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Friday, February 26, 2010

Pin center at MK is moved from Uptown Jewelers

The official Disney pin blog recently announced that one of the main pin centers at the Magic Kingdom will no longer be at the Uptown Jewelers. The pin center has been moved to the Magic Kingdom tip board area at the end of Main Street U.S.A. in between the hub and Casey's Corner.

Based on some of the pictures on the blog, it looks as if this new location will be more like a kiosk than a store. I have a feeling this means the new main pin center now will be at the Frontierland Trading Post. If you're looking for some of the more limited pins, Frontierland sounds like it's your best bet now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A sad day for Orlando theme park fans

Today is a sad day for fans of any Orlando-area theme parks. A trainer at Sea World was killed in an accident involving an Orca, commonly known as a killer whale. While I'm not going to speculate on what happened (there are plenty of media-types already doing that), I do want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the trainer and to the Sea World family overall.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Disney's Magical Express

Disney's Magical Express

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was named the Biggest Disney Fan by United Vacations. As part of this special trip, my family and I will be flying to WDW (we usually drive). Since we are flying, I will be again taking advantage of Disney's Magical Express service (DME). The last time I used DME was in the summer of 2007 during my family's first visit to WDW.

For those who might not know what Disney's Magical Express is, I'll give a brief description. Disney's Magical Express is a free service Disney for on-property resort guests to provide transportation to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO). To use DME, guests need to make an advance reservation, and provide your flight information and resort reservation number. If you're using a travel agent, they can take care of the DME reservation for you.

The beauty of Disney's Magical Express (aside from free transportation to your resort from the airport), is that your bags will be taken directly to your room. You don't need to go through baggage claim at MCO. Just check your bags at your departure airport and forget about them. They'll be in your room, usually within a few hours after you check in, sometimes faster. During my summer 2007 trip, our bags actually beat us to the room.

About a month before your departure date, you will receive your DME vouchers and baggage tags. It's important to put these tags on your luggage because these tags are the key to your luggage making it to your room.

Once you arrive at MCO, take the shuttle from your airside terminal to the main terminal. Proceed to the B-side of the main terminal and go to Level 1. You will find the Disney's Magical Express check-in desk. After showing your voucher to the attendant, you will be directed to a line for your particular resort. There may be a short wait (usually less than 20 minutes) for the next bus to arrive. Climb aboard, because you're heading to Walt Disney World!

Once you get to your resort, just grab your carry on bags, tip the driver ($1-$2) if you wish, and head inside to check in. Before long, you'll have your Key to the World cards and you're ready to hit the parks!

There are some drawbacks to using Disney's Magical Express service. The biggest one is time. It does take some time to wait at the airport for the next bus to arrive, then to travel to WDW (around 20-30 minutes) and to drop you off at your resort. It is possible the bus will go to other resorts first, it just depends on who's on the bus. I've heard some occasional reports of 2+ hours from the time a guest arrived at MCO to the time they made it to their resort. The last time I used DME, it took about an hour from the time I landed to the time I was at our resort.

It's a matter of how much your time is worth. If you're concerned using DME might take too long, you can take a taxi or a shuttle. It's a good idea to make that decision before you make your DME reservation.

The other main drawback also is time-related. If you're arriving at MCO very early (before 5 a.m.) or very late (after 10 p.m.), you will need to first go to baggage claim and get your luggage before heading down to the DME check in desk. This will add to the amount of time it takes to get to your resort and you will have to manage your luggage.

A third drawback is that DME only is available for guests flying into and out of Orlando International Airport (MCO). There is no DME service for the other major airport in the Orlando area, Sanford International Airport.

But wait, there's more...

Disney's Magical Express also comes in very handy on your return trip home. If you're using DME, you can check in your luggage at your resort check in desk instead of waiting in line at the airport, if you're flying on certain partner airlines - see the DME FAQ for more. That's a huge stress-saver! You will get a notice telling you when you need to board the DME bus to return to MCO (usually 3 hours in advance of your flight, 4 hours for international flights). Disney allows plenty of time so you can get through security and make it to your gate.

So the next time (or first time) you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World, and you're flying into MCO, and will be staying on-property, give Disney's Magical Express a thought. It's free and makes getting to and from the airport much easier.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Talking Disney

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

For about a year and a half, I've been posting different tips and thoughts about Walt Disney World. In many of these tips, I've been using Disney "lingo" that is common-speak among serious Disney enthusiasts. Most are acronyms that would make no sense of you didn't know the meaning.

After a conversation today with a friend who works at Disney, I realized that I need to take a little time out and give you a bit of a Disney Fan Dictionary, much like a chat lingo dictionary, especially for those who are not constantly immersed in all things Disney.

So here we go!

WDW = Walt Disney World. Where all the magic happens. It also claims to be the world's #1 vacation destination.

MK = Magic Kingdom. The first park to open at WDW (opened Oct. 1, 1971). Modeled after Disneyland in California, the MK is roughly twice as large as Disneyland.

EPCOT (now Epcot) = Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. This was Walt Disney's ultimate dream. A Utopia-like city in which people would live, work and play. Sadly, Walt's true dream for EPCOT died when he did in 1969. In Oct. 1982, a different vision of EPCOT opened at WDW, making it WDW's second park. This EPCOT combined a land dedicated to the future (Future World) and a land dedicated showcasing the nations of the world (World Showcase).

DHS = Disney's Hollywood Studios. The third park to open at WDW (opened May 1, 1989). It was originally called Disney's MGM Studios, but was renamed DHS in January 2008.

AK = Animal Kingdom. The last park to open at WDW (opened April 22, 1998). Animal Kingdom is the largest park at WDW by far.

DTD = Downtown Disney. Originally known as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, the area underwent a few name changes before being called Downtown Disney in 1997.

DCL = Disney Cruise Line. First introduced in June, 1998, the DCL initially consisted of two ships, the Magic and Wonder. DCL is in the process of constructing two new ships, the Dream and Fantasy.

ABD = Adventures By Disney. First announced in the summer of 1995, ABD offers guided tours at several destinations across the globe, all with a Disney touch.

DME = Disney's Magical Express. A special service provided by Disney for on-property guests. DME is a complimentary shuttle bus taking guests to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO).

ADR = Advanced Dining Reservation. As the name suggests, this is a dining reservation that is made in advance (up to 180 days for most restaurants). ADR's are highly recommended as restaurants at WDW get filled up quickly, especially more exclusive dining options like Cinderella's Royal Table, Le Cellier or the California Grill. Call 1-407-WDW-DINE or go online to to make ADR's

AP = Annual Passholder. Disney (like many other attractions across the nation) offers a special pass that allows guests to pay one fee to visit Walt Disney World as often as they like within a 365-day period. AP holders often receive additional discounts on lodging, food and shopping. For more, see the Walt Disney World Passholder Program page.

TIW = Tables in Wonderland. The TIW program allows guests to purchase a discount card whereby guests can save 20% of table-service dining. The card costs about $100, though discounts for AP holders and Florida residents are available.

EMH = Extra Magic Hours. Every day a park at WDW opens one hour early or stays open up to three hours late exclusively for resort guests. This is an extra benefit of staying on-property.

DVC = Disney Vacation Club. Walt Disney World offers a timeshare-like option for frequent visitors, where guests can purchase a certain amount of points that can be used each year to secure lodging at different resorts all across WDW. For more about DVC, see the DVC Web site.

IASW = it's a small world. (note the all lower case name). First envisioned for the 1964-65 World's Fair, IASW came to Disneyland after the World's Fair closed. IASW is one of several opening day attractions at WDW's MK on Oct. 1, 1971.

HM = Hidden Mickey(s). A hidden Mickey is any Mickey Mouse shape that is embedded, or hidden, anywhere at WDW (as well as other parks and DCL). There are hundreds, if not thousands of HM's all over WDW. For a catalog of reported HM's see Dr. Steve Barrett's Hidden Mickeys Guide.

CM = Cast Member(s). The heart and soul of the Disney Parks. Anyone who works for Disney is a cast member.

HISTA = Honey I Shrunk the Audience. 3-D film attraction located at the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot's Future World.

BTMRR = Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Located in Frontierland in the MK, BTMRR simulates a railroad adventure through a mining town.

POTC = Pirates of the Caribbean. Located in Adventureland in the MK, it is one of the most popular and beloved attractions at the MK, POTC inspired the film of the same name, which, in turn, inspired an update to the original attraction. The Disneyland version of POTC is much longer than the MK version and has a different story order.

TTA = Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Located in Tomorrowland at the MK, the TTA was originally known as the WEDWay People Mover.

TTC = Ticket and Transportation Center. Not to be confused with the TTA, the TTC is a central transportation hub for the Magic Kingdom area of WDW.

TSMM = Toy Story Midway Mania. Opened in 2009, TSMM is a wildly popular attraction at Pixar Place in DHS. This attraction features a 3-D arcade game. TSMM most likely is the most popular and most crowded attraction in all of WDW.

TOT = Tower of Terror. Based on the famous Twilight Zone show, the TOT takes guests on a ride with a runaway elevator.

RNRC = Rock'N Rollercoaster. Featuring the band Aerosmyth, the RNRC uses linear induction motors to launch guests into the attraction. RNRC is the largest and fastest "dark ride" in all of WDW.

F&G = Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival. This event takes place every Spring and early Summer at Epcot and features different themed topiaries and gardening exhibits. For more, see the Flower & Garden Festival Web site.

F&W = Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival. This event takes place every fall and features cuisine from all corners of the globe. For more, see the Food & Wine Festival Web site.

MNSSHP = Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. This is a special hard-ticketed event at the MK that features different ghosts and goblins as well as some of the best trick-or-treating you will ever find. A special parade and nighttime fireworks show are part of the festivities. For more on MNSSHP, see the event's Web site.

MVMCP = Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a special hard-ticketed event at the MK that features the ultimate in holiday decorations and activities. Guests can enjoy free hot chocolate and cookies all night and can see a special parade and nighttime fireworks show. For more on MVMCP, see the event's Web site.

I'm sure there are more bits of Disney lingo that I've left off, so be sure to post a comment and add your bit of lingo!

Until next time -- HAMD!!! (Have a magical day!!!)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The "electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds" are returning

Main Street Electrical Parade

Today Disney held a news conference to announce some new events taking place this summer at Walt Disney World -- and to announce the return of an old friend.

The “Main Street Electrical Parade” will once again light up the streets of Magic Kingdom , kicking off a season of after-dark excitement coming to Walt Disney World Resort.

“After the sun goes down, our Walt Disney World parks will light up the night with ‘Summer Nightastic!’, ” announced Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort, in a news release.
With floats and characters appearing for the first time at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s “Main Street Electrical Parade” returns with its joyous sights and sounds. Direct from Disneyland and marking its first engagement in Florida since 2001, the cherished parade will be led by Tinker Bell waving from the basket of a magical balloon aboard a new float. Pinocchio and Snow White join the parade this summer, aboard bright new floats. Disney’s “Main Street Electrical Parade” is set for its summer-long nighttime premiere in early June at Magic Kingdom.

But Disney didn't stop there. They announced even more summer excitement.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror will welcome “drop-ins” this summer with even more pulse-racing surprises. New lighting effects and the addition of a new drop sequence, created especially for “Summer Nightastic!”, will bring unexpected frights to guests who step into that all-too infamous service elevator.

And what's a "Summer Nightastic" without fireworks? The Magic Kingdom will have a all-new fireworks show.

Personally, I'm hopeful I will be able to see the return of The Main Street Electrical Parade. I can barely remember seeing this amazing show when I was a young child on my first trip to Walt Disney World in the late 70's.

I can only hope that the guest response will be so positive that Disney will let those "electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds" play for even longer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Earl of Sandwich

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Over the past few weeks, I've been talking about some of the great things to do at Downtown Disney. In honor of my friend Lou Mongello, who can't go ten minutes without talking about food, this week's tip is all about food at Downtown Disney, and specifically one restaurant in particular, the Earl of Sandwich.

Sub shops are probably nothing new to anyone. There are all kinds of sub shops nearly on every corner. So why is a sub shop at Downtown Disney such a big deal?

To be honest, I can't tell you -- other than the fact that you will have one of the best subs ever.

I've been to the Earl of Sandwich several times and I still can't place why their subs are so much better than other places. But they are. Both my wife and I just rave over these subs and now we sometimes go to Downtown Disney just to visit the Earl.

I'm not alone in my opinion. Go to the restaurant most any day and the lines will be nearly out the door. It's probably the most popular quick service restaurant at Downtown Disney. I've also seen many Facebook comments raving about the Earl.

Now that McDonald's is leaving Downtown Disney to be replaced by a Pollo Campero, I suspect the lines at the Earl of Sandwich will get even longer.

If you do plan to dine at the Earl of Sandwich, you might want to have a friend save you a seat while you're ordering - or plan to eat outside.

Better yet, just get it to go and have a nice picnic back at your resort.

What do you think? Take this month's poll. Which is the best quick service restaurant at Downtown Disney?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Pin Traders

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

As I continue my series about Downtown Disney, I thought I'd share a quick tip about pins and pin trading at Downtown Disney. This will be very different from my previous Tip Tuesday post about pin trading the family fun way (meaning trading with cast members).

This is for serious pin collectors. You have been warned.

Located across from Once Upon a Toy and next to Goofy's Candy Co. is the Pin Traders shop. If you're looking for pins at Downtown Disney, this is the place to do it. The shop is similar to a huge gazebo with pins arranged completely around the circular center and walls. Tons of standard and limited edition pins can be found here as well as some exclusive pins.

A little clarification about pins here, I think, is warranted.

The pins you can purchase online at represent there merest fraction of the total number of pins available at Walt Disney World (and Disneyland). There are so many pins available that I would be amazed if someone actually has them all (though I'm sure serious collectors are trying pretty hard to do so).

If you find a pin you've been searching for or that you like, you may want to grab it, as pins do sell out and are retired.

Now, there's another way to acquire pins that doesn't involve money, but it does require some bartering material -- pin trading. Serious pin trading.

Disney provides several tables where pin collectors can display their collections and make trades. This is where the warning for novice collectors comes in -- if you're not a serious collector, you can easily be intimidated by these pro collectors. I'm not saying don't trade, just be sure you know what you're doing. I've tried a few times to trade and I kept coming away with the feeling I was being swindled. Maybe it's just me.

Anyway -- for you serious pin collectors out there, the Pin Trading shop is a fun way to share and enjoy pin trading. So grab that huge pin collection and head out to the Pin Trading shop - you never know what you might find.

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