First of all, thank you for making this the biggest year ever for easyWDW.com! Granted, it’s the only year. But still, it’s the biggest year yet also!!! I can’t really say that it wouldn’t exist without your continued support, since I was blogging basically to just my mom and aunt for six months in 2010, but it’s certainly a lot more fun now that you have joined me. I went from 75,000 unique visitors and 120,000 total visits in 2010 to well over 500,000 unique visitors, 1+ million visits, and 3+ million pageviews in 2011 (not including any forum traffic). If this website wasn’t basically just one big page, the pageviews would probably be quite a bit higher. Hopefully things won’t drop off too much in 2012, despite my sour personality and penchant for making fun of people on DISboards.com!
At the risk of turning this website into just another sad cliche, I thought we would take a look back at 2011 now that it is almost not 2011 anymore. There’s a lot to cover. The Grand Floridian upgrade that never quite seemed to materialize. An appearance by George Lucas for the Star Tours opening. Sweating. Diamond Horseshoe. The 40th anniversary at Magic Kingdom that turned out to be less exciting than the after-party at my Bar Mitzvah. Christmas stuff.
We’ll take a look at just one picture from each of the Walkabouts from 2011 and expound a bit on the existential meaning of it all.
This is the first “live” picture that appeared on this website. I arrived back in Florida on May 3rd, fresh faced, with nothing but a suitcase full of polyester polos and two boxes full of assorted knickknacks. The original “Walk Around” consisted of 37 pictures and a review of the Pretzel Roll from Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner. I only had a 50mm lens on my Rebel XTi at the time, so all of the pictures were either a little-too-zoomed-in or not-quite-zoomed-out enough. This problem persisted for several months.
I thought it would be neat to post the Times Guides for each week on the site, since I’m really only one of three Disney bloggers that actually lives in Orlando. I also thought it would be neat to visit each of the theme parks to pick up the Times Guide from their respective Guest Relations’ desks. This lasted exactly two weeks as I quickly realized the excessive time it took to travel between the Parks via Disney transportation far outweighed any perceived neatness. Magic Kingdom was the fourth theme park I visited and this was about as far inside as I made it.
May 10, 2011: Magic Kingdom Walkabout – May 10 2011
The Dole Whip. The quintessential Disney World snack, assuming that we’re discussing the powdered-soft-serve category.
May 11, 2011: Magic Kingdom Walkabout – May 11 2011
The aftermath of most easyWDW.com food reviews. This time at Tortuga Tavern in Adventureland. I think if there’s one thing this website isn’t known for, it’s food reviews. Tastes like food. Looks like food. My wine reviews are a lot better though.
The Pixar Weekend event at Epcot was a nice bonus for those that happened to be in town. It gave guests an opportunity to meet Mr. Potato Head, Ratatouille, Carl Fredricksen, and Boo, all of which aappear rarely, if ever.
The insanity surrounding Toy Story Midway Mania. This is right after rope drop at 9am. We’re waiting for FASTPASSes back at One Man’s Dream.
The reality of serious Disney World blogging struck me at the official opening of the re-imagined Star Tours. I had been standing on Hollywood Boulevard since 7:30am waiting for a Star Wars Parade that wouldn’t begin until 10:15am. As expected, George Lucas appeared, and then the crowd was walked here to Star Tours. Disney was actually expecting a much larger crowd and had set up a queue all along the Streets of America that would have held about five-hours-worth of guests. Fortunately(?), it wasn’t needed as wait times only hit 100 minutes briefly that day. Since then, waits rarely peak above 60 minutes.
A look at the extended queue mentioned underneath the last picture. Those people to the right aren’t in line, thankfully.
May 29, 2011: Hollywood Studios Walkabout May 29 2011
Star Wars Weekend crowds along Sunset Boulevard. While “other websites” insist that special events like this don’t affect wait times at the usual attractions, we saw wait times that were 54.14% to 217.28% higher than recommended days during the rest of the week.
After many months of guests clamoring and more than a month of delays, Phineas and Ferb finally began meeting guests at Hollywood Studios on May 29th. They continue to see the longest wait times of any of the characters at the Studios, despite meeting guests continuously for most of the day.
June 5, 2011: A Couple Days At Magic Kingdom
It’s not all about the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. Sometimes you just want to pile into a raft, cross the Rivers of America, and plop down on one of these rocking chairs on Tom Sawyer Island.
June 12 2011: Saying Goodbye to Star Wars Weekends 2011
I’ve told this story before, but it really is my favorite. The current time is 11:23am. People were ecstatic that the FASTPASS return time for Toy Story Mania was 10:40 – 11:30, which people assumed was RIGHT NOW. They were ecstatic. You could see the smiles from Voyage of the Little Mermaid all the way over in Animation Courtyard. Unfortunately, there was a cast member explaining to people that the return time was 10:40 – 11:30pm, or about twelve hours in the future. So many sad faces. I laughed and laughed. On the inside.
Okay, I cheated a little bit here with pictures of both sandwiches mentioned in the title. The first is the BLT Chicken Flatbread from Golden Oak Outpost at Magic Kingdom. At $9.19, the cost comes out to about $1.75 per bite. The second is the Hot Italian Sandwich from Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom, which was a much larger, fresher, more satisfying meal. For the past few months, Golden Oak Outpost had switched to serving hot dogs as its sole entree, but it reverted back to the Flatbread menu over Christmas. Avoid the Flatbreads if you can. And really, that shouldn’t be too hard since it’s not like they’re going to come over and bite you.
June 26, 2011: Hollywood Studios Walkabout June 26 2011
Disney installed this Winnie the Pooh Meet and Greet in the Animation Building at Hollywood Studios towards the end of June. This gave Winnie the Pooh a prominent Meet and Greet in each of the four theme parks. His waits are routinely shortest at the Toy Soldier store at Epcot in the United Kingdom Pavilion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a line longer than a dozen people. The backdrop is a little better here and wait times are usually 20 minutes or so. We should see a new character appear here in the next couple of months.
July 2, 2011: A Return to Hollywood Studios on July 2 2011
The best bathrooms in all of Walt Disney World are to the right of the entrance to Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show in the Backlot area of Hollywood Studios. Stalls for miles and there’s very rarely anyone else inside. The only time you will see people is right before or after an Extreme Stunt Show next door. Actually, the best bathrooms are located in the World Showplace in Epcot, but they aren’t usually accessible to guests.
The crowd after the Celebrate America Fireworks on July 3rd. The crowd here is packed in shoulder to shoulder all the way down Main Street and all the way around the Hub area. Still, it was less crowded than July 4th.
July 17, 2011: Disney World Over The Last Two Weeks Or So Part 1 (Of 2)
Epcot on July 4th. Four hours before IllumiNations began, the railing all the way around World Showcase was already reserved. In this instance, we have several hundred kids from South American tour groups hanging out waiting for IllumiNations in Mexico and Norway.
The first of many poorly constructed diagrams that appeared on this website. This one shows where the Mickey and Princess FASTPASS machines are located in relationship to the Meet and Greet entrance. Perhaps even sadder than the red arrows is the fact that I use a Photoshop CS6 Alpha to create them.
July 18, 2011: Disney World Over The Last Two Weeks Or So Part 3 (Of…)
Spawning 1,000+ post threads on Disney forums around the Internet, the topic du jour in July was the new monorail hours. With no official announcement, Disney decided to shorten the Resort, Express, and Epcot Monorail system hours. Beginning July 11th, the Epcot Monorail shut down exactly one hour after regular Park close. On August 1st, Magic Kingdom’s Resort and Express Monorails shut down exactly one hour after regular Park close. That meant the Monorail would not be running during the bulk of evening Extra Magic Hours and those exiting the theme parks after a late dining reservation or shopping excursion may also miss the last Monorail back to their resort or the Magic Kingdom parking lot at the Ticket/Transportation Center. At Epcot, buses were available to transport guests. At Magic Kingdom, boats and buses carried guests back to the Monorail Deluxes and Ticket/Transportation Center.
This was my favorite post of the year. Disney continues to try to pawn off the sandwich above for $8.99. It includes nothing but a roll and two slices of turkey with a side dish of poorly prepared potato chips or small package of apple slices. No cheese. No lettuce. No tomato. No relish. Just two little slices of turkey and a roll with your choice of mayo and/or mustard.
Wednesday July 22: Animal Kingdom Walkabout July 22 and Past Gems(?)
This is the line for the Tangled Meet and Greet after Disney decided to remove Flynn Ryder. Originally, this Meet and Greet often saw actual wait times that exceeded two hours. That was because the Meet and Greet included a dance with the characters, coloring, and a traditional meet/greet/autograph session with two characters that offered top-notch interaction. Add in a 20 minute break each hour and you have a recipe for some very long, very hot waits. In an effort to reduce wait times, Disney removed Flynn and changed the composition of the Meet and Greet. Now, kids dance and color with a regular cast member and Rapunzel comes out for the Meet and Greet itself. Wait times are still 40+ minutes most days, but it’s a lot better than the 120+ minute waits earlier in the year.
Tinker Bell and friends were in need of a home after Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival finished up earlier in the year. Their arrival in the Magic Kingdom was delayed several times. At this point in July, they were meeting guests on the Adventureland Veranda Patio. You can sort of see them in the center of the image above.
July 28, 2011: Kabuki Cafe Review and Quick World Showcase Walkthrough
Japan’s Kakigori Stand got a more permanent enclosure at the end of July. Named the Kabuki Cafe, it was rumored to offer a bevy of hot snacks, but ended up serving a very similar menu to the stand that preceded it. That isn’t such a bad thing, since “kakigori” roughly translates to “snow cone in a cup,” but it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. Kabuki Cafe doesn’t seem to do as much business as the old Kakigori stand because it’s a bit further back off the World Showcase promenade and isn’t the most inviting building. It would probably do more business as a cart with a cardboard sign that says “Snowcones -$3.50” over it.
It turned out that Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook was worth the wait. The area is mesmerizing and Tinker Bell and friends are among the best at interacting with guests. Just be aware that “The Purple Fairy (Vidia)” is supposed to be a little snooty. She (probably) isn’t snickering in the photo because she doesn’t like you.
Despite my better judgement, I decided to share one of my favorite Walt Disney World spots with you. The three of these meatball sliders above cost a total of five dollars (or $2 each) at the bar at Portobello. Add an Orlando Brewing Partners beer and you have an excellent meal or heavy snack at Downtown Disney.
July 31, 2011: Epcot and Hollywood Studios Walkabout July 31 Part 1
A new layout.
August 6, 2011: The State of the Monorail – Magic Kingdom Edition
The first in a series of “live” reports following the changes in the Monorail system’s hours. This was from the first night that the Magic Kingdom and Express Monorails closed down one hour after regular Park close on an evening Extra Magic Hours night. Above are the poor souls that have to explain the transportation options to thousands of upset Monorail Deluxe resort guests over the course of several hours. Most of the doomsday scenarios concocted around the blogosphere never materialized, but we’ll certainly see our fair share of “issues” over the coming months.
August 7, 2011: The State of the Monorail – Epcot Edition
This is a shot of the buses to the Ticket/Transportation Center, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary Resorts after the Epcot Monorail shut down. A full hour is enough time to make it out of Epcot and over to the Monorail in most situations, but you do have a stream of people exiting the various restaurants after 10pm. For those exiting just after 10pm, you can expect to find long lines for the buses and a reasonable serving of confusion.
Can’t beat the last hour of late night summer evening Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom. While evening Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios and Epcot are usually lousy due to such a limited number of attractions being open, evening Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom are usually better because so many more rides and shows are open. When evening Extra Magic Hours end at 3am at Magic Kingdom during the summer, the Park is a virtual ghost town from 1am – 3am. Here, we have no one in line at Winnie the Pooh. Every attraction was a walk-on from 1:30am to 3am.
August 8, 2011: Hollywood Studios Morning Extra Magic Hour
Here we are lined up at 7:40am for an 8am morning Extra Magic Hour at Hollywood Studios with several hundred of our new best friends. July and August were the first two months where Disney added Fantasmic to virtually every night. Previously, Fantasmic would only be offered on two or three nights each week. This caused the Studios to be “crazy busy” when Fantasmic was offered and “virtually empty” when it wasn’t. Now that Saturdays almost always feature two Fantasmic shows, a morning Extra Magic Hour to lure Disney resort guests, and longer hours of operation to attract off-site visitors, they are routinely the second busiest day of the week at the Studios. Almost all of these people are headed to Toy Story Mania first thing, causing the standby wait to be 45 minutes by 8:15am and FASTPASSes to have return times of 3:30pm – 4:30pm by 9:30am.
August 8, 2011: Pop Century Resort Disney World Review
A lengthy look at the Pop Century Resort, including a very controversial comment about staying off-site! Those always seem to bring out the “Disney Authorized Disney Vacation Planners” that insist that staying on Disney property is the only way to go. More commissionable, anyway.
August 13, 2011: Epcot and Hollywood Studios Walkabout July 31 Part 2
There was a lot of hope (concern?) that Star Tours would help pull people away from Toy Story Midway Mania in the morning. Because Star Tours has a monster capacity, wait times at Star Tours routinely peak around 30-40 minutes, depending on crowd level. FASTPASS return times are usually 40-60 minutes out, compared to several hours at Toy Story Mania. On the other hand, Toy Story Mania continues to see peak wait times of 80+ minutes. In short, Toy Story Midway Mania is always your top priority in the morning. Star Tours should come after Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror in most scenarios and you may also want to visit several of the more popular characters before making your way over. Wait times are usually less than 20 minutes until 11am and you can easily collect FASTPASSes for it throughout the afternoon. Outside of Christmas or Easter at least.
August 13, 2011: Epcot Walkabout August 7 2011
One of my favorite locations in Walt Disney World – The Taiko Drummers playing on the steps of the massive Pagoda.
The full meal deal at Sommerfest in the Germany Pavilion at Epcot – Bratwurst and Authentic Hand-twisted Pretzel. At $10.79 for the two, it’s comparable in cost to most quick service meals around the Park and is much more filling than most. If you can time the pretzels so they’re oven-fresh, you’re really in for a treat.
On January 12, 2011, a fire broke out in the Enchanted Tiki Room, which purportedly damaged the Iago audio-animatronic figure. After months of rumors, Disney announced on May 15, 2011 that the Enchanted Tiki Room would lose the “Under New Management” moniker and Iago and Zazu along with it. On August 15, 2011, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room reopened to the glee of Disney dorks around the Internet. It continues to play to massive audience of between 17 and 24 people.
I’ll be back for Part 2 by the end of 2012! I promise!