THE trusted source of information for a successful Walt Disney World vacation
Compiled and written by a team of experienced researchers whose work has been cited by such diverse sources as USA Today and Operations Research Forum, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World digs deeper and offers more than any other guide.
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2018 explains how Walt Disney World works and how to use that knowledge to make every minute and every dollar of your vacation count. With advice that is direct, prescriptive, and detailed, it takes the guesswork out of travel by unambiguously rating and ranking everything from hotels, restaurants, and attractions to rental car companies.
With an Unofficial Guide in hand, and authors Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa as guides, find out what's available in every category, from best to worst, and use step-by-step detailed plans to help make the most of your time at Walt Disney World.
|Edition description:||2018 Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
Bob Sehlinger, a Lowell Thomas Award-winning journalist, is best known as the creator and producer of The Unofficial Guide series. He's the author of 27 books and lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
Len Testa, a lifelong Disney theme park fan, is also coauthor of The Color Companion to Walt Disney World, The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, and The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line. Len leads the team at TouringPlans.com, the website and research arm of The Unofficial Guides. He lives in Orlando, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
INTRODUCTION THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING GOOFY
The Disney-character physician is having lunch with the director of park operations when the doc’s phone rings. . . .
“Excuse me,” he says. “It’s the fertility clinicI’d better take it.”
Getting up, he exits the restaurant and returns a few minutes later looking concerned.
“It’s the darndest thing,” the doctor says. “But there’s not a thing wrong with any of them. . . .”
“Any of whom?” the director asks.
“The Disney princes and princesses. They all checked out fine.”
The director can’t believe his ears. He stares at the doctor. “Wait a minuteare you telling me that you sent the Disney princes and princesses to a fertility clinic?”
“Just the human ones who are married, plus the Beast. I didn’t send Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Lady and the Tramp, and a bunch of others who’ve been coupled up for decades.”
Still stupefied, the director stammers, “Why? I didn’t even know there was a problem.”
“Well, the characters have never complained, but most have been married for years and years, and, um . . . haven’t you noticed that none of them have any children?”
“I’ve never given it any thought, but it’s fewer high-earning characters on my payroll.”
“Well, I’ve given it plenty of thought. We’re locked in a blood-feud competition with Universal, and their characters are having babies right and left. Shrek and Princess Fiona alone have been popping out little ogres and ogreettes like Big Macs.”
The director gives the doctor a hard look. “I could have told you there’s nothing wrong physically with the princes and princesses.”
“If that’s the case, why aren’t they having children? Don’t they know about the birds and the bees?”
“The birds and the bees shall not be spoken of at Disney! But that’s not why they don’t have kids.”
The director leans across the table to keep from being overheard. “Why do you think princes and princesses live ‘happily ever after’?”
And so it goes. . . .
What really makes writing about Walt Disney World fun is that the Disney people take everything so seriously. Day to day, they debate momentous decisions with far-ranging consequences: Will Pluto look silly in a silver cape? Have we gone too far with The Little Mermaid’s cleavage? With the nation’s drug problem a constant concern, should we have a dwarf named Dopey?
Unofficially, we think having a sense of humor is important. This guidebook has one, and it’s probably necessary that you do, toonot to use this book, but to have the most fun possible at Walt Disney World. Think of the Unofficial Guide as a private trainer to help get your sense of humor in shape. It will help you understand the importance of being Goofy.
PART 3 ACCOMMODATIONS
Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas
Jambo House offers fine dining in a casual setting at JikoThe Cooking Place. Twin wood-burning ovens are the focal point of the restaurant, which serves meals inspired by the myriad cuisines of Africa. BomaFlavors of Africa, the family restaurant, serves a buffet with food prepared in an exhibition kitchen featuring a wood-burning grill and rotisserie. Tables are under thatched roofs. The Mara, a quick-service restaurant with extended hours, and Victoria Falls, a delightful mezzanine lounge overlooking Boma, round out the hotel’s food-and-beverage service. Other amenities include an elaborate swimming area, a village marketplace, and a 1hour nighttime safari tour exclusively for Lodge guests ages 8 and up. The tour costs $70 per person and takes place nightly at 10 p.m.
Consisting of a separate building shaped like a backwards 3, Kidani Village comprises 324 units, a dedicated savanna, a well-themed pool and splash zone, and Sanaa, a sit-down restaurant combining Indian and African cuisines. Other amenities include a fitness center, an arcade, a gift shop, and tennis, shuffleboard, and basketball courts. Kidani Village is connected to Jambo House by a half-mile
walking trail; DDV guests at either resort can use the facilities at both buildings.
Both Jambo House and Kidani Village have studios and one, two, and three-bedroom
villas. Most rooms at Kidani Village are larger, however, and the difference is anywhere from 50 square feet for a studio to more than 200 square feet for a two-bedroom unit. (The three bedroom Grand Villas at Jambo House, 148 square feet larger than those in Kidani Village, are the exception.) Kidani’s villas also have one more bathroom for one, two, and three-bedroom units. Because of the difference in area, one-bedroom units in Kidani Village can accommodate up to five people, and two-bedroom units can hold up to nine via a sleeper chair in the living room. At Jambo House, one-bedroom “value” rooms sleep four; standard, savanna, and Club Level rooms sleep five.
Having stayed at Kidani Village almost a dozen times, we think it’s quiet and relaxed. The lobby and rooms have a smaller, more personal feel than Jambo House’s. The exterior isn’t anything specialessentially a set of green rectangles with oversize African-themed decorations attached. Kidani’s distance from Jambo House makes it feel especially remote. The bus stops are a fair distance from the main building, too, and it’s easy to head in the wrong direction when you’re coming back from the parks at night.
Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas is connected to the rest of Disney World by bus, but because of the resort’s remote location, you should seriously consider having a car if you stay there.
A family of four from Lincoln, England, gives Animal Kingdom Lodge a mixed, though mostly positive, review:
We had a fab holiday, but we wouldn’t recommend people paying the extra money to have a savanna room. The animals are scarce, and you don’t really spend much time in your room. The pool and the kids’ club were fantastic and the hotel stunning. The food court was fine, although we wished they’d change the menu, as after two weeks you’re fed up of the same choices.
Good (and not-so-good) rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas
(See tinyurl.com/aklroomviews for photos.) A glance at the resort map tells you where the best rooms and villas are. Kudu Trail and Zebra Trail, two wings branching from the rear of Jambo House, form a semicircle around the central wildlife savanna. Along each wing are seven five story buildings, with accommodations on floors two through five. Five buildings on each wing form the semicircle, while the remaining two buildings jut away from the center. The best roomson floors three and four, facing into the circleare high enough to survey the entire savanna yet low enough to let you appreciate the groundlevel
detail of this amazing wildlife exhibit; plus, these rooms offer the easiest access to the lobby and restaurants. Second-floor rooms really can’t take in the
panorama, and fifth-floor rooms are a little too high for intimate views of the animals. Most of the fourth-floor rooms in Jambo House are reserved for concierge guests, and the fifth and sixth floors house the DDV units.
Most rooms in the outward-jutting buildings, as well as rooms facing away from the interior, also survey a savanna, but one not as compelling as that of the inner circle. On the Zebra Trail, the first two buildings plus the first jutting building provide savanna views on one side and look onto the swimming complex on the other.
Less attractive still are two smaller wings, Ostrich Trail and Giraffe Trail, branching from either side of the lodge near the main entrance. Some rooms on the left side of Ostrich Trail (see map on page 196) overlook a small savanna. Rooms on the opposite side of the same buildings overlook the front entrance. Least desirable is Giraffe Trail, extending from the right side of the lobby: Its rooms overlook either the pool (water view) or the resort entrance (standard view). A Portage, Indiana, family begs to differ with our assessment, however:
We stayed in a pool-view room in Giraffe Trail and loved it. The view was beautiful, even without the animals (which you can see elsewhere). The proximity to the pool, lobby, and restaurants was great, and we saved about $500 over what we would’ve spent on a savanna view.
The best views in Kidani Village are the north-facing rooms near the bottom and middle of the backwards 3. Try rooms 7X38–7X44, 7X46–7X52, 7X06–7X11, 7X68–7X82, and 7X61–7X67 (X = numbers 0–9). These overlook the savanna next to Jambo House’s Kudu Trail rooms and beyond into undeveloped woods. Westand south-facing rooms in the bottom half of Kidani Village overlook the parking lot; west-facing rooms in the top half have either pool or savanna views. (See tinyurl.com/kidaniroomviews
PART 9 THE MAGIC KINGDOM
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (FastPass+) ****
What it is Indoor/outdoor roller coaster. Scope and scale Major attraction. When to go As soon as the park opens, or use FastPass+. Special comments 38" minimum height requirement. Authors’ rating Great family coaster; not to be missed; **** Duration of ride About 2 minutes. Average wait in line per 100 people ahead of you About 4½ minutes. Loading speed Fast.
Description and comments In the pantheon of Disney coasters, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fits somewhere between The Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain Railroadthat is, it’s geared to older grade-school kids who’ve been on amusement park rides before. There are no loops, inversions, or rolls in the track, and no massive hills or steep drops; rather, the Mine Train’s trick is that your ride vehicle’s seats swing side-to-side as you go through turns. Andwhat a coincidence!Disney has designed a curvy track with steep turns. There’s also an elaborate indoor section showing the Seven Dwarfs’ underground operation.
The exterior design includes waterfalls, forests, and landscaping and is meant to join together all of the
surrounding Fantasyland’s various locations, including France and Germany. The swinging effect is more
noticeable the farther back you’re seated in the train.
New Disney attractions always generate a lot of reader comments, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is no
exception. First, from a Rhode Island couple:
As far as new rides go, we give high marks to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It’s faster than it looks in videos, and the animatronics are topnotch. It broke down during our FastPass+ window, so we were given an additional pass. On our next day in the Magic Kingdom, we rode it at night. Much like Big Thunder and Splash Mountain, this ride is even better at night!
From an Aurora, Illinois, woman:
It’s a pretty easy coaster, somewhere between Big Thunder and The Barnstormer in intensity, and I’d ride it just to see the mine scene over and over again!
A Chester, Virginia, mom offers a little cost–benefit analysis:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was a great ride, but not worth a 90minute wait.
A mom from Horsham, Pennsylvania, felt let down:
Our family’s rating of the 7 D Mine Train is two stars at most. The detail and activities in line were great, and I thought that the animation of the characters’ faces was amazing. But we were all sadly disappointed in the rideit’s over so quickly, it really isn’t worth your time. Realistically, if we only had to wait 15–20 minutes, we still would only give it two and a half stars at best.
Finally, from a Hesston, Kansas, dad:
The Mine Train was fairly forgettable to my wife and I, but my 5year old loved it. The middle dark-ride section was amazing, but the rest was over very fast. It’s a perfect step between The Barnstormer and the bigger Mountains, but without FastPass+ or being there first, it can be skipped.
Touring tips If you have only a day to see the Magic Kingdom, make FastPass+
reservations in advance for around 9:30 a.m. at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and around 3:30 p.m. at Space Mountain. On the day of your visit, ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as soon as the park opens, then hotfoot it to Splash Mountain to ride immediately. Your FastPass+ reservation for Big Thunder Mountain will be valid by the time you’re done, and you’ll have experienced three of the park’s four headliners in about an hour.
If you have two mornings, do the Fantasyland and Frontierland attractionsSeven Dwarfs Mine Train, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroadon one day and Space Mountain the next. Spreading your visits over two mornings eliminates a lot of walking.
Other FastPass+ strategies combining the park’s “mountains” with other headliners have been incorporated into our Magic Kingdom touring plans (see pages 806–811).
PART TWENTY RECREATION, SPORTS, and SPAS
RUN, DISNEY, RUN
Walt Disney World staged its first long-distance road racea 26.2mile marathonin January 1994. By hosting this one-day event, Disney hoped to attract a couple thousand people to Orlando during what would otherwise be the middle of a slow winter season. It was an immediate hit, drawing more than 7,000 runners and their families, most staying in a Disney hotel for longer than the one or two nights needed to run the race.
Disney added a Saturday half-marathon race to the event in 1998, just in time to catch the wave of popularity that distance running started enjoying around the turn of the millennium.
Today the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is a four-day affair, with a 5K on Thursday and a 10K on Friday. It’s not uncommon to see 25,000 runners in the big races, and a few thousand hearty souls run all four events (you get a special medal for doing so; it’s appropriately of Dopey, one of Snow White’s dwarfs).
Disney’s race schedule has also expanded throughout the calendar and country, with no fewer than eight major races held in Disney World and Disneyland; a complete schedule and summary of events is below. Disney even has a fulltime,
staffed organization, runDisney, to coordinate and promote their events. Visit rundisney.com for
the latest details. Prices are comparable to the big races in New York, Boston, and Chicago, but you don’t get to run through Epcot in those.
As noted in Part One, Unofficial Guide staff and friends have run dozens of Disney races over the past decade, from simple 5Ks to the two-day, 39.3mile half-marathon/full-marathon combo (dubbed “The Goofy” for obvious reasons). If you’ve never run a distance race, Disney is the perfect first event for many reasons.
Table of Contents
Walt Disney World: An Overview
What's NEW at Walt Disney World since your last visit?
PART ONE Planning Before You Leave Home
When to Go to Walt Disney World
PART TWO Making the Most of Your Time and Money
Understanding Walt Disney World Attractions
Central Florida Roller Coasters
What you Get and What you Pay at WDW
PART THREE Accommodations
The Basic Considerations
The Disney Resorts
Walt Disney World Hotel Profiles
How to Evaluate a Walt Disney World Travel Package
Disney Lodging for Less
Hotels outside Walt Disney World
Hotels and Motels: Rated and Ranked
The top 20 deals
How the Hotels Compare
Hotel Information Chart
How the Hotels Compare
Hotel Information Chart
PART FOUR Dining in and around Walt Disney World
Dining outside Walt Disney World
Where to Eat Outside Walt Disney World
Dining in Walt Disney World
Disney Dining 101
Advance Reservations: The Official Line
Advance Reservations: The Unofficial Scoop
Walt Disney World Buffets and Family-Style
Disney Dining Suggestions
Counter-Service Restaurant Mini-Profiles
Full-Service Restaurant Rated and Ranked
Walt Disney World Restaurants by Cuisine
PART FIVE Walt Disney World with Kids
The Ecstasy and the Agony
Disney, Kids, and Scary Stuff
Small Child Fright Potential Chart
Attraction and Ride Restrictions
Waiting-Line Strategies for Adults with Young Children
The Disney Characters
Character Meal Hit Parade
Special Programs for Children
Birthdays and Special Occasions
PART SIX Special Tips for Special People
Walt Disney World for Singles
Tips for Going Solo
Walt Disney World for Couples
Walt Disney World "At Large"
Walt Disney World for Expectant Mothers
Walt Disney World for Seniors
Walt Disney World for Guests with Special Needs
PART SEVEN Arriving and Getting Around
How to Travel around the World (or, The Real Mr. Toad's Wild Ride)
Door-to-Door Commuting Times to and from the Disney Resorts and Parks
PART EIGHT Bare Necessities
Problems and Unusual Situations
PART NINE The Magic Kingdom
Main Street, U.S.A.
Live Entertainment in the Magic Kingdom
Mickey's Halloween and Christmas Parties and 23-Hour-Events
Traffic Patterns in the Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom Touring Plans
PART TEN Epcot
Live Entertainment in Epcot
Traffic Patterns in Epcot
Epcot Touring Plans
PART ELEVEN Disney's Animal Kingdom
Live Entertainment in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Traffic Patterns in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom Touring Plan
PART TWELVE Disney's Hollywood Studios
DHS: A Brief History
The Studios in Perspective
DHS at a Glance
Disney's Hollywood Studios Attractions
Live Entertainment at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios Touring Plan
PART THIRTEEN Universal Orlando
A Universal Primer
Universal on the Web
A Word about Crowds
How Much Time to Allocate
Lodging at Universal Orlando
Arriving at Universal Orlando
Universal, Kids, and Scary Stuff
Blue Man Group
Universal Orlando Dining Plan
New and Upcoming at Universal Orlando
PART FOURTEEN Universal's Islands of Adventure
Getting Oriented at Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure Attractions
Dining at Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure Touring Plan
PART FIFTEEN Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida Attractions
Live Entertainment at Universal Studios Florida
Dining at Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida Touring Plan
PART SIXTEEN SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld at a Glance
PART SEVENTEEN The Water Parks
You're Soaking in It!
Typhoon Lagoon versus Blizzard Beach
When to Go
Planning Your Day at Disney Water Parks
Water-Park Touring Plans
Aquatica by SeaWorld
PART EIGHTEEN Behind-the-Scenes and VIP Tours at Walt Disney World
Behind the Scenes at the Magic Kingdom
Behind the Scenes at Epcot
Behind the Scenes at Disney's Animal Kingdom
PART NINETEEN Disney Springs, Universal City Walk, Shopping, and Nightlife
Shopping in the Theme Parks and Orlando
Tips for Avoiding Buyer's Remorse
Walt Disney World Shopping at a Glance
Shopping at Universal Orlando
Shopping Outside the Theme Parks
Entertainment and Nightlife
Nightlife at Walt Disney World Resorts
Nightlife at Disney Springs
Nightlife at Universal Orlando Resorts
Nightlife at Universal CityWalk
Live Music at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando
Walt Disney World Dinner Theaters
PART TWENTY Recreation, Sports, and Spas
Walt Disney World Recreation
Run, Disney, Run
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
Walt Disney World Golf
Serenity Now! A Look at Disney-Area
Readers' Questions to the Author
Clip-Out Touring Plan Companions