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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Zip A Dee Doo Dah...

One of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World is Splash Mountain. This ride combines all the things needed for an awesome attraction.

Splash Mountain has a great story. Based upon the animated sequences in Disney's Song of the South, the attraction follows Br'er Rabbit and his journey looking for adventure. He is closely followed by Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear who are looking for their next meal. However, no matter how hard they try Br'er Rabbit is able to out smart them and get away.

Splash Mountain has wonderful music that will surely deliver a toe tappin' good time. With 3 original songs ("How Do You Do?", "Ev'rybody's Got a Laughin' Place", "Burrow's Lament" ("Laughin' Place"), and "Zip A Dee Doo Dah" for the big finale, you'll definitely be humming these songs all day long! Take a listen below:

Splash Mountain has dozens of animatronic characters and when combined with beautiful scenery,  this attraction is a delight for all those who hop into the logs. The original version of the ride in Disneyland opened in 1990 and reused many of the critters from the America Sings show. This attraction became so popular that it was duplicated at Magic Kingdom at WDW and Tokyo Disneyland just 3 years later.

This photo shows several animatronic animals in just this one scene.

Finally, my favorite part of Splash Mountain is the thrills! With several drops and lifts (and the infamous  5 story freefall)  this ride packs in lots of fun during its 10 minute duration. Don't let the big drop keep you from riding (at least once), there are many fun things to see on your way to the briar patch. I wouldn't say this ride is scary, but you may want to talk through it with smaller (and more timid) guests. It has dark periods and one of the smaller drops happens in a dark tunnel with little warning. With a little forewarning, anyone who meets the height requirement should have a great time. Just don't be these guys:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Avoid Lines, Use FASTPASS

I hope you enjoyed our previous post Kids+Lines=Crazy Parents. It contained various tips to help make your wait time seem shorter and keep your kids from driving you and everyone around you crazy. This post will focus on how to avoid long lines altogether and gain more time in the Parks. The number one method to avoid lines is Disney's FASTPASS.

FASTPASS is a free system to all Disney guests that allows you to reserve a place on a ride for a specific window of time. The image below shows a typical FASTPASS return ticket. The ticket shows the ride selected, the return window, the date, and when your next FASTPASS is available.

These tickets are given out at various attractions throughout all the Disney Parks. The attractions that support FASTPASS have kiosks usually near the ride entrance, you will see a sign like in the picture below. The times on the sign show what time your return window will be. These times are in 5 minute increments and continuously count up as FASTPASSs are distributed throughout the day. If the time place are blank then the FASTPASS distribution is closed due to distributing the maximum number of FASTPASSs or an attraction closure.

Beneath the "Distribution" sign will be a group of kiosks like the one below. You will insert your park ticket into the top slot, then the machine will eject a FASTPASS ticket below. It's important to not forget to grab your park ticket back from the top slot.

The system allows you carry multiple tickets, however you must wait 2 hours between retrieving your next FASTPASS or when your return window is open (whichever is shorter). When it's time to ride arrive at the attraction within your 1 hour return time (most cast members allow you to enter up to 15 minutes late) and look for the "FASTPASS Return" line.


Show the cast member your FASTPASS ticket and enter the line. Be sure and take your time and enjoy passing all the people waiting in the "regular" line. Don't get me wrong, you will wait some in the FASTPASS line but it will be much shorter. Typically the wait time is 5 minutes or less, yet sometimes due to ride shutdowns or bad weather you could wait longer. 

Now that you know how to use the FASTPASS system here is our method for maximizing your fun and minimizing your wait times.
  1. Arrive at the Park just before opening.
  2. Designate one person in your party to go get a FASTPASS for the whole group.
  3. Enter the Park and send the runner to pickup the FASTPASS at a popular attraction.
  4. The rest of the group should go get in line for a different ride since the wait will be short at opening.
  5. Reconnect with your group and visit another major attraction.
  6. Now your FASTPASS return time should be open, get another FASTPASS on your way to ride your first one.
  7. Repeat this pattern throughout the day, and have fun!
This technique allows you to ride 3-4 major attractions within the first couple of hours arriving at a Park! Now you have lots of free time to explore other areas, shows, and attractions. 

Rider Swap
A quick word on Rider Swap. Rider Swap is a FASTPASS ticket for those with little ones who don't meet the height limits of an attraction. Here's how it works:
  1. Find the cast member near the attraction main entrance and ask for a rider swap. 
  2. Then one person plus the "little one" hold onto the ticket while the rest of the party enters the line and rides the attraction.
  3. After the ride the group meets back together to swap the "little one".
  4. Next the the person who waited and up to 3 more people from their party may use the Rider Swap ticket to enter the FASTPASS line. 
  5. Note that Rider Swap does not have return window or expiration time so if you cannot ride right away you may use it later that same day.
Final Note: Disney is beginning testing of a new RFID system that will eventually replace the current FASTPASS kiosks called MyMagic+. This new system is designed improve the overall guest experience and interact with your smartphone. I will post a blog discussing this new system once it has been fully implemented. Thanks for reading and enjoy skipping those lines!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kids + Lines = Crazy Parents

Though our tips can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent  waiting in lines, unfortunately you and your little wigglers will not be able to go to Disney line free. So, let's talk about how to keep small people entertained in line. Disney is making a huge push to make their new queues interactive and retro fit their old ones with things for little hands to do. For example, Haunted Mansion at Disney World has two line options, a direct line or an interactive line.  Both get there about the same time, but the interactive side has huge crypts with games to play, instruments to touch, even squirting water!
image copyright Disney
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has an entire play area with a honey tree you can climb inside, bees to catch, musical honey pots, and more. Kids can play while their grow ups watch close by.

Play area at Winnie the Pooh

For the lines that are not interactive (or bus waits, sit down dining, etc.) you'll have to keep junior off the rails and focused. Our family always plays Disney trivia while we wait. We ask questions about characters, movies, rides, etc. This strategy usually works better toward the start of the trip while the excitement is still new. Flipping through your autograph books and seeing which characters you've already gotten or still need takes up some minutes as well. Before we leave for our trip I stock up on inexpensive stickers and colors and when we have our autograph books out, we create sticker stories or color characters. With colors or pens you can play tic tac toe, hangman or draw silly pictures. For my smallest guys I make busy bags. I usually make about 10 and rotate them out during the trip. They need to be quiet, easy to pack, and non messy. I put each one in individual sandwich bags and throw one or two in my bag each day. Here are a few that I did for the last trip.

1. Make a cupcake- Take different colored felt and cut several cupcake bases, tops, and toppings. They have so much fun mixing and matching and "baking" their cupcakes! This link includes a free download to make this busy bag!

2. Make a house- It's the same concept as above, but with felt roofs, bushes, doors, windows, etc.

3. Felt road- Make several road pieces from black felt that can fit together several ways. Draw lines down the middle for the road divider and a few matchbox cars to drive.

4. Popsicle Puzzles- Take a picture from a book or magazine and glue it on several Popsicle sticks. Cover with masking tape and they can mix them up and put them together.

5. Paint chip matching- Get pairs of paint chips from your hardware store. Cut one of the pair down and glue it on a clothes pin. Kids can match the colors together and pin each match to its mate.This blog has a great tutorial for it! I suggest getting the ones in the shape of Mickey of course.  Home Depot carries the Disney paint line.

6. Stringing buttons- Take pipe cleaners and several large buttons.  Have kids string them together.

These are just a few suggestions, the busy bag possibilities are literally endless. A quick search on Google or Pinterest will yield hundreds of ideas! Rotating the bags around keep the games fresh and the kids interested.  We also take small play sets and keep them in our backpack. Since we have boys, they are tiny car sets. They set them up on the ground in line and are happy for quite a while driving their cars all around. Every time we pull out the cars and car sets, we end up surrounded by little kids and have parents shoot us thankful looks. Pin trading is a good line distraction as well. Every cast member at Disney carries several little pins to trade. They have to trade with guests, so there is no threat that your child will be told no when they ask a cast member. My two older boys each have lanyards with pins and look forward to waiting in line to rearrange and survey their pins, plot their next trade, or just admire their work thus far! I try to look at line waiting time as a chance to be together, play games, and just be silly with my kids in this age of electronics and over packed schedules. If all else fails, there is always the iPhone!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Now Boarding.....

Have you ever dreamed of flying in a hang glider? At Disney's Epcot, Soarin' is an awesome attraction that feels like you are really hang gliding. You "fly" over some of California's most notable attractions like beautiful orange groves (you can actually smell them!), surfers hanging ten, beautiful national parks, and of course Disneyland. On a dreary day like today I could use a pick me up and a flight over California's orange groves to get me back on track. Have a nice flight! **BONUS TIP: Make sure you get a Fast Pass or Rider Swap for this attraction as lines can get fairly long.  Also, while you wait with little guys for the rest of your family to finish their flight, you can take a cool boat ride through the backstage of Epcot's garden area** 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Limited Time Magic

Every few years Disney launches new magical themes for the guests that visit their parks. Previous themes include The Year of a Million Dreams, Let the Memories Begin, and Where Dreams Come True. Each of these year-long promotions come with their own special treats, activities, food, and more! Special firework shows, nights in Cinderella's castle, guest stars, and new attractions are usually involved.
This year Disney rolled out its latest  featured theme, Limited Time Magic. This one is very cool!  The key is "limited time" so guests this year will get opportunities to attend events, purchase merchandise, sample food, and meet characters that usually aren't readily available in the parks. So far Limited Time Magic has given us "Bling in the New Year" (a character dance party in tomorrowland), "A Salute to The Golden Horseshoe Revue" (a reboot of this classic show at Disneyland), and "Long Lost Friends" (rare character meet and greets including Scrooge McDuck, Robin Hood, and the Three Little Pigs). 

Some of the upcoming events sound really amazing: 
  • True Love Week - Lots of royal couples out to meet, pink lit castle, valentines pins and merchandise
  • Independence Week - Red, white, and blue lit castle, special patriotic fire works
  • Unleash the Villains - This September on Friday the 13th Disney's Hollywood Studios will be invaded by the Disney villains, Maleficent, Captain Hook, Jafar, and more
  • Pirates Week - pirate parties, meet and greets, and more
Only a month in and people are raving about this theme. It sounds like Disney has hit a home run. Veteran Disney Nerds and Newbies alike can find something new and exciting to see, do or taste this year! I'm including a link to the current schedule so you can plan your trip around these exciting events!