Festival of Fantasy Parade Tips & Photos


Festival of Fantasy Parade is the newest Magic Kingdom parade that debuted with New Fantasyland’s opening at Walt Disney World. This post has viewing tips plus photos of the new parade, and my quick review.

Honestly, when the Festival of Fantasy Parade was announced, I wasn’t all that excited. I thought it was a good idea to tie-in with the conclusion of the New Fantasyland expansion, but other than that, I wasn’t all that enthused. At the time, I often said I was “not a daytime parade person,” an opinion that was largely the result of not having been particularly enamored with any daytime Magic Kingdom parade since I was a kid in the mid-1990s. Also as a result of that, I didn’t make a huge effort to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade following its debut on our Memorial Day Walt Disney World trip.

With that said, I really enjoyed the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Actually, I downright loved it. Unlike almost every Magic Kingdom parade in recent memory, this parade actually feels ambitious, and large in scale and scope. The parade floats are all large, detailed and have a lot of substance to them. The float that has captured everyone’s attention is the steampunk-esque Maleficent float, and this is understandable because it breathes fire, but the Brave, Tangled, Peter Pan, and Monstro floats don’t garner nearly as much attention, despite being quite well done.

Add to this performers in costumes that have a lot of detail and are, in some cases, a bit darker and more interesting than the ‘fantasy fluff’ you’d expect to find in a Magic Kingdom parade, a catchy soundtrack, and a great energy, and you have a parade that’s a real winner. In terms of overall quality and appeal, I’d put Festival of Fantasy Parade up there with the parades I’ve seen at Tokyo Disneyland, and the park sets the gold standard for daytime parades.

With that said, I don’t think the Festival of Fantasy Parade is entirely perfect… (more…)

Visiting Disney World in November 2014

November is a very good month to visit Walt Disney World due to mild weather, low crowds (except Thanksgiving week), and the start of Christmas season! This month also sees the continuation of Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, another runDisney race, and the standard mix of events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Oh, and did we mention the start of the Christmas season? It’s our favorite time of year at Walt Disney World and the parks (minus Animal Kingdom) go all out for it. This post will cover what you need to know for November at Walt Disney World, and it has our latest Walt Disney World hotel-stay giveaway at the end of the post!

In terms of crowds, most of the month of November remains off-season, with low crowd levels until the week of Thanksgiving. For Thanksgiving week, they spike tremendously, and this entire week through the Saturday after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year at Walt Disney World. If you can avoid this week, November is still a good month to visit for low crowds (check out our When To Visit Walt Disney World post for the best and worst months of the year). Expect wait times to mostly be low, although you will encounter throngs of people at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (albeit fewer people than you’ll encounter closer to Christmas) and weekends at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival will be busy. Because of the lower crowd levels, you can expect park hours to have earlier closings throughout the month of November (except Thanksgiving week), but early closings and light crowds are something we’d take any day of the week over heavy crowds and extended hours.

Weather at Walt Disney World in November is unpredictable. On paper, if you just go by historical averages, November is a great month to visit. In reality, the weather you experience likely won’t be a historical average, and packing can be tricky because you might experience weather in the high 80s or you might experience a cold front with frosty mornings. Because of the potential for cold weather, our favorite Walt Disney World water park, Typhoon Lagoon, actually closes for the season at the end of October (one downside to visiting in November). We recommend packing for a wide range of weather conditions and paying close attention to the extended forecast before your trip.

I still “fondly” remember our late-November/early-December trip a few years ago when I packed all shorts and polos and we unexpectedly had lows in the 30s and highs in the 50s. Purchasing new outfits from The Emporium is neither fun nor cheap! More likely than not, you’ll have pleasant weather, but let that serve as a cautionary tale…

As a result of all of the above, November is a solid pick for visiting Walt Disney World. I know, I know…we’ve only done 3 of these monthly posts so far, and we’ve praised September, October, and now November as solid months to visit. Spoiler alert: we’re going to say the same thing about December and January, except with some caveats for both months. You’re probably wondering if we’re going to just say that about every month. No, definitely not. Just wait until we get to the spring and summer months.

Let’s take a look at what else is going on at Walt Disney World in November, and how you can make the most of your November visit…
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1-Day Tokyo DisneySea “Daily Trip Blueprint”

If you’re visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, it may be part of a greater Japan trip, and you may only have one day for Tokyo DisneySea. This plan covers our “perfect day” at Tokyo DisneySea, focusing on everything we would do in one day if that’s all of the time we had. Note that in our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planning Guide we recommend 3 days at Tokyo DisneySea if you have the time (with a Disney fan being able to spend even more time there), so you necessarily will have to skip some things if you only have one day. Since Tokyo DisneySea is so much more than a series of attractions, this post covers how we recommend enjoying the ambiance, restaurants at which you should dine, and of course, attractions you should do. This post continues our series of single-day itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We call this series our “Daily Trip Blueprints,” or DTBs for short…a corny nod to our website name!

These Daily Trip Blueprints aren’t touring plans or strategy guides for doing as much in a single day at Tokyo DisneySea as possible. If you follow this guide, you won’t do every single attraction in the park. The thing about racing from attraction to attraction at Tokyo DisneySea is that it totally misses the point of what makes the park so special. Don’t get me wrong, it has a stellar attraction lineup, but its theming “lineup” is out of this world, and much more impressive.

It’s truly a park where you should slow down and take it in. So this guide tries to find a way to allow you to slow down and enjoy the experience…while still experiencing a lot. Most park strategy guides focus solely on number of attractions, and totally ignore the great things that make Disney Disney. If you’re only after our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions so you can put together your own checklist of attractions to complete, read our comprehensive Best Tokyo DisneySea Attractions & Ride Guide post.

This guide assumes a couple of things, both of which should be strongly noted: first, that you’re visiting during a weekday at a moderately-crowded time of year, and second, that no seasonal events are occurring during your visit. The first assumption is of the utmost importance. Unless you’ve been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland on a major holiday, you probably have never seen the kind of crowds the Tokyo parks get on weekends or during busy season. If you visit when it’s busier, you will wait in long lines for everything, including to get into the park. The second assumption is for the ease of writing this guide. I would say that over half of the year there is some sort of seasonal event going on at Tokyo DisneySea, and most of them have some entertainment worth seeing. Plan to pencil this into your schedule as time permits.

If budget is no issue, you’re going to want to stay at Hotel MiraCosta for your 1-day in Tokyo DisneySea. It is the only hotel in the world that is located–get this–inside of a Disney theme park. Just as importantly, staying here (or any of the three Disney hotels) gives you the “Happy 15″ perk, which is 15 minutes of early entry into the park. You might scoff at only 15 minutes of early entry, but don’t underestimate its importance. If the MiraCosta is out of your budget, we recommend the Hilton Tokyo Bay (read our hotel review), which is an official partner hotel, and located on the monorail loop. Make sure to book it early or check rates regularly, as prices fluctuate.

Once you wake up from wherever it is that you are sleeping, eat breakfast, and then get started on your day… (more…)

Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland

Halloween Time at Disneyland occurs in 2014 from September 12 until October 31, 2014. During HalloweenTime, the hard ticket Mickey’s Halloween Party will be held most Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays in October, and two dates in September. Mickey’s Halloween Party tickets range in price from $56 to $77, depending upon the night and whether you qualify for an Annual Passholder discount. Click here for the full party schedule for 2014. Besides this party, entertainment during the Halloween Time at Disneyland season is included in the cost of regular theme park admission.

For those considering visiting during Halloween Time at Disneyland, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the standard offerings during the Halloween season in Disneyland are superior to those in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The decorations are better, the entertainment is superior, the seasonal snacks are more plentiful (and most are absolutely delicious), and there are two attractions at Disneyland that receive Halloween overlays (plus extra entertainment in Big Thunder Ranch), versus zero at Walt Disney World.

The bad news is that hard ticket Disneyland’s Mickey’s Halloween Party is inferior to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, crowds are not light (still better than summer) during Halloween Time at Disneyland like they are in the fall at Walt Disney World, and there are no other fall offerings justifying a visit to Disneyland Resort specifically during the Halloween season, versus Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, which is also a big draw during the fall at Walt Disney World.

With all of that said, we think Halloween Time at Disneyland is an incredible time to visit Disneyland. In fact, after Christmas at Disneyland, Halloween Time at Disneyland is our absolute favorite time of the year to visit. The only reason Christmas gets the edge is because all of its entertainment is included with the normal cost of admission, and Disney California Adventure gets into the fun during the Christmas season, too.

We attended the first weekend of Halloween Time at Disneyland 2014 (September 12-15), and had an awesome time. We’ve updated this post with some new photos and thoughts from this year’s festivities, so let’s take a look at Halloween Time at Disneyland, sharing some of our tips and reviews for the various offerings… (more…)

Tips for Buying Discount Disney World Tickets

Money-saving Tips for Buying Discount Walt Disney World Tickets (from authorized sellers!)

Walt Disney World offers a wide array of tickets. These tickets are expensive, but luckily, if you shop right, you can find good discounts on Disney tickets to save money. When it comes to a Disney vacation, the tickets are likely going to be your second-most expensive expenditure after your hotel room and perhaps airfare. For some people, they might actually be the most costly portion of the trip! Disney raises its ticket prices about once or twice per year with the last increase occurring in February 2014, so it’s best to buy your tickets as early as possible, before your trip.

Given their cost, and the myriad of different ticket options, it’s important to know as much as you can about the different types of tickets, and what your family will probably need. Purchasing Walt Disney World tickets can be overwhelming, as there are many different choices and add-ons. If you’re willing to do a little homework, all of the options are a good thing, as you can buy exactly what you need and not waste money on unnecessary extras.

In this article we sort through the different options and give you recommendations on what types of tickets are best for you, plus where you can save money on Walt Disney World tickets. (If you’ve come looking for info on discount Disneyland tickets, you’ve come to the wrong place–but we do have an article on that, too.)

If all you’re looking for is where to safely buy cheap, legitimate Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller and don’t need to read this entire article, click here.

Ready to get started? Here are our tips and tricks for saving money on 2014 Disney World tickets! (more…)

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…)