A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: Z

If we could rewind a bit to A and T for a sec...Thank you Tara Tyler and Alex J. Cavanaugh for featuring me in your N and Y posts, respectively!  Such nice surprises from two surprisingly nice people. Looking forward to catching their Zs. :)  

Umm, I should probably go back to B as well.  As Suze's incessant giggling reminds me, I owe Blogger an apology:
Dear Blogger,
Ever so sorry for flipping out and swearing at you in text lingo.  It appears the fault for that scheduling glitch lies entirely with me.  Although...well, I still think you could've somehow made it more clear that saving the scheduling information in the sidebar doesn't complete the process - the save button says "Done," after all.  Just saying.  
And now on with the show...

Z is for: Zebras!

It's fitting that we're ending on one of my most favorite Disney World discoveries---the Sanaa restaurant in the Kidani Village, part of Disney's Animal Kingdom resort.

Sanaa not only has delicious African food, it's got floor to ceiling windows with views like this:

I had high expectations after reading about Sanaa online, and I have to say, our lunch here lived up to every one of them.  You really do get to see tons of zebras plus giraffes, gazelles, wildebeests, and ostriches.  If you're lucky, a crazy bird will walk right up to the window by your table and challenge its reflection.

The Kidani Village is an easy bus ride from Disney's Animal Kingdom park, and what's really cool is that sitting down to a meal at Sanaa allows for time to simply watch and see what's going to happen next. Like zebras rolling on their backs like puppy dogs, or a giraffe kicking at one of the stripey fellas when he gets impatient waiting for his turn at the hay sack.

We lucked out with a window-side table, but the restaurant is small and all the tables seem situated with the view in mind. Actually, Sanaa itself is quite the visual pleasure.

Disney World Trivia
Between 1948 -1960 Walt Disney Productions produced a series of short subject documentaries with a focus on nature and wildlife.  What was the name of that series?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: Y

Y is for: Your very own roller coaster

A newish (2009) and underplayed gem at Epcot is the Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions East.

At this attraction you get to design your very own roller coaster from beginning to end, and then you get to virtually ride it!  It's SO much fun, and for something I'd barely even heard about, way cooler than I expected.  

The enclosed capsules for virtual riding can be a bit intimidating to some (like my son), but even the claustrophobic can participate---my daughter and I didn't peek while he designed, and then we girls rode his creation at our own risk. 

When the attendant looked at our design card and asked, "You're going upside down three times?" I could only reply, "Apparently so."

Disney World Trivia
Which of Disney World's four major roller coasters is the shortest in duration?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: X

X is for: Xanax for Your Feet

For months before every trip to Walt Disney World, I embark on a quest for the perfect shoe.   Because if my feet aren't happy, I'm not happy.  So I've spent a lot of money on adorable yet comfortable shoes. But every trip to Disney World, I end up falling back on my old stand-by: Crocks.  And not the cute little numbers they've evolved into---I'm talking first issue, drab blue, complete-absence-of-anything-resembling-style Crocks. 

I know they're ugly, and I know they're only made of rubber, but it's a miracle rubber, because when pushing the Disney World pavement to its limit, these are the only puppies that don't have me crying by mid-afternoon.

To be fair, I know the darling Naot sandals I purchased for the last trip would've stood up to the challenge, however, it was a rainy week and I didn't want to risk ruining my new leather shoes, so it was Crocks to the rescue again.  An extra bonus of the rubber is that it completely dries out when you duck inside---so much better than having to squish around in soggy socks or saturated leather all day.

You can buy Disney crocks with Mickey-eared holes at the Disney World parks and resorts, but if you want a pair, don't wait for the rains to come---they sell out quickly.

Disney World Trivia
 Without searching for an image, tell me off the top of your head - what color are Donald Duck's shoes?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: W

Which Disney Character are You?

Practically hidden---in The Magic of Disney Animation at Disney's Hollywood Studios---is the "Which Disney Character are You?" quiz. You might be able to find similar quizzes online, but those don't count.  You must take the test on Disney property for it to be official (in the rules according to moi). 

It's totally worth the sideline.  We ventured into the walk-through attraction on a hot, crowded day at Hollywood Studios, but found the large, air-conditioned space to be fairly uninhabited.  We were free to peruse the exhibits and play with the interactive computers without waiting and had a lot of fun.  Winnie the Pooh and Sorcerer Mickey even made an appearance for photo ops with hardly any line at all.

The one part of the exhibit I personally didn't care for was the show.  It's over-the-top cheesy and you feel pressure to laugh because of the live guy on stage in close proximity.  You're supposed to enter the building via the theater, watch the show, and then be released to see the cool stuff, but if you want to skip the show, you can easily enter at the exit, which we did by accident.

Disney World Trivia
As I reported in my Disney World postmortem, I took the "Which Disney Character Are you Quiz" last fall---who did I get?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: V

V is for: Veneration

If you love anything Disney, then it's only right to pay homage to the man who followed his dreams and thus feeds ours.  And you'll be glad you did.  Because One Man's Dream, a tribute to Walter Disney at Disney's Hollywood Studios, is not only an interesting walk-through-at-your-own-pace exhibit of memorabilia from the Disney archives, it's a pleasant escape from the hot, crowded asphalt of the park.

My favorite things: the models of the Disney parks throughout the world and the short movie (about 15 minutes) in the comfy theater.  The movie contains never before seen footage of Walt himself and provides a nice little history of how the magical place you're in the midst of came to be.   

The two in the middle you'll recognize.  The other two...let's just say they grow on ya after a while...like a fungus. ;)

Disney World Trivia
In what city was Walter Disney born?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: U

U is for: Universe of Energy

I guess this attraction qualifies as my dorky favorite.  You know, one of those rides that's not, like, great and it's totally dated, but for some reason you love it?  My tip today has two parts.  First is a warning that Ellen's Energy Adventure, the attraction in the Universe of Energy pavilion, is 45 minutes long.  That's really long---longer than most of the shows---so plan accordingly.

Also, if your kids dig dinosaurs but are too young for the Dinosaur! ride in Animal Kingdom, Ellen's Energy Adventure makes an excellent mild-mannered alternative.  You just have to put up with a bit of education.

Disney World Trivia
Name the three other celebrities in the opening movie with Ellen DeGeneres.

Bonus Question:
If they were to ever redo the opening movie for this ride, which cast of characters from a currently popular TV show do I think should totally be in it?
(Think about it...science...theories...c'mon, you can do this!)


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: T

Is it just me or is it not April 23?  WTF Blogger?  Nice new "scheduling" system.  I see it's working great.  *mini-rant over. for the full version come to my house, haha*

T is for: Toy Story Mania

It is indeed a mania.  The almost four-year-old attraction at Disney World's Hollywood Studios is currently the most popular attraction in all four theme parks.  Why that's the case is still a mystery to me---I mean, it's an adorable ride, but not nearly worth the 130 minute waits we saw for it.  Yet park visitors flock to Toy Story Mania and Fastpasses disappear early.

I was so surprised when we picked up our Fastpasses before 10am and our window didn't start until 2:30 that afternoon.  Then when we went to use them, the Fastpass wait was over 20 minutes.  That's absurd!  Not only is it against my principles to wait that long in the freaking Fastpass lane, we had an early dinner reservation at Epcot and had to skeedaddle.  The fun thing about the situation was that we got to bestow a little Disney magic on a random family of four when we handed them the coveted Toy Story Mania passes on our way out of Hollywood Studios.

So my T tip is that if you're determined to ride Toy Story Mania, arrive at Hollywood Studios before opening (as per tip A) and when the ropes drop go to Toy Story Mania, go directly to Toy Story Mania...and be prepared to move along the streets herd-of-cattlelike. 

Mr. Potato Head will entertain you while you wait

Disney World Trivia
Name the two actors who played a role in one of the 80s TV Shows featured in my A to Z posts last year AND voiced a character in all three Toy Story movies.


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: S

S is for: Schedules

If you like to plan ahead (who, me?) you're going to love this link:

Each week it's updated with Disney World's schedules for shows, character greetings, parades, fireworks, dates of special events, and even those little street performances that feel so random.

Just click on a park at the top of the site's screen and the World is yours. 

Disney World Trivia
In what months does Disney's Hollywood Studios host Star Wars weekends?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: R

R is for: Rapunzel

Rapunzel is Disney's newest princess and the highest in demand for photo ops.  Lines to see her get outrageously long so if your little one (or not-so-little one as was the case with me) has her heart set on standing next to the long-haired vixen, get in line as soon as you can after park opening. And be warned---these princesses must have a powerful union, because it seems 'Punzel gets a break every 15 minutes or so, dragging out the wait time. 

Currently the place to meet Rapunzel---and apparently Flynn too, although he wasn't there the day we went---is at the Magic Kingdom in Fairytale Gardens, at the rear of Cinderella's castle on the Tomorrowland side.  With the new Fantasyland partial openings, I imagine character greetings will get switched around so the best thing to do is grab a park map with an event insert to see where & when she's stationed that day...or you can tune in tomorrow for the Disney World planning tip of the century. ;) 

Disney World Trivia
What kind of animal is Rapunzel's pet?  And for a bonus point, what's his name?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: Q

Q is for: Quench your thirst - for FREE!

Tucked away near Innoventions West is Club Cool where you can grab a sampler cup and taste Coca-Cola products from around the world.  You help yourself at a multitude of dispenser stations.  It's a great place to cool off, and for us it provided a dry, sunshiney atmosphere on a very rainy day.

The toughest thing about the place is finding it, so here's a map to help out.  Club Cool is directly to the right of the fountains (in the same building as 13 on the opposite end of the curved awning).

Disney World Trivia
(Visitors to the Coke museum in Hotlanta can also play along)
What's the name of Coca-Cola's wickedly bitter Italian soda?  


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: P

P is for: Ponchos

You're not too cool for a plastic poncho.  Not when you're at Disney World and the rains cometh. You might think your more fashion conscious raincoat-of-choice will work just as well, but it won't.

It won't be as convenient for whipping on & off as you go in and out of buildings, or as lightweight and easy to shove into a remote corner of your backpack to carry with you just in case. And it certainly won't cover the hulking aforementioned backpack the way these close cousins of the common garbage bag will.  

Many will tell you to buy a cheap Wal~Mart version ahead of time, but that's not the way I roll.  When I succumb to the poncho, I go full force---overpriced and Mickey emblazoned.  

Disney World Trivia
The most drenched my family got this last trip was in the World Showcase at Epcot---because there's no shelter to be had when country hopping. Can you name all eleven countries represented in Disney World's World Showcase pavilions?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: O

O is for: Over land Or sea

People who stay at Boardwalk or Yacht & Beach Clubs probably already know this, but I didn't until my last trip to Disney World---you can walk, yes walk, from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk and Epcot.  OR you can take a boat. Either way, allow for a leisurely 30-45 minute commute between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. 

Below is a map that shows the walking path in pink and the boat docks as red dots.  The boat stops at all the dots so it's a bit slow going, but nice if you want to get off your feet for a little while with fun scenery along the way.  Next time I want to try the walking path---looks like it goes right along the Boardwalk, so that could be a perfect stop for lunch before completing the path to Epcot.     

Perhaps the most fun thing about taking boat or path versus the bus is that you enter Epcot at what feels like a secret backdoor entrance---the International Gateway, right between the UK and France.  Ooh la la!

For this tip, I must once again thank my mother, who is following along with these posts and submitting her trivia guesses via e-mail (don't be discouraged or anything, but at the moment she is kicking all of your sorry bums).  

Disney World Trivia
Including the two water parks, name the six parks on Walt Disney World property in the order in which they opened.


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: N

N is for: Nom-noms

While it's true that I tend to be a bit...er, thrifty would be the nice word for it, the primary reason I recommend packing easy snacks to keep in your hotel room isn't to save money but rather for convenience.  Adhering to Tip A, "Arrive at the parks before opening," doesn't leave you with much time in the morning, so it's great to be able to grab a granola bar or Pop-Tart while you get ready.

Having a light bite in the morning is a double bonus because you'll be hungry for an early lunch in the parks, thus avoiding the lunch crowd.

Throw a few snackies and bottles of water into your backpack too because it's much easier to reach in there for refreshment rather than wait on the hot pavement in the perpetually long lines at the snack stands.  Disney is the master of crowd control and does a marvelous job of keeping lines moving at the attractions, but their snack stand efficiency could use some work---the few times we waited for a beverage or ice cream, snack stand service was blood-vessel-poppingly sloooow. 

Ahh, but some places are worth the wait, like Storybook Treats in Fantasyland at The Magic Kingdom.  Sundae's, cones, shakes & malts in a charming spot.

Disney World Trivia
How many chocolate covered Mickey Mouse ice cream bars are sold every year at Walt Disney World?
(The closest guess(es) will get the point.)


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: M

M is for: Maps & Menus

Today I've got more links for you. :)

Select the attractions you're interested in and order some really nice maps (for free!) with your chosen attractions highlighted.  It's a super fun "pre-game" moment when they arrive in the mail.

You can zoom and click on any item for a picture and description.  Click on a park and select "Go to Map" to get to that park's map.  

The Menus!
allears.net regularly updates detailed menus of all the venues at Disney World, including quick service restaurants and snack stands.  So if you've got special dietary requirements or just want to make sure ahead of time that picky eaters will be able to find something they like, this is the place to go. 

Disney World Trivia
We're getting Nicki specific on this one (answer can be found in earlier A to Z 2012 posts, and just a reminder that there will be a prize for whoever answers the most trivia questions correctly by May 1. :)).  What Magic Kingdom restaurant did I say "actually has a fairly interesting menu for a fast food place"?

Happy Half-Way Day!


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: L

L is for: List of Renovations & Closings

Before taking off on your trip to Walt Disney World, be sure to check out this rehab list at allears.net to see how it might affect your plans.

I sure wish I'd known about this list before dragging my family across Epcot in the pouring rain only to find out our destination had pulled a Wally World (note the "closed for renovations" wall at the forefront of this would-be mecca).

Disney World Trivia
Walt Disney World has Mickey Mouse---who's Wally World's mascot?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: K

K is for: Kick Back at Your Resort

While I'm not a proponent of trekking back to your resort in the middle of a park day, I do recommend designating whole or half days as resort days.  Disney puts a tremendous amount of thought and detail into everything, including their resort grounds, so it would be a shame not to allow time to explore them.  

As you've surmised by now, I don't like to overdo it.  I need my chillax time.  So in addition to avoiding the parks on arrival day, my family sleeps in one morning and hangs at the pool before hitting the parks late afternoon.  And I don't think we stayed at the parks until closing once during this last trip, opting instead to get out ahead of the mob and go for a quiet stroll, swim, or drink back at the ranch

Caribbean Beach: a/k/a "The Ranch"

Disney World Trivia
What new Walt Disney World hotel is slated to open in 2012?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: J

J is for: Just buy the Junk when you see it

While it's true you'll bump into a souvenir shop every time you turn around at Disney World, not all shops are created equal.  So if you see something you like, don't assume you'll be able to pick it up somewhere else at a later point. I still regret not buying the "I was the Rebel Spy" pin by the bathroom near the Star Tours attraction.  And I'm so happy we stumbled upon the small stand just outside Fairytale Garden by Cinderella Castle---it was the only place with a decent selection of Rapunzel items.

If you don't want to carry your shopping bags around with you all day, no worries---Disney resort guests can have them sent to their rooms.

Disney World Trivia
 A certain type of Disney souvenir can be traded with employees, or "cast members," throughout the property---what type of souvenir is this?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: I

I is for: Incognito at Indiana Jones

To the left of the entrance to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood Studios is a small exhibit with a rope hanging into a well.  The sign says WARNING! DO NOT PULL ROPE.  I won't tell you what happens when you pull the rope, and in truth it was neither epic nor spectacular, but the kids got a kick out of it, and it was fun to try out something silly that most people walk right past.    

Disney World Trivia
What was Disney's Hollywood Studios officially named before it became Disney's Hollywood Studios?


A to Z Obscure Disney World Tips: H

H is for: Hidden Mickeys

This is one of those secrets that isn't so secret...but it's still a lot of fun.  Throughout the parks and resorts the classic three-circle Mickey is camouflaged into the scenery.  It's fun enough to spot them on your own, but you can also get a guidebook that gives you clues where to look.

If you get really into it, I can promise you'll be seeing Hidden Mickeys everywhere you go...even after returning home. 

Disney World Trivia
 In which of the four Disney World Parks was the above photo taken?