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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Buy 4 nights, get 3 free offer extended!

I was checking the WDW Web site and I noticed the buy 4 nights get 3 nights free offer has been extended to January 24, 2009. So if you were thinking about taking advantage of this amazing offer, you still have time!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Safely carrying tickets, FastPasses, PhotoPasses and receipts

Welcome back to the DisneyDaddy blog!

In this week's Tip Tuesday, I'll share a new tip I discovered during my December 2008 trip to Walt Disney World (see my trip report posts that are still ongoing about this trip).

If you're like me when you're at WDW, you're usually the one carrying all the tickets (or Key to the World Cards in my case), FastPasses, PhotoPasses, receipts, etc. while in the parks. I've seen many guests put their tickets in a lanyard-style holder. While this does keep the passes safe, I'm not a fan of showing the world where your tickets are. Many of those lanyard have break-away points, for safety reasons. The bad news is that someone could give your lanyard a good hard tug and it likely will come free - and there go your tickets and anything else that might be in there (like credit cards, licenses, etc.).

A better option, in my opinion, is to use a small credit-card or business card wallet. This is a very small wallet-like item in which there are some pockets to hold a few cards. This is not a full-size wallet. I've included a link to something similar I used during the Dec. 2008 trip.
http://www.amazon.com/Regal-Leather-Business-Wallet-SAM81220/dp/B000A6V0YE

Here's the benefit to using a business card wallet: It fits easily in a front pocket and can be quickly pulled out when needed. Best of all, it's much more secure than a lanyard. With the different pockets, you can easily keep the tickets separate from passes to make it easier to grab when you need them.

For those of you who use the Disney Dining Plan, this wallet also helps you keep easy track of your dining credits. Each day I would put the receipts from each restaurant in the holder. At the end of the day, back at my resort room, I would pull out the receipts and see what we had left. The next day, the previous day's receipt would go into a master envelope and I'd start the process all over again.

So the next time you're going to WDW (or any Disney park) give this tip a try, I think you'll find this much easier.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Dawn Treader" movie sunk

According to a CNBC.com report, Disney has decided it will not make the third installment in the Narnia series, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." The report says Disney made the decision based on "budget considerations and other logistics."

The second Narnia movie, "Prince Caspian," apparently didn't do as well as the studios hoped. The report says "Caspian" cost about $200 million to produce and it grossed $420 million globally. This is significantly smaller than the $745 million the first Narnia film, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," made.

I'm no economist, but making $220 million isn't shabby. The movie made a decent profit, why not produce the final film featuring the Pevensie family? Besides, "Dawn Treader" is a story that is made for action, while "Caspian's" story didn't lend itself to as much action (without major changes to the storyline).

Personally, I think Disney has made a bad call here. I understand the economy isn't doing well, but why give up on the while project? I could understand putting the film off a year or two until things do better, but to give up entirely? I hope another studio will work with Walden Media to produce "Dawn Treader," and watch it do much better.

Disney, there's more out there than Pixar. While Pixar does make some great movies, they aren't the only game in town. Stick with the plan - produce the third film.

Also online: a second CNBC.com article.

DisneyDaddy featured on the WDW Radio Show

Last week, I had the distinct privledge to record a segment about pressed pennies with Lou Mongello of the WDW Radio Show. Together we discussed one of the "Best of the Best" of Walt Disney World and fun collectibles - pressed pennies.

Be sure to check out the show #99. You can download the show in iTunes, or go to the WDW Radio Show site.

For more information about pressed pennies, be sure to check out my two Tip Tuesday posts on the subject.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 4

Well I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa. It's time to bring you day four of my December 2008 trip to Walt Disney World.
Day four started out about as nicely as any day ever could. What could be better than a bit of Soarin' during morning Extra Magic Hours at Epcot? This (and Toy Story Mania) are my two most favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World. I could ride this a hundred times in a row. The music alone is outstanding and the sensation of flight is quite realistic -- and there's nothing like the scent of orange groves! If you haven't taken a flight on Soarin' - it is a DisneyDaddy Must Do!

After a pretty short wait on Soarin', we hustled over to Test Track to jump in the standby line before Epcot opened to the main crowd. This would be my daughter's first ride on Test Track. She was nervous and was a little startled by the high speed bank-turn, but she made it through (oh, she's not done with Test Track -- just wait).
After Test Track, we walked along the Canada-side of World Showcase to a pastry stand to grab a small bite before a late lunch. It was before 11a.m., so most pavilions weren't open yet. I have to say it was nice to stroll along the western side of World Showcase when there weren't many people around. You get a chance to really take in the architecture of the Canada and Great Britain pavilions. As we were finishing our pastries, I noticed a person in a Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure outfit. I asked if they were testing the system today and the cast member said that they were and invited us to test it out. I've already posted a spoiler-free review on the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, so see that post for more. Once it's up and running, this is most definitely on the DisneyDaddy Must-Do list.

We continued our walk around World Showcase, stopping in a few stores including one in Great Britain where we managed to complete the Harry Potter quiz to win a magical moments certificate. My kids had a great time interacting with the cast member as they were working on this quiz - yet another reason why it's the cast members that make Disney such a magical place.

Later that night, we were going to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, so we took the monorails back to the Grand Floridian in order to change for the party and let the kids (and us!) rest a bit. We were in the Sago Cay building at the Grand Floridian, so we had views like what you see above from our balcony. Just to the right of this vantage point is the outside patio for Gasparilla Grill and Games. This is a great place to sit and watch the evening fireworks at the Magic Kingdom.

Early that afternoon, we hopped on the resort monorail for the short trip to the Magic Kingdom. We had an ADR at the Crystal Palace before MVMCP started. We had breakfast at the Crystal Palace back in March and loved it, so I was hoping dinner would be just as good. The Crystal Palace didn't disappoint. It was wonderful! We also had a great server who had a lot of fun interacting with the characters and with our children. Even the topiaries from the Hundred Acre Wood had decked the halls.

After dinner, we watched the lighting of the Cinderella's Castle. It was incredible! I had been waiting to see this for a year and it was worth every second of the wait. As the lighting wrapped up, we checked in and received our wristbands for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. This might be the only real disappointment of our entire trip. I understand the intent behind MVMCP is to create an exclusive event, but the park felt more crowded than it had been (and would be) for our entire trip. We stood in line 45 minutes just to get a picture with Mickey Mouse and the Twas The Night Before Christmas shows were standing room only! The lines to get hot chocolate and cookies were huge. I never got a chance to sample this part of the party. We skipped the first parade and managed to slip into a short line to see Santa just as the fireworks were wrapping up. Of course the lines were huge within a few minutes.

The kids were getting pretty tired, so my wife took them back to the resort while I stayed to see the second parade. Expecting a big crowd, I staked out a prime standing spot about 30 minutes ahead of time. I had a tripod, so I was back from the curb a few paces so others could sit in front of me and, for the most part, I had a great view. There was one person who kept trying to step in front of my lens. I guess rude people are everywhere, even at WDW. I do have to say this is the best nighttime parade I have ever seen. I am a big Spectromagic Fan, but this parade was fantastic. I also was amazed with how LONG it was! It ran for more than 20 minutes!


Once the second parade had ended, there was a huge throng heading for the exit. Following my own tip, I hung around and made my way towards the Partners statue to take a few million photos of Cinderella's Castle. There was a near-full moon as well, which made for some very beautiful shots.


Probably the best part of of MVMCP was being in the castle forecourt with no one around you. It was just me and the castle as the party came to an end. I joined the last part of the throng leaving the park and found a new tip for getting back to a Magic Kingdom resort -- look for that on an upcoming Tip Tuesday.
Well that does it for day 4. Stay tuned for day 5!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the DisneyDaddy!

As we get into the heart of the holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa. It really doesn't matter what holiday you celebrate, they all recognize the spirit of giving to others.

It is with that in mind that I ask you to consider the spirit of giving.

Many Disney fans know a friend of mine, Lou Mongello. He has a project called the Dream Team in which he helps the Make a Wish Foundation send seriously ill kids to Walt Disney World. The Dream Team has a goal to raise $45,000 by the 100th episode of the WDW Radio Show, which is in a few weeks.

As of this post, they've raised a little more than $43,000. Please consider helping to send a seriously ill child experience the magic of Walt Disney World. For many of these kids, it can make an enormous difference in their life. I hope you will consider supporting this program.

You can make a donation at this Web site: http://www.firstgiving.com/dwtdreamteam

Thank you and may you have a very happy and safe holiday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Divide and Conquer

This week's Tip Tuesday comes courtesy of Mickey (no, not the mouse, my wife Mickey) and is for families visiting Walt Disney World: Don't be afraid to split up. One of the challenges Walt Disney World can present to families, especially larger families with several children spanning a wide range of ages, is that not everyone wants to do the same things.

My first grade daughter won't set foot inside Space Mountain (aside from the TTA), while my 3rd and 5th grade boys will melt the pavement trying to get there as fast as possible. In a similar manner, my two boys may die of embarrassment if they get caught inside the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

This difference of interests is a common problem for big families (and groups for that matter).

The easy solution is to split up. In our case, myself and the boys will go off for a few hours to do "boy stuff" while my daughter and wife will go do "girlie things." We set a time and place to meet back and then go our separate ways within that park (we have even split among two parks before -- if you can handle it - go for it).

One extra tip from Mickey: Have two photopass cards. You never know when you might run into a great photo opportunity. By the time we finished our Dec. 2008 trip, we had four photopass cards. They all go to the same place later so there's no problem with multiple cards.

So the next time you have a larger family or group and are planning a visit to Walt Disney World, don't be afraid to divide and conquer. You'll be surprised how much more you will get to do!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 3

Day three at Walt Disney World started out with a return to Hollywood Studios were we got into the park early because of an ADR at Hollywood and Vine. This is another character breakfast featuring stars from Playhouse Disney. This breakfast was quite good and we had a very good waiter who helped make it fun.

After breakfast, we hustled over to Toy Story Mania to get some Fastpasses. When we got there (around 9:30), the standby line already was at 60 minutes! Our Fastpasses were up in a few hours, so we went across the park and took the first of what would be several runs on Star Tours (one of our favorite attractions). We then stopped by Muppets 3D and walked down the Streets of America where the Power Rangers were doing meet and greets. New this time was the White Ranger (he wasn't there during our March 08 trip), so we were able to get a picture with him.


We then walked over to Pixar Place, which was quite crowded (no surprise there). We still had some time until our Fastpasses were up so we stood in line at the new Toy Story picture spot called "Woody's Picture Corral". This was pretty interesting. While you're waiting to see Buzz and Woody, there are cutout picture opportunities all through the queue.

By the time we got out of the picture spot, our Fastpass window had opened, so we went across the street to for our first ever ride on Toy Story Mania. When people ask me what my favorite attractions at WDW are, Space Ranger Spin at the MK is in the top 3. This is because of the high re-rideablity factor. I'm always trying to get that 999,999. Toy Story Mania is like Buzz, version 4 - it was incredible. I was totally blown away by the live 3D rendering. I can't imagine the computing power this attraction requires. It immediately became our most favorite attraction at WDW.

From TSM, we journeyed into Narnia. The set reconstruction is awesome! It was so neat to be at the Stone Table. We also walked through One Man's Dream. Walt is a key figure for me so I very much enjoyed walking along his life's work.

By now it was the afternoon, so we took a Friendship boat to Epcot. We had wanted to catch some more of the Santas around the world. This time we saw the Norway Santa (and his "assistant") and the Three Wise Men in Mexico. We took a ride on Malestrom and the Gran Fiesta Tour and then made our way to the walkway between Future World and World Showcase for the lighting of the Epcot tree. Unlike years past, there was no character show for the tree lighting. There was just an announcer with a quick spiel and then the tree lit up.


The walkway lights were pretty cool. Disney did a nice job synchronizing the lights to the holiday music. After the tree lighting, we walked over to the America Gardens Theatre to try to catch the Candlelight Processional. Here, I was in for a rude awakening. Disney has reserved seats for guests who book the dinner package. I knew this was the case, but I didn't know that everyone and their brother had reserved seating! The theatre was filled with dinner package people - hardly any other guests could get seats. I ended up standing to the left side of the lighting room. The view was pretty good, aside from a tree or two in the way. As we read the program, I saw that three choirs from my hometown were performing later in the week. I'll have more on this in another post coming soon.
While I really enjoyed the Candlelight Processional, the kids weren't as enamored, probably because they had to sit on the ground or stand. The performance was inspirational - these people really can sing!
After the processional, I could tell the kids were quickly running out of steam, so we made our way back around the lagoon and through Future World to the monorail. It's so nice that the monorail is our main form of transportation as opposed to waiting for a bus that might come someday. Within 15 minutes we were in our rooms and off to sleep.
That's it for day 3 - stay tuned for day 4 and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party!

Friday, December 19, 2008

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 2

Day 2 at Walt Disney World could be summed up thus: Go Wild!

After a nice character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, we hopped a bus from the Grand Floridian to Animal Kingdom. I have to say up front this is not my family's favorite park, so they went here at my request and with some grumblings (at first).

My goals for this part of the day were pretty limited: ride on the safari, see Rafiki's Planet Watch and see the Jingle Jungle Parade. I didn't have much interest in Everest - I rode that in March and I wanted to do new things.


We first went over to Camp Minnie Mickey and walked right into a showing of the Festival of the Lion King. We were in the elephant section (insert elephant noise here). I had not seen this show before and I was quite impressed. The monkeys were very good!

Afterward, we went over to the Kilimanjaro Safaris and grabbed a pack of Fastpasses for a slot about an hour later. We went up to Rafiki's Planet Watch while we waited for our time slot. I managed to catch a quick shot with one of my favorite characters and I found a hidden mickey I really wanted to see in person (see below).

When our Fastpass time arrived, we returned to the safaris and waited in a relatively short line for our ride vehicle to pull up. I had not been on the safaris and was pleasantly surprised. The lions weren't out, but other then that, there were animals everywhere. It was a photographer's dream - shots everywhere!

After the safari, we walked along the Pangani Trail. My kids found the gorillas pretty interesting, though my daughter said as her nose wrinkled, "They smell."

The time was coming to stake out a spot for the parade. We sat near the entrance to the It's Tough to Be a Bug and waited for the parade to come down the path. I have to say the Jingle Jungle Parade has to be the best daytime parade of any at WDW.


After the parade, we booked out of the park and hustled over to Hollywood Studios to catch the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Here I was totally BLOWN away! I thought I did a decent job of outdoor lights -- I'm not worthy!!! There were so many lights, there was no way to really take it all in! This lived up to all the hype I had heard - it really is amazing. Any pictures and/or video you may see can't do it justice. You have to see this in person to really get the experience.

After a bus ride to the TTC and a monorail to the GF, we were back in our room and off to bed to rest for another busy day tomorrow.

Stay tuned for day 3!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Disney is celebrating YOU in 2009!!

As you know by now, the big Disney Parks event for 2009 is "What will you celebrate?" Now Disney has come up with one more way you can be a part of the magic and I have to say this is really cool!



Enter your information and you will get a video like the one you see here (click the play arrow to watch).

Just go to http://www.sun7news.com/ to get started.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WDW Dec. 2008 Trip Report - Day 1

Alright Disney fans, it's time to take you along with me as I review my recent trip to Walt Disney World.

We drove this year (as we did back in March) and, once again, I was surprised at the general lack of major traffic as we were arriving on a Saturday afternoon. We pulled right into the front of the Grand Floridian Resort (what a resort!!! -- I'll do a resort report later) and were able to check in after only a few minutes wait.
Our rooms were ready early, so after hauling (and I do mean HAUL) our luggage to the room, we were off to the Magic Kingdom. Boy is it nice staying on the monorail loop, especially when you're just one stop again from the Magic Kingdom. As we stepped onto the monorail, the infamous "Please stand clear of the doors..." brought a shiver to me as it sank in that I was home again.
On arriving at the MK, I remembered the annual Christmas Day Parade taping was going on. As we walked into Town Square, we were asked if we were joining the crowd lining Main Street for the parade or heading further into the park. We were headed to Tomorrowland, and so the cast members directed us through a backstage shortcut to the right side of Town Square.

I happened to get a shot of this poster above what I can only assume is the center for cast members portraying characters. I thought it was pretty interesting.

After a spin on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (yes, I hit 999,999!) and the TTA, we grabbed some lunch at Cosmic Rays and then spent a little time in Fantasyland before walking back through to the hub. There we lucked into a real treat, especially for my 1st grade daughter.


Who did we see getting ready to tape her performance by Miley Cyrus herself! My daugher flipped! Granted we were nearly at the partners statue, but she could still see Miley. It was interesting to watch the performance stop and start as crews taped different segments.
After watching Miley for a bit, we hopped over to Epcot for the evening. We took a ride on Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Living with the Land. Soarin would have to wait until another day.
For dinner, we had an ADR at Cape May. I'll do a more in-depth restaurant review later, but I'll say up front this was not our favorite. I expected a clam bake to have a bit more seafood on the buffet than just clams. Also Disney changed the kids menu, much to the chagrin of my older son.
After another wonderful monorail ride back to the GF, we watched the Wishes fireworks from one of the docks at the resort and then called it a night.
So there you go -- day one of our adventure (and this was really only a half day). Stay tuned for the next day. Here's a preview: "Happy Unbirthday and Jambo!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Kids' dining at WDW

For most adults, eating at Walt Disney World is a true culinary delight. The same, however, can't always be said for kids, especially special needs kids who are picky eaters.

Case in point is my son who has a mild form of autism. He is very unwilling to try new foods - because he is very uncertain about new things. While I may push him to try new things at home, Walt Disney World is not the place to try new foods and risk a tough night.

Here's the problem: the folks at WDW are jumping more and more onto the "healthy" bandwagon. While I don't have a problem with offering healthy options, I don't want that choice made FOR me. The end result is that many of my son's favorite foods (chicken nuggets being the top of the list) are slowing going away in favor of baked chicken, which he is less then enthusaistic about.

Here's the tip: If you have a picky eater - it's a good idea to check out restaurant menus ahead of time to plan where you want to eat, especially if you're on the Disney Dining Plan and need to make those ADR's. I have used these sites for my past three trips and, for the most part, I've been pretty successful.

Here are a couple of sites to check out restaurant menus:
WDWinfo.com: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28194763/
AllEars.net: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm

Take these menus with a grain of salt - Disney changes their menus without notice. These two sites do a good job of trying to keep up with the changes. A great example of this would be at the Cape May Cafe. Both sites listed chicken strips on the dinner menu as of October -- yet when I was there last week, the chicken strips were gone and baked chicken leg was there in it's place.

So parents, do your homework ahead of time and you stand a good chance of a good dining experience.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure - in beta testing

For those of you who follow this blog, you well know that I was looking forward to playing the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure during my recent trip to Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, as those who have read my posts will know, Disney delayed the launch of the new World Showcase event until 2009. Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise, then, when I happened to stumble into some cast members wearing Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure shirts parked at the bridge between Great Britain and France. I asked if there might be any testing going on and one cast member asked me if I would like to be part of the test group.

"Are you kidding?!?!?" I said, "I would love to!"

So here's the sitch about the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. Each country will have their own separate set of missions. I happened to test out the Great Britain missions. The entire experience took about 30 minutes and was a real blast. I won't go into detail about what the missions were except to say the Imagineers hit this one out of the park, over the parking lot and into the next county. It was A LOT of fun! You have to interact with all sorts of things all across the pavilion, including cast members who were "in" on the game.


One important part to note for those not interested in this -- you don't see Kim Possible all over the place. If you don't have the "Kimmunicator," you won't even notice anything is going on unless you happen to watch someone else who is on an adventure. Each interaction is quite secluded.

The Imagineers put a lot of thought into making this a "secret" world - and you never know who or what you may interact with.

Based on this one-country test of the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, I would say Disney has another knock-out hit on their hands. One possible suggestion -- keep the number of "Kimmunicators" out in the field at one time limited so there isn't a big line of people standing to interact with the various hotspots -- that would kill the undercover nature of the adventure.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Back from WDW!!!

Well I'm back from a week at Walt Disney World and boy do I have a number of items to talk about.

I'm working on upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

Oh, and for those of you still at Mousefest -- have a great time, I wish I was still there!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Pin trading -- the family fun way

Walk into a few Disney Stores or shops in a Disney Park and you will quickly notice they all have something in common (besides being owned by Disney), they all have pins. In the case of some shops in the parks, there are hundreds, if not, thousands lining the walls. What do you do with all these pins? Well many collect them. There are standard pins, special edition pins, limited edition pins, limited special release only for a certain event and to a certain group pins, it goes on and on. Some pins can become quite rare and VERY valuable to serious collectors.

Then there's the fun part of pins: Pin Trading.

Now in my opinion, there are two kinds of pin trading, serious trading and family fun trading.

Serious pin trading is akin to trading baseball cards -- two collectors looking to find that super rare pin or score a deal. It's a lot like buying a car, there's haggling, multi-pin offers and all that mess. Personally, I don't like to trade with a serious collector. I always get the feeling they're trying to rip me off, kind of like me trading away a Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle for some obscure card. I don't pay attention to the values of pins, so I really don't know what's a good deal and what's not.

Many of these pins were acquired by pin trading with cast members.

I much prefer the family fun trading. How does this work, you ask? Family fun trading takes place with Disney cast members only. Nearly every cast member walks around with a lanyard full of pins. You can approach any cast member and offer to trade any pin of yours with one of theirs. It's as simple as that. This also is a great chance to talk with some of the cast members - they are wonderful people who work hard to make your time at Disney as magical as it can be.

My kids love this kind of pin trading. They especially like it because my wife and I collect pins and our kids get a real kick out of showing us new pins they've traded for. This makes our pin collection priceless, not because the pins have some incredible value of their own, but because each pin has a meaning and a memory associated with it. Pin trading is another great way for families to enjoy Disney.

So what's the tip in all this? In order to trade with a cast member, you have to have pins, or "pin fodder," as I call it. You could go to a shop and purchase a few pins (at anywhere from about $6 to $15 each) OR try this little trick I'm trying out next week.

I went onto Ebay and searched for "Disney pin lot." There are some folks out there who have access to TONS of pins and they sell them in lots. They are usually basic mass-produced pins. The trick is to find a group of pins for less than $2 a pin. I won a bid for 40 pins for less than $70. Of those, we decided to keep about five or six. The rest are on lanyards and ready for trading. We did get a few duplicates, which is no big deal since I'm trading them away.

Like anything with Ebay, you have to be careful what you bid on. You want authentic Disney pins that come from cast members. No off-quality pins (like sedesmas or European pins).

If you do some careful shopping ahead of your trip, you should be able to get a good stock of "pin fodder" at a far less cost than what you would pay in a Disney Store or in a park shop.

Happy pin trading everyone!

Oh, and here's a Disney news release about pin trading.

P.S.: There won't be a Tip Tuesday next week as I will be at WDW. I hope to bring material for LOTS of posts, so stay tuned!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

WDW at the Holidays: The Resorts

Well we've gone to each of the four parks to see a sample of the holiday-related events. Now it's time to visit one more place (OK, several more places, but it's all the same concept). I'm talking about the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels.

If you think you go all out for the holidays, you probably are nothing compared to what some of these resorts go to (unless you happen to be another Osborne family, but we won't go there).

So let's take a quick tour of some of the deluxe Disney resorts to see how they deck the halls for the holidays.

Any WDW resort tour has to start with the grandaddy of them all -- the Grand Floridian.


(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.)

The resort lobby, stylized after the Victorian era, already is a spectacular sight anytime of the year. Add in the holiday decorations and it truly is a sight I can't wait to see. As the photo above shows, each year the Imagineers manage to construct a near life-size gingerbread house in the middle of the Grand Floridian lobby. Yes, folks, that's REAL gingerbread there - so please don't eat the house, even if looks delicious. A cast member can be found selling gingerbread cookies inside. It takes the Imagineers more than two months to make this gingerbread house, complete with more than 5,000 gingerbread "shingles." For more on the Grand Floridian gingerbread house, check out a post on the Orlando Attractions Magazine blog.


Next up, we travel across the Seven Seas Lagoon and into Bay Lake to view the tree at the Wilderness Lodge.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.)


Like the Grand Floridian, the Wilderness Lodge is beautiful anytime of the year. At the holidays, it gets even better. As soon as you enter your eye goes right to the enormous tree right in the middle of the lobby. With more than 60,000 lights adorning the 60 foot tree, it's worth taking a trip just to see the rustic holiday decorations.

Alright, we're taking the boat back to the Magic Kingdom, then the monorail to the TTC and the the monorail again to Epcot. After a quick walk through the park enjoying some of the decorations there (see my previous post about the holidays at Epcot), we walk through the international gateway and over to the Yacht and Beach Clubs.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

At the Beach Club Resort, we find another gingerbread creation. This time the Imagineers are thinking more of an attraction (these are folks that know how to make good rides after all), so why not a gingerbread carousel? How in the world they create these things, I may never know. While the photo may not show it, this thing really does move. And somewhere on there is a full-body 3-D hidden Mickey. It's in a different place each year. I know my kids can't wait to see this one. Anyone going to Mousefest will be sure to stop and check this out as the Mega Mouse meet takes place at the Beach Club on Dec. 13.

While we're at the Beach Club, let's take a quick walk over to the Yacht Club. There we'll find another holiday sight.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

Here we'll find a winter wonderland train model. I don't know much about this particular holiday decoration, but I found the picture and had to add it. It looks cool, so I'll be seeking this out as well.

Our final stop requires a quick bus ride to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

Another resort with an amazing lobby throughout the year, the tree here towers over you just like at the Wilderness Lodge. Unless you happen to be staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, it's a bit out of the way to see this resort, but I have a feeling it is well worth the effort. I'm going to really try to find the time to bring the family to the AK Lodge to see these decorations. Like I said, this is another one of those hotels you just have to see in person.

Also worth checking out, (though I don't have photos) are the Contemporary, Polynesian and Boardwalk resorts. The moderate and value resorts also have some holiday decorations, so be sure to appreciate the work Disney puts into decking the halls no matter where you happen to stay.

Well that's going to do it for my preview of the holidays at WDW. I hope you've enjoyed my forward look at what I'm looking forward to seeing in a few days.

I will be at Mousefest for the Mega Mouse Meet. I don't have a booth, I'll just be walking around. Be sure to stop me and say hi!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pecan and Pumpkin arrive at Disneyland

If you don't know who Pecan and Pumpkin are, don't worry - I didn't either until I saw this story. I did know that Pecan and Pumpkin were the two turkeys that were spared by the President this Thanksgiving.



(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

After receiving the Presidential pardons, the two "luckiest turkey's in the nation" flew on "Turkey One" to Disneyland. Pumpkin was then the grand marshall at the annual Disneyland Thanksgiving parade.

You can see video of the whole event here:



Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from the DisneyDaddy!

On this Thanksgiving Day, I wish each and every one of you a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. I hope you will take a moment to reflect on what you are thankful for this year.

What's on your Disney thankful list?

I'm thankful for the magic Walt Disney World creates every second of every day
I'm thankful for the wonderful imagination and creativity of the Imagineers
I'm thankful for the outstanding dedication of all the cast members

and finally,

I'm thankful for you -- for allowing me to share my thoughts about Walt Disney World!

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy that post-turkey nap.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Norway Viking ship to be demolished?

According to documentation from the Orange County Comptroller, a filing was made on Nov. 20 by the Walt Disney World Corp., stating the company was going to "demo viking ship, salvage props, safety deck material, back includes electrical" at the Norway pavilion in Epcot.

According to forum posts on DisneyWorldTrivia, the wood that the ship is construction of has been rotting, so this isn't a complete surprise.

So far, there's no word (rumor or otherwise) of what might replace this portion of the Norway pavilion, nor is there any word of a timeline. I wouldn't be surprised if this happens pretty soon. I'll be there in a little over a week, so I'll check it out for myself.

Let's hope something family-friendly replaces the old ship and not another DVC kiosk.

Tip Tuesday: Disney Dining Plan Secrets

In last week's Tip Tuesday, I talked about how to make the best out of those Advance Dining Reservations, or ADR's. That tip goes hand-in-hand with this week's topic -- the Disney Dining Plan.

First of all, just what is the Disney Dining Plan, or DDP? The DDP is an add-on to a Magic Your Way Package in which you can pre-pay for dining options at a considerable savings.

There are several versions of the Disney Dining Plan (these are 2008 prices):
Quick Service Dining Plan ($30 per adult/$9 per child ages 3-9): This option gives guests two quick-service meals and two snacks per day, plus a resort refillable mug.

Standard Dining Plan ($40 per adult/$11 per child ages 3-9): This option gives guests one table service meal, one quick service meal and one snack per day.

Deluxe Dining Plan ($72 per adult/$21 per child ages 3-9): This option gives guests three table service or quick-service meals and two snacks per day.

First I'll explain what each option is.

A quick-service meal can be used at any counter-service restaurant (such as Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square). These meals come with an entree, side, drink and dessert.

A table service meal can be used at any full-service restaurant (such as Le Cellier in Epcot). These meals come with entree, drink and dessert. Note that tips are not included.

A snack can be any single item from a counter-service restaurant (not including entrees), snack stand or resort store. Things like drinks, ice cream, pretzels, dole whips, etc. are snacks.

The Disney Dining Plan is a must, especially for families. You would spend that much ($40 per adult/$11 per child) at one table service meal alone. I haven't tried the counter-service plan, but it's also worth considering. Personally, I like having the option to sit down at a nice restaurant.

Now for a few secrets
As I mentioned earlier, those table service meals generally require an ADR. Also, when you dine, especially with children, the kids HAVE to order from the children's menu (adults may order from the kids menu, but not the reverse). That's not the case with counter-service meals.

Let's say you're dining at Cosmic Ray's. There are two adults and two children in your family. One child wants something from the kids menu, one from the regular menu. If all four go up and order at once, the clerks will allow two adult and two kids meals to be ordered. However, if you only order the two adult meals and a kids meal and then GO BACK and order the adult meal in a separate order, you will be able to get an adult item for a child. The dining plan doens't keep track of adult vs. child counter service meal credits. They are all lumped into one category, like the snacks. I've used this trick several times when my 9 year old son was at WDW and the kids meal was too small (or too kiddie in nature). Again, this will not work for table service credits -- those ARE tracked separately.

Now for the next secret. With all these credits -- that a LOT of food for one day. It's not unusual to not use counter service credits, especially if you have table-service dinners. What are you to do with some of those unused counter service credits? Well they're worth two snacks. That's right, you can exchange a counter-service credit for two snacks.

Understand you're not getting the same value, but if you're on the last day of your trip and you still have a few counter-service credits left over, you can hop over to your resort store and grab some snacks to take home. I used this trick on the last day of our visit in March and wound up bringing ten Mickey Rice Krispy treats home for friends and family. Those credits would have been wasted otherwise.

And for the last secret -- many of the character dining experiences only require ONE table service credit. Only a handful of restaurants require two -- Cinderella's Royal Table is one of those that takes two credits. In my opinion, Akershus is a better option and it's only one credit. The famous Le Cellier at Epcot is only one credit as well. One of these days I'll actually get an ADR there.

For a complete list of participating restaurants and which ones require two credits, see the 2008 Disney Dining Plan brochure.

Happy eating everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Restaurant Review: Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus (Epcot)

Short version: If you have kids who love Disney princesses, this is the place for you.

I have been to Walt Disney World twice (June 07 and last March) with my wife and three kids (10, 8, 6) and both times we made an ADR at Akershus, located in the Norway pavilion in Epcot.

Let me say right away that we much preferred this experience to Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom (and it was only 1 table service credit on the Disney Dining plan). I'll have a review of CRT in a future post. The food is much better and the entire atmosphere is far less rushed and hectic than CRT. When we first arrived for our reservation, it's pretty obvious this is a popular place as there are a ton of people waiting outside for a table.

Especially in the summer months, this can be a hot wait, as there is little shade around. Disney doesn't have any paging system in use here, so you have to be within earshot to hear your name called. Once you are brought inside, it's photo time with a princess, usually Ariel. These photos are available for purchase, similar to other restaurants, but guests are allowed to take their own photos if they wish.

After the photo op, guests are ushered to their table. The dinner menu features several authentic Norwegian entrees including the traditional Kjottkake, or meat cake (which I had both times -- it is outstanding and the sauce that comes with it is downright wonderful). Also available is salmon, pasta, braised lamb and a few other entrees. Before we get to the entree, first is the "salad" bar. I put that in quotes because there is much more than salad here. It's more like a salad, cold cuts and fruit bar. The salad selection is fairly standard but the cold cuts are traditional meats including fresh deli sliced ham and turkey. This is one area where my kids loved the bar.

Speaking of the kids, Akershus has them in mind for the children's menu. They offer hot dogs, cheese pizza, grilled chicken (sorry Ricky, no chicken strips or nuggets here) and a few other options - pretty kid friendly. The entrees are BIG portions. I'm not kidding. You get a TON of food, so be ready. My wife fell in love with the salmon. I tried a bite and I quickly understood why - it was quite good.

To wrap up the meal is the dessert tray. I highly recommend the traditional rice cream with strawberry sauce. It is wonderful. It's like very soft serve ice cream with soft rice mixed in. This recipie, btw, is in the Cooking with the Disney Chefs cookbook. I've tried it and it's not too tough to make.

Oh yeah, in and among all this great food are about five princesses. The princesses visiting each night do vary somewhat. Our first time there, Belle and Cinderella were not around. Our second time, they both were there, but Alice and another were not. Aurora, Jasmine and Snow White appear to be regulars.

A tip for young boys -- WATCH OUT FOR KISSING PRINCESSES! Both times we were there, one of my boys got a huge smooch on the cheek from a lipstick-laden princess (Alice and Snow White). Parents, this makes a great photo op and something embarrassing to show at your son's wedding rehearsal dinner slide show years down the road .

But wait, there's more.

The staff at Akershus is quite friendly. Especially on our first trip, we spent about a half hour (in different bits) talking to our waitress from Norway about her homeland. My wife was so taken with what our waitress told us that she now wants to visit Norway.

If you want a fun character dining experience that also offers outstanding dining, Akershus is for you. Just be ready to book that ADR in advance, as it's a popular spot.

So as the Royal Proclamation outside reads, "It shall be a magical experience for all who attend."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

WDW at the Holidays: Animal Kingdom

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.

In the next installment of my thoughts on Walt Disney World at the Holidays, we travel to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Here the holidays are in full swing as well, albeit with a bit of a jungle theme (no surprise).

Probably the highlight of the holiday-related events at Animal Kingdom would be Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade, which is very similar to the regular parade, just with a holiday overlay. Some things I'll be looking for are the stockings for the various characters and the naughty and nice list -- apparently Donald Duck has found his way onto both lists -- a neat trick. Another hidden treasure is Minnie's hot chocolate float -- the Imagineers have actually put a scent box on the float pumping out hot chocolate scents. This is just another example of the immense detail Disney puts into everything they do.

Also, I'm told the Animal Kingdom tree is something to behold. It is very African in nature and gives a very different take on holiday decorations. As a big fan of Christmas, I'm looking forward to these kinds of new experiences for the holidays.

This wraps up the holidays at the four parks -- up next will the a review of some of the resort-based holiday events.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mousefest 2008

Well my Mousefest 2008 packet finally arrived today. I have to say I'm excited to be attending my first Mousefest event. There are a number of interesting events I'm looking forward to attending, especially the Mega meet on Saturday. That is, if I ever get my Mousefest pin and lanyard away from my daughter who has caught the pin-head bug from my wife. If she see's a Disney pin, it's hers. Pin trading, by the way, is another great way to experience some Disney magic - and it can be done on the cheap, if you know how. Look for more in a future Tip Tuesday post.

I've been getting more and more involved in the online Disney community and I am very impressed with the welcome I've received from many big Disney fan names including Lou Mongello and Ricky Brigante.

I hope you all are enjoying this blog - I'm enjoying putting it together.

Of course, you can look for upcoming posts about Mousefest later next month!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Disney's "Animation Inn and Suites?"

Jim Hill Media is reporting a rumor that the unfinished portion of the Pop Century Resort (the Legendary Years) will finally be completed and the entire resort re-named to, get this, "Disney's Animation Inn and Suites."

Now anything coming from Jim Hill has to be taken with a grain (or rock) of salt. Occassionally he's right, but more often he's a little off the mark. Personally, I have a little trouble believing this one. He does cite a recent permit filed with Orange County, FL for "the installation of a model room somewhere on property for 'Disney's Animation Inn and Suites." Full disclosure here - the actual report for this filing comes from Touringplans.com.

Assuming this report is accurate (again, I am quite skeptical), this new name sounds more like Disney plans to turn the Pop Century into an Econo Lodge or La Quinta Inn. This name is not at all appealing.

The intent, so Jim Hill says, is to create a resort more appealing to families, who apparently aren't as enamored with Pop's current theming (never mind the fact that Pop has the largest rooms of all the value resorts).

Folks, take this one for what it's worth. As for me, this one's going to be filed in the "I'll believe it when I see it" folder.

What do you think -- real deal or tall tale?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy birthday Mickey Mouse!


The big cheese turns the big 8-0 today!

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.)

Mickey Mouse celebrates his 80th birthday today. It is generally accepted that Mickey was "born" when Steamboat Willie premiered at the Colony Theater in New York City Nov. 18, 1928. Here's Mickey's official Disney bio. More about the history of Mickey Mouse.

Steamboat Wille was directed by Walt himself and he even provided the voice for Mickey.

Happy Birthday Mickey! May you be the symbol of magic and youth for another 80 years!




Tip Tuesday: How to get the most out of your ADR's

Anyone planning a Disney trip probably knows this bit already: book your ADR's ASAP. (Translation for those who have no idea what an ADR is: ADR stands for Advance Dining Reservation).

In most cases, ADR's can be booked up to 180 days in advance. This most especially applies for those very popular restaurants, such as the California Grill and Cinderella's Royal Table. If you're planning to dine at one of these (and other signature) restaurants, you need to be ready to call 407-WDW-DINE right at 7 a.m. exactly 180 days in advance of when you want to dine.

That is, if you're staying OFF property. For guests staying at a Disney resort, you get a bit of a perk. Your 180 window is based on the FIRST day of your visit. I believe there is a ten-day maximum window here - check with your travel agent on this, sometimes the rules do change.

Here's an example of how this works:

Two families are going to Walt Disney World for the Fourth of July. They will arrive on July 2nd and will stay for 4 days. Each wants to book breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table (CRT) for the morning of July 4th. One is staying on property, the other is staying off-property.

The off-property family can book for CRT around January 5 (exactly 180 days out from the date of the CRT dining).
The on-property family can book for CRT around January 3 (180 days out from the first day of their visit).

So guests staying at a Disney resort book several days in advance of non-Disney resort guests.

So how can this advantage help you get a booking for those hard-to-get places? Plan to go to those special dining events a few days into your trip, not right at the beginning -- to allow that advance window to work for you. Perhaps make that special event for the final day of the trip, so that you conclude your visit with a big moment.

Not sure when your 180 day window opens? Call Disney at 407-WDW-DINE and they'll tell you. Also, there are some events that have a shorter booking window. WDWinfo.com has a booking calendar that also can help you determine when to book, although it sometimes isn't precisely accurate -- it told me my 180 window started two days earlier than Disney would allow - so keep that in mind. Also, some special events aren't subject to the early window -- so it really is a good idea to call Disney ahead of time so you know when you can book what.

This is especially useful if you're on one of the Disney Dining Plans. I'll have more on the DDP in a future post.

Happy booking!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Disney magazines

If you're like me, you can't get enough Disney news. For the past year, I've subscribed to Orlando Attractions Magazine, produced by Ricky Bringante (of the Inside the Magic Podcast) and Matt Roseboom. OAM gives news, not only about Disney, but all attractions in the greater Orlando area (and even includes Busch Gardens Tampa).

I've really enjoyed many of the articles on OAM. But now there's a new player in the Disney magazine game, and another podcaster is partially behind it.

Lou Mongello (of the WDW Radio Show Podcast) has teamed up with Tim Foster (of the Guide to the Magic Web site and books) and a few other Disney pros to create Celebrations Magazine. Like OAM, Celebrations is a bi-monthy publication. Unlike OAM, Celebrations is focused solely on Disney.

Based on the first issue, which recently was released, Celebrations looks to be an outstanding publication. The quality of the photography is incredible (it should be no surprise as Tim Devine from The Magic in Pixels is a contributor). In addition, the paper stock is a very high quality, making this a durable magazine.

So Disney fans, if you're looking to find another outlet for your Disney fix, I suggest checking out both Orlando Attractions Magazine and Celebrations Magazine. The best news of all: it appears they distribute on alternate months, so if you subscribe to both, you're sure to get a Disney fix each and every month.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Disney announces new partnership with Verizon

From an official Walt Disney World news release:

Disney is teaming up with Verizon to offer a whole new range of mobile opportunities for Verizon subscribers at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Beginning next year, guests will be able to access an array of features on
their Verizon Wireless phones while at the Walt Disney World or Disneyland
Resort to help them make the most of their Disney experiences. Planned
services include an exclusive mobile application that will give guests with
Verizon Wireless service the ability to easily locate shows, restaurants and the
Disney characters anywhere inside the Parks; get real-time attraction
availability information; access mobile games; receive messages from characters
and more. Verizon Wireless is also continuing to invest in its wireless network
from coast to coast, and the relationship with Disney means the wireless users
will benefit from further enhancements to the Verizon Wireless network in the
Parks.

In addition, guests visiting Epcot in Walt Disney World Resort in early
2009 will be among the first to experience Disney’s
Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure
. An ultra-interactive
attraction, Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure invites guests of all ages to
team up with members of Team Possible to save the world from various comical
villains and their mad inventions. Armed with an official Verizon Wireless
“Kimmunicator,” guests will use these handheld devices to help maneuver through
the mission. The interactive wireless theme park game was inspired by
Disney Channel’s Emmy® Award-winning animated series, “Kim Possible.”


Now, here's the bad news in this news release. It looks like the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure has been delayed to early 2009. I'm especially bummed about this since I was hoping to take part in this new offering while at Epcot in a few weeks. Maybe I'll luck into a soft opening.

All-in-all, this looks to be a nice addition to the parks. It's a great feature for guests to get information about the parks, especially wait times, without having to consult a tip board or an attraction itself. I hope this works as well as advertised.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

WDW at the Holidays: Disney's Hollywood Studios

Up next in my preview of the holidays at Walt Disney World -- Disney's Hollywood Studios.

What am I looking forward to seeing in person here? Well, it's the obvious: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. This show originated in the Osborne's yard in Arkansas (no, not Ozzy). His christmas decorations became so big that he bought the houses on either side of his and then expanded even further. Things got so big that people would come from all parts of the nation to see this spectacle, causing insane traffic nightmares. The town took legal action to shut down the whole thing. When Disney heard about this, they stepped in and offered to move the entire thing to Disney World. Since the 1995 move to WDW, the spectacle has become bigger and bigger, but all the original lights are still there.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.)

This is one holiday event that is near to my heart. Each year, I want to do more and more decorations (lights) outside. I'm trying to find a way to add more Disney references to the decorations. Who knows, maybe I'll get a few ideas from seeing this spectacle.

When I say this thing is huge, I really mean HUGE!!! There are about 4 MILLION lights in this event, and now they dance across the Streets of America. To top it off, "snow" falls during the evening. Best of all, this is not a hard-ticketed event (like Mickey's Very Merry), it's included with the price of admission.

This really is one I will not miss. See for yourself, check out the YouTube clip from http://www.wdwinfo.com/ below.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Disney offers huge, enormous, fantasic deal!!!

Disney has just announced an incredible deal to visit Walt Disney World in the first half 2009.

How good does it get? How about three FREE days (hotel AND tickets)!! Just book at least a four-day Magic Your Way package at a Disney resort and you'll get three extra days free. That's a seven-day vacation for the cost of four days. This applies for trips between January 1 and June 27, 2009 (April 5-18 is blacked out).

Sound too good to be true? This is the real deal -- see for yourself from the Disney Web site.

This could mean savings of over $1000, depending on where you stay.

I may just have to find a way to take advantage of this incredible offer.

There is one catch: You must book your package by December 20, 2008.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2009 Flower & Garden dates and theme announced

Disney today released the 2009 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival theme and dates.

The 2009 event will feature an elaborate “Cinderellabration” topiary. An environmentally friendly Green Garden will bring fresh springtime flair to the 16th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 18-May 31, 2009.

Each year, Disney gardeners channel their creative energy into presenting an intricate topiary display against the backdrop of Spaceship Earth. This year, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Snow White and the seven dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillip, and Belle and Beast from “Beauty and the Beast” will debut in all their “blooming finery” as the grand front-entrance topiary during the 75-day festival.

New gardens, events and children’s play areas offer more reasons to visit the 16th annual festival:

  • Green Garden– Anyone can create an environmentally friendly garden; here’s where guests will learn about low-water-use gardens, incorporating native plants into their garden and recycling.

  • Pixie Hollow – Colorful topiaries of Tinker Bell and her friends from Walt Disney Pictures’ “Tinker Bell” will sprinkle pixie dust over this playful garden designed just for kids.

  • Pirates Adventure Zone – Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Croc topiaries will lure young swashbucklers to this interactive space designed for exploration and adventure.

  • Special Environmentality Celebration (April 24-26) – This special event will showcase how to keep the planet green through solutions like reducing waste and using friendly bugs.

I went to the 2008 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival and it was really cool to see all the different character topiaries.

The above photo was a topiary design piece located along the walkway between Future World and World Showcase. There were tons more all over the park!

More information is available by calling 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639) or by visiting disneyworld.com/flower. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.

Tip Tuesday: Getting out of the Magic Kingdom after Wishes

Ok, you've watched Spectromagic and the final firework of Wishes has just faded away. You've been at that perfect spot near the Partners statue to watch Wishes. You turn around and realize there are a few thousand people between you and the exit. What do you do?

You really have two options.

Option 1: Start walking and join the long queue to leave the park and then join the long queue to wait for your bus to your resort. Not much fun.

Option 2: Stick around for about an hour to 90 minutes. Enjoy a few rides, perhaps watch Spectromagic again (if there's a second showing), and then leave the park. You will end up getting back to your hotel room only about 30 minutes later. The best news is that nearly everyone else is in the pack leaving the park, which means they're not in line. I tried this during the very heavy spring break season and found no waits for the Haunted Mansion or Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. I then watched Spectromagic from the hub and walked out to a very short bus line.

Give this tip a try the next time you're enjoying the nighttime shows at the Magic Kingdom. Spend those extra minutes enjoying the park instead of waiting for the bus.

Check back next week for another Tip Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Pressed Pennies (part 2)

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday! Yeah, I know it's Wednesday - ever had one of those days where you were behind from the first moment? Sigh.

Anyway, to business. In the last Tip Tuesday post, I told you about pressed pennies all across Walt Disney World and where you could find a list. I had a question for you -- would any old penny work? The answer is both yes and no. Sure you could use a shiny new 2008 penny and it would look good, but the best pennies are those made before 1982. Why? Well according to PennyCollector.com, pennies dated 1982 and newer create silver streaks when they are pressed. This is because newer pennies are mostly made of zinc with only a copper coating. Older pennies (pre 1982) are made mostly of copper with a little bit of zinc. Also newer pennies apparently don't polish as well.

I tried this myself and they're right.

OK, so there's a catch. A lot of times old pennies LOOK like old pennies - they're tarnished and dirty. What's the best way to clean them and get them into shiny shape before they're pressed?

The folks at PennyCollector have listed several cleaning methods. Personally, I use the vinegar/salt and baking soda method. It's a bit messy -- alright, it's very messy and the vinegar stinks, but those pennies come out really shiny!!

As for finding old pennies - isn't that what piggy banks are all about? We all have jars of coins around the house - start going through them and look for those pre-1982 coins. You'll be surprised how many you'll find. If you're going to get into collecting pressed pennies, it's a good idea to check your pennies you get as change a few times a week as you're emptying your pockets. I keep my "pressable" pennies in a baggie in a drawer - that way I know they're not for regular use. It saves time later on.

One other tip I found from the folks at PennyCollector.com, if you want to use a special year (i.e. birth year) and have that year remain on the pressed penny, place the "heads" side of the penny away from the quarters when you put them in the slots.

Have fun with your collection and check back for next week's Tip Tuesday!

Good luck and happy pressing!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ever wonder where those turkeys pardoned at the White House go?

Every Thanksgiving, two turkeys are given "pardons" by the President.

Did you ever wonder where they went next? Well for a turkey, I guess being pardoned by the President (and, thus, not being eaten) is akin to winning the Super Bowl. And where do Super Bowl winners go? You guessed it, Walt Disney World (or Disneyland)!!!

This new tradition started a few years ago at Disneyland and later Walt Disney World. Last year's turkeys are alive and well at Animal Kingdom. The turkeys to be pardoned in a month from now will go to Disneyland.

Find out much more on this interesting and unusual Thanksgiving tradition from this CNBC article.

Gobble, Gobble!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

WDW at the Holidays: Epcot


Time for another installment of what I'm looking forward to when I return to WDW in December. In a previous post, I talked about some of the holiday events I'm eager to see at the Magic Kingdom. Next up is my favorite park, Epcot.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)


Of course the big Epcot holiday event is the nightly Candlelight Processional. This event features a choir of castmembers from all across Walt Disney World. In her latest Disney holiday special, Samantha Brown interviewed a family of five who all work at WDW (none in entertainment) and all sing in the choir. Based on some of the video I've seen, it's a fantastic concert. There are three shows each night and a special celebrity reader. Since this is not a hard-ticketed event, I may have to catch this a few times.

Beyond the candlelight processional, there is Holidays Around the World. In nearly each pavilion in World Showcase, guests can meet each country's version of Santa Claus and learn more about that country's holiday traditions. As Christmas is my favorite time of year (and I play Santa for a school during the seasons -- SHHH don't tell anyone!), I really get into Santa stories and legends.
Epcot has it's share of lights, and the walkway between Future World and World Showcase is where Epcot shines best. That along with the daily lighting of the Epcot tree should be a great experience.

Epcot is known for it's music and the holidays are no different - a great Christmas music track will be a joy to listen as we walk around this park.

Check back for more of my thoughts and anticipations as the Disney holiday's approach!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Disney releases "Most Wanted" holiday gift list

From Disney Consumer Products:

According to a DCP news release, "Disney is ringing in the holidays with a dazzling selection of award-winning toys and electronics that are topping hot industry holiday lists and already generating a buzz with retailers, toy experts and parents alike. Disney's holiday toys and electronics are available at a variety of retailers nationwide, Disney Store locations throughout the U.S., and DisneyShopping.com. "

Much of the emphasis this holiday season is on (no surprises here) High School Musical 3, TinkerBell and Pixie Hollow and Hannah Montana.

So if you're looking for some Disney-related holiday ideas, check out the "most wanted" gift list.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CNBC: Anaylists fear park slowdown at Disney

From the "This isn't good news" department:

CNBC is reporting that some analysts think a slowdown is coming for the Disney parks. Due to all the current economic mess (I will leave out of this post my own thoughts on how this happened), though they did admit there is no evidence yet of a slowdown.

Personally, I don't buy it. I have a feeling park attendance is going to slightly increase or stay flat at the worst, especially from guests in the south and along the East Coast. Why? People will want to get away from all the stress in their lives and Disney is the first place that comes to mind. Trips to Europe and Hawaii are out, the airfare is too much. If they're within a decent drive time, I think Disney is a solid option, especially with gas prices continuing to drop (knock on wood that this trend will continue).

I may be an optomist - but there you are. You can decide for yourself.

Tip Tuesday: Pressed Pennies

What's flat, oval-shaped, stamped with Disney artwork and makes a wonderful and unique Disney collectible? A pressed coin! All across Walt Disney World (and Disneyland) there are hundreds and hundreds of penny press machines where guests can insert a coin and two quarters and get a unique Disney design pressed into the penny (the quarters are just for payment). They're in the parks, the resorts, the restaurants, the stores - just about anywhere on Disney property.


Here's a great example of a pressed penny, thanks to Presscoins.com.


Each penny press usually has three designs to choose from. These are great items for kids to collect - they only cost 51-cents a piece (unless the price goes up) and you can only get them at a Disney location (parks, resorts or World of Disney). Nearly every machine has a unique design, so you aren't likely to come across the same one in two different locations.

These are fun to collect and make a very good souvenir. Everytime I talk to someone who's going to WDW for the first time, I suggest they bring pennies and quarters to have on hand for the penny presses. Like I said, my kids love collecting them and it's a great excuse to go visit other locations - especially the resorts.

I can hear you saying it now: "If there are hundreds, where in the (Walt Disney) World do you find them all?" I'm glad you asked (or kept reading).

Presscoins.com has a great checklist of penny presses that they keep updating from time-to-time. Some designs have been retired to make way for new ones. If you really going to get into collecting penny presses, I highly suggest printing this list to help you keep track of which pennies you already have and which ones you want to get. Oh, and don't think you're going to get to all of them in one trip - just can't happen. There are WAAAAY too many of them.

Parents, take a tip from the DisneyDaddy - this is a great way to keep your kids engaged while at Disney and a fun way to make some memories.

Now I can hear you asking another question: "Will any old penny do?" For the answer to that, check back for next week's Tip Tuesday (and get ready to get your hands messy)!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

High School Musical 3 opens Friday

CNBC is reporting that advance ticket sales for High School Musical 3 are very strong in England, where the movie opens Wednesday, as well as in the U.S. in advance of Friday's opening day.

This is one film my kids can't wait to see. To be honest, I can't either. It's refreshing to see the musical format once again take center stage, or screen, in this case. The HSM series tells the story of a high school friendship and romance (yes through rose-colored glasses), and doesnt' have one ounce of sex, drugs violence or language. Yet it has an enormous appeal. HSM is proof that a good story really does make all the difference and that a film doesn't have to be sex, drugs and rock-and-roll to appeal to tweens and teens.

As one song in the movie states, "this is the last chance" to enjoy a good family-friendly movie.

Fabulous!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Disney Legends

Mickey and Minnie are Disney Legends -- and so are the people who provide their voices. Wayne Allwine and his wife Russi Taylor became Disney Legends at a ceremony Monday. Allwine and Taylor met while they were doing the voices for the two most popular mice in the world.

Even though Mickey and Minnie may never get married, the two voices did - and now they're Disney Legends. Also inducted were Frank Gifford, Barbara Walters and several others.

More from the official Disney news release.

WDW at the Holidays: Magic Kingdom

In this first posting about my upcoming trip to WDW for the holidays, I wanted to talk about my thoughts on the main event when it comes to holiday happenings: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

There's so much going on at Very Merry, from the parade to the fireworks to hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies to special shows. And then there's the castle itself, that's what I'm looking most forward to seeing in person. The pictures and video online look amazing, but I can only imagine what a true spectacle Cinderella's Castle looks like in person with all those lights. Mickey's Twas the Night Before Christmas show sounds interesting. That is one of my favorite holiday stories, along with Mickey's Christmas Carol. I also can't wait to see it snow on Main Street. Being from the mid-Atlantic, I've seen my share of snow, but there's just something about snow at Walt Disney World that is just amazing.


(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved.)

In the midst of all these events is another element - short lines! It's a tough choice, see the parade, stage shows, fireworks and all that, or take advantage of the opportunity to hit attractions with little wait times. Given when I'm going (early Dec.), I'll take the events, since the daytime lines are expected to be fairly short. Another element that I'm looking forward to is my kids visiting with Santa. They're getting older, so they're not as eager to sit with Santa as they used to, but I have a feeling this time they might be more eager. Besides, it's a great picture.


Speaking of pictures, anyone know what enhancements PhotoPass will have for the holidays? I know that for the Halloween season, you can add some of the Haunted Mansion ghosts to your shots.

Well, I'm sure there's so much more for me to discover at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. More thoughts on other holiday events to come!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tip Tuesday: "Tripods"

OK, so you want to get good pictures of those great fireworks during Wishes or Reflections of Earth. You have a standard point-and-shoot camera, but didn't want to lug a tripod around the parks. Mission impossible? Not really. First, think about what a tripod does: it is a steady platform on which you can take pictures with little or no motion blur. This is needed during night shots because the shutter is open for a significantly longer time than during a normal shot during the day or even with a flash. Taking fireworks pictures most times come out blurry not because the shot was out of focus, rather is was because the camera was moving while the image was being exposed. This is known as motion blur. The best way to avoid motion blur is to use a tripod... or something like a tripod.


Now think about this, a trash can is a tripod. A fence railing is a tripod. A lightpole can be a tripod (sort of). Anything solid and not moving can serve as a tripod. Just set your camera on something and take your picture trying not to move the camera at all. Best to use the timer function if you can, that way nothing is moving the camera.


Oh, one more bit -- don't use a flash. There's no way your flash can do anything at all, so don't use it. Set your camera to the night setting and make sure the flash is off. That way your camera won't think it has the flash to depend on and will expose the shot a little longer, allowing for a better shot.

The photo you see here was taken with a Sony Cybershot. I firmly gripped the camera to the side of a lightpost and used that to anchor the camera. This takes practice, but the good pictures are worth it! So happy photo taking out there!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Holidays are just around the corner

While Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is underway these days, it won't be long before Mickey changes party invitations. No more ghosts and goblins, instead there will be snow, trees, presents and holiday cheer. I'm talking about Christmas at Walt Disney World. While the signature event of the holiday season has to be Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, there are so many other holiday events inside and outside the park. Over the next few weeks, I'll share some thoughts about each. I've never been to Walt Disney World during Christmastime, but am going in early December, so I will discuss what I'm looking forward to most.


(Image copyright Disney, all rights reserved)

Think it's not too soon for the holidays? Think again as the Disney folks have been hard at work getting ready for the Christmas season since the beginning of August.


It's going to be a magical time to be at Disney. More to come in future postings!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In the Blogosphere: Disney puts improvements to Fantasyland on hold

According to Jim Hill, Disney has apparently put on hold a fairly major renovation and expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Take this news for what it is -- unconfirmed reports.

Still, it sounds plausible. I wouldn't be surprised if Disney did have some plans on the board to give some major attention to Fantasyland, which is looking rather stale. Given all the economic mess going on right now, I also wouldn't be surprised if any or all of those possible plans were put on hold.

The next few years are going to be interesting for Disney. With a mega-renovation project getting ready to start at Disney's California Adventure (DCA) and with a slew of new movie projects underway, Disney probably doesn't have all that much capital to play around with to plan projects at WDW. Toss in the falling stock prices and it's anybody's guess what could happen next.

Like the stock market, Disney fans should adopt a "wait and see" attitude.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Using a click-sharpie

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for another WDW tip. For anyone whose been at WDW and worked to get character autographs, you have encountered some general truths about the process.
  1. Standard pens don't work well - characters can't see what they're writing
  2. Regular sharpies mark all over the place

When the Sharpie folks came out with the click-sharpie, I knew this was the perfect writing tool for getting character autographs. Many characters have large hands (Mickey and Minnie are great examples), so they have a hard time signing books. With a sharpie, the line is thicker and bolder, so characters can more easily see what they are writing. But sharpies by themselves can leave marks where you (and the characters) don't want them. With the click-sharpie, a character can easily have it ready to use and then retract afterward. No lid to worry about - no fuss.

One note -- DON'T get the ultra fine point - the line it draws is too thin. The fine point is what you need.

Try this the next time you're getting character autographs. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Come back next week for another Tuesday Tip!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Calling all Disney pinheads!

Ok, time to give you a bit more about myself and my wife. In a nutshell, we're Disney pinheads. We love collecting Disney pins. We have a VERY hard time controlling ourselves when we're at WDW. If we had our way, we'd buy every pin in sight!

With this in mind, my wife was browing the official Disney pin trading Web site, when she came across two pin events that caught her eye.


The first is the Museum of Pin-Tiquities event in the summer of 2009 at Epcot. According to the Web site, the event is "presented in conjunction with the Epcot® Committee For Celebrating Disney Pins, The Department of Tradeology and Fellowship of Happy Traders, this event will feature unique Disney pins created for the Museum's opening, Disney pin trading activities, a silent and live auction of artifacts direct from the Museum's vault and much more."


The second is the Haunted Mansion Opin House at Disneyland next summer. This is in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. This looks interesting, though I don't know that we'll be able to go out to Disneyland for this event. I know some real Haunted Mansion fans, who I'm sure will try to get out there.
So for you Disney pinheads out there -- here are two events you may be interested in!

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