Apr 27

Disney Planning – When to Go

imagesDisney planning can be very overwhelming, especially for first-timers.  With 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 23 resort hotels, hundreds of dining options, 5 championship golf courses, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex and the Downtown Disney entertainment mecca, The Walt Disney World Resort offers so many options that making plans can be complicated.  So, where do you start?  First things first….know when to go.  As one of the most visited theme parks in the world, there are times when the parks are just unbearably crowded.  The time of year you go can have a huge impact on the wait times for rides and how much you actually experience.    And, if this is your first visit, you will want to see as much of it as you can.

62303542100E45C3AD5B3692AA4612BAThe busiest times in the parks are during school breaks.  Summer breaks, spring breaks, Christmas breaks, etc.   The parks are also very busy during special events that are held throughout the parks like Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, Star Wars weekend, Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival, Halloween  and Christmas.

If you are visiting with children and are not opposed to pulling them out of school, there are certain times of the year that offer the most operative times for covering a lot of Disney ground.  For example, early fall is one of the best times to visit the parks.

September is a very quiet month, mainly because the kids have just gone back to school.  The beginning of October is a great time as well.  However, keep in mind that the middle to the end of October starts to pick up quite a bit.  According to several cast members, this is not only because of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party but also because year-round schools have their fall breaks at this time.

227187_1052704409069_319_nThe beginning of November and December are perfect times to visit with the exception of the full Thanksgiving week and the week of Christmas.  These two weeks are exceptionally busy and generally the Magic Kingdom will hit capacity by 10 am on Christmas morning.  Just so you know 100,000 guests is the max capacity for the Magic Kingdom. The parking lot closes at 75,000 to allow room for hotel resort guests arriving on buses, boats and monorail.  Trust me, it’s shoulder to shoulder people and not enjoyable.  If you want to see Disney World decorated for Christmas, the decorations start going up the first week of November and they start coming down around January 3rd.

January is my favorite time to visit the parks – no crowds, no lines, no problem!  It’s also my birthday and nothing is more fun than celebrating your birthday at your favorite place.  January through the beginning of March are fairly quiet months in the parks with the max wait time on the most popular rides being maybe 15 minutes at best.   Keep in mind that President’s day weekend can tend to be a bit busy given that it is a long weekend for most and the crowds start to pick up.

From mid-March through the end of April, the crowds start to increase because of kids and their Spring Breaks from school.  Easter weekend is a pretty popular weekend.  This is also when Epcot celebrates spring with it’s International Flower & Garden Festival through May.

The peak times at Disney World are mid-May through the end of summer.  Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving week, this is when you will experience the highest crowd levels and wait times for rides.  Not only is it crowded but it is also hot and steamy in the state of Florida…very hot!  Although I never turn down an opportunity to visit the parks, this is my least favorite time to go but don’t get me wrong, I will always endure the crowds just to get my Mickey fix!

Now that you know when to go, you will need to figure out how long to be there.  Stay tuned for tips on how long to plan for your trip.

Apr 26

Have a Magical Day

222367_1052704369068_94_nWalt Disney World is known as the most “magical” place in the world.  “Have a Magical Day” is one of the lines most commonly heard out of each cast members’ mouth. But do you know just how magical?  Disney World is so full of hidden gems, inside jokes and little details that guests see everyday but don’t realize the significance. Guests visiting the Magic Kingdom get their first taste of Walter E. Disney’s amazingly creative mind as soon as the rope drops.

The Magic Kingdom was designed as if its guests are walking into a movie theater.  You must pass through the tunnels of the railroad station in order to get into the park.  The WDW Railroad station serves as the “curtain” rising upon the upcoming movie.  As you pass through the tunnel, pay attention to the large posters of the rides found throughout the park – these posters are placed there to show guests the “upcoming attractions”.

Once you have passed through the train station tunnels, you will notice the strong smell of freshly popped popcorn.  Look to your left where you will find an old fashioned popcorn cart.  Do you know why?  That wonderfully enticing smell of fresh popcorn creates the illusion that you have just stepped into the lobby of a theater.

As you walk down Main Street, USA towards Cinderella’s Castle, there are shops offering merchandise and food which is what most people pay attention to.   There’s more than meets the eye.  The 2nd and 3rd story windows of the shops along Main Street represent the “opening credits” to the movie.  These windows not only bear the names of fictional businesses but also offer a tribute to those people who were significant to the Disney Company, to the development of the Walt Disney World Resort and their families.   For example, Walt’s brother Roy’s name can be found above the Confectionary shop (for those long time visitors, it’s where the old camera shop used to be) as well as his wife’s name and 7 of their children.  The last credit is given to Walt Disney himself and can be found above the Ice Cream Parlor.  If you are standing facing the castle at the end of Main Street, turn around and look above the Ice Cream Parlor.  There is it – the “star” of the show – Walter E. Disney.

And last but not least, the “main attraction” of the your movie experience – Cinderella’s Castle.  This is where your “Magical Day” begins. Enjoy the show!

Apr 25

Tower of Terror

SSA1-42_139-571x800Looking for a mysterious thrill ride?  Drop in on The Hollywood Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The Hollywood Tower Hotel in its heyday was a place were movies stars and the rich and famous of Tinseltown came to relax and unwind.  A place where one would go to see and be seen.   Legend has it that on a stormy Halloween night in 1939, 5 people were in the elevator when a violent storm struck and the patrons in the elevator were never to be heard from again.  The hotel closed that night and the whereabouts of those guests still remains a mystery.

Fast forward to current day, a time when you can tour the infamous abandoned hotel exactly as it was left in 1939.  As you enter under the wrought iron gates, you will wind through abandoned gardens overrun with weeds, decaying potted plants and an empty rusted pool as the faint sound of jazz music plays and screams linger in the background.

061906_1013-527x800Enter the dusty cobweb-ridden lobby and you will be directed into the dark library where a crack of lightning brightens the room and a TV comes on to welcome you to your Twilight Zone journey.  Guests touring the hotel are then brought down a secret passage way, through a boiler room and to the service elevator where the journey into a new dimension begins.

Board the rickety lift and strap yourself in as the service elevator launches upward into the darkness and the lights spookily flicker on and off.  As the lift reaches its first stop, the door opens to a long hallway where the spirits of the guests from the past will materialize and beckon you to join them, only to disappear again.   Your next stop forces your lift to move forward and your climb continues up to the 13th floor (of 175238_E230-640x800course) where the elevator begins it’s crazy ride as if it was taken over by an unseen spirit.

This ride features a high speed climb and sudden free-fall drops as the elevator with a mind of its own gives riders a great thrill.   With different ride patterns in place, guests can board this thrill ride several times in a day and never get the same experience.

There are several Hidden Mickeys to be found on this ride.  Hint:  Look at the balcony railing just before you enter….the toy the young girl is holding in the video….there is a great one in the boiler room just think water stain!

Snow White’s Ranking:  

Interest:  Kids, tweens, teens, and adults.

Height Requirements: 40 in. or taller

Accessibility:  Guests must transfer from Wheelchair/ECV

Thrill Level:  Big drops, dark and scary thrill ride

FASTPASS+ is offered.

Location:  Sunset Boulevard


Apr 24

Kilimanjaro Safari

UnknownLions and tigers and bears….oh my!  If you are spending the day at the Animal Kingdom, one thing you do not want to miss is the Kilimanjaro Safari.  Ok, so you will not see tigers or bears on this excursion, but there is a really good chance that you will will see lions sitting atop pride rock.

277Climb aboard an open-air safari vehicle as your African safari journey ventures out into the 110-acre Savannah of east Africa.  During this 20 minute expedition into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, your Disney tour guide will direct your attention to over 34 different species who are roaming free in a replica of their natural habitat.  As you travel over rugged terrain, you feel as though you are right in the center of their habitats.  Not to worry though, Disney has done a wonderful job of creating almost invisible barriers between man and beast in the creation of this animal sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of these amazing animals.

293While your guide will point out some of the animals you see on your excursion, the dash of every row on your open-air vehicle also offers a guide to its guests.  Some of the animals you may encounter on your African safari include black rhinos, giraffes, elephants, gazelles, lions, hippos, crocodiles, cheetahs, warthogs, wildebeasts, ostrich, flamingos, and white rhinos.   Have your cameras ready because you never know what you are going to see right in front of you.   Each and every safari offers guests a different experience and don’t be surprised if some of the animals come right up to the vehicle to get a glimpse of the humans that are on display.

259The best time to do you Safari excursion is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon as the animals seem to be a little more active during these times and guests are likely to see more action.  This ride is very popular so it is best to include it in your Fastpass+ to avoid long waits.

Snow White’s Ranking:  

Interest:  Kids, tweens, teens, and adults

Height Requirements: No height restrictions

Accessibility:  Guests must transfer from Wheelchair/ECV

Thrill Level:  Slow ride – a little bumpy

FASTPASS+ is offered.

Location:  Africa


Apr 23

Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

72smallLooking for a great place to stay on the WDW property?  Look no further than the Port Orleans French Quarter.  I have stayed at all of the moderate resorts on the property and this one is my favorite by far.  With it’s large carnival masks, wrought iron appointments and cobblestone streets you’ll feel like you just stepped into the Big Easy.  This property is small in comparison to some of Disney’s other resorts but I like that it adds to the quaintness.  Don’t let the size fool you, this property is chock full of all the pageantry and amenities that only Disney can do.

imagesConsisting of over 1,000 recently renovated rooms, the property offers 7 three-story buildings that are reminiscent of New Orlean’s Vieux Carre with their pink and blue hues, wrought iron balconies and gas lampposts.  While there are no suites at the French Quarter, guests find the 315 sq. ft rooms to be quite comfortable and the resort offers 4 types of rooms:  Standard view, Garden view, River view and Pool view.  In all honesty, buildings 1 and 7 tend to be more quiet than buildings 2-6 because of their location on the ends of the property.  Also, building 7 is the closest one to the sister property, Port Orleans Riverside which makes access simple.

Looking to get away from the crowds for some downtime?  The pools at the French Quarter are a great place to go.  imagesEscape the crowds and cool off at Doubloon Lagoon where every day is Mardi Gras.  Meet Scales, the 51-foot sea serpent waterslide who puts you in the lagoon as King Neptune supervises from high atop of his head.  The alligator jazz band offers a bit of authentic New Orleans tunes while you sip frozen libations from Mardi Grogs, the poolside bar.

Hungry?  Port Orleans French Quarter has the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, a counter service restaurant offering traditional New Orleans cajun and creole cuisine such as gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp po’ boys.  I highly recommend the beignets which are great ANY time of the day.   Although the French Quarter only offers the counter service, if you are looking a full-service restaurant, venture over to the French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside to dine at Boatwright’s.

This resort offers many other recreational things to do as well.  Busy day at the parks?  Relax in the evening by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride along the scenic banks of the Sassagoula river or through the woodlands of cypress pines to the Fort Wilderness Resort& Campground.  Each carriage ride is around $45 and lasts for 25 minutes.  During the holiday season, this carriage ride becomes a sleigh ride – a wonderful holiday treat.

Another evening activity is the Cajun Campfire.  Enjoy singing songs, roasting marshmallows, and stories while sitting around a campfire along the bank of the Sassagoula.  Bring something to sit on – either a blanket or a chair to cozy up to the warmth and the cracking fire.  Kids really enjoy this treat!

This resort is located in the Downtown Disney area and offers boat rides to and from Downtown Disney.

TIP:  All of the amenities at the Port Orleans Resorts – French Quarter and Riverside are shared, so feel free to hop between resorts to enjoy everything they have to offer.