WDW Attractions – Best Lead Up

RM-Haunted-Mansion-Exterior2We’ve talked about queues, we’ve talked about favorites and today it’s time to talk about the best attractions for attention-grabbing from afar – the one’s with real curb appeal, if you will.  With some of the very best rides, it’s all about the lead up!

Some attraction exteriors offer absolutely no clue what to expect (think Soarin’, Country Bears, Space Mountain), but some attractions draw you in from far away – the theme, the park setting – long before you step into the queue, you know you’re about to experience something extraordinary!  I’m going to talk about just five today – go ahead and leave a comment if your favorite gets left out – I’ll do a “part 2” in the future!

WDW Attractions – Best Lead Up

  1.  Haunted MansionRM-Haunted-Mansion-GraveyardFrom WAY far away, the draw to Haunted Mansion is incredible!  It looks exactly the way you hope it will – Grand yet a bit sinister.  You can immediately tell the Mansion holds room after room to explore – haunted corridors, ballrooms, attic and much more!  RM-Haunted-Mansion-ExteriorThe minute you see it, you know it’s going to be the perfect combination of scary and fun!
  2. Big Thunder Mountain RailroadThe Red Rock of Big Thunder MountainThe train flies along the track – you can see the passengers raise their hands, you can hear them screaming in delight, but that’s not the primary draw.  In Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland, the whole landscape of Big Thunder that makes you eager to get inside that mountain – so out of place with the surrounding Florida palm trees and lush tropical plants.  Big Thunder Mountain is a wasteland of epic proportions and the details are mesmerizing!  Best of all, the queue at this mountain is top notch.
  3. Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorDisney's Hollywood Studios Tower of TerrorIt looks elegant and disheveled, classic but unique – first impressions are everything here in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Strolling down Sunset Boulevard, you can’t help but notice the tower’s façade and how it stands out.  Walk a little farther, and you’ll notice something else – the SCREAMING!  The sound will draw your eyes closer to the tower where in an upstairs window, you’ll see motion, but little else.  If you’re a thrill ride junkie, this is the ride for you!
  4. Rock’n’ Roller CoasterRock'n'-Roller-Coaster-GuitarThe location actually hurts this attraction because Tower of Terror tends to steal Rock’n’ Roller Coaster’s thunder.  You have to turn left at the very end of Sunset Boulevard to even notice the upside down Cadillac let alone the gigantic guitar, but once you see the setting, you know that for music fans and coaster addicts alike will find this the place to be!
  5. Expedition EverestRM-Expedition-Everest-ApproachIn Animal Kingdom, you can be far from Everest and still be drawn in.  Call me biased, but there’s a reason this is my favorite ride in all of Walt Disney World and one of the main reasons is that from the moment you see the mountain in the distance, you can’t help but want to be a part of its magic.  “Forbidden Mountain” is like a double-dog dare to those of us who love an amazing coaster – every single detail is beyond perfect!  Hands down, Expedition Everest has the best draw from afar of any attraction in the World.

Is your favorite “love at first sight” attraction missing from this list?  Which Walt Disney World rides grab you from afar and draw you in?Expedition Everest

Disney Vinylmation- Park Starz Haunted Mansion Bride

When Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion was updated in 2007, one of the best changes was the addition of the attic scene and Constance Hatchaway, the Black Widow Bride.  This one section alone, makes me want to ride Haunted Mansion multiple times on every visit to Walt Disney World – I notice something new every time!  Of course, Nick has a gem in his Disneyana collection commemorative of this most amazing, perfectly detailed part of one of my most favorite Disney attractions.  Enjoy!

Disney Vinylmation- Park Starz Haunted Mansion Bride

By: Nick

A few years ago Barbie and I took a short trip to Walt Disney World with another couple, staying in a Fort Wilderness Cabin.

While visiting the Magic Kingdom’s Emporium, I showed my friends the new form of Vinylmation, the Park Starz line. I stated that before the trip was through, I would have to buy one, in the hopes of getting one of the few figures I was interested in.

That evening, they went to the Magic Kingdom for evening Extra Magic Hours, while we stayed at the cabin. Imagine my surprise when I awoke the next morning to find that they had bought me a Park Starz figure! I couldn’t wait till everyone woke up to open it, as I am like a kid on Christmas morning when it comes to opening gifts, so I took it out onto the deck to see what “Santa” had brought me.

The packaging is terrific. I love the graphics. The box itself is a work of art.

What can it be? Is it one I want?! It feels roundish, is it the Yeti. I wouldn’t mind the Yeti, but it isn’t my first choice. I hope it isn’t Big Al, as my wife really dislikes the Country Bears.

I open the foil to find the figure I actually wanted the most! The Haunted Mansion Bride!
She even comes with an ax!

They even thought to paint in her shoes on the bottom!

It gives me chills just looking at it.

Included is a little fold out pamphlet with a name of each figure, and the year of it’s creation at each of the parks it may be in or have been in.
For instance, the Robot Butler, Horizons, Epcot, 1983-1999.

A fantastic collectible. A big thank you to my friends!

This article originally appeared on Nick’s Disney Musings Blog and at The Disney Exchange. You can also find Nick on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Nick, our friend David Hodges, and I host the Disney Exchange Podcast where you can listen to us argue about have friendly discussions about all things Disney – New episodes come out every Sunday.

Haunted Mansion – My 10 Favorite Things

So, I’m cooking dinner.  I do this a lot – cooking relaxes me and I like it.  Maybe mowing the yard relaxes Raymond the same way.  I hope so, since I wouldn’t know how to start the lawn mower, much less maneuver it around the yard.  But I digress.  Back to the cooking.  I’m waiting for the pasta to boil and the sauce to do its thing and I see the leftover wine from last night, secure in its bottle with my Haunted Mansion bottle stopper.  That’s how many of these blog posts begin – so many things around me to remind me of Walt Disney World and what I love about spending time there.IMG_2439

Haunted Mansion – My 10 Favorite Things

DWR2009 078Location – You can’t beat the setting in Liberty Square – just at the edge of Frontierland.  I prefer to approach from Fantasyland for the best first look of every visit – I’m weird that way, but hey!  Makes me so happy!!!

Exterior – Sure, the view from land is awesome, but the Mansion, viewed from the water (aboard the Liberty Belle), is breathtaking!  The color of the stone, the shapes of the different wings, towers, and solarium, the black wrought iron fence, the green awning…all of it!RM-Haunted-Mansion-Queue

Queue – Purists will lament the 2007 refurb that added many new elements to the waiting-outside part of the Mansion’s queue.  This was a huge improvement to us and we love all of it!  Because the ghost horse & hearse and the cemetery are original and amazing on their own, don’t miss them while you’re taking in all the other interactive and hilarious elements.  A feast for the senses, the Haunted Mansion’s queue invites you to touch, look, and listen to an amazing number of details, large and small.RM-Haunted-Mansion-Graveyard

Costumes – Some of the outfits Cast Members wear are less than memorable to me, but at the Mansion, they look great!  Also, those appropriately-attired hosts know how to play their part.  Sure, some are better than others, but overall, the Mansion’s “help” couldn’t be better!

Humor – This is not a haunted house to be feared.  Puns, sight-gags, and creepy charm abound.  These spooks are friendly and funny – from the stretching room portraits to the ghoulies in the cemetery at the end of the ride…the mix of fun and fright is pure genius.RM-Haunted-Mansion-Stretching-Room

Doom-buggy – What omnimover ride has a better vehicle?  None.  This shiny, black, rounded and oddly cozy capsule is the perfect transportation.  The ghost host (voiced by Paul Frees) speaks directly to you!  This makes the experience seem personalized and adds a special element to the fun.

Madam Leota – Leota in the crystal ball, Little Leota at the ride’s conclusion – I love all her forms!  (“Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween…Awaken the spirits with your tambourine!”).  She’s mysterious and beautiful and her voice is perfectly frightening!Haunted Mansion's Madame Leota

Wallpaper – Now available on Disney’s Dooney & Bourke handbags, the Mansion’s wallpaper is but one of the hundreds of tiny details that make every tour special.  I’ve ridden dozens of times and still, every time, I find some previously unnoticed element.  This alone is why I may ride several times in a single vacation and more than once or twice in a single day.  Glowing eyes, moving shadows, floating objects, ever-changing portraits, dancing, singing, partying spirits  – all if it amazing!RM-Haunted-Mansion-Bride-Constance

Constance – She’s weird and clearly insane!  Constance is the bride in the Mansion’s attic.  She’s been busy, our Constance, and proof of her misdeeds is all around you as you glide through her diabolical history.  If you’re fortunate and you look carefully, you can find her ring outside in the Mansion’s queue before you go inside.RM-Haunted-Mansion-Singing-Busts

Singing Busts – I LOVE these guys!  First of all, catchy tune!  They’re also fun to watch as you glide toward the attraction’s finale.  Lighthearted and well-crafted, the final scenes are clever and interesting.

Hurry Baaaaaaack……Hurry BAAAaaaaaaaack….Be sure to bring your death certificate if you decide to join us.  Make final arrangements now.  We’ve been dying to have you…”-Little Leota

What do YOU love most about Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion?RM-Haunted-Mansion-Shrinking-Room-Portrait





Making the Most of One More Disney Day


RM-Magic-Kingdom-SelfieWhen we think back about the happiest days of our lives, we surely remember wedding days, holidays, graduation days, days when we welcomed children or grandchildren into the world.  These happy, joy-filled days usually have something in common – we know they’re coming!  We plan, we work, we save money, we cook special meals – we prepare for these momentous occasions and then hold them, near and dear to our hearts, for the rest of our lives. Once in a while, though, life hands us a day unexpectedly.  A day so special for the simple, happy hours afforded by the hands of fate, that we recognize it as the gift that it is and squeeze every moment of joy we can from one, unplanned, but nonetheless perfect day.  This is the story of one such day.

It did NOT start like any other day.  It was going to be kind of a sad day.  The alarm was set to go off at 7:00 am, we were going to pack our bags, board the Magical Express, and say goodbye to a fabulous, but tiring, long (Princess Half Marathon) weekend at Disney World.  But that’s not what happened.  The phone rang at 5:00 am.  Words cannot really describe how confused and disoriented we were when the call came in that our flight home had be cancelled due to winter weather.  We’d woken up the past four mornings between 3:00 and 4:00 am and we were uncommonly worn out – it took quite a few minutes to process the news and what we might need to do about it.  What I’m trying to say is, we had no idea in the early hours of Monday, February 20th, 2015 that we were about to have one of the happiest, most fun days of our lives.RM-BLT-Dawn-on-Bay-Lake

First things first – We had to call the airline and see what could be arranged to get us home.  In fairly short order and a couple of phone calls later, we were set for a do-over the next day.  Then we realized we’d need a place to stay for the night and a re-scheduled ride to the airport.  We decided our best option was to visit one of Bay Lake Tower’s lobby counters to accomplish these tasks.  We showered, dressed, re-donned our Magic Bands and hit the elevators.  20 minutes later, Nick at the DVC counter had us set for the day and night!  We would, miraculously, be able to keep our same room – we used our DVC points to pay for another night.  We asked and Nick found us a dinner reservation at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney.  We were set!  Being annual passholders, we then bid Nick goodbye and headed out the door for the half-mile walk to the Magic Kingdom – it was 9:30 am.RM-Nick-BLT-DVC

As we were walking, I used the My Disney Experience app on my phone to check for available FastPasses and was pleasantly surprised that I could get Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Space Mountain fairly close together.  That’s when it hit me.  We had not a care in the world and the unexpected gift of one more Disney day before us.  It was early, the weather was perfect, and I was with my most favorite person in the world.  I suddenly realized – this was going to be amazing! With a spring in our steps and a song in our hearts, we stepped through those archways and onto Main Street U.S.A.

It’s hard to put into words exactly what emotions we experienced over the next 12 hours.  We were lighthearted, footloose and fancy free!  We did so many things yet felt as though we were taking our time and appreciating every moment.  The World was our oyster and around every corner, we discovered a pearl!

We took our time strolling up Main Street.RM-Main-Street-Horse-and-Castle

And joined the 999 ghosts in Haunted Mansion.RM-Haunted-Mansion-Shrinking-Room-PortraitThen dropped in at Grizzly Hall for a show.RM-Country-Bear-Stage2Met a sweet girl when we stopped for lunch in Columbia Harbor House.RM-Columbia-Harbor-House-CMThen we cruised waterways around the world on the Jungle Cruise with one of the best Skippers EVER!RM-Jungle-Cruise-SkipperSafely back on land we took our time enjoying the sights and sounds of Adventureland.RM-Adventureland-ShieldThe new sunglass store was doing a brisk business on such a sunny day!RM-Adventureland-Sunglass-StoreThen we got an early peek at the hub refurbishments…RM-Magic-Kingdom-New-Hub-FeaturesBefore perusing the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street shops.RM-Main-Street-ShoppingBack outside, we were treated to a song by the extraordinarily talented Dapper Dans!RM-Dapper-DansWe stopped to enjoy the beautiful warm sunny day.RM-BalloonsMoving on to Tomorrowland, we made a new friend.RM-Stitch-Meet-and-GreetAnd decided we needed a little early afternoon rest and relaxation on the PeopleMover.RM-PeopleMover-CruisingNext we opted for a little Classic Disney…RM-Carousel-of-Progress-SelfieAnd sang along with every verse…”And it’s a great big beautiful tomorrow…..”RM-Carousel-of-Progress-DadOur FastPass for Space Mountain was ready and we took a quick tour around the galaxy.  RM-Space-Mountain-Sign

Re-energized, we decided to see who could score the highest in Buzz Lightyear’s epic battle. (It was not me!)RM-Buzz-Lightyear-Space-Ranger-Spin-InteriorBefore making friends with some Main Street Cast Members…RM-Main-Street-CMsWho were kind enough to recommend an excellent spot for parade viewing!RM-Festival-of-Fantasy-Maleficent-2015Then it was off to Downtown Disney for our dinner at Raglan Road…RM-Raglan-Road-BeerWhere we, in keeping with the day, had the best seats EVER!RM-Raglan-Road-DancersAnd we enjoyed the amazingly talented performers while we ate…RM-Raglan-Road-RibsFive delicious courses!  Bread and dipping sauce, appetizer (ribs), salad, entree, and dessert (oh, that bread pudding!).  Full to the brim (haha!) we decided to check out Downtown Disney’s new hat store, Chapel Hats!RM-Hat-Shopping-Downtown-Disney RM-Chapel-Hats RM-Chapel-Black-HatDozens of hats later, final selections wrapped and ready to go, we hopped the bus back to Magic Kingdom and located the perfect spot to sit curbside on Main Street and catch Wishes.RM-Wishes-2015AND the Main Street Electrical Parade!RM-Main-Street-Electrical-Parade-Dragon

Elated but exhausted, we slowly made our way back to Bay Lake Tower.  What a day we’d had!  We could go home the next morning with the very special memories to cherish of an incredible day full of our most favorite attractions, foods, and magical Disney touches!

Little did we know that the very next day we would, once again, get one MORE Disney day which we decided to spend in a different, but no less memorable way.  I’ll save that story for another post.

Have you ever had an unexpected extra Disney day?  What did YOU do with it?