I love wearing graphic tees to the parks, as I’ve mentioned before. I’ve especially grown to love crossover tees, featuring two or more characters/movies/fandoms in one shirt. Crossover tees featuring something from the Disney Universe and the Universal Universe are especially cool because it’s a nuance you rarely see. Crossover memorabilia always reminds me of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Featuring Looney Tunes and Disney characters, the film is arguable the first feature-length crossover movie with widespread popularity.
Check out these unique tees below. P.S. – They’re all $20 or less
Have you ever wanted to uncover the secrets behind Disney magic? The Backstage Magic tour at Walt Disney World allows guests to do just that. I went on the tour during my last trip to WDW in June 2015.
Is the Backstage Magic tour for everyone? No. Is it perfect for the Disney parks obsessed? Absolutely. Bear in mind that this tour is seven hours long. I would not book this tour on a vacation unless I had at least five full days at the parks. You have to be at least 16 years old to experience the tour, and I think it’s perfect for anyone age 16 and up as long as a passion for the parks exists.
Creative Costuming at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where Disney parks costumes are created
Central Shops, the storage and building area for ride vehicles, audio-animatronics, and more
Backstage at The American Adventure
The Utilidor, the underground means of transportation at the Magic Kingdom
Backstage at the Tower of Terror
Where do you go on the Backstage Magic tour?
You visit all four parks, plus a few extra locations. Below the locations are listed in order of the tour.
This is where you meet for the tour. Here your bus will take you to backstage Epcot, where you will learn that things are much closer backstage to make work easier for cast members. For example, Test Track and Mexico are next-door neighbors backstage. It takes a good 15 minutes to walk between these locations when you are on stage (in the park as a guest).
The highlight of the Epcot visit is going behind-the-scenes at The American Adventure, the audio-animatronics show at World Showcases’ America pavilion. The different scenes of the show are set up like a conveyer belt, sending the next scene up to the stage from down below. You also get to touch an audio-animatronic figure’s head!
After visiting The American Adventure, you’ll discuss forced perspective, a technique used throughout the Disney parks, which makes guests think something is bigger or smaller than it actually is by use of clever architecture. Want to experience forced perspective for yourself? Next time you visit the America pavilion, ask a friend to walk up to the doors of The American Adventure while you stand near the fountain. The door should shrink as your friend gets closer, but it doesn’t. That’s because this colonial, two-story structure is actually three stories due to the need for extra space. However, there were no three-story buildings during the colonial period, so Imagineers had to get creative with window and door sizes.
Walt Disney World Nursery & Tree Farm
You know those beautiful topiaries you see throughout the parks? This is where they are constructed. You will probably see horticultural cast members at work while you visit, stuffing a topiary frame with moss or clipping away unnecessary leaves on a new figure. They also house topiaries that are not currently in use here. Since the Flower and Garden festival had just ended when I visited, we were able to see a lot of those figures. This part of the tour is especially fun for those who like to garden.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
As mentioned above, this was a low point of the tour. You drive in through the backstage area, where you can see some of the animal containment areas, but you can also see these during the train ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. We were able to ask a few questions about Avatar Land, which is currently under construction, and Rivers of Light, the new nighttime show for Animal Kingdom. Rivers of Light will be similar to World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure and will feature some beautiful Tibetan-inspired costumes for the dancers (we saw one at Creative Costuming). We didn’t learn much about Avatar Land that we didn’t already know, but when you visit Animal Kingdom right now, you can tell that it’s going to be huge.
At Animal Kingdom, you meet a Wild Africa Trek guide and learn a little about his or her background. If you want to truly go behind the scenes at Animal Kingdom, you have to book the Wild Africa Trek tour. I have yet to experience it, but I hope to soon.
That’s it for Animal Kingdom. I understand that the tour has to pack a lot of experiences in only seven hours, but adding a more special backstage experience to Animal Kingdom would really help.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
My favorite and one of my least favorite parts of the tour happened here. I fell in love with Creative Costuming, and I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the backstage area of Tower of Terror.
If you’ve ever been on the now defunct Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you may remember seeing Creative Costuming. Designers design and seamstresses create Disney parks costumes here, including costumes for Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line. They create the character costumes; for example, I saw Sadness from Inside Out and Olaf in the midst of creation. They create costumes for the parades and shows; we saw a few for Beauty and the Beast in the works and the Tibetan costume for Rivers of Light. Creative Costuming is decorated with design sketches and photos, making it a prettier backstage area than most. As a fashion enthusiast and an amateur on a sewing machine, this was my absolute favorite part of the tour. We also saw someone from Marvel who was waiting to meet with someone at Creative Costuming. Right now, the Marvel characters only appear at Disneyland and on Disney Cruise Line due a deal with Universal Studios. But, we learned, this could be changing as Universal may change their Marvel area to Transformers. Just a rumor, but you never know.
My favorite attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is Tower of Terror, so I was excited to see it behind-the-scenes. You get to see one of the ride vehicles and learn how it operates, but that’s it. I thought we would get to see more inside the actual building, so I was disappointed.
Lunch – The Whispering Canyon Cafe
Lunch is included with your tour at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. It was my first time there, and it’s an experience. The wait staff is rude in order to become the characters they play, and it’s hilarious. As part of the tour, you share an all-you-can-eat barbecue platter with beef, pork and chicken options, as well as cornbread, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Your dinner ends with cobbler; ours was blueberry. If you are vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, be sure to tell your tour guide at the beginning of the day (they’ll ask), and accommodations will be made for you.
I’m not a huge barbecue person, so I probably will not go back to Whispering Canyon. My husband, who has a huge appetite, enjoyed it thoroughly.
This was my second favorite part of the tour. Central Shops, warehouses and design shops near the Magic Kingdom, create, repair, and store ride vehicles, audio-animatronics, and more. You’ll see some old favorites here, like the polar bear from Maelstrom and Bonnie Appetite from Kitchen Kabaret. In the paint shop, all the colors are created especially for each attraction. Mickey’s shorts aren’t just red; they’re Mickey’s Red Shorts red. Nearby Central Shops, you’ll spot the transportation hub, the service area for the Monorail and other Disney transportation. They even have an entire warehouse devoted to storing their Christmas decorations. I wish we could have gone in there.
You end the tour where the Florida project started at the Magic Kingdom. Your tour guides will point out the offices above Main Street, U.S.A., including the Magic Kingdom’s president’s office. Here you also get to visit the underground utilidor, the means of delivery and transportation throughout the Magic Kingdom. Remember, the utilidor and all other backstage areas are not decorated. This can be shocking when you’re used to the well-themed areas of onstage Disney. You’ll see maps on the walls directing you throughout the utilidor as well as cast member services.
After visiting the utilidor, you will end the day with the parade. I am not a big parade fan, but Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy is worth it. I wouldn’t use a FastPass for it — the floats are huge and easy to see — but I would make time to watch it once.
Some final points about the tour:
Cost: $249 (includes lunch)
Does it include park admission? No. You will be taken to the Epcot bus loading area when the tour is over. You cannot sneakily stay in the Magic Kingdom following the tour.
Length: 7 hours
How many people are on the tour? There were about 20-25 people on our tour.
Attire: You have to wear closed-toed shoes on this tour for safety purposes backstage. There are no exceptions.
How many tour guides are there? Two. You will be broken up into two groups during parts of the tour. Listening devices make it easy to here your guides when you aren’t close to them.
What about snacks? Bottled water is provided on the tour. If you want a snack, you’ll have to bring it with you. I brought a protein bar along with me.
Pick up and drop off? The tour starts and begins outside the entrance to Epcot.
How do I book it? Call 407-WDW-TOUR. You typically need to book these tours far in advance because they are not usually offered every day.
Can I take pictures? Photography is strictly forbidden in backstage areas. You can take pictures when you are on stage.
Bathroom breaks? You’ll have several opportunities to visit the restroom on the tour. There’s also a restroom on your bus.
Synopsis: If you are Disney Parks obsessed like me and you have at least five full days at the parks during your vacation, this tour is for you. This is not for first-time Disney guests or for people who are not interested in traveling backstage. Remember, the backstage areas are not usually decorated, so it can be a little jarring. However, going behind the scenes made me appreciate the park more. It did not spoil the magic.
If you haven’t noticed, it’s summer. Summer is hot, particularly in central Florida.
And, no, I’m not wimpy. I grew up in Alabama and now live in Louisiana, two very humid places. I also spent an entire summer in Orlando. Even when you’re used to the heat and humidity, it can be startling. Usually Florida offers summertime afternoon showers that help the day cool down a little, but during my last vacation to WDW in June, the Sunshine State lived up to its name with no rain.
Remember, you can fill up a cup or water bottle with water from Disney’s water fountains. The water is filtered, but it does come out slowly. It’s not usually cold, either. You can also get a cup of ice water for free from most quick service restaurants at Walt Disney World.
But what if you’re looking for some AC? The following spots at the Magic Kingdom will help you out.
The Hall of Presidents, located in Liberty Square, has an air-conditioned waiting area with seating (couches full? I plop down on the floor). Shows last 23 minutes and run constantly during park hours. Even if you walk in just as a show is starting, you are guaranteed over 20 minutes of air-conditioned waiting time. Don’t worry about the show ever being full; there are 700 seats in the theatre. Aside from being a break from the summer heat, the Hall of Presidents is a very Walt-inspired attraction due to his patriotism and love for Abraham Lincoln.
Not only does the Tiki Room offer ten minutes of air-conditioned bliss, it’s also an important part of Disney history. After purchasing a mechanical bird on a trip, Walt was inspired to create the first-ever Audio-Animatronics show, The Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland. Without the creation of The Enchanted Tiki Room, attractions like it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion may have never come to fruition.
At the beginning of the show, a cast member wakes up the birds. But, some say that if a guest asks nicely, he/she can awake the birds from their slumber.
Just like the Hall of Presidents, you will only have to wait for the previous show to end before entering. The Enchanted Tiki Room is rarely (if ever) filled to capacity.
The Enchanted Tiki Room is now located next to Aloha Isle, so continue cooling down with a Dole Whip after the show. My favorite treat is the Dole Whip float, pineapple ice cream served atop pineapple juice.
The Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, an interactive comedy show hosted by Mike Wazowski, rarely has a wait. If the wait is ever more than 15 minutes, come back later. During the middle of the day in peak season, less-popular attractions will sometimes have inflated wait times. The good news is that the waiting area is completely inside. The ten-minute show is also aptly cooled.
Each show is different based on its interactive nature, keeping the attraction interesting.
This is another attraction that you should come back for if the wait is more than 15 minutes. You generally only have to wait until the previous show finishes before entering the theatre. The waiting area is also inside.
This 3D, 12-minute-long show is the perfect 3D show in my opinion. You get to experience some of the most iconic Disney scenes and song, including “A Whole New World,” “Be Our Guest,” “You Can Fly,” “Part of Your World,” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” I’m afraid that this show could be revamped soon, as it was featured in the Times guide while I was there. When nothing particularly special is going on, Disney will feature attractions that aren’t getting as much love as others in the Times guide. If they do decide to revamp PhillarMagic, I hope they keep the tour of Disney songs theme. It helps the show from getting old because most people enjoy hearing those classic tunes over and over again.
The PeopleMover is one of the most underrated attractions in Magic Kingdom. It’s not inside, but the ride offers a constant breeze during your overhead tour of Tomorrowland. The PeopleMover rarely has a wait, and sometimes I get off and get right back on when I need a break from the heat and crowds.
My favorite part has to be traveling inside Space Mountain. The ingenuity to put a ride within a ride is so Disney.
The only attractions in this list that offer FastPass+ service are Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor and PhillarMagic, but do not use a FastPass on these attractions. It will be a waste of a FastPass because you won’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for either ride.
Throwing out $169 for pictures may seem like a high price to pay, but purchasing Disney’s Memory Maker (advance purchase price: $169; regular price: $199) is worth it.
What do you get?
1. All photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers
This means everywhere you see a Disney PhotoPass photographer, usually wearing a khaki vest and holding a Nikon camera, is up for grabs. When I first used the MemoryMaker in 2014, PhotoPass photographers were usually at the front of the park (near each park’s landmark) and at character meet and greets. When I visited in 2015, I noticed that PhotoPass photographers seem to be in more locations and in those locations for longer periods of time.
Where can I find PhotoPass photographers (usually)?
Main Street, U.S.A. — Leading up to the castle and near the founder’s statue
Liberty Square — Side view of castle
Tomorrowland Entrance — Side view of castle
Frontierland — Exiting Big Thunder Mountain
Fantasyland — Near Ariel’s castle
Fountains at FutureWorld
France — Fountains
France — Eiffel Tower view
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Park Entrance — Great Movie Ride in the background
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Archway — near the entrance to Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Tower of Terror
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Ticket Kiosks — Before entering the park, many like to snap a picture under the Disney’s Animal Kingdom sign
Tree of Life — Various angles
2. All photos from character meet and greets
Not only do PhotoPass photographers snap posed pictures at character meet and greets, but they also capture candid shots. These candid shots can be difficult to capture if you don’t have someone else in your party dedicated to snapping pictures.
Candid shots are usually my favorites (above). If you don’t have someone in your party taking pictures for you, the blueberry (a term used for Disney character handlers in blue shirts) will take a picture for you. Usually, they do a great job. I’ve also had blueberries take completely out-of-focus pictures that may or may not contain the subjects (ahem…Darth Vader meet and greet last year…ahem). Using the photos from the Disney PhotoPass photographer guarantees the photos will be high-quality shots.
3. All ride photos
Yes, you will receive every photo from every ride you venture on that takes your picture. Every ride does not take your picture, but many popular attractions do. If you link your MemoryMaker to your Disney MagicBand, then you don’t have to visit the photo kiosk following the ride. Your MagicBand already knows you were on the ride! It’s fun, convenient, and a little creepy.
Rides that take your picture:
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Seven Dwarves Mine Train (you can’t view these photos following the ride, but they show up on your MemoryMaker…as does a video)
Tower of Terror
Spaceship Earth (doesn’t show up on your MemoryMaker, but you can email this photo for free)
Did I miss any?
4. Photos with a bit of magic
Some of your photos will have some fun effects treated with Disney magic. You don’t know what the effect will be until you look at your photos!
With the MemoryMaker, you get all of your photos digitally for one price. After your trip, you will have about a month to download your photos. You can download the photos once, but you can make as many copies as you would like for your party. One traveling party only needs one MemoryMaker!
If you’re tired of asking strangers to take your picture, it’s time to get MemoryMaker. My husband HATES having pictures made, but knowing that pictures were quick and easy with a PhotoPass photographer made them WAY more manageable. Plus, he liked getting the ride pictures.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m jetting off to Walt Disney World today. I woke up promptly at 6 a.m. (we are not leaving for several, several hours).
My previous post shared trying new things at Disney, something I like to do every time I go. Below, though, I’ve shared some of the old favorites I can’t miss. Nostalgia makes the heart grow fonder, right?
This is our absolute favorite restaurant. The theming is spot-on, and the food is always delicious. We are spending our anniversary dinner here! My favorite? Chicken Parm (I don’t eat beef/pork, so the classic spaghetti and meatballs is a no go for me). I previously wrote a review of Tony’s here.
2. Dumbo the Flying Elephant –
Probably my first favorite Disney ride, Dumbo never disappoints, and it’s a Disneyland/WDW original. Plus, you get great views of Fantasyland and Storybook Circus. With the expanded Dumbo ride at WDW, wait time has improved. Plus, there’s rarely a long wait late at night at Magic Kingdom.
As you can see, I’ve been a Dumbo fan for QUITE a while. Hint: I’m the small child.
3. Dole Whips –
Dole Whips, available at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom and (new) Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Animal Kingdom. Soft serve pineapple ice cream from the kings of pineapple, Dole, is a must. I always opt for the Dole Whip Float, soft serve pineapple ice cream served on top of fresh pineapple juice. Dole Whips and Dole Whip Floats both count as snacks on the Disney Dining Plan!
4. Space Mountain as many times as possible –
I love riding Space Mountain over and over (and over and over) again. I remember waiting forever to be able to ride it (I was a short child and a short adult). When I finally could, I was amazed. The darkness makes it incredible, and the last drop (you know what I’m talking about) makes me scream every time. If you’re lucky, sometimes a cast member will let you ride it back to back without getting back in line. It pays to be friendly!
5. Soarin’ – I’ve been giving the MK a lot of love, but my favorite Disney attraction of all time is Soarin’. I rode it for the first time at the ride’s original home in Disney’s California Adventure before Soarin’ opened a second location at Epcot. I was upset to see Food Rocks go (there was something special and nostalgic about this musical concerning nutrition), but I loved gaining Soarin’. The technology, images and music (which played at our wedding) are perfect. I cry every time.
6. Spaceship Earth
An Epcot original (that’s sensed been reimagined), Spaceship Earth is visually amazing and one of the most iconic park figures. The ride inside, narrated by the lovely Judi Dench, celebrated human innovation (or communication, depending on if you accept the update or not. Communication is the original theme, as the ride was once sponsored by AT&T). As a journalism major and media professional, the excitement of the printing press and the first newspapers are my favorite parts of the ride.
These are just a few of my Disney favorites. Be sure to follow along on Instagram (@tarabulburton) to see my trip!