The Coldest Places in Walt Disney World

It’s 7 outside right now.  Not 7:00 AM, not 70. 7 degrees. And on the ground, there is a foot of snow, which refuses to leave. This may be Disney’s most intricate marketing plan ever: somehow they’ve learned to control the weather in order to keep their main Oscar contender, Frozen, in the forefront of everyone’s minds.  I have no problem believing that snow and ice will be on the ground straight through the movie’s Blu-ray release at the end of February.

There was one thing that happened this week that warmed me up, though. We booked our summer visit to Disney World.  Disney World in the summer; it’s a bittersweet experience. On one hand, as teachers, my wife and I don’t have to deal with the angst of requesting vacation or personal time, taking the kids out of school, or fitting the trip into a specified week. On the other hand, it’s crowded and hot. Really, really hot. Eating-a-Dole-Whip-in-the-fiery-halls-of-Hades hot. Luckily, we’ve been to Disney enough to know where the best places in each park are to avoid being oven-roasted.

Magic Kingdom
As great as the attraction is, has there ever been a person who has visited The Hall of Presidents in the summer and not fallen asleep? It’s dark, the audio and visuals are relatively soothing and, most importantly, it’s cold. Not cool, not refreshing. Cold. I’m pretty sure they store the Mickey Bars in the back in the auditorium. Don’t get me wrong, Carousel of Progress is pretty cold, too.  So is Mickey’s Philharmagic. But The Hall of Presidents is cold enough to be considered a suitable candidate for an overlay featuring Anna and Elsa.

Epcot
Well, the first place that came to mind was the cold weather testing room at Test Track. While it is cold in there, you’re not really in there long enough to enjoy it.  Sometimes, it almost makes me angry. The good news is, as soon as I get off Test Track, I can head right to Epcot’s true cold-weather utopia: Club Cool.  Let’s see what Club Cool, Coke’s sampling station and company store, has going for it: it’s freezing, there is never a line, and you get free samples of soda, some of which have cult-like followings. Would anyone like a Beverly?

Animal Kingdom
(Author’s note: I usually list the theme parks, like most do,  in order based on the year they opened, meaning Animal Kingdom would be last; however, last year Animal Kingdom’s attendance finally surpassed Hollywood Studio’s. So, consider this change-in-order my version of a protest: Disney, fix Hollywood Studios! OK, who needs the soapbox next?…)
This one is tough. Animal Kingdom holds onto heat so much, you could be working in the kitchen of the Yak and Yeti and it would be more refreshing than standing in Harambe watching the afternoon parade.  Then it dawned on me: Finding Nemo – The Musical.  Maybe it’s the fact that you are sitting for 45 minutes (a la Hall of Presidents), maybe it’s the time of day I usually attend the show (late afternoon, after a full day of being barbecued). Whatever the reason, the Theater in the Wild (Nemo’s home) takes its place as the coddest, er-coldest, spot in the Animal Kingdom (#dadjoke).

Hollywood Studios
My first instinct was The American Idol Experience, but I’m not even sure if that will still exist by the time you read this.  Honestly, the coldest spot for me always seems to bee the Sci-fi Dine-in Theater.  It’s dark, it’s cold, there’s a video playing.  I’m sort of surprised more people don’t curl up on one of the car seats and take an afternoon nap. The food may not be the best in the World, but the experience is fun and the temperature can’t be beat.

This list is, of course, subjective.  A lot of these places may only seem like the coldest on property because of my own circumstances at the time of me visiting.  If you’re looking for a place to cool off, though, you won’t go wrong stopping in any of these attractions or restaurants.  Oh, and please try to forget you read this article when I re-run it a couple of weeks from now under the title “The Best Places to Nap in Disney World.”  Thanks!

One last author’s note: All kidding aside, staying cool in the parks is a legitimate concern when you are visiting during the year’s hottest months. Click here to check out our article on ways to stay cool and safe when you visit.  Thanks for reading, and contact us if you’d like some FREE help in planning your 2014 Disney vacation.

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Disney PhotoPass 101

I was looking through pictures from our family Disney trip in 1992 recently and I noticed something very interesting.  My mother isn’t in many of the pictures from our trip, and there are not many pictures of the whole group of us.  Disney has tried to solve this issue by offering the Photopass program.   Throughout the Disney parks, there are dozens of professional photographers at the best locations who are waiting to capture your family photo.  These locations are usually character spots or great photo opportunities near the most iconic Disney Parks symbols.  The process is simple: the photographer takes your picture and then scans a Photopass card.  This card can be reused throughout your vacation by giving it to each Photopass photographer you come in contact with, but if you don’t have one on you, just ask for another one, as multiple cards can be added to your account.  On our last 5 day trip as a family of 4 we had over 500 pictures after adding various borders and Disney logos.

Photopass card

[HINT – When you receive your card, make sure to take a photo with your camera/phone of the back of the card as a backup in case you lose it. The numbers on the back are what you need to be enter into the site to load your pictures.]

Magic Shots

Some of you might be saying, “Couldn’t I just hand my own camera to the photographer to take our picture?” and the answer is “Yes, of course!”.  In fact, we have done this often, mainly due to the fact that the PhotoCD isn’t immediately available, and we like to share our photos with friends/family through social media and Photopass photographers are happy to oblige.  One of the main differences between your camera and the Photopass cameras are “Magic Shots”.   These photos are taken in specific poses and later a surprise (usually a character) is added directly to the photo.  It is a very cool feature that adds to your experience,

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Three examples of magic shots Chip, Stitch and Tinkerbell 
(Borders can be added to any picture online before ordering as well)

We have taken advantage of the PhotoCD through Disney in every one of our trips since it was offered.  Although it is an added expense, it takes the pressure off of taking out your camera and asking someone to take a photo of the whole family.   We still used our DSLR camera and iPhones for candids in places that there were not photographers, but some of our best shots were done by the professionals.

Pricing

PhotoCD 

Regularly $169 – Special offer – $119 (SAVE $50) http://www.disneyphotopass.com/specialoffers/wdwphotocdlearnmore.htm

The PhotoCD only includes the pictures taken after you have signed up for the offer.  So if you pre-order the CD it will create a credit for the CD in your Photopass account.  Once you have added all of your photos and editied them  with borders and other character enhancements, you will be able to download the pictures immediately using this credit for free, or ask for CDs to be mailed to you standard shipping for $4.95 extra.  If for some reason you change your mind for any reason at all, you can get a full refund within 90 days of your pre-order.  So this package is worth pre-ordering and you can decide later.

NOTE : You must register the serial number(s) of your PhotoPass(es) online within 30 days or they expire. Your photos are taken off the website exactly 30 days after you register.

PhotoPass+

Regularly $199 – Special offer – $149 (SAVE $50) http://www.disneyphotopass.com/specialoffers/wdwppp.htm

PhotoPass+ has all of the benefits of PhotoCD, with the added benefit of all of the pictures from attractions: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Test Track (w/o PP+), Expedition Everest and Dinosaur.  The other benefit are the photos from select dining locations: 1900 Park Fare, Chef Mickey’s, ‘Ohana (breakfast), Tusker House (breakfast), Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue.   Cinderella’s Royal Table and Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall are also included although hard copy are already included in your meal cost, you can  add the photos to your PhotoCD.

Note: You must pre-order this at LEAST 14 days prior to your vaction as you will be getting a package in the mail with a voucher that you will need to use on your trip.

Meet & Eat: A Guide to Character Meals in Disney World

Most of us who visit the Disney Parks have some desire to meet the Disney characters we fell in love with on the screen. We all have our favorite characters and some of us would be willing to wait for hours in line just for the chance to snap a picture and grab an autograph. Waiting in line in Disney to meet a character gives you less time to enjoy the rides and shows, so since everybody needs to eat, why not try to accomplish two things at once? Instead of a Meet & Greet, try a Meet & Eat with a Character Meal. Disney offers a variety of character meals at all times of the day, both in park and at resorts, and they include some of the most popular characters. The following chart summarizes the character meals offered at Disney World (click on it to enlarge it):

Character Chart

Tips for making the most of your character meals:

1. Make a Reservation for a Breakfast inside the park BEFORE it opens:

All of the character breakfasts offered inside the park (see chart above) have reservation times available BEFORE the park opens. For example, on a morning that Magic Kingdom opens at 9am, Crystal Palace begins taking reservations starting at 8am. If you are lucky enough to get a reservation at this time, you will be let into the park through the Reservation turnstile on the far right of the entrance about 15 minutes before your reservation time. This gives you the ability to walk down an empty Main Street and take in its glory with no crowds. Photopass photographers are often available to take photographs of your party in front of the castle and an empty Main Street. The other advantage this gives you is that you are eating your breakfast as the crowd builds at the entrance of the park. All of these meals are very good (I have eaten at all of them) and the character interaction varies, but I find it is as good as you want to make it. Once your meal is complete, you are ready to go and, since you are already inside the park, you will be one of the first people in line at your favorite attraction.

IMG_0572

Bonus Tip: You don’t want to have to wait at your table for your check when the park is open, so be sure to ask for the check as soon as you sit down.

2. Late Morning Brunch

For those of you who are late risers or for those that wish to take advantage of the lighter morning crowds by touring when the park opens, I suggest a late morning brunch or lunch where available. Since the best touring hours are usually the first couple hours after park opening, why not hit your favorite attractions early and then head to a character meal for a brunch? This also gives your party a break when the Florida sun starts to take its toll.

tusker

Bonus Tip: At Tusker House, if you book the last breakfast reservation of the morning (10:55am), you will pay the breakfast price but be able to enjoy all of the breakfast items as well as the lunch items that are being served.

3. Autograph Books & Cameras Ready

Although you are there to eat a good meal, try to make the most of your time with the characters. The characters rotate around the restaurant in a predictable pattern, so at buffets try to get your food before the first character arrives or when there is a noticeable break between them. Make sure you have your camera out on the table, and items such as autograph books out and ready for when the characters arrive. During most of the meals the characters will dance and interact with their guests, so be ready with your camera for some great photo opportunities.

 Pillowcase2

Bonus tip: Instead of an autograph book bring a new solid pillowcase and some permanent fabric markers with you. It makes a nice inexpensive souvenir for your child and they will use it daily.