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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Friday, September 30, 2011

Extra Magic Hours--Are They Always Magical?



Guests at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours offered at various parks on various days throughout their stay.  Most parks offer a round of Extra Magic Hours in the morning and at night, sometime during a week.  Even the water parks get in on the Extra Magic Hours during peak seasons.

During our most recent visit to Walt Disney World in July, we took advantage of some parks AM or morning Extra Magic Hours.  The thinking that it can be hot in July—it was;  and the World can be crowded in July—we didn’t notice this so much.  Extra Magic Hours can be a way to beat the crowd, as only resort guests are allowed into the park with Extra Magic Hours.  And, potentially beat the heat since you are touring earlier in the morning.


We are no strangers to Extra Magic Hours, especially the mornings when a park would open one hour earlier than normal to resort guests.  Only the husband has taken advantage of the PM Extra Magic Hours when he toured Hollywood Studios on his own.  We have especially appreciated the AM Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

There are various schools of thought about Extra Magic Hours.  Some Disney enthusiasts think Extra Magic Hours are dandy and wouldn’t think of missing the extra time in a park.  Others think that Extra Magic Hours make parks too crowded as more resort guests would choose that park over another not offering Extra Magic Hours and prefer to avoid the park with Extra Magic Hours.  And, still others would offer the advice to go to park on the day just after the PM Extra Magic Hours using the logic that the resort guests were just there the day/night before and the park would be less crowded the next day.

We have done all of the options listed above and for us, it comes down to our schedule and convenience.  We have scheduled ourselves to be in parks on the day after they have offered Extra Magic Hours and had a great time.  We have been to parks offering Extra Magic hours and also had a great time, with a minor exception.  We have found that AM Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom may not be for us.

Why?  Here’s why:  Half the park is still closed!

We thought our regular Magic Kingdom touring strategy would still work, but just an hour earlier.  Nope!  Our plan to get Splash Mountain Fastpasses just after park opening was foiled, as Adventureland and Frontierland, well, even Liberty Square are not open during AM Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom.  (When Toontown was still around, it wasn’t open either.)  Only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland allow for guest access during the AM Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom.

Well, when we discovered that, and I must say, we didn’t discover it until we were in the park, we quickly changed our strategy.  The husband the boy had gone off to ride Tomorrowland Indy Speedway and my charge was to get the first set of Fastpasses—which were supposed to be Splash Mountain and meet them at Jungle Cruise.  When I was blocked from entering that part of the park, I recalculated.  OK, I’ll snag Buzz Lightyear Fastpasses instead, but I need to meet them at Indy Speedway, as none of us are going to get to Jungle Cruise—at least not yet.

So, I waited outside the exit to Indy Speedway before we lost each other.  The new strategy included touring Fantasyland then implementing our regular plan at 9:00 am.  Fine. 

We enjoyed short waits and hardly any guests at both Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan.  Small World was up next.  Yes, we had plenty of time to ride.  When we got off, it was time for the second set of Fastpasses and off the husband went to Splash Mountain. We continued on riding Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. 

By the end of our day, we had ridden the rides we wanted and made the best use of Fastpass.  At one time, we were holding 4 sets of Fastpasses! 

In addition to the disappointment was the element of surprise in finding out that a significant portion of the park was closed.  I hadn’t done my homework well enough to discover this before going.  When experiencing Extra Magic Hours at the other parks, the rides and attractions we were after were available either to ride or get Fastpasses.  Only at the Magic Kingdom did we experience frustration with Extra Magic Hours.

I am very appreciative of Extra Magic Hours and the access the Extra Magic Hours give Walt Disney World Resort guests to the parks.  I consider Extra Magic Hours a perk of staying on property.  I will, though, be more mindful when planning touring schedules in the future and thinking differently about which day(s) we visit Magic Kingdom.

Each guest has to determine the value of Extra Magic Hours for their touring needs.  If I was traveling with a small child and knew Fantasyland would be my primary destination at the Magic Kingdom, then AM Extra Magic Hours might be for me.  Thankfully, the rope drop ceremony is the same no matter what time the park opens!

I will add though, that AM Extra Magic Hours, at any park, work best when you arrive before the park opens.  This allows you to make the most of the extra moments the park opens.  If your family will struggle getting to the park early—you are, after all, on vacation—then AM Extra Magic Hours may not be for you and your family.

No matter what, being a Walt Disney World Resort guest is magical!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We "Caught" Brer Fox!


One of the husband’s goals when we travel to Walt Disney World is to find and meet new to us Disney characters.  So, imagine our thrill and surprise to come across Brer Fox while touring EPCOT’s World Showcase during our most recent trip to Walt Disney World. 

Meeting Brer Fox, was one of 6 new to us character interactions we experienced on our trip in July.

Phineas and Ferb were new to us—click here to read more.

As was Angelica from Pirates of the Caribbeanclick here to read more.

Duffy the Disney Bear was new to us character number 5—click here to read more.

I’m going to leave you guessing about new to us character number 6 for now.  Any guesses?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Carroll's Pumpkin Farm in Grinnell, Iowa




We made our annual pilgrimage to Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm in Grinnell, Iowa.  Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm is located on the southern edge of Grinnell at 244 400th Ave Grinnell · (641) 236-7043.  


Information from the Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm Web-site:

September 17th through October 31, 2011

Weekdays:

·                                 Monday through Friday
·                                 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
·                                 Admission $6.00 Ages 3 and up

Weekends:

·                                 Saturday 10:00 am -7:00pm
·                                 Sunday 1:00 pm-7:00pm
·                                 Admission $7.00  Ages 3 and up


Admission to the Corn Maze is an additional $3.00 ages 3 and up. You must pay the weekday or weekend farm admission, and the additional $3.00 for the maze.

All activities, barns, and wagon rides are included in the admission price. 

Season passes are only $15.00 and can be used any day of the week all season! 

You may buy a pumpkin after picking it from the field or rows near the barn. Pumpkins are sold by the pound.  ($ 0.49 per pound)


Late in the day arrivals

We are glad to have you visit the farm even if it is later in the day.  We recognize that since we close at 7 PM there is not much time to enjoy the many activities at Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm if you arrive after 5:30 PM. 

Therefore we are pleased to announce for 2011 that guests who arrive after 5:30 will receive a $2 discount off of the regular admission price. (Does not include special group events.) 

Enjoy the farm even if it is after work or later in the day.  We will be glad to have you as our guest. 


Group discount

Groups of 20 or more will receive a $1.00 discount off of the admission price.  
For groups interested in additional options or for special events please call for details and a quote. 


Farm Extras

·                                 Bon Fire/private wagon ride:  $20.00 per fire
·                                 Barn loft rental: $20 per hour



We began our visit to Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm by taking the wagon to the field of pumpkins.  Guests on the wagon are treated to a viewing of the pumpkin catapult.  Be ready for it!





Each year, the location of the pumpkin field changes as the Carroll family rotates the crops with corn and soybeans.  It’s always a treat to discover where the pumpkin field will be and of course, this year, we found the pumpkins in a new location and enjoyed the wagon ride to get to the pumpkin field.



After finding our pumpkins, we rode the wagon back to the farm to wash, dry, weigh, and pay for our pumpkins.  Pumpkins cost $ 0.49 per pound.  We paid a little over $9.00 for our two pumpkins.  





If you want to purchase a pumpkin without going into the field to pick it yourself, there are plenty to choose from on the farm near the barn.  The price is the same.

Wheelbarrows are available to help guests take purchased pumpkins to vehicles.  The husband carried our two pumpkins to the car.


We arrived at Carroll’s about 10:30 am on a Saturday.  We were surprised by the small crowd, as we have been there when it has been quite crowded.  We took advantage of the lower numbers at the Big Orange Jumping Pillow.  Check out our pictures and video: 








A place to store shoes while jumping on the Big Orange Jumping Pillow.


We all got into the act on the Big Orange Jumping Pillow while Grandma Carol watched.

The barn in the middle of the farm hosts a shop and snack shop on the bottom level, while the loft is reserved for various acts.  Mr. Magic was on hand to entertain and amaze guests.

Both the husband and the boy were picked to be on stage with Mr. Magic.




Mr. Magic performs on the half-hour starting shortly after the farm opens.  Check the sign just inside the barn for specific times or the Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm web-site for various entertainment options.  This is included with the price of admission to the farm.


Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm is full of other outdoor fun activities.

There’s a tricycle track that has both indoor and outdoor riding.


A wheelbarrow obstacle course with varying degrees of difficulty.


The moo-cow train is a hit with riders young and old.  The boy enjoyed picking Bessie’s car for his ride.


There are tire swings near the tree house with slides and a see-saw.



The hen house has been turned into an indoor seed corn play bin.  There are benches for those not playing to sit on and watch.


The Straw Barn has two slides and a rope swing.  The boy spent quite a bit of time in the Straw Barn with the rope swing.




One of our favorite things to do at Carroll’s is to take pictures.  Photo opportunities are just like the pumpkins—bountiful.  Carroll’s hosts an annual photo contest on their web-site and winners are treated to gift certificates or admission to the farm. 




The goats are located near Grandpa’s Barn and guests can feed them (for a fee) and pump water into their water trough. There were lots of baby goats this trip and they spent many moments sleeping.  Is there a saying about letting sleeping goats lay? 



The boy discovered the four kittens that had been named by Facebook fans, in Grandpa’s Barn.  He was scolding one of the kittens that had been chewing on its sibling’s tail.  If you get a chance, read the signs nearby—they are a hoot!

Speaking of signs—here’s another one that will make you chuckle!


Hints and Tips for getting the most out of your day at Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm:
·           Know the hours and plan your trip accordingly.  We were surprised by the mid-September opening of the farm and took advantage.  I was under the impression that the farm was only open in October.  I’m guessing others are too, based on the small crowd.
·           Dress for the weather.  Even though we had a lovely day with no breeze in the morning, it was still cool when out in the pumpkin field.  The boy was asking for his gloves.  We dressed in layers, so as the day warmed up, we removed layers.
·           We have experienced Carroll’s when the fields have been wet and muddy.  We bring extra shoes, towels, and plastic bags to hold muddy items for the trip home.  It’s just better to be prepared.
·           Take Carroll’s in at a leisurely pace.  We were there for 3 ½ - 4 hours.  The only thing we didn’t do was the corn maze.  The corn maze is an extra fee, as is the corn cannon.
·           Food is available for purchase.  We packed lunch in a rolling cooler and rolled it from the car at lunchtime and had a wonderful picnic lunch at the tables near the barn.  It was convenient, scenic, economical, and again, leisurely.
·           Bring your camera!

·           Be ready to play!
·           Know a little about the farm before going.  This will save you from worrying about the kids running to get ahead of you to see everything.  Just catch up to them, eventually!  We watched and listened to a parent growling, for lack of a better word, at a young child, because the young child wouldn’t stay with her and was running ahead.  Yep, not surprising given the excitement and wonder of the farm.  The growling was about her—she wasn’t able to keep up, was worried the child was going to get into something, and possibly wasn’t prepared for the amount of walking that was needed to get around the farm.  A little prep about the farm might have helped her prepare for the visit.
·           Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes.

We have been going to Carroll’s pumpkin farm for several years.  Our family looks forward to our annual visit.  Oh, and our pumpkins are on display in the front of our house.  Happy Autumn!