Epcot Flower & Garden Festival – WITH FOOD!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Topiaries

With the heaviest days of spring break just around the corner, Liesle and I had fun heading to Epcot today for the opening of the annual Flower & Garden Festival. Most of the topiaries we saw were recycled from previous years, but the big fun this year is that they’ve added food, and some of it is really, really good!

It’s sort of like the best of the Food & Wine Festival, but WITH FLOWERS!

This is the first year Disney has introduced food into the F&G Festival in this way, and I really like it personally. If you’re in the Orlando area from now until May 18th, be sure to check it out!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival - Florida Fresh

Above are the three dishes available at the “Florida Fresh” kiosk. Liesle and I really liked all three of them. It may not be obvious from the picture, but the dish on the right is a watermelon salad. Mmmmm!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival - America Menu

The menu for the kiosk in the America Pavillion. By the time we reached this part of the park we were pretty full, so we’re saving these until next time.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Did I mention there are flowers?!!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival - Oz

There is a children’s play area back here with thematic elements from the new movie.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival - Oz

Follow the yellow brick road!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

The “Frushi” in Japan was excellent!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

It looks like I’m not the only blogger here today. Sorry for not stopping to say hello, guys. I’ll have to introduce myself next time! ūüėČ

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

These desserts at the UK kiosk were great!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Gnome

I’m going to have to get one of these guys some day!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

I snapped this as we were leaving the park. I’m sure we’ll be back again soon!

And by the way, if you’re planning to visit the festival during the busy spring break season, my advice is to enter the World Showcase as soon as it opens at 11:00am — or even sooner if Disney opens it early. The food kiosks only get busier as the day goes on!

So, what do YOU think about this year’s addition of food to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival? Let me know in the comments below!


Christmas Week at Disneyland & Walt Disney World – RideMax Customer Reports

Disney World Castle
Cinderella Castle lights up with magic during the Christmas season!

Just a quick update today to share some very nice customer reports from Christmas week, one from a customer visiting Disneyland/DCA, and another one from Walt Disney World.

First, from a Disneyland RideMax customer (I’ve bolded some text for emphasis):

Hello. My family was at Disneyland and California Adventure 12/26-12/28 and thanks in part to your computer program and tips, we had an incredible trip. We got to do everything that we wanted to do and some things two or three times. We had time for shopping, watching shows, and doing other things (like riding the train and monorail) not listed on RideMax, too. We looked at people standing in stand-by lines that had up to 3 1/2 hour long waits and felt sorry for them. We were often ahead of schedule (wait times were shorter). We will tell everyone that we know about your service.

Here’s an example of our success. We arrived at the gate for California Adventure on Friday, 12/28 at about 7:20 a.m., knowing that hotel guest were being let in early. We stood near a Magic Morning entrance so that as soon as it changed to a regular entrance we could get in that line. We knew (from our past day’s experience and from reading your tips) that we would be let into the park to the end of Buena Vista Street to wait until the official 8 a.m. opening. We were right against the rope. We were led to Cars Town and to Radiator Springs by cast members behind a gas hose. We were ordered into a single file line as we approached Radiotor Springs. We ended up being about the 8th-10th people in that line. We walked right into the lane for single riders. We walked right onto the platform for the ride. My husband and son ended up being able to ride in the same car, and I was in the car behind them. INCREDIBLE!!

On Thursday, 12/27, we checked both single rider and regular rider lines for Radiator Springs at least half a dozen times. The single rider line was always about an hour long, and the other line was anywhere from 2 to 3 1/2 hours long. We also kept checking the lines for the other two rides. We were able to ride both of them during our free time on Thursday when the lines were the shortest we had seen them all day (probably waited no more then 35 minutes in each one). We started this trip knowing that we would probably not ride anything in Cars Land but would enjoy seeing all of the sights. We are not die-hard ride fans. Imagine our delight when we were able to ride all three rides!

We were able to ride every ride in Paradise Pier that we wanted to ride on Thursday with little to no wait. Our first ride was Toy Story Mania, and we walked right onto it.

On Wednesday, 12/26, we were able to enter Disneyland early (before 8 a.m.) because of Magic Morning and because it was drizzling, many people did not show up. We were able to ride everything that we wanted to in Tomorrowland by 9 a.m. before crowds appeared and started the day ahead of our schedule.


And from a Walt Disney World customer:

We just came back from a 6 day trip to Disney World over Christmas.

This is a very, very busy time and the crowds were overwhelming at times.  With this in mind, we purchased RideMax and set our schedule around the online recommendations.

I was skeptical when my friend told me about RideMax, I doubted it would work at Christmas time but it was only $16 so I thought it was worth a try.

I am a believer!  It was truly amazing but we never waited more than 10 minutes and we rode all the best rides.  The total cost for our Disney trip was nearly $10,000 and the $16 dollars I spent on RideMax doubled our fun!  What a great product!

Thanks again RideMax Team!

To which I say, “You’re welcome!” ¬†ūüôā

I should also add that in addition to using RideMax, arriving EARLY at the parks is key to success if you’re visiting during the holidays or other busy season, such as spring break. We received a note from another customer who wasn’t nearly as successful as those shown above, but after reading their report, it seemed pretty clear to me that they were late getting to the first attraction on their RideMax plan, and things sort of cascaded downhill fast from there: the line was longer than expected at the first attraction on the plan, causing them to be “late” getting that first FastPass, and the late FastPass messed up the time at which they could get the next FastPass, etc.

I know I say this a lot, but if you’re going to be brave enough to visit during the holidays, you almost need to be hyper-focused on making sure you arrive early. There’s simply no substitute for this, RideMax plan or not!

What are YOUR thoughts about visiting during the holiday season? Do you find the extra “magic” worth braving the crowds?


UEA Break at Disneyland: RideMax Tips!

World of Color - Disneyland Resort's New Show!
World of Color - Disneyland Resort's New Show!

For those wondering, “UEA” stands for the Utah Education Association, which typically holds its annual convention on a Thursday and Friday in October. Schools in Utah normally close for the convention, making a perfect excuse for many Utahns Escaping to Anaheim!

The UEA break this year is October 20-21. Though not as crowded as spring break or Christmas week, UEA does bring some extra crowds into the park, with some folks even leaving town early and arriving before the official break begins on Thursday.

So, what can you do to help cut down your wait and enjoy your Disneyland visit over UEA weekend? Here are three tips:

Tip #1: Arrive early in the morning. You’d be surprised at how much time you can save in line by simply arriving at Disneyland in time to be among the first guests entering the park for the day.

There are two reasons for this.

First (and most obvious), the lines for some of the popular attractions are at their shortest of the entire day first thing in the morning. Some folks mistakenly believe they can make up for this by staying late into the evening, and to some extent this is true, but don’t be surprised if you still see an hour-long posted wait for Splash Mountain at 10:00pm! Clearly, arriving early is still better than staying late if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.

The other reason for arriving early is that you can get much better use of Disney’s FastPass system early in the day. Consider that first thing in the morning, once you have obtained one FastPass, you are allowed to obtain another one in as little as 40 minutes or so after obtaining the first one. Contrast this with later in the day, when you may have to wait two hours before obtaining the next one, or worse, FastPass may even be gone for the day for some of the more popular attractions (Star Tours, anyone?)!

Tip #2: Maximize your use of FastPass! Even though FastPass has been in use at Disney’s parks for over 10 years now, it’s amazing that some guests still seem to think Disney charges for this service, or don’t know how to get the most from the FastPass system. So let me emphasize this point: FastPass is FREE, and it can save you a lot of time in line!

Once you obtain that first FastPass of the day, make a mental note of the time at which you can obtain your next one (this time will be indicated at the bottom of your first FastPass ticket). Then when that time draws near, send a “runner” from your group over to obtain your next FastPass ticket, and continue this process throughout the day.

The RideMax for Disneyland planner can help you prioritize which FastPasses to obtain first (and we’ve reserved at least one Disneyland FastPass “trick” for our subscribers), but even without the software you can save time in line by carefully noting the time at which you can obtain your next FastPass, and gathering them accordingly.

Tip #3: Take a midday break! If you’ve followed my advice above and arrived early, you’ll find it’s very difficult to “burn the candle at both ends,” and stay late into the night as well, especially if you’re traveling with young children. If you’ve followed tip #2 and racked up a stack of FastPasses by 2pm or so, feel free to leave the park for a much-needed break back at the hotel during the busy afternoon hours. (Many RideMax plans include a large block of afternoon “free time,” so this break can fit naturally into place if you’re using RideMax as well!)

If you follow this last bit of advice, who knows? You might be surprised to find that the kids enjoy the hotel pool almost as much as they enjoy the park itself!


RideMax: But What About Spontaneity!??

Disneyland Crowds
A busy scene at Disneyland. How far will spontaneity get you in crowds like this?

I imagine that when someone first hears of RideMax, one question that comes to mind is:

“Wouldn’t following a¬†PLAN take all of the fun out of visiting a Disney theme park? I just want to be spontaneous and enjoy my day!”

Well, there certainly are seasons of the year when you can have your cake and eat it too (the week after Labor Day in September comes to mind). When the Magic Kingdom has a posted wait for Space Mountain of just ten minutes in the middle of the afternoon, why NOT be spontaneous and just enjoy the park?

The problem is, these dates are uncrowded for a reason — it normally just won’t work to take the kids out of school in early September, when school has just begun. So for most folks,¬†the alternative is to visit when the park is more crowded: spring break, the summer, fall break in October, Thanksgiving, Christmas week, or some other school holiday period.

Even when visiting during one of these more crowded seasons of the year, it might be tempting to say, “Who needs a plan? Let’s just go and have fun!”

The question you have to ask yourself is, how much fun will you really have if you’re “spontaneously” moving from one HUGE line to another? Will your kids REALLY appreciate the fact that they were able to be “sponaneous,” when they just finished waiting 40 minutes for Dumbo,¬†followed by¬†an hour waiting for Space Mountain?

Contrast this with a report we received a while back from one of our customers, who was willing to forego some of this spontaneity to follow a RideMax plan. (She was visiting Disneyland during Christmas week, one of the busiest weeks of the year.)

She writes:

I just wanted to write about our wonderful experience with RideMax on my recent trip to Disneyland to my two boys, ages five and eight.

A number of my friends laughed at me because I‚Äôm such a ‚Äėplanner‚Äô and they thought I was overdoing it, but it was the best plan ever!

The boys and I were there when the gates opened and started following the plan. The rides that we were directed to first thing in the morning were so empty that we rode some of them twice in the time Ride Max had planned for us. We had finished eight rides by 9:00 in the morning! That’s unheard of! We walked by people waiting in hour long lines with our FastPasses and never waited more than ten minutes all day!

We also loved the location recommended for the parade viewing! We did absolutely everything we wanted to do in one day…and then some.

Thank you RideMax!

Now, I’m not going to guarantee that everyone using a RideMax plan will wait less than ten minutes for everything — that’s probably unrealistic. But even if the RideMax plan¬†helps keep you away from just ONE¬†of those hour-long lines, isn’t that worth sacrificing just a BIT of spontaneity for?

What are YOUR thoughts on this?


Disneyland in Mid-October: Scary Crowds?!!

Disney in October

There’s a mid-October storm brewing at Disneyland, and it’s not related to the weather!

While October at Disneyland might be considered “low-crowd” season by some, I’m actually concerned about the potential crowds next week, with something of a “perfect storm” set to peak on Friday, October 15th.

To see why I’m concerned, consider the following:

  • Columbus Day is Monday, October 11th.
  • Canadian Thanksgiving is also observed on Monday, October 11th. While perhaps not a huge factor, I’m expecting Canadians out of school to add to the crowds next week.
  • Some school districts in Arizona are out on “Fall Break” next week. With the state’s close proximity to California, this has the potential to add to the crowds.
  • The Utah Education Association (UEA) is holding it’s annual convention next week, with many (most?) of the state’s schools closed Thursday and Friday. I’m expect a large influx of visitors from Utah at the end of the week as a result.

So, why the extra concern for Friday, October 15th?

  • Friday falls in the middle of the UEA break, so I’d expect the Utah crowds to peak on Friday.
  • Friday is an OPEN day (i.e., not a blackout day) for ALL varieties of annual passholders, including Deluxe, Southern California, and Southern California Select. With local visitors coming to the park to take in Disneyland’s fall atmosphere, including enhanced versions of the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain, this has the potential for a HUGE impact on crowds, especially Friday evening as the locals get off work and head for the park.
  • Perhaps most significantly, Disneyland is hosting it’s Halloween party Friday evening, with the park scheduled to close at 7:oopm.
  • Visitors moving over to Disney California Adventure (DCA) after Disneyland closes at 7:00pm may not get much relief either, as the attractions around the Paradise Pier area close early to accomodate the World of Color show. This leaves just two major attractions available in the evening hours at DCA, Soarin’ Over California, and Tower of Terror. (Grizzly River Run doesn’t count, as it tends to not be as popular during the cool evening hours.)

Perhaps my fears are overblown, but I think Disney may end up with something of a “revolt” on their hands from the locals who arrive after work, unaware of the early closing at Disneyland, and then have themselves herded over to DCA only to find all of the FastPasses gone for the World of Color show. This also has a strong potential to put a huge damper on the plans of those out-of-state visitors who weren’t prepared for the early closing. (I should note that Disney IS setting up a Tron-themed “party atmosphere” at DCA to help absorb the crowds. Time will tell if this is enough.)

I don’t want to sound too pessimistic. After all, a crowded day at Disneyland is still better than another day at the office, right? ¬†So if you ARE visiting next week, just being aware of the situation might help prepare you. (And for RideMax subscribers, we also offer a few suggestions for next week in the RideMax “Tips & Hints.” Nothing amazing, but perhaps some ideas you hadn’t considered. ¬†ūüôā )

If you DO visit Disneyland next weekend, please leave us a comment below on how the crowds turned out, and how it affected you. What advice would you give to someone visiting at the same time next year?

Happy Travels!