Star Wars Weekends 2014 Tips & Info

Star Wars Weekends 2014 will occur May 16-18, May 23-25, May 30-June 1, June 6-8, and June 13-15, 2014 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World! Star Wars Weekends are geared towards all things Star Wars (including the animated TV show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Celebrities are in attendance, there’s a special parade, shows, and every day ends with fireworks! It’s a lot of fun whether you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan or just a fan of fun (we fall into the latter camp).

If you’ve been to Walt Disney World countless times (and it’s probably not a bad assumption that you have if you’re reading this blog), you might be looking for ways to see the place a-new. One way to to find new experiences is to visit during a seasonal festival or weekend event. One such weekend event is Star Wars Weekends, held in May and June at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This post has been updated for 2014 to reflect changes to Star Wars Weekends, including the ‘retirement’ of Hyperspace Hoopla and the addition of the Symphony in the Stars fireworks, as well as new strategy and tips.


Best Disney’s Hollywood Studios Attractions & Ride Guide

Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t have a ton of attractions, but it has some great ones. This guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios attractions contains short reviews of our top picks, as well as numerical scores for every attraction. If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, it’s a great place to start when making a rough roadmap for what you want to do during your visit. Everyone’s preferences will vary, so we’ll also provide a brief description of every attraction to give you an idea of whether particular attractions will appeal to your group.

Our list of recommended attractions for Disney’s Hollywood Studios includes headliners and less well-known attractions that people overlook, but that are worth checking out. We don’t recommend skipping any attractions based upon the advice of others if you have the time to experience them all, and if you plan well and maximize your time in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you should be able to come close to doing it all in a single day. If you go at a slower pace or stop for table service meals, this guide will help give you an idea of which Disney’s Hollywood Studios rides and attractions are must-see for you, and which ones you won’t have time to do.

Unlike our Magic Kingdom Attraction Guide and Epcot Attraction Guide, you’ll notice that this one is fairly top heavy. While this might seem like a good thing, unless you’re a party of only adults, it’s not. These attractions are rated based upon their target demographic (see below) and most of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ attractions–particularly the rides–are aimed at an older audience. In addition to that, it doesn’t have as many attractions, so by virtue of needing enough attractions to fill a whole day, more needs to be in our “top” list.

Even still, Disney’s Hollywood Studios looks fairly good on paper. When comparing the top of its lineup to other parks, it stacks up surprisingly well. Unfortunately, in addition to the low attraction-count, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is more a collection of attractions than it is a theme park. The other parks have great rides and wonderfully themed environments, whereas Disney’s Hollywood Studios is sort of a hodgepodge once you get past Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. If the parks are only about attractions to you and you don’t have kids, Disney’s Hollywood Studios might be a great park for you. However, I present this caveat for those of you who care about a sense of place and a balance of attractions…Disney’s Hollywood Studios isn’t nearly as good as it looks on paper. To the contrary, we consider it the weakest Walt Disney World theme park. (In its defense, many people consider Disney’s Hollywood Studios a “half-day park,” which it’s not, either, at least for first time guests. Those who have been several times will probably skip the long stage shows that never seem to be rotated out, which is where that half-day reputation originates.) (more…)

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights 2014 Tips & Info

Just a guess, but I don't think I put up quite as many lights on my house as Disney puts up on the Streets of America for the Osborne Lights! View my photo gallery: more about the Osborne Lights:

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a Christmas light display at Walt Disney World, in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For 2014, the Osborne Lights run from mid-November until early January 2015. When it comes to the Osborne Lights, “light display” is severely under-selling it. More like, amazing, light-up-the-entire park epic dancing light extravaganza! That’s right, the lights dance to awesome Christmas songs by the likes of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (if you’re going to have a dancing light show, you better include music from TSO!) and many other legendary Christmas artists. The lights are so vibrant and plentiful that even Clark Griswold would be proud.

Approximately every 10 minutes, the lights dim and then begin their “show” as they start rocking out (dancing) to holiday music. The songs include:

  • “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12-24)” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • “Feliz Navidad” – José Feliciano
  • “Jingle Bells” – Barbra Streisand
  • “Christmas is Starting Now” – Phineas and Ferb (more…)

Disney Dining Reviews Index

Walt Disney World and Disneyland Restaurant Reviews

Walt Disney World and Disneyland have hundreds of restaurant and dining options, which can be overwhelming for some people. To assist, we’re highlighting reviews of some fan-favorite Disney restaurants here. This page features links to each Walt Disney World and Disneyland restaurant we’ve reviewed, plus links for the Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney Resort restaurants we’ve reviewed thus far. (Reviews for Hong Kong Disneyland Restaurants are coming soon.)

Each review features a detailed description of the restaurant, some useful information for it, several food photos, and our opinion (or opinions, plural, if the two of us disagree about a particular Disney restaurant) on the restaurant. At the end of each review, we assign a numerical score out of 10 to each restaurant, based upon its cuisine and ambiance. Unless the review explicitly states otherwise, we do not factor service into the score, as service varies so widely (even at the same restaurant on the same night) based upon a number of factors that we do not feel it useful to you to score a restaurant based upon our anecdotal service experience. As for the scores, think of them along the lines of letter grades you received in school. A score of 10/10 is an A+, a score of 8/10 is a B-, a score of 6/10 is a D-, (and so on), anything below a 6/10 is varying degrees of flunking. Scores are not listed for any restaurants located in international parks at this time, as we do not feel we have sufficient experience with these restaurants to give them numerical scores. We expect that to change as we try more options and revisit locations.

Please note that this page includes links to only restaurant reviews. We have a wide variety of other dining resources, including where to eat to maximize your savings on the Disney Dining Plan, where the best cupcakes, steaks, etc. are found, and a myriad of “Top 10″ dining lists. In many cases, these resources are more helpful than the reviews themselves. To find these resources for your destination, be sure to check out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews & Resources or our Disneyland Resort Restaurant Reviews & Resources. Both of those pages include links to reviews, plus the other resources.

Click each restaurant name to read our full review of the restaurant, and see some photos of different items that each restaurant serves!

Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews

Walt Disney WorldEPCOTVia NapoliWhile not the best restaurant for value on the 2013 Disney Dining Plan, Via Napoli is a great place to eat in Epcot!

Resort Hotels

Best Fantasmic Viewing Spots & Photography Tips

Fantasmic is a nighttime spectacular at Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, and Tokyo DisneySea at Tokyo Disney Resort. It combines various elements, like fire, water projections, lasers, and fireworks, for a show that is loosely about the power of imagination. In all versions of the show, Mickey Mouse fights various villains (in his dreams) in a battle of good versus evil. Fantasmic! is more about the visuals along the way than a tightly scripted plot. While each version of the show is dramatically different, the photography tips for each are essentially the same. We prefer the Disneyland version of the show, although the radically different Tokyo DisneySea version is a close second. The version at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a distant third. This guide covers and includes photos from all three versions of Fantasmic!

Since this is the first (and likely only) article about Fantasmic! on this blog, even though it has nothing to do with viewing or photographing the show, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a fun tidbit that I assume other Disney fans will find interesting. Up until its late stages of development, Fantasmic! was known as Imagination! The name was ultimately changed because of concerns with being able to trademark the generic Imagination name, whereas Fantasmic (a made up word), could be easily trademarked. The Imagination! name got so far along in the process that Disneyland even made up marketing posters with Imagination! as its name. I like the name Fantasmic!, but I’ll admit that I get chills when I pop in the Fantasmic CD and the opening line “imag-in-ation…imag-in-ation…” plays.

Okay, on with the more relevant information for successfully viewing and photographing Fantasmic!

Best Fantasmic Viewing Spots

The first thing to determine when planning to photograph the show, is figuring out where to sit for the best view of Fantasmic. In Disneyland and Walt Disney World, this is pretty simple. Fantasmic’s viewing area is set up like a normal stage show/theater, with the action taking place mostly on a stage, and in the water in front of that stage. In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the seating area is literally an amphitheater, with benches for seating. Disneyland’s show on the Rivers of America is a bit different since its seating blends into the waterfront walkway, but the principle is the same. In both cases, my preference is as close to center as possible, and near the front, but not all the way at the front. (more…)