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Thursday, November 30, 2017

"Departed Disney" - Merlin At The Magic Kingdom and The Sword in the Stone!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Today, I'm taking things back to the sites roots and sharing a little bit of overlooked Disney history. Personally, these are the articles I enjoy sharing more than just about anything simply because I truly believe that learning about Disney's past helps us appreciate the current and future aspects of the parks and resorts all that much more. So, today's look back in time at a departed aspect of the Disney World experience brings us to a short "stage show" that slowly slipped away. 

As many of you may know, or may have even experienced for yourself first hand in the past, Fantasyland features a tribute Sword in the Stone display for guests to test their "strength" or potential to become the king if you are able to draw the sword. However, at one point the experience went beyond the simple interactive exhibit we have today and featured a short little show with Merlin himself as the host. 

Today, you can still pull the sword from the stone, but the experience and build up isn't quite as elaborate or entertaining as the aforementioned show. In the early iteration and stage show sequence performance, Merlin took to the area around the sword in the stone in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. As the short performance began, Merlin would welcome guests and explain his search for an interim leader while the King was off exploring another land. However, the proper leader would have to be able to pull the sword from the stone. 

Largely for humors sake, guests were invited to attempt to pull the sword from it's fixed position, but eventually one particular guest (typically a young child) would be "chosen" and the sword would magically rise from the stone as they pulled with all their might. Of course, this was simply a recreation of the classic film, but provided a certain level of joy for guests of all ages and provided many memories for quite some time not only at Walt Disney World but at Disney Parks around the world. Sadly, all of the shows have come and gone away across all of the Disney parks, but those memories will certainly last forever.

If you've never checked out the Sword in the Stone at Walt Disney World, which still exists despite the end of the show in 2006, I highly recommend heading over to capture a picture or even just to catch a glimpse of the sword and anvil glimmering in the sun behind the castle. You never know who may be able to surprise you and pull the sword out of the stone (at least a little bit, because it only comes partially out due to obvious safety concerns). 

If you haven't already, be sure to joint the Guide4WDW Community for more articles and Disney information like this! Also, if you're looking for Disney Parks tickets or surrounding Orlando attractions, be sure to check out our fiends over at the Official Ticket Center to help support the site, but first see what ticket types we recommend in our 2017 Discount Disney World Ticket Buying TipsWe truly appreciate it! 

Don't forget to take a look at our other recent articles if you haven't already.

On a somewhat unrelated note, if anyone else watched the Wonderful World of Disney tonight, you may have seen the military family that received a trip to Walt Disney World in appreciation for their service to Toys For Tots. Their story was essentially that while the dad of the family spent time in the Marine Corps they struggle financially and Toys For Tots helped them make Christmas a reality. Today, they work with the organization to make that same Christmas dream come true for other families by volunteering their time and efforts. Disney took the time to recognize the family in a big way tonight. To me, that is the definition of true Disney Magic in practice!   

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful night! When you take a few minutes out of your day to spend it here with us, it truly is the greatest indescribable feeling and one that I truly appreciate. Time is an incredibly valuable resource and you spending that time here with us continually blows my mind. Thank You!        

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tokyo Disney Resort to Potentially See $2.7 Billion Expansion


by: guide4wdw - Collin

According to a recent report (just a few minutes ago), the Tokyo Disney Resort will likely see a $2.7 billion expansion after a record breaking performance in regards to attendance over the last year. 

As many of you may already know, Disney somewhat recently debuted a massive new park in Shanghai which is also doing an incredible amount of business. However, this expansion of the Oriental Land Co. operated Tokyo Disneyland will supposedly arrive by 2023. 

At this point there is speculation of a new Frozen themed attraction scheduled to arrive along with other unannounced attractions. Additionally, the overall parks and resort are will see an improvement in transportation and mobility within the park and flowing over into the automobile transportation realm. While Orlando already has a Frozen-based attraction, which replaced Maelstrom in the Norway pavilion of Epcot, this is supposed to be something entirely new. 

(Photo: Magic Kingdom WDW)

Some sources have reported this as an entirely new park, but I don't see that as likely at this point in time. At the time being, I would treat this purely as speculation, but considering the source is essentially a business giant, I would not be suprised if an official announcement about the project will roll out soon. 

For now, that's about all the information I have on the topic, but I'll try to update this article as more information becomes available. I rarely report rumors, but this one seems to have a large enough basis of legitimate information to share. Again, treat this purely as speculation at this point in time. I am largely a Walt Disney World connoisseur, but this report truly captured my interest a few short minutes ago.  

Thanks for reading and be sure to share this post with friends!
If you haven't already, be sure to join the Guide4WDW Community here for even more Disney updates and discounts from our friends over at Destinations to Travel (quote request form below). They not only help us out in return when you book but they're also an outstanding agency!   

(Source: Bloomberg)   

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How to Secure Popular Reservations At Walt Disney World Nearly Every Time!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Just a few short days ago I was talking with a reader about making dining reservations at Walt Disney World. While this happens fairly frequently, the particular conversation sparked an idea in my mind which lead to this article topic, securing popular reservations. We've all been there, you decide at the very last minute to book a Disney vacation (which is becoming harder and harder to do) but unfortunately now have a huge disadvantage to overcome, the reservation window. Personally, I suggest that all guests attempt to book at least 4-6 months in advance for any Disney vacation experience. To be quite honest with you, that recommendation is on the conservative side if you want to secure even the most sought after reservations. I know what you're thinking, "you just told me it was possible" and to be quite honest with you it is entirely possible. However, it's best if I explain the situation through recommendations.

For Booking Your Resort
Booking reservations for a Walt Disney World resort can certainly be tough when you start the booking process late in the suggested window. Everyone has their favorite resort, and staying at your favorite resort can sometimes be a sole selling point in the thought of traveling to Walt Disney World in the first place. Accommodations can really make a huge difference in the big picture. So, here's the secret to overcoming limited reservations in regards to resort accommodations. You have to be repetitive in searching. Check the online site for accommodations many times a day and be sure to check at random times. I know it may be difficult to do so, but booking late at night or very early in the morning on a week night can make an incredible difference in availability based on my experience. This is one of the many reasons I recommend a travel agency, especially for last minute vacations, because they will follow cancellations and availability for you as closely as they can. Personally I use and recommend Destinations to Travel (quote request form below), not only because they help us out in return but because they really do go above and beyond in situations like this.  

Also worth noting is that you have to be flexible to a certain extent. If you're used to staying at a deluxe tier resort, you may have to "settle" for a resort you may have never stayed at before. If that is the case when booking, I would personally take whatever reservation I could find at my price point then continuously check the site and call the Disney reservation phone number to see if anything pops up that was not previously available. Sometimes it's surprising what may pop up on the screen of a cast member answering calls at the call center and what may be on your screen listed as available at home. It sounds crazy, but bookings and availability changes happen incredibly frequently and incredibly quickly at Walt Disney World. Also, and as a final tip, I highly suggest that you check the reservations system for dropped reservations at each of the required payment or cancellation windows (31 days out for resort accommodations without incurring a small fee for cancellation). Many guests will give up on their vacation last minute for various reasons and will typically cancel right before it costs them any money to do so. 

For Booking Your Dining Reservations
Beyond resort accommodations, dining reservations are an entirely different circumstance and in many cases more difficult to reserve. One of the biggest questions in the realm of Disney dining over the last few years has been, "how do I get a reservation for Be Our Guest." The location has been the "must-do" dining option on everyones list since the day it opened and for good reason. The theming is second to none and something that every Disney guest should get to see at least once. 

I was lucky enough be there just a short time after it opened and managed a walk-up lunch meal, but that is no longer an option at this time to my knowledge. Setting that short story aside, the solution to that often proposed question truly has a few answers. The first and possibly the easiest way to guarantee a time and date you want is to book the meal 180 days out and make the reservation online at around 6am on that 180 day mark. It seems obsessive, but it does work. The phone booking system wont open until an hour later, so it really is your best bet to get exactly what you want. Unfortunately, in our proposed case scenario, that may not be an option. 

The second best way to find a reservation you want is to continue checking back on the site between 6:00am and 7:00am each and every day until you secure the reservation you so desire (this applies for all dining locations that take reservations). I'm not entirely sure if it is true, but we were told at one point by a reservations cast member that the booking system updates the reservations added and dropped from the overnight window one hour before the phone system goes live for the day. While that may or may not be the exact reasoning, the strategy works and I've utilized it many times first-hand to secure difficult reservations even a few days before our vacation began. Last but certainly not least, don't forget to check the day of your desired reservation if all else fails. It is a bit amazing how many things open up the day of or the night before when failing to cancel begins to cost guests money. It's not a fool proof plan to wait that late in the game, but it can be effective if all else fails. 

(click the post above for a 360 degree view of Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort) 

Achieving Desired Specific Resort Room Placement
Specific room requests and location requests are something that gets talked about quite frequently on sites across the internet. Many claim that there is a fool proof method of achieving the room location or view that you want but in all reality that's never the case. Personally, we've tried all the tips, left requests on our reservation and many other things, but the only one that has been even remotely successful has been calling the day of your reservation check-in date, or the day before. Occasionally a cast member can pull a few strings and manipulate the system a little bit, but unless you pay for a preferred room, there really are no guarantees. Of course, that's probably not what you wanted to hear, but hopefully it takes you a step in the right direction. 

So, there you have it, a few of our best tips in securing the perfect reservations of your choice. Hopefully this helps you out in some way or simply allows you to capture the reservation you never thought you could for your upcoming vacation. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of the day!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Bob Chapek Reportedly A Top Choice As Iger's Successor - A Few Thoughts

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Today, a report from Bloomberg has largely hinted at the possibility of Bob Chapek, head of the parks and resorts division of the Disney company, becoming the frontrunner as Bob Iger's replacement. A short while ago, I took a closer look at the potential Iger replacements in an article called Disney CEO Bob Iger To Step Down in 2019: A Few Thoughts and Details. Personally, I shared my thoughts and opinions of the potential successors but inevitably Chapek came out at the top of my list as the most likely candidate.

Around the same time period as the previous article, it was announced that Iger will in fact be leaving his role with company after extending his leadership role into 2019. In the past, Iger attempted to develop a successor with both Jay Rasulo or Thomas Staggs. In the end, neither of the two candidates panned out as expected, so Iger continued on as CEO of the company we all know and love.

Personally, I see Chapek as a pretty good option. Beyond the push for intellectual property to arrive at the Disney parks and resorts internationally, when you look at the incredible success of the theme park segment over the last ten years, it's hard not to see Chapek as an incredible innovator with an appreciation for the guest experience. While he may not be the perfect successor, no matter if you liked Iger or not, you have to see Disney for what it is at it's core. It's a business like all others, but one that invites guests to experience something that cannot be found anywhere else. It's a place and a company that creates memories for guests. No matter who is the next leader of this unique business venture, we can be all but guaranteed that the innovation and history of the parks will continue on in the grand form which many of us have grown to love over the years.

Of course, any report coming for anyone but Disney themselves should be regarded simply as speculation. The company has and likely will remain fairly quiet regarding this aspect of the business for the foreseeable future, but with just over 19 months for the details to unfold, don't be surprised if Chapek remains in the conversation for quite some time.

If you want to stay up to date with Disney parks and resorts news, tips, and discounts, be sure to join the Guide4WDW Community! Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the day!            

(Source: Bloomberg)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

5 Tips To Get The Most Out of Your Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Experience


by: guide4wdw - Collin

For many of you reading this, you've either considered booking or have already booked a date for a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party experience. There's no escaping the reality that the party is very expensive at $89 - $109 per person, but I will say it is worth the money in many cases. However, there's a few things I recommend you do to get the most out of the experience and limit the costs associated with the party itself in more than one way. 

Of course, I will preface this article with one main constraint that should not be overlooked, and that is that we have not been to this year's iteration of the party. We went last year and have been in many years past, but the party itself does very slightly from year to year in regards to attendance numbers, exclusive dining offerings, and showtimes. With all of that being taken into consideration, here's 5 of our top tips to get the most out of your Very Merry Christmas Party Experience. 

Get There As Early As Possible
One of the greatest "hidden gems" of the Christmas Party event is that guests can enter the party earlier than the posted 7:00pm official start time. While there has been some rumors of the time being pushed back this year for party guests, I do not believe it has been a widespread issue. Either way, despite the posted start time, party guests can typically enter up to three hours before the event actually begins (usually near 4:00pm for entrance with a 7:00pm event start time). 

Personally, I've found it highly beneficial to schedule your party day on a day that you either arrive at Walt Disney World, from a potentially mid-day flight arrival, or spend the morning and early afternoon exploring Disney Springs or enjoying your resort before the party begins. By doing so, you not only get to try something a little bit different, but also save yourself around $100 per person on ticket costs (unless you buy discounted tickets through one of the avenues mentioned in our 2017 Discount Disney World Ticket Buying Tips - What is the Best Option For Your Situation? and catch a better option). Interestingly, the party itself does not require admission in addition to the party costs. When you take that into consideration, you may even save money when compared to a one-day park ticket at typical pricing. Obviously, you'll lose quite a few hours of park time, but as I like to say, you may discover something by doing so that make the experience entirely worth it in the end. 

Exploring the resorts can really add something to any Disney vacation. You can try new food, discover little hidden details or experiences like the Carolwood Room, or even simply relax and enjoy the ambience of a theme you may have never really noticed or fully explored in the past. In this particular case (and really in the case of any WDW vacation), I highly recommend getting at least one dining reservation at a resort hotel. Some of the best options, in my opinion, are Whispering Canyon at Wilderness Lodge, Ohana at the Polynesian, and Chef Mickey at the Contemporary.     

Utilize the Attraction Wait Times
While this tip will seem a bit counter productive and slightly obvious, I still highly recommend that once the party begins, take serious advantage of the roughly a hour to hour and a half window between 6:00 and 7:30 to ride attractions with shorter wait times. As the crowds of the day slowly get "booted" out for party guests, the attractions will typically (its not guaranteed) have a slight lull in wait times. Throughout the night, you'll likely find other randomly short attraction queues, but in my experience that early window of opportunity or staying late is the best way to take advantage of attractions. 

Additionally, use that previously mentioned time of early entry, before the party officially begins, to ride as much as you can. Once the party begins, you'll want to grab free desserts and see the special shows and fireworks, so you'll want to get as much done as you can before those events begin in regards to attractions. One more thing not to forget is that character meet and greet offerings will be widespread and outstandingly unique in many cases. The most popular character interaction I witnessed was a meet and greet with all Seven Dwarfs in Christmas costumes. The wait time for it was exponentially long, but also something you'll want to consider when laying out your night in the parks.      

Make Sure To Try All The Different Food Offerings
As mentioned above, the Very Merry Christmas Parties do include desserts and snacks throughout the night which are included with admission. For years, the dessert offerings were fairly limited to mostly sugar cookies and hot cocoa, but now those offerings have grown exponentially. Today, and last year, Disney began offering different treats at different distribution locations throughout the park ranging from sugar cookies (as before) to new cookie varieties and even snow cones! It's great to see the variety, but it also adds a bit more fun to the dining portion of the event. Don't expect a meal, but in a few hours most guests can put away quite a few cookies and simple snacks in addition to hot cocoa and cider. Personally, we had a lot of fun jumping from distribution location to distribution location trying every option available for the night. 

Additionally, be sure to look out for special limited time paid food offerings that may guests will simply overlook. Also, as a bit of a side note, I would not recommend a table service dining reservation for any time during the event. Magic Kingdom table service dining is excellent, but it typically isn't the best use of your time during a party event. Of course, you may want to use some of the "early entry" time to eat a table service meal before the special events debut at 7:00pm.      

Dont Miss The Fireworks or the Shows
Two of the true highlights of the experience overall is the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and Holiday Wishes. The parade has become iconic over the years in a way that very few have accomplished. Of course we've witnessed the Main Street Electrical Parade and even Spectromagic over the years, but there's just something iconic about this parade experience. From the toy soldiers marching down the streets to the flurries that fill the sky, it's near impossible not to fall in love with the character and heart of Once Upon a Christmastime. 

Due to that iconic nature, be prepared to face large crowds when the parade files down Main Street and throughout the parade route. Personally, I don't see the crowds as a huge factor in viewing the experience, but if you want that prime viewing spot you'll want to lay out some time to stake out a spot and prepare for the showcase of dancing colors Disney debuts as a wonderful parade. If you're not looking for that prime viewing area, a little bit of an "insider tip" is to head to entrance are of the Emporium, near the fire station and exit gate for the floats, and you'll typically find a small area with very light crowds up until about 10 minutes before showtime. It's not the perfect and iconic castle view backdrop for photos, but is unique in that you'll get see the floats twice as they make the loop around the square. 

Moving on to fireworks, this is the one aspect of Disney that I would highly recommend staking out a spot for well in advance. The fireworks associated with this event hold a special place in my Disney memories for so many reasons, but first and foremost because they are really one of the closest renditions of current fireworks that align with the previous 'Wishes' fireworks spectacular. I have and always will love the heart of the 'Wishes' fireworks spectacular and this performance and iteration of that fantastic display is just unique and different enough to bring back feelings while still offering up a holiday twist.            

Reserve A Little Bit of Time For Main Street
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to spend a little bit of time simply exploring Main Street. Many of you have likely heard me mention that same element time after time, but there really is a certain level of joy in the basic nature of exploring the shops and decor of Main Street around the holidays. The decor has a way of taking you back to childhood memories and taking you "home" in a classic elegance that each and every one of us can relate to in one way or another. Beyond that feeling and nature of the experience as a whole, be sure to stop by some of the stores for limited edition merchandise that can only be bought during the party. 

So, there you have it! While this may not be the end all be all list for Very Merry Christmas Parties, hopefully it's convinced you to consider it during your next Disney vacation around the holidays or given you something to look forward to. If you're interested in booking this experience or adding it to your vacation, you can alway book through Disney or help us out by filling out the quote request form below from our friends over at Destinations to Travel.  

If you have any questions about the event, I'm sure they'd be happy to lend a hand and answer any questions you may have along the way, but I'd also like to offer up myself as well. Feel free at any point in your Disney vacation planning process to reach out to me with any questions you may have. I'm not a travel agent, nor have I ever worked for Disney, but if you have questions shoot me a message on any of our social media accounts and I'll reply as soon as I can.    

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How To Manage The Crowds During Walt Disney World Peak Attendance Dates


by: guide4wdw - Collin

As the holidays approach, we're taking a look today at ways we've attempted to manage the crowds at Walt Disney World during the busiest times of the year. As a family with two school teachers who typically travel with us, we're rather limited on when we can travel and unfortunately those times typically tend to correspond with the most popular vacation dates of the year at Disney. However, while it's not always the best case scenario, we've found ways to manage the crowds over the years and truly make the most of any and all opportunities to travel to the parks that we come across. If you have any tips of your own that we may have overlooked in our list, be sure to share them in the comments on your favorite social media site not only to share with us but also to help anyone else who may stumble across them. You never know when your simple (or complex) tip may drastically improve someones vacation experience.  

Book Fastpasses Accordingly 
In this particular case, I'm going to recommend something a little bit rare and go against our 5 Simple Fastpass+ Tips That Could Better Your Vacation Experience. In that article, I recommended booking your fastpasses early in the day to help maximize the potential of the revolving 4th fastpass+ selection. Well, if you're traveling at peak times it's best to do one of two things. First, book your fastpasses during the heart of the day (typically 1-3pm) in order to guarantee at least a few attractions without long waits during the most crowded times of the day. Additionally, and ideally, schedule your fastpasses around one (or more) table service meals. Which leads us to the next tip...  

Schedule a Table Service Meal Within Park
For many of you this seems like common sense to schedule meals in the parks, but to me it is particularly important to schedule a table service meal on peak crowd level days. Throughout the day, inevitably you'll reach a point where you no longer want to be engulfed by crowds wherever you go. A sit down meal in the park is the perfect way, and oftentimes the only way, to get a few moments of personal space and enjoy a great meal with friends and family along the way. Beyond the seating area itself, a good meal has a way of "recharging" you and allowing you to gear up for the rest of the day. Also notice how I said a meal within the park. If you're traveling on specific holidays and the park fills to capacity there is no guarantee that if you leave the park for a dining reservation elsewhere that you will be granted access back into that park. Unfortunately, we learned that lesson the hard way when we attempted to head to Fort Wilderness for a quick meal at Trails End on New Years Eve. Thankfully we were advised to change the reservation and actually managed a walk up reservation at Crystal Palace by sheer luck.     

Arrive Early and Stay Late
When considering peak seasons and holidays, there tends to be very few options in regards to arrival windows. If you get there too late you're going to face potential guest capacity limitations and may or may not be granted entrance into that particular park. Nobody wants to be denied entrance for a special holiday celebration and Disney never intends to do so, but as with any area, there is a safety limitation to how many guests are allowed to enter the park at one time. The earlier you arrive the better. 

As the main gates open and the park welcomes guests it will likely start to fill very quickly, and even more so than a typical Disney day. As a result, attraction wait times will grow exponentially as the minutes pass. The more you can get done in the first hour or two, the better off you will be. If you are traveling on an actual holiday, I highly recommend a park hopper pass. The price difference is fairly negligible from discount ticket sellers and even when you buy from Disney when you consider how many additional options it opens up. 

If you get into Magic Kingdom (or get there after the park fills to capacity) and it's overwhelmingly crowded to your travel group you can simply head to another park. Typically Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are far less crowded than Magic Kingdom if you truly just want to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Personally, I see Epcot as an excellent option as well. It typically draws large crowds, but Epcot tends to hold the crowds better than the other parks. We spent the 4th of July holiday there this year and really enjoyed the vast variety of things to do that didn't require a wait time at all. I've always been a huge proponent of touring the world showcase and the little details but it gives you so many options when the crowds are larger than normal.    

Prepare for the Traffic
This is one of those aspects of Disney holiday planning that is rarely talked about but largely a factor in touring the parks at peak times. After experiencing New Years Eve, you quickly realize that holidays can drive insane crowds to the parks, but the entrance and exit structure of parking lots and roads have a tough time holding the crowds as they arrive all at once. Don't get me wrong, Disney does an incredible job managing people and parking cars. To be quite honest, they're the best of the best when it comes to that type of a situation. However, nobody can successfully deal with that many people arriving all at the same time. It's a logistics nightmare but if you leave a little earlier to get to the parks than you typically would you should have plenty of time to get to the main gates before they open for the day.      

Prioritize Your Top "Must-Do" Attractions
Before you arrive at your desired park, you'll want to create a list of "must-do" attractions. Poll the family or whatever group you're traveling with and find out what the one or two things that each individual wants to do more than anything else. That way, at the end of the day everybody is happy no matter how much else you get done. Prioritizing your plans for the day can make all the difference when the crowds can be a bit overwhelming.     

Avoid Driving to the Park If You Can
If at all possible, I highly recommend using Disney's transportation on holidays (Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving) rather than attempting to drive your own vehicle to the park. Disney really has the transportation and specific transportation routes down to a science and as a result can typically get you to your desired destination much faster than you will be able to do on your own. You'll get to avoid parking booths and the tram system delays trying to get to the front of the park and will likely spend less time in route than you would otherwise. If your resort offers a monorail, the monorails are nearly always your fastest source of transportation. All in all, I know not everyone will have this option available to them, but it's certainly something you may want to consider. If you'd like to learn more about the monorail resorts and costs associated with that, contact our friends over at Destinations to Travel for their free booking services as an authorized Disney vacation planner (it also helps us out a bit as well). 

So, what do you think? Do you have any tips you'd add to our list?
Thanks for reading and I truly appreciate you taking the time out of your day to spend a few minutes here with us!   

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Few Walt Disney World Special Events and Other Discounted Rates Have Debuted For Disney Destinations - Disneyland and Aulani!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

After a fairly quiet few weeks for news at Walt Disney World, a few new details for special events at Walt Disney World have been shared. Also, along with the release, a new series of discounts have rolled out for Disney's Aulani resort in Hawaii and Disneyland out in California.

In regards to Walt Disney World events, Star Wars Galactic Nights will return December 16th and will debut a series of new experiences for guests to enjoy to accompany the release of the next film in the growing Star Wars franchise. Of course, this event was previously announced, but a few more details have been shared about other WDW events to welcome the New Year on New Years Eve later this year. 

At the Contemporary Resort, guests are invited to dine "Down in New Orleans!" The event, which can be booked by calling (407)-WDW-DINE or by contacting your preferred travel agency (a quote request form for our favorite agency is listed below), will begin with a specially themed entrance decked out in New Orleans flair accompanied by food including: smoked salmon mousse cones and Kobe beef tartar, sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi and oyster beignets fried on stage. As you transition into a new dining area, also decked out in New Orleans elements, a Jazz band will play as herb-crusted Louisiana redfish, crayfish étouffée, Black Angus beef cooked two ways, braised short ribs and roast filet of beef with truffled celery root silk are served to guests. To end out the night, guests will be invited to step outside and enjoy a private viewing area for the Magic Kingdom's special fireworks spectacular. 

This impressive event will be offered on December 31 from 7:00 PM to 12:15 AM in the Grand Republic Ballroom of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The cost of the experience is $450 per guest, but will not require theme park admission as many other events do. Also worth noting is that all guests must be 21 years of age or older. 

Over at the Boardwalk, the Atlantic Dance Hall is showcasing a New Year's Eve Bash. The venue will open at 9pm and, as usual for this location, all guests must be at least 21 years of age. This is also a reservation based event and will cost significantly less at $50 per person while still providing food for guests. However, the dining for this event appears to be more appetizer focused and much less involved in the overall experience.

Also over at the Boardwalk, Flying Fish is offering Dinner and Dancing Under the Sea. This event is also for guests 21 and older, and will cost $372 per adult. The dining offerings here will range from specialty cocktails and themed drinks to an extensive seafood display. Throughout the meal a Jazz band will be on site and as the night draws to it's climax, guests will be ushered over to Atlantic Dance Hall for a special viewing of Illuminations complete with a champagne toast. Throughout the night, an electronic (iPad) character artist will be making rounds throughout the room drawing guests if they so desire. Again, this can be booked using the above number or by contacting a travel agency. 

Last but not least, over at Fort Wilderness, guests of all ages can participate in Mickey's New Years Eve BBQ. The event will cost $95 for adults and $75 for children. The event will offer the largest lineup of food of the events listed and will feature a vast variety of meats, macaronis, desserts and side item options (here's the full list). The New Year's Eve celebration begins at 8:30pm and will feature live bluegrass music, a DJ, a live feed of Times Square, and special fireworks viewing. At a family reasonable price this could be a great option for families looking to avoid the big crowds of the park (if you want to brave the parks, here's our recommend ticket option, found in our 2017 Discount Disney World Ticket Buying Tips - What is the Best Option For Your Situation?). 

Amazingly, those fun events aren't where today's news ends. If you're consider a Disneyland vacation, Disney has just released the following offer: 
  • Book a 2 night 3 day vacation package at any Disneyland Resort hotel with tickets for as low as $144 per person per day. 
  • Your stay must be between Jan. 7th and Feb. 2nd (select nights) of 2018 
  • guests will receive a 3 day 1 park per day ticket with MaxPass, Disneyland resort dining certificates for select dining locations upon check-in, souvenir Mickey ears for the whole family and an autograph book for each child.
Out at Aulani, when booking before May 9th, 2018 guests can save 30% on Ocean and Partial Ocean Views, and 25% off other rooms for travel dates April 9th - June 7th. 
You can also save up to 25% on 4 consecutive nights on ocean and partial ocean views and 20% off standard, island, and pool views. Also, if you book through a Disney travel agent, you will receive a $150 resort credit to use during your stay. However, that offer must be booked through a Disney Travel Agent (I cannot guarantee all travel agency's can offer the same but Destinations to Travel is included in this Disney offer - quote request form below).

(Photo: normal night crowds - not New Years Eve)

Well, that about wraps up the biggest news of the day. Hopefully, this helps you out in some way in the booking process, or maybe even adds a special event to your list of "must-do" experiences on a New Year's Eve trip. If you plan on touring the parks that day, pack your patience and expect incredible crowds. The park will likely close to additional admission, due to certain capacity issues, around 10:00-12:00am. I've been there and experienced this one first hand. It was an incredible experience that we really enjoyed, but you really do have to go into it expecting insane crowds. Last time we went, lines throughout the day for top attractions easily topped 3-4 hours. It's an excellent way to spend the holiday, but just go prepared and you'll have a great time! The New Year's Eve fireworks are truly second to none!

As always we are partnered with Destinations to Travel and the Official Ticket Center, but many of these offers and events are open to any Disney guests. However, we do appreciate you supporting the groups that help support us. Thanks for reading and have a great rest of the day!                        

Friday, November 17, 2017

5 Unusual Fireworks Viewing Locations at Walt Disney World That You May Have Overlooked!


by: guide4wdw - Collin

When it comes to Walt Disney World nighttime entertainment, typically one particular element of the experience pops into the mind of first time and returning guests, Fireworks! Disney's pyrotechnic displays in the sky combine a thrilling story with larger than life effects that set them apart from all others in the industry. Most guests will tell you that after seeing Disney's fireworks, it somewhat 'ruins' you when viewing other home town celebrations and even many large scale displays. However, with incredible entertainment comes mass popularity and viewing difficulties in many cases. As a result, we've come up with a few alternatives to that 'prime' fireworks viewing location in each park based on our experiences and unique opportunities where we simply were just at the right place at the right time. It's amazing the viewing locations you stumble into when you step away from the crowds for a few moments and just take in the experience. So, here's a closer look at 5 unusual fireworks viewing locations that you may have overlooked.      

The Boardwalk
-Every time I mention this to guests, inevitably someone asks about the quality of the view. To be quite honest with you, it is an obstructed view of Epcot's Illuminations, but the overarching experience is worth the obstructed view. As the fireworks explode a few hundred yards away (the Boardwalk features a back entrance to the World showcase between the United Kingdom and France, assuming you have a ticket to get in the park), the highest of bursts are just visible from the wooden panels of the Boardwalk itself. Of course, this isn't the ideal view of the show, but if you're like us and have seen it many times on past visits, or live in the area, give this experience a shot one night. You can hear the echo of the fireworks and subtle elements of the music while the highest bursts of fireworks reflect off of the water creating a unique effect.    

Wilderness Lodge (Depending on your resort room location)
-Sometimes after a long day in the parks you just want to head back to the resort and enjoy a meal or relax in the lobby rather than facing the crowds of the nighttime spectaculars. Well, after a recent trip to Wilderness Lodge where we had the rare opportunity (at least its rare for us) to stay in club level accommodations. Personally, I would honestly say the club experience was worth the money in our case, but that's beside the point. While it was unknown to me at the time of booking, the Wilderness Lodge features one of the most tranquil fireworks viewing experiences in all of Walt Disney World. 

Sure, the beaches of the Polynesian and the Contemporary's grand balcony are incredible viewing opportunities, but if you want a quaint viewing experience of Happily Ever After, the upper levels of Wilderness Lodge offer an excellent opportunity. Of course, your viewing ability will be limited to your resort room location, but if you splurge for club level accommodations, the entire floor gets access to two small balconies adjacent to the lounge with an excellent view of the show in the distance. Snacks are provided during the fireworks for guests of the floor and if you're lucky you may be the only one on the balcony. 

During one of the most crowded fireworks shows of the year, the Fourth of July display (watched on the 3rd), we watched from the balcony among three other guests. There were no crowds, no rush to get to the busses, or anything of the type. When the show was over and the piped in music faded out, we simply stepped back inside, grabbed one last dessert (for good measure) and walked down the hall to our room. As always, if you don't know what is the best fit resort for your family or would just like some help along the way I recommend a knowledgeable travel agent. If you don't have one. Be sure to check out our quote request form below (or one of the banners) to contact who we recommend.  

Was it expensive, sure. Was it worth it (in our case), absolutely. I understand not everyone can or will try this one, but you can view the fireworks at this resort from one floor lower from bay windows or from within your resort room if you are located on a high floor.         

On The Seven Seas Lagoon
-A few years ago we stumbled into this viewing location simply by chance. We were waiting for a boat from the Magic Kingdom to one of the surrounding resorts and as we sat there at the dock the fireworks show began (Wishes at the time). Again, it wasn't an ideal view, but easily one of the most impressive views. As the boat left the dock, the captain slowly eased across the lake, which could have been intentional, as the show continued on. The boats offer a view you cannot get anywhere else. As you sit there, your point of view directs your attention right over the top of Main Street Station.

Of course, Disney offers fireworks viewing "cruises" and other experiences on the lagoon for a fee, but the experience mentioned here is completely free.        

The Back Section of a World Showcase Pavilion
-Moving back to Epcot's Illuminations display (which is rumored to fade away in time), capturing the show from an overlooked viewpoint can really become an art. Each pavilion of the showcase offers little nooks and off the promenade viewing opportunities that many guests overlook entirely. For example, head to the middle area of the China pavilion near the temple and you'll find a series of fountains. If you stand there during the display, you'll catch a vast majority of the show from a viewpoint which many guests will overlook. In a similar way, the Japan pavilion offers a viewing location on the second floor of the main building (housing the department store and restaurants) that avoids a majority of the crowds while still receiving an excellent view. All things considered, the point behind this element of the list is to encourage stepping away from the front railing of the lagoon and stepping back into the pavilions. Your view may be obstructed slightly but what you gain in perspective and in the photos you may take more than make up for it in some cases.     

Behind Cinderella's Castle
-As perhaps my favorite location on our list, the area directly behind Cinderella's castle will blow you away if you've never tried the spot before. It's not too great for pictures and you wont be able to see the projections incorporated into Happily Ever After, but you gain a different sensory and viewing experience instead. As the fireworks are shot into the sky, a select few launch from the area directly behind the castle and on top of the attraction buildings. When they do, if you're in the immediate vicinity, the noise and reactions on the guests faces around you are priceless.

If you take a short walk farther back to the area just in front of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Be Our Guest, an outstanding view of the fireworks launched from the back launch site are easily visible bursting high over Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Meanwhile, as the show continues on, the fireworks become a bit more immersive as the burst occur behind you as well as up closer to the castle. The whole experience is a bit hard to explain in words but is a truly immersive experience all around. 

So, that's our list! What unusual viewing locations have you come across in your Disney travels? Be sure to share them with us on your favorite social media platform!

If you're looking for help planning, we just released our 2017 Discount Disney World Ticket Buying Tips - What is the Best Option For Your Situation? 

Plus, dont forget to check out our last article from guest writer Lisa DiNoto Glassner to hear her incredible story. How I Ended Up Leaving Big Law and Moving to Disney World

Last, but certainly not least, be sure to join the Guide4WDW community. We appreciate all of your support! 

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