Thursday, May 31, 2012

DDW Pic 275. Stormtrooper and Dave

Stormtrooper and Dave
This shot was taken last weekend at Hollywood Studios. Although getting pictures with most of the Star Wars characters required waiting in long lines, the Stormtroopers were walking among the people. Acting like actual "security," they were definitely approachable for photos. Big thanks to my friend Jodi Walton for snapping this shot of me with a member of the "dark side."

115. O.T.D. - 5/31/2012 - Art of Animation Resort Opens

 
My "On This Date" series of articles typically highlights an important event in Walt Disney World history. In this post, however, I am going to be writing about something that actually took place today. Just a few hours ago, Disney's Art of Animation Resort welcomed its first guests. It is the first "value" resort to open its doors since Pop Century opened in 2003. This is certainly a momentous occasion for Walt Disney World and it adds yet another option for guests who wish to stay on Disney property.

The construction for the Art of Animation Resort actually started over 12 years ago in 2000. This property was originally going to be the second phase of the Pop Century Resort. Due to the events of September 11, 2001, the tourism industry was negatively impacted and the construction of this resort was halted. Thankfully, a short while ago, Disney made the decision to once again resume work on this resort. They also decided to completely change the theme. 

The Art of Animation Resort will open in four phases. The first section that opened today is Finding Nemo. It is completely made up of "family suites" that are capable of sleeping six guests. This area of the resort has the largest pool in Walt Disney World (outside of a water park) at just under 12,000 square feet. The pool actually has speakers built into it so guests can hear background music even while swimming underwater. The next section of the resort, scheduled to open on June 18th, is themed to the movie Cars. On August 10th, guests will be able to stay in the Lion King section. Both of those areas will also be made up of family suites. The last section of the resort will open on September 15th, and will be themed to The Little Mermaid. This wing will contain standard rooms, which will be similar in size and price to the other value resorts on property. Also, this section will have exterior corridors while the other three will contain interior hallways. 

The theming of the Art of Animation Resort looks fantastic. The press had gotten a sneak peak of both the Finding Nemo and Cars sections a few weeks ago and this resort certainly looks like it will be the nicest in the value category. The huge character decorations in Finding Nemo were built so that guests are proportionately the size of Nemo. A stroll through the Cars area makes you feel like you are in Radiator Springs, complete with Sheriff hiding behind a billboard. I'm sure that fans of these movies, including my family, will really enjoy spending time at this resort.

When Disney builds anything new, we certainly expect it to be done well. From all accounts, Art of Animation exceeds most peoples' expectations for a value resort. I'm sure we will start hearing reviews from guests over the next few weeks, and I'd be surprised if they were anything but positive. One of the best things about Walt Disney World resorts hotels is that that you can visit them even if you aren't staying there as a guest. I certainly look forward to spending some time at the Art of Animation Resort in the near future. I'm sure I will be posting pictures sometime in June!

Have a Disneyriffic Day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

DDW Pic 274. Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror
This shot of Tower of Terror is unique in that it is not a view that guests often have. I took the photo in front of "Darth's Mall," which is the temporary (yet very large) merchandise structure that was erected for Star Wars Weekends. It is actually in a backstage area that is accessed by walking through a gate between Rock n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. From this angle, you can see how large the Tower of Terror building really is.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DDW Pic 273. Jedi Mickey

Jedi Mickey
This shot, taken at Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends, was near the exit of the Great Movie Ride. There are many great meet-and-greet locations set up around the park during this event. You can get your picture taken with many of your favorite Star Wars characters and also get their autographs. However, you may wait in line up to an hour for some of the more popular characters. Therefore, I have a bunch of pictures of characters by themselves (like this one) or with random families. As much as I enjoyed Star Wars Weekends this past Friday, I really didn't feel like waiting in long lines in the blazing hot sun. However, it was a lot of fun to see the characters and at least get pictures like this.

Monday, May 28, 2012

DDW Pic 272. Disney University

Disney University
I took this "backstage" shot last week. Disney University is where much of the initial training takes place for new-hires at Walt Disney World. It is located in the area behind the Magic Kingdom. Right behind this building is the Disney Transport Maintenance facility where the monorails and trains are worked on. This is also near the cast member parking lot. I would venture to guess that this "behind the scenes" area is probably as big as the Magic Kingdom itself!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

DDW Pic 271. Star Wars Weekends

Star Wars Weekends - Hollywood Studios Entrance
Star Wars Weekends is a special event that takes place at Hollywood Studios every year. It occurs over a period of five weekends, and I had the pleasure of attending the event for the first time this past Friday. This picture was taken right outside of the entrance to the Studios as the park was opening. Several storm troopers entertain the crowd below as they are acting as front gate "security." This event is an amazing opportunity to interact with characters, meet actors from the movies and the Clone Wars television series, and see fantastic Star Wars themed shows. For fans of Walt Disney World and Star Wars, this is an event that is not to be missed. I plan on posting many more pictures from this weekend, so stay tuned and 'May the force be with you!'

Saturday, May 26, 2012

DDW Pic 270. The Barnstormer


This picture was taken at the Barnstormer in the new Storybook Circus area of the Magic Kingdom. The crashed rocket is an example of one of the Great Goofini's acts that didn't go so well! Disney added several comical props around the attraction when they re-themed it a few months ago. The rest of Storybook Circus should be open this summer, and the first phase of the new Fantasyland will be complete.

Friday, May 25, 2012

DDW Pic 269. Mission Space


This was taken inside of Mission Space. This big playscape is located in the exit area of the attraction. It is a fun place for young kids to run around and play while enjoying the air conditioning on a hot day. You don't have to even ride the attraction to enjoy it. It is accessible through the gift shop area. It is a good place to wait with your young ones while the big kids and adults in your group enjoy Mission Space.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DDW Pic 268. Pop Century


Pop Century is considered by most to be the nicest of the "value" resorts. This shot was taken in April and I was standing in the area in front of the pool, looking back toward the main building. Originally, there was a second section planned for Pop Century that would have doubled the size of this resort. However, Disney changes those plans and used that area to build the Art of Animation Resort, which is opening next week.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DDW Pic 267. Contemporary Resort

Contemporary Resort
This mural in the Contemporary Resort was created by Mary Blair, who is well known for her creation of "it's a small world."  Created back in 1972, it is 90 feet high, made of mosaic tiles and covers three massive walls. It is an impressive piece of art, to say the least. One of the walls contains a "five-legged" goat. See if you can spot it the next time you are at the Contemporary.

114. ImagineeringDisney.com


Do you ever wonder what things look like behind the scenes at Walt Disney World? Sure, there are some very good tours that Disney offers that take you "backstage" to learn how the magic is made.  That is not what I'm talking about. When I say "behind the scenes," I am referring to the individual attractions. I think that it would be amazing to have the opportunity to walk through attraction buildings to really see the inner workings of these classic rides and shows. I'm pretty sure that most Disney World enthusiasts feel the same way. Unfortunately, unless we are employed by the mouse, this is something that won't likely be possible. However, thanks to a small group of former cast members, we now have the ability to see behind the curtain.

ImagineeringDisney.com is an unofficial Disney blog that was started in 2009. These former cast members share their thoughts on Imagineering, as well as the Disney parks of today and yesterday. More importantly, they share some absolutely incredible photos. These are not just quick "after hours" shots, they are explicit images that give us an unprecedented look at some of our favorite attractions. These are areas that are not meant for guests eyes, but are so much fun to see. The articles and photos also include extinct attractions which are particularly interesting to us Disney World nostalgics.

Ghosts From the Ballroom Scene
Although I had heard of ImagineeringDisney.com, I hadn't spent much time on the site until recently. As most of you know, my favorite attraction is the Haunted Mansion. When I saw the Mansion pictures that ImagineeringDisney posted a few days ago, my jaw dropped. They actually show the backstage set-up of the ballroom scene. We can see the "physical" ghosts and the mechanisms they are attached to. Now, most diehard fans know about the "Peppers Ghost" effect used to create that scene, but to actually see how its done is another story. In addition to the ghost carrousels, they reveal another neat aspect of Imagineering. In this particular blog article, they show how several of the ghost models are used in other attractions in the park. For example, the granny ghost is also the same sculpted model used for the grandmother in Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. She obviously looks better in her "alive" state, but you can definitely see the resemblance.

Castle Construction
The Haunted Mansion is just one example of what you will find when visiting ImagineeringDisney.com. In addition to the great behind the scenes photos, there are also very nice "onstage" pictures as well. It is fun to see old park images from the early years when I visited as a child. It is amazing how some areas have gone through tremendous change while others still look like they did in 1971. You will also see some of the best park construction photos to be found anywhere on the internet.

ImagineeringDisney.com is a real treasure for anyone who looks at Walt Disney World as more than just a place to go on rides. Even if you have a mild curiosity about how they create the magic, I highly recommend visiting this blog. It is important to note that there are many "spoilers" throughout the site, so if you don't want to know what is going on behind the scenes, you may want to avoid it. However, for most of us, ImagineeringDisney.com should be a bookmarked site that we enjoy on a regular basis!

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DDW Pic 266. Beach Club Villas

Beach Club Villas
This photo of the Beach Club Villas was taken in the late afternoon on a beautiful day in April. This is one of those shots that I took based on the way the sun was hitting the building. It was the perfect time of day, as the sun was beginning to set, but was still shining brightly on the west face of this resort. Even when I'm not staying at the Beach Club, this is still one of my favorite areas of Walt Disney World to visit.

Monday, May 21, 2012

DDW Pic 265. Club Cool

Club Cool
Club Cool is located in the Innoventions West Pavilion in Epcot. It is a fun place to drink complimentary Coca Cola products from around the world. Club Cool serves two purposes. It introduces guests to many different flavored international sodas and also allows us to enjoy a free refreshment. Some of these sodas are delicious while a few are quite strange. The most unique one is called Beverly, which comes from Italy. I know very few people who enjoy that beverage. It is always fun to see the reaction on peoples' faces when they first try Beverly. The next time you are at Epcot, stop at Club Cool and try some of these unique drinks.

YouTube 12. Test Track - Final Ride - HD


This video was taken at 9:15 on Sunday, April 15th, 2012.  It contains clips from the final ride on Test Track before it was closed for its major refurbishment and theme change.  I was in the final "briefing room" and on the very last ride of the night.  This footage truly is the last you will see of Test Track as we knew it.  However, it sounds like the attraction will be improved with this overhaul, and I hope to record the first ride when it re-opens with its new "auto design" theme in the fall.  Enjoy the last ride on the original Test Track!

This video is brought to you by WDWGuidedTours.com.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

DDW Pic 264. Toy Story Mania!

Toy Story Mania!
This picture was taken in the queue of Toy Story Mania back in April. This attraction is one of the most popular in all of Walt Disney World and typically has wait times of over an hour. When visiting Toy Story Mania I certainly recommend getting a FASTPASS as this will save you a lot of time. However, it is definitely worth waiting in the standby line at least once. It is themed to represent the area under Andy's bed, and there are all kinds of fun things to look at.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

DDW Pic 263. Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb
This photo of Phineas and Ferb was taken at Hollywood Studios in April. They have been meeting guests for nearly a year in an area right outside of the Muppet*Vision 3D exit. It is a unique meet and greet as it is set up like an actual movie shoot where Phineas and Ferb are currently filming on location. The "director" takes guests from the queue and makes them part of the shoot. The guests have a chance to get autographs and photos with the stars in between takes. This is a spot that all Phineas and Ferb fans should visit when on vacation at Disney World.

Friday, May 18, 2012

DDW Pic 262. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
This shot was taken towards the end of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in the Magic Kingdom. This "hidden Mickey" can be found in the planet to the upper left of the tunnel opening. Most hidden Mickeys are of the simple, three circle style, however this is a nice profile of the mouse. This hidden Mickey planet can actually be found in four different locations in this attraction. See if you can find them on your next visit!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

113. O.T.D. - 5/17/91 - Port Orleans Resort Opens

Today we say happy 21st birthday to Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort. Well.......sort of. On May 17th, 1991, the first phase of the resort opened. When it opened, this resort was simply called Port Orleans. About nine months later, the Dixie Landings Resort welcomed its first guests. In April of 2001, these two resorts officially merged and became Disney's Port Orleans Resort. The original Port Orleans section was now labeled "French Quarter" and Dixie Landings became "Riverside."
There is some interesting speculation as to why the two resorts combined to become Port Orleans. The truth is that the two always shared the same management team and they are located on one, giant 325 acre piece of land. After the merger, this resort became the largest at Disney World with 3,056 guest rooms. So again, why would Disney make this change, especially with the name? Although the Disney Company never offered an explanation, there is a common theory among Disney fans. The backstory for Dixie Landings was that it was a cotton plantation. The racial and slavery undertones probably didn't sit well with some people. Although I believe that Disney never meant for the "historical" story of the resort to be offensive, it was a good idea for them to remove all of the old Dixie Landings terminology from the property. I'm sure Disney didn't want to create a controversy at the most popular tourist destination in the world.

My wife and I stayed at Dixie Landings on our honeymoon in early 2000. We absolutely loved both this area as well as the Port Orleans section. This moderate class resort has a lot to offer. There are several restaurants and lounges, many recreation options, and well themed pools. I remember renting a canoe with my brand new wife and having a great time. The resort is located on the Sassagoula River, which allowed us honeymooners the opportunity to take a boat ride to Downtown Disney. Although the names changed, the resort still offers the same ambiance and southern charm that I remember from 12 years ago. However, they have also added "Royal Rooms" which add a whole new level of theming to the Port Orleans experience.

Less than four months after the two resorts merged in 2001, the tragic events of September 11th occurred. Due to the dramatic drop in tourism, Disney was forced to reduce some of its resort capacity. Port Orleans French Quarter was completely shut down from late November of 2001 until May 31st of 2002. Port Orleans Riverside reduced its capacity down to only 350 rooms during that same time period. That means that this gigantic property basically became a ghost town with only about 10% of its rooms being utilized. Also due to the unfortunate events of that year, construction on the second phase of Disney's Pop Century Resort was stopped. The partially finished buildings sat eerily dormant for more than a decade. That story has a happy ending as construction resumed about a year ago. Now called Disney's Art of Animation Resort, it will open in phases starting in just a few weeks.

If you are considering a moderate resort at Walt Disney World, I definitely suggest checking out Port Orleans. Whichever section you choose, you will have the ability to enjoy the amenities of two (combined) resorts. Also, be sure to check out Yeehaw Bob at the River Roost Lounge at Port Orleans Riverside. He is one of Disney's hidden treasures. Once again, happy birthday Port Orleans!

Have a Disneyriffic Day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

DDW Pic 261. Imagineer Tribute

Imagineer Tribute
It is common to see tributes to Disney Imagineers and executives throughout Walt Disney World. However most guests overlook them. This advertisement for "Jorodi Masks and Beads" can be found on the outside of several buildings in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. This is a tribute to Joe Rohde, the Imagineering Senior Vice President who led the team that designed and built Animal Kingdom. He is known for wearing one unique and elaborate earring, so the masks and beads reference probably refers to Joe's "accessories."  The next time you are in Animal Kingdom, keep your eyes open for signs like these that pay homage to those who helped create this amazing theme park.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DDW Pic 260. World Showcase Lagoon

World Showcase Lagoon
This shot of the sunset on the World Showcase Lagoon was taken in front of the Outpost. This is the area between China and Germany in Epcot. The conditions on this April evening were just about perfect. Walking around the World Showcase at this time of day is one of my favorite things to do at Disney World. Of course ending the day with Illuminations isn't a bad thing either!

YouTube 11. PeopleMover



This is a full HD recording of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover at the Magic Kingdom. It is the entire ride as viewed from the front of the "train." The section inside Space Mountain is very dark, but I included it to make it a complete ride. Opening way back on July 1st, 1975, the PeopleMover is still one of my favorite attractions. This video was recorded on April 19th, 2012.


This video is brought to you by WDWGuidedTours.com.





Tuesday, May 15, 2012

DDW Pic 259. Studio Backlot Tour

Studio Backlot Tour
The Studio Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios is a great attraction to see actual props used in movies. Each object in this shot was actually used in one of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. This area can be seen shortly after entering the queue on your left side. The attraction takes you through a prop warehouse, on a tram ride through the backlot, and even into an area containing actual costumes worn by movie villains. The Studio Backlot Tour is rarely busy, and is definitely an attraction that shouldn't be missed by movie buffs.

YouTube 10. Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony


The Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat Ceremony takes place in Town Square every day at 5:00 pm.  It usually features a guest who is active or retired military.  The Main Street Philharmonic Marching Band, the Dapper Dans, and many of the Main Street cast members take part in this daily event.  This video was recorded in full HD on March 26th, 2012.  The next time you are in the Magic Kingdom around 5:00, I highly recommend checking out the ceremony.

This video is brought to you by WDWGuidedTours.com.



Monday, May 14, 2012

DDW Pic 258. Pinocchio Village Haus

Pinocchio Village Haus
This picture was taken inside the Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. This quick service restaurant has rooms that are themed to the characters in the 1940 Disney film. You can see that this photo was taken in the Figaro Room. One of the rooms overlooks the classic "it's a small world" attraction, which is attached to the Village Haus. My favorite spot in all of Fantasyland is actually at this restaurant. It is a small, outdoor balcony that overlooks the Fantasyland courtyard, and is reachable from both inside and outside of the building. It only contains a few tables and is typically a quiet place to enjoy a meal while watching the crowds moving through this busy area of the Magic Kingdom. While the construction is going on for the Fantasyland expansion, the Pinocchio Village Haus balcony is closed to keep guests from seeing the work being done. However, it will open again when the project is completed.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

DDW Pic 257. Mom and Eeyore

Mom and Eeyore
Being that it is Mother's Day, I thought it would be fun to honor my mom by posting this pic from 2009. Her and Eeyore are posing at one of our family's favorite restaurants, the Crystal Palace. We made some wonderful memories on this trip as we had the whole family together. Along with my mom and dad, there was also my brother and sister with their spouses and children. All twelve of us had a great time. I want to send out a special thanks to my wonderful mom, who along with my dad, taught me the importance of spending time with family. She and my dad are also responsible for my Disney World enthusiasm, as they introduced me to this magical place and brought me and my siblings their many times.  Thanks Mom, and Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

112. Disney World InPark Assistant

When I look for new apps to feature on Digital Disney World, I am always looking for ones that stand out or that have unique functions. I recently came across an app that was released about six weeks ago that certainly fits that description. There are several good Disney World iPhone apps that contain maps of the theme parks. Some are completely map focused while others include some map functions. To my knowledge, there has been none that have taken this technology to the "next level" until the creation of the Disney World InPark Assistant app.

The InPark Assistant was created by Sebastian Wedeniwski. It is a "first-of-its-kind" app that does something that adds a new level of usefulness to your iPhone. It actually gives you turn-by-turn directions to all of the attractions, restaurants, shops, and even restrooms in each of the four Walt Disney World parks. Using the GPS function, the app will show your location on the park map and draw your route to your desired destination. Not only does it draw the route, it will tell you what landmarks you will be near for every turn you need to make. This is a fantastic tool that can be so helpful to guests who aren't familiar with the park layouts. Even Disney World veterans can utilize this tool to help them navigate to some of the more obscure restaurants and shops.

If Sebastian developed the InPark Assistant to simply give directions to different locations in the Disney parks, it would have been a good app. However, he included some addition functions that really make it shine. First, you have the ability to use the app even without GPS or even cell phone signal. It will still give the turn by turn directions, but the starting point will always be the park entrance and the map will be a simple diagram. With the GPS and cell signal operating, you get the directions from wherever you are standing. In addition, you have the option for satellite and hybrid images. There are also nice descriptions of each location in the park as well as a corresponding picture. Sebastian even includes pictures of what the bathrooms look like. This can come in really handy when you need to find one in a hurry! Finally, he has the current wait times listed beside each attraction, which are submitted by other users of the app.

The InPark Assistant app is also user friendly. When you initially download it, you have to first download the software and then the park data from each of the four parks. Sebastian designed it this way so that the info is always current. After all of the data is on your iPhone, you simply choose which park you are in and start navigating. The list of locations defaults to attractions and shows, but you can tap on the category button to search for things like shops and restaurants. You can view the information in alphabetical order or by using the "Nearby" function. Either way, you will see the exact distance to each location listed below it. Again, if you are looking for a restroom or quick snack, this can be very handy info to have at your fingertips. Finally, you have the ability to customize the app by tapping on the "Options" tab. You can toggle the GPS, change the distance units, and make other display changes from this spot.

When comparing the Disney World InPark Assistant to other map apps in the iTunes store, you'd expect to pay more for this one because of the added functionality. However, I think you will be happily surprised to learn that this app is absolutely FREE! I highly recommend downloading it as soon as possible. Even if Sebastian decided to charge a few bucks for the InPark Assistant, it would be worth every penny. I would not be surprised to see this one become very popular as the word begins to spread. I'm looking forward to seeing what is coming next from this talented developer!

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

DDW Pic 256. Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse
This shot was taken during the "Celebrate A Dream Come True" at the Magic Kingdom back in April. The parade was passing through Frontierland at the time and I had a pretty good angle to get some pictures of Mickey. I have no hidden details or little known facts related to this one. Sometimes it is just fun to post a picture of the "big cheese" doing his thing!

Friday, May 11, 2012

DDW Pic 255. Mexico - "Illuminated"

Mexio - "Illuminated"
This picture of Mexico at Epcot was taken last week. It is a unique picture due to the lighting. Just seconds before I snapped this shot, the entire building was in total darkness. However, as I was walking by the pavilion, the finale of Illuminations was approaching and I knew I had a chance to use the fireworks as sort of a giant flash. I guessed correctly and this photo was the result.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

DDW Pic 254. Hildegard Olivia Harding

Hildegard Olivia Harding
Like an actual small town, Main Street, USA features several prominent "characters" who are present throughout the day to interact with guests. This photo, taken last week, is of Hildegard Olivia Harding. She is the President of the Main Street Social Society as well as the "owner" of the Emporium. As you can see from her sash, she is very active in educating people on women's rights (Keep in mind that Main Street represents a town from the late 1800s). These characters are a major part of the entertainment at both the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

DDW Pic 253. Dinosaur Gertie

Dinosaur Gertie's Footprints
This area of Hollywood Studios is near Echo Lake in front of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. These dinosaur footprints (surrounded by cracked cement) belong to Gertie, and show the path she took on her way to becoming an ice cream stand. Dinosaur Gertie's "Ice Cream of Extinction" sits right on Echo Lake and is a great place to grab a treat on a hot day. Since one of the theories behind the extinction of the dinosaurs was the "ice age," Disney decided it would use this creature to house an ice cream stand. Gertie was one of the first characters in the history of animation. It was created by Winsor McCay, who was an early influence on Walt Disney.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

DDW Pic 252. Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris
This warden post is located near the unload area of Kilimanjaro Safaris in Animal Kingdom. As always, there is an amazing level of detail to be found here. The building itself looks old and weathered and there are numerous props all around it. There is a saying to the right of the door that is in Swahili. I went to my trusty Swahili to English translator (which I found on Google) and found that these words mean "No permission to pass on huge reserves alone." This warning seems to make sense, as there are lions and other meat eating animals roaming the area!

Monday, May 7, 2012

DDW Pic 251. Lego Family

Lego Family at Downtown Disney
This Lego family of tourists is right outside of the Lego Imagination Center at Downtown Disney. It is an amazing "scene" made up of thousands of tiny Lego bricks. The human tourist riding the dog is our little man. There are several other incredible Lego sculptures that can be found around the outside (and inside) of the store. There is also a great interactive "play patio" where kids can build their own creations. This ranks high on my list of free things to do with kids at Walt Disney World. Of course the minute your child walks into the store and sees all of the great Lego kits for sale, the "free" aspect goes out the window!

111. Guide2WDW.com

There are many good unofficial Walt Disney World websites that have emerged over the past decade. Some of them are directed at specific topics while many contain general information. As a writer of a blog that features Disney related websites, I am constantly combing the web for the best ones to recommend. Guide2WDW.com definitely falls into the "all-inclusive" category, and it is a great place to find anything and everything related to Walt Disney World.
Guide2WDW.com is similar to many informational Disney sites in that it gives us all of the basics that we'd expect. There are general overviews of each attraction. In addition, there are also opening dates, height requirements, trivia and tips. You will find restaurant information including menus, prices, and even some pictures of the food itself. To round out the general info category, you will see excellent descriptions of each resort as well as reviews written by guests. You really do find more than you expect when you look at the "Parks," "Dining," and "Resorts" sections of this website.

Although the general information on Guide2WDW.com is thorough and complete, it is the additional categories that really make this website stand out from the rest.  First, there is an entire tab dedicated to "Tips." This is a great area to browse right before going on your next vacation. The next tab, labeled "Info," contains current news, as well as park hours, and ticket prices. This website does a great job at keeping up with announcements related to Walt Disney World, and you can find all of the current events under the "Info" category.

The next section of Guide2WDW.com is one of my favorites, as it is the most unique. This tab contains a complete "Pocket Guide" with small descriptions and ratings of each attraction and restaurant located in the parks. It can be printed out to take with you on your next trip. Better yet, it is in PDF form so it can be saved to your mobile electronic device. As the creator of "Digital Disney World," I love this integration of technology. Since most of us have our smartphones on us at all times, it is so easy to use the pocket guide as a quick reference. The best part about this guide is that it is completely free.

Last, but certainly not least, you will find a section dedicated to "Disney World Top Ten Lists." It contains 15 lists, including the best rides, resorts, and even desserts at the Vacation Kingdom.  I like the "Top Ten Affordable Activities" as well as the "Top Ten Hidden Gems."  For Walt Disney World veterans, it is fun to compare the lists to our own "Top Tens." Obviously these are the opinions of the website's writers, but I find myself agreeing with a lot of what is on their lists.

Guide2WDW.com is so much more than an unofficial guide to Walt Disney World. It contains all of the necessary information, but it is the "extras" that make it special. If I made a list of "Top Ten All-Inclusive Unofficial Disney Sites," Guide2WDW.com would certainly be near the top. Even if you aren't planning a vacation in the near future, I recommend visiting this site just for the fun of it!

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

DDW Pic 250. Stitch


It is always fun when you can catch the attention of a character when you have your camera handy. Getting this shot was easy, as Stitch walked "onstage" right in front of me over in Tomorrowland. I was sitting right outside of the bathrooms near Space Mountain when he walked through the gate. Of course as soon as he saw me with a camera he immediately struck a pose!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

DDW Pic 249. Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Carpet
This hidden Mickey was in the carpet in our room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Hidden Mickey's are common in all of the Disney resorts and they are usually themed appropriately.  The one pictured here matches the dark wood tones of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Another example is the hidden Mickey formed by beach balls that can be found in the carpets of the Beach Club Resort hallways. It is always fun to see the expressions on other guests faces when they see me taking pictures of the floor!

Friday, May 4, 2012

DDW Pic 248. Harper's Mill

Harper's Mill 
This picture was taken inside of Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom. This shot of the mother bluebird in her nest was a tough one to get, as the gears are spinning rapidly. The birds nest in the gear is a reference to the 1937 Disney short, "The Old Mill." An owl from the short can also be found in the rafters of the mill. The name "Harper" has two references associated with it. First, and most obvious, is Joe Harper who was a friends with Tom Sawyer. It also pays homage to Harper Goff, who was an Imagineer who was instrumental in the design of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

YouTube 9. Soarin' at Epcot


This is the complete ride video of Soarin' at Epcot, that I shot on April 30th, 2012. At the risk of sounding cocky, I have to say that this is one of the best videos I have taken. It is in full HD with almost no film flicker. Other than the orange and pine tree smells, and the breeze in your face, this is what it looks and sounds like to ride this amazing attraction. If you look closely, you can even see the hidden Mickey on the golf ball!

This YouTube Video is brought to you by WDWGuidedTours.com.



Thursday, May 3, 2012

DDW Pic 247. The Diamond Horseshoe

The Diamond Horseshoe
I was happy to get this shot of the inside of The Diamond Horseshoe last month, as it is only open during the busier times. This quick service restaurant is located in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom and it is based on a typical dancehall that could have been found in St. Louis around 1840. In the past, it has hosted several different shows that included singing and dancing. I have memories of seeing a show here and then meeting the performers during a "behind the scenes" tour in the early 1980s.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

DDW Pic 246. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
This shot was taken in the queue for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in the Magic Kingdom. Although this isn't technically a "hidden Mickey," it is similar in that the Disney Imagineers have left their mark on one of these batteries. If you look closely, you will see the words "Made in Glendale, California," which is the headquarters for Disney Imagineering.  It is yet another example of something that is overlooked by most guests.