News and Views around Walt Disney World-first week of April, 2014

News and Views around Walt Disney World-first week of April, 2014

The latest news includes the increase in parking rates at Walt Disney World.  They have increased to $17.00 (up $2.00) for Auto/Motorcycle and Taxi/Limo/Shuttle; up to $18. For Auto-Trailer and Camper/RV; $21.00 for Bus/Tractor-Trailer.  Only those visiting for the day or with multi-day passes that are not staying at a Disney resort will be paying for parking as resort guests and Annual Passholders receive complimentary parking.

Magic Bands can now be purchased by all guests, including those visiting for the day. The selling price is $12.95 plus tax and will need to be purchased once inside the parks or at the Disney Pin Trader at Downtown Disney Marketplace or Mickey’s gifts at TTC.  When you are purchasing your band the Cast Member will help you like it to MyDisneyExperience to get you started on choosing FastPass+ times. If you have a Smartphone with the MDE app you will save yourself time in the parks by setting up your account ahead of time.  Then you will just need to link your band to your MDE account and you are ready to make FastPass+ selections then.  Day guests will be able to make FastPass+ selections at the FP+ kiosks and are not required to have a MagicBand or the app in order to get FastPass+ reservations.  There is still a limit of three FastPass+ selections for all guests, in one park, at this time.  There have been reports of resort guests being given a fourth FastPass+ selection when the parks are extending their hours for the day. If this is the case guests will receive an email regarding this. Having a Smartphone with the MDE app on it certainly makes this much easier.

The Diamond Horseshoe is open April 1-7 and 11-28 for Lunch counter service, see a photo of the menu below. Entrees at lunch include Barbecued Turkey Sandwich, Hand Carved Turkey Sandwich, Hand-Carved Pork Brisket Sandwich, Tuna Salad with Croissant, Portobello Sandwich, Portobello Salad, and Mixed Green Salad. Kid’s meals are PB&J, Hand-carved Turkey Sandwich and Hand-carved Pork Brisket Sandwich.  Sides are chips, mixed fruit cup, chocolate or carrot cake.  Starting next week Diamond Horseshoe will have table service, reservations required, April 13-19 for what sounds very similar to the turkey dinner served at Liberty Tree Tavern, using family-style service.  They do share the same backstage area and it would be easy to support this with shared kitchen service.  No dates beyond the 19th have been announced.  Pinocchio Village Haus is supposed to reopen this week.  Many of the food locations that are often closed are actually open right now.  The parks are pretty busy so more restaurants and carts are available. The “it’s a small world” attraction has reopened ahead of schedule.  The queue appears to be making use of the ramps in a slightly different pattern.

7 Dwarfs Mine Ride update: There is not a great deal of outside changes to the ride venue since last week.  I saw bags of sand holding wires away from the track which often occurs when testing is being done.  There was no activity on the days I was there.  There has been some additional landscaping that took place and you can see the Dwarf’s cottage just behind the bridge in the photos below.  We do not have any straight on view of it as yet because that construction wall is hiding it. I have walked around this “mountain” and am a bit hungry and thirsty, how about you?  I am heading into Gaston’s Tavern for a LeFou’s Brew and Pork Shank.  As I round the corner I see Gaston himself, posing in front of his fountain. His arms are up and he is pointing at his big arm muscles and smiling for all the young ladies. Nothing’s changed here.

Since we are here, let’s go on a ride.  I want to see how things in Frontierland look. Diamond Horseshoe is very busy for lunch today. The menu looks pretty good and it is a nice place to sit down and cool off.  The Liberty Belle Riverboat just pulled in.  I take a ride on the Liberty Belle when I want to escape the crowds and it is pretty busy today.  There are so many great views from aboard her.  Did you know this is an actual steam-powered vessel? Every time I see the back side of Big Thunder Mountain from the ship I wonder what is in that tiny opening at the base of the mountain.  And the Indian reservation featured in the Kingdom Keeper’s series is back here too. The last installment of the youth fiction series has now been released.  Ridley Pearson was here this past week signing copies of his last book.

I have wanted to visit Animal Kingdom since last week to see some more animals, so let’s go! Did you ever notice how stark the parking lot at AK is? There are no trees, no flowers, no landscaping.  The moment you step into the park though you have an extremely different experience.  We are met with lush, tropical plants and water elements and some animals right away.  Directly in front of me is a pond with some beautiful swans swimming quietly along.  Now we have a choice, do we head to the right or the left? That is the choice each guest has as they enter the park. When Animal Kingdom opened, there were no signs at all.  The idea was that guests would decide for themselves where they wanted to go. You can imagine with 500 acres at this the largest animal-themed park in the world, that led to some confusion and signs were then added. If you go to the left, I usually do, there is an Anteater on your left side.  He is such an interesting creature.

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Have you heard a tiger roar? It is very different than what I expected.  It sounded a bit like an old man snoring.  I have not heard a Disney’s Animal Kingdom tiger roar yet, maybe it is a bit more magical! The tigers you can visit on the Maharaja Jungle Trek in Asia were very interesting to watch.  You can get very close to one here as there is a Plexiglas window that separates you.  The tigers like to come right up to the glass sometimes too so you can get a really good look at them.  These big cats sometimes behave like little cats at home. They lay in the sunshine and you may see just the ends of their tails flick.  They like to play with toys too.   Another animal you might hear when visiting early in the day are the two monkey areas nearby that are home to Signal monkeys and White Cheek Gibbons.  They let each other know that they are there and don’t think one is going to take over the other’s territory.  They are quite loud!

I can’t believe it; the Komodo Dragon is out sunning himself today! It is hard to find him and here he is sitting on top of a rock, just watching us.  Let’s see what other animals we can find.  The Bat House is on this trail and they were just fed some fruit.  Let’s walk over to the Kilimanjaro Safari.  I was late in deciding to get a FastPass+ and they were all gone for today.  The standby line is 75 minutes. The FastPass+ entrance has a pretty long line just to get in.  If you want to speed up your entrance make sure you each have your plastic tickets or Magic Bands instead of one in your party with all of them. It really slows things down to have one person scanning them all rather than two people at a time scanning on both sides of the entrance.  I am going to visit some more animals on foot, come along? There is one Meerkat as the new group that will live here are still backstage having all their physicals, etc. completed.  We can see a rare Okapi today. We are told that these are rather shy animals and don’t like the limelight. Their coats are beautiful and look like velvet.  One is licking a branch overhead and it looks much like a giraffe’s tongue in its coloring and size.  The sign tells us the similarities and differences to Giraffes. Giraffe are about 8 feet tall at the base of their necks while Okapi are about 5 feet.

The Gorillas are so big and they are animated right now.  In the male pen the lead Alpha just beat his chest, looking like he is taunting two of the other males who take off after him. The fourth one seems very disinterested in getting up.

There is some food news over here in Animal Kingdom.  Trilo-Bites in DinoLand has a new sign advertising Buffalo Chicken Waffle Sandwiches.  I have been here many times, including yesterday, asking about trying one but was told they didn’t have them yet.  Today they are here on the menu and the ice cream treats posted yesterday are all gone.  The Garden Kiosk is still serving the gluten-free cupcakes from NYC Bakery (main location at Downtown Disney Marketplace closed in March).

There is some great music coming from the street party over in Harambe Village, Africa.  On the way here I found a new beverage cart in Asia selling Singha Beer ,$7.25 and Kingfisher Premium Lager $7.25, two specialty drinks: The Glacier, Iced Smirnoff Raspberry Vodka blended with Minute Maid Lemonade $9.50; Kali River Tea, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum over Iced Tea $9.50.  There are some construction walls up in Africa across from the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris, and over by Tusker House.  Behind the wall at Tusker House is a new complex of shops, eateries, and the new Lion King Theater.

Want to ride Expedition Everest? Let’s go!

By Cassie

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.