Planning our ‘first’ trip to Walt Disney World

011A0066

A lot has happened in the last week: our family has been trying for a while to figure out the best time to make another trip to Walt Disney World, and we’ve decided that mid to late May will work best with our schedules. I call this a ‘first’ trip to Walt Disney World because there will be a lot of firsts…  We’re staying at the Fort Wilderness Campground (first time in a cabin at WDW), we’re sharing our cabin with my parents (hopefully a good first?), we’ve never been in May (we usually visit in January), and this will be the first trip for our daughters, who are one and three!

We have the room, park tickets, and airfare booked, but now it comes to the dining reservations and FastPass+ reservations.  I’m a planner, and as you can tell by the fact that I have a Disney themed blog, a pretty big Disney nerd, but knowing in December where we’ll want be and what we’ll want to ride 153 days in the future with a toddler and a three year old is pretty tricky.

There will be a number of updates coming with thoughts, tips, ideas, etc. while we plan for our nine day trip, including the use of MyDisneyExperience (the app), how to prepare a three year old ready for her first Disney trip, what restaurants and attractions to look for with kids, and more.

Have you been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland with a toddler?  Are there certain rides, restaurants reservations, or restrictions you think we should know about before we go?  What was your experience like?  Leave a comment below!

New Disney Resorts – Outsourced Imagineering

Disney Resorts

Over the last week, I’ve asked my Twitter followers (@365DaysOfDisney), as well as family and friends, a question about the resorts.  “If you were the Imagineer in charge of designing the next Walt Disney World resort, what theme would you go with?”  Over a dozen of you got back to me, and I took your ideas and added some of my own thoughts as well.  In no particular order:

Medieval Castle Resort@hkeller @DadforDisney

hotels - CastleThe main idea I heard from several people about a castle hotel would be that it is definitely NOT a girly-princess castle.  Rooms would have several themes to them, based on which section of the castle guests stay in.  One would be geared more towards a princess in a tower, while another would be for knights getting ready for a joust, etc.  A moat and drawbridge would definitely make this feel like a true castle.

1920s Hollywood / Hollywood Tower Hotel@ElaineMRoss, @HodgePodgePro, @Life_Of_Green, @Minnies_Girl
TowerOfTerror_MGM

Another popular idea for a new Disney resort would be to theme it to 1920s Hollywood, the Hollywood Tower Hotel, or both.  This resort would be placed near to the Hollywood Studios, to help guests immerse themselves in the life of the 1920s.  Imagine bellhops with maroon colored suits and hats, a la Tower of Terror, but helping you to your room in elevators that actually work.  Orchestral music and jazz from the 1920s would be piped into the lobby, and of course there would be flappers and a speakeasy onsite.

Film Noir Hotel@MickeyMutineers
hotels - film noirThis hotel would be similar to the 1920s Hollywood idea, with one twist.  Imagine hearing jazz music, seeing live dancing, going to the opening of a new film and drinking a classic martini, but everything would be in black and white.  Cast member uniforms, paintings, wall paper, decorations… everything in shades of gray.  The only color in the resort would be from the guests’ clothing (and possibly Stacy J Aswad on your television).  You’d truly be stepping back into the films of the 1920s.

Rooms around the World@WickedDreamer, @OzGoofyPrincess
Several people suggested having a hotel that was based on the countries of Epcot, but could also contain extras.  With the Around the World Resort, you would be able to spend time at Epcot, and then stay in the country of your choice that night.  Buildings in the hotel (think All-Star resorts with its multiple buildings onsite) would be themed to Canada, England, France, Morocco, Japan, Germany, Italy, China, Norway and Mexico.  Imagine staying in a room themed to the German Alps, with polka music, staff in lederhosen, and a German restaurant in the lobby.  Or eat sushi and wear a kimono as you relax in your multi-level suite in a Japan themed hotel, with great local items available in the hotel gift shop.

Star Wars Resort@eliskfc, @MicKyaraben, @Minnies_Girl, @smurflufe
Ewok_village
A Star Wars resort has the ability to include incredible amounts of detail from the many lands visited in the current six movies, cartoon series, etc.  It would also have the ability to expand as the next three movies come out in the coming years.  As @smurflufe wrote, imagine rooms, halls, or even entire buildings  themed to Coruscant, Endor, Hoth, Naboo, Tatooine, Dagobah, or even the Death Star.  Arcades, restaurants, quick service dining, and pools would all be themed to the lands of Star Wars (and the Princess Leia slave costume swim suit sold in the gift shop, of course!).   @MicKyaraben thought that Endor would be a great resort in itself, with tree house villas for guests to sleep in, connected by rope bridges (and of course an elevator hidden in a tree for handicapped guests).

La Belle Époque and Art Deco styles@Minnies_Girl, @sarahkbheff
These two styles flow chronologically into each other, as la belle époque was popular from the 1870s until about 1915, and art deco is considered to be from the 1920s to the 1940s.  This resort would include two buildings, one of each style, similar to the decades at Pop Century.  One hotel with bright rich Victorian style, the other with a modern (1920s) technological influence, with great contrasts between the two.  The art deco style, with its sharp lines in black and white accented with pops of color would fit in well with Hollywood Studios theme, and would be placed nearby.

Magic Kingdom Lands@mellowmickey et al
As you can guess by the name, this resort would have sections from each of the Magic Kingdom’s lands – Fantasy, Adventure, Tomorrow, Frontier, and even Main Street.  Restaurants and quick-service dining venues would be similar to those already available in the Kingdom.
ToonTown Hotel@ModernMouseJosh
As a part of the Magic Kingdom, this hotel would feature all of the classic characters from old movies and cartoons, and some more current ones as well.  Everything would be larger than life, cartoony, and as you stay at the hotel, cast members would even help you create your own cartoons with you as the star.
Tomorrowland Hotel
@MCHutsell3
This hotel would feature the future from the point of view of the 50s, 60s and 1970s.  50-70 years ago, great prospects of the future existed: flying cars, hovercrafts, skyscrapers a mile tall, people living in space or underwater, etc.
Small World Hotel@WickedDreamer
Similar to the Epcot Around the World Hotel, this one would include tributes to cultures all around the world… creepy dolls and catchy music for an extra price.

Marvel Hotel  – @MCHutsell3, @eliskfc
The name explains it all.  This resort features the Marvel superheroes, and, as you can guess, everything is “plussed”: huge water slides at the resort pools, a theater that plays all of the Marvel movies, a gift shop selling the basic needs, clothing and comic books, etc.  Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and other heroes would be on hand to greet you, and may even ride the resort’s rollercoaster with you!

Fab Five Resort@OzGoofyPrincess

hotels - fab fiveA classic tribute to the most important Disney stars: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, etc.  They get love at the parks, but who wouldn’t want to leave the parks for the night but still feel immersed in the theme as they stay in their resort at night.  There would be a large restaurant in the center of the resort that has Meals With Mickey.  Not just breakfast but also lunch and dinner.  The new feature- midnight snacks with special friends.  You’ve had a great day at the Magic Kingdom, and you can now head back to your resort to have an ice cream sundae with Chip & Dale, a slice of pizza with Goofy, or nachos or popcorn with the three cabelleros.

Mary Blair Hotel@socaldork
Mary Blair is very well known for her designs of simple shapes and bright colors.  This hotel would feature large open areas with mobiles hanging from the ceiling that are inspired by her works.  Walls covered in blown up representations of her works would lead guests to the Blair gallery in the atrium with prints of Mary’s works available.

Farm country@mattersley
Many of the guests who come to Walt Disney World are not from areas of the states or the world that are too agricultural.  The farm theme would include suites that immerse guests in country home living, with woods, knick knacks, dry-brushed furniture, etc.  A petting zoo would bring children in to see cows, goats, pigs, ducks and other farm animals.

A Runner’s Hotel
Disney is becoming popular for its many different RunDisney events… marathons, halfs, 10Ks, 10 milers, etc.  So why not a hotel that is made with runners in mind.  This hotel would have a sports theming to it, similar to All-Star sports (but we’d class it up a notch), but would have tracks around it, multiple running paths with various distances, and timers, chips, and other goodies available.  At the end of each trail or track would be a basket with bottles of water, packets of Gu and energy supplements, and other running needs (with sponsorship by various athletic companies)

Villains Hotel@singleriderline
hotels - Villains

The Villains Resort would use dark colors, blue, purple, black, green.  It would be made out of cold materials, and while open and spacious, would have a gloomy mood with dimly lit chandeliers and a stain glass window featuring villains from various Disney movies.  Sections of the hotel would be from different periods and areas of the world, such an elephant graveyard for the Lion King’s Scar, an old castle dungeon for Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent and Snow White’s Queen Grimhilde, or the Jolly Roger for Peter Pan’s Captain Hook.

Venetian Resort@eliskfc, @singleriderline
hotels - Venetian

This resort was an actual resort that was going to be built by Disney Imagineers, alone with an Asian and a Persian resort.  Situated on the Seven Seas Lagoon between the Ticket and Transportation Center and the Contemporary, it would have had gondola rides, motorboats to take guests to the Magic Kingdom, and, of course, the red tile roofs typical of Venice.

=============================================

So… if YOU could design the next Walt Disney World Resort, what theme would you go with? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

The Magic, the Memories, the Maelstrom

Epcot_Maelstrom_entrance_sign

Maelstrom, a high-seas Norwegian adventure, left this world at aged 26.  Maelstrom resided in the Norway pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase.  Last rides occurred on October 5th, 2014, less than three weeks after the announcement that Maelstrom would not be with us much longer.  The cause of death, it seems, was myocardial geladum (beware the Frozen heart).   “You are not the first to pass this way, but you may have been the last”

seaventure

Born on July 5th, 1988, in Epcot Center as SeaVenture, Maelstrom was a 4 minute, 27 second boat voyage through the mythological history of Norway.  In its 26 years with us, Maelstrom was beloved by millions around the world, and brought joy to both the young and the young at heart.  Maelstrom was married for over two decades to a film highlighting Norway’s adventurous attractions, including skiing and hiking, as well as intrinsic icons like Kjerag mountain and oil rigs, which also passed on October 5th.

troll
(picture from TouringPlans.com)

It will be outlived by Dὃkkálfar and Ljósálfar, who continue to live in the hearts of the Norwegian people, and also by a gift shop, which will most likely have new additions, but will hopefully continue to sell the Essence of Norway (Geir).  Maelstrom was predeceased by its close friend and neighbor, El Rio del Tiempo, (1982-2007), the Wonders of Life pavilion (1989-2007), and Journey into Imagination (1982-1998) among other friends.

worldshowcase_norway2007ww

Services will be normal Epcot park hours, 11am-9pm unless otherwise noted.  Memorial donations can be made out to the Norse Federation.  As always, “the spirit of Norway will always be adventure.”

Please leave memories in the comments section below.

RIP Maelstrom

If you’re a part of the Disney online community, you probably heard rumors a few months ago that Maelstrom, the boat ride in Epcot’s Norway pavilion, might be getting a Frozen overhaul.  Two days ago, the Disney Company officially announced that Maelstrom will be closing, and that a Frozen attraction will open in early 2016.

Epcot_Maelstrom_entrance_sign

(picture found here)

worldshowcase_norway2007ww

(interior of Maelstrom from Yesterland)

While there are still a lot of unanswered questions, it appears that Maelstrom’s last day will be October 5th, 2014 (only twenty-three days after their announcement).  On October 6th, the Norway pavilion itself will remain open, but the ride portion of the area will be closed.  Guests with Fastpass+ reservations to Maelstrom after that date will be able to choose something else.

Anna Elsa

(picture found on the Disney Parks Blog)

From Disney fans I’ve talked to online, it sounds like people are excited about a Frozen attraction, but don’t think that the Norway pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase is the right place for it.  There are many questions floating around – will the new ride use the same path? What will happen to the Norway giftshop? (if someone wants to buy me a $600 Norwegian sweater, I’m okay with that)  How will a Frozen attraction effect the rest of the Norway pavilion?

How do you feel about the closing of Maelstrom and the opening of a Frozen attraction?  Does it take away from World Showcase’s educational and cultural history?  Are you excited that the Disney Company is trying to bring new, younger people into Epcot by mixing modern movies into the park?   Please leave comments below!

Guardians of the Galaxy, a spoiler-free review

Guardians

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy came out tonight, and I decided to go see it with my brother.  Part Star Wars, part Firefly, part comedy, part western, this movie had a little bit of everything in it.

Drax Star Lord Gamora Groot Rockey

Starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a ‘ravager’ or scavenger known as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, a warrior princess, David Bautista as Drax, a revenge driven character, and the voices of Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel as Groot, two bounty hunters, Guardians of the Galaxy had a lot of build up in the online community before it came out.  And rightfully so.  The movie not only met my expectations, it surpassed them.  The visuals in this film were incredibly well done, the characters meshed well together in the action scenes as well as the humorous ones, and the music, classic pop hits from the 1970s and 1980s were fantastic.  Plus, a brilliant, sarcastic, talking raccoon with huge weapons?  Great entertainment.

The beginning of the movie opens well, giving just the right amount of background on Peter Quill.  As we watched this, I heard someone in the theater say “10 minutes in.  Already a better love story then Twilight”. It lets you know about each character’s background without drawing it out and boring you, it had a good pace.  And as you’ll already know if you’ve seen the previews, the five characters end up working together to try to save their galaxy from the evil forces of Ronan, a character who is bent on destroying the universe in which most of the characters live.  

Guardians of the Galaxy mixes in action sequences, touching emotional moments, and just the right amount of comedy to keep the mood positive as it delves into issues of abandonment, guilt, love, family bonds, vengeance, and the possible annihilation of billions of people.  Writer and director James Gunn puts it simply “this movie is about family”.

Short, simple, to the point.  Should you go see it?  Yes.  Enjoy it.  And then maybe see it again.  I plan to!

Have you seen it?  What did you think?  Love it or hate it?  Leave a comment below!

The Tusker House

Today marks my first blog post about a restaurant at Walt Disney World.  And to start it off, I picked my favorite buffet, the Tusker House, from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  My family and I have been to a number of buffets at the Walt Disney World parks and resorts, but this one is probably my favorite.

tusker-house-restaurant-gallery16

The Tusker House, located in Harambe Village, on the left side as you walk in from Discovery Island, just past the Dawa Bar on your way to the new Festival of the Lion King location.  The entrance is actually in the back, which can be a bit hard to find if you’ve never been before.  It is open for breakfast (8:00am-10:55am), lunch (11:00am-3:30pm) and dinner (4:30pm-7:00pm), and is not only a buffet, but also includes character dining, with Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy.  tusker-house-restaurant-gallery04

 

 

(Yeah, Disney’s picture looks nicer than mine below…)

110

The interior of Tusker House is made to look like you are in an open area marketplace, with high ceilings, colorful banners, a general African feel to the building, both inside and out.  I have only eaten there for lunches, so I have not personally tried some of the dinner foods, but I love the offering at lunch.

Tusker food 3 Tusker food 2 Tusker food 4 Tusker food 1

(The above four pics come from Disney’s website.  Really, do you think I could take those?)

Appetizers include tabbouleh, hummus and baba ganoush, Tunisian couscous salad, curried rice salad, and ‘normal’ foods, like apple walnut salad, mixed greens, cucumber salad, lunch meats cheeses and fresh fruit.  There is a vegetarian table that, even though I love meat, has some delicious foods: several varieties of couscous, samosas, tandoori and jollaf rice.  For the main dishes: seafood stew, orzo pasta, varved sirloin and pork loin, Cape Malay curry chicken, basmati rice with almonds in it, salmon filet, and root veggies, potato wedges, and mashed potatoes.  As for desserts, they have banana cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla sauce, fruit cobblers, and traditional assorted pastries and cookies.  The price is about $30 dollars a person, and for me (a 6’10” guy with a big appetite) it’s great! My wife doesn’t eat as much as I do, but she loves the atmosphere, the corn dog nuggets from the kids menu, and thinks the characters are fun.  

108 105 106

Have you been to the Tusker House?  What did you think?  I’ve heard from people that absolutely love it, and some that think the food variety is not so great, and the service is a bit slow.  Leave a comment below!

The cost of staying at Disney for a year

In my quest to figure out a possible budget for spending 365 days at Disney, one of the things my family will need is a place to stay.  While we very early on figured out that staying at an apartment will be the least expensive option, I still wanted to find out what it would cost to stay at various Walt Disney World options for one year.

Now that Disney has posted their prices for the year 2015, I can estimate what a year would cost: January 1st to December 31st.  The least expensive place to stay on property is the Fort Wilderness campsites… but given the fact that my family of four would be there, that is not at all an option.  The next best price: an All Star resort.

So what does an All-Star resort cost for 365 days? For two people, including tax: 50,415.68.