Here is a review, from Disney Dining, of the Pop Century Resort at Walt Disney World. The Mature Mouse™️ is looking forward to my next stay at this well-themed resort.
Click on the image to read the complete review.
The Mature Mouse™ has been given the opportunity to return to Disney World in late June. This will be a solo trip dedicated to exploring the parks, taking photos, and researching material for future blogs. I am seeking your guidance in the creation of my touring plans. I want to focus my time in the parks on those attractions and events that you want to read about. Please take a minute to complete the following polls, each focused on a different Disney Park. Listed are those attractions that are not as popular, or, more geared toward families with children. As a mature fan of Disney World, which attraction in each list would you suggest I visit and include in a future post? Please leave a comment if there is an attraction I missed that you would like me to consider in creating my touring plans.
Please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. Many of the items would make great additions to your vacation gear and attire.
And, make sure you consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation. Tell her that The Mature Mouse™ sent you and receive a special gift from Jennie with your next booking.
My strategy for touring the parks at Walt Disney World includes taking time to immerse myself in the Disney experience. I try to remember to look up, down, and all around at the details the Imagineers included in the parks and attractions. I also enjoy those attractions that guests tend to overlook, some of which are classic Disney. The Carousel of Progress was part of the 1964 Worlds Fair. The
Disney Fanactic recently posted a list of the 12 Overlooked Attractions at Walt Disney World. Take a look at their list and let me know what you think of these attractions. Are they on your must-do list, or do you run by them on your way to the next E-ticket ride? Has the new FastPass+ system created lines at these overlooked attractions?
Based on all of the crowd calendars I read, we decided that the first morning of our vacation would be spent at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Many regular WDW visitors do not recommend scheduling a FP+ during the first hours of the park opening. However, we did not want to rush to the park for rope-drop, then dash through the park to an attraction. We had scheduled a FastPass+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris from 9:15-10:15. If we really enjoyed the attraction, and the lines were short, we could ride it again. This is the way we structured all our mornings in the parks. This morning would be a test-run for our system.
We had stocked a few food items in the room for a quick breakfast. So, after a quick stop at the Beach Club Marketplace for coffee, we headed off to take the bus to DAK. The wait was not long, and the ride was fairly quick and uneventful. Before entering the park, we stopped to have our picture taken in front of the park sign by one of the Disney PhotoPass photographers. We had added Disney Memory Maker to our package. I will address the value of this added expense during my post-trip blog. For now, let me say that it was a pleasure to have our picture taken together in front of the park. We have so many vacation photos of one or the other of us, or selfies that do not include much of our surroundings.
We took our time wandering toward the back of the park. This would have been an appropriate time to explore some of the various paths heading toward Africa. We did not do this and I wish we had taken more time to discover the unique elements of this park. However, being June, it was hot and humid that morning. We did not want to take too much time getting to the attraction.
The theming of Harambe Village is very authentic to an African village, from the thatch roofs, to the aged and weathered look of the buildings, even the crumbling or missing walls left over from the occupation by the British. For some, this could seem unwelcoming. I found the theming to be part of the DAK experience; I was immersed in my surroundings. I felt as if I was in Africa, and the weather was adding to the atmosphere.
Kilimanjaro Safaris was also very authentic, although I doubt you would find all those animals in such close proximity to each other in Africa. However, that is not the point. A ‘real’ African Safari would take days or weeks, without any guarantee of seeing an animal. The Disney Imagineers have created an authentic safari experience, including creaky, old bridges and washed out roads, without any visible barriers or pens for the animals. I was surprised at just how close you get to them. The ride was often jarring, but that added to the experience.
Part of our vacation planning included designing and printing thank-you cards for exceptional cast members. These were the size of a business card. It was an idea I found on a few of the planning blogs I had consulted. Our safari driver was the first park cast member to receive one of these cards. She did an excellent job explaining the surroundings and the animals, and making us feel like we were on an African safari.
We took a walk through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Unlike Kilimanjaro Safaris, this felt more like a zoo. Despite the fact that animals were situated within authentic environments, they were behind cages or glass walls. One of the silverback gorillas mooned us while bending over for a drink at a spring.
Our next FP+ was scheduled for Dinosaur, between the hours of 10:40-11:40, which is located on the other side of the park. We took our time walking in that direction. Again, it would have been nice to explore diverse areas on Discovery Island, but the crowds were building along with the heat, which kept us moving. We did stop along the way for a few shots of the Tree of Life. This was a little emotional for both my wife and me. We had heard so much about this park icon, and there we were standing right in front of it.
Dinosaur was a thrilling experience, albeit a short one. We were given the opening spiel about time traveling back in time, just before the meteors wiped out all the dinosaurs. Through special lighting effects, a jeep that bounced and jarred us through the blackness of the past, we were given a fantastic ride. This is one of the attractions that include an on-ride photo. Although you know that this world and the creatures in it has all been imagineered into reality, you do get caught up in the moment. I certainly did.
We lunched at Restaurantosaurus, which is humorously themed as living quarters for a group of young paleontologists. As quick service food goes, it was good. We each had a Chicken BLT Salad. Each quick service meal comes with dessert, and who were we to argue? I had the cheesecake and my wife had the chocolate mousse. Both were served in a glass. Our meal also included two bottles of water. You need to remain hydrated! The price of this lunch was just around $33 for the two of us, just over $15 per person.
We made our way over to the theatre to see Finding Nemo – the Musical. We had a FP+ for this production, which did get us quickly through the line, but did not give us preferred seating. The theater is large, as are the sets and characters. We are fans of the movie, and we became fans of this live-action version of the story. The characters are huge puppets controlled by actors, who also give the characters their voice. Without giving too much away, there are special effects that immerse the audience in the underwater adventure of Nemo, Marlin, and Dory. This is a must-do for all ages.
As we were leaving the theater, heading toward Asia, we decided the park was getting very crowded, and we were getting tired. We had a special evening planned for at the California Grill, so we decided to head out of the park and back to our room at Disney’s Beach Club. The wait for the bus was short, and the ride not too long.
Some consider DAK a ‘half-day’ park because it does not have as many attractions as some of the smaller parks. However, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is huge, and attractions are dispersed throughout the park, which requires a lot of walking. There are a few walking trails to explore and details to investigate in all areas of the park. It is also considered the hottest park; for some reason, the temps are always higher at DAK than in the rest of the parks. I would like to revisit this park, on a cooler, less crowded day, and take some time to study all the special touches the Imagineers included in their design of the park. There are new experiences coming to DAK, including Rivers of Light and Pandora, a separate area based on the movie Avatar.
How do you plan your time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Do you consider it a half or full day park?In your opinion, is Disney’s Memory Maker a good value? Has a cast member ever gone out of their way to share some extra Disney Magic with you? Do you give thank you notes or gifts to exceptional cast members?
In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse™ I will review our evening at the California Grill. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise. And, do not forget to consult Jennie Nowers about your next Disney vacation, and mention this blog for a free gift with your booking.
This is great article, from Fast Pass to Fantasy Land, which debunks the myths associated with a Disney World Vacation. Please pay close attention to number 3 – “Disney is all Mickey Mouse and kid stuff.” The Mature Mouse is focused on promoting the positive aspects of a Walt Disney World Vacation to middle-aged vacationers, and “some of the best things about Disney are geared toward adults.”
Disney Fanatic has posted a great review of the 10 most beautiful places in Walt Disney World. http://www.disneyfanatic.com/10-beautiful-places-walt-disney-world/
As The Mature Mouse has stated before, it is this immersion into your surroundings that makes a WDW vacation an excellent choice for adults. Those Disney guests that spend their time rushing from attraction to attraction miss the Disney magic created by the Imagineers. It is my recommendation that you take your time to look and experience every detail while you are in the parks.
Most people would probably begin their trip report with a description of their arrival at a Disney resort or one of the theme parks. Or, maybe they think passing under the Walt Disney World sign is the real beginning of their trip. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, our trip began the moment we booked our vacation. Research and preparation were an important part of our vacation. Based on my reading of various blogs and websites, many regular visitors to WDW report that the anticipation that comes from planning is very much a part of the Disney experience, and I would have to agree.
The second stage of our Disney vacation began with the arrival of our trip documents from our travel agent. It was really happening. We were going to Disney World. We received the luggage tags that would guide our bags from our airport departure directly to our resort room. This was a perk we were definitely planning on using. We would not need to wait for luggage after landing, or wheel them around the Orlando airport. They would magically appear in our room a few hours after our arrival.
Our MagicBands arrived from Disney shortly after our travel materials. The box was decorated with images of the characters from the movie, “The Incredibles.” Our names were printed inside the box under each of our bands. My wife had chosen a red one, and I went with blue. Inside the box was a flash drive with instructions to view in order to obtain special instructions for our trip. The video was an animated “briefing,” by Edna ‘E’ Code, on the advantages of MyMagic+ and the use of the MagicBands. This was our first experience with a little bit of Disney magic. Disney goes to great lengths to give guests these touches of magic, down to the smallest detail. I was looking forward to experiencing just how well Disney incorporated these details, immersing guests in stories unique to each park and resort.
Our arrival at Orlando International Airport was uneventful. We had stored the MagicBands in our carry-on bags, as instructed, and were wearing them when we arrived at the Disney Magical Express Welcome Center. They scanned our MagicBands and knew immediately who were and our Disney Resort destination. The wait to board one of the busses took only a few minutes. The bus driver greeted each passenger warmly and with a big smile. The video we saw on the bus was corny, but fun. The narrator gave us instructions about the resort check-in procedure, and background about the Magical Express Bus. Coincidentally, the video featured our bus driver. And, yes, the passengers cheered as we passed under the Walt Disney World sign, encouraged by our driver.
As we entered the lobby of the Beach Club, a cast member greeted us, called us by name, and welcomed us home. Our bands had not yet been scanned at the resort. How did they know who we were? More magic!
Our package did not include a park ticket for our arrival day because we knew we would be arriving too late in the evening. Instead, we took time to explore the resort. We walked along the white sandy beach of Crescent Lake, checked out Stormalong Bay, as well as the “adult” pool behind the Beach Club Villas. We did not have an ADR for dinner, so we took a chance and asked the hostess if there was a table available at Cape May. Although they were minutes away from closing for the evening, they accommodated us and were very welcoming. Our waitress was friendly, taking time at the end of her shift to explain the buffet, often checking with us throughout our meal to see if we needed anything and to make sure we were satisfied with the experience. More magic! They only set back was the cost of our dinner, which was around one hundred dollars for the two of us. Ouch! That was very unexpected, and why I was glad we had chosen a dining plan for the majority of our vacation.
We were finally at Walt Disney World. Our plan was to hit Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the morning, a decision based on the various crowd calendars I had read. After some time back at our resort to rest and refresh, we would enjoy an adult evening at the California Grill. If the Disney magic continues, we might get to see the Wishes fireworks display from our table.
When does your trip to Walt Disney World begin, before or after your arrival? What do you plan to do on your arrival day? Do you plan an afternoon or evening at one of the parks? Has a cast member ever gone out of their way to share some extra Disney Magic with you?
In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse™ I will review our first day in the parks. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ store for logo merchandise.
Did we really need to create such a detailed plan of our week, choosing which day would be the least crowded, with the shortest lines, for each park? Is there really a strategy in touring each park?
The dinner reservations we made had already created an overview of our vacation week. Based on the park location and time of day for each reservation, I began to prepare a plan for each of our park visits: which attractions were on our must-do list and which of those attractions needed a FastPass+ reservation to avoid long lines. I wanted to have at least an outline for our week so that I would be ready to make all FastPass+ choices on the sixty-day mark. I did not want, however, to plan every hour of every day, and we both just wanted to make sure we had some time to rest each day, as well as allow for some flexibility and spontaneity in our schedule for each day.
Many people design their Disney World trip as if it is a battle and they must have a strategic plan of approach. Other vacationers prefer their vacations to be spontaneous, which is how we usually take our vacations. At the recommendation of our travel agent, and considering this would be our first visit, we bought the 2014 version of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. This book, written by the creators of touringplans.com, was overwhelming at first. There are chapters on every aspect of planning and experiencing your Walt Disney World vacation. Could a trip to WDW be this complicated?
My research indicated that there was a great deal of anxiety among experienced WDW vacationers since the creation and implementation of My Disney Experience, Magic Bands, and FastPass+. It certainly seemed important to become aware of Disney’s new technology and the most efficient way to use it for planning our park visits. We learned from the Unofficial Guide, and the ‘companion website, that knowing the expected crowd levels for each park on any given day would help to minimize the stress of crowds during our vacation.
On our first full day we already had an ADR for the California Grill at 7:30. From Disney’s Beach Club Resort it is only a short walk to the International Gateway at Epcot. We had planned on taking an afternoon walk from our resort, through the World Showcase and Future World, to the monorail station at the front of Epcot. We had done our research and new that this would be a bit of a hike, and a long monorail ride to the Transportation and Ticket Center, followed by a ride on the resort loop to Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We wanted the complete Disney experience of gliding into the Contemporary on the monorail.
Based on the crowd calendar on several websites (Touring Plans, Easy WDW, WDW Prep School, and Dad’s Guide to WDW – yes, I researched them all), the crowds at DAK would be lower on this particular day of our vacation. A morning trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a logical choice for that day, allowing us time to experience the park, and then return to the Beach Club for some rest before our anniversary dinner at the California Grill.
We did not want to rush our morning, but we had hoped to get to DAK early. I planned a FastPass+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris for the opening hour of the park. This would give us time to go to the park and make the long trek to the attraction at a leisurely pace. A great deal of what I read on various blogs and websites did not recommend using FP+ for the first few hours after a park opens. These recommendations appear to be coming from those individuals who are attempting to do as much as possible. They wait in line for rope drop, and then go to the first attraction on their list. We want to take our time wandering toward the attraction, and, if the lines prove to be short enough, we would be able to ride the attraction again. I also planned FP+ for Dinosaur and Finding Nemo – The Musical later that morning. We would find a time and place for lunch while our roaming through the park between each attraction.
We had an ADR for lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during our second full day at WDW. The plan was to book FP+ for Star Tours within the beginning hour of park opening, permitting us the same flexibility of wandering through the park after arriving by boat from our resort, Disney’s Beach Club. Again, if time and short lines allowed, we would experience the attraction a second (or third) time. We also planned FP+ for the Great Movie Ride, and the performance of Beauty and the Beast, all before our luncheon. Other attractions on our to-do list while at DHS included the Muppet*Vision 3D, the Studio Backlot Tour, One Man’s Dream, and the Indian Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, all of which we should be able to walk on with very little wait time.
We recognized that we would need to sleep-in midway through our vacation week, and we had an ADR for Be Our Guest at 4 o’clock the afternoon of our third day, so we should plan for an evening at the Magic Kingdom. We booked FP+ for Under the Sea, Haunted Mansion (my favorite – please refer to my first post), and the Main Street Electrical Parade. Again, many WDW experienced visitors do not recommend using FP+ for a parade. However, as middle-aged vacationers, we wanted to avoid needing to find and hold a spot well in advance of the parade. We could certainly make good use of that time.
We planned to utilize the Park Hopper to split our fourth day between two parks. We were planning on a return visit to the Magic Kingdom in the morning and scheduled FP+ for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Splash Mountain, in that order. I also hoped to be able to have a second ride through the Haunted Mansion. We would lunch in the park before returning to our resort for a break. I had made a list of possible Quick Service options for us to choose from. Our evening was planned around dinner at the Rose & Crown in the U.K., with time to wander through the other World Showcase pavilions. Hopefully, we would be able to catch Illuminations. This is one reason we chose the Beach Club as our resort, the proximity to Epcot. As mature vacationers, visiting WDW for the first time, we liked the idea of staying at a resort next to Epcot and the World Showcase for the variety of cultural experiences it afforded us. Although I am still a fanatic about the Magic Kingdom, World Showcase in Epcot offers experiences more suited to adult interests. We were looking forward to the variety of dining, shopping, and other cultural experiences offered in the pavilion of each country. This is part of the main reasons I believe a Walt Disney World vacation is perfect for middle-aged vacationers. Where else can you experience the culture of 11 unique countries in one place, without leaving the United States?
Our final vacation day would be scheduled around Epcot. I planned FP+ for Spaceship Earth, Mission: SPACE (green), and Maelstrom. We were also intending to be able to walk onto other Future World attractions. After a break at our resort, just a short walk from the International Gateway, we would return in the afternoon to continue our exploration of the World Showcase. We had made an ADR at Tutto Italia Ristorante, and planned a second viewing of Illuminations.
Both the app and website for My Disney Experience turned out to be easy to navigate. After making our initial FP+ bookings for each park visit, I was easily able to log in to make adjustments after the 60-day mark. I had read that the wireless connection throughout the Disney Parks would be sporadic at best, so I made sure to take snapshots of all our FP+ reservations, as well as our ADRs. I did not know whether I would need them, or if the cast members would accept them, but it made sense to have these images as backup.
How do you plan your Disney vacation? Do you schedule a daily tour of each park, with exact times allotted for each attraction? Have you had any trouble adapting to the new FastPass+ system? What are your experiences using the app and/or website of My Disney Experience? Do you plan time to rest during the activities of each day? Do you schedule a morning to sleep-in during your vacation? Please post your comments and keep the conversation going, and do not hesitate to share my posts and blog site with other Disney fans.
The next chapter of The Mature Mouse™ will begin a series of posts detailing our experiences each day, explaining what worked and what changes we needed to make in our schedule. If you are indeed a mature fan of Disney, a mature mouse, please use the link to visit The Mature Mouse™ Store for logo merchandise.