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Disney World vs Disneyland: Star Tours

The biggest difference between Star Tours at Disneyland and Star Tours at Walt Disney World is where the attraction is located.

That’s it.

You see, if you’re at Disneyland, you’ll need to head over to Tomorrowland (at light speed, I presume), where as if you’re at Walt Disney World, you’ll need to bypass the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and wander over to Star Tours. I should mention that the outside of the ride at DHS is superior – it looks like Endor out there – but that’s about it. Once you get inside, it’s the exact same thing. The waiting areas are identical. The scratched up 3D glasses are identical. (Maybe make these not so crappy and have them look like the podracer goggles, because, you know… you’re Disney.) The ride is identical. Read the rest of this entry

Disney's Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center: Two Parks, One Problem

We’ve been going to Walt Disney World on a nearly annual basis since 2008 and while some things get better, some things stay the same. One thing that desperately needs to change is the problem shared by Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center.

Both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center just don’t have enough attractions to support the parks. This is slightly elevated at EPCOT by 1) The Presence of Alcohol and 2) The sheer size of the park, but at DHS, the problem is out there for everyone to see. Essentially, each of the parks have three premium attractions that everyone wants to experience.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Toy Story Midway Mania!

EPCOT Center
Mission Space
Test Track

It’s not entirely true that everyone wants to experience all three of the attractions at each park I’ve mentioned…

Aside: for the following reasons
Mission Space has two missions – an ‘more intense’ and a ‘less intense’ version, so that keeps the lines down there a bit, but either way, it’s a tightly enclosed space, and some folks just aren’t up for that.
The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith goes upside down and is a roller coaster, and some people don’t like one or both of those things.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror just looks scary from the outside – I’ve seen people look at it and shake their head while simultaneously saying "No Way."

…but there is one on the list for each park that seems to be a must see for all ages: Toy Story Midway Mania! and Soarin’. I, for one, am not wild about either attractions, but I am in the smallest of minorities on this issue. And, because of the mania (if you’ll forgive the pun), these two attractions can easily by missed by casual park goers. You literally need to plan your trip to these parks around these two attractions. As soon as you walk into DHS, you’ll need to get a fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania! or you’re not going to get to visit that attraction without enduring a horrendous wait. The same goes for Soarin’ (although the refit on Test Track is taking some of the heat off Soarin’… for now, at least.), where they post a uniformed security guard at some point later in the day – probably after the fastpasses are gone.

Yeah, that’s another problem: there are only so many fastpasses they can give out in a day.

Aside: a fastpass is a ticket you pick up at the gate to the ride that instructs you at what time you can return and visit the attraction and therefore bypass nearly all of the standby line.

And because there are only so many fastpasses available per day, once they run out, you’re stuck with the standby line and a wait that can be anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, and we’re not doing that. If you don’t arrive at the park early, you’re not going to get a fastpass. For example, walking into DHS at 1 PM and trying to get a fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania! has never been possible for us – and we’ve gone to the park in January. One thing you can do is wait until just before the park closes and hop on the standby line. It’s usually a bit shorter by then and once they let you online, they will not kick you off, even if the park is technically closed. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, take advantage of those extra magic hours, but don’t depend on them for these two attractions – unless they’re in the morning and you’re there when they open, that is. Then it’s not so bad.

This bottle neck of popular attractions is beneath Disney – they can do better. So what can they do? Well, for one, they can start by investing in their parks. They’ve already neck deep in the new version of Fantasy Land at the Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT and DHS both need new attractions. At some point, I imagine DHS will be ripe with Marvel characters and attractions, but that hasn’t happened yet – perhaps because Universal Studios still have a license agreement with Marvel? I don’t know why, but one would think that Disney didn’t buy Marvel just to let that potential sit on the shelf – surely, at some point, they’ll want to incorporate those films into the parks (and hence increase their credibility with boys and stop suggesting they all dress up like murderous pirates), but maybe they’ll get there eventually. I know one of the pavilions at EPCOT is going to become Stark Industries and will presumably feature some sort of Iron Man attraction, but we’ll have to wait and see exactly how that shakes out. And speaking of EPCOT, I think they need to dedicate an entire pavilion to their roller coast simulator, The Sum of all Thrills because it is AWESOME. Planning and then riding a roller coaster was even more fun than it sounds. I barely knew it existed and had no idea where it was until a week ago. They need to rename that pavilion the after SOAT. No one knows what Inovations or Inoventions means… or whatever the hell it’s called now. (Oh and there are two pavilions with that name – that always disorients me as to where I am physically located in the park.)

When you go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center, be ready with a plan, and make sure it starts out with you arriving at the entry gate 5 minutes before the park opens and then going directly to get those fastpasses I mentioned.

Good luck!

Vegan at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We recently visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios (aka The Artist Formerly Known as MGM) and perused the vegan dining options. Here’s what we found:

The Brown Derby
Though pricey, TheBrown Derby had an excellent vegan option in a noodle bowl that was topped with a piece of coconut incrusted tofu. I could have used a bigger piece of tofu (the tofu was really excellent, and I wouldn’t call myself a guy who loves tofu), but the noodles and the sauce that accompanied them were great, so I had no trouble eating that. Our waiter was knowledgeable and understood what we meant by ‘vegan’ to the point that he even brought us oil and balsamic vinegar rather than butter when the bread showed up. Again, two entrees and two beers cost us a small fortune, but the food was great. Read the rest of this entry

Ideas for Improving Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios Edition

Welcome to Part 3 of my on going series, Ideas to Improve Walt Disney World.

When it comes to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, I think I had some fairly constructive criticism for the folks at Walt Disney World to think over.  But now I’m writing about Disney’s Hollywood Studios and…  well, the center digit on either of my hands kinda sums up how I feel about the situation. Read the rest of this entry

Walt Disney World vacation musings


Earlier this month, we headed down to Disney World for a little vacation.

It was fun, but we chose Disney because we wanted to go somewhere warm, and it didn’t really work out that way.  When we arrived on Friday, it was pretty nice, but as the days passed it got steadily colder until Monday night, I was contemplating spending  $54 on a hooded sweatshirt.  We ended up buying hats, and that improved our comfort level a good deal. Read the rest of this entry

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