I’m sure you’ll see this everywhere today, but I know friend-of-site Howie from Maryland has been looking forward to this. I’ll credit Dave from yourfirstvisit.net as the first place I saw it. The discounts are pretty much what you’d expect, based on previous years:
Save up to 25%* on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for stays most nights May 28-Aug. 31, 2017 when you book March 27-July 14, 2017.
It’s a big day for Star Wars fans, as Rogue One is now available for digital download. If Carolina wasn’t playing this evening, Elyssa and I would probably be watching it tonight with a bowl of Ample Hills ice cream. (Yes, I’ll have a review of that whole “ice cream via Amazon process soon.”)
If you need to prep for your Rogue One viewing, there’s always these Mighty Men of Mouse shows that feature the MMoM Guys, friend of the site Wes James, Elyssa, and me discussing the movies:
Don’t forget! Tonight, March 23, 2017, the Disney Parks Blog is going to live stream Wishes at 8:55pm Eastern. With this night spectactular being replaced in May, it might be one of, if not the, last time that Disney will live stream the event.
As always, that easiest way to get the informatin on the live stream is to go to the Disney Parks Blog at about 8:45pm and find the post about the upcoming live stream. I’ll also try to update this post with the information if I’m able.
BREAKING! Pew, pew! Lasers! (Not really) EXCLUSIVE!! Here at Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ we don’t really try to be the FIRST to break news, but, sometimes, we want to share something special with our readers that has a time component. In this case, it’s that Fastpass+ selections for Pandora (Avatarland) open tomorrow, March 24, 2017.
The anouncement is little weird, since 60 days from tomorrow (the length of time in advance that onsite guests can book Fastpass+ selections) is Tuesday, May 23, 2017 (i.e., before Pandora is supposed to open on May 27.) I wonder if this is an indication that Disney is going to be allowing guests to get Fastpasss+ for various “soft opening” periods prior to the official opening. Also, as (kind of?) expected, you can’t book both Avatar attractions on the same day with Fastpass+ in your first 3 selections. It’s not a full on “tier” structure, but it’s close.
Relatedly, Disney has made it official that Animal Kingodm will have special Pandora-only Extra Magic Hours every night from (at least) May 27th through July 4th, 2017. For people like Elyssa and me who usually stay offsite, this extra benefit is enough to make us consider an onsite resort for a quick “hop” down to experience Avatar once the land opens.
From March 1 to May 29 this year, Epcot is hosting my favorite festival: the Flower & Garden Festival. Below is a collection of some my favorite coverage of this year’s event. Elyssa and I plan to be done there in April to see some of this stuff first hand, but–for now–we’ll point you to some other sources to show you what is going on.
As with Food & Wine, the best coverage of the individual items available at these these Kitchens comes from Josh over at easyWDW. Here are the link to his various reviews: (the NEW indicator means a new Kitchen this year, not a new review from Josh)
For more food coverage, Tessa Koten at TouringPlans has a list of her favorite items (which she labels as “family friendly”, though I don’t understand what about those items makes them such), and Robert Niles, over at Theme Park Insider has a brief write-up of some of the items he sampled.
Even though there is a growing emphasis on the Outdoor Kitchens, the original draw of the Flower & Garden Festival (and what really makes it special for me) is the wide array of topiaries that Disney puts out . As you would imagine, there is a lot of photography.
Cory Disbrow has some coverage in his signature style at the end of this post and
Josh over at easyWDW has a walk around Future World as well a detailed look at the Festival Center (which is only open from 10am to 5pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The only “issue” with Josh’s review is that it might be comprehensive enough for you to just skip the Festival Center all together.
If you’re someone who prefers to listen to your Flower & Garden coverage, then Lou has got you covered over at WDW Radio. On the other hand, if you’re someone who wants to watch some video coverage, then check out these videos from the DIS covering overall highlights:
and the more general “exploring” of the Festival:
The Disney Food Blog also has a video covering (you guessed it) the food:
I like Disney; I like fashion; ipso facto I love Disney fashion.
That means I’m going to be spending ALL OF THE MONEY on our next trip at The Dress Shop, Disney’s new store/fashion line designed specifically for me. The shop will be located in the Co-Op at Disney Springs and is set to debut at the end of this month. There better still be plenty of cute things in stock when I’m there in April!!! (The line will also be available in the Shop Disney Parks App, but I’m the type who can’t buy anything without trying it on.)
Disney fashionistas will be quick to point out you can find plenty of great dresses like this on ebay and etsy if you look in the right places, don’t mind online shopping, and are up for a gamble on quality/price/fit. I’ve also always been a big fan of seeking out “regular” pieces that can be turned into Disney fashion a la Disneybound. The pic below is me and my girl Minnie in our matching outfits. The new shop will make this sort of fun that much more accessible to other people, and I’m a big fan of spreading awesomeness.
Before I go, question for the masses: am I allowed to wear the Tower of Terror dress if I’ve never ridden Tower of Terror?
It’s NCAA tournament time (again), which means that everyone is going to be filling out brackets, joining “bracket pools”, and trash talking about how well their favorite teams are doing in the tournament. Last year, I asked on Twitter if there was a bracket group for us Disney World fans that read each other’s website, listen to each other’s podcasts, and interact online. Since no one seemed to know of one, Elyssa & I decided to create one.
So, welcome To the this year’s editionRope Drop [dot] Net NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge!
Here are the details:
We are using ESPN’s “Tournament Challenge” system in order to do our brackets.
Our “group name” is “Rope Drop [dot] Net.” (You’ll know you’re in the right group if you see the image from the bottom of this post.)
You must have your entry completed and added to the “Rope Drop [dot] Net” group by the time the first game tips off on Thursday, March 16, 2016 to join our group. (Usually, that’s around noon Eastern.)
Though Elyssa & I are contemplating a few things, there are no official prizes for entering, winning, etc… (If you’re a fellow Disney fan, site proprietor, podcast host, etc…, however, who wants to contribute some swag to a possible “prize pack”, please get in touch.) That said, the hope is there will be some fun competition and trash talking amongst the contestants that will give the winner some fun “bragging rights.”
To help facilitate the communication, I am suggesting the Twitter hashtag “#ropedropbc” to use when talking about the challenge. (Though you never know if another hashtag will take off, instead.) You can use that tag for talking about the tournament, as well as asking for help on getting your bracket picked, getting into the group, etc… I’m pretty sure that people will be willing to help others or have questions.
At this point, I think that covers all the basics. Feel free to reach out online to ask for questions, or let Elyssa know if we missed something. Good luck on your tournament picks!!
Finally, the most extensive preview came from Nightline and it featured a walk-through of the new land (again) with James Cameron and then Joe Rodhe. The BOATRIDE, as expected, looks spectactuar and the ride vehicle for the Banshee ride does seem designed to give you the feeling of being on a Banshee:
Avatar Flight of Passage launches each guest on an exhilarating, wind-in-your-face experience on a winged mountain banshee over the awe-inspiring world of Pandora. Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. What was a rite of passage for Na’vi in Cameron’s film becomes a multisensory experience for guests seeking the ultimate adventure – a faceoff with the most feared predator of Pandora, the Great Leonopteryx.
On the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, guests travel down a sacred river deep into a bioluminescent rainforest. The eight-seat reed boats float past exotic glowing plants and Pandoran creatures into the midst of a musical Na’vi ceremony. The mystical journey culminates in an encounter with a breathtakingly realistic Na’vi Shaman of Songs who is deeply connected with Pandora’s life force and sends positive energy through her music into the forest.
With 4 (!?!?) Avatar movies in preproduction, hopefully, there is a real interest in people experiencing these new things.
Tonight, the Disney is going to live stream the Main Street Electrical Parade from Disneyland. I was pretty bummed when this parade left Disney World (which hasn’t been helped by Disney still not having announced a replacement nighttime parade), so I’m going to be quite tempted to stay up to watch it again.
As with any of these events, the easiet way to get the link to view the parade is to visit the Disney Park Blog about 30 minutes before the event to see the post that contains the link to the stream.
As (semi-?)frequent vistors to Disney World, Elyssa and I have (also semi-?)frequent discussions about whether or not we want to buy into DVC. Since the Wilderness Lodge is my favorite Disney resort (and in Elyssa’s Top 2? 3?), we have been closely watching that resort’s new Copper Creek DVC expansion.
Hey! Look! The site still works! This latest batch of (breakfast?) News Nuggets is a long time coming. I had grand desigins of posting it when I was down in Florida IN DECEMBER, but that slipped. Then, life got in the way, and an iOS beta broke my custom Workflows, and…well..its (still) February.
To try make this post (of over 8 weeks worth of Disney news) a little more timely, I’ve culled some of the original stories I was going to publish, as well modified some of commentary to reflect my experiences and other news I’ve heard about these items.
Of course, the biggest news item that hasn’t already been written about on the site is:
Upcoming changes to Epcot entertainment acts – Kenny the Pirate runs down some of the upcoming (and now made) changes to Epcot entertainment. Disney seems to have decided to change these various acts a little more frequently over the past few years.
Drinks coming to Paddlefish – I wonder what the craft beer from North Carolina is. Of course, it’s kind of silly for me to go to Disney World and have beer that I can get just as easily at home.
Okay, time for another break. This time, let’s look at this tribute to the late, great Carrie Fisher from The Studios:
Ms. Fisher will be missed, and (shockingly?) I was unable to come up with a way to segway back into the nuggets:
Braves Spring Training to Conclude at Walt Disney World – This is a bummer for me. I liked being able to see some spring training baseball when I was visiting Disney World. I guess I understand the Braves’ point that they are too far away from other spring training teams, but that doesn’t make it less of a bummer for me.
New Menu Items at Jiko – Since Elyssa and I have never been here, we really don’t have any favorites that might get pulled of the menu. That said, I figure Elyssa will still try to get a filet on top of a bed of mac-and-cheese if we do go.
My favorite of the festivals at Disney Festival Adventure (i.e., Epcot)–Flower & Garden– starts on March 1 this year and the Disney Parks Blog has posted all the menus for the “outdoor kitchens”. My general fear when reading these menus is that the items are going to be fairly “expensive” what you’re getting from Epcot booth food. I’ll wait and see what’s actually being offered, however, before making an final judgments.
‘Happily Ever After’ to replace ‘Wishes’ at the Magic Kingdom starting May 12
Ever since the Main Street Electrical Parade ventured out (along the Oregon Trail, I presume?) back to California, people have been wondering when Disney would announce the Magic Kingdom’s new nighttime parade. Interestingly (surprisingly?), Disney has announced a replacement for Wishes instead. Disney describes the new show, entilted Happily Ever After, as follows:
The show will feature the latest fireworks and pyrotechnics and original animation, plus a heart-tugging original score. And thanks to the inclusion of state-of-the-art projection mapping technology, more Disney characters than ever before will be featured in the show, including moments from “Moana,” “Brave,” “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia,” “The Princess & The Frog,” “Aladdin” and many others.
Disney has announced May 12 as the official opening date for the new show, but if you really want to make sure that you see Wishes one more time before is relegated to the Youtube archives, you might want not want to wait until the last day / week before Happily Ever After debuts (just in case Disney gets too aggressive with “soft opens” of the new show.)
Pretty much the entire world is reporting that tomorrow will be a Disney World price increase (See, e.g., WDW News Today and The DIS.) The rumors include increases in the range of 2-5 dollars (depending on the “season” and the park) for single day tickets–there will probably be a similar increase on the “per day” rate for multi-day ones–, with annual passes getting a rumored increase of $10 to $30 depending on the level. If you were going to buy tickets directly from Disney in the next week or so, it might be worth buying your tickets today. If you frequently use a third party reseller, they will probably have stock at the old prices for another week or two.
Here are the new prices for new multiday tickets (Non-Park Hopper / Park Hopper):
2 Day (199 / 259) from (202 (??) / 257)
3 Day (289 / 349) from (290 (??) / 349)
4 Day (350 / 425) from (325 / 394)
5 Day (370 / 445) from (340 / 409)
6 Day (390 / 465) from (355 / 424)
7 Day (410 / 485) from (370 / 439)
8 Day (420 / 495) from (380 / 449)
9 Day (430 / 505) from (390 / 459)
10 Day (440 / 515) from (400 / 469)
and here’s the update to out of state / non-discounted annual passes:
First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests through a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, Avatar Flight of Passage will offer guests the jaw-dropping experience of exploring the world of Pandora atop a Banshee.
Actually surprising, however, was Iger’s announcement that Star Wars Land would open in 2019. Most people (either joking or otherwise) seemed to think that Star Wars Land would open in 2020, so this the actual 2019 opening is ahead of that “schedule.” More surprising, however, is that Iger made an announcement at all. Clearly, Disney is confident (or willing to spend extra to ensure–if necessary) that Star Wars Land will be completed in 2019. I’m sure there are people out there waiting to come down hard on Disney if it doesn’t make this date.
There are a couple of changes coming to one of Elyssa’s and my favorite areas at Disney World: Boardwalk / Crescent Lake.
First, Captain’s Grille is closing for an extensive refurbishment from mid-May to Fall 2017. As people who enjoy the Yacht Club and the Beach Club, we have mixed feelings about the existing Captain’s Grille offering. On one hand–as friend of the site Kip Springfield has repeatedly pointed out–the non-buffet items available during breakfast can be both interesting and pretty good. On the other hand, the dinners we’ve had range from “unmemorable” to disappointing. (In fact, we now just go directly to Crew’s Cup for dinner if we’re in the area.) For a restaurant that shares a kitchen with Yachtsmans Steakhouse, this has always been a little confusing. Hopefully the refurbishment will also given them time for an overall quality increase.
The other major announcement is a new Character Breakfast coming to Trattoria al Forno in “late Spring”. Elyssa and I have made our high opinion of Trattoria’s breakfast well known, so any potential changes to the existing setup worry me. Don’t get me wrong, a character breakfast with Flynn and Rapunzel sounds cool, but I like getting my “late” breakfast at Trattoria and then strolling into the backside of Epcot without having to pay $30 a person for the meal. I’m cautiously optimistic that this offering is something that only happens on “select days” instead of the whole week. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
If you ever have looked at my Twitter feed, you know that I’m Clemson alum and fan. Last night, my Tigers knocked off the Alabama Crimson Tide to become champions of the college football world. I still can’t put how it feels into words. Go Tigers! (Your regular Disney World related coverage will return shortly.)
In terms of our bias, we are generally frugal travelers who are willing to splurge on luxury experiences that ostensibly offer value commensurate with cost. Still, we are pretty conservative when it comes to spending, so our threshold for ‘appropriate’ value for money is likely higher than most.
This, on its face, seems to align with Elyssa’s and my point of few on those items, but–despite that apparent similarity–we evaluate some of the items quite differently. For example, Tom evaluates Early Morning Magic as follows:
Early Morning Magic – No – I’ve seen a lot of people do logical contortions trying to justify the value in these, but it just isn’t there unless you approach the parks as being E-Ticket checklists, with each ride on Toy Story Mania being worth $X. In which case, you should probably just buy a used Wii and a copy of [Toy Story Mania for Wii]. What? Not the same experience as being at Walt Disney World? Exactly. There are easy ways to enjoy these attractions during a normal, leisurely day in the parks without paying a surcharge.
I can see someone not seeing a high level of value from getting to ride Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train a few times before part opening, but to just dismiss this off hand by only citing 1 attraction from the Hollywood Studios version of this experience seems disingenuous. (Also, it would be a stretch to say it is “easy” to get multiple rides on Mine Train on a given day outside of an event like this.) As friends of the site, Wes and Howie will tell you, Early Morning Magic can be a great time to ride high demand attractions with the people you love.
Tom was similarily low on Disney After Hours:
Disney After Hours – No – After an initial flop that no doubt lost Disney money, this is returning for 2017 with a lower price tag. It’s still not worth it. What makes the seasonal hard ticket parties worth the money is the ambiance and special entertainment, Disney going the extra mile for a special event. There’s nothing special about this–it’s the same thing as a normal day just with a harder cap on attendance.
“[I]t’s the same thing as a normal day just with a harder cap on attendance.” Ah, yeah? That’s exactly the point. With the caveat that maybe Disney raises that cap for this year’s version, the cap makes the experience entirely different from the experience you have in a normal day. You can walk from attraction to attraction (frequently without seeing anyone else), and walk on pretty much any attraction as well. The longest wait we had was about 5 minutes to see Mickey at Town Square just as the event was ending. The whole experience was fantastic. (And that’s not even considering the complimentary ice cream sandwiches and drinks.)
Looking back at those two events, it seems like big difference between Tom’s position and mine, is that I feel there is a lot of value in getting to ride attractions without waiting (especially high demand ones.) It also seems like I enjoy the experience of being in an “empty” (partially empty? not as heavily populated?) park more than Tom does. Yes, Disney After Hours doesn’t have the special entertainment that a holiday party might, but being able to stroll through an empty Magic Kingdom does have a distinct ambiance that I really enjoy.
I don’t always disagree with Tom’s ratings, however. For example:
Wild Africa Trek – Yes – I’ve heard nothing but unanimous praise about Wild Africa Trek from those who have done it. While the price tag has kept us from doing it, when I think about how much an experience like this would cost elsewhere (even at the the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, special experiences are pricey) it seems fair. I wouldn’t hesitate to splurge on this if it’s something that appeals to your family.
Elyssa and I have done the Wild Africa Trek, and it’s fantastic. (Here’s my old TouringPlans article on it.) I agree with Tom, and say that it’s worth trying (if you and your family are interested in at all, obviously.)
I also agree with Tom’s take on Backstage Tours:
Backstage Tours – Maybe – I think these will appeal most to those who have ‘been there, done that’ and are looking for a new perspective from which to enjoy Walt Disney World. While being backstage could ruin the illusion for some, I think seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, can give others a greater appreciation for what takes place on stage. We’ve done a number of backstage events over the years, and have found them to be hit or miss in terms of value, but the totality of those experiences has been a deeper interest in how the parks and attractions operate.
If you’re interested in digging deeper into the history and operations of Disney World, these can be fantastic options. Of course, if someone is going on his or her first trip to Disney World (or is someone who doesn’t care about history of the parks, etc…), then these might not make as much sense.
Ultimately, the main thing to keep in mind when evaluating these types of offerings is what you value in your vacation. If you don’t particularly care about riding attractions multiple times as a result of lower crowds, maybe those “enhancements” aren’t for you. If you are more of a “foodie” and want to experience (and learn about) higher end cuisine, maybe take a look at that category of offernings. Depending on what you feel is important, you might end up with a wholly different result from Tom or me.
Pandora – The World of Avatar – A transformational experience unlike any other, Pandora – The World of Avatar, opens in summer 2017. In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Disney is bringing to life the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s epic film AVATAR, in a breathtaking new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage will send guests flying above the jungles of Pandora on a Mountain Banshee. Bioluminescent rainforests dramatically wrap around Na’vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride. Hungry adventurers can recharge at Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location, or Pongu Pongu, a drink kiosk with a design as eclectic as its expat owner. Shoppers can stock up on Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more at Windtraders.
None of this will come as a surprise to readers of the site, but it’s nice to have everything summarized so neatly. A Soarin’-like adventure and a BOATRIDE are fantastic anchors to this land. Also, it will give a preview of the new immersive theming that (I believe) will also be present in Star Wars land. (By immersive theming, I mean a little less pushing of the overall Disney brand in the land, with cast members acting more like you are really on Pandora.
More Additions to Disney Springs in 2017
Paddlefish – Sleek and modern after a bow-to-stern transformation from the former Fulton’s Crab House, Paddlefish will serve fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Unique menu choices for seafood lovers include a build-your-own boil. A new rooftop lounge will serve up a late-night menu and shipshape views of the water and Disney Springs. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
The standard of quality at Disney Springs ended up making Fulton’s obsolete. With the BOATHOUE already offerring a combination of seafood and steak, it’ll be interesting ot see what Paddlefish does to set itself apart.
The Polite Pig – A sister restaurant to the Ravenous Pig, a favorite with Orlando locals, The Polite Pig will bring the same focus on genuine Florida cuisine to a broader global audience at Disney Springs. Lunch and dinner menus will feature a variety of wood-fired smoked and grilled items as well as an innovative beverage program that serves all drinks on tap, including beer, wine and cocktails.
Though I’m not particularly excited about the Guy Fieri menu at the newly revamped Planet Hollywood Observatory, the Polite Pig seems like it might be a nice option. (Of course, I have never to the Ravenous Pig, so what do I know?)
Rivers of Light – Coming in 2017, this powerful theatrical production takes Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests on a magnificent emotional journey – a visual mix of water, fire, nature and light choreographed to an original musical score. Continuing the park’s transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience, the amazing after-dark show on the banks of Discovery River celebrates the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans in the world. (emphasis added)
“Coming in 2017.” Sigh. That said, I still wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least a trial or two during the holiday season (though, I’m not holding my breath.) Of course, if no one is at Animal Kingdom later in the evening but Elyssa & me over Christmas, I’m fine with it.
New Cabins and Deluxe Villas coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – In 2017, a proposed new Disney Vacation Club Resort, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, is scheduled to open, featuring new Resort accommodations that include plans for Deluxe Villas and unique waterfront cabins. Other enhancements coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge include a brand-new bar & grill, in addition to a quick-service restaurant. A sweeping re-imagination of the former Hidden Springs Pool, part of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is also scheduled to open in summer 2017. Named Boulder Ridge Cove, this area will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool.
If Elyssa and I were to buy DVC, this would be where we do it. We love Wilderness Lodge, and the information on these Deluxe Villas makes them seem like they’re going to be top notch. I am looking forward to seeing an actual demo.
Lastly, Disney has added a new exclusive Rogue One “sneak peak” to the extras associated with A New Hope. So, if you already own that (or just purchased it), you might want to give the sneak peak a look.
Enjoy the Star Wars universe! We should be getting a nice addition to it next week…