Monday, April 29, 2013

New Technology, New Tickets

I am always amazed at the technology Disney introduces.  The latest and greatest are the RFID scanners, which are now present at all of the Walt Disney World parks, including the water parks.  I  recently renewed my Premium Annual Pass (gotta have love for the water parks) and was given a hard plastic credit card type pass.  Previously, the passes were flimsy paper-like cards.  Having the new card allowed me access to use the RFID scanner entries, which my son demonstrates below.
My son tapping his pass on the Mickey head until it lights up green
The process of entering the ticket gates was seamless and took half the time than it use to.  I must say, my son and I were really impressed!
Finger scanner to the right
The new cards are really generic, so much so that I had to write my own name on the back of it and the information I am not happy about the card not stating is my pass expiration date.  Overall, I am very pleased with the simplicity and timeliness of shuffling through the gates.
Old passes on top, new passes on bottom
What will they come up with next?  (Oh, Magic Bands!)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Phillips' 20 Days at Walt Disney World!!!

Soooo, a couple of months ago I wrote about all the planning I was doing for our first family vacation to Walt Disney World.  Just to catch everyone up, we are a military family who was PCS'ing from Hawaii to Kansas and decided to use my husband's leave in WDW.  We were there for 20 days and stayed at the Shades of Green hotel, which is only for military, and bought annual passes. 

So we landed in Kansas and picked up our rental car and started to drive! We stopped off in Oklahoma to visit some amazing friends for a couple of days and then started our drive to Florida.  We were thinking of stopping half way somewhere to rest but were all so excited we decided to drive straight through!  We left Oklahoma at 10:30 a.m. and arrived at the Walt Disney World sign around 11 a.m. the next day.  We were all so tired but seeing that sign was the wake up call we all needed!!

We had never thought about finding our hotel and the fact that we would have to go through the parking sign for Magic Kingdom so it took us a good extra half hour to find our hotel but we finally did!  Check in time was still a few hours away but they were amazing and let us check in early.  I know not everyone is able to stay at Shades of Green but if you are military this is the only place to stay!  The hotel grounds are gorgeous and very comparable to The Grand Floridian or the Polynesian Resort.  It is home to amazing golf courses that are used for the PGA every year.  They have a different restaurants that range from quick service dining or buffet to fine dining.  With the kiddos, we ate at the buffet five times and our favorite was on Tuesday's and Thursday nights because there were special events going on. You could build your own pizza, make snow cones, caramel apples and a balloon person!  We ordered pizza a couple of times for dinner and it was only $14! 

So after a quick shower and change for all of us, we were off to explore the Magic Kingdom because where else are you going to go on your first day?  We walked over to the Polynesian and got on the monorail and were on our way!  It was so exciting to see the castle from the monorail and see the different hotels and really take in the world that is Walt Disney World!  Now I have to remind you we are a Disneyland family so that's what we are used to.  When we got to the Magic Kingdom, it was beautiful!  Felt like home, we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean first because that is our tradition, we got right on and here is the first comparison, the line is great and you feel like you are really off to the pirate world.  We get on the ride and I once again say, we are DL folks, so while most of the ride was similar, I missed the bayou and  the two drops. I also missed the skeleton head, these are staples of Disneyland but I LOVED the mermaids and the bones of the mermaid, I loved one of the pirates that was getting on a boat and Jack Sparrow's bigger room of treasure at the end!  Next was Jungle Cruise, very similar to DL but really this ride is all about the Cast Member skipper and as long as they are fun the ride can't go wrong.  Our next ride was The Haunted Mansion, other than the mansion itself this ride is great! It has all the staples that make the ride amazing from DL but with some added features that really hit it out of the park, ghosts walking up stairs, a library and of course the line was amazing!  Getting to play with the ghostly bookcase and the grave that shoots out water, or play the magical instruments were a huge hit with all of us! 

 Next was It's A Small World, sorry WDW but DL wins this ride hands down.  It is a landmark at DL while at WDW it is just another ride, I was very sad to see this.  After that we headed to The Little Mermaid, which is the same as DL and actually has another fun ride,It seemed that with the use of fast passes for this ride, it makes the stand-by line much longer especially considering it is a continuous ride.  After that we were done for the night and needed to go and rest!  Now I am not going to to go day by day because that would be a huge blog!  But wanted to talk a bit about each park and our favorites!  
Next was EPCOT!  So awesome, we rode in the "big ball" first and  each of us loved it so much, especially getting to pick our own future world at the end.  Test Track is so much fun and playing with the different fun things they have for you to do after including your car, but this is a fast pass must!!  From that point on we would go to Test Track first, get a fast pass and then ride it and then go back with our fast pass!  Loved being there for the Flower and Garden Festival, the park was beautiful!  I really liked the Nemo ride also which was very similar to the idea in DL but you are not in a submarine and not nearly as long of a line!  I was so happy with the World Showcase!  Very fun for the kiddos with Perry's missions and while we were there we did the Easter Egg hunt.  But it was great to taste the different foods and to see the different cultures!  We ate at San Angel Inn in Mexico and it was very yummy and reminded me of being inside the Blue Bayou at DL, feeling very much in the ride.  EPCOT easily became our second favorite park!  A really fun thing to do was grab a Duffy or Perry that your kiddos can color and then take it to the KidCot station at each world and have it "stamped" by a cast member, for free!  They do have passports that you can purchase for about $10, but we didn't see these till later.  Also a huge plus for EPCOT was Figment, my youngest fell in love with him and had to have a Figment, Figment ears and see Figment every time we were in Epcot!

The next park was Hollywood Studios, now as a Star Wars nerd this park had me from the minute we saw the outside of Star Tours, but also having some of the best shows I have seen in my life. Beauty and the Beast literally brought a tear to my eye.  Tower of Terror and The Rockin Roller Coaster, we enjoyed ourselves so much here!  Two highlights of our trip were eating at The 50's Prime Time Cafe and The Sci-Fi Dine In Theater,  the food was amazing and the atmosphere was unbeatable!  The American Idol Experience was a lot of fun, which I didn't expect but really enjoyed it and the whole family really loved the Great Movie Ride!  It was great to interact with the characters that were there and the feel of old world Hollywood!  Oh and of course Toy Story Mania is here, now this is a favorite ride for us in DL as well but loved that there were fast passes for the ride in WDW, although you must get there early to get them!!  I will say that we had two firsts at Hollywood Studios, my youngest son and my daughter both got chosen as the rebel spy on Star Tours, it is a highlight of my life and I will never forget it!  And yes they got the I am the Rebel Spy shirts from the gift shop!  The Star Tours gift shop also had a build your own droid station which was a hit with my oldest son.  A couple gems not to be overlooked our the MuppetVision 3D show and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids movie play set, while they are both a bit older they are still as magical as they ever where!!

The next park was Animal Kingdom, it was so fun to get a bit of the jungle in the middle of WDW!  Expedition Everest was a lot of fun, we rode that a few times and all of my kids loved it.  Dinosaur was another really fun ride and satisfied our Indiana Jones ride we were missing.  It was fun to see Pocahontas and Baloo, who are characters that none of my kiddos have seen before.  The safari was a great experience to share with my family and to watch my kids see the animals.  A fun hidden experience was DeVine!  Also really loved the Festival of the Lion King show and Finding Nemo: The Musical.
We did end up spending the least amount of time at this park, mostly because we had to take a bus here and we were very spoiled with the monorail!  Another really fun thing for my kids were the animals that cast members had out and about throughout the day.  Oh and the best Kali River Rapids ever, YOU WILL GET WET!!  And not a little wet, think soaked through for the rest of the day wet!!  It's Tough to Be a Bug is at Animal Kingdom as well and a  fun show and should not be missed!!

Now I have to go back to Magic Kingdom, easily our favorite park, while there were differences from DL, I won't lie about how much I missed Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Pinocchio, Storybook Land and a few other DL staples that I just adore.  There were so many things that were extremely magical, the New Fantasyland is beautiful and simply breath taking.  I love how Dumbo was set up there with two rides and the play area while waiting. Story time with Belle was an unexpected delight as was the differences in Splash Mountain.  All the lines that had interactive touches were a huge hit with my kiddos and half they time they wanted to do the stand-by line just to play.  We ate at our Be Our Guest Restaurant one day and that was by far the most magical meal of my life!!  My kids became pirates at Pirate's League and got to be in a pirate parade!  The Electrical Parade instantly reminded me of my childhood and we watched it three times.  It was fun to ride on the Magic Carpets and I actually loved the changes in Peter Pan.  There is an interactive game called Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom which is played at portals throughout the park, it is a huge thing and the park sells special holders and shirts with power boosts.  We actually dedicated a whole night to playing the game and finished it!!  All the extra detail is amazing, the best example is the new Tangled restroom area, the ladies restroom is full of Rapunzel's arts supplies and there are wanted posters all over.  The best and funnest part is looking for the hidden Pascal's, we were there right as this part opened and cast members didn't even know where they were, the pride we felt when we found all of them was like none other!! 

So we end up with the one question that begins debates and wars, which is better, Walt Disney World or Disneyland?  Well I have the answer, neither is better!  There is a certain magic at DL that will never be reproduced. The fact that Walt was there and you can stand where he stood, many of the original rides are there, you can feel Walt's presence.  But WDW has magic too and with the extra parks and all the extra touches that are put in at WDW it is amazing.  You are in a whole new world, ha ha see what I did there?Everywhere you go is Disney! Transportation is amazing, if you want to get to a park you can take a monorail, a bus, a ferry!  I think the thing that us Disney lovers can all agree on is that we don't go to
any Disney park to compare, we go to be apart of the magic and no matter which park you go to you will find the magic!  I promise to go into more detail on our adventures with different blogs and reviews for you guys but I wanted to give you a not so short taste of our family trip!!  It was 20 days that were more magical than I can describe in words, love and magic to you all!! 
Hugs and Kisses,

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dumbo the Flying Elephant Interactive Queue Review

I am in LOVE LOVE LOVE with the new interactive queue's popping up all over Walt Disney World.  As a parent of little ones, 4 and 1, I find it hard to keep them occupied and entertained in the lines for attractions in the parks.  Usually I will skip an attraction if it has over a 20 minute wait, but not Dumbo!  The "Play Before You Ride" idea is genius in my opinion, but it confuses a lot of guests.  The "line" starts by entering the circus tent and picking up a pager, similar to pagers handed out at restaurants. Your children are now free to climb, slide, and explore the play area while you wait for your turn to ride the attraction.  Three reasons I love this are 1) plenty of seating for parents to relax and watch, 2) it's air-conditioned (!) and 3) it's the perfect place to let the kids run around safely and get some energy out.  Once your pager goes off, you are ready to head out and ride on a flying elephant.  
Your ticket (pager) to ride
Ropes course
Check-in and return for pagers
Dumbo flying around inside
Area in the middle for little ones to play
This attraction does participate in FASTPASS, but you will completely bypass the play area.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Foodie Friday- Cupcakes at Be Our Guest Restaurant

Forget the chocolate, I'm a cake girl.  Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom serves three delicious cupcakes during lunch and dinner.  The lemon meringue and triple chocolate are pretty good, but the strawberry cream cheese cupcake is my favorite cupcake in all of Walt Disney World.  I am not kidding!  I am a sucker for cream cheese frosting, so this was my pick when I had dinner in the ballroom back in November of last year, and this cupcake is why I keep coming back.  It is a yellow cake with a strawberry custard-like filling.  Atop this cake is a mammoth size strawberry.  I was delighted to find these cupcakes on the quick service lunch menu, meaning I can pop in and order a cupcake, or two, for lunch!  I may or may not have done that.  ;)

My daughter couldn't wait to dig in
Ohhhh happy girl
Next time you find yourself in Fantasyland, try one for yourself.