Written by Victoria Johnson
Today my day started off at Hollywood Studios. Groot stayed home today so I was flying solo. A Fast Pass* was had for "For The First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing Along Celebration". If you are a big Frozen fan like me, you do not want to miss this show! Check the MyDisneyExperience app for Fast Pass availability and times. In fact any of the main attractions that you absolutely don't want to miss, obtain your Fast Passes first and then plan the remainder of your day around those times. Fast Passes are hard to come by and the more popular the attraction the harder they are to get.
After the show, I made my way to the Skyliner to go to Epcot.
Festival of the Arts started on Friday, January 17th at Epcot/World Showcase. If you have never been, it is definitely a not miss opportunity. Enjoy delicious food, beautiful art, amazing shows-such as the Disney on Broadway concert series, featured artists, and other hidden "gems". You never know who you might run into in the parks during the Festival of the Arts- Paige O'Hara (the original voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast), your favorite Disney Broadway stars and more!
There is so much to see and do during the festivals at Epcot. This trip was dedicated to finding little hidden paintings on the buildings in the different countries, like the one you see above. Characters are painted on the buildings only during the Festival of the Arts. Some are hard to locate and will take some investigating, but others are visible the minute you walk into the country plaza, or even walk right by them without even noticing. This is a great game for families or a bunch of friends. You can create your own "stakes" and make it a scavenger hunt of sorts.
I couldn't stay for as long as I wanted as it started to rain and I had to head out. I did, however, make it all the way around the showcase. I started at France and worked to the right, ducking into a few stores along the way to step out of the rain.
The next time you are at Epcot's World Showcase during the Festival of the Arts (which runs from January 17th-February 24th) see what "surprises" you find on the buildings and share them with us here or on our Facebook Group page, Universal_Disney_Nutz. We would love to see what you spy out there!
Next week will bring back Tasty Tuesday, with some of the foods from the Festival. I'm thinking lunch, dessert (which those who know me is my favorite part of the festival), and a non-alcoholic specialty drink. Tune in next time to see what I snack on!
*Fast Passes: Disney FastPass+ service lets you reserve access to select attractions, entertainment, and more. With the purchase of a ticket or Annual Pass, you can make selections as early as 30 days before you arrive to the property-starting at 7AM EST. Plus if you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, Disney Springs Area Hotel, or other select Good Neighbor Hotels, you can make FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to your check-in for the ENTIRE length of your stay; and the best part? There is no extra charge for this benefit!
If you are unsure on how to make your FastPass+ selections, feel free to ask anyone in our Facebook Group, or email us at email@example.com and one of our travel specialists will be more than happy to help you finalize these details!
Written by David "Indy" Graham
If you haven't yet taken the time to review Part 1 on how we would layout our park please visit our prior post. So just as a quick refresher for everyone else, our park layout was a mix of what Universal is rumored to have for Epic Universe but with the connecting Hub and Spoke layout of the Magic Kingdom. Now let's talk rides.
When it comes to the rides for each land the number that are in the lands are less important at times as long as the ones that are there the people connect with. That's not to say I would want 1 or 2 rides for each land yet this design has worked. For Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando it only has the Escape from Gringott's attraction unless you want to count the Hogwarts Express as more of an attraction and less of a themed transportation system between the 2 parks. And at Disney for Galaxy's Edge it only has 2 rides within it with Smugglers Run and the recently opened Rise of the Resistance; however if we jump over to the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland, then you have 7 attractions located there. A quick look at just the 2 different lands at Disney you can clearly see how rides have evolved from simple quick story dark rides that you travel through to now where attractions are putting you in the middle of the action and even letting you decide the outcome of the ride.
So let's assume for my park we have 6 lands to play with and all roughly equal and good in size. Each land would have at least 1 E-ticket attraction (coaster or test track) as the main-themed anchor to that land. This would also help to spread out the crowds in the park based on the experience they were looking for. Now, I'm not fully against completely screen-based attractions, to be clear, but me and them don't see eye to eye with my motion sickness; however, they do have a place in story telling attractions when it's not possible to have the actors from your IP to be there day in and out within your attraction 365 a year, so prerecorded scenes only make sense. Personally, Escape from Gringotts and Reign of Kong were 2 of my favorite rides at Universal as I feel they did a great mix of ride and screens. Yet, with that said, if you told me I only could ride 1 attraction at Universal I would take Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure without a second thought. For me that is a well blended attraction that shows you can build a story telling ride and not completely kill it with screen after screen. And when Disney opens Tron in a little over a year at the Magic Kingdom, or even Guardians of the Galaxy, both I think will be another step in story-telling thrill rides. And considering that we live in Florida, knowing the outside section of Tron is under a roof means they can run it ran or shine.
For that reason I would have a lot of covered sections for my outdoor attractions so they could be run as much as possible when inclement weather usually shuts down a lot of rides here. As for the balancing out the other rides in the different lands, I think having a mix of at least one flat ride (think Dumbo style or a spinning teacups) and a dark ride (Haunted Mansion or Pirates of Caribbean) or 4D (Toy Story Mania or Shrek) or even 1 or 2 water rides (Splash Mountain or Jurassic Park River Adventure) could balance out each land. This would provide each land with something for every generation and something for people of different size and heights, giving families a reason to spend more time in each land instead of running to another area so the kids can ride something or off to the next thrill ride like at a Six Flags or Cedar Point (which I love my coasters). You then add in the specialty themed restaurants with exclusive food and drinks and of course your IP merchandise and it's a win-win for the theme parks as well as a one of a kind experience at every turn.
So would this be a park you would want to visit or do you think it's completely off on what you would want in your park? Let us know in the comments your thoughts or improvements you would make.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
Recently the UDN staff was talking about all the new rides that are coming to the Central Florida theme parks this year as well as in the near future and how we can't wait until they open so we can experience them. This got me thinking with new theme parks like Dream Island (Russia), Genting Theme Park at Genting Highlands Resort (formerly 20th Century Fox World in Malaysia), The London Resort project as well as Universal building Beijing and Epic Universe, how would I build my dream park if I could.
First let's take a quick look at the two giants when most people think theme parks locally. When you think about the Magic Kingdom and Universal they market to different age groups really. Sure one could argue that they offer a little something for everyone, however let's take a look a little deeper. A lot of people go back to the Magic Kingdom as it's a nostalgic trip for them, as well as they have more rides for the younger generation (in addition, to someone of a larger build they have more that can be ridden based on their ride designs). Universal knows that Disney has the younger kids on lock down for now and they even had a commercial a while back called "kids grow up" and poked fun at Disney and how they out grow them for more thrilling rides. It's a fact that Universal does have more teen and adult driven rides. This is apparent just by looking at the height requirements in their ride portfolio. Both parks know how to brand market themselves and do it quite well for who they are targeting. As time goes on with new lands and hopefully parks, we will see that those lines start to overlap more on attractions and branding.
As for park layouts, it is without saying that Walt Disney had a great design with what is referred to as the Hub and Spoke model that Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom use. You have the Main Street/Entrance that lead out to the different lands and then they connect to each other through themed portals to the others lands. For any great park, having each land themed to set up the illusion and experience that you are really there- with the goal being to leave you in awe and possibly touch you emotionally each time you visit them. (As a side note to this I witnessed this many times when I worked for Universal as I saw many Harry Potter fans cry when they entered Diagon Alley). Universal set the standard when they opened The Wizarding World at Islands of Adventures and again with Diagon Alley where you are immersed completely in them and away from the outside world. These lands complete the experience by offering everything from not only amazing ride experiences but themed food, exclusive drinks and exclusive shops to complete the story. Disney in return to this new standard built Avatar, Toy Story and Star Wars lands based on now what people want and expect from theme parks. Come 2023, assuming everything Universal is rumored to do with Epic Universe, they will take that idea and move it to the next level with a free Main Street entrance (think Citywalk 2.0) area and then each land will have it's own turnstile entrance making each land an exclusive and immersive experience. Based on the concept art Universal has previously released each land currently looks to only have one way in and out, making it unique as Universal could sell discounted tickets to just a themed land and have tier pricing based on how many lands you want to visit.
Now with those ideas I think a well blended park would have a little of both Universal and Disney in them for the perfect family experience. Taking the rumored layout for Epic Universe with the immersive lands I would still find a way to use the same Hub and Spoke model as used with the Magic Kingdoms connecting the different lands, but would figure out a well hidden themed turnstile area between the lands. I believe this would help with possible crowd control issues at the more popular lands as well as provide the option to still sell individual lands (making the assumption that Universal does this). And much like Universal does in each Harry Potter land with the Hogwarts Express, have places to upsell the guest with a multi-land experience. For land ideas I think it's important as Universal and Disney have proven picking the right IP for a land is important to not only get the people in the park but to keep them coming back. Not to say with the right attractions in a land, it won't keep the people from wanting to visit. Space Mountain is a great E-ticket ride at Disney, but when Disney opened Tomorrowland within no time the land was outdated. For this reason Disney slowly moved to more of a sci-fi feel for the land so they weren't having to try to update it every couple years.
This hopefully gets you thinking about what your theme park would look like and what possible layout idea you would go with. Would you want a Hub and Spoke, or more like Epcot or Universal Studios, and have a lake in the middle to go around that could also double for a night time show. Stay tuned for part 2 when we talk about thoughts on ride selection for each land.
Share your thoughts with us and comment below!
Written by Victoria Johnson
He sat outside on the patio. It was a cloudy day, but cool and breezy. As he waited for his meal he enjoyed the view of the lake, Disney Springs balloon, and the boats. He ordered the Tanis Tacos: Tuna.
They were built with Togarashi Spiced Ahi Tuna, Avocado Crema, Pico de Gallo, shaved Red Cabbage and served on toasted corn tortillas, topped with jalapeno. There were 3 to a serving. Beverage of choice was an unsweetened iced tea and water.
The platter was brought to the table and the first impression was “this was going to be good”. Tuna looked perfectly rare-pink.
First bite: WHOA that’s spicy. Took off the jalapeño. A little too spicy. Took away from the avocado crema. The pico was spicy as well.
Deconstructed the next taco. Tuna spicy. Pico spicy. Avocado crema was good, just not enough. Cabbage, well it’s Cabbage. No flavoring that I can ever taste.
The Tanis Tacos were good. Needed a little more avocado crema and maybe some more cilantro. The only cilantro was in the pico de gallo.
Score from Groot: 8 / 10
After lunch Groot enjoyed a cappuccino from Joffrey’s Coffee. Had a little something special added.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
If you ask almost any person, especially a Disney fan, they can probably tell you where you can find at least one hidden Mickey at Disney. They might even know about the one you can only see once a year at noon on November 18th (Mickey Mouse's birthday) located in the queue for Under The Sea: The Voyage of the Little Mermaid when the sun aligns just right to reveal the Mickey. But what about other less common ones to the thousands that pass through the gates each day at the parks. Below is a list of just a few the next time time you visit the Magic Kingdom to keep your eyes open for.
1) when looking at the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, the building at Disney is called Castillo de Morro. It’s construction design was based on a real Spanish fort.
2) Inside the right-hand side queue for Pirates of the Caribbean keep your eyes peeled for two skeletons playing chess however look closer and you will see the game is check mate.
3) Hungry and miss the Adventures Club? The Skipper’s Canteen restaurant features a room dedicated to S.E.A. the Society of Explorers and Adventurers a fan favorite from Pleasure Island which closed in 2008.
4) Bow for the princess. As you enter Fantasyland through the Castle archway, look for the Cinderella fountain on the left. You’ll see a painting behind her with a crown well above her head. When you take a drink from the fountain, which at the same time you are ‘bowing’ to the Princess Cinderella look up as you are drinking — she’s now wearing her crown.
5) At the Tangled theme rest area, look hard to see if you can spot Pascal hiding around anywhere. Additionally, look at the ground to see if you can spot hoof prints from Maximus.
6) When at the Winnie-the-Pooh attraction be sure to look for references to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the attraction that previously occupied this space. As you enter owl’s house look to your left for a portrait of Owl receiving the deed to the attraction from Mr.Toad.
And speaking of Mr. Toad, which was a park original favorite - after it closed a tombstone was placed in the pet cemetery of the Haunted Mansion for J.Thaddeus Toad.
7) Tink is that you? The next time you exit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad look in the rock work to the left to spot a hidden Tinkerbell.
8) Watch where you step when walking through Liberty Square. The street is colored to represent the waste and excrement that Americans dumped in the street during Revolutionary times as they did not have sewer systems yet. In keeping with the historical accuracy of the colonial time period, the restaurants such as Liberty Tree Tavern and Columbia Harbor House do indeed have bathrooms however they get away with it as technically their bathrooms are in other lands.
9) Everyone loves to read the tombstones when in line for the Haunted Mansion however the next time you are in the line see if you can spot the engagement ring in the pavement.
10) Puppy Love? The next time you are at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, look for Lady and Tramp’s paw prints in front of the stairs that lead up to the restaurant.
11) When walking down Main Street USA most people are fixed on the castle or getting to their favorite ride but have you ever taken time to look at the windows? The windows of the upper stories of the shops are labeled with the names of famous Disney Legends and Imagineers. Having a Main Street USA window is one of the highest honors bestowed by Disney.
There is even a door on the left heading to the castle to pay tribute to all the Disney Cast members labeled "Magic Kingdom Casting Agency".
12) The American flag is required to be raised, lowered and flown at half-mast due to regulations. As a result, each flag on Main Street U.S.A. is missing a star and a stripe so they can be flown permanently other than the main flag in town square on Main Street, U.S.A. where you can watch the American flag retire for the night in this stirring patriotic ceremony.
13) The Castle as well as the different attraction mountains (and Tower of Terror) are all under 200 feet (199-feet to be exact). This is due to the fact that any building over 200-feet would require red flashing aviation lights. And Speaking of Cinderella's Castle, it's not really made of stone. The entire building is built out of fiberglass, concrete, steel, cement, and plaster, with no bricks or stones used at all.
14) Do you own a pair of Mickey ears? Some UDN members own a few of them, right Tanya? Did you know if connected end to end, Mickey Mouse ear hats would span over 175 miles and that number just keeps growing.
15) Wonder how they keep the Magic Kingdom so clean? Guests at Walt Disney World are never more than 30 steps away from a trash can.
16) Ever wonder why you can see the Magic Kingdom so good when you are at the Ticket and Transportation Center looking across the Seven Seas Lagoon? That is because Disney dug out the Seven Seas Lagoon to make the Magic Kingdom two stories as Florida is only 3 feet above sea level. The first floor is is for employees underneath in underground tunnels called "utilidors" that house the massive costume departments, cast member break rooms, garbage chutes and more.
17) Thousands walk right by that large tree within Liberty Square, which is known as the Liberty Tree and has thirteen lanterns hanging from its branches. Each lantern represents one of the original thirteen colonies during the Revolutionary period of America’s history. Disney has also grown over 500 oak trees from acorns produced from the Liberty Tree. That's a lot of trees!!
18) Thirsty? Did you know you never have to pay for water in Disney World. Just go to any quick service restaurant in the park and ask for a cup.
19) The monorail is as much of the Magic Kingdom's history as the Castle. But did you know since 1971, the Walt Disney World monorail trains have logged enough miles to make 30 round trips to the moon.
20) Future so bright you better look for your shades. An average of 210 pairs of sunglasses are turned in to Disney's lost and found every day. That means that since 1971, an estimated 1.65 million pairs of glasses have found their way into the “lost” bin. Not only sunglasses but Lost and Found cast members collect more than 6,000 cell phones, 3,500 digital cameras, 18,000 hats, and 7,500 autograph books annually.
21) And my personal favorite. Next time you walk under the train station take time to look at the rare pictures from Walt's personal life and love of trains. There are a lot of photos of the live steam layout he had in his backyard called Carolwood Pacific Railroad. The Carolwood Pacific Railroad inspired Disney to include railroad attractions in the design of Disney parks.
There you have it UDN fans, just a few less common Disney gems to look for the next time you are at the Magic Kingdom. Did I miss one you know about at the Magic Kingdom that you think others need to know about and look for? Let us know.
Written by David "Indy" Graham
What would be the first thing you would think of if someone said the names MCA, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Seagram, DuPont, Vivendi, General Electric, Blackstone and Comcast? Do you think of things you put in your house, or maybe commercials you might see on one of the media giant outlets? For most people they wouldn't think of Universal or theme parks in general, but each of those companies has owned a part of Universal in just the past 60 years.
It wasn't until Comcast stepped into the role of full ownership in 2011 that Universal found the parent company with the financial backing, the willingness, and more importantly the belief, in the theme parks to help make them what they are today. Yet today it is a business outlet and one that made Comcast about one-third of NBCUniversal's total operating cash flow last year. That's a jump of about 7.5% over the prior year or about $1.46 billion in revenue for them. Seeing the financial return theme parks can make, NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke (who plans to full retire on August 14, 2020) was quoted back in 2018 making bold promise that Comcast would invest more money in its theme park business than it spent to acquire NBCUniversal. So what does that really mean?
According to the information I found, NBCUniversal reportedly spent $250 million building the Hogsmeade section in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened back in 2010. Comcast spent about another $400 million to construct Diagon Alley as well as another $300 million on Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. That type of major investment is why Stephen Burke said "Disney will no longer get a free ride", and it shows as Disney supposedly spent around $1 billion to build Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
So what does the future hold for Universal even with Steve Burke assuming the role of NBCUniversal chairman till August? Later this year, Universal has already opened Universal's Endless Summer Resort - and plans to open Dockside Inn & Suites March 17, 202, and in Spring they will open The Bourne Stuntacular. In 2021 is the unannounced Jurassic Park roller coaster (rumored to be called Velocicoaster) which is currently under construction at Island's of Adventure. All of this is just in Orlando, and not counting the other parks they have with Universal Beijing to be added to the list in Spring 2021.
Comcast had promised to open a new attraction each year so that leaves 2022, which should put the new attraction in the Studios side as they seem to rotate each year bewteen the 2 current dry parks; or could Volcano Bay finally see that 5 acre expansion? And unless you are living under a rock for the past year, 2023 will be an exciting year as Universal's Epic Universe is set to open that year. It will be the first major theme park to open in Orlando since Disney's Animal Kingdom opened April 22, 1998 and Universal's Islands of Adventure on May 28, 1999. Any way you look at it Comcast is definitely expanding it's Universe in Orlando.
Written by - Jennifer Piccione (Webb)
Well today was quite the day at D23! Granted some of the announcements we were already anticipating; however it was good to be able to visualize what we were all imagining. SO....let’s get into it!
So the first announcement out of the gate was a new parade coming to the Disneyland Resort. "Magic Happens" will be centered around the Disney stories that bring us the magic that inspires us. The parade will feature beautiful floats and costumes from some of our favorite movies, including "Coco", "Sleeping Beauty", "Moana" and more; and of course the Mouse that started it all will be the leader of this festive celebration!
Next, we got a better look at Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, coming to Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland Resort in 2022. Guests will step into the screen and cross over into the toon world of Mickey and MInnie's newest short, "Perfect Picnic". The same ride will also be opening in 2020 at Disney's Hollywood Studio's at the Walt Disney World Resort, inside of the building that used to be The Great Movie Ride.
ZOOTOPIA!!! This land coming to the Shaghai Disney Resort will feature a new attraction, new entertainment, merchandise and dining options that follow the story line of this great movie.
Hong Kong Disneyland is celebrating our favorite animated stories as their castle is reimagined and transforms into the Castle of Magical Dreams. The castle be will one of a kind, drawing inspiration from 13 of our favorite Disney stories featuring the princesses and heroines they are known for. There will also be new entertainment, including a daytime stage show and nighttime spectacular, as well as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique!
To go along with the Hong Kong Disneyland transformation, the world of Frozen will be coming as well! Two attractions are slated, including a new roller coaster called Wandering Oaken's Sliding Sleighs - where Olaf and Sven help pull your sled to the top of the lift before your vehicle takes off! Go on a winding journey through Arendelle.
The second attraction is Frozen Ever After- yes, the same attraction we currently have at Epcot.
Cirque is back! Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Animation Studios have joined forces with Cirque du Soleil at Disney Springs to create an all new show combining Cirque's infamous artistry with Disney's whimsical storytelling. Previews will begin March 20, 2020 and the world premiere will be on April 17th!
A shopper's dream come true! Target and Disney are coming together and bringing a "shop-in-shop" experience in 25 Target locations that will feature an assortment of more than 450 Disney merchandise items, including more than 100 products that were previously only available at Disney retail locations. Locations will open on October 4th nationwide with another 40 locations opening by October 2020. It was also announced that a new Target would be opening next to the Walt Disney World Resort.
MARVEL! Wow so much brought to life on this announcement today! Next year the Avengers Campus is opening in Disney California Adventure park. The campus is designed as a recruitment site for the next generation of super heroes.
The first key announcement was the Worldwide Engineering Brigade - otherwise known as WEB. This building will house the NEW Spider-Man experience. The story line opens with an open house at WEB, as the inventors of WEB invite you, the guest, for a test run of their latest invention - the Web Slinger vehicle, which allows guests to sling webs just like Spider-Man. Of course, things go awry and you are locked into a mission with Spider-Man to save the campus from the Spider -Bots that have run amok.
Next, the campus will also house Pym Test Kitchen. For those who are Ant-Man and Wasp fans you know that Pym are the particles used to grow and shrink anything. Pym Technologies is using their latest technology to grow and shrink food at this eatery.
The Super Hero encounters to be found on this campus are phenomenal! Guests can find themselves face to face with Black Widow, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Doctor Strange, characters from The Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as featured characters from Wakanda and Asgard, and Iron Man!
As all of the Super Heroes assemble at the campus, guests will be able to visit the Avengers Headquarters where they may even get a glimpse of the Avengers along the rooftops. This building will become the entrance to a brand new E-ticket attraction where guests will step on board a Quinjet and fly off to Wakanda to fight along side the Avengers!
EPCOT Transformation! Epcot will now be divided into four neighborhoods - World Showcase, World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery. The neighborhoods will be filled with new experiences rooted in authenticity and innovation that take the guest to new destinations filled with hands on magic and a world of possibility.
Mary Poppins is coming! The United Kingdom pavilion will have the very first attraction inspired by Mary Poppins. Guests will wander down Cherry Tree Lane past Admiral Boom's house, and then enter 17 Cherry Tree Lane, where their adventure with the Banks family will begin!
In 2020, HarmonioUS will debut as the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney theme park. It will feature the inspiration of Disney music combined with gigantic floating set pieces, specialized LED panels, dancing moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics and more.
Summer of 2020 brings new changes to France. We already know about the much-anticipated Remy's Ratatouille Adventure where guests become Remy-sized and race through Gusteau's restaurant on a crazy adventure.
In addition, La Creperie de Paris, a scrumptious new restaurant offering both table and quick service dining options will be opening. The menu will feature items from celebrity chef Jerome Bocuse.
Joining the classic Impressions de France film in France, the new "Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along" will be debuting in January 2020.
"Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360" will debut in January 2020 in the Canada pavilion.
"Wondrous China" brings new life to the China pavilion, with a 360-degree format featuring the splendor and beauty across the country.
Spaceship Earth will have some visual enhancements including a magical "story light" that brings energy and beauty to each scene. As guests exit Spaceship Earth, they will discover a new view of World Showcase from "Dreamers Point". This is where we will also see a new statue celebrating the legacy of the original icon, Walt Disney.
A new pavilion in World Celebration will be the home base for signature festivals at Epcot. It will provide a one of a kind spectacular view of the entire park and the nighttime spectacular. The structure will have 3 levels, featuring a plaza level, middle expo level and a park that sits in the sky on the top level.
Not necessarily new news, but the entrance plaza redesign concept art now shows a reimagined fountain, new pathways, and sweeping green spaces that all pay homage to the origins of Epcot.
WORLD NATURE - This land will be dedicated to understanding and preserving the wonder and beauty of the natural world. Journey of Water, inspired by "Moana" will be the first experience inspired by the film. Guests can meet and play with magical, living water as well as learn about the importance of the natural water cycle.
The Land pavilion will have a new film "Awesome Planet" which will enrapture the beauty of our planet. The film will make its debut in January 2020.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind currently under construction in the old Universe of Energy building, will feature a new innovation from Walt Disney Imagineering - a coaster that rotates 360 degrees and the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster. The adventure starts in the "Galaxarium", a planetarium-like exhibition that explores the formation of the Earth's galaxy and Xandar.
Space 220 - the new restaurant opening as an expansion of the Mission: SPACE Pavilion will be an out of this world culinary experience featuring a stellar panorama of a space station, including daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up. Guests will board a special elevator that takes them to a space station that will provide them with an unforgettable dining experience. Space 220 will open this winter and will be operated by the Patina Restaurant Group.
The PLAY! Pavilion will open in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. Here guests will discover an interactive city filled with games, activities and experiences - both real and virtual. Guests will also have the chance to help Edna Mode on her quest to rid the world of drab style, or compete in a water-balloon fight hosted by Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby.
Guests will be able to visualize all of these plans for Epcot when Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience opens to the public on October 1st, 2019. This exhibit will be hosted in the Odyssey Events Pavilion.
Disney Genie - an all new digital experience that will enhance the way guests plan for an experience their Walt Disney World Resort vacation. Planned to debut in late 2020, Disney Genie will make planning easier and more fun by providing guests customized itineraries geared to character meet and greets, thrill rides, food experiences and more.
Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge will be a unique hotel experience influenced by the wonders of nature and the artistry of Walt Disney. It is also a proposed Disney Vacation Club resort.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser - the ultimate Star Wars exeperience! Here guests will check in for a two-night adventure aboard the starship Halcyon. Once on board, guests will interact with characters and participate in stories that unfold around them on their journey. Adults and children alike can have the opportunity to wield a lightsaber while training with a remote. Every choice the guest makes determines how their experience unfolds.
Disney Cruise Lines has introduced a new sailing experience to The Bahamas on the breathtaking island of Eluthera, with a destination of Lighthouse Point.
The fifth ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet was announced - Disney Wish. The ship will include a three story atrium themed after an enchanted fairytale. The Disney Wish will be delivered in late 2021 with its first sailing beginning in January of 2022. The signature character will be Rapunzel.
Written by Jennifer Piccione (Webb)
Who is your favorite character at Universal Studios Orlando Resort? What’s that you say-there are characters at Universal Studios Orlando? ABSOLUTELY! There are over 65 different character meet and greet opportunities available at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and let me tell you the character experiences at Universal Studios Orlando are some of the most fun, personable experiences I have ever encountered. However, with that many characters available you could spend your entire day trying to catch them all and probably still not see every one of them! With a little bit of planning you can make the most of your meet and greet mission within the resort.
One thing to know right away is that the character experience at Universal Studios Orlando Resort is completely different than what you are probably used to at Walt Disney World. With a majority of the Universal characters, there is not wait line or queue, and you can often walk down Hollywood Boulevard while chatting up some iconic celebrities in a casual environment. This makes the character experience much more personable and memorable.
When you arrive at Universal Studios Orlando, get a park map guide. This map can tell you what characters are available (there are some that are surprises and not listed on the map) and the times they will be available in their areas. The majority of the time, if you have to wait to get up close and personal it will only be a few minutes (I have never waited more than 15 minutes and that was for Transformers and the Raptor Encounter).
If you are more of a power planner extraordinaire, you can also go to the Universal Orlando website, click on the showtimes tab and find these times as well. Just keep in mind that you will only be able to access times up to 30 days in advance and they could change as you get closer to your actual travel dates, so you will need to check back when you get closer to that date.
OK! Let’s get started!
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS CHARACTERS
1. Despicable Me characters- you can find Gru, the Minions, Agnes, Edith, Margo and Vector either at the exit to the Minion Mayhem attraction or on the street by Mel’s Drive In during the Character Party Zone parade.
2. Shrek and Donkey can be seen at the exit of Shrek 4-D
3. Hashtag the Panda can be found in numerous locations outside or inside the Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon attraction.
4. Pharaohs from The Mummy (you know the cool looking Egyptian guys on stilts we see in the commercials and pictures) can be found roaming around this favorite attraction.
5. Transformers “More Than Meets The Eye” (Come on you know every time you hear the name Transformers you sing that song in your head) - Bumble Bee, Optimus Prime (my personal favorite) and Megatron rotate times outside this attraction. This meet and greet does have a queue but as soon as one goes inside a new one is readily available.
6. The Knight Bus Drive from Harry Potter is located outside the entrance to Diagon Alley. Take the time to have a conversation with him and the shrunken head, you will be highly entertained!
7. Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees have a great show inside Diagon Alley. This is an enjoyable stage presentation that you can watch while taking a break from the craziness of the day. Grab a butter beer, take a seat on one of the benches and relax while their musical entertainment brings a smile to your face!
8. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Krusty the Clown, and Sideshow Bob rotate throughout the day randomly.
9. Spongebob and Patrick can be found in the Spongebob store.
10. Poppy, Branch and Guy Diamond (the infamous troll that farts glitter) can be found over by the Kid Zone Entrance.
11. Barney can be found towards the back of the Barney shop.
12. As you stroll down Hollywood Boulevard you can run into some Hollywood Icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Betty Boop, Beetlejuice, Doc Brown, Scooby Doo and the Mystery Gang, Lucille Ball and other surprise characters that will sit and chat with you, join you in a walk down the street and create a most memorable experience.
13. Hello Kitty is usually outside the Hello Kitty store throughout the day.
14. The Blues Brothers have daily shows in the New York area and can be seen driving down the street unexpectedly.
15. Dora, Diego and Boots can be met at the Character Party Zone parade.
16. Various characters from Secret Life of Pets are in the Character Party Zone parade and area available for photo opportunities afterwards, however they do not leave their float like some of the other characters do.
17. I have run across some of the Penguins of Madagascar once in a while over behind Cafe LaBamba however they aren’t always available.
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
1. Po from Kung Fu Panda can be found as you enter the Port of Entry towards Hulk roller coaster.
2. Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Cyclops, Rogue, Storm, Doctor Doom, and Green Goblin are found wandering around Marvel Super Hero Island. Spider-Man does have his own queue line also.
3. Over at Toon Lagoon, get into an arm wrestling competition with Popeye or have a girl to girl chat with Olive Oyl. Sometimes Betty Boop wanders over here as well.
4. Raptor Encounter - this is a VERY popular meet and greet experience and usually has a long wait time. Please also keep in mind this could be too intense for little ones.
5. The Frog Choir performs daily in Hogsmeade and is often available for pictures afterwards.
6. While wandering though Hogsmeade, stop and talk with the conductor of the Hogwarts Express and get a picture.
7. Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Sam I Am, The Grinch (probably one of my favorite character interactions) and the Lorax have scheduled appearances throughout Seuss Landing.
A FEW TIPS REGARDING CHARACTER MEET & GREETS:
1. Ask the attendant to take your picture
2. Photo packages are available through My Universal Photos as well
3. Some characters do sign autographs but this isn’t as big of a deal at Universal, unlike Walt Disney World.
4. The great thing about the characters at Universal Studios Orlando is the informal encounters...it makes every experience so personal. You never know who might join you as you take a break on a park bench or grab your hand and start skipping through the park with you.
5. Not all characters are listed on the park guide so keep your eyes peeled as you are enjoying the day.
6. Whatever you do engage when the opportunity presents itself...you are going to have a one in a million experience!
7. Character dining experiences are also available and we will post those in a separate article.
Written by Jennifer Piccione (Webb)
If you have gotten a chance to listen to our recent podcast, our host, Bill, provided our Top 10 list of what to do and what not to do when coming to Orlando.
10 - Get a locker early!
If you are coming to central Florida and going to a theme park, it is highly recommended that you get a locker early, whether you use it or not. As the day develops you may realize you need more space and lockers will be sold out.
9 - Bring a backpack
We know it's not the most appealing of ideas, but it's better than having to carry everything around in your pockets. Then if you want, you can just throw it in a locker later.
8 - Bring extra phone chargers
We definitely recommend using the theme park apps because they are full of nothing but awesome information, they are convenient to use for fast passes and dining reservations, etc. The downside is they will suck your battery dry quickly. There are vending machines in the parks that sell fuel rods for around $30 a piece if you forget yours.
7 - Keep an eye on the weather
The weather changes in Florida very rapidly as the day progresses. You want to be prepared for whatever mother nature throws at us! And yes it does get cold in Central Florida; depending on when you are traveling a light jacket might be necessary as well.
6 - Plan ahead
Buy your tickets in advance, sign up for photo pass, reserve your scooters and strollers. These things sell out very quickly. You will also want to confirm your reservations in advance, as well as make sure you have an ample supply of any necessary medications. In addition, you will want to link your credit card to your Magic Band. This way you can pay for things with your Magic Band without having to always reach for your wallet. There's extra security doing this, a pin is required with the Magic Band as well as the card so it's double protection.
5 - Take advantage of the buses and other free transportation
Everyone wants the excitement of riding the monorail or the ferry or other water transportation; however the lines for these forms of transportation can get ridiculously long! The buses run constantly and you can get pretty much anywhere in the parks.
4 - Bring sunscreen
Don't be that person! If you come to Central Florida and don't wear sunscreen, you will fry like a lobster. There's a reason you see locals wear long sleeve shirts in the summer time - we are trying to protect our skin. We recommend at least 30SPF spray 3 times a day.
3 - Bring rain gear
As we mentioned above, weather in Florida is crazy. Pro tip - bring a zip lock bag and keep it in your backpack. In the event it starts to pour down rain you will want to keep your electronics dry. Pack your ponchos and umbrellas in your backpack.
2 - Take Breaks
You aren't superheros! The average person will walk 10-12 miles in a day at the theme parks. If you aren't normally doing that now you are going to regret it. We recommend 10-15 minutes per hour if spending all day in the parks; you may want to bump up to 15-20 minutes per hour. This will prevent exhaustion and other physical limitations that will make your trip miserable.
1 - Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
The #1 reason why people have problems in the parks is because people do not drink enough water. If you aren't from here you aren't going to be acclimated to the weather. It takes anywhere from 7-10 days to get acclimated to the weather you are in. We recommend 16-20oz of water per hour. Bring refillable water bottles and refill as you go. It's a good reminder that you need to drink.
10 - Avoid eating at peak times
Granted it is very very good to have set times that you eat. Just keep in mind that when you come to the parks everyone else is on that schedule too. Our recommendation is about a week before you trip to Central Florida, start eating on off times so you are ready to eat during the off times in the parks. Then when you come down you eat during the off times while everyone else is in line for rides and vice versa, while everyone is waiting in line for food you can hit the rides that normally have the extensive lines. Also bring snacks. Both Disney and Universal allow you to bring in your own snacks and water so take advantage of it. Park food is expensive and sometimes you just need a little power snack to keep going.
9 - Avoid the Holidays
Lots of people are motivated to come during the holidays. Regardless of your planning skills do not come during the holidays. The parks are insanely packed during this time. Wall to wall people everywhere. It may be great that you are there during the holidays but the wait times are going to be 2-3 hours. You won't get to ride more than 4 or 5 rides during your day.
8 - Don't just come to the parks when you come to Central Florida
Florida is very rich in history, it has amazing architecture and beautiful beaches. Check it out outside of the parks. We have the #1 beach in the world - Clearwater Beach. Sugar sanded beach, the sunsets are breathtaking! It is definitely worth the hour and half drive. NASA is about an hour away. St. Augustine is just south of Jacksonville (The Fountain of Youth) and is also only an hour and half away.
7 - Don't sleep in
We know you are on vacation right? We get it. But the early bird gets the worm. Getting up early and going to rope drop or extra magic hours in the morning gives you time to enjoy the parks before the masses flood the gates...and it even allows you to ride some of your favorites without much of a wait so take advantage of it!
6 - Do not buy tickets from unknown or third party vendors
This is becoming more and more of a problem. If somebody says the can get tickets for $35 a day...run!! They are only trying to rip you off. If you are looking to get discount tickets we recommend www.visitorlando.com they have a tab called deals...you will see discounted tickets. Outside of that website don't do it!
5 - Don't pay extra for a premium view room
You're on vacation - you want the nicest room, awesome view. Doesn't make any sense to spend the money on a premium view room if the majority of your time will be in the parks. If you are doing it right you are going to be exhausted when you get back to your room and just need a place to lay your head.
4 - Selfie Sticks
In America selfie sticks are pretty much gone. Been there done that. LEAVE THEM AT HOME. Disney and Universal have banned them. Why? If you are standing in line in a big crowd and you are trying to take the perfect picture with your camera up high on a selfie stick, the people behind you are trying to get the same perfect picture are just getting a picture of your selfie stick in the middle of their picture. It's not fair and inconsiderate. Not to mention they are extremely dangerous on the rides.
3 - Do not wear flip flops or sandals
You are going to be in these parks all day, walking 10-12 miles a day. Your feet are going to be killing you in flip flops or sandals. Wear a running shoe or other type of walking shoe that provides great support.
2 - Don't be a superhero
Orlando has amazing things to offer - over 100 attractions. You are never going to see everything in one vacation. Pick certain places you want to experience during that trip and then book another trip and do different ones.
1 - Do not over plan
One of the worst things you can do to ruin your vacation is making an over ambitious agenda. some planning is essential, yes. But to do lists get you no where. People get down here with a rigid schedule that never works out - why? Rides break down, plans change. People who over plan are the ones who are miserable and the families you see standing in the corner arguing. Be spontaneous. Vacation isn't about checking off boxes on a to do list.