“Cool” Attractions at Walt Disney World

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:

Animal Kingdom:

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

EPCOT has the most opportunities to “cool” off and watch a show or in some cases go on an attraction.

Future World

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.

World Showcase

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:

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.

Magic Kingdom

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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Character Meet and Greets

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.

Character Meals:

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

EPCOT: Chip N’ Dale’s Harvest Feast at Garden Grill (dinner only) – Chip N’ Dale, Pluto, Mickey

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.

My daughter at Chef Mickey's with Minnie Mouse
My daughter at Chef Mickey’s with Minnie Mouse
And with Donald Duck at Chef Mickey's
And with Donald Duck at Chef Mickey’s
Daughter with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare
Daughter with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare

Sometimes if you get seated at the right place, you can get some good panoramic pictures of the resort.

View from our table at Chef Mickey's
View from our table at Chef Mickey’s

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:

The family with Phineas and Ferb
The family with Phineas and Ferb

 

My daughter with Mike and Sulley from Monsters University
My daughter with Mike and Sulley from Monsters University
My daughter meeting Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Studio.
My daughter meeting Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Studio.

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.

Meeting Minnie Mouse at EPCOT
Meeting Minnie Mouse at EPCOT

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:

My daughter with King Louie from Jungle Book
My daughter with King Louie from Jungle Book

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.

My daughter with Mulan in the China Pavilion.
My daughter with Mulan in the China Pavilion.

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Halloween and Christmas Parties

Walt Disney World, every year, hosts two parties: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, in September and October, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in November and December.  Both parties take place at the Magic Kingdom.  Today’s blog is going briefly discuss what goes on at these parties and when we get closer to the events, I’ll go into more detail about tips and strategies to maximize the enjoyment of going to these parties.

First, both of these parties are “hard ticket” items which means that guests have to purchase tickets IN ADDITION to any park tickets already purchased.  Also, these events only take place on select nights.  On these nights, guests who have tickets to party may enter the Magic Kingdom starting at 4 pm where they will be given a wrist band for Cast Members to see in order to gain access to attractions and meet-and-greets.  The party officially starts at 7 pm and Cast Members start moving non-ticket holders out of the park and the party comes to a close at midnight.

Starting with the Halloween Party, these are the nights when it will take place:

September 1, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26 and 28

October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 21, 23 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31

Advance Sales Ticket Pricing

September Dates: $62.00+tax ages 10 & up; $57.00+tax ages 3-9

October Dates: $67.00+tax ages 10 & up; $62.00+tax ages 3-9

Advance Sales are available for all the dates in October except the 10th, 17th, 24th, 30th, and 31st where same day ticket pricing is available.

Day of Event Ticket Pricing

September Dates: $68.00+tax ages 10&up; $63.00+tax ages 3-9

October Dates: $71.00+ tax ages 10&up; $66.00+tax ages 3-9

October 31st: $77.00+tax ages 10&up; $72.00+tax ages 3-9

Annual Passholder and DVC Member Discounts

Ticket discounts are available for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members for all the September and select October Dates (October 3, 10, 17, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31 are excluded from the discount) $58.00+tax ages 10 and up; $53.00+tax ages 3-9

With the dates and ticketing out of the way, what does a guest for their $60+ dollars.  Let’s start with the map:

Not So Scary Party Map
Not So Scary Party Map

There is something for everybody: trick or treat trails for the kids and kids at heart, spectacular themeing, specialty food and drink treats, a Halloween Parade and a special showing of Halloween themed version of the Wishes Fireworks Show, and appearances by rarely seen characters.

My family meeting the Seven Dwarfs
My family meeting the Seven Dwarfs

Two of the most popular meet and greets are the Seven Dwarfs (as seen above) and Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  This is also one of the nights where the Disney Villains are out in the parks (seen below).

Disney Villains
Disney Villains

The villains are seen mainly in the parade and one of the many dance parties that occur throughout the evening.  The usual suspects (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, etc.) are also out in the parks available for meet-and-greets in costume and at dance parties during the event.

My family has gone to the Halloween Party twice during our visits to Walt Disney World and we have enjoyed both visits.  We learned a lot from that first time.  The most important thing we learned is lightweight costumes that are breathable are a must.  It is still hot AND humid in Florida during September and October.  The last thing a guest wants to do is start shedding layers of a costume off and trying to find a place to store it while in the parks.   The other thing we learned is: If there a certain character that a member of your party wants to meet, find where the meet-and-greet is going to take place and get in line early.  The wait time will only grow throughout the night and the characters may only be out for a short time.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Timing of the Christmas party is the same as the Halloween party: ticket holders can enter the park starting at 4, non-ticket holders are ushered out starting at 7, and the party is over at midnight.

Very Merry Christmas Party Dates:

November 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21, and 30

December 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19

Advanced Sales Ticket Pricing

Advanced Sales Pricing is available for all dates EXCEPT: November 21 and 30; December 5, 12, 18, and 19

All dates except those listed above: $67.00+tax ages 10 and up; $62.00+tax ages 3-9

Day of Event Pricing

All dates (except December 19): $71.00+tax ages 10 and up; $66.00+tax ages 3-9

December 19: $74.00+tax ages 10 and up; $69.00+tax ages 3-9

Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club Members Pricing

All dates except the dates listed above in the advanced sales ticket pricing: $62.00+tax ages 10 and up; $57.00+tax ages 3-9

Like the Halloween Party, here’s the map for the Christmas Party:

Christmas Party Map
Christmas Party Map

The Christmas Party is very similar to the Halloween Party in terms of what takes place. They both have a special parade and version of Wishes, holiday treats are available throughout the park, the characters are dressed up in Christmas attire, and there are rarely seen characters out in the parks.

There are two main differences between the Halloween Party and Christmas Party are: 1) Cinderella’s Castle is covered in Christmas lights and it snows on Main Street during the party.  Both can be seen below.

Snow on Main Street
Snow on Main Street
Cinderella's Castle Lit Up for Christmas
Cinderella’s Castle Lit Up for Christmas

The most well-known character that appears during the Christmas Party is Scrooge McDuck.  Like in the story, he’s not giving out any of his money….sorry!

Scrooge McDuck
Scrooge McDuck

The Seven Dwarfs also make an appearance at the Christmas Party.

Seven Dwarfs Dressed Up For Christmas
Seven Dwarfs Dressed Up For Christmas

The same rules, from the Halloween Party, apply for meeting these characters: find out from a Cast Member where the special meet-and-greets are taking place and get in line early.

The parade that takes place during the evening is one of the must-see events of the party.

Opening Float of the Christmas Parade
Opening Float of the Christmas Parade

The parade proudly announces that this is Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade.  The parade continues with floats showing the various Disney characters in Christmas attire.  And the parade wouldn’t be complete with an appearance by the “Big Guy.”  No, not Santa.  But MICKEY!

End of Christmas Parade
End of Christmas Parade

 

If a person is planning a trip in the second half of the calendar year and asked me which of the two parties is better party to attend, I would answer the Christmas Party.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween.  The combination of heat, humidity, and getting dressed in a costume makes it even less appealing.  Now, November and December when the weather is a little cooler, the humidity isn’t as oppressive, and I get to celebrate Christmas.  That’s a home run!  My best tip for the Christmas Party is to bring extra layers of clothing.  It can get chilly in November/December at night in Florida and packing a jacket or sweatshirt to keep you warm can go a long way in making your party more enjoyable.

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The Basics of the Walt Disney World Dining Plan

In the first post, I talked about the Free Dining promotion that Disney is running throughout the fall.  However, I didn’t go into a lot of detail about the dining plan except for the savings that a family could have in using the promotion.  This post is going to go into more detail about the dining plan and more specifically the dining plan at Walt Disney World.

To the average person making their first trip, the Disney Dining Plan (DDP for short), can be overwhelming.  There are lots of options.  Lots of categories for meals.  Will I be able to use all my credits?  And so on.  Yes, the DDP can be overwhelming….at first.  Just take a look at the standard brochure that Disney gives up discussing DDP.

2014Dining

There is a lot of information in the brochure and a guest would need to take some time to sit down and read it.  When you get to your room for the first time, who wants to sit down and read that?  Not very many people.  It usually gets pushed aside under “I’ll read it later,” and it never gets read until the guest gets home from their vacation.

There are three categories of food at Walt Disney World: a snack, a quick-service meal, and a table service meal.

A definition for all three:

A snack: A snack is something can be purchased at either a snack cart or a quick service restaurant.  Examples of snacks are a 20 oz. bottle of soda or water, a scoop of popcorn, 12 oz. coffee, or a bag of pre-packaged snacks.  Typically, if it costs under $5, it counts as a Disney snack.

An example of a snack menu:

Snack Menu
Snack Menu

A quick-service meal: A quick-service meal is exactly what is says.  It’s a meal where a guest goes up to the counter, orders their food, and waits at the counter for your food to be ready.  The only exception to this is Be Our Guest where for easier queue management a guest orders their food from an electronic kiosk and then goes to find a table.  A Cast Member will bring the food to your table.

An example from Columbia Harbor House:

Columbia Harbor Quick Service Menu
Columbia Harbor Quick Service Menu

A table-service meal: Very easy to define.  A meal like going to out to eat at restaurant.  Guests are seated at the table, menus are brought to them and guests are waited on by a Cast Member.

An example from Coral Reef Restaurant in EPCOT:

Coral Reef Dinner Menu
Coral Reef Dinner Menu

Disney, for purposes of the DDP, allocates the number of snacks, quick-service meals, and table-service meals based on the number of NIGHTS in a stay.  For example, a family that has a four-night and is on the standard dining plan, each person in the family will get 4 snacks, 4 quick-service meals, and 4 table-service meals.

Starting in 2013, Disney also included the price of a refillable mug in the Dining Plan.  So each person would receive a refillable mug.

When a guest adds the Disney Dining Plan to their resort stay (guests staying off-property can not take advantage of the dining plan), the guest has three packages to choose from: quick-service dining, regular/standard dining, and deluxe dining.  Here’s a breakdown of what’s included in all three packages.

Quick-Service dining (per person): 2 quick-service meals (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)  There are NO table-service credits included in the quick-service package.  The cost per night of this dining package is $41.99 for guests aged 10 and up; $16.03 for guests aged 3 through 9.

Regular/Standard dining (per person): 1 quick-service meal (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 table-service meal (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay).  The cost per night of this dining package is $60.04 for guests aged 10 and up; $19.23 for guests aged 3 through 9.

Deluxe dining (per person): 3 counter or table service meals (per night), 2 snacks (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay).  The cost per night of this dining package is $109.53 for guests aged 10 and up; $29.86 for guests 3 through 9.

Note: gratuity is NOT included in the cost of the table service meals under the regular/standard and deluxe dining plan.  This comes “out of pocket” and can be charged back to the room.

Reminder about the gratuity
Reminder about the gratuity

At the end of every quick or table meal, a guest will get a receipt with the prices for everything order, typically, zeroed out and at the bottom will be reminder of how many credits they have remaining on their stay.

Receipt example
Receipt example

For snacks and quick service meals, there is no distinction made between “adult” snacks and “children” snacks.  They are all lumped together.  For table service meals, however, they do make the distinction and the credits are broken down into “adult” table service credits remaining and children table service credits remaining.

One Credit and Two Credit Table Service Meals

Within the table service meals, the majority of the meals cost only one table-service credit.  However, there are some meals because their cost and/or popularity will cost the guest two table-service credits.  Those restaurants are:

Jiko – The Cooking Place (Animal Kingdom Lodge), Flying Fish Cafe (Disney’s Boardwalk), California Grill (Contemporary Resort), Citricos and Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridan Resort and Spa), Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge), Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht and Beach Club Resorts), Le Cellier (Canada Pavilion in EPCOT), Monsieur Paul (France Pavilion in EPCOT), The Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios), Fulton’s Crab House and The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Cafe (Downtown Disney).

There is also one character meal: Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table which will cost guests two credits.

Three dinner shows: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show will also cost guests two credits.

All room service meals and pizza deliveries will cost guests two credits.

Making Table Service Reservations

Disney strongly recommends making reservations for all table service meals.  Guests can start making reservations at 180 days from the start of their vacation.  Does it seem odd to know what you are going to eat on vacation but not know what you are going to eat next Tuesday?  Yes, it does.  But this planning is necessary.  Reservations, for some restaurants, fill up very quickly.  The best plan of attack, in my opinion, is use the table reservations as your day-by-day planning guide for the parks.

This is what my family does.   If we have an evening table-service  reservation at Hollywood Studios, we may choose to go to another park in the morning.  Then, we would return to our room after lunch and recharge by the pool in the afternoon.  Then head to Hollywood Studios before our reservation and try to ride an attraction or two before having our dinner reservation.  The opposite would hold true for a morning table service reservation.

But overall, my best advice for making dining reservations is to make right on the 180 day mark.  This provides the guest with the best chance of getting reservations they want at the time they want them.  Ideally, the guest should have a prioritized list of restaurant ready to go when making reservations.  This provides the guest with back-up plans if Plan A should happen to fall through.

Hopefully this article provides the reader with some insight to the complicated world of the Disney Dining Plan.

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Disney Ticketing (Past and Present)

Walt Disney World and Disneyland have gone through a massive evolution in ticketing since the two parks open.  At first, you paid a flat admission and then bought books of tickets like at the county fair and the rides were grouped by attraction level.  Most people know these as the old “A-E Tickets.”

Old Disneyland A-E tickets
Old Disneyland A-E tickets

When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, they also used the old A-E Tickets.

Walt Disney World E-Ticket
Walt Disney World E-Ticket

The more popular the attraction was the higher ticket level it received.  These attractions on the E-Ticket were some of the popular attractions when the park first opened. As the parks evolved, it became easier to have just a single park admission which covered all the attractions in the park.  People didn’t have carry around books of tickets.  They had just one ticket and that covered everything in the park.

A Variety of Disney Passports
A Variety of Disney Passports

Disney called these Disney Passports and it was valid for one day or multiple days.  All the passports in the picture above were for one day.  If you wanted to visit multiple parks in the same day, you had to buy a passport for each park.  There was no “park hopping.”  Also remember, at the time, there was just Magic Kingdom and EPCOT in Walt Disney World and just Disneyland in California.  There was no Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s California Adventure.  This was in Disney’s mind the most efficient way to do ticketing.  As more people wanted to “park hop,” Disney responded with an early version of the park hopper:

An Early Park-Hopper Ticket
An Early Park-Hopper Ticket

This ticket gave a person unlimited admission to both the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.  As you can see, they called it the World Passport.  It also required a person get their hand stamped if they left a park but wanted to return to either park in the same day. Hand stamping was the next thing to go as Disney introduced the Key to the World Card for on-property guests and a credit card swipeable paper ticket for off-property guests.

First Generation Key to the World Cards
First Generation Key to the World Cards

These are first generation Key to the World Cards and each resort on Disney property had their own style of card.  Some people would intentionally stay at different resorts so they could “collect Key to the World cards.”  To standardized things, Disney introduced the second generation Key to the World Cards:

2nd generation Key to the World Card
2nd generation Key to the World Card

Now reach the present, Disney has phased out the Key to the World Card and moved everything to their new program: The Disney Magicband.  This wearable band works as your park ticket, room key, charging privileges.  Basically, anything that person needs for their stay is now on this wearable band.

New Magic Band
New Magic Band

Now moving through all these different technologies and investing in new parks, attractions, resorts, and upgrades didn’t come cheap.  Some of those costs were passed along to the consumer.  When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, admission to the park was $3.50 plus the cost of the ticket books for the attractions.  Ticket books were eliminated in 1981 and admission to Magic Kingdom was $9.50 which quickly rose to $17 in 1983.  It took until 2002 for one-day tickets to cost $50.  In 2014, the cost of a one-day ticket for the Magic Kingdom now costs $99.  We still haven’t crossed that $100 threshold but I could see it happening with the 2015 ticket increase. Now, let’s take a look at the ticket options available to someone going the parks in the near future: Standard One-park/day tickets – Walt Disney World These tickets must be used with 14 days of first use.  They can be bought for a little as one day and as many as 10 days. For just a one day ticket: Magic Kingdom $99, All other parks $94 If you buy a multiple day ticket, it’s one price starting at $188 for a two-day ticket to as much as $354 for 10 days worth of tickets. For children aged 3-9, the one day Magic Kingdom ticket is $98 while all other parks are $93. Multiple day tickets start at $175 for a two-day ticket and go to $334 for a 10-day ticket. The biggest increase in costs are over days one through four (costs for guests aged 10 and over): one-day ticket $99 (Magic Kingdom), $94 (all other parks) two-day ticket $188 three-day ticket $274 four-day ticket $294 After the fourth day, the price increases $10/day up to the 10-day limit. There are two options which you can purchase for your standard tickets: Park Hopper and Water Parks and More.  You can purchase both options for your standard tickets. The Park Hopper gives the guest the ability to visit multiple parks within the same day.  If a guest doesn’t purchase this option, the guest is limited to one park per day.  This option is relatively inexpensive at only $60 whether a guest purchases a two-day or ten-day ticket.  The $60 cost is the same. Same applies for the Water Parks and More options.  This option gives the guest the ability to go to Disney’s two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), the DisneyQuest Interactive Theme Park in Downtown Disney, play Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, a round of mini-golf at either Winter Summerland or Fantasia Gardens miniature golf course.  This also $60 per ticket.  However, if you are staying four days, then the guest has four available visits to the above locations. Finally, a guest could combine the two options for $86 per ticket. Annual Passes – Walt Disney World A guest, if they plan to make multiple visits within the same year, can purchase an annual passes.  There are two types of annual passes a guest could purchase: A Standard Annual Pass: Provides a guest with access to all four parks with park-hopping privileges.  Complimentary parking at Walt Disney World Resorts, quarterly newsletter, discounts an limited-time offers on resort stays, merchandise, and dining.  This annual pass is $634 for 2014. A Premium Annual Pass: Provides a guest with everything that a standard pass does.  In addition, a guest has unlimited access to the attractions featured in the Water Parks and more option for a standard ticket.  This annual pass is $754 for 2014. Standard Ticketing – Disneyland Resort Ticketing for Disneyland is a little different from Walt Disney World.  There are only two parks: Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure.  However, a guest can still purchase a one-park per day ticket or a park hopper.  Tickets for adults start at only $86 for a one-day ticket or $131 for a one-day park hopper ticket. Disneyland has Magic Morning option for purchase which gives early access to Disneyland Park on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday.  This option can only be purchases on ticket lengths three days or longer. Annual Passes – Disneyland Resort There are three types of annual passes available at the Disneyland Resort 1) Deluxe Annual Pass: Provides 315 days admission to the Disneyland Resort.  There are 50 blackout dates.  This pass costs $499 without parking or $638 with parking in 2014. 2) Premier Annual Pass: No blackout days (365 days of admission) and includes parking.  This pass costs $669 in 2014. 3) Premium Annual Pass: Admission to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts.  Acts a Premier Annual Pass at Walt Disney World.  Available for purchase only at Disneyland ticket counters, Guest Relations at Walt Disney World, and Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World.  This pass costs $979 in 2014. There’s a brief introduction to ticketing both past and present at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. Thanks for reading!

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