Month: March 2014

Magic Bands for Everyone! – Update

Looks like a lot is riding on this BILLION DOLLAR project. Check out today’s piece in NYT.

In a few weeks we will have our first experience with Magic Bands and although they look wicked cool, is it worth the investment. If Park execs are bringing in industry experts like Jack Dorsey, perhaps the rollout isn’t as rosy as they would like you to believe.

As a sample of one, most of the reports I have heard regarding the program aren’t good. That and a hill of beans will get you a hill of beans.

Original post below.
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Hey off-site guests, feeling a little “under-appreciated” (inside joke for regular readers)? Well, now for only $12.95, you can upgrade your $99 single-day, RFID-enabled pass with a stylish Magic Band! Comes in assorted colors! You can also upgrade your Magic Band with special jibits, wraps and whatnot. In order to purchase a magic band, you must have an RFID ticket. In other words, you won’t be able to just pick a few up and bring them home.

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Check out Orlando Sentinel’s story.

This story has hit the wire, and day guests are picking up bands en masse. If you were feeling slighted because you chose to stay off-site, you can now feel like a resort guest.

Marketing geniuses!

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The Most Under-Appreciated Attractions at Walt Disney World: #7 Rafiki Planet Watch

Everyone knows about the WDW Railroad (another potential candidate for under-appreciated attractions), but have you ever taken the ride on the other railroad? No, I’m not talking about Big Thunder! I’m talking about the Wildlife Express Train at Animal Kingdom. Hop aboard for your trip to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This attraction at the rear of Animal Kingdom is truly an under-appreciated venue in the parks.

At Rafiki’s Planet Watch you will discover how Disney cares for the many animals on the premise. Guests can really get some up close and personal exposure to the many exotic species inhabiting Animal Kingdom. Rafiki’s Planet Watch is broken into several areas including Habitat Habit, Conservation Station and Affection Section. The entire section is dedicated to wildlife conservation and gives you the opportunity to see the animals up close.

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This area of the park is a no thrills section. Think of it as more zoo/museum rather than theme park. One of the best reasons to go to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is for character greetings. Everyone knows I despise waiting in line for characters. You won’t wait here. But, you’re also going to see some of the less popular ones too. Rafiki, Pocahontas, Terk and others. Before the hate mail comes – these are less popular characters! No one ever goes to WDW specifically to meet Terk!

Maybe Rafiki’s Planet Watch is under-appreciated because it’s out of the way. Perhaps it’s misunderstood. In either event, if you want a reprieve from the large crowds in the Africa section of AK, head on up to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to see some exotic animals, hug a goat, or learn about veterinary medicine.

Ok. It DEFINITELY is under-appreciated, and no matter how much I am trying to force myself to enjoy it…the best part really is the train ride. Sorry. I just can’t sell this one. Sigh.

The good people at allears.net have an in-depth look at this portion of the park, so visit the here for details.

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Getting More Expensive to Stay Off-Site…Again

Walt Disney World has increased the cost of parking for off-site guests. Effective today, March 30, the daily cost to park at any of the theme parks has increased by $2 from $15 to $17 for cars and motorcycles. The cost for campers is now $18 while buses will cost $21.

Parking for resort guests, annual and premium pass holders will continue to be free of charge. The parking increase follows the recent admission ticket increases earlier this year.

Check out the story on WESH Orlando for more details.

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Help Wanted

The under-appreciated and overlooked will return tomorrow. We are having a family weekend so didn’t get around to finishing the post.

However, I wanted to ask for help. I’m looking for Disney pics and guest bloggers. I would love to start Disney TBT so if you have pics with the mouse while you were wearing your tube socks hiked to your knees, we want to see it. Also, would love some extra submissions for FRIEND FRIDAY.

Thanks again for making this so much fun.

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The Most Under-Appreciated Attractions at Walt Disney World: #6 The American Adventure

At times it feels like I live on a very lonely planet in the “World.” My favorite attraction in all of Walt Disney World is The American Adventure in Epcot.

The American Adventure is a full animatronic stage show hosted by Mark Twain and Ben Franklin. Guests of this show will get to see a very short synopsis of America’s great history. Jefferson’s penning of the Declaration of Independence, Women’s Suffrage, the Civil War, The Great Depression, Teddy Roosevelt’s preservation of our national parks, and many more moments in our great nation’s history take center stage in this show. It would take a heart of stone not to get a lump in your throat and have your chest swell with pride as the closing montage delivers a fitting crescendo of what makes our country number one!
America, spread your golden wings. Fly on Freedom’s wind across the sky!

Here are the lyrics but not the real video.

I know it’s not always so fashionable to be an American braggart, but sue me. We’re from Boston! The Revolution started here!

What amazes me about this attraction is that people find it a bore – a place to cool off for 30 minutes when the Florida sun gets to be too much! I don’t get it. Maybe I’m too much of a nerd, but I dare say the American Adventure is a must see for every God-loving, chest-pounding, red-blooded American! I swear, it should be a requirement, like reading Johnny Tremain (also a Disney film).

If you plan on catching the show, come early to hear the Voices of Liberty. This a cappella group will blow your socks off as their powerful voices reverberate inside the rotunda. They bellow patriotic tunes and stir up a sentiment of your pilgrim’s pride. Shenandoah, anyone?

The interior is palatial in its Colonial style with its high ceilings, columns, flags and Americana in every direction. Speaking of flags, The Hall of Flags is a sight to behold. The building’s architecture borrows elements from various landmarks to give it a very authentic look and feel. For you fellow Bostonians, the Old State House (visible from my office window) was actually used as inspiration, as was Monticello, and the bricks are actual Georgia clay. Every detail gives this place some good old American street cred. If money is no object, host your wedding reception here.

If I haven’t sold you on the American Adventure yet, I never will. Your kids may protest (an American exercise in and of itself), but they probably don’t like their vegetables either. Tell them what you always do…TOUGH!

USA! USA! USA!

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Want to learn more? Check out wdwmagic.com for another piece.

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FRIEND FRIDAY – Shannon: A Picture (or two) Is Worth a Thousand Words

I asked my wife, Shannon, to be my guest blogger today. Her retort was quick and swift. “No.”

I asked was there nothing she could share? She agreed to submit a photoblog of her two favorite WDW pictures. So, without additional commentary, I hope you enjoy today’s Friend Friday.
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SHANNON DONOVAN – FRIEND FRIDAY

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The Most Under-Appreciated Attractions at Walt Disney World: #5 Main Street USA

There isn’t anything quite like Main Street USA (check out this great piece on wdwinfo.com). Most of us, especially me, are guilty of bee lining as quickly as possible down Main Street USA in order to get somewhere. Often, we miss all the details that make it so charming.

Every morning a crowd waits with anticipation for the Rope Drop. The excitement builds as the WDW Railroad pulls into Main St. Station full of some of the most recognizable Disney characters accompanied by the Main Street performers. The singing begins, fireworks shoot into the air and all the guests are invited to explore the Magic Kingdom. If you take the time to amble you will have the chance to interact with these performers. They’re fantastic. In fact, one of our favorite pictures and WDW memories occurred because of the Main Street performers. Our daughter wore a custom Mary Poppins dress made by one of our dear friends. The performers came running over and asked if they could have their picture taken with Miss Poppins. It was a Disney-made memory for all of us.

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A special moment on Main Street

In addition to the performers, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy on Main Street. Shopping, antique cars, horse-drawn trolleys, character greetings and more await you at the entrance of the most beloved theme park in the world.

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Quartet anyone?

Here are some if the BEST things to do on Main Street:

*GET A HAIRCUT – nobody likes those mutton chops or that rat tail! Snip it!
The Harmony Barber Shop is a great place to visit. Reservations are strongly encouraged. We actually brought our youngest girl to the Harmony Barber Shop for her first haircut. She was too young for an appointment at Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique. For a mere fraction of the cost, she got commemorative ears, a certificate, and her baby locks given to us in a silk pouch! Nice touch.

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*EAT – Two words: ICE. CREAM. That is all.

*SALUTE THE USA – Every day, the Magic Kingdom conducts a flag retreat ceremony. The honor of drawing down the flag is usually reserved for a military veteran or first responder. It’s nice.

*PEOPLE WATCH – Everyday you will witness individuals getting their first peek while entering the Magic Kingdom. It never gets old.

*CHARACTERS – In addition to “Talking Mickey” (yes, he really talks and it’s incredible – see Inside The Magic for more details), Main Street also hosts some of the more unique characters you can meet at Walt Disney World. Jiminy Cricket, Marie from the Aristocats, Mary Poppins, and seasonal characters like the Easter Bunny can all be found on Main Street USA.

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Main Street is always crowded. So, maybe I tend to UNDER-APPRECIATE it. On the same token, I’ve never heard of anyone rushing to get there either. There really is a ton to see and explore. So next time, take some time to enjoy it before dashing to Fairytale Garden!

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The Most Under-Appreciated Attractions at Walt Disney World: #4 Fountain of Nations

The next attraction is so UNDER-APPRECIATED Disney doesn’t list it as an attraction. It’s not mentioned on its maps. Even I don’t appreciate it enough to have a picture of it. Don’t judge me! I promise you though, every time I walk by it, I comment on its awesomeness.

The Fountain of Nations can be found in the heart of Future World. This feature has been part of Epcot since opening day. It received its name when representatives from 29 countries added one gallon of water from 22 different bodies of water. The Mississippi River was used to represent USA. Check out this history of the fountain on the DisneyParks blog.

Every fifteen minutes guests are treated to a water spectacle of shooting streams synchronized to music and light. Visit the show at night for an even better appreciation of the Fountain of Nations. With the slightest breeze you will feel the cool mist of the Fountain. It is a sight to behold and you will not be disappointed to take a few minutes to enjoy the show

This video and many more can be found at wdwlive.com.

The Fountain of Nations is one of those many simple features Disney uses to make its facilities and parks so captivating. Not everything is built for maximum thrills, but often you can find yourself enchanted by seemingly smaller elements.

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The Most Under-Appreciated Attractions at Walt Disney World: #3 The Resort Monorail

Ok, ok. I can hear the boos and hisses now. EVERYONE appreciates and loves the Monorail. Indeed, they do. So, how can I include it on a list like this?

There are two monorails circling Seven Seas Lagoon in opposite directions: Express Monorail – providing nonstop service from the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) to the Magic Kingdom; and the Resort Monorail – making stops at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Magic Kingdom, and the Contemporary Resort. Unless you stay at these resorts regularly, the Resort Monorail is DEFINITELY UNDER-APPRECIATED! One of the biggest benefits of staying at these resorts is the easy access to Magic Kingdom via the Resort Monorail. Step out of your hotel onto the platform and hop aboard. No folding nasty double strollers on the bus for you!

For many, however, staying at one of these Deluxe resorts is simply a luxury outside of the budget. Here are a few tips on how to enjoy the Resort Monorail without staying at one of those high-priced rooms.

In the middle of the day when the Magic Kingdom reaches it’s maximum level of guests, it’s nice to step away from the park and recharge. Hopping over to one the resorts is a great way to flee from the madness. Every trip to WDW we make at least one lunch reservation at the Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort. Kona Cafe serves up some fantastic dishes, including our favorite Pad Thai, and also allows parents to partake of an adult beverage. Grab a good old brew, enjoy a glass of wine (this definitely pleases MouseBoss’ boss), or suck back one of those Dole Whips laced with rum to help you beat the heat. Yummy! 😉

A couple of years ago when we were schlepping it offsite, we brought the girls over to the Grand Floridian to take their Christmas pictures in a bed of poinsettias. The resort was gorgeous. The Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and decorations at every corner provided a fantastic setting for the annual picture. The bed of poinsettias, however, provided a scene we had never seen. It was my favorite Christmas card we ever sent.

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One of our many shots from our Resort Monorail photo shoot

But we didn’t pay for a week to stay there in order to capture the pics! We took advantage of the Resort Monorail!

Finally, if you drive to the Magic Kingdom, getting back to TTC when the park closes can be very crowded and challenging. The Express Monorail line stretches to eternity after Wishes. But, there is an alternative. You can wait up to 5 trains before getting to board the Express Monorail. Every Monorail car, both Resort and Express, stops at the Ticket and Transportation Center (oh, you deluxe guests are going to hate me). I promise you, you will not wait for 5 trainloads before getting on board if you use the Resort Monorail. Sure, you’ll make a quick stop at the Contemporary Resort, but it beats getting corralled into the cattle car. Your secret is safe with me.

ALL ABOARD!!!

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Here’s another

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…and another!

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