Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Uncategorized

Tips for Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Here are my best tips and tricks for maximizing your time at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

Schedule

First thing you need to know is that you can enter the park as early as 4:00 PM! So start traveling to the Magic Kingdom between 3:00 PM (if you’re parking and need to take the ferry or monorail) and 3:30 PM (if you’re taking the monorail from the Polynesian, Contemporary, or Grand Floridian or a resort bus).

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Option 1: Do any rides that you really want to do that will be closed during the party

OR

Option 2: Get in line for your must-do rare character meet-and-greets. Waits for Jack and Sally can be as long as 3 hours!

Get dinner during this time as well! Having one person in your group do Mobile Order to get quick-service food that you can eat in line for characters is one of the most efficient uses of your time.

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Most of the special party ride overlays and characters start meeting at 7:00 PM so figure out your priorities for this block of time. Waits for the lines will be pretty short and none of the ride overlays are can’t-miss if the lines get any longer than 20 minutes. If you care about party-specific merchandise, try and buy it as early as possible during the party because they could go out of stock for the night.

9:00 PM

If there’s a chance of inclement weather, get a spot for the first Boo to You Parade in Frontierland. The later showing might get cancelled if it is raining too hard. If there isn’t going to be bad weather, keep meeting characters or riding rides!

9:45 PM

Get a spot for Hallowishes in the hub area near the castle. The farther away from the park entrance on Main Street you can get, the better. This is an epic fireworks show and you’ll have a good view from mostly anywhere, but the recommended areas will really immerse you in the experience.

11:00 PM

Either get a spot for the Boo to You Parade (it is worth seeing twice from the opposite side of the street from where you first saw it) or do any last minute character meet-and-greets or rides before the end of the party. Trick-or-treating at this time is what I would recommend because the cast members will be trying to get rid of candy and you will only have to carry around a heavy bag for a little while.

12:00 AM

Watch the final showing of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. This is a very fun show and there will be far fewer people at the latest showing. Getting as close to the stage as possible is not necessary unless you want some up-close photos of the Disney villains. Hades, Maleficent, Oogie Boogie, Lady Tremaine, Dr. Facilier, the Evil Queen, Jafar, and Cruella De Vil all make appearances as well.

General Information

Special Attractions

  • Deep Space Mountain
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Performers in front of Haunted Mansion
  • Cadaver Dans Barber Shop Quartet in Frontierland (find showtimes on the official map)

Closed Attractions

  • Jungle Cruise
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Meeting Ariel as a Mermaid in Ariel’s Grotto
  • Mickey’s Philharmagic (Treat Trail)
  • Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor (Treat Trail)
  • Carousel of Progress (Treat Trail)
  • Meeting Tinker Bell (Treat Trail)
  • Tom Sawyer Island (Treat Trail)
  • Enchanted Tiki Room (Treat Trail)

Additional Treat Trail Locations

  • Splash Mountain
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Walt Disney World Railroad in Fantasyland
  • Columbia Harbor House
  • Pinocchio Village Haus
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café

Characters

Liberty Square

  • Jack and Sally (very long wait)

Main Street

  • Mickey Mouse (in Halloween costume)

Fantasyland

  • Minnie, Daisy, Goofy and Donald (in Halloween costumes)
  • Anastasia and Drizella
  • Queen of Hearts, Alice, Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum, Mad Hatter
  • Cruella
  • Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger (in Halloween costumes)
  • Ariel and Eric
  • Belle and Gaston
  • Seven Dwarfs (very long wait)
  • Rapunzel, Tiana, Cinderella, Elena (like normal operating hours)

Tomorrowland

  • Lotso
  • Stitch in Elvis Costume

Adventureland

  • Tarzan,  Jane and Terk
  • Moana
  • Captain Jack Sparrow
  • Aladdin, Abu, Genie, Jasmine
  • Jafar

Food

There isn’t very much party-exclusive food besides some desserts, so try and get some food before the official 7 pm party start so you can spend most of the party time doing party-specific activities.

Some of the best snacks available for 2018 are:

  • Pumpkin Cheesecake at Main Street Bakery
  • Maleficent Lime Soft Serve Cone at Storybook Treats in Fantasyland
  • Candy Corn Soft Serve at Auntie Gravity’s in Tomorrowland
  • Hades Nachos at Pecos Bill’s in Frontierland
  • Caramel Stuffed Pretzel at the Cider House in Adventureland
  • Zero Waffle Sundae at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square
  • Jack Skellington Cake Pop at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square
  • Madam Leota Dessert at Liberty Square Market
  • Oogie Boogie Meringue at Gaston’s Tavern in Fantasyland
  • Muenster Smash Burger at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland

Shows

Boo to You Parade at 9:15 pm and 11:15 pm

If you’re a parade person or not, this parade is worth seeing! Some people will try to snag the best spots for parade viewing up to an hour before show time, but if you don’t mind standing behind a few other people, you can get a spot about 15 minutes before the show starts. Frontierland is usually less packed than Main Street.

Hallowishes at 10:15 pm

The best Disney World nighttime entertainment besides Happily Ever After, watching videos on YouTube does not do justice to the feeling of being surrounded by fireworks.

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular at 8:30 pm, 10:45 pm, and 12:00 am

This show is hosted by the Sanderson Sisters but has several other Disney villains who come out, sing their songs, and crack jokes.

Other Photo Ops

  • On “Market St” where you enter the party with character busts
  • On Main St and in Town Square for all the pumpkin decor
  • In front of the Haunted Mansion, there are several fun “magic shots” if you have access to Memory Maker
  • As you’re leaving, there are several projections on the ground and smoke effects coming out of the train station that are really spook-tacular!

Would you be interested in some science of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? If so, comment below!

Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Science of Disney · Uncategorized

Science of Disney: Elephants and Bees

One of earth’s biggest creatures is being saved by insects.

As part of Animal Kingdom’s 20th Anniversary celebration, I attended a Tiffins Talk in which I enjoyed a four-course meal inspired by and specially prepared to accompany a presentation from a Disney scientist about their conservation efforts. During this talk, Dr. Joseph Soltis gave a very engaging talk about how he, his colleague, Dr. Lucy King, and the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund are helping to save elephants with honeybees.

What’s the problem?

Elephants are impressive creatures but the species has faced constant threats from humans. Even with reductions in the ivory trade, humans and elephants still come into conflict, especially in countries like Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. One of the biggest causes of human-elephant conflict is crop raiding, which is when elephants wander onto farmland in search of food. Because they are so big (and have big stomachs), the farms are decimated and the farmers lose both their own food and their source of income. As a result, farmers sometimes kill or hurt elephants to prevent further damage and protect themselves.

What could be done?

If only there were some way to keep elephants out of farms. Standard or even heavy-duty fences won’t work because they are expensive to put up and maintain and elephants might knock them over anyways. By putting collars on elephants to track their location, farmers can be alerted any time elephants cross a virtual fence line and then scare the elephants away enough times until they are conditioned to not even approach a farm. Again, these collars are expensive and still can result in more conflict than is necessary. Other techniques, like the ones outlined in the Save the Elephants Human-Elephant Conflict toolbox, can also help to some degree. Fortunately, some observations from locals led to some scientific discoveries that have significantly reduced human-elephant conflict.

Elephants often retrieve food from trees – whether it is the fruit or the leaves. But one Kenyan guide that was leading Dr. Soltis and Dr. King, shared that he had noticed that elephants never retrieve food from trees with beehives. Elephants in Zimbabwe are also known to forge entirely new paths through jungles to avoid trees with beehives. This is quite curious because elephants have relatively small areas that are sensitive enough to potential bee stings (inside of the trunk, eyes, and ears) and it does not make a lot of sense that such large creatures might systematically avoid bees if they cannot do much damage.

Studies about Elephants’ Fear of Bees

So the researchers set out to see not whether elephants are harmed by bees but instead to study whether elephants are afraid of bees. Rather than using actual bees, researchers played recorded bee sounds using giant speakers hidden in foliage near elephant meeting spots. And then they watched to see what the elephants did. When the bee sound was played, all but one elephant family ran away in under 90 seconds; half of the families ran away in under 10 seconds. In contrast, when just white noise was played (because it is always a good science to have a control condition), all of the elephant families stayed in the area for about four full minutes or casually walked away. This suggested that elephants have learned about and/or remember their personal experience with bees and that bees do not have a pleasant association. Similar behaviors were observed in elephants in Sri Lanka in response to the sounds of Asian honeybees (King, Pardo, Weerathunga, Kumara, Jayasena, Soltis, & de Silva, 2018).

Communicating about Bees

In addition to running away in response to hearing bee sounds, elephants produced rumble calls, shook their heads, and tried to throw dust on themselves. To better understand this behavior, Dr. Soltis, who is an expert in elephant rumbles and has conducted several studies with the elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, headed up a follow-up study. He wanted to know specifically if elephants’ rumble calls for bees were actually being used in similar ways as to how humans screaming scream “Spider!” or “Mouse!” when they are fearful and want to alert others.

To answer this question, the research team used a similar protocol as with the recordings of bee sounds except in this case, the speakers played recordings of the rumbles that the elephants had made in response to bee sounds. Elephant families moved away from the speakers much more often and moved farther when the rumble calls for bees were played than when just white noise or when modified rumble calls were played. Additionally, families moved faster and shook their heads more when the rumble calls for bees were played than for the other two control sounds. Dusting behavior was not observed to be significantly different across conditions. It seemed that indeed, elephants were communicating their identification of the presence of bees to others so that they all could avoid being stung.

Conservation Implications

As a result of this discovery, Dr. Soltis, Dr. King and their partners in Kenya wanted to put this research to use. They could have given the farmers some large, expensive speakers to play bee sounds but they did something even better. The research team started testing the effectiveness of bee fences for reducing crop raiding. To set up a bee fence, beehives are set up at the perimeter of farms and connected with wire. Any time an elephant hits the wire, the hives are disturbed and the bees produce swarming sounds. These are the same sounds that elephants are afraid of so the elephant will run away from the farm. The early tests were successful and crop raiding has significantly declined for farms with beehive fences. Not only do the beehive fences protect the farms and thus allow the farmers to keep their main source of income, the honey from the beehives can also be harvested and sold for additional revenue.

Unfortunately, you cannot buy this elephant honey directly outside of Kenya, but you can donate to Save the Elephants using the links here to support this program and prevent further human-elephant conflict.

What would you want to research in partnership with Disney? Comment below!

References

King, Soltis, Douglas-Hamilton, Savage & Vollrath (2010)

Lucy King’s Dissertation (2010)

King, Douglas-Hamilton, & Vollrath (2007)

King, Lawrence & Douglas-Hamilton (2009) Beehive fences deter elephants

King, Douglas-Hamilton, & Vollrath (2011) Beehive fences effective deterrents

Soltis, King, Douglas-Hamilton, Vollrath & Savage (2014) Different Elephant Alarm Calls for Humans and Bees

King, Pardo, Weerathunga, Kumara, Jayasena, Soltis, & de Silva, 2018

Save the Elephants – Elephants and Bees Project

Save the Elephants – Geo-Fencing

Disney Tips · Listicles · Uncategorized

How to Plan FastPass+ as a Disneyland Veteran

As I was writing my list of tips for How to Visit Walt Disney World (WDW) as a Disneyland Veteran, I realized that the FastPass+ system can be extremely overwhelming. So I decided to write a more in-depth post on the system and include my opinions for the best choices for FastPass+ at each park.

General Tips

FastPass+ at Disney World is very different from Disneyland’s system in that there are no paper FastPass+ tickets and you can plan FastPass+ in advance.

Planning Ahead:

  • You can plan 3 passes per day per person ahead of time
  • All three of a person’s advance-planning passes have to be in the same park
  • If you are staying at a Disney hotel for your trip, you can make your FastPass+ selections in the My Disney Experience app or online starting at 7 AM EST 60 days ahead of the first day of your trip
  • If you are staying off property for your trip, you can make your FasttPass+ selections starting at 7 AM EST 30 days ahead of the first day of your trip
  • Once you hit the 60 day or 30 day mark, you can select FastPass+ for all the days of your trip if you have tickets linked to your reservation
  • The usual recommendation is to get the earliest times for FastPass+ as possible so you can reach the point of being able to make additional FastPass+ selections faster
  • As a general rule, avoid using advanced FastPass+ selections for night-time shows because these are some of the latest possible time slots and you will not be able to make additional selections day-of until the night-time show

Tier System:

Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom FastPass+ operate on a tier system for selections made in advance. Some of the most popular attractions are in a different tier from the less popular attractions and you are restricted in how many of each you can select. In these three parks, you can only use your advanced FastPass+ reservations to select one attraction in Tier 1 and the other two selections must be from Tier 2.

In the Parks:

  • You cannot make new FastPass+ reservations until you have used or cancelled all three of your FastPass+ selections
  • Once you have used (or cancelled) all three FastPass+ reservations, you can select FastPass+ in the same or a different park
  • You can use a FastPass+ at anytime between the 10 minutes before the starting time of the hour window and up to 15 minutes after the the ending time of the hour window
  • When making FastPass+ selections the day-of, you can select a new FastPass+ as soon as you use a FastPass+ even if you’re still in line
  • If your day-of FastPass+ selection has a time window that is more than 2 hours from the time you made it, you will be able to select a new FastPass+ two hours after you made the selection
  • There is no limit to how many times you can modify or cancel your FastPass+ selections

So which attractions should you use FastPass+ for? Read on for my recommendations!

Note: One thing that WDW has that blows Disneyland out of the water is the level of detail in their queues. I know Disneyland has way better theming than Six Flags but WDW has outdone themselves, partly to keep people dry and cool and protected from the Florida weather. This fact definitely influences my recommendations for how to use FastPass+ as a Disneyland veteran.

Magic Kingdom

Recommended Initial 3 FastPass+ Selections

  • Splash Mountain (if during peak times or summer time) otherwise Big Thunder Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater

Why these three? Most adults would probably want to use their FastPass+ for the four main roller coasters (Space, Splash, Big Thunder, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) because they usually have the longest lines. Of the four, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain have the least interesting queues and thus most worthy of using a FastPass+. However, Splash usually has really short waits during the cold months or when it is raining so doesn’t necessitate a FastPass+ at those times. The Big Thunder Mountain queue can get really long and is mostly outside but it does have many interactive elements and decor that are entertaining.

Enchanted Tales with Belle is one of the most magical experiences at Walt Disney World, even without kids. FastPass+ for this attraction usually goes pretty quickly and can get to have long waits because it isn’t a very high capacity ride.

Meeting Mickey Mouse is the other attraction that has the longest wait time and is a unique meet-and-greet that you can’t do anywhere in any other Disney park in the world, so I highly recommend using a FastPass+ to meet him here because, as of March 2018, he talks! If you don’t care about meeting characters or you watched videos on YouTube of this meet-and-greet, then use your last FastPass+ on another roller coaster.

I actually recommend NOT getting a FastPass+ for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train because 1) it has such a cool queue that standing in line is an attraction by itself, 2) because they are so hard to get for early in the day, and 3) because the ride itself isn’t that spectacular that you shouldn’t be heartbroken if you don’t ride it. If you can get a FastPass+ day of or go when the line will be shortest (Extra Magic Hours or right before park close), then do that.

Honorable mention

  • Any other roller coasters
  • Any princess and Tinker Bell meet-and-greet
    • These usually have wait times between 30 and 60 minutes unless you go right before the park closes.
  • Any classic Disney attraction
    • Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo, Jungle Cruise, Small World, and Peter Pan all can have pretty long waits and are good uses of a FastPass+ if your top choices aren’t available.
  • Rides for Younger Guests
    • Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Winnie the Pooh, Barnstormer, and the Tomorrowland Speedway can get lengthy queues and if you have a child in tow, it is best not to wait too long for these attractions, especially because several of these queues are exposed to the elements.

Not worthy of FastPass+

These attractions usually do not have longer than a 30 minute wait or have FastPasses available day of that you can snag if you must ride them.

  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Epcot

Recommended Initial 3 FastPass+ Selections

  • Frozen Ever After (Tier 1)
  • Spaceship Earth (Tier 2)
  • Mission: SPACE (Tier 2)

I recommend these three options because they allow Disneyland veterans to prioritize new experiences at Disney World. Frozen Ever After is unlike any boat ride at Disneyland and has phenomenal animatronics; the queue is worth waiting in because it really is beautiful but it is usually longer than 45 minutes or an hour. An ideal time for this FastPass+ would be between 10:30 am or noon so you can peruse the World Showcase (which opens at 11 AM) in a clock-wise direction immediately afterwards.  The other two attractions in Tier 1 (Soarin’ and Test Track) are the same as or a lesser version of their Disneyland counterpart.

Spaceship Earth is the most iconic attraction at Epcot and the regular queue is the exact same as the FastPass+ queue. It isn’t the most thrilling ride but I definitely think it is the most must-do attraction of the Tier 2 options. Try and get this as early or late in the day as possible so you can do it on your way in or out of the park.

Mission: SPACE is one of the more thrilling rides in Epcot. It makes me motion sick but is a pretty cool opportunity to feel like you’re in a real space ship if that doesn’t bother you. The Orange version is more intense and takes you to Mars; the Green version gives you a view of the Earth from space. Try to do this in the morning after you’ve had a little bit of time to digest your breakfast.

Honorable Mention

Other worthy options for Tier 1:

  • IllumiNations
    • Make this one day-of instead of in advance so that you can make additional FastPass+ selections in the park earlier in the day
  • Soarin’
    • This is almost exactly the same as Disneyland’s version and has a less educational (and thus sub-par in my view) queue. Still a fantastic ride and can get pretty long waits throughout the day so try to do this during Extra Magic Hours if you can.
  • Test Track
    • This has a different theming than Radiator Springs Racers but is essentially the same. I usually use the single rider line to avoid long lines. Be wary that this will close during inclement weather but that if a ride is closed during your FastPass+ window, it will likely turn into a FastPass+ that can be used on any attraction.

Other worthy options for Tier 2:

  • Living with the Land (if the line is long)
    • This is a fabulous and educational attraction that a lot of people skip. The line is usually not more than 15 minutes but if it is, definitely try to get a FastPass+ day-of or swap your Mission: SPACE FastPass+ for this if you get motion sick.
  • Meet Disney Pals
    • Meet three characters while only waiting once. This will be three of the Fab 5 characters (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald) and they are in their classic outfits with some themed set pieces.

Not worthy of FastPass+

These attractions usually do not have longer than a 20 minute wait or have FastPass+ available day of that you can snag if you must ride them.

  • Pixar Film Fest
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

Hollywood Studios

Recommended Initial 3 FastPass+ Selections

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (Tier 1)
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Tier 2)
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (Tier 2)

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster has a single rider line so this FastPass+ isn’t absolutely necessary but can be worth it because it is a coaster that is unique to WDW.

I’m surprised Tower of Terror isn’t in Tier 1 so I think this is the best value for a Tier 2 FastPass+ and you don’t miss any (just go a bit more speedily through) of the incredibly themed queue.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is the only way to satisfy an Indiana Jones craving at WDW and is a pretty great show to boot. Being closer to the front is definitely better in that you’ll be more likely to be selected as an extra in the show!

Honorable Mention

Other worthy options in Tier 1:

  • Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
    • Having a FastPass+ for this might allow you to show up closer to show start time and still get a decent seat. You could swap out Indiana Jones for this one if you’d like or Tower of Terror if you don’t like the drops.
  • Fantasmic!
    • There are usually FastPass+ available for this show day-of but even then, there is plenty of room to try to get a standby seat.
  • Toy Story Mania!
    • These wait times can get crazy high but the queue is fabulous and the same ride can be found at Disneyland so it isn’t necessary to do.

Other worthy options in Tier 2:

  • Star Tours
    • You bypass all of the cool outdoor queue but because most of the indoor queue is the exact same as Disneyland’s queue, this ride is almost only worth doing with a FastPass+
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along
    • You’re not guaranteed to get a better seat but try and be in the middle of the crowd when entering so you don’t have to go all the way across an aisle and can get a middle seat.

Not worthy of FastPass+

These are all shows that happen regularly and thus have a high capacity and a standard wait time of however long the show is (between 15 and 30 minutes).

  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage!
  • Muppet*Vision 3D
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Animal Kingdom

Recommended Initial 3 FastPass+ Selections

  • Flight of Passage (Tier 1)
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris (Tier 2)
  • Festival of the Lion King (Tier 2)

Flight of Passage, even close to a year after it has opened, still has wait times longer than 2 hours. Get a FastPass+ if you can; this is the only reason to try and wake up at 7 AM EST to reserve your FastPass+ ahead of time. The standby queue has the most spectacular theming though, so if you can, ride it twice if the wait time is under 120 minutes. The wait time is especially short when it rains at night!

Kilimanjaro Safaris used to be the most desirable FastPass+ in Animal Kingdom. The best times to go on this attraction are early in the morning, at dusk, or right before the park is closing at night. The line gets longer in mid-day and it can be unbearably hot so the FastPass+ can be more worth it in that you skip a longer line at these times.

Festival of the Lion King is the best entertainment at Walt Disney World in my opinion and the shows regularly fill up. FastPass+ will most likely put you in the warthog seating area (right in front of the sound booth for superior audio quality) or elephant seating area (in-between the two entrance curtains and excellent views of the Simba float) which have a higher percentage of seats close to the action.

Honorable Mention

Other worthy options in Tier 1:

  • Na’vi River Journey
    • Until wait times at Pandora die down, this is the only other option in Tier 1. If you cannot get a Flight of Passage FastPass+, take this one happily because the wait times are usually much longer than the 45 minute max that the short ride is worth.

Other worthy options in Tier 2:

  • DINOSAUR
    • This is one of the best attractions to do at rope-drop or early in the morning because no one heads this direction. There are lots of interesting things to look at and learn in the queue even when there’s a long line so feel free to take your time even if there’s only a 10 minute wait.
  • Expedition Everest
    • This is another great ride to do at rope-drop but is especially epic late at night so try to get a FastPass+ day-of for the later hours if you can. There will be close to no wait before, during and after Rivers of Light and there’s a single rider line when the standby wait is longer than about 30 minutes.
  • Kali River Rapids
    • This queue can get very long during the hotter months so is worth getting a FastPass+ for day-of or if all the Pandora options are already gone. However, this is practically the same attraction as Grizzly River Run at California Adventure.
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
    • This is a relatively long show (40 minutes) and the waiting area has practically no shade. With a FastPass+, you can be choosier with your seats and will be waiting for showtime in the air conditioning longer.
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
    • Meet Mickey and Minnie at the same time here. Lines can be over 30 minutes.
  • Up! A Great Bird Adventure
    • This show is new and the seats can fill up pretty fast. Some of the best seats will be on the aisles in the front sections.

Not worthy of FastPass+

  • Primeval Whirl
    • This is a terribly uncomfortable and sometimes painfully jerky ride that is very similar to Goofy’s Sky School at California Adventure. If it is any longer than even 10 minutes, I highly recommend you skip it.
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
    • The same show as what used to be at California Adventure with epic punny movie posters. It is pretty cool to go under the Tree of Life but the FastPass+ doesn’t get you much
  • Rivers of Light
    • FastPass+ will likely be available right up until show time and even then there will be plenty of seating because this isn’t that popular of a show.

Please let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my recommendations in the comments below!

Additional Videos

Disney Tips · Listicles · Uncategorized

How to Visit Hollywood Studios as a Disneyland Veteran

Personally, Hollywood Studios is my least favorite park and part of that has to do with how many attractions it shares with the Disneyland Resort. But if you’re a huge fan of Star Wars, then this is the WDW park that you’ll probably enjoy most. In addition to my recommendations below, there are lots of great streetmosphere acts, pretty photo spots and plenty of shops to fill time when not waiting for the few attractions.

To Do

Attractions

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

This launch coaster is the biggest thrill ride in this park. To me, it feels like a shorter, indoor version of California Screamin/The Incredicoaster because it goes upside down (even though I could barely tell that it went upside down). There’s a single rider line that’s usually pretty quick also!

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

I recommend this ride not only because of the nostalgia that Disneyland veterans might have for the original theming of Tower of Terror but also because there’s extra ride elements that make it much cooler and better themed than Disneyland’s previous iteration.

  • Slinky Dog Dash (When Toy Story Land Opens)

This ride is totally unique to Walt Disney World and seems like it will be a great family-friendly coaster that’s a step up from Gadget’s Go Coaster and with friendlier theming than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

  • Muppet Vision 3D

Another attraction that used to be at Disneyland, this 4D show is actually quite amusing and has the nostalgia factor for those of you that remember and miss it (I don’t).

  • Walt Disney Presents

This walk-through attraction includes a wonderful museum-like trip through Walt’s animation history and history of the parks and includes models and information about upcoming movies and attractions like Galaxy’s Edge. Additionally, there is sometimes a character meet-and-greet (Star Lord and Groot have been there as of this blog post) and either a film preview or a film on Walt’s life that brought me to tears. Come here if you need some air-conditioning!

  • Star Wars Launch Bay

This area houses character meet-and-greets that you can find in the app (Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, and sometimes Rey and BB-8) as well as an area where jawas wander around and interact with guests. There is also a small art gallery with Star Wars art you can only get in the parks and a separate, large Star Wars shop. The Launch Bay Theater in this area also screens a film about some of the stories of the passionate people who have worked on Star Wars movies.

Entertainment

  • Meet Mickey and Minnie

This is the only place where you can meet Mickey in his Sorcerer’s Apprentice outfit (my personal favorite) and Minnie’s glamorous pink starlet gown will make any family photo look fabulous. The uniqueness of these outfits make this the place I most highly suggest meeting Mickey and Minnie.

  • Meet Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight

You can’t meet this guy in Disneyland and for a character who can’t really move his hands, he’s still pretty expressive.

  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

If you’re like me and have a craving for Disneyland’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye while you’re at Disney World, this is the closest you can get besides the track of DINOSAUR. This show has all of the humor, fight scenes, and explosions galore of an Indy film and you might even be selected to be an extra in the show! There are rumors that this might be replaced in coming years so see it while you can!

  • Disney Movie Magic & Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

This park’s nighttime entertainment involves lot of projections on the facade of the Chinese Theater. Some of the coolest effects are the ways that they use lasers to make you feel like you’re in the middle of a battle and there are fireworks and fire coming from several locations around the main plaza.

Food & Drink

  • 50’s Prime Time Café

This restaurant is an experience and not just a meal. If you only want to do one table service meal at Hollywood Studios and don’t want to splurge for Hollywood Brown Derby, I would recommend this place.

  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

The theming in this place is out of this world and the milkshakes are too. For some upscale versions of theme park burgers and a few other delicious sandwich options, I recommend this place to give your feet a break while you watch a few sci-fi trailers.

To Skip

Attractions

  • Alien Swirling Saucers (When Toy Story Land Opens)

This is the same ride as Tow Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree at the Disneyland Resort and the lines will probably be extremely long for awhile after the new land opens in June 2018.

Entertainment

  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration

Unless you or someone in your party really loves Frozen, the Frozen stage show at the Hyperion Theater in California Adventure is far superior. If you must see it, try to go only about 5 to 10 minutes before a show is supposed to start to check if there’s still room or else wait for the next show. The snow falling at the end of the show never ceases to be magical.

  • March of the First Order

This happens so frequently that you really do not have to plan for it; it is more likely to get in your way. I personally don’t think there is anything too special about stormtroopers marching (with much poorer form and worse synchronization than even a terrible high school marching band) but I guess you can get some up close and personal photos.

  • Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away

This is the lamest thing that Disney has ever made to cater to Star Wars fans. The show is solely composed of characters (some of whom have died in the films) coming out and posing on stage without saying anything. The only chance you have of interacting with them is to lurk by the path they take to come on stage. And it happens several times a day.

Food & Drink

  • BaseLine Tap House

This place pretty much only has beer and some less than amazing appetizers; you can get a much better beer selection at Disney’s California Adventure.

  • Most quick service

There aren’t really any unique or can’t-miss treats or meals to get at the counter service locations here and it feels like there are a lot of them. If you can, I would try to do table-service or go to Epcot (if you have a park-hopper), the Boardwalk or Disney Springs for lunch or dinner instead.

  • Hollywood & Vine

This is character dining that mostly appeals to the target audience of Disney Junior (sometimes dinner has characters from the Fab 5, but Tusker House at Animal Kingdom is a much better option). Food-wise, I’ve heard that it is actually bad.

To Do Time-Permitting

Attractions

  • Star Tours

You have the exact same options for scenes as in Disneyland’s version but part of the outdoor queue looks like Endor and I’ve heard that ewoks can sometimes be spotted.

  • Toy Story Mania

The ride is the same as the Midway version at California Adventure but the queue for this attraction has absolutely incredible theming.

Entertainment

  • Fantasmic!

I almost put this on the To Skip list because the refurbishment of Disneyland’s version blows this show out of the water. But, I think this one is worth seeing just for the Pocahontas scene and to appreciate how Disney actually planned seating for one of its most popular shows. You will usually have to pick between seeing this and having a good view of the Star Wars fireworks so decide for yourself which is more important. My usual choice is to leave early and either park-hop to Magic Kingdom for Happily Ever After or walk to Epcot to catch Illuminations, picking up Ample Hills ice cream on the way.

  • Beauty and the Beast-Live On Stage

Somehow Disney has managed to scale down it’s Oscar-winning film into a 25 minute swirl of costumes and choreography with voice recordings for everyone except Belle and Gaston. This show is fine but I would be much happier if Disney were to replace this with Mickey and the Magical Map from Disneyland or a more original show.

  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

This theater adaptation of The Little Mermaid is very outdated so the effects are laughable yet oddly charming. If you have time to kill before a FastPass+, go for it but there are plenty of other things that are more worth your time.

Food & Drink

  • Hollywood Brown Derby & Lounge

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to dine here but I hear the theming and food are spectacular and will give you all of the Los Angeles vibes. This dining option is the one thing for which I might make a special return trip to Hollywood Studios.

  • ABC Commissary

Stop in here to get a free cup of water and check out the costumes and props from your favorite ABC shows like Grey’s Anatomy.

Disney Tips · Listicles · Uncategorized

How to Visit Animal Kingdom as a Disneyland Veteran

Many people under-value Animal Kingdom as a glorified zoo but I strongly disagree. This is the park that I spend the most time in besides Magic Kingdom because of the amazing food, plethora of entertainment and unbelievable Imagineering that makes every nook and cranny photogenic.

To Do

Attractions

  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

This is nothing like Disneyland’s Matterhorn except for the snowy mountain theme. It is one of the most extreme thrill rides in the four parks and has an incredibly well-themed and educational queue. You can ask to wait for the first row and it is worth it for first-timers; for every other time, consider splitting up your party by taking the single rider line.

  • Festival of the Lion King

I wish this show was at Disneyland because the singing and staging are excellent. You really feel like you are part of the show in this circular theater. Do try to get in line about 10 minutes before a show so that you can get a closer seat even though the only bad seats in the house are behind people who are obnoxiously holding up their phones or cameras. If you are at a show where the monkeys do not do their acrobatic tricks, you aren’t missing out on much. Do try to ask a cast member before going into a show if they know whether the monkeys performed at the last show or not because they sometimes alternate one show on and off during the day.

  • Kilimanjaro Safaris

Like Jungle Cruise with real animals and factual and corny commentary. The recommendations to go first thing in the morning or during the hours around sunset are good to follow. I also had a wonderful safari when I went right at park close on the last safari – the lions roared! Please DO NOT use flash.

  • DINOSAUR

If you’re craving Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, head towards this gem of Dinoland. It has the same track but doesn’t really feel the same and actually gets me to let out screams regularly. This also has a great photo op if you were to keep any ride photos!

  • Discovery Island Trails

This is usually not highly recommended but there are several hidden animal exhibits, beautiful views of the rest of the park, and these trails allow you to get up close to check out all of the amazing carvings on the roots of the Tree of Life.

  • Maharajah Jungle Trek

Two tiger cubs were born in late 2017 and can be seen with their mother or father near the end of this trek. But before you get to the excellently Imagineer-ed habitats for the tigers, take time to watch the Komodo dragon and go in the bats habitat. These bats are truly impressive even while sleeping and there is always a cast member ready to answer all of your or your kids’ questions. The aviary after the tigers is also worth taking a leisurely stroll through because there are so many different birds; grab a spotting guide on the way in and apply some hand sanitizer on the way out.

  • Wilderness Explorers

If you have kids, definitely schedule this educational scavenger hunt into your itinerary. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll get a free souvenir booklet and some memories from the experience learning about different cultures, conservation, and animals.

Entertainment

  • Pocahontas Meet and Greet

This Disney princess has a pretty hidden area near the bridge from Discovery Island to Dinoland. She doesn’t meet in Disneyland so take advantage of this if meeting characters is your thing!

  • Tarzan Meet and Greet

Another character not usually available to meet in Disneyland, Tarzan is sure to leave you smiling as he sniffs or eats bugs from your hair.

  • Tree of Life Awakenings

These are some pretty magical and touching projections on the Tree of Life. You’ll probably get a better, less-crowded view  on the back side of the tree from the walkway between the Africa and Asia areas than from the main viewing point in Discovery Island. There are different animated stories every 15 minutes or so.

  • Explore Pandora during the day and at night

Even though you may not have time or necessarily need to ride the two attractions in Pandora, walking around, experiencing the Imagineering and getting photos is an attraction all on its own because it is absolutely stunning with and without sunlight. Be careful that you don’t lose members of your party in the darkness at night, though!

Food & Drink

  • Dole Whip with Rum or Night Blossom with Rum

You can get the classic Disneyland treat spiked from Tamu Tamu in Harambe or try the delicious and very sweet pear-flavored Night Blossom frozen drink in Pandora, which has recently been offered as an alcoholic option.

  • Tiffins

This is one of the more expensive restaurants in all of WDW but everything is delicious. You can also push yourself out of your comfort zone to try more adventurous things. The cocktails and wine selection are also excellent; you can get the cocktails in the Nomad Lounge without a reservation if you’d rather do that.

  • Tusker House brunch

This might be my favorite character buffet because you can get the classic and delicious Mickey waffles as well as more unique African dishes. Going for brunch around 11 but before 11:30 will allow you to get both breakfast food and the lunch options. Just be sure to get the bread pudding dessert before breakfast ends!

  • Quick-service breakfast in Asia

Yak and Yeti is one of the few places that does a quick-service breakfast in the parks that has a shorter wait than many of the food courts at the resorts. The hash brown bites are particularly scrumptious but there are breakfast sandwich options as well.

To Skip

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug

This is the same as the Disneyland version (although the Disneyland version is now closed permanently) and can be quite scary for kids and adults alike. The movie and show posters in the queue are pretty spectacularly punny though.

  • Dinoland, U.S.A including Triceratop Spin and Primeval Whirl

These are cheesy carnival rides with poor theming. Triceratop Spin is like Dumbo if you feel like flying. Primeval Whirl is like Goofy’s Sky School but even more dizzying and uncomfortable.

  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch

You have to take a long train to get here and there aren’t that many things up here that merit going out of your way. You can meet Rafiki and Doc McStuffins, go to a petting zoo and learn more about the animal care-taking efforts if that’s something you’d rather spend time doing though.

  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

You can see most of the animals on this trail on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. If you’re really interested in watching gorillas, do so upon exiting from Kilimanjaro Safaris. There is a view into the back of the gorilla habitat where you can often see male gorillas eating or playing in a waterfall.

To Do Time-Permitting

Attractions

  • Flight of Passage

The reason I did not put this on things that are must-do is because this is a glorified version of Soarin’ Around the World in California Adventure. I would not recommend waiting any longer than 2 hours (120 minutes) for this. If it is a shorter wait time or you have a FastPass+ then go for it.

  • Na’vi River Journey

This is a very very short boat ride and the effects were underwhelming for me. If this is the only Pandora ride with FastPass+ available, go for it. Otherwise, do not spend more than 45 minutes to an hour waiting. The animatronic shaman is quite stunning so try to sit on the right side of the boat for a better view.

  • Kali River Rapids

This is the same ride as Grizzly River Run in California Adventure but with different theming in the queue. There are free lockers to place any valuables to the left of the queue entrance if you need to.

  • Oasis Exhibits

There are several animals hidden among the pathways that most people blow past as they power walk to Pandora at rope drop. If you’re leaving Animal Kingdom in the middle of the day to parkhop or for a dining reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge, take a few extra minutes to stroll through to see macaws and anteaters.

Entertainment

  • Stage shows in Harambe

There are singers, drummers and acrobats that show up right in front of Tusker House across the bridge in Harambe. Spend ten minutes watching or join in on the dance party!

  • King Louie and Baloo Meet and Greet

These two characters are not regularly found at Disneyland but they are fur characters and are more limited in their interactions.

  • Russel Meet and Greet

This guy is adorable and will love interacting with anyone that has done at least one of the Wilderness Explorers activities. Check out the dog translation machine near his queue as well.

  • Flik Meet and Greet

I personally love Flik and his location on the Discovery Trails makes for great, lushly green photos. It’s usually a pretty short queue, too.

  • Finding Nemo – The Musical

This is a longer show and the large quantity of strollers can be intimidating but the puppetry and songs are delightful. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.

  • Rivers of Light

This isn’t the most exciting nighttime show but it is beautiful and has lovely music and is great for animal lovers. You can get special seating by doing a dining package at Tiffins or Tusker House but you can always try to get seats stand-by as well with little difficulty.

Disney Tips · Listicles · Uncategorized

How to Visit Epcot as a Disneyland Veteran

Epcot is a very unique theme park among the US Disney parks. Walt Disney initially intended EPCOT to be the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, showcasing futuristic living and technology. Now, it is one of the most educational parks with the main attractions (*cough cough* the alcoholic beverages) better-suited for adults. It is composed of Future World which preserves some of Walt’s original intentions and the World Showcase. While some of the attractions are very similar to California versions, there is a lot to offer. I’ve divided this post into the main things to see in Future World as well as a more detailed description of what I consider to be the highlights in each country in the World Showcase.

Future World

To Do

  • Living with the Land

This is one of the most unique and educational experiences in Epcot. Definitely go during the day so you can see the scientists hard at work while you learn about agricultural practices and the food that supplies the rest of the resort.

  • Spaceship Earth

Yes, there is a ride inside of the giant golf ball. The line can get pretty long so try to avoid it when the park opens; use a Fastpass+ or go during typical mealtimes instead.

  • Soarin’

This is almost exactly the same as the new Soarin’ at California Adventure; if you’ve only seen the Soarin’ over California version, definitely watch this one. There’s also an interactive mobile game in the queue if you do not use a FastPass+

  • Test Track

This is the same track as Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure with very different theming. Biggest tip if you are a party smaller than 4 is to use the Single Rider Entrance; you’ll likely be split up but the line is much faster if you do not care about getting a photo. If you really care about designing a test car, you can do so upon exiting the ride.

  • Mission: SPACE

If you don’t get motion-sick (I do and have avoided it ever since my first trip), this is likely the closest you’ll get to feeling like an astronaut. The orange version takes you to Mars and the green less-intense version gives you a view of the Earth from space.

  • Club Cool

Sample sodas from around the world for free! The Beverly is notoriously hard to drink so feel free to prank other members of your party.

  • Garden Grill

This character dining includes meeting Chip, Dale, Mickey and Pluto while dining in a rotating restaurant with views into Living with the Land. It is a lot of food for a party of two but has good options for breakfast and dinner.

  • The Odyssey

This is one of the main hubs for Epcot’s many festivals. Stop in here to get a passport that lists all of the food, drinks and special events for each festival. Booths for all the festivals are in both Future World and the World Showcase. The Festival of the Arts (my personal favorite) occurs in January and February and has several visual and performing arts events including Broadway concerts and seminars on photography and the like. The Flower and Garden Festival lasts from the end of February through Memorial Day and features topiaries, information on gardening and sustainability, and the Garden Rocks concert series. The Food and Wine Festival brings in extra country-specific booths, several more drunk adults on weekends, and the Eat to the Beat concert series from August through November. The Festival of the Holidays in November and December has special performers sharing each country’s holiday traditions as well as spiked coffee or hot chocolate so you can still drink around the world when it’s colder out.

To Skip

  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival

If you’re a Disney or Pixar fan, you’ve likely seen all of these shorts already so this is just a nice spot to rest your feet in some air-conditioning.

  • Journey into Imagination with Figment

This is a quirky dark ride with one room for each of the five senses. If you want to try to understand the preponderance of purple dragon merchandise available in the parks, ride it. Otherwise, avoid smelling skunk by skipping this.

  • Innoventions

This space does not include much currently. There are small interactive science exhibits on color and other physics phenomena but only a few people besides me may find this entertaining.

  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends

This is very similar to Disneyland’s Finding Nemo ride. The giant aquarium at the end is pretty cool (the turtles are hard to find) but you can see aquariums when you’re not on a Disney trip.

  • Most other dining in Future World

Except for Garden Grill, the options in Future World are not particularly remarkable or memorable and include more standard American fare that pales in comparison to everything else in the World Showcase.

To Do Time-Permitting

  • Meet Baymax

He can’t talk but he gives great hugs. He is usually available to meet from park open to park close and his queue is indoors.

  • Meet Joy and Sadness

These two are entertaining, Sadness especially, and are not available in Disneyland. Like Baymax, they do not talk and the queue is indoors.

  • Epcot Character Spot

Meet Mickey, Minnie and Goofy (usually) in their traditional outfits while only waiting in one line.

  • SpectacuLab

Help inspire the next generation of scientists while watching some cool physics demonstrations including laying on a bed of nails. The acting is really corny so you have to be in the right mood.

World Showcase Overview

The real draw of Epcot is the World Showcase which is made up of 11 different permanent pavilions highlighting the cultures of each nation through food, performances, architecture and shopping.

It is over one-mile walking around the entire showcase so it is usually recommended to pick one direction and go all the way around to save your feet. I prefer to start with Mexico and finish with Canada, and I recommend this direction for starting to Drink Around the World as well. If you need breakfast, start in the Canada direction first or head straight to France.

Regarding dining reservations, I do not usually plan to sit down at any of the Epcot restaurants because of the preponderance of festival booths and small meal options. The one exception may be to get some prime viewing for IllumiNations.

Mexico

  • Margaritas

There are a few options for margaritas in this pavilion. I prefer the frozen Fiesta Margarita (lime, strawberry and mango flavors together) at the outdoor Choza de Margarita stand but there is also La Cava del Tequila inside of the pavilion that has quite a selection of margaritas and fresh tortilla chips in a small space. Both options also serve small plates if you need more to eat.

  • Gran Fiesta Tour

This has a similar magic to it at night as Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland because the ceiling is painted to make it feel like you’re really outside of Mayan ruins. The ride itself is much more quaint but may be getting a Coco re-theming in the near future. If it has a short wait, definitely try it.

  • Coco exhibit in the Mexico Folk Art Gallery

Learn more about Día de Muertos than you did in your Spanish classes by checking out the information on the history and artistry of this traditional celebration.

  • Mariachi Cobre

This is one of the biggest mariachi bands I’ve ever seen and they’ve been performing at Epcot for decades. Definitely stop to listen for awhile, perhaps while enjoying a frozen margarita.

  • La Hacienda de San Angel or La Cantina de San Angel patio viewing of IllumiNations

Mexico has one table-service and one quick-service restaurant that each have views of IllumiNations. Get a reservation for La Hacienda or show up to La Cantina 30 minutes beforehand to get a spot.

Norway

  • Frozen Ever After

This is one of if not THE best boat ride in WDW and the queue is indoors and well-themed. As a Disneyland veteran, this may be the best use of a Tier 1 FastPass+ because it is the most unique option. The animatronics can be a little creepy, so I only go if the wait is less than 45 minutes, during Extra Magic Hours or right before the park closes.

  • Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet

Because of their popularity, these two usually are available to meet from park open to park close. And the wait is mostly indoors! You can skip this if you’ve already met them in Disneyland.

  • Stave Church Gallery

Last time I was here, this had cultural artifacts and inspiration for the Frozen film which was quite educational. As of March 2018, it is closed for refurbishment so some new treasures might be arriving soon.

  • Troll photo opportunity inside the shops

There is a giant troll statue in one of the shops that makes for some pretty hilarious photo ops. Any cast member would be glad to take a photo of your whole group.

  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Because Ariel’s Grotto is no longer an option at California Adventure and because Cinderella’s Royal Table reservations in Magic Kingdom are very difficult to obtain, this is a good option to efficiently meet princesses. Beware that there may be some more traditional Norwegian food like lots of fish.

China

  • Shanghai Disney exhibit in the House of the Whispering Willows

I’m not sure how long this will be here but these photos and dioramas may inspire you to plan another Disney vacation, but in China.

  • Reflections of China 360˚ film

The Great Wall only takes up a small portion of this film. The film has recently been updated and is quite beautiful. You will have to stand while watching the film, so if you’re too tired, at least check out the ceiling of the temple.

  • Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

Check the Entertainment schedule so as to make sure not to miss these talented performers. The flexibility and choreography is impressive and the crowd gets really into it.

  • Mulan meet-and-greet

Mulan meets in an elegant version of her matchmaker outfit from 11 AM to 5 PM usually. She is much rarer at Disneyland so take advantage of this regular schedule and meeting location (she will usually be inside on gloomy or cold days).

Germany

  • Snow White meet-and-greet

Make a wish with the original princess in the afternoon and early evening. Her lines can be quite long so plan around the times if this is one of your priorities since Snow White is not a regular meet-and-greet in Magic Kingdom or Disneyland.

  • Biergarten

I’ve never been here but I hear that this buffet is beautiful, authentic and a good value. I don’t think there are many health-conscious options though among the sausages and carbohydrate sides.

Italy

  • Venetian Mask shop

The plethora of masks are different every trip and make for a good souvenir because they come in several sizes. The shop clerk may even be able to provide a lesson on the symbols and traditions of mask-making.

  • Best pizza on property at Via Napoli

The pizzas can be quite massive and are not very saucy. This is great for large groups because it is difficult to carry leftovers around all day.

  • Italy patio areas

Because it is almost directly across from the entrance to Epcot, you can usually get the geodesic sphere as a background in your photos here. There are usually Disney PhotoPass photographers lurking on the patio space jutting out over the lake across the bridges. If there isn’t a dessert party going on, this is a good spot to watch IllumiNations as well.

America

  • Voices of Liberty

This acapella group is an absolute must-listen. They are so talented and the arrangements give me goosebumps. Go early to get the best seats.

  • The American Adventure

This has some of the most impressive animatronics as well as a soaring soundtrack. Sit in some air-conditioning while getting a brief history refresher.

  • Festival Concerts

During the festivals, there are 2 or 3 concert sets per day on the weekends. Check the festival pages for the line-up. Hanson and American Idol contestants like David Cooke are consistently part of the line-up but other genres are equally popular.

Japan

  • Mitsukoshi

This is a massive store that is an experience on its own. You can try on kimonos, open up an oyster to find a pearl or purchase all the Pokemon merchandise your heart desires.

  • Matsuriza

These taiko drummers are very entertaining and provide an energizing soundtrack while exploring the pavilion.

Morocco

  • Shopping

In addition to the stalls right near the water, there are several shops hidden in the alleyways of the pavilion that are quite fun to explore. Try on traditional garb and jewelry or just seek refuge from the rainstorms that frequently occur in Florida.

  • Gallery of Arts and History

Learn much more about Moroccan culture by viewing pottery and weaponry in this small gallery.

  • Spice Road Table patio for viewing IllumiNations

Of the patio options, this one will have the worst view because it is near the back of World Showcase. Nevertheless, you can get a spot to sit while enjoying some Mediterranean appetizers, entrees or cocktails which are more unique than in Mexico or the UK.

France

  • Amazing food and drinks!

There’s usually a delicious alcoholic beverage here (La Vie in Rose is particularly popular) during the festivals. Macaron ice cream sandwiches and other treats in Les Halles bakery are one of the best and few breakfast options in Epcot.

  • Impressions de France

This is a great place to sit and rest your feet (or take a sugar-induced nap) while enjoying some beautiful music and scenery from France. Not my favorite country film so you can skip it if you’d like. It runs every 30 minutes but food is not allowed in the theater.

  • Belle and Aurora meet-and-greets

If you’d like to meet Belle in her blue dress (or her red holiday dress in December), be prepared to wait in a long line in the sun. Aurora will meet in her pink dress and is somewhat easier to find here than in Disneyland.

United Kingdom

  • Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins meet-and-greets

The gardens make for a wonderful backdrop for photos for these characters that are much harder to find in Disneyland or Magic Kingdom.

  • Phone booth photo opportunities

Have you always wanted to take a classic British phone booth photo? Well you can do so here and fool your friends into thinking that you traveled across the pond instead of just across the country.

  • Yorkshire County Fish Shop

I’ve heard really great things about the fish and chips at this quick-service stop near the International Gateway.

  • Streetmosphere performers

There is a small troupe of Irish performers that is not often on the official schedule but is quite excellent; they can be found in front of the shops. There is a stage in the back that sometimes has a band performing as well.

  • Rose & Crown Dining Room patio for IllumiNations viewing

This is one of the best spots to sit while watching the nighttime fireworks show. Try to make a reservation around the time of IllumiNations or show up 15-20 minutes before to see if there are any patio tables available.

Canada

  • O Canada! 360˚ Film

This is the best film in Epcot in my opinion. The views are stunning and I learned so much about different regions of our neighbor to the north. The song is catchy and Martin Short is perfectly cheeky.

  • Le Cellier Steak

One of the signature meals from the expensive restaurant in this pavilion is usually offered as a smaller option at the festival booth. Quality does not usually suffer so it is a good deal.

  • Cheddar Cheese Soup (on Poutine)

Another one of the signature items from Le Cellier’s menu is this soup and it has recently become available at the Refreshment Port on top of poutine. It may also be available as a side on its own.

  • “Natural” photo opportunities

The waterfalls can provide mist that is refreshing on a hot day and are photogenic if they don’t get your camera wet. The gardens here are also a nice backdrop for photos.

Out the International Gateway

One of my favorite areas in WDW is the Boardwalk area just a short walk outside of the park entrance between France and the United Kingdom.

  • Ample Hills Creamery

This ice cream parlor has the best ice cream I’ve ever had and this is the only location outside of New York. The Ooey Gooey Butter Cake flavor and ice cream flight are not-to-miss.

  • Beaches

Enjoy your ice cream with your toes in the sand and a view of Epcot or Hollywood Studios fireworks. This is an especially quiet and empty area, considering it is open to the public.

  • ESPN Zone

If you need to get your sports fix, duck in here for a game, some beer and pub food.

  • Wyland Gallery

This is a fine art gallery that I greatly enjoy browsing through. There is plenty of Disney and Star Wars and oceanic art from numerous artists. During the Festival of the Arts, Disney artists will do signings and meet-and-greets here.

 

Sorry this was so long! Let me know in the comments if I skipped over any of your favorite Epcot experiences!

Disney Tips · Listicles · Uncategorized

How to Visit Magic Kingdom as a Disneyland Veteran

I’ve become the go-to person for all of my California friends (most of whom have had at least one visit to Disneyland) planning visits to Walt Disney World so I thought I would compile a list of my tips for how to make the most of a vacation as a Disneyland veteran.

We’ll start with Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is the most similar to Disneyland so Disneyland vets might be tempted to skip it but there are several special things about Magic Kingdom that are worth a full park day. Below I outline which attractions are must-dos, which can be skipped, and which are good to do if you have time or the must-dos have really long wait times.

General Reminders

  • Plan your 3 FastPass+ ahead of time (60 days in advance if you’re staying at a Disney hotel, 30 days if not)
  • Plan your meal reservations ahead of time (180 days in advance if you’re staying at a Disney hotel)
  • Magic Kingdom is much bigger than Disneyland so you’ll be walking much farther between attractions

Attractions To Do (Not in any order)

  • Splash Mountain

So many WDW veterans claim Splash Mountain is their favorite ride and I never understood why because I never liked Disneyland’s version but WDW’s actually makes sense and has some unexpected additions that make it a much better ride. Look out for the train up above in the last scene!

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

The interactive queue on this is fabulous but the FastPass+ makes you skip a lot of that. The ride itself is family-friendly but is an interesting blend of classic dark ride with animatronics and roller coaster. It is worth experiencing, but try to do it with the least wait – right before the park closes, during Extra Magic Hours, or first thing in the morning.

  • Big Thunder Mountain

This also has a pretty awesome queue with lots of interactive elements (use hand sanitizer after playing!) and is just as exciting as Disneyland’s version.

  • Space Mountain

This is nowhere near as exhilarating as Disneyland’s Space Mountain but it has charm and it is interesting to experience the original version

  • Enchanted Tales with Belle

Because I have yet to write a Science of Disney post on this attraction, this still is probably the most magical attraction to me because of the magic mirror. Seeing little kids participate just embodies Disney magic and if an adult in your party participates, it’s a good memory too. This is the only free way to get a picture of Belle in her yellow dress. Also, it’s unique to WDW.

  • Haunted Mansion

With more of a New England flair, WDW’s version has the best queue of all and has some unique show scenes. Soak it all in!

  • Carousel of Progress

This used to be at Disneyland and was designed by Walt Disney so it is a must-do in my book. Great place to sit down and relax and potentially take a nap.

  • PeopleMover

Also a Disneyland original, this is much faster-moving than you might expect. Great to ride at any time of day but try to ride it when there’s less than a 30 minute wait (which is most of the time).

  • Country Bear Jamboree

This is unlike anything at Disneyland, unless you saw the version at Disneyland way back in the day. Nothing will prepare you for Big Al.

  • Jungle Cruise

The jokes are different at night and there’s a temple that is different from Disneyland’s version. I’m biased because this is one of my favorite attractions.

Characters To Do

  • Mickey Mouse in Town Square Theater

This is one of the most magical things about WDW. Don’t watch YouTube videos beforehand or you’ll ruin it.

  •  Gaston

He is much easier to find in WDW than in Disneyland and seeing everyone else interact with him makes the line fly by. Try to show up at least 15 minutes before the times listed in the app because a queue does form ahead of time.

  • Anastasia and Drizella (and if you’re lucky, Lady Tremaine!)

These characters are listed in the app and can be found near the arches behind the carousel. They are crazy and very entertaining.

  • The Fairy Godmother

She isn’t usually listed in the app but meets just behind the castle near the path to liberty square. All of the videos on YouTube make her seem delightful and it is a really unique character interaction.

Entertainment To Do

  • Happily Ever After

This really is spectacular if you have a good view of the castle. Try to find a great spot at least 1.5 hours before or twenty minutes before for a less-good spot.

  • Festival of Fantasy Parade at 3:00 pm

I never understood the appeal of parades until I saw this one. Every aspect is beautiful and the dragon is very impressive.

  • The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History

This is really unique to Liberty Square and has a plethora of puns. Check the app for showtimes.

Bonus To Do

  • Visit the Tangled-themed bathrooms in Fantasyland near Haunted Mansion
  • Check out the Big Top Circus behind Fantasyland (roughly where ToonTown is in Disneyland) for some unique character meet-and-greets and some good souvenir shopping
  • Try a citrus swirl at Sunshine Tree Terrace – it’s like Dole Whip but orange dreamsicle flavored

Things to Skip (unless you have young kids; not in order)

  • Winnie the Pooh

It is pretty much the same as Disneyland’s version. But the Hundred Acre Goods shop at the exit has lots of Winnie the Pooh merchandise if you love the characters. There is an interactive queue that is cool though.

  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

It’s a lamer version of Astro Blasters that looks outdated and has the guns attached to the carts.

  • Barnstormer

This is a roller coaster intended for kids like Gadget’s Go Coaster in ToonTown.

  • Mad Tea Party

This is the exact same as Disneyland but covered.

  • Tomorrowland Speedway

This is a lamer, less-themed, smellier version of Autopia.

  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid

This is the exact same as the Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure but it does have a much more fabulous queue if you wanted to see it.

  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

Your standard carousel but surrounded by strollers.

  • Aladdin’s Flying Carpets

Like Dumbo but with a chance that you’ll get squirted with water and with longer lines.

Things to Do Time-Permitting (listed in order of most must-do to most skippable)

  • Astro Orbiter

I absolutely love riding this at night because it is so high and has spectacular views, so is much better than Disneyland’s version. Only ride two adults per rocket if you’re intimate with the other person. Skip if you don’t like heights.

  •  Dumbo

This is such a classic and is way more fun as an adult than you might think. The lines are usually much shorter than at Disneyland.

  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic

I found this 4D theater to be quite charming and nostalgic and Disneyland doesn’t have it.

  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

If you like corny jokes or improv and need a place to sit and relax, this is perfect. Also unique to WDW.

  • Peter Pan’s Flight without a FastPass+

There is an interactive queue that has a lot of magical elements. If you don’t care about this or the line is longer than 60 minutes, get a FastPass+ or skip it because it isn’t worth it otherwise.

  • it’s a small world

This is such a classic but is much less impressive than Disneyland’s version because it is inside. If you’ve ever wanted to walk near the facade, check it out. Look for your name on the signs in the last room.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean

I am always very underwhelmed by WDW’s version. They redid the “We Wants the Redhead” scene in February 2018 so that’s the only redeeming feature.

  • Swiss Family Treehouse

This has a great view at twilight; you can actually get a shot overlooking Main Street and is the version that Disneyland had before it became Tarzan’s Treehouse.

  • Walt Disney World Railroad

This does not have the same dioramas as Disneyland’s but it is kind of cool to see behind the scenes.

  • Enchanted Tiki Room

This is almost the same as Disneyland’s. It is a good place to cool off with a short wait if you need to.

 

What are your must-dos? Anything you disagree with? Let me know in the comments below!

Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Listicles · Science of Disney · Uncategorized

Top 5 Educational Experiences at Epcot

Although Walt Disney’s original vision for Epcot is far from realized, the spirit of showcasing technological innovations and providing memorable and educational experiences for guests lives on!

  1. Living with the Land – This ride is very long but really interesting. I never thought I would care about agriculture but finding out that Disney produces as much of its produce on-site as possible was really impressive! Seeing real scientists at work monitoring the plants and animals and their growing conditions in the most magical place on earth is bound to be inspiring for aspiring scientists, young and old. They offer a Behind the Seeds tour as well if you want more information about the work going on behind the scenes to feed hundreds of thousands of guests each day.
  2. The Seas Pavilion – Despite growing up a short drive from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (one of the main inspirations for Finding Dory’s Marine Life Institute), I had never seen manatees before and they are equally adorable and imposing due to their size and agility in the water. The large aquariums are full of several creatures and have TV screens that flash their names which makes this a great spot to cool off from the Florida heat by playing a game of I Spy with the kiddos. The sea turtles are usually pretty hard to spot because they like to hide! Each smaller aquarium also has short and sweet descriptions about the unique behaviors of the sea life within.
  3. Stave Church Replica and Museum in  Norway – Because the Norway pavilion has been overtaken by Frozen to a great extent, this museum is a nice way of tying together the movie and actual Norwegian culture. You can learn about all the inspiration for the film from the Norwegian landscape and traditional outfits, to how the instruments and vehicles are typically made and used.
  4. Oh Canada! – Even though I have been to Vancouver once before, this film taught me so much about Canada and made me want to visit again as soon as possible. The range of lifestyles represented – from small fishing villages to bustling, artistic city centers – and the sheer wonder of the various natural landscapes were absolutely fascinating, especially when presented in 360 degrees accompanied by Martin Short’s humor.
  5. Venetian Mask Shop – Besides showcasing the beauty and craftsmanship of what must be hundreds of masks, this little shop attached to the perfumery could have entertained me for hours due to what can be learned about Italian folklore. Ask the shopkeeper questions about your favorite masks and about the variety of designs; each one has its own meaning and story about the process of creating it. I may be biased because I read as many fictional books set in Venice as I could when I was in middle school but this really is a gem worth perusing when you’re still full on pizza and wine from Via Napoli.

Honorable Mention

Exhibits in Mexico

When I was last in Epcot in September, they were preparing for the promotional but potentially educational exhibit on Coco and Día de Muertos. I will have to check out the newly decorated area on my next trip to see if it is faithful to the culture, whether it teaches me anything different from my Spanish classes in school, and how it integrates aspects of the film. If it is anything close to the museum in Norway, it could be promising but perhaps difficult for kids who can’t read yet to be thoroughly entertained.

SpectacuLAB!

To replace Innoventions, the Imagineers decided an interactive science show would do the trick while also probably being less expensive to maintain and easier to potentially overhaul for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. One of my top priorities for my next trip is checking out how engaging (and hopefully not cringe-worthy) this show is; maybe what some people see as cringe-worth is really just a good use of Jungle Cruise style humor to demonstrate cool science phenomena. I’m hopeful that this will be a memorable experience because it is co-sponsored by Science from Scientists which is a non-profit organization working to improve STEM literacy in schools.

What is your favorite educational experience at Epcot?

Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Uncategorized

Trip Review: Hong Kong Disneyland Part 2

If you’ve read Part 1, you’ll know that I did not get to do everything I had planned at Hong Kong Disneyland due to a typhoon warning. But several magical details made my time outside of the park just as enjoyable!

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Transportion to Hong Kong Disneyland

Getting to the resort was slightly more complicated than I expected because I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to take a cab or have the entire experience of riding the Disneyland train. Cabs were taking too long so I figured out how to get to Sunny Bay station.

After asking a very helpful transportation employee how to get to the right point to transfer to the train going the right direction, a train with Mickey Mouse-shaped windows pulled into the station. And it was glorious! There were bronze statues of the Fab Five, Mickey handholds and lots of Hong Kong parents and children dressed in Disney gear head to toe. The metalwork at the final stop at the park was full of hidden Mickeys and sorcerer hat shapes. I took a quick bus to the hotel to drop off my luggage and took another back to start the adventure.

Checking In

As a birthday present to myself, I got myself a room in the Hollywood Hotel which is the cheapest option but beautifully decorated in an Art Deco style reminiscent of Buena Vista Street in California Adventure and Hollywood Studios. Each floor has classic Disney movie posters and my floor had my favorite, The Lion King! The elevator has the voices of the Fab Five announce the floors, too!

When I checked in, the restaurants were almost closed so I dashed to Hollywood & Dine, the quick service café. Most of the options that looked delicious were unavailable so I had a very mediocre plate of spaghetti. Then I stopped in to the Studio Lounge and had a mango daiquiri before heading up to bed were I found a card and crafted birthday cake awaiting me.

Morning

I’m a sucker for character breakfasts so I made it a point to go to the Explorer’s Lodge’s Dragon Wind café to meet Mickey and Minnie. Everything was delicious; I had been eating a mix of traditional Chinese breakfast food and whatever I could find in Singapore the few weeks before my Hong Kong stay so I was very happy to find congee, fresh fruit, and classic Mickey waffles. Unlike American character breakfasts where the characters walk around to the various tables, I received a card that told me I had a specific time slot to go get my picture taken. It was not too awkward eating alone because I made friends with the couple sitting next to me who were elementary school teachers and gave me several adorable presents after I took a picture with them. While I was meeting Mickey and Minnie, the cast members took lots of great pictures for me but there was also an option to purchase photos with PhotoPass.

Once I was finished with breakfast, I took a lovely stroll along the path between the resorts and the park with hopes that the typhoon warning that I had heard rumblings about would not be real. People were standing in large confused clumps but eventually cast members came out to inform us that the park would be closed until the typhoon warning de-escalated to a lower level.

After appreciating the beauty and quirkiness of the fountain in front of the parks as potentially my last glimpse of the park itself, I walked back along the path from where I had come. The flags along the path showcased a myriad of characters, even Aurora in her blue dress, and there was still theme music pumping through speakers. After looking out at as much of the bay as I could see in the mist, I turned towards the path back to the resorts.

Resort Exploring

First stop was the Disneyland Hotel. This was not particularly memorable because there was not much to explore besides well manicured lawns and a hedge maze. The Victorian theming is similar to that of the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World.

Next, I went back to the Explorer’s Lodge and walked around the four parts of the Explorer’s Lodge – Oceania, Asia, South America, and Africa. Each had its own garden with figurines of characters like Rafiki and Kevin, theme music, and details like animal footprints or shells in the pavement as the gardens transitioned from one to another. Good thing I took this time to walk around outside when it was only grey and barely sprinkling.

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The Explorer’s Lodge is now my absolute favorite hotel; it’s a combination of Animal Kingdom Lodge (theming wise, without any real animals), Art of Animation, and Coronado Springs. The lobby had large windows overlooking the gardens and travel trunks filled with trinkets and clothing for Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Daisy, and Donald to use for their various adventurous hobbies like aviation and bird-watching. Downstairs there was a quick-service stop with beautiful pastries but I got some basic ice cream instead. It was good but I regret not getting a pastry. The gift shop had some unique memorabilia but the most tempting was 12″ plush versions of explorer Mickey and Minnie, complete with Minnie’s adorable wilderness heels; she is so fashionable that she has a totally different outfit than the safari outfit she wears at Tusker House or at the meet and greet in Animal Kingdom. The other restaurants seemed exquisite as well but I did not feel like spending a lot more money. I would highly recommend staying at Explorers Lodge of three hotel options currently available in Hong Kong!

 

Back to Hollywood Hotel

Lastly I walked the last bit back to the Hollywood Hotel. Since I had already checked out, I had to find ways to kill time with the hope that the park would still open before my flight. I explored the grounds of the Hollywood Hotel. The piano pool – one of the main reasons I chose to stay at this hotel – was closed but pretty large. The miniature Hollywood sign on a grassy knoll was a nice touch but not nearly as impressive as the real sign in Los Angeles.

 

I headed back indoors and grabbed a seat at a table in the Studio Lounge so I could take advantage of the dessert spread. Behind the bar, they were projecting Disney movies; Monsters, Inc. was just finishing up so I settled in and enjoyed the complimentary bar nuts. I believe I ordered an eggs benedict with salmon for my afternoon meal and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. But that might have been because I also started drinking wine before 2 pm. Right after Monsters, Inc. they showed Tangled so I was really living my best life drinking wine and watching my favorite princess movie.

The deadline for the park to re-open was drawing near; if the typhoon warning did not de-escalate by 4 pm, then the park would not open at all for the day. At some point during Tangled, they had prohibited guests from going outside because of the rain and wind so I was very thankful to have my comfortable little spot inside.

Once I heard rumblings that the typhoon warning was going to be lifted, I extensively perused the gift shop and gathered a few pressed pennies for myself and for my brother. After the warning is lifted, it still takes about an hour and a half until the park can open again.

I walked back to the front of the park where two long queues had formed. I thankfully got to use a special entrance for resort guests and dashed into the park to attempt to ride things I hadn’t ridden before. With just over an hour and a half spent in the park, I bid adieu to the park and shed a few tears as I exited to the tune of “Circle of Life.”

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Other Tips for the Park

  1. If you can, get a button! Every cast member seems to be on the lookout for these buttons because while wearing my birthday button, I got stickers and smiles from all of the cast members!
  2. Take the stroll between the hotels and the park at least once during your stay if you can handle a little bit more walking! The humid summer air was comforting and the path was well-lit.
  3. Some of the information in the Hong Kong Disneyland  app is incorrect. They no longer sell chocolate covered bananas or mango dole whip which are the two snacks I was looking forward to most because I did not have a partner with whom to share the adorable dim sum that is all over Instagram.
  4. If you are staying at one of the resorts, stay until after park close to see the most empty Main Street ever! Most of the guests leave soon after park closing so they can take the train back but sitting in front of the castle or just inside the entrance is a perfect end to enjoying a day in the park.
  5. Look out for the trash cans! I thought the decor was absolutely adorable and I want wearable merchandise with the patterns!

Which international park do you want to go to most?

Disney Tips · Disney Trips · Uncategorized

Trip Review: Hong Kong Disneyland Part 1

In July 2017, I turned a layover in Hong Kong into about 30 hours at Hong Kong Disneyland as a birthday present to myself. Although a typhoon warning put a serious damper on how much I was able to do in my short time there, I greatly enjoyed the experience. In this post, I give my thoughts on the attractions and entertainment in the park.

Hong Kong Unique Attractions

Mystic Point 7/10

Mystic Manor 9/10 After arriving at the park around noon, Mystic Manor was my first stop and number one priority. The queue was about 10 minutes long and full of gorgeous details from the Society for Explorers and Adventures, complete with a miniature of the Mystic Manor property; Walt would’ve been proud. Watching ride-throughs definitely lessened the coolness of the experience a bit because I knew what to expect. The soundtrack to the ride was very enjoyable and the music room was my favorite because of all the dancing instruments. As far as dark rides go, this one is amazing because all of the tech and animatronics are relatively new. Albert the monkey is adorable and at the end of the ride, I was very tempted to buy lots of Mystic Manor merchandise.

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Garden of Wonders 3/10 This was just a photo op spot with structures meant to be optical illusions. There were not any cast members hanging around the area to help you get a photo with the illusion itself..

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Mystic Point Freight Depot 2/10 Another photo op with even less charm than the Garden of Wonders.

Toy Story Land 6/10

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Toy Story Land was beautiful with the light of the golden hour at sunset over Lantau Island. Although I did not ride anything in this land (I was in search of Mango Dole Whip which tragically is not sold anymore) it made me very excited for the Toy Story Land coming to Walt Disney World. The details of all of the childhood toys scaled up for architectural purposes- from Lincoln Logs to Tinker Toys to the giant letter puzzle and K’nex fences – gave me all the nostalgic vibes. The meet and greet for Woody, Jessie, and Buzz was well-themed.

Grizzly Gulch 5/10

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I walked through this area several times to get to and from the Mystic Point area but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. A combination of Frontierland and Disneyland’s Critter Country, the theme of bears living in an old Western town is a little strange but the visibility of bears themselves was minor. The Grizzly Gulch Welcome Show a stage act of three women singing in English that was pretty good and drew a small crowd. The rest of the area has a jail photo op and water cannons to cool down.

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Train ?/10 During the timeslot in which I had planned to ride this, the ride was broken and did not open for the rest of the night. With the typhoon warning the next day, the outdoor rides were slower to open so I did not have a chance to ride this before I had to leave for the airport. When I walked past it, it seemed like a Seven Dwarves Mine Train type ride – not too thrilling of a coaster – but I heard it goes backwards! This is a must-do if I ever get back to Hong Kong!

Marvel

Iron Man Experience 6/10 I am not the biggest Marvel fan and I get nauseous on simulator rides but the line was really short and I was in the area so I rode it. This is essentially Star Tours but with a plot of Iron Man saving Hong Kong but I found the humor in English to be surprisingly clever.

The SHIELD Experience 8/10 This is one of the most unique attractions I’ve seen in the three Disney parks I’ve been to. I had no idea what it was going in so was definitely peeved at the extremely long queue but once I understood what the attraction was, it made sense. Small groups at a time become SHIELD agents and are led through a maze of well-decorated warehouse scenes by cast members acting as SHIELD agents in a quest to retrieve orbs of some sort before HYDRA finds them. In two of the scenes, you meet Thor and Starlord and one person gets selected each time to help them. Because I was wearing my birthday button, I got to help Starlord close a glass door but totally misunderstood the directions with all the pressure to perform and thought I had to reach into the case with a scary looking animatronic. Most of the instructions were in English so some members of our large group were a bit confused, but it was fast-paced and the acting was believable so it made for an overall very enjoyable experience.

There was also a Spiderman meet and greet but I did not wait in the queue for him (it was shorter than the SHIELD experience).

Fantasyland

Fairy Tale Forest 8/10 I loved this area because it felt like the Storybook Canals but up close and personal. There are miniatures with moving elements for several Disney movies including Tangled, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid. The details hidden in the bushes and on the paths were especially charming. Know that the Tinker Bell meet-and-greet inside this area is optional; you can bypass it by taking a separate path.

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Fantasy Gardens 4/10 This is a character meet and greet space. There weren’t any characters present as I walked through, so I just appreciated the theming of each gazebo and some pretty topiaries. Skip this if you don’t want to or don’t have time to met characters.

 

Hong Kong Versions of US Attractions

Railroad ?/10 I did not ride this but wanted to. It seemed like it had a convenient drop-off point near the back of the park that could save me a walk but I ended up just walking because I wanted to see as much of the castle as I could.

Adventureland

Jungle Cruise 6/10 This may be an unfair rating because Jungle Cruise is one of my favorite rides. Despite being “the chosen one” to carry the queue timing card to the front of the English queue, this special treatment was not enough to overcome my disappointment that my skipper was not able to communicate the dry humor effectively and instead just pointed at lots of things and described them. It was interesting to go around the island instead of a separate tucked-away track and the different ending was almost exciting enough to redeem the ride.

Tarzan’s Tree House 4/10 Taking the raft over took longer than it took me to walk through the entire treehouse which was all of the same scenes as the Disneyland version, so it was not worth my time. As you’re exiting the treehouse, keep your eyes trained towards the ground to notice footprints of some of the inhabitants.

Fantasyland

Philharmagic 6/10 This was my first time ever seeing Philharmagic (I hadn’t seen it in WDW) so I really enjoyed it but it is exactly the same as the version in Florida with a less interesting queue. I believe I saw the show in English.

It’s a Small World 7/10 – The layout of this ride was different than in the US and seemed to have a bigger presence for the Western section and an Americas section. But it was a walk-on and lets out next to an ice cream stand instead of a gift shop. The details of the giant compass on the ground in front of the attraction made the area into one of the few spots that I thought was worth taking pictures.

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Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Winnie the Pooh are the same as they are at other parks so I did not ride them. I remember expecting that the Winnie the Pooh ride would have a long wait and it seemed to be about the same as at other parks but long compared to the other rides at Hong Kong Disneyland. The Mad Hatter Tea Cups were also identical to the Disney World version, complete with a tent covering in case of rain.

Tomorrow Land

Space Mountain 7/10 I literally cannot remember anything about this ride from my trip besides that I used a Fastpass for it so I don’t think the queue or the ride itself was anything special or unique from the version in either US park.

I did not ride Orbitron or Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. I wish I got to ride Orbitron because it was a different ride vehicle than Astro Orbiters but the line was always pretty long. I don’t think there was anything unique about Astro Blasters so you can skip it if you’ve ridden Disneyland’s (the better) version.

Shows

Festival of the Lion King 10/10 This show made me cry from its beauty; the singers were excellent and the flying bird scenes were incredibly graceful. There weren’t any tumbling monkeys and instead they seemed to serve as comedic relief in Mandarin but I haven’t seen the tumbling monkeys in WDW either so I couldn’t compare on that aspect. The stage itself was way cooler than the WDW version with multiple levels rising and lowering at different points during the show. The fire dancing scene was comparable. One of my favorite touches was that the floats with Simba and the other animals on them move into the center of the auditorium at the end of the show so you can get close-up pictures as you walk out.

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Wondrous Book ?/10 I didn’t get to see this show because I ran out of time on my first day and the typhoon warning delayed its opening on my second day. It is supposed to be similar to Mickey and the Magical Map at Disneyland and is offered in English and Mandarin (and maybe also Cantonese)

Flights of Fantasy Parade 7/10  The floats and costumes were cute but the song was not memorable. The performers were sweating bullets in the sun and heat but their make-up still looked flawless.

Paint the Night Parade 9/10 I sat the closest I have ever been to this parade because the streets are narrower than in Disneyland and every float was that much more stunning. After having just watched Wreck-it Ralph on the plane to China, the song was that much more catchy now that I knew what it was from. Definitely do not miss this parade!

Disney in the Stars Fireworks 9/10 – I cried so much but I think it was partly due to the sweat and sunscreen getting into my eyes because it was still very warm after the sun had gone down. Right after the end of the Paint the Night Parade, I just turned around and got a spot a few rows back from the castle. We were packed in like sardines but we were sitting. There were extensive Mulan scenes which I was SO happy to see and the musical arrangement throughout was very nostalgic. The castle is not extremely large so the projections aren’t as impressive but the fireworks were still plentiful.

Of the attractions that I got to do, I did most of them on my first day between noon and park closing at 8 pm. Let me know if you have any questions about my trip in the comments below!

Check out Part 2 of my review in which I talk more about my general impressions of the park and how I occupied my time during the typhoon warning.