It’s a top 3 time! That’s right we’re back with another rendition of our underrated Walt Disney World attractions. After tackling the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, we’re ready to take on the underrated Animal Kingdom attractions. Are we up for another challenge, we like to think so! Alright, we’ve found the trail, let’s head out on a trek around our top 3 underrated Animal Kingdom attractions!
Oh no, the rules are back! Just like our other underrated attraction list we’re going abide by the same rules. As a refresher, here are the rules we’ve previously followed: First and foremost, the attraction should not have a FastPass. We’re looking for attractions that are flying under the radar. Second, the attraction should be available on a regular park day, not just with special events or parties. Sorry, Merry Menagerie on Discovery Island. While your life-size animal puppets are magically delightful, you’ll not qualify for this list. Lastly, no live entertainment. Whether it’s Rivers of Light, the Harambe performers, or our favorite, Festival of the Lion King we’re only looking for attractions. Alright, looks like the rules are set, let’s talk about our top 3 underrated Animal Kingdom attractions.
Passholder Insights: The best times to ride Flight of Passage in Pandora: World of Avatar is either first thing in the morning or as the last ride of the day.
It’s A Green Sensation
What you are talking about, Nate? The first underrated Animal Kingdom attraction we’re talking about is the Oasis. It’s the first thing and last thing you encounter when stepping in or out of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While the majority of people rightfully race (fast walk) to Flight of Passage, or are heading for the exit at the end of the day, many guests miss one of more unique aspects of the park. This lush area of the park is filled with animals and waterways to discover.
Whether you head left or right there’s unique animals to see. Heading up the left side when entering the park you’ll find the anteater. If you head up the right side keep your eyes to the sky as there’s an array of beautiful parrots and macaws to see. Through the center area the Oasis are gorgeous flowers, waterfalls, and other animals to discover. For us, we enjoying taking a few minutes to explore the Oasis either early in the afternoon or just before heading back to our resort. Beyond the wonderful animals this lush area provides a fantastic opportunity to get a break from the sun as it’s very well shaded.
Passholder Insights: When entering the park on the right side you may run into DeVine. This is a one of kind character encounter that is worth seeking out. Keep your eyes peeled as she uses her “vine” like qualities to hide within the landscape.
To The Trails
Trail? Which, trails? The second stop on our underrated Animal Kingdom attractions list brings us to Discovery Island. The centerpiece of the park, and home to the Tree of Life, is one of the most overlooked attractions. No, we’re not talking about A Bug’s Life, we’re talking about the Discovery Island Trails. Wrapping around the Tree of Life is a variety of trails that bring you through different animal encounters where you discover everything from sea life to red kangaroos. Fun fact, did you know the red kangaroo can measure up to six feet tall. Now, that’s a big a kangaroo!
Beyond the animals, the Discovery Island Trails bring you through caves and across bridges. The best part of the trails is how they bring you up close and personal with the Tree of Life and cravings within the tree. For us, what we enjoy the most about the trails is how secluded they feel. Many times we forget we’re in a theme park.
Passholder Insights: A great way to experience the Discovery Island Trails is through the Wilderness ExplorersClubgame. The game providers even more information around the animals.
Trek It Out
Let’s take a walk on the wild side. In our last underrated Animal Kingdom attractions, we’re heading out on a trek. A Maharajah Trek to be exact. While the Gorilla Falls Expedition Trail usually gets most of the attention. I mean who doesn’t love watching the gorillas! By far our favorite animal trail to explore in the Animal Kingdom is the Maharajah Trek in the Asia section of the park.
Tucked away behind Kali River Rapids is the entrance to this animal adventure. As you make your way along the trek you encounter a few of our favorites animals in the park, the Malayan flying fox and the komodo dragon. The stars of the area are by far the tigers. On a warm day, you may see them splashing in the water. Go figure, cats that enjoy the water, who would have thunk it! The trek is a great area to explore later in the day when the lines for the attractions tend to get the longest.
Passholder Insights: Just outside the Maharajah Trek are the Holwer Monkeys. We’ve noticed they tend to be most active and vocal in the morning.
A world of discovery! What makes the underrated Animal Kingdom attractions so much different than the other parks is there is no wait times. Each of these unique areas are come and go as you would like. They are perfect ways to spend time exploring when you have a few moments between the marque attractions. Alright, we did it! We successfully trekked around the Animal Kingdom and completed our top 3 list of underrated Animal Kingdom attractions. How should we celebrate? Drinks and food at Yak & Yeti here we come!
Flip a coin, any coin! We’re kidding, we’re definitely not using a coin for our DVC Reflections Resort update. Now a dartboard, that’s a strong maybe. We kid, we kid! News around the construction of Walt Disney World’s newest DVC resort has been hard to come by since everything changed in March of 2020. We’ve gathered all the intel and we believe we have a rough idea on what we should expect. Alright let’s lace up our favorite workboots, head to the construction, and get to our DVC Reflections Resort update!
The Back Story
We’re coming up on the two anniversary of the announcement of Reflections: A Disney Lake Side Lodge. Slated to be the next Walt Disney World DVC resort after Disney’s Riviera Resort opened at the end of last year. In August of 2019 at the D23 Expo Bob Chapek shared more details around the resort, including the Princess and the Frog themed restaurant. For a full breakdown of the resort, we recommend checking out the following article. Needless to say site prep and construction is well underway.
In March of 2020, all construction projects around Walt Disney World were paused due to COVID-19. As construction on a variety of projects from RemyRatatouilleAdventure to TronLifecycle PowerRun and the Magic Kingdom walkaway ramp back, will construction of Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge resume?
Our Reflections Resort update begins on April 3, 2020. On this date, Disney filed an array of permits for Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge. The permits included, bus stops, a table service restaurant, covered walkways, security kiosk, transportation dock, pool restroom building, and outdoor structures. With any construction permits, there is a cost and time limit associated with them. The permits have an expiration date of April 2021. It should be noted that Disney could always request an extension on the permits.
Breaking news! On June 14, 2020, our Reflections Resort update takes a turn. Drastic turn to say the least. On this day, multiple sources reported that Disney is cancelling the project. From what we can tell all the rumors seem to sight a comment from a well-known user on the WDW Magic forums. The user commented that construction workers were removing rebar from the Reflections Resort construction site. Based on this comment and the $900 million in savings Bob Chapek mentioned on The Walt Disney Company quarterly earnings call, many people assumed Disney is walking away from this project.
Fast-forward two weeks and we learn two more key pieces in our Reflections Resort update. First and foremost came from Jill Hill of Jim Hill Media. On his Disney Dish podcast, he makes mention that the Reflections project has been slowed, not cancelled. This would make the most sense as sales for Disney’s Riviera Resort have been slowed while the parks have been closed, as well as cost savings associated to the project would reflect in Disney’s 2020 fiscal year. The second key aspect came on June 30, 2020, when Disney filed another permit as it relates to Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge. Reported on the WDW Magic forums permit is for a natural gas line to be run to the construction site.
With this new information, especially the running of a gas line to the construction site, it could be assumed the Reflections Resort is still a viable project.
Slowly moving forward. In the DVC Duo house we believe the project is not cancelled. The takeaway we’ve gather from all the information in this Reflections Resort update is Disney is moving forward with the project, just at a slower pace. When the resort will official open is unknown, but knowing what we know about Disney Vacation Club, Disney will more than likely keep this project progressing. There is only one question left to ask on this Reflections Resort update, is it still a coin flip? If it is, we pick heads, as we believe Disney is moving ahead!
Is it the French or Italian Riviera? Why not both! Disney’s Riviera Resort is the newest of the Disney Vacation Club Resorts at Walt Disney World. On December 16, 2019, Disney’s Riviera Resort opened its doors to DVC members and guests. Located between Hollywood Studios and Epcot, the resort is a short Skyliner ride away from either park. It’s time to find your linen pants and fedora as we’re off to the European coastline for our DVC Duo review of Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Disney’s Riviera Resort is a look back to the EuropeWalt Disney fell in love with during his travels. The exterior of the resort is simple, elegant and looks like it was just plucked off the Mediterranean Sea and placed in Florida. Meandering around the grounds you’ll stumble upon beautiful gardens, water fountains, and majestic lakeside views. Stepping into the resort you immediately feel the European inspired design through the richness of the furnishing and one of kind artwork. No detail was too small for this resort, including title work in the archway leading to the resorts Skyliner station.
Entering the rooms you’re greeted with classic European styling from the color palette to the intricate details in the wood work. You immediately feel like royalty.
Passholder Insights: The tile archway at Disney’s Riviera Resort is a must see. When exiting the Skyliner follow the signs for the lobby, as the path brings you right through the archway.
With 489 guest rooms, Disney’s Riviera Resort is one largest DVC Resorts at Walt Disney World, only being surpassed by Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and Boardwalk Villas. The resort is a single building where all of the rooms are situated on either side of the main lobby. Each of the room types have one of two view types, either standard or preferred, except for the Tower Studio and 3 Bedroom Villa, which only offer one. The preferred view overlooks the lake. Below is a breakdown of the room options:
Tower Studio – Unique to the resort is a one of kind studio designed for two guests. The rooms consist of a living room with a couch that converts into a queen-sized bed. The full-size mattress pulls down from the wall, similar to a Murphy bed. Attached to the living room is the bathroom. Sleeps 2 people.
Deluxe Studio – Similar to your normal hotel room with one queen-sized bed, one queen-size Murphy bed sofa, 1 single pulldown bed, and a bathroom with two showers. Sleeps 5 people.
1 Bedroom Villa – Similar to 1 bedroom apartment, as these rooms have a kitchen, laundry facilities, living room, and large master bedroom with a jacuzzi tub and sink area. One bathroom with a standup shower and sink area. The living room couch has a pull-down queen bed and a pull-down single bed. Sleeps 5 people.
2 Bedroom Villa – The 2 bedroom villa is made up of a deluxe studio and 1 bedroom villa. The only difference is a second full bathroom and the addition of a walk-in closet in the deluxe studio portion where the entrance would normally be located. Sleeps 9 people.
3 Bedroom Villa – A single-story “house” that has the same facilities as the 1 and 2 bedroom villas with the following additions, a larger dining room, 3 total bathrooms, and 3 total bedrooms (1 king bed, 4 queen beds in each bedroom). The couch in the living room converts to a queen bed. Sleeps, 12 people.
We’ve stayed in all the room types at various resorts. In our opinion, what makes Disney’s Riviera Resort different than any of the other resorts is the bathroom configuration of the standard studios. Having two shower options is a big plus, especially if you’re up early to rope drop.
Passholder Insights: One of our favorite aspects of the rooms is the storage under the beds for luggage. Similar to Disney Cruise line rooms, most of your luggage can fit under the bed (standard studios and larger rooms).
Arriving at Disney’s Riviera Resort either by the Disney Magical Express, car, taxi, or rideshare you’ll be dropped off at the main lobby area. Bell services will greet you for any of your luggage needs. Stepping through the front door on your immediate left the gift shop with a limited selection of groceries and “grab and go” items and Le Petit Cafe. On the righthand side is the check-in and guest services. Traveling further into the lobby you find a staircase that brings you down to the Skyliner pathway as well as the airline luggage check-in area.
Depending on the time of day (before check-in time) we would recommend having bell services hold your bags so you can enjoy the magic. Of course, you could always take advantage of the Magical Express Luggage service and save yourself the hassle of lugging luggage as we do.
Unique to the resort is the Voyageurs’ Lounge attached to Le Petit Cafe. A must-see spot for any fan of Disney history. This area is filled with Walt Disney memorabilia. It’s the perfect spot to wait for your room or enjoy your morning coffee.
The Pools and Recreation
Heading down the staircase from the lobby you’ll come to an exit that brings you outside to a bocce court on the lefthand side and the adult pool (Beau Solei) on the right-side. For a more quiet day at the pool, we recommend hanging out at Beau Solei. Continuing towards the lake you’ll find a grand seating area for relaxing or enjoying a bit, or if you’re like us an adult timeout. Glancing off to your left you’ll the S’il Vous Play pool area.
The family-friendly S’il Vous Play pool area carries forwards the Mediterranean feel, all the way down to the umbrella styling. The large zero-entry pool has a good size waterslide that wraps around a Greek-inspired column tower. For the littlest of ones, there is a splash pad area with an array of characters from Fantasia. That’s right we’re talking about the ballerina hippos and ostrich from the movie.
Food, Did Some Say Food?
Disney’s Riviera Resort has wonderful options for food, and maybe one of the best places for a breakfast pastry. The offerings range from quick serve to signature dining. For a quick bite you can check out either Primo Piatto or Le Petit Cafe, which is quickly becoming our favorite spot for a coffee and pasty.
The resort offers one sit-down restaurant. Below is a breakdown of the restaurant:
Topolino’s Terrace – Located on top of the resort is Disney’s newest signature restaurant. With breath-taking views of both Hollywood Studios and Epcot, the restaurant offers breakfast and dinner. At breakfast you can dine with Mickey and friends in one of the best character dining options on property. Come nighttime the restaurants transitions into a Italian inspired restaurant where everything is made from scratch. Expect a full DVC Duo review coming soon.
Beyond the restaurant, Disney’s Riviera Resort has one of the more fun lounges at Walt Disney World. Serving as both the pool bar and lounge, Bar Riva is the boushy pool bar you’ve been looking for. Serving up a variety of classic cocktail and snacks it the perfect place to relax and take a break from the parks.
Workout? Who works out on vacation? If you haven’t figured it out, we’re those people. We like to break a sweat before heading to the parks. The gym has all the basics you need for a vacation workout. The one-piece we really enjoy about Disney’s Riviera Resort is the running path that connects to the Caribbean Beach Resort. Just under a mile, the loop is perfect for a quick jog.
Bravo! After the first night at Disney’s Riviera Resort we fell in love with it. From the two showers in the studio to the easy Skyliner ride to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, it a resort we’ll definitely be staying at again and again. If you’re looking for a resort with a centralized location to all the parks, this is your place. It definitely has more of an adult feel, but we saw tons of kids having a blast playing bocce ball and whipping down the slide. Disney Riviera Resort review complete, time to relax. We’ll see you at Bar Riva!
Vroom, vroom! Does a Lifecycle make the vroom vroom sound? Only time will tell. We’re back with another Tron construction update. After checking in on Remy over at Epcot, we’re continuing our adventure around the Walt Disney World construction sites at the Magic Kingdom. Over the past few years, we’ve been keeping an eye on the newest expansion to Tomorrowland and how it could set the tone for the rethemeing of Tomorrowland. In March of this year, the pause button was rightfully pushed. Has the time come to unpause? Let’s race into this Tron construction update!
Before The Incident
Like in the show Lost. The incident is what kicked everything off and put us in the place where we are today. Now, if we could only flashback like in the show to a time before the incident. Hmm, any ideas J.J.? Before March 16, 2020, we had a rough idea of when Tron Lifecycle PowerRun could open. We knew Disney planned for the new coaster at the Magic Kingdom to open at the start of the 50th-anniversary celebration. It would be one of the marquee attractions for the 15-month event. Fast-forward to today and everything regarding the schedule is a little in flux, including the start of the 50th (for more information on that, please see the following article).
Passholder Insights: The Walt Disney World Railroad is part of the update to Tomorrowland. There will be scenes added to the area, along with a new tunnel under the walkway to the Tron Lifecycle PowerRun.
Or is it gearing up? Either way, we got our first Tron construction update since everything got flipped upside down on Thursday, June 25, 2020. In an interview for D23 members around rethemeing Splash Mountain, Bob Weis (President of Walt Disney Imagineering) said construction around Tron would have a phased restart. Phased restart? Would could that mean? If we’re reading between the lines, which we like to do, it could be a nice way of saying conserving construction dollars for Disney’s 2020 fiscal year. In the DVC Duo, we believe this could be related to $900 million Bob Chapek mentioned around cost savings for 2020. Lucky for us, The Walt Disney Company’s fiscal year ends on September 30, 2020.
Passholder Insights: Outside of Space Mountain Disney has set-up a couple of the coaster cars for guests to try out the ride vehicles. From our understanding Disney is using this to see how easy it is for guests to enter and exit the vehicle.
Garage Is Opening
Do you store a Lifecycle in a garage? Like a Tesla? Looks like we’ll have to do more research around Lifecycles prior to our next Tron construction update. Anyways, thanks to Blog Mickey on June 30, 2020, we got our first siting of construction workers back on the Tron worksite. From what we can tell in the images it looks like its mostly site prep to start. Which would make a lot of sense. Additionally, we learned that Disney is asking for workers to park in the Magic Kingdom parking lot. Within the parking lot, the workers are being tested for COIVD-19 prior to being transported to the worksite. Tools in all. This is a new safety measure deployed by Disney, as previously the workers would park around the site.
Passholder Insights: Disney is deploying an array of safety measures around the parks and resorts for both guests and cast members. For more information please reference the following article.
We are just filled with questions on Lifecycles today. For example, can they stall like a car? Either way, there is a key piece in this Tron construction update that we will have to keep close tabs on. Supplies. While the workers have returned to the construction we’ve heard from Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, that supplies, primary concrete are very limited. Some estimates have Disney waiting until October of 2020 to receive their shipments. This could be one of the primary reason Bob Weis said phases and why lower cost could be reflected in the $900 million in savings.
If this true, our estimates have the Tron coaster opening closer to the end of 2021/beginning of 2022. This may work well if Disney moves forward with shifting the dates around the 50th anniversary.
Passholder Insights: The limited construction supplies could impact a variety of projects around Disney World. The one project moving forward quickly is the addition of The Cove to the Swan and Dolphin Resorts.
Small, but note worthy Tron construction update. The key piece to all the new information is Disney is 100% not delaying or stopping the progress of the new attraction. It may be delayed a few months, but we fully expected that to happen. For now we’re heading to the research room to learn more about Lifecycles!
Three! We only get three choices for our best Magic Kingdom dark rides. Ugh, this will be no easy task. If the Magic Kingdom is known for anything it’s the abundance of dark rides. And, Cinderella’s Castle of course. Oh yeah, Dole Whip too. Ok, let’s all agree the Magic Kingdom is known for many things and dark rides are definitely one of them. It’s fair to say we’ve delayed our list of the best Magic Kingdom dark rides long enough. Let’s make a list!
Or, better known as the rules. Just like our underrated Magic Kingdom attractions list, we need some structure. For our best Magic Kingdom dark rides, we’ll use the following criteria to help build our list. First and foremost, the attraction must be family-friendly and have no height requirements. Secondly, the majority of the ride must be inside, we are talking about dark rides after all. The last piece is the story. What has always made Disney dark rides stand apart are the stories the attractions tell.
Passholder Insights: Early in the morning or at the end of the day are when you’ll find the shortest wait times for the popular rides.
You know we’re always good for a surprise! First up on our best Magic Kingdom dark rides list is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. What can say, Winnie the Pooh is one our all time favorite characters. Well, more like Eeyore for Serena and Tigger for Nate. Beyond, the nostalgia for the characters, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has a couple of our favorite pieces of Disney Magic.
In a “how do they do that moment?” is one the best scenes on a Disney dark ride. What scene? It’s scene leading into the Heffalumps and Woozles where Pooh falls a sleep and you see his spirit drift off. We’ve been wracking our brains for years to figure out Disney Imagineering created this effect.
Our second Disney Magic moment is subtle. Prior to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh moving into the space it was home to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. To honor the previous attraction Imagineering added an Easter egg to the attraction where Mr. Toad is handing a key to Owl. We always love when Disney adds this nods to the past.
Passholder Insights: Directly next to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is Storybook Treats. This is where you’ll find the delicious and Instagram worthy Peter Pan Float.
To where? Adventureland! The next stop on our best Magic Kingdom dark rides journey brings us to a Disney classic, Pirates of the Caribbean. Over the years we’ve seen a variety of iterations of this Disney classic attraction. From the additions of Jack Sparrow and Red to the ever-changing opening scene that’s had everything from Davey Jones to mermaids. For us, what makes Pirates of the Caribbean an all-time great dark ride are the things that have remained the same, the music and the details.
How can you not help but sing a Yo Ho (A Pirate’s LifeFor Me) while sailing through Pirates of the Caribbean? We’re not going to lie, we’re singing it while we write this part of the article. Written by a Disney Legend, Xavier Atencio, or better known as X, the music is what carries you through the attraction. It sets the tone for the fun, light-hearted adventure through the Caribbean and leaves you wondering, is a Pirate’s Life for Me?
Not to be outdone by the music, the details are what keep us coming back. There is no detail too small, from the leg hair on the animatronics to mythical hidden Mickey in the final scene with Jack. Yes it is true, from what we understand there is a hidden Mickey tuck-away it all the loot behind Jack. One day we will find, one day! No matter what every time we ride Pirates of the Caribbean we discover something new, and let’s say that’s no easy achievement.
Passholder Insights: Fun fact, the drop on Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is used to go under the Walt Disney World Railroad track.
Did you guest it? Here’s one more hint at which attraction tops our best Magic Kingdom dark rides list, “There’s room for 1000”. It’s hard to find a better dark ride than The Haunted Mansion. From the word go, you’re part of the attraction. Stepping into line the story begins from the hidden tale within the busts to the hysterically pun ridden gravestones, this is an attraction where every little detail plays a part. Don’t blink or you may miss something important.
With The Haunted Mansion it is near impossible to pinpoint an aspect or two that are the best. Yes, it’s that well done. If we had to pick our favorite scene by far is the attic. You were probably thinking we were going to say the ballroom scene right? While that scene is mind-blowing, there is something about the attic scene. Oh, it’s Constance Hatchaway. By far the star of The Haunted Mansion, you’ll find Constance through out your journey. From the stretch room to the attic scene and final bone chilling words of “Hurry back”, Constance is constant in the Haunted Mansion.
Beyond Constance, what makes The Haunted Mansion top our list is how timeless of an attraction it is. As an opening day attraction, the ride is still relevant today, which few changes from the original. If anything, Disney has only many enhancements to it. From the addition of the interactive queue to the endless staircase room, and of course Constance Hatchaway in 2006, all “pluses” have been fantastic. Similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, the music is what makes the attraction so timeless. Once again we can thank X. Thank you, X!
Passholder Insights: One of the big differences between The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom is the stretching room and how it works. One version goes down and the other the roof goes up. #NoSpoilers here!
Phew! We did it. We made through our best Magic Kingdom dark rides list. By no means was this an easy task. If you ask us tomorrow we’re sure our list would be different. Ok, there is only one thing left to do. Volunteer!