Scenes from Disney Parks: “Regular” Disney World


It’s time for more of my Disney photos in this installment of “Scenes from Disney Parks”! This time, we’re heading to Walt Disney World, with a set of new photos of the parks looking “normal.” I almost opted to dig into the archives and edit some new Christmas photos, but I know not everyone is excited for Christmas as I am, so I’ll spare you that…for at least another week! ;)

I’ve been photography at Walt Disney World has been a hobby of mine for 6 years now, and I’m still amazed at how I keep finding new subjects to photograph and new ways to compose familiar subjects. This is not meant to boast–I’ve been to plenty of non-Disney locations and found myself lacking any variety in my photos outside of the weather after only a handful of visits. It’s more a testament to how photogenic, thoughtfully designed, and inspirational the parks are in terms of photography.

Some people might roll their eyes and think another Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, etc., photo?!, but I feel like there’s an infinite number of ways to come up with interesting and unique photos of these oft-photographed subjects. The Disney theme parks really are a photographer’s playground, and taking good photos in the parks is sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. Not only is it great hobby, but I feel like it’s a great way to absorb and appreciate more of the detail in the parks (I know there were a lot of things I missed prior to getting serious about photography). So, if you’ve ever thought about taking up photography, and you’re a Disney fan, I’d highly encourage you to give it a try. Sorry for the random-ish odd thoughts there, but it was just something that struck me while going through photos from this particular trip, and I figured I’d share here…

As for these photos, after each photo I’ll share some technical stuff like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D810 DSLR–check out my full Nikon D810 Review for more details about the camera. I also have more sample photos from the D810 here. You can click on each photo to view it larger in my gallery and to see EXIF data on it. Hopefully other photographers find this useful.

If you’re a casual reader not interested in photo jargon, hopefully you still enjoy this new set of photos from Walt Disney World!



This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. For a while, I’ve been trying to capture a new photo that effectively conveyed the solitude of the Hub when the Magic Kingdom is empty, but not just by taking another generic shot of the empty hub. I think I finally got that here, with the low angle and the lines of the bricks leading to Cinderella Castle. I used the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (read my review of this lens) because originally this was going to be @ f/1.4 to make the bricks out of focus foreground bokeh, but that photo was too distracting that way. There was no real reason why I stuck with that lens for this version of the photo other than laziness, I guess. (more…)

Ultimate 2014 Disneyland Christmas Guide

Disneyland Resort’s Christmas season runs November 13, 2014 through January 6, 2015 with tons of holiday entertainment, decorations, and attractions. Is there anything better than experiencing Disneyland and Disney California Adventure during the holiday season? Perhaps only experiencing Walt Disney World, which, with its four parks and myriad of resort hotels, has a bit of an unfair advantage over the more compact Disneyland Resort. Pound for pound, though, Disneyland Resort arguably has the better Christmas offerings, especially in 2014 now that Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land and Buena Vista Street fully embrace Christmas.

This “Ultimate Guide” will give you tips about visiting Disneyland at Christmas, including Jingle Cruise, World of Color – Winter Dreams, Haunted Mansion Holiday, ‘it’s a small world’ holiday, the Believe… In Holiday Magic fireworks, A Christmas Fantasy parade, Candlelight Processional, The Holiday Time at Disneyland Tour, Disney California Adventure’s decorations and offerings, and everything else Disneyland has to offer at Christmas! Along the way we’ll offer some of our tips and tricks for best-experiencing the Disneyland Resort at Christmas-time, and we hope this thorough guide will prove helpful for everyone from first-time guests to yearly visitors.

This isn’t merely the Disney-marketing copy you’ll find on every other site offering the same generic information about Christmas at Disneyland with “helpful” tips such as making such to check out Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. Of course you will check it out…any idiot who strolls into the park is sure to check it out by virtue of strolling into he park. Instead, we’ll try to offer things that are less intuitive or well known. Unfortunately, we haven’t visited Disneyland Resort at Christmas since Cars Land or Buena Vista Street opened, so we don’t have photos of its decorations, but we’re heading back for Christmas this year, so we’ll update the guide once we have photos of everything new!

Unlike a Christmas overlay to Captain EO (fortunately, there isn’t one!), this guide will be sure to make your holidays at Disneyland better!

When To Visit



If you’ve read our When to Visit Disneyland or Disneyland Trip Planning Guide posts, you may know that the holidays at Disneyland are a veritable “Tale of Two Seasons” when it comes to crowds. There are times when crowds are relatively low, and times when the parks are so slammed that you’ll think it’s spring break all over again! (more…)

Yak & Yeti Restaurant Review

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Yak and Yeti Restaurant is a table service dining spot in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World serving Pan-Asian cuisine. This review covers the lunch and dinner menu at Yak & Yeti, and includes photos from our meal at the restaurant. Here’s some standard background info about Yak & Yeti: it participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a one credit table service meal, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Yak & Yeti does, however, offer a 10% Annual Passholder discount. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, it is a moderate pick in terms of value if you’re looking to maximize your bang for buck on the Dining Plan. It also participates in Landry’s Select Club. If you don’t know what that is, good for you.

When is “I didn’t hate it” praise rather than a thinly-veiled insult? Well, here it is praise. I fully expected to dislike Yak & Yeti, or at least expect it to not live up to my low expectations for it. This is because Yak & Yeti is part of the dreaded Landry’s restaurant group. Not that every restaurant in the Landry’s portfolio is awful (far from it), but it seems Landry’s has a habit of buying out successful independent restaurants, and…to keep this succinct…let’s just describe it as reducing their quality. Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of Landry’s.

“That restaurant got a lot better after Landry’s took over” is one of those ‘said no one ever’ type of quotes. Some Landry’s restaurants, like Rainforest Cafe, succeed with their interesting premise, but often fail when it comes to cuisine. Other Landry’s restaurants are former fine dining locales that still offer good food, but have dumbed down their menus to offer something less sophisticated or of lower quality than it was previously.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Yak & Yeti, but I wasn’t expecting much. My expectations were exceeded as soon as a I walked inside to find an incredibly detailed restaurant… (more…)

Tokyo Disney Resort on a Budget

A trip to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea is not cheap. Visiting Japan is not affordable for everyone. I want to be abundantly clear about these things up front. Travel, in any form, costs a lot of money. For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a post about how a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort can be cheaper (emphasis on the “er”) than people might think, but have hesitated due to the negative response to past remarks I’ve made indicating that it is closer within reach than many people think. In fairness, much of that negative response was justified, and I hope to address some of those concerns in this post.

After having an amazing time on our recent visit to Tokyo Disney Resort, and then seeing the general “who cares? I’ll never be able to go there” response to the news of Tokyo Disney Resort’s massive 2015 to 2017 expansion, I’ve decided to finally finish this article. I’ve been preaching about Tokyo Disney Resort to anyone who will listen and encouraging readers to visit Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland in several posts, but I have been reluctant to cover the financial side of things. Perhaps my reluctance wasn’t logical. Why cover the parks in such depth and encourage people to visit without providing a plan for making the trip more financially viable?

This doesn’t mean everyone reading this post will be able to afford to visit Japan, nor will it make sense for everyone. I understand that, and also that travel is not cheap. I also understand that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to travel. For those with large families (meaning more airfare), locals to a theme park (meaning hotel and airfare costs they otherwise wouldn’t pay), and/or strict vacation schedules (meaning a lack of flexibility in booking during cheaper times), this post may not help. The trip to Tokyo Disney Resort very well might still be out of the question.

This post covers my tips for making the trip to Tokyo Disney Resort cheaper. As in, less expensive than expected, but still not inexpensive or cheap. With that said, before you close this browser window, consider this: if you can afford to take a yearly on-property vacation to Walt Disney World, it’s possible that you can afford a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort. It will just might require patience, sacrifice, and savvy planning, among (possibly) other things. (more…)

Ultimate 2014 Disney World Christmas Guide

Christmas and the holiday season at Walt Disney World is a very special time of year. This 2014 Ultimate Guide will give you tips about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Candlelight Processional, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and everything else Walt Disney World has to offer at Christmas!

We’ll include some of our tips and tricks for best-experiencing the Walt Disney World at Christmas-time, and we hope this thorough guide will prove helpful for everyone from first-time guests to yearly visitors. This isn’t merely the Disney-marketing copy you’ll find on every other site offering the same generic information about Christmas at Walt Disney World. Much like Captain EO, these tips are here to change the world. Or, at least, the way you experience the World at Christmas!

When To Visit



If you’re visiting Walt Disney World at “Christmas,” the first thing you’ll need to figure out is when you want to visit. There are quotes (they would be air quotes, but science has yet to invent a way to type those) around Christmas back there because the holiday season at Walt Disney World, much like the holiday season at your local mall, actually begins in early November and doesn’t conclude until after Christmas, in January.

Veterans know that the week leading up to Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are terrible times to travel if you dislike crowds. The idea that anyone should avoid these times at all costs, however, is actually a misconception that has been perpetuated for years and has just become repeated so often that it’s accepted. Both of these weeks can be great times to go, but only if they closely match your personality and touring style. If you don’t like being in dense crowds, these times of year are probably out. If you can’t get up really early and take a long midday break, these times of year are also probably out.

No matter when you go, you will also want to remember to pack for the season. Check out our Winter Packing Tips for Disney post for more insight on what to take on your trip. Just because it’s Florida doesn’t mean it won’t be cold!

Now, let’s take a look at all of the Christmas offerings at Walt Disney World for the 2014 season, plus how and when to best see it all… (more…)

Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland is the only Disney theme park in the world to have Halloween entertainment that is actually scary and targeted at teens and adults, as opposed to the other parks’ Halloween offerings, which are tame and focus more on costumes and candy than scaring guests. Since first hearing about the intense nature of Hong Kong Disneyland’s “Haunted Halloween” a few years ago, it has been something I have wanted to experience. This year, I got the opportunity to experience it, attending the first weekend of Haunted Halloween.

Unlike the other parks, which begin celebrating Halloween shortly after the Fourth of July, Hong Kong Disneyland starts the first week of October. Its Haunted Halloween offerings occur only on weekends, but are included in the price of normal theme park admission. Haunted Halloween coincides with the debut of Disney Paint the Night Parade this year, and the new parade has stolen a lot of the limelight from Halloween. As a result, there’s no Halloween parade this year, and the decorations on Main Street, which would normally be Halloween-themed, are instead promoting the new nighttime parade.

If you look at the lineup in this post and compare it to previous years, you can see a definite decrease in the Halloween offerings at Hong Kong Disneyland. This isn’t just the case this year, as it appears less and less has been done for each of the last few years. Now, some might say this is Hong Kong Disneyland making cuts, but I think it has more to do with the fact that a few years ago Hong Kong Disneyland was a bit sparse, so the extravagant Halloween entertainment was necessary. Now that the park has grown substantially in the past few years, some justifiable cuts have occurred.

Still, I found Haunted Halloween to be no slouch, with two haunted house-like walk-through attractions in Graves Academy and Revenge of the Headless Horseman, a 20 minute show called “Horrors of the Amazon,” Autumn Festival games in Grizzly Gulch, Halloween meet & greets, and more. The highlights for most guests are clearly the haunted houses, with everything else playing second fiddle. Mystic Manor is also especially popular at Halloween, much like Haunted Mansion in the US sees a slight spike in popularity. While Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland might be leaner than it used to be, it’s still a pretty awesome event.

In this post, we will discuss each of the Halloween offerings for Hong Kong Disneyland’s Haunted Halloween, offer our tips, and share some photos from the festivities…



For starters, if you’re visiting for a weekend night during Haunted Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland, you might consider wearing a costume. As is the case with the US parks, Hong Kong Disneyland encourages guests to wear costumes for Halloween, inviting guests to “explore your dark side.” There are rules for the costumes, but these appear very lax, with signs (see photo below) informing guests that they couldn’t bring wagons or brooms into the houses. Meaning, wagons, swords, brooms, etc., are all allowed, but just not for costumes. (And you know if it’s on a sign, it’s because there has been an issue before. Perhaps a guest reflexively hit an actor in a house with a broom…or wagon?)  (more…)

The Halloween Tree at Disneyland

For me, the highlight of Disneyland at Halloween is Frontierland. Between the Dia de los Muertos decor near Rancho del Zocalo and The Halloween Tree near Golden Horseshoe, there’s a lot of actual meaning behind the decorations in Frontierland. It’s not simply decorating for the sake of decorating. Disneyland fans are probably fairly familiar with The Halloween Tree, but for those of you who are not, this post offers a bit of historical information about it, and the man to whom it pays tribute, Ray Bradbury.

Most Americans probably know literary heavy-weight Ray Bradbury for Fahrenheit 451This has been a curriculum mainstay for countless grade schools around the United States; I fondly recall reading it as a child during “Banned Book Week.” It was one of the first “significant” (save for the seminal Monster Blood title from R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series) books that really captivated me, thanks to its edgy substance and controversial reputation. (more…)

Halloween at Tokyo DisneySea

Disney’s Halloween is a big deal at Tokyo Disneyland in September and October, but there’s arguably more to experience at Tokyo DisneySea. This post covers our tips for Halloween at Tokyo DisneySea, and how to enjoy the seasonal entertainment and the general ambiance of the park during the fall festivities.

To start, although both parks generally celebrate “Disney’s Halloween,” the tone of each park’s Halloween entertainment is dramatically different. Tokyo Disneyland has everything you’d expect out of a Disney castle park for its Halloween entertainment: there’s a parade, decorations, and fireworks (among other things). In general, it leans heavily on the Disney characters for a cheerful Halloween carnival.

Tokyo DisneySea does not go the “scary” route for Halloween (like Hong Kong Disneyland or Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights), but it definitely has a more adult feel, much like the park itself. The Disney characters still play their part, too, but the entertainment feels decidedly more refined, and works on both an adult level and a child level. Disney does this masterfully in all of its best entertainment (and I’m not just talking theme parks) so to see it in the Tokyo DisneySea shows was pretty cool.

This post covers my thoughts on these pieces of Halloween entertainment at Tokyo DisneySea, plus lots of photos from the “Disney’s Halloween 2014″ event. Although this information is specific to my 2014 visit, Tokyo DisneySea presents its Halloween entertainment every year (although specific offerings do change yearly), so this should be useful for future years. Just don’t expect to see exactly what’s pictured here if you visit in 2015, 2016, or beyond.

All entertainment for Disney’s Halloween at Tokyo DisneySea that’s discussed here is included in regular park admission, and at just under $60 for a 1-day Tokyo DisneySea ticket, a full day of both normal attractions and the Halloween stuff at Tokyo DisneySea is actually cheaper than the hard ticket Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World!

Enough chatter–let’s take a look at what’s happening at Tokyo DisneySea for Halloween! (more…)