WDW 3D Attractions

Old style, 3D attractions are still available at WDW. Not the new “realistic” 3D like Star Tours or that will come with Avatarland, but the in-your-face, made-you-jump type. I personally am a fan of them. Disney does them very well. Here are my rankings of the current WDW 3D attractions.

1. Muppet Vision 3D in Disney’s Hollywood Studios: This is the Muppets at their very best. From the queue (make sure to read the crates) to the finale’,it is entertaining, pure muppet silliness. The 3D really does add to the experience.

2. Mickey’s Philharmagic in Magic Kingdom: Another very entertaining show, hosted by Goofy, and starring Donald that takes you from conductor/sorcerer Mickey through some of the most loved Disney songs and movie scenes. Donald and Goofy are funny. The 3D is in-your-face. I love the smell during the Aladdin scene. So grab your opry glasses. This is a must see.philharmagic

3. StormStruck in Epcot: This is not the silly and goofy fare of the first two. The use of 3D and other special effects make this a great attraction, though. It is an educational quiz about home construction and tornados in Innoventions hosted by Steve Cantori of The Weather Channel. Another must see.                                                                                                               stormstruck

4. It’s Tough to be a Bug in Animal Kingdom: Although I have this one ranked near the bottom of the list, I still recommend that you check it out if you never have. Maybe watching “A Bug’s Life” prior to your next visit would help to get you re-acquainted with the story. This one is fun, but can be intense for little ones. The first time we did this in 1999, Roly’s big sister, 8 at the time, left screaming at the top of her lungs, running as fast as she could to the exit after a certain stinging special effect.

5. Captain Eo in Epcot: Unless you are a huge Michael Jackson fan, the two best things about this attraction are leaving and having the right to gripe about it with others afterwards.

The waits for these attractions are usually very short to nonexistent. Most of them are worth checking out.

Pongo

Is Disney literally a year-round activity?

March Madness is here. Our College basketball team, the University of Louisville men’s basketball team played in the Elite Eight cardyesterday for a chance to go into the final four and it occurred to me that basketball for us is mostly year-round with the actual season, recruiting and the like. Then it occurred to me that while basketball is nearly a year-round activity, Disney has truly become a year-round activity.

Some events are pay only, like the Very Merry Christmas Party, and the Not So Scary Christmas Party...
Some events are pay only, like the Very Merry Christmas Party, and the Not So Scary Christmas Party…

Our Disney obsession is really gaining ground. Due in part to DVC (Disney Vacation Club) ownership, we are going to Disney World more and more. We started with Christmas, then Flower and Garden, then Food and Wine, and now other times of the year. When we are home we are thinking of our next trip and even while we are at WDW we are planning our next trip! We read websites, twitter feeds, blogs about Disney. I shop for Disney items (both at the parks and at home)! Our collection of Disney pictures and knick-knacks keeps growing exponentially. This has really become a year-round sport/activity.

There are far worse things to have as hobbies/obsessions. Everyone needs something to think about and plan for and do. Ours happens to be Disney and it involves the whole family which is a good thing that we can share this as a family. We go to the parks together, watch Disney movies together, went on a cruise together, went to Aulani together, now write the blog together. Disney has actually brought us closer as a family so that is a good thing as well.

Other events are all day events, and free, like the the International Food and Wine Festival, and the Flower and Garden Festival.
Other events are all day events, and free, like the the International Food and Wine Festival, and the Flower and Garden Festival.

We have even incorporated a little bit of Disney in our yard. ( I will write future blog posts about Disney in the home and outside.)

So to summarize, Disney has become a year-long activity in one form or another.

Ranking of Innoventions Exhibits at Epcot

As was reported this week, Innoventions West and The Great Piggy Bank Adventure in Innoventions East at Epcot are set to close on April 30. A lot of people say that Innoventions is dated and are glad that changes are coming. I will wait and see. I personally like several of the attractions and will miss some of them. The current exhibits in Innoventions East are StormStruck, Habit Heroes, The Sum of All Thrills, Vision House, and Take Nanooze Break. The West Exhibits are Where’s the Fire?,Think, The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, and Videogame Playground. Below are my rankings of the current attractions.

1. Stormstruck: If you have not been to this, please do. The lines are short and the show is both fun and educational. You will jump.
2. The Great Piggy Bank Adventure: This one is on the chopping block. It is a family favorite. Roly mentioned it in Overlooked Attractions blog. It is a series of games that 2 or 3 can play as a team. The games are entertaining, require team work and teach about investing. If you will be at WDW before April 30, I recommend that you check it out.
3. Sum of All Thrills: You design your own thrill ride and then test it in a simulator. The lines can be long (for Innoventions), but the result is worth it. It is educational, too.
4. Vision House: Another soon to be EX-attraction. You tour a house with new, eco-friendly products. They have done a good job of keeping it updated and relavent. We will miss it.
5. Where’s the Fire?: Soon to be gone. A team game where you find fire risks in a house. I enjoy it, too.
6 – 9. All forgettable.

To me, Epcot is about making learning entertaining. Innoventions has lived up to that for me. I hope that Disney has something planned for the space. Epcot needs more to do, not less. Having said that, there are a couple of things that I hope are not done. First, I hope that the Tony Stark Hall of Armor and related exhibits that are closing in Disneyland’s Innoventions are not transferred. It is okay, not great, but it offers no educational benefit. Secondly, I hope it is not filled with another meet and greet.

If you have heard any rumors about replacement plans, or if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.

March 27, 2015: Weekly Disney News Roundup

* “Tomorrowland” sneak preview will be starting in mid-April at California Disneyland in the Tomorrowland Theater and at WDW Epcot in the Imagination Pavilion (home of Captain Eo). The preview will last 10-15 minutes. “Tomorrowland” opens on May 22.
* Skippers Cantina, a Jungle Cruise themed restaurant, is coming to the Magic Kingdom.
* All exhibits in Innoventions West at Epcot will close for good on April 30. This includes Where’s the Fire?, Great Piggybank Adventure, and IBM Think. It is unknown what the plans for the area are.
* The Dream House in Epcot’s Innoventions East is set to close, too.
* Innoventions in Disneyland California is set to close at the end of March. It is rumored that Star Wars attraction(s) will take its place.
* Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge were granted official accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
* Art in the Garden will be at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival from March 27 – 29 featuring art exhibits along the World Showcase.
* An exhibit of concept art from the upcoming Pixar movie “inside Out” has opened at Disney Hollywood Studios in the Production Gallery of the Magic of Disney Animation.
* Marvel “Super Heroes Headquarters” store will open in May at Disney Springs (Downtown Disney) in Florida.
* Registration for Avengers Super Heroes 1/2 Marathon at Disneyland California opens on April 7.
* DVC Polynesian Villas and Bungalows open on April 1.
* Disney Cruise Line announced its first British Isles itinerary. Leaving from Dover, England on 6/5/16, the 12 night cruise will make stops in England, Ireland, Scotland and France. From our calling, it appears that it has already sold out and there is a waiting list.
* Disney bans smoking in all of its films rated PG-13 or below.
* Disney’s Aladdin celebrated its first anniversary on Broadway on March 20.

* Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes are adding Loki as a playable character.

*Editorial:  We love The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, Disney Dream House, and Where’s the Fire and will miss them.  Epcot needs more attractions.  I hope that there are plans for replacements, better than Habit Heroes, or an entirely new attraction.

Review of Bay Lake Tower (and The Contemporary Resort)

Review of Bay Lake Tower/Contemporary Resort-

Bay Lake Tower and Contemporary Resort
Bay Lake Tower and Contemporary Resort

Overall my favorite property is Bay Lake Tower (with Beach Club Villas a close second). The Bay Lake Tower is a 16-story property built in 2000. ( It is considered a Magic Kingdom resort because of its proximity to the Magic Kingdom park.) Up until recently it was the newest DVC (Disney Vacation Club) property. Now the Grand Floridian Villas and this year the Polynesian Villas are open. (These two are also Magic Kingdom resorts.)

The shop "BVG" or Bay View Gifts
The shop “BVG” or Bay View Gifts

We have stayed at the Grand Floridian a couple of times. It is the prettiest property we have stayed at and the most luxurious with very upscale furnishings and accessories. I will do a review of this property another time, but today my focus is on the Bay Lake Tower. With the above comments about the luxurious nature of the Grand Floridian Villas you may be wondering how it wouldn’t be deemed my favorite. The biggest reason is the number of points it takes to stay there vs. the Bay Lake Tower. If you aren’t familiar with the point system of the Disney Vacation Club this can be confusing. Think of more points meaning more money. You can stay on a cash basis as well and it is more expensive at the Villas at the Grand Floridian. There are other things that make Bay Lake Tower “better” for us. Ease of getting a reservation, inexpensive food choices and proximity to those food choices, proximity to Magic Kingdom, more gift shops, etc.

The Fantasia gift shop
The Fantasia gift shop

Now after this digression, my review of Bay Lake Tower. As I stated, it is a 16-story high rise with a modern feel inside and out. It is on the monorail system and connected to the Contemporary Resort via a covered walkway. The rooms come with a Magic Kingdom view, a lake view (view of Bay Lake), or a standard view. Most of the rooms have a lake view so this is always what we have had. Most of the lake view rooms face the pool at the Bay Lake Tower and I enjoy it because we see huge clumps of bamboo, several species of palm trees and the Bay Lake. The rooms are decorated with contemporary furnishings and accessories, but still have a Disney theme with Mickey heads on the coverlet and modern Mickey pictures over the bed. The rooms come in studios, 1-bedroom villas, 2-bedroom villas and the largest a 3-bedroom villa. We always stay in the studio to conserve points. The studios come with a queen bed and a queen pull-out sofa (which doesn’t have the bar down the middle so it sleeps comfortably.) The studio is the only room that doesn’t come with washer and dryer, but there is a laundry room on the ground floor that is free for guests to use. There is a small kitchenette with microwave, small fridge, sink, and plenty of storage. It comes stocked with paper plates and bowls as well as plastic cutlery.

Now to the perks of staying at Bay Lake Tower. I think the food choices are the best of the places we have stayed. They have a character dining experience called Chef Mickey’s which we haven’t tried. They have two pricier dining options: California Grill, and the Wave. We haven’t tried these either. We opt for the Contempo Cafe. The choices are wide, the prices reasonable, and there are many healthy options to choose from.

There are three gift shoppes to choose from. My favorite is called BVG and has a wide variety of merchandise that is always fun to walk through and to buy from. They have clothing, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, pictures, picture frames, purses, home decor, kitchen accessories and even treats like cookies and cupcakes in a glass case. There is another shop across the hall called Fantasia which has a lot of toys, stuffed animals, books and a large selection of Disney pins. The third shop is called the Fantasia Market which has a small selection of food and drinks. This selection beats anywhere we have stayed thus far.

I love being able to walk from the Bay Lake Towers to the Magic Kingdom. It is much more expedient than having to wait for the monorail. I like the monorail but many times we haven’t been able to fit on the first monorail and have to wait for the second one. Plus, you have to make three stops before arriving at the Magic Kingdom. I at first protested because of fatigue from walking so much already at the parks, but I have found the walk actually invigorating the last couple of visits.

A view inside one of the rooms
A view inside one of the rooms

Another big perk for us is being able to check out two movies at a time from the Community Hall on the first floor. They have the best selection of movies I have seen by far at any of the resorts. There are four booklets filled with movies that are alphabetized and categorized according to ratings. They carry all 54 full-length animated Disney movies as well as live action Disney movies and some non-Disney movies. They have both well-known and more obscure movies.

Bay Lake Tower like all of the resorts have pools, hot tubs, bocci ball, ping-pong, tennis, movie nights, and roasted marshmallows every night. There is a dock where you can rent boats for parasailing or for cruising the lake. You can also rent jet skis at the same location. There is a pirate excursion that we have never taken part in but it does set sail from the Contemporary.

The Friendships

The Friendships are my favorite mode of transport at WDW. The Monorails are great. The busses….get you to parks. The Friendships are enjoyable and an experience unto themselves.

Friendship in front of the Boardwalk Resort
Friendship in front of the Boardwalk Resort

The Friendships are boats that take guests from the Epcot World Showcase to the Front of Hollywood Studios with stops at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort, and Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels. They run back and forth, along Crescent Lake and the canal leading to Hollywood Studios from about an hour before the parks open until about an hour after closing, stopping at each location roughly every 20 minutes. At peak times, more boats run the circuit

On the boats you get a great view of the Beach Club's landmark. Themed to be a wrecked pirate ship, this is actualy a slide.
On the boats you get a great view of the Beach Club’s landmark. Themed to be a wrecked pirate ship, this is actualy a slide.

and the interval becomes shorter. The Epcot World Showcase entrance is between the France and United Kingdom pavilions. The Hollywood Studios launch site is at the front of the park to the far left as you exit. Both pickups are closer than bus pickups. If you are staying at one of the above resorts, the Friendships or walking are your options to get to either Epcot orHollywood Studios. They are available for anyone wanting to go between the two parks, or wanting to stop off at one of the resorts.

A picture of an Ibis in front of the Boardwalk.
A picture of an Ibis in front of the Boardwalk.

I like that they are rarely, overly crowded, except at peak times. You can sit inside, shaded from the heat or protected from the cold when it is cool, or if it is nice, there is open air seating at the back. They are reliable at being on time and at arriving at the parks in a reasonable time.. The seats are comfy and the ride is smooth.

The sightseeing along the way is my favorite thing about the ride. The Boardwalk Resort has a turn of the century, New York/New Jersey boardwalk theme. How the different architectural elements come together is impressive. The Yacht & Beach Club Resorts are beautiful with a mid-Atlantic Beach motif. The stop for the Yacht & Beach Club is at a lighthouse on Crescent Lake. There is the shipwreck on the beach which is the slide to the best pool at WDW, Storm-a-long Bay. The last resort stop is at the Swan and Dolphin. They are different, not quite fitting in with the rest. Across from these you can see the pool of the Boardwalk, with it’s Coney Island theme and a slide shaped like a roller coaster, emptying into the pool through a clown’s mouth. The final jaunt along the canal to Hollywood Studios is great for bird watching. We have seen ahingas, herons (great blue, little blue and white), egrets, ducks (mallards and ring-necked), loons, white ibis, hooded merganser, double-crested cormorant, American coots, and gallinult during our Friendship rides.

There are many other reasons to take a trip on a Friendship. There are many great table service restaurants at each of the hotels. The Friendships make it easy to reach these in little time if you are spending your day at either Epcot or Hollywood Studios. Reservations are usually required, but are easier to get than at the parks. There are also good quick service restaurants at the Boardwalk resort including a bakery and pizza window, which has delicious, New York style pizza at a very reasonable price.The Beach & Yacht Club has the famous “kitchen sink” sundae at Beaches and Cream. Street performers (mimes, jugglers, magicians) entertain along the boardwalk at night. A gingerbread merry-go-round at the Beach Club and a gingerbread house at the Boardwalk stand during the Christmas season.

The Friendships are a enjoyable way to commute between Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Go for a ride. Take in the sites. Maybe, get some pizza or ice cream. I think that you will become a fan like me.

Pongo

Perdita’s Favorite Snacks at WDW

creamMy absolute favorite snack in all of Disney World is the cream-cheese filled pretzel. It is like a desert in some ways filled with warm, gooey cream cheese but not too sweet. You can find these in various locations in Magic Kingdom such as pretzel stands and in Tomorrowland at the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant. In Hollywood Studios I have found them at pretzel stands. I first found one at a pretzel stand during the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and was hooked. I have even done web searches to find out where to get these special pretzels. I have never seen them at Epcot or Animal Kingdom.

Roly's favorite, the Lefou's Brew.
Roly’s favorite, the Lefou’s Brew.

Another treat which is more well known that is actually addictive is found at Gaston’s Tavern at Magic Kingdom and is known as LeFou’s Brew. It is non-alcoholic and is made with a combination of juices. The foam at the top is my favorite part. It is so good as to be indescribable. An even more well known treat that is one of my favorite’s is Dole Whip. This is found at both Magic Kingdom and at the Polynesian Resort. At Magic Kingdom you can find this wonderful treat at Aloha Isle in Adventureland. It is a frozen treat available in pineapple, orange, vanilla or swirl flavors. I think the best is pineapple. The lines for this are almost always long but it is worth it.

Some of the treats you can find in the Confectionery.
Some of the treats you can find in the Confectionery.

Rice crispy treats dipped in icing are another favorite and can be found at both the Confectionary and the Main Street Emporium. These can also be found at the resorts gift shops. These are better than any other rice crispy treat I have had anywhere else. Funnel cakes are another treat that are fantastic. They can be found at the American Pavillon at Epcot, Sleepy Hollow Refreshments at Magic Kingdom, and Oasis Canteen at Hollywood Studios.

Roly’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Review

This picture shows Angus Macbadger.
This picture shows Angus Macbadger.

Hey, Roly here, and today I will be giving a short, overall review of Mr. Toads Wild Ride. (I will go into more depth about the ride in future posts.)

The outside of the ride itself is wonderfully themed-unlike Fantasyland rides in WDW which I covered in my Disneyland Fantasyland review- in order for it to look like you are walking into Toad Hall. The queue itself is themed to look like Toad Hall, where the ride starts.

Mole is interrupted in his dinner.
Mole is interrupted in his dinner.

The whole ride is based around the part you never see in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad; Toady’s ride in his motorcar. You drive by and through some of the scenes from the movie while trying to escape the police. You narrowly escape mowing down a few people, escape an explosion, and almost collide with a car. At the end of it all, you go to the place where all bad little toads go. The Hell scene is said to be one of the main reasons they took out the ride in WDW. That was before my time though, and the Disneyland version is all I have to go by.

Now, I love thrill rides, and I love rides based on my favorite movies. This ride is neither of those, and yet it is my favorite ride in the either of the California parks. In my opinion it is the third best ride at all six of the disney parks I have been to, right behind Peter Pan and Tower of Terror.

My favorite part of the ride.
My favorite part of the ride.

If Disney ever takes out this ride, I will be extremely mad. I believe I know now why there was such pushback against Disney removing the ride from WDW.

March 20, 2015: Weekly Disney News Roundup

* Yesterday, 3/19/15, Magic Kingdom guests were treated to two flyovers and aerial displays over Cinderella Castle by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Check out the “Disney Parks Blog” for pictures and video.
* Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland will begin testing a prix-fixe breakfast from 8-10 a.m. starting today and running through June 18th.
* Smokejumpers Grill at Disney’s California Adventure Grizzly Peak Airfield opens today.
* Reservations can be made beginning today for “Wishes Firework Dessert Party” at the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrowland Terrace will be home of this experience.
* “For the First Time in Forever” A Frozen Sing-Along celebration is moving to Hollywood Studios Superstar Television Theater, formerly home of the American Idol Experience. The theater will now be called the Hyperion Theater.
* Disney Egg-stravaganza, a scavenger hunt for Disney themed Easter eggs, will run from March 27th through April 5th, at Disneyland in California and Epcot in Florida.
* MagicBands are set to replace parking passes at WDW resort hotels. Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Villas (DVC) will be the first to undergo the change.
* Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort East Pool will soon close for 8-10 months for refurbishment.
* Registration for Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon filled in about an hour on March 17. (We missed out.)
* A new Muppets Short Series is coming to Disney Jr.
* Disney Channel plans a biopic of Mo’ne Davis, the 13 year old girl who last year became the first girl to pitch a shut out in the Little League World Series: “Throw Like Mo.”
* “Cinderella” opened strong as the top grossing movie for last weekend.

Eating “Cheaply” at Walt Disney World.

Is this even possible you may be thinking. I guess the word cheap is a relative thing but we have managed to eat reasonably inexpensively at Disney World for several years now. One of the first tips my husband posted on: the refillable mugs. This alone makes a huge difference. Even in any setting whether a beach destination, Disney, or even at home; drinks are a huge part of a food budget when eating out. The refillable mugs are a great price saver when staying at the parks for more than 3-4 days. The longer the stay, the bigger the price savings. The mugs can be refilled as many times as possible with soda, Powerade, lemonade, tea, coffee, and hot cocoa. The length of stay mug costs $17.99 which sounds like a lot but if you are staying even 7 days and fill the mug 5 times per day that is 51 cents/ refill. If you stay 14 days like we have that is 26 cents/ refill. You must fill the mugs at the resorts as there isn’t a place in the parks to fill them but we fill ours before every trip out, which is usually twice per day

I always want to come here to eat when we come to EPCOT. They have great Mexican food and nice inside seating.
I always want to come here to eat when we come to EPCOT. They have great Mexican food and nice inside seating.

For food, we eat at the quick service restaurants at the parks and at the Contempo Cafe at The Contemporary Resort. We stay at the Bay Lake Tower a lot and the Contempo Cafe has reasonable prices and good selection with some nutritious choices. We have stayed at other resorts and found their quick service restaurants pretty good and usually more relaxed than at the parks.

At Epcot there are many quick service options that are both reasonable in price and filling and good.
At the Land in Epcot there is the Sunshine Seasons restaurant that has 5 food choices like a mini-food court. The Mexico Pavillion and many of the countries offer good food at reasonable prices.

This is the Pinnochio Village Haus, my favorite restaraunt in Magic Kingdom. They serve some of the best flatbreads in all the parks.
This is the Pinnochio Village Haus, my favorite restaraunt in Magic Kingdom. They serve some of the best flatbreads in all the parks.

At Magic Kingdom both Ray’s Starlight Cafe and Pinocchio’s Village Haus have good choices for about $10/ person per adult and less for kid’s meals. Ray’s has a huge 1/2 roasted chicken meal with great mashed potatoes and green beans for $10.99. ( We buy two meals and get an extra plate and feed all three of us). Ray’s has 3 food choices with different lines; one for chicken, one for sandwiches and burgers, and one for soups and salads.

At Animal Kingdom Flame Tree Barbecue is good and not too expensive. Pizzafari is okay but nothing special.

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe. From the seating area pictured here you have a great view of the fireworks.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. From the seating area pictured here you have a great view of the fireworks.

Hollywood Studios has a dearth of quick service options. What is there is sub-par in my opinion.

If you fly with Southwest, you can check two bags for free. This leads to another way to save. Pack an entire suitcase full of snacks and food. We did this for Christmas and saved money this way, especially since we like to snack quite a bit.

In summary, eating cheaply at Disney World isn’t possible but eating cheaper is.