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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tip Tuesday: The morning of the race - part 1 - getting there

WDW Radio Running Team before the 2012 Marathon

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Well, there's just over five months to go before the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  While I've still got a lot of training to do, it's also time to start talking about some more tips about participating in a RunDisney event.

I wanted to focus on the morning of the race (or races in the case of the Goofy and Dopey folks like me).  There is quite a bit of planning that runners need to think about prior to race morning.  I'm a visual guy, so how about a quick map (this is a rough approximation of locations and is not official).  This week, I'll focus on getting to the pre-race area.  In future posts, I'll talk about some things to keep in mind while you're getting ready for the start.

click for larger view

First, runners need to try to arrive at the pre-race area located in the eastern-most section of the Epcot parking lot, shown in yellow on the map, by around 4 a.m. at the latest.  Disney says runners must be in the corrals by 5 a.m. or they will not be allowed to race.

Runners staying on-property:
For runners staying on-property, this is pretty easy.  Disney offers bus transportation from just about every resort starting as early as 3 a.m. each race morning (depending on the race).  For a detailed schedule for each race, see the RunDisney website.  From my past experience, these are usually touring buses, not standard Disney transit buses.  It's important to remember that these RunDisney events are VERY popular, so there will literally be tens of thousands of people (often more) all trying to get to the pre-race area.  What does this mean for you?  It means that buses can fill up FAST, so you would be wise to get down to your bus stop at your hotel by around 3:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m. for the 5K) so that you can ensure you won't run into any issues and end up missing the start.  Disney recommends runners be on a bus by no later than 4 a.m. to avoid missing the race start.

Buses will drop off runners at the front of Epcot.  Runners will then have to walk to the pre-race area.

Oh, if you're staying at a monorail resort, the monorails will start around 3 a.m. each morning  You'll need to take the resort monorail to the TTC and then take the Epcot monorail to the front of the park and walk to the starting area.  For my 2010 half marathon, this was surprisingly easy and painless.  This is one benefit of staying a monorail resort -- easy transportation and no buses.  Just like the buses, I recommend being on a monorail by no later than 3:15 a.m.

Runners staying off-property:
If you're not staying on property, you'll need to plan to arrive at the Epcot entrance no later than 4 a.m.  Arrive any later, and you'll run the risk of missing the start, which would be a very bad thing considering how expensive these races are.  Therefore, you'll need to carefully think about how much time you need to allow to get to Epcot and add LOTS of additional time for traffic delays (which there will be due to road closures).

So, you've made it to the pre-race area!  Now what do you do?  And what else do you need to think about before the race starts?  I'll discuss that in a future post. 

Until then, keep up the training!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photo Friday: Going ape for smartphones?

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

I was going back through some of my Animal Kingdom photos today and I ran across this shot of a gorilla along the Pangani Exploration Trail.  While the photo itself isn't all that compelling, there was something about the way he was sitting and looking at his hands that made it look as if he was using a smartphone.

So here's where you come in -- it's caption time!  Imagine that our gorilla friend above is doing something with a smartphone - what caption would you put on the photo?  Post in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Getting your soccer fix at Epcot

Orlando City Lions soccer club.  Image courtesy Disney.  All rights reserved.
Welcome back to another Tip Tuesday!

With the Barclay's Premier League starting back up this weekend, I thought I'd share a quick tip about how you can get your soccer fix while at Walt Disney World.

A few of the countries around Epcot's World Showcase offer jerseys for various international soccer (futbol) teams, both for club teams and country teams.  A couple of shops (one in Germany and another in the UK) also sell soccer balls.  Around World Cup time, you can often find World Cup merchandise including official balls and jerseys.

If you're looking for Barclay's Premier League teams, such as Manchester United or Chelsea, your best bet is the Sportsman's Shoppe located across from the Rose & Crown Pub in the UK pavilion.  Bear in mind that not every BPL team will be represented in the merchandise for sale (c'mon - show the love for teams like Everton and Liverpool!). 

Of course you'll have to strike up a conversation with one of the British cast members working in the store and see which team they support.  

If it's Saturday around lunchtime, you might be able to catch a Premier League match at the ESPN Club at the Boardwalk.  Sure there will be college football games going on, but there are so many TVs there that you'll probably be able to find at least one match (though they're on NBC Sports, a direct competitor to ESPN).

If it's live soccer you're interested in, you might be able to catch some Orlando City games through early September at the ESPN Wide World of Sports center - check the schedule here: City will be a new MLS team starting with the 2015 season and will normally play at the Citrus Bowl stadium, but the Lions are playing their 2014 season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports while the Citrus Bowl is being renovated in advance of the Lions' official MLS start.

There are a lot of other soccer events at WWOS throughout the year, mostly featuring youth teams.

So lace up your cleats and get your kit ready (that's a uniform to you non-soccer folks) - it's time for some soccer!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Fantasia Gardens

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, let's go back to Walt Disney World to discuss one of my favorite non-park activities - mini golf.  It's a fun activity that isn't all that expensive.  As of this post, a round costs around $14 for adults and $10 for kids under 10.  Annual passholders often get huge discounts (as much as 50% off).

I've written previously about Winter Summerland, the other mini golf area at Walt Disney World, located next to Blizzard Beach.

Fantasia Gardens, however, is quite different in many ways from Winter Summerland.  First, this activity is within easy walking distance of any of the Epcot area deluxe resorts (Boardwalk, Beach/Yacht Club, Dolphin or Swan) so getting there is pretty easy - at least for these guests - just follow the blue line as noted in the map above.  For guests from other resorts, it get a bit more cumbersome without your own transportation.  Fantasia Gardens is located next to the Swan Resort.  The best way to get to Fantasia Gardens from any non-Epcot area resort via Disney transportation is to take a bus to any park or the Ticket & Transportation Center and then take a bus to the Swan.  Alternatively, guests can travel to Disney's Hollywood Studios and then take the Friendship Boat to the Swan and then walk past the pool area to reach Fantasia Gardens.

Like Winter Summerland, Fantasia Gardens has two 18-hole courses, the Fantasia Gardens course or the Fairways course.  The Fantasia Gardens course is similar to the two courses at Winter Summerland in that each hole has whimsical obstacles to overcome, often involving water or some other challenge.  This course is especially fun for kids as they have to deal with all sorts of mishaps related to the movie Fantasia.  Some of these holes can be pretty tricky and it takes a keen eye and often more than a bit of courage and timing to make the right stroke.

Image courtesy

The other course, the Fairways course, is a completely different "ball game" (sorry for the pun, couldn't resist!).  This course is not your typical mini golf course with dips and tunnels and obstacles.  Instead, as the name implies, this course is a putting version of a real golf course, complete with sand traps and other hazards.  There are plenty of undulations to overcome and some holes are longer than others.

Personally, of these two courses, I prefer the Fairways course.  It is a true putting challenge for golfers.  While the Fantasia Gardens course is fun, there is much more skill and finesse required for the Fairways course.  For that reason, I wouldn't recommend the Fairways course for young children.  They'll just get frustrated and upset because of the higher degree of difficulty. 

One other consideration - when to go.  If you're visiting Walt Disney World in the warmer months, I recommend waiting until evening to visit Fantasia Gardens as it can be uncomfortable in the heat of the day.  During the cooler months, it's not so bad.  If you play these courses at night, and if your timing is right, you can catch some elements of Illuminations and Fantasmic in the distance.

So the next time you're at WDW and are looking for something to do outside the parks -- check out Fantasia Gardens and maybe even take the challenge and play the Fairways course!

Good luck!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Photo Friday: Happy Fourth from Disneyland!

Happy 4th of July!

For this week's Photo Friday, let's head back in time to July 4th, 2013 and this shot from Disneyland's 4th of July fireworks celebration!

It's amazing how much fireworks can light up the night sky, this shot has not been altered at all (aside from resizing) - the sky was really that red during the fireworks.

Enjoy and happy birthday America!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tip Tuesday: How to "win" at DCA carnival games

Time for another Tip Tuesday!

This week, let's once again head out to California to Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure park.  We've all seen those boardwalk-style carnival games where guests plunk down a few dollars to try their hand at winning some sort of plush or other toy.  Those of you who are parents know how kids gravitate to these type of games as if they were a magnet.  I've seen plenty of instances where people (guys mostly) will try round after round after round to win something for their girlfriend or child.

So how can you come away a winner without breaking the bank?

The trick is to know which games to play -- those where everyone wins!  This is especially key when dealing with children.  There is one game at Paradise Pier, Goofy About Fishing, where no matter what you do, the player always wins.  This is a great game for smaller children because it's very easy for them to play.  Players use a small fishing pole with a magnet on the end to "catch" a fish.  Keep in mind that this game, like so many others, have different levels of winners.  It all depends on the color of the dot on the underside of the fish you catch.  The vast majority of fish have the lowest level color, while only a handful have the middle level color and only one or two have the top level color.  In any case, the player always wins, that's the key part to stress here.  In the photo above, the farmer Mickey was a middle-level prize.

Besides, if you win one of those huge plush figures, how in the world are you getting it home, especially if you're flying?  You just might not want to win big when you think about it.

Keep playing and good luck!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Photo Friday: The civic groups of Radiator Springs

Welcome back to another Photo Friday!

This week, I'll share another photo from my May 2014 trip to Disneyland/California Adventure.

I've said many times before that Cars Land may be the best Imagineered space in any Disney park.  Here is just one more reason why.  This is the welcome sign to Radiator Springs.  You see these as you drive into just about any town across the nation.  Take a look at the different signs promoting the various civic groups - any sound somewhat familiar? 

Click on the image for a larger view and enjoy all those little Disney details!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tip Tuesday: The shake, rattle and roll of Star Tours

It's time for another Tip Tuesday!

With Star Wars rumors flying around right now (including on this blog), I thought I'd share a quick tip about how to either reduce (or get more of) the shake, rattle and roll on Star Tours. 

First, a bit of a recap for those of you who might not have experienced Star Tours yet -- Star Tours is a motion simulator-based attraction.  Guests board a simulator car that tilts up and down and rotates from side to side in concert with the on-board movie to create the illusion that guests are riding in a star speeder to different destinations with all sorts of adventures.

Star Tours can be a very jostling attraction, especially for those who do not tolerate sharp motions all that well.  On the flip side, it can be a thrilling attraction for those who like the sense of being out of control.

So depending on which side of the, er, "force" (sorry for the bad pun, it was too tempting) you're part of, you can take some steps to either take some of the jostling out of Star Tours, or get the biggest thrill you can -- and it all depends on where you sit.

The first thing to remember is that the seats for the simulator take up the back half of the ride vehicle, as you can see from the diagram above.  The center of motion is located right about at the fourth seat from the left on row 1 - that's the pivot point.  All up/down and left/right movement is centered on this pivot point.  The closer you can be to the pivot point, the less shaky your overall ride will be because you won't be moving as much.  So if you want a smoother ride, try to sit on the front row, preferably in the center of the row - there's also a bit more leg room for those who are taller.

Conversely, if you want the most thrilling experience with the most movement, then you want to get as far away from the central pivot point as you can.  That means sitting in the back row on the far right or left side - those seats will experience the greatest range of motion and offer the biggest thrills.

So if you've been reluctant to take an adventure to a galaxy far, far away because you were concerned about getting a bit shaken up along the way - there are ways you can cut down on the jostle.  Or, if you're wanting to get the most of Star Tours, now you know where to sit.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Photo Friday: Dinner anyone?

Welcome back foolish mortals for another Tip Tuesday!

Last Friday I had the honor of sitting down at a Haunted Mansion themed table as part of Master Gracey's ball during Mousekemeets.

So this week, I thought I'd share a photo from one of the real Haunted Mansion ballroom scenes - this one from Disneyland.

It never ceases to amaze me the level of detail the Imagineers put into all their work.  The level of authenticity and believability is second to none, and I'm still blown away by the Pepper's Ghost effect, even if it is developed more than 100 years ago.

Anyway, enjoy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Long trip - one suitcase

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week's tip is short and sweet, and it comes thanks to my good friend Beci Mahnken from MEI & MouseFanTravel (who are my official travel partners).  I happened to have to fortune of picking up Beci at the airport in Roanoke, VA for Mousekemeets.

As we were waiting at baggage claim, she said she only had one checked bag.

"Only one?" I asked.

"Yep.  Just one, and this is a ten day trip," she confirmed.

This got me to thinking, just how could someone do a ten day trip and only have one large suitcase.  The answer was immediately obvious - laundry services.  Quite a few guests don't know that Disney resorts have coin-operated washers and dryers at each resort, and studio rooms and villas have in-room washer/dryer units.  Disney does offer dry cleaning services, though I understand this can get pricey.  For more on Disney laundry services, see this link.

So if you're going to Walt Disney World for an extended time, you can pack lightly and wash a few outfits while you're staying at the resort.  As most guests often are wearing very casual attire, it's likely easy to mix and match so it doesn't look like you're wearing the same thing on different days.

Plus, it's a whole lot cheaper to bring a roll of quarters than to pay $50 or more for another checked bag on a round trip flight. 

So the next time you're thinking about a long trip to Walt Disney World - bring some quarters and a bit of laundry soap!  You'll be glad you did!