Saturday, November 30, 2013

DDW Pic 823. Holidays Around the World

Holidays Around the World
It seems like the Food and Wine Festival just ended, but Epcot has already started its next special event. Holidays Around the World includes live entertainment, a special finale for Illuminations, and unique food and drink offerings. We had the chance to enjoy this event tonight. While waiting for Illuminations, we strolled over to Prominade Refreshments. This photo shows some of the holiday treats. I got the peanut butter flavored hot cocoa and it was delicious!

Friday, November 29, 2013

DDW Pic 822. New Magic Kingdom Bus Stop

New Magic Kingdom Bus Stop
After several months of construction, the new Magic Kingdom bus stop loop finally opened. This will provide for increased capacity and new routes. I took this shot this morning, prior to giving a Magic Kingdom tour. The building in the background is Bay Lake Tower.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

DDW Pic 821. Dolphin Resort

Dolphin Resort
After a great Thanksgiving dinner and a little football, we decided to take a ride to the Boardwalk Resort area to check out the Christmas decorations. We walked through the Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan and Dolphin. I will definitely be posting pics of the decorations in the near future, but this is the view that caught my eye tonight. The lights in the Dolphin fountain are synced with those on the palm trees, and they all change colors every few seconds. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

DDW Pic 820. Universe of Energy - Panorama

Universe of Energy - Panorama
On this crisp, clear day, Universe of Energy looked great in the afternoon sun. It has been over 17 years since Ellen's Energy Adventure became the new show inside this pavilion. Ellen's co-star in the film is Bill Nye - The Science Guy. Today just happens to be his 58th birthday. I shot this panorama while my guests were enjoying the attraction.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

DDW Pic 819. Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion
Today is the tenth anniversary of the release of The Haunted Mansion movie. Loosely based on the Magic Kingdom attraction, this Eddie Murphy film debuted on November 26th, 2003. Although it wasn't a big box office hit, there were some fun references from the ride. I thought it would be appropriate to post a Mansion photo. I took this shot today while giving a tour of the Magic Kingdom.

Monday, November 25, 2013

DDW Pic 818. Walt's Plane

Walt's Plane
This is a follow up from my post on November 22nd. On that day, I featured a picture showing the aerial view that Walt had when he discovered the property that became Walt Disney World. This is the actual plane he was flying in. It is located at Hollywood Studios, directly behind the Lights, Motors, Action stadium. It currently has "eyes" and a sign advertising the movie "Planes." I took this shot while on the Backlot Tour with my son yesterday. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

DDW Pic 817. Jedi Training Academy

Jedi Training Academy
The Jedi Training Academy continues to a very popular experience at Hollywood Studios. You have to get to the sign up area early if you hope to get your child into one of the 15 shows that take place throughout each day. Today, my son had the chance to experience it for the first time. With the large Thanksgiving week crowds, they had both "bad guys" present. My son had the pleasure of going head to head with Darth Maul.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

DDW Pic 816. Via Napoli

Via Napoli
I had the chance to have dinner at Via Napoli last night. It is located toward the back of the Italy pavilion in Epcot. Via Napoli specializes in "wood-fired" pizza, and that is what I ordered. One of the things that I miss about CT is the great pizza. However, this location is the closest thing I've found since moving to Florida. It is difficult to make good pizza down here due to the quality of the water.  To compensate for this, Via Napoli imports their water from a spring in Pennsylvania that has nearly the same chemical makeup as the water found in Napoli, Italy. It makes a big difference, as this pizza is delicious!

Friday, November 22, 2013

DDW Pic 815. Walt's Aerial View

Walt's Aerial View
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. However, November 22nd, 1963 is also an important date in Walt Disney World history. In the months leading up to this day, Walt had been looking for the best spot to build his "second Disneyland." On this fateful morning, he was flying over Central Florida in his private plane, when Bay Lake caught his eye. He found the perfect location for Disney World. However, shortly after his plane landed, he was informed of the tragedy that had just taken place. Walt was a very patriotic man and the news was obviously upsetting to him. In the following months, the Disney company started buying up huge amounts of land in the area of Bay Lake, using fictitious company names. If the owners knew that it was Disney, the price of the land would have skyrocketed.

I was able to take this photo a few years back, when I was a pilot and flight instructor. I was on final approach to Kissimmee Airport when I saw Bay Lake off to the right of the plane.  You can see Discovery Island in the middle of that lake and Seven Seas Lagoon in the background. If you look closely, you can see the Contemporary Resort sitting between the two bodies of water. You can also see Space Mountain in this shot. I have to believe that Walt had a very similar view on that historic morning, 50 years ago. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

DDW Pic 814. Animal Kingdom Christmas Tree

Animal Kingdom Christmas Tree
It seems like more and more Christmas decorations are popping up around Walt Disney World. One of the first to go up was the Animal Kingdom Christmas tree. I took this shot nearly two weeks ago. This giant tree sits just outside the gates to the park. It is properly themed, as it is decorated with many ornaments in the shape of animals. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

DDW Pic 813. Space Mountain

Space Mountain
The latest version of the iPhone (the 5S) does a real nice job in low light situations. Apple made some significant improvements to allow more light into the shot. As we were walking on the path between Storybook Circus and Tomorrowland tonight, I snapped this photo of Space Mountain. I have many nighttime shots of this attraction in my library, but most of them are pretty grainy. This one came out better than expected.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

DDW Pic 812. Thank You!

Thank You!
I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who continues to enjoy my daily pictures from Walt Disney World. Today, this website hit the milestone of 100,000 "page views." I started Digital Disney World almost three years ago as a way to stay connected to my favorite place. I could not have imagined that it was the start of something that would eventually lead my family to Central Florida to follow our dreams. 

I started the website on New Years Day in 2011 and originally wrote about how modern technology can keep us connected to Walt Disney World, even when we couldn't physically be there. As I wrote article after article during that first year, I realized that I wanted to turn my passion for this place I love into some sort of business. Eventually, I started WDW Guded Tours and have had the pleasure of helping so many guests enjoy the "Vacation Kingdom." Looking back, I now realize that my hobby of writing Digital Disney World helped to keep me focused on my goal of creating a Disney livelihood. 

Digital Disney World has evolved into a place where I can share a daily photo from somewhere around the resort. I usually try to post a current picture from that day, or at least from the very recent past. As busy as I've become with the tour guide business, I still look forward to spending 15 minutes each night choosing and posting a picture. I have heard from many people over the past couple years who enjoy seeing a daily dose of a place that they love. I am humbled and grateful that you take the time to view my "picture of the day." On this milestone day, I thought it appropriate to post a classic shot of the Magic Kingdom, as this is really where "The World" began.

Thanks again,

Monday, November 18, 2013

DDW Pic 811. Birthday Hidden Mickey

Birthday Hidden Mickey
Hidden Mickey's have become very popular throughout the Walt Disney World Resort over the past decade. Typically formed with three circles (one for the head and two smaller ones for ears), these "Mickey's" are hidden all around the parks and even in the resort hotels. I love to point them out to my guests while I'm giving tours. I have my favorites in each park, but today I saw what is by far the best hidden Mickey ever created. It is amazingly unique in that it can only be seen on November 18th at exactly noon. Most Disney enthusiasts know this date to be Mickey's birthday. The Imagineers decided to pay tribute to the famous mouse over at the relatively new Under the Sea attraction in the Magic Kingdom. They carved part of the rock formation in the queue to allow the sun to shine through onto the base of a wall. The sun's rays are at the perfect angle on this day at noon to form Mickey's head. The formation only lasted for about 7 minutes, but it was quite a sight to see!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

DDW Pic 810. Fantasyland Station

Fantasyland Station
The Walt Disney World Railroad has become a must-do whenever we visit the Magic Kingdom. Our son is a huge train buff and he absolutely loves the old steam engines that circle this park. I took this shot of the Roger Broggie at Fantasyland Station tonight. It's tender had just finished being filled with water from the tower at this station. They need to be topped off with water every three to four trips around the park. You can see the big metal tube had just been raised and the cast member was about to close the cover with a long tool.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

DDW Pic 809. Peter Pan's Flight

Peter Pan's Flight
One of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World is Peter Pan's Flight. It is a classic for many reasons, but mainly due to the fact that it has remained virtually unchanged for over 40 years. It is simplistic in its design and really doesn't use any modem technology. However, it routinely has some of the longest lines in the park and it is still as popular today as it was in 1971. It was closed for over a month for a routine refurbishment, so I couldn't resist riding when it reopened a few days ago. This is a shot of the last scene, which is depicted in glowing paint just prior to exiting the ride.

Friday, November 15, 2013

DDW Pic 808. Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the best themed roller coasters anywhere. Although most guests don't know the "story" behind the runaway mine train, they still enjoy the scenery found in the ghost town of Tumbleweed. Even though the coaster is racing around the mountain at speeds up to 30 mph, the details that can be seen are quite amazing. This shot of the flooded "Gold Dust Saloon" wouldn't be possible while riding Thunder Mountain, but I was able to take it from the nearby Walt Disney World Railroad, as I rode by yesterday. If you look closely, you can even see the abandoned card game that was being played before the flood came!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

DDW Pic 807. Magic Kingdom Entrance

Magic Kingdom Entrance
Often times, the key to taking a good photo is timing. Sometimes you can set up the timing of a shot with advance planning and other times you just get lucky. When I was arriving at the Magic Kingdom today, I got lucky. I was on the monorail with my son and we had just passed Space Mountain on our way to the Magic Kingdom station. I noticed the Walter E. Disney steam train moving at about the same speed of the monorail. I saw a good photo opportunity developing and I snapped the shot just as the engine was lined up with Cinderella Castle in the background. I love it when an unplanned situation turns into the "Picture of the Day."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

DDW Pic 806. Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade
It was recently announced that Celebrate a Dream Come True was going to be retired in early 2014. This version of the Magic Kingdom parade has been around for more than a decade. I want to catch it as much as possible before it's final performance in January. Today, I was able to get a spot on the second level of the train station. This is one of the best locations to get a clear shot of the characters on the floats. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DDW Pic 805. Osborne Lights

Osborne Lights
Tonight was the first night of the season that I was able to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios. I took my family, who experienced it for the first time ever. With millions of individual lights, this is truly one of the largest holiday displays in the world. I took this shot of the seventy foot tall Christmas tree from the San Francisco street. This tree alone is made up of over 100,000  lights. I am looking forward to visiting this area of Hollywood Studios many times before the Christmas season is over!

DDW Pic 804. Gran Fiesta Tour

Gran Fiesta Tour
I took this shot tonight while enjoying the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. This was a difficult photo to get in the past due to the low light conditions. However, the new iPhone 5s does a great job with lower light levels. I expect to get many more on-ride attraction photos with Apple's latest creation!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

DDW Pic 803. Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade

Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade
With the holiday season in full swing, the parade in Animal Kingdom has made its annual conversion to Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade. It includes a nice blend of the regular parade with the Chistmas theming mixed in. I took this shot of Santa Goofy while enjoying an afternoon at Animal Kingdom with my family. 

DDW Pic 802. Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion
Yesterday, while riding the Haunted Mansion, our doom buggy temporarily stopped in the hallway prior to the seance room. I know that the spirits are "frightfully sensitive to flash photography," but I couldn't resist snapping this quick shot. I love when my favorite attraction stops like this, as I get a chance to enjoy details that are otherwise difficult to see when slowly passing by in a doom buggy.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

DDW Pic 801. Jingle Cruise

Jingle Cruise
Today marked the first time that Disney put a holiday "overlay" onto an Adventureland attraction. The Jungle Cruise has become the "Jingle" Cruise for the Christmas season. There were some fun decorations added to the queue and the boats were all renamed with holiday nicknames. The skippers have a different spiel with corny holiday jokes mixed in with the corny regular jokes. Overall, it is a fun little addition to this classic attraction, but I would have liked to see more holiday decorations added to the ride itself.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

DDW Pic 800. Big Al's Souvenirs

Big Al's Souvenirs
While giving a tour today, I had a five year old guest who spotted the Jessie hats at Big Al's Souvenir stand. While her mom was paying for the hat, I had a chance to look at all of the unique items that are sold here. Most of the stuff was related to Frontierland and there was a lot of Woody and Jessie merchandise. I like how they went with the "Big Al" name for this spot, as he is a favorite for many Country Bear fans. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

DDW Pic 799. Kilimanjaro Exit

Kilimanjaro Exit
I snapped this shot while waiting for my tour guests at Kilimanjaro Safaris today. This is the ramp in the exit area of the attraction. Disney sprays mist from the edges of the walkway, and the sun's rays in the morning create this "rainforest" effect. I certainly couldn't pass up this photo opportunity!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

DDW Pic 798. Minnie Mouse at Hollywood Studios

Minnie Mouse at Hollywood Studios
Back at the end of September, Minnie got her own meet and greet location in the Animation building at Hollywood Studios. I had the chance to visit her with my tour guests today. She is located in her "dressing room," not far from where the Sorceror Mickey meet and greet is set up. The entrance to the Minnie experience isn't well marked, and I feel like many guests don't even that it is there. I love the posters in the waiting area portraying Minnie as a movie star. There are many tributes to Imagineers and Disney legends hidden in these posters.

DDW Pic 797. Villas at Grand Floridian

Villas at Grand Floridian
About two weeks ago, The Villas at the Grand Floridian opened. I finally had a chance to visit Disney's latest DVC offering today. As expected, the lobby is classy and elegant. The centerpiece is this fountain with penguin statues, which is a nod to the movie, Mary Poppins. You can also find carousel horses from the same movie. Although I haven't seen the inside of a room yet, my first impression of this "addition" to the Floridian was excellent.

Monday, November 4, 2013

DDW Pic 796. Frozen - Meet and Greet

Frozen - Meet and Greer
Anna and Elsa, stars of the upcoming Disney film Frozen, made their debut this weekend at the Norway pavilion in Epcot. Thanks to some friends who got a great spot in line this afternoon, my wife and I were able to get a picture with these sisters. They are scheduled to be in this location through January 4th. However, if the movie does as well as expected, I'm sure they will find a permanent spot somewhere in Walt Disney World.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

DDW Pic 795. Maelstrom - Panorama

Maelstrom - Panorama
Just before hopping aboard a viking ship yesterday, I snapped this picture of the gigantic mural in the Maelstrom loading area. The only way to get the whole thing in the photo was to use panorama mode. My favorite thing about the mural is that one of the vikings in the ship to the left is wearing a set of Mickey ears. This is one of the best hidden Mickeys at Epcot.

Friday, November 1, 2013

DDW Pic 794. Club Cool

Club Cool
As we often like to do on a warm afternoon in Epcot, my family and I stopped by Club Cool for a refreshing sample of international sodas. Today's visit was different, as Disney recently changed out most of the flavors. We had a chance to sample all of them, and there were some very tasty beverages among the group. There were several non-carbonated options including the old VegitaBeta from Japan and a new sweet juice called Bibo. There is a soda that tastes like liquid bubblegum from Peru and even a Brazilian beverage. Those who like the powerfully bitter taste of the Italian Beverly won't be disappointed as Disney kept that in the lineup. Personally, I think they did that as a cruel joke to unsuspecting taste buds!