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!


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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!


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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!


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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!


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Magical Blogorail: Saving Money for Disney – Selling

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!


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Magical Blogorail: How We Know We’ve Arrived at Disney – Check In

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!


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Book Review: Disney’s Adventure Guide to Florida

A FODOR’s Travel Book

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 001

Size: 7″ x 10″

Type: Soft Cover

Pages: 64

ISBN: 0-679-00575-7

Distributed by: David McKay Company, Inc.

Date: 1980

Fodor’s Travel is the world’s largest publisher of English language travel and tourism information and the first relatively professional producer of travel guidebooks. Fodor’s Travel and Fodors.com are divisions of Random House, Inc.

Today, Fodor’s has published more than 440 guides (in 14 series) on over 300 destinations, and has more than 700 permanently placed researchers all over the world.

Back in the 1980’s Disney was more charitable with sharing the tourist dollars that flowed into Florida. They produced ‘adventure guides’ like this one to highlight all of the available attractions in the State rather than just Walt Disney World. You can find such cross-promotion on souvenirs like tin trays, to name just one type of item.

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 003

Similar images are found on tin trays of the period

So let’s have a look at just some of the attractions featured in this book:

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 005

Cape Canaveral

Disney would have a hard time competing with real space vehicles but did eventually try with Mission:Space, a centrifugal motion simulator thrill ride at Epcot that opened in 2003.

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 007

Daytona Beach

The Sky Lift pictured here is apparently no longer in operation. Here is what Joe Wittwer had to say about his ride on it in 2007: “This ride scared me so bad. You don’t go over water, just the concrete pier below. It looks like it hasn’t been maintained in decades.” It is probably safe to assume it is gone!

Disney now tries to compete with the natural beaches of Florida with two major water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Disney’s ‘Bucket Ride’ is also gone!

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 008          Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 009

High Wire Parrots and Jungle Cruises

I guess at this point you just have to say that in 1980, Florida had it all!

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 010

Everglades National Park

Alligators are synonymous with Florida and not always in a good way. But back in 1980 tourist were encouraged to walk along precarious wooden ‘bridges’ and seek them out!

 Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 011 Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 012

Cypress Gardens and Busch Gardens

Cypress Gardens was a botanical garden and theme park near Winter Haven, Florida that operated from 1936 to 2009. It was in 2011 that the botanical garden portion was preserved inside the newly formed Legoland Florida.

Busch Gardens opened on March 31, 1959, as an admission-free hospitality facility for Tampa Anheuser-Busch; in addition to various beer tastings, they had a bird garden and the Stairway to the Stars, which was an escalator that took guests to the roof of the brewery. And that works for me! It has grown over the years and is still in operation today.

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 006

Walt Disney World

Other than having Disney characters interspersed throughout the book, this is the only page dedicated to a Disney destination. Just to put it a bit above the rest, the copy reads that “There’s nothing quite like it east of California’s Disneyland.” We can forgive Disney because it is a true statement!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was an attraction at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World from 1971 through 1994. So of all the attractions that could have been pictured on this page, they certainly picked an iconic one!

Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 013          Disney's Adventure Guide to Florida 002

Price: $3.95 US

Review: This was more of a souvenir guide than an actual guide-book. No addresses are given for any of the attractions so it would serve better as a reminder of places gone than a true guide to places that one would want to see.

So judging it as such I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Magical Blogorail: WDW Value Resort Reviews – All Star Sports

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing our reviews of the value resorts at Walt Disney World.


ALL-STAR SPORTS RESORT

All Star Sports

I’ll admit right off the bat (pun intended) that this isn’t everyone’s favorite value resort. Unless you’re heavily into sports most find the decor pretty un-Disney. However, because of this, you will usually be able to find a room here when all other value resorts are full!

Other than that, the amenities are very comparable with other All-Star resorts.

Location: You will be closest to Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Bus Route: Remember that the three All-Star resorts are on the same line, so expect long travel times. From the attractions, you get to Sports first, then Music, and lastly Movies. So coming ‘home’ you are the first to be let off. But leaving for the attractions can be time-consuming as buses may be full coming from other All-Star resorts.

Sports Layout

Rooms: So if you want to be close to the main pool and the Stadium Hall (where your food and buses are) than request buildings 1 or 4. If you like it quiet request buildings 2, 3 or 5. Keep in mind that building 2 has its own little pool for convenience.

End Zone Food Court

Theming: Again many people aren’t wowed by the theming of All-Star Sports. But it follows the same pattern of oversized props as the other All-Star resorts do.

Huge Helmets

I’ve stayed at Pop Century, All-Star Movies and Music, but never All-Star Sports. I intend to one day just to say that I’ve done them all! But I’ll likely try out the Art of Animation first. Maybe that sums up this resort only too well? Unless you’re really into sports!

For more value resort reviews, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: Discover Future World – Universe of Energy

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are taking a closer look at the fun you can find in Future World at Epcot.


UNIVERSE OF ENERGY

Universe of Energy 1

Ellen. The Science Guy. A Game Show. Dinosaurs. And Air-conditioning. How could you not like this attraction?

Unlike many of the rides in Future World this one has a very large capacity which means you will experience one of the shortest wait times in Disney theme park history. So if you see a low wait time on the board for this attraction, please don’t think it’s because it isn’t good!

Universe of Energy 4     Universe of Energy 3     Universe of Energy 5

And it’s in a pretty building

The pavilion is located in the eastern half of Future World at Epcot. It contains just the one attraction, its second since its 1982 opening. The current attraction, entitled Ellen’s Energy Adventure, stars Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye. It features a combination of four separate large-format film presentations and a slow-moving dark ride.

You begin by standing in an outer theater while you watch Ellen in an eight-minute film in which she falls asleep and dreams that she is in an energy-themed version of Jeopardy!, playing against an old rival Judy Peterson (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Albert Einstein. After round one, Ellen is losing badly. Enter Bill Nye to save the day with science information! Next you enter the main show area and take a seat in large ride vehicles. Another screen is used to show a four-minute film which sets Ellen up for the adventure about energy. She is taken back into the distance past. Then you are on the move into a dinosaur diorama:

Univers of Energy 7

Next is a 12-minute film giving an in-depth look at various current and future energy resources across the United States. Last is a final two-minute film presenting the end of Ellen’s dream in which she uses her new knowledge about energy in Round 2 to unseat Judy as Jeopardy! champion.

This is also one of the longest rides in Future World so sit back and relax and rest your tired feet in air-conditioned comfort! Some find the content a bit dated but the information is still relevant today.

When you exit, be sure to check out the views:

Universe of Energy 6          Universe of Energy 2

Sometimes the oldest attractions can be the best, and while this energy adventure may not necessarily be the best, it certainly is worth the time! Did I mention it’s air-conditioned?

For more about Future World, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Magical Blogorail: Best Frozen Treats at Disney – Mickey Bars

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Teal loop. Today we are sharing the best frozen treats you can find at Disney.


M I C K E Y     B A R S

Mickey Bar Packaging

Everyone knows about this classic/iconic Disney treat! And I doubt there are too many theme park guests who haven’t had at least one.

Mickey Bar 2

Is it tasty? Yes. Is it good for you? Sure, why not. Is it addictive? Yes. Should you buy a box of them and smuggle them back to your home State or country? Sure, why not.

Mickey Bar

Ah, that first bite! It’s like a Disney rite of passage. But do you bite into the left ear or right ear first? Scientists have spent millions conducting an exhaustive study on that conundrum but as yet have only determined that biting into too many Mickey Bar ears causes stomach aches. Money well spent people!

Fun Facts: There are some things you may not know about this funny-shaped treat.

  • It’s gluten-free!
  • You can find it off-property (at the Vero Beach and Hilton Head resorts, for example)

And we end this loop just as we should all end each and every one of our Disney vacations: With a Mickey Bar!


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