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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Looking back at the past five years

It's hard to believe that just over five years ago, I decided somewhat on a whim to start the Disney Daddy blog.  At the time, I was an avid listener to two Disney podcasts, WDWRadio and InsideThe Magic.  I also was an active participant on a couple of Disney fan forum sites.  On the evening of Sept. 23, 2008, I was reading about the launch that day of the new "What Will You Celebrate" campaign, where Disney was giving free one-day, one-park admission to anyone on their actual birthday.  At that time, I had only been to Walt Disney World twice (not counting my first visit some 25 years prior), but I caught the Disney bug - big time (rest assured, I'm not cured and I have no intention of kicking this bug). Anyway, I had some thoughts to share and decided on the spot to create a Disney blog called Disney Daddy.  A few minutes later, I had my first post up on  Back then, I had no idea how the blog would transform my love for Disney and all the incredible friends I would make along the way.

Alright, let's skip forward in time to today where Disney is ironing out the bugs with the new My Disney Experience program, and is transforming the way guests experience Walt Disney World and, I suspect, other Disney parks in the future.

A lot has happened in the last five years, both personally and in the Disney company.  I thought we'd have some fun and take a brief look back at some of the highlights.

  • Disney announces the What Will You Celebrate Campaign
  • New DVC at the Contemporary Resort is announced - called Bay Lake Towers
  • "Tip Tuesday" posts begin
  • The final MouseFest event is held in December
  • My first appearance on the WDW Radio Show with Lou Mongello (remember the pressed pennies episode?)
  • Toy Story Mania! opens at Hollywood Studios
  • The often-maligned "hand and wand" was removed from aside Spaceship Earth at Epcot.
  • Number of WDW trips:  2
  • Disney partners with Verizon to create mobile Disney parks site
  • Launch of Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure at Epcot
  • D23 is announced and the first D23 Expo takes place in September
  • Disney announces massive expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World
  • American Idol Experience opens at Hollywood Studios
  • Online resort check-in service begins
  • Horrible late-night monorail accident results in the death of a cast member - begins massive changes in how the monorails are operated
  • I am named "Disney's Biggest Fan" by Disney and United Vacations
  • Multiple appearances on the WDW Radio Show
  • Number of WDW trips:  2
  • "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" is announced (and subsequently ends just 10 weeks later from overwhelming demand)
  • I complete my first-ever half marathon at Walt Disney World
  • Fantasyland expansion project begins
  • Multiple appearances on the WDW Radio Show
  • Honey I Shrunk the Audience at Epcot is replaced by the return of Captain EO
  • Main Street Electrical Parade returns to the Magic Kingdom, replaces Spectromagic
  • Disney's Wide World of Sports center is renamed and branded as the ESPN Wide World of Sports
  • Number of WDW trips:  4
  • Walt Disney World turns 40... and so do I
  • Photo Friday posts begin
  • George Lucas joins Bob Iger to officially open Star Tours:  The Adventures Continue at Hollywood Studios
  • New Avatar-themed land is announced for Animal Kingdom
  • I contribute to a summer 2011 article about the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World in Southern Living Magazine
  • Second D23 Expo takes place in California to mixed reviews
  • Many more appearances on the WDW Radio Show
  • Number of WDW trips:  2
  • I complete my first-ever full marathon at Walt Disney World
  • Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card game begins
  • Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is rebranded to Agent P's World Showcase Adventure
  • New double Dumbo opens in new Storybook circus area
  • Snow White's Scary Adventures closes to make room for new princess meet and greet area
  • Art of Animation Resort opens
  • Construction begins on new DVC resort at the Grand Floridian Resort
  • Several appearances on the WDW Radio Show
  • Number of WDW trips:  2
  • Most of the new Fantasyland opens (the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster remains under construction)
  • Newly reimagined Test Track opens at Epcot
  • My Disney Experience begins testing
  • New RFID-enhanced tickets are used, eliminating the need for traditional turnstiles
  • My Magic Bands debut along with FastPass+
  • Number of WDW trips: 1
  • First ever trip to Disneyland/California Adventure

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Photo Friday: Climbing the Matterhorn

Climbing the Matterhorn 

Time again for another Photo Friday!

This week, we're staying with the string of Disneyland-related photos from my trip this past June.  One fine clear day, I happened to catch the mountain climbers atop the Matterhorn in Fantasyland.  This is a fun sight to see as this group of cast members take turns climbing up and down the side of the Matterhorn mountain.  The only hitch, as you can see, is that their presence disturbs the forced perspective built into the summit of the mountain.

But it's still a neat shot and a fun thing to see in person if you get the chance!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

DisneyDaddy returns to the WDW Radio Show

Once again, I had the distinct pleasure to appear again on the WDW Radio Show with Lou Mongello.  In this show, we discuss the hidden treasures of Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Be sure to give the show a listen, and my great thanks to Lou for having me on the show again!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An entire Walt Disney World vacation without the parks

Welcome back for another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I want to expand upon a comment my good friend Lou Mongello made during a recent show we recorded in July about how you could have an entire Walt Disney World vacation and not even set foot in the theme parks.

Well, I thought I'd actually map out a four-day vacation and not have one minute in any of the four theme parks or the two water parks, so let's get started!!  First, we are staying at the Beach Club.

Day 1:
La NoubaOur opening day begins with a drive to the Polynesian Resort for a nice breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants - 'Ohana.  Here we get to meet a few characters, so we do get to experience a little bit of the Disney characters (hey, you've got to meet the mouse while you're at WDW).  Since we're not in a hurry, we can take our time enjoying the Polynesian resort after breakfast and saunter along the Walkway around the World running along the western shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, taking in the late morning sights of the Contemporary across the water.  As we enter the Grand Floridian, we will visit some of the shops in the main lobby building before we hop on the monorail to return to the Polynesian and to our car where we then drive to the Walt Disney World Speedway for a few laps at the Richard Petty Driving Experience!

Following our adventure on the track, we return to our resort for a relaxing afternoon at Stormalong Bay, enjoying the pool and/or a few chapters of a book before returning to our room to change for the evening's activities, which include dinner at Fulton's Crab House before heading over to catch a performance of La Nouba.  Following this outstanding show, we enjoy a few drinks (with a designated driver, of course) at the House of Blues before returning to the resort for the night.

WDW golf Day 2:
Day 2 begins with a morning tee time at one of Disney's PGA quality golf courses for an 18-hole round of golf.  By the time we come off the course, it will be early afternoon, so we'll catch lunch at the ESPN Club at the Boardwalk.  After lunch, we'll return to the Beach Club for a couple hours of downtime and to change for the evening's activities including another round of golf, this time the ever-challenging Fairways course at Fantasia Gardens.  After a successful round of mini-golf, we'll hop over to dinner at BlueZoo at the Dolphin.  We'll wrap up the day watching Illuminations from the bridge between the Boardwalk and Yacht Club resorts.

fishingDay 3:
It's an early rise for day 3 as we arrive at the Polynesian Resort before dawn for a half-day of fishing on the Seven Seas Lagoon.  By the time we return to the shore, we'll have enough time for a small lunch at Captain Cook's before returning to the Beach Club for a bit of pool time and clean up.  Then it's off to Fort Wilderness for an evening of fun at the Hoop-De-Do Revue (the 6pm show).  Depending on how long Hoop-De-Do runs, we might have time for a nighttime carriage ride before heading over to the Port Orleans Resort for an evening of hilarity with that ever-amazing entertainer Yee Haw Bob!

Grand 1 Day 4:
Our final day at Walt Disney World begins with a leisurely breakfast at the Cape May Cafe followed by a morning photo session at the Beach Club with a PhotoPass photographer.  Afterward, we'll return to Downtown Disney for some serious shopping at the World of Disney and many more stores before enjoying the almost obligatory lunch at Earl of Sandwich followed by a frozen drink from Goofy's Candy Company.  We'll return to the Beach Club for a brief bit before heading over to the Grand Floridian for a late afternoon spa session and then an early dinner at Narcoossee's.  After dinner, it's time for the grand finale as we board the Grand 1 yacht and spend a few hours motoring around Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon, watching Wishes and enjoying a close-up view of the Electrical Water Pageant.  We'll wrap up our trip by returning to the Beach Club and then strolling over to JellyRolls for a few drinks and a bit of dueling pianos.

So there you go - an entire four-day trip to Walt Disney World and not one second in a theme park - and I didn't even get in all the other things to do!!

Proof positive that there really is so much more to Walt Disney World than just the parks. 

DVC resort coming to the Polynesian

Polynesian Resort 

DVC fans are rejoicing as Disney as officially confirmed that a DVC resort is coming to the Polynesian Resort in the Magic Kingdom area at Walt Disney World.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, construction is set to begin shortly (some initial construction may already have begun) with completion expected sometime in 2015.  This is the 13th DVC resort and is the final Magic Kingdom-area resort to have a DVC connection.  This new DVC resort area will be located where the stage for the Spirit of Aloha show was originally located.

Disney also announced they would be renovating other parts of the Polynesian Resort, though the company did not give any further details.

So with the completion of the Polynesian DVC, which DVC resort would you most like to stay at? What is the most important factor in deciding where you'd like to stay?  Post a comment!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Photo Friday: Zoom into Flo's V8 Cafe

Flos V* cafe 

It's time for another Photo Friday!

Here's one of the thousands of photos I took back in July during my inaugural visit to Disneyland.  This is from the new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.  The neon signs all through Cars Land is simply fantastic.  I thought I'd try a bit of show shutter photography to create the neat zoom trails with the neon.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tip Tuesday: PhotoPass+

Photopass Plus 

Can you believe it?!?!?  I'm back with another Tip Tuesday post and it's been WAAAYYY too long!

Ok, straight on to this week's post.  As you may know from previous posts, I'm a big fan of Disney's PhotoPass service.  It provides families a great opportunity to get professional quality photos that you simply won't get with a point-and-shoot camera.

With some planning and effort, photopass can also become a great value, especially if you plan ahead.

More than a year ago, Disney launched PhotoPass Plus, which is an expanded version of the original PhotoPass concept.  With PhotoPass+, guests receive the opportunity to have Disney photographers take photos at the many, many locations across Walt Disney World, but also will automatically receive a CD with all those photos, including all those that guests enhance using the online photo editor at

But wait, there's more.

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin

With PhotoPass+, guests can also get any attraction photo at no extra charge.  I've often enjoyed seeing those on-ride attraction photos, but I wouldn't spend the money to buy a print.  With PhotoPass+, I can get those photos after each and every ride.

But wait, there's even more!

Magic Kingdom

PhotoPass+ also comes with a stock photo CD filled with incredible imagery from each of the parks.  Many of these images, like the one shown above, are from viewpoints that regular guests couldn't possibly reach and could never take a shots like these.  Each of these stock photos is in high resolution, suitable for high-quality printing.  Seriously, these shots are amazing!

Now PhotoPass+ does require guests to purchase the service before it can be used.  To purchase PhotoPass+, the cost currently is $199.95 and can be done at any PhotoPass center located in any of the parks.  However, Disney does offer a pre-purchase option at the PhotoPass website at  If you purchase the voucher online (it still must be turned in at a PhotoPass kiosk at a park), the cost is $149 - a $50 savings.

Now to get an idea of how this can be a good deal -- consider the cost of purchasing the regular PhotoPass CD -- $170 regular price or $120 if pre-purchased.  So for only $30 more, you get all on-ride photos, all restaurant photos (like those taken at Akershus, Cinderella's Royal Table, Ohana and more), the stock photo disc, AND the photo CD. 

So as you can see, PhotoPass+ actually is a good deal when you consider just how much you're spending.  Also, because you're committed, you will be much more likely to seek out photo opportunities, especially if you're with younger guests who are eager for character meet and greets.

Before your next trip - consider PhotoPass+ -- it might just be the answer to getting great family photos without having to worry about the camera.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Single rider line

Single Riders only sign

Welcome back for another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I want to begin sharing a few tips I picked up from my trip out west to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure over the July 4 weekend -- and I'm starting with the biggest tip of all - the single rider line (which is much more used in DL/DCA than at WDW).

Theme park experts know about the benefits of the single rider line, but for those of you who might not be aware, several (not all) Disney attractions offer a special line for single riders.  Often this line will move much faster than the regular standby line, though, of course, not as fast as a FastPass line (if available).

The purpose of the single rider line is to fill up ride vehicles when a group doesn't have enough people to fill the ride vehicle, particularly those with higher capacities.  So, for instance, a group of four comes up to Radiator Springs Racers.  The ride vehicle can hold six, so the group of four boards the vehicle, then (assuming a party of two isn't readily available), two single riders are sent to fill up the remaining seats.

Most people like to ride with their party and that's the major drawback of the single rider line.  As the name implies, you're riding on your own, most likely without your party.  On the (big) plus side, the wait times can be a mere fraction of the standby line time.  Case in point:  during the busy July 4 weekend at Disney California Adventure, I took the single rider line while the standby line was at a whopping 150 minutes (Fastpasses were long gone).  My total wait?  Somewhere around 35 minutes, and that was with a 5-8 minute complete ride stoppage.

Sometimes the single rider line can be hard to find.  For a couple of attractions at Disneyland, the single rider entrance actually was the exit, so if you're not sure if an attraction has a single rider line, just ask a cast member.

I wouldn't recommend the single rider line for young children because of some of the obvious safety concerns, but for teens and older, the single rider line can be a great way to quickly experience your favorite attractions again and again.  I was able to ride Radiator Springs Racers three times - all on a busy day where the standby wait was at least 60 minutes and sometimes much longer and Fastpasses were already gone.

So if you're ok with splitting up - go single rider!!  You'll get to do a lot more that you think!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Photo Friday (makeup): Pipe humor

Journey into Imagination with Figment 

I'm back!

After a month of traveling, including visiting BOTH Walt Disney World and (for the first time ever) Disneyland and California Adventure, boy have I got a LOT of photos and tips to share.  Of course, many of you also know, I'm still working on a master's program at USC (fight on!), so there may still be some times where posts are lacking.

But I'm going to try to do some makeup work, which leads me to today's Photo Friday makeup post!

This is from the well-known (and often ridiculed) skunk scene in Epcot's Journey into Imagination with Figment.  Don't know what the skunk scene is?  Go ride it and you'll find out - just hold your nose.

While most guests are devoting their attention to the three large screens (you can see a bit of the right screen at the top left of the photo above), there are some fun little details and gags that you can catch.  Take a close look at the pipe labels above.  One reads "fume and far between" while another says "scent out."  These are fun play on words phrases Imagineers added to punch up the gags.  There are some other funny pipe labels on the left side of this scene as well.

So I hope you enjoy this little bit of Disney detail and remember -- your nose is "how you tell a skunk's not a rose..."

Friday, July 5, 2013

Photo Friday: Disneyland for the Fourth

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

Well today's photo is literally hot off the camera.  I took this photo about 3 hours ago at Disneyland during the annual 4th of July fireworks spectacular!

I was all the way at the back of Main Street USA, but at least I had a good angle!

Happy Birthday America!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Boulangerie Patisserie

Boulangerie Patisserie 

Welcome back to another Tip Tuesday!

We'll, I'm back from another week at Walt Disney World and I've got a slew of new things to share -- so let's get started!

As my friend Lou Mongello would do, let's start with food.

I finally had the opportunity to visit the new Boulangerie Patisserie located in the back of the France pavilion at Epcot.  What makes this counter service location different is that it also offers some of the same menu items you can find at Les Chefs De France, particularly the scrumptious lobster bisque and the croque monsieur (ham sandwich to you and me). 

And the Boulangerie Patisserie also brings something completely new to World Showcase counter service dining -- breakfast!  This is the first counter service restaurant to offer breakfast items in World Showcase.  Sure there's a kiosk located between the Canada and UK pavilions that offers a few items, but nothing that matches the quality found at the Boulangerie Patisserie.  From pastries to hot quiches, breakfast at Epcot just got a lot better.

But wait, there's more -- it's air conditioned!  Even summer mornings in Florida are warm and humid, so it's nice to be able to enjoy good French cuisine without having to face the summer heat.

This is still somewhat of an unknown location, being tucked all the way in the back, so there aren't many crowds just yet -- so be sure to check it out on your next trip!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Travel agents and why you need one

Welcome back to another Tip Tuesday!

Well, as you may have noticed, the DisneyDaddy blog has become a Mouse Fan Travel affiliated web site.  For me, this was a simple partnership.  I've personally used Mouse Fan Travel for several years in booking my own trips to Walt Disney World (and now Disneyland -- yay!).  Through this partnership, I'll be able to bring you some additional advice from some of the most respected Disney travel experts in the business.

Little did I know that I would end up needing that expertise for my own pending trip to WDW in just a few days.  You see, I like to generally pay for my trips in advance -- that way most of the hassles of check in are already taken care of.  It's just one less thing to deal with so I can get straight on to having fun and enjoying being in the World.

Well, it turns out Disney, like so many other companies and organizations around the world, occasionally experiences technical glitches.  Shocking, I know, but true.  When my Mouse Fan Travel agent (the wonderful Vicki Damanti) tried to apply the final payment to the trip a few days ago, there was some technical trouble in making the final payment.  Disney asked Vicki to check back in a few days to try again.

If I were handling this on my own (which I would have to do if I had booked directly through Disney), I would have to be the one calling back again and going through the whole process to finalize the trip.  But no.  I have a travel agent and that's what they're there for.  I don't have to worry about those follow up phone calls and double checking to make sure everything's taken care of.  I have a travel agent and that's what they're there for.

Now picking a good travel agent takes some homework and some checking.  Of course, as you can guess, I recommend Mouse Fan Travel, but there are many other good, reputable travel agents out there... but there are just as many (maybe more) agent and agencies that aren't so hot.  In a future post, I'll help you understand what to look for in a good travel agent/agency and how to avoid being taken in by some less-than-reputable agents/agencies.

Have a great week!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Disney increases ticket prices... again

Once again Disney has increased the price of tickets to Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

A one-day, one park ticket for the Magic Kingdom now is $95 per person ($90 each for the other three parks).

Standard annual passes are now $609 and the premium annual pass is $729.  The Premier pass is up to $979.

WDW ticket price chart

Here is a quick chart I created plotting the price of a Magic Kingdom one-day, one-park pass since 1982, when Disney fully implemented a single day full-access ticket (no more ride ticket books).  As you can see, the price of a one-day, one park ticket has steadily risen over the years.  In 1982, a ticket cost $13.25.  Five years later, the cost had doubled to $26 per ticket.  The next doubling in price occurred 16 years later in 2003 when a ticket ran $53 a person.

In looking at the overall percentage increase per year, ticket prices are increasing at an average rate of about 5-6% a year, especially over the last five years.  If this rate remains constant, by 2020, a one-day, one-park ticket will cost about $141 each.  That in just seven years from now.

So if you're thinking about a Disney trip in the coming years, you may want to think about purchasing with a no-expiration option.  However, as of this writing, Disney no longer offers no expiration as an option when purchasing tickets online.  You can get the option if you purchase on property and I suspect you can request the no expiration option if you order tickets by phone.

I should note that Disney isn't the only Orlando-area theme park hiking up ticket prices.  SeaWorld and Universal routinely increase ticket prices every year.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Photo Friday: "To honor America"

Main Street Electrical Parade 

Welcome to another Photo Friday!  With Memorial Day just a few days ago, I thought I'd post a photo from the Main Street Electrical Parade to honor our and remember our veterans who have sacrificed for our country. 

To our veterans - thank you!

How a single final frame of a animated feature is made

In the latest exclusive from Disney Insider, Disney•Pixar fans have a chance to get a behind the scenes look at the making of Monsters University. Using an animated GIF, Disney Insider is giving fans an inside look at Pixar’s six-step progressive animation process, showing one scene from the film as it is transformed from an initial sketch into the final frame that will appear on the big screen.

Here are all the images compiled in a video:

Images are copyright Disney-Pixar.  All rights reserved.

Ever since college-bound Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal) was a little monster, he has dreamed of becoming a Scarer—and he knows better than anyone that the best Scarers come from Monsters University (MU). But during his first semester at MU, Mike’s plans are derailed when he crosses paths with hotshot James P. Sullivan, “Sulley” (voice of John Goodman), a natural-born Scarer.  The pair’s out-of-control competitive spirit gets them both kicked out of the University’s elite Scare Program. To make matters worse, they realize they will have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right. Screaming with laughter and oozing with heart, Disney•Pixar’s “Monsters University” is directed by Dan Scanlon (“Cars,” “Mater and the Ghostlight,” “Tracy”), produced by Kori Rae (“Up,” “The Incredibles,” “Monsters, Inc.”) and features music from future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and award-winning composer Randy Newman (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Toy Story 3”). Check out, like us at, and follow us on Rated G by the MPAA, the film opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2013, and will be shown in 3D in select theaters.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Saving time while park hopping

Greetings again!

As many of you know from reading this blog, I'm a fan of what's called "park hopping," meaning I like to visit more than one park in a day.  That's that the "Park Hopper" pass is for - it is an add-on to the base ticket that allows guests to visit as many parks as they want in a single day.

That being said, park hopping can be time-intensive.  Sometimes it may seem like there's no easy way to get from park to park using Disney transportation.  With a bit of planning and a little luck, you'll be able to do some quick park hopping without burning a lot of time.

So let's go from park to park with some of my tips for how to get to other parks as quickly as you can.

Magic Kingdom to Epcot
Without a doubt the fastest way to get from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot is the monorail.  Here's the hitch, though; the monorail isn't always running, especially later in the evenings and occasionally during the day.  So what do you do when the entire monorail system is offline?  There are a couple of options.  Disney will offer a direct bus to Epcot, but that bus can get overwhelmed quickly.  So here's what you do.  As you approach the bus terminals, look at the line for the Epcot bus.  If it looks like it's pretty long (like there are people completely filling the queue area), you may want to think about an alternate bus, say to the Boardwalk or Yacht/Beach Club, especially if a bus is already there and waiting.  It's possible you can catch a bus to either of these resorts and walk into Epcot through the International Gateway faster than waiting for an Epcot bus that will take you to the front of the park.

Magic Kingdom to Hollywood Studios
If the monorail is running, you've got a few more options aside from the direct bus at the MK bus station.  You could take the ferry or monorail to the TTC and catch a DHS bus from there, or take a bus to any of the Epcot area resorts noted above and then walk or take a Friendship boat to DHS.  I'd say the TTC-based option is the one I'd least recommend, but it is an option.

Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom
Here you're pretty much stuck.  There's simply no other means to get to AK from any park aside from a direct bus.  If those buses are supremely packed, you could consider waking to the Contemporary and getting a bus to AK from there, but keep in mind that it's a 10-minute walk to get to the Contemporary and you're totally at the mercy of the bus schedule there.  Of course you can take the "scenic route" by taking the ferry to the TTC or a boat launch from the MK to the Polynesian and then walking over to the TTC to catch a bus to AK, but that also will probably take much longer than just waiting it out back at the MK bus station.

Epcot to Magic Kingdom
Again, by far the fastest way to get from Epcot to the MK is by monorail.  But if the monorail is down for some reason, you're facing a similar situation as I described above, only in reverse.  You can take the dedicated Magic Kingdom bus or a bus to the Contemporary (where you can then walk over to the MK entrance).   It just depends on what the lines for each bus option look like.  Whichever bus you think will arrive next might be your best option.  I wouldn't recommend a bus to the Poly or Grand Floridian if the monorail is down because you'll then have to take a boat launch to the MK entrance.

Epcot to Hollywood Studios
Hoof it!  That right.  Walk.  There's a walkway connecting Hollywood Studios to the Epcot resorts area from which you can then enter Epcot through the International Gateway.  This is the easiest way to get in between both parks.  Yes it's a good sized walk -- upwards of 20 minutes depending on your walking speed -- but you are completely in control of when you arrive.  Otherwise, you can wait for a Friendship boat, but those lines can get tremendously long, especially toward park closing and those boats don't run as often as I'd prefer.  I can't count the times I've "outwalked" the boat from Epcot (especially since the boat stops at the Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach and Swan/Dolphon before going to DHS).  If you're not in a hurry, it's a nice boat ride, especially if you can sit in the very back in the open air.  But if you're trying to save some time, you'd best give those walking shoes a workout.

Epcot to Animal Kingdom
Take the AK bus.  As Princess Leia says, it's your only hope.

Hollywood Studios to Magic Kingdom
Here's where bus line monitoring can really pay off.  Yes, you can take the dedicated Magic Kingdom bus, if the lines aren't too bad.  Or, you can take a bus to any of the Magic Kingdom area resorts (Contemporary, Grand Floridian or Polynesian) or a bus to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).  From any of these destinations, you can then hop on a monorail (or walk in the case of the Contemporary) to get to the MK main entrance.  It really just depends on which bus you can catch the soonest.  First bus to arrive wins!  If everything is nuts, you can walk to Epcot, then through the park and catch a monorail to the MK.  That's a really scenic route (and will take a long time), but it is an option.  Of course, if you know the monorail is down, then forget about buses to the TTC, Poly or GF.

Hollywood Studios to Epcot
Same story as Epcot to Hollywood Studios.  Hoof it or wait for a boat.  I'd say start walking.

Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom
Same sad story.  Bus is your only option.

Animal Kingdom to Magic Kingdom
My advice is similar as Hollywood Studios to Magic Kingdom -- look for the first bus that can get you to the general Magic Kingdom area and then take a monorail or walk depending on where you end up at.

Animal Kingdom to Epcot or Hollywood Studios
Much like AK to MK, there's always the direct bus to either park, but you also can get a bus to any of the Epcot area resorts (Boardwalk or Yacht/Beach preferred) and enter Epcot through the International Gateway (for Epcot) or take a boat to DHS, or just walk to DHS from the Epcot area resorts.

So there you go -- a complete set of marching orders to help you hop from point A to point B.  What do you think -- do you have some different alternate routes?  Post a comment! 

Good luck and hop along now!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Photo Friday - Worlds combine

Characters in Flight 

Time again for another Photo Friday!

This is a shot from November 2009.  We were staying on an upper floor of the Dolphin Resort and I happened to look out the window and see this interesting collision of worlds.  Here in one shot are the Eiffel Tower from the France Pavilion in Epcot with Characters in Flight from Downtown Disney and the top of the Cirque du Soleil theatre.

Thanks to a good zoom lens, the different elements are compressed together to make it look like they're much closer together than they really are.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Manners and respect

Ok, so this week's "tip," if you can call it at tip, is very simple.  BEHAVE and DO WHAT'S RIGHT!!!
(sorry for the shouting)

As many of you probably have read, there's apparently a few businesses out there that are hiring handicapped individuals to serve as tour guides to then use the handicapped entrances to attractions and bypassing standby lines.

If you haven't read the story yet, check it out here:

While the outrage is understandable and totally warranted, I do want to take this opportunity to share a few words of calm.  First and foremost, please DO NOT think that all special needs guests are out to game the system.  Disney goes above and beyond to be as accommodating as they can for special needs guests.  That's why they put in special entrances and give special access to guests with disabilities.  I want to see guests using these services -- that's why they're there.

What a don't want are guests ABUSING these opportunities.  There's a big difference between the two and, sadly, it's pretty tough to tell the difference.

So, as I said, when you see guests using the privileges for handicapped guests, please don't assume that someone's out to take advantage of the system.  The vast majority of guests are doing the right thing and acting in an honest manner.

So how can we as guests try to stop this sort of behavior?  Well the easiest way is to stop using these kinds of "tour guides"!!  There's really no way that Disney can police this kind of behavior, nor should Disney waste a bunch of effort trying to do so because of the potential negative impacts on disabled guests who are simply doing the right thing and using the services available to them. 

Sure, Disney could cut down on the number of able-bodied guests who can accompany a disabled guest, but consider the impact of such action.  You want to experience an attraction with your family - how would you like it if you had to break up.  One group gets to use the FastPass line, while the other has to go through the standby queue.

Nor can Disney ask for a bunch of medical documentation - HIPPA privacy laws forbid it.   Also, there's no real way Disney could require the accompanies guests to be "family."  These days families have so many different last names that it would be impossible to verify the relations.

No, the way to stop this is to not use these services ourselves and discourage anyone else from using them. 

I promise I'll get back to more magical posts next week, but this got under my skin and I needed to share my thoughts.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Some of the Hidden Mickey of Liberty Square

Liberty Square Hidden Mickey 

Hello again for another Tip Tuesday!

This week, we're moseying out of Frontierland and going next door into Liberty Square.  There are quite a few Hidden Mickeys to be found in this area of the Magic Kingdom, even though it's fairly small in comparison to the other lands.

The first Hidden Mickey I want to feature is shown above and it's perhaps my most favorite Hidden Mickey in the Magic Kingdom, if not in all of Walt Disney World.  This little gem can be found in plain sight on the ground in the walkway between the Columbia Harbor House and the entrance to the Haunted Mansion.  I especially like how the hoof prints have been carefully placed in coordination with the water cover to form our favorite mouse icon.

Speaking of the Haunted Mansion, there are a few Hidden Mickey's I want to show you, but before I do, don't forget about The Columbia Harbor House and the Hall of Presidents.  There are a few Hidden Mickeys you can discover.  Here's a hint for one in the Hall of Presidents preshow lobby. 
Our first President must have been a fan of the mouse - Mickey kept giving him a tip.

Liberty Square Hidden Mickey

Now there's another very popular and well-known Hidden Mickey to be found inside the Haunted Mansion.  It seems Mickey is a popular dinner guest in the ballroom scene.  He can be found created by some carefully placed plates on the large dining table.  But that's not the only place where you can find a Hidden Mickey formed by plates.  The other is close by, but you'll need to keep a sharp eye out...

Here's a Hidden Mickey I found a few years ago.  As you enter the loading area for the Doom Buggies, look at the light fixtures mounted on the walls.  On each end is a small Hidden Mickey.  These are on each light, so there are a few opportunities to find this one!  This might be a DisneyDaddy exclusive!  I haven't heard anyone else talk about this one.

There are a few more Hidden Mickeys to be found among the living... and the dead... here in the Haunted Mansion, so as our ghost host would say, "look alive," and see how many you can find!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Some of the Hidden Mickeys of Frontierland

I'm back!!!  It's been way too long since I had a post, but that was then and this is now.  So, without further adieu, let's continue our series highlighting some of the hidden Mickeys in the Magic Kingdom.

This week, let's mosey over to Frontierland for some great hidden Mickeys, both in attractions and beyond.

Let's start over at Splash Mountain where there are two (among many hidden Mickeys) that I'd like to share.

Splash Mountain hidden Mickey

The first can be found while making an outside loop around the backside of Splash Mountain.  You'll see this still of Muskrat Moonshine on the right side.  Look above the "S" in Muskrat to see a small painted classic Mickey.  There's no doubt about this one!

Splash Mountain Hidden Mickey

Next, we plunge down the main drop and again return inside the mountain for the final scenes.  You'll see a riverboat with several characters (which were from an extinct attraction called America Sings, but I digress).  To the right of the boat, you'll see a cloud formation that looks like Mickey laying down with his snout pointing straight up.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Hidden Mickey

Heading outside Splash Mountain, we next venture over to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Like Splash Mountain, there are several Hidden Mickeys to be found both in the queue and on the attraction.  Here's one that you'll see on the right side just before you return to the load/unload area.

possible Hidden Mickey

Now this is a possible hidden Mickey.  See those "feathers" on the rooster?  They're circular in shape and some of them come together to form what looks like a classic Mickey.  What do you think?  Hidden Mickey?  Yes or no?

possible hidden Mickey

Same story with our friend Mr. Pig here.  See that white area on his body?  It reminds me of the side-profile Hidden Mickey in Adventureland that I featured in a previous post.  Is this another Hidden Mickey?  You be the judge!

So there you go -- just a few of the many Hidden Mickeys to be found in the rough-and-tumble Frontierland.  See how many you can find?  Yee Haw!!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

New Cars shorts live on

There are three brand new Disney Pixar "Cars Toons" Shorty Shorts now live on and Dubbed “Shorty Shorts” because they’re no longer than a minute and a half long, each video offers a quick and fun peek into the world of "Cars." Directed by Jeremy Lasky and produced by Mary Alice Drumm, Disney Pixar “Cars Toons” feature some of our favorite characters in new and surprising situations.

Head to or to check out all three videos, including:
         “Hiccups” - When Lightning McQueen gets the hiccups, everyone in Radiator Springs thinks they have the cure.
         “Bugged” - Red's peaceful morning routine is interrupted by a pesky visitor.
         “Spinning” - Guido discovers he has a hidden talent as a street corner sign spinner.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Photo Friday: Wishes from the water

Wishes from the Grand 1 

Time again for another Photo Friday!

This week, I wanted to share a photo from one of the most incredible Disney experiences I've ever had -- an evening aboard the Grand 1 while watching Wishes from the Seven Seas Lagoon.

While it's expensive (really expensive), it's an incredible sight.  Wishes takes on an entirely difference scope when seen from the water.

If you can do it -- I highly recommend it!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Photo Friday - the Tree of Life

Tree of Life 

Time for another Photo Friday!

This week's Photo Friday is by request -- so here it is - a photo from the Animal Kingdom and you can't get any more iconic of a shot than the Tree of Life.  Some of you might not know that it's not really a tree - it's made of concrete and artificial leaves.  And what's under all that?  An oil rig!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Downtown Disney to be transformed into Disney Springs by 2016

Disney Springs

Today, Disney officially announced the latest concept to transform Downtown Disney -- Disney Springs.  This has been rumored for quite a while, but it is nice to see Disney make an official announcement.  Construction will begin this Spring and will be completed in phases by 2016.

Below is the official news release from Disney:

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 14, 2013 – Walt Disney World Resort today announced the multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, a unique destination that will treat guests to significantly more shopping, dining and entertainment amid beautiful open-air promenades, meandering springs and waterfront charm.

Disney Springs will feature an eclectic and contemporary mix from Disney and other noteworthy brands. From boutique shops to unique flagship anchor stores, guests will be able to explore a variety of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences and discover options unlike any other currently available in Central Florida.

“Disney Springs will be a timeless, vibrant place where Walt Disney World guests and local residents can relax, shop, dine and be entertained in an imaginative setting where they’ll instantly feel at home,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “Featuring distinctive brands, world-class restaurants and unforgettable entertainment, Disney Springs will be brought to life with the same focus on storytelling and attention to detail that goes into our theme parks, resorts and cruise ships, resulting in a welcoming space that only Disney could create.”

Disney Springs will double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues for guests to explore, resulting in more than 150 establishments. In addition, Staggs noted, Central Florida stands to benefit from the expansion with more jobs, tax revenues and business opportunities.

Drawing inspiration from Florida’s waterfront towns and natural beauty, Disney Springs will include four outdoor neighborhoods interconnected by a flowing spring and vibrant lakefront. In addition to a new gateway with a signature water tower and grand entry, the destination will feature:
  • The Town Center, which offers a sophisticated mix of shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can relax, refresh and reconnect. 
  • A colorful and thriving commercial district called The Landing with inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views. 
  • The family-friendly Marketplace that will continue to delight guests of all ages by combining new experiences, such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway, along with classic Disney favorites, including an expanded World of Disney store. 
  • A West Side that provides an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below. 
Collectively, these efforts will not only have an impact within Walt Disney World, but will also have an economic ripple effect on Central Florida. The project will create an estimated 1,200 construction jobs and nearly 4,000 operational roles.

Disney will share more details on specific experiences coming to Disney Springs in the future. Construction is slated to begin next month with new areas opening in phases. Disney Springs is expected to be complete in 2016.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Some of the Hidden Mickeys of Main Street USA

Magic Kingdom Casting Agency door 

Time for another Tip Tuesday!

A few weeks ago, I shared a few of my favorite hidden Mickeys from Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom.  This week, let's head to Main Street USA for a few more of my favorite hidden Mickeys.

Right off the bat, (seen above) is one of my all-time favorite hidden Mickeys in all of Walt Disney World - partly because it's a two-fer and because it's part of a tribute to Walt Disney.  This door can be found along the western side of Main Street outside the Emporium.  A tribute to every Disney Cast Member, this door includes two hidden Mickeys at the top and bottom.  I always make it a point every trip to stop by this door and say a silent thanks to Walt and to the countless Cast Members for creating the world I love and cherish.

Main Street Gifts

Next up is an example of hidden Mickeys in plain sight.  This is a display window along Main Street from a few years back.  Notice the spilled bucket of Mickey-shaped antenna toppers?  There you go!  Hidden Mickeys can take any form.

Aladdin window

Speaking of windows, there are hidden Mickey's to be found in several of the window displays along Main Street.  This display of Agrabah from Aladdin has a clever and hard-to-find Hidden Mickey tucked away in a small part of the left side of the city.  Look closely and see if you can see Mickey hiding in there!

Main Street Confectionary

Finally, many hidden Mickeys are up to interpretation.  Take this one for example.  While searching for photos of some of the hidden Mickeys mentioned above, I ran across this shot from the Main Street Confectionary.  See that tile mural in the back?  I wondered if Mickey might be hiding there and, sure enough, I saw something that might be considered a hidden Mickey.  It could just be me though.  What do you think?  Hidden Mickey?  Yes or no?

These are just a few of the many, many hidden Mickeys to be found along Main Street USA.  Hidden Mickeys come and go, so some of these might not be around anymore while new ones have popped up.  Another great place to search for hidden Mickeys is the Main Street Train Station.  There are quite a few there (I just don't have shots of them yet - perhaps on the next trip...).

Until next time - keep a sharp eye out - you never know when you might find our favorite mouse!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Photo Friday - Luxo Jr.'s brief onstage appearance

Luxo Junior 

Time again for another Photo Friday!

This week, let's dive into the recent past at Disney Hollywood Studios for an image from a now extinct attraction that only lasted a few short months - Luxo Junior!

As most of you know, the icon of the Pixar studios is Luxo Junior, the desk lamp first seen in Luxo, one of the first Pixar shorts.

Back in Spring 2009, Disney created an audio-animatronic version of Luxo that would come out every once in a with a short little performance at an area directly across from Toy Story Mania.

Luxo Junior

Well all good things come at a price, and the price in this instance was a lawsuit by the company that make the actual Luxo lamp.  According to published reports, Luxo had agreed to allow Pixar to use the lamp image as part of the company logo, but when Disney made a physical Luxo (as seen in these photos), the Luxo company Disney - Pixar had taken things too far and filed suit.  To further compound the problem, the Luxo Jr. audio-animatronic was temperamental and often suffered malfunctions.  By Spring 2010, less than one year after Luxo Junior had first debuted, Disney pulled the plug (sorry, had to use the pun) on the project, presumably due to the lawsuit. 

While there's nothing to back this up, I suspect the Luxo company wanted more money and Disney wasn't going to give in.  Personally, I think this was a dumb move by Luxo as it was a golden opportunity to market their product to millions of people each year, but I digress.

Anyway, there you have it - a piece of short-lived Disney history.

Enjoy this obituary for Luxo Jr. by Matt  Hochberg of

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tip Tuesday: When things go wrong - what do you do?

Magic Kingdom First Aid CenterSometimes things can go wrong, even at Walt Disney World.  People get sick, get injured or get lost.  Things get lost, tickets get misplaced.  When this happens, it's best to know what to do so that a problem doesn't ruin your trip.

Medical emergencies:
Sometimes there are problems that arise while you’re in a park and you’ll need some help. If the medical emergency is major, please call 911 right away.  If you’re having a minor medical emergency, you’ll want to head straight to the nearest First Aid Center.  Here you can get treatment for various minor medical issues and information about what to do for more serious medical issues. Each location is listed on park maps:
  • Magic Kingdom: Located in between Casey’s Corner and Crystal Palace
  • Epcot: Located on the Mexico side of the Odyssey building
  • Hollywood Studios: Located right next to Guest Relations near Sid Cahunenga’s
  • Animal Kingdom: Located on Discovery Island just before the bridge to Africa
  • Blizzard Beach: Located behind the Beach Haus near the main entrance
  • Typhoon Lagoon: Located inside Leaning Palms just past the main entrance
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports: Located inside the Milk House

Non-medical problems:
Not all guest problems require a doctor or nurse. Sometimes guests have other issues they need to resolve or they’re just looking for a special button (birthday, anniversary, celebration, etc.). In these cases, guests can go to the Guest Relations center located near the entrance to each park to speak with a cast member to try to solve their issue. For instance, if you’ve lost your park ticket or annual pass, a Guest Relations cast member can issue a new ticket/pass, provided you have the correct information and ID for each guest.

Help! My child is lost!! 
It may sound like a cliche, but it really is a parent's worst nightmare when their child is lost, especially in a large, unfamiliar place like Walt Disney World.  Hopefully you will never have to face this situation, but if something does happen and your child goes missing, you should find the nearest Cast Member and immediately tell them what has happened. Disney takes these situations very seriously and has a well-established procedure to handle lost children. Also, it's a very good idea before you arrive at the parks to make sure your children know how to find a Cast Member if they get lost or are separated and make sure they know your cell phone number. For younger children, I suggest taking them up to a Cast Member on the first day of your visit and introducing them to a Cast Member and make sure the child knows what a cast member badge looks like and that if something should go wrong and they get lost, to find someone wearing one of these badges right away.  Often during the morning there are lots of cast members at the entrance welcoming guests so you can find one pretty easily.  Usually children who have lost their parents will be taken to Guest Relations while Cast Members attempt to find those parents.

Now where did my cell phone go?
Every day guests lose items in the parks. From hats to cell phones (my family has lost two at WDW) to stuffed animals and jewelry, Cast Members always are finding things that have been left behind. If you lose something, you should find a Cast Member and explain what’s happened. Lost items are taken periodically to each park’s Guest Relations Center. At the end of the day, any items not claimed are taken to the central Lost and Found center located near the Ticket and Transportation Center. If you’ve discovered you’ve lost something and it’s been missing for a few days, it may have been taken to the central Lost and Found. You can call Lost and Found at (407) 824-4245. Be sure to give as accurate a description as you can, this will help Cast Members try to find your specific item.

As I said, hopefully you'll never have to deal with these issues, but it's much better to do a little advance planning, just to be safe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Some of the Hidden Mickeys of Adventureland


Time again for another Tip Tuesday!

This week let's head over to Adventureland to share a few of my favorite Hidden Mickeys.  The first is one of my most favorite Hidden Mickeys in all of Walt Disney World - at the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.  If you look carefully at the image above, you'll see a side profile Hidden Mickey on the large tree branch amidst the lichen.  It's just to the left of the wall.  This Mickey can be sometimes hard to find, especially if you're kind of being rushed along by other guests.  You have to look around to see it.  Once you know where it is, you can find it easily.  There are a couple of other Hidden Mickeys often seen here -- look for some interestingly arranged plates, or fruit placed to create the classic Mickey logo.

Another great Hidden Mickey can be found in the Jungle Cruise.  As you begin your journey, you'll come across three canoes on a beach.  Look carefully at the heads -- you'll recognize three well-known Disney characters.

Sometimes you really have to look carefully to find Hidden Mickeys.  Just as you come off Pirates of the Caribbean, as soon as you enter the gift shop (what a surprise - an attraction that empties out into a gift shop!), you'll see a set of scales with gold coins of different sizes on one side.  Look closely to see a few coins carefully placed to form a classic Hidden Mickey.

Speaking of Pirates, pay careful attention to the locks found in the queue -- they resemble a certain mouse.  Also as you round the corner to the final treasure scene, look carefully at the bottom of the lanterns to see Mickey dangling there.

There are plenty of other Hidden Mickeys to be found in Adventureland, so I don't want to point them all out for you.  Just keep your eyes open, you never know where you might see another one, and who knows?  Maybe you'll find a new one!  Mickey is popping up all the time.

Enjoy and happy Hidden Mickey hunting!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Disney dining magic at home

Rice Cream 

Greetings fellow Disney fans!  It's time again for another Tip Tuesday, and since I'm getting hungry, I'm going to pull a page from Lou Mongello's book and talk about food.

Actually I'm literally going to talk about a book about food - Disney cookbooks!

Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs I have several Disney cookbooks on my bookshelf including Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs, by Pam Brandon.  This is a book that's available at the parks and can be found on retailers. I also have the follow up book, Chef Mickey:  Treasures from the Vault & Delicious New Favorites, also by Pam Brandon.  Both of these books feature different recipes found in the parks and also at the resort hotels.

Looking for the recipe for the famous cheddar cheese soup from Le Cellier?  It's in the Cooking... book.  Want to try your hand at making rice cream (pictured above) from the Kringala Bakery in Epcot's Norway pavilion?  You can find it in these books.  Between the two books there are hundreds of recipes to try out from Disney restaurants east and west.

I've tried quite a few recipes from both books and while I'm not too bad in the kitchen, what I came up with pales in comparison to the real thing at Disney, though the rice cream wasn't all that bad.

Actually all this writing about food is making me hungry again.  Maybe I'll try a new recipe.  Let's see... how about some sticky toffee pudding from Epcot's Rose & Crown restaurant (page 166 in Chef Mickey).  Hmmm... looks really good.  May have to try to make this soon.

If you really enjoy some of those signature dishes at any of the Disney parks and/or resorts, give either Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs or Chef Mickey:  Treasures from the Vault & Delicious new Favorites a try.  There is some duplication between the two books, so if you get both, don't be surprised to see some recipes in both books.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Photo Friday: "Retro" Epcot

Epcot in 2007 

Time again for another Photo Friday!

This week, let's again borrow Mongello's Wayback Machine and travel to the summer of 2007 and this photo from Epcot.  It may seem like a long time ago, but it's only been about five years since the often maligned hand and wand came down from Spaceship Earth in 2008.

So enjoy this look back at the Spaceship Earth of (the not-so-long-ago) yesteryear!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tip Tuesday - some of the Hidden Mickeys of Tomorrowland

Hidden Mickey at Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin 

Time again for another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I'm starting a series of tips about hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney World.  If you're not sure what a hidden Mickey is, check out my post from May 2009 explaining what hidden Mickeys are.

I'm going to go from land to land throughout the parks, starting with the Magic Kingdom to showcase some of my favorite places to find hidden Mickeys.  I won't share photos of every single one, because I want you to find them for yourself and, to be honest, some are very hard to capture.

But let's start with an easy one (seen above).  As you're walking through the queue of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, you'll come across this obvious side profile hidden Mickey depicted in an image of the planet Pollost Prime.  There are a couple of instances of this hidden Mickey.  But Pollost Prime isn't the only planet featuring a hidden Mickey, see if you can find the other one.

Coming out of Buzz, see if you can spot a hidden Stitch and another hidden Mickey.

Hidden Mickey on the TTA 

Another great place to find hidden Mickeys is on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  During one of the interior show scenes, you'll come across this woman in a beauty parlor.  Pay close attention to her belt and you'll see a rather familiar black icon.  This one's very hard to shoot, so be ready!

While you're on the TTA, you'll pass through the upper portion of the shop, Mickey's Star Traders.  Look quickly because you may catch several hidden Mickey's embedded in the mural above the main floor.  If you didn't see them, don't worry, just go into the shop and look around as much as you'd like.  There are a LOT of hidden Mickeys, so see how many you can find!

Finally, head over to the Carousel of Progress to see a classic Walt Disney World attraction.  See if you can find our friend Mickey Mouse in the final scene (the Christmas scene).  Here's a hint:  check under the tree.

There are many more hidden Mickeys in Walt Disney World, so take your time, look carefully and you'll find Mickey all over the place!!

Enjoy the hunt!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Photo Friday: Nemo's vibrant colors

Finding Nemo the Musical 

Time again for another Photo Friday!

This week, I let fans of the DisneyDaddy Facebook page choose from which park this week's Photo Friday would come and it is... Animal Kingdom!

I'm such a big fan of Finding Nemo the Musical that I thought I'd share a shot from one of the many excellent scenes in this production.  This is the first scene in which we meet the characters from the fish tank at Dr. Sherman's office. 

One aspect of this show that appeals to me is the vibrant color scheme.  Much of Animal Kingdom has muted colors (with the exception of Dinoland USA, but we're not going there), so to see the rich colors in this show is a welcome change.

If you haven't seen this show -- you really need to.  It's one of my must do's at Animal Kingdom.

In the meantime -- just keep swimming!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Making in-room dining magic

White Chocolate Mickey 

Time again for another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to share a tip about making magic for others, whether you're at Walt Disney World or not.  First, I want to thank my very good friend Beci Mahnken at MouseFanTravel for helping me with this tip because I used this tip myself just last week.

Many guests know about in-room dining (also known as room service), of course.  But what guests don't know is that in-room dining goes beyond breakfast, lunch and dinner options.  Disney in-room dining also can create and deliver amazing celebration plates that can be delivered to a room, even if you're not there in person to order it.  This also can be a great way to leave a little surprise for your friends or family during your visit.

Here's how it works.  First, you need to think ahead.  Most of these options require at least 24 hours advance notice so you need to make sure you give yourself enough lead time to make this happen.

If you're not at WDW, call the resort where the guest is staying and ask for in-room dining.  If you are, just call in-room dining from your in-room phone.  Depending on where your guest is staying, you have a number of options to choose from such as chocolate characters (shown above) to chocolate covered strawberries to fruit and cheese baskets.

Prices range anywhere from about $20-$30 for a chocolate character to around $35 for chocolate covered strawberries to about $50 for a wine and cheese basket.  These prices do not include tax or delivery charge, so be sure to factor those costs in when deciding to do an in-room dining surprise.

Now in-room dining isn't the only way to make a little in-room magic.  Be sure to see a post from this time last year about the Disney Florist.

I'd also like to take this moment to say a heartfelt congratulations to all those who ran in the Family Fun Run 5K, the half and full marathon and those amazing Goofy runners!  I especially want to send along my congrats to my fellow WDW Running Team members!  Way to go!!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tip Tuesday: Marathon weekend tidbits

As the runners get ready for the half-marathon, full-marathon and Goofy Race and a Half Challenge, I thought I'd take a few moments and share a few more tips about Marathon Weekend - one tip for spectators and one for runners.

First, for spectators:
Be sure to read my November 2011 post about good spectator locations to cheer on runners.  I talk about some of the good spots to try to cheer on runners that won't require some special CheerSquad package.  Keep in mind the marathon course is a bit different this year because it's the 20th anniversary, but many of the locations are still good spots.

Also, if you're cheering on specific runners, you can keep tabs on where they are on the course through runner tracking.  Just to to this site: create an account and search for your runner(s).  You can get live updates sent to you in up to four different ways:  text message, email, Facebook post or tweet.  It's very helpful to know where your runner is on the course and how they're doing.  It will help you be ready to cheer when he or she is coming down the road.  As a two-time RunDisney participant (2010 half, 2012 full), I know how hugely important it is for the runners to have friends and family cheering them on.

Speaking of the course, if you need maps, here they are:

Now for the runners:
Be sure to check out last week's Tip Tuesday post about some important pre-race considerations.  Now I want to talk about post-race.  You may have heard it mentioned before elsewhere, but I'm here to tell you it works -- ice baths (thanks Marie -- you know who you are!!).  A very good friend strongly urged me to take an ice bath as soon as I could after the marathon to help with recovery.  I thought she was crazy.  Take a bath in freezing cold water AND pour a few buckets of ice in as well??  I'm here to tell you that within 36 hours after that 8 minute ice bath, my legs were not nearly as sore as they were after some of my training runs.  I could actually walk and move around.  Now I follow any really long run with an ice bath of some sort.  It really works.

For those of you who aren't sure what I'm talking about, and ice bath is where you draw about a half a tub full of cold water and pour in a few buckets of ice to make the water extremely cold.  You sit in this cold water for several minutes and then get out and warm back up.  As I understand it, the cold helps jump start the recovery process.

Please be sure to check out these important dos and don'ts from

To all you runners out there, especially those on the WDW Radio Running Team and Team AllEars - I wish you the best of luck and DON'T break a leg!!!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Photo Friday - Images of the 2010 half

Half marathon 2010 

It's time for another Photo Friday and in honor of the upcoming RunDisney events next week, I'm giving you a special two-fer today!  These shots come from the 2010 half marathon.  Above, I was running through the Magic Kingdom.  Just down on the far left side of the spectators (can't see in this shot) is Lou Mongello and the WDW Radio Running Team cheering section, unless Lou happens to be on one of his many side trips to get coffee, as he was this morning.

half marathon 2010 

Likewise this shot is later on in the event, less than a mile from the finish line, showing how the runners come into Future World by the Seas with Nemo pavilion, run down toward the entrance to World Showcase, turn around and head back past Spaceship Earth again and head out toward the far eastern parking lot area and the finish line. 

Now let me lay a bit of the scene for those of you not familiar with the 2010 half and full marathons.  First off, it was FREEZING.  I mean that literally.  The water stations were freezing up.  At the start of the half marathon it was actually lightly snowing.  Yes, you read correctly, snow in Florida.  A few hours later the light snow became a light sleet then a light and cold rain.  It might not have been the best running conditions, but we all still had a great time (right Lori and Mitch!!).  I can say this, it was one Disney experience I will never forget.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tip Tuesday: The morning of the race...

Marathon start line 

It's time for another Tip Tuesday!

Well the holidays are behind us, which means it's nearly time for Marathon Weekend!  I've had the distinct pleasure of attending two RunDisney events (the 2010 half and 2012 full), and this week, I'll share a few thoughts about some ways to make your pre-race go a bit more smoothly.

First, and most importantly, is to get to the pre-race area on time.  Depending on where you're staying, you'll need to probably get up around 2 a.m. in order to have enough time to get to Epcot by 3:30 to 4 a.m.

If you're staying on-property (which I recommend), you'll most likely be taking a bus from your resort to Epcot and then walking to the pre-race area which is located in the far eastern parking lot area.  In years past the bus service has been dubious, so I strongly recommend being at the bus stop by 3:30 a.m., no later than 4 a.m.  Sometimes buses go to multiple resorts, so don't be surprised if a bus isn't there waiting for you.  The later buses tend to get very crowded and can fill up, which means you could be forced to wait for another bus, putting you at risk of arriving late and having to hustle to the starting area.

Also, it's possible, even likely, that the bus stop will not be in the same location as where you would catch buses to the parks, so it's a very good idea to check ahead of time so you know where you're going early in the morning.  Do not think you can sleep in a bit and catch a last-minute bus at 4:30. - you might miss the start.  Runners are required to be in their assigned corral by 5 a.m. and it's about a 15-20 minute walk from the pre-race area to the start line.  It's not worth missing the start just for a few extra minutes of sleep.  Be on those early buses and you'll be fine. 

Those runners staying at a monorail resort will need to take a monorail from their resort to the TTC and then another monorail to Epcot.  Monorails start running at 3 a.m.  Much like buses, it's a good idea to be on those first few monorails to make sure you get to the pre-race area with plenty of time to take care of things, especially if you plan to check a bag.

Either way, if you're staying on property - take Disney transportation.  Don't try to drive yourself.  It's not worth the hassle.

Those staying off-property need to plan to arrive at Epcot by 3:30 a.m. and no later than 4 a.m.  Road closures start to go into effect starting at 3:30 a.m., which means you could run into significant delays getting to the parking lot if you're arriving late.

OK, now that you've made it to the pre-race area, it's time to get situated.  For my two events, I met up with the WDW Radio Running Team and enjoyed meeting old and new friends while starting to warm up for the race.  This is a good time to stretch.  You won't need to do much walking or running yet - you've got a walk ahead of you to get to the race start.  Make sure you've got some glide or other substance to help lubricate certain areas (feet, chest, etc.) that tend to chafe and rub into blisters. 

Be sure to listen to the announcers, they will tell you when you need to start making your way to the corrals.  As you leave the pre-race area, you will want to make a pit-stop by the porta potties.  Here's a BIG tip -- DON'T stand in line for those porta potties just in front of you as you start heading to the start line.  Hundreds of runners will be standing in line and it will take forever to get through the line -- trust me on this one.  Instead, go on down to the left.  You will see some to the left of the path a few hundred feet away that will likely have far shorter lines.  If those lines are still too long, there are several sections of porta potties further along your way to the start line, so there are still opportunities to use the restroom before you start running.

Once you get to your assigned corral, enjoy some of the pre-race banter with the commentators, Mickey Mouse and the gang.  Before you know it, the gun will go off and you'll be on your way toward that coveted finishers medal!!!

To all the runners -- good luck and a big shout out to Team WDW Radio!!!

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