Monday, September 30, 2013

Instagram Photo Challenge: #PlusTheMagicDaily

One of my favorite ways to share photos from Disney Parks and Resorts is by taking part in Instagram photo-a-day challenges. These challenges offer a prompt for each day of the month, and followers share pictures using the hashtag for the challenge. It's a great way to see all the fantastic photography out there, and a fun way to connect with others in the Disney fan community.

Inspired by some of my favorite bloggers and Instagrammers (like @zannaland, @sparklynicole, and @mainstgazette), and with a big dose of encouragement and support from @thatsostelle from This Happy Place Blog,  I decided to try my hand at doing my own challenge!

In honor of my favorite park's birthday, we put together an Epcot-themed challenge for October. Join us on Instagram by posting your favorite photos each day, using the #PlusTheMagicDaily hashtag along with the hashtag for that day's prompt. I look forward to seeing all of your photos, and to following you on Instagram! Plus the Magic can be found on Instagram here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Giant

In the shadow of the castle, just as you enter Fantasyland, stands Sir Mickey's- a gift shop themed to Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947), Disney's version of the Jack and the Beanstalk adventure. You can see part of the beanstalk winding its way around the sign on the left side of the castle photo below. Inside the shop you'll find t-shirts, hats, and other standard gift shop fare.

As you peruse the shelves, though, don't forget to look up. You just might find the giant, peeking
his way in...

Have you ever had the feeling you're being watched? This might explain it...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: The Disney Letter O

Okonomiyaki, from Katsura Grill


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and 

please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, 

and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

The Secret World of Disney's Corporate Lounges...

Sounds pretty mysterious, right? Perhaps not so mysterious, but definitely a little-viewed slice of semi-secret Epcot history...

 Nestled in under the great orb of Spaceship Earth, 
a special event inside the Siemens' lounge is visible from the plaza.  
Photo credit: Amy Simpson Swiss, August 2013

Tucked away off stage, mostly out of view from the casual guest, are a host of special VIP areas scattered throughout the pavilions of Epcot. They are not widely advertised, and they have subtle access points. You've probably passed by an entrance to one, completely unaware of what was beyond the door.

Each of the major pavilions in Epcot once had a private lounge. In the heyday of corporate sponsorship, these lounges served as VIP areas for hosting employees, entertaining guests, and holding special events. Some are active for current sponsors, while other lounges are no longer in regular use.

Siemens has a lounge inside Spaceship Earth. HP's private lounge inside Mission:Space overlooks the queue and the Advanced Training Lab post-show area. The Test Track building is home to GM's lounge- though this area was reported closed for quite some time after the Test Track overhaul. Kraft once had a lounge in The Land, back when they were the sponsor of that pavilion. The Imagination Pavilion was the home of Kodak's corporate lounge.

One of the most impressive of the corporate lounges was said to be found in The Seas pavilion. I once read that an entire wall of the lounge was floor to ceiling glass, looking into one of the huge aquarium tanks in the pavilion. A transparent acrylic grand piano helped entertain guests in this exclusive space. Grand, indeed! This pavilion no longer has corporate sponsorship, and the area now goes largely unused.

These special areas are the stuff of legend for many, probably because they are off limits to all but those with corporate connections or personal invitations. Most of the throngs who would clamor for new experiences never get access to these areas of respite in the park. That doesn't stop people from embellishing the lore, though, or even from videotaping attempts at unauthorized access (not that we condone that sort of thing here at Plus the Magic... but we did uncover some footage while doing research). The attraction to these exclusive areas is understandable, especially to people who have experienced all that Epcot has to offer to the general public. Who wouldn't want to get a chance to see something off the beaten path?

The lounges mentioned so far are all in Epcot's Future World.  What about the World Showcase?

American Express used to have a VIP lounge inside The American Adventure, but their sponsorship ended and the lounge is not regularly in use. This parlor space is now used for private functions.

Another "secret" area in in World Showcase is The Norway Loft. While not a corporate lounge, it's one of the little-seen spaces that's sometimes used for private functions. A search of the Disney Events site shows some of the other areas available for the discerning event host. And now that we're on the subject...what exactly is in that hotel structure in the Canadian pavilion? I'm curious.

A private lounge overlooking Norway, my favorite World showcase pavilion? Or a secret bird's-eye view of one of my favorite attractions? I think I may have a new entry on my Disney Bucket List. I'd love to get a peek inside any of these corporate lounges or special event locations one day. If any of you Plus the Magic readers are interested in hosting a private event, or if you are eligible for entry into a corporate lounge, please do get in touch! (Hey, it never hurts to ask, right?)

So, dear readers, do you know any details about any of these secret spaces? Have you even been fortunate enough to spend any time in one of these Epcot hidden gems? Please share your story with us in the comments!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Do Pull the Rope...

Just outside the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios, you'll find an archaeological dig site. Complete with excavating tools, wooden braces, lanterns, ropes and pulleys, it looks like you've stumbled upon an active dig.

Do you see that warning sign? Someone has crossed out the word NOT ...

By all means, DO pull the rope! You just might be rewarded with a fun little surprise.


(Just a small bit of that Attention to Detail that makes this place like no other...)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Family Favorites


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and 

please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, 

and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Monday, September 16, 2013

Disney's Teamboat Springs!

Plus the Magic welcomes back guest contributor Amy Simpson Swiss. Today she tells us about her favorite Disney attraction...

As a Disney World die-hard, with countless trips under my belt, I've tried every ride and attraction at each of the Parks at least once. There are many, many rides I absolutely love – but there is just one ride that stands out as my hands-down favorite in all the parks.  And it may surprise you. 

Is it the thrilling Expedition Everest? The fun and feel-good Splash Mountain? The beloved classic, Pirates of the Caribbean?  I love all of those attractions but my favorite, by far, is Teamboat Springs at Disney's Blizzard Beach.

For those of you who may be thinking right now ”…but I’m not really a water-park person…”  - I beg you, STOP right there! Just for a moment, let go of all your preconceived ideas about water parks…and remember that these are DISNEY water parks. These are the most magical water parks in the world! Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are amazingly fun places, with much to do and see. If you have not tried them, you are missing out on a huge part of the Disney Magic. So – please! Do yourself a favor. Make a vow that you’ll visit one of these parks the next time you’re in Disney. And when you do… make Teamboat Springs your first stop!

So, why do I love it? And more importantly, why should you try Teamboat Springs just as soon as you possibly can?

  • It's a family affair – the WHOLE family!  Teamboat Springs seats up to six people in one giant raft and heads down a long, twisty, water gushing slide. I love that six can fit on this raft. There aren't many rides where my whole family can actually sit together. 

  • Face time!  Not only can everyone ride in one raft, but the huge round blue raft lets your whole family face each other.  That means you get to see your son screaming, your daughter laughing, your husband getting drenched, and everyone having a blast – together, on the same ride. 

  • Fun for everyone- Not only CAN everyone fit on one raft, everyone will have fun.  Whether your kids are 7 or 17… or 47… they will love this ride.  It’s not too rough, but really, really a great time.

  • It keeps going… and going… and going. This is one heck of a long ride.  It is billed as one of the longest group raft rides in the world, and that’s not hard to believe.  It really seems to keep going and going….and when your whole family is having this much fun, that is a wonderful thing. 

  • Getting there is half the fun -  Teamboat Springs is located at the top of Mount Gushmore, one of the highest “peaks” in the park, and you have a choice about how you want to get there.  If you want to get to the top as quickly as possible, you can hike to the top, using the staircase just behind the Ski Patrol Training camp. Or, if you’d rather not walk, you can ride up on the Chairlift. The chairlift is exactly what it sounds like – a ride that looks exactly like a chairlift on a ski mountain, that takes you to the top of the mountain. Depending upon your family, this can be part of the fun, and a welcome relief from the stairs.   

  • Photo ops – As someone who makes full use of both the Photopass photographers and also my own camera, I welcome any photo opportunities that come my way. I've found that there is almost always a Photopass photographer stationed at the bottom of this ride, ready to take a picture of your whole family in front of the largest hidden mickey I have ever spotted!  Not only that, this ride is perfectly suited for taking your own camera on.  It’s not so rough that you need to be afraid of dropping the camera, and you’re guaranteed some super-fun action shots. 

Have I convinced you yet?  I hope to catch you soon at Teamboat Springs!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Remember


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and 

please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, 

and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mystery Solved: Kismet in Disney's Polynesian Lobby

While pin trading in Epcot last summer, I came across a pin I had never seen before. It was a classic Mickey head shape, but with an odd color scheme and design that I didn't recognize. I thought it looked really interesting, so I traded something for it and put it on my lanyard, intending to look it up online to find out what it was.

The next day, I was meeting family members in the Polynesian lobby before heading over to the Spirit of Aloha dinner show. We decided to take a few photographs in the beautiful Grand Ceremonial House, with the tropical foliage as a backdrop. There were some other guests taking a long time in the spot we wanted, so we reluctantly moved around to the other side of the lobby to look for a new photo spot. There was only one small area without a crowd, so we walked over to it to secure a spot for a few family photos. Just as my husband was about to start snapping pictures, something caught my eye. I looked down at the stone work on the floor...

...and spotted this incredible Hidden Mickey, which I never knew existed. It's now one of my favorites.

Pin mystery solved!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Disney Parks Moms Panel: Is This Your Year?

It's fast approaching: "Moms Panel Monday"... the day thousands of people start vying for a  handful of coveted spots on the Disney Parks Moms Panel.

So, what is the Disney Parks Moms Panel? From the official site:

Help Spread Some Vacation Pixie Dust - Coming Soon!

Have you and your family experienced numerous Disney Parks vacations? Do you consider yourself a "go-to" person who is always on the lookout to help a friend plan a magical Disney vacation? If you answered yes to these questions, we'd like to hear from you!
In 2008, the Disney Parks Moms Panel was created to serve as an online forum of vacation advisors. The advisors were everyday people who would answer questions and offer advice to families in the process of planning a trip to Walt Disney World® Resort.
Since then, the panel has become a valuable resource for thousands of Disney Parks guests. It's also grown in breadth since its initial launch. Now, Disney Parks Moms Panelists not only help plan magical vacations for guests heading to Walt Disney World Resort, but also answer guest questions about Disneyland® Resort, Disney Cruise Line®, Disney Vacation Club®, runDisney® and ESPN Wide World of Sports® Complex.
And it's not just Moms! Some current and past panelists have included several Dads and a Grandparent.
Would you like to apply for a spot on the 2014 Disney Parks Moms Panel? Stay tuned for more information regarding search dates, and check out the question-and-answer fun, at

This year's application process opens on September 9, 2013. Have you ever used the Moms Panel for vacation advice? Have you ever applied to be on the panel, or are you considering it this year? Tell us about it in the comments...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: September Calendar Shot


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Monday, September 2, 2013

Disney Parks Touring: To Hop or Not to Hop...

...that is the question.

Park hopping is a ticketing add-on that allows you to do just that- hop from one Disney Park to another on a given day. Some guests wouldn't dream of visiting the parks without hoppers, while others rarely see the benefit and remain firmly planted in one park per day. Hopping does come at an expense: in addition to the monetary piece, there's an expense of time- which for some people, is a larger issue than the dollars involved.

Adding the Park Hopper option onto a ticket will cost an additional $59 per person. That price is per ticket, regardless of the number of days on your ticket. If you have a  ten day ticket, that comes out to about $6 per day; on a three day ticket? Well, you can see how some deals are better than others.

My park touring style pretty much necessitates park hopping. I LOVE hopping, and I have never done a visit without this option. I like the freedom it gives me. I can decide on a whim to visit a different park, and I can end the day in a completely different place than I started. Also, I really love to stay in the Epcot area resorts- and in these resorts, I find park hoppers to be especially necessary. How could I not slip in to Epcot every day, at least for a short time, when the International Gateway entrance is just steps away from my resort?

My next visit (which remains in the tentative stage, but let's just pretend it's a go!) will be a very different type of visit for me. It will be quick (just three nights), it will be specifically focused (partially on running a race, and partially on experiencing the Food & Wine Festival), I will be staying on the monorail loop for the first time, and I'll be trying to do the visit as economically as possible. In addition, a member of my party has some mobility issues. Given all these reasons, I'm looking at my first visit without the park hopping option. I have to admit, it makes me a little nervous! Will I feel tied down? Will I regret our choice of park on a given day? What happens if I suddenly remember something I absolutely need to do at a different park? Am I overreacting? Being ridiculous? ;) Probably. I'm sure it will be just fine- and it'll be a new experience for me, which is always interesting...

What are your thoughts on park hopping? Do yo always do it? Do you never do it? Do you feel the expense is justified? Share your thoughts in the comments...