Question of the Week (7/26/15)

Every Sunday our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answer, leave your answer in the comments!

Question of the Week: What is your favorite type of souvenir (as in shirts, ornaments, character stuffed animals, books, etc.) to get from a trip to the parks?

Cassie – I am obsessed with Disney coffee mugs. My latest and favorite would be my Cinderella mug. All the mugs at Disney are so detailed and fun, plus they are constantly changing.

Cassie mug

Kelsee – I love collecting sweatshirts. It’s always been my go to souvenir since I was little. I love to lounge around in them and feel a little bit closer to the parks even when I’m not there.

Andrew – I’m not a big souvenir person but each time we go on a Disney vacation I try to get a piece of artwork that is based on the parks. We like to hang these up in her home to commemorate all of the different trips that we’ve taken. We’ve found some really beautiful artwork along the way. If I didn’t choose that, then I’d go with shirts!

Leslie – I am also a sweatshirt lover especially since I live someplace cold. While I’m here in Florida though I’ve taken to buying tee shirts since it is so hot here. I love being able to wear my souvenir and share my love of Disney with others. It sparks conversation most of the time with people too.

Disneyland map

Melissa L. – I’d say every time we go to a Disney Park, I always leave with at least two new things! Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and one of my favorite events is decorating the Christmas Tree. Every ornament has a story or memory that we get to relive overtime we put it on the tree. This is why I also I love to get an ornament on every trip we take. This way I can always remember the great times we have! I also leave a Disney Park with a new mug. I love to drink tea. And drinking tea in a new Disney Mug is THE BEST!

Melissa H. – For years I have collected mugs during any vacation I go on, so that is always one of my favorite things to look through when browsing the shops. I pretty much always come home with a new mug. I think my FAVORITES souvenir though would have to be the professional pictures, whether they are from a ride or just a prime picture area. Even though we love taking pictures, I feel like they are so much better at capturing the magic than we are. Even if I don’t buy the hard copies, at least having the downloads on my computer helps me treasure and revisit the memories!

Disneyland balloons

We are a little late on this post, so I apologize for that.  Please leave your answer to the question in the comments and don’t be afraid to put any Disney related question in there as well, as we’d be happy to answer it.  You can also send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com if you need help planning a Disney vacation.  Last but not least, if you like what you’re reading here on the blog please subscribe and like our Facebook Page.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great week, everyone!

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Shopping at the Disney Parks, Do’s and Don’ts

If you are like me, a trip to a Disney Park isn’t complete without some serious retail therapy. I absolutely adore wandering from store to store, checking out the newest merch. From collecting Disney pins, to picking out that perfect coffee mug, shopping at the Disney Parks can take up a solid amount of time in your vacation. That being said, I have composed a list of my shopping do’s and don’ts to help you make the most of your budget, time, and overall Disneyland/Disney World experience.

DO: Buy right before leaving

Purchasing souvenirs right before leaving the park is always a good idea. I don’t know about you, but I personally hate carrying shopping bags all day long. Also, if you are staying at the park until closing time, the shops on Main Street at open an hour after the park closes. This is an ideal time to make your purchases and head back to the hotel.

DON’T: Buy early in the day

Any Disney Park newbie is likely to make this mistake. Your sweet little girl begs you for a life-size Elsa doll; you indulge her, and end up lugging that darn ice queen around with you for 10 hours. Hey, it happens. Usually, once you make the mistake of purchasing something too early in the day, you will NEVER do it again. However, small items, such as jewelry, can easily be purchased early, especially if worn immediately.

crystal arcade at night

DO: Shop around for that perfect gift

There is truly something for everyone while shopping at The Disney Parks. By taking your time and not rushing you are likely to find that perfect something for anyone. Buying gifts for someone else can be very difficult, but if you give yourself enough time you are sure to find them something special.

DON’T: Wait until the last-minute

If you wait to shop for souvenirs until the last-minute I guarantee that your gifts will not be as special. By limiting your time to shop you are likely to buy something impersonal and on a whim just so you don’t come home empty-handed. Trust me, no dad is going to appreciate a Cinderella snow globe you bought last-minute, they just aren’t. But, bring dad a pound of delicious pecan fudge and you’ll have one happy camper. Take your time and shop around.

DO: Give yourself/family a budget

Having a budget for your trip to the Disney Parks is always important. By budgeting a certain amount for each day you are more aware of where your money is going, and can be that much more responsible with it. When I visited the parks with my family as a child we were allowed to pick out one toy or treat each day. That way, we would have the entire day to decide which item was the most important to us and get it at the very end. I think this system works well and keeps everyone on budget.

DON’T: Overdo/overindulge

While it can be really easy to spoil yourself/family rotten at the Disney Parks, I would not suggest going hog-wild with shopping. First off, if you have traveled far you will most likely not have a ton of suitcase space to buy a million things. Secondly, you are more likely to get behind financially with your Disney budget if you spend all your money shopping, as most items at the parks are fairly pricey.

Harambe

DO: Set boundaries with children’s gifts

It is important to set boundaries with your children when visiting the happiest place on earth. The whole place can be a sensory overload in the eyes of a child, and by setting boundaries for toys/gifts/candy/etc. you will keep the whole family happy and smiling. Like I stated above, limiting a child to one treat a day can be an effective method, as it usually keeps the child focused on picking that one special thing, not running around demanding you buy them everything.

DON’T: Let your kids run the show

I can’t even tell you how many $10 Mickey shaped balloons I have seen floating up into space because someone let his or her 2-year-old be responsible with it. Nothing will turn on the waterworks and cause a temper tantrum quite like a lost or broken toy. Save yourself the headache and keep a close eye with your kid’s items.

penny

DO: Pay more for quality

When it comes to shopping at the Disney Parks it is often important to remember quality over quantity. If you are looking for a ton of small items, keep in mind the less expensive/free souvenirs the park has to offer. From pressed pennies to postcards, there are a lot of ways to bring home memories without breaking the bank. However, for a lot of other items this is not the case. By spending a little more on higher qualities items they are more likely to last.

DON’T: Pick out the cheapest items

I have personally made this mistake many times and I am starting to learn that buying the cheapest item usually doesn’t pan out. For instance, I recently took a trip to Disneyland with a friend who was moving away. I thought it would be special to get friendship bracelets for us, so I picked the cheaper ones. By the next day both of our very cute bracelets where broken and left us very sad. If I could go back in time I would splurge a little more and buy the more expensive items, which would actually last.

DO: Know where to go

If you have a certain gift in mind for yourself/others it is essential to know where to look. The Disney Parks are very big and if you have no prior direction you will never find the item you’re looking for. I would suggest looking online ahead of time to find out which stores carry certain items. You can also use deductive reasoning in the parks to find a certain item based around a ride, attraction, or land. For instance, if you are buying for a serious Star Wars fan you’ll want to do the majority of your shopping in the Star Wars store located right outside the Star Tours ride.

DON’T: Forget where you saw an item

While a lot of the Disney Parks stores do carry the same/similar items, many specialty gifts can only be purchased in one specific spot. If you see just the right thing and wait to purchase it at the end of the day I would suggest writing down where you saw the gift. This way, when you are ready to leave you won’t find yourself scrambling to remember where you saw that one perfect item.

BBB

DO: Purchase something helpful when needed

Disneyland and Disney World come prepared with all of the items you may need should you forget something. In the past I have purchased Disney socks (when I was getting blisters), sunblock (when I forgot to bring some), and even ibuprofen (when a headache sprung up on me.) While these items have always been far more expensive than they are outside of the park, they were all needed at the time and made my experience more comfortable. It is better to spend a little extra for a better day all around.

DON’T: Waste money on items you forgot

While I have purchased emergency items many times, I try to come prepared as best I can as to not waste money. Come over prepared, rather than under, and you will save money you could spend on fun things rather than sunblock, socks, or ibuprofen. (How boring.) It is also a good idea to bring a reusable water bottle to the parks. You will save money and are helping the environment.

Catharay Circle

Good luck with your shopping in the Disney Parks and have FUN!

– Cassie

Is Character Dining Worth Trying?

Characters are an essential park of the Disney theme park.  Hour long lines to meet various characters around the park prove that.  Every time Disney has tried to open a theme park that didn’t depend on characters (Epcot, Animal Kingdom, California Adventure) the biggest complaint Disney has received about those parks is the lack of characters.  While we could debate whether it’s a good thing that Disney tried to remedy this, there’s not much debating that characters are important to many park guests.

Melissa Mickey

Character meet & greets in the parks aren’t the only way to meet Disney characters though.  Each park (and a few hotels) has at least one dining location where characters come to your table and meet you while you dine.  Here is a list of all the dining locations in the U.S. that Disney offers character dining:

Disneyland Resort
Ariel’s Grotto (Disney’s California Adventure)
PCH Grill (Paradise Pier Hotel, breakfast only)
Goofy’s Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel)
Plaza Inn (Disneyland, breakfast only)
Storyteller’s Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel, breakfast only)

Walt Disney World
1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian)
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot)
Cape May Cafe (Beach Club Resort, breakfast only)r
Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort)
Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)
The Garden Grill (Epcot)
Garden Grove (Swan Hotel, dinner only and breakfast on weekends)
Hollywood & Vine (Disney’s Hollywood Studios, breakfast and lunch only)
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ (Fort Wilderness Resort, dinner only)
Ohana (Polynesian Resort, breakfast only)
Tusker House Restaurant (Animal Kingdom)

As you can see, there are plenty of options especially at Walt Disney World.  With all of the options available, it’s easy to see that character dining is a popular activity when at the Disney theme parks.  But, is character dining worth doing?  Here are a few quick items to consider if you are on the fence about character dining.

Akershus

Do you like meeting characters?

Obviously, this is the first thing to consider when trying to figure out if character dining is right for you.  If you don’t like meeting characters then there is hardly any point at all in doing this.  When going to a character dining restaurant, guests aren’t just paying for the food but also the experience.  Knowing that, then there is no reason to pay extra for something that you aren’t excited about.  On the other hand, if you or someone in your family loves meeting characters then we’re on the right track for you to consider other character dining related questions.

Are you willing to pay a little more to avoid lines? 

The age-old saying, ‘time is money’ comes into play here.  How literal you take that saying may be the difference in whether character dining is worth it to you.  Instead of spending a good amount of time in line, you get to meet characters while doing something else fun – eating!  When character dining you get to see around 5 characters in about an hour, in a relaxed environment, all while eating.  Depending on how busy the restaurant is, the character interactions can be a little longer than the meet and greets in the park too.  As I said in the paragraph above, you are paying more for this but depending on how you view your time it might be worth it.

How important is food to you?

Now, I’m going to stereotype these restaurants a little bit in this question.  I haven’t tried them all and am jumping to assumptions on some.  With that being said, I do think most character dining restaurants offer food that’s of less quality than other restaurants in Disney Parks.  A good number of these character dining restaurants are buffets where the food isn’t as fresh and the menu is a little more generic.  Of course, you can get more bang for your buck at buffets if you are into eating a lot of food (like me).  If food is important to you but you still want to try character dining then be sure to look at menus ahead of time.  Speaking from personal preference, none of the character dining in Disneyland really appeals to me.  Over in Walt Disney World, Akershus and Tusker House offer some unique food options.  Of course, there are other character dining restaurants that will be good.  Again, just look at the menu and make sure there are things that appeal to you before deciding on a restaurant.

Meatballs

What characters are you looking for?

If you are looking for unique or extremely popular characters then character dining is even more appealing (as long as those characters are at a certain restaurant).  Here is a list of characters that generally appear at each dining location in Walt Disney World.  Just like with the food, if the characters that appear in the restaurant aren’t appealing to you then you should probably just try a different place.  There’s not much point in paying for an experience that doesn’t excite you all that much.  While I do think it is more fun to be adventurous when considering places to eat at Disney, when paying a premium I do think it’s important to pick something you know you’ll like.

Hallie Winnie

While there are other things to consider, I think this will give you a good start in deciding whether to do character dining.  If you have any questions about these experiences (or anything else at Disney Parks) please leave them in our comments.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (7/19/15)

Every Sunday our writers get together and answer a Disney related question, here is this week’s question and answer.  Leave your answer to the question in the comments!

Question of the Week: This is a variation of a food related question we had a few weeks ago… What is the best meal you’ve had at a quick service restaurant on Disney property?

Cassie -My personal favorite is probably the clam chowder bread bowls at The Pacific Wharf. Although, the bread bowls filled with gumbo in New Orleans Square also rock. Basically, I’m just a big fan of any soup served piping hot in a big ol’ sourdough cavern.

Pacific Wharf bridge

Kelsee -I hate to be a copy cat, but I have to copy Cassie and go with the Clam Chowder Sourdough bowls at Pacific Wharf Cafe in California Adventure. It’s always a stop for us at least one of the days of our vacation, and they are just as good as the authentic bowls in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

Leslie -Nachos from The Smokehouse in Downtown Disney are probably my favorite. They even cater to my allergies. Plus pulled pork on them is amazing. Makes for a great meal!

Nachos Smokehouse

Melissa H. – Yet another copycat, but just a little different… I like the variety of bread bowl options available around the park. There are several different quick service areas including Pacific Wharf that offer a soup and sourdough bread bowl combination. I really enjoy the sourdough bowl and chili combination available at the Coke Corner on Main Street U.S.A. (I think you can also get this if you eat a meal at the Golden Horseshoe). Soup and bread is just so great!

Melissa L. – My favorite might just be the taco salad at Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland. To me, a taco salad always sounds refreshing after being in the hot sun all day, plus it’s delicious!

Taco salad

Andrew – Although Rancho del Zocalo (Disneyland), Flame Tree BBQ (Animal Kingdom) and Katsura Grill (Epcot) are some of my current favorites, I think it’s extremely hard to beat Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom. While they serve table-service meals at dinner time, they do quick service at lunch. They serve sandwiches and a few more complex dishes at lunch, all the ones that I’ve tried have been very good. The desserts are interesting and tasty. Where Be Our Guest sets itself apart is in the atmosphere and environment. It’s the best themed restaurant in Disney World and that’s including counter service places. While it’s hard to get a reservation (yes, even for a quick service lunch), this place makes most other counter service places pale in comparison.

Braised Pork

 

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!  We really appreciate you following along.  To follow along even closer you can subscribe to our blog and like our Facebook page.  You can do each of those on the right side of this page.  Don’t forget to leave your answer to the question of the week in the comments.  Have a great week everyone!

Disneyland Opening Day Facts

On this day 60 years ago, the park that started it all made its grand debut. Even though it was considered an opening day disaster and predicted failure, the park prevailed and brings joy to people all over the world to this day. Here are a few facts about Disneyland’s opening day on July 17, 1955.

DL Opening

1. 28,000 people visited the park that day. In present time, Disneyland can easily accommodate that many people in a day, but back when it first opened it was chaos.

2. About half of the 28,000 guests had forged tickets. Therefore, the food carts ran out of food and many rides broke down. Only 15,000 were invited and 13,000 extra people showed up.

DL first day

3. The temperature was 101 degrees and the cement hadn’t fully set so women’s high heels were sinking into the pavement tar.

4. It was reported that guests were throwing their children to the front of attraction rides so they could get on faster!

DL kids

5. There was a gas leak in Fantasyland which caused Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland to close for the day.

6. 12 rides were running on opening day: Jungle Cruise, King Arthur’s Carousel, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Dumbo, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Disneyland Railroad, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Mad Tea Party Peter Pan’s Flight, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mark Twain Riverboat, and Autopia.

7. The employees dubbed opening day, Black Sunday.

Crowds throught the castle

8. Former president Ronald Reagan co-hosted the live broadcast of Disneyland’s opening day.

9. Disneyland’s opening day caused a 7 mile long traffic jam on Santa Ana Freeway.

10. Admission was $1 for adults and .50-.75 cents per child depending on their age. Individual tickets for rides were sold separately at ticket booths. This made Disneyland’s annual salary around $3,300, even with inflation adjustments that’s minimal to was the resort makes now!

Despite having a rough start on opening day 60 years ago, Disneyland is a quintessential American icon. The mishaps on opening day did not sway guests from wanting to attend the parks, it only took 7 weeks for the overall guest attendance to reach 1 million. Walt quickly made the needed adjustments and the park was on the right track to make a magic and profitable park that we know and love today. Happy 60th birthday to the Happiest Place on Earth!

Walt

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

– Kelsee

2015 Movies in Theme Parks

A couple of months ago, I previewed the film Tomorrowland by wondering if it could help enhance or fix the Tomorrowland in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.  While I’ll get to more on that specific film in a little while, that post ended up being a bit of precursor of upcoming films that could enhance theme parks.  In what’s been a pretty good year at the box office this year, there are quite a few films that could affect Disney and Universal theme parks for years to come.  Factor in that theme parks have become more and more franchise and film based and then you have a recipe for new attractions based off of 2015 films.  In this post, I’m going to look at a few films that could or already are a part of the theme park land scape.  While we don’t usually talk much about Universal theme parks on this blog, I’m making an exception in this post.

Furious 7

Furious 7 had a somewhat surprising showing at the Box Office, pulling in massive numbers worldwide.  It was even before Furious 7 came out that Universal had started work on a Fast and the Furious presence in the parks.  Universal Studios (Hollywood) has recently added a segment to their legendary tram tour which includes Fast and the Furious characters.  Rumor has it that Universal Orlando will also begin working on an attraction based on this franchise.  I think the Fast and the Furious franchise lends itself well to theme park attractions and Universal seems eager to add this franchise in.

Universal world

Avengers: Age of Ultron

In the least surprising news of the summer, Avengers pulled in huge numbers at the box office.  While it wasn’t quite the success its predecessor was, Age of Ultron was still a good film in a long line of quality Marvel films.  Disney would love to put a Marvel presence in theme parks on both coasts.  Unfortunately (at least for Disney), they aren’t allowed to put any of the Avengers characters into Disney World because of a contract with Universal.  So, if in Orlando, your chance to see the Avengers is only at Universal Orlando.  There are rumors of an upcoming Avengers attraction at Universal Orlando but nothing has been announced or confirmed.  On the other coast, Disneyland has a free reign of the Avengers and will most likely be putting an increased presence of the Avengers in California Adventure.  The rumor for now is that there will be an Avengers coaster at that park.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see that announced at the upcoming D23 Expo.

Tomorrowland

While I wrote about what this film could do for the theme parks in May, it looks as if none of those things will probably come to fruition.  Due to a poor marketing campaign and lackluster storytelling, the film came in well below expectations at the box office.  While its’ heart seemed in the right place, there were many holes in Tomorrowland and just didn’t make enough of an impact.  While updates to Tomorrowland and Epcot (which embodies more of the films tone than Tomorrowland) are likely, I doubt they will be heavily influenced by this film.

space mountain

Jurassic World

From a film that bombed to a film that made history at the box office, Jurassic World was huge and a blast to watch.  While not especially a ‘great film’ it was the quintessential summer blockbuster.  Universal Studios and Universal Orlando already have a Jurassic Park attraction but with the success of this film and an upcoming sequel, could we see an increased presence in the park?  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was the case.  While there isn’t much room by either attraction to increase in size and make it its own ‘land’, there could be updates to the attraction or expansion in both theme parks.  Like Frozen for Disney, this film may be simply too big for Universal to not try to capitalize on in the theme park world.

Inside Out

Inside Out was a wonderful film that will probably draw some awards during Oscar season.  It is very imaginative and heartfelt.  We’ve been big proponents on Wandering in Disney about adding more Pixar to the Disney Parks, and nothing about Inside Out makes me change my mind about that.  I think it would go wonderfully in the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot.  That has been rumored, and as I don’t want to totally lose Figment, I do think there is a compromise that could be made there.

Imagination

There are other films that will or already have made dents on the theme park world.  The Minions already have attractions at both Universal Resorts so the success of their movie will only help their presence in the theme parks.  The Pitch Perfect franchise has been a big success but it’s a little hard to try to imagine an attraction that features the franchise outside of a live show.  Cinderella was a sneaky success of 2015 but I don’t know if we’ll see an increased presence in the theme parks because of it.  Mad Max would make an interesting addition to a theme park but I don’t know if it has a big enough audience to warrant an attraction.

While 2015 is barely half over, it’s films are making a dent in the theme park world.  With Star Wars, another Pixar film, and several others coming up, there are many more films to keep an eye on for theme park fans.  What recent films would you like to see have a presence in theme parks?

– Andrew

Question of the Week (7/12/15)

Every Sunday our writers get together and answer a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answer, put your answer in the comments!

Question of the Week: What is the best meal you have ever had at a Disney restaurant?

Cassie – Love this question as I am a huge foodie! I’m going to cheat a little on this one and pick a downtown Disney Restaurant rather than one in the park itself. The best meal I’ve had would be the duck sausage confit with risotto and a fried egg from Catal Restaurant in Downtown Disney. I ate here on a special occasion with a group of friends and the whole place rocked my socks off! The one place I’ve never eaten at before that I’m dying to try is The Blue Bayou attached to Pirates of the Carribbean. It’s number one on my to-do list!

Cassie Catal

Melissa L. – I think the best meal I have ever had was from Napa Rose in the Grand Californian resort! I had swordfish that had octopus in top and man or man it was delicious!!!!!!

swordfish

Leslie – This is a not fair question…I have eaten a lot of food while I’ve been here. For simplicities sake I will pick the best most recent. Like Cassie I choose a restaurant from Downtown Disney and have to say Raglan Road. I had the bangers and mash which was fantastic. Happily titled Bangers and Booz it consists of Guinness & onion bangers on mash, topped with caramelized onions & beef stew. With a bit of fresh rosemary for flavoring. Delicious.

Leslie Raglan Road

Andrew – While I’d like to be a little different and choose a restaurant that someone else hasn’t, I can’t go against Napa Rose. I’ve had some fantastic meals at San Angel Inn, The Brown Derby, and California Grill, Napa Rose has my favorite meal that I’ve had anywhere in the world. I had the steak with asparagus. It was a fantastic steak and all of the components formed to make a great meal. I’d heartily recommend Napa Rose to anyone and everyone.

beef

Kelsee – On my last trip to Disneyland, we went to Carthay Circle Restaurant for the first time and loved it. We started with the Carthay Signature Fried Biscuits and they are phenomenal, unhealthy but phenomenal. They are stuffed with bacon, jalapeño, and white cheddar and served with honey apple butter. For dinner I had parmigiano regiano gnocchi which was equally as delicious.  Best gnocchi I’ve ever had.

Napa Rose is definitely on the top of my list of places I want to eat too, we’ve just never done it yet. I look forward to it on our next trip.

Catharay at night

 

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  You can subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook Page on the right side of this page.  If you have topics, questions, or ideas that you’d like us to address you can post on our Facebook Page or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  We are also happy to help with trip planning if you send us an email.  Again, leave your answer to our weekly question in the comments!  Have a great week!

Disneyland Alternative Lodging: Privately Owned Condo and Home Rentals

When going to Disneyland, the choices of lodging are limited compared to Disney World. Over the years, my family has stayed at various Good Neighbor Hotels, as well as resort hotels. However, in the past couple of years we have discovered vacation rental sites such as VRBO.com, Homeaway.com, and Flipkey.com. On these sites, you are able to rent out people’s homes or vacation condos. These are especially helpful for people with bigger families or groups. You are able to stay in a house for your whole group for around the price of one hotel room a night, depending on your budget. Here are a few tips when looking for vacation rentals on these sites for your Disney trip.

Fort Wilderness

1. Reviews: Just like you would for hotels, make sure to check the reviews on these places. Reviews are key to helping you find the right place and making sure you are working with reputable people since these are privately owned places. To stay on the safe side, I would not stay at a place with little to no reviews or ratings. Customer reviews are crucial when booking these kind of rentals.

DL Partners statue

2. Location: Considering most of the places are in neighborhoods instead of main city areas, you want to make sure you are able to get to the parks in a reasonable amount of time. Even though the advertisement may say “close to Disneyland” make sure to map out the address to see how close it really is to the rental. At the last two places we stayed at through these sites, we were able to walk to the parks from the rentals with no problem. However, you need to be cautious and check the distance, especially if you aren’t renting a car.

3. Pictures: If they don’t already have pictures posted, make sure to request them. Unlike hotels, there is no standard when it comes to these rentals so you want to make sure it fits your needs. You do not want to take a gamble on a house you haven’t seen on the inside.

partners

4. Availability: Even if they have a calendar posted for availability for their rental, make sure to double check before you book. Some of these rentals fill up very quickly, especially during the summer and holiday season so you want to make sure you are not double booking.

5. Communication: Make sure to always have communication with the rental owners or company. Also, request a contract if possible in the form of a temporary rental agreement. I would also recommend having a verbal discussion with the rental owners/property managers before you book the property.

Stanley's Oasis

Vacation rentals are a convenient alternative for lodging, especially on a budget and for bigger groups. The three main vacation rental sites I recommend and have used before are VRBO.com, homeaway.com, and flipkey.com. If you are looking for vacation lodging alternatives to resort hotels or good neighbor hotels, I suggest to give these sites a look and see if they fit your standards and needs.

– Kelsee

Mickey and the Magical Map Review

Since its debut in 2013, Mickey and the Magical Map has been delighting audiences of all ages. The live-musical show takes place in The Fantasyland Theater, a newly renovated part of Disneyland containing hundreds of seats in a comfortable outdoor location. I have had the pleasure of viewing the show on three separate occasions, and I must say, it is a lot of fun!

Mickey and the Magical Map

Mickey and the Magical Map takes you on an adventure through different lands as you follow Mickey on his journey to become a map-maker. The show contains both impressive theater technology and traditional theatrical methods. The character of Mickey Mouse transforms from both an animated character on the big screen, to an actual living character right before you. The stage is set up with trap doors, which helps Mickey transform from real-life to animation (a technique which seems like pure magic in the eyes of a child!)

One of my favorite parts of Mickey and the Magical Map is that it showcases some of the less popular Disney characters. Each section of the show revolves around a different character and story line, as Mickey travels through different lands on the magical map. In doing so, characters such as Mulan, Rapunzel, and Pocahontas make appearances and even perform classic songs from their films. The cast members who portray these characters are exceedingly talented and can belt the tunes with Broadway-like gusto. Other notable characters that make an appearance include: King Louie from The Jungle Book, Lilo and Stich, Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog.

Although I do love the any classic Disney song, Mickey and the Magical Map also contains a variety of brand new music, catchy enough to stay in your head all day long! Apart from the music, the choreography behind Mickey and the Magical Map is very well put together. All of the dancers are always in sync, talented, and genuinely seem to be having a great time!

Mickey and the Magical Map 2

I would recommend arriving at least 10-15 minutes before the show begins in order to grab an ideal sitting spot, as it does fill completely up. The shows runs approximately 20 minutes long, which, in my opinion is just long enough for your little ones not to get too antsy. Mickey and the Magical Map is perfect for all ages, and even ends with confetti filled bang! Overall, seeing this show is a great use of your Disneyland visit and I would highly recommend taking the time to see this delightful piece of work!

– Cassie

Disneyland Or Disney World? Things To Consider When Planning Your First Disney Trip

So, you have made the decision to go on your first Disney Park trip!  It’s time to pack you bags, hop on a plane and go, right?  Well, not quite.  There are a variety of things that you should plan for, starting with which destination to go to.  Disney World vs. Disneyland is an old debate that has a different resort winning depending on who you ask.  My goal for this post isn’t to decide which resort is better for a first time visitor but instead raise a few points to be aware of when deciding which Disney coast to go to.  This post isn’t involving any of the parks outside of the U.S. although I do think you should visit those if given a chance.

California Grill star fireworks

Of course, deciding on a vacation destination depends on a number of different factors.  The biggest ones are probably how far you have to travel and how big your budget is.  For example, if you live on the east coast and are working with a limited budget, Disneyland might be a little bit difficult to get to.  This post will mainly assume that you have a budget that can get you to both parks.

Without further ado, here are a few points to consider when trying to decide between Disneyland and Disney World.

teacups

How long is your vacation?

The first point to consider when deciding where to vacation is knowing how long your vacation is.  It’s my opinion that Disneyland lends itself to a shorter vacation and Disney World is better for a longer vacation.  Disneyland consists of two parks that you can see a good bit of in 3 or 4 days.  Disney World, on the other hand, has 4 parks (or 3 and a half, considering the state of Hollywood Studios), 2 water parks, an expanding shopping and dining district, and many hotels to explore.  If you want to see a decent amount of Disney World, chances are you’ll need a week.  This doesn’t make Disney World superior, it just has more to experience.  Not everything is as well done.  So, if you are taking a longer trip I’d say that lends itself to Disney World and a shorter trip lends itself to Disneyland.  Unless…

Are you doing things other than theme parks?

Lion King

Some may disagree, but I believe Disneyland’s location in Southern California gives vacationers many more options of things to outside of the parks than Orlando.  Southern California offers great shopping, beautiful beaches, and several big cities within a couple of hours (Los Angeles and San Diego).  There’s also the tourist destination of Hollywood within an hour from Disneyland.  Orlando has a ton of theme parks at its disposal, including the quickly expanding Universal Orlando.  But, Southern California is no slouch when it comes to theme parks with Universal Hollywood, Six Flags, Legoland and Knott’s Berry Farm.  All of the theme parks somewhat even out and that let’s Southern California’s other destinations be the star here.  If you are going to Southern California for a week, I think 4 days at the parks and 3 days exploring the other sites is a great compromise.  On the other hand…

Do you want to stay inside the ‘Disney bubble’ the entire vacation?

By ‘Disney bubble’ I mean that you get to the airport and then are taken care of by Disney the whole vacation.  While this has its cons, this also makes vacations easier, more convenient, and sometimes more magical.  When staying inside this bubble, there are less things to worry about and, usually, fewer details that you have to plan.

Magic Kingdom ferry

For staying inside this ‘bubble’ Disney World is the way to go.  With their huge property, they can pick you up at the airport, take you to your hotel and then you never have to go outside the property again until the end of your vacation.  Disneyland has a few hotels on property and a number of them outside the gates but there are many remnants of the outside world as you get to and from the parks each day.

How much do you want to relax on your vacation?

This question isn’t dependent on whether you choose Disney World or Disneyland.  Relaxing or not relaxing can be achieved at either coast.  But, each place has different options for a restful vacation.  At Disney World, the hotels are more elaborate.  The pools are often bigger, the land they sit on is larger to wander around, and there are plenty of lakes and landscapes to look at.  They also have water parks at Disney World which can be pretty nice to relax at.  While at Disneyland, they have the pacific ocean about 15 minutes away, along with some great beaches.  The hotels aren’t quite as relaxing but it’s hard to beat the ocean.

Cassie Cars

 

While I believe these are the main points to begin to consider when trying to decide between Disneyland or Disney World, there are plenty more that I didn’t even begin to bring up.  There may need to be a part 2 to this post.  For now, if you have any questions about the differing parks, please put them in the comments and I will gladly answer them!  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew