7 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Halloween

Happy Halloween! Today’s post is, not surprisingly, about things to do in Walt Disney World if this is your favorite holiday. Now, if you’re lucky enough to be in Disney World in September or October, there is an event specifically designed for you: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. But what if your trip is at another time of year? If that’s the case, I wanted to give you some Halloween-inspired activities that you can do whenever you visit.

So, here are seven spooky things to do in Walt Disney World if you love Halloween:

1. Make Friends with Ghosts in The Haunted Mansion

There’s no Disney attraction more associated with Halloween than The Haunted Mansion. If you haven’t visited in a while, be sure to take your time seeing the new crypts and tombstones in the now interactive queue. I appreciate all the puns and wordplay on the epitaphs.

2. Count the Skeletons in Pirates of the Caribbean

Before this attraction shows the rollicking fun that comes with pillaging, it gives a preview of the likely end of these merry escapades: sudden death, and a bird building a nest in your hat.

3. Escape a Witch in Snow White’s Scary Adventures

This attraction will be going away as part of the Fantasyland expansion, so experience it while you can. In the original version, Snow White did not appear in the attraction; you, the guest, were Snow White. People didn’t get it, so they added her in. But the witch is still after you too…

4. Explore Ominous, Bat-Infested Caves on Tom Sawyer Island

OK, maybe they’re not bat-infested, but there are bat sound effects, and it is dark in there. Take some time to explore this under-appreciated area.

5. Be Threatened by Trolls on Maelstrom

Maybe trolls aren’t a classic Halloween creature, but they’re fairy tale villains, so I think it’s close enough. One random question about this attraction: does the “disappear, disappear” line make anyone else think of Animal from The Muppets?

6. Become an Honorary Creepy-Crawly in It’s Tough to be a Bug!

This attraction is not for small children. Seriously. Even the toughest of my nephews was practically in tears by the end of this one. Unless your child is particularly into bugs, OK with the dark, and can handle scary surprises, I’d stay away until late elementary school. That said, an attraction filled with bugs—some friendly and some not so friendly—definitely fits today’s theme.

7. Experience a Dark and Stormy Night in The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

No matter the time of day, it’s always evening in the Tower of Terror. (Although it is particularly fun to ride when it actually is dark outside.) This is one of my favorite attractions. I’m almost always the only one in the photo with my arms in the air. Want proof?

Erica on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disneyland

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To do all of today’s activities in one spooktacular day, you’ll have to hit all four parks. I’d start in Magic Kingdom, since four of the activities are there. Then take the monorail over to Epcot to ride Maelstrom. Next, I’d head over to Animal Kingdom for It’s Tough to Be a Bug! because Animal Kingdom is usually the first park to close, and as I said, Tower of Terror is most fun when it’s dark. So, after you turn in your bug eyes, take the bus over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and cross over to… The Twilight Zone. [Sound of thunder crashing]

Which one of these is your favorite terror-ific activity at Walt Disney World?

6 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Peter Pan and/or His Mortal Enemies

Good news! Peter and the Starcatcher—the play based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s book of almost the same name—is headed for Broadway! (In the book title, Starcatcher is plural.) I love the book and its sequels, so I’m hoping the play is wildly successful so that I can see it on a national tour.

Thinking about the Never Land universe, I decided to focus this post on finding Peter Pan and company in the Parks. I was going to say “Peter Pan and Friends” in the post title, but I decided to save Tinker Bell for her own post, so that left Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. So…

Here are five things to do in Walt Disney World if you love Peter Pan and/or his mortal enemies:

1. Peter Pan’s Flight

My favorite part of this classic Fantasyland attraction is flying over the city of London, which is not surprising considering how much I love miniatures. Peter Pan’s Flight is on pretty much everyone’s must-see list, which means the queue can get a bit unreasonable as the day goes on. I suggest riding first thing in the morning or waiting until late in the evening, perhaps during the parade or fireworks.

2. Character Meet-and-Greets

Peter Pan can be found just about every day in Fantasyland or Adventureland. (Occasionally, Wendy may join him.) His appearances aren’t always listed in the Times Guide, so ask in City Hall when he’ll be around. He’s also spotted every now and then at the International Gateway in Epcot.

Captain Hook and Mr. Smee can be often found at the Animation Building in Hollywood Studios. You may also find them near Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom. Again, ask a cast member to find out where they’ll be when.

3. Disney Junior—Live on Stage

I’ve never watched Jake and the Never Land Pirates, although my sister-in-law tells me that my two-year-old nephew loves to say, “Aw, coconuts!” like one of the characters. The addition of the show to Disney Junior—Live on Stage means you now have the opportunity to see Mr. Smee and Captain Hook in puppet-form and, of course, scare them away by pretending to be the Tick-Tock Croc.

4. Family Magic Tour

I haven’t had the chance to experience the Family Magic Tour myself, but Disney describes it as a “guided interactive quest to save Magic Kingdom theme park from the dastardly plans of a Disney Villain.” Although the official description doesn’t specify, reviews indicate the villain is Captain Hook, and sometimes you get a private meet-and-greet with Peter Pan. It takes 1 ½ to 2 hours and costs $34 per person (plus theme park admission). You can call (407) WDW-TOUR to book.

5. Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage

This is another special experience that I still haven’t done, but it sounds like great fun. It starts out with snacks at the Contemporary Resort before Mr. Smee and Captain Hook lead you to your boat. You may be able to catch the Electrical Water Pageant before you sail to the Seven Seas Lagoon to see Wishes. On the way back to the dock, your pirate host, Patch, tells the story of Peter Pan, which the Disney website says is a clue to “one final surprise” (which I’ll now spoil): a meet-and-greet with Peter Pan. You can see photos of one family’s voyage on WDWMagic. It’s $53.99 for those 10 and up and $30.99 for kids 3-9. To book, call 407-WDW-PLAY.

6. Mickey’s PhilharMagic

Right between the Lion King and Aladdin sequences, there’s a brief scene in which Donald takes a magical flight with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.

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Doing all these experiences back to back would mean seeing the same characters in person three times in one day! According to AllEars.Net, the Family Magic Tour is offered daily at 10 a.m. If you get to the park at opening, you could experience Peter Pan’s Flight and then do the tour. Afterwards, visit Mickey’s PhilharMagic and see if the characters are doing any meet-and-greets in Fantasyland or Adventureland. By mid-afternoon you should head over to Hollywood Studios to catch Disney Junior—Live on Stage and see if Hook and Smee are doing a meet-and-greet there. The Fireworks Voyage starts one hour and 15 minutes before Wishes (which is usually at 9 or 10), so you should have plenty of time to get back to the Contemporary from Hollywood Studios.

Who’s your favorite Peter Pan character? (I have a fondness for Nana.)

5 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Fish

Two weeks ago we talked about four things to do in Walt Disney World if you love birds. Today we’re going to do another animal-themed post, but we’ll turn our attention from the skies to the seas and talk about the fish of Walt Disney World. I’m going to use this term loosely to mean animals that live in the water, whether or not they have gills and such.

Some of you might like keeping fish as pets, swimming with them, or even eating them (no judgment here). Regardless of how you enjoy them, here are five things to do in Walt Disney World if you love fish.

1. The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion

The obvious first stop for a lover of the sea in Disney World is The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion in Epcot. If your preference is animated fish, take a ride in a clammobile on The Seas with Nemo & Friends and catch a showing of Turtle Talk with Crush. (A Turtle Talk tip: get one of your kids to ask Crush how many kids he has—it will be a large number—and get another one to ask Crush his kids’ names. I’ve heard him list all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all the Beatles, and Lisa Turtle from Saved by the Bell.)

If you prefer seeing the real thing, take your time wandering around The Sea Base and check out the stingrays, manatees, and more.

2. Coral Reef Restaurant

If you like to combine viewing fish with eating them, you’re in luck! Also in The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion is Coral Reef Restaurant. The restaurant overlooks the Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium, and during your meal you could spot 85 different species of tropical fish. The menu includes seafood and non-seafood options, and most dinner entrees are between $20 and $30.

I ate there once a few years ago, but I can’t say I remember what I had. This isn’t that unusual; I’m just not that food-centric. My apologies for when I get around to writing the post on things to do in Walt Disney World if you love food. (Maybe that will be a guest post.) Even having been there, my primary association with this restaurant is that episode of Full House where the Tanners go to Disney World and Danny and his girlfriend eat at Coral Reef.

3. The Seas Pavilion Tours (The Seas Aqua Tour, Dolphins in Depth, or DiveQuest)

If you want to actually swim with the fish in The Seas pavilion, you have the option of three different tours. On The Seas Aqua Tour ($140), you get to swim on the surface of the tank using a snorkel system. The experience lasts two and a half hours, and about 30 minutes of that is spent in the aquarium. If dolphins are more your thing, the Dolphins in Depth tour ($194) enables you to learn more about them, talk to their trainers, and have an “up-close interaction” with one. The Disney website doesn’t specify how much time of the three-hour tour you actually spend in the tank. The most up-close-and-personal experience is the Epcot DiveQuest ($175). This tour actually requires you to be SCUBA-certified, because you spend around 40 minutes underwater in the aquarium. For more information on any of these tours, visit the Disney Tours and Experiences website or call (407) WDW-TOUR.

4. Finding Nemo—The Musical

Now, if you happen to like your fish to be puppets, Finding Nemo—The Musical was made for you. I already professed my love for this show in my post on musical theater in Walt Disney World. The puppets are amazing and inventive, and this is the only place you’ll see a stingray/tricycle hybrid (just trust me, it’s cool).

5. Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Finally, if you prefer fish who long to be human, Ariel is your girl. While this attraction has less razzle-dazzle than Finding Nemo—The Musical or Beauty and the Beast—Live on Stage, you still get the basics of the story and musical highlights from the movie. The usage of black lights is especially cool.

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So, are you ready for a day of fishy fun? Your itinerary will vary depending on which tour you do. According to AllEars.Net, all the tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday, but the times differ. The Seas Aqua Tour is at 12:30 p.m. Dolphins in Depth is offered at 9:45 a.m. Epcot DiveQuest is at 4:30 and 5:40 p.m. Choose your tour and then build your day around it. Finding Nemo—The Musical will be the trickiest thing to fit in, as it’s only performed at selected times throughout the day. Remember that it’s easy to go between Hollywood Studios (where Voyage of the Little Mermaid is) and Epcot using the water taxis. The only bus you’ll need is for Animal Kingdom.

So which fish-related song gets your vote: “Under the Sea” or “In the Big Blue World”?

Auntie Tip: Using Index Cards for Character Autographs

Today’s Auntie Tip is actually a Mommy Tip, because I got the idea from my sister. When my parents and I took my niece and nephew to Walt Disney World a couple years ago, my sister gave us a pack of blank (unruled) index cards for collecting character autographs. We discovered this has several advantages over using an autograph book.

1. Easy to Carry

You can carry a few cards with you at all times, ready for unexpected character encounters. This happened to us when I took my niece into The Magic of Disney Animation while my parents stayed with her little brother, who was asleep in the stroller. We had left most of our stuff with them, but I still had an index card and Sharpie in my pocket, so we were able to get autographs from Dug, Russell, and Mr. Fredricksen from Up.

Although you can get by without it, we’ve found it’s best to store the cards in a 4″ x 6″ flip book or photo album so the characters have a hard surface to write on. Also, I find the clickable Sharpies are easiest for fur characters to handle. Their costumes give them limited dexterity, and regular pens are just too small.

2. Great for Collecting

When you use index cards, you can keep adding to your autograph collection trip after trip, without having to buy a new autograph book each time or remember to bring the old one (and risk having it get lost). When you get home, you can display your collection on a bulletin board or in picture frames where you can see them every day, rather than having them in an autograph book that gets buried at the bottom of the toy box.

3. Perfect for Scrapbooking

The third advantage is for scrapbookers or people who still like to print photos and put them in an album. To help you remember how and when you got the autograph, put the card in the scrapbook or album next to the photo of your child with the character. The cards are also easy to scan and print for cute accents to use throughout your scrapbooks.

4. Inexpensive

The fourth and final advantage is that it’s less expensive: 99 cents for a 100-pack of index cards versus $7-$15 for an autograph book. $7 is actually fairly cheap for a Disney souvenir (although not as cheap as pressed pennies!), but when you’re scrimping and saving to afford your next Disney trip, every little bit counts!

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Now that you’ve got a way to capture those autographs, which character’s autograph would you most like to get? Here are a few whose autographs we got using this method.

Cinderella signing her autograph at Walt Disney WorldTiana signing her autograph at Walt Disney WorldSnow White signing her autograph at Walt Disney World

Mary Poppins signing her autograph at Walt Disney World

Marie signing her autograph at Walt Disney WorldDonald Duck signing his autograph in Walt Disney World


5 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Winnie the Pooh and Friends

The delightful Winnie The Pooh comes out on Blu-ray and DVD this week. I saw it twice—first with one set of nieces and nephews and then with the other. They laughed all the way through it, and so did I. Having grown up with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, I loved how the opening sequence was an homage to the original. The film was charming from beginning to end, and it reinforced my love for the inhabitants of Hundred Acre Wood.

So, in honor of the film’s release, here are five things to do in Walt Disney World if you love Winnie the Pooh and friends:

1. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Although many of us were sad to see Mr. Toad go, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a great non-scary dark ride. It has a new interactive queue which I still need to experience; I’ve heard it’s awesome! I love the incorporation of the book pages throughout the attraction.

2. Crystal Palace Restaurant Character Meal

Character meals are a great way to get autographs and photos without having to stand in line! At Crystal Palace, you can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore. We went there for my nephew’s first birthday, and when he was in the midst of smearing his cupcake frosting all over his face, Pooh came over and dabbed at his face with a napkin. So cute!

3. Meet-and-Greet in United Kingdom

You might not think of Epcot as a place to see characters, but characters can frequently be spotted in their respective countries in World Showcase. Last week’s Epcot Times Guide listed “Winnie The Pooh & Friends” in United Kingdom every day from 1:00-8:15 p.m. (with one 50-minute break from 4:45-5:35).

4. The Magic of Disney Animation

I’m guessing this is somewhat temporary because The Magic of Disney Animation usually features the latest film characters, but at least right now, Pooh can be found there. Last week’s Hollywood Studios Times Guide lists him there continuously from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

5. Animal Kingdom (Discovery Island or Camp Minnie-Mickey)

The appearances of Pooh characters here are a little less predictable. Last week’s Animal Kingdom Times Guide lists “Friends from Hundred Acre Wood” at Discovery Island near Flame Tree Barbecue. But I’ve also heard they can be found in Camp Minnie-Mickey. Amanda P. from the Disney Moms Panel said that even Rabbit is there sometimes.

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Unfortunately, this list is two experiences shorter than it used to be. Before Jake and the Never Land Pirates were added to Playhouse Disney—Live on Stage (and the name was changed to Disney Junior—Live on Stage), there was a My Friends Tigger & Pooh sequence. I haven’t seen the new show yet, so I can’t comment on whether it was a good change. If nothing else, it means there’s one more item on our list of things to do in Walt Disney World if you love pirates. The other experience we lost was the Pooh Corner shop in Downtown Disney, which had an adorable photo spot right outside. The store was closed in 2010 and replaced by Marketplace Fun Finds.

So, could you do all these in one Hundred Acre Wood-themed day? Yes, but it will involve hitting all four parks in a day! (And seeing the same characters in different parks in rapid succession. If you have small children with you, you might have to tell them the characters have faster transportation options than you do.) I’d start off with breakfast at Crystal Palace, because you can make reservations for before park opening. Then, head over and ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Your next move depends on the Times Guides. It’s easiest to get to Epcot from Magic Kingdom, because you can take the monorail right there, but if Pooh and friends aren’t in the UK until the afternoon, you might want to head to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios next. If you do take the monorail to Epcot, remember you can take the boat to Hollywood Studios, so the only bus you’ll need is from Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom. (I’m a fan of avoiding buses when possible.) If all goes well, you’ll have photos with Pooh and friends in four different parks (and you can compare their signatures to see how similar they are).

So what did I miss? Can you think of any other Pooh-related photo ops in Walt Disney World?