Details

For those of us who are addicted to all things Disney, we know one thing to be true. Disney is in the DETAILS.

When walking through one of the parks, I recommend taking a little time to look at the details around you. On Main Street USA, for instance, look up at the windows. There are names of people who have had a significant impact on the development of Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Some are imagineers, such as Tony Baxter. Some are family, such as Roy O. Disney. And some are people who have been there for years in the background. It’s worth looking around!

Window for Roy O. Disney
Window for Roy O. Disney

Another thing to keep an eye out for is Hidden Mickeys that can be found in all of the theme parks, resorts, restaurants, and on the grounds. There are even some in the movies! For an idea of where to find some of these Hidden Mickeys, pick up a copy of Steven M. Barrett’s book Hidden Mickeys a Field Guide to Walt Disney World.

You have all heard the phrase, ‘stop and smell the roses’, well in this case I urge you to stop and smell the roses, popcorn odors, ah heck anything that crosses your nose or eyes! Disney is most Definitely in the Details!

Have a Blessed and Magical Day!!

Paper Fastpass, you will be missed!

Beginning next week, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT will join the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom by eliminating the Legacy FastPass in favor of FastPass Plus! This means that all FastPasses will be made online, through the My Disney Experience app on your smart phone, or at one of several kiosks set up throughout the parks. And, with the addition of offsite guest access, these choices become even more critical in how touring any of the parks fits into anyone’s plan.

Paper FastPass

It remains to be seen how this will affect the overall crowd and wait times, but it is assumed by some that we may see a more level field of stand-by queues. Wait times may shorten a bit, except during peak times. I’m not so sure what to think, myself. But, I believe there is a season of confusion ahead for all of us as we get more familiar how this all will fit together. And, I am sure that it will all work out in time! After all, Disney has invested a number that includes 9 zeros into this system!

Personally, the Legacy system worked better for our style of touring the parks. My family didn’t mind the sprint to certain attractions. In many cases, we could get our FastPass AND ride! We could fit things into our schedule with greater ease, and on a good day, get 6 to 8 FastPasses! Those days appear to be gone, for now.

So, will the new system eventually allow more than three choices for one park on one day? Will Park-Hopping be possible? What other features might be a part of FastPass+? Only time will tell, but I’m betting that the folks at Disney will get it all figured out, and we will all find new ways to enjoy our favorite place!

One final thought…can this be heading to Disneyland and other parks around the world? Again, we shall see!

Have a Blessed and Magical Weekend, my friends!

Pandora and other odds and ends!

So, now that they have broken ground for Pandora, I guess it’s a done deal? I, for one, am kind of excited to see what they are going to end up with during the construction phase of this project. What surprises me, is that only 4 days after the closure of Festival of the Lion King and Camp Minnie-Mickey, the walls are up, and the first shovel of dirt has been moved! I just wonder if that means I can plan my first visit in just three years. Only time will tell, but I will try to be a part of things when that time comes!

In other news…it was announced that The Magic Kingdom will be going all FastPass Plus beginning next week. The two remaining parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, are expected to follow along by the end of January. That means that there will be no more paper (Legacy) Fastpasses available. I will miss those greatly as they typically fit better into my touring style. Change is always a bit difficult, but we will all adapt over time and make the best of it!

Frozen, Disney’s movie that takes place in Norway, topped the box office last weekend during it 7th week in the theaters. Bringing in over $500 Million is beginning to catch the attention of more families each week. And, while it is still IN the theaters, it was announced that the DVD will be out sometime in March! I wonder, with the music being so much like Broadway, could that be an indication about where Frozen could go? Hmmmm!

Finally, for the fun of it…what would you like to see the Avatar project called when it opens? Answer the survey below and let’s see if anyone listens. And, if you have other ideas, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post and we can all discuss it!

Have a blessed and Magical weekend, my friend!

Attractions I missed, and some I never want to see again!

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On my most recent visit to Walt Disney World, there were some of MY traditional attractions I didn’t get to visit because of various reasons.  Whether a refurbishment, bad timing, or too many other things to do, there was sacrifice that had to take place!

The top of the list for me, The American Adventure!  In the dozen or so trips I have taken to WDW, This is the first time I have missed this patriotic tribute to the USA!  Yes, I tear up every time I see this presentation!  But, I had to sacrifice it to do the Candlelight Processional.  Was that a good reason?  Yeah, I think it was!

Next on my miss list is It’s A Small World.  I know the song is annoying, and goes on forever in your mind!  But, it is a classic Disney attractions that was closed for refurbishment the entire week we were visiting!  I’m not sure what they were doing.  Maybe painting all the dolls?  Installing cameras for the new Memory Maker package?  Putting in some kind of interaction for MagicBands?  Whatever it was, I missed one of my favorite rides.

My family has yet to see Kali River Rapids!  In the two trips we have taken in the last 22 months, Kali was closed for refurb both times!  I do hope to get to ride this someday before they decide to move it into the Avatar project! (no rumors of this happening have reached my ears)

One attraction that stands above the rest as one I can miss from this point on is Stitch’s Great Escape!  The pre-show was really funny, and I got my hopes up only to have them bashed against the rock of despair once the main show began.  After being clamped into the chair, there was no way for ME and my daughter to escape!  And believe me, we would have if we could have!  

After seeing Lights! Motors! Action! twice, I can see I don’t need to go back to that one again.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a good show and if you haven’t seen it, go see it on your next visit!  It is exciting and it is very interesting to see how it all fits together, but I’m pretty much done with that attraction.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure is just too different from the original for my taste.  I don’t enjoy the Jeopardy! round, and I find most the conversation to be boring.  If you’re looking for a good half-hour nap, you may be in the right spot.  Unless this attraction gets a refurb, I will not be wasting my time in EPCOT.

How about you?  What are some of you Can’t Miss attractions?  What are some you don’t need to see EVER again?  Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

For now, Have a Blessed and Magical week…and Stay Warm!!

Water, Water, Everywhere

Fountain at the Imagination Pavilion
Fountain at the Imagination Pavilion

When Walt Disney first toured The Florida Project, he knew that one thing he would have to manage was all the water on the property. After all, it was literally swamp land! He hired the people he needed who had the imagination to see what could be, and not what was about the land.

Today, the management of all the water comes in many different forms, and sometimes you can find yourself standing in front of a water piece oooing and awwing!

The Magic Kingdom has the Jungle Cruise which uses a lot of water to provide guests with a Walt Disney Original experience. There are water features all around the park. Tom Sawyer’s Island is surrounded by water, there are water accents at the hub near The Crystal Palace, just to name a few.

EPCOT, I think, offers the most spectacular fountains on property! The upside-down waterfall at the Imagination Pavilion is very nice, the jumping water in the same area is fun to watch (and try to catch). My absolute favorite is the Innovention Fountain! The synchronicity of the soundtrack with the patterns and use of water cannons is both astonishing and captivating! I find myself wanting to stay there for a long while and losing all sense of reality.

The Innoventions Fountain EPCOT
The Innoventions Fountain
EPCOT

Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a lot of natural looking water features, some which may be getting a facelift over the next few years. These features are truly beautiful and breath-taking! I urge you to take a few minutes to take it all in and see the detail that the Imagineers put in to sweep us away with the scenery to support the Animal Kingdom themes.

Finally, Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t ‘seem’ to have as much to offer in the way of water features. The largest to note is probably the area at Fantasmic! Which really becomes one of the cast members during this nighttime spectacular. It provides the backdrop for the projected scenes, and of course there are the watercraft flotilla that supports the music of the various Disney movies represented in the show. The most obvious water feature at DHS is Echo Lake! If rumor is accurate, though, this may be getting filled in to support changes to the park for whatever the Lucasfilm Acquisition may provide over the next several year.

So, take a look around and enjoy the different manners in which Walt Disney World uses water in the parks!

Until next time, have a Blessed and Magical Day!!

Updated Photo Album

I simply updated my Photo Album page! It now includes several pictures from our Recent visit to Walt Disney World, December 4-9, 2013. Please visit the Photo Album Page at http://wp.me/P23hiG-6W . Thanks!!

Walt Disney World Restaurants Review

During our vacation to Walt Disney World, we experienced several different types of food. We had mostly good experiences and some that were a bit disappointing. Keep in mind that this is review comes from an everyday guy who only gets to visit Walt Disney World every few years or so. This means that my experience with Disney restaurants is very limited. And, we judge by how we find the meals to be during our visit. So, here we go!

On our arrival day, my daughters and I went to Downtown Disney for a visit to the Earl of Sandwich. I had heard so many great things about the sandwiches here, that I had to try it! And, I had my birthday code with me, so I had a freebie coming to me. I got the Ham and Swiss with Honey Mustard Sauce, which I found to be delicious! My oldest daughter got the Chicken Caesar Salad and really enjoyed it. While my youngest daughter got the Best BLT and she raved about how good it tasted to her. In fact, we enjoyed this place so much, the whole family went back right before we had to head home.

We then journeyed over the Disney’s Beach Club Resort for a taste of Beaches and Cream. My son attempted to take on The Kitchen Sink. He gave it his best effort, but in the end the Kitchen Sink won. My choice for the evening was the No Way Jose’. It’s a lot of peanut butter, but so very delicious! I did a pretty good job of taking care of the ice cream in my bowl. In case you haven’t heard, Beaches and Cream is now an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) selection. Keep that in mind!

This was dinner!
This was dinner!
Fifteen-year-old vs. The Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream.
Fifteen-year-old vs. The Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream.

For my birthday, December 5, we had dinner at the well-known ‘Ohana! I have to say that this meal was a bit disappointing. Not because of the food, but the service just wasn’t up to what we had experienced on our last visit. We were seated about 20 minutes late, which isn’t THAT big of a deal, but it took forever for our drinks to be served and there was a delay on serving food as there wasn’t enough ready. I will say, however, that once the food started getting to the table, it was an all-out feast! The only issue with the food was that I thought the pork wasn’t quite as tender as it should have been and a bit on the fatty side.

While at Disney’s Hollywood Studio, we had dinner at Mom’s Place. I mean, 50s Prime Time Café. I enjoyed Mom’s Old Fashioned Pot Roast very much! The meat was fork tender and the potatoes were just a little lumpy the way mom used to make them. I tasted the Pumpkin Spice milkshake one of my daughters had and all I can say is YUMMY! That was a really good shake. There was some fried chicken on the table that looked spectacular and I believe a bit of salmon. The food was very well cooked, but again, the service wasn’t quite the level I expect when dining in a Disney restaurant.

Next on our list was a surprise to us. After reading as much as I could about this restaurant, I wasn’t sure it was a good choice. But, with the addition of seats for The Candlelight Processional, it fit our schedule best. And, the dining experience I am referring to is…Nine Dragons at the China Pavilion. Many reviews don’t paint a flattering picture of the food or ambiance of this restaurant. Not only did we find it to be an excellent experience, but the food was very good! I would have to say that this was, indeed, our best meal on this vacation. My wife had the Kung Pao Chicken which had a spice that really took on a personality the longer it danced across the tongue. One daughter had the Honey Sesame Chicken and it had a sweet and slightly tangy taste to it. My other daughter and Mother-in-law had the Shrimp Fried Rice, but it’s not like the stuff you get down the street. This had jumbo shrimp and was served in a large bowl of fried rice. And my son and I enjoyed our Fragrant Five-Spiced Fish which became more delicious with every bite! The fish is slow pan seered to make sure that it is cooked through. The Five-Spiced Sauce is in a separate cup and can be used as a dipping sauce or poured over the fish. And, our server made this particular meal exceptionally enjoyable. We really liked Nine Dragons, and will revisit again in the future.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, our main meal was Flame Tree barbeque. And, I have to say that it was exceptional barbeque! The sweet and spicy sauce really adds to the flavor of any of the meats you might decide to eat. The only difficult part is that all of the sit-down areas are outside and there were a lot of birds hanging close to the tables. May I recommend the Shredded Pork Sandwich? The meat was very tender and juicy, and when you add the sauce, it becomes one of the most delectable sandwiches on property.

I got to take the Backstage Magic tour on our last day, which included lunch at Whispering Canyon Café. The meal was served in a family style and a few of the folks with me had special meal needs, so there was a lot of food to choose from. On the plate was shredded pork, bbq ribs, Italian sausage, bbq chicken, and mashed potatoes. Talk about down home barbeque! This stuff is really tasty, and the atmosphere of WCC is beautiful and has an open feel. You can find Whispering Canyon at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

The Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World
The Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

The time came to eat our final meal and our choice was The Crystal Palace in The Magic Kingdom. And, while the pricing is a bit on the high side, the character interaction with Winnie-The-Pooh and friends is not to be surpassed. The food was well cooked and had good flavor, the service was adequate, but the visits from the characters made this restaurant a highlight of our trip.

Mrsthreestrandswdw may have more to add later!

Well, that’s it for now. 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!!

EPCOT Visit 2013

Today took the threestrandswdw family to EPCOT! I went ahead of everyone else to have a few minutes to myself in my favorite park. Seems like yesterday when I walked into a two-day old EPCOT Center that looked new, smelled fresh, and had a unique theme that had never been done. And, while it looks a bit more worn, could use a fresh coat of paint, and maybe some updates on a few attractions, my soft spot for this Theme Park remains strong and true.

I got to take my first ride on the classic Spaceship Earth! I miss the Walter Cronkite version, and didn’t get to hear any of the other narrators prior to Miss Dench. She does a nice job, but if you’re sleepy, be careful! From there, I went over to the musical fountain and shot several minutes of video. I love how the water responds to the music, and at this time it is using Christmas music. Nice touch!

Once my family caught up, we rode Mission: Space. It’s a thrilling ride, even on the Green side of things. I love that Gary Sinise is the Capcom! He just fits the part!

Soarin’ was next on the list and it did not disappoint! I do wish they would get a film more fitting to the Florida setting, and we all know rumors are circling. But, until I see it, I won’t believe it! The technology is looking aged, but it still delivers a nice, calm thrill!

While my wife and mother-in-law went to “Livin’ With The Land” I took the kids and we did Figment at the Imagination Pavilion. Then, we met back up at “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” using FastPass+. On this day, that was a good choice for this attraction!

My son and I then hoofed back to Imagination to enjoy Captain EO. I know, it’s old and dated. But, this is only my second time seeing it, and rumor has it may be the last chance I was going to get to see it.

Finally, it was time for the other ride I had been waiting to see. We cashed in our FastPass+ at Test Track! I actually like the changes. It still does the same testing, but it is kind of a blind test. You don’t really see what’s coming, or how the car is going to respond. The road test was exhilarating! My only regret is that I ran out of time to ride it a second time!!

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It was time to head to the China Pavilion in World Showcase for lunch at Nine Dragons. I know much has been said about this restaurant, but I like to judge on my own experience without the influence of others. I will be writing later with details of what we all ate, and what we thought about each dish. Suffice it to say, we will likely return on future visits.

We all went our own way for a bit of time to wander different areas of World Showcase. I still enjoy “O Canada” and Martin Short enhances the movie, in my opinion. The visuals are beautiful and the music brings tears to my eyes (and I’m not Canadian).

The highlight of the day was my first ever Candlelight Processional. Our narrator tonight was Whoopi Goldberg and I was very pleasantly surprised at her presentation of the Christmas Story as told in The Bible! As a Christian, it is important to me that this story is treated with respect and honor. And, Whoopi accomplished that task with grace and feeling. Nicely Done!!

I chose to pass on Illuminations! Reflections of Earth on this trip. It’s been hotter than expected with higher humidity that you would think to see this time of year. And, considering my home is under a foot of snow at this moment, I think I’m doing pretty good!

Tomorrow is Animal Kingdom day, so until may you have a Blessed and Magical evening!