Sunday, June 23, 2013

Limited Time Magic, Main Street Bakery Reopens, Summer Crowds, January 2014 Park Hours Released, Princess Fairytale Hall Update, MagicBand Accessories at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Magic Kingdom Park - June 18

It's actually been a semi-eventful week at Walt Disney World with several debuts, refurbishment updates, and some "interesting" Limited Time Magic. Now, this morning I arrived rather early at Magic Kingdom Park to test out my ideal morning before heading off to my Orlando meetings (for my actual job) in the afternoon. Because of that, this update may seem a bit disjointed with an actual arrival at the Transportation & Ticket Center around 7:51am, though Magic Kingdom Park actually opened a bit before 8:50am. That said, I always recommend arriving no later than 8:20am to ensure that you get a spot very close to the entrance. Anyways, this isn't a touring plan update (I'll be publishing that next week). The date is June 18 and we're headed out to Magic Kingdom Park.

Like I said, I arrived at the Transportation and Ticket Center around 7:50am; you'll be ushered to the resort monorail or (sometimes) ferryboat. At this time, only the resort monorail was operating, though I tried to peak in at the Express station to ask when it would start operating. I was told "around quarter till 9", so basically, the first people taking the Express monorail will arrive around the time that we're passing Tony's Town Square.

I chose to stand further back, so I could get a good view of the show, but I don't recommend this. If you're spending two days at Magic Kingdom Park (something I highly recommend), choose to get up close to the ropes in the tunnels on the first day, then on the second day, get a view of the show.

Well, in Limited Time Magic news, Long Lost Friends Week will be returning again at an unknown date but this time with a twist: Disney fans can go online and vote for their favorite group of "long lost friends" to appear in the park. You can vote here. None of the characters are all that rare though. Also, this week, Disney announced the Teen Beach Movie (could one think of a stupider name?) Pool Party at Disney's' Typhoon Lagoon Water Park in addition to a Lone Ranger souvenir mug with root beer. From what I'm hearing, it's very tasty.

The big news this week is that the Main Street Bakery has reopened from a six-month long refurbishment converting it into a Starbucks (I mean Hell's Kitchen).

There's new signage featuring the old Starbucks logo. During certain times of the day, there's actually a line outside to get in.

Inside is very nice and opening. There is no seating except a small counter. Now, this location operates very similarly to the one in California. Starbucks rewards points cannot be redeemed here but your purchases can earn you Starbucks reward points. In the morning, it's mostly Starbucks treats, but after 11am or so, it becomes a mixture between Starbucks and Disney treats. The cinnamon rolls are no longer available. Generally, I think they did a really nice job with this; it sure beats the small and cramped original Main Street Bakery. For those that hold this idea that Starbucks in "infringing" on Main Street, USA, I'd argue that Main Street has had many corporate sponsors prior to Starbucks (Cocoa-Cola, Kodak, etc...). Mind you, Nestle, the previous sponsor of the Main Street Bakery, was significantly larger than Starbucks or even the Walt Disney Company; it faced all sorts of human rights issues and wasn't even American. The fact that some are "outraged" at Nestle, known for its crappy coffee, being replaced by an American company started by a single man with a vision is kind of outrageous. The fact is, regardless of how you feel about Starbucks Coffee, this ideal that Main Street is un-corporate and traditional is just not the case and it hasn't been that way for a very long time. Not to mention, this new incarnation of the bakery (which wasn't even open when the theme park opened in 1971) is much better, in terms of theme and design, than the previous incarnation.

Anyways, the new beverage menu is about eleven times as large as the original; it features a much more eclectic and varied selection that puts the old one to shame. Anyways, off on a totally different tangent, I'm not a coffee drinker but tried a bit of it, and I must say that it was really good; very creamy.

Anyways, it's now 11:12am. By now, all wait times are in double digits with the highest at 75 minutes for Space Mountain. Mind you, by 10am, the wait for that attraction was 55 minutes.

You know it's crowded when we see wait times at 60 minutes for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

It's a hectic scene in front of Space Mountain. It's 12:11pm with FASTPASSES are out to 2:35 to 3:35pm and we're looking at a pretty solid 100 minute wait here. As stated last week, Space Mountain will be closing for three intermittent periods in September to add "trim breaks". Before all those roller coaster enthusiasts get worked up, remember that Space Mountain, while it is fun, can be very painful, so slowing it down a tad bit isn't a horrendous idea. Bare in mind, these are meant to ensure that vehicles are not going faster than Disney's desired speed, so if you've never been in a vehicle that was going "too fast" by Disney's standards, then you probably will not notice a difference. The question of course becomes what is Disney's speed limit. For dates, see the refurbishments page.

With a lousy capacity and somewhat high popularity, we've got a 45 minute wait here. I can only imagine what FastPass+ (we'll get to that in a moment) will do to this attraction

On a separate note, Disney did release the operating hours for January 2014 this week. No surprises there, but I'm working on getting the January crowd calendar (in addition to the November and December ones) out. Those hours can be found here.

Only a 25 minute wait for Ariel's Grotto, which seems a bit odd. You'd think that, with temperatures bordering 90 degrees (plus that great Florida humidity!), people would look for anything indoors to do. This wait did go up to 45 minutes by the end of the day. It's worth noting that Disney does have the extended queue out.

Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid had a 60 minute wait when I passed by shortly before 12:30pm.

Heading into "old" Fantasyland. Oddly enough, it does seem that "New Fantasyland" is bringing in the crowds though. At this point, I'm eagerly awaiting the D23 Expo in August to see what they unveil. It seems that they're saving up all of their large-ish announcements for the expo in an effort to address criticism of the 2011 expo, which was heavily criticized for its lack of "blockbuster" announcements. That's not to suggest that we'll see any groundbreaking announcements at this year's expo though. I make no promises.

With the tarps down on Princess Fairytale Hall, we could easily see a soft opening by the end of summer (so anytime up until Labor Day basically).

Regardless, we're leaving Magic Kingdom Park to walk over to the Fantasia store at Disney's Contemporary Resort. You'll see why in a moment.

Courtesy of Robo from DISboards

The walkway to Disney's Contemporary Resort is rather nice but not really scenic, as you're basically walking through a parking lot to get to a couple of crosswalks, which bring you to the Magic Kingdom Park resort bus terminal. After all of that, it's a nice last minute of the walk. Anyways, it takes about 7 minutes or so and is definitely recommended over the monorail, but after a long day at Magic Kingdom Park, the monorail would be your better option, for it's only one stop to the hotel. The above map (courtesy of Robo from DISboards) depicts the walkway.

We'll return later for a full walkabout of Disney's Contemporary Resort, but today, we're at Fantasia where we're looking at the MagicBand display.

As I'm sure you're aware, this week, Disney conducted a test of MyMagic+ (the first one to use MagicBands and FastPass+). Part of the test was to experiment with MagicBand accessories. Above is the display above CoverBands, which are basically sleeves that go over the band. The band second to the left depicts a CoverBand. They have them for Pirates of the Caribbean, Phineas & Ferb, and other Disney characters and movies. Each ones costs $6.95.

MagicSliders are basically little "frames", if you will, that slide onto the band that surround the RFID chip and Mickey head. They're kind of pointless and none are pictured above. They're fairly large though causing them to run about $12.95. To take a brief break from MagicBand merchandise, let's at the week ahead.

Crowd Forecast - Week of June 23

As I've consistently alluded to in this post, crowds have been significantly higher than expected. In year's past, a 90 minute wait for Jungle Cruise has been rare, but it seems that New Fantasyland and (more likely) good marketing has attracted even more guests to Walt Disney World this summer. This upcoming week, it's likely that crowds will continue to grow as wait times do the same. We're talking about a weekly crowd level of 9. Next week, we're going to see some solid level 10 crowds, but thsi week will be slightly less crowded. Definitely arrive at the parks early, avoid Extra Magic Hours despite all temptations, and follow recommendations. While I don't anticipate any capacity closures this week, be prepared for high crowds.

Weather Forecast - Week of June 23

We're looking at more heat this week with plenty of rain as well. With highs mostly in the 90s, it's crucial to stay hydrated and keep your group in the air conditioning as much as possible. With temperatures below 90 degrees, you can expect a bit more rain, but be sure to go to the parks with a poncho, as rain is likely. Keep in mind, this site recommends just touring as you would regardless of the rain (of course skipping any outdoor attractions that have been closed).

Sunday - AM Thunder-Storms, High 89, Low 74
Monday - PM Thunder-Storms, High 90, Low 74
Tuesday - PM Thunder-Storms, High 92, Low 74
Wednesday - Scattered Thunder-Storms, High 92, Low 75
Thursday - Scattered Thunder-Storms, High 90, Low 75
Friday - Scattered Thunder-Storms, High 91, Low 75
Saturday - Scattered Thunder-Storms, High 89, Low 75

So, as you can tell, it is going to be very hot, so do your best to hydrate. Also, the above is subject to change so do expect rain and bring ponchos.

Back to the MagicBands. Finally, you've got MagicBandits, which seem like Disney's idea for the next version of pin trading. With a stupid name like MagicBandits, I'm not entirely sure I can take it seriously, but it does look like they have potential. They go in the holes of the MagicBands (used also to adjust the band) and come in a variety of packs. Packs of 3 run $6.95, while packs of four run $8.95. So, there you have it. That's it for this week.

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