Visiting Disney World in October 2014 (+GIVEAWAY)


Many people view October as the best month of the year to visit Walt Disney World due to temperate weather, low crowds, and its seasonal events. If you ask Disney Vacation Club members, it’s often their favorite month of the year for the reasons above plus Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival (scoring an Epcot Resort Area DVC room at the 7 month mark is a serious achievement!), and the runDisney Tower of Terror 10-Miler. While we don’t agree that October is the best month of the year (sorry, but you cannot beat the Christmas season at Walt Disney World!), we can’t really argue with those who favor it–October is a great month to visit. This post will take a look at why October is such a great month to visit, and will wrap up with our latest Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotel Stay Giveaway at the end!

As for crowds, they dropped off after Labor Day and remain incredibly light for the first half of the month before trending slightly upwards for the Columbus Day holiday in the middle of the month, and remaining slightly elevated thereafter. It’s still a very good month in terms of crowds (check out our When To Visit Walt Disney World post for the best and worst months of the year), although weekends at Epcot will be packed for the Food & Wine Festival and the Magic Kingdom’s Halloween Parties will get busier closer to Halloween. Still, with a little planning, you can easily avoid crowds during October in Walt Disney World. Keep in mind that lower crowds also means park hours are short in October, but that’s a small sacrifice given considerably shorter wait times and better weather than those unbearable summer months.

Weather at Walt Disney World continues to improve in October, with temperatures cooling even further from September, humidity dropping, and the tail end of hurricane and storm season concluding. Afternoon showers and torrential downpours are still possible, as is really hot and really cool weather, so remember to pack for a wide range of weather conditions. You can view day-by-day temperature and weather forecasts plus historical averages for Walt Disney World weather in October here. As you can see, average highs are still in the 80s every day of the month, so it’s not that much cooler…although those 60 degree lows can make a big difference.

That’s the crowd and weather forecast in Walt Disney World’s neck of the woods, now let’s take a look at the events going on around the Resort! (more…)

Epcot ‘Frozen’ Over – Wish List

UPDATE: Disney has officially announced that Maelstrom will be replaced by a Frozen attraction, with Maelstrom closing September 5, 2014 and the new attraction opening in early 2016. The new ‘Frozen’ attraction will take our guests to Arendelle and immerse them in many of their favorite moments and music from the film. The pavilion will also include a royal greeting location where Anna and Elsa can meet our guests. With that, here’s our original post written prior to the announcement that predicted a Frozen attraction coming to Norway, and what we’d like to see happen if one came…

There was a time when Disney characters in World Showcase seemed less likely than pigs flying or…uh…certain ‘things’ freezing over. Well, it seems Epcot’s Norway is about to be Frozen over. Rumors are indicating that Maelstrom will close on September 28, 2014 to make way for a Frozen attraction, which would essentially be a quick conversion of Maelstrom into a Frozen attraction, rather than an entirely new attraction in its place. These possible plans have already proven quite divisive among Disney fans. The consensus among EPCOT Center fans is that Maelstrom should not be replaced by anything-Frozen, which is not set in Norway and is disrespectful to World Showcase. Fans of the addition are generally excited about anything coming to World Showcase, which has had plenty of restaurants and shops added over the years, but hasn’t seen a new attraction since Maelstrom in 1988.

I’m a big fan of movies, and one thing that really fascinates may is how the critical consensus of a film can radically differ from the audience consensus. In terms of Disney attractions, I think the same often happens in terms of the fan consensus versus the average guest consensus. If I had to guess, I would say Maelstrom is in the top 5 in terms of the differential (sadly, it’s probably right there with other favorites of mine like Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress, and the TTA) between the hardcore fans and the average guests. For many Disney fans, Maelstrom is quotable, campy fun–even a classic attraction. For average guests, it’s a puzzling look into a land inhabited by trolls, anorexic polar bears, and oil rigs.

I love Maelstrom, but I also don’t think it’s a well-done attraction. For me, it’s so bad it’s good. Perhaps I’m not winning any friends with this sentiment, but if you’re a fan of Maelstrom, why do you like it? Do you really think that it’s a well done attraction, or is it just nostalgic fun?

Since I already am not making friends with this blog post, I’ll go a step further: I don’t mind Frozen being added to Norway in World Showcase. Before you throw your shoe at your computer screen, there are some caveats to this, so hear me out… (more…)

Legend of Mythica Tribute

Over the weekend, The Legend of Mythica concluded its long run at Tokyo DisneySea. Having been shown for 8 years, it far outlasted just about any other show at Tokyo Disney Resort, which typically swaps out its entertainment after a few years at most. It lasted this long for good reason: it was one of the best pieces of live entertainment ever produced by Disney. Well, at least that’s my opinion. The Legend of Mythica is slightly divisive, at its abstract storyline leads many guests, especially non-Japanese speakers, to say “HUH?!” after viewing it. (By the way, while you read this post and look at these photos, I encourage you to listen to the Legend of Mythica soundtrack on YouTube.)

For me, the greatness of the Legend of Mythica has little to do with my understanding of its plot, and everything to do with its beauty and pageantry. I don’t even begin to understand the story, although what I’ve read makes it sound fairly interesting. Per that page, and what I’ve managed to cobble together based on my viewings of the show in person, the premise involves the relation of the human and mythical worlds, and how we now live in harmony after years of conflict.

The Disney characters are essentially shoe-horned into the show, but in a very workable way, as they represent the spirit of various things (laughter, adventure, etc.) and help bridge the gap between mythical and human worlds. There are also four spirits that are portrayed as humans, and a lot of dancers and other performers. This water show probably had more performers than most Disney parades.

There are few experiences at Tokyo Disney Resort that are impacted by the language barrier, but this was definitely one of them. Or maybe it wasn’t at all. When I read the plot after having seen the show, I find myself saying, “oh yeah, that makes some sense, I guess,” but I wonder if the Japanese struggled with the premise of the show just as much, and by not understanding the language, I was free to ignore any semblance of a story and just focus on the beauty of the show.

It may seem like I’m really reaching here, but the story is the type of abstraction that reminds me a lot of Illuminations at Epcot. Both are spectaculars that are simply stunning, and feature deeper messages than the general “magic and happiness” found elsewhere in Disney productions. The overarching message of harmony found in Legend of Mythica works regardless of Disney characters or even the mythical element. Yet, both shows can be difficult to fully grasp unless you’re paying careful attention or have some background knowledge. I find that Illuminations is best enjoyed with knowledge of the high-level message to help inform as to why it’s so beautiful, but not going so far as to try to parse every little detail.

What’s truly special about the Legend of Mythica is the lavish fanfare, insane amount of detail, and high production values. The Legend of Mythica is essentially a parade (with show stops) on the water, yet the level of detail in it puts to shame any other parade or production of this sort (I’m not even sure what would qualify as “of this sort”) that I’ve ever seen.

Rather than trying to “explain” the Legend of Mythica (after conceding that I don’t really understand it!), I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. (more…)

Frozen at Walt Disney World

DSC_1865 as Smart Object-1 copy

Any parent taking their kids on vacation probably wants to know where to find Anna, Elsa, and the rest of the Frozen characters at Walt Disney World. Currently, Frozen Summer Fun Live! is the main offering being held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and consisting of a variety of things, with the Princess Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet taking place in the Magic Kingdom. Oh, and you practically cannot turn around in a gift shop without seeing something Frozen. 

What is looming on the horizon remains to be seen, current popular speculation suggests that Frozen will replace Maelstrom in Norway at Epcot, perhaps with Imagineering going as far as taking out Norway and adding Arendelle. Beyond that, it’s almost certain that the Frozen Summer Fun Live! special entertainment that’s running at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and is slated to conclude on September 28, 2014 will be extended at least until the beginning of 2015. Walt Disney World frequently extends popular offerings “by guest demand” (see Main Street Electrical Parade, which was slated to run only for Summer Nightastic…that was 4 years ago) and the Frozen Celebration has redefined popular, giving Disney’s Hollywood Studios an incredible shot in the arm in the process.

With the American Idol Experience having closed on August 30, 2014 and located on prime real estate, there’s heavy speculation that the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration will be relocated from its current soundstage to a less-temporary set-up in the former home of the American Idol Experience, “Superstar Television Theater.” There’s also new speculation that Anna & Elsa are having their meet & greet return to Norway in Epcot’s World Showcase. There are rumors of an Olaf meet & greet during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. About the only park that doesn’t have any strong rumors concerning Frozen is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and we want to remedy that by starting the (fake) rumor of Sven the Reindeer’s Wild Ride (featuring real reindeer!) coming soon to that park. It’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, except different every time you ride…and you’ll have to sign a waiver!

The flurry of rumor activity concerning Frozen should come as no surprise. Disney likely wants to strike while the iron is hot, and there’s nothing hotter than Frozen. It’s so popular that in July analysts were already predicting one of the “it” Christmas toys would be a Frozen Snow Glow Singing Elsa Doll. There are about a zillion covers of “Let It Go” on YouTube. You can’t visit Tumblr without seeing Frozen fan art. Frozen has its own popular subreddit. It’s a cultural phenomenon, just about every child in the country is absolutely entranced by it. Even more impressive, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. I didn’t realize just how big of a deal it was until attending the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, and hearing a chorus of children singing the words to every song, even when the words weren’t displayed on the screen! It was like a cult chant…except cheerful children singing upbeat music.

Let’s not fixate on what might happen with Frozen at Walt Disney World, let’s take a look at what is happening, along with our tips and advice for how to approach it… (more…)

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014 Tips

The 2014 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties at Walt Disney World will occur in September and October. This post covers our tips and tricks for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014, which is scheduled for the following dates: September 1, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, and 28; October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31. You can purchase tickets (ranging from $57-77 per person) on Walt Disney World’s event page.

On these nights, the Magic Kingdom closes at 7 p.m. to guests who haven’t not purchased tickets for the Halloween Party. So you can prepare for the Halloween Party now, here is our analysis based upon the last several years (we go to it yearly) to help you determine whether this expensive hard ticket event is worth it to you, and if so, what your “Plan of Attack” should be to efficiently conquer the various offerings. Between this party and Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, plus improving weather, the fall months at Walt Disney World are one of our favorite times of year to visit!

Note that this guide covers Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, not Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. For info about the latter, read our comprehensive Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland!

Should You Attend?

So at over $60 a pop for tickets to the 2014 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, you might be trying to determine, “is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party worth it?” Our opinion, as Disney-biased tourists, is that it most definitely is worth the price at least once. Once you’ve experienced the party once (it doesn’t change much year-to-year), you might determine that it’s simply too expensive to experience again. For a one time event, it’s definitely worth it if your budget allows. While we prefer Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, we do attend both every year.

There’s a lot of special entertainment including one of Disney’s best parades and a great fireworks show, a great ambiance to the party including special decorations and lighting, lots of unique character meet & greets, and even seeing other guests in Halloween costumes makes for a fun experience.

If you do decide to do the Halloween Party, make sure to buy your tickets in advance, and use any available discounts (Disney Vacation Club member, Annual Passholder, etc.). Tickets are more expensive on the day of the party, and several nights each year sell out completely. It would stink to wait until the last minute and have your dates sell out!

If you’re a potentially returning guest to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, here’s what’s new for 2014. The big news is that there is actually a hard ticket event within this hard ticket event. Called Villains’ Sinister Soiree (we still wish they went with “Mickey’s Halloween Inception”), it’s essentially a dessert party in Cinderella’s Royal Table with reserved seating for the Boo to You Parade and HalloWishes fireworks. This costs $99 per person on top of the ~$60 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ticket. So, if you’ve been thinking that the Halloween party is just too darn cheap, this option is for you!

Seriously though, we have absolutely no intention of doing this party. The reserved viewing area is not a good spot for viewing the fireworks, as it’s too close to Cinderella Castle (for the best spots, check out our Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Locations Guide), and there are just too many other great things to do at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (it’s unlikely you can do all of the regular entertainment in a single night) to justify attending a dessert party, especially at the $99 price point. In fact, we wouldn’t do this dessert party even if it were “only” $25 per person. It’s just not worth taking the time from the regular awesome entertainment of the Halloween party to do this. Plus, the idea of another upcharge event within an upcharge event just makes us cringe.

Fortunately, the other “significant” new thing (besides some minor changes to the Boo To You Parade and a couple of different meet & greet characters) is the Club Villain dance party in Frontierland, and it offers guests the opportunity to ‘mingle’ with some villains without paying the upcharge price. Beyond that, it looks to be mostly the same entertainment as last year.

As for what you should do during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, here’s our guide, fully updated for the 2014 parties! (more…)

Visiting Disney World in September 2014

September is a great month to visit Walt Disney World thanks to improved weather, lower crowds, and fun seasonal events. It’s the first full month of school being back in session, and crowds essentially drop off a cliff after the Labor Day holiday and stay low the duration of the month. In our experience, it’s arguably the best month of the year in terms of crowds (check out our When To Visit Walt Disney World post for the best and worst months of the year) and while every park isn’t going to be “dead” every day of the week, if you plan well, you can really avoid crowds during a September Walt Disney World visit. That also means shorter September park hours, but you can’t really argue with accomplishing more in less time.

In terms of weather, September is better than the July and August, but early in the month it can still be pretty hot and humid. It’s also the height of hurricane and storm season, so you may want to consult our Visiting Walt Disney World During Storm Season article to navigate the afternoon showers (or worse) without them putting too much of a damper on your trip. Things get better towards the end of the month both in terms of humidity and storms, so your best bet is definitely to hold off on visiting until later in the month if you can. Just remember to pack accordingly, bringing the Frogg Toggs for the humidity…and ponchos for the rain so you don’t spend $179 on them at Walt Disney World. You can view day-by-day temperature and weather forecasts plus historical averages for Walt Disney World weather in September here.

September is also great for special events. To answer a common question: yes, you will see Halloween decorations if you visit Walt Disney World in September. Any day in September (this year decorations started going up August 24). Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is offered throughout September, and most of the best dates for attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are in September. It’s a really fun hard-ticketed event that we fully believe is worth doing at least once. If you’re considering attending and want to know whether it’s worth it or you’ve already decided to attend and want some tips and strategy for the party, read our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Guide.

The end of the month also brings with it Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, which is a great way to graze and sample different cuisines, or attend instructive seminars, or other foodie special events. It’s also a great way to lighten your wallet, as it is very easy to spend a lot of money at Food & Wine Festival on these small samples. Especially if you buy booze: not only can you spend a lot on the drinks, but the drinks might cause you to relax your credit card swiping hand and use it more freely on snacks. Not that we know from experience or anything. Check out our Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival Guide for more tips and tricks for this event.

But wait, that’s not all! (more…)

Best Days for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

With Halloween season at Walt Disney World on us already, some of you have asked us which days are least crowded at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? While we have not attended every single Halloween party at Walt Disney World ever, this is somewhat easy to figure out with a bit of deductive reasoning plus past experience. For 2014, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party occurs multiple dates starting in the beginning of September through Halloween night in October. Unsurprisingly, Halloween is always the busiest night of the party, but if you have other options, when should you attend?

In an ideal world, we would recommend attending a party in early to mid-September on a Tuesday night. Our reasoning for this is because we have observed that there are generally two rules for how busy Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party will be: 1) Tuesday nights are historically the least crowded and Friday nights are the most crowded; and, 2) The parties get progressively busier the closer you get to Halloween season.

We consider these fairly hard and fast rules because locals/Annual Passholders don’t want to take their kids to the Halloween party on a school night, and because they actually start thinking about Halloween when you get closer to Halloween. Basically, tourists go to the parties on whatever night they feel like going (they’re on vacation, it’s all the same to them), but locals who could go any night of the season choose more carefully, and tip the scales in terms of crowded-ness. We’ve found that October is also slightly more crowded (in general, not just the parties) than September, which probably adds to it. Still, they are both two of the best months of the year in terms of crowds.

Tourists generally don’t have the same luxury of picking and choosing nights, having only a few days from which to choose during their trips. But locals with the entire calendar in front of them want to get dressed up and take their kids later on weekend nights, once Halloween is actually on their radar and they have made costumes. Plus, locals know that Florida is still hot and humid in September, and typically cooler in October, making those bulky or ornate costumes more feasible later in the season. (more…)

The Plaza Restaurant Review

The Plaza Restaurant as seen from the Tomorrowland bridge. It may come as a surprise, but we aren't fans of the Plaza. Here's our review: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/plaza-restaurant-review/

Tucked away behind the Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street USA in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the Plaza Restaurant is in what would seem to be a high traffic area, yet it never seems to be too busy–at least not when we’ve stopped by. Perhaps this is because it’s a high traffic area when people are entering and exiting the Magic Kingdom, and at those times, a table service meal isn’t crossing the minds of most guests. The Plaza Restaurant’s menu consists of mostly American deli and soda-fountain classics, and is actually a lot like the Magic Kingdom’s version of Beaches & Cream.

The Plaza Restaurant participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a one credit table service meal. It also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. We always pay out of pocket when dining here, as this restaurant is a terrible value on the Disney Dining Plan (click to see top restaurants for maximizing your bang for buck on the Dining Plan) because the restaurant is so inexpensive.

In terms of ambiance, the Plaza Restaurant is basically a simplistic soda fountain with Victorian and Art Nouveau stylings. Its interior is very light and airy, with a lot of natural light plus some pretty, yet understated design flourishes. It’s not going to win any awards for being one of the best themed restaurants at Walt Disney World, but I would definitely call its design intimate and charming. Plus, it’s fun when the Mayor stops in to entertain guests or sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ (more…)