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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Movies on the beach

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

I just returned from another trip to Walt Disney World and have some new tips to share.

This week, we'll talk about another of those often overlooked free experiences at the various Disney resorts -- movie night.

At most resorts, cast members will put up some sort of screen and projector and play Disney movies beginning around dusk. These are completely free to attend and it's a lot of fun - just check your resort information sheet you received in your check-in packet to see what movies are playing and when. At most resorts, movies are playing nearly every night.

Most of the time, movies are shown at a beach or pool area. For instance, the Yacht & Beach Clubs and the Boardwalk share a movie location -- the beach area at Crescent Lake. The Grand Floridian and Polynesian share a location as well -- the beach area in between both resorts near the Grand Floridian pool. The Fort Wilderness campground has the location with probably the biggest screen -- it's shaped, appropriately, like a campfire circle complete with wooden benches.

Just remember that these movies play at night, and depending on when you're visiting Walt Disney World, it can get cool once the sun goes down, especially during the winter months -- so you may want a blanket or jacket. Also keep in mind that it can get a bit buggy in the evening, depending on which resort you're staying at.

If you do plan to catch an outdoor movie showing, you'll want to be in place at least 15-20 minutes ahead of time to get a good seat. Sometimes cast members will start playing trailers a bit early so that the feature presentation begins at the scheduled start time.

The night we watched a movie -- Cars was playing. It was fun to watch some of the "coming soon" trailers for movies that already have come and gone to the theaters.

I've said before that there's so much more to Walt Disney World than just the parks, and the outdoor movie series is just another example, so give it a try!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Electrical Water Pageant

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

It's the oldest nighttime experience at Walt Disney World and it doesn't even require a park ticket to enjoy - in fact it's not even in the parks!

Of course, I'm talking about the Electrical Water Pageant, which first premiered October 26, 1971 (thought it was not available on opening day, Oct. 1, 1971).

The Water Pageant, originally created to celebrate the dedication of the Polynesian Luau, can be seen nightly (weather permitting) along the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. It usually begins it's performances around 9 p.m., unless there are fireworks set for the same time at the Magic Kingdom. In that case, the Water Pageant will begin about 20 minutes later.

The Water Pageant consists of 14 small barges, each containing two sets of lights arranged to form different shapes and set to music from Disney songs from The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan (among others). Most include some simple form of animation.

The first four displays create a sea serpent breathing fire, followed by a whale spouting water, a turtle taking a drink from the water, an octopus waving his arms, three jumping dolphins, a dinosaur chomping on some greenery, a crocodile and finally King Triton being in his chariot being led by four seahorses.

After these 14 barges complete scene one, all the barges change to display either the United States flag or a set of stars, while playing patriotic music.

In total, the Electrical Water Pageant runs less than 10 minutes. The first performance usually begins in front of the Grand Floridan Resort around 9 p.m. The best place to watch is by the dock near Narcoosee's (if you have an ADR at Narcoosee's for that time - it's a great vantage point). Following the Grand Floridian, the pageant moves to the Polynesian at around 9:15, the Wilderness Lodge around 9:40, Fort Wilderness around 9:50 and the Contemporary (Bay Lake side) a little after 10 p.m. If there Magic Kingdom is still open around 10:20, the Water Pageant will have a final performance in front of the main gate.

These are general times. Check with the concierge desk or guest services at any of the Magic Kingdom area resorts for specific times the day you plan to see the pageant.

While it's a simple show, especially considering all the advances lately in audio-animatronics, the Electrical Water Pageant is a nostalgic reminder of the origins of Walt Disney World and one evening activity not to be missed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Looking to get wet?

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Well the temperatures in Florida again are topping 90+ degrees each day, so I thought I'd take a moment to help you find ways to get wet order to cool off a bit (of course, being summer, mother nature might just help out with a few showers, but I'm going to focus on Disney-made splash-action.

Of course, the most obvious "get wet" places are the two water parks, Blizzard Beach and typhoon Lagoon. Being water parks, getting wet is the whole point, so I'm going to skip over these.

So let's start at the parks... I'll rank each opportunity into one of three categories: soaked, a bit wet and sprinkles.

Magic Kingdom:
At the Magic Kingdom, the #1 get-wet spot has to be Splash Mountain (wet to soaked). Depending on how your log takes the 40-foot drop and where you're sitting, you could get a good dousing of water. Actually, there are several mini-drops along the way which can get you fairly wet as well. Splash Mountain is a very popular attraction, especially in the warmer months, so you'll want to think about using FastPass.

In Adventureland, there are two opportunities to get wet. The first is the Magic Carpets of Aladdin (wet to sprinkles). As you fly around Agrabah, there is a gold camel facing into the attraction. At certain times, the camel will spit water at passing carpets. If you happen to be at the right height at the right time, you could get a good splash. There's another camel that spits at passers by near the sign to the attraction.

The other location is the tiki statues (wet to sprinkles) in between the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the Jungle Cruise. Like the spitting camels, the tiki statues occasionally spit water onto those standing nearby. This is a popular attraction with young children.

Speaking of the Jungle Cruise (sprinkles), there is a small opportunity to get a bit wet as you pass by the backside of water. If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a cruise and you'll find out quickly.

Staying in Adventureland, Pirates of the Caribbean (sprinkles) features a short drop in pitch blackness where some guests sitting on the sides might get a bit splashed.

(Note: with the demise of Mickey's Toontown Fair, the Magic Kingdom lost a kids water play zone at Donald's Boat (wet to soaked), where kids could play in water fountains.)

There aren't many get-wet opportunities in Epcot, and only one is associated with an attraction. The attraction with the greatest possibility is Malestrom (wet to sprinkles) in the Norway pavilion. This attraction features a decent flume-style drop with a splash at the end. Some guests, mostly on the sides, might get somewhat splashed.

The other get-wet spot is across from the Kim Possible sign up location along the walkway between Future World and World Showcase (wet to soaked). This is a typical water spot where kids can jump and run through spraying water, similar to what was at Donald's Boat at the Magic Kingdom. Depending on how much you play in the water, you can get a good soaking here.

A third get-wet spot is at the upper level outside of the Imagination pavilion (wet to sprinkles). The location features a series of dancing waters. Depending on where you stand, you can get fairly wet, if you want to.

Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios probably is the park that's hardest to get wet in as there are very few opportunities to do so. About the only option is the Backlot Tour (wet to sprinkles), and it really depends on where you end up standing or sitting.

In the opening portion of the Backlot Tour, Disney recreates a scene from the movie Pearl Harbor, in which a few selected guests don waterproof outfits and are subsequently drenched in a torrent of water. While the selected guests stay dry, you might not. During the scene, there are a few water explosions. Depending on where you're standing, you might just get a pretty decent splash.

Later on, you'll enter Catastrophe Canyon to witness a disaster scene. As part of the action, another torrent of water comes raging in front of your tram. While you won't really get all that wet, those sitting on the left side might get a few good splashes.

That's about it for Hollywood Studios when it comes to getting wet. But I've saved the biggest for last...

Animal Kingdom
When it comes to getting wet at the theme parks, there's one attraction that soaks them all: Kali River Rapids (soaked to flat-out drenched). If there's one place where you're pretty much guaranteed to get wet, it's here. It's also the only get-wet location in Animal Kingdom.

At Kali River Rapids, guests are launched on 12-person rafts into the turbulent Chakarandi River for a wild, wet ride through a jungle habitat jeopardized by illegal logging. Along the way, the waters get wilder and wilder, culminating in a brief, but drenching drop. Depending on where you are when you go down that drop, you could literally get soaked through to your underwear. If you're facing backwards when you go down, get ready because you're in trouble. Don't worry, everyone else will still get pretty wet.

But wait, there's more... the parks aren't the only place to get wet.

Each Disney resort has an outstanding pool (some have more than one) which offer lots of opportunities to take a dip and cool off. My personal favorite is Stormalong Bay at the Beach/Yacht Club (see photo at the top of this post). Another great pool is at the Polynesian Resort.

There's even an opportunity to get a little wet at Downtown Disney. Keep an eye on the huge Stitch statue at the East end of the World of Disney Store. At times, he will spit water on passers by.

So there you go. If you're in the mood to get a little wet, here are some great options to do so!

Stay cool out there and don't forget the sunscreen and water!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Off Kilter

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

In my continuing series on hidden treasures at Walt Disney World, I want to head over to the Canada pavilion at Epcot to highlight another wonderful hidden treasure that all-too-many people walk right past and don't take the time to enjoy.

I'm talking about Off Kilter. No, not me (though some say I've been a little off-kilter for a while...), rather the excellent band called Off Kilter.

Off Kilter was created in 1997 by Jamie Holton and Mark Weldon. Holton is a singer and bagpipe player from Ormond Beach, FL. When he was 11, he took an interest in the bagpipe and by the time he was 16, Holton was playing at major Highland games and bagpipe competitions around the world.

Mark Weldon hails from Cork County, Ireland where he toured with many bands before coming to the U.S. Weldon plays the drums and bass guitar.

When he was 20, Holton began to work at Downtown Disney when he and Weldon got the idea to form Off Kilter as a Celtic rock band. Disney approved the idea and the band has been playing at Epcot ever since.

Also in the band are drummer Scott Zymowski, keyboard player Tony Escapa and lead guitarist Randy Holbrook.

Off Kilter's music is a fun toe-tapping mashup of traditional Celtic bagpipe music and good old-fashioned rock-and-roll. The end result are songs you can't help but bob your head, tap your toes, smile and laugh to. There is quite a bit of audience interaction and it's all live. These guys really do know how to have fun and their songs are just another example of what World Showcase really is all about - live performances.

Off Kilter usually plays in the afternoons and early evenings most days at a stage just south of the main Canada pavilion, near the entrance to the old Millennium Village. Be sure to check the daily times guide for performance times. Most shows run around 30 minutes.

If you want to get a sneak peek at Off Kilter, be sure to check out their website at and click on the "music" links. You can hear a few samples of different songs from different albums. Speaking of albums, this is another opportunity to take home some of the great music you hear at Walt Disney World. Off Kilter has produced (as of this writing) five albums you can purchase. My personal favorite is the live album - it's the most fun and is the best example of what Off Kilter really is like.

Here's a bit of video from the folks at Orlando Attractions Magazine.

The next time you're in Epcot's World Showcase, be sure to take the time to enjoy the Celtic rock of Off Kilter.

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