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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, July 23, 2016

EPCOT Character Spot--Baymax, Joy and Sadness

EPCOT is now rivaling the other parks for variety of Disney Characters available for meet and greet.  The EPCOT Character Spot, located in Innoventions West originally hosted Mickey and friends.  Then, Baymax, from Big Hero 6, was added just across the breezeway and recently, Joy and Sadness from Inside Out have joined the fun.

Finding EPCOT Character Spot is easy.  Just head for the breezeway connecting Future World to the Land Pavilion.  As you are walking towards the Land Pavilion, Mickey and friends will be on the left, while Baymax, Joy and Sadness, will be on the right. 

Important things to know:
  • Guests can Fastpass the EPCOT Character Spot featuring Mickey and Friends, but not Baymax, Joy, and Sadness.
  • Baymax has is own queue and Joy and Sadness have another queue across the corridor.  
  • The character meet and greet times are listed in the Times Guide, so be sure to check and plan accordingly.
  • Photopass photographers are available at the meet and greets.
  • Joy and Sadness do sign autographs, Baymax does not.
  • No sharp objects are allowed near Baymax--Disney trading pins, purses, bags, etc.  All must be taken off prior to meeting Baymax.
  • We did not see wait times posted for Baymax or Joy and Sadness.
Our strategy was to secure a Fastpass for Mickey and Friends.  Prior to the Fastpass, we queued up for the other characters, but based on the length of the lines, we split up.  The boy and husband got in line for Baymax, as that line was shorter, while I joined the Joy and Sadness queue. 

They made it to the front of the line, met Baymax, got photos taken, and joined me in plenty of time.   Had they not, I would have allowed people behind me to go around while I waited.  The position of the queues allowed us to keep an eye on each other, estimating the timing. 


We had met Baymax on a previous trip, but it was neat to see him again.  The theming of his area is of Hiro's workshop. 

Joy and Sadness' meet and greet is themed to the headquarters, complete with the table.  The digital display behind the table changes, so each photo taken has a different background.  I'm one of those people taking photos of things other than the characters!

Again, EPCOT, in our opinion, is rivaling other parks for the quantity and variety of characters guests can meet during a visit to this park.  Especially with the addition of Anna and Elsa to Norway.  There are two character meals available in this park, too--Akershus and Garden Grill.

Be sure to have your camera and autograph books ready!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dining At Yak and Yeti in Disney's Animal Kingdom



During our Summer 2016 Walt Disney World vacation, we tried several new restaurants including Yak and Yeti located in Asia at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Yak and Yeti offers both a sit down, table service location and a quick service, counter location.  We made Advanced Dining Reservations for the sit down, table service location.

Big doors greet guests.  If you weren't looking for this restaurant, you would most likely walk right by.  The counter service location is around the corner.  How do we know this?  While we were waiting to be seated, several guests entered and asked.  In a matter of minutes, this question was answered several times so I can only imagine the number of times the same question is asked and answered for the entire day.

When Advanced Dining Reservations are made, guests are advised to check-in 15 minutes prior to their reservation.  We did just that, but as our reservation was at 11:00 am, our check-in would be at 10:45 am, which is prior to the time the restaurant officially opens.  The door was unlocked, and we did go in, and eventually a Cast Member greeted us and took our name.  We thought we were checked in.  But alas, when 11:00 am came and went, other guests were being called to their table, so I approached the counter and we had not been checked in by the original Cast Member that took our name.  Glad I double checked.

Our name was called a few minutes later and we were told that we were going to be seated upstairs and given the choice to take the stairs or the elevator.  We chose the stairs and walked through the lounge area to the stairs.  We were seated, given menus, and began taking in the decor.

The menus tell the story of Yak and Yeti--a family who opened a trading post and collected artifacts from all of Asia.  The theming and decor is a feast for the eyes!

Yak and Yeti is a Landry Restaurant, owned and operated by Landry, just like Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex Cafe.  If we hadn't used our Disney Dining Plan entitlements, we could have racked up points for our meal as we are Landry Select Club Members.  Since we did use your Dining Plan entitlements, we did not earn rewards.  The Dining Plan allowed us to order an entree, a dessert, and a non alcoholic beverage per person.
The husband to order hot tea as his beverage.  Yes, it was steaming outside, but he wanted to try it.  He was offered unlimited hot water, but only one tea bag was allowed without an extra cost.
We also decided to order an appetizer and pay for it out of pocket, as it wasn't included in the plan.  The photo above is of the empty plate that held the Pork Egg Rolls with chili plum dipping sauce.  They were delicious and we were glad we tried them. 
The boy ordered the Sweet and Sour Chicken.  He gave it a thumbs up.
I went for the Tempura Shrimp, which was similar to what I had had at other Landry restaurants.
The husband ordered the Teriyaki Mahi Mahi and indicated it was mouth watering.  Next up, dessert!
The boy went for the New York Cheesecake.  There wasn't a bit left when he was done.
I had the Fried Wontons which are skewers of pineapple and cream cheese wontons.  I'm glad I tried them but would order the Pinapple Upside Down Cake next time.
The husband ordered the Sorbet which had three flavors:  Mango, Lemon, and Raspberry. 

Click here to see the menu including prices for Yak and Yeti.

Since all of us ordered different entrees and desserts, bites and samples were shared all around to give each of us a taste of it all.  Glad everyone is willing to share!

Our overall impression was that Yak and Yeti is a unique respite from a theme park.  After the bumpy entree and uncertain first impression, we were pleasantly surprised once we sat down, ordered, and enjoyed our meal.

The service needs to work on timing.  While wait staff takes orders and brings drinks, the food is delivered by different staff directly from the kitchen.  Our food all came at the same time, but we watched a table right next to us with a family of two adults and three children, have to eat in shifts.  The kids meals came first, while the adults waited (and were on their phones) and then the adult meals arrived.

Final verdict:  We're glad we gave Yak and Yeti a try.  Next time we eat here, we may decide to use our Landry Select Club benefits rather than the Dining Plan.  And, again, the decor is amazing!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Splitting Up While At Walt Disney World--Point and Counterpoint



From the Husband’s Perspective:

My lovely wife really loved the Frozen sing along so much that she wanted to see it again. I enjoyed it but not enough to see it a second time. The boy claimed he hated most of it. Our brand new teenage son thought it was too girlish. What to do? How about splitting up for a little bit?

This decision worked out great for several reasons. The first one is that the vacationing Williams Family members need a smidge of time away from each other’s company. For me it gives my brain a chance to re-set. I can have a “guy” relationship with the boy which is slightly different when the spouse is about.

Slumbering fellas
Then there is sleeping in. Usually the Williams Family gets up early so we can do our favorite rides and attractions at the parks before it gets too crowded and not have to use  the coveted Fast Pass. Doing this several days in a row does wear me down. The opportunity for extra “Z”s was nice. The boy and I also were allowed to putz around the room a bit.

We can do some non scheduled stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I love the tremendous effort my spouse puts forth organizing and deciding so we get the most fun out of our trips. Going off script does allow the Williams Family to appreciate the little things of the vacation. The wife enjoyed the people watching in the Frozen audience as much as the show itself. The boy and I explored our resort and talking to Star Wars cast members at Hollywood Studios before reconnecting with my better half.

When the Williams Family got back together we shared our separate experiences and proceeded to have a magical day.

From my perspective:

On this particular day, we had NO plans—other than dinner.  Options for our day included Disney Springs, miniature golf, hanging by the pool.  I know that sounds like plans, but they weren’t firm, no times, no order of events, just suggestions.

I was already up and decided to shower and get ready.  Then, I checked my phone.  There were Fastpasses available for the FROZEN Sing-Along at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 10:00 (which I thought meant the show was at 10:00) and I snagged them. 

So, I let the slumbering guys know that I was taken off.  I would grab some breakfast at Studios, they could get breakfast at Pepper Market and meet me at Studios around 10:30. 

The husband mumbled a few questions including asking if I had laid their clothes out.  Yes.

My Trolley Car Cafe breakfast!
Out the door to the bus stop, on the bus and headed to the park, and I arrived just shortly after 9:00 am, when the park opened.  Breakfast—I went to Starring Rolls Café but nothing was appetizing, so I hopped across the street to The Trolley Car Café, sponsored by Starbucks, and ordered breakfast.  It was lovely dining on the umbrella tables just outside the café. 

When I finished, around 9:30 am, I headed to the Hyperion Theater, where the FROZEN Sing-Along takes place and discovered the first show was at 10:30 am, not 10:00.  Sent the husband a text—that I wouldn’t be able to meet until shortly after 11:00 and then got in line for The Great Movie Ride which had minimal wait.  Oh, and I met Max who was greeting guests just outside the theater.  You know who Max is, right?  He’s Goofy’s son!

Exited The Great Movie Ride just in time to queue up for the show, using the Fastpass entrance which is around the corner from the stand-by entrance.

By this time the guys had gone to breakfast.  I had sent some reminder texts—be sure to tell the bus driver you’re getting off at stop 1 (we had had a transportation issue on another day while traveling to breakfast).  March of the First Order was happening at 11:00—we had only seen a few seconds of it on another day as it had started raining.

I got a great seat for the show and did a Live Facebook feed.  This show really is cool—pun somewhat intended—and the jokes are very timely.  It reminded me of the Aladdin show at Disneyland last summer. 

I had a text from the husband that they were watching March of the First Order.  I messaged back—show over, going to the bathroom, meet you there.  Actually, I could see them in the crowd as I headed to the restroom, so they were easy to find.

When we met up, we had a few photos taken on the way out of the park, ordered large glasses of ice water at The Trolley Car Café, and then caught a boat to the Swan and Dolphin so we could walk across the street for some miniature golf.

Why splitting up worked:
  • We weren’t worried about using a day of park ticket.  Because we have Annual Passes, we can come and go to any park on any day. 
  • Everyone was familiar with the transportation system, the park, everything.  If there was uncertainty, splitting up would have been harder.
  • Cell phones.  We kept each other informed.

While I certainly enjoy traveling and touring with my family, going solo was freeing.  I felt light and nimble, not having to be concerned if the people who usually follow me were following.  I didn’t have to announce the next destination and wait for any feedback, I just decided and went on my way.  And, it was a great opportunity for the husband and boy to navigate without me. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Three New Character Meet and Greets At Disney's Hollywood Studios




During our Summer 2016 visit to the Walt Disney World Resort we took advantage of three new character meet and greets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Located back to back of each other in the area circled on the map below.

We thought the meet and greets were easy to find although we saw guests walking right past “Red Carpet Dreams” entrance for a couple of reasons:  One-they had no idea what it was--some thought it was a show and two, Chip and Dale were greeting guests just steps away across from Sci-Fi Diner entrance.  Since guests could physically see Chip and Dale, that’s where they went to queue up, outside, in the heat, and the sun.  While, the other character meet and greets had covered queues with fans and eventually led inside, to the air conditioning!

Celebrity Spotlight features Olaf.  Guests can find the entrance in the Echo Lake area, just past the Jedi Training Academy sign-up area but before the bathrooms.  Wait time is posted prior to the queue and we found it accurate. 

We met Olaf twice and enjoyed the interactions both times.


Spoiler Alert:  There are two Olafs!  There was a family of 10 ahead of us in the queue, they were taken in and we were told to stand behind the line to wait our turn, still outside, but far enough to block our view of the door.  When it was our turn to go in, there was another family in front of us. . . not the family of 10.  I made mention to the Cast Member handling the line inside and she just smiled.  I’m on to you Disney, but way to go to make the best use of space and guests’ time!  If you’re going to build one set why not build two?  

Red Carpet Dreams entrance is on Commissary Lane, with the queue being side by side to Celebrity Spotlight.  This meet and greet features both Minnie and Mickey.

Guests meet Minnie first in her plush digs and beautiful dress.


Then, travel down a corridor to find Sorcerer Mickey.  His “workshop” is very well appointed and he gave us a personal tour!  There’s magic there, so be sure to ask to see some!


Here are our Top Tips:
  • Check the Times Guide for character availability and plan accordingly.
  • Have your camera and autograph books ( for us it is a pillow case) ready.  Use that time in the queue to ready your materials rather than waiting until you’re with the character.
  • Have something to say to the characters.  I complimented Minnie’s dress, asked for a tour of Mickey’s workshop, and asked Olaf for a warm hug.  While the characters can’t speak, they can sure communicate!
  • Photopass Photographers are on hand so relax and let them do the work!  Then, scan your MagicBand or Photopass card to add the photos to your account.

Ready. Set. Smile!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Our Day At Typhoon Lagoon


Have swimsuit, water shoes, and waterproof camera—will travel to water parks!  Especially when entrance to Walt Disney World water parks is a part of our Annual Passes.  So we scheduled a visit to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon during our most recent trip to Walt Disney World.

We arrived before the park officially opened and were allowed in just past the shops and before the bridge.  Even though the park was not officially open yet, Photopass Photographers were on hand to take photos just past the entrance.  We were headed to an area near Crush ‘n’ Gusher—see circled area on the map below.

This area is typically not crowded.  We’ve had great luck finding a good spot for our belongings and appreciate the zero depth entry pool just steps away. 


Our first stop was Crush ‘n’ Gusher.  This multi-story water coaster offers three different slide experiences.  The boy rode multiple times giving two of the three slides a try, the husband and I rode once, and the husband and the boy rode once.  It’s not the slide that gets me, it’s the climb up! 




Hitting Crush ‘n’ Gusher first helps to beat the lines.  Once the lines started to build up, it was time to move on.

Next was the wave pool, but wait, Stitch was greeting guests, so we stopped and said “Hello.” 


Then, there were more photographs before the wave pool along with photos IN the wave pool.



Time for more slides!  We exited the wave pool and rode Gangplank Falls, a family raft ride.  Know that guests get to carry or roll the raft up the hill for part of the journey! 



Upon exiting, we rode Mayday Falls, an individual tube slide, which is very bumpy.  Again, there’s the carrying of your tube up the hill.  A third slide exists here—Keelhaul Falls, but we passed.

Before we floated lazily in Castaway Creek, we stopped to see Lilo greeting guests.  She and Stitch alternate so it was great to say “Hang Loose” to her!
Time to hit Castaway Creek which has several entrances around the water park. 




We did one whole loop and then returned to the other side of Mount Mayday for the boy to take some turns on Humunga Kowabunga and the Storm Slides.
Exiting Humunga Kowabunga just as Tilly was blowing her spout!
At the end of the Storm Slides--there are three of them.  Check out that catch pool!
The timing was terrific as we were hungry for lunch at this point and Typhoon Tilly’s was just steps away.  This is our favorite place to eat while at Typhoon Lagoon.  Why?  The fried shrimp, but more specifically, the special shrimp sauce.  It is SO good!  I asked for doubles for both the boy and me.  They also have Key Lime pie for dessert—yummy!  This location is a counter or quick service location for Dining Plan users.  All I had to do was scan my MagicBand and voila—lunch was served!

After lunch, we floated in Castaway Creek, spent more time in the wave pool, and then called it a day.




It has become a Williams Family tradition that upon exiting a water park we stop for mini donuts sold at stands at each of the Walt Disney World Resort water parks.  I had brought cash for the half-dozen mini donuts and was delighted that these melt-in-your-mouth sweet treats are now snacks on the Disney Dining Plan!  Money put away and MagicBand scanned!  We snacked on these while heading to the bus stop.

The husband said his favorite was the surf photo taken in the wave pool.  The boy said his favorites were his face not burning (he does not do well in Shark Reef with the salt water) and the wave pool.  My favorite part of the day was watching people at the bottom of the Storm Slides.  Lots of things are lost there and the life guards have to stop the people from going down the three slides and then dive in the catch pool to find the lost items.  Sometimes they wear a mask and sometimes they do not.  This is all very interesting to me.  So that and the lush, tropical setting is a feast for the senses—those are my favorites.

Our top tips for enjoying your day:
  • Go to the slides early—first thing!
  • Arrive at park opening or later in the afternoon when the first wave of guests (pun partially intended) is leaving.
  • Get a map at the entrance if you are not familiar with the park.  Better yet, take a look see at the map online prior to arriving to familiarize yourself with the terrain.
  • Hydrate—water cups and water are available throughout the park.  Take advantage.
  • Sunscreen, hat/visor, sunglasses.
  • Don’t rent towels at $2 per towel, but don’t take towels from your resort room either.  Swing by your resort pool and grab some towels to take with you.  Take advantage of the towel return boxes located at the water park as you can place your wet towels there.  No need to tote them back to your resort!
  • Enjoy!  This is not the time or place to feel body conscious.  You’re never going to see these people again, so put on that swimsuit and go for it!
  • Wear water shoes!  We swear by them and know that they make are day go smoothly.
  • This tip is not just for water parks, but for travel in general—wear a water proof watch.
A great day was had by all at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon!