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Ask The Disney Geek!

Posted by The Disney Geek on 17/03/2010 with 19 Comments

Welcome to Ask the Disney Geek section. This section is a partnership with our friends at DisneyGeek.com. If you have a question about Walt Disney World Resort, let us know and we will pass the question onto to our Disney expert.

Page contents

  1. Who are you and what is DisneyGeek.com?
  2. How far are the parks from each other?
  3. What are the best times of the year to go?
  4. Is it worth staying for the firework shows and what is the most impressive one?
  5. Where can I meet my favourite Disney characters?
  6. What’s new for 2011? NEW!
  7. What you definitely shouldn’t miss?
  8. What else can you find out on DisneyGeek?
  9. Top Ten Tips

Who are you and what is DisneyGeek.com?

DisneyGeek.com started way back at the dawn of internet time, 1994, as Jason's Disney Facts & Opinions and then in 2000 we became DisneyGeek.com.

I have been to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando 19 times. - DisneyGeek

The site started off as a guide to the Disney parks here in the States. We focused on Walt Disney World since it was my favourite place to go on vacation and on Disneyland since we live in Southern California and the park is only 70 miles away. As time went on and internet technology evolved the site has grown into what you see today. We have several columns, park guides and large pictorial sections that take you on virtual walks through the park so you can experience the park as we do and see it through our eyes.

I have been to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando 19 times over the years and I go to Disneyland once or twice a month on average. I do not claim to know everything, but I do know quite a bit and have quite a bit of experience at the parks and really do enjoy sharing this knowledge and my opinions with people.

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How far are the parks from each other?

Walt Disney World is an extremely large place. It's 47 square miles and encompasses the four main theme parks, 2 water parks, over a dozen resorts, six golf courses, a night time entertainment complex, shopping, dining, and not to mention all the infrastructure to support this including parking lots, roads, backstage facilities, etc... Getting around the property involves some time and effort and your choices range from buses, to monorails, to boats and everything in between.

Here are some rough distances and times to help you reference how long it takes to get from place to place.

Disney park Distances

Get my Google Earth WDW Places file

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What are the best times of the year to go?

A tough question to answer! It really depends on what you are looking for and what your tolerance levels are. So here is a rough list with some suggestions:

Best Weather (defined by mild temperatures, not a lot of rain):
November/December and March/April seem to be the mild months of the year. The summer weather in Orlando is hot, humid, and thunderstorms blow through almost every day. This leads into Hurricane season in August/September/October. January and February are a bit unpredictable and can be a little on the cool side. In May it starts to warm up for the summer.
Least Crowded
The crowds dwindle as Fall approaches and then pick up again for the Holidays and stay fairly constant give or take through most of the winter. There is another lull in early spring as long as you avoid the Easter Holiday. The crowds are dictated by the School calendar - when kids are in school it’s usually less crowded.
My favourite time of year
to visit is December because Disney really goes all out for the Christmas Holiday and the decorations and holiday spirit really bring the parks alive.
Cheapest time of year
This is during hurricane season, September/October as well as in the Spring there is usually a value season.

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Is it worth staying for the firework shows and what is the most impressive one?

Walt Disney ... said the fireworks were the parks' "Goodbye Kiss" and I really think this is true - DisneyGeek

Fireworks and Disney go together and have been at Disney parks since the beginning. I believe Disneyland started back during the first(or maybe second, this was way before my time) summer of operation. I remember reading a quote from Walt Disney that said the fireworks were the parks' "Goodbye Kiss" and I really think this is true. As you leave the park you cannot help but be a little uplifted, albeit very tired most days... Walt Disney World ups the ante and creates some truely spectacular shows and even more amazing many of them run every night of the year, weather permitting. I definitely recommend sticking around to catch the shows (I do on a nightly basis and have seen each of them several times)... Your current night time entertainment options are:

Wishes @ the Magic Kingdom Park
Wishes is the closest Disney comes to a traditional fireworks show. It is shown most nights at the MK year round. It combines high and low level fireworks, projections on the castle, a flying tinkerbell, and a musical soundtrack to really close your day at the park with a magical experience. For the best effect and viewing I would recommend finding a spot on Main Street where you have an unobstructed view of the castle and the area off to the right and directly behind the castle. Another great option is to watch the fireworks from one of the Disney resorts, I especially like the Polynesian resort. The music is piped in and you have a great view across the Seven Seas Lagoon (note though its hard to see some low level effects and projections.
Illuminations @ EPCOT
This is my favourite night time show and its held every night at closing time for EPCOT, usually 9:00pm. The show takes place on, around, and above World Showcase lagoon and there are good viewing spots almost everywhere around the lagoon. While finding a location two things you want to consider. First is which way the wind is blowing. Be sure its at your back. If you are downwind the smoke will blow right in your eyes and its not a good experience. The second is to make sure you have an unobstructed view to the center of the lagoon. You will see several barges being brought out in the afternoon to prepare for the show. I find this to be the most impressive show because of the size, proximity to you, and breadth of the experience.
Fantasmic @ Disney Hollywood Studios
Fantasmic is a theater show at Walt Disney World that takes place in the Hollywood Hills Ampatheater which is located at the end of Sunset Blvd near the Tower of Terror. It is part stage show, part fireworks, part movie, and more...
Main Street Electrical Parade @ the Magic Kingdom Park
This is not a fireworks show, but instead a night time parade that happens on select nights. It winds its way along the parade route that goes from Main Street USA, through Liberty Square and ends in Frontierland.
Special Events
There are also special event fireworks that occur throughout the year. The largest displays happen on the 4th of July. EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom each add a grand finale number and the Studios adds a special show too. Special shows are also added for New Years Eve at each park. Special parties such as the Very Merry Christmas Party and the Halloween events at the Magic Kingdom also have their own fireworks displays. Lastly at Christmas time (usually the month of December) a special ending for Illuminations and a Holiday version of Wishes are run.

Note: The Animal Kingdom does not offer fireworks or night time shows due to the nature of the park and its early closing times.

I have pictures of these shows in my WDW Update from April 2008. Visit DisneyGeek.com and go to the last few pages of each day to see them.

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Where can I meet my favourite Disney characters?

Magic Kingdom
At the Magic Kingdom you can usually find characters on Main Street, either in Town Square or in Exposition Hall. There are several other meet and greet locations throughout the park, be sure to check the current park guides for what is operating during your visit. Some locations to check would be to your right as you enter Adventureland. Further up the trail you can sometimes find Woody and Jessie out near Splash Mountain on the left. In Fantasyland you can find the Fairy Godmother or a Princess out from time to time.
EPCOT
Characters are often seen roaming World Showcase at the various countries that their stories came from.. for example Brother Bear is at Canada, Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins at the UK, etc.. In Future World there is a spot called the Character Connection near Innoventions West that usually has a handful of characters throughout the day. The other two spots characters show up are right at the entrance to World Showcase and near the parks entrance.
Disney Hollywood Studios
You can often find characters at the end of Hollywood Blvd in front of the giant hat. There are also scheduled characters along Mickey Ave and in the backlot area the Toy Story characters can be found too.
Animal Kingdom
The two main spots to find characters are in Camp Minnie Mickey and in the photo area that is located to the right as you head toward Dinoland USA. Other than that there are some random sitings here and there, but those are the two main locations.

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What’s new for 2011?

One of the best ways to maximize your WDW vacation and experience all Disney has to offer is to plan ahead! — DisneyGeek

2011 marks a year of waiting for the Magic Kingdom. The construction on the Fanstasyland expansion is in full swing with the early pieces opening next year. Mickey’s Toontown Faire is now closed and gone to make room for this expansion. New this year is the Magic, the Memories, and You! which is a projection show that takes place on most nights on the castle. Included in the show are several images taken of guests throughout the day. The Main Street Electrical Parade is also sticking around this year. On Main Street, starting this spring, you can get a Fastpass to get your picture taken with your favorite Disney Character. Out at the Haunted Mansion a new interactive queue has opened.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom there is a new tour that started recently, the Wild Africa Trek which allows you to get a different view of the Kilimanjaro Safari, this time on foot.

At EPCOT there is nothing new on the immediate horizon, but in case you missed it Captain EO returned to Imagination Pavilion late last year.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios there is a new Pixar parade that replaced Block Party Bash and opening May 20th will be a new version of Star Tours that features new destinations and a 3D film.

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What you definitely shouldn’t miss?

On most people’s top attraction lists:

Magic Kingdom:
The classic attractions of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion are musts for any Disneygeek. Two others are Small World and Peter Pan. If you are a coaster fan be sure to visit the mountains... Space, Splash, and Big Thunder.
EPCOT:
Soarin’, Illuminations, and Test Track. If you are into intense attractions add on Mission Space.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
Toy Story Midway Mania, Fantasmic, and the Lights, Motors, Action Student Show. If you are a thrill ride fan do not miss the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
Kilimanjaro Safari’s, The Festival of the Lion King, and if you are a coaster fan Expedition Everest.

Now for some "geek" additions:

Magic Kingdom:
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, The People Mover (The Tomorrowland Transit Authority), and the Country Bear Jamboree.
EPCOT:
Spaceship Earth, The American Adventure (it's a great showcase of Disney storytelling blending film and audioanamatronics).
Disney's Hollywood Studios:
One Man’s Dream.
Disney's Animal Kingdom:
Try to visit the park after dark and just walk around the Tree of Life and soak in the atmosphere...

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What else can you find out on DisneyGeek?

In addition to some basic information and opinions on both Walt Disney World and Disneyland on DisneyGeek.com I try to share my Disney experiences. Our most popular sections are the pictorial updates. As I roam the parks I take pictures (I average 300-500 pictures a day). I then go through these pictures and create trip logs and web pages to show the highlights of the trips. I do this for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Another popular section is our Construction Progress section where we track ongoing, major, projects at the parks.

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Top Ten Tips

  • Plan ahead. Take some time to learn about the parks and identify your top priorities, what is a must see, what looks interesting, and what can you do if you have done everything else.
  • Have some sort of game plan/objectives for each day, but do not try to plan everything down to the minute, leave room to improvise! What you do not want to do is arrive at the park stroll down Main Street then spend 5-10 minutes trying to figure out where to go.
  • Part of planning ahead, if you want to eat at any of the more popular table service locations, be sure to get reservations early so you will not be disappointed.
  • Be sure to allow enough time to see everything you want and then some time for the unexpected or to go back and see your favourites.
  • To save some time, be sure to take advantage of FastPass. This is a free Disney service and if used properly can save you some time in line.
  • Be sure to slow down and experience the parks. Do not just run from attraction to attraction. Soak in the atmosphere, the live entertainment, and other offerings. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is to try and cram too much into each day and by the 3rd or 4th day you are “dead” and just cannot keep pace! This is particularly true if you also plan to visit other parks like Universal Orlando, Discovery Cove , SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens – do not try to cram all of them in!
  • If you are staying on property take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours, these will help you visit some of the more popular attractions with minimal waits.
  • Be prepared for anything… both weather wise and crowd wise.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Cast Members as well as other guests are usually more than happy to help you out and give you a tip or two along the way.
  • Remember it’s a vacation…
For more information visit DisneyGeek.com

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19 Comments

Posted by ash on 28/03/2011 14:32:27

Hi, we are planning to go next Easter and the only park we must see is the Harry Potter park. What is the best way to take in this park, a water park and spend a day in Disney Ash

Posted by FloridaTix on 31/03/2011 11:48:02

Hi Ash, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of Universal. The cheapest way to see it would be to get a Universal 2 Park bonus Ticket which gives you 14 days' unlimited admission to everything at Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure - including Harry Potter! If you'd like to take in a water park as well then we offer the Universal 3 Park bonus ticket. This is exactly the same as above with the addition of 14 days' admission to Wet 'n' Wild Orlando. Our tickets provide a minimum of 5 days' admission to Disney, so if you only have a day to spend there then it would probably be cheaper for you to buy a day ticket at the gate. Hope that helps! Please give us a call or email us if you have any more questions. Laura FloridaTix

Posted by steve o'connor on 10/04/2011 15:54:33

Some great tips youv'e given thanks. Have you got any tips on nice places to take the family to eat out in the evening.. Thankyou Steve.

Posted by simon adepetun on 17/04/2011 09:15:47

Hi We a planning a family holiday to Florida next year August 6th to the 20th 2012 Is this a good time of year to go thanks

Posted by FloridaTix on 18/04/2011 11:26:57

Good question Steve, check out this post http://www.floridatix.co.uk/disney-restaurants.aspx. Hopefully this will give you some good ideas on where to dine, but let us know if you have any more questions. Phillipa FloridaTix

Posted by joanne on 04/09/2011 13:03:08

Hi, I am taking my mum and dad to orlando for the first time in April and they would like to see Epcot and Animal Kingdon, but I can't seem to find a two park disney ticket, like with Universal/Seaworld/Busch/Aquatica choice. Will paying on the day be the cheapest option? I have found a 5day ticket but for just 2 parks it seems expensive. Many thankx for your advice/help. Joanne

Posted by FloridaTix on 05/09/2011 15:52:31

Hi Joanne, unfortunately we don’t sell 2 park Disney tickets. However you should be able to buy these tickets from the official Disney site. The Magic Your Way tickets are promoted to US residents and offer 2 day tickets which allow you to visit a park of your choice per day. Alternatively you can purchase 1 day tickets at the gate in resort. If you are only planning to go for the day at each park this would be the cheaper option. Please let us know if you have any further queries. Many Thanks Phillipa - FloridaTix

Posted by Leanne Green on 09/09/2011 12:07:44

Planning family of 6 to go for first time 29th Dec. All park tickets seem to be 14 days, are there 21 days tickets? and if so how much more? seems too much to do in 14 days!

Posted by FloridaTix on 12/09/2011 10:20:47

Hi Leanne, most of our tickets are for 14 days, however we do sell a 21 day Disney ticket which is £255 adult and £223 child – see info here http://www.floridatix.co.uk/Disneys-21-Day-Ultimate-Ticket.aspx Which parks are you looking to visit? If you let us know we can recommend the best tickets for your visit. Many Thanks Phillipa FloridaTix

Posted by lozzie on 03/01/2012 20:55:35

I am coming to florida in June what is the best ticket to see all the parks?

Posted by Michelle on 18/01/2012 00:54:02

Hi I was wondering if you could tell me if parking is free at the hotels on WDW as we are considering hiring a car for part of our stay Thanks

Posted by FloridaTix on 19/01/2012 10:29:00

Hi Lozzie, for the best priced ticket to see all the parks we recommend our exclusive FAN-Tastic ticket. You can find more info on this here: http://www.floridatix.co.uk/fan-tastic-2012-package.aspx

Posted by FloridaTix on 19/01/2012 10:35:26

Hi Michelle. There is a charge to park at the WDW hotels unless you are staying in one of them. If you are not staying at a hotel, there is a huge paid parking area for WDW guests near the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC). From there you can get a tram to the main parks.

Posted by Sue Giles on 20/02/2013 20:59:13

3 adults are going 20th August for 10 days. We want a ticket that covers all the Disney parks, Universal, Sea world and aquatica - not Busch Gardens. What is the cheapest way to buy these? Is parking at the theme park car parks included in the ticket price and how do we get from park to park?

Posted by FloridaTix on 22/02/2013 19:04:53

Hi Sue, Unfortunately, there are no parking charges included with any of the tickets. The Disney parks charge daily for the car park but if you hop from one park to another on the same day then you only need to pay ONCE and show the same parking ticket. The cost of that is approx. $15 a day. Would you like to send your phone number to us at customerservices@floridatix.co.uk and we can give you our best price and ticket option for the parks you're interested in? Many thanks, FloridaTix

Posted by Gary on 26/02/2013 22:11:06

3 adults and 1 eight year old are arriving in March 13, I am planning on 3 days at Disney, 2 days at Universal, a day at sea world, wet and wild and aquatica. Can you advise me on the best value for money tickets and where/how to buy them?

Posted by FloridaTix on 27/02/2013 09:17:46

Hi Gary, thanks for your enquiry. We'll reply to your email with details of what you're looking for. If you would like to send your phone number to us at customerservices@floridatix.co.uk and we can call you to discuss our best price and ticket option for the parks you're interested in? Many thanks, FloridaTix

Posted by Deb on 12/05/2013 21:05:47

I'm coming to Disneyland end of July early August what sort of time scale do you have to wait to get on to rides plz

Posted by FloridaTix on 22/05/2013 14:28:30

Hi Deb, There can be quite a wait for popular rides especially in popular months like the school holidays. When you arrive at the park notice boards highlight current queue times for the popular rides. Our advice would be to make sure you use the FastPass facility which is included in our tickets. The FastPass service lets you ”reserve” a place in the queue, so you can simply turn up at the time specified and hop straight on! FastPass is available on selected rides.

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