Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! This week we’re taking a look at resort decorations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, stopping by the Magic Kingdom to check out the new Peter Pan’s Flight queue, and wrapping up with a visit to Downtown Disney and Animal Kingdom. I have so much to share, so let’s get started! 🙂
And what better way to start than with the stunning lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge? After all these years I’m still amazed walking in here. I think it might be my favorite hotel (and not just because Jiko is hiding inside). The tree towering inside looks perfect and coordinates with all the garland strung around the lobby. While there isn’t much else at the resort in the way of Christmas decorations, what more could you ask for? Be sure to click below to see what else is new this week.
While it may not seem very exciting, I’m thrilled to report the parking garage at Downtown Disney is finally open. It made a huge difference this weekend not having to fight for a parking spot. We were so used to getting there an hour early that we had tons of time to kill. The garage is very open with high ceilings. I didn’t grow up in the city so I have trouble navigating parking garages at times, but this one is a breeze!
While the parking garage is done, the walkways aren’t. The photo below left shows the scary walkway that takes you to Downtown Disney. Am I the only one that thinks it looks like something from Halloween Horror Nights? The good news is that it lets you out just in front of Planet Hollywood and super close to the AMC Dine In Movie Theatre. If you haven’t been to the Dine In Theatre you can find my review here. It seems like the garage is even closer than the original parking lot.
Walking around Downtown Disney, it’s still very much in transition. The walls are moving around weekly with different walkways open and closed all the time. However, it really is getting better every week and I’m excited to see it coming together. I included the photo below left because I keep seeing the Disney Springs sign on blogs everywhere, but nobody is showing what’s beside it. I’m excited about the new sign too, but I don’t want to get your hopes up! (Remember you can click on any photo to see it larger.) Below right is showing construction progress.
Enough construction! Let’s talk about what Downtown Disney is really for, shopping! Below left, I’m very happy to report that iPhone 6+ cases are now available at D Tech. The prices remain consistent at $36.95 for standard and $44.95 for customized even though the cases are so much larger. Below right, you’ll see a new patter for Harveys Seatbelt Bags that just came out. This pattern reminds me of a camera strap that Disney used to sell.
Wrapping up what’s new at Downtown Disney this week, you can now find a life size inflatable Baymax at Once Upon a Toy. I mention it because if you have small kids you can likely take photos here and skip the actual meet and greet. The characters look very similar and you can save yourself 45+ minutes in line! Speaking of reduced wait times, Santa is also greeting at Downtown Disney with a new system this year. If the line gets too long you’ll be given a time to return. That sure sounds better than standing in line!
Next we’re popping over to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to check out the… wait.. is that an empty lobby??! Yep, I stopped by to take photos of Christmas decorations Sunday night and they weren’t up yet. Since I was in the neighborhood I hopped a boat to the Magic Kingdom to get some other updates for you. Stay tuned for coverage of Wilderness Lodge once those decorations go up!
In a way I’m glad things didn’t work out and I ended up at Magic Kingdom. I expected it to be crowded but it was one of those magical nights with perfect weather and very minimal crowds. I wish I could have taken all of you with me! Of course, my first stop was Dumbo for a quick spin.
Lots of Christmas goodies are available around the park. At Storybook Circus we saw several kinds of cupcakes and bright red macaroons. We had to try one, how else could I tell you all about it? Well, surprise, this little guy is actually peppermint flavored! The sign didn’t say so and we weren’t told so it was a happy surprise. I still think the ones at Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie (France in Epcot) are better but these are still worth trying for the holidays.
A little shopping news from Magic Kingdom, who will you pick from the ears below? Team Anna or Team Elsa? Well, you don’t have to! These are the same ears with different designs are the two sides. They’re already very popular and I’ve seen tons of kids wearing them in the parks. At $19.95 they aren’t as pricey as I’d expect since they’re really wall made.
A little more shopping news, the Made With Magic wands were released this weekend and they come with a surprise! When we first picked them up we weren’t interested in getting one, then we found out they really ARE magic! The wands can change the color of other wands and hats. There’s a little paint brush button and when pressed and aimed at others it will switch their color and pattern. I tried to capture it in the video below. Maybe this is Disney’s answer to Harry Potter? It’s exciting to think about other ways this could be used in the parks.
I’ll also give you a tip we learned, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is a great place to go sniping Made With Magic bows with your new magic wand. 😉 We had so much fun with this and it was totally worth the $25 for the wand! In other news, I haven’t talked about FastPass+ lately but that’s been because it’s been working so well. This week we’ve used over ten Fastpass+ reservations without a hiccup, but I have family visiting from out of town soon so that will be the real test.
At roughly 10:30pm I decided it was finally time to suck it up and get in the standby line for Peter Pan. The sign claimed there was a 50 minute wait and with the line being indoors and hidden now I had no way to tell if that was a real number. I decided it was worth it to show you guys the new queue! When you first enter there is a corridor with paintings of various scenes from the movie, then you enter into portraits of The Darling Family.
Next you enter the nursery where there are tons of details. There’s so much to see that I could do an entire post on it! Not only is it lovely, there’s more room in the line and it’s completely air conditioned. While I had hoped for more interactive elements in the queue it’s no longer the worst wait in the park. It’s a huge improvement!
So how long was the wait for Peter Pan? It ends up only about 25 minutes, just goes to show you can’t always trust the sign. Afterwards we decided to hop the boat back to Wilderness Lodge, but something was amiss. What are all those carts in the lobby? Why is there caution tape? It ends up we’d stumbled into the late night decorating session for the hotel! It was amazing to see, there were four semi trucks full of decorations being expertly unloaded out front. I wish we could have stayed all night. If you’re wondering what that all nighter looked like there might be a video if you search on on Youtube.
So we’ll have to stop back by to show the finished product soon at Wilderness Lodge! Somewhere that did have their tree up was Animal Kingdom. I stopped by Tuesday morning to check out their decorations and report on the Thanksgiving crowds. Only there weren’t any crowds to report. At 8:30am the entrance looked like any other Tuesday. Sure, there was rain in the forecast, but when has that ever scared people off?
Inside the park, decorations are minimal and just along the buildings as you enter. They’re pretty generic, but festive. Since the Jingle Jungle parade has been retired there really isn’t much for the season at this park.
As I made my way back to the Kilimanjaro Safaris it was zombie apocalypse empty at the park! Take a look at these empty walkways. It was creepy since I was there by myself. I mean, this is Thanksgiving week? Where are the hoards of people pushing and shoving to get there first? When I got back to the safari it was an absolute walk on and I was able to have a whole row all to myself. I was starting to think I’d picked the perfect day to visit!
But then, the animals were all hiding too. These were the only two animals I really saw during the entire ride. Just as we were almost to the cheetahs I figured out why. It suddenly started raining, then pouring, and then monsooning! I packed my camera gear up in my bag and put on the rain cover. I bundled up in my rain coat, but it didn’t matter because it was raining sideways. I couldn’t believe the rain! I sloshed back out to my car where I heard there was a tornado warning for the area. Maybe I should be a little more afraid the rain! 😉
That’s everything for this week. Now let’s see what you can expect if you’re visiting next week.
Crowd Calendar: While Thanksgiving and the weekend after are some of the busiest days all year, you can expect mild crowds just after.
Weather: There might be a day that dips all the way into the 40’s but for the most part it’s sunny with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s. Perfect weather! 🙂
Remember: You can still have crazy rainy days even this time of year. Be sure you come ready with a rain plan.
Here’s my top tip for this week: If you’re driving when you come to town, keep in mind it’s technically illegal in Florida to drive with your hazard lights on (unless you’re experiencing a mechanical problem). If you feel you can’t see in the rain then pull off the road, or even better find a parking lot to wait in. While rain like we had this week isn’t common this time of year it happens almost daily in the summer. It’s best to wait so you don’t have to drive in those conditions.
Do you have any news I missed or any requests for coverage next week? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, and thanks so much for reading! I’m wishing all of you the Best Week Ever, until next time!