Question of the Week (4/27/16)

Every few weeks our writers get together and discuss a Disney related question.  Here is this week’s question and answers!

Golden Horseshoe night

Question of the Week: What do you think of ride overlays? There have been a few rumors floating around about an overlay of Tower of Terror in DCA, as well as the current overlay Space Mountain (Hyperspace Mountain). There are also the holiday overlays like Jingle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Do you enjoy these? Do you wish they didn’t happen?

Melissa H. – To be honest, I am fine with the holiday overlays, but I am not a fan of the rumored ToT overlay, nor Hyperspace Mountain. I feel like the holiday ones add to the spirit of the season, but the others are an example of Disney “selling out”. If they are making a Star Wars themed land in a separate part of the park, they don’t need to turn Tomorrowland into Star Wars Land while they wait (which I feel like they’ve done at Disneyland). Also the thought of them touching one of my favorite rides to make it Marvel related (one of my least favorite things) makes me really bummed out. To me the holiday overlays are more focused on Classic Disney or keeping the general spirit of the ride. The others seem to change that.

DCA TOT

I feel like I’m being a negative nancy, but I’m just tired of crowd pleasing via changing classic rides/attractions to make them popular non-Disney created things that are only Disney because they were purchased by them.

Leslie – I really like the holiday overlays honestly. They provide a new level of magic as a ride transforms into something new. I can’t speak for the ToT or Space Mountain overlays because I’ve never ridden those. Jingle Cruise however was definitely one of my favorites!

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Andrew – I think these have to be taken on a case by case basis. Holiday overlays are just fine with me because they have to change back to the original. I’m fine with Hyperspace Mountain, as well, because of the quality of the overlay. That overlay gives that area some continuity too, with Star Tours and the Launch Bay near. The Tower of Terror rumor is an odd one. I have no idea how they can retheme that attraction to fit Guardians of the Galaxy. Still, that attraction isn’t as beloved in California as it is in Florida so I’m mostly okay with it (again depending on the actual quality of the overlay.) Just don’t mess with ToT in Florida!

Where I’m not okay with overlays is if Disney starts treating these as new attractions to the park. Overlays should be temporary and not last for a decade. They don’t add capacity to a park and they usually just add congestion due to their popularity. Building completely new attractions should be a priority, not doing overlays.

inside Space Mountain

Melissa L. – I would have to agree with all of you. I really like the idea of the holiday overlays. I’ve never ridden one myself, but I am always into the spirit of the season and think it would be neat to see how they add a little magic to a ride.

I read the idea about how Disney was rumored to be changing ToT to be themed to Guardians of the Galaxy. My first thought – how in the world are you going to accomplish that!?! I don’t see how it could fit in too much, but at the same time it would be interesting to see what they do. And then for the Star Wars overlay for Space Mountain I also feel i can’t properly judge since I haven’t ridden it, but I do think it sounds cool. I would agree with Andrew though that I wouldn’t want these things to be permanent changes to the classic rides, but would be fun for a time.

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Cassie – I really love the Holiday overlays! Especially, Haunted Mansion nightmare before Christmas. However, I’m not the biggest fan of overlays like Hyperspace mountain, mainly because they seem to double normal wait times for a ride I’ve done a million times. The last time I went to the parks a few months back (I want to say a Tuesday is January) the wait time for “hyper”space mountain was 1.5 hours with no available fast passes left. I was shocked. My friends who have ridden it said it was nothing special, typical space mountain with a couple of Star Wars images thrown in. Definitely not worth a double-than-normal wait.

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Don’t forget to leave your answer to the question in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email.  You can also like our Facebook page.  All of those options are available on the right side of the blog’s home screen.  If you have any questions, post ideas, or need help trip planning please leave us a comment or send us an email at wanderingindisney@gmail.com.  Thank you so much for reading!

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Top Five Walt Disney World Lands To Visit At Night

Walt Disney World has a certain aura when the suns set.  Most theme parks do actually.  While the sun can be a big draw for vacationers, nightfall gives a land’s creators a chance to evoke a specific mood.  Diagon Alley is a perfect example, as a dragon breathing fire at night is somehow more powerful and interesting than it letting loose the flames in daylight.  Beautiful lighting and immersive lands aren’t something new to the theme park landscape though.  Disney has been using this to their advantage for years.

With Pandora on the way at Animal Kingdom and the Star Wars/Toy Story combo coming to Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World is soon to have a host of new lands to explore at night (and during the day.)  Pandora and its bioluminescent forest, in particular, is a land that I’m very excited to see after the sun goes down.

While we anxiously await those new lands, there are still plenty of good choices on lands to visit at night.  I’m going to count down my top-5 (and few honorable mentions) lands across 4 theme parks.

Honorable Mention

Main Street – Magic Kingdom

One of the most iconic views in the whole world is even more beautiful at night with the wonderful lighting on the castle.  The lighting on Main Street feels quaint and like a well-kept small town and then as you head toward the castle, there’s a whimsical feeling that comes over you.  That alone makes Main Street memorable at night.  Of course, there aren’t many attractions to light so that’s where this land misses out.

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New Fantasyland – Magic Kingdom

New Fantasyland is a beautiful area in daylight or at night.  Where it misses out though is having substantial lighting on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  The mountain is a little dark once the sun goes down and I think really misses out on an opportunity.  Still, the bright lights of the circus as well as some wonderful mood lighting on Be Our Guest and Prince Eric’s Castle are enough for this area to earn a nod.

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Discovery Island – Animal Kingdom

This may be a little preemptive.  Animal Kingdom is making a jump into a nighttime park this summer and the Tree of Life will be lit up like never before.  Video and photos I’ve seen are detailed and beautiful.  I think the tree will be reason enough for this to make the list but if they also light up some of the Discovery River Trails (I don’t know how much of an option this is due to the animals) then this land will be a must-do in the dark and may even move up into my top-5.

Tree of life open AK

Let’s leap into my top-5 Walt Disney World lands at night.

5. Asia – Animal Kingdom

While Discovery Island may have been jumping the gun a bit, I have seen this area around sunset and in the dark and it is stunning.  With Everest looming in the background, Asia feels more festive with the lights on.  This will only be enhanced by the beautiful new seating for the upcoming nighttime spectaculars.  Also, Everest will become a must-do attraction at night as the park stays open later.  Asia makes this list above Africa because of the water, Expedition Everest, and brighter colors around the area.  With that being said, I do think Africa will be very fun to see once the sun goes down as well.

4. Sunset Boulevard – Hollywood Studios

The crown jewel of Hollywood Studios (maybe the only jewel now?) Sunset Boulevard feels a bit like Main Street with simple lighting going down the street and a looming presence at the end of it.  That looming presence is, of course, the Tower of Terror.  Looking even more haunting at night, the green lights from the building seem especially eerie as you make your way down the boulevard.  Tower of Terror is a fairly unique experience at night too.  There are some wonderful views if you are brave enough to keep your eyes open while on the ride (I’m not that brave.)  With Fantasmic! next door, Sunset Boulevard becomes the place to go at Hollywood Studios after dark.

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3. Liberty Square – Magic Kingdom

I’m a sucker when it comes to rivers.  Liberty Square lies right next to the Rivers of America and offers views into Frontierland from the river’s edge.  This land has some of that ‘quaint’ feel that makes Disneyland (on the other coast) so charming.  The lanterns hanging in the tree symbolizing the 13 colonies is enough of a lighting detail for this to make the list.  Then throw in those beautiful views along the river and the lighting within the square and you’ve got a great land to visit at night.  All of that said, what steals the show is the Haunted Mansion.  Like Tower of Terror, the Haunted Mansion looks especially menacing at night.  I think Frontierland may offer the most versatile views of any land in the Magic Kingdom, especially at night.  Just because of that in falls in at number three on my list.

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2. Tomorrowland – Magic Kingdom

I’m a fairly big critic of Tomorrowland.  Both in Florida and California, I think Tomorrowland is in need of an overhaul.  Still, this land is beautiful in the night (at least if neon doesn’t horrify you.)  The colorful lights all around offer up a hopeful look to the future and give this land a warm feeling that many guests are drawn to.  The TTA Peoplemover at night is one of my favorite experiences in any theme park.  This land definitely has more energy at night than it does during the day, often times having live music or DJ’s.  While I’m not a big fan of the dance parties, I think the music can offer up a great energy that makes Tomorrowland unlike any other at nightfall.

1. World Showcase – Epcot

This was an easy number one for me.  Maybe I shouldn’t count this whole area as one land but this is my blog and I’ll do what I want 😉 This area is great at anytime but I find it most enjoyable right before or after Illuminations.  Seeing how each country uses the lighting on their pavilion is fascinating to me.  Spaceship Earth all lit up from across the lagoon is also a beautiful sight.  While Liberty Square may offer up the most unique views, World Showcase offers up the most views in general.  There are so many things to look at and enjoy.  I can’t go without mentioning Illuminations, which is my favorite of the nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World.  This show perfectly embodies the feel of World Showcase, a sense of togetherness and a celebration of different cultures.  Furthermore, strolling around World Showcase in the quiet after Illuminations is a beautiful experience and one that I’d highly recommend as well.

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What are your favorite lands to visit at night?  Let us know in the comments! Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!

– Andrew

Discussion of the Week (4/14/16)

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll notice that questions of the week have been on hiatus the last month or so.  I’ve been trying to find a way to retool that type of blog post to make it more conducive to our schedules.  Instead of just doing a basic question with answers we have decided to do more of a discussion every other week.  Here is our first post in that format.  Enjoy!

Paradise Pier fun wheel from bridge

Discussion/Question of the Week: I recently wrote about a slew of upcharge events Disney has announced. Do these events upset or affect the way you think of the Disney Parks? Is there a breaking point where there are too many upcharge events?

Andrew – I think Disney upcharge events can be pretty cool. They sometimes offer very unique experiences. To those of us that get to go to the park quite a bit, that’s a benefit. What I don’t like to see upcharge events do is take away from standard park hours. When this happens that Disney is only trying to appeal to those that are willing to spend whatever it takes to avoid lines. This in turn hurts the people who can’t or won’t spend that money. I think these upcharge events are nearing a breaking point already where Disney will lose loyal customers if they continue to add events that affect park hours.

Partners night 60th castle

Cassie – I think it’s never a bad idea to add more options, and I don’t really think it will affect those who aren’t attending the events. I do think the after hours event is really awesome and something I would mayyyyybe consider looking into.
1. I am naturally a night owl and my favorite time to be at the parks is late..so the later, the better.
2. I am not a fan of waiting in lines, so if that sliced it, I’d enjoy my ride experience more.
3. I don’t believe a lot of children will be at the later night event, which is appealing in its own ways (aka, less stroller traffic.)

Andrew – If you don’t mind me asking, Cassie, what would you be willing to pay for the After Hours event?

Cassie – Hmmm, I am going to say $130 would be a reasonable price. If you figure a normal one day ticket is about $100, then tack on $10 an hour for those three extra hours, $130 would be probably what I would be willing to pay. How about you Andrew? What about for the other events?

Andrew – I would probably go a lot lower. Since the event ticket doesn’t come with regular park admission, I’d say around $60 is probably about what I’d be willing to spend on the after hours event. I think it’d be nice to have a lack of crowds but there is only so much you can do in 3 hours and it’s not really my favorite thing to do to book it from attraction to attraction. I prefer a more leisurely pace, so I don’t think I would get the value some others would from this deal.

The morning event that was recently announced for Magic Kingdom is even less appealing to me. I don’t typically like breakfast buffets all that much and I think you’d only be able to get 2 attractions in, albeit popular ones. I’d probably be willing to pay around $30-$40 for that event. There definitely are some tours and events that appeal to me. It’s only a matter of time before I try the Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom and I’m going to do the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this fall. But they have to be pretty unique for me. If they are unique enough then I’d probably be willing to spend way too much money.

space mountain

Melissa H. – I think that giving people extra options is always a good idea. It gives you the potential to avoid crowds and the crowds are often one of the biggest complaints about Disney parks. I don’t think that some of the events are that exciting (the Magic Kingdom one sounds like a bit of a dud to me), but others would be worth the price if I could afford them! The biggest drawback to me is that they can have a negative impact on those who aren’t willing to pay for it simply can’t afford the event. For example, when we were in Disney in October the parks were PACKED on the days of the Halloween party because tons of people bought their event tickets in addition to their regular park ticket. So we had to wait in longer lines AND had to leave the park early because it closed for the event. I know that all events are managed a little differently, but I could definitely see some people getting frustrated.

Andrew – That’s absolutely my biggest worry and source of frustration Melissa. If they keep offering these more frequently they are going to negatively affect those that aren’t paying for them.

Melissa H. – Definitely Andrew. I mean, when we were there Disneyland closed at 7:00 for the event and if you just had a park ticket you could go to California Adventure, but it was a zoo over there since everyone with a park-hopper was trying to get their money’s worth. So the whole day felt super long because it was so crowded. We planned on trying to see World of Color and got out of line because it was so crazy and just went back to the hotel. I am also curious how the seasonal upcharge events (like the Halloween party) will impact their new ticket pricing system. Will it make gate tickets more expensive during those times? That particular event had made October crazier than ever. I guess that question might have already been answered, I will totally admit I haven’t looked too deep into all of it.

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Andrew – That question hasn’t totally been answered. The ticket prices haven’t come out for the Halloween Parties yet so we’ll see if it affects gate tickets. I bet they won’t at least for this year as they are still getting used to the tiered-ticket system. Over the next few years, I think that’s a pretty interesting concept though. Closing a park down at 7 PM alone affects guests, then you add in the extra crowds and people taking advantage of park-hopper and then it could really hurt a day or two of people’s vacation. I think that’s fine for special events like a Halloween Party or Christmas Party as they are at certain, special times of the year. If park operations start adding events (that aren’t unique) all times of the year, then it really hurts guests.

Melissa H. – I’m just very interested to see how it all plays out. They are doing A LOT in these next few years and it will be interesting to see how it all ends up working out.

lighthouse tea party castle

What do you think of these upcharge events and will they affect guests that don’t attend?  Let us know in the comments.  Also, if you enjoy what our blog please subscribe via email or WordPress.  You can also like our Facebook Page.  Both of those options are on the right side of this page.  If you have any recommendations on this new format for our Question of the Week, let us know in the comments.  Thank you for reading!

A Girl’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. In case you missed it, here was my first post in the series all about bringing boys to Walt Disney World.  Today, I’m moving on to girls.  This creates a few challenges, most notably me never having experienced being a girl.  With that in mind, I brought in my wife to help write this post so many thanks to her. 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.  If your daughter (or whatever-relation-girl) you’re bringing is more of a ‘tom-boy’ then following the boys guide for her might be a better option.  More likely, taking all of these guides and combining them to fit the people you’re going with is the best possible route.  Really this is all just trying to get you to view as many blog posts on Wandering in Disney as possible 😉 With all that being said, let’s get started!

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Of all the guides I plan to write, writing one for stereotypical girls is probably the easiest.  In a lot of ways these parks were made for them.  This guide in particular will be focused on girls up to 12 years old who enjoy princesses, classic Disney films, less intense action and dressing up.  With that being said, I know many girls who love the princesses also love thrill rides and I will try to include some of that.  Not all of the attractions, restaurants and activities I recommend will fit a girl with these characteristics, but most will.

There are many specific areas and attractions in Walt Disney World that will appeal to a girl. I’ll write about some of those areas starting with the parks and then moving on to obscure and lesser known areas on property.

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The Parks

Kids who love princesses, dressing up and classic Disney stories will be a blast to take to Walt Disney World.  Some parks absolutely cater to those kids.  Unfortunately, there are some difficult parks to navigate with a young, soon-to-be princess.

I’ll go park by park and give a few attractions and areas that I think princess-loving, less-intense kids will enjoy. I’m going to leave parades off of this list because I think this type of kid will likely love them all. Festival of Fantasy (Magic Kingdom’s daytime parade) is a classic Disney parade showcasing many classic Disney characters, specifically princesses. The Main Street Electrical Parade might not fill this certain child’s wants quite as much, as it’s a little less princess themed. Young kids all seem to love parades.  Between the upbeat music, characters they love, and getting to wave their arm off, parades are probably a must-do if you have a young girl with you.  Find a shady spot to sit and grab your camera, as your child is hopefully going to give quite a few photogenic moments.  I will talk about the nighttime shows after the parks. On to the parks!

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Magic Kingdom

As far as areas in Magic Kingdom go, I believe that Fantasyland (including New Fantasyland), Main Street, and Adventureland are the most appealing to young girls. 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.  Liberty Square also has the Tangled bathrooms, which are just bathrooms… But, they are themed to Tangled so that is fun to see and a good photo-op. Some kids will be drawn to other 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!

Meet & Greets

I’ll get this out-of-the-way now.  This type of kid will like meet & greets.  Whether it’s meeting princesses, princes or Mickey, these will probably be a magical experience for them.  There are meet & greets at every park so just know that I mean this option for each of them.  As far as interesting characters in Magic Kingdom go, the most lifelike Mickey Mouse in WDW is on Main Street at the Town Square Theater.  Ariel has a fun area by her attraction in New Fantasyland.  There’s also Princess Fairy Tale Hall in Fantasyland which features a few princesses. (Check who’s there when actually on the trip, currently it’s Cinderella and Rapunzel, but it can change.)

Enchanted Tales With Belle

In this attraction you can explore Maurice’s cottage and then meet the princess herself.  She will then read to you the Beauty and the Beast story and will have kids help her act it out.  This attraction consistently gets rave reviews, perhaps due to the intimacy of it.  If your girl loves Beauty and the Beast (and even if she doesn’t, but loves the princesses) then this attraction is a must-do.  You can find Enchanted Tales in New Fantasyland.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a 3D movie that takes guests into classic Disney scenes.  The soundtrack is great, the film is fairly funny, and young Disney fans get to see all their favorite characters in about 15 minutes.  Maybe best of all, this is a great place for the whole family to cool off inside.  You can find this one in Fantasyland.

Voyage of the Little mermaid

Under the Sea -Journey of the Little Mermaid

I almost left this one off the list, as I’m not much of a fan of this attraction.  I typically won’t recommend attractions that I don’t like, but I bit the bullet here.  Magic Kingdom (compared to Disneyland) doesn’t have many classic princess dark rides, in fact this is basically the only one.  While I think it’s lame that this attraction just retells the story of The Little Mermaid, a young girl probably wouldn’t share my opinion.  This too is in New Fantasyland. (Andrew’s wife here…this is one of my favorites! Your little lovely will LOVE IT!)

Seven Dwarves Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Let’s get to some action.  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the attraction that checks all of the boxes on our list.  Action that’s not too intense – check.  Based on classic Disney – check.  Has fun characters you’ll recognize – check.  While the attraction is a step below some of the classic Disney rides it’s easy to see why Disney built it when thinking of this guide.  This should be a perfect first roller coaster for your little girl.  This is also in New Fantasyland.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Well, honestly, I just got tired of writing about attractions in Fantasyland.  Pirates is classic Disney that has a few tie-ins to characters your young Disney-lover might have seen. (Whether those characters should be in there or not is a different story.) This attraction also teaches your child the dangers of running off with pirates.  That’s a very valuable lesson to learn.  Really, any classic Disney attraction should be a good fit for young girls.  Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise aren’t too intense, but still offer a sense of thrill.

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Epcot

Epcot is probably the hardest park for 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. There are some meet & greets there for your young girl. That may make the time go faster as you snack/drink/make your way around World Showcase. They also 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’s fun for most kids. 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.  If you have read the boy’s version of this guide, you’ll notice that my picks are largely the same.  I’m not trying to be lazy, but Epcot really doesn’t offer much excitement for kids right now.  Many of the pavilions in Future World are a shell of their former selves.

Frozen Ever After

While this isn’t open yet (probably late May or June), it’s sure to be the most exciting part of Epcot for young girls.  It’s an attraction based on Frozen.  Enough said.

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 girl 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.

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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 while neither is too intense.  Of the two, Soarin’ is probably most exciting for young girls as the subject matter fits their characteristics a little better than designing cars on Test Track.  Still, these are both some light-hearted attractions that have some action involved.

Spaceship Earth

This attraction takes guests slowly through the World’s history while offering some interactive elements.  While it might be seen as boring, there is also a decent amount to learn and look at.  I think most young girls would probably enjoy the attraction at least once.  Honestly, Spaceship Earth making the list really speaks to how few attractions there are that fit a kid’s checklist at Epcot.

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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. For girls who have a little ‘tom-boy’ in them, the shrieks and thrills of Sunset Boulevard will be a draw, but there are height limits (40 inches of Tower of Terror, 48 inches for Rock n’ Roller Coaster) and they are very intense attractions. Pixar Place is fairly empty at the moment, but may draw some girls because Toy Story is so iconic. That leaves Echo Lake and Muppets Courtyard.  Both probably won’t be at the top of your child’s list unless they have a connection to the Muppets or Star Wars (which they should because everyone should!)

Toy Story Midway Mania

This is an obvious choice for any kid.  It’s filled with characters that are almost certainly familiar to all kids and it has interactive attractions inside.  While I still think this attraction fits my boy’s guide more than the girl’s, I’m guessing almost all kids will have fun here.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage

Both of these shows are decent productions and retellings of classic Disney stories.  While sitting through both right after each other might be a tall task for younger girls (they might get a little antsy) they’d probably enjoy both over the course of a day.  Voyage of the Little Mermaid is much shorter and offers both live characters and ones on-screen.  It’s not nearly the production Beauty and the Beast is, but I may like it more. Beauty and the Beast is more of a straight stage show with many choreographed dances and such.  They’re both well done and enjoyable.

Muppet-Vision

Muppet-Vision 3D or Star Tours

For now, the Muppets make the list for two reasons.  1.  I love them.  2.  There just aren’t enough options elsewhere.  If your girl loves Star Wars, then that’s probably the better choice.  If she’s unfamiliar with both, I would wager a guess (albeit a very small wager) that she may find the Muppets show a little more enjoyable.  They’re very different attraction that will soon be replaced by whatever they are currently building.

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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 Asia and the Harambe sections have a lot to see and hear. On to attractions…

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

These relatively short height limits allow for more adventurous princesses to be able to enjoy some action rides. Both are fun attractions that go at fairly fast speeds but they aren’t very intense. I have a theory that it’s impossible to not smile on a rapids ride unless you hate getting splashed.  Most kids don’t mind getting splashed, so this is on here regardless of it not being my favorite rapids ride.  Dinosaur is slightly more intense and was almost left off the list.  Still it’s a nice break from the princesses and should be a decent action ride that doesn’t scare the snot out of your child.

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Kilimanjaro Safaris

Just so you know, this attraction will make it on to every guide that I do.  It’s my favorite attraction at Walt Disney World and I think it’s made for all ages.  It’s very unique, has a level of thrill, and is huge in scale.  Even for a girl who’s mainly interested in meeting princesses, this should be a good bet.

The Boneyard

Even a dressed-up princess needs to blow off some steam.  This playground is my favorite in Walt Disney World (I felt very strange typing that) and is one of the few redeeming qualities of DinoLand U.S.A.  There are many areas to climb around on and it’s a safe place to let your kid run around for a while.

The Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical

Festival of the Lion King takes place in Harambe and is a sort of variety-show that’s loosely themed off the Lion King. The film has some very recognizable characters and is fairly interactive, so it makes the list. There are many things to entertain your girl in this show.

Harambe theater

Finding Nemo fits more of the characteristics we’re looking for.  It’s uplifting, musical, and filled with favorite characters of children.  The musical is also less action and more acting than Festival of the Lion King.  While I think Festival is a slightly better show, Finding Nemo the Musical might be better for your girl and is still very enjoyable.

Ranking the Night Time Shows For Soon-To-Be Princesses

Blue MK Castle

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 girl’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.  There will be many moments for a girl to grasp on to and remember.  The show is touching and uplifting making it the clear favorite.
  2. Fantasmic! (Hollywood Studios) – It is a classic show, but doesn’t have as many jaw-dropping moments as the other shows on this list. Still, it ranks second here because it has more of characters and a story that is easy to follow along with.  The asterisk here is that if your girl has been to Disneyland then this probably drops to fourth since she’s already seen the better version.
  3. Star Wars Fireworks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – While Star Wars continues to become more female friendly with the new character Rey (and Rogue One’s main character is a female) Star Wars themed attractions may become more interesting to a princess-loving girl.  Still, it ranks third here because I think the first two options offer more of story and moments that a girl would latch on to. (As an aside, this show isn’t actually called Star Wars Fireworks, it’s yet to be named.  There were Star Wars themed fireworks over the last year at the Studios and now there is a new show debuting this summer.  This is somewhat of a projection and somewhat based off of the last Star Wars show.)
  4. 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.

Of course, the parks have much more for girls 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.  If you have questions about specific attractions then please let me know in the comments and I’d be happy to help.

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, 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. One drawback of the water parks is that they don’t have any direct tie-ins to Disney characters. For a girl who’s looking forward to meeting all her favorite characters, the water parks will simply just offer slides and pools to play on.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it may be a drawback to some.  Adding water parks to your Disney vacation does cost a little extra, so make sure that you will take advantage of them before buying that feature.

If you decide that you want to go to the water parks, choosing between the two parks may be even 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. I’ve also seen that Blizzard Beach is adding a few activities at the park that have to do with Frozen.  If that’s true then Blizzard Beach is probably the right spot for a princess-loving child.  Of course, you can always go to both water parks.

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.  I’ll talk about this more later, but a lot of times the resort pool will be more than enough of a pool to tide your child over, especially if they are under 5 or 6 years old.  Again, weigh how much your child loves the water and then decide.

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 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 future princesses will enjoy.

Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom), Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot), 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian)

The common theme of these restaurants is that they are all character dining that feature princesses.  Character dining in itself can be pretty fun and when they feature princesses, many kids lose their minds with excitement.  Cinderella’s Royal Table is inside of the castle, so that’s cool enough already.  Then you add in princesses and things go to a whole new level.  But, you surely pay for that experience as this is one of the most expensive restaurants at Walt Disney World.  The food is generally thought of as pretty good but not consistently great.  1900 Park Fare offers a dinner buffet at a slightly lower price than Cinderella’s Royal Table, but it’s not the same experience.  Akershus is the best value of any of these and is a pretty good experience.  They have a slightly more versatile menu, that has a Norwegian flare, adults might find more interesting. If your child is more interested in Mickey Mouse or Winnie the Pooh characters then check out Chef Mickeys, The Tusker House, or Crystal Palace.

Akershus

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 an excited child. The ice cream is a major selling point and this is one of the cheaper table-service restaurants on property..

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (Hollywood Studios)

Score one 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. While the food may not be as fancy as other places, it is simple and conducive to the tastes of most kids.

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.

Coral Reef (Epcot)

This famous restaurant has guests sit right next to a huge aquarium as they eat their lunch or dinner.  While I wasn’t impressed by the food when I was there, the experience is something that the whole family will enjoy and very unique.  If your little girl is fascinated by animals she will love this place.

Whispering Canyon Cafe (Wilderness Lodge), 50’s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios)

If your child is easy-going and likes interacting with people then these restaurants may be a great experience.  The wait staff at these places will be happy to tease and have some fun with your child.  As an important bonus, the food gets good reviews at both of these places.

Be Our guest castle

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:

Be Our Guest (for breakfast and lunch) & Gaston’s Tavern (Magic Kingdom)
Sunshine Seasons (Epcot)
Landscape of Flavors (Art of Animation)
I enjoy all of these places.  Be Our Guest and Gaston’s make the list due to the incredible theming and connection to classic Disney characters.  Sunshine Seasons and Landscape of Flavors are two of the better ‘food courts’ on property and I think it’s nice to have options on what to eat when going with children.  There are an extraordinary amount of quick-service options.  If you have questions about one please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

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.

Grand Floridian drums_edited-2

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.

Other Entertainment Options

Disney Springs will offer some fun experiences for girls.  The obvious one is shopping and if your little girl is a shopper she’ll likely enjoy the World of Disney store as well as some other options.  If you’re looking for something very memorable to do at an extra cost, take your girl to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  If you do, I recommend scheduling a character dining experience after so that your little princess can show off her new style.  Disney Springs is changing by the day but there are many interesting and fun options here, especially for shoppers.

Grand Flo

Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian would be another experience that may cost extra, but would be a fun experience.  If your girl is closer to her teenage years and is drawn to the elegant style (and tea) then she’d probably have fun on an afternoon at the Grand Flo.  I think this would be a great mother-daughter experience.  Learn more about it here.

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.

FoF Rapunzel
There are certainly even more things to do at Walt Disney World for girls, but this is a start. As I’ve repeated throughout the post, much of what you decide to do comes down to your girl’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!

– Andrew

Building A Better Mouse Book Review

Building A Better Mouse: The Story Of The Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot is a retelling of the work done to open Walt Disney World’s Epcot.  Written by Steve Alcorn and David Green, readers are transported into the years, months and days leading up to October 1st, 1982 when Epcot officially opened it’s doors.  Building A Better Mouse has a fast pace and is a quick read, with the paperback version clocking in at 130 pages.

building a better mouse

I don’t read many books.  The thought of me writing write a book review probably has my family snickering to themselves but, here I am!  I received Building A Better Mouse a few months ago and cracked it open.  The short chapters and interesting stories kept me entertained, but the main reason I wanted it in the first place was the subject matter.  The opening of Epcot fascinates me and does so even more after reading this book.

I’ve heard people call Epcot Center the best theme park in the world and I’m often inclined to agree with them.  This isn’t the case anymore, as the park is a shell of its former self, but in the years following it’s opening Epcot was one of a kind.  At the time, there wasn’t a theme park like it in the world. (There still might not be.)  If you didn’t already know, Walt Disney dreamed for EPCOT to be a semi-utopian city.  Standing for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, the city was to be a safe and beautiful place where great minds came to soar.  Once Walt passed away, the idea was scaled down into an idea for a theme park.  Showcasing the World’s countries and customs while also previewing future inventions and idealities were the parks goals, in a nutshell.  It was a place to enjoy but it was also a place to learn, and not many theme parks (even today) can boast that.

Building a Better Mouse takes the readers inside of the crazy few years leading up to the opening of Epcot.  Imagineering, which was known as WED at the time, was staffed by an incredible amount of young engineers who had barely found their way out of college.  The authors of this book (Alcorn and Green) were members of those mostly-young teams, devoting the lions share of their time to working on Epcot’s American Adventure.

Japan Bridge Epcot_edited-2

The first half of this book (approximately) takes readers into the lives of the imagineers at the time.  We find out about the perks, personalities, antics and lives of those in WED, specifically our authors.  Building A Better Mouse showcases the pros and cons of having a bunch of young, imaginative engineers all in one spot.  While perhaps naive, this group went to great lengths to see their dreams for this theme park come true.

As the story goes on, Epcot’s opening date draws closer.  My favorite part of the book is in the last quarter when the authors have moved to Florida and are spending countless hours working on the American Adventure.  One of the authors had recorded his thoughts during this time and this takes up a large portion of the last 30 pages.  While this may be a drawback in the literary sense, it is fascinating to see the amount of hours these engineers had poured into the project.  Most weeks were well over 100-hour work weeks and there were many nights without sleep.

Epcot Sunset_edited-1

While reading, it’s also easy to gain a sense of appreciation on how intricate the process of creating an attraction is, specifically The American Adventure.  Building A Better Mouse understands that the common reader wants to know some of the processes behind these detailed attractions and explains them in ways that are easy to understand, even to a nearly illiterate guy like me 😉

As for the negatives, there aren’t too many.  This is a very light read and wouldn’t be considered great writing, but I don’t think that was ever the authors goal.  I also would have liked more details on other attractions within Epcot but again, that was more of my hope than the authors goal.

In the end, I think Building A Better Mouse does what it sets out to do.  The book offers a detailed look at the opening of Epcot from the imagineers perspective.  Theme Park junkies (like a guy who writes on a Disney Parks blog) are sure to enjoy it from that sense.  People who aren’t interested in theme parks may not be as into the book, as the writing may leave some wanting.  In just looking on Amazon, there seems to be a 30th anniversary of Epcot version with pictures.  I think that’d be pretty interesting but I can’t speak to those photos.  Here is a link to that on Amazon, as well as a link to the original.  For anyone interested in the history of Epcot, I highly recommend the fascinating story that is Building A Better Mouse.

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What did you think of this book review?  Would you be interested in more reviews about Disney Theme Park books?  Please let me know in the comments!  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew