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

Avatar set to premiere at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

This has hit the Disney Fan Community! Here is the official announcement…

From the Disney Parks Blog…

From the moment AVATAR was released, people were captivated by the mythical world of Pandora. When we announced that we’d be working with James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment to bring this world to life in our parks, we felt certain that this partnership and combination of talent and imagination would produce an experience unlike any other ever created.

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Artist Rendering of AVATAR-Themed Land During the Day, Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

Our combined team has taken huge steps forward in “imagineering” Pandora as a real place for our guests to see, hear and touch. At the first-ever D23 Expo in Japan, we shared an early glimpse of the plans for AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and I wanted to share some of these breathtaking images and a short preview of what’s to come with all of you.

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Artist Rendering of AVATAR-Themed Land at Night, Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

As these concept renderings show in epic scale, in the world of AVATAR guests will encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound. Guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.

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Guests Will Discover What it Feels Like to Soar into the Sky Riding a Banshee When AVATAR Comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

And the new AVATAR-inspired land won’t be the only change coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
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Live Performers on Discovery Island Will be Part of New Entertainment Experiences Available to Guests as Part of Expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

As part of the largest expansion in the history of the park, we’ll be adding all-new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River that will delight our guests and truly cap off their day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park will introduce more nighttime entertainment as well, including live performers on Discovery Island (pictured above) and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.

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James Cameron, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs and Imagineer Joe Rohde View a Model of the AVATAR-Themed Land Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

As the world of AVATAR becomes real at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the energy and passion shared by our Imagineers and the Lightstorm team for this monumental task continues to be remarkable. I can’t wait to see the reactions of our guests as they step into a world that until now has only existed on the screen.

Writer’s Note:

There has been much talk about the introduction of Avatar to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My personal thoughts are simple! It seems that Disney has a fairly good track record at developing a story that fits the attractions. It is my hope that this will again be the case when Pandora comes to life. At this point, I am looking forward to see what develops over the next few years. I raise an ice cold glass of water in honor of this announcement!

Changes, they are a comin’ to Walt Disney World!

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There is construction taking place at the Downtown Disney (DTD), to begin the transformation to the new Disney Springs Complex.  Parking lot “H” has been closed off, and will be followed by lots “I, J & K” to prepare for the building of a parking garage to allow more space for more guests to visit without, we hope, the congestion that has become a rite of passage to those who drive to DTD.  And even with occasional use of the Cast Member lot, there will be considerably fewer spaces, so happy hunting.  Also, the old Pleasure Island complex is being demolished to prepare for the transition.  I don’t know about others, but I can’t wait to see how this area changes and becomes an attraction worthy of the Disney name.

My Magic+ is continuing to be tested throughout the Resort.  And, it looks like the rollout could begin as early as this fall.  Now, what does this mean for you, the vacationer?  It means that the way things have been done, will no longer be the way they get done.  The elements that can be included in My Magic+ are: Resort Room key, Theme Park admission, Photopass, and Photopass+ , FASTPASS+, Disney Dining Plan, and on the spot purchases.  And, this will all be accomplished through the Magic Band!

If you like to keep track of things while you are in the park, make sure to download the My Disney Experience app to your smartphone.  This can help you keep tabs on your dining reservations, FASTPASS+ times, and a whole lot more.  It all links together with your reservations on your computer.  Just link everything together and it will show up in your app.  And, remember that park wide Wi-Fi is now free on all parks and resorts!

Let me explain a few of these terms that may be new to you…

Photopass+ is a service that makes use of in-park photographers to capture some magic that allows all of the guests to be in the picture.  It also includes many of the ride pictures and dining experience photos.

FASTPASS+ replaces the old FastPass system and will allow guests to plan ahead for some of the more popular rides and attractions.  This may include parades and fireworks.  You will be able to choose one or two attractions from different categories and the time you desire to be at the attraction.  For the Uberplanner, this is right in the wheelhouse!  For the spontaneous guest, you aren’t counted out.  Just go to the kiosks that will be located throughout each park and you can choose attractions and times when you arrive.

I’ll post more about the use of the Magic Band as we get closer to the rollout to give you the most accurate information available.  For now, testing is still being conducted, but the reviews are coming back with some positive feedback.  So, we shall see what comes next!

In our next post, we will look into the Magic Band and the accessories that are already available to make YOUR Magic Band yours.  Until next time,  may your Wishes and Dreams come true!

Author’s Note: My Magic+, FASTPASS+, FastPass, Photopass, Photopass+, Disney Dining Plan, Disney Springs and Magic Band are all trademarks of the Walt Disney Company.