Tag: disney parks (Page 1 of 2)

Autographs are Back at Disney World!

Reported this week at Walt Disney World, characters are signing autographs again! Additionally, autograph books are for sale once more in gift shops around WDW.

Keep in mind that it’s only been confirmed that characters are signing autographs again in Walt Disney World, Florida. No news on the other Parks, and as of this writing, there are still no autographs on Disney Cruise Line (character meets are still distanced there).

Review: Savor the Savanna at Animal Kingdom

We loved this private tour so much, we’ve taken it twice! Savor the Savanna at Animal Kingdom is a guided tour where you can enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of Africa.

The tour has a maximum of 12 persons (over the age of eight), which means it’s bound to be a small, intimate group. Amazingly, our first time through back in 2019, we were the only two people on the tour! These days, though, now that enchanting extra experiences are up and running again at Disney, that’s very unlikely to happen. Our second tour was full, but I will tell you it made for a fun-loving and congenial group. We loved getting to know everyone on our tour, as well as the excellent Cast Members who guided us.

Our tour began at 4:30 in the afternoon (times may shift depending on the time of year). We were asked to check in at least 15 minutes before that time at this booth just outside the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safari.

tour check in booth

There was a quick form to read and sign and we were ready to go. Entering through the safari ride area, we got onto a special vehicle that would take us out onto the savanna, utilizing slightly different paths than the regular ride vehicles. The Savor the Savanna bus has seats in a u-shape around the perimeter. There is a little jostling around to be aware of. I have a less than perfect back, so I made sure to sit in a corner where I could better brace myself. Meg, our guide, was seated next to me.

ride vehicle

The adventure begins with a drive through the west savanna where we saw plenty of animals — wildebeests, rhinos, and of course giraffes.

giraffe

We also got a chance to speak with one of the savanna’s zookeepers, where we were encouraged to ask any and every question we had about the savanna and the animals that live on it. We definitely had a lot of questions! We also got to get a lot closer to those giraffes by taking a different road than the one regular safari vehicles follow.

Review: Savor the Savanna at Animal Kingdom is a can't miss tour! Click To Tweet

Then it was time to head to our boma right there on the savanna — if you’ve taken the regular safari tour you’ve surely seen it in the distance.

boma

Here, cast members treated us to a yummy tapas-style meal, with a sampling of African-inspired cuisine, paired with a selection of regional beer and wine offerings. And there was also a never-ending supply of POG juice, aka Jungle Juice, the most delicious fruit drink every Disney fan knows and loves.

food on tour

We were welcome to as much as we cared to eat, though with a full tour we did run out! There was dessert offered as well. Our guides were on-hand to answer any questions we might still have. There is also a restroom available at the boma, which was a welcome amenity.

Soon it was time for the second part of our tour, traveling through the east savanna and getting a chance to see elephants, cheetahs, and the safari’s famous three lions. We caught the male waking up from a nap:

lion yawning

The second half of the tour went by quicker, and I should tell you that it was quite a bit more boisterous — there was wine and beer available with dinner, and many of our companions imbibed joyfully. It made for a lively and fun bunch. We enjoyed meeting everyone and were very glad we’d done this tour again. I doubt it will be our last time Savoring the Savanna.

Savor the Savanna is $174 per guest and should be booked in advance. Guests must be at least eight years of age and if under 18, need to be accompanied by an adult. All guests on this tour should be in good health and free from high blood pressure; heart, back or neck problems; motion sickness or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not participate. Guests in ECVs need to be able to transfer to an available wheelchair. Theme park admission (as well as a park reservation) is required and not included in the price of this tour.

Using a Scooter at Disney World: part 3, updates and recommendations

A few years ago I published an article in two parts on how to use an ECV, also known as a scooter, as Walt Disney World. These can be found here (part 1, the basics) and here (part 2, don’t stress and here’s why). There are some updates to WDW policy and recommendations I’d like to share with you. And remember, if you have any hesitancy about using a scooter, maybe because you feel funny or a little embarrassed (and you shouldn’t, but we all know how it is), please make sure to read part 2 because I give a great pep talk. 🙂

You can still rent ECVs from Disney right at the Parks, each day. The current cost (as of 1/2022) is $50 per day, plus a refundable $20 deposit. You can also rent them at Disney’s Water Parks and at Disney Springs, but the refundable deposit there is $100. Park-owned scooters are fine and a good choice if you drove there, just need a scooter for the day, or don’t want to have a scooter on Disney transportation. You cannot prebook or reserve the WDW scooters. They do sell out early at Magic Kingdom in particular, however, so keep that in mind. Also, they aren’t the newest of machines, have some wear and tear, aren’t as comfortable as some others, and go a bit slower. Still, it’s a good, solid choice if you need it, and very simple to do.

Using a Scooter at Disney World: part 3, updates and recommendations Click To Tweet

You can also rent an ECV from a third-party vendor and there are many to choose from. I’m going to talk about the three I have the most experience with here. The biggest change to be aware of, though, is that as of 2020, the only third-party vendor that can drop off your ECV at your onsite resort so that it is waiting for you when you get there (and likewise, you can return it to Bell Services any time before you go) is ScooterBug. ScooterBug is Disney’s Featured Provider, which means they have an exclusive contract with Disney for delivering ECVs directly to the resort. You can learn more, and make a pre-order, here.

I have rented from ScooterBug a number of times. It is convenient to have the scooter waiting for you at Bell Services, that’s for sure. We drive to the Parks, and aren’t always exactly sure what time we’re arriving, or departing. They have several different models available, as well as a variety of accessories. If there’s a problem, Disney can work with you to remedy it. Once, for example, the wrong model scooter was delivered (more on scooter selection in another post coming soon), and Disney was able to arrange for ScooterBug to drop off the correct one later, while we made do with the other and headed straight to the Parks. We made the tradeoff later. Their scooters are in decent shape, but not shiny and new. I had problems with a battery dying on me in EPCOT once, and they were able to meet me in the Park with a new scooter. Their basic seat backs aren’t adjustable, and their ECVs do show some wear and tear.

Another third-party company I’ve rented from is Buena Vista Scooter Rentals. They also have various models and accessories, but I feel they’re less than top tier when it comes to quality. I noticed a lot of wear, as well as had issues with the scooter stalling out unexpectedly — once in the middle of Rise of the Resistance, and I was humiliated to be delaying the ride for everyone. The cup holder attached to the arm and kept tilting over to the side, and ended up being unusable. Another issue is pickup and delivery. Buena Vista can’t leave the scooter at Bell Services like ScooterBug can; none of the other third-party providers can. But Buena Vista has a very set schedule of times they will bring you your scooter or pick it up. These times weren’t always especially convenient for us and we had to change our plans more than once to work around them.

The third-party company I most highly recommend is Gold Mobility. And to be honest, I doubt I’ll ever rent from anywhere else again. Using their ECV (and I rented the Pride VICTORY 10 3-Wheel Mobility Scooter) after renting other third-party scooters felt like going from a Yugo to a Cadillac. They replace their scooters every nine months, so you’re always in the newest product.

Gold Mobility scooter

All Gold Mobility scooters come with a fan, front basket, cell phone holder, drink holder (more on that in a second), and a USB port by default, as well as all the usual features such as a battery, rain cover, ponchos, etc. I didn’t think I’d use the cell phone holder but I did, a few times — just remember not to park your scooter and leave your phone behind. You can add a cane, walker or oxygen holder or a rear basket at no cost. Victory 10 scooters can add a sunshade. The scooters are so well cared for it feels like they just came off the factory line. New, clean, and very comfortable.

The seat on the Gold Mobility scooter is fully adjustable. This was a huge plus for me. Other scooters I’d rented did not allow me to change the tilt of the seat back. The Pride Victory 10’s seat could lean quite far back or be more than upright. As a person who absolutely needs back support, this was vital for me. I’ve finished scooter days in agony because there was no support from a non-adjustable seat that was set at too much of a recline. Not the case at all with Gold Mobility’s scooters.

And the cup holder! I know this seems like a small thing to be excited about, but it’s so conveniently placed below the steering wheel, roomy but snug enough that you don’t have to worry about your drink being jostled.

Gold Mobility can’t leave your scooter with Bell Services, but they do offer “white-gloved personalized delivery.” This means *you* get to pick your delivery and pick up time, no need to work around their schedule. A very polite employee of the company brings it right to your resort at whatever time you specify, and answers any questions you might have.

Now, one caveat. Gold Mobility only rents their scooters by the week, not by the day. If you only need the scooter for four or five days, for example, they’ll come pick it up at that time, but you’re still paying the one-week rate. That gave me some pause at first, but truth be told, the cost difference isn’t much. All the ECV rental companies work on a sliding scale so that the first day is the most expensive, and the last the least. In other words, the difference between paying for five days and seven isn’t much no matter where you go.

These are only three of the third-party ECV rental companies out there, and there are quite a few more (Walker Mobility, Apple Scooters, etc.) Look around for reviews on those or try one of the companies mentioned above to find what suits you the best.

COMING SOON: Part 4, how to choose the right ECV for you.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Preview!

We had a chance to ride EPCOT’s newest attraction a little bit early at a Passholder Preview for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which opens to the public on October 1, 2021. It was a lot of fun! Here’s a largely spoiler-free (no ride pics, but a few helpful bits of information) review.

After being lucky enough to get a spot at the preview (Passholders, always check your emails!), we headed to EPCOT last week. The new Remy ride is on the right-hand side of the France pavilion, towards the back. The entire area is Remy-themed and full of delightful details.

ratatouille gusteau sign
Visitors to the France Pavilion feel like they’re in the world of Ratatouille.
ratatouille sculpture
The Little Chef himself!

Also in this section of the France Pavilion you’ll find La CrĂŞperie de Paris, a new restaurant that offers both sweet and savory crĂŞpes. There is a sit-down section as well as a to go window. If you want to check out the menu, visit the Disney Parks Blog for all the details. Lines at all of the previews were long, so this new dining offering is sure to be a hit.

la CrĂŞperie de Paris restaurant

After a short wait in line, we were able to ride!

The ride car and indeed much of the experience of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is very similar to another relatively new ride, this one in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Minnie & Mickey’s Runaway Railway. Both feature trackless cars and digital screens. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is suitable for guests of any height.

Remy ratatouille ride vehicle
Ride car for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, from the Disney Parks Blog.

The ride car, which looks like a friendly rat, has two rows with three seats each in a bench with small dividers. I am tall and not small, and I fit comfortably in the middle seat of the back row (a Cast Member told me the back row has a little more legroom than the front). The door to get into the vehicle is a bit small and up a step; it helps to turn a bit sideways and shimmy in. Once seated, you lower a lap bar yourself to a comfortable point and then you’re off!

In Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, your point of view is that of a rat scampering around Remy’s kitchen. A combination of force perspective and 3D screens (yes, there are glasses) create an immersive illusion, with a few surprises I won’t ruin for you here. I will say, though, for those concerned about motion sickness: while I was fine for 90% of the ride, there was one particular segment that had me feeling a little too dizzy. I closed my eyes for maybe ten seconds until the scene calmed down and then was fine.

A spoiler-free review of Remy's Ratatouille Adventure at Walt Disney World. Click To Tweet

Overall, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is a delightful ride that is a terrific addition to the World Showcase. Remy has long been the Food & Wine Festival’s mascot and he deserves a little love! What this ride isn’t is a game-changer or a thrill ride of any kind. Anyone expecting the an awe-inspiring experience like Flight of Passage is going to be disappointed; anyone looking for a fun update on the much-loved dark rides of Fantasyland (Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh) will enjoy it a great deal.

Having said that, be prepared: when the ride opens on October 1, Disney plans to use a virtual queue similar to that being used on Rise of the Resistance. From the Disney World site:

“When Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure initially opens, in order to experience the attraction, Guests will be required to join the virtual queue. A standby queue will not be available at opening. The virtual queue will be limited and subject to availability. Each Guest can enter the virtual queue no more than once per day.”

Of course, when the new Genie+ and Lightning Lane system comes online this fall, there may be other options for securing a spot on this new attraction. Stay tuned for more details!

ratatouille us
We had a terrific time and look forward to riding Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure again!

Disneyland replaces annual passes with a new Magic Key program

Disneyland has announced today a new program to replace annual passes, called Magic Key.

“When you’re a Magic Key holder, Disneyland is your land—you’re a townsperson on Main Street, U.S.A., a galactic citizen of Batuu, a hero at Avengers Campus, a local at Pixar Pier and beyond. You belong to the community of core Disneyland fans who all share a passion and love for the parks.”

The Dream Key has no blockout dates. Blockout calendars for the other Keys can be seen here:

Believe Key blockout calendar

Imagine Key blockout calendar

Enchant Key Blockout calendar

Toy Story Land is a blast!

We had a chance to visit Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and it was a blast!

Woody greeting guests at the entrance to Toy Story Land.

Woody is there to greet you with a “Howdy, Pardner!” and you find yourself shrunk down to the size of one of Andy’s toys.

We went during Extra Magic Hours, from 7 to 8 AM. Disney World is offering daily Extra Magic Hours for Hollywood Studios through August, 2018. If you can, take advantage of them! Crowds were incredibly light. Everyone seems to be running straight to Slinky Dog Dash, and you can do that too and have only a short wait. We walked onto Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania twice, each, no waiting. We also were able to meet Buzz, Woody, and Jessie with waits of less than five minutes.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Woody before but I’ve been waiting FOREVER to meet Jessie!

The new entrance to Toy Story Mania.

Toy Story Mania has a new entrance and queue, but it’s still the amazingly fun ride you know and love. Alien Swirling Saucers is kind of like the teacups on steroids — all the swirly fun but some added bits. I loved it, but I’m a fan of spinny rides.

We had been chosen! Swirling around in Alien Swirling Saucers.

As for Slinky Dog Dash, it’s a great coaster. Not a thrill ride for sure, but not a kiddie coaster either. The speed is comparable to Seven Dwarves Mine Train and the trajectory is similar to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but the ride is very, very smooth. For a more intense ride, sit in the back; for a calmer experience, try the front.

One disappointment was Woody’s lunchbox. Some of the more interesting items, the brisket sandwich and the grilled cheese and totchos, are only served at lunch, after 10:30 AM. The breakfast offerings we tried did not impress. The turkey and egg sandwich was okay but not exciting and the tater tots were cold.

There’s no actual gift shop in Toy Story Land, which is a little surprising — for one thing, it would be nice if there was one place to go that provided shelter from the elements and even a little air conditioning. Instead, merchandise is sold from carts. There are a few fun toys, Slink eats, alien ears, and an alien souvenir cup, as well as t-shirts, hats, and pins.

Toy Story Land isn’t jaw-droppingly innovative, but it is a great and much-needed addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which has been rightly called a “half-day Park” for some time. The Toy Story franchise has enthralled both children and adults for years and this new land is a long-overdue expansion we were very glad to see.

New Dooney & Bourke Haunted Mansion merchandise now available

A new Dooney & Bourke Haunted Mansion collection is now available online and at Disney Parks!

The collection was first released as a Parks exclusive, alongside a Princess Tiana collection. As reported by the Disney Parks Blog, a release party was held on July 22 in the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs.

dooney & bourke haunted mansion

The handbag artwork was created by Paola Gutierrez, Senior Graphic Designer with Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media Creative Group, and comes in a rich purple hue with a repeating pattern featuring the Haunted Mansion’s Madame Leota. Three bags are available, a Shopper ($268), Letter carrier ($198), and Wristlet ($98).

dooney & bourke haunted mansion

The letter carrier was my favorite bag in this new collection, seen here at the Marketplace Co-op.

Important to note: pictures on the Disney Blog and elsewhere on the net made the bags, and the band, look more of a blue-violet than a true purple, but as you can see in the photo above, taken at the Marketplace Co-Op at the first weekend of release, the actual bag is a rich, vibrant color.

The Madame Leota design also appears on a limited release retail MagicBand, presented in a specially designed box. As with all MagicBand 2’s, guests can use  their bands to enjoy their Disney vacation to the fullest, with “effortless theme-park entry, FastPass+ redemption and Disney PhotoPass , to skipping the front desk and going directly to your resort room.”

dooney & bourke haunted mansion

The new Dooney & Bourke Haunted Mansion collection can now be purchased at select merchandise locations at Disney Parks, on DisneyStore.com, or via the Shop Disney Parks app.

Sneak Peek: Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

We had the opportunity to attend one of Walt Disney World’s Passholder Previews for Pandora, Animal Kingdom’s new land. Be warned: there are lots of photos ahead, showing off Pandora’s amazing visuals and delights.,  including new rides, food, and beautiful architecture.

pandora

Come in for a sneak peek into Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom, opening May 27, 2017. Click To Tweet

pandorapandorapandorapandora

As soon as you walk into Pandora, the landscape changes. There’s the lush foliage and flora you’re used to at Animal Kingdom, but it’s … different somehow. Alien. You’re in another world. The floating mountains loom in the distance and the sounds of birds are everywhere around you. All the strange and exotic blooms of Pandora are there for you to enjoy. From what the cast members told us, the nighttime views are even more spectacular, when Pandora’s bioluminescent plants come to life.

 

pandora

Our first stop, after taking in all the sights, was Pongu Pongu, where we each ordered a Night Blossom. This non-alcoholic frozen beverage (seen here in the souvenir cup) is a mix of limeade combined with apple and pear flavors topped off with passion fruit boba balls. It was very sweet, but I thought incredibly refreshing.

pandora

We enjoyed our drink in the outside seating area for Satu’li Canteen and then stepped inside for lunch. The quick service setup will look familiar to any Disney visitor — you place your order at the register, then pick it up at the counter. This restaurant, though, will be the first to offer mobile ordering through the My Disney Experience app, beginning May 27th. Make sure you’ve installed the latest update before you go.

pandora

The food at Satu’li Canteen? Pretty darn good. I got the Chopped Wood-Grilled Chicken Bowl with wild grains and rice and the creamy herb dressing (seen here). My husband got steak with potatoes and the onion sauce and enjoyed his just as much. Both were tasty and filling. In fact, we were too full for dessert but the offerings looked delightful.

Now … the new rides.

First up, Avatar Flight of Passage. For the Passholder Preview, we were taken through the standby queues, though there were no lines at all given the limited attendance allowed. It gave us a chance to enjoy the scenery, and to appreciate all the work that went into designing this world.

 

pandora

pandora

pandora

pandora

pandora

 

pandora

I have a feeling this queue will never look so empty again! It was a long, long walk to get to the ride, and it gives you pause to think how many parkgoers will fit in it. Rumor has it that the queue can accommodate a 6 hour wait, but I would hope for anyone’s sake that’s overestimating.

After you reach the end of that very long hallway, you wait until a “link room” is available. At that point, you and fifteen other riders are ushered into a room where the link process is explained to you, as well as a brief history of the Avatar program.

 

pandora

 

At this point, we were asked to turn off cell phones and cameras, so I can’t give you pictures of the room where the ride takes place itself. My experience, though, was this: as I expected, I wasn’t able to ride. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Flight of Passage does not accommodate all body types, and this is true. In addition to being somewhat Pooh-sized, I’m a tall girl (over 5′ 10″) with long legs. No amount of scootching up or pointing my toes or sitting up straight or any of the tips you’ve heard were going to make a difference when my knees were already right up against the seat, with no room to move. Some tall people and some people more “Pooh” than I am have ridden, but it all depends on each person’s individual body shape. If you’re all leg and not tiny, you may run into the same problem I did. The Cast Member was super nice and helped me, and sounded absolutely miserable that I wasn’t able to ride (she was more upset than I was, but more on that later).

So, I stepped outside through the exit door and waited there on a bench while my husband rode. While I waited, I had a great time talking to Cast Member William, who told me that this is a frequent occurrence and one the CMs feel terrible about. He said, and I hope he doesn’t mind me paraphrasing him here, that as Flight of Passage Cast Members it’s their sole purpose to give us an excellent ride experience, and that they’re truly disappointed when they can’t accommodate a particular rider.

We also talked a bit about why I wasn’t upset at missing the ride — I never had any intention of doing it, even if I had fit (but wanted to see if I did) because I have a lower back fusion and continuing disc problems, and this ride seemed like it would easily aggravate that. (A cast member I spoke to indicated his own mother won’t ride for the same reasons.) Disney gives its usual health disclaimer for this ride, warning those with high blood pressure, motion sickness, and “other conditions that could be aggravated”. For me, because of the back restraint on this ride, as well as the banking and leaning that would take place, this was too big of a risk for my too-easily-aggravated back condition. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe for anyone else, but if you’re in my shoes, be careful.

My husband, however, did ride, and enjoyed it very much. You wear 3D glasses and the visuals are perfect and seamless. You truly feel as if you’re flying, and part of that is because of the sounds, smells, and feel of your banshee beneath you, as well as the wind in your face as you soar and dive through Pandora’s skies. Everyone’s thrill level is different, but many are describing Flight of Passage as “Soarin’ meets Star Tours meets Mission Space” — three great rides rolled into one and set in the exotic world of Pandora.

 

pandora

pandora

 

For a complete change of pace, we then went on the Na’vi River Journey, a beautiful boat ride through Pandora’s nighttime world. The ride is serene and lovely — we rode it twice — and the technology is stunning. The boats have two seats and legroom is ample for a comfortable ride.

Both rides will offer FastPass+, but Park visitors can only choose one of the two Pandora: World of Avatar rides in their first three selections. In other words, you can FastPass Flight of Passage, Kali River Run, and Dinosaur, and then if you like, try to get a same-day 4th FP for Na’vi River Journey. This may or may not be easy to do at first, so choose wisely (and use MDE to your best advantage).

Pandora is an exciting addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with a great deal to enjoy visually, two new rides, an excellent quick service dining option, and banshees of your own to buy at Windtraders gift shop. Face painting, a drum circle, and other activities can be found throughout the land. While some may have questioned adding Pandora to Animal Kingdom (due to the fact that, well, Pandora doesn’t exist, unlike DAK’s other inhabitants), its message of conservation and protection ties in closely with Disney’s commitment to environmentalism. I think visitors both young and old (and even those who’ve never seen “Avatar”) will enjoy this new land to explore.

Celebrate the 4th of July at Disney’s Grand Floridian

4th of july fireworksStarting to make your summer plans, especially for the 4th of July? Independence Day can be an exciting but crowded day at Disney World. Guests from all over will be there celebrating and enjoying the Parks. If you aren’t up to braving the enormous crows at Cinderella’s Castle that night but still want to enjoy the fireworks in a beautiful and exclusive venue, you might be glad to hear that Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort & Spa will host a special limited ticket event to celebrate July 4th.

The entire event will be held at the marina at the resort. Dinner will include grilled steak and shrimp, other cookout favorites, dessert, and includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. After the meal, guests will have a terrific viewing location to watch the 4th of July fireworks show performed at the Magic Kingdom, including music piped into the area during the show for a full experience.

The tickets will be $120 (plus tax) for adults and $59 (plus tax) for children (ages 3-9). Reservations are already available for the event by calling (407) WDW-DINE. I would recommend making your reservation as soon as possible for this first-time event that is sure to be popular. You do not have to be staying at the Grand Floridian in order purchase tickets to the event.

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