Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour Review

Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour takes place in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  The tour takes guests throughout the park, both on-stage (in the park) and off-stage (behind the scenes).  The tour takes place over 5 hours and details stories, secrets and facts about Magic Kingdom.  Keys to the Kingdom is $99 before any discounts.  We recently experienced this tour and this review will cover that experience.

MK castle side and light

I should start by saying that photos are/were prohibited on this tour so any photo here is from a different time at Magic Kingdom.  This review will also be spoiler-free and speak in more general terms about the tour.

Keys to the Kingdom has several start times each day, all in the morning.  Our tour began at 9 AM.  We checked in and met our group on Main Street, at the Chamber of Commerce building.  At that point we picked out our lunch for the day (more on that later).  Each person on the tour got a bottle of water and an ear piece to be able to hear our tour guide better.  Before long, we were off and walking around.  While the tour was undoubtedly a lot of walking, our guide did a wonderful job of finding us plenty of places to sit in the shade.  This was true in every part of the park, even Main Street.

Flower pots wall MK

After sharing many facts and secrets about Main Street we headed over to Adventureland.  While much of the tour was walking around and learning facts about Magic Kingdom, there were a few excursions on top of that.  Our first little extra was riding the Jungle Cruise but instead of the typical ride, our guide was the skipper.  He shared many facts about the attraction and the ride was fantastic.

Caribbean plaza flowers MK

We spent a little more time in Adventureland, learning about Walt Disney and a little about the area of the park.  Eventually we moved behind the scenes and got a look at the parade out and the building that houses the floats.  This was another one of the highlights.  Seeing the organization of the operation was interesting.

We eventually came back on-stage and rode the Haunted Mansion.  While this wasn’t exactly the same situation as the Jungle Cruise, there were a few fun surprises along the way.  I won’t spoil them though.  Needless to say, the Haunted Mansion was great.  In fact, the tour throughout Liberty Square was probably my favorite part of the tour.

Haunted Mansion closer MK

Shortly after that came lunch, which was the most disappointing part of the tour.  We ate at the Tomorrowland Terrace, which is open seasonally for park guests.  The options were pretty limited with most of them being hot dogs, a veggie burger, or caesar salad.  I opted for a caesar salad and Melissa had the veggie burger.  It wasn’t that the food was bad, just very average.  While lunch was included with the tour, I would have much rather had the tour cost $5-10 less and then we eat somewhere more interesting afterwards.  I’ve read that Columbia Harbor House is sometimes an option for lunch on this tour and that is a much better option.

Still, it felt as if the tour was full of great information and then Disney thought, “Well, we don’t want to make this too great of an experience, let’s have them eat at a place that we don’t even open to park guests regularly.”  Fortunately, lunch was saved by the company.  Talking more in-depth with the tour guide and other park guests was a treat and usually is no matter what tour you are on.

Castle boat wide MK

After lunch, we came to the most hyped aspect of the tour – the utilidors.  For those that don’t know, Magic Kingdom has tunnels built underneath it that cast members use to get from place to place.  There is no way for park guests to access these unless you are on select tours.  The utilidors are one of the great legends of Magic Kingdom and if you are a Disney nerd then seeing them is pretty special.

To be sure, we loved going down into the tunnels and seeing how the whole system works.  Frankly though, these aren’t much to look at.  The utilidors are somewhat ugly and I’m not sure that anyone who isn’t interested in the whole operation of Magic Kingdom or those that don’t have an extreme interest in Disney will be that impressed.  Still, we loved being down there.  We eventually emerged from the utilidors and our tour shortly came to a close.

MK barbershop

While we liked the tour overall, I didn’t think this was as much of a home run as the Wild Africa Trek that we’d done earlier in the trip.  Keys to the Kingdom was at a much lower cost and longer but I didn’t think the value was nearly as high.  Our tour guides on both excursions did a great job but I thought Wild Africa Trek went out of its way to make you feel special and Keys to the Kingdom didn’t.

The lunch was a big negative for me.  I also thought that some of the information during the tour was readily available to most.  While all of the information was interesting, I knew a decent amount of it beforehand and so did Melissa.  This tour might find a sweet spot for those that like Disney but aren’t huge fans.  While I don’t think $99 is a bad value (even less if you own DVC or are an Annual Passholder) for this tour, I don’t think I’d recommend this tour to people unless they did fit that sweet spot or were extremely interested in backstage areas in Magic Kingdom.  We fit that latter part so we enjoyed the tour.  All in all, Keys to the Kingdom was good but not quite great.

Light frontierland MK

Have you done the Keys to the Kingdom Tour or any other tours at a Disney Park?  Let us know in the comments!  Also, if you have a question please let us know.  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you like what you’re reading then please follow us on social media and subscribe to the blog.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

– Andrew

Advertisements

Question of the Week (1/28/18)

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

PTN princess blur

Question of the Week: What are 2 things people should not do when at a Disney Park or planning a Disney vacation?

Mackenzie – Don’t wait until the last-minute to plan reservations or fast passes. Also, when planning a Walt Disney World vacation don’t constantly think you are going to something that is comparative to Disneyland. They are nowhere near the same size and people cannot not walk from park to park with the exception of Epcot and Hollywood Studios. ( I am saying this one because I am helping my parents plan their Walt Disney World trip and I am trying to get them to see Disney World as a whole different experience than Disneyland.)

Cars Land night as you go rock

Leslie – People should not be on their phone while waiting in line for a ride, talk to your party, enjoy the line queue, there are so many little details you might miss. The other is do not underestimate cost of things in the park. If you think you’ll get cold at night bring a sweatshirt, cause an unplanned $50 can mess up your budget, bring water bottles or pb&j into the park, ask for a free water cup at quick service or the Starbucks. You’ve already spent a bit to be there and probably budgeted out restaurants, so don’t let unexpected expenses bring you down.

No gophers sign MK

Andrew – My don’t for in the parks is simply don’t act like you’re the only one there. While we’re all guilty of this from time to time, simply try to minimize those times. If you need to stop and talk to your group try to move out of a walking path. If your kid can’t see the fireworks or a show, try to hold them at the same height that you are for the people behind you. If you have a stroller or motorized scooter please, for the love, watch out for people’s ankles. Again, I know that accidents happen but just be mindful of others around you.
My second choice is very different from my first and is also fairly simple. Don’t force yourself to do something because you are trying to experience ‘it all’. For example, getting to a park before it opens can be beneficial but if you enjoy sleeping then maybe don’t try to rope drop a park every single day. Or if you don’t like crowds try to plan to go to shows or spots where the crowds aren’t so suffocating. I guess a more apt way of putting this is to not put yourself in situations that you won’t enjoy. While this likely isn’t completely avoidable, especially with a group, try to compromise and plan ahead for those times.
I’m adding a 3rd one because, why not?  Don’t skimp on food.  If you can afford it, then pay the extra $5 or $10 for something you actually want rather than leaving for a fast food place or getting chicken strips at the parks.  There are good options that don’t cost much more and you will feel significantly better.

Gold fireworks orange castel HalloWishes MK

Melissa – Everyone has had really good points so far. I’d have to say one thing to not do at a Disney Park is get upset when things don’t go your way. And what I mean by this is planning can only get you so far, but if a ride is unexpectedly closed or the souvenir you really wanted is sold out, don’t let those ruin your whole day. While the rides are amazing and I love my merch, my favorite memories at the park are those wandering with friends and family creating memories. If we get caught up in things not going your way, you are going to miss out on a truly magical day.
The second thing a guest should not do while at the parks is forget to eat! There are SO MANY great things to eat! Plus you are walking so much and need sustenance to keep your strength! If this is not a great excuse to eat to your heart’s content I don’t know what is! Try the food – it’s delicious!

close chicken saulti canteen Pandora AK

What are your “Do Not’s” at a Disney Park?  Let us know in the comments!  Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney.  If you like what you’re reading then please follow us on social media and subscribe to the blog.  You can do both of those things on the right side of this page.  Have a great day!

My Favorite Queues In Disney Parks (So Far…)

People associate many things with Disneyland and Walt Disney World – Fireworks, Mickey Mouse, castles, Dole Whip, and happiness are words and phrases that come to mind.  Waiting in line is another phrase that’s unfortunately associated with Disney.  Now, I’m not here to convince you that waiting in line isn’t bad.  On the contrary, waiting in line isn’t fun at all especially compared to seeing a great show or riding on a wonderfully made attraction.  Standing in line during the middle of a hot day can lead the best of us to question our decisions up until that moment.  While all that is true, not all lines are created equal.

Get it? It's a line.

Get it? It’s a line.

Disney is in the business of storytelling and theme park attractions often begin telling the rides story in the queue (a fancy theme park word for line).  Of course, some lines are extremely boring and hot.  They don’t tell any stories and are just leading up to a ride.  A post on the worst of those is coming in the next few weeks.  This specific post is about my favorite queue’s I’ve been in.  I debated on whether to make this a top-10 list or not but decided against it, due to several updated queues that I haven’t been in (Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom being the biggest name).  Also, queue’s add or lose details fairly often and keeping up with that is somewhat difficult.  Instead, I’m just going to go park by park and share some of my favorite queues in them.  I’ll update the post as queue’s get updated and I experience them.  As always, if I leave one of your favorites off the list then let me know in the comments!

Favorite Queue’s in Disneyland 

Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
Disneyland doesn’t have the blessing of space that some of the other U.S. Disney Parks do, and this shows up more in their queues than anywhere.  While they utilize the space extremely well, there aren’t many elaborate stories told throughout the queue.  Star Tours really packs a lot into the queue, with many odes to the attraction before it was updated.  The story also begins here as you are waiting to board your flight to a different galaxy.  While the line is a little crammed, it does feel like boarding an airplane at times.  There’s also a few visual gags with the droids and some intricate details around.  While it doesn’t rank as highly as some queues across the country, it’s near the top of the list at Disneyland.

Indiana Jones Adventure
This attraction definitely takes the cake for longest queue in Disneyland.  While the outside of this attraction isn’t all that exciting, the inside is filled with dark tunnels and architecture that makes you feel like you’re the great archaeologist himself.  There’s some gags throughout the line (pull the rope) and you also pass a few props from the movie (the car).  Indy’s office is also included in the queue as well as a pretty fun little introductory movie.  This queue is massive but still really well themed, especially once inside the building.

Watch the gap

Jungle Cruise
The two queues I listed before this were indoors, sadly this one is outside.  Still, most of it is shaded.  This queue gets you ready for your journey through the world’s rivers and shows you just a bit of the pun-filled mishaps you’re about to endure.

Disney California Adventure

Soarin’ Around The World
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of any DCA queue but I’ll throw a few out here.  My wife picked this one because of the giant hangar that it feels like you’re in.  That fits the ‘Soarin’ theme.  Still, there isn’t much to look at here.  At least it’s air-conditioned!

Radiator Springs Racers
This queue keeps up with the incredibly themed Cars Land as it weaves you into Radiator Springs most popular roads.  The water tower always stands up to me and is really nicely done.  I’ve only done the regular queue once in my life and all 736 times (roughly) I’ve either had a FastPass or done the single-rider line which I highly recommend even with a group.

Stanley Oasis water tower_edited-1

Tower of Terror
The outside of this queue is next to nothing but the inside is incredibly themed.  The elevator (that doesn’t actually move) is a nice pre-show and the loading zone is chilling yet fascinating to see.  This ride is well themed throughout and that starts as soon as you enter the building.

Magic Kingdom Park

Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
While I don’t like the ride inside, Journey of the Little Mermaid provides an incredible queue.  Blending beautiful rock-work, intricate details and some interactive elements, this attraction shows the best of what Disney can do with queues.  This is fascinating to look at, fun to experience, and there are a few surprises along the way.  While I generally roll my eyes at people who say, “I just walked through the queue and didn’t even go on the ride” this is one instance where I don’t think that’s such a bad plan.

Littlemermaid

Pirates of the Caribbean 
Much different from its West Coast namesake, this Pirates of the Caribbean has an incredible queue that roams through pummeled villages.  You see the wreckage that the pirates have caused even before getting on the ride to take part in the battle.  This is beautifully done and quite long.  Like Indiana Jones Adventure, there is a number of things to see in a massive space.

Haunted Mansion 
This is an interactive queue that was redone a few years ago.  While walking through the outside of the mansion, there are a few things to hit that make sounds.  It’s a lot better than I made it out to be.  The area is beautiful and the interactive parts don’t look out-of-place.  The pet cemetery is my favorite part here (shout out to Mr. Toad) and there are a number of details throughout that get you ready for what’s inside the mansion.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 
Another interactive queue, this one allows you to shoot cannons out into the ‘wilderness’ and watch the after effects.  It’s a little bit worse than it sounds, at least if you’re into cannons.  Still the interactive elements here are pretty interesting as are the details throughout.

Epcot

Test Track 
I’m having a hard time here, as there aren’t many queues that really impress me.  Test Track makes the list because you get to design a car.  For some guests that will be a blast, for others it will be just another way to pass time.  The rest of the queue doesn’t do much for me.

American Adventure
This is a bit of an honorable mention because you don’t really need to stand in line for this attraction.  The building is beautiful and worth exploring though.  More than anything, get to the show 15 minutes early to experience the Voices of Liberty.  It’s one of the sweeter, more beautiful moments in Walt Disney World.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania 
This queue is interesting as you’re shrunken down to the size of a toy (use your imagination, kids!) as you enter the building and then see Andy’s room from that viewpoint.  There’s some fun quirks to the queue and the bright colors are a change from most lines.

Hollywood Tower of Terror
I said in the opening that some attractions and rides start as soon as you get into the queue.  This attraction starts as soon as you start walking down Sunset Boulevard towards it.  Tower of Terror towers above everything and you can hear the shrieks of those in that faulty elevator all throughout the day.  When in the actual line, there is an eerie feeling to the outside portion.  I once saw a large frog jump on the back of a guy’s shirt and just sit there for a few seconds.  The shock wore off after a few seconds and I told the guy there was a frog on his shirt he panicked and then the frog jumped off and into the night.  It was strange.  Back to the queue, once inside the details are unmatched by anything at Walt Disney World.  There is so much to look at and not enough time.  The elevator, again, presents a great pre-show and this time it actually moves!  This is close to a perfect attraction and some of the credit goes to the queue.

Camp Wocka-Wocka

Muppet-Vision 3D 
The line here isn’t used very often anymore.  Still there is a lot of Muppet humor through the queue.  There are movie posters that have been ‘Muppetfied’ and they’re good for a laugh.  Once inside the building, the pre-show movie is one of the best at any Disney Parks around.  There are also some great props lying around the big room.  You probably won’t have to wait long for this ride, but there are worse places to wait in.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Expedition Everest 
Like Tower of Terror, the story of this ride starts as soon as you step foot in Animal Kingdom’s Asia.  There are warnings, offerings, and other signs of the Yeti (no disco balls though) that haunts Everest throughout Asia.  Once inside the actual queue the newspaper clippings and artifacts continue to tell the story that lead to your ascent up the mountain.  It’s a very well done queue, and one that you have to dig a little deeper for the story than some other places.

cropped-cropped-ak-everest2.jpg

Kali River Rapids 
This is the Journey of the Little Mermaid problem all over again.  The queue is vast and incredible.  The ride itself is lacking (although better than Little Mermaid).  You can gather many details about this river and the story of the ride while standing in line.  It’s also a beautiful area with green and the kinetic energy of the water flowing by.  This is an easy queue to put on the list but sadly the ride itself doesn’t give a great follow-up.

Flight of Passage

The most recent addition to this list, Flight of Passage is in Pandora – World of Avatar.  While the ride itself is spectacular and an achievement, the queue is full of wonder and beauty.  Starting outside, the line winds through the ‘floating mountains’ and passed a gorgeous waterfall.  The view from up by the waterfall is one of the best in all of Walt Disney World.  Once inside, guests are charmed bioluminescents and wowed by some visual tricks in a science lab.  The pre-show video is not good but that doesn’t stop Flight of Passage from having the best queue in Disney World.

That’s my list so far!  Did I miss any queues that are your favorites?  Let me know in the comments.  Thank you for reading our blog and we hope you have a great weekend!

– Andrew

Victoria & Albert’s Dining Review

Victoria & Albert’s is a AAA 5-Diamond restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort.  It is without a doubt the fanciest and most expensive restaurant on property.  Consistently ranked as one of the top restaurants in America, Victoria & Albert’s serves a mix of cuisines (if I had to say just one it would be American) and is the epitome of fine dining.  The restaurant is only open for dinner, reservations are hard to come by and doesn’t accept any discounts.  We recently had dinner at Victoria & Albert’s and this review will cover that experience.

V&A plate

This was a hard review to write largely because I don’t think it will have a major impact on whoever reads this.  For some, the price of Victoria & Albert’s is simply too high to stomach (pun intended) and whatever I have to say won’t make a difference.  For others, this restaurant is already on their Disney bucket list.  So, hopefully this review find those people in between who know little about Victoria & Albert’s and may be interested.

Unlike other dining reviews I typically write, I’m not going to go into full detail about specific dishes.  For one, Victoria & Albert’s menu changes often so going into detail about a dish probably isn’t worth anyone’s time.  Secondly, each meal is at least 7 courses (plus bread) and no one wants to hear rambling about 10 different dishes.  Instead, I’ll just detail the experience because that’s what dining here is –  an experience.

V&A harp

The Grand Floridian Resort is the most lavish of Disney World resorts.  Adorned in Victorian theme, the resort’s lobby is beautiful.  Victoria & Albert’s sits on the second floor of the lobby.  Stepping behind the door to the restaurant feels sacred in a way but the inside of Victoria & Albert’s feels like a continuation of that beautiful lobby but more exclusive.

After checking in, we were promptly seated and given a foreshadowing of the incredible service we’d receive that night.  Our table was right next to a harpist who serenaded us throughout the evening.  A glorious chandelier hangs down in the middle of dining room under a hand painted ceiling.  I can only guess how exquisite the Chef’s Table or Queen Victoria’s Room but the dining room is stunningly beautiful yet somewhat understated.

V&A chandelier

During our meal we had two waiters (known as butlers in Victoria & Albert’s) who took great care of us.  I’m sure that we looked as if we didn’t belong there and yet we never felt that way.  Our waiters explained each course and option in great detail.  The service we received that night was unmatched by any restaurant I’ve ever been in.  Frankly, it wasn’t even close.

While there were numerous options of which to order we went for the cheapest, the 7-course meal which is also known as the cheapest option.  As with most fine-dining, the courses were delicate and small but every single one was full of flavor.

V&A 1st course

The plating was phenomenal, which each course looking innovative and delicious.  And delicious it was.  Each plate was so much more than a simple cut of meat or fish.  The flavors were complex and expertly crafted to compliment each other.

V&A fish

Among the highlights were the fish (above photo) and the main course – I chose the lamb.  While some dishes absolutely left me wanting more, all of this was by design.  By the time we got to the 7th course (dessert) we were both completely satisfied and full.

V&A my dessert

Naturally, the desserts were incredible.  Maybe the most impressive plating of the night was Melissa’s dessert…

V&A chocolate dessert

Frankly, the food was the best I’d ever eaten.  I can’t pick a favorite course and there might be singular things at different restaurants that I like more than anything I had here.  But, the meal in totality was far and away the best food I’ve ever had.  The amount of flavor in each dish was unlike anything I’ve tried before.

At the end of our meal we were given candies, special menus, a special bread to try later on, and Melissa a rose.  The hostess was kind enough to take our photo at the end of the night, as our 3-hour meal came to a close.

V&A tea

While you can clearly see that I loved our meal, the question comes down to if Victoria & Albert’s was worth the price.  The 7-course meal was $185 per person and is the cheapest of the options.  Typically, Melissa and I would never think about spending that on one meal but V&A was very high on our list of Disney splurges.  We absolutely have no regrets about spending the money we did here.  The price was accurate to the meal and service we were given.  On top of that, compared to other restaurants of the same caliber around the country, Victoria & Albert’s isn’t overpriced.

Now, we won’t be doing this meal every time we go to Disney World.  This will instead be a special splurge to celebrate an anniversary or other occasion.  As spectacular as the restaurant is I can’t justify spending $500 on a meal very often.  So, think of this as a “Try to do this once” experience instead of something that will become an annual tradition.  Unless you have the means and extra time to go every trip then please do and tell us about it!

V&A us tall

All in all, Victoria & Albert’s is unlike any other Disney restaurant open to the public.  While you certainly pay for it, V&A served the best meal I’ve ever had accompanied by the best service I’ve ever experienced.  The elegance and flavors are unrivaled and worth experiencing at least once in your Disney fandom filled life.

Overall Rating – 10/10

Do you have any questions or thoughts about Victoria & Albert’s?  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!

The Future of FastPass

Over the course of the last year Disney has introduced ways for guests to pay for additional FastPasses.  MaxPass was brought to Disneyland in early 2017, offering a little extra flexibility for guests at $10/day for each guest.  More recently, Disney World has offered guests who are staying in club rooms (on-site resorts) the option of paying $50 for more FastPasses during your trip.

These changes in themselves won’t make a difference to anyone’s touring plan.  It can be helpful on busy days on both coasts, no doubt.  I couldn’t justify spending money on either of them but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you.  The point of this post isn’t to review these new offerings but instead to look (caution) at the foreshadowing.

ToT day

FastPasses have been essential to guests touring plans since it was introduced in Disney Parks in 1999.  While other theme parks have added ‘front-of-the-line’ passes at a cost, Disney has kept FastPasses free aside from these latest additions.  They have allowed guests to complete more attractions in a day and avoid lines while letting Disney have some control over crowd levels and lines to an extent.  In short, FastPass is beneficial to both Disney and guests.

But now the current trend seems to infer that Disney will eventually be charging for guests to get FastPass.  While I don’t think this is great in its own right, it won’t affect guests if Disney doesn’t go overboard on options and who these options are offered to.  Let’s take a look at the options currently offered to show how minimally this is affecting guests so far.

Astro Orbiter castle

Starting with Disneyland, MaxPass is basically FastPass but guests don’t have to walk to a certain attraction to be able to reserve that ride instead doing it over their phone.  Guests still have to wait to reserve their next FastPass, just like the old paper system.  In essence, MaxPass is saving guests maybe half an hour per ride if utilized to perfection.  With that in mind, guests might be adding one or two FastPasses to their itinerary per day.  That is hardly affecting anyone as this is more just saving people from walking and not taking FastPasses away from others.

The same goes with FastPass+ being now available to guests staying at Club Levels at Disney Resorts.  While this product is definitely gaining guests who buy it FastPasses, the amount of guests actually buying this product is minuscule.  There are only so many club rooms at Disney and  a small percentage of those rooms will shell out an additional $50/person to get more FastPasses.  All in all, these additions will have little to no impact.

FastPasses future is much murkier though, especially at Walt Disney World.  Now that Club Level add-on FastPasses have been rolled out it seems like only a matter of time before they offer them to a larger group of people, perhaps Annual Passholders or DVC members.  Eventually it could expand all the way to any guest who stays on-site.

Disneyland additions could be slightly more confusing as their on-site hotels aren’t nearly as vast.  Still, all of these additions could eventually end up in every guest having the ability to pay for FastPasses on top of their park tickets.  This is a slippery slope and one that I would absolutely like to be avoided.

3 Caballeros Fran Fiesta Tour Epcot

Let me state the obvious right away, Disney vacations are expensive.  Shelling out money for park tickets, transportation and lodging alone can make this a once in a lifetime trip for some.  Paying additional money for FastPasses for rides simply won’t be an option and feels like a blatant cash grab by Disney.

So, what’s the big deal?  Why not let those who can pay for the extra service do it and those who can’t or don’t want to just not.  Well, that’s what will happen but it has been this blog’s stance that if an add-on experience affects the general park guests negatively then it should not be a part of what Disney offers.  Guests on tours don’t affect guests at the park in a directly negative way.  Most dessert parties don’t have a negative effect (Illuminations does take up valuable viewing spots but is not something to get up in arms about).

BTMR wider MK

Having the option to buy additional FastPasses and reserve them ahead of time would negatively affect guests.  There simply wouldn’t be enough FastPasses to go around, especially for those staying off-site or locals who don’t reserve FastPasses.  It’s the same principle as having seemingly endless amounts of holiday parties at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom.  While a few parties won’t adversely affect guests who aren’t, eventually the amount of party days will swell and non-party days will be packed because everyone will want to see the park at night.  FastPasses will fill up ahead of time with people paying for them and then lines will get longer for popular rides that sold-out of FastPasses.

Of course, this is all preemptive and maybe Disney will hold off on making these changes.  Still, with Star Wars Land coming to both coasts I would imagine that this will all come to a head sooner than later.  No, it won’t be the end of the world.  But it will further dilute the product that Disney offers to the average park guest.  With all of the recent add-on additions Disney has offered, every new one seems like more of cash grab.  That is frustrating to fans who spend thousands of dollars there regularly.  Hopefully FastPass won’t get to the point where it’s not an add-on cost but I’m not holding my breath.

Everest Discovery River AK

What are your thoughts about paying for FastPass?  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!

– Andrew

Wilderness Lodge Review

Wilderness Lodge is a deluxe resort at Walt Disney World.  The hotel and grounds are inspired by the Pacific Northwest, with a beautiful lobby and brilliant landscaping.  Wilderness Lodge opened in 1994 and has expanded several times since.  Even with expansion, the resort remains on the smaller side of Walt Disney World hotels.  Grouped in with the Magic Kingdom Resorts, Wilderness Lodge is known for being a little quieter and more peaceful than anywhere else on property.  We recently stayed at Wilderness Lodge and this review will cover that experience.

Wilderness Lodge stream

Melissa and I live in the great northwest and love it.  The mountains and ocean are both within a couple of hours.  We get to experience all the seasons and the views are breathtaking.  With that said, Wilderness Lodge never appealed to me all that much because… Well, I live in the place that the hotel is loosely themed after.  After experiencing the hotel first hand, I could not have been more wrong.  Wilderness Lodge is now one of my favorite spots in Walt Disney World.

The northwest isn’t the only inspiration for Wilderness Lodge, national parks play just an even bigger role.  This is immediately clear once you step into the lobby.  Rustic, charming and larger than life, this 8-story lobby is one of the best in all of Walt Disney World.  The lodge has a log cabin feel to it, even in this huge lobby.  This is reminiscent of the huge lodges throughout our national parks.

WL inside

The lobby features a beautiful fireplace, comfortable seating, and a look out area on the floor above.  A ‘hot spring’ bubbles in the lobby (where you can walk over it) and flows down outside to a geyser.  If you’ve experienced the grandeur of Animal Kingdom Lodge or the Grand Californian then this will feel similar as they were designed by the same person (Peter Dominick Jr.)

WL bridges inside

While the lobby is one of the centerpieces of Wilderness Lodge, there is certainly plenty more to look at.  The geyser, which erupts every hour, and stream down to it are both incredibly beautiful.  The greenery around the area is striking.  On top of that Wilderness Lodge sits right on the lake and boats leading to Magic Kingdom come and go.  The walk out to the dock is peaceful, as is the view from most hotel rooms.

Wilderness Lodge pool night

The pools are also gorgeous with the main one playing off the rock-work and landscaping of that stream and geyser.  Another pool recently opened at Copper Creek, Wilderness Lodge’s latest expansion.  Both pools are large and some of the prettiest at Disney World.  No, neither are up to the level of Stormalong Bay at Beach/Yacht Club but they certainly do the trick.

Rock stairs WL

Copper Creek is a nice little area to walk around, and features a new counter-service restaurant that is well thought of called Geyser Point Bar & Grill.  Wilderness Lodge also features Roaring Fork (counter-service), Artist Point (signature), and Whispering Canyon Cafe (table-service) in the way of dining.

Wilderness Lodge Copper Creek

All in all, Wilderness Lodge offers all the amenities and beauty you could possibly want.  The lobby is stunning, as are the grounds and pools.  The restaurants are all well thought of and have a good variety.

Another bonus Wilderness Lodge offers is the location.  As I previously mentioned, there is boat transportation to Magic Kingdom.  I always prefer boats to buses and the ride is roughly 10 minutes long.  Bus transportation (or boat and monorail to Epcot) is offered to all other parks and no rides seemed to take very long.  With a lower amount of rooms, the wait for buses seemed shorter.  Let’s get to the rooms…

Wilderness Lodge room

Like the lobby, the room has a rustic theme.  The warm, deep wood tones carry the room and while the carpet is a little busy it’s a nice contrast to the simplistic walls.  From a Disney World standpoint, this was one of my favorite rooms we’ve stayed in as far as decor.  The headboard on the beds are a subtle touch, with beautiful carvings.  I also liked the dresser far more than other rooms, not that I used it.

Wilderness Lodge room otherway

The beds were comfortable and we both slept well.  Of course, this was near the end of our trip where our energy was running low so maybe don’t take my word on that.  The above photo gives a closer view of the headboard and the cool light features throughout the room.

Wilderness Lodge bathroom

Here’s a look at the bathroom and entrance of the room.  This area was pretty run of the mill, although I liked the flooring and how it kept the wood lodge feel going.

Wilderness Lodge shower

I really liked the shower, with the light wood and Bambi tiles.  While I would rather have a stand alone shower than the bath/shower combo, that doesn’t happen often at Disney World.

Wilderness Lodge courtyard

While the room is very nice, the deck and view from the deck is even better.  There’s only one hotel that has better deck views in Disney World – Animal Kingdom Lodge.  As you can see from this photo the log lodge is not just for show in the lobby and continues throughout the main building.  I keep saying this but the hotel is quite beautiful.

As far as value goes, Wilderness Lodge is one of the cheaper deluxe resorts.  Now, that still isn’t cheap.  If you time it right and find the right discount, rooms can be had for a little more than $200 a night.  More often than not they will cost around $300.  This is a pretty penny to pay but cheaper than other deluxe resorts.  If the price was under $300 and you have a bigger budget then I would say you’re getting a good deal, relative to other Walt Disney World hotels.

Wilderness Lodge inside

All in all, Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts in Walt Disney World.  The landscaping is absolutely beautiful and a joy to walk around.  The lobby is beautiful and one of the more relaxing places on property.  Not only is Wilderness Lodge beautiful but it’s peaceful and inviting.  A perfect respite from a day at the parks.

Overall Rating 10/10

Wilderness Lodge night

Have you stayed at Art of Animation?  What are your thoughts and questions on the resort?  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!

– Andrew

Top Ten (U.S.) Disney Park Lands

My friend and I have a podcast called The RoseBuds that mainly focuses on film and TV.  Every once in a while we delve into the Disney Parks and that’s exactly what we did this week.  Joined by our wives, we discussed our ten favorite lands in Disney Parks.  Here’s a link to the show.

AK Asia night

Now, the podcast is a little long and might not be your thing.  I didn’t say it was good!  So, I decided to put down my top ten in this post as well.  I won’t go as in-depth in this post and you’ll miss out on some honorable mentions, the other 3 lists, and our least favorite lands.  But, this seemed like a good place to hear about your 10 favorite Disney Park Lands as well.  Without further adieu…

10. Asia (Animal Kingdom)

Asia has a little bit of everything – an iconic mountain in Expedition Everest, an outstanding walking path in Maharajah Jungle Trek, flowing water throughout and a few extra streets to walk down.  Kali River Rapids is wasted potential but the land as a whole is beautiful, embodied by the stunning nighttime show it hosts – Rivers of Light.

9. Adventureland (Disneyland)

The South Pacific architecture is pretty interesting but what really excels in Disneyland’s Adventureland is the rides.  Indiana Jones Adventure and Jungle Cruise is one of the best combos any land boasts.  On top of that, the Tiki Room and Dole Whip are a little bit of history mixed with a lot of delicious entertainment.

Jungle Cruise cat night_edited-1

8. Pandora – World of Avatar (Animal Kingdom)

Disney’s newest land, Pandora is absolutely beautiful and jaw dropping.  There are more plants than you can imagine here and the colors are nearly overwhelming.  Combine that with a true E-ticket experience in Flight of Passage and one of the best counter-service restaurants around and Pandora is a massive success.  While maybe benefiting from recency bias, Pandora’s beauty is undeniable.

7. Frontierland (Magic Kingdom)

Frontierland doesn’t have my favorite architecture as the old west feel doesn’t appeal to me as much as other places on my list.  With that said, MK’s Frontierland has the best attraction lineup of anywhere.  Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Country Bear Jamboree is diverse and excellent.  On top of that, walking along the river is beautiful.  Adding Tom Sawyer Island feels a little bit like cheating although it is considered part of Frontierland.  If I truly did that it would be even higher on this list.

6.  Fantasyland (Disneyland)

My top 6 is pretty interchangeable depending on my mood that day.  Disneyland’s Fantasyland is a study in how many classic attractions can be packed into a small space.  Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo are all within steps of each other and are iconic.  The Matterhorn lingers in the distance and provides an extra allure to the land.  It’s a Small World’s facade alone is beautiful and the ride is great.  The European architecture fits most of the attractions and, while a little crowded, is the heart and soul of Disneyland.

5. Liberty Square (Magic Kingdom)

One of the most incredibly detailed and true-to-theme lands Disney has ever created.  Colonial America is embodied throughout the square.  A tree hanging 13 lanterns (representing the colonies) is one of the centerpieces.  Haunted Mansion fits the theme and is an incredible attraction.  The Muppets Show and river really bring the whole land together.  Even the transitions between the lands are incredible going from 17th or 18th century architecture in Fantasyland to Colonial America is subtle but so well done.  The whole area is so rich and a place to learn more and more.

Liberty Bell

4. Cars Land (DCA)

While Disney has created better lands (in my opinion) they have never created one more inviting than Cars Land.  The attractions (namely Radiator Springs Racers) are groundbreaking and a load of fun.  Cars Land is a perfect embodiment of the town the film created.  The Cozy Cones serve great snacks, Flo’s is full of fun detail, the neon at night is stunning.  Cars Land is incredible and one of those places that I just want to linger in throughout the day.

3. Africa (Animal Kingdom)

Where to begin?  Kilimanjaro Safaris seems like the obvious place as the attraction all of Animal Kingdom is built around.  Gorilla Falls Trail continues on that theme and is an excellent path.  Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows in all of Disney World.  There is great food throughout the land.  Still, it’s hard to describe the land and the energy it boasts.  Live entertainment plays a huge role in that energy, as there always seems to be something going on.  The little village of Harambe, which is Africa, was a great choice instead of trying to embody the whole continent.  Visit this area around dusk and you won’t want to leave for the rest of the night.

Closer Discovery River Harambe AK

2. New Orleans Square (Disneyland)

Disney’s first entry into a specific theme instead of a broad theme like Frontierland or Adventureland.  Even 50 years later, this land remains a hit and one of the best lands ever created.  Whether wandering the beautiful back street, sitting along the river or in Cafe Orleans, or riding two of the best attractions ever created (Pirates and Haunted Mansion), New Orleans Square is perfect.

New Orleans Square night

1. World Showcase (Epcot)

It doesn’t feel fair to include a land that has 11 mini-lands on this list.  But that’s how Disney terms Epcot and I have to play by their rules (not really but it seemed like the easiest way to do things).  World Showcase is iconic yet still feels modern.  While all of the lands on this list are places you could spend multiple hours, World Showcase is somewhere that you could spend an entire day pretty easily.  Shopping, dining and soaking in the sights is a perfect way to spend an evening.  The rides are slightly underwhelming but there are enough to take a break from all the eating and walking.  Illuminations is the perfect nighttime show to fit the area and walking around the pavilions afterward is as good as it gets.

What are your favorite lands in Disney Parks?  Let me 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

Question of the Week (1/14/18)

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

Pandora flower side floating mountain AK

Question of the Week: If you had to introduce someone to the Disney Parks, but could only show (take them on) 3 experiences what would those 3 things be? Let’s leave off Main Street and the park icons. You can jump from park to park though.

Leslie – Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland, one of Walt’s originals and it shows the wonder and fantasy as well and how far the technology of Walt’s time really showcased the magic. Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios, this ride is interactive and has a fun competitive element which is found in other rides. In a perfect world we have fast passes so we don’t have to wait a long time haha. Finally the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom, magic means not taking yourself too seriously. Puns lighten the mood and help in my opinion make everything even better. Also you haven’t lived until you have seen the 8th wonder of the world!

Jungle Cruise sign MK

Darin – So first off, I would send the person on Haunted Mansion (Disneyland probably) to show them that this park can have spooky moments, but also have a goofy sense of humor about itself. Then we would head straight for Star Tours (Disneyland) to show them a more intense ride that is really fun with plenty of familiar fanfare. Finally, we would go to Rock N’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith (Hollywood Studios) to let them know to leave all expectations at the door. These are not my favorite rides of all time, I don’t want to over hype them for this mystery person.

Haunted Mansion night

Andrew – Some good answers so far and I would definitely choose Pirates or the Haunted Mansion. Since they were already picked all leave them off though. Fantasmic! on the river at Disneyland would be a must. I don’t think anything embodies the charm and coziness of Disneyland while still displaying its grandeur like Fantasmic!
My second choice is a selfish one, as I would take on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom. This shows how diverse and expansive the Disney Parks can be. Plus, it’s my favorite ride.
Last but not least, my third choice is simply walking around World Showcase at night. I think this might be cheating my own question and I’m also assuming this mystery person is an adult. There is an energy that World Showcase has at night that is quite beautiful. The soundtrack, sights, and spirit of Epcot is palpable on those walks around the promenade and this gives this mystery guest 3 very different experiences that are all great.

Morocco full pavilion Epcot

Melissa – This is tough as you’ve all already chosen such great rides and experiences! In an effort to not duplicate, here are my three choices.
1. The Disneyland Railroad: this ride is so iconic to Disneyland. It makes you feel like a little kid every time you ride it and you never know what (or who) you’ll see. I think it would give our mystery guest a real sense of the history of the park along with help them grasp the magic of seeing the park as a whole.
2. Cars Land/ Radiator Springs Racers: I’m kinda going for a two-fer here (sorry if that’s cheating). Cars land shows just how detailed and intricate the parks can be. Every detail from the Pixar movie is captured in this fun-filled land. Plus it holds my favorite ride. I’d jump through time a little bit here so we could experience it as the lights came on and walk our way down to the ride and go for a drive!
3. The Festival of the Lion King: this would be my last choice. It has so much fun, adventure, spirit and magic happening all around you during the show. It is one my favorite experiences in all the parks and shows how creative and fun the Imagineers can be.

Fire twirler FotLK AK

Where would you take someone if you were introducing them to the Disney Parks.  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

The Best Street Entertainment (and Where to Find It) in Walt Disney World

Street entertainment, or ‘streetmosphere’ as the cool kids call it, is a large part of Disney Parks.  While many theme parks have rides and big shows, many forget the small details.  Areas can look beautiful but the environment can be lacking.  Street entertainment can add energy and excitement to areas.  Not only that but some of these shows are wonderful and well worth seeing.

Big Al CBJ MK

Walt Disney World boasts an incredible amount of streetmosphere.  From Hollywood Studios to Magic Kingdom, each park has some unique acts that are well worth seeing.  In this post, I’m going to write about my favorite street acts in each park.  This isn’t a complete list, as street shows are somewhat interchangeable and I haven’t seen every single one.

Before we get to the parks, I guess setting a quick definition of what fits into this category would be smart.  In this instance, I’m essentially counting anything that isn’t set in a theater or gather large crowds.  There also needs to be some live entertainment involved.  Again, there are great shows that won’t be listed because I either haven’t seen them or you like the show more than me.  If I’m missing something, please tell me down below in the comments.  I’d love to know what your favorite street entertainment is!  We’ll go park-by-park, starting with Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

Chances are that my favorite Magic Kingdom acts are the same as yours.  Most of them reside on Main Street and are quite famous.  We’ll start with the Dapper Dan’s who stroll around the park throughout the day.  This four-man quartet sing songs to fit the setting – a turn-of-the-century small town in America.  The Dapper Dan’s are a Disney rite of passage and well worth seeing.

Casey’s Corner Pianist is less popular than the Dapper Dan’s but no less impressive.  Playing a few ragtime tunes as well as some Disney standards, this pianist is very fun to watch.  I suggest pulling up a chair by Casey’s and enjoying a little piano as the Main Street Vehicles pass by.

Muppets group in window

These last two items are a little bigger than other streetmosphere entertainment items but they’re too good to leave off the list.  The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History is one of the best shows in Disney World and a must-see in Liberty Square.  The Flag Retreat on Main Street at about 4:45 everyday is well worth seeing and a heartwarming exercise.  Another event that completely fits the Main Street setting.

Epcot 

Epcot has no shortage of street entertainment, specifically around World Showcase.  Before we go there I should mention a few items in Future World.  The Muppet Mobile Labs pops up randomly in Epcot and is a joy to watch.  The show is very funny and about 10 minutes long and is right in between the Innoventions buildings.  If you happen upon the show, make sure to stop!

Epcot night neon

This doesn’t fall under live entertainment but I love the Imagination Pavilion fountain and Fountain of Nations.  Watching these either at the end of the night or with a drink in hand during the day surely enhances the Epcot experience.

It’s hard to keep my favorite acts in World Showcase brief but here goes nothing.  Starting in China, the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats are very impressive and a show at a little larger scale.  They perform on the edge of the pavilion (or inside the pavilion if it’s raining).  There are a few acts the Acrobats perform, each showcasing impressive strength, balance and agility.

Voices of Liberty perform in the American Adventure Pavilion before the actual American Adventure attraction.  This a capella group performs a wide range of songs, mostly old American classics.  They are a beautifully talented group and a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of World Showcase.

Mariachi band Epcot

Serveur Amasant is not a change of pace but is an exciting and comedic acrobat show in the France Pavilion.  Climbing chairs, whistling and bickering make this show really enjoyable and an excellent way to spend a few minutes.

There are several really good bands that play throughout World Showcase.  If you see someone performing as you walk by, stopping is always a good idea.

Hollywood Studios

While this park will have more entertainment in the next few years, there is still some to see right now.  Most of the shows here are bigger productions though that don’t fall under this post’s category.  There’s a Storm Trooper Parade that I don’t really like.

DHS actors car

The one act I do enjoy is Citizens of Hollywood.  These actors drive up and down Sunset Boulevard.  Most of their acts include interacting with guests.  They sing, dance, and joke throughout the day in Hollywood Studios and if you see a crowd gathering on Sunset Boulevard go join them!

Animal Kingdom

Much of what Animal Kingdom thrives on is there atmosphere.  AK feels slightly more organic than other theme parks and that’s due to performers throughout most lands.  Even the entrance of the park boasts artists native to Florida showcasing some of their goods.  The two artists I’ve had the pleasure of encountering (one painter and one made journals) were both a joy to talk to.  This isn’t necessarily entertainment but it does add to the atmosphere of the park.

Harambe dusk sign AK

Harambe showcases entertainment throughout the day.  Most of these acts center around music and are well worth your time.  My favorites include Burudika and the Tam Tam Drummers.  Any of the performers are worth seeing, and Harambe is great to visit at dusk just to see the live shows.

Along those lines, the Discovery Island Carnivale is as good as it gets when it comes to streetmosphere entertainment. The harp player is fascinating to watch and the colors throughout the area augment the experience.

AK harp

Winged Encounters is a fantastic little bird show but is incredibly hard to find.  This takes place on Discovery Island and features some beautiful Macaws.  If you can find it then watch it.  If you can’t find it, you’re not alone!

Animal Kingdom features a subtle nighttime projection show called Tree of Life Awakenings that is absolutely beautiful.  While not exactly streetmosphere, it’s so good that I’d feel bad if I didn’t mention this.  Last of all, there are plenty of little animal exhibits throughout Discovery Island that are beautiful to see.  I guess this is somewhat live entertainment so I’m counting it.

ToL Awakenings Jungle Book AK

As I’ve said, these are a few of my favorite shows but there are tons more.  A good rule of thumb is that if you see something that looks up your alley then stop and watch it.  That attraction that you’re racing off to will still be there in five minutes.  Take the time to enjoy the atmosphere and Disney Parks become even more enjoyable.

What are your favorite street acts at Walt Disney World?  Let me 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

So You Want To Go To Japan?

We’re going to Japan.  More specifically, Melissa and I, along with our friends Darin and Mackenzie, are going to Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Tokyo Disneyland in early April.  It’s a trip that has been on the top of my list for the last four years and we finally decided to pull the trigger on it.  As this will (partially) be a Disney trip, I plan to chronicle it here.  Instead of saving all of this for a giant recap, I thought I’d give a few updates while in the planning stages.  Eventually, I plan to mold this post into a Tokyo Disneyland Travel Guide.  I’m open to any thoughts/tips/questions on how to format for this to be enjoyable for the reader.

Melissa Tokyo DHS

Tokyo Disneyland is somewhat of a mecca for hardcore Disney fans.  The parks are said to be pristine, with Tokyo DisneySea (the second of two parks there) often viewed as the best theme park in the world.  Flying across the Pacific for a theme park is a tad silly so we’re stretching out our trip quite a bit.  I’ll include some thoughts on where to stay in places other than Tokyo Disneyland because, I imagine, if you are interested in Tokyo Disneyland then you’re interested in other portions of Japan as well.

My initial format is to break the planning stages into categories and just talk about them separately.  For now, here is what we’ve got planned.

Japan Pavilion Epcot night

Airfare

Flying to Japan is the biggest turn-off in taking this trip both in terms of price and comfort.  The initial research can be enough to overwhelm.  I would recommend, if you decide a trip to Japan is something to pursue, that you don’t pin down dates to go without checking flights.  Have wide searches, set aside months you can go, and then look for the best dates to fly.

I would also suggest being open to flying out of somewhere other than your regional airport.  For instance, while we live in Seattle it was over $300/round trip cheaper for us to fly out of Vancouver B.C.  While not as quite as convenient, this was a big factor in us making the price work.  If you don’t live near an airport that does many international flights, look into flying to Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Vancouver B.C. as they seem to have the cheapest prices out of those airports.

As always, I recommend using Matrix ITA Software for finding flights.  The search engine includes almost all airlines and more search options than most.  You also stay away from pop-ups while using this.  Airfare Watchdog is also a stellar site that keeps tabs on prices for you and sends emails.

While we haven’t taken the trip, I do think I was a little rushed in looking for our airline tickets.  We bought about 8 months in advance.  We found a very good price I would have been willing to pay a little more for something more convenient.  I would advise locking in your flights 4+ (closer to 6) months in advance.  You can find cheaper prices on a whim at times but that makes the rest of the planning hard if this is your first time.

Japan stream Epcot

Transportation in Japan

While there are more options, truly everyone I’ve talked to and everything I’ve read has advised getting a Japan Rail Pass.  I’ll add my own two cents on this once we use it but we will buy our Japan Rail Pass in the next month to use as transportation throughout the country.

accommodations

We’ll go city-by-city here and I’ll report my basic findings…

Osaka – We’re starting our trip in Osaka for just a day and a half mainly for Universal Studios Japan.  Because of the convenience (and finding a good deal) we decided on Hotel Keihan Universal Tower.  For the city as a whole, I found Osaka to have a good number of hotels.  There were plenty of western chains for those that like a little comfort from home.
Kyoto – Kyoto was in stark contrast to Osaka, in that hotels were expensive and few and far between.  We decided to go with an Airbnb.  Some of this had to do with the time of the year we’re going, as Kyoto gets even more crowded during cherry blossom season.  Still, I think if you’re looking for accommodations in Kyoto then look at both hotels and rentals.
Tokyo – Same goes as Kyoto here but for slightly different reasons.  Tokyo just has so much that it is slightly overwhelming.  Still, the prices weren’t quite what we wanted on hotels and once I looked at Airbnb we found something easily and that met our budget.
Tokyo Disneyland – As with Osaka, there are plenty of hotels right by the theme park.  We ended up booking the Disneyland Hotel for most of our stay at the resort as we found a decent price and are splitting the cost in two.  There are many cheaper options with easy transportation to the parks as well.

We have a few other parts of the trip planned but not enough to write a substantial amount on.  We have used Google Docs to be able to share the planning and easy access for going back on what we’ve researched.  Speaking of research, Disney Tourist Blog and TDR Explorer are my go-to Tokyo Disneyland blogs.  For the rest of Japan, Travel Caffeine and Lonely Planet’s Japan Guidebook have been my favorite resources thus far.

Japan bridge Epcot night

If you have any tips, info, or questions about our planning or trip please let me know in the comments.  I’d love to discuss traveling to Japan further with you.  Stay tuned to the blog for more updates on our big trip!  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!