The next two days, I’m going to cover the Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts. All of these resorts are on the smaller side compared to the Moderate and Value resorts, however, the standard rooms are larger and all the resorts have Villa accommodations as well, or in the process of building them, except for Yacht Club. These Villa accommodations come in four different sizes: studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom grand villas. But those are for tomorrow, today, we’ll just focus on the standard rooms at these resorts.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Yes, there are rooms where guests can see the safari animals from the balcony of their room. These safaris/savannas are separate from the Kilmanjaro Safari experience in the Animal Kingdom Park.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is the largest, in terms of rooms, of the deluxe resorts with 1,307 rooms. All of the Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms are located in the Jambo House.
The front desk and check-in is located in the central main hall with four trails splitting off from this hall. There are four trails where the rooms are located: Ostrich Trail, Giraffe Trail, Kudu Trail, and Zebra Trail. Each of these trails, except for Giraffe Trail, has a view of, at least, one savanna. The Giraffe Trail has a view of the pool.
What if my room doesn’t have a view of a savanna?
There are only 135 rooms (10.3%) which do not have a view of a savanna or pool. For these guests, there are still plenty of opportunities to see the animals.
Sunset Savanna and Sunset Savanna Viewing Room/Balcony: this area is designed for sunset viewing of the animals
Each savanna has a variety of viewing location and Cast Members will leave around the savanna so the animals move around.
Sunrise Breakfast Adventure: available on Sundays and Thursdays. The adventure departs at 7:30 am and involves a 45-minute ride through the Kilimanjaro Safari Experience where the guides will stop and guests are allowed to stand and take picture. This ride is about three times as long as the standard experience on the Safari. After the tour, guests go to Pizzafari for a breakfast buffet.
Today, I’m going to start with the on-property accommodations available at Walt Disney World. There are a lot of options at a variety of price points available to people. There are four main classifications: Value Resorts, Moderate Resorts, Deluxe Resorts, and Deluxe Villa Resorts. Today, I’m going to discuss the five value resorts at Walt Disney World.
I’m going to keep it simple and go in alphabetical order for these five resorts. Give readers some perspective as to where these five resorts are located in Walt Disney World:
Starting with the three All-Star Resorts, they are located down by Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and numbered 26-28. As a result, guests will need to take a Disney Bus or their own car for transportation to the parks.
All-Star Movies Resorts
The first thing I will say about all of the these resorts is they are huge. There are a lot of rooms – 1920 of them. So, I’ll lead off with a map of the resort:
There are 10 buildings with hotel rooms grouped into five “pods.” 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, and Toy Story are the three “pods” closest to the main Cinema Hall which houses the food court. The Mighty Ducks and Love Bug “pods” have a further walk to Cinema Hall.
In terms of space, the rooms at the All-Star Resorts and Pop Century are the smallest on Disney property at only 260 square feet putting it on par with a standard hotel room at a national chain. The rooms sleep four people. Five people can stay in a All-Star Movie room provided one of the five is under three years old AND sleeps in a crib.
Disney has a variety of attractions to cater to the variety of guest interests. This post is going to focus on attractions that will help keep guests cool during the hot and humid summer weather. Or as my wife called them, this morning, “Attractions my wife enthusiastically drags me to that I secretly love.”
When my family has gone to Walt Disney World in the summer, we try to avoid the parks in the middle of the day. Our plans, usually, getting the parks first thing in the morning and going a lot of attractions, then returning to the hotel for a mid-afternoon swim until the mid-afternoon thunderstorm comes to chase us out of the pool, finally returning the parks in the evening when it has cooled down. However, guests can’t always do that. Where can they go “cool for a bit” and get out of the heat when they are in the park? Thankfully, every park has place or two or three that they can get out of the heat. Here’s the breakdown:
It’s Tough To Be a Bug: Located at the base of the Tree of Life in the Discovery Island section of Animal Kingdom, this 3D show takes guests through what it is like to be a bug. There are some scenes which can be intense and frightening for smaller children.
Festival of the Lion King: This stage production is currently on hiatus until Summer 2014 while completes its move from the Camp Minnie-Mickey area of the park to its new location behind Tusker House Restaurant. This 28-minute production takes guests through a production based on the The Lion King. The show, in its new location, will be the same as before with guests divided into four sections elephant, giraffe, warthog, or lion.
Finding Nemo: The Musical: This 30-minute show turns the movie Finding Nemo into a musical. The show takes place in the 1500-seat Theater in the Wild located by Dinoland U.S.A. Guests get to see a show featuring puppets, dancers, acrobats, and animated backdrops during the retelling of the Finding Nemo story. Guests will also new songs created just for the show.
Finding Nemo: The Musical and It’s Tough To Be a Bug are available for Fastplus+ reservations.
EPCOT has the most opportunities to “cool” off and watch a show or in some cases go on an attraction.
Circle of Life: Located in The Land pavilion, this 20-minute movie takes guest through the environmental concerns involving the construction of the fictional Hakuna Matata Vacation Resort. The environment looks to take a major hit until Simba comes and reminds Pumbaa and Timon to care for our rivers and trees.
Living with the Land:This is one of my favorite attractions in EPCOT. Also located in The Land Pavilion, the 14-minute boat ride takes guests through biospheres of Earth before humans. After this introductions, guests are taken into Disney’s four greenhouses and aquaculture facility. A very interesting and educational attraction.
Turtle Talk with Crush: One of the shorter shows but one of the most entertaining. At only 10 minutes, guests get to interact with Crush, from Finding Nemo. Crush will ask guests especially children questions and answer them, in sometimes, humorous manner. This attraction can be found in The Seas pavilion.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure: One of the longer shows at 45 minutes. The show starts with Ellen DeGeneres dreaming that she is on Jeopardy! competing against her former college rival, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and Albert Einstein. All of the categories are in her weakness subject….energy. Thankfully, her neighbor, Bill Nye the Science Guy, comes to help Ellen and teach her about all things energy to win the game of Jeopardy!
Spaceship Earth: The iconic EPCOT landmark houses a 16-minute journey through recorded history narrated by Judy Dench. This exhibit is perfect for a mid-day break as most people visit it when they first enter the park leading to longer wait times. In the middle of the day, the wait times are much shorter.
American Adventure: A 30-minute show located in the American pavilion takes guests through American history. The audio-animatronic show is narrated by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. The end of the film was last updated in 2007.
Impressions de France: This rather dated, in my opinion, movie takes guests through France from the countryside to the city of Paris. The theater screen is 200 degrees around so it can very difficult to see everything taking place during the movie. Located in the France pavilion.
Malestrom: A journey back to midevil Norway on a dragon-headed boat. This attraction has some dips and very dark which could turn off some less adventurous guests or small children. There is a short film at the end which combined with the ride makes of a 16-minute attraction. RUMOR: Due to the popularity of the movie Frozen, this attraction could be getting a much-needed face lift to incorporate some of the characters and scenes from the movie into the attraction.
O Canada: A 360-degree theater takes guests into a 14-minute movie narrated by Martin Short. The movie, which at some moments makes fun of itself and Canada, is about Canada and its landscapes and culture. It includes a brief moment of my favorite winter pasttime….curling! One of the better attractions. The only negative is guests stand throughout the movie.
Wonders of China: Another 360-degree theater shows guests a 19-minute movie about China. The movie debuted in the spring of 2003.
Hollywood Studios has a lot of stage shows but they also take place in outdoor theaters so while you are sitting, you are also still outside in the heat and humidity. However, there are still places to go and beat the heat.
Beauty and The Beast Live on Stage: A 20-minute version of the movie Beauty and The Beast in a Broadway-level production. The theater is located in the Sunset Boulevard section of Hollywood Studios. The show repeats throughout the day so there are plenty of chances to see it during the middle of the day.
Disney Junior Live on Stage: A stage show geared toward the littler guests. This show, which my family has seen every time we have gone to Disney World, has the same basic story line: Minnie’s Birthday. However, the cast of “helpers” has changed. Currently, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates help Mickey and gang put together a surprise birthday party for Minnie. Guests will sit on the floor for this production. There are benches on the sides and in the rear of the theater for those guests who don’t want or can’t sit on the floor but space is limited. The attraction is located in the Animation Courtyard.
Great Movie Ride: 22-minute ride through movie history. If you take small children, there are some moments of peril and simulated gun fire. My family took our daughter on this ride when she was five or six and it took many snacks of popcorn to calm her down after the ride. Located on Hollywood Boulevard.
MuppetVision 3D: The Muppets take guests to the MuppetLabs where they are developing MuppetVision 3D. The labs suffer a failure and a 3D character named Waldo escapes the lab. The show involves the Muppets trying, through 3D tricks and gags, to capture Waldo and return him to the lab. The pre-show and show is 25-minutes long and the attraction is located on New York Street.
The Voyage of the Little Mermaid: Also located in the Animation Courtyard, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a 17-minute stage production of the movie. The theater is dark and can be scary for small children. The show is excellent and very popular and can have long lines to get into the theater which holds a lot of people. Fastpass+ reservations are available for this attraction.
Carousel of Progress: Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress that debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City returned the Magic Kingdom with an updated show. The show takes guests through the 20th century and a peak into the future. The show is located in Tomorrowland and is 20-minutes long. The attraction is rarely crowded so wait time is usually based on how much time is remaining in the show.
Country Bear Jamboree: An original from when the park opened in 1971. The 16-minute show in Frontierland has guests watch the animatronic Country Bear sing a collection of country songs.
Enchanted Tiki Room: Located in Adventureland, Tiki Birds sing their way through this 10-minute show while guests relax on benches in the Enchanted Tiki Room. There are over 300 birds which sing and dance during this show.
Hall of Presidents: The 20-25 minute show is located in Liberty Square. The show is based on other World’s Fair attraction designed by Walt Disney: Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This show takes guests through American history as told by the US Presidents and includes a full reading of the Gettysburg Address. An attraction much like the Carousel of Progress where the wait time will be dictated by how long is it until the next show.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic: A 12-minute show where guests are taken on a journey through some Disney’s iconic moments and songs. It is a 3D show and the theater can be dark.
Monsters LaughFloor: A 15-minute comedy show featuring the characters from Monsters Inc. and Monsters University. It is an interactive show where guests participate in the show by texting jokes into the show. The pre-show includes spotlights on guests which funny captions underneath and one person is selected at random to be one of the running gags throughout the show. Located in Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland Peoplemover: The 10-minute ride throughout Tomorrowland gives guests a chance to see over Tomorrowland and parts of Fantasyland. This is great opportunity to get off your feet. The ride is usually not crowded and Cast Members will allow to take a second or even third journey if you ask and there are not people waiting. Some people use this attraction to see what rides have short or long wait time and do some “on the fly” park planning. The ride, though outside, is completely covered so guests can at least escape the sun but not the humidity.
I hope this post gives readers a chance to discover some attractions which can be used to beat the heat during the upcoming summer months.
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In continuing with the theme of the “basics” of a Walt Disney World vacation, today’s topic is Character Meet and Greets. Disney has a lot of characters and a lot of visitors want to meet those characters. In my opinion, Disney has developed three ways for guests to meet their favorite characters:
1) Character Meals: Table-service meals where Disney characters rotate through the dining hall for pictures with the guests.
2) Formal In-Park Meet and Greets: Pre-established areas, with set design, where guests can go and meet the characters.
3) Informal In-Park Meet and Greets: These are spontaneous or known areas where guest can go and meet the characters.
Each type of meet-and-greet has its own pluses and minuses.
At Walt Disney World, there are plenty of opportunities to get a meal and autographs/pictures with your favorite characters.
In the four parks:
Animal Kingdom: Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House (breakfast and lunch only) – Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy
Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Banquet Hall (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel, Mary Poppins
Note about this meal: All characters listed are not guaranteed to appear at your meal. They rotate based on the day and meal.
Guests also receive a professional photo package which includes: 4 prints (4″x6″) and 1 6″x8″ print with one of the princesses. The package is delivered to the table during the meal.
Hollywood Studios: Disney’s Play N’ Dine at Hollywood and Vine (breakfast and lunch only) – Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Handy Mandy, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates
Magic Kingdom: A Buffet with Character at The Crystal Palace (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger
Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Snow White; The Fairy Godmother appears at dinner. This is a TWO table-credit dining experience.
Guests also receive a professional photo package which includes: 4 prints (4″x6″), 1 6″x8″ print, 1 6″x8″ print of Cinderella’s Castle, and a Cinderella Themed Photo Folder
Children (ages 3-9) also receive a special gift: a princess wand for girls and prince’s sword for boys
Meals at the Resorts:
Contemporary Resort: Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Buffet at Chef Mickey’s (breakfast and dinner only) – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto
Grand Floridan Resort and Spa: Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare (breakfast only) – Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and The Mad Hatter
Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare (dinner only) – Cinderella and Prince Charming, The Fairy Godmother, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella, Some characters may only be seen in the lobby for pictures.
Polynesian Resort: ‘Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo and Stitch (breakfast only) – Lilo and Stitch. Often Mickey Mouse and Pluto appear but are not guaranteed.
Yacht and Beach Club Resort: Beach Club Breakfast Buffet at Cape May Cafe (breakfast only) – Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy
My family has gone to every character meal on this list except the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare. We love going to character meals. It has many advantages. First, a guest can meet a lot of characters in a short period of time since most of the meals take about 60 to 90 minutes. Second, a guest can see the characters in “non-traditional” attire. For example, Mickey Mouse is dressed as Farmer Mickey at Garden Grill, Safari Mickey at Tusker House and Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey’s. Third, it gives the guest a chance to relax, sit down in an air-conditioned environment while the characters come to them as opposed to the other way around.
The major drawback to the character meals, guests are taking away time in the parks to spend time at a meal. Another drawback is if a guest is not on the Disney Dining Plan, these meals can be a bit pricey. Most of them are buffets and not true sit down meals.
That being said, you can get some great pictures and some quality character interaction.
Sometimes if you get seated at the right place, you can get some good panoramic pictures of the resort.
Formal In-Park Meet and Greets:
This group of meet and greets is set only in the parks. When Disney, first opened, almost all the meet and greets were informal. If you saw a character walking through the resort, you could stop and take pictures. As more and more people wanted to meet the characters, Disney made the meet and greet more formalized. They set up permanent locations where people can go and meet the characters. There are many locations where guests can do this. Another way to determine if a meet and greet is formal or informal is to ask this question: Is there a wait time listed for the meet and greet? If the answer is yes, then it’s a formal meet and greet.
Animal Kingdom: Currently there are no formal meet and greets anymore. Disney is in the process of creating Avatar Land which is scheduled to open in 2017. In the process of creating this land, they had to eliminate the Camp Minnie-Mickey. Camp Minnie-Mickey was a place was guests could meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and a rotating set of characters. There were also informal meet and greets that would spring up when the lines for the other characters go too long. My daughter got the chance to meet Thumper and Miss Bunny at one of the informal meet and greets.
EPCOT: The EPCOT Character Spot – Mickey, Pluto, and Minnie Mouse
EPCOT is also the best place for informal in-park meet and greets.
Hollywood Studios: Hollywood Studios doesn’t have a meet and greets which meet the “wait time listed” criteria. However, they do have four meet and greets where guests can meet characters in a formal setting with themed backdrops:
Outside of Disney Junior Live – Disney Junior Characters on a rotating basis
Phineas and Ferb Meet and Greet outside of Muppetvision
Monsters University in Pixar Place
The Animation Courtyard – Typically Sorcerer Mickey, Winnie the Pooh, and characters from non-princess Movies
Magic Kingdom: Magic Kingdom has the most formal character meet and greets.
Ariel’s Grotto – Ariel as a mermaid
Pete’s Silly Sideshow (2 queues) – Donald Duck and Goofy in one queue; Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse in the other.
Princess Hall (2 queues) – Cinderella and Rapunzel in one queue; Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen in the other.
Note: the wait times for Anna and Elsa can approach the four hour range. As I’m writing, the listed expected wait time is 300 minutes (5 hours). Two tips: either get in line right away or use a Fastpass+ experience for this. The Fastpass+ should cut the wait time down to “only” 30 minutes.
Tinker Bell’s Nook – Tinker Bell and the other Disney Fairies
Town Square Mickey – Magician Mickey Mouse
These meet and greets are a good way to meet characters but have the drawback of potentially long wait times to meet one, maybe, two characters and waiting, for a portion of the time, outside. Still the pictures can be good:
Informal In-Park Meet and Greets:
These meet and greets vary in location and/or time of day. There is no set schedule when this type of meet and greet takes place. The best thing to do is to ask a Cast Member or Guest Relations when a guest arrives at the park. Some of the same meet and greets take place every day (for example: Princesses like Snow White and Mulan in EPCOT have a set schedule) , however, not all of them do which is why it is best to ask upon arrival. This is also a good chance to see rarely seen characters. Typically, the lines for this type of meet and greet is shorter than the formal meet and greet given there is no set schedule.
This is a rarity – meeting one of the “Big Five” characters at an informal meet and greet. My daughter and I were walking through EPCOT during the Food and Wine Festival, last year, as I was taking her picture in front of every booth and Minnie came walking out. We, immediately, stopped her for a picture before a line could form. She came out with this guy:
As we continued to walk through the World Showcase, we passed into China and Mulan was out for pictures and autographs. This was the first time we had seen Mulan in our travels. As a result, she was one of the few princesses that daughter didn’t have her picture taken with. So, we stopped for a picture.
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Just this week, Disney has announced the completion of a new ride and three new items around Walt Disney World.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has been completed and will open to the public starting on May 28, 2014. There could be soft openings between now and the 28th but nothing is guaranteed. The Mine Train completes the New Fantasyland construction project. The project added a second Dumbo ride, Under the Sea – a Journey of the Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Grotto (an Ariel meet and Greet), Enchanted Tales with Belle, the ever popular Be Our Guest Restaurant, the Barnstormer roller coaster, Pete’s Silly Sideshow where guests can meet Donald, Goofy, Minnie and Daisy in vintage county fair attire, and the Princess Fairytale Hall where guests can currently meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen, Cinderella, and a rotating fourth princess (usually Rapunzel). It was quite the expansion project and took over two years complete and attractions opened in three different stages.
A preview of the Mine Train ride can be found here (courtesy of Theme Park Review): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9A4vjeYLcXw
If you are a Disney Visa cardholder, you are eligible for Free Disney Dining on a select dates in the fall. This promotion will be available to the general public starting on May 7, 2014 for stays booked before August 8, 2014. Since it’s a new blog and I haven’t talked about it yet, here’s the scoop on Disney Dining.
First of there are three levels of Disney Dining Plans:
Quick Service Disney Dining Plan: 2 counter service meals (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)
Price per night in 2014: $41.99/adult, $16.03/child aged 3-9
Standard Disney Dining Plan: 1 counter service (per night), 1 table service (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)
Price per night in 2014: $60.64/adult, $19.23/child aged 3-9
Deluxe Disney Dining Plan: 3 meals at your choice of counter or table service (per night), 2 snacks (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)
Price per night in 2014: $109.53/adult, $29.86/child aged 3-9
If you stay in a Value resort like the All-Star Resorts or Pop Century, your stay qualifies for Free Quick Service Dining. For stays in Moderate, Deluxe, or Villa Resorts, your stay qualifies for the Standard Dining Plan. This promotion is what made my family take their first Disney vacation. For a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids) that stay for six nights at a Moderate resort, it can save that family $958.44 using this promotion. That’s quite a savings. This is Disney’s most popular promotions and each resort that is eligible (All Star Movies, Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, and 3-bedroom villa are not eligible) only has a select night of “Free Dining” rooms are they fill up quickly.
Disney is bringing some nightlife to the Animal Kingdom park with the introduction of “Harambe Nights” for the summer. This show will run from June 7, 2014 to August 9, 2014. The evening starts with a reception featuring appetizers, wines, beers, and soft drinks. After the receptions, guests will be brought into the new Harambe Theater for a new show, “The Lion King in the Wild.” This show will feature celebrity narrators, a live orchestra, along with dancing and sings in a 55-minute stage show. After the show, the night moves back to Harambe Village for a street party where the guests can participate. The night ends with dessert. The event runs from 7:00-10:30 pm. General admission tickets are $119 for ages 10 and up and $79 for ages 9 and under. Floor seats are $134 for ages 10 and up and $94 for ages 9 and under.
The last bit of new information is a nod to Disney’s past. Disney’s Polynesian Resort will be reverting to its original name Polynesian Village Resort Hotel. The name change is part of multi-year reimagining project which includes the addition of Disney Vacation Club villa and bungalows, guest room renovations, renovations to the pool and the Grand Ceremonial House. The resort will also see the addition of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto which will feature tiki-styled drinks and polynesian-themed small plates.