Archive for the ‘Orlando Theme Parks’ Category

Disney World Epcot

May 20th, 2009 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks, Rides
Disney World Epcot

Disney World Epcot

Are you planning an Orlando vacation and wondering if Epcot should be on your list of ‘must see’ parks? Disney’s Epcot has the reputation of being the most grown up of the Disney theme parks. A lot of people have the idea that the kids just aren’t going to enjoy it that much. But is this really true and how did Epcot get this reputation?

Epcot stands for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt Disney had a dream that he would create the ultimate place to live and work. So Walt’s dream for Epcot was far from what it became. But the Disney Imagineers took the essential ideas of Walt’s dream and turned them into one of the most innovative theme parks ever created. But you are still not sure if Epcot is going to be an exciting place to visit?

So what is Epcot really like? It is divided into 2 parts. Future World which explores innovation and creativity. Here you will find the headliner rides such as Test Track, Mission Space, Epcot Soarin and The Seas With Nemo and Friends. The second part is Future World – more of a World’s Fair idea with 11 countries around the huge lagoon. Here you will find Canada,The United Kingdom,France,Morocco,Japan,America,Italy,Germany,China,Norway and Mexico. Here you can take a trip around the world and visit authentic restaurants,browse local goods and visit architecture and attractions unique to each country.

So why did Epcot get the reputation of being so grown up? I think some of this is due to the feeling that the park is ‘educational’. It is a pity but perhaps this image means to some that the park just won’t be that much fun. This is so far from reality though! Yes, Epcot does have at it’s very core the desire to educate – but this is learning Disney style! Just don’t get the idea that Epcot is not a theme park. It most certainly is. And a very enjoyable one.

So what is there for children at Epcot? There is plenty to keep them happy in Future World. Epcot has some major attractions. Test Track is one of the most innovative thrill rides Disney has ever created. You will reach speeds of up to 65 mph on the fastest attraction in any Disney theme park. Or feel as though you really are flying over California on Soarin’. For the younger kids they will love The Seas With Nemo and Friends, The Lion King Circle of Life, and Turtle Talk with Crush. They can even Journey Into Imagination With Figment.

Epcot’s World Showcase has a lot to keep kids entertained too. All the family can enjoy browsing around the architecture – you really do feel as if you have traveled to the countries when you see the amazing buildings and meet the people from all over the World. Disney came up with a simple but very effective idea to keep the kids entertained. They can each collect a mask to color and then they travel around each country to get a stamp and a tag from each place. When they collect all 11 stamps they will get a certificate. My kids love this – you would not believe how many masks they have collected over the years.

Epcot also has one of the best fireworks displays – Illuminations Reflections of Earth. Make sure that you stay around to see this spectacular fireworks,laser and pyrotechnics show which is shown each day when the park closes.

So take a look at Epcot to see if it really is for you. Here I have a free guide with photos,tips and reviews of all the attractions:

Disney World Epcot Guide

Disney Park Hopper

March 20th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks
Do you need a Disney World Park Hopper Pass?

Do you need a Disney World Park Hopper Pass?

Are you visiting Disney World and are confused about all the different ticket options available? It can seem complicated but if you break it down into easy steps then you will soon be able to work out which Disney ticket option is the right one for you and your family.

Your basic option is a Disney World Magic Your Way Base Ticket. This ticket lets you visit one park per day. The tickets expire 14 days after their first use and are not transferable to anyone else.

Prices including tax available at Disney World



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So just what is a Disney World Park Hopper ticket? Well remember that the base ticket gets you into one park per day. The Park Hopper allows you to visit more than one park in each day. So you could start at Disney Hollywood Studios in the morning and then travel to Epcot for the Illuminations fireworks in the evening. Or start at Animal Kingdom and catch the Festival of the Lion King, but go to Magic Kingdom in the evening.

Is a Park Hopper worth the extra money? The cost to add a Park Hopper option to any Base Ticket is $53.25. So it is the same price to add a Park Hopper option to any Disney ticket – whether it is for 2 days or up to 10 days. The per day cost is only $5.32 if you have a 10 day ticket but adds almost $27 a day if you have a 2 day ticket.

You really have to think about how you are going to plan your visit to Disney World to see whether you need a Park Hopper. It can be a great option and many guests always get a Hopper pass. But others never use it. You have to remember that it does take time to transfer from one park to another. So think carefully before choosing a Disney Park Hopper. Always remember too that you can upgrade your ticket if you change your mind. You can buy a base Disney World ticket and then upgrade to add a Park Hopper or Water Park and More option if you find that you need one.

Where should you buy your Disney World tickets? The first thing to say is that there are definitely certain places you should not buy your ticket – eBay and unauthorized ticket dealers. There are some Disney ticket scams out there so just don’t take the risk.

A safe place to buy Disney tickets? Disney itself of course – either online at Disney World or at the gate. But there is a safe alternative which will save you money. A reliable Authorized Disney Ticket dealer such as the one I recommend to all my guests Orlando Fun Tickets The savings can really add up – for example your family could quickly save up to $50 for a Disney 5 Day Park Hopper.

Don’t forget the Disney Water Parks and Disney Quest. You can also add a Water Park and Fun option which can be great value if you are going to visit a water park more than once. The cost of a Water Park and Fun option is just $53.25 which can offer excellent value for your family.

If you would like to know more about the Disney Park Hopper Ticket and all the other options available – as well as see some of my very favorite pictures of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom – I have written a free guide for you: Disney World Should I Be A Park Hopper?

The amazing Disney World Cinderella Castle photo used under Creative Commons and with kind permission from expressmonorail

Disney World Roller Coasters

March 5th, 2009 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks, Rides

Want to accelerate from 0 to 57 mph in just 2.8 seconds and experience more G Force than a Space Shuttle launch? If that sounds like your idea of fun then Aerosmith’s Rock N Roller Coaster at Disney Hollywood Studios is the place to be. But one of the most popular Disney World roller coasters travels at just 28 mph. Which one is that? Space Mountain of course!

Disney World has some of the world’s most innovative roller coasters. They don’t try and be the biggest, the highest or the fastest. But Disney always uses imagination to make their roller coasters an experience.

One of my favorites is Rock N Roller Coaster and this was the Disney ride that I credit with actually getting me started with roller coasters. At other theme parks (yes I do go to them too) I would always be the family member sitting the scary roller coasters out. No it’s fine, I’ll stay with the kids who aren’t tall enough to ride. But to be honest I was getting bored of that. Perhaps I was missing out. So I decided to start with Rock N Roller Coaster. Thinking back I am not sure how I picked this as my first roller coaster adventure – perhaps I was tempted by the huge guitar outside and the Aerosmith music! The fact that I couldn’t see what was in store probably helped too. This is a roller coaster in the dark so you have no sense of what you are letting yourself in for……

I still remember the feeling of lining up waiting to go on the ride. Fear. But I was so glad that I did. I realized what I had been missing out on. 2 minutes 2 seconds of pure adrenaline. I never looked back. I was a Disney roller coaster convert.

Having started with perhaps the most intense Disney roller coaster I thought perhaps the others would be a disappointment. I was wrong. The others are just different. All have the Disney attention to detail. The newest Disney Mountain is Expedition Everest. I watched it being built in Animal Kingdom and waited. It was not a disappointment. Disney Imagineers spent 6 years researching and building the Expedition Everest ride. And it shows in the amazing attention to detail. The story is based around the legend of the Yeti. There are many twists and turns on this thrilling ride. The 50 foot drop is amazing! And you go backwards too. Get a Fast Pass and experience Expedition Everest as the lines are generally pretty long.

And what about the older, more traditional Disney World roller coasters? I have to say that my least favorite is Space Mountain. Yes it is innovative but I guess I have just ridden on it too many times. The steepest drop on Space Mountain is 39 degrees. The fastest it gets is of 28 miles per hour – yes it feels faster than that but it just isn’t my favorite.

A great Disney roller coaster to start with is Big Thunder Mountain. This really is a roller coaster for all the family. It is pretty mild, but just a great experience riding round all the twists and turns and gentle drops. As soon as the kids reach the height requirement of 40″ this is a great one for them to start with.

When you think of Disney World guests don’t always realize that there are some really excellent thrill rides to experience. And whilst of course it isn’t a roller coaster, don’t forget Disney World’s Hollywood Tower of Terror. A very different experience but if you like roller coasters you are going to love this!

Photos used under Creative Commons from expressmonorail

Cinderella Castle

January 7th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks
One of my favorite photos of Cinderella's Castle

One of my favorite photos of Cinderella

If you picture Disney World the chances are that the image that comes into your head will be Cinderella’s Castle – the icon of the Magic Kingdom. This picture of Cinderella’s Castle is so stunning it inspired me to write about the most recognizable landmark in Disney World.

Have you ever wondered what is inside Cinderella’s Castle? Or wanted to learn more about this enchanted Disney Castle?

The inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle were the castles of 17th century France. And this too was the theme for the magical Cinderella Castle Suite. This beautiful 650 square feet Cinderella Suite was created by the Imagineers in 2007 and used as a prize for a small number of lucky families selected randomly in one of the parks as winners of the Year of A Million Dreams.

So what is inside the Cinderella Castle Suite? It is 21st century comfort meets 17th century style.

The bedroom has 2 beautiful Queen sized beds facing an ornate fireplace. Above the fireplace is a portrait of Cinderella – but all is not what it seems. The portrait magically transforms into a flat screen television! The bathroom houses a huge garden tub with ornate stained glass windows. Guests of the Suite are given their own private tour of the Magic Kingdom after closing time and are then escorted to their ‘palace’ by their Cinderella Suite Concierge.

Sadly the only way to see the inside of the Cinderella Suite for yourself is to win the prize. Disney has said that even though the Year of A Million Dreams is now finished they will still be using the Castle Suite as a prize. So keep your fingers crossed and maybe you will be one of the lucky ones!

There is an easier way to see the inside of Cinderella’s Castle though. You can dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table which is housed inside the Castle. Be prepared to make those Advance Dining Reservations well in advance though as this is the most popular Disney World restaurant. You really do have to call 407 WDW DINE 90 days ahead to get a table. The food is family style and breakfast, lunch and dinner is served.

How many bricks were used to build the Magic Kingdom Castle? OK it is a trick question of course because the answer is none. Cindrella’s Castle is built from concrete and fiber glass over a steel structure. Legend had it that it could be taken apart if a hurricane threatened – but this is simply a legend as this is a very solid structure!

If you would like to learn more about this most famous Disney World landmark then take a look at my Guide to Cinderella’s Castle. You will even be able to take a peek inside the Cinderella Castle Suite!

Photos used under Creative Commons from expressmonorail

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Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

December 31st, 2008 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks, Rides
Ghostly goings on at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Ghostly goings on at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Dare you ride Disney’s Hollywood Tower of Terror? Board the elevator and drop 13 floors? If that sounds like your idea of fun then one of your favorite Disney World rides will be the Tower of Terror.

So what will you experience on the Tower of Terror ride. The attention to detail on this ride is perhaps one of the most striking of all the Disney World attractions.

The Tower of Terror ride is based on the television series The Twilight Zone The Tower of Terror. Naturally it is 13 stories high! Walt Disney Imagineers watched all 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone so that they could recreate the mood and feeling of the series.

The Tower of Terror is Disney World’s second tallest building at 199 feet high. Any taller and Disney would have to have put a red light beacon at the top of the building – not something that would really fit in with the 1930’s hotel style!

Like all great Disney rides the Tower of Terror has a back story. According to Disney lore it was a hotel which opened in 1919 in Hollywood. It became a favorite place to stay for the Hollywood film star elite. But one day on Halloween 1939 the Hollywood Tower Hotel was stuck by lightning. Part of the building was destroyed and 5 guests who had just entered the elevator disappeared. All of the other guests ran out of the building in terror leaving all of their belongings behind. The Tower of Terror is left empty until 1994 when it mysteriously re opens in 1994 at Disney Hollywood Studios.

So much for the story – what is so great about the ride? It is one of the most intense and original rides that you can experience. The attention to detail is amazing – even as you walk through the line you will enter a ghostly world of the 1930’s Twilight Zone. I don’t want to give you the whole story here as there are some spoilers but if you want more details here is my Guide to the Tower of Terror. But just know that you will experience darkened rooms, Twilight Zone atmosphere and then be dropped 13 floors in an elevator!

So what is my personal opinion of Disney World Tower of Terror? I have to confess I have a fear of normal elevators so the thought of stepping into one, whether I know it is fake or not, is not something I took lightly! When I first rode the Tower of Terror many years ago I did have to be persuaded on to the ride! But was it worth it? It most certainly was and I have been on it many times since.

There is of course another trick that Disney has up it’s sleeve. On some attractions you can become ‘used’ to the experience because if you ride it enough times you know what is coming next. Not so with Hollywood’s Tower of Terror. Why? Because it has a computer controlled randomized sequence. So you never know which drop is coming next. So no matter how many times you ride the Tower of Terror each experience will be as thrilling as the first.

Remember of course that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a popular ride. There is a Fast Pass available and most times of year it is advisable to use it. If you are at the park at opening time this may be the one that you want to ride first before the lines build up.

The height requirement is 40″ but remember also that it is a very intense and scary experience. My 10 year old used to love the Tower of Terror but now she just won’t ride it because it is just too scary for her. If your child, or even you, get through the pre show and just don’t want to ride then always tell a Cast Member – there is a last minute change your mind exit that is used quite a bit! If you have young children who aren’t riding with you then there is a Child Swap facility – you can all stand in line together and then one adult rides while the other stays with the child. Then they swap. It saves a lot of time.

So ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror if you dare. Check out my Guide to the Tower of Terror for more details of the ride, it’s secrets and some amazing pictures.

Photos used under Creative Commons from kevineddy

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Disney Cruise Specials

November 3rd, 2008 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks

Have you always wanted to sail on Disney cruise line but were just waiting for the right deal? Well there has been no better time to book a Disney cruise – there are some great special offers out there at the moment.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Flickrized

One of the best offers I have seen is Disney’s current deal. If you book a 4 or 7 night Disney cruise during select nights this winter you can take a relaxing 3-Night Bahamian Cruise fall 2009 for only $99 per person based on double occupancy. So not only can you enjoy one great Disney cruise but you get to go back again!

Disney Cruise Lines are also offering round-trip airfare of $199 per person from select airport locations east of the Mississippi when you book a 7-Night Caribbean Cruise or 7-Night Land and Sea Vacation starting in January 2009. So the cost of getting to Port Canaveral is partly taken care of for you.

So what is so great about a Disney cruise? Most people agree that Disney is one of the best cruise lines in the business and their sea vacations are very popular. Disney is even expanding their fleet with 2 new huge cruise ships on order for 2011 and 2012. We all know that whatever Disney does it does it exceptionally well and with great attention to detail. Their levels of service on their ships are second to none. Of course they have some of the very best shows on the seven seas too.

Is a Disney cruise just for kids? Well Disney has gone to great lengths to ensure that all ages are very welcome on the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic. Each ship has no less than 5 areas which are adults only sanctuaries including the Quiet Cove Adult Pool, Palo restaurant, a bar , lounge and even a separate beach on Castaway Cay. Whatever your age their is something for everyone on a Disney cruise.

Castaway Cay, Disney’s own private island is a highlight of the cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Disney designed this as the perfect island destination – with beautiful white sand beaches and palm trees. You really can’t get much closer to paradise than this…….

Photo used under Creative Commons from Flickrized

I am very tempted by Disney’s new itineraries for 2010 which include the Mediterranean cruises and Northern European cruises.

If you would like to find out more about Disney cruises including which cabin is right for you,more about the restaurants and entertainment, and of course how to get the very best deals then I have written a comprehensive free guide – The Secrets of a Magical Disney Cruise. Here you will find lots of tips and some amazing photos so that you can dream about your next Disney Cruise!

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Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills Resorts – No Hidden Fees

August 13th, 2008 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks, Orlando Vacation Homes, Restaurants

Windsor Palms, Windsor Hills and Solana have facilities to rival many expensive hotels in the Orlando area. Vacation homes already make a lot of sense in offering value to families looking for a great place to stay. But when you also look at all the hidden extras which often appear on your hotel bill it makes Windsor Palms and Windsor Hills look like an even better option!

Hotels seem to have started more and more to ‘hide’ the fees that they charge. I am not sure why they think that we won’t notice when we check out that all of a sudden there is a long list of extras. Perhaps they know that by the time we check out it is too late to make other choices!

Recently I stayed in a great hotel in California. One of the best I have ever stayed in. But it came at a price! The room rate looked good. Well that is the ‘headline’ room rate. The one that you see before you start adding the tax, the ‘resort fee’, the wireless internet access fee, the extortionate phone charges…….

But the charge that made me most annoyed was the valet parking fee. $25 a day plus tips! Was there a choice? Not unless you were prepared to put your car in the parking lot across the busy street about a 10 minute walk away. Will I stay at that hotel again? Probably not as they just didn’t seem to be being honest with me about how much it was going to cost. Why aren’t they just upfront about it?

So an added bonus to staying in one of my vacation homes? The resort facilities are free. No charge for the Windsor Palms community pool, spa, tennis, gym,basketball, volleyball or even the movie theater! No charge for all the fabulous community facilities at Windsor Hills or Solana.

Many of the homes that I offer also have free wireless internet, game rooms (no need to feed the pool table with money) and free international phone calls.

Oh, and of course parking is always free. On your own private pool home drive.

So when you are working out the amount of money you save on an Orlando vacation home as compared with an hotel remember to think about all the ‘hidden’ hotel fees. You are not going to get a big shock at check out as everything is already covered. So just check in, relax and enjoy the benefits of your smart choice.