Rider Responses December 2016

Rider Responses December 2016

Today is all about you the listener!  I have been asking for your questions, comments, and feedback since our last Rider Responses episode. You have provided some great encouragement, advice, and questions.  Before we get started, let me say a sincere thank you.  Just by listening and downloading the podcast you encourage me to keep the WDW Ride Guide going.  For those of you that have sent in feedback, it helps more than you know!  I want this podcast to a resource for you, me, and everyone that loves Disney!  The more rider responses we receive the more I know what direction to take the podcast in.  Thank you for making today’s episode possible and for helping me know what you want to hear next.

We don’t have any essential facts today, so let’s jump right into the rider responses!

Our first rider response today comes all the way from Florida!  Let’s see what’s going on in the Sunshine State.

Hello Ben!

   Earlier this year I discovered your wonderful podcast, and have been enjoying catching up on the episodes so much. It always makes me smile hearing how excited you are to share what you know about these attractions, and helps me when I am feeling particularly far from the parks (which happens more than you think it may for a native central Floridian). I hope you are having fun on your vacation and enjoy Disneyland! 

   Whenever I have a Disney parks itch that needs scratching I gather some friends or family and go resort hopping. My question is, would you consider doing an episode on that? Or even about individual resorts? It is something I understand that not many families with full vacation itineraries may feel the need to do, but I was just thinking that some people may not consider it, and may want to allot some time for it on their next trip. It is just a lot of fun to see all the theming in the resorts, and it makes a nice free day that still feels like Disney (not to mention all the wonderful dining options along the way!)

Thank you for being so dedicated to the parks, and to your podcast. Most of all, thank you for brightening my days!

Loyal listener,


Well, thank you Kassandra for brightening my day with this feedback!   It is great to hear from a native Floridian.  I often find myself wondering what it would be like to live in central Florida and be so close to the magic.  Knowing you still feel far from the parks at times makes living 1,200 miles away a little more manageable.

I love the idea of resort hopping!  In fact, you might say my family is on a very long term resort hopping expedition.  Each time we visit WDW now we stay in a different resort.  Most recently we have enjoyed staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, Coronado Springs, Wilderness Lodge, and Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Of course, you don’t have to stay at the resort to take in the experience!  As you said, it is a lot of fun to see the unique theme of each resort and it makes for a free day in the sense that you don’t have to purchase park tickets. In addition to staying at a new resort each trip, we do try to resort hop a little by making dining reservations at another resort.

Now, I do have a little piece of advice if anyone wants to add resort hopping into their next trip.  Don’t overdue it!  On our last big family vacation we had dining reservations at  Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village Resort, and ???  On that trip we were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we also took advantage of the tremendous dining options.  So, we had a lot of time dedicated to resort hopping and eating at the resorts.  It proved to be a little too much time, and by the end of the trip we wished we had scaled back just a smidge.

If you want to explore some resorts on your next vacation, I recommend doing so on your day of arrival.  Chances are you will be arriving after lunch, no matter if you are driving or flying in.  With half the day gone already, rushing to the parks can be stressful.  Especially if you have delayed flights or issues getting to Orlando.  Planning a late dinner at a resort takes away the stress of worrying about not getting your money’s worth for a day at the parks.  The other option is to resort hop for an early breakfast or late dinner on a day you will be visiting the parks.  This can be a fun way to start or end the day.  Just make sure you coordinate your dining reservation with a resort and park that are close to each other.  My top recommendation would be any of the monorail resorts on a day you plan on visiting the Magic Kingdom.  This way you won’t waste a lot of unnecessary time in transit.

Now, before we move onto our next response, I want to let you know we will revisit this topic another day in greater detail.  The suggestions I just gave are for those of you planning to spend multiple days at the theme parks.  As Kassandra suggests, you can actually make a whole day out of resort hopping.  After her initial response, I asked Kassandra what her ideal day of resort hopping looks like.  She responded with so many great thoughts I think we can make a whole episode out of her suggestions!  I look forward to sharing that with you soon!

You may have noticed that Kassandra wished me well while visiting Disneyland, and she wasn’t the only one.  When we were in California we got this response on our Facebook page:

If you’re at DLR right now DO NOT MISS THE HAUNTED MANSION HOLIDAY overlay. That’s my favorite.

  • Chloe Nicole

Good news Chloe, we did not miss the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay!  This was one of the unique ride events that we were really looking forward to and it did not disappoint.  If you are unfamiliar with this special holiday version of the ride, let me give you a quick overview.

Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom have their unique versions of The Haunted Mansion.  Both have the Ghost Host, Madame Leota, and those lovable Hitchhiking Ghosts.  However, only Disneyland seasonally spruces up their New Orleans estate with the characters from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.  When I say spruce up, I mean completely rework the ride!

I was very anxious to see what a holiday overlay would look like, but I had no idea to what extent the Imagineers would go.  As soon as you enter the exterior grounds The Nightmare Before Christmas is everywhere.  Once inside, Jack Skellington and his ghoulish friends completely take over the show.  Some regular Audio-Animatronic figures are removed altogether and replaced with characters from the Tim Burton film.  The most noticeable exchange to me was right before you enter the graveyard scene.  Normally, the Marc Davis designed Groundskeeper holds his lantern out and stands at the gate in petrified fright with his anemic looking dog at his side.  During the Haunted Mansion Holiday, both figures are removed and a giant Jack Skellington stands in with his ghost dog Zero.   The Pumpkin King is dressed in his stolen Sandy Claws outfit, and totes a bag of terrifying presents over his shoulder.

What is truly impressive about the overlay is the detail and blending of the two themes.  If you rode the Haunted Mansion for the first time during the Holiday overlay you would think the ride was created this way from day one.  My wife Rachel, said this ride was one of her favorite things about our trip to Disneyland.  That’s pretty high praise, considering the Haunted Mansion is not her favorite ride, nor is The Nightmare Before Christmas even close to being her favorite movie.  If you like Haunted Mansion, or if you are a big fan of Tim Burton, you are going to love the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay!   The overlay usually runs from early October until the first week of January.  Be sure to check it out if you are ever in Disneyland during the fall or winter.

Our next rider response comes in from a fellow Disney podcaster!  How about that?  Let’s see what she has to say:


I just want to let you know that I found your podcast several months ago and really enjoy it.  I am a fellow Disney podcaster over at DIStracted Life.

I really liked this week’s episode discussing Disneyland and look forward to next week’s as well.  We just went to DL in May and stayed at the Courtyard Anaheim Theme park Entrance.  It is right across the street from Space Mountain.  We loved the resort! We chose it for location and the waterpark, Surfside.  I have to agree with you that if you can stay on-property that is what you should do.  We are DVC members and didn’t plan far enough out to use our points (Grand Californian’s DVC is very small) is how we ended up off-site.

Anyway, just want to say Hi and keep up the good work. 

Take care,

Kim Slusher

You know, like every podcaster I know, I love creating podcasts because I love listening to podcasts.  Getting feedback from a fellow podcaster that listens to your podcast means a lot.  When you make the leap from listener to podcast creator, you learn the tremendous amount of work that goes into each episode.  Podcasting is a labor of love and a passion project.  Kim, thank you so much for not only listening, but for reaching out to offer some encouragement and great advice too.

I want to touch on her recommendation of staying on property at Disneyland.  If you listened to My 1st Trip to Disneyland episode you know I would opt to stay on property next time I visit.  We stayed about 1 mile from the park entrance.  That made for about a 30 minute walk, or a 30-45 minute bus ride using the Anaheim Resort Transit system.  Needless to say, that was more time wasted than I cared for.  Kim stayed much closer at the Courtyard Anaheim.  So close, you can see Space Mountain from across the street!  Still, she says staying on property is the way to go.

If you aren’t familiar with DVC, that is the Disney Vacation Club.  This is Disney’s version of a timeshare rental that gives you access to DVC properties at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  There are currently 9 properties at WDW, but only the Grand Californian Resort at Disneyland.  As Kim points out that makes staying on Disneyland property as a DVC member a little more difficult.  Still, you don’t have to be a DVC member to enjoy one of the three Disney properties.

The Grand Californian is the deluxe level resort, and is most well positioned and appointed as a result. The Disneyland Hotel is a moderate level offering with great access and the option of theme park view rooms.  Finally, Paradise Pier is a value level hotel which will accommodate the budget, but fall short of the theme found in the other two resorts.

While we focus on rides at the WDW Ride Guide, Kim focuses on trip reports from visitors returning from their recent vacations.  If you want to hear what others have experienced in staying at one of the three Disneyland resorts, or Walt Disney World be sure and check out Kim’s podcast DIStracted Life.  You can find it at distractedlifepodcast.com.  Thanks again Kim!

Speaking of listening to other podcast, this next response comes from a listener who found our podcast by listening to a non-Disney related podcast.  Here’s what she has to say:

Hi Ben 

Great SILY episode today. My favorite part of Monday is the WDW ride guide. I especially love the sound clips. I was singing after this week’s episode. I am so thankful Darrell put your haunted mansion episode on his Facebook feed a year ago and I discovered the show.

Just went to my first Walt Disney world Halloween last month too.

I agree with your top 5 list this week except I haven’t seen cars land yet so I can’t vote on that.  Thanks for all the work you put into the show

I also liked you comparing rides that are similar but not the same in Disney world and Disney land. Basically I am saying your podcast ROCKS!!! Like the rockin roller coaster.

  • Justina

Wow, thanks Justina!  You rock!  I’m glad you enjoy the sound clips.  Disney music always makes my day seem brighter and I love working it into the podcast.  There are several things I want to share from this rider response.  First of all, Justina found our podcast by listening to Stuff I Learned Yesterday.  That is a fantastic podcast that is both uplifting and challenging.  It was created by my friend Darrell Darnell, who also serves as the audio editor for the WDW Ride Guide.  Stuff I Learned Yesterday or SILY for short, is in its final season, but there are over 550 episodes full of thoughtful life lessons.  If you want a short 15 minute podcast to get your day started off right go check it out!  If you listen to enough episodes you will actually get to hear Justina leave some feedback on SILY, and she has some great things to share.

I have always enjoyed Justina’s feedback on SILY, so when she wrote me a rider response for our podcast I was super excited.  I had no idea you were a big Disney fan like me Justina! The top 5 she references is our Top 5 Rides Disneyland Does Better episode.  If you haven’t listened to it already be sure and go back to find that one.  I share my new found love for Cars Land in that episode, and I think you will want to start planning a trip to California after listening!

I also loved hearing that Justina thinks Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster rocks!  That has always been my favorite coaster at Walt Disney World.  Recently, the ride was back in the news as Disney made a subtle change to the pre-show video featuring the band Aerosmith.  After 17 years, it was discovered band front man, Steven Tyler, was actually making an obscene hand gesture in the video.  The gesture was so obscure, and Tyler so strange to begin with, no one realized he was doing anything unusual in the video, until now.  Fortunately, we live in the digital age, and Disney has magically changed the position of his fingers through some clever CG work.  Reportedly, Tyler wasn’t too happy about the change, but still claims Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster to be the best ride at Walt Disney World.

Normally, I wouldn’t give a story like this any attention on the podcast.  However, I bring it up in light of rumors the roller coaster could find a new musical artist of group to star on the ride coming soon.  Aerosmith has been the face of the ride for 17 years, a lifetime in the ever changing landscape of music.  With the recent relationship strain between Disney and Steven Tyler, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the coaster gets an update and Hollywood makeover in the near future.  That begs the question, who would you want to see take over Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster?  I would love, love, love to hear your ideas on this one!  What band or artist has a deep enough library combined with contemporary relevance to take the mic from Aerosmith?  Let me know what you think!

All right, we have time for just one more today.  I’m going to read part of a response for you today, and then share the rest on an upcoming Rider Roundtable episode.  This one comes from my sister-in-law, who recently experienced her first Disney cruise.  She says:

I always said that I wouldn’t take a Disney vacation “until my kids were old enough to appreciate it”.  But when the opportunity to take a Disney cruise with our family presented itself we decided to load up our 3.5 and 1.5 year old and go for it.  I was a little nervous about taking 2 children on a boat, but they did great.  Disney truly does an amazing job when it comes to kids (was there ever really and doubt about that).  “The Holsey Family” was welcomed onto the ship by applause from the crew and a “Wow!” from my oldest.  We were able to meet Cinderella, tour the Kids Club and Nursery and grab lunch.

Nemo’s Reef was a hit with both of my kids! It’s designed for the little ones, and the lifeguards were really good about keeping the big kids from taking over.  They both loved the slide and rain “wall”.  And bonus, the water is warm and its shaded!

Another thing I was worried about, the shows.  I thought, “There is no way in this world my children are going to sit through this.”  But they loved it, both of them.  You win again Disney.

We were never bored, and feel like there are so many things we didn’t get to do!  James still says to me every now and then, “Mama, I need to go back to Mickey’s big ship and put the bad guys in jail.”  So be sure and join the Midship Detective Agency, you won’t regret it.

 So I know Julia won’t remember anything, and maybe James won’t either, but I will.  I will remember the joy on his face while watching the Golden Mickeys.  The excitement as they both ran around the ship trying to solve the Mystery of the Missing Paintings.  The laughter they shared while playing in Nemo’s Reef.   And the fascination as James had a conversation with Crush during dinner. 

– Lacey

Wow, I don’t know what else to say.  That right there sums up my love for Disney and family vacations.  Rachel and I were a part of the experience Lacey describes, and I can’t express how much I enjoyed watching my niece and nephew discover the magic of Disney on our cruise together.

I’m going to save the details of that experience for our upcoming podcast, but I want to drive home the point Lacey makes.  When I’m not podcasting I spend my free time helping others as an Authorized Disney Vacation Specialist.  I love helping families plan their Disney vacations.  Most of those families have small children, and the number one question asked is, “How old should my kids be before we take them to Disney World?”

The popular answer is “When they are old enough to remember.”  That leaves many families waiting until one or all the children are at least 4-5 years old.   Now, I have no problem with anyone that wants to wait until their child is tall enough to ride most rides and old enough to remember what happens on their vacation.  However, this solution only takes one half of the equation into account.  Here’s what I mean.

As an Uncle, I can say without a doubt, that my greatest joy comes in watching my nephews and my niece experience new things at Disney.  I love me some Star Tours, and I will go at least 2-3 times every trip, even if it means riding solo.  My favorite memory of Star Tours though is when I took Hudson and Colton on their first ride through the galaxy far, far, away.  I will never forget the sound of Colton screaming, “This is awesome,” nor the look of pure joy on Hudson’s face as we walked off the ride.

In the same way I won’t forget the way my nephew James sat in my wife’s lap and pressed his whole body forward, mesmerized by the Golden Mickey’s aboard the Disney Dream.  These are moments chiseled into my memory.  Chances are my nephews won’t remember these experiences a few years from now, at least not in the way I will.  However, like Lacey said, we the adults, the parents, the aunts and uncles, the grandparents, we will remember these moments with great fondness and joy.

If you are out there listening and wondering how old your children need to be before planning your first Disney trip, let me suggest a different question.  How soon do you want to begin making memories with your children that you will never forget?  The magic of family vacations to Disney goes far beyond the singular moments we remember as young children.  The magic is in the imagination, hope, adventure, fantasy, exploration, and discovery that this place provides. If you ask me, it’s never too early to begin such a wonderful journey!

With that, we will wrap up our second Rider Responses episode.  I don’t know about you, but I love doing these episodes!  Keep the feedback coming and maybe we can do them more often.  If you have a question I’m eager to answer the best I can.  If you have a suggestion, let’s hear it!  Is there a favorite episode or format you want to hear more of?  What do you think of our Top 5’s, our Rider Roundtables, our Backstage Pass episodes?  Maybe you just want to play Imagineer and suggest a new ride or change to an existing one.  Don’t forget to share your idea for Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster’s next act!  Send me a message on our Facebook page, facebook.com/wdwrideguide, or email feedback@wdwrideguide.com.

I look forward to hearing from you over the next few weeks.  Remember, we will be off the next couple of weeks for the holidays.  During that time we will be busy though!  I have a couple of Rider Roundtable episodes to record over Christmas and New Year’s and you never know what will happen when we get around the table.  I hope you will come back in a couple of weeks to join us for some good discussion on Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line.

If you want to start planning your next family vacation while you get together with family this holiday season you can contact me by sending an e-mail to b.crain@magicalvacationplanner.com, or call me at 210-853-2488.  My services come at no cost to you and I would love to send you a no obligation quote to help you get started.

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For help planning your next Disney vacation e-mail b.crain@magicalvacationplanner.com

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