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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tip Tuesday: the Arusha Overlook

Arusha Overlook
 
Jambo!  It's time for another Tip Tuesday!
 
This week, let's head over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a quick tip about an easy way to enjoy the lodge savannah without having to book a room.  Simply visit the lodge (there are some great restaurants to enjoy), stroll through the amazing lobby to the far end and go down the stairs and outside.  You will come across the Arusha Overlook, which gives a great view of the center section of the Animal Kingdom Lodge savannah.

See for yourself!
 
Arusha Overlook

There are plenty of animals to see and you can take all the time you want because you're not in a jeep bounding through the savannah like you would be over at Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Just outside the entrance to the overlook is a nice fire pit that can come in handy on those cool winter evenings, even in Florida.

So the next time you're at Animal Kingdom Lodge, head over to the Arusha Overlook and enjoy what makes the Animal Kingdom Lodge such a popular resort.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Photo Friday: The new queen of the savannah

Animal Kingdom lioness
 
It's time for another Photo Friday!
 
I thought I'd share this photo from June 2012 of the new queen of the Animal Kingdom savannah.  I learned that apparently just days (or even hours) before this shot was taken, the male lion that was on the savannah had passed away and Disney had brought in some new lionesses for the lion section of the savannah.  It's possible this may be one of the first photos of the new lioness.  That's just speculation on my part.
 
Anyway, I especially like this photo with the colorful blossoms in the background.
 
Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Playing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom map

Welcome Sorcerer!

It's time again to share some tips and tricks to playing one of the newest experiences at the Magic Kingdom:  Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  Here's the problem:  Hades, that evil lord of the underworld, has broken free and is trying to get the crystal of the Magic Kingdom.  It's up to you and Merlin the wizard to stop him and his legion of villians.
As I mentioned in a post two weeks ago, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (SOTMK) is a card based interactive game that guests can play throughout the Magic Kingdom.  Each visit to the parks, guests can stop at the Town Square Fire Station to pick up additional game cards to use to complete tasks throughout the park.
This week, I'll walk through how to play the game and some tips to make your adventure run a little smoother, especially if you're with multiple players.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom key card and map
When you first get your all-important key card and map (shown above), you will want to head to any station on the map (Adventureland is shown above).  Your map will show the SOTMK portals in each of the currently active lands in the Magic Kingdom:  Mains Street USA, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square and Adventureland.  Tomorrowland doesn't have any SOTMK portals as of this post, though the game is likely going to be expanded into the new Fantasyland and could possibly be expanded into other areas like Tomorrowland, though no official announcements have been made.

Most people who get their new key card, map and initial card set will head to one of the Main Street USA portals, resulting in a line.  It's better to head away from Town Square and go at least to one of the two portals further down Main Street USA.  Better yet, head to Adventureland, where there are more portals to work with. 
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom shield

So how can you find a portal? Sure it's on the map, but they're sometime hard to find.  Just look for this symbol on the ground.  This is the EXACT spot you're supposed to stand on to play the game.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom lock

Once you find a portal, look for this lock (shown above).  Take your key card and place it against the lock.  The first time you play the game, the screen will tell you which portal you are supposed to start it.  Be sure to take note of the symbol shown on the screen.  That corresponds to the portal symbols on your SOTMK map.  Go to that portal.  If you try to use another portal, you'll again be directed to the proper starting place.  Oh, and everyone has a different starting place. 

Now, if you're traveling with several Sorcerers, you can ask the cast member at the Fire Station to have your entire playing party to start in the same land.  You won't start in the same exact portal, but you can at least have your adventure running in the same location so you're not cris-crossing the park too much (you'll be doing a lot of that anyway).

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Now that you've found the right portal, it's time to star battling some bad guys (or gals)!!

To play the game, you need to first show your key card at each portal.  You eventually will go to every portal in the Magic Kingdom (often more than once).  You're trying to defeat Scar, Yzma, Jafar, Ursula, Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, Dr. Facilier, Gov. Ratcliff and (ultimately) Hades.

Defeating each villian usually involves accessing four different portals.  Most portals require the use of one or more spell cards.  In the basic version of the game (which is the only version currently running), the type of spell card used really doesn't matter.  You can use one or more than one to accomplish your task.  In future versions (Disney has said they are working on advanced versions), the type of spell card used will be a factor in determining success against the villian.

Once you have defeated all eight villians, you're off to battle the head honcho in this whole operation -- Hades and if you're successful you will be given the title of Master Sorcerer of the Magic Kingdom!!!

Now you can complete SOTMK in a single day, though it will be a very long one and it will be all you do.  I strongly suggest taking a few days to try to complete the game.  If you don't finish, don't worry, you can always pick up where you left off on your next trip.  In fact, I think you should only do one or two villians on each trip -- that way you have something new to do on your next visit.

Either way, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a fantastic and fun game for players of all ages.  In June, I saw young kids and seasoned adults playing side by side and having a great time.

A few general tips: 
  • Wear good shoes because you will be doing a lot of walking (you should be wearing good shoes anyway).
  • Keep track of your key card.  If you lose it, you've lost your entire game progress and you'll have to start over.  If you lose a spell card, you can always get more, but you can't get another key card and resume your progress.
  • As you're walking around, take note of where portals are located.  Sure, they're on the map, but it's more helpful to know where they really are so you can easily find them when you need them.
  • Be patient.  You will run into lines at portals, especially during peak times of the year.  While you're waiting, be courteous to other guests and don't spoil the surprises by talking about the game.  Each portal can have different parts of the game running.
  • Always get a new set of spell cards each day you're at the Magic Kingdom.  They're free and you can get one pack a day.  You never know which cards you'll get.
So there you go Sorcerer!!!  You're ready to play.  So hurry to the Firehouse because Merlin needs your help!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Photo Friday: Valet Parking

Valet Parking (for strollers)

Time again for another Photo Friday!

This shot caught my eye as I was coming out of the Tower of Terror in June.  I happened to notice the "Valet Parking" sign with a line of strollers underneath and I couldn't help but laugh at the sarcasm.  Even the Imagineers have a witty moment or two, don't they??

Wait... does this mean we have to tip the cast members who straighten those strollers?  ;)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Disney Arcade Card

Disney Arcade Card

Time for another Tip Tuesday!
(my apologies for yet another delay... oy!)
Last week, I started a series of posts about the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game at the (of course) Magic Kingdom.
This week, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about other gaming option at WDW before continuing about SOTMK -- and that's the many Disney arcades around.
Arcades aren't new to Disney at all.  Many resorts have arcades and have had arcades for quite a while.  There are even two arcades in the parks (one in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom and another in Pizza Planet in Hollywood Studios).  There's also DisneyQuest, which is a topic of it's own.  What's interesting is that the concept of an arcade is becoming more and more foreign to kids around the nation (with the prevalence of home-based gaming systems).  Long gone are the days of the mall-based video arcade.  Sure there are a few arcades located in pizza restaurants (i.e. Chuck-E-Cheese) but most people don't visit these on any kind of a regular basis like I did a few -ahem- years ago.  So when kids (and adults) do run across the resort arcades, it's a moment of amazement for kids at all the huge gaming systems and nostalgia for adults who may remember the old days.

Disney Arcade Card

Just about every Disney resort has an arcade and some are much bigger and better than most.  Arcades are open from 7 a.m. to midnight each day.  The best, in my opinion, is The Game Station located on the concourse level (4th floor) of Disney's Contemporary Resort.  This arcade is pretty large and just has more of that old arcade look and feel.  It really fits in the Contemporary. 

To play in the arcade, you first need an arcade card (shown above).  It's easy to get one.  There's a kiosk in every arcade where you can purchase an initial card with points preloaded on it.  The costs are anywhere from around $5 to more than $50 depending on how many points you want.  Games cost different points, from around 15 points per play for very simple (usually kiddie) games to 200 points per play for more complex games such as racing games.  The arcade cards can be reloaded with more points, so there's no need to get a new card when your points run out.  Also, cards can be reused trip after trip, so be sure to keep it with you anytime you're at Disney.

Most importantly, Disney tracks any "tickets" won on the game card, so DON'T THROW IT AWAY if you win tickets at one of the many games that offer ticket rewards.  The ticket credits don't expire, so you can save up to get those more valuable prizes.

Arcades are a great place to kill a few hours especially when a rain shower begins to dampen the day, so just have fun and play on!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Photo Friday: Mickey at his tastiest

White Chocolate Mickey Mouse

It's time for another Photo Friday!

This week, I wanted to share a little surprise that showed up in our room during our most recent WDW trip in June.  During our check-in at the Beach Club, I had asked for an "I'm Celebrating" button for my daughter. 

"What are we celebrating?," the cast member asked.

"My daughter finished the school year with straight A's." I said, ever the proud dad.

"Well, that is worth celebrating," she said and pulled out a form and started filling it out.  I gave my daughter's name and our room number and she said there might be something in the room later tonight.

So we went of to Epcot and didn't think much about it.  Later that evening after we had come back to our room, we got a knock on the door and in comes a cast member with this huge, solid white chocolate Mickey Mouse on a plate with a congratulatory note to my daughter.

Now this Mickey was huge -- it had to be at least 6 inches tall and solid.  It was heavy.  The hardest part of all was making the decision to actually eat the chocolate.  I mean it was almost like sacrilege:  eating Mickey Mouse??!?

Anyway -- over the next week, we nibbled away at this wonderful confectionary scuplture which was delicious.

And yes, he was even tastier than he looked!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (part 1)

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to start a series of posts about a new interactive card came that debuted this summer at the Magic Kingdom, appropriately entitled the "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom."  This is a free card game open to all guests of all ages.

Playing the game is very easy.  First you need cards.  To do that, just head over to the Recruiting Center located in the Firehouse in Town Square.  Show your park ticket and you'll get a pack of five cards, a map (shown above) and, most importantly, your Key (also shown above).  It's very important not to lose this key as all your progress is stored on that card. 

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Each day each player can get a new pack of cards like the ones seen above.  They are numbered 1-70 and have different powers.  They also are different kinds of cards from common to super rare.  I'll talk more about the different card groupings and which ones you should watch out for later on in this series of posts.

I'll talk about how to play the game in next week's post.  This week, I wanted to go over some general tips about this new experience.

First, Sorcerers is VERY popular.  I mean VERY.  It's not unusual to have a 30 minute wait just to get your initial set and/or expansion sets.  As I say constantly, it's best to be at the Magic Kingdom for rope drop.  If you don't have an attraction you really want to get to first thing, you might want to try to pop into the Firehouse to get your cards before it gets packed later on.  Each day you're at the Magic Kingdom, it's a good idea to get a new pack of cards because they card packs are random, so you never know what cards you might get.

As you start to get more and more cards, you may want to think about how to keep your cards together.  Some use baseball card books (the Sorcerers cards are about the same size and fit well).  Disney says they may release a Sorcerers themed card book later this year.

As you play the game, you'll be going from one place in the Magic Kingdom to another and then back again.  You will be cris-crossing the parks several times over, so good shoes really are important because you'll be doing a LOT of walking. 

Finally, did I mention this is VERY popular?  Frequent guests and Orlando locals have taken to Sorcerers with a passion similar to pin trading and Vinylmation.  Don't be surprised if people approach you asking to trade.  While trading can be fun, you will want to know what your doing.  More on this aspect later in this series.

In my opinion, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom may be one of the best additions to the Magic Kingdom in many years (at least until new Fantasyland opens) - speaking of which, it's likely that this game will expand sometime after new Fantasyland opens in early December.  This is a game everyone can play on their own or together.  My three have had the best time working hard to complete the basic game -- and there are tougher versions in development.

There's so much more to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, that I will spread this out over a few Tip Tuesday posts -- so look for more next week!

Until then -- Merlin needs your help Sorcerer!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Photo Friday: Streets of the UK

UK Pavilion at night

It's Photo Friday time again!

This week, in honor of the Olympics in London, I thought I'd post a night photo from the United Kingdom Pavilion in Epcot. This shot, with a full moon rising, was in December 2008.  Just like in London, the streets were quite alive with guests all around.

Enjoy and Go Team USA and Team GB!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tip Tuesday: The BEST Burger in the World

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

I've often heard various discussions about where the best burger in Walt Disney World can be found.  I've often wondered where I might find that delectable delight that is an outstanding burger.

It's time I entered this debate and render my own opinion about the best burger in Walt Disney World.

Since the Olympics are taking place in London -- let's grant some medals here.

Bronze Medal (tie):  Pecos Bills and Beaches and Cream

Beaches and Cream 
Now I'm sure that already some of you are saying "WHAT?!?!?"  Pecos Bills doesn't take the Gold??? Others are saying the same thing about Beaches and Cream.  Hear me out.

I think Beaches and Cream (located at the Beach Club Resort) offers a better burger (pictured above), but Pecos Bills (located in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom) has, by far, the best options for toppings -- especially the sautéd mushrooms and onions.  Both burgers are cooked to perfection - nice and juicy.  Taken together, they tie for third place.  I will give a side award to Pecos Bills -- best burger in the Magic Kingdom.

Silver Medal:  Rose and Crown

Rose and Crown burger

But the best burger in any theme park goes to an Epcot restaurant.  The royal burger at the Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot's United Kingdom Pavilion is topped with bacon, cheese and fried onions.   This burger is huge.  The fried pickle on the side adds just that extra bit of fried goodness.  The English chips (fries to us yanks) help this burger make it to the podium at the silver medal position.  It's a bit pricey, but it is exceptionally good.

Gold Medal:  The Fountain

Fountain Burger

Taking the Gold is the Fountain Burger at the Fountain at the Dolphin Resort.  If the Rose and Crown burger is huge, this burger is gigantic!  Topped with everything you can think of including chili, sautéed onions, mushrooms, mounds of bacon and more, this burger really is make for two.  It's that big.  The chips on the side are an afterthought -- there's so much burger to eat.  Add one of the Fountain's legendary shakes and you're in heaven.

So there you go -- the 2012 Best Burger Champion goes to the Fountain.  What do you think?  Where's your best burger?  Post a comment!