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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

5 of Our Favorite "Hidden Gem" Spots in All of Walt Disney World - 2018

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Our Favorite "Hidden Gem" Spots in All of Walt Disney World - 2018  


Most of the time when you see a title like this you'll be met with "favorite" attractions with short wait times or even quite possibly a few dining locations thrown in the mix, but today I want to do something a bit different and hopefully something a touch more creative. Today, I hope to share quite the opposite perspective and share a few of the somewhat "little known" locations at Walt Disney World that aren't attractions, stores, or even dining locations (which will be hard to leave out!) in order to focus on an even simpler aspect of the parks and resorts in the realm of not only theming but setting and experience beyond what you may expect. So, rather than trying to explain what I mean, it's a bit easier if I just show you and bring you along on a photo journey through "spots" I consider to be hidden gems of Walt Disney World. 

You see, about 8 months ago I started photographing the Disney parks. While at first it was just something I wanted to try, I slowly realized that the age old saying of "a picture being worth a thousand words" is not only true but rather an under exaggerated statement that should potentially carry more weight than it does. As I started sharing photos from the parks, the response was different than what I expected. Not only were readers incredibly complimentary (which I truly appreciate as a very amateur photographer) but many mentioned how the photos took them back to Disney and made them feel like they were there for even just a fleeting few seconds.

From the beginning that concept was something I wanted to bring to this site/blog (or whatever you'd like to call it). I wanted to create a place that took you back to the parks for even just a brief few moments somehow or some way each and every day. So, when I thought up this concept for an article my mind didn't entirely go straight to attractions but rather to those photos and those "spots" at the parks and resorts that so many guests overlook entirely. To me, it's those more creative and perhaps less iconic photos that I enjoy sharing more than anything else, because if you know these spots and you know that experience as a whole they have a way of taking you back to that moment no matter what the quality of the image may be. A picture may be worth a thousand words but at the same time it captures a story that transcends my own personal experience and opens the door to the stories I get to hear from readers. We all perceive things just a touch differently, but at times those differences allow us to see things in entirely new ways. 

That concept is my goal for this article more than anything else. If I can share just one new hidden gem "spot" for you to explore and create a story of your own in experiencing it for the first time, it will be a success in my mind. Before I officially "begin" I do have to add that some of these are far more "hidden" than others and truthfully what may be "hidden" to me may very well be a staple of every trip you've ever taken to Walt Disney World. My goal is a variety spots that give every guest something new to look forward to and a good blend of truly unique spots with a couple I simply see as underrated or under appreciated. With that out of the way, let's jump right into it! (If you're on a mobile device and want to see these photos in higher quality, simply tap the photo). 

1. East Center Street 

In the early years of Walt Disney World, Main Street U.S.A. was a very different place than what it is today. Many of the storefronts were actual stand alone shops, and the layout lended itself to a city style atmosphere that was a touch more eccentric in shopping offerings for lack of a better word. From the Hallmark Card Shop to the House of Magic and those massive plants sold at the Greenhouse Flower Shop, Main Street was a different world but the true change arrived when West Center Street was officially filled in. Truthfully I can only vaguely remember seeing West Center Street in person because it really wasn't around that long in the time period when I was old enough to remember it. After closing for the expansion of the emporium in 2001 the entire street was essentially lost. However, a casual hidden gem remains on the east side of the cross street splitting Main Street U.S.A. (ironically named East Center Street.) The street is a touch tucked away but the history it holds and shares with guests in an oh so subtle way is hard to put into words. 

From a views standpoint it truly is spectacular at night. The glistening lights of Main Street and the guests strolling about completely unaware of this little side street makes for an excellent location to sit back and relax for a few moments as the music plays and the sights and sounds of main street surround you. 


2. The Gardens of Japan

Epcot's Japan pavilion is perhaps one of the more unique hidden gems on this list for a couple of reasons. One, you wont find it laid out specifically as an "attraction" on any park map and two, because it's one of those things many locals know about and would love to keep to themselves. I'm not a local but can completely understand why they would want to keep this spot a hidden location in Epcot. On any given day you enter the main area of the Japan pavilion, take a few steps off to the left hand side and up a short hill to be surrounded by a gentle flowing stream, grab a quick snack (the more popular area of the garden), and enjoy a few quiet minutes taking in the sites and sounds of the garden. 

You can see Spaceship Earth in the distance but it's largely a transformative experience and one that makes you feel, even for the briefest of minutes, that your away for the hustle and bustle of the parks and Orlando as a whole to enjoy a few minutes of peace. It sounds so strange but this little garden area has a very calming essence to it and is one of many places at Walt Disney World I'd love to have the time one day to just sit down and enjoy for a few hours. Of course, that luxury of time is something only a select few have as we tour the parks and resorts, but nonetheless a cool spring or fall night in this spot for a few hours will always be a "wish list" item for me if I ever end up being a local.  

     

3. The Boulder Ridge Villa Lobby 

As many of you may know, this is and likely always will be my favorite hidden gem in all of Walt Disney World. I've raved about this little quiet spot for well over a year here on the site and I don't see the praise stopping anytime soon. To me, this "hidden" simple experience is one that every true Disney fan should experience at least once and one that only the most obsessed of us will likely appreciate at first glance. It is, without a doubt, the definition of a hidden gem. 

The Boulder Ridge Lobby is spectacular in a very subtle yet vastly recognizable way. As soon as you step through the doors (just a short walk from the main Wilderness Lodge Lobby) you're surrounded by a quaint woodsy feeling lobby with a high peaked ceiling and recognizable smell that is incredibly difficult to appreciate without experiencing it first hand ("smellovision", or rather "smellonet" in this case, can't come soon enough!). The beauty of the lobby paired with large soft chairs, ample seating and a crackling fireplace lends itself to a sensory experience that is rivaled by very few. 

As wonderful as this location really is, miraculously it's vastly overlooked by nearly every guest visiting wilderness Lodge that isn't staying in the villas. It's a bit amazing really. even with hundreds of guests making their way to their villas each night, it's rare to see more than four or five guests sitting in this spot. Perhaps it simply gets overshadow by the far larger and slightly grander lobby just a short walk away in the Wilderness Lodge, but to me this smaller area has so much more character than it's "larger brother." 

On top of all that, there's a certain history to this place that is perhaps the reason I appreciate it so much in the first place. As mentioned in my Outstanding Disney History Hiding in Plain Sight: The Carolwood Room article, this is one of the very rare places in Walt Disney World where you can actually see something that Walt physically laid his hands on and something that wasn't necessarily about the parks but rather his personal joy and passion from his daily life. You see, all the attractions and all the details Disney can develop in the parks can show you so many things and take you to so many different places, but only one is dedicated to Walt's personal passion and a part of something that was once in his very own back yard. This room, attached to the lobby is a window into Walt's life and a window that opens the door to the exploration by guests into who Walt really was. It gives perspective to the statue on Main Street so many guests pose for photos with each day, and it allows guests to uncover something truly unique. In my opinion that's the true essence of a "hidden gem" in it's finest form. So many guests have sat in this room or walked by this seemingly simple display of props but only a select few dive deeper and uncover a piece of the true Disney Magic hiding in plain site.    


    


4. The Boardwalk at Sunset    

Moving in a slightly different direction, if you've never took the time to step away from the parks and catch a sunset at Disney's Boardwalk Resort area, it is worth every second of your time.  I don't know why and I don't know how but sitting on that Boardwalk and those carefully placed wooden planks over the water sets up the most picturesque sunsets you'll ever witness in your life. It's not every night, but as if by clockwork, if there's clouds in the sky you can expect a truly spectacular unveiling of colors across the sky. With the view over the Yacht and Beach Club in the distance, and the Swan and Dolphin perched high on their accompanying resorts, the light reflects off of the buildings and the water and the worries of the world seem to slip away as the sky explodes with color. On our last trip I spent a little over an hour trying to capture this setting in a photo and thankfully ended up with two that come somewhat close to sharing those fleeting minutes of color with you all in a photo. It's impossible to fully capture but hopefully these encourage you to take that leap and step away from the parks to enjoy a more laid back night embracing the beauty of Walt Disney world in an entirely new way. (Again, feel free to click on the photos to see a higher resolution image on mobile.)     



5. Magic Kingdom After Close  

As perhaps the most obvious of locations on our list, Magic Kingdom after close makes you rethink Disney in a way that only a few truly appreciate time and time again. A few of you might be wondering how it is possible to get in after the park closes for the day, but in reality you just postpone leaving as long as possible. As ridiculous as that sounds, it's quite normal for Magic Kingdom to be open up to two hours after the posted closing time. Slowly but surely they clear the lands but Main Street U.S.A. is open for quite some time. If you can stick it out and wait until the bitter end, you'll be surprised at how the Magic Kingdom transforms. For the nostalgic Disney fan it's a dream come true. The crowds slowly trickle out of the park and while a few late diners or final riders of the day wrap up, you can walk around a fairly empty hub, enjoy a quiet Cinderellas castle view and enjoy a moment you never thought you'd get to. It is, in its simplest form an "empty" Magic Kingdom and for a brief few minutes you get to feel what Walt must have felt as he walked through Disneyland late at night as his dream slowly but surely became a reality. Security can be a touch aggressive at times and on rare occasion a bit touchy, but if you're friendly and non-confrontational, savoring those final minutes of the night can be one of the most memorable moments you'll ever experience at Walt Disney World.





You see, often times a "Hidden Gem" spot can be something oh so incredibly simple and I'm a firm believer that the simplest moments tend to be the things we remember the most years down the line. It's what keeps us coming back and trying new things in a way that is incredibly difficult to describe without experiencing it first hand. Enjoy every little moment because you never know what will stick with you years down the road.  

I am far from a professional photographer, but I hope at the very least these photos help put you in the scene for even just a brief moment and may have even taken you back to a moment in time where you experienced your own iteration of these stories portrayed by our "hidden gem" spots. Perhaps more importantly, I hope this gives you something to look forward to in the future and a look behind the lens (for lack of a better word) at some of the stories behind my various photos shared over the last month or so on Facebook and Instagram. If you have questions or simply would like to contact me directly, feel free to email me at guide4wdw@gmail.com with photography questions, comments about this post, or any suggestions you may have for the site. This isn't my site, it's yours in every way shape and form and I wouldn't have it any other way. Have a question about planning or while on your trip? Feel free to send that my way as well!  


Your Thoughts


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



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


Ready to Plan?


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



Monday, November 12, 2018

Our Ideal 1-Day Walt Disney World Itinerary for 2018

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Our Ideal 1-Day Walt Disney World Itinerary for 2018 

For many of us that have been to Disney time and time again, it seems a little strange and a bit weird to think about having one day to spend at Walt Disney World. Many of us spend a week or more touring the parks and resorts and still don't mange to get done all that we hope to accomplish. It's an inevitable reality that presents itself time after time, but I don't say that to discourage you from taking a day to explore Disney World, even if you just have  single day or even a few hours to explore a small portion of what there is to offer on property.

Many of you reading this will find yourself on a work trip in the Orlando area or on an extended layover at Orlando International Airport at some point and may just have one day to get away for a while and enjoy some time in the parks. Again, it's weird for many of us who vacation to the parks year after year to think about, but there are tons of guests arriving at the gates of the parks each day that only have one day to spend at the happiest place on earth.



A majority of those guest come unprepared, don't have tickets, and have no idea what they're walking into, but they all have one thing in common, expectations. Disney World is one of the most sought after destinations in the United States and for fairly obvious reasons, but in today's Disney planning scenario, it can be tough to set up one day and vastly enjoy all that even one park has to offer. 

So, as a result we're taking today to look at what we'd do if we had only one day to spend in one park. I will preface this with the fact that we've been in this situation before and while it isn't ideal, you'll be surprised at how amazing your day can be with the limited amount of time available to you. However, to make the most of the time, you have to arrive with a plan and this is the plan we'd go with. 


What Park Do You Go To?


If I had never been to Walt Disney World I'd have to spend the time I had exploring Magic Kingdom in 2018. Now, I say in 2018 for one reason and largely one reason only. As the parks grow and new expansions are unveiled over the next 2 years, including Star Wars - Galaxy's Edge, my opinion on which park to visit could likely change. Honestly, I would even consider going to Epcot and originally that was my pick for this 1 day itinerary. As I thought about that decision, I took a step back. I redirected my thoughts and considered the scenario once again from a different perspective. If I was a first time guest, what park would leave a lasting impression on me?

The answer I came up with wasn't ideal, because what came to mind was our 7 Day Itinerary. Then I realized one more thing and that was that the point of one day at Disney isn't about doing everything but rather taking the time you have and making the most of it. It's not going to be the perfect trip, but for one day you get the opportunity to escape the world for a few minutes and enter a place of pure happiness. So, the answer I came up with wasn't my favorite park, Epcot (with our Our Tried and True "Epcot in a Day" Touring Plan), but rather a place described best as where you can "leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy,” the Magic Kingdom. 

What Ticket Do You Buy? 


Honestly, you're only going to need a one day ticket to the park and the cheapest place and most reliable place (other than Disney themselves) I've found to buy that is the Official Ticket Center online. It's quick, it's convenient, and you may save a few dollars along the way. For longer stays, you may even catch a free upgrade through them, but I recommend checking out our 2018 Discount Disney World Tickets post before you dive too deep into the ticket buying process for longer stays.

Our Ideal 1-day Disney World Itinerary - Crescent Lake

All things considered, I'd go with a base one-day ticket *without* the park hopper option if you're only doing one day in the parks. Truth be told, you won't have time to park hop without wasting a lot of unnecessary time in this situation. This one tip alone goes against just about everything I talk about in our 2018 Disney World Vacation Planning Tips article when talking about tickets, but in this rare case I can genuinely say to avoid the park hopper (it kind of hurt me to say that lol). Save the money you would have spent on that add-on and see if you can find a table service dining reservation at any location in the Magic Kingdom on the My Disney Experience App.  It can be tough to secure a reservation at the last second but use our last minute reservation tips and you should be able to come up with an excellent meal even on the day of your time in the park.

If you're looking for meal suggestions, I highly recommend looking into:

-Crystal Palace - For a fun filled family character meal with Pooh and friends. There are a ton of great options on the buffet for both kids and adults and the atmosphere is quite elegant as you look out the glass windows towards Cinderella's castle. At the same time, the dining location remains extremely kid friendly and is a place for the whole family to enjoy.

-The Plaza Restaurant - If you're looking for a slightly more budget friendly offering without going to exclusively quick service locations, the Plaza offers a nice blend of classic cheeseburgers and sandwiches of different varieties while mixing things up with a Honey Barbecue Brisket Macaroni and Cheese. If you get the chance to talk with the chef, he'll make your day and share a few culinary tips with you along the way. Ask about his secret to getting rid of that "Florida water" taste! It'll blow your mind and he'll likely remember your visit and you for years to come. We met with him years ago about an allergy some of our friends deal with and he remembered us literally 8+ years later!

-Liberty Tree Tavern - Liberty Tree tends to be a guest favorite of Magic Kingdom. If you're looking for classic Thanksgiving-esque style food, this is an excellent option. Honestly, I haven't been to this one in years, mostly because an extremely heavily meal rarely intrigues me on a sunny Florida day, but it's definitely worth a look if you've never tried it before!     

How to Make the Most of Your Time - Our Ideal Itinerary 


If you clicked on this post or Google brought you here, you likely came for what I'm about to share. I appreciate you having confidence in our planning abilities that are based on experience, but I will say that you'll likely have to modify our plan slightly to fit your needs. Everyone wants to do something different when they head to Magic Kingdom. We all want to see different attractions, eat at different locations, and honestly just see different things. With all of that under consideration, I can say with confidence that if you use this plan, I can nearly guarantee you'll have an excellent day that will be memorable for years to come. 

With that, we'll dive right into it and share exactly what we would do and have done to make the most of a limited amount of time on Disney property. 

First and foremost, if at all possible, get there when the gates open, if not a few minutes before they open. The Magic Kingdom welcomes guests before it's official opening and allows the earliest of individuals to explore Main Street before the attractions and other areas of the park officially debut for the day and the welcome show is performed on the castle stage. If you get there early enough, you'll have plenty of time to scout out some hidden gems of Main Street (like these below) or many others you may uncover on your own that can be found in the "history" section of this site: 
I share these not to build page views to those article (ok, well maybe I do to an extent lol), but rather to share with you an aspect of the parks that many guests miss on one day trips that could leave you with a much greater appreciation for what you experienced during your day in Magic Kingdom. The history of the place is what sets it apart form many other parks across the country and the attention to detail is unparalleled when you take the time to take a closer look. Additionally, those extra few minutes allow you a bit of time to explore the gift locations of Main Street and get a better idea of some special souvenirs you may want to take home with you to commemorate the experience or share a piece of the magic with a friend or family member back home.

Our Ideal 1-day Disney World Itinerary - Epcot Monorail


Ideally, after catching the opening show at the castle, you'll head to one of your favorite attractions and begin the process we've used to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+! That detailed process is one that we've been using for years and it's the key to taking full advantage of the first hour and a half to two hours after the park officially opens. 



Once you get done with all of those attractions, we recommend trying to find a way to eat breakfast or lunch at Crystal Palace. It is a tough reservation to secure at the last minute, but if all else fails attempt to do a walk up and ask if you can wait for a table. They wont always let you wait, but it's worked for us time and time again over the years.

I recommend Crystal Palace for a few reasons. First and foremost, we've had great experiences over the years there. Second, it offers a buffet that most guests can find something they'll really enjoy eating. Lastly, it's a great way to escape the heat of the summer months as it begins to build in the late morning and early afternoon. You'd be surprised how much of a difference an hour or two in the AC opposed to a few hours in the Florida summer heat can make. In the long run, it'll give you more energy for the rest of the day and you get the chance to eat at our favorite Table Service Breakfast on Property.  

After that meal, I'd recommend heading to a few attractions with shorter wait times (typically its a small world, The Peoplemover, or even the Magic Carpets of Aladdin for a quick set of attractions before the afternoon parade begins. (If you're looking for spot for the parade, I highly recommend the center hub of the park near the Partners Statue or up near the Car Barn at the front of the park. 

Once the parade ends, you'll be well into the peak crowd level for the day and it's a great time to head back to Main Street to do some shopping and cool off again in the air conditioned stores rather than spending that time in an attraction queue. As night starts to set in, catch a few more attractions like Haunted Mansion, or even visit Tom Sawyer Island before catching a quick service dinner or a snack. If you can manage it, try to set up your remaining fastpass+ selections for this point in the day.  

I know, it may be very difficult to get exactly what you want if you buy your tickets last minute or if you didn't plan on visiting the park originally. Either way, take what you can get when you can get it. If you can buy your ticket further ahead of time, do it and then immediately book your fastpass+ selections at the 30 day window for non-resort guests or 60 days for resort guests.

At the end of the day, you'll want to catch one last thing before leaving the park and that's the Happily Ever After Fireworks. It's an excellent show and one I highly recommend so grab an ice cream sandwich at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and claim your spot about 30 minutes before the show (or an hour+ if you're picky about your "spot"). When the performance in the sky is complete, don't do what most guest do and head for the exits. Stick around the park and head back over to some attractions (if the park is remaining open) for a few last minute attractions. Once the park officially closes for the day, you'll no longer be able to get in line for attractions, but continue to stick around until about 30 minutes to an hour after close for the Kiss Goodnight and to close down the park. The collaborative experience is something you wont want to miss and is truly the perfect way to end a one-day itinerary. 



Wrapping Up


At the end of the day, you'll likely have experienced nearly every attraction in the park, and if all worked out as planned you'll be eager to return at some point in the future. Many guests will leave the Magic Kingdom with a series of memories, a positive outlook, and a greater appreciation for the place created by a man with a dream. It's an empowering experience and one that encourages you to take a step and pursue that one thing you never thought could become a reality. I say this for a reason, but also as a motivation. Two years ago, I never thought I'd be where I am today and doing what I'm doing right this second. The theme park experience not only gave me a place to explore but a location that has brought so many people into my life that I never expected. Once you visit Disney, you become a part of this community that is so difficult to explain. It's a wonderful group of people and a community like nothing else. 


Walt said it best, it takes people to make a dream a reality. At the time when that was first shared, he likely didn't know what that simple phrase would become to so many. He created a place not only for cast members to grow and learn, but also a place that fulfills dreams and creates an escape from reality for so many of us time and time again. I share all of this for one reason and that is to encourage you to take whatever amount of time you have to visit the park and to make the most of every minute. You may not have enough time for a full day at Magic Kingdom, but take the time you have and make the most of it. You never know when a simple experience may develop a new favorite aspect of your life and a place that you want to return to time and time again. 


Your Thoughts

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


How Do I Create These Posts? 

Every once in a while I get questions about my gear. This is what I use and highly recommend at the moment in the realm of content creation. This list is varied and tends to change from time to time, but this is my current set up of gear used to create these posts. If you have any questions or need some tips in the site building process, feel free to message me on Facebook!

ComputerMacbook Pro  
If you get one of these you'll inevitably need dongles (The USB-C Struggle): 
Main DSLR CameraNikon D3400 
Tripod for Night PhotographyPrimaPhoto Traveler 
Photo Editing SoftwareLightroom 6 Stand Alone Version (Not Creative Cloud) 
Secondary Camera: iPhone 7 (Older Photos on the Site) 


Ready to Plan?

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

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

                



Sunday, November 11, 2018

An Incredible Bay Lake Sunset - The Story Behind the Shot

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin Kendall


An Incredible Bay Lake Sunset - The Story Behind the Shot 

If you've ever read one of our articles here on the site, you've likely noticed that I've relatively recently started getting into theme park photography. While I'm far from an "expert" I tend to get asked quite a few questions about photography and in particular night time photography. So, rather than strictly planning articles for making the most of your Walt Disney World vacation, I thought I'd start sharing a few stories "behind the shots" along with some simple photography tips and tricks for the parks from time to time. 


My very first photography article - Disney World Pictures - Our Photography Guide for Walt Disney World - is perhaps the most inclusive of the write-ups I've done so far, but a more recent post dove into my top tips on night photography in How To Take Quality Empty Parks Photos at Disney - From a Photography Perspective. Today's article, while similar to those two posts, is going to share a story behind one particular experience that produced some of my personal favorite sunset photos I've ever been able to capture at Walt Disney World. So, that's what we'll start with today, the story "behind the shot." 


Over the last 8 months or so I've had the opportunity to spend around a month at the Disney parks and resorts on various vacations. While every Disney trip is unique and picturesque, the summer nights we were lucky enough to spend on property were some of the most picturesque I've ever experienced. The nightly sunset glow continuously exceeded expectations as the afternoon summer thunderstorms drifted away and made way for a beautiful summer night time and time again. 


On this particular day (June 10th of 2018), a typical Florida summer day unfolded in the early afternoon. The morning was full of sunshine and beautiful blue skies, but as the afternoon heat rolled in huge rainstorms developed and stuck around for hours on end. As always, heavy rain is rarely what you want to face during your vacation, but it's something we've grown to expect on summer trips. It's an inevitable part of the experience but on this particular day it set up perhaps the most incredible sunset I've experienced at Walt Disney World in recent years.

This particular Disney trip was one in which we planned to take the time to enjoy the resort and a little time away from the parks for a few days out of the week. Just by chance, this particularly stormy day coincided with a really relaxing day out by the pool in the morning followed by resort hopping in the rain that afternoon. The afternoon led to a quick return to the resort to dry off and grab a quick meal before heading to the Contemporary to view the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Almost by pure luck (or as I'd like to claim... pure ingenious planning lol), the storms passed as we returned to the resort. Just as we boarded a boat from Wilderness Lodge to make the loop over to the Contemporary to catch the fireworks from a distance, the following scene exploded in the sky. 

At first, as we stood waiting for the boat, a relatively normal Florida sunset started to develop with a pretty standard yellow "glow" (well at least as "normal" as sunsets can possibly be in the beautiful sunshine state). As we boarded the boat, the sky exploded with orange, blue, and purple creating spectacular reflections off of Bay Lake.                     




The closer we got to Fort Wilderness (in route to the Contemporary), the greater the sunset grew in depth of color. As we passed the former Discovery Island, one particular boat happened to cross paths with the sunset. It was one of those moments where I couldn't have asked for a better composition. Thankfully, I was in the right place at the right time and on the right side of the boat to catch this shot. I leaned back, my sister leaned forward (since she was sitting against the external railing of the boat), and I braced the camera on the railing. I honestly thought I had missed almost every one of the photos found in this article due to the motion of the boat and the awkward angles required to give myself a shot at it... no pun intended lol. When I got back to the room that night, uploaded the photos to my computer, and pull them up in Lightroom, they exceeded my wildest expectations.   



For the photographers of the group, the shots seen here were taken with the Tokina 11-16 dx II lens at 16mm and f/11 at 1/125 second on the shutter. Chances are I should have set the shutter speed slightly higher, but in the moment I was just firing shots to catch as much of it as I possibly could.

Upon arriving at the Contemporary, this was about all that was left of the 20 minute array of colors in the sky. It was a near perfect conclusion to one of those moments you never quite expect to unfold before you. I've said it time and time again, but those moments you expect the least while on a Disney vacation are typically the ones that stick with you for years on end. It's not about the parks, and it's not necessarily about the resorts, but rather those moments with friends and family that you never could have expected.                


As the day rather quickly turned to night, we made our way up to our original destination high above the fireworks viewing balcony in the external staircase. To my surprise, the sunset had one more picturesque view to share and the following bluish purple sky slowly lead to darkness right as Happily Ever After began for the night. It was a night to remember!       


Your Thoughts

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

Need My Help?

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or free-lance work at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. If you need a landscape or theme park photographer, feel free contact me with photo requests or contracts. All theme park writing and photos will be assessed on a case by case basis. 

For anyone else looking to give me a shout or to have their questions answered by me, feel free to contact me anytime via that same email address! I never charge anyone to answer a question and I do answer all of my emails personally.      


Need a Travel Planner?

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

Ready to Plan?

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



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Our Ideal 1-Day Itinerary for Disney's Hollywood Studios

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin


Our Ideal 1-Day Itinerary for Disney's Hollywood Studios 

If you're looking to visit Hollywood Studios, our 1-Day itinerary provides a guide to the park after one of it's largest expansions in the history of the park, Toy Stay Land. It's not a huge surprise that I'm not the biggest proponent of spending a massive amount of time in Hollywood Studios. The Toy Story Land expansion has made things vastly better, but I still can't recommend devoting more than one day to this park during more lengthy vacations. With that being said, there still is a vast amount of quality entertainment and things we recommend you try in the park at least once. Inevitably, this is going to be a place where we share thoughts and opinions of what we do and what we recommend you do regarding top attractions, dining choices, and even shows that should be a part of your day in the park. 



As many of you know, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (better known as "Star Wars Land") is set 
to debut in this park in Summer of 2019. The expansion is what will set this park over the edge. Hollywood Studios has needed something big for many years and while Toy Story Land was an amazing step in the right direction, this 14 acre expansion is going to drastically alter the park. For reference, when Pandora debuted at Animal Kingdom it was a 12 acre expansion. Combine the sheer size of the expansion with the cult-like following Star Wars has grown to encompass and you have the recipe for incredible and unparalleled levels of success.

With all of that being said, the problem still remains of what exists in the park today. Don't get the wrong, Hollywood Studios is a park that is far superior to nearly any average theme park destination, but it's also a park that has struggled with a definitive identity. In the early days, it was an active studio, but as the years continued on that concept was left behind and another theming concept never fully took hold. The end result is what we have to day, and the sole reason we highly anticipate the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. I believe it will give this park the needed push and needed character it deserves while remaining true to the classic nature of the park. Setting all of that aside, here's how we recommend planning your Hollywood Studios day! 

Toy Story Land Strategy  

First and foremost, plan your park day (if possible) on the same day as an early entry extra magic hour day. Second, get to the park before it opens and head straight to Toy Story Land when it opens. The shortest wait times you'll find for the attractions of the land will be right when the park opens. On an average day for crowds, all of Toy Story Land can be ridden in under 45 minutes, even if you include Toy Story Mania. We've done it and tried this strategy first hand. If you follow our plan (How We Rode All 3 Toy Story Land Attractions in Under 45 Minutes!) it can save you hours of time waiting in line. If you move quickly from attraction to attraction it can be surprising how much you can accomplish quickly due to the proximity of the attractions to each other. When you get done with the attractions of the land, move on to other top tier attractions you may or may not have a fastpass for or take a few minutes to explore the land, grab a snack, and take in a few details if you're not overly worried about riding the other two main attractions of the park. 


Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror 

If these attractions are "must-do's" for you, typically you can still get to these attractions before the lines start to build heavily as the day progresses. On early entry days, fastpasses don't start slowing the lines until the park officially opens to non-resort guests. If these two are on your list of attractions, I highly recommend booking a fastpass for one of the two and then holding your other two fastpasses for whatever shows you decide are must-do's for you and your friends or family. If for some reason you can't secure a fastpass for Rock 'n' Rollercoaster or Tower of Terror, don't worry too much because nighttime at Hollywood Studios is a great time to experience attractions because most of the shows end their performances fairly early in the day.    

In my opinion, these are the must-do shows.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid

This show has remained largely unchanged for years on end and it is a staple of our Disney trips year after year. The Voyage of the Little Mermaid has a certain level of depth that has stood the test of time with rain and laser effects coupled with the on stage performance. It's unique and creative and an honest must-do for most guests touring the park. As a result, the wait times can get rather lengthy, and shows are somewhat sporadic but also quite plentiful throughout the day. The experience only lasts 14 minutes, but depending on wait times it may be something you want to reserve up to an hour of time during your day to see and do. If anyone in your party does not particularly care for the show or is uninterested, the Star Wars Launch Bay is only steps away and provides entertainment of an entirely different variety.   

Beauty and the Beast - Live On Stage

While this show isn't necessarily my personal favorite, it is one that guests sincerely love. In my opinion it is better than the feature length Broadway play, due in part to it's more concise representation of the story, but your opinion may vary. Either way, I've seen the Broadway iteration and this theme park iteration of a similar concept is far more impressive than I tend to give it credit for. If you enjoy the movie, you'll love the show! If this one is on your list, as it likely should be, I recommend the afternoon showings. Arrive early for the performance to avoid sitting in the bleachers in the very back of the theater. If you're late or arrive at the last minute, overflow seating is incredibly hot in the afternoon sun and is not covered as well as the rest of the theater.

Years ago, my next must-do pick would have been a stop by the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. At one point, this was one of my favorite shows in all of the Disney parks. Today, it has remained so unchanged for so incredibly long that I can't say it holds quite the spot it once did for me in this park. At the same time, it is a really neat experience for first time guests that can't necessarily quote the entire scripted performance. It's a great look at what it takes to film a scene in a movie while taking a few creative liberties along the way to make it comical and entertaining. If you choose to view this show, I recommend doing so in the afternoon before or after Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. Check the time guide for that particular day in the parks to choose which showing works best for your day.

Truthfully, these are the main things I would put on an itinerary for the park as it sits right now. Dining is a whole different topic so we'll dive right into that. Dining at Hollywood Studios isn't quite as expansive as many guests anticipate it to be. Personally, I see it as a good place to catch a counter service meal but the options are pretty limited when you get away from burgers and fries. One option is PizzeRizzo, and others are the array of different stands in the "marketplace" area of sunset boulevard. The food offerings vary but if I had to pick one dining experience to add to a day in this park, it would be a table service offering outside of the park (only a short distance away) over at the Beach Club. The ride to the Beach Club via boat takes around 15 minutes and the views are spectacular. You can also walk over but transpiration is provided if you choose to use it.

If you're looking for table service, the Beach Club's Cape May Cafe is our top pick. The seafood is unlimited, the macaroni and cheese is incredible, and the atmosphere is far better than nearly anything you'll find in Hollywood Studios. Skip Hollywood and Vine and head here instead if you are looking for a quality buffet!

Nighttime Entertainment

Nighttime at Hollywood Studios has become the highlight of the park in my opinion. The shows will have wrapped up for the night, but the attractions continue to run until the park closes for the day. However, this is the ideal park to take some time to simply enjoy being there and to explore without having to deal with lines or overly heavy crowds. It's a pleasant place to hang out for the night and the atmosphere, complete with the neon glow of Sunset Boulevard, will exceed your expectations.


As far as nighttime fireworks shows are concerned, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a great show. It is rather lacking in the department of large fireworks bursts but the scenes it helps portray from the film, not only through the projections but also in the 4 dimensional space around you, is pretty great to experience in person. Don't expect a Happily Ever After-esque performance but it is an interesting show nonetheless. If this is one day of a short trip, I would likely recommend park-hopping over to Magic Kingdom to see Happily Ever After a second time, but it's going to depend largely on your affinity for the Star Wars franchise.

The other main nighttime show is Fantasmic. Fantasmic is unique in that it often fills to capacity. The show is different and largely a performance rather than a strict fireworks show and it has become a guest favorite. Go early (up to an hour early) to grab a seat or risk missing it entirely once the theater fills.

In my opinion nighttime entertainment could be better in this park and if your time is limited you may be better off spending the night at Epcot or Magic Kingdom. Toy Story Land is show stopping at night and could sway a necessary visit to this park at night, but it will largely depend on your length of stay and desired outcomes of your trip.


Wrapping Up

As always, use our itineraries as a guide but don't follow them to a science. Alter the plan to make it work for you. Don't over-plan your day and be sure to stop and smell the roses along the way. Sometimes the simplest of moments and the simplest of experiences can make all the difference when you least expect them to occur. As a final parting note for today, if you've yet to take the time to enjoy the random performances of the Citizens of Hollywood, add that to your afternoon and you wont regret it! Enjoy the parks, and we'll talk with you again soon!

Thanks for reading! We truly appreciate you following along with us and taking a few minutes out of your day to read a quick article here on the site with us. Our lives are incredibly busy each and every day and the fact that you take a portion of your time to stop by and read a few of my ramblings means more than you may ever fully understand! If you enjoy these posts, please SHARE them out to friends. We appreciate all you all do to help build this community.            
                       

Your Thoughts


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


Need a Travel Planner?


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




Ready to Plan?


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





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