January 30, 2015, Disney Weekly News Roundup

1.  WDW Epcot Starbucks Mug pulled due to monorail with a purple strip which is associated with a tragic 2009 crash.

2.  Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, Diamond Celebration begins on May 23rd.

3.  The Four Season Orlando at WDW is named best hotel in Orlando.

4.  WDW monorail routes are being changed for parts of February and March.  From 11 a.m – 7 p.m on 2/3-5, 2/9-12, 2/23-26, and 3/2-5 the routes will be changed as follows:  monorail on resort beam stops will be Magic Kingdom, Polynesian Resort, and Grand Floridian Resort; monorail on express beam stops will be Magic Kingdom, Transportation and Ticketing Center, and Contemporary Resort.

5.  Disney’s “Night of Joy 2015,” on September, 11 and 12, performers have been announced:  MercyMe, For King & Country, Francesca Battistelli, Lecree, TobyMac, Skillet, Jeremy Camp, Seventh Time Down, I Am They, and Veridia.

6.  Disney is set to increase ticket prices in February.

7.   Emma Watson (aka Hermione Granger of Harry Potter) will star in “Beauty and the Beast.”

8.  Hollywood Tower Hotel merchandise arrive at parks on February 13th.

9.  Disney Cruise Line’s “Magic” rescues 5 Cuban nationals sailing in a raft.

10. Disneyland Half-Marathon Weekend (9/4 – 9/6) registration opens on 2/10/15.

Running at Disney

Pongo here.  I am an avid runner.  My wife says that I’m obsessed.  My son says I’m crazy.  As long as it is safe (no lightning, ice, tornado..) I will be outside running most days, even on vacation.  I will be reviewing running at the WDW resorts, Disneyland and Aulani, Disney races, and races that are easily accessible from WDW resorts.  I will also try to provide helpful information on eating healthy while on a Disney vacation.

Today, I am going to give my rankings of the Deluxe/DVC resorts for run quality and review running at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

1.  Epcot resort:  Yacht & Beach Club, Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin.

2  Old Key West and Sarasota Springs (these are connected by a path).

3.  Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness

4.  Grand Floridian and Polynesian (connected trails)

5.  Contemporary / Bay Lake Tower

6  Animal Kingdom Lodge / Kidani Village

The Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village are at the bottom of the list, because there are basically no good places to run, other than the treadmills.  This is a shame as the resort is beautiful with wonderful theming.  The only safe outdoor option is running back and forth along the 1/4 mile path between Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village.  This is okay for a short 1 or maybe 2 miler, but dreadful for 4 – 6 miles, passing the same real estate 16 – 24 times respectively.  The roads around the resort are NOT SAFE!!  Do not attempt!  I have heard of people running around the parking lot.  This seems pretty boring also and not too safe in my opinion.

Overview:

Pros:  Beautiful resort with great theme, rooms and views.

Cons:  The treadmill is the best running option.

Overall:  I recommend any other WDW property if you plan to run while staying at WDW, unless you are okay with a treadmill.

Our Favorite Spots in Magic Kingdom

Perdita:  My favorite spot in Magic Kingdom, and maybe all of Disney World is “The Enchanted Forest ” in New Fantasyland beside Gaston’s Tavern.  This is one area that is usually peaceful and beautiful in the daytime and even prettier at night with the lights on.  It is particularly “enchanting” at Christmas when the decorations are up.  As a frequent visitor, I regularly seek out a peaceful spot to sit and rest, and this is one of the few places I have found.  A favorite routine of ours is to get a Lefou’s Brew in Gaston’s and take it outside to sit and drink.  The trees in the enchanted forest are different than any I have seen and the fountain in front of Gaston’s adds a peaceful sound that further enhances the experience.

Roly:   My favorite area in the Magic Kingdom is, like my mother, Perdita, the area outside Gaston’s tavern, but for different reasons. The area has the best looking medieval style houses.  The tavern has a treat even better than the famous Dole Whip. The Lefou’s brew is what I am talking about, since it has the tasty apple slush, topped with froth. It is good to sit and drink, while listening to the riders of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train scream nearby. The fountain, with it’s funny plaque, is perfect for the spot, right in front of the tavern. The inside of the tavern is lined with animal heads, and hunting guns, and has two sitting rooms:  one with a huge circular table under a chandelier of antlers, a fireplace, and Gaston’s own chair, the other, smaller with a few chairs. There is a giftshop, mini-forest,  and great views of Eric’s and Beast’s castles, too. This makes for a nice, and surprisingly uncrowded place to sit.

Pongo:  My favorite location in the Magic Kingdom is the center of Tomorrowland near the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, especially at nighttime.  I love the lights, the metallic facade, and the peaceful “space-age” music.  It takes me back to childhood notions of space and the future:  Star Trek, The Jetsons, and Marvin Martian with his Illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator.  Nearby, Mickey’s voice repeats on a circuit from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, saying “It’s out of this world!”  I wholeheartedly agree.

What is your favorite spot?

Pongo’s Disney Story

Pongo here, and this is my Disney story; how I went from visiting once per decade to 2-3 times per year.  I visited the Disney in ’73,’84,’91, and ’99 before finally diving in head first in ’09.

I don’t remember 1973 at WDW.  I was only 2.  I am certain, though, that I was oblivious and was being hurled into the ankles of other unsuspecting visitors with my stroller being pushed as fast as my mom could go.  In ’84’ at Disneyland, I still remember watching from the queue as people shrank in front of me into the Monsanto Mighty  Microscope on “Adventures Through Inner Space.”  Steel drums rang out island music in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland during Disney Spring Break “91.  “99 was capped off by the Tapestry of Nations Parade at Epcot, with dancing puppets, stilt walkers, and rotating drum machines.  The magic was always there, and I was impressed, but not yet a fanatic.

Roly’s first trip in 2009 was great, experiencing everything fresh through his eyes.  We spent 2 weeks during Christmas 2011.  Staying this long, I was able to slow down, soak it all in and appreciate details.  Wow!!  There are so many details.  Waking up on a bench in the warm sun in the rear of  the British pavilion next to Perdita while Roly chased squirrels was the moment that I understood that I wanted the “Welcome Home” greeting at Disney to be somewhat of a reality.  I look forward to returning any time that I get a chance.

January 23, 2015, Weekly Disney News Roundup

* New shops confirmed for Disney Springs:  APEX by Sunglass Hut, Havaianas (flip-flops), Art of Shaving (grooming needs), Sanuk (footware), Chapel Hats, Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC, and Sound Lion (headphones, earbuds)

* 5 Disneyland cast members among those infected with measles.

* Live bands now at Splitsville at Downtown Disney on Saturday nights.

* 2015 DVC Merry Member Mixer dates announced for Tuesdays, November 24, December 1, December 8, and December 15 from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the Epcot World Showcase Pavilion.

* Disney Cruise Line is adding more “Frozen” fun this summer.  Anna, Elsa, and Olaf will be on all four ships.  The Magic and Wonder will feature a ‘Day of Frozen’ and a new deck party.  “Frozen” will be included into a new production number on the Disney Dream.  Cruises to Norway with adventures ashore will be offered.  Olaf’s Summertime Freeze (non-alcoholic) bar will open on Castaway Cay.

* A Broadway musical version of “Frozen” is in the works.

* Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics will return to stores in April.

* The second teaser trailer from “Star Wars:  The Force Awakens” will appear before the movie “Avengers:  Age of Ultron,” which opens on May 1, 2015.

* “Strange Magic,” from Lucasfilms/Disney opens this weekend with Rotten Tomatoes score of 14.

Money Saving Tip: Southwest Rewards

Today, my money saving tip for travel to Disney World concerns a strategy for one aspect of a Disney vacation; travel to the parks.  We live too far to drive without an overnight stop-over; so, we started flying.  We live in a city that offers a direct flight to Orlando aboard Southwest Airlines.  Recently, I opened a Southwest Rewards credit card that offered 50,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in the first three months.  Miles can be redeemed for future flights, and, for us, 50,000 miles translates into about 4-5 round-trip tickets.  You can also shop through the Southwest shopping portal and earn points which translate into miles.

This strategy, with Southwest, may not work depending on where you live, but, all airlines offer credit card reward offers.  There are other cards that offer points as well.  This is one area where I have done a lot of research, and I use it for our family.  In upcoming “Money Saving Tip” posts, I will give the scoop on another way to amp up savings even more with Southwest Airlines, as well as a few of the best offers I have found.

*disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Southwest Airlines

Perdita

Roly’s Review of “Galavant”

Hello, this is Roly again, and today I will be giving a review of a new Disney/ABC show, “Galavant.” I picked up on the story a couple weeks in, on the episode, “Two Balls/Comedy Gold,” and took to it immediately. It reminds me in a way of Monty Python, except of course not as hilarious.

The show, “Two Balls,” is about Galavant’s squire going back to his home town, while the king, played by Timothy Omundson from Psych, finds out that his wife Is “busy” with the jester. This thirty minute show was enough to get hooked, because it finds a way to make fun of anything, and not a minute goes by without a joke. “Comedy Gold” is about Galavant and his companions meeting a loser bunch of pirates, and the king getting (unneeded) comedy advice, in order to win over the queen.
This week’s episodes, “Completely Mad…Alena and Dungeons and Dragons Lady,” were about Galavant going to the castle, and being imprisoned. The first is about Galavant meeting a monastery full of monks who have taken a vow of singing (lead by Weird Al Yankovich). The second, about the king going to meet the wizard, Xanax, who makes a potion, which sends the king, and his serf, into a vision of the king’s childhood.
The show is very funny, and you should definitely check it out. It is certainly different than any other show, in that it is a medieval, comedy,musical, with several songs in each episode. The songs producer for “Galavant” is Alan Menken, who wrote several classic Disney songs such as:  Part of Your World, Belle, and  A Whole New World.  You will definitely be entertained

Roly’s Disney Story

Hello! I am Roly, and this is the story of how i became part of the Disney cult. I first went when I was 8, in 2009, and liked the rides, but that was about it. I just remember going on the roller-coasters, and vaguely remember some rides like Snow White’s Scary Adventures,Peter Pan, and Winnie the Pooh. Now at that time, I didn’t notice the atmosphere in Main Street, or Fantasyland or the rest.  I was just focused on getting on the rides.   I didn’t get into the theme of the parks.
It wasn’t until after the 2nd time I went in 2011 that I just couldn’t wait to get back.
The next time really changed how I thought about Walt Disney World, though. My parents bought a book, “The Magic of Walt Disney World,” about all the hidden things in the park that made me start to look around and notice the details, instead of just thinking about which ride I was going on next.
The 3rd trip and after,(2012-present) have been even better than the first two times. Topped off by staying at the Beach Club Resort’s concierge the 2nd and 3rd vacations. Walt Disney World has grown on me ever since the very first time, and I am looking forward to the next trip as soon as we leave.

Roly

January 16, 2015, Weekly Disney News Roundup

* Measles outbreak traced to Disneyland.  Over 26 people from four states contracted measles during December.

* Disney Vacation Club is now selling points to the newest DVC property, “Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.”  Sale of points is open now for DVC members and opens to non-members on 2/9/15.  The price is $160 per point with annual dues of $6.02 per point.  The resort will open on 4/1/15.   Contracts are good through 1/31/66.

* Removal of the Sorcerer’s Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios began on 1/7/15.

* Epcot International Food and Wine Festival dates were announced and will be September 25 through November 16.

* The Walt Disney World Marathon was ran last weekend.  The 2016 event will be on January 10.  Registration begins on April 28, 2015.

* The area formerly known as Condor Flats in Disney’s California Adventure will be re-opened this summer under the new name of Grizzly Peak Airfield.

* There will be a sneak peak of Disney’s “Cinderella” at the ABC Sound Studio at Disney’s Hollywood Studio from 1/17 through 3/21.  It opens in theaters nationwide on 3/13.

* The premiere of the “Jungle Book” movie has been pushed back to 2016.

* The opening of the “Avatar 2” movie has been pushed back to 2017.

Money Saving Tip: the DVC

There are many ways I have learned to save money for trips to Walt Disney World.   In this first tip, I will give only a brief overview.  Later posts will give a more in-depth discussion.

Three years ago, we bought a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) contract.  This has been the single largest way in which we have saved money, and it has enabled us to visit WDW much more frequently than we otherwise would be able to do.

There are two ways to buy a DVC contract:  directly from Disney, or on the resale market.  We chose to buy from the resale market which saved us about 30% compared with buying directly from Disney.

Perdita

Tomorrow:  Weekly Disney News Roundup