Are Disney’s Upcharge Events Affecting Guests That Don’t Attend Them?

The big news of the last few weeks in the Disney fan community has been about the latest slew of upcharge events Walt Disney World is offering.  You can read about them in detail here (and here) but I’ll give a quick description if you aren’t familiar with them.  An upcharge event at a Disney Park is an event that guests have to pay extra to attend.  Basically, you can’t do these ‘events’ with a basic park ticket or park hopper ticket.  For years, Disney has offered these events and they did little to no harm because of their infrequency and timing.  In the last few years though, Disney has upped the amount of these events culminating in these last two event announcements.

upside down tree

The ‘Disney After Hours’ event has officially been announced and entails spending 3 hours in Magic Kingdom (although you can enter at 7 PM) from 11 PM to 2 AM. (Or 10 PM to 1 AM on select nights.)  Complimentary soda and ice cream bars will be offered but the appeal here is the lack of crowds that will be in the parks.  There are very few tickets being offered and those in attendance will have next to no lines for Magic Kingdom’s attractions.  There is no doubt that this is valuable but the price is $149  and it surely isn’t that valuable, at least in my opinion.

The morning event hasn’t been officially announced but will likely come about in the next few weeks.  This event includes a buffet breakfast and entrance into the Magic Kingdom an hour and fifteen minutes before park opening.  The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight will be open to guests of this event.  Attendance here will also be very limited.  The price of this event will likely be around $70.

California Grill Fireworks

To quickly break from the subject of this post, I do not think either of these events are good values.  Sure, they are both valuable just not at the price point that they are currently listed at.  With an effective touring plan you can complete almost everything you want to at Magic Kingdom in a typical park day.  While standing in line is not the world’s favorite pastime, it’s not worth $150 to avoid.  The early morning event may be a tiny bit more valuable but I’m fairly skeptical about any Disney Park breakfast and three rides on popular attractions is not worth an extra $50 to me.  I see the appeal of these events, but the offerings aren’t unique enough to truly entice me unless I had unlimited amounts of money.  The events are a bad value, especially considering they don’t include park admission.

So, I won’t go to these events.  But do they affect me even if I don’t plan to attend?  That has been the debate this week for theme park fans.  For years, these upcharge events have either been unique enough (Holiday Parties) or out-of-the-way enough (dessert parties during nighttime spectaculars) to not cause much of an uproar.  To be honest, I’m all for Holiday Parties (I’ll be attending my first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this Fall) because of their unique offerings.  Dessert Parties are fine with me, though I will likely never attend one.  But now it seems that Disney is basically offering more park time to those that are willing to pay for it, fans (including me) have grown a little more concerned.

How would these events affect me even though I’m not attending?  By cutting down on typical operation time for the parks involved.  As of now (discounting the 24-hour party offered last year and not this year) Magic Kingdom offered around 50-60 more hours for guests in April and May in 2015 compared to 2016.  That’s bad news for people who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a non-unique event.

dwarfs

Disney has assured guests that this will not eliminate Extra Magic Hours to those who are staying on-site.  That’s the good news here.  But, what if these events are very successful?  Wouldn’t it make sense for a company to eliminate something that is offered for free when people are already paying for it?  That is what I’m most worried about when it comes to these events.  Disney has shown a greed in the last few years that used to be uncharacteristic to this company.

Now, I know Disney is a company first and foremost that has to do what’s best financially for them.  But, cutting back on normal park hours as you keep raising standard ticket prices isn’t a good look and this strategy has fans feeling a little weary of these seemingly constant charges.  These announcements came a few weeks after Walt Disney World started charging extra for premium parking.  While I don’t think the parking affects guests that won’t use it, the news is just another cause to think that the Disney Parks are nickel and diming us, on top of the thousands of dollars many people pay for their vacation.

space mountain

In the end, these new events won’t hurt guests that don’t attend them too much.  If Disney is true to their word and Magic Hours aren’t affected then the trade-off is less than an hour of operation a day (vs. last year) from the World’s most popular park.  That’s still meaningful but not to the degree some are reacting.  Where most fans justified concern is coming from is wondering when enough is enough.  Disney seems to announce these things monthly, if not weekly.  For those of us lowly people who aren’t willing to pay for them (but still spend thousands of dollars) it culminates in us feeling that we haven’t experienced Disney’s full product.  That wears on fans, like a sports team that never makes the playoffs, and will eventually hurt Disney’s relationship with those that care most about them.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that as these two new events take baby steps into that direction.

– Andrew

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Five Unique Areas to Photograph in Disney Parks

Disney Parks hold some of the most photographed items in the world.  There are castles, mountains, parades and fireworks to photograph.  There is a reason that these items are so popular to photograph, they are beautiful.  While I think taking photos of the popular areas is still fun and important, I do have a few other favorite areas that are much less crowded.

I’m still new to theme park photography and don’t have many tips as far as actually taking photos.  I’m still learning my way, but I do get excited when finding an area that I haven’t seen hundreds of photos from before.  With that in mind, I wanted to share a few of my favorite areas to photograph in the parks.  Some of these options are more popular than others but I tried to stay away from any big icon (castles, Spaceship Earth, Tree of Life, etc.) or area (Cars Land).

Harambe (Animal Kingdom)

I know what long-time readers are thinking, “Oh, I see now that this is just another chance for Andrew to tell us how much he loves Animal Kingdom.” Well, you aren’t far from the truth.  Harambe is one of the most immersive areas in any theme park I’ve been to.  Combine that with the lush greens that are throughout all of Animal Kingdom and you have a beautiful area.

Harambe theater

Entering Harambe, guests pass the Discovery River with some wonderful photo options shooting along the river. (Either toward Everest or toward the Harambe Theater and soon to be Pandora.) Once in the area, there are wonderful details to capture as well as interesting architecture.  There’s also live entertainment.  If you can capture the recently opened Harambe Market at a non-busy time (good luck!) then that offers some interesting photos, as well.  Of course, Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of the most picturesque settings in all of Walt Disney World and that is also technically in Harambe.  All in all, there are many different landscapes, details and areas to photograph in Harambe and that variety is a large part of the appeal.

Grizzly River Run (California Adventure)

Getting your camera out on Grizzly River Run is probably a bad idea.  If you do, you’ll probably have to buy a new camera once off the attraction.  Instead, wait until you’re off the ride and into the early evening with the cooler (temperature) colors and head back to Grizzly River Run.  There are a few paths through the area with some nice detail.  The water plus the fog affects offer some nice photos of the attraction while the paths offer some unique photos to take.  There is also a lot of green in this area of the park, which is a plus in my opinion.

Grizzly Park Service truck

We stumbled upon this area last trip and enjoyed watching people on Grizzly River Run as they zipped down the falls.  I think this area is really enhanced by the changes they have made to the rethemed Grizzly Peak.  The whole area feels more like a National Park and sets guests up for this wonderful trail.  I had a great time photographing the truck and other details near the end of the path.  Also, I love where the path ends offering a chance to shoot back into the trees and capture the attraction at a different angle.

Eureka Grizzly_edited-1

Rivers of America (Disneyland & Magic Kingdom)

This is another area that I’ve raved about since this blog began.  As you’ve seen in my first two choices, I’m drawn to water and think that it’s beautiful to photograph.  I like the energy that it adds to a photo.  On Rivers of America there are a number of areas to photograph.  I always enjoy the birds that choose to make the river their resting place.  Tom Sawyer Island is a fascinating place to take photos of from across or on the river.  There are also the lesser seen areas like the Native Americans in Disneyland.

Rivers of America

The best way to get these photos is on the River Boats.  I know the Mark Twain in Disneyland is docked for a year but that should lead to even more unique and interesting areas to photograph.  These boat rides offer a calm setting to take photos.  I love the view back into the parks while on the Mark Twain or the Liberty.  There are often unique photos of Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and just the area in general be it Liberty Square or New Orleans Square.  This is one of the most obvious on my list but I think the River Boats are under-appreciated.

Bay Lake, Seven Seas Lagoon, Crescent Lake (Walt Disney World)

What a surprise, more water!  These areas throughout Walt Disney World offer unique views of Parks and resorts.  There is also free transportation to get you to and from these areas.  The ferry that ships guests across Seven Seas Lagoon from the TTC toward Magic Kingdom will offer a stunning view into what guests are about to set foot in.  The view of the castle as you make your way across the lake will get anyone excited and is a fun photo to take of an often-photographed icon.  Looking to your left, the Grand Floridian looks very elegant in all of its Victorian beauty.  The Contemporary on the right is also a different type of building to shoot.  Bonus points if you can take the photo while the monorail is coming in or out of the hotel.

Grand Flo

Crescent Lake and Bay Lake offer different views of the resorts and not as much of the parks.  Crescent Lake brings you right up to the Boardwalk, which has a lot of charm and enough to keep the eye busy in a wide-angle photo.  Bay Lake is more of a normal lake with lush areas surrounding it, as well as some resorts.

Japan’s Gardens (Epcot)

These gardens in World Showcase were the subject of one of our very first posts on this blog.  I’ll let that do most of the talking.  This area is green, has wildlife, pops of color, and a chance to either shoot up a small hill or down into the vast lagoon that World Showcase engulfs.  Needless to say, there are many beautiful options here.

Japan Bridge Epcot_edited-2

Over time, and as my photography skills hopefully grow, I hope to add more to this list.  Chances are that I’ll just end up back at the beautiful castles but I’ll do my best to do otherwise!  What are some of your favorite unique areas to photograph in the Disney Parks?  Let us know in the comments.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

A Disneyland Trip Review

We have a guest post today as I recently had some family go to Disneyland.  My brother Matthew was kind enough to answer some questions and send us a trip review.  Enjoy!

How many people were in your group and how long was your trip?

My in-laws surprised the whole family with this trip for Christmas, so we had 14 of us in all: my mother- and father-in-law, our family of three, and my wife Lisa’s brother and sister and their families. We had six kids total, my eight year old niece the oldest and then five boys ranging from a year and half to five years old. It was a fairly quick trip. We got there on a Wednesday and spent most of the afternoon in the park, had full park days on Thursday and Friday, and then flew home Saturday afternoon.

Tom Sawyer Island Big Thunder blue night

Give us a quick rundown of what you did each day and which day did you enjoy the most?

Our Wednesday morning flight was supposed to arrive a little after 11:00, so we were hoping to drop our bags and be in the park close to 1:00. Unfortunately, a delay on the flight and then a mix-up with our shuttle kept us from entering Disneyland until well after 3:00. We got a quick lunch and then rode a few rides. Pirates and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are the only one I’m remembering right now. We didn’t get a lot done that day, but we did watch Paint the Night and the Disneyland Forever fireworks, which were among the trip’s highlights for me. The park closed at 8:00 and we were ready for bed by then.

Thursday was our Magic Morning, which was good since we quickly learned 14 people do not move very fast through Disneyland! We did a few Fantasyland rides, Small World, Matterhorn and then Splash Mountain with a Fast Pass. We split up at that point and Lisa, Wyatt (our 17 month old) and I had a nice lunch before returning to the hotel for a nap. We returned with Lisa’s parents in the late afternoon but didn’t do a ton: Tiki Room and a long wait for Peter Pan were about it. We ended with dinner in Downtown Disney.

tiki room full

Friday was California Adventure time. The plan was to either Fast Pass or ride Radiator Springs Racers immediately, but screaming kids and indecision scuttled that plan. We ended up getting a Fast Pass for later before wandering around the pier and riding a few smaller rides. We had just got in line for California Screaming when they closed it, which was sad. We let the kids run around for a while as we made our way around the water. Eventually, a few of us went on Soaring while the others relaxed or shopped a bit. We got some lunch and then blew through Tower of Terror, Racers, and the finally-open Screaming before almost running to House of Blues, where we had a dinner reservation with Lisa’s aunt and uncle. We had hoped to spend a last few hours in Disneyland after dinner, but we were all exhausted, so we shopped for a bit and then walked back to our hotel. Wyatt and I did watch the fireworks from our hotel window, which was a sweet moment to end the day. Saturday was just packing up, with a couple of hours shopping and snacking in Downtown Disney before catching our shuttle to the airport.

sunset california screamin paradise pier

I don’t know that I had a favorite day, but both of our full days at the parks were great. Going with a huge group and so many kids wasn’t especially conducive to riding lots of rides, so there were some we missed, but it was well worth it to be with family and see the kids have so much fun. I’m lucky to have great in-laws and really enjoyed spending some time with my siblings-in-law and chasing my niece and nephews around.

Enough with these lame questions, what did you eat? Any favorites?

I like to think Andrew gets some of his love for good food from me, and normally we’d put some effort into planning meals and restaurants. WIth so many people, this wasn’t really the trip for that, and we made most of our decisions on the fly. We still ate pretty well, though. First stop was my father-in-law’s one request: the corn dog wagon on Main Street. Andrew’s ravings on this blog won him over, and it was indeed as good a corn dog as I’ve had. That was about it for food on Wednesday, unfortunately. We thought the park was open late and planned to grab something after fireworks, but I read something wrong and it was only open late for a private event. Wyatt wasn’t up for much of anything else that night, so I ended up eating delivery Mexican food in our hotel room. Not what I had in mind, but surprisingly delicious.

Thursday, we ate lunch at the River Belle Terrace, a perfect respite after a morning of running between rides. Andrew says it was recently converted to a table-service restaurant, and it was a good change, as the service and the opportunity to sit and relax on the patio by the river made it worthwhile. I ate ribs, which were good but not amazing, and Lisa had a pulled pork sandwich. She said it was her best meal of the trip. I’d highly recommend River Belle, especially if you want to sit and relax for a bit in the middle of your day. We got the obligatory Dole Whip while waiting for the Tiki Room that afternoon, and then had a late dinner at Naples, in Downtown Disney. I had salmon, my favorite entrée of the trip. We sat outside again, which was quieter and perfect weather-wise, and gave the unexpected bonus of a great view of Disneyland fireworks.

dole whip 1

Friday we all ate lunch in the Pacific Wharf area. Clam chowder in a bread bowl for me, rice bowl for Lisa, both of us satisfied. A frozen margarita was delicious on a fairly warm day. I really like this area, personally. The food’s solid, it’s nice to have multiple options with a big group, and it’s secluded but close to everything. Later in the afternoon, us “kids” and our kids stopped for Ghirardelli ice cream. We didn’t know they had added this and were quite excited to see it, Lisa especially. We always make an effort to go to any Ghirardelli we’re close to. Their sundaes and other treats are reliably excellent. Dinner was at the House of Blues with the whole group that night. I had jambalaya, which was, again, good but not great. Reviews from everyone else were pretty mixed. I’d put HoB in the upper half of the Downtown restaurants, but it’s nothing amazing. Sunday brought no dining of note, sadly.

Did the construction at Disneyland affect your trip at all?

It didn’t have a big effect. The one big negative was the closed path between Frontierland and Fantasy Land. That meant all traffic had to go back out to the circle, making for a longer trip and more traffic, especially at parade time. Also, I have happy memories of exploring Tom Sawyer Island as a kid, and it would’ve been a fun place for our group of boys to run around. Otherwise, no issues. Grizzly River Rapids was closed for maintenance, and Indiana Jones opened on our last day there, but those are the only rides we especially missed being able to ride.

fog grizzly river run

Out of all the new things you haven’t seen at Disneyland, what impressed you the most?

We hadn’t been in California Adventure since it was redone, and it’s much improved. Cars Land is a really immersive experience, and Radiator Springs Racers is one of the better rides in either park. All of the other changes helped a lot too, although it could still use a few more destination rides. Probably my favorite new things were Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever, though. We didn’t have a great view of the parade, but I thought its use of lights were amazing. Disneyland fireworks are always great, and this show was no exception. I loved the use of “Step In Time”, one of my favorite Disney movie moments.

Disneyland Forever cropped pink and yellow

What are you most looking forward to doing at Disneyland when you go back?

More rides. We missed a lot, just due to lots of kids and too little time. Luckily, we knew we’re going back this summer with my family, so we’ll have lots more time to do what we missed. A few other things I’m hoping for:

  • A better view of Paint the Night and seeing World of Color
  • Hitting more restaurants, hopefully a few we haven’t tried
  • Gumbo
  • Climbing the Matterhorn with Andrew (a tradition I’m looking to start)
  • Seeing more shows. We didn’t get to any of them!

Matterhorn night waterfall

If you could have any job at Disneyland, what would it be?

Tough question. It would be a fun place to work in general, but I don’t know if there’s a job that jumps out to me. It would be really cool to work with special needs and Make-A-Wish kids and help them through the park.

matthew & wyatt

Final thoughts?

Yes, because I clearly haven’t written enough already. Everyone talks about how Disneyland is different with kids, when you see it through their eyes, and it’s completely true. Wyatt was still too young to enjoy much of the park, but my favorite moments were watching him watch everything around him. He loved the parade and fireworks, and Small World captivated him (and made him sleepy). Wyatt was born three months early and there were moments we didn’t even know if he would make it. To be walking through Disneyland with him a year and a half later brought me so much happiness. I can’t wait for more Disney trips as he grows up.

Tangaroa Terrace Review

Tangaroa Terrace is a quick-service restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel.  Facing the pool and sharing a kitchen with Trader Sam’s (one of Disneyland’s true gems), Tangaroa Terrace has a Hawaiian flair both in the atmosphere and in the menu.  At this restaurant they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner but this review will cover lunch.

My wife and I went to Tangaroa Terrace on our last trip to Disneyland, during one of our off-days from the park.  We were over at the Disneyland Hotel, going to the runDisney expo before our 10K the next day.  While there we stopped for lunch at one of the Hotel’s quick service options.  The night before, we had gone to Trader Sam’s and discovered how much we liked the area so we were happy to be right back there a few hours later.

Tangora Terrace outside

The ambiance and theming of Tangaroa Terrace is relaxing but nothing very exciting.  Once inside the actual restaurant, it just feels like a place to eat.  There wasn’t anything that really stood out and, as a whole, the theme was lacking.  The outside seating was the real winner here.  Most of the seating overlooked the pool area and other passersby.  If you can find a nice shaded area to eat, then I highly recommend sitting out here.  Even with the pool right below, the area quiet and soothing.  As Trader Sam’s aficionados would note, the seating is great at night as well.  The torches are lit up and the lighting in the area really looks great.  While the theming is never breathtaking here, sitting on Tangaroa Terrace’s deck as the sun is setting may be one of the most relaxing things to do at Disneyland.

The food fits the environment here, as well.  The menu choices are safe and not too exciting but will definitely get the job done.  Here is a link to the current menu.  There are sandwiches, salads, flatbreads and a few specials.  For what it’s worth, the dinner and lunch menu are the same.  Knowing that we were going to have Mexican food later that night, we stuck with sandwiches for lunch.  If not, I would have gladly tried the shrimp tacos here.  I’m also curious as to what people think of the sushi here.  It seemed like a fairly random option.  Have any of you tried it? (Let us know in the comments if you have.)

hawaiian chicken sandwich

I went with the Teriyaki Chicken Breast Sandwich for lunch and enjoyed it.  The chicken was juicy and pineapple made the sandwich more memorable.  The teriyaki sauce was good but nothing to write home about (just enough to write about a blog post about).  All in all, it was a good sandwich but not something that was extremely impressive.  Red Robin has a similar sandwich with teriyaki sauce and pineapple and the sandwich tasted pretty similar to that.  They cost about the same, so I guess that makes sense and may even be considered a decent value while in a Disney resort.  Still, I probably wouldn’t go back for that sandwich.  The fries were generic Disney fries and tasted fine.

cheeseburger

Melissa had the bacon cheeseburger and liked it quite a bit.  She’s a notoriously tough cheeseburger judge (at least around our house) so if she liked this then that’s noteworthy.  She thought the burger was cooked well and there was a generous amount of bacon on it.  The bacon also tasted as if it was just cooked, which is how it should be but sometimes isn’t at fast food places.  She also had sweet potato fries with her meal.  I despise sweet potato fries so I won’t put down my opinion.  She liked them, although she said they weren’t anything spectacular.

Overall – 7/10

All in all, we thought Tangaroa Terrace was a decent option for a quick meal.  I had high hopes since the restaurant shares a kitchen with Trader Sam’s and we loved the appetizers we had there.  Instead, the food was fine but nothing exciting.  I would return to try out some of the specialty items but the environment and food is nothing compared to other restaurants around the park.

Have you tried Tangaroa Terrace?  What is your opinion on the restaurant?  Let us know in the comments!

Question of the Week (3/16/15)

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

Grand Floridian drums_edited-2

Question of the Week: Now I know it will be hard to choose, but what is one of your favorite childhood memories?

Andrew – I may be cheating here but my bond with Disney wasn’t really formed when I was a child. I went to Disneyland a few times and really enjoyed it but never to the point that I do now. When I was hooked was on my first trip with my wife when I was 20. We had such a good time exploring all of the parks and formed some memories that are irreplaceable. Since that trip, Disney Parks have become one of our favorite pastimes. Seeing all of the nighttime shows is what definitely stands out from that trip and those continue to be our favorite part of vacations today.

Grizzly Peak Airfield Soarin'

Melissa L. – I think one of my favorite memories of the parks from when I was younger was the time I got my favorite sweatshirt. I got to go on a trip in middle school with my friend and her mom and we had a great time! But at the end of the trip I found the best sweatshirt! (Nerd alert…I framed it when it became too worn to wear.) It was Happy, Dopey and Grumpy all in a group hug. It just always made me smile when I saw it!

Giraffe fence

Cassie – My favorite memory from the parks as a child is a silly one. It was the last night at Disneyland (the first trip I took when I was eight) and my older brother and I had been fighting something fierce. I’m pretty sure it was because he stepped on my hand getting off It’s a Small World. Anyways, we wouldn’t stop fighting until the fireworks started. Once they did, we didn’t care about our stupid fight and just enjoyed the show together. I’m so happy that even at a young age the magic of Disney took to that happy place where nothing else really mattered. I loved it. And have ever since.

Disneyland Forever sparkly castle

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you enjoy our blog, please subscribe and like our Facebook Page.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  If you ever have any questions about the Parks or vacation planning please leave a comment on the end of a post or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  Thank you for reading and have a great day!

A Boy’s Guide to Walt Disney World

Many people will say that Disney Parks are only made for families with children.  Obviously, since I’m an adult with a Disney blog, I think that is ridiculous.  I believe the parks and resorts have attractions that are fit for every age and life style, just some ages and lifestyles are more obvious than others.  In Walt Disney World, this is especially true.  With four fairly diverse parks, two water parks, an ever-expanding Disney Springs, an array of resort amenities and countless other outdoor activities, Walt Disney World has something for the whole family.  And then WDW even has something else for those who aren’t going with family!

With all that in mind, I’m starting a series of guides about Walt Disney World for each member of the family and then will expand on the series once I’m done with those.  Of course, all families are different so I’m going to have to generalize here as I start with boys then will move on to girls, teenagers, and then moms and dads.  I also am aware that writing these posts means that I’m having to stereotype genders and age groups.  This isn’t really my intention and I will give more specific descriptions to the types of people these guides are for in each post.  Mainly titling a post ‘A Boy’s Guide to Walt Disney World’ is a lot easier than ‘An Adventure-Seeking, Action-Loving Kid Under The Age Of 13 Years Guide to Walt Disney World’.  See, I don’t even know how to use proper grammar with that title.  My hope is that you’ll know the type of person you’re going with and then will mix and match from these guides to create a great experience for your family, friend or yourself.  With all that covered, let’s get started!

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Walt Disney World is known for catering to young girls, but what about young boys?  To be honest, they get a shorter end of the stick compared to the opposite gender of the same age.  Disney puts a ton of emphasis on the princesses in the Parks that most of the ‘kid’ experiences are either not exciting enough or don’t appeal to these kids due to the content.  So, for boys (or girls) who are seeking adventure and aren’t impressed by princess dark rides, the parks could be a little less magical than the typical kid.  There are ways around this though and that’s why you’re probably reading this!

There are some specific areas and attractions in Walt Disney World that will appeal to these kids that are in it for the thrills.  I’ll write about some of those areas, starting with the parks and then moving on to obscure and lesser known areas on property.

The Parks

Typically, younger kids who love action can be in a somewhat tough spot due to height limits on the big thrill rides.  Even with height limits, each park boasts certain attractions that will give young kids a bit of a thrill.

I’ll go park by park and give a few attractions and areas that I think adventure-seeking kids (that aren’t tall enough for the big thrills) will enjoy.  I’m going to leave parades off of this list because I don’t know how much they belong.  Festival of Fantasy (Magic Kingdom’s daytime parade) is a classic Disney parade but is well done.  The Main Street Electrical Parade might be more exciting to an adventurous young ‘un because of all of the lights and fun soundtrack.  I’m always surprised at how much boys enjoy parades so measure how well your child is enjoying the character interactions and that will likely help tell you how much they will like the parades.  On to the parks!

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Magic Kingdom

As far as areas in Magic Kingdom go, I believe that Adventureland, Tomorrowland and Frontierland are the most appealing to young boys or kids who love adventure.  Liberty Square could also be appealing to young kids with the water near and may be a good bridge to parents teaching a little bit about American history.  Some kids will be drawn to areas but for the most part I think young children will mostly focus on the attractions that they will get to ride.  With that in mind, let’s get to some rides!

Astro Orbiter & Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin

These two attractions are definitely not the two best overall attractions that Magic Kingdom has to offer, but they do give adventure-seekers a chance to do something quite appealing; controlling their experience.  The Astro Orbiter is just a spinner ride like Dumbo, except it looks like a rocket and goes fairly high in the air.  That’s enough for me to think it’s cool and I’m guessing it’s one of the best ‘thrills’ a 5 year-old boy could get at Magic Kingdom.

As for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, this is another interactive attraction that teaches kids a very important lesson: We must defeat Zurg.  While I think the Magic Kingdom version of this attraction isn’t executed as well as Disneyland’s, I still think it’s a blast for kids as they have the chance to compete with their family to see who can get the highest score in shooting targets.  There’s also a chance to spin around a lot, which seems to be a thing some people like to do.  Basically these two attractions are giving kids a chance to control their experience.

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Pirate’s Adventures and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

In the same vein as the attractions above are these relatively new interactive games in the Magic Kingdom.  These games are said to be pretty entertaining, keep you away from attractions with long lines (which is a positive and a negative) and are again, attractions that put the kid in control.  I wouldn’t recommend doing both of these, at least not in the same day.  I would guess the Pirate’s Adventure is a little more ‘exciting’ because, you know, pirates.  But the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom always gets good reviews and is the more recognized of the two attractions.

Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean

These are classic Disney attractions that don’t have height limits.  None of them are especially fast-moving, but surviving wild animals, ghosts, and pirates is the type of thing 6-year-old tough guys are looking to put on their resume.  Plus, this is a great way for parents to share the Disney they know with their kids.

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Epcot

Epcot is probably the hardest park for action-seeking kids and just kids in general.  For as great as World Showcase is, it’s a bit of a dead zone for attractions that are enticing to the younger crowd.  They may find a few of the shows fun, most notably the acrobats in China and the street performers in France.  As far as areas go, The Seas is basically an aquarium so that should be a safe bet for a boy.  The Imagination Pavilion is lacking in attractions but does have a few great fountains and areas to play around or in.  Let’s get to the rides.

The Seas With Nemo and Friends and Turtle Talk With Crush

Finding Nemo is the type of content that is appealing to almost all kids so it makes the cut on this list.  Turtle Talk is interactive and may be more apt to holding attention, but that depends on how interested your little guy is in aquariums, as the Nemo attraction features real fish.  Both may become boring to pre-teens, but any age before that will most likely be intrigued.

Test Track and Soarin’ (40-inch height limit for both)

I’ll try to stay away from most height limit attractions but these two only have 40-inch limits, which is pretty small compared to others.  They are also the most exciting attractions in Epcot, by a long ways.  Test Track especially will give some much-needed action to kid’s day in Epcot.  If your boy is too short for these attractions, there are a few things of interest in Innoventions that may fill the action void.

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Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure

If you’re a parent, you almost certainly want to enjoy some time in World Showcase.  Having a bored kid makes it hard to accomplish that.  This game (based on Phineas &  Ferb) is similar to the ones I mentioned in Magic Kingdom.  Kids will hunt around in the pavilions, looking for clues.  This is interactive and will keep most boys entertained.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Well, this won’t be as hard as Epcot for long (I’ll update this as the years pass) but for now there simply isn’t much here for kids to do.  Our kids searching for adventure will probably be drawn to the shrieks and thrills of Sunset Boulevard, but that will most likely be a letdown as there are height limits there (40 inches of Tower of Terror, 48 inches for Rock n’ Roller Coaster).  Pixar Place is fairly empty at the moment but may draw some boys in due to its Toy Story presence.  That leaves Echo Lake and the Star Wars section there will likely be the most exciting area for kids in Hollywood Studios.  As far as the attractions go…

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Toy Story Midway Mania

This is the obvious one.  The attraction is interactive, a competition, themed to Toy Story, like a video game, and it spins.  That fits most of the important aspects of what I’m looking for in these attractions.  The wait times are a pain, but get FastPass+ and get ready to see your kid love this one.

Tower of Terror and Star Tours (40-inch height limit for both)

These are the actual action rides in the park that may be an option for children.  Like Epcot before it, 40-inch height limits are not very tall.  Star Tours will likely not scare anyone and kids who love Star Wars or are even just familiar with the name will likely enjoy this attraction.

Tower of Terror was almost left off this list.  It was ultimately kept on because it is probably the biggest thrill in Walt Disney World and it has a relatively short height limit.  With that being said, I think it’s scary and could be too much for some of the younger kids this list targets.  Anything 8+ should be okay, but I definitely wouldn’t start with this attraction if this is their first time at a theme park.  This is all coming from a 25-year-old chicken – so don’t take what I say as law.  You know your child and I don’t (well unless I know you…) so you obviously have a better read on them.  Just know that Tower of Terror is probably the most frightening overall attraction at Walt Disney World.

Muppet-Vision

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Well, this is put on the list because the park is lacking and because I love the Muppets and think everyone else should.  The film is frankly outdated, but the jokes still work and if you’re a Muppets fan then it might be fun to share this film with your child.  It was the last ‘Muppets’ film or show that Jim Henson worked on before he passed away so that’s some history to see with your boy.  Also, Sweetums walks around and that guy is always looking for an adventure!

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

This show will likely keep your kid entertained for at least half of it.  While the overall show is too long, watching how they do stunts in the movies is pretty fascinating to kids and adults alike.  That is what the goal of the show is and it’s fairly successful in accomplishing that.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

My bias will come into play here, as I love Animal Kingdom.  Most areas will be pretty interesting as many kids seem fascinated by animals.  If you have one of those children that is fascinated, then this park will be a gold mine.  If not, then hiking around some of the trails on Discovery Island could be pretty interesting and the Harambe section has a lot to see and hear.  On to attractions…

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Dinosaur (40-inch height limit) and Kali River Rapids (38-inch height limit)

These relatively short height limits allow for adventure-seeking kids to be able to enjoy some action rides.  Both are fun attractions and go at fairly fast speeds.  I don’t see why a brave little kid wouldn’t like either of these.

It’s Tough to be a Bug

Forget everything I said about Tower of Terror, this is the scariest attraction at Walt Disney World.  It’s aimed for children though and most of them seem to like it.  Just me and a few other children scream and cry through this 3D-film while everyone else just laughs and enjoys themselves.  There really are some jumpy moments throughout, but chances are this type of kid will like this attraction.

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Kilimanjaro Safaris

Going on a safari is pretty exciting, right?  This attraction shows hundreds of different animal species and takes you over some pretty interesting and fun terrain.  It will most likely keep your action-lover entertained and definitely will if they love animals.  The ride isn’t very fast but there is a ton to look at and the jeeps get very close to some animals.

Maharajah Jungle Trek and The Boneyard

Any of the trails at Animal Kingdom are really well done with my favorite being the Maharajah Jungle Trek.  There are a ton of exhibits for your child to explore here, as well as many animals to see.  The architecture is really interesting and this area allows for getting around on their own two feet which can be pretty fun compared to waiting in line.

The Boneyard is Animal Kingdom’s playground and is a blast.  It’s themed after an archaeological site where they are digging up dinosaur bones.  While The Boneyard isn’t an action ride it’s a place for kids to run off some energy and has lots of safe areas for them to explore.

The Festival of the Lion King

This show takes play in Harambe and is a sort of variety-show that’s loosely themed off the Lion King.  Since the Lion King isn’t a princess movie and the acts are pretty exciting, this show made the list.  There are trampoline jumpers and fire-dancers, as well as several other acts.  Of most shows at Walt Disney World, this will most likely keep a busy kid entertained.

Backside of MK Castle

Ranking the Night Time Shows For Adventurous Kids

I think most people enjoy night-time shows regardless of age or personality.  That doesn’t mean every group will rank them evenly.  Here’s my best guess at how boy’s would rank the nighttime entertainment (I will update with Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom once I’m able to see it):

  1. Wishes (Magic Kingdom) – With the projections before it (Celebrate the Magic) and the stunning fireworks with recognizable songs, I think this show is a fairly clear number one unless…
  2. Star Wars Fireworks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – Your child might love Star Wars!  This isn’t the name of the actual show, but they are changing the show that it is now to a new one this summer, so I will update with the actual name once that show comes out.  Fireworks set to the Star Wars soundtrack is incredible and will be jaw-dropping for kids who love the franchise.
  3. Illuminations (Epcot) – The shows theme might be a little bit over some kids head but there sure is a lot to look at and that may keep them more entertained than any of these shows.
  4. Fantasmic! (Hollywood Studios) – It is a classic show, but doesn’t have as many jaw-dropping moments as the other shows on this list.  I did nearly move this up due to the show having seating, making it easier for kids to see.  In the end, I didn’t think it was worth it.

Of course, the parks have much more for boys to do.  Make sure to plan in advance and see what attractions you think your kid might be into and then go there.  Those were just a few of the ones that stood out to me.

The Water Parks

Whether to go to the water parks or not is one of the biggest questions when it comes to a Disney vacation.  Is it worth the extra money and do you have the extra time?  When it comes to kids, especially kids who like action, the water parks could be a blast. There are a few slides that have height limits, but for the most part, kids are able to do what they please.  The slides are a good chance to go fast at Disney World.

Deciding between the two parks may be slightly more difficult than deciding to go.  If your kid loves to swim then they will likely love the water parks.  Now, if they get a thrill from swimming and actually being in the water than Typhoon Lagoon might be the place for them.  The giant wave pool there is basically one of a kind and is a great place to spend the afternoon.  But, if your adventurous child likes jumping in the pool or has an affinity for slides than Blizzard Beach may be the better choice as it has more slides.

Both water parks are really fun and will likely be enjoyed by your child.  If you have more than 5 days at Walt Disney World, I’d recommend doing a water park/rest day in the middle of your vacation.  You child might enjoy some down time as well as spending some time in the water.  Not to mention, parents might enjoy the rest as well.

Restaurants

Eating is a big part of Walt Disney World and although that aspect may be more important to adults, it can definitely play a role in a child’s vacation.  While many thrill-seeking kids won’t be fans of sitting down to eat for an hour a day at one of the most exciting places on Earth, it’s important to give them some rest and the restaurants can be fun!  I’ll be spending more time on this section when we get to the adult guides, but here are a few table-service (sit down) restaurants that may capture some boy’s imaginations.

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Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and The Tusker House (Animal Kingdom) 

Both of these restaurants pick up with the thinking I had in Kilimanjaro Safaris being exciting for kids.  Animals are fascinating so these restaurants should be fun!  Sanaa has animals roaming around out the window as you eat.  The food is very good, but adventurous as far as picky eaters go.  The theming may be worth having a hard time picking out an entree.  The Tusker House also has an African theme and entrees, but it’s a buffet so finding something appealing may be easier for a little one.  The Tusker House doesn’t feature any living animals, but is a character dining experience with Mickey Mouse and his pals visiting your table in their best safari gear.  This isn’t your typical princess dining and is a good way to meet some characters in a more adventurous setting.

Beaches & Cream Soda Shop (Beach Club Resort)

This is just a typical soda shop, but with Disney theming and more than your average ice cream.  The old-fashioned theme combined with the casual environment make for an easy, fun experience for a young thrill-seeker.  The ice cream is a major selling point, as well.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (Hollywood Studios)

Score on for theming here.  This restaurant isn’t generally known for great food, but is themed to a drive-in movie theater.  Sci-Fi is one of the most immersive restaurants in Walt Disney World and will most likely delight any child, especially one who’s not very impressed by princesses.  While the food may not be as fancy as other places, it is simple and conducive to the tastes of most kids.

Gaston's Tavern

The Garden Grill (Epcot)

Take what I said for The Tusker House and replicate here except this place has barbecue food.  Also this restaurant rotates slowly in a circle as you eat, so that’s pretty cool!

Via Napoli (Epcot)

What kid doesn’t like pizza?  This place has some of the best pizza on property and a fun theme to boot.  Located in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion, the restaurant is pretty fun for families and is a nice compromise for kids and parents.

There are surely more sit-down restaurants that are appealing to kids.  As with everything at Walt Disney World, many of these choices come down to tastes and opinions.  As for counter-service restaurants, there are a few that may be fun for boys.  Here’s a quick list:

  • Pizzafari (Animal Kingdom)
  • Gaston’s Tavern (Magic Kingdom)
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe (Magic Kingdom)
  • Sunshine Seasons (Epcot)

All of the restaurants I’ve mentioned I can recommend outside of Pizzafari which just reopened after a refurbishment.  Some of the food looks to be much better, but I haven’t personally tasted it.  Even so, the theming of Pizzafari is really well done for a counter-service restaurant.  If you have questions about certain restaurants, please leave them in the comments!

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Resort Amenities

If staying on-site, your resort is likely to have an excellent pool.  I was listening to a podcast the other day in which a travel agent said that they get many reports back of the hotel pool being the favorite part of a child’s vacation.  While this may make some people question if the whole trip was worth the money, I think it speaks to the elaborate pools that WDW resorts offer.  Take a look at Disney Tourist Blog’s list of top-ten pools, if that’s an important aspect of booking your vacation.

Most resorts offer nice trails to walk or run on, play areas and games for children to play.  I love shuffleboard (I’m very excited to be 70 years-old) and play that, as many resorts offer different games along those lines.  Many times these little, relaxed amenities can be a great way for kids to unwind and enjoy their time with family.  As I said in the water park portion, I’d encourage guests to have a rest day on longer vacations.  Even if you aren’t going to a water park, just exploring the hotel and using their amenities is a good way to spend the day.

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Other Entertainment Options

There are still a wide variety of attractions outside of the parks and resorts that boy’s will enjoy.  The mini golf courses near Epcot get rave reviews and are a fun competition for the family.  Like the resorts, that’s another relaxed activity with the family that can be a great memory for kids.

Disney Springs isn’t exactly geared towards young boy’s.  There is a lot of shopping and not much action, especially with Disney Quest closing.  Not that Disney Quest was worth the money, anyway.  The Lego Store is really cool and entertaining, but I don’t think kids could spend hours in there.  The World of Disney Store follows in the same boat.  Maybe Disney Springs will become more kid-friendly over time, but I don’t think that’s what Disney is going for in that area.

Wide World of Sports complex and some of the water activities may be of interest to kids.  The sports complex has some different areas to explore and a few activities.  I wouldn’t recommend taking a special trip to it, but I’m not the best one to ask about that.  There are different water activities from fishing to parasailing.  You can see all of those options here.  Most of them include an extra charge, but I’ve only heard good reviews on most of these events.  I have enjoyed the few that I’ve tried.

YeHaa Bob at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort is a great show that the whole family will probably enjoy. It’s a fairly interactive show with fun songs and light-hearted humor. YeHaa Bob is becoming a Disney legend of sorts and I’m never heard anyone say they regret going to one of his shows. He plays from Wednesday-Saturday at the River Roost Lounge at Port Orleans Resort.

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There are certainly even more things to do at Walt Disney World for boys, but this is a good start.  As I’ve repeated throughout the post, much of what you decide to do comes down to your boy’s taste.  This post will be updated as time goes by to showcase what has been added to Walt Disney World.

I’ll be working on different guides throughout the next few weeks and I’d love some feedback.  This post is certainly long, but I was trying to be fairly thorough and didn’t feel as if it should be split in to two.  I’m open to suggestions on format and content though.  Please let me know what you think (if any of you made it this far, anyway!) in the comments.  Thank you for reading!

Disney Parks News Round-Up & Commentary

Sorry about the slow last week on Wandering in Disney.  I was sick and then had a busy weekend.  Back to our regular scheduled programming!

When starting this blog, the writers here decided that we never wanted to just regurgitate press releases and news out of the Disney Parks.  There are certain blogs that do that, and I don’t think it adds anything of value to the Disney Blogosphere as a whole.  Still, we found it somewhat difficult to react to news and figuring out how ‘big’ the news has to be to get its own specific blog post.  With that in mind, I wanted to try out a new type of blog post today.  If the format works, I may try it every few months.  So, what is that format?  I’m going to go through each U.S. Disney Park and talk about their most recent news and then give a few opinions where applicable.  We’ll start on the west coast!

Disneyland

Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary celebration rolls on amidst construction walls popping up around Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Critter Country.  While Disneyland clears the way for Star Wars Land, there are a few temporary attractions added to the park.

Big thunder river boat paddle

The Disneyland Railroad is stuck in the station for the next year but they do have some cars and stations out to explore.  While this obviously isn’t as good as riding the actual train it does offer some unique views into the Lilly Belle car and a few stations.  There are also train conductors around that are available to answer any questions.  Like the railroad, the Mark Twain River Boat is docked but available to board.  The boat is very interesting to walk around on and there are many details waiting to be found.

I think these temporary options are a great answer to the massive construction coming to Disneyland.  While they aren’t anything worth buying a special ticket for, it does help offer something unique to frequent park-goers.  I think little entertainment options like this are part of what makes Disneyland so unique and special, adding these in definitely helps the intimate feeling of the park.

There are several temporary Star Wars attractions in Disneyland still, in the Launch Bay and Hyperspace Mountain.  The latter is much more popular and well received than the former.

Paint the night princesses fairies

Everything else at Disneyland is still rolling along outside of the changes going on at the Rivers of America.  Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever are still immensely popular and more than worthy of that popularity.  Even with construction, Disneyland is thriving and looks fantastic.

California Adventure

There isn’t as much going on in DCA in the way of construction.  Soarin’ is gearing up for a new film and has a unique schedule.  Grizzly River Run is down for its yearly refurbishment but will be opened back up in about a week.  Aladdin left the Hyperion Theatre last month to make way for a Frozen stage show coming in June.  Subsequently, the Frozen sing-along thankfully will see its end in the coming months.  The first time I saw that show, I thought it was fine.  The second time I saw it, I despised it.  I’m excited to see what they replace the sing-along with.

Cars Land night as you go rock

The only real large piece of news as of late is the opening of Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters in Cars Land.  I haven’t been on this attraction yet, but Disney Tourist Blog has a nice review of the attraction.  Luigi’s brings the long-awaited debut of the trackless ride system to the U.S. Disney Parks.  This ride system is featured in some loved international attractions like Mystic Manor and Pooh’s Honey Hunt.  While Luigi’s isn’t on nearly the same scale as those attractions, it looks to be a fun, little attraction that will continue to boost one of the best theme parks lands.

Magic Kingdom

Moving over to the east cost, Magic Kingdom has been adding capacity in the way of dining recently.  Prior to Christmas the Skipper’s Canteen Restaurant opened in Adventureland.  The Canteen is supposed to emulate a restaurant a local watering hole for Jungle Cruise skippers.  The theming and menu in this restaurant were ambitious and exciting.  Unfortunately, Skipper’s Canteen hasn’t had a ton of success.  The menu may have scared some guests off and Disney curiously only opened the restaurant to walk-in guests.  While I do like that idea in theory, it is counterintuitive to the crazy amount of planning Walt Disney World pushes on guests.  I think the restaurant may find more success once they allow advanced dining reservations.

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Disney also has added the Diamond Horseshoe to the Magic Kingdom Table-Service options.  While it’s still to be seen whether this is just a seasonal enhancement, it’s nice that Magic Kingdom is finally addressing one of its biggest needs.

Epcot

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Frankly, not a lot is going on in Epcot.  Flower & Garden Festival in the park recently opened and looks as beautiful as ever.  In World Showcase, Norway is gearing up for the opening of Frozen Ever After.  I’ve let it be known, like most other Disney fans, that I’m not a huge fan of this attraction being added to Epcot.  I’m not going to rehash that now.  What I will say is that I’m fairly worried about how that attraction and pavilion will handle the crowds that will surely come to ride it.  Even with Frozen popularity slightly decreasing, an attraction featuring every young girl’s favorite princesses will have absurd lines.  Add in the attraction having a low capacity and Epcot’s lack of rides for kids then this could really cause problems.  Time will tell as the attraction opens in May or June.

Hollywood Studios

I’m not going to spend anytime here, as I wrote a post about his park a few weeks ago.  Check that out here.

Animal Kingdom

While all of the other parks are going through moderate changes, Animal Kingdom is on the verge of a minor relaunch.  For years, the park has closed as the afternoon turned to evening.  There wasn’t a plan on how to showcase the animals and environments after dark.  Starting in April, that all will change.

Tree of life open AK

Last week Disney announced that Rivers of Light, Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime spectacular, will open April 22nd.  Along with it there will be several nighttime parties going on in Discovery Island and Africa.  There will be live music throughout the park, as well as other entertainment.  The parties and show will be enhanced by experiencing classic Animal Kingdom attractions after dark.  Kilimanjaro Safaris has had the biggest change as they were trying to figure out how to showcase the animals once night falls.  The whole attraction will be lit up as if you were experiencing the safari at sunset.  There will also be a brand new signature restaurant opening in the next few months.

These changes will finally rid Animal Kingdom of the unfair ‘half-day park’ reputation it has.  While AK could still use another attraction or two, the theming throughout will be augmented by these new offerings.  With Pandora opening next year, Animal Kingdom is becoming one of the best theme parks in America.  In my opinion, it is already the most unique.  Animal Kingdom has quietly added quality areas throughout the park over the last few years and now is ready for it’s breakout party.  I can’t wait to experience the new offerings there.

Harambe theater

That does it for the news round-up!  Let me know in the comments if you like this format of post and would like to see more of them in the future.  Also, let me know if you would change or add anything to this style of post.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (3/1/16)

Every week our writers get together and answer a Disney-related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers.  Leave your answer in the comments!

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Question of the Week: Today Disney changed their single-day ticket pricing structure, going to seasonal pricing with value, regular and peak pricing. Ignoring the price increase (because nobody likes that) do you think this is a good idea?

Andrew – I think the seasonal pricing is a decent idea to try to help alleviate the crowds during the peak times of the year. While I think trips to Walt Disney World are already complicated enough, there’s no doubt that both coasts are full during the summer and holidays. Do I think this pricing structure will be effective? Not really, but I’m not sure what else they could try. (Besides adding more attractions to add capacity, which is the most logical but doesn’t earn the company the most money.)

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Melissa L – I don’t think I have much of an opinion. I don’t think prices would keep me from going, but like Andrew said at least the seasonal pricing may keep the crowds a little less than normal.

Cassie – I think that a season pricing structure is a pretty valid plan. Like Melissa said, I really doubt it will keep people from going to the parks, but will definitely bring in a lot more money. Plus, the lesser priced days (I’m guessing slower days) will probably increase in business since people will want to take advantage of the cheaper tickets. Overall, it makes a lot of financial sense to me!

Matterhorn night waterfall

It’s a short one this week!  Don’t forget to leave your answer in the comments.  If you like what you have been reading here on Wandering in Disney, please like our Facebook page and subscribe to the blog.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  If you have any questions regarding Disney Parks or vacation planning, leave us a comment or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  We’d be happy to help!  Have a great week!