Just a heads up that Disney has added the Eat to the Beat concerts to the Tier 1 FastPass+ system:

You can choose any of the three nightly performances. The return time is officially a ten-minute window that begins 20 minutes before the start of the show. So the return time on the 5:30pm show is is 5:10pm to 5:20pm. I would expect that people will begin showing up long before that as anyone that uses their Tier 1 FP+ for the concert would probably be big fans of the performer.

There is no reserved section for FastPass+ users, but they will be let into the theater before standby. Disney Parks Blog is saying there is a reserved section.

When I visit, I usually just watch or listen from the back of the theater. I think most people will want to keep their FP+ choice as Soarin’ or Test Track, but if you’re headed to the Food and Wine Festival specifically to see a performance, you obviously may want to select it to have an opportunity at getting one of the best seats in the house. It’s unclear how many FP+ will be allotted for each show and whether or not the concert would be available as an early 4th FastPass+ choice. But I would doubt it.

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March 2016 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar

by josh on August 25, 2015

This is the Free March 2016 Disney World Crowd Calendar that shows the Recommended Parks to Visit, Overall Crowd Level Estimation, Cost, Historic High/Low Temperature, Historic Chance of Precipitation, Extra Magic Hours Schedule, Fantasmic Show Times, Holidays, and Special Events.

Make sure you first read my month-by-month overview of visiting Disney World, located here. The overview will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of cost, crowds, weather, and special events on a broader scale. Once you figure out when you would like to visit, you can move on to this more detailed look.

Here’s a quick explanation of how to read the calendar and what the numbers mean. It may seem like it’s a little long, but you’ll only need to read the explanation once.

  • The first line in each box is the date.
  • The second line shows the cost to book a room at a Disney-owned resort. $ = Value Season, $$ = Regular Season, $$$ = Summer Season, $$$$ = Peak Season, and $$$$$ = Holiday Season. Occasionally there will be a + or – after the $$$ to show that the cost is slightly higher or lower than usual, but not by enough to raise it another $ notch.
  • The third line is the average high and low temperature and the chance of precipitation. All data is based on the last 15 years. I wouldn’t read too much into the precipitation percentages for each day because just one or two additional days of rain in the last 15 years can raise the percentage substantially. I included it so you can look at the precipitation trends throughout the month(s) and take it into consideration when deciding when to book your vacation. For a broader overview of the month, read the month-by-month overview I linked to above.
  • The fourth line is an estimation of the overall crowd level. A “5″ refers to average crowds. Numbers above 5 refer to a larger than average overall crowd level and numbers below 5 refer to lower than average overall crowds. A day with an overall crowd level of “1″ means that the crowds are expected to be the absolute lowest of the year and a “10″ means crowds are expected to be at their largest of the year. In other words, the overall crowd level estimation will give you an idea of how many people are in the four major theme parks. Individual theme parks can have smaller or larger crowds than the overall estimation, which is where the theme park recommendations come in.
  • The fifth line shows the theme parks I recommend visiting in green and the theme parks I recommend avoiding in red. There is also a | sign that splits up the recommended and not recommended Parks for the color blind or those printing in black and white (the Parks to the left of the | sign are recommended). I use the usual abbreviations for the Parks; AK is the Animal Kingdom, EP is Epcot, HS is Hollywood Studios, and MK is the Magic Kingdom. In addition to the colors, the Park on the far left is the most recommended Park to visit that day. The Park second to the left is the second most recommended and so on. For example, if the line reads AK EP | HS MK then the Animal Kingdom is the most recommended and Epcot is the second most recommended. On the other side of the | sign, Hollywood Studios is not recommended and the Magic Kingdom is expressly not recommended even more. If possible, I would strongly recommend you visit the Park that is most recommended each day. Please read below the calendar for an overview of how I’ve selected the recommended Parks and also a day-by-day explanation.
  • The sixth line lists which Parks have Extra Magic Hours and at what time they start. Morning Extra Magic Hour lasts one hour and usually starts at 8am. Evening Extra Magic Hours last two hours from the start time. For example, if you see AK:8am EP:9pm, that means the Animal Kingdom has a morning Extra Magic Hour from 8am-9am and Epcot has evening Extra Magic Hours from 9pm-11pm.
  • The seventh line lists the Fantasmic show times at the Hollywood Studios.
  • The eighth line lists the start time of Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP:) and Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom(W:). For example, if you see, MSEP: 9pm & 11pm W: 10pm, it would mean that Main Street Electrical Parade begins at 9pm and 11pm and Wishes begins at 10pm.

The Calendar is also available in an easy to view and print PDF file, Here.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Tuesday March 1

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 5pm (Recommended)

Epcot: 9am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Evening Extra Magic Hours: 9pm-11pm

Illuminations: 9pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 7pm (Recommended)

Fantasmic: 7pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 8pm (Most Recommended)

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: 7pm, Wishes Fireworks: 8pm

Animal Kingdom is recommended. We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it. Yesterday’s morning Extra Magic Hour will be more popular with Disney resort guests. It’s early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week. To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. You’ll have no trouble riding both with very low waits before 10am. Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon shows, so try to see the first or last show of the day. You’ll also want to get to DinoLand USA before 10:30am to ride Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR because those two attractions are popular. Still, they aren’t necessarily your top morning priorities. You should have no trouble experiencing most everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FastPass+ intelligently, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows. Finally, crowds disperse around 3pm. Plan to stay through close because waits will only get shorter as it gets later in the evening. Visit DinoLand after 3pm and Asia after 4pm to find much lower waits than the afternoon.

Epcot is not recommended. Disney is extremely good at selling the Extra Magic Hours program in its marketing materials. Even people that have no idea what “Soaring” is and think they’ll be riding the monorail from Animal Kingdom to Epcot know about Extra Magic Hours. Even when overall crowds are low, Disney still enjoys 85% occupancy over 25,000 rooms resort-wide. And guess where a lot of those 75,000+ people are going to be headed? The increased crowds lead to longer lines, heavier congestion in common areas, and an overall less pleasant touring experience. With that said, you can still do well from 9am-11am. Most Disney resort guests will sleep in and arrive around 10:30am in anticipation of staying through IllumiNations. The morning will be a decent time to tour, but you’ll probably want to Park Hop elsewhere after lunch or you’ll be stuck in significantly larger-than-usual crowds. You might also consider an afternoon break from 2pm-6pm when crowds will be at their largest. You could then return in the early evening for dinner and Extra Magic Hours. Alternatively, you could also Park Hop over in the evening for Extra Magic Hours, provided you’re aware of how busy it will be. With Extra Magic Hours only being two hours now, wait times at Soarin’ and Test Track won’t ease much until after 10:15pm. However, other attractions will see nominal waits and it’s a great time to take in Epcot’s natural ambiance and hit a few of the less popular/high capacity attractions. Skip Illuminations if you’ll be here on another night because it will be more crowded than usual. Overall, there’s no reason to visit Epcot today because crowds will be higher than just about any other day during the week and waits at Soarin’ and Test Track will be just as long as they were during the day until at least 10pm.

Hollywood Studios is recommended. Epcot will prove popular with evening Extra Magic Hours and there’s nothing specific attracting people with Fantasmic scheduled every night along with similar operating hours. Keep in mind that what you do is far more important than which day you do it. To have the most success, arrive by 8:15am and head directly to Toy Story Mania, and then Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Do this, and you’ll be in great shape for the rest of the day. Don’t arrive until 10am and you’ll end up with 60+ minute waits at Toy Story Mania along with 30+ minutes at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and potentially Tower of Terror. After getting through the headliners, focus on the Studios’ stage shows and high capacity attractions like Muppet Vision 3D. Popular characters like Woody/Buzz and Sofia the First may also be a morning priority. While it’s a recommended day, it’s still more important to arrive early and tour efficiently than it is to pick the “right” day, even when overall crowds are low.

Magic Kingdom is the most recommended Park. Tomorrow will prove more popular with Disney resort guests with evening Extra Magic Hours. With the somewhat standardized operating schedule, today won’t be far and away less crowded than other days, but it presents the best opportunity to enjoy the lowest waits and crowds possible. Like any other day, arriving by 8:20am with an efficient touring plan is the key to a successful day, in addition to intelligent FastPass+ usage beginning as early as around 10am. Either visit the least popular/highest capacity attractions in the afternoon or consider a break back at your resort. Return in the evening for dinner, a few attractions, and the nighttime Spectaculars. If you have no interest in Main Street Electrical Parade/Wishes, visit Tomorrowland or Fantasyland in the final hour to find much shorter waits than the afternoon, ending the night at either Peter Pan’s Flight or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Remember that you can get in line for any attraction right up until the stated closing time, regardless of posted waits, which are usually exaggerated at the end of the night. I recommend getting in line for Mine Train just a couple minutes before close to minimize the wait as much as possible.

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After spending a few hours at Hollywood Studios, we move over to Magic Kingdom on the afternoon of Wednesday August 19th.

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Disney World 2015 Halloween Merchandise

by josh on August 21, 2015

We have a new round of Halloween merchandise for 2015. You know, with it being August already and everything.

As always, if you see something you like, you can contact my private shopping girlfriend Lisa at lisa@theparkshopper.com. She would be happy to pick up whatever you have your eye on for a nominal service fee and the actual shipping cost.

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All right, all right, all right.

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This is what we’re looking at for March 2016. Click to enlarge or view as a prettier PDF. And if you don’t know what the numbers/letters mean, read the top of this post. The full operating schedule is available here.

This is what we’re looking at for March 2016. You’re best served ending your trip no later than the 4th to avoid the higher resort rates, though crowds don’t spike higher significantly higher until the 7th. The next two weeks are similar – above average crowds and high resort prices. Things take off beginning the 20th with extremely heavy Easter crowds and high resort rates to match demand. The last week looks to be the busiest of the spring break season and the busiest in between Presidents Day Weekend and the Independence Day holiday over the first weekend in July.

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Disney made a few changes to the first few days in December, including switching Epcot’s Extra Magic Hours on the 1st and 3rd of the month. This won’t affect the recommendations, but those planning to visit on one or both of those days may want to take a second look at what they plan to do. Hollywood Studios’ hours have been extended on December 2nd with Fantasmic added. That change should have a nominal effect on the recommendations with Epcot now most recommended on the 2nd and Hollywood Studios falling to “just” recommended like it is most other Wednesdays. It’s probably not enough to cause anyone to change their plans, but it does mean Fantasmic will be available, the Osborne Lights will be turned on, and evening crowds will be heavier than they would have been with a 6pm close.

Disney also moved up the Electrical Parade and Wishes times around Christmas from December 19th through the 29th. Along with the earlier-than-expected nighttime entertainment times over Thanksgiving, it seems like Disney is confident that the new Hub area will help alleviate uncomfortable crowding more than shifting the entertainment times back later in the evening. We’ll see.

The full December operating schedule is available here: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_december.pdf.

Tuesday December 1:

Epcot morning Extra Magic Hour canceled. Epcot Evening Extra Magic Hours added.

Wednesday December 2:

Hollywood Studios hours extended from 9am-6pm to 9am-8pm. Fantasmic added at 7pm. No Fantasmic shows previously scheduled.

Thursday December 3:

Epcot evening Extra Magic Hours canceled. Epcot morning Extra Magic Hour added.

Saturday December 19 through December 29:

Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-12am from 9am-11pm. Main Street Electrical Parade moved from 10:15pm to 9:30pm. Holiday Wishes moved from 9pm to 8pm.

 

 

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Disney officially added Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes daily over Thanksgiving Week from November 22nd through November 28th. The Electrical Parade is currently scheduled at 8pm with Wishes following at 9pm. A second Electrical Parade will assuredly be added at 10pm daily, though we may not see that update until the middle of October.

I never heard a good reason for the original omission of the nighttime entertainment, though each is scheduled one hour earlier than expected. In past years, the Electrical Parade has been scheduled at 9pm with Wishes following at 10pm. I’m not sure why they would move the shows up an hour, which is a departure from what Disney has been doing to ease nighttime crowds, which is schedule the entertainment as late as possible so fewer people are around to see it. Anyway, expect the Electrical Parade at 8pm and 10pm with Wishes at 9pm during Thanksgiving Week.

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Disney made one additional change to the October operating schedule, extending Hollywood Studios’ close to 7pm and adding Fantasmic at 7:30pm. Hollywood Studios will no longer be officially recommended on the 24th, though you can still make the day work if you’re Extra Magic Hours eligible and able to arrive no later than 7:30am to take advantage of it. The evening will also look like most other days during the week, which is a downgrade from what it would have looked like before with no Fantasmic to keep people around.

Saturday October 24:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-7pm from 9am-6pm. Fantasmic added at 7:30pm. No Fantasmic shows previously scheduled.

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Disney made a handful of changes to the September operating schedule. The full operating schedule is available here. Click “refresh” to load the newest version. The changes should be good news as they’re all extended hours in the evening and/or adding nighttime entertaniment.

Saturday September 5:

  • Second Fantasmic added at Hollywood Studios at 10pm, in addition to 8:30pm show.

Sunday Septenber 6:

  • Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am-6pm from 9am-5pm.
  • Second Fantasmic added at Hollywood Studios at 10pm, in addition to 8:30pm show.

Monday September 7:

  • Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am-6pm from 9am-5pm.
  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-11pm from 9am-10pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 11pm, in addition to 9pm Parade.

Sunday September 13:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-10pm from 9am-9pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 10pm, in addition to 8pm Parades.

Thursday September 17:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-10pm from 9am-9pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 10pm, in addition to 8pm Parade.

Saturday September 19:

  • Hollywood Studios hours extended to 9am-9pm from 9am-7:30pm. Second Fantasmic added at 9:30pm, in addition to 8pm show.

 

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