Question of the Week – Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween!  I hope that you have or had a not-so-scary and fun holiday!  Every few weeks our writers answer a Disney related question and this week’s has to do with Halloween.  Enjoy!

Jack and Oogie MK Halloween

HALLOWEEN QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Aside from the two obvious attractions, Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror, what is the spookiest/scariest Disney attraction?

Cassie – Without a doubt, Snow Whites Scary Adventure. There is nothing more terrifying than a dark ride with a witch following you the entire time. Truly a terrifying ride in my opinion. I am pretty sure that this ride traumatizes children every day. I am 27 and still find it very scary!

3 tombstones Haunted Mansion MK

Andrew – Snow White’s a great answer, no doubt! I’d have to go with It’s Tough To Be A Bug. This 3D show is like a horror movie. Bugs crawl over you. The seats in the theater stab you. There are stink bugs, jump scares, and everything else that you can think of. Children are usually screaming in there. I don’t scream during the show anymore because I take off my glasses and sit on the edge of my seat. Actually, that’s what I used to. I just don’t go in this any more.

HalloWishes green castle MK

Melissa – I would have to choose Mr. Toads Wild Ride. I mean you are literally riding through hell! Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy this ride…but the whole idea of it is pretty spooky!

Andrew – While It’s Tough To Be A Bug is the scariest, Pirates of the Caribbean should also be mentioned. Disneyland’s version has several ghost stories about the making of the attraction. On top of that, the story is about a pirate dying and then going back in time to see his life up until that point. Among Disney rides, this is probably the darkest and spookiest.

Ghosts Boo to You MK

What would your answer be?  Let us know in the comments!

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

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August 2017 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 4

If you missed parts 1, 2 or 3 of this trip report then click on the corresponding number to catch up! 

Thursday morning saw us waking up in and checking out of the Yacht Club.  We resort-hopped more on this trip than I’d probably recommend but I do think split-stays are an easy way to see and stay in more resorts.  With Disney’s baggage service, the process takes next to no time.  If you have more questions about resort hopping then let me know in the comments, I’d be happy to answer questions or devote a post to it.

Stormalong Bay slide

After checking out, we made the quick walk from the Yacht Club to Epcot.  This was the last day of our Disney Deluxe Dining Plan and the first day of Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  In layman’s terms that means we were going to eat all day.  With a full afternoon of eating, we figured that riding attractions early was a good way to go.  We started with Soarin’.

Soarin tunnel Epcot

This is likely Epcot’s best attraction from both a technical and entertainment standpoint.  I think that’s fairly indicting of Epcot from this viewpoint.  While Soarin’ is an excellent attraction, I’ve always thought that it was a step below other Disney headliners.  For a park built on the future and innovation, Epcot could really use a headline attraction that embodies those ideas.  Frankly, any up to date attractions that embody Epcot’s principles would be an improvement.  I know not all share my opinion of Soarin’ and that’s fine, I just think Epcot could use a new state-of-the-art E-ticket.  And no, a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster does not fit that bill.

After Soarin’, we rode Living with the Land which embodies those Epcot principles.  While I love Living with the Land, the attraction is beginning to show its age.  An update to the opening scenes before the greenhouse would certainly bring this attraction up to date.  Still, seeing all that Epcot is growing can be very fascinating.  Living with the Land remains a vestige to a Future World that was once more mature and interesting.

Manatee Epcot

Next came The Seas to see some manatees.  I hope you read that in a manner that really augmented the rhymes.  While I don’t like The Seas with Nemo and Friends actual ride, the aquarium portion of the pavilion is still great.

We completed our morning of attractions with Spaceship Earth.  Epcot’s flagship attraction could also use a makeover.  Unlike Living with the Land, I think it’s probable that Spaceship Earth will receive an update in the next decade.  While I still enjoy the attraction, updated narration, a few new scenes and an overhauled ending could go a long ways here.  Whatever they do, I hope they leave this mural.

SSE mural Epcot

This is one of my favorite pieces of art around Walt Disney World.  While these last few paragraphs have a more pessimistic tone than I generally take, I don’t think Epcot is far from returning to a wonderful park.  World Showcase doesn’t need that much help.  All of these Future World attractions that I mention could simply just use a little freshening up.  Putting a few interesting items in those empty buildings might help too.

After all of this silly ride nonsense it was time to eat, and eat we did.

Figment wide F&W Epcot

I’ll have a post up on Food & Wine Festival later this week, detailing a few things we ate.  Our experience was fairly interesting, as this was one of the hottest days of our trip.  Trying to stay out of the 110 degree heat index, we’d order food and then find the nearest building to eat inside of.  The strategy took a little more effort than we would have liked but it helped us stay a little cooler on an otherwise sweltering day.

3 Caballeros Fran Fiesta Tour Epcot

We stopped in the Mexico Pavilion in between snacks for a ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour.  I thoroughly enjoy this attraction although it isn’t a game changer.  The Mexico Pavilion is wonderful and worth spending time in to enjoy the marketplace.  The margaritas aren’t bad either.

Mexico Pavilion Epcot

We continued our trip around World Showcase, sweating and eating.  We topped off our afternoon with an ice cream macaroon sandwich in the France Pavilion’s L’Artisan des Glaces.  Before long, we boarded a bus and headed to the Art of Animation where we’d be staying for the next few nights.

We checked in and rested for a few minutes before heading out again, this time to Magic Kingdom.  As if we hadn’t eaten enough in the afternoon, we had a dinner reservation at Be Our Guest.

MK castle side and light

Some of my favorite photographs that I’ve taken happen in a spur of the moment.  We had a few minutes before our dinner reservation so we enjoyed a leisurely walk to New Fantasyland.  The side view of the castle is one of my favorites.  Between the leading lines the banks of the water forms, or the interesting light fixtures, this is one of my favorite areas to photograph.

MK stream castle

The somewhat precise garden followed by the overgrown foliage on the right side of this photo always interests me.  While I’m no garden expert, the blend of styles here seems to take from different cultures and makes the castle setting seem both somewhat foreign and comforting.  I think this is all intentional and beautiful.

BOG chandelier

We eventually made it to dinner and enjoyed dinner at Be Our Guest, a review is forthcoming.  The main goal for the rest of the night was to get a great spot for Happily Ever After.  We still had a few minutes before a spot was needed, the park wasn’t very busy on this night, so we hopped on the carousel.

Melissa carousel MK

It’s impossible to look sad on a fake horse.  After the carousel, we went to Main Street to find our spot for Happily Ever After.  Melissa and I both loved the show, as you can tell from my review.

Before the show, we made friends with a few older couples around us.  They told us a few stories about coming to the parks every year for the last 15 or 20.  We were all pretty eager to see Happily Ever After, as it was the first time for all of us.  None of us were disappointed and we went on our separate ways shortly after the show ended.  Being a Disney Park fan certainly has similarities to being a loyal fan of a sports team. You can see someone in the park and easily strike up a conversation about your experiences just like when you see a fan of the same team as you and then recall certain games.

HEA tall MK

I did think Happily Ever After was slightly more difficult to photograph than Wishes but that’s likely just because of my unfamiliarity with the show.  I thought the fireworks were more colorful, which is a plus, but having projections on the castle makes long-exposure shots less sharp.

Tomorrowland night

After Happily Ever After, we rode a few attractions and then I took a few photos around the Magic Kingdom Hub.  We had an early morning the next day so before long we went back to the hotel.  As we were exiting, a thunderstorm had just begun over Bay Lake.  We hustled to the bus and narrowly escaped getting poured on.

Unfortunately, we still had to walk to our hotel room.  We tried to wait out the storm in Landscape of Flavors, the hotel’s food court.  After 10 minutes, we decided that it wasn’t going to let up and we ran from building to building all the way to the Art of Animation’s Little Mermaid Wing.  By the time we made it to our room, our clothes were drenched and wouldn’t be dry for a few days.  There’s nothing quite like getting caught in a Florida storm, and this was the craziest one I’d ever been in.

The next morning found us up early and going on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour at Magic Kingdom.  I’ll review this tour in the next few weeks but we thoroughly enjoyed it.  This tour took up 5 hours of our day so we’ll pick up later that afternoon.

Monsters Inc Laugh Floor MK

We spent that afternoon enjoying some attractions, notably in Tomorrowland.  First was the misplaced but always funny Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.  This is a great attraction to save for a hot Magic Kingdom afternoon as you get to sit down and enjoy some air conditioning and jokes.  Next came Space Mountain and then the Tea Cups.

teacups blur MK

We continued our attraction-filled afternoon with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  I caught the end of a Muppets Present… Great Moments in History show, which has become a must-do in Magic Kingdom.  Seriously, it is one of the best attractions the park offers. As if the Muppets weren’t enough awesomeness for an afternoon, we headed to Country Bear Jamboree.

CBJ piano MK

There are some attractions that are running on borrowed time.  They should have been replaced years ago.  Country Bear Jamboree, despite it’s age, is definitely not one of those attractions.  The jokes are still funny, the songs are still charming and the show still works.  I hope this is never replaced.

Castle boat wide MK

We took a few minutes to walk around Frontierland after seeing the Country Bears.  There are certainly some beautiful reviews along the river.  Unfortunately, Splash Mountain was closed during this trip but that didn’t make Frontierland any less beautiful.

BTMR wider MK

Finally, we capped our slew of attractions with Big Thunder Mountain.  In total, we went on or saw 7 different attractions in a little less than 3 hours.  FastPass is a big help but this goes to show that doing attractions in the afternoon isn’t just an exercise in standing in line.  Sure, staying away from most E-ticket attractions during the afternoon is smart but there are plenty of other rides to go on.

We went back to our hotel for a while and then headed to Disney Springs.  Melissa spent the evening shopping and I watched football after we had dinner.  We both enjoyed the night and the nice change of pace.  We’ll pick up part 5 of the trip report the next morning.

If there’s any questions or thoughts about our trip report (or just anything in general) please leave them below in the comments.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Universal Orlando’s Top 10 Attractions

While Disney Parks are my typical and preferred theme parks, there’s no doubting that Universal Orlando has closed the gap between their parks and Disney.  A big reason for that is a slew of new attractions that are some of the best in the world.  While I don’t consider myself an expert on these parks, a reader recently asked if I would give my top-10 Universal Orlando attractions.  I can’t turn down a good top-10 list idea so here we are.

Last DA US

The one issue with this list is that attractions at Universal Orlando aren’t exactly up my alley.  While I’m happy to go on a thrill ride here and there, a park full of them isn’t my preferred slate.  Because I’m a chicken, I had my wife help with the list as she can accurately judge roller coasters.  I can’t judge them because I either don’t go on them or have my eyes closed during them.  For the most part, this list mine but she helped with some additions.  Without further adieu, our top-10 attractions at Universal Orlando.

Honorable Mention:

Transformers 2 3D – This show is now gone from the park but if it was still there it definitely would have made my top 10.  This was cheesy, 80’s fun in a theme park.

Transformers ride US

Transformers: The Ride-3D – This could easily make the top 10 as the sets and screens are combined really well.  The reason this doesn’t make it higher is because I don’t remember a single thing about the attraction’s plot.  Kind of like Transformers the movie!

Jurassic Park River Adventure – Dinosaurs and a flume ride should make for the best attraction in the world.  Instead this is more of a “been there, done that” attraction.  It looks nice, the drop is fun but there isn’t much more there.

Men in Black Alien Attack – This should be in the top-ten but I went with sentiment instead.  Men in Black is another futuristic ride that lets guests shoot down the bad guys.  It’s like Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters but better.

10. E.T. Adventure – Is this one Universal Orlando’s 10 best attractions?  No, but it is certainly a favorite of mine.  Taking a lead from Peter Pan’s Flight, guests soar through and above this attraction on bikes.  The attraction is fairly normal until you get to E.T.’s planet and then there is an absurd amount of strange things to look at.  Do all of these things look good?  No.  They definitely interest me though.  I love this attraction and think that it’s Universal’s best or most interesting dark ride.

Crazy ET US

9. The Simpsons Ride – While this is simply a roller coaster simulator and is docked accordingly so, it is definitely funny and entertaining.  I don’t consider myself a Simpsons aficionado but the humor throughout this ride’s queue is on the mark.  That doesn’t stop once actually on the ride.  Our journey narrowly escapes death several times and always lands in hilarity.  This won’t win any awards for technical achievement and is part Universal’s over-use of screens, but The Simpsons Ride is a whole lot of fun.

Simpsons Land

8. Hogwarts Express – This attraction takes guests between parks in a highly theme experience.  Going from Diagon Alley (King’s Street Station) to Hogsmeade or vice versa is a brilliant, if not obvious, choice in theming.  While the actual attraction isn’t exactly a thrill, it sells the story in getting from one area to another.  Where this really excels is the outward appearance of the Hogwarts Express and the King’s Street Station.  Both look incredible and certainly transport guests (pun intended) to the setting of the films.

7. The Incredible Hulk Coaster – One of Universal’s gigantic coasters, this has a loose story to fit the ride.  That doesn’t really work for Melissa or I.  What does work is this being an excellent roller coaster.  Soaring over Island of Adventure’s lake is impressive, as is the gigantic track.  While I think there are negatives to this attraction, the fun track and looming presence of The Incredible Hulk Coaster outweigh those negatives.

Hulk spray IoA

6. Revenge of the Mummy – I think I may like this attraction more than most.  Revenge of the Mummy is somewhere between a roller coaster and a dark ride.  While this is certainly on a coaster track, the speed of the attraction ebbs and flows.  Taking guests through interesting and elaborate scenes while using a bunch of fire is where Revenge of the Mummy really excels.  I thoroughly enjoy all of this but wish it was double the length.

5. Skull Island: Reign of Kong – Universal Orlando’s latest attraction is a bit of a disappointment in that it doesn’t measure up to either of the Harry Potter attractions.  Once that disappointment is washed away though the resort is left with a beautiful attraction.  Reign of Kong takes guests through Skull Island with a few amazing sets.  Unfortunately, the screens are not blended in as well as I hoped.  The action part of the ride is our truck getting attacked by dinosaurs and King Kong coming to our rescue.  This is followed up by driving by a gigantic King Kong animatronic figure.  I thoroughly enjoy this ride but think they could have done better.  The plot and some scenes work really well, as does the queue.  That makes the parts that aren’t executed as well stand out even more unfortunately.

King Kong rock IoA

4. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – I’m on the fence about putting Universal Studio’s flagship roller coaster this high.  Melissa talked me into it.  To me, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit seems like a futuristic take on a roller coaster.  Personalized music for each seat is a move toward a theme park personalized for everyone’s liking.  Melissa’s favorite part is just the nervous energy that accompanies gigantic roller coasters like this.  I think this coaster wrapping around the entrance and main walkway of Universal Studios makes the anticipation even greater.  You can see and hear Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit from nearly everywhere in Universal Studios.  It’s loud, in your face and a whole lot of fun.

Rip Ride Rocket IoA

3. Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts – A few years ago, I thought this was my favorite attraction at Universal Orlando.  Now it sits pretty solidly in third.  Largely a simulator, Escape From Gringotts takes guests on a ride through the storied (at least to Harry Potter fans) bank.  While I love the plot and most of the ride, I wish this was more of an indoor roller coaster and less simulated.  There are some amazing moments switching between screens and sets, and if you’re trying to figure out the ride system the whole time then this attraction can be a bit disorienting.  That’s good as the ride envelops the senses well enough.  Still, I always feel like the actual ride is missing just a little something.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the extraordinary queue that is Gringotts Bank.  Between the beautiful chandeliers, impressive animatronics, and the jaw-dropping architecture, walking inside of this queue

Gringotts Bank US

2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – Tucked neatly away in Super Hero Island, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man appears innocent enough.  The queue is likewise smaller in-scale but nice enough.  Once the ride actually begins, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man amazes.  Like many attractions at Universal Orlando, this ride utilizes screens.  Unlike many attractions at the resort, Spider-Man uses the screens perfectly.

Spiderman sign IoA

Taking guests on an adventure through New York City in a vehicle, this ride turns into a fight between Doc Ock.  The ride vehicle portrays a car and first time riders may just think the attraction will ride along a track the whole way.  This attraction will surprise.  The highest compliment I can give The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man is that the transition from screen to set is seamless and I have a hard time telling what is actually going on with the ride system.  This attraction really is transporting to the scene unlike many current day screen-based attractions.

1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – When I first experienced this attraction I didn’t think as highly of it as I do now.  Turns out this was only because it made me a little bit sick.  Forbidden Journey is a perfect blend of screens and physical sets.  The story takes you through a thrilling chase with Harry, giving guests the chance to experience what could be considered a greatest hits of adventures through Hogwarts.  Forbidden Journey’s ride system is creative, carrying guests through the story.

All of this alone would make for an excellent attraction on its own.  In fact, it would still be number one but once the queue is factored in then this is the runaway winner. Walking through Hogwarts Castle, in all it’s grandeur, is an experience in its own right.  There’s plenty to look at, regardless of if you’re looking for in-depth details or just beautiful sights.  The pre-show with Harry, Ron and Hermione is a special treat.  All in all, this attraction is perfection and one of the best rides in the world.

Hogwarts with trees

Overview

In my mind, Universal Orlando has 3 of the best attractions in the country.  Their top 3 probably take down Disney World’s top 3.  Unfortunately, the rest of the group doesn’t have any stand outs.  There are quite a few good rides but nothing that jumps out to me.  If only time for one option, I’d rather spend 45 minutes exploring Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade then going on any attraction ranked 4th or higher on this list.  Again, I’m not the biggest thrill rider and this park appeals to those that are.  All of this to say, Universal Orlando has a bunch of fun attractions but only a few really great ones.

What are your favorite attractions at Universal Orlando?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!

– Andrew

Happily Ever After Review

Happily Ever After is Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular.  The show debuted in May of 2017 and typically plays once a night.  This review will cover our thoughts on this new show along with a little bit of strategy on where to watch it.

HEA blue and pink MK

I won’t try to bury the lede here, I love Happily Ever After.  The show’s pacing, soundtrack and visuals are near perfect.  On top of that, Happily Ever After is the longest firework show in a Disney park that I can ever remember.

Happily Ever After begins simply enough with narration but the projection on to the castle is already a noticeable, especially compared to the somewhat outdated technology in the show’s predecessor, Wishes.  While a little odd to not hear Jiminy Cricket come over the Magic Kingdom speakers, I like the narration throughout this show.  The opening of the show also includes the (somewhat) original song, conveniently called Happily Ever After.  Both the narration and song are strong and more modern than Wishes, while still being classic.

HEA Moana MK

Happily Ever After utilizes some otherwise little used songs throughout the show.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, and Brave all have songs throughout.  These are of course mixed in with classics.  The segment featuring How Far I’ll Go from Moana is a crowd favorite and ups the ante a little bit when it comes to pyro.  This followed by playful music highlighting several films, notably Aladdin, makes for the most fun portion of the show.

The highlight of the soundtrack is a beautiful duet on Frozen’s Love is an Open Door, followed by orchestration of Can You Feel the Love Tonight and You’ll be in My Heart.  This is where the emotional punch of the show comes in.  Happily Ever After knows when to take things down a notch, which is an underrated trait in firework shows.  The pyro and projections expertly follow the music’s lead.  Halfway through this new show I was worried that it wouldn’t pack the same emotion that Wishes had but that qualm was quickly answered in this beautiful segment.

HEA tink MK

After all of the ooey-gooey feelings comes the villain portion of the show, which features some really cool visual gags.  The Pirates segment especially is interesting with the smoke lingering around the castle.  This was a favorite moment of mine.  I guess if you are a villains fan then you could argue that this segment is too short.  I would disagree as I wouldn’t want any other portion of the show to be cut in place of more villains.

HEA red smoke MK

The ending of Happily Ever After kicks off triumphantly with a stirring rendition of I Can Go the Distance.  A surprise visit by Tinkerbell is a perfect nostalgic moment, paying tribute to the shows that come before it.  We were watching this show and had a nice conversation with an older couple who visited about once a year.  The husband was excited to see the show but wasn’t one to show much emotion.  When Tinkerbell appeared though this gentleman went crazy, applauding and yelling.  As silly as it sounds, seeing him embrace that moment was one of my favorite parts of our trip.  This speaks to Happily Ever After’s ability to work for all ages, something I think Disneyland struggled with when debuting Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever.

HEA pink orange MK

When I heard that the show was 18 minutes long I was concerned that the fireworks would be toned down.  Those fears were largely unfounded.  On top of that, the projections played a heavy role in Happily Ever After.  Because of that, I recommend standing not far behind the Partners Statue in the hub.  This will give you a great view of the projections while still being able to see the fireworks.  If this spot is full then the next best would be about even with Casey’s Corner on Main Street.  The closer to the train station the harder the projections will be to see.  While the train station will offer some very fun views, I wouldn’t recommend this if it for first-time viewing.

The sheer amount of characters and films Happily Ever After highlights is impressive. These appearances never feel rushed though and the pacing is spot on.  Projections give the show the ability to go through all of these films in a fairly organic way.  The layers of the soundtrack are likely my favorite part of the show but, to be fair, I geek out about that stuff more than most people.

HEA tall MK

Happily Ever After’s plot is passable although it is more of an inspirational speech than a story.  This works for most nighttime spectaculars, as these shows generally work better as vignettes that fit a main idea than an actual show.  Happily Ever After certainly fits that bill.

Overall, Happily Ever After is one of my favorite nighttime spectacular I’ve ever seen. The show’s visuals and soundtrack work together seamlessly to pull guests through an array of emotions.  Using some unheralded songs keeps Happily Ever After from being predictable but still a classic.  This show is a must-see.

HEA finale MK

Overall Rating – 10/10

Have you seen Happily Ever After?  Let us know your thoughts and questions on the show in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!

– Andrew

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Attraction Rankings

Updated to reflect the addition of Pandora – World of Avatar.  Today we continue our attraction rankings series, moving on to Animal Kingdom.  If you missed any of the series thus far check out the Disneyland, California Adventure, and Hollywood Studios posts by clicking on the coinciding park.  Before we get to the rankings, let’s quickly brush up on the rules.

  • No Meet & Greets. These are impossible to rank as each experience is unique. Also, I don’t particularly like them.
  • No Live Shows. Nighttime shows are almost always better than rides, in my eyes. Also, big stage shows are impressive and don’t fit the profile of a typical ride. I will include 3D movies though. Basically you have to physically ride or walk through something.  I’ll include walking trails at Animal Kingdom because I think they are vital to the park and are more attractions than entertainment (unlike live shows).  I won’t be including any of the Rafiki’s Planet Watch ‘exhibits’ as I don’t think they’re exactly rides or walk-throughs.
  • These are all my opinion. Lou Mongello constantly says that “every attraction is someones favorite.” While that is corny and seems a little silly, I think the sentiment is mostly true. I can’t account for other people’s memories in these rankings and will try (probably unsuccessfully) to take some of the nostalgia out of my views of these attractions. You’ll likely disagree with these rankings. Please let me know what you disagree with in the comments.

ToL ram day

Like Hollywood Studios, this post will be shorter than the Disneyland and California Adventure posts because there are fewer attractions.  Animal Kingdom has legitimate reasons for this as there aren’t many theme parks like it in the world.  The park isn’t about racing from attraction to attraction but instead is best experienced taking a leisurely pace and exploring the vast grounds.  If you’re just doing attractions at Animal Kingdom and are skipping the live entertainment (especially at night), the trails, the smaller animal exhibits and just soaking in the atmosphere, I’d highly recommend you adjust your touring plan.  While I’m sure the park isn’t for everyone, I think slowing down would make any experience at Animal Kingdom better.  That is the reason why attraction rankings at this park don’t tell the full story and I even hesitate to do this post in the first place.

With all of that being said, Animal Kingdom could use a few more attractions to ride.  Pandora certainly helped.  Another expansion, an upgrade at Rafiki’s Planet Watch or a quality replacement for DinoLand would do wonders and make this maybe the best theme park in the country.  Hopefully that comes in the future.

On to the rankings!

12. Primeval Whirl – One of my least favorite attractions in any park.  This is the roller coaster in DinoLand where your ride vehicle spins as you go along the track.  It fits the theme of the land in looking like something that could be set up at a pop-up carnival.  While fitting the theme is typically a good thing, it’s not a compliment here.  I’ve seen better looking roller coasters at the county fair.  It’s an eye sore and the ride is bad while also having ridiculous wait times.  Even more negative points are headed its way because of spinning while on a roller coaster.  No one wants that.  Kidding about that last point, sort of.  If you couldn’t tell already, I despise Primeval Whirl.

Primeval Whirl AK

11. TriceraTop Spin – A dumbed-down version of Dumbo.  Instead of elephants though there are Triceratops.  Triceratops are really cool, but that can’t offset the feeling like this could be ridden at your local fair just like Primeval Whirl.  I don’t have much against this spinner ride but the attractions take a significant jump up in quality after this one.

10. Na’vi River Journey – Pandora’s second attraction is largely a disappointment.  With having said that, there is a gigantic jump from number 11 to number 10.  Na’vi River Journey certainly looks impressive, unfortunately there isn’t anything more to the attraction.  Guests ride down a river and look at Pandora’s bioluminescent forest. There are worse things to look at but the attraction is not very interesting.  Still, this makes for a very solid top-10 in the park.

NRJ AA Pandora AK

9. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail – This would be a near perfect trail in a zoo.  There are a ton of animals to showcase.  The trail loops around nicely and is a great length.  The animals here are interesting, blending some obscure ones with favorites.  With that being said, this attraction comes in 8th place because there isn’t the beautiful theming we see in other areas of the park.  While I think this is definitely worth your time, I don’t think Gorilla Falls transcends being anything more than a walking trail to see some cool animals.

Timon

8. It’s Tough to be a Bug! – A wild, weird 4-D movie featuring characters from A Bug’s Life.  The queue is wonderful, taking you under the Tree of Life. Loyal readers know that I’m terrified of this ride/movie.  It’s the ride I’m most scared of at Disney Parks.  No, this isn’t justifiable but I don’t go on this anymore.  All that aside, I do think this is a wacky and fun attraction that’s pretty strong overall.

Back of ToL with waterfall

7. The Boneyard – The Boneyard is a playground on the outskirts of DinoLand.  This is the best themed playground in any Disney Park and is fun to explore.  The playground acts as an archaeological dig site with bones to uncover and little tunnels throughout.  Now, if you’re on an adults-only trip then spending half an hour here isn’t advisable but I do think it’s worth walking through.  If you’re a kid or a parent with a kid, I think spending a decent amount of time here is a good option.  There’s much to explore while still offering what a standard playground offers.

6. Kali River Rapids – If the theming of the actual attraction met the standards of Kali River Rapids’ queue then this attraction would easily be in the top 3.  Unfortunately, the ride is somewhat lackluster after the significant buildup of a beautiful queue.  This river rapids ride has a few thrilling moments but the story falls a little flat, as do the visuals throughout the ride.  Still, I have a soft spot for river rides and this is still a good attraction even if it could improve.

Crazy teeth dino AK

5. DINOSAUR – With an awesome ride system and a recent refurbishment, DINOSAUR is on the up and up.  The story is pretty fun, going back in time to grab a dinosaur to bring back to the lab.  Naturally, everything goes wrong before it’s solved.  I thoroughly enjoy the attraction but it’s not without its faults.  The attraction is a little bit campy and doesn’t have the thrills that comparable Indiana Jones Adventure (in Disneyland) has.  Overall though, this is an extremely fun ride in a park that needs one.

4. Maharajah Jungle Trek – There is a pretty big jump from DINOSAUR to the top-3.  Maharajah Jungle Trek isn’t your typical theme park attraction but it is magnificent.  An animal trail tells the stories of a beautiful land that was eventually overrun with poachers.  Over time, animals and the people of the area ousted the poachers and learned to live in harmony.  All of these stories are told through sculpting and murals on old ruins throughout the path.  Intertwined with these ruins are amazing animals that you can get really close to.  The path culminates in a few great areas to see tigers.  I think this path is one of the most beautiful areas Imagineers have ever developed.  While I can understand people being more excited about thrill rides, this is an incredibly unique and beautiful attraction.

Prayer flags AK MJT

3. Expedition Everest – I always thought Expedition Everest was a great roller coaster that was a step below some of Disney’s classic mountains.  Then I rode this at night and it became one of my favorite attractions anywhere.  Mind you, this is all with an audio-animatronic in the middle of the ride that is broken.  If they ever figure out how to get the yeti in Expedition Everest working again then this attraction will be one of the best in the world.  As is, I still love this roller coaster that’s especially augmented by the queue and surrounding Asian themed area.  The prayer flags throughout Asia, the queue, and the actual ride makes the experience feel more authentic.  Many people could have Everest as number one on this list and I wouldn’t argue.

Everest pink sky

2. Avatar Flight of Passage – Flight of Passage is Walt Disney World’s newest E-ticket and is the best attraction addition there in decades.  This ride takes guests on the back of a banshee (those flying creatures in Avatar, the movie no one remembers).  The ride system is similar to Soarin’ but in a different vehicle.  Flight of Passage is certainly more thrilling than Soarin’ though.  Visually, the ride is stunning and that starts in the queue of the attraction.  This attraction boasts the best queue I have ever been in.  If you are more of a thrill seeker than animal lover then this is a pretty clear number one.

Pandora waterfall bridge AK

1. Kilimanjaro Safaris I’ve written before about Kilimanjaro Safaris and how it’s my favorite attraction that I’ve ever been on.  Not much has changed since.  The scope of this attraction that takes you to see nearly 100 different types of animals is unheard of in theme parks.  In fact, this attraction is nearly the size of some theme parks.  Kilimanjaro Safaris takes guests to see more animals than are in most zoos and does so in about 20 minutes.  It is the perfect blend of entertainment and education in a theme park ride, as the skipper has plenty of facts to go along with the sights.  On top of that, the ride experience is never the same making this one of the most rerideable (if that’s a word I definitely didn’t spell it right) attractions around.  Kilimanjaro Safaris is the flagship attraction of Animal Kingdom and has more than earned that title.

Elephant AK

Animal Kingdom has 12 attractions and 10 of them are definitely worth your time.  On top of that, there is some incredible entertainment and atmosphere throughout Animal Kingdom that’s not to be missed.  All in all, Animal Kingdom could use a few more attractions but is becoming the most complete park at Disney World.  Headlined by Kilimanjaro Safaris, Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest, the attraction lineup is very solid..

What did I get wrong in my rankings?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney!

– Andrew

Narcoossee’s Dinner Review

Narcoossee’s is a signature restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.  The fine-dining restaurant sits at the corner of the hotel’s property, looking out upon Bay Lake and Magic Kingdom.  The dinner menu features steak, seafood and other east-coast inspired dishes.  Narcoossee’s does take part in the Disney Dining Plan as a 2-credit restaurant.  Discounts of 20% are available for those that have an Annual Pass or a Tables in Wonderland card.  We recently had dinner at Narcoossee’s and this review will cover that experience.

The Grand Floridian is the most upscale Disney owned resort on property.  Whether the theme is for everyone is slightly more debatable but stepping on-site here feels like a definite step up in class from rubbing sweaty elbows in a theme park.  With that in mind, Grand Floridian should be home to a popular dining scene, right?  The answer is both yes and no.

The hotel features more restaurants than any hotel on-site.  These restaurants include a counter-service, table-service, 2 signature, Victoria & Albert’s, and a lounge. All receive decent to great reviews.  The dining scene is quite crowded from a restaurant perspective but none of these places, save Victoria & Albert’s, is considered a must-do by most publications I’ve seen.  Likewise, none of these restaurant have ever been crowded when we’ve attended them.  I had always assumed for Narcoossee’s that the environment wasn’t great and the food was lacking, thus the lack of buzz about the place.  We set out for dinner here to make up our own minds.

As I said in the opening, Narcoossee’s sits right on the edge of Bay Lake.  If taking a boat from Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian, this restaurant would be the first place seen after getting off the boat.  If coming from the monorail then the walk is farther, although still a pleasant one.  I recommend the boat option but that’s just because I love riding boats.

Narcoossees inside

While the setting on the outside of the restaurant is quite beautiful, being right on the water, the inside is also easy on the eyes.  The tables are adorned with royal blue tablecloths that are a beautiful contrast to the warm wood tones throughout the restaurant.  Narcoosse’s is illuminated by natural light in the early evening.  While not actually open air, the restaurant gives an illusion of being outside.

Narcoossee's outside window

Part of that illusion is because of the beautiful views out the window.  We spent our meal gazing out onto the lake and Magic Kingdom.  As you can see above, the restaurant has a nice deck around it that you can walk before or after eating.  There isn’t much as far as theme in this restaurant but the views plus the beautiful design more than made up for that.

Narcoossees bread

Onto the food… As with most table-service restaurant in Disney World, we were served bread before the meal.  This was a delicious, warm sourdough loaf.  The menu at Narcoosse’s mainly features seafood and steak.  Here’s a link to the menu.

lobster bisque Narcoossees

I started with the Lobster Bisque which was delicious.  Creamy and rich with large chunks of lobster, this was one of the best iterations of the soup that I’ve ever tried.  I highly recommend this.

Narcoossees Calimari

Melissa ordered the Crispy Rhode Island Calamari and enjoyed it.  The peppers and relish gave the dish a pickled flavor to cut through the rich taste of calamari.  The calamari itself was delicious and cooked perfectly.  There was plenty in this appetizer so I’d recommend sharing this if it appeals to you.

Lobster again narcoossees

For our entrees we went with the two lobster dishes.  I had the Steamed Maine Lobster.  This was incredibly fresh and steamed to perfection.  The presentation of the dish made the lobster quite easy to pull out of the shell, no matter what part of the lobster this was from.

Lobster Melissa Narcoossees

Melissa went with the Butter-poached Twin Maine Lobster Tails.  Her lobster had a more buttery flavor, which makes sense when looking at the name.  What you prefer will likely depend on if you like a more buttery flavor and if you are more partial to the lobster tails as opposed to other parts of the lobster.  I preferred mine, as the butter starts to become a little too much for me after a while.  Both dishes were prepared perfectly.  This was the best lobster I’ve had and easily the best I’ve had on property (I think I’ve had it at about 5 different spot).

The rest of the dish included asparagus and a corn soufflé.  The asparagus tasted like asparagus, it was good but nothing out of the ordinary.  The corn soufflé on the other hand was what dreams are made of.  Seriously, Melissa had a dream about it.  This tasted like a sweet corn bread but in a soufflé form.  The corn soufflé was one of my favorite things I tasted on that trip.  Going to the restaurant just for that might be worth it.

Strawberry shortcake Narcoossees

We were full but pressed on in the name of research.  For dessert, I had this fun take on strawberry shortcake.  I don’t see this currently on the menu but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The cake was light and the strawberry sauce was delicious.

Almond crusted cheesecake Narcoossees

Melissa ordered the Almond-crusted Cheesecake.  She enjoyed this as well.  On top of a delicious, rich cheesecake, the cherry sauce was fantastic.  The almond crust on the cheesecake gave a nice contrast to the rich taste.  I’d highly recommend either of these dishes.

Now that we’ve gotten through the food let’s talk value.  Narcoossee’s definitely surprised us with an incredible environment and amazing food but does the price measure up?  Well, this restaurant is on par with other signature restaurants.  Appetizers are between $10 and $20.  Main courses are $40 to $70, with the lobster being closer to $70.  Obviously, these are high price points but in this case you get what you pay for.  If you’re doing one or two fancy dinners on your trip then this should be in the running, especially if your family likes lobster.

View from Narcoossees

Our trip to Narcoossee’s made me even more curious as to why this restaurant doesn’t receive more praise.  While I haven’t tried every restaurant, I’d put this squarely in Disney World’s top-ten places to eat.  The environment is beautiful and relaxing, the food is wonderful for seafood eaters, and the value isn’t bad relative to the whole experience.  Narcoossee’s is one of the best restaurants in all of Walt Disney World and deserves more attention.

Overall Rating – 10/10

Have you had a meal at Narcoossee’s?  Let us know your thoughts on the restaurant along with any questions you have in the comments.  If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages.  You can find all of those things on the right side of this page.  Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!

– Andrew

 

August 2017 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 3

If you missed parts 1 or 2 of this trip report, click on the corresponding number to catch up! 

We woke up the morning after exploring Animal Kingdom and Pandora a little more rested.  Most of our Disney trips are taken at a more leisurely pace than many.  We both enjoy that pace a little more and are afforded that benefit because we travel to Disney Parks often.  So far this trip we had been going non-stop in the midst of very hot weather.  Sleeping in was nice.

Coronado Springs fountain day

In late morning we checked out of Coronado Springs, left our bags at bell services for them to transfer to our next hotel and headed to Hollywood Studios.  That afternoon we were set to check in at the Yacht Club for two nights and had the deluxe dining plan linked to that reservation.  I’ll have a full post regarding that plan in the next few weeks but for the sake of this post that plan just meant that we were going to eat a ridiculous amount of food over the next three days.  That ridiculous amount started at Sci-Fi Dine Inn Theater.

Dougnut sundae sci fi dhs

We were largely disappointed by Sci-Fi, as we didn’t enjoy our food very much.  To read our full review, click here.  Part of the problem was the time we ate our lunch.  Eating a 3-course meal of incredibly heavy food an hour and a half after waking up isn’t the brightest idea.  Still, outside of the beautiful atmosphere this was a disappointing start to the day.

Indy getting punch Dhs stunt show

After our lackluster meal we raced over to Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  We had both wanted to see this show again, as it had been quite a few years since our last viewing.  On top of that, I have no idea how much longer Indy will have this space so seeing the show was a priority.  I was pleasantly surprised by Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  I don’t remember enjoying the show.  While the theme of a working studio  filming stunts doesn’t quite fit in with whatever Hollywood Studios is becoming, it’s close enough to have a place in this park moving forward.  The Stunt Spectacular could use an update of some sort (maybe a new scene?) it hasn’t aged as poorly as a few other shows in this park.

Car exploding DHS stunt show

We were lucky enough to sit in the second row on the far side, even though we came in the theater right as the show started.  At first we were told that there would only be standing room but once everyone was settled a nice cast member kept finding open spots for everyone.  Quality customer service made the show that much better.

Mickey's Runaway poster DHS

There are ‘coming soon…’ posters all over Hollywood Studios, way more of these posters and construction walls than actual attractions.  This is both frustrating in the present and exciting for the future.

ToT inside hallway DHS

With that said, we spent about 6 or 7 hours in Hollywood Studios this trip and enjoyed them.  Indy, Disney Movie Magic and the nighttime spectaculars offer a nice base of shows.  Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Star Tours (Rock n’ Roller Coaster to a lesser extent) offer a nice base of attractions.  Before long Hollywood Studios will be a very good park, just not right now.

Mid-afternoon saw us going to check into the Yacht Club.  We were headed to the Halloween Party that night and needed to change into our costumes.  Checking into our hotel was easy and they already had our bags delivered from Coronado Springs.  The Yacht Club review is upcoming but I’ll spoil that a little bit.  We enjoyed our stay here as much as any hotel at Walt Disney World.

View from Narcoossees

After we changed and rested for a few minutes it was time for dinner on the water.  We ate at Narcoossee’s, located at the Grand Floridian Resort.  Again, a review is upcoming but our dinner was delicious.

Our costumes for the evening were as safari drivers on Kilimanjaro Safaris.  We were planning to change into them after dinner where we were just planning to wear shorts and T-shirts.  On the way to dinner we realized that the restaurant had a dress code requiring a collared shirt.  So, we pulled out these terrible khaki button up shirts that we had for our costumes and put them on.  Feeling foolish, we entered the restaurant and were immediately seated at the far corner of Narcoossee’s.  Now, they may have just been being nice, seating us at a table right by a window that was somewhat private.  But the obvious joke was that the restaurant didn’t want other guests to see our off-putting shirts.  I wouldn’t have blamed them if that was the case.  We had a few good laughs about it during the meal.

Tigger and Eeyore Halloween

We arrived at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party right around 7.  One of my favorite parts of having an annual pass and multiple trips to the Disney Parks is not feeling the excessive need to scrap every bit of value out of park tickets.  Feeling that way makes a trip more conducive to doing what you actually want to do.

Halloween ghosts MK

As I mentioned in my review, we always have a great time at the Halloween Party.  We started off by seeing Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore.  Disney Parks have a few of my favorite items in the world in them and Eeyore dressed as a clown is definitely one of those things.  Tigger as a pirate, Pooh as a bee, and Piglet as a butterfly certainly don’t disappoint either.

Shovels Boo to You MK

After meeting characters and grabbing some candy we found our spot for the Boo to You Parade.  I was very excited to get a spot that had the castle in the background.  Unfortunately, I left part of my brain at dinner and decided that long exposure photos would be a good way to go.  Truly have no idea what I was thinking that night.  This led to about three usable photos and the rest were frustratingly terrible.

Candy dancer Boo to You MK

This parade is a favorite of mine.  I’d be lying if I said that this isn’t mostly because of the soundtrack.  Halloween at our house mainly just means we listen to the parade soundtrack and eat candy.  I recommend the same for anyone who is an introvert on Halloween.

gold and blue streaks HalloWishes MK

For as poorly as my parade photography went, HalloWishes made up for it.  The colors really popped on the photos and I was very excited about several of the finished products.

Gold fireworks orange castel HalloWishes MK

HalloWishes is fantastic.  The Winnie the Pooh section along with the Haunted Mansion segment are some of my favorite in any fireworks show.  The perimeter bursts are jaw-dropping even if you are watching the show outside of the park.

Hocus Pocus cast MK

After the fireworks we rode Haunted Mansion, the PeopleMover, did a little more trick or treating and then finished the evening with Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular.  All in all, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was a blast.  Celebrating a holiday that resides a day before November in August was strange.  But I’ll take that trade-off in exchange for less crowds.

Rapunzel group Trattoria

We crawled into bed a little after 1 AM that night satisfied.  The next morning brought a few welcome guests!  Our sister-in-law and 2 nephews came to visit us, driving all the way from Pensacola.  First on the agenda for the day was a trip to Trattoria al Forno, on the Boardwalk, for breakfast.  In the past year this restaurant changed a well-regarded breakfast to a character breakfast.  We all found the food to be delicious and enjoyed our meal (a full review will be coming shortly).  The boys were only slightly concerned about the characters that came to the table, as you can see above.

Yacht Club from bridge

We took a short and hot walk around the Boardwalk, back to our hotel after breakfast. The views are beautiful but it was already getting quite warm for the day.  As we found throughout the trip, being out in the sun from 11-5 in August was not preferable in Disney World.  There were plenty of ways around this but on this particular day the heat really got to us.

Colton water dock

After naps were had by all in the hotel room, we hopped on a boat and then took a walk to mini golf at the Swan & Dolphin Hotels.  This was my dumbest idea of the trip.  Mini golf is great and these courses were a lot of fun.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys this type of thing on a day that you weren’t going into the parks.  With that said, don’t make the mistake of going at 2 PM in the afternoon.  The boat ride was nice, the walk was miserable outside of the company, and by the time we got to mini golf I was melting faster than the wicked witch.  These mini golf courses stay open later than the parks and, if you’re up for it, that’s when I would recommend going.  Getting back to your hotel is a small issue if going that route but Uber or the Minnie Vans are always an option.

Elephant mini golf

Again, these courses were really cool.  This seems like the type of memory that would stick out to some families too; being all together, laughing and enjoying being outside after a day spent all together can be powerful.  Just maybe not with a heat index of 110 degrees.  As it was, we only played about half of one course before calling it.

We had definitely earned a spot in the pool at this point and went there after returning to the hotel.  The Yacht Club staff was nice enough to oblige us, knowing that we had day guests with us.  They said using one of the side pools would be allowed for all of us.  While Stormalong Bay (the Yacht and Beach Club’s flagship pool) would have been preferable, I certainly understand why they don’t allow pool hopping or day guests in there.  With two toddlers, the side pool worked out better anyway.

After swimming, our visitors bid us adieu and headed out.  This was a great way to spend a day and I would highly recommend this to anyone who has family wanting to join them for the day at Disney World.  Even if they aren’t going into the parks, there is plenty to see and do.  On top of that, it might help you catch up on some rest.  The hotel staff was very accommodating in helping us on where to tell our guests to park and anything else we asked.

Chefs de France beef

We hustled off for dinner at Les Chefs de France at Epcot.  I keep saying this, but another review is forthcoming.  We enjoyed our meal and the leisurely pace of it, relative to other Disney World restaurants.  While at dinner we had the tough decision of staying for Illuminations or going back to our hotel to enjoy Stormalong Bay.  Seeing how staying at the Yacht Club isn’t often an option for us, we chose the latter and headed back to the hotel.

Stormalong Bay chairs

I love Illuminations, but we certainly made the right choice on this night.  Stormalong Bay is unrivaled by any hotel pool I’ve ever been to.  The location of the Yacht and Beach Club is second to none, in my opinion.  Even with that in mind, the pool might be the best factor the hotel has.  I never knew how much I loved sandy pool floors until swimming here.

Boardwalk night sand

After our night swim, Melissa went to bed and I went to take a few photos of the hotel and Boardwalk.  The beach is another nice thing that the hotel has going for it, although it’s better utilized during the day in the winter months.  Laying out here at night is quite romantic and one of the quieter places in all of Walt Disney World.

Lighthouse Boardwalk

This had been a very relaxing day that was conveniently smack in the middle of our trip.  Our feet appreciated the rest and we loved seeing family.  Having an annual pass and multiple trips in the last year again paid off as we just went into the park for dinner on this day and didn’t feel pressure to stay.  If I were a local, I would do that all the time. More adventures awaited and we’ll get to those in the next installment of our trip report!

If there’s any questions or thoughts about our trip report (or just anything in general) please leave them below in the comments.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Review & Guide

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party takes place in Magic Kingdom every fall. The party is a hard-ticketed event that is not included with park admission.  Typically, Mickey’s Not So Scary runs several times a week from 7 PM (guests can enter Magic Kingdom anytime after 4 PM) to midnight.  This post will cover our review of the Halloween Party as well as a few thoughts on an ideal touring plan.

Oogie dancing Boo to You MK

I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Halloween.  My thoughts on dressing up are similar to Jim Halpert’s.  While candy has my absolute respect, I’m more of a savory fan.  All this led to me not really thinking twice about Halloween growing up.  When it came to Disney World, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was a bit of an afterthought too.  Why pay extra to go into Magic Kingdom when I already have a regular park ticket?

As my Disney Parks fandom grew, I started reading and learning more about the Halloween Party.  While far from what I was most excited about, my interest did grow and eventually the dates matched up for us to be able to go to a Halloween Party.  I was pleasantly surprised by our experience and would probably recommend it, depending on your priorities.  We’ll start with the individual components that make-up the Halloween Party.

Boo to You float MK

Know Before You Go

Before we get to the main offerings of the Halloween Party, let’s get a few quick items out-of-the-way.

  • Wear a costume – While a costume isn’t necessary for the Halloween Party, it does make the whole event more fun.  Seeing what everyone is wearing and having others ask what you are is part of the fun.  No masks are allowed though.
  • No, the party isn’t scary – Nothing about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is overly frightening.  There are moments that can be eerie, like the headless horseman or a flash of lightning, but they’re usually followed by something goofy and fun.  I wouldn’t worry about your child getting scared at all.  This is far from what Universal Studios does.
  • Most rides are open – While I don’t think this is a particularly good use of time, there are rides open during the party.  I enjoy going on the Haunted Mansion and maybe sneak in another attraction.  Otherwise, I would save the rides for an actual day at Magic Kingdom.
  • Specialty food & merchandise – If specifically themed Halloween food and clothing is your thing then there are several different places to take advantage of this.  Most shops at Magic Kingdom will have some merchandise to commemorate your Halloween Party.  Specialty food items, typically of the sweet variety, are served around the park.  Check the guide map for what is offered and where to get it.  I don’t get particularly excited about either of these but do think they are a fun addition.  The Pumpkin Mickey Waffle with ice cream from Sleepy Hollow Refreshments is delicious.
  • If there are other logistic questions you have about the Halloween Party let us know in the comments!

HalloWishes colorful MK

Unique Character Meet & Greets

This is probably the most divisive component of Mickey’s Not So Scary Party.  Not because people have bad experiences with character but because some won’t spend much time meeting unique characters while others will spend the whole night doing it.  If you love meeting characters then the Halloween Party is a potential gold mine.

Pooh and Tigger Halloween

For me, this is the least important part of the Halloween Party so I don’t spend much time here.  I do think it’s fun to meet a few characters.  Our first time at the party we met all of the 7 dwarfs.  This last year we met Winnie the Pooh and all his friends as they were dressed in their best Halloween costumes.  Jack Skellington is another character to meet, as well as a few other rare characters.

The lines for these characters can get very long so I recommend queueing for them even before the party starts.  Using that strategy and then going to see a few other characters right before the party ends works pretty well.  All of this depends on your interest in seeing characters.  While I don’t think this is the best perk the party offers, I do enjoy going to meet a few and getting a nice photo-op while wearing a costume.

MK 7 Dwarfs us MNSSHP

In the past few years Disney has been cutting back on the amount of characters out for guests to meet.  This is unfortunate and a trend that hopefully is reversed in the future.

Trick or Treat

Around the Magic Kingdom there will be candy stations for guests to go “Trick or Treating”.  When first entering the Magic Kingdom, party goers will receive a bag with some candy already in it.  You can use that bag to fill up the rest of the evening, no need to bring your own.

Alien guy Halloween MK

The only good time to visit Stitch’s Great Escape is when there’s candy inside.

This is another fun component of the Halloween Party that isn’t very high on my priorities.  To me, Trick or Treating is a fun way to get a little bit of candy while seeing the inside of a few attractions I rarely go into.  This year I went inside of Stitch’s Great Escape to get candy.  In previous years, they had stations inside of the Tiki Room.  These locations are fun to walk through.  Don’t go into the party looking to make back all of the money you spent via candy.  While guests could do this theoretically, as there’s no limit to how many times you can go to a station, having cast members fill up a bag with candy that you may or may not eat is far from the most exciting party of Mickey’s Party.  Instead I would advise to hit a few locations throughout the night.  The later it gets the less lines these places will have.  You can find all Trick or Treat locations on the guide map you will be handed at the entrance of the party.

Dance Parties

There are a few dance parties throughout Magic Kingdom during the Halloween Party.  Most notably, the Tomorrowland Dance Party will feature Sully, Mike, and Boo dancing with guests.  Dance Parties are fun to happen upon and enjoy for a few minutes but don’t plan your evening around them.  They aren’t especially unique to the party.

Sully Halloween MK

Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween Parade

Much of the Halloween Party revolves around this parade.  Boo-To-You runs twice a night, once before the fireworks and once after.  This is my favorite Disney parade that I’ve seen.  While there are many characters, Boo-To-You is a little more villain focused.  I don’t think the parade itself is any more extravagant than the regular Magic Kingdom afternoon parade, but it certainly has the soundtrack is fantastic, the parade is more cohesive and the rare characters are enjoyable.

Headless Horesman side Boo to You

Another place where the parade excels is the dancers in between the floats.  Whether it be the grave diggers with their shovels or the ghosts ball room dancing in front of the Haunted Mansion float, these characters are just as much fun to watch as the actual floats.

While it will certainly be more crowded, I advise guests to see Boo-To-You on Main Street.  Right as the parade begins the Headless Horseman will trot down the street.  The only place where you can see this is on Main Street.  I also like the lighting of the parade better here and the backdrop of the castle is hard to beat.  If you can find room right by the flag pole, this is a wonderful place to watch the parade.

Ghosts Boo to You MK

On top of that, I would suggest seeing the first parade.  Again this will be the more crowded option but it also affords guests to see the parade twice if it turns out that they really like it.  My typical move will be to see this on Main Street on the first showing and then watch Boo-To-You somewhere in Frontierland where I can find a spot last-minute on the second showing.  Boo-To-You is one of the main highlights of the evening and is not to be missed.

Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular

This show, which plays in front the castle three different times throughout the party, has taken on a large following.  Rightfully so, as this is the most fun portion of Not-So-Scary.  This stage show features the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus.  Before you say that you could care less about Hocus Pocus, know that I’ve never seen the movie and I love this show.  These sisters sing a few songs, flirt with Dr. Facilier (Princess and the Frog), and bring out a host of different villains to… Well, I’m not sure what the plot is.  I think they’re trying to take over Magic Kingdom but don’t really know.  I said it’s the most fun portion of the party, not the best.

MK Hocus Pocus Oogie Boogie Dr

The very best party of the show is when Mr. Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas) himself comes out and sings a song.  I know nothing about Oogie Boogie and don’t think I’ve ever seen Nightmare Before Christmas.  But once he steps on to the castle steps, magic happens.  He looks amazing, his song is great, and he dances like there’s no tomorrow.  While I’ve heard that he’s evil, seeing that he’s in the Villains Spectacular this seems to be the case, Oogie Boogie is the character I’d most want to hang out with.  He singlehandedly takes this show from good to great.

Now that I’ve completely oversold Oogie Boogie’s appearance, I will say that the rest of the characters are a blast.  If you have a favorite Disney villain then you’re likely to see them in this show.  The live performances are great and Disney surprisingly nailed the comedy in the show.  This is a can’t miss portion of the Halloween Party.

MK Hocus Pocus Dr Facillier MNSSHP

HalloWishes

And of course, we have fireworks spectacular.  HalloWishes takes the retired Wishes! fireworks and gives it an evil twist.  No, it’s not very scary but the soundtrack does feature most Disney villains.  The pyro for this show is larger in quantity than any other show in Disney World.  There are also a few surprises along the way.

HalloWishes colors MK

As you may have guessed, HalloWishes is not to be missed.  This is one of the best fireworks shows around.  Combine this with the parade and Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular and spending nearly 2 hours in front of the castle will be a fantastic use of time.

Value

We’ve covered most of what the Halloween Party has to offer.  Now, is this a good value?  Depending on if you get a discount (annual pass or DVC) and what time of year guests go, the cost of the party can be anywhere from $70-$100+.  This is a decent amount of money for one night at the Magic Kingdom.  Let’s break it down a little further though.

Oogie Boo to You MK

Say you’re at the park for the full allotted time, 4 PM until midnight.  That’s 8 hours, which brings the ticket price to around $10/hour.  That’s not a bad deal.  Furthermore, 8 hours is around the amount of time guests spend in a park on a typical day anyway and those days don’t offer special entertainment.  When looking at the tickets in this vacuum, then the value appears to be there.

What we do have to consider is what the party may add to your vacation costs.  Instead of adding a 7th day to your park tickets, for example, is just $20 per person.  If you choose to not add that extra day and instead go for a Halloween Party then the cost is at least $50 more per person (likely closer to $70).  These expenses add up.

3 tombstones Haunted Mansion MK

I would advise against going to a different park during the day, unless you have an annual pass.  You likely won’t spend much time in that park and might wear yourself out before the big party night.  Spend a late morning and early afternoon at a water park, Disney Springs or the hotel pool.

All of these factors make me fairly indecisive in determining if the Halloween Party is a good value.  I think the party is plenty of fun and a nice way to try something different.  This can also be something that a group can bond over with costumes and going to a special event.  But, if none of what I reviewed above sounds interesting to you then I likely wouldn’t recommend it.  For me, I love the shows Disney puts on.  If you are solely interested in the rides then I’d probably save the money.  Again, this isn’t a bad value (I have an absolute blast at these parties) but might not be for everyone.

MK HalloWishes blue castle

Crowd Levels

I know many of us are constricted on when we can go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party based on when we are taking our vacations.  But, if you have your choice then the crowd calendar for these parties isn’t hard to understand.  The closer you are to Halloween the more crowded it gets.  Now, going at the end of August has its drawbacks in that it’s hot and doesn’t quite feel like the holiday but guests can definitely accomplish more due to the crowds.

Halloween Party entrance

A Flexible Party Outline

Here is typically what my party schedule looks like:

4 PM – Arrive at Magic Kingdom, pick up goody bag, ride an attraction or two and grab a bite to eat.  Waiting until the party starts to eat can be a waste of time.  Try to eat dinner before the party starts and enjoy a relaxing late afternoon in Magic Kingdom.

6:30ish – Get in line for a character meet & greet.  Whether it be Moana, the seven dwarfs, Pooh & friends, or Jack Skellington, find some unique characters and meet them close to when the party starts at 7.  Getting in line early for some characters is essential as lines move fairly slow and can grow very long.

Eeyore blur clown Halloween

8:00 – Grab some candy at a few different places and enjoy the costumes.  Take a little walk from whatever character you’ve just seen to a few different trick or treat spots.  Enjoy some people watching while making your way to Main Street.

8:45 – Search for a place to watch Boo-To-You. Walk down Main Street and try to find a place to watch the parade.  The closer to the flag pole you get the better, in my opinion.  Find a spot, eat some candy and then watch the 9:15 showing of Boo-To-You.

Country Bear Boo To You MNSSHP

9:45 – Parade finishes, find a spot for HalloWishes.  After the parade ends, walk up Main Street and find a spot for HalloWishes.  My favorite spot is on the rise right before you hit the Partners Statue.  Enjoy the fireworks.

10:30 – Go dance, trick or treat, meet another character and/or ride Haunted Mansion.  This is the do whatever you want section.  Melissa always likes to ride Haunted Mansion and I don’t object because there’s extra fog around the area as well as some characters.  This is also a good opportunity to for photos around the Magic Kingdom.  Character lines should die down a little at this point so you could go track another meet & greet or two down.  This would also be the time to see the parade again.  Maybe you just want desserts, do whatever you want!

MK Hocus Pocus Oogie Boogie pot

11:50 – Back to Main Street for the last showing of Hocus Pocus.  Seeing the last showing of this will maximize your time throughout the party.  The show starts at midnight, won’t be very crowded and many will have exited by the time it’s over.  Once this ends soak up the ambiance or take photos for a while, slowly making your way out of the park.

Of course, this is for me and I don’t have a little one.  This is my ideal schedule but I don’t think you can go very wrong as long as you see the parade, Hocus Pocus, and HalloWishes.  Let me know any questions or thoughts on the itinerary in the comments.

Boo to you MK MNSSHP

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Question of the Week (10/8/17)

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

ToT day DHS

Question of the Week:  Name one attraction that you want to be around forever, one that you want to receive an update and one that you think Disney should get rid of.  Answers can be from any park.

Cassie – I want Splash Mountain to be around for ever, and it never needs to change! For me, it’s the only ride that makes me scream with joy EVERY time I ride it. I think It’s a Small World needs more renovations than any other. I hate that you can see the dirty carpet and the ceiling. I notice it every time I ride it. I think they can get rid of the kiddy roller coaster in Toontown. I don’t even know its official name, that’s how little I care if this ride stays or goes.

Splash mt. night

Melissa – I want the teacups to stay around forever. I think it is so iconic and fills me with giggles every time I am on it! I think that the Matterhorn needs some updates. I think it could be even better than it is with a different track and maybe new toboggans because it is a very painful ride to go in…but it is also so great! And I would get ride of Mission Space. The idea of it is interesting, but I’m not a big fan of those kinds of simulations.

Matterhorn at night

Andrew – Keep: I was going to choose Splash Mountain as well but Cassie stole it as I was writing this… So I’ll go with Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris as my pick for never-changing. Small adjustments to the plot are fine but the overall idea and the animals should never go unchanged.
Update: I would update Spaceship Earth in Epcot. I think this is a classic attraction with a very poor ending and in need of updated narration. This could help return it to the ride’s former glory.
Get Rid Of: I would be very happy if they got rid of the entire Bug’s Land. It’s wasted space and the most unpleasant spot to spend any time in.

Giraffes savannah WAT AK

Leslie – Keep: Haunted Mansion. This ride is one of my families go to rides. One of our first rides and one of our last. The joy and memories we have keep us coming back year after year whether at Disneyland or Disney World. It is also one of few attractions we will quote year round and in casual conversation.
Update: The Jungle Cruise needs an update in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a girl who loves a good pun, but I don’t want to have the script memorized and it feels like I do. Some fresh scenes to see would be nice too. There is the Jingle Cruise which does a nice job of spicing things up but that is only during Christmas time.
Get Rid Of: I struggled to think of what to put here cause my two least favorite rides already got the axe (looking at you Stitch and Ellen) but the final decision was Kali River Rapids. I get it. The moral high ground is the route this ride takes, but I feel the whole park does a great job of explaining the dangers animals face without shoving it down our throat, then making light of it by making you forget the “carnage our waste and poaching does” by soaking you and getting you off the ride seconds later. Now removing it may be a bit extreme but it definitely needs a story overhaul for sure.

Haunted Mansion night

Now it’s your turn to answer!  Let us know what you think in the comments, along with any Disney related questions you might have.

Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

Pandora – World of Avatar Touring Plan

As we’ve covered this week, Pandora – World of Avatar is Animal Kingdom’s latest and greatest (well, at least top-3) land.  The scenery is one-of-a-kind and the restaurant and attractions, mainly Flight of Passage, are well worth your time.  While writing a touring plan for Animal Kingdom and every other park is on my long list of items to write, I thought I’d write a quick post on when to tour Pandora and how to go about it.  I won’t cover everything in this post so drop me a comment if any questions you have aren’t addressed.

Pandora side waterfall AK

FastPasses

Currently, guests have the option of getting a FastPass for Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey, both of Pandora’s attractions.  There is not an option to get both unless you are related to James Cameron.  This goes without saying but get a FastPass as soon as you possibly can.  The 60+ day window for resort guests is likely the only route for a Flight of Passage FastPass but if you miss out on that then keep checking up until your day at Animal Kingdom.

Pandora waterfall bridge FoP AK

As far as which attraction to FastPass, Flight of Passage is absolutely the right choice.  Na’vi River Journey is much worse than Flight of Passage and should only be considered if Flight of Passage is out of FastPasses.  No matter what time FoP FastPasses are available, I’d choose them above anything else.  The guests who are lucky enough to get one will save a large chunk of time.

When To Go

Pandora – World of Avatar is still relatively new and will have large crowds through at least the holidays.  I would guess those crowds will last for the next several years.  With this in mind, I’d recommend getting to Animal Kingdom at least half an hour before park opening and head straight to the Flight of Passage line.  This especially goes for those that didn’t get a FastPass or those that will want to ride the attraction twice (if you enjoy rides then you will probably want to).  Melissa and I showed up nearly an hour early on an Extra Magic Hour morning and we still waited in line for over an hour for the attraction.  I don’t recommend going when there are Magic Hours but this just goes to show people are getting up early for Pandora.

Pandora pond front AK

If you have a later FastPass for Flight of Passage and don’t care about going on the attraction twice then arrive a little before park opening and head to Na’vi River Journey.  Honestly, this touring plan is probably the most efficient as far as getting attractions done.  Say you have a Flight of Passage FastPass at about 4 PM.  Go do Na’vi River Journey at park opening and then most other attractions around Animal Kingdom will have short lines for the rest of the morning as the vast majority of people will be in Pandora waiting in line.  In theory, guests could go this route and still have a chance to ride Flight of Passage twice.  If you have an afternoon or morning FastPass and find yourself wanting to ride the E-ticket again then get in line shortly before park closing.  They won’t kick you out as long as you are in line before the park closes.

NRJ AA Pandora AK

I still recommend going for Flight of Passage in the morning if you are willing to get there an hour early or so but there are several options for the late sleepers.  One time I’d absolutely avoid in Pandora is late morning until lunch time.  You’ll have better luck any other time of day.

How much time will Pandora – World of Avatar take out of the day?

This is a difficult question to answer as each person has different priorities.  Here’s what I will say, I think Pandora is worth visiting at least twice throughout the day.  My ideal plan would be to go in the morning as the park opens, ride both attractions (hopefully with a Flight of Passage FastPass), quickly look around and head out for the rest of Animal Kingdom.  Then, I’d come back right before dinner, soak in the sights, eat at Satu’li Canteen and then see Pandora at night and ride attractions again if you want to.

Floating Mountain wide Pandora AK

Now, I love the rest of Animal Kingdom and this will definitely cut into your time there.  If lucky enough to have a longer vacation, I would just plan on a day and a half or two days at the park.  If taking in the sights slowly is your thing then searching through Pandora can really take a while.  I would guess the land could take upwards of a half a day to explore, eat and ride both attractions.  I know not everyone goes slow at theme parks though.  For those people I’m guessing you could have a look around, ride both attractions and eat in about 3 hours (assuming you have a FastPass or get to the park early).  Melissa and I spent roughly 8 hours in Pandora over the course of our latest trip, a week plus long, while being in Animal Kingdom for a day and a half.

Pandora drummer AK

Pandora – World of Avatar is a great addition to Animal Kingdom but can be a daunting waste of time standing in line if going at the wrong time.  But, if you follow a few easy guidelines that I’ve laid out then hopefully your exploring will go a little smoother!

Crazy plants Pandora AK

If you have more questions about Pandora – World of Avatar and when/where/how you should plan please let me know in the comments and I’d be happy to help out!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew