The celebrate with us thing that they’ve been doing at the parks last year and this year means that the pins saying you’re celebrating something don’t mean anything. There are carts and baskets at every park now and you can just take and wear as many as you want. And people do. We saw tons of people wearing one of each all the time. Birthday, engagement, graduation, honeymoon, first time at the park, those pins all on the shirt of a twelve year old boy one day. While people are still nice about it, since EVERYONE is wearing a pin its far less enthusiastic. We find if you make a note on dining reservations that its something special, they’ll do something for you (free drinks, glitter on the table, special dessert or personalized menu, something like that)
Pro-tip, if you’re unlucky enough to be at the park while it’s raining, ride Test Track. You haven’t lived until you’ve ridden in a convertible doing 70mph in the rain.
I still have the picks of my kids coming off that ride, one night, and all of our hair is blown back from our face, and we’re still laughing about it.
Bummer. That was one of the coolest things. Our friend’s kid got to hang out and draw pictures with Cinderella because she was wearing a “First Timer” pin. Cinderella was totally awesome about it, and it was in an out of the way corner so she wasn’t mobbed. It was just three kids and her.
Thank you so much Vesper! This is really helpful.
Thanks! I’m all over your tips site now. :-)
Well, Brad asked about next week. No rainy season yet, as a matter of fact we are in a bit of a water shortage.
I’d say skip Disney and go to Seaworld, but that is probably just me!
Yeah, I don’t claim to know the rain patterns there. My daughter’s got the rain fresh in mind because we were there last week & got rained on pretty hard during our day at Animal Kingdom. More of a freak storm?
…avoid those parks like the plague.
These tips are both pretty bad. Especially during the time of year Brad’s going to be visiting and the fact that he’ll have kids with him. The parks are going to be packed and when the kids get tired continuing to drag them around because you want to barnstorm every show or every attraction is going to end up causing you more of a problem than feeling like you wasted a few bucks because you didn’t get to see the Country Bears Jamboree. Seriously, people who feel they need to do everything make for the best peoplewatching for those of us who’ve realized that WDW has enough magic for just sitting around and soaking up the atmosphere. Usually the atmosphere is the incredible ambiance, the amazing music* and the street entertainment. And sometimes the atmosphere is someone completely flipping out on their kids and shrieking at them because they won’t behave**.
I will definitely agree with mystery and mmalloy about park hopping, though. Though I will also so that getting the best use out of your park hoppers is more for your veteran travelers. People who don’t mind going to the MK for breakfast at the Crystal Palace and a quick ride on Splash Mountain, hitting the Animal Kingdom for Finding Nemo, five runs on Expedition Everest and a quick lunch at Flame Tree and then finally Epcot for IllumiNations and dinner at Le Cellier. However, if you want to make the most out of extra magic hours, if you really want to be in the parks until 1 AM (which might not be doable with kids) then you should definitely get park hoppers. Avoid the EMH park for that day, then hit it in the evening when most of the local guests and those guests staying at lame non-property hotels go home. Then you get to experience the slack crowds of the non-EMH park and the extra magic of the extra magic hours.
Not sure I’d trust any source that referred to Disney’s Animal Kingdom as the Animal Zone. But that’s okay, since you’re crazy wrong here. DAK is pretty much awesome. The detail packed into that park is insane. One can definitely tell that it’s the last park they made at WDW, since it’s clearly the culmination of everything the imagineers had learned making the other parks. The work DAK is doing for animal conservation is pretty impressive as well. Dean mentioned imagineer tours and while there really aren’t personal imagineer tours***, there are special scheduled tours you can arrange where you and a few others get ushered through the parks and learn about their creation, the special details involved, etc. Wild by Design and Backstage Safari in DAK are both pretty amazing, the first teaching you about what went into actually creating the park, the design of their Africa, Asia and Oasis areas as well as the Tree of Life, while the latter focuses more on the zoo aspect of DAK, and while it is more dry than the first tour, with a focus on education regarding their efforts in animal conservation, it is also the one that, at one point, lets you come face to face with a rhino and give him a pet. Which was pretty sweet.
Oh, and Africa does have more black people than the Africa section of DAK. It also has more white people. Africa is very large.
This is a strange complaint. I can get disliking the crowds, the children, the barnstormers, the various oddities involved in trying to keep the parks as pleasant as possible for the maximum number of people, but enforced fun? What sort of fun are you after that Disney isn’t catering to? Sure, if the only way you can have fun is to play Warhammer, make RC airplanes**** and rock climb, I guess Disney isn’t for you, but for the most part they don’t advertise those things. It’s an all-in-one vacation where you can honestly forget about the shit you left behind.
*My nerdiest hobby is collecting Disney area music. I have about 3g of MP3s from Tomorrowland, the World Showcase, the Seas with Nemo and Friends, the Wilderness Lodge, the Tower of Terror, Adventureland and more.
**Standout thing I once heard someone scream at their kids. “IF YOU’N KEEP USIN’ LANGUAGE LIKE THAT YOU WON’T GET TO GO TO JESUS AND SEE YOUR’N MAMA WHEN YOU GO TA HEAVEN!”
Second standout thing would be the time I was in the bathroom at the Polynesian and a kid came in, screaming at the top of his lungs. Kid was about six or so. Dad says, “Patrick! Patrick! You’re screaming and everyone can year you!” and the kid stops and says, voice dripping with acid, “I know dad, you don’t have to be so fucking condescending. Asshole.” And there’s a beat, then the dad, voice so weary, says, “You’re right, Patrick. I’m sorry.” As I walked out the boy had resumed his screaming.
***You can get personalized VIP tours from castmembers trained at the Disney Institute to know their Disney history, which last I checked goes for around $75 an hour. It’s probably more now. You can also do a Dining with an Imagineer experience, which I’d definitely suggest for anyone who loves WDW. I thought it’d be awkward the time I did it, but the guy we got, the head librarian for the Imagineering Archives, was amazingly nice and knowledgeable. There are a ton of other organized tours, though. People love the five hour tour of MK, Keys to the Kingdom, though there are a lot of shorter tours too.
****If you like building RC cars, there’s actually a place at Downtown Disney that caters to you. More or less. I mean, it’s kind of RC cars for dummies, but I’ve yet to see a kid go in there to get one and his dad not decide he had to get one too.
Oh man, yeah, people watching those that drag their kids around is both a hilarious and depressing way to get to know your fellow travelers. There are people who insist on bringing their overly stimulated and exhausted toddlers to the parks at opening and stay till closing, day after day, who then scream at them at the top of their lungs in the middle of main street when they inevitably have a breakdown. Bahimiron has cited some of the worst ones we’ve heard, but people threaten their crying kids with all kinds of things while dragging them by the arm down Main Street all the time.
Perhaps that is why it is the most MAGICAL place on Earth, rather than the HAPPIEST place on Earth.
Well timed naps/downtime in the afternoon are totally worth it to avoid both child and parent meltdowns.
I guess I don’t understand your criticism, here. The best thing about Magic Hours is that it’s only open to resort guests, cutting the crowds down to at least 1/5th of what they are during the day.
And every time that we’ve done magic hours, we’ve done them with the kids. The kids are more adept at gaining their second, or third, or fourth wind than the parents, and they’re usually the ones dragging us from ride to ride by that time. I have a pretty good memory of my daughter running as fast as she could back to the opening of Test Track so that we could do it again – no lines, immediate seating!
I apologize if my tip came off like that. I intended to communicate that I didn’t want to be the wet drip of the party, making everyone pull back from the fun because I was tired or I was cranky. When we needed to relax or take a break, we took a break at the park – because we’re at Disney. We rarely care what kind of hotel room we get when we go, because we only ever see it when we collapse into the bed at night, and when we’re giddily rushing through morning showers.
Animal Kingdom has Kali River Rapids, which by my son’s pronouncement is the best ride ever.
We rode it 8 times in a row, so he’d know.*
- We went on our secret annual week, when there are no crowds. You ain’t gonna be able to do that next week.
I spent a full week at WDW at the end of January - start of February, and I had a blast. Although it was a slow time of the year, that is relative. There’s still a lot of people there. The key though was ride wait times were mostly low, even with a ton of people wandering the midways.
I used the www.touringplans.com Android app and it worked pretty well. I didn’t really go by their plans that much, but you can get a good idea from those what rides get the more ridiculous lines during the day that you HAVE to hit early. The ones you really have to either ride or get fastpasses for first thing are Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios and Soarin’ at Epcot. Be there before park opening for these. The app was useful for seeing what lines were like at the other end of the park I was in - or what they were like at other parks. Sometimes it was advantageous to park hop to a park that wasn’t as busy as the one I was in.
Since I was going solo during a slow time of year, I really didn’t bother with too much of the detailed touring plans, aside from the obvious stuff like Toy Story and Soarin’. These are reputed to be invaluable during busy times of the year, though.
Another great resource for me was www.easywdw.com There’s a good crowd calendar there that gives good advice on which parks to do on which days. Sometimes this one seemed a bit more accurate than Touring Plans, sometimes vice versa. There are a lot of articles on best rides, best places to eat, etc.
Both of these sites do tend to advise avoiding parks on days they have Extra Magic Hours. Their reasoning is that many of the guests without parkhoppers will be at these parks ALL day, leading to longer lines. This is another case where parkhoppers can be useful - go to one of the non EMH parks during the day, then head to the EMH park for the last few hours. Many of the “suckers” who were there first thing in the morning won’t even be there to take full advantage of the EMH time.
I’m more of a thrill-ride junkie, the bigger, faster, more intense the better. That said, I absolutely love Walt Disney World, even though they’re not about that. Tower of Terror is a good example of why. Just taken as a drop ride, it’s pretty good, but I’ve been on drop rides that are bigger and more intense. However Tower of Terror is extremely well themed throughout. The building’s exterior is very well done, as are the queue line and preshow areas. Then there are some really cool moments as your elevator moves from the loading area to the actual drop portion, and the drops are done mostly in the dark. Then they add randomness to the repeated drops, whereas your usual drop tower drops you one time from the top, that’s it. All of this adds up to a sublime experience overall, that’s both really immersive and fun.
WDW as a whole is like that for the most part. I flew into Orlando, had a bus take me to my resort, and for the next week never set a foot off Disney property. I really felt like I was away from the real world until the bus showed up to take me back to the airport. Yes, much of what they do is designed to get you to open your wallet, and they’re really good at that. I always felt I was getting good value for my money, though. Food at the quick-service places is actually cheaper than what you’ll run across at say, Six Flags, and is FAR better in quality if you avoid the burgers and chicken nuggets. Yeah, I can get it at a restaurant elsewhere for cheaper still, but they don’t have a monorail or boats to shuttle me around, either.
Oh, and absolutely make sure you do the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Illuminations at Epcot is really good and I quite liked Fantasmic, but the real star of the nighttime shows for me was the Wishes fireworks show. It managed to strike a lot of chords with me as a 40-something who grew up watching Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights as a kid, and a lot of Disney stuff before and after.
I know it’s called Animal Kingdom. I was Chicking the name to indicate my dislike of the place. It’s basically a highly phony zoo with a few rides thrown in.
If you have a park hopper pass then by all means go experience the phony animals. They’ll all be wearing black and sitting around drinking scotch and discussing art history. Then when your phony safari vehicle can be heard in the distance, they’ll throw off the clothes and pretend to be wild animals for a minute until you pass.
Then they’ll get dressed again and sneer at you as you drive away.
I don’t know how it as a zoo is more phony than an actual zoo, except that its incredibly awesome.
I’ve been on actual safaris in South Africa and the safari ride they have at the park is super awesome and you don’t have to be worried about being trampled by elephants. We’ve had giraffes walk up beside the vehicle close enough to touch and had to drive slowly behind an ostrich that wouldn’t get out of the road. Animal Kingdom is fantastic.
This is very well put and exactly how I felt at Eurodisney (I might ad here that at Eurodisney the wilder but older rides like Space Mountain and the Aerosmith coaster for some reason had almost no queues whereas Finding Nemo, Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones took at least 45 minutes without a Fast Pass… and you couldn’t get a Fast Pass for Nemo).
I’m not really into Disney - except for Pixar - and only went for the kids (it was my wife’s idea) but ended up enjoying it as much as them, whereas my wife was full after two days of our four.
And Tower of Terror is exactly as you describe. We have a drop in Tivoli in Copenhagen that is actually the highest structure in town, so that’s a much wilder ride… but it’s just chairs on a tower. Whereas the Tower of Terror with the preample, the actors ushering you in, the preshow and the visuals while seated just makes the whole experience so much more. It was one of my favourite rides.
This thread is making me very very sad I didn’t get the three months intercompany internship I applied for this year…
This is most likely a Disneyland vs. WDW difference, since there are Disney offices right across the street from the park in Anaheim and sometimes they define imagineer pretty broadly. And yes, I know the actual Imagineer offices are actually in Burbank.
I think that’s because Disneyland is officially the happiest place on Earth. I have a coffee mug that says so, so it must be true.
We were walking towards the Tower of Terror one day and behind us was a couple with a toddler who was yowling and crying and just a mess. It went on for a bit, and they’re trying to console him, but it was pretty loud. So I turned around and said, “Little dude, this is the happiest place on Earth. It just doesn’t get any better than this.”
His eyes got really big, and he stopped crying and snuffled a little. Then he looked around, saw the faux Hollywood street we were on, saw other people having fun, looked up at his mom and dad who were hopefully smiling, and let out the loudest yowl so far and resumed crying.
I like to think that he was crying for his future. That in that moment he realized he was as happy as he’d ever be, that he was only three, and that every moment of his life would be a downward spiral after this. That even having a loving wife, a successful career, beautiful children, and everything he ever wanted couldn’t compare to being a three-year-old in Disneyland. And he despaired.
Or maybe he just wanted a lollipop.
Dean, if the whole college teaching thing doesn’t work out, I’d love for you to open an existential day care.
I Like and Like-Like the two previous posts.
Yeah, about only rain for 6 weeks.
One thing I’m surprised no one has mentioned is AllEars. The site basically replaces all Disney-specific guidebooks. Birnbaum. The Unofficial. None of them are necessary with AllEars. It covers every ride, every show, every hotel, every restaurant in detail, with full menus and tons of reviews. I love mmalloy’s site cos it’s a tip a day given to you by someone who loves Disney and has been there many, many, many times, but AllEars is written by people who have moved to towns to go to WDW on a daily basis, or who spend upwards of two months a year taking different Disney cruises, travel agents that specialize in Disney so much that Disney offers them free trips and free events every year. There are blog entries there by dudes who literally go to WDW every day. It’s intense, but it’s extensive.
Also, IllumiNations and Wishes (the Epcot and Magic Kingdom fireworks respectively) are shown every day. Fantasmic at Disney Hollywood Studios is not. So make sure you get over there to see it on the day it’s shown and get in line early, cos it’s ungodly popular since they reduced the amount of times it’s shown a week.
I’ve been to zoos from the acclaimed Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha and National Zoo in Washington DC to slightly less impressive zoos like the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Great Bend Zoo in Great Bend, KS. Not a single one of them actually magically transported me to Africa. So I’m not sure what makes the Animal Kingdom more or less phony than any other zoo. DAK is fully accredited by the AZA, so clearly they’re ‘real enough’ for the people who make these calls.