iTunes is currently running a sale called the Disney Princess Collection. There are a variety of books, soundtracks (does anyone not own Frozen?), and apps that could help fill out your library. More importantly, however, is the sale on certain Disney movies (something that is pretty rare on iTunes). The following movies are all marked down to $14.99:
The Disney Parks Blog is doing another live stream tonight at 8:00PM. What’s different about this stream, however, is that it’s not dedicated to just 1 event. Instead, it’s supposed to give looks at things like Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party and the Food & Wine festival. I’m interested to see how it works.
If you’re like me, you might have “invested” in one of Disney’s customized D-Tech cases for your smartphone. Unlike in the past when Apple has decided to use the same body design for its updated phones, previous D-Tech cases (i.e., those designed for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (or 6s and 6s Plus) will not really work with the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models. I say “really work”, because it looks like this:
Since the body size of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 is the same, the case fits the phone, but the camera on the new phone is positioned differently than it was on the iPhone 6. (I thought the problem might be the size of the lens, but it’s actually the lens’ position that causes the issue.) The interesting thing is the camera doesn’t actually seem to be impacted by the weird case over it. Here are 2 pictures of a white wall, 1 taken horizontally and 1 taken vertically, and you can see the only issue is some minor darkness in the the corner covered by the lens.
That said, having a case cover part of the camera like this looks ridiculous (and I don’t plan on doing it.) (There’s also the issue of the bottom cutout looking funny over the place where the headphone jack used to be. That’s so minor, that I didn’t really even consider it.)
Such a lengthy explanation isn’t necessary for the iPhone 7 Plus models. The dual camera setup on that phone is just too big to fit the existing iPhone 6 Plus case. (I’m sure most people didn’t need me to tell them that.)
So, with that question answer, my next question is: What case, if any, should I get for my new iPhone 7? Let me know on Twitter if you have any suggestions.
At 3am Eastern today, I–like many a technology geek–was loading and reloading the Apple Store on my existing iPhone in hopes of securing a new iPhone on next Friday’s launch day. The store was supposed to go live at 3:01am, but at 3:08am I was still getting the “check back soon” message that Apple puts up when it’s updating its store. People on Twitter were–justifiably–complaining about how frustrating things were. When I finally got into the store, I received a generic “unable to complete transaction at this time” error on 6 different attempts before my order went through on my phone (during which time I–unnecessarily–went to my computer as a backup, in case I was doing something wrong on my phone). A basic online order that should have probably been completed by 3:04am wrapped up at 3:37am.
When the process was completed, I tweeted about how much the whole experience made me long for Disney’s ADR system. I know there are differences in scale–orders of magnitude differences, probably–but, every day of the year Disney enables its ADR system at exactly 6:00am to allow thousands of people to make their 180-day reservations. Every day. I’ve gone through that process at least 25 times, sometimes making tens of reservations, and it usually works pretty well. The same goes for making new Fastpass+ selections, changing ADRs, and otherwise using My Disney Experience (these days, anyway).
Before you start sending me pictures of your Donald Duck error message (or Stitch in the rain), let me be clear: I am not saying Disney is perfect. I’ve had problems–sometimes very annoying and difficult to correct problems–using Disney’s web services, as I am sure many of you have. What I am trying to say, however, is that making web services which have to support the kind of activity that Disney and Apple receive through their websites and apps is hard. I know that from both my experience as a developer of them and as a consumer of them. Programing at this kind of scale isn’t easy–just ask Apple after last night–, but, overall, Disney does a pretty good job with it.
ASIDE (for people who care): I bought a 128GB Gold iPhone 7. I like a white screen, since it’s easier to find when I leave it on the coach or my dark furniture, and I prefer gold to silver or pink. I chose the in-store pickup option so I can get it first thing in the morning next Friday, and I bought it in the Apple Upgrade Program, since it’s kind of stupid not to.
Elyssa’s and my trip to Disney World happened to fall during Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. This program is similar to many “restaurant week” type programs, where certain restaurants offer prix fixe dinners at $33 per person from August 29 to October 2, 2016. Participating restaurants on Disney property include Il Mulino, Morimoto Asia, Ravello, Todd English’s bluezoo, and–our selection for dinner–STK Orlando. $1 of each meal is donated to The Russell Home for atypical children.
As has been well documented throughout the Disney blogosphere, STK’s gimmick is a high-end steakhouse mixed with a “club like” atmosphere. (Pro-tip: If you want to fit in with the other guys in “the club”, wear a dress shirt, untucked, with a pair of dark jeans.) Originally, we planned to arrive before the DJ got behind “the 1s and 2s”, but a Florida rainstorm delayed the start of our meal. (For reference, the DJ starts at 6:00pm and progressively turns the music up as the night goes on. It was tolerable for us, if not a little bass heavy, but I wouldn’t wanted to have stayed another hour.)
One item of note before we get into the “meat” of the review (ba dum cha!): our hostess didn’t offer us the Magical Dining Month menu. We had to ask for it. Looking around the restaurant, I didn’t see anyone else that had it. Keep that in mind if you’re planning on taking advantage of this promotion.
As with most restaurant week-style prix fixie offering, the meal consisted of three courses and bread service. The bread at STK is “pull apart” style that comes with blue cheese butter on top and chive oil on the side. This was fantastic (even for Elyssa who only–as someone who is not a blue cheese fan only ate the bottom of pieces.) The chive oil had a nice bit of spice, as well.
We started our actual meal (I say “we” since Elyssa and I ordered the same meal) with what as listed as the Hearts of Romaine salad but differed from the one offered to guests ordering off the regular menu. Ours (shown below) looked more like a traditional salad, while other tables had large leaves of romaine lettuce with dressed dribbled on top and croutons on the side.
The salad was quite good, with a nice flavor to the parmesan-lemon dressing, that went well with fresh peppercorns. The other appetizer options are tomato soup or roasted beets, if the salad doesn’t thrill you.
For our entree, we got the petite filet mignon with “pickled wax beans-almond romesco”. The steak was quite good (I think I prefer a steak from your neighborhood Ruth’s Chris, but it was in the same league as that), and, though the romesco wasn’t particularly flavorful, it complimented the steak nicely.
I don’t really understand going to a steakhouse and ordering something other than steak, but the other entree options were smoked salmon and confit of duck leg.
For dessert, we had the warm chocolate cookie, with chocolate sauce, caramel, and vanilla ice cream. As you can see from the picture below, the cookie they served us was smaller than what Josh had went he reviewed the restaurant a couple of months ago.(Not served in a skillet. 1 star.) The cookie was still fantastic though, and might have been my favorite part of the meal (mostly because I love cookie-based sundaes, not because any of the rest of the meal was particularly bad.)
The other dessert options are an “orange dream” cheesecake and assort sorbet.
As you might notice, we didn’t order order any sides. Josh’s images depicting 8 bites of potatoes for $10 kept us away. Of course, STK would happily allow you to order their sides from the regular menu even if you are enjoying the Magical Dining Month menu for the rest of your meal. Same goes for their various cocktails (which we also didn’t order, because we planned on hitting up Jock Lindsey’s and Homecoming later that night.) I’ll refer you, again, to Josh’s review for information on those.
Overall, Elyssa and I had a really good meal at STK (and Rebecca G was an excellent server, who provided information about the restaurant and the food as we went along.) I’m perfectly happy paying $66 (plus tax) for what we got (and think it was probably a pretty good value.) That said, I’m not sure STK is for me. As the night wore on, I really started to “feel” the bass of the music, which lessened my overall enjoyment with the experience. If I was paying 2x-3x as much for what I had, that enjoyment factor might mean more than it did when I’m getting a high quality salad, steak and dessert for $33. Since I did only pay $33 per person, though, I give dining at STK during Magical Dining Month a (tepid) thumbs up.
The real reason John and I are in Orlando this week is to bring you breaking news coverage of the identification of culprits in a burglary ring at Epcot. Here’s what we know:
Families started reporting missing snacks to cast members weeks ago. The story was always the same; a family would park their stroller to take the kids into a restaurant or on a ride only to return hours, or even just minutes, later to find the stroller ransacked, animal crackers and gummy bears nowhere to be found. We spoke to one woman whose toddler was screaming at the top of his lungs. Unfortunately we aren’t sure what the woman said, because her toddler was screaming at the top of his lungs. He was probably hungry.
Disney instructed cast members to be on the lookout for whoever was swiping snacks. There was speculation that Dora’s frenemy Swiper was on the loose. We also heard discussion that the Aristocats were to blame. The crime ring was cracked open this week though, as Rope Drop dot Net set up cameras near the scene.
What did we uncover? Well, take a look for yourselves. We’re not dealing with mere cat burglars. These crimes are being conducted by some seriously squirrelly figures.
As you can see, there is a long line of strollers here and these animals can simply go to town. For these two, it’s a better breakfast buffet than Tusker House. Those poor unsuspecting families will be forced to pay Disney prices for snacks when they return to discover their off-brand cheerios missing.
Since we here at Rope Drop dot Net only report the news, we were unable to intervene or prevent further pilfering. Disney has been notified of the problem.
In the meantime, we recommend keeping all your snacks in a fanny pack on your person. Fanny packs are coming back in style!
As I mentioned in the last post, one of the goals during this trip was to make smaller updates along the way (instead of waiting to talk about the trip at the very end.) Since we’re going to STK tonight–which means you might never hear from me again–, I figured now would be a good time to post an update.
- We both really enjoyed the night time Kilimanjaro Safaris. As I mentioned on Twitter, the experience is almost impossible to photograph, but don’t let my crappy photos deter you from giving it a shot. We were lucky enough to see the best lion interactions we’ve ever seen on a safari at Animal Kingdom, and I would still feel like I’m ahead if I rode the ride 10 more times and didn’t see an animal. If you’re at Animal Kingdom at night, I think it’s worth your time to give it a try (and Elyssa would probably even give a stronger recommendation.) That said, if Disney’s only running 1 side of the queue (which I hear is pretty common), you’re going to want to do what you can to get a Fastpass+ reservation. Otherwise, you’re probably going to wait an hour. (We managed to get a Fastpass+ reservation for about 20 minutes in the future after about 3 minutes of refreshing the app around 7:50pm.)
- The Tree of Life Awakenings are fantastic. I saw 3 different versions, and I enjoyed them all. I especially like the one that featured more “movie type” excerpts, which gave the whole thing a Celebrate the Magic-like feel.
- Nomad Lounge was pretty much dead from 8:45-10:00 while we were there, but it was a nice, relaxing way to end the day. The Kungaloosh Ale (which almost had Newcastle-like flavors with some added spice) and the Tempting Tigress were both quite good. Elyssa also enjoyed the Hightower Rocks (where the sweetness that covers the alcohol could easily get you sneaky drunk without too much effort.)
- The actual breakfast at Akershus is not quite as good as places like Crystal Palace, Tusker House, or Whispering Canyon (it consists of a “hot plate” with eggs, bacon, potato casserole, etc…, and a buffet with pastries and cold cuts.) We had decent princess interactions, seeing Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, and Snow White in the span 50 minutes (though the princesses all came out much later than we thought they would.) We still managed to exit in time to get into Frozen Ever After with only about a 15 minute wait (I’ll probably write about this more later, but you probably want to exit at 8:45-8:50am if you really want to guarantee a low wait. We exited at about 8:55am and ended up merging with the flow of people. I think we got pretty lucky.)
- I really enjoyed Frozen Ever After. The movement on animatronics–especially Olaf–has to be seen to be believed. It is just so fluid. Elsa’s ice palace scene is also fantastic. For us and our sensibilities, it’s an upgrade over Maelstrom.
- Even though we weren’t on the far edge of the Soarin’ screen, we could see some bending of the structures. For us, it was only really noticeable for the Eiffel Tower. That said, the Soarin’ experience is still great. I’ll refrain from any “spoilers” about what’s in it, but I like the new video. (It’s probably blogger bias, but when I first thought about what to write for Soarin‘, the minimal bending was what came to mind. That’s why that sentence was first, not the part where I explain my overall impression of the ride.)
- I think Ample Hills is my second favorite ice cream on property (it is probably Elyssa’s first.) I think I still prefer a No Way Jose, but knowing I can get Ample Hills if there are no Beaches & Cream ADRs available is a great fall back. (I know the ice cream itself is probably better than plain ice cream from Beaches & Cream, but I just have so much connection to the No Way Jose, that I can’t pick something else ahead of it.)
- After having lunch there on Monday afternoon, I think Via Napoli has moved into a clear 3rd place in the “Disney World restaurant most frequented by the Kivii” rankings. (Whispering Canyon is pretty far out in the lead (since we have stayed at Wilderness Lodge a bunch, and it has breakfast, lunch & dinner options), Beaches & Cream is second place (partially because of stops for No Way Joses), and BOATHOUSE is probably 4th (for now).) The “flexibility” pizza provides is probably one of the reasons we like it so much (we decided to make a last second Ample Hills stop about 45 minutes before Via Napoli, which meant we didn’t eat our entire pizza for lunch. That wasn’t an issue, however, since we were able to take it home and pull it out of the fridge to have for dinner a couple of hours later.)
- We finished our day by watching the Main Street Electrical Parade. I’m glad I got to see it again before it goes away in a few weeks, but watching it does reinforce that I’m super bummed it’s leaving. Elyssa and I have so many good memories of watching it.
That’s it for this update. Dinner at STK tonight. Wish me luck!
We’re going to try something different on this trip and try to post some more updates during the trip (in addition to coverage once it’s completed.) Here are some thoughts about the first night and day of the trip:
- Homecoming turned out to be pretty good (even if I was a little miffed at some of the seating mishaps when we arrived.) The “famous fried” chicken was good, and Elyssa enjoyed her “dinner of sides” (mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and biscuits.) I can think of a couple of local NC places with better fried chicken, but not to the point where I wouldn’t go back to Homecoming. Getting to enjoy the meal with Eric and Kristi certainly helped things, too.(BOATHOUSE is still our top choice, but Homecoming & Morimoto are pretty close to each other in second.)
- Kona Cafe breakfast is still fantastic. We had a 7:30AM ADR to load up on Tonga Toast (Elyssa, as always, was a “big kahuna”) before heading over to watch the Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom (which we sometimes forget to enjoy because we’re too amped to get to our first attraction.)
- Rope drop remains a great way to get a bunch of stuff done as your start your day. (We had a number of our favorite attractions–Buzz, Under the Sea, Jungle Cruise, Pirates–done before 10 am with–essentially–no waiting.
- When it comes to viewing Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, Josh from easyWDW is not wrong when he recommends standing right near the top of the slope in back of the partner’s statute. I walked to that spot about 30 seconds before the show started and got an (almost) unobstructed view of the whole thing (thanks, random guy with the giant balloon who moved up front for the finale.) It was a great vantage point for a really fun, enjoyable show.
Of course, the highlight of our trip so far was getting to meet up with friend of the site, host of Mighty Men of Mouse and all around great guy, Dutch Lombrowski. Dutch took some time out of his night to come join Elyssa and me, ride of Splash, and catch up all various things (that have happened over the 3+ years we’ve known each other.) As an added bonus, always entertaining Gosh Jonzalez joined us for the last hour or so of the night as well. It was great hanging out with both of them.
That’s all for this early trip update. The idea is that we’ll post more soon (but we’ll see how that goes.)
It’s time for everyone’s favorite serving of Disney World, the Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! There isn’t a lot of particularly juicy news this time, but a few things that I would classify as “transitional” (like the closing of Sum of All Thrills or–essentially–moving all convention space to the Yacht Club.) That said, let’s get to it!
- Extensive park hours updates from September through January – If you have a trip coming, now’s the time to check for park hour updates. (Sadly, Josh over at easyWDW is on vacation. His coverage of schedule changes is usually the best.)
- Rumors of The Sum of All Thrills and Stormstruck Closing and an End of Innovations at Epcot – If Sum of All Thrills is closing too (as rumored), it would seem that Innovations might be added to the list of things that will get an overhaul. That said, with the construction currently going on at The Studios and Animal Kingdom, I would think it would be a few years before they even start things at Epcot.
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort to Expand Convention Space – This makes it seem less likely to me that the rumors about DVC being added to Yacht Club have any real truth to them.
- Moana meet and greet coming to Walt Disney World? – Sounds like a good addition. That said, I don’t understand why the Zootopia characters aren’t available for a meet-and-greet yet.
- The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic to End September 5 – The show definitely has had “mixed” reactions (most seemed negative.) I really hope this means they’re getting closer to Rivers of Light (October?)
- Disney Offers Annual Passholders Discounted Park Hopper Tickets – $79 for a park hopper? That seems crazy. I haven’t been tracking Disney ticketing too, too long, but I don’t remember anything like this.
- Rumors of Wreck-It Ralph VR Attraction to Replace Stitch’s Great Escape – I heard Jim Hill talking about this, and I thought it sounded like a decent idea (especially with Wreck-It Ralph 2 coming out in a couple of years.) I’d be fine with it. (Good job by WDW NT for crediting the source of the rumor, too.)
- Celebrate Disney PhotoPass Day on August 19 – This strikes me as a weird promotion. Disney does seem to run things during this period in August, though (remember that Studios Villains event they did for a couple of years?)
- New FitBit-style MagicBand design change possibly in development – Interesting. It might make sense to allow for people to move their RFID between different “bands”. Part of me wonders how that would impact the “special” MagicBand sales (like the Christmas themed ones, etc…), though.
- Update to Magic Kingdom’s Evening Extra Magic Hours line-up – Having Splash run while Big Thunder is under refurbishment seems like a no brainier.
- Disney Enhancing Wedding Pavilion With Redesigned Interior – Elyssa really needs to figure out a way to shoot some weddings here.
- James Cameron Will Unveil New Details on the Avatar Theme Park in November – It looks Cameron is going to be at “Destination D” to talk about Avatarland. It’ll be interesting to see what they end up showing.
- Guy Fieri teams up with Robert Earl on new Planet Hollywood Menu – I originally thought this was a joke. I guess they’re going for a different crowd than me.
- Epcot’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” Ride will be a Roller Coaster Attraction – WDW News Today is going all in on this rumor. Again, if they get this one right, that’s a huge feather in their cap. If not, than they’re going to hear about it for years.
- Rumor that the Contemporary Convention Center will be torn down to make room for more DVC. – This kind of makes sense. Expand the Yacht Club convention center and put convention goers closer to Epcot (where they can walk over and grab a drink at the end of the day.) Put in more DVC at the Contemporary so families have easier access to the Magic Kingdom.
- New Hands-On Experiences at the 2016 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – People love these. They’re just not for me.
- Say ‘Freeze!’ Disney PhotoPass Captures Your Adventure on Frozen Ever After – Maybe now, people will finally give this ride a shot.
- Direct Bus Service From Theme Parks to Disney Springs Begins August 28 – They’re making it easy to get from a theme park to Disney Springs, but you still have to transfer through a resort to get back to a theme park.
- Extending Western Way to Route 545 past Flamingo Crossings – I always like easier traffic patterns, but I don’t want anything that’s going to result in Flamingo Crossing raising its prices (it’s a nice, quaint little place to stay for a night or two at the beginning or end of a trip.)
- Pool at Disney’s abandoned River Country water park being drained and filled in – I still have (vague) memories of going to River country. If they ever built a DVC in that area, I would definitely take a look.
- Disney applies for Copper Creek timeshare license – Speaking of DVC properties that Elyssa and I might have some interest in…
- Les Parfaits Inconnus ending its run at Epcot – Friends of the site Dutch Lombrowksi and Howie from Maryland are surely devastated by this news.
We’ll close out with a video that Disney recently posted of what it’s like to be the eagle at the tail end of the Main Street Electrical parade. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!
After a (brief?) hiatus, Elyssa and I were back on this week's Mighty Men of Mouse episode with one of our Mic Drop segments. This time we talk about:
Thanks for checking it out! We hope you enjoy it!
If you listen to podcasts (tech or otherwise), then you’re probably familiar with today’s interviewee, Serenity Caldwell. I think Elyssa and I first heard Serenity on an episode of The Incomparable discussing British television shows, and we’ve been following her work in various media ever since.
After a recent trip to Disney World involved a major life event for Serenity, we reached out to see if she would be interested in being interviewed for the site. Thankfully, she graciously accepted.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: As always, the questions are presented in bold, with Serenity’s answers following. I have made minor edits for readability, but have made every effort not to impact the flow of the conversation.)
After what happened on your most recent trip, Disney World is going to have a major place in the story of your life. Is this a change for you or have you always had strong ties to Disney and its theme parks?
I grew up in southern California, so the Disney fandom has long been strong with my family! We never had annual passes because we lived just too far away from Anaheim to make good use out of them, but we’d usually make two or three Disney excursions a year. Some of my favorite early memories as a kid were at that park — trying to pull King Arthur’s sword out of the stone, riding Mr Toad’s Wild Ride late at night, waiting in line for hours during the debut of the Indiana Jones ride and memorizing the old AT&T decoder card to figure out what the runes on the walls said… and, of course, playing hooky from school with my dad to go ride Space Mountain.
Disneyland will forever be my one true park, but I’ve got a slow-growing fondness for Disney World after some particularly fun and memorable trips—this last one included! I’d wanted to visit Disney World for years, but I didn’t actually set foot there until I was 20, with a college boyfriend who had the same fondness for Disney World as I had for its west-coast sibling. I have him to thank for getting me thoroughly ensconced in the lore and love of WDW: He’d been on some of the fancy WDW backstage tours and provided excellent commentary about the parks and their many attractions as we waited in lines and dodged parades. And he introduced me to the glory — and gut-ache! — of the World Showcase dinner (one piece of food or drink from each pavilion).
How many times since that initial Disney World trip have you been back? How has your anticipation and planning for those trips evolved?
Since that initial trip, I’ve been three times, including our last adventure. The second time was much more whirlwind — only a day or two, and spent largely at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. The third was another two-day adventure, but it came after the FastPass+ revolution, which meant I was introduced to the magic of online scheduling. Once I figured out that you could book not only rides, but food, via the Disney app, I became obsessed.
I’ve always used MouseSavers as my baseline guide to all things Disney, but for this last trip, I leaned heavily on Disney’s own resources — the app was where I discovered I could book food experiences at other resort hotels, and we used Disney’s maps and transportation options to heavily plan how we’d jump from park to park. Like my last two WDW trips, this was only a two-day affair, so we had to plan smartly around meals and the like.
People who follow you online know that you had a major life event on your last trip to Disney World. Would you mind sharing what happened and the details around it?
Indeed I did. 🙂 While on our trip to Florida, my boyfriend not-so-subtly set up a lovely proposal, followed by our trip to Disney World!
Funny story: As he tells it, his original plan was to propose to me in the park, incorporating Star Tours — my all-time favorite Disney ride. But when he went to ask my folks for permission and fill his folks in on the plan, both of them rebelled and insisted he do it before we left. (In part, I think, because they wanted to give us a proper congratulatory send-off.) So the official proposal happened on a lovely beach near his dad’s house in Florida the day before Disney; but the “Star Tours proposal that almost was” is how I’ll remember it.
And best of all, we still got to celebrate our engagement at Disney World! We did as many “newly engaged” park activities as possible, including an incredible dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jiko followed by an adorably sweet phone call from Mickey and Minnie wishing us well. (We may have snuck out to the rear patio for some nighttime animal-watching, too, because how can you not when you’re at Animal Kingdom Lodge?)
Though it might be a little cliche, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t ask such a prominent member of the tech media at least one “tech” question. So, do you have any recommendations for readers of the site for what technology they might be able to use to help with their Disney Vacations?
I’ve been going to Disney parks all my life, but the iPhone era has definitely changed how I pack and plan for trips! After some experimentation, I have a pretty set list of tech to pack and apps to use:
- My iPhone 6s + Smart Battery Case (those parks eat battery life!)
- My Anker 10,000 battery pack (see point #1)
- Disney’s official app (a must for trip planning, fast pass reservations, and dining) (EDITOR’S NOTE: My Disney Experience)
- Offline Google Maps caches of the resort property (to save on data and battery)
- Heads Up! (Still the best line-waiting iPhone app.)
- My Apple Watch for fitness tracking and notifications; it also functions as a great remote Bluetooth shutter for my iPhone’s camera
Your tech needs may vary depending on your own Disney plans, but in general, you want to make sure you have enough battery for navigation, trip planning, and the occasional line-waiting game; a good, easy-to-reach place to grab your phone to capture those magic moments; and any apps you know you’ll want to mess around with while in the park.
I also strongly discourage posting to Instagram, Facebook, and the like while in the park — not only will it drain your battery and your data plan, but you might miss something fantastic while staring at your screen waiting for your photo to upload.
A huge thank you to Serenity for agreeing to talk with us about Disney World, and a huge congratulations to her on her engagement!. If you want to read more from Serenity, you can find her writings on iMore (her review of the Apple Pencil is a fantastic place to start). If you want to her her talking about technology check out iMore Show and Apple Talk, and, or listen to her chat about pop / geek culture (and an assortment of related topics) at The Incomparable. (If you have any interest in mid-20th century-style radio dramas, check out The Incomparable Radio Theater, which Serenity directed.)
Thank you again to Serenity chatting with us. We really hope you like these interviews with people outside the standard Disney community, and we hope to bring more of them to you in the future!.
The Disney Parks Blog is live streaming Princess Elena’s Royal Welcome today. The easiest way to watch this event is probably to just visit Disney Parks Blog and see if they have a new post up that has a link to the live stream (Disney has turned off the various ways to easily access its streams via YouTube.)
For those that actually in Disney World during August, this Royal Welcome event is supposed to take place a few times each day over the next couple of weeks.
A few minutes ago, Disney confirmed the rumor that the Main Street Electrical Parade will be ending. The last night for the parade will be October 9.
The next set of rumors / theories (that I first saw mentioned by friend of the site Howie from Maryland) is that Disneyland’s “Paint the Night” parade (which was recently discontinued) would be making its way to the Magic Kingdom. UPDATE: Paint the Night will actually be running on “select dates” through the Holiday Season. That, obviously, makes it harder for it to be starting at the Magic Kingdom soon.
Personally, I’m really torn on all of this. Watching the Main Street Electrical Parade, especially the second showing on a giving night, is always a highlight of Elyssa’s and my trips (even more so if we can win the Reno Challenge while watching.) That said, Paint the Night has gotten spectacular reviews and I would love to see it in person.
Ultimately, though, I’m really glad that Elyssa and I have a trip planned so we can say goodbye to the Main Street Electrical Parade one last time.
Through some recent discussions on the Mickey Milers Facebook group, it has come to our attention that runDisney no long provides deferrals for any of its races. (Previously, you could pay a nominal fee to defer a race a year into the future.) Even more disheartening, this was not a change that was broadcast by runDisney or even before registration for the races took place, but, instead, was something we found out about when of our fellow Mickey Miles team members was informed of this policy change when requesting a deferral because of upcoming brain surgery. Instead of allowing him to have a deferral to a future year, runDisney decided to make a “1 time exception” to the “no refunds” policy and provide our fellow team member with a Disney Gift Card in the amount of 1/2 of the funds he paid to register for his races (minus the registration fees that Active.com charges.) That’s right, instead of allowing a runner to defer to the future because he was having brain surgery, runDisney said he could have 1/2 of his money back, in the form of Disney credit.
Policy changes like this disappoint me, greatly. When Elyssa had her brain surgery a couple of years ago, runDisney was fantastic about deferring our race registrations at no cost to the following year. Knowing that race was coming up again was a huge part of what motivated Elyssa to learn to walk, and then run, again. Getting that deferral was such a pivotal moment, that I clearly remember the night I got off the phone with runDisney, walked into Elyssa’s hospital room (crying) and said “I just got off the phone with runDisney. We’re running the race next year. You and me. Whatever it takes.” It was about 2 days later that Elyssa took her first post-surgery steps, and about 5 days later that she first jogged around the hall. To hear that runDisney has decided to not offer this same benefit to someone who is a very active participant in the runDisney community is heartbreaking. It really feels like taking some of the magic away
Elyssa and I love participating in runDisney events. We’ll be running the Star Wars: Dark Side Challenge in April of next year, and are really looking forward to it. In fact, while we are participating in it, we’ll probably love it. That said, thinking about it now, it saddens me that runDisney’s policies are standing in the way of people having the same chance to “come back” from major surgery and injuries that Elyssa did. Frankly, I would have been devastated if runDisney told me what they’re telling people now. It’s so disappointing that I hardly even know how to express it.
tl;dr – Though mildly enjoyable to play, it’s your typical, scammy “free-to-play” mobile game that is best avoided.
In a recent article at MacStories Graham Spencer dug into the top grossing apps in the iOS App Store, and found that over 65% of them were what are known as “free-to-play” games. These games use a model that involve a “free” download of the game, and then the ability to use the in-app purchase functionality of your to allow you to “enhance” your experience. Insidiously, the games are then designed in a way that you are almost constantly tempted to purchase these “enhancements”, thereby allowing the developers to rake in money from users. Sadly, Disney’s iOS offering has all the worst elements of that trend.
What is Emoji Blitz
When I first heard of KIMOJI, I couldn’t understand what would make the application so popular. Clearly, I was in the minority, as KIMOJI shot to the top of the iOS App Store sales chart. When it was announced that Disney was going to make its own emoji keyboard–featuring its famed icons like Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy–I figured I would give a try. What I never expected was that Disney Emoji Blitz would set a new low in gamification of a simple concept. You see, instead of purchasing the Disney Emoji keyboard and getting access to the various emojis that Disney has created, the Emoji blitz requires you to “unlock” the various emojis through repeated play of a simple matching game (think of a combination of Tetris and Connect-Four, where when you end up with 3 of the same emoji next to each other, they disappear from the board and new emoji fall into place.)
On its face, the game play isn’t terrible. It’s a nice little distraction when you have a minute or two. If that’s all the game was, I might have such a problem with it. Sadly, however, it gets much, much worse.
The easiest place to start talking about the gamification of Emoji Blitz is in the “currency” system that’s in place. In the game, you have 3 different types of currency:
- Hearts – These are your “lives”. You can only play the game if you have a heart. These re-generate every 10 minutes, but you can only keep five of those auto-generated hearts at once (you can, of course, buy more.)
- Coins – These allow you to buy things like “boosts” to use in your game, or, most importantly, new emojis.
- Gems – You trade in gems to get more hearts or coins (yep, it’s that convoluted) or to change the “challenges” the game is presenting you. Gems are what you can purchase more of with actual money via the game’s in-app purchase system.
So, why have this kind of confusing system of currency? Because, it provides a way to obfuscate what you are purchasing and how much you’re actually spending. For example, you can purchase 81 gems for $1.99. You could then use 30 of those gems to get 5 extra hearts, and 50 of those gems to 6000 coins. Of course, you need 15,000 coins to buy a new emoji, so maybe you should buy 486 gems for $9.99 and then trade 300 of those gems into 40000 coins to pick a “gold box” emoji. You then have a 1 in 20 chance of getting that Tinker Bell emoji you really want (And it’s always 1 in 20, since, SURPRISE, you might get a awarded an emoji you already have.) It’s crazy. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars trying to get the ability to insert a cute WALL-E emoji into your text messages.
If you think that’s bad, the actual game play might be worse. To incentive you to keep playing the game, there are “Missions”, which are things that you need to complete to get to the next “level”:
“Items” which are things you can collect during the course of the game play:
And daily” Challenges”, which are things you need to compete in a given day in order to get some kind of bonus:
All of these are designed to get you to want to play the game more (“Oh, I’ll just try to complete the next mission.” “Oh, I’ll just play until I can collect pirate ship.”), but the challenges are especially terrible, since, not only do you have to complete the challenges in a given day, but your playable characters can only be used once after 2 FREAKIN’ HOURS (Unless, of course, you pay to buy gems, which you can then use to “wake up” the character to play agin.) It’s such a scam.
For another perfect example of how manipulative Emoji Blitz is, take a look at that this screen shot:
In this example there’s a “rare” item on the board, but my time is expired. So what does the game offer me? A chance to use 20 gems RIGHT THEN, in order to get 10 more second to try and collect that “rare” item. If you remember from above, those 20 Gems might cost me a $2 in-app purchase. In other words, the game is trying to capitalize on the fact that I might be willing to do something extra to get this rare item and is hoping I’m caught up in the moment enough to think that paying $2 for 10 seconds of gameplay is somehow a good idea. It is such a scam.
I like emojis. I think they’re cute. I was looking forward to putting Disney emojis in my tweets and text messages. Instead of giving me that chance, however, Disney has created a “game” that has been systematically engineered to try and get you to pay as much money as possible why you pay. It’s so shameful that I would recommend that you don’t even bother downloading Disney Emoji Blitz. I’m sure you can find much better ways to spend tens (or hundreds) of dollars than trying to unlock a cute drawing of Tink’s face.
It might be the weekend, but here at Rope Drop [dot]Net HQ we are still committed to providing you with your News Nuggets. Before we get started on the “links” part of the Nuggets, a quick update to Tables in Wonderland. Disney has finally decided to add Skipper Canteen & Jock Lindsey’s to the list of places that get discounts (along with the much newer Nomad Lounge and Tiffins at Animal Kingdom.) I wonder if this will have any impact on attendance at Skipper Canteen.
As another special perk, Disney is giving 20% of merchandise purchase at Word of Disney in Disney Springs to Tables in Wonderland members through Labor Day. As always, I would recommend that you point out this discount to the cast members (i.e., I doubt they’ll ask you about it.)
Now, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the rest of the Nuggets!
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios will no longer sell Turkey legs – I’ve never been a big turkey leg guy, but I’m sure some people will be disappointed if this turns out to be true.
- ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex To Become New Epicenter of Cheer and Dance – When this is done, it’ll take away the argument that Disney needs to leave Indiana Jones open for Cheer & Dance events.
- Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf Closing for Refurbishment – Just something to keep in mind if you planned on being at Disney World in early August and wanted to play mini-golf.
- Art Smith’ s Homecoming now accepting Online Reservations. – I can verify that this works. I just made reservation for a potential trip.
- Dine at Magic Kingdom quick service and receive discount coupons for Disney Springs Marketplace shopping – It’s that time of year.
- AbracadaBar Now Open at Disney’s BoardWalk – I know some people complain about the amount of bars, but they get crazy crowded. Also, when the parks close at 9pm, it’s nice to have some place to calm down for a couple of hours. Here’s some photos and video from Mouse Steps about the bar.
- Disney World Adding Calorie Counts to Counter Service Menu Boards – This is going to be a real eye opener for some people.
- WDW News Today Claims New Menu Effectively Ruins “The Plaza Restaurant” at the Magic Kingdom – Tom is not happy with the menu change. Relatedly, has the burger there always been that expensive?
- Concept Art Released for Muppets Restaurant at Hollywood Studios – Not a lot to glean from this at this point. We’ll have to wait to get a better idea of what Disney has planned for this space.
- Orlando Magical Dining Month To Feature Disney Restaurants Deals – If you’re already planning on going to Morimoto Asia or STK during “Magical Dining” Month, then you might as well see if this is something you might benefit from.
- Reservations Open July 29 for Re-Imagined Flying Fish on Disney’s BoardWalk at Walt Disney World Resort – I am looking forward to seeing the new space, but the menu looks like it might be a little beyond what Elyssa and I get for dinner when we’re at Disney. Of course, we’ll wait to see the reviews before making any final decisions.
- The Muppets Are Coming to Walt Disney World Resort This Fall in an All-New Show – I wonder how this is going to work. Are they going to put a little stage or something?
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort hosting Alice in Wonderland themed ‘Wishes’ fireworks viewing party – Interesting. I wonder how long they’ll be trying this out for.
- Germany Pavilion at Epcot Finally Debuts New Band at Outdoor Stage – Cool. (I guess?). Whatever, I don’t mind musical acts in World Showcase.
- Sunshine Seasons at Epcot Discontinuing Breakfast Service This Weekend – With more people heading over to Norway for FrozenStrom, it makes sense that fewer people were headed to The Land for breakfast. I wouldn’t be surprised if they offered breakfast service at The Land during the holidays, though.
- A change to Epcot Fastpass+ Tier system – One of everyone’s favorite boat rides, Living the Land, is now a Tier 2 attraction. Not really a surprise, with Soarin’ back open and FrozenStrom drawing people to the other side of the park.
- Limited-time Character Experience for Guests with Memory Maker at Walt Disney World Resort – Interesting. It looks like they’re giving people with Memory Maker (or APs that feature Photopass) a special meet-and-greet with Belle at the Heritage House at Magic Kingdom.
- Blaze Pizza Fires Up Counter Service Options at Disney Springs – There’s a Blaze Pizza near Elyssa and me, and we really like it. My biggest concern isn’t the quality, it’s if their assembly-line model will be able to scale to Disney-sized crowds.
- Experience Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Disney Springs with Limited Time Offer – A whole bunch of discounts for various pass holders, DVC members, people staying on site, etc… If you were thinking about going to Bibbidi Bobbidi at Disney Springs before Septmber 5, it might be worth it to check out these discounts.
- Shark Reef at Typhoon Lagoon Rumored to Close Soon – If you really want to do this, it sounds like you might want to do it before September.
- New ‘Miss Fortune Falls’ Attraction Coming to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Spring 2017 – Related to the above storming about the closure, it looks like Typhoon Lagoon is also getting some new stuff.
- Dining Pavilion & Grocery Store to be Added Soon to Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge – This story is weird. It does make sense, but Orlando biz journal link cited in the WDW News Today piece has been pulled (the same thing happens for a Google results.) I wonder what’s going on.
That’s it for this edition of the News Nuggets! Of course, if you’re like me, the biggest news of the weekend is probably the announcement that the new Rogue One trailer will drop during NBC’s Olympics coverage on Thursday! (I’m a little excited for that movie.)
The Shop Disney Parks App currently has 25% off and free ground shipping on “most orders”. This is great if one of your favorite website contributors has a birthday coming up and you haven’t gotten her anything yet.
Seriously, though, I use the Shop Disney Parks App even when I’m at Disney World. It is sometimes cheaper (and almost always easier) to have items just shipped directly to my home than have to worry about transporting them myself back from Disney World. Since the app even gives you a lot of your various discounts (AP, DVC, etc…), it’s usually worth checking out.
Since I posted my article on Disney’s new FuelRod program, other people have also weighed in with their opinions. (Josh from easyWDW seems to make many of the same points I made, so I—obviously—think he did the best job.)
All that said, however, one thing that you should be doing at Disney World, regardless of what battery pack you use (or don’t), is using Low Power Mode on your iPhone while in the parks. (Android apparently has its own Battery Saver Mode, which might have a similar impact, but, I’ve never used Android, so I can’t confirm.)
Basically, when you’re walking around Disney World, your phone is constantly trying to deal with things that suck battery (low or non-existent network connection, you checking the time or trying to refresh FastPass+ availability, etc…). Low Power Mode helps address some of this drain by doing things like reducing background app refreshes and some of the visual effects on your phone. Though I haven’t done extensive comparisons of when my phone dies while in a given Disney Park, I can report that my phone lasts significantly longer when on Low Power Mode. In fact, I’ve even managed a near full Disney day (rope drop at the Magic Kingdom, lunch at Beaches & Cream, visit to Disney Springs, then back to Magic Kingdom for Celebrate the Magic and Wishes) without running out of battery. (Obviously, your results may vary—and I wouldn’t recommend this being your standard operating procedure—but, it’s possible.)
Should you decide to give Low Power Mode a try, turning it on is pretty simple. First, go to the settings app on your iPhone. From there, select the “Battery” option from the third grouping of choices.
On the Battery menu, you then simply turn on Low Power Mode. That’s it.
iOS is kind of aggressive about turing “off” Low Power Mode, so if you happen to plug your phone in (to a charger or battery pack), you might want to check to make sure Low Power mode remained on. (I like to turn Low Power Mode on before I unplug my phone from a charger. That seems to help the automatic shut-offs a bit.)
Hopefully, this tip helps your battery survive a little longer while visiting Disney World. Good luck!
Earlier today, Disney released training playlists themed to some of their upcoming races. For some unknown reason, however, they did not give direct links to actually find the playlists on Spotify. Here are those links:
- Disneyland Half Marathon Training Playlist
- Super Heroes Half Marathon Training Playlist
- Wine & Dine Training Playlist
It’s time for another edition of the News Nuggets, and the biggest news of the past few days might be that the complete menus of the Epcot Food & Wine festival have been released. Thankfully, it looks like the chocolate truffle from last year is coming back.
Of course, there was a whole bunch of other Disney World news stories to cover, so let’s get right to the News Nuggets!
- New Anna and Elsa “Frozen” meet and greet in the Royal Sommerhus opens at Epcot – The new area looks pretty awesome. I hope it’s well received. If you want more here, here are some pictures from AllEars.net.
- WDW News Today’s Review of the new Star Wars Fireworks – As a lot of people did, this review mentions how the Fireworks seemed to be “off center” for people who are viewing down Hollywood Blvd. Here’s a video from WDW Magic, if you want to see the show.
- Changes to Princess Meet & Greets at the Magic Kingdom. – Tiana moving into Princess Fairytale hall was kind of a surprise. I had rumors it was going to be Merida.
- 2017 Disney Dining Plan, Quick Service Dining Plan and Deluxe Disney Dining Plan details – Kenny the Pirate breaks down the changes to the plan. I admit, the whole “snack” thing is something that I’ve never really taken a lot of time to understand or analyze (especially since the Dining Plan isn’t accepted at any Orlando Chick-Fil-As.)
- EasyWDW on Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at Magic Kingdom Viewing Tips and Review – Really good tip from Josh here about viewing the show for a little further back to take advantage of the natural incline that’s built into the area in front of the castle.
- Celebrity Chefs and New Experiences at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels Set for the 2016 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – This is just one of (what is to be) many posts from Disney about the Food & Wine festival. I might consider giving the Trader Sam’s “behind the scenes” thing a shot (if the price is in any way reasonable.)
- A Sweet Lesson: Macaroons vs. Macarons – Information for life.
- Morimoto Asia Forbidden Lounge late night menu now available – I can think of worse ways to finish the night than closing down Morimoto’s at 1 a.m.
- Most Disney World Resorts Show Surprisingly Low Price Increases for 2017 – Great analysis from Dave over at yourfirstvisit.net. I wonder if the large increase at the Port Orleans resorts is related to their proximity to Disney Springs.
- WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort hosts Sandtastic Weekends – Events like these are always interesting to me. I doubt anyone would book a stay because of it, but it might be cool if you’re already there.
- Frontera Cocina by Chef Rick Bayless Now Open at Disney Springs – DFB’s Review is positive, their reviews seem to always be positive, so take it for what it’s worth…. (WDW News Today’s Review was also very positive.)
- Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar Revamps Menu, Favorites Change, New Items Added – Interesting modifications. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the food items have reached BOATHOUSE level, yet.
- Coca-Cola Store & Rooftop Tasting Bar Opens at Disney Springs – THEY HAVE CANS OF SURGE!! (Talk about burying the lede.) Here is some video and Images from Inside the Magic
- Kali River Rapids to Test Single Rider Option – I’ll ride Splash Mountain a 100 times, but the thought of getting soaked on Kali River Rapids just doesn’t appeal to me.
- Disney Testing Automated PhotoPass Cameras at Non-Attraction Locations – Remember that feeling you get when waiting for someone to use an ATM? I imagine this is going to be worse for me.
- Ring in 2017 at the New ‘Disney Countdown to Midnight’ New Year’s Eve Celebration – I always wonder if they’ll sell out an event like this that costs $225 per person. That just seems way too steep to me.
- WDW News Today Rumors of Universe of Energy at Epcot Likely to Close Soon for Guardians of the Galaxy Attraction – This rumor is really going out on a limb. If it turns out to be true, WDW News Today will have a nice feather in their cap. If not, it’s going to be pointed to for a long time as big miss.
- Updates to Epcot’s Extra Magic Hours offerings – You had to know they were going to add Frozen Ever After to this.
- 2016 Candlelight Processional at Epcot Dining Packages On Sale – It’s tough to book a package when the announcers aren’t known for so many dates. Also, with them offering packages for Captain’s Grill and Trattoria Al Forno, there’s going to be a lot of spots filled up package buyers.
- New Items at Kringla Bakeri og Kafe in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion – I wasn’t going to link to this article, then I saw the cinnamon loaf. I think I’m going to have to try that.
- Tiffins Introduces New Lunch Offerings – I wish more Signature restaurants did this (like Le Cellier used to).
- Da Mouse’s 2016 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Preview – As always, some really good images here from “Da Mouse”.
- Mouse Steps Coverage of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground Fourth of July Golf Cart Parade – I love that Denise covers this. It’s so fun to look at the photos.
- Disney Vacation Club Safari Spectacular on Select Dates in September – This sounds like a good way to get people to try out the new Animal Kingdom at Night stuff. I also wonder how long it will take a complimentary event like this to sell out.
- Caribbean Beach DVC Rumors Resurface – This move seems to make sense (at least to test out the waters.)
- Belly Dancing returns to Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion with Musique Aramenco – I don’t have a really strong opinion on this, but I feel like it’s the right move.
- A Pirate’s Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas Now Offering FastPass+ Bonus – If there’s a long wait for Pirates, why not try this instead?
- Uber Updates the way that it processes Requests at Disney World. – Hopefully, the only thing this change does it make it easier for people to get quick Uber pick-ups while visiting Disney World.
- Celebrate Halloween at ‘Club Villain’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – They’re bringing back this event on Friday and Saturday nights from September 2-October 29 (and also on October 31). With this timing, it’s an alternative option to Mickey’s Not So Scary (but on different nights.) I know this event has gotten good reviews, but $129 a person seems just so steep for something like this.
- Reservations for Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Premium Events available starting July 21 – Set your alarms if you want to make sure you’re first in “line” to book some of these events.
- Inside look at 2016 DVC Beach Bash – Got to love lines like: “When the ice cream cart was wheeled out, it was like ‘The Hunger Games’ with people grabbing Mickey Bars by the handful!”
- PizzeRizzo Opening This Fall at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – This post originally said “September”, but I guess Disney wanted to give themselves some leeway. I’m hoping they have the new flatbreads that from Pizzafari Josh over at easyWDW speaks so highly off.
- Disney Springs Currently Testing Temporary Rental Phone Chargers – While I think Fuel Rod is a waste, this might be useful for some people.
- Disney Early Morning Magic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Start August 1 – On first glance, not having Tower of Terror or Rockin Rollercoaster makes me wonder if this will be a good value, but I’m going to reserve judgment until some people actually experience the event.
- Eat to the Beat Lineup Announced for 21st Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – No real surprises, but probably a band or two you might like to check out if you’re a fan of music from the 90s.
- Height test balloons over Epcot today as plans for Epcot’s Future World take shape – A little more fire to the rumor about an updated attraction coming to Future World.
- Hands-on with the new ‘Get Directions’ feature of My Disney Experience – It’s not really something that I’ll probably take advantage of, but it could be nice.
- The Polite Pig Restaurant to Open at Disney Springs in Spring 2017 – Interesting dining options just keep coming to Disney Springs. WDW Magic has a preview of the menu, which is interesting, but might not align with what Elyssa and I normally like to eat on vacation.
As you might imagine, there have been a bunch of ride-through / experience videos of the new attractions. I don’t think I’m going to watch any of them, but if you’re interested, here are a few:
I’ll end things, however, with a link to this timelapse video of “Magic Moments” at Disney World. Enjoy!!
Just a quick reminder that Disney is live streaming Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular at 9:20pm tonight. It’s usually easiest to just go to the Disney Parks blog about 10 minutes before the show is supposed to start, but I’ll also try to update this post if I’m around.
Regardless, enjoy the show tonight!
UPDATE: Here’s the Disney Parks Blog Link and here’s the embed:
This might seem like a very specific topic to cover, but friend of the site Dutch Lombrowskiis driving from New England down to Florida the next couple of weeks and I planned on typing up this information for him anyway. (I have no idea if he actually wants it, but I figured I’d share anyway.)
Coming from Raleigh / Durham, we get on I-95 at Exit 81. Since that’s about 40 minutes from our house we don’t normally need to stop quite yet, but Exit 79 (Benson) does have a top flight, North Carolina BBQ stop—White Swan BBQ—if you’re interested
Here are our other key notes for the drive:
- NC Exit 22 – The only Chick-Fil-A between when we get on I-95 and the end of the state. If we’re getting an “after work” start, then we usually stop here.
Driving through South Carolina always feels like the longest part of the drive. It’s not the prettiest part of highway, there’s not a lot of good places to stop, and it’s only 2 frakin’ lanes!!!. (And, yes, I know South of the Border exists, but, realistically, I’m not stopping there.) Thankfully, gas prices are usually pretty low. We usually find, however, that once you get into the last 30 miles of the state, it’s better to wait to Georgia.
- SC Exit 164 – If we didn’t stop in Lumberton, NC (Exit 22), then this is usually our first stop on the drive. The exit has a Bojangles and a Zaxby’s for your fried chicken needs. (Bojangles is much, much quicker.)
- SC Exit 160A – The only Chick-Fil-A off I-95 in SC (I know, right?). It’s this weird “drive-through only”-type establishment that we usually skip because the whole experience is a pain in the rear.
- SC Exit 98 – There’s a Hampton Inn and a Bojangles here. The next place with decent hotels is Savannah, GA (which is 100 miles away.) Make sure you’re not too tired to go that distant.
- SC Exit 53 – That said, there’s a Holiday Inn Express here in Walterboro that we’ve thought about trying. (It has good reviews, but we’ve also heard horror stories.) We’ve always ended up making it to Savannah, though. (Technically, there’s also a Hampton Inn, but it’s a converted, old motel with all exterior entry rooms.)
Getting across the bridge into Georgia (and it’s 3 lane highway!!) always feels like such a relief. There’s a ton of different exits in Savannah that have hotels, so I won’t go over all of them here. Just know that, if you make it to Savannah, you’re almost always going to be fine finding a place to stay.
- GA Exit 104 – If you made it through South Carolina and want to reward yourself with a Frozen Lemonade, here’s your first Chik-Fil-A.
- GA Exit 38 – This is kind of “stretch” goal if we leave in the evening after work (For example, if we know Carolina is playing Duke in basketball at a 9pm tip-off and we’re going to be up late anyway.) There’s a Hampton Inn here that’s right off the highway.
- GA Exit 3 – Here’s another Chick-Fil-A. (Though we normally wait until we get to Florida to stop.)
Florida! You’ve made it! (Well, almost.) I’m not going to talk about hotel options in Florida, since (if you’re like me) you’ll probably want to just get to Orlando now. If you really can’t go any farther, than St. Augustine has a variety of options.
- FL Exit 363: One of our primary Chick-Fil-A stops. It’s a little off the highway, but your GPS should explain the funky traffic pattern to you. This exit also has a Blaze Pizza if you want to try that before it opens at Disney Springs.
- FL Exit 344: As I said, 363 is our primary Chick-Fil-A stop. At exit 344 we’re getting a little too close to Jacksonville, and we’d rather not risk some kind of traffic occurring when we are really ready for a stop. (Sitting in traffic when you really have to go to the bathroom is the worst.)
- FL Exit 339: Another Chick-Fil-A here, but we never stop.
- FL Exit 260B: I-4! You’re really almost there! (Probably about an hour, depending on traffic.)
As you can imagine, when we’re that close to Disney World, we don’t usually stop (so, I can’t really make any I-4 recommendations.)
Those are Elyssa’s and my tips for driving from North Carolina to Disney World. If our Chick-Fil-a focused plan doesn’t work for you, check our the I-95 exit guide to try and plan a drive that works for you!
This is a big month for people who like Disney live streams, as the Disney Parks Blog is doing one every Monday. Today’s stream, which goes live at 4:00PM Eastern Time, is Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire.
The other upcoming streams are:
- July 18 – Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular; and
- July 25 – Paint the Night Parade
Enjoy getting your Disney fix, even when you can’t be at the parks yourself!
UPDATE: They’ve put up the YouTube Link: