My Recommended Travel Partner -- Mouse Fan Travel

DisneyDaddy is proud to partner with Mouse Fan Travel - our official and recommended travel agency!

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 TouringPlans.com

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!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rumor Mill: Making way for Star Wars Land? There's plenty of room

Map courtesy Bing

With the announcement that the American Idol Experience at Disney Hollywood Studios is closing and with reports that the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular may be coming to an end soon, the oft-discussed rumor that Disney is making room for a new Star Wars Land seems to be more and more plausible.

So I thought I'd have a little fun and take a look at what real estate would be available for a new Star Wars Land if Indy did close along with Idol, Sounds Dangerous and the Backlot Express and how, when combined with the existing Star Tours area, that space might compare with the space Disney carved out to create Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.

As the map above shows, if the areas in green were to be closed and re-purposed for Star Wars Land, it would create a space that could potentially be about 75% of the space that made available for Cars Land.  I created this map by using Bing and setting the scale to 100 feet to get an aerial image for both California Adventure and Hollywood Studios.  By using the same scale, we could make a reasonable comparison of the two potential spaces as noted by the yellow line.

Based on this analysis, it appears that Disney would have a decent amount of space to put in a good E-ticket attraction while also re-imagining the Backlot Express into some sort of Star Wars themed dining experience.

But let's keep one thing in mind:  how did Disney make room for Cars Land at California Adventure?  They used space that was originally a parking lot.  Could the same be true here?  You bet!
Map courtesy Bing
Just to the East of the Indiana Jones/Backlot Express/Star Tours area are some backstage areas and then the gigantic Television parking lot.  Even if Disney uses a portion of the Television parking lot for Star Wars Land, there is an incredible amount of potential space available for some sort of expansion. 

Oh and don't worry about parking, there's still two other huge lots that are available (Film and Music), and Disney could always expand those two lots or build more to the East.

With three Star Wars movies in the works, it seems like a no-brainer that LucasFilms and Disney are (or should be) working on a Star Wars Land.  I'll even go out on a limb now and say that Disney will make some sort of Star Wars-related announcement at the 2015 D23 Expo, possibly to announce Star Wars Land.

Let's just hope that this rumor is coming true!  May the Force be with us all!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Photo Friday: Honoring those who served on this historic day 70 years ago


As we pause to remember those who gave their lives for freedom on this day 70 years ago, I wanted to share a few images from the National D-Day Memorial, which is located in Bedford, VA, about 30 minutes to the East of Roanoke.

Here the memorial pays tribute to the brave men and women who gave their lives during the D-Day invasion, particular the "Bedford Boys," who were part of the 29th Infantry Division.  The town of Bedford lost more soldiers by proportion on D-Day than any other location in the nation.  

So why am I sharing this on a Disney fan blog?  Perhaps this second image will give you a clue.

This is an aerial view of the National D-Day Memorial site.  Notice the rather large hidden Mickey at the heart of the memorial?  This was done quite intentionally.  That's because the password used by solders at some point leading up to the invasion was "Mickey Mouse," and so the memorial designers decided to include a tribute to Mickey in the memorial.

I should note that there is some debate as to how widely Mickey Mouse was used as a password.  It could have been used for only one meeting, or could have been used more widely than existing documentation can prove.  One thing is clear, there is a direct connection between Mickey Mouse and the D-Day invasion, no matter how large or small that connection may actually have been.

I also want to take this moment to express my personal thanks to all our men and women who have, currently are and will one day serve our nation in the armed forces.  You are true American heroes.  I also want to give thanks and remembrance to the late Herman Angell, my wife's grandfather, who bravely served on a radio ship during the D-Day invasion.  Hearing him tell the story of D-Day from the viewpoint of one who was there was fascinating and humbling.

We miss you Gramps.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Thinking of going to Disneyland? First you have to get there



Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to start a series of tips related to my recent Disneyland trip this May.  I spent about six days in sunny (really sunny and hot) Los Angeles, and managed to get in a few days at Disneyland and California Adventure.

As I planned for this trip, one immediate difference struck me between this trip and my past trips to Walt Disney World.  It was so obvious that I really took this major difference for granted -- how was I going to get there?

Well, duh... I was going to fly.

As I said, this was so obvious that I just took this decision for granted, but as I started to research further, I quickly found that this was not so simple - where was I going to fly to?

You may not be aware that the greater Los Angeles area has not one, but five airports - all served to some degree or another by airline carriers.

The main airports are the Los Angeles International Airport (better known as LAX), LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT) and John Wayne International Airport (SNA).  Smaller airports are the Bob Hope Airport (BUR) located in Burbank and the Long Beach Airport (LGB) located in Long Beach, as the name implies.

While LAX is, by far, the largest airport in the LA area, it is not the closest to Anaheim.  That would actually be the John Wayne International Airport, located in Santa Ana.  From this airport, Disneyland is about a 20-40 minute drive, depending on traffic, whereas the drive from LAX to Anaheim is at least twice that long, if not much longer.  The Long Beach Airport is a close second, while the Bob Hope Airport is the furthest away.

So as you can see from the map above, in terms of distance, John Wayne or Long Beach are the best airports to fly into if you're going to Disneyland.  But... there's more to consider -- airfare.

Depending on what airline you fly, you might find a cheaper fare to LAX or ONT than SNA or LGB.  The good news is that Delta has many regular flights to SNA, which were cheaper than flights to LAX or ONT.  It all depends on what airline you use and what day and time of year you're flying.  The best thing to do is go online and check airfare for all the LA airports and see what you can get... and then check it again, and again, and again until you think you're found the best price.

Another benefit to John Wayne is that it's a MUCH smaller airport that LAX, which means it's far easier to get into and out of than the behemoth that is LAX.  Anyone who's been through LAX knows what I mean.

Before I wrap this up, I'll add one more variable to the mix.  Don't discount San Diego.  Yes, it's about a 90 minute drive to Anaheim (assuming no serious traffic issues), but it's a beautiful drive up I-5 and I've often found flights into San Diego (SAN is the airport code) can be even cheaper.  Remember, Disney don't provide any free ground transportation from any of the airports, so you're likely renting a car anyway.

Every Disney Parks fan needs to visit Disneyland at least once (I recommend visits every few years), so I hope these tips will come in handy whenever you start to plan that trip out west!