Frozen at Walt Disney World

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Any parent taking their kids on vacation probably wants to know where to find Anna, Elsa, and the rest of the Frozen characters at Walt Disney World. Currently, Frozen Summer Fun Live! is the main offering being held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and consisting of a variety of things, with the Princess Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet taking place in the Magic Kingdom. Oh, and you practically cannot turn around in a gift shop without seeing something Frozen. 

What is looming on the horizon remains to be seen, current popular speculation suggests that Frozen will replace Maelstrom in Norway at Epcot, perhaps with Imagineering going as far as taking out Norway and adding Arendelle. Beyond that, it’s almost certain that the Frozen Summer Fun Live! special entertainment that’s running at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and is slated to conclude on September 28, 2014 will be extended at least until the beginning of 2015. Walt Disney World frequently extends popular offerings “by guest demand” (see Main Street Electrical Parade, which was slated to run only for Summer Nightastic…that was 4 years ago) and the Frozen Celebration has redefined popular, giving Disney’s Hollywood Studios an incredible shot in the arm in the process.

With the American Idol Experience having closed on August 30, 2014 and located on prime real estate, there’s heavy speculation that the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration will be relocated from its current soundstage to a less-temporary set-up in the former home of the American Idol Experience, “Superstar Television Theater.” There’s also new speculation that Anna & Elsa are having their meet & greet return to Norway in Epcot’s World Showcase. There are rumors of an Olaf meet & greet during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. About the only park that doesn’t have any strong rumors concerning Frozen is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and we want to remedy that by starting the (fake) rumor of Sven the Reindeer’s Wild Ride (featuring real reindeer!) coming soon to that park. It’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, except different every time you ride…and you’ll have to sign a waiver!

The flurry of rumor activity concerning Frozen should come as no surprise. Disney likely wants to strike while the iron is hot, and there’s nothing hotter than Frozen. It’s so popular that in July analysts were already predicting one of the “it” Christmas toys would be a Frozen Snow Glow Singing Elsa Doll. There are about a zillion covers of “Let It Go” on YouTube. You can’t visit Tumblr without seeing Frozen fan art. Frozen has its own popular subreddit. It’s a cultural phenomenon, just about every child in the country is absolutely entranced by it. Even more impressive, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. I didn’t realize just how big of a deal it was until attending the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, and hearing a chorus of children singing the words to every song, even when the words weren’t displayed on the screen! It was like a cult chant…except cheerful children singing upbeat music.

Let’s not fixate on what might happen with Frozen at Walt Disney World, let’s take a look at what is happening, along with our tips and advice for how to approach it… (more…)

Tips for Finding Good Beer At Disney World

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Walt Disney World offers a number of craft beers and microbrews in its parks and resort hotels. This post offers tips for finding delicious beer at Walt Disney World, which can be a bit of a challenge. In addition to the normal BMC options you can find just about anywhere (besides the Magic Kingdom), there are some exceptional beers throughout Walt Disney World…you just need to know where to look.

Unlike wine, which (I’m told) Walt Disney World does pretty well–even touting things like their selection of South African wines at Animal Kingdom Lodge–the same effort isn’t put into having high quality beers. Most outdoor vending carts that serve beer at Walt Disney World have Bud Light, plus maybe a token alternative. Nothing against Bud Light–they are great at convincing people their beer is worthwhile with their astronomical marketing budget–but Bud Light is awful. Okay, so everything against Bud Light. BMC are sort of like the fast food of beers: okay options in a pinch, but probably few beer drinkers’ favorites if they had to choose. If Bud Light is your favorite beer, I’d encourage you to try a variety of other beers and give them a chance.

If you haven’t gathered from the remarks towards BMC, I’m sort of a beer snob. Coming from Michigan, I came of drinking age right around the time of the big explosion in craft brewing, with Bell’s opening its brewery ~10 miles from my house about a decade ago. Add to that other great options like Founders (every craft beer aficionado should attend a Kentucky Breakfast Stout release party at some time in their life), Arcadia, New Holland, Dark Horse, and many more, and my opinions of beer have really been shaped by living in one of the greatest beer state. Not really sure how this is relevant to the topic of the post, but I like giving props to my home state when I have the chance. Moving on…

When we first started visiting Walt Disney World as adults, there was a serious dearth of craft beer options, and the selection was laughable. If you wanted a good beer, you pretty much were stuck going to Le Cellier for some Unibroue. While that’s still a great option, Walt Disney World has recognized the growing discontent with BMC, and has incorporated better options into their menus. Things have improved substantially almost every year for the last ~5 years, and continue to get better. So props to Disney for that.

If you’re looking for great beer at Walt Disney World, here are some tips… (more…)

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…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 4

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We got close to a full night of sleep that night (if you missed our previous installment at Epcot, click here to start from the beginning), but I was still up fairly early the next morning. Unfortunately, Sarah had some work-related stuff to deal with, so we couldn’t get an early start on the morning. While she was doing this, I went out and wandered around the Contemporary, trying to find some interesting photos. Once you get past the cool a-frame building, there isn’t a ton of photographic interest, so I basically just wandered. Sort of like the rooms themselves, it’s just a modern looking hotel with a really cool hook in the design.

As a kid, I always thought the Contemporary was about the coolest hotel ever, an impression formed entirely as we whisked through it on the monorail. Even when we first returned to Walt Disney World as adults, it was a dream to stay there. Now that we have stayed at many other nice modern luxury hotels around the world, the luster of the Contemporary has sort of worn off for me. Like I mentioned in the first installment, Sarah really liked it, and I love being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom, but it just isn’t a top hotel for me on a list of Walt Disney World hotels at which I’d personally want to stay.

For me, where Disney excels is in the creation of hotels that blend nice accommodations and interesting themes, with an emphasis on the themes. You can get luxury hotels anywhere in the world; frankly, many brands and boutiques do these types of hotels much better than Disney does. Themed hotels are rare, and themed hotels that are well-executed (rather than just a light bit of window-dressing to differentiate the supposedly ‘themed’ hotel from countless other hotels in an area) are exceedingly rare. For this reason, I’d much rather stay at a hotel like Port Orleans Riverside or Wilderness Lodge than the Contemporary. I still liked the Contemporary, but Sarah is enamored with the hotel, and it just doesn’t quite do that much for me.

We got a really late start that morning, and headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekends just before lunch… (more…)

Star Wars Character Breakfast Review at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

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New for Star Wars Weekends 2014, Walt Disney World is offering Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This Star Wars character breakfast is available during the entire Star Wars Weekends “season” (in other words, weekdays in addition to the weekends) and features Star Wars characters roaming the “outdoor” drive-in theater at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. In addition to this Star Wars character breakfast, we also did the character dinner. For a look at that, check out our Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine Review.

Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast costs $47.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids ages 3-9, or two table service credits for those on the Disney Dining Plan. This meal does not accept Tables in Wonderland nor does it accept any other form of Walt Disney World discounts. Since it does require 2 credits, it is not a good use of Disney Dining Plan credits if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan. It will forever go down in the record books as the most expensive breakfast we’ve ever eaten. (ALERT GUINNESS! ;))

We have dined at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater previously, and absolutely love the ambiance (and, unlike many others, the food!). In fact, we like it so much that it is near the top our of Top 10 Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World list. You can read more of my thoughts on the theming in those posts, but suffice to say, we are big fans of the ambiance at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.

In this case, I was worried that the ambiance would be what would make the experience unpleasant. Since Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is themed to be an outdoor drive-in set at night, it’s dark in there. And since it’s not actually nighttime during the meal (well, unless you eat there at night–but the restaurant is still indoors, so you get the idea), this theming is accomplished by way of lighting and a little Disney wizardry. A character meal in this setting means two things: flash photos and poorly lit photos. The former could potentially ruin the ambiance, while the latter is the probable result even when using a flash (since most people won’t be able to balance the ambiant light in their exposures).

Despite the exorbitant cost and the difficulty of photographing characters in Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, we loved the experience. This Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast in Disney’s Hollywood Studios review will cover why we enjoyed the breakfast, who it will be a good idea for, and who should probably skip it. We’ll also have some photo tips to help you get at least decent photos.

My concern was that Walt Disney World was shoe-horning this experience into Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater despite it not being a good spot for a character meal, because they wanted to put a Star Wars character breakfast somewhere in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and this was the most suitable location. It turns out that I was right and wrong. (more…)