The Beauty of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

One thing that struck me about Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on our recent visit was the sheer beauty and detail of the resort. Part of this was to be expected–Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World is striking–but Aulani takes this to the next level. Overall, Aulani exceeded our expectations with its amazing collection of art (one of the largest private collections of Hawaiian art in the world), its “Disney Details,” and its incredibly engaging design.

As I was organizing and editing Aulani photos this morning, the beauty of the resort continued to strike me again and again. While Aulani certainly has its fans, I think it’s relatively unknown to a lot of Disney fans beyond the basic look of the buildings. This is understandable, as a trip to Hawaii is very expensive, and tough to justify solely for a Disney resort.

Still, I thought it would be fun to share some photos from Aulani to showcase the beauty of Disney’s new resort on Oahu in Hawaii. This article is sort of a change of pace from the norm here, as it really doesn’t offer and tips, commentary, attempts at humor (that’s probably a good thing!), or really anything useful. It’s just some photos that illustrate why we loved Aulani so much.

Let’s take a look at the beauty of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa… (more…)

50 Years of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room


Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room celebrates its 50th Anniversary at Disneyland today. In honor of this groundbreaking attraction (the first to utilize Audio-Animatronics), I though I’d share some of my favorite Tiki Room photos. This article includes photos from the Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland versions of the attraction.

Although we’ve seen multiple versions of the Tiki Room, history isn’t the strong suit of this site, so I’ll leave that to the folks who can do it so much better. You can see historical photos and read information about the Tiki Room herehere, here, here, here, and here. Some pretty cool stuff on those sites, so check them out.

Instead, here are some of my personal thoughts and experiences with the Tiki Room. I grew up with the Tiki Room at Walt Disney World, mostly before New Management took over. My parents enjoyed the classic Audio-Animatronics driven attractions, so Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, and Tiki Room were all frequent stops for us. I always enjoyed the show as a child, but honestly, it never made as much as an impression on me as Carousel of Progress or Country Bear Jamboree. To this day, it still pales in comparison to both of those shows for me, although I do enjoy it.

Under New Management came onto the scene in the mid-1990s, and it wasn’t exactly well received. Although I was far from a fan, I don’t think it was as awful as some people made it out to be. It was ambitious, but it did fall flat on its face in terms of execution. Still, I’ll take an ambitious failure over some simple “spinner” any day of the week. I was glad to see a variant of the original return in 2011 after a fire in the Under New Management version. The original, which plays in Disneyland, is my favorite version, but Walt Disney World’s version is substantially similar, and I enjoy both.

Tokyo Disneyland’s “The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha E Komo Mai!” is probably the most interesting of the bunch. It combines two things that history would inform us are a recipe for disaster: a modernized Tiki Room and a Stitch Audio-Animatronics figure in an “in the round” setting. After all, Under New Management was a dud and Stitch’s Great Escape is a dud. Yet, somehow, The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha E Komo Mai! isn’t awful. I actually enjoy it, mostly for Stitch and his ukulele-playing at the end (I could do without the “Prankster Stitch” elements). It’s not as good as the original, but it’s unique, and it’s nice to have variations in the attractions from park to park.  (more…)

Greetings from Tokyo Disney Resort!

Welcome…to Tokyo Disney Resort. (Read that like John Hammond in Jurassic Park.) We have made the pilgrimage to Japan to visit what many Disney fans regard as the pinnacle of the Disney theme park experience. Barring issues with our flights or our poor senses of direction, we are now at Tokyo Disney Resort to celebrate Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th anniversary, and to visit Tokyo DisneySea (where we will undoubtedly acquire at least 27 Duffy souvenirs).

We’re mostly disconnected from the rest of the world on this trip, but we (mostly Sarah) will be posting occasional photos to Instagram, assuming the modems we rented for our iPhones work. Further assuming that the nifty Instagram plugin works, you should be able to view our 20 most recent live photos from Tokyo Disney Resort on this post below. If for some reason photos don’t display below, or you want to see all of our photos from Japan (not just the Disney ones), follow us directly on Instagram: Sarah here or Tom here. Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the east coast of the United States, so expect daytime and nighttime photos to be roughly reversed in terms of night and day back in the US.


Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade Photos

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is run during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom on select nights during the holiday season. Christmas is one of the best times of year to visit Walt Disney World, and this parade is a big reason why!

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade debuted in 2007, when it replaced the very similar Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade; the prior parade had been running since 1994. The current Christmas parade consists of elves, toy soldiers, reindeer, gingerbread men, and Disney characters in their holiday finery. The music in this parade is very catchy, and is available online (find it with our Disney Parks Music Guide). It is not the same as the parade that is shown on ABC on Christmas Day, which is filmed at Walt Disney World the first weekend of December each year.

Here are some photos of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade: (more…)

Here Comes the Christmas 2012 Grand Finale!

If the Christmas season were a fireworks show, we’d be nearing the grand finale. The presents are wrapped, the food is prepared, and one of our smaller family gatherings just concluded, leaving the house empty and quiet for the rest of the night. Of course, tomorrow morning the “grand finale” will occur, in the form of Christmas morning. I no longer have the sense of anticipation for Christmas morning that I did as a child–Sarah and I don’t do much in the way of gifts for one another and we don’t yet have kids to vicariously experience the joy of Christmas gifting–but it’s still a great day for spending time with family and enjoying festivities.

It might be a tortured analogy, but I think firework shows have some parallels. Just before the grand finale is the “late Christmas eve” portion of the show, where everything quiets down to build anticipation and make the grand finale all the more poignant. The grand finale is like a series of glorious, explosive presents. Fireworks themselves are festivities. As for the family part of the analogy…well, uhh…like I said, it’s a tortured analogy.

In real life, I love this quiet time. It’s a great time to just sit around, eat a couple a few dozen cookies, and watch Christmas movies with the family. In the world of fireworks…well, who likes a “tranquil” fireworks show? Only communists. To that end, here’s a photo from the grand finale of Holiday Wishes, when the perimeter bursts, incredibly bright streaming fireworks, and Cinderella Castle Dreamlights all erase the tranquility from the night sky over Walt Disney World.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Please click the photo above to view it large.

Technical details: shot with a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens. See our guide for more photography equipment recommendations.

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Not A Creature Was Stirring, Not Even…

Not only is Disneyland Paris’ Main Street the most beautiful and detailed Main Street I’ve ever seen, but it’s also the most beautiful Main Street at Christmas. This is in large part to the Christmas tree (which I’m told dates back to 1992 and is due to be replaced next year, but has aged quite well), but is also due to the whole Town Square area, which is filled with small pine trees and fake snow (or fake and real snow, depending upon when you visit). It also doesn’t hurt that Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant looks even more resplendent with its icicle lights than it normally does, and that other decorative touches are added up and down Main Street. Besides Main Street and the north corner of Frontierland, the Christmas decorations are fairly subdued, but it definitely feels like Christmas on Main Street in Disneyland Paris.

This is my favorite view of Disneyland Paris at Christmas; I could have stood up here for hours just gazing out at the park (definitely make sure to click the photo to view it large). For some more of my photos of Disneyland Paris at Christmas, check out this post on the Disney Parks Blog yesterday. (more…)