FastPass+ Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

I find that FastPasses are the biggest source of frustration to first-time or infrequent park goers.  Many people don’t know what they are, how to use them, or what to use them on.  With this in mind, I’m going to write a guide to each U.S. park on when and where to use FastPasses.

Tree of life open AK

What is a FastPass and how do I get it?

Let’s not put the cart before the horse, though.  Back to the basics, and if you often frequent the parks, the next few paragraphs are just common knowledge.  A FastPass is basically a reservation to go on a ride.  Depending on if you are in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you can either make these reservations for an attraction online or at the park.  Since we’ll be discussing Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World today, we’ll get into the world of FastPass+.

With FastPass+, park guests can select 3 attractions before their vacation (60 days before if they are staying on-site in Disney World, 30 days if not) to FastPass.  I plan to do a specific post on how to do this in the future, but in short you do this on the Disney website.  Here you can select which order you want to do those 3 attractions and (for the most part) what time you want to do those attractions.  It is beneficial to get these FastPasses as soon as your 60 day window is up.  Currently, Animal Kingdom does FastPass+ a little differently.  The two newest attractions in Pandora, Flight of Passage and Navi River Journey, are in a tier and you only get to pick one of those.  All of the other Animal Kingdom attractions are available to pick from after you select one Pandora attraction.

water flamingos AK

After you have selected 3 FastPasses for the Park then all a guest has to do is show up and use them.  Using them isn’t hard.  Seeing how Animal Kingdom is in Walt Disney World, a guest will most likely have a MagicBand on their wrist (this is your ticket to the parks and your room key, among other things).  A Magic Band will also hold your FastPass reservations.  When using a FastPass you will have a 1 hour window to get on the attraction.  For example, say I made a FastPass reservation for Gorillas Gone Wild (this isn’t real) with the times being from 9 AM to 10 AM.  I can show up anytime from 9 AM to 10 AM to use this FastPass.  Then away I go as I try to escape Gorillas throwing bananas at me while they aren’t wearing shirts (again, not real).

As long as you are planning to be at the parks in the morning, my suggestion would be to make your FastPass times as early as possible.  This is because after you have used your 3 FastPass+ reservations, you can select a new FastPass at the FastPass+ kiosks located around the park.  While you may not get the attraction you really want, you can still avoid a few lines by doing this.  This trick is much better utilized at Magic Kingdom than Animal Kingdom.

elephants in the rain

FastPass+ Strategy and Rankings for Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom, specifically, might not need FastPasses as much as the other parks due to the enormous amount of land and all of the trails that help scatter people around the park.  That all may change once the World of Pandora opens in 2017 but, for now, the FastPass+ game isn’t as competitive here.  Truthfully, that’s why I started with this park because it’s not as hard to figure out and the strategy isn’t as important.

Here is what available for FastPass+ at Animal Kingdom:

  • Expedition Everest
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • Flight of Passage (Tier 1)
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
  • Navi River Journey (Tier 1)
  • Primeval Whirl
  • Rivers of Light

As you can see, there isn’t a ton on this list.  It is even easier to navigate when you realize how short some of the stand-by lines are for these attractions (and not the FastPass line).

Harambe theater

Let’s start with the shows on this list, which are Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo – The Musical, Rivers of Light, and It’s Tough to Be a Bug!  Festival of the Lion King is phenomenal, Finding Nemo is fine, the third one is the new nighttime show that doesn’t often fill up it’s seating and the last one will be the death of me but other people like it.  Just not me and the screaming children.  Anyway, as long as you show up to these shows 15 minutes before the doors open (check the park schedule for showtimes) you will most likely get into the show.  The exceptions would be Festival of the Lion King and Rivers of Light on busy days.  Go to later showings (or the second showing of Rivers of Light) for those and you shouldn’t run into many problems.  While the seat may not be quite as good as if you had a FastPass+, the viewing areas aren’t huge so you likely won’t get stuck with a terrible seat.  With a FastPass+ to these shows, you are supposed to show up about 10 minutes before the show begins so the possible few minutes that you save here is very minimal.

We’ve checked 4 off the list that you probably don’t need a FastPass+ for.  Another one that you probably don’t need a reservation for is the meet & greet here.  Not only have I never seen this line long, I have never seen this line period. I’m guessing it won’t take long to get to meet some Disney legends.  Disregard all of that if King Louie is available for a meet & greet.  King Louie is worth all of your FastPasses (I’m halfway serious but that was bad advice).

Primeval Whirl is loathed by many Disney fans, myself included, but it does have a line at times.  If generic, carnival roller coasters is your thing, then by all means spend a FastPass here.  But, I would definitely hold on to mine instead of spend one on this attraction.

upside down tree

DINOSAUR is a pretty fun ride back through time and is a decent use of a FastPass+.  I’ve seen it without a line and I’ve seen it with a 40 minute line, so it’s hard to predict what the wait time will be without knowing a specific day in which you go.  I wouldn’t reserve this attraction but it is one of the first I’d look for after I completed my initial 3 FastPasses.

Kali River Rapids is wildly popular on a hot day at Animal Kingdom.  This is a fun river rapids attraction and is about even with DINOSAUR in terms of popularity.  It’s very nice to have a late morning FastPass+ for this attraction in the summer months.  If you do use a reservation for this attraction, I would use it as my latest one in the day because that is when it gets the hottest.  I wouldn’t use a FastPass+ on this attraction from November-February because lines are much shorter when it’s cooler outside.  Like DINOSAUR, I would probably wait until my initial 3 FastPasses are done and then see if there’s one for Kali River Rapids.

That leaves Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris as the best places to use FastPasses, outside of the Pandora tier.  They are unequivocally Animal Kingdom’s biggest and best attractions besides Flight of Passage.  I would make these my first two FastPasses of the day.  Many people race to Expedition Everest as soon as the gates open, and I would still do that and then ride Everest twice.  If you are looking for something different to do with these attractions, make your FastPass+ reservations for them late in the day to get a different experience on them.  Of course, this limits the FastPasses you can get throughout the day in the park but you don’t necessarily need those here.  But, both are significantly different at night and if there are some FastPasses available for these after you complete your initial 3, I would snag them.

Everest Discovery River AK

That leaves the ‘Pandora Tier’.  This one is simple, get a FastPass for Flight of Passage over Navi River Journey.  Easier said than done as Flight of Passage is an incredibly hard FastPass to secure even 60 days out.  Try to make an Animal Kingdom day a little later in the trip and then when your 60 day window opens (and you can book for your whole trip) you may be able to secure a Flight of Passage FastPass.  Navi River Journey is nowhere near the attraction Flight of Passage is but I’d still book it if you can’t get the first option.  The attraction is not worth waiting in an hour long line for so a FastPass is nice to have.  Eventually the Pandora hype will subside and these wait times will even out a little.  For now, make sure to book one of them.

Big rocks Pandora AK

Here is the rankings in order of where I would use my FastPass+.  The top-3 are the ones that I would reserve online.

  1. Flight of Passage – It’s the best attraction in Animal Kingdom, and maybe all of Disney World.  Very tough to get a FastPass for though.
  2. Navi River Journey – Definitely not the second best attraction at Animal Kingdom but get this if you can’t get Flight of Passage.
  3. Expedition Everest – Rush to it at park opening, ride it and then ride it again during your FastPass+ window.  It’s worthy of two rides.
  4. Kilimanjaro Safaris – If roller coasters aren’t your thing, then do what I said for Expedition Everest on this attraction.  Usually lines die down for this ride before closing, so make your reservation for the morning and then, if you want to go again, try right before you leave the park.
  5. Kali River Rapids – Again, if it’s one of the warmer months of the year this is a great use of a FastPass.  If it’s around Christmas time, you won’t have to wait long.  By the way, the queue for this attraction is great if you don’t mind standing in line.
  6. DINOSAUR – The alternate to Kali River Rapids in the cold months.  After completing the first three on this list, I’d try to get a FastPass to this one at one of the kiosks.
  7. Primeval Whirl – If you are going to go on this, a FastPass might not be the worst idea.  The queue area is very bland and there’s not much to look at while in line, plus the line is unnecessarily long sometimes.
  8. Rivers of Light – The new nighttime show can be beneficial to FastPass on busy days.  The initial rush for the show has subsided to a degree though.
  9. Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost – If you are taking small children then this wouldn’t be a waste, as the line could be hot and boring.  It doesn’t usually have much of a line though.
  10. Festival of the Lion King – This is pretty easy to get into but it has less seating than Finding Nemo so it comes in 7th.
  11. Finding Nemo – The Musical – There are lots of seats here but if getting a great seat is a priority then FastPassing this isn’t a bad idea.
  12. It’s Tough to be a Bug – You can generally walk right in to this.  Walk right to your doom.


Do you have any tips for FastPass+ at Animal Kingdom?  Would you change the order of my rankings?  Let us know in the comments, along with any questions you might have.  Thank you for reading!



Ranking the Counter-Service Restaurants We’ve Eaten At – Disneyland Resort

A couple of weeks ago I started a series ranking the restaurants we’ve been to at Disney Parks.  We started with table-service restaurants at the Disneyland Resort and today we move to counter-service on the same coast.  The idea of this post is to keep adding to the list as we go more and more places.  There are a few rules (more like guidelines) and caveats applied to these rankings.

These rankings include Disneyland, California Adventure, the Disney owned hotels in the area, and Downtown Disney.  Disneyland has a pretty large focus on counter-service restaurants as opposed to table-service restaurants.  As the title states, this post is only ranking the restaurants we’ve been to.  While that is quite a few it does not come close to all of them.  I’m not going to include snack stands (sorry Dole Whip and chimichangas) and a few restaurants will be left out because it has been too long since we have been there, namely Hungry Bear.  If we’re missing one of your favorites from the list, leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to try that place next time!

In these rankings I will try to balance all of the factors – value, quality of food, atmosphere, etc.  To be honest, I rely more heavily on the quality of food than other factors because most restaurants tend to have a similar price range and counter-service places usually don’t excel in atmosphere.  If we have a review to a certain restaurant then it is linked in that restaurant’s name.  Let’s get to the rankings!

14. Smokejumpers Grill (California Adventure) – When people think of bland theme park food, Smokejumpers Grill is basically what comes to mind.  The burgers are bland and the menu is boring and overpriced.  There was a toppings bar here for a while which is a nice plus but, frankly, I would stay away from this place.

13. Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill (California Adventure) – If Smokejumpers is bland American theme park food, Cocina Cucamonga is pretty bland Mexican theme park food.  I will say that my opinion is fairly old and the newer menu looks slightly more interesting.  Still, in the few times I’ve eaten here I thought the food could use more flavor and the experience was entirely forgettable.

12. Jolly Holiday Bakery (Disneyland) – If you come to Jolly Holiday Bakery for the treats and Main Street ambiance then you are in good shape.  I love the setting and the Raspberry Rose Macaron is one of the best single items in Disneyland.  Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy the savory items.  Since this ranking is focused more on actual meals you can have, Jolly Holiday ranks pretty low.  Come here for dessert though!

11. Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney) – Earl of Sandwich is just a place to get a sandwich.  It’s better than Subway and other restaurants of the like but not much more.  The prices are decent and I thoroughly enjoy the Holiday Turkey Sandwich.  For a while, Earl of Sandwich seemed to be very popular but that has died down some.  I still think this is a decent spot to go for a cheaper lunch or dinner on property but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

10. Pacific Wharf Cafe (California Adventure) – For a while, I really enjoyed Pacific Wharf Cafe.  The bread bowls are delicious and they serve practically everything in them.  The last two times I’ve gone there the salad (in a bread bowl) has disappointed and thus the restaurant has fallen in the rankings.  I’m not a big fan of the seating here (which also pertains to Cocina Cucamonga) so that doesn’t help things.

9. Tangaroa Terrace (Disneyland Hotel) – If you are tired of crowds, Tangaroa Terrace is a nice respite.  At the Disneyland Hotel, Tangaroa Terrace offers sandwiches, flatbreads and a few fish items.  The menu is interesting and the food is decent.  I didn’t think the sandwiches were anything to write home about but the other items are interesting.  Tangaroa Terrace does offer a nice setting, with views around the Disneyland Hotel grounds.

8. Flo’s V8 Cafe (California Adventure) – Flo’s makes it this high on the list mostly based on atmosphere.  The food is American and mostly average.  I do like the milkshakes and pie fairly well.  But the theme and atmosphere of Flo’s surpasses nearly every place on this list.  While I don’t dislike the food, I’d recommend grabbing a dessert (or something from the nearby Cozy Cone’s) and finding a seat in one of the many rooms.  The outside seating is nice too, with views of Cars Land or Radiator Springs Racers.

7. Bengal Barbecue (Disneyland) – One of the better values anywhere at Disneyland, Bengal Barbecue offers meat (and other) skewers.  The price is under $5 and the product is typically delicious.  This is a little lower in the rankings because the menu isn’t very large and might not be a great place for a full meal.  For a filling snack or light lunch, this is a fantastic place to go.

6. Cozy Cone Motel (California Adventure) – This is a little tricky, as the Cozy Cones are actually 4 different snack stands that sell different items.  Seeing how they serve some great items, I included the whole group anyway.  The Prickly Pear Soda is a favorite of mine.  Melissa’s favorite snack at Disneyland is the Garlic Bagel Twist that you can find here.  The bread cone filled with chili con queso is one of those items where it looks like it should taste terrible but, while you are eating it, you swear that it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted.  All in all, the Cozy Cones serve some of the best food in California Adventure, even if that food doesn’t look particularly appetizing.

Cozy Cone Cars land night

5. Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs (Disneyland) – This is another case of “if they served more, then this would be higher.”  I love the corn dogs at the Little Red Wagon and recommend them to everyone, even if they don’t like corn dogs.  Eating here is a Disneyland rite of passage and one of the cheaper, delicious meals you can have at the park.

4. French Market Restaurant (Disneyland) – A place with good food and a great atmosphere.  While all of the seating is outside, the views of the river are lovely.  In the evening, guests are serenaded by a live jazz band.  The setting is romantic and ideal.  As for the food, French Market serves Cajun inspired dishes.  The Jambalaya isn’t incredible but it’s a good dish at a pretty good price.  French Market is a personal favorite of mine even if it ranks slightly below the next three.

French Market tree

3. Rancho Del Zocalo (Disneyland) – While no one mistakes Rancho Del Zocalo for authentic Mexican food, the restaurant does a commendable job for being inside of a theme park.  The menu is fairly ambitious and the value throughout the restaurant is not bad at all.  I particularly like the Carne Asada and Red Chile Enchilada Platter.  The inside of the restaurant is nice to and fits the Frontierland theme quite well.  Like all of the top 5, Rancho Del Zocalo just feels like a classic Disneyland restaurant.

2. Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar – Should a bar be included in these rankings?  Probably not but since it didn’t fit into the table-service rankings I had to put it somewhere.  Trader Sam’s is one of the best spots in all of Disneyland.  The atmosphere and theme are far and away the best of anywhere on this list.  The drinks are solid, food is good and the experience is extremely memorable.  The Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs and Trader Sam’s Panko Crusted Long Beans are the two things I crave most from Disneyland.  If you are an adult (without kids) at Disneyland and don’t go to Trader Sam’s then you are doing something wrong.  I’m not putting it at number one though since it’s a bar and maybe shouldn’t be on this list.

1. Plaza Inn (Disneyland) – The Plaza Inn is a perfect blend of good food, decent value, great location, fun atmosphere and tradition.  Famous for their delectable fried chicken, the Plaza Inn serves home-style food in large sizes.  While the menu isn’t all that exciting, the food fits the time period and setting of Main Street.  Frankly, you should get the fried chicken and don’t worry about the rest of the menu.  Like the Little Red Wagon, eating here just has a distinct Disneyland feel.  The people clearing plates usually offer up some entertainment and the big windows let the sun light the whole restaurant.  It’s a step back in time at the end of Main Street.  Combine that with delicious fried chicken and that’s why it is number one on the list.

Those are my rankings of Disneyland’s counter-service restaurants.  I’m looking forward to adding to the list over the years.  What would you add or change?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Marvel Land Coming to California Adventure and A Bug’s Land Leaves

Disney announced today (via this post on the Disney Parks Blog) that a land inspired by Marvel Entertainment is coming to California Adventure.  To make way for this land, A Bug’s Land will be closing later this summer.  While this isn’t unexpected news, this is the first confirmation that A Bug’s Land is closing to make way for a superhero land.

Marvel Land (although it won’t actually be called that) is expected to house two new attractions among other entertainment options.  I expect one attraction to be themed to Spiderman and a similar style to the Tron bike coaster at Shanghai and on the way to Disney World.  While this is merely a guess, many rumors point to it being the case.  I expect another attraction and probably a show at some point to join the land.  I think this superhero area will probably open in phases, starting in the summer of 2020.  Future additions will join Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT!  That’s about it as far as the news and conjecture goes.  Keep reading for my commentary.

As far as the addition of a Marvel Land goes, I’m pretty excited.  I think the land will feature fun attractions and the land itself should be pretty easy to make work thematically.  The land will not fit the park’s California theme all that well but that hasn’t been a point of emphasis for years.  That doesn’t mean it’s excusable but me complaining about it becomes pretty redundant.  Between Pixar Pier, Cars Land, and now a Superhero Land, California Adventure starts to feel less California and more like a park full of acquisitions Disney made.  That’s not great but the lands themselves should work, at least to a degree.

I also wonder what the land will look like.  Disney, and other parks, have been very specific in their themed lands of late.  While the attractions will be specific to an IP here, the actual lands look will be up to Imagineers.  I have a hard time believing it will be as breathtaking as Pandora or Cars Land but I’m interested to see where they go with it.

As for what Marvel will be replacing, I’ve been clamoring for A Bug’s Land to be replaced for years.  I’m not in the least bit sad that this area is leaving California Adventure and this was an obvious choice.  There is a bit of a hole left in California Adventure’s roster as there aren’t as many rides for younger kids now that this area is leaving.  With the renovations over the last decade, the park has set itself up to be in a better position than it was for the younger visitors.  Hopefully one of the new attractions in Marvel Land will have no height limit or, at least, one that’s fairly short.

The juxtaposition of eliminating A Bug’s Land while adding Toy Story Lands across the globe is funny to me.  A Bug’s Land was created to give kids something to do, as is Toy Story Land.  Even their themes contain being shrunk and seeing the world from a smaller viewpoint.  I do think Toy Story Land will be slightly more interesting than A Bug’s Land, especially in Disney World.  But both lands are created to do the same thing and one is deemed not good enough for a park while the other is getting added to a different park.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Disney sees the irony.  They are doing some things on the cheap while others are sparing no expense.  I understand that not every area can be a big budget project but I would like to see Disney invest heavily in an area and attractions that are accessible to every age.  The castle parks do a good job of this but it seems to be an afterthought in the other U.S. parks.

All in all, I’m excited for the upcoming Marvel Land and I think the removal of A Bug’s Land makes California Adventure stronger as a whole.  There are areas to nitpick about the project but I think this will produce some classic attractions.  I’m also happy to see Disney not resting once Galaxy’s Edge (Star Wars Land) opens.  They need to keep adding to DCA so that attendance isn’t even more heavily skewed towards Disneyland.  Along with that, I’m glad that Disney continues to invest in the parks.  The future is becoming more and more exciting for the Disney Parks.

Via the Disney Parks Blog

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Marvel Land and removal of A Bug’s Land?  Let us know in the comments.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy our content please subscribe to the blog (via WordPress or email) and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Coronado Springs Resort Review

Coronado Springs Resort is a moderate resort at Walt Disney World.  The resort is in the Animal Kingdom area.  Coronado Springs opened in the summer of 1997 and is themed to ancient Mexico and the American southwest.  Like most of the moderate resorts, Coronado features sprawling grounds and many rooms.  The resort is also Disney World’s most popular convention space.  As of 2018, Coronado Springs is going through a few renovations that will make the resort even more convention friendly.  We’ve stayed at Coronado Springs a few times over the years, this review will cover those experiences.

Part of the allure of Coronado Springs is the layout of the resort.  Caribbean Beach Resort and Port Orleans are pleasant to stroll around but are very spread out and not mapped in a direct loop.  Coronado Springs is still spread out but is all centered around a lovely lake in the middle.  While the walk around the loop isn’t as picturesque as Port Orleans, the resort is still a nice walk with the lake as a central feature.

Coronado Springs fountain

With that said, there isn’t much else to look at.  I enjoy the Spanish-inspired architecture but there is nothing that transports me to another place.  Coronado Springs never suspends belief, it always feels like a hotel in Disney World to me.  There’s nothing wrong with that, the theme just feels less charming and encompassing as some.  Outside of the pool, I don’t think there is one iconic landmark the resort is known for.  The Contemporary has the monorail, Animal Kingdom Lodge the animals, the Beach and Yacht Club have the lighthouse, etc.  I think Coronado is missing that landmark and it makes the resort less memorable.

All in all, I think that would be my biggest complaint about the resort.  Frankly, when I look at all that the resort offers I often wonder why the resort doesn’t sit in better standing in my mind.  Hopefully the previous paragraphs help explain that.  Let’s get to the room!

Coronado Springs room fisheye

Our most recent stay put us in a room with a king bed.  There is no difference in square footage between this room and a room with two queen beds.  They’re average sized hotel rooms.  As you can see, little bits of the outside Spanish theme are continued inside the room.  The accent wall is nice but it doesn’t offset the ugly carpet.  Everything else about the room is fairly generic.

Coronado Springs bathroom

That’s a hotel bathroom.  The flooring isn’t bad in here.  I don’t have much else to say, it’s a generic hotel bathroom.

Coronado Springs bathrrom mirror fisheye

Like most Disney rooms, the sink was outside of the bathroom.  I like the doors that kept this area separate from the beds, one person can keep sleeping while the other is getting ready that way.

I find the room to be fairly bland.  There is no decor that stands out and no ‘Disney touch’, if you will.  Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with the room either.  This is still a better option than a few of the value resorts because of the larger room size.  I just find this lacking.

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

The amenities are where Coronado Springs really shines.  First of all, the pool is one of the top-5 resort pools at Disney World.  Called the Dig Site, this area features a fun slide, a cool pyramid theme to the pool, a gigantic hot tub, and a few fun, non-swimming areas.  If swimming is a big deal to you (or your kids) then the Coronado Springs pool is one of the best options, especially at the cost it generally is.  I’d give the Dig Site a slight advantage over the Caribbean Beach Resort pool but it’s close.

Pepper Market CS

Coronado Springs also offers one of the best food courts in Disney World called the Pepper Market.  This is a counter-service location and they offer a wide variety of food.  Here is a look at the menu.  There’s also a nice bakery area that serves gelato around the corner from the food court.  To go along with the excellent offerings here, there is also a lounge and full table-service restaurant.  Coronado Springs has no shortage of good dining options and I’d definitely plan for a meal or two at Pepper Market if you are staying here.

The resort doesn’t have a bad location as far as bus transportation goes.  As I stated, it is very close to Animal Kingdom and Blizzard Beach.  The rest of the parks are a little further away but no more than a 20 minute bus ride.  We never had any issues in waiting for transportation either.

Rix Lounge CS

As far as value goes, Coronado Springs is one of the cheaper moderate resorts.  Prices typically range from $150-$220 depending on the time of year.  As far as what it’s worth, I wouldn’t pay over $175 unless there were special circumstances.  The amenities are nice but not on a deluxe level.  And over $175 is near deluxe level to me.  If you can find Coronado under $150 then I’d absolutely recommend it.

Coronado Springs has average rooms that are made up for with amenities that the hotel offers.  Unfortunately, I believe the resort is just barely missing the mark.  The theme isn’t very memorable and there is no iconic landmark.  All in all, it’s on-line with the other moderate resorts.  I prefer Port Orleans to Coronado but there isn’t a big gap.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Have you stayed at Coronado Springs Resort?  Let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

A Trip Preview – Japan

As I wrote a couple of months ago, we are headed to Japan.  Unlike a couple of months ago, our trip is just two weeks away!  With that in mind, I thought I’d give a brief preview of what we’re going to do as well as some questions I have for you, the reader, about the coverage you’d like to see of our trip.  We’ll start with our preview.

Japan has been sitting atop my travel list, both in terms of Disney Parks and a few cities, for the last five years.  To say I’m excited that the trip is nearly here is an understatement.  The vacations Melissa and I take have always been more on the side of traveling than relaxing and this will be no exception.  While I’m a very relaxed person, I find it fairly hard to go on a trip and just sit around.  I’m fascinated by architecture (although I don’t know much about it), history, and cultures.  While sitting on a beach is wonderful, I’m always interested in seeing sites.

That’s not to say there is a right or wrong way to vacation.  Certainly, a more relaxing vacation would probably be more beneficial in coming back to ‘real life’.  Maybe later in life I will lean more towards a vacation where the goal is to relax in a beautiful setting but that’s not the goal right now, especially on this trip.

Our travels to Japan will be a nice mix of theme parks and the historic sites.  Our first full day in the country will be in Osaka at Universal Studios Japan.  Admittedly, this is pretty low on the list of things I’m looking forward to.  I do think it will help us get acclimated to a foreign setting.  That may be way off-base but going somewhere familiar instead of jumping right into a new place made sense to me.

Japan Green gardens

We’ll leave Osaka the following day and head to Kyoto for roughly three days.  While Tokyo Disneyland was the inspiration for the trip, Kyoto is what I’m most looking forward to.  We planned the trip for Sakura (cherry blossom) season and can’t wait to experience this ancient city.  Since it will be that particular season, the city will be packed but we’ll make the best of it.

After a few days in Kyoto, we will head to Tokyo via the Shinkansen (bullet train).  While our stay in Kyoto will focus mostly on historical sites, Tokyo will focus more on the modern.  It’s odd trying to experience a country in about a week or 10 days.  I already wish that we were there for another week or two to experience Hiroshima, Mt. Fuji, more of Kyoto and do a few more museums.  As it is, we didn’t want to miss out on shopping in Tokyo as well as a few more touristy places.

Japan Pond

After that, we’ll be spending (most of) the rest of our trip at Tokyo Disneyland Resort.  We’ll spend 2 days at each park and are staying at Tokyo Disneyland Hotel for most of the trip.  Planning for the Disney Parks have been a familiar respite from the rest of our Japan planning.  The resources are more familiar, as are the terminology and maps.  Hopefully that translates into us seeing all that we want in the parks.

With all of this in mind, I’m planning to make a trip report about the entire trip instead of focusing solely on Tokyo Disneyland.  I know that this is Disney-centric blog so if you’d rather not hear about the whole trip please let me know in the comments.  There are other places where I can write about the rest of the trip.  While I’m planning on writing about the whole trip here, I’m not completely sold on the idea.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and I’ll include a poll with this question down at the bottom.

Japan bridge Epcot night

In that same vein, I was wondering how much interest there is in videos (Facebook Live) and other forms of social media for our trip while we’re there.  While we haven’t done much in terms of video on this blog before, going somewhere foreign could draw more interest to this form of content.  While I’m sure I’ll take thousands of photos, Melissa and I have tossed around the idea of doing Facebook Live videos of certain sites and recaps of sections of the trip every few days.  I’ll include another poll about this down below (you can vote for more than one answer) and would love feedback in the comments on this idea.  Be sure to follow our social media accounts leading up to the trip, if you are interested!

Japan Pavilion Epcot night

Hopefully this hasn’t been too much of me rambling and there is some interest in Tokyo Disneyland and Japan.  Likely the next post on this subject will be the start of a trip report!  Thank you for reading and if you enjoy the blog please subscribe via email or WordPress on the right side of the page.

– Andrew

FastPass Guide to Disneyland

I find that FastPasses are the biggest source of frustration to first-time or infrequent park goers. Many people don’t know what FastPasses are, how to use them, or what to use them on. With this in mind, I’m going to write a guide to each U.S. park on when and where to use FastPasses.

Partners night 60th castle

We’ve made it!  This post completes our FastPass Guides to each U.S. Disney Theme Park.  If you’ve missed any of them, check out this page.   A few weeks ago, I wrote about California Adventure and described how the FastPass systems are different between Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  If you missed that and aren’t sure how the systems differ, please check out that post so I don’t need to add a needless 500 words to this post.

How is FastPass in Disneyland different from Disney California Adventure?

The simple answer to this is that the system isn’t any different.  The machines are exactly the same between the parks and you get a paper FastPass in both parks.  I have read that you can get FastPass at Disneyland and then head straight to DCA and get a FastPass there.  The ‘must wait until time’ on a DL FastPass doesn’t matter when you’re in California Adventure and vice versa.  I’ve never tested this, and will plan to the next time I’m in the park.  If for some reason you know that I’m wrong, please leave a comment.

Tom Sawyer Island Big Thunder blue night

What is different is that Disneyland might be the hardest park to come up with a strategy for.  There are simply so many quality attractions that it’s hard to figure out where to use your FastPasses.  I have heard rumors about Disneyland adding more offerings to the FastPass system, further complicating where to use your FastPass.  But, you didn’t come to read this post to learn about how hard the strategy is, you came for answers, darn it!  So, answers I will provide.  I don’t know if they’re the right answers for you specifically but it’s like that calculus test you took in college… You guess A, B, C, or D and you’re bound to get some things right.

Big Thunder at night

FastPass Strategy and Rankings for Disneyland

Here are the attractions that feature FastPass for Disneyland:

  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Splash Mountain
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Haunted Mansion (seasonal)
  • Buzz Lightyear: Space Ranger Spin
  • Space Mountain
  • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues

Before I get to each attraction that is listed above, Fantasmic! also uses a FastPass system just like World of Color in California Adventure.  If it is open, get a FastPass for it sometime in the mid-morning.

Tomorroland night tall

Moving on, Haunted Mansion doesn’t often offer FastPasses.  The attraction seems to most often FastPass in the Fall and Winter when the attraction has an overlay.  If you are there when FastPass is offered, it still wouldn’t rank very high on my list.  The line may look long but it does move fast and the queue is pretty interesting.  If the line is extremely long then, sure, grab a FastPass.  There are plenty of attractions that should take priority over this though.

Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin are the least popular attractions on this list.  Conventional wisdom is that you should skip getting a FastPass here.  But, I’m not much for conventional wisdom or wisdom, in general.  The FastPass times for these attractions are never far from the current time.  Meaning that if it’s 1 P.M. and you’re getting a FastPass for one of these attractions, the return window will begin close to 1 P.M.  Assuming it is (and it will be during most times of the year) then you might as well get a FastPass if the wait time on the line is more than 10 minutes.  You can use your FastPass almost immediately and then will have another one by the time you’re done riding around with Roger Rabbit or Buzz.  The time it saves could be minuscule but it’s a little less time you’ll have to spend in a line and a little more time that you could spend exploring Disneyland.  With all that being said, definitely don’t use a FastPass on these attractions before basically anything else on this list.

Mickey toontown fountain

Indiana Jones can have insane lines.  Unfortunately, the FastPass doesn’t help you surpass the lines as much as I’d hope.  The queue for the attraction is about half outside and half inside.  A FastPass here will help you surpass the outside portion.  If the park is extremely crowded then this is significant, but unless you wait until the middle of the day to ride Indiana Jones then I’m guessing that the line outside won’t be significant.  What I would recommend is heading to Indiana Jones fairly early in the morning.  Make it one of the first 2 or 3 attractions that you go ride.

If I had to guess, I would bet that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has the wait times that vary the most at Disneyland.  I have seen Big Thunder with a 5 minute wait and an hour-long wait.  If you head there at park open or late at night, the wildest ride in the wilderness won’t have much of a line.  If you do want to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the middle of the day, then a FastPass is beneficial.  The same concept that went for Roger Rabbit and Buzz is the same here, but there will be a longer wait until your FastPass window.  I don’t think Big Thunder is a great use of a FastPass but it isn’t the worst either.

Matterhorn Bobsleds is the newest addition to the Disneyland FastPass game.  Like Big Thunder, the Matterhorn can have varied wait times.  More often than not though the lines can be fairly long.  Match that with an extremely uninteresting (or complete lack of) queue and the Matterhorn should be pretty high on the FastPass list.  I’d put it in the top 4.

That leaves Matterhorn Bobsleds, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Star Tours as the big 4 attractions left vying for your FastPass order of importance.  Star Tours typically has the shortest line out of these 4, unless the weather isn’t very warm and then Splash Mountain has the shortest line.  So, most of the months of the year (maybe not November-February) Star Tours is a good place to go first thing in the morning and not use a FastPass, or use it as your 4th FastPass of the day and go there in the early afternoon.  Matterhorn comes in third and I would go here in the late morning to get a FastPass.  Avoiding the line at Matterhorn is very nice.  I would definitely use a FastPass for Splash Mountain and Space Mountain.  In the summer months, Splash Mountain might take priority with the high temperatures.  Still, you can find that attraction without big wait times late at night even in the summer.  Space Mountain is extremely popular, especially right now with a Star Wars overlay.  I would almost always use my first FastPass of the day on Space Mountain, especially when it has an overlay on it.  That way you can fit in one of the most popular attractions early in the day and save a FastPass for Splash Mountain once the day gets even warmer.

Hungry Bear Splash River Boat

With any of my advice, all of this depends on personal preference.  For example, if you (for some ridiculous reason) don’t like Splash Mountain then don’t worry about FastPassing that attraction.  Here is a ranking of all the options to FastPass at Disneyland:

  1. Space Mountain – With the overlay on this attraction, it is extremely popular.  If there is no overlay then it still is probably the best attraction to spend your first FastPass on.
  2. Splash Mountain – I like waiting to use this FastPass as your 2nd or 3rd choice so that you ride Splash during a warmer part of the day.  Don’t wait too long in the summer though because they’ll run out of FastPasses fast.
  3. Matterhorn Bobsleds – This is a miserable line to wait in and it can get quite long.  I’d either make this your 3rd FastPass of the day or go to the Matterhorn late at night or first thing.  For the record, this is one of the more fun attractions at night!
  4. Star Tours – While I’ve seen Star Tours without a huge line, I think putting it 3rd on the priority is a pretty fair spot.  The FastPass line gets you past a large portion of the queue, which is why this attraction goes above Indiana Jones.  If you like Big Thunder better than Star Tours maybe flip-flop them in these rankings, although Star Tours may be a more popular attraction right now due to the film.  Either ride this right after you get a Fast Pass for Space Mountain or have it be your 3rd FastPass of the day.
  5. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – While the wait times vary here (seriously, just ride it late at night if you are able to stay late), BTMR is popular and is a nice queue to skip on a hot day.  If it’s really hot, this should be above Star Tours.  Still, I think this is a little less popular and that makes it fall to the 4th spot.
  6. Indiana Jones – What should be high on the list is brought down because of the FastPass not getting you very far in line.  Ride this attraction early and the wait would be roughly the same as getting a FastPass during the middle of the day.  My plan of attack would be – FastPass Space Mountain (ride when time is up, which should be almost immediately), ride Star Tours, FastPass Splash Mountain, ride Indiana Jones, ride Jungle Cruise, use FastPass for Splash, and then conquer the rest of the park.  Fantasyland is a great place to go at park opening too, as there is no great time to go to Peter Pan.  If you have 2 days at DL, follow the plan I listed above one day and do Fantasyland at park opening on the other day.
  7. Haunted Mansion – This attraction can get fairly popular and this isn’t a bad use of a FastPass if you have already been on each of the attractions above this.  Still, the line moves fast and the queue is one of my favorites in the whole park.
  8. Buzz Lightyear – If the line is longer than 10 minutes than you might as well FastPass this since the return window shouldn’t be too far out.  Still, don’t make this a priority.
  9. Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin – Repeat what I said for Buzz here.

Fantasyland & Matterhorn

So, there you have it.  I’ll try to keep this post up to date as the park changes.  Surely, the guide will be different once Star Wars Land opens.  If you have any questions or disagreements, leave them in the comments!  Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy our content please subscribe to the blog (via WordPress or email) and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (3/11/18)

Every few weeks our writers all answer a Disney related question.  Here is the latest installment of Question of the Week!  This week got away from me and I take no responsibility for some of these answers…

Question of the Week: Our last question was too nice, time for the inverse. What don’t you miss about Disney Parks?

Cassie – I don’t like that I usually blow my budget. On a typical Disney day (when I lived in CA) I would usually leave the house saying “Ok, I will only spend $50 today.” Between gas, parking, meals, drinks, and always needing those darn cute souvenirs, I almost always over do it. I think Disneyland is a perfect place to over indulge, but it’s easy to get off track with money and it’s certainly not a cheap place to visit. Along those lines, I also don’t like spending $4 on a soda. So yeah, basically I don’t miss Disney taking my money. They’ve taken a lot, and will get a lot more in the future!

Astro Orbiter castle

Darin – Spike Jonze’s HER features several scenes where Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is talking to his new computer girlfriend Samantha (Scarlet Johansson) passing countless people that are also distracted by their new tech friends. No one is having a face to face conversation, they are not saying “Hello” or “Goodbye”, no one is even nodding to each other. While Jonze is giving us some social commentary here, this is my heaven not having to make human contact. While at a Disney Park I always find myself wearing a pin of some sort (birthday, anniversary or whatever), I don’t know how it happens, but it does. This forces the cast members to tell me happy birthday or congratulations. This then forces me, because of politeness, to awkwardly stumble to find the correct response. Right now I know it’s “Thanks” or even “Thank you” but when the pressure is on and my social anxiety takes over I can’t help but make a fool of myself. It’s nice to get home and hide in my own home.
Editor’s note – This is a non-issue, just take off the buttons.

Melissa H. – I will admit that this one was super tricky because most of the things that I don’t miss really have nothing to do with the parks… Just things that are pet peeves of mine in general. Even though it kind of has to do with crowds, I definitely don’t like having to be “aggressive” with other park goers. The way that seating for the night-time shows is structured is a prime example of this. You have to be willing to stake a claim to your spot and keep big. I’m not the type of person who likes having to do things like this because 1 ) I feel super rude and 2) It stinks when you do let your guard down and someone squeezes in right in front of you. I think what frustrates me the most about the whole thing is that I can’t think of a better way for Disney to do it other than having assigned seating by fastpass tickets.. And even that would be messy!

Wishes sparklers

Mackenzie – This is a hard question because my answer has to do with crowds. But I get extremely claustrophobic when I’m surrounded by people. I also don’t like trying to navigate through crowds because I don’t know which way the person in front of me is going. Maybe I’m just an introvert tired of people because my favorite time in the park is at night after most people have gone home. Also I agree with Darin’s answer.

Melissa L. – I don’t miss my feet hurting at the end of the night! Man oh man, when you visit a Disney park you definitely over exceed your daily step count. While your step tracker may be happy with you, your feet aren’t! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t keep the fact that my feet are tired keep me from going, I certainly go all out. But it is something I really don’t miss about the parks!

Primeval Whirl fisheye

Andrew – I’m going to list things like last time. I don’t miss sweating non-stop. I don’t miss worrying that the drunk guy behind me is about to yak on me while I’m watching Illuminations at Epcot. I don’t miss DinoLand or A Bug’s Land. I don’t miss people using flash photography on attractions or talking really loud during shows. And I definitely don’t miss my ankles getting run over by strollers.

Leslie – I don’t like people who leave lines to get food or hold spaces in lines for other people. You leave the line you lose your place. I have a bit of forgiveness for children who need to use the restroom cause I get that. I have the same issue with folks saving spots for the parades or the fireworks. These are the things I don’t miss.

Gopher MK

What don’t you miss about the Disney Parks?  Let us know in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy our content please subscribe to the blog (via WordPress or email) and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

FastPass Guide to Disney California Adventure

I find that FastPasses are the biggest source of frustration to first-time or infrequent park goers. Many people don’t know what FastPasses are, how to use them, or what to use them on. With this in mind, I’m going to write a guide to each U.S. park on when and where to use FastPasses.

Last week I finished the FastPass+ Guides to Walt Disney World.  Now, the time has come to move over to the west (best?) coast and offer some strategy to the FastPass system at Disneyland Resort.  I’ll be writing about California Adventure first, which doesn’t have as much to offer as Disneyland.  I’m getting ahead of myself though!

Carthay Circle old fashioned


What are the differences between FastPass+ at Walt Disney World and FastPass at Disneyland?

If you’ve read my earlier guides then you probably have a general understanding of how FastPass+ works (assuming I’m a halfway competent writer, a big assumption I know) at Walt Disney World.  A FastPass serves the same general purpose in Disneyland as it does on the other coast, the pass allows guests to skip the majority of the line at an attraction.

Eureka Grizzly_edited-1

The difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World is that you can’t reserve the FastPass ahead of time at Disneyland.  Hence the lack of +. If you ever have questions about reserving something in advance, just look to see if there is a + included.  That always works.  In a way, with the lack of advance FastPass+ reservations, Disneyland is much easier to manage when planning out your trip.  Along with not worrying about what to reserve in advance, Disneyland Resort also has fewer options to FastPass.  That means there is less decision-making and strategy involved.

The way to obtain FastPasses at Disneyland is to go to the attraction (at least in most cases) and insert your park ticket at a FastPass machine.  The FastPass will pop out.  That pass will have two times on it with an hour between them.  You have to return to that attraction within that hour-long window and then you’ll be able to enter the FastPass line.  The pass will have smaller font on it, as well.  That smaller font will tell you when you can get your next FastPass.  Check out the photo below to see one.



As I said, guests aren’t allowed to get another FastPass until that time in the small font says.  Aside from that restriction, you can get as many FastPasses as you please.  FastPasses aren’t available during early entry but they are during all normal park hours.

FastPass Strategy and Rankings for Disney California Adventure

Now that I’ve spent 400+ words on a concept most of you probably already understood, let’s get down to the real point of this post!  Here are the attractions that feature FastPass at California Adventure:

  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Soarin’
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT!
  • California Screamin’
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • World of Color

One way that California Adventure is unique is that you can get a FastPass for World of Color at anytime and then get another FastPass immediately.  There is no wait time when it comes to that FastPass, so you might as well get it.  The earlier you get the World of Color FastPass, the better section you will be in for the show.  So, as long as you are planning to watch World of Color then get a FastPass at some point in the morning.  It won’t hurt anything!

goofy's sky school

There aren’t many attractions with FastPass available and there are quite a few quality attractions at California Adventure, so there aren’t exactly any easy choices here.  The least of the attractions offered is Goofy’s Sky School.  It won’t often have long wait times (unless you come at a very busy time of year) and I’d recommend skipping riding this attraction if there were long lines.  Of course, I’m not a big fan of roller coaster so some might disagree with me.  Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this is the least popular of DCA’s FastPass attractions.

fog grizzly river run

Next on the list is a bit of a toss-up.  Grizzly River Run isn’t very crowded when the weather isn’t hot.  Of course, that’s not very often in California.  If you go in the winter months then you likely won’t need a FastPass for Grizzly River Run otherwise this isn’t a bad option for your 3rd or 4th FastPass.  Grizzly River Run is often closed in the first few months of the year for refurbishments, so be aware of that.  Grizzly River Run and Goofy’s Sky School do often utilize a single-rider line which is a good way to go if you don’t mind being seperated from your group.

Toy Story Midway Mania is newest to California Adventure’s FastPass club.  The attraction is not a bad use of FastPass but I’d save it until the afternoon.  While a fairly popular ride, the wait times ebb and flow.  A fair warning: this line can be miserable during the day as the sun beats down on guests.  Try for a FastPass in mid-afternoon and you’re saving yourself some uncomfortable waiting.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! can have some decent sized lines, especially as it’s still new.  The attraction does load large groups of people at a time so it’s not that high on this make-believe ‘FastPass Priority List’ .  The FastPass for this attraction also doesn’t skip a large portion of the line.  If other attractions are out of FastPasses or you’ve done Soarin’, RSR, and California Screamin’ then get one here.

sunset california screamin paradise pier

What I wrote for Tower of Terror is often the same for California Screamin’ (soon to be Incredicoaster).  I think the queue for California Screamin’ is incredibly boring and hot, therefore I would recommend getting a FastPass here before Tower of Terror.  Still, I think they are close to each other in terms of popularity so let your preferences guide you in this never-ending quest for FastPass knowledge!  As California Screamin’ transforms into this new coaster, I would suspect the lines to be pretty long for the following year.  That might not last but I would prioritize it slightly higher for the rest of 2018 and into 2019.

Grizzly Peak Airfield Soarin'

That leaves Soarin’ and Radiator Springs Racers for the coveted top spot in the Wandering in Disney – California Adventure – FastPass Rankings, also know as the WiDCAFPR Award.  This decision is really a no-brainer 95% of the time.  Radiator Springs Racers is the superior attraction and is almost always more.  With that being said, over the next few months Soarin’ Over California is only open on weekends and will have drastic crowds.  After Soarin’ moves on from the weekend-only schedule then it will be debuting a brand-new film.  While I don’t think it will surpass Radiator Springs Racers in popularity, Soarin’ will be a worthy competitor.  All that to say, get an RSR FastPass at park opening and then either go ride Soarin’ immediately or get a FastPass for it as soon as your time is available. (Assuming that it’s open when you’re there.)

There are a few things to know about Radiator Springs Racers though.  First of all, it’s the only attraction where the FastPass isn’t directly next to it.  The FastPass is right by the entrance to Cars Land.  If you are there at park opening, the line for the FastPass will likely be around Carthay Circle.  Follow signs for that FastPass, there will be many Cast Members around to help you out.  One other item of note is that Radiator Springs Racers has an extremely effective single-rider line.  In my experience, going as a single-rider hardly takes anything away from the attraction.  Often times the people you go with end up in the same car with you or in the car you’re racing against.  I highly recommend the single-rider line especially since you’ll want to ride this attraction more than once.  Unless you have no soul.

RSR rock

As I’ve already said, all of this could change do to personal preference.  I tried to go by order of popularity while also factoring in how interesting and hot the queue gets.  Below is a quicker version of my rankings along with what time of day I’d try to get a FastPass for this attraction.

  1. Radiator Springs Racers – The best and most popular attraction at Disney California Adventure (maybe in all of Disneyland).  I’d get a FastPass for RSR at park opening and then go ride it.  If not, get a FastPass for it and then go ride Soarin’ immediately.  To get a FastPass for it, you’ll have to go near park opening or else they will run out of FastPasses.
  2. Soarin’ – While this attraction is going to get more and more popular over the next few months, it finishes quite a ways behind Radiator Springs Racers on this list.  I would get a FastPass for this as soon as the previous one allows you to.  That would put getting this FastPass sometime in the late morning (depending on park hours).  While over in this direction pick up a FastPass for World of Color, as well.
  3. California Screamin’ – Once available, I’d head over to Paradise Pier and get a FastPass for California Screamin’.  If the window to ride is the next hour or so, spend some time in line at Toy Story Midway Mania, ride the not-so-popular attraction, and maybe get some Lobster Nachos at the Cove Bar.  If the FastPass is a ways out then go ride Tower of Terror and do some attractions in that section of the park.  This finishes above Tower of Terror due to its boring line and the heat.  If it’s really hot out, get a FastPass for Grizzly River Run in this slot instead.
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! – Only slightly behind Screamin’, I’d FastPass this in the afternoon assuming there were still some available.  While I miss Tower of Tower, Mission BREAKOUT! is a lot of fun and probably at it’s peak of popularity.  The line does move fast if you have to go stand-by.  Again, if it’s really hot then skip this one in favor of Grizzly River Run.
  5. Toy Story Midway Mania – A very fun attraction with wait times that ebb and flow.  I’d FastPass this in the afternoon to skip the outdoor line (much like California Screamin (or Incredicoaster).  If the line is under 30 minutes though, just stand-by and get a repeat FastPass elsewhere.
  6. Grizzly River Run – This is the wildcard.  I love this attraction, as it’s much better than your average river rapids theme park attraction.  If the weather is less than 80 or 85 degrees then the line isn’t terrible.  But, if it is then this attraction would jump up to number 3 in my rankings.
  7. Goofy’s Sky School – I don’t like this one but I guess if nothing else is available and you’re in the area then FastPass it if the wait is over 15 minutes long.

Cars Land night as you go rock

That does it for California Adventure.  If you have anything to add or any questions then please let me know in the comments!  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Ranking the Table-Service Restaurants We’ve Eaten At – Disneyland Resort

Recently, I wrote a post ranking the Disney World hotels we’ve stayed in.  Much to everyone on planet Earth’s surprise, it was slightly popular.  In this day and age, what do popular items always need get?  Sequels!  So, we’ll turn this little idea into a series of posts.  While there are no more hotels to rank, there are plenty of restaurants to rank and that’s where we will head.

While I always feel a little strange writing about hotel bathrooms, I’ve never had that sensation while writing about food.  I like food.  I don’t particularly like hotel bathrooms.  That’s just one of the differences between the two!  Since we started this series in Disney World, we’ll head over to Disneyland this time.  That includes Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney (although we haven’t eaten at any of the table-service) and the resorts.  I will also break the restaurants into two types – counter-service and table-service – with this installment being table-service at Disneyland.  If you’re familiar with the parks at all then you know that there are far more restaurants at Disney World than Disneyland so this could be a shorter installment.

Before we jump into the ratings, there are a few caveats.  First of all, as the title tries to state, we haven’t eaten at all of the restaurants in either resort.  If one that you love isn’t in the list then please drop us a note in the comments and we’ll be sure to try it on the next trip.

Just like the hotel post, I will try to balance all of the factors – value, quality of food, atmosphere, etc.  To be honest, I rely more heavily on the quality of food than others because table-service restaurants tend to have a similar price range.  On that same note, I will include signature and regular table-service restaurants into this post.  Let’s get to the rankings!

8. Disney’s PCH Grill (Paradise Pier Hotel)

First of all, only 8 table-service restaurants?  Seems a little weak but as I was scrolling through the list there really that many I wish I had gone to.  There are a few I’d like to try in Downtown Disney but even those aren’t all that interesting to me.  We’ve eaten everywhere in Disneyland and California Adventure outside of River Belle Terrace and the restaurant formerly known as Ariel’s Grotto.  Disneyland thrives in counter-service restaurants but there is a lack of table-service options.

As for PCH Grill in Paradise Pier Hotel, we had the character breakfast buffet here.  They had a few interesting options including Chilaquiles and a smoothie bar but overall the food wasn’t very exciting.  The value isn’t great and the restaurant’s atmosphere feels like a buffet in a hotel, not up to Disney’s standards.  The character meets are pretty fun and the food is fine but this is a pretty easy choice for last place.  For the record, I think I’ve eaten at ESPN Zone a long time ago and that would be last place but I don’t remember it well enough for that to be fair.

7. Wine Country Trattoria (California Adventure)

Another easy pick as I think there’s a large jump from 7 to 6 and then another big jump from 6 to 5.  The restaurant has a beautiful location, nestled between Cars Land and the pier.  Unfortunately, the value and food doesn’t live up to the scenery.  Wine Country Trattoria mainly focuses on Italian cuisine.  The food was fairly bland and, while the prices were fine, there wasn’t any great value.  I likely won’t go here again unless they revamp the menu.

6. Storyteller’s Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel)

I’ve gone to Storyteller’s for lunch and enjoyed the experience.  The restaurant is quite beautiful with elegant with murals and a somewhat rustic look.  This is a great place to escape the hubbub of the parks and relax for a while.  As for the food, I thought it was good but didn’t find the menu very interesting.  I did like some of the healthier alternatives that Storyteller’s offered.  If you go, order the wings as an appetizer.  You won’t regret it.  Breakfast and dinner also look pretty interesting to me.

Storytellers front

5. Blue Bayou Restaurant (Disneyland)

I’ll get this out-of-the-way, if this was a ranking of what restaurants Disneyland first-timers should go to then Blue Bayou would be in the top 3 and probably number 1.  That’s not what this post is though.  Blue Bayou does one thing extraordinarily well and that’s offer the best atmosphere of any restaurant at Disneyland.  Eating inside of Pirates of the Caribbean is undoubtedly special and a Disney fan rite of passage.  Unfortunately, that’s where my compliments end.  The food is good but not great and definitely hit and miss.  The value is bordering on terrible.  Guests are certainly paying for the experience more than the meal.  While that’s unflattering, know that all of my top 5 are very good restaurants and ones that I like at least every few trips.  Picking between 3, 4, and 5 was a tough choice but Blue Bayou ended up last of those 3 due to its overpriced menu.

4. Steakhouse 55 (Disneyland Hotel)

I must admit that we’ve only been to Steakhouse 55 for breakfast but if that’s any indication then the restaurant serves great food at dinner too.  As for breakfast, I think it’s the best option on property.  The menu is fairly large and diverse with nothing being all that overpriced.  The Eggs Benedict are our favorite but the steak and eggs were also delicious.  While a classic, sophisticated steakhouse isn’t the most exciting theme, the photos of Walt throughout make the restaurant more interesting.  This is another place that’s great to slow down and rest.  I also think the value is there for both breakfast and dinner.

Eggs benedict steakhouse 55

3. Carthay Circle Restaurant (California Adventure)

Another gorgeous restaurant and special atmosphere with somewhat overpriced food.  Carthay Circle rests inside of California Adventure’s park icon and the inside (and outside) of the faux-theatre are beautiful.  The restaurant has lovely paintings on the ceiling and extravagant chandeliers.  The food was very good and the menu a mix of California and American inspired food.  The biscuits are what Carthay Circle is known for but I enjoyed our whole meal just as much as them.  While guests pay a pretty penny for this restaurant, it is slightly cheaper than Blue Bayou and a wonderful experience.

2. Cafe Orleans (Disneyland)

Cafe Orleans thrives due to its location, recognizable items, and value.  Sitting outside at Cafe Orleans as the sun starts to set is a quintessential Disneyland moment.  The Prommes Frites and Mickey Beignets are some of my favorite items to eat at Disneyland.  While I find it a bit rich, the Monte Cristo is another fan favorite.  On top of that, the value is certainly there at Cafe Orleans.  Entrees typically are under $20 and some of the food is the same as what’s served at Blue Bayou.  The one drawback of Cafe Orleans is that the entrée selection isn’t all that interesting or diverse.  Still, the setting, value and famous menu items get this the top spot for in-park dining.

1. Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel) 

This isn’t much of a contest, Napa Rose is the best restaurant on Disneyland Resort.  I’ll get the two negatives out-of-the-way.  One, our first experience was one of the best meals I’ve ever had but the second experience wasn’t as good.  Two, this is a very expensive place to eat.  Entrees run between $30-$50.  With that out-of-the-way, Napa Rose is one of my favorite restaurants in the world.  The inside matches that of the beautiful Grand Californian and is bolstered by natural light through large windows.  The menu is always interesting and diverse, featuring steak and fish among other options.  Desserts are fantastic, as well.  To this day, my first meal at Napa Rose is likely my favorite I’ve ever had.  As the most upscale restaurant at Disneyland, I’d recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a nicer night out while on vacation (or locals) or to anyone who just likes really good food.

Napa Rose steak

Those are my rankings of Disneyland table-service meals.  I’m looking forward to adding to the list over the years.  What would you add or change?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

Disney’s Dumbest Names

I can’t claim to be an expert on much.  I love music and studied it.  Sports have been a life-long passion.  Disney Parks and travel in general are probably what I read most about.  But, an expert?  That seems too high of praise for those particular subjects.  Now, not to sound arrogant, I do consider myself an expert in one area.  Judging names that other people make up for things.  I’m fondly known around my house as the best judge of names this side of the Mississippi (please don’t ask my wife about this, she wouldn’t know).  While particularly good at judging mascots of sports teams, my expertise on the subject does reach to Disney Parks.

I should specify, I’m not an expert at judging all names.  Mainly just the bad ones.  Once this post proves to be a smashing success and reaches millions of people, the sequel will likely be about Disney’s best names (basically a 5,000 Pulitzer Price piece on how perfect the name Splash Mountain turned out to be) but today we’ll just cover the bad ones.

Splash mt. night

Disney has largely done well naming attractions, entertainment, restaurants, and theme parks.  There have been duds though, especially lately.  Instead of making this a top-10 list of worst names, we’ll just take a sample of ones that I dislike and I will rate them based on some rigorous criteria.  That criteria is divided into the categories as follows…

  • Length – Names should be fairly short.  Someone says, “Hey, where you going?”  No one wants to respond with more than 3 words.  4 words is fine. 5 words is bad. 6 words is right out.  The shorter the name the better.
  • Literal name – I’m a huge proponent of literal names.  Hall of Presidents is really nice because it’s literally a hall of presidents (sure, not the actual presidents but that’s just semantics).
  • Wordplay – Anytime you can fit a quick pun into the name then it’s probably nice.  Possibly the best use of wordplay in a title is a loose pun that isn’t exactly a joke but instead bordering on a joke and still literal.  Wordplay can walk a fine line because it can violate the first 2 (and the last) categories.  Proceed with caution here.
  • Capitalization and punctuation – This can ruin titles.  Don’t do something extra, it looks stupid.
  • Does this sound stupid or does it sound awesome – Self explanatory.  More points for being more awesome.

All categories are out of 10, 10 being the best score.  Another way of putting this is that the lower the score the worse name it is.  Let’s get started, I’m going to jump around pretty randomly and if you haven’t figured it out yet this is all a big joke.  Here we go!

Flounder Little Mermaid MK

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid (Magic Kingdom)
We’ll start with something a little mellow.  This is mostly a case of being too long.

  • Length – This is a classic case of not deciding on one title and just having two titles.  Neither of these names are that bad, there’s just one too many of them.  I never want to say this title out loud.  I can barely say 5 words in a row, much less 8.  Way too many words – 0 points
  • Literal name – The second title does pretty well, the ride literally tells the journey of the Little Mermaid.  First one is fine too.  Good job – 9 points
  • Wordplay – The ride’s concept is to take guests under the sea for a while so that can fall under the literal name or wordplay category.  This isn’t a very fun title and lacks creativity – 4 points
  • Capitalization and punctuation – There’s a dash but it is mostly harmless.  Not much wrong here – 7 points
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome?  This doesn’t exactly sound stupid, it’s more just too many words and a mouthful.  There is no creativity.  This sounds slightly more stupid than it does awesome – 4 points
  • Overall Score – 24/50 points

Blizzard Beach wide

Frostbite Freddy’s Frozen Freshments (Blizzard Beach)
You were trying way too hard…

  • Length – The length category is an interesting one in that it isn’t always about the words.  Four two-syllable words in a row makes this a real mouthful to say and too long.  3 points
  • Literal name – This place does sell frozen refreshments so I’ll give it a few points.  But, we run into a problem.  Frostbite Freddy’s sacrifices the literal in favor of alliteration.  Instead of your friends thinking that you are going to go get a frozen refreshment they think you are going to get a frozen fresh mint and are left utterly confused.  3 points
  • Wordplay – I guess alliterations will fall under this category but as I stated above they take this one too far.  A couple of points for trying something.  2 points
  • Capitalization and punctuation – They did fine here except they used a word that isn’t real at the end.  Not exactly capitalization or punctuation but it keeps it from a perfect 10. 8 points
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome? This looks and sounds fine until the end.  It’s kind of like eating really cheap sushi and then you have that one extra piece you shouldn’t have.  Put down that last California Roll and just put a “Re” before “Freshments”.  4 points
  • Overall Score – 20/50 points

Via the Disney Parks Blog

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (DCA)
This is the attraction name that inspired this blog post.

  • Length – Running into the two name thing again.  I don’t know why Disney feels the need to add the name of a franchise before the title of the attraction.  If this was just Mission: Breakout it would probably be fine but that’s not memorable enough to say on its own.  Pretty long, but not terrible – 3 points
  • Literal name – I guess the attraction’s title states what you are supposed to do on this attraction.  But the question remains, breakout of what?  This isn’t really what I have in mind for a literal name but it’s not terrible. 5 points
  • Wordplay – Not that I can tell. 0 points
  • Capitalization and punctuation – What in the world were they thinking.  There’s a dash, colon,and exclamation point all in 2 words.  Not to mention the last word is capitalized.  What were they thinking?  0 points
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome? It sounds way better than it looks.  Again, Mission: Breakout isn’t a terrible name (albeit not a good one) but the whole package is disappointing. 3 points
  • Overall score – 11/50 points

Crazy teeth dino AK

DINOSAUR (Animal Kingdom)
Don’t name attractions after movies that everyone forgets about.

  • Length – We’re good here. 10 points
  • Literal name – There are dinos on the ride but that doesn’t really tell you what’s going on.  2 points
  • Wordplay – None to be found.  Incredibly dull especially considering the wonderful name the attraction used to have – Countdown to Extinction. 0 points
  • Capitalization and punctuation – For some reason it’s in all caps?  I have no idea why and that’s pretty dumb.  3 points
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome? DINOSAUR lucks out here because this doesn’t sound bad.  The word dinosaur is awesome because dinosaurs are awesome.  8 points
  • Overall score – 23/50 points

HEA Frozen MK

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration (DHS)
A terrible name for a terrible show.

  • Length – ELEVEN WORDS!! -2 points
  • Literal name – Words 7-10 of this title accurately describe what is happening.  Words 1-6 and 11 do not.  7 points
  • Wordplay – Does just stating one of the song titles in the name of the show count as wordplay?  Not really.  2 points
  • Capitalization and punctuation – Just that colon that is used correctly, although they didn’t need the first 6 words in the title before the colon.  8 points
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome? It didn’t sound stupid, I just fell asleep before the entire title was said.  5 points
  • Overall score – 20/50 points

Schmoozies (DCA)
The next two I’m on the fence on.

  • Length – Great job. 10 points
  • Literal name – Here’s the issue… I have no idea what Schmoozies is referring to.  All I can come up with is that it sounds like Smoothies, which is what Schmoozies sells.  Is there anything more to it?  Maybe I’m missing something.  Naming a place because that word sounds like what you sell isn’t a great idea.  My name is Andrew (a common and, hopefully, decent name). Shmandrew is a dumb name.  Also, we run into the complicated equation of having Award Wieners next door.  This is a ridiculous name but I kind of like it.  Maybe Schmoozies is the same?  But, it’s not literal at all. 0 points?
  • Wordplay – I have no idea.  I don’t think there’s anything here. 0 points?
  • Capitalization and punctuation – Great job! 10 points
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome? Schmoozies is way more fun to say than it is to hear.  Still it’s not bad to hear and may bring a smile to someone’s face. We’ll go right down the middle – 5 points
  • Overall Score – 25/50 points

Drumming chefs Epcot

JAMMitors (Epcot)
My most controversial pick?

  • Length – 10 points
  • Literal name – I’ll give this one point because they are jamming on their trash cans.  1 point
  • Wordplay – I mean, yeah.  This is all they were going for.  It’s guys dressed up as janitors, jamming musically on their trash cans.  Just because I hate saying “Yeah, I saw the JAMMitors perform a quick set” doesn’t mean that this is full on wordplay. 10 points
  • Capitalization and punctuation – And herein lies the problem.  Why are those first four letters capitalized?  Do they really think I’m so stupid that they need to shot the word jam at me so that I hear the pun?  And why are there 2 m’s?  The word jam doesn’t have 2 m’s.  Janitor doesn’t have 2 n’s.  As if I didn’t catch on to the pun with the shouting, they had to add an extra M just to make sure I caught it.  Are they referring to the word ‘jamming’?  So many questions.  0 points
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome? The first time it’s a little bit funny.  Then it’s pretty stupid. 3 points
  • Overall Score – 24/50

Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It! Street Party (Magic Kingdom)
Oh no.

  • Length – Not including the ampersand, this is 9 words.  So, it’s 10 words. 0 points
  • Literal name – Oh boy, do they ever tell you what this is.  They are a “sit down and watch it” from covering all of the options in which you could see this street party.  This is not the literal I have in mind.  Instead it is just 4 fragmented sentences telling you what is happening.  I guess this category should have been called Literal and concise name.  I’ll give it 3 points for being way too literal.
  • Wordplay – It’s so literal that there is no room for wordplay. 0 points
  • Capitalization and punctuation – Three exclamation points and none are at the end of the title.  Also, why the ampersand or having the word ‘and’ in this title at all.  They could have fit in another exclamation point if they had just put the word ‘it’ instead of the ampersand.  This is a pretty big mess but I’ll give it a ‘I feel sorry for you’ point.  1 point
  • Does this sound stupid or does this sound awesome?  It sounds very stupid.  0 points
  • Overall score – 4/50 points

Castle MK Main Street

There you have it, our winner in today’s round of Disney’s Dumb Names is the Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It! Street Party.  Congratulations.

What Disney attraction/entertainment/restaurant names do you dislike?  Let us know in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy our content please subscribe to the blog (via WordPress or email) and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew