the queue – check out this video from our friends at Pure Magic Vacations!

 

 

Have you experienced Flight of Passage? What did you think?

 

Yak & Yeti Dinner Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Yak & Yeti Animal KingdomIf you have read my blogs before, you know that I’m a bit of a picky eater who loves desserts. As I get older, I find that I’m a little more adventurous with the restaurants I will try, which is of great delight to my travel companions.   After eating at the Coral Reef in Epcot and having to order the seafood pasta without the seafood, I realized that there is always something on the menu for me anywhere at Walt Disney World.

This time the adventure led us to the Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom.   We would normally grab lunch at the Flametree BBQ and be gone before dinner, this time we were staying late to see the Rivers of Light. We made dinner reservations at the Yak & Yeti and I was looking forward to trying a new place.

Yak & Yeti InteriorWhen we arrived I realized that I had walked past this restaurant every visit and never paid much attention to it, little did I know how gorgeous it was inside.

The restaurant holds the story of Arjun, a rich merchant who has fallen on hard times and has turned his home in to the Yak & Yeti hotel. The artifacts that are displayed throughout are ones that Arjun collected during his travels of Southeast Asia.   There is more to the story that you can read when you arrive, but the last line “It is a place to immerse yourself in a culture that is mysterious, exotic and exciting” describes it perfectly.

Yak and Yeti Dining RoomDining at Walt Disney World can sometimes be as much about the surroundings as it is the food itself. We enjoyed looking at the artifacts and taking in the surroundings, we were hopeful the food was just as good. We reviewed the menu and made our choices.

 

Becky and Lorraine both ordered the Malaysian Seafood Curry. They both raved about this dish and couldn’t believe how much seafood there was. I can tell you there was about 5 minutes when they both kept “finding” seafood in it even when they thought they couldn’t eat
another bite.Yak and Yeti Seafood Curry
Ron had the Kalbi Steak & Coconut Shrimp. He said that it was delicious and even loved the wasabi mashed potatoes and the vegetables.Yak and Yeti Steak and Shrimp

My choice for dinner was the Korean BBQ Ribs. While I’m normally not a big fan of ribs (I don’t like to bite meat off of a bone), I thought I’d give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. The meat was so tender that I could use my knife and fork; the meat literally fell off of the bone. The serving was so big that I could share some of it with the others and they all agreed it was amazing.

Yak and Yeti Ribs

When the dessert menu came, we didn’t think any of us could eat another bite. Then I saw it – the Chocolate Pudding Cake with raspberry sauce. I had to try it, it sounded like a chocolate lovers dream – and it was! Yes, it was really rich, but if you like chocolate like I do, you don’t want to pass this up.

 

The Yak & Yeti was a great choice for dinner that night, and will be a dining reservation we will make again!

Have you eaten at the Yak & Yeti? What did you think?

 

 

Disney’s Express Transportation Option

Disney Express Transportation

UPDATE – Disney’s Express Transportation is not available as of August 23 2017.

I am a big believer in the Park Hopper option on your Walt Disney World tickets. Having the flexibility to visit more than one park in a day can really enhance your Disney vacation. I like to park hop to catch a show or have a dining reservation without being ‘tied’ to one park for the whole day. We can enjoy the morning Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom and still be able to catch Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios at night.

 

For those of us who like to park hop, there is a new service designed just for us.

 

Here are 5 reasons I loved Disney’s Express Transportation option:

1.  Backstage Access

The bus stops in each of the 4 parks are inside of the park, backstage. Once on board the bus, you are treated to a view behind the scenes while you exit/enter the parks. No photos allowed though, but you can enjoy the view. For those of us who love all things ‘behind the scenes’ – this was a real treat.

 

2.  No security

With the bus dropping you off backstage at your desitnation – there is no need to go through security again! No need to get in line to have your bags searched again. Avoiding those security line-ups are a big plus for us.

 

3.  Time savings

Without going through security and having a bus that goes directly from one park to the other, we saved a ton of time.   We left Epcot one evening and was in the Magic Kingdom in under 30 minutes. It was a great way to maximize our time that day!

 

4.  No crowds

It may have been just our luck, but it really wasn’t crowded at all. I think we used the bus 6 times during our visit and the most people (in addition to our party) was 4 people. There were a few trips where we had a bus to ourselves!

 

5.  Good value for the price

We opted for the 7 day pass and found that it was a good value for the time savings and convenience. We did a lot of park hopping and used the service to our advantage. I’m not sure that the single day ticket at $19 USD is worth it, but the 7 day at $29 USD definitely was.

 

Other things to know before you buy:

You can purchase your express transportation tickets while on property – you can’t purchase in advance.

Buses depart approximately every 30 minutes.

Express Transportation is available each day from 10:00 AM until park closing. Make sure you find out when the last bus is scheduled to your destination.

Check in locations:

Animal Kingdom ExpressMagic Kingdom park – next to the exit of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Disney’s Animal Kingdom park – next to the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – the courtyard in front of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

Epcot – the east side of Spaceship Earth

For more information, see Disney’s official website here.

The only problem that we had with the Express Transportation was timing. With the last bus at ‘closing’ for the park, it made it difficult to enjoy the night time show at Hollywood Studios and catch the bus to Epcot for Illuminations. There were two nights where the last bus didn’t arrive when they said it would. Of course they were still testing the service and I expect they will work out some of these issues in time.

When we used this service outside of the last bus of the night, it worked like a charm. I will definitely be using this service again and I can’t wait to see what improvements they have made for next time.

Will you try the Express Transportation? Do you think it is worth the price?

 

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