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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DW Dads Best of 2013: The Importance of Rope Drop

Happy Holidays!

As we wind down 2013, we are taking a look back at some of our most popular articles from the past several months. Over the next couple of weeks, we will re-share these tips and tricks, so our newest fans can check them out, or so those of you who have been with us from the beginning can check them out again!

Today’s article is from September 10, 2013 and it discusses the value of getting to the parks at opening time.  Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, I claimed to offer you the most important packing tip you’ll ever hear.  While that may be true, that tip will probably not have the kind of overall effect on your vacation like today’s tip will.  Today’s tip, though, is not without its detractors.

Rope Drop is Disney-speak for the opening of a park (for most parks, that is 9:00 AM, but it may vary by day and park).  It refers to the act of “dropping the rope” that holds back the morning crowd, something that only sort of happens anymore.

Getting to a Disney Park in time for Rope Drop can seriously increase the amount of time you spend riding and can eliminate some major standing-in-line time. The problem may be that you need to be willing to do something many people just refuse to do when they are on vacation: set your alarm.

First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!
First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!

Here is one example of what you would need to do to get to the park in time for Rope Drop. Of course, depending on where you are staying and how you are getting to the park, your experience may differ slightly.

1. Set your alarm for 6:30.
2. Shower and dress and be out of your room by 7:00.
3. Breakfast at the resort and out to the bus (or other mode of transportation) by 7:30.
4. Arrive to the park entrance by about 8:15.

This can be, admittedly, a lot of work. It can be particularly hard to pull off if you stayed out late the night before or if you have a big family all trying to get out the door by 7ish. If you can do it, however, you will be rewarded. Here are some of the advantages of Rope Drop:

1. Various Opening Shows

The Magic Kingdom has a Welcome Show that everyone should make an effort to see at least once. It takes place on top of the train station and starts about 15 minutes before park opening.  I don’t want to spoil the details, but I will say it is a perfect way to start a Disney day.  Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom also have small opening ceremonies, but none are worth getting out of bed for.  They are not, however, the most important reason to make it to Rope Drop. That would be…

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show
Magic Kingdom Welcome Show

2. Low Crowds

You know how you are sitting there thinking, “OK, but I don’t want to wake up early on vacation.” Well, most people actually on vacation think that too.  So, while they’re sleeping in, those of us who got up early are riding the most popular rides with a fraction of the crowd that will show up by lunchtime.  Don’t get me wrong, the crowd isn’t non-existent, but it really is nothing compared to how crowded it may get later in the day.  Our family has had no problem knocking out every ride in Fantasyland within the first hour in July. To put that into perspective: There is a high likelihood that later in the day, one of those rides (Peter Pan’s Flight) will have a wait of almost an hour by itself.  This same thing can be said for all of the parks.

3. Get the FastPasses you want…for now

While the current FastPass system is still in place, Rope Drop is the only time to get some of the most popular passes.  Toy Story Mania, in Hollywood Studios, can run out of FastPasses by late morning. Get there at Rope Drop, and you’ll be riding with Buzz and Woody by the time the sleepyheads are pulling into the parking lot. The same thing can be said for Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure.

My suggestion is to try it once and see if it is worth it for your family.  Don’t try to get to the park for Rope Drop everyday; there is a good chance you’ll be miserable after a few days of answering the alarm during your vacation.  Then again, it may be a small price to pay to avoid the lines that’ll appear later in the day.

12 Months of Christmas in Disney World

So, your friend just came back from Disney World and told you how it was the most magical place to be in the whole world for Christmas.  You’d like to jump on a plane and be there right now to bask in the balmy holiday season of sunny Florida, but you just can’t make vacation plans in the fall and winter.  Is there any way to visit Disney when it’s convenient for you, but still enjoy Christmas while you are there? You bet!

Most Disney fans know that visiting the parks at Christmastime can be one of the most festive and enjoyable vacations that your family can take.  What happens if you can’t visit during the holidays, but you still want to feel some holiday cheer while you are in the World?  Well, as usual, Disney has you covered, with Christmas-themed experiences that span three of the four parks and a few spots outside of the parks.

The most obvious place to go to feel the Christmas Spirit all year round is one of the four Christmas shops that populate Disney World.  Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe is located in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, and while it isn’t the biggest Christmas shop on property, it does weave itself into the story of its host land better than any of the others.  The Shoppe is actually three separate late 18th century locations that have been combined; they are the home of a music instructor (Ichabod Crane), a woodcarver’s shop (the Woodwrights) and the home of German folk artists (the Kepples – a nod to Walt Disney, whose grandfather’s first name was Kepple).  The exterior still maintains the appearance of three separate facades; the stores are connected inside, but have each maintained their respective personalities.  This is not only a great place to shop for Christmas souvenirs, but Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe also really helps to tell the story of Liberty Square.

There are two other Christmas shops within the parks that help to tell the stories of their locations.  The first is housed in the Germany Pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase: die Weihnachtsecke. This shop offers many Christmas items, specializing in those that exhibit German craftsmanship.  This is also a perfect place to get a pickle ornament, a German Christmas tradition.  The other in-park shop is It’s a Wonderful Shop, located in the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios.  Like many spots in this section of the park, it is dressed to appear as though it is being used to film a Christmas movie: decorations are visible, but props and “off-camera” areas are left untouched.  These two are small shops, but offer nice, quick doses of holiday cheer.

They’re sweating from making snow angels. In Florida. In July.

The biggest Christmas Shop on property is located in Downtown Disney and anchors the Marketplace: Disney’s Days of Christmas.  This massive shop houses everything you can think of to hang on a tree, place on a mantle or top an antennae. While the other shops offer better theming, this is definitely the place to go if you are looking for the widest selection. There is also personalization offered on most items. (Tip: Get off the bus at the Marketplace end of Downtown Disney and make this one of your first stops.  By the time you are done walking the other shops and are returning to your bus, your personalized items will be ready!)

There are a few other locations to get your year-round Christmas fix during your Disney World vacation.  The first is Winter Summerland Miniature Golf, which tells the story of a holiday-themed vacation spot for Santa’s off-duty elves.  It’s a little off the beaten path, but Christmas fanatics won’t want to miss it.  Two attractions also offer some allusions to Christmas.  Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress features four scenes, each set in a different time of year.  The final scene, which reeks of the ‘80s, is set during Christmas in the home of the story’s family.  A much more subtle reference is made in the final scene of Soarin’, which features a flyover of Anaheim’s Disneyland during Christmastime, made most clear by the Clark Griswold-inspired lighting of it’s a small world in the upper right-corner of the park.

So, don’t be a Grinch if you can’t make it to Florida during the actual Christmas season.  Take advantage of these experiences to keep a Disney-themed Christmas with you all through the year!

Planning Tip: Adding the Park Hopper Option

When Disney switched to the Magic Your Way ticket system in 2005, the ability to Park Hop became a much more conscious decision on the part of the visitor.  Prior to 2005, the Park Hopper and Park Hopper Plus were the standard choice of most guests.  Today, you have the option of adding Park Hopping to your ticket. But is it the right choice for you?

Park Hopper Basics

Disney’s Magic Your Way tickets are priced so that the first few days of your trip are more expensive than the last several days. For example: a 1-day ticket is approximately $100 and a 4-day ticket is approximately $300.  After 4 days, it is only $10 for each additional day; so a 10-day pass is approximately $360. These prices DO NOT include park hopping.

Adding the ability to Park Hop – that is, visit multiple parks on a single day – costs $59 per ticket.  It is a flat fee, so it is the same $59 whether you are there 2 days or 10 days. (The only exception is a 1-day park hopper, which costs slightly less as an add-on option.)

This means the park hopper option is costing you $30 per day if you are there for a weekend, but only $6 per day if you are there for a 10-day trip.

Is it worth it?

This is a topic of some debate.  For longer trips, it’s hard to argue against $6 per day; that’s a drop in the bucket when compared to other vacation costs.

Many feel, however, that park hoppers are much more valuable for shorter trips; this makes sense.  If you are only there for 3-4 days, you may need the park hopper to try to see as many of your must-do’s as possible.  For longer trips, you have the luxury of time in each park.  Park hopping is a nice option to have, but it takes time to do it and by the time you get to your second park, the crowds (and lines) may already be building up.  With a week-long vacation, it may be better for your itinerary to simply include one park per day.  But, again, it’s hard to argue against $6 per day.

tusker

“We’re only here for breakfast. We’re heading to Magic Kingdom after this!”

Here’s some fine print

You can not use more than 1 “day” on your ticket on a single day.  So, if you bought a 5 day ticket because it only costs $10 more than a 4-day ticket, but you are only going to be on vacation for 4 days, you can’t use your 5th “day” ticket on your 4th day to enter a second park. Thought you were slick, didn’t you?

Most people have a pretty clear itinerary before they go on vacation.  They know what park they will visit each day and when and where they are eating.  You should be able to make a pretty informed decision before you leave about whether or not you’ll need to hop.  But NEEDING to hop is different than WANTING to hop.  There are a lot of fun scenarios that are only available to those who hop. Here are a few:

  • Watching IllumiNations at 9:00 in Epcot, running to the monorail afterwards and making it to the Magic Kingdom in time for the 10:00 Wishes!
  • Participating in an unofficial Disney fan challenge: 4 parks in one day.
  • Broadening your dining options: Don’t like what Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios is offering at dinner, but there are more Epcot restaurants you want to try? Hop over to Epcot for dinner, then hop back to your original park for some nighttime entertainment.

Here is some advice that we offer to clients who aren’t sure whether the park hopper is right for them: Don’t buy it as part of your package.  You can add it to your tickets when you are in Disney World, so if you decide to hop while you are on vacation, simply go to a guest relations office and have them add it.  It will cost you the same $59, so why not wait?

Happy Hopping!

Top 5 Disney Dining Snack Credit Values at the Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival

One of the great touring tricks to Disney’s annual Food & Wine Festival in Epcot Center is to get the most value out of your Disney Dining Plan (“DDP”) snack credits.  Since DDP snack credits are accepted for many items at prices varying from $2-$9, DWDads is listing the top 5 stands to visit in 2013 in order to get the most value out of your DDP snack credits. All of these items can either be purchased at the prices listed below or 1 DDP snack credit, so make sure to save up your snack credits for the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot Center.

5 – Australia

Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies – $6.00

2012-fw-australia-grilled-lamb-chop-with-mint-pesto-and-potato-crunchies1

4 – Ireland

Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie – $6.25

LOBSTE~2

3 – Canada

“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce – $7.00

Canada-Filet-with-Truffle-Butter-Sauce

2 – Hops ‘n Barley (near America)

Griddled Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter – $7.50

Lobster Roll with Lemon Herb Mayonnaise – $7.50

Lobster-Tail-600x400IMG_1918

1 – Refreshment Port (near Canada)

Fried Shrimp with Dole® Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce – $7.19

Fried Chicken Chunks with Dole® Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce – $8.69

2013-food-wine-refreshment-port-fried-shrimp-fried-chicken-chunks

House Meets the Mouse

May 1993.  Your family is gathered around the television in the living room. You are watching what may go on to become one of the greatest hours of TV ever broadcast.

The series finale of Cheers? No. The episode about George and Jerry’s pilot on Seinfeld? Nope. Letterman’s last Late Night or the series finale of Saved by the Bell? No and no.

Over the course of two nights – May 11th and May 18th, 1993 – ABC’s Full House presented its two-part sixth season finale. The episodes’ titles are House Meets the Mouse Parts 1 and 2, and they are pure TGIF perfection.

In the episodes, the members of the Tanner family, for various reasons, decide to visit Walt Disney World.  There are mishaps, stumbles and lessons to be learned by all.  It’s everything you remember about Full House, wrapped in a warm, delicious Disney World crust.

There are three main storylines. First, Jesse and the Rippers are going to play a concert in the Magic Kingdom, so Joey invites himself so he and Jesse can broadcast their radio show live from the parks.  Soon, the rest of the family decide to join in the fun. While there, Danny plans on popping the question to his girlfriend, but it doesn’t go too smoothly for him. The final storyline involves Michele becoming a little full of herself when she wins an Aladdin-themed contest to become a princess for the day.

Screen-shot-2013-01-29-at-1.24.06-AM

The episodes take place all over property, but the emphasis is on Magic Kingdom and Epcot. There are also a couple of memorable scenes that take place at the Grand Floridian. Aladdin – that year’s big theatrical release – is featured prominently in an early scene.

The episode is fun because the scenes don’t just take place in the most obvious locations. Sure, there is a big scene on Main Street and Town Square, but there are also scenes in the Living Seas, the Germany pavilion and the lobby of the Grand Floridian.

We recorded this on our DVR about a year ago, and the episodes haven’t been deleted; I’m not sure they ever will be. The kids watch them about once a week.

Here is the great news: The House Meets the Mouse Parts 1 and 2 are scheduled for tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 25. Part One is scheduled for 10:00 PM and Part Two is scheduled for 10:30 PM.

Disney Touring Tip: The Importance of Rope Drop

A few weeks ago, I claimed to offer you the most important packing tip you’ll ever hear.  While that may be true, that tip will probably not have the kind of overall effect on your vacation like today’s tip will.  Today’s tip, though, is not without its detractors.

Rope Drop is Disney-speak for the opening of a park (for most parks, that is 9:00 AM, but it may vary by day and park).  It refers to the act of “dropping the rope” that holds back the morning crowd, something that only sort of happens anymore.

Getting to a Disney Park in time for Rope Drop can seriously increase the amount of time you spend riding and can eliminate some major standing-in-line time. The problem may be that you need to be willing to do something many people just refuse to do when they are on vacation: set your alarm.

First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!

First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!

Here is one example of what you would need to do to get to the park in time for Rope Drop. Of course, depending on where you are staying and how you are getting to the park, your experience may differ slightly.

1. Set your alarm for 6:30.
2. Shower and dress and be out of your room by 7:00.
3. Breakfast at the resort and out to the bus (or other mode of transportation) by 7:30.
4. Arrive to the park entrance by about 8:15.

This can be, admittedly, a lot of work. It can be particularly hard to pull off if you stayed out late the night before or if you have a big family all trying to get out the door by 7ish. If you can do it, however, you will be rewarded. Here are some of the advantages of Rope Drop:

1. Various Opening Shows

The Magic Kingdom has a Welcome Show that everyone should make an effort to see at least once. It takes place on top of the train station and starts about 15 minutes before park opening.  I don’t want to spoil the details, but I will say it is a perfect way to start a Disney day.  Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom also have small opening ceremonies, but none are worth getting out of bed for.  They are not, however, the most important reason to make it to Rope Drop. That would be…

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show

2. Low Crowds

You know how you are sitting there thinking, “OK, but I don’t want to wake up early on vacation.” Well, most people actually on vacation think that too.  So, while they’re sleeping in, those of us who got up early are riding the most popular rides with a fraction of the crowd that will show up by lunchtime.  Don’t get me wrong, the crowd isn’t non-existent, but it really is nothing compared to how crowded it may get later in the day.  Our family has had no problem knocking out every ride in Fantasyland within the first hour in July. To put that into perspective: There is a high likelihood that later in the day, one of those rides (Peter Pan’s Flight) will have a wait of almost an hour by itself.  This same thing can be said for all of the parks.

3. Get the FastPasses you want…for now

While the current FastPass system is still in place, Rope Drop is the only time to get some of the most popular passes.  Toy Story Mania, in Hollywood Studios, can run out of FastPasses by late morning. Get there at Rope Drop, and you’ll be riding with Buzz and Woody by the time the sleepyheads are pulling into the parking lot. The same thing can be said for Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure.

My suggestion is to try it once and see if it is worth it for your family.  Don’t try to get to the park for Rope Drop everyday; there is a good chance you’ll be miserable after a few days of answering the alarm during your vacation.  Then again, it may be a small price to pay to avoid the lines that’ll appear later in the day.