#Adulting: Tune-In Lounge

Diannysus has a great tip about a cool place to relax.

For years our family would enjoy our Disney vacations with only our daughters in mind. We would plan around what they would enjoy the most. Now that we enjoy adult vacations in Disney, I’m looking for other types of entertainment!


Epcot has plenty of locations for adult drinks and food, but other parks are limited.In Hollywood Studios, the Tune-In Lounge has been our go-to spot for lots of fun on a hot summer afternoon. I had thought it was just where people wait for a table at the Prime Time Cafe, but it is our hidden gem of a stand alone “attraction”. Festive drinks, wine, and snacks are what draws us in to the Lounge, but great servers, the usual Disney hospitality, and fun clientele are what keeps us there through the heat of the afternoon. There’s something about a yummy windex-colored drink with a flashing ice cube in it that screams “Yay we’re on vacation in Disney “


WDWhat to Wear: In Praise of the Maxi Skirt

Many people dress sensibly for a day in park: outdoorsy shirt, shorts, and sneakers. If you’re happy and comfortable in such a getup, I will be the last person to tell you to dress otherwise. But with so many photo opportunities—creating memories that could last a lifetime—I like to feel a bit cuter than that, particularly if we’re going out for a nicer table service dinner. Dressing up for dinner has always been a fun part of any vacation for me, and I don’t like to give it up. Also, I hate, Hate, HATE wearing sneakers and socks all day in the heat.

I hope to post more in the future about various Disney fashion choices, particularly footwear alternatives to the dreaded sneaker, but I wanted to begin this series with my absolute favorite, if somewhat unconventional, item of Disney fashion: the maxi skirt.

DSC_0862Ladies (or more adventurous gentlemen), if you haven’t worn a maxi skirt to the parks, I encourage you to give it a try. The advantages are as follows:

1) Temperature Control: On all but the hottest summer days, a maxi skirt can keep you cool and comfortable. If I get a little warm, I just hike up the skirt or flap it around to waft some air up there. But the long length also makes it comfortable in over-air-conditioned restaurants and attractions.

2) Maneuverability: Any length skirt can work on many attractions, but with a maxi skirt, you can squat and straddle your way onto even Space Mountain with confidence. It’s also great if you’re icked out by having your bare legs touch benches and other seats.

3) Day-to-Night Style: A maxi skirt is my go-to for marathon days in the parks. It can look casual enough for daytime rides and still dressy for a nicer dinner. The flexible temperature control is also great if you’re traveling at a time of year with hot days and cooler nights and mornings.

4) Comfort: At the end of the day, who are we kidding? A maxi skirt is basically a blanket you wear wrapped around you all day. Bothered by a little friction where it isn’t wanted? Pop on a pair of shorts underneath, and you’re good to go. Or go without for the ultimate in breathability.

So there you have it, the ultimate in WDW style and comfort. I hope you give it a try!

Picture Perfect: Tea Cups

Disney is one of my passions, another is photography. Combining the two is one of my great joys in life. In addition, much of my Disney photography involves my family, so that is the trifecta of my life’s joys.

The name of this feature is a little bit of a joke. As anyone who has ever taken a picture before knows, there is no such thing as perfect. My goal in this feature is to give some quick tips to those who have a camera and want to take a cool picture no matter what skill level. I will talk a little bit about things like shutter speed and depth of field. I’m happy to go into more detail if anyone has any questions, but most everything I talk about can be achieved almost as well on automatic. The most important thing is to take the pictures. Perfect doesn’t matter.

IMG_4305 (1)
My wife on the Tea Cups. This was my first attempt at this particular shot and I loved it.

My first tip is actually a great example of perfect not mattering. I love the Tea Cups in Magic Kingdom. They are a fun classic Disney ride, the line is rarely very long and it is hard not to smile on them. It is also one of my favorite spots to snap a photo of some loved ones.

My wife took this picture of me in the Tea Cups with my sister’s family and my GoPro (another great option for this ride).

I like this photo opportunity because it won’t be part of anyone else’s PhotoPass so you get a unique shot and it can be done pretty easily. Just get in the cup with your subject (you can even do a selfie if you want). By sharing a cup, you and the camera automatically share the same movement which will keep your subject pretty sharp and will create a great blur in the background. The photo looks so active and fun, much like the ride. Make sure to use your camera strap and hold on to it tight, the g-force can get intense if you have someone who spins the cup like crazy (I’m looking at you, my niece and nephews).

Technically Speaking: For those of you who just want the basics and aren’t interested in some of the more technical details, feel free to skip to past this part. For those of you interested in some of the technical stuff, here it is. I use a Canon 6D dslr. I had the 24-105 f/4 L lens at 30 mm and was shooting pretty wide open, maybe f/4.5 or 5.0. You need to balance you shutter speed a bit to blur the background but keep your subject sharp. You’ll have to fudge a bit here. I used something 60 – 80 range. I had a somewhat high ISO to make sure I had enough light. I was around 1600.

You might end up with your subject a little blurred or without the perfect composition, don’t worry about it. It is such a fun shot, those little imperfections just add to the overall mood of the photo. Just remember to be safe, have fun, and keep shooting.

Hidden Gem: Jumping Water Fountains

With a less than popular ride and a mostly unused pavilion, EPCOT’s Jumping Fountain, today’s hidden gem, goes unnoticed. These simple water features, which defy gravity, capture the imagination of children and can be a cool place for adults to rest while their little ones chase the dancing droplets and get a little wet. IMG_6888They can be found right by the exit from the Journey Into Imagination with (not enough) Figment and the Disney and Pixar Film Fest, tucked in a corner and away from the more well traveled paths.   I remember being fascinated by these as a child, as well as the nearby “backwards” fountain.  Neither is talked about much or featured on many itineraries, but it is a can’t miss for my family. Surprisingly, my niece and nephews request to visit those fountains every trip. There is no line, no FastPass, no extra cost, and no limit. Too often we can let our Disney vacations become a race from one E ticket (popular) attraction to another. Instead, a trip to the Jumping Fountains can offer a much needed respite and a change of pace and an oasis in the hustle and bustle. Remember, vacations to Disney World are still vacations and EPCOT is the perfect place to slow down and smell the roses (sometimes literally). On your next trip, leave some time to enjoy this oft unappreciated hidden gem.

Additional tip, your kids might enjoy the nearby wildlife too.

7 Magical Ways to Save EPCOT

“Where do you think you are, Disney World?! Get your strollers in line and hustle!” – General Knowledge

EPCOT needs help. There a few key things that can be done to save it.

EPCOT, since childhood, has been my favorite park. Just spending time in EPCOT, on the walkways and by its fountains, brings me a joy like no where else in the world. That being said, EPCOT is a sad shadow of its former self. The downfall started in the mid to late 90’s. Though this article is about the future of EPCOT and not the past, I think it is important to understand what made EPCOT so wonderful to understand where is should go. Attractions like Horizons, Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, Universe of Energy, and eventually the Wonders of Life pavilion all had a similar theme. All of those attractions were about the potential of the human race. What I remember most about EPCOT was seeing where we as a people had been and all the possibilities of where we could go. Magic Kingdom was about fantasy and fairytales. EPCOT separated itself with a foundation in reality that expanded into possibility. That is what EPCOT needs to recapture, the wonder and excitement that comes with dreaming about tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow. With that in mind, here are my suggestions for improving EPCOT.

20160710-DSCF4987Leave the World Showcase Alone.

I wouldn’t do much, if anything in the World Showcase. If you could get a country to sponsor a pavilion and you wanted to add it fine, but the countries are still very good and continue to evolve in small ways over time that feel both appropriate and progressive. There are a number of attractions being added on the long term Disney plan. I’m not so much of a purist that I see a problem with rides in World Showcase. I say the more rides (appropriately themed and located) the better. However, I recognize that there are limited resources and the World Showcase isn’t where they need to spend them. Spend the time and resources in Future World.


Innovations hasn’t been innovative in a very long time. Bring back real innovation. This could be a place for car manufacturers, technology companies, game companies, and others to display their lastest and greatest. Make this a spot to host rotating displays like those at the yearly CES show. Make this the place that we can see what is next, what is on the horizon. You can feature kickstarter projects and humantitarian projects too. Disney’s Innovations gets so much exposure all year long, you have to imagine companies and startups would love that exposure. Make it a competition and the best ideas, the most innovative, get to display there for a number of months or a year. It would make the space feel new and dynamic while costing very little to Disney.

Bring back Horizons

I don’t really want Horizons brought back, but something like Horizons. Spaceship Earth and Horizons were a two part attraction, one about the achievements of humanity, the other about what was possible next. When they shut down Horizons, they lost the second part of that beautiful story. They need anattraction (not a thrill ride) that once again speaks to the possible future of the human race. It can’t use a technology that will be obsolete is a few years, and it can’t be short sighted. It has to really push the boundaries. They need to remember the roots of Disney and the dream of EPCOT. So this ride needs to make nods to the past with being absolutely present and all about a dream of our distant future. Also, it should be a classic Disney dark ride. A ride accessible to everyone, so that young and old can share in the dream together.

Let Figment be your Guide

I am partial to Figment. He has always been one of my favorite characters and he is unique to EPCOT. His ride is terrible now and he has been relegated to a very small role in the park. He should be one of the central figures of the park. To me, Duffy has always been a poor attempt at a marketing ploy, Figment should have always been the cartoonish face of EPCOT. They need to redevelop and expand his ride and the experience at the imagination pavilion. That is where all human advancements start, and so the ride, pavilion, and display should speak to and encourage that. The senses thing doesn’t work and doesn’t make sense. Make it about creativity, art, and invention.

The Wonders of Life

This was a very cool pavilion with a couple of very cool attractions. They should bring this, or something like it, back. Inside/Out seemed like such a neat opportunity to bring new intellectual property to EPCOT and a perfect marriage. I remember appreciating this pavilion as a adolescent and teen. Cranium Command always spoke to me and made my whole family laugh. 

Get Rid of Mars Ride

It should have never been there to begin with and was another misstep in creating EPCOT’s current condition. It is dated and EPCOT was never about thrill rides (I’m looking at you too Guardians of the Galaxy). You can have trilling moments, but they shouldn’t be the kind that are going to make anyone sick.

The Lesson of the Second Half of Spaceship Earth

When they changed Spaceship Earth, they added a technology that was cutting edge at the time to the end of the ride. But cutting edge is old news very quickly. Compare this to the illusion of the ghost riding in the car or dancing in the ballroom in the haunted mansion. That technology has been around for decades and it still creates a sense of magic and wonder. They need to ignore what is new and neat and look at what will make generations of people for years and years say, “wow!” There is going to be a temptation to use VR maybe, and that is fine, especially in Innovations and small attractions, but what makes Disney special is the magic they bring to the experience.

Disney needs to be about experiences. Technology is one of many tools that should help tell a story and build an experience. When it gets in the way of those things, it ceases to serve its purpose.

This is how you save EPCOT. Simple right. #SaveFigment