SEGWAY tour around the World Showcase at EPCOT

My wife surprised me on our trip to Disney last week with a tour around EPCOT on a Segway transport. I had seen people riding these around on previous trips and commented on how fun it looked. I was excited to finally get a chance to ride one.

My day started early, as the tour began at 8:30am. I walked from the Beach Club Resort to the back entrance of EPCOT before the park opened. Once inside, I headed over to guest relations to sign in. It was odd walking through the park before any guests were there. The only people around were a few gardeners and some maintenance workers. After I checked in and signed a quick liability release, we walked with our guide over to the training area at Innovations West. We started by picking out our helmets and watching a short video on some safety features. Once that was over, our guide rolled out a SEGWAY and showed us how to turn it on, how to get on and off, and how to make it move. Then, we each got to practice ourselves.

SEGWAY tour at EPCOT

Getting on was easy enough. Just hold it level until you see a green light (you will see red lights if it’s not level) and step on one foot at a time. It’s a little shaky at first, but it really only takes about 5 or 10 seconds to get the hang of it. A computer and gyros in the base help to stabilize it and your body movement forward or backward makes it move in that direction. It’s very sensitive and only takes a small amount of leaning to make it move. The sensors under your feet feel every move you make and react in that direction. To make it turn. You lean the bar in the direction you want to turn. If it sounds difficult, it really isn’t. There were six adults and two teenagers in our group and we all picked it up easily.

After our training session inside, we headed out to the park for a trip around the World Showcase. Along the trip, we stopped in several of the countries where our instructor gave us a little information on the country and also took us through some ‘challenge’ courses. We rode down a ramp in China, through the miniature train village next to Germany, in and out of the columns in Italy, and through France. Half way around, we had some free time to ride around within a coned-off area and have our pictures taken by the lake. Once we got back to Future World, we had to weave through people, as the park had opened while we were on our ride.

My daughter was bummed that she couldn’t take the tour, but you have to be 16 or older to ride. There is also a weight limit for riding, which is 100-250 pounds.

If you ever get the chance to take this tour, I highly recommend it. It is a two hour tour, including the instruction time. The SEGWAY is easy to ride, and I can’t think of a better place to ride than at the Walt Disney World resort.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® Family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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A New Twist On the Autograph Book

I love the feedback we get from our clients. We learn many new things from them like great room locations, fun little tid bits, and stories of their family adventures. When talking to a client we ran into in Epcot one night after dinner, she told me she saw a family at Akershus, which is a Princess meal in Norway. This family had a new spin on the autograph book -a pillowcase! What a great idea! The traditional autograph book is all the rage when you are in the parks, but is placed on a bookshelf when you get home to be forgotten about. Now, a pillowcase is a fun reminder on your bed every night of your memories and experiences with the characters that signed it. We contacted our great friend, Dawn Conn, owner of Hoops-A-Daisy embroidery who does monogramming for us. I told her the story and she came up with these adorable pillow cases. We took them down over Christmas and used bright colored Sharpies to get them signed. 

My girls now sleep every night with them. Marin, my six year old says she likes her pillowcase because it has her name and Mickey Mouse on it and she can sleep with all the characters’ autographs every night.

We are now suggesting this idea to all our clients. It is too fun! We were a bit concerned about some of the characters being able to sign something flimsy like a pillowcase, but we held it tight for them and it worked. Many times, the cast members helped us out. I highly suggest this idea for your next trip to the “World”.

Please contact Dawn Conn if you are interested in these cute pillowcases.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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Overlooked Disney, Part III – Behind the Seeds, by Gil Pohl

In my continuing quest to write about one overlooked attraction at each of the parks at the Walt Disney World® Resort, now brings us to EPCOT.  If you have been to The Land Pavilion in recent years, you have probably run as quickly as possible to get your FastPass for Soarin’.  While waiting on your time to get in the FastPass line you may have taken the boat ride “Living with the Land”.  What you missed was a chance to take a backstage walking tour of the greenhouses that are used for the “Living with the Land” boat tour.  There is a small cost to take this tour (ages 12 and up is $16.00 and ages 3-11 is $12.00) and some discounts are available for some people, such as Annual Pass Holders and Disney Vacation Club Members.

On this one-hour walking tour of one of the Greenhouses, Cast Members will explain in more detail about the research and development that is taking place in the many areas of horticulture being studied.  You get to see the exhibits up close and the Cast Member is always there to answer any questions.

When booking you next trip with Ears of Experience make sure to ask about booking a “Behind the Seeds” tour.  I know you will love it.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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Interractive games at Disney’s Soarin’

For those of you who dread waiting in lines at Disney, they have recently made it a little less painful in the queue at Soarin’.  Mid-way through the line, there are now five giant screens using Wii-based technology that allow you to play interractive games as a group. Sensors above the screens sense motion from the crowd in front of each screen. At the beginning of each game, you are given directions on how to move to make the game work. One game has your section leaning left or right, directing a large bird along a course. If you don’t lean the correct way, your bird will hit rocks, trees, etc. All five sections are competing against each other in this one.

We were in line for quite a while, so we got to play three or four different games. One game had us swatting at blobs of paint that were floating around the screen. When you hit one, it exploded and revealed part of a picture. When enough were hit, you could see the whole picture.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRMTFrXSExY]

The game we played against the other sections was a balloon race to recover stolen gems. The balloon was controlled up and down by either waving your arms or holding them still.  It was really fun.

  [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MjvsEUCYeQ]

Waiting in line is still one of my least favorite things to do at Disney, but at least now the’ve done something to pass the time while having fun at the same time. This one might just be worth skipping the Fasspass. Well…..maybe.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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Soarin’ at EPCOT

I think I have a new favorite ride at Disney. If you have ever been to EPCOT and have riden Soarin’, you know exactly what I mean. The idea behind this ride is you are hang gliding over some popular sights of California, some of it high

Soarin', at EPCOT

Soarin', at EPCOT

up and some down very low. As the ride starts, you are raised up to face the giant screen. If you have ever been in an IMAX theater, this is the same concept. The screen is so big it feels like you are really there. Once you get into place, the movie starts and you don’t move again until its over and they lower you down. It just feels like you are moving. And to make it even more realistic, Disney has added extra touches to make it feel even more realistic. As you fly through a forest, you can smell evergreen trees.  When you fly over orange groves, you can smell oranges. There’s also a light breeze throughout the ride.

If you get motion sick easily or are afraid of heights, you might want to skip this ride. Even though you aren’t moving and you’re not very high off the ground, this ride gives the feeling that you are. It’s also a good ride to use the Fasspass system, as the lines can get pretty long.

The video below is of the entire ride, so if you have not been on the ride and do not want to spoil it, do not watch it. Otherwise, enjoy the video and don’t miss this ride at Disney!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W1lTsBFMk0]

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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Disney’s Boardwalk Resort

We just got back from a quick trip down to the Walt Disney World® Resort. It was supposed to be a relaxing, cool October visit, but it turned out to be just the opposite. Orlando had a heat wave last week and we heard the record-breaking temperatures were the hottest it’s been there in October in 150 Years. It was brutal! And….add Columbus Day weekend and the Food and Wine Festival and it all added up to a hot, crowded place. Still, we managed to have a lot of fun and we tried to stay cool wherever we could.

This visit, we stayed at the Boardwalk Resort for the first time and it was beautiful. The decor is of a turn-of-the-century boardwalk, complete with restaurants, bars, carnival games, and all of the little touches that made you feel like you were really at an old boardwalk. Our room was large and had a balcony overlooking the boardwalk. We had heard of people not liking this resort because of the noise from the boardwalk, and although we could hear a little at night, it wasn’t too bad.

The resort is split into two halves, with one side for DVC members and the other for regular guests. There are two quiet pools for those who want to relax and one larger pool with a bar, water slide, music, and games. The water slide is set up to look like a classic wooden roller coaster along the boardwalk and my daughter said it was fun. There was an activities member at the pool each day playing music and pool games for the kids. My daughter even surprised us by singing kareoke in front of everyone!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CuZ-GKKsnw]

From this resort, you can either walk or ride the boat shuttle to either Hollywood Studios or EPCOT.  EPCOT was a five minute walk and Hollywood Studios was about 15-20. 

Overall, we loved this resort and would definitely stay here again. If you have a favorite resort, let us know about it. We would love to pass on any tips you may have.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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10 Interesting Walt Disney World® Fun Facts

I had a hard time narrowing this list down to 10, because there are so many to choose from, but here are 10 interesting picks:

  1. Covering 47 square miles, Walt Disney World® Resort is about the size of San Francisco, California. Of the more than 30,000 acres, less than one-fourth has been developed, with another quarter designated as a wilderness preserve.
  2. More than 50 million Cokes are consumed each year at Walt Disney World® Resort. Guests also gobble 10 million hamburgers, 7 million hot dogs, 9 million pounds of french fries and more than 300,000 pounds of popcorn.
  3. Spaceship Earth, the visual and thematic centerpiece of Epcot®, weighs 16 million pounds — more than three times that of a Space Shuttle fully fueled and ready for launch. The outer “skin” of Spaceship Earth is made up of 11,324 aluminum and plastic-alloy triangles. Also, did you know that rainwater never falls off the sphere? It’s absorbed into the ball and funneled away.
  4. The “Liberty Oak,” which is the focal point of the Liberty Square area in the Magic Kingdom® Park, is the proud parent of more than 500 young trees. They all started out as acorns harvested from the majestic oak.
  5. Space Mountain® Attraction and Big Thunder Mountain only move at 26 mph? Pretty slow for a roller coaster. The Monorail was the fastest ride in Disney until Test Track was installed in Epcot®.
  6. Cinderella’s castle is not made of stone… it is entirely made of fiberglass.
  7. Other than the White House in Washington , D.C. , The Hall of Presidents in the Walt Disney World® Resort is the only place in the world that is allowed to use the Official Presidential Seal, which is located in the carpet in the rotunda.
  8. The six trains at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are named I.B. Hearty, I.M. Brave, I.M. Fearless, U.B. Bold, U.R. Daring and U.R. Courageous.
  9. Epcot® is the only Walt Disney World® Theme Park that boasts two entrances (one being accessible via Disney’s Boardwalk Inn). 
  10. $35,ooo is spent on fireworks each night for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at EPCOT® and 2,800 shells are used for each show.

Do you have any favorite fun facts? If so, send them in and I will post them here.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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To Park Hop or not to Park Hop, that is the question…

When traveling to Walt Disney World® Parks, there are several ticket options from which to choose. Two popular choices are the Magic Your Way Base Ticket and the Magic Your Way Base Ticket with Park Hopper® Option.

  •  The Magic Your Way Base Ticket is one in which you can only visit one park per day for the number of days you bought the ticket. For example, if you bought a three day ticket, you could visit one park each day for three days. If you tried to go to more than one park on any given day, you would not be able to enter.
  • The Magic Your Way Base Ticket with Park Hopper® Option allows you to visit multiple parks in one day. As you can imagine, this option costs a little more. However; the good news is the additional cost is a flat fee of $50 per ticket, regardless of the number of days purchased.

 If you were to ask ten people whether you should add the Hopper feature or not, you would likely get ten different answers. Some would say if it is off peak season, no. Others would say if you are traveling with older kids, no. But for flexibility, time management, and building rest into your trip, some would say yes.

With the Magic Your Way Base Ticket, hitting one park at 9 AM and leaving at the close of the day would exhaust you. And then you would have to turn around and do it at a different park the next day. Keep in mind though, with a base ticket, you can leave and return to the same park later in the day, which I would suggest for the big parks. For example, go to Epcot® when it opens and hit the big attractions early, then go back to your hotel and relax by the pool and return for dinner and the World Showcase fireworks at night.

There are many benefits to the Park Hopper feature; with the obvious being you can get more park visits into your vacation. Others include using crowd patterns to cut down on lines, making the trip a bit more leisurely, and returning to see some of your favorites at the end of your trip. By going to the Magic Kingdom® Park when it opens, you can hit the most popular attractions before the lines get too long. Then, you can take a mid-day break and head over to the Epcot® World Showcase for touring of the countries and dinner. The next day you could go to Epcot® in the morning for the popular attractions in Future World and then hit Disney’s Hollywood StudiosTM later in the day. Repeat this for four days and you would get to experience at least eight parks during your four day vacation. 

The key to maximizing the potential of the Hopper feature is crowd patterns and park hours. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World® Property, you have the added bonus of being able to enjoy the Extra Magic Hours Benefit. This is where Disney has added an extra park hour to a selected park either in the morning or at night.  Use these at the park it is being offered to cut down on lines. We have found the extra hours at night tend to draw large crowds, so this is not necessarily a benefit for riding the big attractions.  It can; however, be used for some of the shows and attractions you want to experience that do not draw huge crowds. Then on your last day, build time in to reflect on which park was your favorite or which had the most of your favorite attractions and go back to visit those. This way, you end your magical vacation feeling satisfied, rather than remorseful because you saw your favorites on the first day and did not get to see them again. The other benefit to this is if the crowds are unusually heavy at one park, you can move on to another park. If you have the base ticket, you would typically not know if a park has heavy crowds until you enter, therefore using your only day’s entrance at that park. Now you cannot move to another park. 

On a value side, let’s look at some numbers. A four day Magic Your Way Base Ticket will cost you $233.24 or $58.31 per park visit (4 days/4 parks). A four day Magic Your Way Base Ticket with Park Hopper® Option will cost you $286.49. If you visited eight parks during a four day stay (one in the morning and one later in the day) you would only be paying $35.81 per park visit. 

Whether or not you add the Park Hopper feature is a personal preference. Hopefully, you now you have more information to make a decision you and your traveling companions can feel comfortable with. Good news though, if you choose the Magic Your Way Base Ticket and decide during your trip you want to add the Park Hopper feature, you can!  Guest Relations in any park will be able to help you.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resorts and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation, and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-877-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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The Many Benefits of Character Dining

To feed off last week’s blog on Crystal Palace and why I am such a fan of Character dining, I thought I would explain in more detail. I am a big fan of time management; using my time the most efficiently yet still having an incredibly good time and still being flexible. I find by being a time manager, I am able to be more flexible, if that makes sense.

My kids have always beenvery big into the Characters when traveling to Disney destinations. Next to being on a Disney Cruise Line® ship, there is only one other way to have a unique meeting experience with the characters. That is through character dining, where the characters take the time to interact with members of your dining party.  You won’t feel rushed in getting the photo and autograph and it is all done in a good atmosphere. You’re not out in the hot sun, you’re not hungry, and you’re not at the end of a seemingly endless line of people.

The time management part of me is two-fold. We have to eat, but we we would also like to see the characters. Why not do them together so we can quickly get back to the parks, rides, shows, and attractions?  While they are eating, the kids are able to see, interact, and get photos and autographs of their favorite characters. This can be a nice break during the day or a magical beginning to a day at the parks.

Everyone wants to see the Fab 5 (Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto). A great place to do this is at Chef Mickey for breakfast or dinner. You will typically see all these guys there (characters are always subject to change) and it’s right off the monorail, either on your way to or back from the Magic Kingdom® Park. As I mentioned before, a favorite spot of mine is the Crystal Palace restaurant in the Magic Kingdom® Park, which is where you will find all of the Pooh Characters. If you can, make an early reservation so you will be able to enter the park ahead of the regular crowd. This will also let you experience the Main Street, USA® Area virtually to yourself as you walk to an early breakfast before the park opens.

There are many options when it comes to character dining. The hottest ticket is Cinderella’s Royal Table, which takes place in Cinderella’s castle.  Here, you dine with princesses in a magical setting, creating an unforgettable event for any young child. Can’t get in? No worries, there are plenty of other options to meet the princesses.  I have been twice to Norway’s Akershus restaurant located in the Epcot® World Showcase. The breakfast there is wonderful and the experience with the Princesses is a little more interactive. Their breakfast and lunch menus both have traditional Nordic food, but for those with finicky children, the breakfast menu did include some American fare food.

In summary, there are many benefits to character dining, such as time management, personal interaction, and unforgettable memories. And remember, if you are on the dining plan, these meals will only count as one table service (subject to change).

So sit back, put the camera and autograph books on the table, and let the kids have a blast while you grab that extra cup of coffee.

Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resort and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-800-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.

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Epcot®, by Kid Expert Nattie, Age 10

EPCOT®
Epcot is awesome!!!!! It’s based on the future, inventions, and countries around the world. Some people say it’s only for parents and that kids would get bored in the first 5 minutes but that’s not true. Epcot has fun for all ages. There are Kidcot Fun Stops, rides, and much, much, more. Different countries are placed in the World Showcase. Each country has natives from there that you can ask questions about anything there! You can decorate masks with markers at each country and when you are finished you can show off your style of imagination. Just remember, do a little at each country so you will have room!

Test Track, MISSION:Space, Soarin’, and Living with the Land are just some of the things that are available outside of the World Showcase. My dad and I personally like them all. My mom and sister aren’t too big on the whole “going on tough rides”. We recently found Living with the Land in the same building as Soarin’, which is really neat! There is a green house with bananas, ginger, asparagus, and more plants that we use every day. Most of the foods you eat at the restaurants in Epcot are grown in the green house in Living with the Land. If I had to sum Epcot into one sentence I would say, “Fun School!”

Written by our Kid Expert, Nattie. Check out more of what she has to say as well as more tips and tricks at her Kid’s Only Site.
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Discover the magic of Walt Disney World® Resort and parks on a Walt Disney World® family vacation and share the joy of Mickey Mouse and company with your kids. Let Ears of Experience plan the perfect Disney trip for you and your loved ones. Contact us today at 1-800-80MOUSE. We look forward to sending you on the magical vacation of a lifetime.