My Top Ten Photos From Our Disney World Year

Yesterday, our latest trip report came to a close and with it our final trip under our Disney World Annual Pass.  Over the last year, we went to Disney World four times and with it came around 5,000 photos.  While we will certainly be back to WDW before long, this seems the opportune time for a little bit of looking back.

I don’t consider myself a very good photographer.  This hobby I’ve picked up has helped augment my Disney trips, along with other travels.  I thoroughly enjoy it and try to learn more and more about the art but I’m certainly no expert.  For fantastic photography visit to see my favorite Disney photographer, Tom Bricker.

With that said, sometimes the stars align even for the worst of photographers.  A great scene or setting can be hard to screw up even if you aren’t quite sure of what you’re doing.  Now that I’m done trying to thoroughly convince you that I’m a bad photographer, I’m going to share some of my favorite photos from Disney World that I took in the last year.

I’ll try to stick to ten but won’t put them in any certain order.  I’ll add a few thoughts below each one and I’d love to hear any comments you have down below.  Without further adieu…

Echo Lake night DHS

I’ll start off with an obligatory Hollywood Studios shot.  None of the ones I took really stood out to me but I felt I needed one.  I do think this photograph envelops the mood of this Echo Lake area after dark.  There aren’t many people around and this is one of the more peaceful areas in Walt Disney World.  The area is almost too quiet and bare but is a nice treat to stumble upon.

Dandelion Fantasia end monorail Epcot

One of my favorite shots of the year because of the subject matter.  Fantasia (and Fantasmic!) is one of favorite Disney related projects and this topiary display in Epcot during Flower & Garden Festival is beautiful.  I knelt very close to the flowers and waited for a monorail to pass by.  The results were pretty good, though I wish I had gotten this particular shot at sunset.

Closer Discovery River Harambe AK

Shooting back up Discovery River is an easy way to make a good photograph.  This is from the walkway between Harambe and Pandora.  I love the details in the area along with the ‘natural’ beauty of the water and greenery.

BTMR wider MK

The clouds really make this photograph.  Big Thunder Mountain is a great subject in its own right.  Add in the train for some kinetic energy and the photograph becomes much more exciting.  But a photo full of tan and gray would get a little dull.  The blue in the clouds here add a nice contrast to the mountain’s peak and make the photo much better.

Splash mt. night

This is a case of working hard for a certain shot and now just wanting it to be slightly better.  I love the clouds, reflection and subject in this photo.  But, each aspect can be a little better.  I wish the clouds stretched through more of the sky, meaning a longer shutter speed.  I wish the subject was a little less bright, meaning a higher aperture.  Lastly, I should have raised the tripod just a little higher to get the reflection.  All that said, the color in the sky balancing out Splash Mountain is beautiful.

Pirates Jack Sparrow

I still struggle with dark ride photography.  I don’t spend money to get the highest quality lens but I do my best with a high ISO, low aperture and short shutter speeds.  This shot is the best I’ve ever done.  While I don’t love the inclusion of Jack Sparrow in Pirates, I certainly think this final scene is impressive with all the detail in the room.

Bear ToL wide

This photo is included because the bear is my favorite animal on the Tree of Life and the blurred plant and flowers in the foreground make a somewhat interesting frame of the animal.  I could do my favorite 10 photos of Tree of Life and, while I’d be the only one who found it interesting, would enjoy myself.

China dragon Epcot night

Another case of it being hard to screw up this photo.  The subject, framed by the building in the China Pavilion, is very interesting.  Having a tripod made this photo so much easier.

AK Asia night

Right place, right time.  The photo has a certain energy to it that really matches that of Animal Kingdom at dusk.  There’s a mystery and excitement.  The prayer flags, light fixtures and trees blend into the sky and stars, making for a beautiful blue hour.

MK Hocus Pocus jack o lantern Oogie Maleficent

The is a simple showcase of depth of field.  The pumpkin followed Oogie Boogie(!!!) followed by Maleficent is really fun.  Them all staring in my general direction is a bit fortuitous, although it seems like all of the characters in Magic Kingdom stage shows are told to look right near the Partners Statue.  This is the best spot to photograph these shows if you have a zoom lens.

We Renew Broken Hearts AK

This photo makes it simply because I love the subject.  This is my favorite sign or artwork in all of Disney World.  It’s in the seating area of Harambe Market.


Hello there!  This little guy was posing for me and the rock he’s standing next to adds a little mirroring to add a little bit of symmetry.  The frame was filled with natural elements so my job was easy.

Ferry boat higher

My favorite photo I’ve ever taken partially because I worked hard for it.  The previous evening I had lost part of my tripod and was pretty down about not being able to do my normal nighttime photography.  We were walking out of Magic Kingdom at about 1 AM and the sky was beautiful so I gave this a shot.  I balanced my camera on the fence and tried multiple shots using a different ISO, aperture and shutter speed each time.  I ended up with this and think it looks pretty good.

Okay, I snuck a few more than 10 in but that’s it for now.  Thank you for reading and looking!  If you’re interested in more posts like this than let me know in the comments!  To check out more of my photos, click here.

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


August 2017 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 6

Apologies for the week off from the blog.  I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  If you missed any of the previous installments just click the corresponding number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that you missed to catch up.  On to the final installment!

Upon leaving Animal Kingdom we headed to our 5th and final hotel of our trip.  Yes, this is too many hotels for a single vacation.  I discussed the merits of resort hopping/split stays in part 4 of this report (as well as this post) so I won’t get into it very much here.  Ideally, I would keep the number of resorts in a trip to 2 or 3.  But, it’s nice to be able to stay in and review quite a few different places.

Wilderness Lodge courtyard

Wilderness Lodge is one of the most beautiful resorts at Walt Disney World.  While I live in the Pacific Northwest, seeing the landscaping and water features was still impressive.  I’ll review the hotel later but I certainly see why this hotel draws rave reviews.

After splurging the previous night at Victoria & Albert’s, we opted for a much cheaper dinner at the Contempo Cafe.  While certainly not as impressive or delicious, this Peanut Butter Pie was fantastic.

PB Pie Contempo Cafe

The Contempo Cafe is a quality counter-service spot for those looking for something around the Magic Kingdom area.  This restaurant also offers the most scenic view of any Magic Kingdom resort counter-service spot.  Watching the monorail pass by in the grand concourse or staring at the Mary Blair mural is a beautiful way to spend a meal.  Not to mention the beautiful view of Magic Kingdom just a short walk away.

MK baseball scarecrow

After dinner we took the quick monorail ride to Magic Kingdom.  The Fall decorations are fun and playful throughout Magic Kingdom.  This baseball player is probably my favorite decoration along Main Street.

MK barbershop

After our stroll around Main Street, we slowly made our way to New Fantasyland.  Melissa and I rode Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.  After I put up with that attraction, Melissa put up with me taking some photos at dusk around New Fantasyland.

All in all, I had fairly rotten luck with the sky this trip as far as photography went.  More often than not, the sky was very grey and overcast.  This led to a lack of sunsets, color and clouds.  Typically, Florida has some of my favorite clouds to photograph but when there is a whole sky full of them then it’s hard to show how puffy they are.  The sky was at least somewhat purple that night so things weren’t quite so dull.

Gaston's evening MK

The biggest reason we were in Magic Kingdom that night was to enjoy another showing of Happily Ever After.  We loved it so much earlier in the trip that we scrapped our original plans and wanted to see this.  While I’m frankly a little ‘Magic Kingdom’d out’ relative to most other Disney Parks, this show makes me want to go back nightly.  While different, I think Happily Ever After is right up there with Illuminations and Disneyland’s Fantasmic as the best nighttime spectacular stateside.  Here’s a few more photos from that show.

HEA pink yellow MK

HEA pink MK

After Happily Ever After we took a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.

PotC Auction MK

This would be our final time seeing the auction scene in Pirates.  I have no problem with them replacing it.  While I certainly understand the sentiment that Disney should never touch classic attractions, there is a mountain of evidence against that thought.  Disneyland’s enhancements to Peter Pan’s Flight and Disney World’s additions to Haunted Mansion are both positive reinforcements to Disney classics.  While I think Disney can make changes without thinking (or with thoughts strictly based on the financial side instead of the customer), they are generally careful with classic attractions.  With that said, there is a counter-argument.

Over the last few years Disney has begun to blur the lines between what a classic attraction is and just a good attraction that needs change.  Tower of Terror in California Adventure had a great story and is now Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!  Likewise, California Screamin’ is about to become Incredicoaster.  I’m not sure if either of these attractions should be considered classics but they were certainly popular.  Now, they’ll both be changed in moves that seem short-sighted.

In the end, my thinking on Pirates changing this scene goes like this.  I work with kids for a living.  Some are very inquisitive and I could definitely see them questioning a scene in a theme park ride.  While there is a time and a place to discuss serious matters (prostitution, slavery) Disneyland and Disney World isn’t that place.  Changing this scene may help parents avoid an awkward conversation in the long run.

Castle Space from Treehouse MK

After Pirates we climbed through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.  The tree offers some beautiful views at night and we essentially had the place to ourselves.  Take a few minutes at the top to soak in the atmosphere and sights.

After our climb we rode Jungle Cruise and then walked over to Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  The moon was beautiful and bright on that evening, shining above the castle.

Carousel castle moon MK

We finished the evening by walking around New Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.  I think I enjoy the other side of Magic Kingdom better at night, exploring Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square.  There really isn’t a bad spot to be though.  New Fantasyland is quite peaceful at night.  The further you go back in that area the less people there are.  The lights are just far enough apart to make some areas seem a little more moody and less vibrant.  Storybook Circus seems somewhat like a ghost town at night, which fits the circus motif albeit in a way that Imagineers probably didn’t intend.

Little Mermaid castle back away MK night

Storybook Circus night MK

Tomorrowland is far more vibrant than the Disneyland counterpart.  Having a few more attractions and the PeopleMover adds to the neon and kinetic energy of the sauce.

Tomorrowland streaks night MK

Eventually we caught a boat back to Wilderness Lodge and called it a night.  The evening was relaxing and quite beautiful.  As is Wilderness Lodge.

Wilderness Lodge night

The next morning saw us up fairly early to enjoy our last few hours of the trip in Magic Kingdom.  We checked out, left our bags at Bell Services and went back out to the boat.  Once inside the park we had a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass (these are becoming easier to get on short notice) and then headed for breakfast at Be Our Guest.

I’ll have a review of our meal up in the next few weeks.  In short, I liked the food pretty well but thought the value was one of the worst at Disney World.

Tree it's a small world MK

We followed up breakfast with a slew of rides that we hadn’t done yet this trip including Mickey’s PhilharMagic and “it’s a small world”.  Both of these are wonderful places to escape the heat and excellent attractions in their own right.

MK flowers on wall

I love the flowers as you head from Fantasyland into Liberty Square.  This area is usually pretty crowded but if you can find a spot to tuck away, the colors are worth soaking in for a while.  The turn from 18-19th century Europe (Fantasyland) to colonial America (Liberty Square) is subtle and nuanced.  This is some of Imagineering’s finest work and the details are exceptional.

TSI map MK

We explored Tom Sawyer Island for a while after doing a few rides.  If a vacation is a respite from everyday life then Tom Sawyer Island is a vacation from Magic Kingdom.  If you back far enough on the island then it is like you are somewhere else entirely.  While the land isn’t appreciated enough (myself included) I love that it still exists and would be disappointed if it ever disappears entirely.

Purple flower MK

Tom Sawyer Island offers some of the best views and photogenic spots in any park.


After a little while on the island we hopped about the train and rode it from Frontierland to New Fantasyland.  This was a bit of an old-fashioned day apparently.  In that same vein, we did 5 attractions and had a longer breakfast in the span of three hours on a holiday (Labor Day).  While the parks are busier than ever, avoiding them isn’t that hard to do.

Dumbo castle MK

We had a FastPass for Space Mountain but the attraction was down and our time was running a little short.  Instead of waiting for Mountain to open we opted to use our FastPass to meet Mickey Mouse.  He wasn’t talking for some reason that day but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.  We snapped a few photos on the way out of the park before catching a boat back to Wilderness Lodge.

Castle MK Main Street

We were sad to leave, no doubt.  Multiple trips to Disney World on our Annual Pass made for an exceptional ‘Disney’ year.  There were several moments I’ll never forget and this trip in particular had been something we wanted to do for a long time.

MK from boat

People ask us often if we get tired of going to Disney Parks.  The simple answer is no.  The long answer is slightly more interesting.  I think Disney destinations offer new areas to explore every time.  This trip included tours, incredible food, and exploring a land that we eagerly anticipated.  We loved every minute we spent at Disney World this year.  With that said, our travels this year were dedicated to Florida.  Wanting to get value out of our annual pass along with living across the country and not having a bunch of money restricted us in where we could go.  First world problems without a doubt and, believe me, we know we’re more than fortunate enough to travel as much as we do.  But our annual passes expiring wasn’t just bitter.  We’re eager to travel more.  We can’t wait to go back to Disneyland on a whim, a much easier and affordable trip for us.  A few years down the road we’ll head back to Disney World and enjoy the new things on line.  For now, a few new adventures are on the docket before that trip.

Melissa Tokyo DHS

If there are 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

Question of the Week (11/20/17)

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

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: In honor of Thanksgiving… What is the best attraction to ride after eating way too much and being in a food coma?

Mackenzie – Snow White’s Scary Adventure–For the mere fact that it is slow and that there is usually not a long line. Second Choice would be Jungle Cruise–nice boat ride and lots of laughing!

Jungle Cruise sign MK

Melissa H. – I would have to say either Jungle Cruise or it’s a Small World. Both are quite long and very relaxing without having to worry about any fast-moving or sharp twists and turns. Although, I might fall asleep on Small World if given too much time!

Andrew – My conventional answer is the PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom. I could get a vehicle to myself, sprawl out and take a nap. They even let guests go around twice if the line is fairly short.  Allow another alternative though… If you read the blog regularly then you know I like to eat often at the parks. If I’m completely stuffed then how am I going to eat again soon? Well, go on Mission Space (the intense version), California Screamin’ or Rock n’ Roller Coaster and space will be open almost immediately. That’s a good way to wake up too. Well, good might not be the right word.

Epcot SSE front

Leslie – I think my top two answers would be Spaceship Earth and the Sea with Nemo and Friends. Both give you a slow-moving fun ride with a few activities after the fact to walk the food off. So I think both are a nice option.

Cassie – Having “been there done that” I would say the Disneyland railroads. I love to ride the train when I completely wiped out in the afternoon, as it is slow-moving and takes quite some time. You could definitely enjoy this attraction when you are in a food coma. I wouldn’t ever jump on the train first thing in the day when I have a ton energy. Much better to do so after eating an entire turkey leg in 2 minutes.

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!

Top Ten Disneyland Resort Restaurants

Disneyland Resort is home to some delicious food.  From corn dogs to sushi, there is a wide variety offered and most exceeds the typical theme park fare.  The Disneyland website lists 109 different dining choices spread across Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney and the three Disney hotels.  Since I have my doubts about anyone getting to all 109 on a single trip, I decided it my civic duty to compile my top 10 list.  Could I have done something more helpful to society?  Maybe but you are reading this nonetheless.  Before the list, a few rules…

  • No bars, lounges, or just snack places – I’m looking for places to get a full meal.  While we’ve all gone for the classic dessert as a meal, I have been told that this is not a healthy way to go.  For the record, there are some bars that serve meals.  Trader Sam’s (Disneyland Hotel) and The Cove Bar (California Adventure) both offer some very good food.  In trying to keep this a little less complicated I’m just going to leave them off the list.  Cove Bar likely would have landed just outside the top ten and Trader Sam’s would probably be in the top five.
  • Downtown Disney gets knocked down a little – I think Downtown Disney is on the verge of getting a massive renovation (I don’t have sources or anything, this is just an educated guess).  Considering that, plus the underwhelming options in the area, will knock most of their restaurants off of the rankings.
  • I haven’t eaten everywhere.  Piggy-backing off the last rule, I haven’t eaten everywhere at Disneyland Resort.  This includes a few of the bigger names in Downtown Disney.  If something you love isn’t on the list, drop a comment and let me know!
  • This is all subjective.  Obviously, this is a blog and is all opinion based.  I like to think that I have an open mind to most any food and will try anything.  The list’s criteria includes atmosphere, food, and value.  Both counter-service and table-service restaurants are considered.

We have full reviews of most of these restaurants on the blog.  If you are interested in one of them, just click on the title an it will take you there assuming that we’ve reviewed that restaurant.  I will warn you, some are a few years out of date!  Before the list, let’s do a few honorable mentions…

Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney) – There is nothing remarkable about Earl of Sandwich but this quick-service location offers one of the best values on property.  I really enjoy their holiday turkey sandwich and if you are looking for a cheap meal and are in the area then this is a good choice.

Pacific Wharf Cafe (DCA) – I think I like the idea of this restaurant more than the actual food.  This cafe offers sandwiches, soups and salads.  Both the soups and salads can come in bread bowls that are delicious.  Maybe the most appealing aspect of this quick-service restaurant is the smell.

Bengal Barbecue (DL) – While the focus at Bengal Barbecue is simple in just making skewers, they make them well and the items don’t cost guests much.  I enjoy some of the drinks offered here too.  All in all, I think Bengal Barbecue offers a nice change of pace.

Storyteller’s Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel) – This table-service restaurant is just a nice place to have a meal.  The mood is far more relaxed than inside the parks and the restaurant has a nice variety on the menu.  While I wasn’t blown away by the food, I still enjoyed it.

Hungry Bear Restaurant (Disneyland) – This simply makes the list because of the beautiful views the restaurant offers.  Sitting right on the Rivers of America, Hungry Bear is a great place to enjoy the sights while having a meal.  Oh, and they have funnel cakes.

On to the top ten!

10. Flo’s V8 Cafe (DCA) – Flo’s food is a fairly divisive subject.  The menu was once ambitious and now has been dumbed down to serve fairly bland items.  The breakfast is still somewhat interesting but is hit and miss.  Why Flo’s makes the cut is because of the wonderful atmosphere.  The counter-service restaurant sits right in the middle of Cars Land and is themed to an old-time diner.  There are different rooms with wonderful details abound.  My favorite place to sit is right near a window facing Radiator Springs Racers.  Flo’s offers one of the best atmospheres on the list, unfortunately the food can’t quite measure up.  I recommend going for breakfast.  Honestly, I think the Cozy Cone’s offer better lunch/dinner options even though they aren’t on this list.

9. French Market (Disneyland) – If you don’t think Disneyland is the least bit romantic then I challenge you to get a meal from the French Market (preferably the Jambalaya), find a seat overlooking the river at dusk, and listen to the live jazz band play.  This idealized version of New Orleans has been going strong for decades and it’s largely thanks to the beautiful atmosphere. The food is pretty good, as well, offering Cajun inspired dishes at counter-service prices.  While there isn’t anything extremely authentic or spicy coming from these meals I still enjoy eating here.

French Market outside

8. Rancho del Zocalo (Disneyland) – This Mexican quick-service location in Frontierland is a great place to have a meal.  There are quite a few different options on the menu, some more authentic than others.  The atmosphere is charming and fits in well with Frontierland.  I thoroughly enjoy the Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada Platter.  For $14.49, this is a good value and enough to share or feed a big appetite.  I don’t share.

7. Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs (Disneyland) – A wagon selling corn dogs is one of the seven best restaurants at Disneyland?  Yes, it is.  Frankly, I almost put it in the top five.  First, the corn dogs are the best in the world.  They aren’t outrageously priced (ask for the corn dog without the chips, this cuts off about three dollars) and won’t disappoint.  On top of that, getting a corn dog from the Little Red Wagon at the end of Main Street is a Disneyland rite of passage.  Set your drink down on a garbage can, accidentally smear mustard all over your face and enjoy the seventh best Disneyland restaurant.

6. Blue Bayou Restaurant (Disneyland) – Blue Bayou has the best atmosphere of any Disneyland restaurant.  There isn’t really a close second.  Sitting inside the famed Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a special aura to this restaurant.  Sadly, the food and the prices don’t measure up.  The entrees aren’t anything special and the prices are outrageous.

5. Steakhouse 55 (Disneyland Hotel) – This Steakhouse doesn’t boast the incredible environment that some on this list have but the restaurant does have very good food, along with some great details and mementos.  There are photos of Walt, and other Disney greats, hung around the dining room.  Steakhouse 55 offers great several very good steaks and a great breakfast, as well.  This is a very good restaurant if you are looking for a nice place to eat.  There isn’t any extra Disney magic here but the restaurant doesn’t really need it.

Eggs benedict steakhouse 55

4. Plaza Inn (Disneyland) – Like the Little Red Wagon, Plaza Inn gains points through nostalgia and history.  The restaurant has been around since 1955, the year Disneyland opened.  This was Walt’s favorite place to have a meal.  While the menu has changed since then (and prices have gone up tenfold) the food and atmosphere still feel as if you’re stepping back into a simpler time.  Plaza Inn offers some of the best fried chicken around and offers other comfort food.  The restaurant serves a character dining breakfast and then transforms into a quick-service location for lunch and dinner.  This is my favorite quick-service spot at Disneyland.

3. Cafe Orleans (Disneyland) – This table-service restaurant in New Orleans Square is one of the best values out there for a sit down meal.  While I do think the entrees here leave something to be desired, the Pommes Frites are a fantastic appetizer and the Mickey Beignets are a great dessert.  Combine that with sitting outside and looking at New Orleans Square and the river and you have the makings of a near perfect afternoon.  Definitely request a seat outside, as sitting inside takes away from the restaurant.  The prices are similar to French Market than they are to the Blue Bayou, which is a big plus.

2. Carthay Circle Restaurant (California Adventure) – California Adventure’s flagship restaurant really surprised and impressed me.  Modeled after the theater where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered, there is no shortage of detail in the restaurant.  Carthay Circle also boasts exquisite service, delicious food and a diverse menu.  I think the restaurant is also given a boost from sitting inside of the park’s icon.  Get the Signature Fried Biscuits for an appetizer, they are fantastic.

1. Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel) – This wasn’t a hard choice.  Napa Rose is the best restaurant at Disneyland and I’m not sure there is much argument (at least if you don’t count Club 33).  The relaxed and sophisticated California setting is a perfect respite and compliment to the California Adventure, which sits just a few hundred yards away.  What really shines at Napa Rose though is the food.  The menu focuses heavily on fish and steak and does each of them exceptionally well.  Service at Napa Rose is always wonderful.  While the prices are certainly high here, I think this is more of a situation where you get what you pay for instead of just the usual Disney inflation. Go here.

Napa Rose steak

That concludes my top ten list.  Andrew Stanton, executive chef at both Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, will be thrilled to know he oversees the two highest restaurants on my list.  I’m sure this is the moment he’s been waiting for.  What did I get wrong on this list?  Let me know in the comment!

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

August 2017 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 5

If you missed parts 1, 2, 3, or 4 of this trip report then click on the corresponding number to catch up.  On with the show!

After a late night in Disney Springs we decided to take the next morning easy.  We woke up late and then went to breakfast/lunch at Art of Animation’s food court (Landscape of Flavors).  The food was decent for being a value hotel’s food court.  I was impressed by the variety of food offered, there was something for everyone.

After a slow-paced morning we decided to spend the day at Typhoon Lagoon.  While I enjoy Blizzard Beach, I find Typhoon Lagoon far superior.  Not only is the theme fantastic, the wave pool is one of the best attractions in Walt Disney World with waves up to six feet.  I could spend hours in that thing, swimming out to the deepest part of the pool and then catching a wave back in.  I’d love to do a surfing lesson there sometime but can’t justify the cost.

Typhoon Lagoon boat

As for the rest of Typhoon Lagoon, there are some great slides and then some that aren’t worth your time.  Miss Adventure Falls is the newest slide and is a nice blend of Disney storytelling with a raft ride.  Typically it’s hard to put much story in a quick water slide but this does a nice job of it.  Crush n’ Gusher is also a great water coaster. Aside from those two, I’d rather spend my day in the lazy river and wave pool  We spent a couple of hours there before heading back to our hotel.  I love water parks and recommend Typhoon Lagoon.  I will concede that they need to keep upgrading both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.  Now that Universal has opened Volcano Bay I think they will do just that.

We went back to the hotel fairly early as we had a dinner reservation at Victoria & Albert’s that night.  We gave ourselves ample time to get ready, as we’d been pretty unlucky with Disney Transportation that week.  Dressed in our finest, we headed out to Disney’s AAA five-diamond restaurant.  Making our way to the Grand Floridian was a bit stressful as we were left waiting for quite a while for busses in multiple spots.  We did make it in time though.

V&A plate

Victoria & Albert’s was nothing short of incredible.  The experience was overwhelming to our senses and something we won’t soon forget.  I’ll have a review to go into more detail in the coming weeks.

This Disney World trip was a “Treat Yo’ Self” vacation.  We had splurged on an Annual Pass the previous year and knew that this was our last trip to WDW with our pass and likely for a few years. We decided this was the time to accomplish some of the items on our Disney World Bucket List.  None of those items, namely the tours and Victoria & Albert’s, disappointed.  While none were essential to having a wonderful trip, they did provide us with memories that we won’t forget and were a nice way to augment an experience.  I’ve heard many people say that you’ll never be able to do it all at Disney World.  That’s absolutely true.

V&A fish

We had planned on hopping over to Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks after dinner.  Victoria & Albert’s was a long dinner though so we opted for a showing of Illuminations in Epcot an hour later.  Even being an hour later, we barely made that showing.  45 minutes after paying for the most expensive (and delicious) meals of our lives, we were sprinting through Epcot and sweating buckets.  Nothing more classy than that!

We arrived at World Showcase at 9:58, two minutes before the fireworks started.  Even with fairly large crowds and arriving late, we still found a decent spot to see the show.  It was fairly bittersweet seeing Illuminations.  I think the show is likely to be changed in the next few years and I have no idea if I’ll ever see it again.  Illuminations – Reflections of Earth was the first Disney nighttime show I ever loved.  I remember seeing it about 15 years ago, being wowed and then getting caught in downpour that only Florida can muster.  Likewise, seeing the show during our honeymoon will also hold a special place in my heart.  I distinctly remember the ash from the countless explosions raining down on us.

Illuminations finale Epcot

It’s also the only show that I have never took the time to photograph.  Part of that is logistics but mostly I just like to put the camera down and watch.  I might regret that someday but for now I’m fine with my choice.  As always, Illuminations was beautiful and I hope that the next time I’m in Epcot I will still be seeing some iteration of it.

Melissa Paris WS Epcot

After the fireworks ended we walked around World Showcase for a while.  As I’ve said before on this blog, security won’t push anyone out of World Showcase right away because many people are still in the restaurants.  While stores in the pavilions won’t be open guests can still wander around and see the sights.  This is one of my favorite things to do in any Disney Park.  The beautiful Illuminations score plays in the area for a while after the show ends and this is the perfect time to sit somewhere and soak up the atmosphere.

Morocco full pavilion Epcot

I forgot a piece of my tripod that night so my photography was limited.  I ended up with a few shots that I liked but for the most part Melissa and I took a relaxing stroll, recovering from that sprint earlier in the night.

UK path night Epcot

Of all my nights at Disney Parks this felt like the most surreal.  I had a meal that I’ll likely never have again.  We sprinted through half of Epcot in a suit and dress.  Then we wandered around a completely empty World Showcase for a while.

Cozy Cone AoA

Eventually we headed back to our hotel and I took a few photos before bed.

The next morning came fairly early and we checked out of yet another resort.  Wilderness Lodge was our last stop of the trip and we would check in there later that day.  Before that, we were off to Animal Kingdom.  Pandora was calling…

Green floating mountain AK Pandora

We scored a Flight of Passage FastPass for that morning.  I’m glad we tried both the FastPass line and the standby line that trip.  Obviously the FastPass line is the way to go right now as you can bypass long lines.  Still, the standby line offers some amazing views that the FastPass queue doesn’t offer.  Flight of Passage is amazing, by the way.

After our ride we ate lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue.  While the food is fantastic at this counter-service restaurant, I think Satu’li Canteen currently holds the top spot in Animal Kingdom’s counter-service ratings.  We’ll see if the menu changes at all over the next year but right now the food and value is fantastic.

Everest Discovery River AK

Both counter-service options offer some of the best views though.  Satu’li Canteen’s outdoor seating can be blocked by the hoards of guests though.  Flame Tree Barbecue doesn’t offer many issues as the closer you get to the water the more seating there seems to be.  I’m very happy that the seating they added for Rivers of Light didn’t take away from the beautiful view of this area.

Giraffe running Safari AK

After lunch, we went on a safari.  My wife is a good sport as she always agrees to go on the attraction with me no matter how many times we’ve been on it.  On this occasion, a giraffe jumped out from the brush and started running by our truck.  We also caught great views of a monkey, rhino and the elephants.

Fire twirler FotLK AK

Next on the agenda was Festival of the Lion King.  This was a sort of greatest hits type day as it was out last visit to Animal Kingdom under our annual pass.  This year has cemented Animal Kingdom as my favorite park at Walt Disney World.  Yes, Magic Kingdom is probably a better theme park (at least from an attractions standpoint) but Animal Kingdom is more appealing to me.  Festival of the Lion King is a big reason why.  Seeing the show one more time was a similar feeling to Illuminations.  Thankfully, I don’t see Festival of the Lion King going anywhere over the next few years.

Closer Discovery River Harambe AK

We walked from Harambe to Pandora on the newly opened pathway.  This was a beautiful walk that offered some great views.  I think walking from Pandora to Harambe may offer some better views but if you take your time then you’ll get views from both ways.  Looking up the river towards Harambe is one of the best sights in the park.  The handcrafted details blend seamlessly with the nature aspect of the park.

Fuzzy blue Pandora AK

Our last hour in Animal Kingdom was spent wandering around Pandora.  I’ve spent many words on this blog talking about WDW’s newest land so I won’t bore you with more.  Instead, here’s a few more photos from the gorgeous Pandora.  Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t cooperating with me that day so the background was pretty ugly.

Tree with flowers Pandora AK

2 waterfalls Pandora AK

Big rocks Pandora AK

Purple flower AK

Pandora scene colors AK

We headed out of Animal Kingdom after exploring for quite a while.  We are still blown away with the beauty and detail of both Pandora – World of Avatar and Animal Kingdom as a whole.  That’s where we’ll end part 5 of our trip report.  Next installment will conclude the series, detailing a few trips to Magic Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge!

If there are 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

Yacht Club Resort Review

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort is a deluxe resort in Walt Disney World.  Inspired by New England-style architecture, the Yacht Club sits right along the lake.  The resort shares many amenities (including the famed pool, Stormalong Bay) and is connected with Disney’s Beach Club.  Both the Yacht and Beach Club, along with the Boardwalk Resort make up the Epcot Area Resorts, as they sit just outside of the park’s World Showcase entrance.  The Yacht Club is a DVC Resort but also take guests who are not a part of DVC (like me).  We recently stayed in a studio room here, this review will cover that experience.

Stormalong Bay slide

I’d taken many trips to Walt Disney World without staying at the Yacht or Beach Club.  One of my favorite unheralded things to do over the years is taking the boat from Epcot to Hollywood Studios, or vice versa.  While on this short (and free!) cruise, the boat stops at different hotels.  Along with the beautiful Boardwalk, my eyes would always drift to the large ship that seemed to pop out of the Beach and Yacht Clubs.  When I realized that this large ship was home to a pool and, more specifically, water slide it was a matter of when, not if, I was going to stay here.

I may like water slides more than an adult should, but the more I read about the Yacht Club the more interested in the resort I became.  Disney World’s greatest hotels are a bit like mini theme parks.  They each have a theme, things to do and the best ones have a headliner attraction.  The Contemporary’s headliner, for example, is the monorail soaring through A-frame.  Animal Kingdom Lodge has a savannah outside the backdoor.  All Star Sports has groups of raging cheerleaders and youth football players sprinting around the common areas yelling.  Kidding about that last one, sort of.  The Yacht and Beach Club have a more stereotypical hotel headliner – the pool.

I won’t bury my opinion any further.  Staying at the Yacht or Beach Club probably isn’t a wise choice unless there are is at least an hour or two set aside for Stormalong Bay.  The large caveat here is that if you have a trip centered around Epcot then this is also a great place to stay but more on that in a minute.  The Yacht Club has a nice enough theme.  The lobby is on the smaller side relative to other deluxe resorts.  The restaurants get solid reviews.

Yacht Club lobby

But there is nothing that will blow you away aside from that pool.  Stormalong Bay has the aforementioned water slide that is the longest of any WDW resort pool.  The pool’s floor is sand, which is one of those things that I didn’t know I loved until I experienced it.  There is a lazy river that is surprisingly deep and relaxing.  There’s several large areas for toddlers to splash around in.  Along with all of those features is just a sprawling complex that is beautiful to swim around.

Stormalong Bay is everything that it is cracked up to be and if you are looking for a resort day in the middle of your Walt Disney World vacation, there is no better place to spend it in.

Stormalong Bay chairs

Since we started with an amenity instead of the room I’ll finish up with those.  The Yacht Club features another quiet pool that is just a standard hotel pool.  While it’s nice enough there is no reason to go here unless… I thought I had a reason but there actually isn’t one.  Stormalong Bay is large enough that the pool doesn’t even feel very crowded compared to the quiet pool.

The Yacht Club also sits across the walkway from a beach that looks out on to the Boardwalk.  Pulling up a chair at night with your sweetheart is a relaxing way to spend an evening.  If timed right, guests could watch part of Illuminations from that beach although it doesn’t compare to seeing it in the park.

Boardwalk night sand

There’s an arcade in the hotel that was pretty run of the mill.  Speaking of run of the mill, the counter-service location in the Yacht Club is more of a grab and go spot then an actual restaurant or food court.  The hotel does feature the highly regarded and expensive Yachtsman Steakhouse and is also home to the Crew’s Cup Lounge, which Melissa and I love.  The Beach Club houses a few other restaurants, including the famous Beaches and Cream Soda Shop.  All in all, the dining at the Yacht Club is pretty good but could use a solid counter-service option.  Taking into account the proximity of the Boardwalk and Epcot, I don’t think guests will be disappointed with food options.

All in all, the amenities aside from Stormalong Bay are good but not great.  If you’re looking for an all around resort experience there are probably better options, especially once you factor in the theme.  But if you like pools then this jumps up the rankings.

Yacht Club hall

Last of all, before I get to the room, the Yacht Club’s proximity to Epcot is fantastic.  Without looking it up, this is the closest hotel to a theme park entrance on property (although the Beach Club is technically closer but I’m counting these resorts as one in the same).  Bay Lake Tower’s proximity to Magic Kingdom is the only thing that rivals the Yacht and Beach Club (and the Boardwalk) as the walk to Epcot is five minutes at most.  If going on a trip that will include lots of Epcot time, this resort is a great option.  We stayed here the night before Food & Wine Festival started and greatly enjoyed the convenience of the location.

Yacht club room beds

On to the rooms!  We stayed in a studio room with two queen beds.  The couch did pull out if you wanted to fit another person in here.  With deep navy and a rich wood tone, the room had a very clean look.  While there wasn’t much personality throughout, I liked the overall tone.

Yacht Club bathroom

Here’s the bathroom, which looks like most hotel bathrooms only slightly nicer.  I did like the shower design.

Yacht Club deck

Each room had a deck and ours looked out onto the quiet pool.  They were well blocked off from other guests felt secluded enough for a pleasant sit on the porch.

Yacht Club couch

Here’s a closer look at the couch and the artwork in the room.  All in all, the room used its space well and felt fairly open for being a studio room.  While the theme is far from exciting, the rich tones and sharp lines appealed to me.  This was a very nice hotel room although I prefer my Disney hotel rooms to have a little more character.

As far as value goes, you can find rooms at the Yacht Club starting at $250/night.  During peak seasons, those prices will shoot up.  Room-only discounts or Annual Pass discounts help significantly with the price.  While we aren’t big spenders, I’m certainly glad that we tried out the Yacht Club.  Spending an hour in the pool after dark was one of my favorite memories of the whole trip and made staying there worth it.  Perhaps a split stay can make this place more affordable for some?  That is what we did to make staying here a reality.

Yacht Club courtyard

In itself, the Yacht Club is a beautiful resort.  Once the elaborate and amazing pool plus the proximity to Epcot is factored in, this becomes one of my favorite places to stay in Walt Disney World.  While the theme is lacking compared to some other deluxe resorts, I would still highly recommend staying here even if it’s just a night or two.  A day in Epcot combined with a few trips back to the pool make for a great Walt Disney World day.

Overall Rating – 9.5/10

Have you ever stayed at the Yacht Club?  Do you have any questions about the resort?  Let us know in the comments!  If you enjoy what you’re reading on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

Chefs de France Review

Chefs de France is a table-service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Epcot.  The restaurant serves (who would have guessed!) French food and is open for lunch and dinner.  Chefs de France sits in the World Showcase’s France, on the left side of the pavilion.  Tables in Wonderland discount is accepted here but there isn’t any annual pass discount currently.  We recently dined at Chefs de France for dinner and this review will cover that experience.

Chefs de France

Paris is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world and the France Pavilion certainly follows that lead.  Of course, sitting under the actual Eiffel Tower is more romantic than sweatily bumping into theme park guests who are looking for a ride that doesn’t exist.  With that said, I think there’s a good case to be made for France to be the most romantic pavilion in World Showcase.  The winding back street, beautiful film (Impressions de France), fountain, ice cream shops and, of course, restaurants  make this a beautiful place to spend an evening.  That begins with Chefs de France.

When walking past Chefs de France, the buzz of the restaurant is palpable.  The lighting of the restaurant seems to glow out onto the sidewalk, making the whole pavilion even more inviting.  In a way, I think Chefs de France’s atmosphere from the outside is stronger than it is inside.

Chefs de France inside

Once in the restaurant Chefs de France is still bustling, which takes some of the romantic vibe away.  The biggest downside of the restaurant (at least as far as atmosphere goes) is how close the tables are together.  They really pack them into this restaurant.  With how stuffed Chefs de France is there isn’t as much room for decoration.  Still, the restaurant seems to glow and while being a little packed this does add to the energy of the restaurant.

We were seated by the window looking out onto the World Showcase promenade.  This is the best spot on the restaurant, as you can watch passers-by and the nighttime lighting turn on around World Showcase.  I imagine that this would be an okay spot to view Illuminations if you had a late dinner reservation.  If not in a hurry and if you have a smaller party, request a seat by the window.  This is a beautiful experience and helps stay away from the packed in tables.

Chefs de France menu

As far as the food goes, the menu has quite a few options with all of them having a somewhat-French inspiration.  Prices are slightly higher than a typical Disney World table-service restaurant but not to the point where it should dissuade from going to this place as opposed to another table-service place.

Cheeses Chefs de France

We both started with appetizers.  I ordered the Plateau de fromages de France (Cheese Board).  This came with three pieces of bread and five different cheeses to spread on it.  The cheeses really varied in taste, some very sharp and others more conservative.  I liked most of these cheeses and I think this plate offered something for everyone.  The raisin walnut bread was also quite tasty.

Salad Chefs de France

Melissa ordered the Salade aux lardons et croutons.  Forgive my ignorance but I believe this translates to salad with croutons.  I imagine there are a few other words in the middle.  The salad was very fresh and delicious.  This was on the bitter side as far as salads go and may be something to share.

Chefs de France beef

Next came our entrees.  I ordered the Boeuf Bourguignon, linguine.  This was absolutely delicious.  The beef laid in a Cabernet sauce.  The sauce was rich but I never grew tired of it.  The beef was extremely tender, so tender that I didn’t need a knife at all to cut it.  The carrots cut some of that rich taste.  The linguine was also very good and helped balance out the dish.  I would highly recommend this entrée as it was one of my favorites that I had my entire trip.  At about $29, I thought this dish was a pretty good value compared to many other entrees around property.

Chefs de France duck

Melissa went with the Canard aux cerises (Duck Breast with Cherries).  Like the beef, the duck was very tender and delicious.  The cherries and cherry wine sauce each complimented the dish well, giving a fruity yet rich flavor to the duck.  The dish also came with zucchini and a sweet potato puree.  Melissa said both sides were very good  and were needed to keep the sauce from becoming over powering.  The duck was $33, which seemed like a fair price.  All in all, I preferred my entrée while Melissa liked hers more.  Your preference will likely come down to what type of meat you like more.

Cream puff swan Chefs de France

Naturally, desserts had to happen.  I had this beautiful swan cream puff (Cygne au chocolat).  This dessert was so pretty that I felt bad eating it.  Of course, I did eat this beautiful swan swimming in chocolate.  The pastry was tasty although not overwhelmingly so.  The cream and chocolate were both fantastic and really made the dessert.  I thoroughly enjoyed the dessert but was even more blown away by the plating.

Apple Chefs de France

Melissa had the Tarte aux Pommes which is an Apple Tart with almond cream, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.  She loved the dessert saying that it was one of the best of the trip.

Chefs de France is an excellent restaurant that can be quite romantic in the right setting.  The food is fairly priced, relative to other Disney restaurants, and was largely delicious.  While I don’t think the atmosphere in the restaurant is in the top-tier at Walt Disney World, I do think this is a nice restaurant with very good food.  I’d absolutely recommend this restaurant, especially if you like or are curious about French food.

Overall Rating – 8.5/10

France Epcot sunset

Have you been to Chefs de France?  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

Is a Walt Disney World Split Stay (Resort Hopping) Right For You?

Walt Disney World is not only home to four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping district, and countless other attractions but also has 25 resorts.  For first timers, choosing a resort can be a somewhat daunting task.  For repeat visitors, having a different hotel to stay can be a nice change to a familiar place.  Multiple trips isn’t a necessity to stay at multiple resorts though.  A split stay, also known as resort hopping, is a great option for those that want to see a little more on their Disney World vacation (among other benefits) and that’s what we’ll get into today.

AKL lobby

What is a split stay and how do you do it?

Split stays score a point in the practical name department, being exactly what they sound like.  A Disney World guest would start at one hotel and then, at some point in their trip, move to a different resort.  Sounds simple enough and it really is.  Even without a rental car, this process is painless.  There are few nuances to this.

This process starts by simply booking a hotel for part of your stay and then a different hotel for the remainder of your trip.  I guess one negative of a split-stay is that you are less likely to get a vacation package for multiple resorts that you’re staying at.  The Free Dining promotion, for example, would only work at one resort as both reservations would require buying a park ticket and that would be a waste of money.  With that being said, booking a vacation package on one of your resorts, extending the length of stay of the ticket, and then booking another hotel with a room discount is an option.  Also, booking room only discounts is a good way to go in the first place and will be available for both ends of a split-stay.  If all of these discount options are confusing please let me know in the comments and I can break them down further.

Water Wheel Port Orleans

Once those resorts are booked (and double check to make sure the days line up and you didn’t book an extra night somewhere) then the process is as simple as showing up to your reservations.  Disney will even move your bags for you free of charge.  On the day you check out of your first resort call ahead to bag services and tell them that you are changing resorts.  They will ask you what resort, among other questions, and will take all of your bags over to that resort by 4 PM while you enjoy time in the park.  Whenever you are ready to go back to your hotel, just board a bus to the new resort instead of the one you checked out of earlier that day.  The process is very simple and adds maybe 10 minutes to your day at most, just with the check-in, check-out, or bell services aspect.

Let me know if there are other questions about the logistics of split stays in the comments.

Caribbean Beach hammock

What are the reasons to do a split stay?

I’ve already covered one of the reasons for a split stay at the beginning of this post and that reason is simply just being able to see more.  To be sure, Disney has some really interesting and fun hotels to stay in.  There are gorgeous lobbies, incredible pools and amazing restaurants throughout the 25 on-site hotels and that doesn’t even mention the rooms.  If you’re a Disney junkie then chances are that seeing more than one resort may be for you.

Most other reasons for split stays are built off of that main reason.  A comment I often see in our hotel reviews is that deluxe resorts are too expensive but maybe eventually people could stay there.  A split stay will make those dreams of staying there come true quickly.  Instead of spending a week at a $400/night hotel split your stay up, find the cheapest night or two to spend at that deluxe resort and then spend the rest of the week at a value resort.  Melissa and I regularly employ this strategy.

OKW golf course

Even if money isn’t an issue but you’re a WDW veteran, I’d advise moving to another resort halfway through a longer (think 6 days or more) trip.  I think this gives a trip fresh energy and is something to look forward to, especially if you save the hotel that’s most exciting to you for the end of the trip.

All in all, I think split stays and resort hopping is a nice, convenient way to add a little extra to your Walt Disney World trip.  While there’s never enough time to see it all, this idea makes it easy to do more while not adding any time to your trip.  This can also be a way to save money while staying at a nicer hotel.  I highly recommend split stays and if you have more questions about the process please let us know in the comments!

Lighthouse Boardwalk

If you enjoy what you’re reading on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew

New Details On Paradise Pier Becoming Pixar Pier

Earlier today, Disney released some new concept art and news about California Adventure’s Pixar Pier.  This land will be taking the place of Paradise Pier.  Here is a link to our initial post about the news and here is today’s release from Disney.  Before we get to my thoughts on what was announced today, let’s break down what was announced.

The News

First of all, the release stated that this land will be permanent.  When first announced there seemed to be some confusion on this being a limited time offering or a permanent land.  Today’s news leaves no doubt that this is permanent.

The other bit of news that wasn’t attraction based is that there will be four different ‘neighborhoods’ that are apart of this pier.  Why a pier has neighborhoods is beyond me but that’s how Disney termed it.  Maybe they don’t know what a pier is?  Maybe I don’t know what a pier is?

The first of these neighborhoods will be themed to The Incredibles.  Seemingly, this just means that California Screamin’ will be no more.  The roller coaster will now be themed to the Incredibles.  This overhaul will include a new look for the ride vehicles, character moments and a different loading zone.  Instead of California Screamin’ this will now be Incredicoaster.  California Screamin’ will be closing on January 8th.

Toy Story Mania and the corresponding area seems to remain largely the same and is the second neighborhood.  I don’t know if King Triton’s carousel will be rethemed to The Incredibles or Toy Story Mania.

The next neighborhood will be themed to Inside Out and will include a new attraction, although it sounds like this will be no more than a spinner attraction (like Dumbo).  This attraction will be open later than the rest of the rethemed land which makes me hold out a little hope that it will be something more.

The fourth neighborhood will be a mishmash of Pixar IP’s.  Mickey’s Fun Wheel will be rethemed although Mickey will still be on it (huh?).  All of the Midway Games will now have a Pixar feel to them.

On top of all of this, Ariel’s Grotto and Cove Bar will be turned into a different “lounge and grill”.  Everything that I haven’t mentioned, including Paradise Gardens, Silly Symphony Swings, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, Goofy’s Sky School, Golden Zephyr and The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, will be called Paradise Park and will remain unchanged because… I don’t know why.  They ran out of money?


I tried to make the above just news although I slipped a few comments in that revealed my true feelings.  But, I’ll put it more bluntly than my passive-aggressive nature… This is not a good idea.

Potato Head TSM

Let’s go item by item, starting with the biggie.  Incredicoaster replacing California Screamin’ seems like something an Imagineer came up with for April Fool’s Day last year.  Bob Iger found those joke files in a garbage somewhere and dusted this off thinking “Wow, what a great idea!”  I’m not even the biggest California Screamin’ fan but why change a beloved attraction minimally.  It’s like they saw the success of the retheming of Tower of Terror and tried to figure out where else to do this.  The problem is changing a story on a roller coaster is very hard, mostly because roller coasters don’t typically have stories or plots.  I’d guess this ends up similar to Universal Orlando’s Incredible Hulk Coaster, but only in the story elements.  The track will remain the same, so I don’t see the point.

A carousel retheming isn’t going to matter one way or another, and seems like a waste of money to me.

I love Inside Out but would much rather see the IP get a full-blown attraction instead of a short spinning ride and a little area on the pier.  A retheming of Mickey’s Fun Wheel brings up similar emotions.  I just don’t understand why they think this is a good place to invest.  Changing the inside of some ride vehicles on a ferris wheel is so arbitrary.  And why is Mickey still on the face of the Fun Wheel if this is Pixar Pier?  As much as some people wouldn’t like to admit it, Mickey Mouse isn’t a part of Pixar.

Last of all, Cove Bar is one of California Adventure’s hidden gems.  This is the most mature place in the park and a nice break from the hustle and bustle.  Who knows, the area may still remain a nice respite with great nachos but I’m not all that hopeful.

What annoys me the most is that Pixar Pier doesn’t fit the park’s identity.  California Adventure is an idealized and/or dramatized version of adventures you could have in California (+10 for practical name).  This park worked very hard to fit that theme over the last decade.  Even the areas that weren’t necessarily California, like A Bug’s Land and Cars Land, had a nice flow and fit the park’s identity well.  Now, that idea behind the park seems to be taking a backseat to half-baked ideas.

It’s not that Pixar isn’t worthy of whole lands.  They absolutely are, as we’ve seen Cars Land become a massive hit.  In fact, I don’t think this land is going to be able to pay full tribute to Pixar.  I’d much rather see a land built from scratch, or at least torn down with a fresh start, then a bunch of attractions being rethemed.  I liken this to Dragon Challenge and Universal Studios Florida.  Universal decided to create Hogsmeade (Harry Potter) and left a roller coaster within the land.  They did a slight retheme to the coaster but no one could deny that it was an eyesore to an otherwise brilliant place.  A month ago Dragon Challenge closed down because it didn’t belong there.  While I don’t expect any of these changes to be an eye sore, I hardly ever think permanent retheming of an attraction is the answer.

While I’m obviously not a fan of this idea, it does lead me to speculate on the California Adventure’s future.  It’s no secret that superheroes are making their way into DCA, starting last summer with the Guardians of the Galaxy.  An expanded superhero presence is on the way but the question is where will they go.  Pixar Pier leads me to believe that new superhero attractions will take over Bug’s Land.  This is because it seems like Disney is trying to move some appealing kid-friendly attractions to the pier.  Those attractions are what A Bug’s Land is known for.  I could obviously be way off there but with the land lying adjacent to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout this makes some logical sense.  This could also help explain why this direction was taken in the first place.

The idea also seems somewhat reactionary.  By my count, every other Disney Resort across the world has or will have a Toy Story Land in the near future.  Disneyland was the lone holdout, mind you they do have Cars Land while no one else does.  Maybe executives didn’t want California not to have a heavy Pixar theme as everywhere else has one.  This is just me spitballing, as this idea doesn’t make much sense.

All in all, I’m worried that California Adventure is losing it’s identity as fast as it found it.  While Paradise Pier is no Imagineering marvel, it did work within the park’s California premise.  Doing a half-baked retheming of the area seems like a break in cohesiveness for a park that was on the up and up.  Time will tell but count me as pessimistic on this one.

What are your thoughts on the latest Pixar Pier news?  Let us know in the comments! If you enjoy what you’re reading on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page.  You can find both of those on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

– Andrew