Scenes from Disney Parks: Reflections of Christmas


Merry Christmas Eve! Hopefully you’re done with the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, present wrapping, making cookies, and are snuggled up at home by the fire watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. My plan for a quiet Christmas Eve calls for a traditional viewing of that (plus A Muppet Family Christmas, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas Vacation, Elf, and It’s a Wonderful Life, for all of you keeping score at home…), but first I wanted to share a quick post with you. Last Christmas Eve, I shared a post about Country Bear Christmas, something with a lot of personal meaning to me. I thought I’d continue the tradition this year with something else I love: rain.

I’ve spent a decent part of the last month or so in the pouring rain, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Really. When it starts raining in the Disney Parks, other guests start heading towards the exits, leaving those who are willing to “brave” the precipitation the parks at their prettiest (save for perhaps when the parks are snow-covered, which I have yet to see) and least crowded. This is especially true at Christmas-time, when the reflections of the lights form long streaks of light on the ground.

If you only focus on the soggy feet or soaked shirt, it probably doesn’t seem worth it to stick around once the rain starts falling. However, if instead of heading for the exits, you take a moment to pause and soak up not just the rain drops but the serene scenes of the park, you’ll notice there’s beauty all around you. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like a ton of fun to get soaked in a Disney theme park, but trust me: it’s worth it for the beauty…or for the shorter lines, in the event that you don’t care about the “extra” beauty and would rather just enjoy the beauty when it’s nice out!

You can click on each photo to view it larger (and with high resolution) in my gallery and to see the camera settings I used. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D750 DSLR and Nikon D810 DSLR.

Hope you enjoy the photos. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your families! (more…)

Scenes from Disney Parks: Christmas in the Kingdom

Here’s another collection of Disney photos, this time featuring Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom at Christmas, including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party photos. I said this set of photos was coming back in the last “Scenes from Disney Parks” in early November, but I guess I forgot. Christmas is always a “last minute” time of year for me, so I’ll be sharing a few sets of last minute Christmas photos between now and Christmas.

Christmas is my favorite time for photography in Walt Disney World. From the vibrant decorations to the starbursts on the Christmas lights to wonderful bokeh, the decorations offer new avenues for creative photos. All the lights and different things going on can make for challenging photography (see my Christmas Photography Tips post if you need some pointers), but it’s a fun challenge, and there are a lot of different ways to approach photographing the Christmas offerings in Walt Disney World.

Besides the obvious Christmas theme of these photos, I’ve tried to focus these photos on how perspective dramatically impacts a photos. Whether it’s a change in location, angle, or even lenses, I think a big part of what separates an ordinary photo from a good one is the conscious choice of a better (or just different) perspective by the photographer. Standing in the middle of Main Street and taking a normal ‘field of view’ shot is the obvious choice–it’s what virtually everyone does and how the park was constructed to be viewed (almost as a frame from a movie). With so many photos taken of Walt Disney World, it’s tough to take a photo that’s totally “fresh”, but thinking about perspective is a good first step to unique shots.

For the photos here, after each photo I’ll share some thoughts on perspective or whatever else, and technical details like which lens I used for the photo. All photos in this post were captured with my Nikon D750 DSLR and Nikon D600 DSLR. 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! (more…)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 Tips

Walt Disney World ResortMagic KingdomMickey's Very Merry Christmas PartyFireworks at the conclusion of the Celebrate the Season stage show during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party! For more Disney Christmas content, check out: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/tag/christmas/

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special hard ticket event held in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. For 2014, the party will be held on select nights in November and December on the following dates: November 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21, 30; December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19. After December 19, the party entertainment will be available to all day guests (and included in theme park admission), but waiting until Christmas week also means going during the busiest time of the year, and when rooms and dining are most expensive.

What’s new for 2014? Well, it should come as no surprise that Frozen-mania has spread to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Not only is there the , but the Frozen characters are also in the parade at the Christmas Party, too. There’s also the ‘A Frozen Holiday Wish’ Cinderella Castle lighting show, but this occurs every night, not just party nights, so we won’t be covering it here. (Read our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World for more info on that and everything else that Walt Disney World does for Christmas.) Beyond that, the characters at the dance parties in Frontierland and Tomorrowland have changed, as have a couple of meet and greets. The big news in terms of meet & greets this year is that Jack Skellington appears as Sandy Claws! There’s also a rumor that Olaf from Frozen will be meeting guests for the first time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but he was not meeting the general public at the first party. We will keep you posted if this changes.

This post covers our Christmas Party tips, updated for 2014, based upon our experiences attending the party for the last six years. The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2014 schedule is now set, with parties starting in early November and continuing through December! Ticket prices will vary for 2014 based upon whether you purchase in advance or on the day of, are a child or adult, and whether you have an Annual Pass, Disney Vacation Club membership, or some other affiliation that entitles you to a discount. In any case, the event is not cheap, starting at $62 for children with advance purchase on select nights and exceeding $70 for adults on the “Premium” night! To purchase tickets, visit Disney’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party page.

That said, if you’re visiting Walt Disney World in November or December, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is an absolute must-do! But more on that later. First, let’s provide an overview of the events to those who haven’t been.

Overview



Here are the things that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party includes, that are unique to the parties (at least for November 7th through December 19th):

  • Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade (view our parade photos)
  • A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show
  • Celebrate The Season Stage Show
  • Character Dance Parties (usually in the Golden Horseshoe and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe)
  • Holiday Wishes Fireworks
  • Disney character Meet and Greets with characters dressed in their holiday attire
  • Complimentary cookies and hot cocoa
  • Snow on Main Street

It’s worth noting that after December 19, 2014 through the remainder of the holiday season, the standard daytime parade in the Magic Kingdom becomes Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and the Holiday Wishes fireworks are shown nightly. This entertainment is arguably 75% of the draw for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but in exchange for not having to pay extra to see these things, you will face some of the worst crowds of the year after December 18th. If you want the best of both worlds, there are some other tricks you can use to avoid crowds during Christmas and New Year’s Eve weeks. So obviously there’s a trade-off!

Now that we’ve set forth what entertainment you can expect at the parties, let’s give you some more details, tips, and our review of whether Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is worth the money… (more…)

Festival of Fantasy Parade Tips & Photos

Festival of Fantasy Parade is the newest Magic Kingdom parade that debuted with New Fantasyland’s opening at Walt Disney World. This post has viewing tips plus photos of the new parade, and my quick review.

Honestly, when the Festival of Fantasy Parade was announced, I wasn’t all that excited. I thought it was a good idea to tie-in with the conclusion of the New Fantasyland expansion, but other than that, I wasn’t all that enthused. At the time, I often said I was “not a daytime parade person,” an opinion that was largely the result of not having been particularly enamored with any daytime Magic Kingdom parade since I was a kid in the mid-1990s. Also as a result of that, I didn’t make a huge effort to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade following its debut on our Memorial Day Walt Disney World trip.

With that said, I really enjoyed the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Actually, I downright loved it. Unlike almost every Magic Kingdom parade in recent memory, this parade actually feels ambitious, and large in scale and scope. The parade floats are all large, detailed and have a lot of substance to them. The float that has captured everyone’s attention is the steampunk-esque Maleficent float, and this is understandable because it breathes fire, but the Brave, Tangled, Peter Pan, and Monstro floats don’t garner nearly as much attention, despite being quite well done.

Add to this performers in costumes that have a lot of detail and are, in some cases, a bit darker and more interesting than the ‘fantasy fluff’ you’d expect to find in a Magic Kingdom parade, a catchy soundtrack, and a great energy, and you have a parade that’s a real winner. In terms of overall quality and appeal, I’d put Festival of Fantasy Parade up there with the parades I’ve seen at Tokyo Disneyland, and the park sets the gold standard for daytime parades.

With that said, I don’t think the Festival of Fantasy Parade is entirely perfect… (more…)

Liberty Tree Tavern Review

Liberty Tree Tavern, photographed with a special infrared converted camera.

Liberty Tree Tavern is a Thanksgiving-style and table service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, with a colonial American theme. By Thanksgiving-style, I mean that dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern is served family style, and the foods served in the “Patriot’s Platter” are what was consumed for the first Thanksgiving. (Didn’t know the Pilgrim’s had Coca-Cola! ;) )  Liberty Tree Tavern is a fairly popular restaurant, and a top choice for guests around the holidays who want to have a family meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Liberty Tree Tavern participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a one credit table service meal. It also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Unfortunately for guests on the Dining Plan, Liberty Tree Tavern is not a good value on the Disney Dining Plan (click to see top restaurants for maximizing your bang for buck on the Dining Plan). Not that it’s an awful value on the Disney Dining Plan, it’s just not great, thanks to its generally middle of the road menu prices. However, that does typically make it a good value when paying out of pocket!

One caveat about this review is that I’m not really sure how to approach it. It’s really more of a story than it is a proper review. Sarah and I last dined at Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner a while ago (back when it had characters!) and had an excellent time. So much fun, along with a solid meal, that I’m not sure why we hadn’t made it back in so long. Perhaps bitterness over the lack of characters.

We had reservations during our recent May trip, but we had to cancel because she wasn’t feeling well. Then, I went down for a weekend solo trip in August, and decided to eat here by myself on a whim when I saw an empty lobby and was told I could be seated within 5 minutes. My plan was to get a full meal, and then return with Sarah on a future trip so we could have enough of the menu to allow us to fully review the restaurant.

Suffice to say, after my meal here, I will not be back anytime soon. Rather than just not review it due to only trying a couple items, I thought I’d at least share the experience with an anecdotal review…. (more…)