Disney Around the World: Tower of Terror


Today, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror celebrates its 20th anniversary at Walt Disney World. As I believe this is a seminal Disney attraction that showcases Walt Disney Imagineering at its peak, and since there are a few very different incarnations of the Tower of Terror, I thought it’d be fun to look at how they vary around the world.

While I normally am not a huge fan of cloning attractions, Tower of Terror is an exception, right there with Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. There are two reasons for this. First, all of these attractions are so good that they are deserving of homes in every park in the world (you dropped the ball, Hong Kong!). Second, there are enough differences among the various versions that, as a fan of these attractions, it’s actually a joy to see a ‘new’ take on a familiar concept when in the other parks.

My fandom of the Tower of Terror stems from two things: the queue to post-show detail and brilliance of the Tower of Terror, and the way it weaves in the Twilight Zone (one of my all-time favorite television shows) universe into most versions of the attraction.

With that, we invite you if you dare, to join us in a most uncommon elevator, about to take a strange journey. Your destination…the worldwide Disney theme parks… (more…)

Disneyland 2014 Trip Planning Guide

In this article, we cover what you absolutely must do to plan your 2014 visit to Disneyland Resort. We previously implored anyone who would listen that 2012 was the perfect time to visit Disneyland. Well, it was in many ways, and those who listened to our advice got to be among the first to visit Cars Land. Disneyland has been on a roll since then, and we’ve updated our Disneyland vacation advice numerous times since then, finally arriving at this version for 2014 trips. We have received messages from a lot of people who had amazing trips thanks to our recommendations, and this guide has been refined based upon our recent visits to Disneyland, including a visit last December for Christmas–our first Christmas in Disneyland since the overhaul to Disney California Adventure (the Christmas season is now, by far, our top pick for when you should visit Disneyland…such a beautiful time of year there!).

Disneyland Resort kept the ball rolling in 2014, expanding upon the success of its big recent addition, Cars Land, with the opening of Mickey and the Magical Map, plus World of Color – Winter Dreams, seasonal celebrations, and more! We highly recommend a visit to Disneyland to enjoy these additions. As long as Disneyland keeps doing new things and Cars Land keeps looking great, you may be hearing this same sentiment in 2014, 2015, 2016, and…you get the idea.

There are a lot of great times of year to visit Disneyland (read below for our recommendations of when to go to avoid crowds at Disneyland), but our favorite time of year is Christmas-time at Disneyland. The decorations are beautiful, the spirit is festive, and there are some fun attraction overlays and seasonal foods to enjoy.

Read our Guide to Disneyland at Christmas for additional information on visiting during the holiday season. If Christmas isn’t your thing, consider Halloween Time at Disneyland, and check out our Guide to Disneyland at Halloween for assistance planning a trip during that specific time of year. For tips applicable to trips anytime of year, consult the trip planning resources below.

Also, this vacation planning guide applies to the Disneyland Resort in California. If you are visiting Florida, please consult our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
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Top 10 Disney Theme Park Attractions

Disney has hundreds (if not thousands, I’m not counting!) of theme park attractions and rides at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Obviously, not all of these attractions were created equally. At their best, Disney attractions are timeless classics that have multi-generational appeal. At their worst, they’re dressed up versions of amusement park staples.

I thought it would be fun to put together a list of what I consider the 10 best attractions worldwide. As there are literally more Disney parks than there are attractions on this list, some great ones are bound to be snubbed, but I’m keeping to a strict 10 attraction limit. Even if I had a list with 40 more honorable mentions, I’d be still be snubbing some very worthy attractions. As it’s a multi-continent list, it’s not like this top 10 has any functional utility anyway…it’s more geared at being a fun conversation piece for Disney theme park fans. I want to do more worldwide lists like this, so if this one is popular, it will be the first of many more to come. I enjoy comparing and contrasting all of the different parks, and want to do more posts like that, anyway. They’re a nice change of pace from the normal trip planning material here.

A few notes about the list before we get started. First, while it’s my personal list, I’m considering not just what I like the best, but also what I consider to be objectively the most impressive and captivating attractions. I don’t have any specific scoring criteria–it’s basically just a mix of my gut reaction and analysis. Second, only attractions that are currently operational are eligible. It’s very easy to say Horizons or Journey into Imagination should be #1, but there’s no perfect way to tell how those would have aged or if opinions today are clouded by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. Third, only the best version of each attraction (we’ll call this the “Tower of Terror” rule). Finally, this list is a moving target based partially on how I feel when I’m writing it. If you ask me my top 10 tomorrow, you might get different answers.

With that said, here’s the list in no particular order! (more…)

Cars Land Tips & Tricks

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure has solidified its place as one of the most popular theme park lands at Disneyland Resort, with guests rushing to Radiator Springs Racers, and waiting hours in line for it other times of the day. While Cars Land is a big draw for this one attraction, there is a lot to see and do in Cars Land.

From saving time in line for Radiator Springs Racers to slowing down and enjoying the details of Cars Land, this post covers some of our tips and tricks for Cars Land.

With that said, let’s get rolling. (Okay, sorry for that awful pun…but it’s pretty consistent with the generally corny writing style of this blog, so are you really that surprised?) (more…)

Paradise Garden Grill Review

DSC_6720 as Smart Object-1 copy

Paradise Garden Grill is a counter service restaurant in Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort that specializes in Mediterranean skewers. The menu includes steak, chicken, meatball, and tofu skewers, plus a gyro. It’s sort of the “little brother” to the larger Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta to which it is adjacent and shares a seating area (BoardWalk Pizza & Pasta is a large, walk-in restaurant whereas Paradise Garden Grill uses a kiosk and window ordering set-up). Both were added to Paradise Pier as part of Disney California Adventure’s huge overhaul, replacing the eclectic Pizza Oom Mow Mow and Burger Invasion.

Since Paradise Garden Grill employs a kiosk and window set-up, all of the seating is outdoors. This is fine, as the Paradise Garden seating area shared between Paradise Garden Grill and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta has a beautiful, elegant Victorian look. This area has ornate detailing, and looks quite pretty at night. It lacks the sense of place found elsewhere in the Disney parks, so it’s not always my favorite spot, but there’s no denying that it looks good.

The biggest plus to this seating area is the live music that regularly performs at the Paradise Garden Bandstand. You can find the schedule for the main group, the Ellis Island Boys, here. While seats close to the stage put you right in the center of the energetic performances, we recommend sitting a little further away, as close to the stage is loud. We’ve seen other groups here from time to time, mostly during seasonal events. Meet & greets also occur in this area during seasonal events (sorry, Mediterranean Mickey isn’t a fixture of the restaurant, I just don’t have a single photo of the restaurant signage, for some reason, so I had no good header photo). (more…)