Dixieland at Disneyland

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Dixieland at Disneyland was an annual special event held at Disneyland beginning in 1960 and lasting through 1970 that featured live bands, a Mardi Gras floating parade on the Rivers of America, scenic environments, and more. It was a special hard ticket event priced around $4.50, and it brought out jazz fans in droves. Dixieland at Disneyland was also a special Annual Passholder event earlier this week with some similar elements, harkening back to the early days of Dixieland at Disneyland.

I was fortunate enough to attend this week’s Dixieland at Disneyland event, and had an amazing time at the event. It has been the highlight, so far, of the Annual Passholder events I’ve attended that I discussed in the Disneyland Annual Pass Info & Tips post. I wrote there that these events demonstrate that Disneyland does care about its Annual Passholders, and having an event like this that pays homage to Disneyland history and features a presumably large entertainment budget really shows me that there are people working hard behind the scenes at Disneyland who really care and “get” it.

Because I was impressed by the event and wanted to share some of the experience, I thought I’d write a recap. At the same time, I don’t want this to come across as “here’s a look at this awesome one-time(?) event you’ll probably never get to attend. HAHA, SUCKERS!” so I thought I would strike a balance by highlighting the history of Dixieland at Disneyland as well as a recap of this specific incarnation of it.

Fair enough? We’ll start with some historical info about Dixieland at Disneyland, then I’ll share some of my photos and thoughts from this year’s event… (more…)

Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel Review: Hotel Menage

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Hotel Menage is a Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel located about 12 minutes from the parks near the I-5 freeway. The hotel aims for trendy and chic, and succeeds somewhat. This review features photos of the hotel, plus thoughts about our experience of staying here.

Let’s start the review by covering the location. With it being only a 12 minute walk from Disney California Adventure and Disneyland, the location is pretty solid on paper. It’s essentially right across the street from the HoJo Anaheim, both of which the I-5 freeway runs past. For those unfamiliar with the 5, it’s a major highway running through Orange County, which right away should raise concerns about noise. I never had any trouble sleeping or really noticed the sounds of the freeway, but light sleepers might want to think twice about booking this hotel, just the same. Likewise, when walking to the park, you have to cross the I-5 on and off ramps. There are pedestrian traffic signals here, but it still seems like a bit of a sketchy intersection.

Hotel Menage is one of the 39 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels, meaning you could book it as part of a vacation package if you so desired (although if you choose to do that, you’re going to pay an inflated rate). It’s nice hotel that would earn that distinction regardless of location. You can get an idea of how it stacks up to the competition, plus our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

So what are the pros and cons of staying at Hotel Menage? Let’s take a look… (more…)

Frozen Port at Tokyo DisneySea & Tokyo Disneyland New Fantasyland

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Tokyo Disney Resort will be adding a new Scandinavia port with a Frozen area in it as Tokyo Disneyland adds a New Fantasyland with Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast areas, announced the Oriental Land Company (owners and operators of Tokyo Disney Resort). This is part of the company’s aggressive plan to spend 500 billion yen (~$4.2 billion) on its two existing theme parks between now and 2024.

The Scandinavia port-of-call will be located on an expansion pad in Tokyo DisneySea, while the New Fantasyland additions will mostly repurpose existing portions of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Both areas are set to be complete after the end of fiscal year 2017, which is a fairly aggressive construction schedule considering the expansiveness of these projects, and given that no construction has yet begun. You can read more about the basics of the news in this press release from the Oriental Land Company. I’d rather focus on commentary than parroting a press release that you can read for yourself.

Although this news seems like all-upside and no downside at first blush, let’s look a little closer…

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Disney World Free Dining 2015 Dates

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The Free Disney Dining Plan is now available at Walt Disney World for booking by Disney Visa credit card holders and the general public! Free Dining dates for 2015 that are currently available are listed below. We will update this page as dates change or are added/removed. You can also sign up for our newsletter to be alerted as soon as we hear anything about 2015 Free Dining dates.

Here are the current Walt Disney World Free Dining dates available for booking by Disney Visa cardholders, and for the general public:

  • August 28 through October 2, 2015
  • October 25 through October 31, 2015
  • November 8 through November 19, 2015
  • December 15 through December 21, 2015.

These dates are OFFICIAL, not rumor. For 2015, there’s also the requirement that guests purchase at least 2-day tickets that include either Park Hopper or the Water Park Fun & More option, or both. This is a new requirement as of this year. Additionally, a 3-night minimum stay is required with a maximum stay of fourteen nights. This means you can’t purchase discounted Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller, which is something to keep in mind when doing the math to determine if “Free Dining” is a good value for you.

To answer some common questions: yes, you must purchase tickets with the offer even if you already have them (or an Annual Pass). No, bookings made with Disney Vacation Club points are not eligible for the offer. No, you cannot “stack” this offer with a percentage-off room discount.

More details about the 2015 Free Disney Dining Plan promotion are listed below… (more…)

Tips for Renting Cars for Walt Disney World

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One of the big dilemmas facing many people is if they should rent a car at Walt Disney World, and if so, how to save money when renting a car at Orlando International Airport. This post covers the pros and cons of renting a car for a Walt Disney World vacation, as well as how to go about saving the most money on rental cars, and other rental car hacks, pitfalls, and other random rambling.

As a threshold matter, you have to determine whether you need to rent a car at Walt Disney World in the first place. Unlike many other vacation destinations, a rental car at Walt Disney World is not a strict necessity, so don’t assume that a booking a rental car is an inherent step in your trip planning. In the first section of this post, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of renting a car. If you already have determined that a rental car is right for your family, you can skip ahead to the second half of the article, which covers tips and tricks for saving money on rental cars at Walt Disney World (and beyond).

We have a lot of ground to cover in this post, so let’s start by taking a look at whether you should rent a car at Walt Disney World or roll the dice and rely on Disney’s “lovely” “free” transportation system… (more…)

Sailing Day Buffet Review

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Sailing Day Buffet is a restaurant in Tokyo DisneySea’s American Waterfront. As the name suggests, it’s a buffet, and it serves mostly Western options, but it really isn’t all American cuisine as the location would suggest; there’s a broad enough selection of different international items (all of which are completely tame), conventional options, seafood, carved meat, and more. It even it moderately vegetarian-friendly!

This review takes a look at the food available on the food on the buffet, plus the seasonal ambiance we experienced at Sailing Day Buffet at Halloween. The review costs 2800 Yen, which is currently about $23. I figured I should start giving the actual yen amounts in these reviews, as the Crystal Palace buffet is the same price, yet our review reflects a dollar cost of 30, which was what the conversion rate was at the time. As you can see, things have improved significantly since then. For an all inclusive price of <$25, Sailing Day Buffet represents tremendous value.

Now let’s take a look at the environment. The restaurant is set in a dockside warehouse for the United States Steamship Company, which is based on an actual company formed in 1848 to carry U.S. mail from New York to California, with stops in New Orleans, Havana, and Panama. The company had the SS Ohio and the SS Georgia built in 1848, and purchased the SS Falcon in early 1849; it also carried the passengers by steamship. It’s unclear whether the building is based on any historical photographs of boathouses used by the actual company. There’s plenty of details and supplies stacked high in the upper level and it feels authentic. Unfortunately, as far as Tokyo DisneySea goes, the concept itself is on the weak side (“a big warehouse filled with supplies where people get to eat–how exciting!!!).

That’s about the only downside of Sailing Day Buffet; let’s take a look at all of the ways it excels, including the skeleton performers! (more…)

Disney Parks Pet Peeves

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To borrow the immortal words of Frank Costanza, I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it! That’s right. I know this blog is normally rainbows, unicorns, and all sorts of other good vibrations, but it’s time for you to hear what I really think (…as if I’ve been holding back ;) ). Here, it’s time for my “Airing of Disney Parks Grievances.”

On the surface, I’m a reasonably patient person with a fairly relaxed attitude. Just under that lies a surly curmudgeon who holds back festering irritation about myriad little things that probably should bother no one, many of which are witnessed in the parks. Much like an internal combustion engine somehow magically converts fuel into energy, I think in a way I turn these minor irritations into some sort of energy for (hopefully?) fruitful endeavors. So this isn’t all negative!

With that said, this post is in no way helpful to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other park trip planning. Actually, it’s not really helpful to anything anywhere at all. Think of it as a junk food blog post that you shouldn’t waste your time reading. That is, unless you read any of the crap on BuzzFeed, ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, etc. In that case you clearly don’t care about wasting your time, so read away, kind souls!

Now I’ll let my inner Statler & Waldorf take over and share a few of my many Disney theme park pet peeves…

(Fair warning: this is my inner Statler & Waldorf talking, so it does have a bit more bite than normal–for the sake of balance, I’ll be back next week with a post titled “Endearing Things About Disney Parks”) (more…)

Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel Review: Anaheim Marriott

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Anaheim Marriott is a Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel within walking distance of the parks, and a few hundred yards from the Convention Center. In terms of quality and amenities, it’s one of the nicest hotels in this part of Orange County, California. This review features photos of the hotel, plus thoughts about our experience of staying here. It’s not going to be a hotel for everyone, but for a certain segment of Disneyland visitors and, more importantly, Anaheim Convention Center guests, this is going to be a great option.

As is the case with all of these hotels, let’s start with distance to the parks. Given its proximity to the Anaheim Convention Center, if you’re familiar with the area, you probably realize it’s not as close to the parks as the hotels right across the street on Harbor Boulevard. It’s actually located past Katella, on Convention Center Way, which is a loop containing a handful of major names. During our stay, I exclusively walked to and from the Anaheim Marriott, and each time it was about a 15 minute walk. It’s just under a mile away and although there’s the ART bus that can get you to Disneyland, it might be a bit far for those who like to walk.

In terms of demographic, I think it’s probably catering just as much to business travelers and convention-goers as it is to those visiting Disneyland. The business travelers coming to Anaheim who are loyal to Marriott are likely going to stay here, and then it’s one of the best options in terms of proximity to the Anaheim Convention Center. Still, it ranks as one of the better overall hotels among the 39 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels due to its amenities and overall room quality. If those things matter to you and distance isn’t as important, this should definitely be a strong candidate for you. You can get an idea of how it stacks up to the competition, plus our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

Now let’s take a look at what I’m going to call the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Anaheim Marriott… (more…)