Magical Blogograil: What to do on Non-Park Days – Waterways

What’s more relaxing than enjoying the waterways of Walt Disney World? Many take a resort day to escape the crowds, but we like to board one of the many water craft, available at no cost, and chart a course!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are sharing fun things to do at Disney on non-Park days.


Hi Ho and it’s a pirate’s life for me! Well, not actually a pirate’s life, more like a passenger’s life!

Come aboard this post and enjoy the views of Walt Disney World from a different perspective:

Waterways On Board

Here we are aboard one of the many Water Taxis that take passengers from one resort to the next on the Seven Seas Lagoon. You can visit Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa (pictured above), Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. And of course, ending up at The Magic Kingdom.

Waterways Craft

While on route, you can enjoy beautiful vistas and view your favorite attractions from unique angles, such as Space Mountain, above. Also above you can see one of the smaller water craft that you can rent for personal tours of the lake.

Waterways Contemporary View

Seeing structures like the Contemporary from the water side is a rare treat, complete with a monorail sighting if you time things just right!

Waterways Docking

Above is a view of one of the Water Taxis arriving at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground.

Waterways Shoreline

Sometimes you can see older attractions, or what’s left of them, such as this landing from the old River Country water park. The above picture was taken in 2008 so I wonder how much of this scene is left now.

Waterways Arrival at Magic Kingdom

Ferryboats run from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the entrance of The Magic Kingdom. You could take the monorail, but that wouldn’t be as wet!

Waterways Ferryboat

Empty Ferryboat on Training Run

Other vessels also ply the waterways:

Waterways Misc Boat

No matter which option you choose, the fun is the same! As hinted at earlier, you can also rent jet skis, paddle boats, canoes, and other water craft for solo or group adventures.

Waterways Sailing

Sailboats Too!

Waterways Sunset

And when the day is done, you will be treated to some of the most breathtaking images you can imagine!

So who’s with me? Will you take to the waters on your next non-Park day?

For more ways to spend non-park days at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Blogorail Green | Things to Do on Non-Park Days at Disney

Magical Blogorail: Best Live Entertainment – Epcot

Disney has always plussed the guest experience with a wonderful variety of live entertainment around the parks. Epcot is perhaps unique in that it offers colorful selections from around the real world around the World Showcase!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing some of the best live entertainment at the Disney Parks.


I’d like to share some of the live entertainment acts that I have seen around Epcot over the years. Just like the other attractions in the parks, these acts have come and gone in an ever-changing line-up of talent.

Live Entertainment Morocco

MO’ROCKIN

This was a 6-person Moroccan musical act that played in the Morocco Pavilion. The group was often accompanied by a belly dancer. Unfortunately, Disney decided to discontinue this act and it played for the last time on September 27th, 2014.

Live Entertainment Extra

Sometimes this version of Mo’Rockin would be playing in the Morocco Pavilion.

Live Entertainment Off Kilter

Off Kilter

Off Kilter is a high-energy Celtic rock band founded by Jamie Holton, bagpiper, in 1996. The band is a unique blend of traditional Celtic tunes and songs with a rock twist, popular covers arranged with a Celtic rock feel, and original songs. Instruments consist of bagpipes, Irish whistles, electric guitar, bass, fiddle, drums and vocals. The band played for 18 years as one of the most popular bands at Walt Disney World in Florida (Canadian Pavilion, Epcot), and currently tours the country performing at many different venues.

Live Entertainment Quartet

Quartet

I wish I could remember which country these four entertainers represented! They were quite good.

So, I’ve shared acts that aren’t in Epcot anymore. I include them to show the variety of acts that have been offered over the years.

The official lineup now is as follows:

  • British Revolution (English groups cover band)
  • JAMMitors (Percussion group)
  • Jeweled Dragon Acrobats (Chinese acrobatics)

Live Entertainment Acrobats

  • Mariachi Cobre (Mexican band)
  • Matsuriza (Japanese drumming)
  • Rose & Crown Pub Musician (Piano)
  • Voices of Liberty (American vocal group)
  • Wies N Buam (German Oomph band)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can check out this official Disney site for show times and other entertainment offered.

I hope this whets your appetite for live entertainment at Epcot!

For more must see live entertainment at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Orange  | Best Live Entertainment at Disney Loop:

Magical Blogorail: Disney Ride Secrets – Big Thunder Mountain

Every ride has a ‘sweet spot’ where everyone wants to sit. Especially roller coasters! Where should you sit on Big Thunder Mountain? And what other secrets does this attraction hold?

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing some of the secrets you’ll find while enjoying Disney attractions.


So what isn’t a secret about this iconic Walt Disney World attraction? The official site says: “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a speedy rollercoaster-type attraction designed with your entire family in mind. However, some parts of this attraction are bumpy and, in some instances, take place in the dark.”

Obviously, this isn’t the fastest or wildest ride in the Magic Kingdom. But what it lacks in thrills it more than makes up for in fun and theming. However, if you want the biggest possible thrill on the Big Thunder Mountain railway, here is how to get it:

Big Thunder Train Cab

TIP: Don’t Sit Up Front

When I rode this attraction for the first time, I assumed that the best place to ride would be directly behind the ‘engine’. But when I asked the loading Cast Member if we could ride up front, he told me that if I wanted to really feel the drops, I needed to ride in the back. He directed us there and… he was right!

Why? On the main drop, the coaster train slows, and the front starts down the drop before the cars are released. So the first two cars don’t experience the full length of the drop. But the last car, still slightly behind the crest of the hill when the drop begins, gets the full effect!

So whereby with other coasters the front cars are the best, with Big Thunder Mountain, it’s the rear that gives the best ride!

But there is one more tip I can share to help you get the most out of this attraction. As mentioned earlier, Big Thunder Mountain is heavily themed, so you will want to see everything. But how can you do that whilst whizzing around the track? You can’t. Therefore…

Big Thunder Mountain Vista

TIP: Ride Other Attractions

The picture above was taken from the Liberty Belle Riverboat while plying the Rivers of America. This allows you a leisurely look at the majestic spires of the mountain.

Big Thunder Ride Vehicle

You can also watch the ride vehicles go by and listen to the screams of the riders.

You can also see the mountain from the other side if you take a ride on the Walt Disney World Railroad:

Big Thunder SceneryBig Thunder Store

You will have less time to see things from this perspective as the train moves a little faster than its lake-going counterpart. But most of the small details are on this side, so be sure to sit of the right side of the train cars for the best views and photo opportunities.

I’ll let you discover the rest of the secrets on your own when you ride Big Thunder Mountain for yourself!

For more Disney ride secrets,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Red  | Disney Ride Secrets Loop:

Magical Blogorail: Is It Worth It? Park Hopper Option

Now we all know that the more days you purchase for fun in the parks, the less each day costs you. But does Disney get that money back by upselling you on options you don’t need? Like the Park Hopper option? Let’s find out!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing aspects of a Disney vacation that make people ask: Is it worth it?


Park Hopper Parks

So many Park choices!

Again, we all realize that buying admission days in bulk is the best option. The more days you buy, the cheaper each day becomes. But as with everything in life, it’s the extras that’ll kill you!

Let’s assume you are going to take your family of four to Walt Disney World for four days. Basic admission tickets for everyone would basically cost you $1,400 US (ouch!)

Park Hopper Basic

Now add the Park Hopper option to all four tickets for all four days and now you will spend $1,700 US (OUCH!)

Park Hopper Ticket Prices

So basically you will spend an additional $300.00 US just for the privilege of jumping around from park to park in the same day. Is that an extra that really adds value? Here are some reasons why I believe it does not:

  • You could probably spend that $300.00 on something else (dining, souvenirs)
  • There is more than enough to do in each park for a day without jumping
  • Precious vacation time will be lost travelling between parks
  • Got grumpy kids? Park hop. Nuff said!

This option makes more sense for a single visitor or for couples who visit often and know what they want to see and can thus plan to make the most of the Park Hopper option. For families, and those on a budget, this option is one best left off your basic ticket!

For more opinions on what is and isn’t worth the splurge at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Orange  | Is It Worth It? Loop:

Magical Blogorail: Disney Splurges – Specialty Apparel

There are a lot of things in this world that we want but don’t need. And that is why we invented the word ‘Splurge’! And when we go to a Disney resort or theme park, we just might splurge on a piece of specialty apparel.

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing fun ways to splurge at Disney.


Specialty Apparel Mannequins

T-shirts for all!

Now let’s get serious. A t-shirt would never qualify as a ‘splurge’ but rather an indulgence we all partake of due to the relatively inexpensive cost of such a piece of Disney clothing. Well, until Disney cranks up the retail price!

No, to qualify as a true ‘splurge’ the item must be frivolous, ridiculous, or unreasonably expensive. Let’s look at something frivolous first:

Specialty Apparel Sombrero

Frivolous: Not having any serious purpose or value. I think we can all agree that a rainbow sombrero would qualify as a frivolous clothing purchase! You can splurge on one of  these beauties at the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World.

Besides, you know you couldn’t look as good as I do in one, so why invite disappointment? Next, we look at something ridiculous:

Specialty Apparel Minnie Dress

Ridiculous: Deserving or inviting derision or mockery; absurd. This little Minnie Mouse ensemble might work for a costume party but outside of that it would have very little value in anyone’s wardrobe! Unless you were a young girl with a strong sense of self. For anyone else, buying this would be a ridiculous waste of money, invite mockery, but… constitute a definite ‘splurge’!

Now let’s look at something expensive:

Specialty Apparel Komono

Expensive: Costing a lot of money. Buying anything from a source country while visiting the pavilions in Epcot is definitely one way to spend a lot of money. So perhaps this would be the ultimate splurge when it comes to specialty apparel!

At the Japan Pavilion, a Cast Member will help you pick out a custom Kimono Robe with all the accessories. When we went to Walt Disney World in 2006, we could afford to splurge on the above picture!

So what piece of specialty apparel at Disney do you splurge on?

For more ways to splurge at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue  | Disney Splurges Loop:

Magical Blogorail: Family Adventure – Winter Travel

Winter is a great time to travel some place warm, but what if the budget doesn’t allow for that? Then it’s time for a day trip! And who better to help us plan such trips than the Beatles, the original Day Trippers!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Peach Loop. Today we are exploring fun you and your family can have this winter. Lots of fun can be found locally!


Travel car trip

John Lennon and Paul Mccartney wrote a great song about day trips. Okay, it mainly had something to do with a girl who teased love but didn’t deliver, or possibly it had some other meaning? But for the purpose of this article, I’m going with the title of the song at face value!

So let’s go through the lyrics line by line to see what we can learn about making day trips a successful vacation alternative:

Got a good reason
For taking the easy way out
Got a good reason
For taking the easy way out now

EASE OF PLANNING – How long did it take you to plan your last full-on vacation? Months? And was it a pleasant experience? Probably not as pleasant as the vacation itself! So the first reason to take day trips is just how easy they are to plan.

Travel Google

Pick a place within a two-hour drive radius of your home… and go! It really is the easy way out of town.

She was a day tripper
One way ticket, yeah
It took me so long to find out
And I found out

LENGTH OF TIME – The beauty of a day trip is the duration. It is by nature very short and thus manageable for even the youngest member of the family.

And if it turns out not to be what you thought it might be? Go home! You won’t have lost much, just a day.

She’s a big teaser
She took me half the way there
She’s a big teaser
She took me half the way there, now

SURPRISE FACTOR – Day trips are a great way to spring a special day on your family. Being as the experience is local, no one will need to pack or prepare. So you can easily load everyone into the mini-van without having to divulge the ultimate destination.

Travel surprise

Of course, your family may pry the secret out of you, you big teaser, before you’re half the way there!

Tried to please her
She only played one night stands
Tried to please her
She only played one night stands, now

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE – Maybe you’ve taken a vacation that didn’t please at least one member of your family. This can be disappointing, especially if one member always feels that their interests are never served!

With a day trip, you could forgo the surprise element and let each member of your family pick a destination or activity. Yes, with day trips, it really is easy to please them all!

She was a day tripper
Sunday driver, yeah
It took me so long to find out
And I found out

MAGICAL MEMORIES – Instead of just one big experience to remember each year, with day trips you can have many magical memories to add to your family’s scrap books.

I’m sure if you plan a few day trips yourself, you’ll find out just how fun they can be!

Day tripper, day tripper, yeah
Day tripper, day tripper, yeah
Day tripper, day tripper, yeah

I say ‘Day Trip’ you say ‘Yeah‘!

If you’re in the Michigan region, you may want to visit The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, or perhaps take the Ford Rouge Factory Walking Tour. Click the links for my reviews!

For more winter travel ideas, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our

Blogorail Peach | Family Adventure | Winter Travel

Magical Blogorail: Disney Bucket Lists

Everyone can visit a Disney theme park anytime they want. For a fee, they can even get a special tour. But not everyone can get a VIP tour behind the scenes of the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. This should be one everyone’s bucket lists!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing our Disney Bucket Lists and what you should add to yours.


Touring Disney  & Pixar Animation Studios

bucket lists

Wouldn’t it have been great to live back in the time when Walt Disney was eager to show people around his new studio? Any excuse to show off his thriving animation operation was taken with gusto! He even did promotional and theatrical films depicting life inside the studio in response to the demand from the public to see how his films were made.

Yes please.

The closest to a private behind-the-scenes tour would be the Walt Disney Studios Tour offered by Adventures by Disney. This is a three-day California experience where, in part, you can learn the story of The Walt Disney Studios during a privately guided visit, which includes The Walt Disney Archives.

If I can’t get my own private tour into restricted areas, the above experience would certainly be a good consolation prize!

And although Pixar Animation Studios hasn’t been around for as long as the Walt Disney Animation Studios, I think everyone would agree that it would be a fun place to visit! And something to add to everyone’s bucket lists.

pixar-entrance

Apparently there are no public tours of Pixar so getting past these gates is probably not going to happen. Or is it? Check out this link for seven ways that just may get you in!

One of the ways to get in mentioned in the link is to ‘know a guy’ on the inside. You can enjoy a pictorial tour by Ken Miyamoto or watch the cool video below from Keith Lapinig, both who used this method of entry:

34,761 people have already ran through the halls with Keith, to date, but there’s always room for one more guest! And there are literally dozens of tour videos from special guests and media outlets on the Internet so there are many ways to tour vicariously through others.

pixar-inside

Could I get past the guard and sneak around?

Probably not. I’ve visited Walt Disney World and Disneyland, gone on a Disney Cruise, interviewed Dave Smith, and recently visited the birth place of Walt Disney in Chicago, IL. My Disney Bucket List is growing!

It’s only a matter of time before I add tours of the Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios to that list. I hope!

For more Disney bucket list ideas,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our

Magical Blogorail Orange | Disney Bucket Lists Loop:

Magical Blogorail: Saving Money for Disney

Now I know you are probably going back to Disney to pick up even more treasures to add to your collection. And yes, some more memories too. But don’t rule out one of the best ways to generate capital to make that trip possible – selling off some of your existing Disney swag!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing ways to save money for your Disney vacation.


Selling Your Way to Disney

sell-sell-sell

I’m going to do my post this month in the form of a Top Five List. So without further ado, here are the Top 5 Reasons for Selling Your Way to Disney, which means selling some of your Disney collection to pay for your next Disney vacation:

Reason Five

Dusting

Do you like to dust? I don’t so my wife is always after me to dust my collectibles! I try to tell her that if I don’t dust, then when I pick up a collectible, I will know exactly where to place it down again due to the dust ring. And that is why men are more creative thinkers than women!

But you may want to clean the item up a bit before you sell it. Or have your spouse do it.

Reason Four

Space

outer-space

Outer Space is infinite. Your shelf space is not. Sooner or later, or probably sooner than later, you will start to run out of places to put your Disney stuff. When your children’s toys are all over the floor because their toy chest is full of your collectibles and your spouse’s closet space is disappearing, it may be time for a purge!

Reason Three

Re-focus

Back in the 1980’s you were all about The Little Mermaid and Roger Rabbit, but now we are living in the Millennium. We now have Baymax and Hank the Septopus merchandise everywhere! No one wants to look at the same stuff year after year, right?

OK, maybe we do, but sacrifices must be made. We’re trying to get to Disney, people!

Reason Two

Demand

You have it. Everyone else wants it. That is basically how the demand for Disney collectibles goes. So why not take advantage of someone else’s obsession and unload some unwanted stuff?

They’ll thank you for providing a new-to-them treasure and you’ll add some much needed capital to your Disney trip jar!

Reason One

Money

disney-dollar

You want it. Your unwanted Disney collectibles could turn into it. And seriously, if you want to go on a Disney vacation… you’re going to need lots of it! So get out there (or online) and sell! Sell! Sell!

And if you do, I’ll see you in the parks!

For more ways to save money for your Disney vacation,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Red | Saving Money for Disney Loop:

Magical Blogorail: Imagineer for a Day

Mayor for a Day. Firefighter for a Day. Astronaut for a Day. All good choices, but for the Disney fan, it has to be Imagineer for a Day! Join me and my fellow Blogorailers as we exploit our opportunities to change whatever we want about the attractions and/or shows in the Disney parks!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. I’ve chosen to reimagine:


RocknRoller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

rock-n-roller-coaster

Currently, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith is an enclosed launched steel roller coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort and at the Walt Disney Studios Park in Disneyland Paris. As the attraction’s name suggests, the coaster features Aerosmith members, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, and Brad Whitford.

attraction-bling

Remember them? Many young people today don’t, and this is one reason I feel it’s time for a rethink! Even if the queue area is awesome.

The Florida attraction opened on July 29, 1999 and is located at the end of Sunset Boulevard. The coaster accelerates from 0 to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds and that is something I would not change! Because riders experience 4.5 G as they enter the first inversion, more than an astronaut does on a space shuttle launch. Yeah. It’s that wicked!

But outdated. So what would I do to reinvigorate this attraction if I were an Imagineer?

F I R S T

Introduce a new theme

Out with Aerosmith and the music angle. Rather than mess with the beyond-awesome Twilight Zone Tower of Terror I would introduce a Marvel theme to this attraction instead. Universal Studios has made an art form out of fusing Marvel characters with cutting edge roller coaster technology and as a result has arguably kicked Disney’s butt in the thrill ride sector!

Adding to the obvious symmetry of this product placement is that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a movie-themed park. Marvel Comics movies are killing at the box office now and will likely continue to do so for many years to come. So a superhero overlay only makes sense.

S E C O N D

Reinvent the queue area

Out with the tacky video message. There are so many better and higher tech ways to engage an audience than a flat screen video presentation. The concept artwork for the Guardians of the Galaxy queue area planned for TOT would work here.

Or we could use Avengers Mansion as a template. Or Stark Industries. Or Dr. Strange’s Inner Sanctum. The list of available options are numerous and could be swapped out to freshen up the attraction as new Marvel movies are released. This would also give Disney the opportunity to promote new properties.

T H I R D

Add additional Photo Ops

One action shot is not enough! I love ride photos and this roller coaster has so many scream-inducing moves that more cameras to capture these moments would be cool.

Beyond that, we have the opportunity to create a Marvel hero meet-and-greet beyond anything we have seen in a Disney park to date! Face characters could interact with guests during times of peak capacity. More face characters could be waiting for guests after the ride, near the obligatory gift shop, to pose for pictures.

ride-vehicle

And that my friends is what I would do to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster if I were an Imagineer for a day! Of course, it would take slightly longer than a day to pull off such changes, but with a little faith and some pixie dust… it would still take longer than a day.

But I’m a patient man and would stick with it until it was done! Am I hired?

For more about Disney attractions we would like to see improved, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Green | Imagineer for a Day Loop:

Magical Blogorail: How We Know We've Arrived at Disney

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing How We Know We’ve Arrived at Disney.


STAYING ON-SITE: CHECK-IN!

Check In 1

Nothing says “You have arrived!” like seeing a giant sign with the name of a Disney resort on it. This is where you will be staying and from where all the Disney magic you experience will start from. From parking the car to checking in to finding your room, don’t rush the process!

I’m going to show you how you can make the check-in at your resort a truly magical way to start your Disney vacation. If you follow my suggestions, you will truly know that you have arrived at Disney! I will be using Disney’s Art of Animation Resort as our model, with one picture from Pop Century thrown in for good measure.

FIRST: Approach the Check-in Desk.

Check In 2

Here you will meet your first friendly Cast Member. Enjoy the smiles and get ready to see more of them! These wonderful people are there to make your stay a memorable one.

SECOND: Get Your Bearings.

Check In 3

These maps are handy to find your building but also to familiarize yourself with the entire property. You’ll want to find the pools, restaurants and food service locations, the bus stop, and the resort retail store.

THIRD: Find Your Home-Away-From-Home.

Check In 4          Check In 5

Check In 6          Check In 7

Check In Room

Squaring away your things before you set out to explore is always a good idea. You can also use the time to relax and freshen up after your long journey to Disney. Once you have put everything away, it’s time to…

FOUR: Explore Your Resort.

Check In 8     Check In 9

This is a great way to get your first taste of Disney magic and to take those vacation photos that everyone back home will be waiting to see. So take lots of shots and pose with everything in sight!

FIVE: Visit the Resort Store.

Check In 10

You will visit many retail locations during your visit. Some of these you will visit voluntarily while others will be thrust upon you. For example, after most big attractions you will exit into retail spaces and be jostled by some rabid shoppers and many others who just want to get out of there and hit the next ride! Visiting your resorts retail location will give you a chance to browse the merchandise at an unhurried pace.

In conclusion, the basic idea here is that checking into your on-site resort will whet your appetite for everything to come. Usually most of us arrive at the resort later in the day and after an exhausting drive or harried plane flight. Try to resist the urge to rush right off to a park. Instead, relax and enjoy your check-in  experience, for it truly is how you will know that you have arrived at Disney!

For more ways we know we’ve “arrived” at Disney, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | How We Know We’ve “Arrived” at Disney Loop: