4 Theme Parks, The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom
1 indoor amusement park, Disney Quest
2 Water Parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach
2 Mini Golf courses, 4 regular golf courses
24 Disney Resort Hotels
Discount Disney World Tickets (tickets vary in prices, read this FAQ)
Disney World Packages
Everyone has their favorite park, don’t they? So what is yours?
We ask that because when people take surveys, guess what one park always comes out as No. 1?
The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
Year in and year out, it always gets the most visitors. Many millions.
It also gets the vote when it comes to a different standard that goes above measuring buyers of Disney World Orlando tickets:
That is how visitors respond when asked about their favorite park.
Magic Kingdom wins every time.
The “favorite park” question is often asked without guest’s having to also answer another query:
Please explain why.
That raises a question:
Why is that?
Why the Magic Kingdom?
What is it about the Kingdom that not only brings out the highest numbers for Disney World ticket buyers but also makes so many immediately cite it as their favorite park?
It was the first
It can’t be nostalgia.
Though the Kingdom does have that.
You may recall it opened way back in 1971 as Disney’s Florida project. It was the first park then.
The only park then as well.
There were only two hotels on the property then: Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Only two choices of where to stay if you wanted to be right here to catch the new monorail running on tracks right outside your hotel.
There were then only 23 attractions. And guess what?
Twenty of them were copies from California’s Disneyland.
Only three rides/attractions were unique here.
If you lived in California, you could have stayed there and found just about everything that was here.
Park-goers then may have voted for the Magic Kingdom as their favorite because it was the only one of its kind in Orlando.
Choices have grown over the years
Obviously, there are more choices today. More parks at Disney.
And more parks elsewhere as well.
LEGOLAND, Busch, Universal. Ticker buyers have a lot more choices today.
But after almost a half century, the Magic Kingdom still remains its title:
We do have some answers…among them the variety or attractions that cuts across many age groups and appeal to just about everyone at the Kingdom.
But let’s look at our own top ten reasons for going to theme parks.
Just to see if these are maybe the same reasons you yourself have when you think about the subject…or when someone asks you about your favorite park.
So why do we love theme parks?
Some of our own reasons may surprise you.
Because we are not saying it is the bright lights or even the thrilling rides that make us come again and again.
Something to consider
Modern day parks cater to people in ways that are often more involved than we might think.
As one psychologist put it:
"The modern amusement park is, beneath the flash and the chaos, a carefully tuned psychological machine.”
Why we love them
In no particular order, here are our reasons for you…and a chance to compare our own thinking with your own:
No. 1: Photos. Or photo ops.
Your photo equipment has changed over the years. But not the basics.
Of course, old fashioned cameras have given up to cell phones. But the principles are the same.
Getting your picture or your son or daughter or someone in your family standing beside Mickey Mouse
Don’t we all love photos?
How many people do you see shooting photos anytime at Disney or elsewhere?
Positive and obvious proof of its popularity.
Is it as much fun to look over your pictures back home as it is to actually experience it?
Or is it as much fun today to post the photos on Facebook for the rest of the world to share with your own family?
The answer here may very well be yes.
No.2: Park food.
In the past, this would hardly quality as a reason go to there.
Hamburgers and hot dogs only
The variety today is simply amazing.
And the freedom to eat whatever you want? Also worth the experience. No one to remind you that large cans of soda pop with unlimited refills are bad for you.
All you want of Popeye’s spinach (not as healthy as it was for him). Donald Duck waffles. No one to disturb your peace of mind about “empty calories.”
And think of all those calories you burn up walking endless miles?
No. 3: A different world…or a getaway from your normal one.
Face it: if you’re like most of us, getting up to the morning buzz of the alarm clock to look at another day at work is not your main goal in life. But we all dream…of another way of life.
Theme parks make this dream a reality.
They create this entire new atmosphere of anticipation, then satisfaction. Sure, it’s escape from the mundane.
A theme park life of fantasy that is all yours.
You get out of the normal routine of life. Call it escape but it’s more than that. It’s also something we all need.
Memories also count
No. 4: Memories. Don’t ever discount them.
A theme park trip is memorable. For all of us.
Years from now, you will think back on it. Maybe even look again at your photos.
Consider this: buying a first-time home or even a used car is something most people remember for life.
But studies have shown that buying anything pales in comparison to your experiences. Memories, yes.
They also make you happier than anything you can buy.
So you load up on them at theme parks. And they are return gifts to be brought out whenever you think about it.
No. 5: Engineering. Or design.
Modern skyscrapers of 100 stories and flying in airplanes at 30,000 feet in the air are what might be known as “awesome” feats to our distant ancestors. But what might they think of the design loops of a roller coaster?
Or the marvel of virtual reality rides?
Or even just to view the evening’s fireworks at Walt Disney World Resort?
We take these things for granted most of the time.
But when we visit Disney or Universal, we are reminded of all the scientific achievements that make up today’s parks.
We get a renewed appreciation of the technology that has defined and enriched our own lives.
Returning to childhood
No. 6: At the same time, a park experience for an adult helps remind us of our own childhoods.
It makes us appreciate that special time when your used crayons to color instead of ink pens to write. Or read comic books instead of the daily newspaper.
You may still do childish things as an adult. Maybe even read comic books.
But a theme park lets you recall that child in you. There is no better place to remember it.
It is the playground for both young and old. Or older, we should say.
No. 7: The thrills.
Roller coasters are the best example.
They are at the same time thrilling. And scary. But deep down, you know you are safe.
You are afraid. But you get over it.
The fear builds as you slowly climb the track, knowing you also have to go back down it.
Your hair whips in the wind as you speed down the hill at what seems to be an impossible speed.
It’s a rush.
And then it’s over.
Rush of roller coasters
And you are relieved that you survived. And perhaps a little disappointed, too, because that particular thrill is now over.
No. 8: Down-to-earth fun.
At the same time, a theme park offers thrills AND sober fun.
There’s no real adventure in eating an ice cream cone. But doing it at a park surrounded by happy people is a treat in itself.
They…the others around you…are having fun.
So are you.
So even the simplest things you do…eating a slice of pizza or taking a ride on the train at the Magic Kingdom...or just walking around to see the shops at Epcot are shared experiences. Improved because you are not alone.
No. 9: A good place for a date.
A theme park is not only good for that, it is great for couples.
Yes, simple as that.
You can only be a very lukewarm fanatic to realize a date here is a great way to judge any future relationships.
And not because you can grab her or his hand during a roller coaster ride.
Psychologists say studies have shown that couples often first become attracted to each other during unusual situations.
What could be more abnormal than a trip to a theme park?
And what better way to determine the chances of your future relationship than a discussion of what to do next while walking through Tomorrowland?
No. 10: The variety of things to do here.
A theme park’s unique combination of thrilling options and “tame rides,” a variety of shows and special events such as evening fireworks, varied food offerings and overall pleasure-creating ambiance for all ages.
Which brings us to the Magic Kingdom. And its popularity.
It certainly has some of the best known rides offered anywhere.
Designed for both adults and children
Old favorites remain here because they stay in style. And don’t get worn out because their level of enjoyment is universal.
The Magic Kingdom is full of them.
As one commentator puts it:
“The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is known more for its boundless charm, immersive themes, and cuddly characters than for white-knuckle, thrill rides.”
More on coasters later. But first…
The Magic Kingdom has always resisted its age.
By that, we mean its rides and attractions have changed in recent times. But many have not.
They have remained similar to when they started.
“Pirates of the Caribbean.” A true classic. No thrills. But perhaps the Kingdom’s most beloved attraction and a long-timer. Been here since the park opened in 1971,
Other well-known non-thrill rides include “The Haunted Mansion.” The common view: more silly than scary. But who cares? Only a few semi-startling “Gotchas.” Pop-Ghouls in the cemetery are a delight. If you haven’t been, it’s worth trying for all ages.
Restaurants are hardly memorable here unless you love the blandness of the Liberty Tree Tavern or Cinderella’s Royal Table (where the characters may improve the food or at least the general surroundings).
But “Be Out Guest” is among the most popular places to eat anywhere in Magic Kingdom.
Not only a restaurant but an attraction in itself. Lunch is the recommended meal. Why? Reservations are needed for dinner, when it is even more crowded than at lunch.
Coasters not thrill rides
And “Space Mountain,” of course. Perhaps the most famous indoor roller coaster found anywhere. The surprise is that it is really slow-moving (by coaster standards). The puny top speed is 27 miles an hour. But the effects and the darkness make it seem much faster.
It’s really faster than a kiddie coaster.
The lesser known Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is nine miles faster. But to most riders, it seems slower.
Not just on our own list of favorites but also from others.
Says one blogger:
“This ride is wonderful. The landscaping is gorgeous, and the ride is smooth and fun. It's also not some fast made coaster. It shows that they took time, and it paid off. A classic.”
Don’t believe us…ask bloggers
“While not the most exciting coaster, this ride will make you feel like a kid again and leave you with a smile on your face.”
And one more:
“The animatronics are amazing and the ride is beautiful...it just left me wanting more.”
But one blogger summed it all up:
“There's not much new to say about the ride, because the consensus is exactly right: Good ride, great theming, lines too long, ride too short. The animatronics are what makes this ride so worth seeing - they make you feel like you've actually taken the ride into the classic cartoon.”
The ride only lasts three minutes. But it can enjoyed by all ages.
And the only real “magic” here is this:
It’s only one reason why the Kingdom remains No. 1.
Tap to read full stIf you’re at all like us…and we suspect you are…you skipped attending the last Disney stockholders meeting. Somewhat boring, we have to admit.
You also missed recent happenings at the world’s largest shopping mall.
Boring….unless you absolutely adore exploring hundreds of places to buy things.
But you might want to pay attention to both of those.
Because they offered a look into the future.
People are experiencing rides like never before.
This all might be of interest to future Disney World Orlando ticket buyers. But let’s not leave out Universal Studios Orlando ticket buyers or anyone else interested in the future of theme parks anywhere else.
More specifically, we refer to the future of VR at theme parks.
In case you missed it, VR is short for virtual reality.
That was not a subject directly addressed by Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger at their stockholders meeting.
He did talk a little about the coming attraction “Star Wars.”
Virtual Reality is expected to be a star attraction there.
But his remarks generally were more about new Disney Cruise Line ships,
Two more new ships on the way.
One area of technology he commented on:
The future of MyMagic+.
No surprise that it was successful.
More applications are expected.
In a very much separate event, the Mall of America also was looking to the future.
Its flight simulator is being described as a “ride like no other.”
That mall in far away and often frigid Minnesota is the nation’s largest shopping and entertainment destination.
It’s “Fly Over America” ride lets you sit in a suspended chair, feet dangling free, in front of a gigantic screen.
Rides are not the only new thing
You literally fly over America.
While this is described by mall people as “awe-inspiring,” it is hardly new at Disney and other theme parks.
You, the riders, feel the wind. You travel through misty vistas. Smell the flowers.
You soar. Just as you do at Epcot’s own version.
Plunging into deep valleys. Seeing rushing rivers. Snow-capped mountains.
Coast to coast in the US.
It’s a VR journey of more than 10,000 miles.
Without getting into a car or airplane or anything else.
While sitting in a comfortable chair.
It’s not new but it is what virtual reality is all about.
From theme parks rides to video games -- numerous applications of VR were given at a recent tech conference.
Mary Jesse, chief strategy officer of VRstudios in Bellevue, said the tech industry is in the middle of a big change.
She predicts that the projections experts are making about virtual reality are underestimating what will actually happen.
She suggested that the same thing happened when mobile phones first became popular.
"You will see virtual reality everywhere," she said.
This was the year for virtual reality.
VR’s time has come
Earlier this year, a newspaper wrote:
“The New Revolution will go boldly where no roller coaster in Los Angeles has gone before: into the realm of virtual reality.”
It was referring to Samsung’s partnership to pair its VR with technology with several roller coasters at Six Flags.
“The goal is to transport users, who will wear a virtual reality headset while they're strapped into the stomach-churning coaster, to another world,” the newspaper said.
What this effectively does: merge roller coaster action and movement baked into an entire experience.
If you wonder where this is happening, and why, we have some answers.
The why is that it can.
Can be done, we mean.
Or now it can. Due to new technology. Advances in technology, we mean.
This may be a surprise to some.
No longer just fun and games
We associate it with games. The gaming world.
But in reality, it is graduating from the gaming world.
Into travel, movies, live events. And theme parks.
And based on current consumer interests, gaming is actually at the bottom of the list.
Internet-connected headsets are expanding in the IoT world as technology finally catches up with the promise of virtual reality, which has been kicking around for years.
Consumers do like it, studies show.
Of consumers who have used virtual reality, 86% rate their experience as positive.
They say they are highly likely to try it again, based on a new study
Virtual reality or VR is coming to all phases of our lives.
The sales of VR devices worldwide are expected to increase by 24 times in 2016.
This is creating opportunities for consumer, gaming, entertainment and business applications providers to ride this wave, said the International Data Corp, a US-based IT research firm.
VR has “infinite opportunities.”
Disney has long been a pioneer in virtual reality.
Its IT and interactive media arm, Disney Interactive, this year launched its first VR software. It’s called Disney Movies VR.
The app itself does not allow you to watch full-length Disney films. But instead shows you how to select scenes from more recent Disney releases such as “Star Wars” and “The Jungle Book.”
Here’s the official description from Disney:
Disney pioneered VR
“Transport yourself into the wonderful world of Disney from your very own living room with Disney Movies VR. This app is a fully-immersive experience where you visit themed worlds, including Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm, and interact with some of your favorite characters in their natural environments. Choose from multiple scenes in Disney movies, including The Jungle Book, Captain America and Star Wars and be a part of the action! Disney Movies VR is your ticket to full immersion into the many Disney experiences optimized for virtual reality. Brought to you by the imaginative minds at Disney.”
Predictions are it will become the most influential technology in the next decade after micro-processors, personal computers and mobile Internet.
In fact, predictions are it is leaving the so-called limited “niche market” to branch out into widespread consumer usage.
Games and films are among its best applications.
And theme parks are not far behind.
This is not just our opinion.
Changing the nature of theme parks
Virtual reality and augmented reality will one day change the very concept of a theme park and attractions, according to Tony Christopher, CEO and founder of Landmark Entertainment Group.
Major companies such as Facebook and Google have led the way.
A recent example is Shanghai.
Disney’s first theme park in mainland China is divided into six lands:
‘Fantasyland, Treasure Cove, Tomorrowland, Gardens of Imagination, Adventure Isle,” and “Mickey Avenue.”
Towering 196.8 feet above Fantasyland is the park’s Enchanted Storybook Castle, which includes retail, dining, and theatrical spaces, as well as two attractions.
It’s home to “Once Upon a Time,” an indoor, walk-through exhibit of all the Disney Princesses that blends dioramas with screens displaying classic Disney animation.
There are various elements of VR everywhere.
But the most dramatic and perhaps most popular is the TRON Lightcycle Power Run.
Riders enter the neon blue-glowing world of TRON and board a train of two-wheeled Lightcycles.
You, the riders, hunch forward as if you’re piloting the speedy bikes.
There’s a brief stretch outdoors.
But then the ride immerses you the riders inside at speeds of 62 miles-per-hour. You race to capture eight energy gates.
Another company known for its VR besides Disney is Landmark.
It’s perhaps best known for creating Universal Studios theme park attractions like “Kongfrontation, Terminator 2 3D, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 5D.”
All have a lot in common.
Using tech to improve thrill rides
They use the latest technology to improve immersive thrill ride experiences.
Landmark executives say they have long been exploring how virtual reality and augmented reality can be added to traditional entertainment like 3D, projection, surround sound, and special effects.
“We’re already thinking about how VR and alternate reality can create the theme park of the future,” one executive says.
“We spend a lot of time creating environments and characters and today we have to use light systems, projection systems, and animatronics and ultimately it doesn’t create a true virtual reality.”
“With the Spider-Man 5D ride you couldn’t tell the reality from the 3D film and Spider-Man does fly over your head and land on your vehicle. In VR we could put it all in a headset and people could ride through and the buildings could be smaller and you could feel like you’re there. With VR we could put you on a real adventure like you’ve never seen before.”
Shanghai represents the new technology. And that is coming to Disney’s other properties as well as other theme parks.
“Disney’s new park relies on technology the company hopes will augment all its parks,” writes Time Magazine.
A VR oriented style, 3D model-based process of designing everything from the Steamboat Willie entrance fountain to Roarin Mountain. Imagineers is represented in Shanghai.
Disney Imagineers working in Orlando, California and Shanghai were able in separate areas to work with projectors and 3D glasses to experiment how guests would experience rides and other attractions.
For its creators, Disney and Universal here in Orlando are hardly the only parks seeing a rise in VR.
Seeing VR at Six Flags’ coasters
The increasingly competitive Six Flags chain of theme parks is equipping its rollercoasters with virtual reality headsets.
What they do: let you imagine or pretend you’re flying with Superman.
Or fighting aliens.
No secret here when you ask why this is happening.
The cost has gone way down.
From a practical standpoint, executives there say they are embracing the potential of VR largely because of its reduced cost.
From riders’ standpoint, it allows them to see things flown at them in virtual reality.
The technology reduces a lot of labor costs that used to involve human beings.
But that’s only the beginning as VR technology starts to let you, the rider, choose alternatives of what you want to face. Or see.
Six Flags isn’t the only theme park company adding a virtual element to existing rides.
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year that about two dozen virtual reality roller coasters were expected to be ready by this summer at locations around the world.
If you’ve been in Orlando recently, you’re starting to see it.
Seeing it in Orlando
Visitors to Universal Orlando recently lined up for the debut of one of their most anticipated rides ever: Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
The 30-foot-tall, 18-foot-wide Kong is brought to life by 3-D technology and animatronics.
Earlier this summer, SeaWorld Orlando’s shark-themed Mako started to dazzle riders with its 73 mile an hour speeds during a mile long tract.
Its own VR style makes it a hypercoaster. Which means not just speed, but tight turns.
But even more: a weightless feeling.
Disney has its own Norway Pavilion at Epcot.
A boat takes riders into the kingdom of “Arendelle” during the winter festival, where you encounter characters from the megahit “Frozen.” Music is from the movie, with voices from the original cast.
At Universal Studios Hollywood, 3-D technology is evident in rides like “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.”
Here’s a spoiler alert:
For some other rides, you will need to go outside Orlando.
Seeing it outside Orlando
At Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, “The Joker,” a hybrid steel and wooden coaster is yet another example of a hypercoaster. If you dare to ride it, you will have 15 different moments of “airtime.”
Legoland California in Carlsbad joined the interactive fray when it debuted Ninjago last May.
This has taken VR to its next level:
Riders actually influence the outcome of the battle by using hand gestures to shoot, rather than laser guns, to help fight off evil during the experience.
If all this VR gets to you, you can always unwind with alternatives.
Disney offers a “Wishing Star Park,” for example. It is described as a 2.5 mile walk in the woods. Along a lake with birds and butterflies.
It’s described this way:
“You’re sure to find a setting which will bring your inner child to live –as only Disney can.”
The only thing is you have to go to Disney’s Shanghai to find it. ###
Learning to Love Long Lines
A real timely or timeless question: does anyone love long lines?
No, of course not.
Can you learn to…perhaps not love them…but accept them?
And we have looked at this subject before…including valuable (we think) advice on ways to “beat” the lines.
But listen here, you really can’t “beat” them….or maybe you knew that already.
Whenever you buy your Disney World Orlando tickets. Or Universal Studios Orlando tickets or Busch Gardens Tampa tickets…or any other theme park admission tickets, you will find something else.
Some short ones. Or it used to be.
But more likely:
Some longer than others.
What we’ve done in the past is to suggest ways of handling those lines.
The point is not to let them ruin your trip.
We keep returning to this subject for a reason.
Because amusement park fans like you in recent times have rated long lines as their biggest pet peeve (in case, you wondered, that was followed by complaints of line jumping and rude employees).
Biggest pet peeve
Because of growing crowds in recent years, the average visitor has time for only nine or 10 rides per day, according to recent surveys.
That means a lot of time is spent standing in lines.
The reason is simple: you can’t avoid them entirely.
No matter what you do.
So today we’re going to tell you the 14 best ways to avoid lines.
We’ll also tell you what the parks are doing about it.
But more importantly, we’re going to tell you what to do while you’re waiting.
And we’re turning to experts to do that.
But don’t be concerned about our “experts.”
That’s because they are other theme park-goers…and ticket buyers to Busch Gardens Tampa, and yes, Disney as well.
Does Disney and other park gurus really care about the lines?
No real question there.
But more importantly, what are they doing about it?
There are improvements. Or so the parks say.
Perhaps the first issue to look at is this:
Why do people like yourself hate these lines?
We have some answers there, too.
Let’s take another look at lines.
You wait in line for practically anything you buy.
Even when you go to the open all-day, all-night grocery store at 3 a.m. You might find a person or two standing in front of you.
Some lines are better than others
But somehow lines at pleasant places…where you are looking just to have fun…seem longer and more disturbing, don’t they?
Surveys show that theme park goers don’t mind waits of five or ten minutes or even a half hour.
But when it gets to hours, instead of minutes, patience flies out the window.
And with all the instant gratification of today's world, people still have to endure waiting in lines.
Sure, we’re all used to instant gratification. It’s a common term.
But psychologists say that may be a primary reason why we hate lines.
It’s a form of imprisonment, in fact.
And not the willing, “we volunteer” kind.
"Once you get it into your head, you see them everywhere," psychologist Dr. Richard Larson said about long lines.
But the good news is that theme parks are making efforts here.
And no one does managing lines better than Disney, according to some experts.
"We want you to have so much to look at or do or entertain your kids," Kathy Mangum, creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, told "20/20."
“Cause kids aren't the best line waiters, right? They're a little impatient … If your kid's having fun, you're a lot more patient."
He didn’t say it but adults also have little patience for lines.
Disney is not the only one aware of them.
Park officials know you hate waiting
In Southern California, riders of the “Transformers: The Ride-3D at Universal Studios Hollywood” line up in an indoor area that resembles a military compound.
They watch videos that explain their mission during the ride. Guests are told they must keep the powerful "AllSpark" from falling into the hands of the evil “Decepticons.”
"Guest satisfaction is very important to us and we want to entertain our guests from the moment they enter the ride queue," said Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood.
At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, the park installed a 16-by-9-foot screen over the queuing area of the ride, “Full Throttle.”
Visitors see a 25-minute video of extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and mountain biking.
Six Flags Entertainment Corp. offers an interactive game similar to “Whac-A-Mole” that visitors can play on television screens. They use their cellphones as game controllers.
The game is available at all of its 16 parks in the U.S., including Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Park officials have even tried to make jokes about the waiting time.
At Disney's California Adventure Park, visitors to the “Toy Story Midway Mania” are entertained in line by an animatronic “Mr. Potato Head.” He sings and tells jokes to the crowd.
The voice was recorded by venerable comedian Don Rickles.
"I'm going to guess your weight," Mr. Potato Head tells guests. "I'd say you wait about 15, 20, 25 minutes, tops."
One of the first efforts by theme parks to address long lines came as early as 1999 when Disney parks introduced the FASTPASS. Others have followed.
For everyone else, the lines are still long but, in some cases, more entertaining.
In the case of Disney, entertainment before rides is an extension of their entertainment philosophy.
Which is good.
Disney sets up play areas for those waiting in lines.
Disney's theme parks try to cope or manage lines with interactive technology. Or with games and touch screens.
Well-placed fans sometimes help. A little shade seems to be carved out at times. That also helps.
Theme parks also have posted wait times.
Single rider only lines.
Disney has also been an innovator in making the queue line an interactive experience itself.
For example, at “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid” (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort) there are a multitude of interactive spaces throughout the queue. They help keep long lines of guests’ active and engaged.
In the line for the “Haunted Mansion,” guests can touch gravestones that play music or squirt water.
Disney has been a pioneer in using theming not only in rides but in waiting for rides.
This type of theming really fleshes out the storytelling for the attraction and provides a better option than staring at a sea of people. No question there.
Disney’s pricing patterns (mainly in raising them) has also been aimed at least partly to stretch out the crowds.
One area to expect in the future: that initiative will be more common at other parks,
Technology should also increasingly be expected to help you cope with lines.
Interaction through augmented reality with head worn mobile devices that will let you interact not only with rides but while standing in line are other innovations that will help.
And the best ways to beat the lines?
There are what we call “windows” of opportunity to experience shorter lines.
When you can avoid them
No, not no lines at all. But shorter.
Get there early. At least an hour before opening, preferably two hours. Consider this: At Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, every minute you arrive after the park opens is two extra minutes of waiting in line.
Stay late. Just before the park closes is a good time to get in line as many guests are on their way out the door or heading that way.
Skip one line by not buying your tickets at the park. Get your Disney Orlando tickets or Universal Orlando tickets from other sources.
Whenever you can, go the single rider line. These are often there and not always well marked. But they can reduce wait time by a third, according to some estimates.
Everyone will tell you don’t go during busy times such as Christmas or Easter or in the summer months when the kids are out of school. Yes, lines tend to be longer. But there are a few windows such as early June, when schools are still in session. Barely. Look for these windows.
Weekdays are invariably better than weekends. A Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is far better than weekends.
Skip the fireworks or other special events. Lines are usually shorter during those times.
Don’t be afraid of some lines. Roller coasters are good example. Lines often seem much longer than they are.
Join lines during normal lunch or dinner times. Many guests are then dining. So it’s another window of opportunity for you.
If you have choices of when to go, consult sites such as ours that tells you when crowds are at their shortest. One hint: late August is often a far better time to visit than earlier that month or the previous month.
Another good time to visit is when all America and the world are busy elsewhere. You already know when. Think ” Super Bowl.
Don’t start at the front of the park where you enter Go to the back. Go as far back as you can. Select the most popular rides there before the crowd gets to them.
If you have a choice, pick the line farther to the left. You may know where most people do: to the right.
FastPasses are usually worth the added cost. But that is up to you.
How to cope with…sigh…long lines
As for what to do when…face it.,..there is a long line in front of you.
Here’s what our own experts tell us:
Prepare yourself in advance. You know there are going to be lines. So get used to it. Bring things to help you wait.
In that preparation area, bring a hat and other comfort accessories.
Brings things…and we mean anything at all… to help you wait. Books, mp3 players, magazines and of course, cell phones. What better time to catch up on what old friends are doing?
Be judgmental. If your preferred ride has a long line, consider skipping it or waiting to try again later. It’s ok to be choosey.
Again, use your good judgment whether it’s worth your time. Is it really something you want to do? You decide.
Some riders tell us they love to play games while in line. The alphabet game is a common one. Very simple. Find the letters of the alphabet from A-Z around you. Great for children. But also works for adults.
Use this time to plan the rest of your day. Even if you don’t get to do all that you envision, it distracts your mind to imagine what other rides and shows you might be seeing.
Look around you…be aware…talk to others
Talk to people around you. You might even make a few friends this way.
Look for Hidden Mickeys.
Whistle songs for others to guess the name.
Wave at strangers to see who will wave back.
Challenge another person or someone with you to thumb wrestling.
Eating snacks always helps pass the time (hopefully, you’re not in a diet or can put it off for a few hours).
Take a good look at people around you. See how they’re dressed and what they’re carrying. Then make up stories where they’re from or why they’re here.
Take breaks. If you know a line is going to be long, say more than an hour, take some time away to relax. Have a meal or a drink. Buy an ice cream cone. Walk around and people watch. Get your mind off the wait itself.
One of the best things to do while standing in line is to think of everything or anything else but the line. Imagine your next vacation, for example. Think about where you might have lunch or dinner. Anything that will take you away from the line.
Study the park map. This is a good distraction.
People watch. For some reason, a lot of us are good at this, while others find it hard to imagine. But it really takes only a little imagination to see what people are wearing. Fashion trends such as baseball caps or hatless? Who is wearing sunglasses (“See that two-year-old. Isn’t he a little young for shades”). You get the point.
Make a conscious effort to relax. You may be excited about the prospect of the coaster there, but slip on headphones and listen to a slow song or try to find another way to relax. Music almost always helps. You will enjoy the ride more if you can do that.
Songwriter Tom Petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
Did he go to theme parks? Could that have been an inspiration?
We don’t know. But it’s something to consider…perhaps to even get your mind in another direction the next time you’re standing in yet another line. ###
Disney did not…we repeat…did not invent the cupcake. But they are bringing “The world’s first cupcake bakery” here to Orlando.
We mention this because with the growing popularity of cupcakes at Disney in the past several years, some may have thought it was invented there.
Look for their latest (of many) cupcake providers, Sprinkles, later this month. May 15.
Coming to Disney Springs.
But here’s something else you may not have known about Sprinkles.
It introduced a first of its own: a cupcake ATM, which will here join others in the chain.
It’s a first, at least, in the state of Florida.
Yes, a machine that provides cupcakes instead of cash.
But here’s a question snack-goers may wonder about:
What does this do to the Dole Whip?
That has its own brand of being Disney’s favorite snack for just about everyone.
Impact on the popular Dole Whip
Sprinkles is not exactly a new kid on the block.
It has been around for a while.
This is their 20th location.
They had their first Florida site in Tampa.
“Sprinkles at Disney Springs signifies the company’s continued mission to bring the popular dessert experience to Central Florida and beyond,” says a press release.
“Disney Springs was a natural fit for us when deciding where in Orlando to open our doors,” said Candace Nelson.
She was the founder of Sprinkles and you may have seen her if you watching the judging on TV’s Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars."
The chain’s cupcakes are said to be handcrafted from the “finest ingredients.”
Flavors include Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, and even Peanut Butter Pretzel
Sprinkles will be open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight.
Unlike other ATMs, you can’t get cash from it but you can choose between 400 versions.
Fresh from the ATM
Freshly-made, according to the company.
Also, dog-friendly (Whatever that means).
Sprinkles opened “the world’s first cupcake bakery” in Beverly Hills, California.
So reported the Food Network.
The company is credited by theLos Angeles Times as “the progenitor of the haute cupcake craze.”
Sprinkles has inspired long lines of devoted Hollywood stars and food-lovers.
When you buy your Disney World tickets and head on over to Disney Springs, your cupcake choices at Sprinkles will be joined by stars like Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey…though there have been no reports on their personal favorite flavors.
Or even a more serious question: how this has impacted Oprah’s famous dieting efforts?
Well, we do know Sprinkles offers gluten-and-sugar-free versions.
This development raises other questions of what’s new…in dining…at Disney.
Particularly when you look at snacks.
With the growing popularity of cupcakes, might they overtake what is undoubtedly Disney’s No. 1 favorite for just about all of us: Dole Whips?
And what are your own preferences these days?
Today, we’ll look at food from several angles.
Disney did not invent the cupcake.
Though they certainly made Mickey Mouse ears to often be associated with cupcakes.
And they certainly have done a lot to for Disney World Orlando ticket buyers to help make not-so-humble cupcakes among the most popular snack foods in the whole world.
As you know, cupcakes here resemble many characters.
There’s been no shortage of cupcakes at Disney.
Some of the gest known have offered Red Velvet Cheesecake versions, introduced in 2010 when the quickly became a favorite. Or Chocolate Peanut-Butter.
Or even the “King Cupcake."
A hint: contains the entertainer’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter and bacon.
Not Mickey Mouse.
And not a Disney character, either.
Among the most popular types (outside of Elvis, and we have no reports on its popularity) are Butterfinger, red velvet, carrot cake, among others.
Cupcake celebrations at special events are common.
Compare that to Dole Whips
Little more than pineapple soft serve ice cream.
Or even Dole Whip floats…not much more than ice cream and pineapple juice, really.
Some call it a work of art, anyway.
You can order it as a Pineapple Float or as in a cup.
Officially, only the cup-version is called a Dole Whip by Disney.
So popular that there’s a podcast named after it.
Dole Whip internet searches turn up multiple pages of fanatic fans raving over it.
If this was a contest, it would be poor “Dole Whip David” versus multiple version-giant-cupcake provider rightly named “Goliath.”
Other of the most popular treats that are less than a meal in Orlando include soft pretzels (well, some are large enough to share), and some with Mickey heads.
World Showcase at Epcot is a popular place for the German version of a Bavarian soft pretzel in World Showcase. That could be the best known.Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal begin using metal detectors at theme parks
Another of the most popular snacks here: Mickey Ice Cream Bars.
Found in carts everywhere. Simply chocolate covering over vanilla ice cream.
A popular place to find it and ice cream in a dish (or cone) is the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street, Magic Kingdom/
For those not aware of them, there are healthier snacks such as fruit bowls at snack kiosks and counter service restaurants.
Healthy or exotic snacks everywhere
But even more exotic choices at Epcot are Kaki Gori, shaved ice or snowballs with fruity syrup at the Japan pavilion.
The announcement of Sprinkles should be no surprise.
Because, Melissa Fegely
guess what?…and we are sure you noticed if you’ve been going to the park for even a few years.
Theme park food has come a long ways in the past few years.
Theme park food at Disney and other places used to be almost entirely fast food: not much more imagination than hamburgers and hot dogs. Maybe cheeseburgers for variety.
And French Fries, of course.
Visitors like yourself wanted more
You, the visitor, wanted to spend your time on rides and entertainment.
Forget the food.
All that has changed.
And cupcakes are far from the only choices.
Various news outlets have been pointing out how visitors these days demand more food choices. This is partly due to the growing general awareness of food.
"I think guests’ expectations' have changed over the years," said Disney Parks and Resorts vice president of food and beverage Beth Scott. "Certainly with things like The Chew and the Food Network and social media, people are becoming much more savvy about their dining experiences."
OK. Mr. and Mrs. Savvy.
You still don’t go to the park to eat…unless you are starving…and you want to save all your money to buy souvenirs…any kind at all, even though that is not our recommendation….so what do you do?
To save money on food, that is.
If you admit that food is necessary…
Various Disney dining packages are the answer.
Saving money on food can be done
Food will still cost you but there are many options that range from snacks and refillable drinks at quick service places to higher-end meals at more posh luxury resort hotels.
Buying an annual pass may also not be cheap but it does help with meals.
All annual passport holders receive discounts ranging between 10 to 15 percent off at select restaurants in the park, entertainment complexes and resort hotels.
But if you are serious about money, you do what many others do and there’s no fear or guilt about it: bring those snacks yourself.
Perennials you see everywhere that are even more common than hidden Mickeys are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Yes, remember that even Elvis Presley liked them.
And granola bars (Elvis was not known for this type of food but look what happened to him).
And bottled water, of course.
The guidelines here are simple: any food is allowed as long as it does not require heating.
Also not embarrassing for you to do at all: order a kid’s portion at a restaurant.
You know they are cheaper. But may have worried someone might ask if you are older than 12.
You certainly already know that eating lunch and breakfast is cheaper than dinner.
A guideline of when to eat
So that’s a good guideline of when to eat, isn’t it?
Try not to buy your food at the park during busy times such as Christmas or spring break…prices then can be higher.
Then, there is what has been called the “free Disney Dining Plan.”
It is not really “free,” of course. But it does save money.
On select dates in August through December, it has food discounts.
You can book vacation packages with non-discounted resort hotels and park tickets to get the Disney Dining Plan. Each member of your party gets the perk.
August 23 through October 1, 2016
November 15 through 21, 2016
November 26 through 28, 2016
December 10 through 21, 2016
There are various stipulations and rules.
You also must purchase at least 2-day tickets that include either Park Hopper or other options. Three-night minimum stay is also required.
So no resellers can offer you tickets.
Something else you should be aware of: the promotion is always based on arrival dates. Your dates at Disney have to coincide with dates offered in the program.
Prices vary, according to tiers.
Upgrades are also an option.
If you don’t trust the good judgment of other members in your party, the Disney options may definitely be for you.
Disney option is up to you
That’s because it is not unusual for families or others to not only order the most expensive items on the menu, but also drinks…which everyone knows are highly profitable to the sellers who get them for pennies and sell for dollars.
So in lieu of looking through the menus as you, the bill payer, cringe at the horror of high costs…you already know what you’re going to pay. Regardless of what everyone orders.
A simple solution to knowing…and perhaps even controlling…your costs.
Saving food costs, continued
An Internet sites recently listed places where you can get food items for under $10.
They included many bargains such as Whole Dill Pickles at Liberty Square Market for only $1.50. Or Hard-boiled eggs at the Main Street Bakery for $2.59.
Or perhaps best of all: Garlic Knots with Marinara at the Pinocchio Village Haus: $4.49
The effort was appreciated.
But on the other hand, how much will a single pickle or even a hard boiled egg do to curb your appetite?
Further, what kind of high calorie, nutrition-free snack are items like that anyway?
And finally, one single pickle for $1.50 or an egg for $2.50?
Really, what kind of bargain is that anyway?
New food options
There’s a new adult beverage and hard float menu at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.
Then, there’s Tutto Italia offering fixed price (prix fixe) lunches this summer. Located in Italy’s Epcot Pavilion.
Price for a three-course meal: $27. Includes soft drinks.
There are also several other fixed price meals within Epcot’s World Showcase restaurants.
Getting away from snacks
You see others claim at times to offer guides to the “best…or even very best.”
The very best overall restaurant at Disney will never be agreed upon by all but many would not argue with our pick of “Be Our Guest.”
At least when it comes to counter service types at the Magic Kingdom.
There are almost always long lines to get inside. Often at least 30 minutes waiting times for lunch.
But the long popular restaurant has been getting good word-of-mouth notices for years. And keeps getting them.
For sustaining a great atmosphere with good food, we would give a first place award to “50s Prime Time Café.”
With its Osterizers on wooden tables over linoleum floors, it’s a throwback to another time. You might think this was a re-run of the old TV program “I Love Lucy.”
Often packed, but the best themed atmosphere anywhere.
One area where Prime Time truly stands out is in desserts.
Most restaurants at Disney rely on a central commissary. But not ”Prime Time.”
Upside down cake and warm apple crisps are among favorites.
Dessert menu is special
In addition, the dessert menu is presented as a photo reel on a View-Master….don’t know what that is? Understandable…you’ll have to time travel back to the 1950s or so to find View Masters.
But both Earl of Sandwich and Wolfgang Puck Express, which are outlets of places that exist in the world outside Disney, are generally good choices for high quality and usually reasonable prices.
All this bring us to a good but disturbing restaurant: the Coral Reef Restaurant. Known for its wall-sized aquarium with colorful fish that are only waiting to go on your dining plate.
Disturbing prospect, to say the least.
But some of this is a far cry from the Dole Whips that we all like.
Unlike cupcakes, more variety is not likely…but possible.
You can imagine blueberry or strawberry versions.
You can already get them self-serve.
But while they should remain popular, we doubt that you’ll see them offered anytime soon at an ATM machine…
Though you never know, do you? ###
A poll by InterContinental Hotels Group found the obvious: Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. But more:
The king of theme parks is Walt Disney World Resort.
Once again, no surprise.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom in the poll far outdistanced Universal Studios to take first place in visitor popularity.
This brings us to more imaginative and even creative issues.
“Star Wars” being No. 1, in this case…but you have to stay with us to see why the rating brings up a galaxy not so far away.
Back to the vote, briefly.
In the Disney poll, the results were not even close:
Universal Studios Florida had 19% of the vote, while the Magic Kingdom got 43%.
The poll said:
“Iconic rides like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, not to mention the characters roaming the park that are sure to delight children of all ages, or the incredible parades, or delectable dining options…
“There’s no denying that Disney’s Magic Kingdom takes the throne for the favorite theme park in Orlando.
That was taken just two years ago. But it helps provide some answers to why Disney’s popularity continues.”
Even now. Today.
Would anyone really disagree?
At least, now now, would they?
And just what do visitors want in the future so that they continue to buy Disney Orlando tickets?
That is a question Imagineers are thinking about.
Are worrying about, as well.
There are some answers to that. If you look for them.
Why Disney delivers
The easiest answer might be a simple word:
More thrilling roller coasters.
More entertaining rides.
In general, more entertainment.
Or should we say more exciting entertainment.
Sure, the word “exciting” is used so often you think it’s connected with entertainment.
But it’s not.
And when it comes to upcoming attractions…and the ongoing voter popularity of future Disney World ticket buyers…you have to take a look at “Star Wars.”
Some may recall the thrill of seeing the film for the first time…whenever that was (could it really have been that many years ago?).
But when Disney does it, that’s another story.
Will it wow us…or not?
So yes, expectations will be high.
Disney can’t do just another movie.
No matter how exciting or thrilling.
The new Disney Star Wars will have to be more thrilling than the movies.
Disney faces a high standard for Star Wars
Are these impossibly high expectations?
But that’s what real fans will want.
Will Disney Imagineers be able to beat the movie…by going to another level?
Far far away?
Disney promises that visitors will be immersed in the Star Wars galaxy “as never before.”
That remark is from Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
He said that the land "will introduce you to a Star Wars planet you’ve never seen before — a gateway planet located on the outer rim, full of places and characters familiar and not so familiar."
The land will immerse the guest into the Star Wars Universe.
According to Iger:
“It will be "occupied by many inhabitants; humanoids, aliens and droids … the attractions, the entertainment, everything we create will be part of our storytelling. Nothing will be out of character or stray from the mythology."
Other Disney officials say the idea is to make visitors feel as if they just walked into one of the movies.
Like walking into a movie
This is not really new for Disney but this high level executive’s description makes you think it is different.
“... Bringing Star Wars to life in the physical world gives us the opportunity to play with a whole bunch of things we've never done before... to really engage all of the senses. What does that street feel like? What does that animal smell like? What does blue milk taste like?"
Those are intriguing promises.
So naturally, let’s take a closer look.
The upcoming “Star Wars” attractions will have two main attractions, as far as we can tell: a full-size Millennium Falcon situated among alien buildings built into tall cliffs.
The second major event will place you into the middle of a battle between The First Order and the Resistance.
There will also be a version of the cantina (a real chance to find out, perhaps, whether blue milk tastes like Cola-Cola or just hopped-up root beer or even you-know-what).
One thing we know for sure is that Imagineers have joined up with Lucasfilm to bring their own galaxy to life.
No one we know doubts this is a potent combination.
Flying the Falcon on your own
With the Millennium Falcon, Disney says that guests will be in “complete control” of the experience. That’s a tall order, you might way.
That means shooting down the ships from the Dark Side. But what kind of perils will come up?
We also know with the arrival of the First Order to the planet, visitors will be in the middle of a tense and uncertain battle between stormtroopers and resistance fighters.
Let’s look first at the ship itself.
The minor point is the size of the ship.
Visually, the Millennium Falcon in the various films was represented by several models. External and internal sets as well.
The primary model was only five feet long or clearly far too small to be any part of a park.
The model seen often on the screen took a reported three months to build. It weighed 25 tons. It was 65 feet long.
There was much more to the story, of course, because nothing was really simple about “Star Wars.” So we can expect a large Falcon that will reflect the details in the movies.
The Disney model will have to be larger than 65 feet long, of course, and have multiple versions.
We know from advanced previews there’s going to be a dramatic ride for visitors aboard the Falcon. Right in the most famous cockpit in the history of cinema, of course.
And the chance to fly it.
What will that be like?
But an even more difficult question is just how fast that ship can travel.
Sure, it was the fastest in the universe.
How fast is fast?
SeaWorld of Orlando’s new roller coaster getting ready to roll this summer will go 73 miles an hour.
The fastest coaster anywhere in Orlando.
Getting to the theme parks via I-4, vehicles go 65-70 miles an hour.
If you arrived here by airplane, you might have averaged 400 miles an hour…though it certainly did not feel that fast.
And the speed of the Falcon?
Various accounts of the Falcon’s speed have been attempted.
Believe us, this is not a simple issue.
Its actual speed is rated in various ways (and some people have more time than others to calculate this).
So by various calculations, the Millennium Falcon’s top speed is 25,000 light years per day or 2,714 lights years per hour….or is that figure 20,000 light years per day and 1,990 per hour? No one is sure.
No matter. It’s fast.
Why is it so fast?
It has a class 0.5 hyperdrive, one of the fastest hyperdrives ever built at that time (for more explanation, you’ll have to do your own detailed research).
But the real question for riders is how will you feel it while riding the Falcon? How will you know its tremendous speed?
That will be a key issue for Imagineers…or maybe even the most important issue…to show fast movement.
A challenge: how to show high speed
The Disney ride here also hints at a secret mission.
We can only guess…but might it have something to do with survival of the rebels?
Then, there are the interactive areas that let you imagine you are a Jedi. In training perhaps.
What can we expect?
Themed restaurants, of course, that are convincing so that you think it’s really another planet. Live and perhaps really odd-looking musicians performing.
Two-headed creatures are acceptable. Perhaps they can play two separate instruments, one for each head.
Whatever they look like, they should get us to think “wow.”
Perhaps the musicians could be Star Wars characters. Hello Chewbacca, perhaps?
Characters may do more than sign autographs
At the same time, meet and greet characters at Star Wars perhaps will go beyond the usual characters in costumes.
Will they be more than costumed creatures that say “hello…how are you” and where you want to sign autographs?
Might ways be found to have the Imperial Recruitment Officers try to get guests to sign up for the fight…or Bounty Hunters’ attempt to somehow capture you. Just for the money…or bounty on your head as a visitor who was perhaps also a threat?
In other words, can Disney create even better characters than the current audio-animatronic types?
As for the climatic battle that visitors will fight…who knows?
There are a lot of dramatic battles in the movies.
Which one will the Imaginers choose to focus…or will it all be an entirely new and equally imaginative one?
We don’t know.
It’s easy to imagine yourself being thrilled at what Disney comes up with…stepping aboard the Millennium Falcon.
Flying the fastest ship in the universe
Not just seeing it on a big 70-foot movie screen…with Dolby sound…and not just seeing it but piloting the fastest ship in the galaxy?
You bank it right and left. Avoiding other ships trying to shoot you down with laser canons.
My God! You’re right in the middle of a battle between the Resistance and the First Order. It’s a race against time.
And you’re right there.
This is all speculation.
Which we’re happy to do.
But we’re not….definitely not…Disney imagineers.
So it’s up to them.
But we can guess.
We do think they will meet the test of “wow.”
We base this on past performance. Disney has delivered.
When a group of Imagineers got together a few years ago to discuss creativity, among other issues, the original “Star Wars” films came up. How imagineers do it
Some said it was a “life changing” experience for them.
But also a new motive for coming up with the promised product “far far away.”
Many of them started as hourly employees (giving hope and/or inspiration to ambitious other workers in those jobs).
Interestingly, they agreed that all designs almost always start on paper.
“Star Wars” will probably be the same.
Then computers or sculpturing models.
Following that pattern, there will never be a single hand print on the project.
Many individuals will be part of it.
Another fact they agreed upon: the lifespan of ideas.
They very rarely die.
Ideas get molded and shaped and sometimes discarded. But in the end, they never entirely disappear.
The same should happen with “Star Wars.”
Ideas are even now being tossed around. Accepted. Rejected.
This is a familiar pattern with Disney.
Going back to Walt himself.
A model….but for failure
A model for failure: another relevant principle.
Learning from failures, is a better way to put it.
Walt Disney was a high school dropout who was fired from his first job working at a newspaper. One reason: he lacked imagination.
Over the next few years, he suffered several business disasters and bankruptcy.
From that, the Disney concepts emerged.
As has often been seen, Imagineering synthesizes three different strategies: the dreamer, realist, and the critic. A dreamer and realist can create things but find that a critic helps to evaluate and refine the final products.
Disney himself, as well as some of his most famous artists, often shared a maverick quality. But at the same time, their work was augmented by others.
Mavericks? They share qualities with the characters found in the movies, don’t they, such as the one we are talking about…
So it may really be no surprise what we finally get when “Star Wars” comes to life.
A big “wow.” ###