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Monday, July 31, 2017

A One of A Kind Disney Experience: Shutting Down the Magic Kingdom!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

After years of touring the Walt Disney World Parks and resorts, it's always amazing how many things we haven't quite been able to do. In our case, along with many other Disney fans, it's a bit of a revolving list of things we want to do next in the parks. The list never really ends, but constantly gets added to as Disney continues to grow and develop. 

So, when the timing lined up to close down the Magic Kingdom, we had to give a shot. First, I have to say this is an experience that every Disney fan or even first time guest has to do at least once. It's like stepping back in time. The crowds of the day really diminish about 30 minutes prior to close and slowly, yet surely each "land" within the park is blocked off to new guests by a row of cast members. It's like you've stepped back in time, however briefly, to years ago when the parks weren't quite as crowded as they are today. 

There are so many elements of the experience that you can't see any other way. If you want to share this experience with family or friends, here's what I see as the best way to "shut down" the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps the easiest way to do so is to find a day during your trip when the park closes at or around 9:00 or 10:00pm. The days may be few and far between with the mass amount of extra magic hours for resort guests available, but an early closing could make all the difference. To really experience closing time, stick around until roughly a half hour (depending on when the park closes for the night) after the scheduled park closing time. Main Street will remain fairly busy, but the rest of the park will slowly drain of guests leaving behind a one of kind experience. 

Imagine an empty Fantasyland or even Tomorrowland, there's truly nothing quite like it. Of course, all of the rides have ended their operation for the night and a few cast members will still be stirring around, but the views are really second to none. It feels as if you have the park to yourself for even a brief moment. It's something we all dream of, but will likely never experience. You can't help but think, it must be the same feeling Walt felt night after night as he walked through Disneyland after the crowds had subsided for the day.

As an added bonus, simply ask the cast members or security monitoring each lands entrance if you can simply take some pictures and they'll be more than happy to let you do so! Capturing that memory is really an outstanding way to remember the night and share the unique experience with others. 

As you walk down Main Street as the last few guests filter out, take a moment to just think back on how many Imagineers and cast members over the years have devoted a small portion of their lives to create this place and the memories that we have enjoyed for generations. The entire experience really makes you think back on the experiences you've had with friends and family throughout the parks in a way that is truly hard to put into words. Make a quick stop up at the top of the Main Street Station and you'll be honestly shocked at how different the view is from any other time of day. There's no crowd below you, no mad rush to popular attractions, and a simple quiet that you can't experience any other way. 

While you're waiting for guests to clear out, don't forget to catch "The Kiss Goodnight." While it is quite a simple show at the end of the night, it really brings home the nostalgia factor of a day in the parks and is one of those simple touches that sets Disney apart from all the rest. It completes the story of your time in the park for the day, and creates a fitting closing to a day at Walt Disney World. While this really isn't an attraction or even a piece of any Disney itinerary, it's something we didn't do for years, but has become a new "must-do" part of our Disney vacation. The simple 2 or 3 minute show is nothing mind blowing, but something you'll likely never forget. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of your day! Without each and every one of you following along with us, we would have no reason to write! I can't thank you enough for spending a few minutes here with us. -Collin


Sunday, July 30, 2017

One of the Best Burgers on Disney Property! : A Closer Look At The Plaza Restaurant

by: guide4wdw - Collin

The Disney parks and resorts have really become known over the years for outstanding dining opportunities. However, there's been one particular item that has been somewhat overlooked, burgers. While Disney offers a lot of different burgers, and a large variety of different toppings throughout property, very few go above and beyond. So, when I find a burger on the menu at Walt Disney World I always have to give it a shot. 

When we planned our Disney vacation, we actually didn't even have The Plaza on our list of reservations. We had been there in the past and really enjoyed it, but with a Crystal Palace breakfast that morning, we really didn't expect to eat another table service meal. As the day grew later, the crowds started to die down a bit and we were looking for a meal that could get us out of the heat for a little while. So, we decided to try and walk up at the Plaza. It was  a bit of long shot, but we thought might as well try. Eventually, we waited around 15 minutes and they got us right in. 

The Plaza Restaurant is quite small and one of the more crowded dining locations on property, but the food is really good. The menu isn't very expansive, but everything we tried was great! After a quick glance over the menu, we decided on 3 entrees (one was split). first and foremost, we tried the Angus Chuck Cheeseburger.

In my honest opinion, this was one of the better burgers I've had on Disney property if not one of the best. It was definitely a far cry from what you'd find at most counter service restaurants, but not topped with anything out of the ordinary on a typical cheeseburger. After trying most cheeseburgers on property, I can certainly say it is one of the best and one that really stands out on my "top burger" list. Plus, it's topped with bacon, and everything's better with bacon! The bun is also fairly unique, but really rounded out the great burger. This particular menu offering was served with fries and was offered with a variety of toppings you could choose from on the menu listing itself. Dress it up or go simple like we did, but either way this was a great meal item at a somewhat reasonable price by Disney standards ($18).    

The other guests in our group ordered the Chicken Strawberry Salad and the Cheese Steak Sandwich. Both options were great as well, but for me the standout option was the burger. The Cheese Steak was juicy and outstanding as well, but an honest highlight of the experience was simply the chance to get out of the sun for even a brief hour or so. More than anything, what I recommend to guests going to Walt Disney World for the first time, or even returning guests, is to schedule a table-service meal during each of your park days. While some meals are quite expensive, offerings like The Plaza (which is more budget friendly) exist in every park. While you may not recognize it at first, the brief meal that gets you out of the heat for a while can really help you out at the end of the day! 

As always, thanks for reading and don't forget to check out our friends over at Destinations to Travel. Planning or thinking about planning a Disney vacation? Fill out the quote request form down below and one of their agents will get back to you soon! They're one of the few authorized Disney vacation planners and the only travel agency we've used and will use!     

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Dole Whip May Now Be Available In Your Area!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

After years as an exclusive treat of the Disney Parks and Resorts, Dole Whip may now be available to the masses (depending on your location). First and foremost, it is just for a limited time and is an exclusive partnership with the sweetFrog brand and the Dole organization. The company, which operates as a mass franchise, has locations across the entire United States as well as internationally.

For the summer months, the treat will be available at all stores and will feature the classic pineapple flavor along with 5 others: orange, strawberry, raspberry, mango, and lemon. Personally, I see this as a great way to get that "Disney Fix" for those of us who do not live near the parks.

While their release statement for the Dole Whip flavors mentions the influence of the theme park industry, it doesn't appear that they will offer it served in pineapple juice floats in quite the same way Disney has for years. Either way, I know I'll be finding a sweetFrog location before the summer ends!

Just a heads up, we are not affiliate with the sweetFrog group or any of it's retail locations. Even more info Here

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Columbia Harbour House to Join The Mobile Ordering Platform Soon!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

It looks as if Disney will soon be adding a new dining location to the mobile ordering platform. If you haven't already heard, Disney has added the option to order your meal in advance before arriving at a few select counter service locations. Before arriving at your desired counter service destination, you simply go into the My Disney Experience App and make your dining selections for that particular restaurant. After making your selections, you can pay for your food ahead of time and pick a time you want to pick it up and eat. 

Right now, only a few select locations have adopted the service but it has been received quite well by regular guests and annual pass holders alike. However, it looks as if Disney is expanding the service to even more locations. The next mobile ordering location will be Columbia Harbour House starting July 31st. The location itself is a great counter service meal that is quite different than the typical food offerings at similar dining locations. 

The food centers mostly around fried fish along with lobster rolls and a few other unique items. The atmosphere is also fairly unique featuring two stories of seating overlooking Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom. 

Overall, this should be a great new addition to the mobile ordering platform. The program has really helped limit lines of those who choose to utilize the service and as many of you well know, even a few extra minutes at Walt Disney World makes all the difference.  

So, what do you think about the new mobile ordering platform? Have you used it? If so, how did it work out for you? 

Interested in checking it out yourself? Be sure to look into the only travel service we've used and recommend: Destinations to Travel. If you're planning a vacation fill out a quote form down below and they'll get back with you soon!  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Our Top 5 "Must-Do" Walt Disney World Table Service Dining Locations


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Throughout Walt Disney World there are a vast variety of dining opportunities. Of course, everyone has their own personal favorites, but today we're going to share a closer look at some of our favorite dining locations that have been tried and true for many years. Every once and a while you'll come across a random fluke experience, but nearly every location on this list we've visited many times with great results. 

1. The Crystal Palace 
While a select few guests aren't thrilled by the food at this buffet style table service offering, it truly offers an extensive variety of choices. The food certainly isn't what you would find over at Victoria and Alberts, but it does feature a great variety of choices. Personally, I see this as one of the best table service offerings at the Magic Kingdom. It is quite expensive at both lunch and dinner, but the food is some of the best you'll find in the park. Also, considering it is a buffet, if you don't like something just head back up to the counter and try something else. For both kids and adults alike, this would be one of my highly recommended dining experiences. 

For kids (and many adults) this is in fact a character meal at all three meals. Pooh and friends great guests of all ages and even perform a small parade through the restaurant. The atmosphere is elegant, yet not overbearing. It really has that classic Main Street feel which sets the stage for a great day in the Magic Kingdom. Personally, we highly recommend the breakfast offering. It is quite a bit cheaper than the other meals and if you book a later breakfast you won't miss the short wait times of the early morning and you may just get a taste of lunch while they set up for the next meal. 

2. Whispering Canyon 
Second on the list is Whispering Canyon. For years this has been a go to location for each of our trips to Walt Disney World, even long before we started staying at the Wilderness Lodge. The atmosphere has changed slightly over the years, but today it still holds true to a fun loving set up. If you enjoy barbecue, the canyon skillet is certainly the must try item on the menu. You not only get to partake in a bottomless skillet of food, but you also get a taste of a variety of different items found throughout the menu. 

Along the way, the cast members really go above and beyond to make the experience memorable. Kids get the chance to run around the restaurant on stick horses and jokes of all types abound throughout your time in the restaurant. For this location I typically recommend dinner for more than one reason. The whole place is much more crowded at night and as a result the staff gets the chance to have more fun with guests and create a greater variety of jokes that are funny yet tasteful. Another great option is the breakfast they offer. The main menu item is still a bottomless skillet and family style. Overall, it is a really fun experience and one of the many dining locations that have become "hidden gems" over the years. Reservations are readily available throughout the day, and the Wilderness Lodge is only a short bus or boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom.      

3. Homecomin' Kitchen 
If you follow the site (thanks!) you likely saw our recent review of Homecomin' Kitchen. To be quite honest, this climbed into a very high ranking on our list of "must-do" dining. The food is incredible, the staff is outstanding, and the overall experience is really outperforming expectations. If you've not been here, be sure to check it out on your next trip to Walt Disney World. You don't have to have a park ticket to experience it, and due to it's location at Disney Springs, there is more than enough to do before and after your meal. If you missed our in depth review, be sure to check it out here.

4. Garden Grill 
To be quite honest, Garden Grill was a dining location we absolutely loved years ago, then after a few menu changes, we quit going for quite some time. Just recently we went back to try breakfast for the very first time (it's a fairly new offering) and we really enjoyed the experience. As a rare family style meal in Epcot and one of the few character meals in the Epcot resort area, it's hard to pass up a meal at Garden Grill. The menu does tend to vary every few years (so be sure to check before you go), but the experience has always been top quality. 

The restaurant itself rotates, which provides a one of a kind dining setting, and a small portion of the dining room overlooks the Living With The Land attraction below. However, it is worth noting that this is not a cheap family style meal in any regard. It is quite pricey, but if you're on the dining plan this is a great place to use a table service credit at Epcot. If you have kids that want to meet Mickey and friends without the long lines, look no further!   

5. Teppan Edo 
Teppan Edo is a dining location that I overlooked for years. As the only true hibachi experience at Epcot, you really receive a dinner and a show at somewhat reasonable price. The steak is really outstanding and the rice is essentially endless (if you ask nicely). The entire experience takes place on the second tier of the Japan pavilion above the Mitsukoshi retail location. The chefs are extremely friendly and the hibachi style "show" is entertaining while providing your food in a quick timeframe. All in all, it is an amazing place to eat lunch or dinner. If you make a dinner reservation and time it just right, head outside after your meal to catch a great view of the Illuminations fireworks from the balcony area or the ground level of the pavilion below.

There you have it, our top "must-do" table service dining locations. We certainly have more where these came from, but for the sake of the article we decided to share just a few for the time being. Did your favorite make the list?  

If you want to see an in depth review of any of these restaurants, be sure to let us know in the comments. We've eaten at the vast majority of restaurants on property, so let us know what you want to see next.   

Why Disney Keeps Us Coming Back – Magical Moments From A Disney Trip


by: guide4wdw - Caitlin

Walt Disney World is near and dear to mine and Collin’s heart. We have visited the magical place every year (often multiple times a year) since I was five and Collin was two years old. When people learn this about us, they usually ask, “Don’t you want to go somewhere else? Isn’t it boring?” If you’re a part of the Disney community, then you already know the answer. Disney is ALWAYS special; you will never experience the same trip twice. Today I am giving you a roundup of the most magical moments from our recent Disney trip.

Disney cast members are like no other. They make a great effort to create a special experience for all of the guests. But, sometimes, there are moments when they go above and beyond to make someone’s day. During our July trip, I turned 24, and was extremely excited to celebrate my birthday in a Disney park for the first time. In all of our summer visits to the Kingdom, we had strangely never been there for my birthday! As most do, I took full advantage of it by wearing a birthday button all week (you know you’ve done it). 

We were at Epcot to celebrate the 4th of July. In true mom fashion, she wanted some caramel corn from Germany while she watched the fireworks. I’ll hand it to her, that stuff is phenomenal. Collin and I nominated ourselves to walk, quite literally, around the world to get it for her while she saved our fireworks spot on the bridge. – Side note. A great Illuminations spot is to park it at the bridge between the France and United Kingdom pavilions – When we arrived at Karamell-Kuche, the line was out the door. Apparently everyone’s mom wanted caramel corn that night! Collin and I waited . . . and waited. . . and waited until we had about 15 minutes left before the show. When we (finally) arrived at the counter, the cashier asked me if it was really my birthday (always wear your birthday pin!), and I told him that it was two days from then. He handed us the caramel corn and said, “Happy Birthday.” I’m not sure if the sweet man recognized that the line had taken ages or if he was simply kind, but we walked out with free popcorn. Magical moment #1. (Not as magical was the walk/sprint back around Epcot in 5 minutes flat) 

Fast forward to my actual birthday. We visited Crystal Palace to kick off the day with my favorite breakfast in the parks. Disney is really great about making birthdays special. When celebrating at a restaurant in the parks, the servers will add confetti to your table. You will also receive a birthday card signed by the characters and a cupcake brought to you with a song (even if it’s breakfast time). 

Later on, we visited Starbucks. Cast members at Disney Starbucks are known for drawing cute designs on the cups. When I received my tea, the cup had, “Happy Birthday,” written on it along with some Mickey ears. Although a simple gesture, it was a sweet addition to my much-needed cool drink. 

For dinner, our family snagged a walk up at The Plaza (now that’s a magical moment in itself). The food was wonderful – look for a detailed post soon – and I HAD to order desert. After looking at the dessert menu, I was so sad to see that my favorite treat, the ice cream cookie sandwich, was not there! I asked my waitress if it could be ordered there, and she replied with, “I’ll see what I can do.”  A few minutes later, she arrived with the most glorious ice cream cookie sandwich you have ever seen, complete with peanut butter on top. I was absolutely thrilled and completely full! To make the event even sweeter, the waitress removed the cookie from our bill. She simply laid down the check and said, “Have a happy birthday.” 

Our final magical moments came at the Contemporary Resort. My family loves to resort hop, and we found ourselves at the Contempo Café one evening (another great counter service option). While there, I realized that I should look for some Mickey shaped straws. Some of you may not know that I am a teacher, and I was on a hunt to acquire Mickey straws for my entire class. I had searched all of the gift shops at the Contemporary and our hotel (Wilderness Lodge), but could not find a single straw. One of the cast members at the Contempo suggested I check The Wave downstairs. I thought this was a strange suggestion, since this was not a Disney-themed restaurant, but I gave it a try. When arriving at the desk at The Wave, I felt a little silly asking the ladies for 11 Mickey straws, but they didn’t bat an eye. They called to the back for the manager to hunt some down. While we waited, the ladies said, “So you’re a teacher?” I explained to them that I had five year old students who would absolutely love the straws. The ladies then opened their desk drawer and pulled out two brand new rolls of Disney stickers. They handed them to me saying, “Your kids will love these.” I was so excited; it was such a kind gesture. About that time, the manager came from the back with a brown paper bag. She asked me some questions about where I taught and how I enjoyed teaching. Then, she gave me the bag full of Mickey straws and said, “Enjoy your school year.” I expressed to her that I would love to pay for them, but she refused. It absolutely made my day. Such kind moments from the wonderful ladies at The Wave. 

There you have it, a wrap up of our most magical moments from our last trip! Although some of these events may seem simple, it makes such a difference when people treat you with an extra dose of sweetness. It may always be changing, but Disney has never lost its magic touch. 

Have your own favorite moment you want to share? Be sure to share your stories with us on social media! If you enjoyed this article be sure to welcome Caitlin back by following us on Instagram. She really leads our Instagram sharing! (link in header) 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"Departed Disney" - Walt Disney World's Skyway - A Returning Concept


by: guide4wdw - Collin

With the recent revival of the gondola concept, we thought it would be great to take a look back at "what was." The original Skyway was a classic day one Walt Disney World attraction and an experience that many early Disney World fans have extremely fond memories of. Despite experiencing a controversial closure, the attraction created a view of the Magic Kingdom that was truly unparalleled. For many, it was a highlight of their Disney vacation from 1971 up until it's closure in 1999. 

(Photos - Flickr: George Thomas - Labeled For Reuse)

The attraction itself was borrowed from the Disneyland iteration and featured an extremely similar design. Both systems would carry guests in a "one-way" or "two-way" fashion to and from Fantasyland/Tomorrowland. However, opposed to the Disney World variation, Disneyland's Skyway passed through the Matterhorn attraction throughout a good portion of it's existence. Unfortunately, in 1994 Disneyland permanently closed this attraction citing a weakened structure along with other issues.

The Walt Disney World Skyway continued operation for quite a few years after the Disneyland iteration's closure. For guests, this simple experience provided an aerial view of all of Fantasyland as well as a vast portion of Tomorrowland. The view from above was a thrilling experience according to guests who had the opportunity to see it first hand. Personally, the nostalgia factor for this attraction goes far beyond the history of the parks. In the early years of Walt Disney World, I had a relative visit the park who truly loved this attraction. It eventually became the memorable experience of their short time at Walt Disney World. Of course, these were the same relatives that thought Space Mountain was a casual boat ride through "space" (they were sadly mistaken). While their one day in the parks wasn't the most pleasant after that, considering they both got horribly motion sick, they still held on to that simple memory of the Skyway from the very same day. It was something they talked about for years and they really weren't Disney fans like many of us reading this certainly are. For them, it was a one of a kind experience that they'd never seen before! 

The attraction was certainly built as a forward thinking concept developed by WED Enterprises to truly share something "new" in the theme park realm. The early manufacturing was achieved by the Von Roll organization out of Switzerland and was the first of it's kind in the United States when it first debut at Disneyland. Surprisingly, the Von Roll organization is still in business today (operating under a different name), while it operates in different industries. 

However, while the original manufacturer will not be developing the new system directly as it was at that time (the group Doppelmayr will be who were sold the ropeway division), this simply goes to show that no good idea ever gets truly left behind in Imagineering.The new project will without a doubt be much more advanced than the original Skyway, but Disney has promised that the new gondolas will take guests back to the original concept. The design will feature elements of the early Skyway while debuting a new name, "The Skyliner." Of course, as with anything Disney announces, the idea has certainly faced controversy, but really should be an intriguing new addition to the Walt Disney World Resort area. 

Sadly, an unfortunate circumstance resulting in the death of a cast member occurred a short time before the Walt Disney World Skyway's closure, but Disney stated the closure was unrelated. Today, after years of being abandoned, the former Fantasyland Skyway station has been demolished and transformed into one of the most impressive themed restrooms on property (and no that isn't a joke, they're really impressive!).  

Video: Disneyland's Skyway 1992

Today, it'll be interesting to see how the logistics of the new undertaking will unfold, but I really am looking forward to it's debut. I never did get the chance to experience the Skyway first hand (I was 3yrs old when it closed), so the much more modern variation could be a great throwback to the early days of Walt Disney World! 

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, please share it with friends! Thanks! Your shares and likes on social media really help us grow and share more Disney information than ever before! 

Looking to Plan a Disney Vacation? Destinations to Travel is our recommended travel agency because it's who we've used! If you want a quote, be sure to fill out the quote form down below and an agent will get back to you soon!  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

5 Simple Ways to Save Money At Walt Disney World

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Planning for a Disney vacation can certainly get expensive quick, but there are quite a few ways to eliminate some of the unwanted costs associated with the vacation experience. Of course there are a few obvious ways to save some money including the discounts Disney puts out on a fairly regular basis, however, there are quite a few other less obvious ways to avoid spending extra money. So, today we've come up with 5 Simple Ways to Save Money At Walt Disney World. These certainly aren't the only ways, but hopefully we share something useful that you can use during your next Disney vacation.

1. Book Early When Possible
-In many cases, throughout the booking process the most budget friendly rates will appear at the farthest out portion of the booking window from your experience. However, in many cases, Disney will release discounted rates throughout the year for different seasonal price percentage discounts. If you've already booked your vacation, you can always rebook your vacation at the discounted rate. Personally, I recommend using a travel agency like our friends over at Destinations to Travel (We've provided a completely free quote request form for them down below) so that they can monitor the dates of your stay and rebook accordingly to save you any money you possibly can. While during some seasons Disney does not offer discounted rates, it's often quite likely that a cheaper rate will pop up at some point before your vacation. 

Also worth noting is that you should always take a second look at the "free" dining offers before booking them automatically or even requesting to book. In some cases, "free" dining isn't technically 'free.' In many cases, you may be better off booking at a discounted percentage rate or even at the standard rate and paying to add the dining plan or simply buying your meals out of pocket. That plan certainly isn't for everyone as many like to have  a set full vacation figure and pay everything before they arrive at the parks so that they don't have to worry about costs once they arrive un the parks. Either way, it's definitely worth looking into and certainly something a great travel agent can look into for you.     

2. Spend a Day Outside of the Parks 
-I've mentioned this option a few times for a variety of reasons across many articles. Taking a brief break from the parks can afford guests a great deal of different opportunities. First and foremost, taking away even one park ticket from your stay can really save you a significant amount of money, especially if you have a family of four or more. 

Thankfully, if you do decide to remove a park day from your itinerary, you do have a lot of other great free options. A personal favorite of ours is to simply tour the resorts. Spending time hopping from resort to resort using Disney's free transportation can actually be an outstanding experience. If you really want to upgrade your shopping and wandering experience, set up a reservation at one of the many resort table service locations. The food at nearly all of them is outstanding, and typically will turn out to be much cheaper than spending a day in the parks and you really can enjoy an outstanding day simply touring a few resorts. 

Beyond resorts, be sure to spend some time at Disney Springs. The shopping and dining experiences that have debuted are really second to none in the Orlando area. While the shopping locations are quite high in many cases, other locations like Uniqlo are extremely affordable ($14 Tee Shirts!).          

3. Utilize the Top Counter Service Locations
-Disney is full of counter service locations, but more and more, the offerings at these locations are getting increasingly tasty. For example, Floatworks at Port Orleans French Quarter has outstanding food at counter services prices that could easily pass for table service dining options. This certainly isn't the only option, but it's definitely one of our favorites. Another great option is Captain Cooks over at the Polynesian. 

By utilizing many of these top counter service locations, you can easily eat great food while avoiding many of the high costs associated with some table service offerings in and around the parks/resorts.    

4. Eat Breakfast at Table Service Locations
-Another great option regarding dining is to book breakfast at table service locations rather than lunch or dinner. This is a simple tip, but it really can save you quite a bit of money. For example, a the Crystal Palace character meal at Magic Kingdom you can save over $10 per person by eating the breakfast buffet. The experience remains the same in nearly every case, but the costs associated with the meal are drastically reduced. In the short run, $10 doesn't seem like much, but it very well could be the cost of a counter service meal later on in your vacation.     

5. Utilize Free Resort Activities
-To be quite honest, this is one perk for Disney resort quests that gets completely overlooked by so many guests. Throughout the day at every Disney resort, activities are held for guests of all ages. Some activities are quite simple like pool games for kids, but others can be quite fun for the whole family. On a vacation to Disney's Contemporary Resort quite a few years ago, we took part in a Disney parks trivia game hosted by the resort. The prizes ranged from board games to small gift baskets or similar items. At the end of the day we took home a limited edition Indiana Jones Monopoly game that we still have to this day. The game itself is outstanding and quite the collectible today, but more than anything it's a very unique memory that we have of our time at the resort. It didn't cost us a dime and the experience is something that we'll remember for years. 

Beyond basic games, each resort typically has its own special events throughout the week including everything from scavenger hunts throughout the resort to movies around a campfire or resort pool location. These events don't cost anything extra and really do provide a fun variety of ways to explore and appreciate the little details that set the Disney resort experience apart from hotels across the country.

So, did we miss one of your budget saving ideas? If so, be sure to share it with us on your favorite social media platform. Know a friend planning a Walt Disney World vacation on a budget? Please share this article with them! Thanks!  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Answer To The Age-Old Monorail Expansion Question


by: guide4wdw - Collin

After years of various means of transportation at Walt Disney World that has been seemingly unchanging, we are finally getting a new form of Disney transportation. The company just announced earlier this week at the D23 Expo that we are indeed getting the rumored gondola style transportation system. Of course, the new technology brings up an age old question, "Why not just expand the monorail?" 

Well, to be quite honest, there have been a variety of reasons. First and foremost is the cost comparison. When Disney first debuted their monorail fleet in the early 70's, the cost to build was no where near as high as it is today. Essentially it is a cause and effect style solution to the large-scale transportation problem. If Disney built an extension on the monorail today, which hasn't happened since the 80's when the Epcot loop was added, the cost would likely be at or above 50 million dollars per mile when compared to other near identical projects accomplished within the last 10-15 years.  

By comparison, we can only assume that Disney has found a better option with the Gondola construction option or at least one that could drive increased resort bookings and yield higher revenue than what a monorail expansion would create. Gondola prices are really all over the map varying from 20 million for roughly two miles to well into the 80-100million dollar range and higher. 

However, when you compare that to the costs of similar "monorail" style expansions in the last 10 years, the difference becomes fairly evident. For example, the Bombardier MVI built out in Las Vegas in 2004 cost over 88 million dollars per mile to construct. Also, a similar design built in 2003, the Kuala Lumpur Monorail cost near 70 million dollars per mile and features a much smaller tram design than Walt Disney World's current iteration. Of course, many different elements play into those costs, but one thing is certain, the 1 million dollar per mile estimate that floats around the internet is far from true by today's standards and costs.

While all of the numbers are interesting, we do know for a fact that Disney has decided to go with the Gondola style system for likely a variety of reasons beyond cost itself. To me though, perhaps the most interesting element of the project isn't related to the cost at all, but rather the design. According to concept images released by Disney, the new system will bring back design elements from Disney's classic Skyway attraction. While the system will be entirely different fundamentally, it will be incredible to see a "classic" and nostalgic design element of Walt Disney World of days past return to Disney property. 

So, what do you think? Should they have avoided the risk and went with an incredibly pricey monorail expansion or do you like this new concept which is soon to become a reality? 

Thanks for reading and be sure to SHARE this with friends! Thanks!       

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Our Top 5 Photo Opportunities at Walt Disney World: Share Your Photos With Us!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

A Disney vacation is always a memorable experience, but a small piece of that overall experience is capturing memories through photos. For many, this is a huge part of their Disney parks vacation. Personally, I've always been a big proponent of doing whatever you can to distance yourself from a smartphone or other technology while in the parks in order to really enjoy every moment without experiencing things through a lens or screen. However, to be quite honest, I'm the biggest offender of my own rule, especially now that we're capturing new information for the site as we tour the parks. 

As I've mentioned in the past, I don't really consider myself a photographer in any way. The level of detail and color a good photographer can portray through an image is far beyond my skill level. Thankfully, with the growth of technology, many of us can take decent photos to share with friends and family with simply a smartphone and a little patience. So, today we're sharing a closer look at our top 5 photo opportunities that can really help capture memories from Walt Disney World (photos best viewed on desktop). 

1. First and foremost, everyone who comes to Walt Disney World wants to take that classic Cinderella's Castle picture. However, it has become increasingly difficult to share a photo that doesn't have hundreds of guests filling in the background. Personally, I've found two remedies to this issue. One option is to try and make it until park closing time. As the crowds thin out, about 30 minutes after the park "closes" you'll be able to claim a spot and set up a great family photo. Another option, and typically the one I resort to is to leave the family or friends out of the picture and find a spot either under one of the new light projection areas on the left or right side of the castle. Another great spot is right before entering the walkway through the castle itself. Right before you enter, look straight up and you'll be surprised how interesting the photos can be. Then, when you return home, you'll have a new perspective to share with friends from your vacation and avoid all those random people in the background of your classic castle photo. 

2. Second, and perhaps my favorite opportunity, is to to take some time and explore the resorts. For example, pick a floor at the Contemporary resort and head all the way to the corners facing the Magic Kingdom. If you don't already know, there is also a huge balcony that opens up from the Grand Canyon Concourse and views the Magic Kingdom. However, nearly every floor has a door out to a staircase area as well (just make sure it's not an emergency exit and that it doesn't lock when you walk out!). Each resort really has an outstanding view at some point throughout the grounds if you take just a few minutes to explore. No matter if it's a family photo or simply an image to share, thinking a little outside of the box can make all the difference. 

(They need a new bulb!) 

3. Shut down the parks! As mentioned above, if you're patient and just hang out around the parks as the night slowly comes to a close, the parks really change into a strikingly unique environment. There's no mass chaos of people running to get to their next fastpass selection, no tour groups chanting through the streets, and really no reason to be rushed. Sit back and relax or simply shop around Main Street for a few extra minutes at the end of the night and you'll be surprised at what you can capture and share. For example, imagine a completely empty Tomorrowland or a view of Fantasyland with an empty carrousel and only a few cast members in site. It's an experience that takes you back and reminds you of memories from past vacations in a way that is really hard to explain. Along the way, take a camera or simply a phone with you and the cast and security won't bother you if you're simply taking pictures. There's really nothing quite like seeing a place that remains so crowded all the time slowly drain the crowds and prepare for a new day. 

4. Fourth on our list is something that not everyone may agree with and that is character photos. Personally, I don't care what age you are or why you're touring the parks, always try and get a picture with at least one character. I know the lines can be long, but character interactions can be some of the most memorable experiences for guests of all ages. Face charters like Mary Poppins and many others can weave stories together and create experiences that can only really be appreciated when you experience it first hand. Capturing those memories isn't always easy, but if you're the one taking the pictures, always have your camera ready for those "unexpected" moments. 

5. Last but not least, I recommend that you visit Animal Kingdom as the sun goes down. To be quite honest, I hadn't really done this up until our last few vacations (partially because it was rarely open until sundown before Pandora), but it really is a unique experience and one that lends itself to outstanding photo opportunities for amateurs like myself as well as very skilled photographers. The park truly come alive at night in ways that you can't really grasp during the day (as is the case with most of the parks). Dinoland takes on a completely different look and feel as the lights overhead start to glow and the true carnival style atmosphere debuts. Not to be outdone, Expedition Everest also lights up as the sun falls from the sky and really shifts the attractions entire look. Last but certainly not least, you have Pandora. There is truly nothing quite as spectacular in photos at Disney as Pandora during sunrises and sunsets. As the night progresses, the bioluminescent forest starts to transform and the whole place turns into a photo opportunity that is second to none.

There you have it! As I mentioned above, I don't claim to be a photographer and each and every one of these pictures were simply taken on an iPhone 7. I have considered getting into it a little bit more to share here on the site, but nonetheless it simply goes to show that you can share so many memories with friends and family simply by observing some unique photo opportunities around you. 

Above all else, we want you to share your favorite Disney photos with us! No matter if it's a family picture, quick smartphone image, or an incredibly professional photo, we want to see your favorite photo opportunities at Walt Disney World. Share them with us in the comments on your favorite social media site (links to ours above) or tag us in your favorite photos! 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to SHARE this post with friends that may be traveling to the parks in the near future! Thanks!     

Today, we also wanted to share that our Guide4WDW logo gear is on sale for a limited time. We have shirts, phone cases, sweatshirts, stickers and more. All proceeds help support the site directly! Thanks! 

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