Question of the Week (5/22/16)

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

Question of the Week: You’re a director and will be filming a new movie very soon. Your movie can be about anything -any topic, any plot, etc. The catch is that you can only film it in Disneyland. What would your movie be about and what areas in Disneyland would you use as your set?

Cassie – Ok, I would film my movie entirely on the storybook land canal boats! I would probably do a stop-claymation-animation about a character (TBD) that goes on a quest from land to land! I love this ride and think there could be an entire stop animation movie filmed entirely among the miniature land!

storybook lane

Andrew – This is a tough one, I’m glad it’s only in Disneyland or else I’d never be able to narrow it down. I’m not sure why but I’m feeling the Western genre right now. I think you could start it in Frontierland about a Cowboy wanting to set off and explore the World. That eventually leads him into Tom Sawyer Island and Critter Country before finally finding a train that takes you back in time to see the dinosaurs… Okay, maybe not that last part but I like the Western set in Frontierland and venturing out into Tom Sawyer Island and Critter Country.

Tom Sawyer Island Big Thunder blue night

Melissa – My initial draw is to film in and around the castle. It would be a true Hallmark type movie about a modern-day princess who can’t leave her castle until she finds her true hearts desire or whatever. Another more extreme thought I had would be to film in Toon Town. Treat it as an abandoned and closed theme park that some teenagers stumble upon and then it turns into a crazy horror/thriller crazy action movie. Now I would never watch this… as I tend to lean more towards hallmark happily ever after, but this horror idea of Toon Town seemed a little fitting – especially if they will be closing it.

Mickey toontown fountain

Andrew – The hard place to make a film may be Tomorrowland. Since it’s a retro look at the future, I’m not sure what type of movie fits there. Out of the original Disneyland lands, I think it’s in the worst shape and may not be flattering as a backdrop for a movie. The obvious answer for what type of film can be made here is sci-fi, but after thinking harder on that idea I’m not sure that it fits outside of maybe on Space Mountain.

Tomorrowland from Space Mt roof

Where would you film your movie and what would it be about?  Let us know in the comments!

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MK gold fw


It’s In The Bag

A backpack or bag is often a necessity for when spending a day at a Disney Park.  Hopefully you can pass the responsibility of carrying a bag off to someone else in your party but we can’t all be that lucky.  Having that bag can be a blessing and a curse.  Have something in the bag that someone needs?  That person is then forever trying to repay the kindness you sent them.  If you and your backpack are missing the item that your friend or family member needs?  Well, as the wise Tom Haverford would say, “You’re dunzo.”

So, what should go in your bag on a day at a Disney Park?  Good question, that’s why I’m writing this ever so helpful (I haven’t said one meaningful thing yet) blog post.  Unfortunately, I don’t know the type of people you are going with.  I can only tell you about what’s in my bag when I visit a park.  It will almost surely be different than yours but I do think there are a few essentials that can be helpful to everyone.   I don’t have any children, so my bag will obviously be different than anyone who is bringing kids with them to the park.  We’ll do another post in the future about what to pack if you are bringing kids to the park with you.  With that being said, there are some crossover items that everyone should bring.  I’ll link to the more obscure items in here. Without further ado, here’s what is in my bag!

Mr. Toads Wild Ride castle background

The Bag – Hindawi Canvas DSLR Backpack

I guess we have to start with the bag before we get to what’s in it.  I’ve switched backpacks fairly regularly since photography has become an integral part of my park going.  This canvas backpack is my current favorite.  It’s fairly large, which is a pro and con.  It can fit all of my camera gear (we’ll get to that in a minute) while still having plenty of room for other items.  This backpack being large is only a hindrance on a few attractions with tight seating (mainly roller coasters.)  Other DSLR backpacks I’ve used haven’t had much room for additional items, so I’ll endure the hindrances in favor of being able to carry more.

I also like that this backpack is canvas, making it fairly heavy-duty.  I’m pretty rough on backpacks, slinging them around and such.  This backpack hasn’t shown signs of wear and tear while other versions have.  I haven’t used this in extreme heat, and I’m somewhat concerned about the material being too heavy while in the heat.  Still, for $50 I think this backpack will definitely fit what people are looking for (especially people with larger cameras.)

California Grill star fireworks

Camera – Nikon D7000

Being fairly new to photography, I have a somewhat outdated DSLR.  Truthfully though, it suits my needs so far and has shown few signs of wear and tear.  Nothing the camera does ‘wows’ me but it’s also extremely reliable.  Once I figure out more of what I’m doing I will eventually upgrade.  I have had good luck with Nikon products and the mirrorless cameras are intriguing, if you are looking for a newer option.  If you aren’t then this camera is fairly advanced and much cheaper than other options (due to it being an older edition.)

Tree of life trail AK

Camera Lenses

The list of camera lenses in my bag is ever-changing.  I don’t want to bore you too much so I’ll just list a few of my favorites.  I have three lenses that are my regulars currently.  The first of which is my new fisheye lens that I recently purchased.  I like that a fisheye can capture more in the frame, especially when in a Disney Park.  The edges of the lens are sharp, which can be a concern for some fisheye lenses.  I will be using this lens very regularly.  Another lens I always have with me is the 50 MM lens.  This is the most budget friendly lens I have but it’s one that I’ve seen universally recommended by photographers.  While I think the ‘nifty fifty’ can be hard to use in some settings, it can also force you to take more creative shots.  It’s surely sharp, reliable and easy to use.  It’s also a quality lens for around $130, which is cheap in the photography world.  The last lens I carry with me is some sort of zoom lens.  I’m currently in between zoom lenses so I won’t recommend one at the moment.  I admit that I’m often too reliable on zoom lenses, when others can give better and crisper shots.  Still, when walking around a theme park there’s a wide array of shots to be taken.  A zoom can give you some versatility in the shots that you’ll be able to take.

Voyager submarine monorail nemo_edited-1

Other Camera Stuff

I know, I know… This has just been a ‘What Camera Gear Does Andrew Have’ post so far.  This is the last of the camera gear in my bag and I grouped it all into one category.  This group includes several camera straps, a tripod hooked on to the outside of my bag, a Mickey Mouse lens cloth, a battery charger, extra memory cards, and rain gear for my camera.  It sounds like a lot but all of that stuff (excluding the tripod) just fits into a side pocket in my backpack.  On to the other stuff!


Don’t want to get wet on a water ride?  Going to Walt Disney World during storm season?  Ponchos are always a good thing to have no matter the time of year you are going to a Disney Park.  I regularly use one on trips just to cover my backpack on water rides.  Some may argue the merits of carrying ponchos in your backpack to in turn cover your backpack with a poncho but those people just like to argue that sentence is confusing.  We just buy cheap ponchos at a Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer before our trip and use those.  Repacking ponchos in to our bag after using them is something we’ve done before but wasn’t all that enjoyable.  So buy 10 ponchos for $10 and just get rid of the ones that get soaked as you go.

Big Thunder Train turning

A Jacket

The weather forecast is your friend but I almost always pack a jacket of some kind.  Disneyland, specifically, gets deceptively cold on some nights and it’s not enjoyable to be caught without a jacket.  In the winter months, you may want a fairly heavy jacket.  In storm season, I usually bring a rain jacket.  In other months, a sweatshirt will usually do.


I’m not a big breakfast fan so I will almost always pack granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit, pop tarts, etc.  You can bring food into the parks so why waste $5 on a snack you don’t really like?  Just suffer through a lousy granola bar to tide you over until you get to eat somewhere tasty.  This is especially true if you are on a budget or on the dining plan.

upside down tree

Portable Phone Charger

These days having a phone at Disney Parks is almost a must (this is somewhat unfortunate but that’s a subject for another day.)  With that in mind, I like having a portable charger with me in case my phone runs low on battery.  It’s bad to be caught with a dead phone when you want to add an impromptu FastPass or dining reservation.  I’m open to any kind of brand with these chargers, but here’s a cheap option.

Hat and/or Sunglasses

The weather report doesn’t say it will be sunny?  You don’t like wearing sunglasses or hats?  Proceed at your own risk.  I’ve been caught at Parks without sunglasses a few times and I almost always give in and buy a cheap pair by the afternoon.  There’s a lot of objects for the sun to get a glare off of in the parks and the California and Florida suns are hot and bright.  Just trust me, pack a hat or sunglasses.

Chapstick (a late addition!)

A few readers have commented saying that they always bring chapstick.  I admit that I completely forgot about this item but always bring it with me.  Obviously this doesn’t take up much room.

Notable Omission – Water Bottle

That’s about all that I pack although I’m sure I missed something.  One thing that many people pack and I don’t is a water bottle.  To me, they take up unnecessary space when you can just ask any counter-service spot for an ice water.  Not only is the water cooler but you don’t have to carry it around all day.  Yes, the parks don’t have the best tasting water but you’ll have to put up with that whether you have a water bottle or not.

Paradise Pier from Little Mermaid

Did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

My Dream 48 Hours – Part 2

This is the second and final part of my elaborate and detailed dream 48 hours at U.S. Disney Parks (and resorts connected to those parks.)  Working with an unlimited budget, teleportation powers, and the elimination of time zones, I’ve already completed my first day in Disneyland.  To read about that and a host of other rules that I’m not going to repeat, click here.  Let’s get to my second day!

‘Stormalong’ Over to Magic Kingdom

After a well-earned night of sleep at the Beach Club, I wake in a sort of food-induced daze.  Before I have time to question whether that last Panko-crusted Chinese Long Bean was worth it, I head out the door around 8.  The parks don’t open until 9 but I wanted an early dip in Stormalong Bay, Beach Club’s renowned pool.  The pool and location are my main reasons that I’ve decided to stay here.  I love a resort that’s right along the water, as I like photographing the water.  The pool is incredibly elaborate, with a sand floor and lazy river.  I’ve always wanted to swim in the pool but the cost of staying in this resort have stopped me from staying here.  That’s why I have to dream!


After a quick swim, I change and head over to Magic Kingdom (via teleportation, of course.)  After doing many of the big E-Ticket attractions in Disneyland, there isn’t as much to do here in Magic Kingdom.  Not that they’re the same park by any means.  I’m inside the park at 9 and head over to the Jungle Cruise.  While I don’t have much of a preference either way, I like the temple in WDW’s Jungle Cruise and DL doesn’t have that.  That’s why I saved this attraction for this park.  After riding the Jungle Cruise, I head over to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which I’ve FastPassed (60 days in advance) for a 9-10 window.  I was fairly hesitant about doing this attraction.  I don’t love it but I do think it’s impressive and have only rode it a few times.  Because of the huge crowds it’s still attracting, I thought it’d be more than worth a FastPass.  After completing this, it was time to head over to Gaston’s Tavern for my first treat of the day.  That treat is, of course, the world-renowned cinnamon roll.  It’s world-renowned in my house, at least.

Seven Dwarves Mine Train

After a quick bite, it’s time to head off to my second FastPass of the day at the Haunted Mansion.  While a FastPass isn’t very necessary here, it may save me a few minutes.  I definitely prefer Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion to DL’s version and that’s the reason for doing it here even after doing it the previous day.  After narrowly escaping becoming the 1,000th ghost, I escape the mansion at about 10:30.  Late morning is one of my favorite times to visit my third favorite kind of bears – the country bears.  My two favorite kind of bears are Fozzie and Pandas, in that order.  Some people may think it’s ridiculous to waste dream time on an attraction that has no line and may be outdated.  Those people either have no soul or haven’t sing a giant animatronic bear sing a sad country song.  Either way, I’m heartbroken for those people and that giant bear.  After exiting the Country Bear Jamboree, I hop aboard the Liberty Square Riverboat for a ride along the Rivers of America.  This is one of my favorite things to do in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.  I think it’s the most relaxing attraction Disney offers and showcases some wonderful history of both the parks and America.

By the time my cruise is over, we’ll call it 11:30 and I head over to use my last FastPass at Splash Mountain.  I’ve done this attraction on both coasts now and that’s because it’s one of the best.  I don’t have much of a preference between the two versions of Splash Mountain, for the record.  At around noon, I decide it’s time for lunch and teleport my way over to Disney Springs.

Lunch and a Few Shows

A year or two ago, spending any amount of a ‘dream day’ at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) would be laughable to me.  But the upgrades that Disney has made here have been really impressive, even if I’d rather them invest more in the parks than here.  Once arriving in Disney Springs, I head over to The Boathouse for lunch.  I’ll be trying this place on my next trip and am very excited for it.  I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews.  After an hour-long lunch, I decide it’s time to get back into the parks.

Wanting a relaxing place to get out of the heat and let my lunch settle, it’s time for a few shows inside of the parks.  I think that Disneyland offers just as many great attractions to ride as Walt Disney World, if not more.  Where WDW sets itself apart, is the live and longer entertainment.  That doesn’t mean I think Walt Disney World is better, just simply that they can offer more due to having 4 parks instead of 2.  The shows that would be on the top of my list to see after my lunch are The American Adventure (including the Voices of Liberty in the pre-show) and Festival of the Lion King.  I teleport over to Epcot for The American Adventure and then to Animal Kingdom for the Festival of the Lion King.

American Adventure

Some Afternoon Thrills

Once these shows are over, it’s time to face my fears and make my only stop in Hollywood Studios.  Tower of Terror scares me to death but it’s one of the most impressive theme park attractions ever created and I’ve gotten to the point that I actually enjoy it despite being scared of it.  All that to say, this is the only attraction that I’ll be doing at Hollywood Studios.  Toy Story Midway Mania and Star Tours were attractions that I contemplated doing but I decided to leave them off because of Toy Story’s long line and because I don’t love Star Tours.  Once I’m off Tower of Terror, it’s around 3:30.

Once done with the Tower of Terror, I’m back to Animal Kingdom for a ride on Expedition Everest.  While this attraction could be so much more, I do think it’s a phenomenal coaster that tells a great story.  Here’s hoping that the Yeti inside will be restored in the next couple of years.  After Everest it’s time for a walk on my favorite path in any Disney Theme Park – the Maharajah Jungle Trek.  The animal exhibits are pretty cool on this walk (that takes around 30 minutes) but what really sets this apart is the details and the story it tells.  Animal Kingdom, as a whole, tells a great story about the importance of animals and this is perfectly done in the jungle trek.  After completing the my walk, I slowly make my way out of the park, going from Asia to Harambe to Discovery Island and then the exit.  My favorite part of Animal Kingdom are the details and little trails off the beaten path.  I want to experience those, no matter my budget and time.


After exiting the park at around 4:45, I quickly get to Magic Kingdom’s Main Street (teleportation is more effective than Disney World’s busses) to see the Flag Retreat Ceremony at 5.  This is another small thing, but the flag retreat on both coasts is done wonderfully done.  Disney has somewhat forgotten about the little things in the last few years, instead pushing for profit margins.  The little shows and details, like the Flag Retreat, are where the theme parks heart lies and that is why they need to continue.  Really, go to the Flag Retreat at some point.  It’s heart warming, patriotic, and honoring.  Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox.

The Fanciest Dinner I’ve Ever Had

After the Flag Retreat, I leave Magic Kingdom and go to the Grand Floridian for my dinner reservation.  I’ll be dining at Victoria & Albert’s.  Not only that, but I’ll be sitting at the chef’s table.  Outside of visiting some foreign parks, this restaurant tops my ‘Disney Bucket List’ and is a place that I can’t wait to try.  It’s extremely expensive and very fine dining.  At the Chef’s Table I believe you receive (and pay for) a nine-course meal.  This meal is the reason I chose to go to Walt Disney World on my second day (that and the pace of my second day is more relaxing.) My wife and I enjoy dinner and then head out.  Oh yeah, my wife is obviously with me for this whole trip.  I just assumed that you knew.  Dinner here did take some time though and I’ll say it’s now 7.  That may be generous, but I can dream.


After dinner, I’m probably a little too full to take on moving at extreme speeds son ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris at sunset is where I head.  I’ve already said a few times how excited I am about Animal Kingdom at night so I won’t repeat it here.  But, from 7:00-8:45 I’ll be riding the safari and exploring the park at night while taking photos.

A (Nighttime) Spectacular Finish

At 8:45, I teleport over to Epcot and find a spot for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  My choice here may depend on what I think of Animal Kingdom’s upcoming Nighttime Spectacular but for now it’s Illuminations.  I love this show, even though it is somewhat dated.  The themes and music move me and the somewhat abstract elements make it my favorite nighttime show.  After the show, I find room somewhere in my stomach to pound down a few of my favorite World Showcase snacks.  A Macaroon Ice Cream sandwich from France and School Bread from Norway are near the top of my list of snacks.  There are always new things to try, as well.  More than anything though, I love walking around World Showcase after Illuminations.  Exploring Japan’s Gardens and seeing Italy all lit up are some of the highlights.  If you’re looking for something unique or romantic to do in Walt Disney World, take a slow stroll around World Showcase after Illuminations or right when the park is closing.  This is another thing I try to do on every trip.


After I’m done with a walk, I teleport over to Magic Kingdom around 10:30 to catch the end of the Main Street Electrical Parade.  Not making it to this park for Wishes was a little sad but there was only so much time and I already saw the fireworks in Disneyland.  If you’ll remember some 5,000 words ago, I said that I’d get 2 extra magic hours in Magic Kingdom after the park closed.  This happens once a week in the park so I’m not cheating here.  At least, I’m not really cheating.

Once the parade has finished, I ride my favorite attractions at night.  These include the Jungle Cruise (yes, I’ve already rode it but it’s a different experience at night with the right skipper), Dumbo, the Astro Orbiter, Big Thunder, and the TTA PeopleMover about 5 times.  While none of these attractions are that high on my overall list, they are absolutely ones that everyone should experience at night.  Okay, the PeopleMover is pretty high on my list.  I was lying before.  Once this is all done, I cap off my night with a Dole Whip float and a ride on Space Mountain.  I take my time coming out of the park, as I always do, taking photos and such.  A slow boat ride over to the Grand Floridian, where I stay the night, caps off my day and dream 48 hours.  I could have stayed at the $2,000/night Bungalows at the Polynesian but that felt more like cheating than ignoring time zones, eating what seems like 20 pounds of food and teleporting like crazy on my second day.

Grand Flo

My second day totals:

Parks I’d go to: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom

Places I ate and drank: Gaston’s, The Boathouse, Victoria & Albert’s, Snacking around World Showcase, Dole Whip in Magic Kingdom

Attractions I rode or saw: Jungle Cruise (x2), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, Liberty Square River Boat, Splash Mountain, American Adventure, Festival of the Lion King, Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Flag Retreat, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Illumination: Reflections of Earth, Dumbo, Astro Orbiter, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, TTA PeopleMover, and Space Mountain

All together, that’s 20 shows and attractions that I completed.  Some are fairly small (Flag Retreat, Dumbo…) and wouldn’t take any time at all.  This was over 16 hours in the parks or resorts, so I don’t think it’s an absurd number due to teleportation.  I will admit that it’s probably a little optimistic though.  But you know what they call dreams that aren’t optimistic?  Nightmares.

What would be at the top of your to-do list for your dream 48 hours?  Let me know in the comments!  I may do a post in the coming weeks on things that narrowly missed my list.  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

My Dream 48 Hours – Part 1

I was recently asked the question, “If you could do anything you wanted in the U.S. Disney Parks for 48 hours, what would you do?” I answered, “I’d tell you but then I’d be robbing my loyal readers of a fantastic blog post.”

castle front right

Well, maybe that’s not how that conversation went down.  But I was given this idea for a fun blog post and I’m going to run with it.  We need some basic ground rules for this dream 48 hours in a Disney Park, so let’s start with that…

  • First of all, let’s start with the obvious: I have a teleportation machine.  It should go without saying but I’ll include this ‘rule’ for those who aren’t up to speed.  While I do have a teleportation machine, I will try to stay somewhat within reason and won’t take much advantage of it outside of hopping from coast to coast between the two U.S. Disney Resorts.  Which leads me to my second rule…
  • Only U.S. Disney theme park resorts are included here.  If I went worldwide Disney Parks I’d probably spend all 48 hours at the Tokyo Disney Resort just to get that out-of-the-way now.  Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced any of the foreign parks so my ‘expertise’ (this is my dream so I can call it expertise) would go to waste in the foreign parks.  While we’re at it, let’s stay away from the Disney resorts without theme parks connected.  The Aulani Resort in Hawaii sounds wonderful but isn’t quite what we’re going for here.
  • Budget isn’t an issue.  These 48 hours are fully comped by someone. So, I can eat anywhere I want and stay anywhere I want.  Speaking of, I’m always open to donations to make dreams come true!
  • While budget isn’t an issue, no tours are allowed.  I’m very intrigued by some tours but let’s save that for another blog post.
  • Basic Park Rules apply.  Let’s go with park hours from 9 AM to 11 PM for all of the parks in the U.S.  While this is somewhat generous to Hollywood Studios and California Adventure, I don’t plan to take advantage of those late hours there.  Animal Kingdom will be open until 11 PM starting in 2 weeks so I don’t feel like I’m cheating there.  Epcot usually closes between 9 and 10 so I’m not stretching it too far there.  Disneyland and Magic Kingdom are usually open until around 11 at this time of year, and sometimes even later.  I am going to give myself extra magic hours one night at Magic Kingdom but that happens once a week.  I would plan my ‘dream 48 hours’ around that schedule so I’ll do the same for this blog post.  Also, let’s just assume all the nighttime spectaculars are at their usual times.
  • I’m going to assume a normal wait time for any attraction and follow the FastPass (or FastPass+) rules.
  • Lastly, let’s just pretend time zones aren’t really a thing here.  I was finding way too many ways to use the teleportation machine with time zones so to simplify this let’s just ignore them for your sanity and mine.

I think that’s it for the rules.  I’m going to be pretty detailed with times here.  This is an unbelievable opportunity (in my dreams) so I’ll sleep once this trip is over and I will overeat.  That overeating part won’t surprise loyal readers.

Tomorrowland from Space Mt roof

A Busy E-Ticket Morning

When I arrive at the Disneyland gates at approximately 8:45 AM I can’t help but think to myself, “This is what dreams are made of.” After I have a nice laugh about that joke, I head into the original Magic Kingdom in sunny Anaheim.  I join the crowd heading for Tomorrowland and immediately grab a FastPass for HyperSpace Mountain.  Why not go on it, I was one of the first few people in line and it surely would have saved time to go on this attraction now rather than come back to use my FastPass later.  The answer is simple: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.  That’s right, a strange attraction but if you go really early in the morning (or late at night) then there’s no line and you can have a ride vehicle all to yourself.  As opposed to Disney World’s version of this attraction, the guns detach here making it easier to operate two guns at once.  Still not convinced this is the way to go?  Well, with no line they let guests just go around again sometimes.  Multiple chances to take down Zurg with two guns and your own vehicle!  I’m taking that opportunity every time, baby!  I’ll give myself 20 minutes here and finally exit after setting a record high score.  After doing my best Buzz impression, I head over to use my HyperSpace Mountain FastPass.  While the reviews are somewhat mixed, this might be the attraction I’m most curious about right now at Disneyland.  That’s why it received the honor of my first FastPass.  By the time I’m off the attraction, it’s close to 10 AM.

Exiting Tomorrowland, I cross through the Hub and head to the other side of the park.  Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Eye has a FastPass return time between 11 AM and noon so I grab that and keep moving.  Haunted Mansion and Pirates are quick-moving lines and are instant classics.  While I prefer the WDW version of Haunted Mansion, the DL version was closed last time I was there so I’m eager to try it out with the Hatbox Ghost.  All together these 2 attractions take an hour to complete as the crowds are starting to fill in.  I grab a FastPass for Splash Mountain (return time between 2:00-3:00 PM) at 11 AM and head over to use my current FastPass on Indy.  Good work, huh?  Wait, what’s the sound?  Oh, just my stomach as I haven’t eaten anything yet.  Time for lunch.

Pommes Frites Cafe Orleans

Lunch and Beating the Heat

Lunch is a tough choice, as it’s a question of speed or quality.  Ultimately I land farther on the side of quality and indulge in those amazing Pommes Frites at Cafe Orleans.  While looking out over Rivers of America, I’m served the Monte Cristo sandwich as my entrée.  I regret not getting that the last time I was there so it has to be done.  I should have said this in the rules, but Club 33 is off-limits or else that would have been my lunch choice.  Satisfied, I head out of the restaurant at about 12:30 PM.  That might be fairly generous but I think I could have completed all of that in 3 and a half hours.

It’s getting hot and I still have about an hour and a half until my FastPass for Splash Mountain is up.  Time for some attractions that are inside.  Most people don’t go to Hell to cool off but that’s exactly where I head with Mr. Toad.  When planning this, Mr. Toad was one of the five attractions that I absolutely had to do at DL and couldn’t save for WDW (Hyperspace Mountain and Pirates were two others I’ve already done, Radiator Springs Racers and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are still to come.)  I’m off of Mr. Toad by 1 PM or so.  You may have noticed that I skipped dessert and though the pull of Dole Whip is ever so alluring I hold off, knowing that I have a gauntlet of food choices ahead of me.

Snow White

I hit up Snow White’s Scary Adventure to, you know, be impressed by how scary they made that attraction. Then I head over to Tarzan’s Treehouse because in my dreams I don’t get so tired climbing up all of those darn stairs.  Since I’m not huffing and puffing, I’m smart enough to pull my camera out and snap some photos from up there.  It’s nice and something I wish I did every trip but somehow I forget.  I wander the back alleys of New Orleans, explore the river boat and peak through some fences to see the work they’re doing on Star Wars Land.  2 PM arrives and I take a wonderfully, wet ride on Splash Mountain.  If I ever have another dream 48 hours I’m going to ride Splash Mountain and Kilimanjaro Safaris over and over again with Dole Whip, chimichangas, and Boardwalk Bakery’s Lobster Rolls waiting for me when I got off the ride every now and then.  That post would have been a lot more boring (albeit shorter) than this one.  I went off on that tangent just to say how much I love Splash Mountain.  It’s my second favorite U.S. Disney Park attraction behind Kilimanjaro Safaris.

After Splash Mountain is completed, I teleport over to DCA to get a FastPass for Grizzly River Run.  Usually that FastPass isn’t too far out so we’ll say it’s between 4 and 5 PM.  I’m trying to stay away from single rider lines unless they are ones that I’d utilize with a group just for the sake of this post being just slightly helpful and not a complete waste of your time (and instead just mostly wasting your time.)  I don’t think teleporting over here is cheating and it saves me 15 minutes.  Teleporting between parks seems fair game.  I’m not teleporting inside of parks though, that’s right out.  After getting my FastPass, I use the single rider line at Radiator Springs Racers which is a great use even if you are with people.  Often times you’ll end up in the same car or racing a car with someone from your group in it even if you go in the single rider line.  This line usually takes about 20 minutes plus a 10 minute ride puts me at around 2:45.  I do a relaxing walk through the back of Cars Land into the Pacific Wharf and then around Paradise Pier.  I’m skipping California Screamin’ because I don’t like roller coasters.  With that being said, this is a good roller coaster.  Taking photos has become a big part of my Disney trips and Paradise Pier is a pretty fun place to shoot.  I do think this area has some problems but there’s a lot of kinetic energy going around that makes photos interesting.  Finally, I settle at the Cove Bar overlooking the pier.

sunset california screamin paradise pier

I’m here for the view and those Lobster Nachos that always seem to allude me on trips.  While this is a heavy after-lunch snack, I’ve had a busy day! Please don’t judge me, as the eating here is about to go off the rails.  I have the aforementioned nachos and the Habanero Lime Margarita (just kind of a random pull off the generic Disney bar menu) and head on my way to Grizzly River Run.  This is another area where I love to take photos and I do that before arriving for my FastPass at 4:30.  This is the best river rapids ride around.  I’m always blown away by how much fun it is.  Notice how I’ve strategically placed these water rides during the hottest part of the day.  You only get this expertise here at Wandering in Disney (I can not confirm that this is true.)

Soaring Over to Dinner

These titles are going to be really bad by the time we get to the end.  Let’s just assume that Soarin’ Over the World has premiered at this point (June 18th, if you’re curious about when it opens.)  If it hasn’t, I’m not riding this but in my dreams it has so that’s why I’m riding it.  The wind helps dry off my wet shorts (just got off the rapids ride) and, while the 12-year-old girl next to me isn’t pleased that I’m dripping water on her, I’m enjoying the updated attraction.  After the attraction ends, I take the Grand Californian exit out of DCA and head over to dinner at Napa Rose.  I’ve raved about this restaurant to anyone who will listen and I’m honored to say that I listened. I’ll take my own advice and go there, except I’ll do one better and sit at the Chef’s Counter tonight.

Napa Rose menu

Arriving at 5:45, I would probably just have prix-fixe menu that comes with ordering at the Chef’s Table.  But, if that wasn’t an option I would get the Roasted Rabbit and Mushroom Stew as an appetizer (you know, because those nachos were simply a snack.)  For my main dish I’d choose between the lamb and filet mignon, ultimately siding with the steak.  Maybe I’d throw in a side of mac n’ cheese because that looks incredible.  For dessert I would order the nectarine and blueberry crisp because I prefer fruit to chocolate (see, I’m healthy!)  It’s too much food but I can speak to how incredible the food and service here is.  When here before, I had the best dining experience of my life and thoroughly enjoyed each moment.  Andrew Sutton, the chef here, has done great work on several of Disney’s restaurants and this is his crown achievement in that field. (Ed. note: The menu does change here often, so some of these choices may not be here for long)

Stuffed, I head for the exit and back into DCA just in time to see them lighting up Cars Land as the sun sets (lets just assume the sun set around 7:15 or 7:30 that night.) Needing some caffeine, I grab a Prickly Pear Soda from the Cozy Cone Motel.

Here Comes the Night Time 

As night falls, I take a slow walk from Cars Land to Disneyland’s Main Street.  I could teleport over but I love looking and photographing the Tower of Terror and Carthay Circle at night.  Reaching Main Street at about 8:15, I head into Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln to admire the models inside of the queue.  I’m a little short on time, so I decide to skip the actual show for the time being.  I have about 15 minutes before the Paint the Night begins so I settle on a spot fairly close to the Matterhorn and enjoy the show.  If this was a normal trip to Disneyland I would go to the second showing of Paint the Night, knowing that I’d probably have another day to experience everything else.  As you’re aware, this isn’t a normal trip to Disneyland.  Paint the Night must-see on this list, as it’s my favorite parade I’ve ever seen.

Mike W front Paint the Night

After Paint the Night is over I shout, “The Night is Young!” and am herded back onto Main Street with thousands of others.  Disneyland Forever starts in about 15 minutes and I enjoy the environment even though it’s crowded.  Wandering through the people, I settle on a spot even with the Plaza Inn and Jolly Holiday Bakery to enjoy the show.  I like this spot because the castle doesn’t block off any of the fireworks and it’s still easy to turn and see all of the projections in the show.  If Fantasmic! wasn’t under refurbishment for the next year then I’d probably go see that but Disneyland Forever isn’t exactly a bad alternative.

Once the show is over (at around 10) I end my night in the park the same way that it began, trying to ride as many E-ticket attractions as possible.  Big Thunder Mountain is first on the list, as Disneyland’s version is far superior to WDW’s in my opinion.  The crowds tend to thin out after the fireworks and first showing of the parade, so I’m going to say I get done with Big Thunder at about 10:25.  I zoom over to Peter Pan’s Flight and ride that.  It takes another half an hour to get through.  As I get off, I have 5 minutes.  Run like the wind, Bullseye!  I get in line for the Matterhorn at 10:59, although there isn’t much of a line, and enjoy a trip up and down the alps.  I’ve done these 3 attractions late at night many times and I prefer this time when it comes to lines.  Also, this is a quick reminder that you can get in line a minute before the park closes no matter how long the line is.  It’s a good way to stretch your park day out, if you have limited time.

Matterhorn night waterfall

Once I survive the yeti, I slowly make my way out of Disneyland while shooting some photos.  I meander back through Fantasyland and in to Frontierland, taking photos along the water.  Security shows up and I’m slowly pushed on to Main Street.  I take a few more photos and exit the park.  Another quick reminder, the park generally stays open an hour after closing.  The attractions all shut down but the shops stay open and security usually isn’t in much of a hurry to push you out the door unless there’s a party or event going on late at night.  Take your time going out of the park, if your schedule allows.

A Late Night Drink and Skip Across the Country

I exit Disneyland around midnight and teleport over to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel.  I don’t think much of DL’s Downtown Disney or else I would have walked.  Trader Sam’s is one of my favorite places in all of Disneyland and I’m happy to spend some time there even if I should be getting some sleep.  I love their Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans so I order that and an Uh Oa! to drink.  Soaking in the atmosphere, I recall a simpler time when I wasn’t able to teleport across the country.  After about 45 minutes, I decide now is the time and push the magic button.  Adding to the mystique of Trader Sam’s, I vanish into the night.  Bar inhabitants are astonished while the bar keepers just keep chanting, “Uh Oa! Uh Oa! Uh Oa!”  I land in the lobby of the Beach Club at Walt Disney World to check in for the night.  Why this hotel?  I’ll explain that in the morning (part 2 of this post, coming soon…) I collapse on to the bed and fall asleep without any trouble.

Partners night 60th castle

Here’s what I completed on day one of my dream 48 hours at Disney Parks:

Parks I went to:  Disneyland, Disney California Adventure

Nighttime Spectaculars I saw: Paint the Night, Disneyland Forever

Places I ate and drank: Cafe Orleans, Cove Bar, Napa Rose, Prickly Pear Soda from the Cozy Cone, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

Attractions I rode: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, HyperSpace Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Eye, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Grizzly River Run, Soarin’ Over the World, Cars Land Lighting (not really a ride), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the Matterhorn.

Not counting the Cars Land lighting, I rode 14 attractions which is absolutely doable for a full day in the parks.

I hadn’t planned on making this post a 2-parter but 6,000 words is too many for a blog post, so I’ll end this one and be back with part 2 in the next few days.  Any questions or comments on my first 24 hours?  What would you change?  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

Question of the Week (5/10/16)

Every other week our writers get together and answer a Disney-related question, then discuss it.  Here is this week’s question and answers.

Corn Dog wagon at night

Question of the Week: What is your go to counter-service restaurant that you recommend on any Disney trip? Name as may as you’d like!

Andrew – I think I’ll have to answer for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World…

Disneyland has a few counter-service places that I love. On almost every trip I have to get a corn dog from the Little Red Wagon. It’s cheap (comparatively) and convenient. It’s also the best corn dog I’ve ever had. I also find myself at Rancho del Zocalo nearly every trip. While I like this place, I’m not sure why I end up here so often. I do recommend the Rancho del Zocalo but I’m not sure it should be a staple of my DL trip. (Bonus: I also try to make it over to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar as much as possible)

Walt Disney World is a different beast, with many more options (although some of the quality isn’t there.) The top-2 HAVE TO’s at WDW for counter-service are Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom and Boardwalk Bakery. I love the barbecue and sitting down by the river in AK. It’s relaxing and the a good use of the dining plan if you’re on it. Boardwalk Bakery has wonderful sandwiches (I love the lobster roll) and then great desserts to go along with it. It’s an easy place to do lunch if you’re at Epcot or Hollywood Studios.


Melissa – I think my all time favorite would be in Disney world with the Boardwalk Bakery. The sandwiches are large and different enough for someone who doesn’t like sandwiches to enjoy. Plus there are so many more options for dessert! And let’s face it, I only eat a real meal so I can have dessert! I’d have to say a close second would be the Be Our Guest counter service. It’s a great alternative to still see inside the beauty and the beast castle and still get great food! It’s definitely the best atmosphere for a counter service in my opinion!

Cassie – My go-to for a meal is the pacific wharf cafe. I could probably eat a bread bowl filled with chowder every day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it! My go-to for a treat is the dole whip stand for sure! Nothing tastes like Disneyland to me like that sweet pineapple bliss!

Pacific Wharf closer

Andrew – Have you tried the salad in the bread bowl, Cassie?

Cassie – I did try the Chinese chicken salad in the bread bowl not that long ago. It was so over-dressed! I did not enjoy that. Think I’ll stick with soup in a bread bowl! The gumbo in the bread bowl is my second favorite!

Melissa – Mmmmm the bread bowls are yummy!!!! And dole whip is the best and number one thing I get when at a Disney park!

Andrew – I had the shrimp salad in the bread bowl once and really enjoyed it. Although that’s been quite a while and I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert on salads…

Pacific Wharf Tower of Terror

What are your go-to counter-service meals in a Disney Park? Let us know in the comments.  If you like what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please like our Facebook page and subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  If you ever have any questions about Disney Parks, this blog or trip planning please leave us a comment or send us an email at  Have a great week!

The Future of Theme Park Lands

Like style, food, and virtually everything else on Earth, theme parks have trends.  When they were first created theme parks were about storytelling and family-friendly fun.  In the 1970’s and 1980’s there were more risks taken and creativity was near an all-time high netting us the wonderful idea of Epcot.  In the 1990’s and early 2000’s theme park goers wanted as many thrills as they could get (although this may have always been a trend to some extent.) In the last decade theme parks flavor of the week has been themed lands based off of films.  I think this is an interesting trend but also one to be wary of.  Today’s post will take a look at this idea of themed lands and if it’s a sustainable theme park trend going forward.

Cars Land rock sunset

Themed lands aren’t anything new to the theme park landscapes.  Since this is a Disney blog, I’ll stick to mainly Disney history.  When Disneyland opened, there were five lands: Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.  To this day, most theme parks stick to this basic principle of having lands that transport you to different areas.  These areas will generally be broad enough to encompass several different ideas for attractions.  Anything with a futuristic feel can fit in Tomorrowland while anything with a wild west feel can fit in Frontierland.  This fits for attractions that are based off of films or not.  This probably isn’t a new idea for you if you are reading a theme park blog.

The first glimpse of change that came to this initial theme park concept were movie studio parks.  While these parks generally still had themed lands, it was all a stepping stone (and unfortunately, at times, just felt like a quickly thrown together mask) that would lead you to the set of a film.  There’s nothing wrong with that as Universal Studios and Disney’s MGM Studios both did this concept right and successfully.  There was a theme and the whole park worked together to fit that theme of a real life movie/television studio.  The problem is that over time that theme became unattainable as filming at a theme park isn’t an ideal work environment (I gladly admit that Universal Studios Hollywood still fits the theme in parts of their park with the tram tour.)  On top of the theme being somewhat unattainable, guests interests changed from wanting to be on the set of their favorite film to just wanting to be in the film.  I may be painting everyone with a broad brush but that overall interest has led us to today.  Without the theme of a studio and the appeal of wanting to be on a movie set, we saw a park crumble in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  DHS became a glob of attractions all thrown together that didn’t fit a working studio theme.  This eventually led to the overhaul Hollywood Studios that is currently underway.

Dragon Fire

With a working studio being a tired idea for a park, guests and executives alike quickly fell in love with the idea of stepping foot into a movie instead of a movie set.  The building of these lands could be its own blog post but this idea brought us Cars Land and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  This also led to the decision for Pandora – World of Avatar, Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land, and a host of other lands that are coming soon to theme parks around the world.  Obviously, these lands have been very successful since every theme park seems to be building more of them.  Cars Land is beautiful, playful, and mesmerizing to walk through at any time of the day.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is mystical, surprising, and incredibly detailed to all guests.  Even people who haven’t seen or aren’t fans of the films love these lands.  With the success and beauty of both, it is absolutely no surprise that these lands are the in vogue thing to do right now at theme parks.

But with the success of these lands comes some risk.  What happens when the films these lands are based off of aren’t popular anymore?  Will the lands still stand the test of time?  There isn’t much risk when it comes to legendary IP’s such as Star Wars or Harry Potter.  I don’t have much doubt that those will live on for generations to come.  But what about Avatar?  While the film is a box office legend, it seems forgotten even while the land is still under construction.  I think whether these lands stand the test of time will come down to their quality.  While I think the popularity of Avatar is a problem, if the land is beautiful enough and has a few quality attractions then it can easily distance itself from the film.  We need to look no further than Splash Mountain to see an example of that.  This new land could simply be known as Pandora instead of Pandora – The World of Avatar if no one remembers the movie in a decade.  It all comes down to quality.  That’s why I’m more hopeful for the land of Pandora than I am for a Toy Story Land.  Toy Story is obviously the bigger brand but will the land last longer when it’s not half the quality of some other IP themed lands?  I think it will be an interesting case study.  These themed lands could be nothing but a band-aid if a film’s popularity or the quality of the land isn’t up to snuff.

Cars Land night as you go rock

What about these themed lands for the long-term future of theme parks?  To me, this is the biggest question facing this new trend.  While everyone enjoys stepping into the movie, there is a major amount of space used to create a land where only a few attractions can be shoehorned in.  What’s great about the concept for a classic theme park with generic lands is that the lands are so broad you can fit many different attractions (based off of many different films) into that land over time.  What can you fit into Cars Land?  Attractions about the film Cars.  That’s not exactly the broad spectrum that Adventureland has.  I do think movie based parks like Universal Studios and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are more apt to pulling off these lands as they fit the theme better.  Disneyland is a different story as we’ll be going from Frontierland and Critter Country to Star Wars.  Broad subject to a narrow subject will be an interesting change both from a guests perspective and for imagineers trying to theme the transition.  While I don’t think it’s impossible to do effectively (DCA does it fairly well) it’s definitely a change.

Over time, I think this trend will die.  For one, there’s only so many extremely popular franchises that you can do this with.  More importantly, I think guests will trend back towards liking the lands that can encompass multiple types of attractions more.  There’s something special, unique and organic about taking a cruise through the jungle right after riding on an Indiana Jones attraction.  More than anything, that’s what I think this new trend is missing.

Elephant in Jungle Cruise

What do you think of lands strictly based off of films?  Do you want to see more of them?  Are there too many already?  Let us know in the comments!  Thank you for reading!

– Andrew

What’s New At Walt Disney World This Summer?

Recently Disney made a slew of announcements about their summer plans for each Walt Disney World park.  Every few months, I’ve decided to write a post about news coming out of each U.S. Disney Park and I thought these announcements warranted a post.  Summer is obviously a popular time to visit theme parks vacation so being aware of what is offered wherever you are going is somewhat important.  In the age of FastPass+ and planning well ahead of time, being aware of what’s offered is especially important at Walt Disney World.

So, let’s take a look at each park to see what’s offered and when it will debut this summer.  I’ll add in some of my thoughts along the way.  As always, if you have any questions or I forget anything please let me know in the comments.  I’ll be sticking with the parks for now, as I’m not quite as in-tune with what’s going on at Disney Springs (although I’m excited to find out on my upcoming trip.)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is the park that will be changing the most over the next several months so it seems a fitting park to start in.  Starting on Memorial Day weekend, Animal Kingdom will be going from closing at 5 or 6 PM every to closing at 11 PM every night (at least through July 2nd, as the schedule hasn’t been updated past that date yet.)  Obviously, this is great news as expanding the hours at one of the most detailed theme parks in the world is what most fans would want.  Still, there aren’t a large amount of attractions at Animal Kingdom so what will be open?  Thankfully, the park is trying to prepare for the evening crowds.

Let’s start with what’s not open in the dark.  The animal trails and exhibits (Rafiki’s Planet Watch falls under this category) will be closed around 5 PM at night.  The lone exception involving animals is that Kilimanjaro Safaris will remain open.  With a slightly shorter track, the safari will be lit up in an orange glow (per Disney) to showcase the animals in what is like a perpetual sunset.  Of all the nighttime events at Animal Kingdom, this is probably the one I’m most excited about.  Kilimanjaro Safaris is my favorite theme park attraction in the world and I’m looking forward to the night iteration of it.  There will be a few new animals to see and I’m looking forward to trying to photograph the attraction in the low light (no flash photography allowed.)

Of course, that attraction is already there.  New events are also occurring (alongside classic attractions and shows that already exist) in Animal Kingdom at night.  In both Harambe and Discovery Island, there will be nighttime parties with live entertainment that will try to be authentic to the area.  The descriptions of these parties have a feel of the live entertainment during Epcot’s heyday.  That’s what I’m hoping that these parties will be and I’m looking forward to the live entertainment.  Along with these parties, Tiffins, a signature dining restaurant, will be opening at Animal Kingdom.  The restaurant will take favorite dishes that the Imagineers have tried from around the world and serve them at this location.  Attached to this restaurant will be the Nomad Lounge.  Expect the intricate detail of Animal Kingdom to be shown throughout these restaurants.

Tree of life

The biggest piece of entertainment to come to Animal Kingdom this summer will be a nighttime spectacular.  Rivers of Light (originally scheduled to open April 22nd) has been delayed and likely won’t open until July at the earliest.  In its place, a show based on the Jungle Book will have a temporary run.  These will both take place on the Discovery River and will be water projection and light based.  The Jungle Book show seems like a good way to tide crowds over.  With that being said, I’m really looking forward to Rivers of Light.  I think this show will replicate the beautiful Park’s theme and authenticity.  Time will tell when it opens but I hope it will be a hit.

Another thing to watch out for while at Animal Kingdom at night is the Tree of Life lighting up.  While not exactly an attraction, I think this will be a sight to behold judging by photographs that I’ve seen.  I’m extremely excited to see Animal Kingdom after dark as this summer and fall acts as a warm up to the opening of Pandora.


Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Compared to Animal Kingdom’s new offerings these other parks don’t have as much to offer in terms of new attractions.  Hollywood Studios new attraction will be Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.  This fireworks show will feature projection mapping and be themed to… you guessed it, Star Wars.  I’m looking forward to seeing the use of projections in this new show, as I think it’s the current and future of nighttime spectaculars.  Knowing of what Disney is capable of thanks to Disneyland Forever, I think a Star Wars show could be very special.

There is a new daytime Star Wars show in front the Chinese Theater and it’s suffered bad reviews so far.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a retooling of that show plus more temporary entertainment offered to DHS this summer.  With so much construction going on, the park certainly needs more things to do to help alleviate the crowds.  We’ll see if that happens though.


In Epcot, the big news is that Frozen Ever After and the Frozen Meet & Greets will open in June in the Arendelle Norway Pavilion.  No, I’d rather this attraction wasn’t here since Frozen doesn’t take place in Norway.  Hopefully the attraction still pays homage to Norway, and somewhat keeps the integrity of World Showcase.  What it will do for sure is draw incredible crowds to Epcot this summer and through the rest of 2016.  As long as it’s offered, I highly recommend getting a FastPass+ for this attraction 60 days before your trip.

Japan torii gate_edited-1

The other new offering at Epcot will be a change from Soarin’ Over California to Soarin’ Around The World.  I’m excited for this new change that will open on June 17th.  While I like the original Soarin’, I think a change is in order to keep the attraction fresh.  This is the type of thing that Disney Parks need to do more of.  First, they create an attraction that isn’t based off a film or franchise.  Then, they update it before it becomes outdated or tired.  Kudos to Disney on this one and I’m looking forward to the new version of the film (which can also be seen in Disney California Adventure.)

Magic Kingdom

Finally we arrive at Magic Kingdom, which has had the biggest flurry of activity in the last 5 years but is now somewhat quiet.  The park is in decent shape especially compared to the other three.  With that in mind, the only thing that is being added this summer in Magic Kingdom is a new midday stage show in front of the castle.  This show will be titled Mickey’s Royal Friendship Fare.  I’m not a huge fan of these stage shows (it gets so hot!) but I’m looking forward to seeing this one.


That does it for all the major new attractions opening at Walt Disney World this summer.  If you have any questions about this post or trip planning, please leave us a comment below.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!

– Andrew