Friday, September 21, 2012

No one does entertainment like Disney

There is a misconception that Disneyland is a place with just 'a bunch of kids rides.' Of course anyone who has actually been to a Disney park knows this is completely untrue. There is so much more to do then simply go from ride to ride.

Take my mother and brothers for instance. They don't do rides, except for the occasional slow moving dark ride, but they still love visiting Disney. Why? Because of the constant entertainment! Sit down shows, parades, street performers, there is pretty much something going on all the time at the parks. So I thought I would give you a brief run down of some of the things you can do at Disney if you aren't into rides or meeting characters.

1. Billy Hill & the Hillbillies.
I've talked about these guys before, and they are a do not miss in our books! In Disneyland Park at the Golden Horseshoe this hilarious group of fiddlers will entertain you with music and jokes while you enjoy your lunch. The highlight? One of the performers wears over the top false teeth. You'll just have to see it to understand why it's so funny.

2. Fantasmic!
Certain evenings of the week, the rivers of America transforms into a full stage/water show complete with water screens, boats, characters and special effects. This show is our personal favourite of any of the evening shows the parks have to offer. Be sure stake out a spot early as the ground seating is first come first serve.

3. World of Colour
Showing select nights at Disney's California Adventure, this show is all water screen based and full of spectacular colours and classic Disney music. There is a special viewing area on the lagoon and you will need to get a fast pass to go in (fast passes can be obtained by the Grizzly River ride first thing in the morning.) You can view this show from other areas, but you will have angled views of the water screens.

4. Parades
These change yearly and seasonally but they are always well done. The two best locations (in my humble opinion) to view the parades are over by Its a Small World or else at the end of Main street so you get the full view with the castle.

5. Aladdin
Disney California Adventure has its own theater just for Aladdin, which is basically a full scale Broadway show compacted to 45 minutes long. This is another do not miss show in my books! The Genie is always played by a comedian who is very up on the latest pop culture references and jokes and hands down steals the show. We honestly go just to see what he comes up with, because it changes all the time.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for entertainment. To find out more about what is going on when you are visiting, be sure to grab the parks daily schedule with times and locations.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Fast Pass system

I must apologize. I have several friends who recently visited the Disney parks and asked me what those fast pass tickets were and how much they cost. I felt so bad for not having filled them in before hand! I think fast passes are such a common topic that I assumed I already blogged about them; apparently not.
So here you go...

What is a fast pass?
A fast pass is a free ticket available to anyone in the park to bypass a large portion of a popular rides line.

Which rides offer them?
Rides such as Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain at Disneyland have these, as do Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin, Grizzly River Run and Tower of Terror at California Adventure. There are more, but I don't think I need to list them all...
It is easy to see if they are available for a ride, because next to the current walk on wait time you will see a fast pass return time posted.

Where can I get one?
You can get a fast pass for a ride at a ticket machine usually near the rides main entrance, or else close by the ride itself. If you can't seem to locate it, simply as a cast member and they will point you in the right direction.
You will need your park ticket to get the pass. Simply walk up to an available machine and put your card in. It will be scanned and out of the bottom of the machine will pop a fast pass ticket with a time of return listed on it. Do not lose this (of your park ticket for that matter...)

How do they work?
When the time listed on your fast pass arrives, simply return to your ride and enter the 'fast pass' line. A cast member will ask to see your ticket and let you through. The fast pass line usually runs right along side the main line but will be relatively empty. On a busy day you may still end up waiting 10 minutes or so to get on your ride, but it is nothing compared to the poor folks who have been waiting for 45. At the end of the line a cast member will take your fast pass ticket from you and you can then proceed onto the ride.

Do I have to use my fast pass during the listed time?
That's a tricky question. I have never been let on a ride earlier then my fast pass time, however I have heard of many people using their fast passes long after their time has expired. Disney World has recently stated that they will be enforcing their ticket times, where as Disneyland has not said anything about it. I think this is one of those times where it just depends on the cast member you get. That being said, we always just use our fast passes when it is the right time as we have a system.

Are the fast passes ride specific?
Yes! You can not use the same fast pass ticket for Indiana Jones as you would on Space Mountain. They will each require a separate fast pass.

How many fast passes can I hold at a time?
You cannot simply run all over the past grabbing fast passes for every ride first thing in the morning. There is an actual time limit on your ticket. You can get a new one every few hours or once your current ticket expires.

Does each ride have an unending supply of fast passes?
No! When you go to get a fast pass at a ride you will see a current 'return time' listed above. For popular rides at popular times of travel, fast passes can be gone for the whole day within an hour or two of park opening. So if you are travelling during a peak season and have a ride that makes the top of your list, I suggest heading there straight away and securing your pass.

Our system is to get a fast pass for one ride and then head to another close by while we wait. For example, we will get a fast pass first thing in the morning for Indiana Jones and then go on Pirates of the Caribbean and Tarzans Tree House. Or we will get a pass for Space Mountain and then proceed to ride Buzz Light Year and Astro Blasters in the meantime.

I will add that fast passes are not worth your time unless the ride you desire to go on has more then a 20 minutes wait. Our general rule is that if the rides line is under 20 minutes we will simply do walk on, but if it's 25 minutes or more, we get the pass for it.
And may I just add what a wonderful feeling it is to join the fast pass line and walk past all the other guests who have been not so patiently waiting forever... Sorry, was that a little mean?

Hope I've helped! If you have any more questions please feel free to send them my way!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Aulani visit?

The family and I are taking off for a Hawaiian vacation in a few shorts weeks. We are greatly looking forward to soaking up some sun on the shores of the pacific and spending time splashing around in a few gorgeous swimming pools at our resort.

Sadly, we wont be staying Disneys Aulani resort - which is fully my fault. When my parents decided to book a trip to Hawaii we thought there was no way we'd be able to join them. And I just may have said I would be heartbroken if they chose to go to the Disney resort without us... So they went with the Hilton Hawaiian Village instead. Yet here we are, tagging along after all and hoping to get the chance to visit one of the newest resorts on Oahu.

Hubby is planning a few excursions to keep himself entertained. Jet skiing, surf lessons and possibly renting a scooter. The only thing I want to do besides relax is take a day trip over to Aulani and do a character breakfast. And I'm not just thinking of me here - honest! I know Noah would love another hug from Mickey Mouse and the chance to visit with a few of his other Disney pals. Rumor has it, the elusive Stitch even makes an appearance! There is also the added 'cool' factor of seeing our favourite characters dressed up Hawaiian style. Where else can we see that?

The trouble is getting in. Non resort guests have to wait until the day before to make reservations. Hoping that most kids will be busy in school and not travelling to Hawaii when we are so that there will be enough space for myself, my son, hubby and my mother to get it.

Besides the character breakfast itself, I'd like to walk the grounds and see if this is really a place we'd like to stay in the future. Oh, and visit the store of course. Disney Hawaiian themed merchandise? Yes please!

Anyone ever stayed there or visited for a day? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No more Disney Cruises to Alaska?

Oh rumor, please do not be true!

Over the past week or so I have been hearing talk about Disney pulling out of their Alaska cruise sailing for good. As you can guess based on my last post, this would make me very sad.

Our tentative plan was to book our first Disney cruise in May/June 2014 for this exact itinerary. We loved the idea of getting a family vacation that wouldn't require us to fly anywhere, hence the Alaska trip from Vancouver. If they no longer offer this, we probably wont be cruising that year as we aren't enthusiastic about flying all the way to Florida to do a Disney cruise and aren't really into the idea of doing a non Disney cruise to Alaska.

I sent an email to a Disney travel specialist asking him about this and he told me that so far he had no information one way or the other. He did mention however that there had been alot of talk about moving the Wonder (currently the Alaska ship) elsewhere, and that whether or not another boat would take over had not been mentioned.
That doesn't sound too positive to me.

I wonder (ha, no pun intended...) if Disney is struggling to do business up their in Alaska. That is a sailing that tends to attract an older more mature crowd. And because they are the 'new kids on the block' they haven't been given high priority for things like port times and sailing routes. Perhaps Disney does not like being second (or fourth, fifth) in line for things. They certainly aren't use to it.

So, what would we do if they pulled out of Alaska? Oh you know, probably go to Disneyland. And that my friends, is never a bad thing.