The Unofficial Guides https://theunofficialguides.com The Unofficial Guides are Officially Coming Home Wed, 05 Aug 2020 17:51:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 74503848 Halloween Party Giveaway and Crafting Ideas https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/05/halloween-party-giveaway-and-crafting-ideas/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/05/halloween-party-giveaway-and-crafting-ideas/#respond Wed, 05 Aug 2020 10:50:55 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15838 Sadly, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the annual extra-ticketed, after-hours Halloween party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, has been canceled for the 2020 season.  The hallmarks of the event, such as stage shows, trick-or-treating, character meet-and-greets with villains, parades, and holiday-themed-fireworks can’t take place due to this year’s pandemic, as it would be difficult to ensure proper social distancing. We are still […]

The post Halloween Party Giveaway and Crafting Ideas appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
Sadly, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the annual extra-ticketed, after-hours Halloween party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, has been canceled for the 2020 season. 

2019 Mickey's Not-so-scary Halloween Parties tickets dates

The hallmarks of the event, such as stage shows, trick-or-treating, character meet-and-greets with villains, parades, and holiday-themed-fireworks can’t take place due to this year’s pandemic, as it would be difficult to ensure proper social distancing.

Halloween Party

We are still hoping that Halloween will come to the parks in the form of the annual classic fall decorations, special merchandise, and ghoulish treats. No official announcement regarding this has been made, however. 

For those of us who cannot visit this year, let’s bring some of the Disney Halloween spirit to our homes. Here are some ideas for arts and crafts that will come in handy for a Disney-themed Halloween home.  

For good measure, we did stir the cauldron and used some spells to create a fabulous Halloween GIVEAWAY for you. One lucky winner will receive 13 Disney Halloween Trading Pins and a blue-ray version of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas. So read on, start crafting your decoration, and enter our giveaway. 

Halloween party

There is no reason not to have a Disney Halloween safely at home. Join family and friends via zoom. Kids and grownups alike can dress up in their favorite Disney character costumes, show their Halloween decorations, and have a pin-trading event virtually. You can mail the traded pins after the Halloween party.  

In preparation for the virtual party, families can work on handcrafted decorations. Check out these simple arts projects and create 4 different Mickey pumpkins

Halloween Party

I absolutely love the Maleficent Wreath. Here is how you can summon the Mistress of All Evil to your home. And what could be better than a Mickey Halloween Bat mobile.

Halloween Party

No Halloween party is complete without food. So here are some of my favorites for you to try at home. Every family member will love the Mickey Mouse ghost cupcakes or the spooky Jack Skellington goodies

Halloween Party

Of course, there is the matter of costumes. There are plenty of websites for those who want to make their own, and Disney just released their Halloween collection. So there are no excuses to become a prime candidate for joining the Haunted Mansion. 

So get going and don’t forget to watch not so scary movies such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus. And yes, we really want to see your pictures—pictures of the crafts, the recipes, and, eventually, of your Halloween party. Email them to me (liliane@adventurewithkeen.com), and we will share them on our social media platforms.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Halloween Party Giveaway and Crafting Ideas appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/05/halloween-party-giveaway-and-crafting-ideas/feed/ 0 15838
What is Adventures by Disney? https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/03/what-is-adventures-by-disney/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/03/what-is-adventures-by-disney/#respond Mon, 03 Aug 2020 08:51:21 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15287 Erin Foster, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, has taken many Adventures by Disney trips and tells us more about this lesser-known component of Disney travel. Currently Adventures by Disney departures are suspended through Monday, September 30, 2020. For updated information check here. Almost everyone knows about the Disney theme parks and Disney Cruise Line, but there is also […]

The post What is Adventures by Disney? appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
Erin Foster, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, has taken many Adventures by Disney trips and tells us more about this lesser-known component of Disney travel.

Currently Adventures by Disney departures are suspended through Monday, September 30, 2020. For updated information check here.

Adventures by Disney
Church of the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

Almost everyone knows about the Disney theme parks and Disney Cruise Line, but there is also Adventures by Disney, the company’s luxury travel arm that offers guided trips on six continents. 

These trips use Disney-trained guides to take relatively small groups of guests to places like Costa Rica, Italy, or South Africa. You’re not interacting with Mickey Mouse in these places, but you are being assisted by folks who are well-versed in Disney’s famous customer service, while you stay in five-star accommodations and visit iconic sites with little to no wait. For example, there might be a three-hour wait to get into the Sistine Chapel for most people, but with AbD you’ll be able to walk right in and have some time there with just your small group. 

Four Types of Adventures by Disney Vacations are Available

  • Land-based trips: These typically last 7-12 days. They may involve cultural activities (museums, concerts, theater), active exploration (rafting, biking, snorkeling), animal activities (horseback riding, zoos, farms), culinary events (restaurants, cooking lessons, wine tastings), and more. Land-based trips often involve several changes of venue. For example, on the AbD trip to Australia, you’ll visit Palm Cove, Melbourne, and Sydney. 
Strudel-making lessons in Austria
  • Short Escapes: These typically last 2-5 days. They involve the same types of activities as above but focus on just one city, such as New York or London. 
  • River Cruises: River Cruises take place on European waterways on small ships that hold approximately 150 guests. The AbD river cruises include gourmet food onboard, your posh stateroom, and all your tours while on land. 
Adventures by Disney
Stateroom Danube River cruise
Adventures by Disney
Mirabell Palace Gardens, Salzburg, Austria
  • Adventures Embedded in Disney Cruise Line Ocean Cruises: Rather than selecting individual port excursions from those offered to regular guests, AbD chooses a balance of tours, some of which are unavailable to others, and you enjoy those tours with your own guides that stay with you throughout the sailing. 

I’ve been lucky enough to have taken 10 Adventures by Disney trips so far: four land-based trips (Costa Rica, Germany, Wyoming, China, Peru), one short escape (Barcelona), two river cruises (Rhine River and Danube River), and two embedded DCL cruises (Mediterranean and Baltic). My family has also booked the AbD Japan trip for summer 2021!

Adventures by Disney
Machu Picchu, Peru

My favorite trip so far has been the China Adventures by Disney vacation, which included a visit to the Great Wall, a trip to a panda sanctuary, and a tour of Shanghai. 

Adventures by Disney
Great Wall of China

The AbD website is a wonderful resource, listing all the trips, a day-by-day breakdown of everything that happens during the trip, and even the hotels you’ll stay in while touring. These trips are expensive, but if you want a frictionless vacation where every detail is taken care of, you can’t go wrong with Adventures by Disney. The River Cruise and AbD embedded trips are covered in detail in The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

The post What is Adventures by Disney? appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/03/what-is-adventures-by-disney/feed/ 0 15287
COVID-19 and Theme Parks: Latest Updates https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/03/covid-19-and-theme-parks-latest-updates/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/03/covid-19-and-theme-parks-latest-updates/#respond Mon, 03 Aug 2020 06:11:00 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=13905 The COVID-19 novel coronavirus that began in Asia has spread to America, and has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Obviously, there are more critical public health concerns right now than theme parks. However, for the millions of guests who were planning on visiting attractions this season, not to mention the employees who depend on […]

The post COVID-19 and Theme Parks: Latest Updates appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
The COVID-19 novel coronavirus that began in Asia has spread to America, and has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Obviously, there are more critical public health concerns right now than theme parks. However, for the millions of guests who were planning on visiting attractions this season, not to mention the employees who depend on the travel industry for an income, the virus’s impact on the theme parks is important. Therefore, The Unofficial Guides will maintain this round-up on information about park closures, reopenings, and other effects of COVID-19 until the crisis has passed. LAST UPDATED 8/5/2020.

Walt Disney World

UPDATE: Walt Disney World theme parks were CLOSED UNTIL JULY 11, when Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom REOPENED following passholder previews on July 9-10; Hollywood Studios and Epcot REOPENED JULY 15. New Walt Disney World hotel reservations and ticket sales are currently available, and advance date-specific reservations are required to visit the theme parks.

The parks reopened with limited capacity to maintain social distancing, and certain attractions — including parades, fireworks, character meet-and-greets, and playgrounds — will not be available. All guests must pass a temperature screening, and all guests age 2 and older must wear face coverings.

Guests will also be required to reserve a specific date and park to visit in advance via a new Disney Park Pass online service. Onsite resort guests can make park reservations as of 7 a.m. EDT on June 22; annual passholders can book beginning June 26, and regular ticket holders can reserve starting June 28. Park reservations will extend through September 26, 2021. Resort guests may reserve for the length of their stay, while annual passholders will be able to hold up to 3 park reservations at a time.

Park hopping will not be allowed, although you may exit and reenter the same park on the same day, with a reservation.

The FastPass+ service will be suspended during the reopening period, and dining reservations will be limited to a 60-day window. All existing FastPass+ and dining reservations have been canceled, as have any pre-purchased dining plans.

Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World will reopen to members and guests and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will begin to reopen on June 22. Disney Vacation Club resorts in Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, will also open to members and guests starting on June 15.

DVC members’ April through October 2019 Use Year points that are set to expire in 2020 and that were used for reservations during the closure period will be extended for one year from the current expiration date. Additionally, April, June, August, September and October 2018 Use Year points that were banked into 2019 Use Years and used for these reservations will now all expire November 30, 2020. This temporary policy only includes expiring points that were used to book a stay arriving between March 12 and the end of the closure period and that involve a reservation cancelled after February 29. Additional information on these policies is available at disneyvacationclub.com.

Walt Disney World issued updated policies for theme park ticket holders. Unexpired mulit-day park tickets that were valid between March 12 and the parks’ reopening can be used until December 15, 2020, or may have their full value applied to future tickets. Disney is also waiving change and cancellation fees up to the arrival day for reservations through June 30.

Those with fully paid annual passes to the park will get an extension based on the number of days the park is closed, or alternatively may request a partial refund. Passholders on a monthly payment plan will have their payments automatically stopped as of April 5, and will receive refunds for any charges made between March 14 and April 4; their original pass expiration date will still apply. Alternatively, they may pause payments until the parks reopen, and have the additional months credited to the extension of their pass. Read full details here.

The RunDisney 2020 Star Wars Rival Run Weekend has also been canceled; registered runners will receive a refund. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties and Typhoon Lagoon’s H2O Glow Nights have also been canceled for 2020, and a modified version of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival will run with fewer marketplace booths and no concerts.

Disney Springs

Disney has begun the phased reopening of Disney Springs starting on May 20. Capacity and parking is limited, and only select shops and restaurants are reopening with strict social distancing precautions. Select Disney-owned venues (including World of Disney) reopened on May 27. See this page for more details.

Disney Springs phased reopening May 20

Cirque du Soleil suspended of the start of preview performances of Drawn to Life at Disney Springs, which was planned for March 20. The show is now scheduled to open on November 17, 2020.

Universal Orlando

UPDATE: Universal Orlando Resort’s theme parks REOPENED ON JUNE 5 to the public, with a soft opening for employees, invited guests, and select annual passholders on June 1-4. Universal Orlando’s hotels began a phased REOPENING on June 2.

Universal Orlando CityWalk reopened for limited daily operation (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.) starting May 14. Only select dining and retail locations are currently open; find out more here.

Blue Man Group’s shows are cancelled until further notice. Guests who have purchased tickets for Blue Man Group shows during this time can call (258-3626) for assistance. For updates check the website.

The March 17 scheduled opening of the new Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, has been postponed. Guests have the option to modify or cancel room or package reservations. Guests with specific questions can call this number for more information: (877) 801-9720.

Halloween Horror Nights 30 has been canceled. All Grad Bash and Grandventure events scheduled in 2020 are cancelled.

Single and multi-day park tickets are valid for 365 days from original purchase. Annual passes will be automatically extended by the number of days that the parks are closed, and all monthly payments were suspended effective March 25.

Universal Orlando offered a Stress Free Booking Policy through June 30, 2020. During this period, new ticket purchases (excluding Annual Passes) for travel through 8/31/20 are fully refundable. Hotel reservations made for travel through 8/31/20 are fully refundable up to 24 hours prior to arrival; one night’s room deposit will be forfeit when cancelling within 24 hours of arrival. Vacation package reservations for travel through 8/31/20 may be modified or cancelled for free if such modification is made at least 24 hours prior to arrival; a $50 change fee or $200 cancellation fee is charged within 24 hours.

Further operational updates can be found here.

Disney Cruise Line

UPDATE: All sailings on the Disney Dream, Disney Wonder, and Disney Fantasy have been SUSPENDED THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30. Sailings on the Disney Magic have been SUSPENDED THROUGH OCTOBER 2. On August 5, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced a suspension of all U.S. cruises by its members (which includes Disney Cruise Line) through OCTOBER 31. In addition, itineraries and ports of call may be subject to change. More information here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory recommending that travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise ship travel worldwide. The CDC says that cruise ship passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of State also recommends against cruise ship travel, and warns that repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for US citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.

Disney Cruise Line posted a COVID-19 Travel Alert announcing that ALL Guests and Crew Members will have their temperature checked by a nurse with a no touch thermometer before boarding, whether or not they feel sick. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4º F or greater will get addition medical screening, and they along with their travel party may be unable to sail.

Disney Cruise Line has temporarily modified their cancellation policy. Guests booked on a cruise that has been canceled can choose between a 125% credit to be used for a future sailing within 15 months of their original sail date, or a full refund. Call 1-866-325-2112 or 407-566-3510 or contact your travel agent for more information.

If you have a non-Disney cruise planned, be aware that all members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) have extended their suspension of cruises in U.S. waters until SEPTEMBER 15. Princess Cruises has ceased sailing its 18 ships through the summer of 2020. Viking River Cruises has suspended all operations through June 30, 2020. Carnival has canceled all sailings through September 30, and Holland America has paused all operations from Alaska, Europe, and New England through 2020.

Adventures by Disney

Adventures by Disney has CANCELED all departures through SEPTEMBER 30, 2020. At this time, the September 15 Paris Escape is excluded from these cancellations and will depart as scheduled. Adventures by Disney and AmaWaterways have suspended all Rhine, Rhône, Seine and Danube river cruise sailings and their associated Escape trips to Amsterdam, Budapest and Paris through September 30, 2020.

Guests currently booked on Adventures through October 31, 2020, can change their reservation and receive a 100% credit to be used toward a future Adventure. They must make their change 45 days prior to the Adventure start date.

Disneyland

UPDATE June 24, 2020
Disneyland Resort is currently closed. The Downtown Disney district will begin opening July 9th. The reopening of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park that was scheduled to begin on July 17 has been POSTPONED. There is currently no date set for the reopening of the Disneyland Resort theme parks or hotels.

More information here.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new statewide ‘stay home’ order effective March 19, which compeled residents to avoid public gatherings and avoid non-essential travel until further notice.

In response to the Governor’s original coronavirus declaration, the City of Anaheim posted the following:

The policy calls for modifying or postponing non-essential gatherings of 250 or more people through March 31 to help stem the spread of coronavirus across the state. We expect to see changes in Anaheim in coming days based on the policy. As a major visitor city, the guidelines cover Anaheim’s sports, entertainment, convention and other venues, as well as larger events.

The Disneyland Resort has posted a page of coronavirus information, and guests who have reservations to visit during the closure will receive a refund. Disney is also waiving change and cancellation fees up to the arrival day for reservations through June 30.

Disney California Adventure’s Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween parties have been canceled for 2020.

Annual Passholders who have paid in full will get an extension based on the number of days the park is closed, or alternatively may request a partial refund. Passholders on a monthly payment plan will have their payments automatically stopped as of April 5, and will receive refunds for an charges made between March 14 and April 4; their original pass expiration date will still apply. Alternatively, they may pause payments until the parks reopen, and have the additional months credited to the extension of their pass.

Universal Studios Hollywood

UPDATE: The Universal Studios Hollywood theme park is CLOSED. Universal CityWalk is open on a limited basis. More information check here.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 has been cancelled. The park has also postponed its Peacock Live and Food & Wine special events.

Universal Studios Hollywood has posted the same Safety and Travel Update as Universal Orlando, and made additional hand sanitizers available.

Tickets purchased for park visits during the anticipated closure period, will be automatically extended for use through December 18, 2020. Guests may also apply the value of a wholly unused ticket toward a new purchase.

SeaWorld Parks

SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove, as well as Busch Gardens Tampa, reopened on JUNE 11 with seasonal operating hours. SeaWorld is currently closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays; Busch Gardens is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.

SeaWorld’s parks will reopening with social distancing protocols. Temperature checks and face masks (for guests over age 2) will be mandatory.

During the park closure essential personnel, including animal care experts, continued to look after the health, safety and nutritional needs of the animals in our care. The animal rescue and rehabilitation operations also continued to operate. Check for updates here.

LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND Florida resort REOPENED ON JUNE 1, including the theme park, water park, and two hotels. LEGOLAND San Diego is CLOSED until further notice. More information here.

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex REOPENED ON MAY 28. Check their website for updates.

The visitor complex will offer refunds for already-purchased daily admission tickets, as well as for private programs, such as the Astronaut Training Experience, Overnight Adventures, Special Interest Bus Tours and Dine With An Astronaut. More information here.

Mall of America

The Mall of America REOPENED ON JUNE 1. For any updates check their website.

Airports and Airlines

At this time, air travel is still available within the United States, and all major airports are OPEN.

On March 11, President Trump announced a 30-day ban on foreign nationals traveling to the United States from the 26 European Schengen countries. (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland). As of March 15 foreign nationals from the United Kingdom and Ireland are also no longer able to come to the United States.

The following airports have posted pages with COVID-19 information:

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Paris theme parks will REOPEN on July 15. The opening of the Art of Marvel hotel has been delayed through at least October 31. More information here.

Make sure to follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube. Sign up for our newsletter here.

The post COVID-19 and Theme Parks: Latest Updates appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/08/03/covid-19-and-theme-parks-latest-updates/feed/ 0 13905
Walt Disney World’s Epcot Reopens with an Early Taste of Food & Wine Festival https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/30/walt-disney-worlds-epcot-reopens-with-an-early-taste-of-food-wine-festival/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/30/walt-disney-worlds-epcot-reopens-with-an-early-taste-of-food-wine-festival/#respond Thu, 30 Jul 2020 08:35:47 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15778 All four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks are now operating again after months of coronavirus-caused closure, and even though international travel is still restricted, guests at the reopened Epcot can get back to eating and drinking around the world, thanks to the early arrival of 2020’s International Food & Wine Festival. We headed back into Epcot during its reopening […]

The post Walt Disney World’s Epcot Reopens with an Early Taste of Food & Wine Festival appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
All four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks are now operating again after months of coronavirus-caused closure, and even though international travel is still restricted, guests at the reopened Epcot can get back to eating and drinking around the world, thanks to the early arrival of 2020’s International Food & Wine Festival. We headed back into Epcot during its reopening week to bring you back a taste of the fan-favorite Food & Wine Fest, along with a look at the socially distanced attractions the park now has to offer.

Go back to the Future (World) with the Unofficial Guide and get a taste of the reopened Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.

Returning to Epcot after quarantine was quite similar to our experiences revisiting the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As with the other parks, make sure you read up on Disney’s Park Pass reservation system and face mask requirements in advance of your visit.

If anything, Epcot is perhaps the easiest of the Walt Disney World parks to visit, with same-day Park Pass availability on many days when all the other parks are sold out for annual passholders.

The park doesn’t even open until 11 a.m., and it remains open until 9 p.m., the latest closing time of the four parks. Because we were more interested in scouting out the edibles than enjoying E-Tickets, we didn’t arrive until late afternoon, and we sailed through the nearly abandoned toll plaza.

Parking spots a short walk from the park entrance were still easily available, so there was no need for the recently rebuilt tram station.

Signs of Epcot’s extreme makeover—which was well underway before the closure, but is now being scaled back—are evident from the entrance’s ticket booths, which now boast a variety of vibrant new colors.

A similar palette can be seen on construction walls inside Epcot’s entry plaza, where the “Leave a Legacy” monuments have been replaced by fresh landscaping.

A new fountain is still in progress at the base of Spaceship Earth, which will continue operating in its current form instead of receiving a previously announced reimagining.

The park’s thesis ride was a walk-on every time we walked past, and while the descent’s touch screens were still active, all the interactive displays in the Project Tomorrow post-show have been powered down.

Queues for other attractions around the park were equally nonexistent that evening, with nary a guest to be seen in the Plexiglass-filled queue for Mexico’s Gran Fiesta Tour.

Note that all three animatronic birds were active during our visit, which was a few days before José took an unscheduled vacation.

The only real exceptions were Frozen Ever After and Test Track, which both posted waits up to 45 minutes after experiencing technical difficulties.

Wait times aside, large sections of Epcot looked eerily empty, especially after a downpour drove many guests out of the park.

See what the socially distanced Epcot looks like first-hand through this nearly hour-long walk-though of Future World West, beginning at Spaceship Earth and ending in World Showcase. It features visits to The Seas and The Land pavilions, as well as a full ride on Living with the Land.

The Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (currently being offered) includes a sampling of 20-odd “Global Marketplace” food kiosks, out of the 30-plus normally operating during the event.

Lobster Tail with Meyer Lemon Emulsion and Grilled Lemon at Citrus Blossom

Menus are also slimmed down, with only 2 or 3 tastings at each location, but many familiar favorites are on the bills of fare.

Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomatoes, Onions, Tzatziki, and Chipotle Sauce at Morocco

Walt Disney World has recently updated its rules to clarify that guests must remain stationary when removing their face masks to eat or drink, so there’s no more sipping as you stroll around the world. Luckily, we didn’t have much trouble finding open tables around World Showcase; we didn’t even have to resort to using trash cans as high-tops.

Chirashi Sushi Flowerpot: Fresh-cut Salmon, Salmon Roe, and Spinach served over Sushi Rice with Furikake and topped with Poke Sauce at Japan

Look for additional marketplace booths to open this fall, including this kiosk themed to the Alps outside China, along with this Donut Box truck opening near Test Track.

Our favorite new feature at this year’s abbreviated Food & Wine Fest is the use of World Showplace, the seldom-used event space between Canada and the U.K. pavilion, as an air-conditioned indoor food hall.

With multiple tempting menus, live piano music, and plenty of space to spread out, World Showplace feels a bit like a Disney-themed wedding reception, minus the need to bring a gift.

Vegan visitors have many tasty options at the 2020 Taste of Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, including this plant-based mac & ‘cheese’ with ‘sausage.’

This slimmed-down Food & Wine Fest doesn’t feature any of the usual seminars, concerts, or dining events that traditionally accompany the event. However, you will find scheduled performances by the JAMMitors and Mariachi Cobre on the American Gardens stage.

A limited amount of Food & Wine merchandise will also be available, and right now you can claim leftovers from the short-lived 2020 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt has also returned, and you can pick up a map for $7.99 near the front of the park.

Unfortunately, Food & Wine Festival Passports, with their collectible stickers, have not returned for 2020. Instead, visitors are asked to use the My Disney Experience mobile app to find event information.

Parisian subway-style signage was installed above the pathway to France’s upcoming Ratatouille ride.

If you aren’t interested in the Festival food and merchandise, be aware that many of the usual dining and shopping locations inside the park are currently closed, including the table-service restaurants in France and Morocco, and all the stores and eateries in China.

Some major gift shops have reopened with one-way travel and social distancing markers, such as Mitsukoshi department store in Japan.

No more live pearl-producing oysters for now

World Showcase just isn’t the same place without all the authentic cultural ambassadors and live entertainment, but sampling the Festival booths without having to battle the usual crowds certainly has its charms. Epcot’s future is currently in flux, as exemplified by the recent edits made to the Epcot Experience preview center inside the Odyssey building, and no one is quite sure what the ever-changing park will look like a few years from now. So for now, we’ll simply raise a glass to the reopened resort, and savor the opportunity to experience Epcot with extra elbow room.

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

The post Walt Disney World’s Epcot Reopens with an Early Taste of Food & Wine Festival appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/30/walt-disney-worlds-epcot-reopens-with-an-early-taste-of-food-wine-festival/feed/ 0 15778
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Reopens with New Virtual Queue Rules for Rise of the Resistance https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/27/disneys-hollywood-studios-reopens-with-new-virtual-queue-rules-for-rise-of-the-resistance/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/27/disneys-hollywood-studios-reopens-with-new-virtual-queue-rules-for-rise-of-the-resistance/#respond Mon, 27 Jul 2020 08:24:40 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15719 When Walt Disney World closed in March due to the coronavirus, 2019’s Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was the hottest ticket at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now that the theme park has reawakened with social distancing precautions, you’ll want to know these new virtual queue rules before you rise to claim a coveted boarding group number for Galaxy Edge’s E-Ticket […]

The post Disney’s Hollywood Studios Reopens with New Virtual Queue Rules for Rise of the Resistance appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
When Walt Disney World closed in March due to the coronavirus, 2019’s Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was the hottest ticket at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now that the theme park has reawakened with social distancing precautions, you’ll want to know these new virtual queue rules before you rise to claim a coveted boarding group number for Galaxy Edge’s E-Ticket adventure.

Virtual Queue Rise of the Resistance
You can now ride Rise of the Resistance without rising with the sun, if you follow our updated guide to the virtual queue system at Disney’s newly reopened Hollywood Studios theme park.

Before you visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios—or any of the Walt Disney World theme parks—you’ll need a Disney Park Pass reservation. DHS remains the park with the most limited availability, with all of August and weekends in September already sold out for Annual Passholders.

If you did manage to secure admission, as we did for DHS’s second day of public reopening, you’ll find the parking process as blissfully easy as at the other parks.

Show up over an hour before the park’s 10 a.m. opening and you may find your car stopped at the toll plaza. Once the park itself is ready to accommodate guests, cars will be pulsed into the parking lot with empty rows in between filled spaces.

When we pulled up at 35 minutes prior to opening, it was smooth sailing straight into our parking spot. Parking trams aren’t running, but that isn’t a problem because only the closest lots to the entrance are in use.

Temperature checks and security screening were seamless half an hour before the official opening, and there’s no bottleneck at the turnstiles, as guests are immediately permitted to disperse throughout the park.

Before I dig into the nitty-gritty details of DHS’s new virtual queue policy for Rise of the Resistance, get your bearings in the recently reopened park with this complete walking tour, recorded live on July 16, 2020:

Currently, the bulk of pre-opening guests seem to make a beeline for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The new dark ride’s socially distanced standby queue fills the Chinese Theater’s courtyard, and by 25 minutes before opening it was already cut off at an estimated 2-hour wait.

Even if you’re an early bird and land at the very front of the line for Runaway Railway, you may find yourself stuck inside the ride without internet access at the exact time you need to be claiming your spot in the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue.

And if you’re farther back in the crowd, the WiFi bandwidth in that immediate area is liable to be overloaded.

Instead, we suggest saving the Railway for later in the day when wait times will drop and, instead, starting your day in a less-congested area. One option is the Animation Courtyard, which is now a depressing dead end featuring nothing but closed shows and a mask-free relaxation area.

We decided to make Toy Story Land our first stop and hopped in line for a 20-minute wait to ride Slinky Dog Dash. Better yet, 15 of those minutes were before the park even opened, as the ride started running ahead of schedule.

Best of all, we were able to join the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance during the first dispersal of boarding group numbers, which happens precisely at 10 a.m. daily.

The interface inside My Disney Experience looks slightly different than it did before the pandemic, but it still functions much the same. Restart the app (or reboot your phone) a few minutes beforehand, tap “Join Virtual Queues” on the main menu, and as the seconds tick down to 10 a.m., repeatedly pull down to refresh the screen until a “Join” button appears.

Select the other members of your party—who all must also have already entered the park that day—and (if successful) you’ll receive a boarding group number.

If you are unsuccessful at securing a Rise of the Resistance pass at 10 a.m., don’t despair; you’ve got a second opportunity at 2 p.m. daily. (Distribution was initially at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., but this changed as of July 24.) Keep in mind that each distribution period will sell out within seconds, and the later in the day you get your number, the more likely the attraction will close before your turn to enjoy it arrives, especially if it experiences technical difficulties. As always, getting a boarding group number does not guarantee you’ll get to ride.

Keep an eye on the app throughout the day, as it will update with an estimated time remaining until your turn to ride Rise of the Resistance. The app doesn’t display the group numbers currently being called, but once your countdown reaches 15 minutes, go hang around the attraction’s entrance.

Although you’ll have 1 hour to redeem your boarding pass, you want to be ready to go the instant your number arrives, before the rest of your group is alerted by the app’s push notification. That way, you’ll have a minimal wait ahead of you once you redeem your virtual queue number and enter the physical queue.

Using this method, we entered the attraction queue 4 1/2 hours after park opening and waited 14 minutes to reach the first preshow.

All of the ride’s multiple stages were fully operational, with socially distanced dots showing guests where to stand.

Thankfully, we experienced no uncomfortable overcrowding in the mid-show hangar scene (as had been reported during previews).

To be honest, the cast member’s full face shields fit in fairly well with the First Order’s aesthetic in a Spaceballs sort of way…

Experiencing Black Spire Outpost’s other major attraction is a lot easier, with afternoon wait times for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run dipping below 20 minutes. Guests are no longer held in the preshow briefing but are permitted to pause and watch the animatronic Hondo if they wish.

Social distancing means every party (even solo travelers) gets a cockpit all to themselves. Here is Unofficial Guide co-author Len Testa about to pilot the Falcon for his first time.

Batuu’s other big attraction is (as Yogurt would say) “moichandise,” and, while the main marketplace is open, you’ll need to wait for your one-way stroll through its stalls.

High-end collectibles are available without a wait at Dok Ondar, and Savi’s will again let you customize a lightsaber, without the shop’s original actor-driven ceremony or special effects.

Grab your datapad if you want to eat at Docking Bay 7 or Ronto Roaster because Mobile Order is a must at quick-service locations.

Don’t be surprised to find slimmed-down menus; the excellent original Ronto Wrap is back, but the equally yummy chicken version did not return.

Menus have also been pared down and gone digital at reopened table-service restaurants like the Brown Derby, although you can count on classics like the Cobb Salad to be available.

You may feel that a dining reservation is worth arranging, if only for the opportunity to cool off indoors.

The rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios rides have been reporting wait times that, while longer than the waits currently reported by the other parks, are still historically low.

Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster averaged half-hour waits when operating smoothly, while waits for Toy Story Mania and Star Tours were 10 minutes or less.

Disappointingly, none of Disney’s live shows are back in operation, and the impact of their absence is especially apparent at Hollywood Studios.

A couple of film-based theater attractions are currently open, such as the Mickey Mouse shorts and MuppetVision 4-D.

MuppetVision’s 3-D glasses are distributed in self-service bins, rather than being handed out individually like at Universal Orlando.
The MuppetVision audience remains socially distanced, but the penguin orchestra obviously doesn’t have a very strong union.

Without DHS’s lineup of aging yet audience-pleasing stage performances, the park’s limited slate of moving attractions simply isn’t deep enough to fill a full day-long visit. Luckily, they do make an effort to compensate for the absent entertainment with the resort’s most elaborate character cavalcades outside of the Magic Kingdom.

Watch this video to enjoy highlights of the socially distanced character appearances at Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

The post Disney’s Hollywood Studios Reopens with New Virtual Queue Rules for Rise of the Resistance appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/27/disneys-hollywood-studios-reopens-with-new-virtual-queue-rules-for-rise-of-the-resistance/feed/ 0 15719
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Reopens with New Feathered Friends in Flight Bird Show https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/23/disneys-animal-kingdom-reopens-with-new-feathered-friends-in-flight-bird-show/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/23/disneys-animal-kingdom-reopens-with-new-feathered-friends-in-flight-bird-show/#respond Thu, 23 Jul 2020 09:03:37 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15665 Walt Disney World’s theme parks began their phased reopening on July 11. Immediately after we returned to the Magic Kingdom, our very next visit was to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where a fantastic new Feathered Friends in Flight bird show has just premiered. Take a trek with us from the moon of Pandora to the Kilimanjaro savanna to see what’s new […]

The post Disney’s Animal Kingdom Reopens with New Feathered Friends in Flight Bird Show appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
Walt Disney World’s theme parks began their phased reopening on July 11. Immediately after we returned to the Magic Kingdom, our very next visit was to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where a fantastic new Feathered Friends in Flight bird show has just premiered. Take a trek with us from the moon of Pandora to the Kilimanjaro savanna to see what’s new at Disney’s socially distanced nahtazu.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom has reopened with both social distancing measures and a new must-see bird show. (Photos/videos by Seth Kubersky)

After spending a few crowd-free days at the reopened Magic Kingdom, our return visit to Animal Kingdom was even easier. Disney Park Pass reservations are required in advance, but a large number of spaces were recently shifted over to annual passholders, so it’s now fairly easy for everyone to get into the parks (with the exception of Disney’s Hollywood Studio) on most days.

Arriving in early afternoon, we had zero delays at the toll booths and were parked in the only-partially-filled Peacock lot, a short walk from the newly renovated entrance. I suspect there may have been nearly as many cars in the cast member parking lot as there were in the guest lot!

The mandatory temperature check and security screening were equally stress-free. The brand-new Evolv touch-free scanners are amazing. You no longer need to take things out of your pockets or let a guard poke through your bag. If you have an umbrella, tripod, or similar metal object, take it out and hold it in front of yourself; otherwise, you can just walk straight through without breaking your stride.

Rainforest Cafe outside the Animal Kingdom entrance is open, and they aren’t shy about letting guests know.

My first stop was Flight of Passage, the headliner E-Ticket of Pandora: The World of Avatar. Ordinarily, even showing up long before park opening might not be enough to guarantee a short wait for this attraction, and guests jumping into line at midday could expect a wait of 2 to 4 hours.

Instead, at 1 p.m. on the park’s second day after public reopening, the posted standby wait for this uber-popular ride was only 20 minutes, and the actual wait was less than half that.

In fact, from the moment I stepped inside the park until I entered the Flight of Passage simulator chamber was less than 20 minutes. To see this incredible journey, watch this POV video walk-through from Animal Kingdom’s Oasis through Discovery Island into Pandora.

Note that only three parties are now allowed in each 18-passenger link chamber, and the first preshow is, uh, skipped entirely. In addition, the ride’s water and mist effects have been disabled. My only negative observation as that additional social distancing markers are needed in the ride’s exit pathway, where one slow-moving guest can cause a traffic jam.

Amazingly, the Na’vi River Journey boat ride next door had a 20-minute actual wait, double that of its bigger neighbor. In part, that’s because only one party was being loaded into each six-passenger boat, a common social distancing precaution across the parks.

The ride’s queue, like most others, has gained a gauntlet of Plexiglass walls that keeps the switchbacks separated.

All of the rides’ effects were operating, including the Shaman of Songs, who was singing in full voice without wearing a face mask.

Protective barriers have also been added to the trucks at Kilimanjaro Safaris. Transparent vinyl windows now separate each row of guests, with additional barriers protecting the driver. Due to this setup, guests are permitted to remove their masks during this ride, but I personally opted to leave mine on.

Wait times at all the major rides were extremely short throughout the afternoon, ranging from less than 15 minutes for the Safaris (including a delay to sanitize vehicles) to a walk-on for Dinosaur.

To avoid congestion, guests can now walk through Dinosaur’s preshow without watching Dr. Seeker’s safety instructions. What could go wrong?
Plexiglass windows permit two parties to board one time rover, which was originally designed for 12 passengers. Dinosaur’s fog and mist effects are also disabled.

Among the secondary attractions, many were either closed or only partially operational. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail was open, but the research station (home to the naked mole rats) was bypassed.

The Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is running, but only the Animation Experience and a no-petting zoo are open at its destination.

The Primeval Whirl roller coaster and Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular are both casualties of the park’s cutbacks, as Disney has confirmed that both (along with Stitch’s Great Escape in the Magic Kingdom) are now permanently closed.

Chester and Hester’s Din-o-rama is especially depressing without its signature ride, whose queue has been repurposed as a socially distanced pin trading station.

While there may not be many rides in the park, you can always eat. In addition to the aforementioned Rainforest Cafe, the Yak & Yeti table service restaurant has reopened with a modified menu…

…as has my favorite Disney quick-service eatery, Satu’li Canteen, which prepared my mobile order meal in less time than it took to walk from one end of the Avatar land to the other.

Satu’li is a good spot for outdoor dining, with staff continuously wiping down the tables.

Animal Kingdom’s entertainment lineup is especially light at the moment with live shows like Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo The Musical remaining closed.

Characters are also much less in evidence at Animal Kingdom as compared to the Magic Kingdom; they can be spotted on barges sailing around Discovery River, but that waterway isn’t visible from large sections of the park.

An extremely socially distanced character appearance across the waters of Animal Kingdom.

On the other hand, Disney’s Animal Kingdom did reopen with one pleasant surprise on the performance scheduled: a brand-new bird show entitled Feathered Friends in Flight.

The new production uses the same stage that previously hosted an Up-themed bird show, and many similar avian acts before that. But now, instead of Pixar characters or professional actors, the animal handlers themselves are front and center, giving straightforward—yet still entertaining—explanations of their charges’ natural behaviors.

We think that Feathered Friends in Flight is a big improvement over Animal Kingdom’s last bird show, and at the moment it’s the park’s #1 must-see live show (almost by default). Judge for yourself with this full video of an opening-week performance:

If you can’t get enough of those flocking birds, hang around the Tree of Life, where parrots periodically dive-bomb guests on an unpublicized schedule.

In conclusion, Disney’s new pandemic policies have turned Animal Kingdom from one of Walt Disney World’s most challenging parks to navigate into perhaps its easiest. Operating hours may end early (the park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. right now), but that’s no impediment to both sleeping in and seeing it all: we were able to experience eight attractions, including all of the park’s E-Tickets, and eat a meal in under 4 hours. It may naht exactly be the nahtazu you remember, but in some ways Animal Kingdom is lot more humane without the usual stampeding herds.

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

The post Disney’s Animal Kingdom Reopens with New Feathered Friends in Flight Bird Show appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/23/disneys-animal-kingdom-reopens-with-new-feathered-friends-in-flight-bird-show/feed/ 0 15665
The Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando: Resort Hotels https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/20/the-unofficial-guide-to-a-socially-distanced-universal-orlando-resort-hotels/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/20/the-unofficial-guide-to-a-socially-distanced-universal-orlando-resort-hotels/#respond Mon, 20 Jul 2020 08:55:00 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15522 So, you’ve just had a full day enjoying the rides, shows, characters, and restaurants of the reopened Universal Orlando Resort, and now you need a safe spot to spend the night? Make yourself at home, as we continue our Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando with a look at how the on-site resort hotels have adapted to the […]

The post The Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando: Resort Hotels appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
So, you’ve just had a full day enjoying the rides, shows, characters, and restaurants of the reopened Universal Orlando Resort, and now you need a safe spot to spend the night? Make yourself at home, as we continue our Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando with a look at how the on-site resort hotels have adapted to the coronavirus era.

Race back to Cabana Bay Beach Resort with our Unofficial Guide to the reopened Universal Orlando Resort hotels. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Before planning your Universal Orlando Resort hotel stay, be aware that Florida Governor DeSantis has directed all individuals entering the state of Florida from the New York Tri-State Area (Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York) to isolate or quarantine for a period of 14 days. Read more about the state’s travel restrictions here.

All guests entering Universal’s on-site hotels will have their temperature taken upon arrival and before using the resort transportation system to visit the parks. Hotel guests who pass the temperature check will receive a wristband good for the rest of the day and will not need to be rechecked again until the following day. (Wristband colors change daily, so they can’t be reused.)

Guests who register a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed to check in until receiving medical clearance, but the rest of their party will be allowed to check in. If you run a fever after checking in, you’ll be required to seek medical attention and self-quarantine; your traveling companions may be moved to another room and allowed to continue their vacation as long as they pass their temperature checks.

Guests ages 2 and older and employees are required to wear face coverings at all times while in hotel public areas, including in the lobby and while using resort transportation. Masks are not required while dining or drinking, at the pool, or inside guest rooms.

Social distancing will be promoted in public areas by blocking off some furniture, disabling self-service touch-screen kiosks, and placing markers on the floors.

Universal’s upgrading cleaning measures include leaving guest rooms vacant for 24-48 hours upon checkout for cleaning, wherever possible. You’ll see nonstop sanitation of high-contact surfaces (think telephones, remote controls, door handles, and light switches) throughout the hotel, along with social distancing reminder signs and hand sanitizer stations in public areas and elevator landings.

Guests can reduce their contact with hotel staff by using texting services, express checkout, and contactless room deliveries.

Some hotel amenities—including food and beverage service, pools, and fitness centers—might have limited hours in order to comply with stepped-up sanitation schedules.

For example, at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, only one of the two pool complexes may be open during certain times.

Early Park Admission and Universal Express benefits will still be available to hotel guests, who are provided priority park admission in case capacity caps are reached.

Resort water taxis and shuttle buses will operate as usual, but reduced seating capacity and frequent cleaning means your wait time might increase. Walking paths around the resort will still be open.

For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

The post The Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando: Resort Hotels appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/20/the-unofficial-guide-to-a-socially-distanced-universal-orlando-resort-hotels/feed/ 0 15522
Top 7 Tips for Visiting the Reopened Magic Kingdom https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/15/top-7-tips-for-visiting-the-reopened-magic-kingdom/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/15/top-7-tips-for-visiting-the-reopened-magic-kingdom/#respond Wed, 15 Jul 2020 08:52:52 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15581 Walt Disney World’s theme parks have once again opened their gates following the coronavirus closure, and we were among the first guests to experience a whole new world of social distancing inside the “most magical place on Earth.” Here are our top 7 tips that you should take into consideration before planning your own return to the newly reopened Magic […]

The post Top 7 Tips for Visiting the Reopened Magic Kingdom appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
Walt Disney World’s theme parks have once again opened their gates following the coronavirus closure, and we were among the first guests to experience a whole new world of social distancing inside the “most magical place on Earth.” Here are our top 7 tips that you should take into consideration before planning your own return to the newly reopened Magic Kingdom.

The daily flag retreat ceremony is just one of the Disney traditions that has been revived at the newly reopened Magic Kingdom theme parks, and we have 7 tips to help you make the most of your return to the Walt Disney World Resort.

Much like at Universal Orlando up the road, COVID-19 has prompted many changes at the Walt Disney World theme parks that we’ve come to know and love. There’s still magic to be found at the Vacation Kingdom, but even seasoned WDW veterans should heed some advice when returning to the attractions.

First, to give you a sense of the socially distanced Disney experience, here are some video highlights from our first visit to the reopened Magic Kingdom during an annual passholder preview on July 9, 2020:

Now that you’ve got an idea of what the reopened Magic Kingdom looks like, here are some timely tips if you’re eager to reunite with Mickey and his pals.

#1: Plan your Park Pass Reservations in Advance

Walt Disney World is strictly limiting the number of guests allowed into the parks each day, so you’ll need to learn all about the Disney Park Pass reservation system before ever setting foot on property. The good news is that there’s currently pretty good availability for onsite hotel guests and standard visitors; on most days you can still walk up to the park and purchase a ticket.

The bad news is that annual passholders are basically blocked out into August, with Disney’s Hollywood Studios being an especially hard ticket to come by. A loophole allows passholders to purchase single or multiday passes, and then apply the value towards their next renewal; ask at guest relations or a ticket window for assistance.

#2: Forget about Park Hopping and FastPass+

Part and parcel with the new Park Pass reservations is a revocation of any park-hopping rights you may have paid for. In compensation, annual passholders were given an extra month’s extension, and partial refunds are available to ticket-holders on request. That means you’ll have to carefully plan out in advance which park you will visit on each day of your vacation.

Fortunately, that’s about the last planning you’ll have to do, since the entire FastPass ride reservation system has been suspended indefinitely. (Guests who need special access, Club 33 members, and child-swap users will still be accommodated.)

#3: Bring the Right Mask, and Make It a Double

Rule number one of social distancing in the reopened Magic Kingdom (and all the Walt Disney World theme parks) is that all guests must wear face masks.

All the cast members also wear masks (except for the characters) and those who interact face-to-face with guests go one step further with full-face shields.

Make sure your mask is two-ply and secures behind your ears with loops or ties. If you try to walk in wearing a neck gaiter or bandanna, you’ll be asked to purchase a $2 disposable mask from the vending machine, or return to your car.

While you’re at it, bring a spare mask for each member of your party. Water rides and Florida-induced sweat can easily soak through your face mask, turning it from a manageable inconvenience into a medieval torture device. Pack plastic zip-top bags, as well, so you have somewhere clean to put your mask while you’re eating.

#4: The Early Bird Doesn’t Necessarily Get the Worm

Social distancing has turned everything upside-down, including our traditional touring advice to always arrive early.

If you show up for rope drop, you’re more likely to face a traffic backup as cars are pulsed into the socially-distanced parking lot.

You’ll also have to hoof it from the lot to the park gates no matter when you arrive, because parking trams are not running at this time. Fortunately, only the closest lots to the park are being filled.

This does have the benefit of making waits for the mandatory temperature checks and new touch-free security scan extremely short. Waits for transportation from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom on the newly socially distanced monorail or ferry weren’t exceptionally long.

However, the constantly cycling buses (with dividers separated numbered seates) are your best bet when available.

Once inside the park, the streets have been eerily empty, and while wait times for popular rides have been peaking at 45 minutes around mid-morning, by early afternoon all the E-Tickets were offering walk-ons.

In fact, the only significant wait times during reopening week were for the Splash Mountain gift shop, as collectors snapped up all the now sold-out merchandise themed to the ride, which is slated for a Princess and the Frog makeover.

A text-based virtual queue was used to handle the wait, which grew up to 4 hours; a similar system may be used at other stores if maximum capacity is reached.

Attraction queue lines have been carved up into mazes of Plexiglass walls, and some fan-favorite elements (like the Haunted Mansion’s stretching room spiel) are missing.

Some of the ride vehicles also have new protective dividers, and are loaded with a limited number of guests at a time to maintain plenty of separation between parties.

But if you can look past those precautions, you can enjoy all of your favorite rides with hardly any waiting—unless you hit one of the periodic shutdowns to sanitize the vehicles.

The bottom line is that, even without rushing in at rope drop and following a touring plan, we were easily able to complete more than a dozen of the park’s top attractions in under 8 hours, so don’t feel bad about grabbing a little extra shut-eye.

#5: Plan On a Sit-Down Meal or Two

Many Magic Kingdom fans are used to eating their meals on the move, and while the comfort-food snack carts are still available (albeit in fewer number) guests are discouraged from removing their masks to eat outside of designated areas.

To enjoy a meal from many of the quick-service restaurants, you’ll need to use the My Disney Experience smartphone app’s Mobile Order feature to make your selections. You won’t even be allowed inside the restaurant until you’re notified that your meal is ready, so find a shady spot instead of loitering near the entrance.

The system works fairly well, considering the greatly reduced seating capacity in the restaurants, but be aware that vegan or allergy orders can take 30 minutes or more to prepare.

Better yet, the newly shorted 60-day dining reservation window means it’s more likely you can secure a table at a sit-down restaurant, which will be a welcome refuge during your day. Selections have been greatly limited, with as few as four entrées available at some venues, and menus are provided as digital QR codes instead of on paper.

Diners are only allowed to remove their masks while at their table, which will be placed a considerable distance from other parties. If you’re concerned about air circulation, the Jungle Skipper Canteen’s main dining room has exceptionally high ceilings and ample room between occupied tables.

#6: Keep an Eye Out for Character Cavalcades

All the important rides may be operating, but all the character meet-and-greets, live stage shows, parades, and fireworks you’d expect at a Disney parks are unfortunately still on hiatus. However, all is not lost, because in their place you’ll find a variety of unscheduled character cavalcades and socially distanced appearances.

These impromptu mini-parades happen frequently around the Magic Kingdom and provide opportunities to see your favorite Princesses without having to wait in line or stake out a spot on the sidewalk.

Watch this video for a sampling of the reopened Magic Kingdom’s socially distanced character appearances:

#7: Remember to Relax

By taking away the need to beat the crowds to your next headliner, or rush so you don’t miss your FastPass appointment, Disney has turned the Magic Kingdom’s clock back to the 1990s—when laser discs and car phones were still cutting edge (as the Carousel of Progress says), and there was still an appreciable “off season” in Orlando. Admittedly, it’s a bit harder to inhale the pixie dust when you’re wearing PPE, but the current capacity cap means every guest who does make it inside can feel like a VIP.

Now that there aren’t mobs of fellow visitors surrounding you on Main Street U.S.A., be sure take the time to notice details of architecture and horticulture that you may have missed for years. And when the physical and emotional overstimulation of your return takes its toll, remember to retreat to one of the park’s relaxation zones, where you’re allowed to remove your mask for some socially distanced downtime.

We especially liked the Tomorrowland Terrace location, which has widely spaced open-air seating and a spectacular view of the vibrantly repainted Cinderella Castle.

For a more in-depth look at the freshly reopened Magic Kingdom during its first day of annual passholder previews, take a full tour of the theme park with Unofficial Guide co-author Seth Kubersky in this video:

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

The post Top 7 Tips for Visiting the Reopened Magic Kingdom appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/15/top-7-tips-for-visiting-the-reopened-magic-kingdom/feed/ 0 15581
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort Review https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/13/disneys-saratoga-springs-resort-review/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/13/disneys-saratoga-springs-resort-review/#respond Mon, 13 Jul 2020 07:19:27 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=15212 Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, a Disney Deluxe Villa resort, has a theme described by Disney as recalling a late-1800s, Victorian-style, upstate New York retreat. It consists of 1,260 studio and one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas across the lake from Disney Springs. The villas’ color scheme tends toward pastel blues and greens, with neutral carpets. Furnishings and soft goods are less […]

The post Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort Review appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, a Disney Deluxe Villa resort, has a theme described by Disney as recalling a late-1800s, Victorian-style, upstate New York retreat. It consists of 1,260 studio and one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas across the lake from Disney Springs.

The villas’ color scheme tends toward pastel blues and greens, with neutral carpets. Furnishings and soft goods are less whimsical and more upscale and masculine than at other Disney resorts. Chairs, sofas, and tables are substantial—perhaps a little too substantial for the rooms they inhabit. The overall effect is sophisticated and restful. Bathrooms are spacious in all but the studios, where they compare with those in any other hotel room. 

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort

Surrounded on three sides by a golf course, Saratoga Springs is the only Disney-owned resort that affords direct access to the links (the military-only Shades of Green also provides golf on-property).

The one-bedroom villa sleeps 5 and provides a formal kitchen, a second bathroom, and a living room in addition to the studio bedroom. The living room’s chair and sofa fold out to provide beds for three more people. One-bedrooms villas are 714 square feet.

Two-bedroom villas sleep eight and include all of the kitchen amenities found in a one-bedroom, plus an extra bathroom. One of the baths is attached to a second bedroom with two queen beds or a queen bed plus a sleeper-size sofa. As with the one-bedrooms, a sofa bed and sleeper chair in the living room provide extra places to snooze, though they’re best suited to small children. Two-bedroom villas are 1,075 square feet.

The two-story Grand Villas sleep 12 and include four bathrooms, the same master-bedroom layout, and two bedrooms with two queen beds apiece. An upstairs seating area overlooking the main floor provides a sleeper sofa and chair. Grand Villas are 2,113 square feet.

Saratoga Springs has four pools. One additional pool is also to be found at the nearby the Treehouse Villas. The main pool is the High Rock Spring Pool, located in the Springs section next to the Carriage House, the resort’s lobby. Carriage House is also home to the food hall, check-in, and is adjacent to the Senses Spa.

Saratoga Springs Resort
Paddock Pool Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs Resort
Grandstand pool

The fitness center is by far the best at Walt Disney World. Senses Spa, like its counterpart at the Grand Floridian, echoes the spas of the same name on Disney Cruise Line’s ships. Service is very good, plus this Senses location is easier to get to than the one at the Grand Floridian if you’re staying east of the World. 

Saratoga Springs Resort

The Turf Club Bar & Grill is the resort’s only sit-down restaurant. When the weather’s nice, ask for an outdoor table; you can spot golfers on the adjacent Lake Buena Vista golf course and look across the way to Disney Springs. The Artist’s Palette is a small counter-service restaurant offering a limited menu of sandwiches, salads, and wraps.

The resort is vast. If you’re staying at the Congress Park section of the park, for example, it is a quick walk to Disney Springs and the section has a pool, but it is way too far from the other amenities of the hotel. Unless you have a car, getting around is a real hassle.

Walkway to Disney Springs from Congress Park

Saratoga Springs was the lowest-rated Disney Deluxe Villa resort in 2019 in terms of whether readers would stay here again or recommend it to a friend. The key issues seem to be room upkeep and bus transportation. 

GOOD TO KNOW

If you scored a Disney Resort hotel reservation, remember it does not guarantee theme park access, which you will have to request separately. On July 11 the Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park opened its doors, with EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to follow on July 15. 

If you landed both a resort reservation and park admission, note that there will be no FastPass+ service, no Extra Magic Hours, and no park hopping for now. Private dining and in-room delivery will not be offered during the initial reopening window. Be aware that face coverings will be required for each guest age 2 and up; they must be worn in all public areas, except while swimming or seated for dining. There won’t be any fireworks, parades, or character meet-and-greets for the foreseeable future. 

Some hotel amenities and experiences will be unavailable, including: arcades, campfires, marina rentals, pin trading, playgrounds, spas, in-room child services, and special events. For more information check, out the Walt Disney World Resorts website

For all COVID-19 related information, read our updates.

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channeland sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

The post Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort Review appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/13/disneys-saratoga-springs-resort-review/feed/ 0 15212
Secrets of Universal Orlando: Men In Black Immigration Tour https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/09/secrets-of-universal-orlando-men-in-black-immigration-tour/ https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/09/secrets-of-universal-orlando-men-in-black-immigration-tour/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2020 08:12:23 +0000 https://theunofficialguides.com/?p=14364 You may have blasted a billion bugs and earned a closet full of black suits, but you haven’t truly experienced Universal Studios Florida’s classic Men In Black Alien Attack attraction until you’ve been eye-to-eye with its animatronic inhabitants. Today, we’re continuing our look at “secret” unadvertised tours at Universal Orlando with the one that started them all: the Men In […]

The post Secrets of Universal Orlando: Men In Black Immigration Tour appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
You may have blasted a billion bugs and earned a closet full of black suits, but you haven’t truly experienced Universal Studios Florida’s classic Men In Black Alien Attack attraction until you’ve been eye-to-eye with its animatronic inhabitants. Today, we’re continuing our look at “secret” unadvertised tours at Universal Orlando with the one that started them all: the Men In Black Immigration Tour.

Men In Black Alien Attack Universal Studios Florida
Suit up for a “secret” Immigration Tour of the Men In Black Alien Attack attraction at Universal Studios Florida. (Photos/Video by Seth Kubersky)

Please note that due to COVID-19 the behind-the-scenes “secret tours” are currently suspended.

Men In Black Immigration Tour

Like the other backstage tours at Universal, Men In Black Alien Attack’s Immigration Tour is completely free for all guests, but availability is dependent on staffing and never guaranteed. Ask the greeter outside the attraction if an Immigration Tour is possible; you’ll be directed to enjoy the ride as usual and then notify the team member at the unload station that you’re looking for the tour.

You may be asked to wait upstairs near the child swap lounge until a number of other guests have gathered. Once a tour guide is available, you’ll be led downstairs though an employee-only area, then allowed inside the lower level of the large room that guests in the queue pass above.

This space is a remarkable re-creation of the control room featured in the Men In Black films, and it features full-size animatronic figures of Bweryang and Bob, the tentacled twins.

During the Immigration Tour, you can also get an intimate look at the room’s other details, including inside jokes on the newspapers and other paperwork placed on the desks.

Don’t miss these pages from the screenplay of the original Men In Black film, which is marked as a “cover story.”

Best of all, guests who take the Immigration Tour get to leave their mark on the attraction by signing this logbook of interplanetary visitors.

Before ending your Immigration Tour, you can snap a photo on these space-age seats, which are a lot more fun to look at than to sit on.

You can enjoy the Men In Black Immigration Tour from whatever galaxy you happen to be in by watching this video:

For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

The post Secrets of Universal Orlando: Men In Black Immigration Tour appeared first on The Unofficial Guides.

]]>
https://theunofficialguides.com/2020/07/09/secrets-of-universal-orlando-men-in-black-immigration-tour/feed/ 0 14364