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!

Listicles · Princess Life · Uncategorized

Disney Women in STEM

For The United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science (#IDWGS), I wanted to draw attention to the representation of the phenomenal females of Disney. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many easily recognizable female characters in STEM in Disney media. Of the approximately 200 characters classified as scientists on Disney Wiki, only about 20 of them were female and even fewer were in more than one episode of a TV show or in a major motion picture. Below I highlight some of the better known and lesser known females in science roles from Disney animation, live-action and park attractions.

Animated

Honey Lemon is kind of the perfect combination of the traditional Disney Princess and nerdy scientist. She is kind, optimistic, fashionable AND an adept chemical engineering student. I love how she counters most of the stereotypes of a mad scientist as a crotchety Caucasian man and helps to break down the shock that most people have women can’t be both beautiful and smart.

 

Gogo Tamago is an industrial design and mechanical engineering student in Big Hero 6 who uses the science of magnetism as her super power. Her line of “Stop whining, woman up!” gave a clue into how the culture of San Fransokyo is different from our current society. Athletic and sarcastic, she deserves just as much respect and admiration as the more traditionally feminine Honey Lemon.

Vanellope von Schweetz is an actual Princess (and President!) but also a resourceful enough engineer to build her own kart to compete in Sugar Rush races. She could have used a little bit more knowledge of computer code but her spunk and sympathetic nature make her a very endearing child racing prodigy.

 

Gadget Hackwrench (who also has a ride in Disneyland’s Toontown named after her!) is one of Chip and Dale’s friends (and main love interests) but doesn’t get as much recognition as she deserves. She’s an inventor and tinkerer that always comes up with creative solutions using everyday items. She can be feisty but is nevertheless a valuable member of the Rescue Rangers.

Lesser Known

The majority of animated STEM females have very small roles and in other cases they are the villains, like the Evil Queen, Ursula or Yzma using scientific (but more often just magical) powers to craft various potions. In more recent productions, like on Disney Jr.’s Miles from Tomorrowland, there are some more notable women and girls in STEM.

Tanya Vanderflock from Mighty Ducks is similar to Gadget Hackwrench in that she uses her mechanical genius to help her accomplish team’s goals.

 

Vivian Francis Porter from Kim Possible also suffered from people not taking her intellect seriously due to her stunning beauty. Maybe she’ll make an appearance in the upcoming live-action Kim Possible!

Sara BellumRhoda Dendron and the villainous Anna Matronic from Darkwing Duck have great names but very little screentime.

 

Loretta Callisto is the main character’s supportive and tech-savvy sister and Dr. Zephyr Skye is her storm-hunting and kick-butt role model (voiced by a real meteorologist) from Miles from Tomorrowland on Disney Jr. Hopefully these characters will inspire more young girls to want to be scientists!

 

Live Action

While there are a handful of females with doctorates in Disney live-action films, very few of them have prominent roles or rich back-stories and plots like their male counterparts. Some of the best representation actually comes from the Marvel movies and even then, the studios could do much better by giving these wonder women their own movies instead of relegating them to supporting roles.

Carina Smyth from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a very passionate and determined astronomer living in difficult times. Her wrongful conviction as a witch definitely is not so far off from shaming of women that still happens today.

 

Gabriella Montez from High School Musical also fits the stereotype of being ridiculed and being an outcast for being a math and science nerd but she doesn’t let silly boys stop her from pursuing her dreams of going to an amazing school and maintaining her passion for singing and competing in the science olympiad.

Dr. Sara Jean Reynolds in Flubber and Dr. Abigail Chase from National Treasure both serve primarily as the love interests in their respective movies but have also achieved a great deal of success in their fields as evidenced by their prominent positions. I would love to see spin-offs showing the adventures and challenges they overcame to get to where they are.

 

Marvel

Jane Foster is a well-known astrophysicist and is Thor’s main love interest. It was great to see Natalie Portman portray another powerful woman.

Maya Hansen from Iron Man 3 is a botanist who has a brief relationship with Tony Stark.

Betty Ross is a nuclear physicist in the Hulk comics and movie and will be making an appearance in the upcoming Infinity War movie.

 

Lastly, Leia Organa was not only a princess and general but also secretly a doctor, but more on that at another time.

Parks

Dr. Jaclyn Ogden is the primary expert on banshees on the planet Pandora and restarted the Avatar program so that guests can partake in a similar rite of passage as the Na’Vi. (I have a feeling she was named after the real life Jackie Ogden who is an experimental psychologist and director of animal programs for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts).

 

Mary Oceaneer is one of the few females in the fictional elite club, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. She must know a fair bit about cartography, astronomy and the mechanics of captaining a ship and diving for treasure in order to be a successful treasure hunter. She inspired attractions on the Disney Cruise Line and at Typhoon Lagoon – a water park in Florida.

Doctor Marsh from DINOSAUR and the woman in Spaceship Earth are some of the only women of color in science in any Disney media and one of them doesn’t even talk. Perhaps now that Disney owns 20th Century Fox, the woman in Spaceship Earth can finally be tied to one of the awesome ladies of Hidden Figures and given a line.

 

To end on a positive note, women and girls visiting the parks can be inspired by real-life females in STEM by observing the hard-working women in Living with the Land or on the Behind the Seeds tour as well as in the light-hearted demonstrations of science principles in the SpectacuLab. Furthermore, Disney has highlighted several women in its Every Role a Starring Role and Disney Careers YouTube videos; check out my playlist of these women here.

Behind the Seeds

Spectaculab.png

Are there any Disney women in STEM that you think deserve more recognition? Or what kind of women in STEM would you like to see represented in Disney media?

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?

Listicles · PhD Life · Princess Life · Uncategorized

If Princesses were PhD Students Part 2

Some of the best and most interesting Disney characters to me are the unofficial Disney princesses. What would these nine fearless females choose to study in graduate school?

Megara – Media and Communication.

She seemed to be quite confident in giving Hercules advice about how to adjust his public image. Becoming an expert in how rhetoric manifests in various mediums both ancient and modern would be quite lucrative for this dame; she could use these skills to develop her own media consulting company for all of the big stars or start her own magazine that would rival Cosmo with bitingly witty pieces on sandals, weak ankles, togas and how to become equals with any man despite how godly they might seem to the general populace.

Jane – Evolutionary Anthropology.

This likely descendant of Belle shares the bookworm’s affinity for beastly creatures as demonstrated by her fondness for gorillas, chimpanzees and of course Tarzan. Living in the jungle for so many years would make her one of the most qualified candidates to be a leading researcher of apes, so I expect that she would apply to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. I’m sure she’d leverage her strong bonds with the bands of gorillas to study their behavior and communication very intimately and become a well-published expert as long as the animals don’t trash her camp repeatedly.

Anna – Art History.

During the time that Anna spent in the halls of Arendelle’s castle growing up, she seemed to deeply appreciate (and talk extensively to) the paintings lining the walls. Studying art history would give Anna the skills to preserve the works of art as well as learn more about the customs of Arendelle that she can no longer remember. As a result of her studies, she likely would not stop talking about the rich artistic traditions of Scandinavia, which Kristoff would happily endure and perhaps even contribute to himself.

Elsa (yes, she’s technically a queen) – Civil Engineering.

She already seems to know a lot about building with ice so she’d probably revolutionize the field of civil engineering by using her expertise of ice’s properties as well its advantages and disadvantages to design structures in regions other than Arendelle. Elsa would also shatter some glass ceilings as she rise in the ranks of the male-dominated field. I would just feel really sorry for Elsa networking at conferences because everyone would come up to her “wanting to break the ice” which would probably get old very quickly. On a positive note, her several years in solitude have prepared her well for hours writing papers alone.

Nala – Marriage and Family Therapy.

Where would the animal kingdom be if not for Nala’s amazing skills at helping Simba confront his past and his own greatest fears? Once the famine of Scar’s years as king subsides, Nala would be better able to serve the kingdom if she could receive additional training to hone her skills at negotiation. I’m sure there’s way more drama in the pride than is shown in the movie and she would be just the lion to help resolve any conflicts.

Kida – Religious Studies.

Like Moana, the mythology of her people would spark a need to know more about why people believe what they believe. Learning about Mesoamerican and Southeast Asian religious practices would only be the launching point for writing a thesis on Atlantean beliefs and customs. Several of her people would follow in her footsteps to share and develop more expertise about the unique Atlantean architectural styles and functioning of crystals.

Vanellope von Schweetz – Computer Science.

Having been erased from the code of her own game, this spunky gal would go to school to ensure that none of the citizens of Sugar Rush face the same fate as she did. Understanding the intricacies of several programming languages and how videogames store their data could make her the heroine of the whole arcade if it were ever in danger again as well as make her much more adept at navigating the Internet (Wreck-It Ralph 2 *hint hint*). Furthermore, gaining expertise in computer science could also help her make faster and more environmentally friendly electric racing cars; who’s to say that even a gingerbread car couldn’t run on electricity?

Atta – Biology.

As such a broad field, biology would be best suited for Atta’s need to know about ecosystems, agriculture, animal (or insect) behavior as well as environmental policy in order to be an informed leader of her colony. Knowing more about photosynthesis and the nutrients and farming practices that would best support high, continuous crop yield would ensure that she would rarely have difficulty feeding all of her “subjects” and maybe even feed some grasshoppers in the mean time. She might have to improve upon her skills at standing up for herself in the field but standing up to Hopper would definitely make for a good personal statement.

Dot – Mechanical Engineering.

With Flik and Atta as role models, Dot will have witnessed dramatic revolutions in how her colony harvests food by the time she would be prepared for a PhD program. Her experiences with birds (both real and constructed) would likely have piqued her fascination with machines, especially flying ones. Thus, studying how things move would enable this princess to improve the harvesting machines and potentially lead the growing colony off the island either by riding the streams from rainstorms or via air travel.

Read Part 1 here!

Which characters would you like me to do next?

 

Disney Tips · Listicles · Uncategorized

My Favorite Ear Shops

In honor of Small Business Saturday, I’ve compiled a short list of just a few Etsy shops whose ears I really appreciate for their uniqueness, cuteness, and comfort. None of these are sponsored in any way and all of these pictures are from their websites!

Ears By Samantha – the only person I have bought ears from, Samantha was very communicative and the ears are so sturdy! She has other styles and sells bows without ears. Check out her Instagram too!

3Cheers4Ears – World of Color ears are hard to find and these glow and you can pick your bow color! This is just one of many designs in this shop.

MagicShoppeDesigns – I just love these cutout designs of my favorite characters!

VisionsOfADaydream – These are the most fabulous Lion King ears I have ever seen! They might not be great for rainy days in Florida but they look so comfortable.

What are your favorite Etsy shops for ears? Comment below!

Listicles · PhD Life · Princess Life · Uncategorized

If Disney Princesses were PhD Students

Each and every Disney Princess is capable of putting in the dedication and effort required to earn her PhD. So if their dreams were to finish grad school, what would their theses be on?

Snow White – Materials Science and Engineering.

Based on her life at 14, which leaves a lot of time to grow and have her interests change before the typical age of entering graduate school (looking at you Princess Leia), Snow would likely get sick of cleaning up after seven little men pretty quickly. But channeling the inventiveness of real-life women who were looking to improve the efficiency of the tasks they were expected to do (and came up with a few handy things like windshield wipers, Kevlar, and solar-heated homes), Snow White would set out to study materials and their various cleaning properties. Who knows, she might even patent a robot besides the Roomba (also invented by a woman) that whistles while it works!

Cinderella – Clinical Psychology.

Her kindness and her own childhood experiences would prepare Cindy well for researching and providing therapy for her royal subjects, particularly those in foster care. Taking classes would give her knowledge of forms of care to prescribe other than befriending mice or expecting a fairy godmother. I just hope she’s more punctual with her clinical appointments by the time she graduates than she was with her the stroke of midnight.

Aurora – Neuroscience.

Specifically, she would study the still unanswered questions of why humans need sleep and how consciousness works during slumber. This would allow her to better defend her everyday arguments for why cursing the entire kingdom with 100 years of slumber was actually GOOD for everyone. She could also run studies on the neuronal activation patterns of true love’s kiss which I’m sure Prince Philip would happily volunteer for.

Ariel – Anthropology.

This little mermaid has always been fascinated by humans and would have a hard time settling in on ONE question or even just a few to answer with her dissertation. But she did seem particularly keen on fire and all its causes and consequences, although incorporating that into a likely career in museum curation (she’s already got gadgets and gizmos aplenty) might be a little difficult. Nevertheless, I’d love to see her take on an interactive exhibit about man’s red flower.

Belle – Comparative Literature.

This beauty’s obsession with stories and faraway places isn’t focused on any one time period or even language (the tale of Aladdin is rumored to be one of her favorites though). Reading through the entire library in the castle she shares with Beast would give her a voluminous head start on the adventure of earning her doctorate.

Jasmine – Economics.

She wanted to know how the people outside of her palace walls lived so she’d have to pick a program that allows for in-depth field work. This, coupled with Jasmine’s responsibilities as a sultana (I just learned a new word), makes studying economic theories a good fit. She’d learn how to determine how her policy decisions would affect the economy. This would help her devise better welfare programs than stealing bread and apples.

Pocahontas – Environmental Policy.

Protecting the natural environment is of utmost importance to this daughter of a village chief. Researching the effects of deforestation on ecosystems around the globe and the effectiveness of various grassroots organizations would probably be her choice of dissertation topic. I can see the title now – We are All Connected To Each Other: In a Circle, in a Hoop that Never Ends – because all good titles have colons.

Mulan – Political Science.

Excellent army generals are often appointed as higher-ups in government, and Mulan would definitely be my choice for Secretary of Defense. After years of researching women’s roles in government and military decisions, maybe picking up a law degree along the way, she’d have a few more diplomatic tricks up her sleeve than using fireworks as her weapon of choice. And she could pave the way for proving that women aren’t “too temperamental” to lead an army.

Tiana – Biochemistry.

Besides earning an MBA, Tiana would realize that gaining a better understanding of the chemistry of food and how humans enjoy it would be the next best thing for growing the success of her restaurants. With a working knowledge of the science of digestion, I wonder if she’d ever put frog legs on the menu.

Merida – Aerospace Engineering.

Stemming from her passion for archery, Merida would likely have an interest in other flying objects like planes and spaceships. Plus, it’s a field that has a lot of barriers to break – for women, the speed of sound, the speed of light, etc. She’d be in the thick of developing military technology as well, which would pair well with her experiences dealing with the other clans.

Rapunzel – Physics and Astronomy.

Despite the wealth of knowledge and skills that she accumulated in her years in her tower (somehow with only a few books and a lot of craft supplies at her disposal), what fascinated Rapunzel the most were the stars. Naturally, her new dream would be to study the forces that control everything from her hair’s incredible strength to the creation of “balls of gas, burning billions of miles away”, to quote one of Disney’s most philosophical characters. She might even win a few scientific images contests with her artistic inclinations.

Moana – History.

All she knows is that she is descended from voyagers and I’d bet ten coconuts that she wants to learn a little bit more about her people. Her persistence and curiosity would serve her well in navigating through the literature on Polynesian History and Culture to write an impressive dissertation. She would probably have to find a new advisor besides Maui though – who knows what the department policy on having a demi-god as a committee member would be?

What discipline do you think these twelve leading ladies would choose? Comment below with which ones you agree with most!