Great Waits at Walt Disney World!

RM-Dumbo-Ticket-to-WaitA while back I touted the joys of some of Disney World’s standby lines in this post Today I’m going to continue that discussion.  If you don’t have a FastPass, there are plenty of rides and attractions worth waiting for – simply because the wait itself is part of the fun!  If I have to spend time in a standby line, I want that wait to be an entertaining one!

Once again, I’m using the same criteria for today’s queue selections:

  • Existing ride successfully refurbished to provide a vastly better standby experience
  • Brand new ride with a wildly entertaining standby line
  • Not-so-new ride with an original, well-themed queue

Dumbo – Just because I couldn’t make it through the new, interactive standby line (I almost rodeRM-Dumbo-Rockets Dumbo once, story here) doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate how brilliant the new queue area is for families with small (or small-ish) children.  The technology is cool, the colors are bright, and there’s a variety of activities available for time-killing. I might not have cared for the experience, but for kids?  Genius!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – The ride appeals to multiple senses – full of colors, it’s visually stunning, the sway of the mine train cars and the smooth ride are physically enjoyable, the sounds – both in and outside the mine – are a wonderful part of the overall experience.  The queue sets just the right mood for what’s to come.  Sort gems, spin barrels for some cool projection effects – there’s a lot to enjoy in the mine long before the train takes you off on a new adventure.

Muppets in Disney's Hollywood StudiosMuppetVision 3D – The queue for this area is one of my most favorite places – not just in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but in all of Walt Disney World!  I love the net full of Jello (a funny tribute to Annette Funicello) and dozens of other clever sight gags.  The pre-show “show” is full of classic Muppet jokes and bits.  If you grew up with the Muppets like I did, the queue for MuppetVision 3D takes you back to the good old days of Muppet glory!

Which queues are your favorite?  Which would you recommend for a future standby line post?

Disney’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Again

RM-7DMT-RocksAbout six months ago, I visited the Magic Kingdom’s newly expanded Fantasyland to ride the much touted and highly anticipated Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  During that first experience I was admittedly underwhelmed.  I’m 100% certain is was due all the build up and hoopla leading up (for a couple of years) to the ride’s opening and the subsequent realization that it is, in spite of all that hype, still a kiddie coaster.

I like to believe I’m a fair person and am pretty self-aware.  I knew I’d had my expectations too high for those poor Dwarfs and their train – the ride is literally two minutes long.  How much pizazz was I expecting in 120 seconds?  I rode it once and, boom! just like that, it was over.  I had to give the attraction a second chance.  A do-over.  A mulligan, if you will.  The second time, I’d know the ride’s length and what to expect so I could pay much closer attention to each and every detail.

While first impressions may make or break a relationship – not so with Disney attractions, I’m happy to report!  Attitude adjustment and FastPass+ firmly in hand, we made our way into the Seven Dwarf’s queue – it was a hot day and a couple of Cast Members were handing out cups of ice water to guests as they entered the attraction (nice touch!).  Remembering the somewhat tricky lap bar (be careful not to pull it down too far – it’s easy to do because it “glides” into place and stays there).  We climbed into our train car and waited for clearance to go.SevenDwarfsLoading

On the first ride, I was disappointed by how “firm” the cars were.  Rather than freely swinging from side to side as I’d expected, they felt stiff and barely moved.  By the second try, I noticed right away there was a lot more movement adding just the right amount of extra action to what is an amazingly smooth and quiet ride.RM-7DMT-Train1

When the train slowed down to enter the mine, I was ready!  I took in many more of the details the second time around.  This part of the ride is just fantastic!  The change from outdoor coaster, riding through the trees and hills, to a slow trip past the Dwarfs as they work is what makes this attraction so unique.  If you’ve not ridden this coaster before, be sure to pay close attention to this part!RM-7DMT-Train2

I still didn’t get a good look into the Dwarf’s cottage at the end of the ride, but did notice a few more details that I’d missed before.  I guess I’ll just have to ride it again next time I visit the Magic Kingdom.  Since we’d purchased Memory Maker, we got the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train video as a souvenir and it’s very adorable.

Have you ridden Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? What did you think of it?


Disney’s New Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Fantasyland Construction WallNote:  This post actually has an accompanying video (such as it is) of my first ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  If you’re interested in watching, catch the action here (twice for some reason!) on Living a Disney Life’s YouTube channel.

So much hype!  Such incredible buildup!  Those walls were up in Fantasyland for years!  Could the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ever live up to the sky high expectations?  Sadly, it couldn’t.  Probably, not much could have proved worthy of all the massive promotion.  Nothing, realistically, could be as spectacular as the excitement generated by years of rumor and speculation, promises of cutting-edge ride vehicle technology, and the fervor created by a huge media blowout event.  All of that pre-excitement was counterproductive, maybe – stealing the thunder from what could have been a great final reveal.

I recently (finally!) rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and I loved it.  Was it as amazing as it was cracked up to be?  Not so much.  But – it was new, it was fun, and it has a lot of charm.  Some will call it a Kiddie Coaster (must be 38″ to ride), but I consider it more of a Family Coaster because the incredibly smooth ride will appeal to adults who don’t care for the rougher coasters like Big Thunder and Space Mountains.  I can see grandparents riding this with their grandchildren and making happy Disney memories. 7 Dwarfs Cottage

We had previously held fastpasses for the day we arrived (5/25, during soft opening) but our dinner ADR and a torrential downpour nixed those plans.  So, while I DID get to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on May 30th, I only rode once and did not get to see any of the interactive standby queue.  That standby line was loooooong and some friendly Cast Members were on hand with cups of ice water to keep everyone properly hydrated and as cool as possible.  I will be returning to Walt Disney World in October and hopefully, time will allow us to use the standby queue – I’ve heard so much about it!

Seven Dwarfs Mine LandscapingThe highlights of the ride (for me) included the landscaping, the indoor/outdoor aspect (which I also love about Expedition Everest, Big Thunder, and Splash Mountain), the mine scene with the Dwarfs and familiar music, and yes, of course – it’s the little details, once again, that make this attraction a winner!  The shadows of the Dwarfs walking that are seen along the mine’s walls are a great touch!  It’s also a ride that begs to be ridden over and over because of the different details riders will spot that went unnoticed on the previous ride(s). Seven Dwarfs Mine Loading Area

What would I change?  Well….that’s easy.  I’d make it a little longer (it’s only about 2.5 minutes), I’d make Snow White easier to see (she can briefly be seen through a cottage window, pay attention or you’ll miss her), I’d add just a few scary details, like maybe some of those scary trees that reach for you with their bare branch fingers.  I’d also probably toss in a few more friendly woodland creatures just for fun.

Overall, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a winner.  There’s a true feeling of quality to the ride, scenery, and perfectly aged, realistic details and animatronics.  The swaying, suspended-over-the-track mine carts are a fantastic innovation that do create a very smooth, quiet coaster experience.  The lap bar, though!  Heed this warning (thanks to Joseph for pointing it out before Seven Dwarfs Mine EntryRaymond and I took our first ride):  The lap bar pulls down smoothly and soundlessly (no clicking into place) – it’s very easy to pull it down too far – once it’s down, it doesn’t go back up until the ride’s over.  If you squish yourself in too much with the bar after you sit down, the ride can be extremely uncomfortable as your body shifts over the hills and around the turns.

Talk to me!  Have you ridden Seven Dwarfs Mine Train yet?  How did you feel about it?  Did it meet your expectations?  If you haven’t ridden it yet – how high are your expectations for this new experience?

Walt Disney World – Trying New Things

Walt Disney World ChurroOne of the best parts of visiting Walt Disney World is that there are always new things to try.  No matter how often we visit, there seems to be at least a few opportunities for new experiences.  Our recent trip was no exception.  The key is to be able to pass up some tried and true favorites in favor of the unknown – Risky?  Perhaps a little.  Exciting?  Pretty much.  Worth it?  Absolutely!

As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of Disney blogs, podcasts and Twitter-peeps!  If you want to know what’s going on at Walt Disney World, just follow a few of these folks – they have the scoop on what not-to-be-missed adventures await and which Disney treats are the most delicious.  Since it had been a full two years since our last WDW vacation – my list of new-and-exciting + not-new-but-never-tried items for last week was pretty ambitious!  I am happy to report, the Dole Whip disappointment notwithstanding, nearly everything new to me was GREAT to me!

Let’s start with food, shall we?

I’m not much of a snacker and there are tons of Disney snacks and treats our family has yet to try.  Creatures of habbit, we tend to stick with something we love as opposed to trying something new – which is weird considering how much we LOVE food adventures…aside from Disney park snacks, I guess.  We always choose either the classic Premium Mickey Ice Cream Bar or the Ice Cream Sandwich.  During last week’s park-hopping madness, we managed to break out of our snack rut (although, I’m not going to lie – ice cream bars and sandwiches were still IMG_3812consumed, just in lower quantities) and try out some of the treats other Disney fans are always praising.

Pretzels – We tried the classic Mickey and the Jalapeno Cheese pretzels (can both be purchased several places) and both were met with enthusiastic, unanimous YUMmmmms of approval!

Cronut – The Croissant Donut from the Refreshment Port in Epcot was a warm, fluffy-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside, cinnamon-sugar dusted bite of heaven!  Caution:  Don’t try to share one among four people – the situation gets ugly fast.

Red Velvet Cupcake – I love the Starring Rolls Café in Disney’s Hollywood Studios!  I’ve tried the Red Velvet Cupcake at Walt Disney Worldeverything bagels and the Butterfinger cupcakes in the past and both were delish.  This time around, while buying late breakfast items (“Second Breakfast”) – Megan spotted the red velvet cupcakes (with cream cheese icing and crunchy topping) in that glass case by the check-out…you know the one…where the Darth Vader and Yoda cupcakes are during Star Wars Weekends!  Meg and I decided, “What the heck – we’re on vacation” – we bought the cupcake and had dessert with breakfast!  It was to die for.  Just PERFECT!

Roasted Pork Shank – Forget the Turkey Legs – I’ll never go back!  Gaston’s Tavern IMG_3774in Fantasyland serves up a giant, hot, meaty, smoky – did I mention giant? – shank o’ the pig that is indescribably delicious.  Seriously.  Do NOT pass up the opportunity to try one – if you like Disney’s turkey legs, you will LOVE these delectable delicacies.  Normally, I let thoughts of calories and fat grams mar my enjoyment of these types of foods – not this time, baby!  Picked the bone clean in record time with reckless abandon…worth every extra mile I’ll be running to make up for it.  OINK!

Churro – They look strange and uninteresting to me, but they sure are popular among Disney snack enthusiasts!  So last week I snagged one at the churro cart in Frontierland.  Easy to carry and eat on the fly (while heading to Main Street USA to meet up with the kids) – it was simple, yet sweet and cinnamon-y.  Like comfort food.  It’s no Cronut, but I’d eat one again sometime.

Epcot's EmpanadasEmpanadas de Queso – My friend Heather sings the praises of these cheesy little half-moons of tastiness – Heather also steered me to the roasted pork shank.  Heather knows her Disney snacks.  Over at La Cantina de San Angel (outside Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion), you can purchase these warm and tasty tidbits (they come with a side of  tortilla chips) – wash them down with a mango margarita and you’ve got an awesome lunch!

Shofferhoffer Grapefruit Beer – When I heard the guys on one of my favorite podcasts discuss the virtues of this beer (which may be purchased in the Germany Pavilion in Epcot), I was a little weirded out by the concept.  I like beer.  Raised in St. Louis – the home of Anheuser Busch Brewing Company – I know beer!  I prefer dark beer best, but was intrigued enough by the grapefruit beer concept to give it a whirl – talked Megan into it, too.  We loved it!  Low alcohol IMG_7113content combined with the sweetness of pink grapefruit juice made it less a beer than a completely refreshing beverage for a hot, sunny Florida afternoon.  Four thumbs up for the Shofferhoffer!

Now on to rides and attractions…

Of course I have to mention the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – which deserves an entire post all on its own and I will pay it homage one day soon. Today let me just say that I’m NOT sorry Snow White’s Scary Adventure left – this new tribute to Snow and her merry band of little men is charming, clever, and suitable for everyone at least 38″ tall.  I loved the indoor/outdoor combination of beautiful landscaping and state of the art animatronics and some pretty clever special effects.  The ride in the carts is incredibly smooth – just lovely, but I must warn you – the lap bar doesn’t “click” into place as you lower it in front of you – which makes it super easy to lower it too far – you end up squeezed so tight the ride actually hurts!  Lower the bar really slowly and stop moving it when you like where it is.  Stop.

Walt Disney: One Man's DreamThe next attraction on this list is not new at all and I’m ashamed to admit…We had never taken the time to fully explore Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream at the Studios.  Shame on us!!!  First the walk-through – this features a staggering variety of actual artifacts, memorabilia (and some reproductions) from Walt Disney’s life – along with stories and information about the creation of beloved Disney characters.  It’s cool, quiet and packed with fascinating objects and discoveries.  Then there’s a 15-minute film that was SO fascinating – it not only revealed details about Walt Disney we didn’t know, but we got to hear Walt’s voice and see him as the happy, innovative, dream-chasing visionary –that was still a pretty ordinary guy.  If you love Walt Disney – do NOT pass this by.

I have to mention Primeval Whirl.  Normally we just go over to the Dinoland USA area to ride Primeval Whirl VehiclesDinosaur and then go right back to the parts of the Animal Kingdom park we understand.  I like looking at the animals (and taking a crazy number of pictures of them).  I have never taken time to explore or appreciate all the gaudy but fascinating aspects of Chester and Hester’s little roadside oddities.  I think I was a little offended by the garishly in-your-face, utter tackiness of the small-town carnival rides and midway games.  I can admit when I’m wrong…okay, rarely and with reluctance, but I have to do it now.  I was wrong to have ignored Dinoland in the past.  It’s sort of adorable in its own way and Primeval Whirl is actually a fun ride.  Fun enough to ride three times.  And make a video of.  And take a bunch of pictures of.  I was wrong.  If I can find the charm, I’m betting you can too.

I know a BUNCH of you have tried new things on your last Disney vacation!  Tell me about them!