The thing that I have discovered about Walt Disney World, is that it just seems more magical at night. The lighting makes the parks prettier than they are during the day, and there is just an energy with the guest that are still there at night. Below are some of my favorite attractions that are just better at night.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Let’s face it Big Thunder Mountain is not the most thrilling coaster. Like many of the attractions in the Magic Kingdom it was designed as a “thrill ride” that the family could enjoy together. At night though it is more thrilling, maybe the low light tricks your mind into thinking it is traveling faster than it is. At any rate I have always enjoyed this ride a lot more at night than during the day.
- The Jungle Boat Cruise – While you still get the same corny jokes that you get during the day, the Jungle boat cruise feels like a different attraction at night. The lighting for the attraction at night comes from the boat, which makes it feel more dramatic as you can not see the scenes until you are almost next to them. Another advantage of a night-time cruise is usually the lines are shorter at night.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris – Recently I rode Kilimanjaro Safaris in the evening for the first time. I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised at how active the animals were. I have been riding Kilimanjaro Safaris since my first trip to Animal Kingdom in 2000. In the 14 trips prior to my most recent trip, I had never seen the lions or cheetahs do anything other than sleep, but on my most recent trip I saw both species walking around in clear view of the ride vehicle. The big cats were not the only animals that were more active, it seemed like they all were.
- The Liberty Belle – The Liberty Belle is usually a relaxing ride around Tom Sawyer’s island that provides guest with fantastic views of Frontierland and Liberty Square. While the Liberty Belle normally closes at Dusk if you go on the last ride of the evening, you will be rewarded with beautiful views of Frontierland and Liberty Square with all of the lights on.
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover – Like the Liberty Belle, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover provides a relaxing ride through the park. In the case of Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover that ride is through Tomorrowland, with some great views of Main Street and Cinderella Castle. At night these views are spectacular with Main Street and Cinderella Castle all lit up. This is especially true in the holiday season, when Cinderella Castle is decorated with it’s holiday lights.
- Pandora the Land of Avatar – The two attractions in Pandora are inside ride buildings, so no matter the time of day you get the same ride. The land however is much different at night. All the floating mountains, plants and even the walkways glow. The land also offers some unique Photopass opportunities at night.
So these are some of my favorites. What are some of yours? Please share if you like my work.
Do you want to bring your family to Walt Disney World, but are a little shocked at the cost of the vacation? Below are some hacks that can save you hundreds of dollars on your Disney World Vacation.
- Leave the Disney resort to buy souvenirs – The problem with buying souvenirs at the Walt Disney Resort is that they are rather expensive. I would not say they are overpriced, but it is like shopping for a premium brand. Even a t-shirt is going to cost you $20 or more. If you really want to save money there are many discount stores within a few miles of the Disney World property, that sell discounted Disney merchandise. For what it would cost you to buy one t-shirt at Disney World, you can get four t-shirts at the discount stores.
- Purchase emergency Ponchos at Walmart – If you are unfamiliar with central Florida weather, this might sound weird. However, it rains a lot there, especially in the summer, when there is an afternoon thunderstorm almost every day. Disney is aware of this and just about every store has ponchos that they keep hidden at the cash register. As soon as it looks like it will rain the ponchos are put on display and sell for $10. I like to go to Walmart or Academy and purchase the $1 emergency ponchos prior to my trip. In their packaging these ponchos are just the right size to put in your pocket. Then if it rains you have a poncho at the ready and have saved yourself $9.
- Purchase glow in the dark necklaces/ toys at the dollar store – When my children were young, they always wanted the glow in the dark toys, necklaces and bracelets that Disney sells prior to the fireworks, night time shows or night time parades. After a couple of years of spending $20 or more on things that stopped glowing and were thrown away before we left for home, we figured out that we could by similar toys at the dollar store. Every day at Disney we would bring a few to the park and when my kids saw the glow in the dark stuff for sale, we would pull some out of our backpack. The kids were happy and we saved a lot of money.
- Look into staying at facilities that are not owned by Disney – Like souvenirs, when you stay at a Disney hotel you are paying for the brand. If you do a little homework you may be able to save yourself a lot of money by staying at a property not owned by Disney. For example I usually travel with a party of six, since 2012 we have been staying in condos or townhouses about 2.5 miles away from Disney World. We have far more space and a full kitchen, and even with the $20 per day parking we can stay for a week for about $400 less than the cost of two rooms or a family suite at a Disney value resort.
- Don’t buy more ticket than you need – By this I mean do not spring for ticket extras like park hopper or water parks unless you are positive that you are going to use those features. Actually, I recommend that you just get the base ticket, as Disney allows you to upgrade your tickets within 14 days of the tickets first use. You can upgrade your tickets at guest relations, the theme park ticket window, or the concierge desk of a Disney hotel. So if you don’t buy enough options on your ticket you can always upgrade, however if you buy options on your ticket that you do not use, you can not get your money back.
- Eat Breakfast in your room – Bringing food with you to Disney World, or having it shipped to you using Amazon or a service like GardenGrocer.com, is a fantastic way to save on breakfast. Even just buying a one serving box of cereal or an muffin at the Disney food courts will cost you $2.50 to $3. Using GardenGrocer.com as an example you can get 8 single serving boxes of cereal for $6.50.
- Bring snacks into the park – Did you know that you can bring a backpack or cooler into Disney World? As long as it is smaller than 24″ X 15″ X 18″ you can bring it in. Disney security will want to check it, to be sure that you are not trying to bring alcohol or some other banned items into the park. An item that is not banned is food. When my children were young I used to run into a problem where they will tell us they were hungry, we would buy them something and they would eat two bites then tell us they were full. So we started to bring a back pack with their favorite snacks in it. A snack size bag of gold fish is far cheaper then anything you will be able to purchase for a snack from Disney. If you really want to save money you can pack sandwiches or other foods that travel well. I once saw a family that brought a loaf of bread, and a jar of peanut butter. They made peanut butter sandwiches for themselves while waiting in line for Splash Mountain. If you are traveling by airplane to Orlando you can do the same thing I suggested about breakfast food, and use Amazon or GardenGrocer.com to order food and have it delivered to you resort.
- Eat at table services restaurants at lunch – If you are planning on enjoying the food that Disney has to offer consider eating at lunch time instead of at dinner. The lunch menu at many of the table service restaurants is cheaper than the dinner menu. I suggest you make an informed decision though, by looking at the menus on the My Disney Experience app, to make sure you are not missing your must have meal, by eating at lunch instead of dinner.
- Order a cup of ice water / And bring a water bottle to the park – Orlando during the summer is hot, and you will need to drink lots of water in order to stay hydrated. With as much walking as you will do in Disney World this is even true in the winter. However, you do not need to spend $3 on a bottle of water every time you need a drink at Disney World. At counter service and table service restaurants you can order a cup of ice water for free. Something else you can do is bring a water bottle to the park. My family carries RTIC water bottles and refills them with the free ice water from the restaurants when we eat lunch and dinner.
So do you have any other money savings ideas for Disney World? Please leave your idea in the comments. If you like what I have to say please share my blog.
In an early post I said I wanted to try to make Disney News a weekly post. So far that has not happened. In fact I was not planning on doing one this week as I am working on some ideas I have had for this website. Then I saw this from WFTV channel 9. Disney is planning on selling additional Fastpasses to guest that are staying on the club-level of the deluxe resorts. These additional fastpasses will cost $50 per person per day, and the guest will be able to reserve their fastpasses 90 days before their stay. I don’t like this primarily because if Disney starts to make a lot of money doing this, I can see a time when all fastpasses will have to be purchased, similar to the system that Six Flags parks use. My fear is that unless you are willing to pay up for the extras, you will find it almost impossible to ride the most popular attractions.
Also happening this week as reported in the Orlando Sentinel, a door on Monorail Red opened while the train was in motion and nowhere near the station. Guest recorded the incident and posted it to Youtube. At the end of the video you can see the train pulling into the Epcot station and guest that were on that car trying to flag down a cast member to make them aware of the situation. There seems to be a lot of issues with the current monorail trains. The current Mark VI model that is being used went into service in 1989. I think that maybe it is time for Disney to consider replacing the current monorails with new ones.
In happier news for the Disney Company. Pixar film Coco won a Golden Globe for Best Animated Motion picture Sunday evening. If you have not seen it I highly recommend it. I particularly liked the soundtrack which I bought the day after I saw the movie. I was going to tell you about the story here, but I could not think of a way to do so without spoiling the plot.
ABC news is reporting that UCF celebrated their self proclaimed National title with a parade in the Magic Kingdom. I don’t want this to become a sports blog, but really UCF. Prior to your bowl game your best win was Memphis. Now I get a home town team celebrating a perfect season at Disney World, but national champions, give us a break.
Finally, Mediapost is reporting that Ben Sherwood (President of the Disney-ABC TV Group) has revealed some of the details of Disney’s streaming service that is set to launch in 2019. They plan to launch with 7000+ episodes from the Disney-ABC group library as well as three or four original shows. I think this is a good start for a streaming service. Especially, is a portion of those shows they have at launch are the kids shows from the Disney Channel. My children are teens now, but about ten years ago I would have loved to have been able to stream old episodes of children shows (instead of the same four episodes of Bear in the Big Blue House that we had on DVD).
So what do you think? Can you believe that 2019 is just next year? Please leave a comment and share.
I am going to state the most obvious way to avoid lines at Walt Disney World first thing just to get it out of the way. That would be to go to Disney World during the off-season. Generally the off-season is from mid January thru mid March and Late August thru September when schools are in session, and there are no major holidays when kids get more than a day off. However, there are two things that you need to watch out for during these time periods. The first is special promotions or festivals that Disney is running. Disney is a business, so it is in their interest to have many guest as possible. The second is international guest as Disney World attract guest from around the World. Many of countries have different Holidays than the United States. So on a week that you thought was going to be slow, you may find that you are surrounded by international guest.
So if you are like me and can not go to Disney during the slower months (I have two kids, and my wife is a teacher) what can you do to avoid crowds?
- Fastpass plus – You need to be sure to reserve your fastpasses. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort, the Swan and Dolphin, Shades of Green or one of the eight Disney Springs area hotels partnered with Disney, you can reserve your fastpasses 60 days from your first day the park. Otherwise you will be able to reserve your fastpasses 30 days prior to each day you plan to spend in the parks. It seems like every Disney blogger has a fastpass strategy, though I think the most important thing is to reserve fastpasses for the attractions that are most important to you. Following someone’s fastpass strategy does nothing for you, if you end up with fastpasses for attractions that no one in your party cares about.
- Table Service Dining Reservations – You can make dining reservations up to 180 days prior to the reservation date. For some of the most popular dining experiences (like Cinderella’s Royal Table) you must get the reservation 180 days out. For less popular experiences you can wait till it is closer to the date of your trip, but I would recommend that you have all your dining plans finalized at least a month in advance. I like to use my dining as a way to avoid crowds. Typically the parks are most crowded between 11 am and 4 pm. I usually like to do a table service dining experience during that time to get me out of the crowds (and during the summer out of the heat). As a bonus most of the table service restaurants are cheaper at lunch then they are at dinner.
- Avoid popular attractions during the middle of the day – Unless you have a fastpass you should avoid popular attractions during the middle of the day. As I mentioned earlier the busiest time of the day is typically between 11 am and 4 pm. You need to plan on getting those popular attractions in before 11 am or after 4 pm. After 4 pm many of the popular attractions will start to have shorter wait, though the most popular attractions will have long waits most of the day. So what should you do during that busiest time of the day? You can go back to your resort for a swim and/or nap. As I stated earlier, you can reserve your table service meals during this time. It is also a great time to visit less popular attractions, or attractions that have large capacities. Usually older attractions are less popular, and the shows have the highest capacities.
- Avoid the park that has Extra Magic Hours – Extra magic hours are available for guest that are staying at the Walt Disney World resorts. It is a time in the morning or evening when the park is only open to Walt Disney World resort guest. Sounds great if you are a resort guest doesn’t it? The catch is that typically Disney schedules Extra Magic hours for the park that is traditionally busiest on that day of the week. To avoid the largest crowds, you should go to the park that had Extra Magic hours the evening before.
- Use the My Disney Experience App – There are several ways that this app can help you avoid the crowds at Disney. You can use it to see the wait times of the attractions in all of the Disney World theme parks. You can use it to try to get additional fastpasses after you use your first three fastpasses. I have never had much luck with getting additional fastpasses, but there are plenty of people out there that claim they do it all the time. Finally one of its newest features can save you a lot of time at quick service restaurants. You can now order your meal on the App and then when you arrive at the restaurant you click on the App that you have arrived and you get to skip the line of people that are ordering their meals.
Can you think of any other tips? Please share and leave your comments below.
There are lots of treats that you can get a Disney World, in opinion may of them are overrated by Disney guest. I actually like the most of the treats on this list. I just don’t think that these treats deserve the hype that the receive from Disney fans, or I do not think the treat is worth the wait in the line that often forms to purchase them.
- Turkey Legs – You can get these at the Turkey Leg Cart in Frontierland for $11.75. There are also several other places in Disney World that sell them. Why do I think they are overrated? Simple, because where I live (in Texas), I can get them at any County Fair, Livestock Show, or Rodeo. They are also available at many sporting events. In short I think the hype for them is a bit much, because I don’t see anything special about them.
- Churros – Available at the Frontierland Churro Cart for $5.50. I find these to be overrated for the same reason that I find Turkey Legs to be overrated. Not only can I get them at the same places I can get the Turkey Legs, but I can also get them at many restaurants near my home. Even worse the gas station a mile from my house sells foot long churros.
- Dole Whips – Available at Aloha Isle for $4.49. This used to be one of my favorite Disney treats, that was until they became one of the most popular treats in all of Disney World. As much as I like them, I never thought they were worth waiting in a 30+ minute line to purchase them. I would much rather get an ice cream at one of the dining locations that do not have such a long wait.
- Anything from Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles – More commonly referred to by most guest as the French Bakery, I have the same problem with the treats here that I have with the Dole Whips. The wait is often just to long. Even with the new larger location I have seen 20-30 minute waits. Usually, if there is any sort of line I head over to the Moroccan Pastries and Coffee bar, which almost never has more than a couple of people waiting. Another option is the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in the Norway Pavillion. Even though Kringla Bakeri usually has a line it is never as long as the line for the French Bakery, and in my opinion the treats are better than what you can purchase at the French Bakery.
- Mickey Bars – These run about $5 from various ice cream carts around Disney World. Let’s face it, the mickey bar is vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate. A confection that can be purchased in just about any grocery store, convince store, and ice cream shop in the United States. The only thing that makes Mickey Bars different is that they are shaped like Mickey Mouse.
Do you agree with my list? Can you think of any other treats at Disney that are overrated? Please let me know in the comments.
Ok, so this is my first of what I hope will be a weekly post sharing news stories about Disney and my thoughts about those stories. So without further ado here are the news stories about Disney I found interesting this week.
First up is an article form the Orlando Sentinel. Starting January 10, guest at seven hotels located near Disney Springs will now be able to take part in Disney’s Extra Magic Hours and be able to reserve Fast Passes 60 days prior to their vacation. I have three thoughts about this. 1. Now it will be even harder to score those coveted Flight of Passage fast passes then it is now. 2. Extra Magic hours will be even more crowded, making the park with Extra Magic hours the one to avoid. 3. Disney must be doing this to increase traffic to Disney Springs.
Meanwhile, Also at Disney World the new President Trump animatronic was unveiled. This article from Fox News is about people’s reactions to what the animatronic looks like. Personally I don’t think I will make a judgement about this until I can see it from the Hall of Presidents and not from a picture taken with a telephoto lens. After all we are talking about a figure that is meant to be viewed from a distance not close up.
This week Disney dominated the box office with “The Last Jedi”. This Time article is about the record box office numbers as well as the critics’ and fans’ reaction to the film. I have not had the chance to see “The Last Jedi” yet, even with some of the criticisms I have seen in the news I am still excited about it. I think the continued success of the movie franchise will create more opportunities for us Disney and Start Wars fans to enjoy our favorite galaxy far far away in the theme parks and on movie screens in the future.
This is good news for those of you with Frozen fans in the family. Animation Magazine is reporting that “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” is already available on Movie Anywhere. II have found Disney’s treatment of this short very interesting. I think the inclusion of it before “Coco” was to help drive up ticket sales for that movie during the Holiday season. Then after being removed from the theater before “Coco” was, Olaf’s Frozen adventure was aired on ABC as a Holiday special. Now it is already avaiable for purchase on Movies Anywhere just in time for Christmas. I am assuming this was all planned by Disney, and I think it is a very interesting model for the release of a short film. I hope to see Disney do this in the future with other films.
Finally, while this is actually news from last week, that has been reported just about everywhere so I will not include any links. Disney has agreed to purchase major portions of Fox including 20th Century Fox and it’s massive catalog. This move does a lot as it get Disney control of the movie rights of even more of the Marvel characters. Also even though Disney owns Lucas Arts and the Star Wars franchise, Fox actually owns the distribution rights to “A New Hope”.
In my previous post I listed the advantages and disadvantages of staying offsite versus staying on site at Walt Disney World. I did this without mentioning where I like to stay and why. Prior to 2012 I always stayed at one of the value resorts (Pop Century, All Star Music, All Start Sports, and All Start Movies). The primary reason I stayed at thee locations was the price. I did not care about the size of the room or the lack of amenities. I spent most of my waking hours in the parks. I did always have a few problems with the value resorts though.
- The rooms were small. It seemed like we were always getting in each others way, and getting ready to go in the morning took longer as we all waited for our turn in the bathroom.
- The long walk to the food court and bus stops. Depending on where our room was, it would take five to ten minutes of walking to get to either. That made it a little inconvenient for getting a drink in our refillable mugs in the morning, or when we got back from the park in the evening.
- The buses were always packed, and it often took as much as an hour to get from my room to the front gate of the parks.
In 2012 this all changed for me, as we were traveling to Disney World with a friend who suggested renting a condo. The place we finally choose was in a neighborhood called Windsor Hills. The condo had 3 bed rooms and two bathrooms and it had a kitchen. While we still eat most of our meals in the theme parks the kitchen made it easy to make a good breakfast. An other advantage I quickly discovered was the additional room that we had, it no longer seemed like we were tripping over each other while we were getting ready in the morning. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that the trip to the park was much quicker. We almost always drive our own car to Disney World, and with the condo only being two and a half miles from World Drive we would get to the parking lots very quickly. In fact, with the exception of the Magic Kingdom we were actually in the parks more quickly than when we stayed at Disney’s Value resorts. Every vacation since 2012 we have stayed in Windsor Hills in either a Condo or a Townhouse. The townhouses have three bedrooms and three bathrooms which we have found to be even more convenient. We no longer have to wait on the bathroom when we are getting ready for bed, or to go to the parks.
If you are considering staying offsite be sure to look around, there are plenty of options that just may be more to your liking than a hotel room somewhere. It also may be quite a bit cheaper, we stay at the townhouse for about $300 less per week than getting two rooms at a value resort (we usually have a group of six which necessitates the two rooms).
Choosing a place to stay for your Walt Disney World vacation can be a daunting task. By itself Disney owns and runs 28 hotels on it’s property. When you include all the hotels, rental homes, and time shares in the area surrounding Walt Disney, you have a lot of options to choose from. So how do you choose? Let’s start by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of staying in a Disney hotel versus a hotel or property not run by Disney.
Let’s start with the non-Disney properties usually referred to staying “offsite” by Disney fans.
Advantages of Offsite accommodations :
- Most offsite accommodations cost less (sometimes significantly less) than the Disney resorts,
- Most offsite locations offer more room than the Disney resorts
- If you go the rental home route you will have a full kitchen, which will allow you to save money on dining.
- You can escape the Disney Theming.
Disadvantages of Offsite accommodations :
- Depending on where you are staying you may need a car, or need to plan on the additional expense of Uber.
- Travel time to the parks may be increased. (When choosing offsite locations be sure to check how far away from Disney it is on a map).
- If you hotel does offer bus transportation to the Theme Parks it may not be as reliable as Disney’s bus services.
- If you are driving to the parks, you will have to pay $20 for parking each day.
- You will not be able to reserve your fast passes till 30 days before you arrive at the theme park.
- You will not be able to take part in Extra Magic Hours.
Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of staying at a Disney resort. This is what you will usually see Disney fans referring to as staying “Onsite”.
Advantages of Onsite accommodations:
- Free transportation from your resort to the Theme Parks, Water Parks and Disney Springs.
- Disney’s Magical express, a free bus service to and from Orlando international airport.
- Extra Magic Hours, which is time in the parks for only Disney Resort guest.
- The ability to reserve your FastPasses 60 days prior to your check in date.
- Free parking at the parks if you decide to drive your own vehicle or rental car.
Disadvantages of Onsite accommodations:
- Rooms are normally more expensive than rooms at hotels offsite.
- The standard rooms in the resort are normally far away from the bus stops and dining options.
- Rooms are usually smaller that at offsite hotels.
- You will often find yourself waiting in line for the Disney Buses, especially when trying to leave one of the parks after the nightly fireworks.
You also have to keep in mind that both the price and size of accommodations both Onsite and offsite vary widely. When making your accommodation you need to keep in mind that saving money and having more space in offsite accommodations may result in you sacrificing convenience, or exclusive benefits. You also need to consider the amenities at the place you are planning on staying. Will you actually be spending a lot of time there to enjoy the amenities, or will you be spending most of your waking hours in the parks.
Disney is always a magical place to visit, though during the Holidays it seems even more magical. Below I have my top 5 reasons to visit Walt Disney During the Holidays.
- Christmas music and decorations – Throughout the parks and resorts Disney goes all out with Christmas decorations and music that are themed to the area where they are located. For example Disney’s Hollywood Studios has decorations that look like the decorations of the 1930’s – 1950’s, with Christmas music playing from artist like Bing Crosby, the Andrew Sisters and Frank Sinatra.
- Special holiday entertainment – During the Holidays Disney has many special show for guest to Enjoy. In Epcot there is “Holidays around the World” where each country in the World showcase has a story teller that tells guest about the Holiday traditions of that country. Also around the World Showcase there are additional music acts (in addition to the groups that normally perform there) performing music appropriate for the season. In Disney’s Hollywood Studios there is the firework and projection show “Jingle Bing, Jingle Bam” staring the elves from “Prep and Landing”. Starting in 2017 there is also Holiday projections on the outside of the Tower of Terror. In Magic Kingdom there is the “Once Upon a Christmas Parade” and “A Frozen Holiday Wish Castle Lighting” featuring the characters from Frozen.
- Holiday food and drinks – This is especially true of Epcot’s World Showcase where Holiday Kitchens are selling traditional holiday foods and drinks from the country they represent. However, in the rest of Disney World you will also find some Holiday treats. Also if you are in Disney on Christmas or Thanksgiving several of the restaurants offer traditional Holiday dinners, as a warning be sure to check the menu before you arrive though as several of these special meals come with a special price.
- Holiday Versions of popular rides and shows – Do you like Illuminations? Then between Thanksgiving and New Years is the time to see it, as it is about 5 minutes longer with a special “Let there be Peace on Earth” finally. Other attractions get holiday decorations too, for example the Jungle Boat Cruise becomes the Jingle Boat Cruise complete with a different set of corny jokes.
- The Candle Light Processional – I know some readers are saying wait a second shouldn’t that be included with the special Holiday shows? And it probably should, but I think this one is so special it deserves it’s own listing. The Candle Light Processional tells the story of Jesus’s birth through the use of a full orchestra, mass choir and celebrity narrator. Normally there are three shows scheduled throughout the evening, but you will need to get in line early. Your other option for seeing the show is to purchase a Candle Light Processional dining package. The Dining package is available at several restaurants throughout Epcot, and includes guaranteed seating for one of the shows. You will need to reserve the Dining package as soon as they are announced (Usually the first week of July) as they are very popular and sell out quickly.
Did I miss any of your favorites? Please let me know in the comments.