MagicBand Revue

After spending a week at Walt Disney World, I have a better understanding of how the MagicBands work. And, there are a few lessons I learned about along the way, as well.

Let me begin by stating that I was really looking forward to this experience, regardless of how it turned out. I feel it is my responsibility to be real in what I see with my own eyes. The lesson I learned at check-in was to verify which MagicBands have charging privileges, what the limits are, and what card you are backing those charges up with. I had set all of this up before arriving, but found out over the next few days that it didn’t get recorded in the system. So, save yourself some extra steps and double-check before you leave the front desk. It only takes a few moments to fix the problem.

From the moment we walked into The Art Of Animation Resort, our MagicBands were put to use. We used one for checking in right at the start. This did seem to hasten the process considerably. The bands also worked well with our room door. I would suggest that everyone in your party take a turn just to verify all MagicBands are working. Also, the doors at the end of the corridors will open with the use of the MagicBands if you want to bypass the elevator.

Entry to all of the parks was smooth with the use of the MagicBands. It is important to remember which finger you used when you first arrived, that can slow you down if you forget. I didn’t find my MagicBand to be in the way, but did have a couple of incidents with it popping off if I accidentally hit a rail or armrest the wrong way. Other than that, I have no real concerns.

FastPass+ worked fairly well, also. One thing I did discover is that it is more difficult to change times or experiences once you arrive in your park for the day. We were there during what was supposed to be a less busy time, but the parks all seemed to be more crowded than expected. And, this made changes much less available. And, with the introduction of tiered attractions, it will be very helpful to make sure you have your choices before you arrive. For some, this may be an issue. For the uberplanners, not so much.

The MagicBands do make charging easier, but I did not find it more tempting to tap and go with more souvenirs. I suggest that if you know what your limits are, you will have no problem remaining within those limits. But, if you have the tendency to spend freely, you may not want to have your band armed for charging. Just a thought!

MagicBand turnstiles
MagicBand turnstiles

Overall, I like the MagicBands, but I think I prefer the old FastPass system a bit more. We were able to make use of a few of those during our stay. We weren’t trying to cheat the system, but it helped to put things in a better time frame for our visit. But, we have just learned that the Legacy FastPass system is slowly being phased out. There are a few resorts that are no longer issuing Key To The World cards, unless requested. And, it was just announced that Disney’s Animal Kingdom will begin testing the new RFID technology by allowing anyone from any resort to make FastPass+ choices. Offsite visitors will be limited to making those choices once they arrive at the park. So, I would guess that the paper FastPass machines will be turned off during this testing.

I hope you find this helpful information. And, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a message at the bottom of this post. I’ll be sure to respond promptly.

Tomorrow, Restaurant Reviews…there may be a surprise on this one!!

Have a Blessed and Magical Day!!

Trip Report: Day 5 – Backstage Magic Tour

This day began with something I have been looking forward to for a few months. It began as a Keys To The Kingdom tour, which got cancelled at the end of September because of the taping for the Disney Christmas Special. And, I was really bummed! But, I called a few days later and discovered that the Backstage Magic tour still had room within my scope of vacation. So, I booked it!

We all met up just outside EPCOT near the Guest Relations area to the right of the entrance gates. Our guides were pleasant and engaging right from the start. Once all of the administrative things were completed, we were off to a VIP Motorcoach that would be our chariot for the day.

Our first stop? The American Adventure! I am kind of bummed because I didn’t actually see the show this trip and it is one of my absolute favorites! But, this was a different view of the pavilion. We got to see the backstage workings of the show. And, without giving too much away, it was awesome to see how the mechanics make this show what it is! The projection system is an old 70mm, but they stick with it because it still provides the best quality for the presentation. And, did you know that the front of The American Adventure is five, that’s right five, stories high? Disney forced perspective at it’s finest.

Our next stop was Disney’s Hollywood Studios where we got to see, first hand, the costuming department. This area is responsible for the entire on stage cast members costumes. From the Princesses to stage performers, this department clothes them all! And, I got to see a little preview of some of the costumes being put together for the new Magic Kingdom parade coming in Spring 2014. Let me just say…BEAUTIFUL!!!

Then, it was on to the Hollywood Tower of Terror! We saw one of the ride vehicles up close and learned how well these pieces are maintained. Disney’s first priority is what they call Safe-D, and it shows in the facilities used to work on these cars. And, it is at the base of the Tower, so it’s all right there!

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we visited the parade float housing area. It was explained to us how all of the detail is mapped out to be just right on each float. These vehicles are propelled in different ways. Sure, some use powered vehicles, but many make us of human power to get them down the parade route. In addition, I got to see the progress, from behind, on the new home for The Festival of the Lion King. It looks to be coming along quite well, and it is BIG!! The exterior steel framing looks to be complete and they are working to skin the outside. I wasn’t able to get a target date, but the latest rumor is that the transition may be more seamless that last predicted.

The Horticultural area is located adjacent to Animal Kingdom and is the home of all of the topiary designs, trees, and flowers that are used throughout the Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom. I did see a preview of some of the Flower and Garden topiaries. There appear to be a few new ones that will be amazing! Most of the smaller flowers and plants are bought from local vendors. This is done to help maintain a few costs, and it helps the local economy as well.

Lunch was at the Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Normally a buffet, the tour has servers for you and they bring plates to your table to share family style with pulled pork, bbq ribs, bbq chicken, Italian sausages, and mashed potatoes. This is all followed up by, what I think was, a strawberry/cherry pie served in a deep dish skillet and served with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious! I must try to find a recipe for that one!

From our lunch break, we traveled to the Central Shops. This is where all of the actual creating, repairing, and refurbishing of all of the US parks attractions gets attention. I got to see some of the new cars for The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in various stages of finish. And, if what I saw is an indicator, it may not be too long now! This facility is huge, roughly the size of six football fields. It houses everything from the metal shop to the paint and sign shops and everything in between. In fact, they even paint the Disney Transport buses in this location.

It was finally time to head over to The Magic Kingdom. We walked around Main Street U.S.A. a bit, and then got to see the legendary Utilidors. It really is a small city under there! The Utilidors are actually the first floor of the Magic Kingdom, so it was fun to see how Cast Members get to there stages. All of the merchandising, food services, and dry good stores are housed in this area, as well. One thing I learned, that pleased my heart, is that any food that has not been cooked on a given day, is distributed to the Second Harvest Food Bank, where is it given to those in need through six outlets around the Orlando area. Just another example of how Disney gives back!

We looked a few specific windows around the Main Street area, and then we went to our VIP viewing area for the 3:00 parade. It was right in front of the firehouse, and what a view! I got it all on video, and may post on YouTube once I get to look at it. It may be old to some, but it’s the first time I have seen this one. And, as stated earlier, a new one starts in the spring.

So, there you have it…The Backstage Tour gives you a glimpse of how the magic is created. And, for me, it doesn’t spoil what I see On Stage, it only enhances my appreciation for what I am seeing when in one of the parks.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures to post, because the use of cameras is not allowed in the backstage areas of the parks.

I joined my family for our last evening in The Magic Kingdom…but that will have to wait another day! For now, have a blessed and magical day!!

Trip Report: Disney’s Animal Kingdom 2013

Today brought about the need for a safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! We did not try for rope drop, simply because we were all completely wiped out! The kids headed straight to Primeval Whirl for a couple of quick rides and to get Dinoland USA out of their systems. We kind of got stuck there the last time and it cost us in the end!

After fetching FastPasses for my wife and kids to ride Expedition Everest, I met them at Finding Nemo: The Musical. Can I say this show is a Must See?!! The colors are vibrant, the music exhilarating, and the acting is really very well done! And, the young lady voicing Nemo has one of the purest singing voices I have ever heard! The choreography looked to be very intricate and I am sure that it takes a lot of work to put it all together. This show has been done with spectacular Disney flair!

Our meal for today was Flame Tree Barbecue. All of the food was prepared quite well, and the sauces were delicious! Watch out for the sweet and spicy, it sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking. And, while the birds were entertaining, they weren’t very intrusive. No one left hungry, and everyone agreed that may be another place we need to put on our every trip list!

What goes up, comes down...FAST!!
What goes up, comes down…FAST!!

My son and I went to Kilimanjaro Safari. It was different from our last visit. My son didn’t like it as much, but I enjoyed seeing more animals and having a slightly closer view for many of them. Our guide was excellent and really made the journey enjoyable, as well as educational.

All in all, I’d say it was a very good day! I would like to suggest that you slow down and take a look at some of the detail that has been put into the environments of Animal Kingdom. There has been a lot put into every little corner, crease, and crevice. I do not believe that this is still a half-day park. And, if the walls are any indication, something very good is on it’s way.

Tomorrow is our last day for this trip. But, I am celebrating my birthday in a way that excites me! While the rest of my family will be returning to the Magic Kingdom for an all day marathon, I will be taking the Backstage Magic tour. I can’t wait to share this experience with all of you.

Until next time, I pray blessings and magic come your way!

Trip Report: Day 3, Disney’s Hollywood Studios 2013

Christmas Tree at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Christmas Tree at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Fun day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! My daughters and I went ahead of the rest of our party and got to ride Toy Story Midway Mania through the Stand-by Line before my wife, son, and mother-in-law joined us. And, since we were given Key to the World cards in addition to our MagicBands, I decided to see if I could score a set of Legacy Fastpasses for later. I was able to accomplish that task with no problems. The return time, however, was 7:20PM. I ended up giving those away to a friend via the LINES Chat and put a smile on a little girls face! A little magic goes a long way!

I did the walk-through of Tower of Terror, but wasn’t feeling my oats enough to make the ride portion. I know! I admit it I USED THE CHICKEN DOOR! But, I saved my breakfast in the process.

After our second ride on Toy Story using Fastpass+, my daughters and I headed to the Great Movie Ride to meet up with the WDW Today podcast group for a special Rocky Horror Picture Show style ride. The responses to the Cast Member script were funny, but it was really hard to get the timing down to make it work. And, while the wait was a lot longer than I had hoped it would be, it was incredibly fun! It was also nice to meet, in person, Matt Hochberg and Len Testa. I am hoping to meet up with them again on Saturday.

WDW Today's Matt Hochberg
WDW Today’s Matt Hochberg

We grabbed a quick meal at The Studio Catering Company located off of the Streets of America next to the “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” play area. The Buffalo Chicken Sandwich was not bad. I do think it could use a bit more buffalo flavor, but I dipped in some honey mustard and it was pretty good that way! Overall, nice location with lots of seating in the shade, and it’s close to Backlot Tour, Pixar Place and Light, Motor, Action.

And, speaking of Lights, Motor, Action! That was our next stop with the use of Fastpass+. And, this is my first real criticism of the FP+ system. If the Fastpass+ gives you a dedicated area that has better viewing, it is worth it, if only for that reason. However, this is NOT the case with LMA. We were at the far end of the stadium and had a support beam blocking nearly half of the view. So, I would not recommend Fastpass+ for this attraction. It really isn’t a necessary one, except during busy seasons.

Muppetvision 3D was a really cute show, and enjoyable! Not only is the theater air-conditioned, but the show itself is quite entertaining. This was our first time seeing the attraction, and I think it is one to visit on future visits!

Star Tours may be the most disappointing part of this vacation, so far. The first time, it was fun and I liked the sequence that I got to experience. However, a visit just before park closing gave me almost the same EXACT sequence. The only change was we had Yoda on the first flight, and Princess Leia on the second. I’m not convinced that there is much randomizing in this show! But, I will have to wait until my next visit.

Our featured meal for today was at 50s Prime Time Cafe. I have heard much said about this restaurant, and I have to say it was the most fun of the day! The Pot Roast lives up to its reputation! It was incredibly tender and the meal was full of flavors I remember from childhood when my mother would make it for Sunday dinner. My wife had the Flounder and raved about it, as well. The kids all enjoyed their meals, also. And, the Pumpkin Spice milkshake? Can you say ‘YUM’!

One Man's Dream

We did the walk-through part of “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream”, but didn’t have time to see the movie as it was time for us to head to our first experience of Fantasmic! And, this show did not disappoint. The presentation was stunningly beautiful and the story was engaging! On our last visit, F! was closed for refurbishment, so we were really glad to get to see it this trip!

I closed my night out by making a quick visit to “The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights”. Can you say ‘crowded’? It was packed! But, I managed to take a brief walk-around video. It’s not much, but it lets me know that I need to really plan better, should I choose to return another time. It is beautiful!

That pretty much rounds out our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I have some thoughts on the whole MagicBand experience, but will expand on that later.

For now, it’s sleep and then a marathon visit to EPCOT and my first, ever, Candlelight Processional!

Until then, have a blessed and magical day, my friends!

Magical Day One 2013

This day couldn’t have been any better! I am blessed, and privileged, to share my birthday with two special people. My father, who passed this past February. And, Walter Elias Disney, who also happens to be one of my largest idols! I have loved everything Mr. Disney put his hands to ever since I was aware of the Disney name! And, today lent itself to remembering what a special man can do in the middle of swamp land.

Handmade by my daughter!
Handmade by my daughter!

My oldest Daughter and I ventured ahead of the rest of the family, as I had planned to drive to the Magic Kingdom and park as close as possible at the Transportation and Ticket Center. It was Extra Magic Hours, and we wanted to get a jump on the day, so off we went! The rest took the bus from the resort and arrived nearly an hour later. I got a great spot and requested help from my online Disney family to “remember where we parked”. It was a great beginning to what I knew would be a great day! Add to that the shirt, this same daughter, made for me by hand and I was feeling pretty good!

Everyone remember where we parked!
Everyone remember where we parked!

As we walked into The Magic Kingdom, I was blown away by the Christmas decorations that lined Main Street USA! The crews were busy setting up at the Town Square to begin taping the Very Merry Christmas Special. Note: I’m glad I didn’t plan on being at MK on December 6 and 7! The first attraction of this visit was Stitch’s Great Escape. Why? You may ask? Because I had never done it, that’s why! And, if the main attraction had some of the flair and comedic content as the preshow, it would be a pretty good attraction. As it is, I have no need to see that one again!

At that point, the rest of the family had caught up, so the Wife and Kids headed to Space Mountain, while me and my mother-in-law hit Tomorrowland Transit Authority (PeopleMover). I don’t do many thrill rides, but I am planning to do Space Mountain on our next MK day. The rest of the morning saw: Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, Under the Sea with Ariel, and Mickey’s Philharmagic. All very fun and classic Disney entertainment attractions.

It was time for lunch and my wife surprised me by suggestion Columbia Harbour House. The prices aren’t bad, for Disney food, and the quality of what they offer was really impressive! And, while most of the chicken and fish offerings are batter fried, I found them not to be too greasy. The atmosphere of the sit-down area is also impressive. Take some time to look around at the decor!

The rest of the day was a bit leisurely, a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat was very nice, indeed. It was a good follow-up to that filling meal. I really like the gentle movement around Tom Sawyer’s Island. At that point, we all kind of split up into three groups. The wife and girls headed to Big Thunder and road at least three times in he afternoon. Once on Fastpass+, and twice in stand-by. I’m told the longest wait was about 30 minutes. My mother-in-law and son went to the Hall of Presidents. And, I took another trip up Main Street USA to the Harmony Barber Shop. I got my haircut, which was enjoyable and a nice birthday present to myself!

Splash Mountain was down for nearly an hour when I got back to Frontierland, via the Walt Disney World Railroad. I love the train ride!! I walked over the Adventureland and took my first ride on Pirates of the Caribbean for this trip. To my surprise, all of the special effects were working (they were not on our last visit in 2012). I really enjoyed this ride! My family caught up with me after, and we all did it together. The wait times were only 10 minutes. Save your Fastpass+ selections unless you are travelling during a busy season. A ride on The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, a stop at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room finished this part of Adventure for this family.

Shortly after this, Splash Mountain was back up and running, so we got up and ran for it! We had a Fastpass, and were able to extend the time. Again, all of the effects were operating as they should be, and the ride was more enjoyable than I remember. This is a Must Do, in my opinion!

It was now time for our Fastpass+ on The Jingle Cruise. This is Disney World’s Christmas overlay for the Jungle Cruise. We had Skipper Xander, and he was very good! You could tell he loves what he is doing and is an a career path that is in forward motion! The decorations around the boat dock are fitting to the theme of the ride, and the jokes are actually pretty funny. I’ve seen many people talk about how “little” was done, but I think it’s worth a visit!

The best part of our night was dinner at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian Resort! The service, and food arrival, was a little slow at first, but then once things started showing up at the table, it was like a feasting marathon. If you don’t like to eat, don’t like meat, and don’t like feeling part of the family, this may not be the place for you! But, trust me, you HAVE to try ‘Ohana just once to have it become an instant favorite. We were able to see the high flying fireworks from Holiday Wishes! but, that was all since there was a big forty year old tree in the way. It’s being moved to make room for the DVC expansion soon.

Name that Dessert!
Name that Dessert!

That ended our night, and that ends this report. I will be breaking things down more, once I go back to that place I call home, but really isn’t!

For now, have a blessed and magical day!

Next stop: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Destination: Walt Disney World

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As I type this, I am at T-12 hours from going “HOME”!  My most favorite place in the world, and possibly the only geographical place I find real happiness, is Walt Disney World in Florida!  Today, I begin the journey of my triumphant return as I drive to Orlando with the goal of reaching The Art of Animation Resort sometime the morning of December 4.  This will bring about the celebration of my 53rd birthday, and Walt Disney’s 112th.  I have been a Disney fan since I was a child.  I always enjoyed the movies, nature films, and television shows growing up.  And, when Walt Disney World opened up in October 1971, I wanted to go visit, but my mother would always say ‘no’.  This year, I will also be celebrating my father’s first birthday in his absence.  Dad went to heaven on Valentine’s Day this year, and I will be carrying him in my heart on December 5, also.  I miss him, but know he will be with me on this trip!  A trip he always wanted to take with us when my brother and I were kids.

It will be a busy week, as I only have five days in the parks!  And, it will be topped by a seven hour backstage tour on my last day.  I can’t wait to enjoy that birthday present to myself!  I hope you will all join me on my adventures as I post pictures, blogs, and reviews here daily. 

Until tomorrow, have a Blessed and Magical Day!!

Tick! Tock!

Sitting here on the last full day I have before we leave for Walt Disney World, hoping I have everything done. I have chosen to work a full day and a half before we depart, and wondering whose brain I was using in making that decision! Our drive is measured, by one of the mapping programs, to be about 15 hours, but we are planning an 18 to 20 to allow for stops, meals, etc.

It is my hope to meet some of my online Disney friends this week as I intend to join up with WDW Today’s Reunion for a couple of events, and possibly a few others in other places. I will be putting up pictures frequently, and filing daily trip reports. I hope you will all join me, and even pass it on for others to enjoy.

Until later in the week, may the magic surround you!!

As Departure Approaches!

We are about 10 days away from making our next trip to Walt Disney World! Preparations are going slow, but progress is being made a little at a time. Our MagicBands are here! All our Fastpass+ selections have been made! And, half of us are packed!

Disney World Arch

This is the tough time of all waiting for the final day to get here before we can get to my happy place! I am excited to try out the MyMagic+ system, but a little apprehensive at the same time! There have been a lot of changes and bug fixes, but since it was just recently announced that the total roll-out is being delayed, I really wonder how ready is this system for a full out assault?

We will be driving to WDW and will need about 17 hours to make the drive. We are building 20 hours in to allow for pit stops. I am excited to see The Art Of Animation Resort! And, yes there will be pictures, and maybe a video of our arrival. Keep an eye on this blog to follow along.

I am hoping that my birthday, Dec 5, will be special as we enjoy the Magic Kingdom and dinner at ‘Ohana! It was also my dad’s birthday, so I will be carrying a picture of him with me. And, of course, most of you should know that Walt Disney was also born on December 5!

I hope you’ll all join us through this virtual porthole! Have a blessed and magical day, my friends!

Planning break

The threestrandswdw family is preparing for our next trip to the Walt Disney World Resort! We are in the process of finalizing our daily plans, which is taking on a bit of a different identity. My wife is a commando in the parks. She wants (needs) to do EVERYTHING!! My three kids are a mix of personalities that can become quite interesting as our day goes by at a rapid pace. Add my lovely Mother-In-Law, who seems to be at peace following our lead, and it really is a mish-mash to handle. As for me? I am wanting to take in more of the atmosphere on this trip. As many know, Disney is IN the Details! And, this trip, I am going to be looking at details!

In the meantime, I will not be making as many entries on my blog over the next few weeks while we finish our planning. But, I will be sharing our adventures via this blog in the form of daily trip reports. I hope you will enjoy the entries. Upon our return, I will give a wrap-up of our vacation and our use of the MagicBands. I have realized that we can talk about it all we want, but it is the experience that will teach us the most!

Have a magical weekend, my friends!