Theme Park Etiquette 101

Theme Park Etiquette 101

Theme parks are busier than ever these days. That means a large amount of first timers who are taking their introductory trips to some of the most popular vacation destinations on earth. Whether you you are newbie or a veteran, the fact of the matter is, some people just don't know how to act. Here are some essential rules of etiquette that everyone should follow when visiting their theme park of choice.

The more densely packed these theme parks get the more you'll be getting cozy some of your fellow guests. I get it, Florida and southern California are hot places. You should know by now how smelly you can get in the heat, so be kind to your neighbor. No one wants to smell your Turkey Leg infused sweat mixed with Splash Mountain water.

Bad Language
I'm no stranger to throwing a bad word around or two, but there is a time and place for everything. Cursing and talking about off color topics does not have a place in the theme parks. 

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Top 5 Things to Look Forward to in 2016

Top 5 Things to Look Forward to in 2016

2015 is a distant memory now. Onward and upward into 2016. Nearly every year for the foreseeable future will bring a noteworthy addition to the Orlando theme parks. Here are some good reasons to be excited to visit in 2016.

#5 Disney Springs expands
The transformation from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs wasn't an easy or a short one but the long nightmare is soon to be over. 2015 saw great additions like The Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia and the Ganachery. 

2016 will see the opening of the Town Center area of the expansion. It will bring with it loads of new shops like Pandora, Lilly Pulitzer, Edison, Sprinkles, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza and many more. 2016 will be a great time to check out Disney Springs as most of the walls will be down and plenty of new storefronts will be open for business.

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Orlando Uber Tips

Orlando Uber Tips

There are a lot of options for getting around the theme parks. Monorails, boats, trains and Peoplemovers are all viable options to get you from one place to another within the Disney or Universal "bubbles". What happens when you need to move between those bubbles or go someplace entirely different? Those of you who drive have freedom to go as you please. For those of us who don't bring their own car or rent, the best option is Uber.

Using Uber on Disney property can be a little complicated. Uber is relatively new to town and not all the drivers know the resort fluently yet. These tips should help your commute in and around the Disney resort and to and from Universal Orlando a little easier. Let's start with the basics.

What is Uber?
Uber is a "ride sharing" service that allows would-be drivers to use their own vehicles as taxis. If you need a ride just open the app on your smartphone, confirm your location and a driver will be there, usually in minutes, to pick you up. All payments are handled within the app.

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Will I-Drive Add a Day to your Vacation?

image via The Orlando Eye

image via The Orlando Eye

When on vacation time can be more valuable than money. If you are planning a trip to Orlando, Disney, Universal or both will more than likely be the headliner of your trip. Completing everything even just Disney has to offer is impossible on one trip, so prioritization becomes a major factor. Disney and Universal parks are busier than ever and drawing in crowds like never before. 

Businesses on the fringes of the the theme parks are stepping up their game in order to soak up any spare moment of your time. What this means for you is more options and variety for your vacation dollar. Let's take a look at the new big players coming to the scene.

The Orlando Eye is nearly open for business. The 400-foot tall ferris wheel is a beautiful new addition to the skyline. Riding up in one of its air conditioned capsules will give you a unique look at the Orlando skyline as well as views of Universal and Disney parks.

The location is also home to the Madame Tussauds wax museum, SeaLife Orlando Aquarium, Skeleton Museum and a host of restaurants. You can can experience the three main attractions for around $40.

Right next door to the Orlando Eye in I-Drive 360 will be the Vue at 360 complex which will sport the world's tallest star flyer ride coming in at 420-feet.

Speaking of skylines, Skyplex is opening an equally monstrous attraction right down the road. The Skyscraper roller coaster is a 570-foot tall coaster and will be the first Polercoaster in Florida. This thing looks absolutely terrifying which means it will bring in thrill seekers from all over. The area will also have restaurants and even a zipline.

A well established and growing member of International Drive is Fun Spot. Its a small amusement park with off the shelf rides that seems to be very popular with locals. The 'little amusement park that could' seems to be adding rides and attractions all the time, like Gator Spot. A team up with another Florida favorite, Gatorland.

Those are just a handful of the things going in and around I-Drive. With all these new and enticing offerings just steps away from the theme parks will you be visiting them any time soon? If you are, the most important question is how will your schedule be affected by the new destination? Will the gargantuan attractions add an extra day to your vacation when you otherwise wouldn't have stayed longer? Or will you remove a day or a half-day from Disney or Universal? Leave a comment below on how I-Drive will change your planning.

Magical Makeover: Disney's Animal Kingdom Edition

On the last edition of Magical Makeover I looked at Disney's Hollywood Studios and extrapolated on the rumors of the Pixar and Star Wars expansions planned for the park. This time I'm taking a look at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The park already has several expansions and additions planned or already under construction, but there is one particular area I'd like to focus on.

Pandora is already planned for a 2017 debut, replacing the temporary land of Camp Minnie-Mickey. The new Rivers of Light show is planned for sometime in 2016 and a nighttime safari is strongly rumored for the next few years. Smaller changes are currently happening to spots all over the park like the Pizzafari sit-down restaurant, Flame Tree Barbecue expansion and Harambe Marketplace addition. So what is left to "makeover"? Like Camp Minnie-Mickey, another land in the park ended up less spectacular than intended due to budget constraints: Dinoland USA.

Dinoland USA is probably the most maligned land on Disney property. The land is basically a parody on itself. I'm sure when the Imagineers looked at the budget for the land they must have thought "if you're going to give us the budget for a roadside attraction, that's what you're gonna get."

For what the land is I can appreciate the subtle story of Chester & Hester and their third-rate attempt to cash in on the Dino Institute. With that said though, nearly the entire land can and should be leveled. And here's what should go in its place.

South America

My proposal is for the land to be converted into a South American themed land. South America would be the third continent represented in the park. I think the addition of a third continent makes the existence of African and Asia make a little more sense in the grand view of the park.

The faux amusement park of Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama! has to go. But without the trappings of the rest of Dinoland Dinosaur, the ride, makes little sense to remain as is. The replacement is an obvious one and was the inspiration for me to theme the new land to South America in the first place.

Some of you might know that Dinosaur shares its ride vehicles with the Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland. They even share a similar layout. Bringing one of Disneyland's most liked attractions over to the East coast seems like a no-brainer. Not to mention Disney now owns Indiana Jones in addition to Star Wars from Lucasfilm.

The addition of Indiana Jones into the new land would mean some remaining structures would only need minor tweaks to fit with the new theme. Restaurantosaurus could be easily tweaked to be a "dig site" themed restaurant. The Boneyard kids play area is another easy change, just deemphasize the dinosaur aspect and you'd have an archeological dig Professor Jones would be at home in.

Now to deal with the smoking crater that once was Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama! What should replace the rides there is not as simple. The space is relatively small so another dark ride wouldn't be possible, but perhaps another attraction could be moved from a different park to a new home. The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular seems like a good choice. Some additional land would be needed but I think it would be possible.

Relatively speaking, I think the expansion to this area of the park wouldn't be so far-fetched. It would even create a new opportunity to introduce animals found mostly in South America like capybara.

Mystic Point

The map I chose isn't exactly geographically accurate but if you look at a Google Maps satellite view of the park, you'd see there is a pretty nice chunk of mostly unused land near Rafiki's Planet Watch. This would be a perfect location for Mystic Point.

For those unaware, Mystic Point is an recent addition to Hong Kong Disneyland. It is a small land by most definitions but contains Mystic Manor, a state of the art dark ride featuring a trackless ride system. I could explain how incredible this ride looks but you're better off just watching this ride-through. The land is all about adventuring into strange, mysterious and exotic lands. Mystic Point would be right at home in Animal Kingdom.

Requiring guests to take the Planet Watch train to access the area might be a little rough logistically. I think the experience of "taking a train deep into the jungle" then forging the rest of the way on foot to the supernatural land would be a great "scene 1" so to speak. Making guests ride the train will likely ensure more will visit Rafiki's Planet Watch as well.

There you have it. My proposal for new lands at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I really enjoy Animal Kingdom the way it is now but the park really could thrive and become a much more popular park with theses added additions. 

What do you think of the theoretical new Animal Kingdom? What changes would you like made to the park?