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Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Rise of the Resistance Star Wars Walt Disney World and Disneyland The dates are IN!  Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will open in Walt Disney World Resort on December 5th, 2019.   The same attraction will open at Disneyland on January 17th, 2020.

Star Wars Land in both parks has created quite a stir and a lot of hype since they were first announced at the D23 Expo in 2017.   Fans have been anxiously awaiting the opening in both parks.

Disneyland was the first to open in May of this year with Walt Disney World opening it’s version on August 29th.  The challenge with both lands is that the Rise of the Resistance attraction would NOT open with the lands.   As of today – we have the dates for when it will open in both parks!

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Rise of the Resistance is said to be the “most immersive and advanced attraction ever imagined in a Disney Park”.  Given how immersive Flight of Passage is, I can’t imagine what this will be like!  

With components of the attraction including heroes of the resistance, escaping a star destroyer and avoiding Kylo Ren – what could possibly top this?  I don’t know but I can’t WAIT to find out!

Are YOU going to change your vacation dates to be sure you can experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance?  Leave me a comment below!

Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade Returns To Disneyland

Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade made it’s debut in Disneyland on June 17, 1972 and will be returning for a short time at Disneyland Resort.  Beginning on August 2nd with nightly performances through September 30th, 2019, guests will once again get to experience one of the most beloved parades in Disney history.  

I never had the opportuntiy to see the parade in Disneyland, my memories are from Walt Disney World where a slightly different version of the parade debuted in June of 1977.  Seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade was always really magical.  When you stand on Main Street and see those floats coming with all the LIGHTS, it’s overwhelming.  

As with all of Walt Disney World memories, the Main Street Electrical Parade holds so many great ones for me.  I had ambitions of being IN the parade either driving one of the little bugs, or as a trumpeter!  I think many of us have these goals we remember from our times there as kids.  On one of our Keys to the Kingdom tours we had a VIP guide who told us the story of his first time seeing that parade and how he told his Mum right then and there that one day he would play the trumpet on that float.  Sure enough, after high school he got a job at Walt Disney World, playing a trumpeter on the float.  It was then that he realized they didn’t actually PLAY a trumpet, and that he had made his dreams come true.

Petes Dragon Elliot Main Street Electrical Parade

Pete’s Dragon Elliot was larger than life!

I remember being little watching this parade and being in AWE of Pete’s Dragon Elliot.  He was so overwhelming, so BIG – and one of my favorite movies so it was pretty cool to see.  But the big emotional connection to this parade for me came when I saw it during a trip when I was 10 years old.  My sister Becky, my brother-in-law Keith and his friend Barry took me to Walt Disney World for Easter.  I knew I was going to have a ball – Keith and Barry were like brothers to me and while they were older than me, they totally made a point of coming down to my maturity level!  It was really the first time that we had been away without my Mum and Dad and they were given strict instructions about how to ‘take care of me’ especially in the Florida sun since I was so fair.  I think it may have been day 2 or 3 when I officially had sun stroke.  

Here I am with my sun stroke!

Given that we had limited time at the Magic Kingdom, there was no time for sick days!  The only way to get through it was to get me a wheelchair and keep on going.  There were points in the day that my teeth were chattering because I had such a fever that they had to buy me some Disney towels to wrap myself in to try and ‘warm up’.  I really think they had no idea what to do, and there was no internet to google!

Pixie Dust Fan Amazon Store

Shop from my wish list!

We sat down to get our spot on Main Street to watch the parade, it wasn’t nearly as busy as it gets today.  It wasn’t our first time seeing the parade but we loved it so much we made sure to see it every time we could.

Cinderella in her coach

Cindrella was in her carriage and Prince Charming was on a different float.  His float had a lighted staircase where he stood at the top holding a pillow with the glass slipper.  As his float passed us, he looked me right in the eye, bowed, and made the gesture of offering the slipper to me.  I was SO excited!  Prince Charming had noticed ME and offered ME the slipper!  I’m not sure why that one moment made me so happy, maybe it was the fever – but I really believed that Prince Charming thought that I was special.  If I close my eyes right now I can see him and feel the excitement all over again.  I remember my brothers making fun of me for being so excited (cause thats what brothers do) and teased me for days about going back to find my Prince Charming!  

Prince Charming Main Street Electrical Parade

MY Prince Charming on his staircase! It’s not the greatest picture, but it’s what I have from that night!

I often think back to that parade, it was a moment – a split second that left such an imprint in my memory and heart.  I felt SO special in that moment and I’m sure that Prince Charming from that float had NO idea what it meant to me.  He had no idea that such a small gesture would lift my spirits and make me feel so special.  I’m sure that 10 year olds now are a little more savvy than I was back then, but I can’t see that parade without thinking about that moment. 

I have so many memories like that from growing up at Walt Disney World that has made me the fan I am today.  Each time I visit there are new experiences, new moments created that give me all the feels – what do they call them in Inside Out?   Ya, that was definately a core memory for me.  

Here’s a look back at what it was like back then!  When was your first trip? 

Disney Parks Live Streaming – 4 Reasons I Love It

The #DisneyParksLIVE streams have been such a terrific addition to Disney’s social media presence.  With all of the bloggers and vloggers who visit the parks and live stream (myself included), it only makes sense that Disney participate.  This way Disney can present the full live stream of an event with a professional video that showcases it properly.

With all of the special events, it is exciting to follow the Disney Parks Blog to see what’s coming next on the live streams!

This week Disney is treating us to a special view for their 4th of July Fireworks!  This is SURE to be a fantastic show that will start at 9:13pm On July 4th on the Disney Parks Blog.

Here are the top 4 things I love about #DisneyParksLive streams

1. Comfort of watching at home

I get to sit on my couch on a Sunday night and watch the Boo To You Parade instead of thinking about my dreaded work week ahead?  Or how about when I can’t get to the parks for the 4th of July or New Years Eve?  No problem – I can stream them in on my TV!

2. Social Interaction with other Disney fans

I get to tweet and chat with other Disney fans on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.  It is always fun to connect with Disney fans from all over the world, and a few from Toronto too!  Just use the hashtag #DisneyParksLIVE and you’ll find conversations on every platform!

3. When I can’t be in Disney, I don’t miss the big events

I have the chance to see some things live, as they happen!  From theme park announcements to Expos, I don’t miss a thing.

4. I get to experience a little magic at home

I feel like I’m still experiencing some magic – even though I’m at home.  If I can’t be there, at least I can escape for a few minutes and feel like I have a front row seat!  Who doesn’t want a little magic from home?

Are you following #DisneyParksLive?  What has been your favourite one?  Let us know in the comments below!

Pizzafari Family Style Dining Review

Disney Animal Kingdom PizzafariI always want to try something new to introduce to my clients. This last trip I tried Pizzafari Family Style Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and I was pleasantly surprised.

Table at Pizzafari

Dining Table

 This location is a quick service dining location but when you arrive you head over to the podium at the far check out. You will check-in in here. After you are checked-in you go to the register to pay for your meal which requires 1 quick service dining credit for each guest or if you are not on the dining plan the cost is $19.99 per adult, $11.99 per child – plus tax (gratuity not included or required). This price was as of April 2019.

Pizzafari Pepperoni Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

They will take your drink order and ask you how you would like your pizza. You have a choice of full pepperoni or just cheese and you also have the option of half pepperoni and half cheese. Your beverages include fountain beverages, coffee, hot tea, hot cocoa, bottled water or mandarin orange lemonade. Alcoholic beverages are also included: Bud Light, Safari Amber, Wine (Chardonnay or Merlot) or Mandarin Orange Lemonade with Vodka.

You are then given your drinks and your salads and a cast member will bring you to your seat. 

Pizzafari Drinks and salad

Drinks and salad

You are seated in a separate section of the restaurant which is nice. You don’t have to go searching for a table. Your table has your plate and “real” utensils and cloth napkins. You will need to pick up your salt, pepper and any extras you like at the condiment bar before you sit down. The amount of food you are given depends on your party size. This meal it was just my mother and I. You will receive Capresse Salad and Caesar Salad.

Pizzafari Pizza and Cannolis

There is Baked Ziti, Fettuccini alfredo with Chicken and Pizza, for dessert there is miniature cannolis.

The food will come out quick, not a long wait to eat. We didn’t have our salads finished and our food was there. They bring your meal to you on a little cart. There is Baked Ziti, Fettuccini alfredo with Chicken and Pizza, for dessert there is miniature cannolis.

Pizzafari Fettuccini

Fettuccini

So, if you are hungrier than a hippo this is the place to be!! This family style dinner is served from 5:00pm – 7:00pm.  You can make advance dining reservations and they also accommodate walk-ins. I can tell you I will be back!!!

What other locations would you recommend for dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?  Let us know!

Anna at PMV

Anna at PMV

Anna’s love for Disney started at a young age, traveling to Walt Disney World with her family, and she has passed that same love onto her daughter. She has been returning on a regular basis ever since, with multiple visits in the same year.

When you ask Anna why she continues to travel to Disney she says “it’s that magic, and once you feel it, it never goes away. Every time I smell a scent through the air on Main Street, I’m home. Every time I hear the sound of the park music, I’m home. When I set foot in that magical world all my troubles disappear”.

To have Anna help plan your next magical vacation – contact her at Anna@puremagicvacations.ca

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge My First Look Inside


Big Wheels, Space Invaders, Jack Tripper and Star Wars.  

If you were born in the 70s, just reading that list would make you smile.  I have special memories attached to each one.

  • The boys I had a crush on who rode their Big Wheels in the courtyard in front of my house. 
  • My Mum and Dad arguing with me over the controllers for Space Invaders that we played on the one TV we had.
  • Every week laughing at Jack, Janet and Chrissy while I ate ketchup chips washed down with a can of Coke
  • Seeing Star Wars for the very first time with my brother as I idolized Leia and fell in love with Han Solo.

Each memory brings such emotion, and this is why I cried on April 30th when I stepped behind the wall and saw Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

I was invited to a social media event that had us touring resorts, tasting menus and attending presentations about all of the amazing things coming to Walt Disney World this year.  It was an incredible adventure, full of surprises and activities that I am so grateful that I was a part of.

Social Media Event Check In #DiscoverWDWMagic

 

One of the days on our itinerary said we were going to Hollywood Studios for “Guest speakers on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and a look into the future of Hollywood Studios”.  I was so excited to read that we were going to be talking about Star Wars, but I almost FAINTED when I read that we needed to be wearing pants and closed toe hard sole shoes.  WHAT??  That can’t be.  Are we going to a construction site??  In my head I’m thinking to myself “don’t get excited, it’s not going to be that, it can’t POSSIBLY be that, you are NOT going to see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

 

And then they tell us, we’re GOING IN to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.  I almost hyperventilated. 


We walked through the door on the right. Lots of activity going on before we went through!

 

We were divided in to small groups of 5 to go inside.  We had our Disney guide (who had been with us for the social media event) and then we had 2 people from Imagineering who could tell us about the land and answer questions .  We were given safety glasses and reminded that there could be no photos.  My safety glasses are now a treasured souvenir!

I will hold on to these safety glasses as a souvenir of a wonderful day!

As we entered through the door, we could see a HUGE model of Galaxy’s Edge on a table.  The model is used for the purposes of painting and carving the rock work in the land.  The model itself was about 3 years old and some of buildings that were on it had not made it to the final phase. 

 

We got ‘oriented’ by looking at the model to see where we were in the land.  We were in the shadows and the sunlight was streaming in under the archway that we were about to walk through.  As we walked down the path and stood in the sun, I was overwhelmed.  

While I have no pictures to share, I can tell you that this land is like nothing I had imagined.  We have all seen the artist drawings, the concept art and every little nugget and fly over by a drone that’s been leaked.  What you can’t get from all of those things is the SIZE of this land, everything was bigger than I expected.  From where we stood, we could only see a fraction of the 14 acre land, and it was incredible.  

Star Wars Galaxys Edge

Of course there are all of the Disney details in Galaxy’s Edge including footprints from some kind of creature on Batuu.  The storytelling is on point with only one spire being black that serves as sort of the organizing place on Batuu.  If you need fuel or to make a trade, you go to the Black Spire Outpost.   The dome and the walls of the cantina will be scarred by the pilots who failed to put the Falcon down properly.  I stood in awe listening to all of the details they shared, including that we have Rex from the old Star Tours as a DJ in the cantina!

As we turned to leave, I was holding back the emotion that was taking over.  The lovely girl that was with us whispered in my ear “it’s okay to cry, many have cried when they see it”.  So, I did.  I had to share my thoughts with everyone right away – so I put on my sunglasses and went live on Facebook.  I don’t even think I made sense, I just had to tell everyone!

For every one of us who wanted to be a Jedi, Galaxy’s Edge is everything we dreamed of and more.  While we may pushing 50 – we are all going to be kids again when we visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Can you imagine taking your friends to Galaxy’s Edge?  Bob Iger took some special guests, oh to be a fly on those walls!

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in Disneyland on May 31st and Walt Disney World on August 29th with the Millennium Falcon:  Smugglers Run attraction.  The Rise of the Resistance attraction will open later in the year.  

Are you excited about Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge?   Do YOU have a trip booked to go?  If you don’t – contact my friends at Pure Magic Vacations for a quote!  May the force be with you!

 

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Extra Magic Hours

EXTRA EXTRAThis fall, guests of Disney Resort hotels and other select hotels will have more opportunities to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours with a new limited time EXTRA EXTRA Magic Hours!

This new benefit WILL include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I will include other experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom – but really, the big ticket is Star Wars. 

Hollywood Studios:

September 1 – November 2nd the park will have these new Extra, Extra Magic hours between 6am and 9am for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as well as Toy Story Land attractions.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge officially opens on August 29th.  From August 29-31st the park will be open at 6am for EVERYONE – not just resort guests.  You can expect long lines and the park reaching capacity early in the day.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Extra, Extra Magic Hours will happen daily Aug. 29-Nov. 2, from 7-8 a.m., featuring Pandora – The World of Avatar and other attractions throughout the park (same as today’s morning Extra Magic Hours offerings).

Magic Kingdom – Extra, Extra Magic Hours are scheduled every day between Aug. 29th to Nov. 2nd between 7 and 8 am.

The Extra, Extra Magic Hours benefit is open to those guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort who also have a valid theme park ticket.

It’s important to note that not all Walt Disney World attractions are available with the Extra Magic Hours benefit.  Disney is working to curb some of the influx of guests that will arrive with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and I think this is the first step in doing so.

Are you visiting Walt Disney World for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?

How excited are you?

 

Disney’s Magic Kingdom Sleepy Hollow – The Hidden Gem

Sleepy Hollow with CastleSleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom can be easily overlooked.  Located just off to the left of the castle, you’re often so focused on the castle you don’t notice this little treasure!  Trust me, after looking at the menu and seeing my pictures, you’ll add this to your list of places to visit!

Located often in the shadows of Cinderella Castle, Sleepy Hollow is just inside of the entrance to Liberty Square.   A quick service location with a menu of snacky food – what could be better than that?

Dining plans are not accepted at this location, always check the official Disney pages for up to date information on inclusions and exclusions.

It’s no secret that I like to snack, I love cupcakes and all sorts of sweets!  So this fresh fruit waffle is exactly what I need!

Sleepy Hollow Waffle

Somehow with the fruit on it I feel like it’s healthy??

Honestly, the fruit just makes it feel like it should be considered a healthy option – but the chocolate spread is what kinda makes me suspect it isn’t.

If you’re looking for a little protein, there is a sweet and spicy chicken sandwich.  On a waffle… Yes – on a waffle with some slaw – and it’s as delicious as it looks.

Sleepy Hollow Chicken Waffle

The chicken was cooked perfectly!

I think you’re supposed to fold these up and eat them like a sandwhich, but they’re just too big.  We had to use a knife and fork for them – and we probably could have shared it.

For the hot dog lover in our group he had to get the pretzel dog.  He said that was good, but maybe not the best dog he’s ever tasted.  I think this place should probably be more about the waffles.  Casey’s has great hot dogs if that’s what you’re after.

Sleepy Hollow Dog

Comes with the house made chips

The menu itself is small but it’s worth stopping by.  I only wish that there was more seating in the area to enjoy the food and the view.

Sleepy Hollow Menu

Have you eaten at Sleepy Hollow?  What did you have?  That Ice Cream sandwich is calling to me!

 

The Windows On Main Street USA

When you’re standing on the curb waiting for the three o’clock parade do you ever stop to look at the windows on Main Street USA?  Did you know that each of those windows pays tribute to someone who has a significant place in Disney history . . . and each window tells a story. 

When Walt first imagined Disneyland, almost 70 years ago, he wanted Main Street to resemble the commercial hub in a turn-of-the-20th-century American town.  Harper Goff was one of the early Imagineers who played a key role in designing that magnificent park entrance at Disneyland.  It reflects Walt’s memories from his younger years in Marceline Missouri and Harper Goff’s recollections from his formative years in Fort Collins Colorado.  Walt Disney said, “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories.  For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.”

Disney Windows

The storefront windows display goods on sale in the shops along Main Street, but if you look at the second story windows you will see some make-believe businesses.  Walt decided to use those windows, and those imaginary businesses, to honour the many people who helped him make his Disneyland dream a reality.

When Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the Magic Kingdom included Main Street USA and more of those special tribute windows. In fact, every Disney park around the world has a Main Street.

Let’s take a look at a few windows:

Walt referred to Ken Anderson as his “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an artist and had a background in architecture.  Those factors made him an invaluable resource for Walt as Disneyland was being designed and built.  The Ken Anderson window, above the Market House in Disneyland, also shows Walt’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.  Anderson was an avid fly fisherman . . . and everyone knows that fly fishermen do not need bait!

Ken Anderson window

Ken Anderson Window

The Disney family is well represented in this window above Crystal Arts in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  It honours Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, his wife Patty and their children Roy Patrick, Abigail, Susan and Timothy.  The entire family were avid sailors!

Roy Disney

Roy Disney and Family Represented

Look above the Emporium in Florida for Card Walker’s window. He was President, CEO and finally Chairman of Disney before retiring in 1983.   The reference to psychiatry and justice of the peace attest to Walker’s skill at keeping the many divisions in a large and ever-growing organization moving in the same direction.

Card Walker

Card Walker’s window

Charlie Ridgeway worked in Disney’s Publicity Department from 1963 until 1994.  His book, Spinning Disney’s World, details his career and gives some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes.  It should be part of every Disney fan’s library.  Look for Charlie’s window in Florida, above The Arcade.

Charlie Ridgeway

Charlie Ridgeway’s Window

There’s an interesting story behind Marty Sklar’s window at Disneyland and Marty himself tells the story in the Foreword he wrote for Chuck Snyder’s book “Windows on Main Street”.  It seems that Marty was still working, as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador, at Disney in about 2008 when they proposed a window for him at Disneyland; that created a bit of a dilemma!  You see there are very clear rules about the windows at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar was responsible for enforcing them.  The rules are: 1) Only retired employees, 2) Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement and 3) Agreement between individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering.  The awarding of windows is a bit less rigid at other parks; Mr. Sklar already had windows at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom.  But when the Disneyland window was offered he was still working and he respectfully declined. His magic day came July 17, 2009; the day he retired his Disneyland window was dedicated.  You can find Marty’s window at Disneyland’s City Hall.

Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar Window

There are several books about the windows lining Disney’s Main Streets and the one pictured above, written by Chuck Snyder and published by Disney Editions, is part of my Disney library.  You can buy the book online through Amazon.com or pick up a copy in the theme parks.

Windows On Main Street Book

Windows On Main Street Book

Ub & Don Iwerks have a Magic Kingdom window, above The Bakery.  Ub was a gifted animator who was with Walt from the beginning and helped create both Mickey Mouse and the multi-plane camera used in those early days of animation. Ub’s son Don was a Disney cinematographer for over 35 years and helped perfect the Circle-Vision camera.

Jim Cora has two windows, one at Disneyland, above Disney Clothiers, and the window pictured below which is in Disneyland Tokyo.  Jim began his Disney career in 1957 as a part-time attraction host at Disneyland and by the time he retired in 2001 he had risen to Chairman at Disneyland International.

Jim Cora

Jim Cora Window

Marc and Alice Davis are the only husband and wife team to have windows.  Look above the Disneyana Shop in Disneyland.  Marc was one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” of animation.  He joined Disney in 1935 and spent his entire career there.  His achievements are too many to review here, but you can see evidence of his talents in The Enchanted Tiki Room, It’s A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Mark and Alice Davis

Mark and Alice Davis Windows

Marc and Alice are both Disney Legends.  During the mad scramble to design and build those four famous exhibits for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Alice worked with Mary Blair to create more than 150 costumes for “It’s A Small World“.  She continued designing costumes for audio-animatronic figures, live action movies, even animated characters until her retirement in 1974.

Owen Pope and his family were the only people to ever live in the Disneyland park.  Mr. Pope was a horseman; he bought all the horses for Disneyland, he trained them, built their saddles, he even built the wagons and coaches used in Frontierland. In 1971 Owen Pope and his wife Dolly moved to Walt Disney World where he managed the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all the Magic Kingdom horses!  Look above the Magic Kingdom’s car barn for this window.

Owen Pope

Owen Pope Window

Wally Boag is another Disney Legend and you’ll find his window near the Carnation Café at Disneyland.  Walt Disney sat in on Mr. Boag’s audition in June of 1955 and offered him a two-week contract to perform as Pecos Bill at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue.  The show opened July 17, 1955 and Wally Boag performed there until he moved to Walt Disney World in 1971.  He directed and performed in a similar show at the newly built Diamond Horseshoe Revue before returning to Disneyland in 1974.  By the time he retired in 1982 Wally Boag had performed close to 40,000 shows in Disney parks!

Wally Boag

Wally Boag Window

Walt even honoured his father Elias Disney who founded his contracting business in Chicago in 1895.  You can spot Elias’ window above Uptown Jewellers in the Magic Kingdom and above the Emporium at Disneyland. 

Elias Disney

Elias Disney Window

The final window to look for is Walt’s.  He has two at the Magic Kingdom but the one he’d be proudest of is above the Train Station.

Walt Disney Window

Walt’s Window

Those are just a few of the hundreds of windows; this blog has barely scratched the surface.  If you want to read more about the amazing people hidden behind those windows on Main Street I recommend that you buy one of the handful of books on the subject!

I wonder if Disney would ever accept nominations for new windows?  If they did, I know who I would nominate . . . Oscar Martinez! 

Oscar began his Disney career on Dec. 29, 1956 and in 2011 he was honoured as the one-and-onlyemployee to record 55 years of continuous service in any Disney company. During those 55 years at Disneyland he trained thousands of cast members and became a favourite of many guests, including Carol and I.  We always made sure we stopped to visit with Oscar every time we went to Disneyland.

Oscar Martinez and Gary Cruise

We always made a point to visit Oscar

To commemorate Oscar’s 2011 milestone of 55 years service The Walt Disney Company created a special Snow White-themed service award. It’s unlikely that anyone else will ever achieve this milestone, so Oscar’s award is destined to remain one-of-a-kind!

Oscar Martinez Retires

Special Award For Oscar

Oscar retired September 27, 2017 with almost 61 years of service and he still drops into the Carnation Café from time to time . . . it seems he just can’t stop being an ambassador for Disney!

Oscar Martinez Disney Window

Thank YOU Oscar!

What do you think?  Doesn’t Oscar Martinez deserve a window?

I’ll end this blog by suggesting a new game you can play at any of the Disney parks!   

In an article written for the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine Diane Disney Miller quoted her father Walt, “…if people were waiting in line, then you had to create more entertainment to keep them happy.”  That explains the wonderful interactive queues we all experience in the theme parks, and it also suggests a second reason for those Main Street windows.  They can help keep you entertained while you wait! 

So . . . the next time you’re waiting along Main Street for the three o’clock parade take a minute to look around at those windows.  Some of the names you may recognize immediately. But – when you see a name that isn’t familiar, pull out your smart phone and search the name on the internet.  Involve your family; make it a game to see how many of the people honoured in those windows you can identify!

 

 

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Why The PeopleMover Is One Of My Must Do Attractions At The Magic Kingdom

PeopleMover SignIf you’re visiting the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, make sure you  take a ride on the PeopleMover!  

The PeopleMover first opened in the Magic Kingdom in 1975 and has had a few names since then.  It started as the WEDway PeopleMover and changed to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) in 1994.  In 2010 it was renamed to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and continues to have that name today.  

This classic attraction was ahead of it’s time using technology that uses magnets to propel the vehicles along the track (I am really over simplifying here!).  This pollution free technology was was developed by WED Enterprises, the original version of Disney Imagineering.  

Fun Fact:  The WED stands for Walter Elias Disney. 

This PeopleMover attraction is located in Tomorrowland and has no height restrictions, all of the little ones can experience it.  The only restriction is that you must be ambulatory – you have to be able to walk on to the attraction and sit in the vehicle.  There is a spinning platform that moves at the same speed as the vehicle, but please be careful if you’re not too steady on your feet. 

PeopleMover Seats

These vehicles move at the same speed as the moving platform

 

Once ‘on board’ the PeopleMover you will travel around Tomorrowland getting some pretty unique views that you can’t get anywhere else.  You will travel through Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and see these attractions from a different perspective. 

Cinderella Castle From PeopleMover

The view of Cinderella Castle is gorgeous both day and night!

 

Seeing Cinderella Castle and Astro Orbiter from here makes for some great photos!  My favourite part of this entire experience is when you enter in to a tunnel for a look at Progress City.

Progress City is the very detailed model of what Walt’s vision for Epcot was in the beginning.  While it looks nothing like the Epcot that we know and love today, it gives you a glimpse of what Walt was trying to accomplish – to build a real community of tomorrow.  It’s fascinating to me how forward thinking he was.

Astro Orbiter from PeopleMover

A GREAT view of Astro Orbiter from the PeopleMover

 

The full journey around Tomorrowland on the PeopleMover is approximately 10 minutes and very rarely has a long wait.  It’s the perfect spot to enjoy some shade from the sun, some great views and a little relaxation! 

Is the PeopleMover on your list of must do attractions at the Magic Kingdom?  How many times do you ride in a visit?

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Opening At Disneyland And Walt Disney World

Galaxys EdgeStar Wars fans, including myself, have been on the edge of their seat ever since the D23 Expo in 2015 when it was first announced that Star Wars would have a huge presence in both Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim as concept art was shown for two identical 14-acre lands, now known as Star Wars; Galaxy’s Edge. 

Flash forward to March 7th, 2019 – Disney has finally released the opening dates for both of these highly anticipated lands. During the annual shareholder meeting held in St. Louis, MO., Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that guests visiting Disneyland in Anaheim will be the first to visit the planet of Batuu starting on May 31st, 2019. Furthermore, Guests visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando will have to wait a little longer as the highly anticipated land will open on August 29, 2019.

It was also announced that both lands will open in two phases. During the first phase, guests will be able to pilot the Millenium Falcon during the E-Ticket motion simulator ride, Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run in addition to enjoying the various food & beverage locations and merchandise shops. During the second phase, which will be later in 2019, guests will be able to enjoy the second attraction, Star Wars: Rise of The Resistance, which is a E-Ticket dark ride in addition to Smugglers Run, the food & beverage offerings and merchandise shops.

Star Wars Galaxy Edge From Slinky Dog

View of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge from Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land

For guests visiting Disneyland between May 31st and June 23, a reservation will be needed to visit Batuu with those details not being released at this time. Guests with a resort reservation will be given a guaranteed time slot during their stay.

Over on the east coast, Guests visiting Walt Disney World will not have to make a reservation, but capacity of the land will be limited. It is exciting to note that Extra Magic Hours will be available to Guests with a hotel reservation but those details have yet to be announced.

It is an exciting year ahead for Star Wars fans and I can’t wait to check out Batuu for myself during my visit to Walt Disney World this fall!  I’m most looking forward to riding both of these E-Ticket attractions, especially Star Wars: Rise of The Resistance and of course, enjoying all the delicious food and drinks including the famous Blue Milk!

What are you looking forward to the most when you first visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

I look forward to seeing you in the parks!

* Curtis 

Follow Curtis on Instagram at @CurtisH_23

 

Review – Friar’s Nook at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

The Friars NookFriar’s Nook at the Magic Kingdom has always been a place I walked by.  I may have stopped for a cold drink once in a while, but it’s never been on my list of places to eat.  I suspect it’s because I usually stop at Storybook Treats next door – they have some fantastic ice cream treats that has always lured me away from Friar’s Nook.  Until now.

Menu at Friars Nook

The Menu

Friar Nook Menu

How to choose??

Friar’s Nook had a few people mulling about before it opened and some looked like off-duty cast members.  That’s always a good sign if the cast members like it, they know where the good food is!

Bill from Friars Nook

Our bill. It was worth every penny

When the window opened I ordered 2 different ‘tot’ dishes for my sister and I.

I opted for the loaded buffalo chicken tots, and all I can say is WOW!!  These were just the right amount of spicy with a little celery, bleu cheese crumbles, and a bit of garlic ranch dressing.  Seriously, all of that together – how can you NOT love it?  It was delicious!

Loaded Buffalo Chicken Tots

Loaded Buffalo Chicken Tots

My sister decided she wanted the creamy bacon macaroni & cheese tots.  There was a healthy amount of bacon and the macaroni was cooked well and not drowning in sauce.  It was very tasty!

Mac and Cheese Tots

Creamy Bacon Macaroni & Cheese

If you haven’t tried the food at Friar’s Nook, I suggest you do.  I loved the buffalo chicken, but next time I might even try the loaded fiesta tots – they are ground beef chili, tomatoes and peppers – on TOTS!  I love all kinds of potatoes, so a place that’s all about tots is my kinda place!

Have you eaten here?  What dish is your favourite?

 

Astro Orbiter – Why I Will Never Ride Again

Astro OrbiterAstro Orbiter in the Magic Kingdom has always puzzled me.  I have been visiting Walt Disney World since 1974 and apparently this attraction originally opened in 1974 as StarJets.  It was later refreshed and updated in the mid 90’s to be Astro Orbiter.

The funny thing is, I don’t ever remember being on this attraction.  How could I have visited Walt Disney World all these years and never been on it?  My family seem to think I had, but it was bugging me – I had to experience it.  There couldn’t be an attraction at Walt Disney World that I hadn’t been on at least once?

I was there with my 2 sisters and brother in law when I happened to notice there was NO line.  I figured this was my chance.  No one wanted to go with me, but that was ok – I told them to grab a seat and I would be right back.

Astro Orbiter View

Before I knew it – I was in the elevator on the ride up the 2 stories.  I figured this would be fun, like Dumbo only with rocket ships.  I was wrong – these were not like Dumbo at all.

Astro Orbiter Rocket

This rocket was next to impossible to get in and out of!

If I were 10 years old, this may have been fun.  Even in my 20’s I may have gotten a kick out of it, but in my (cough) 40’s – this was not fun at all.  The rocket required me to ‘climb’ in and then basically sit almost flat in the ship with my feet out in front of me.  A bit like Space Mountain, but much more flat – like no seat.  Once I finally got in to my rocket, I wasn’t sure how I would ever get out.

Astro Orbiter Rocket Lever

Once my feet were out front, I wasn’t sure what to do!

The attraction was fun, spinning around and using the handle to make my rocket go up and down.  Some pretty spectacular views from up there but after 3 or 4 ’rounds’ I started to feel dizzy.  Maybe it’s because it’s higher up or maybe it’s because you’re on a bit of a slant, but I have never felt that way on Dumbo.  I took a quick selfie as ‘proof’ that I had been on the attraction, so I would never have to do it again.

Astro Orbiter Selfie

Proof I was on it!

Once it stopped and we were back, I REALLY struggled to get up and out of my rocket.  I tried to turn, get up on my knees, pull myself up with the sides of the rocket – if it wasn’t so sad it would have been comical.  I was too old, and I knew it.  I finally managed to maneuver my way upright and was the opposite of graceful as I exited.   I think I gave a few people a good chuckle – and that’s really all that matters.

Here’s a quick peek from above!

Frozen Dessert Party At Epcot Review

The Frozen Ever After Dessert Party at Epcot is an opportunity to eat some sweet treats, reserve a great spot for Illuminations AND experience the Frozen attraction without a long wait!  Who wouldn’t want to do all that??

The evening that we did the Frozen Dessert Party, the weather was not the greatest.  We checked in at World Showcase Plaza, located next to Disney Traders.  We were directed to the Frozen attraction and were led upstairs to a room where our desserts would be served inside.

The room was decorated with some cute ‘candle’ holders on the tables, and there was plenty of seating for everyone.

There was quite a variety of drinks including pop, juice, coffee/tea, water, beer, sangria and wine!

Frozen_Dessert_Party_Pop

Canned soft drinks

Frozen Dessert Party Drinks

Water, Juice, Coffee and Tea

Then it was time to look at the food… and wow – there was a lot to enjoy!

Frozen_Dessert_Party_Fresh_Fruits

The Fresh Fruit was yummy

Frozen Dessert Party Bread and cheese

Cheese fondue was fun – I even had some broccoli!

My favourites were the cheese fondue, freeze dried popcorn, Elsa’s Blue velvet cupcakes and the S’mores pudding cake.

Blue Velvet cupcakes – loved the icing on these!

S’more pudding – it was delicious!!

All of the treats were tasty, but I will admit to having second helpings of the cheese, popcorn and cake.

Frozen_Dessert_Party_Desserts

My first tasting

While I didn’t feel rushed, the time did pass quickly and it was time to go to our viewing area for Illuminations.  It was probably a good thing it was time to go – or I may have gone back for 3rd, 4th and 7th helpings of that S’mores pudding cake!

 

The viewing area was right at the base of World Showcase – directly across from the American pavilion.  It was a good place to watch from – and there was plenty of room.  If we had the desserts outside, we would have had assigned tables, but it would have still been a great view.

Frozen Dessert Party Illuminations viewing area

We purposely stood back from the railing – there was so much room

Once Illuminations were over, you are led back to the Frozen attraction where you are escorted on without a wait.  I have to confess, we didn’t go!  We were staying at the Boardwalk and it was hot and sticky – we didn’t feel like walking all the way back to Norway when we were already half way ‘home’.  Don’t worry – we have been on the attraction before, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out.

Was it worth the money?  It all depends on what is important to you.  The admission was $79 per adult (10 and up) and $49 USD per child (3-9 years).  You don’t need to fastpass Frozen during the day (or stand in the lines!) and you also get a fantastic view for Illuminations. This was probably the best view I’ve ever had for Illuminations since I avoid crowded areas we are normally standing way back.  I enjoyed the desserts maybe a little too much, but that’s what I was there for!  Overall, we had a great experience and I was glad we had done it once, but I don’t think it will be something we do all the time.

Have you done the Frozen dessert party at Epcot?  What did you think?

 

Wild Africa Trek At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Review

If you are interested in an in depth look at the wildlife at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you will not be disappointed by this experience! The Wild Africa Trek begins by the main entrance of the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride where you check in, meet your guides and the other guests on this VIP tour. Safety is always a priority with Disney and this tour is no exception.  Bags, backpacks and hats are stored away in a locker and Trekkers are given a vest and harness to wear, along with a complimentary clip on water bottle which is yours to keep after tour. Sunglasses are put on a strap that is worn around your neck.

Rope_Bridge_Wild_Africa_Trek

The first part of the tour starts with a gentle hike into the safari grounds.  Along the way the guides will stop at various look out points and provide some interesting information about different plants and the safari in general.  The hike ends at a rope bridge.  Trekkers walk across the bridge one at a time and have the opportunity to get a very close view of the hippos and crocodiles.

View from the bridge

This is the view from the bridge

Once each family has had the opportunity for a photograph, the entire group loads into a jeep.  The jeep follows the normal Kilimanjaro Safaris road, but you get a much more personal view of the animals and stay for a lot longer at different spots than you would during the normal ride.  This gives you plenty of time to take as many pictures of the various animals as you would like.  Throughout the ride the guides provide interesting commentary on the animals and their personalities.

The trek ends at a lookout station over the savannah.  Here each guest is given a beautifully presented snack and a chance to take a few more pictures.  After about 30-45 minutes here, you are all taken back via jeep and it’s time take off the safety gear and say goodbye to the guides.

Our Snack

Our Snack

Our tour guides were Paola and Karen.  They were both personable, perky and were especially good with children.  They were very knowledgeable about the various animals and kept everyone interested and engaged throughout the trek.  They happily answered questions and were a lot of fun.  Throughout the trek, several trainers joined the group at different times and provided in-depth information about the hippos and crocodiles as well as some of the other animals.

Hippos

Up close with the Hippos

The guides also took pictures, a lot of pictures – almost 150 of them to be exact.  It was good mix of candid and staged shots.  You are welcome to take your own pictures on the tour (be sure to have a neck strap for your camera) but it’s nice to be able to experience some parts of the tour without worrying about getting a great shot. As the family photographer, I was thrilled to be in the pictures too!  These pictures are included in the cost of the trek and are accessible via an access code that is communicated to you at the end of the experience.

Sleeping Lion

If you are interested in learning more about the safari animals, you will not be disappointed by the Wild Africa Trek.  We paid full price for the tour, no discounts – these are all my opinions and I highly recommend it!  If you have tried this tour – I’d love to hear what you thought!   ~ Monica

This review was written by Monica Loberto, a travel agent who specializes in Disney destinations.

For more information or to book your WILD vacation, contact Monica today at Monica@puremagicvacations.ca

 

Feeding The Wildlife At Disney

Don’t Feed The Wildlife signs are scattered all over Walt Disney World, yet on any given day you can find someone feeding them.  What gives?  WHY would you do this?

While the Disney Parks have lots of Mice and Ducks running around – the majority of them are there to sign autographs and get pictures taken with!  Mickey and Donald won’t accept your snacks and don’t need to be fed.

There is a lot of real wildlife around the property and many just ignore the signs asking you not to feed them.  Here are some of the reasons you should NOT feed the wildlife.

Our food isn’t good for them

Take a look at this photo below.  A family in Epcot were enjoying their gigantic turkey leg but decided they didn’t want the skin.  Instead of throwing it out, they gave it to this bird who of course could not ‘bite’ it much less swallow it.  I was waiting for him to drop it so I could take it away, but it ran off with it hanging out of its mouth.

Turkey Leg Skin

Providing our ‘human’ snacks to these animals might be fun for your kids to see, but extremely dangerous to the wildlife.  They can’t chew or process the food that we can and can become very ill from it.

After you’ve had your fun watching them trying to eat the popcorn you just threw, they are struggling to swallow and digest the high amount of salt you have just injected in to their diet.

It attracts other wildlife to the area

Have you noticed that there are areas in the parks where you will find a high concentration of squirrels or birds?  They have been ‘trained’ that these are the areas where there are plenty of people with food that will feed them.  WE have trained them to come to these areas to get fed because too many people are feeding them.  There is such a crowd some days you would think the birds sent a mass text to their friends that there’s a big lunch crowd outside of the American Adventure and they should all come!

They lose their fear of people and that is dangerous for everyone

As these animals become accustomed to being fed by humans, they lose their natural instincts to be afraid of us.  When they are not afraid, they become more aggressive.  I have witnessed birds swoop down and take a French fry out of someones hand or a squirrel rip apart a stroller full of snacks.  What would happen if the bird or squirrel bit a child?  The family would be screaming the house down – even if they were feeding it popcorn seconds before.

We have to remember that we train the wildlife how to behave with our own actions.  This is why Disney has signs everywhere – for our SAFETY and the safety of the wildlife.

The next time you have a snack that you don’t want to finish, walk to the nearest trash can and dispose of it.  The trash cans are everywhere, and it’s the right thing to do.  Don’t be one of those annoying guests who can’t follow the rules.

Mobile Ordering Available With Disney Dining Plan

Mobile Food Ordering WDWBeginning January 31st, 2018 – Disney’s Mobile Ordering is available to guests using a Disney Dining Plan.

Mobile ordering allows guests to order their quick service meal via the My Disney Experience app to avoid waiting in line for a cashier. Using the app, you can order your meal and be notified when it’s ready for pick up.  For details on how to use the service – click here. 

Mobile ordering has been such a welcome feature at the select quick service locations, but was previously not available to guests with a dining plan – until now.  Mobile Food Ordering DisneyGuests with any of the three Disney Dining Plans can order their meal or snack and choose if they would like to redeem dining plan credits or pay by credit card.  The new ability to track your remaining dining credits on the app is an added convenience.  I can’t wait to see it rolled out to additional locations!

Check out the ‘how to’ video here:

Avatar Flight Of Passage Seats

Avatar Flight Of Passage Seat Side ViewAvatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom is arguably one of the BEST attractions at any of the parks.  It’s thrilling, exciting, intense and immersive, it’s an attraction not to be missed.  Unless of course you’re a certain body shape.

I remember visiting Universal Studios when the Harry Potter attractions first opened and being disappointed. They had made a fantastic new experience, but they couldn’t make it for everyone?  It was brand new, they had so many options for design, yet they were limiting many people from experiencing it.

Flight of Passage test seat out front of the attraction

Flight of Passage test seat out front of the attraction

Universal had a test seat outside of the attraction and I remember thinking how cruel that was.  If you weren’t sure that you would fit you could subject yourself to the stares and humiliation of trying to squeeze your body in just far enough for the vehicle to lock.  I was annoyed and self-righteous, Disney would NEVER do that I thought to myself.  And then they did.

In order to experience Avatar Flight of Passage you need to ‘fit’ on the vehicle.  I say “on” because it’s like a motorcycle where you straddle the seat.  You lean forward on the chest bar and pull your feet forward.

Avatar Flight Of Passage Seat Explained

Restraints are activated after you are in position – one comes across your back and two more behind your legs.  The key is the ‘click’ on the restraints to ensure that it has you secure.

It may not necessarily be a size issue that prevents people from getting the ‘click’, sometimes it’s a body shape issue that prevents the restraints from locking.  The size of your calves can prevent the leg restraints from locking, it’s not just your size around the middle.

Avatar Flight Of Passage Sample Seat View

When the restraints are activated and locked

While I understand that the test seat out front is to prevent guests from waiting in line only to find out they can’t ride, I can’t help but think that there has to be a better option.  Testing your ‘size’ in front of everyone is not a very magical experience for anyone.  I am hopeful that Disney is listening to the guest feedback and working on some flexible restraints that can accommodate more people.

 With the enormous wait times for this attraction, I would suggest anyone who is worried to try the test seat.  While it isn’t ideal, I wouldn’t want you to skip the attraction all together – it really is as good as everyone says.

If you want to read the full review of the attraction – you can read it here.

Did you try the test seat for Flight of Passage before you rode?

 

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?

 

5 Things That Irritate Me About Disney

WDW CarouselWith so many people posting things about Disney every day, it is hard to know what’s legitimate.  I have found articles, blogs and web pages who claim they are ‘Disney Experts’ with inside information that is completely unreliable.

Here are my top 5 irritants about Disney spam:

1.  Random blogs who post they have the best ‘tips’ for first timers, with incorrect information

It’s amazing to me how many people post blogs offering advice on a Walt Disney World vacation and then give information that is just plain wrong.  I recently had a friend forward a blog to me asking if she should purchase the ‘front of the line fastpass option’.   She said she was more than willing to pay the extra money toalways skip the lines instead of the fastpass option I had told her about. The answer was quite simple – I hadn’t told her about the option to purchase the ‘deluxe fastpass’ to skip the lines because Disney doesn’t have one!

2.  ‘Win a Free Trip to Disney’

This one is really annoying and very easy to fall for.  There are a ton of ‘fake’ Disney Facebook groups and pages offering free tickets, free trips and free merchandise.  I have stumbled on these when I see my friends ‘sharing the post for a chance to win’.  How do you know which pages are real? The real page will always have a blue check mark on it – meaning it’s verified.  Once you know what you’re looking for – these scammers are easier to spot than you think.

3.  Disney Facebook Groups

I know, this one is a touchy subject…(that I address in another blog). I belong to many of these groups too – but you have to know how important it is to take the information in there with a grain of salt. Some of these groups have thousands of people jumping at the chance to comment and advise you on your Disney vacation. Some posters really are knowledgeable and give good advice – but others have taken 1 trip to Disney and have crowned themselves “Disney Experts”.  Here are some of the comments I’ve seen that left me shaking my head:

  • Do you need reservations at Be Our Guest? Answer from a “Disney Expert” – “No, it’s a quick service at lunch – just walk in”
  • I know what I’m talking about… I’ve been going to WDW since 1968!  (Ummm.. Walt Disney World opened in 1971)
  • “Trust me, I’ve sailed on all 5 of the Disney ships and gratuities are included in the fare you see online” (They currently have 4 ships… and no – gratuities are not included!)
  • “Don’t worry – just put your selfie stick in your bag, they won’t know you have it” (I guess this expert has never gone through the back check?)
  • “If you yell ‘Andy’s home’ all of the Toy Story characters will lie still on the ground” (just an FYI – they do NOT do this)

4.  The crazy Disney rumor mill!

I admit – sometimes I get caught up in the excitement of the rumors.  I love to think about the ‘what ifs’ and hope that they are true. Sometimes it is fun to speculate what might be happening!  While most of them are harmless, sometimes I think they go a bit too far. There are social media/websites (who shall remain ‘anonymous’) that will create hype about things that can impact a guest trying to book a vacation.  They start they hype about ‘free dining months before anything comes out and it causes people to second guess their dates and decisions, waiting for that ‘amazing deal’ (that can be added to an existing booking in most cases). Last year social media created such a frenzy for free dining that people missed out on the room promotion (which was a really good one!) waiting for free dining.  When free dining was announced, it wasn’t the resorts they had hoped for and they had missed the room promotion which in some cases was cheaper!

5.  Canada vs. US

So much of the Disney community live in the US and most of the posts from them are specific to US travellers. Canadian travellers don’t always recognize that what is being posted does not apply to them. For example, some of the Disney promotions are available to Canadians long after they have expired them for US bookings.  Passport requirements always create confusion for Canadians after they have read info in a US posting about what they need on a cruise.  This is why it’s so important to find a Canadian Ear Marked travel agency that can advise you.

The moral of this story? Make sure you’re getting your Disney information from a reliable source.  If you read something online – take it with a grain of salt and verify it with a trusted professional.  Don’t be scammed, and don’t be fooled.

 

 

Smoking at Walt Disney World

WDW SmokingUPDATE:  AS OF MAY 1 2019  No smoking is permitted inside Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme parks, water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex or Downtown Disney in California.

Before we begin, I have to confess – I am a smoker.   Hold on to your pitchforks before you start with the lectures of how bad and disgusting it is – I’ve heard it, and I assure you – I know it.  I am well aware that it is detrimental to my health and how gross it is.  I’m an intelligent woman in my (dare I say it) mid 40’s who has heard it all.  Am I proud that I have not been able to quit?  No, I wish I could, and I still hope someday I will.  But that is a whole other blog.  (update – I quit smoking!  I use the money to visit Walt Disney World now!)

For those of you who are heading to Walt Disney World for the first time, you need to be aware of the 2 important rules about smoking.

All resort rooms are non-smoking, including your balcony.  There are designated areas at each resort.

All of the parks and Disney Springs have designated smoking areas, outside of the parks as of May 1st 2019.   You cannot smoke outside of these areas.  They can be difficult to find and may change frequently, so it’s best to check the Disney app for locations.

If you have not selected your resort yet – it’s wise to look at the maps online to see how many smoking areas there are and were they are located.  The majority of resorts that I have stayed at have been relatively convenient to reach a smoking area, with the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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It makes sense to me that there wouldn’t be smoking areas near the animals, but I didn’t realize how FAR I would have to walk, essentially to the parking lot.  I don’t know if it was just my luck that the room was at the end of a very long hall, but it felt like I needed to wake up an extra 45 minutes early in the morning just to walk to the smoking area!  At the end of a long day in the parks, it felt like miles….

Epcot Monorail

In the parks, it was a whole other story.  While Epcot seemed to be the most “smoker friendly” park, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom were not at all.  Essentially, they just didn’t have enough smoking areas.  Now there are none – anywhere in the parks.

I remember the days when you could walk down Main Street with a cigarette in your hand.  It wasn’t a good idea as it was too easy on a crowded day to have a child come close to the end of your cigarette in their excitement.  It made perfect sense to me when they banned smoking except in the designated smoking areas for this very reason.

I was happy to go to the designated areas back then.  There were a few sprinkled throughout the park and they were never crowded.  Not because there were no other smokers, but because there were quite a few areas!  Normally there was only ever 2 or 3 people in each one, so there wasn’t a big cloud of smoke hanging over them.  They were out of the way, yet easy enough to find.  Those were the good ol’ days.

Fast forward to now – and the smoking areas are outside of the parks.  What does that mean?  30 people in this ‘out of the way’ smoking area at a time, and the big cloud of smoke is above it, around it, and wafting every way it can.

Let me stop here to say, I would never smoke outside of one of these areas.  It is my choice to smoke and I respect the other guests at the park.  I have noticed over the last couple of years a significant increase in guests smoking outside of the designated areas and I have to wonder what changed?   I don’t think the smoking population has increased – but the available places to smoke have substantially decreased.

Is the lack of availability a good reason to break the rules?  Let me clearly say NO.  I would never condone any of the reasons people smoke outside of the designated areas.  I am merely pointing out that with the limited areas, we seem to have created another problem.

I am a Disney fanatic who happens to be a smoker and should be able to enjoy my vacation as much as anyone else – as long as I am respectful of others.

I understand that people have allergies, asthma, and host of things that are impacted by second hand smoke which is why I am in favor of designated areas so that people with these conditions do not have to be in them.  The smoking areas need to be easily avoidable for these people.  Now I only wish I could avoid the overpowering perfume of some guests that give me a severe headache – but again, that’s a whole other blog too.

What is the BEST answer in my opinion?  More smoking areas.  Before you start with your outrage, let me tell you what I believe this would have been the best solution.

1  The smoking areas should be more ‘out of the way’.

I don’t mean ‘impossible to find’.  They need to be in locations that are not walkways.  I’m never happy sitting in a walkway where guests have to walk through the smoking area to get where they’re going.  They need to have a choice to walk through or not – and the one that was on the walkway to Tomorrowland didn’t give them a choice.

2  There should be more of them.

You need to have more – to have less people in them to make them less of a ‘polluted air zone’.   When you cram 30 smokers in 1 area, it’s much more  toxic and noticeable to those people in the vicinity.  Overcrowding also causes the smokers to spread out – outside of the designated area.

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3  They need to be easy to find.

I know the app has the map – but they can’t be so well hidden that a first time visitor can’t find them.  Put them in the background and have a little sign or something that ‘points this way’ so that no one is wandering for 20 minutes trying to find one

4  Smoking outside of the areas must be strictly enforced.

Many cast members don’t enforce this rule because they don’t want a confrontation with the guest when they tell them they have to leave the park.  If they were a little more convenient it might be easier to approach them.

So there you have it, my view on the smoking at Disney debate.   I’m sure many of  you will disagree – but some will see my point.   It’s a very passionate debate and I’m anxious to hear your comments!

I quit smoking cigarettes in March 2018.  I still agree with everything I wrote 🙂

Walt Disney was a smoker himself, who died of lung cancer.

Walt Disney Smoking

 

Be Our Guest Breakfast Review – Worth The Price?

Be Our Guest Magic KingdomI love Be Our Guest restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, I think it’s one of the best themed places on property.  It really does make you feel like you’re right inside the movie and that at any moment, Belle and the Beast could take a twirl right there in the ballroom.

But what about the food?  It is a restaurant after all…

I have done dinner and lunch many times and always enjoyed the food, today was my second time doing breakfast and I have to say, I was very underwhelmed.

We were handed our menu outside and we debated what we would order.  My sister and I both decided that we were fairly hungry and got the same thing – the Feast a la Gaston.  It was scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken sausage, roasted potatoes and fresh fruit.  A similar offering to what I had at the Contempo Café the day before.   It came with a drink, but to my surprise the cast member said they did not offer bottled water – so we settled on a milk and a hot tea.  (The menu online says they have water – but this cast member said they didn’t).

The total cost was $51.12 USD for the two of us.  We were okay with that, we knew it was going to be a good breakfast so it was worth the splurge.

We took our seats in the dining room and waited for our breakfast to arrive.   Thanks to our Magic Bands – the cast member would find
us wherever we sat and bring our meals.  There are 3 distinct dining rooms to choose from, the Grand Ballroom, the West Wing and the Castle Gallery.  We have eaten in the first two multiple times so we choose the Castle Gallery for breakfast.
When our meal arrived, we were a little ‘underwhelmed’ by the presentation.  It was a rather large plate for the food that was on it.  The eggs were well cooked (which is good since I don’t like runny eggs), but the bacon was a little
lightly done for my liking.  I have never had chicken sausage before – and I can safely say I won’t again, I really didn’t care for that.  The potatoes were potatoes – nothing spectacular, but okay.

I like pastries generally, but this pastry dish didn’t blow me away.  There was a croissant, apple danish, a couple of mini muffins and a chocolate croissant.  We tasted each one for research purposes of course, but definitely weren’t fighting over them.

At the end of our breakfast we both agreed – we wouldn’t be doing breakfast again.  Maybe the food at lunch and dinner is so good that our expectations were too high?  Don’t get me wrong, we love the atmosphere of dining at Be Our Guest and ANY meal is a good opportunity to see inside this incredible theming in the Magic Kingdom.    If you were going for the food, I would recommend lunch or dinner and skip breakfast reservation.

 

It’s about time! Disney’s FastPass+ is enhanced

Beginning on April 10th, Disney’s FastPass+ system is being enhanced (finally!) to make it much more flexible for us when we’re in the parks.

The two big changes:

1. We can now book fewer than 3 selections at a time.  This is great because sometimes I just want to book the 7 dwarfs mine train and don’t want to select my other two.  Once before I randomly selected the additional two and when we went to change those, we accidentally deleted the mine train!

2. We can now book a new fastpass when we’ve used our first 3 all via the app!  The app will allow you to book additional fastpasses one at a time.  For example, once you’ve used your first 3, you can book a 4th.  Once you’ve used the 4th you can book a 5th.  Depending on the timing of your fastpasses – you could be maximizing your time in the parks really efficiently!   This makes it so much easier than finding a kiosk to grab your next one.

I’m excited about these changes and updates.  I wonder if Disney will hold some of the fastpasses and release them later in the day to accommodate the number of people who will be booking them after they’ve used their first 3.  This would be a great way for them to control the crowd flow in the parks.

Is this something that will make your Walt Disney World vacation experience better?  Comment below and tell us what you think!

 

 

5 Things To Do When It Rains At Disney

Raining at Walt Disney World

What do you do when it rains at Walt Disney World?

You’ve saved your money, booked your trip and headed to the most magical place on earth.  You get up in the morning and get ready for a full day of adventure when you see the weather report – RAIN!  Oh no!  What are you going to do?

Here’s 5 things you can do when it rains on your Disney vacation.

 1.  Grab a poncho and keep going.

If you haven’t thought to bring one from home, it’s okay – Disney sells them everywhere!   A little rain never hurt anyone, and most times it’s so hot that I’m happy for a little shower to cool off!

 

2.  Visit the indoor attractions

There are many indoor attractions at Walt Disney World that still operate during rain.   From the Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom to Star Tours at Hollywood studios – there’s always a ton of attractions and shows to choose from.  Take shelter inside and enjoy them!

3.  Check your My Disney Experience

When attractions are closed and you have a fastpass they will give you the option of a different attraction or fastpass to compensate.  Use the app to check the wait times for some of the nearby indoor attractions or do some mobile order food and take a break for a bite to eat!

4.  Visit a resort or shop

If you’re at the Magic Kingdom, it’s a great time to head over to the Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian or Polynesian resort to check things out.  During a light rain shower it’s the perfect time to check out some of the resorts.  If you’re over at Epcot or Hollywood Studios – the Boardwalk is still fun in the rain!  If you feel like shopping, you know you’re never far from a gift shop at Walt Disney World!

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5.  Sit tight

Grab a drink, and wait it out.  Florida rain showers are often quite short, even when they appear to be intense – they can pass over in minutes.  While watching all of the people scramble to leave the park, you can think about all you’re going to enjoy without the crowds when the showers are over!

Of course you want to be careful if it’s not just a rain shower.  If there’s a hurricane coming – take cover and don’t mess around.  Follow the instructions of the cast members and be safe.

Have you had some fun adventures in the rain at Walt Disney World?

Why I’ll Miss Dream Along With Mickey

Dream Along With MickeyI’ll admit – I wasn’t always a fan of the castle shows, until I saw Dream Along With Mickey.

The first time I saw this show I was in love with it.  It was such a great story and had some terrific characters, it also gave Donald Duck a bit of spotlight that he’s deserved for a while in my opinion!

The story revolved around Donald not believing in dreams and his friends were trying to convince him how powerful they could be. There were princesses and villains, happiness and adventure – all the things that make a great Disney story!

While it may sound a little sappy, this show always gave me goosebumps and hope.  When the entire crowd started chanting “Dreams come true”, you really felt like you were empowered to make your dreams come true.

Mickey had a little speech to Donald at the end of the show that always moved me, I’ll leave you to ponder how powerful the message really is.

“By remembering about the power of dreams, you reminded us all that when we believe in ourselves, and our friends, and our family – why there’s nothing we can’t do!  When you find the dream inside your heart, anything is possible!”   –  Mickey Mouse

Do you have a favourite castle show?

 

Cheshire Café Walt Disney World – What’s On The Menu?

Cheshire Cafe Cupcake Walt Disney WorldThe Cheshire Cafe in the Magic Kingdom has always been a great place for snacks, but when they change the menu, it’s disappointing!

A couple of years ago I discovered something that was exactly what my sweet tooth had been looking for.  I have a love of sugar (which is evident by my growing waist line!) and I love cupcakes.  The cupcakes at Walt Disney World usually have a good heaping dollop of icing on top.  While these cupcakes are delicious, there was one in particular that really got the ratio of icing vs. cake right!  It was the ‘cake cup’ that was once served at the Cheshire Café in the Magic Kingdom.

I had the opportunity to try both the Cheshire Cupcake (vanilla) and the Mad Hatter Mocha one.   I am a huge fan of all things chocolate – the vanilla was surprisingly my favorite!  The first time I tried it, I was in heaven.  It was a lot of sugar – so my sister and I shared one on our subsequent visits.   It was now on my list of ‘must have’ snacks in the Magic Kingdom.

I’m not sure why – but the Cheshire café stopped selling these lovely treats.  I don’t know why they did – I can just tell you that I miss them!  I have to chalk this one up to a ‘Why Disney?  WHY?’ decision that I will never understand.  If someone in food services at Disney is reading this, can you bring them back?  Pretty please?  While I like Sprinkles – I don’t want to have to go to Disney Springs for a good cupcake!

 

 

 

 

Disney’s Haunted Mansion – I Didn’t Know About The Pearls!

Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion has been a family favourite for so many years, but it wasn’t always, in fact – it terrified me!  My very first visit that I can remember to the Haunted Mansion I think I was about 4 or 5 years old. I remember walking in to the stretching room and hearing an ominous voice tell me that there was “no turning back now”.  I was in my Dad’s arms clinging to him as tightly as I could.  I remember being so scared I was crying and my Dad whispered to me “It’s okay honey, it’s Disney, nothing bad is going to happen”.  The pictures started to grow and stretch and I cowered in to my Dad’s chest, terrified to open my eyes!  The next thing I knew we were in our Doom Buggy and I had stopped crying. We were slowly moving through the mansion and I started to believe what my Dad was telling me, there was no reason to be scared.  This began my love of the Haunted Mansion.

I have visited the Haunted Mansion hundreds of times since that first visit.  You might wonder what keeps me coming back and not getting bored – it’s the details! Disney are the masters at creating experiences that keep you coming back so that you can learn and experience details that you didn’t know were there.  I know that I haven’t discovered all of the secrets that the Mansion has to offer – but here are just a few examples of things that you might not notice – unless you’re looking for them!

Haunted Mansion Details:

  • The tombstones you pass on the way in pay tribute to the Imagineers that worked on the attraction
  • When they designed the effects for the ballroom the used mirrors – but the dancers now appear backwards because of it. If you look closely – the women are leading the men
  • If you’re walking past the Haunted Mansion at night – look up at the windows, you might see ‘someone’ walking by!
  • As you leave the ballroom and begin to move backward – it is intended to signify you falling out of the attic. The caretaker and his dog are lighting the way to the graveyard as the only living people in the mansion
  • As you stroll down memory lane with the bride and her husbands – notice that the bride appears to be gaining wealth with each marriage!  With each wedding scene she acquires an extra strand of pearls
  • As you leave the mansion – be sure to pay your respects to Mr Toad.  He sits in the very back of the pet cemetery to pay homage to the attraction that was closed at Walt Disney World.  The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh now sits in its place.

In July 2015 I happened to be at Walt Disney World by myself for a few days.  I was wandering the Magic Kingdom late one evening and had a great conversation with a Cast Member that told me the story of the additional strand of pearls on the bride as well as the fact that she seems to get more china each time she gets married.  I thanked her for all of the information and got in line – I had to validate what she said!  I was so excited to go through and see it all again with a new perspective and new details to find. As I walked in to that stretching room just after midnight, by myself, I couldn’t help but remember my very first time.  As I was reminded that there was “no turning back now”, I smiled and thought to myself “It’s okay Dad, it’s Disney, I can do this by myself now”.

 

8 Reasons Why You Should Visit Disneyland

DisneylandDisneyland in California is where it all began, it’s the only park that Walt Disney opened and dedicated himself.  It was a challenging opening with many issues on that day, but it has remained a constant site of magic in Anaheim since 1955.

It is difficult not to compare Disneyland to Walt Disney World during my visits, and I always worry that I will be doing it all week. The size difference is drastic, but it doesn’t take long to realize that Disneyland had some amazing things that Walt Disney World does not.

Below are the top 8 reasons that I love Disneyland!

1.  Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour

Walt Disney World (WDW) has the Keys to the Kingdom tour that I have done many times but this tour had something that WDW didn’t – Walt himself.  Throughout the tour there were many stops along the way where we stood in the park and listened through our earpieces to Walt’s own voice talking about the very place that we were standing in. As we listened to his dedication speech, there were quite a few misty eyes in the group and I found myself covered in goose bumps as we walked in his footsteps.  The tour was an additional cost to the park admission, but worth every penny.

2.  Oswald

Before there was Mickey – there was Oswald.   Oswald made his debut in 1927 as one of Walt’s first animated stars and he signed a contract with a distributor who brokered a deal with Universal.  During contract negotiations the following year, Walt discovered that he no longer owned the rights to Oswald.  It was on that train ride home that a devastated Walt Disney first drew Mickey Mouse.  In 2006 Disney regained the rights to Oswald and he now appears at Disneyland! The fact that this lucky rabbit came before Mickey felt like such a big piece of Disney history – I was thrilled to meet him and have my picture taken.

Oswald

Meeting Oswald in Disneyland

3.  Cars Land

What can I say? Cars Land was incredible! I love Be Our Guest restaurant at WDW because it makes you feel like you are right inside the movie – Cars Land has the same feeling on a grander scale!  Walking up Route 66 and approaching the Cadillac Range mountains while passing Flo’s Café – it doesn’t get any better!  Radiator Springs Racers was such an immersive experience; I don’t think it could have been any better!

4.  The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland gets transformed for Halloween for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – it was ghoulishly fun to see the additions of these characters in to the already wonderful mansion.  The Hatbox Ghost who originally made a short appearance in the mansion in 1969 has materialized again and is one of the 999 happy haunts that live there. Remember though…there is room for 1,000 and they’re always looking for volunteers!

5.  Fantasmic

Fantasmic was a similar show to WDW, but it had some very different elements.  The first noticeable difference was that due to the size of Disneyland, I felt much closer to the show than I do at WDW since we usually sit near the back of the theatre for an easy exit.  At Disneyland they had Peter Pan instead of Pocahontas – that was awesome! It was a giant pirate ship with Peter, Wendy, Captain Hook, Smee and all the others fighting on top of the masts. I have to say – I was impressed!

6.  The Food!

The dining experiences at Disneyland were delicious!  We made reservations to eat at the Blue Bayou (inside the Pirates of the
Caribbean) as well as the Carthay Circle Restaurant in California Adventure – both were terrific experiences and the food was tasty. The rest of the week we dined on more quick service options with our favorites being the Corn Dog at the Corn Dog Castle and the Mac & Cheese at the Cozy Cone Motel. There was quite a variety of different quick service options throughout both parks that we were pleasantly surprised by how good they were!

7.  The Grand Californian

We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in a standard view room. The hotel was gorgeous and had it’s own enterance to the California Adventure park for hotel guests only. The proximity to Downtown Disney as well as Disneyland being a short walk away were terrific for an afternoon break from the parks.  We did walk over to check out the Disneyland hotel that hosts Trader Sam’s Tiki Enchanted Tiki Bar as well – highly recommend stopping by for a drink here!

8.  World of Color

By far my favorite experience at Disney’s California Adventure was the World of Color show. Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse hosted a 22-minute show of lasers, lights and fountains that told the story of Walt Disney. The show paid tribute to Walt and his imagination while highlighting all of the magic that has since been created because him.  The World of Color allows younger generations to learn about Walt Disney and be inspired by his determination, dreams and imagination.

“I only hope we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse”

Walt Disney

Check out Cars Land!

If You Had Wings

Disney had a campaign a while ago called “When did it start for you?”.  The campaign had asked people when they first fell in love with the magic and became a Disney fan for life. I started thinking, going back through my fondest memories to pinpoint the time that I fell in love with it. I discovered that there were too many memories that I couldn’t narrow it down!  This is just one of them.

When I was young, there was at attraction at Walt Disney World called “If You Had Wings” that was sponsored by Eastern Airlines. The attraction was a slow moving vehicle that took you through a variety of ‘scenes’ showing you all of the things you could ‘see’ with them.  There was a man holding a fish that would grow as his wife took the picture, sunny beaches at the ocean, people diving from cliffs, and my favorite – the policeman directing the traffic of pelicans!  Looking back I guess you could say it was a little cheesy – the rolls of film being shown on screens as you passed by.  So why on earth was this a great memory for me?  It was an attraction I experienced so many times with my Dad.

Each time we would go to the Magic Kingdom, my Dad and I would ride this together.  We’d giggle at the silly scenes and point them out to each other like it was our first time riding it.  The specifics of our conversations?  I can’t remember… what I can remember is that feeling of joy to get those few minutes alone with my Dad on our favorite attraction.  The last scene of the attraction you would enter a huge tunnel of sorts and it would simulate an airplane taking off complete with the view of the runway and the seat moving along in time with the airplane.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin now sits where If You Had Wings once did.  They have repurposed the track and it is a new favorite for my family – being competitive to see who can get the highest score.

My Dad is gone now, and I miss him every day. When I’m in the Magic Kingdom as an adult, I think about our times there and wonder what he would think of the park if he could see it now.  Sometimes I feel like he’s there with me.  When we get to that final scene in Buzz when you enter that very same big ‘tunnel’ – I can remember the plane taking off with my Dad’s arm around me, and I experience that feeling of happiness all over again.

 

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