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Monday, October 30, 2017

A Main Street Hidden Gem With An Interesting History - The Harmony Barber Shop

by: guide4wdw - Collin

In 1971 Disney debuted the Magic Kingdom to welcome the beginning of one of most devout guest followings in theme park history, Disney Parks fans. The park that welcomed guests so many years ago has changed drastically over time, but one particular element of Main Street U.S.A. has truly stood the test of time, The Harmony Barber Shop.

The Harmony Barbershop has been relocated, prices have changed, and the staff has varied over time, but very little stacks up to the history this location encompasses. That same history transcends the parks and has entered the hearts and memories of guests who have experienced it time and time again. For thousands of guests over the years, this seemingly simple location has provided first haircuts for family, friends, and even themselves. 

(Photo: Michael Gray - Labeled for Reuse)

A first haircut is a simple right of passage of sorts for many families, and a memory that will be kept for many years. Combining that one time opportunity with the joys of Magic Kingdom can create an experience you'll never forget. 

Originally, in the early days of Magic Kingdom, the Harmony Barber Shop was located in an area of Main Street known as West Center Street. The street, which was located where the middle section of the Emporium is located today, used to welcome guests into a series of little shops that completed the early small town feel of original Main Street U.S.A.. At that point in time, West Center Street welcomed guests into the Hallmark Card Shop, Greenhouse Flower Shop, the New Century Clock Shop, and none other than the Harmony Barber Shop. Sadly in 2001, Disney decided to give up on the individual storefront aspect of West Center street and proceeded to fill in the space with an addition to the Emporium. Of course, this wasn't the first change to Main Street and it's many individual shops which once adorned the oh-so-familiar welcoming avenue of the Magic Kingdom. 

Today, the barber shop has been relocated to the front section of the street near the fire station and the car barn (be sure to take a glance in their while if it's open for a closer look at The Main Street Light Bulb You Never Knew Had A Story!). Of course, it doesn't hold quite the same classic appeal and hidden charm it once did at the end of West Center Street, but its outstanding to see that small touch of originality and a stand alone store location still standing as a part of the Main Street experience. 

The prices for the barber shop are fairly reasonable at $18 for children and $19 for adults. They even offer a My First Haircut package priced at $25 and offers commemorative Mickey ears and a unique certificate.

Have you experienced the Harmony Barber Shop first hand? If you have any pictures of early West Center Street, we'd love to see them! They're becoming quite rare across the internet.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

4 Outstanding Walt Disney World Attractions With Short Wait Times


by: guide4wdw - Collin

There is no doubt in my mind that the years of short wait times and less than peak season crowds have virtually faded away. While that may be the case, there are always a few select attractions that typically carry a wait time of less than 15 minutes. For many guests, including myself, these easily repeatable and vastly enjoyable attractions are the ones that we ride time and time again. 

Many of these attractions have been a part of the magic for generations and hold a deep history that guests entirely overlook. Other attractions on our list are much newer but hold a few simple "thrills" and enjoyable moments that guests of all ages will appreciate. 

1. The PeopleMover 
As perhaps the most iconic attraction on this list, the PeopleMover was and is one of the projects that Walt Disney had an early influence on at Disneyland in the late 60's, but the concept eventually rolled out at Walt Disney World as well in 1975. The project was originally created with intentions of being integrated into the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (better known as EPCOT). Despite it's ample history, the attraction manages to retain a consistent wait time of less than 15 minutes. It truly is a simple attraction but it's quick, constant loading procedure really cycles through guests despite it's mass appeal and popularity. 

On the attraction itself, you get to experience a short glimpse at Tomorrowland and much of the Magic Kingdom from high above the walkways below. As the cars travel briskly across the tracks, the subtle clicking of the "trains" and the slight breeze creates a unique experience that is uniquely Disney and incredibly enjoyable on a hot summer day. 

2. Living With The Land
At points, the wait time for this particular attraction can exceed around 30 minutes, but if you time it right and keep checking back, you'll rarely have to wait more than 15 minutes to catch a ride on this educational and entertaining experience. Living With The Land is an attraction I overlooked for years. Why? I have no idea. 

The beginning of this ride through is fairly boring (to be completely honest), but the experience takes an interesting turn as you enter the greenhouse section. As you travel by boat through Disney's greenhouses, which often support dining locations throughout the park, you get a closer look at the unique growing processes and record braking plants housed in the attraction. 

Of course, this isn't the most thrilling experience, but I will say that it is incredibly unique to see first hand and is always a must-do portion of any day at Epcot. 

3. Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
As one of the newest offerings on this list, and perhaps the most vastly overlooked element in all of Epcot, the Pixar Short Film Festival is something I highly recommend. Personally, I'm a bit of a short film connoisseur. The art and design elements debuted by Pixar and the incredible story elements built into each and every one of there films is second to none. Pixar embodies one goal of Walt's that I will always stand behind (even though Pixar hasn't always been Disney). They seem to truly believe that parents and kids can have fun together. Pixar films create a multi level story that both kids and adults can appreciate in entirely different ways. 

The Short Film Festival combines a vast variety of Pixar short films, which have accompanied their animated films (and even accompany Disney animated films today) and bring them to life in a new way in the old Captain EO theater. As the films play out on screen, the theater itself bumps and sways in reaction to the shorts. The entire set up is brought to guests in 3D and has always exceeded my expectations. The lineup of shorts has changed recently and added a few new guest favorites. 

As fun as this attraction really is (in my opinion) it never carries a wait time of more than around 5-10 minutes. I did wait around 20 minutes for it on the Fourth of July this year, but it was the first time I've seen that theatre fill to capacity in many years. 

4. The Gran Fiesta Tour 
A short walk away from the other two attractions on this list, the Gran Fiesta Tour is a simple boat ride through the Mexico Pavilion, but it also holds a surprising history that gets overlooked by a vast majority of guests. The final scene of the attraction features 3 animatronics that have really stood the test of time in the realm of Walt Disney World and even international parks history. I won't go too deep into that history on this page, but it is explained in detail in an article I wrote a short while back called The Interesting Backstory of The Three Caballeros Animatronics

This simple boat-based attraction has grown in popularity over the last few years, yet still provides a short little attraction featuring true Disney history for a wait time that rarely exceeds 10 minutes. 
So, what do you think about our list? What would you add that we potentially overlooked? The Disney Parks are full of attractions and incredible one of a kind experiences. However, not every great attraction has to carry a long wait time. By simply seeking out many of these easily accessible and non time consuming attractions, you can enjoy a day at Disney on even the most crowded of days in the parks.   

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Disney Cruise Line Shares Itineraries for Early 2019 Sailings! - Including One Expanded Season

by: guide4wdw - Collin

As of today, October 26th, Disney has just announced early 2019 sailings for the Disney Cruise Line. In 2019, Disney cruises will set sail for many familiar destinations in the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Florida ports, but also sail out of San Diego to the Baja and Mexican Riviera on an expanded two month season that is the first of it's kind. 

In addition, a select few cruises to the Southern Caribbean will leave from San Juan, Puerto Rico, also in early 2019.  

From January to May each Disney cruise leaving Florida will offer up the incredible experience to journey out to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. As many of you know, the island is a small portion of the Bahamas that features the iconic crystal clear blue water, and an exclusive environment that only Disney could develop. While I have not been on a Disney Cruise, I have heard incredible stories from guests returning home from their vacations. Castaway Cay is always a highlight of their trips. Many even mention that they wish Disney would place a resort on the Island. While the logistics of that may not be possible, it's great to see the location leaves such an impact on guests of all ages. 

Bookings for each of these cruises open in the following format (typical of Disney Cruise Line bookings):

  • Platinum Castaway Club members: October 30th, 2017
  • Gold Castaway Club members: October 31st, 2017
  • Silver Castaway Club members: November 1st, 2017
  • All other guests: November 2nd, 2017
I know this extended booking window seems a bit extreme to some but it can be the only way to guarantee a spot on some of the more limited destinations and times available for travel. 

Again, I have never really embarked on the journey of a Disney Cruise, but thought many of you would be interested in looking into one of these newly released itineraries. All of them look wonderful and to be quite honest with you there's nothing I (and many others who experience cold winters) would rather do than travel south in the coldest months of winter.   

For more details and the ships associated with each journey I suggest heading over to the Disney Parks Blog

If you would like help planning a Disney cruise (which is a surprisingly different booking experience than securing reservation for Walt Disney World) feel free to contact Destinations to Travel using our no obligation quote request form down below. It is not our travel agency but it does help us out if you book through them. Thanks. 

Disney Unveils Plans for the SpectacuLAB Experience at Epcot

by: guide4wdw - Collin

In the early days of Epcot, it was a place of innovation and learning that was unparalleled in the realm of parks and resorts around the world. Today, while the design of Epcot has shifted ever so slightly, it appears as if Disney may be making a small stride towards bring the "science" back into the park.

Disney has just announced that in November a new show called the SpectacuLAB will be arriving at Epcot in the Innoventions area. The experience, which is described as a way in which guests can participate in a fun filled show of science experiments centering around ultrasonic pressure, acceleration, force, and barometric pressure, should bring something new to the Epcot lineup.    

Audience participation is really being pushed in the press release on this one, so let's hope that really comes true in practice. Electronics manufacturer Murata will help sponsor this new offering and will bring technology and science together for a true learning experience. Along with the science, Disney is making efforts to make the show funny and entertaining in any way possible. Utilizing interns and real scientists, it appears as if this interactive debut may have a bit of a Bill Nye type style to it. Of course, that is just my personal opinion but it does certainly look like a potentially promising experience, especially for school age kids, many of which are involved in engineering programs and advanced learning curriculums. 

The experience is also partnered with a program called Science from Scientists that largely supports STEM literacy in schools. Personally, I see this as a win-win situation. It not only helps the community, but also allows Disney to offer a special experience that involves learning and takes Epcot back to it's roots in many ways.

So, what do you think? Is this a great new offering or simply a short term fill for a potentially larger future experience? 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Disney Difference - Looking Beyond the Attractions at What Sets Disney Apart

by: guide4wdw - Collin

If you've read the site for any amount of time (First and foremost, thank you! That means more to me than you'll ever know.) you know that every once in a while I like to come on here and simply share some thoughts. Some days Disney announces big news stories or I share some of my accumulated knowledge of Disney history, but other days I simply like to share some thoughts and analyze a situation. Tonight is one of those nights. 

After reading a few pages in a book called "Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service " I started thinking about the Disney experience as a whole and the Disney difference (it's a great book by the Disney Institute if anyone is interested). As many of you may know, I'm a huge proponent of taking in the "hidden" details at Walt Disney World and really taking the time to enjoy the little things. While that's always a focus, it's hard to deny that there's just something special about not only the Disney parks but also the efforts put in by the cast to set the experience apart. The cast is one of the main reasons that I'll continue to return to Walt Disney World no matter how high the cost of the experience may grow to be. I know many of you reading this may feel the exact same way. 

The cast keep us coming back and create experiences that are hard to describe to other people. They make an effort to understand your situation, and many genuinely care about the guests they are interacting with. I could share stories for days on end about cast member interactions that go above and beyond what I expected. You see, this little detail of going beyond what is perceived as "quality" creates a connection with guests and develops an experience rather than simply a performance being played out on the theme park stage. That personal connection is one that sticks with you for many years and builds memories that are never truly forgotten. 

While I could talk about the parks for hours on end and how expertly designed and well thought out they are, I'm going to switch gears for a moment. While the parks are great, there's something that is far greater and that is the Disney community that has developed across the internet and beyond which has created friendships, brought people together, and really made dreams come true. I know that if you're a first time guest preparing for your very first vacation this all sounds a bit crazy, but at some point you'll have a moment where you just "get it." For many it will hit you when you watch a nighttime spectacular or even when you meet that one cast member that goes above and beyond (as mentioned above), but at some point you'll begin to realize how unique Disney really is. 

I'm honored to be a small part of the Disney online community and to be quite honest with you it's one of the highlights of what I get to do on a daily basis. While I don't get to see many of you in person (which is unfortunate), the support of my articles and of this project that I never expected to become a realty has exceeded all of my expectations. This site is far from what I want to be in time, and we are no where near as big as some leaders in the Disney space, but I'm truly blessed to share my experiences. I've met people that I never thought I would meet, I've gained support in a way that I never thought would be possible, and more than anything you all have given me something to look forward to each and every day. I can't thank you enough for that. Those of you who read every day, I cannot explain to you how much that means to me. 

Before I go any farther, I want to cut myself off and redirect focus back to this Disney community as a whole. To be honest with you, I'll never understand how this like-minded group of individuals has come together through the power of the internet. No matter where you live, what language you speak, or what country you're from, there is a Disney parks fan not too far away. I don't know how Disney has created a community like this, but its certainly a testament to one of Walt's original goals to simply make people happy.

There's nothing quite like it, and there's really no good way to describe it. The Disney difference is something you have to experience first hand to ever truly grasp, but once you do you'll be surprised how it may change your life. 

As always, thanks for following along with my articles. I haven't been quite as prompt about delivering a new article every day recently, but that is and always will be the goal. If I can bring a little bit of Disney to your computer (or cell phone) each day, I've honestly achieved my goal. Thanks for being here and hopefully this site allows you to interact with other Disney fans in some way or another! -Collin         

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Disney Unveils New Toy Story Land Quick-Service Location - Sponsored by Mini Babybel

by: guide4wdw - Collin

One of the long awaited and most anticipated details of Toy Story Land has been officially announced. The Disney Parks Blog just shared a bit more information on a new counter service (quick-service) offering called Woody's Lunch Box. The location is designed to feature Andy's lunch box and thermos in a larger than life manner to welcome guests to a walk up style window that will be dishing out meals and old-fashioned soda floats. 

While we do not have any more details about the menu at this time, the parks blog has promised that those details will be debuted in the future. How far in the future that may be, we do not entirely know. 

To me, this location looks like a lot of fun for guests of all ages. As you order, the windows are actually designed to look like plastic containers Andy would have stored his lunch in as he headed off to school or on a new adventure. The surrounding area is accented by Tinker Toy containers and what appears to be an additional restroom in this section of the new addition. 

Moving back to the dining venue, Mini Babybel will sponsor this location and as a result the meal items will likely incorporate their product lineup. Right now, that is simply speculation about menu items, but the sponsorship is certainly a legitimate part of the experience. Of course, I have my own feelings on corporate sponsorships in the Disney Parks, but I'll keep that to myself at this point in time.

As I've mentioned before, I am incredibly excited for this project's debut and would love to be there when it finally opens to the public in the summer. This location answers a few of the questions I had about the original concept art and largely confirmed my thoughts on an additional counter service offering. However, I don't entirely believe this will be our only counter service option in this new area, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens as the details unfold.           

(Source: Disney Parks Blog

Monday, October 23, 2017

Resort Review: Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter - One of the Best Moderate Resorts!

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Every Walt Disney World resort has it's strengths and weaknesses, but there's always been and there will likely always be something special about staying on property during your Walt Disney World vacation. While many believe staying off property may save you money, often times the costs associated with the experience, which Disney provides free of charge, more than offset the cost difference. 

However, a few Disney resorts have always stood above the rest in regards to value for your hard earned dollars. Personally, one resort has always held the title of best "bang for your buck" in my humble opinion. As you may have guessed, that same resort is the one I'm sharing with you tonight, Port Orleans - French Quarter. 

Before I really dive into the benefits of this location's vast accommodations, I should preface this article with the fact that I have not stayed here in about 3 years. As a result, a few things may have changed along the way. Taking that fact into consideration, here's a closer look at our experience. 

On this particularly trip to Walt Disney World we intended to do things a little bit differently. A majority of the time when we travel to Disney, we do so with a vast layout of what we're going to do on each day, what parks are open the longest, and a plan for every little detail of our week on property. That plan has always proven incredibly productive for us, but on this particular trip we had very few plans and did so completely intentionally. Our goal was to simply enjoy the resort and experience Disney in an entirely different way. We did go to the parks for a couple days of the trip, but spent a majority of our time at the resort, playing miniature golf, resort hopping, and resort dining. It was an outstanding trip and one that really allowed for a change of pace that proved incredibly enjoyable. However, as you can likely imagine, the resort accommodations could have made or broke our vacation experience. 

I'm happy to report that this was an excellent resort for this scenario. For those of you who may not know, Port Orleans is divided into two different sections, Riverside and French Quarter. We chose to stay in French Quarter largely because of it's smaller size and much less scattered layout. Upon arrival, we entered the spectacular glass walled lobby area and headed over to the check-in counter. To our surprise, there was no line to check in (which can often happen at Walt Disney World resorts) and we were even upgraded to a garden view room as a result of a request to be near the pool if at all possible (since we would be spending a good amount of time there). 

The resort layout really lends itself to a great guest experience. The parking lots are spread across the resort and offer a great way to unload luggage and transport it to the room without any unnecessary hassle. Upon entering the room, the decor was classy and upscale in a way that made it feel much more luxurious than what you would expect to find in the moderate tier. Every little element of the room debuted dark wood accents and it even featured a decent sized window looking out to the courtyard (or in our case a view of the pool area). We were located on the first floor, and were only a short minute or two walk from the excellent Floatworks dining location which recently made Our Top 5 Quick Service Dining Options at Walt Disney World! To be quite honest with you, after walking a majority of the resort grounds, there really are no "bad" room locations. Everything is very quaint and compact which makes the resort feel very comfortable. 

Beyond the room and other typical accommodations, Port Orleans offers a fairly unique transportation option which transports guest via boat to Disney Springs. The journey from the resort dock takes around 20 minutes but is a great alternative to the typical bus rides that carry guests around property. Along the way, you get the opportunity to catch a brief view of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and may even catch a glimpse of boats making their way over to Old Key West. The journey transports guest along the Sassagoula River surrounded by large trees and picturesque views of the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course and perhaps one of the most unique views of Disney Springs from water as you traverse your way to the docking location. The incredible view of the Boathouse, House of Blues, and other Disney Springs icons are truly impressive from this unique viewpoint. 

Overall, this is one of the best moderate resorts for your money on Disney property. While the cost does tend to be a touch higher than Caribbean Beach or Coronado Springs, the added transportation benefits of fewer bus stops, optional boat transportation, and a much more compact layout are often well worth the additional cost. The cost also tends to be a result of the fact that Port Orleans French Quarter is often excluded from many of Disney's discounts. It may cost more, but it often also increases availability for last minute reservations.   

If you're looking to book a Disney resort in the near (or distant) future, be sure to look into the services of our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They're not only who we recommend but also who we use for our vacation planning process. If you'd like to use this service and help support the site along the way, be sure to check out our quote request form below. Thanks!   

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Departed Disney" - The Legend of the Lion King and It's Lost Role in the Magic Kingdom


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney's ever-popular and increasingly iconic Lion King series of films has become a household name across much of the nation (if not the world). However, it's presence at Walt Disney World was at one point more prevalent than it is today. 

In 1994 Disney debuted a show they called The Legend of the Lion King. In all reality, this experience, which took place in the same location as Mickey's PhilharMagic today, was much more complex than other film based experiences that have occupied the space. Years prior to this show, the location housed Disney's Mickey Mouse Revue (better explained here) which was an elaborate stage show featuring animatronics from a variety of different films. After that attraction drew to a close it was replaced by the early 3D experience, Magic Journeys. After that show also came to a close, in 1994 the Legend of the Lion King debuted to guests for the very first time.  

The theater based "attraction" itself featured puppet-like figures that told the story of the Lion King live on stage. While there were no true actors in the Magic Kingdom iteration of the iconic film, it welcomed guests into a stage based performance atmosphere that combined videos and life sized figures in a condensed variation of the much more in depth movie many guest already knew quite well.

Unfortunately, 8 years after it's original debut, the show closed in order to make room for Mickey's PhilharMagic which brought a 4D experience to the Magic Kingdom. Of course, that particular attraction is great at absorbing guests and maintaining a fairly short wait time no matter how crowded the parks are. It also created one unfortunate "side effect" as well in that it removed a large scale reference to the Lion King from the Magic Kingdom. Of course, we still have the opportunity to experience the magic of the Festival of the Lion King stage show over at Animal Kingdom (and it is a spectacular show), but it's hard not to wonder how interesting this experience could have been in its early years. 

While I did visit the parks throughout this time, I was very young and honestly do not remember ever witnessing this show first hand, or at least not in enough detail to make a judgment of the experience. 

As always, looking back at elements of the parks like this one not only creates a greater understanding of the location we visit time and time again, but also develops a greater story behind a location many of us have grown to love. In my own option, this history creates a deeper Walt Disney World Experience for guests that isn't always shared openly in the parks. 

If you want to see the experience for yourself, check out the following link for a great video of the attraction: The Legend of the Lion King: Video 

Do you remember this attraction? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below! Thanks!   

Monday, October 16, 2017

Disney Releases Exclusive Package For Christmas! - A Unique Set of Offerings For Only One Week!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

I've wondered for many years what it would be like to spend Christmas day at Walt Disney World. It has to be a truly magical day of the year. I've toured the parks many times around the holiday season, but something about waking up on Christmas morning at Walt Disney World has always captured my interest. While I won't likely make it down for Christmas Day this year, Disney appears to be utilizing that special day to line up a series of events for guests booking their latest package. However, this is not the only offer currently available through Disney and others include alternative booking dates.  

The package itself is designed as one that gives guests a series of special opportunities rather than a percentage discount. Guests taking advantage of the offer will check in on December 21st and depart on the 26th after their 5 night 4 day (ticket with park hopper option) stay. throughout the stay, the following perks will be provided to guests who exclusively book this experience.   

  • December 21, 2017 – One ticket per Guest in your party to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom Park
  • December 22, 2017 – Access to special nighttime Extra Magic Hours at Pandora – The World of Avatar within Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
  • December 23, 2017 – A special holiday Character experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • December 24, 2017 – An invitation to a special Christmas Eve dinner celebration at Epcot
  • December 25, 2017 – A special holiday gift delivered to your Disney Resort hotel room
Personally, I see this as the ultimate holiday gift for a friend or family member. You can book this option up until December 10th and Disney has released the following info to give you an idea of price for this particular booking option:

"Starting at $139 per person, per night, for a family of four in a standard room at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Guests can wrap up this offer for a total package price of $2,775*. Book through December 10, 2017."

The pricing mentioned is based off of 2 adults, 1 junior, and 1 child. This particular offer must be booked over the phone by calling (407)-939-7886 or by speaking with your travel agent (if you don't have one, there's quote request form down below). Of course, as mentioned above, you can book this offer through Disney as well but it cannot be done online. 

If you do decide to call, be sure to be patient with the Disney reservation phone service. This is limited to a set number of rooms and guests, so there will likely be an extend wait utilizing that booking avenue.

The offer is only available at the moderate tier resorts or higher according to the offer details and the dates are set by the package requirements. Tickets must be added to the bundle in order to book which may also affect annual passholders All things considered, if you were looking to travel around the Christmas holiday, these particularly ad-on experiences included in the package are something unique that you may want to take advantage of. I would do just about anything to experience the Very Merry Christmas Party once again this year and the Pandora extra hours offer on top of that could really create some incredible memories. 

As always, down below this article you'll find a quote request form for Destinations to Travel to make your booking experience that much easier. It's not only simple to use and a great tool for booking a dream vacation but it also really helps out the site at no additional cost to you! I literally just booked a vacation through them a few short hours ago and it has been a wonderful experience. Thanks! 

On an unrelated note, Caitlin and I will likely be down to WDW in early March. If anyone is interested in a group meet-up, so you all can meet each other, just let me know and we'll set something up!  

(Source: Disney and Destinations To Travel)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Victoria and Albert's Ranked #2 in TripAdvisor's U.S. Fine Dining Category


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Just a few short days ago, TripAdvisor rolled out a new ranking of fine dining locations across the United States. Arriving near the top of this years list was none other than the Grand Floridian's Victoria and Albert's dining location. 

The restaurant  has been regarded for many years as one of the most impressive (if not the single most impressive) luxury dining opportunities on property. While that is the case, it is quite impressive to see a dining option from Walt Disney World topping a nation wide list once again. For many years, Victoria and Albert's has been recognized by AAA and many other recognizable groups for it's incredible level of quality and outstanding guest experience. However, opposed to those raving recognitions, this one is a bit different. Opposed to a certain foundation or other organization bestowing a title upon the dining experience, this particular ranking was created by guests themselves. 

(Photo: Disney)

Trip Advisors ranking was developed by a list of guest reviews and review frequencies on their highly acclaimed travel planning website. It is a list developed by guests for other guests to utilize.  

Personally, I have yet to dine at this location, partially due to reservation availability but largely because of the cost associated with the meal. I'd love to eat there some day, but I've never been traveling during a special event or other circumstance that I felt would accompany the meal well. When we travel, we've always found it hard to overlook the cost associated with a party of four to dine here when it can be easily compared to the cost of staying an entire extra day to enjoy the parks. 

While that is certainly true, it's also a location that I have heard rave reviews of and have been told it is an experience you will truly never forget. For a special event, there's really no better place to celebrate in style on Disney property. If you're looking to create a night to remember, this would certainly be location near the top of my list. Pair this culinary experience with a ride on the Grand Floridian's rentable private yacht and you'll be set for the ultimate luxury Disney experience.

Other notable mentions in the top ten of TripAdvisors list (in order), according to the Orlando Sentinel, were: 

1. Daniel 

4. Alinea 
7. Geronimo 

Have you had the opportunity to enjoy this dining location? If so, what were your thoughts? 

If you're looking into a WDW vacation, be sure to check out the new discount rates for early 2018 by clicking the following link or by contacting Destinations to Travel using the quote request form below this article. We appreciate the support and it costs you nothing extra to utilize their services while supporting the site. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bring The Magic Home! - 5 Simple Things To Do Between Disney Trips

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Everyone's been there. You get home from an incredible Disney vacation or simply see a Disney commercial on TV and the desire to be back in the parks is a bit hard to overcome. Unfortunately, we can't always be in the parks (well... unless you're lucky enough to live close by), but there are a few things that can make all the difference as you wait for your next chance to head to Walt Disney World. Here's a closer look at a few of our favorites.    

1. Disney "Radio" Stations
-This particular tip is one I've used time after time to get a "taste" of the magic while being many many miles away from any of the Disney parks or resorts. Sometimes simply putting on a set of headphones or turning on the music in the car can allow you to close your eyes (please don't if you're driving...) and transport yourself, even for a brief moment, back to a place you've grown to love in the parks. While not everyone has a random stash of stored Disney resort loops, welcome songs, and on-ride audio, there are so many different ways to find these things online completely free of charge. Perhaps a few of my favorite resources are Pandora (Some favorite stations include: The Tiki, Tiki,Tiki Room, Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman, and The Sherman Brothers.... all specific station names), Youtube (just search for your favorite attraction or even park area loop and you'll be amazed what may pop up), or even quite possibly the incredible DJ Technoid on SoundCloud (who created a new spin on some classic Disney sounds). 

It truly can be a great way to take you back to the parks even for a very brief moment and can certainly cure a small portion of that Disney "desire."   

2. Look Through and Edit Disney Pictures
-This one may seem odd to a few of you but if you're into photography or even simply take a lot of pictures with your iPhone (which are incredibly capable these days), purchasing a editing software or even a simple iPhone application can be a great way to take in those past Disney memories. The editing process does have a slight learning curve to it, but once you get started it's a great way to perfect and categorize images of your trip and your family's vacation as a whole.  

3. Help A Friend Plan A Trip
-If you're a Disney pro or even simply one of the many of us that have been fortunate enough to experience Disney vacations time after time, helping a friend book a vacation can be incredibly rewarding. Not only do you get to share stories and recommend different experiences to your friends, but you also get to share in their memories and get a small taste of the Disney vacation planning process without having to pay for it out of pocket. After years of experience, I've helped many friends and extended family get on the right track to an excellent vacation. It's amazing the response you get back from friends and often times the overwhelming thanks you receive far outweighs the time you put into helping them out. 

4. Find A Disney Podcast
-Out of all of these simple tips, this one is by far my favorite. Podcasts and in particular Lou Mongello's WDW Radio are really what got me interested in starting this site in the first place. While I do not have a podcast and won't likely start one (unless you want to hear me talk about this type of stuff), the inspiration and encouragement I got from the network of people I met through live shows and even the comments section on podcast posts alone has been truly hard to believe. Of course, this is only one of many different shows on the internet. Some are strictly audio, others have video shows, and some do live shows. Many of them are really outstanding and help you build a community of Disney friends that is truly second to none. You may even learn some unique facts and tips along the way.      

5. Find Some Disney Parks Books (Sometimes they can be found at a low cost!)
Every once in a while I get asked where I've learned so much about the parks (there's still a ton to be learned) and the simple answer a majority of the time is research through books over the years. Disney has put out many publications of their own featuring the parks, resorts, imagineering, and so much more for many years. To be quite honest, some of the older material is far more informative than the newer releases. Personally, I have a few books I refer to time and time again when I'm looking to double check a fact or even read about some nostalgic Walt Disney World attraction I may or may not have ever gotten to experience first hand. A few that top my personal favorites list are: 

I've looked through and read a good portion of each and every one of these and they can really unravel some of the story behind the attractions we've all come to know and love. While the links above are affiliate links that benefit me if you choose to purchase through them on Amazon, a great place to buy these books is from a franchise store and website called Half Price Books. They tend to be substantially cheaper. However, availability can be limited outside of Amazon. 

If anyone would like to see a full review done of some, if not all, of those books I would be happy to do so.  

So, there you have it, our tips for what to do between Walt Disney World trips when you just get that Disney "itch" to be back in the parks but can't quite make it back. Hopefully a few of these recommendations help you out in some way shape or form or possibly expand a hobby you may already enjoy. As always, these are just things I've done and there are many more great options that we'd love for you to share with us in the comments! A few individuals mentioned in this article have become online friends of mine to a certain extent but they have not asked me to mention them. I honestly just enjoy their content. 

Hope you all are having a wonderful start to the weekend, and if you enjoyed today's article, please share it with a friend or two. Thanks!       

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The "Western River Expedition" - The Walt Disney World Attraction That Almost Became A Reality


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Today, I'm really going back to my early article "roots" (for lack of a better term) to take a look at one of the many Disney attraction concepts that could have become a reality, the "Western River Expedition." 

While many of these Disney history articles I enjoy sharing feature "lost" or even what I like to call "departed" attractions, today's story is one that really never got the chance to capture the hearts and minds of guests in real life. The expedition was a concept that is and was the most popular attraction that never came to be. It was simply a concept, but not one similar to what we tend to experience today when Disney announces a new experience. No, this attraction design went far beyond a conceptual rendering and even captured a broad audience before it was all but scrapped from Walt Disney World's future. 

In the late 1960's and early 1970's Disney Legend and Imagineer Marc Davis developed an idea for an incredibly elaborate Frontierland project that became known as Thunder Mesa. The project itself was one of the most aggressive and forward thinking designs the Disney company had ever considered for a theme park location. It would transport guests on the east coast out to the figurative "West" coast (implying the western United States) in a similar way to how imagineering brought the east coast pirate reality to the west coast through Pirates of the Caribbean. 

However, when Walt Disney World debuted in October of 1971 there was a public outcry for a pirate attraction in Florida. While it wasn't a part of the original plans, Imagineering met the guest demand and developed an iteration of the attraction we experience today. Sadly, this meant postponing the Thunder Mesa and Western River expedition plans in a round about way. Thankfully though, this isn't where the story ends. 

The Western River Expedition concept continued on into development, along with the rest of the project, and developed into a potential "E-ticket" attraction (a reference to Disney's early paper ticketed system where E-tickets were essentially reserved for the bigger or perhaps more popular experiences). Marc Davis put his heart into this project in a way that is vastly difficult to put into words without listening to him talk about it in interviews or reading about his influence on the project. After all the different setbacks of costs and the pirates demand, and so many others, he stuck with this project and kept bringing it to the forefront of Imagineering. 

The attraction itself was set to be exceptionally similar in design (the same scene by scene story type) to pirates but with a western theming which drastically changed the underlying story of the attraction. Western River Expedition was a boat ride that would take you through a western town, a series of caverns, and even into the midst of a gun fight. It was set to be an action packed adventure complete with the elaborate early Disney parks story telling that was and is second to none. Davis put an incredible amount of work into developing this project creating some of the largest models ever developed in Imagineering (which cost an outrageous amount of money), and incorporating many lessons learned from his other work with the original Pirates of the Caribbean. 

The project idea was pushed to the point where promotional material was developed, post cards were created and sold to guests, and an in-park display had been debuted to build anticipation for the projects debut. The in-park display was featured for quite some time at The Walt Disney Story on Main Street U.S.A. and featured a small scene from the attraction narrated by an animatronic owl named Hoot Gibson. The owl character was designed as a narrator for the attraction and would have played a role in the story.  

(Photo: Special Thanks to Steve Boutet)

Sadly, the project never came to be and was largely left as one of the most developed but never created Disney attraction concepts ever shared with the public. Western River Expedition was a small part of this potentially massive Thunder Mesa project and would have been housed in a show building encompassed by a grand facade. The full scale project would have covered a mass amount of modern day Frontierland and would follow along the train tracks wrapping around and overlooking a good portion of Tom Sawyer Island. 

To me, that simple concept of the potential elevation of this project is one that's always stood out as unique. When you think about it, Magic Kingdom is a relatively flat park. Of course you have the Astro Orbiter, Splash Mountain, and the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, but all of those attractions offer a fleeting view of the parks from above. Today, we don't have a Skyway or other "top-down" view of the parks (and I understand that is largely by design). This Thunder Mesa concept could have potentially provided just that. The attractions, trails, and general facade of this place could have created an entirely new perspective for the parks and a multi-faceted and multi-layered experience for guests. It would have been immersive on a grand scale, and while nobody knows exactly what would have become of that project if it was built, it's fun to look back at what could have been. 

Today, the greatest reference to Thunder Mesa can be found over at Disneyland Paris in a very loose manner, or even in the domestic parks in the form of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and even small elements of Splash Mountain. Believe it or not, a few animatronic concepts even made their way over to Living With The Land (formerly Listen To The Land... anybody else remember/heard the song before??) at Epcot when it debuted to the public in 1982. 

You see, this attraction concept wasn't simply an attraction, but rather the work of many many years that never played out to guests on the largest theme park stage in all the world. It was simply a concept, and a concept that just exhibits how much goes into the attractions we take for granted each and every time we go the parks. There's a certain level of history behind every Disney attraction new and old. It's the part of the experience that gets largely overlooked but is perhaps one of the most defining aspects of the Walt Disney World experience. Everything has a story and that story is what many of us continue coming back for time and time again. You can go to other theme parks to ride rides, but Disney not only tells a story in the attraction, but also creates history surrounding the attraction. 

If you enjoyed this article, do me a huge favor and give it a like on Facebook or share it with your friends on a social media network. Your shares are what have allowed this site to grow in ways that I never would have imagined. I can't thank you enough for that. 

Sharing these stories of Disney history are what really got my into all of this to begin with. It's something that gets largely overlooked by a majority of guests, but is largely the reasoning behind the incredible experiences we get to share with friends and family every time we visit the parks. Again, thanks for being here and taking a few minutes out of your day to spend here with me. I truly appreciate it. I've said it once but I'll keep saying it time and time again, I don't like to be about the views, but you all have blown me away over the last few months.            

I apologize for the lack of photos of the concept itself, but unfortunately everything I've found is copyrighted and cannot be shared. If you have images of your own you'd like us to add, feel free to let me know!           

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