Walt Disney World – Feeling Patriotic

RM-Flag-Main-StreetSummertime makes me feel patriotic.  I suppose it’s because of the holiday palooza of Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day – all great occasions to celebrate being in the good old U.S. of A.  When we visit Walt Disney World during the summer, I’m much more focused on the special events and attractions that make me feel patriotic – and there are plenty to choose from!

Walt Disney World – Feeling Patriotic

Hall of Presidents – While I might not visit this attraction in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square every time I’m at Disney World, I do love this attraction in the summer.  It’s cool inside and the building’s lobby is full of Americana – my favorite of which is the articles of clothing from First Ladies.  RM-Hall-of-Presidents-DressSome people find the attraction a great place to catch a nap, but I’m more inclined to sit close-ish to the stage so I can watch the subtle movements of the presidents.  The animatronics are phenomenal!  One president may have the floor, but while he’s speaking, the other presidents are shifting, nodding – actively listening.  I love that!!!RM-Hall-of-Presidents

The Flag Retreat – If you’ve never seen this ceremony on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street U.S.A., you’ve got to make time.  As the flag is lowered at the end of the day, guests are treated to a wonderful, patriotic few moments.  My full review is here and I cannot recommend this enough.Flag+Lowering

Voices of Liberty – Inside the American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase is (to me) the most underappreciated musical entertainment in all of Walt Disney World.  Making time to hear this highly talented a cappella group perform should be in everyone’s touring plan at least once – preferably during the summer months.  Enter the pavilion and marvel at the dome’s acoustics!  This is the way to listen to our favorite patriotic songs!!! (Full review here.)Voices-of-Liberty

The American Adventure – This is both a pavilion and an attraction!  Before or after you catch a performance of the Voices of Liberty, you can spend 30 minutes enjoying a journey through our nation’s history hosted by Ben Franklin and Mark Twain.  Sure, some people find this a cool, dark, relaxing place to grab a nap, but if you can stay awake, this attraction is a great source of patriotic inspiration.

Your turn!  Where do you feel patriotic at Walt Disney World?



Memento Mori: Ghostly Shopping in Magic Kingdom

Happy Halloween!  It’s the perfect day for this particular installment of Saturdays With Nick.  Spooky shopping!!!  If you’ve not had the pleasure, next time you visit Walt Disney World, save a few minutes and some souvenir money for Memento Mori.  Personally, I think this is one of the very best attraction-related shopping experiences to be found in a Disney park!  I’ll let Nick fill you in on the details…

Memento Mori: Ghostly Shopping in Magic Kingdom

By Nick

A new shop, (or is it an old residence?) mysteriously appeared a few months ago in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, at the exit of the Haunted Mansion.

Memento Mori was the home of Madame Leota, until her disappearance, and, I suppose, partial reappearance within the Haunted Mansion. Her portrait can be found inside.

According to Webster’s Online Dictionary, Memento Mori means “a reminder of mortality.” Google  provides a definition that is even more appropriate; “an object serving as a warning or reminder of death,” and the Memento Mori shop is happy to provide such reminders of the iconic ride it is located beside.

There are a lot of items in here that appeals to fans of the HM, and you can go a little nuts. Indeed, if  we had more space in the house, I’d have walked out with much more than just the one item I did leave with. I could easily see having a room dedicated to some of this fanatasmagorical merchandise.

Think of a merchandise category, and there is a really good chance you’ll find it here. Clothes? Obviously. Shoes? Check. Make-up? Wait, what? Yes. Haunted Mansion Make-up kits from the Beautifully Disney line!

Want to redo the kitchen in Early American spooky? Yes, you can do that also. Dish Towel sets are $19.95, coaster sets are $24.95.

We were very interested in the dinner plates, but had breakage concerns. The round plates are $26.95.

There is a lot to see here, and you may stay so long you actually build up an appetite. If you are hungry for Haunted Mansion food, popcorn and cotton candy are readily available.

Want chocolate? They have chocolate in the form of bats, for $4.95.

There are many t-shirts and even collared shirts to choose from.

The Gracey Family Reunion shirt is $24.95.

This shirt of the Ghost Host himself, which is $ 36.95, changes, transforming into a skeleton…

…like the portraits below.

A version of this can be had on a postcard as well.

Looking for the perfect Haunted accessory to go with your clothes?

How about a protective case for your smart phone?

There are action figures for boys, and even something for your little girl. Perhaps she’ll like a Haunted Bride doll for $21.95?

Holidays aren’t forgotten, as there a couple of different ornament sets to be had.

There are higher end collectibles and home decor items, such as the Haunted Mansion wall hanging for $100.

This replica of the Haunted Mansion sign can hang in your home for $95.

Plenty of less expensive souvenirs can be found as well, such as key chains, notepad and magnet sets, and antenna toppers, which are 2 for $8.

You can even take home an 8×10 ghostly image of yourself or a loved one for $19.95 plus tax.

Step behind the curtain for your own piece of “Spirit Photography.”

I had read online that there is a limit to how many items a guest could purchase at one time, and indeed there was this sign hanging under one of the displays:

When I asked a Cast Member why guests would be limited to 6 items, unless otherwise specified, I was told it was because people would buy items in bulk, and sell them on eBay!

We did buy one item, the throw pictured below, for $59.95.

As you can see, Disney has found yet another ingenious way to separate me and my money.
“Hurry back, hurry back,” indeed!

For more great reviews, trip reports and all manner of Disney delights, follow Nick, his wife Barbie, and friends:  Disney Musings Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, On Instagram, On Pinterest.

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





Magic Kingdom – Wait Here Not There

IMG_3279The opinions expressed here are my own (as if you didn’t already know that).  I’m crazy about Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and it’s probably my favorite park, followed closely by Animal Kingdom.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of fun to be had in Epcot and what’s currently left of the Studios, but Magic Kingdom holds the most happy memories and has so much entertainment to offer me when I’m there.  When I daydream about being at Walt Disney World, I’m almost always in Magic Kingdom.

It won’t be long before we’ll be selecting FastPasses for our next visit to the World and that got me thinking about how I’ll be weighing the pros and cons of different attractions – including the entertainment value of specific ride queues.  This is just me now, but I’m much more willing to wait in some queues than I am in others solely based on the quality of the wait.  If we start in Adventureland and work our way around the park, land by land, here are my recommendations for:

Magic Kingdom – Wait Here Not There

RM-Adventureland-Magic-KingdomAdventureland – Wait for Pirates of the Caribbean not Jungle Cruise.  Yes, if we are strictly speaking Adventureland attractions, I’d much rather FastPass Jungle Cruise and wait for Pirates.  The queue for Pirates is cool and dark with excellent mood-setting elements – it’s actually an excellent place to cool off on a hot day and let your face rest from the pressure of your sunglasses on your nose.  WDW Jungle CruiseThe wait for Jungle Cruise is hot and has less to enjoy.  Personally, I find it somewhat frustrating although I do enjoy the announcements.

Frontierland – Wait for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad not Splash Mountain.  Big Thunder’s queue is interesting with loads of interactive elements to enjoy – in fact, I enjoy it so much, I sometimes wish the line were moving a tiny bit slower.Interactive Queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Interactive elements for Big Thunder Mountain QueueSplash Mountain’s queue, while possessing some cute features (like the adorable bird houses) is not nearly as interesting.

Liberty Square – Save your FastPasses!  Haunted Mansion is the only attraction that will ever have a significant wait and the queue (unless the day is super hot and humid) is great! Check out all the interactive components, search for the Bride’s Ring on the ground (embedded in the pavement) as you move along.  RM-Liberty-Belle-Haunted-Mansion-ViewPay attention to the excellent (and plentiful) Disney details.  If heat and humidity are factors – cool off in the Hall of Presidents during the day and save Haunted Mansion for after the sun goes down.

Fantasyland – Hmmmm…This is the toughest one!  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is going to have the longest wait – maybe for the entire park.  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train SignThat being said, it also has an excellent, highly entertaining and interactive queue.  Peter Pan’s queue has just been “plussed” and is worth waiting for.IMG_2542If you have little ones, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has a very kid-pleasing wait.  IMG_0899Personally, I’d burn a FastPass on Dumbo if it’s a must-ride attraction.  I hate the wait for Dumbo so much, I’ve never made it to the ride.  (You can read the story here.)  Based solely on time-savings, excluding Dumbo, the FastPass would have to go to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Tomorrowland – Remember that FastPass I told you NOT to use in Liberty Square?  I’d use it here for Space Mountain.  While the queue is dark and cool, it’s also a snooze-fest.  Even though it was one of the first attractions I can remember that got a few interactive parts added to the queue, they’re not all that interesting.  RM-Space-Mountain-SignOnce you reach the top of the upward climb to the boarding area, the queue reverts to old school back and forth, metal-partitioned, waiting.  And waiting….and….you get the idea.

Your turn to weigh in!  Where would you select FastPasses in Magic Kingdom – and where would you stand in line?