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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

5 Ways to Overcome The Ever Increasing Crowds of Walt Disney World

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

5 Ways to Overcome The Ever Increasing Crowds of Walt Disney World 

To me it feels like there's 100 different variations of this article out there on the internet shared by any number of excellent sites (and some not so excellent sites), but inevitably no two lists are the same. We all have our different "escapes" from the crowds and to me that's the ultimate testament to a well designed vacation destination. Half the battle isn't finding a place to go but rather knowing what opportunities exist that you may have overlooked. 

I share this list not because we have some secret tunnel or tucked away secret back room to escape to in the middle afternoon in Magic Kingdom, but rather to share the inevitable reality that if you try to overcome the crowds simply by trying to "wait it out" you're typically doing yourself more harm than good. If that philosophy works for you then by all means use it and make the most of it but you're likely the exception rather than the rule. 


After years of touring the parks I've started to pick up on a few select things that really tend to stick out in my mind. I know this is going to sound kind of blunt, but bear with me. The first thing I tend to pick up on is that 3:00-5:00pm exhaustion tantrum that you see each and every day in the parks. Kids (and sometimes adults) get to a certain point and they're just DONE. They're done with the heat, they're done with the walking, and they're done with Disney in many cases as a result. I'm the last person in the world that should be giving parenting advice as a 22 year old college student, but this one isn't all that hard to figure out in a majority of cases. The key to overcoming these afternoon meltdowns and conversely the insanely exhausted feeling many adults get later in the day is simply crowd management. 

It sounds too simple to be true, but with the exception of a few major holidays in the parks where crowds literally fill the park to capacity, you can solve so many problems by "escaping" from it all for even a brief moment. 

I realize this is a bit of a long winded intro but the goal was and is to set the stage in a metaphorical sense by sharing something that so many of us repeat Disney parks guests can relate to and prospective guests can theoretically visualize. As we move into today's list, keep that mental image in mind as we start off with a quite literal interpretation of the perfect 
"escape" from the crowds. This list isn't going to tell you to travel at different times of the year or on special dates or anything of the sort. In all reality, every one of us travel when we can travel. The vast majority of society is constrained by a real world schedule, select time off, or even quite possibly a school schedule for kids of all ages. In an ideal world we'd all travel when the parks were the least crowded, but as time marches on there really is no "off season" at Walt Disney World and if anyone tells you otherwise they haven't been to the parks in the last six months. It is true that some weeks are less crowded than others but with scheduling modifications and such within the parks it's not going to be a huge difference in wait times and crowd levels in the big picture. With that in mind, let's dive right into it.  



Find Your Literal Escape From It All 

I know I come at this topic from a different perspective than most, but sometimes the best way to overcome the crowds is to, quite literally, escape and do something else for a few hours. Even if you're a first time visitor to Walt Disney World, you'll immediately realize that at around 1:00-3:00pm the crowds will be at their absolute worst 98% of the year. It's a time frame that's incredibly difficult to overcome unless you simply stack your fastpass+ selections in that block of time, but even that is hard to recommend as the crowds are still overwhelming at times. 

What I do recommend is to leave the park, head to a near by resort or even your own personal resort, and relax, shop, or simply wander the property for a few hours. Not only does it give you a break from the physical crowd levels, but it also provides a relaxing stroll or even a comfortable place to sit and enjoy simply being there in the moment. 

I know so many of you reading this are thinking "That's easy for you to say, you go to the parks all the time..." and to an extent you'd be correct. We do have the incredible blessing of of being annual passholders and visiting the parks multiple times per year, but I can 100% assure you that the lost time in a busy park will be more than made up by the experience of leaving the parks for a few brief hours and returning later on. 


Perhaps the best example of this I can give happened just last week. At around 1:00 in the afternoon, crowds exploded on one of our Magic Kingdom park days as a result of Spring Break. Instead of simply dealing with it, we hopped on a boat (free and provided by Disney) over to Wilderness Lodge to grab a late lunch. After lunch we got back on the boat and enjoyed a scenic ride over to the Contemporary resort. When we got there, we utilized some of the free games out by the dock and shot a game of billiards and enjoyed the near perfect weather for a few minutes before walking upstairs to board the monorail to continue our resort hopping journey. 


By the time we made it to the Polynesian we stopped for a Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai and once again took a leisurely stroll around the incredibly picturesque resort before moving on to the Grand Floridian where we shopped for a short while in the stores and then wrapped up our resort hopping with a few minutes in some incredibly comfortable chairs listening to the band. 

People ask me time and time again what I like most about Disney and time and time again the answer I share is in the form of a story so incredibly similar to the one I shared here. It's those simple moments that keep me coming back. It's those relaxing minutes of simply being there in the moment enjoying life that make all the difference and those are the memories with family I'll remember forever. The parks are great but more often than not some of the greatest memories develop from the simplest of experiences. If I could give one tip it would be to journey beyond the parks when the crowds become overwhelming. It may open up an entirely new realm of possibilities in the end result.
                     

Make The Most of Select Hours and Days

This is probably the most "textbook" answer you'll find on my list and I truly debated not sharing it as a result. Getting up and getting to the parks before they open will pay off big time if you can make it happen. The same is true if you can stay until close. In reality, it's one of those things that's easy to say and incredibly difficult to actually do. The first day it's easy to get to the parks super early and stay super late but as your trip continues on it catches up with you in a hurry. It's not out of the ordinary for me to run on about 4 hours of sleep when we're really trying to maximize our trips. I'm always looking for empty parks photos (which requires staying incredibly late - sometimes an hour or more after posted "closing times") and tend to go at things with a different goal in mind than most when staying late. It's far from the ideal way to enjoy your vacation. I'm fairly used to running on very little sleep as a result of running this site while working my way through college but nonetheless it even takes a toll on me over the course of a week. 

If you're going to try this, do so in a smart way. Take breaks, take a mid day nap, and maybe even head back to the resort to sit by the pool to save your energy and revitalize yourself in any way possible.

The early hours and the late hours are incredibly productive times of day no matter what park you're in. This tip in and of itself is a fundamental part of our How to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+ article and it really can make or break how many attractions you can get through during your vacation. In my opinion, Disney isn't all about the attractions, but if you're looking to do as much as possible, it truly is the only tried and true strategy that has stood the test of time.    


Don't Be Afraid to Book Dining 

I completely understand that this seems like an off the wall suggestion to overcome the crowds of the parks, but it's one of our go-to options time and time again. The fact of the matter backing this one up is that you can only fill a restaurant so full. If you run out of tables, you run out of tables. At peak times I can't tell you how many times a table service lunch reservation has saved us in so many ways. 

Not only is it a good meal and a good nourishment boost mid day, but it's also a guaranteed hour out of the heat, away from the majority of the crowds, and perhaps most importantly a needed time of rest after what has likely been a busy morning and what will be a busy night. 

There's no hiding the fact that table service meals in the parks can be expensive and I know that is an instant factor for so many guests, but when you're sitting in a packed counter service location, you'll be wishing you would have spent that extra money to book the table service meal instead. I don't say that to be judgmental or anything of the sort but rather because I've been in that situation one too many times myself. If you find yourself in a similar situation, jump back to the first tip and head to a near by resort. The Magic Kingdom area resorts in particular have excellent counter service dining offerings that are perfect for a last minute meal and they're typically far less crowded than the in-parks dining offerings. If you happen to be at Epcot or Hollywood Studios, board a boat to the Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin, or even the Yacht and Beach Club for a quick way to remove yourself from the crowds and find a good dining option.        


Get Creative With Fireworks Viewing 

At the end of the night you'll likely want to return to the parks to catch a fireworks show if you you're not already in the parks. Sometimes fighting that urge to be on Main Street USA or in that "perfect spot" for Illuminations can work out incredibly well. For Magic Kingdom in particular, when crowds are high I highly recommend viewing the show from the Contemporary or the Polynesian. The music is piped in, the crowds are typically quite low, and the experience is almost as magical as being there in the sea of people on Main Street USA. It's a different fireworks viewing experience to say the least, but the benefits of the alternative experience often outweigh the tradeoffs. 



I can vividly remember one particular night where we left Magic Kingdom and went over to the beaches of the Polynesian to view the show. We grabbed a Dole Whip, walked down to the beach, and it truly develops one of the most incredible views you'll ever experience. From the casual crowds, to the sounds of flowing water at the pool near by, to the reflections off of the Seven Seas Lagoon as the fireworks burst high in the distance, it's an experience to remember that is truly indescribable. The observation deck of the Contemporary, while a different view, offers up a similarly unique experience. If you're up for it, climb up the external staircase a few floors to really get the perfect view and escape the crowds completely. 



Over at Epcot, avoid the temptation to be right up on the fence in preparation for Illuminations. The show is shockingly viewable from all kinds of odd angles but perhaps the best options to overcome the crowds are to find higher vantage points. Two near perfect go to spots of mine at the time being are at the top of the staircase entering the Canada Pavilion and at the top of the staircase in the Japan pavilion leading up to Teppan Edo. Both vantage points can be seen in the images below and more often than not you'll be one of the very few guests standing in these areas even on extremely crowded nights. 





Fully Utilize Your Resort    

Last but certainly not least, I highly highly recommend taking the time to leave the parks and enjoy your resort. Even if you're leaving the parks for a very short amount of time, exploring your resort is something I recommend to every single guest headed to Walt Disney World. The resorts that Disney runs are so incredibly immersive and tied to story that there's more to explore than you'll ever have time to fully grasp. It's a part of the Disney experience that nobody really expects, but quickly becomes a favorite aspect of the overall experience for retuning guests.

It's a weird phenomenon in a number of ways, but the resorts, no matter which one you choose, truly feel like home after you really take the time to explore and get to know the backstories and amenities available to you as a guest. 





If you don't know where to start exploring, stop by the concierges desk and ask about the activities planned for the day. You may be shocked at what the resort has planned for guests of all ages on that particular day! I cant stress this one enough. If the crowds are starting to get to you, enjoy your resort and explore every single aspect of it that you can. 

I know I say it time and time again, but I truly believe it's those little moments that stick with you more than anything else. When I think back on memories with family, very few memories are tied to an attraction but so many memories are tied to seemingly simple things that occur in the moment that you remember years later. 


Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!


Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!






5 Disney World Dining Locations That Are Vastly Underrated!

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

5 Disney World Dining Locations That Are Vastly Underrated!

It's not out of the ordinary for us to share top 5 lists here on the site. We've done our top five resorts, and even listed out different food offerings for different price points like our 5 Snacks Under $5 at Walt Disney World - Our Top Budget Friendly Snack Recommendations! post. However, today is going to be a little bit different and perhaps a bit more useful than those previous posts as the peak crowd level summer months quickly approach! 


Rather than sharing a "Top 5" today I'm sharing 5 dining locations across property, in no particular order, that I consider to be vastly underrated. While "underrated" is somewhat subjective, the dictionary definition largely centers around something that is evaluated too low or even underestimated. In my mind, these locations refer more to the latter part of that definition. Some of these locations may not be the perfect tucked away gem of a restaurant that always has walk up reservations available (mostly because those have basically gone away these days), but instead these are the restaurants that tend to be off of the beaten path or off the radar of the typical guest touring the parks. 

While many of these require reservations, they're more often than not meals that are available to book the day before your arrival or even quite possibly not even require a reservation. With that slight introduction to our list out of the way, let's dive right into the details!  


Yak and Yeti 

Yak and Yeti was a restaurant I put off trying for years. Now, looking back on it, I can't help but metaphorically kick myself for avoiding it all of those years. As strange as it may sound, considering how many food related posts are on this site, I am a fairly picky eater and I'm not the most "adventurous" person to say the least. As a result, I kept putting Yak and Yeti off time and time again due to the unnecessary worry that I wouldn't be able to find anything I enjoyed on the menu. Having dined there many many times now, it always amazes me how dumb it was that I thought of the restaurant from that aforementioned perspective. 

Without exaggeration, I have tried over half the menu at this point and have not been disappointed or unhappy with anything I've tried. Sure, some of the menu can get rather "authentic" for lack of a better word, but it's done so in away where it can still appeal to a very large audience or it is presented in a way that is modifiable to meet a given guests desired preferences. 



If you are concerned about food and preparation, don't be. Even from an allergy standpoint they are very accommodating and will alter menu items to meet your needs. For example, my sister Caitlin is mildly allergic to Tuna. However, she wanted to order the Ahi Tuna Nachos because she liked everything on the nachos and after seeing them on other tables she was hooked on the idea. When we inquired about the issue, we were immediately offered chicken as a substitute and it made for an incredible meal and one that exceeded all of our expectations. 

My one word of warning here is that the portion sizes do vary drastically based on what you order. To overcome this, typically we'll split a variety of different meals and appetizers across our dining party so that everyone gets to try something unique and different while slowly yet surely working through the entire range of offerings on subsequent visits. As an added bonus, we do accumulate points through the Landry's Select Club to use on future visits, and do receive priority seating as well! The card is one of the best purchases we've made and is well worth the initial investment! To read more about that, check out our post all about it here.  

Truthfully I consider this underrated because more often then not it tends to get pushed back a few spots in the majority of recommendations in favor of dining at Tusker House, Flame Tree Barbecue, or even Tiffins. While each of those are iconic WDW meals, Yak and Yeti is a good way to be a touch more adventurous without going full throttle into some more eccentric cuisine. Not to mention, they do take walk up reservations, and with the Landry's card you'll get seated almost immediately! (we are not being paid by Landrys to say that! - even though that would be cool lol) 

We did a full review of this location a little while back as well! - Yak and Yeti Restaurant Review - The Overlooked Gem of Animal Kingdom? 
        

The Polite Pig

The Polite Pig is a newer offering that's really starting to gain traction but does tend to stay out of the "limelight" and off the "must-do" list of many Disney parks guests. Truthfully, it is one of the best, if not the best, quick service meals on property. It's table service level of quality food paired with the time commitment of a quick service offering makes it a near ideal place to stop during a night at Disney Springs!  




From the pulled pork, to the salads, to even the sides, you'd be hard pressed to find anything on this menu that isn't good! 

The restaurant does remain quite crowded so it isn't underrated in that aspect but in a unique way it's a location that is off the beaten path and in turn off the radar of most guests touring the parks. One reason is that it's outside of the parks, and a second is that it's not quite picked up the social media attention it deserves. In 2 years, this will be the hot ticket, must-do, meal of Disney Springs and as word spreads I see it getting more and more crowded as time marches on. For a full review of one of our experiences there, check out: A Shockingly Good Counter Service Meal - The Polite Pig

The Fountain (ice cream window and restaurant) 

The Fountain is perhaps the greatest hidden gem on this list and for good reason. This location is on the ground floor of the Dolphin resort a short walk or boat ride away from Epcot, Yacht and Beach Club, and the Boardwalk and is well worth the journey over and the time away from the parks to check it out. While the menu is rather simple, the ice cream selection is where this spot really shines. Our go-to here has always been the walk up ice cream window. They offer a nice array of flavors, a great deal for the money, and as strange as it sounds some of the best soft serve ice cream you'll ever come across. After you grab your cone or other tasty treat, ride the escalator up to the main lobby for some live music, a wander through the gift shop, or even take the time to make a lap around the hotels grounds because they are simply beautiful. If you want to jump right back into the Disney realm of theming grab your desert and make the short 7-10 minute walk over to the Boardwalk (see how close it really is in the photos below as the Swan sticks up behind the Boardwalk sign) to watch the street performers or simply enjoy the sunset as day slowly turns to night and the sky opens up with color! If you've never tried this spot, try the walk up ice cream counter at the very least and even put the table service offering on your radar if you're looking to try something unique and different that most guests tend to overlook.        




We avoided this spot for years, but when a freak storm popped up one summer night that pretty much locked us indoors while staying a the Swan, we decide to give this little hidden gem a shot and it exceed our expectations. Another unique offering the Dolphin has available is a location called Picabu which features a rotating menu and an "always open" philosophy if you're looking for a late night dining location! 
    

Cape May Cafe 

Cape May Cafe baffles me. More often than not reservations are readily available the day before your desired meal time, and often even the day of your desired meal time. At the same time, it is quite possibly the buffet I recommend more than any other buffet on property. How this one remains off of the social media "must-do" lists blows my mind! The food is incredible, the buffet offers a wide range of seafood and non seafood offerings, and did I mention they have all you can eat CRAB LEGS! 

Breakfast here remains the popular option because it is a character meal during the breakfast timeframe. Lunch is not offered but dinner is, without a doubt, one of my favorite meals on Disney property. 




One thing to note is that it is not a budget friendly meal and that is likely one of the reasons it stays somewhat hidden in a round about way. A dinner for four here is going to run you near $200 after a tip. In my opinion it is well worth it. If you are traveling with kids it will be substantially more budget friendly. 

If you're curious as to what the full experience entails, be sure to check out our full write up of the experience in: Our New Favorite Disney Dinner Buffet - Cape May Cafe 

It even landed a spot on our Five Favorite "Last Minute Dining Reservation" Options at Walt Disney World list a short while back! 

The Plaza Restaurant   

The plaza is one that may eventually fall off of this list because it is gaining some popularity in the busier months, but it's rarely a struggle to secure a reservation. The Plaza is likely the most budget friendly table service meal in Magic Kingdom. The menu is fairly limited but all of what is on the menu is quite excellent at its price point. I won't tell this is an experience that will compare to a meal at Crystal Palace or Be Our Guest, but if you're simply looking for great food at a reasonable price and a place to escape the heat for about an hour, book this dining location and it wont disappoint you. 

At some points during the year walk ups are available and while that is rarely guaranteed, if you are willing to wait they can typically slide you in. I wouldn't bank on just getting a table when you get to the park, but if you cant find availability or simply decide you need a break from the heat and a nice place to relax for a bit, there's no better option in Magic Kingdom to secure a walk up reservation in my opinion. It's not perfect, but it really is a great place to grab a meal and the cast often go above and beyond to create an excellent experience for you and your family. 

We also have a full write up of our experience here from a fairly recent trip in full: One of the Best Burgers on Disney Property! : A Closer Look At The Plaza Restaurant The menu does fluctuate from time to time so something you see below may no longer be on the menu when you arrive.  





Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.


Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!




Thursday, May 16, 2019

Our Typical Epcot Plan - What Works for Us

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Our Typical Epcot Plan - What Works for Us 

If you came across this article, chances are you're diving into planning a Disney vacation or you're looking for things/overlooked items that could improve your vacations in the future as a repeat guest. Another option is the fact that you may be falling into that "trap" of articles just to see what works for other people out of pure curiosity. Either way, you're in the right place. It's no secret that we approach Disney parks planning from a different perspective than most. We're never going to tell you a "perfect plan to hit every attraction in a day" or a plan of "how to plan every fastpass at the perfect time." Those articles are all fine and good if that's your style of planning, but in my opinion they spend more time worrying about what's next rather than concerning yourself with what's really important... living in the moment and making the most of every single minute you have in the parks. 


If I could give one tip to any prospective guest it would be to plan the bare minimum. I know at times I sound like a broken record but I do believe the best thing you can do is to go into your vacation with the outlook of "whatever happens, happens." If you're ultimately flexible, there's no doubt in my mind that you'll have an incredible vacation. Next time you're in the parks, take a moment and look around you. Chances are you'll see four types of people: locals without a plan at all and simply wandering around enjoying the moment, the over-planned group running around with an itinerary, the group that literally just showed up that morning and planned nothing, and the guests that have obviously been there more times than they can count. As weird as it may sound, typically the ones having the most fun every time you walk past them are either the locals or, and perhaps more interestingly, the ones who planned absolutely nothing. You'll overhear them in lines talking about how hard it was to get fastpass+ selections but at the same time they're the ones that always have a huge smile on their faces no matter what the situation may be! 

I say this not to encourage prospective guests to "wing it" (please don't do that), but rather to share that you can plan every detail in the world but what really matters is the outlook you bring with you to the experience. If you're go with the flow and adaptable, chances are you'll have an incredible vacation no matter how much or how little you plan. On the other hand, if you over plan your stay and book everything down to the minute you end up overloading yourself with stress and anxiety and it makes it quite difficult to enjoy the experiences. 


It may seem odd that I'm sharing this before an article about planning "Our Typical Day At Epcot" but it is important to note that so much of this is an aspect of our fairly vague and adaptable "plan." We tour the parks a lot. More often than not these days it's multiple weeks throughout the year, and while we're not local, we have a similar perspective on how we spend our days in the parks as a result of how often we are blessed to enjoy the Disney experience. 

So, taking that into consideration, here's how we approach a day at Epcot. 


Early Morning

Our mornings at Epcot typically start when the park opens for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, if you get there when the park opens you'll face vastly shorter wait times until roughly the first two hours of the day come to a close. Also, if you get there early you can typically ride every attraction you intend to before the World Showcase opens for the day at 11:00.

If you can get there about 25 minutes before scheduled park opening you can usually get in the parks a few minutes early and they'll move you on into the park to a roped off area to stage more guests and reallocate the crowds. When the park actually officially opens the rope is quite literally dropped and the crowds split off in three directions typically. One group will go to Soarin, another group will go to Test Track, and a third group (typically with kids) will go straight to Frozen Ever After. We always pick one attraction to head to first and reserve a fastpass+ selection for one of the other two. Before Frozen Ever After debuted you could typically get through Test Track or Soarin and then hit the other attraction with a Fastpass+ selection and avoid the lines entirely. 



Now, after the debut of that inevitable replacement of Maelstrom, you will typically have to wait around 45 minutes for one of the three attractions using this strategy simply because you cant get through all three fast enough to beat the crowds as they fill in for the day. Our recommendation tends to be to grab a fastpass+ for Test Track because it is the most likely to have technical difficulties and then you'll be credited with an all day fastpass for the attraction when it reopens if it closes during your fastpass+ time allocation. 

The other fastpass+ selections are kind of a toss up in all honesty. We don't do Mission Space and with the tiered fastpass system at Epcot your other options are Journey into Imagination with Figment, The Seas with Nemo, Spaceship Earth, Pixar Short Film Festival, Living With the Land, and the Character Spot. For the most part you wont need a fastpass for these attractions and offerings unless it's a holiday weekend. Our go-to picks are typically Living with the Land and Figment. Both can back up as the day progresses but ultimately just take the earliest fastpasses in the day that you can get and you wont have much to worry about as far as wait times in this park.         



Mid Day "Shift"

As lunch time approaches and the World Showcase opens for the day at 11:00 typically we'll do some shopping if we knock out the attractions we want to hit for the morning and then head straight to the World Showcase. A top pick for us in the World Showcase for lunch recently has been the table service offering Via Napoli. The food is great and fairly reasonably priced for what you get. Another great option if you don't want to pay the prices for table service is the Mexico Pavilion's outdoor quick service location La Cantina de San Angel. The food is great and super convenient and most of the menu items can be shared among two people if you're like us and want to "taste" your way through the countries various quick service locations as you make your way around the World Showcase. 




In the afternoon we tend to take a leisurely stroll through the countries and hit the highlights of what we really enjoy and then wander and try to find some hidden details we may have missed on previous trips. Even after all these years, we still find new things to explore and try around the World Showcase.

A few highlights tend to the Mitsukoshi store in the Japan Pavilion, the French bakery in the back of the France pavilion, the Puffins Roost (now called The Fjording Shop) in Norway, and even typically a quick stop in the Mexico pavilion for a quick and typically "wait time free" ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour! All of these are great offerings but they only scratch the surface of all that is available. 

If it's a festival season at Epcot like Flower and Garden Festival or even the famous Food and Wine Festival, be sure to stop by a vast variety of outdoor kitchens for incredible offerings at a pretty reasonable price while tasting the flavors of places all around the world. 



Combine the food with the special events the festivals encompass and you're set for an incredible time in the park and one that requires very little time waiting in line! 
            

Breakfast or Lunch Table Service

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to some of you that I recommend eating your way through Epcot. I'm all about the food and really just the experience of Epcot more than anything else. I could literally spend hours just sitting on a bench taking in the atmosphere without exaggeration! 

Food is a huge part of the Epcot experience and to me it can start successfully at any point during the day, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even the vast variety of snacks available! A few highlights that tend to make it into our days are a stop by Garden Grill in the Land for a reservation only Table Service breakfast (one of the best breakfasts on property), lunch at Via Napoli, or even dinner at Teppan Edo for some incredible Hibachi style offerings. If you want something simpler, consider checking out the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom Pavilion for excellent fish and chips at reasonable price. 



No matter what you choose, you really cant go wrong as long as you pick a culture and food variety that you are comfortable with and that the menu sounds good to you. We're reasonably picky eaters and have never had any problems at Epcot. Every location is quite accommodating. My only recommended "skip" would be Tutto Italia. If you're going for the food, like we often do, try and pick one or two reservations for the day and play the rest by ear. Typically we'll select one lunch reservation and more often than not make it for the middle of the afternoon to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner to free ourselves up to head back to the resort for a break after lunch before retuning back to the park that night.     
         

Afternoon Break 

The afternoon break is something that really plays a role in our plans for the parks particularly in the hot summer months. In the spring and other months you can usually get by without it because park hours are shorter, the cooler temperatures don't put as much strain on your energy, and ultimately it's less needed. In the summer, you'll need a mid day break to cool off in the peak of the day, and as the crowds really hit their stride and max out you can escape from it all for a couple hours, hit the resort pool and get ready for the night. This seems so simple but don't underestimate the power of this break! Grab a water, hydrate all you can, take a nap, relax poolside, or do something to recharge in a way and it will turn your night around in a big way! It's hard to leave the parks mid day but so so so worth it if you can pry yourself away. 



I know we do go at this from a different perspective than most because we've seen and done so much so many times in the parks, but trust us the time you spend away from the crowds will be made up for ten fold! Don't worry about doing everything, and spend more time enjoying what you get to do and make the most of that time! That's the key to it all. It's not about what you do but instead what you do so incredibly well and enjoy so incredibly much that you remember it years later!      
   

Illuminations 

At the end of the night, after you've returned to the park, one of our go-to things of nearly every trip is to grab a snack or dessert somewhere in the World Showcase, wander around the showcase a bit more as the temperature falls and the lights start to come on as day transitions to night, and enjoy a nice sunset as we simply enjoy being there in the moment. 

Those moments of doing nothing or having no plan are often the moments that are the most enjoyable in an odd way. You can stroll the showcase without a worry in the world enjoying the sites and sounds of the experience as the crowds start to file in for Illuminations. 



One of the many unique joys of Illuminations is that you don't have to stake out a spot an hour in advance. You can see the show from basically anywhere in the World Showcase, as long as you have an unobstructed view of a majority of the lagoon. If you want a specific spot, you may want to arrive about 45 minutes before the show, but if you're not picky, it's not out of the ordinary to find an incredible spot in the last few minutes. The kicker to it is that everyone crowds that "front" edge of the lagoon and it's really not necessary. You can be anywhere on the main promenade and still see the show unless there's something like a big tree in front of you. Some of the more unique views that are go to spots for us are the staircase leading up to Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion, a spot along the wall just up the stairs in the Canada pavilion near the shop, and on around near the Italy Pavilion in a big open area that tends to fill in as the show time approaches (sometimes used as reserved event seating). You really cant go wrong with viewing spots for this show!   




Stay Until After Closing Time  

This part of the plan isn't going to be for everyone. If you have young kids this may be incredibly difficult, but if at all possible, hang around after Illuminations and don't head straight for the exits. Within 30 minutes of the final burst of Illuminations, if the park closes at the end of the show, the park will clear out and clear out quite quickly. However, while you cant ride any attractions, the common areas and main stores stay open and you can wander a near empty park as guests finish up their late night dining reservations. It is a surreal feeling and one that you really can't explain in words. Everything is quiet, the music feels louder, and the details really pop out at you. I didn't start doing this until I really got into WDW photography and wanted those empty parks shots everyone wants to grab, but even if you're not into taking photos, the quiet nature of the park after close makes for a truly incredible experience.



Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

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If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.


Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!      
  



Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Main Street Light Bulb You Never Knew Had A Story!

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

The Main Street Light Bulb You Never Knew Had A Story!

After looking back through some of my all time favorite articles from the early days of this site I came across this little hidden gem of an article that unveils perhaps one of the most overlooked hidden details of Main Street USA and had to recirculate the article!  

Have you ever been inside the Car Barn on Main Street U.S.A at the Magic Kingdom? If not, be sure to add it to your list for the next time you are in the park. The barn is full of little Disney details that you can peer through the big barn doors at and it truly feels like you're getting a look "behind the curtain" at something uniquely Disney. Fortunately, there's more to this story than you may expect.


If you get the chance to peer into the barn, be sure to catch a glimpse of a small light bulb hanging from a single wire on your right just inside the barn near the far wall (pictured in the center of the picture above) While that light bulb is quite small and seems to serve very little purpose for lighting the room, it holds an interesting backstory and is a level of incorporated detail that only Disney would include.


(The lightbulb described is hanging by a single strand just inside the door.)

As you may know, the lights of Main Street tell a story all on their own. As you progress through the time periods each section of the street represents, the light fixtures vary in order to fit the era represented. When you really take the time to notice it, there is everything from authentic gas lamps to electric lights as you move further and further throughout the eras of production. With that being said, there's only one true representation of the original electric lightbulb. 

As you may have guessed, this is where the story starts to come back around full circle! The lightbulb we originally mentioned hanging on the wire all by itself is a contracted piece specifically for the purpose of authenticity. The bulb itself is created by one particular individual in the northern United States using only the materials Thomas Edison had available when the original lightbulb was created. I can only imagine how delicate that creative process is and has been for many years. 


How do You Catch a Glimpse of It?  

To be quite honest, there are really no guaranteed times when this little light bulb will be viewable. To catch a quick glimpse, I recommend heading towards the car barn in the early afternoon. During parade times, the door will be closed and from my experience the same tends to remain true in the early hours of the day. Part of catching this hidden detail is getting a little bit lucky and finding a few brief moments when the door is ever so slightly opened so that guests can peer into the room.       

Honestly, it is a very small detail of the parks, but something Disney truly did not have to add. However, I'm amazed and happy that they do in fact continue the tradition. It's these little details that create the "Disney difference." No other organization would put so much effort into a single light bulb in a place that many guests will never even see in order to make the experience as realistic as possible. This is amazing in my own personal opinion and one of those little details that you may have never experienced, but one that you surely should appreciate on your next vacation! It's not a grand spectacle, an overwhelming beautiful detail, or a must do for every single guest, but instead something that goes to show the pride Disney has had and continues to have in their parks.       

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Ready to Plan?


Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Here's a closer look at why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way.




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