Where have I been?

A month into starting this blog, you may have noticed that I have already taken a hiatus. Not to worry! I am currently on location in Walt Disney World gathering lots of fun content to share as soon as I return. I’ve already had the opportunity to explore some new activities in addition to revisiting some old favorites. I’m looking forward to the time I have left here— especially running in my first Disney race, closing out the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!

Make sure to follow along on twitter and Instagram in the meantime to keep in touch! Here are some of my instagram photos from the past week. Enjoy!

Top Ten: Attractions for Walt Disney World Thrill Seekers

Walt Disney World has a reputation for being G-rated, safe and family-friendly. Nestled among the hugs and pixie dust are the less recognized, but still fantastic attractions for guests looking for an adrenaline rush. In Disney fashion, these intense experiences have been created with an incredible attention to detail, making them unrivaled among theme parks. Strap in and hold on as we explore a list of the most heart-pounding rides in “the world”:

Photo © Darren Wittko

Space Mountain

One of Walt Disney World’s oldest and most iconic attractions, this high-speed roller coaster zooms through the dark, simulating a journey through space. From your initial “launch” into orbit, through the final approach, you are treated to shooting stars and a fantastic futuristic soundtrack. Although there are no loops or upside down segments, the coaster travels at very high speeds, with sudden turns and drops. Your experience is enhanced by the complete darkness and inability to see what lies ahead, making this attraction even more exhilarating.


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

It’s a little known fact that this Magic Kingdom roller coaster travels at even faster speeds than Space Mountain. While it lacks the spookiness of the dark, this outdoor runaway mine train still provides an exciting journey through Disney’s re-creation of “The Old West”. With lots of turns and drops, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad zooms through mines and canyons, keeping riders in suspense. The familiar click-click-click as you are approaching an impending plummet is accentuated by the twang of the country tune that accompanies the ride, along with screams from the passengers riding the train ahead of you.


Test Track

Guests are essentially signing up to be a crash test dummy as they climb aboard their Test Track vehicle in Epcot. Seat belts are mandatory for this attraction, with good reason! Your journey includes all the tests that a car needs to pass before hitting the streets. These evaluations include it’s reception to extreme hot and cold temperatures, bumpy road conditions and a test of it’s anti-lock brake system. If you make it past swerving around oncoming traffic you are treated to an accelerated lap around an embanked loop. Test Track has undergone some refurbishment in 2012, promising even more thrills for it’s grand re-opening.


Photo © Joe Penniston

Mission Space

This Epcot attraction is notorious for provoking episodes of motion sickness, which only means that it pushes guests to the limit! Volunteer for a mission to Mars, either choosing to be part of the “orange” team, for a guaranteed intense experience, or the “green” team if you are looking for something a little tamer. Each “astronaut” plays a different role in their adventure into space. This motion simulated attraction recreates the experience of traveling in a real space shuttle, which involves shaking and spinning.


Photo © Scott Thomas

Soarin’

There are people that may argue that this attraction lacks a “thrill factor”, but anybody who is afraid of heights will find Soarin’ to offer elements of fear and excitement. Located in the Land Pavilion in Epcot, this experience simulates a hang-gliding trip over the state of California. After boarding into a row of seats, where your legs and feet dangle below, your glider is lifted 40 feet into the air as you soar over an IMAX projection. Although there are no drops and inversions, your journey is multi-sensory, so you not only get to see some beautiful California scenery, but also smell and hear your surroundings, making the experience feel very realistic.


Expedition Everest

Guests are in for a treat by riding this Animal Kingdom roller coaster, starting with the queue to the ride. The attraction is chocked full of details highlighting the journey of a mountain climber in pursuit of the mysterious and mystical yeti. After strapping in, guests travel through twists and turns, howling winds, a steep climb up the mountain and several large drops. The vehicle reaches a dead end, forcing it to travel backwards back through the mountain into darkness and a scary encounter with the yeti himself.


Photo © Joe Penniston

Dinosaur

Animal Kingdom’s second thrill ride is without a doubt, one of Walt Disney World’s scariest experiences. Guests climb aboard a “time rover”, programed to take you back to a prehistoric era when Dinosaurs roamed the land. Your bumpy ride takes place in almost complete darkness with many creepy creatures that pop up along the way. Nothing will prepare you for the chilling sounds and disorienting spiraling, ending with a finale that will leave you scared out of your skin.


Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith

The duration of this roller coaster is quicker than any of Walt Disney World’s other thrill rides, but the imagineers have mastered this Hollywood Studios attraction to make every moment memorable. Guests are given rock star treatment upon stepping into the queue. As you meander through music memorabilia and make your way into a mock recording studio, you are greeted by the Aerosmith gang and an invite to “attend” one of their concerts. Waiting in the alley beyond the recording studio, is a stretch limousine roller coaster ready to take you on a rockin’ journey through the dark. Kicking off with a launch that brings you from 0 to 57mph in 2.5 seconds, this ride includes a couple inversions, in addition to twists, turns, drops and high speeds, all while Aerosmith tunes blast through the speakers located in your seat.


Photo © Scott Thomas

Star Tours

This fan favorite Hollywood Studios attraction pays homage to one of the most popular franchises of all time, in a motion-simulated experience. After traveling through another fantastic queue through some of your favorite Star Wars scenes, you are loaded into a flight-motion simulator vehicle for a 3-D adventure. Recently updated, this experience now offers multiple flight sequences and stories, allowing guests to enjoy the ride in a new way, every time they ride.


Photo © Joe Penniston

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Located at the end of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios, sits this chilling structure that you can both hear (screams from the riders) and see from many points in and around the park. With amazing theming and attention to detail, this attraction offers a scary experience before you even step foot onto the ride. The legend of the five souls who disappeared after boarding the service elevator is revealed to guests as they make their way through the hotel and into the maintenance area. After boarding the very elevator from the legend, you travel through “The Twilight Zone” in darkness, before plummeting down the elevator shaft. This ride takes you up and down in drop sequences that change with every ride, so you never know what’s coming!

Review of Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Being Walt Disney World veterans, my husband and I are always on the lookout for new experiences in the parks that we can conquer. When I heard about the Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, we thought it would be a fun activity for us to check out. I should start by saying that I am definitely NOT an outdoorsy-nature type of girl. I did, however think it would be funny to hear the reactions of family and friends, when I told them that I “braved” a Wild Africa Trek.

We did our trek in early March, on a perfectly sunny Florida day, with temperatures in the low 70′s. I’ve been told that the trek takes place in rain or shine; only canceling due to lightning or other extreme weather. We dressed in comfortable clothing, including sneakers, which were a MUST since the tour included a lot of walking (in many parts, on uneven terrain). I was happy that I decided to wear long sleeves and pants since there were sections of the tour where we walked through bushes and other foliage that may have left a few little scrapes or scratches.

Since we are annual pass holders, we arrived at the park just shortly before our afternoon tour began. Admission is required in addition to the cost of the trek, so if this is your one day to visit the Animal Kingdom, make sure to take advantage of your time in the park, before and after the tour. Make sure to visit the restroom before the tour begins, since you won’t have access to one until two hours into the trip. We checked in and met our two tour guides right behind the Dawa Bar, located next to Tusker House, in the “Africa” region of the park.

Photo Courtesy of Disney

They signed us in and directed us to an area where we could store our belongings in complimentary lockers. The tour does have a weight limit, due to the harness used to keep you safe during the trek. You are made aware of this limit when the tour is booked, but they also confirm it with a weigh in (taken very discreetly and respectfully). Next, we got suited up in vests equipped with lots of pockets, snaps and hooks. They handed out metal water bottles (that clipped onto our vests) and earpieces, so we could hear our tour guide easily. I was beginning to feel outdoorsy already!


Our group of 12 was instructed on how the harness system worked and were given the chance to practice walking across a small rope bridge. Before setting out on our adventure, the guides treated us to some yummy “jungle juice”, a non-alcoholic tropical-esque drink, served in little metal cups. Once everyone had their fill, we moved from the prep area located “backstage”, back into the Animal Kingdom park.

The tour guides gave us a brief overview of what our 3-hour journey would entail before we began trekking through the Harambe Villiage. It was very amusing to see the reactions from the guests we passed— looks that were a combination of confusion and intrigue. As we walked, our guide gave us some background on the village and information on some of the animals that we passed.

Photo Courtesy of Disney

Shortly after, we reached a gate that led us to another “backstage area”. We followed a wooded trail, passing several animal skulls along the way, while our guide identified their types. We came to our first major stop— the hippo pool! By clipping our hooks to the harness system, we had the opportunity to get up close to the animals, while we were educated on information about them.

Next, we moved on to the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most— the rope bridge! Even being an “indoor” kinda gal, at no point did I feel nervous about walking across a wobbly bridge, swinging over a group of crocodiles. Our harnesses were clipped on to a track above us as we walked across, one by one. While the bridge was constructed by slats of wood, several were cracked and even missing in some spots (leave it to Disney for authenticity). The entire bridge ran over a safety net of sorts, for extra security.

Photo Courtesy of Disney
 

With the toughest part of our adventure behind us, we continued on to the savanna. All of the walking we had done so far was rewarded by a truck that pulled up, ready to take us on the remainder of our journey. We traveled along a similar route that the Kilimanjaro Safari takes, spotting lots of wildlife. Unlike the Safari, we were given a lot more explanation about the animals that we passed. The vehicle also traveled much slower, allowing for more stops and opportunities for us to take photos.

Photo Courtesy of Disney

The truck rolled up to the beautiful “Boma” Safari camp, where an awesome lunch was waiting for us. We were served more of the jungle juice we were given earlier in the day, along with fun canteens filled with an assortment of goodies (including chicken, shrimp, cheese, hummus and even an edible flower). Allergy free options were prepared ahead of time for the people who requested them when booking. While we ate, we were able to view our gorgeous surroundings through binoculars that were supplied to us. Restrooms were also available, which were actually quite nice— nothing like the outhouse that I was expecting!

Photo Courtesy of Disney

When everybody had finished their meal, we loaded back into the truck and headed back to our base, where the trek began. We were told that a portion of the cost of our trip would be donated to animal conservation. The guides allowed each of us to choose which animal we would like to support. In honor of my two kitties back at home, I chose to support their lion “cousins”!

Photo Courtesy of Disney

After returning our gear, and retrieving our belongings from our lockers, we were told that the water bottles were ours to keep. They also gave us a photopass that included tons of photos taken during our tour. A code was supplied that allowed us to order a disc of the images, for free. What a wonderful way to remember a fantastic experience!

This experience is recommended for:

  • Repeat Walt Disney World visitors, who are looking to experience something new.
  • Animal lovers, who want to learn more about the Animal Kingdom wildlife and to experience a once in a lifetime chance to see a variety of creatures up close.
  • Photographers, who will get the chance to view some gorgeous scenery and beautiful animals.
  • People like me, who are not really adventure seekers, but want to experience something outside of their comfort zone, in the safety of a controlled environment.

Because of the amount of walking and “trekking” involved, this experience is not handicap accessible or recommended for somebody who may be recovering from an injury or has trouble walking. Walt Disney World requires you to be at least 8 years old to take part in this trip, but it would be an awesome treat for any child interested in animals!

Trip Itinerary: For First Time Visitors

Photo © Joe Penniston

Specially designed for:

A family visiting Walt Disney World for the first time.

Day 1:

Arrive at resort/check-in. Suggested resorts:

Lunch at your resort’s quick-service dining location:

  • Captain Cook’s (located in the Polynesian Resort)
  • Old Port Royale Food Court (located in the Caribbean Beach Resort)
  • Landscape of Flavors (located in the Art of Animation Resort)

Spend the afternoon at your resort’s pool

If you are using Disney’s Magical Express transportation from the airport to your resort, pack a small bag with swimsuits and a change of clothes (along with anything else important like medications), as it may take a few hours for you to be able to get into your room and for your luggage to arrive.

Dinner at one of Disney’s Dinner shows:

  • The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (located at Fort Wilderness)
  • Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (located at the Polynesian Resort)
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ (located at Fort Wilderness)
Bus transportation to Fort Wilderness tends to be very crowded and takes quite some time. We recommend driving as your best option (if you have your own vehicle). An alternative is to use boat transportation. Boats to Fort Wilderness launch from the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort, and the Wilderness Lodge.
Watch a movie under the stars at your resort. Check with the front desk for a movie schedule to see what’s playing!


Day 2:

Breakfast at your resort’s quick-service dining location:

  • Captain Cook’s (located in the Polynesian Resort)
  • Old Port Royale Food Court (located in the Caribbean Beach Resort)
  • Landscape of Flavors (located in the Art of Animation Resort)
Eat breakfast early enough to arrive at the Magic Kingdom before opening. This will not only give you better access to the most popular rides, but will give you the chance to experience the park’s special opening ceremony.

Spend the day at the Magic Kingdom. Here is a list of the most iconic and popular attractions that we suggest you check out:

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad* (thrill ride)
  • Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant*
  • It’s a Small World
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Peter Pan’s Flight*
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Space Mountain* (thrill ride)
  • Splash Mountain* (thrill ride)
  • The Haunted Mansion*
  • Walt Disney World Railroad
  • Town Square Theater Meet-and-Greet with Mickey Mouse*
*Because these attractions are among the most popular, wait times will be long. Be sure to take advantage of the Fast Pass System.

Grab lunch at one of the quick-service locations in the Magic Kingdom:

  • Casey’s Corner (located on Main Street, USA)
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe (located in Frontierland)
  • Pinocchio Village Haus (located in Fantasyland)
  • Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant (located in Tomorrowland)

Continue to explore the Magic Kingdom.

Dinner at one of the Magic Kingdom’s Dining locations:

Enjoy the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular Firework Show at the Magic Kingdom before returning to your resort.


Day 3:

Breakfast at one of these Character Meal Locations:

Head over to Epcot and explore Future World. Here are some recommended attractions for first-time visitors:

  • Living with the Land
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment
  • Soarin’* (thrill ride)
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Test Track* (thrill ride, grand reopening scheduled for December 6, 2012)
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
*Because these attractions are among the most popular, wait times will be long. Be sure to take advantage of the Fast Pass System.

Lunch at one of the quick-service locations around World Showcase:

  • Boulangerie Patisserie (France Pavilion)
  • Katsura Grill (Japan Pavilion)
  • Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (Norway Pavilion)
  • Liberty Inn (American Adventure Pavilion)
  • Lotus Blossom Café (China Pavilion)
  • Sommerfest (Germany Pavilion)
  • Tangerine Café (Morocco Pavilion)
  • Yorkshire County Fish Shop (United Kingdom Pavilion)

Spend the afternoon strolling Epcot’s World Showcase. Be sure to check explore the unique features in each country’s pavilion as well as these attractions:

  • The American Adventure (located in the America Pavilion)
  • Maelstrom (located in the Norway Pavilion)
  • Gran Fiesta Tour (located in the Mexico Pavilion)

Exit through the International Gateway (located in the back of Epcot), and on to Disney’s Boardwalk for dinner at one of these locations:

Return to Epcot via the International Gateway to catch IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth before leaving Epcot for the evening.


Day 4:

Breakfast at your resort’s quick-service dining location:

  • Captain Cook’s (located in the Polynesian Resort)
  • Old Port Royale Food Court (located in the Caribbean Beach Resort)
  • Landscape of Flavors (located in the Art of Animation Resort)

Spend the morning at your resort’s pool.

Guests tend to spend more mornings in the parks and their afternoons at the resort pools. Take advantage of the low morning crowds at your pool!

Head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for lunch at one of these quick-service locations:

  • ABC Commissary (located in the Backlot)
  • Backlot Express (located in the Backlot)
  • Fairfax Fare (located on Sunset Boulevard)
  • Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner (located on Echo Lake)
  • Pizza Planet (located in the Backlot)
  • Starring Rolls Cafe (located on Sunset Boulevard)
  • Studios Catering Co. (located on the Backlot)
  • Sunset Ranch Market (located on Sunset Boulevard)

Spend the afternoon and early evening exploring Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Be sure to check out these attractions:

  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster* (thrill ride)
  • Star Tours* (thrill ride)
  • The American Idol Experience
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • Toy Story Mania!*
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror* (thrill ride)
*Because these attractions are among the most popular, wait times will be long. Be sure to take advantage of the Fast Pass System.

Dinner at either:

Watch Fantasmic, a nighttime water and fireworks show at Disney Hollywood Studios.

Booking a Fantasmic Dinner Package ensures seating at Fantastmic. Call (407) WDW-DINE to learn more.

Day 5:

Travel to a resort outside of the one you are staying at for breakfast. Explore some of the theming of the hotel after breakfast or while you are waiting to be seated. Here are some suggested resort restaurants:

Head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, making sure to check out:

  • DINOSAUR (thrill ride)
  • Expedition Everest* (thrill ride)
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade
*Because this attraction is among the most popular, wait times will be long. Be sure to take advantage of the Fast Pass System.

Grab lunch at one of Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s dining locations:

  • Flame Tree Barbeque (located on Discovery Island)
  • Pizzafari (located on Discovery Island)
  • Restaurantosaurus (located in Dinoland USA)
  • Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe (located in Asia)

Head to Downtown Disney for some shopping and dinner at one of these suggested restaurants:

Don’t forget to check out The World of Disney, the largest Disney store on earth!

End your evening by exploring one of Downtown Disney’s attractions:


Day 6:

Check out of your resort.
After you have checked out, the concierge can store your luggage until you are ready to depart.

Travel to a resort outside of the one you stayed at for breakfast before departing for home. Explore some of the theming of the hotel after breakfast or while you are waiting to be seated. Here are some suggested resort restaurants:



Advanced dining reservations are highly recommended for all character meals and dining (outside of quick service dining). Reservations can be made 180 days prior to your visit by calling (407) WDW-DINE.
 

Hidden Gem: Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

As Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s guests make a mad dash to secure their fast passes for Toy Story Midway Mania (currently the most popular attraction in the park), a hidden gem of an experience is passed over, time and again. Nestled behind The Great Movie Ride, and steps away from Pixar Place, lives Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream. This self-guided walking tour and 15-minute film, gives guests the opportunity to experience Walt Disney’s journey; from his humble beginnings, to the creation of the parks that we enjoy today.

Your journey begins at the entrance to the attraction, located on Mickey Avenue. Guests are welcomed in by a colorful exterior marquee and a friendly cast member.

Photo © Samantha Decker

You are led inside by a curved wall, sprinkled with photos of Walt from various stages of his life, giving you an overview of what is to come in the tour. The last photo on the wall is the large iconic image of Walt Disney standing in a doorway, facing Mickey Mouse’s shadow. I couldn’t help but to add my own shadow into the mix!

Guests travel into an area where they are treated to images and stories from Walt’s childhood. His earliest influences for the Disney Parks can be found in the display about his love of railroads and the replica of Main Street, USA, modeled after Walt’s childhood home town of Marceline, Missouri. It becomes evident that Walt learned the importance of hard work and perseverance from a young age, as a result of growing up in a family who had very little.

Photo © Josh McConnell

You continue along to Walt’s beginnings as a cartoonist and movie maker. A replica of Walt’s art desk with an animated screen, gives visitors a first-hand look at how Mickey Mouse came to be.

Photo © Alex Bain

 A progression from Walt’s earliest animated short films to his full-length features are brought to life through an assortment of information boards, posters and memorabilia. The attraction also highlights the progression of technology throughout Walt’s movie-making years. Guests are given a demonstration and look into the multi-plane camera filming technique as well as other approaches to creating movie magic.

Photo © Josh McConnell

The next section gives guests a look into the creation of the Disney Parks and the expansion of the Disney brand. My favorite parts of this area are the replica of Walt Disney’s office and the life-size recreation of the studio where Walt revealed plans for “The Florida Project”, what we know as Walt Disney World.

Photo © Samantha Decker

Even with all he accomplished, it’s sad that Walt didn’t live to see his dream of Walt Disney World become a reality. What Walt did leave us with were his strong ideals and creative spirit—characteristics that have become the backbone of the Disney Company. The last part of the exhibit celebrates the legacy that Walt left behind, a look into what has been created since his passing, and a preview of what is to come.

Photo © Josh McConnell

Photo © Alex Bain

The experience ends with a 15-minute film, narrated by one of my favorite actresses, Disney legend, Julie Andrews, along with Walt Disney himself. The movie encompasses the life of Walt Disney, focusing on his story of overcoming adversity to create one of the most famous brands in history. Even though I have watched the film many times, I always leave the theater completely inspired and with a new appreciation for the park I am walking back into.

Who is this attraction best for?

In short, everyone. In my opinion, visiting this exhibit should be a mandatory stop for anybody visiting a Disney Park. Walt Disney World is so much more than rides and characters—this attraction is a testament to that.

 

© Copyright WDW Deluxe
WDWdeluxe.com is an unofficial site and is in no way part of, endorsed or authorized by, or affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or its affiliates.
For official information about Walt Disney World, please visit disneyworld.com.