By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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Review: The Happily Ever After Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom

THE FIREWORKS DESSERT PARTY AT MAGIC KINGDOM

Happily Ever After is the new projection and fireworks show at Magic Kingdom that replaced Wishes in May 2017.

Like Wishes, Happily Ever After was explicitly designed to be seen from the axis between the Main Street train station and the Castle.

Unlike Wishes, Happily Ever After has projections. Because its projections can be small and–more to the point–are only on the Main Street side of the castle, even more so than Wishes, first-timers should see it from this axis, and from further away from the station than could work well for Wishes.

Since all locals, repeat visitors and readers of sound sources of advice have caught on to this, the area between the Casey’s Corner end of Main Street and the Castle is more mobbed than ever—which will surprise those who had thought it could not be more packed. It can—and it is.

Although it is pricey, I had thought of adding the Plaza Garden variant of the Happily Ever After dessert party to my itineraries as a way of creating great, uncrowded spots to view the show. So I attended it in July 2017 to see what the value was.


The short version is that for anyone who can afford it and does not like crowds, the value is there.

There are two different parties, both of which start in the Tomorrowland Terrace.

  • One is less expensive (about $63 adults/$37 kids, after tax) and has better propinquity and sightlines, but no rain protection during the viewing. This is the “Plaza Garden” party
  • The other, the “Tomorrowland Terrace” party is more expensive (about $84 adults/$50 kids, after tax), more distant, and with off-center sight lines, but has rain protection during the viewing.

(Both have rain protection during the “dessert party” part of the evening, which takes place in the Tomorrowland Terrace.)

There are multiple potential sources of value here:

The food and non-alcoholic drinks at the party, mostly desserts…

…lotsa desserts…

…but also cheese and fruit

The very nice viewing location at the less expensive Plaza Garden viewing variant. The Terrace viewing is not bad, especially for those who have already seen Happily Ever After before, but it is a little more distant, and much more off center, than the Plaza Garden option. On the image above, the best spots overall are in gold, the Plaza Garden spot in green, and the Tomorrowland Terrace spot is marked by a red “X.”

The lack of crowding at either spot. You will have crowds once you leave, but the show itself will not feature the jostling mobs you’ll see everywhere else nearby.

The rain protection you will get during the show from the Tomorrowland Terrace location. (Both locations dine out of the rain.)

The key sources of value will vary depending on what matters to you. For me, it is seeing a great show from a close spot with a great angle without having to show up early. Add to this the absence of crowds and jostling—a value you can achieve no other way—and it’s well worth it.

For me the food is of little value. There are ways I would much rather spend my time at Magic Kingdom than hang around in Tomorrowland Terrace for 90 minutes eating cupcakes, and even if I were in the mood for junk food—which, face it, at Disney World I usually am—there’s other junk I much prefer.

Note that while you have to check in at Tomorrowland Terrace and get your credentials, you don’t have to hang around and eat and drink. Check in, get your stuff, and return about 15-20 minutes before the show to be escorted over to the viewing area.

For others the food—and/or the opportunity to sit and rest for a bit–has much more value. Moreover, unless you will be at Disney World for weeks, there’s not much need to obsess over the caliber of your diet, so conceivably cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, fruit and cheese could pass for dinner.

Since I spend the equivalent of a month or two in the parks every year (I have the somewhat rare notion that those advising others about Disney World ought to base that on personal, recent, deep experience) I am quite used to Disney World in the rain, so see little value to the covered viewing location compared to how off-center—and slightly more distant—it is, so can’t advise paying for the more expensive party.

Happily Ever After is the best evening show at Disney World. Seeing it from a good spot requires a long wait and involves much jostling and crowding. The Plaza Garden version of the dessert party is a way to make these negatives go away.

And scarf a cupcake or two while you are at it…

You can book the party on Disney’s website here, and my co-author Josh has even more on the party here.

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September 2, 2017   1 Comment

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Dole Whips!

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

DOLE WHIPS

By Jim Korkis

A cult following for a soft-serve frozen dessert created by the Dole Food Company known as Dole Whip has created such a frenzy in Disney theme park fans that many suspect that the treat is only available at Disney. It is not.

Of course, it has been served for decades at the Dole Plantation three miles north of Wahiawa, Hawaii, but in recent years, thanks to the ease in creating it, a variety of popular venues now offer it, from sporting events to zoos to state fairs and other amusement venues. Outside of Disney, vendors are strongly encouraged to use the term Dole Soft Serve instead.

(c) Disney

“Disney has literally created Dole Whip devotees,” stated Jamie Schwartz of Kent Precision Foods Group that licenses the product. “Disney built the brand.”

When Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room opened in June 1963, it was sponsored by United Airlines, promoting its flights to Hawaii. In 1976, the Dole Food Company took over sponsorship and opened up a food and beverage stand at the entrance to the attraction called the Tiki Bar.

Disneyland’s Concept Manager of Food Operations Karlos Siqueiros, who has worked at Disneyland for over thirty years, recalled that in the beginning the little stand only sold pineapple juice and pineapple spears: “Pineapple juice had always been served at the tiki stand, but we didn’t have anything to add to it literally until the Dole Whip came in.”

The soft-serve pineapple dessert can also be purchased as a “float” with pineapple juice or as a swirl of pineapple and vanilla. While most Disney fans associate the term “Dole Whip” with pineapple soft serve, it also comes in several other flavors like orange, strawberry, lemon, raspberry and mango.

In 1997, Kent Precision Foods Group in St. Louis, Missouri began to license the Dole Whip product. While it used to contain a dairy derivative, in 2013 the formula was changed and it became certified as vegan and gluten free. They sell the Dole Whip Mix which is a dry powder online. To make it just like at Disney, all that needs to happen is to add water and pour it into a home soft serve ice cream machine.

It is estimated that park guests at Disneyland and Walt Disney World consume 1.4 million Dole Whips each year. (Disneyland consumes a minimum of 600,000). It is not served at any of the other Disney theme parks worldwide. At the Aulani Resort in Hawaii, it is offered at the Lava Shack.

At WDW, it can be found at Aloha Isle, located outside of the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland, and at Pineapple Lanai just outside the back of the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Village Resort.

Starting in 2013, the Pineapple Promenade Booth at the Flower and Garden Festival sold Dole Whip where guests could order it with Siesta Key Spice Rum. Subsequent years had the option for including Coconut Rum and Sammy’s Beach Bar Red Head Macadamia Nut-flavored Rum. An alcoholic version with dark rum or coconut rum can also be purchased at Tamu Tamu restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Kent Precision Foods explains it as such: “Dole Soft Serve Mix is a lactose-free dry mix that is reconstituted with tap water and frozen down in a soft serve machine. Marketed under the popular Dole brand name, this unique product delivers an intense, natural pineapple fruit flavor, yet is fat free and cholesterol free.

“Although the Dole Food Company originally created the Dole Whip soft serve mix, they licensed the brand to Kent Precision Foods Group who now has an exclusive agreement.”

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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September 1, 2017   No Comments

Next Week (September 2 through September 10, 2017) at Walt Disney World

DISNEY WORLD NEXT WEEK: SEPTEMBER 2 TO SEPTEMBER 10, 2017

The material below details next week’s Disney World operating hours, Extra Magic Hours, parades, and fireworks.

For more on September 2017 at Disney World, see this.

OPERATING HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 9/2-9/10/17

The Magic Kingdom will be open 9a-11p 9/2 and 9/3, 9a-9p 9/4 through 9/6, 9a-7p 9/7, 9a-9a 9/8, 9a-11p 9/9, and 9a-7p 9/10

Epcot will be open from 9a-10p 9/2,  9a-9p 9/3 through 9/7, 9a-10p 9/8 and 9/9, and 9a-9p 9/10

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open 9a-9p every day

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be open 9a-9.30p 9/2 and 9a-9p 9/3 through 9/10

EXTRA MAGIC HOURS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 9/2-9/10/17

Saturday 9/2 Morning:  Animal Kingdom Evening: none

Sunday 9/3  Morning:  Hollywood Studios  Evening: none

Monday 9/4 Morning: Animal Kingdom  Evening: none

Tuesday 9/5 Morning: none Evening:  Epcot

Wednesday 9/6 Morning: none  Evening:  Magic Kingdom

Thursday 9/7 Morning: Epcot Evening: none

Friday 9/8 Morning:  Magic Kingdom Evening: none

Saturday 9/9 Morning: Animal Kingdom Evening: none

Sunday 9/10  Morning: Hollywood Studios Evening: none

PARADES AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 9/2-9/10/17

The Magic Kingdom: Afternoon Festival of Fantasy Parade: 2p every day

FIREWORKS AND EVENING SHOWS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD 9/2-9/10/17

Happily Every After at Magic Kingdom: 9p 9/2 through 9/6 and 9/8 and 9/9

IllumiNations at Epcot:  10p 9/2, 9p 9/3 through 9/7, 10p 9/8 and 9/9, and 9p 9/10

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8.30p every night

Star Wars Show and Fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9p every night

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom 8.45 and 10p 9/2; 8.45p 9/3 through 9/8; 8.45 and 10p 9/9; 8.45p 9/10

SHOW SCHEDULES FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD 9/2-9/10/17

See Steve Soares’ site here. Click the park names at its top for show schedules.

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August 31, 2017   No Comments

The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018

The guidebook I co-author with Josh of easyWDW.com is now out in its 2018 edition.

The book, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, is the latest installment of the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series, ever.

The easy Guide is, by far, the shortest, smartest, most accurate, and most up-to-date Disney World guidebook available. For example, compared to an 846 page alternative, it knows that Easter 2018 is not April 11, and that neither Barbados at Caribbean Beach nor Building 9B at Coronado Springs even exists any more!

Going to Disney World?  Do yourself a favor and get a copy of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, available at the link on Amazon.

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August 30, 2017   10 Comments

February 2018 at Walt Disney World

OVERVIEW: FEBRUARY 2018 AT DISNEY WORLD

This page reviews February 2018 Walt Disney World crowds, prices, deals and discounts, weather, and operating hours; adds a few other notes; and ends with week by week summaries.

Early February 2018 will have some of the lowest crowds and prices of the year, but also the risk of ride closures.

The end of the month brings slightly higher prices and crowds, but better weather and few closures.

In between–in 2018, the period from Thursday the 15th through Saturday the 24th–we will see high crowds and high prices.

[Read more →]

August 28, 2017   No Comments

Updated Itineraries

DISNEY WORLD ITINERARIES FULLY UPDATED

I have not been posting a lot lately, as first Josh and I have been working on the 2018 version of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, and second, I’m on a long vacation in the mountains of North Carolina.

Here’s the view from our balcony…

But every morning I’ve started early at the Starbucks in Boone, North Carolina and have been busy working there to update all the itineraries on this site.

For the standard Low and High Crowd itineraries, the updates reflect the changes at Disney World over this summer, and include refinements of my guidance for the new Avatar: World of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They also are adapted to the closure of Ellen’s Energy Adventure and the Great Movie Ride, and the shift of the Festival of Fantasy Parade to 2pm.

These standard itineraries and their variants:

My “Basic Itinerary” and its variants are meant for what is in 2017 the four-week period that begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving. They include all changes to Disney World since last December.

Which dates you should use which  itinerary, and any other needed changes, is all laid out here.

Those taking even shorter trips, or with very different arrival days, will be best served by looking at the closest itinerary I have for the essential matters, and then adapting the one and tw0 day touring plans you will find in my book. Ask me for help using the comment form below!

Although I might be busy at the kitchen table, battling with my older son over the fate of the world…

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August 26, 2017   No Comments