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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Photo Friday: Off Kilter about changes to Epcot

Time for another Photo Friday!

With the recent announcement that several live attractions in Epcot will be leaving in September, I wanted to share a shot of what I think is, and soon will be "was." the best live attraction in World Showcase - Off Kilter.  Back in November, 2011 (show# 249), I joined Lou Mongello on the WDW Radio Show to talk about the best live music in World Showcase.

So if you have a chance to get out to Epcot in the next few weeks, I'd recommend catching one more show of Off Kilter and several other World Showcase live acts, because they will be gone soon.

What's coming next?  Well, Disney isn't saying much right now, other than to say that Off Kilter will be replaced by a "lumberjack show."  Not sure what that really means, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tip Tuesday: The morning of the race - part 2 - the pre-race area

Click for larger view.
Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!  Last week, I talked about transportation to the pre-race area (seen in yellow on the map above).  This week, we're going to talk more about the pre-race area and some ways to avoid some common headaches and some of the planning decisions that need to be made ahead of time.

There are several activities taking place during the pre-race area.  The biggest activity is the race retreat (half and full marathons only).  This is an optional hard-ticketed event that starts at 3 a.m. and sells out nearly as quickly as the races themselves.  The race retreat offers runners some useful pre-race benefits, most importantly a heated environment so runners don't have to stand out in the cold morning air (and those pre-dawn mornings can get quite chilly in early January).  Other features of the race retreat include bagels, fruit, coffee and sports drinks, private restrooms, padded stretching area, Disney character meet and greets and a separate first aid station.

The race retreat can by a bit pricey.  For the 2015 marathon weekend, the cost is $120 for each race (or $225 for Goofy or Dopey runners).  It is a very popular option and can be a bit crowded.  After each event the race retreat offers brunch and internet access to check results.

The race retreat isn't the only thing going on at the pre-race area - there are DJ's playing music and lots and lots of groups all meeting up before the race.  The major difference here is the weather - you're out in it.  If it's especially cold and/or raining (or snowing - it's happened!) then it can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant wait until the time comes to walk to the corrals.

This is where you need to do some planning.  Do you think the race retreat will be worth it?  Will having some food and a warm tent be worth the price?  Are you willing to run the risk with the weather?  These are all questions you need to consider as you're planning your pre-race.  Also, if you are going to skip the race retreat and wait outside, do you need to bring extra clothing or blankets to stay warm while you wait (knowing that you'll have to do something with them once the race starts - either get rid of them or hand off to a waiting spectator down the road).  Again, this is where runners have to do some planning in order to be prepared.

What do I do?  I personally don't go to the race retreats.  Instead, I join the WDW Radio Running Team as we meet up before each race.  Depending on the weather conditions and temperature, I'll bring an extra old or cheap sweatshirt and sweatpants to wear until just before the start of the race.  I'll then toss those to the side once I start running.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'll talk more about how the corrals work in a future post.

Next time - I'll discuss the walk and a very important potty break!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Photo Friday: A photographic comparison of Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

This week it's 2 for 1 day!  Well, sort of.

During my May trip to Disneyland, I noted a change to the main cavern portion of the Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction at Disney California Adventure.  The lighting was drastically different than the Magic Kingdom version.  Later, I found out Disney was testing a different lighting level to see if it improved the attraction.  The main reason, as I understand it, was to eliminate guests seeing production elements such as light instruments, projectors, etc.

So see for yourself - which do you like better?

Here is the Magic Kingdom version (this shot is from June, 2013):
click for larger view

and this is a similar shot from the California Adventure version (this shot is from May, 2014):
click for larger view
So which version do you like better?  Post your thoughts in the comments section below!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tip Tuesday: The morning of the race - part 1 - getting there

WDW Radio Running Team before the 2012 Marathon

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Well, there's just over five months to go before the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  While I've still got a lot of training to do, it's also time to start talking about some more tips about participating in a RunDisney event.

I wanted to focus on the morning of the race (or races in the case of the Goofy and Dopey folks like me).  There is quite a bit of planning that runners need to think about prior to race morning.  I'm a visual guy, so how about a quick map (this is a rough approximation of locations and is not official).  This week, I'll focus on getting to the pre-race area.  In future posts, I'll talk about some things to keep in mind while you're getting ready for the start.

click for larger view

First, runners need to try to arrive at the pre-race area located in the eastern-most section of the Epcot parking lot, shown in yellow on the map, by around 4 a.m. at the latest.  Disney says runners must be in the corrals by 5 a.m. or they will not be allowed to race.

Runners staying on-property:
For runners staying on-property, this is pretty easy.  Disney offers bus transportation from just about every resort starting as early as 3 a.m. each race morning (depending on the race).  For a detailed schedule for each race, see the RunDisney website.  From my past experience, these are usually touring buses, not standard Disney transit buses.  It's important to remember that these RunDisney events are VERY popular, so there will literally be tens of thousands of people (often more) all trying to get to the pre-race area.  What does this mean for you?  It means that buses can fill up FAST, so you would be wise to get down to your bus stop at your hotel by around 3:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m. for the 5K) so that you can ensure you won't run into any issues and end up missing the start.  Disney recommends runners be on a bus by no later than 4 a.m. to avoid missing the race start.

Buses will drop off runners at the front of Epcot.  Runners will then have to walk to the pre-race area.

Oh, if you're staying at a monorail resort, the monorails will start around 3 a.m. each morning  You'll need to take the resort monorail to the TTC and then take the Epcot monorail to the front of the park and walk to the starting area.  For my 2010 half marathon, this was surprisingly easy and painless.  This is one benefit of staying a monorail resort -- easy transportation and no buses.  Just like the buses, I recommend being on a monorail by no later than 3:15 a.m.

Runners staying off-property:
If you're not staying on property, you'll need to plan to arrive at the Epcot entrance no later than 4 a.m.  Arrive any later, and you'll run the risk of missing the start, which would be a very bad thing considering how expensive these races are.  Therefore, you'll need to carefully think about how much time you need to allow to get to Epcot and add LOTS of additional time for traffic delays (which there will be due to road closures).

So, you've made it to the pre-race area!  Now what do you do?  And what else do you need to think about before the race starts?  I'll discuss that in a future post. 

Until then, keep up the training!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photo Friday: Going ape for smartphones?

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

I was going back through some of my Animal Kingdom photos today and I ran across this shot of a gorilla along the Pangani Exploration Trail.  While the photo itself isn't all that compelling, there was something about the way he was sitting and looking at his hands that made it look as if he was using a smartphone.

So here's where you come in -- it's caption time!  Imagine that our gorilla friend above is doing something with a smartphone - what caption would you put on the photo?  Post in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tip Tuesday: Getting your soccer fix at Epcot

Orlando City Lions soccer club.  Image courtesy Disney.  All rights reserved.
Welcome back to another Tip Tuesday!

With the Barclay's Premier League starting back up this weekend, I thought I'd share a quick tip about how you can get your soccer fix while at Walt Disney World.

A few of the countries around Epcot's World Showcase offer jerseys for various international soccer (futbol) teams, both for club teams and country teams.  A couple of shops (one in Germany and another in the UK) also sell soccer balls.  Around World Cup time, you can often find World Cup merchandise including official balls and jerseys.

If you're looking for Barclay's Premier League teams, such as Manchester United or Chelsea, your best bet is the Sportsman's Shoppe located across from the Rose & Crown Pub in the UK pavilion.  Bear in mind that not every BPL team will be represented in the merchandise for sale (c'mon - show the love for teams like Everton and Liverpool!). 

Of course you'll have to strike up a conversation with one of the British cast members working in the store and see which team they support.  

If it's Saturday around lunchtime, you might be able to catch a Premier League match at the ESPN Club at the Boardwalk.  Sure there will be college football games going on, but there are so many TVs there that you'll probably be able to find at least one match (though they're on NBC Sports, a direct competitor to ESPN).

If it's live soccer you're interested in, you might be able to catch some Orlando City games through early September at the ESPN Wide World of Sports center - check the schedule here: City will be a new MLS team starting with the 2015 season and will normally play at the Citrus Bowl stadium, but the Lions are playing their 2014 season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports while the Citrus Bowl is being renovated in advance of the Lions' official MLS start.

There are a lot of other soccer events at WWOS throughout the year, mostly featuring youth teams.

So lace up your cleats and get your kit ready (that's a uniform to you non-soccer folks) - it's time for some soccer!

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