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New Magic Kingdom Security Measures Mean Shorter Lines for You

Since the installation of much-needed metal detectors at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, getting into our favorite park has been difficult. Long security lines frequently pushed out as far as the ferry boat entrance, making it difficult for guests to even get into line coming from the boat and the bus stop area. Disney attempted to rectify this situation by adding more security lines, but to no avail: lines were out of control.

So how do you keep visitors to Disney’s busiest park happy? Well, the latest solution is to move security to several different locations. So far, it’s working quite well, especially for guests staying at the monorail resorts.

This is the walkway from the Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom.  Guests coming from this resort will go through security here if they choose to walk to the park. It moved quickly. In fact, things were so slow, one of the cast members working there jokingly told me, “I’ve been talking to the plants. So far, they haven’t answered back.”

Guests taking the monorail from the Contemporary, Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian will go through security before the enter the monorail. I stayed at the Grand last week and things went very smoothly there, even during busier times.

Here’s another view of the Grand Floridian’s security line.

As you can see, this is a nice bonus for monorail guests, who will simply exit the monorail and walk right up to the touch points and enter the park.  It really was a breeze getting into the park this way.

If you’re parking at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and taking the ferry or monorail to the Magic Kingdom, you’ll go through security after you exit the tram.

The tram drop off and pick up area has been moved further from the covered area (towards the road) to make room for security.

Here’s another view of the new tram drop off area. Security and bag check is to your right.

After you go through security, you’ll choose whether to take the monorail or the ferry, same as before. Note that guests going to Epcot will have to go through security again when they visit that park. Also, if you are a guest at a monorail resort and you are taking the monorail to Epcot, you’ll go through security twice: once when leaving your resort and again when you arrive at Epcot. That seems to be the only glitch and even that is minor.

Next up, buses. I think it’s tempting to think that bus riders might have it the most difficult, but keep in mind, you’ve always had to go through security at the Magic Kingdom. Now you’re just doing it with fewer people, as monorail and ferry boat riders have already gone through the process. This means your time in line is going to be much shorter.

As you can see, even during a busy early evening in April, lines were short.

A lot of times Disney fans don’t like change. I get it because if they ever took out Carousel of Progress, I would be the first to chain myself to the building! But this is good change we can all agree on. Lines are moving faster and there’s less congestion, which means you get into the park faster. And who doesn’t want that?

 

 

The Dress Shop on Cherry Tree Lane

The newly-revitalized Disney Springs is home to lots of clothing boutiques, from Kate Spade to Lilly Pulitzer, but there’s a new shop on the block that’s getting all the attention. Designed to appeal to retro-loving Disney fans, The Dress Shop on Cherry Tree Lane features Disney-inspired dresses designed with a nod to the 1950s and 60s.  Think  Tiki Room inspired sundresses, a pretty blue “Belle” dress with a darling white collar, cap sleeves, and a book motif on the hem, even a bellman themed dress for all you Tower of Terror lovers.  You can even get a bag that looks like Cogsworth.

Price-wise, expect to pay around $120 per dress.  That might sounds steep, but I love to shop and I wear a lot of dresses and I thought this price was actually fair considering the quality and flattering design.  The fabric is a heavy cotton, seams are sturdy, as are zippers.   I was told that Disney tested their dresses on many cast members with different body types to find the most flattering fit. Thankfully, these dresses aren’t just designed for size zero girls–they’re made to fit and flatter  wide range of body types.

Beauty and the Beast, The Haunted Mansion, Alice in Wonderland and more are represented here. The day I arrived, two days after the shop opened, they had already sold out of a number of designs and the shop was full of people not just looking, but buying–some of them a lot! The Orange Bird dress caught my eye, as did the pretty pastel Alice in Wonderland dress. I  also loved the Snow White inspired dress on the right and saw it on several guests in the park last week. If you’ll notice the bodice, it doesn’t have the rouching that some of the other dresses have, which flatters curvier figures.

As far as sizing is concerned, you’ll probably need to take a size or two down from your normal dress size. I bought my Orange Bird dress in a medium, which is probably equivalent to a Kate Spade size 10 or a Banana Republic or Gap size 8.  These dresses are generously sized in the bust, so keep that in mind as well.  To me, the bust fit like a roomy size 12. Straps are adjustable, so shorter ladies won’t have to worry about gaps. The cut on the sun dresses is low but not so low that you’ll feel like you’re  over-exposed.  I am a bit over five feet tall and my dress hit several inches below the knees, long enough so that even taller women can add a crinoline (which they sell here!) if they like and it won’t be too short. The good news is, this shop caters to all shapes and sizes, so petite ladies and those who wear larger sizes (around a size 22 or so) will find some nice options.

On the day I visited, the shop, which is located in the Marketplace section of Disney Springs, had a pop up with Pin Up Girl Clothing, or PUG as it’s commonly known, which makes beautiful mid-20th century inspired dresses. I suspect, although I have no confirmation here, that the folks behind PUG had a hand in designing some of the dresses featured in the shop since the sizing, quality and the design is very similar. That’s not a bad thing since most of us who love vintage reproduction are huge PUG fans.

So did I buy anything? Well, of course I did. I have always loved Orange Bird so I picked up a dress (I would have bought the Tiki Room dress as well but it was sold out). I’m not so sure about the print, but I love the cut and quality. If it doesn’t end up working for me, I’ll put it  on Ebay. But right now, it looks pretty and cheerful hanging in my closet.  What about you? Will you be checking out The Dress Shop?

Will There Be a Soft Opening for Pandora?

Caveat: this post is based on good old-fashioned conjecture. I welcome your thoughts as well. 

Disney is opening an entirely new section of Animal Kingdom on May 27. It’s called Pandora: The World of Avatar, and as the name suggests, it’s themed after the movie Avatar. Now that we have an official opening date, what about those guests who are visiting before Pandora official opens?  Will they get a chance to experience this new attraction or will they have to wait until their next visit?  The good news is, they probably will get a sneak peek.  Historically, Disney has opened attractions and lands up to two months prior to the official opening.  They call these previews “soft openings” and Disney understandably loves them. Here’s why:

It’s What Disney Does.

In recent years, individual rides such as Toy Story Midway Mania, have opened well in advance of the official opening date. For example, the new Fantasyland Expansion officially opened on December 6, 2012, but soft openings started on October 12.  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the second part of the Fantasyland Expansion’s opening, officially opened on May 28, 2014, with soft openings starting on May 21.  The shorter time frame of the latter was due to the many issues the ride experienced leading up to the opening, but we haven’t seen those issues cropping up in Pandora, at least not regarding the actual rides.

Soft Openings Make Sense.

Think of soft openings as a sort of dress rehearsal, a way to work out kinks before the big opening day. You’ll usually get a heads up a day or two prior to the first soft opening, but Disney can close it at any time if there are major issues that need to be addressed. Keep an eye on social media for updates of closures so you can save yourself the disappointment of going over specifically for that reason.

Because soft openings allow for closures at any time, they just make sense. You can’t exactly close an entire land after opening day, but it’s easy to close for a day or two during the soft opening phase. In fact, this happened a lot during the Fantasyland Expansion. One day you would go to the Magic Kingdom and the new section would be open. The next day, you’d see a cast member tasked with the unfortunate job of turning away forlorn guests.  Keep in mind also that closures may occur any time during the day. Openings for that matter, as well.  While I don’t recommend hanging around the gates of Pandora waiting for it to open, plenty of people did it for the new Fantasyland.

Keep in mind that Disney has a media event scheduled on May 25 (incidentally, the same day Universal opens Volcano Bay–pretty clever, right?).  In fact, the actual media event already happened earlier this month, when the major ABC shows previewed the rides and attractions for their viewers. In the coming weeks, pictures will be leaked, tweets will be tweeted, and excitement will build as guests are gradually let in. There will be no actual surprises, as far as the actual attractions are concerned, on the day of the media event. Everything will be out by then.  And that’s fine, because all this build up is good business.

Why it won’t be as early as The Fantasyland Expansion.

I’m torn on this one. As noted above, with the Fantasyland Expansion, soft openings started two months prior to the actual opening.  This means that a soft opening could conceivably be as early as right now! When you add to that the fact that major media outlets have already been admitted into that section of the park, that means that the major attractions are ready to go, leaving one to presume that nothing remains but a few finishing touches.  Here’s the problem with that line of reasoning however:  Fantasyland soft openings happened during some of the slowest weeks of the year, excluding Thanksgiving.   The weeks before and after Easter are one of Disney’s busiest travel periods.  You don’t soft open a new attraction when the parks are at their most chaotic.

The folks over at Animal Kingdom took a major hit with its nighttime show, Rivers of Light, last year. You may recall that Disney scheduled a media preview for late April 2016 and ended up having very little to show guests during that event. In fact, the show just opened in February, although cast member previews started in December.  These previews gave cast members a brief look at what to expect, but were plagued by mechanical failures. Sporadic soft openings are fine, we saw these during the Fantasyland Expansion, but not during busy periods when you can potentially fail in front of huge crowds.  Rivers of Light was a hard lesson learned.

What makes more sense? Cast member previews starting after Easter. Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member previews and annual passholder previews starting after that.  Right now, Disney is heavily pushing DVC ownership, not just because they’re continually adding to inventory, but also because it’s DVC’s 25th anniversary. By throwing DVC members the proverbial bone, they keep them happy and generate interest among non-owners who follow Disney-oriented social media outlets–non-owners who already love Disney but haven’t yet taken the plunge and bought into its timeshare.

So When Will It Happen? 

If Disney follows their usual schedule of cast member, DVC, and passholder previews, where does that leave everyone else? I would imagine, and keep in mind that this is just conjecture, that you’ll see soft openings starting in early May. Crowds are low and more manageable during this time period, allowing Disney to fix any potential issues prior to the May 25 media event and subsequent formal opening. It also, as noted above, allows them to close the attraction down at will with minimal complaints from guests. A “soft opening” is just that: you shouldn’t expect it but it’s an awfully nice perk if it happens for you.

What do you think? Heard any good gossip about when Pandora might soft open?

Cinderella’s Royal Table is a Huge Waste of Money. Here’s Why You’ll Go Anyway

Last month, my 9-year old daughter and I had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom. For the uninitiated, CRT, as it’s commonly known, is located in Cinderella (adding the “S” is a faux pas among Disney fans) Castle. It’s one of the most coveted reservations on Disney property. It’s also one of the most expensive and one that, quite frankly, will leave you feeling a little bit ripped off. Here’s what to expect and why you’ll go anyway.

One excited kid.

You can’t talk about CRT without first mentioning the cost. You’ll pay around $60 for breakfast for guests ages 10 and up. Kids 3 – 9 are around $35. Keep in mind these prices are a few dollars higher during busy holiday periods like Christmas. Lunch and dinner is around $74 per adult and $48 per child. Children under 3 are technically free in that they may eat off of another member of their party’s plate; of course you can also order a meal for them. Your set price includes a drink, entree and dessert. Breakfast comes with a plate of pastries–the same pastries you’ll get at breakfast all over property.  Your price includes gratuity as well.

No matter how you try to sell it to yourself, this is an expensive meal, and for an expensive meal, you expect great food, right? Well, lower your expectations, because you’re not really here for the food, you’re here for the experience. Sadly, the experience itself is somewhat lacking, but more on that later.   Kids meals are a bit skimpy for kids on the higher end of the “kids menu” age range.

My daughter ordered the standard kids’ breakfast, which came with a scoop of eggs, two slices of bacon, and a Mickey waffle. It’s not a huge amount of food, but since the characters are coming at you less than three minutes apart, your child won’t have time to eat it anyway. I ordered the spinach and eggs with steak. It was good, but it was overpowered by a large scoop of boursin cheese.  Cut that in half and it would have been much more enjoyable.

Since you’re not really here for the food, or at least you shouldn’t be, let’s get down to the real reason for your visit:  Seeing Cinderella Castle and meeting the princesses.  No matter what you’re age, if you were raised on Cinderella and Disney, going into the castle is a big deal. There are really only two ways for regular guests to go inside the castle: One is to make an appointment at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique for a princess makeover (and sorry, if you’re over 12, no makeover for you!) and the other, of course, is to have a meal in the castle. You’ll check in at the desk at the entrance and then wait a few minutes before you’re admitted into a large meet and greet area. Cinderella is there to say hello and for a photo.

After that, you’ll go upstairs to be seated. We didn’t see Cinderella this trip, but my daughter was so excited as we went up the staircase, she didn’t really care. And that’s the magic of being a kid and going into Cinderella Castle. We were seated on the edge of the circular room with a great view of the entire area.

Service is friendly and efficient, but to say that it’s also brisk is really an understatement: we received our drinks and food almost immediately. Characters came and went so quickly that we barely had time to take a few bites. This didn’t bother my daughter at all, inexplicably happy with the sparkly blue wand she received with her meal. She took a few bites and then BAM–another princes. She couldn’t have been happier. I couldn’t help but feel that we were being rushed.

As an adult, it’s difficult not to think about how much money you’re spending. The food is just okay. The character interaction is probably the worst on property. But just as I was about to stifle yet another eyeroll, my daughter looked up at me at said “Thanks mom for taking me here.” And that’s when I realized that it was worth every penny. Because they’re only little once, right?

And you can bet she carried that sparkly wand with her everywhere that day.

FYI, when you make a reservation for CRT, you’ll pay in full unless you’re on the dining plan, which uses two table-service credits. 

Rivers of Light Opens February 17: Dining Packages Available

Animal Kingdom’s newest nighttime show, River’s of Light, is opening February 17! Fastpasses are not yet available (UPDATE: You can now book Fastpasses), but you can book a dining reservation at the following restaurants and get priority seating:

Tiffins Restaurant. This is Animal Kingdom’s signature restaurant. It’s pretty adventurous, but like most places on Disney property, they can customize an entree for those with more sensitive palates. It’s gorgeous inside. Try the lobster bisque. Prices for lunch or dinner start at $67 for adults and $26 for children, ages 3 to 9. This is a two credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan.

Tusker House: Probably the best character meal on property to see (most of) the “Fab Five.”  Breakfast is standard fare, with a few African inspired dishes. It’s probably their most popular meal, in part because the food is also familiar to most guests. Prices for the buffet start at $39 for adults and $23 for kids ages 3 to 9. Lunch and dinner sees the introduction of more African-inspired dishes, but there’s still something for everyone. Kids will love the Mac & Cheese and corn dog nuggets. Prices for the buffet are $52 for adults and $32 for kids ages 3 to 9. This is a one credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan.

I generally don’t think that priority seating through these types of dining packages is a necessity, but since this is a new show–and since it was supposed to open almost a year ago–it’s going to be immensely popular. Spend the money this time and get those guaranteed seats. You can book here.

Pandora: World of Avatar to Open May 27

Have you been to Tiffins, Disney’s newest signature restaurant, in Animal Kingdom? If you have, you got a little (very limited) peek into the World of Avatar right outside the terrace area.  Well, if you’re visiting this summer, you’ll get to see the  entire, glorious thing: Pandora opens May 27:

This new land will transport guests to the visually stunning world of Pandora. Here, guests will wonder at floating mountains and bioluminescent plants, and can join the Na’vi on two excursions that take adventure to the next level.

First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests through a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, Avatar Flight of Passage will offer guests the jaw-dropping experience of exploring the world of Pandora atop a Banshee.

Guests will also be able to dine at Satu’li Canteen, grab a drink at Pongu Pongu or shop for Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits, and more at Windtraders.

If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting and are ready to go: I just made a reservation for that night! I’ll have tons of pictures and details later, so stay tuned and if you’re planning on going too, let me know in the comments section.

Photo and quoted text courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Holiday Events at Epcot

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If you like Christmas, this really is the most wonderful time of the year in Walt Disney World. Though the Magic Kingdom and the beautiful life-sized gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian usually gets the most attention, there’s plenty to do at Epcot. Here’s a list of our favorite (Epcot holiday) things to enjoy this time of the year:

Walk around the World Showcase and enjoy the cooler weather while you visit Holidays Around the World,  highlighting traditions from 11 countries. Kids love the story of Santa Claus in Germany but there’s plenty music, food and fun in each country. Schedules for these events are available when you enter the park.

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You can snack around the world on holiday specialties starting on November 25 from locations in the World Showcase.  Here’s just a sample of what you’ll find:

  • Prost! in Germany (artisan cheese plate or sauerbraten with red cabbage and spätzle)
  • American Holiday Table in American Adventure Pavilion (slow-roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce)
  • Alpine Haus between France and Morocco (cheese fondue in a bread bowl with fresh steamed vegetables)
  • Seasonal Southern Delights near World Showcase Plaza (blackened catfish with white cheddar grits with okra)
  • Feast of Three Kings Feast near World Showcase Plaza (Three Kings Bread)

Personally, I’m all about the bread and cheese fondue.

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Of course, the big draw is the Candlelight Processional, which also begins November 25, a retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, complete with a mass choir, a 50-piece orchestra, and a celebrity narrator. This years schedule has a few surprises as well as some old favorites:

  • Nov. 25-27 – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Nov. 28-Dec. 1 – Neil Patrick Harris
  • Dec. 2-3 – Whoopi Goldberg
  • Dec. 4*-6 – Edward James Olmos
  • Dec. 7-9 – TBA
  • Dec. 10-12 – Robby Benson
  • Dec. 13-15 – Meredith Vieira
  • Dec. 16-18 – Jim Caviezel
  • Dec. 19-21 – Joe Morton
  • Dec. 22-24 – Ming-Na Wen – NEW!
  • Dec. 25-27 – Jodi Benson
  • Dec. 28-30 – Cal Ripken, Jr. – NEW!

The processional is performed three times per night (5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m.) during the holiday season at the American Gardens Theater. You’ll need to line up early for seating or you can book a dining package which will guarantee you a spot. Make sure you book as early as possible since availability is limited.

Finally, take time to enjoy  Epcot’s beautiful holiday decorations that reflect the culture and traditions of each World Showcase country. These backdrops make for great holiday photos.

5 Essential Rules for Pokemon Go! At Disney World – The Parkémon Experience

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Apply these Rules for Pokémon Go! and learn where all the best Pokémon reside at Disney World

While our family is anticipating our yearly pilgrimage to Walt Disney World, there is a new subject abuzz aside from the normal discussion on which pins they’re bringing to trade away or how much Tonga Toast my kids plan to consume. My husband is weighing whether or not a Pikachu nests can be found near the Cinderella’s Castle, and if the crowds at the newly refurbished Planet Hollywood will yield more Horsea.

Pokémon Go! is the theme of our upcoming trip, and I’ve got a crop of Magic Bands labeled ‘Weedle’, ‘Squirtle’, and ‘JigglyPuf’ (that’s me!) to prove it. But we’re going to be smart about our ‘Parkémon’ experience, taking the consideration of everyone’s hard-earned vacations into account.

The following are our rules for Pokémon Go! while in the parks:

  1. Absolutely no Pokémon Go! while walking through the parks. ‘Catch and release’ happens only while waiting in line.
  2. If in line playing Pokémon Go! and your brother talks to you, look away from the phone and have a conversation.
  3. No Pokémon Go! during meals unless all parties consent during a counter-service meal. Hey, there are some great spots where everyone can sit and eat while at a lure and the kids get excited together at their finds. Counter-Service at Be Our Guest is an exception to this rule. (You are in a castle, man!)
  4. No Pokémon Go! while on the monorail, but buses and the ferries are fair game. The monorail is a ride that is over before you know it and way too special not to breathe it all in.
  5. This one should go without saying. No Pokémon Go! while on the rides! There is rumored to be a PokéStops on Pirates of the Caribbean. If the blood pressure I experienced while a lady took flash pictures on The Little Mermaid is any indication, my children will be in the water if they attempt to gather Jack Sparrow’s treasure.

Now that we have the rules out of the way, I’d like to show you where all the best Pokémon are in the parks. The following is my Guide to Pokémon Go! at Walt Disney World for LocalPOV.com:

This Guide to Pokémon Go! at Walt Disney World Covers the Following Locations:

Technicolor Disney Treats.

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Craving a snack that’s bright and . . . well, bright, on your next vacation? Disney has you covered.  Next time you’re in the park, feast on these treats for which “colorful” is an understatement:

These Cookies.

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Disney loves white chocolate, but do you  know what they love even more? Food coloring. They’ll take white chocolate and food coloring and slater it on an old boot if they get a chance. While these cookies don’t exactly taste like an old boot covered in white chocolate, they come awfully close.

The Pinkest Cupcakes You Have Ever Seen.

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There’s a variation of these cupcakes just about everyone on property where desserts are sold and you know what? I like them.  There’s a good frosting to cake ratio, which is to say, you don’t have to wade through a mountain of frosting to get to the cake.  I even like the pink frosting. In fact, there probably should be more pink food in the world. There. I said it. Give me pink food. And yes, I am a grown up.

The $12 Mickey Head Apple.

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You can find these Mickey head apples in every Disney-fied incarnation, including Cinderella’s carriage:

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Incidentally, white chocolate in action . . .

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Mickey Head Cake Pops.

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Cake pops dipped in white chocolate (again!) and rolled in sugar? Of course you want one.

This Pink and Red Cake Cup.

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In the Magic Kingdom? Stop by the Cheshire Café and get a Queen of Heart’s Strawberry cake cup. Especially nice if you like frosting. A lot of it.

Mickey Macaroons.

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Disney jumped on the Macaroon craze with their own, delightfully neon, version.

Candy Covered Rice Krispy Treats.

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File this treat under “Stuff Kids Like.” A lot.

What’s your favorite bright colored Disney treat?

 

Last Night for the Osborne Lights

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For the past twenty years, The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has been lighting up the Streets of America in Hollywood Studios. Twenty years: That’s a good run, right? Still, none of us wanted to see it what is one of the most beautiful holiday experiences anywhere and certainly, the highlight of many Christmastime trips to Disney World, leave this year.  Unfortunately, with the expansion of Star Wars and Toy Story in Hollywood Studios, this otherwise infrequently used area was an obvious place for the expansion and so the lights had to go. While I’m excited about what’s coming in the next few years, I will absolutely miss the lights.

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