Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Disney Point Top 10 Walt Disney World Attractions

For some reason I always find this topic to be the most difficult to write about. My favorite attraction? I love practically every attraction! But I think that the real reason why I find this to be such a difficult task is because every ride at Walt Disney World is so unique and different. We are not talking about a park full of cookie-cutter super coasters! We are talking about rides and shows that are well-themed and thought out by Disney Imagineers.

So for the purposes of this post, I am sticking to Walt Disney World and I am also eliminating parades and nighttime spectaculars such as Wishes and Illuminations. I need to have some parameters or my brain will explode!

And now without further delay or explanation, here is The Disney Point's Top 10 Walt Disney World Attractions:

10. Finding Nemo: The Musical
I'm guessing that this will come as the biggest surprise to my readers. You may wonder why, with all of the amazing attractions at Walt Disney World, I would pick a relatively new stage show. I picked it because it's fabulous. Finding Nemo: The Musical is an extremely well done stage show not only for a theme park, but for anywhere. As someone who regularly sees Broadway shows I tend to be critical of stage productions. However, if you add on another hour to Finding Nemo: The Musical, put it on 42nd Street, and charge $90 a ticket, you would have a Broadway production.

Finding Nemo: The Musical (Photo from WaltDisneyWorld.com)
 On your next trip, I highly recommend that you go see this show. I think it is extremely well done and I enjoy it every single time. The music is not at all forced (as it sometimes can be when you add music to a non-musical), the set is bright and colorful and the actors do a terrific job. Arrive early for the best seats, sit back, relax and enjoy this Broadway-caliber production!

9. Toy Story Mania
When I heard the plans for Toy Story Mania I was confused. An arcade-style shooting game based on Toy Story? Isn't that what the Magic Kingdom's Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin is? From the lines and the all out sprint to the attraction each morning for the past three years at Disney Hollywood Studios park opening, it is easy to see that Toy Story Mania is so much more than a simple shooting game.

Toy Story Mania (Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown)
 Even the line for Toy Story Mania is amusing! (And that's good, because you'll be waiting for quite some time!) I had the privilege of riding Toy Story Mania during Cast Member previews. While we were walking through Andy's room (the line) I heard, "Hey you in the green shirt!" I looked down at my green shirt in shock. "Who's your favorite toy?" asked Mr. Potato Head. "Woody!" I shouted back at him. "Hmm... Who's your second favorite toy?" he responded. He then pulled out his ear. I knew then that this was something special!

Toy Story Mania incorporates 3D technology into the game. When you shoot you can actually see the items coming out of your cannon. My only gripe with the attraction is that I still have yet to beat my husband. I always have the accuracy but not enough shots fired!

8. Mickey's PhilharMagic
I am always shocked when I hear guests say that they have never seen Mickey's PhilharMagic. It is one of my favorite attractions because it incorporates all of the "Disney Renaissance" movies that I grew up with. Also the 3D technology that is incorporated is leaps and bounds better than the other 3D attractions on property (with the exclusion of the brand new Star Tours attraction.)

Why do I love it? In the short 3D film I get to swim with Ariel, be a king with Simba, fly with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, get splashed in the face by a broom with a bucket from Fantasia, ride on a magic carpet with Jasmine and Aladdin and get serenaded by Lumiere! And best of all, Donald steals the show! Donald is underutilized at Walt Disney World and it's so great to have him be the center of attention at Mickey's PhilharMagic.


Mickey's PhilharMagic (Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown)
 7. Spaceship Earth
"Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time. And for a brief moment, we have been among its passengers."

There is something about Spaceship Earth that gets me every time! The iconic geosphere is the central focal point for Epcot; however, it is so much more than that. This slow-moving journey through time isn't going to be first on the must-do list for thrill-seekers, but if you are a history buff this attraction is not to be missed.


Spaceship Earth (Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown)
In 2008, Spaceship Earth was refurbished and premiered with upgraded scenes and a new narration by Judi Dench. While I was a fan of the Jeremy Irons version, Spaceship Earth still is one of my favorites. In addition, there is a new interactive ending that features a touch screen and lets you see a vision of your future.

6. Space Mountain
As a former Space Mountain Cast Member, it would seem that I would be obligated to include this attraction. However, this is more than an obligatory mention. For many American children, Space Mountain will be their first roller coaster. While it only travels at 27 miles per hour, it succeeds in making me squeal like a kid every time I ride!

There is also something mysterious about Space Mountain. Because it is pitch black the turns and drops always keep you guessing.

Space Mountain (Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown)
  Finally, the building itself is marvelous! Think about it. They built this entire structure just for one attraction. It is an important part of the Magic Kingdom "skyline" and I can't imagine the park without it.

5. Kilimanjaro Safari
When the gates of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park first opened almost fifteen years ago, I was skeptical. Is it a zoo? (Disney very clearly stated that it was Nahtazu!) It was not until I rode Kilimanjaro Safari the first time that I truly understood the point of the park. It is one of the most unique attractions at any theme park around the world. The animals are simply breathtaking and, best of all, they aren't caged behind bars.

One of the best parts of Kilimanjaro Safari is that it is a unique ride experience every time you ride. The spiel may be the similar but the animals are the stars of the show. You may see the cheetah roaming around in the morning but that night he's no where to be found.

One side note: If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you probably know by now that they are eliminating "Little Red" from the Safari for more animals. I think this will only make the attraction more exciting, but it will be interesting to see where the story goes.

Kilimanjaro Safari (Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown)

4. Soarin'
If you can have any super power, what would it be? Along with the ability to be invisible, I would guarantee that among the most common answers to that question is the ability to fly. Every day at Epcot Soarin' gives guests the ability to fly and that is why it's among the most popular, and impressive, attractions.

There have been several virtual reality attractions at Disney Parks and there have been several large screen movies, but Soarin' combines the two by utilizing a truly innovative ride system. You are moving along with the screen, with wind in your face. You smell the oranges as you go through the orange groves. You feel like you are part of the film.

Soarin' (Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown)
 Soarin' doesn't need to drop you 13 stories or blast you from 0 to 60mph to be thrilling, which is probably why I like it so much. And considering it is one of the only attractions where people still applaud every time the ride ends, it is safe to say that it is among the guests' favorite attractions at Walt Disney World.

3. The Haunted Mansion
The mansion is another iconic Walt Disney World attraction that I simply could not leave off of this list. Without the use of characters or a movie, the Haunted Mansion is one of the best themed attractions at Walt Disney World. It is also an attraction that the whole family can enjoy together, as Walt intended.

Starting from the moment you enter the ride, you are immersed in the Haunted Mansion story. From the creepy music to the Cast Member costumes, there is no doubt what attraction you are waiting for. The actual building itself is haunting and with the addition of the new interactive queue, Disney Imagineers are keeping you busy throughout your wait.

The Haunted Mansion (Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown)

The Haunted Mansion has gone through a few refurbishments throughout the years, but the Imagineers have done a great job of keeping the integrity of the original ride. Parents, who experienced the Haunted Mansion many years ago as children, now get to show their own kids the hitch-hiking ghosts and the grim, grinning ghosts at Walt Disney World.

2. Splash Mountain
When Disney Imagineers plan out attractions, they never just come up with a ride. It is meant to be an experience. So when they were planning out Splash Mountain there was no way it would just be another log flume.

Instead what they created was a 12 minute storybook ride. The story unfolds as you drop down and float into each new scene. It culminates with a 52 foot drop that is unforgettable. Everything including the music and the animatronics contribute to the feel of this attraction.

The first time I rode Splash Mountain was Easter week the year it opened. We waited three hours in the extremely unpleasant Florida heat. But because of the longevity and the quality of the attraction, I felt that it was more than worth it. Splash is a definite must-do for me!

Splash Mountain (Photo from WaltDisneyWorld.com)
1. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
If you review my top ten you will see some patterns. I do like family-friendly attractions. But mostly I enjoy well-themed attractions. I have selected the Tower of Terror as my #1 attraction because I believe that it is the single best-themed attraction at Walt Disney World. From the moment you step foot on Sunset Blvd. at Disney's Hollywood Studios and you begin to hear the screams from the Tower of Terror, you are already experiencing the attraction.

However, once you step onto the line at the Hollywood Tower Hotel, you are fully immersed in the story. It truly is Hollywood in 1939 and every detail reflects that time and place. The lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel is my favorite part of the entire attraction, even more than the ride. Next time you are there take a few minutes to look around. Even the dust and cobwebs are intentional.

The preshow, which is an "episode" of the Twilight Zone television show, is a chilling start to the attraction. Next you are in the creepy basement of the hotel. The Cast Members truly get into character here, frightening guests by their strange behavior. And just like Splash Mountain isn't simply a log flume, the Tower of Terror isn't simply a free fall. The story is intertwined with the attraction.

Imagineers constantly try to find ways to improve attractions, even after they are completed. A few years ago, the Imagineers figured out how to set different ride sequences for the Tower of Terror. Therefore you could ride the attraction several times and the ride experience may be different every time. Not only did this make the attraction more exciting, it also made it more terrifying, even for guests like me who have been on the attraction hundreds of times!

The Tower of Terror (Photo by Rosanne Mottola/ The Disney Point)
So do you agree? Disagree? Please let me know in the comment section! Also check out Heidi's page for more top ten lists from other Disney bloggers.

* A special thanks to Dennis Brown of Dennnis Brown 360 Photography and Glass Slipper Concierge for the use of his beautiful photos! A big thank you to Heidi Strawser for hosting Destination Disney blog hop! Go check out the other Disney bloggers' Top Ten lists!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Icon of Icons


As a part of the Disney College Program I had to attend "Once Upon a Time is Now," a class about the history of the Magic Kingdom. All new Magic Kingdom Cast Members must participate in the class. We had to arrive at the crack of dawn (literally) for the class. There are some benefits for getting up that early... this shot. We had the opportunity to take photos on Main Street U.S.A. prior to park opening, with only a few managers and security mulling around.

It was beautiful and it was a moment I will never forget. With every minute I found myself falling more and more in love with Disney.


Focused on the Magic

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Edition: Raglan Road

Top o the mornin' to you!

On this beautiful St. Patrick's Day I thought it would be fitting to discuss one of my favorite locations in Downtown Disney - Raglan Road.

Raglan Road - Downtown Disney (Photo courtesy of RaglanRoad.com)  
Raglan Road is a bright spot in an otherwise dim location. Since the closure of Pleasure Island, there have been few entertainment hot spots that have opened in the district. Yet Raglan Road has delivered, in my opinion, in creating a very entertaining place where you can also get a good meal and a refreshing drink.

Entertainment at Raglan Road (Photo Courtesy of RaglanRoad.com)
At first glance you will notice that Raglan Road is quite large! There is seating on the inside and outside of the building, so on those cool winter nights do not hesitate to ask for a table outside. (For those extra-cool nights, there are space heaters on the outside patio) In a rush? There is counter-service fish and chips on the side of the restaurant. On the inside of the restaurant, you will notice an Irish flare, with dark wood and Celtic influences.

Raglan Road serves lunch and dinner daily. The menu is pretty extensive, offering traditional Irish food with a modern twist. My husband and I almost always share "Appetizer D'lirrah" with whoever we are traveling with. This appetizer sampler includes:
- Dalkey Duo: Beer Battered Sausages
- Scallop Forest: Battered Scallops with Citrus Lime Dipping Sauce and Sweet Chili Jam
- Heaven on Earth: Baby Back Ribs in a Guinness Glaze (*Truly heaven on earth)
- Drunk Chicken Skewers: Whiskey Marinated Chicken Skewers with Honey Mustard


Dalkey Duo (Photo courtesy of RaglanRoad.com)
Hopefully this Appetizer D'lirrah (don't ask me how to pronounce it, I have no clue) description has given you a good overview of what Raglan Road has to offer. Of course they have traditional Irish food like fish and chips and Shepherd's Pie, but the chefs have found a way to make these staples more contemporary and foodie-worthy!

The food is just one part of what makes Raglan Road so special, however. The entertainment is what really makes Raglan Road a hot spot. Right in the center of the restaurant is a stage where authentic Irish performers are featured. From Irish bands in kilts to a fabulous Irish step-dancer that performs nightly, you will never be bored while dining at Raglan Road.

Entertainment at Raglan Road (Photo Courtesy of RaglanRoad.com)
Finally, what is an Irish restaurant without a well-stocked bar? Well it certainly wouldn't be Irish, that's for sure! The bar at Raglan Road features imported, domestic and local draught beer, your typical bottled beer and a pretty extensive list of craft beer. For those of you who like to sample, be sure to ask about their beer flights. In addition to beer, the bar also features a comprehensive whiskey and wine list.

Raglan Road Bar (Photo courtesy of RaglanRoad.com)
Raglan Road is a must-do for any Irish food/drink lovers. I highly recommend it! And on this St. Patrick's Day, I really wish I was there to celebrate like a good Italian girl!

Let me know what you think about Raglan Road in the comments section!

Happy St. Patrick's Day from The Disney Point!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flashback Friday: My First Mickey Photo

I love going through old photo albums from past Disney trips. First of all, my mother is one of the most organized amateur photographers I know! Everything is developed, in albums and labeled by year and destination.

This particular photo was from my first Walt Disney World vacation. In my Magical Blogorail post earlier this week, I mentioned that my parents and grandparents took me for a few days when I was one. This was my first time meeting Mickey Mouse.

I look horrified, no?

Don't forget to LIKE The Disney Point on Facebook and to FOLLOW The Disney Point on Twitter. Bloggers, be sure to add The Disney Point through Google Friend Connect and Networked Blogs! 

Many thanks to Debra from Focused on the Magic for hosting today's Flashback Friday Blog Hop! Have a magical weekend!

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Magical Blogorail: Favorite World Showcase Pavilion


Welcome to those of you joining me from The Magical Mouse Pad and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the Final stop on our Magical Blogorail.

If there is a part of Walt Disney World that I've learned to appreciate more throughout the years, it's the Epcot World Showcase. The World Showcase is an area in which I truly believe that Disney competitors have not been able to replicate.  I truly love strolling throughout the World Showcase, shopping in the different stores, sampling the unique cuisine and (most of all) speaking to the Cast Members representing their native countries. 


However, there is one country I truly love to visit each and every time I'm in Epcot and where I tend to linger a little longer than the others. Italy!


(Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com)
Why is Italy my favorite World Showcase pavilion? There are several reasons. First and foremost, it is because of my heritage. I am an Italian-American. My father was the first child in his family that was born in America. My aunt and uncle (my Dad's older siblings) were born in Italy. My Mom is also 100 percent Italian. Italian is frequently spoken in my house. We are very proud to be Italian and we celebrate our culture!

My father frequently tells me the story of my first Disney trip. I was a happy one year old, being carted around in a stroller by my parents and my grandparents. My grandparents, who emigrated from Italy when they were young in search for a better life, were unbelievably touched seeing the pavilion for the first time. It was also special for my grandfather, Alfredo, the first time he saw Italy's signature restaurant - "L'Originale Alfredo di Roma."

(Image courtesy of AllEars.net)

Throughout the years, the Italy pavilion has gone through significant changes. For one, Alfredo has been replaced. However, I believe the Italy pavilion is one of the nicest areas in all of Epcot. First of all, the Italy pavilion is in a prime location. It sits right next to the America pavilion, which is the furthest point of the World Showcase. Therefore, there is a terrific view of Spaceship Earth and offers a picturesque view of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

(Image courtesy of Yesterland.com)
There is also a bridge outside the pavilion that allows you to see the entire World Showcase.


(Photo Courtesy of AllEars.net)

Shopping is plentiful in the Italy pavilion. There are two wonderful shops which feature authentic Italian merchandise, food and wine - Il Bel Cristallo and La Bottega Italiana. I truly enjoy seeing all of the Italian candies that I grew up enjoying at my grandparents' homes. 


However, my favorite part of the Italy pavilion is, of course, the food! Before you even step inside the Italy pavilion, there are a few culinary delights that are not to be missed. I often stop by the cart outside the pavilion for a Bellini. Bellini is a refreshing and delicious Italian cocktail which is a mixture of sparkling wine and peach.  

Enjoying a Bellini in Epcot with my cousin Heather!
When I'm not in the mood for a cocktail, I often stop at the outside cart for an espresso and a cannoli!


While Alfredo is no longer a dining option in the Italy pavilion, there are two terrific table service restaurants for you to enjoy - Tutto Italia Ristorante and Via Napoli. 

Tutto Italia Ristorante (Image courtesy of WDWInfo.com)
Via Napoli (Image Courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com)
Via Napoli is the newest addition to the Italy pavilion, and for me it's incredibly exciting. FINALLY a Walt Disney World restaurant that has REAL pizza! What I wouldn't do to have had that option while I lived in Orlando! (Please note, as an Italian and as a New Yorker, I am a total pizza snob) Via Napoli is an authentic Italian pizzeria and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal there in November. 


I hope you enjoyed the Italy pavilion through my eyes!


Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Black this month. We will be back April 10th with an all new theme. Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney news, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

1st Stop ~ The Disney Chick
2nd Stop ~ Manda’s Disney Blog
3rd Stop ~ Mommy Mouseketeer
4th Stop ~ The Magical Mouse Pad
Final Stop ~ The Disney Point (You are here!)

 

Monday, March 12, 2012

What's the Point? The Magic Kingdom Show

I find that most casual Disney fans are often surprised the most when they learn about the intentional decisions that were made (by either Walt Disney himself or the executives that followed him) in the planning of Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Walt Disney was dedicated to putting on a good "show." And a good show needs, first and foremost, a supporting cast. Many Disney fans know that Disney employees are known as Cast Members. But do you know why?

Picture this: You arrive at the Ticket and Transportation Center, prepared for a fabulous day at the Magic Kingdom.

You hop on the ferry and enjoy some picturesque views of Bay Lake. You see Cinderella Castle far away, previewing an amazing movie.

When you get off the ferry, you can no longer see the castle. The train station is blocking your view - almost like the curtain to a stage show. As you pass through the turnstiles and underneath the train station you will see preview posters for the different lands of the Magic Kingdom. 

As you pass around the corner, you may begin to notice the music getting slightly louder. You will also notice Cinderella Castle in full view. On your left and right are windows with names. These names are people who made the "production" of Walt Disney World possible. I often describe these names as the "opening credits" to the show.

Interested in the windows of Main Street? I highly suggest you check out the Disney Babies Blog.  Every Wednesday Jenn posts about a different window and the history and meaning behind the window. It's so interesting and I learn something new every week!

As you enter each land the music changes based on the theme. The Cast Members costumes change based on the land as well. You will never, ever see a Tomorrowland Cast Member in Adventureland. Walt Disney was horrified by this thought. If a Cast Member must travel from land to land, they must do so via the underground tunnels (also known as the Utilidor) so they don't ruin the theme of the show.

Many of the details that we take for granted as guests were deliberate decisions! The more I learn about these decisions the more fascinated I am with the history of the theme parks. I hope you enjoyed this information as much as I do!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Flower and Garden Part 3

I know that for the last two Wordless Wednesdays I have posted pictures from the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. I'm sure you are probably sick of it! But since today is the start of the festival, I had to do it one more week. And, as I previously mentioned, I am SO READY FOR SPRING!

Enjoy! Let me know what were your favorite topiaries from years past in the comment section.



These two photos were taken in the UK pavilion. The overgrown appearance of the flowers is perfect for the setting. In addition, the tea cups are growing actual tea leaves. If you get close enough, you can smell the different plants and clearly make out what kind of tea it is! My favorite was the chamomile.

Focused on the Magic