Episode: 334 Well, it happened. Disney Genie is now officially a thing. We got a chance to play around with it and listened to a lot of first hand experience with the new service. We give our honest opinions of the service. We also go through each park and give a thumbs up or down on whether or not we think it is worth the extra money to add to your day. We also have other news to discuss. There’s a new road project around the Grand Floridian that got out attention. Could something new be planned for that area around the Magic Kingdom? Also, there’s some concerning news out of Imagineering. It seems that not everyone is willing to make the move to Florida. Could we be entering a new dark age for Imagineering?

Episode 333: In this episode, Jon walks us through his most recent trip to Walt Disney World. With the 50th anniversary in full swing, he lets us know what the crowds were like and his thoughts on seeing the new nighttime spectaculars in person. He also enjoyed a meal at Steakhouse 71 and gives us all of the details! I personally can’t wait to eat here. Jon also finally made it on Rise of the Resistance. He gives us his review. Meanwhile, Jason is out this week because of a back injury but we plan to all be back next week to discuss the roll-out of Disney Genie. Jon and I wrap up this episode by discussing the attractions that will be pay only. Some are good and some are bad. It will be interesting to see what the lines will be like once this goes live next week.

Episode 332: This week Jon previews his upcoming trip to Walt Disney World! We also revisit our thoughts on the new nighttime spectaculars and see if our thoughts have changed now that we have had a week to mull it over. We also discuss some news like the return of character meets. It will be a modified experience than it was pre-covid but at least the character meets are coming back! Also, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is return in December. Cast compliments can now be done on the My Disney Experience app and passholders are soon going to have exclusive effects when entering the parks at the tap-styles. During Jon’s trip this week he plans to see the new nighttime shows in person and will also dine at Ohana and Steakhouse 71. We look forward to hearing all about it next week!

Episode 331: Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World! Jason and I just return from our last pre-50th trip and we have a report on what we saw there last week. At the time of our recording we just finished watching the Disney Enchantment fireworks show that is replacing Happily Ever After. We give our unfiltered feedback of it. We also give our review of Harmonious which just debuted at Epcot. We like one of them much more than the other. We experience Ratatouille Adventure and we dined at Space 220. We give our reviews of those as well. I purchased some of the 50th anniversary merch and I talk about what that experience was like. We also hung out at Trader Sam’s for the first time this trip. And experienced our first evac off of a ride. All in all a lot of new things that we experienced this week at Walt Disney World! What are you most excited about?

Episode 330: Jason and I preview our trip this weekend to Walt Disney World! We discuss some of the latest news including the latest from Space 220, the 50th anniversary merch is here, and the new flavors at Club cool. The CEO of Disney made some more comments this week about guest yield and how much he loves the reservation system. Rise of the resistance is temporarily pausing the boarding groups but for how long? Jon and Jason both made trips to Six Flags over Georgia this month. We finally have everyone awake and ready to talk about their experience there. We of course can’t help but compare it to Disney and there’s some interesting findings that Jon and Jason report. Also, see if you can guess why there’s a breaking bad character in this episode’s featured image?

Episode:329 In today’s episode we talk a lot about food! Space 220’s menu is released and we take a look through it and talk about what catches our eye. Jason and I try to decide if the menu is enticing enough for us to try and get in the walk-up line for it. Yes, that’s right there’s no reservations for the first week, it is walk-up only. We also have a debate over how popular this restaurant will be. Space 220 comes with an out of this world price tag on the prix fixe menu. In other culinary news, some more buffet style restaurants are re-opening soon and we quickly rank the best sit-down restaurants at Magic Kingdom. In some non-culinary news Primeval Whirl looks like it will finally get demolished and Finding Nemo will get a new show next year. We only hope that the new show will be a little bit shorter than the last one. To wrap the show Jon and I do a brief recap of our trip to Disney 20 years ago. We were at Disney just 2 days after 9/11 in 2001. It was certainly a surreal experience.

Episode 328: Today we discuss the latest Disney news and we tease a trip report from Jason! I say tease because don’t actually get to it. Why? well, Jason fell asleep while doing the show. See if you can spot when it happens. Before all of that excitement, we start the show by mancrushing on Josh D’amaro. (hence, the title of the episode) We also discuss the new additions to the parks for the 50th anniversary. Ratatouille had a bit of a fender bender that caused some delay during the passholder previews. Lightning Lane signs continue to replace the old Fast pass+ signs. Expedition Everest will undergo its lengthiest refurbishment next year. We hope it is to fix the yeti but Jason places a wager that it won’t happen. Let’s hold him to it but only if he’s wrong. Creations gift shop is suppose to open in a few days at Epcot but will Club Cool?

Episode: 327. The hits just keep coming! This week we discuss the new and not at all confusing Disney World Annual Pass program. But first we discuss some of the other headlines of the week. Space 220 has an opening date of September 20th but we are still skeptical. The swan reserve is delayed yet again. Lightning lane “stickers” have been place on the old Fast Pass plus entrances at certain attractions. Living with the land was down for 2 weeks. The bright spot that we found in the news this week was that we are all looking forward to the Le Creperie de Paris opening. The menu sounds delicious! We wrap the show by going through the new naming convention for the annual pass program and what perks have been removed from the old program that will now be add-ons for an additional fee (Boo!).

Episode: 326 We catch up on the news this week and talk more about the Disney Genie. After a week to mull over the Disney Genie news we discuss how we feel about it today. In other news The monorail continues to have issues. Fingerprint scanning is back. Club cool is nearing completion. Rumors are circulating that the budget has been slashed for the Splash mountain retheme to Princess and the Frog. We really hope that these rumors turn out to be false. This leads us into a discussion about how the Chapek era so far has been a season of price hikes and decreased value. Perhaps some competition from Universal can help? Let us know your thoughts!

Episode 325: Disney finally let the Genie out of the lamp this week but is he working for Aladdin or Jafar? We break down what we think of the new paid fastpass service. Can we find a silver lining? We have known that this was coming for quite a while and now that it is here, we break down what we know about it. We are quick to say that it could certainly have been far worse in terms of the type of money grab that most people think that it is. That being said, we aren’t that happy with fastpass being a paid service now. We go through what attractions will be included in the lightning lane only upcharge for each park. Rumors are that there will be 2 attractions at each park that will require the per ride fee. We also, look at each park and decide would we pay the $15 per person fee for the Disney Genie+ service. Our answers might surprise you. In other news, I go through the list of construction projects and what we think will be the current opening time for each. We wrap up the show with a rapid fire of other news stories from the week.

Episode 324: Today we recap the latest Disney news and Jason weighs in with his thoughts on the Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser announcements. We cover some other news like the first Boo Bash and what we think of it compared to the Halloween Party. Is it worth the hefty price tag? We also start talking about some of the recent job posting that Disney has been hiring for at Walt Disney World. Some of those include Monorail cast members and Skyliner cast members. That got us thinking, if we could have any cast member job at Disney…What would it be? We give some updates to the Scarlet Johannsen Disney legal battle and we reveal that we scored a passholder preview for Remy’s Ratatouille adventure at Epcot. We wrap up the show by hearing from Jason on if he think the Galactic Starcruiser is worth it.

Episode 323: Jon and I are holding down the fort while Jason is on vacation. We cover the flood of Disney Parks news that is coming out these days. We have major details on the Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser. We break down the sample itinerary and the pricing that was released. Spoiler alert, it aint cheap. DVC members and Passholders are getting a preview of Ratatouille before the October 1st opening (another spoiler, I got my preview booked). Disneyland announced their new passholder program which will be called the Magic Keys. We also discuss some of the news surrounding the Scarlett Johansson lawsuit against Disney. Could Chapek have avoided this? After, the news we do one of our attraction deep dives. This time we are talking about Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster! It recently celebrated its 22nd anniversary on July 29th. We go through the history of this attraction and give our thoughts on what we think the future will be.

Episode 322: I discuss my most recent trip to Walt Disney World to rekindle the magic. With all of the recent negative news about price hikes and money grabs I needed a good weekend at Walt Disney World to remind us why we love it so much. My weekend trip did just that! One of the often overlooked factors as to why Disney is so great is those special Cast Members that create magic for you. It may not happen every trip but in my experience there’s always at least one Cast Member that goes above and beyond to make a memorable experience for me. I tell about a few of those cast members that I came across this weekend. We do begin the Episode by discussing some of the news going on in the world of Disney. The big story of the week is the mask mandate returning for all guests indoors. This decision comes on the heels of the CDC guidance update in response to the delta variant. The Destination D23 event is already sold out but we preview some of the presentations and we can’t wait to hear from Josh D’amaro!

Eposide 321: Today is episode 321 and we are counting down to…something. We’ll figure that out as we go. We discuss the Disney news of the week and Jon talks about his latest trip to the Philadelphia area where he made some stops at Sesame Place and Hershey. In the Disney news, the Epcot monorail is back! The Hall of President’s is re-opening next month. The Polynesian is slowly re-opening but not everything is fully operational yet. Food and Wine Festival is going and Jason gives us his ranking of the Epcot Festivals while Jon considers renaming Epcot to Efcot. Jon then walks us through his trip to Pennsylvania. He gives a review of Sesame Place and breaks down what he liked and didn’t like about the park. He also walks us through the other stops he made on his trip including a stop in Amish country and Hershey PA. I’ll be at Walt Disney World this weekend to see if I can recapture some of the magic that the recent news has zapped out of us. I’ll report back next week!

California Grill

Back in July 2020 it was a lot easier to get a reservation at signature restaurants like California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This one happens to be my favorite restaurant on property. In fact this year in our March Madness bracket episode we named California Grill as the best thing at Walt Disney World! I love this restaurant so much that I chose to brave covid-19 and dine here last July. It was the first restaurant that I had visited since the start of the pandemic. I was definitely a little nervous but we quickly felt at home thanks to the wonderful cast that works here.

Why do we love California Grill so much?

First of all, the views are incredible. You can look down into the Magic Kingdom and see the tops of the mountain range. When fireworks are happening the restaurant dims the lights and guests can exit the restaurant onto the rooftop to have a unique view of the show. The food is fantastic and the drinks are top notch! I love the sushi, the flatbreads and the bread service is good as well. I almost always order the beef filet which is my favorite. I haven’t had anything bad here.

3 hour dinner

We enjoyed this experience so much last July that we stretched it out as long as we possibly could. We made this dinner last over three hours. It felt so good to have a semi-normal experience again that we didn’t want it to end. We asked our server to bring us everything slowly because we didn’t want to rush. Our kids had full charge on their iPads and my wife and I just sat and enjoyed our drinks. This dinner was a much needed break from the reality of the pandemic that surrounded us.

When it comes to the food. We wanted some of everything since this was our fist sit-down meal in months and at the time we didn’t know how long it would be before we would have another one. We ordered flatbreads for the kids and as an appetizer for us we ordered the sushi. My favorite one on the menu is the Spicy Kazan roll with the fireball sauce…delicious! For the entrées my wife chose the Grouper while I went with the Filet of beef. Both were outstanding! The desserts are also a winner here!

Conclusion

To sum up, We love the California Grill because the staff here make sure that you have a good time. Even when it looked as though we were going to have a very negative experience they more than made up for it. There was a time in 2019 where we were an hour late getting to our table. We had a large group but that was still no excuse. The manager more than made it up to us by comping some appetizers for the table and by giving us all additional fast passes for the next day because we missed out on some that night. That’s why I say it is the best restaurant on property. The food is great, the views are great but also the cast members who work there are amazing!

Episode 320: We are back from our summer travels! We discuss the latest Disney news and rumors. This might sound like a bit of a downer episode because a lot of the news and rumors are frustrating to us. We spend time taking out our frustrations on Bob Chapek. However, I do have two Disney trips coming up soon so we are not slowing down our Disney travels! In some positive news, Fireworks are back! Ohana is now open and Christmas offerings have been announced. Other things that are returning include the Disney Dinning Plan and there was a Parkeology completion at Disneyland. The rumor that has us on edge is the rumor that the Disney Premier access that Disneyland Paris unveiled recently could be coming to Walt Disney World. This would replace the old Fast Pass Plus system. We hope this won’t happen at WDW because in Paris it will cost between 8-15 euros per-person per-ride. Time will tell so let’s stay positive!

Magic Kingdom July 18, 2020

It has been one year since Walt Disney World re-opened during the Covid-19 pandemic. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at my trip in July 2020. This was probably the least crowded I have ever seen the parks. The only other time I can recall it being similar crowd levels was in September 2001. Jon and I went to Walt Disney World just 2 days after 9/11 and the parks were also empty. This time was just as surreal because we were in the middle of the pandemic and things were only getting worse at that time so the future was very uncertain. There was definitely a feeling of…are we supposed to be here? It felt like we were doing something we weren’t allowed to do but were somehow getting away with.

Magic Kingdom

Empty Fantasyland

Our first stop upon arrival was the Magic Kingdom. We arrived 2 hours before closing and the park was a ghost town. It was both exciting and a little un-nerving. As you can see here, Fantasyland was very quiet. There were only a few people walking around and even fewer people on the rides. In the picture you can see one lonely stroller here parked outside of Prince Charming Regal Carousel. We made our way over to see what the wait for Peter Pan looked like and to our surprise there was nobody in line.

No guests in line for Peter Pan’s Flight

The line was empty for both Peter Pan’s Flight and It’s a Small world. We walked right on to both of those attractions. You can see below a group of two guests exiting the boat as we made our way through the queue.

Empty Line for It’s a Small World

After waiting in the longest line of the day for 7 dwarfs mine train (5 minutes) we decided to walk back over to the storybook circus area to see if anyone was back there. This section of the park tends to get pretty quiet towards the end of the day during normal times but on this day it was empty.

Under the Sea-Journey of the little Mermaid

You can see another lone stroller parked near the entrance to Under the Sea-Journey of the little Mermaid. We walked right onto this attraction and yet again saw one group of guests exiting the ride as we were boarding. We had the whole ride to ourselves. After our journey under the sea we walked over and rode Dumbo and Barnstormer multiple times. By the time our kids were tired of Barnstormer the park was about to close.

Storybook Circus July 18, 2020

There was a good 20 minutes or so where we didn’t see another guest while we were back in Storybook Circus. We only saw the cast members who were operating the attractions and the custodial cast members that were preparing for nightly cleaning.

Empty Tomorrowland July 2020

Once we made our way towards Tomorrowland the park was closed. We started our slow walk out of the park because we had a dinner reservation at California Grill and it was only a short walk away.

As we walked out through Main Street we encountered the biggest crowd of the day. The remaining guests were walking out with us as Mickey and friends waved goodbye. I snapped this picture looking back towards Cinderella Castle.

Main Street, July 18, 2020

In my next blog I will talk about my 3 hour dinner at California Grill and how great it was to actually sit an eat at a restaurant after being stuck in quarantine for several months. You can hear about this trip from our podcast episode from last year

Episode: 319. We take a look at what is coming to Walt Disney World on their 50th Anniversary! We also cover some other news and we take a trip back to 1971 and we ask the question…What you rope drop at Magic Kingdom if you could go back to 1971? We also ask another interesting question, If you could go back to anytime during the 50 year history of Walt Disney World, what year would you choose to visit? That’s a tough question! In the news, Jon and I both saw Luca recently so we give our review of it. The Incredibles themed rooms at the contemporary look…nice. Harrison Ford is injured on the set of Indiana Jones 5 and the jungle cruise continues to add new scenes during their operating refurbishment. A fast pass kiosk was uncovered and turned on at Magic Kingdom so naturally it got people wondering if it is coming back. In Disneyland new, their Rise of the Resistance saw a record breaking number of boarding groups called. I was shocked when I saw the number. Can Hollywood Studios catch up to Disneyland’s numbers?

Episode 318: Today we cover the rapidly evolving Disney park news! Covid restrictions are being rolled back faster than the launch at Rock n’ Rollercoaster. We highlight some notable ones like the monorail no longer has dividers as well as other attractions like Jungle Cruise. Distancing Markers are nowhere to be seen except for the impressions the left in the pavement. (Perhaps a little something to remember them by for years to come) In other new, Boo Bash is starting to sell out even though the price is higher and the experience is more limited than the Halloween Party was. With all of the things going back to normal, we point out the noticeable absence of Fastpass and it can’t help but make us wonder…is a paid system just around the corner? Perhaps the biggest news of the week is that Fireworks are coming back! You thought I was going to say that the noodles are back at Ohana, didn’t you? Those are back too, but FIREWORKS! I am very excited to see some Happily Ever After again! We wrap up the show by examining an article about what resorts to guests tend to repeat visit more than others. We look at each resort category and see which resorts rise to the top of the list.

Baseline Tap House

If you’ve been to Disney’s Hollywood studios lately then you know the importance of getting there when the park opens. If you want to ride Slinky Dog Dash without an hour wait, then you need to be on the first bus or Skyliner gondola over to the park. However, what I am talking about is not a ride or an attraction. The second most important “rope drop” at Hollywood Studios happens at 10:30am. That is when Baseline Tap House opens for business each day. It has become a regular part of our Hollywood Studios routine! We feel that making this “rope drop” is just as important as securing that Rise of the Resistance boarding group or making it to the park in time to get onto Slinky Dog with a short wait.

Our Hollywood Studios Strategy…

Here’s how the last several trips to Hollywood Studios has gone for us. We get up before 7am so that we can grab that Rise of the Resistance boarding group. We get to the park at or around the time it opens and we head to Slinky Dog Dash. Sometimes we may choose to go to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway instead. After the initial ride, we may hit up Toy Story Mania or Smuggler’s Run. By the time we are done with those it is usually around 10:15am which means it is time to hightail it over to Baseline Tap House to be one of the first in line when it opens!

We regularly get the charcuterie plate, ($10.00) Bavarian pretzel, ($9.00) and the Beef Puff ($11.00). As far as the drinks go, Jason and I prefer the beers on tap while our wives tend to prefer the cocktails. I usually go the for North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner ($10.50 for the 22oz) My wife prefers the California Sunset cocktail ($14.00). Yes, I know it is 10:30 in the morning but we are on vacation! Besides, what better way to Prepare yourself for joining the resistance than by settling the nerves with a little refreshment from Baseline Tap House? You can hear more about Baseline Tap House from our recent trip report episode here!

Timing that boarding group…

Baseline Tap house Souvenir glass

I believe the sweet spot for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group is between groups thirty and forty. What that typically means is that your boarding group should be called somewhere between 10:30 and 11:30 am. This gives you plenty of time for a mid-morning drink and bite to eat at Baseline before joining the Resistance! Throughout the day this place gets and stays pretty busy so finding a table can be tricky. It is also important to find a spot in the shade. Next time you find yourself at Hollywood Studios, stop by Baseline Tap House for a nice refreshment…Tell them Traveling with the Mouse sent you!