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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Photo Friday: Icing Art

Grand Floridian gingerbread house artwork 

Time again for another Photo Friday!

As we wrap up the holiday season, I thought I'd share one final holiday-related photo.  This is from the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian resort.  What I find most amazing about this photo is that it's drawn with icing.  That's right -- this is edible art!  I have a hard enough time trying to write "happy birthday" in icing so that it's legible to say nothing about drawing early versions of Mickey and Minnie sledding in a snow scene.

Yet another Disney detail -- it's what makes a visit to Walt Disney World during the holidays, or anytime, such a memorable experience!

Thank you so much for enjoying the blog in 2012 and I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts about Walt Disney World with you in 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

This just in... Santa's flight plan revealed!


The investigators here at DisneyDaddy have discovered some evidence to support how Santa manages to deliver all those presents to good children around the world.  We found this FAA flight plan for Santa's annual global trek on display at the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World.  As you can see, Santa's flight plan takes a winding course around the globe, mostly moving from east to west.

Incidentally, I have read before that Santa has special FAA clearance that was approved personally by the President.  This is according to former President Bush. 

In any case -- the big guy is on his way!!!

Merry Christmas to you!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Photo Friday: Christmas at lightspeed

Osborne Lights 

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

As we anxiously await Santa's big flight -- I thought this shot from the Osborne Lights might give you a feeling of Christmas at lightspeed, which is what I suspect Santa must be able to travel at in order to deliver all those gifts to all the children of the world in a single night...

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Holiday crowds and park closures

It's time for another Tip Tuesday!

As we approach what is, without a shred of doubt, the busiest time of year at Walt Disney World, I'm often asked about how to deal with the gigantic crowds at the parks.

While it's true that the parks are crowded during this time of year, it's also generally true that they're not insanely busy for every single second that the parks are open.

DisneyDaddy veterans will know what I'm about to say (and will probably say it with me):  Get there early!

I can't stress enough how important it is to get to the park well before park opening (no less than 30 minutes).  These days with many of the parks no longer having a formal opening ceremony (Magic Kingdom excepted), cast members often open the turnstiles several minutes before the official opening time. 

What you get by arriving early is a few hours of relatively low crowds.  If you examine crowd levels by the hour, you'll notice that the crowd amounts start to sharply increase around 10 a.m. and become insane before Noon, so those few hours become critical.  This is the time to get initial rides in on those attractions you or your family are most interested in experiencing.

After those golden hours are gone - what do you do next?

You've got some decisions to make and a bit of a roll of the dice as well.  Given that these are the most crowded days of the year, the parks often do (for a time) reach capacity and close to guests in phases.  While Disney won't officially say how they decide to institute a park closure,  it's suspected that when crowd levels get to the point when overall guest safety and enjoyment is becoming affected, Disney begins to limit the number of people coming into the park.  This goes in a series of phases, from 1-4.  The phases are believed to be implemented in the following ways (source:

Phase 1 Closure
Casual visitors are turned away at the automobile toll plazas. This means that people without tickets, those with one-day, single-park tickets, and those intending to use cast member passes will not be allowed to park.  The following types of guests may enter:
  • Those with multi-day or multi-park tickets
  • Those staying at a Disney Resort
  • Annual Passholders
  • Those re-entering the park that day.
  • Those "hopping" from another park.
  • Those with in-park reservations or appointments.
  • Those arriving via Disney transportation
Phase 2 Closure
Those included in Phase 1,The following guests are allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots:
  • Those staying at a Disney Resort
  • Annual Passholders
  • Those re-entering the park that day.
  • Those "hopping" from another park.
  • Those with in-park reservations or appointments.
  • Those arriving via Disney transportation
Phase 3 Closure
The following guests are allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots:
Those staying at a Disney Resort
  • Annual Passholders
  • Those with in-park reservations or appointments.
Phase 4 Closure
The park and parking lot are closed to all arriving guests.

It's important to stress here that while a park may (and often does during busy times of the year) go all the way to a phase 4 closure, such a closure doesn't automatically last all day.  It's possible that later in the day and into the evening, the crowd levels may have diminished to the point where Disney will decide to scale back the closure level or lift the closure completely.

So as you can see, depending on which criteria you meet on the list above, you could be impacted by even a phase 1 closure.  So if you decide to leave the park once the crowds get high, you very well may not be able to get back into the park, at least for a while.  This is where the roll of the dice comes into play.  If you decide to head back to your hotel/resort for a while or go off-property for a bit, will you be able to later enter the same or another park?  That's a tough call.  I can tell you that if you want to be in the Magic Kingdom for those incredible New Year's Eve fireworks, you'd better be at the Magic Kingdom in the morning and plan to be there all day long.  If you leave, you're not getting back in.

If you do end up getting shut out of one park, don't assume that all the parks are closed.  It's quite possible that you can get into another park.  Even if you can't get into a park, you can always find a lot to do at the various resorts or Downtown Disney (keep in mind that parking might be limited, so be prepared for a bit of a walk).

Also keep in mind that you don't have to be at the Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks.  There are great viewing locations along the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon, especially at the Polynesian Resort.

No matter how you decide to handle the crowds, please be calm and courteous to your fellow guests.  There may be a lot of people who are tired and grumpy, but there's no need for anyone to be rude or mean to each other.  You're in the happiest place on Earth - try to keep it that way!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Photo Friday - different view of the Castle Dream Lights

Cinderella Castle Dream Lights 

Time for another Photo Friday!

On Tuesday, I talked about ways to successfully photograph the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights.  I intentionally left off one angle I wanted to save for today -- the front shot, but not just any front shot, THE front shot.

Now you may think the photo above is easy to get.  You'd be wrong.  It's hard to tell from the photo above, but I'm just about laying down on the ground to get this angle.  Also, this is a vantage point that's hard to get to because normally it's not accessible due to the various performances going on in the evening.  I managed to get this angle after Wishes on a night when the Magic Kingdom was open fairly late. 

Surprisingly there weren't many people here even though this spot provides some different vantage points for other items, but that's for another Tip Tuesday.

So I hope you enjoy this close-up view of the Castle Dream Lights!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Photographing the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights

It's time again for another Tip Tuesday!

We'll we're in the swing of things for the holiday season and there's one thing at Walt Disney World that I absolutely have to see every holiday I'm at WDW - the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights.

I wrote about the castle lighting ceremony in a post last December, so I won't re-hash the information in that tip - be sure to check it out.  What I am talking about today is some good ways to take photos of the Castle Dream Lights.

Castle Dream Lights 

For those of you with point-and-shoot cameras, this shot may work best for you.  First, it's not too dark, so the shutter exposure will still be fairly quick.  Second, you have some good resources to use to steady the camera to avoid motion blur.  For this shot, I was standing along the bridge between Fantasyland and the hub near Cosmic Ray's.  The rail is nice and wide so you can (carefully!!) set your camera on the rail to take a steady shot.  You may want to wait for the sun set so you can capture those pretty evening colors as the light fades.

Castle Dream Lights night 

Later in the evening, you can use the same place to get a nice shot with the lights reflecting in the water.

Also remember that there are more angles of the castle than the traditional front angle.  Take this shot for instance:

Castle Dream Lights side view 

This shot was taken from the East side towards the back of the castle.  What makes this different is the lamp in the foreground and the steep angle enhancing the forced perspective of the castle.  If you have a point-and-shoot camera, this might be a bit tough. Digital SLR cameras will have a better chance of capturing this image without blur.

So there you go -- a few different ideas for how you can get those great shots of the Castle Dream Lights -- and be sure to watch for this week's Photo Friday when I'll post another shot of the Dream Lights from a different perspective.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Photo Friday: Ga-Ga's House

Ga-Ga house at Osborne lights 

It's time for Photo Friday.

This week, I'm sharing a photo that has quite a bit of personal meaning, most especially today, Dec. 7, 2012.  Today, we lay to rest my grandmother of 96 years.  I knew her as Ga-Ga.  When I saw this sign in 2010 during a visit to the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights I knew I needed to take a few shots. 

Every time I see this shot, I smile and remember the woman who (at least to me) inspired this sign.  I spent many a day at Ga-Ga's house and those fond memories will stay with me forever.

So today, this photo is dedicated to Ga-Ga.  We love you and will miss you.  Go say hi to Walt for me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tip Tuesday: Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade Spots

Mickeys Jingle Jingle Parade 

It's time (finally) for another Tip Tuesday!!

Now that the holiday season is upon us, it's time to focus on the holidays at Walt Disney World, personally my favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World.  This week, let's head over to Animal Kingdom to enjoy Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade.

If you've seen Mickey's Jungle Jammin' Parade, this holiday overlay version will look quite familiar.  Many of the same pieces are used in this holiday version of the parade.  The Imagineers have added a few new surprises including the Minnie Mouse float which sprays out the scent of hot chocolate.  Also see if you can spot Donald Duck's name on both the nice and naughty lists. 

Mickeys Jingle Jingle Parade 
One thing to bear in mind is that the sun will be lower in the western sky during December.  So unless you want to spend your time shading your eyes, you'll want to find a spot that will be up-sun (West) of the parade route.  On the map above, I noted a few key locations that I think are good spots.  Thes also are good locations for photography where the lighting should be better.  These are some prime spots, so you'll want to find your location at least 30 minutes before the parade starts (check your daily times guide for parade start times).  This is especially true for the two locations on the inside of Discovery Island near "It's Tough to Be a Bug."  Once you're in place, you're committed because you really can't get out. 

While Animal Kingdom might not be the first park that comes to mind when you think of the holidays at Walt Disney World, it still is a great park to visit for some holiday merriment. 

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