Saturday, April 28, 2012

What to do in Disney World when it’s raining

It’s raining, it’s pouring...sounds like we’re about to ride the Tower of Terror, doesn’t it? While whenever I hear those words my brain thinks of the creepy little girl saying it in her haunted little girl voice, I’m sitting here at home right now watching it rain and pour outside my window. It’s one of those days when you hope you don’t have to go out for anything, and if you do you keep watching for a break in the clouds so you can zip out and zip back before the skies open up again. When you’re at home, it’s usually pretty easy to adjust your schedule so you can avoid heading out in nasty weather...but when you’re on vacation you hate to lose any time playing in the parks just because Mother Nature is not cooperating. So, what do you do in Disney World when the skies turn gray and the drops start to fall?
What to do when the weather is better for the ducks?
First, you need to understand how Florida rain works. Nine times out of ten you’ll get a quick rain shower, then it will stop for a bit, another quickie, stop, etc. And it usually will not last all day. Most wet weather occurs in the afternoon, especially at the height of the summer when the humidity builds through the morning and peaks after lunch-when it gets so humid the clouds can’t hold it any longer, it all comes falling down-normally between 1pm-5pm(ish). Of course that isn’t always the case, there’s the occasional all-day soaking; but days like that are not the norm. Here’s some ideas for what to do in Disney World when the rain starts up.

Magic Kingdom-Probably the best way to stay out of the rain here is going to be by browsing the shops on Main Street. Most of the stores are connected to each other so you can easily pass from one to the other without having to go outside. Just the Emporium alone at over 17,000 square feet will keep you busy for quite a while. And if you finish on one side of the street, when the raindrops stop for a moment, hop on over to the other side for the rest of the shops. And if you’re concerned about lugging your purchases around with you the rest of the day/night, anyone can have their goodies brought to the package pickup at the front of the park or, if you are a WDW hotel resort guest, delivered to your hotel. You can even have them ship your packages home for you via UPS or FedEx.

You can also grab a bite to eat on either side of the street at Casey’s Corner, the Bakery, the Confectionery or the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. There’s also the Plaza Restaurant and the Crystal Palace, though you may have to step out from under cover to get to them; plus they take reservations so you might not be able to get in-especially for Crystal Palace since it is a character buffet.

The other areas of the Magic Kingdom are mostly open to the air between the attractions and shops and you’ll wind up running from one place to another in a mostly vain attempt to stay dry.

Epcot-Here you have a couple of options. The one that will let you stay inside for the most amount of time is to duck into Innoventions East or West. With several engaging exhibits for both kids and adults inside both East and West, Innoventions will keep you busy while you wait for the skies to settle down. Food options include the Electric Umbrella and Fountainview Ice Cream.

I also like The Land pavilion as it has several things to do inside-Soarin’, which if you don’t have a Fastpass will kill a lot of time waiting in line; Living with the Land, a 14-minute boat ride; Circle of Life, a 20-minute film; plus you have some great food choices-the Garden Grill restaurant (character dining, reservations strongly recommended so this one’s hard to plan for weather) and the Sunshine Seasons food court (much better than your traditional Disney hotel food courts).

The Seas with Nemo and Friends is also a good choice as there’s a lot to see inside after the ride itself. I can kill a half hour in here pretty easily just looking at all of the ocean life. The Universe of Energy is also a half hour long and you get to sit down in the air conditioning for most of it as well.

The rest of the Future World pavilions only get you out of the rain for as long as the ride lasts, and getting from one World Showcase pavilion to another will test your ability to stay dry (though depending on your interest in a particular country and what is offered at each country you may be able to stay there for quite a while-like Mexico with its ride, shopping and some dining all inside the pyramid).

Disney’s Hollywood Studios-Like Magic Kingdom, DHS has shopping opportunities down Hollywood Boulevard, the main entrance street at the front of the park. Though it won’t kill as much time as shopping on Main Street in MK will, there’s plenty of merchandise to go through here. For rides, The Great Movie Ride is around 20 minutes, plus any time you spend waiting in line so it’s a good way to duck out of a downpour for a bit. There’s also The Magic of Disney Animation which is also 20 minutes long, plus there’s an interactive section and a character meet-and-greet area. In addition, you can do the Animation Academy class (offered every half hour) where you can learn to draw a Disney character...though on rainy days this class can have long waits since lots of people are looking for ways to pass the time until the rain stops.

Animal Kingdom-most attractions here are out in the open. One exception is Rafiki’s Planet Watch. You do need to ride the Wildlife Express train to get there and walk from the train station to the building, but once inside there’s plenty to see and do, enough to keep you busy for quite a while, especially when they bring animals out.

While most of the rest of Animal Kingdom is open to the elements, there is a lot of tree cover so if you’re willing to don a poncho or use an umbrella, you can still have a good time here. Many of the animals become more animated in the rain, especially during a good thunderstorm. You may be surprised at their antics. Also, a good outdoor ride for the rain here is Kali River Rapids. You’re going to get totally soaked on the ride anyway, so what does it matter if it’s raining?

What if the entire day is going to be a soaking mess? This scenario happens less often, but even if this is the case, don’t let it ruin your day! Going to the parks is still an option if you don’t mind possibly getting wet...a good poncho, some sturdy waterproof shoes and/or an umbrella will let you wander the parks and still enjoy many of the attractions. A bonus--many guests will avoid the parks while it’s raining and hole up somewhere else so you may find the wait times for rides is considerably less (unless it’s the height of peak season and everyone is determined to be in the parks no matter what, but then you’re going to have long lines anyway-rain or shine).

Another option if you’d really rather stay dry is DisneyQuest or the AMC theater at Downtown Disney’s West Side (or both). A movie will give you at least a couple of hours for the rain to stop. And DisneyQuest, especially if you have kids, you could easily spend at least a half a day, probably more. There is the additional cost (currently from $37-$43 per person) but if you and your family are fans of interactive gaming, it will certainly keep you busy and you’ll have a great time. Plus you can have a leisurely morning before you go since it doesn’t open until 11:30am. There’s food there as well so you can enjoy a meal while taking a break from the games.

Something else to try-the resort monorail line at the Magic Kingdom. Use the monorail to hop from the Contemporary to the Grand Floridian to the Polynesian and check them all out-especially around the holidays when the hotels are decorated so beautifully.

The point is, don’t let the weather dictate how much fun you have on your trip. You’re at Disney World after all...go ahead, feel like a kid dashing through the raindrops in the happiest place on earth! I recommend keeping a poncho and/or umbrella handy in your backpack/purse/whatever your using to carry your stuff around so you can just keep going no matter which park you are in. Eventually the rain will stop, so why not just go with the flow?

What do you like to do at Disney World when it rains?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Overview, Magic Kingdom and Epcot pages added

Hi all! I've finished some of the static information pages...the resort overview, Magic Kingdom and Epcot pages are now complete, though I'm hoping to add pictures once I get back from my next trip in a couple of weeks. Let me know what you think. I detailed the main attractions so you may think some things might be missing, but those pages are really meant as overviews. Other details like different free-standing shops or food stands, or entertainers and character greets I'll get to on this main page as individual posts. For now, it's back to the overview writing so I can get Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom done!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Staying on Disney property vs staying off property

Up until about 15 years ago (give or take a few years), any time I went to Disney World I would stay off property, usually at a major chain hotel. This was mainly due to the fact that I was traveling with my parents or other adults who were paying for the trip so I didn’t have a choice. Back then, staying at a hotel on Disney property was not something our family (or most of my friends’ families) could consider...or maybe they didn’t know about what was available on property back then, I really don't know.

Once I was out on my own, my DH (boyfriend back then) and I decided for some reason or another to stay on property at one of the Disney All Star Resorts...I think it was Sports but I honestly don’t remember. Since that trip, we never wanted to stay off property again. So for those who want to know the pros and cons of on property vs off property, here we go.......

Probably the biggest pro about staying off property is cost--since the lowest rack rate for a Disney resort is about $84 a night at a Value Resort (All Star Sports/Music/Movies or Pop Century for a minimum of at least $5 more per night), of course you can find many nice, clean hotels off property for a lot less. Even comparing Moderate and Deluxe Disney on-property resorts to their counterparts off property will turn up the same thing. And for some people this is the make-or-break for their trip-after all, if you can’t afford the room, you won’t be able to do the trip (at least not in a fiscally responsible manner). Heck, you can find rooms as cheap as $30 a night, though I can’t vouch for the comfort level of those places. On average, you’re probably looking at about $45-$60 a night for something close to what you’d find on Disney property if you’re willing to shop around and want to stay relatively close to the Disney main gate.

You can even find hotels that offer lots of extra amenities like mini-fridges, coffee makers, continental breakfasts, fancy pools, gyms, activities and such for the same or maybe even less than a Disney Value Resort. Several area hotels also offer shuttles to and from the theme parks at no extra cost which can be a great money saver if you flew in and didn’t rent a car. If you do have a car, you can always drive in to the parks each honestly isn’t too far of a drive, though it will take longer (in most cases) than if you stay on property. BUT-to park at the Disney theme parks costs $14 per day unless you have an Annual Pass to the Disney Parks (a full Annual Pass, not a Seasonal Pass), so you need to factor in that extra cost per day. And what if you want to take a break during the day to rest in your room or at your hotel pool? Now you have a longer drive (usually) to get back to your hotel; if you’re using the hotel shuttles (if provided), you have to plan around the shuttle schedule which may not be convenient for you-especially if you need an unplanned break for whatever reason.

Now, if you are staying on property the biggest drawback again is-cost. Yes, you will pay more per night for a comparable room on Disney property. And no, there is no continental breakfast waiting for you in the lobby-you have to pay for your meals on your own. BUT-Disney has finally installed mini-fridges all the way down thru the Value resorts at no extra cost. Coffee makers come in the Moderate and Deluxe level Disney resorts. And from all recent reports from many guests, Wi-Fi Internet access now appears to be complimentary at all Disney least for the time being. We’ll see if it lasts *fingers crossed*

A huge plus for lots of people when staying on property is Disney transportation. First off, if you are flying in and staying at a Disney resort, Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary service they offer of roundtrip transportation for you and your baggage between the airport and your Disney hotel. Need to get to one of the theme parks? When you stay at a Disney on-property resort, they continually have busses running to all four theme parks, the water parks and Downtown Disney from the hotels. Most of the time the wait is pretty short, though sometimes some Disney hotel locations could see a wait of up to 15-20 minutes depending on how busy it is, what time of year and if other “special events” are going on. So whether you fly or drive, you can leave the driving up to them. If you do want to use your own car, parking is free at all of the theme parks when you stay at an Disney on-property hotel (remember that $14/day cost if you're not on property?).

But busses aren’t the only way to get around...if you’re staying at certain Deluxe resorts, you can take a boat to some of the theme parks instead. Plus some of the Moderate resorts and Disney Vacation Club (DVC) locations have boats to/from Downtown Disney. Then of course there’s always the monorail. If you stay at the Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian (all Deluxe resorts) you can just hop on the monorail to get to the Magic Kingdom...or switch monorails at the Transportation and Ticket Center and go all the way to Epcot. Pretty convenient, right? Some hotels are also within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom (like the Contemporary or Grand Floridian) or Epcot (like Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan and Dolphin). You could even walk to Hollywood Studios from the Epcot area hotels I just mentioned, though it is a bit of a longer walk-but it’s along a waterway and has a decent amount of shade.

Since being on property means you’re right in the middle of everything, it is pretty quick and easy to just pop back to the hotel for an afternoon nap or swim to avoid the heat of most Florida days (or just to relax to recharge for a night of storming the parks again!).

Remember the fancy pools I mentioned as a perk of some off-property hotels? Disney’s got that...some even have water slides. Even the pools at the Value resorts are pretty cool with interesting shapes (like the bowling pin one at Pop Century) and water features.

Several of the Disney resorts (mostly Deluxe or DVC plus Coronado Springs) have spas as well as fitness centers with workout machines and free weights. If you are staying at one of those hotels you can use the fitness center for free; if you’re staying at one of the other Disney resorts there is a per-day charge. Of course the spa treatments have a charge (let’s not get crazy thinking Disney is going to offer free massages, okay?).

You can also watch Disney movies by the main pools for free at many of the on-property hotels, including the Value resorts. They’ll also have other things going on by the main pool like games for the kids.

If you’re staying for more than a couple of days, you may want to purchase a refillable mug--you can use it at your hotel for the length of your stay for one set price (around $15 right now) for soda, coffee, tea (hot or cold), hot cocoa, lemonade and fruit punch. While you can only use it at the hotel you are staying in and not at the parks or other Disney hotels, this could be a real money saver, especially if you drink a lot of those type of beverages.

Planning to do some shopping in the parks or at Downtown Disney? Your purchases can be delivered to your hotel so you don’t have to lug them around the parks all day--and the service is FREE!

Finally, the theming at the Disney hotels is fantastic. The Value resorts have huge figures (we’re talking over 3 stories tall!) depicting the different themes for the hotels-like humongous bowling pins, Rubik’s cubes, cell phones and 8-track tapes at Pop Century; footballs, basketballs, tennis rackets, etc at Sports, bongos, musical instruments, speakers, etc at Music and enormous characters (again, many stories tall) from the different Disney films at Movies. The Moderate and Deluxe resorts are a bit more laid back, but beautifully themed based on things like the beach, tropical paradise, American Southwest, Frontier America, Victorian era and many more. All of the Disney resorts come with those fantastic Disney cast members who go out of their way to make sure you have a magical vacation.’re staying IN Walt Disney World-right in the center of the magic.

Now, you can have a fantastic time regardless of whether you stay on property or’s really a matter of what is most important to you AND what you can afford to do. If staying on property means you couldn’t afford to go at all, you may want to opt for something off-property so you can still take your’re still going to have a great time-it is Disney World after all!

As for me, I’ve been bitten by the on-property bug and, with the exception of a trip where I stayed with friends who have an off-property timeshare in Orlando, I haven’t stayed off-property since my first on-property trip. I love being right in the middle of everything Disney and keeping the magic going even after I’ve left the parks for the day. Granted, to go as often as I like to go I usually stay at a Value resort but to me it is still a better pick FOR ME than off-property. While I would consider off-property if it was a choice between that and not going at all, on-property is always my preference. Yes, I’m a Disney hotel snob LOL.

Where do you prefer to stay, on or off? Any reasons other than what I outlined here? For the record, my favorite Value resort is Pop Century and Moderate is Coronado Springs. I haven’t had the pleasure of staying at a Deluxe or DVC property yet...but even if I never get to one of them that’s okay...just being in Disney World at all is fine for me!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Topics about Disney World-ideas?

If you were looking for a blog about Walt Disney World in Florida, what topics would you want to see? There’s always the standard ones about the hotels, restaurants, rides and such. Any specialized topics? Off-the-beaten-path questions? I’ll be putting up static pages with generalized information regarding on-property hotel types and the four parks plus a “Did you know” page with random facts about Disney World. But I want to make this at least a little different than your average Disney World blog where everyone puts up the same information.

I will put up posts from time to time about the runDisney events, but mostly generalized information since I have a separate blog about running & races at Making it Happen (come on over and visit!). And when fall and winter are coming around again I’ll put up posts about the Halloween and Christmas parties and of course the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. Are there other events you’d like to see detailed here?

I know saving money while at WDW is always a helpful topic so I’ll pop those in as often as I can. But really, please let me know what you would want to see posted too-chances are if you are interested, others are too...and while I am mostly doing this blog as a way for me to write about my favorite place to be, I’d love to be helping others enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth as well! I figure with as often as I’ve been there, and as often as I still go, there’s plenty of information in my head to share (or if not I know where to find it).

So have at it...and if you’re shy about posting a comment, please use the Contact Me page to send me an email.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Testing 1...2...3...

Since I love Walt Disney World so much and go as often as possible, I decided to start up a blog about it. I'm thinking tips and tricks, favorite rides, restaurants, etc. This is from the perspective of a forty-something married woman without kids so while I may post things that help out those with kiddies (since I do have a godson and do go to WDW with him on occasion), that's not going to be the main focus of my posts. I'll be heading back into the behind-the-scenes stuff for this blog to finish setting up how I want it to look and run so hopefully I can start posting later this week.