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What's New and Updated in the 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World

This edition includes a detailed look at Disney's new Fastpass+ ride reservation system, including what Fastpass+ is, the attractions in each park that you should use it on, and the best times to make reservations. Also, we review the Magic Kingdom's new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, which opened in late Spring 2014, and the host of new Frozen-themed shows, parades and events. We've also got an in-depth review of Universal's great new Harry Potter-themed Diagon Alley. Here's a list of some of the more notable other updates:

Part 1 - Planning Before You Leave Home

  • Updates to Disney’s calendar of special events, including how crowds will be affected

Part 2 - Time and Money

  • A step-by-step guide to making Fastpass+ reservation, including how much time to set aside, what you’ll need before you start, for your family and anyone traveling with you
  • Updated FastPass+ tips, including understanding how FastPass+ attractions are segmented at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, how to get more FastPass+ reservations once you’re in the parks, and why making advance FastPass+ reservations for evening parades and fireworks is frequently a bad idea
  • How FastPass+ is affecting your waits in line, including which attraction wait times are going down because of FastPass+, and which are going up. With this, you’ll make better decisions about where to use FastPass+ in the parks
  • Tips on when Disney typically raises ticket prices, and by how much, so you can buy tickets beforehand
  • Cost of MagicBands for off-site guests and those buying tickets from third-party vendors
  • Updates to Disney’s park opening procedures. Disney has instituted new park opening steps to slow the rush of guests to the popular Frozen Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet in the Magic Kingdom, and slow the crowds at other parks

Part 3 - Accommodations

  • Updated benefits to staying in a Walt Disney World hotel, including earlier access to FastPass+ reservations
  • Details on Disney’s updated package cancellation policy. When you call to make a hotel reservation, Disney will encourage you to book something else along with the room, turning it into a “package.” But cancellation policies for packages are very restrictive, so you need to know what to watch out for
  • Tips on how to use our website’s new Hotel Room Views feature, which shows you the view you’ll get from every hotel room in Walt Disney World
  • A new analysis of the Disney Dining Plan, including how much each component of the plan costs for your stay. With this information, you’ll be able to see whether the dining plan makes sense for your family
  • Updates to more than 60 off-site hotel ratings and rankings
  • An updated list of the best Disney-specialist travel agents, and their contact information
  • Updates to our annual Reader Resort Survey, showing how Unofficial Guide readers ranked every Disney World hotel over the past year
  • Completely updated strengths and weaknesses of every Disney resort, plus the Swan, Dolphin, and Shades of Green
  • Updates to resort room diagrams to reflect new furniture and bedding
  • A new section – Our Picks for Disney On-Site Resorts – where we select the best value, moderate, and deluxe resorts for families with young children; groups of 5 or more; families with older kids; and adults
  • A complete review of The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, including amenities, décor, bedding and bathroom details, and the best rooms to request at the resort
  • Updates to the ongoing construction at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, including the conversion of Tahiti, Tokelau, and Rapa Nui to timeshare rooms, plus how the construction will affect dining, pools, and child care
  • New details on the Wilderness Lodge Villas’ updated rooms
  • A revised list of the best rooms at Bay Lake Tower and Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • A new analysis of the Disney Dining Plan, including how much each component of the plan costs for your stay. With this information, you’ll be able to see whether the dining plan makes sense for your family
  • A review of the fabulous new Cabana Bay Resort at Universal Orlando
  • Review of the Hilton Bonnet Creek resort, an upscale resort in the middle of Disney property, with moderate rates and a really nice pool area for kids
  • Preview of the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando, and where to sell your vital organs to pay for your stay

Part 4 - Spas

  • Updated price and services lists for the best resort spas in Orlando
  • More information on the recent remodeling of Senses at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, plus a tip that this spa is easier to get to for guests staying at certain other Disney resorts, or off-site east of Walt Disney World

Part 5 - The Disney Cruise Line

  • Coverage of DCL’s new 2015 itineraries, including Northern Europe and Hawaii
  • Updated recommendations on the best cruise itinerary for your first cruise
  • All the details on the Disney Magic’s late 2013 refurbishment, including children’s areas, water play areas and AquaDunk water slide, restaurants, and nightclubs
  • A review of the Magic’s new Carioca’s restaurant, with an impassioned plea to order the Slow-Roasted Pork Belly. You’ll thank us later

Part 6 - Walt Disney World with Kids

  • Where to find Disney characters in the parks and resorts
  • Updated details on Disney’s character meals, including cost, location, and which characters are available

Part 7 - Special Tips for Special People

  • A detailed look at how to use Disney’s new Disabled Access Service (DAS), which replaced the Guest Assistance Card in 2013. The DAS comes with a whole new set of policies and procedures, and we outline how to navigate these changes and make the best use of the new system
  • Where to find vegan, gluten-free, and kosher snacks in the parks, resorts, and how to order custom baked goods from BabyCakes NYC

Part 8 - Arriving and Getting Around

  • Warnings to drivers about a big new construction project along 21 miles of I-4 in Orlando, including 56 new bridges, 70 overpasses, and the construction of 4 new variable-charge toll roads
  • A recommendation to use the Waze (waze.com) free mobile app for driving directions and traffic updates
  • Updates to our Reader Report Card for car rental companies. National and Enterprise continue to do well. We also tell you who to avoid
  • Which car rental companies have the most distinctive, inexpensive rental cars, such as the Fiat 500, the VW Eos convertible, and Mercedes C-class
  • An update to our Resort Transportation Chart, which shows how long it’ll take you go from your hotel to anywhere on Disney property using either Disney transportation or your own car. We timed more than 550 bus routes for this edition’s update

Part 9 - Bare Necessities

  • Tips on how to use Disney’s new Memory Maker photo service, including cost, how it works with MagicBands, and how to save money
  • Updated comparison of prices at local grocery stores near Disney World, and which grocers to avoid

Part 10 - Dining

  • Review of the new Antojito’s Mexican restaurant at Universal Orlando. Besides tasty tapas, they give out custom-painted luchador masks Wednesday through Sunday!
  • Details on Universal Orlando’s new Bread Box, Cowfish, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Vivo Italian Kitchen, and Hot Dog Hall of Fame restaurants
  • Updates to Disney’s cancellation policy for sit-down restaurants, including how to avoid the $10-per-person no-show penalty
  • A new review of Epcot’s Spice Road Table restaurant in Morocco
  • Updated review of Epcot’s Liberty Inn, Refreshment Port quick-service locations, plus Restaurant Akershus sit-down meals
  • Updated review of the newly refurbished (and delicious) California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Updated dining review of Captain’s Grill at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. Try the pork tenderloin!
  • Updated review of the popular Le Cellier steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada pavilion
  • Recent review of Garden Grove at the Swan
  • Completely new review of the new Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge, a new patio lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Has an exceptional all-small-plates menu
  • Updates to Tutto Gusto’s house specialties, including a creamy polenta with melted Fontina with braised short ribs and meatballs
  • New review of One80 SportGrill in Downtown Disney’s Buena Vista Palace
  • New recommendations for dinner at The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Try the grilled lamb chops with macaroni and cheese
  • Details on Epcot’s new Fountain View restaurant, essentially a Starbucks outpost in the park
  • Completely updated reader ratings for all Walt Disney World counter-service restaurants
  • Completely updated reader rankings for more than 100 Disney sit-down restaurants. In this year’s survey, the BoardWalk’s Flying Fish Café did really well, along with Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club Resort. There’s plenty more news to read about, too
  • Where to find the best Thai food in Orlando

Part 11 - The Magic Kingdom

  • How to best use FastPass+ at the Magic Kingdom, including the 5 rides which need FastPass+ most often, the rides which never need FastPass+, and why
  • A list of all Magic Kingdom attractions with FastPass+
  • Where to find the in-park FastPass+ kiosks to make reservations
  • An update on the construction happening around the central hub that’s affecting parade and viewing locations, and where to get the best views now
  • A review of the new Tinkerbelle meet-and-greet on Main Street, along with the best times to go
  • A full review of Adventureland’s Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial
  • An updated review of the Pirate’s Adventure interactive game in Adventureland, which is a lot of fun for both adults and children
  • Tips on how to see the Magic Kingdom’s “mountain” rides most efficiently
  • A full review of the Merida meet-and-greet in Fantasyland
  • Updated reviews of the Princess Fairytale Hall meet-and-greets, including the new Frozen-themed opportunity with Anna and Elsa
  • Touring tips for seeing the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland
  • A review of the new Festival of Fantasy afternoon parade, including where to stand to get the best views
  • Updated one-and two-day touring plans for adults and parents with small children, including the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and other New Fantasyland attractions, plus specific recommendations on which attractions need FastPass+, and the times to get for your reservations
  • Updated attraction ratings and reader survey responses for each attraction, for pre-schoolers, grad-school children, teens, young adults, over 30’s, and seniors
  • All new Jim Hill stories about the Magic Kingdom

Part 12 - Epcot

  • How to best use FastPass+ at Epcot, including the 5 rides which need FastPass+ most often, the rides which never need FastPass+, and why
  • A list of all Epcot attractions with FastPass+, including Epcot’s “tiered” FastPass rules and how to work those rules to your advantage
  • Where to find the in-park FastPass+ kiosks to make reservations
  • Updated touring tips for Spaceship Earth, since FastPass+ is affecting how long you’ll wait in line
  • An updated review of Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure
  • New review of the Epcot Character Spot, including the characters typically available and the best time to go
  • Updated one-and two-day touring plans for adults and parents with small children, plus specific recommendations on which attractions need FastPass+, and the times to get for your reservations
  • Updated attraction ratings and reader survey responses for each attraction, for pre-schoolers, grad-school children, teens, young adults, over 30’s, and seniors
  • All new Jim Hill stories about Epcot

Part 13 - Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • Updates on construction at the Animal Kingdom for the 2017 opening of an Avatar-themed land
  • Updated information on the Animal Kingdom’s park opening procedures, including which attractions may open early. Get a jump on the crowds by knowing which rides open first
  • A full review of the great new Wilderness Explorers scavenger hunt game at the Animal Kingdom
  • Details on the new Harambe Nights seasonal after-hours event
  • How to best use FastPass+ at the Animal Kingdom, including the 4 rides which need FastPass+ most often, the rides which never need FastPass+, and why
  • A list of all Animal Kingdom attractions with FastPass+, including Epcot’s “tiered” FastPass rules and how to work those rules to your advantage
  • Where to find the in-park FastPass+ kiosks to make reservations
  • A review of the new Winged Encounters macaw show on Discovery Island
  • Updated touring tips for Festival of the Lion King, now that it has moved to Africa
  • Updated touring tips for Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, including when to schedule FastPass+ at the nearby Kilimanjaro Safaris so you don’t have to backtrack later to the trail
  • Updated touring tips for Expedition Everest, including how to ride with short waits even if you can’t use FastPass+
  • An updated one-day touring plan with specific recommendations on which attractions need FastPass+, and the times to get for your reservations
  • Updated attraction ratings and reader survey responses for each attraction, for pre-schoolers, grad-school children, teens, young adults, over 30’s, and seniors
  • All new Jim Hill stories about the Animal Kingdom

Part 14 - Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • How to best use FastPass+ at Hollywood Studios, including the 3 rides that need FastPass+ most often, and the rides and shows which never need FastPass+
  • Why using FastPass+ for Fantasmic! may not be a good idea, and what else to do to ensure you see the show without long waits in line
  • A list of all Hollywood Studios attractions with FastPass+, including the Studios’ “tiered” FastPass rules and how to work those rules to your advantage
  • Where to find the in-park FastPass+ kiosks to make reservations
  • Updated touring tips for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, based on how its waits have been affected by FastPass+. Also how to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror without long lines
  • Updated touring tips for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, including how FastPass+ is affecting its wait times
  • Details of the new Frozen Summer Fun program, running through August 2014 at least, will be in an update available shortly
  • A review of the American Film Institute Showcase, part of the Backlot Tour post-show
  • Updated touring tips for Toy Story Mania, based on how FastPass+ is affecting wait times
  • News on the January 2015 closing of The American Idol Experience
  • Details on where to find Disney characters all around the Studios
  • An updated one-day touring plan with specific recommendations on which attractions need FastPass+, and the times to get for your reservations
  • Updated attraction ratings and reader survey responses for each attraction, for pre-schoolers, grad-school children, teens, young adults, over 30’s, and seniors
  • All new Jim Hill stories about Hollywood Studios

Part 15 - Universal Orlando

  • Updated comparison of Universal admission prices compared to Disney’s
  • Updates to how Universal Express Pass works with the new Harry Potter-themed Diagon Alley at Universal Studios

Part 16 - Islands of Adventure

  • Review of the new Hogwarts Express at Hogsmeade Station, including when to go for the shortest waits
  • An updated one-day touring plan
  • Updated attraction ratings and reader survey responses for each attraction, for pre-schoolers, grad-school children, teens, young adults, over 30’s, and seniors
  • Jim Hill stories about IOA attractions

Part 17 - Universal Studios

  • 11 pages of new material on Diagon Alley, including the following
  • A full review of the new Escape from Gringott’s roller coaster – we were one of the first to ride it
  • A full review of the new Hogwarts Express train with touring tips on how to ride both sides with minimal waits
  • New review of Ollivanders wand shop, plus details on the the new interactive wands and windows throughout the Wizarding Worlds
  • What you’ll find in the shopping sections of Diagon Alley, from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, to Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Magical Menagerie, Shutterbutton’s, Quality Quidditch Supplies, to Scribbilus, Borgin and Burkes, and more
  • Dining coverage of the Leaky Cauldron, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, The Hopping Pot, and Fountain of Fair Fortune
  • Touring strategies for seeing all of Diagon Alley despite the huge crowds
  • Updated review of the revised Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up show
  • Update coverage of in-park dining, including Springfield USA’s Fast Food Boulevard, the Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, and Lard Lad Donuts
  • More information on Universal’s one in-park character meal, at Café La Bamba, and other character meal opportunities at Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific Resort
  • Coverage of the Universal Dining Plan, including how it works and where it can (and cannot) be used
  • An updated one-day touring plan with specific recommendations for how to see Diagon Alley
  • Updated attraction ratings and reader survey responses for each attraction, for pre-schoolers, grad-school children, teens, young adults, over 30’s, and seniors
  • Jim Hill stories about Diagon Alley

And MUCH more!

More Guides from the Unofficial Team

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2015

What's New in the 2015 Edition?

  • Updated critical comparison between Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions.
  • Additional Internet resources for researching your trip.
  • Revised area hotel review scoring.
  • Updated annual pass and ticket discount information.
  • More detailed parking and transportation advice.
  • The latest word on FASTPASS and the future of FastPass+.
  • Additional coverage of guided tours at Disneyland.
  • Expanded advice for guests with disabilities.
  • Detailed information about meeting Anna & Elsa from FROZEN.
  • Extensive updates to quick-service and table-service dining in and around Disneyland Resort, including Disneyland's new online reservation system.
  • Revised attraction ratings, and updates on refurbished classic attractions including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Alice in Wonderland.
  • Details on the popular Marvel Superhero meet and greets in Tomorrowland.
  • Updated advice on experiencing World of Color, including new dining package details.
  • Information on the new Despicable Me, Harry Potter, Simpsons, and Fast & Furious attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood.
  • Improved touring plans for all parks.
  • All-new "Importance of Being Goofy"satirical essay.
  • New quotes & tips from actual readers throughout the book.

The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas 2015

With this essential guide, travelers can find out how and where to spend their money wisely for a memorable and affordable trip to Las Vegas. This updated book covers all the new major hotel casinos.

What's New in the Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas 2015?

  • New Dining section with features on downtown, Chinatown, buffets, meal deals, and reviews of 50 restaurants.
  • Reviews of over 50 shows and show venues
  • Tips for choosing a Cirque du Soleil show
  • New section on Players Clubs and how membership will get you great offers on rooms, shows, and dining
  • Where to find the loosest slots
  • Best place to play for each casino game
  • How to use the new V area code
  • New scams to watch out for
  • Profiles of all the hotels including the new LINQ Hotel, Cromwell, Delano, and Downtown Grand.
  • Special section on hotels with balconies
  • Full coverage of the LINQ dining and recreation area including the High Roller observation wheel.
  • Extensive new coverage of nightlife with dozens of clubs and venues profiled.
  • Previews of new Strip shopping venues at New York New York, Tropicana, Montecarlo, TI, and Bally's.
  • New section of firing ranges and gun demonstrations.
  • Review of Circus Circus Adventuredome's new El Loco roller coaster
  • New exhibits and tours at the Neon Museum
  • Complete coverage of outdoor recreational options including climbing, bouldering, road biking, mountain biking, hiking, skiing, fishing, and river running.

More Walt Disney World Unofficial Guides

As thorough as we try to make The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World - the "Big Book" - there isn't sufficient space for all the tips and valuable information that may be important and useful to certain readers. Thus, we've developed additional Disney World guides, each designed to work in conjunction with the Big Book. All provide information tailored to specific Disney World visitors.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World Color Companion, 2nd edition

A full color visual feast that proves that a picture is worth 1,000 words. You can read everything you need to know about Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort in the Big Book (even learn the best rooms to request), but in the Color Companion you can see the guest rooms, the pool, and the magnificent lobby.

What is The Color Companion? How is it different from The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World?

1. It Really Is a Companion While there’s some information that’s better communicated in prose, other information is best presented photographically. For example, photos of rooms or the pool at a Disney hotel are better than verbal descriptions. Our 900-plus-page Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is the most comprehensive guidebook in print to Disney’s Orlando empire. However, when it comes to visualizing something, there’s just no substitute for a good photo. So, to cover all the bases, we offer this companion guide. There’s more than enough information here to plan your entire Disney vacation, but if you want to dig deeper, using the Color Companion in conjunction with The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World gives you the whole enchilada.

2. This Guide Has a Sense of Humor There is a plentiful assortment of dry, plodding travel guides for readers who would prefer to know how many rivets there are in a flying elephant than to have a good chuckle. As for us, we’re all about providing excellent information and having some fun. No useful information was sacrificed to make room for humor in the Companion. We nailed down the essential content first and then added artistic and humorous elements to make the Companion a zippier and more enjoyable read. So, if you can tolerate a little irreverence, parody, and general wackiness, the Color Companion will serve you well.

3. Sometimes We’ll Pull Your Legv We might describe a fantasy resort that’s 100 feet underground with rock-chiseled furniture and an occasional mole in the guestrooms, or an octopus sandwich with tentacles everywhere and malevolent eyes peeking from between the buns. We’re pretty good at this, and sometimes we might fool you for a minute, but to make sure you don’t call Disney reservations and attempt to book a room, or try to order the octopus sandwich at the theme park, we’ve included this little icon to signal that we’ve taken a brief break from reality.

4. It’s in the Genes The humor in this guide is totally consistent with the humor in The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. In fact, most of the humorous elements in Color Companion originally appeared in the Big Book, though not in photographic form.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2015

by Bob Sehlinger and Liliane J. Opsomer with Len Testa presents planning and touring tips for a family vacation, along with more than 20 special touring plans for families that are not published anywhere else.

What’s New in the 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids?

  • Four new Unofficial Kids have joined the team: Check out all the great tips our Floridian based crew, Isaac, Ethan, and Julie have gathered. They are joined in their efforts by Erin, our New Yorker and still keeping them all in check is Hannah who lives in North Carolina!
  • New Trivia for all four Disney Parks.
  • All you need to know about FastPass+ complete with a step-by-step guide to making Fastpass+ reservations, and tips how to get more FastPass+ reservations once you’re in the parks.
  • Preview of the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando.
  • Touring tips for seeing the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland.
  • Review of the new Hogwarts Express train.
  • New material on Diagon Alley, including a review of the new Escape from Gringott’s roller coaster.
  • Updated Touring Plans taking into account the new attractions at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.

Beyond Disney: The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld & The Best of Central Florida

Includes comprehensive coverage on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Both Universal Orlando and SeaWorld remain in the top theme parks to visit in the United States - each with attendance of almost 5 million per year.

There’s Another World Out There

If you think that central Florida consists only of Walt Disney World, you’re wrong. What’s more, you’re passing up some great fun and amazing sights. Admittedly, it’s taken a while, but Walt Disney World now has plenty of competition that measures up toe-to-toe. And though it may sound blasphemous to suggest a whole vacation in central Florida without setting foot on Disney property, it’s not only possible but also in many ways a fresh and appealing idea.

The big four non-Disney theme parks are Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld, and Busch Gardens. Each is unique. Universal Studios Florida, a longtime rival of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, draws its inspiration from movies and television and is every bit the equal of the Disney movie-themed park. Universal Islands of Adventure is arguably the most modern, high-tech theme park in the United States, featuring an all-star lineup of thrill rides that make it the best park in Florida for older kids and young-at-heart adults.

SeaWorld provides an incomparable glimpse into the world of marine mammals and fish, served up in a way that (for the most part) eliminates those never-ending lines. Finally, Busch Gardens, with its shows, zoological exhibits, and knockout coasters, offers the most eclectic entertainment mix of any theme park we know.

All four parks approximate, equal, or exceed the Disney standard without imitating Disney, successfully blending distinctive presentations and personalities into every attraction.

Mini-Mickey: The Pocket-Sized Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World

Mini-Mickey: The Pocket-Sized Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is the condensed version of the Unofficial team’s comprehensive Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Though its format is slightly larger than true pocket-sized, this is an indispensable take-along guidebook. Straightforward, tightly organized, and well indexed, Mini-Mickey is the perfect resource when you want the most important information fast.

For readers on a short or impromptu trip to Walt Disney World the contents of Mini-Mickey can easily be digested on the flight or drive down, or at the hotel the night before visiting the parks. Scientifically created touring plans for each park will save four or more hours of standing in line.

For those who do not have time to plan their Disney trip in depth, Mini-Mickey takes the guesswork out of visiting the parks and ensure that the reader sees as much as possible with the least amount of stress and effort. This book provides expert authority on how to make the most efficient and most practical use of any family’s time.

Because every minute and every dollar counts, Mini Mickey: The Pocket-Sized Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World provides the information needed to tour Walt Disney like a pro.

Last updated on December 9, 2014