Waiting in line at Disney Parks can be avoided by a number of legitimate strategies. Get to the park early, stay late, legally use a free system in place that speeds things up and more. But nothing quite beats the instant access to rides granted to the disabled, a practice that had wealthy park visitors hiring savvy wheelchair-bound “guides” to bypass everyone else.
Paying over $100 per hour — $1,000 or more for the day — able-bodied park visitors posing as relatives of a handicapped went straight to an auxiliary entrance reserved for those with special needs. “My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” said one mom in a New York Post article last May. Misuse of Disney’s Guest Assistance Card [GAC] program was so widespread that the theme park operator is discontinuing it in October.
In the new system, visitors with disabilities will be given an assigned return time equal to the estimated wait, one attraction at a time. Called the Disabled Assistance System [DAS], visitors with disabilities will still get “back door” access to attractions but will lose the time advantage they had under the old system vs. actually waiting in line.Does this sound a lot like Disney’s FastPass system? It’s not.
FastPass is a virtual queuing system that allows a limited number of guests per hour to go to the front of the line on certain attractions. Disability card users get a return time based on the actual wait time for the ride.
A Disney World vacation is often high on the list of dream destinations for Mom, Dad and the kids; solo travelers; multi-generational families and others. Travelers often plan and budget years in advance to make it happen. But not all Disney World-oriented travel options are focused on theme park rides, blazing Florida sun or capturing images of the kids with Disney characters. For some, the focus is on fitness.
Disney Princess races might bring thoughts of Cinderella trying to manage her fabulous ball gown in a starting line position, but really, these marathons are fantastic opportunities to enjoy the expansive parks while meeting new goals. Some events are serious runs that take focused preparation to compete in and are also planned years in advance. Right now, Disney Princess runners are preparing for the 2014 season, which includes races in six out of the 12 months.Disney’s Princess Half Marathon is a 13.1-mile magical course that makes for “a weekend of majestic runs in the most magical place on earth,” says the RunDisney website. That same weekend, kids get into the act with RunDisney Kids Races where every prince and princess is a winner and VIP Race Retreat packages pile on the royal treatment.
Disney’s Enchanted 10K is a new event that takes competitors through Epcot. The longest race Disney offers, the Glass Slipper Challenge, is a 19.3-mile adventure done over two days. That race combines the Princess Half Marathon with the Enchanted 10K. This event features Disney characters and entertainment on-course, and event weekend transportation is provided to and from all Disney World resorts.
Budget Travel Help From The Mouse
Once registered for one or more of the weekend’s events, travelers can use a Magic Your Way Package to enjoy the rest of their vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort that includes marathon events that are not available to book online.
A Fire-breathing dragon in Florida? To celebrate the opening of new Fantasyland, Disney World’s largest expansion in 41 years, a flying dragon appeared above Cinderella’s Castle in Florida last night, as the new area’s guardian against evil.
As the story goes, there was a curse cast upon Fantasyland long ago, which was lifted, doubling the area in size. Actually a variation of an ultralight vehicle, the dragon is a manned aircraft powered by an engine and assisted by a parachute overhead.
Not a regularly scheduled part of the park experience, future opportunities to view the dragon are unclear.
“Indeed your eyes didn’t deceive you. Our dragon made a brief appearance as part of celebrating the grand opening of New Fantasyland. You never know where or when a dragon might appear again!” Disney spokesman Rick Sylvain told Inside The Magic.
Florida’s Walt Disney World is about to open a new, re-imagined Fantasyland. The iconic park had been in operation for years to the thrill of vacationers of all ages and needed a facelift. More than a fresh coat of paint and upgraded technology, Disney is adding a popular immersive element to the experience.
“The Magic Kingdom is the iconic place at Walt Disney World and Fantasyland is the favorite land,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts in the U.S. and France in a Fox News report. “It’s the heart of the Magic Kingdom and we’re absolutely doubling the size of it, so I think that’s major in our guests’ minds.”
New Fantasyland has had some attractions up and running for weeks during a soft opening where cast members test their operation. Along the way, those experiencing new features and attractions have been engaged and drawn into each correlating story, every step of the way.
Enchanted Tales With Belle
A new attraction, Enchanted Tales with Belle, is an interactive experience (as opposed to a “ride”) that begins with an enchanted mirror transporting guests from Belle’s house to Beast’s library where Belle and Lumière invite guests to become part of a lively retelling of the “tale as old as time.”
Unique here is that groups are small and many are invited to participate in the experience that brings guests up close and personal with live action characters from “Beauty and the Beast.” This is not a passive, sit-around-and-watch attraction.Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid
Also new is the musical attraction Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid where guests enter Prince Eric’s castle, board a giant clamshell and enjoy high-energy songs and effects that take them inside scenes from the animated Disney film “The Little Mermaid.”
Similar to Haunted Mansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ride transports guests on clamshell-style vehicles using the Omnimover ride system introduced by Disney Imagineers in the 1960s. The ride takes guests through a series of scenes, first taking them to the bottom of the ocean, bringing us up to speed on Ariel’s journey from her father’s undersea kingdom then on to meeting Prince Eric.
Be Our Guest Restaurant
Cinderella’s Castle has some competition now with the opening of Beast’s Castle. In the middle of Beast’s Castle are three dining rooms that make up the new Be Our Guest Restaurant.
A West Wing features an enchanted rose, the Rose Gallery has twirling, larger-than-life figures of Belle and Beast and the Ballroom features an elegant domed ceiling, twinkling chandeliers and views of softly falling snow.
Inspired by Disney’s animated feature “Dumbo,” the Storybook Circus park within a park features a country fair feel with colorful big-top tents and attractions.
The Barnstormer takes the Great Goofini on a stunt plane ride high above Storybook Circus. As the story goes, Goofy has goofed his way into the role of a circus stunt pilot, The Great Goofini. In the tradition of classic air shows, The Great Goofini takes you away on a spiraling stunt plane adventure. Your twisting, turning, daredevil, roller coaster “flight” takes you high above the grounds of Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland.
A new Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride is twice the size of the old one and features a circus-themed play area offering recreation and relaxation for guests as they wait for their turn – with two rotating squadrons of airborne pachyderms! Inspired by the title character from the 1941 Disney animated motion picture, this popular attraction lets you fly with Dumbo.
Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station is a circus-themed water play area where guests can enjoy cooling refreshment and squirt each other. Interactive water features include Casey Jr., who lets off billows of cooling “steam” along with monkeys, elephants and camels that spray water.
Pete’s Silly Sideshow is the place for guests to meet Disney circus stars who are excited to show off their special talents. Located inside one of the big-top tents, guests can meet Minnie Magnifique (Minnie Mouse as a circus performer), Madame Daisy Fortuna (Daisy Duck as a fortuneteller), The Great Goofini (Goofy as a daredevil stunt pilot) and The Astounding Donaldo (Donald Duck as a snake charmer).
Opening this week, that’s not the end of Fantasyland expansion. Doubling the size of the park, two other major attractions are underway, due to open in 2013 and 2014.
In the center of Fantasyland, Princess Fairytale Hall, opening in 2013, will feature walls of stone and stained glass windows opening into a large gallery where portraits of the Disney princesses cover the walls. Guests will move to elegantly finished rooms, meeting Disney princesses Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana and Rapunzel.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, opening in 2014, will take guests on a musical coaster ride into a mine via a first-of-its-kind ride system with a train of vehicles that swing back and forth, based on the classic Disney film and animated figures of “Snow White and the Dwarfs.”
Universal StudiosOrlando announced Thursday a new ride based on the Transformers movies to open next summer. That’s big news for theme park fans around the world.
The new four-minute Transformers ride in Orlando will be entirely in the dark and use 3-D flight simulator technology, said to be the next generation of Spider man, much like Transformer rides already in motion at Universal Studios Hollywood and Singapore.
Continuing a move by theme parks to make rides more experiential, riders are recruited in waiting queue by the Transformers. Their job is to help keep the AllSpark energy source away from the Decepticons who will surely use it to take over Earth. Not everything goes well there though and a high-speed chase/battle to the death (of the Decepticons, not those on the ride) follow.
Perhaps bigger news comes from the magical world of Disney who agreed to buy Lucasfilm, heralding in a new era of Star Wars.
Three more Star Wars movies, the first to open in 2015, are in the works on top of the original films, which have earned $4.4 billion so far.
“I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime,” Lucasfilm founder George Lucas said in a statement reported by Travel Weekly.
It looks as if Star Wars will live on the silver screen and in theme parks too. Already a hit during Star Wars Weekends, Disney looks for more from the Star Wars franchise rolled into Disney products, including theme parks.