Walt Disney World is my favorite place in the world. I’ve been going there with my family every year since 2013, and I’m still not tired of it. By this point, I’m pretty darn confident in knowing what’s what in the World. So, I figured that I’d have an annual blog series- off-schedule from the animu crap- where I post ten highlights, including pro-tips, on different aspects of each trip. All pictures in this blog were taken by me.
1: Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour
First on the list is an unforgettable guided tour of the Magic Kingdom. I always ignored tours because at this point, we we’re pretty darn good at knowing our way around the parks. However, this tour is all about Walt Disney and some of the OG Imagineers, plus tidbits and trivia about various attractions.
On this tour, we got a free ride on the Haunted Mansion (my first time on it. It was scary, but freaking lit), Small World, and the Carousel of Progress (which your group gets its own room). We also got to see the secret backside of the former (will not disclose contents, obviously). Marceline to Magic Kingdom is a fantastic tour that I highly recommend to Disney buffs. Just make sure it’s not your first time ever doing the Carousel, for it is almost impossible to pay attention to the show and the tour guide’s dialogue at the same time. Also, getting to go on rides with Cast Members is a great bonus.
2: Fantasmic Dinner Package
Fantasmic is a popular show at Walt Disney World, and one of the few reasons I go to my least favorite of the four parks, Hollywood Studios. While I don’t think the show is the greatest that they have to offer, the dinner package is an essential deal.
You get to eat at one of three restaurants in Studios, and obtain VIP tickets to the best seats in the stadium for Fantasmic. We went to Mama Melrose, one of my favorite restaurants on property. The spaghetti and meatballs is godlike, and honestly something I look forward to more than the show.
Every year I keep forgetting about these secret back-back-back row seats, right near the bathrooms and- most notably- the exit. I will probably elect to sit there in the future, even with the package. Hopefully, it actually is allowed, since they want to fill all 6,000 seats in the theater, and a package person sitting outside of the package area would screw things up….
3: Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue
Walt Disney World is constantly evolving. With the new stuff coming to EPCOT, I’m willing to bet that most of next year’s entry will cover that area. However, some Disney experiences are timeless, and Fort Wilderness’ Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue (which ended up inspiring my username) has, according to my dad, not changed much since 1981.
I already saw it last year, but it was so awesome that I had to see it again. The show is an hour of unrelenting chaos and comedy that you will never forget. The waiters slam buckets of delicious chicken and ribs onto your table like American footballs, and even get to dance onstage.
The performers are some of the best on property, especially the crazy blonde girl. Be forewarned, though; there is a lot of audience interaction, especially the front. Fortunately, they know how to deal with shy guests, but I thankfully wasn’t chosen for anything all the same.
Overall, Hoop-Dee-Doo is a dining experience that surpasses some of the best that the parks have to offer. I personally prefer dinner at Ohana, which is more low-key and has BEEF SKEWERS, but Hoop-Dee-Doo is still a must-see at least once in your lifetime (if you got the cash).
4: The Edison
This is a restaurant in Disney Springs that I didn’t know about until planning for this trip (in my defense, that place opens like fifty new restaurants a day). We had basically reserved it because the actor who plays as our boy Eric in the Frozen Sing-Along at Hollywood Studios is sometimes works at the Edison. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there that day, but with food so damn good, I didn’t give a crap!
The Edison is a steampunk-styled restaurant on the West Side of Disney Springs. The interior is full of rotating gears and televisions playing clips of old Disney shorts and flat-out strange silent-era films from days of Yore.
Of course, a restaurant isn’t worth anything if it’s food is crap, and fortunately, the food at the Edison is on a higher plane of existence. I had an Edison Burger with most of the toppings on the side, and it immediately became my new favorite burger of all time. The meat in the burger is a fine blend of several meats, and it’s normally supposed to be rare, sought out, and expensive. However, our meal here was one of the cheapest on property (relatively speaking), once again proving that Disney’s stuff is NOT overpriced. The Edison is a must-eat for those who want fantastic food at a modest price.
5: The Wonderful World of Animation
This is the new projection show that serves as a pre-show to Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular in Hollywood Studios. Unpopular opinion: I think it’s better than the Star Wars one. I only watched Star Wars because we got the VIP passes for the show.
The Wonderful World of Animation begins with the intro to the classic Mickey Short, Mickey’s Gala Premiere, and goes on a massive montage of EVERY Disney animated film. That includes the cult classics, like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, and- a whole section dedicated to- The Emperor’s Motherf***ing New Groove. Yep. You’re already booking your trip right now, aren’t you?
This show has clips all over the Chinese theater and the two walls on either side, so multiple viewings are a must. I at least managed to snag a number of photos so I can actually see what was actually shown at the time.
Overall, it’s a phenomenal new show that I recommend going to Studios for the sole purpose of seeing. I suggest buying a Park Hopper for that day at least.
6: The EPCOT Experience
This entry is not really a highlight, however I still want to write about it because the EPCOT Experience is a circle-vision showcase of attractions coming to EPCOT within the next two years. So, I want to speculate about each one of them here.
The first section I walked into was for an attraction called the Journey of Water. This one- be it a ride or a whole new section of the park- looks like it will use assets from Moana to educate guests on the history and importance of water in human civilization. I almost cried listening to the voice of Best Mom Gramma Tala narrating the whole thing, so I can only imagine what the actual attraction will be like.
Next was Digital City. Based on the design, it seems to be based off of the setting of Wreck-It Ralph Breaks the Internet, but it wasn’t explicit. Almost no information about this area is actually presented, other than it being a city of play areas. Hopefully it’ll have more than that (but if it doesn’t, adults better be allowed to play, too).
The new Marvel attraction has been known for a while now. This section at the exhibit starts with a message from some Romulon ambassador before getting hijacked by someone’s Sonic the Hedgehog OC (sorry if I offended you, but as stated I my 5 Worlds review, I have no knowledge nor interest in the MCU). No other information about the Marvel thing is given, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a thrill ride of some sort. Regardless of how good it ends up being, I will probably ignore it entirely. I feel like it’s something that will be good to the diehard fans of Marvel, but will alienate casual visitors, similar to how Galaxy’s Edge does IMO. But you know what, it’s too soon to know for sure.
Next was the new version of the golf ball ride, called Spaceship Earth: Our Shared Story. This one merely shows photos of various people from different ethnicities before ending with the title dropping onto the screen. I have no idea if it’s going to completely remove the original story of human civilization or not, but I’ll have faith in this attraction.
Three new additions care coming to World Showcase, the first of which is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in France. This one has also been known for a while, and it looks really fun but scary. It seems that riders will be in rat-themed cars that will make numerous sharp turns as they dodge obstacles and attacks from Chef Mini-Me in the kitchen of Jacques Cousteau. In the UK will be a Mary Poppins ride. I have no idea which Mary Poppins will be used, but it should be pretty lit. Also known for a while is a new, circle-vision China show. For all intents and purposes, it’ll probably be better than its predecessor. But due to my jealousy of C-pop and K-pop getting so easily accepted by Western culture over J-pop, I will be abstaining from this one out of spite.
The EPCOT Experience ends with a bang by showing a preview of the new night show to replace Illuminations (the EPCOT Forever event is merely a temporary show, similar to the Jungle Book show for Rivers of Light). All that this part of the exhibit does is simply full blast iconic tracks from several Disney animated features, somehow perfectly mixed so that it doesn’t sound jarring, before ending with a simple title drop of EPCOT’s name in a nebulous void of outer space. Immediately, this worried me, as the new Rivers of Light: We Are One was the first outright disappointment I felt in Disney, and actually preferred an older show over the new one, specifically for adding assets from Disney animated features to it. The timing and order of each section destroyed Joe Rohde’s simple and profound message, and hopefully they’ll update it to better incorporate the Lion King and Brother Bear stuff in the future. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that this new show in EPCOT will be made completely from scratch, and actually be designed to incorporate the Disney movie elements from the outset.
EPCOT has become arguably my favorite of the four parks, and if the new coming attractions are all up to snuff, then EPCOT will be my absolute favorite. The guys at Disney have been evolving Walt Disney World for almost fifty years, so they got a pretty good track record for this kind of stuff.
7: Boardwalk Resort
This is where we stayed on this trip. We had actually visited it once, on our first trip in 2013, because we went to the minigolf at the Swan and traveled through it to reach EPCOT. I was so enchanted by the resort’s quaintness, and convenient access to TWO of the parks, that I had to convince my family to book it for a future trip.
It took six years. By some miracle, we got to stay in a DVC room this year, and it was heavenly. I got a futon. But regardless, the resort itself is why the Boardwalk is on the list.
The Boardwalk is a quaint waterside town by day, and a bustling circus of funnel cakes and entertainment at night. It was at a night spent watching Coco at this resort that they were convinced to book it for this year. The performers are also great. There are at least three: a juggler, a hoop girl, and a sassy jester who has kids volunteer in fun parlor tricks (at his expense).
The Boardwalk also has- along with the usual resort gift shop- the Wyland Art Gallery. This gallery contains gorgeous (and expensive) acrylic glass sculptures of ocean creatures, plus breathtaking paintings of ocean scenes, and Disney stuff.
The place has tons of restaurants. For quick service, there are two food stands, a little window that serves great pizzas, and the convenient Boardwalk Bakery and Ample Hills Creamery. Out of the table services there, I’ve only eaten at Trattoria Al Forno, specifically the Bon Voyage Character Breakfast, and that was one of my favorite parts of last year’s trip.
I highly recommend staying at the Boardwalk- or the nearby Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan, or Dolphin resorts for easy access to Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. Be forewarned, however, that they are all Deluxe tier, and will more or less fire a shotgun, point-blank, into your wallet.
This restaurant opened along with the new Gran Torin- I mean- Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs. With it’s massive menu, and scenic view of TWO parks, we had to get a reservation. Unfortunately, it had rained leading up to the meal, leaving the balcony unusable for us, causing us to miss the exclusive views of the fireworks from Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.
However, that didn’t matter as the food was fantastic as usual. I split the amazing, 28 ounce Chuleton ribeye steak with a friend. The menu has a LOT of variety, so there’s no excuse to not give it a whirl (except money of course).
9: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
I had attended one other Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party before this year’s. And it sucked. While the shows at the castle courtyard were truly beyond top tier, the crowds were so bad that it almost offset the greatness of those shows. But despite that, my party decided to attend the event again.
And it rocked. For some reason, the crowds were substantially lower. I don’t know if it’s because more people wanted to meet characters and trick-or-treat, or the fact that I didn’t attend the one on Halloween Day, but I’m not complaining.
The Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular is still great. I hadn’t seen the movie the previous time, so this year I took the time to see it at our resort’s Movie Under the Stars. Big mistake. Hocus Pocus itself sucks. While Bette Midler was pretty great, she didn’t have enough screentime to offset the nineties cringe. Fortunately, that didn’t change how I felt about the stage show.
The Boo-to-You Parade hasn’t changed as far as I remember. The parade isn’t really about massive and elaborate floats, like with the Festival of Fantasy Parade, but about all the absurdly rare characters that you didn’t know existed within Disney Parks. This parade includes but is not limited to: Pain and Panic, Opera Chicken, and Bowler Hat Guy.
The real reason I came to this party was for the new Not-So-Spooky Spectacular Fireworks. And boy, were they lit. As expected of Disney, they were a lot better than their predecessor, Hallowishes. This one had more of a core narrative, as it focused on Mickey and Co. wandering through a haunted house. This show also has a really well-built animatronic Jack Skellington that I did not expect to appear at all. While I’d normally see fireworks from the train station, I highly recommend getting a spot pretty close to the castle just for that Skellington goodness.
With this new show, the Christmas Party Fireworks are now in a major need of an update. Hopefully, it’ll happen soon, maybe in time for the 50th anniversary!
The Walt Disney Company is perhaps the only team that is actually able to celebrate diversity without being… well, you know… the Internet, and I applaud them for it (it’s also pretty ironic given THAT scene in Peter Pan). EPCOT World Showcase, like the rest of Walt Disney World, is full to the brim with people from all walks of life, and those people aren’t at each other’s throats.
And obviously, Japan is my favorite pavilion. Since this was the first year I dedicated myself to studying Japanese culture, I actually bought merch outside the anime section. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much merch that was symbolic of their culture itself as there was just general Japanese motifs on various apparels.
We had lunch at Teppan Edo one day. I had eaten there once before, but I handled it poorly because I only knew about saying “Itadakimasu” before eating the meal, but not “Gouchisou-sama deshita” at the end. OOPS. I now look back on that day, thinking that those cute girls working there felt miffed that the shy American boy knew only the first step.
I was prepared to say both phrases this time. However, our chef was so cute and talented that I clammed up. I was at least able to eat my whole meal with chopsticks in my own special way (although the Miso Soup was so rich that I made the same face that Asirpa did in Golden Kamuy), as well as discover a new favorite flavor of ice cream: green tea! I was also the only one who spoke an order in the Japanese name (which, honestly, anyone could’ve done since it’s written in romanji on the freaking menu). I’m definitely going to need to go back and do everything right this time.
So that’s that for this blog entry. As far as Disney stuff goes, I’ll try to post a review of The Little Mermaid Live, The Imagineering Story, and Frozen 2 in the near future (no promises, though!). But of course, I’ll still be mainly focusing on light novels and stuff!