Everything Walt Disney World

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Category: Fast Disney Facts (page 1 of 2)

Counting Down to Your Next Disney Adventure

Please welcome guest writer Melissa. You can check out Melissa’s writing and pictures at her blog, Picturing Disney.

One of the best parts of planning a Disney vacation is when you are all done! By that I mean when you have paid off your package, booked all your tours, booked advanced dining reservations, checked the park schedule and plotted out which extra magic hours you are going to hit.  How do you deflect all the excitement and adrenaline from your impending trip?

Here are a few of my favorite things to do!
Countdown Calendars!

I love to create countdown calendars! Whether it is a link chain or a poster this is a fun project to make and use to count down until your trip starts! Here’s a link to my craftsy project page for a DIY calendar: http://www.craftsy.com/project/view/Disney-Vacation-Countdown-Calendar/37666

Fun Fact Texts
When I was heading out to Walt Disney World with my husband and a  few friends, I thought it would be more fun to text them daily updates. So each day they got a text that said “We have ___ more days until Disney.” Followed by one of the Fun Facts below based on how many days we had.  I am not sure where these originally came from because I got suggestions from some friends on the Passporter forums–I think they are probably from some of the Walt Disney World Trivia books!
0.  Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World uses zero real stones but is instead completely made of steel and other building materials which do not easily wear down.
1.  There is only one kind of gasoline vehicle allowed in the Magic Kingdom’s utilidors—an armored car that picks up the cash each day.  It is such a tight fit the driver only had 4 inches on the sides of the car to maneuver!
2.  Walt Disney World is the 2nd largest purchaser of fireworks in the entire United States! They are second only to the US Military!
3.  Soarin exhilarates your sense of smell with 3 different smells: orange groves, pine trees, and ocean breezes!
4.  There are a total of 4 Walt Disney World Railroad trains to take you on a relaxing tour around Magic Kingdom Park.
5.  The big drop on Splash Mountain is 5 stories!  You drop of a total of 52.5 feet on your final drop into the Briar Patch!
6.  There are 6 different theaters in Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress!
7.  On Test Track the technician isn’t sure if guests should be exposed to #7, which is the corrosive conditions test!
8.  At 8:05pm on October 31, 1939 the Hollywood Tower Hotel was struck by lightening.
 9.  When World Showcase first opened there were only 9 pavilions ( Morocco and Norway were added later).
10. On The Backlot Tour enough water shoots out in Catastrophe Canyon to fill 10 Olympic size swimming pools!
I know, I know, who is so crazy that they pack as a countdown?  The answer: this girl right here.  About two weeks from my trip I start stacking some Disney shirts in the closet and setting aside my favorite flip flops or my park cutoffs.  I don’t quite take out my luggae that early but I usually dub a dresser drawer the Disney drawer or grab a small laundry basket and call it The Disney Box!
As the trip gets closer, I start adding all the things I plan to bring, whether its my favorite guide, my personal fan or toiletries I grabbed while grocery shopping.   By the time I get about a week out The Disney Box is literally bursting with pre-vacation fun!
Disney Meals & Movies
Planning to eat at Tony’s Town Square?  How about a Spaghetti night while watching Lady and the Tramp?
Looking forward to a drink at La Cava de Tequila?  How about a homemade Plato Mexicano?
Can’t wait to try the new Star Tours?  How about an original trilogy marathon and some cookies made with the awesome Williams Sonoma cookie cutters for dessert!
The great thing about the rides atDisney is the way they are so mainstream and accessible.  You can easily make a Disney themed meal or afternoon.
There is so much to do to build memories and excitement before you even leave for a Disney vacation-no wonder it’s called the Happiest Place on Earth!

What are your favorite things to do before a trip?

Reader Question: How Early Can You Check In?

Bay Lake Tower. Photo copyright Disney.

George left this question in the comments on yesterday’s post.  Since it’s one I hear a lot, I thought I’d post the answer here:

So if we wanted to fly in at 10am on check-in day, would they give us our park tickets before our check-in time?

The answer is yes. Check-in is sort of an amorphous concept at Disney World.  While your room may not be ready until later that day (usually 3:30 is a good bet), you can check into your resort at any time that day.  The advantage is that you could arrive at the Orlando airport at 5:00 a.m. and get to your resort an hour later and you’ll still get your tickets and your meal credits as soon as you check in, regardless of whether or not your room is ready. This allows you to enjoy a full day in the parks long before you ever set foot in your room.

When you check in you’ll be given a folder with resort and park information (maps, park hours, etc.) and asked to choose how you want to be contacted once your room is ready, either by phone or text. Since the parks are often a bit loud, I usually ask for a text.  If you have luggage or other items you don’t wish to take to the parks, just take it to bell services and they’ll hold it for you. Then your ready to go!

Fast Disney Facts: Special Event Parties and Non-Guests.

It’s that time of year again. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is in full swing and just a week after that, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party begins. The parties are a great way to see special parades and shows and enjoy the holiday atmosphere, but if you’re not holding a ticket for the event, where does that leave you?  The answer is simple: You have to be out of the parks at 7:00 p.m., the official time the party begins.  That’s pretty straight-forward, but if you’re like most people, you’re getting in that last attraction or a bit of shopping right before park closing and might find yourself caught up on a cordon of cast members politely ushering you out of the Magic Kingdom.  Here are the basic rules:

If you’re in a store at 7:00, you’ll be allowed to complete your purchases. You will not be allowed to buy any special party merchandise, however.

You may not enter shops or eateries after 7:00 if you don’t have a wristband identifying you as a guest.

If you’re already waiting in a queue when the park closes, you’ll be allowed to ride.

During the first couple of hours of the party, there are ropes up designed to keep non-party guests from viewing the shows. Cast members won’t allow you to cross those lines without a wristband.

If you have a dining reservation in the Magic Kingdom for 7:00 or later, you will not be allowed to enter the restaurant. While missing dinner is bad, having to pay for it (as you would with Cinderella’s Royal Table) is worse.  You’ll be advised of this when you make a dining reservation by phone, but there are no warnings on the website.  If you’re eating anytime before, you’ll be allowed to keep that reservation and then be escorted out of the park after your meal. No dawdling allowed!

Even without a ticket you can still enjoy some of the holiday magic.  The castle lighting ceremony begins between 6:00 and 6:30 and features a brief show with Mickey, Minnie and friends. They’re joined by Cinderella’s fairy Godmother, who “decorates” decorates the castle with gorgeous “icicles.”  It’s truly one of the most breathtaking moments of the year at Disney World and it happens every night during the holiday season.

Fast Disney Facts: The Trouble with Toll Booths.

This is one of those weird little peculiarities of  visiting Disney World, so I thought I’d share it, particularly for first-time visitors as it can really ruin your day.

If you’re like most people, you don’t carry a lot of cash, opting instead for the convenience of a debit card. This probably means you don’t have much change on you at any given time. Normally, that’s not a big deal since probably also don’t live in an area with a lot of toll roads; I can’t even tell you if there are any near me.  Central Florida however, has a fair number of toll roads that can be a minor inconvenience or a big headache.  While it may seem like a small thing, in Florida toll violations are considered moving violations.  Run thru a toll booth without paying and you’ll likely be fined up to $200 and receive points on your license.  Repeat offenders risk losing their license.  Look in the local phone book and you’ll see a large number of Orlando attorneys specializing in toll booth violations.  Who knew?

You’ll encounter toll roads when you go from the airport to the Disney World resort area.  While it’s possible to avoid these roads, the few dollars you’ll save hardly makes it worth taking a longer, more congested route.  While you might be aware of these toll roads, it’s the unexpected ones that can cause problems because not all tolll booths are manned, so you’ll need change to pass thru them or face a fine.

One of the trickiest of these unmanned toll road situations is right outside of Disney World on Osceola Parkway. This main road, which you’ll likely use if you drive on site, turns into a toll road with very little warning shortly after you cross I-4.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidently found myself on this road, a couple of times without change for the toll booth, pitifully wondering if throwing a dollar bill in the basket would do the trick.  After digging around in the rental car for a couple of minutes, I was “rescued” by an impatient but kind fellow traveler who came up behind me and tossed a couple of quarters into the net.  That feeling of doom as I’ve come up to the toll booth, debating the merits of just running thru without paying just one time, is one I hope to avoid in the future.  One small tip about this road:  If you find yourself in this situation and you catch it in time, you can turn right and cross thru the massive Gaylord Palms resort complex and get out on Highway 192.  That’s the last turn before you hit the toll road.

Obviously, the trouble with toll booths can be avoided by simply carrying enough change with you.  When you’re making your packing list, just remember to bring a roll of quarters.  And don’t spend it on a Dole Whip once you get there either!  Or, if you’re renting a car, you can opt to get the  EZ-Pass service with your rental car. This service, which has a sensor pays the toll for you as you drive thru, costs around $5 a day or up to $30 a week however, so it’s probably not cost effective unless you’re going to be doing a lot of off-site driving.

The toll booth situation is really a minor one, unless you’re that person in your car vainly searching for change.  Just remember your roll of quarters and maybe you’ll be the impatient but kind person who helps out a fellow traveler on Osceola Parkway.

Fast Disney Facts: It’s Not Such a Small World After All.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who once spent an exhausting but fun 48 hours touring all four parks.  She saw a lot, but as a first-timer, I wondered what she wished she’d known before her trip.  The answer was simple:  That Disney World is huge!  Guests who’ve visited other Disney parks or who are only familiar with non-Disney amusement parks are often surprised by how large Disney World is.  Here are a few big and small facts about Disney World:

Disney World covers 48-square miles, about twice the size of Manhattan.  Less than one-fourth of the land has been developed.  Another one-fourth has been set aside as a nature preserve.

Walt Disney unveils the “Florida Project.”

The tallest building on in a Disney World park isn’t Cinderella Castle, which is 183 feet high, it’s actually the Tower of Terror at 199 feet.   Disney Imagineers didn’t want to put lights on the castle, so they kept it a bit shorter.  The Tower of Terror’s extra 13 feet means it has lights to warn approaching aircraft.  (ETA:  Oops. Kathryn pointed out there aren’t actually lights on the building.  It’s one short shy of needing them. Thanks, Kathryn.)

Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror.

The largest park in Walt Disney World is Disney’s Animal Kingdom at 500 acres. Animal Kingdom’s iconic symbol, the Tree of Life, is 150 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter. The tree itself is actually framed around an oil rig that was dismantled and brought to Central Florida.

Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life.

The entire length of the Disney World monorail system is 14.7 miles.

The Monorail in Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival.

26.2 miles of sausage are served every 60 days in Epcot’s Germany pavilion.  That’s an entire marathon’s length of sausage and honestly, it’s disturbing.  And delicious.

This dog doesn’t work at Epcot and he
probably isn’t even German. 
He is, however, wearing Lederhosen.
That’s good enough for me.

Typhoon Lagoon is the most visited water park in the world, with approximately 2.06 million guests in 2008 alone.

Typhoon Lagoon.
Chef Remy from the movie Ratatouille can be seen at Chefs de  France in Epcot. Remy is one of the newest Audio-Animatronic figures at Disney World. He is also, at a mere six inches, the smallest.
Oui, oui. But of course it makes sense to
have a rat as the mascot of your restaurant.
Why do you ask?
The moat that partially surrounds Cinderella castle contains 1.9 million gallons of water.
Cinderella Castle and moat.

Those giant turkey legs at Disney World have a whopping 1100 calories each.   Fear not:  It’s a scientific fact that it is impossible to gain weight on a Disney vacation. 

Scene of the crime:  Taluca Turkey Legs Company.
The rooms at All-Star Music, at 260 square feet, are the smallest resort rooms on site. 
Kids love the fun atmosphere at the All-Star resorts.
Disney World recycles about 30% of its waste every year. It’s a step in the right direction.  Next time you’re in Disney World, make sure you look for the recycling bins!
Innocuous trash can or the first line of defense
in Disney recycling? 
You be the judge.

If you’d like more Disney trivia, check out Lou Mongello’s site, WDW Radio.

Fast Disney Facts: Disney Resorts.

Did you know that with 2,880 guest rooms Pop Century is one of the largest hotels in the Untited States?

Pop:  If you’re going to be this big, you’d better be efficient
Fortunately, they are.

The outdoor water playground next to the pool at Kidani Village, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, is so large that it’s zoned as a water park.

Entrance to the play area at Kidani Village.

The 90 foot floor to ceiling mural in Disney’s Contemporary Resort was designed by none other than Mary Blair, the Imagineer who designed It’s a Small World. Next time you’re in the Contemporary, take a closer look.  You’ll see her distinctive, fun style.

Mary Blair mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse. The monorail is to the right.

The Fort Wilderness campground is named after the fort on Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland.

If you stay at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, you can take a boat from your resort to Epcot or Hollywood Studios.

The extensive wine list at Artist’s Point, located in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is made up entirely of wines from the Pacific Northwest.

Ever notice keys hanging behind the desk at the Grand Floridian? Those are the original room keys used by the resort before they switched to magnetic card door keys.

The beach at the Grand Floridian.  Lovely.

If a player were to wear one of the helmets at All-Star Sports, he would have to be 200 feet high, one foot taller than the Tower of Terror.

Want to learn more about Disney resorts?  Check out these fan sites:

Wilderness Lodge:  Wilderness Lodge Site:   An Unofficial Tribute to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Villas.

Pop Century:  Pop Centurty Site.

Animal Kingdom Lodge:  Animal Kingdom Lodge Site.

Grand Floridian:  Where the Magic Lives.

The Polynesian:  The Tikiman Pages.  Lots of great information.  A must for anyone planning a stay at the Poly.

For a fun collection of photos of Disney resort rooms, try AllEars or Suite Disney.

Fast Disney Facts: Kids under Three Get into Disney World for Free!

You probably know that kids under the age of three get into Disney World parks for free, but did you also know that they eat free and don’t count against your room total at your Disney resort?  That means that a family of five with a child under the age of three can stay at a value resort like Pop Century, which normally only sleeps four people.  Since kids under the age of three can eat free at any Disney table service restaurant, buffets, even character dining, are an especially good deal.

If your child is turning three during your visit, they’ll remain free thoughout the trip.  Their age for that trip is based on how old they were when they started the trip.

One final thing:  I’ve never heard of anyone being asked by Disney to verify their toddler’s age, but if you’re worried, bring a copy of their birth certificate.

Fast Disney Facts: What to do if you lose your park tickets.

You’ve paid a lot of money for your Disney vacation and then, you lose the key to the whole thing:  Your park tickets.  What do you do?

Well, if you’re a resort guest and you’ve had Disney put your park ticket on your room key, it’s as simple as going to Guest Relations (located inside every theme park) or the concierge desk at any resort and having it replaced.  Thankfully, all your information is in Disney’s system, so you’ll get a ticket back that has exactly the same information on it as the one you lost.  This is why I always have Disney put my tickets on my room key, even if I don’t buy the ticket through Disney and use a service like Undercover Tourist  instead.  Keep in mind that Disney will only add tickets they sell or an authorized dealer’s tickets to your room key.  If you buy tickets off site from discount brokers not affiliated with Disney, it’s highly unlikely they will add it to your room key.

If you’re staying off site, it can be a little trickier.  A cast member friend of mine who works in Guest Relations recommends always making copies of your tickets before you go to Disney.  I actually make three.  I put one copy in my luggage, one in my handbag, and I leave one at home.  It’s probably overkill, but it gives me peace of mind knowing that worst case scenario, there’s a copy of my ticket somewhere.    Your travel agent and reputable vendors will also keep records of the tickets they sell and work with the park to reissue another ticket, but this can be very time-consuming.  If you have your ticket information, all you have to do is go to Guest Relations and have it replaced. Disney isn’t technically required to replace lost or stolen tickets, but they always do so with proper documentation.

Finally, if you discover that you’ve lost a ticket with a non-expiration option on it when you get home, you can send your inforation to WDW.Ticket.inquiries@disneyworld.com to get a replacement ticket.

ETA:  Thanks to Julie for pointing out that you can also take a digital photo of your ticket. It saved her trip!

Fast Disney Facts: Friendship Boats.

One of the most enjoyable and easiest ways to travel from Hollywood Studios to Epcot (or vice versa) is to take a Friendship boat. You can board one of these boats at the front of Hollywood Studios (the launch is on the left as you leave the park) or at the International Gateway in Epcot. The ride takes about 25 minutes.  From Hollywood Studios the boats stop first at the Swan/Dolphin, then at the Yacht & Beach Club, followed by the Boardwalk, and finally, it reaches its final stop at Epcot.  You can get off at any of these stops and explore the resorts, then board another boat or simply walk to your destination.

The boats are wheelchair accessible and have ample room for strollers, which means kids can stay put, a real plus for parents who want to avoid the hassle of taking kids out of the stroller and dragging it on the bus.   The Friendship boats also save steps if your destination is the World Showcase, allowing you to bypass Future World altogether.

The Friendship boats run daily from 8:30 a.m. until about an hour after closing.

Fast Disney Facts: Getting to the Magic Kingdom.

If you stay off Disney property, give yourself about 90 minutes to get from your hotel to the Magic Kingdom, even from the closest hotels and rental houses. Why does it take so long? Because Disney World itself is very large, but also because you’ll need to take three different modes of transportation:

1) First, your car, to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC);

2) then, a tram, from the parking lot of the TTC to the TTC itself;

3) and finally, you’ll take the ferry or monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

When the Magic Kingdom was built, it was designed to create a heightened sense of anticipation in the visitor as he or she got closer to the park. Having a parking lot just outside of the Magic Kingdom where everything was visible to guests wouldn’t create this feeling. Instead, Imagineers designed it so that you only caught glimpses of the Magic Kingdom as you arrived, either by ferry as you cross the Seven Seas Lagoon or from the monorail. It’s all part of the “show,” which starts long before you actually enter the park and it really does create that feeling.

You can cut some of this travel time by walking from your parked car to the TTC or, if you’re a Triple AAA member, by parking in the Triple AAA Diamond parking lot. This lot fills up very quickly, however.
Just so you know, the parking lots at Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom are right outside of those parks and can be reached within minutes of most hotels in the immediate area around Disney World. Give yourself about 30 minutes to get from your front door to the park, depending on your location and time of year.
Photo from Google Earth.
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