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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A New Set Of Matching Shirts For Our Next Disney Vacation

This shirt has been in our Zazzle.com "cart" for a while.  One day last week, Zazzle released a 35% off code via Facebook that was good for one day and we missed it.  Total bummer!  Then, over the week-end, a 50% off code was released but not for t-shirts.  That's when I commented. . . something about extending the code to t-shirts as I had missed the 35% off code earlier in the week.  Zazzle then asked me to message them with the email that was attached to our Zazzle account.  No problem.

A Facebook message came the next day with two discount codes that I could stack and get a great deal--good only for that day.  No problem and now the shirts are on their way to us!  Another set of custom shirts for our next Disney trip!

Zazzle.com is our "go to" for designing custom t-shirts--this was our 10th order.  I appreciate that I can design at any time and then put the shirts in the "cart" and wait for a sale or discount code.

I even have an idea for another set of shirts--Olaf from FROZEN.  There is a print "out there" with him on the beach.  Zazzle doesn't have it yet, but they do have other FROZEN images for customization.  I asked Zazzle to let me know if they get that image--hoping they will.

If you want to know why we have carried on the tradition of wearing matching shirts when we travel--click here to read more.
The "customized" back of our shirts.
Here are some of our other custom designs from Zazzle.com:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Our ADR's (Advanced Dining Reservations) Are Made For Upcoming Walt Disney World Trip

Photo taken at Tusker House in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Yes, we do know where we want to eat six months in advance!  Actually, it was more than six months prior to our next, and 12th, trip to Walt Disney World when I emailed our dining preferences to our travel agent.  Then, when we were 180 days prior to our vacation, she made the dining reservations for us and emailed back the specific times, along with confirmation numbers.  Her exact words, "We got everything you wanted."  Yeah!

Our list of dining events contains some old favorites--like Ohana's for dinner--click here to read more.  We will also be eating at Ohana's for breakfast with Lilo and Stitch.

Rose & Crown with a patio table for Illuminations viewing at EPCOT was also on our list.  Click here to read more about dining at Rose & Crown.

Mama Melrose offers an incredible meal and an incredible Fantasmic Dining Package so we will be having dinner there as well.  Click here to read more about Mama Melrose and the Fantasmic dining Package.

A breakfast at Tusker House in Disney's Animal Kingdom rounds out our list.  We picked a time that will allow us to ride Kilimanjaro Safari, eat breakfast, and then go to Festival of the Lion King in its new location  Click here to read more about dining at Tusker House.

Be Our Guest will be our dinner destination the last night of our trip--the same as on our last trip.  I have a feeling this may be the beginning of a new family tradition--dining at Be Our Guest on our last night.  It is a fabulous way to end a magical Disney vacation.  Click here to read more about dining at Be Our Guest.

The new restaurant on the list is Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion at EPCOT.  Via Napoli was added to our dining rotation to help us complete our quest of dining around the world--World Showcase that is.  We will be able to check Italy off our list and only have Mexico left.

It has been a while, but Tony's Town Square Restaurant is also on our list this trip.  Themed for Lady and the Tramp.

We were talking about our dining plans at dinner the other night and we discussed the offerings at Via Napoli.  Pizza and other Italian favorites were discussed with the boy stating that he wanted spaghetti.  I reminded him that we were also going to eat at Tony's Town Square Restaurant and that they, too, served spaghetti.  He paused and then shared his "idea."  He is planning to bring his girlfriend to Tony's and reinact the spaghetti eating scene when Lady and The Tramp discover they are eating the same noodle of spaghetti.  You know the one!

The boy then said, "Mom, how do you get a girlfriend?"  I answered, but that is a post for another time.

In the meantime, we are excitedly awaiting our next trip!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Meet Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Minnie at Pete's Silly Sideshow In Storybook Circus

Just like any proper circus, there is a side show, a tent featuring creates exotic and unique, hence, Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus in the New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom.  Pete’s Silly Sideshow is the “tent” featuring the exotic and unique Disney characters!

Located a hop, skip, and  jump from the Fantasyland Railroad Station, Casey Jr.’s Splash and Soak Station, and The Barnstormer, Pete’s Silly Sideshow is a great place to meet some of your favorite Disney characters.

The Great Goofini--Dare devil
The character meet-n-greet is divided into two halves.  Guests can queue up on either half and meet two of four characters—Donald and Goofy on one side and Daisy and Minnie on the other.

Astounding Donaldo--Snake Charmer

Donaldo charms more than snakes--he wanted a kiss
You can tell by our shirts, that we met two characters during one visit and returned to meet the other two on another visit, but you can exit one queue and get in line for the next set of characters if you wish.

Madame Daisy Fortuna has a crystal ball

Madame Daisy Fortuna kept the boy's fortune a secret
What is unique, and preferable in my opinion, is that the queue area is “open” meaning that you can see the characters the whole time as you weave through the queue—no moving from room to room and then suddenly around the corner you spy the characters, but you have no idea how many rooms you will go through unless you have done it before.  Because the queue area is “open” I would suggest that families split up—send one parent into the queue that seems the longest or slowest moving.  Then, when the family is done meeting characters in one line, then can exit and join the parent who has been waiting in the other line.  I would not suggest doing this when you can’t see each other in the various lines.

Minnie Magnifique!
Photopass Photographers were available at each character and did a great job capturing the interactions.

If you have met Donald, Goofy, Daisy, and Goofy before, this provides for a unique visit as they are portraying characters from Pete’s Silly Sideshow.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dining At The Plaza In The Magic Kingdom

An obligation, dare I say duty, our family has taken on is eating at various restaurants throughout the Walt Disney World Resort and providing, you, our reader, with useful information.  Trust me, it’s a tough and tireless job, but someone HAS to do it!

It took us eleven trips to Walt Disney World to make it into The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom.  Located just prior to The Hub in front of Cinderella’s Castle, The Plaza marks the end of Main Street USA.

Open for both lunch and dinner, the restaurant features an old-fashioned ice cream parlor atmosphere.  But as I write this, The Plaza is set for a closure and refurbishment.

We ate dinner at The Plaza and enjoyed our hot sandwiches—I had a Reuben.  The boy wanted chicken strips, which were not on the adult menu, but the Cast Member was able to accommodate him with an “adult” portion of chicken strips from the Children’s menu at the adult price.  We were using the Dining Plan so it all worked out just fine.

What we were looking forward to was the ice cream.  We ordered shakes to go with our meals, all different flavors, and then shared.  Yummy! 

Check-in for The Plaza is located just outside the restaurant.  The friendly Cast Members greeted us, gave us a pager, and we were inside and at our table within minutes.  The waiting for the table is also outside the restaurant, so be prepared.  There are tables with umbrellas and chairs just outside the restaurant.

Restrooms are also located outside the restaurant—near Tomorrowland Terrace.  This, I found odd, as even counter service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom have a restroom inside the restaurants, such as Columbia Harbor House.  So, to have a table service restaurant without a restroom was unusual and inconvenient.  It did make us finish up quickly and leave, though.  It feels awkward to leave the restaurant to use the restroom and then return to finish eating or pay.  Maybe adding a restroom will be a part of the upcoming refurbishment for The Plaza.

The service was quick and friendly.  And, prices are reasonable for a table service restaurant.  Reservations are recommended, but not required.  So, if you find yourself with either no openings or a long wait at The Crystal Palace, walk a bit and check-in at the podium at The Plaza.  You may be surprised!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trying To Contain Disney Enthusiasm

How do you, if ever, hide or contain your Disney enthusiasm?  Most of the time, I want to shout from the rooftops that we are going to Disney!  I know it isn’t appropriate in many settings, so I don’t of course.  But it can be difficult.  So, I show my Disney enthusiasm instead.

Instead of shouting, I subtley share my Disney enthusiasm by what I wear.  Almost daily, the small gold hoops with a hidden Mickey dangling from them don my ears.  Other accessories, such as scarves and necklaces demonstrate to on-lookers that I am a fan.  The Mickey watch is another clue.  And, during the winter months, the Mickey gloves that come out of my coat pocket are a reminder of my concealed excitement.

Other hints of my Disney enthusiasm can be found in what I use.  The pen I write with may have Disney characters.  Find me eating lunch and you may discover a spoon or fork with a hidden Mickey shape on the end.  Of course my lunch box is also Disney themed. 
The bag I carry to and from work each day also has Mickey on it—both inside and outside.  And when that bag wears out, there is another Disney themed bag ready to take its place.

Catch me relaxing at home and you would discover a Mickey robe and slippers.  You may even find Walt Disney World Resort or Disney Cruise Line toiletries in the bath and shower. 

The boy has a rotation of Disney pillow cases and there is a set of Disney themed sheets for our king size bed.

In the kitchen, I enjoy using Mickey measuring spoons, measuring cups, and spatulas when whipping up a dish.  And, my Mickey apron keeps me clean along with the Mickey shaped soap dispenser.  If I hand you the salt and pepper shakers, they will look like Mickey and Minnie.

We have two vehicles, each with Disney magnets or window clings designating our preferred destination.

And, if you are a friend or family member, you have received at least one Disney themed gift—possibly more!

Hiding Disney enthusiasm?  Not for me.  I can’t do it.  I promise not to shout though.

Friday, January 24, 2014

50 Disney Trading Pins For FREE Using Swagbucks

As you may already know, the husband is the pin trader in our family.  His pin trading started off innocently enough, as a way for him to interact with Cast Members and other guests.  Now, he arranges his pins into collections--Villians, Pixar, black and white, etc.  Before a trip, he sorts and organizes the pins that are going with him and each evening of our trip, he will add pins to the various lanyards (yes, he has more than one lanyard) for trading the next day.
The husband's pin lanyard is extra-wide for more pins!
The boy also has more than one lanyard, but he is more likely to broker trading of his dad's pins than of his own.  He will check out a Cast Member's selection and then propose, "Hey, want to trade that pin for one of my dad's?" without even considering trading one of his own pins.  He also has a lanyard full of Stitch pins that gets heavy so is reserved for special occasions.

So it is not surprising that a set or "lot" of 50 Disney trading pins is on it's way from Amazon in preparation for our next Disney vacation.  What is surprising is that we are getting the pins for FREE!

Free?  How do you do that?  Well, it's easy.  The answer is Swagbucks.  Swagbucks is a search engine and more that pays you back when you interact--in Swagbucks, of course.  I started using Swagbucks about 18 months ago and since have earned over $400.  The Swagbucks can be used/redeemed at the Swagstores for gifts, prizes, contest entries, and best of all, gift cards!  Our favorites are Amazon gift cards which never expire!

To get the trading pins home, I earned enough Swagbucks to redeem for Amazon gift cards which were then applied to the purchase of the Disney trading pins.  The Amazon gift cards covered the cost of the pins and shipping, making the pins FREE.

There are 15 different ways to earn Swagbucks, but my favorite is Searching.  I use Swagbucks like any other search engine--such as Google-- and earn Swagbucks for searching.

If you want to get started earning Swagbucks--click here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Walk Through The Re-Imagined Test Track

The very first stop on our very first day of our most recent Walt Disney World trip was the newly re-imagined Test Track.  We were excited to see the changes of one of our favorite attractions. 

The queue weaves guests around futuristic models of vehicles.  Get your cameras ready!

Once around the far corner, a model car is visible with images being projected onto the car along with corresponding music and sounds.  Hence, the white looking car in the photo--as the images don't appear on the camera.

Next come a variety of screens in which to practice designing your future vehicle.  The premise is that you are going to design a car and then test its performance on the track--Test Track.

When we were there, guests were then given cards to scan to digitally hold the code for the test car design.  The second time we did this, our Key to the World Card was used as it was AM Extra Magic Hours.  Now I understand that guests' MagicBands are used rather than the cards.   If memory serves, it is one card for every 2-3 guests.
We were then assigned to stand on a number on the floor.  When the design studio doors open, you will then find the screen with the corresponding number.

Here we are at Design Station 5.  Time to get going on designing our test car.

Multiple language choices are also offered on the first screen.

As the designer moves through various menus to add options to the car, the 4 test elements--Capability, Efficiency, Responsiveness, and Power are rated.  There is also a countdown timer.  If memory serves, the time was 4-5 minutes.

As you can see, the design car went through several renditions and the photo above was the last model.
The screen then tells you to move on to the testing location.

Time to get ready to ride!  The card was scanned near the ride entrance on special scanners, again with the idea that you are now testing your designed vehicle.

Here we are testing our car on the Test Track!

The first time we designed and rode the car, our design did not register during the simulation.  It could have been us and it could have been Test Track.  Needless to say, we asked about it when we exited the ride and were put back on the ride to try it again, still with varying results.  When we returned to EPCOT and rode Test Track later in our vacation, the outcome was better.  We look forward to trying it again during our next vacation.

The ride through portion in terms of the track or path is the same.  What is different is the story and the design elements.  Frankly, I missed the trees, the brake signs, the truck coming at us.  The blinking lights did not make the story for me.  I told the husband that we aren't the target demographic for this attraction.

Another portion of the attraction that has changed is the exit area.  Now, this is the part I enjoyed.  There was even more opportunities to utilize the car you designed for other things, such as viewing it in a commercial--with you!

Hints and tips for getting the most out the newly re-imagined Test Track:
  • Experience the Stand-by queue at least once.  We go to Test Track first when the park opens for minimal wait times.  Otherwise, use FastPass +.
  • Practice designing on the practice screens before the Design Studio to get a feel for the touch screens.
  • Make designing the car a family affair.
  • Enjoy the ride!
  • Plan to spend time on the after attraction area as it is worth it.
  • Make sure to scan your MagicBand and have the ride photo added to your Memory Maker account.
The boy loved designing the car both times.  Test Track is on our "must do" list for our next trip!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Planning Some "Non-Disney" Activities For Summer 2014

The Simpson Ride was being completed at Universal Studios the last time we were there.
Yes, we are anticipating a visit to Universal Orlando as a part of our upcoming vacation.  As of right now, the plan is to fly into Orlando two days prior to sailing on the Disney Fantasy, and take a day trip to Universal Orlando while staying at the Hyatt at Orlando International.

And, we have to Universal Orlando previously--click here to read more.  We talked about returning in five years, but instead, it will have been six years.

The plan includes visiting both parks--Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure--in the same day.  The guys have most of the day planned, including our first stop, which is the Simpson's ride.  They also want to eat at the restaurant/bar near the Simpson's ride.

We are also anticipating a cab ride to/from the hotel to Universal Orlando.  That, too, will be an adventure.

Many families combine visits to both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando when traveling to Orlando, though I would have to say that most families set foot in the Magic Kingdom and say they have been to Walt Disney World--but that is for another post.  We, do not typically combine a Disney vacation with a non-Disney vacation, but we had the time and we were going to "be there anyway" so why not?

It isn't that we don't enjoy Universal Orlando, we do.  It is just that we enjoy the immersive experiences at Walt Disney world more.